tromana: (mentalist: rigsby/van pelt are uber cute)
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Previous parts: 1-3, 4-6, 7-9


Part Ten

Bristol, UK, Thursday, 07.32pm GMT

She stared at her mobile phone as if it was taunting her.

Grace had called Rich at least a dozen times and had attempted to leave several messages, only for the automated voice to tell her the number wasn‘t available. She’d already lost count of the number of times she’d tried to text him too. It was times like this when she was pleased that her father insisted she had a paid contract. His argument was that she had to always have the capability to call home, if needs be. It did nothing for her attempts at independence, but it was a security blanket of sorts. However, she wasn’t sure that they’d be quite so appreciative of the bill she was running up. Especially so as it was simply her trying to call Rich.

Despite the fact that her parents had, after months of arguments and faux-threats, agreed to allow her to stay at Roundview, they still hadn’t accepted her relationship with Richard Hardbeck. She wasn’t quite sure what to do next; it felt like she had tried every trick in the book to try and make them see sense. Really, they just needed to give him a proper chance, like she did. Grace knew all too well that looks could be deceiving. If they could just see under that brash exterior, they would realise that he was genuinely a sweet and caring man. Somebody who was suited to their only daughter, even if they believed otherwise. After all, there was a reason she had accepted his marriage proposal. And gone behind her parents’ backs in order to arrange the not-wedding.

Grace glanced at her left hand and her eyes lingered on her ring finger. She still took to wearing the engagement ring he’d presented her with. As far as she was concerned, they were still engaged. It was just a case of them postponing the wedding until a more appropriate time, instead of blindly rushing into it to defy her parents.

Why would he ignore her like this? She had always believed that their relationship was rock solid. The worst they’d had to deal with was getting over his preconceived views of what he expected in a girlfriend and then, of course, her parents. Apart from that, they’d be fine, almost perfect even. He’d been a little quiet over the past couple of days, since Liv had died, but she had expected that. They were all a little shell-shocked and withdrawn. Everyone was having to deal with it in their own, different, ways. Eventually, the group would reconvene and they’d be able to work through it together. It was simply a case of getting over the initial shock.

Her mobile buzzed brightly and she immediately grasped at it. It had to be him, who else would it be? He was probably just texting her to say that he’d been sick all day and had stayed home. That was why he hadn’t gone to college today, that was why he hadn’t been able to answer her messages. Briefly, Grace felt a pang of guilt for disturbing him. She should have known.

That was, until she opened the message. It was from Mini, and as usual, was a barely intelligible babble of text speak. Once translated into English, she threw the phone back down in a huff. She’d already told Mini she wanted to spend some time alone, to think things through. That she didn’t really have the will or energy to go out again.

Grace didn’t want to drown her sorrows. All she really wanted was to know that Rich was okay.

Seconds later, the landline rang out and Grace remained laid on her bed. Their last year of college wasn’t meant to be like this. They were meant to be having fun together, celebrating being young before drifting off to university. Instead, they were all grieving, snapping each other’s heads off and pushing one another away. College had been a nightmare today; Nick and Franky had ended up at one another’s throats for some unknown reason. Alo and Matty had argued over something completely pointless. Then of course, there was herself constantly bothering Mini about her concerns for Rich.

Grace quickly forgot her train of thoughts when her mum knocked on her door. Swiftly, she jerked herself into a seated position and called for her to come in.

“It’s the police, darling,” her mum muttered. “They want to talk to you about poor Olivia again.”

Cradling the phone in one hand, she quickly spoke to the officer. All they wanted to do was ask some follow-up questions, at five pm tomorrow afternoon, at Clifton Branch Police Station. It seemed a little strange that they had set a precise time and date, rather than just ask them, but Grace didn’t question it. And naturally, she agreed immediately before ending the call. She desperately wanted to do everything she could to help, but couldn’t help but wonder why they wanted another interview with her. The police had already questioned them, the whole gang. She had said everything that she knew the first time around. What more was there to say?

Sacramento, CA, USA, Thursday, 11.32am PST

It was another day and yet more time stuck in the office, going over the same ground with Jane and O’Laughlin. They had spent several hours looking over case files that she was all too familiar with. Like Jane, Lisbon practically knew the Red John case back to front and inside out. Going over each meticulous detail, along with O’Laughlin, was a waste of her time and energy. It was what the FBI agent had wanted; he had claimed to be desperate for their insight and expertise and therefore, they were obliged to comply. However, there were moments when the man seemed bored and kept switching off. Here she was, wasting time which could be used on other open cases and he wasn’t even bothering to show his appreciation.

She couldn’t see anything new in the photographs of the crime scene either, nor in the additional information sheets provided by the Avon and Somerset Constabulary. The known Red John cases showed things reminiscent of the Malone murder, but given how recent it was, it was obviously carried out by an amateur hand. Somebody with a fleeting knowledge of Red John and how he operated. It simply didn’t have the serial killer‘s finesse or attention to detail. For a start, Red John had never shot a victim and then proceeded to butcher the body. Therefore, they all knew the crime scene had been faked, but how the hell could they prove that from five thousand miles away? They weren’t miracle workers. They didn’t have access to any suspects, people of interest and the like. How could they be expected to deliver what Bertram had asked of them? It was virtually impossible. Lisbon knew they were good, but damn it, they weren’t that good. She let out a heavy sigh as she leafed through the forensics report again; really, she was just waiting for O’Laughlin to come back and using it as an excuse to ignore Jane. The FBI agent had been disturbed, by a cell phone call and had disappeared to talk to somebody. Presumably, his boss. Or so she hoped, because then they might finally get the break they were looking for.

“Good news,” O’Laughlin announced, smiling wryly. “We can talk to the mother of the victim imminently. The friends, tomorrow morning at nine am.”

“Finally,” Lisbon muttered under her breath, pleased that her desperate prayer had been answered. “What took them so long? No don’t bother answering. Politics.”

O’Laughlin nodded in response before sitting back down opposite her and he started typing furiously at her computer. Jane simply observed, sipping his tea periodically. It was interesting, seeing Lisbon react to this situation. She was unhappy about losing the Red John case again. Not as much as he was, but still. Then again, if she had managed to keep hold of it, managed to close it, it would have meant great things for her career. Lisbon had spent a lot of time and energy on the damn thing and had expected some kind of payoff for her dedication. Then there was the Bosco debacle; she was still desperate to seek some kind of closure for someone so important in her life. However, apprehending Red John wasn’t what Bosco wanted. Jane still hadn’t told her, nor did he have any intention of doing so, but Bosco had asked Jane to butcher the serial killer open, just like he deserved. Death row was too good for somebody like Red John. But Lisbon did deserve some kind of break with Red John too; she had spent years on it. And because some foolish idiot in a foreign country had decided to copy Red John, her career-making case had been whisked out from under her feet for a second time.

Jane knew that both he and O’Laughlin were annoying her too. She had asked him, several times, to go and help Cho with the Hayes case, but it simply didn’t interest him anymore. Why would he want to work on something else with the Red John case at risk? Besides, Cho, Rigsby and Van Pelt were all competent agents and had the capabilities to close the case without his assistance. Really, Lisbon should have been proud of them; they were a credit to her. Besides, like Lisbon, he had caught up on O’Laughlin’s despondency, which was something far more fascinating than the murder of an actor. There was something irksome about that and he wanted desperately to investigate. However, at the same time, he knew his priority was to get the Red John case back into their hands. If it disappeared to the FBI, then his chances of slaughtering Red John diminished considerably. So, instead, much to Lisbon’s chagrin, he’d spent the morning with O’Laughlin, winding up the FBI agent and thus, Lisbon in the process.

An incoming call via the webcam set up on Lisbon’s computer startled him from his reverie. O’Laughlin took the lead and Jane quickly noted Lisbon’s contemptuous scowl. She really wasn’t impressed by O’Laughlin’s presence. An English voice filled the room as the police officer in Bristol introduced the victim’s mother and younger sibling. As far as Jane was concerned, this meant it was show time.

“Thank you for your time, Ms. Malone,” O’Laughlin stated smoothly, smiling at the webcam. “May I introduce Senior Agent Teresa Lisbon, of the California Bureau of Investigation and Patrick Jane? They are kindly assisting the FBI with their inquiries…”

London, UK, Thursday, 07.43pm GMT

Rich had chosen London for a reason. It was a huge city, with a population size to match. And on top of the people resident to the UK’s capital, there was the additional commuters and tourists and the like. In short, it was the perfect place to head towards if you simply wanted to disappear into the crowd.

It hadn’t taken him long to find a place to stay. The youth hostel was on the shabby side, but it was all he could manage on his budget. His savings weren’t going to last long; what he really needed to do was organise employment as soon as possible. Preferably something which paid cash in hand, that’d make him less traceable. Before leaving Bristol, he’d emptied out his bank account, so he had a total of just under two grand in his pocket. That was mostly from his part time jobs; he’d never had problems with saving and yet, still having enough money to treat himself. Mostly to records, but stuff for Grace of late, too.

A pang of guilt washed over him. He wished he could have told her that he was disappearing on her. Made it easier for her to deal with. Then again, if he had done, he would have had to tell her the whole sordid affair. She would have been horrified, disgusted that he had not only lied to her, but the police too. Grace wouldn’t have understood how he could have sullied Liv’s body in order to try to get Alo off the hook. Wouldn’t have been able to comprehend that Alo deserved to live his life properly, rather than being punished for such a fucking stupid mistake.

And she probably wouldn’t have got his concerns over Red John either.

Then again, none of his mates would have. Mainly because, unlike him, they hadn’t spent years researching the fucking psycho killer. All they had done was spend an hour on the computer in the library; that wasn’t even enough time to scratch the surface. They didn’t know that Red John’s killing spree had started in 1998. Nor did they know just how many victims, mostly female, he’d murdered. Or that he had crossed state lines in order to kill. Time and distance meant nothing to him. That was enough for Rich to realise what a fucking stupid move it was, to copy Red John. The man obviously had money if he’d been able to hound Patrick Jane, the CBI’s famous consultant, for years. He therefore could quite easily fly to England, find him, find Alo and exact his revenge. It had been proven that Red John hated copycats. The most recent Red John emergence had proved as much.

If they knew all that, then maybe, they would be able to sympathise. But as Alo, who was also caught up in this mess, there was no hope for the rest of them.

Least of all Grace. She was such a gentle soul, she just didn’t get violence, anger and revenge. Her life had been surrounded by fairy stories and princesses and happily ever afters. Serial killers didn’t have any place in her life. Therefore, it was for the best. It protected her from things she didn’t deserve to be exposed to.

Or, rather, he hoped it did.

Rich looked at the face of his watch before placing it on the side table. He’d left Bristol just over twelve hours ago, but it felt like a lifetime ago. That was hardly surprising though; so much had already changed. This morning, he didn’t even know where he was going, he just knew he had to get the hell out of Bristol. He had to put some time and distance between himself and the place.

The further from Bristol and the closer to London he’d got, the safer he’d felt. And now, he hoped that the feeling of security would increase as time passed on by. With a sigh, he climbed into the bed. Tomorrow, he’d think up what to do with the rest of his life. Right now, the changes were all too sudden, too raw. They almost felt impulsive, in a way. In reality, he thought it was for the best. However, that wasn’t enough to stop doubt from beginning to creep in for the first time.

Eventually, he switched off the bedside lamp and curled up under the thin duvet. The only sound that filled the room was the ticking of his watch.

Part Eleven

Sacramento, CA, USA, Thursday, 05.47pm PST

Jane sat opposite Cho and smiled briefly. Cho glanced up, but barely responded. That wasn’t surprising; Cho was one of the few people who Jane knew who was actually capable of keeping his emotions hidden, for the most part. The man didn’t speak and instead, continued leafing through a manila folder. He nodded when Cho stopped at a photograph of the crime scene. It was a knife crime; they often had psychological connotations. The killer probably felt rather insecure, weak, in comparison to Harrison Hayes. Besides, knives were generally easier to get hold of than guns. The perpetrator could have walked into any mall to get his weapon, then dispose of it easily. Then again, they had only thrown it in the dumpster outside the motel, which wasn’t exactly the best example of forward planning.

“How’s the case going?”

“Fine.”

“Good, good. Have you looked into the whereabouts of the elusive stage manager yet?”

“No, why?”

“No reason. Just interested.”

“I thought you were more interested in dealing with the Red John case?”

Jane nodded and placed a thoughtful finger on his lips. Cho was right; he was far more interested in Red John. That being said, the investigation had stalled. The interview with Agnes Malone had revealed nothing, just as he had expected. However, that wasn’t stopping O’Laughlin and Lisbon from dissecting it word by word for any clues as to what happened to Olivia Malone. That was the kind of thing which bored him senseless, so he had quickly excused himself. Besides, it seemed like it could be fun to find out where Cho had got to with the Hayes case. Just to make sure that everything was progressing smoothly and they really didn’t need his help. Though his methods were generally quicker, that didn’t mean Jane necessarily disregarded their style of investigation. It was just slow and made him impatient.

“Agent Cho?”

“Brenda.”

Jane noticed the flicker of a smile that crossed Cho’s face as Brenda Shettrick took a seat opposite him. Knowing exactly what was about to occur, he made himself scarce. Jane had already observed a sparring match between Lisbon and the CBI’s PR agent and wasn’t really in the mood for a repeat performance with Cho.

“I hear you’re in charge of the Hayes murder?”

“I am,” Cho answered.

“That’s good. I need a statement…”

“No,” he interrupted.

“Pardon?”

“I said no.”

Cho knew it had been a rhetorical question, but he wasn’t in the mood to deal with any potential confusion. To be fair, he never was. He watched, seemingly unperturbed, as the frustration obviously grew on her face. That wasn’t his intention, but it was hardly surprising. Her job was pretty thankless. Most of the agents, especially those in senior positions, were reluctant to work with the media. Hiring Brenda had been one of Hightower’s initiatives. Apparently, it was something to do with making the CBI seem more accessible to the general public and meaning they could get their side of the story out before the lies multiplied. However, most of the employees, including him, were stuck in their old ways. They didn’t want to risk putting out a statement without having all the facts. There was nothing worse for public perception than admitting that they were wrong after making false announcements to the media.

“Kimball, it’s been a stressful day,” Brenda murmured, her voice like honey. “Lisbon isn’t saying a word about Red John, the least you can do is give me a statement about Harrison Hayes.”

“There isn’t anything to say.”

“He is, was, a surprisingly famous actor,” Brenda shot back quickly. “People want to know that his murder is being investigated by the best.”

He felt the sting. The implication that he, Rigsby and Van Pelt weren’t up to the task. That they needed Lisbon and especially Jane in order to close cases. Of course, working on a skeleton crew wasn’t preferable, but that didn’t mean they couldn’t get the job done. Besides, the more of his precious time she ate up, the longer it would be until they found the murderer. And, the more likely that said murderer would have a chance to slip through their fingers and escape.

After a sharp intake of breath, he gave her a brief statement. He didn’t say much and if anything, it was a slight spin on the statement that Hightower had supplied when Jane had been kidnapped. All he said was that they had their best people working on the case, that they were chasing down several leads and that they were sure they would arrest the person or persons responsible soon. Normally, he would have battled her down until he got his own way, much like Lisbon probably had five minutes earlier. But he just wanted her out of his hair, so he could do his job properly.

As she left, satisfied, he felt relieved. Quickly, he beckoned over Rigsby and Van Pelt. There wasn’t much more they could do at that moment in time, but there had to be a reason why Jane highlighted the stage manager, Antony Cera, as a person of interest. Cho cast his eyes over the notes. Van Pelt had been the one to interview him in Merced, but he hadn’t said much. Simply that at the time of the murder, he had been sleeping in his room, having lost track of time. That he had no alibis. Still, they had nothing and it was looking likely that the Schaber route was going to be a dead end.

And Cho knew that the sooner he closed the case, the sooner they could help Jane and Lisbon deal with Red John.

Sacramento, CA, USA, Friday, 09.12am PST; Bristol, UK, Friday, 05.12pm GMT

O’Laughlin had wanted to interview the kids together, as a group. He had claimed that it would be more efficient, that they would be wasting less time. While that would have provided them with an interesting dynamic of their friendships, Lisbon had immediately disagreed. She knew that Jane would benefit more from interviewing them individually, from working out their reactions to each question alone. It was immediately obvious that Jane was the most important tool they had right now; only he had half a chance of working out what was going on. Besides, they were less likely to conceal information when they were not surrounded by friends. They would also be less inclined to protect each other’s dignity for one reason or another. That and it was hard enough trying to talk to a rowdy group of teenagers face to face, never mind over a webcam.

The first to appear was a young woman, Grace Violet Blood. She had been polite, articulate and keen to help. Lisbon had been relieved that the young woman had been so personable, so determined to help get them to the crux of the matter. Unfortunately, she also didn’t provide them with anything of use. Jane had been certain that she had nothing to do with her friend’s murder and understood what they were trying to achieve. She was also doing a fairly good job of masking her emotions regarding the situation, but Lisbon had a feeling that Grace simply wasn’t one to break down in public.

“What are you worried about, Grace?” Jane asked.

“Me? Nothing,” Grace answered, albeit too quickly. “Well, I want you to find out who did this to Liv, but apart from that…”

“No, there’s something else. Who are you engaged to?”

“I don’t know what that has to do…”

“Answer the question, please, Grace,” Lisbon interjected politely. “There’s a method to his madness, I promise.”

“Rich. Rich Hardbeck. He’s…”

“Was he friends with Olivia too?” Lisbon asked before Jane had a chance to.

“Yes, well, no. Well… sort of,” Grace answered in response. “They hung out together. I mean, with all of us. They weren’t particularly close or anything.”

“Interesting.”

She cocked her head slightly as Jane responded to her stammering statement. Grace couldn’t quite see what was exactly interesting about the fact that Liv and Rich were friends through social connections. A lot of people were. Did they think that, maybe, he had something to do with it? That was utterly ludicrous. Then again, he still wasn’t answering his mobile and she was getting worried. What if he had taken off because he had killed Liv? But why would he have been meeting up with her on Tuesday night anyway? She had never been given reason to suspect that Rich would cheat on her, least of all with one of her best friends. Then again, Liv had slept with Nick when he was going out with Mini, so it was a part of her modus operandi at the very least.

“What are you thinking right now?”

“I haven’t heard from Rich all day,” Grace answered, stunned that she had given up the information so willingly.

“And you’re thinking he might have something to do with it?”

“What? No!” she shot back, her voice raising slightly. “He’s probably just sick, that’s all.”

Grace was quickly replaced by Mini McGuinness and Nicholas Levan. Both were as useless as one another. The McGuinness girl had been constantly on the edge of breakdown and wasn’t dealing with the situation that well. At the time, Jane had muttered down her ear that she had probably had a childish bust-up with the deceased and therefore, was beating herself up about her death. Nick Levan just seemed simply lost and had nothing constructive to say whatsoever. Lisbon had actively decided to cut his interview short; she could see it was going nowhere and Jane was just winding him up. The poor kid even looked like a walking target for Jane’s mind games. It was obvious, even to her, that he had been suffering from some sort of emotional crisis of late. The last thing she wanted was their British contact complaining because Jane had wound them up too much.

Aloysius Creevey was next in front of the camera. Jane was quick to undo his false bravado and almost instantaneously, he became a quivering wreck. Lisbon glanced at O’Laughlin, watching him scribble down the same notes as she was intending to. Creevey was clearly either involved, more so than any of their previous interviewees or was reacting badly to the stress. For his sake, she hoped it was the latter. Then again, like Nick Levan, she couldn’t imagine him being particularly close to the victim. In fact, she would be more than willing to bet that he just knew her because they had some mutual friends.

“Where were you between the hours of one am and three a.m. Tuesday morning?” Jane enquired and Alo’s jaw dropped. “Your time, of course. Not ours, that would be ridiculous.”

Even Lisbon was stunned by the question. Despite the fact she had a shrinking suspicion that he may be involved, that didn’t mean she was ready to enquire as to his whereabouts during the time frame of the murder. They, and the local law enforcement officers, simply didn’t have enough evidence to throw around such accusations. Then again, Jane didn’t exactly follow protocol, so she had long since learned not to be stunned when he did such a thing.

“You think… you think I’d fucking do this? She was my mate!”

“Well?”

“I was with Rich. Rich Hardbeck,” Alo said, quickly. It was true, in a way, just not the entirety of it. “We’d been out, drinking.”

“Hang on,” Lisbon interrupted. “Isn’t the legal age for drinking in England eighteen?”

“Yes, why?”

“You’re only seventeen,” O’Laughlin answered for her, stating the obvious.

“So?”

“It’s against the law. We’ll have to report this,” Lisbon responded shortly, ignoring Jane rolling his eyes in disgust. “Will Richard confirm your alibi?”

“Yeah, course he will.”

“Fine. You may go.”

Alo disappeared as fast as his feet could carry him and Jane smirked at Lisbon. He could tell she was getting a little bit irritated by the whole scenario, but excluding flights to the UK which the CBI simply couldn’t cover, this was the next best alternative. Besides, he was finding it enjoyable, in a way. The kids were certainly characters to say the least.

“Yeah ‘of course he will’,” Jane echoed Alo, with a grin. “That’s what friends do. Provide each other with alibis, false or otherwise.”

“Shut up, Jane.”

Francesca had been as articulate as Grace had been, albeit more cynical and jaded. Lisbon had had to interrupt Jane several times as he pushed the poor girl into uncomfortable situations, ones she clearly didn’t want to address. However, her anger subsided when he informed her that she, like Mini, had a complex relationship with Olivia Malone. Unlike the previous kid, Alo, she had been confident with her every answer and was more intrigued into what they were doing than what her role was. Lisbon didn’t blame her; she was pretty similar in that respect when she was younger. Despite her obvious interest, she didn’t seem particularly suspicious and unusually, it was O’Laughlin who bid her farewell. Then again, time was marching on and they wanted to get this over with sooner rather than later.

Matthew Levan was the last to be interviewed. It didn’t take any of them long to identify his clear problems with authority. He slouched in the chair as if he ruled the world and looked down the camera with obvious contempt. Lisbon was briefly glad that there was an ocean between them; she wouldn’t like to have to pull him for questioning time and time again, undoubtedly. Matthew looked the type to have a long rap sheet, even at his tender age, at least. Jane, however, was merely amused and relished in delight at the concept of questioning yet another troubled young soul.

“What is your relationship with Olivia Malone?” Lisbon inquired as politely as she could.

“What the fuck is it to you?” Matty snapped.

“He was sleeping with her,” Jane stated nonchalantly, smiling as he did so. “They weren’t in the relationship, not really, but it was getting rather close to one.”

“What the fuck? How the hell did you do that, you tw-”

“Enough of the language,” Lisbon stated sharply and Matty simply glowered at her through the computer screen.

“What about Francesca Fitzgerald?” Jane asked and the teenager shrugged in response. “Oh, like that was it?”

Lisbon mouthed at him, clearly not on the same wavelength, but let him continue anyway. She would make him explain to her what his relationship with the Fitzgerald girl was later. It was slightly unprofessional, letting Jane wind Matthew up, but at least her consultant was letting off steam. Besides, O’Laughlin didn’t seem to care what Jane said. He seemed more than happy to take a backseat with the teenagers. Probably because he knew they were all going to be more difficult than the kid’s mother they’d spoken to the evening before. Eventually, Jane finished needling Matthew Levan and she dismissed him, not entirely blaming him for being relieved to leave. Seconds later, their contact informed them that was all of the kids and the connection was broken.

She looked at her notes. According to Avon and Somerset Constabulary, they hadn’t been able to contact Richard Hardbeck, Grace’s fiancé. Silently, she wished that the young woman had been last to be interviewed, rather than first. Then, they would have been able to ask her why he hadn’t turned up instead of the dismissive shrug they’d received when O’Laughlin asked Matthew Levan. Briefly, she glanced at Jane and then, O’Laughlin. Their expressions suggested that they were thinking the same thing. Richard was somehow connected to the case. Why would an innocent young man avoid answering some relatively routine questions, albeit under a bizarre circumstance? Most kids his age would probably have found the whole thing fascinating; teenagers especially were often drawn to the macabre due to it being a taboo subject.

It was dubious, at best, but it was still something. All they could do now was urge their police contacts in the UK to try and track down the Hardbeck kid as soon as feasibly possible.

Part Twelve

Sacramento, CA, USA, Friday, 12.47pm PST

“Where are you going?” Van Pelt asked Jane, indignantly.

“Ah, don’t worry Grace,” Jane answered with a smile. “I’m just doing the coffee run. To rally the troops, so to speak. Lisbon and Craig are still in her office. With Cho, I believe.”

“Oh… good.”

“And I’m not entirely sure, but is that Mrs. Hayes approaching from the elevator?”

Van Pelt scowled as Jane disappeared off. If he was off for coffee, he had better bring her one too. Yesterday, she hadn’t been able to budge from her computer all day. Even lunch had been huddled in front of her laptop, as she tried to untangle Harrison Hayes’ financial situation. He’d made several large donations to charities of late. Something, which according to Jane, would be a red flag, as such. Clearly, a sign of guilt or the like. She sighed. So what? Who, exactly, had a clean conscience these days? Everybody harboured some secret or another. It was just a case that most people were capable of suppressing the guilt without having to make large donations to charity. If they didn’t, well, charities wouldn’t be so desperate for money, would they? And being hunched over her laptop while Rigsby went back to Merced seemed to be the theme for today, as well.

There was a cough from behind her, something which Van Pelt knew shouldn’t have startled her. Jane had told her that someone was approaching. Tentatively, she turned around and immediately recognised Miranda Hayes from the photographs she’d seen that morning. Quickly, she greeted her with a warm smile before offering her a seat. This was the grieving widow; she must have been devastated by the loss of her husband. Van Pelt knew that if she were in the woman’s shoes, she would be. But then again, she had also had a brief affair with Schaber, so maybe not.

“I need to speak to Agent Cho,” Miranda stated, with a voice laced with authority. “I was informed that he is the agent in charge of my husband’s murder?”

“I’ll see if he’s available, ma’am,” she answered politely as she rose from her chair.

“I didn’t say I’d like to speak to him, I said I need to,” she snapped in response and took a seat on Jane’s couch.

“He’s in the middle of a meeting with our boss, I’m afraid,” Van Pelt answered quickly, trying her best to remain composed. “I’ll see what I can do.”

Van Pelt knocked apprehensively on the closed door to Lisbon’s office. She never liked interrupting meetings; usually, they were happening for a reason, though Jane would always beg to differ. When Lisbon called a swift ‘come in’, Van Pelt breathed a sigh of relief. That didn’t mean she wouldn’t be in the way, but at least her boss had sounded somewhat welcoming. As she nudged the door open, she silently cursed at uncooperative persons of interest. She’d been with the CBI for more than long enough to be trusted to carry out interviews. Miranda Hayes wasn’t even a suspect; she had a cast iron alibi. However, the woman had refused to budge and that meant dragging Cho out of a meeting with Lisbon.

Thankfully, they had apparently finished. Van Pelt watched as Lisbon drifted off in the direction of Hightower’s office, no doubt to discuss something pertaining to the Red John case. That left her to take Cho to Mrs. Hayes before she could have a break for lunch. At least the woman had been somewhat polite when she had acquiesced to her demands; that was better than nothing. However, that didn’t stop her from making a swift getaway and catching up with O’Laughlin as soon as she had done so. Craig had been distancing himself from her over the past couple of days and she missed him.

“Thank you for meeting with me,” Miranda Hayes said directly to Cho as they left Van Pelt behind. “Your young secretary was stubborn at first…”

“She isn’t a secretary.”

“She isn’t?”

“No, she’s a junior agent.”

“Oh, I’m sorry. I didn’t know.”

Cho immediately took note of the fact she didn’t sound particularly sorry. Still, he opened the door to one of the interview rooms politely held the door open for her. As soon as she was seated, he observed the curious woman with interest. When he had met her in Reno, she had acted like the perfect grieving widow. And apparently, she had been staying with her mom for health reasons. Something important had to have happened for her to make the decision to travel all the way to Sacramento, alone.

“What do you want?”

“Well, I thought you must know that,” Miranda started, before fishing out a tissue to dab at her eyes. “Oh it’s so humiliating…”

“Go on…”

“Antony Cera and I, we were having an affair,” she eventually said. “And I’m pregnant with his baby.”

Bristol, UK, Friday, 10.32pm GMT

Matty was the last to be questioned. Whilst sitting in the police station, waiting, he had actively avoided going in there. He had let all of the others filter in and out before him. He wasn’t sure why, it was inevitably going to happen sooner or later. Maybe it was just the fact he felt uncomfortable about the concept of being questioned by police officers again, especially as this time, it was by American ones with clout. During the day, at college, they had all agreed to meet at the Fishpond Tavern afterwards, so he headed straight there as soon as he was done. The moment they had found out that the FBI (and by default, the CBI too) wanted to interview them all, they had all wanted to discuss it afterwards. To work out what the hell was going on and how the fuck Americans thought they’d be able to solve a murder without even setting foot on British soil. But of course, the interviews had to occur first, so they had something concrete to mull over.

Patrick Jane had annoyed Matty, in particular. There was something about the bastard’s smarmy grin and seemingly all-knowing eyes that set him on edge. He hadn’t even had to say a word for Mr. Jane to work out that he and Liv had been fucking. And when he had sworn at them in response, the lady cop had snapped about how inappropriate his language was. Bastards, the lot of them. Mr. Jane was probably fucking his female boss, whatever her name was, anyway, the fucking hypocrite. Matty had seen him staring at her for a little too long and vice versa, he wasn’t an idiot. They were the kind of looks he’d shared with Franky and Liv, after all.

But that wasn’t the point. He was angry about just how patronising Jane was. It wasn’t as if he knew what it was like to lose somebody they were that close to so young. Nor his two colleagues, either. They only knew what it was like to be on the other side. Telling people that loved ones, friends, family, colleagues had died. How could they even comprehend what he was going through?

The others weren’t talking as he walked inside. Nick had already bought him a beer and he briefly smiled gratefully at his younger brother. Their relationship was still fractured and Matty didn’t know if it would ever be repaired, but at least they were sort of rubbing together nicely now. Or at least, they had learned to live with one another civilly. And in some kind of sick way, Liv’s death had brought them a little closer together. They both had an affection for her, had both had sex with her even. It was a mutual understanding, something that people on the outside just didn’t get. People like those fucking American cops.

“Well?”

“Fucking Yanks,” Nick answered quickly, before burying his head in his drinks. “Who do they think they are?”

“Yeah, especially that bastard, Patrick Jane,” Matty concurred, pleased his brother at least seemed to share his viewpoint.

“They’re just trying to…” Grace started.

“Gracie…” Mini started nervously; the others were angry and the last thing they needed were more public spats.

“What? I thought they were all perfectly nice.”

“Well, you would,” Nick retorted before slamming his empty glass down. “Anyone for another?”

Nobody answered him and silently, he slinked off to the bar, still grumbling. Mini kept her eyes on him at all times. She understood why everyone was so frazzled; it had been bizarre, being interviewed via webcam. Matty especially, given his relationship with Liv. Still, as Gracie had been trying to say, the Americans were just trying to offer their expertise. They weren’t trying to take over; Teresa Lisbon had said as much when they started to interview her. All they wanted was to make sure the right man was captured. Whether that was Red John or somebody else, it remained to be seen.

Besides, that was what Mini wanted too. She had never forgiven Liv for sleeping with her boyfriend, not really. That was something she was going to have to live with for the rest of her life. It was too late to say ‘it’s okay,’ when somebody has died. Mini hadn’t dealt with Liv’s betrayal, but Liv would never find out when she actually did. And her sort-of friend had died thinking that Mini was still furious with her and would never come to terms with it. That they had been living under a masquerade at Rich and Grace’s not-wedding. They had all seemed so happy, back then. For just one day, they’d all been able to set aside their differences in order to make sure that Rich and Grace had a fantastic day. It was barely months ago now. And now, everything was so different in the worst way possible.

That was a point. She hadn’t seen Rich all day. Had he even been questioned by the police today?

Mini quickly buried her head in her wine glass. Quite frankly, she wasn’t sure if she even wanted to know. If he had ran away because he was involved with Liv’s murder, then it would be horrifying. He was one of them, one of the gang. And poor Gracie, she would have her heart broken. Mini knew just how deeply she felt about Rich; it would positively destroy her if he had done so. That was something she understood all too well. When Nick and Liv had started their sordid little affair, it wasn’t just Nick that broke her heart, but Liv too.

Besides, it was ludicrous even thinking about Rich being a murderer. Just because he looked the part, what with his metal obsession and principles, it didn’t mean he actually would do it. There was such a thing as subverting stereotypes, after all. Anyway, he was one of them and mates just didn’t kill one another. Did they?

Unspecified Location, CA, USA, Friday, 11.17pm PST

“Thank you for organising the interview with the girl’s friends,” O’Laughlin stated lightly.

Lisbon had been asking desperately about just how he had managed to organise the interviews. It was a coup, even for the FBI, especially given the short notice they had been supplied with. Naturally, he had lead her to believe that the FBI director, in conjunction with Gale Bertram, had manage to pull a few strings for them. That he had just been incredibly lucky, thanks to their extensive contacts list that stretched across the whole world. It didn’t entirely satisfy the senior agent, but it pacified her at least.

But of course, it had been Red John who had pulled the strings, made sure that things went his way. It wasn’t difficult and he’d managed to cover up his trail quite spectacularly. Besides, he knew that the CBI wouldn’t get anywhere without his influence and it amused him somewhat. They would be horrified to realise that Red John, of all people, had actually aided them in solving a crime.

Yet again, it had been O’Laughlin who had called Red John to offer information. The serial killer didn’t mind; he was in no rush for information. He could quite patiently wait to be drip-fed whatever his precious mole had to say. Patience, after all, was a virtue. Something that Mr. Jane could most certainly learn about. The same applied to the somewhat striking Teresa Lisbon. Just because Jane was the centre of Red John’s plans, it didn’t mean he didn’t take note of his work colleagues. After all, Van Pelt had already proven herself useful in his schemes. Sooner or later, one of the others might too. And it was a well-documented fact that Agent Lisbon was awfully close to Jane.

“I believe it benefited us as much as it did Agent Lisbon and Mr. Jane, Craig,” Red John replied politely.

“Yes,” he agreed. “Do you think it’ll be enough for them to allow the case to remain in CBI hands?”

“No, they need solid evidence of who the real killer is in the United Kingdom, I suspect.”

“And how do we go about getting that?”

“I’ll deal with it.”

O’Laughlin spat at the floor and Red John flinched slightly. That was such a disgusting habit, but it was something his protégé did every so often, especially when he was particularly stressed. Red John let the matter slide; nobody would ever think that they would meet in this specific location. It didn’t need quite as much of his attention to detail as it would if he were to kill O’Laughlin, for example.

But that wouldn’t happen for a while, at least. Craig O’Laughlin was yet to outlive his usefulness. Besides, Red John had a shrinking suspicion that when it came down to it, one of the agents at the CBI would shoot him to death. That would be poetic justice and it would mean he wouldn’t have to get his own hands dirty. If only he could see the look on their faces when they realised that young Craig had been pulling the wool over their eyes for so long. But still, they weren’t ready for that moment yet. There was a lot they needed to prepare before they would be. For a start, they needed to get his case back into Patrick Jane’s hands.

“He reckoned Aloysius ‘Alo’ Creevey was hiding something, or at least more than any of the others,” O’Laughlin offered, realising he wasn’t going to get anymore from Red John. He didn‘t even need to mention Jane by name for them to know who he was referring to. “And Richard Hardbeck didn’t turn up. I’d say that suggests he is running.”

Red John accepted a piece of paper from O’Laughlin’s hands. Briefly, he scanned over it. It detailed the notes from the questioning of young Aloysius, as well as detailed background analysis of both the young men O’Laughlin had named as potential suspects.

“So, Patrick Jane suspects Aloysius Creevey and Richard Hardbeck? Interesting,” Red John stated.

“You think that’s enough information to go on? That Patrick Jane can identify the copycat from just a half hour interview?”

“Has he ever steered us wrong?”

“No, but-”

“I shall have to follow up these enquiries.”

“How?”

“I’ll be out of the country for a period of time, Craig,” Red John informed him, ignoring his question. “I trust you to keep my - our - plan ticking over in the meantime.”

“Yes, of course…”

Red John didn’t even bother to say goodbye. He knew exactly what he needed to do. The first was to fly to the UK, Bristol preferably. If he could locate Aloysius Creevey, then he might just have half a chance of finding the other boy as well.

They would learn from their mistakes. It was just a shame for them that his methods of teaching had rather permanent side-effects.



Parts 13-15 Here

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November 2011

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