Note: Set in early Season 2 of Leverage and any time for Lie to Me.
Disclaimer: I don't own Leverage or Lie to Me.
"Mr. Carlton is concerned that several people who have recently insinuated themselves into his life are not who they appear to be," the aide said. "He's requesting that you attend the Fourth of July celebration he's hosting at his home and keep an eye out for those who might be lying about their identity." (True.)
Cal Lightman's lip curled. "Tell your boss that I appreciate the offer, but I don't celebrate American holidays."
Gillian Foster shot Cal a look. "We need the money," she reminded him under her breath, shooting the aide a quick, reassuring smile as she did. (True.) "Anyway, it's a party; it'll be fun!" (False.)
"Fifty thousand dollars for one night's work," the aide said when Cal hesitated. (True.)
Cal sighed. "Oh, very well." He pretended not to notice the way Gillian beamed at him. "At least there'll be an open bar."
Basically, everyone at the party was a liar. Oh, most of them were the kind of liar he'd expect, easily discarded as a possible threat: the women who came in on the arms of men they couldn't stand; the men who came in with wives they couldn't stand; the politicians lying through their teeth about, well, everything; the staff who smiled at the guests when all they wanted to do was cram an appetizer down their throats and leave them to choke.
It took Cal about five minutes to spot the couple whose credentials Carlton must have called him here to disprove. They were young, both in their mid- to late-twenties, she a pretty blonde and he nerdy-looking and black. Cal ordered a champagne and sipped it while he watched their careful progress across the floor. They spoke briefly to the other guests and then moved on, each progressive conversation taking them a little closer to Carlton.
From the way the other guests reacted to the couple—envy, disbelief, admiration—he deduced that they were better at lying with their words than they were with their faces. The blonde was very stiff, clearly uncomfortable in her slinky blue dress, while the man was overacting to the extreme, too eager to please.
Cal snorted into his drink, shaking his head. Con artists, thieves, entrepreneurs—whatever they were, those two were untrustworthy to the extreme, and Carlton shouldn't have needed to pay fifty thousand to figure that out.
"Oh, I know," came a voice from beside him, its accent a familiar British, tinged with a hint of Aussie or Kiwi. "Parties like these are such a bore, aren't they?"
Cal turned his head to examine the woman sitting beside him at the bar. She was lovely, with long dark hair and a secretive smile that sent a tingle down his spine.
"I dunno," Cal said, draining his champagne and gesturing for the bartender to bring him another. "I'm enjoying the expensive booze."
Her eyes widened slightly upon hearing his accent. (True.) Then her gaze slid past him and her lips tightened. (Also true.) "You're not the only one."
He followed her gaze to a man walking toward them. He was about Cal's age, with tousled hair, the top button of his shirt undone, and a glass of whiskey in his hand.
Cal looked back at the woman. She rolled her eyes. (True.) "My husband," she said. (That…might be true.)
Cal frowned and examined her a little more closely. She seemed oblivious to his scrutiny, too busy glaring daggers at her supposed husband.
"Darling!" the husband called out, a little too loudly, drawing attention, speaking with a tremendously awful British accent. The man's cheesy grin set Cal's teeth on edge. "There you are, hiding away. You're missing the party!"
The woman closed her eyes for a long moment. (Hard to read whether her exasperation was genuine. Damn, but she was a good liar.) "I was tired of watching you make a fool of yourself, George," she said in a long-suffering tone. (False. Maybe.)
The man just laughed (false) and looked at Cal, his eyes narrowing. "And who's this? Cheating on me again, darling?" (False.)
"Don't be more ridiculous than you have to be," the woman snapped, smiling apologetically at Cal. "We haven't been introduced. My name is Cynthia Howard, and this is my husband, George." (True? No, from George's reaction that clearly wasn't his real name.) "George, this is…"
"Dr. Cal Lightman," Cal said, sliding off his stool to offer George his hand.
George's eyes flickered at Cal's name before his grin widened and he pumped Cal's hand vigorously. "Doctor Lightman, eh? So if I overdose on good old Jacky D tonight you can save my life?" (False.)
"Not that kind of doctor, I'm afraid," Cal said, extracting his hand from the man's overzealous grip.
"Oh really? What kind of doctor are you, then?" Cynthia asked, appearing at his elbow.
"I'm an expert in lie detection." Because he knew to look for it this time, he saw how George's eyes flickered again. He also caught the quick upward twitch of George's lips. Interesting. Very interesting. George was clearly one of the worst liars Cal had ever seen, and yet he'd recognized Cal's name and was, for some reason, pleased that Cal was there. "And what do you do?"
George took a long drink from his glass then waved his hand airily. "Oh, a little of this, a little of that. My wife and I, we take whatever business comes our way."
"Your job sounds fascinating," Cynthia said, touching Cal lightly on the arm. (True.) "Are you here tonight for business or pleasure?"
"A little of both." Cal nodded in the direction of the young couple he'd picked out earlier. "You see those two?"
The Howards both turned to look. George's cheek twitched in a micro expression of amusement, mingled with a hint of something else. Protectiveness? Cynthia's face was virtually expressionless—almost too blank to believe.
"They're con artists," Cal said. "And not very good ones, at that. See how she laughs? Her eyes don't crinkle and her forehead is completely smooth—clear indicators that she's faking it. And he makes excessive use of his hands, trying too hard to seem genuine."
George and Cynthia glanced at each other, communicating only with their eyes. A well-functioning team, these two. They reminded Cal of himself and Gillian—though he sensed a certain level of awkwardness between the two of them that he and Gillian did not have.
"I've got to tell Mr. Carlton about those two," Cal went on. "They're just too obvious—it's a matter of professional pride. What I want to know is why I shouldn't tell him about the two of you as well."
Cynthia swallowed, ever so slightly, and Cal wondered whether that was the first genuine gesture he'd seen from her.
"What are you talking about?" George blustered. (False.)
"Please." Cal pointed at Cynthia. "She's one of the best liars I've ever seen. You, on the other hand, are one of the worst. And the way you reacted a moment ago—you know that young couple. You want me to expose them, which means that either they're your competition, or, given the way you just smiled—for a fraction of a second, but you did—your partners in crime."
He'd barely finished speaking when a passing waiter—a man with long hair pulled back in a ponytail—grabbed his arm and twisted it painfully up behind his back. Cal grunted in discomfort but didn't lose his smirk. "So I was right, then, was I?"
"What do you want me to do with him, boss?" the waiter said to George, his voice a low growl. "He could blow this whole thing wide open."
"Hang on, hang on," George said, shedding his persona and accent in an instant. He stared at Cal, his blue eyes clever and calculating. "Dr. Lightman, how loyal are you toward Carlton?"
"Very," Cal said, then winced when the waiter pulled his arm up a little higher.
"That's a lie," George said, studying Cal's face.
"That it is. Fine. I don't have any loyalty towards the man. He's paying me for one night's work, that's it."
"Then maybe we can work something out."
"Wait," Cal said. "Before you say anything else, I want your name, your real name."
"Why do you need to know?" Cynthia demanded.
The man was unfazed, though. He gazed at Cal for a long moment before smiling slightly. "You want to establish a baseline for when I'm telling the truth."
Cal raised his eyebrows. "You read my book."
"Oh, yes. You see, my name is Nate Ford, and I used to be an insurance investigator. Your tips on how to spot when someone is lying came in very hand in that line of work." (True.) Nate took another sip of whiskey. "Am I lying?"
"No." Cal cocked his head, considering. "All right, tell me about Carlton."
"Carlton's company, in addition to the big ticket items it's famous for—air conditioners and washing machines—produces smaller parts that are used in a number of household appliances. However, Carlton knowingly failed to perform a number of required safety tests on those parts before putting them to use, and at least six microwaves with Carlton Co. parts have exploded and badly injured—in one case, blinded—innocent people. They tried to bring suit against him and his company, and he retaliated by threatening their families." Nate met Cal's eyes. "Am I lying?"
"No," Cal said. "Go on."
"One of Carlton's victims came to us, asking for help. We have a plan in place to con Carlton into publicly admitting what he's done, but our con relies on Parker and Hardison—those are the two you pointed out—getting caught and Sophie and I stepping in to take their place. You could help us do that. Get justice for all the families Carlton's hurt."
"Why should I? Other than the fact that your man will break me in half if I refuse, that is?"
Nate sighed. "Eliot, let him go."
Suddenly Cal's arm was free. He stumbled forward two steps before catching his balance. He rubbed gingerly at his wrist. That was going to hurt tomorrow.
The waiter-slash-former-special-operative walked around Cal to stand beside Nate. He was still holding a tray of full champagne flutes in one hand. His face was set in a menacing glare as he held out the tray to Cal. "More champagne?"
"I think I'm all right, thanks."
"Do you have any children, Dr. Lightman?" Sophie asked.
He hesitated. "A daughter."
"How old is she?"
"One of the victims is a fourteen-year-old girl," Nate said. "Am I lying?"
Cal stared at him for a long moment, though he already knew the answer. "No," he said at last. "No, you're not." He smiled wryly. "Well, Gillian did tell me I'd have fun at this party. What do you want me to do?"
Cal leaned back in his desk chair and watched in amusement and faint awe as John Carlton's very public meltdown was aired on the evening news for the fifth time.
"Incredible," he muttered, shaking his head. Oh, he'd seen enough cons in his day that they couldn't really surprise him anymore, but he couldn't remember the last time he'd seen a con performed by someone other than himself that was meant to help someone.
"I'm glad you appreciate our work." (True.)
Cal's head jerked up and he frowned at Nate Ford, who stood just inside the door to Cal's office. "How'd you get in here?"
Nate shrugged. "I told that young woman—Ria Torres? She's your protégé, isn't she?—that I was an old friend of yours, and she let me right in." (True.)
"Why'd you come?"
"I wanted to thank you for your help. We could have blown the whistle on Parker and Hardison ourselves, of course, but this wouldn't have been possible if you'd done what you were supposed to do and told Carlton about Sophie and me." (True.)
"As far as I'm concerned, the purpose of my firm is to expose the truth," Cal said, steepling his fingers. "My little deception in concealing your identities helped to expose the much larger truth of Carlton's illegal activities. I was glad to do it."
Nate nodded. "Well, I still appreciate it. Anyway, I have the feeling I'll see you again." (True.) He turned to go.
"I looked you up, you know," Cal said, making Nate freeze. "You're a natural at lie detection, like Torres. That's an incredibly rare gift. Always the result of a violent childhood."
"I'm leader of a team full of people with rare gifts," Nate pointed out, ignoring the last bit. "For us, being able to tell when someone's lying isn't as important—or as difficult—as getting other people to hear the truth." (True.)
"Hmmmm." Cal stood, his chair rocking, and strode around his desk to lean back against it on his elbows. "Well, if you and your fellow thieves ever need an expert in lie detection to help you…"
"We'll keep you in mind." (True.) Nate headed for the door, paused, looked at Cal, his eyes narrowed. "By the way, unlike the others, I'm not a thief." (False.)
Then he was gone. Cal gazed pensively at the door, letting the news report about Carlton's disgrace wash over him, and decided that he looked forward to working with Nate and his team again.