Interview with Smoky Barrett from The Face of Death
Closing in on 39. Allegedly.
Q: You’re an FBI agent?
That’s correct. I work in the Los Angeles Branch of the FBI, heading up the local branch of the NCAVC – The National Center for the Analysis of Violent Crime. We deal with LA child abductions and serial killings.
Q: How long have you held that position?
Just over 10 years.
Q: Now, I spoke to you before this interview, to make sure that the next question was okay. I’m sure it is still a sensitive area, and I appreciate your permission to explore it. Tell us about the scars on your face.
Approximately 1 year ago, I was hunting a man by the name of Joseph Sands. He was a serial rapist/murderer. I was closing in on him when he broke into my home one night. He killed my husband and my daughter, then he sexually assaulted me and cut the left side of my face with a knife.
Q: And what happened to Mr. Sands?
I shot him dead.
Q: How did that experience affect you?
(Laughs) Affect me? Sorry. It just always seems to be the favorite question. I understand why, but it gets old.
Q: Would you rather skip it?
No, that’s okay. In for a penny. To be blunt, I was suicidal after that experience. I’d lost my family, I was scarred for life, and I wasn’t sure if I wanted to go on living.
Q: What changed? I mean… I assume something changed…
I’m not suicidal anymore, if that’s what you’re asking. (Shrugs) I got caught up in another case. My best friend from High School was murdered and I ended up tracking down her killer. She had a ten year old daughter who witnessed the crime but survived, whom I’ve now adopted… I have responsibilities, reasons to live. Time passes. I don’t know that the whole ‘heals all wounds’ thing is accurate, but time does pass. After a while, living becomes preferable to dying again.
Q: So there was no single, dramatic turnaround, is what you’re saying.
Right. Healing is gradual.
Q: How has what you experienced affected your ability to do what you do?
I think I have a greater empathy for the victims now. And understanding the victims gives me a greater understandings of the type of men I chase.
Q: You were put into your position fairly early for a Special Agent, isn’t that true?
Results. I’ve gotten everyone I’ve gone after.
Q: What do you think you bring to your job that makes you so good at what you do?
An empathy for the predators. I understand them. I’d prefer not to, if you want me to be honest, but I do. I can get inside their heads and see things the way they do. Feel things the way they do. Sometimes that messes me up, but in the end, it’s why I catch them.
Q: You said you had adopted the daughter of a friend who died –
Murdered. She didn’t ‘die’, she was murdered.
Q: I’m sorry. The friend who was murdered. You adopted her daughter. How is she doing?
She hasn’t spoken since her mother was killed. She wakes up screaming in the night sometimes. But… she’s getting better. She smiles more. We’re helping each other.
Q: And how about you? I heard a rumor that you have someone special in your life, now. Is that true?
That’s off limits!
(Angry) I’m not comfortable talking about that, okay? It’s my business and nobody else’s. End of story.
Q: Let me ask you one last question, then. If you could give the average person a single piece of advice, based on your experience, what would it be?
That any person you walk by, talk to or rub up against in your daily life could be thinking about killing you. Maybe killing you quick, probably killing you slow, but while they bag your groceries or shake your hand or give you that bland smile, what they’re really thinking about is you screaming and begging them to let you live.
Q: Wow. I – I know I said that was the last question, but I have to ask… why? Why do they do it?
Because it fills them up. Emptying you out fills them up, like nothing else there is.
Agent Barrett’s cell phone rings. She glances at the number and frowns, then stands up.
I have to take this and I have to go.
Q: Thanks for giving us so much of your valuable time. We really appreciate it.
She waves at me as she’s walking away, phone already to her ear. Whatever it is she’s hearing on the other end turns her face white for a moment. She closes her eyes, briefly, then clenches her teeth and heads out the door, checking with a hand to make sure her gun is at her hip. It is. I’d guess it always is.