She growled and folded her phone, slipped it back into her pocket.
Forensics was on the scene, and the campus of Patten University was flashing red and blue from the squad cars spread across the grass. In fact, it reminded her very much of the night on the dock, complete with cops and ambulance but minus the water. She was grateful for that, but somehow, couldn't shake the feeling that now, like then, Jane was still not safe.
Bad things happened to him, and not just in San Francisco.
"He's not answering," she fumed to Cho at her side.
"He's probably in trouble," he said, echoing her thoughts. "He's freaky that way."
"Yeah," she snorted. "I should just shoot him. It would put half the criminals in California out of business. Make my life a hell of a lot easier."
She waved the ranking officer over.
"We're heading out," she said. "Have the teams report to the San Fran office when they're done."
And she turned on her heel and headed to the SUV, Cho trudging dutifully beside.
It was a kidney.
"And I have a letter too," said JohnJohn. His voice had taken on a lilting, musical tone. "To send to that sweet little kitten you all call 'Boss'. Boss! Isn't that perfect? I couldn't have arranged this any better. It's poetry, really it is. History is completely repeating itself…"
Jane was tired now. Tired of all this. He should have listened to Lisbon, gone back to the hotel room, worked on something, anything, but this. As JohnJohn carried his treasures to the shelving unit on the far wall, his eyes slid to the tray and the old copy of The Tyger sitting amidst the blades.
He wanted that book. He wanted it with every fibre of his being, even handcuffed as he was and held in place by a buffoon cop gripping his arms like a terrorist and whose Kimber was now pressing awkwardly into his back. Even with JohnJohn bagging a kidney and a tray full of knives and surgical tools sitting only inches away and a stainless steel shower stall to wash blood off a body, even with all of that, he realized with a detached thought, that all he wanted was that book.
He shook his head.
Suddenly, drunken Santas and their obsessions paled in comparison to his.
From inside his pocket, the cell phone rang. It rang and rang and rang.
From the far wall, JohnJohn turned slowly. He was wearing an apron, long and plastic and gently stained. The kind butchers use.
"Frankie," he said in a soft voice. "You should have removed that."
"He can't talk to no one," grumbled Nelson.
"Still. It's not a good idea. Would you please put the music on? La Traviatta tonight, I think."
"Ma said no music tonight."
"Oh, dear. Mother."
Fascinating, thought Jane. The feminine younger brother dominant to the macho older one and both of them subject to a tyrannical seventy-year old matriarch. All of these men had issues with 'the fairer sex.' Too bad Rayer was dead. They all needed therapy.
"Yes, I can," he said after a moment.
"Can what," growled Nelson.
"Use my phone."
"No, you can't."
"Sure can. CBI technology. They have a GPS chip implanted in every phone." He rolled his eyes up to Nelson. "All the SWATs have 'em too."
"Frankie…?" purred JohnJohn.
"That was the coded ringtone saying they're on their way. There're ringtones for everything these days. This app, that app, the we're-on-our-way ringtone, the time-for-donuts ringtone. It's mind-boggling. That's why I like paper and pencils. It's so much simpler."
Nelson tightened his grip, almost pulling Jane's arms out of their sockets from behind. "He's lying. Do it now. You got all day to play but I gotta work in the morning."
JohnJohn tilted his head, blue eyes glittering, and Jane held his breath. Actually, it was difficult to breathe anyway. The grip Nelson had on his arms was beginning to hurt like hell. Not a bad analogy, all things considered.
Finally, the tall, slim man turned to pick up a blade, ran a finger along its edge, and smiled.
"Yes, Frankie. You're right. I believe he's lying too."
And purely by instinct, Jane shrunk back, leaning away from JohnJohn as the young man began to move toward him. But leaning away from JohnJohn meant leaning into his brother, and Nelson had him good, that damned Kimber pressing into his back…
"You remember what he did to Mary Jane Kelly, surely…" purred JohnJohn. "They weren't even certain she was human, after what he had done to her…"
The Kimber…He saw it in his mind's eye, the size and shape of it, the grip, the texture and weight of it in his hand…
The blade was moving closer. "Everything put back in the wrong place. Kidneys as a pillow, liver between her feet. Carved up like a ham at Christmas."
He could do it. He had watched the Indonesian acrobats that had traveled with the show, had learned their routine by heart. Of course, he was a little older now, but surely just as nimble…
"But it's a shame, what I will have to do to your face. You have a nice face, Patrick. There won't be much left for your little kitten to recognize."
He intentionally pressed back into Nelson now, feeling the metal with his spine, willing the metal to seek his hand, his hand to find it, the hand and the metal were one…
"I'll make sure it's quick, Patrick. I'm good at this now. I'm sure you'll feel it, but not for long. No. Most certainly, not for long…"
He would only get one chance. It would have to be perfect. Otherwise, he would be pork chops for the dog's dinner.
The cell phone rang again, surprising even him. Perfect.
"See? I told you," he said. He took a deep breath. "Just like the SWATs."
And in an instant, he dropped all his weight into Nelson's arms, swinging his feet up and thudding them into JohnJohn's chest, sending the beautiful man flailing backwards into the surgical tray. Both man and instruments clattered to the concrete floor.
Nelson almost went down too as Jane's weight suddenly pulled him off balance, but as he struggled to regain it, he let loose his hold, a move which the consultant had been banking on. His hand found the Kimber, snatched it from the larger man's belt even as he himself dropped to the ground. Swiftly, like a pro, he slipped the cuffed wrists over his feet and rolled to his knees and scrambled like hell toward the far wall.
He released a shuddering breath and looked down. His heart was pounding in his head but there was a gun in his hands.
He hadn't actually thought it would work, but there it was. A gun. The Kimber. All steel. The kind all the SWATs used.
Nelson was straightening up, dead eyes locked with his, so he raised the weapon in the cop's direction. There was a brief tremor of his hands and he hoped Nelson hadn't seen. JohnJohn was rising too, his preternatural calm unshaken, but it was all Nelson now, slowly, menacingly reaching for his ankle, ripping a bolt of Velcro, pulling yet another weapon from it's hiding place. He raised it to aim at Jane's head.
Jane swallowed. "My, but you have a lot of those guns…"
"Never, never, mess with a man's piece."
"I'll remember that. I-I will."
"Don't shoot, him, Frankie. That's not how it's done."
"Shut up, JohnJohn. It's my turn."
"I thought it was my turn," moaned Jane. The weapon in his own hand was shaking now. In a Mexican standoff with Nelson, he had no illusions of who would draw quicker. He realized there was another way.
He swung the Kimber toward JohnJohn, heard Nelson growl.
"So, Frankie," he said, as if nothing else in the world was going on. "If I'm Elmo, does that make you Oscar? 'Cause I always liked Oscar."
"I think you're more a Snuffalupagus type of guy, deep down. I mean, really deep down. Really deep. Really down."
"I should'a taken your head off, not Mooney's."
"Oh, yeh, about that. Why did you shoot Mark Mooney, anyway? He wasn't going to hurt me. I liked him, even if he was a stupid student. He was trying."
"Shut. Up," growled Nelson.
"Frankie?" asked JohnJohn. "You killed Mark?"
"Oh yes," offered Jane, helpfully. "Blew his head clean off. Poor kid. Sent me for a swim too. We were talking, engaging in a little mutually edifying hypnotherapy and BAM, into the water we go. Honestly, Frankie, that was most unpleasant."
"I said shut up, Elmo."
"It's Tickle-Me Elmo. They haven't made the Shut-Up Elmo yet."
"Frankie, how could you?"
"He was gonna talk, JohnJohn. I had to shut him up. This is your game, not mine. I'm not going to jail 'causa your little experiment. I got a career to think about."
"Frankie, this is terrible news."
"Ah, sibling dynamics. Gotta luv 'em," muttered Jane. He was tired of all this. "Listen, boys, all I want is the book. Give me the book and I'll leave you two and your lovely mother in peace. And her little dog Ripper too."
"The book." JohnJohn's eyes grew bright. "Of course, you'd want the book."
"I do," said Jane, and he waggled the gun for emphasis. He wasn't sure why he waggled the gun. It just seemed like the thing to do. The chain of the handcuffs rattled as he did so. "Just give me the book and I'll go."
"I don't think so," said Nelson.
"Damn," said Jane.
There was a sudden banging on the upstairs door.
"CBI! Open the door! Now!"
Immediately, a little dog began to bark.
"Rigsby!" He drew out the last syllable. "Rigs-bay!"
And there was a bang and a loud crash and Jane could imagine the door shattering in many splintering pieces. He had seen it often enough. The man was a tank.
Upstairs, the little dog was going wild, and they could hear the shrieking of a very old, cigarette-raspy voice.
"Rigsbay!" Jane shouted again. "Down here!"
"Frankie?" Sharp, shiny knife in hand, JohnJohn gazed at his brother. "Frankie, he wasn't lying. What are we to do?"
There was the stomping of big feet on wooden steps.
Nelson looked at his brother. "Sorry, JohnJohn. This was your game. I ain't paying for this." And slowly, he raised the Kimber to his temple. "Take care of Ma."
"Oh dear," said Jane and he made a face.
The roar of the Kimber, and Jane flinched again, shutting his eyes tightly so as not to sear the image into his mind forever. He waited until there was the thump of a body on the concrete floor before opening them to a wall sprayed with red. Like too many other walls he had seen, the red began running down in straight lines toward the floor.
Like abstract art.
Jane felt himself detaching once again as he tilted his head and stared at it. It was undoubtedly the most beautiful thing the buffoon had ever done, and the urge crossed his mind to reach out and draw a face in it.
It was art.
Tyger Tyger burning bright
Todd Johnson had indeed burned bright.
It was all art.
There were fists pounding on the door, bringing him swiftly back to reality.
Jane glanced over at JohnJohn, beautiful child, twisted man, staring at the lifeless body of his brother on the floor. It looked as if all the life were draining from him, too, and Jane felt an uncharacteristic pang of sympathy. He wondered how he himself would feel once Red John lay dead at his feet.
He shook his head and with a sigh, tossed the Kimber to the concrete floor.
Slowly, ever so slowly, JohnJohn turned glittering blue eyes toward him.
"Oh, bad move, sport," he purred, and pulled the blade up between them. "Remember. It's still your turn."
"JohnJohn, no. There's a great big policeman at the door."
"Only my friends and family call me JohnJohn."
"Put, put, put it down..."
"You can call me Jack."
JohnJohn rushed and the blade came down and the door bumped once, twice, shattered inwards, but JohnJohn was on him and Jane tucked into a ball as yet another gun barked and barked again in the echoing basement that doubled for a Forensics lab on Sesame Street and there was a weight on him and a warmth flowing down his neck and finally, thankfully, quiet.
Someone pulled the weight off him.
For some reason, he wanted to stay curled up, safe and sound, wrapped inside a world of art and blood and muppets but someone was patting him, shaking his shoulder.
"Jane? Jane, are you alright?"
Jane blinked and looked up into Wayne Rigsby's worried face.
"Jane? Are you hurt, buddy?"
Jane looked at the blood seeping down the collar and arm of his jacket, shrugged.
"Yep. I think that's JohnJohn's…"
"JohnJohn?" Rigsby straightened, shaking his head and holstering his piece. Behind him, Mira Vierra looked on, dark eyes wide.
"And that, is that Nelson?" asked Rigsby, looking at the mess on the wall.
"Used to be."
The big man grinned. "You're welcome."
"You know, I always liked Bert," Jane said as he pushed himself shakily to his feet. "He was his own muppet, what with the turtlenecks and the bottlecaps and the pigeons. He wasn't afraid to be himself."
He stepped over JohnJohn, deliberately did not look at the mess that was Nelson, scooped up the book from the pile of instruments on the concrete floor.
"But don't tell Ernie," he said. "You know how he gets."
And with a smile, he slipped the book into his pocket, just as Teresa Lisbon stormed down the stairs and into the room.
Her great green eyes flashed at him.
"It's a long story," he began.
"We've got all night," she growled.
"Would it help if I told you it was my turn?"
"Not in the least."
"I think I'll go wait in the car."
And he slipped past her and up the stairs. He threw a little wave at Mrs. Nelson-Piper, sitting in shock on a kitchen chair, puffing what looked to be her third cigarette in the last five minutes. The little terrier was sitting beneath her chair, growling at him and so he stuck his tongue out at it. He passed through the shattered back door, down the steps and through the narrow alley to slip quietly into the SUV, with it's light flashing from the windshield. He settled himself, all alone, in the very back seat to wait and think.
With the book tucked neatly in his pocket.
The regional office of the CBI, San Francisco, was packing up for the night, as the case was officially closed. Donuts were passed around, statements were recorded, agents filed reports before heading over to the Super 8 to pack for the trip home to Sacramento.
Mira Vierra was pouring herself a second cup of coffee in the kitchenette when Grace Van Pelt slipped into the room, empty water bottle in her hand.
"Hey," she said.
Vierra swung around. "Oh, hey. Ready to head back?"
"Oh, almost. We just have to get our stuff, you know. At the hotel."
"Sure." Vierra smiled, looked down at the steaming mug in her hands.
Grace took a deep breath. "Um, listen… about Rigsby…"
Vierra looked up.
"I, um…Oh, geez, um…"
"Okay, I was lying earlier. About Wayne Rigsby. I was lying."
"He's…he's… he's a really great guy."
Vierra frowned. "But why would you lie about something like that?"
Van Pelt puffed again. "Because we were a thing, okay? We were a thing, but it's not allowed in the same unit, so we had to call it off, and we're okay with that, really we are, because our careers are important to both of us, but I, um…I…"
She ran out of steam. Vierra waited patiently.
"So, um… I lied. I don't know why I did it, but I did. And I want you to know that I'm sorry and that Wayne is a really, really great guy and that he deserves to be happy, and…" She steeled her jaw. "And I think you could make him happy."
Vierra held her gaze for several moments, quiet and unreadable.
"Thank you," she said finally. "I kind of figured that out pretty quickly, though. You're not a very good liar."
"Oh," said Van Pelt.
"So, just to be sure… we're good?"
"Oh, yeah," said Van Pelt. "We're great."
"Great. 'Cause we're going out on Saturday. He's driving up from Sacramento. My parents have a beach house on the ocean."
"Nice," said Van Pelt.
"So," Vierra smiled at her. "See you around."
"Sure," said Van Pelt.
And Vierra strode out of the room, leaving Grace Van Pelt fuming in the centre of it.
She stood there for several moments.
"I am so a good liar," she grumbled, and she crumpled the water bottle in her fist and tossed it, a perfect two pointer, into the trash.
It was dawn over San Francisco.
If there weren't songs written about that very thing, there should have been, for it was glorious. The eastern sky purple and red and pink, the western water reflecting it in all manner of colours, and the orange Golden Gate Bridge, carving it all in two.
Lisbon and Jane stepped out onto the sidewalk, outside the regional HQ, waiting for Cho to bring the SUV around to the front.
He had scared her tonight.
His lies were a part of who he was, that was no surprise. In some twisted way, she supposed that he thought he was protecting her, but then again, she knew him far too well to think him altruistic. He had one agenda and he would do whatever necessary to accomplish it, personal safety be damned. It was his idol, she knew this, and he served it with every waking breath. And of course, she had hit the nail on the head the other night - it was ultimately about self. Patrick Jane had lost himself long ago, and the battle to rebuild an identity was built on a new and grisly foundation. But this case was not a Red John case. It was a routine case involving a serial killer – not their usual fare, but not uncommon in Serious Crimes. It was curious that he would go to such extremes for something as relatively insignificant as this.
Something else was going on inside him, something very deep, very private and very terrifying, and she had no clue what it was.
And that, of all things, had scared her.
She took a deep breath.
"So, did you know that Nelson was involved from the beginning?"
"Hm? Oh, absolutely not. That was most surprising."
"But you knew J.R. Piper?"
"Oh. It was just the name. I mean, how easy was that? John is still the number one name for male children in America, and the real nickname for John is always Jack. An odd nickname to be sure. It's not shorter or sweeter, as most nicknames usually are, but that is one of the wonderful mysteries of nomenclature. And the R – just take that and bump it into the name Piper and with all the names we've had to deal with on this case, well, it was a no-brainer."
"Right. No brainer."
"Mrs. Nelson slash Piper was abandoned by two husbands, leaving both sons angry and objectifying. They lived a generalization - all men are scum and all women are victims, and while Frank lost himself in a powerful and power-driven police sub-culture, JohnJohn was more artistic, needing to find some venue to express his frustration. It wasn't too difficult to find others who shared their viewpoints. It's all linear and pedantic after that."
"Right. Linear and pedantic."
"Besides, with Nelson on the force, it was certain that they wouldn't get caught. Not with a buffoon cop buffooning up the investigation."
"And Aniston was murdered in the State park… why?"
"Oh, to get me involved, naturally. It was simply a glorified puzzle, and I am, after all, the best puzzler in the room. Or the state. Or the country."
She frowned. He hadn't looked at her. Hadn't sent her the smug smile, the sly glance that would normally accompany such a remark. He wasn't basking in it. Simply said it and left it alone. No, something was still off.
Perhaps, that scared her most of all.
"So, you sure you're okay?"
"Oh yes. Yes. Quite." He offered her a little smile now, hands shoved as they were in his jacket pockets, and he rocked a little on his heels. "Tired, you know."
The streets were turning gold in the early morning light.
"'Cause, you know if you had gone to sleep like you'd promised…"
"Yep. Should'a, Would'a, Could'a." He sighed, looked out onto the streets. "But you're right. If I had gone to bed, things would have been quite different."
She narrowed her eyes at him. "Uh-huh. And how so?"
"Well, it was still my turn. They would have come after me sometime."
"We could have protected you."
"Oh, I know."
"You should have said something. You need to trust us."
"I do trust you, Lisbon. All of you. Implicitly. You have, as they say, my back."
She leaned forward. "Hard to have your back when we don't know where it is."
"Meh," he grinned sheepishly, changing the subject. "Maybe if I had gone with you, I would have got to see some raccoons…"
"Yeh," she grinned. "They were cute as buttons. Bloody, hissing, snarling buttons."
The dark SUV pulled over to the curb, Rigsby and Van Pelt already inside. She grabbed the passenger door, swung it open. He made no move to get in.
"Jane? You're standing on the sidewalk."
"Oh, I want to walk to the hotel."
She stared at him. "You're joking, right?"
"No. It's a beautiful morning, I'm still a little hyped on adrenalin. The walk will do me good. Clear my head, you know."
She glanced into the car at Cho behind the wheel. The man said nothing, merely gripped the steering wheel and stared straight ahead. She looked back at Jane.
"You know, for some odd, bizarre, crazy-ass reason, I believe you. You really have no other agenda, no cunning plan or underhanded motive?"
"Really. No. I just want to walk."
"Okay, it's only six blocks to the hotel. We'll meet you there in twenty minutes. Got it?"
"You sure you're okay?"
He smiled sadly.
She stared at him, felt her heart break all over again. It would never be in one piece as long as he was in her life.
"Alright then. I'm trusting you." And she climbed into the passenger seat and the vehicle drove off, leaving him standing in the early morning sunshine.
He watched it disappear into the empty streets, before reaching into his pocket and pulling out the book.
No inscription, no red smiling face. Nothing. Just the collected works of William Blake.
Just another book.
With a sigh, he tossed it aside into a trash container on the side of the road, shoved his hands into his pockets and began to walk.
He was mad.
Not angry. Crazy. Insane. Dancing on the brink of utter madness. He'd been there once before, needed to wrap his head around the very idea that he might be there once again. The detachment, the paranoia, the intuitive leaps into empty space. Minelli had been right. He was seeing conspiracies in everything. Red John was one man. There was no network. There was no conspiracy. He was being driven inexorably mad by his addiction, and was seeing serial killers in every slip and shadow. He would surely lose this game if he succumbed yet again. No, he needed to stop, to rethink, to redress.
He had only gotten two blocks before a shape stepped out of the shadows cast between the buildings.
It was Mark Mooney.
Jane paused, glanced around.
It was early, not yet six o'clock in the morning, and the streets were for the most part, deserted. A few cars in the distance, no pedestrians, the golden glow of sunrise giving everything a surreal air. Mark Mooney, a dead man not dead, was standing in the entrance to an alley, blood dried on his face and neck and matted in his hair, and a good part of his right ear was missing.
Jane reached down, pinched his own wrist.
"Ow," he said.
He took a deep breath, looked up.
"Mark," he said slowly. This time, there was truly no one around in case he needed saving. "You're looking remarkably…alive…"
Mooney stepped forward, waved a hand around his ear. Jane flinched, waiting for knives. "Yeah, I'm feeling alive, too. Alive and, and good, you know. Sore, but but good."
"Good," said Jane. For some reason, his voice was an octave higher than usual.
"No, really good. It's like I can think clearly for the first time in years."
"Really?" asked Jane.
"Yeah." The young man nodded. "It's like that bullet put me right, you know. Made me whole. Put my brain back together, the way it should be. No anxiety, no panic, no fear."
"Wonderful," said Jane.
"So, uh, I just wanted to say, you know…" Mooney looked down, shuffled his feet. Jane waited for the gun, or the knife, or the club or spear or whatever, but nothing came. Just words. "I just wanted to say thanks."
Jane blinked. "Thanks…"
"Yeah. You listened to me. Even back in Big Sur, you heard me. You understood about the noise in my head. And then, on the pier, when you talked about the water…it's like you looked into my soul, you know, right into my very soul…"
"Yeh," said Jane, lightheaded. "Sure."
"So I'm going to give up the program. The PhD and everything. It wasn't for me, anyway. It was all JohnJohn's idea. I don't need him anymore. I'm going to go try my hand at surfing. Or marine biology. I love the water, but you know that. The sound of the waves, the harmony of the ocean…"
"Yeh," said Jane.
"But I wanted you to have this." He reached inside his hoodie, pulled out a book.
Jane's heart stopped.
"JohnJohn gave it to me. He said it was important. He said if I understood what it was saying, then I'd have a kickass thesis. I guess I don't understand. So, I thought, maybe you would."
He passed it into Jane's hands.
"Well, I better be going. I'm taking the bus to Santa Monica. Great waves there, man. And lotsa fish."
"Yeh," said Jane. "Bye."
And with a little wave, the young man turned and disappeared down the deserted street.
Jane looked down at the book in his hands.
Just throw it away, he thought. There's nothing here for you. It's all paranoia and conspiracy theory and mind games and crap that leave you like an addict, miserable, strung out and crashing but desperately needing more.
But his fingers trembled as they opened the cover, flipped the flyleaf, smoothed the paper.
"Dear Mister Piper,
Enjoy your freedom. Find your art. Change things.
Signed in red pen, with a red smiley face.
Jonathon Redding. Red John.
He stood for a very long time before allowing himself to breathe.
He glanced around the street. No one was watching. No one was there.
The book in his hand was real.
He wasn't mad.
He slipped the book in his pocket and smiled, and set off again, in the direction of the Super 8.