Strawberry Golden Hair Surprise.

Author:G. Waldo
Rating:Case-fic'. Some angst. humour, and of course Jane-pain. Sorry, no smut in this one. Cho/Jane are temporarily quits, remember?
Characters:Jane/Lisbon friendship; Jane/Cho According to protocol office romance; (My favourite fellows. Theyareequallyhot which is why they're so good together on screen and in fic').
Summary:One out of every twenty strangers you meet is a psychopath.
Disclaimer:Not mine though I wish he was.

C—B—I

Lisbon tossed a file folder to each of her team members. "New case."

Cho flipped it open to the first page and skimmed through it. "One missing girl?"

From a comfortable spot on the couch Jane said. "Wait for it."

Lisbon glared at Jane but said to Cho. "Bertram wants us in on this one. The family's rich, local and makes large yearly donations to CBI's non-profit "Families Helping Families Foundation"."

"See?" Jane said flipping through the few pages of the information presented. He added "Bertram's got her by her cute little ba-utton-ears."

Lisbon turned away. "Let's go, and somebody throw a muzzle on the Jane."

C—B—I

"When was the last time you saw or spoke to your daughter, Mrs Taylor?" Lisbon asked.

Seated opposite her in a padded rocking chair surrounded by the frills and ginger-breading of a charming rural Victorian-style home, Mrs. Lena Taylor dabbed at her eyes with a sodden tissue. "The morning before yesterday - Tuesday. Most days Tigh leaves for work around seven - it was usual for me, or sometimes Tigh, to wait for our home-maker-nanny. We never leave our kids home alone for a moment. Ginny arrived at ten-fifteen, then I k-kissed them goodbye and went to work. I work part time. I teach fourth grade at the Grimmly Road Academy."

Lisbon nodded. Grimmly was a private and pricy local grade school. "You noticed nothing unusual in the neighbourhood, no unusual cars or people - there was no change in your routine?"

"No, nothing strange. I home-school them in the mornings and then they go to Grimmly from eleven to three-thirty. Ginny drops them off and picks them up. Both my son and daughter have been suffering from colds, so their schooling's been erratic this week, but Ginny is here all day on Tuesdays and Thursdays, so she might have seen something. I don't know."

Lisbon tried to sort through the mother's confusing details as to their schedules. "We will need the name and address of the nanny." Lisbon looked around. "So only the nanny was here Tuesday?"

The red-eyed mother nodded sadly. "Yes. Oh, God why did this happen?"

Lisbon decided to leave answering that question up to the One to whom it was put. "Where is your son now?"

"Playing in his room." Tigh Taylor said. "We thought best to keep him out of this, he adores Abbey so much." They were practically his first words since the interview began. He sat beside his distraught wife, holding her hand, his eyes on Lisbon.

Tigh Taylor looked from Lisbon - on the couch - to Jane - wandering the living room - and back again. "Can you tell us...with cases like these, I mean – we have hope, right? It's not been two days yet, so there's reason to hope?"

Lisbon nodded reassuringly. "Of course there is, and we will do everything we ca –"

"There's hope, but why torture yourself?" Jane asked suddenly, halting Lisbon's platitudes and causing all eyes in the room to stare at him in quiet shock, including Lisbon's.

The mother sputtered slightly, and then drew her shoulders straight. "What do you mean, saying that?"

"I mean why torment yourselves with hope? It's essentially a useless emotion."

Lisbon could see the storm gathering in the parent's reactions and the mule-headedness building behind Jane's eyes. She put a hand on the mother's forearm. "I apologise for my colleague, he – "

But Jane was having none of it. "I mean if you hope and your child is found, then she was clearly going to be found anyway, and by the same token if you hope and she is not found, then it was a waste of energy. Anger is more useful, it makes you stronger, it makes you want to fight for every-"

"Shut up Jane." Lisbon ordered and Jane closed his mouth, surprised he had been barked at in front of the family. It was not unlike Lisbon to shut him down so publically and with such force but usually she wasn't so rude about it. "I'm only saying."

Jane abandoned his questions and his casual circumnavigation of the room and its contents. Instead he went to stand at the bottom of the stairs, looking up, pointedly not looking anymore at Lisbon.

In a hushed voice "I'm sorry." Lisbon said to the grieving parents and then used an old stand-by phrase that often soothed the egos that Jane so often bruised. "Mister Jane is a bit unorthodox in his opinions but he is one of our best investigators." Thus restored, the parents calmed somewhat. "And", Lisbon added, "We'll need to speak to your son."

As soon as Jane heard the words, he was up the stairs, not waiting for Lisbon or for the parent's say-so. Lisbon smiled a little stiffly. "Excuse me." She joined Jane on the second floor who was already knocking on a door. It was decorated with pictures of airplanes, guns and a G.I Joe movie poster. There were three stairs leading up to it. This room had clearly once been the loft, now converted to a boy's bedroom.

"Bentley?" Jane called through the painted wood. Out of the corner of his mouth he said to Lisbon. "Who names a kid after a car?"

"An expensive car." She shrugged. "Family name maybe?" She badly wanted to sound him out on his previous verbal diarrhoeabut decided to save it for a more private venue.

The door opened and a boy of twelve years with fair hair stepped back to let them in. The bedroom was roomy and furnished with a double bed, dressers and a large, cedar chest toy box. Video games littered the desk and the floor, and several model airplanes hung suspended from the ceiling on fishing line. Bentley currently had his attention on his PS3 flat-screen. His fatigue-outfitted game character was shooting two-headed zombies with a bow and arrow.

Jane looked around, and then asked the boy. "Good game?"

"I guess."

"Does Abbey play in here, too?"

"No."

"Why not?"

"She's a girl. She likes girl stuff."

Lisbon said. "Bentley, we need to ask you a few questions about the day Abbey disappeared."

"Sure."

"Like when was the last time you saw her?" Jane took up Lisbon's question, adding his own brand of info-gathering. "And I don't mean the last day, I mean the last hour, the last minute?" Jane asked, watching the boy, and waiting.

Bentley turned his head to look up at him. "Tuesday. We were both home with colds and Abbey went outside to play."

Lisbon asked. "What time was that?"

Bentley thought about it for a few seconds. "Just after lunch."

A man who liked his details, Jane prompted "So, twelve-thirty, one, one thirty?"

"Around one."

Jane nodded. "After the mom leaves for work." He said to Lisbon, aware that she already knew that.

Lisbon said to Bentley. "Did you see Abbey leave the house, or anyone outside in the yard or on the driveway?"

"No." He looked at her with a child's innocent round eyes with irises as blue as Jane's. "I'm sorry."

"That's okay. It's not your fault. Thank you Bentley, we'll leave you alone now. You can get back to your game."

CBI

"What the hell was that back there?" Lisbon demanded. In the car with the engine running, now was as good a venue as any to call Jane on his callousness. "You of all people should understand the kind of pain those parents must be in."

"I understand. I was just being honest."

"Oh really?"

"Yes,really. I wish someone had been as forthright with me when -" Jane stopped, avoiding her gaze. "Let's just say it would have saved me a lot of useless -"

"Useless what?"

"Never mind."

Lisbon wanted to shake it out of him but Jane was closed mouthed when it came to the details of his days after the loss of his family, not that it was any of her business. But his troubled memories were almost always there in his eyes for anyone to see if they looked long enough, and when the case involved a missing or murdered child, the pain was unmistakable, you couldn't miss it. "Well, be that as it may, what you said was cruel. How about trying honesty mixed withtact once in a while? It may get us further with the parents."

"Tact has its place, just not back there."

"What's wrong with you? If not to a grieving parent, then who?"

"There's nothing wrong with me, we'll find the daughter one way or another, dead or alive, but every parent should prepare themselves for the worst. Hope is a wishy-washy emotion at best and usually a disappointment in itself."

"I agree, sort of, but offending them doesn't help."

"Their daughter has been taken from them, Lisbon, trust me when I say it – right now nothing helps. Nothing."

After a moments silence, Jane asked. "I assume you are going to check into the parent's pasts? You don't like assuming they're guilty but I hope you're not assuming they're innocent either."

"You assume correctly."

"Statistically, eighty percent of the time, it's one or the other parent who abducts or murders their own child."

"So I've read. You think it's one of the parents?" Lisbon asked, then added "How about we try to rule them out - or in- first before we make an arrest? That okay with you? You know, we could check alibis and such, do some proper procedural police work."

"Proper, procedural, and slow."

"Slow gets the job done." Lisbon steered the car down the Taylor's quarter-mile driveway.

"Not in a horse race." He said, then added when he saw her face transforming from mildly irritated to Jane-level-angry, "But in this case I suppose it'll have to do. Stop the car."

"Why?"

Jane sighed. "Must you question every request of mine? I want to look at something."

Lisbon slowed down but did not stop. "At what?" Lisbon asked.

Jane shrugged one shoulder. It was a sign he was about to lie to her. "I feel like taking a walk."

Lisbon grew suspicious. "Where? You know what? – never mind." She stepped on the gas again.

Jane unbuckled his seat belt. "Lisbon, do I have to spell it out? I need to go."

Lisbon slowed the car again. "You mean go go?"

"Yes. I didn't think it was appropriate at the Taylor's being that their child is missing and all, and that they already don't like me, but I'm sure these trees don't hate me yet."

Lisbon stopped the car, leaning over to the passenger side to make sure he heard her warning as he got out. "You have two minutes and then I'm driving away."

"Fine, fine. What a grouch."

Lisbon did not take the insult seriously. Jane's erratic behaviour made people grouchy, it was a standard side-effect of the man's over-all package, and one Lisbon had found impossible to ignore or, most days, control.

Once Jane felt he was hidden enough from his boss's keen observation, he had a quick look around. The local PD had combed through the area for two days since the girl's disappearance and Jane expected to find no tangible clues they had overlooked, but it never hurt to satisfy oneself.

He kicked at the fallen leaves of late September, for a moment idly indulging the feel and sound of their multi-golden coloured crunch beneath his shoes. Birds twittered and sang and the air had that fresh, crisp smell of the great outdoors.

Jane closed his eyes and took in a deep breath of it. He spent far too many hours indoors, smelling the articles of the man-made world; paper pulp, ink, wood polish and floor cleaner.

When he opened his eyes he saw a bird. This bird was not singing. Jane reached up and plucked it from the low crotch of a tree. Nearby a small stump of wood lay and on it sat a squirrel, shaking its tail furiously at him, perturbed over this stranger interrupting his food gathering.

There was blood on the tiny sparrow's breast and Jane wrapped the dead bird in a wrinkled tissue, thrusting it into his suit pocket. As much as he would like to stay a few more minutes, for the clean air if not for the sake of the case, he turned and hurried back to the car. Lisbon would already be near the whistle-point of steaming. Best not to push it.

C—B—I

Van Pelt came up with their first dirt on the parents or more specifically, the father. She handed Lisbon her findings. "The dad may be a respected electronics guy now but he didn't start out that way." Van Pelt explained to the group. "I did a criminal check on him and he has a record from fifteen years back. It was closed because he was a teenager at the time but someone down at juvi' owed me a favour."

Lisbon read the pertinent information. "He raped a minor?"

Van Pelt nodded. "He was under-age himself at the time, just seventeen but the girl was fourteen. It went to court but there was only her testimony – no physical evidence, but to finish it he pleaded guilty to a lesser charge of assault - did two years probation."

"So maybe he doesn't win Citizen of the Year but that hardly makes him a murderer." Jane commented.

"But it does make him a liar." Lisbon countered.

Jane frowned. "How so?"

"By omission." She said. "He should have known we'd be checking into everything."

Jane shook his head. "He's not a cop and he was seventeen at the time. Old news."

Lisbon knew it was slim at best but it did give them a place to start looking. "Old but relevant. Past behaviour often predicts current state of mind. You've said so yourself, Jane, people can't change."

"I said people rarely change but they certainly can change." He argued. "The dad didn't do it."

Lisbon didn't agree. "Well with the dad at the interview, I saw dry eyes. He didn't seem very broken up about his little girl's abduction."

Jane refused to let it go. "Eh - he was trying to be strong for his wife. If memory serves she was still alive and very broken up."

Lisbon was just as stubborn. "Or either one of them or both is a good actor." She thrust the print-out back at Van Pelt. "You and Rigsby, go back and talk to the father again, and get personal. Cho, you and I are going to talk to the nanny."

Without being invited along, Jane fell in behind Cho and Lisbon. "Keep it civil this time, Jane, or you'll be waiting in the car." She said, throwing him a look of warning.

Jane raised his hands in a gesture to mean he had no intentions of causing an upset. They piled into the SUV. "But you must admit my methods get at the truth."

Lisbon had to concede that single point. "Sure, but we would still get there eventually. And by the way your methods bring us harassment suits on a regular basis."

"All of which have so far been thrown of court. I can't help it if people are frivolous with the truth."

"Sometimes you are such a snob, Jane." Lisbon said, tired of the whole conversation.

"A snob? A snob? I am not a snob. I'm no different than you. I simply possess confidence in my abilities to achieve what I set out to do just as you made special Agent in Charge by your obsessive compulsive drive to excel at everything since you were two years old - and have trust issues, not to mention that short fuse of yours."

"I am not short fused. I have a perfectly normal fuse. It only gets lit when I'm pushed to the limit by you. Why would you say that I have trust issues? For god's sake I work with you!If I have any issue with trust, you're the issue." Lisbon clamped her mouth closed when she realised she had gotten loud.

Cho had his nose stuck in a book, trying and finally failing to ignore them both. He gave up and sighed heavily. "My turn - you are good at what you do, Jane." Amongotherthings.

"Thank you."

"But Lisbon's right, you're a snob."

Lisbon hit the steering wheel with her hand, finally scoring one over on Jane. "Thank you, Cho."

"And Jane's right, Lisbon, you are a bit obsessive compulsive and have difficulty trusting people, most notable Jane but he hasn't earned it yet. I, on the other hand am an objective observer who does his job well and doesn't gossip. In fact I'm a poker-faced mystery whom neither of you get. Now can we talk about the case or should we discuss Rigsby too?"

Lisbon swallowed the retort on her tongue. "Yes, a little girl is missing. Let's discuss that."

"It could be the nanny." Jane said from the back seat.

Lisbon tried to stifle her gut reaction which was to challenge Jane to prove it right then, right on the spot. "I thought you thought it was the parents? Or, right, I forgot, you think the dad didn't do it. Now it's the nanny?"

"I said could be. I'll know once I talk to her."

Lisbon bit her lip once more, almost drawing blood. Jane seemed on edge and defensive and though she knew part of that was her fault for egging him on, she also knew it was the case itself. Jane got defensive and bitter whenever a case was about a missing or dead girl. He just couldn't help himself. When he looked into a dead girl's eyes, he saw his daughter. Lisbon knew she had to take that into consideration each time a case like this came along and each time one did, she and Jane went at it. She couldn't help herself either. His methods, though usually achieving results, were sometimes so bizarre he drove her up the proverbial wall.

As she so often did, Lisbon also feared for Jane's emotions, even his sanity, when the victim was a kid. The arguing was a safety valve and though she hated all the verbal sparring, by keeping it angry, and allowing Jane to spew back, his mind would be more on the case and less on the victimin the case. It was a shaky co-dependence they had going but thus far it worked. During the heart-wrenching cases, a good screaming match kept both of them on top and in control.

C—B—I

"Cho, wait in the car for word from Van Pelt or Rigsby. Call me if they find out anything more from Mister Taylor, but only if it's something new." Lisbon instructed. She and Jane entered the small walk-up, knocking on the door of apartment Five.

Once Ginny the nanny had invited them in, Jane and Lisbon were invited to sit in wooden chairs with wearing white paint. The floor linoleum was cracked and yellowed. Ginny served them coffee and tea in mismatched cup-ware. The coffee was weak and the tea so bitter as to be almost undrinkable. Out of courtesy Jane took one courageous sip and then silently denounced it, but it was clear Ginny Roberto lived fairly close to the edge.

"May I use the bathroom?" Jane asked, abandoning his tea cup and waving a polite hand in negation to any more.

Ginny Roberto, a petite dark haired woman nodded, pointing down the hall. "It's there."

Lisbon smiled politely and they waited, Lisbon wondering what the hell had gone wrong with Jane's bladder.

Once Jane was finished, and upon Lisbon questioning the nanny as to the events of the day, Ginny insisted – "No. Only the mail truck came by - always at about eleven or twelve o'clock. There was no one else." She was seated at a small round kitchen table in a dismal two bedroom apartment. She appeared to be about forty years old. Two teenage children sat in the living room, watching television. There was no husband or boyfriend at home and no pictures of any.

Jane made these and other silent observations while Lisbon sat drinking black coffee from a chipped Corning-ware cup. She asked. "So, Ginny – Roberto is it? - How did Abbey manage to slip out? Misses Taylor said on the days you work for them you arrive at ten-fifteen in the morning?"

"Yes." Ginny stared back at Lisbon with wide, unblinking green eyes. Lisbon found it rather disconcerting. "Same as usual."

"And Misses Taylor leaves at eleven thirty or so, and after that you drop the kids off at school, is that correct?"

"Absolutely. Misses Taylor never likes to leave the children alone for a minute. There are always reports in the paper about kids going missing and being kidnapped by a crazy ex-husband or boyfriend. Plus the school is sponsoring a children's fair."

Jane's ears were burning. "You think that might have something to do with the crime?"

"Oh, yes, those circus people are lunatics and thieves you know. One of them might have taken her."

Lisbon enjoyed watching Jane's face flush pink. "Yes sometimes they are," She said "but last Tuesday things were different than usual. The kids were sick?"

"Yes, both had bad colds and Abbey was especially bad, coughing a lot and being, well, very whiney about it." Ginny reported with some embarrassment. "I didn't tell Misses Taylor about that because Abbey always denies she did anything and parents like to think that – well, you know how it is, it's hard for a mother to believe her child might be lying."

"Abbey liked to make a fuss?" Jane asked. "She liked being the center of attention, liked to be coddled - isn't that annoying?"

Ginny looked up at him with some surprise. "Well, yes, sometimes, but all in all she is a good girl. Does very well in school."

"Yet taking care of her is a trial, isn't it?" Jane added. "I mean, I understand, kids mostly drive me nuts."

Lisbon frowned at the bare-faced lie, but did not interrupt.

"It must have been nice to leave at the end of your shift." Jane reasoned to Ginny. "Go elsewhere?"

Ginny swallowed audibly. "Well, of course, going home is nice, too."

Lisbon looked up at Jane too, wondering where he was going with it. She decided to follow his lead in it. He was the mentalist after all, hired for his ability to read people like open books. "Is there something more you'd like to say Misses Roberto? Anything that might help us on this case? We promise not to let it get back to the Taylor's. We'd respect your privacy."

"Sure." Jane said, sounding at least in-the-ballpark sincere. Enough that it slipped past Ginny Roberto. "Your business is your business."

"Well, I do have a second job." She ventured quietly. "I waitress in a bar four evenings a week - I have to. I can't make ends meet without it."

Lisbon asked. "Why would you feel the need to keep that from anyone?"

"Because if Misses Taylor found out, she'd fire me. She hates to think that anything else might detract me from concentrating on her children. She thinks an evening job, especially a job in a bar, would be unseemly, and it might divide my attention too much, but the world can't revolve around just her kids. I have kids too," Ginny thrust her hand toward the pile of mail on the kitchen counter. "Andbills."

Lisbon offered a sympathetic nod. "We understand. We won't mention it to Misses Taylor unless we have no choice but right now I don't see how it would pertain to the case."

Jane did a little throat clearing. "You must be very tired at the end of the day, what with the kids, a second job and all the crazy circus people running around-"

"Jane – " Lisbon said.

Jane ignored her. "Especially on your days off from your second job when you're at the Taylors all day, am I right?"

Ginny nodded. Now she looked scared.

"And then having to get up early the next morning too to go to your day job at the Taylor's – you must get exhausted. Tired enough to slip in a nap once misses Taylor leaves for work, is that right?" At the nanny's hesitation, Jane urged "Come on, you can tell us, napping isn't a crime."

Ginny covered her mouth with her hand and tears began to fall. "Just for an hour or so and not every day. And it doesn't matter when the kids are at school, it's just that..."

Jane nodded, looking out the kitchen window to the rain-wet street below. "It's just on this particular Tuesday you decided to take a nap. The kids had eaten lunch, they were playing quietly. Mom and Dad were gone but the house was locked up - what could it hurt?"

Ginny nodded, crying more. "Yes. Yes, I was sotired from the night before. It's so hard to make enough for my own kids, especially when -" she stopped short, deciding she had said enough.

Jane finished it for her. "When your bosses, Mister and Misses Taylor, are so demanding and perhaps even cheap. They probably don't give you a Christmas bonus or anything, do they?"

Ginny shook her head and wiped at her eyes with a dish towel. "No, never."

Seeing their witness break down after only a few minutes into the interview made Lisbon glad that Jane worked on the side of the CBI. "So you took a nap and that's when Abbey went missing?"

Ginny cried anew. "Yes, yes, oh God, what will happen to me now? The Taylor's will fire me for sure. I'll lose my job."

Jane waved his fingers back and forth as though to an annoying fly. "It wasn't much of a job anyway, Ginny, was it? Take it from me, there are better jobs out there" He glanced at Lisbon. "And better bosses."

Lisbon asked. "Did you see or hear anything prior to Abbey going missing – I mean before your nap? Was there a phone call?"

"No, nothing, just the mail truck, like I said."

"The mail truck always comes between eleven or twelve?" Jane asked.

"Most days, sometimes he comes after his lunch, some days before his lunch."

"How did you know what time the mail truck came last Tuesday – did you see it?" Jane asked.

She thought. "Well, no, but the mail was here. Bentley ran out to get it."

Lisbon asked "So he saw the mail truck?"

Ginny now looked confused. "Bentley said he saw the truck pull away and went to get the mail. He brought it in about twelve-fifteen, just before they ate their sandwiches."

To make it certain "So you never actually saw the truck yourself, and Bentley only said he saw it?" Jane asked.

"I guess that's true."

Jane shook his head. "No, no, don't guess. It's either true or it's not - which is it?"

"Bentley said he saw it." Ginny admitted.

Lisbon nodded, saying to Jane. "We'll check into the mail delivery trucks and who was working this area that day."

Jane nodded once. "Oh, I don't think that's a good idea, we circus people get some pretty crazy ideas."

Lisbon stood to leave, smiling kindly at Ginny whose eyes were now dry and watching Jane with wary surprise. "Thank you, Misses Roberto. If we have any more questions, we'll call you."

Jane paused at the kitchen door. "Oh, just one more thing – have you found any dead birds lately, on the Taylor's property?" Jane flicked at nervous look at Lisbon. He knew the limits of her patience and this would probably broach it. "You know, lying around on the edge of the lawn, o-or near the trees?" A tiny smile. "Out in the woods? I know - it's insane but just answer me anyway."

Ginny stared for a few seconds. "No, no, no dead birds. Is there some sort of disease going around?"

Jane shrugged. "Probably, though I'm sure it's nothing. Also, I hear Grimmly school is looking for lunch-time student monitors. Three hours a day and it probably pays close to double what the Taylor's were paying you, so you'd only need to work half the hours. I'd apply before it gets back to the Taylor's that you were sleeping on the job. The dog-faced boy sends his regards by the way. Bye now."

In the car, Lisbon asked. "How do you know the school is hiring? You've never been there."

"Snooty private schools are always looking for daytime monitors, there's a high turnover of staff for lunch room work."

"Oh really? And how in the world would you know anything about school? You've never been to school."

"I'm an investigator, it's my job to know - plus I called them."

"When?"

"From the bathroom. I suspected Ginny was neglecting her duties at the Taylors, ergo she would soon need another job."

Lisbon flashed him a shit-eating grin. "You're a softy for a sob story, Jane."

Deeply insulted "I amnot a softy. Actually I should just call them back and warn them about her. "Lunatics and thieves indeed"."

"She's harmless. And yes you are one, Jane, you're asofty. You knew she would probably lose her job and you wanted to save her. You're a big, mushy man. You're the Mush-man."

"I resent that, Lisbon. What I am is a steely-eyed consultant with a heart of stone." He pointed to his chest. "Don't believe me? Just feel that – no mush at all – cold, hard stone."

Lisbon sat back and enjoyed the drive. "Mush, Jane. Mush, mush, mush."

"Hard, bone-breakingstone, and quit it or stop the car because I'm walking back."

"Hah! Sure." She said, and then whispered "Mush-sh-sh-sh-sh."

C—B—I

Part 2 asap :^)