Disclaimer: All characters and such belong to CBS. I own the new characters and the new plot.
Summary: Patrick Jane and the CBI team are assigned to a high profile double homicide with dozens of complex motives, and an additional young victim whose situation captures the attention and emotions of a certain consultant...
Chronology: No specific time; current season possibly
Rating: T for situations and probably some mild cursing.
Author's Note: As you may have noticed, I've updated my pre-story info format. Change can be good. I hope this will be helpful both to my wonderful readers and myself.
Yet again, I apologize for how long it has taken me to get off my lazy butt and actually type up a new chapter. I'm in the process of creating an update schedule so that I only work on two or so stories at a time. Hopefully this will feel less overwhelming and encourage me to write more often. Of course, I still have my college schedule and homework to contend with, so I can't promise anything. But I do think it should make a difference. Also, I hope I'm staying in character for the most part, especially as I move towards some bigger Jane/Lisbon moments.
Thanks for your continued readership!!
The next morning, Teresa Lisbon and Patrick Jane headed out to the hospital after Lisbon updated the rest of the team to the information they had gleaned from their interview with Mrs. Galloway.
Only a few minutes down the highway, Jane impatiently drummed his fingers on the passenger side window. Teresa Lisbon glanced over for a moment before she returned her gaze to the road in front of them. "Jane, I'm already pushing the speed limit."
"I know, I know."
"And the fact that she's awake and able to be talked to means that she's doing very well for someone who was just shot."
"And the doctors assured us—"
"—that she'd make a full recovery. Yes, I remember."
"Look, Jane. I don't want to keep bringing this up…"
"I promised you that I'd be objective, Lisbon. But she's still just a kid. Besides, she's the only one who's seen the face of our killer and lived to tell about it."
"That's true, but don't pin too much on it. She's only eight years old, and she'd just been shot. She's probably terrified."
"You know I know better than to start firing off questions at a traumatized child."
"Ok, ok." Lisbon glanced at him once again, allowing silence to permeate the vehicle for several minutes before she asked a question. "Do you want to talk about this?"
"About what?" Jane's voice was flat.
"Jane, you know as well as I do that this isn't just any kid. You wouldn't act like this with just any kid, but this is a little girl," she said, emphasizing the last two words.
"I see. You're insinuating that I'm getting too involved with and attached to a child who reminds of my own child before she was killed."
"Are you?" she asked quietly.
He turned to the window. "Just drive."
Rigsby and Cho entered the lobby of the soaring glass and steel structure that was the headquarters of Ventus Motors, the late Mr. Randall's sports car empire. A young redheaded secretary with immaculately polished turquoise nails held up one lacquered finger when they approached her desk, continuing to talk to the microphone on her small black headpiece in a vaguely Southern accent.
"No, I cannot tell you anything about Mr. Randall…No sir, I was not given any information…No, our stocks should be fine…No sir, I do not have experience in stock trading, that is simply what I was told—"
They showed her their badges and her mouth formed a silent 'oh'. "Sir, you'll have to call back at a later time…Sir, I'm sorry—" The abrupt way she left the conversation clued them in that she'd been hung up on. "Sorry about that. What can I do for you gentlemen?"
"We need to see Mr. Randall's boss," Cho said.
"What's this about?"
"We're investigating Mr. Randall's murder."
"Oh, thank goodness. Please catch whoever did this—Mr. Randall was such a sweet, wonderful, smart man."
"That's why we need to talk to his boss."
"Mr. Randall didn't have a boss. Ventus Motors was his own empire."
"We were told he recently had an argument with one of his higher-ups."
She looked confused for a moment, then her face brightened in recognition. "Oh, you must mean Mr. Trevor Willis."
"Who's he?" Rigsby asked.
"He gave Mr. Randall the advice and guidance for the company back when he was just starting out. Now he's his biggest investor. He's not his boss, but he's as close to a boss as anybody could be to Mr. Randall. Same amount of influence," she smiled.
Cho nodded impatiently. "We're going to need to speak with him. Immediately, if possible."
"He's in a meeting, but I know he'll want to help you. Just let me give him a call." She pressed a button on the phone receiver on her desk and sat back to wait for it to ring through in her headset.
The CBI agents waited patiently as she spoke to the man and assured them that he would join them shortly. After several minutes of waiting, Rigsby asked no one in particular, "Ventus…what's that supposed to mean?"
"Ventus is Latin for wind," answered a voice from behind them. They turned to see a tall older man with thin light grey hair and beard in a dark suit. "Which is what Edward intended his cars to drive like. I'm Trevor Willis." He shook hands with both of them. "What can I do for California's distinguished officers of the law?"
Cho wasted no time. "Answer some questions."
"I'd be happy to. Edward was one of my oldest and dearest friends. I still can't believe that he's dead." The man raised a hand to rub at his face. "I've been talking to dozens, maybe hundreds of people all morning, trying to explain what's going on. But I don't know much. From what I hear, you gentlemen don't have much either. It's just such a tragedy…" He trailed off, clearly emotional.
"You two were friends. Then why did you argue?"
"Argue? What would we argue about?"
Rigsby cut in. "We were informed that you and Mr. Randall recently fought over some detail involving a new car that Mr. Randall was working on, the…" He consulted the notes he'd had relayed from Lisbon. "Panther X?"
Trevor Willis looked relieved. "That?"
"It wasn't a fight?"
"No, not at all! I mean, yes we argued, but it was only after a long day of setbacks and disappointments. The company's stock dipped sharply after one of our vehicles was suspected to have chronic brake failure problems and at least one person had died. Edward and I were trying to deal with that and he was working on the Panther X at the time. He wanted to use platinum in one of the components for the vehicle, insisting it would function so much better. I lost my cool and told…well, yelled at him that there was no way we could afford it, the way we were losing money. We did have words, and I heartily regret it."
"That…sounds like a fight to me." Rigsby shared a look with Cho. "And motive."
"No no no! Just the next day our stock shot up—the investigators proved that it wasn't the cars that were failing, it was substandard parts that had been installed by unaffiliated mechanics as repairs. Ventus Motors was viewed favorably for allowing the investigations and everything was back to the way it had been. I met with Edward that day and told him he could design parts to be manufactured in gold for all I cared." He laughed humorlessly and looked away. "I think that's the last real conversation we had before…"
The CBI agents looked at each other again. "We're still going to need to know where you were this morning," Cho said.
"I understand. I've been here since 5:30 a.m., getting ready for the release party for the Panther X…not that it matters now with Edward gone." He stared at the ground for a moment. "I have dozens of people who can confirm my presence for you if you'd like."
"We'll need a list, just in case."
Mr. Willis nodded. "I'll go print one out." With that, he left for his office.
"I don't think he's our guy," Rigsby said quietly after he was gone.
Cho agreed. "Neither do I."
"Better call Lisbon."
"So they resolved the dispute? And he was there at 5:30 a.m. with all those witnesses to back it up?" Teresa Lisbon stood in the quiet yet bustling lobby of the hospital, cell phone pressed to her ear. "Yeah, I'm with you. He couldn't have done it and he had no motive to have it done. Ok, thank you Cho."
She turned to Patrick Jane, who was inspecting various aspects of the bright white and bronze lobby, trying not to breathe too deeply of the overpowering smell of disinfectant around them. "Well that lead was a bust."
"Higher-up didn't do it?"
"I didn't think so."
"Of course you didn't."
"What's that supposed to mean?"
"No, no…" Patrick circled her slowly. "Something's bothering you about my statement."
"You know what? Fine, yes. If you knew that, why'd you let us waste our time interviewing him?"
"First, I never said 'knew'. I said 'thought'. It was more a gut instinct than anything concrete. Besides, if I'd told you not to, I would have been telling you how to do your job, which you hate, and your job is to investigate all leads. Now it's been investigated and shown to not be useful and you can move on."
Teresa sighed. "Ok…"
Before either of them could say anything else, a young doctor with blond hair and thick black square glasses approached them. "CBI?" he asked.
Jane pointed to Lisbon and she showed the man her shield. "Teresa Lisbon, CBI."
"Myles Bradley. I'm the doctor in charge of the young gunshot victim from your crime scene."
They all shook hands.
"How is she?"
"She's doing remarkably well, especially considering that she took a bullet to the stomach and spent hours bleeding before getting medical attention. She's a very lucky little girl." He nodded his head towards the elevators and they followed him into one, where he pushed the button for the eleventh floor. "She's still a little dazed from the ordeal and the surgery, but she's awake, breathing on her own, and comfortable."
"We really don't know much about her. What have you found?"
He frowned, clearly upset. "She's severely malnourished and has been that way for quite some time. We have her hooked up to an IV, and I don't think any permanent damage has been done. However, we did find evidence of broken bones and she has a multitude of bruises."
Teresa felt her own face tighten in anger. "She was abused."
"It definitely looks that way. Neglected, as well. I hate to think what she's seen in her ten or eleven years."
"Wait, what do you mean ten or eleven?"
"That's her approximate age, judging by the bone development shown in her x-rays."
"I saw her at that house, Dr. Bradley. She can't be more than eight, maybe nine."
"Sorry agent, but she just appears that way because of her lack of nutrition. She's definitely closer to twelve."
Teresa let the anger wash over her again for a moment. "Did she tell you her name?"
"Has she said anything?"
"That's just it." The elevator beeped softly as they reached their floor and the three of them exited and began to walk down the hallway to the left. "I don't think she speaks English."
"Really? Why's that?"
"She doesn't even seem to understand it. We ask her questions but she just looks terrified and confused."
She took that in for a moment.
"Do you have any idea what language she might speak? The hospital has a number of translators for just this purpose."
"My guess is Romanian," Patrick Jane said. "The hair, the eyes, the skin, not to mention her facial features."
"How do you know about Romanian facial features?" Teresa asked.
He ignored the question. "I don't suppose you have someone who speaks Romanian on staff."
Dr. Bradley slowly shook his head. "I very much doubt it. We have Spanish, French, Chinese, Japanese, Korean, and German…but few or no Eastern European language speakers that I know of." They stopped outside of a room. "I don't know how it'll take to find one, but I can set it in motion."
He nodded and lightly tapped the door handle. "This is her room. Please be brief, and gentle. I don't have to tell you she's been through a lot."
Dr. Bradley headed back the way they'd come and the two of them entered the girl's room.
She looked lost in the big bed, her hair and skin appearing extra dark against the brilliant white of the blankets and pillow. An IV trailed to her arm and a monitor line was clipped to her finger. Now that she'd been cleaned up, they could see a dark bruise on one cheek. She looked up as they approached her, still scared, but with a bit of recognition in her eyes.
Lisbon slowly and carefully pulled a chair near to her bed and sat down. "Hey there," she said quietly. "My name's Teresa, and this is Patrick." She pointed to her partner. "Do you remember us?"
She didn't respond and just kept looking from one to the other.
"Can you tell me your name?"
Teresa was in the midst of thinking up a new strategy when her phone rang. "I'm sorry," she told the little girl. "I need to step over there for a minute, but my friend Patrick will stay with you, ok?"
She and Patrick switched places and then she went to stand by the window.
Patrick Jane leaned in towards the child. "Hey." When he got no response, he continued, "That's ok. You don't have to talk. I know something bad happened to you today. You probably saw some very scary stuff, huh?"
She still didn't respond, but she looked less fearful as he laid a hand on the blankets very near her own hand and repeated, "It's ok. We're here to help. I promise."
The CBI agent watched Jane and the girl for moment before she picked up her phone and answered, "Lisbon."
"Hey, it's Van Pelt."
"What do you have for me?"
"That would be great."
"Well, it is…and it isn't."
"Talk to me."
"I finally deciphered this one type of entry that appeared at regular intervals in Lydia's planner. It's the initials to her bank. She went there every third Tuesday of the month. I thought that was a little odd, considering she didn't have any incoming funds."
"What did you find?"
"I called the bank and found out that she has a safety deposit box there and every Tuesday she deposits a stack of papers into it. So I took a little field trip down there and had them open it for me."
"What did you find?"
Even through the phone, Lisbon could detect the same anger she, Jane, and the doctor had expressed just minutes earlier. "Turns out Mrs. Upstanding Housewife was running a human smuggling operation."
"Names, dates, ages, genders, countries, flights, and amounts. She's been bringing children into this country illegally from poor Eastern European countries for years to serve as domestic slaves for wealthy people. She's made an obscene amount of money at it too. Way more than enough money to kill over."
Teresa ran a hand through her hair in frustration. "You're sure about this?"
"Absolutely. Apparently she thought there was no reason to write in code as long as the paperwork was hidden at the bank."
"This does make certain things make sense…"
"There's something else."
"There's an entry here about a 'shipment' from a little over two years ago that's written all over and scratched out in places. It's hard to tell, but it looks like something went wrong."
"I can't tell you yet." Grace paused on the other end of the line. "But I can tell you the name of the little girl she had working for them, the one you and Jane are interviewing."
Teresa tightened her grip on the phone, hopeful for anything more they could learn about their innocent victim. "What is it?"
Author's Note: I hope you all enjoyed the update! I actually think this may be the best one out of all of my recent updates! (It's not the other stories' fault, though: their action/big reveals happen to be in another chapter) Please review if you can and thank you so much for reading!