Short Story Time

Shorts From The Vault: The Lies We Tell

Being a deception specialist was made easier by the fact that I’m deaf. My services are requested from all around the globe, I’m the cream of the crop as the saying goes. It’s interesting watching the body language of liars. They look off to the left, the small twitch at the corner of the mouth.

There’s one case in particular from a place I remember way back when. I was green, my first case. I was sent to Elliot Lake, Ontario in Canada to help the OPP determine if this kid they had as a suspect for a high profile murder was lying or not. The only reason it was high profile was that some big wig doctor was found dead. It looked like it was a robbery for a motive.

The kid didn’t look more than eighteen. Scraggly, worn down in the face. The kid was rocking back and forth on the creaky chair across from the table, looking around as if something might jump out at him and bite him. Nibbling at the hangnail on his thumb he squirmed as I stared at him quietly and when my hand suddenly appeared to open his case file I could swear he nearly came close to puking right then and there.

The kid was displaying shot nerves, made me wonder how long he’d been at the cop shop in this room, sleep-deprived and hungry. His case notes said he was a revolving door Juvie from about the age of twelve and a junkie, had a record longer than I was tall. Looking from the case notes I nodded and began.

“So, you know why you are here right,” I said as softly as I could. You see, I lost my hearing when I was a teen, car accident with closed head trauma. Damaged the oratory nerves in my ears and obliterated the bones that help you hear. That means my speech development was on target and normal, you couldn’t tell I was significantly deaf except if I told you I was or you saw the hearing aids before I could say it.

“No, I did not do it” The kid almost screamed. The lack of contractions in his sentence told me that he knew something but what was the question. A slight twitch of the mouth and he looked away. A dead ringer for a lie but it was my job to determine what the lie was about not just that he was lying.

“Can you tell me what happened?” I asked while watching his movements and facial expression closely. His eyes hit the table losing contact with mine as soon as the question was in the air between us.

He scratched nervously and turned his body in the chair toward the door while glancing at me sideways with a weak smile. I watched as the smile waned from his mouth and fade. The smile didn’t involve his eyes or other facial muscles telling me he was about to lie.

“I don’t know” he grunted harshly as he fiddled with the papers from the case files. Moving them around to detract attention from himself even though it attracted more attention to his lies.

“Alright, how’s your sister doing then,” I said, changing the subject. Liars tended to follow the change of conversation easily and become more natural in speech patterns and body language. This was always a sure sign something was up. The case files had told me he had a little baby sister about 3 years old that he hadn’t seen in some time.

“I don’t know, haven’t seen her in awhile you know,” He said looking me dead in the eye.

“What if I told you I could help you see her?” I cautiously threw the bone out there, trying not to promise anything I couldn’t deliver on in the end.

“What do you want from me damn it” The kid was starting to crack a little. Starting to show his weariness and if I wasn’t careful I’d lose the perp for sure.

“I want you to tell me about the night that man was killed,” I said carefully.

“I can’t…I can’t help you” he whimpered while his hands fiddled with hair.

“Yes, you can, tell me what happened” I pressed watching him closely.

“I was there.” He sighed, “you promise you will let me see her if I tell you”

“Yes, continue”

“I was about to case the joint, I needed my next fix and I heard this loud popping noise. When I looked up this dude I knew from high school just before I dropped out was there. He had blood across his shirt and tire iron in his hand. I didn’t know what to do and just ran, I thought he was gonna come after me and kill me” The kid said with a sigh.

His eyes were fixed on mine, his hands neatly folded on the table, body toward me. He didn’t fidget, didn’t look all around just dead straight into my eyes. When he frowned, his whole face followed suit with the mouth, his tone was natural. Finally, the truth of the matter was out on the table between us. That was it, he was done, I was done. Job accomplished.

Liars never get very far if the person knows what to look for. It’s the subtleties of a lie and yet the complexities that weave themselves between the lines of verbal communication and nonverbal body language. I’ve come a long way from that first case but you never forget your first, just like the first kiss or the first dance. The subsequent cases always seem to pale in comparison to the first, your first is breaking the ice, the cherry if you will. It follows you to every other case and challenges you to strive harder for better, faster, and bigger. I’ll always remember the kid.

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Sheal Berube

Sheal Berube