Sacrament in Scarlet
It was near the end of the mass when the bells began to ring.
Lisbon whirled at the sound, her phone in her hand, looking up and away from the search party that had begun to assemble. "The bell tower! Jane's in the bell tower! How do we get there?"
The records clerk Derek pointed and as Alvarez raised his hands high to pronounce the benediction to the pealing of the bells, the CBI team beat it for the door.
"It's your turn, Exorcist," growled Celio Noriega, newly restored to his brother's body. He stepped over the prone bishop and pulled out a scalpel from another cassock fold. "Your tongue will do just as well."
Jane released his hold on the cable and scrambled to the far side of the room, Noriega in slow but determined pursuit. He needed to get to the door, unlatch this one from the top and it was with sudden dread that he realized that the door at the bottom of the stair was likely bolted now as well.
Damn, how would Lisbon and the team get in?
There were more immediate things to worry about than the details of impending rescue however, things like impending death and/or impending removal of various body parts. Celio/Cruz/Dennis thought Jane was an exorcist. Exorcists had killed his/their family. This did not bode well for Patrick Jane and as he ducked a swing from the scalpel, he cursed his impetuous nature.
Curiosity might just kill this cat, after all.
Celio/Cruz/Dennis swung again and again, scalpel in one hand, rosary beads in the other, and Jane was quickly being backed into a wall, the wall with the dreary shelves. He could hear banging from far below, the crashing and rending of wood, and he knew they must have found an ax to begin the laborious process of breaking down the door. It was a solid door. It would take some time. Another swing, catching the edge of his sleeve and Jane yelped and yanked his hand back in reflex, finding his fingers brushing the dusty surface of a glass jar. Without thinking, he grabbed it as Celio lunged again, this time the scalpel tearing his shirt just below the waist-coat but Jane sprang back and brought the jar down hard on Celio's head.
There was the crack of shattering glass on bone, and eyeballs and holy water spilled all across the floor. Celio/Cruz/Dennis went down like a dog, blood springing from his scalp and water dripping from his hair, but he wasn't out. Jane contemplated the jar of ears, certain that would finish the job, but he hadn't the heart. Dennis, the broken man trying to overcome his fears through faith. Celio, the re-invented older brother, trying to survive a world where unimaginable horror was possible, and Cruz, a boy frozen, 8 years old forever, buried deep within a grown man's body. This man, these men, had suffered too much already. It was time for grace, for mercy, for peace.
With a deep breath, he gingerly stepped away, careful to avoid slipping in the water or squishing the eyeballs, and he padded over to the bishop, who was back on his knees now, small eyes wide in amazement.
"No devil, no devil you bleed…"
"Oh," Jane panted, as he looked down at his waist, a dark red stain moving across his belly. "Just a scratch. Come on, Lino," he reached down to grab the old man's arm. "Let's get you out –"
A sensation of motion like a freight train a-coming, a rushing of wind and weight and force that took him literally off his feet and down hard to the floor once again. Snarling and water and a fumbling of hands and suddenly, there were beads around his throat.
Rigsby swung again, one last time, and the large wooden door splintered wide enough for Lisbon to squeeze through. Cho was next, and by the time he managed to get himself in through the shattered door, his two teammates had already disappeared around the curved staircase. He debated ax or revolver, ax or revolver, shouldered the ax and began to climb as fast as his strong legs could go.
Once, when he was little, before he knew how to swim, he had fallen into a river. The sensations were etched in his memory like videotape, the ache in his throat, the pressure in his chest, the popping of lights behind his eyes, the heaviness of limb and burning of muscle, all sound slowed and muddy and dark. He remembered things at that time, too, mother and father laughing, arguing, leaving, books and clowns and cards and his own quick, quick hands. He'd only been 3 but he could remember it like it was yesterday.
There was banging at the door, a woman's voice, calling his name. There was a hammering, a crashing, and splintering of wood. There was a man behind him, on top of him, his sweat sharp, his breath ragged. A sad man, he remembered that too. He couldn't hate that man, no matter what he was doing or how much it hurt. There was himself, his pulse roaring, his ears ringing, his strength waning, just like in the river when the fight dissipated and the acceptance, the whispers, the wonder of inevitability began. He saw his life-giving wife, her smiling face, his life-changing daughter, her smiling face, his life-affirming boss, her smiling face. And another smiling face, affirming and giving nothing of life, but death, only death to all things good, death only death, smiling death, and of course, the red.
Then it was gone, all gone, and he wondered with the last scrap of wonder if that was how it all ended. A thump, a release, another thump and then, gone?
Air flooded back into his lungs and he was surprised at how much it hurt to breathe. His lungs tried to cough it out, cold and harsh in the burning vacuum of his chest. He opened his eyes and blinked back the lights and stars to see Celio/Cruz/Dennis' face on the floor, just inches from his own. Tried to get away from it, but there was a hand on his back, rubbing in circles, comforting, warm. Someone was shushing, humming. His muscles relaxed and he remembered his father, holding him tight until he had grown quiet and still in his arms.
"Poor little demon. Shhshh. It will be alright now. Hush hush. You are safe."
The Most Reverend Bishop Lino Silvaggio, DD, was kneeling beside him, his crosier staff in one hand, free hand rubbing his back. Jane looked up at him, aching and bewildered.
The bishop smiled, inclined the staff. "One good whack, he goes down. The second one makes sure he stays down. Fatal flaw in your plan, devil-child. You didn't hit him the second time. Don't you watch movies? Demon Hollywood gets some things right, yes?"
Jane grinned, dropped his head into his hands as Wayne Rigsby and his ax came through the big wooden door.
Patrick Jane studied his face in the mirror. His throat, actually, finally free of the white priest's collar for the first time in days, but now, a newer, redder one in its place. The wired rosary had only just begun to cut into his flesh, but the constriction of the beads had left an impression that would take weeks to fade. His hand went deftly to his waist, which had indeed received only a scratch, but had required several stitches to help it heal. Otherwise, it might leave a scar, the doctor had said.
He rolled his eyes. The doctor was a buffoon. As if he knew anything about scars.
"Yes, yes, you are still pretty, demon-child," sang Lisbon and he turned to face her, grinning. They were in Minelli's office, the Department Chief sitting behind his desk, reviewing the file and deciding whether or not Jane's conduct was worth an official reprimand. Lisbon was watching him from a chair, and Jane wandered over and plopped himself in another.
"Demon-spawn," he said in acknowledgement, grin growing wider.
"Thorn in the side of all things holy."
"Ooh, I never got that one. Must be the Irish in you."
"French. They're worse. They just make it sound sexy."
"Oh please, spare me the eschatological banter," muttered Minelli. "So tell me again why we should charge Alvarez?"
"Oh, it's obvious, isn't it? Accessory to murder." Jane waved a hand and crossed one leg over the other. "He knew what was going on all along. Probably knew about the DID, or multiple personality disorder, as it was known at the time. Noriega spent many years in institutions of one kind or another."
"Yes," said Lisbon. "His DID was documented from 1976 on. But being a minor, it was almost impossible to access his records."
"Van Pelt is good," said Minelli.
Lisbon smiled proudly. "Yes, she is, sir."Jane smiled too. "According to Van Pelt's research, Alvarez was the one who enrolled Dennis…well, Cruz Noriega into the correspondence courses, arranged for him to start work at the Cathedral as soon as he was released, even made sure there was no records check into his name."
Lisbon nodded. "That's right. There is no official person by the name of Dennis Meeks having graduated from any Catholic seminary, correspondence or otherwise. But Cruz Noriega did, in 1998."
"Alvarez knew what had happened 35 years ago, and tried to make things right, tried to make things better for the boy. He almost did, but something made Dennis snap two months ago, and the Noriegas came back strong and fast."
Minelli steepled his fingers in front of him. "Theories?"
Jane shrugged. "I'm not sure. Something to do with the old custodian, I imagine. Perhaps the custodian found him in the secret room. He was looking exorcisms up online, had pointers pasted all over the walls."
"But he didn't actually try to exorcise anyone, did he?"
Minelli raised his eyebrows, asking.
"Well, I think he was curious. He was desperately trying to reconcile his new life as a priest, and his new faith in God, with the horror of what had happened to him as a child. He was fascinated with the occult, and yet repulsed at the same time. He told me his mother had called him cursed. He played with Ouiji boards. His sister read Tarot cards. Maybe the mother was the one to tip off Andreacci and Ricci at the church, and one thing led to another…"
"And the plan backfires on all of them," said Lisbon softly.
"Maybe the killings were something Dennis or Celio was thinking of doing for some time, a life-long quest for revenge that finally came to fruition. I don't know. Dennis doesn't seem like the type to plan for 35 years, but Celio, on the other hand…"
"And the custodian was a convenient person to practice on?" Lisbon again.
"Exactly. Either way, Alvarez knew about the custodian as well. He told Silvaggio the man had been stealing and had been fired."
"Hm," muttered Minelli. "But you don't think Alvarez put him up to it? Or arranged anything?"
"Nothing that concrete, I'm afraid. I think Alvarez really believes in a God who calls the shots. His version of fate, as it were."
"Alvarez wants you charged."
"Pah. He's guilty as sin. Why should we worry?"
"But the Bishop has put in a good word for you."
Jane's brows went up. "Really?"
"Really. He likes you. And knowing Lino, I'm not convinced that's a good thing." The Department Chief leaned back in his chair. "So I guess you're off the hook, Jane. This time."
Jane swung out of the chair.
"And there won't be a next time, will there?"
Jane smiled, waved and disappeared out the door.
Minelli growled. "Will there, Agent Lisbon?"
Lisbon smiled, waved and disappeared out the door.
Minelli pulled out a drawer, happy to see that Shirley had placed an entire case of Tylenol in his desk. He popped a few and went back to work.
He followed her like a puppy all the way down to their office, where a new floor was being laid due to unexplained scrapes in the wood finish. To where Rigsby was admiring the new ax-borne calluses on his palms, and Cho was busy rebuilding his paper clip code to challenge any who would dare try crack it. To where Van Pelt, ever the computer whiz, was finishing up the records for Derek, the cute records clerk from the cathedral and as Jane passed, he noticed the photograph of a face on her screen.
"Hey, Van Pelt, who's that?"
"Hm? That? Let me see…" She peered at the name on the file along the sidebar. "Rev. Father Anthony "Pius" Bachynski. Why?"
He stared at the screen.
"Jane?" Lisbon turned back, glanced at the screen, then at Jane. "You look like you've seen a ghost."
Jane grinned. "The old man. From my dream."
Lisbon's eyes grew wide. "That's him? Father Pius? That's the old guy from your dreams?"
Jane nodded, still looking at the face.
Van Pelt wiggled in her chair. "Taking a walk to 'the other side', Jane?"
He grinned. "Nah. I must have seen a photo of him somewhere. It got locked in my memory and expressed itself subconsciously."
Lisbon and Van Pelt exchanged glances.
"Of course," said Lisbon, and she disappeared into her office.
Van Pelt looked up. "You could try channeling him, you know…"
"Ridiculous. Do I look like a mark?"
"Like Lisbon said, you look like a man who's seen a ghost." She shrugged. "Maybe you have…"
She went back to work, and the photograph disappeared from the screen.
Hands in pockets, Jane ambled over to the couch, removed his jacket, folded it across the back. He dropped down into its soft leather, stretched out his legs, laced his fingers across his belly, winced as it stung from the pressure on the stitches and sighed. He was tired. He'd had a busy day, a busy few days. He felt sad for Meeks/Noriega, hoped the doctors would treat him well, although that would not be likely. Felt frustrated with Alvarez, who had tried in his own errant way to help right a wrong but turned a blind eye to the twisted heart of men. Felt elated that the cranky old bishop actually had a heart after all and thought he might pop in to visit from time to time. Felt himself drifting to the sound of conversation, ringing phones and late-night business...
The old man was smiling at him. You're gonna be okay, son, providing you don't snooze your life away. Get up, get moving, there's pretty girls 'round here. Open your eyes, son. Check 'em out. Time for me to go. That bright white light's making me crazy. Gotta check it out. Glad I could help. See you around. And he rolled himself up like a cigarette and blew away
Jane lay still, deciding for a change not to fight but to give in, and he smiled, said goodbye to the old man, and fell asleep on his own, and for the first time in a long, long time, he had no dreams at all.