Disclaimer: The Mentalist does not belong to me. I play with it because it asked me to.
Jane scrolled through the list again. He'd had over three thousand clients, once. Many had been single visits, come to confirm that yes, indeed, grandma was in heaven. Under two hundred had been men.
Rigsby shifted in the chair, and Jane knew that he was minutes away from asking what he was doing. Grace had brought in the laptop and another delivery of tea (this time with milk) ten minutes ago. She had threatened him with dire consequences if he broke it, so he assumed the machine was hers.
"Jane?" Rigsby sounded uncertain and Jane remembered being cold.
Rigsby had found him. Jane didn't quite know how to deal with that. He didn't think Rigsby knew either. Jane smiled, because that usually worked.
"Yes?" He didn't look up from the screen, separating out all the males into a second document.
"What are you doing?"
"Just indulging in nostalgia," Jane replied, glancing up briefly. Rigsby looked disappointed and Jane relented a little. "I had a thought. Red John's voice was familiar."
Rigsby leaned in, and Jane wished people would stop doing that. It was really very disconcerting. "You know who he is?"
"No, I just had an idea," Jane denied. He shrugged half-heartedly. "I've done this before," he admitted quietly. "I can't shake the thought that I know him somehow."
"That isn't in the file," Rigsby pointed out, the fainted tint of suspicion coloring his words.
"But it is in the interviews, if you check." Jane sighed thoughtfully, eliminating the men he knew didn't fit. Phil Stevens wasn't an inch over five two, Jamal Jones was black, Kyle Mack was a natural blond. "They refused to include it in the official profile because the state psychologist decided that it was a case of me attributing meaning or some such."
"And no one ever checked into it?" Rigsby asked, sounding faintly appalled. "Didn't they—you're never wrong! Why wouldn't they believe you?"
"Actually, I often am." Jane frowned thoughtfully before removing Charles Kingston. He was at least decade too old. "I just don't tell people my hunches until I'm certain of them." He focused on the computer. "And there were… other factors at the time."
He saw Rigsby nodding out of the corner of his eye, and dearly hoped that Rigsby thought the 'other factors' were dealing with the death of his family rather than being confined to a mental ward. Not that the second was unconnected to the first, but Jane couldn't have his judgment doubted. "It's unlikely that this will pan out," he offered, removing Vance Polanski from the list. Too normal. "I've done it before, a couple of times, and I have more information now, but no one stands out."
"Did you give the list to the investigators, at least?"
"Yes." Jane gave Rigsby a tired look. "I told them until I was blue in the face, but they ignored me." A harsh chuckle slipped from his lips, and he stifled it. "Policemen, they're all the same. Unreliable witness, they said." Jane put his tea down, one hand tangling absentmindedly into the sheets. "I brought it up, and Lisbon investigated. She didn't find anything." She didn't trust his judgment when it came to Red John.
Jane deleted half a dozen names, all too old, too dead, or just not right at all.
"Do you need help?" Rigsby asked, and Jane was touched by his earnestness, his desire to do the right thing.
"No. It's something of a one man job right now." He hesitated before deleting Percy Radcliff. "But thank you," Jane said, and the uncomfortable weight in his chest eased.
Rigsby relaxed, a subtle tension leaving him.
A fleeting smile crossed Jane's face. Chances are they'll never talk about it. Thank goodness.
A comfortable silence descended, broken only by the clinking of keys and the rustle of paper on paper.
"You can go get lunch," Jane told Rigsby absently, sometime later. The list was down to twenty four names.
"No, I'm good," Rigsby sighed regretfully.
Jane glanced up, frowning. "You're hungry. Go eat."
"No. Cho will take over for me in an hour."
"I don't need to be babysat twenty-four seven," Jane pointed out reasonably. "You're hungry, and no one will try to kill me in the twenty minutes it takes you to get food. Go."
"I can't. I'm on duty," Rigsby explained. He smiled briefly. "If I left you alone and Lisbon found out, I'd work desk duty for the next ten years. I can wait an hour against that threat."
Jane shrugged, stretching the bite on his shoulder. It ached. He stilled and glanced at the clock. Only minutes to go before a nurse brought a tiny plastic cup filled with painkillers, antibiotics, and other goodies. "Bathroom break?" he suggested weakly, saving the list he had made. Twenty-four superstitious men with cruel streaks, none of whom stood out as anything more than an asshole. Perhaps with more research…
The sound of rubber crocs squeaking against linoleum echoed under the door. They were accompanied by the soft tread of expensive men's shoes, a faintly lumbering gait that suggested advanced middle age. Jane paused, watching the expansive glass window that allowed passersby to look at him.
"Or you could stay," he allowed as an older man in a lab coat came into view, flirting with the young Sam Bernard. Jane fidgeted with the edge of the sheet that covered him, and then smoothed it, forcing his hands to stay still and neutral, flat on the bed.
Rigsby glanced at the window and then returned to his book, nodding.
Jane calmed, breathing slowing. He pretended to startle when they opened the door, because people loved it when he fulfilled their expectations. Sam looked chokingly empathetic; it took only the faintest flicker of her eyes for Jane to realize that she had been abused as he had. Guilt filled him for lying with his reactions and Jane looked away, closing the laptop.
"I have your pills, Mr. Jane." She spoke soothingly, but not patronizingly, and Jane appreciated the difference for once. Sam's smile was as practiced as his own, and it had a certain polished look that shouted experience. For her, it hadn't been just once.
Jane smiled for her and took the pills peacefully, not raising the fuss he had intended. She blushed, uncomfortable, so his smile faded, allowing her to see the discomfort hidden underneath. That calmed her, gave her back the basis of her empathy and Sam smiled, taking back the tiny pill cup as he drank down the last of the water in the slightly larger cup. When he was done, she took that cup too and left, skirting around Rigsby on her way to the door.
"Would you wait outside?" The doctor asked Rigsby once Sam had closed the door behind her.
Jane shook his head firmly and replied for Rigsby, his voice modulated, calm and in control, "I'd prefer it if Rigsby stayed." Rigsby looked up from his book, alert and paying attention but graciously pretending not to.
The doctor gave the two of them a strange look, and something ugly squirmed in Jane's belly when he realized that the man—Jane squinted quickly and read his name tag—Dr. Rogers thought they were lovers. A dull flush heated Jane's cheeks and he looked away, unwilling and unable to explain why he wanted Rigsby to stay.
Dr. Rogers scribbled something on the clipboard at the foot of his bed, and then dropped it back onto the hook.
The clipboard swung from side to side, creaking. The doctor was talking again, but Jane couldn't quite hear him over the screech of metal. It drew his attention, and the corners of his vision seemed to darken, the color of rust and dried blood rising hazily in the peripheral.
"…at least one more day. Afterward, you can go home. You should be on bed rest for at least a week. At the end of that week, we'll have a follow up appointment scheduled."
Jane came back to the stark white room slowly, the flicker of candlelight sliding away with the fading creak of the clipboard. Jane missed most of the speech, and he licked his suddenly dry lips.
"Do you have any questions?" Dr. Rogers asked, fidgeting with the cuffs of his lab coat. He was nervous, and the knowledge twisted into a miserable knot inside of Jane. Dr. Rogers was unsettled, anxious, uncertain, and vaguely derisive toward him. It was clear as day in the lines of his face, the drift of his gaze, the unnatural stiffness in his hands.
Jane swallowed the taste of vanilla. "No," he replied, voice suddenly hushed and small. Ashamed.
The doctor nodded abruptly and then left, clicking the door shut behind him. He glanced through the glass, dissonance no longer hidden. The look on his face made Jane want to crawl under the sheets.
Rigsby cleared his throat, and peered over the edge of his book. "You okay?"
Jane nodded, and opened the laptop again. It took a few moments to load and Jane sighed. "How many—" he cut himself off. "Who knows?"
"About you being here, or why you're here?" Rigsby answered with a question, pretending to be deeply involved in his book.
"Most of CBI knows that you're in the hospital because of Red John. The media hasn't published anything yet, and it's looking like they won't. The only people who know any specifics are Lisbon, Cho, me, Minelli and Bosco's team," Rigsby tells him calmly, like he's telling Jane that the weather looks like it'll be nice this weekend. Jane appreciates his unruffled delivery. It makes the news less disappointing.
"Van Pelt doesn't know?" Jane asked quietly, staring at the list of names again.
"She didn't watch the tape of the interview," Rigsby confirmed. He glanced up, and their eyes met for a second. "She's probably guessed some of it though."
"What does the CBI think?"
"I haven't been in the office for the last three days," Rigsby said, apologetically. "I can find out for you, so that you know."
"I'd appreciated that," Jane murmured politely, normally unused manners coming out to deal with his discomfort.
Twenty four names… perhaps...
"Can this thing connect to the internet?" Jane asked, drumming his fingers on the plastic casing.
Rigsby nodded. "If there's an unsecured network in range."
Jane paused and looked at the screen. "How can I tell if there's an unsecured network in range?" he mimicked Rigsby's words exactly because he didn't have the faintest clue what Rigsby was talking about.
Rigsby set his paperback to the side and held out his hands for the computer. Jane tried to lift it, but his wrists weren't quite up to the task yet. Rigsby leaned over and grabbed the laptop, pretending that he'd intended to do so all along. He tapped the mouse pad a few times, and then handed it back to Jane.
"You're connected. Do you need anything else?"
Jane looked at the cup of tea he'd placed on the side table thoughtfully. Rigsby picked it up and handed it to him.
"Good?" Rigsby asked, tapping the spine of his book.
Jane nodded, sipping at the tea. He typed the first name into the search engine. Leonard de Mer.
"If you leave the list on the computer, Grace can research them for you."
"She's Grace now?" Jane hid his smile with the tea cup.
"Van Pelt then," Rigsby corrected himself.
Jane sighed in disappointment. "No, I'd rather run through them first. Make sure they're all still alive."
"There's been another murder." Cho straightened the stack of books on the side table, organizing them as he avoided eye contact with Jane.
"Red John?" Jane asked, looking up from his book.
Jane sighed, fingers tensing on the spine, nails whitening over the lurid picture on the cover. "When?"
"I told you…" Jane avoided finishing the sentence.
"I know. We know. But you weren't set to be released until today." Cho frowned intently, finally looking at Jane. "Lisbon has arranged for protective custody. When you leave this afternoon, we will go to a location yet to be disclosed."
A half smile crossed Jane's lips. "You're my protective custody?"
"We all are. Minelli has agreed to assign Major Crimes to your case. Rotating shifts, two of us on at all times."
Jane glanced over at Van Pelt's computer. "Will we be on the Red John case again?"
Jane frowned. "What case…?"
"Protective detail. It's not in Major Crimes preview, but Lisbon convinced Minelli that you would drive anyone else insane in a few hours."
Jane hummed in contemplative interest. "Do I still have a job?"
"So far as I know."
"Then we'll still be going into the office? Working on other cases?"
"The details haven't been decided." Cho tilted his head slightly. "Why?"
Jane shifted restlessly. "Oh, you know. Work. Good for the soul."
"Of course," Cho replied dryly. "Bosco won't let you see the files."
"You never know," Jane answered. "He could change his mind."
Cho chuckled quietly and put the books down, arranged at tidy right angles to each other. "Are you ready to leave?"
"Absolutely," Jane lied easily, smiling. "Couldn't be better. Besides, if Red John's decided to start killing again, I'd much rather be in a position to know about it." Jane paused, looking at Cho. There was no way he could induce guilt, but a hint of second thoughts would satiate him nicely.
Cho frowned. "I don't think that giving you the information last night would have helped anything."
"It would have helped me," Jane replied, prodding at Cho just a little bit. He set the book down.
"You would have escaped the hospital, hunted down the crime scene, and driven Bosco completely nuts."
"Well yes. But I would have been safe."
The humor fled from Cho's face and he looked grim. "You are safe. We will not let him get you again."
Jane didn't reply.