Detective Q knocked on the door yesterday, and through the glass panes, I could see that he didn't look at all as I'd imagined him from talking on the phone. No jet black hair, but shaved bald. Younger than I thought, and dressed in a Huxtable kind of sweater and jeans. Detectives don't wear uniforms. I'd forgotten. (I spent quite a lot of time with law enforcement when researching my fourth novel, When She Flew.)
He had that stiff formality that cops do when they first meet you, a kind of guard they put up because, believe it or not, a lot of people don't like cops. "Nice home," he said, nodding, glancing around. "I love it up here." He meant my neighborhood, high on a Seattle hill. He used to work Queen Anne when he was in auto theft.
We sat at the dining table and he explained that he was going to show me some photo montages. I wished he'd say "lineups," because of the dramatic nature of that word, but "montages" seems to be the new way. Or maybe the Seattle way. He told me all kinds of things, that people may have different hair color in the photos than the suspect I was trying to identify, that their skin may seem darker or lighter, and that I might not recognize anyone in the photos, and that's okay. But Detective Q had faith in me, I could tell.
Our suspect was already in the hoosegow, having burgled elsewhere or bought drugs or sold drugs or something. Apparently he has 12 charges stacked up against him so far. My correct ID would really make the case against him. And all I could really remember was a long arm of tattoos outside a van window, a long black sideburn and high hairline, an ugliness to him, and a foul loud mouth.
"Ready," I said, nervous.
Voila, six swarthy looking men appeared before me, all in orange jumpsuits. Four had low hairlines and looked too young, too ethnic. I discounted them. "It's between two," I said, trying to shape the profile I saw into a full frontal face. "Which two?" the detective asked, tapping the table with his knuckles.
"Why this one?" he asked, pointing to the upper right corner photo.
"His hairline," I said.
"You mentioned his high hairline on the phone as well," he said, flipping through his notes.
He was helping me, I gather. "I think it's him," I said.
"Think pretty strongly?"
"100%? 95, 90%?" I'd been thinking 85.
"90," I said, and he nodded briskly and gathered up the papers after having me sign below the photo.
I didn't want him to leave yet, but he was about to. I told him I'd once written a book about police officers, and that I'd had a reader from the Seattle force, a female cop. He knew her. "By the book," he said, nodding. And then he relaxed. He told me how hard he knew it was to be the victim of a crime, even a property crime, that it could feel like such a violation. He told me that he missed working our hill, because he'd really loved taking care of all of the people on it. They were a nice group of folks, he said, and he looked nostalgic. "We're going to do the best we can with this," he said.
Tears came to my eyes. All this time, since the break-in, I've been swearing that I don't feel violated, I know it was just a stupid random act, that I'm not scared, that I'm okay. And tears came to my eyes, and he kept talking about taking care of people and how people don't understand cops very well.
I shook the detective's big beefy awkward hand when he left. He said he'd call the DA from his car and get this thing rolling. I watched him walk away, and I felt safe again.