My hands are still shaking with adrenaline as I write this. Sarah & I were coming home from lunch down Triploi road (A), past a primary school on our right and a dairy (tea room) on our left. I passed a rather unremarkable car on the side of the road. It was a dark blue station wagon. Later Sarah tells me it was probably a Subaru Legacy, one of the most popular cars in New Zealand. He looked like he was meaning to turn out into the street, but he didn’t have his indicators on, so I passed him. Click on the map to the right to the the details of our little trip with markers.
As I passed, I realised he was pulling off in spite of me. So I sped up a little so as to take over smoothly and indicated to the left to signal my intention. Instead he speeds away, Sarah yells “careful!” and I shift over to the right as he bolts past me. I hear his engine hum impressively as he motors past and I try to avoid hitting the oncoming traffic.
“Holy fuck!” Sarah commented sedately as he sped away “Yeah, that was fucking weird” I said. We were considering reporting him to someone when we suddenly saw something that made our blood run cold: the passenger’s door flew open and someone tried to jump out, gave up and closed the door again, or perhaps they were pulled back (B).
“Shall I call?”
“Yes!” I yelled, speeding up. We needed to get the bastard’s license plate number and we couldn’t let him get away.
“Fucked if I know”
Whatever was going on, it certainly wasn’t legal. Worst case scenario, this guy had just abducted a child from outside her school and was planning on raping her out in some nearby bushes. Whatever it was, it had to be stopped. As I followed him I was aware of our own vulnerability. If this truly was criminal activity I was following, then I had better be careful.
My father has a habit of doing this: of getting involved in dangerous situations like this. In South Africa he had intervened in a bit of public domestic violence and was threatened with a screw-driver. I remember that night clearly because I was the one on the phone trying to get the police to take me seriously. Meanwhile my father was yelling that he had a knife and it was a matter of life and death. The police had been late or never arrived that time, can’t remember which.
I tried to follow without looking suspicious. The police always tell you not to get involved, that they would take care of the situation. But we had to get his license plate number before we could leave them alone with a clear conscience.
Then the perpetrator stopped so quickly we could see his tyres smoking and turned off down Tuakiri Street (C). I was faced with a terrible decision: do I follow him and risk his retaliation or do I leave and go along my merry way in the vague hope that the police may actually sort this out themselves? We had a duty as members of society to look after this young woman, but at what cost? How much do we put ourselves at risk for the safety of others?
“Shall I?” I asked Sarah, she had a stake in this decision too.
We turned down the quiet suburban street and I went back up to 80km/h. Cars were parked on either side of the road, it was a quiet part of town. Even though it is a rather low socioeconomic area, most houses had one or two cars, more often that not, one of those cars was a range rover or other such muscle car.
We couldn’t make out his plate but saw him turn left down Riverside Avenue. I turned and followed, barely stopping at the stop street.
“It’s no use” Sarah said, “no reception”.
“Here, use mine” I said, throwing my phone at her, the steering wheel wobbled in my hand as I fished it out of my jeans. Sarah grabbed the wheel to keep us steady. Riverside is a very straight road so I caught up with him pretty quickly. By now he must know I was following him. Surely, if he was kidnapping someone and if he was serious, he would either want to lose me very quickly or (more likely in South Africa) turn around, deal with me, and be on his merry way.
Just after passing Riki Road, he stopped again, his tires smoked leaving skid marks in the street. We would have heard an almighty screech had we been close enough. The passenger leapt out of the car, and ran in our direction. I could see she was crying. I turned right down Riki (which happens to be a dead-end) and we caught a glimpse of his license plate number.
Now, I was worried. Perhaps he stopped so he could get rid of us? Perhaps this cul-de-sac would be the perfect place?
“Do you want to call?” Sarah asked. She was still having difficulty with my phone.
“No! You! Phone!” I said emphatically, executing a three point turn so that if I needed to get away I could. I had visions of him screaming down the road, hell-bent on crashing into us: that is how erratically he had been driving (D).
A bystander had come out of his house to talk to the girl and comfort her. I thought he must be crazy, what if the driver of the car took exception to this? The blue car was turning. I slowly left the cul-de-sac and made my way back down Riverside.
I passed her and her Samaritan. She seemed completely unsteady on her feet. There was definitely something wrong with her. I looked in the rear view mirror. All I could think of was: “Oh shit, he’s following me! He’s following me!” Sure enough, that dark blue car was slowly creeping up behind me as I drove down the road. I took the first turn-off down to the right (Anderson) and prayed he wouldn’t follow. I had visions of him chasing me around Glen Innes to get rid of me, and I am not a fantastic driver at the best of times.
Meanwhile, Sarah had been relating our story to the operator.
“He’s heading South down, um what street was that?”
“It’s fucked-if-I-know street” I yelled hysterically.
“Tamatea Ave” Sarah read off the street sign. He’s near Tamatea Ave (E).
“Tell them to send a car out right now!” I shouted “She’s out the car, she’s crying and he’s following me! He’s fucking following me.”
“She’s out of the car?”
“Yes, she’s fucking out of the car and she’s crying. There’s an Indian dude with her”.
“We better go see if she’s all right.” Sarah said.
“Ok,” I made my way clockwise around the block. The blue car was no longer behind me, maybe he had made off. Right into Pt. England, then right again into Riverside and we were now travelling in the same direction as the girl. I was planning on stopping to see if she was all right or needed a lift to the police station but then I saw him: he was driving opposite her on the other side of the road, creeping along like a stalker.
“He’s stalking her!” “He’s fucking stalking with his fucking car, he’s right opposite her.”
Sarah relayed this information sans expletives.
I matched his speed, keeping about 3 car-lengths behind him. I prayed that he was so interested in his quarry that he wouldn’t notice me.
“Tell them they’d better send a fucking car right now, because she’s in real fucking danger here!” I shouted, hoping the operator would need no translation.
“They’ve apparently been called out about this already” Sarah said, trying to calm me down.
“Well, where are they then? Tell them to hurry the fuck up!”
After a while, the Indian Samaritan left the girl to her own devices. Immediately, the car pulled into a driveway in front of her and the driver got out. A crowd of onlookers had come out of their houses to see what all the fuss was about. Other traffic was slowing or stopping as well.
I started narrating in what Sarah later described as a hysterical voice:
“Oh fuck, he’s just turned into a driveway and blocked her off. Tell them he’s blocked her off, he’s going to hit her.”
“She’s running, oh God she’s running, he’s grabbed her and she’s trying to get away, they’re in the middle of the street, where the fuck are they, he’s going to kill her.”
Now, you may call me hysterical but maybe you don’t appreciate the depths of horror that people are capable of. People are killed every day in South Africa for something far less than a domestic disturbance and as far as we were concerned, he may have well been trying to abduct her.
“He’s grabbed her and she’s pulling away. Where the fuck are they? Tell them to hurry the fuck up or she’ll be dead by the time they get here!”
Sarah was trying to calm me down but I did not want to be calmed down.
“Ask him if they’re not going to do anything, then should we?”
This was the real reason for my hysteria: if the cops didn’t arrive to absolve me of responsibility, it was my civic duty to stop whatever it was that was going on in front of me. I didn’t think I was up to that challenge. I thought back to my father out in some dark alleyway, wrestling some drunken woman from her more drunken partner, at any moment possibly eviscerated by some make-shift shim.
Sarah relayed back to me that we shouldn’t do anything and that the cops were on their way.
I turned my hazard lights on and stopped the car. The couple were now in the middle of the street, struggling with each other. She bucked and shook for her life, but she was no match for him. He pulled her towards the right, towards his car, but she didn’t want to go.
They gradually made their way left across the road, she was struggling against him the whole time. Not for the first time, I wondered if maybe she was under the influence of some sort of narcotic. Maybe they both were.
He finally had her struggling form pinned beneath his arms on the left hand side of the road. He appeared to be hugging her but she was still struggling. What did he plan on doing? Was he going to drag her into his car? Or maybe just break her neck right there? Was he just trying to comfort her from a bad hallucination? I couldn’t tell and frankly I didn’t care, I wanted the police there now.
“Tell him if they don’t come now she’ll be dead!”
Sarah told me I should calm down and that the operator wanted to speak to me.
I grabbed the phone. “Hi, how’s it going, where are they?”
“They’re on their way.”
“Well, they’re taking their sweet fucking time. Tell them to get the fuck here or she’s dead, ok?”
I thrust the phone back at Sarah.
I am not sure how long it took before they came, it felt like ages. When they eventually did arrive, I flashed my lights like crazy and we pointed at the couple under the trees (F).
The police came over and separated them. Interestingly they put her hands behind her back, so perhaps she was the dangerous one, not him. We waited for the police to take our statements but it appeared I had said quite enough, they waved us (there was another car that had joined the caravan behind this domestic altercation). As I drove away, I got a good look at his face.
“Animal” I muttered vehemently and made my shaky way home. I think this proves that playing hours of GTA does not desensitise you to violence.