Saturday, 30 March 2013

Lie Detector by Sam Carter

Read by Michael Charles Rogers

Kara. Kara, is it? I know it is. Maybe it’s your real name, maybe it’s not, but it’s the one your colleague gave us, so we’ll stay with it, shall we?

I’m not here to make you talk, Kara. I’m here to make you see it’s better to talk now. You don’t want to be made to talk, Kara, not by us. Not by my colleagues through there. They know what they’re doing, Kara. They’re professionals. Expert. Enthusiastic. Expensive. So am I, of course, but my job’s rather less unpleasant.

Did you know, Kara, research shows women do my job better than men? A man in your position, especially from a patriarchal culture, he'll put up a lot of initial resistance, but he’ll talk to a woman more quickly: the natural inclination to see them as nurturing figures, mother, wife, sister, meets the urge to confess, and … well, we don’t like to use the term break. But they always confide, eventually. Women are harder to crack, you’ll be interested to know, Kara, but they prefer to talk to women, too. It's a comfort thing. I’m a neo-Freudian: it all comes down to our mothers in the end. Trouble is, it’s not easy to find a woman willing to do this sort of work. So you’re stuck with me, I’m afraid. 

There you go: don’t struggle, it won’t help. Last one, nice and firm. Sorry if they’re a little tight: you’ll get used to it. We need good skin contact, for the electrodes.

Whoa! Look at that jump! It’s certainly working. You misunderstand me, Kara. I’m not going to shock you or torture you. That’s not my job at all. The electrodes are for a lie-detector. Very advanced, very sensitive. It can tell when you’re lying even when you don’t say a word. Clever, eh? The wonder of science.

I’m the calm before the storm, if you like. You’ve heard of good cop, bad cop, I’m sure? I’m the good cop. I’m not even a cop, actually. I’m a doctor. I have to be, to make sure you’re well enough to answer questions in here. And, sometimes, through there. Oh! Jump. Don’t worry, Kara, we’re getting ahead of ourselves. No need to think about that. I’m sure you’ll tell me plenty, whether you mean to or not.

They used to call that dumb insolence, in the Army, Kara, but I expect you’re familiar with the concept. You’ve had military training, haven’t you?

The detector says yes, Kara; no offence, but I trust this machine more than you. You, on the other hand, don’t trust me at all. That’s OK, Kara, I don’t need your trust, just your understanding. I have an hour with you, Kara, and my clipboard of questions here, and depending on how well you do, or how well I do, I suppose, you’ll go back to your cell after this, or you’ll go next door. You don’t want to go next door, Kara. Your cell’s far down the corridor, I know, but I expect you’ve still heard the screams.

I had one of your colleagues in here a few days back and once I’d got him talking (because I always get people talking, that’s my speciality) one of the first things he said was, how did he know the screams weren’t recordings? To be honest, Kara, that was a new one on me. Of course you and I know that the screams are real; there’s just something about them, isn’t there? But your colleague was trying to be brave and he was trying to tell himself the screams were recorded. I said yes, that was reasonable, they could be recorded for all he knew.

But how did he think we had recorded them?

That stopped him talking for a while, and then it made him talk a lot more.

The thing is Kara, even when you don’t talk, you tell me things. Not just through the lie-detector; with your eyes, your tiny movements, your breathing, your heart-rate. Especially that. I’m pretty good at reading body-language, you see, even when you’re secured: I’ve had plenty of practice. All psychologists have to train as medical doctors first: did you know that? We learn about the body before we tackle the mind. But it all comes back to the body in the end, doesn’t it? That inconvenient truth. That Achilles heel. It would be so much easier if your body were as strong and impervious as your mind, wouldn’t it, Kara? But it’s not. Nobody’s is. Even the Catholics burnt at the stake screamed as the flames started to blacken and bubble their flesh. They didn’t give in, but they sure as hell didn’t win either.

The thing is, Kara, you have to consider your position. You can refuse to give in; at this stage, anyway. You can decide not to talk, though I’ll probably get most of what I need from your involuntary reactions and tics: they call them “tells” in the poker world, Kara, did you ever play poker? Jump! I see you did. I bet you were pretty good, too. I am excellent at poker, Kara. International standard. Not because I’m so very wonderful at hiding my own reactions, though I do what I can. Because I am so very good at reading other people’s. If the guys across the table knew what I did for a living their minds would blow! BOOM! All over their crappy cards.

Sorry Kara. I didn’t mean to startle you. Like I said, I’m good cop. I don’t want you hurt, Kara. If my colleagues have to hurt you, that means I’ve failed, and I take my job very seriously. Where was I? Oh yes. You can refuse to give in, and I’ll respect that decision, even if I cannot condone it. I mean, I know you have your principles, Kara, but it’s just not sensible to keep silent; not at this stage. And you know this is the last stage at which you’ll be able to keep silent. If they take you next door you won’t shut up, believe me. My office is down the hallway; not far from your cell, actually, Kara. Don’t you think I have to hear the screams too? I don’t want that for you, Kara. I don’t want it for anyone. That’s why I do what I do. To give people like you one last chance.

It’s not just the screams, Kara. It’s the things I’ve seen. Things I’d never want anyone else to see, let alone suffer. Things I can’t forget. I’m not squeamish, Kara. I’m a doctor, accustomed to the sight of blood, the human body in all its hideous and broken forms. It’s not what I saw of your colleagues, your predecessors, that I can’t forget. It’s what I saw in mine.

Oh, don’t cry, Kara. There now. I didn’t mean to make you cry. It’s so hard to be strong, God knows I know that. I understand, Kara. I know. There, you’ll be more comfortable with the gag off. Have some water. Is that better? Are you ready now?

Then we’ll begin.

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