The man walked past.
The man walked past.
The woman walked past.
The man walked past.
The woman walked past.
The man walked past.
Teresa Lisbon rolled her eyes. "Shoes, Jane? Shoes?"
He nodded, smiling. "Oh yes, shoes. Most definitely."
"That one idolizes shoes…?"
"Sure," said Patrick Jane and he threw her a sideways glance. "It's surprising the variety of things that become idols in peoples' lives. See there, Shoe-Queen? The style is new, only four months off of the Milan runway, and it is obviously difficult for her to walk in them, but still, she insists on buying them and wearing them to and from work. You can tell by the wear on her heels. Her shoes are a status symbol." He leaned forward as he watched the woman disappear down the sidewalk. "It's quite a fascinating
She watched him as he watched the woman, and quickly wondered whether it was really the shoes that fascinated him. "So you say everyone has idols?"
"Yep." His ankle bounced now as his eyes scanned the streets and he took a bite of his burrito. "Everyone."
Lisbon grinned at him, a lop-sided grin that tugged into one cheek. "Okay Dr. Freud. What's mine?"
Now he turned to look at her, and she marveled at his expression. She could have just offered him iced cream or a trip for two to Disneyland. He jabbed his burrito at her.
"What's the first thing you think about in the morning? Ah ah! Don't tell me, just think about it…"
"Oh, come on…"
"Yes, do come on. Think, woman, think!"
She closed her eyes, pursed her lips as she thought. "Hmm…"
"Good. Very good. Now, the last thing you think about before sleep…"
She furrowed her brow. It was the same.
"Aha." He sat back, grinning. "Justice. Your idol is justice."
Her mouth hung open a moment. "No," she lied quickly. "Not at all."
He raised his brows.
She lowered hers. "Okay. Maybe you're right. But justice? Justice is an idol?"
"Oh sure. It doesn't have to be something you 'worship' necessarily, but something that drives you, motivates you, consumes you. Something important enough to think about when you drift off to sleep at night and when you first wake up in the morning. Something that defines you above all else and you think about it whenever you can."
"Hm." She thought about that. "What's yours?"
His smile changed, but only slightly.
"Ah," she said, and they sat for a long while afterwards, watching the crowds and saying nothing for some time.
It was a beautiful day in Old Town, Sacramento, sunny but not too hot, a slight breeze blowing in from the river, the smell of kettle corn and water, music from a busker playing Bach on a flute by the train. Only a few tourists were wandering this part of the historic district at this time of day. It was lunch, her treat, and they sat on a bench under a tree, eating burritos and watching people.
She stole a glance at him when he wasn't looking. He was leaning back against the bench, ankle bouncing, smile fixed as his eyes searched the crowds for diversion. Not only fixed, but forced, and she knew the last few months had been taking a toll on him. He was sleeping in the attic/storage room of the CBI headquarters. He had been late for work repeatedly. He had actually made a few mistakes. The strain was beginning to affect him and she wondered how long he would continue to pretend he was okay when everyone around him knew differently. With Jane, there were no neat little packages. It was bound to get very messy. It was just a matter of time.
She wouldn't say anything. Time was the one thing he needed. She could at least give him that.
Her phone buzzed.
A woman walked by.
She rolled her eyes again as she raised the phone to her ear. "Lisbon. Yeah? Oh boy. Oh fun. Where? Okay."
"Shih Tzu. No, no, Italian Greyhound…"
Two men walked by.
"Okay, we're on our way." She folded the phone and rose to her feet. He did not. He was still watching people. "Are you coming?"
"Honestly Lisbon, can anything be more interesting than this?"
"Stabbing in Big Sur."
He sat for a moment, considering.
He stuffed the rest of the burrito in his mouth, wiped his hands on his trousers and rose to his feet alongside her. "Stabbing," he said with his mouth full. "Visceral crime. Heart over head. The idol could be love."
She stared at him. "The body was eviscerated."
"Aah." He made a face, swallowed, rocked back on his heels. "Justice, then."
"Evisceration. That's something you would do."
She rolled her eyes one last time and turned toward the sidewalk. He slipped his thumbs into his waistcoat pockets and followed.
Big Sur is an amazing place. A 'High Noon' showdown between the Santa Lucia Mountains and the Pacific Ocean. Big waters, bigger cliffs, and surf. There is also a legendary highway that hugs the shoreline like a wooed lover, with drops of over 300 feet in some places, remarkable sandy beaches in others. Then it peels away like a spurned lover into long stretches of redwood and pine that threaten to hide the sun for days. Yes, truly, Big Sur is an amazing place.
It was into one of these stretches of redwood and pine that they drove, into the parking lot of an old motel called the Ragged Branch. It was a log and plank style, with timberframe construction and stained glass hanging in the windows. Wreaths adorned the large double doors, along with a handpainted sign that read "Gallery Left" and "Lobby Right". It clearly thought of itself as an artisan's haven, boasting an organic restaurant, a gift shop and many forest walks that featured local sculptures tucked in between ancient trees and flashes of ocean. As she stepped out of the SUV, Lisbon could understand the fascination of this place for tourists and environmentalists alike. It was beautiful.
If only it weren't for the police cars and yellow tape obstructing the views.
An officer met them at the door, tipped his wide-brimmed hat in greeting.
"Deputy Sergeant Cliff Miller. You folks CBI?"
She flashed her badge. "Agents Teresa Lisbon, Kimball Cho, Wayne Rigsby." The men shook hands. "And our consultant, Patrick Jane." Jane threw a little wave but did not shake. Lisbon pursed her lips. Jane rarely shook. "Forensics here?"
"Yes ma'am. This way." He turned away from the motel, began ambling toward one of the many forest trails. They followed, Lisbon falling in step beside him, Cho and Rigsby behind. Several steps behind them all, Jane was strolling, hands in pockets, taking in the sights and sounds and smells of the forest.
"Chapman Aniston. 41 years old. Investment banker from Cambria, a town down the way. A hiker found his body early this morning. Still shook up about it. It's not pretty."
Cho grunted. "They have investment bankers in Cambria?"
Lisbon ignored him. "And why were we called in, Deputy Sergeant?" The trail had begun to go down, natural stone steps leading them into a quiet gorge flanked by ferns, redwood and yellow tape.
"Ah, well ma'am, first we thought it might be that killer, Red John, the way the body was cut up and all…"
She found her foot hesitated a second before setting down. "But…?"
"The Forensics guy said no. Said it didn't match the pattern. Said there was not enough cuts and no 'smiley face', or something like that."
She sent out invisible feelers, found Jane still strolling somewhere behind, could sense his change in body language, the subtle charge of electricity that kept them always on their toes. "Was Mr. Aniston a guest at the motel?"
"Yes ma'am. Apparently he was coming home from a seminar in Monterey and decided to stay the night. The Ragged Branch is good for that kinda thing."
"Was he alone?" Rigsby now. They were getting winded. The trek down was steep, the humidity high.
"Looks like it. There were no other guests registered in his room."
"Any 'unregistered' guests?"
"The Ragged Branch isn't that kind of place."
"The hiker who found him," It was Cho again. Lisbon was impressed. None of them were taking notes. Just asking questions and listening. "Was he a guest too?"
"Yes sir. Douglas Rayer. He's a college student from Berkeley, just taking a few days, enjoying the countryside. Which brings me to the second reason we called you. This area is technically within the boundaries of a state park."
She nodded. Los Padres National Forest. It made sense.
"Does he still have his wallet?"
"Yes, ma'am. Doesn't look like anything was taken, not from his room, not from his person."
"Forensics swept the room?"
"Not yet, ma'am."
"Married?" Rigsby again.
"Yessir. 14 years, two kids. The wife's been notified. She's on her way up."
"What was his name again?"
They all turned. It was Jane, hands deep in the pockets of his grey jacket, still strolling, looking for all the world like he was in a library or a museum, not hiking down a lush forested gorge toward an eviscerated investment banker.
"What was that, sir?" called Miller.
"Oh, his name. What was the dead man's name?"
"Chapman Aniston. Why?"
The consultant had ambled up beside them now. "That's an unusual name, yeh?"
Lisbon pouted. It was an unusual question. "Not any more so than 'Tollman Bunting', or 'Ellis Mars'…"
"Indeed." He nodded, eyes dancing at the memories.
"You have something?"
"Oh, no." And he smiled like the sun. "Absolutely not."
She shook her head and pushed off, deeper still into the lush forested gorge and the body of the eviscerated investment banker.
Chapman Aniston lay against the trunk of a large redwood, mouth and eyes open and dry. He was a big man, square-shouldered and barrel-chested and he looked like he could have been a quarterback in his early days. Thinning hair, jeans, polo, windbreaker. His throat was bloody, with several obviously deep slash wounds and his middle was a riot of red, darker red and pink. Even more disturbing was the fact that his intestines had been entirely removed and placed carefully on his shoulder.
A familiar shape was hunched over the body, plucking at samples and dipping them in tubes. Lisbon sighed.
"Hey Brett," she said, and Brett Partridge, Forensic Specialist, turned toward her voice.
"You?" Partridge grumbled, his eyes flicking across the faces, seeming to search for one in particular. "I didn't tell them to call you. I never said this was Red John."
"It's a state park, Brett."
There was a heartbeat of hesitation. "I knew that." And the lanky man with the lanky hair rose to his feet, hands covered in white latex and blood. "Wanna see?"
"Thanks." And she stepped in close, snapping on while gloves of her own, Cho and Rigsby hovering like shadows. Naturally, Jane stayed away, only glancing over from time to time. Bodies never interested him much.
Partridge reached for the man's throat.
"Two slices, here… and here. Pretty good, pretty deep. Pretty much killed him before all the fun began."
"I guess that's a blessing," muttered Rigsby.
"I guess…" muttered Partridge. "Then, he –"
"He?" asked Cho. "You know our killer is a he?"
The specialist shrugged. "Our Mr. Aniston is a pretty big guy. Would be hard for a girl to take him down, even with a blade like this."
"I dunno," mumbled Rigsby. "Some girls are pretty tough…"
"And some big guys are sissies. So the perp slices his throat twice, then takes his blade and makes one real sick incision like this…" And with his customary flair, Brett Partridge flung his hand from one end of the man's abdomen to the other, making a slashing sound as he did so. "And bam, instant evisceration!"
They were silent, not sure which was more gruesome, the dead man or the living.
"The intestines are cut perfectly, just below the stomach, right above the rectum. And the whole kit and kaboodle transferred up here, like a pirate with a parrot. Cool, huh?"
"What did he take?" Once again, all heads turned to Patrick Jane, hands still most definitely in pockets, wandering on the perimeter of the scene.
"I say again, what did he take?"
Partridge's eyes narrowed. "What makes you assume the perp took anything, Mr. Jane?"
Jane shrugged. "Just a hunch."
Partridge made an odd motion with his head before bending back down to the slippery pink mass on the shoulder. He began to peel the tissues away with his gloves. "It took me awhile to find it…"
It was the noises, Lisbon realized. They were perhaps the most disturbing. The sickening sucking sounds, the smacking of wet tissue against dry, the quiet squeak of latex moving against flesh, that set her teeth on edge. With a grunt, Partridge pried the intestines apart, careful not to damage them, but allowing them to bounce and slip all over the man's chest.
Deputy Sergeant Miller turned away.
"Perhaps Mr. Jane would like to check this out, make sure I've gotten this right…" He was smiling and it wasn't a pleasant sight. "After all his experience with eviscerated bodies, I'm sure he'll be a big help."
Jane cocked his head at the specialist. His expression was light but he was as tight as a coiled spring.
"Oh, I'm sorry," mocked Partridge. "Did I upset you? I was only talking about your experience with the Red John cases. I wasn't referring to the way he cut up your wife and daughter, or anything. No need to get upset."
"That's enough, Partridge," Lisbon growled but Jane stepped forward, undaunted.
His eyes flicked downwards. "Appendix," he snapped, before his eyes flicked up to the Specialist. "You're a ghoul."
"Now Mr. Jane…"
"You're a pathetic, sad little man and your idol is self."
And with that, he spun on his heel and left the crime scene, disappearing into the shadows cast by hundred-year-old trees.
"I don't have to take that," called Partridge, his voice growing louder and louder as Jane walked away. "I can lodge a complaint. I can make your life miserable, Mr. Jane! Very miserable indeed!"
"Shut up, Brett," snarled Lisbon, and she now rose to her feet, Cho and Rigsby like shadows behind. She turned to them. "Finish up here. I'm going back to the motel."
"Sure, boss," said Cho and he waited for her to be swallowed by the darkness of the trail before turning to Rigsby and Partridge. "An appendix? Who kills a guy for an appendix?"
And they all looked back at Chapman Aniston, the eviscerated investment banker in a lush forest gorge in Big Sur, California.
Patrick Jane sat in the comfort of the 'Lobby Right' of the motel, in a chair made of varnished logs and hunter green stuffing. It was a nice lobby, with large windows, lodge-style lamps, pine swags over a stone mantel. It smelled good, earthy, clean. He could see why people came here. They could leave much behind.
"Hey," came a voice and he looked up to see Teresa Lisbon standing over him.
"I have the motel records," he said, indicating the thin book he held in his hands. "I wanted to check the names of the guests."
She propped her backside on the arm of his chair. "You okay?"
He made a face. "Meh. He's a toad."
"He pushes your buttons."
"Well. Good to know the buttons work."
She grinned. "What is it about the name?"
He shrugged, turning his gaze back to the book in his hand. "I don't know, Lisbon. Something is weird."
He sighed, closed the book, furrowed his brow. "Aniston Chapman."
"Chapman Aniston," she corrected.
"Right." He looked up at her again, smiling to let her know he was okay. "Who names their baby 'Chapman?"
She grinned. "Give me a 'Bob' and be done with it."
"Bob. Fred. Joe. Frank."
"Shut up." She nudged him with her elbow. "Do you want to talk to the guy who found him?"
"The Berkeley guy?"
"The very one."
"Oh yes, let's do. I love Berkeley guys. And girls for that matter. In fact, I love all things Berkeley."
She grinned again and rose from her perch, happy that Jane was her shadow this time. It was a very good feeling.
Douglas Rayer was a mess.
Apparently, he was under a doctor's care for anxiety disorder, and the events of this morning had done little to improve his condition.
"This is not good for me, man," say Rayer. "Not good for me at all." He rubbed his brow with both hands.
Teresa Lisbon sighed. "I'm sorry, Mr. Rayer. We'll be finished as soon as we can."
"I know. But still…" Douglas Rayer was a young man, perhaps 28 years, short, fit, and anxious. He was wearing khaki shorts, a red t-shirt and hiking boots. "Did you see the guts? There was blood and guts everywhere."
"I know, Mr. Rayer. A murder scene can be quite disturbing."
"I can still see it, the eyes, the guts, the blood…" His head snapped up. "Who'd ever think there'd be so much blood?"
She couldn't help but glance at Jane, standing by the door of Douglas Rayer's room, hands in his pockets. He was no help here. She turned back to Rayer.
"Tell me again how you found him."
Rayer took a deep breath, collected his thoughts. "I had a few days off from work so I though I'd take a break, drive down the coast, you know. Have a holiday. I haven't had a holiday in years…"
"You're in post-grad, yeh?" Jane now, detached and curious.
"Um, yeah. I'm in the first year of my Doctorate. It's a rough go, man. I wouldn't wish it on anyone."
"And what course is it, exactly?"
"Um, psychology. A Ph.D. in Psychology. I didn't get accepted for four years."
"Hm. That's a lot of work."
The young man nodded. "You're telling me."
Teresa Lisbon cleared her throat. "So…this morning…"
"Oh yeah, I was going for a walk…"
"At six o'clock in the morning?"
"Yeah. It's nice at six. You can think at six."
Jane leaned forward. "Otherwise it's too noisy."
Rayer's head snapped up again. "Yeah, man. Too noisy. Too busy. You can't think."
Jane nodded but said nothing. Lisbon growled. He wasn't being helpful.
"So, you're taking a walk at six in the morning and you found Mr. Aniston."
"Yeah, just like that. It was awful. I almost puked."
"Can anyone corroborate your story?"
"Corroborate? What do you mean, corroborate?"
She smiled. "Come on, Mr. Rayer. You are a Psych major. Surely you know what 'corroborate' means."
"Well, yeah. I know what it means, but are you saying, like, I'm a suspect?" He glanced from Lisbon to Jane and back again.
"Everyone's a suspect, Mr. Rayer," Lisbon said sweetly.
"Aw maaan," and the young man ran a hand through his hair. "I don't need this, man. I sure don't need this…"
Lisbon leaned forward now. "Have you given your address to Deputy Sergeant Miller?"
"Yeah," he moaned.
"And there's nothing else you noticed? No one else on the trail, no other hikers, nothing you can remember?"
"To tell you the truth, I probably wouldn't have noticed."
She nodded, glanced at Jane who was frowning.
"Jane?" she asked. "Anything more to add?"
"Are you a reader, Mr. Rayer?"
The young man glanced again between Lisbon and Jane. "Yeah. Sure. I like to read. Why?"
"What are you reading right now?"
"Two psychology texts, um, what else…Oh yeah, "A Brief History of Time", and Bram Stoker's "Dracula"…"
"'Dracula'? Why 'Dracula'?"
"Aw, man. Chicks and vampires. I just can't figure it out."
Lisbon grinned. "Thank you for talking to us, Mr. Rayer. I hope you do well on your dissertation."
Douglas Rayer slapped his hands onto his hair once again. "Don't even talk to me about that. After today, I might just change my major. Go into something easy like pharmacy, or politics or something…"
She rose to her feet and left the young man in his motel room, with Patrick Jane at her heels.
Cho and Rigsby had stayed with Partridge until the Forensics team had finished up. Then, a sanitation crew had arrived, along with the coroner, to dispatch the body and clean the trail. It would not do to have Los Padres National Forest littered with yellow tape and blood. The yellow tape was bad for the environment. The blood was bad for business.
Together, the CBI team had questioned all the guests at the motel, and finally the wife of Chapman Aniston once she arrived, and to no one's surprise, had gotten nowhere. He had no enemies, his business was sound, his wife was beside herself with grief. All normal. All as it should be. It seemed the only thing Chapman Aniston was guilty of was having an unusual name.
They gathered in the motel lobby that night, Lisbon, Cho, Rigsby and Jane, munching on organic sandwiches and drinking free trade coffee, discussing the case and lack of leads and general despondency of the group. Jane was uncharacteristically quiet and seemed to busy himself by scribbling on a notepad and frowning.
"Well, this could be a random thing," argued Rigsby. "Aniston seems to be squeaky clean."
"But Forensics says he died at 5:00 in the morning," said Cho. "What is an investment banker doing walking around in a redwood forest at 5 in the morning?"
"A lot of professionals start their day at 5:00," muttered Lisbon. "In bigger centers, it's the only way to beat the traffic, get a jump on your competitors…"
"His wife did say he was into yoga," offered Rigsby. "A walk like that might be a good way to, you know, find a spot."
"Yeah," said Cho. "Sun Salute at dawn is pretty popular. Good to find a nice relaxing place to do it. "
Rigsby looked at him. "You into yoga?"
Cho looked at him. "No."
"'Cause I wouldn't laugh or anything if you did, you know."
Cho stared at him, sipping his coffee.
"I mean, Yoga is pretty cool," Rigsby went on. "You get into all those crazy positions…"
Cho sipped his coffee.
"I tried Tai Chi once. Did you know that? The instructor said I was pretty good. But she was like, 60, and hitting on me like crazy…" Rigsby bit into his sandwich, chewed for a while. "But for 60, I gotta admit, she was pretty hot…"
Lisbon shook her head.
"There's something missing," said Jane finally, looking up at them from his notebooks.
"Yes. Missing. We need to call Grace."
But he sat, not moving, staring out the big stained glass window. Lisbon sighed and pulled out her phone.
"Hey Grace, Jane wants to talk to you…" She handed him the phone, but he was elsewhere, frowning and thinking and now chewing on the end of the pencil. "Never mind, I'll talk to you. Jane, I have Grace on the line. What did you want to ask her?"
He said nothing for some time.
Finally, he turned to them. "This is not the first victim. I want her to see if there is another case that fits this pattern. Not Red John, and not long ago. Recent. Very recent, a week, two weeks max."
Lisbon stared at him. "Another murder in a state park in California?"
"Another evisceration. Throat wounds and evisceration. And recent. Tell her to look for that."
She glanced at Cho and Rigsby. Cho stared into his coffee. Rigsby raised his brows.
So she relayed the request to Grace Van Pelt, the rookie left behind in Sacramento who was a shark on the computer, and folded her phone to silence.
"You think Chapman Aniston is not the first vic?"
Jane shook his head.
"You think this is the work of a serial killer?"
Jane nodded his head.
"Why do you think that, Jane?"
"I don't know. But it has something to do with his name."
And she knew they were not going to get any sleep tonight, and somehow there was no justice in that.
End of Chapter 1