“Take your time, miss. Don’t worry; they won’t be able to see you.”
The detective flipped a switch. Five weary faces, illuminated by glaring fluorescent light, blinked in my direction.
“I’m strong,” I told myself. “I grew up watching Law & Order for god’s sake; I know how lineups work. I can do this.”
I was prepared to identify one of two men who carjacked me at gunpoint three days earlier.
I wanted him caught. Didn’t I?
“Take a look, miss.”
My fingers fidgeted with the purse strap hugging my torso. Unspoken questions rattled in my head: “What if I’m wrong? What if I ruin a man’s life by mistake?”
“What if I don’t recognize him?” I asked, warily reviewing their faces.
“He may have purposefully changed his hairstyle,” the detective cautioned. “Or shaved his facial hair.”
“To disguise himself?” I asked.
“Exactly. A perp will do anything not to be identified by a victim.”
Victim. That word. In most areas of my life, I loved playing the victim. Poor me and all that. “Why aren’t I enjoying this?” I wondered. “I’ve earned it!”
Everything I owned was in that car – my Sony Walkman, running shoes and some cheap golf clubs. When two men, Perps Senior and Junior, tried to steal it, I fought back.
My gut reaction was fight! Good to know. Until Perp Senior ordered Junior to shoot me.
My first thought? “I’m going to get blood all over my car.”
“Shoot her, damn it,” Senior hissed.
Before Junior flashed me his gun, I looked into his young eyes. I wondered if it was my fear or his I saw reflected.
“Please don’t shoot me, please, please,” I pleaded, my words echoing in my ears.
“I don’t wanna to shoot her, man,” Junior responded, looking away.
“Junior didn’t want to shoot me,” I told myself. “He saved me. How could I send him to prison? He was scared, too.”
Junior was likely one of the men behind the glass in front of me. Senior was already in custody, caught with my keys in his pocket minutes after he ran away to the sounds of approaching police sirens. Junior outran the police that night.
“Where’s my anger?” I thought. “A normal person would be angry.”
I couldn’t explain my internal conflict to the detective. He’d been kind to me; patiently explained each step of the process. He’d even bandaged my finger where Senior’s fury cut the flesh.
The detective likely attributed the tears trickling down my face to fear. I didn’t want to disappoint him.
“I’m not sure,” I whispered.
“I know this is hard, miss. We know we’ve got the right guy; his fingerprints were all over your car. Take another look,” he said gently.
I had a hunch about Number Three. His eyes. I wasn’t certain, and I couldn’t look at him again.
“I’m sorry,” I explained, bile rising in my throat. “I don’t recognize him.”
“Coward,” I chastised myself as I walked away.