THE TOUGH ASK - CAMERON ASHLEY
They've put a cuddly new face on the art of the interview.
They call it PEACE.
(Plan and Prepare; Engage and Explain; Account; Closure; Evaluation).
No, really, it’s called PEACE. A fuzzy acronym. A smooth shape some psychiatrist hammered out on the anvil of his concept. Adopted by governing bodies desperate for results in an electorate that’s turned its back on them.
Neck ties are loosened in anticipation of relatable plain clothes, like they’ll shed the skin of their suits, be seen as regular blokes. Guys you’d see in the supermarket, the pub, down the beach.
Not buttoned-down authority figures swinging a phone book.
They're teaching them to act, to feign empathy, to perform. Granted, there is always an element of the performance in the interview – you have to dial it up to instill terror – but there was always honesty in my performance, truth, fact, authenticity.
See, I went by WAR.
(Wrest Control; Aggression Increased Incrementally; Rough Justice IS Justice)
And this is why I am no longer in that line of work. Strictly speaking.
Interview rooms aren't particularly impressive, but they serve a purpose – they remove the individual from familiar surroundings and encase him/her in a territory that is essentially yours.
You know it. You control it. In controlling the space, you control the occupant.
This is a principle I have kept. The world is now my interview room.
If he is an urbanite, we go to the bush. The smell of damp earth from a pre-dug grave, weird night creatures skittering above and around, a torch-beam in the face. These things are my tools.
If he is from the country, we go to some abandoned urban wasteland. Ghosts of bygone industry visible in broken windows, forgotten equipment gone Gothic with rust and neglect, the spray paint of illegible tag-scrawl. These things are my tools.
I ask the tough questions on behalf of those who need answers, but who lack the constitution to actually do the asking themselves. The answers determine the outcome. The bush grave, the river dump, and, yes, sometimes even freedom – these conclusions form a crossroads.
And I give the directions.
So I ask and I ask and I ask.
There is never any doubt. None. There is nothing but certainty.
For a time.
Then, inevitably I suppose, there is doubt. Was it a particular look in their eyes? A convincing denial? No idea.
All I know is uncertainty.
Once there is uncertainty, there are different questions to be asked. They are:
Have I always been right?
Are there shallow bush graves and weighted bin bags in the Murray filled with innocents?
Are there guilty I've freed?
More importantly perhaps:
Have you had a breakdown?
Are you insane?
I can't answer these questions.
I slice myself. I drink a bottle of bourbon, take two fingers from my right hand.
I can't coerce myself to tell me what I need to know. Perhaps I black out before I can speak.
I call my mother, cry into the phone. She tells me I was always a good boy, asks me where I am.
I can't coerce her into telling me what I need to know. Perhaps I hang up before she can speak.
The mirror shows a man with a lot to hide. It is not a comforting sight. It is the face of the guilty wearing the expression of the damned.
I visit some parents I know. They are terrified. Worse than that, my uncertainty shatters their peace.
They say to me:
You did the best you could for my child.
But in their eyes, I see my doubt has infected them. I have re-broken them.
I take the list of others I planned to visit and tear it up.
My .38 Special Smith & Wesson Model 10.
Loaded with hollow points. Clean as. Good to go.
Look at it. It's an answer.
But it's not the answer I need.
I take a call. I go to work.
I can't answer questions, but I can ask them.
I just have to make sure, that's all.
I just have to make sure.
Please, let me be sure.
BIO: This one’s for Christopher Grant. You’re a class act, mate. Thanks, as always, to Jimmy Callaway, who is like a missing slice of my writer-brain.