The Mirror Tells a Different Tale

The Mirror Tells a Different Tale

Police lineup, Los Angeles, California; May 9, 1936

“As for my part in the whole thing, I always figured that if the only evidence the police had was a witness whose memory could be upended by some clown jiggling his foot in a line-up, then the case must not have been too strong in the first place.”

The legal system makes imperfect gods of all of us. From juries to eye witnesses to pointing an accusing finger of guilt, we get to decide fates and determine lives in ways guaranteed to tear and tangle the fragile threads of the complex human webs we weave. “The Mirror Tells a Different Tale,” from my short story collection The Knife and the Wound It Deals, concerns itself with one of the more peculiar practices of the legal system–the strangely intimate yet ultimately almighty procedural of the police line-up. When I submitted this story to the always excellent Tales to Terrify, a weekly horror-themed podcast of thriller and chiller stories hosted by award-winning horror writer Lawrence Santoro, it was accepted. Yet eventually it was deemed a better fit for their sister-show, Crime City Central, an also weekly podcast of noir-drenched detective and mystery stories.
I couldn’t agree more with their choice. Cagney, this one’s for you.
James Cagney


“I forced myself to think of my body like a piece of stone, incapable of even the slightest movement. I imagined being somewhere really nice, maybe lying on a tropical beach or sitting beside a cool mountain stream—anything to keep from thinking about the witness moving up and down on the other side of that glass. I wasn’t there to be the judge and jury. Or at least that’s what I thought at the time, though I sure know better now…”


To read “The Mirror Tells a Different Tale” and twelve other chilling tales of Gothic intrigue and mystery, click here to purchase The Knife and the Wound It Deals in paperback or e-book format.