Monday Sampler: Lie Catchers by Paul Bishop
September 14, 2015
In our mission to connect readers, writers, and books, Caleb and Linda Pirtle has launched a new series featuring writing samples from some of the best authors in the marketplace today. Monday’s Sampler is an excerpt from Lie Catchers by Paul Bishop. It is a hard-boiled mystery that reveals the insights and inner workings of two police interrogators.
As one reviewer wrote: The book becomes almost like a textbook in an advanced psychology course. There are, of course, the players who make up the world of the detectives – criminals, victims, other cops and police administrators. But “Lie Catchers” really zeroes in on these two partners and how they use their special psychological gifts to literally get into the heads of the people who exist in their work. Rarely will you find the kind of insight that Bishop demonstrates in this truly 5-star book.
With her special abilities, top LAPD Robbery-Homicide detective “Calamity” Jane Randall thought she knew all about interrogation until she met detective Ray Pagan. Wielding a suspect’s vocal intonations, emotions, and physical gestures like a scalpel, Pagan’s empathetic lie catching abilities are legendary.
Both detectives are scarred by past tragedies, but when paired together, they threaten to tear the city apart searching for a duo of missing children – a search where the right answer to the wrong question can mean sudden death.
Ripped from the experiences of thirty-five year veteran LAPD detective and nationally recognized interrogator, Paul Bishop, Lie Catchers takes the reader inside the dark and dangerous mind games of the men and women for whom truth is an obsession.
“Liar, liar, pants on fire. Nose as long as a telephone wire.”
When I first crossed swords with Rycovic Ray Pagan, he was already an LAPD legend in the interrogation room. Detectives would take bets on how long it would take Pagan to break a suspect wide open. It was said, he never missed – always coming out of the box with something to advance an investigation.
He was revered, feared, and jealousy being what it is, despised.
I was a bit of a legend myself. Twelve years on the job, five as a detective, currently assigned to Robbery Homicide’s elite Rape Special unit, and I still couldn’t get away from the Calamity Jane Randall moniker hung on me during my rookie year.
I’d solved my share of major cases, putting various villains in prison for more years than they had left on earth, but Calamity I’d been tagged, and Calamity I remained. A series of escalating coincidences while I was still in uniform – involving the accidental discharge of a shotgun, a sergeant’s squad car with a blown tire, and a urine soaked PCP suspect – were hard to live down.
My latest debacle – a suspect’s bullet taking a chunk out of my leg while my bullet took a chunk out of his vitals – hadn’t helped much. Nobody was saying the suspect didn’t get what he deserved and the shooting was clean. Nobody was saying the human smuggling ring we smashed wasn’t great police work. But the essence of calamity still hung over everything like a cheap celebrity perfume.
Ray Pagan was going to change that perception – not by changing me, but by allowing me to find my truth-self. Ray was big on truth, or at least his definition of truth. He was going to become more than my mentor. He was going to become my friend, despite me fighting him every step of the way.
However, I knew none of this as I used a black Malacca cane to stiffly walk my left leg into Chief Bullard’s office at the new Police Administration Building. Geographically only three blocks away from where LAPD’s old headquarters – the revered Parker Center – awaited demolition, the new PAB was a soulless warren of narrow hallways and bureaucratic oppression.
The chief stood up when I entered and came around his desk, walking through the shafts of sunlight unmuted by the tint covering the offices’ large windows.
“Jane, how are you? How’s the leg?” Chief Bullard asked as he attempted to corral me toward one of the two chairs in a small sitting area off to one side of his desk. I sat, ungracefully, which is to say I plopped down the last six inches into the leather chair, my leg stuck out in front of me like a fallen redwood.
“It’s coming along,” I said. “Physical therapy is helping.”
“You look great,” the chief said.
I gave an unladylike snort, which made him look uncomfortable.
I’d spent the three months since the shooting in sweat pants and t-shirts. Depression had killed my appetite and the physical therapy had burned through whatever calories wine provided. I’d lost weight and the gray Ann Taylor pant suit I was wearing would have looked better on a scarecrow.
“I look like hell, Chief, and I know it,”
He nodded as if deciding something. “What’s the prognosis?” he asked, pointing to my leg. Both of us were relieved to be getting to the point. No more small talk.
“The doctor said I should be certified full-duty in another month, but I can come back light-duty effective immediately.” My voice went up a notch with desperation and I hated the sound.
The chief looked at me. After a pause, he asked, “Want to try again?”
I fidgeted with my cane. I wanted to cross my legs, but that wasn’t happening.
The chief reached a long arm over and picked up a file from his desk. He opened it in his lap and looked down at it. “The doctors say you’ll always have a limp. Apparently, your right leg is now an inch shorter than your left.”
“Half-inch,” I said. Actually, I blurted the words and could feel myself blush when the chief looked up at me. Calamity, Calamity, Calamity! I couldn’t shake the curse.
I tilted my head down letting my dark hair fall forward to hide my eyes. I’d always used my hair as a defense ever since I’d been the tallest girl in my middle-school class. I paid it little attention beyond brushing and the occasional trim, yet somehow it had stayed rich and full.
The chief closed the file. I waited for the guillotine to fall.
“They are suggesting a full medical pension.”
Whack! Head into the hand basket and on the way to Hell…
“Chief…” I started.
“Relax,” the chief said. He tossed my medical file onto his desktop and sat back comfortably in his chair. “If I listened to doctors, I would have been dead from cancer ten years ago. It’s going to take a lot more than a pessimistic prognosis to kill this old war horse, or to make me give up on a potentially great detective.”
I brought my head up and looked directly at Chief Bullard. He smiled, knowing his word had hit its bull’s-eye.
“Calamity Jane Randall,” he said. “A pretty harsh handle to live with, especially as it isn’t true.”
I took a deep breath. “It kind of is,” I said, then tapped my cane against my leg. I was not going to cry. I would not cry.
“No, it’s not.” The chief’s voice was kind, but there was some steel in it. “I know your record. I know the cases you’ve cracked since you’ve been with RHD. You were shot in the leg, but you kept on going. Not only did you put your attacker down, but you crawled across the floor and, before he died, got him to tell you where twenty-six women were who were locked up in a storage container. They would have died if it wasn’t for you. I don’t call that a calamity. I call it being a hero.”
I didn’t know what to say, so I kept my mouth shut.
“I’ve got a special assignment for you.”
“I don’t want a desk job.” I heard the defensive whine in my voice and cringed inside.
“Have I said it’s a desk job?” There was the tinge of exasperation in Bullard’s tone. “You may be a wizard in the field, but I understand the term calamity is actually appropriate when applied to your paperwork and organizational skills.”
“Do you know Ray Pagan?”
“I know who he is, but I’ve never actually met him.”
“I’m surprised. Other than his wolves, he’s managed to meet and piss off almost every other detective in this department at one time or another.”
“That’s one of the things I’ve heard.”
“Ray’s a brilliant guy. The best interrogator this department has ever seen. I’d put him up against any interrogator anywhere. He’s that good, but he’s also a loose cannon.”
“I’ve heard rumors he screwed up big time a few years ago.”
The chief gave me a level look. “He did his job. He didn’t screw up. Sometimes bad things happen. You should be familiar with the pattern.”
“What else have you heard?”
I shrugged. “Not much. He was buried in deep freeze – working cases so stone-dead even the Cold Case Unit won’t touch them for fear of frostbite.”
“Ray’s choice, not mine, but I’m putting an end to his self-imposed exile. I want him back in the box, and I want you in there with him.”
“Because he needs a minder. Ray is at his absolute best when he is freelancing. His wolves would follow Pagan to the gates of Hell. However, everybody else wishes he would go there.”
I wasn’t quite sure who these wolves were, but I guess I was going to find out. “What’s our assignment?”
“You will both be attached to RHD under Captain North. You’re going to be the go to interrogation team in major cases.”
“Who decides when we go in?”
“It will be case by case on direct orders from myself or North. Since Ray sees things others don’t, he can also decide to take a case. He’ll decide if you simply hit and run – do the interrogation and cut loose – or if you work the case further. I’ll make sure you get resources and the cooperation.”
“What’s my role?”
“You have the most important job. You keep Pagan in line and on track.”
“I’m sorry, chief, but I don’t think being the albatross around Pagan’s neck is something for which I’m cut out.”
The chief indicated my cane and leg. “Do you want back on the job, or do you want to be medically pensioned?”
“I want back, but I know a calamity when I see one coming.”
“Exactly,” the chief said. “So, you should be well prepared for the brewing storm. Jealousy is a funny thing. You’d think having a guy who can open up any suspect like a can of cheap tuna would be someone you’d want on your side. But detectives are very territorial. Nobody likes Pagan coming in and making them look foolish by actually getting blood out of a stone suspect. He doesn’t purposely make people look bad. He just has what he himself dismisses as a knack.”
“You’re saying nobody is going to make this easy,” I said.
“Hear me clearly, Randall. I don’t care about fragile egos. I care about results. Ray gets results…and so do you.”
I felt stunned. “What does Pagan think about this set-up?”
“It doesn’t matter.” The chief paused before asking, “You in?”
There was only one answer. “Where do I find this paragon of truth and justice?”
“Court. He’s being cross-examined about an interrogation in one of his cold cases. It should be entertaining.”
ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Novelist, screenwriter, and television personality, Paul Bishop spent 35 years with the Los Angeles Police Department, where he was twice honored as Detective of the Year. He continues to work privately as a deception and interrogation expert. His fifteen novels include five in his LAPD Homicide Detective Fey Croaker series. His latest novel, Lie Catchers, begins a new series featuring top LAPD interrogators Ray Pagan and Calamity Jane Randall.