Red Tables Turning
It was sunny in the CBI office of Department Chief Virgil Minelli. One thing that was done very well in Californian architecture was to make sure there were windows everywhere. Sunshine made people happy. Californians were happy people. Even Department of Justice state agents had the right to be happy.
"Quantico? Here? Why? Why here?" Senior Agent Teresa Lisbon was anything but happy. She fought the urge to fold her arms across her chest in defiance. She wanted to growl and pull out her hair. She wanted to stomp the floor with her small foot. Instead, she clenched her jaw and clasped her hands even more tightly behind her back. "Just tell me why?"
Minelli raised his eyebrows at her. She had a great relationship with her boss. He regularly stretched regulations, turned a blind eye, to her team's habitual misdemeanors. They were not on a tight leash, by any means, but there were times when he needed to remind her, that there was indeed a leash. She lowered her eyes.
"I mean, why… sir."
"Well," her boss said as he moved around to sit at his desk. "The Red John case has been open for far too long. No CBI team has been able to close it. Even you have failed to close it, haven't you, Agent Lisbon?" She didn't answer. It seemed a rhetorical question. "So this Jared Renfrew case - This is his first strike in years. Thank God it happened in Tijuana. If the public got a wind of this, we'll have the whole Department down on our heads, not just the BAU…"
She rocked back on her heels. Behavioural Analysis Unit. The Big Guns. Profilers.
"Besides, if this really is a Red John case – "
He smirked. "…then I'm not so comfortable with having one of my own on his radar again…"
She blinked, momentarily confused. Minelli sighed.
"Jane. If this is all about Jane, then one of California's most wanted serial killers has come out of semi-retirement…because he wants to play with Jane. And I'm just not comfortable with that. Are you comfortable with that, Agent Lisbon?"
She looked down. "No, sir."
"Good. If there's something that he's overlooked –"
She snorted. "Jane doesn't overlook anything."
"He hasn't closed the case either, has he? Right. I want a clear, unbiased take on this, and Jane is anything but unbiased."
…I'm going to cut him open and watch him die slowly…
"Besides," Minelli shrugged. "They are the Feds, and they can generally do whatever the hell they like. They'll be here in 2 hours." He glanced down at his desk, made himself appear busy with paperwork. A dismissal. "Make sure Jane is too."
"Yes sir." She turned and walked out of the brightly-lit office, a sudden darkness threatening to blot out all traces of the sun…
3 1/2 hours later, the sun came back again, stepping out of the elevator wearing a familiar well-cut but well-worn suit and tan shoes. His stride was bouncy, his smile bright. He knew, she thought to herself as he made his way through the desks, large windows and brick walls to her office. How the hell could he know?
She rose, as did the 2 men sitting across from her. A third swung around from the window.
"Sorry I'm late."
No, you're not, she wanted to say but bit her lip, not wanting to influence the men now stiffly offering hands for the shaking. "Gentlemen –," she started, but he pushed through.
"Patrick Jane. Hello." He reached for the eldest first.
The bearded man smiled. "Special Agent David Rossi. Pleased to meet you." It was a friendly smile, calm, reassuring, steady.
Then the youngest, a tall lanky blonde wearing a sweater vest, something that looked like it had been snatched from Jane's own closet. The young man smiled broadly. "Spencer Reid."
Jane kept the hand a moment longer, his own smile broadening. "Doctor Spencer Reid, yes?"
Reid blushed. "Yes. Educated guess?"
"Yes." He moved on to the man by the window, a tall dark-haired agent, serious eyes and tight lips. The moon to Jane's sun. The moon offered his hand, and Lisbon noticed Jane sweep both of his up to catch it in a double-handed grip. She'd seen him do it before. She hadn't a clue what it meant, but the room suddenly charged with tension, like the hum from a building electrical storm. "Special Agent Aaron Hotchner," said the man, and made no move to withdraw his hand.
It was over in a heartbeat, as Jane let go and swung around to face them all.
"So, are you going to interrogate me here, or should we go somewhere more private?"
The man named Rossi shook his head. "We're not here to interrogate you, Mr. Jane. We just want to ask you some questions regarding the serial killer known as Red John."
Jane glanced at Lisbon. "Are they taking over?"
The man named Hotchner smiled wanly. "Perhaps we should go somewhere more private, Mr. Jane…"
Lisbon sighed. This was going to get very, very ugly.
There was a difference, she realized, in being anxious for someone, and being anxious because of someone. She had become very familiar with the frustration, the edginess, the constant sick-to-the-pit-of-your-stomach feeling she often got when working with Patrick Jane. He was brilliant, of course, no contest, but he was wildly reckless about his own personal safety and others' personal boundaries. He would consider it pure joy to provoke a grieving father until it resulted in the requisite punch to the nose, or insult a high-ranking government official until people had to be physically restrained from hurting him or bodily throwing him off some high ranking government balcony. It seemed that Patrick Jane lived "across the line" and she was always the one caught in the middle, trying to pull him back.
This was very different.
He sat in the interrogation room, his back to her, on one side of the long metal table, Hotchner and Reid on the other. They (yes, even the sophomoric and affable Reid) seemed serious and professional, whereas Jane looked like a contestant on Wheel of Fortune. Actually, she found herself wondering if this Special Agent (and actually Unit Chief, she had been reminded by Minelli) Hotchner was ever anything other than serious or professional. He looked every inch the stereotype of an FBI profiler, and she wondered if his brusque manner and dark, even stare were enough to elicit a confession from the hardest of hearts.
Cho had a similar manner in the interrogation room. It was eerie.
"So why you?" asked Hotchner in a steady voice. This was the first question that had some bite. They had already been at it for almost 45 minutes, rote question after rote question. If Jane was growing bored, he didn't show it.
"Why not?" he answered in an equally steady voice, smile unchanging, apparently amused.
"You don't think there is any other connection, other than the fact that you insulted him 5 years ago on TV?"
"Other than the fact that I insulted him 5 years ago on TV, and he killed my family, and I have for all intents and purposes devoted my life to finding him and killing him, no, no other connection." Jane was still leaning back in his chair, one elbow across the back of it, the other tapping out a light staccato rhythm with a pencil on the table. He presented the very picture of ease and collection, grace and poise, altogether opposite of the man across the table. Day and Night, Yin and Yang.
Hotchner seemed unfazed. "Has he contacted you before, like this?"
"Like the way he did with the Jared Renfrew case, directly, via computer, then phone call. Anything like that?"
"Actually, it was Agent Van Pelt who stumbled onto him via the computer. Should we get her down here for interrogation as well? She has red hair."
"This isn't an interrogation, Mr. Jane."
"Ah yes. I forgot. My bad."
If Hotchner was growing annoyed, he didn't show it either. That was the game for Jane, she knew it. The best of the best. He would do everything in his power to beat them.
"I repeat my question. Has Red John ever contacted you in any way since the murder of your family, either by computer, phone, letter, or any other such method?"
Jane grinned. "No."
"Were you surprised?"
"Were you happy?"
More bite. Jane's smile grew bigger, ever so slightly.
"Why? Because I want to find him and kill him. I don't believe I was being vague before. Was I?" He looked at Reid. "Was I being vague before, Doctor?"
"Oh, no, no, not at all. Quite, uh, quite to the point, actually. Uhm," Reid leaned forward, eyes engaging and bright. "Doesn't that, um, doesn't that present a bit of a conflict of interest?"
"Well, you're working with the Department of Justice, aiding them in tracking down criminals, when really your agenda is to track down one particular criminal in order to mete out your own particular justice. You are, in effect, using them to suit your needs." He smiled.
Jane smiled back. "Goes both ways." He looked around the room, waved over his shoulder at Lisbon through the one-way mirror behind him, then returned his eyes to the pair sitting before him. "The CBI seems quite comfortable using the victim of a heinous crime, trotting him out to murder scene after murder scene, completely disregarding the potential damage to his psyche and possible thwarting of his long-term rehabilitation as long as he suits their needs, as in the closing of many, many cases. Harsh, really wouldn't you say? Cold."
On the other side of the mirror, Rossi threw a glance at Lisbon. She kept her eyes fixed on the room.
"But you see, Doctor Reid, it works. It's pragmatic. Poetic, even. Just a little bit sick."
"It's the system," said Hotchner, sympathetically.
Jane smiled again. "I've heard it's the only one we've got."
And to her surprise, Hotchner looked down at his notes and smiled. Touche. Fishy not taking the bait.
"He's good," said Rossi, grinning. Lisbon felt sick. "Good," she croaked out, an octave higher than normal, trying to smile. She was in way over her head.
"Red John has been called a showman, a dramatic, an artist. What do you think of that, Mr. Jane?"
"I would concur."
"Tell me about your family, Mr. Jane? I mean, your birth family, father, brothers, anyone possibly have it out for you?"
Jane's fingers stopped drumming for the slightest of beats. "What?"
"Would you like me to rephrase the question?"
"Not necessary. That was a nice curve ball."
"Thanks. The point of this conversation, Mr. Jane, is to find out why Red John, after nine well-publicized crimes, and five years of relative silence, decides to play cat and mouse again with you. Why he chooses you to contact and draw out and bait. Why he decides upon you to be his foil. Why you?"
"And again, why not? Red John likes a challenge. The CBI team at the time were anything but. They were pedantic. Predictable. Conventional. Oh by the way, Lisbon wasn't on the team at the time, were you, Lisbon? She's actually pretty good. A little moody, perhaps. It's the hormones. She needs to have a baby."
Lisbon gritted her teeth. Hotchner went on.
"You are a gifted man, Mr. Jane, that is to be conceded. But there are other agents –"
"Ah ah," Jane held up a finger. "I'm not an agent."
"Part of Red John's attraction to you, undoubtedly. But as I was saying, there are others just as brilliant. For example, I believe you could go toe to toe with Dr. Reid, here…"
"I believe I could." Jane smiled at the younger man, who blushed yet again. The sunny blue eyes turned back to Hotchner. "And you? Could I go toe to toe, as you say, with you?"
The darker eyes finally glinted with amusement. "Time will tell."
When Lisbon had been small, she had spent time at her uncle's farm one summer. He had horses, big dogs and a few goats and chickens. He had just recently been given a new dog (a frequent occurrence for animal lovers living on farms – "He just needs more room to run…. " they would say) and she remembered very clearly the dynamics of introducing the new dog, a Golden Retriever, to the other, a Shepherd-cross with a dark face and pointy nose. They had started off by circling each other, hackles up but tails high and waving, and while she knew little of dogs at that time in her life, she could tell this would either end up in spontaneous play, or blood. Right now, she was hoping for the play, but her money was on the blood.
"So gentlemen, are you honestly saying this is all about me?" Jane seemed truly puzzled. Lisbon could not recall a time when she had seen him like this, intrigued – yes, fascinated, oh yes, but puzzled? Never.
"Isn't that what you believe, Mr. Jane?"
"Do you think that's what I believe?"
"That is part of your profile, Mr. Jane. Arrogance is the child of self-import."
"That was before. I'm…trying to change that." Still stretched out, like a cat sunning himself on the stair. He smiled again, proverbial feet back under him, trying to reestablish control, but she, even with her limited observational skills, could see that this line of questioning had thrown him.
"Change, enlightenment, repentance. No matter what the acting force, the underlying human nature still remains intact, just buried or bypassed…for a time…"
"There are some that would disagree."
"But not you."
Jane grinned again. "Doctor Reid, do you have a girlfriend?"
"I," Reid straightened, blushed. "I'm working on it."
"Love and affection, Dr. Reid. Love and affection. Deep down, your mother would want it. For you to be happy, I mean. And to give her lots of grandbabies. It's stressful, to be sure, so you'll need to be careful to stay clean, stay away from the drugs. But a good woman, she can help you there. Love and affection. Remember that."
He turned to Hotchner. "But you, you let it all go, didn't you? You sacrificed your family life for the greater good. That's probably the most noble thing I've ever heard of. Stupid, yes, but noble. She's better off, although your son will have some trouble accepting it later on. You will have to deal with that when he's a little older…"
Lisbon turned to Rossi. "He didn't even know you were coming. I swear –" But Rossi held up his hand.
"It's alright, Agent Lisbon. We know he didn't read the files. It's what he does. It's what we do, too. He's very good." Turned back to watch the interaction. "Very, very good."
"But me?" continued Jane, "I didn't make that sacrifice. I wouldn't. I'm much too selfish. My wife and daughter were everything to me, and people, the greater good, be damned. This, this game, this recognition, this consultant status, I would trade that all in a heartbeat if I could just have them back for one more day. Just one more day…"
There was silence in the interrogation room for a long time.
Finally, Hotchner leaned forward.
"Mr. Jane, look me in the eye and tell me there is no connection that you know of between you and Red John other than the fact that you insulted him on TV, he killed your family and you have for all intents and purposes devoted your life to finding him and killing him."
"Word for word. That was good." Finally Jane moved, steepling both hands in front of him, fingers still drumming, and leaned his elbows on the table. "Special Agent/Unit Chief Hotchner – " Lisbon blinked. No one had told him that. "- look me in the eye and tell me why you think there is a connection that I know of, other than…" He glanced at Reid, making sure he was keeping up. He was. "…other than the aforementioned facts? My family was the nineth and tenth murder since 1998, the only one with a known motive, other than this new Renfrew one. Do you have some other information, details, hypotheses? Please. You wouldn't be wasting my time unless you had something. It's petty and non-productive."
Now it was Lisbon's turn to glance at Rossi, who stared firmly ahead through the glass. Shit, she thought. They know something!
Hotchner rifled his notes, pulled out a photo, slid it across to Jane. It was a close-up of the blood smears from the bathroom in Tijuana. He is Man-.
"Any idea what this might be referring to?"
"Have Forensics determined who the writer was?"
"Not yet. Likely to have been one of the victims, but they are testing for that. Cryptic final notes left in blood by the victim are uncommon."
"By the victim, yes. And "He is -?" Why not just write the name? Save yourself 4 wasted letters."
"But are you suggesting Red John? It is theatrical, to be sure, but he's never left that kind of note before."
"But he has left other kinds of notes before, am I right, Mr. Jane?"
"That is also in the file."
Dr. Reid plopped his chin onto his hand. "The Book of Mark, Chapter 5, Jesus goes to a region known as the Gerasenes and meets a demon-possessed man, who calls himself Legion. He says "My name is Legion, for we are many.""
"You're not suggesting multiple killers?"
"No, but what might be called demon-possession back then might be called Dissociative Identity Disorder, or in layman's terms, Multiple Personality Disorder now. It's just a theory, but what if the writer was trying to say, "He is Many", referring to a Legion of personalities in one man?"
Jane sat for a moment, his brow furrowed. Lisbon cocked her head. She had never, in all her days bantering and arguing and joking and wrangling with Jane had she ever seen him at a loss for words. Then, just as suddenly, he looked up.
"Possible, but not likely."
"Oh. Why?" asked Reid.
"Dissociative Identity Disorder, if in fact a real medically proven diagnosis, is truly rare, and quite debilitating. The person is rarely able to function in society without some obvious character or lifestyle quirks. In effect, they get noticed. People notice."
"We've met several DIDs."
"People fake the most amazing things."
"Some do. So, in your words," said Hotchner, "He could be quirky, obvious, noticeable."
"He is arrogant, a dramatic, a showman."
"One part of him likely could be."
"Could he live in a house without furniture?"
Jane sighed, his fingers still beating out some syncopated rhythm that only he heard. "Yes," he said, smile fading slightly. "He probably could."
"No," snarled Lisbon. "Absolutely not. Why are your people doing this?"
Rossi held up a hand. "Follow, Agent Lisbon. Follow."
Jane picked up the photo, studied for a long moment. "Suppose Red John did write this? He is using the third person present tense. That would support the DID theory, dissociative, non-personal, distinctly other. But that's atypical, as in not to type or form. His other note," he paused ever so slightly, regrouping. "…Was most pointedly personal. He was very self-aware, very rational, very much operating within the realm of super-ego, moralizing, punishing but not dissociative. It's too different."
"Unless there's been an event within the last 5 years, during his "retirement" to alter his consciousness."
"Are you suggesting –"
"A psychotic break of some sort."
Now Hotchner looked up, eyes only, a long, dark stare, asking the question that he dared not ask. There were levels of communication going on in this room that Lisbon could only guess at. They spoke the same language. Words were unnecessary.
Finally, Jane smiled again, the big sad smile, the one without benefit of his eyes, then dropped his chin a little. Even with Lisbon's limited skills, she could tell he was conceding a point. "Yes," he said softly. "A psychotic break of some sort."
She shook her head, fighting the sinking feeling in her stomach.
After a moment, Hotchner slid yet another photograph across the table. "What are your thoughts on this?"
every night every morning it smiles at him dripping smiles red red red
"It's his signature. It is on the wall directly above all the victims." Like me, every night, every morning one of the victims His voice was quiet. No smile now. Dark waters. Slippery slopes. Dangerous ground.
"Do you notice anything odd about the face?" Reid this time, poking the photo with a well-chewed pencil. "I mean, it's a happy face, sure, but I mean, geez, it's a little gimped don't you think?"
"I mean, when most people draw a happy face, it looks like this – " He flipped the photo over, proceeded to draw the iconic circle and happy face. "I mean, this, this is totally Joe Boxer, right? Walmart's best friend. But Red John, he draws it differently, like this…"
And with the pencil, he sketched a lopsided, unclosed circle, the tip pointing up and to the right, the eyes not straight vertical lines, but angled slits.
"I mean, the difference is obvious, when you compare them. Don't you think?"
Jane's fingers, for the first time during the entire conversation, were silent.
"Yes," said Jane, his voice barely a whisper. "I always wondered. I thought it was just me, not everyone cares about getting things right…"
Hotchner now. "So you just thought it was Red John being sloppy?"
"No. No, I always thought it was Red John being facetious. Taking something so common, so… happy, and perverting it, making it his…" He looked up. "It's intentional, isn't it?"
"A signature," said Hotchner. "That's what you said."
"Something like that," said Jane.
"Geez, I hope not," said Reid, straightening up and tucking his jaw-length hair behind his ear. "It's really more a portrait than anything…"
"A portrait?" asked Lisbon to Rossi.
"A portrait?" asked Jane to the face on the photo.
Reid glanced at his boss, and Hotchner nodded.
"Yeah," said the young man. "A portrait of you."
End of chapter 1