Google Alerts delivered this message two days after my first blog post: Patricia Winton Police Blotter. I read “blogger” instead of “blotter,” and a bubble of joy filled my chest. I thought my blog had made some list and I’d have readers beyond friends and family. I clicked and saw: Patricia Winton Arrest. The bubble burst and bile rose in my throat. I clicked again and saw: Patricia Z arrested in Winton, California.
This is the second time in four months that Google Alerts has delivered news of Patricia Winton’s arrest. Back in December, on Rome’s coldest day this winter, I had two hours to kill between appointments. I wandered into a department store where I walked the aisles, fingering candles and pajamas and soup pots. Anything to pass the time in a warm place.
Everywhere I went, I saw the same two guys. One looked like store security in his spiffy suit and shiny shoes. The other, a muscular guy in raggedy track suit and tattered sneakers, looked like he was there to rob the place. They were in house wares; they were in lingerie; they were in handbags. I lingered in handbags to buy a wallet.
As I left the store, I noticed a little beep, but nothing alarming. Suddenly, the burly guy I had seen earlier leapt into my path and showed me ID. He was store security and the little beep I heard was in fact an alarm. “Signora,” he said. “Did you leave without paying?” As I began searching the two bags I was carrying to locate the wallet and receipt, he kept peppering me with questions. “Did you just forget to pay?” A crowd gathered. The questions continued. The crowd grew larger. The more questions he asked, the more agitated I became. I fumbled with zippers. I rattled paper. Just as he was reaching for my arm to take me who knows where, I found the wallet and receipt. He examined them both, glanced at me and said, “You’ll have to take these back to the cashier.” No smile and no apology.
The very next day, Google Alerts delivered the news that Patricia Winton had been arrested for shoplifting. You can’t imagine the emotions that roiled in my chest that time, especially since the woman was my age and in my home state of Tennessee. The coincidence is uncanny. I come from a law enforcement family: my father was a sheriff and my sister worked for the FBI. It’s a weird feeling to have my name on the wrong side of the law.
So I’m wondering, is it a good thing or bad for a mystery writer to share a name with jailbirds? I hope you’ll leave a comment with your thoughts on the question.