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[personal profile] tromana
Previous parts: 1-3, 4-6, 7-9, 10-12, 13-15


Part Sixteen

Redding, CA, USA, Tuesday, 09.32am PST

Rigsby yawned as they pulled up outside the gas station. At five a.m., Cho had called him, stating that Cera had been spotted checking into a motel on the outskirts of Redding the previous evening. After working late the night before, he hadn’t much appreciated the early start. Then again, it was something to be expected from time to time. He’d chosen this career path, so he shouldn’t complain too much. If he’d wanted a regular nine to five job, he’d have become a banker or something equally mundane. Instead, he’d chosen to defy his father and become a cop. After all the damage his dad had done to society, it was about time one of them paid it back and his father wasn’t about to any time soon. And whenever they caught one of the bad guys and put them behind bars, it made the long hours and stress seem worthwhile.

He gulped down his coffee as he waited for Cho to return to the car. Much to their annoyance, their informant had given them the wrong address for the motel. It was often the case. Some members of the general public were always keen to help, but they never seemed to have all the information they required. When Cho returned, he was smiling wryly. Thanks to a combination of semi-helpful store owners and Van Pelt’s handiwork on a laptop, he finally had what Rigsby presumed was the right destination.

They travelled in silence to Palm Heights Motel. Rigsby groaned inwardly as he saw the building. It was as tacky as the name suggested, but then again, as Cera was on the run from the law, his budget probably didn’t stretch to anything more luxurious. Besides, the staff at this kind of place never seemed to care what happened in their rooms. They were just grateful for the opportunity to prise the money out of other people’s wallets. If that meant they had to turn a blind eye to illegal goings on, then so be it. Unfortunately, whenever they came knocking at the door, it put the staff in an uncomfortable position. Usually, they saw sense and told the truth. After all, it was a homicide investigation; there was always room for negotiation if needs be.

Cho headed straight towards the reception and Rigsby fell into step behind. It didn’t bother him when Cho took the lead; he was the more experienced agent of the two of them. And besides, Lisbon had officially put him in charge of this case, so he was to report back to Cho at all times. He watched as Cho flashed the badge at the elderly receptionist, who stiffened slightly in response. Clearly, she hadn’t been expecting any cops to call around any time soon.

“Have you seen this man?” Cho enquired, immediately cutting to the chase.

“I don’t know, we see so many people come and go here.”

“Ma’am, this is a homicide investigation.”

“Is it?”

“Yes,” Rigsby snapped back, allowing his temper to get the better of him briefly. “If you don’t co-operate…”

“Oh about time,” she answered with a chuckle. “A bit of fire. What do you want to know?”

Rigsby suppressed the urge to roll his eyes. He should have realised that the batty old woman was just pressing his buttons. However, he really wasn’t in the mood for this. Although he’d been awake for a few hours and drunk a couple of coffees since, Rigsby still felt like he had just got up. All he wanted was for people to give them the answers straight and move on.

Unfortunately, all she confirmed was that he had simply stayed the night and handed over a partial number plate. Unusually, she had given up the information quickly. Then again, Cera was no longer her customer, so she probably didn’t feel the duty to protect him any longer. As they headed back to the car, Rigsby called Van Pelt and relayed the information. It was possible that she would be able to find it somewhere nearby, especially if Cera had stopped off for something to eat. They were due to get lucky. Then again, whenever he thought that, it always seemed to overcomplicate the case. She called back five minutes later, as efficient as ever.

“Rigsby,” he said, though he knew full well who Van Pelt was expecting to answer the phone.

“It’s me,” Van Pelt said softly, just as he expected. “I got a hit on that partial plate? Unfortunately it’s been dumped just outside of Redding, on Eureka Way.”

“Damn it,” Rigsby answered, annoyed that the trail was fizzling out and fast. “Thanks, Van Pelt.”

Quickly, he relayed the information to Cho. Just because the car had been dumped, it didn’t mean they could just ignore it. Theoretically, there could be some useful information there. Something concrete that tied him to the murder, rather than the tenuous link that he ran. Or knowing their luck, maybe not, but they had to know for sure.

Bristol, UK, Tuesday, 06.37pm GMT

“You have to be fucking kidding me,” Mini muttered under her breath.

She wasn’t surprised that people were still discussing the murder investigation. Of course, it was going to be the subject on everyone’s lips until the murderer was found. Either that, or completely forgotten about over time as the police failed to find important clues leading to the person, or people, responsible. But that wouldn’t happen for a long while. The news was still new and raw. Newspapers were still eager for interviews with people who knew Liv, the police were still making statements on the news and Liv’s mum was regularly making pleas for more information. Until something changed, this would be a part of day to day life.

However, she didn’t expect to hear Franky and Matty planning to commit a crime, under hushed breaths, during the wake.

It was fucking disrespectful for a start. How would they like it if people were at an event to honour them and instead, were simply thinking about illegal activities? Besides, the gang had already been touched by a serious crime so recently. It was stupid for them to even consider another. Mini knew full well that it was slightly hypocritical. After all, the kind of things that they did to have fun were technically against the law too, but that was kids’ stuff, child’s play. And more importantly, it didn’t affect other people. Nobody cared if they drank some vodka a year early or smoked a spliff. It was their prerogative. As teenagers, it was almost expected of them to experiment in such a way. Robberies, they had implications elsewhere. Innocent victims and the like. It was wrong.

Roughly, she grabbed Franky by the arm and pulled her into the quiet solitude of the toilets. It wasn’t the most pleasant place to talk, but at least Matty wouldn’t dare follow them. Mini was pleased that Franky had willingly come along with her; it made things easier. Then again, the girl was used to Mini doing things like this. If Mini McGuinness wanted something, then nine times out of ten, she got it. Besides, Franky probably knew full well that she still didn’t approve of Matty. He was a bad influence on her, lead her astray. Franky was special and all Matty seemed to want to do was corrupt her.

This foolish plan of theirs was evidence enough. Who the fuck thought it was a good idea to break into a police station, anyway?

“What the fuck?”

“Pardon?”

“You heard me.”

“I have no idea what you’re talking about,” Franky answered calmly, her eyes unblinking.

Mini didn’t let it distract her. Sometimes, she felt a little weak at the knees when Franky turned her steely gaze onto her. It wasn’t something she really understood and she always immediately brushed it aside, mostly because it made her feel so uncomfortable. Quickly, she shook her head to refocus, her blonde curls flying everywhere. Out of instinct, Mini tucked a strand back behind her ear before returning her gaze. Franky wasn’t going to get out of this one, she wouldn’t let her. There was no way Mini was going to let Matty win this round. He could be as reckless as he liked in his own time, but he wasn’t going to bring Franky down with him.

“What the fuck are you thinking?” she asked again, her temper rising as she did so. “Breaking into a police station? I didn’t think you were that fucking stupid.”

“Why not?”

“Why not? Why not? I could tell you a million reasons why not.”

“Go on.”

She ran a hand through her hair and started listing everything she could think of, no matter how trivial it appeared. Of course, as she expected, Franky rebuffed several of them, but Mini sensed that she was breaking down the resolve. She understood that Franky was angry, they all were. But they couldn’t expect miracles. Murders didn’t get solved in less than a week in real life. On television, maybe, but the real police officers didn’t have the likes of Detective Inspector Barnaby Edwards or Miss Marple working for them. They just had to be patient. Eventually, with the help of the American police, they should be able to find who was responsible. Then, they would be punished in due course. That was the way the world worked. Their interference would do nothing but make things worse. If anything, it could suggest that she and Matty were responsible and they were trying to destroy precious evidence. And if they did, they would end up in a shit-load of trouble. Franky did assure Mini that she had had absolutely nothing to do with it and Mini had believed her in a heartbeat. She couldn’t help it, she always did where Franky was concerned. They just wanted to try and do their own investigating and were getting sick of reading the same websites on Red John. Besides, it was looking increasingly likely that he had nothing to do with it.

When Franky eventually agreed to drop all this nonsense, she let out a huge sigh of relief. The only problem was, she couldn’t be one hundred percent sure whether or not Franky was actually telling the truth. The girl was prone to hiding her real feelings deep down, after all.

Sacramento, CA, USA, Tuesday, 12.12pm PST

“You wanted to see me, sir?”

It had been a mad dash through Sacramento from the CBI headquarters to Director Bertram’s offices. Still, she had made it just in time, even if she was a little stressed. Then again, when he had called to request a meeting, she had been in the middle of a briefing with Cho. He’d just arrived back from Redding, keen to update her on the Hayes case. Her second in command had sounded just as tense as she felt. Then again, he was fully in control of the case and their prime suspect had just slipped through his fingers, so it was entirely understandable. It was a situation that she had been in before many times herself and no doubt, would find herself in it again. Especially while she had Patrick Jane working underneath her. That man seemed to like to encourage suspects to go AWOL as part of some elaborate trap or another.

“Sit down, agent.”

Immediately she obliged and when he offered her a coffee, she tentatively accepted it. Normally, Lisbon wasn’t one to accept drinks while working as you never knew what other people would do to them. However, Bertram was the director of the CBI and the last thing she wanted to do was offend him. Besides, he wasn’t about to attempt to poison one of his underlings, unless he had some deep, dodgy secret that she knew nothing about. Something which she felt was highly unlikely; Lisbon had never been as suspicious of her superiors as Jane was. Anyway, he was clearly only trying to make her feel at ease as they waited for Madeleine Hightower to arrive. Lisbon’s senior had been busy briefing the Organised Crimes cowboys after their latest case had gone spectacularly wrong. It was only natural that she had to finish reprimanding them before joining the meeting with Bertram.

They sat in silence, both occasionally sipping their drinks. Small talk with Bertram was almost impossible. Lisbon didn’t have all that much common ground with him and usually wasn’t deemed important enough to deal directly with him. Most messages from him came via Hightower rather than meeting with him face to face. He only became intrinsically involved with the most important cases; those involving politicians, serial killers and the like. The ones that were the most high profile and therefore, of the most interest to the general public. She didn’t even need to ask to know why she was here. This was a briefing about the current Red John debacle.

However, all things considered, Lisbon was grateful. Usually, whenever Red John reared his ugly head, Jane completely lost it. He became virtually impossible to control and entirely single minded. She didn’t come into the equation and neither did the rest of the team. If there was the slightest of possibilities that Jane could exact his revenge, then they might as well have not existed. She stiffened slightly at the thought. It wasn’t going to come down to that. Red John would be apprehended by legal means and if, for whatever reason, she was unable to stop Jane, then she would arrest him. Their personal history didn’t matter; he wasn’t above the law. At least this time, he was relatively calm and composed, almost like normal. Then again, his assurance that Red John wasn’t involved put a different spin on it. It meant he could approach it as normal and do everything he could in order to try and keep hold of the Red John case. And even if it was Red John, which Lisbon didn’t believe in the slightest either, he was literally thousands of miles away. There was not much she or Jane could do.

“I apologise for my…”

“I understand, Madeleine,” Bertram interrupted as Hightower took a seat beside Lisbon. “You’re a busy lady.”

Lisbon hadn’t even noticed Hightower arrive. Then again, she had been so lost in her own thoughts, that it wasn’t surprising. However, she was grateful. It meant they could finally get this farce of a meeting started and then she could get back to her team. She had more than enough work to do without wasting time with Bertram.

“I need to know where we stand with the Red John case. Has there been any developments?”

“It isn’t a Red John case,” Lisbon answered quickly, keen to clarify the position.

“Isn’t it?” he enquired and Lisbon stared defiantly at him. “Have our British associates managed to apprehend the perpetrator, then?”

“Well… no,” she admitted, well aware that both Hightower and Bertram’s attention was focussed solely on her. “But…”

“But?” Bertram interrupted, before holding up a hand to stop her from answering. “It’s a Jane hunch, isn’t it?”

Lisbon nodded and remained silent. She watched as Bertram rose to his feet and strolled to his window to watch the traffic zooming by. He seemed altogether far too calm and collected, but it was his job to be.

“The Red John case is a coup for us, Agent Lisbon,” Bertram spoke, still staring outside. “You’re meant to be the best we have, isn’t that right, Madeleine?”

“Yes, sir,” Hightower stated impassively.

“We need to keep hold of this case,” he continued, “closing it will be hugely beneficial to the CBI. Losing it, to the FBI no less, makes us look like mere amateurs.”

“I know that, but…”

“But? Again with the ‘buts’,” he said with a sigh. “You’re not employed to make excuses, neither of you are. This British debacle needs sorting out and soon. You have forty eight hours before the case will officially be signed over to the FBI. Understood?”

Both Lisbon and Hightower murmured their acknowledgements before leaving as quickly as they could. Lisbon couldn’t help but feel tense. The Malone case was essentially out of her hands. They had remained in communication with the Avon and Somerset Constabulary as best they could, but there was only so much advice she could give them. It wasn’t as if she were physically capable of doing the legwork required to actually close the case. If she were, then she’d feel a lot more confident about keeping hold of it. As it was, it was out of her hands.

And she couldn’t stand that.

Part Seventeen

London, UK, Wednesday, 09.37am GMT

“How is it?”

The barber looked concerned and was biting her lip nervously. However, Rich was transfixed by his reflection. His hair hadn’t been this short since primary school. His mum had always wanted him to look neat and tidy for school and Kevin agreed. Really, they just wanted a line of supposedly cute school photographs to decorate the mantelpiece with. It was seemingly traditional for parents to do something like that, almost as some kind of sick shrine to their kids. As a consequence, it meant he always hated spending time in the living room of his own home. Then, as soon as he was able to, he grew his hair so long that he became virtually unrecognisable compared to those childhood pictures.

His hair had been his first act of defiance against Kevin. A symbol that dictated his determination to be different. To stand out from the crowd. Rich had never been a shrinking wallflower and didn’t care what other people thought about him. As far as he was concerned, it was their problem, not his. If they didn’t like it, they should grow the fuck up and accept that people were always going to be different. After all, his discovery of metal had not just been an interest in music, but a whole new way of life.

In a way, he should have been grateful to have the excuse to have it cut short. He’d had it trimmed and been turned into a dodgy Justin Bieber look-alike for his not-wedding to Grace. That had been a grave mistake and the first time he had sacrificed his long locks for what was seemingly the greater good. But he had wanted to look respectable for his wedding; it was something that was meant to only happen once, even if they didn’t go through with it in the end. Since then, he’d been letting it grow steadily, but the progress had been painfully slow. Recently, rather than having the lovely long hair which Grace had actually rather liked, he had merely resembled a shaggy dog. At least now it looked tidy and respectable once more.

And he looked significantly less like himself.

The police had issued a plea for information of his current location with regards to Liv’s death. Though they had not named him as a suspect, it was clear that that was what they thought. Otherwise, why would they have said it was so desperately urgent that he talked to them? His non-appearance at the police station last Friday made him look guilty as fuck. Or at least, involved somehow, which was technically true. That sudden reminder was what prompted him to get his hair chopped off; it was something he should have considered sooner, but for some reason he‘d just kept holding onto it. The hair was just yet another sacrifice in a long line which he’d made of late. One of the less painful ones, admittedly, but it didn’t stop it from being a mark of just how much things could change in such a short period of time.

“Yeah, it’s great.”

Roughly, he shoved a five pound note into the barber’s hand and made a swift exit. He wasn’t sure if the woman had believed him, but she was nice enough and her rates had been cheap. That was his main priority. Rich was growing increasingly aware that his pot of money was getting shallower by the day. It certainly wasn’t going to last forever, possibly not even as long as he’d initially suspected. He had, somewhat lamely, tried looking for jobs around the market places, or as a sign holder. Nobody really seemed to be particularly looking to employ a scruffy teen with no qualifications to speak of, not even for a job which required no particular skills. Rich knew that the jobs market was hard, but this was taking the fucking piss. Did you really need A Levels to stand on the corner of a street and hand out vouchers for Subway?

He drifted to the same internet café he had been using for the past few days. Again, it was mostly for the price rather than just how fast the broadband was. But that wasn’t the point. The point was, it meant he got a vague connection with back home. It meant he could check Twitter and Facebook to see how Grace and the others were doing. Every time he did so, he felt a stab of guilt for deserting her, which was the least he deserved. Rich knew full well that he was essentially torturing himself and clinging onto the past, but it was becoming a compulsion. He didn’t have anyone in London and by doing this, it reminded him that somebody in the world cared about him.

Even if it did make him feel like a complete and utter fucking arsehole at the same time. Everything he’d done of late had been shameful, detestable. He’d given Alo the wrong advice; they should have headed straight to the police. If he had done so, he’d have been able to get a lesser charge, manslaughter or something, as he never intended to kill. Then, he’d dragged a fucking serial killer into the fray and spent every day for over a week living in fear of being found either by the cops or by Red John. He’d deserted his girlfriend and his mates in their hour of need. To add insult to injury, he’d heard rumours of his own father being dragged in for question. And he’d missed out on the chance to say goodbye to Liv at her funeral.

His life was a mess and for the first time ever, Rich didn’t have any way to get out of it.

Sacramento, CA, USA, Wednesday, 01.12am PST

Rigsby was already curled up in the back seat when she climbed into the van. Cho gave Van Pelt a wan smile as he put the keys into the ignition and drove away in silence. He was the one who had received the anonymous call stating that Cera had been spotted heading towards Alturas, California. Evidently, he had decided to change tactics and head towards the California/Nevada state border in order to make his escape. Alturas was probably his last stop for the night before he attempted to make a break for it. Van Pelt knew that they had to make good time in order to intercept him in time. Still, it was early in the morning. Theoretically, they should be fine.

“Call Lisbon,” Cho stated, keeping his eyes firmly on the road ahead of him.

“What?”

Van Pelt hadn’t meant to question the orders of the superior agent, but she was tired and the words had just slipped out. Besides, Cho talking had actually taken her off guard. She had expected that the journey, which would last approximately five hours, would be mostly silent. Eventually, she would just fall asleep in the car and recharge her batteries before they ploughed into action in Alturas. Then again, it was hardly surprising she wasn’t thinking straight. When Cho had called her, she had been just drifting off to sleep, only to be rudely awaken by her piercing ring tone.

“Call her. She wants to be kept updated on the case.”

“Even at this time of night?”

“Yes.”

She shrugged and dug her cell phone out of her jacket pocket. Cho had been meeting up with Lisbon regularly to keep her connected with the case, but Van Pelt didn’t think she wanted or needed to know their every movement. Still, if that was what both she and Cho wanted, then that was what they would get. Besides, she had learned the hard way about the repercussions of defying the rules. Even though she was happy with O’Laughlin, there were still times when she regretted what had happened between herself and Rigsby. It had all been so avoidable and yet, because she simply hadn’t known any better, they had caused so much unnecessary heartbreak.

For a brief while, Van Pelt thought she wasn’t going to answer. That Lisbon had accidentally left her cell phone in the office or Jane had done something stupid to it or the like. After the fifth ring and what felt like forever, she eventually got an answer.

“Lisbon.”

Her boss’ voice sounded husky with sleep and Van Pelt cringed. In all honesty, she had expected that Lisbon would still be awake, poring over case files. After all, it often seemed like Lisbon didn’t actually have an off switch. She was always clued in, always working and never gave herself a break. Sooner or later, she would run herself into the ground and Van Pelt wished she could stop her before she did that. However, it wasn’t her place to say and besides, she sincerely doubted that Lisbon would take her advice anyway. Though she would vehemently deny it, Lisbon was cutting herself off from the team again, in favour of trying to focus on Jane. At least she had managed to introduce her to yoga a couple of years ago, though. That had had to have improved the senior agent’s stress levels, if only marginally. Van Pelt quickly glanced at the clock, realising that was something she should probably have done before hitting speed-dial. Or maybe not, it was pretty early in the morning. No wonder she sounded so groggy.

“I’m sorry for waking you,” she muttered honestly.

Sometimes, it got a little irritating still making such silly faux pas after working with the CBI for so long. Van Pelt had honestly thought that by now, she would have grown out of making such silly mistakes, but clearly not. Quickly she fought to bury the guilt bubbling in her stomach. After all, Lisbon had no qualms about ringing her in the dead of the night if a case came up. She was merely returning the compliment. And besides, Cho had actually been the one instructing her to do this, so she wasn’t entirely at fault.

“It’s fine, I’m awake,” Lisbon answered back, somewhat bitterly. “What do you want?”

“We’ve had some more information on Cera’s location,” she answered hurriedly. “We’re attempting to intercept him at Alturas before he crosses the state border.”

“Is that all?”

“Yes, I’m sorry-”

“Cho asked you to call, didn’t he?” Lisbon interrupted, keen to keep the call short.

“Yes.”

“Tell Cho not to take my instructions quite so literally next time, okay?” Lisbon stated, still sounding as shattered as she did when she first answered the phone. “This kind of thing can wait until morning.”

“Yes, boss,” Van Pelt answered, feeling relieved. “Good night.”

Bristol, UK, Wednesday, 10.23am GMT

There was a clock on the wall opposite him.

Alo had found himself drawn to it, watching as the second hand ticked slowly and steadily around and around. It was almost hypnotising in a way. It also signified the passage of time, just how long he’d been incarcerated.

He’d been in this hellhole for just over twelve hours, apparently. That was, if he hadn’t randomly lost a day or something. Alo couldn’t be sure of that. After all, from the moment he’d been taped to this chair, he had been knocked unconscious.

Still, at least he was alone. For now.

Impatiently, he wriggled at his bonds, trying desperately to loosen his wrists or his feet or anything. Unfortunately, it didn’t look like anything was happening. Which was fucking shit, considering he was desperate for a slash and of course, he really needed to get out of this mess.

After all, he knew his captor was armed. He’d seen the gun already. It was the first he’d set eyes on since… Since the one he’d used during the incident. For the past week or so, he’d actively avoided going anywhere near firearms, despite his dad asking him to go and shoot the rabbits which had moved back into the upper field. He just didn’t want to touch one, to feel the weight of a deadly weapon in his palms so soon afterwards. This was the first time he’d ever experienced that around guns. Having been brought up on a farm had kind of lead to his desensitisation of them. It was almost as if he’d forgotten that they had any other purpose than disposing of unwanted vermin.

Alo choked back a sob. He wasn’t normally one for crying, but he couldn’t help it. Then again, he wasn’t just scared, he was fucking terrified. Who knew when his kidnapper would return and if he would still be armed? Would anyone notice he’d gone missing before then? Or would his rescuers arrive, a few minutes too late, only to see his corpse pooling blood on the floor? Would anybody actually notice he’d gone missing at all? Rich wasn’t around anymore, something that was partially his own fault, and he’d been the only one who’d ever seemed to care.

How could he have been so naïve? For the past week or so, he’d been living in a dream world, pretending that everything was normal. Liv’s death was just something that had happened, like it was almost always going to. It was just a coincidence that he’d pulled that fucking trigger and been aiming in the wrong direction. How could he have even thought that everything would go back to normal after something like that? Realistically, he should have realised that sooner or later, the web of lies would have become untangled. That the police would have come knocking at his door, with a warrant for his arrest. That he would be trialled and imprisoned for murder. And he’d have pulled Rich down with him, for perverting the course of justice or whatever the fuck it was called.

The door clicked open and Alo froze. Eventually, the man appeared once more. This time, he wasn’t armed with the gun, but a small penknife. It was rather similar to his one, the one that Rich had apparently thrown in the harbour. Rather contradictorily, that felt like it happened a lifetime ago already. He was also wearing rubber gloves, like the pair Rich carried around with him in case of emergency washing up dilemmas. At that moment, Alo didn’t know whether or not he wanted to laugh or cry.

“Do you know who I am?”

Alo shook his head frantically. How the fuck was he meant to know? He wasn’t a fucking mind reader. As far as he was concerned, he was just a strange man who had cornered him during Liv’s wake. Then, out of nowhere and for no apparent reason, said man had pulled a gun on him and dragged him to this dilapidated shit hole. After that, things got a little hazy. That was unsurprising, given he couldn’t even remember being tied to a chair, never mind anything else.

The man laughed and smiled ever so slightly. With a predator-like expression written across his features, he closed the gap between himself and Alo. Crouching down, he pulled the sleeve of Alo’s shirt roughly up before making a neat incision into Alo’s forearm. Alo yelped at the sudden stabbing pain, unable to take his eyes off of his bleeding arm. He watched warily as his attacker dipped his fingers into the wound before striding across to the wall opposite him. Slowly and careful, the man drew a rounded face, finishing off with the eyes and grotesque smile. Alo saw his own blood slowly dripping down, to finish the effect and couldn’t help but shudder.

“Now do you realise?”

He nodded once, still shaking like a leaf. Of course he knew.

Part Eighteen

Alturas, CA, USA, Wednesday, 05.59am PST

Cho knew that theoretically, this sting should be easy.

However, just because it should be, it didn’t mean it would be. He’d learned that time and time again, mostly thanks to a certain Patrick Jane. Thankfully, Jane wasn’t with them; he was still far more preoccupied with bothering Lisbon with something that was mostly out of her control. At least it mean that he couldn’t ruin their plans though. Mostly because Jane came up with schemes of his own. Even after years of working in conjunction with the unit, he still didn’t seem convinced that they were trained professionals who could actually do their own jobs without his interference.

That didn’t mean it would necessarily go as planned though. As with any operation such as this, all manner of things could go wrong. They just didn’t have Jane to nudge it in whichever direction he thought most appropriate. It was mostly Cera’s free will which would dictate the way things went.

He was still grateful that they had arrived in Alturas early enough. As they were driving up there, Cho had half suspected that Cera would get on the move as early as feasibly possible. After all, the man knew that he had cops after him from all directions. However, he had also been running for a couple of days now and fatigue was probably wearing in. Cera had probably counted on the distance between Sacramento and Alturas holding them up and therefore, risked sleeping in a little later than he ordinarily would have. When they had spoken to the receptionist, she had been surprisingly compliant, especially once she realised that they were involved in a murder investigation. Everything they needed to know had been offered freely on a plate, mostly because the poor girl was horrified that the motel was harbouring a known fugitive and she hadn‘t realised. She was obviously new to the establishment; most women in her position usually wouldn’t have given it a second thought.

It hadn’t taken the three of them long to work out a plan of action. It would have been easier if they had the full team available to them, but it simply wasn’t an option. Cho had situated himself outside. Cera’s room had a balcony, with a plausible escape route. Rigsby was manning the entrance while Van Pelt was in charge of disturbing the man, along with one of the porters. Opportunities like that didn’t come around for her as often as she would have liked and where Cho was apprehensive, she was keen to prove her worth. Even after several years working with the team, she was still prone to the occasional mistake and therefore, judged accordingly.

“Okay, go.”

Van Pelt acknowledged Cho’s instruction immediately. She knocked on the door with three sharp taps and waited half a second.

“CBI, open up!” she called, but as she expected, nobody responded.

She craned to listen and could hear a rustle of footsteps. Instinctively, she knew that Cera was checking the balcony and would spot Cho. Then, he would realise he had to choose between either jumping down and being cornered by Cho or facing herself. After another couple of seconds, she nodded at the porter, indicating that she wished him to use the master key to unlock the door.

The second it was open, she felt a sudden blow to the head. Her vision swam and vaguely, she noticed the porter hide in the room that had just been vacated. Hoarsely, she muttered down her microphone that she had been injured before sliding down the wall and sitting there for a while. Van Pelt knew she was in no fit state to make chase; she could hardly tell left from right. She could only hope that Rigsby would prevent Cera’s escape.

The moment he heard the call in his earpiece, Rigsby flew up the flight of stairs as fast as his legs could carry him. Swiftly, he intercepted Cera, who was running in the opposite direction. Probably more roughly than he should have done so, he pinned their suspect against the wall before cuffing him. He couldn’t help it; he was furious. The man had injured Van Pelt. Rigsby prided himself with the fact that he could protect the people he cared about and because of this bastard, he felt like he’d failed. Not that it would have made all that much difference if he’d been standing beside her. Then again, if he had been, he could have received the injury instead, which would have been far preferable in his opinion.

Quickly, he handed the man over to Cho’s care and didn’t even stop to explain where he was going. Rigsby didn’t need to; it was obvious that Van Pelt needed tending to and that Rigsby was the one who wanted to do it. It didn’t take him long to join her, in exactly the same spot he’d seen her while arresting Cera.

He let out a sigh of relief when he realised her injury didn’t look serious, but that didn’t stop him from enveloping her in a bone-crushing hug. Rigsby needed the comfort almost as much as she did.

London, UK, Wednesday, 02.37pm GMT

As had become routine, he’d spent most of the morning just wandering around London. It was getting a little dull; there was only so many times you could visit Covent Garden in a week without growing bored of it. As busy as London was, it never seemed to change. There were the same buskers along the tube, playing the same songs rather badly. The same street performer outside the tube station, making the visitors jump with the use of supposedly sudden movements. The same people handing out various vouchers and leaflets to the masses. Rich stopped to have a quick chat with one, but he said nothing of consequence. He liked that man and they had spoken several times in the past few days. Dave had promised to try and get him a job handing out leaflets for one of the discount show ticket booths, but hadn’t been successful yet.

With a sigh, he headed down now-familiar streets and straight towards the internet café once more. Rich didn’t care that he had already visited that morning, but he was bored. Besides, he’d forgotten to check online for cash in hand jobs. Advertisements for them weren’t that common, but if he didn’t try every avenue, he‘d never find a legitimate source of income. Besides, it was beginning to spit with rain and the last thing he wanted to do was get soaked to the bone because of a downpour. He’d already spent far too much money in the launderette and he hadn’t even been in London for a week. He knew that he needed to be as economical as possible if he was going to survive here until Dave managed to come through for him.

Rich paid up and sat at his usual computer. It was the one situated near the back, facing the wall. It was dark there and felt more secluded than any of the others, which was what he liked. When the waitress, Stephanie, came by, he smiled at her and ordered a tap water. When she frowned slightly, he added a slice of chocolate cake to the order. Not because he had the money for it, but because she was making him feel guilty about spending the bare minimum whilst using their services. Besides, guilt was something he’d recently felt enough of to last a lifetime of late. As he waited for both his cake and the computer to boot up, he drummed his fingers impatiently against the desk. It wasn’t as if he were in any particular rush but still. He was used to a lightening fast service at home and in comparison, this was painfully slow.

Eventually, both services were supplied and Rich had soon tried but failed to look for a job. He hadn’t expected to find anything, so it wasn’t a massive disappointment. And it killed time, which was more of the priority in this case. Eventually, he drifted back onto Twitter, having nothing else to do. Nothing of particular interest was happening; Alo hadn’t tweeted for a while and he was obsessed with the site. Still, he wrote that off as a result of everything that had happened. He certainly felt even less like sharing his innermost thoughts at this moment in time, so Alo was probably feeling exactly the same way. Grace hadn’t been online all day either and part of him wished she had been. Then again, even if she had, he wouldn’t have been able to bring himself to talk to her. That would have just been torturing himself.

In the short time he’d been browsing the micro-blogging website, three messages popped up, but only one caught his eyes, which simply said ‘check your dms’. It was from somebody called rh1854 and Rich didn’t recognise that username. Then again, he had a lot of followers and it wasn’t always possible to keep up with them all. Furiously, he replied with ‘who are you?’ and waited impatiently for a reply. When the words ‘doesn’t matter’ appeared on his screen, he frowned slightly and took a bite of cake.

For a couple of minutes, he toyed with the idea of just ignoring the messages. He told himself it was just a dummy account, somebody trying to catch his attention and infect a virus onto his computer. Eventually, curiosity got the better of him and he obeyed the instruction. There were just two messages, one from Alo and another from the same user who had just tweeted him. Automatically he read Alo’s first; his mate often sent him amusing jokes over the website. Then again, it could equally have been him telling him to stop being so bloody stupid and come home.

He certainly didn’t expect: shit, fuck, he's got Grace, Rich. Red John has her, I saw the fucking smiley face. You need to come home! He might fucking kill her!

Rich attempted to hide the look of horror on his face, but he knew that Stephanie at least noticed. When she came over to ask if he was okay, he smiled weakly and asked for a coffee. Realistically, he needed something stronger and maybe a fag or two, but coffee would do for now. He needed to find out more. Alo wouldn’t joke about something like this, would he? There was only one thing for it: he had to go back. It could easily have been a hoax and somebody could have hacked into Alo‘s account to play a sick joke. But unless he went home, he would never know for certain. Rich knew he wouldn’t be able to live with that.

Before switching it off, he glanced over the second message. All it contained was a short address. He decided that as soon as he got home, he would check it out. Maybe this mysterious rh1854 would be there, maybe he knew something. He could even be the guy who attempted to attack Alo and Grace, triggering all of this. And if he was, then it would be of some sort of help.

Wouldn’t it?

Sacramento, CA, USA, Wednesday, 09.12am PST

Jane sat on the couch, staring at Lisbon. She was typing away furiously, though at what he didn’t know. Nor did he care. It was something which seemed to take up the bulk of her time whenever they were at the CBI headquarters. While waiting for O’Laughlin to arrive, she had decided to start tackling the backlog of various reports and the like that had amalgamated on her desk. He wished that he could wave some kind of magic wand, to reset the status quo. That there was something they could actually do in order to make sure they kept the Red John case. If they lost it, well, what reason would he have to stay with the CBI? Lisbon knew that the main reason he stuck around was simply to gain access to the private case files regarding Red John. Everything else was just a diversion. Closing other cases was fulfilling, in a way, but it was still a distraction from his ulterior motive. The sooner Red John was six feet under, the sooner everybody could breathe a little easier.

That’s not to say he hadn’t grown fond of the team, and some members more so than others. However, he also knew that friendships (or anything more, for that matter) were dangerous. Kristina Frye’s breakdown was evidence enough of that. With Red John potentially looming to strike at any given moment, he was scared. Scared that the serial killer would take away yet another person he cared about. Yes, their jobs were dangerous, that was nothing new to him or them, but maintaining any kind of relationship with him was even more so. Red John’s vendetta against him was all too apparent; the serial killer had slaughtered an entire team, just to ensure that he remained working on the case. What would happen to the FBI if they were to take it over? Jane didn’t even want to hazard a guess at the potential risks of it. Red John was only one man, but sometimes he seemed so much more than that.

Then there was the whole O’Laughlin debacle. Jane had expected him to be more focussed on the case in hand, but instead, he kept disappearing with cell phone, to make calls. He picked arguments, brought up pointless details and seemed to be hiding something. What, he wasn’t sure, but it was something to investigate. In a way, Jane hoped not and that he was just misreading O‘Laughlin because of the stress of the situation. Van Pelt deserved a little luck where her love-life was concerned and she seemed very fond of him. Not as fond as she had been of Rigsby, mind, but happy enough to date the man. Then again, maybe O’Laughlin simply wanted the Red John case to slip into the FBI’s possession. It was often famed as being the ‘career-maker’ and therefore, any agent worth their grain of salt wanted to give it a shot.

“Where’s O’Laughlin?” he eventually asked, “he’s late.”

“I don’t know, Jane,” Lisbon said with a heavy sigh. “I’m busy.”

“We’re meant to be working the-”

“I know,” she snapped, interrupting him as she did so. “In the meantime, can’t you find something useful to do?”

“He should be here. This is important and he’s hiding something.”

Lisbon stopped working for a second, laced her fingers together and regarded Jane with her inquisitive green eyes.

“What makes you say that?”

“I don’t know, it’s just… he doesn’t seem to care. There’s something in his eyes…”

They fell into silence, albeit briefly. Both of them knew that Jane had hit on something, but neither really wanted to go down that pathway. On the outside, O’Laughlin appeared to be a genuine guy and he had to be a good cop, considering what he had already achieved with the FBI. It was just that half of his behaviour seemed like such a contradiction. Then there was the fact he had mentioned the Salinger Mill incident. At the time, nobody outside of the CBI should have known about that and Lisbon still wasn’t entirely convinced that Van Pelt would have told him.

“Look, I’m not particularly fond of his work ethic either, but there’s nothing we can do until this is sorted, okay?” Lisbon eventually said, unable to bear it any longer.

“You’re right, I didn’t mean to…” he started before drifting off. “Would you like a coffee?”

“Yes, Jane,” she answered, albeit distracted. She had already returned to focussing on her work.


Parts 19-21 Here

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November 2011

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