Arsenic and Red Lace
"This hand. No, no, that hand…"
Blue eyes gleamed.
"Are you certain?"
Wayne Rigsby clenched his teeth, but nodded firmly. "Yes, that hand."
Eloquent fingers lifted the cup. Alas, no peanut underneath.
"Man! How do you do that?"
"Magic." Patrick Jane smiled. "Five bucks please."
Grumbling, Rigsby rifled through his pockets, pulled out his wallet, handed over a fiver, which promptly disappeared into Jane's own pocket. Like magic.
"I saw it," said Kimball Cho.
Jane turned to the other man sitting at the next desk. "Oh. Did you now?"
"Yep. Typical carnie routine. It's a pattern, like a Rubic's cube."
"Hm." The consultant cocked his head and smiled. "Want to put some money on that?"
Sitting a little ways off, Grace Van Pelt smirked, pretending not to be watching, but as always, fascinated.
"Nope. I just know."
Jane gathered his 'equipment' and moved them now to Cho's desk. With a showman's flourish, he held up the peanut, showed it off to all eyes, placed it ever so carefully underneath one of the three identical white coffee mugs he had pilfered from the kitchenette across the hall. Slowly at first, he began to move the mugs, around and around and around. He removed his hands.
"Where is it?"
"That one," said Cho.
Jane lifted the cup. The peanut rocked a little, but it was most definitely there.
"Two out of three," said Jane. Van Pelt couldn't help but notice that there was something in his eyes, an intensity, a deep almost visceral pleasure. It was the same kind of look that her dad would get when he saw a fish circling the bait.
"Sure, but no money."
"No money. Sure."
Under went the peanut, around and around and around and around went the cups, a little faster this time. Cho was blinking when they finally stopped.
Cho sighed, ground his teeth, studied the cups. "That one."
"Are you certain?"
The cup was removed, and voila, the peanut was most definitely there.
Jane grinned. "Impressive. One more time."
"You said two out of three."
"I lied. Besides, you are quite good at this. Uncanny, actually."
Rigsby snorted, throwing back a mouthful of peanuts. They were his peanuts, after all. As soon as this was done, that little fella was lunch.
The peanut disappeared under the cup, and the dancing fingers moved, then stopped. "I know," said Jane. "Rigsby, throw me another peanut."
"Hm? What? Why?"
"I promise, you'll get it back."
"Just chuck me a peanut, Charlie Brown."
It was Van Pelt's turn to snort.
Rigsby tossed it over, and Jane almost caught it, but it bounced off his palm and onto the desk and began to roll towards Cho's lap. Cho scrambled to catch it, as did Jane, and they almost fell off the desk together, but the consultant managed to right himself before they fell.
"Got it! Got it! Ah, I got it… " He patted Cho on the arm. "Sorry about that. Okay, here's the game. Two peanuts, three cups. All you have to do it pick one peanut. Just one. If you do, I'll give you five bucks."
And he smiled like the sun.
Naturally, Cho was suspicious. "That sounds too easy…"
"Well, of course it is. Unless you doubt your uncanny ability to find a peanut."
There was silence in the bullpen as Cho weighed out his options.
"Two peanuts, three cups."
"Yes. Two peanuts, three cups. Literally two out of three."
"Okay. Five bucks. You're on."
Two peanuts, three cups, and ten magical fingers, around and around and around and around and around they all went. All three agents were getting dizzy.
Jane pulled his hands away.
"You have a 66.6 repeating percent chance of winning, my friend."
"Yeah," harrumphed Rigsby. "You don't even have to try."
"Still," said Cho, and steepled his fingers to study the mugs. He studied, he furrowed his brow, he studied some more. Finally, he reached for one, tapped it, sat back.
"Are you certain?"
"Why do you always say that?"
"Well, I like to give my victims a chance to back out."
Cho grunted. "Yes, I'm certain."
Jane reached over, lifted the cup.
"What? How did you do that?"
Cho reached over, lifted the other two cups. A perfect peanut lay, undisturbed, under each. He shook his head.
"Five bucks, please." Jane held out his hand.
Cho reached back for his wallet and frowned. He patted his back pocket. He stood up, patted his other back pocket, and front pockets, and turned to look at Jane, his dark eyes growing wide.
"Never mind," said Jane. "I'll get it."
And with a dramatic flourish, he produced a slim black wallet from his own pocket, opened it up, blew some dust out of the folds.
"Hey, that's mine. How did you get that?"
Jane grinned, pulled a fiver out before tossing the wallet back. "C'mon. You think anyone can get rich off the shell game? Theft is so much more lucrative."
"Tossing the peanut, right? You missed it on purpose." Rigsby reached over and whacked the consultant on the arm. "Nice one, man."
Jane grinned again. "Yeah. And I only took your credit card…"
Out of another pocket came a Visa, held high in those magical fingers. He waggled his brows before handing it over. "Aren't you glad I use my powers for good and not for evil?"
"Tell me about it," grumbled the big man, snatching the credit card and securing it in a back pocket. "And no more peanuts. I paid good money for those."
He reached toward the bag on the desk. It was gone.
"Oh yeah," Jane grinned as he tossed back the last handful of nuts, emptying the baggie in his mouth. "Much, much more lucrative."
"I hate you," grumbled Rigsby.
"Okay people, listen up!"
They all glanced up as Teresa Lisbon swung into the bullpen, dark hair bouncing across her shoulders. She paused at the desks, held up a bottle of hand sanitizer in one hand and a manila folder in the other. She seemed about to say something when she noticed the cups.
She glanced at Patrick Jane, who smiled, happily munching his peanuts. Her green eyes slid next to Rigsby, then to Cho. They dropped their heads and looked at the floor.
"You are all hopeless," she mumbled. "Okay, two things. One, it appears we have a bit of an epidemic going on in our little corner of the world."
"Epidemic," grumbled Rigsby. He sounded irritated.
"Stomach flu. Several agents are out with it already. Hightower has asked all of us to be diligent in keeping illness, and therefore absenteeism, to a minimum."
The agents, plus one consultant, stared at her.
Lisbon took a deep breath, held up the bottle. "She wants us to remember to use our hand sanitizers, and to wash our hands frequently to stop the spread of potentially infectious germs. Plus, it's just good hygiene."
She knew it was coming. She could see the mischief in his eyes, as Patrick Jane crumpled a bag of peanuts and tossed it over his shoulder. He proceeded to lick the salt off his fingers, one by one. He then wiped his hand on his trousers and smiled.
"Personally, I have very good hygiene," he said.
"You could have just put a thousand flu bugs in your mouth, right now."
"Oh I do hope so. I never get sick. It would be very interesting to see what it feels like."
"Not stomach flu," groaned Van Pelt. "It's not fun."
"Really? No? Hmm." Jane slipped his hands in his pockets, brows raised in thought.
Lisbon sighed. "Okay second thing, we got what appears to be a homicide in a State Nursing home in Rocklin."
"Nursing home?" Rigsby grumbled again. He was missing his peanuts.
"Seniors?" Grace Van Pelt gasped. "Someone killed a senior citizen?"
"That's what we have been called in to determine, Grace. I've sent a Forensics Unit on ahead. It appears someone may have been poisoned."
"Ooh," grinned Jane. "Poison."
Lisbon held up a finger. "There may be an environmental cause and if so, then the entire facility has to get locked down. Naturally, the state wants to avoid that if possible."
"So they're calling it a homicide?" Rigsby now, folding his arms and leaning on his desk. Yes, he was irritated. He was desperately missing his peanuts. "Why? So they can avoid the bad press?"
Van Pelt shook her head. "That's terrible."
"As I said, Grace, that is what we've been called in to determine. If it is environmental, we call in the OEHHA. If it's a homicide, we can keep it or turf it to the Rocklin PD. It may just be a routine death in a senior's home, but there are some unusual preliminary findings. The D.A. has asked us to check it out."
"I'm hoping for poison," grinned Jane as he rocked back on his heels. "I do so love a good poison."
Lisbon rolled her eyes. "The place is called…" she glanced down at the papers in her hand. "Cedar Ridge Retirement Home."
"Why do they always sound like that?" grumbled Rigsby. He was going into peanut withdrawal. "Happy Valley. Sunny Days. Shady Pines."
Cho grunted. "What are they gonna call them? Slow Agonizing Death Retirement Home?"
"Stop it," moaned Van Pelt. "That's not funny."
"Boring Way to Go Retirement Villa?"
"Alright, that's enough," said Lisbon, but in point of fact, she was smiling.
"Terminal Sunrise Nursing Suites?"
Van Pelt stomped the ground with her foot. "You are both so mean!"
Lisbon shook her head. "That's enough. We'll take two cars. Rigsby, you, Cho and Van Pelt take the SUV—"
"I don't want to go with them," announced Grace Van Pelt, and now she too folded her arms across her chest.
"They promise to be good. Don't you, boys?"
Both Cho and Rigsby exchanged glances, but said nothing. Lisbon glared at them.
"I'm not going with them," Van Pelt repeated.
Jane stepped forward. "Grace can come with me."
"Uhn-No," said Lisbon.
"Oh yes!" said Grace. "In your car? It's so sweet!"
Jane grinned at his boss. "Of course in my car. It's a lovely day for a drive. We can bring a picnic lunch."
Lisbon ground her teeth. "It's only an hour to Rocklin."
"We'll take the scenic route."
Grace clapped her hands. "I love your car. I'll grab my purse." And she whirled, red hair swinging, and bounced over to her desk.
Lisbon stepped forward, poked the consultant in the waist-coated chest. "No scenic route, got it? You follow us like a hound dog on a scent."
"Like a hound dog on a scent," Jane grinned and tapped the side of his nose.
Lisbon rolled her eyes once more and suddenly, Van Pelt was back, all smiles and sunshine, purse slung over one shoulder.
"Okay, are we all ready? Let's head out…" Now it was Lisbon's turn to whirl as she moved toward the elevators. Grace followed, but Jane paused to lean in to the two men, waggled his fingers in the air.
"Personally, I liked Terminal Sunrise."
"I liked my peanuts…"
And they all headed out for Cedar Ridge Retirement Home in Rocklin, CA.
Cedar Ridge Retirement Home was a lovely place with sweeping, manicured grounds on the outskirts of Rocklin, CA. It was a low ranch style facility, red brick and colonial white embellishments, with many wings heading out in a variety of directions. A black iron gate swung open as they drove up, first the dark SUV followed by the silver Citroen, and the fence seemed to go on and on to encircle the entire property. Impressive, as wrought iron was not an inexpensive way to go.
Lisbon, Cho and Rigsby piled out of the SUV, Rigsby happily munching on his second bag of peanuts. He had insisted they stop at a corner store before the drive, and made a point to savor each and every one of the salty legumes outside of the company of Patrick Jane. He had saved only one for last.
Jane and Van Pelt got out of the Citroen, and truth be told, it seemed a problem for the young woman. She was tall, long of leg and frame, and the French car was quite compact. Still, she was laughing as she unfolded herself from the cramped quarters and Rigsby found it hard to keep his eyes off her.
The pair ambled up to the others.
"I'll tell her you said so," laughed Grace. "Nanna would appreciate that."
Jane smiled at the group. "Grace's Nanna is in a retirement home in Iowa. Lovely lady. Apparently, quite the card shark, too. I was just giving Grace a few poker tips for her. Ah. More peanuts."
Rigsby held it up proudly. "The last one."
"Enjoy it, my friend – Whoa. Babe alert." And quickly, he glanced to the left.
Lisbon sighed. She could see it all coming.
For naturally, as the big man turned to look, the consultant's hand flashed and the peanut was sent sailing into the air and into the eager fingers of Patrick Jane...
"Hey! No way!"
…where it was held proudly for only a moment before being popped into a waiting mouth.
Rigsby growled. "I was saving that."
Jane grinned, munching happily. "Oh, it was a good one, to be sure."
"We're at a seniors' home," Lisbon growled. "Can we please stop acting like 10 year olds?"
"I'm so excited," said Jane.
"Jane ate my peanuts," grumbled Rigsby.
"The Big Long Goodbye Seniors Home," said Cho.
"We had a picnic," said Grace.
Teresa Lisbon wanted to scream.
Instead, she turned on her heel and marched up the steps and into Cedar Ridge Retirement Home in Rocklin, CA.
End of Chapter 1