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Previous parts: 1-3, 4-6, 7-9, 10-12


Part Thirteen

Bristol, UK, Saturday, 5.12pm GMT

Rich had only ever been to London once before.

He’d been nine, had travelled there with the Cubs, for an educational visit to the Baden Powell Centre. Rich had fucking hated Cubs, but Kevin had forced him to attend. Apparently, it was the basis of what made him grow up to be a good, honest man and therefore, he expected Rich to do the same. But it had been so fucking boring. Stargazing, reading, art. It was the kind of fucking bullshit he had to do at school and he was forced to repeat it again in the evening, when he could have been playing on the computer. Nor did it help that the Akela was a wanker who had it in for him. On the plus side, it had been where he’d met Alo. The two of them had struck up a firm friendship and he’d never looked back.

Until now.

If he hadn’t met Alo, eight years ago now, Rich was fairly certain he wouldn’t be here now.

He wouldn’t be running away from home like a scared little boy who couldn’t handle the pressure.

Instead, he might have met Alo later, maybe when they arrived at Roundview. They wouldn’t have lived in each other’s pockets and therefore, when Alo had made that fatal mistake, his first thought wouldn’t have been of Rich. What Alo would have done instead, he didn’t know. But he’d have still been at home, as horrified as the others at the knowledge of Liv’s murder. He’d have been able to support his girlfriend in her time of need, as she mourned the loss of one of her best friends. Been the emotional crutch he should have been instead of leaving her high and dry and adding more fucking heartbreak to a rapidly growing list.

Rich shook his head. He shouldn’t bother thinking about that. Not now. It wasn’t healthy and it made him miss everything he sacrificed all the more. But he’d made the right decision, hadn’t he? He’d probably saved his own life. And it made him look guilty too. Therefore, if Red John did dare to fly over, he wouldn’t bother the others. Wouldn’t think Alo or Matty or Franky were responsible. He’d hone his focus on him and wouldn’t be able to find him. Simply because he’d disappeared like a puff of smoke.

He was wandering London’s West End because he had nothing else to do with a Saturday afternoon. Really, he should have been looking for a job or something, but wasn’t capable of focusing at this moment in time. A crowd of people, many clutching paraphernalia for the production of Ghost the Musical, bustled past him. Many of them were chattering excitedly about various special effects and illusions, whilst others were still sobbing. Rich couldn’t help but stifle a laugh at just how over-emotional they were. He allowed himself to be washed along with the crowd and eventually, he found himself near Piccadilly Circus tube station, staring at the Criterion Theatre. It was the current home of The 39 Steps. That was familiar; he’d heard of it before.

And then it hit him. Grace, of course. She loved the theatre and had been to London to see shows with her parents multiple times. In fact, she had been hinting that they should come here and see something on their anniversary. She wanted to share her love of theatre with him, to make him see the magic she saw in it. Rather like the time he had tried to explain what was so special about metal. Of course, she hadn’t quite got it and he sincerely doubted whether or not he would actually understand her enthusiasm for stage shows either. However, Grace had spent hours dwelling over what would be appropriate; most, if not all, musicals were out of the question. Eventually, she had settled on the fact they should see this play, specifically. She’d loved the Hitchcock film and was aching to see the stage show. He smirked slightly as he tried to remember her description of it. Comedy, four actors, a man on the run for a murder he didn’t commit.

The irony wasn’t lost on him.

He shook his head and headed for the theatre door. After all, some tickets were probably still available for the evening performance and they might just accept a quick look at his student ID to give him some sort of a discount. And if he was never going to see Grace again, he might as well give her passion one last shot whilst he was thinking about her.

Besides, if nothing else, it killed time.

Merced, CA, USA, Saturday, 09.32pm PST

“It’s meant to be a cast of four,” Schaber, playing the character of Richard Hannay, announced with a near-perfect English accent.

The audience laughed uproariously at the gag and Cho merely smirked. Van Pelt immediately noticed this and couldn’t help but join in the laughter. They had arrived in Merced just after the second act of The 39 Steps had started. Cho, naturally, had wanted to interrupt the production in order to locate Cera. Van Pelt, however, understood that the audience deserved to see the end of the show. They had paid good money to attend and therefore, it would have been rude of them to ruin their Saturday night out. It wasn’t as if they wanted to interrogate or arrest Antony Cera, they just required a quick interview with him. After all, he had slipped through the cracks the first time they had been at this theatre and it was a loose end they had to rectify. If they didn’t, it was the kind of thing a half-decent lawyer could hang them with, proverbially speaking, once the case went to court. Not that they had a murderer yet, more a handful of people with potential motives. The wife, the understudy and yes, Cera himself, given the recent revelation of his affair.

Instead of annoying a thousand patrons, a polite word with the front of house staff had granted them access to the auditorium for the remainder of the show. The staff certainly didn’t want the show interrupted either; it would have led to them being out of pocket, given the fact they would have had to offer refunds or replacement tickets to the entirety of the audience. Instead, a shy young man lead them to the back of the stalls, where they could stand and observe the four actors tying up the rest of the show.

It was a shame they hadn’t been able to watch the entirety of the show, really. Van Pelt had thoroughly enjoyed it last time, when O’Laughlin had treated her to tickets in San Francisco. She was also certain that Cho would have enjoyed it too; it was the kind of humour that everyone got, regardless of age and background. Besides, all four actors were phenomenally talented and she doubted whether or not people would actually be able to tell that Schaber was merely the understudy. Though, considering his colleague’s untimely demise, he could quite easily have been bumped up to principle already. She wondered how long it would take them to replace Hayes, whether or not they already had a new understudy for Richard Hannay. Van Pelt didn’t know much about the theatre or how the casting worked, just that she enjoyed it very much whenever she had the opportunity to go. Given her occupation, that was a lot more rarely than she would have otherwise liked.

Almost as soon as they had arrived, or so it felt to Van Pelt, the curtain call arrived and the stars of the show gratefully accepted their applause. Minutes later, people bustled past them, ready to go home or hit the town. After the general hubbub quietened slightly, Cho nodded slightly at her and indicated to an exit. It was time for them to head backstage and find the elusive Antony Cera. They had been informed by their young guide that Cera had been in the building, but wouldn’t be free to discuss anything until after the final bows had been taken. That was entirely understandable; as stage manager, he probably had to ensure that everything ran smoothly, especially in a show as prop-heavy and intensive as The 39 Steps.

The first person they saw backstage was Amalia Ford. The woman didn’t say a word and instead, blanked them entirely. It was common knowledge amongst the team that Ford had indeed lodged a complaint against Jane. However, she was unlikely to get the apology she craved; sooner or later, somebody would press the right buttons which would make her drop the whole matter. A sly dig at her diva-like behaviour would probably be enough. Besides, it was blindingly obvious that her affair with the young stagehand was common knowledge. Nobody in the company seemed to bat an eyelid at the fact that two women were dating, which was as it should be, as far as Van Pelt was concerned. Love was love, whatever the form it came in.

“Excuse me, but you’re out of bounds. Backstage is for cast and crew only.”

Van Pelt jumped and vaguely recognised the woman addressing them from beforehand. The company manager, or something. Or at least, somebody who was high up within the hierarchy of the show. The main thing she could remember was that the woman had a cast iron alibi and clearly, considering she couldn’t remember herself and Cho, a memory like a sieve.

“We’re with the CBI, ma’am?” Van Pelt spoke quickly and politely. “We’re looking to speak to Antony Cera?”

The woman’s features softened when she vaguely recalled the CBI coming to question the entire cast and crew after poor Harrison Hayes’ brutal murder. These poor people had a job to do and it was her responsibility to make it easier on them.

“Antony? I’m sorry but he left thirty minutes ago,” she replied, slightly saddened that she couldn’t help. “Was coming down with something. There is a virus going around the company, right now…”

“Thank you for your help.”

Van Pelt’s frown deepened as they left, with Cho already on his cell phone. This complicated matters. Did it mean that Cera had heard of their arrival and escaped before they had a chance to talk with him? Or was he genuinely sick and holed back up in his motel room? She genuinely hoped it was the latter, but had a shrinking feeling that it wouldn’t be; it would be too simple. If he had disappeared, it meant that tracking him would be harder. They’d be reliant on an APB and other LEOs picking up on him. On the plus side, if he had, it looked like they had a very definite suspect.

“Just called the motel,” Cho spoke as they climbed into the van. “Cera returned briefly, but left taking all of his belongings. I want you to organise an APB on him while I drive.”

Van Pelt nodded and immediately set to work, after he supplied her with a partial number plate too. This could easily spiral out of control now. The last thing she wanted to do was be so late home. It was the weekend and she had been hoping to spend some quality time with O’Laughlin.

Bristol, UK, Sunday, 11.37am GMT

Grace had spent all of Saturday bombarding Alo with texts. As if he needed anymore reminders about what had happened, about what he’d done. First, he’d risked his Dad’s health. Had him hospitalised and nearly lost Rags in the process. Then, Liv. The less said about that the better. And now? His best mate had done a runner, because he was terrified that some American psychopath was flying over just to kill him. As if that kind of thing happened in the real world.

Then again, did best mates accidentally kill each other and then try and hide the crime in the real world? Maybe he shouldn’t be quite so judgemental.

Grace tugged irritably at his arm. She was clearly aching to get to Rich’s home. Not that he was living there anymore, Alo already knew that. But he couldn’t exactly turn around and tell Grace, of all people, that Rich had done a runner. It would lead to too many unanswerable questions. Grace would inevitably tell Franky and then Franky… Well. Franky wasn’t exactly one to leave things alone. She’d keep digging until she found out the truth. Alo was already half-convinced that sooner or later, the girl would try and solve Liv’s murder on her own. Or maybe with Matty as an accomplice. That would mainly depend on just how impatient the girl was to get to the bottom of things. And besides, it would have been Grace asking Franky to research it and nobody could turn Grace down. That would have been like kicking a puppy. It was just wrong.

That was half the reason he had finally agreed to accompany her here. Of course, there was still that nagging guilt at the back of his mind, but he stubbornly ignored it. Theoretically, she could have come to talk to Kevin Hardbeck on her own, but she’d claimed she needed moral support. Mini and Franky, having never set foot in the Hardbeck residence, had flatly refused her request. And besides, he was Rich’s best mate and therefore had to be on good terms with Rich’s family. Didn’t he?

Apprehensively, Alo knocked at the door, keeping his fingers and toes crossed that there wouldn’t be an answer. That Kevin would be out somewhere. Maybe even looking for his son, as he hadn’t been home since Friday morning. When a figure appeared at the door and it swung open, his heart sank a little. Briefly, he glanced to his left. Grace looked so pleased and hopeful, he couldn’t help but cheer up a little. However, he also knew what was going to happen. Kevin would say that he hadn’t seen Rich all weekend, that he had assumed he was with him or Grace. Then, everything would spiral out of control.

“Hello Mr. Hardbeck,” Grace said brightly, smiling at the man.

“How nice to see you, Grace. And Aloysius too!” Kevin replied, matching her smile. “Would you like to come in?”

“If you don’t mind…”

“Of course not. You’re welcome at any time,” Kevin assured her as they filed inside.

“Would you like a drink? A cup of tea?”

“Yes please, Mr. Hardbeck,” Grace answered politely as Alo nodded in answer.

“Three teas it is then,” Kevin confirmed and drifted off in the direction of the kitchen. “Make yourselves comfortable in the living room. And it’s Kevin, Grace. You’ve known me long enough already.”

They sat with tea in hand and Kevin smiled brightly at them. Alo had almost forgotten just how different at face value Rich was to his father. Where Rich appeared to have a superiority complex and was incredibly judgmental, Kevin was warm and accepting of everything. He hadn’t even been that fazed by the fact that Rich and Grace had tried to marry without his prior knowledge. In fact, Alo had even been there when the man had just brushed it off with a simple ‘kids will be kids’. And now, he was about to bring the man’s life down like a house made of playing cards.

“So, how can I help you two?”

“We’re sorry to bother you…” Grace started tentatively.

“Never, it’s never a bother,” Kevin interrupted warmly and she nodded in response.

“Well, it’s just I haven’t heard from Rich in a couple of days,” she continued, with more confidence. “He wasn’t at college on Friday and he hasn’t been answering his phone…”

“He wasn’t at college on Friday?”

“No.”

“He’s not answering his phone?” Kevin echoed, having barely heard Grace’s response. “But I thought he was with you.”

“We haven’t seen him since Thursday night,” Alo confirmed and Kevin nodded. He remembered the last time he saw Alo at his doorstep all too clearly.

“Well, thank you, you two,” the man answered, trying desperately to keep his voice level. “I’ll have to look into this.”

That was exactly the reaction Alo had expected.

Part Fourteen

Bristol, UK, Monday, 03.43am GMT

Sometimes living a dual life was draining. It could be difficult to keep your mindsets separated, to have a complete focus on one side of your existence or the other. On other occasions, it was productive, stimulating and highly useful. When used correctly, one could quite easily become a complement to the other.

His wife hadn’t been happy when he had informed her about business. She hated the fact that he was away for such long hours, that he barely had time to spend with their precious daughter. The woman had almost gone as far as accusing him of neglecting her, but bit on her tongue at that. Really, what he was doing was providing for her. In both his lives. She knew that his work put money on the table, meant that she didn’t have to slave away for long hours in an office job. It provided her with a life of luxury and meant that she could watch their little girl grow up. Seven already, she was. About the age when Mr. Jane’s daughter came to a sorry demise. As for his other life, well, that ridded the world of fools and madmen. People who could potentially wreak havoc with her pretty little mind.

In contrast, it hadn’t taken much persuading to convince his boss that they should send a delegate to the United Kingdom to deal with the current crisis the business was facing. That they needed their expertise to make sure that everything was dealt with effectively, to ensure that everything ran smoothly. To make sure that their second largest market was safe and secure. It took even less effort to convince his boss that he was the right man for the task. A little bit of subliminal messaging here, a touch of hypnotism there and the buffoon was eating out of his hands.

He also knew that the fat cats in suits would hardly notice if he took a day or two out of his business trip to make an excursion. To indulge a little in his hobby. Or rather, his second life.

The bags in front of him circled round and round. He waited patiently, with his briefcase parked neatly by his feet, for a familiar suitcase to appear. It was hardly surprising that his would be the last to be unloaded from the aircraft, especially as he wanted to make a swift exit. Whilst in flight, he’d taken the time to sleep, to make sure he felt fresh and rejuvenated once they landed. This was going to be a very busy visit. Briefly, he smirked as the last conversation he had with his superior flitted across his mind.

“You don’t mind flying via Bristol Airport?” he had asked. “It was the best we could do at such short notice.”

Of course it was fine, perfect even. Bristol had excellent transportation, with direct links to London. He assured them that it didn’t even matter that he would be arriving at the dead of the night. Nearby, he had friends and was certain that they would offer him a bed for a while. It was only bending the truth a little… well. Quite considerably, really.

But still, the people he intended to visit had asked for it. Had brought it on themselves. There had been occasions in the past when he had announced that he couldn’t abide pale imitations of his work. In business and in pleasure. It didn’t matter what country they resided in, he would still find a way to deal with them. To teach them a lesson.

It was just unfortunate, for them, that his teaching methods had rather permanent side effects. Unlike those of the teachers they had at school, which could easily be disregarded as soon as the bell tolled, indicating that class was over.

He smiled as he spotted a familiar suitcase and swiftly hauled it off the baggage carousel. It didn’t have everything he needed; even a notorious criminal couldn’t smuggle a surgical knife into England. And he liked to think there was a little bit of notoriety behind his pseudonym these days. But it was no matter. It wouldn’t take long for him to procure an ideal substitute in this foreign land. No, his suitcase merely contained clothing and paperwork required for his other life. To deliver to the UK branch of Crimson Enterprises. That was to be dealt with later, however.

Right now, he had competition to eliminate. Not that a couple of naïve teenagers would put up much of a fight at all.

Bristol, UK, Monday, 11.37am GMT

“Oh fuck it.”

Mini looked somewhat startled at the profanity, but Grace didn’t care. She was angry and stressed and really couldn’t be fucking arsed when it came to English Literature. Not today, anyway.

She had tried talking to her father the night before. He had been genuinely sorry that Liv was dead, especially considering he knew she was a good friend of hers. However, she also knew that David Blood had also considered her to be reckless and a bad influence. That he was more hopeful of her living up to his expectations now that Liv was gone. When she had brought up the fact that she hadn’t heard from Rich all weekend, he was less than sympathetic. In fact, he was positively jubilant at the fact that his daughter’s relationship was finally having some sort of crisis. He still hadn’t quite forgiven her for forging his signature and attempting to marry Rich without his consent.

The declaration that her grades were the only reason he kept her in Roundview at all were the final straw.

Of course, Grace had expected that, but it didn’t mean she wanted to hear it. Her father had been obsessed with grades and the like ever since he’d become the head of Roundview. It was something she had learned to live with. But to freely admit that he only allowed his only daughter to attend was to make him look good made her feel resentful. Surely it should have been because he knew his college was doing a good enough job to educate his own flesh and blood?

Haphazardly, she shoved all of her belongings back into her bag. At least it had only been a study period and she wasn’t storming out of class. Nobody seemed to notice her leave either and she was grateful for that. Then again, the majority of her mates took the term ‘study’ quite loosely and were simply relaxing before the next class. Instead, they were all banking on cramming just before the exam period and getting through their A Levels on a wing and a prayer.

Once outside, she let out the breath she hadn’t even realised she’d been holding in. Grace wandered for a while, not really having any particular destination in mind. Eventually, she perched herself on a wall and stared out at the grass. A few classmates, ones she only knew vaguely, were spotted about, enjoying one of the last days of Autumn. Soon, the weather would turn and all they had to look forward to was the wind, rain and snow. In one swift movement, she opened her bag and pulled out a bottle of vodka. She wasn’t usually one for carrying spirits around with her, but desperate times called for desperate measures. Besides, after everything that had happened recently, this was the least that she deserved.

When she heard footsteps from behind, she bitterly ignored them. Roundview College was a busy place and therefore, Grace simply assumed that it was another student, or a member of staff, simply going about their business. Why would she have any need to think otherwise? Quickly, she unscrewed the lid and sipped at the vodka. It burned the back of her throat slightly, but she didn’t care. Not anymore. What was the point? If you cared about something, you would only get your heart broken sooner or later.

She jumped slightly when she felt a hand graze on her right shoulder and seemingly out of nowhere, Mini sat beside her, smiling slightly. So, she had been wrong. Somebody had noticed her disappearance and decided to make chase. Still, it didn’t change a fucking thing. Didn’t get Rich to return her calls, nor did it bring Liv back from the dead. It didn’t make her dad see just how much this was all hurting her, either.

“Grace Violet, the rebel,” Mini said with a smirk, holding out her hand. “You know, we’re not meant to drink on college property.”

Grace rolled her eyes in response, but still handed over the bottle of vodka. It had been a long week and she knew that tomorrow was going to be tough. Wednesday last week, she had imagined that when it came around to the funeral, Rich would be there by her side. He would wrap a solid arm around her waist and remain the stoic pragmatist that he was. Never patronising her, allowing her to get the tears out of her system. Always being her supportive knight in shining armour.

Now, she didn’t even have a clue where the fuck he was.

Vaguely, she’d heard rumours of Kevin Hardbeck having to go in for questioning shortly after she and Alo had visited him. That meant they must have been suspecting that Rich had been involved. She shuddered slightly at the thought, grabbed the bottle of drink roughly from Mini’s hand and immediately downed a sizeable portion. The concept was utterly preposterous. Why the fuck would Rich have any reason to kill Liv? What would be his motive? Rich wasn’t into mindless thuggery, he wasn’t a fool. This was all just slander and propaganda based on the way he chose to dress and what music he enjoyed listening to.

Then again, if it was just lies, why the hell hadn’t he gone to the police station with them on Friday? Why had he avoided talking to the American police officers?

Why was he avoiding her?

Sacramento, CA, USA, Monday, 03.32pm PST


Rigsby glanced at his watch and frowned. Van Pelt still wasn’t back yet. She had disappeared at around midday, to meet O’Laughlin for lunch. And now, it was gone three and Cho hadn’t seemed to have noticed. Instead, the man was elbow deep in case files, trying desperately to see if he could find anything from the copious number of interviews they had carried out in the past week. The case seemed to have come to a grinding halt, mostly because they hadn’t seen hide nor hair of Antony Cera. The APB was proving to be utterly useless.

However, just because there didn’t appear to be a lot to do, it didn’t mean there actually was. The missing link could jump out at them at any given second and then they would be rushed off their feet. With homicide murders, speed was of the essence. If they were just five minutes late, their suspect could quite easily disappear without a trace once more. Therefore, as far as he was concerned, they needed Van Pelt here. And instead, she was using office time to flirt with her boyfriend, distracting O’Laughlin from his own work.

That meant Lisbon was probably fuming too. She needed O‘Laughlin in order to try and prove that the English Red John outbreak was merely a copycat killer. That the case should rightfully still be theirs.

He hated this. Everyone was so stressed at the moment. They’d had to work throughout the weekend, trying desperately to close this damn thing. Why couldn’t they find the shred of evidence to link everything together? They couldn’t even be sure Cera was responsible, they hadn’t had the proof yet. Backlogs in forensics meant that they were still yet to receive evidence of fingerprinting on the murder weapon. And even if he was responsible, they still had to track him down in order to arrest him. If Jane hadn’t been so busy, then he would probably have solved this in an instant and they would have been free to move onto another case or to start sifting through cold cases. Or, to focus on Red John with the others, as they should have been.

Then again, they didn’t need Jane, did they? He was just a useful asset to the team. As much as he made things easier for them, he also overcomplicated everything with his outlandish plans. The kind of thing that inevitably lead to lawsuits and risking the cases being thrown out of court.

“Hello, everyone.”

Rigsby scowled at the sound of Van Pelt’s cheerful tones. Considering everything that was going on, she appeared far too content for his own good. Briefly, he glanced up, to see O’Laughlin kiss her gently on the cheek before disappearing in the direction of Lisbon’s office. As always, Rigsby could feel the green eyed monster flaring up inside. He and Van Pelt, they could have been together still, if it wasn’t for the stupid CBI rules. Realistically, he knew why they were in place, he just didn’t like it. If they were together, in love, they could theoretically make stupid mistakes. Romantic connections would make undercover gigs all the harder, distract them in the field in the middle of a shootout and the like. But still, Grace Van Pelt was the love of his life and seeing her everyday, even though he knew she was with somebody else was virtually killing him inside.

“You’re late,” Cho stated, not even looking up to greet her.

“I know, I’m sorry, it’s just-”

This time, he did stand up and Rigsby watched as Cho slammed a large file on her desk. Van Pelt flinched at the sound of it hitting hard wood, immediately obvious to the rest of the team’s irritation. She had meant to be back an hour ago and yet, she had been off gallivanting with her boyfriend. It was strange; when they had been together, she had been so conscientious when it came to work. Rigsby would try and encourage her to stall, to spend just ten more minutes indulging in being together, alone. However, she always insisted that it was for the best that they headed back to the office, or wherever they were currently stationed. It was all a part of the cover up, making sure that nobody found out they were secretly in a relationship together. He wondered what it was about O’Laughlin that made her seemingly not care about her professionalism at this moment in time.

“I don’t care. Just work through these. Let me know if anything pops.”

Miserably, Rigsby glanced down at the form he was filling in himself. It was looking likely that the rest of the day was going to go painfully slowly.

Part Fifteen

Bristol, UK, Tuesday, 09.43am GMT

“Give me some of that.”

Franky shrugged and handed Matty the cigarette. Over the past week, she had become so accustomed to spending time with him, in silence, either in front of a computer screen, smoking spliff or drinking spirits. Neither of them seemed to want to talk; acknowledging it verbally would have made the situation real. Liv had been important to her, in a strange way. After all, Liv had officially been with Matty, in a relationship. It was just that the two of them had let Franky into their circle and had been pushing her boundaries. Naturally, sometimes Franky couldn’t help but pull away in discomfort. The things they did were often so far out of her comfort zone and yet, she couldn’t help but be intrigued. After all, humans were a naturally inquisitive species. Theoretically, anyway. Some of the people Franky had known had left her questioning that fact.

She wondered what would happen to them now. Her and Matty. Franky had always been drawn to him. Not attracted, specifically, but drawn. There was something about him that made her want to pull close, to try and understand him. He was an enigma, a mystery and that was what she liked about him. These days, too many people wore their hearts on their sleeves and could be read at face value. Nobody seemed to appreciate the appeal of a mystery any longer.

Matty extinguished the butt with a stamp of his foot. He looked angry. Then again, they all were. They had only heard about the funeral twenty four hours ago. Franky was surprised that it was happening so soon; that Liv’s body had been released so that her family could bury her. Or cremate, whatever. The point being, it all felt too soon. It wasn’t as if she had died from a drug overdose or in a tragic car crash or whatever. She had been murdered and the police hadn’t done a fucking thing about it. Instead, they were relying on people thousands of miles away to do their job for them. If the bastard had already been put behind bars, then maybe Franky would have been able to understand Liv’s funeral being today. How could they be expected to get closure from all of this if the cops didn’t even know who did it yet?

“We should do something.”

Pulling her gaze up from the floor, Franky stopped to regard Matty. He often had a habit of doing things like that; saying exactly the thing she was thinking about. The fact that they were so often on the same wavelength would have unnerved her in other people, but not in him. Instead, she just appreciated the fact that somebody else came remotely close to understanding the way she viewed the world.

“Like what?”

“I dunno,” he answered with a shrug. “It’s not as if the police are doing anything and we’re wasting our fucking time, sitting in front of a computer all the time.”

Franky nodded slightly in agreement. There wasn’t much on Red John that they could find online. The majority of the information all seemed to revolve around Patrick Jane, the weird American cop who had interviewed them on the webcam. All the old news reports said he was a psychic and that he had angered Red John, which meant the serial killer murdered his family in retaliation. Additional notes always stated that Mr. Jane had started working with the CBI in order to bring Red John to justice. Franky couldn’t help but see that as a positive way of channelling rage.

But what could Liv have done to attract the attention of a murderer seemingly based in California?

It either had to be someone mimicking his style or Red John showing just how powerful he was to anger Mr. Jane.

Whichever, it didn’t bring Liv back. It didn’t change the fact that there was a dangerous psychopath in Bristol, somewhere. Either they had been born here, could have known Liv for years or she was just a victim of a random act of violence. Franky felt the anger bubbling up inside her at the injustice of it all. Sure, Liv wasn’t perfect, nobody was, but she certainly didn’t deserve to die so young and in such a horrific way. And the worst of it all was that nobody seemed to be putting any serious effort into solving the case.

On top of that, Rich had fucked off somewhere too. Acting as if he was the only one who was grieving for Liv. They hadn’t even been particularly close. If Rich hadn’t been going out with Grace, they wouldn’t really have had a reason to exchange two words.

“We should see their reports. See if we can find anything out,” Franky said, the words slipping out before she had a chance to really think about them.

“Yeah. We just need to get into the station somehow, they don‘t give a fuck about security,” Matty agreed with a wry smile. “It’s not as if they know what the hell they’re doing.”

Franky reciprocated the smile. Somehow, she wasn’t dreading the funeral quite so much anymore.

Sacramento, CA, USA, Tuesday, 07.32am PST

Craig O’Laughlin paced around his lounge, staring bitterly at his cell phone, occasionally taking a drag out of his cigarette. He had called Red John sporadically all weekend, trying desperately to find out what was happening. All he knew was that Red John had flown out to England a couple of days beforehand. But that wasn’t good enough; he needed updates and fast. Otherwise, how was he to know how soon it would be until everything was back on track? If Red John didn’t hurry up, then there was the worry that the case would be permanently signed over to the FBI. Then, all their years of painstaking hard work would have been for nothing. Jane would have no reason to remain with the CBI and the FBI certainly wouldn‘t have him. The man was far more trouble than he was worth, even with his supposed insight into the Red John case. Red John himself would find it increasingly difficult to orchestrate a meeting with the man and therefore, have no chance to tell him of his retirement. Thus, he wouldn’t be able to essentially tell Jane that he had lost. To steal away everything that he had been working for all these years. Red John wouldn’t be able to disappear into obscurity and crush all of Patrick Jane’s hopes in one move.

Then there was the simple fact of what he was going to do when he caught up with those responsible in England. Jane had suspected those two kids, but that didn’t make him right. Just because he was good at reading people, it didn’t mean he was a genius. However, if Jane was correct and those kids had killed their friend, what was Red John going to do with them? The killer had a temper, that much was obvious. Would he really be able to let them walk away after they tried to pin a crime he didn’t commit on him? And if not, how would he cover up his tracks to ensure they didn’t find out he had stepped in?

On top of that, Van Pelt was boring him senseless. She constantly complained about whatever case they were working on. That she didn’t get enough time out in the field and everyone else always got to do the fun jobs. Moaned about the fact she missed working with certain people. Yesterday afternoon, he had been treated to her waxing lyrical about how wonderful Jane and Lisbon were and how she wished they were all focussing on the same case again. And most annoyingly, she sometimes whined about how he was ignoring her and pushing her away. O’Laughlin really didn’t have time for crap like this. Really, her childlike behaviour was enough to make him resent Red John. After all, it had been his idea that he wooed Grace Van Pelt in order to get insight into the Serious Crimes Unit. Up until now, he had been doing a very good job of pulling the wool over everyone’s eyes. Even Patrick Jane himself hadn’t seen through his well-crafted act. But they needed to succeed, to make sure that spending so much time with Van Pelt was worth the effort. As soon as all this was over, that pathetic idiot, Wayne Rigsby, would be more than welcome to have her back in his life. They deserved each other.

Quickly, he glanced at his clock. Really, he should be heading back to the CBI headquarters. Then again, he was dreading it. For a start, Van Pelt would already be there, diligently working at her laptop, trying to find this Cera character. She would probably try and corner him while he fixed his morning coffee and moan about the fact that nothing was working. After he’d kissed her on the cheek, he would have to head towards Teresa Lisbon’s office, where World War Three could quite easily have broken out.

After all, Teresa Lisbon and Patrick Jane weren’t the easiest of people to work with. Jane seemed to like to offend anyone he came across with his brutal honesty. It didn’t matter whether or not he had only just met them or known them for years. Anybody was game, if he was bored enough. He constantly picked arguments with Lisbon, who continued to grow more exasperated as the day went on. Who knew why she kept the man around? It was blindingly obvious that he made her life more stressful than it should have been. Then again, there were moments when she could be as bad as he was. And besides, she was a control freak of the highest order. The moment they got any closer to sorting out this Malone dilemma, she immediately had to take charge. It didn’t matter that technically, he was meant to be the lead agent until they had proof that Red John hadn’t been responsible for the young English girl’s death.

Of course, he could theoretically give them all the evidence they needed. He knew exactly where Red John had been at the time of the murder, simply because he had been with him at the time. Even a notorious serial killer couldn’t be in two places at once.

But then he would be outing himself as the CBI’s infamous mole. It was the subject everyone was talking about. The gossips were throwing about ludicrous suggestions as to the identity of the Todd Johnson’s murderer. Brenda Shettrick, Madeleine Hightower, JJ LaRoche, even Lisbon herself on occasion. Sooner or later they would have to find out, but only when Red John was ready for it. Instead, they would have to get the cold, hard evidence the hard way, even if it did require a helping hand from the serial killer himself.

With a sigh, he grabbed his keys and cell phone and disposed of the cigarette. Silently, he hoped that Lisbon and Jane would be in a good mood today. For some reason, he sincerely doubted it.

Bristol, UK, Tuesday, 04.37pm GMT

The funeral had been nice. Or rather, it was as nice as Alo had expected a funeral could be.

Not that he’d expected much. He’d only been to one other funeral before Liv’s. When his Gran had died, Alo had only been three. His Mam always said that he’d attended and he’d bawled throughout, but he couldn’t remember a thing about it. He couldn’t remember his Gran either, for that matter. But that was hardly surprising, really. As far as he was concerned, it was a lifetime ago.

Then again, a lot of things felt like that. Eight days ago, the worst thing he’d accidentally done was kill a cow. That was something he’d seriously regretted. After all, it was his own idiocy that had lead to Bessie being blown up. If he hadn’t dropped his cigarette in the wrong place, then his parents would still have their prized cow. But what he’d done now made Bessie seem like something completely trivial. He had taken the life of another human being, one of his mates and nobody else knew about it. Nobody, except Rich, who had disappeared and was seemingly blaming himself, despite not pulling the trigger and only helping with the cover up.

The others were still inside. Even though it was a wake, they still wanted to make use of the free bar, if only to drown their sorrows. However, he couldn’t stand it anymore. He felt like everyone was staring at him, like they all knew what he’d done. That Liv’s blood was on his hands. They were just waiting for him to confess, so they could call the police and let him rot in prison. Arguably, like he deserved. However much he pleaded, they wouldn’t believe that it was an accident, that he hadn’t killed her in cold blood. He didn’t even think the fucking thing was loaded. It wasn’t meant to end like this. It was just another mistake to add to the shitload he’d done before. But however sorry he was, however much he begged for forgiveness, it wouldn’t bring Liv back from the dead. It wouldn’t stop them all from being heartbroken. Therefore, he had just had to stay quiet, to protect himself. It wasn’t as if he could turn back time and take it all back. What was the point in him ruining his own life when it wouldn’t change a fucking thing?

Then again, that guy with the knife could always go to the police too. Alo had seen Agnes Malone’s tearful plea on the television so the man who’d tried to attack them could have too. If he did, it would have meant this whole fucking charade was pointless. Why the fuck didn’t he think of that sooner? How could he have blanked out the reason why he had fired the gun in the first place? Why did he bother dragging Rich down with him when there was somebody out there who could just spill all to the police?

With shaking hands, Alo rolled himself up another spliff. He needed something to calm down. Thinking like this was what had made Rich run away. If he wanted to carry on living his life as usual, he needed to get his head straight. And hope for a hell of a lot of luck. Swiftly, he lit it up and took a deep drag. After a couple of seconds, he let out a breath of relief. It was good stuff. Just what he needed after a day like today.

The only positive was that it meant they got a day off of college. But that wasn’t really all that brilliant in the scheme of things.

A strange man with curled red hair and glasses walked towards him, probably heading for the pub. Obviously, the man hadn’t heard that the whole building had been hired out for the wake. Then again, he’d soon learn his mistake and leave. Alo decided to ignore him. He wasn’t really in the mood to talk to anyone. Somebody else could send this potential gatecrasher away and he could enjoy his spliff in peace. However, the man seemed to have other ideas. Instead of heading straight for the door, as Alo had expected, he stopped directly in front of him and smiled benignly.

“Are you Aloysius Creevey?”

Alo frowned and sniffed slightly. Then, he dropped his spliff, extinguished it with his left foot and considered the situation. He had never seen this man before in his life, so how the flying fuck did he know his name? It wasn’t as if he was wearing a name badge or anything. Perhaps he was some creepy psycho stalker who had found him on Facebook or Twitter or something? It took him a couple of seconds to place the man’s accent. American, not particularly strong, but definitely American. Alo shuddered slightly; he didn’t like that. Quickly, he blinked and tried to dispel the thoughts. It had to be a coincidence. There could easily be some kind of harmless explanation for it. All he had to do was play it cool. He’d be fine.

“What the fuck is it to you?”

The man smiled and glanced down at his right hand. Alo’s eyes followed his gaze and concealed in his right pocket was a handgun. Quickly, Alo glanced back up at the man’s face and saw him grinning brightly.

“I suggest you come with me, Mr. Creevey.”


Parts 16-18 Here
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November 2011

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