Alex Cross waited for the bar keeper to recognize him. All he wanted were a couple of beers, and maybe a minute to think about the man he had lodging in his room. He knew that Patrick Jane wasn't fond of him, heck, he down right wrote off the psychologist as a non entity, but now...Patrick was a man very much trapped in time and space. Despite the three years that had passed since his wife and daughter's murders, Patrick was still stuck in the night he came home and found their bodies. Post Traumatic Stress mixed with a good dose of depression and equal parts guilt and survivor's remorse, all rolled into one man.
Patrick blamed himself for their deaths and vowed revenge to appease his own mind, to quiet the ghosts that lived only in his head. Individually, these disorders were crippling, and yet Patrick was able to lead an outwardly normal life, even with disorder compounding mental disease. But then again, so had Thomas Pierce. No matter how different the two were, they had their similarities. Mr. Jane's saving grace was that he had yet to experience murder. Up until the moment when Thomas Pierce killed Isabella, and became Mr. Smith, there were no differences between the charismatic, rising doctor, and the fractured man who sat pondering in Alex's room. But Mr. Smith had taken human life and come to need it.
He wasn't someone like Kyle Craig, who lived to hunt and experience that rush of adrenaline. Thomas Pierce killed to feel emotions. He regretted killing his fiancée, and so emotionally, he numbed himself to cope. It worked, and then again it failed. Pierce successfully buried the feeling of anger that lead to Isabella's death, and he crushed his sense of guilt. He locked away his emotions to avoid confronting the reality he had created and so successfully evaded police suspicion in the grizzly murder he had created. It was that inability to confront his reality that lead to the Mr. Smith persona rising to the surface. Thomas Pierce was human, in that he was born with innate emotions and needed a way to cope and confront those feelings. Mr. Smith was alien in comparison, born from a numb psyche, Mr. Smith needed to cause pain in order to feel the barest sting of remorse, to feel anything.
That very much described Patrick Jane currently. From the records he had received on the consultant, when Patrick had been a guest of the psych ward, he had been mostly catatonic. He rarely spoke, ate very little and would very rarely leave his bed. Most of what he spoke had been mumbled in his nightmares, no, don't, I'm sorry; that kind of thing. And then, almost out of the blue, he's coherent and cooperative. He talks to his doctors and begins to express a desire to work for who ever can get him into the Red John scene. To the layman, it might seem as if Jane were a multiple personality, but his actions from before and after were nearly identical. He didn't suddenly become a mass murderer like Pierce, he didn't so much as change where he ate. Patrick Jane is stuck back in 2005, until his mind resolves itself to face the music.
Finally, after seemingly waiting forever, Alex placed an order for two beers and had two frosted bottles forced into his hands. He dropped a ten on the counter and headed back to the room and Patrick. It wouldn't due to leave the man he was supposed to be guarding to have a drink, now would it.
While Alex Cross and Patrick Jane were sipping beer and not talking to each other, Kyle Craig and Virgil Minelli were putting the finishing touches on their next works. Virgil's motives were different than when he normally did this, and it felt strange to him. The Mastermind had gotten into Red John's head and this was the only way that Virgil could see to kick him out. Was it different? Not so much. Was it fulfilling? Not entirely. Would Kyle see it coming? Not a chance. Virgil looked down and a smile graced his lips for the first time since he had been beaten to the Eppstein house. He had to complete staging the scene.
While Virgil was celebrating his freedom, Kyle was basking in his own glory. After scrutinizing plan after plan, Kyle had decided that the best way to get back to the top was to not be associated with his crime. Ever since his escape from prison, Kyle had only had to worry about hiding his identity, not his crimes. It was freeing, before, he had to keep his body count hidden, so that the hunt could continue uninterrupted. Those that got too close, he killed, all except for Alex Cross, but it hardly mattered now. Now, he could be as brazen as he wanted. He no longer had to disguise his murders by less satisfactory means, poison, bullets. These were neat tricks, but for Kyle, if he wasn't using his hands, it wasn't as gratifying. But now it would pay to delay his gratification, just a little bit.
This...this was a stroke of genius if he did say so himself. Nothing he had ever done could compare, hell, nothing in history could compare! He was the Rube Goldberg of mayhem and chaos! He finished placing the final pieces of evidence in his masterpiece of a canvas and stepped back to admire it. Five bodies lay riddled with bullets, dead at the Mastermind's feet. It was a simple matter to strike a match and light a fuse. History had born witness to that plenty of times, but this...only Kyle was capable of this.
The first call came to Dr. Cross's cellphone at just after 11 pm. He had been hoping to get a full night's sleep, but it just wasn't in the cards tonight.
"Cross." He recognized the number as belonging to the CBI. From the second bed, Patrick watched the worn face of the dragon slayer set in determination before paling in distress. Sorrow and regret flashed quickly, before they were covered over by a steely resolve that Patrick hadn't seen so intensely before. Whatever the news was, it had shaken Cross's foundation before solidifying it even more. Cross hung up and paused for a beat, before reaching for his Glock.
"Red John's killed again." Before he could pull his on-loan FBI jacket on, Patrick was up and changing clothes along with the detective. The blond usually had a predisposition for expensive three piece suits and would have stuck out like a sore thumb in comparison to the FBI and CBI forensic techs and less well dressed investigators. But with Jane in blue jeans and a long sleeved black T-shirt, all he needed was something to cover his hair and he could pass for an undercover cop very easily.
Alex handed him a knit beanie with deep brown and green colors. It was going to be a gift for Damon, but his son hadn't liked getting clothing as gifts since he had turned four, and so this was just an idea. Having Patrick on the scene would be more helpful than some token offering to his son.
"Where?" Patrick was on edge. This was another chance to get to Red John, maybe his only chance if Cross kept shaking things up. If Patrick wanted to capture Red John, this may in all reality be his final shot at exacting any meaningful form of revenge. Something was bothering Cross, if the lack of an answer was any indication and Patrick readied himself for a silent car ride when he got his answer.
"Virgil Minelli's house. He killed Antonia Minelli and no one knows where Virgil is."
"Are you sure?" Patrick was shocked. Red John had never taunted the police, never involved them personally before. Now he goes and kills his boss's wife? It could be a copy cat, or maybe even Kyle again.
"No, which is exactly why I'm not insisting you stay here while I check it out. There isn't any reason not to believe it's not genuine though. He's been out shined by Kyle for a while now, and it's got to be killing him inside."
Silently the two left for their next crime scene, the first in a horrifying wave of violence that was about to strike California.
By the time they arrived, the combined C/FBI task force was crawling over the house, looking for anything that might give them a clue as to where Red John had gone, or why he had chosen Antonia Minelli. Virgil still hadn't been reached, he had left the office around 6 pm and there was no sign of him at home. His cell phone was off and no one had a clue where he could be. Quiet rumblings were going around about his fate, weather or not Red John had taken him or weather he was having a clandestine meeting with a mistress or maybe even a man. Once inside the house things only became cloudier. Walking up a rather ornate staircase, the psychologist and consultant came to the threshold of the master bedroom, and despite knowing full well what evil lay inside, walked in.
Immediately they spotted some differences. Most obviously, Antonia Minelli was still fully clothed. Secondly, her throat had been cut before Red John had stabbed her repeatedly. The characteristic smiley face was drawn over the headboard and teased those inside. Patrick hadn't seen Van Pelt or Rigsby since he walked inside and his only glimpse of Cho had been a shot of his back as he walked from one room to another. Lisbon walked in from wherever she had been just a minute after Alex and Patrick had arrived on the scene.
She had been on scene for almost half an hour now, with Virgil MIA, she was the highest ranking team member What was it about Red John that made the CBI such welcoming targets? Why Virgil? He hadn't cheated on his wife, had he? Was it the other way around? Or did he just work too much? Was that even the motivating factor anymore? So much had changed from all the other crime scenes that a fresh look was needed.
But the more they looked around the room, the more the answers seemed to contradict themselves. Red John was nothing if not meticulous. In all of his crime scenes he'd never left so much as a crooked painting on the walls, but here...glasses were knocked off the night stand near the large bed, the bed sheets were ruffled and messed. Never before had Red John given his victims the chance to fight back, but here, obviously Antonia struggled. There were no marks from a stun gun, the blood spatter was a contradiction in styles, even the smiley face was drawn uncharacteristically upside down..
Even outside of the primary scene debris lay scattered around, as if the perpetrator of this heinous crime had come stumbling from the room and decided to do some remodeling on his way out. Red John never left enough evidence for Patrick to work with, and now he had too much. Patrick took a mental step backwards. He was always obsessed with minutia, the little things that people did and said. Perhaps Alex Cross was having so much success because he took things in a different scale.
Almost instantly, Patrick noticed something interesting. While there were large portions of the room and house that were trashed in rage, there were a few areas that were immaculate. Areas of the hallway where pictures were torn or cut also held perfectly straight photos of an older woman. While Antonia had two jewelery boxes on her dresser top, one was trashed while the older looking of the two wasn't disturbed in the slightest. When Patrick opened it up it became obvious that Antonia didn't use it for her own jewelry. The styles were about as contrasting as possible. Antonia wore either gold or silver necklaces and beautifully sculpted rings, set with either diamonds or other precious stones. This box only had a handful of items, a pair of simple pendant earrings, a small gold necklace with a cross on it, and a set of Rosary beads. Throughout the house the same pattern began to repeat itself. Weather it was photographs, or antique furniture, Red John hadn't touched these objects, why?
And the why became clear to Patrick very quickly. These were all objects that an older would be associated with women, probably from one of the Minelli's mothers. It was a deliberate choice to preserve these items, in the midst of a scene that appeared to be created by rage in the heat of the moment. The scene was staged, but why? Red John had truly turned this case on it's head.
Alex was looking at the scene in his own way. While Patrick Jane was a man who obsessed with why thing ended up the way they did, Alex was looking for what caused them to begin in the first place. To Patrick the bloody face was a taunt, a signature that screamed, it was me! But to Alex it said more. The smiley face is one of the most iconic images in the world used to promote products from corn to laundry detergent, political candidates and emotion. But what makes the stereotypical smiley face special is how people relate to it.
The more detailed an image is, the fewer people it could be, the less people can relate to it. A photograph of Ronald Regan can only be that. But if you take out some of the wrinkles, loose the distinctive smile and blur the hair a little it could be the Gipper, or maybe it's Abraham Lincoln.
The genius of the Red John design was that it was both distinct and vague. You knew exactly who was responsible, but at the same time you knew nothing. It was precisely how Red John saw himself, he felt that he was indivisible from the masses of people that walked the street. Killing was his way of carving his own place in the world, of taking control over his life.
Beyond the gruesome artwork, Alex saw the uncertainty and worry that permeated the scene. Red John wouldn't have changed his methods unless it wasn't bringing him the satisfaction it usually did. But if that were the case you would have expected to see more hesitation and experimentation. Instead of finding the action unfulfilling, it was more like Red John found issue with the victim.
Alex saw the areas void of destruction in the same way as Patrick. The deliberate way in which these specific areas were spared Red John's wrath spoke volumes to what drove the man. He was someone who sympathized with women who had unfaithful spouses, he wanted the men to suffer in a more prolonged and meaningful way than simple physical pain. .
Pieces began to snap into place, Red John's mother figure had been the dominating force in his life, the father was vacant for large portions of the child's life and so the young boy grew attached to the woman who raised him. Red John somehow found out that his Father figure was an adulterer and somehow associated this man's infidelity with something traumatic that happened to his mother, probably her death.
Red John couldn't bring himself to tarnish the things that reminded him of his mother, hence why the heirlooms were spared destruction. All the pieces of the profile were complete now. Virgil Minelli's mother reminded Red John of his own mother because they were the same person. Red John was Minelli, Alex was sure of it, but he had little proof. There had to be something in the house that could prove that Minelli was the elusive killer, but he hadn't found it yet. Alex kept his eyes on Patrick. If Minelli had hidden so much as a teaspoon, Patrick would find it and if he put the pieces together...Alex prepared himself to step between Jane and the nearest doorway.
Patrick felt the eyes of his coworkers on him. None of them had been on the investigating team when Izzy and Mellisa had been killed, so they were still caught up in the idea that Red John had struck so close to home. They were going through the motions, nothing more. Cho, being the most emotionally detached member of the team was actually going through the various rooms and photographing the scene, but there was a distinct air of uncertainty about him. Grace was probably the worst off, despite all the experience she had, the master bedroom had caused her to become ill and flee to the front porch before she threw up her partially digested dinner. Rigsby had gone to check on her to Patrick's knowledge, the two were still sitting on the front steps trying to catch up to the reality they found themselves in.
Patrick didn't know who had been watching him more closely, Lisbon or Cross. Had he been in Las Vegas, Patrick would have bet on Cross, but the intensity that Lisbon carried in her eyes betrayed her nerves about him being here. She didn't like him being here, either because he was supposed to be dead, or just because she always thought him too fragile when it came to Red John, Patrick didn't know or care.
Cross, on the other hand, held an entirely different emotion in his gaze. At first Patrick couldn't place it...it was somewhat familiar, but recognition flitted just out of his grasp, something that angered the man who usually had all the answers. The more he tried to ignore it, the harder he felt Cross watch him, and the longer the feeling of eyes on his back lasted, the more Patrick Jane began to sweat. He hadn't felt this small since...middle school.
Those were...bad years for Patrick. To begin, he had never been the strongest student, his mind was always analyzing and jumping around...ADD before most people knew what that was. But in fast succession, school problems and what was passed off as too much sugar were the least of his problems. His parents, who were owners of their own hotel, were killed in a car crash involving bad timing, a jealous wife and cut brake lines. The civil suit, was what had made him wealthy, before the psychic bit had made him rich.
Izzy had never been ecstatic about his deception, but she had understood that he had made his bed and so she never made too much of a stink about it. It was the lying that finally made Patrick decide to end his charade. Seeing the relief on people's face, and knowing that he did that by lying, by preying on people, their deepest fears and greatest desires...the concern he had to fake in order to sell his lies...it hurt more and more every time he looked into the mirror.
And that was when he placed that unfamiliar emotion. Cross was worried about him, just like Lisbon was, but not for the same reasons. Lisbon was afraid that he would snap and shut down again...Cross was worried that Patrick would make some revelation, put something together from inside this room...Cross knew something!
But no matter how much Patrick looked around the room, he didn't see whatever Cross was. Synapses that had never failed him before didn't fire and in Patrick's head, 1+1 might have been a bushel of potatoes at the moment. For the first time in his vast and powerful memory, Patrick was choking under pressure. The less he came up with, the more angry he became and that lead to him whirling around and grabbing the Doctor-Detective's shirt by the collar and demanding to know what he knew. For that moment in time, Alex Cross was the only other person in the room. He never heard Lisbon's shout of disapproval, his eyes bore upward into Alex's and tried to convey all his emotion through his eyes, the anger, the pain, the helplessness.
And Alex understood and was sympathetic. People like Red John, like Kyle Craig were often born of trauma and abuse that they internalized until it manifested violently. They never sought help for their problems when there was a chance to prevent the murders that were to come and now Alex knew that Patrick would not become the next Thomas Pierce.
Alcoholism, drug abuse and sociopaths...the first step is always the same, admit you have a problem and get help.
Alex put his hands on Patrick's shoulders and pushed him down into the nearest seat without disrupting the scene.
"What do you see when you look at the room?" Cross probed. He was and always had been a believer that one had to come to conclusions on their own and this was his way to try and help Patrick put the pieces together.
"It's a stages scene." Patrick replied a bit robotic ally, something about the attention Cross was giving him, the even, helpfulness in his voice...Patrick couldn't help but answer truthfully.
"Why do you say that?"
"Because the chaos is localized to certain areas. Red John didn't touch the jewelry box over there, or the photos."
"Why would he do that? Destroy somethings and leave the others in peace?" This was the crux of the argument.
"He feels...he doesn't want to destroy them." Patrick's reply was half guess and half question.
"And has he ever shown that compulsion before?"
"He's never destroyed anything before!" Patrick was becoming exasperated.
"So why start now? Why wreck the house here, and not elsewhere?"
Patrick paused and thought. When the answer came to him it was based not on any experience he had in the past, but pure gut intuition.
"He's distancing himself from this kill, it's personal..." And the flood gates opened. The kill was personal...The spared items, the staged rage and anger...Red John identified with this house, with Antonia...with Virgil.
"No." Alex saw the recognition in Patrick's eyes. The rage lifted, the helplessness receded for the moment and both understanding and confusion settled in.
"He...can't be...but...and then....the...why?" The question went unanswered. It didn't need to be.
Lisbon didn't know what had just happened. In about a minute, Patrick had gone from nearly assaulting Alex Cross to having what could best be described as a mental breakdown. Dr. Cross called one of the lower ranking officers over and requested water for Patrick, who was mumbling to himself and fiddling with his hands.
She caught Cross's eye and he answered her questioning gaze.
By 3 am Virgil Minelli was California's most wanted fugitive. The CBI continued to pour over his house while the FBI combed through his office and computer to try and get a grasp on where he might go or do. Things had become compounded by 5 am, when a report of a gang shoot out came in and the CBI had to investigate. As the morning news cycle began to air the story, tips began to flow in about Virgil, some claimed he was heading to Mexico, others said Oregon.
Patrick had finally come to grips with the fact that Virgil was the one who caused him so much pain and was now working with Alex Cross on a plan to trap Virgil. Theresa was pleased, though a bit surprised, that they worked so well together, but nothing could be done just yet. There was a power vacuum in the CBI, with Minelli's defection, and while she was filling in as best she could, until she either got the word from the higher ups, or someone was officially appointed, all the CBI could do was conduct their investigations and follow the lead of the FBI and that was something no one wanted.
Except of course, Virgil Minelli. He had known full when what his absence would do to the organization he had been a part of and had counted on their incompetence and bickering to give him ample time to disappear from their radar. Now he sat in his rundown motel room planning. It wasn't under is name of course, he had the prostitute he picked up rent the room for a week and paid cash in advance. She now lay in a pool of her own blood on the bed next to him. So much had happened in the past twelve hours and so much was still to come...
(A/N: Wow, that took me a long time to get out...and it started out so well too... Anyway, I hope the delays caused by my reworking haven't driven anyone away. Thank you to everyone that has reviewed my previous chapters, I do hope to hear from you this time around.)