She was late.
It had been one of those mornings when nothing seemed to go right, starting from her alarm clock failing to wake her in time, continuing with having to help an elderly neighbor find her missing cat, and ending with a three-car pile-up on the interstate that had trapped her in a traffic jam for almost half an hour. The only saving grace was that at least the day was looking like it was going to be a quiet one, as she'd found out when she'd called Cho from her car to let the team know she was running late.
When she finally made it to the HQ, she dropped her things off in her office and then beelined to the kitchen for the caffeine fix she desperately needed. She found half of her team already there: Rigsby was raiding the fridge for what, knowing him, was probably already his second breakfast, while Van Pelt sat in the table sipping coffee as she absently flicked through the pages of an ancient Cosmopolitan.
"The left one is decaf," Van Pelt said, when she noticed Lisbon hesitate between the two pots. "I can print out new labels when I get back to my desk."
"Thanks. And check between the pillows of Jane's couch first. That's usually where he hides them."
She grabbed a stale donut from the box left over from closed case celebrations the day before and balanced it on her mug as she headed back to her office.
The bullpen was quiet even though it was already almost ten o'clock, with only Cho sitting behind his desk. Even Jane wasn't in yet, his couch empty and - Lisbon was glad to note - looking like it hadn't been slept in for a change. Cho glanced up from the paperwork he was reading when she stopped by his desk.
"Morning. Any sign of work yet?"
"No. Looks like a paperwork day."
"Is Jane in yet?"
Cho answered without looking up. "Haven't seen him."
"Figures. Just like him to piss off half the state of California and then leave the rest of us take care of the paperwork afterwards."
She grabbed a folder from the pile in front of Cho and headed for her office, settling in front of her computer to eat her less than nutritious breakfast while she wrote the report on their last case. When she came out fifteen minutes later to photocopy her expense report, her eyes were automatically drawn to the empty couch. She quickly scanned the bullpen, finding herself oddly disappointed when there was still no sign of Jane anywhere. She stood in her doorway for a few seconds, arguing with herself, before tossing the papers back on her desk. Spending most of her teen years looking after her brothers had left her with a hard-to-ignore mother-hen instinct that she sometimes resented, and over the years Jane had somehow managed to worm his way into that small group of people she felt the obligation to protect.
She headed back to the kitchen to find Rigsby and Van Pelt still there. Van Pelt had moved on from the ancient Cosmo to an equally ancient issue of Sports Illustrated, but Rigsby was still standing in front of the open fridge, studying the contents of a tin foil wrapper.
"Do you think that's mold? I don't think that's mold. I think it's just oregano." He sniffed the food and then showed it to Van Pelt. "Does this smells like it's gone bad to you?"
Van Pelt leaned back, making a face. "Eww!"
Lisbon rolled her eyes. "Rigsby, that pizza slice has been in the fridge for almost a week. If you eat it, I swear I'll make sure you'll spend your sick leave alphabetizing casefiles in Records."
Rigsby gave her a look that reminded her of a puppy that had just been kicked and reluctantly dropped the pizza into the biodegradables bin.
"Have either of you seen Jane?" she asked. "He's usually in by now."
Van Pelt looked up from her magazine and frowned. "He was still here when I left last night, but I haven't seen him today. Maybe he overslept?"
Rigsby snorted. "Jane? Overslept?"
Van Pelt scowled at him before turning back to Lisbon. "You don't think he might still be looking into the Cranston case?"
"God, I hope not. The AG would skin us alive." She shook her head, letting out an exasperated sigh. "If he turns up, tell him I need to talk to him."
She grabbed another donut and returned to her office, telling herself that he was just stuck in traffic or had simply decided not to come in that day at all. It wasn't like he hadn't done that before.
When Jane still hadn't turned up by lunch, Lisbon dug out her Blackberry and selected his number. They didn't have any active cases, but that didn't mean that it was safe to let Jane wander around unsupervised. If he was out there doing something that might potentially get her into trouble, she wanted to at least have a heads-up.
The phone rang several times before he answered.
"Yeah? What is it?"
He sounded tired, like he'd either only just woken up or, more likely, hadn't gone to sleep at all.
"Where are you?"
He was quiet long enough to make her to start dreading what his answer might be. When he finally spoke, his voice had an odd echo, like he was walking around in an empty space.
"Malibu. I got a call from my security company this morning that someone had broken into my house. The insurance people needed me to come over to see if anything was missing."
She felt the last of her anger dissipate, replaced by worry. "My god, Jane. Did they take anything valuable?"
"Nah, the house is pretty much empty. Nothing worth taking, just a few boxes. I think they just broke into a random house and then left when they realized that there was nothing to-"
Jane's voice cut off in mid-sentence. There was a moment of silence, followed by the sound of footsteps and then some heavy object being pushed out of the way. Another brief silence followed, until Jane's voice finally returned to the line.
"I'm sorry, Lisbon, I have to go," he said, and then hung up before she could say anything.
She spent the next few hours trying to convince herself that Jane was all right and that he'd just heard the people from the security company or the insurance company return, and had to go and meet them, and that he'd call back later when he'd taken care of everything. But after leaving six messages in his voice mail with no answer, she finally made up her mind. Saving the report she had been half-heartedly working on, she turned off her computer and headed to Hightower's office.
"Ma'am, I need to take the rest of the day off."
Hightower looked up from the files she was reading and leaned back in her chair.
"Is something wrong?"
Lisbon opened her mouth to tell Hightower about the break-in at Jane’s house, but then changed her mind. For all his attention-whoring, Jane was an intensely private person. He wouldn't want his personal matters discussed behind his back.
"No, ma'am. It's a family emergency," she said, trying to keep her face neutral.
Hightower gave her a long look that seemed to see right through her, not unlike the one that Jane often used on suspects. Finally she shrugged.
"Since it looks like a quiet day, I don't see why not. Just let Agent Cho know and make sure we can reach you in case anything comes up."
"Yes, ma'am. Thank you."
She was already at the door when Hightower called after her.
"Where's Jane, by the way? I don't think I've seen him all day."
"No idea," she lied, and then fled the room before her boss could ask her any more questions.
She made her way back to her office to get her jacket and keys, stopping briefly at Cho's desk on her way out.
"Cho, I'll be away for the rest of the day. You're in charge, call me if something happens."
He gave her a curious look.
"Something wrong, Boss?"
"No, just something I need to do."
With luck - and her CBI badge, which she used to skip the lines while ignoring the slight pangs of guilt - Lisbon was able to catch the next flight to LA. She'd looked up Jane's address from his personnel file which still listed Malibu as his home address, even though she was certain he had to have some kind of a place to stay in Sacramento as well. She tried to call him again at the airport but only got his voicemail, and so she hailed a cab and headed for his house straight away.
Jane’s home turned out to be at the same time both nothing and everything like she had expected. It was the kind of house that you saw on television, in reality shows following the lives of self-obsessed D-list celebrities, the kind of people that Jane himself had once been. But at the same time she had hard time reconciling the house, and the kind of person she could imagine living there, with the Jane that she knew who seemed to only own four different outfits and for all appearances lived on the couch in the bullpen.
There was a black van with the word SecuRed printed on the side parked in front of the house - Jane's security company, she assumed – and as the cab pulled over to the driveway, a man came out of the house and got into the van, driving away. Lisbon watched it go and then turned to pay the cab driver.
He gave her a curious look, but she couldn't tell if it was because he recognized the address from some Gruesome Murders edition of a Homes of the Stars map, or because he was trying to figure out what a woman like her was doing in a place like this. Not in the mood for small talk regarding either scenario, she shoved a few bills in his hand before he could ask her anything, and then waited until he drove off before heading to the front door.
To her surprise the door was ajar, propped open by a wad of letters and junk mail that had caught between the door and the frame. She peered in through the crack to see if anyone was in the foyer, and then knocked on the door.
When there was no answer, she pushed the door open and slipped inside
"Jane? Are you in here?"
She carefully stepped over the discarded mail littering the floor, her hand resting on the handle of her gun, just in case. The house was empty, and didn't look like it had been lived in for a while. She knew that Jane visited the place a few times a year - he had sometimes casually mentioned things that had happened during his trips to LA - and she'd always assumed that he'd kept the place as a second home. Her more morbid side had imagined the place to be like a museum, preserved at the moment of his family's death, with toys littering the floors and random feminine things gathering dust in the bathroom shelves.
But contrary to her expectations, the place was devoid of all signs of life - both present and past - as if no-one had ever even lived there, her footsteps echoing in the bare rooms as she made her way across the house.
She found Jane in the kitchen. He was sitting at the table, lost in thought, cradling a teacup between his hands. There was a small pile of papers in front of him - the insurance paperwork, she guessed. For a moment she felt embarrassed, worried that she’d overreacted to the whole situation, but there was something in his posture that made him look almost vulnerable, his usual mask of amused indifference stripped away from him. She waited for a few seconds to see if he'd noticed her before knocking on the doorframe.
He looked up, startled, only now realizing that she was in the room.
"Wh-" He started, but his voice broke, and he briefly looked away - a small tell that she'd come to recognize as a sign that he was struggling to keep his irreverent facade intact - before clearing his throat. "What are you doing here?"
She pulled up a chair opposite to him. "You sounded like you could use a friend."
He stared at her for a moment, like she'd said something completely unexpected, and then ducked his head, giving her a wan smile.
"Thank you." He raised his teacup. "Tea?"
When she nodded, he stood up and opened the kitchen cabinet, pausing briefly before taking out a pale blue mug. From the brief glimpse she had, it appeared to be the only piece of dishware he owned aside from the tea set he was using himself. He rinsed the dust off the mug under the tap before pouring her tea.
They sat in silence for a few minutes, drinking their tea, with Lisbon trying not to look at the words WORLD'S BEST DAD printed on the side of the mug Jane had given her.
"Why did you hang up on me?” She finally asked. “ Did you notice that something was missing?"
Jane didn't say anything at first, just stared into his teacup, idly stirring the brown liquid with the spoon.
"Drawings," he finally whispered with a hoarse voice.
She frowned. There was definitely something strange going on. She had never thought Jane to be the art-collecting type, and even less the type to get upset over lost property.
"They stole drawings? Were they valuable?"
"No, it-" He shook his head, avoiding her eyes. "They were my daughter's. The drawings, she made them."
She wanted to reassure him that the police would do their best to get the drawings back to him, but she'd dealt with enough break-ins during her career to know that it would be a lie. Insurance covered electronics and other valuables, but items that had no value, except to their owners, could not be replaced and were rarely recovered. Even in cases where the police eventually managed to track the thieves down, those kind of items had usually been already thrown in the trash and lost forever.
"I'm so sorry."
Jane ran a hand wearily across his face. He looked exhausted. His eyes were bloodshot and there were dark shadows underneath them, and Lisbon couldn't help wondering how long it was since the last time he'd had a full night's sleep or eaten a proper meal.
"I kept the drawings in a fireproof box to keep them safe. They must have mistaken them for something valuable."
She reached over the table to touch his hand, but they both jumped when her phone suddenly rang. With an apologetic smile she dug out her Blackberry and glanced at the display, ready to mute the phone if it wasn't anything important. Cho's name flashed on the screen.
"Sorry, I have to take this."
She stood up and walked to the other room before answering the call.
"Hey Boss, where are you?"
Lisbon glanced at Jane. He was standing by the sink, washing the mugs. "L.A. What's up?"
There was a brief silence before Cho replied. "Huh. That's a coincidence. Hightower wants us to look at a murder in Santa Monica. A woman killed in her own home, tasered and mutilated. The local PD thinks it might be Red John."
Lisbon could feel cold chills run down the base of her spine at his words. She glanced at Jane again, but he was still facing away from her, his attention focused on the dishes. She backed further into the living room before speaking again.
She wanted to ask if Red John had left his usual calling card, but she was afraid that that if she did, Jane would guess what was going on. Cho seemed to read her mind.
"There's no smiley face, but according to the detective in charge, the wounds fit Red John's MO."
"Damn." She rubbed the bridge of her nose, feeling the first few pangs of a headache surfacing. "Give me the details and Jane and I'll check it out."
She grabbed an envelope from the pile of junk mail lying by the door and wrote down the address for the crime scene and the name of the detective in charge.
"Thanks. I'll call you later to let you know if we need the whole team down here."
When she returned to the kitchen, Jane was sitting at the table with a pen in hand, staring at the insurance forms in front of him. He looked up as she approached him, his expression changing from defeated to suspicious when he saw her face. She tried to smile, but it didn't come out quite right.
"We're up. There's a homicide in Santa Monica that Hightower wants us to look into. Since we're already here, we might as well check it out first, see if the guys need to fly down too."
She turned around before he could say anything and headed for the door, but he caught up with her halfway across the room. He took her arm and gently but firmly forced her to face him again.
"It's Red John, isn't it?"
He had the same look on his face he had every time they had a new lead on Red John, equal parts of excitement and terror.
"The Santa Monica PD thinks so, but Cho wasn't sure. There's no face on the wall. It might not be him."
Jane nodded, looking thoughtful, and let go of her arm. His mind was already elsewhere, she could tell, like a computer booting up in preparation of a difficult calculation. She knew that part of him was already convinced that this was it, that this time they were going to catch Red John. As always, a part of her was praying that he would be right.
She tilted her head, trying to catch his eyes. "Jane? Are you sure you're up for this?"
"Yes, of course." He smiled, but there was no real emotion behind the expression. "Let's get this show on the road, shall we."
When they arrived at the scene, the first thought that crossed Lisbon's mind was that the victim's house was eerily like Jane's. Different residential area, different architectural style, but a certain similar combination of minimalist style and calculated display of the money spent on it which suggested that either the victim or her husband must have been the same class of celebrity as Jane had once been.
She watched him from the corner of her eye as they navigated their way through the sea of police cars and camera vans. They'd had two difficult cases back to back, followed by the break-in to Jane's home, and now this. If it had been anything else but Red John, she would have banned him from the crime scene and made sure that he checked himself into a hotel and got some rest, even if it would have meant knocking him out with a taser and handcuffing him to the bed.
But if it was Red John, then there was no force on earth that would keep Jane away from the crime scene.
When they reached the house, the lead detective was already waiting for them at the front door.
"You must be from the CBI. Detective Jack Simmons."
"Agent Teresa Lisbon, and this is Patrick Jane, our consultant."
She shook the detective’s hand, and then followed him inside with Jane in tow.
The victim was lying on the floor in the middle of the living room, the dark red halo of her bloody body a stark contrast to the egg-shell white décor. She was naked, with her clothes neatly folded on the nearby leather sofa, and her eyes were closed, making her expression look almost serene.
"Looks like the work of that serial killer, Red John, doesn't it? One of the CSI guys had worked on one his crime scenes before, recognized it right away."
Simmons glanced at Jane and then quickly looked away. Lisbon didn't need to be able to read minds to guess which crime scene it had been.
Brushing away the slight sense of unease she felt on Jane's behalf, she knelt down to take a better look at the body. The detective was right, the cuts on the body were almost identical to the wounds on Red John's other victims, and the taser burn marks on her chest also fit Red John's MO. She looked up, quickly scanning the livingroom walls. The only thing missing was the bloody face.
"Have you found a smiley face anywhere in the house? It's Red John's calling card - a crude smiling face painted on the wall with the victim's own blood." She looked at Jane, hoping to get him to contribute, but he remained silent and so she continued. "It's meant to inspire terror, so it should be painted so that it’s the first thing you see when you enter the scene, before you even see the bodies."
"No ma'am. My men are still going through the house, but I think we would have already seen it if there was one." Detective Simmons rubbed his neck, looking from Jane to Lisbon and back again. "So you think this might not be Red John after all?"
Lisbon glanced at Jane again. He had crouched down next to her, his eyes fixed on the body.
"It's his trademark," she said.
The detective ran a weary hand across his face. "Well, I'm not sure if I should be happy that this isn't him, or worried that there's a second sick bastard like him going around cutting up women. Are y-"
Lisbon looked up to see one of the other detectives approach them. He was holding a phone to his ear, and even across the room Lisbon could hear a tinny, hysterical voice coming over the line.
He handed the phone to the detective. "I just got a hold of the husband. He wants to know if we've found his daughter. She was supposed to be at home with her mother."
Just that moment another cop - a young, reedy man who looked barely old enough to have graduated from the Academy - appeared at the top of the stairs. He was pale and wide-eyed, and in that fraction of a second before he spoke, Lisbon already knew what he was going to say.
"There's another body!"
She couldn't remember starting to run, but the next thing she knew, she was rushing up the stairs with Simmons and Jane trailing after her. She stopped at the open door at the end of the upstairs corridor to find another cop standing in the room. He was leaning to the wall, holding his hand to his mouth, a small pool of vomit on the floor in front of him. Next to him was a large white wardrobe, its doors wide open to reveal a bloody red smiley painted inside. Lisbon could feel white noise building in her ears as she crossed the room.
On the floor of the wardrobe, underneath the smiling face, lay the blood-stained body of a small girl, no older than maybe five or six years old. She was curled up in a small ball, as if trying to hide from something, her face frozen in an expression of pain and terror. Blood pooled around her, the deep red seeping into her clothes. She was holding something in her hands, a card of some kind, her fingers twisted in an unnatural angle that suggested that the card had been placed there after she was dead.
Lisbon felt bile burning at the back of her throat and turned away from the body only to find Jane standing right behind her. He was breathing heavily, almost hyperventilating, and his eyes were fixed on the girl's body. She took his arm, intending to guide him back to the hallway, but he pulled away from her grip and pushed past her. He walked to the wardrobe and knelt in front of it, reaching towards the body as if to touch it.
When he didn't react to her voice, Lisbon closed the distance between them and put her hand on his shoulder to stop him. "Jane, you need to come with me."
He brushed her hand away, and again reached for the piece of cardboard the girl was holding.
She grabbed his arm to stop him from touching the evidence and was surprised when he actually fought her, still trying to grasp the card. Bracing her feet, Lisbon slipped her arms around Jane and physically pulled him away. She'd never seen him like this, struggling in her grip to get to the body like he was possessed, and she realized how strange it must look like to the cops around them, with her practically wrestling with her consultant to keep him from contaminating the crime scene. He was heavier than her, and stronger, but she managed to hold her footing until he finally calmed down, almost pulling her with him when he suddenly slumped down to his knees. Lisbon waited for a few more seconds until she was sure that he wasn't just trying to fool her and then let him go, positioning herself between him and the wardrobe.
She could feel the eyes of Detective Simmons and his team on them. She wanted to take Jane aside to ask him what had gotten into him, but she doubted that she would be able to get him out of the room without bodily hauling him away. She ignored the others and focused on the man sitting on the floor in front of her.
"What the hell, Jane?"
He was quiet for a moment, his breathing still ragged from the exertion as he stared at the floor in front of him. Finally he looked up, and instead of the wild mania she expected to see on his face, she found his eyes red and brimmed with tears.
"It's mine," he said. "The card is mine. "
She felt cold dread pooling at the pit of her stomach as she turned around and for the first time really looked at the card. She had expected it to contain some gruesome message from Red John but instead there was just a crude crayon drawing of a stick figure surrounded by random splotches of glitter, and above it, four words in shaky blue letters:
Happy Father's Day, Daddy
Lisbon watched from the doorway as one of the crime scene specialists carefully removed the fathers' day card from the dead girl's fingers and sealed it in a small plastic bag. When he was done, he took two more bags and used them to cover the girl's bloodstained hands. Lisbon crossed her arms in front of her, fighting the urge to just walk away. Even after all these years, it still disturbed her how quickly dead bodies stopped being people and became just evidence to be bagged and filed away.
She could hear voices from downstairs as the house slowly filled with people, the white-clad CSIs swarming all over the place like ants. She'd called Hightower, and the rest of the team should be on their way to LA on the first available flight. Detective Simmons had left to talk to the husband, and as she watched the technicians working around her, Lisbon was already mentally preparing the questions she herself wanted to ask him when she talked to him. She glanced out the window, watching the last rays of the setting sun succumb to darkness. But not today. That was one of the morbid benefits of a murder investigation - there was rarely any rush to get things done, because no matter what they did, they were already too late to help where it would have mattered the most.
She looked at the piece of paper on her hand that had the information for the hotel she'd arranged for herself and Jane for the night. He usually stayed at his own house when they had a case in the LA area, but she wasn't going to let him go back to that empty mausoleum after the day he'd had. He wouldn't be getting any sleep in either place, she was sure, but she hoped that at the hotel he might at least get a moment's respite from his ghosts.
"Ma'am, could you move a bit?
She was roused from her thoughts by one of the technicians addressing her. He was standing in front of her with a fingerprint kit in his hands and an apologetic smile on his face.
Lisbon took a step back to allow the man to start working on the doorframe. She watched him for a few more minutes and then shook her head, finally admitting that there was nothing else she could do, and set out to look for Jane.
She found him outside, in the small garden behind the house. He was sitting on the white marble steps that led to the swimming pool. He was holding a pink plastic horse, idly petting the toy's mane as he stared into the distance.
He looked up and flashed her a small smile that seemed to be more of a reflex than a genuine expression of emotion. "Hey."
She sat down on the stairs next to him, tilting her head to get a better look at him. She couldn't see his face in the dim light, his features cast in shadows, hiding his expression.
"Are you okay? It's been a long day for you."
He shrugged. "I'm fine."
She pursed her lips, biting down the urge to contradict him. It was clear that he wasn't fine, and she wasn't sure why he even bothered to try to convince her otherwise, but there was really no use trying to argue with him. If she got him to admit it, what good would that do? What good could she do? She couldn't give him Red John and she couldn't bring his family back - all she had to offer was meaningless threats and platitudes. She shook her head to clear the morbid thoughts from her mind and looked at Jane again.
"We've got an ID on the victim. It's-"
"Jackie Noble." Jane looked up, a hint of amusement tugging his lips when he saw the surprise on her face. "She interviewed me when I...." The smile died away. "When I talked about Red John on TV."
There was a sound of voices coming from the direction of the house. Lisbon twisted around to look over her shoulder, just in time to see two men lift a black bodybag into the coroner's van. A third man was standing a little way off them, a smaller black bag in his arms. She shivered, the cold evening air chilling her to the bone, and she pulled her coat tighter around herself as she turned away again.
"Do you think this is him? Red John?"
Jane shrugged again. "I don't know. It's... The card is mine, my daughter made it. Why would anyone else but Red John do something like this?" He put the toy down on the steps beside him. "He's playing with me. He killed them to send me a message, and he's playing with me."
Lisbon gently touched his shoulder, carefully telegraphing her movement so as not to startle him.
"Whatever you may think, this wasn't your fault. Red John killed Jackie and her daughter, not you."
Jane looked like he wanted to object, but then just shook his head. He closed his eyes and leaned forward, covering his face with his hands.
"I know, I just..." He let out a shuddering breath. "I'm tired, Teresa. I just want this to end."
Her hand still lingered on his shoulder, frozen in place as she stared at him. He was usually so very careful not to show his real emotions and his candid admission shocked her.
She'd always had faith that one day she'd be reunited with her mother - and her father - in heaven, and like often before, she wanted to comfort Jane, to tell him that his family would be waiting for him too. But her father had also believed in heaven. On good days, he'd talked about how her mother was watching over them in heaven, waiting to meet them all again. And then one morning he had locked himself in the basement, pressed a gun against his chin and pulled the trigger.
The memory was so visceral that she physically started, briefly closing her eyes to push down the images that threatened to surface from the depths of her mind where she had locked them.
As usual, Jane seemed to know what she was thinking. He looked up and gave her a reassuring smile.
"Don't worry, I'm not planning on killing myself to be with them. I'm an atheist, remember? We don't believe in that whole heaven malarkey."
She slid her hand downward on his shoulder and gently squeezed his arm. "You don't have to keep doing this, you know. You could leave the CBI, find something else to do, something where you don't have to look at dead bodies every day. Contrary to what you may think, we were able to close cases before you came along."
"Right. I just close them faster."
She ignored his half-hearted attempt at an insult. "Your wife wouldn't want this, Jane. She wouldn't want you to spend the rest of your life chasing after Red John. She'd want you to move on."
Jane let out a derisive laugh. "If my wife were here instead of me, she'd want to kill the bastard who murdered our daughter. She'd want Red John to suffer." He tilted his head and gave her a curious look before continuing. "Bosco did."
This time, she reflexively pulled her hand away, his curveball catching her off-balance. She stared at him. "What?"
He was smiling now, in that cruel, calculating way that made her blood run cold. "His last words. He asked me to kill Red John for him."
He shook his head and raised his hands in surrender before she had a chance to say anything.
"But you're right. My wife is dead, Bosco is dead, it doesn't matter what they'd want." He turned to look away again, staring at the light of the house reflecting on the dark surface of the swimming pool. "You wanna to know what I want? I want to go home. I want to go home, and I want to open the door to find my wife and child waiting for me there. That's all I want. That's all I'll ever want."
He stood up and then looked down at her, his hands deep in his pockets and his face veiled in shadows.
"And so it doesn't really matter what I do, because I'm never going to get what I want."
Without a second glance, he climbed up the steps past her, and disappeared into the night.
The team was already waiting for her when Lisbon arrived at the police station the next morning. Van Pelt had set up her computer on one of the desks and was studying the screen with a thoughtful look on her face. Cho and Rigsby were sitting at another table a little way off, both of them also focused on reading the files in front of them. Even Jane had turned up on time and was lounging on an ugly floral-print couch that had seen better days, his feet dangling over the armrest and his arm slung across his eyes. Lisbon had no idea where he'd managed to commandeer the furniture since she was fairly certain the it hadn't been there when they'd set up the temporary HQ the night before.
She'd brought coffee and doughnuts for everyone, and a tea for Jane. It was going to be a difficult case, so it was better to start off on a positive note and a full stomach.
"Good morning, guys. I hope you slept well." She placed her offerings on the table. "Dig in. We've got a long day ahead of us."
Rigsby and Cho dove in as soon she let go of the box, proceeding to have a short mock fight over the largest glazed doughnut. Van Pelt waited for them to pick their pastries before choosing one for herself. Jane didn't move from the couch, uncharacteristically turning down free food, and didn't stir even when Lisbon put the tea down on the desk closest to the couch.
She frowned at him, but then decided to let him be and just selected a jelly doughnut for herself, sitting down at the end of the table.
"Okay, people. What have we got so far?"
Van Pelt picked up her laptop and took a seat next to her.
"The victims were Jackie Noble and her daughter Alicia. Jackie's a B-list tv-celebrity. She had her own talk show on Bravo called Noble Effort, and there were rumors that one of the big networks had also been courting her."
Lisbon gave Van Pelt a questioning look and she ducked her head, blush creeping on her cheeks. "I read it on some gossip column."
"I suppose that counts as research in this case. And the husband?"
"Shane Noble. He's an actor who's done a few small tv-roles, but he's best known for appearing on the first season of 'Red House, Blue House'."
Rigsby perked up. "Oh, that's the one that's a bit like Big Brother, except that there's two houses that compete against each other, right?" He paused when he realized that everyone was staring him. "My mother watches it," he added sheepishly.
Lisbon rolled her eyes. "Do we have any information that didn't come from celebrity blogs or Rigsby's mother?"
Van Pelt looked at her computer again.
"His alibi checks out. He was at a party in Beverly Hills and then crashed at a friend's place afterwards. We've got dozen witnesses who can vouch that he was there around the time of the murder, and there was a camera crew present which covered almost the whole night."
Her fingers danced on the keyboard as she opened another file.
"Until recently Jackie was the main breadwinner in the family. In the last few years, Shane's been doing all sorts of odd jobs - promotion work, tv-ads, personal security, things like that - but two months ago he was announced as a contestant in a celebrity version of Red House, which got him back in the news." She looked up again. "That may be why his family was targeted. I'm going through his recent interviews in case..." She glanced at Jane. "In case he's said something that might have caught Red John's attention."
Lisbon kept her eyes on Van Pelt, swallowing down her sense of unease with a mouthful of coffee.
"Cho, what about the crime scene?" she said, changing the subject.
"We're still processing prints and DNA, but so far it's all been just friends and family. The killer came in through the patio door, forced it open with a crowbar. There was a security system, but it had been turned off. We don't know if it was the killer who did it, or if she'd just not turned it on yet. Her body was found around noon by the housekeeper, Mrs. Torres, who called the police."
Lisbon finished her doughnut and wiped her hands on a napkin. "Okay. Van Pelt, you and Rigsby keep looking into the celebrity angle. Start asking around if anyone had heard of his family being threatened. Cho, you interview Mrs Torres." She glanced at Jane. "I'll talk to the husband."
"Got it, boss." Cho collected the files he'd been reading and headed towards the interview rooms. Rigsby snagged the last doughnut from the box and waited for Van Pelt to log off her computer before following. Lisbon remained at the table until the others had left the room and then walked to Jane's couch.
"You were awfully quiet during the briefing. Solved the case already, did you?"
He shrugged his shoulders but didn't look at her. "I have a headache. Besides, you were doing perfectly fine without me."
She could tell he was lying. Contrary to what he may think, she had learned to read him well enough to be able to tell when he was telling the truth, and this wasn't one of those times. She nudged him with her knee, and he moved his legs to make enough room for her to sit down on the edge of the couch.
"Jane, do you feel like listening in when I interview Noble? I know you don't like talking to widowers, and I understand this case is even harder than usual for you, but if you could at least listen in on it from the other room. We could really use your help on this one."
Jane was quiet for a moment and then peered at her under his arm.
"That's very sneaky of you, trying to appeal to my ego."
She couldn't help smiling. "It's an easy target. I think your ego might actually be visible from space."
"Oh that's clever. A zinger." He stretched his back and let out a theatrical sigh. "Fine, I'll do it."
"How very noble of you. It's almost as if you were paid to do this."
He narrowed his eyes, giving her another mock-offended glare, but she could see his lips twitch as he tried not to smile. She reached over to pick up the take-away tea from the desk, balancing the styrofoam cup on his stomach.
"Finish your tea. He'll be here in about ten minutes."
While she waited for Shane Noble to arrive, Lisbon let herself in to the observation room and watched Cho talk to the housekeeper. Rosa Torres was a young woman, in her mid-twenties at most. She was clutching her purse, restlessly twisting the handles as she spoke.
"Should I call my husband? My mother is looking after my son, but she can't stay long because she has a doctor's appointment."
Cho didn't smile, but his expression softened as he set his notebok on the table in front of him.
"This won't take long, Rosa. How long have you been working for the Nobles?"
Rosa's fingers stilled, and she looked up at Cho. "Almost two years. I was working full time at first, but after I was accepted to medical school, I only come over to clean when Raisa, who replaced me, is on vacation. I wasn't even supposed to be there yesterday, but Raisa got food poisoning from bad sushi and called me to cover for her at the last minute."
"How did you find the body?"
"I rang the doorbell, but there was no answer so I let myself in with my own keys. And when I got in I- I saw..." She looked up at Cho again. "I've seen dead bodies before, at school, but… It's so much worse, when it's someone you know."
"Yes, it is. Now, Rosa, I need to ask you if..."
There was a knock on the door, and Van Pelt entered the observation room. Lisbon turned away from the window to look at her.
"Boss. Shane Noble is here."
"Thanks. Bring him to interview two."
She stood up and left the room. Jane was standing outside, leaning to the wall, cradling his mug of tea. As she entered the interview room where Noble was waiting, she gestured at him to follow, and he quietly slipped into the adjacent observation room.
If Rosa Torres had been grief-stricken, then Shane Noble was in a state that Lisbon could not put into words. His eyes were puffy and red-rimmed, and he was sniffling quietly, like he'd only just stopped crying.
Lisbon tried to give him a comforting smile, even though she knew that it would make no difference. "I'm sorry for your loss, Mister Noble. I understand that this may feel uncomfortable, but we need your help if we're to catch whoever killed your family. Okay?"
Noble wiped his nose with the back of his hand and nodded.
"Okay," he whispered, not meeting her eyes.
"You told Detective Simmons that you were with friends the night before yesterday?"
"Yeah, I was- I was at Russell's place. Russel Frank. We were both in the Red House together and he was hosting a reunion party that they were filming the extras for next season. "
"We have records that both you and your wife took large life insurances last year. Was there some particular reason for this?"
Noble looked up at her words, and she expected him to object to the question, to be offended at her implications, but instead he just shook his head.
"I had a small car accident last year. Drove off the road in the rain. Nothing bad, but Jackie was upset by it. We got the insurances because we wanted to make sure that Alison would be taken care off if something happened to us. We wanted her to- Didn't want-" Noble's face suddenly crumbled, his lips twisting into a grimace as his eyes brimmed with tears. "Oh, god, oh my little girl."
When the man buried his face in his hands and began to cry, Lisbon looked away. She hadn't been on the Red John case yet when Jane's family had been murdered, but she'd watched the interview tapes when she'd been told that he would be joining her team. That had been her first impression of Jane - a pale-faced, red-eyed man who kept touching his wedding ring as he answered the detective's questions with a hoarse, monotonous voice. The smiling arrogant bastard she'd found snooping around in her office next Monday had then been quite a surprise. The dissonance between the two images had been such that for a while she'd even wondered if Jane had killed his family himself, because no one could be that callous and irreverent after having lost their wife and child.
Lisbon waited for Noble to calm down before continuing, and conducted the rest of the interview almost on autopilot, her thoughts constantly straying to Jane. She found herself glancing at the mirror on the other side of the room, trying to imagine Jane on the other side of the glass watching them. When she finally finished the interview, she waited for Noble to leave the room and then gestured at the mirror to signal Jane to come in. When there was no sign of him after a few minutes, she stood up and walked to the door to the observation room, only to find the room empty.
She checked the other interrogation room, in case Jane had decided to listen in on Cho's interview as well, but he wasn't there either. After checking the break rooms as well, she finally found Jane in the hallway leading to the lobby. He was sitting in one of the uncomfortable plastic chairs by the wall, holding a small child in his arms. The child - a little dark-haired boy of maybe three years old - was snuggled against his shoulder, fast asleep. Lisbon wanted to tell Jane that the CBI didn't pay him to babysit children, but caught herself at the last moment. It was obvious why he was out here instead of the observation room. The CBI didn't pay him to babysit children - they paid him to go from crime scene to a crime scene, to relive the death of his family day after day all in the name of making the Bureau's closed case rate look better. Sure, Jane was using CBI to get closer to Red John, but she couldn't deny that they were using him too, and some days she found herself wondering which one got the better - or worse - end of the deal.
When Jane noticed her, he gave her a small smile.
"Mrs. Torres' mother needed to take her medication," he said, his voice hushed so as not to wake up the sleeping child. "I told her I'd look after her grandson while she went to the cafeteria get something to eat with her medicine."
Lisbon sat down on the chair next to him.
"Did you listen in on the interview?" She asked with a low voice.
He shrugged. "Some of it."
He shrugged again. "I don't know. I'm not sure I can look at this objectively." He rolled his eyes. "Which is exactly what Red John wants, I guess."
"We don't know that this is Red John."
He gave her a disbelieving look and was about to say something to contradict her when Cho appeared from the interrogation room.
"Boss. According to Mrs. Torres, Shane Noble had a gambling problem and had been borrowing money to cover his debts. She said that she saw a someone threaten him last year because he had been falling behind on the payments. She didn't know the name of the man who'd borrowed Noble the money, but she recognized him from a mugshot."
He handed her a copy of an arrest record. "Nathan Trent, a local sleazebag with possible mob connections. He's been arrested several times for various crimes, but the charges have always fallen through, including a case three years ago where he was suspected for killing the girlfriend of a man who had failed to pay back the money he'd loaned."
"Sounds like just the kind of a man we're looking for."
Lisbon was still reading the files on Trent when Mrs. Torres appeared from one of the rooms, escorted by a SMPD officer. She stopped, looking confused, when she saw her son in Jane's arms. Jane stood up and gave her a disarming smile.
"Your mother had to take her medicine," he said, as he carefully extricated the boy's grip from around his neck and deposited him to his mother's arms. "She's down at the cafeteria to get something to eat."
Mrs. Torres was still looking confused, her eyes flitting from Jane to Cho to the sleepy little boy in her arms.
"Thank you, sir," she said finally.
Jane smiled, gently stroking the boy's hair one last time. "De nada."
Lisbon watched Mrs. Torres leave, and then gave the files back to Cho. "Get Rigsby and tell him to go talk to Trent. Jane, do you want to tag along?"
When Jane didn't reply, she carefully touched his shoulder. From the corner of her eye she saw Cho give her a questioning look.
"Earth to Jane, do you want to go with Rigsby?"
Her touch finally roused Jane from his thoughts and he reluctantly took his eyes of the departing woman and turned to look at Lisbon.
"Hmm? Yeah, sure."
Cho gave her another look, but she just gestured at him to forget it. He shrugged and headed towards the direction of the bullpen. Jane followed him, leaving Lisbon alone in the hallway.
She watched as they disappeared down the corridor. What she wanted was to just tell Jane to go home and get some rest, but she knew it would be useless. And as much as it pained her to admit it, they needed Jane on this one. Jane didn't just think outside the box, he turned the box inside out, painted it pink, and then wore it as a hat. If anyone was going to figure out who had killed Jackie and Alicia, it was Jane. She only hoped that it didn't come with the price of the last remains of his sanity.