Disclaimer: I don't own Leverage or Lie to Me.
The next time Cal saw Nate Ford was in a federal holding cell. Nate sat on a metal chair in front of a table, his wrist handcuffed to the arm of the chair. He hunched in on himself, his free hand pressed to his side, his face tense with pain and illuminated by a harsh fluorescent bulb.
Cal's eyes widened for a millisecond before he schooled his face to impassivity. He turned to the man who'd hired him. "Who is he?" he said.
Jim Sterling flashed a micro-expression of glee that settled into a macro-expression of smug satisfaction. "My ex-colleague, Nathan Ford." (True.) "He used to be quite the white knight, but he had a falling out with IYS and then fell in with a bad crowd." (True, but not the whole truth.) "He tried to pull a con on the wrong man and had to agree to turn state's evidence to secure the freedom of his team." (True.)
Cal nodded thoughtfully. It didn't surprise him that Nate had gotten himself caught—he'd noticed last time that Nate was an appalling liar, which was a huge problem for a con man—but it did surprise him that Nate's team hadn't found a way to rescue him yet.
Gillian stood beside him, her attention on the man in the holding cell. Cal didn't think she'd ever seen Nate before, but it was possible that she'd caught a glimpse of him when he'd come to thank Cal for his help on the Carlton job a little over a year ago. Just in case, to distract her, he said, "Sounds like quite the heroic fellow, doesn't he, Dr. Foster?"
Sterling sneered at that, radiating contempt so strong it would be obvious to an untrained chimpanzee.
Gillian blinked away from puzzling over Nate to look at Cal. She frowned for a moment, unsure what to read from his expression, which said simply, Work with me.
She made the right call and played off of Sterling's disgust. "It's not uncommon for members of a team to form exceptionally strong bonds, sometimes even stronger than the bond between spouses," she said in her patented I'm-a-psychiatrist voice. "When one member of a team sacrifices himself for the others, that's not heroism. It's a learned behavior."
"Of course, how silly of me," Cal said, nodding seriously as if what she'd just said wasn't a load of bullshit. "So, Special Agent Sterling, what exactly is Interpol's interest in all this?"
"One of the men Nate's going to help convict has been under investigation by Interpol for years now. And I have some personal interest in seeing this through." (True.)
"You don't like Ford much, do you?" Cal said, the thought making him smile just a little. Sterling rubbed him the wrong way, probably because he was going after a man Cal was certain was more valuable out in the world than in a jail cell.
Sterling's lip curled. "Let's just say that it will bring me a great deal of pleasure to see him behind bars." (True. Very true.)
"So what do you want from me? Sounds like you've got your man and he's agreed to do what you want."
"Nate Ford is a consummate liar and a certified genius," Sterling said. (True.) "I want you with him at all times for the next week, until he gives his deposition. If it looks like he's got a plan in motion to escape, you tell me. If it looks like he's thinking about lying in his deposition, you tell me. If it looks like the cogs in that twisted labyrinth he calls a mind are turning, you tell me."
Gillian stepped forward and opened her mouth, undoubtedly to tell Sterling that they didn't do that kind of work—she knew that Cal refused babysitting jobs on a regular basis. Cal stopped her with a hand on her arm, never taking his eyes off of Sterling, ignoring Gillian's obvious surprise.
Cal raised an eyebrow. "So, basically, if he does anything other than breathe, eat, and sleep, I should…"
"Tell me. Yes."
For a long moment, Cal just looked at Sterling, his face serious. Then he smiled. "Sounds fun."
Gillian took that as her cue to step in. "Agent Sterling, we're happy to work on a retainer for the federal government. However, I was given to understand that in this case we'd be working directly for you? I hope you realize that the Lightman Group's services aren't exactly cheap."
Now Sterling grinned like the cat that ate the canary. "IYS will be footing the bill for this one. It's rather embarrassing for them, you see, having their former star investigator running around playing vigilante. They want to see him put away as badly as I do." (True.)
"Excellent." Cal clapped his hands together. "Well, I'll just get to work, shall I?" He looked at Gillian. "Are you going back to the office, luv?"
"Unless you need me here?" she said.
"No, no. You go on." He strode to the door to the holding room, only to pause as something in Gillian's purse caught his eye. "Is that a bag of Doritos?" he said incredulously.
She glared at him. "What's wrong with Doritos?"
"How old are you?" he shot back. "Never mind. Give them to me."
She pulled the bag of chips out of her purse and clutched it protectively to her chest. "Why? You don't believe in eating orange food." (True.)
"It'll help me break the ice with our friend in there." He jerked his head at the holding room. When she continued to hesitate, he rolled his eyes. "I'll add the cost of a bag of Doritos to your wages, shall I?"
"Oh, fine." She handed them over.
"This delightful banter has been quite charming, but can we get on with it please?" Sterling demanded.
Cal flashed him a smile made of bared teeth and jerked open the door to the holding room. Nate looked up, did a double take when he saw who'd entered.
"Mr. Ford," Cal said swiftly, before Nate could give himself away. "My name is Dr. Cal Lightman. I'm a deception expert."
Nate's eyes flicked to the mirror and back to Cal's face. His lips twitched. "I've read your book," he said. (True. But then, they'd had this conversation before.)
"I hear it's quite useful to people in your old line of work," Cal said, sliding into the chair opposite him.
Nate slouched back in his own chair, wincing.
"Doritos?" Cal said, sliding the chips across the table. "They might be a nice change of pace after, what, four days of hospital food?"
"Yeah, funny how they don't want to release you right away after you've been shot." Nate struggled to open the bag one-handed, clutching it between his legs and yanking, holding it between his teeth and fumbling at it. Finally he gave up. "A little help?" he growled at Cal, who was watching with unconcealed amusement.
Cal got up, walked around the table, grabbed the chips, pulled the bag open, dropped it on the table in front of Nate, wandered back to his chair, sat, and put his feet up on the table. "Agent Sterling told me you let yourself be arrested to give your team time to escape."
Nate chuckled, popping a chip in his mouth. "Boy, were they pissed about that. They weren't happy being conned by their own leader." (True.) He rubbed his chin. "Sterling's standing outside this room watching us, isn't he?" Looking into Nate's eyes, feeling Nate's eyes bore into his, Cal read the implied question underneath: We can't talk freely, can we?
"My guess is he's been there for hours." Nope. Cal cocked his head. "Those handcuffs look uncomfortable. Want me to see about getting them removed?" Do you want me to get in touch with your team, help you escape?
Nate's lips quirked and he munched another chip. "Actually, I like them." (False.) He jerked up his hand, making the chain clink. "My wife used to shop for hours before she could find a bracelet that fit her so well." (True.) No, thanks.
"You're married?" Not anymore, Cal knew. He'd read up on Nate after their last encounter. Are you sure?
"Used to be. Now I have three grown-up children to look after and a woman who can't decide if she wants to slap me or kiss me." (True.) All I care about is my team, and they're safe.
"Not mutually exclusive options in my experience, mate." Women: can't live with 'em, can't live without 'em.
"Thanks for the Doritos," Nate said, tilting the bag up to drop the last crumbs in his mouth. I'm fine where I am. "Are they part of some top secret lie detector test?"
"Yeah," Cal said. "If you eat the Doritos, it means you're telling the truth." No. I just thought you might be hungry.
"Well, that's a relief." Thanks.
Cal sighed, somewhat disappointed. "You're not going to try to escape, are you?"
The corners of Nate's eyes crinkled. "No." (True.)
"You're going to go to the depositions, testify at trial, and slink off to jail with your tail between your legs like a good little con artist, aren't you?"
Cal dug his hand into his pocket to pull out his cell phone. He flipped it open and pressed one on his speed dial.
"Who are you calling?" Nate said, shifting in his chair.
"My partner, Gillian. I'm going to tell her to bring some cards and poker chips. This is going to be a long week, and I have the feeling you might actually be a challenge at poker."
"Why? You must be able to read me like a book." (False.)
"No," Cal said slowly. "You know, when I first met you—" he was careful choosing his words, not wanting to reveal their past to the eavesdropping Sterling "—I thought you were a terrible liar, but I was wrong. You're a terrible actor. But if you managed to con your whole team, get yourself arrested for them, you must be a phenomenal liar."
Nate ran the tips of his fingers along the surface of the table, leaving behind streaks of orange. "Well, I should hope so," he said, his voice alive with triumph. "After all, I am a thief."