Stepping From the Shadows

Private eye Max Caulfield's mysterious past includes a stint in the federal Witness Protection Program. After more than a decade of intrigue and paranoia, he's going public.

He'd have to be moved again. But first he had to wait in the Holiday Inn for his new name, which would be Maxwell Alexander Caulfield. The family and their two dogs -- an adult Saint Bernard and a growing rottweiler puppy -- stayed cooped up in the room for ten weeks, Caulfield says.

"You learn what you're made of under those circumstances," he says.
The stress got to him. One night, while ordering a pizza for his family, he broke down and cried after failing to remember the fake name.

His real mother, meanwhile, felt tortured. After she was denied visitation, she wrote Pres. Ronald Reagan a Mailgram on January 6, 1986. "Unless you intervene on our behalf," she wrote, "we will never see our grandchildren, age 8 and 3, again.... You are my only hope."

A month later she got a response. She'd be allowed a visit in Minneapolis. Caulfield -- who really was Caulfield now -- had been relocated again, this time to Bremerton, Washington.

More letters to Reagan followed, and the U.S. Marshals Service agreed to allow a visit every six months. Rose admits that her letter-writing campaign to the President didn't sit well with the marshals.

"I had what they call 'dropped a dime on them' and gone over their heads to the President," she says. "They treat the criminals better than the straight people in that program, because, I think, they are kind of scared of them, and there's a kind of celebrity status."

In Bremerton, Caulfield applied for a concealed weapons permit and had to be fingerprinted. The marshals later claimed that he had been warned not to do this. A fingerprint check would, in effect, alert Bremerton police that Max Caulfield was a protected witness. Caulfield says he was never told not to run a fingerprint check and that he had already had one run when he got a gun permit in Roanoke -- with the marshals' help.

He was unceremoniously dropped from the program for what marshals deemed "complete defiance." Caulfield says he was stunned, hurt, disillusioned -- and extremely paranoid.

Forced into welfare, he says he spent his nights with an assault rifle and night-vision goggles in a tree near his tiny camper in Washington state, waiting for hit men to come for him. He waited for seven months, but they never came. In his mind, however, he knew what they looked like, what they smelled like. He knew they had fat bellies and gas from the greasy food they ate.

"I was the assassin they were fantasizing they were," he says. "They thought they were the director and producer of the movie, only they didn't know the movie was already in the can."

If that sounds a little spooky, it is. Max Caulfield has lived too long in the shadows not to pick up some scary skills. He knows about all kinds of obscure explosives. He can handle burglary tools with the best of them. He's read just about every weird, mercenary-type book ever published.

Highly intelligent, he can kick into alter egos at the drop of a hat. One second he's Max Caulfield, private eye, the next he's playing the role of a twisted killer. It can be startling.

"Sometimes I get a little too far into character," he says.
His education in the criminal mind was just beginning.

The camera focuses on a crummy home out in a wooded field, with a reporter's voice-over:

"We found them in a tiny remote rental trailer literally holed up, worried that the next person at the door would be a Mafia hit man."

The camera goes to a man, identified only as "Max," sitting at a little kitchen table. His face is never shown. Instead, the focus is on his hands, which gesture nervously. Smoke wafts from cigarettes. His first wife, identified as "Liz," sits nearby.

"We can't afford to hire our own private army, so we are all going to have to learn to be our own soldiers," Caulfield says.

This was aired on a Seattle TV news station in 1986. Caulfield went to an investigative-TV producer in Seattle named John Sandifer with his story, seeking some revenge on the marshals.

"A marshal called and yelled at me for 45 minutes straight," Caulfield says at the table, hands still gesticulating. "He told me I wasn't a man, that I was a sniveling, cowardly little wimp and a crybaby and a mama's boy."

The gist of the story was that they were thrown out of the program because of the grandparent's letters to the President, not because Caulfield applied for a gun permit.

Roughly two years later, Caulfield, without benefit of the Witness Protection Program, testified against Phil, some of his cohorts, and a few dirty cops, all of whom were convicted.

He says he did it because it was the right thing to do (and, of course, for revenge against his old nemesis, Phil).

Caulfield divorced and moved to Seattle, where he worked jobs as a store detective. He met record-store manager Christina Garcia, who had also grown up with a dream of being a Secret Service agent. Garcia, eight years younger than Caulfield, was first struck by his work ethic. Caulfield was drawn to her as well, not only because he realized she'd make a great PI partner, but also because she was quite attractive.

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