Playing It Safe

Charlie Fox

I hope you’ll forgive me this week if I hand over control to a kind of guest blogger*. I wanted to begin an occasional series about safety – personal safety, safety at home, in the car, on the street, in a dangerous situation. So, who better to talk about these topics than my protagonist, Charlotte ‘Charlie’ Fox? Charlie had a short-lived career in the Women’s Royal Army Corps, passing selection for Special Forces training, but being dishonourably discharged following a court martial. (And I wouldn’t ask her about that if I were you.) She then taught self-defence for women in a small northern UK city, and eventually moved into a career as a bodyguard – initially for a London-based outfit run by her former army training instructor, Sean Meyer. When Sean was offered a partnership in Parker Armstrong’s prestigious close-protection agency in New York City, Charlie moved with Sean to Manhattan. She has been based there ever since.

Charlie Fox: I had to laugh when I saw the title of this post, because let me tell you, ‘playing it safe’ is not a phrase that ever made it anywhere near my school reports – nor my military appraisals, come to think of it.

That doesn’t mean I’m reckless, don’t get me wrong. If the situation demands it, I’ll get stuck in, but not without weighing up the risks and the odds first. And I’ll go a long way to avoid trouble if I can manage it. It was one of the problems I always found when I used to teach self-defence classes. People learn a few tricks and think they’re invincible. Never has that old saying ‘a little knowledge is a dangerous thing’ been more true than in personal safety.

Probably not a bad place to start.

I have to say, though, that these days my chances of being randomly mugged or attacked on the street are far lower than they used to be. No, that doesn’t mean I’ve suddenly grown fangs or another head. It’s just that I keep my mobile phone in my pocket and I’m not obsessed with texting, tweeting, or checking my damn email every thirty seconds.

If you’ve read Tony Walker’s excellent book HOW TO WIN A GUNFIGHT – and I’d recommend it – he describes the system developed by retired USMC lieutenant colonel John Dean ‘Jeff’ Cooper, which lists the four states of consciousness – White, Yellow, Orange and Red.

White is totally away with the fairies. These are the people who fall into fountains while answering texts:

Or walk off the edge of railway platforms while playing on their handheld gamer:

They are completely unaware of what’s going on around them, of potential dangers or threats. They may as well have VICTIM tattooed across their forehead in big letters.

Basically, the only time you should be in condition White is when you’re unconscious. Or dead. And even then, you’ll need to provide a note from your mum.

Yellow is the state you should aim for. Think domestic cat. I’ve always found it’s really, really hard to creep up on those furry little devils, however relaxed they appear to be. When you’re in condition Yellow, you’re aware of what’s going on, of who’s around you, and what their intentions might be – like stuffing you in a wire basket and carting you to the vet. This is not to say you have to be paranoid about things, but it might save you a lot of pain in the long run if you practice remaining alert while you’re out and about. Use shop windows to check out who’s following rather than checking if those pilates classes are paying off.

If you wear heels to work and know you have any walking to do later, take a pair of flats to change into. Running shoes of some description would be best, but even those fold-up ballet-pump type things are better than five-inch stilettos.

Keep those killer heels close to hand, though – you never know when they might come in useful.

If you carry a bag, put the strap across your chest rather than over your shoulder. There are some great bags out there with steel wire in the strap and woven into the material of the bag itself, which makes the old ‘slash and grab’ technique much more difficult for a would-be thief. They don’t have to look industrial. For example, this is a Metrosafe steel mesh shoulder bag:

If you’re wearing a rucksack, make sure the zips are closed. Tie something through the ends of the zips and loop them round to the front of you, so at least if someone tries to slide a zip open, you’ve half a chance of spotting it. Or get a steel mesh net which you can lock to an immovable object.

And just in case the guys are looking all smug at this point – because they’re not the rucksack type and wouldn’t be seen dead carrying a manbag – wallets in back pockets are even more vulnerable. There’s an old pickpocket technique called ‘pinch and push’ and I’ve seen it done successfully even with the tightest trousers. The thief falls into step behind the unsuspecting victim (who’s in condition White, obviously), nips a small fold of material of the back pocket containing the wallet between finger and thumb, and, having loosened the wallet’s snug fit, gently pushes it upwards with another finger. Takes no more than a couple of seconds. Of course, for the victim it means spending hours on the phone later trying to convince all the credit card companies that they really weren’t the one who maxed everything out on disposable electronic items.

Above all, when you’re in condition Yellow, look confident. Muggers are, by their nature, opportunity criminals. They’re predators who wait for likely looking prey and strike almost on impulse. If you look alert and confident, they’re going to pass. After all, it won’t be long before someone else wanders along with their ear-buds in place and their eyes firmly fixed on that tiny screen …

Having a dog is also a good deterrent, by the way. A few years ago, I dog-sat for a friend on a sink estate back home. (RIOT ACT) Pauline owned a Rhodesian Ridgeback called Friday who had once, in her absence, chased a delivery man up onto the roof of her garden shed and kept him up there all morning. That kind of reputation is pure gold when it comes to security.

Even those dogs that look like a little fluffy rat on a stick can usually be relied upon to make lots of noise. Of course, some people have to go one step further.

Orange is the next level up. Because you’re alert, you’ve spotted a potential problem before it’s become an actual problem, and you have time to make a considered decision what to do about it. Our primal instinct is for fight or flight.

Flight is the best option, every time. Trust me on this – I have the scars to prove it.

You leave a restaurant or a cinema, or a late-night shopping mall. You’re alone, and you notice there’s someone loitering near your car. Or they could simply be between you and your car. You could brazen it out, walk straight through with your best stern look and hope to intimidate them. Sharp did this once at a gas station in a run-down area, and got away with it thanks to the fact she was wearing a T-shirt from the Houston Top Gun Handgun Training Center. If you’ve just come from teaching your karate class and are still in your gi with your faded black belt tied casually around your waist, you’ll probably get away with it, too.

But why risk it?

Go back inside the restaurant, cinema, or shopping mall, and either wait until the threat has gone, or ask members of staff to walk you to your car. OK, if you’re a hunky six-footer who regularly wins Chuck Norris look-alike contests, you may feel a bit silly doing this, but if you regularly struggle to convince roller coaster attendants that you really are old enough and tall enough to ride, then it’s good advice.

Then we come to Red. It’s all kicked off. Someone’s in front of you and they’re armed and they’re directly threatening you. Having been previously in condition Yellow, however, their arrival won’t have come as a surprise, will it? You will already have had time to make a decision – fight or flight.

What you MUST NOT do is freeze. It’s an instinctive reaction to a predator, because as anybody who’s been in a sniper area knows, immobility makes you much harder to spot where any kind of movement will make you stand out every time.

Running is a good option. In fact, running is the best option. Sadly, I was never in the sprint league. Yelling is also a good option. Equally sadly, research has shown that you’ll get far more attention as a woman in trouble if you shout, “Fire!” rather than “Help!” or even “Rape!”

Personally, even if my would-be assailant has a knife or a gun, I’d still try to make a break rather than face the consequences of letting him do what he wants. If you allow yourself to be abducted and taken to a secondary location of your assailant’s choosing, the risk to you DOUBLES.

Besides, either he’s going to shoot me, in which case I’m stuffed anyway, or he’s just using the weapon in an attempt to subdue and control. Running means he has to run after me, or hit a moving target.

I’ve spent quite a bit of time on gun ranges over the years. I’ve seen people practising for their concealed carry licences, who didn’t worry the target at distances of less than ten feet. In fact, most of them couldn’t hit an elephant if they were sitting on its back.

To be a decent shot, you need to put in a lot of practice. Carrying an illegal trophy piece on the street does not constitute practice. Therefore, the chances are that if you can put some initial distance between you and an assailant armed with a handgun, they’re going to miss. Risky? Maybe, but it’s one you have to calculate for yourself in the time it takes for Orange to turn Red.

And what do you do if flight is not an option?

Well, if she lets me back, maybe I’ll go into that next time …

So, ‘Rati, have you ever found yourself in an unsafe situation? How did you get out of it? How would you do things differently if faced with the same situation again? How have you engineered your characters into situations that required some ingenious method of extraction? And would you like me to continue this series from Charlie?

This week’s Word of the Week is gargoyle, which as well as a grotesque figure, originally meant a carved spout projecting from a roof gutter. The word comes from the Latin gurgulio, or Old French gargouille – meaning the throat.

And here – as promised to Reine – are a couple of pictures of our resident gargoyle, Desmond.

*OK, so Charlie’s not exactly a guest blogger, but I always try to do what the voices in my head tell me to …

38 thoughts on “Playing It Safe

  1. Catherine

    Zoë I've had some risky situations happen in my teen years. Risk assessment for me as a teen I found hard as my parents had been very over protective. I didn't have much middle ground experience, of being able to sense when a situation is on the turn for the worse and learn to trust my own instincts. Let's say white blurred through a possible pink zone to red in what seemed like the blink of an eye. I developed a more finely tuned sense of when I was in danger as a consequence of not reading a situation correctly.

    I learnt caution the hard way. I learnt that there is a big difference from feeling unsure because I was doing something new, and unease. That the moment I felt uneasy I find a well lit area with people to go to. Quite frankly to get the fuck out of there immediately. Laugh about it later if need be. I also learnt that it's better to be potentially embarrassed by being over cautious, than injured by holding your ground so as to not seem socially awkward.

    Recently my daughters were a little dismissive of my considered avoidance of an extremely vocal drunk guy at my bus stop in the city a few weeks ago. They took it as business as usual. I'm a little concerned that they have a certain blithe attitude that if they act confident they automatically nullify the threat. I'm going to check in with them if they do notice what is happening in the reflections of windows or else I think their stance smacks a little of magical thinking.

    For me I thought that when someone starts screaming out 'Stop looking at me bitch' and getting increasingly worked up, when I'd check if my bus was coming, was enough cause to hang out in the crowded well light pie shop next to my stop. The bus only comes once an hour after 7.30pm. The bus also seldom comes on time and I can be the only one waiting. It's either 5 minutes fast or slow. So you really have to keep an eye out. Although this stop is just around corner from police headquarters there is only a scattering of people about most nights.

    Maybe my extra caution in this instance comes from knowing some fairly evil tempered violent drunks.The pie shop guy knew him and had a little talk and he moved on. For that time and place I felt I handled a potentially violent situation appropriately. I didn't act scared, but I didn't stand my ground unnecessarily. So yeah maybe it is pretty common place in the city, to have someone rant.

    But so far I've known personally a shit of a boy who terrorised and raped grandmothers, a boy who raped and killed his girlfriend and joined the search party for her when she was missing, a boy I used to be friends with who as a man turned into a major drug lord….let alone a slew of other types of violence I've been one degree away from.

    So for me 'Charlie's' advice is just sensible operating through life with your eyes open type stuff. A refresher course is a good thing. Thanks.

  2. Sarah W

    The voices in your head have good ideas!

    I'm bookmarking this for all kinds of reasons and would like Charile to continue, please!

    Oh, and is there a steel-mesh shoulderbag that matches those spike heels?

  3. Zoë Sharp

    Hi Catherine

    Wow, great response. And I think it is a big problem that people do over-protect their kids. It’s only natural, but there’s happy medium between making them oblivious to danger signals and making them quivering nervous wrecks.

    It is a recognised scenario that people who are unprepared (in condition White) often go straight to Red without the intervening stages. This is why you hear things like, “He came out of nowhere …” And, “It all happened so fast …” Even if the victim has had some self-defence training – or if they are armed – they often lose because their basic commonsense groundwork was faulty. They weren't paying attention.

  4. Zoë Sharp

    Hi Sarah

    Thanks – nice to have an early ‘yes’ vote!

    Those heels are great, aren’t they? The kind of thing Donna Moore would wear. I saw the picture and the first thing that came into my head was a line from the Kirsty MacColl song: ‘In *these* shoes, I doubt you’d survive …’

  5. Catherine

    The other thing I should mention is that for a time I had a false sense of confidence in my ability to talk my way out of anything. I can through talking negotiate my way out of many situations. The learning curve for me was learning where words don't work if the person is focussed on their own course of action. There are just some situations where polite discourse doesn't cut it.

  6. Zoë Sharp

    Hi Catherine

    "There are just some situations where polite discourse doesn't cut it."

    I – or Charlie – will be going into that later ;-]

  7. JT Ellison

    What a smart piece. I do my best to avoid situations like this. That said, I nearly got carjacked when I was eighteen. I was stopped at a red light in a very bad part of DC? Got flanked with two guys with gun, but thankfully, I was paying attention, saw them approach and hit the gas, running the light and potentially saving my life. Made an impression on me. I drive with the doors locked, avoid bad areas, etc., etc. Being nearly 6 feet and not exactly twiggy, I don't make a good personal target, but I'm always very aware when I go out.

    Thanks for this, Zoe. (and if anyone can tell me how to get the umlat on an iPad keyboard… I can find it by holding down the letter key, but can't get the symbol to pop up…)

  8. Stephen Jay Schwartz

    Charlie did a fantastic job, Zoe. She taught me a few things. My wife just told me the "Fire!" rule last week – she couldn't believe I'd never heard it. It's interesting that I've never seen it in a film – can you think of any where a girl yell's "Fire!" when she's being attacked?
    I think Charlie needs to come by more often.
    And another thing she taught me…I don't know enough about the protagonist in my current WIP. If I brought him in to do a guest blog he's sound a hell of a lot like me.

  9. Sylvia

    Lovely to have you Charlie! I'll remember these tips next week when I finally make my way to the UK and make my way by Tube and train to Dover.

    Desmond is too cute.

  10. Louise Ure

    Hi Charlie, nice to see you here!

    No stories from me today. I'd be more likely to tell you about NOT getting out of the unsafe situation I found myself in. All I'll say is that yelling "Fire!" and acting crazy don't always work either.

  11. Tammy Cravit

    Love the tips – thanks for that!

    My first encounter with violence came at age 12, when I didn't know any better and freezing was all I could do. It's taken me a long time, and a lot of work, to heal the emotional scars that encounter left behind, and I don't take safety for granted any more.

    One problem I think people have here is accurate risk assessment. For example, most women I know fear being dragged into an alley and raped by a stranger, yet this MO represents a tiny portion of the sexual assaults that take place every year. (I was a rape crisis advocate for 7 years and can only recall two cases like this in our town in that time period, out of more than 60 reported rapes a year.) This is why we fear terrorists more than cars, although we're far more likely to die in a car crash than a terrorist attack.

    A good safety tip I learned to help develop the kind of awareness Mr. Cooper taught about: When you're out and about in the world, try to notice when you're in a place where it would take you more than 30 seconds to reach a crowd of other people. These are places where you should be on heightened alert.

    And anyone who's interested in this topic absolutely owes it to themselves to read "The Gift of Fear", by Gavin deBecker.

  12. Gar Haywood


    I'd give this post five stars.

    Personally, I start every day at "red" and gradually work my way down to "yellow." Then crash hard at night well into the "white." This is called "parenthood."

    Seriously, great post, Zoe. Keep more from Charlie coming, I learned a lot.

  13. Eika

    Love the post! Especially the character. Hi Charlie, good to see you.

    I like to think I fall into the yellow zone most of the time; I know that, by wearing earbuds, that limits my ability to hear, which some people think automatically puts me in white. Never mind that I still notice traffic or, if I'm relatively alone, anyone within ten feet of me– including behind me…

    Nothing's happened yet, but I live in reasonably safe areas and don't take risks. And the self-defense classes I have taken emphasize the idea of running when you've got the chance. I think that makes the difference.


  14. Zoë Sharp

    Hi JT
    Car security is a whole section on its own, and I’ll cover that one in a later post. There are a lot of fun things you can do with a motor vehicle – and most of them you can tell your mother about ;-]

    No idea how to help with the iPad thingy, I’m afraid. The closest I get to an iPad is a myPad … and a pencil.

    Hi Stephen
    Thanks – from both of us! And, let’s face it, the kind of girl in a movie who gets attacked and ends up screaming, is usually down as ‘blonde decapitated in alley’ in the script anyway. It would ruin the story if she actually did something effective and got away …

    Now you mention it, all of us doing a guest blog by a character from one of our books would be a really interesting exercise, wouldn’t it?

    Hi Sylvia
    Glad you approve of Desmond. When we bought him we weren’t shopping for a gargoyle (I mean, who actually goes out INTENDING to buy a gargoyle?) but we couldn’t resist.

    Good luck on your trip to the UK. Just remember when you’re on the Tube to look bored and ignore everybody else. If you try to strike up a conversation with a stranger they’ll definitely know you’re a tourist!

  15. Zoë Sharp

    Hi Rae
    Another ‘yes’ vote for Charlie's return – thank you!

    Hi Louise
    Acting crazy doesn’t work very well except – I have it on good authority – in certain parts of Afghanistan, where it may get you out of a serious situation …

    Hi Tammy
    Again, this type of personal safety and how to avoid this kind of acquaintance-rape situation is something for a later post. I love your tip about the 30-sec rule. Excellent advice, and I’ll certainly check out the Gavin de Becker book.

  16. Erin

    Great post Zoe! Keep bringing Charlie back. I'm gonna make my younger sister who is going off to college this fall read this. It's really good advice.

  17. Zoë Sharp

    Hi Gar
    Hey, with parenthood, all bets are off. Most times, Charlie would rather be handed a live grenade than a small child!

    Thanks, Alaina/Eika
    Glad you enjoyed the post. I’m impressed that you can still be aware of what’s going on, even with earbuds. I know I get lost in the music so I don’t listen to my iPod when I’m walking around. My sister used to listen to music on her motorcycle, but she said certain bands made her break the speed limit!

    Hi Erin
    Thanks, and there will be plenty more interesting advice to come ;-]

  18. Kay

    FANTASTIC post. I love hearing from Charlie outside of your books. 🙂
    I second Tammy's suggestion of THE GIFT OF FEAR. I've given it as a HS graduation gift to several friends' daughters. It's a must-read.

    I LOVE the idea of the 'rati posting in-character. Can't wait to read Bobby Faye's post!

  19. Jonathan Hayes

    Great post! Thanks Charlie, and to Zoe for the hook-up…

    I think one of the things about living in cities is that they come with the built-in "gift of fear" <tm Gavin DeBecker>. City living is all about situational awareness; in NYC, we walk out the door in Yellow status, and the needle flickers up occasionally into the Red throughout the day. But the fact is, bad things happen relatively rarely in this city.

    Which is one of the reasons New Yorkers are so great – if something happens (an argument, a loud noise), it's quickly processed by all around you, and a threat level assessment is made. And in the moment it takes to recognize that it was nothing after all, suddenly you become bonded a little to everyone around you, as if you'd just survived a shelling in the trenches at the Somme.

    But I wondered about the steel-reinforced straps on the handbags. Muggings happen quickly; the mugger strikes and runs. Violence – a punch or kick, the showing of a weapon – is used to intimidate, so that the victim will not follow the mugger. The mugger wants the attack to be as brief as possible, and clinging to belongings prolongs the confrontation; anything that prolongs the confrontation increases the risk of an adverse outcome.

    But then again, I don't own a handbag!

  20. Alexandra Sokoloff


    I also found it trippy and cool to encounter Charlie out of the books! She is so different from me but so familiar, too, it made me want to hang out with her more. Thanks for letting her loose.

    I'm not a paranoid person but have always been hyper-aware of potential predators and dangerous situations; it's allowed me to live an adventurous and independent life without – well, tragedy.

  21. Debbie

    Jonathan, I was always taught hold a handbag close to your body and give it up readily, then again, I seldom carry one and if I have to, I often have a waist pouch for my touristy times that , although worn, I also hold just so I'm aware of its location.

    Creative and brilliant post and lots of fun as well as informative. Everywhere in my neighbourhood is more than 30 seconds from a crowd but I'm alert to areas where there are bushes, trees, fences, etc that obstruct my view and make it possible to conceal somebody. I teach my children to notice slowing cars, loud voices, places where people can hide, and teach them that a crowd of strangers can be safe just as much as a stranger or group of them can be unsafe. It's about assessing people and risk.

    My funniest 'dangerous' situation was in my own condo when I lived on my own. I came home, unlocked the door, and saw a light go out from with in. Heart racing, adrenaline pumping, I just stood there listening, alert…for what seemed like ten minutes. Of course by then I had calmed down and I flicked on the lights, propped open the door and began like a crazy woman, checking the condo. (Crazy because I even checked inside the washer and dryer!) I figured it out after the place had been systematically gone over. Behind the building was a bi-level parking. Across from my unit, a car had shut off its headlights just as I had opened the door. Felt kinda dumb.

    Thanks for the post, I'm going to share it on FB and with a friend.

  22. Zoë Sharp

    Hi Kay
    Thank you! I, too, would love to read a Bobbie Faye post. Maybe we can lure Toni (McGee Causey – just in case anybody missed the reference) back to do a special appearance …?

    Thanks, Martyn – always a pleasure to hear from you.

    Hi Jonathan
    Although I live in a rural area at the moment, I have worked in a lot of different cities – everywhere from run down bits of Dallas, the very VERY seedy backstreets of Rome, to Moss Side in Manchester, Portadown during the marching season, and just across the water from the notorious Bogside in Londonderry. I’ve also had stuff stolen several times, although always through stealth rather than outright confrontation. (Probably a good thing, because I’m a stroppy bugger.)

    Of the time I’ve spent in NYC, I’d agree that the people there were amazingly helpful and friendly. We travelled the city by Subway – even up to Harlem late at night – and never had to adjust our alert levels much above Apricot (sort of halfway between Yellow and Orange). But, I completely appreciate that in your daily life you see people who tried and failed to fight back, and that has to be the most sobering of experiences.

    Charlie, on the other hand, is a character who has been a victim of the worst kind of personal crime, and has made a conscious decision not to go that route again. Yes, the SENSIBLE choice is almost always to run, to hide, to give way and give in. But Charlie is not the kind of person to choose the path of least resistance, and the idea of speaking with her voice is because it offers an alternative to that.

    In later instalments, I plan to cover subjects like defensive and offensive driving techniques, and how to cope when confronted with water cannon, rubber bullets, or tear gas. Not the kind of thing most of us are likely to encounter in our daily lives, but kind of fun for a mystery and thriller community, don’t you think?

  23. Zoë Sharp

    Hi Alex
    Those heels are pretty spectacular, aren’t they? I just have visions of crossing my legs and slicing through my own femoral artery in the process.

    Sounds like you have the best kind of balance in your outlook!

    Thanks Debbie
    Your comments about keeping a bag close and relinquishing it readily remind me of a news story I remember from a few years ago about an elderly Brit lady living in NYC. Some young guy attempted to steal her handbag one day in the street. She got him on the ground and beat him with her umbrella while also verbally berating him until the police arrived to rescue him. Sensible? Hell, no. Ballsy? Hell, yes. I have visions of Charlie behaving exactly like that when she’s in her dotage.

    Occasionally, when we’ve been travelling, we’ve carried a dummy wallet with out-of-date credit cards and a separate fold of currency that is mainly low-denomination notes, just in case of robbery. I don’t think a thief is going to take the time to go through expiry dates or count his haul in front of you.

    I sympathise about your condo incident. At home, we have a very heavy front door – a wood and steel sandwich construction that opens outwards. One night after we’d both gone to bed, we heard a loud noise that sounded exactly like someone had left the building and slammed the door behind them. We got up and investigated, but could find nothing wrong. The next morning, the news announced that some people living in the north of England might have noticed being hit by a small earthquake …

  24. Jenni

    Oh, Charlie, where to begin? Not that I'm oblivious or in the "white" zone, but dangerous situations – I have been in quite a few. Blame my upbringing – in and out of war zones, coups, riots, burglaries, dictatorships, martial law, etc., etc. My dad's standard advice as we headed off to school every morning was "be aware & don't get kidnapped." Still, I admit there have been plenty of times I was naive and clueless – like when I used to ride my bike around in shorts as a teen in Pakistan, or winding up in questionable company in the heart of Olongapo City trying to find my way on base at Subic Bay. I can't even begin to list all the dodgy situations I found myself in as a teen.

    Working in law, I like to think I'm more aware of a lot of potential danger than most, but plenty of things still happen. An assault by a client, ongoing bomb threats at one firm I worked for, and one attorney I worked with wore a bullet-proof vest for a year after threats from a client's ex-husband. Last year, there was a sniper attack near the office where I work now (& it's in a really nice neighborhood, honestly!). Life is just way stranger than fiction.

    But I loved the tips, and look forward to more. I loved the video of the woman tripping into a fountain while texting, but the gamer falling on the tracks hurt to watch. Yikes!

  25. Jake Nantz

    Zoë – Love this post and hearing from Charlie. Please let her know she is openly invited back!

    I have always been a little paranoid and untrusting, but it's served me well through the years. Some of that started when I asked my mother why my step-dad kept a gun in the map-pocket of every car he owned, and she told me it was because he'd been broken down on the highway once and, when he thought two guys were pulling over to help him, they robbed him instead. Now he'll just shoot first and deal with the rammifications afterward, as would I.

    A girl I was dating a long time ago went out with friends and they all got hammered (pissed, I think you'd say). One of her friends decided it was time to go and my girlfriend was in the bathroom, so they left her and when she came out, three nice young Lambda Chi Alphas offered to give her a ride home. You can guess what happened when she woke up the next morning and immediately felt the need to shower, so none of the three was ever caught (she was too drunk to remember anything except one of their t-shirts–hence the frat ID–and too scared/ashamed to follow it up with the cops). To add to it, her 'friend' that left her told her she just shouldn't have gotten so drunk. While that may be true, that's a pretty shitty thing to say to someone in that scenario.

    A funny 'dangerous' note – My aunt woke up one night in a pitch dark house, and sensed there was someone inside. She grabbed my uncle's pistol from the nightstand and stood in the doorway, aiming at the top of the stairs where she could tell the presence was. She knew that my two cousins were in the room next to hers and she'd have to protect them. My uncle, who had been travelling and, because he got home at 3am, was trying to be quiet so as not to wake anyone, said as calmly as possible, "Honey? Please don't shoot." Now when he gets home late he makes as much racket as he can. Safer that way.


  26. PD Martin

    Welcome Charlie! Great post and great idea to feature your character. Maybe we should have two weeks of it here on Murderati!

    I was always fairly aware/paranoid but once I started researching for crime novels and viewing police photographs etc my wariness went up another notch. Something others in Murderati can relate to?

    Great post, Thursday buddy 🙂


  27. Zoë Sharp

    Hi Jenni
    Sounds like you’ve had a very interesting upbringing! Reminds me of a brilliant line from Dan Walsh’s travelogue of South America, THESE ARE THE DAYS THAT MUST HAPPEN TO YOU. “For these people, ‘revolutionary’ means storming the presidential palace, not a new type of mobile phone.”

    Having watched body armour being test-fired, I’ve stopped referring to it as ‘bullet-proof’. Better to say it’s ‘bullet-resistant’ because much like water-proof versus water-resistant, if you stand out in the rain long enough in it, you WILL get wet ;-]

    Thanks, Jake
    You see, here in the UK all we’re allowed to carry in the glove compartment of our cars is … gloves. Perhaps this is another reason why I enjoy setting Charlie’s adventures in the States instead?

    Binge-drinking is a whole ’nother problem. It’s been a big thing in the UK for a while, and I think it’s becoming a bigger issue in the States, too. Pretty unforgivable of your old girlfriend’s so-called friend to leave her to her own devices when she was unable to take care of herself.

    Your aunt sounds like my kind of lady, btw ;-]

    Thanks, Phillipa
    I can definitely relate to things uncovered in the name of research, as well as personal experiences. It can be a very cruel world out there, and in fiction, at least, we can dish out a little much-needed justice.

  28. Reine

    Hi Zoë,

    So sorry to be late here . . . minor crisis at home, but all is okay.

    OMG! I love Desmond! He looks vaguely familiar. What a cute little bum he has! Thank you for posting his piccie.

    Charlie can come to Tucson anytime she wants, and I would love to read more posts from her, if you please.

    As for facing danger. I had more serious things happen when I was a child, and I froze. That worked against me later in court, or maybe I should say that it worked in my attacker's favor – not reacting right away but waiting until later when I saw a police officer.

    Mostly I was in dangerous situations at work as an adult but at home too. One time two guys were trying to get into my house in Bakersfield, California in the middle of the day. I reached for my shotgun in the alcove by the door, and they ran away. They burgled our next door neighbor's house and a couple down the street. That my presence, alone, hadn't phased them was a bit scarey.

    Another was something that haunts me daily. I write about it a lot, and I hope not to bore anyone. When I was being stalked by the man who killed my friend I tried to enlist help, and no one believed me . . . not even my family . . . not until a neighbor found her body when she failed to show up for a walk.

  29. Reine


    If you have a Mac the code for an umlaut is: [option u e] or [option u E] no brackets.

    On a PC it's more complicated: Num Lock should be ON; Use the left-side ALT key (for most keyboards (try the right if it doesn’t work). Hold down the ALT key and type a number on the number pad as follows – while holding the ALT key down – for Ë press [Alt 0203] without brackets. When you release the ALT key, you will have the character. For ë press [Alt 0235] without brackets. When you release the ALT key, you will have the character.

    For Linux: get another system. Or email me.

  30. KDJames

    It's past 2 AM here and I'm beat but just wanted to say, YES, more Charlie please. Also, sheer luck and a confident stride coupled with a don't-mess-with-me attitude (but mostly sheer luck) has saved me from more tight spots than I care to think about. Although I did used to make a fist around my keys when walking to my car alone at night, making sure a key stuck out like a weapon between each finger. These days, I mostly just never leave the house. 😉

    I'm so tired, I'm looking at "I did used to" in the sentence above and can't decide whether that makes sense. Feh. Bedtime.

    Great post Zoë.

  31. Zoë Sharp

    Thanks Reine
    No, I’m the one who’s late – but occasionally I do need to sleep ;-]

    Glad you approve of Desmond. You can see why we just had to bring him home, can’t you?

    I’m so sorry to hear about your experiences. Freezing is an entirely natural response that has to be overcome. Not being believed, though – that really sucks.

    I love to hear the phrase, “I reached for my shotgun in the alcove by the door…” That is SO Charlie! Actually, my parents’ house was burgled years ago when I was a child. It didn’t seem to matter that there were six people inside at the time, but they walked round my parents’ bedroom and took stuff off the bedside tables while they were lying there asleep. Very scary!

    Oh, and on PC Alt+137 also works for an umlaut ë

    Thanks, KD
    ‘Improvised weapons’ is another category, too! And there you can REALLY start to have some fun …

    Thanks for another ‘yes’ vote – now get some sleep ;-]

  32. Reine

    Hi Zoë,

    I kind of like that, “I reached for my shotgun in the alcove by the door…” sounds "… SO charlie" to you. Scary stuff is all over the place, and I hate when I'm dragged down with it. Being alert is not the same as fear, but some times it appears that way to others. Charlie is a fantastic antidote, a regular antivenin.

    I almost brought home a little gargoyle from Oxford. the Roar Gargoyle, as he suited my mood perfectly, kind of like that Munch painting. My bag was overloaded, though, and I was determined to shop for a jumper in Iceland. Very nice woolens there, and an easy way home from Denmark after visiting relatives.

    ALT 137 is much easier. Easier to remember, too. Good tip. I collect keyboard shortcuts, and with the difficulty I have keying I discover a ton by accident. Now that is really fun. Well, not like having your shotgun right there when burglars show up at your door . . . scary story 'bout your mum and dad.

  33. Zoë Sharp

    Hi Reine
    Love the Roar Gargoyle. He is rather special, isn’t he?

    I think your comment that being alert is not the same as being afraid is absolutely spot on, btw.

    And thank you for the kind words ;-]

  34. Doug Riddle

    Zoe – great post.

    But if you watch the texing/fountain video you will see it is a set-up / fake. Watch the young woman's stride, perfectly normal until she reaches the wall surrounding the fountain, when she lifts her leg to "step over" the wall………..if she was really unaware, she would have walked straight into the wall which would have caught her just below the knees and she would have face planted into the fountain, her feet still on the outside of the fountain.

  35. Zoë Sharp

    Hi Doug

    I'm more than ready to believe it's not real, but there have been plenty of documented cases of people walking into things while using their mobile phones, so think of this as an entertaining illustration, if nothing else ;-]

Comments are closed.