Author: G. Waldo
Rating: Adult. Angst. Violence. Rape. A slightly non-canon time-line as this story is set post the death of Tim Carter, the supposed "Red John", but no specific time thereafter. Lisbon and the team also believe that Jane might be correct; that Tim Carter was probably not Red John.
Characters: Jane/Lisbon friendship, Jane/Cho (eventually) with possibly NC-17 later on.
Summary: Possession is ninth-tenths of the law.
Disclaimer: Not mine though I wish he was.
Words: This will be a longish fic'. Those among you familiar with me know that means 20,000 words-plus. I have tried to stick to canon (other than the eventual Jane/Cho) as much as possible, but since I've not seen a good 1/3 of the episodes (I discovered the Mentalist only this last year or so and now it tops my list) thus far, there will probably be mistakes. If so, my bad!
Fave' sows: The Mentalist, Dexter, The Killing, Fringe, Prime suspect, Person of Interest, Grimm, Criminal Minds, Revenge, and last (and pretty much least), House MD.
Blue is the male principle, stern and spiritual. Yellow the female principle, gentle, cheerful and sensual. Red is matter, brutal and heavy and always the colour which must be fought and vanquished by the other two.
"I should have been convicted."
Lisbon snapped her head up. Long brown bangs fell a little across her forehead and she brushed them aside. "What?" Paperwork forgotten for a moment, she gave Jane, CBI's quirky consultant, her full attention. Jane was not a man you ignored for long. Not when he wandered into your office during one quiet lunch break in what had turned out to be crime-wise a fairly dull week. "What did you say?"
Jane set down on her visitor chair's arm what Lisbon suspected was his fourth cup of tea of the day. "I should have been convicted of killing Tim Carter." He clarified.
The statements that came out of Jane's mouth never ceased to disconcert her and for a moment she stared back speculatively, a twinge of guilt in her that the same thought had also crossed her mind more than once. Lisbon was pretty well unflappable when it came to Jane's left-field comments, but the events surrounding this one poked at her private morals a little. On the surface Jane sounded bothered about having shot that man, but she was convinced he was not. Not really. Not as disturbed as any sane person with an average moral standing ought to be.
But beggars can't be choosers and Patrick Jane, brilliant ex-con-man extraordinaire whose deductive reasoning still impressed – and annoyed – the hell out of her, was too valuable a component of her team to begrudge him one little murder – especially over a man that needed to be brought to justice; a potential if not in-fact killer. "You didn't know Carter wasn't Red John, and the jury found you not guilty." She stated the obvious. Good enough for me.
Jane waved his teacup around, and Lisbon noted it. Lecture-mode – engage!
"Oh, I was found not guilty in the eyes of public opinion for certain," he elaborated "the public having been very well represented in that jury, never-the-less I did shoot him. I am guilty of murdering a man in cold blood, in public, and yet here I sit – free as the proverbial bird."
Was Jane really not bothered by the killing? He appeared instead to be more bothered by the why's and wherefore's of his not-guilty verdict. Jane always wanted to know the reasons behind effects beyond the mere facts, which is what made him a relentless investigator. Jane was an expert on people – he got human beings and all the weird dark passages concealed in their psyches, in particular those hidden motivations that could be exploited.
Lisbon had on more than one occasion seen Jane pick out a killer among a group of people after having spoken to them as a group for only minutes and been proved correct in his choice. She had, CBI had, its very own Sherlock or Poirot, and in an investigation Jane rarely stumbled. It was a bit disconcerting.
All that and innocent looking blonde curls topped with a casual charm that fooled most people through and through. Lisbon shook her head to clear it a little. Patrick Jane drove her nuts. "What are you trying to say?"
Jane did it again, threw her that look that said "Nothing, boss – just hangin'". Jane shrugged. "I was just wondering why."
Bullshit. Lisbon frowned at him, suspicion flooding her irises an even darker brown than normal. Carter was a criminal. The world was best rid of him. "Has something happened? Is there something you're not telling me?"
"No, of course not." He stood up to leave.
Lying brat. "Jane – "
But Jane was already half-way out the door. He paused to inhale deeply, as though the office had suddenly been infused with fresh, spring air. "I think I'll take a walk."
Jane perched on the edge of a concrete bench nearby to a fountain. It was a crisp November day but by no means cold. In southern California, summer never really ended. He re-read the letter that had arrived at his home the day before. Plain envelope. No return address. Everything typed including the two pages of unlined paper inside. Red ink through-out.
Red John had resorted to sending him a letter and it left Jane feeling uneasy. Red John didn't write letters. A note occasionally, usually at the crime scene of someone he had brutally murdered. But mostly Red John left clues in dead people. Murders were his way of communicating. Who was Red John? Jane had an idea. Not who he was, but who he was.
After Jane had publically profiled and claimed he would catch Red John using his mental powers, denouncing Red John on television, the provoked killer's wrath had then been directed toward Jane and his family. By publically playing the psychic con-game Jane had inadvertently arbitrated the murder of own wife and daughter; a thing he would never forgive himself for.
Killing Red John would go a long way in easing that burden.
"Dear Patrick" the letter read. "As you know, you killed the wrong man. Carter was a weak-minded fool. Amazing what some people will do to cover gambling debts. Anyway, he is dead and I'm still here, still watching you. Our dearly departed was just one pair of eyes in my arsenal. Carter was easily replaced."
Of course Red John was wealthy. He had to be in order to pay on a regular basis all these watching eyes at his command. Wealthy and charismatic; manipulative; charming when required; convincing; highly intelligent, all the things Jane already knew about Red John, but nothing that really helped Jane find him. Jane had conned many a wealthy person in his tenure as psychic, thousands of clients over the years in fact, many of them men that had come to him in secret. Hundreds of them, most too embarrassed to let their wives or girlfriends know they were consulting a psychic. Was Red John a former client?
"What will you do, Patrick? This is a fun game we are playing and you know I will win. I feel I've come to know you over the years, and you're much cleverer than I first thought. We're two of a kind, though perhaps not altogether two of a mind."
A cheap shot suggesting they were somehow alike. A stupid attempt at hurting him, and a little surprising.
"Let's face it, Patrick, I know you. Where you live and work, what you wear and the kinds of foods you like – and how lonely your life has become. I somehow feel partly responsible for it and wish to make it up to you."
Jane had already suspected Red John knew much of this and more. Some of it was probably true but Red John would never have allowed himself to get close enough to a victim to learn all the details of his or her life. That's how killers get caught. Much of this was nothing but blind bluster. Some of it, though, was not.
"...and I like all your new coworkers. They care about you, Patrick, but I do not believe they really know you. Do they realize you're a lying cheat who'll never reveal his true self? Do they know it doesn't bother you that you committed murder? Do they know you traded your families' safety for a few bucks? Do they know in that respect you're not much different than me? How much do you care for them? Remember not to care too much. That's how you always get hurt, by caring too much."
Then again, Red John had walked the halls of CBI's offices at least once. Perhaps not so much bluster as he would like to believe.
And it did bother Jane that he had killed the wrong man, but it did not bother him that in the end it turned out the man needing killing anyway. He would prefer to not have been the person who pulled the trigger, but if there was one thing Jane had come to understand over the years since his families' murder and his own culpability in it – the past cannot be changed. Being a killer of a murderer wasn't so bad a thing. There are some types the world can do very well without.
But he was not like Red John. Jane had not enjoyed killing that man. At the time, or so he had believed, it had simply been necessary, and now it was necessary to destroy Red John, if only Jane knew who he was.
"My dearest Patrick, I leave you with much anticipation of our future encounters. Don't worry; you're too much fun to kill right now. Please be assured you can look forward to another year of our fun game. Your comrade in arms – Red John."
Jane jumped as someone sat down heavily beside him. He quickly folded the pages and shoved them and the envelope in his suit pocket. Nodding to his companion, "Cho.' He said, careful to keep his voice neutral, as though it was just another pleasant day on the job.
"Jane." Cho said as neutrally. Kimball Cho, however, was not an unobservant colleague. "That's the third time you've read that letter today."
Jane clasped his hands together and looked elsewhere. "Is it?"
"Yes." You could count on Cho to be brief. "Everything okay?"
"No." Pointless to lie to Cho, he could see through a lie as easily as Jane could size up a good spender. Jane felt Cho's eyes steadily on him. Cho seemed more than mildly concerned.
"Anything I can help with?"
Jane paused, considering. Cho was a good man to have on your side. They all were. Rigsby and Van Pelt were solid investigators and supportive friends, but he wasn't about to get any more people killed. "Not yet." He hadn't meant to hint to Cho that anything was wrong at all.
But clearly Cho didn't feeling like pushing it and told him "Lisbon wants us inside; new case."
Jane nodded, following Cho back to the Lisbon's office.
Jane asked "Who's dead?" before he sat down.
"Three." Lisbon handed out folders to each of them. "At first Oakland PD thought it was a single mugging gone bad, then when murder number two happened – gang killings."
Cho flipped past the odd photo and read the info' sheet. "Three dead now?"
Lisbon nodded. "Yes. All killed from blows to the head." She sat down and crossed her legs, happy to have a case, even if it meant three people had breathed their last.
Van Pelt voiced what they were all thinking. "Why did Oakland PD wait until there were three before calling us?"
Jane raised a finger. "Three's a charm, and possibly pride."
Lisbon answered Van Pelt. "The killer leaves a calling card, a tag like a gang might. Not surprisingly the local gangs are denying any involvement."
Van Pelt raised one perfectly plucked eyebrow. "Yeah, right, like they'd tell the truth."
Lisbon nodded to the folder in her hand. "Exactly. These could be gang-style murders and if they are then it's a new gang. Sacramento PD took photos of the areas, the bodies and the painted tag left at each scene."
Jane was studying the photos and asked. "Since when do gangs use lead pipes to dispose of their enemies?"
"A new gang might." Lisbon affirmed. "Initiation maybe."
Jane leaped to the poignant fact immediately. "Possibly but not likely. These crime scenes are more than two hundred miles apart."
Lisbon said to them. "A little out of the ordinary for a local bunch, yes."
Jane was scrutinizing one of the photos."A tiger's face."
Cho said. "Looks like whoever did this wasn't in it for money. Only one of these people was well dressed. Two still had their wallets."
Rigsby pursed his lips. "They look like blue collar for the most part, except the last guy - white collar maybe. And whoever did it doesn't mind putting on the miles."
"Yes." Jane added, frowning. "Quite a large territory for the new kids on the block." He was staring at his clasped fingers. He didn't sound very enthused. Gang-land murders were often sordid and cruel, but were rarely a real mystery.
Lisbon said. "Yes, and it's up to us to figure out who they are before any more people get hurt."
Lisbon stood. "Cho, you and Rigsby talk to Captain Brenner. Van Pelt, do some research, see if you can figure out which gang this mark belongs to, if it is a gang. Jane and I'll visit the first site; talk to the locals, and we'll go from there."
Lisbon pulled into traffic. "Anything bothering you, Jane? You're not your usual chatterbox self."
Jane affected hurt. "I'm not a chatterbox."
Lisbon chuckled a bit. "Yeah, right. Come on, Jane, you hardly said a word this morning. No complaining, no wanting to visit the local cafe before we do any actual work – you're not yourself."
"So you'll be happy if we stop for tea first?" He asked as innocently as you please. "After all, it's a long drive."
Lisbon shook her head. "You never confide in me."
"There's nothing wrong with being a private person."
Lisbon waved a hand. "Of course there isn't, I'm not trying to snoop but..."
"Sure you are."
Lisbon blew some air. "Van Pelt talks to me, so does Rigbsy."
She had to admit it. "No, but – "
"-Bec-a-a-u-se he's a private person. And Van Pelt only talks to you about something when she's already made up her mind about it."
"I know there's something bothering you. And you're wrong about Van Pelt."
"No you don't, you're just guessing. And I'm not wrong about Van Pelt."
Lisbon bit her lip. He was. Goddamn it if he couldn't sniff her out every time, or at least out-talk her. "Maybe, but I still think I'm right."
"Of course you do, that's why you're such an effective leader."
Now he was trying to flatter her into minding her own business. "Stop trying to change the subject." Dropping it momentarily, Lisbon pulled into a gas station coffee shop, parked and killed the engine. Looking at him, "Well? Didn't you want tea or something?"
Jane stepped out. "If you insist."
Mobile tea in hand, Jane climbed back into the CBI issue four-by-four. Lisbon was sitting in the driver's seat, still in a stew. The petite brunette looked cute behind the wheel of such a large vehicle. "Sure you don't want anything?" Jane asked, hoping her previous line of inquiry was forgotten.
"I'll never get it anyway."
Jane decided to drastically alter the subject. The crime scene photos kept coming back to mind. "Interesting photos, especially the red gang tag."
Lisbon slammed her hand down on the steering wheel making Jane jump and spill his tea. "I knew it!" She blurted.
"Hey!" He said, attempting to wipe wet spots off his navy pants. "Less violence please. I'm losing my tea."
Lisbon was looking across the short two feet between them with something akin to righteous fury on her face. "I knew you'd glom onto the fact the paint used was red – "
" Well, I only mentioned it because it is."
"It's paint, Jane, it's not blood. This is not about Red John. Red John hasn't poked his head out in over a year."
"And "glom"? You think I "glom"?"
Lisbon wasn't listening. "Every time we have a case that involves the color red in any significant way, you right away jump to conclusions."
"That's not true. Two weeks ago at a victim's apartment you ate a bowl of strawberries and I didn't mention Red John."
"Yeah? At Halloween I caught you staring at a jack-o-lantern with that look on your face."
"You know very well what look. That look that tells me you're about to do something foolish or dangerous."
"Well, you have to admit, it was a very scary Jack-o-lantern."
Lisbon shook her head. "Why do you always make everything so complicated?"
"Things do that all by themselves. It's not like I have any special power over them. Why are you so upset with me, anyway?"
She turned fire-hot eyes on him. "Do you blame me? I know you're hiding something or something's happened that you won't talk to me about, even as your boss," She underlined the word heavily. "And I brought you with me today to the crime scene so maybe it'll keep you out of trouble."
"I always attend the crime scenes and, by the way, generally a crime scene is a troubling place, Lisbon, perhaps you should rethink your strategy."
Lisbon calmed down and sighed. "Please, whatever it is, whatever's going on that you refuse to talk about, don't go off half cocked after some lame-brain notion-"
"Lame-brain?" Now Jane did sound insulted. "When have my notions ever stooped to half-cocked or lame? I am the anti-lame."
Lisbon sighed again. She could feel her heart pounding and hear the blood rushing through her head. Jane might be the mentalist but she had come to trust her own instincts when it came to the mentalist himself. Working with Patrick Jane was like working with hot embers hidden beneath innocuous looking ashes. There was just no telling if or when the flame would burst forth and scorch him and anyone who stood too closely.
"You need to calm down, Lisbon; this can't be good for your blood pressure."
Lisbon could not help but laugh and though it made her feel better, there was sharp irony in the sound.
There was little to see at the first crime scene. Local law enforcement had photographed the area, and the coroner had taken the body away days ago. The gang-tag, though, was still visible on the white brick store back nearby. Jane examined it but it spoke nothing more to him than the photo had. If there hadn't been a second attack, it would probably have been dismissed as a child's graffiti.
Van Pelt was probably putting together her usual concise report on who the dead men were, beyond names and addresses, and whether any of them had enemies, or knew each other, or members of any association. There was little else to see.
Lisbon insisted on talking to the local store owner herself, leaving Jane to wander the alley on his own. The only thing of note besides drifting refuse was the body of a dead rabbit that had been there a few days. Most likely run over by a car. Flies had already begun to lay eggs in its eyes and mouth.
Jane wandered back to the SUV and awaited his boss to give them the head-home word.
When she approached, "Well?" He asked.
She shook her head. "No one saw or heard anything."
Jane shrugged. "No surprise. Back alley, stinks of garbage and dead things..."
"What dead things?" When Jane didn't elaborate Lisbon hopped up into the driver's seat. "Let's go home. We'll check out the other two crime scenes tomorrow."
Jane threw his housekeeper with a smile and wave. She only came Wednesday nights and was driving away as Lisbon dropped him off. Lisbon remarked at the expense of a housekeeper to clean a house that was virtually unlived in.
"Call it a weakness. 'Nite Lisbon."
Jane walked through his silent living room, tossing his suit jacket across the back of an ornate wooden chair.
He liked the house more after Donna had been there. It smelled clean and fresh with the slightest lingering hint of her perfume. Hands had touched things and moved them around. Dust was disturbed and resettled after her shoes had walked by. The presence, however brief, of another human being lent it an air of still being an active part of his life. This was his family's home, he and Angela had spent weeks finding just the right house, and he'd be damned if Red John was going to get that too.
Going home for Lisbon also more often than not meant going to the office and Teresa wasted no time with greetings. "Grace? Anything on the gang tag?"
Van Pelt hated to disappoint her boss. "Nothing like it exactly, but I did find a homicide in Oakland where the killer wrote "Have a nice day" on the victim's cheek." She threw her boss a grimace. "But that was nine years ago and the perp's been rotting in jail since then."
Lisbon nodded. She hadn't expected anything, though it would have been nice to find something close enough to their tag so she could tell Jane to wipe the disputed look off his face and go back to his pot of tea and naps. "Oh. Well, keep checking." She could think of nothing else for Van Pelt to do.
Van Pelt looked around. "Where's Jane?"
"I dropped him off at home."
"He's sleeping at home? He has an apartment? I mean he almost never -"
"Goes there, I know." Lisbon said. "He has a house. A very large, very expensive house in fact."
Van Pelt made the connection. "You mean the house where?-oh."
Lisbon nodded. "Yup." Jane slept at the office often, usually more nights than at home. Home was where his family life had been brought to a bloody halt by Red John. Lisbon wondered why Jane didn't sell the place. Too many good memories along with the bad maybe. She would never have been able to continue in that house. As soon as she had felt able, at the first opportunity in fact, she would have unloaded the place.
But maybe the point was that Jane wasn't able to move on. He was stuck in his grief and rage at Red John. As often as Jane drove her to drink she also felt sorry for him – a sad distant pity sometimes swam over her whenever she thought of him coming home to that cruel note and the bodies of his mutilated wife and young daughter. Lisbon would never let on that she felt pity of course. Jane hated pity.
A fourth murder was called into Lisbon's home phone and she roused the rest of the team to meet her at the crime scene.
Jane wore his brown walking shoes since this crime scene had not happened inner city. Yoho wildlife area was a popular attraction for the surrounding towns.
Jane saw Lisbon and Cho talking to the coroner and a local office. The body was slumped nearby, a plastic sheet draped over it. A man's shoes could be seen poking out of one end. Jane ignored the official talk and drew the sheet back.
He was a middle aged blonde man wearing office pants and a shirt with a loose tie. No jacket was visible anywhere near the body. "Lisbon."
Lisbon ended her conversation with her colleagues and walked over. "Coroner thinks he was killed this morning between one and there AM according to the liver temperature and the exposure. His wallet isn't missing."
Jane had noted the wallet and car keys already bagged and lying beside the body, and the drawing of the tiger's face on a small piece of paper in its own sealed plastic bag beside them. "Who found him?"
"Jogger. PD already questioned him and let him go. Later we'll question him ourselves." She noted Jane's face. It was not the face she had been noticing the last few days, it was that face and something else. Jane was genuinely puzzled. "What's bothering you about this one?"
"Not robbery. The last three haven't been robbed. Just...killed."
"Serial killers don't kill for the money." Jane would know that better than anyone.
"No, but they usually take it anyway. Ties, wallets, rings, clothes, even hair and skin are trophies to most serial killers. Our perp' seems to have some other purpose."
"Killing is his purpose. He gets off on it."
"He or she, and I agree except..."
Lisbon felt her stomach flip-flop. The look was back. "Except what?"
Jane finished her examination of the body. He had not expected to garner anything new. "It's more like the killings are his purpose, not the individual killing themselves."
Even though Jane spooked her with his telltale trouble-making look, she was no fool. If Jane thought something was off, she'd be stupid to dismiss it. "I don't follow." Lisbon said.
Jane was staring down at the dead man. "He wasn't killed her."
Lisbon was glad to have Jane on her team. He missed nothing. "Coroner suspects he was killed elsewhere and transported here. His head was almost caved in this time but little blood at the scene."
"Any other marks on the body?" Jane pointed to one out-turned shoe. "Other than the grass stains on the tips of the shoes?"
"Medical Examiner'll have to go over the body before we know anything." As if on cue, two men in white jackets carrying a body board approached the crime scene and looked at Lisbon. She nodded. "We're done." They bagged and lifted the dead man, tucking him away in a nearby waiting County Coroner van.
"I have an idea what they might find." Jane muttered. "Why drag a body when you don't have to?"
Lisbon heard him. "What are you talking about? What will they find?"
Jane smiled at her. Disarming, always, that smile. "I'm probably wrong."
Lisbon knew if Jane wasn't ready to talk to her about a theory, there was no use pressing him.
"Where's Van Pelt and Rigsby?" Jane asked.
Cho joined them. "Coroner'll have a report in a week or so."
Lisbon was a little taken aback. "A week?"
Cho nodded. "Lots of murders lately."
True. Other than liquor store robberies and other muggings, things had been quiet lately. This poor fellow made exactly four violent deaths in as many weeks. "Come on. Who hasn't had breakfast? I'm hungry." Lisbon had Cho drive them to a favourite cafe located not far from the station.
Lisbon bisected an egg and put it on brown toast. Cho was finishing up a sausage and grits and Jane sipped tea, claiming he had eaten at home, which Lisbon didn't believe. She had seen Jane eat. During a case he could eat ten times a day, only it was never more than a bite or two. Only when the case was solved did Jane resort to a proper meal, and whenever a hard case dragged on, his face would thin out, becoming shockingly gaunt, like those rare times Red John would show up and drive Jane, and the rest of the team, to many sleepless nights.
"What will the coroner find, Jane?"
But Jane was frowning into his tea cup. "Tea never stays hot enough in tin pots."
The waitress had brought out Jane's tea serving in a cheap tin tea-pot that many smaller eating establishments use; non-breakable, dishwasher-safe.
"And the tea turns bitter from the tannic acid acting on the metal."
Lisbon shook her head a little. "Sorry to hear that. Back to the case - what do you think the coroner will find?"
Jane decided to share his thoughts. "The first three murders happened in the city. Stalk a victim, bash tem over the head. Take their wallet – or not as in these cases."
"The first victims' wallet was taken." Cho reminded him.
"Or he wasn't carrying one at all." Jane fell silent, staring down at his bitter, cooling tea.
Lisbon gulped down the last dregs of her coffee. "Okay, foot work today and tomorrow. We check out where our victims lived, worked, we talk to everyone; family and friends. We find out the victims' hobbies and where they went and what they did during off hours. I want to know their internet affiliations, their nicknames and their dogs' nicknames too."
Jane was obviously unsure of his theory, if he had one, or presently too moody to voice it. "I'll call Rigsby on the way, he and Van Pelt will check out the first two victims. Cho - you Jane and I'll research the most recent two." Lisbon waved for the check and Cho offered to pay, pulling out his wallet. "Thanks, Cho." She stood up. "Let's get to work."
"Okay," Lisbon had her team gathered at CBI after two long days of footwork. "Whatcha' got?" The question was put to the entire group.
Van Pelt was the first to speak. "Victim number one, John Pappionus was a twenty-nine year old out-of-work stock broker. We think he was killed when he left his apartment to go to a corner store. He had change in his pocket from a cigarette purchase, but no wallet."
Lisbon stole a quick glance to Jane, who appeared not to be listening. "How do we know it wasn't taken?" she asked Van Pelt.
"We don't exactly, but the store clerk didn't recall seeing a wallet, just a ten dollar bill. John was also carrying keys to his apartment building." Van Pelt checked her notes. "He was behind in his rent, had a few drinking buddies but no close friends. His sister is back in New Jersey, his parents in Maine. The sister is flying out to identify the body and to make arrangements for its transport home. John had no pets and his hobbies were gaming and strip clubs. That's about it."
Rigsby took his turn next. "Second victim; Pieter Adrian Johanssen. Thirty-five years old. Trained as an EMT but was working part time as a night watchman. Born in Denmark, raised here by loving parents. He was living in the loft over his folks' garage and helping his dad fix cars for extra money. He frequented a local EA group – "
"EA?" Van Pelt asked.
"Emotions Anonymous." Rigsby said. "He went through a bad divorce, lost the custody of his kid and had been going there ever since. The members all seemed to like them. One member was Julia Swale. She claimed they had been "sort of" dating when he was killed, but said it hadn't turned serious. The parents are a mess."
Lisbon shook her head. None of these men seemed serial killer victim typical.
"We dug up much the same stuff." Cho informed them. "Jeremy Physer and Philip Jesus. Few friends, some family, simple hobbies, nice guys, no run-ins with the law, well-liked, just – "
"Essentially they were all down on their luck loners." Lisbon finished.
Cho nodded his affirmative. "Yes."
Cho offered the one fact he found interesting. "And Jane was right about the wallet."
Cho was staring at Jane with a carefully neutral face and Lisbon noted it. It meant Cho was worried about Jane, too. "Jane knows these aren't typical serial murders." She said. That's what she suspected Jane believed. She waited for him to either confirm or deny it.
Jane, un-customarily quiet until then – "It's a serial killer, that part is obvious. He, or she, gets off on killing; money doesn't come into it at all, that's why no wallets were taken. As far as we can tell, there was nothing missing from the bodies so the killer doesn't take trophies, so I'm wondering why our killer kills?"
Cho leaned forward, clasping his hands on spread knees. "You think there's another reason other than the thrill?"
Jane shook his head but not because he was saying no. "He's dumping them in plain sight only the first three he killed where he found them, or where they found him. But he transported the fourth victim to a public area away from the kill site. What was the point except to say something to us – I mean other than "You can't catch me."?"
Van Pelt said. "He wants more attention."
"Oh, he's got our attention, but he wants a specific kid of attention. I don't think the killings themselves are all that important to him. It seems like it's the collection of killings that means something."
"Means what?" Cho asked, still giving Jane his full attention.
Jane spread his hands, unsatisfied. He stared back at Cho for minute before turning his gaze to Lisbon. "I just don't understand."
It was the way he said that Lisbon would later recall. It sounded as though Jane wasn't puzzled so much by who did the murders, it was too soon in the investigation to suddenly jump up and shout "Eureka! I know who the killer is!" It sounded like he was puzzled that the murders were being committed at all.
"You think he's trying to say something?" Lisbon asked.
"To the police? To the citizens? To one of us?" Rigsby asked.
Jane rubbed the side of his head. "Probably. To one or maybe all three. Specifically what to who or why I don't know. I don't...I just...I...I don't get it."
The silence filled the room for a moment. Lisbon realised suddenly everyone was just a little bit more concerned than they had been seconds before. If Jane was in the dark, then...
Lisbon was about to ask Patrick if he was okay when Jane stated quietly. "Red John sent me a letter."
One, two breaths went in and out of her before she could react. "When was this?"
"Last week." Jane looked at her sheepishly.
Though Lisbon was gratified he finally confessed to the thing that had been bothering him, the thing that had painted that look on his face, the look that frustrated and frightened her all at once, she was also furious. "Why didn't you tell me?"
Jane cupped his mouth in one hand as though he was just this instant considering the reasons himself. "Because it threw me." He said finally.
"But John leaves notes all the time, doesn't he?" Van Pelt asked. "When he commits a murder, there's a note, when he's taunted you in newspaper columns..."
"This is different." Jane said.
Had an anvil dropped in that room, it would have gone unnoticed. No one dared doubt him, his voice was so toneless. Deadly emphatic. "This was a personal letter delivered to my mail-box. No stamp, no return address of course."
Lisbon knew the answer before she asked, but as an agent, she had to ask. "What about fingerprints?"
Jane rolled his head her way, the tiniest sad smile on his face. "There wouldn't be any fingerprints."
No, there wouldn't be. Red John was nothing if not categorically meticulous. Lisbon leaned against a desk, crossing her arms. "Why does this throw you more than a note? Red John loves his games."
Jane nodded. "Yes, he does. But his notes have all been public up to this point, impersonal things designed to scare or intimidate. This letter was...personal." Jane underlined the word. "Like he was speaking to a friend." His tone of voice for the word friend on his part implied anything but. "As though he and I were willing partners in his little game."
"We haven't heard a thing from Red John for a year." Cho said. "Why now?"
Jane shook his head. This was puzzling him as well. "I don't know. Maybe so I would relax a little, let down my guard." Which he had to some extent. He had been foolish enough to hire a maid so he could feel like other professionals just going off to work and then coming home after a hard day to a freshly scrubbed house. So once a week on Wednesdays, he could feel normal for a few hours. "Maybe just to screw with my head."
Cho looked as worried as Cho ever let himself. "And now he's back and you think ...what?"
Jane played with a pen on the desk beside him. "I think he'll start killing again, yes."
Lisbon made a few decisions while her agents were talking. "I want you in protective custody." She said.
Jane shook his head. "Red John doesn't want to kill me. Lisbon, he's had opportunities. If he wanted me dead, believe me, I'd be dead already."
Lisbon knew that was true but she needed to do something and just ignoring that Red John was about to go active once more made her fear for Jane. "Maybe not, but we know that's probably his end game, even if he has to play out all this other crap in the meantime. I want someone to stay with you every minute." She looked around the room. "Any volunteers?"
They all raised their hands and Lisbon was once more grateful to have such a collection of people working with her. Jane should be count his lucky stars.
"Nothing's going to happen, Lisbon." Jane insisted. He took the letter out of his jacket's' inside pocket. "If Red John wanted to kill me, he would have. He's had a week. He had years."
Lisbon snatched the letter from his hand and read its contents.
Jane was correct. The letter wasn't typed or even hand-printed, it was black-inked in beautifully scribed penmanship. The letter was personal, not cruel, not even overtly threatening. The chosen words bore a sense of communion, conveying a familiarity beyond mere antagonist and victim. Where before Red John's communiqué's had always been mocking and spiteful, now reading the missive over, Lisbon sensed a pathological attachment for Jane from Red John; even affection. This was new.
This was also frightening. She waved the letter at Jane accusingly. "I can't believe you didn't mention this letter last week."
"Teresa, he's not going to kill me." Jane said, taking the letter back and tucking it away in his inner pocket again, like a comfortable old friend.
Jane rarely addressed his boss by her first name. Lisbon knew it was possibly to reassure her, but it was also an attempt to soften her stubbornly already made up mind. It was subtle Jane-to-order manipulation.
"Not yet." Cho remarked.
But that was Red John's ultimate goal: to beat Patrick Jane, to kill him, but only after taking however many years he choose wearing Jane down to a frazzled, half-mad nub.
"But someday..." Lisbon left the rest unsaid. "Jane, when you're at the office, you're with agents and that's fine. When you're in the field, you're with one of us at all times so that's also fine. But when you're at home alone, that's when it's not fine." Lisbon nodded to Cho who had been the first to raise his hand as volunteer. "This is not a suggestion. Cho is staying with you tonight." That was her final word to Jane.
Cho tapped Jane on the shoulder. "Come on." He said. "It's already passed seven-thirty and I'm hungry."
Cho carved into a juicy medium rare steak, munching happily while Jane mutely picked at left-over greasy chicken and fries. Jane's last piece of fried chicken had lost its crisp coating and was slowly dying in a pool of congealed gravy.
Cho stopped chewing for a moment. "Why didn't you tell Lisbon about the letter?"
Jane abandoned the food and took a long sip of his Long Island iced tea. "Because she didn't really believe me when I said Red john was still alive. No one believed me. Not really."
"She said she did. We all agreed."
Jane answered with his one-sided ironic smile. "You were being supportive, not honest."
Cho didn't argue, only now they believed. "Why do you think he's decided to pop up again?"
"I always knew he would, just not when."
Cho read between the lines. "You think Red John has something to do with this case?"
Jane shook his head vigorously. "No. These killings have none of his particular sadistic style; no mutilations, no slicing of the throat - and Red John would never not leave his calling card. Never." His last word was almost a whisper.
Cho could imagine Patrick believing that, given what had happened to his family. But people change. Killers can change too if they really want to. But up until now, Red John had had no reason to alter a thing about his behaviour. He had walked in and out of Jane's home, and the CBI offices, without anyone turning their heads in suspicion. Red John still came and went as he liked, murdering at will. He was free as the proverbial bird. "Then who do you think killed these people, and I don't mean so much who as what? What kind of person do you think this is?"
"Who says I have a theory?"
Jane looked tired and Cho did not fail to note the deflecting sort of answer. "Because you always have a theory. And I know something about this case is really bothering you, beyond the coincidental Red John letter."
Jane sighed rubbing his eyes. "Why did you buy me dinner?"
Cho started a little. Now that was an unexpected deflection. "Because you look like shit."
"I mean it. And Lisbon made me promise to make you eat. There, one answer for another. What about the case is bothering you?"
Jane dropped his head and stared into his glass. Then he lifted his eyes and looked into Cho's with that directionless intensity that Jane only showed when he felt way out of his comfort zone; when he felt afraid. "These killings have no purpose.' He said finally.
"To the killer the victims are lumps of flesh, disposed of for no discernable reason I can come up with other than to make a point. A point that's invisible to me. There isn't even a hint that the murderer took pleasure in their deaths, not the instrument used, not the blood, not the money, not the locations or the lay of the bodies." Jane ran his finger around the edge of his glass. The ice cubes had caused condensation on the outside of it and Jane ran the tip of his finger down each running droplet, encouraging them to make it all the way to the bottom.
"I would expect this sort of lack of refinement and pleasure from someone working in a meat shop, but not from a killer. Not someone who kills again and again. He hasn't even improved his technique. The only oddity is the last victim."
"Killed in a park."
"Killed somewhere then taken to the park, dragged, in fact, for hundreds of meters - there were no tire tracks on the grass. That makes even less sense. Why drag a body when you don't have to? Why with the fourth victim was that suddenly important?"
Good questions. Cho didn't have an answer yet, but he was confident they would find one. "Maybe he's a serial killer in training? Maybe he's just being born?"
Jane stared at his workmate with respect. "Now that is a very profound statement. That could explain some things."
Jane waved away another drink offer from the barmaid. Cho had said he looked like shit and now he was feeling it. "Can we go? I need some sleep."
Cho had never been to Jane's house before and complimented him on it. It was big and airy, and almost every room had floor to ceiling windows.
"Angela liked the sun." Jane explained as though by the windows being there was somehow wrong.
"I like it." Cho said. It was high praise. "Where do I sleep?"
Jane pointed up. "Top of the stairs, third door on the left. Guest bedroom. It's open."
"Thanks. Mind if I have a shower in a while?" He wanted to discuss the case a little more before retiring.
"My house is yours." Jane said from below.
Climbing, Cho didn't fail to note the door at the head of the staircase - the master bedroom. Its door was padlocked. He wondered which room Jane slept in now.
Cho cleaned up and changed into sleepwear. He was a plain man and liked clean lines and flat tones and his PJ's were thin, comfortable black-dyed cotton.
When he returned to the kitchen, Jane had a kettle boiling hard and was taking out the makings of tea. Jane had removed his suit jacket and shoes, but was still dressed in his work pants, pressed shirt and habitual vest.
His choice of office wear was a little out of date, almost no one wore the more formal-looking suit vest anymore, but somehow it suited Jane. He made it work for him, or perhaps they had all simply gotten used to it. Cho thought more the former. Jane's choice of clothing was, after all, the expected, slightly more flamboyant attire of the long-time performer, of the television persona'. Yes, once upon a time, Jane had had a Public.
Now he had a psychopath.
Over tea and some cookies Jane had found in the depths of his cupboards, Cho broached the subject of their killer again. "You think this guy is really new? New to this type of "work"?"
Jane, legs crossed and tea in hand shrugged. "It's possible. He's a killer, but he doesn't like the wet work of a knife or the noise of a gun. He likes a good, quiet solid object. And he kills from behind which means he's either too scared to face his victim or too ashamed to. But it's a difficult weapon of choice. It takes strength to kill like that."
Jane sipped his tea. "It takes strength to kill at all." He added softly, looking over at Cho.
Cho couldn't fathom the expression. After nearly four years of knowing the man and working with him every day, Cho was curious about the things he didn't know about Jane. Maybe there were things he shouldn't know?
"It isn't easy, you know, killing someone." Jane said again, still looking at Cho in that unnerving way he sometimes had.
Cho stared back. Was Jane confessing his guilt over Tim carter? Was he sorry, confused or looking for absolution? "Carter deserved to die."
Jane looked away but didn't comment. "Our killer... might be a young murderer stretching his wings but I doubt it. I doubt it because this man makes no sense to me at all and serial killers by their nature make some sort of insane sense somewhere along the line, if you know how to read the victims and destruction they leave behind. But this guy is a blank. So I think eventually the killings might mean something. They seem to be the only things that could."
"When there are enough to make it obvious."
Jane nodded, draining his cup. "Yes."
As simple as that. So the case was they had a killer who was most likely going to keep on killing and they had no eye-witnesses, no clues, no murder weapon, no DNA or finger prints left at the scene, no tire tracks – and no idea who he was. Jane, the man who knew people and killers, who had been stalked by Red John for years and was himself so off the graph of human normal when it came to his brilliant mind and uncanny intuition that they sometimes feared for his sanity, was at a loss.
Cho wondered if maybe this case had shaken Jane's confidence. Cho couldn't help it. He cared for this man, more than he liked to admit. "Are you all right – really?"
Jane could not fail to hear the concern in his friend's voice, or see the very rare twist of worry on his features. He knew Cho had feelings for him, though how deeply they went he was unsure. But now was not the time to think about that.
Somehow though, he felt now was the time for honesty. He felt lost in his profession, ineffectual in friendship, and as for a personal life, none existed for him at all anymore and hadn't for many years. And, what's more, he knew if he did not accept someone's help now, right now, he might start a long, crushing fall from which he could not pull himself up. Not this time.
Jane hadn't felt this afraid in years, and he didn't even know why. "Really – no."
End Part 1