Disclaimer: As usual, the characters belong to Bruno Heller and his team of geniuses. I just use them for inspiration.
Author's note: Started this story yonks ago but returned to it recently after a rumour that Jane would be getting a new love interest. I've borrowed that idea but set the story pre-Lorelai. It still
takes place on the 8th anniversary of Jane's family's murder – already had that planned! Be warned tho' -it is long. I've had to split it into two parts. Hope you like. Please Review.
Thanks to: Bruno Heller, the cast, crew and writers, and of course, the talented Mr Baker!
RED HOT TEARS – (Part 1)
CBI HQ Sacramento, CA
"Issue it!" ordered Special Agent Luther Wainwright.
"But Sir – " objected Agent Teresa Lisbon.
"He's left us with no other choice, Agent Lisbon," stated Wainwright, pulling rank, as the latest boss of the CBI unit. He nodded the order towards Agent Wayne Rigsby who was standing at a desk nearby. Rigsby looked at Lisbon, who gave a brief reluctant nod, and then, tentatively, he picked up the handset of his phone.
"Judge Harris? This is Agent Wayne Rigsby of the CBI. I need an arrest warrant." He paused before identifying the wanted person in question. "Yes. Suspect's name is Patrick Jane."
6 hours earlier
Sunrise Apartment Complex, Sacramento, CA
"Caucasian female. Aged 34. Neighbour called it in. Said she heard whimpering; looked through the window and saw the victim's 6 year old daughter cradling her mother." The uniformed officer's report was concise and to the point. He figured the state's premier Major Crimes team would want it that way.
Agent Teresa Lisbon, the CBI's lead agent, and the Unit's consultant, Patrick Jane, followed him up the few steps to the apartment's door. "Where's the girl now? And why is everyone outside?" Lisbon asked, noticing the group of people on the walkway.
The officer seemed a little bit uncomfortable as he answered. "We can't get access. The girl's still in there. No one can get anywhere near her. She just screams her head off and lashes out at anyone who tries. Coroner hasn't been able to get to the body yet." Lisbon and Jane made eye contact with each other. Lisbon looked ahead and noticed the familiar figure of a professional looking woman holding a clip board. The woman spotted Lisbon and made her way over.
"Hey Teresa. Never come across this before. From what I can tell, the woman looks to have been badly beaten and stabbed; possibly in the neck judging by the amount of blood I can see from the window." She looked over in the direction of the glass pane and shook her head sadly. "Poor kid. Trauma like this could affect her forever."
Lisbon sighed heavily. She turned to speak to Jane, but he was gone. A brief inner panic gripped her stomach as her eyes darted around to relocate him. Then she heard a few voices near the apartment window and turned to see her consultant peering in. She let out the breath she had been holding. Usually, Jane's disappearances just caused irritation, but just recently Lisbon had found herself becoming more and more concerned about them. They had grown in frequency and, whenever she had enquired about his whereabouts, his explanations had been particularly obtuse.
Jane made his way to the door and waited for the uniformed officer, who had been stationed there, to step aside. Lisbon was about to call him back but the words never quite made it out of her mouth. She watched as he crouched down at the open doorway.
After a few seconds, the small, dark-haired agent moved tentatively forwards along the wall, taking care to stay out of sight of the little girl who was now softly responding to Jane's request for her name.
"Lottie," he repeated; a soft, but sad, smile played on his lips. "That's a beautiful name." Despite his outward show of calm, Jane felt a sharp stab tear through his heart as the girl identified herself. It was a beautiful name; the same beautiful name he had given to his own daughter, who had been murdered, along with his wife, 8 years ago that very day. He tried to focus, but it was difficult having a direct reminder of that fateful day; when Red John had entered his life. He was drawn back to the present by the young girl's sobs.
"My name's Patrick," he said and smiled gently. He waited a beat before adding, "How about it, Lottie? Can I come inside?" The girl's eyes locked wide in her sockets and she shook her head fearfully.
Jane smiled reassuringly, the tone in his voice almost hypnotic. Holding up his splayed hands in a gesture of surrender he encouraged her. "Just me. No one else, I promise." He gazed earnestly at the frightened young girl.
She thought for a moment and then cautiously nodded. Jane glanced sideways at Lisbon, whose eyes showed deepening concern. Jane stood, giving his colleague an almost imperceptible shrug of reassurance that he was fine. His left eye twitched in conjunction. He wanted her to know that he could handle the situation.
Slowly, he entered the apartment, all the while continuing to talk gently to the little girl in an attempt to detract her attention from the growing number of people waiting to process the crime scene. When he got close to her, he crouched down again, carefully. He looked back at the doorway and then down at her mother's body. He winced. The woman seemed to have been dead a while. She lay in a large pool of blood. There was a deep cherry-coloured slash across her neck. She had also been badly beaten and, as far as he could see, possibly strangled with her own Pantyhose which was wound around the wound beneath her jawline– 'a little bit of overkill' thought Jane. He inhaled deeply. The girl continued to stroke her mother's head with bloody hands. She looked up at him with big blue eyes. Water welled up in her tear ducts.
"Shhh, mommy's sleeping now," she whispered.
Jane's heart almost tore completely in two as she tried to offer a weak smile. Her eyes searched his for any confirmation that she was speaking the truth. He bit the inside of his lip but tried to smile back at the same time, mostly to reassure the child, but also to offer himself some comfort from his inner torment. Images of his own wife and daughter kept flashing through his mind. He had to blink several times to beat back the memories and the water threatening to well up in his own tear ducts.
Lisbon stood against the outside wall to the side of the doorway. She had to bite her own lip as she listened to the conversation that was taking place between Jane and this fragile little girl. When she'd heard the girl's name, she had taken a sharp intake of breath. 'Oh no!' she thought to herself. Why did they have to catch this case today, of all days? She hoped he would be able to get through it without becoming fixated and withdrawn. There had been more than a couple of incidents lately that made her worried he was going to have some sort of a meltdown.
She stirred slightly at the sound of movement within the room. Tentatively, she peered around the edge of the frame, and let out a stilted breath. Jane was now kneeling and the little girl was in his arms, sobbing softly into his shoulder. There was the hint of a pained smile on his face as he rested his cheek against the back of the girl's hair. Lisbon blinked quickly as she returned to her position with her back pressed firmly against the wall.
The first responder had noticed the movement too and was just about to make a move into the room when Lisbon held her arm up.
"Wait!" she hissed. "Give him a minute." The officer complied and stepped back.
Jane didn't need a minute. Lottie allowed him to scoop her up into his arms and, slowly, he carried her outside. Her face was buried into his neck and he gently cradled the back of her head with his hand. Lisbon's eyes gestured for him to follow her into a neighbour's open doorway. As they disappeared inside, the teams of crime scene techs and the coroner moved quickly and quietly towards the child's mother's body.
After several minutes there was a knock on the doorframe of the neighbour's apartment. Lisbon looked across to see a uniformed officer filling the doorway. He cleared his throat apologetically and tried to avert his eyes from the distressed little girl who was hugging Jane tightly, as he sat with her in his lap.
"Er…ma'am? Social Services are here." His voice was quiet.
Lisbon nodded in reply. She looked at Jane. He wore a strange expression. She inhaled deeply. It was not going to be easy to prise the girl from him to hand her over to some complete strangers. Without speaking, Lisbon tried to tell him it was time to let go but Jane didn't budge. His strong protective arms wound round Lottie, pulling her closer to him and he spoke to her in soothing tones, rocking her back and forth. The little girl's head raised a little and she looked towards the doorway. Beyond it, on the walkway, stood a man and a woman. They were talking to the officer and occasionally glancing in through the opening. The woman signed the paper on the officer's clipboard, and as the man waited to do the same, Lottie's grip on Jane tightened, almost to a death grip.
Lisbon was the one who spoke. "Lottie, honey? These people are going to take you somewhere safe where they can look after you." She moved her head to try to make eye contact with the girl, but to no avail. Lottie buried her face deep into Jane's chest, shaking her head, her sobs turning into wails.
Teresa looked at Jane and mouthed, "A little help here?"
Jane's expression was adamant and told her exactly what he thought about handing her over to complete strangers. Lisbon sighed heavily, paused for a minute and then got up from the couch. She made her way over to the two social workers. There was a brief conversation and then she returned.
"Okay. They've agreed to let Lottie stay under our care for the time being …" She let her words hang in the air. With his eyes and a brief tight-lipped smile, Jane hinted that she had done the right thing. Gently, he brushed Lottie's blonde hair to one side and looked down into her half-hidden face.
"It's okay," he whispered, "I'm here. No one's going to hurt you. Okay?' Her innocent eyes gazed up into his as she nodded and then quickly buried her face again. Lisbon had to look away, blinking furiously and almost struggling to get air into her lungs as she watched her friend act out the role he wasn't able to perform for his own daughter.
CBI HQ, Sacramento, CA
Jane sat at his desk, lost in his thoughts. The old-fashioned wooden chair wasn't the most comfortable; he would have preferred his leather couch, but Lottie was softly sleeping on it. She had exhausted herself with crying. He'd covered her over with the soft wool throw that usually rested on the back cushions of the couch. He watched her innocent frame as she breathed deeply, looking every bit like a tiny angel. Her soft shoulder-length blonde hair spread across the cushion at her head. Sadness smiled through his eyes.
From the far end of the bullpen, Lisbon glanced over at her consultant. She was still concerned that this case was going to take too much out of him. She watched for a few more seconds and then turned her attention to the rest of the team, who were exchanging their findings as they sat around the conference table.
"Victim's name was Victoria Marshall, single mother of one. According to neighbours, she had only recently moved into the apartment at Sunrise. Lived alone, but the woman next door said that she often saw a male entering and exiting Marshall's apartment – usually late at night; and that there had been a lot of raising of voices over the last week or two," reported Cho.
"Do we have any other details on this 'man'?" asked Lisbon. There was a shake of his head in reply. Teresa turned to Agent Grace Van Pelt, "Grace, go back to this woman. See if you can get anymore details and a description of this guy. And find out if he was there last night. Take Rigsby with you."
Grace nodded, closed her notepad and smiled. She was pleased that for once she was actually going out into the field to do some work. Usually she was chained to her computer digging for information. A visit to this woman's apartment would be a welcome change of scenery. She stood up. Agent Wayne Rigsby grinned at her. He held up the car keys, gently shaking them. Grace moaned a little; she would've preferred to drive. Still, at least she was getting out of the office. She waited as Rigsby grabbed his jacket from the back of his chair and they headed out to catch the elevator down to the parking lot.
Lisbon looked up from the file she had been browsing through. "We get a time of death yet?" she asked.
"Coroner thinks it was sometime between one and two am this morning. CoD was exsanguination – she bled out, although she was also badly beaten and suffered a non-fatal stab wound to the chest," answered Cho. A crease formed on Lisbon's brow and she shook her head slowly. Her eyes drifted over towards the couch where the sleeping girl lay.
"Poor kid must have been terrified," she said softly
Cho turned in his seat, placing his left arm onto the back of his chair so that he was half facing the other end of the bullpen and half facing Lisbon. "You think she saw the killer?" he asked.
Lisbon shrugged. "She must have. But how do we get that information out of a traumatised 6 year old?" She sighed. They had to find some other leads because she really didn't want to go there.
"I know someone in SacPD who specialises in working with trauma victims. Maybe she can help?" suggested Cho.
Lisbon nodded. "Yeah. Give her a call. All we have to do then is persuade Jane to let us talk with Lottie." Her expression showed that that was a task she really didn't relish.
"Yes. The girl seems to have bonded with him quickly," observed the Korean agent.
"And him with her. That's what I'm worried about."
Cho looked at her questioningly. "That's a bad thing?"
"Maybe. He's not thinking straight, especially at the moment." Cho's inquisitive look caused her to add, almost in a whisper, "It's the anniversary..." Cho exhaled a small sigh and nodded understandingly. He looked again at Jane, who was staring blindly at the leg of his desk.
"Want me to keep an eye on him?" he asked, sensing her concern.
"We all should," stated Lisbon, simply. She took a deep breath and stood up. "Anyway…Call forensics, see if they have anything for us yet. I'm gonna speak to Social Services again; see what their plans are and see if I can buy us some more time. Maybe if we know in advance, it'll make it easier to eventually convince Jane it's a good thing that the girl goes with them."
"Yeah. Good luck with that," said Cho. Lisbon raised her eyebrows and exhaled loudly. She knew that it was going to be an uphill battle.
Jane was just coming out of the kitchen area with a fresh cup of tea when he noticed his couch was empty. His eyes quickly scanned the whole bull pen for the small girl and he soon located her, standing in front of Lisbon's office door. He wandered over.
As he reached her, he could hear Lisbon having a loud conversation with someone on speakerphone.
"I don't care what protocol says Mr Stevenson, you agreed at the scene that the girl could stay with us!" The unit boss sounded like her patience was wearing thin.
Jane raised his eyebrows and pulled a face to try and make Lottie laugh at the fact that Lisbon was being grumpy. He almost succeeded but whoever was on the other end of the phone then responded in a raised voice. At the sound of it, Lottie almost leapt out of her skin. Jane placed a comforting hand on her shoulder, crouched down and told her it was okay, then he noticed the small puddle forming at her feet. He glanced at the door to Lisbon's office and then spotted Van Pelt heading towards the kitchen area. Softly he called her name and beckoned her over.
Having dispatched Grace and Lottie, with the promise of a magic trick, to the ladies room to get cleaned up, Jane had gone into Lisbon. She was pointedly stabbing a button on the phone, ending her call. She huffed out a breath.
"Who's got you so riled up?" asked Jane.
Lisbon pouted. "Some stupid ass paper pusher at Social Services. He wants to know when they can collect Lottie. Says the sooner the better, that way they'll have a better chance of placing her somewhere."
Jane shrugged his mouth and nodded thoughtfully. "Ah, interesting," he said.
"Interesting how?" asked Lisbon with a puzzled frown. She half expected him to launch into an argument as to why that wasn't about to happen. Instead, he seemed uber calm, and she it made her slightly suspicious.
Just as he was about to respond, Grace stuck her head around the doorway, "All sorted. Lottie's on your couch. I believe you promised her a magic trick?"
Jane smiled. He looked at Lisbon. "I'll have to get back to you on that." He slurped the dregs of his drink and stood up. "Duty calls." He flashed his eyebrows and grinned mischievously at Lisbon's open-mouthed expression. As he went through the doorway he handed his, now empty, teacup to Grace who reflexively took it from him.
She looked quizzically over at Lisbon, who just wafted her hand dismissively, shaking her head and rolling her eyes at his nonchalant manner. The red-haired agent shook her head slightly, took her leave and continued to the kitchen area in search of some fresh coffee.
Special Agent Luther Wainwright sat back into his comfortable executive leather chair. His lips were pursed as he tapped them with the fingers of both hands, the tips of which were pressed together in an inflated prayer position. His liquid brown eyes narrowed as he collected his thoughts.
He was still deep in cogitation when Lisbon knocked and opened his door.
"You asked to see me, sir?" she said. There was a hint of undetectable contempt in her tone; she hated addressing someone who looked younger than the rookies downstairs as 'sir'. In the months that he had been in charge of the unit, she had yet to see any signs that he wasn't out of his depth.
Wainwright looked up. "Ah yes, Lisbon – " he began, then paused and looked past her. "Where's Jane?" The peak in his eyebrow implied that he was surprised the consultant wasn't with her. In the brief time he had been in charge, he'd come to realise that usually where there was one, there was the other.
"Oh, did you want him?" asked Lisbon, innocently. "I didn't realise. Let me go get him…" She turned on her toes.
Wainwright sat forward in his seat. "No matter," he said loudly. "In fact, it's probably best he's not here anyway. He's not going to like what I have to say."
Lisbon could have sworn she heard a hint of relief in the younger man's voice. She wrinkled her nose and turned back to him. "Oh?"
The superior agent diverted his gaze to the seat in front of his desk. Lisbon, obliged by the unspoken order, sat down. She leaned back in the chair, crossed one leg over the other and clasped her hands in her lap; her eyes almost challenging him to reveal the purpose of their little chat.
Wainwright cleared his throat. "Social Services have been on the phone. They tell me that they have yet to take custody of the Marshall child."
Lisbon's reply was swift. "That's correct. Jane feels that Lottie needs more time."
There was a quizzical expression on her boss' face. "To do what?
A crease began to threaten Lisbon's brow. How someone with so little experience could be put in charge of the state's premier unit was beyond her. She breathed out. "The girl has been severely traumatised by the events she has witnessed. Jane – " She corrected herself quickly, "We believe she needs time in a safe environment, with people who care, to come to terms with what she has witnessed." Even as the words left her mouth, Lisbon knew it wasn't going to make any difference. Wainwright's fingers were pressed against each other - always a sign that his mind had been made up.
"Interesting. And you don't believe Social Services – with their years of experience and expertise of finding homes for traumatised children, and access to a team of psychologists and psychiatrists – would be able to provide that for her?" Incredulity belied the sarcastic tone of his question.
Lisbon scoffed. "Oh come on…you know as well as I do that all Social Services is going to do is dump her in a group home and label her as yet another number! Besides they agreed to let us keep custody!"
Wainright's eyes widened at the insubordinate outburst. But before he had chance to remind Lisbon that she was talking to a superior, the door to his office opened and Jane strolled in.
"Heard you were looking for me," he stated.
Wainright's eyes met Lisbon's as they both wondered how the consultant could have known. Lisbon also noted a slight pang of fear in the boss' expression. A half-smirk played at the corner of her mouth. This was going to be good.
Rigsby, Cho and Van Pelt all looked up towards the mezzanine level at the sound of storming footsteps and raised voices. They watched in astonished curiosity as the unit's latest superior stomped along the metallic walkway holding one hand to a nose that was dripping blood. He stopped abruptly and pointed his other outstretched arm wildly towards Jane and Lisbon - but mostly at Jane - who were following. "I mean it!" he yelled. "You are finished here, Jane! And the girl goes with Social Services!" The dark-haired agent pounded down the stairs and headed towards the men's restroom.
Rigsby, Cho and Van Pelt looked up at the walkway as Jane peered over the hand rail, there was an enigmatic grin on his face. Lisbon pulled him away and chastised him in hushed tones. "I can't believe you actually just did that! You assaulted a superior agent!" She shook her head wondering how the hell she was going to get them out of this one.
Jane pulled a face. "Oh please…I just did what you wanted to do." He stared deeply into her eyes and she couldn't hide the fact that what he had just said was true. "He deserved it!" added the consultant, childishly.
"That's not the point! Wainright has the authority to fire you! And much as I hate to say it, we need you on this case." What she didn't say was that it would be much easier to keep an eye on him at the CBI than if he was out on his own. And she needed desperately to keep an eye on him, especially now.
"Glad to see you finally acknowledge that you need me," quipped Jane, "And Wainwright's not going to fire me…trust me…he doesn't have the mettle."
Lisbon rolled her eyes, and then closed them as she exhaled a breath. Fear always gripped her when Jane said 'Trust me'. By the time she reopened her eyes, Jane was no longer with her. Instead he was down by his couch, checking on Lottie. The girl seemed so small and fragile. Lisbon leaned slightly against the hand rail as she watched the tender side of Jane brush away a strand of the little girl's blonde hair from her face. She also noticed the stilted rise and fall in his shoulders as he sat, perched on the edge of the leather sofa, guarding his territory.
Lisbon looked over to the rest of her team, who had returned their attention to the work they had been doing before the Wainwright altercation had distracted them. She was just about to descend the stairs to join them when her cell phone rang. She looked at the display – Director Bertram. "Oh great!" she muttered sardonically to herself before taking the call.
Just after lunch, Grace greeted Lisbon as she stepped off the elevator car. The diminutive boss held a paper cup, containing a skinny foam latte, in her hand. With one glance, Lisbon could sense there was a problem.
"What is it?" she asked.
Grace breathed out. "I just spoke with Social Services. They can't find Lottie Marshall," she reported.
Lisbon's mouth fell open. "What do you mean they can't find her? Jane and I just left her there like two hours ago, as ordered."
Grace nodded, "I know. But I found the stuffed rabbit she had. It was pushed way down the back of Jane's couch, and when I just called the home to ask them to let her know we had it, they told me that she wasn't in her room and they didn't know where she was."
Lisbon pinched the bridge of her nose to try and ease some of the tension that was threatening to send a tornado through her head. She held up her hand. "Okay. You and Cho get over there and do a comprehensive search of the building. Speak to everyone there; find out who saw her last. I'll get Jane; see if Lottie said anything to him that might give us a clue as to where she's gone now."
Grace nodded and rushed off to find Cho whilst Lisbon stomped urgently towards her office, where she dumped her latte into the bin and grabbed her coat.
She searched all of Jane's usual haunts but to no avail. She'd even stuck her head in the men's restroom to see if he was there, but found nothing but a foul mouthed vagrant, who had been brought in for questioning by one of the other units, fiddling with the zipper on his dirt encrusted chinos. There followed a brief tirade about "constantly being spied on" and "no fricking privacy anywhere". Lisbon ignored the abuse and made her way back to the bull pen.
"Has anyone seen Jane?" she asked, the tornado in her head beginning to gain speed.
All heads shook. Another CBI agent walked past Van Pelt's desk with some files in his hands. Lisbon nodded towards him.
"Hey, Ron? Have you seen Jane?" she asked.
"He's not back yet?" asked Ron, in reply.
Lisbon pounced, immediately suspicious. "Back from where?"
Ron looked slightly confused at Lisbon's tone. "Er …said he had an errand to run. Borrowed my car. Apparently his is in the shop…again!"
Lisbon closed her eyes and shook her head. "Oh no!" she muttered inaudibly. She pulled out her cell phone, hit speed dial and waited. She listened as the line clicked into voicemail. "I'm gonna kill him" she hissed, and looked at Rigsby, who picked up the handset to his phone. She then glared at Ron.
"Make and model?" demanded Lisbon, hitting speed dial again.
Ron was caught off-guard. "What?"
"Your car!" she barked, then cursed as her call once more went into voicemail. "Dammit!"
"Uh…Ford Taurus, California 92 TQW," responded Ron.
Rigsby repeated the information into his handset. "Yeah, issue an immediate BOLO, we need an immediate location on the vehicle," he added.
Ron was now looking a little bit fearful. "What's going on?" he asked.
Lisbon sighed heavily. "Jane's car isn't in the shop. It's in the parking garage downstairs. How long ago did he leave?"
Ron began to curse Jane under his breath, "Son of a …." Then he looked at his watch. "Uh…about a half hour, forty-five minutes?"
Lisbon cursed again. Again she hit speed dial. It went straight to voicemail. This time she hurled a message down the handset warning Jane of what she was going to do to him if he didn't call her back immediately. She hung up, almost putting her thumb through the phone. She took an abrupt deep breath, exhaling harshly, then looked at Rigsby. "Anything?" she demanded.
"Not yet. SacPD have got all units looking out for the vehicle, but it could be a while." He pressed his lips together and held them like that for a few seconds. There was almost a wince on his face as he said it because he knew the boss didn't like to wait.
Lisbon's eyes narrowed and she pouted. Her fingers began to tap the large conference table furiously. "I'm going to kill him," she stated simply. "This time, he's gone too far." Rigsby nodded in agreement. He knew she wasn't being serious, but the cold fury in her eyes might have convinced an outsider that she meant every word.
The phone rang. Rigsby answered it. He listened intently, then tentatively put the handset back on the cradle. He could feel his colleagues' eyes burning into the back of him.
"That was Cho. He and Van Pelt are at the home now. One of the janitorial staff says she saw a girl fitting Lottie's description getting into a silver car with a man in a grey suit about an hour ago," he reported.
Incredulity creased Lisbon's brow. "Well, why the hell didn't they stop her?"
Rigsby shrugged. "I guess they just thought it was another kid being picked up by a foster carer."
Lisbon closed her eyes, briefly, and began shaking her head. Her hand closed into a fist as she inhaled. Her teeth were clenched behind clamped lips as if she was trying to stop a huge roar from escaping. Rigsby watched her, unsure of whether to say something. He seemed fearful that the boss was really going to blow this time. Before she could speak, his phone rang again.
"Where?" he almost shouted. "Okay. Keep your men there. Don't let it out of your sight." He turned to Lisbon, whose eyes demanded information. "SacPD have located Ron's car." He hesitated, not wanting to confirm what they all suspected. "It's in the parking lot at the KwikMart on Wilmington Ave."
"That's only a few blocks from the Children's Home," registered Lisbon. She stormed towards the doorway from the bullpen but stopped short of colliding with Agent Wainwright, who had been lurking by the doorway listening in on the whole conversation. Lisbon stood unmoving, her eyes dropped to the right of him. He whispered something in her ear and she looked up abruptly.
"Issue it!" ordered Wainwright.
"But Sir – " objected Lisbon.
"He's left us with no other choice, Agent Lisbon," stated Wainwright, pulling rank, as he repeated the order towards Rigsby who was standing at his desk nearby. Rigsby looked at Lisbon, who gave a brief reluctant nod, and then, tentatively, he picked up the handset of his phone and dialled a number.
"Judge Harris, please…" There was a pause as he waited to be connected. "Judge Harris? This is Agent Wayne Rigsby of the CBI. I need an arrest warrant." He paused before identifying the wanted person in question. "Yes. The suspect's name is Patrick Jane."
While he continued giving details to the person on the other end of the phone, Lisbon tried again, but Wainwright wasn't receptive.
"Agent Lisbon, there is a child out there who may or may not be in danger. We cannot take that risk."
"I understand that, Sir, and I agree with the Amber alert, but to issue an arrest warrant. We don't even have firm evidence yet that Jane had anything to do with the girl's disappearance."
Wainwright eyeballed his subordinate for several seconds, his deep brown irises seeming to shimmer and shift in the harsh glare of the lights. Lisbon couldn't help notice that there was still a tinge of redness around the edge of his nose. "I think we both know him better than that." The steely-glazed look in his eyes told the brunette that the conversation was over.
He then stepped aside but she caught the warning in his eyes as she swept past. The message was loud and clear. Despite the fact that Lisbon had managed to convince Director Bertram that side-lining or firing Jane was a bad PR move – all she'd had to do was remind him of the last time he'd split Jane from the unit – she got the impression that Jane had just surpassed himself and handed his own head on a platter to Wainwright, who now had all the ammunition he needed to get rid of the consultant for good. But Lisbon also got the impression that he wouldn't just stop with Jane. This was it, for sure. Game over. End of Teresa Lisbon's illustrious crime fighting career.
Lisbon pouted slightly before walking past him towards the fire exit doors. She pulled out her cell phone and hit speed dial as she went. Quietly she spoke into the handset. "Dammit Jane! Both our asses are on the line here! As soon as you get this, call me."
Wilmington Avenue, Sacramento, CA
The lights in the KwikMart were brighter than Jane would have liked. Still, no one was paying attention to a man in a grey suit with a little blonde girl. They looked just like father and daughter as they made their way up the aisle towards the children's clothing. Jane had decided that Lottie needed a new outfit, partly because all little girls liked to get new stuff (even traumatised ones), but mostly because there were still some traces of her mother's blood around the cuffs of her baby pink cardigan, plus there had been the small matter of the bathroom incident back at CBI.
She helped him pick out a couple of tee-shirts and a floral patterned skirt along with a fine knit sweater top and a light weight jacket and they were just about to make their way towards the checkout when Lottie stopped and began crying.
Jane crouched beside her and put a comforting hand around her shoulder. His eyes followed her gaze as he asked, "What is it?"
Lottie leaned in to him and whispered into his ear. Jane looked up again at the pretty young woman who was standing a few feet ahead of them, deep in thought about which particular soft toy to purchase. She did bear a slight resemblance to the girl's mother. He watched as she playfully tugged at a strand of soft brown hair by her jawline. A small admiring smile positioned itself on his lips as her tongue pushed itself into the corner of her mouth.
Lottie juddered a sob. Jane pulled her into a warm embrace, dropping a couple of the clothing items in the process. The clatter of the plastic and metal hangers onto the polished concrete floor of the supermarket drew the woman's attention.
Lauren Keyes looked around to locate the source of the sound and saw a handsome blonde haired man with his arms lovingly wrapped around a seemingly distressed little girl. He was kneeling down so as to maintain a level eye contact and was speaking to her in soothing tones. Lauren noted the wedding band.'Why are all the good ones taken?' she asked herself.
"I'm sorry. I didn't quite catch that," said a hypnotic voice. Jane was looking up at her with a quizzical extension of his neck. Lauren's eyes widened. He was talking to her. Her eyes wandered a little in circles as she tried to work out whether he was psychic, or if she had actually spoken out loud. She gathered herself and half-pointed to the shelf of rabbits, bears and monkeys. "Why are all the good ones taken?" she repeated, although it sounded like she was asking herself if she was asking a question.
Jane nodded his head backwards. "Oh," he replied, letting out a breath. He stood and, having retrieved the fallen clothes and reassured Lottie, made his way over the slim brunette. He was having a hard time drawing his eyes away from the warm pools of chocolate that were gazing back at him. There was something about this young woman. He couldn't quite put his finger on it. Lottie tugged his hand and gestured for him to bend so that she could whisper something into his ear. He smiled at Lauren, slightly raising one eyebrow. "Excuse me," he said and lowered himself to the little girl's level.
Standing back up, he gestured towards the shelf of plush toys. "She recommends the bunny." He grinned. Lauren looked at the small pile of rabbits. She picked out one that wore blue pants with suspenders and a little red vest. "This one?" she asked the little blonde girl. Lottie shook her head. Lauren replaced the rabbit and picked up a different one; it was grey and wore a pink pinafore dress over a tiny white ruffled blouse. Lottie nodded enthusiastically. Lauren smiled widely. She looked back at the rabbit. "Okay…I shall name you…" she paused and looked at Lottie. The small girl looked up at Jane. Jane looked at Lauren.
"Lottie," he announced, picking up on the unspoken request.
"Beautiful!" said Lauren. She tweaked the rabbit's nose and straightened its dress. "I shall name you Lottie Rabbit."
Jane still couldn't tear his eyes away. "I'm sorry," he began. "I'm usually good at this, but have we met before? You seem very familiar to me and yet I can't seem to find you in my memory palace."
Lauren looked at him in disbelief. "Oh my god! You have a memory palace too! Wow! Usually people give me funny looks when I say something like that." She exhaled a laugh. "And I was thinking the same thing about you, too. How weird is that?"
Before Jane could respond, Lottie suddenly started sobbing again. He scooped her up into his arms. She whispered softly in his ear and then buried her face into his neck.
Jane sighed, compassionately. Lauren look slightly distressed, but she automatically reached out a hand and pushed some of the girl's blonde hair from her face.
"Ohhh, it's okay, sweetie. Your daddy will look after you," she soothed.
Jane felt a volcano of emotion surge upwards from deep inside. He fought desperately to push it back down. His pinched his lips together and took a few quick breaths. Lauren noticed the slightly repetitive flaring of his nostrils and placed a concerned hand on his arm.
"Are you okay?" she asked.
He smiled weakly and then looked around the aisle to see if there was anyone else around. They were alone. It was then that, without a second thought, he told her Lottie's story.
Glen Cove, CA
Virgil Minelli, ex boss of the CBI, was ensconced in the corner window booth of his favourite shoreline diner sipping on his afternoon coffee. He was finally just about to peruse the sports section of his newspaper when he felt a presence close to him. He looked up to see a familiar figure.
"Hey, Virgil! It's good to see you," pronounced an overly enthusiastic voice.
"Teresa Lisbon! To what do I owe this pleasure?" asked Minelli, smiling warmly.
Lisbon slid herself in to the seat opposite him and pretended to look at the menu.
"Just thought I'd stop by – you know, see how you're liking retirement." Her inability to look directly at him told him that this wasn't just a social call.
Minelli's eyes narrowed. "What's he done now?" he asked.
Lisbon feigned puzzlement, but saw that it wasn't fooling her favourite former boss. She sighed heavily and put the menu back into its place.
"What hasn't he done, more likely," she responded, slightly under breath. Minelli raised his eyebrows and looked at her expectantly. She looked at him for a second. "We think he may have abducted a young girl." She pressed her lips tightly together and shook her head slightly, not really wanting to believe what she had just said.
Minelli inhaled and nodded. His eyes conveyed the unexpectedness of her reply.
"Well, he must have had a good reason," he stated.
Lisbon's eyes flashed with disbelief. "You're condoning his actions?"
Minelli shook his head, but shrugged at the same time. "I didn't say that. I did not say that, Lisbon." He paused. "But even Jane wouldn't go to such extremes unless he had cause."
Lisbon rolled her eyes in reluctant agreement.
"Have you tried calling him?" he asked.
"Damn, why didn't I think of that?" mocked Lisbon.
"Hey! You interrupted my coffee, remember?" exclaimed Minelli, a little disgruntled.
"Yeah…Sorry," conceded Lisbon. "He's not answering. Just keeps going to voicemail."
"GPS?" Minelli knew she would have explored all angles but the supervisor within him wouldn't allow him not to follow the procedural questioning.
"No luck as yet," exhaled Teresa. "We keep getting intermittent signals too brief to pinpoint a location. Like he's switching his phone on and off deliberately."
Minelli listened closely to the tone in his former agent's voice. There was something else in her response. He knew her well.
"Of all the goofball stunts Jane has pulled…why are you so riled up about this one?" he asked.
Lisbon sighed. Her shoulders slumped a little and she nodded resignedly. God, she missed having a boss she could go to for advice – Wainwright wasn't the most approachable, or trustworthy, person in the word to have as a superior. It felt such a relief to share her concern.
"Wainwright has ordered a manhunt. There's a warrant out for his arrest. This could well be the final straw, Virgil. It could end his career at CBI. And possibly mine."
Minelli observed her closely. His eyes narrowed and he shook his head slightly. "Nope…that's not it." He waited, his gentle eyes inviting her to confide in him.
Lisbon sighed again. "Okay…I don't know…He's been on edge lately – pushing the boundaries…" She saw the look on Virgil's face. "More than usual," she added. "The break-in at LaRoche's; killing Timothy Carter; his family's anniversary, and now this? You know, this morning he even assaulted Wainwright? I really think he's heading for another breakdown." She blurted out the thoughts that had been desperately trying to escape from her head. She froze, aware that maybe she had shared more than she should have done.
Minelli held up a hand. "Don't worry…I'm retired. I don't need to know." He paused and then added, "Nor do I want to know. I've come to realise that the less I know about Jane, the better it is for me." He smiled reassuringly. His fatherly eyes twinkled.
"That's a good philosophy to have, sir," agreed Lisbon, returning the smile, albeit with a hint of sadness.
Minelli placed a hand over hers. "He'll be fine. You know Jane…he'll come round. He always does."
Lisbon nodded, though her eyes betrayed her uncertainty. "Yeah…I'm just…you know…" She wasn't sure herself, so she didn't finish the sentence. She didn't have to. Minelli nodded understandingly and squeezed her hand slightly.
Suddenly, he sat back, inhaling deeply. "As for the arrest warrant…there's only one thing you can do."
"And that is?"
"Find him first and shoot him!" her former boss joked. Then he added, "…again!" reminding her of the time she'd pulled the trigger on Jane in an attempt to stop him from killing someone else he was convinced was Red John, his arch nemesis.
Lisbon appreciated Minelli's attempt to lift the heaviness from her heart and mind. She smirked.
"Don't tempt me," she replied, a grin forming. After a few seconds, she sighed heavily and tapped her hand on the table. "Well, it's been good to see you again, Virgil," she said, sliding out from the seat.
"Yeah…it has been nice," responded Minelli, appreciatively. They looked at each other for a lengthy moment before Lisbon turned to leave. "Teresa?" he said warmly. Lisbon turned back to him raising her eyebrows and chin in response. "Don't leave it so long next time." He smiled and winked at her.
She smiled a thank you, then turned and left. Minelli sat for a moment watching the door after her and then shook open his newspaper to the sports section. He picked up his coffee mug and slurped another shot of caffeine.
Franklin Motel, Sacramento, CA
The rooms were basic but provided everything they would need. Jane placed Lottie's new clothes into the hanging space as she paid a visit to the bathroom. They'd also picked up some snacks and essential toiletries in the KwikMart and, at Lauren's suggestion, some pyjamas for Lottie to sleep in, all of which they'd packed into a Disney backpack that Lottie had picked out.
After checking under the bed and in the air vent for monsters, as he had promised, he glanced at the door which adjoined to the room next door; his room. He'd wondered whether he should have kept Lottie in the same room, but, as Lauren had pointed out, it would have looked a little bit strange if the authorities; that is, Social Services, caught up with them. She'd said that they wouldn't think twice about making unsavoury accusations against him. Lauren was smart as well as pretty. Jane smiled. He didn't know what it was but he had immediately felt an ability to trust this woman whom he had only met an hour previously. It was a little bit unsettling and he didn't know why. Still, he put the thought out of his head as he heard the toilet flush and his tiny guest emerged from the bathroom. He assured Lottie that she was now residing in a monster-free zone, as she found the remote and clicked on the TV.
Leaving the little girl transfixed by the Nickelodeon channel, Jane made his way through the adjoining door and into his own room. He plonked himself down on the bed with a weary sigh. Then placing two fingers into the pocket of his grey vest, he pulled out his cell phone and stared at it. He knew that Lisbon would have figured out by now that Lottie was with him, and he also knew that all the authorities would be looking for him. Still, that was a small price to pay in order to keep the child safe.
Deftly, he switched on the phone's power. The display informed him of numerous missed phone calls. He pulled a face as he listened to Lisbon telling him what she was going to do to him, several times over. When he'd retrieved all of his voicemails, all of which were from Lisbon, he switched the phone off again and lay back on the bed. Exhaustion was beginning to stomp all over him when Lottie's squeal made him come running.
He found her jumping up and down on the bed, squealing and pointing at the point where the floor met the wall at the side of the TV unit.
"What? What is it?" asked Jane. A louder squeal directed his attention to a small spider beginning its ascent up the pale green painted wall. Jane sighed with relief. He looked at Lottie and pointed at the spider. "This little guy?" She nodded, her bottom lip sticking out and threatening to tremble. "This little guy's not going to hurt you." Jane cupped his hand over the spider and made it disappear. He took it into his room and opened the outer door. After closing the door, he placed the chain in the lock. Then he went back into the little girl's room. He watched as Lottie tentatively tip-toed down the mattress and sat herself back down at the foot of the bed. She kept her legs bent at the knees and hugged them tightly, still too afraid to put her feet back on the carpet. Her eyes returned to the screen and she was mesmerised once more. Jane ruffled a hand through her hair and went back into his room.
A few minutes later, there was a familiar knock on the outer door to his room. Jane opened it at once and stepped aside to let Lauren in. She'd brought take-out with her.
Once again, Jane could barely tear his gaze from her as they ate. Nor could Lottie – Lauren's presence seemed to calm and comfort her. Jane could only presuppose that the young girl's mind had reverted to a time prior to the traumatic events that morning. She almost looked as if she were watching to see if Lauren really was her mommy, back from her eternal slumber.
The tinkle of Lauren's playful laughter sent a wave of energy through Jane. There was an undeniable spark of electrical deja vu in the air between them. It wasn't just that the brunette was beautiful to look at; he'd admired many a feminine figure over the years, but always from an emotional distance. This time it was different. For the first time in a long time, he felt truly understood; that Lauren Keyes had somehow gained insight and total access to the real Patrick Jane.
Eventually, having sent Lottie to clean her teeth and get changed into her PJs, Lauren announced that she had to go to work. It wasn't far from the motel, not far at all. In fact, her workplace was the bar that was situated just across the parking lot from the motel. It would take her about two minutes to get there.
As she said her goodbyes at the doorway to Jane's room, he held her with his gaze. She smiled and promised that she would return around midnight, after her shift ended. She had proposed that she stay in the room with Lottie, just in case the little girl got spooked in the night. And she had laughed again in her warm rich tinkly way when Jane had whole-heartedly accepted her offer.
CBI HQ, Sacramento, CA
Van Pelt's ears pricked up at the beeping sound emanating from her computer screen. "Power's on again," she announced.
Lisbon almost flew over to Grace's desk. "Have you got a location?" she demanded.
Grace shook her head. "Not yet. The signal doesn't last long enough for the GPS to kick in."
Lisbon exhaled heavily. What the hell kind of cat and mouse game was Jane playing anyway? She was getting tired of his irritating antics. She stared at the computer screen as if willing it to tell her something she didn't know. But the machine remained adamantly silent.
Van Pelt shook her head. "It's gone again." She sighed, then noticed something on the screen and began tapping the keyboard. "Wait a minute…" Lisbon looked hopeful.
"What've you got?" she asked the red-head.
Grace continued to tap the keys as she explained what she was doing. "You see this code down here," she pointed to a number displayed at the bottom of the screen. Lisbon acknowledged with a brief noise. "It's a serial code for the GPS tracker system. I just noticed that for the last few times the power on Jane's phone has come online, those figures have been the same. That means he's been in the same place for most of the day. All we need to figure out now is where that is." She winced as she heard herself state the obvious.
Lisbon sighed again and pushed her arms up from their leaning position on Grace's desk. "Dammit, Jane! Where the hell are you?" she almost yelled.
It took her a few minutes to get herself together but after letting out a few heavy breaths she asked for an update of progress on the murder of Victoria Marshall.
Rigsby began. "We spoke with the neighbour again. She wasn't able to be specific, but she thinks the guy had shortish brown hair with dark brown eyes. She only really saw him in profile and said he reminded her of a vampire." He raised his eyebrows, conceding that it sounded ridiculous but it could give them an idea of the guy's complexion. "Maybe we're looking for someone with really pale skin and dark circles under their eyes."
Lisbon rolled her eyes. "That describes half of Sacramento's nightclub population." Although as she said it, for a brief second she seemed to recall having seen someone fairly recently who fitted that description, but she couldn't think where or when, so she let the thought evaporate. "Anything else?"
Grace interjected, "Yeah. The same neighbour also claims to have been able to make out some of the words from the arguing that was going on. She says she remembered hearing the victim pleading for our mystery man 'not to tell on her, that she couldn't bear to lose'…"
"Lose what?" pondered Lisbon aloud. She massaged her temples and popped some aspirin, swilling it down with the remnants of a cold cup of coffee.
Grace shrugged. "That was all she could make out. But she did say that our 'vampire' wasn't the only visitor to Marshall's apartment. Apparently another guy has been stopping by. She seemed to think he may have been a relative."
"Do we know if Victoria Marshall had any family around here?" asked Lisbon.
Rigsby nodded. "I checked. Her parents are gone but she does have a brother – a Thomas Peter Marshall."
"And? Where is he?" probed the boss.
Rigsby looked unsure. "Er I'll get onto it." He wandered over to his desk and tapped on his keyboard.
Lisbon turned to Cho. "What do Forensics have for us? Anything?"
Cho pulled a non-committal expression. "Not much. Just that the killer wore gloves and sized 12 leather-soled shoes."
"Great!" quipped Lisbon, sarcastically. "Was he a football star too?" There was a pause. "So basically what you're saying is we got nothing; no evidence, no suspect, no witness and no Jane. God, I hate my job." She rested her head heavily onto her forearms which performed as a pillow, and let out a guttural sigh. It was a mixture of fear, fury, concern and frustration.
Suddenly, Rigsby offered a ray of hope. "Boss? Just got a hit on the brother. He has a record. Mainly drug offences but he did spend time in Juvvie for assault and battery."
Lisbon raised her head and swung into action. "I want an address!" she demanded, pushing herself onto her feet. "Get onto Juvvie and pull his records, everything they have on him. I want to know if he's the other mystery man. Cho, get back on to forensics. They must have lifted a dozen prints from the scene. I want to know if any belonged to Thomas Marshall. Get them back to the scene if need be. Grace…keep tracking Jane. I want to know the minute he comes back online." She felt some of her depleted energy reserves begin to refill. At last, something to go on.
Franklin Motel, Sacramento, CA
Carefully and gently, Jane pushed himself up from the bed, trying not to disturb the sleeping princess at his side. It had taken considerable gentle coaching, a glass of warm milk and a lullaby to send little Lottie into the Land of Sleep. He pulled the covers up to her soft, milky chin, secured the plush toy rabbit (that Lauren had bought) next to her cheek, and kissed her gently on the forehead. She smelled of apples.
At the KwikMart, buying toiletries he'd found himself automatically reaching out for the strawberry scented bath bubbles. Then he'd checked himself and opted for the apple one instead. Lottie hadn't really bothered. She'd just wanted bubbles.
He watched her for a few minutes; the gentle rise and fall of her chest as she took in deep restful breaths. He could only hope that she stayed that way, and that none of the horrors of that morning invaded her peaceful sleep. A brief smile flickered on his lips and he turned off most of the lamps, careful to leave one on, dimmed, in case she woke up. He went through the adjoining door, leaving it open slightly so that he could hear any signs of nightmares.
Jane looked at the silently flickering screen of his TV. He'd clicked aimlessly through the channels and stopped on this one: National Geographic. He enjoyed many of the documentaries the channel showed. He'd watched them with interest and taken note of how humans and animals were pretty much the same deep down. They shared the same needs; the need to strike out when threatened, the need to willow out the weak to maintain a level playing field; and the need to satiate the most primeval of urges. It was this thought that made Jane glance at the clock display on the radio alarm on the bedside table. 'Soon be midnight' he thought. The brief flicker of a smile crossed his face before being instantly transformed into the more familiar expression of guilt. He sat staring blindly ahead, mulling over the mixed emotions crowding his brain.
Corey's Sports Bar, Sacramento, CA
Lauren Keyes was the best waitress the bar had ever employed. For sure she was the prettiest. At least, that's what Sean Michaelson believed anyway. He watched her as she sauntered coolly around the tables serving drinks to the riff raff that tended to drift into this particular watering hole. He winked as his prey caught him looking. One day, he would teach that pretty little thing a thing or two about what a real man was all about. For the moment though, he had to make do with just watching her in action. He liked to think of it as foreplay.
Lauren shivered slightly as she spotted that she was being watched, again. She didn't mind most of the time. She knew that men liked to look at women and that most of the numbskulls that frequented this establishment didn't have the chops to actually disguise the lust that was in their hearts. She tried to think of them as over enthusiastic puppy dogs – and most of them were. They'd look, they'd drool and then they'd rush home with their tail between their legs. But Sean Michaelson was different. He gave her the creeps; made her skin crawl. And he was there most nights. She always felt that Sean looked at her with a view to doing things to her as opposed to with her. She tried to shake off that disturbing thought by taking another order up to the bar.
She went over to yet another pale-faced, darkly clad figure hunched into a corner and asked him what she could get him. He growled in response and shook a beer bottle in her direction. She sighed and wandered back to the long stretch of mahogany that made up the bar area. As she did, she glanced up at the clock. 11.30. Only thirty minutes until her shift ended. She smiled secretly to herself.
Franklin Motel, Sacramento, CA
Jane switched off the TV. The media had already put his face out there in connection with the Amber alert for Lottie. He knew that Wainwright would have had something to do with the 'leaked information'. Still, Jane was happy to play his little game. He also knew, however, that he needed to make it safe for the precious little girl in his care. Social Services definitely wasn't an option and keeping her with him may no longer be one either. He checked on Lottie for the umpteenth time and then sat on the edge of the bed continuously passing his phone from one hand to the other and back again. Every so often he'd stop and his finger would hover above the power button, but then he'd carry on passing it through his hands. Once he even put it back into his vest pocket, but then took it out again. He bit the corner of his lip as he tried to make up his mind. He wasn't usually this indecisive. Something had knocked him off kilter.
He stared at the TV for a second and then got up quickly. He wandered over to what the motel liked to pass off as a minibar. It was practically empty save for two miniature bottles of vodka and a half eaten chocolate bar. Rolling his eyes at the inadequacy of the selection, he grabbed the bottles. He downed them in one, feeling the inevitable heat that follows a sudden intake of alcohol begin to warm his throat. He sat back on the edge of the bed, switched on his phone and scrolled through his list of contacts. He found the one he was looking for and sent a brief text.
Two minutes later, he switched the phone off again and wrote two names down on a small piece of paper. Alongside one of them he drew a childish sketch of an ice cream. He then placed the paper onto the bedside cabinet intending to give it to Lottie in the morning when she woke up. He looked at the time display, smiled and walked over to the outer door. Taking a deep breath and straightening his suit, he opened the door and let in the night air.
Lauren couldn't clock out quickly enough. It took two attempts to get the machine to click properly. She tutted, then threw her bag strap over her head and across her body. She said her goodbyes to the bartender, her boss, grabbed the bottle of Jack Daniels that she'd persuaded her boss to let her purchase – she had a feeling she would need it to help Jane share whatever appeared to be eating him up from the inside - and headed out the door into the cool night. She looked up across the parking lot and saw the outline of him pacing up and down outside the open doorway to his room. She grinned and began to rush towards the motel.
Part way across the parking lot, Lauren sensed that there was someone behind her. This was confirmed when sweaty fingers gripped her wrist and swung her around. Her startled gaze was met by a lurid look in Sean Michaelson's eyes.
"Well, hey there, butterfly!" he slurred.
Lauren pulled her arm backwards, out of his bruising grip. "Get lost, Sean!" she hissed.
He tried to grab her again. "Baby, why you being this way? You knows you want some of this." He grabbed his crotch with one hand, and waved the other around in the air to steady himself.
Lauren huffed out the tense air in her lungs and began to stride away again, hoping that he would lose his balance and hit the tarmac…hard. She looked back to the motel. Jane had noticed Sean's presence and was making his way over to her. They were less than 20 feet away from the motel door when Sean caught up with them.
"Hey!" he yelled. "What you think you're doing with my butterfly?" He pushed Jane.
Jane shoved Lauren ahead of him and turned to face his aggressor. His intent was to calm the man down and gently persuade him to be on his way. He didn't get the chance, however, because Sean swung a very large fist in his direction. It made contact with the consultant's nose and left cheekbone, catching him off-guard and sending him sprawling. Blood began gushing from his nostrils before he'd even hit the ground. Lauren screamed at Sean to stop. But the fury was in the man's veins, along with copious amounts of alcohol. He drew back a leg and pounded his foot into Jane's ribcage.
The air rushed from Jane's lungs like a tsunami sucking out the ocean. He blinked and gasped for breath as he curled over onto his side, his arm reflexively drawn up to protect his side from another attack. This wasn't the way the night was supposed to go. Another kick sent sparks of agony through his fingers. Grunting with pain, he pulled away his hand, but this left him open to attack so he shifted onto his other side in an attempt to push himself up to a half sitting position. He looked up to see Lauren wrestling with their drunken attacker. She was yelling at him and then it went quiet. This was followed by a loud howl and the stocky man dropped to his knees, both hands cradling his groin area. Lauren pushed him over and threatened to call the police. Michaelson raised a hand in surrender and dragged himself to his feet. He began backing away, half limping, half staggering until he disappeared into the inky blackness.
Lauren rushed over to Jane. She tried to help him up but his arm slipped out of her hand and all she succeeded in doing was scraping some of the skin off his forearm with her short, but neatly manicured nails. He landed heavily, jarring his ribs and causing him to grunt in pain. He held up a hand; a gesture for her to give him a minute. She waited patiently, shivering slightly in the cold air, and eventually he managed to pull himself to his feet.
During the fracas, neither one of them had noticed the darkly clad figure as he slouched down behind the wheel of a dark brown sedan. He had slipped unnoticed out of the bar several minutes before Lauren had left, and returned to his vehicle to continue his mission. Silently, he watched.
CBI HQ, Sacramento, CA
"Grace!" Lisbon couldn't hide the urgency in her voice as she ran into the bull pen. "I need you to trace Jane's phone, NOW!" She held out her own cell phone. The display showed Jane's number. Grace began tapping on her keyboard, wondering why Lisbon wasn't actually speaking to Jane and asking him where he was herself, especially as he'd called her.
It was only when Lisbon put it on speaker phone that she realised Jane hadn't actually called deliberately. They could hear a lot of scuffling and shouting going on, punctuated by the odd thud and a sound that made her blood run cold. It sounded like someone was beating the crap out of their colleague. She heard the pain in his grunts, what sounded like a frightened woman yelling, then a lot of rustling and then…nothing. The signal disappeared again.
"Did you get him?" demanded Lisbon. She'd winced along with everyone else at the sounds coming from Jane's incoming call. She needed an answer.
"Got him!" announced Grace, triumphantly. Then her excitement vanished suddenly. "Damn!" she cursed. "I lost it." Her fingers flew across the keyboard.
Lisbon couldn't believe it. "What?"
Grace shook her head in desperate apology as she continued to type. "Sorry, boss. The link has broken down. I can get it back again but it may take some time."
Lisbon pounded a fist on the desk. "Dammit, we don't have time!" Her frustration was now becoming frantic fear. "Call me when you get a location!" She stormed out of the bull pen, heading for the elevator down to the ground. She needed some air to calm herself down and help her to think.
Franklin Motel, Sacramento, CA
Jane winced as Lauren applied a cold compress to his already blackening eye. She'd already cleaned up his bloody nose and was now in the process of collecting some ice from outside for his battered hand and body, having first checked on Lottie. Fortunately, the youngster had slept soundly through the whole altercation.
It was in the process of gingerly removing his vest and shirt that Jane had realised that his phone had somehow got switched on. Not only that, but in the midst of all the kicking, Sean's foot had managed to hit the speed dial for Lisbon. As soon as he'd realised, Jane had switched the phone off again, fervently hoping that they hadn't been able to get a lock on his position. He winced again, but this time it was the memory of the frantic yells from Lisbon as she'd tried to make contact from her end of the line. Who knows what it must have sounded like to her?
For a moment, Jane toyed with the idea of calling her and letting her know that he was fine, but it was a thought he didn't entertain for long because Lauren returned with a bucket of ice and began to wrap some of it into a towel. When she placed it on the purpling skin of his ribcage, he yelped, childishly sucking air in through his teeth, "Ouch!" He pulled a face.
"Shhhh!" reprimanded Lauren, playfully. "You'll wake up Lottie."
Jane drew a finger to his lips and kept it there as he winced through the pain. Lauren grinned at his childish attempts to be brave. He'd taken quite a beating. She knew he must be in much more pain than he was actually showing. Her eyes drifted up and down his torso taking note of the scars of previous wounds as well as the most recent additions. She apologised once more.
"I am really sorry. Sean is a real jerk, but he's not usually this bad," she explained.
Jane held up a hand. "No need to apologise. How long has he been harassing you?"
Lauren shrugged and placed a hand on top of the towel on Jane's side. "Most nights for the last, oh I don't know…forever?" She exhaled a dry laugh. "We used to go to college together." She shrugged resignedly, having gotten used to Sean's obsessive antics over the years. Still, that didn't mean she liked it.
"Ah," acknowledged Jane. "The long trail of unrequited love." He pushed his head into the pillow and smiled feebly to try and disguise the pain that had just shot through his side.
Lauren moved the towel. She stared at his bruised skin and then looked deep into his eyes. "What about you?" she asked.
"How long have I been harassing you?" Jane joked.
Teasingly, Lauren made moves to tap the back of her hand against his injury, but stopped herself. Jane flinched anyway. "No. I mean…I've heard Lottie's story, you've heard my story…now it's your turn." She was genuinely interested.
The playfulness left Jane's eyes and a shadow descended, cancelling out the twinkle that had shone previously. He shrugged his mouth. "Not much to tell…" He exhaled a deep breath.
Lauren sensed the change in him. She poured some more Jack Daniels into their glasses and handed him one. "Patrick, you can tell me. In fact…" She changed her position so that she was leaning on her side next to him, head propped up by one hand. "I think it's best that you do." Her empathetic smile was warm and inviting. Jane gazed into her dark brown eyes and instantly felt his anxiety and emotional pain begin to reduce. What was it about her? He continued to stare for several seconds and then shifted his gaze slightly. He downed the whisky, cleared his throat and began, "I used to have it all…"
Outside in the parking lot, Gerard Stevenson watched…and waited. He knew the girl was close by. He had paid close attention to the CBI consultant's movements ever since he and Agent Lisbon had left Lottie at the Children's Home. He'd witnessed, from an unseen position in an adjoining office - where he had pretended to fill out the requisite paperwork whilst his partner had conferred with Lisbon and the Supervisor - the fact that the girl had become distressed when she thought she was being abandoned, and how a few secret words whispered into her ear from Jane had calmed her almost immediately. She'd nodded and then, as quiet as a lamb, gone to her 'new room'. Fortunately, he'd managed so far to avoid being seen by her.
Gerard had considered taking the girl then. But he knew she would scream and draw attention. She had a powerful set of lungs, and she'd never liked him. He supposed it may have had something to do with the fact that she'd seen him threatening and knocking her mom around on a few of the occasions he'd visited their apartment.
Silly bitch deserved it. Just like she'd deserved the beating he'd handed out to her that morning. If only the dumb cow hadn't grabbed a knife, she might still be alive. He ran a finger over the edge of a bandage that covered his forearm, wincing at the pain memory. Of course he'd had to defend himself. Where she'd got the energy from to come at him again, even after he'd wrestled the blade from her hand and stabbed her with it, he had no idea. The woman was wild.
Her screaming had been the cause of her demise. He'd only done it to silence her. Too bad he hadn't known that Lottie had been there all the time, hiding, instead of with her mom's good for nothing convict brother. Gerard pondered over the fact that he could have ended her at the same time. Had he known, he wouldn't have found himself in this position now, and the kid could have still been with her whore of a mother. He'd only discovered the fact that he'd left a witness when the authorities had called his office at Social Services. What a stroke of luck that was! Not only had he been given details of the kid's whereabouts, but he had also been dispatched to collect her! He'd had it all planned out; keeping his colleague out of the way, ensconced in the paperwork, whilst he took care of the girl. It would have worked out perfectly. But then Patrick Jane had got involved.
Only an hour after depositing the girl, Jane had returned to the Home alone, pretending to have forgotten something, and as he kept the Supervisor occupied, Lottie had slipped out without being noticed. Jane had then simply left when the Supervisor was distracted by another child's yells, collected Lottie who was waiting by the door, and then had driven away.
Gerard had followed them to a local KwikMart and had considered breaking into their car whilst they were inside. His intention was to hold a knife to Lottie's throat whilst getting Jane to drive to a secluded spot where he would deal with them both. No loose ends and all that. However, he'd decided instead to make sure they didn't slip out the back way and had followed them inside.
Much to his chagrin, they'd met up with another woman and left together in her car. Gerard had half run back to his own vehicle to continue his surveillance. He needn't have worried though. They hadn't gone far. Just a few blocks from the Children's Home, in fact; to get an ice cream and then on to the Franklin Motel, which is where he now found himself; sitting in his car, watching and waiting.
Lauren watched silently as Jane's chest rose and fell in a rhythmic breathing pattern. Every now and then his breath seemed to catch and hesitate before being released. This was coupled with a slight twitch in his closed eyelids as if he was experiencing tiny jabs of pain. She supposed he was, judging by the deep purple mottling that covered most of his left side.
He was exhausted and emotionally spent. He'd told her everything - about being raised on the Carny circuit; his past life as a fake psychic; meeting his wife, and the birth of his daughter. She had laughed at the tales of some of his antics, listened with delight to the love in his voice when he'd talked about his daughter, and she had cried alongside him when he'd shared the profound loss he'd experienced at the hands of another. He'd informed her that he'd killed two men, caused another man's death and how he was still intent on committing murder when he found Red John. And despite the shocking nature of his confession, Lauren understood completely, and accepted.
Her heart had ached for him as she'd sensed the intense feelings of guilt that had almost devoured him. He'd found it difficult at first, words failing him on occasion. They'd played on his lips but wouldn't tumble from his mouth. The soft touch of her fingers against his had served as gentle encouragement. She knew he had to purge his soul of the terrible angst that was locked deep inside. She willingly played out the role of conduit and, at one point, the empathy she felt had her wondering where he ended and she began. Tenderly, she had moved the palm of her hand to his cheek, gently turning his face towards hers. She'd wiped away his trickling tears and gazed deep into his bluey-grey eyes. A profound connection held them for several moments and then her eyes drifted towards his soft, full lips. And in that instant they both knew.
Lauren smiled as she snuggled her head back into the pillow at the side of Jane's neck. He shifted in his sleep, tentatively turning his body onto his side, towards her. She became aware that his eyes were open and that he was now watching her. There was a contented smile at the edge of his mouth. He pulled her closer to him. He raised his right hand and ran a finger across her silky lips, then he leaned in pressing his own mouth against hers. His kiss was gentle, cautious. Then it grew in intensity. Pushing himself up with his left arm he rested on his hands, carefully manoeuvring his body to hover above her. He alternated between staring into her eyes and leaning down to brush his lips against hers.
After a few minutes though, the strain began to show a little and the pain in his side caused him to grimace slightly. As he attempted to reposition himself, allowing a couple of painful grunts to escape, his hand slipped on the edge of the mattress and he began to overbalance. In an attempt to save himself, he caught the lamp at the side of the bed and it crashed to the floor. A split second later, the outer door burst open, causing the frame to splinter slightly.
Lisbon had paced so much she was sure that she had worn away some of the varnish from the hardwood flooring in the walkway beside the bullpen. Eventually, after what had seemed like an age, Grace had come up trumps and found Jane's location.
The tyres of the SUV had barely touched the tarmac as Lisbon and Cho sped out of the parking lot. Finally, she felt that she was doing something useful. She just hoped that they would be in time to help Jane. God only knew what had happened to him. Her foot pushed harder on the accelerator. It would only take a few minutes. Strangely enough, the location given by Jane's GPS had put him only a few blocks away from the KwikMart and the Children's Home where they had deposited, and then lost, Lottie.
They pulled up to the Motel office and Cho went to find out if they had let out a room to anyone fitting Jane's description. Lisbon's fingers tapped energetically against the steering wheel as she waited for him to return. Waiting was not one of her strengths.
As he left the office, Cho nodded, answering the unspoken question in her eyes. He jumped back into the seat beside her and pointed to a door several rooms down. "Jane's in room 7."
After waiting for what seemed to be an arduously long time, Gerard decided the time had come for him to make his move. He'd waited for the lights in Room 7 to be extinguished, then he'd waited some more. He had to allow time for his target to fall asleep. He chuckled to himself and checked his watch again. 'Maybe I should give them a little more time' he mused, thinking that Jane may not get much sleep after all, judging by the delicious looking brunette that had joined him.
Gerard had watched with some delight as Jane had had the stuffing kicked out of him by some crater-faced drunk. He'd even laughed out loud at the sight of the brunette coming to his rescue by kicking their assailant in the nuts. The whole incident had stopped him from getting too bored in his surveillance of the man who stood between him and freedom.
After a quick glance at his watch, Gerard pulled up the hood on his black top, slipped his hands into a pair of black, rubberised gloves and pulled out a small bundle and a knife from his glove-box. He unrolled the bundle to reveal a small vial and a syringe. Carefully, he extracted some of the liquid from the vial and replaced the cap onto the end of the needle. He was just about to get out of the car when an SUV screeched into the lot and pulled up outside the office. He slammed his hand against the steering wheel. "Dammit!" he cursed, realising his chance may have gone, as the SUV pulled up next to the Ford that was parked outside the room he had been watching.
Lisbon was just about to knock on the door to Room 7 when she heard a familiar painful grunt. This was immediately followed by the sound of something being knocked over, followed by an extremely loud thud and one of Jane's childish 'ouches'. She sprang into action, grabbing the gun from her holster and ramming the cheap, wooden door as hard as she could with her shoulder.
"Freeze!" she yelled and pointed her weapon at the outline of a figure sitting bolt upright, leaning over the side of the bed, and reaching for something. Lisbon flicked on the light switch at the side of the door. The sudden brightness caused her to blink several times so that her eyes could adjust. Her gaze fell upon a dishevelled, young brunette woman – the figure on the bed. Her hands were raised in surrender and there was an expression of shock and fear on her face.
In the same second, Lisbon's eyes drifted to the floor at the side of the bed. At first all she saw was a foot clothed within a grey sock. Then a hand appeared above the edge of the mattress, fingers splayed in submission. This was followed by Jane's head wearing a sheepish half-grin, half-grimace.
Lisbon's mouth fell open and her gun began to droop as her astonishment reached her hand.
"Lauren…meet Lisbon. Lisbon, this is Lauren," announced Jane, gesturing to each woman with his eyes. He grinned and then grimaced again as the bruising around his left eye twinged.
Lisbon remained frozen to the spot, open-mouthed. Cho appeared in the doorway, gun drawn.
"Oh hey, Cho," greeted Jane as he pushed up off the edge of the mattress and struggled to get to his feet.
Cho took in the scene in a second. He nodded to Jane and then looked at Lisbon's gob-smacked expression. Unusually for the Korean agent, he couldn't disguise the makings of a smile at the corners of his mouth. He nodded slightly at Lauren whilst re-holstering his weapon. "Ma'am," he said, then nodded at Jane again, "Jane." Without any further words he left through the broken doorway and made his way back to the SUV, silently exhaling a chortle as he went.
Lisbon still hadn't moved, but she had regained control over her eyes and mouth. Her gaze dropped to the floor, not knowing where else to look, as she searched for some words. All she could manage was a limp hand gesture towards the door and "I'll…just be outside." She nodded, more to herself than anyone else, and stepped back out into the night.
A few minutes later, Jane hobbled out of the room and joined her. He had put his shirt back on, but it remained loosely fastened, un-cuffed and dishevelled. Thankfully, he'd still been wearing his suit pants. They were wrinkled from slumber but definitely there, much to Lisbon's relief.
Jane shivered slightly as a cool breeze caused his linen shirt to flap. He placed both hands in his pants' pockets as he sidled up to his long suffering colleague and friend.
For a moment, neither of them spoke. They looked ahead, occasionally snatching glances to see if the other one was looking, and darting their eyes away if caught. Jane sighed deeply. Lisbon noted that he seemed far more relaxed than the last time she'd seen him – she guessed the reason for that was sitting in the room behind them.
Eventually, she looked at him properly and gestured towards his blackening eye. "So…"
Jane picked up on the unspoken query. "Oh…yeah…" he said, with a slight sideways shrug of his head and one shoulder. "A little misunderstanding."
Lisbon nodded and exhaled a breath. "Well, as long as you're okay... Cos' on the phone it sounded like you were getting your ass kicked."
Jane conceded the point with another sideways head shrug. Then a mischievous glint came into his eyes as he glanced back towards the room. "Maybe later." He raised an eyebrow and beamed.
Lisbon let out a small laugh. There was a slight pause then she tapped his arm with two of her fingers. "Good for you," she stated quietly, smiling at him for a long moment. Jane gave a little boy shrug and smiled coyly. Both of them let their eyes drop.
Lisbon took a step down from the wooden walkway that separated the rooms from the parking lot. She began to move towards the SUV, where Cho waited in the passenger seat. Suddenly remembering something, she turned. "Oh…the little girl, Lottie?" Jane raised his eyebrows quizzically. Lisbon continued, "Come on Jane. Where is she? What have you done with her? There's an Amber alert out for her, you know."
Jane shrugged as innocently as he could with a bruised ribcage. "Really? I've no idea what you're talking about."
Lisbon looked at him hard. "You know nothing about her going missing from Social Services?"
Jane's eyes rolled around and he shook his head. "Nope…" With a slight smirk he added, "Jeez, I hope she's somewhere safe,"
Lisbon gave him a look. "She'd better be," she warned. "Oh and just so you know… Wainwright has issued a warrant for your arrest."
Jane flashed his eyebrows in a devil-may-care manner. "You'd better keep an eye out for me then," he threw back.
Lisbon opened the driver side door of the SUV, shaking her head. Under her breath she muttered, "Don't I always?"
As she turned the key in the ignition, Jane offered a slight wave, then slapped his arm as if swatting something that had bitten him. He watched as the SUV pulled off out of the parking lot, oblivious to the brown sedan that was parked two spots behind. Then he turned and went back inside.
CBI HQ, Sacramento, CA
Rigsby and Van Pelt could hardly contain their eagerness as they greeted their returning colleagues.
"Well? Where's Jane?" asked Grace, with a quizzical expression. She was sure the information she'd found had been correct.
Aware that Wainwright was lurking at the far end of the bull pen listening in and making hesitant steps towards them, Lisbon made a big show of shrugging her shoulders and sounding annoyed. "He wasn't there. We have no idea where he is. It was another dead end!" And just for good measure she added, "Dammit!" before stomping off to her office.
Grace looked at Cho with an even more confused look on her face. Cho just shrugged silently, smirked enigmatically and moved over to his desk.
Seeing Lisbon head off down the side of the bullpen towards her office caused Wainwright to pause in his approach. He turned back and headed through the doorway adjacent to hers. He saw the tail end of her disappear into the office and swiftly followed her.
Sensing him behind her, Lisbon closed her eyes momentarily before turning to greet her supervisor. Was there a hint of suspicion in his eyes? Before she could speak, he held up a finger.
"I heard. Still no Jane. What I'm more interested in is why I wasn't informed immediately that you had potentially located him." His stare was pointed. "Agent Lisbon…I am aware of your loyalties to Patrick Jane –" Lisbon opened her mouth to respond but Wainwright held up a finger again. "…I am aware of your loyalties to Jane and I just hope that they don't cloud your judgement in this matter. Withholding evidence or information is – "
This time Lisbon wouldn't hold her silence. "Are you accusing me of withholding information…?" she asked, pointedly adding, "…sir?"
Wainwright continued to stare at her for several seconds as if he was trying to work out if she was genuinely indignant or just trying to hide something. Unable to arrive at a satisfactory conclusion he said, "I am merely reminding you of the serious consequences that come with with–"
Lisbon cut him off again. "I'm well aware of the consequences of withholding information…Sir."
The young Supervisor tried to remain firm even though he was undecided about how to respond to Lisbon's tone. He tried to regain his authority by straightening up and raising his chin slightly. "Good." He took a step towards the door, then looked back. "Where are we on locating the girl's uncle?" he enquired.
Lisbon let out a long breath. "We have a last known address, Van Pelt and Rigsby are going to check it out this morning, along with a couple of known acquaintances – see if anyone's seen him around." She sat down in her seat and opened her laptop, hoping that Wainwright would get the message and leave.
He nodded, "Keep me informed of the situation," he said, emphatically, beginning to push the office door open. "I have a meeting with the Director but you can get me on my cell if there are any developments."
Lisbon glanced up and nodded, then dropped her eyes to the laptop screen in a weak attempt to hide the contempt in her look. Only when she heard the swish of her door closing again did she throw herself back into her seat and let out a loud breath.
Franklin Motel, Sacramento, CA
Upon returning to his room, Jane had tried as best he could to piece the doorframe back together again. Although there were a couple of splinters missing, he managed to get the door to shut properly. The lock no longer worked, as it had fallen off into his hand, but at least the closed door would appear to be locked to anyone passing by.
He looked over to Lauren who was still chuckling slightly at the improvised introduction to Jane's co-worker – someone whom she'd heard quite a lot about in the short time they had known each other, but not someone she had expected to meet quite so soon. As Jane padded back towards the bed, he noticed her pointing slightly towards the adjoining door. His gaze followed her finger and fell upon a small, wide eyed face peeking through the small gap. He smiled and stepped towards a wary-looking Lottie.
After two steps, he stopped, turned around and retrieved his phone and the small piece of paper from the bedside table. Then he returned to the little girl, softly encouraging her to get back into bed.
Lauren listened for a while, but Jane's hypnotic voice proved too much and she soon found herself fighting to keep her eyelids open. She had no idea how long he had been in the other room; the little girl must have needed quite a bit of reassurance. By the time he'd returned, Lauren was letting out gentle breaths of the deep relaxation sleep brings with it.
Jane smiled at the sight of the beautiful woman lying on his bed. He tip-toed over to her and gently pulled the covers over her. Then, as lightly as he could, he lay himself down next to her, skooching slightly so that their bodies touched. Lauren wriggled into him and he spooned up against her. Unusually for him, it wasn't long before he too had succumbed to slumber.
Marshall Residence, Sacramento, CA
Rigsby pulled up outside a house that was still in darkness. He glanced at Van Pelt. "This is Marshall's last known address, according to his prison record." They both eyed the place, weighing up potential entry and exit points.
Due to the fact that it was the early hours of the morning, they decided that Grace would ring the doorbell and Rigsby would hover by the side gate in case someone decided to head out the back way.
Grace pushed the buzzer a second time and followed it with a loud knock. A neighbour's light went on and a curtain twitched. Grace bent to look through the letterbox. What she didn't expect to see were the soles of a man lying face down on the floor. Not moving.
"Rigsby!" She uttered loudly. Wayne moved quickly back to the front door. She gestured towards the letterbox. Rigsby took a peek. Immediately they drew their weapons and Wayne kicked hard against the waist-high door handle. The termite-ridden doorframe didn't put up much resistance.
Once inside, Van Pelt knelt at the side of the body and felt for a pulse, whilst Rigsby checked to make sure there was no one lurking in the shadows. It took a few seconds for it to register but she could make out a faint regular rhythm of a heartbeat. She was just about to move her hand away when it was gripped by sweaty fingers.
"Butterfly! You came back to me!" slurred the body, which had clumsily come to life.
Grace tore her hand away and jerked herself back, almost over-balancing in the process. Rigsby returned at the sound of a voice.
Sean Michaelson rolled himself over and grinned at them from the floor. Rigsby glanced at Grace who nodded silently that she was okay, and then, re-holstering his weapon, he placed a hand under each of the man's arms and pulled him heavily to his feet.
Michaelson swayed a little and tried to focus his eyes back on Grace. More-or-less holding him up, Rigsby guided the obviously intoxicated man towards a sunken looking couch in the living area and dumped him on it.
"Thomas Marshall?" he asked. "Are you Thomas Marshall?" There was no response from Michaelson, who was struggling to gain control over his eyes.
"I'll go make some coffee," said Van Pelt as Rigsby tried to straighten the man up into a sitting position; at the same time patting the guy's pockets, looking for some identification. He'd just located a wallet when Grace returned with a mug of steaming black coffee.
"That kitchen's a health hazard," she stated, wrinkling up her nose. "This was the only mug that didn't have something growing in it."
Rigsby grimaced in acknowledgement and then flipped the wallet open, retrieving the guy's driver's license. His shoulders slumped slightly. "According to his ID, this is Sean Michaelson."
At the sound of his name, Michaelson's eyes rolled open again. Grace thrust the coffee under his nose. He blinked several times and then leered at her. "Hey butterfly!" Grace wrinkled her nose at the overwhelming smell of alcohol that emanated from every one of the man's pores. Rigsby took the coffee from her and wrapped Sean's fist around it. He noticed bruising on his knuckles.
"Ouch man! Careful!" yelped Michaelson in response to the squeezing of his swollen hand and the heat from the outside of the mug.
"Sean Michaelson?" asked Rigsby, holding up the driver's license.
"Maybe," came the slurred reply, "Who wants to know?"
Grace pulled out her ID. "California Bureau of Investigation," she announced.
Michaelson whistled, impressed. He gave a slight chuckle, "Whooo a butterfly with a badge."
Grace was losing her patience. She glared at him. "Does Thomas Marshall live here?" she demanded.
"Who now?" asked Michaelson, screwing up his eyes as he sipped the scalding coffee.
"Thomas Marshall," repeated Rigsby.
"Thomas Marsh- [?] Ohhhh, y'all is talking 'bout Tommy?"
Grace had to stop herself from grabbing the man by the lapels and shaking the information out of him.
"Tommy. Yes. You know where he is?" she asked through gritted teeth.
"Tom-mee," repeated Michaelson, with a silly grin on his face. This was quickly replaced by remembered irritation. "Sonofabitch owes me money! Hey, when you see him tell him Seanie's gonna mess him up 'less he pays up." He raised a hand heavily and attempted to throw a fist around. Rigsby thwarted him and pushed his hand back down.
"You quite handy, Sean?" he asked. "I noticed the bruises on your knuckles there. You been in a fight tonight?"
Sean chuckled as he brought his fist up close to his face to inspect his war wounds. "Some punk ass suit tried to take my butterfly, so I put him down." A smirk played at the corners of his mouth, turning into a frown as he suddenly remembered what had followed. His gaze returned towards Van Pelt. His voice became venomous. "And then you, bitch, kicked me." His hand automatically grasped his groin area. He tried to push himself upwards to launch himself at the red-haired agent, but only succeeded in pouring his coffee all over the floor. Again Rigsby thwarted him. It didn't take much in his condition. A gentle push was enough to land him back on the couch.
"Okay, that's enough!" warned Rigbsy. "You try that again and I'll put you in cuffs."
Michaelson waved a hand in defeat. "Bitch ain't worth it anyways," he spat.
Rigsby raised an eyebrow and a finger, "Be nice!" he cautioned. Grace just pouted and glared at the pathetic excuse of a man slumped on the couch in front of her.
After several more unsuccessful attempts to find out where Thomas Marshall was, Rigsby decided that they would take Michaelson back to CBI, get him sobered up and try again once the man's alcohol levels had dropped. It took some effort, but they managed to get him into the back of the SUV where he lay where he landed, across the back seat, nursing the knuckle that Grace had slammed the car door against in an effort to remove his hand from her butt.
Franklin Motel, Sacramento, CA
Gerard Stevenson could not believe his luck. Not only had the SUV now gone but they had very kindly made his entry into Room 7 a lot easier. He had wondered whether he would have been able to pick the lock without disturbing the inhabitants, but now he no longer needed to worry about that. He'd watched with an amused grin as Jane had tried to piece the door frame together again, and how he'd fiddled with the lock which had eventually fallen off in his hand. An unlocked door. Perfect!
Still, there was always the possibility that Jane had positioned a chair or something against the inside of the door, but Stevenson didn't think so.
Gathering his tools together again, and double-checking that the cap was still on the syringe, he opened the car door. He'd had to rethink his initial plan, which was to kill Jane and drug the girl in order to take her somewhere he could take his sweet time with her, when the mystery brunette had showed up. Now he had a better plan – he'd read up a little on Jane and he knew all about the consultant's obsession with a killer called Red John; the man who had killed Jane's family – and he'd decided that Plan B was going to be much more satisfying.
Stealthily, he made his way over towards the silver Ford Escape that the trio had arrived in. For a second, he paused. Then he took a deep breath and made his way to the door of Room 7. He reached out a hand and gave a gentle push. The door opened without a sound. Stevenson glanced along the walkway in both directions and then stepped inside, pushing the door closed behind him.
The sound of a door being kicked in had woken Lottie with a start. Her heart had pounded as she'd crept out of her bed and shot underneath it. She'd waited and waited for Patrick to come and get her but he hadn't. Instead she heard him speaking. It sounded like he knew the person, a woman that had busted in through the door. He sounded calm and friendly, which reassured Lottie enough to crawl out from under the bed, but she was still wary of what was going on in the room next door. She had gathered her things and pushed them into the pink Cinderella back-pack that Patrick and Lauren had bought for her at the Kwik-Mart. Last to go in was Lottie Rabbit. Then she slid the bag under the bed and waited.
When the room next door went quiet, Lottie wondered if she'd been left behind. Her tiny heart started to pound in her chest again and her breath began to come out attached to quiet sobs. Then she heard Patrick again, and Lauren, who seemed to be giggling. The warm tinkly sound had given Lottie enough courage to peek around the doorway. If Lauren was laughing, things must be okay.
The little girl had been relieved to see both of her guardians, although she did catch her breath and get a little bit scared when she saw the bruise near Patrick's eye. He hadn't had that when she'd gone to sleep. She'd flinched at the memory of the many purple marks she'd seen on her mommy's arms so many times. She'd shaken her head to try and get it out of her head. It was then that Lauren had spotted her, and Patrick had wandered over. For some reason he'd gone back to get his phone and a piece of paper, but then he had come to the door and spoken to her in his friendly voice. Lottie loved his voice; it made her feel safe. She had got back into her bed when he'd told her to. He'd asked if she remembered where they'd stopped off before they got to the motel. She did – ice cream was her favourite, so it made sense for her to remember the diner dedicated to the cold dessert; all the different flavours had amazed her. Apart from which, it was just around the corner. She might only be six but she wasn't stupid.
Patrick had told her how smart she was, then he'd told her his plan about keeping her safe, to which she had listened carefully. He'd waited for her to close her eyes and drift off before he'd left to go back to his own room. What he hadn't realised was that she'd only pretended to be asleep. She didn't feel like sleeping any more. She shuddered as she remembered the bad dream she'd been having before the noise woke her up – about the bad man coming to get her. She didn't want anyone coming into her room that she didn't trust and if that meant staying awake for the rest of the night to keep watch, then that was what she was going to do.
After Patrick had gone, she had slipped out of her bed again and pulled her back-pack from beneath the bed. She'd taken out her new clothes and slipped them on over the top of her pyjamas. She wanted to be ready. Then, clutching Patrick's phone, she'd tucked the slip of paper into a pocket and sat back beneath the covers, drawing her knees up to her chest.
The sun rose quickly and began to heat up the morning dew on the streets. Small waves of shimmering steam wafted up from the heated tarmac. It was promising to be a very, warm beautiful day.
Sandrina Lopez pushed her cart ahead of her. It was laden down with towels and other housekeeping items. She loved the scent of fresh laundry. Slowly, she ambled along the walkway towards the next room. Something on the floor by the edge of the wooden walkway caught her eye. She stopped and retrieved a small, soft rabbit in a tiny pink and white dress. The sight of it brought a smile to her face. It reminded her of one the toys she had got for one of her granddaughters; Maria would love this.
Reflexively checking around to see if anyone was watching, Sandrina dusted the small rabbit and tucked it into the front pocket of her apron, next to her cell phone and iPod. She adjusted the tiny speakers in her ears and moved to open the door just in front of her.
As she pulled out her key, she tapped quietly on the door, "Hello? Housekeeping!" she said. There was no response. 'Good', she thought to herself, 'Must have been an early bird.' Many of the motels occupants were up before dawn, setting off on the next leg of their journey, or making their way to conferences. It was better for Sandrina. That way she didn't risk interrupting any compromising positions.
She reached up with her key but noticed that the door didn't appear to be locked. She pushed it. It didn't even appear to have a lock anymore. Puzzled by the door frame, she happened to glance across to the bed. Her hand covered her mouth but was unable to stop the piercing scream that came out. She ran a hand across her front in the gesture of a cross and grabbed her cell phone, quickly dialling 911.
A low rumbling caused Lottie to stir. She rubbed her eyes like a hamster coming out of hibernation. Then she shifted herself slightly as the hard ground was digging into her. It took a second for her to realise that she was still outside, underneath Lauren's car, which was where she'd managed to hide without the bad man knowing. She must have fallen asleep. As she tried to wake herself up properly, remnants of what she'd hoped was a dream fluttered through her mind.
From her sitting position in her bed, she'd heard footsteps in Patrick's room next door and had held her breath. They weren't Patrick's footsteps, or Lauren's. These were heavier, clunkier. She thought she'd heard them somewhere before, so had listened even more carefully to see if she could work it out.
There hadn't been much sound after that; a few dull thuds was all. She thought she'd heard a muffled cry from Lauren at one point, and the sound had made her pad a couple of steps closer to the interior door, which was only open a crack. But then a hissing voice that used a bad word had caused Lottie to freeze. Her eyes had widened and she'd kept her breath inside. She'd desperately wanted to pee, but managed to hold it in this time. Frantically, she'd swung her eyes towards her bag and then the outer door. As quiet as a mouse – she was good at that, mommy had told her so – she'd grabbed her unfastened back-pack and opened the door silently, before slipping out onto the dark walkway.
After a panicked look in each direction, the little girl had decided that the nearest available hiding place had been underneath Lauren's big car. She had crawled beneath the vehicle, hiding herself behind one of the large tyres, and had pulled her bag after her. What she hadn't realised was that Lottie Rabbit had tumbled out of the bag somewhere between her bed and the car.
She'd lain, unmoving behind the wheel. Her quick breathing had reminded her of gym class at school when she had come first in one of the races the teacher had organised. But this time it was a bit different, because there was an unpleasant churning feeling in her tummy at the same time. To make sure that she kept quiet, Lottie had placed both of her hands across her mouth. It was her way of stopping the sound coming out. She had automatically stopped breathing when she saw the bad man's feet appear on the walkway.
He'd come from the door that had led to her room. She'd watched as he paced a few steps one way and then the other. She couldn't see his face, but she knew exactly who he was, and it terrified her. He'd disappeared back in to her room, shutting the door. Then he'd thrown it open again, flung something down on the ground – whatever it was, it must have been soft because it didn't make any noise – and stomped off towards the back of Lauren's car. Lottie hadn't moved a muscle. It was only when she heard a car engine start and tyres squeal away that she'd allow her breath back out. She'd waited and waited, but the bad man hadn't come back. She'd considered going to find Patrick but something had stopped her and a voice in her head told her to stay put until she could see better. Then she could follow Patrick's plan.
It was the rumbling sound of the housekeeping cart that had woken her. Then she saw the old lady's white sneakers. Lottie watched as the lady picked something up off the ground, and a pang of sadness stirred within as she realised it was Lottie Rabbit. She pulled her bag to her and realised the zipper was opened. Still, she checked anyway. She chided herself for being so careless. Lauren would be upset that she'd lost her gift.
The little girl was debating whether to go and ask the nice lady for her rabbit back, when she heard her scream and run out of the room yelling into a phone. The lady was weeping and asking for the police.
Instinctively, Lottie knew something very bad had happened. She began to cry silently and hug her back-pack. She rocked herself gently from side to side, which was not easy in her position lying underneath a car.
She stayed like that for a couple of minutes but then heard distant sirens. The lady had run off to the office and there was no one else around. Either the occupants of the other rooms hadn't heard or didn't want to get involved. Lottie knew she had to make a move. Even at just six years old, she knew that if the police found her there, they would return her to the bad man; and that wasn't part of the plan that Patrick had so carefully explained. She trusted him so she shuffled out from behind the rear tyre and scuttled off to find the safe place.
To be continued…