The ID parade
was first scheduled for August 22, a Tuesday morning, nine weeks to the day after the rape
and about a month - I can't remember exactly
- since I'd first pointed out a photograph
: "Possibly this man". I didn't sleep
much the night before, edgy
and plagued by flashbacks
; I lay awake for hours wearing a track in my mental carpet, playing the old game
of alternatives: what if
, what if
. Mostly, I wondered why they didn't kill
me - looked at from a certain point of view
, it would have been cleverer
. Maybe next time
, the same thought will occur to them. This is a road I try not to go down much.
Half an hour before the appointed time they called: not today, it's all off. There'd been a mix-up with the paperwork, the prison wouldn't release the suspect. Sorry. On Wednesday I got another call: maybe Thursday. We'll be in touch. On Thursday, I waited; all day. On Friday I made a fuss: talking to the Area Commissioner, explaining that this was very distressing and I would like them please to do better, I heard my voice wobble…. His office called back within half an hour with soothing words. There were more soothing words the week after, all amounting to the same thing: Of course your case is important, we're taking it very seriously, but you must understand - the system. We have to do everything by the book, the suspect has to have a lawyer, Legal Aid has to appoint one. Nothing is going to happen particularly quickly. Be patient.
I've learned more about the criminal justice system in the past few weeks than I really wanted to know.
It happened eventually anyway, today, when I'd more or less given up waiting. They were expecting me at the Detective Branch building, but it still took more than half an hour to set things up. I waited meanwhile, with my husband, in a large room painted a deep shade of pink. Like the whole building, it bore all the marks of an extended period of systematic under-funding. There were a great many power points, but nothing to plug into them. No computers, lots of mud-brown paper folders. Two telephones. Only one of the three very cheap desks was staffed, by a woman who didn't acknowledge our presence. Someone had made a brave attempt at decoration: there was a dying plant on the coffee table in front of me and large colour photographs of rugby matches, probably from an old calendar, were pasted to the walls at regular intervals. The windows had been painted over.
I had to go in alone, when they called me. There were three people already in the darkened room: a man with a video camera, a small woman I thought might be there as moral support but who turned out to be the lawyer, and a man with a clipboard. He stopped me at the door - before I could see through the one-way glass into the room beyond - and explained, from the clipboard, what this was all about. By the book.
There were eleven men beyond the glass, all wearing hats or caps. They were lit by two long strips of fluorescent tubing in the high ceiling above them, casting their faces deep into shadow. Even with the hats removed, the light was strange and difficult; the one-way glass made everything flat and grey. I had two step forward, then another, then one of the first two. The man with the clipboard relayed my instructions through an intercom; it took a while to get things right sometimes, the barriers of language all too evident.
Some of them looked nervous, some embarrassed, others bored or resentful. I looked twice, three times: No. 11 was too tall, No. 5 too short, No. 4 too cheerful. I asked No. 8 to turn his face up to the light, but he didn't have the scars I was looking for. None of them, as far as I could tell, were the man whose life intersected so violently with mine that Tuesday afternoon in June. I knew this was a likely outcome but it was still deflating - it was hard to stop myself from apologising for wasting everyone's time.
"Zero result" said the man with the clipboard out loud, for the video camera's benefit.
They're still on the case, they tell me; these men will turn up sooner or later. It could take years, though. So it goes.