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.

One day Caulfield called Suggs Investigations, the detective agency with the biggest ad in the Seattle phone book. Caulfield immediately developed an intrinsic respect for Robert Suggs, a former reserve police officer who'd trained at an academy run by a famous shadow man, G. Gordon Liddy, and had, like Caulfield, gone to several respectable schools that taught things like counterterrorism and "Advanced Combat Shotgun."

Here's how author Rod Lurie described the first meeting between Caulfield and Suggs in his book Once Upon a Time in Hollywood:

The first thing Suggs noticed was that there were guns and weapons in every corner of Caulfield's apartment. He also noticed a couple of children running around.... Caulfield immediately hit Suggs with a bombshell.

The bombshell was the story of the Witness Protection Program.
"The Suggs Thugs, as they liked to call themselves, were entranced. Goddamn it all if this Caulfield character wasn't one of their own," Lurie wrote.

Suggs usually didn't do any work. Instead he pocketed his clients' advance money and went home to watch TV. Lurie wrote that "something odd happened" when Caulfield began working for Suggs: "Max Caulfield began to meet with clients and, through his charm and professional demeanor, increased business by almost 200 percent."

With Christine's help Caulfield was slowly legitimizing Suggs' business. Together the couple would work many sensational cases, from getting proof -- in the form of some X-rated surveillance tape -- of men cheating on their wives, to finding missing children, to protecting women from stalkers.

As they built the company, Suggs -- who Caulfield sometimes called "Daddy" -- started losing his grip. The boss went on long gambling trips and squandered the company's money. Then he disbanded the company altogether to go to Hollywood, California to work for a film producer named Roland Jon Emr.

Emr was a con man. He needed Suggs to guard him against the people he'd scammed. Emr claimed he was trying to put together a movie on the life of James Dean and promised Suggs a credit as associate producer. By the time he realized he was being conned, Suggs was flat broke.

Caulfield recalls a desperate Suggs phoning him and asking if he'd help in a job that included kidnapping children for a parent. Caulfield refused. Suggs said he had something else in mind for him, but wouldn't ask. If he wouldn't do the kidnapping, he wouldn't do the other thing.

In hindsight Caulfield is convinced Suggs was going to ask him to help him murder Emr's family. "I turned to Christine and said I thought he was going to whack somebody."

Whack Suggs did. He murdered Emr's father in Arizona, then gunned down Emr and his son on a street outside Hollywood in Culver City. Suggs also strangled his girlfriend, Susan Calkins, with a leather belt during sex, using a hammer to tighten the belt around her neck. Her body would later be found on the edge of the Mojave Desert, near the bones of Suggs, who killed himself, and Suggs' German shepherd, another victim.

Caulfield took the murder of Calkins personally. Caulfield, after all, was a stalker of stalkers of women. He helped put them in jail. Suggs, who he wishes he could "wake up and kill again," had murdered an innocent woman under his nose.

"This ripped the insides out of me," he says. "To kill her in the sick way he did made me want to be a lifelong stalker-stopper."

Before the bodies in the desert were found, a manhunt ensued for Suggs. Calkins' relatives made pleas on national TV for her safe return. Caulfield searched for Calkins and volunteered information to investigators to help with the case. Articles on the murders ran in newspapers around the country, and segments appeared on America's Most Wanted, Inside Edition, Hard Copy and Larry King Live. Caulfield refused to appear on TV and asked for anonymity when he gave them information on Suggs. All obliged him.

Except Rod Lurie, Caulfield claims.
Caulfield gave Lurie extensive help in his research for the book and thus became a major character in it. Caulfield claims that Lurie promised either to give him a pseudonym or leave out the part about the Witness Protection Program, which he says Lurie found out from other sources. Lurie put his name in the book and mentioned his participation in the program. The only thing missing, thankfully, was his picture.

Random House, which published Lurie's book, claimed in subsequent letters to Caulfield's attorney, Rose Robbins of West Palm Beach, that Lurie never made any promises and that Caulfield himself told Lurie about the program. Caulfield's threatened lawsuit has never been filed, but another major grudge was born.

The murders and the book sent the Caulfields into a tailspin. He and Christine went to Hawaii, then to Las Vegas, where they worked at the famed Palomino strip club. Caulfield worked security and Christine stripped, which Caulfield rather liked. After all, he's no prude.

After a year there, he and Christine decided to come to Fort Lauderdale, where the two C's awaited them.

Maybe Caulfield should have known better, but he looked for employment in the Fort Lauderdale Yellow Pages. He found Scott Mathews, a Brooklyn-born private investigator and dead ringer for Rodney Dangerfield. Mathews had what appeared to be a strong business in South Florida, making lots of money and owning his own airplane.

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