The police car drew up alongside me, pulled over, and stopped. I stopped walking. There’s something about the police that makes you feel guilty even if you haven’t done anything. I watched as a short lady cop got out of the car and came over to me. It was dark and the snow, heavy all day, was still coming down. I couldn’t see her very clearly. 

“Excuse me?” Her voice was gruff. It was pretty late and there was no one else around. I could see a gun strapped to the tight belt around her waist. I felt a little scared. 

“Yes?” I tried to steady my voice.

“There’s been an incident at the grocery store a few blocks south. Were you just there?” 

“I was...yes...I went to buy cigarettes.” I motioned to the end of a cigarette tucked between my fingers. 

She nodded. “The cashier there has identified you as a possible witness. I was wondering if you would mind making a statement?”

“Sure.” What else could I say?

She asked me if I would accompany her back to the scene of the incident. When I nodded, she opened the rear door of the cruiser and I got in. It was kind of exciting, really. I’d always wondered what it was like at the back of a police car. But it was unfriendly; the grille between the front and back seats was solid and unyielding and the cop looked grim.  

 We drove back to the grocery store, which didn’t take long. The small parking lot was well lit with an ambulance, and another police cruiser, roof lights flashing. There were also two very expensive cars parked there, as well as a crappy little Honda. The snow was pretty thick now. A man stood with a woman at the open rear doors of the ambulance; they were staring at a baby car seat, in which nestled a very young baby, apparently asleep. The man and woman were talking to the ambulance men, huddled inside with the baby, sheltering from the blizzard. In the other police car I recognized the grocery cashier who was sitting, like me, in the back of the car, presumably giving a statement as well. Everyone looked at us as we arrived. 

I sat quietly in the back of the police car. The lady cop turned off the car and took out a clipboard. I saw the words “Witness Statement” written in bold lettering across the top of the page. I wondered what had happened since I left.

Lady Cop took my name, address, details. “You don’t live near here,” she remarked. I didn’t reply. 

Then she asked me to describe exactly what I had seen when I entered the grocery store. 

“I walked into the store. It looked empty, but then just after I went in a girl ran in behind me carrying the baby in that carrier.” I motioned towards the baby carrier in the ambulance. Lady Cop nodded, scribbling. 

“Did you see her clearly? Can you give me a description?”

“Well, not really- she was wearing a dark hooded jacket and was hunched over. I didn't see much at all. She looked to be about 5 foot 6 inches tall, maybe? Didn’t see her hair either. She seemed to be in a rush. She came in, passed by me, and went down the next aisle with the baby and that’s the last I saw of her.”

“Then what did you do?”

“I went straight to the cash to buy my smokes. I didn’t need any food. I didn’t see anyone else until I left.” 

Lady Cop stopped writing and stared at me. Hard. 

“You saw someone else?” 

“Yes.” I looked out of the window and pointed. “That woman there. As I was leaving the parking lot, she drew up in that huge Porsche and got out and went inside in a big hurry too. I remember thinking what a bad parking job. Everyone is always in a hurry, even late at night.” And we both looked at the car, still parked crookedly in its spot, and then at the well-dressed woman gazing at the baby. The man beside her had an arm around her waist. 

“I’ve never seen that guy before, though,” I said. ”I’m guessing that’s Mr Porsche. He’s come to make sure his wife is ok. Looks like he has a nice car, too.”

Lady Cop looked annoyed. Then she said:

“Did you notice anything else about the girl with the baby? If you didn’t see her face, how did you know she was female?”

I thought for a minute. “She had really small hands. Small, pretty hands. I thought she couldn’t be that old.” I looked down at my own hands, stained with nicotine, the nails bitten, the skin torn and chapped. I hid them up in my sleeves so I couldn’t see them.

Lady Cop stared at me for a minute before she resumed writing. Her head bent, I noticed her hair was pulled back tightly into a ponytail. Really tightly. I wondered if it gave her a headache. 

“So you didn’t see anyone leave?” she spoke sharply.

“No, because I left. I walked down Clifford Avenue and then you picked me up not long afterwards.”

There was silence. She seemed really grumpy. 

“Do you have a headache?” I asked.

She gave me a weird look. 

“You haven’t asked me what happened here tonight,” she said, finally. “What do you think happened?”

I cleared my throat.

“Well, from what I can see, I’m thinking that the girl I saw left her baby in the grocery store. Maybe Mrs Porsche or possibly the cashier discovered the baby somewhere in the store and called the cops. The ambulance was also called to make sure the baby is ok. The cops heard that a sketchy-looking customer was there a few minutes earlier and that particular customer is now sitting in the back of your car.”

Lady Cop frowned. “This isn’t funny, you know.” She gave me a hostile look. 

I sighed. “I know. But what can I say? You know I didn’t take the baby. I only saw the person with the baby for a few seconds. I’m guessing the cashier didn’t see anything. So what has this got to do with me? I don’t know anything and I didn’t really see much. It’s pretty late. Can I go now?”  

She looked at me closely. 

“You’re pretty young yourself. Do you live alone?”

I looked away. “I’d like to go now, please.” I looked outside and noticed that the baby was beginning to wake. 

Lady Cop finished writing and paused for a moment, looking outside as well. The snow had stopped. “That poor little one,” she murmured.

“Who knows, maybe Mrs Porsche will adopt her and she’ll be really glad one day that her mother left her in this nice, rich neighbourhood.“ 

As soon as the words were out I knew I’d made a mistake.

Lady Cop looked at me and said quietly: ”How do you know the baby is a girl?”

I paled. “I think you told me. You told me.” My voice was just a whisper.

 I could feel the milk beginning to come, spouting in a warm flow down my chest and soaking my shirt. I could hear the thin little cry of the baby. The milk came faster. And I started to cry, too.

July 30, 2020 00:59

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RBE | Illustration — We made a writing app for you | 2023-02

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