Red in Tooth
By Thalia Drogna
In which Jane gets bitten by a snake but still manages to solve the case.
Disclaimer: I don't own these characters, I'm just borrowing them because it's fun.
Author's Note: This is my first Mentalist fanfic. If anyone has read my efforts in other fandoms, then you'll know that I love my H/C. I like to put my characters though hell and have happy endings. The temptation to call this fic "Snakes on a Jane" was strong but I resisted.
All medical knowledge is gained from my extensive research on the internet and from watching medical dramas. That doesn't mean it's wrong, but it doesn't make it right either. It's accurate to the best of my ability to make it so, just don't use it as a manual on how to treat a snake bite.
The scene of the murder was not a particularly unusual one at first glance. The majority of the team had arrived together after a call from the local law enforcement officers. Patrick Jane was slightly later than the others, which of course was not particularly unusual either. The aging Citroen was being slow to start in the mornings at the moment and, to be honest, so was Jane, something which had not gone unnoticed by his boss at the CBI, Teresa Lisbon. The victim, Marcus Addison, was the owner of a chain of local pet shops and had been found by his girlfriend, Lois Birchley, a few hours earlier when he failed to turn up to work. They didn't even really need the coroner to tell them what the cause of death was, it was clearly the bullet hole in his head, although an official autopsy would still be done to make sure nothing else was missed. There was no sign of the murder weapon, so the assailant had probably taken it with them, but they would conduct a search anyway to be sure it hadn't been dropped nearby.
The victim's house was of a good size and little way out of Sacramento in Old Willowbrook. It had been a half hour drive from the CBI offices to get there. It seemed that the pet shops had been well run and made Addison a reasonable amount of money. It was definitely enough that he could live comfortably and have sufficient funds to keep the small zoo of animals that were also present at the property. There was a large aviary behind the property that contained all manner of colourful birds and a few cages containing rabbits and other small mammals. The local cops had already called animal control to come and deal with them.
Inside the house, the décor was minimalist but tasteful. However, there were a few unusual details. The main one, which Jane was now perusing, was that Addison had been killed in the room where he kept his collection of pet reptiles. A huge number of glass vivariums were arranged on what appeared to be custom made pedestals around the large room. Lisbon watched him with interest as he inspected the various occupants of the tanks. Jane always seemed drawn to animals; he was fascinated by them, and she often wondered if perhaps he saw them as true innocents in a human world where no one was really innocent.
She turned back to Rigsby and the girlfriend. "Did he have any enemies? Or was there anyone he'd argued with recently?"
Lois Birchley shook her head vehemently, her eyes were red with tears, and she kept glancing in the direction of the covered body. "He worked every hour he could, running the shops, and he didn't have much time for anything else. He just didn't know that many people. The two of us met when he employed me to manage the first Sacramento branch that he opened. He loved animals, especially the reptiles." She indicated the tanks around the room. "He's got one of the best collections of venomous snakes in the US outside of the major zoos."
Jane's ears pricked up. "Venomous?" He took an almost imperceptible half step away from the tank he was looking at. The brightly striped snake within flicked its tongue at him.
"Don't worry, he was very careful and the tanks are all secure. That one's just a milk snake anyway. They're not all venomous. It's that one over there that's the real killer. It's the prize of his collection, a Black Mamba." She indicated a dark black snake in one of the tanks. "He'd just had a new one delivered." A packing crate, suitable for a reptile sat in the corner of the room, and her eyes glanced towards it briefly.
Lisbon watched Jane move along the tanks, pointing to each one with his finger. "I'd guess you know what all of these snakes are, and which is the new one?"
Lois nodded. "He didn't tell me what species it was, but it'll be in the new tank." She turned towards the end of the line of tanks, and stopped. As did Jane.
"Huh. The empty tank with the drops of blood on it. He must have been putting it away as he was shot," said Jane turning towards Lisbon, with a suddenly genuinely worried look on his face. "Lisbon…"
Lisbon looked around the room bustling with agents, forensics techs and coroner's assistants, a dawning realisation on her face. She took a deep breath and shouted out her next order. "I want this room clear now. We have a possibly dangerous snake loose in this room."
People hesitated for a moment, because they probably weren't used to being ordered to leave a room due to there being a snake on the loose.
"Now! Out! And someone call animal control again." She started moving towards the door, ushering others in front of her to make sure all the people got out. Cho had already flipped his phone out and was dialling animal control as he walked out of the room. Jane was furthest across the other side of the room. He was taking his time, poking at the box and packing material that the snake had come in.
"Come on, Jane, it's not safe in here with an escaped snake."
"It's a big room, Lisbon. It's interesting that there aren't any shipping papers in this, don't you think? I'd have expected there…" Suddenly Jane let out a yelp and turned quickly to look down. His face when he turned back to Lisbon was pale. "I think I just found our missing snake."
Lisbon's mouth dropped open. She just had time to think that of course it would have to be Jane who got bit, before she rushed across the room and grabbed one of his arms. She hauled him out of the room with him limping as quickly as he could.
"You idiot," seethed Lisbon. "I give an order and you decide to look for a packing slip. The damn snake bit you, didn't it?" They stepped out of the house and onto the porch. She sat Jane down on the front step.
"I didn't think the snake would understand irony." Jane was pale as he rolled up his pants leg to reveal two red puncture marks on his left calf. They were already bleeding a little.
"What is ironic about this?" She pulled out her phone and began dialling the paramedics.
"You shouted something like "get out there's a dangerous snake that may bite you" and that very second the snake bit me."
Rigsby, Van Pelt, and Cho had seen Lisbon and Jane emerge from the house and came over to see what was going on.
"That's not ironic, it's just stupid." The call connected. "This is Agent Lisbon, I need an ambulance to 1135 Montgomery Drive, Old Willowbrook. I have an agent with a possible venomous snake bite." She put the phone to her shoulder. "Ms Birchley, do you know what kind of snake it is?"
Lois shook her head. "No, Marcus didn't tell me what he was buying. It was supposed to be a surprise." She was practically in tears again, simply at the mention of his snake collection.
"No, we don't know the type of snake. Uh huh, okay. Thank you." She closed the phone.
Jane looked up at Lisbon, doing his best to look completely unconcerned. He was very good at faking it, but this time the paleness of his face gave away the fact that something wasn't right. The bite was clearly painful.
"You're worrying over this too much. I used to know people that worked with snakes, back in my youth. The majority of snake bites are dry bites, that means no venom, and even then most snakes don't put enough venom into a bite to kill a man. In fact it actually takes a snake a lot of effort to produce venom, so they don't use it unless they really have to. It's probably just a puncture wound; at worst I'll feel a bit nauseous… which will be a good reminder to follow your orders in the future." He gave her an apologetic smile which she knew was supposed to put her at ease, but it would need more than that this time. She was actually wondering how much of this to believe. "It's why rattlesnakes rattle after all. Snakes prefer to give warnings rather than waste precious venom."
She crouched down beside Jane, grabbed his wrist and started to take his pulse. "Shut up, Jane. They said you need to relax and stay as calm as possible." Which meant that she would also have to be as calm as possible, and that was going to be hard. She really wanted to slap him for being so careless.
"You were bitten by the snake?" asked Cho, looking down at Jane. Cho's face was as unemotional as always, but the occasional glance at Lisbon meant she knew that he didn't like this development at their crime scene.
"Yes, apparently I got too close to its hiding place," said Jane, with a shrug. "Most snakes are timid creatures and would rather run away than bite. I'd suggest we're looking for one of the more vicious species."
Cho frowned. "It was probably already scared by all the people in the room."
Jane gave an extremely reluctant shrug. "Maybe." He hated admitting that maybe he'd been wrong, and if Lisbon was pushed then she'd have to admit that he rarely was, despite his proclivity for causing trouble.
"Anything we can do, boss?" asked Rigsby, regarding the scene with concern.
"Go down the drive and make sure that the ambulance knows where to come."
"Yes, boss." Rigsby seemed to be grateful to have something to do and left swiftly.
"Van Pelt, see if you can find a bandage to wrap around the wound."
"Yes, Boss," said Van Pelt and she too ran off to her assigned task.
Jane frowned. "I don't think this was a dry bite. My leg is feeling a bit strange. Kind of tingly, and heavy."
Lisbon did everything she could to disguise her reaction to this news, but she was aware that her eyes were probably giving her away to the man who could read body language as easily as she would read a book. "Jane, I need you to slow your heart beat as much as possible. I know you can do it. You've got all those exercises that you do."
Jane gave a half-hearted nod. "I'm doing my best."
He took a deep breath and let it out slowly. He closed his eyes and shuffled a little on the step to get more comfortable. His breathing slowed and became more measured. Lisbon could feel that Jane's pulse was slowing from what she would consider to be normal, and she hoped that this was a sign that his breathing exercises were working. She marvelled slightly that he could do this at the moment at all.
Van Pelt returned with the First Aid kit and began to bandage the wound as carefully as she could. The skin around the puncture marks was already turning a dark red and looking somewhat angry. Even though Grace was being careful, it was clearly causing Jane a good deal of pain.
"Lisbon. It's getting a little difficult to catch my breath." He pulled at his collar, even though it didn't seem to be tight. His pulse was rising again.
"Hang in there, Jane. The paramedics will be here any moment."
She noticed now that his lungs were working harder than she'd expect for a man sat resting on the step. He leaned slightly to one side and Cho rapidly positioned himself at his side to stop him from falling over. Jane barely noticed. His eyes were screwed shut, but when they opened she could see genuine fear behind them. She looked around, desperately hoping that the ambulance would arrive soon, but it was another few minutes of watching Jane's breathing become increasingly laboured before she heard sirens wailing and flashing lights turned onto the drive. Rigsby was directing the ambulance towards the porch, and already running after it.
"Lisbon…" Jane had to take a deep breath to even speak now. "I don't… like hospitals." His eyes were showing that he was on the verge of panic now.
"I know, I'll come with you. Cho can finish things up here." She glanced over to the detective who sat next to Jane. Cho just gave a silent nod, which was more than enough for her to know that he'd understood. Lisbon had complete faith in him to make sure the crime scene and errant snake were dealt with properly.
The paramedics arrived bearing a gurney and a large bag of medical apparatus. Jane was having a lot of difficulty remaining upright by this point, so they moved him to the gurney. Cho gave them a hand with the lift, more to make it smooth ride for Jane than because the consultant was particularly heavy.
Lisbon reeled off everything that she knew about the circumstances of Jane's injury. "He was bitten about fifteen minutes ago; we haven't identified the snake species, and he initially didn't have any problems, but then started complaining of tingling and pain in his leg. He's also having trouble catching his breath."
It took the paramedics only a few moments to pull off Jane's jacket, roll up a sleeve, plug an IV into his arm and put an oxygen mask over his face. Lisbon took Jane's jacket, aware that he was particular about his suits, even though the pants now had two snake fang marks in them. He was sweating profusely, just from the effort of being moved to the gurney, and his eyes were wandering, unfocused. Lisbon realised that he must have been at least somewhat out of it to have shown his weaker side and mentioned his dislike of hospitals.
And yet he was still talking. She found it hard to believe. He was suffering from a serious snake bite and he was still trying to tell her things.
"Lisbon… the crate… the snake… came in… You… should check… that out." It was muffled by the oxygen mask, which he was trying to push away as he spoke, but the paramedics kept repositioning it.
"Jane, stop talking and let the paramedics do their job." She helped the paramedics move him into the back of the ambulance, giving Rigsby and Van Pelt a quick nod as she did so before turning back to Jane. "Once they've caught the snake, I'll check out the crate." She couldn't believe that she was actually telling him this given that his body was most likely fighting against deadly snake venom at this point.
She climbed into the back of the ambulance as Jane began to seriously fight off the paramedics. At first he was just pushing them out of the way, but it became more frenetic when the door of the ambulance shut behind them. He was actively stopping them from helping him and on the verge of violence, before Lisbon could stop him. The ambulance began moving, the siren working up to its full blown blare of sound.
One of the EMTs looked over at Lisbon. "Confusion can be pretty common when we're dealing with a snake bite, but I don't want to give him anything to keep him calm. We don't know how it might react with the venom. He needs to give the oxygen and IV a chance to help."
Lisbon took up a position beside Jane. "Jane, stop it. Let them help you. Jane!" She grabbed one of his arms and was surprised by his strength. She'd never had to hold him down before now and hoped she never had to again. She could see that his mind wasn't exactly with her at the moment, so she concentrated on his eyes. "Jane, look at me. It's Lisbon. You're going to be okay, but you were bitten by a snake. It's the venom in your bloodstream that's making you feel this way."
He looked directly at her with a look of total panic, but it stilled a little as he met her eyes. "Can't… can't breathe… help me."
She wasn't sure at all how to answer this plea for help. She could understand that he felt vulnerable threatened, and she knew for certain that Jane was, at the centre of his being, a coward. Sometimes his good side won out and he'd do the right thing, but his self-preservation instincts were strong. She didn't really blame him, he wasn't a trained law enforcement officer, but she wondered sometimes if he was just keeping himself safe so that he could attack his true target – Red John.
"Jane, it's okay. Patrick…" she hesitated to use his first name. It had only ever been used between them at important moments, moments when trust needed to be invoked. "Patrick, you need to relax, calm down and let the medics help you. The mask is giving you oxygen and you need it."
He too seemed to realise what the use of his first name signalled. His eyes were fixed on her face and then they fell closed, but he did stop fighting the paramedics and they were finally able to place the electrodes on his chest for their monitors. His entire body seemed to visibly let go of the tension in it and attempt to calm itself, despite the difficulty that he was obviously having with his breathing. He remained that way for the twenty minute journey to the nearest hospital with a suitable trauma unit to deal with a snake bite victim. To Lisbon the journey seemed too long and the wait was interminable, but the paramedics seemed to think he was doing as well as could be expected at this point.
They stopped and the doors opened, Jane's eyes peeled open just enough to register his move between the ambulance and the actual hospital. His hand clenched on the blanket, and she remembered again how much he disliked hospitals. For him they represented rubber rooms and locked doors, even now after all this time had passed. However, he didn't resume his attempts to remove his oxygen mask or take out his IV, he lay back and allowed himself to be transferred to the ER.
He was wheeled into an ER side room, where he was transferred to a bed and the paramedics took their leave after giving the details of his condition to the young, dark haired, female doctor in scrubs and a white coat, who was waiting for them. Lisbon thanked them as they left and then took her position at the side of her consultant again. The nurses had already begun to cut Jane's pants off and were moving on to his shirt and vest. She didn't think he'd be happy when she informed him what had happened to his clothes. She made a mental note to get Van Pelt to bring in some more for him before he was discharged.
"Ma'am, I'm sorry, but you can't stay," said the doctor, as she completed an initial check of Jane's vitals. "You can wait outside." She wasn't really paying much attention to Lisbon, because she was now giving the bite and surrounding area a thorough examination. It was dark red, almost black in places around the bite and oozing blood copiously despite the earlier bandages, which she had just removed and discarded. "Agent…?"
"Agent Lisbon." Her eyes widened at the mere suggestion that she could leave. "I'm not leaving. I'll stand back, but he needs a friend here. He has a few issues with hospitals and the snake bite is affecting his lucidity. He tried to fight off the paramedics and I don't want him to try the same thing in here. If he does, then I can talk him down."
The doctor gave a quick set of instructions to one of the nurses to bandage the rather gruesome looking wound again. She appeared to have more important things to do than argue with her patient's friend, and Lisbon wasn't surprised when she waved her off. "Fine, but if you faint we'll just step over you."
More circular sticky electrodes were placed on Jane's chest to monitor his heart and connected by wires to a screen. The doctor checked the notes made by the paramedics again, and seeing that everyone else was occupied, she took out a blood testing kit and began to draw blood from a cannula in Jane's arm herself. She collected several vials, labelling each one carefully. She turned to her patient. "Mr Jane? Can you hear me?"
Jane nodded, but he was clearly not one hundred per cent, despite the extra oxygen the mask was providing. His eyes fell closed for a moment. "I feel… strange."
The doctor nodded. "I'm Doctor Talavera and the good news is I've treated a lot of snake bites. The fact that you're conscious, and answering my questions is a good thing. We're going to start you on a polyvalent antivenin, but really we need to know what kind of snake you were bitten by so that we can give you the monovalent antivenin that is specific to the snake's venom. Can you remember anything about what the snake looked like?"
Normally Jane wouldn't have had any problem remembering this and could probably have regurgitated half an encyclopaedia on snake habits too, but he wasn't in any state to perform his usual amazing memory feats. Lisbon could see him trying desperately to remember something, whilst also being slightly bewildered as to why his usually sharp recollection wasn't working today. His brow furrowed in concentration. "It… was brown… Patterned I think."
The doctor actually nodded enthusiastically at this. "Okay, that's good. We're not dealing with a coral snake, or any of the other more colourful species. A few more to tick off the list." She made a note. "The paramedics said that you've got animal control on the scene. As soon as they catch it, we need to know what it was." She looked towards Lisbon, who just nodded. She was already thinking the same thing. The doctor continued. "And I should warn you that the majority of patients have some kind of allergic reaction to the antivenin, but its severity varies from patient to patient. We're going to be giving you painkillers to make you more comfortable, antibiotics in case of infection and antihistamines to keep any allergic reaction under control. We'll be monitoring you closely."
Jane just looked up at Lisbon, his eyes clearly asking her to just take care of this. His breathing seemed a little better on the oxygen, but it still wasn't right.
Lisbon looked over at the doctor. "We're in your hands, Doctor."
Talavera gave her a curt nod of acknowledgement. "Try not to worry, all the indications so far are that we should be able to manage this and you'll make a complete recovery, Mr Jane." Lisbon didn't feel particularly convinced.
Jane looked up at Talavera and then to Lisbon. "Our doctor… is ex-military, Lisbon. Good hands."
Lisbon took a moment to enjoy the look of bemused surprise on Talavera's face, before waiting for the customary question.
"I was Army Medical Corps. How did you know?"
Jane gave a small smile and took a deep breath. His voice was weak, tired sounding and still muffled by the oxygen mask. "Hair, nails, way you stand, hold yourself." He closed his eyes. "Very military. You're not long back."
"He's good at reading people," said Lisbon by way of explanation. "He's a consultant with the CBI and helps us with our investigations."
"That's pretty clever," she looked at his monitors and made another note on Jane's chart.
"Yeah, and he's not even on his best form today." If it was possible, Jane's skin was actually even paler now. A nurse was already hanging new bags of fluid on the IV stand and she hoped some of them would start working soon.
"Okay, I need to get these blood tests to the lab. I'll be back once we have the results. In the meantime, Mr Jane should try to get some rest. You can stay if you like, Agent Lisbon, as long as you don't get in our way."
Lisbon nodded. "Understood." At least this doctor did seem to know what she was doing, and Lisbon was warming to her.
"And get me the species of that snake." Talavera headed out of the door.
Lisbon watched the nurse take more blood and check IV lines for a moment, before she looked around for a seat. The only chair in the room was a moulded plastic seat with metal legs that looked decidedly uncomfortable, but would have to do. Jane's eyes were shut and although he was still not breathing well, he was calm and seemed to be sleeping. She flipped open her phone and dialled Cho.