The best time to arrest Canada Geese was around 2pm. They’d spend most of the night racing up and down the Thames, doing wing turns on the water, swearing, squawking, generally making a nuisance of themselves. They slept in most mornings and roused themselves around lunchtime to harass passers-by for strips of bread and the occasional chocolate biscuit. Having gorged themselves into a stupor, they would roost down on the river bank to sleep it off. That was the best time to arrest Canada Geese.
‘Now sir.’ Police Constable Prettyboy, a budgie. Small, not good in the water and, strictly speaking, a bit too colourful for police work. Still, she was keen and Swann always said that colour shouldn’t be a barrier to getting on in life. Duckworthy wondered what Swann was doing. She’d called in sick, and it wasn’t like her to miss a raid. Most of the higher-ranking swans didn’t like to get their wings dirty; nest-to-nest calls and street arrests were ducks’ work. Not Swann though, she’d wade in with the rest of them. He respected her for that. Duckworthy grinned to himself. That, and a pert set of tail feathers.
He hoped everything was okay at the nest.
‘What is it, Prettyboy?’
‘Should we go now, sir?’
Duckworthy nodded and raised a wing. ‘On my mark.’
The squad dipped low and stretched their necks into attack formation. Except Prettyboy, who didn’t have a neck, but made a game effort of looking ready all the same.
Duckworthy yelled ‘Now’, and a tornado of wings, webbed feet and feathers swept down the bank towards the startled geese.
‘RIGHT GEESE, YOU’RE NICKED!’
They’re putting up a fight, Duckworthy thought. Good. He punched a seagull and cuffed the goose it was protecting. ‘Well, well, if it isn’t my old mate Feathers Flintlock. How you doing, Feathers?’
‘What is dis? Dis ent fair man! Ya got no right!’
Duckworthy rolled his eyes. Most of these geese were second generation: hatched and bred on the banks of Thames Valley Park. Most of them went to good schools. ‘I have no idea what you’re saying Feathers. You think you’re a black swan or something? Grow up.’ He slapped Feathers around the bill a couple of times to make his point.
‘Dat’s police brutaliteeee, dat is! I know my rights, Duckworthy.’
Duckworthy slapped him again to show what his rights were worth. ‘Need to chat with you and your crew about a few killings. Don’t suppose you know anything about that, Feathers?’
Feathers fumed. ‘I don’t see dat fit swan round here. Who’s holdin’ your lease den, Duckworthy?’
Another slap. Harder this time. The other police ducks were cuffing the gangs over screams of ‘We aintdunnuffin’ and ‘Iwannaspeaktomabrief’. Prettyboy looked nervous and determined all at once. She was cuffing a massive seagull all on her own.
‘Maybe you shouldn’t hit him again, sir,’ she said.
‘Oh, and why’s that, Prettyboy,’ said Duckworthy, and hit him again.
‘The chief, she wouldn’t like it, sir.’
‘Naaah, da chief wouldn’t like it, Duckworthy,’ said Feathers, and then said, ‘Ow!’ when Duckworthy slapped him again.
‘Honestly, sir, you should stop doing that!’
The police ducks stopped what they were doing and looked round. You could overstep the mark with Duckworthy, but only if you had webbed feet.
‘What did you say to me, Prettyboy?’
Prettyboy seemed to shrink to half her size. She kicked the gull in the knee and hopped over to where Duckworthy held Feathers Flintlock by the neck.
’Sir, listen; before we came out, I heard that they’d dispatched a team to DI Swann’s nest last night.’
‘What? Why the hell didn’t anyone tell me?’
’And she hasn’t been in work today, so I think something might have happened.’
‘So I don’t think you should be making trouble for her sir, not right now.’
Duckworthy looked at Prettyboy as though seeing her for the first time. She’s got balls, he thought, which you don’t often see in a budgie. ‘Right, Feathers, I’m arresting you and your motley crew on suspicion of murder.’
‘Yeah, someone’ll call your dad when we get to the station. Don’t suppose you fancy confessing now?’
‘It’s all right, Prettyboy; I was only joking.’
The rest of the geese were rounded up, cuffed and taken away.
‘What’s your name, Prettyboy?’ Duckworthy asked while lighting a cigarette.
Prettyboy looked confused. She coughed and said, ‘Prettyboy, sir, but you already—‘
‘I mean your first name, Constable.’
‘Sorry, sir.’ Prettyboy blushed. ‘It’s Hooza, sir.’
‘Right,’ said Duckworthy, stubbing out his cigarette. ‘Of course it is. You did a good job today, Prettyboy. Keep it up.’
Prettyboy swelled with pride and started twittering deliriously.
‘And you can pack that in for a start.’
‘Yes sir, sorry sir.’