Previous Challenge Entry (Level 3 - Advanced)
Topic: Discern (08/12/10)
TITLE: The Truth Detector
By Melanie Kerr
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PC Green manhandled the petty criminal, standing him against the wall. He pushed a board with a number into his hands. The flash of the camera caught Nykes’ face with all its curious angles. Green rearranged his body, pushing a shoulder back and turning the face to the side. Another flash of light revealed a profile, unique in the shape of the nose, a top lip that protruded slightly over the bottom one and a hairy caterpillar of an eyebrow
“You can’t prove nothing,” sneered Nykes. “Them lie detector things…I am impervious to them. My body, I’ll have you know, is a well oiled machine…finely honed. My heartbeat and the temperature of my finger tips are as constant as…as…well, let’s just say I can lie all I want and you will never know it.”
Police Constable Green didn’t dismiss Nykes’ claim. There had been a rumour of a dishonourable Buddhist monk who was paid to teach the criminal classes how to meditate. Apparently, he didn’t insist on any of his clients following the Noble Eightfold Path, merely enjoining them to avoid physical harm where possible.
“Besides,” added Nykes, “information obtained from a lie detector is useless in court.” He snorted and the flesh hanging over his belt quivered unpleasantly.
“Oh…don’t you worry, Nykes. We’ve moved on from lie detector tests. We’ve something new for you.”
Nykes didn’t like the tone of voice. P C Green sounded cheerful. Nykes’ eyebrows shifted uneasily, trying to climb underneath his fringe.
He was prodded along the corridor and P C Green opened the door to a harmless looking room. There was a table, three chairs and a filing cabinet. The object on the table was stainless steel and glistening. It reminded Nykes of a set of scales. A black tray squatted on top of a cube. A screen on the front of the cube flashed the word “ready” in red letters. Beside the scales was something that resembled an oxygen mask. It was linked to a red deflated balloon by short length of yellow plastic tubing.
“This is not a lie detector…although it will detect lies. Just slip the mask over your head.”
Nykes twisted and bent his head to one side, reminiscent of a curious crow, and inspected the device on the table.
“What does it do then?” He asked suspiciously, sounding slightly unsure of himself
“Just put the mask on.”
Nykes slipped the mask over his head and PC Green adjusted it, tweaking the bands on either side of his head, making sure that his mouth was covered.
“Your name is Ezekiel Nykes, correct?”
“Yes,” he replied. He saw no sense in disagreeing. The red balloon inflated quickly. PC Green placed a clip half way long the yellow tube, disconnected the pipe from the mouthpiece and laid the balloon and the pipe in the black tray.
Red numbers tumbled across the screen steadily climbing upwards.
PC Green wrote down the numbers on a sheet of paper in front of him. He restored the tube to the mouthpiece.
“And you had nothing whatsoever to do with the theft of the painting “The Sleeping Baby” from the Hawkins Gallery on Wednesday evening?”
“I was at home….asleep.”
The red balloon inflated quickly and then just as quickly deflated. This time, when placed on the tray the balloon inflated, waited for a minute or two, then promptly deflated, giving two sets of numbers.
“Well, you were at home…but you weren’t asleep.”
Nykes blushed at the memory of Ida Temple in his arms.
“The thing about this machine, Nyles, is that it weighs your words! Forget about volume, or the careful choice of words – or even your heartbeat or the temperature of your fingers. The machine weighs the amount of truth in every word you say. Amazing what science comes up with, isn’t it?”
“Now what about last Tuesday…Smythe and Patterson Hardware Emporuim?”
Nykes had boasted that he could tell all the lies he liked and no one would ever know. He just couldn't always tell when others were lying. He foolishly believed everything PC Green told him and confessed to a number of robberies.
Later, after Nykes had been escorted to the cells, PC Green dismantled his “truth detector”. The scales would go back to the kitchen cupboard, the mask to the first aid kit, the yellow tube to the garage. And the red balloon? He thought Rosie might like to play with it.
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