A/N: Surprise! Yes, it's me again, being extremely prolific lately. This is a story I've contemplated writing for a long time. I know this isn't an original idea, that others have written about the first time Jane and the team met, but hopefully my take is different enough that you will keep reading. It is going to have some angst, but also some humor too, and definitely goes AU in that there will be eventual Jisbon, yes, even this early in their relationship. Imagine how much improved Jane's life might have been had he and Lisbon fallen in love early on? But it won't be all hearts and flowers—at this time, Jane is still in a state of shock and extreme emotional upheaval.

So, here is my first chapter. I hope it catches (and holds) your interest.

Red Haze

Chapter 1

Sacramento, 2004

"Well, it certainly looks like the Red John killer," said Agent Teresa Lisbon, surveying the bloody, smiling face on the wall.

"Yeah," replied her junior agent, Kimball Cho.

He held a manila file, one that Cho had compiled himself from the CBI's daily crime report e-mail. It contained crime scene photos, victim profiles, and local police reports. They'd both heard of the serial killer of course—it was all over the news whenever he struck somewhere around California—but this was the first time either of the agents had been to an actual crime scene where Red John had been suspected. They stood together, grimly surveying the state university dorm room where the young sorority pledge had been carved up like an animal.

Peyton Edmonds was the daughter of a state senator, and the university she attended was on state land. Now, at last, one of Red John's murders had been committed in the CBI's jurisdiction. Finally, they could take over the investigation from local police, and, given the horrifying state of the crime scene, Lisbon and Cho were anxious to put an end to the killer's reign of terror.

CSI arrived and began collecting evidence and taking pictures, the coroner waiting in the wings to take the body when they had finished. Lisbon and Cho absorbed it all, noting the care Red John had taken to leave his macabre calling card on the wall, the careful precision with which he cut up his beautiful young victim. When at last the coroner was invited into the small dormitory, black body bag in hand, there came a sharp voice from the doorway.

"Don't touch her," said the man.

Lisbon's eyes flew to the intruder, her hand going instinctively to her sidearm. She immediately took in his appearance with the quick eye of an investigator. He was of medium height, with blonde, tousled curls, too long to belong to a man in law enforcement. His gray suit was three-piece and expensive, but hung on his thin frame like it had once belonged to a larger man. He wasn't wearing the expected tie. His face could be termed so handsome as to be beautiful, were it not for its gauntness and the deep circles beneath his bloodshot, blue-green eyes—probably the result of either alcohol abuse or many sleepless nights.

Lisbon could see from her vantage point near the bloody face that the man was literally shaking, his breathing audible, as if he had either been running or was terribly afraid. She and Cho walked over to the man, prepared to remove him from the vicinity.

"Sir, this is a crime scene," Lisbon told him. Unless you have some relevant ID, I'm gonna have to ask you to leave immediately."

The man reached into his breast pocket, holding up one hand at the agents' tense expressions, at the tightening of their hands on their weapons. A small smile hovered briefly about his lips, as he slowly produced a San Francisco Police Department picture ID card. Cho took the card from him. It didn't say he was a cop; it said he was a consultant.

"What do you want here, Mister…Jane?"

The man nodded toward the face on the wall, but it seemed to cost him emotionally to do so. "This is a Red John murder. I've been helping the police since the last one that happened in San Francisco six months ago. A man named Virgil Minelli called me to consult on this one."

Lisbon and Cho looked at one another, mildly baffled. "Minelli didn't say anything to us," Lisbon said, taking the ID from Cho and studying it.

"Jane," Cho said suddenly, the name striking him now as very familiar. He opened the file he'd held beneath his arm and shuffled through the photos and reports until he found the one he'd been looking for. He looked at a report, then at a picture, then back up at Jane.

"You the Patrick Jane whose wife and child were murdered a year ago?"

Jane flinched. "Yeah. The same man who killed my family very likely killed this woman too."

"He's that psychic," Cho said to Lisbon, and her eyes widened in sympathy.

Up close, she could sense an air of deep sadness and tragedy that hung about this man like a shroud. She remembered now, vaguely, the story of a psychic who had been consulting with the police about the string of Red John murders. He went on a talk show to talk about the investigation, only to have his own family murdered because of it. No wonder he seemed so shaken to be here.

"There are no such things as psychics," said Jane darkly. "Now, may I please examine the body before your people haul her away?"

Lisbon finally nodded and stepped aside so he could enter. "Let him look," she instructed the coroner, who stepped aside in annoyance. It was four in the morning; he really wanted to get home and crawl back into bed for an hour or two.

Everyone in the small room stilled to watch as Jane approached the body. He leaned close to the girl, sniffing around her hair, then the wounds themselves. He looked to Lisbon for permission, then, since CSI had finished their work, he was allowed to pull back the covers to view the naked body, all the way to her toenails. They were painted a deep red, but with nail polish, not blood. He nodded to himself, as if confirming a hunch. He checked her partly opened mouth, then opened one closed lid, revealing the iris to be blue. He noted there was nothing between her fingers or toes, within the strands of her long hair, or behind her ears. With one last look, he stepped away from the body.

Cho and Lisbon exchanged looks of fascination at the strange thoroughness of Patrick Jane's brief examination. They'd never seen anything like it. He'd examined her almost like a blood hound, but with great care and attention to the finest details. Jane gestured to the coroner, who, with his assistant, gratefully began the task of lifting her into the body bag.

Jane went to the wall next, sniffing there too. He nodded to the CBI agents.

"This was definitely done by Red John," he confirmed.

"No way to tell for sure this isn't a copycat until forensics finishes its comparison reports," said Cho.

Jane shrugged. "They'll be precisely the same as the eleven women before her. You won't find any DNA evidence from the killer, nothing to link the other victims except that they were female and murdered in the exact same way, complete with the faces on the walls. I've been on many of these crime scenes before; no doubt in my experience that it was Red John."

"Look, Mr. Jane, we're sorry for your loss," said Lisbon gently, "but you need to let our people do their jobs now. This is no longer in the hands of the local police; CBI is in control now, and we have much greater resources to narrow down the search for the Red John killer. Your input has been invaluable, and we thank you for coming all the way over here, but I think, given your…history, it might be best that you go home now and wait for the final reports. We'll certainly notify you once we have some solid leads to go on—"

"Red John is mine," he said steadily, and for the first time since he'd shown up at the door, Lisbon saw a glimpse of just how personally determined this man was. She could see in his eyes a glimmer of anger as well as the complete belief in what he was saying. He actually believed finding Red John was his destiny. Lisbon supposed she couldn't blame him for feeling that way, and she truly sympathized, but there would be no half-cocked vigilantes pursuing this case on her watch.

"I'm sorry, Mr. Jane, but I'm going to have to insist you leave. Agent Cho will escort you out of this dormitory if you refuse to leave quietly on your own."

"You're making a mistake," Jane said softly, almost threateningly, and Lisbon found her hand on her gun again.

"Let's go," said Cho, picking up on his boss's mood. He grabbed Jane's jacket-clad arm and pulled him toward the door.

Jane raised his hands almost as high as would a suspect, and allowed another brief smile to crease his thin cheeks. "No need for police brutality, agents," he reassured them. "I'll go for now. But when you hit a dead end and you're desperate for some added insight, you'll be calling me, of that I have no doubt."

'Yeah, well, we'll see about that. Good-bye, Mr. Jane."

The man left and Lisbon gave Cho a world-weary look. "Poor man," she said.

"Yeah," concurred Cho.

It was then that another agent arrived on the scene. Tall, lanky, and dark-haired, Wayne Rigsby entered the dorm room bearing a holder containing three Styrofoam cups of steaming coffee.

"Thanks, Rigsby," Lisbon said, gratefully taking a cup. She walked over to ask the coroner when they could expect his report.

Rigsby looked around the room, horror clearly clouding his Dudley Do-Right face.

"Wow. What kind of animal would do this?"

"Looks like it's that serial killer, Red John," said Cho to the arson expert.

Rigsby had been assigned to the Serious Crimes Unit less than a year before, and Cho found him to be a lively compliment to his own serious nature. He genuinely liked the man. His straight-arrow wholesomeness tended to mask his brilliance when it came to investigating and all things fire-related, but Cho was a great admirer of humility.

"Thanks for the coffee run," Cho said, retrieving his own cup. They stepped into the hallway. "Maybe someday the CBI will open its pockets wide enough to hire another agent to take care of these kinds of things."

"It would be nice to maybe have a woman on the team, eh?" Rigsby said with a slight leer.

"The boss is a woman," Cho reminded him, his dark eyes amused. He sipped the strong convenience store brew, making a face at its bitterness.

Rigsby blushed. Lisbon had such a tough cookie attitude, that Rigbsy sometimes forgot he even worked for a woman. "You know what I mean," said Rigsby.

He reached into his coat pocket and pulled out a handful of sugar packets, began tearing them open and added five to his small cup, swirling the liquid around to mix them in. Cho visibly cringed.

"You're gonna get diabetes, man," advised Cho.

Rigsby grinned, but stuck determinedly to the topic that most interested him. "How about a redhead? You like redheads?"

Cho shook his head; when Rigsby wasn't focusing on his job, his mind invariably went to women.

"Actually, I tend to prefer blondes," Cho said. "They're usually not quite as…temperamental."

"Ha. Not in my experience." And they continued to quietly debate the issue until their boss finished with the coroner and gave them leave to return to HQ.

Xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx

Patrick Jane leaned his back against his eggshell blue Citroen in the early morning darkness, trying to steady himself. He wished strongly for a drink, but he'd given up alcohol several months before, after he'd spent the first few weeks after his family was murdered in a drunken, suicidal haze. He'd realized, after his stay in the mental hospital, that in order to get Red John, he'd need his mind to be as clear and as focused as it could be. Now, if he could only get a handle on his insomnia...

This had been only the second Red John crime scene he'd witnessed since Angela and Charlotte's, and he had been glad that at least this time, he hadn't had to take an hour to muster the courage to go inside, or bawled his eyes out alone in his car afterwards. Sure, as with last time, his heart had been pounding out of his chest, his hands a sweaty mess, but once he'd made it into the dorm room, forced himself to face the reality that this was not in fact someone he knew, he was able to be calm enough to clinically examine the body.

Just as he'd known the moment he saw the smiley face, Red John had left no new evidence. He had little faith forensics would find anything either. The woman had been a senator's daughter, and he'd passed the man and his wife, surrounded by state police, sobbing inconsolably in the downstairs lobby of the dormitory. He felt his pain like no one else possibly could. He longed to talk to the father, if only to gain more insight into Red John's motives, to discover perhaps how the killer might have known the girl, what kinds of things the senator was into that might have caused Red John to kill his child. But Jane feared he would break down himself and be unable to continue, further curtailing his credibility. Perhaps tomorrow, when the shock had worn off a little for both of them…

He took a few deep breaths, trying to enlist his standby biofeedback methods to soothe himself. From the darkness of the tree-lined college street, he watched as the CBI agents he'd met upstairs came out of the building. Seeing the short brunette, remembering her spunk, actually made him smile a little. She was petite, and obviously the lead agent—he would have known that even had Minelli not told him beforehand. Her demeanor was of quiet confidence and natural leadership ability. He had the feeling she was the oldest sibling in her family, probably having to grow up and assume a lot of responsibility at a young age. She was pretty in an elfin way, and he supposed he liked her eyes the most. They were large and honest and, despite her underlying suspicion of him, extremely compassionate.

The other man he felt an immediate kinship with, and he couldn't quite place his finger on exactly why. Cho was definitely the strong silent type, to the point of true stoicism. On the surface, the two men seemed nothing alike, but Jane had the feeling, were they to work together, they would have similar opinions on a lot of things. The third man, whom Jane had not yet met, seemed from a distance the jovial type, and Jane understood that too. He used to be more that way, especially in the face of upsetting circumstances. Joking had once been a way for him to deal with—or not deal with—sad events, to cheer others as he cheered himself. These days, Jane rarely smiled, never laughed. Emotionally, he mainly felt numb, lost. The only thing that kept him going was his desire for revenge.

Agent Lisbon certainly didn't know him at all. If she thought he would just go back to San Francisco and wait for her call, she was sadly mistaken. He was called here to help by someone who outranked her, and he was going to use that "in" for all it was worth. He had printed off a map to the CBI Headquarters, and he'd be waiting to be let in the moment the offices opened that morning. Red John was his, and he'd be damned if he'd let the CBI or anyone else take the bastard away from him.

A/N: Well, how do you like this beginning? This was the intro, and while I hate reading long spates of prose myself, sometimes for a fic like this, you need a lot of background info, so I hope you understand and that it wasn't too boring. Trust me, it will become more exciting soon; please bear with me.

As for my other fics and the kind reviews you guys have left for them, I promise to get to them soon. It feels good to be writing this fic, so, If you don't mind, I'll just keep going with it…