A/N: The only thing I own is the plotline of Jane being poisoned. The crime, the characters, and bits of dialogue belong directly to whoever owns the Mentalist. :)
The Effects of Ricin
They'd brought her in. The blonde chef with a love for hot spices, and apparently an appetite for murder, Julia. I wasn't convinced she'd done it, but her motive was as good as the others, and Jane had been the one who'd singled her out. Never mind that Rigsby had been on his way over to arrest her anyway—the fact that Jane had backed us up before we'd even filled him in on the details was good enough for me. So I sat on the other side of the table, trying to decide if I wanted to play the good cop or the bad one, while Jane chatted amiably with our lead suspect.
I decided to cut the small talk before Jane started taking down her favorite restaurants near headquarters. "Can you start from the beginning?"
Julia hesitated, obviously unwilling to verbalize her affair, but with a smile and a nod from Jane, she continued, "It started about three months ago, after he separated from his wife." I noticed how she emphasized the "after" of that sentence, as if reminding us that he'd been halfway single would make us look at her actions more favorably. I remained impassive; she could prove to be the murderer yet.
Jane cocked his head to the side a bit, "But he ended it."
"Yes," she agreed solemnly.
"When?" I avoided looking at Jane, who probably already knew the answer through mind-reading or some such nonsense.
She paused, a frown on her face as she slowly replied, "The night before he died."
I leaned a little closer, wondering if I could wrap up this case here and now. An ended affair was an excellent motive for murder, maybe even better than money. Rage was a hard emotion to control, especially when it was filtered with the tragic anguish of a broken heart.
"I went to his room at the resort," she continued, obviously seeing my train of thought and intent on clearing her name with the full story. "He was drunk." Her tone was displeasing; she was bitter about the fact that he still took to alcohol. I exchanged a glance with Jane, who swallowed and subtly licked his lips. I rolled my eyes and turned back to the suspect.
"I thought he was trying to go sober, but I guess not that night," she said, a tinge of disappointed resignation filtering into her voice. Then she straightened a little and told us, "Jeff didn't handle stress well."
I pounced on that, "Must have made you angry."
For a moment, Julia looked bemused. When she replied, it was with a slight shake of her head, "No. I accepted it. I loved him. But he was a drunk, better left alone…"
I held her gaze, reminiscing about my own experiences with drunken men. I inclined my head in approval, "Wise of you."
Beside me, Jane stood up, and I glanced at him in curiosity. At my inquiring gaze, he shrugged a shoulder, "I'm going to get a drink. Be back soon."
"I asked for a glass of water," Julia said, irritation filtering into her voice as she looked at Jane as well.
He gave her a Jane smile, "I'll get that for you, then." And he strolled out of the room, making a left and heading for the kitchen. I recaptured the suspect's attention with a nod, "He'll be back in a minute." I assured her.
She scowled at me, getting worked up now, "You think I'm entitled, and snippy, and rich. My father's a senator. I don't have to take crap from people like you."
Her words bit, but I wouldn't let her know that. Instead, I refrained from rolling my eyes and responded, "I'm just trying to figure out who killed Jeffery Barge, that's all." I held my hands up in a calming way, letting her know I meant no harm, even though I might possibly book her for murder later.
"But I didn't kill him," she looked away from me, and I nearly laughed.
"I don't believe you, Julia. Not yet," I shrugged in a way that meant nothing personal.
She swallowed hard, much like Jane had done minutes earlier, and gritted out, "I really need… that glass of water."
I was about to reassure her that it was on its way when I heard someone yell for help from the kitchen. I froze, glancing out the glass door as two agents ran by to see what the commotion was. I stood as well, suddenly worried that Jane was getting into trouble again, and I'd be the one getting blamed for not keeping him on a leash.
"Excuse me," I said quickly, slipping from the room before she could protest. I hurried to the kitchen, where a small crowd of agents were gathered around something. I shoved through them, noticing Van Pelt kneeling beside a fallen man.
Panic clenched my gut, and then I was pushing harder than before, shouting at the agents to clear a path. When I reached Van Pelt, I bent over Jane. He was pale, eyes open and unresponsive. I placed two fingers on his neck to find a pulse, glancing around, "Call 911!" I snapped, irritated that it was taking them so long to do such an obvious motion.
"What happened?" I demanded, finally locating a weak pulse. His chest rose and fell with shallow breaths.
"I don't know," Van Pelt responded, looking worried and frazzled. "I was talking with him while he got a glass of water, and then he just… collapsed."
I nodded to show I heard her, shaking Jane's shoulder, "Jane. Jane, look at me. How many fingers am I holding up?" I flashed two in front of his face, but he didn't even blink. I felt my throat go tight with fear, and looked up again. "Damn it, where's the ambulance?"
"En route, Lisbon," Cho appeared at my side, snapping a cell phone shut. I gave him an appreciative smile, grateful as he started clearing away the other agents. Honestly, they were gawking like this was some sort of Vegas show. The bastards.
I felt for Jane's pulse again, wondering if he was even conscious anymore. His eyes were still open, but he didn't move, and my muddled brain cleared enough to recognize the symptoms of ricin poisoning. I recalled Jeff, the chef who'd been dosed with that poison. Dead.
"Did he eat anything at that restaurant?" I demanded. Van Pelt shrugged, and I scowled, glancing around for Rigsby. He wasn't nearby, so I huffed in annoyance and turned my attention back to Jane.
"Jane, stay with us," I snapped, the tone of my voice making it a clear order. I knew he'd find that rather amusing, ordering around a dying man, and I just hoped he'd be around long enough to jibe me for it later.
Then Rigsby appeared beside Cho, panting slightly, "Lisbon! Julia, she's—Oh no, Jane too!"
I met his gaze sharply, "What happened to Julia?"
"She's dead, Lisbon. She's on the floor of the interrogation room," he told me, eyes flickering to Jane. "What happened? Is he going to be okay?"
"He'd better be," I growled, and just then the paramedics clambered onto our floor, rolling a gurney to Jane. The gawking agents cleared a path, and they had my consultant loaded onto the stretcher in a matter of seconds. I glanced at Rigsby, "Make sure they get Julia too."
He nodded, watching Jane with concern as Van Pelt straightened and stepped closer to him, her hand slipping into his for a second as she bit her lower lip. I gave them both a reassuring nod, "He'll be fine. Cho, come with me. You two, sort out this mess and meet us at the hospital."
Cho didn't object, and the two of us ran after the man wheeling Jane to the ambulance. We caught up to him in the elevator, and in the silence that ensued he checked Jane's vitals and met my gaze, "What happened?"
"Ricin poisoning," I replied. I was 98% positive that was the reason, and I didn't want to waste time watching them guess.
"None that I know of."
The doors of the elevator dinged open then, and he wasted no time sprinting Jane to the waiting ambulance. I followed, Cho easily keeping pace. They didn't let me in the back of the ambulance, but I knew that would be the case, so I veered off towards my car, keys already in hand. We piled in and drove in silence to the hospital, speeding after the wailing ambulance with our lights flashing so no one would be stupid enough to get in our way.
I didn't see Jane once we got to the hospital. The nurse checked with the computer and told me that they hadn't entered him in the system yet, but she'd be sure to alert us once they did. Until then, she handed us a packet of paperwork to fill out while we waited, so they'd have at least some basic information on Jane. I took it with resignation and retreated to a row of generic waiting chairs.
Cho settled in beside me as I picked up the offered pen and removed the cap with shaking hands. His dark eyes surveyed me for a moment, and then he held out his hand for the clipboard, "I'll fill that out."
I smiled halfheartedly, "It's fine."
He didn't push, and I didn't yield, completing the paperwork swiftly and without complaints. That was one of the things I loved about Cho: he was very professional, and he took my orders without retort. His presence beside me was comforting.
Once I finished the paper, I let him take it back to the nurse at the desk, staring out the hospital window at the traffic-ingested streets just a hundred feet away. People were being wheeled in and out of the sliding doors, and there was a constant commotion that reminded me a lot of an airport, with its organized chaos.
Cho came back, face grim, "He flat-lined in the ambulance, so they shocked him to get his heart going again. They've already flushed his stomach with activated charcoal, to prevent any more poison from being absorbed into his bloodstream."
I wanted to demand why they didn't give him an antidote, but I knew from reading the case file that ricin poison had no antidote. All the hospital could do was treat Jane's symptoms as they occurred, and wait for the poison to run through his system. I clenched my fists unconsciously, nodding grimly, "Okay."
He took a seat next to me again, silent, and we waited for word on our friend.
Rigsby and Van Pelt arrived before Jane's doctor, so I settled with getting information from them instead. Anything to keep my mind off Jane. "What's happening at headquarters?" I didn't give them time to ask about our consultant.
"Everyone's pretty shocked," Van Pelt admitted, standing in front of us with her arms crossed. I pointedly ignored Rigsby's arm around her shoulders, even though they had explicit instructions to keep their relationship professional at work.
But we weren't at work, I reminded myself, and there was no harm in comforting someone at a time like this.
"How's Jane?" she asked, veering away from the previous topic to pry for details.
Cho answered for me, "He's alive. They're treating the symptoms as they come. We don't know much more than that."
Van Pelt looked relieved, and Rigsby let out a sigh, squeezing her shoulders in reassurance. I kept my eyes on her face, "What about Julia?"
Van Pelt frowned slightly, "The mortuary came and took her away—they're going to check for ricin poisoning first, since we're pretty sure that's the cause of death."
"I called the restaurant," Rigsby took over, and under my gaze became aware of his arm around Van Pelt. He hastily removed it, subtly moving a few inches away from her as he continued with his impromptu report. "I managed to scrape some details together of what Jane was doing before I came."
"He was just watching them work in the kitchen. Several people remembered seeing him there, but only the manager saw Julia give him a bite of her lunch."
"Which had the poison in it," I said. This was what I was comfortable with: piecing together the events to arrive at the final conclusion. At least now we knew how he'd been poisoned, and I was relieved to hear that Jane hadn't been the initial target, even though he had a habit of pissing off murderers.
Rigsby nodded, and Cho glanced sideways at me, "That must be why Jane wasn't affected as greatly as Julia," he carefully maneuvered around the word "death," unwilling to draw that sort of parallel between Julia and Jane. "Smaller dose."
"That's good," Van Pelt said, a hopeful smile tilting her lips. "It means Jane will be okay."
"That remains to be seen," a deep voice said from behind them, and both agents whirled, immediately gripping their guns. When they saw it was a doctor, they dropped their arms sheepishly and backed up, letting me take the lead. I approached the man, scanning his face for further signs of bad news.
"What do you mean?" I asked, dreading the answer.
The doctor sighed heavily, looking very much like a weathered man who'd seen too much death in his life. I could relate. Oblivious to my train of thought, he answered truthfully, "Patrick Jane was subjected to a small amount of ricin poisoning. He experienced a circulatory collapse, which is usually fatal, but the dose was small enough that it merely sent him into a near-comatose state. He's been stabilized for now, but the next three days are crucial."
In other words, it was still very possible that Jane wouldn't pull through. I steeled my features and asked the question on all of our minds, "When can we see him?"
"Now, if you'd like. But don't expect him to be awake," the doctor turned and led us through swinging double doors. "This way."
Jane was lying on a bed in his own room, a breathing tube inserted in his mouth and an IV dripping nutrients into his bloodstream. His blonde curls were still as messy as ever, but his face was pale and there were heavy bags under his closed eyes. It was a shock, even though I was expecting it, but I kept my face professionally smooth, moving aside so my team could file in behind me.
Van Pelt gasped quietly, her hand over her mouth as she unconsciously moved closer to Rigsby. He shook his head in disgust and rubbed her back comfortingly, exchanging concerned glances with Cho.
I was worried too, but as I stared at my consultant, fury overpowered any other emotion. Fury at Jane, certainly—how stupid did he have to be to eat anything at a restaurant where poison was a common theme? But I was even angrier at the culprit, the man or woman who'd decided justice wasn't good enough, and went for revenge instead.
We stared at Jane in awkward silence for a minute, only the sound of his strained breathing filling the room, before I glanced sharply at my team, "We don't have time to waste here, not when there's a murderer running around."
It was harsh, but my team knew me well enough to see what I was getting at. The sooner we caught the bastard who had done this to Jane, however inadvertently, the sooner we got to lock him away for a long time. No one pulled a prank like this to a member of my team and got away with it.
"I agree," Cho nodded shortly, waiting for me to start divvying up jobs like I always did.
I wasted no time, "All right. Cho, you and I will go back to the restaurant and question those chefs again. They're obviously not telling us everything. Rigsby, go to the coroner's and see what his report on Julia is. Van Pelt," I met her gaze, hesitating for a moment. She blinked, waiting for my command. I took a deep breath and plowed right along, "you're going to stay here and keep an eye on Jane."
Everyone nodded, and I was once again overwhelmed with the competency of my team. Even without Jane, we were fully functioning, moving together to reach the correct conclusion. I smiled at them, glanced once more at Jane, and pushed my hair behind my ear, "Let's go then."
They normally didn't allow visitors past ten in the evening, but I flashed my badge and the doctor reluctantly let me stay, even though I wasn't a direct family member. Van Pelt and Rigsby had done their shifts with Jane, and I'd promised to stay the night with him and regroup with them in the morning.
I collapsed into the hard plastic chair beside Jane's bed, too weary to even adjust my position to something more comfortable. I ran a hand over my eyes, massaging away the stress of the day. We'd spent hours interrogating everyone from the wife to the manager, but no one had confessed. I really didn't expect it to be that easy, but I'd sort of hoped we could find the culprit without resorting to Jane's preferred method of a setup.
My eyes drifted to my consultant, still unconscious. According to Van Pelt and Rigsby's reports, he hadn't so much as moved during the hours they sat with him. I doubted my time here would be any different, but I liked to think that he'd appreciate our presence anyway. If nothing else, it would remind him that he still had people he could rely on in a world that had been less than kind to him.
He looked sort of pitiable, lying there defenseless, resorting to eating through a needle and breathing through a tube. It pained me to see him like this, especially when he was normally so… alive. He always seemed amused by something, as if he knew an important factor no one else did—which was usually the case. Even at my best, using my expert skills as a detective and a logician, I was always one step behind. He really was nothing short of amazing, despite how much he irritated me.
"You'd better not die, Jane," I scowled at his prone form, and I knew if he'd been awake, he would have laughed at my fierce statement. But he didn't move, so I busied myself with running through all the facts of this case, determined to catch the killer sooner rather than later.
Around midnight, a nurse came in and checked Jane's vitals. She confirmed that he was still stable, but showed no signs of improvement. She disappeared, and a while later a small female doctor came in, smiling slightly at me, "It's nice of you to sit with him this late," she said, pushing blonde hair out of her eyes as she scanned Jane's chart.
"Is something wrong?" I asked. The presence of a doctor probably wasn't a good thing, even though I could see no visible change in Jane's health.
She shook her head, "I'm just going to do a quick test to see if he's able to breathe without the tube. We don't like to keep it in for long periods of time unless he absolutely can't manage without it."
That made sense, so I stood, "I'll wait in the hall." I had no desire to see the medical procedure of removing a breathing tube, especially when it was coming out of Jane. I was only in the hall for about ten minutes before the doctor poked her head out and smiled at me again.
"I'm done. He passed the test, so we're going to keep him off the ventilator for a while and see how he does. If you notice a change in his breathing or heart rate, call a nurse immediately."
"All right," I said, reentering the room as the doctor breezed past me. Once she was gone, I glanced back at Jane. He looked the same, except now instead of a tube down his throat, he had a smaller tube taped under his nose. There was a quiet hiss that filled the otherwise silent room where air blew into his nose, giving him clean oxygen.
He looked less grotesque without the breathing tube, and I could almost pretend he was just taking a nap on his favorite couch at headquarters. I held onto that fantasy, since it was much more preferable to the reality of his situation.
I didn't realize I'd drifted to sleep until Jane mumbled something, jolting me awake. My eyes flickered to the clock on the wall, and I realized it was nearing four in the morning. I focused on him, hope coursing through my veins as I tried to understand what he was saying. It was incomprehensible, though, the vague mutterings of a man driven insane by poison. I hesitated, unsure of whether to call the nurse.
I ended up shaking his shoulder in an effort to snap him out of whatever trance he was in. He blinked, and his eyes focused on me for the first time since the interrogation room all those ages ago. I felt a rush of relief.
"Jane," I whispered, hoping he'd respond to me.
He just stared at me for another heartbeat, and then a smile broke out over his face. It was a real, honest-to-god smile, conveying happiness I'd never seen in him before. Then he croaked, "Jessica…"
I froze, eyebrows furrowing. Jessica. Even though he'd never told us before, I had a sinking suspicion she was Jane's deceased wife. My heart dropped for a second, but concern quickly canceled any jealous thoughts I may have had. It was a bad, bad thing if Jane thought I was Jessica. I wasn't a doctor, but I was pretty sure hallucinations were never a good sign.
"Jane, I'm not—"
"Did I finally die… then?" he rasped, voice rough from the breathing tube. I scowled at the thought.
"No," I replied, wondering how I could get a nurse in here to check him out without actually leaving the room. I didn't remember that there was a nurse call button by Jane's hand. "You're at the Sutter Medical Center, being treated for ricin poisoning. My name is Theresa Lisbon, not Jessica." His eyes started to go unfocused, and I leaned a little closer. "Jane. Jane, are you listening?"
He reached up and pulled me forward with a palm to the back of my head. My lips met his in an impromptu kiss, which lasted until I remembered where we were and pulled away. He let his arm fall, breathing a bit heavier than normal as he watched me, "I miss you… so much… Jessica," he whispered, and his eyes drifted shut while I gaped at him, too shocked to do anything more than stare.
The door burst open, and the nurse from before hustled in, glancing at the screen above Jane as she skimmed his vitals. I hastily backed away from the bed, still unable to do more than stare at Jane in confusion, even when she turned a disapproving glare on me, "Mr. Jane does not need this sort of stress right now. You were given a warning when you came in to make sure his heart rate doesn't rise. I'm going to have to insist you leave immediately."
I could tell she'd already determined what happened, and was blaming me for Jane's shortness of breath. Which I supposed was fair; I shouldn't have let the kiss continue as long as it did. I swallowed and nodded slowly, glancing once again at Jane. His breathing was irregular, his face still pale, and he'd once again dropped into unconsciousness.
"Please call me if his condition changes," I asked the nurse, who grudgingly nodded, hustling me out of the room. I walked back to my car in a dazed stupor, replaying the incident again and again in my mind. By the time I arrived at home, I wasn't even sure if it had really happened, or if I'd just dreamt it.
But I promised myself that I'd never speak of it again. I owed Jane that.
A/N: This will be a 3 chapter story. Please review? :)