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Author: G.E Waldo
Rated: K - English - Crime/Mystery - Reviews: 2 - Published: 12-30-11 - Updated: 01-08-12
Author: G. Waldo
Rating: Case-fic'. Light humour. Pairing: Jane/Cho (Chane?), Jane/Lisbon friendship-fury
Characters: Jane/Lisbon friendship; Jane/Cho - light (According to CBI office protocol).
Summary: Jane, tea and little old ladies. Jane solves a murder that no one thinks is a murder. This will be an episodic, shorter fic' than you are used to seeing from me.
Disclaimer: Not mine though I wish he was.
"Why do you want to go?" Lisbon asked Patrick Jane, her blonde and most persistently evasive employee. "This is my grandmother's second husband who's died. A hunting fishing man you wouldn't give a passing glance. And you don't even know my grandmother, you only know me."
Jane said, looking insulted. "Well, it's no ulterior motive if that's what you're thinking. Can't I show my respects, you know, give a friend support in a time of need?"
Lisbon narrowed her eyes. "Thanks, Jane, but I think it would be a little awkward. My grandmother doesn't like strangers."
Jane's shrewd aqua-coloured eyes searched her face. He could sniff out a lie from a hundred miles away. "I find that hard to believe, Lisbon, because if she's anything like you and I think she must have passed some of your most tenacious qualities down to you through your mother, she's fine with strangers. You talk to strangers every day, brow-beat them even - occasionally shoot them."
Lisbon tried a different tack. "You're playing me, Jane, there's some reason you want to attend my grandfather's funeral beyond friendship and, by the way, give me a break." It came to her and she saw through him, glad that after four years working with the uncanny mentalist, she could sometimes do that. "Did you overhear me talking to Tommy?" At his silence Lisbon knew she's stumbled onto the truth. "You did, didn't you?"
Jane shrugged in his best physical representation of an apology. "It was an accident."
"Well, Tommy may look like a grown-up but inside he's still a child. He sees conspiracy everywhere – he watches film noir for god's sake, and what's more - he's wrong. My grandfather was eighty-nine years old."
"Was he sick?"
The question was a little impertinent, though not unexpected from Jane. "No-o, but he was old and his health has been failing for a while."
"How long, failing?"
Lisbon shook her head, stacking papers on her desk, clearing it away for the long weekend. From experience Lisbon could see where this was going. "Jane, we're not doing this. I'm sorry if the business of murder has been slow for you lately, I for one love that no one's been shot or stabbed this week, but my grandfather was not shot or stabbed or poisoned, I don't care what ridiculous ideas Tommy comes up with or that you, unfortunately, overheard." Lisbon gathered up her coat and keys. "Now I am leaving for my grandfather's funeral –alone. You are staying here. Have a nice weekend."
The picture of calm, Jane watched her go. He waited four minutes and slipped down the side stairs to the parking lot, almost bowling over two people ascending. "Sorry, sorry." He called over his shoulder.
Keeping to the late afternoon shadows of the palm trees that were planted in rows next to the desert stone-coloured bricks of the CBI building, Jane watched Lisbon climb into her vehicle. She started it up and steered her SUV toward the busy road, leaving the parking lot. Jane got into his silver French Citroen and followed, keeping well back in traffic. His car did not exactly blend in.
During the hour long drive to Lisbon's grandmother's house, Jane contemplated several possibilities. Poison - out of the ideas rolling over in his persistently restless mind, poisonwas the most likely. Yes, he decided, the old man was probably poisoned.
Teresa Lisbon took a moment to pull her hair into a pony-tail before exiting the car. Her grandmother's house was a modern two-story crowded with rose bushes and greenery. A stone walkway lead to a roomy veranda outfitted with a table and a cushioned two-seater swing. Fake flowers adorned a small round table for drinks and what-not. A glass receptacle, scrubbed clean, sat waiting for her husband's cigar ashes that would no longer fall.
Inside Lisbon could hear voices and the clinking of glasses. She had planned to come for only the afternoon but her grandmother, Elizabeth Teresa St-Pierre, had insisted on her staying the night and possibly two.
Lisbon was about to ring the doorbell when the door opened and she was greeted by Elizabeth herself. "Teresa." She reached out and drew her into a lengthy hug. "It's so good to see you."
Lisbon smiled. Elizabeth looked just the same, only older. But she was woman who had retained her razor thinness right into her late seventies, though her hair, about which she had always been rather vain, had thinned and turned white. Still she kept it piled on top of her head in a meticulous do'.
Elizabeth looked passed her granddaughter and said "And who's this?" She looked at Teresa, "Don't tell me you've finally landed one?"
Lisbon looked around to see what in the world her grandmother was talking about only to see Jane bounce up the stairs and extend his hand to the elderly lady before him. "Patrick Jane, it's a pleasure to meet you, Misses St. Pierre."
Lisbon set her lip to hide grinding teeth while Jane smiled at her pleasantly.
Elizabeth smiled warmly at him and turned to Lisbon. "Teresa, you've been keeping secrets." She leaned in and, much to Jane's amusement, whispered. "Oh, he's cute - good for you."
Lisbon shook her head vigorously. "No, no, grandma', I –he –we're not together. He just works for me." Lisbon turned to Jane. "And he's only here to give me a message," She said her voice dropping a deadly tone, "aren't you, Jane?" She said to Elizabeth. "He won't be staying."
But Elizabeth stepped over to him and, wrapping her arm though his, scolded "Nonsense! Teresa - where are your manners? Come with me, Patrick, and please call me Beth."
Jane was lead inside and Lisbon followed, closing the door with a solid bang that turned a few heads.
Elizabeth ignored her granddaughter's inexplicable show of temper and took Jane over to a group of her lady friends. Lisbon heard her introducing Jane all around. "And this," She announced to them, "is my granddaughter Teresa's employee Mister Patrick Jane. Mister Jane, may I introduce Celia and Ann, Rachel and her husband John and my own sister-in-law Eliza-Marie St. Pierre." Lisbon overheard Elizabeth saying to one of them "She's not even dating him – can you believe it!" And, as though her granddaughter's hour-glass was down to its last few grits of sand, she added "But that's my Teresa, I'm losing hope that she'll ever get married."
Ever-so-often Jane would look over to Lisbon, smile and shrug as though he couldn't help being adorable.
Eliza shook his hand, her colourfully made-up face smiling sweetly out from behind glasses so thick they made her eyes appear as large as china saucers. "You know, my own room-mate died just a year ago. Isn't that a weird coincidence, Mister Jane?"
"Dying a year apart?" Jane said, nodding. "Yes, very strange indeed."
Eliza twittered at this young, good-looking man who worked with her sister-in-law's daughter. "Having two detective's in the house at the same time." She said. "How exciting, even if it is during a funeral for poor Harold."
"You were close?" Jane asked.
"Oh, yes, but we hardly ever saw each other. I had my life and he had his you know. Plus I travelled a lot. That's why I had a room-mate, a house-mate really. Margaret stayed and looked after the dogs while I went to Europe and Asia twice a year. Harold was always so good to me – sending me money whenever I needed it. And I sent them gifts all the time. I crochet you know and I've made Harold lace covers for his cigar box collection. Over fifty of them so far."
Beth smiled indulgently. "But you slacked off the last year or so, Eliza, not that it matters to Harold anymore. He's smoked his last cigar."
Jane could imagine the snorting reaction of a masculine, cigar smoking, hunting, shooting, fishing type bulk of a man opening a gift box to find a feminine lacy thing inside made to fit one of his prized collector's cigar boxes. Jane could also imagine a seldom opened drawer somewhere in the house filled to the screws with them, not one of the delicate doily-like creations actually having been put to its creator's intended use.
Lisbon said perfunctory hello's to her grandmother's assortment of friends and relations whose names she hardly remembered and waited for her grandmother to release Jane from her widow's iron grip.
When Beth was distracted with more arriving guests, Lisbon grabbed his arm and non-too-delicately dragged him into a private corner of the spacious living room crowded with expensive Victorian furniture. "I want you to leave. Right now."
Jane looked offended. "I can't leave, Lisbon, I'm hungry and Elizabeth promised me a cup of tea and cookies. Besides it would be rude."
Anger percolating beneath the surface - "I don't care!" Lisbon realised her voice was beginning to carry and dropped it to a whisper, dragging him again, this time through an ornately carved swinging door into the kitchen. It was deserted but for a very fat woman wearing an apron, evidently the cook that had been hired to cater the funeral, setting out food dainties on several massive stone-ware trays. Lisbon snarled "I didn't invite you."
Jane realised it was time for some damage control. "Take it easy, Lisbon, I promise to behave, besides since I'm not on the market I want to see what distant cousins your grandmother's invited to marry you off to."
Lisbon said. "Jane, my grandmother's been trying to marry me off since I was twelve. If I was in the market for a man, it would not be you or a cousin or – or..." She stopped, coming to a decision, and with two hands physically waved away the entire conversation. "You know what, never mind. Fine, stay, be a pain in the ass if you must but just so you know - I'm going to ignore you the whole time."
Lisbon stormed off and Jane said to the cook who had been listening but trying not to appear that she was listening. "She's in mourning, angry, turning on those closest to her - you know how it is."
Food was served inside and on the veranda to where many folding chairs found their way, Jane doing his part. Beth worked side by side with her granddaughter's good-looking Patrick, endlessly chatting him up about Teresa's childhood adventures and foibles.
"She was a stubborn girl, but we all knew she was meant for something special. I for one had hoped she'd become someone who did not carry a gun and shoot people but that's my Teresa." Regarding her granddaughter it was evidently her favourite saying.
Jane sat down on the chair Beth offered and accepted some tea in a delicate cup belonging to an old, expensive looking tea service.
"Sugar?" She asked, holding out the bowl. "Or honey?"
Jane was enjoying being spoilt. "Honey would be lovely, thank you."
Beth sat down, easing the burden after having been on her feet since dawn. "My mother would have approved of you, Patrick; such fine manners in a man of this generation."
Jane decided not to enlighten her about his colourful past and steered the conversation away from him and onto matters of which he was far more curious. "How long were you married to your late husband?"
"Oh – thirty-two good years. My first husband died in France in nineteen-forty-four. He was a good man but so set on going to Europe that I couldn't talk him out of it."
"Oh, thank-you dear but we hardly knew each other when we got married. That's how it often happened in those days. But Harold, my second husband, that's who you asked about didn't you? He was a wonderful man, Patrick, and so good to me. We travelled and did everything together – and he was rich. Very well off. He had made his, as he would say - investments long before we met."
"Where is the funeral happening?" Jane hoped he could weasel his way into an invite to the grave-side.
"Oh we're having it here. Harold is on view in the master bedroom."
Jane had not expected that. The tea was delicious and Jane sipped quietly for a moment, unsure how to ask the next series of questions. "Was he ill long?"
"Not a day in his life. We were finishing breakfast, and by we I mean my sister-in-law and myself – Harold didn't eat a large breakfast; said it dulled the mind but Eliza and I were raised in London until we were ten and there large breakfasts are the way. It's amazing isn't it? This will be first time Eliza – Harold's only sister - and I have spent any time together in nearly thirty years. She's the only family I have left. And we only live two hours apart. Life can be funny that way I suppose."
Jane glanced at Beth's stick arms and legs and concluded that she was one of the few women in the world lucky enough to have been born with a race-car metabolism. Her rotund sister-in-law Eliza had not been so graced. "If it's not being rude, may I ask how he died?"
Beth poured them each out more tea. "Oh I don't mind, you do work with Teresa after all, and that's what you people do –solve crimes. Though this is of course not a crime, no, Harold just didn't wake up one morning. Heart, the doctor said."
"So there was an autopsy?"
"No, no, Harold was eighty-nine years old. The coroner saw no need of it. Said his heart had probably been slowly failing for some time, and one day - just like that – it went."
It was not unusual for an elderly person's death to be chalked up to "organ failure". It was an easy explanation and one often used by the County to avoid spending county-money on what might turn out to be a natural death.
For the time being, Beth shook off talk of Harold and scooted her chair closer to Teresa's good-looking young man. "Now I want to hear all about you. Since you and my granddaughter are not involved – and unfortunate is all I can say about that – I want to know who you are seeing, and don't be embarrassed about it either. A good looking young man like you must have some sweet thing waiting for him somewhere - I'm sure of it. Besides there's not much fun left in the life of a woman my age so you must be a dear and allow an old lady her nosiness and bits of gossip."
Jane didn't think it prudent to let on that the only person he had been seeing of late was a man. "I am seeing someone, sort of, it's not serious." Jane was aware he possessed a smile that could charm the pants off of nearly anyone but refrained from using it here. It didn't feel right, lying to Beth about it, though he could not explain why. Instead he stared into his tea cup. He wished he could smile about Cho, at least to himself if no one else, but allowing that much freedom of feeling left him anxious. He simply wasn't sure how far Red John's "generosity", as the killer had termed it, would go.
But Beth saw the warmth in his eyes and nodded. "Ah, I thought so. Who is she? I hope she's smart and not one of these ridiculous young women who think only about hair and clothes. Now I know you're too smart to fall for that stuff."
"We really a-aren't together. Not really. It's...difficult."
Beth was taken aback. "But why on earth not?" She all but gasped. "You're young, good-looking and a brain. I'm the first to admit that love can be a trial but if it's going to amount to anything at all, Patrick, it must begin by being serious."
Jane smiled. "I admire your attitude." He unconsciously twisted the ring on his left hand with nervous fingers. Any time when talk turned to his love-life or lack there-of, he started feeling uncomfortable.
Beth saw the ring. "You're not already married? An affair, Patrick? Is that why - Oh!" She grabbed his arm ferociously in a sudden flash of motherly understanding. "It's a divorce isn't it? I'm so sorry, Patrick, I should not have asked such a personal question."
Jane shook his head. "No, no, it's fine, I'm not married. Not anymore. We – it was - she died." Jane, as much as he did not like talking about his dead family, saw it as an excellent way to gather Beth's sympathies, and therefore her willingness to give him the license he might require to delve into the death of her second husband. "We had a daughter, Charlotte. She was killed too."
Beth all but wept, taking his hand in hers. "Oh, I'm so sorry, dear Patrick. How did it happen? Was it a car accident?"
Once she knew, he would have her eating out of his poor, sad widower's hand. "They were murdered."
Beth covered her mouth with her hand. "Oh, that's terrible. You poor thing."
"It's why I started working for Lis - your granddaughter." Jane was used to feigning woe when necessary to get what he wanted during an investigation but the problem with using his murdered family as a game piece was it often stirred up feelings of real grief. He could sense the old, cobwebbed sorrow bubbling up and stood up suddenly, abandoning his tea. He looked down with watering eyes at the grand old woman sitting there with a kerchief to the corner of her eye, her expression dripping rivers of empathy. "Excuse me, Elizabeth, I-I'm – thank-you for the tea. I – um, excuse me..."
"Ofcourse – I'm so sorry dear Patrick." Beth watched him walk into the house, used to the male gender that often had difficulty showing their emotions. The decades went by but men never changed. Beth gathered up her lace kerchief and hurried off to secretly share the sad, macabre story with her girlfriends.
Jane made good his escape, asking for directions to the washroom on the second level. Once he had himself under control again, he wandered into the master bedroom where old Harold was laid out for viewing, a custom, thanks to Red John and his knife, that Jane had not been able to grant his dead wife and daughter.
Jane leaned over the casket, judging that in his youth Harold had been a large boned but good-looking man. Jane sniffed and noticed the antiseptic smell of chemically treated satin and wood oil, but those were both overpowered by the deodorizing spray Beth must have used on her late husband. Most mortuaries used a neutralizing spray or powder to absorb the unpleasant stink of formaldehyde. Perhaps they had, but Beth had neutralized it with her own version of odour-control. Harold stunk of citrus and vanilla.
Jane turned to see Lisbon leaning against the door jamb.
"Hey." He replied in same, not in the mood to provoke her.
Lisbon did not appear in the frame of mind to argue either. "Grandma's taken a shine to you. I guess I shouldn't be surprised."
Jane wasn't sure if that was compliment or not. "Beth said he wasn't sick a day in his life."
Lisbon shrugged. "So? Athletic people drop dead on basketball and tennis courts every year."
"But in those cases there are autopsies. In Harold's case, there wasn't and there should have been."
"Why? Because Tommy thought so?" Lisbon asked. "He goes to the emergency when he has hang-nail."
Jane frowned. "You don't like your brother much do you? I mean you don't approve of him."
Lisbon stepped into the room. "I love Tommy, but like you he sees conspiracies everywhere."
"I feel for him. It must be hard working under the shadow of Sister Dragnet. And I only see conspiracies when they're there to be seen. I'm not looking for a murder under the rugs, Lisbon, but one has happened here just the same."
Lisbon was tired of asking the question. "Why? And I mean why other than the fact that he's dead."
"Experience, the human condition, human greed, maybe instinct - take your pick."
"What do you mean greed?"
Jane looked at her, leaving his viewing of dead Harold for the moment. "Harold was rich. Now he's dead, and that means a large financial legacy waiting to be had."
"Well, if you think my grandmother is guilty because she gets it all, that's where you're wrong. She gets one third of what-ever there is. The rest goes to Harold's sister and his nephew."
Jane had planned on getting around to discussing the money with Beth but now he didn't need to. "Thank you, Lisbon, I was wondering about it. Your grandmother tells you everything?"
"Most things, but mostly how to get married." She shared the humour of it with Jane by lifting one corner of her mouth.
"Well don't worry about her trying to pair us off, I told her I was already involved with someone."
Lisbon was surprised to hear it. "I thought you and Cho were...I mean, wasn't it casual or something?"
Jane wandered around the room, lifting this and sniffing that, an ashtray, some real pink roses, a small photo album. He flipped through it, skimming over old family photographs. Most were in black and white, from the nineteen-forties and fifties. A visual record of Harold St. Pierre and his siblings. Eliza had been a skinny thing as a young woman. And Harold had been, as Jane had surmised, quite dashing. "It is." He said, referring back to Cho. "Casual, yes." He could afford nothing else.
Lisbon was curious about it. Jane in an actual relationship, even if it was against CBI rules, though she supposed they had some wiggle room since Jane was a consultant and not strictly under the CBI's normal employer/employee rule book. It was a good thing, she supposed - she hoped. And since Jane had been alone for so long, it endeared him to her but it was also...she worried for both of them. Romantically Jane was...with his obsessions and single-minded focus on revenge...a risk. "But you're not, I mean Cho and you aren't..."
"Living together? No." Jane turned and looked at her. "Do you really want to have this discussion now? We're trying to find a murderer."
Lisbon dropped it and took up the other thing she did not want to talk about. "I'm not looking for a murderer, and you're barking up the wrong tree."
"I'm not barking yet nor have I even found the right tree but when I do, you're going to change your tune."
Jane thrust his hands in his suite pockets. "Always a bad idea when you're betting against a con man."
"Afraid you'll lose?"
Jane smiled at the challenge and pointed an accusing finger at her. "Stop trying to goad me."
"Fifty bucks says you're wrong."
Jane shook the idea off. "No, and especially not for money, that would be too crude. You know I don't care about money."
It was true enough. She crossed her arms "Okay, name your bet then, if you're not afraid."
Jane thought it over. Lisbon was wrong. He was certain Harold had been murdered, but if by some miracle she was right, what could he offer her that she did not already have or visa-versa?
"Truth." He said. "We wager for truth. If I win, you tell me something about me, something that you have never told me or anyone else. And it has to be true, plus you have to say it in front of everyone else."
"And if I win?"
"I'll do the same. Don't worry, even though I have dozens of hilarious stories I could reveal, I won't say anything embarrassing about you when I win. Deal?"
He was so damn cocky. "Deal." She said, smiling. This was one where Jane would not come out on top.
Lisbon left him and Jane slipped into the guest bedrooms. There were three and, taking into consideration the hair curlers, the large pink-coloured face powder sitting open on the dresser, an extra-large brazier hanging off one chair, the two flowery wrapped gift-boxes not yet handed out to, he assumed, the host and her nephew, and the smell of rose oil, the room he was in was clearly being occupied by the visiting sister-in-law Eliza.
Of the other two rooms one was occupied by a man. Black socks lay on the floor and a man's grey trousers were draped over the foot of the bed. A black suitcase made of imitation leather sat on the floor. This was the nephew David's room for the night.
In the third room the bed was neatly made and the room smelled of fresh pine cleaner. Fresh cut carnations adorned the very female make-up dresser. This was where Lisbon would be sleeping.
Jane wasn't certain how, or where, he was going to spend the night but if Beth did not invite him to sleep on one of her several comfortable looking couches, he would find a hotel. Grave-side was late tomorrow and he had until then to solve this murder. After all, there was his reputation with his boss, and a very important wager, on the line.
Lisbon made her way back to the living room on the main floor. She wandered by the dining table that was now filled with trays of delicate quarter-cut sandwiches of every concoction, meats, cheese, crackers and sweets. The caterer was keeping coffee and tea piping hot and flowing. And her grandmother, always a woman of good taste in the kitchen, had real Devonshire cream for the sweets and proper thick cow's cream for the beverages.
Lisbon gathered up a small Chinaware plate with a few sandwiches and cheese. She sat down by one of her grandmother's numerous lady friends. "And her name was Charlotte." An exceptionally wrinkled woman to her left was discreetly whispering to the one beside her who was leaning in so her unreliable hearing would not to miss a single syllable. "That poor man, and what a lovely old-fashioned name for a daughter, don't you think. Charlotte, it's so pretty. Reminds me of my mother - her name was Caroline. And then his wife and the daughter get murdered." She said the last word with all the horror she could muster in the fading voice of the very old. "No wonder he works with the police."
The second old lady nodded, chewing on a bit of cheese. "I hope he catches people like that awful murderer and puts them away."
"I think a killer ought to be killed himself." Said Eliza. "Enough with putting them in jail and giving them television and meatloaf. A life for a life, that's what the good Lord thinks and it's fine with me."
Lisbon wandered away roughly toward where her grandmother was sitting talking to her late husband's nephew. She saw Lisbon and waved her over. "Teresa, you remember David?"
Lisbon smiled. He looked vaguely familiar. "Of course, how are you?"
David St. Pierre stretched out a work worn hand. He was older than Lisbon by fifteen years and had the look of a tired man worn down by the difficulties of the lower class life, one much in need of a nest egg as though Harold's death hadn't come too soon. Lisbon mentally kicked herself for drifting into Jane's way of thinking; that everyone is guilty of something and the world was full of greedy, dishonest, unsavoury characters, much like he had once been.
Maybe that's why Jane was so cynical toward most people, she reasoned. Once upon a time he himself had been a liar and a cheat, so now he imagined evil lies and greed were everywhere, believing they would manifest in almost anyone. It must be, Lisbon thought, an unhappy way to live.
David and Lisbon exchanged pleasantries for a moment until Beth said. "Oh, look, there's Patrick. David you must meet Patrick. He works with Teresa and is a very smart man, but a little sad you know." She whispered. "His family was murdered – isn't that the most awful thing you ever heard? But you musn't mention it."
That her grandmother was, ironically, mentioning it to anyone who would listen was not lost on Lisbon.
Beth took Jane's arm and made him sit beside her once more. Lisbon decided to hang nearby and listen in on the conversation. Jane was a hit with her grandmother. If nothing else, it ought to be entertaining. Jane was in for it because when it came to thorough soul-digging, her grandmother was a master-craftsman. No one had found a window into her soul the way her grandma St. Pierre had.
No one that is until Patrick Jane came to work for her.
"Patrick, this is David. He's staying over tonight - and Teresa of course." Beth was suddenly struck by an idea and her face took on a light as though a very real bulb was hanging above her noggin, shining down. "And you must stay, too, Patrick. I don't know why I didn't think of it until now. You'll stay too." It was a bona fide Elizabeth St. Pierre Commandment. "There's a room at the back of the house. Very comfortable bed, a single, but still very comfortable. You won't have any of that nasty insomnia you spoke of."
Lisbon raised a bemused eyebrow at that. Jane had been telling her grandmother quite a bit about himself. Or she had wrung it out of him. Elizabeth St. Pierre was not a woman one could keep things from for long. She'd look at you in that cultured old-world genteel way and you just had to spill your guts or melt into the carpet. Either way you were done for.
Beth was far from finished entertaining the new, most favourite young man she'd found in Jane. "Harold used it as a den. His "Thinking Room", he used to call it. He kept whiskey and brandy in there and his imported cigars." Beth leaned toward Jane's ear and he obliged her by leaning back and giving her his whole attention. She whispered conspiratorially into his ear "Real Cubans." She giggled. "Harold used to have his Canadian hunting friend order them for him special and ship them down here in a box of Hunter's Monthly magazines. Only he never hunted anymore." Beth finally came to the end of her friendly but slightly long-winded banter and took a well needed deep breath, asking "Do you smoke, Patrick?"
At his head-shake "Well, David smokes like his uncle did. Harold's sister Julia was David's mother, God rest her soul. She used to smoke, too. I'm glad you're smarter than that, Patrick. Why it might have been all those cigars that finally killed Harold."
Jane wanted to steer the conversation over to other things besides who did or did not smoke. "You must be happy to have your family here after so long. Especially Eliza."
Beth nodded emphatically. "Yes, yes. And you know, I hardly recognised her, she's gained so much weight, not that I'd mention it. But she's still the same Eliza. Still loves red wine with dinner – even if it's chicken – and she still is so generous with the gifts though she had to bring store-bought this time. I guess the years and arthritis have taken away her agility with the crochet needles. She used to make the most fabulous table cloths and even dresses when she was young. She even made her own wedding dress."
Beth looked over to her nephew. "And David here is an electronics expert." She said, giving it high praise.
Lisbon doubted her grandmother exactly knew or could explain just what it was an electronic expert did.
"He has the most wonderful daughter, Patricia-Rose who's in college now – what is she studying again David?"
"She's in medical school."
Jane looked impressed. "Wow, good for her. The tuition must be a killer. Fourth year?"
David shook his head. "No - first."
Jane nodded. David was sweating. He was overweight and his suit jacket did not match his trousers. David had evidently fallen on some rough times.
David noticed Jane looking at him and stood up. "I'm going for a smoke, Aunt Beth."
Jane jumped up. "I'll join you."
David did not seem either pleased or annoyed. "This is a long smoke. Afraid I've got the same cigar habit as my uncle."
Jane followed him to the door. "It's a fine night for it."
Lisbon watched Jane disappear onto the porch with her cousin.
Beth noticed her granddaughter's eyes as Patrick left the room. "Are you sure you and he aren't...?" She said wistfully. "He's such a pleasant young man, Teresa. You could hardly do better you know."
Thanks for the vote of confidence was what passed through her mind but what she said was "Even if Ja - Patrick and I wanted to, CBI rules say we can't."
Beth shook her head. The world could be a sorely disappointing place. "Too bad, dear. He's such a nice catch."
On the veranda, in the fading light of a warm July California evening, David the nephew held a match to a five inch cigar as round as his thumb. He had to burn the match almost it down to the end before he was satisfied that it was well, good and lit.
Where two hours earlier, Lisbon's grandmother had sat and fished for his life-story, Jane sat watching the evening slowly pass as Lisbon's cousin enjoyed his cigar, blowing the aromatic smoke out with a sigh of satisfaction. Jane had never taken up the habit of smoking, a thing his circus father had regularly derided him for, but if he was ever going to, it would be a genuine Cuban cigar he put to his lips and nothing else. The faint but sweet smell of the fine wine and the barrel the cigar was aged in made the smoke practically intoxicating.
David saw the look of interest on Jane's face and pulled a second cigar from his pocket, offering it to him. Jane smiled, accepting it. "Thanks. A real Cuban huh?"
"Nothing but the best for Harold." He was struck with a fit of coughing, loudly clearing his throat.
"Trying to quit?" Jane asked. "I mean the other habit?"
David tilted his head wryly. "They're a bugger, cigarettes. That's why I took up cigars."
"You should see a doctor about that cough." Jane fumbled with the match-book, striking but not getting a spark. "You didn't call him uncle."
David laughed. "Can't afford a bloody doctor." But he didn't look over at his porch companion. "Me and Harold didn't get along much - hardly ever saw each other actually. He didn't like what I did for a living."
"Oh? He had something against electronics or computers?" Jane didn't much get along with the beeping, whizzing things either. That's what computer geeks, like Van Pelt, were for, to make the damn things make sense and do what he needed them to.
"No. Just me." David drew on his cigar, holding the smoke in for a few seconds, and then blowing it out as though it was his best friend and here it was leaving him behind. Jane had the feeling David would have liked to disappear just like the cigar smoke. "He didn't like that I made no money at it."
"Oh." Jane gave up on the matches and reluctantly put the cigar down on the round table. It was probably for the best. "Brother's, father's, uncles can be like that. I wouldn't worry about it, especially not now that he's dead."
"I'm not." David insisted though looking every bit as worried as he had a moment before.
Jane sat back, relaxing into the cushioned wicker chair. Lisbon's grandmother's house was nice. He had never experienced life in a nice house until he met his wife and bought the biggest one they could afford, and then moved into an even bigger one after embarking on his own career of professional conman and started making the real money. When his family died, Jane was surprised to discover, after working for years to attain it, he didn't miss the house at all. To him overnight it became nothing but an empty, dust-covered reminder of how swiftly the good things can come to a screeching end.
David announced "I'm beat. I'm going to bed. 'Nite Pat." He butted out his cigar and left the three inch nub in the ashtray, disappearing inside the house through the screen door.
Jane nodded. "'Nite. Thanks for the cigar." Jane left the unlit cigar gift beside the ashtray and moved to the porch swing. It was a bit cramped but he managed to squeeze himself and one bent leg onto it, leaving his other leg on the floor to gently swing it into motion, tucking one arm behind his head. It was a luxury, to sit and swing on a porch in the warm evening light and just listen to the birds and feel the breeze on his face.
When a child, Jane had never known any of his grandparents or recalled having a house like this one to come to on holidays. He could not in fact remember any holidays. And when he closed his eyes, he thought he could see the face of his mother who had died when he was very young, but he wasn't sure if the memory was real or not. It was vague and when he looked too closely, the image shimmered and shifted from side to side, the image blurring in his mind.
Lisbon knew her brothers and her parents and her grandmother and her grandmother was so nice. She was a bit of a gossipy hanger-on but she was also very kind and gentle, she served good food and lived in a nice house with nice things. And she had welcomed him in and made him feel at home as though he were no stranger at all. It was almost a shame that he had to solve a murder, that murder victim being Elizabeth's already dead husband, and spoil it all.
But for the present anyway he could relax and enjoy this little bit of home-grown family comfort. Lisbon was a lucky woman.
Sleep overcame him and Jane closed his eyes.
Part 2 soon