Going Home

This is the next chapter of my story. To read the previous chapter or to start at the beginning, click HERE.

Approaching the window that called my name, I was handed a bag of my belongings and something to sign. There was a piece of paper I took with me that had a date and directions to appear in court. I took my bag and sat on a locker room style bench to dress in my own clothes. Instructed to leave through a door to my right after I was dressed, I looked at it. My family was on the other side. This will all be over soon.

As I walked through the door I saw my anxious husband waiting there for me. He put his arm around me and led me to our truck in the parking lot. We didn’t talk until we got inside. He asked if I was ok and I responded yes but I was hungry. He told me our boys were with my Aunt and my step-daughter was at home with Grandma probably doing her homework. We had to go get the boys but I wanted to stop and eat first, try to gather my wits and unwind. We drove to a fast food burger place and sat down to eat. My husband related his end of the day.

After I’d been taken, the officer told him that he could post bail at the city jail and gave him the address. He called my Aunt and Uncle, the closest relatives we had at the time in both physical and emotional proximity. They take the boys for the day often and we spend a lot of time at their house swimming and visiting. They’d be the best to look after them while my husband did what he needed to do. He said it was the oddest feeling in the world to relay what had just happened over the phone. They were shocked and told him to bring the boys over right away and they’d help figure out what to do next. My mother-in-law was still dropping my step-daughter off at school 45 minutes away and wouldn’t be back for a while and then she’d need to drive down again in the afternoon to pick her up.

My husband dropped the boys at their house, explained a few more details about the morning, and then left to come to the city jail to see about posting bail. My uncle went with him. None of us has ever been anywhere near any kind of incident like this. He knew my husband would need support.

At the city jail, my husband checked in at the desk and told him why he was there. He was instructed how to post bail and given a list of bail bond places nearby. He asked if there was any way to get a message to me so that I would know that he was working on it. The officer said no. After looking into bonds, he found that if he bought a $50,000 bond and posted bail with that, I’d be out immediately but the cost of the bond would be $5000 that we wouldn’t get back. That is a lot of money for us to lose. Knowing that we weren’t going to skip court, that I hadn’t done anything wrong, and thinking this would all be over in a few days, it didn’t seem worth the cost if he could find the cash instead of the bond. Talking with my uncle, they went to get the cash. Finding that it was going to take a few hours, he attempted to relay that message to me through the police so that I wouldn’t worry. They finally got all the cash together, posted bail, and an hour later here we were.

We sat across the table from each other in awe of what had happened. Never in a million years would we have guessed this could happen to us. We went over each other’s versions of the morning. My husband said that the detective interviewing us all at the house told him that he didn’t really know me, that I had a boyfriend and another apartment nearby and that I was robbing people and cheating on him. I probably had a drug problem that he didn’t know about. He told my husband that it happens all the time. We think we know people but really don’t. My husband just sat there thinking that he had to be on some hidden camera show. Did this man really think this? Was the detective trying to put doubt in his mind so that he’d give up information that would strengthen the case against me? My husband only repeated the same things that I and his mother had said. We are a close family with few internal problems. I’m home most of the time because we have small children. I work outside our home one or two nights a week at most for about four hours nearby. I’m a girl scout leader and I attend church on most Sunday’s and bible study on Wednesday nights. The detective only reiterated what he had concocted about me and told my husband to think about it. Was I really out at a bible study? Could I prove that? My husband was amazed that someone would try so hard to convince him his wife that he knew so well was hiding something like this. How could anyone hide something like this completely?

We finished eating and went to pick up our boys. When we pulled up in front of the house and walked up to the front door, my boys came running out and threw themselves at my legs. They were excited to tell me all about their day. They had hot dogs and went swimming. My aunt hugged me tightly. I’m sure we all couldn’t think of anything to say. My Mom called while we were there and I filled her in on what was going on. My aunt had called the whole family throughout the day to explain what had happened but there was little to tell. My Mom told me that she had called a couple of her friends to help and that she’d call me the next day with a phone number for a lawyer. We all sat and talked for a few more minutes, but I was exhausted and really wanted to go straight to bed. We loaded the boys up into the truck and headed home. On the way, my older son piped up from the backseat, “Did you get the bad guys, Mom?” I looked at my husband. “You left with the police after they had searched the house for bad guys,” he explained. “Yes, we did. And they are very sorry now. The police fixed it up.” That was enough for them. Kids. They were very excited that I got to “help the police” and now that it was all over, all they wanted to know was what was for dinner.

At home, my mother-in-law and step-daughter were watching tv and eating some fast food they had gotten together. My step-daughter had few questions about the incident. I was starting to doubt that she even remembered that anything had happened. Autism is strange. The information is in there, it just isn’t communicated in verbal ways. I still wonder what she thought about it, if she ever thinks about it now. At the time, I was just too tired and worried to delve into it with her. Our relationship was always strained and no discussion was better than the battling we did over homework and getting the laundry to the hamper. I did worry what she might say to her mother when she returned in the middle of the week. What if her mother got the wrong idea and made life even more difficult for my husband to spend time with his daughter?

I spent a few minutes talking with my mother-in-law about her version of the day and going over some of my end of it again. I was so tired and just wanted to go to bed. I’m afraid I was rather short with everyone that evening. My husband fed the boys some dinner while I laid on the couch. He told me not to worry, that we’d figure out what to do tomorrow. We headed up to bed together after dinner and we started our bedtime routine. The boys got their books, I got my journal and my bible. My step-daughter finished using the bathroom and headed to her bedroom. The boys got a bath, brushed their teeth, used the bathroom. We read “Where the Wild Things Are” and listened to “Puff the Magic Dragon”. I tucked them into their beds and sat in my rocking chair while they went to sleep, a ritual we continued for years afterward and rarely a very peaceful ending of our day.

That’s when the “what-if’s” began. What if they boys had run to the door with their toy guns? What if my husband believed the detective’s story? What if I don’t find a lawyer? What if no one believes me? What if I go to jail for this? I looked at my journal and began to write. “I won’t go into the details about what happened today because I doubt I’ll ever forget it.” Hand writing things always seems to help me sort my thoughts. Looking back at them, it doesn’t look that way but it helps as I’m writing. Sometimes reading my old journals makes me cringe. I wrote a page then closed it and read my bible for awhile. The boys finally fell asleep and I got in bed with my husband. He was already asleep and I collapsed into unconsciousness.

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Transferred

This is the next chapter of my story. To read the previous chapter or to start at the beginning, click HERE.

The next thing I knew there was a voice at the door. An officer asked me to get up; they were transferring me to the county jail. It was several hours later. I asked what was going on and the officer said that bail had not been paid, they can’t keep people at the city jail over night, so they were transferring me to the county jail so that I’d be processed in time to get a cell for the night. “It looks like your husband doesn’t believe your story. He hasn’t even been here to bail you out.” I knew in my heart that wasn’t true. He was probably doing everything he could, as quickly and smartly as he could. I trusted my husband. He’s always been my hero. But then my heart sunk to my stomach. I’d be spending the night in jail? Visions of tv shows kept running through my mind and they were not pretty. Suddenly, I felt warm, protected. I’d be ok. This must happen all the time. It’s really no big deal.

The officer cuffed my hands again and walked me to a police car. He put me into the back seat of the car and he got in with his partner, a woman police officer. They seemed in high spirits, just doing their daily work. Did they even care about the person in the back seat? Or was I just cargo to them? That’s when the officer driving looked back at me.

“Scared?” he asked. I answered, “A little, yes. I’ve never been in any trouble before.” He just smirked and looked at his partner. We pulled out of the parking lot and headed toward the freeway. I knew where we were going. I’ve had jury duty before and I had to walk by the county jail from the parking garage. When we were on the freeway the officer said, “If my wife were in jail for something she didn’t do, I’d sell the new truck I just bought for bail money and get her out immediately. Ten percent of a $50K bail? I wouldn’t let my innocent wife go to county over night for $5000.” I sat there thinking that would be ridiculous. We just bought that truck the previous weekend, on credit, brand new. Everyone knows it’s not worth what you have a loan for the moment you take it off the lot. We’d planned on having that truck until it fell apart. Sure, he’d get cash for a bail bond but we’d be out a truck and all the money. I’m innocent, so I’ll be getting my bail back right away. I’m sure he’s just looking for the cash from friends and family. That takes time. I was proud to sit in jail and not do something stupid out of panic. “It doesn’t look like he buys your story this time. Probably been suspecting something was going on for a long time. He’s taken your kids and left you to us.” I just sat there dumbfounded. I couldn’t believe he was talking to me like that. What a horrible thing to say. Who do they think I am?

They continued to chat in the front seat as we drove the county jail. Pulling through the large gate with barbed wire along the top, my heart dropped. This was real. I was walked in and sat on a bench with several other women. They chained me to the bench with the others. Some paperwork was exchanged and the officers left, the heavy door closing and buzzing locked behind them.

Within a few minutes, a guard came and unlocked our handcuffs. We were asked to follow him to another room. It was a processing room. Completely made of concrete block, including bench seats along the walls. There was a large window facing into the main building. The whole thing reminded me of a warehouse, like Costco only for people. I walked in and sat down among the other women. Some were just sitting there, some were worried, some seemed a tad frantic, probably drugs, I guessed. Most of them were talking to each other.

The women I sat next to began to tell me her story. “I hope this doesn’t take long. I turned myself in, outstanding warrants.” “What for?” I asked, being polite. “Unpaid parking tickets. I got a babysitter for my kids and came in because I knew the babies father would do it when he found out. I can’t have the police coming to the door. They’d put my kids in foster care. Who knows when I’d get them back?” Unpaid parking tickets? Here in this dungeon place for unpaid fines. Another woman chimed into the conversation. “I’m here busted for driving with a suspended license.” Seriously. Most of the women I talked with were in county jail for minor crimes against the state, fines not paid, etc. None of them were there for violence against others, thrown in jail to keep them from hurting anyone else. Most of them would spend at least a few days here, I found. They couldn’t afford the bail until a hearing, so they sat in jail until they were called to court. So strange. This doesn’t seem the way we should be treating “innocent until proven guilty.”

I sat there worrying about my babies. They all seemed so worried as I walked out of the house. What was going on? Was my husband going to be able to find the money and bail me out anytime soon? How long was I going to be here? My sons had never spent the night without me. A woman opened the door to the room we were in and called several names to stand and follow her. My name was one of them.

We were walked down a long hall through several locked doors and ushered into a bigger and brighter room much like the previous one, concrete block walls, block benches along the walls, a drinking fountain in one corner and a toilet in another. My eye was drawn to it. No privacy whatsoever. Thrown in a room together with no privacy, no contact, no personal kindness or respect, because we were accused of a crime.

I sat down in the first open spot on the bench. A woman with long black frizzy hair looked up at me as I sat down. She smiled and I smiled back. “First time?” “Yes,” I answered. “It’s ok. We’ll get dinner soon. How long have you been here?” I told her I wasn’t sure, I didn’t have a watch, but they had brought me to city jail early this morning. It was strange to sit among these women and talk like we were at the beauty parlor or a doctor’s office. Most of them seemed nice and a little worried. The subject of bail came up. I’m not sure how, but I distinctly remember saying that I was waiting for my husband to post bail. “How much did they set for you?” one woman asked. “$50,000,” I said. Several others looked up in surprise. “What in the world did you do?” “They accused me of armed robbery and attempted car-jacking.” I suddenly had an audience. The girl sitting next to me just stared at me. We all swapped stories for a bit and felt a little more at ease. These women were just like me. There was nothing to fear except the unknown.

Every so often, while we were talking, an officer would come to the door and call a few names. Those women would follow that officer down the hall. “Processing.” a woman said when I looked confused after them. “We’ll have our turn eventually.” In time my own name was called. I stood and followed the officer. We were led to a large open shower room, much like the gym showers in high school (which I had never used). Again there was absolutely no privacy. In threes, we went to a window where a female officer stood. They handed us prison clothes, instructed us how to use the shower, and informed us that we were required to use the soap they provided. We walked to a bench by each shower head, stripped down, showered for three minutes exactly, toweled off and put on our “uniform.” Our personal effects were picked up and put in a bag with our name and number. Then we were led to another large holding cell like the last.

I have to stop here for just a minute. At this point, I was mortified. I don’t think I’ve ever been so embarrassed in my life. In fact, I don’t think I’ve ever shared this part of my experience. This is how we treat humans, like animals in a cage. Before you mutter to yourself something about “That’s just what has to happen.” “You’re in jail, what do you expect?” “Unfortunate, but it’s for security.” or “Don’t get in trouble with the law and these things won’t happen.”, I have a few things to say. Everyone in this room is only ‘accused’ of a crime. They are supposed to be innocent until they are proven guilty. The only thing they are guilty of at this point is being unfortunate enough not to have been bailed out of jail until they can be tried for their alleged crime. Your mother or sister or daughter could have an unpaid parking ticket and be treated this way. I used to not care before this happened. I used to grumble the same statements before I learned, first hand, what our “justice” system does to people. I really have no words to describe how this experience changed me and my way of thinking. In some ways, I’m thankful for the education. In other ways, I weep for those who do not have resources and spend inordinate amounts of time in jail away from their families because of it.

I wasn’t thinking about this as I walked from the shower to the next holding cell. I was thinking only of remaining calm. I was terrified by stories of jails. I was haunted by the looks of my husband and children as I left. And I was filled with anxiety about what was going to happen to me next. I sat there, quietly praying. “Lord, protect me. Lord.” I couldn’t think of anything else to say but I did feel peace. If I had imagined this situation, I’d have seen myself falling apart in tears, holding my knees to my chest, hyperventilating or refusing to move. But here I was going through the motions, following instructions. I was not crying. I just sat there. And then they called my name. Bail had been paid. I was free to go.

Read the next chapter HERE.

Taken In

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.

Bothersome Dreams

Last night I had an awful dream! I woke up with a start and couldn’t stop crying. Even when I got up and walked to the kitchen to get a drink of water to shake the sleep, I started crying again when my son asked me what the dream was about.

My husband and I were in the truck in the front yard like we had just gotten home from somewhere. Suddenly several cars came up the driveway and stopped in front of the house, people started getting out, rushing to the house looking around. When we got out of the truck, a woman turned to me and asked who I was. I answered and she gave a look. It was a bounty hunter, like you see on tv shows, with the police. She wanted to ask me a few questions and I asked them all in so the boys wouldn’t be worried about what was happening and come out of the house.

I sat across our dinner table answering questions. My husband and our sons were in the living room with the police. I was worried that they were scared. I knew my husband would be very anxious. I couldn’t believe this was happening again. I wanted to not answer any of their questions. I knew I shouldn’t. I knew I should ask if they were detaining me, if I was under arrest, but I was terrified to my bones of going to jail and I kept thinking I could possibly clear this up by talking to them.

They asked me if I knew what this (an old video tape cassette) was, what my favorite food was, and where I had just come from. Every time I answered she would look at the others as if to say, “See! This is totally the person we are looking for!” I knew I should stop talking and let them arrest me if they wanted to. It was obviously what they were there for. But I couldn’t figure out how to say it without looking more guilty. That’s when I woke up crying sobbing.

I can’t believe this still bothers me so much. Writing my story is what is bringing it to the front of my mind. Sometimes I wonder why I’m doing it. Why not just leave it buried and forgotten? But then I think about how many people this could happen to, how many people it has happened to, and how many people are sitting in jail right now for crimes they did not commit but didn’t have the lawyer I had to get out of the box they put me in. And I think of all the people that believe they are innocent of any wrong doing, so it can’t happen to them. The blade of “justice” hangs over all of us, whether we know it or not. Maybe if more of us knew what could happen, we’d be more careful about giving up our rights. That’s what my dream was about. I know my rights. I know what I should do. But will I have the strength to exercise them, to do what I should do, if the time ever comes again? Will my children? My husband?

And then I think there are probably so few people that will believe me, or take me seriously. I doubt that most of my family and friends, those who know me best, even take my warning experience to heart. What is the point of reliving this in my mind and sharing it?

Knock at the Door

This is the next chapter of my story. To read the previous chapter or to start at the beginning, click HERE.

A knock on the door? How long have I been asleep? I look at the clock. It’s nearly 7 am. The dog is barking like crazy. She hates it when people are on the front porch, even if it’s just us; a knock on the door and she goes bonkers. She’s a small dog, only about two feet tall at her shoulders. She looks like a miniature German Shepherd. The knocking gets louder and more insistent. I put my pillow over my head. Irritating people. I hear my husband’s heavy, deliberate step toward the door and the lock unbolting.

Male voices. I can’t hear exactly what they are saying but they are serious. “Hold the dog, sir.” My husband, “Ok. I’ve got her. She doesn’t bite.” Seconds of talking and big, hurried footsteps on the stairs. Now I’m curious. I sit up in bed to watch two men with guns drawn walk into my room. The guns are pointed at me. “Don’t move.” I don’t see uniforms, only yellow writing on black bullet proof vests. I can see the velcro straps sticking out. There is enough light to see clearly by, but the room is still shadowed by the big avocado tree outside. I hear “Don’t move.” again. “Ok.”

I’m sitting up in bed confused but not scared. The first man to enter the room holds his gun on me, while the second walks past him. He swiftly walks through my room and into the small dormer room at the front of the house, my step-daughter’s bedroom, gun drawn. A second passes. “Clear.” He comes out. There is a third man on the landing. “Single female. Second story clear.” I hear the radio cackle, two or three other voices say “clear”, and then one minute later an “all clear.” The man looks at me. “Maam. Come with me.” “Can I put some pants on first?”, I soberly ask. He speaks down the stairs. “We need a female officer up here.” Two seconds later, she arrives and the men head back down the stairs.

The female officer says nothing but “Go ahead and get dressed.” I quietly grab my sweatpants from the floor and put them on. “Come with me, please.” She follows me down the stairs and has me sit on the bottom step. “Wait here.” I hear my boys talking quietly with their Dad in the next room.

Sitting on the lower landing of our staircase, looking at the downstairs bathroom door, the light is on. My step-daughter must have been just about ready to leave for school. It’s 7 am. She’d be leaving about now. I hear her questioning voice with my mother-in-law’s in her living room on the other side of the bathroom. To my left is our front door. It’s open. There is a man on the front porch and one in the doorway to the living room with my husband and sons. Why are we all separate? I hear lots of people walking and talking, looking for things? Who are they looking for? “This neighborhood is getting ridiculous.”, I think. “I bet this is really about our next door neighbors.” Strange people moved in a year ago and they have different people in and out of the house all day. They are going to be so embarrassed when they realize they have the wrong house.

The officers continued to search the house while we sat there. Once the house was thoroughly searched for people, they began to interview the adults. They asked my mother-in-law to speak with them and I heard the door shut. I hear my sons asking their Dad if they can get up, they need a drink. Even in the serious air of the situation, little boys just aren’t able to sit quiet and still for very long. A few minutes later, she came out and they asked my husband back. Grandma came over and sat with the kids. I hear my step-daughter talking about getting to school. When my husband returns, I hear my mother-in-law ask if she can leave to take my step-daughter to school.

About twenty minutes passed when a man in a suit came to me at the stairs and asked me to come with him. He escorts me to the back of the house. We pass by my family. They look worried. I see my sons’ toy guns laid out on a cabinet near the officers in the room. The boys jump up. “Mommy!” Dad holds them close to him. “Stay with me. Mommy has to talk to the policeman.” “Are they looking for bad guys, Dad?”, I hear my older son say. “My gun.”, my youngest babbles, pointing to his toys. “My In Jone!” He’s two and believes he is Indiana Jones. He takes it very seriously.

I walk into the room and he asks me to sit on the couch. The officer sits down in the chair across from me. He’s pleasant and polite, not rushed, not angry or gruff. “Do you know why we are here, Mrs. Huelle?” Confused I answer, “No.” “Are you sure about that?”, he says. I’m actually in shock that this is happening at our house. I feel like we’re in a TV show. It’s all happening just like “Law & Order.” and I say so. He introduces himself as Detective Austin. He says he’s looking for a robbery suspect. They have a warrant to search the house. I just look at him. I honestly didn’t react at all. I just sat there staring. I’d never had cops in my house. He looks unfazed. “If you really have no idea why we’re here, I’m sure this is a bit shocking. I have some questions if you don’t mind. Maybe we can clear this up.” I shake my head, “I’m willing to answer anything. I hope I can help.”

The interview continued for several minutes. He told me the robbery happened at a mall in the next town. “I know that mall. I used to work there when I was in high school.” “Can you tell me where you were on this night?” He asks. “I’m not sure. I’d have to look at my calendar. I keep notes about our schedule there.” I explained that I sometimes worked different nights at Disneyland, I had a bible study on Wednesday nights, and that I usually stayed home in the evenings other than that. I’m a nervous out at night alone. It’s not the best of neighborhoods. And I’d rather be at home with my husband when he comes home from work. “After the robbery, the perpetrator went to a nearby restaurant. Have you been there?” “Yes. It’s right by the mall. We had my Grandfather’s birthday dinner there about three years ago.”

The interview continued for a few more minutes. He asked me about a safe in the house, whether I knew how to open it. It was my husbands. He’d had it before we met and I know he told me the combination was somebody’s birthday but I couldn’t remember who. He asked if I’d ever fired a gun. At first, I said no, but then remembered we went shooting a couple times with my step-dad when we were kids. He also asked weirder questions like where I kept my clothes. I’ve never been much into fashion. I had t-shirts and tennis shoes, jeans and sweatpants. It’d be hard to tell between my dresser drawer and my husbands other than underwear. I think I own a dress somewhere and a couple nice shirts for special occasions. It was such a strange interview. There was never a time when I felt uncomfortable or uneasy. He seemed honest and sympathetic. I answered all his questions honestly and completely, offering additional information as I thought of it. I wanted to help catch this person, too!

At the end of the interview, the detective told me that I had been picked out of a line-up by two different people as the person that had robbed a woman in a parking lot, attempted to steal a car at gun point, and then used a stolen credit card to buy dinner and drinks, tipping extravagantly. “You’re under arrest. We’ll go out the back door to a car. We won’t handcuff you in front of your children.” I just sat there in complete shock. I felt nothing. No tears, no anxiety, nothing. He asked me to walk out back with a couple of police officers. I numbly complied and said nothing as they put handcuffs on me, read me my rights (now that they were arresting me), and put me in an unmarked car.

I wasn’t exactly worried. Shocked, confused how this could happen, strangely intrigued by the event, that’s the best I can describe it. I’ll admit my high dose anti-anxiety medication probably helped a lot. I just kept thinking it was interesting and that it would all be cleared up as soon as they figured out who I was, that I couldn’t possibly be the person they were looking for. This was not how I thought my day would go at all.

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Morning

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I could hear the boys stirring in their room and my step-daughter’s alarm ringing. I pretended I could sleep a while longer, lying in bed, snuggled down in my blankets. My husband was already up making coffee and getting ready for work. I could hear him downstairs in the kitchen. It was an old house and every move anyone made anywhere echoed quiet creaks through the wood slats and plaster. My boys came running in to crawl in bed with me as per their usual routine. It was 5:30 am and still dark. Sometimes I could get them to settle down with me and go back to sleep but not today. The giggling and poking each other had already begun and my older son wanted his “coffee” which he would not accept from his Dad. Kids. I swung my legs out of bed in an exaggerated manner and threw on some sweat pants to follow them down the stairs. They ran ahead chattering back and forth with each other, my older son with his mouse tucked under his chin and my younger with the corner of his blankie in his mouth. I warned them to be careful as they headed to the top of the stairs. My step-daughter passed us with a grumbly morning “Hi” as she headed for the bathroom, the first step toward getting ready for school.

In the kitchen I found my husband getting some coffee and offering me a cup. I took it and smiled. One spoon of sugar already in the cup and a spoon to cool it. He loves me. My older son clamored to the fridge and lugged out the gallon of milk. I took it from his small hands and poured them both a cup of milk over chocolate syrup, twisted the sippy lid on, and shook it vigorously. Little hands reached up for their favorite morning ritual.

Walking back to the living room I heard my mother-in-law’s TV in the next room. She was up early. Maybe she was planning on doing the school run today instead of Dad? He usually dropped her off at school and then drove to work but sometimes she would do it for him if he had an early meeting. One of the perks of having an extra adult in the house. Getting our younger two up and out the door to the car just to drive their sister 40 minutes to school and head home wasn’t fun. It could be done, but no one wanted to if it could be avoided.

I was tired and not feeling well. I hadn’t slept well due to a sore throat and itchy ears, a good spring cold in the making. I told my husband and asked how his daughter was getting to school. He was planning on taking her. I opened the door to Mom’s living room and asked if she could look after the boys so I could go back to bed for a bit. She cheerfully agreed. The boys were tucked onto the couch, chocolate “coffee” in hand, watching cartoons. I kissed them both and headed back upstairs to my bed, passing dear daughter on her way down to the living room for breakfast. I climbed back in my bed, sweatpants and all, and went right back to sleep.

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Go To Sleep!

This is the next chapter of my story. To read the previous chapter or to start at the beginning, click HERE.

Sometimes looking back through old calendars and journals, I get sad. I’m doing it because I’m trying to better remember the week before I was arrested so that I can write about our life up to that point. Memories are fuzzy, but journals…well, they leave the cold details of the dark place I was entering at the time right out there for anyone to find. I want to burn them so no one can see. But I also want this story to get out there, all of it, so I trudge through and then try to write it out so that it looks happier than it does on paper. So much drama in my heart and on my mind. I’m not sure I want to remember and share it.

I was in the thick of the toddler years of defiance. My boys were becoming their own persons and making sure that I knew it at every step. On top of that, they had totally different personalities.

My older son was 3½ years old, strong willed and full of questions, testing everything he could find around him, curious about the world around him. He was inquisitive, happy, talkative, and always wanting to try things.

My younger son had just turned two. Although he had few words, he knew what he wanted and always seemed to be thinking about something. What everyone around him was doing was of no interest usually, unless it was his Dad. He always wanted to know what Dad was doing.

My journals are filled with what we did each day and grumblings about them not listening to me, or that they wouldn’t go to sleep, worries about Nikki, and my family. I had been taking anti-anxiety medication for about a year and wanted to come off of it. It dulled all my senses, made me sleepy and added even more pounds than my birth control pills. I still wasn’t really happy while taking them but at least I wasn’t angry anymore. There was this nagging feeling that I really didn’t need them. I just needed to catch up on sleep and then I’d be able to control my emotions again. I had tried coming off of them, fell into an angry depression, and then reluctantly started taking them again hoping I hadn’t done too much damage to the relationships with my husband and children. There was much more work to do before I could come off those drugs. I needed help. I didn’t feel therapy was working. Feeling like I belonged at church helped more, and it was free.

I didn’t like the person I was. I felt like I was just getting along. I had friends and activities but no goals, not vision of the future. In hindsight, I wish I had realized at the time that I was and should have been focused on raising my children. I kept going backwards in my mind, wondering what I was doing and where I was going. I was being a Mom of small children. I fully enjoyed being just Mom, why couldn’t I see that and relax into it? My children seemed to be happy…unless they were going to bed, which was when I had the most time to write in my journal. I did it to distract myself from the antics going on around me. I refused to let them cry themselves to sleep and they refused to go to sleep without me. So there I sat with my journal and my bible, trying not to let myself get angry at the two little ones unwillingly ending their day.

Evenings went something like this. After dinner, we’d begin our “routine”. We’d say goodnight to Dad, sister, and Grandma. We’d enthusiastically climb up the stairs to pick out books to read. One for each boy. And one for me, usually a longer book that I wanted to share with the boys. We’d brush our teeth and get into our PJ’s, get a drink of water, go to the bathroom, and snuggle down on the bottom bunk together. There was usually one boy on each side of me, kind of picaresque like. We’d read “Where The Wild Things Are” and “Curious George” for the hundredth time, mimicking the characters and acting out scenes. Jake would “read” the book himself, turning pages and telling us what each person said in his tiny baby words. Once those books were read, the boys would get into bed, one at each end of the bottom bunk. Neither one wanted to sleep on the top. It was too scary! We’d dismantle the bunk beds soon and never put them up again. They only used it as a jungle gym and it was just a matter of time before one of them got seriously hurt anyway. I’d sit in my rocking chair (the one my Grandma had and gave to me when I got my first apartment on my own), open the book I’d chosen and start to read. They loved any book I’d read out loud, mostly because it let them stay awake that much longer. We read things like “Little House on the Prairie”, “Charlie and the Chocolate Factory”, and “Pinocchio”. Sometimes I’d have to stop reading to fix a blanket or separate little feet from kicking. I’d read a chapter, close the book, and then the antics began.

I could feel my temper start to rise every night. One wanted the window open, one wanted it closed. One wanted to talk and wiggle himself to sleep and the other needed complete silence to settle down. We tried going to bed one at a time and it failed miserably. They didn’t like to be separated either. I wish I’d had more patience back then. I wish I had just taken a deep breath and let it go, but as I sat there writing a bit in my journal and trying to read the bible passage in my devotional, I wondered if they’d ever go to sleep. Many nights I just gave up and laid down on the floor next to them or in bed with them and went to sleep, only to wake up a while later and crawl into bed with my husband. I desperately wanted a whole nights sleep in one bed. I really didn’t get that until years later. Looking back, I’m glad we slept this way. It was crazy, but it became a routine that worked out well for all of us. I laugh thinking about sitting there in my rocking chair. My memory tells me that I was frustrated from time to time but generally peaceful about it. My journals show a different picture!

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