This is the next chapter of my story. To read the previous chapter or to start at the beginning, click HERE.
The unmarked police car was in the alley behind our house. A woman and the detective that interviewed me led me out our back door, across the backyard, through our garage to the alley. Once we were there, they handcuffed me and read me my rights before they ducked my head and had me sit in the backseat of the car, buckling the seat belt across me, just like on tv. Honestly, that’s all I was thinking as we drove out and down the street towards the police department. “This is just like on tv. I feel like I’m in an episode of “Law & Order.” They must really research that show.” Dumb, isn’t it. You’d think I’d be panicked or at least crying, but something put an aura of peace over me and I just took it all in like I was watching tv. Someone, at some point, would say they were making a reality tv show and I had done a great job.
As we began the drive to the police department, the detective told me that he had explained where we were going to my husband and that he said he would bail me out as soon as he could. Was he trying to reassure me? Did I look scared? I felt numb. The police department was about twenty minutes away without any traffic. They talked as we drove but I can’t remember exactly what they said. It sounded like two people talking shop, where they’d eat lunch, what they’d do next. I sat there quietly thinking about the street we were on and the freeway we were headed to. I’ve made this drive a thousand times growing up in this area. I never in my life thought I’d travel it in the back of a police car. I noted the plastic molded seat with a place for my cuffed hands behind my back. Interesting. I always wondered if it would be very uncomfortable riding in a car while practically sitting on your hands. And the metal divider between the backseat and the front. I remember seeing that on “Cops”, when the arrested person was usually angry or drunk, kicking at it or hitting it with their head. Who else had been in this seat? What was their story?
Thirty minutes later, we pulled into a familiar parking lot. The police station was on the same block as the mall that was robbed, the one that I worked at when I was in high school, the one my friends and I used to go ice skating at as kids. It’s also near a local theater that I always wanted to work at. I’d been doing live theater since high school. I started acting in junior high, but by my second year of high school, I knew I’d found my art, set design and building. I dreamed of going to college and becoming a famous designer on Broadway. I’d been so many shows at that theater and I knew the police department was in the same center. It was so strange to be coming in this way.
We parked and the detective got out and opened my door, helping me stand up without my hands and not bump my head. They walked with me across the parking lot, one on each side of me. I’ll admit I was embarrassed and hoped no one I knew saw me at this moment. Everyone I know will attest that I’m quite talkative, especially when I’m nervous, so it would come to no surprise to them that I remarked as we walked up, “This is so weird. I never thought this could happen to me. It’s like I’m on tv. It just can’t be real.” The woman officer with me said, “It’s probably very weird to you if you really are innocent.” I sensed a tone in her voice. Was it disbelief, cynicism, incredulity?
When we walked through the double doors and into the lobby, there was a lot of hustle and bustle. People lined up to talk to the clerk at the front desk. People at sitting on benches. People waiting with papers. We moved toward the back of the office. Several other officers greeted the detective as we passed. I heard things like, “This your robbery suspect?” and “Hey! No troubles picking her up?!” I just hung my head and followed him. Mortified is the word for what I was feeling. They couldn’t be talking about me. We continued walking, passed through a locked door with a bullet proof glass window, and he sat me down in an interrogation room. One table, two or three chairs, a recording device, and one-way glass mirror. It just got more and more surreal. He told me we would talk here and I could answer a few more questions for him. Maybe we could get to the bottom of what happened. He was cheerful and seemed sorry to have to do this to me. I was grateful for his kindness. He left the room.
A few minutes later, he came back with a small stack of papers in his hand, hand written notes, and printed things. He asked me if I needed anything to drink and I asked for a glass of water. I really could have used a cup of coffee though. They had pulled me from bed and I’m used to at least a couple of cups before I face the day. I was starting to get a caffeine headache. He brought a paper cup of water and sat down across from me.
“Have you been read your rights? Do you understand them? Do you waive those rights and wish to talk to me?” I answered yes. “I haven’t done anything wrong and I’d like to clear this up if I can.” He started to ask more questions. I don’t remember the conversation word for word but I do remember certain things. He asked why I knew the area we were in so well and I explained that I grew up there, my family still lives in the area, and we come here often. I mean, seriously, it isn’t a small town. Forty thousand people live in this one city alone and it’s surrounded by cities that have a considerably higher population. The odds of talking to any random person in the area that knows the mall and its surrounding restaurants is pretty good. It seemed like a strange thing to be hung up on.
He asked about my family. Did my husband and I get along? Who watched the kids when I was out? Where did I keep my clothes in the house? Were we having any financial trouble? I told my life story and all the details. I like to talk and I’m not hiding anything. What could they possibly take and use against me?
He then told me that I had described perfectly all the places that the robbery suspect had been, that they didn’t find any of my clothes around the house so I obviously had another place I was living, and that two people had identified me in a photo line-up as the person that robbed them and the person that had used a stolen credit card. They were charging me with armed robbery, attempted car jacking, and fraud. Felonies. I’d be held until bail was paid, $50,000. He assured me my husband was probably working on it. He could get a bail bond anywhere. I couldn’t imagine what he was going through at that moment.
He asked me to follow him and we walked down a hall to “processing.” There the detective took his leave and I was finger printed and photographed by another officer. Believe it or not, there was levity here. The officer couldn’t remember how to make the finger printing machine work and had to leave to get help. We both laughed. I wondered how many people they put in jail here. Then he took me to a holding cell. He told me I’d be here for a while. “It’s not very comfortable. Sorry about that.” Amazingly enough, I was still cheerful, though nervous. I told him that I was the stay-at-home mom of two small children, any chance to take an uninterrupted nap is a good one. He smiled, shut the door, and left.
I sat there alone for the first time since I heard the knock on my door. I quietly looked around me and took it all in. A real city jail cell, just like Mayberry. A cot, a chair of sorts, and a toilet and sink, all out in the open with no privacy whatsoever. At least I was alone. Bathroom privacy is a hang up of mine. I hear about couples that shower together, leave the door open when they use the toilet, or let their babies in while they are in the bathroom. Not me! This is one of the things that separates us from animals. Growing up, I dreaded using the public bathroom stalls at school or worse going outside in the woods on camping trips. I even shut the door when I lived alone in my own apartment. Looking over at the open toilet, I thanked God that I had gone before we had left my house. My husband would bail me out soon. I can wait.
As I sat there on the edge of the cot looking down at my feet, I took in my appearance. I had thrown on the first sweatshirt I could find and the jeans that were at the end of my bed. I didn’t even put socks on, just my tennis shoes. I had pulled my hair back in a pony tail, brushing it with my fingers. I looked like I had been up all night drinking. I was tired, very tired. At that moment, I prayed. “Lord, help me remain calm. Help my husband through this.” I laid down on the bed after a bit and fell asleep. My personal best defense against stress!
To read the next chapter, click HERE.