How I Missed 14 Clues In 62 Seconds
How I missed 14 clues in 62 seconds and how we can learn from them
Some crimes are so violent and overwhelming that they happen without warning. This was not the case for me. My initial encounter with my assailant was a type of audition where he watched me, observed my body language, and listened to my tone to determine if I was a hard or soft target.
What I know now is that the audition is an opportunity for us to evaluate the predator, too. Training ourselves to use our tools – trusting intuition, looking for red flags, objectively assessing situations using mindset and situational awareness – will help us respond faster.
In certain situations, we may avoid the tactics part of self-protection by using these tools to quickly determine if their plans are to cause us harm or not. There are times when, due to the violent nature of the crime and the speed at which it is initiated, we are immediately forced to use tactics with no time to avoid or de-escalate the situation. We need to be prepared for either situation.
As you read through parts of my story below, look for clues I did not recognize as warnings that I was in danger. Be careful not to dismiss my mistakes as ones you would not make. I know a few of you may think, “I’d never do that. I’d see that coming,” but experiencing this in a highly adrenalized situation is different than reading it on a website. Remember that this entire interaction took place in 62 seconds – less time than it has taken most of you to read to this point.
Please focus on what you have learned about mindset, situational awareness, red flags, and intuition and see how I did. (If you have not learned those things yet, please check out those pages). Pay attention to where I dismissed my intuition, where I missed the clues he gave me, and what clues I gave him so he knew I was an easy target.
As I opened the door to leave my office, I immediately noticed a man’s left arm jerk back out of view.It struck me as odd, but I was on the phone with a friend and in a hurry as I bid my paralegal goodbye, so I did not slow down to consider what I noticed and the triggers firing in my “gut.”
As I cross the threshold, there was a man waiting for me in the hall. He told me he was a former client in desperate need of immediate legal help – I had helped him in the past, and his family needed me now; I was the only one who could help them.
HE WAS APPEALING TO MY PRIDE, FORCING ME TO FEEL OBLIGATED AS THE ONLY ONE WHO COULD HELP A FAMILY IN NEED, GIVING ME A FALSE SENSE THAT I WAS IN CONTROL OF THE INTERACTION.
None of this was true, but as a master manipulator, he was skilled at reading my face, body language, and tone to determine what approach was most effective. It was a high stakes game of chess with moves and counter moves. Each time I declined or resisted in any way, he immediately came back with another reason, excuse, or emotional plea.
During the course of the 62-second walk from my office door to my car, he ignored my efforts to say no seven times. I didn’t give a strong no but rather, “The courts are closed, and I can’t help now so please go see my paralegal, and I will meet you first thing Monday morning.” Or “I can’t do anything about this now but would be glad to help on Monday.” Even “I have people waiting for me so I have to leave. I’m sorry I can’t talk more about this now.” It is easy to see how a wolf would know that I was a sheep and he had me exactly where he needed me.
I was not engaging the tools of mindset and awareness at this point. My intuition was trying to warn me that he was unwilling to honor my boundaries and his body language was inconsistent with the situation. I had no training to fall back on other than life lessons to be polite and kind, help others, serve others, and zealously represent my clients. This led me to think, “I can’t possibly be rude to this man who just lost his wife and needs help.” My life lessons taught without boundaries led me to be a soft target and almost resulted in my death.
I don’t assign any blame to myself or other victims. I was a sheep, and I thought and lived life like a sheep. I still do – the difference is now I know how to identify a wolf and meet him head-on because of the tools I’ve learned of mindset, awareness, and tactics.
As I spoke to him, he did not readily step out of my way to allow me to leave.Instead of walking next to me, he engaged me in an awkward type of dance: I moved forward and he moved backward, facing me all the while. I couldn’t get past him and couldn’t convince him to go back to my office and make an appointment. Normally, that is what a client would do.
As I tried to get past him, he told me he and his family were scared because their accounts were frozen and they couldn’t access their money. Later, he pulled out a wad of cash rolled up with a rubber band around it. He tried to put it in my hand telling me it was for me to take his case. I explained that was not how it worked and he would deal with my office manager for payment and a contract.
He put the money back in his pocket and I saw a white powdery substance in a tube in the middle. I froze as I was trying to process what was happening and he melted down emotionally again, distracting me by changing topics rapidly.
This is how predators “audition” their prey to see if the proper circumstances exist to move forward with their plans. This particular man presented himself as grief-stricken and fearful after having just lost his wife (a lie – she died several years prior). So I dismissed my internal discomfort (my intuition warning me) about his erratic behavior by justifying his recent trauma and excusing his inappropriate behavior as driven by grief and fear. Why would he want to hurt me? How could something violent happen to me?
Since this man was obviously in crisis, I tried to convey kindness and respect by asking questions to show my interest while making it clear I couldn’t help him right away. I believed that would get him back to my office and out of my way.
When that failed I asked him to walk with me to continue answering questions so that I could get started first thing Monday. I did this primarily to shake him off. I asked him a series of specific questions about his wife’s will. Are you the executor? Were there two witnesses? Are their signatures notarized? Basic questions to determine if the will was valid.
He answered them with confidence and clarity. He then gave an unbelievable description of the extreme wealth he stood to inherit, a portion of which he assured me would fall to me for giving him legal assistance.We walked until we reached the back of my car in the parking lot. I told him I was sorry for his loss (still believing his story was true) and told him again I could not do anything to help until Monday morning.
I opened the back door on the driver’s side and put my box of files and briefcase on the backseat. When I started to open the front door, I looked up. He was standing beside my car with the passenger door open.
He asked for a ride home and I told him, “It’s late, people are waiting for me. I have to be in Louisville in an hour, I’m already late. I need you to go make an appointment with Judy so we can start first thing Monday morning.” He didn’t budge. “How did you get here? I don’t have time. I can’t. I’m sorry.”
Seven times I told him no, without really saying “No!” Seven times he pushed past my refusals. Then the sky roared with thunder and it looked it was about to pour rain. Right on cue. I felt stuck. I couldn’t get rid of him – he was already partially in my car. I got in. This was against my better judgment and my will. I wish I knew then what I know now. My response would be completely different.