• Vol. 03
  • Chapter 05
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A cat called Nettie

"I'll spare you the details but Sydney zoo have my Nettie and I want her back. You guys are the big cat burglars I hear, which is why we're talking.

Here's a photo of her snout - you can identify them most accurately by their individual scars. And don't worry despite the scars she's a pussycat, sweet as a nut."

So we scoped out the zoo, made our plans.

A few weeks later at 3am I parked the van by the perimeter fence and we started with bolt cutters.

A night zoo is a wild and alien place, whose nocturnal denizens watch slavering and restless.

It took half an hour to reach the lion enclosure.

The scars on her snout were clearly visible in the torchlight and true to his description she was gentle and compliant as we hooked the leashes over her.

Soon she was loaded and we were winding down to the harbour.

4am and Sydney slept softly under the southern cross.

At the harbour we transferred her into the boat. Placidly she sat like an Egyptian queen on a royal barge gazing out at the opera house as we chugged slowly across the bay.

The ferries were stopped at this hour and the night was like a sweet blanket of calm as our strange vessel floated in the dripping moonlight. Insomniac seabirds would suddenly appear and swerve away like lost angels in dark beyond their understanding.


A cat called Nettie

Still Nettie sat unperturbed, enjoying the sea air and rare scents blowing from the botanical garden, tranquil and tropical across the water. We moored up and padded through the gardens under the glow of the lights from the AMP tower and the financial district.

At the top of the hill a car and trailer awaited.

As we approached we saw a big yellow clamp on the trailer wheel. There was no choice. We uncoupled the trailer, opened the back door of the Holden saloon and guided Nettie in.

I climbed into the driver's seat, one guy sat in the passenger seat, leaving the other to warily squeeze in next to the honey-coated animal. She turned her head to him and yawned, showing her incisors. Incredibly he resisted the impulse to leap out but kept his nerve as the lioness stretched out her long tongue and licked his face.

We drove through the Sydney dawn with her huge head blocking the rear view mirror.

When the circus comes to town sometimes you end up on the high wire, sometimes in the clown's car. Tonight it felt like both at once. At his house in Clovelly we walked up the path with the lioness pulling on the leash.

Entering through the grand front door we proceeded to the sitting room in which our employer waited.

"What the fuck?! That's a fucking lion! A lion for fuck's sake! Tell me this is a wind up?

You guys can't actually tell the difference between a lion and a cat..?"