tromana: (skins: alo and rich hug (tick tock))
[personal profile] tromana
Tick tock, the clock
Somehow starts to calm you
The clock, slowly sneaks upon you
Are you losing time?
- Clockwork by Julie Atherton
Part One
Bristol, UK, Tuesday, 01.29am GMT

He took two steps to the left, then one to the right. At the very last second, he appeared to change his mind once again and veered dangerously back to the left once more. His foot slipped off the kerb and onto the road, nearly pulling his entire body directly in front of an oncoming car.

Fuck. That was shit timing, really.

Aloysius was lucky, however. Under normal circumstances, he would have patted down his body frantically, made sure that everything was where it was meant to be and there were no serious cuts or bruises. Checked that he still had all his possessions: mobile, mp3 player, wallet and that nothing was broken, including bones. Every other close call, he had let out a heavy sigh of relief, to indicate that all was well and there wasn’t any problems. Instead, he simply let out a loud, sharp
laugh. The situation was bizarrely amusing. And quite frankly, he couldn’t give a shit.

“You fucking wanker,” the man from the care hollered in his general direction. There was a slight slur to his speech. Clearly, he was driving under the influence, though whether or not that was alcohol, drugs, or both was less obvious. Should probably have left the car at home. Like Alo, he didn’t seem to give a fuck.

Alo, however, didn’t have time to snap an angry retort. Instead, he merely flicked his wrist and stuck his middle finger up at the offending driver. That was definitely the most appropriate way for him to maintain his dignity in his current state. Besides, he wasn’t quite sure whether or not his mouth was ready to form words again. Well, not yet, anyway. Give it another fifteen minutes or so and then maybe he would feel somewhat coherent once more.

He loved this feeling. The way his mind was effectively cleared from all the shit usually whirring around it, albeit temporarily. How he buzzed from the top of his head to the very tip of his toes. The warm self-satisfied glow that came from the pit of his stomach and warmed his entire body, right the way to the extremities.

Alo was drunk. More than that, he was as high as a kite, too.

Oh he knew all the dangers and had been told the risks time and time again. Theoretically, it should have been enough to deter any interest in drugs for the rest of his life. But that was the problem: theory didn’t always work in practise. Besides, it was always natural for teenagers to rebel against figures of authority. Teachers, parents, counsellors, whatever. What did they expect from someone like him? For him to toe the line and meekly follow each and every one of their instructions? Contrary to the popular belief of those kind of adults, it didn’t make a difference. Their horror stories simply made the drugs seem subversive, exciting, cool. And anyway, it was a way of sticking one up at the police. What good had those arseholes ever done for him? For anyone he knew?

Besides, it made him seem cool and edgy to the womenfolk. They liked that sort of thing. Men who stood out from the crowd. Who weren’t afraid to take risks, to try something different every once in a while.

Not that it was exactly working at this particular moment in time. He still hadn’t been laid often enough for his liking. Alo, after all, didn’t want people thinking he was a loser. Or worse, gay. That would do nothing whatsoever for his reputation.
But tonight, he was going to do something about it. For tonight, he was invincible. On top of the world.

And Liv was walking directly towards him.

Sacramento, CA, USA, Monday, 05.29pm PST

With his tongue poking determinedly out of the corner of his mouth, Patrick Jane laid on the office floor. He let out a quiet sigh of relief; Lisbon hadn’t noticed. Yet. It was only a matter of time. Then again, the woman always seemed to find herself deeply engrossed in paperwork after a heavy case, to the extent that it was almost impossible to break her out of her reverie. Really, she was a far more fascinating woman than that. Jane knew full well that she had a wide variety of interests; he’d spent long enough picking her brains and reading her body language to know her inside out. However, if a stranger walked into her office right at that moment of time, it would be forgivable if they were to think otherwise.
It was all well and good for her to be so stimulated by something so mundane, but he was bored.

Then again, it didn’t take much for him to reach that state. Jane didn’t find it as much of a problem if they were working on a case and he had to wait for a plan - his plan - to come to fruition. Then, there was a point to the waiting, a reason for the lull. Usually, when they finished a case, they had another to be hurled straight into. It wasn’t unusual for the Serious Crimes Unit to be running several cases concurrently as well as dealing with those headed to court either. However, crime in California seemed to have taken a hit. Like the criminals had exhausted themselves after a long and busy summer. Even the other units in the CBI appeared to have no need for his considerable expertise. Tomorrow was a court day for Lisbon, which meant he would be doomed to boredom. Unless, he snuck in of course and then things could get interesting. But at this moment in time? He had nothing to do. Literally. Case closed, no other ones to work on. Unless he could be bothered to dig out a cold case or two to pore over, but he couldn’t. Jane wasn’t so desperate that he would willingly offer himself up for unnecessary work.

Instead, he rummaged around in his pocket and grinned when he finally managed to pull out a small rubber ball. Then, he frowned slightly. Jane had meant to give it to the young son of the victim involved in their last case. That obviously hadn’t happened; an unusual slip of the mind for his part. Still, it was fortuitous in a way, mainly because it meant that he actually had some kind of entertainment now. He bounced it once against the back of Lisbon’s desk and then a second time.

Then, she snapped.

It hadn’t taken her long, all things considered. Normally, Lisbon had more patience than several saints combined. She also had very little reason to be so short-tempered. He’d behaved, for a change, during their current case. Red John had been quiet for a while, so there was no stress on that front. However, there was still the matter of the ongoing investigation into the death on CBI territory. Of their only link to Red John, but that was something that should be troubling him more than her.

“Do you mind?”

“Not really. Do you?”

Lisbon tutted and sighed. Jane knew she was about to switch into the ‘direct approach’. It was what she always used when she thought she wouldn’t get anywhere with him.

“What are you doing lying on my office floor and playing with a child’s toy?”

“Stopping myself from getting bored.”

“Why don’t you just go home? There’s nothing left to do here until morning.”

“But you‘ll be here alone.”

“Yes, because I‘m writing up the Garcia case. The one where you broke into Garcia Enterprises illegally?” 

“Ah. Oh yes, but I think you‘ll find-”

“Look,” she interrupted, though more softly this time. “If something comes up, I’ll call you, okay?”

Jane nodded and left. He knew Lisbon would be pleased with that one, would think that she had actually succeeded in expunging him from her office with little to no effort. However, he knew that it was always useful to maintain unpredictability.

Bristol, UK, Tuesday, 02.13am GMT

Liv was easy. Everyone knew that. So, she’d slept with Nick a couple of times and had appeared to be getting things somewhat steady with Matty. She had tried splitting up with Matty, if only for a little while, but for some reason, had been drawn back to him. But all that didn’t make a fucking difference. It was common knowledge that Liv would fuck anything in sight, provided she’d drunk enough or taken enough drugs. Or both.

So she’d never actually made a pass at Alo. Then again, he hadn’t tried it on with her before now either.

He’d almost tripped over his own feet as he attempted to catch up with her. Still, he’d persevered. Alo wasn’t going to let the small issue of a matter of metres get in the way of getting laid.

“Fuck. Shit.”

Liv had stopped and turned, cocking an eyebrow. Immediately, he could tell that she was somewhat surprised to see him on the same street as herself. If he hadn’t been completely out of it, he would have questioned why she wasn’t with Matty. Why she was alone. Why somebody, anybody, else wasn’t getting lucky with her. So, she wasn’t as hot as Grace or Mini or as quirky as Franky, but that didn’t mean she didn’t have her charms. There had to be something about her for her to be able to have sex so often.

“You’re wasted.”

“So are you.”

But that was three quarters of an hour ago now. A lot changed in that time. To be honest, everything had changed in a millisecond, never mind minutes.

That was how long it took for bliss to turn to agony.

Alo wasn’t quite sure what had happened, but he knew Liv had been compliant. Yes, there was her jacket, slung over by the swings. The park was a lot more private than a street, so they had headed straight there.

However, they’d been interrupted. He hadn’t noticed the approaching footsteps, nor the lingering smell of tobacco and body odour in the air. It wasn’t until somebody had punched the living daylights out of him that he realised they weren’t alone at all.

When he’d come around, a man, presumably the one who‘d whacked him around the head, was hovering over Liv.
Slowly, the man turned to face him and Alo shrank back slightly.

“Give me your wallet.”

“Why?”

“I said give it to me.”

Nervously, he stood, whilst rummaging in his pocket. Eventually, his fingers came into contact with a hand gun. Alo couldn’t remember putting it in there, but he knew it was probably one of his Dad’s. A mere tool for use around the farm, to defend the crops from vermin. At that moment in time, he didn’t care that it should be in the lock up. In fact, it simply seemed like a moment of good fortune. The other man had a knife, so this equalled things out a bit. He had the right to defend himself, to protect Liv, didn’t he?

The man lunged.

With his eyes tightly shut, Alo had pulled the trigger three times. It was stupid, dangerous, he knew that. However, he hadn’t been thinking straight. There was still a cocktail of drugs and alcohol coursing through his system, mixed with a healthy dose of adrenaline. Besides, he’d never pointed a gun at another human being before. Rabbits, pheasants, crows, he thought nothing of. But people? He’d had it drilled into him at a young age that you never do that.

He never saw the bullets pierce through Liv’s skin. Neither did their assailant, who had fled the moment he realised that Alo actually knew how to use a gun.

Alo knew that if somebody told him forty minutes ago that Liv would be laying in front of him, in the middle of a playground, surrounded by cigarette butts and empty bottles of booze, he wouldn‘t have believed it. Well, he’d have been slightly sceptical at least. Normally, Liv found a man’s bed to crash in, somewhere. When they added the fact that her body was broken, bruised and bloodied, he would have laughed in their faces.

Nervously, he checked for a pulse. No sign of it. Breathing? Nope. 

Why the fuck hadn’t he aimed properly? Removed the bullets? Put in fucking blanks or something? Why couldn’t he have
just used the gun as a scare tactic, rather than an actual offensive weapon? He was a stupid, fucking shithead and because of that, one of his mates was bleeding to death on the ground.

And why the fuck had it taken him far too fucking long to even fucking notice?

Nervously, Alo laid his head on her chest. There was no heartbeat either.

“Liv,” he yelled. “Liv, wake up!”

He repeated the words and shook her shoulders desperately. Tried CPR, something that probably was doing more harm than good and staunching her wounds. Anything that would make her at least the slightest bit responsive.

After five minutes, he was exhausted. His voice had grown hoarse from the yelling.

Liv was dead. He’d killed her. He hadn’t even meant to; it had just spiralled out of control.

Fuck.


Part Two

Sacramento, CA, USA, Monday, 06.13pm PST

Lisbon sighed and quickly, she glanced at her clock. It was funny how time always seemed to slip away whenever you needed it the most and yet, when you just wanted it to hurry on by, it dragged and dragged. She hadn’t even made a real dent into the stacks of paperwork that had slowly but steadily been building up either. However, it could be worse. Jane could still have been there, bouncing that childish rubber ball up against her desk. Or tried to convince her to do something he deemed far more ‘interesting’. She did try to make time to socialise with her team on occasion, to enjoy drinks with them and the like, but sometimes she just couldn’t justify it. That was the price of power and all that.

Eventually, she hauled herself out of her chair. So, she hadn’t even been working solidly for an hour, but if she didn’t do something about it soon, the evening was going to feel even longer. It wasn’t long before she was in the kitchenette, with a steaming mug of coffee in her hands. Briefly, she toyed with the thoughts of how Jane would respond to the situation. How he would comment on the way caffeine stunted growth and that she should cut down and drink a healthier alternative. She allowed herself to smile briefly. Sometimes, she wondered if the hard work and sacrifices were worth it. What it would be like to have a break from leading the team, if only for a week or so. Just to rejuvenate herself a little, free herself of the responsibilities of worrying what crazy stunt Jane was about to pull next.

She jumped as her cell phone rang and she quietly cursed at herself. It was ridiculous. Lisbon was used to having the object on her twenty four hours a day, seven days a week and permanently turned on. It was the nature of her job. If she was working, her phone was a necessity and if she wasn’t? It was highly likely she was on call or if not, she could expect a telephone call from somebody important anyway. Sometimes, she wished they could go back to the days without the constraints of such devices, but the rest of time Lisbon remembered just how damn unpractical that was.

Besides, on this occasion it was her boss. There were no surprises there. As hard as Lisbon worked, sometimes it seemed like Special Agent Hightower worked ten times harder. And not only that, but Hightower also managed to juggle a hectic family life too. She knew there were people who thought she had her eyes on the position, maybe when Hightower left or something, but that couldn’t have been further from the truth. Too much politics was involved in being a Special Agent and that was something Lisbon loathed. Besides, she liked the satisfaction of working with a close knit team in order to bring down the bad guys. It felt so much more fulfilling then pacifying people who thought they were better than the common man.

Anyway, there was a reason Hightower called. That was because of yet another case. Dead bodies could never wait until morning, but Lisbon knew she could at least be grateful that the callout hadn’t occurred in the dead of the night. Then again, it also did no good to the mountain of paper she had been intending to conquer on her desk either. Quickly, she bid farewell to Hightower, wanting to get on the move as soon as possible. In a matter of seconds, she was already calling Jane.

“Ah, Lisbon. So you miss me already?”

“Shut up.” 

“Well it’s a little hard to have a conversation with you on the phone if I…”

“You’re a jinx, I swear. We have a case.”

“How nice,” Jane replied somewhat primly. “You only ever call to let me know people are killing each other or that we’re about to catch a murderer.”

“Whatever,” Lisbon answered in response, knowing full well that he was exaggerating the situation on purpose. “How soon can you be here?”

“How about now?”

She jumped as she felt a hand graze her left shoulder and turned to see Jane standing just behind her. Lisbon narrowed her eyes; she should have remembered by now that Jane acted as if he didn’t actually have a home to go to and merely used the headquarters as his base of operations these days. It wasn’t healthy and though she told herself time and time again that there was little point in it, she continued to worry about him. Then again, it was only natural. They had known each other for the best part of a decade now; if anything happened to him, including Red John, she wouldn’t forgive herself.

Bristol, UK, Tuesday, 03.17am GMT

“Fuck.”

Rich knew something was up the moment he’d heard Alo’s frantic voice on the other end the phone line. It had taken him less than hour to get to the quiet park, which was apparently abandoned in the dead of the night. Apart from Liv’s prone corpse and Alo sitting beside her, hugging his knees and rocking to and fro, that was. This was just fucking mental, wrong. Something he’d never dreamed of happening, ever. Yeah, the group had its tensions but for that to boil down to murder?
That was fucked up beyond belief. None of them were capable of that, were they?

Then again, Alo was the only one who actually knew how to handle a gun. His Dad had taught him as kid, had taken him out hunting for rabbits and the like. Access to it was no problem. But why Liv? It wasn’t as if Alo had any particular problem with her. No, that was Mini who was still fuming over the Nick debacle.

Rich had always thought that Alo was essentially harmless, unless you had two long ears and a fluffy tail, that was.
Still, he closed the gap between himself and Alo with two long strides. He needed answers and fast. It didn’t take a miracle worker to figure out that his friend had spent the evening getting completely wasted and hoping to get laid. Obviously, more than that had to have happened for this to happen though. Swiftly, he grabbed his best friend’s jacket by the lapels and hauled him to his feet. Despite Alo’s obvious panic, Rich calmly stared into his eyes and waited for Alo to pull himself back together again.

“What the fuck did you do that for?”

“It was an accident, alright? I didn’t fucking mean it. We were disturbed and…”

“Swear it.”

“What?”

“Swear it on something that fucking means something to you.”

“I swear alright? I swear on the copies of Asian Fanny Fun I have under my…” Alo started, but drifted off when he saw the
look of scepticism in Rich’s eyes. “On Rags! I swear on Rags’ life. I didn’t meant to, okay?”

Rich loosened his grip slightly and Alo finally relaxed. He knew that of all people, Rich was the one he could trust. Besides, Rags wasn’t something to joke about. He’d nearly lost his faithful companion once before through sheer idiocy and wouldn’t dare risk it again.

“My parents. They’re gonna kill me. They already thought I was a fucking useless shit-head,” Alo whispered, relieved to finally have somebody to talk to. “You can fix this can’t you?”

There was a note of timidity in Alo’s voice that Rich hadn’t been expecting. Normally, he was so full of bravado and arrogance, that it was easy to forget that sometimes, Alo was still just a vulnerable young man. That he was going about his life, drifting and directionless, hoping desperately that something would eventually click into place.

And now this. Theoretically, it could have been the last nail in the proverbial coffin.

It still could be, if they weren’t incredibly lucky.

But Rich had a plan. It didn’t take him long to think it up, either. He summarised it as quickly as he possibly could to Alo, all the while rummaging in his backpack for a specific something. There wasn’t much he needed. Just a Swiss Army knife and something else. Alo’s jaw dropped when he saw two yellow gloves dangling in front of his nose.

“Rubber gloves? Who the fuck carries rubber gloves with them?”

“Me,” Rich responded promptly.

“Why?”

“In case I need to do some washing up.”

“Yeah, but why?” Alo repeated, still completely bemused.

“I have eczema.”

“Oh.”

They fell into a brief silence, their eyes briefly lingering over Liv’s body. Rich knew the playground design was somewhat fortuitous; the climbing frame had a perfect wall needed for his plan to work. But at the same time, it was still Liv. What he had to do felt wrong, like it was sacrilegious, disrespectful.

Still, she was dead and he couldn’t do anything to help her now.

Alo, however. If they could pull this off, he could still live his life a free man.

“Pass me your knife.”

“What should I do?”

“Nothing. Wait. Watch,” Rich snapped angrily, not wanting to discuss the situation with him anymore. “Keep a lookout for other people. I don’t fucking care.”

All he wanted to do was get it done and get the fuck out of there.

Merced, CA, USA, Monday, 08.48pm, PST

The journey seemed to take far longer than Lisbon would have liked. Sometimes, she just wished that cases wouldn’t crop up seemingly out of nowhere. That people could just take a break from killing one another. Then, she might actually have had half a chance of getting on top of her backlog of paperwork. It may have been dull, but it was still necessary, regardless of what certain individuals of her team thought. Besides, she hadn’t really been in the mood to be in a confined space with Jane for any period of time. Or at least, she had wanted a break from him until morning. Of course, she had no such luck. Sometimes, she wondered if she ever did.

Still, they had finally arrived at their destination, only five minutes or so after Cho and Rigsby had. It was a hotel room. Comfortable enough to stay in for a while, but not excessively expensive. The lodger had personalised it somewhat, suggesting that he intended to stay put for a significant period of time. Probably due to work or family, as was usually the case. Jane quickly surmised that it was more likely to be the former than the latter, especially given the script slung carelessly on the dressing table. With a slight smirk, he eventually decided to join them to scrutinise the corpse of the day.

“So, what have we got?”

“Caucasian male, forty-two, died from two stab wounds, using a bread knife or something similar,” Cho answered, supplying the information as quickly and succinctly as ever. “Coroner says he’s been dead for at least four hours.”

“Anything else?” Lisbon asked, a little frustrated at just how late it was already getting. “Name? Anything?”

“He’s an actor.”

Lisbon rounded on Jane. Though she was perfectly used to him plucking information seemingly out of nowhere, there were just some times when she really couldn’t be bothered to deal with it. As he had already spent most of the day pestering her, this was one of those moments. She waited for him to explain himself, but of course, he just cocked an inquisitive eyebrow in her direction and offered a sunny smile. Of course, the perpetual thorn in her side wasn’t done for the day.

“And how did you come to that conclusion?”

“Come on, isn’t it obvious? The hair, the perfectly manicured fingernails? The suit that’s expensive but not too expensive?” Jane asked, throwing out the details with casual ease, as if he hadn‘t spent the past five minutes scrutinising everything in the room. “It all suggests someone who has to look good for his career, yet is living on a budget and out of a suitcase. Oh and there’s a script on the table. The 39 Steps. Interesting.”

“Sorry I’m late,” Van Pelt interrupted, quickly joining them. “I got held up.”

She pretended to ignore the flash of jealousy in Rigsby’s eyes. They both knew that ‘held up’ was another way of her saying she had been with O’Laughlin, but he had been reluctant to let her go so early into their evening. However, the bastard should have understood; he was part of the FBI. Therefore, he should have been able to comprehend that Van Pelt’s career came above virtually everything else in her list of priorities.

“Right, Rigsby, I want you to find the local theatre, find out who didn’t show up for tonight’s performance…”

“It’s Harrison Hayes,” Van Pelt answered sadly, much to everyone else’s surprise. When the eyes of the others all fell on her, she blushed slightly. “What? I saw him in a play last month.”

Eventually, Lisbon took a few steps away from Hayes’ body and headed towards the hotel room door. Forensics wanted to do their job and quite frankly, she had seen enough already. Besides, she had to get back to Sacramento that evening. Despite the fact that they had a new investigation, she still had to testify in court in the morning. That meant that the preliminary interviews would have to be conducted by the rest of the team. It didn’t bother her much these days; they had all been working with one another for long enough to know they could trust each other. Well, that was provided that Jane didn’t get any funny ideas and decide to mess everyone around.

“Van Pelt, I want you to organise rooms for yourself, Rigsby, Cho and Jane,” Lisbon instructed swiftly. “The rest of you, question the cast and crew as soon as they come off stage. Call me as soon as you find anything.”

Jane opened his mouth to protest, but Lisbon had already left the room. Normally, he would argue, but he quickly decided that it could still be theoretically interesting to question the actors. They were the kind of people who were always more inclined to hide under a mask. That was always fun to toy with. Besides, he could tell Lisbon probably needed a break from him. There were only so many of her buttons he could push without serious repercussions.

And anyway, he knew that she would be back in Merced by the afternoon. She could never leave her team to their own
devices for too long without getting a little edgy.


Part Three

Bristol, UK, Tuesday, 04.48am, GMT

The van.

He fucking loved this contraption. It had been hell trying to get it fixed after Rich and Grace’s not-wedding, but it had been worth every second of time and energy. Without it, he had no way of getting to and from the farm with ease. Besides, it gave him a place to crash for the night whenever he needed to. A portable bed was always a bonus in his eyes. 
However, it wasn’t as comforting as usual. Normally, Alo could drift off with ease, happily dreaming of the future and everything it entailed for him. Sure, most of it was just wishful thinking, but it didn’t stop it from being pleasant, like a decent wank. However, on this specific night, it was cold and unforgiving. He could still remember the feel of the backfire from the gun as the bullet exploded from it and the distinct tang of iron in the air. The look of mild shock mixed with sheer panic in Liv’s eyes. The terror as he realised that everything he did to try to help her was in vain.

Red John. That was what Rich had said. Red John, he was an American serial killer, one that nobody over here had ever heard of. That was why he was butchering up Liv. That was why Rich, with an element of disgust, dipped his fingers into her still-warm blood and painted a fucking creepy smiley face on the playground equipment. Why he painted her toenails in her own blood. Because Red John did it; he was a serial killer, who meant business. It wouldn’t take long for the police, however laughably pathetic they were, to work that one out. Alo had asked Rich how the fuck he knew all that, but he’d just brushed him aside. Said that he didn’t have time for explanations. That he would sort it out later. It was strange just how easily and willingly he’d come up with it as well. Like he had almost been preparing for the moment. Did Rich really think that he would fuck up so badly one day, that he’d actually need help covering up something like this?

Was he really that much of a screw-up that his mates thought he was really capable of idiocy like this?

Then again, if they did, he’d just proven them absolutely right.

Meanwhile, Rich hadn’t even bothered going back to bed. What was the point? Within four hours, he’d already be at college again and there was no fucking way he’d be able to sleep. Not when he’d seen Liv, someone who, despite all her recklessness, seemed so permanent, in such a state. 

Besides, he had things to do.

Like destroying every single last piece of evidence he could. The gun, he’d already dumped that in the harbour, along with Alo’s Swiss Army knife. Now, he was just gathering as much of his research into Red John together so that he could burn it, along with their clothes. The more evidence he destroyed, the less likely the police were to find out about Alo’s - and his - involvement. When it went up in flames, it was going to be a little sad. Rich had spent years looking into Red John, simply for his own amusement. That was how he knew that the faked crime scene was relatively shoddy compared to a true Red John murder. That couldn’t be helped. The gaping gun shot wound in Liv’s abdomen would give it away immediately. However, the police in the UK were quite frankly, idiots. They wouldn’t know it was a cover up. They would just see the smiley face and freak out like the bunch of shit head losers they were.

He hadn’t stopped to think about Liv’s family, her other friends, not even Grace. Not yet, anyway. Then again, he had barely come to terms with the fact he would never see Liv again. So, they weren’t as close as they could have been, but that didn’t mean it didn’t hurt. Rich hadn’t even bothered starting to think about how he had committed a major crime, simply to try and help Alo either. Drugs, under-age drinking, that was all petty stuff. Nobody fucking cared about it. So what if teenagers were having a spliff or two. Who cared if him and his mates got plastered and then had rampant sex after a night out? It was trivial. But murder, accidental or otherwise? That was a whole other ball game. 

And not something Rich could easily come to terms with in a matter of hours.

Merced, CA, USA, Monday, 11.32pm, PST

“So, where were you between the hours of one and six p.m.?”

The woman stared at Rigsby, agog. Surely it should be obvious? She was at the theatre, rehearsing. New building, new
exits and all that. Amalia Ford was a professional and therefore, she liked to ensure that she knew everything back to front and upside down before opening in a new location. Harrison Hayes had been exactly the same, so when he hadn’t turned up for rehearsal, she had been somewhat concerned. It was unlike him to not bother calling if he wasn’t going to turn up, too. Despite the fact she had been worried, she got on with the show, as best she could, assuming that Hayes had been ill and had crawled straight back into bed before he even had a chance to pick up his cell phone. 

For some reason, they hadn’t been able to get hold of the understudy either. With such a small cast, it was hard whenever one of them fell ill, but this was showbiz. Regardless of what happened, the show had to go on.

“I was here, at the theatre, rehearsing. Where else would I be?”

Cho nodded when Rigsby glanced at him. It matched up with what the rest of the cast and crew were saying. The only people that had been missing during that allotted time slot were Hayes' understudy, the stage manager and Hayes himself. Jane, however, stopped his pacing and approached Ms. Ford swiftly. She looked visibly nervous until he shot her one of his brightest smiles and immediately, she relaxed. There was something unnerving about a focused Jane, one desperate to seek out the truth. If anyone could charm the blood out of a stone, Patrick Jane could and Amalia could tell that with just one glance.

“Oh I don’t know,” Jane answered nonchalantly. “Elsewhere, in your hotel room, perhaps? Well within the vicinity of the crime scene.  With your secret lover, of course.”

He grinned as her eyes flickered towards one of the stage hands. The girl attempted to disappear out of the dressing room, but Cho was quicker. Amalia flushed a deep red and didn’t answer.

“But you’re too professional to miss a rehearsal for that, aren’t you, Ms. Ford?” he whispered and she nodded slowly. “Sorry, my bad.”

Rigsby and Cho exchanged glances. It was typical of Jane to immediately interrupt interviews and attempt to ruffle a few feathers as quickly as possible. Despite having worked with him for several years, they still weren’t entirely sure of the purpose of this. Sometimes, it was to sow seeds for future reference. Maybe it would turn out that Amalia had paid someone to kill her co-star simply because he had found out about her illicit affair with the young girl? However, it was equally likely that he was bored, without having Lisbon to share a verbal sparring match with. He needed to find his entertainment elsewhere and if that was by embarrassing innocent women, then so be it.

“That is unprofessional, Mr. Jane,” she immediately snapped once she had regained her composure. “And you two? You
should be ashamed of yourselves. Letting him get away with it like that. I should like to speak to your superior.”

“That would be Agent Lisbon, ma’am,” Rigsby muttered and handed her a card. “You’ll be able to get hold of her on this number.”

“Very well. Is this charade finally over?”

When Rigsby nodded and indicated to the door. Amalia quickly swept out of it, but not without one last derisive look at Jane. The three of them remained in silence for a brief while, before Jane broke into laughter with Rigsby quickly following suit. When they calmed down, Cho eyed them both seriously, reminding them that somewhere, there was a killer on the loose and it was their job to track him or her down.

“You don’t think she’ll really complain do you?”

“Oh yes,” Jane answered, still smirking. “Despite being in such a cut-throat business, actors always seem to have a surprisingly thin skin, don’t you think?”

Bristol, UK, Tuesday, 10.42am, GMT

“You alright?”

It was Mini. Alo had barely noticed that she had joined himself and Rich. Then again, he hadn’t listened when Matty and Nick announced that they were bored and had drifted off for a viciously fought match of table football.

“I said are you alright, farm boy?” Mini eventually repeated slowly, once Alo had graced her with a glassy-eyed expression.

“Yeah, fine. Great,” Alo babbled, returning his gaze to the floor. “Fantastic even.”

“You look like shit.”

“Ah, heavy night. Fun. But heavy. Nothing went wrong. Definitely not. Should do it again sometime, yeah.”

Mini raised a sceptical eyebrow. Something was wrong with Alo, but she couldn’t be sure what. The only other time she had seen him in such a state, his Dad had just been hospitalised. He hadn’t said a word at the time, merely disappeared in a flurry of tears. It was weeks after the incident when she found out what had happened and that had been unintentional. She wouldn’t have been entirely surprised if something not dissimilar happened now. That seemed to be Alo’s way; to bottle it up and hope for the best.

“Have you seen Liv?”

“Liv? Nah. Not since yesterday.”

She didn’t notice Rich glance upwards, with a slight smirk written across his features. Of course he knew that Alo was lying outright, but Mini was completely oblivious to that. In fact, the moment that Grace and Franky joined them, she started to ignore them immediately. That was, despite the fact that Grace had immediately draped her arm around Rich’s shoulders. Alo didn’t even question why Mini was after Liv; he tried to pay as little attention as possible to the fluctuations in their friendships. It all seemed so inane and pointless. One moment they were the best of mates and the next, they couldn’t stand the fucking sight of one another.

Besides, Alo already knew that it would make little difference anyway. He was exhausted and yet, had dragged himself into college for the hope of a distraction. Instead, all he was doing was sitting, miserable, in the common room and wishing that he was anywhere but here. Seeing the gang operating relatively comfortably without Liv seemed weird, foreign somehow. Like something subtle, but important was missing. They were all acting as if life was going on, entirely normally. Like their worlds weren’t about to come crashing down around them. Sooner or later, they would find out that Liv was dead and then, everything would be completely different. Excepting Mini, nobody had even asked after Liv. They had all simply assumed that she was sick, most likely due to a hangover. That she couldn’t be bothered to get her sorry backside out of whoever’s bed she’d crashed in that morning.

At least Rich was alright, or at least he seemed to be. He still hadn’t had a chance to ask him if he was okay, to apologise for being such a fuckwit. To thank him for helping him out of this sorry mess. That he appreciated Rich’s intervention and the calm attitude he had taken to it all. Rich was like a rock. Everyone needed a mate like him. He just told it like it was and if somebody really needed him, he would immediately help them out of the mess.

But what he had asked Rich to do was still perverting the course of justice. Accessory to murder or some crap like that. Something that would land him a hefty sentence in prison, if the police ever found out.

And Rich had just brushed him aside the moment they had seen each other at college. He’d acted as if he wished Alo’s parents hadn’t decided to allow him back into Roundview in the first place. Alo, naturally, had followed him like a loyal golden retriever, because that was the only thing he could think to do. However, he knew Rich was angry. Then again, Rich often was, but this time, there was a justifiable reason behind it.

David Blood burst through the doors and they quickly fell silent. Partially because it was unusual for the head to grace the common room with his presence, but mainly because he was followed in by two sombre looking police officers. Alo glanced at Rich wildly, with Rich shaking his head slightly in response. As far as he was concerned, Alo should have realised that this would happen sooner or later and therefore, should have mentally prepared himself for it. Grace was also immediately worried; her initially thought being that somebody had spilled about their latest escapade using drugs. If her parents found out, then the second chance to attend Roundview would immediately disappear down the drain.

“It has come to my attention that your friend, Olivia Malone has been murdered,” he announced, barely stopping for them to come to terms with the revelation. “And these officers wish to question you about your involvement. Now, do carry on and please co-operate for a change.”



Parts 4-6 here

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November 2011

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