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Got called in on Saturday to administer a polygraph examination to a suspect on some bank jobs going on up and down the coast.

It’s one of the things they pay me for.

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I find the whole thing very curious. I really enjoy interview and interrogation. I don’t know if I’m any good at it. The whole time there is a tremendous amount of information whanging around in the room. There’s what I know, what the suspect knows, what I don’t know, what they don’t know, what they want to conceal, what I want to have revealed. There’s facts galore. There is a lot of lying. A tremendous amount. Probably eighty percent of what gets said is truthful, though. Or a kind of truthful. Lots and lots of information that the suspect thinks shows him in a good light, or at least not too bad. Most of the lies are in the form of omission, minimizing, and concealing. Of course, there are plenty of outright lies, too.

And there is everywhere treacherous ground. Lots of times there are facts I think I understand but they get undermined in the room by new information that I may or may not be able to trust, or to prove up. Lots of times the bad guy has the same experience. He doesn’t know for sure he can stick to this story or that one, and my job is to play up that uncertainty, and downplay my own.

It can be like herding cats. There is lots of time exploring dead ends. There is constant circling back over previously covered ground. You hope every time to decrease the diameter of the circle, drawing him in to the ultimate point. You think you have everything tied up tight, then he bolts off in a new direction and you have to start all over. And your opponent is desperate to prevail, or at least not lose ground. Lots of times a guy will get in the box just to find out how much you know about what he’s been up to.

You have to watch out for him.

Most of the time, I don’t get what I’m after. I fight ’em to the ground and take away all their lies and evasions and bullshit and look into their eyes and they know they’re caught and they know I’m not buying their sad shit, and they get right there where they’re broken, they are going to spill, and then their eyes glaze over and they say it again:

“I didn’t do nothing.”


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I wish I did better. I tell myself that there’s just some people who won’t confess no matter what kind of facts you have to confront them with. You could be standing there with them, they’ve got the guys severed head in their lunchbox, and they’ll just keep eating their sandwich and saying they don’t know what I’m talking about.

I can’t help it, though. I know that every time I fail to get the confession, I failed. It belongs to me, not somebody else.

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In other news, when I left the house today to do some shopping at the Cookie Crock, my wife looks at me and says

“You look like a hit man.”

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