I called the "most wanted" again. I needed another conversation.
He was already sitting in the same place as last time.
I slid into the booth opposite him.
For a moment, he just watched me. I watched him. There was no smile. This was all business.
“Thank you for meeting me again,” I said.
“I will answer any question you want to ask. I will try to answer them as honestly as I can,” he said sincerely, but unsmiling, just as he had been before.
This time, I went back to his childhood. His name....
“Actually, I was named after my brother, who died as a baby just before I came along.
Why she did that – I’ll never know. It didn’t make things easy for me – to feel like a replacement baby. She also named me after my father whom she hated.”
“Hated her husband?” I asked.
“Yes – she hated him. I wondered why anyone would name their seventh child after the man they hated. And then if I did anything, she was unhappy with, she would say, ‘You are just like your father!’ She reminded me of how she felt about her husband – and me – constantly.”
“What was your father like? Why did she hate him?” I asked. I was probably being a bit obvious the way I was looking for a troubled relationship. I assumed all offenders would have trouble with their fathers. Even average-functioning, healthy males seemed to have trouble with their fathers. I remembered when my husband, who was studying masculinity at the time, would ask all the men we met if they had a good relationship with their father. Many of them burst into tears….
His mother hated his father because she had left him for another woman... he said.
I glanced at my watch. I needed to get back to the office....
I searched for the right question – that definitive question that would reveal his heart to me. I needed to know his heart before I'd be able to trust him.
“Would you ever rob another bank?” I asked.
He paused – weighing his words carefully. He showed a new vulnerability. “I can’t say I would never rob another bank. There are no guarantees in life. I don’t know what I’ll do ten years from now – even next week.” He paused again – his gaze steady. “But I can tell you that I don’t want to rob another bank in my life. I can also tell you that I won’t rob a bank today. I can only answer for the day. Today is all I have.”
I stared at him. He had just admitted that he wasn’t the normal, victimized convict. He was driven by money. He was addicted to the good life. His inclination to steal – to break the law – was like an addiction. He was driven....
I continued questioning. There were no excuses, no promises, no denial, none.... His words matched the reality of who he was. His guard was down. We were finally having a heart to heart.
I felt that I could finally trust him. He had integrity – at least at that moment - he had integrity. It was all that he would/could promise.
“Earth provides enough to satisfy every man's needs, but not every man's greed.”
― Mahatma Gandhi