In our house TV classic Outrageous Fortune was staple viewing. The people it depicted were like us. Living on the edge outside of the law. I even entered a Cheryl West Look Alike Contest, but didn’t make the finals. Mum went ballistic screeching to neighbourhood wellwishers “Bloody thing was rigged. Picking a bunch of wannabe tarts when my kid’s right there beside them.” To her way of thinking as the real thing I should’ve been the main contender.
Dad and my brothers reckoned I should’ve applied to be a scriptwriter. I would never have been short of inspiration because the Mallorys, us are New-Zealand’s answer to the James or Kelly gangs. My childhood memories are full of visits from the cops and jailhouse reunions with one or more of the fellers as mum nicknamed them. Loveable rogues all or at least to us they’re headline makers, just for all the wrong reasons. Whenever something local goes down the cops turn up at ours. I wanted to keep a scrapbook of cuttings. My bruvs liked the idea, but mum said it’d be incriminating. I can’t see how when at the time of publication they were either facing court or convicted.
While my middle brother Dan reckoned.
“It’s like kicking a dog when it’s down.”
Out of all my bruvs he’s the one I’m closest to. I don’t know what happened to Dan’s real parents, but at the time mum and dad said we were borrowing a Maori idea called whangai that lets people adopt without having to use Social Welfare (or as they’re called nowadays Oranga Tamariki). Just as well, because I can’t imagine Social Welfare approving us as an adoptive family. Regardless we held our peace afterwards which according to dad is also the code we live by. He calls it a Kiwi version of omerta. For as long as I remember it’s been our number one house rule, while tale telling or narking especially to the authorities is regarded as the ultimate betrayal. Growing up to further ensure that we got the message he encouraged us to watch movies like The Godfather”, Bonnie & Clyde and Scarface. Then more recently The Sopranos and Outrageous.
Which is how I know they’ll hate me.
If the fellers could see me right now, they’d have my head.
“What? Our little sister at the cop station singing? No way.”
”Yes Dan way and I”m so sorry I couldn’t do this without betraying you,”
Later when the shit hits the fan I wonder if they’ll go so far as to kill me?
It’s not unheard of even in our country.
I wish now that I’d never read that Stuff article. Then I could’ve kept telling myself that it hadn’t been Dan’s midnight blue car being sought in connection with a hit and run.
Narking.....grassing....snitching......being a stool pigeon. They mean one in the same, violating the Kiwi version of omerta. Had I left well alone it wouldn’t have even been a consideration. Except it is and here I am at the police station. It’s taken the best part of this morning to spill my guts and. once I sign my official statement Dan will be charged with Hit & Run. I’ll have betrayed my favourite bruv, placed myself beyond family redemption and depending on how high feelings run perhaps even signed my death warrant. Your average citizen likes to pretend that those things don’t happen in New-Zealand, but if dad gives the nod mum won’t plead my case. Then the unbelieving masses can read about another body being discovered. In families like ours criminality is a dark heritage passed through generations,
A great great on dad’s side was transported to Australia as a convict. The story goes that he jumped ship, ended up in New-Zealand (Aotearoa to the politically correct) and met a goldfields. Madam, a great great on mum’s side. They got hitched, raised a family and established its codes. I don’t think the omerta comparison goes back quite as far. It’s more likely to have cropped up in The Godfather.
The worse thing you can become is a grass, snitch, stool pigeon, nark even when your brother takes out a young mum and two children crossing the road to an ice cream shop.
Lorraine Cartwright (24) was walking across a pedestrian crossing with her children Brodie (3) and Mia (5). ”They were going to the dairy for ice cream....”
That was only part of what Lorraine’s husband told the Stuff reporter, but it was enough for me. That night Dan tore into the driveway, the fellers got into a huddle and moved his car before sunup. I’ve told the cops where to find it, remembering Dan’s exclamations about pedestrians appearing out of nowhere.
‘It was a pedestrian crossing Danny. Lorraine and her children had every right to be using it. You were the one who appeared out of nowhere and they deserve justice, I only hope that one day you’ll forgive me and ask Lorraine’s husband to forgive you. Just make it sincere when you do, for my sake.”
Detective-Inspector Cliff Somers has dogged our family for years.
“Are you ready to sign your statement Miss Mallory?”
This man who’s dogged our footsteps for years. He must think me a real coup.....the ultimate whistleblower.
”Can we just get on with it?”
Yet as I sign my life away he’s smiling, and when it’s done he shakes my hand. “Thank you Sharon, I appreciate how difficult this has been, You’re a very brave young woman.”
Well blow me down with a feather, praise from the Mallory family’s nemesis. Lost for words I nod, at the same time wondering how this kind of a scenario would’ve played out in an episode of Outrageous. Then I imagine myself writing it, being nominated for a TV award, wearing the blonde Cheryl wig and trying to explain what inspired the title Kiwi Code Of Omerta into the title and that carries me back outside to take my chances. The cops offered but I’m damned if I’m going into Witness Protection.