I’m a cop – a country cop. My beat is the forest, the seashore and the wetland. My name’s Pete but they call me PJ. I’m a pukeko.
City policemen have offices in buildings and computers and cell phones. My police station is under the puriri tree where I can see over the forest and the wetland and the farms, right down to the town. I haven’t got a computer and I haven’t got a cell phone. They don’t work in the forest. So I get messages by Constable Freddie fantail.
Freddie’s a good chap but he can be a bit over-the-top.
“Cheep! Cheep! Cheep! Cheep! Cheep!”
“Cut the cheeping, Freddie. What’s up?”
“They’re all on the ground… Winnie says she didn’t do it …”
“Whoa there! Remember the rules of investigation: what, where and who? What happened, where did it happen and who did it happen to.”
“Right, Sarge. There’s three eggs fallen on the ground under Winnie whitehead’s nest in the beech tree. They look like hers but Winnie says she didn’t drop them. And she’s still sitting in her nest on another big egg.”
I fished in my feathers for my notebook.
“So Winnie had four eggs in her nest and now she only has one?”
“Dunno about that. Winnie can’t count past two. But she’s sure she had more than one egg and the eggs are on the ground right under her nest.”
“Has someone eaten the eggs? Like a rat?”
“Nope. Two of them are cracked but that would be from falling on the ground.”
“Hmm. So where’s the thief? Why didn’t the perp take the eggs away or eat them on the spot?”
“What’s a ‘perp’, Sarge?”
“A perpetrator, you bird brain! The person who does the crime. But I don’t know if this is a crime… we’ll take a look, but first I have to be at the school for the road safety lesson.”
I stashed my notebook, straightened my feathers and hung my police badge around my neck.
“Can I come, Sarge?”
“Sure. You need a few lessons in road safety.”
“I’ll finish patrolling the forest and meet you at the school.”
I walked down the valley to the school. I could have flown but I prefer to walk. School was held in a clearing under an old pohutukawa tree. Its branches bowed low to the ground, shading the school chicks and making seats for them to sit on. The fantails, kereru, tomtits, riflemen, whiteheads and warblers perched on their branches. On the ground in front of them sat weka and kiwi, who couldn’t fly, with young pukeko beside them. The naughty, noisy kaka chicks had to perch on a special branch in front where the teacher could keep an eye on them.
The moreporks weren’t there because they sleep in the daytime. Kahu, the harrier hawk, and karearea, the falcon, weren’t allowed at school. They would eat the other pupils at playtime so they had to be home-schooled.
Katie kereru was their teacher. She perched on a gnarled root at the base of the pohutukawa trunk. In front of her was a sandy space where she could draw letters and write sums. As I came closer I could hear squeaky voices chanting the two times table.
“One two’s are two, two two’s are four…”
Freddie came zooming up behind me, ducking around the branches and narrowly missing a tree trunk.
“Constable Fred! If I had my traffic book with me I’d give you a speeding ticket! And another one for dangerous flying!”
“Aww, Sarge. I didn’t want to be late.”
“That’s what they all say. Now smarten up and follow me.”
The chanting faltered as we came into the clearing and Katie cried, “Stop! That’s enough, class. Here is Sergeant Pete and Constable Fred. Please come to the front, Sergeant.”
I went forward and stood beside Katie. Freddie stood in front of me. I gave him a swift kick in the tail feathers.
“Over there, constable.”
Freddie fluttered over to the base of the pohutukawa and sulked. I began my talk.
“Good morning, class.”
“Good morning, Sergeant,” the students chorused.
“Road safety,” I said in my solemnest voice. “It’s a matter of life…” I glared at the smallest weka, who was giggling… “and death.”
“Did you cross the road coming to school this morning?” I asked him. I knew he had.
“And what did you do when you came to the edge of the road?”
“Me? I ran. Fast – across the road.”
“Ah. And you know what will happen to you, one day?”
“You’ll get squashed by a car. Kahu’s dinner, that’ll be you.”
The class gasped.
“This is what walking birds should do. First, stop at the edge of the road. Listen. What are you listening for?”
“Er – er – cars, sir, and trucks.”
“That’s right. Cars and trucks are noisy. But it’s all quiet so next you look. You look this way, and that way, and this way again.” I turned my head from side to side and the class copied me, their little heads jerking to and fro.
“If you can’t see anything coming, it’s safe to cross. Then you run!”
“That’s cool, sir.”
“Just remember, weka, kiwi and pukeko, listen and look!”
“Listen and look!” chorused the front row.
I flapped my wings a few times. The draught made a fantail fall off her branch but I needed the air. My armpits were sweaty. This teaching is hard work.
“Now,” I sternly addressed the perching birds, “you fly across the road.”
“Yes, yes we do.”
“But some of you fly too low, and some of you swoop down. Miss Kereru, I’ve seen you swooping.”
Katie kereru nodded. “I do,” she admitted. “We pigeons like flying up and swooping down.”
“But don’t do it over the road. You might smash into a fast car. Splattered, you’d be, blood and feathers all over the windscreen.”
The class shuddered and a whitehead fainted. Perhaps I’d better tone it down.
“So just remember, fly high! Then you’ll be safe. That’s all.”
“Fly high!” shouted the class.
Katie kereru bustled forward. A rifleman thanked me in his squeaky voice and the kiwi brought me a basket of tawa berries. They’re not my favourites but of course I said ‘thank you’.
“You were great, Sarge!” cheeped Freddie as we made our way back to the forest.
“Fly high!” he shouted suddenly.
I got such a fright I dropped the basket and the berries rolled into the moss.
“Just practising,” said Freddie.
“Look what you made me do! Help me pick them up.”
Freddie rolled the berries across the moss and I put them back in the basket.
“Shall we look in on Winnie, Sarge?” he asked.
I sighed. “I suppose so. And then I’d better get home to Mrs P. I’ll take her the tawa berries. She likes them.”
It wasn’t far to the beech tree where Winnie had her nest. I craned my neck to look up at her.
“Hi, Winnie. It’s Sergeant PJ. I hear you’ve lost some eggs.”
A head poked over the edge of the nest.
“Eggs? Oh, those ones on the ground? You’re nearly standing on them, Sergeant.”
I jumped back. She was right. There were three eggs at the base of the tree, just as Freddie had told me.
“Are these your eggs, Winnie?”
“I dunno. Maybe. But I don’t want them anymore. I like the egg I’ve got. It’s so big. I don’t think I’ve ever had a bigger egg.”
“Oh. So you don’t want to lay a complaint?”
“Me? Complain? Nope.” The head disappeared
“Oh. I see.” I looked at the abandoned eggs. Two were cracked. Probably rotten, I thought. So I tried one and it wasn’t – rotten I mean. It seemed a pity to waste them.
Much later I puffed down the slope to the office. “Time I went home, Freddie. You’re off duty now.”
“Sir.” Freddie lifted his wing in salute and flew away. I set off home. Whitehead eggs are small but three makes a considerable lunch for a pukeko.
Want to read what happens next? Tell us and we will look to add more!Click here