tromana: (skins: grace pensive)
[personal profile] tromana
Previous parts: 1-3, 4-6, 7-9, 10-12, 13-15, 16-18


Part Nineteen

Bristol, UK, Wednesday, 07.39pm GMT

Life took some very strange turns, Nick decided.

Relatively recently, his whole life had been thrown into disarray. Truth be told, Nick hadn’t been genuinely happy for a long while. Had been beginning to see the cracks in his father’s bullshit life-coaching. Things like that were hard to deal with; coping with the fact that everything he’d been practically spoon-fed was utter crap wasn’t easy. It had meant he needed to seriously reassess everything and work out where to go next. Everything was only just beginning to come back together now and he was even considering playing rugby again soon. Contrary to what he’d believed when he’d quit, he did actually enjoy the sport and was missing it. It would do him good to play again.

Then again, things had gone all weird again lately. Liv’s death had shocked everyone. Rich had disappeared off the face of the planet, which had surprised them all, considering he‘d never seemed particularly close to her. Matty was barely talking, unsurprising, given his on/off relationship with Liv and even he’d shed a tear or two. In fact, only Alo had really been acting anything remotely close to normalcy. Nick appreciated that; it made it feel like there was still something anchoring them to reality. That it was physically possible for the gang to get over losing one of them.

He’d wanted to take a leaf out of Alo’s book, to go out tonight, but nobody else had really cared. Then again, it had only been a day since they’d said goodbye to Liv. It wasn’t really surprising that no one particularly cared for drinking or recklessness. Funerals had a habit of reminding people of their own mortality and therefore, making them feel less like taking risks for a while. However, Nick had got to the stage where he needed to let off steam, remind himself that life could be fun again. Everybody was so sad and justifiably so. But still, what was the point in putting their own lives on hold because of something they couldn’t change?

There was nothing happening in town, so Nick simply wandered. Something interesting was bound to happen sooner or later, it always did in Bristol. He sat for a while and watched people passing by. Everyone was hurrying, as if it was so urgent that they got to wherever they were going as quickly as possible. If they stopped for a while, took the time to breathe, then maybe they wouldn’t have been a little stressed. Then, life would probably be all the more pleasant for everyone. It was something he’d learned recently. Since he’d stopped stressing out over what his dad thought of him, what the whole world thought of him, he had been a lot happier. In fact, he was coming to the conclusion that life could be pretty fucking awesome if you didn’t let things drag you down.

It was then that he spotted Rich. Or at least, he thought he spotted Rich, heading towards the harbour. His hair was different, shorter and he was wearing a decent shirt, rather than the depressing black numbers he usually opted for. For an hour or so, he dithered. He wasn’t entirely sure it was Rich. It could have just been his desire to see a familiar face making him hallucinate. But then, if it was, he ought to tell Grace. The poor girl was tearing herself apart over Rich’s disappearance. Apparently, the bastard hadn’t even bothered to tell her he was leaving. That was pretty sick, but then again, he was ashamed of some of the things he’d done to the ladies too, so Nick knew he shouldn’t judge.

Eventually, he made his mind up. Grace deserved to know his suspicions. She was a sweet girl and didn’t deserve to be hurt like this, not after losing one of her best mates. It took him a while to find her house, but eventually he succeeded. Blood took some convincing to see his daughter, but eventually he acquiesced, especially when Nick casually mentioned that he had news about Grace’s apparent waste of a boyfriend.

“Hey, Grace, I think I just saw…” he stated as soon as she appeared on the doorstep, looking all puffy eyed and depressed.

Grace didn’t even let him finish off his sentence. Instead, she handed him her mobile phone, shaking. There was a tweet from Rich on the screen. He furrowed his brow as he read it.

@Psychonaut93: I can’t do this anymore, I’m sorry.

“What do I do?” she whispered.

“He was heading towards the harbour,” Nick answered quickly. “C’mon, we might find something there.”

Sacramento, CA, USA, Wednesday, 01.11pm PST

It felt like it took them a lifetime to get back to the CBI headquarters. Rigsby had spent the majority of the return journey splitting his time between watching their suspect and observing Van Pelt anxiously. She had received some very speedy treatment from a paramedic in Alturas, but Rigsby wasn’t convinced that that was enough. Any blow to the head had to be taken seriously, even if it was only with something as light as a book. Besides, the bible wasn‘t exactly a light book, what with the hardback covers and all those pages. Really, she was lucky that she hadn’t been knocked out cold. Maybe if she hadn’t been quite so tired this morning, her reflexes would have been up to scratch and Cera would haven’t been able to hit her at all.

On the plus side, it meant that the man would definitely be charged with assaulting a police officer and resisting arrest, at the very least. Whether or not a murder charge would be added to that list was yet to be seen. The irrational side of him believed that Cera deserved it. He attempted to fight against it, to remind himself that the man was innocent until proven guilty. Just because he had gone on the run and attacked Van Pelt, it didn’t automatically make him a murderer. He could have been scared, believed that somebody else was setting him up. Until they got a confession, or proof that somebody else had been responsible for the Hayes murder, they couldn’t assume one way or another.

In a way, it was a blessed relief to be back in Sacramento. Cho was going to be in charge of the interrogation; all he had to do was wait for the forensics guys to finally get back with the results from the knife fingerprinting and to make a start on his paperwork. Theoretically, it meant that the rest of the day should be nice and easy for him, but he didn’t want to say anything. He always had a habit of sticking the boot in too early and then things always seemed to end up more complicated than they should be.

Quickly, he dispelled all thoughts and headed towards the kitchenette. The least he deserved right now was a nice coffee, or one which was hot and wet, at the very least. While there, he also grabbed two yoghurts. Normally, he would only take the one; on too many occasions, he’d been caught by Lisbon taking more than his fair share. However, he was hungry, had forgotten his lunch and couldn’t leave the office until they received the forensics information. He needed some sort of sustenance to make him last until well, whenever he could go and get something decent to eat.

“So you’re fine then?” O’Laughlin stated impassively and Rigsby frowned as he continued to listen in.

“Yes, Craig,” Van Pelt answered earnestly, barely noticing his lack of interest. “But I feel terrible. I shouldn’t be making mistakes like this, I’ve been with the team-”

“Look, we’re very busy, Grace,” he interrupted and Rigsby’s frown deepened. “We’re close to making a major breakthrough, so I need to get back to Lisbon and Jane.”

“Oh… okay then. Should we go out for dinner later?”

“Yeah, maybe.”

Rigsby was thoroughly unimpressed. Were he in O’Laughlin’s shoes, he would have let Van Pelt get all of her worries out in one go. It never did her any good to bottle things up; she was the kind of person who needed people to listen to her problems. Besides, he knew there hadn’t been any major breakthroughs with regards to the case in the UK. Lisbon had told him as much when he told her that they had apprehended Cera and Van Pelt had been injured. He’d heard Van Pelt trying to call O’Laughlin on the entire journey back from Alturas. Watched as she repeatedly checked for any text messages from the man, to no avail. Seen the disappointment flitter in her eyes each time O’Laughlin had ignored her. And now, this. Rigsby wasn’t one to judge, but he couldn’t help but feel a little angry. Van Pelt was obviously in need of some comfort and her boyfriend was just brushing her aside, like a mild irritant. It wasn’t every day that you got injured in a sting; just because it was a minor injury, it didn’t mean it hurt any less.

He sat back down at his desk and stared at the form in front of him, thoroughly annoyed. Rigsby wished there was something he could do to help Van Pelt. But in reality, there wasn’t. He couldn’t listen to her, like a good friend would. They had been trying the whole friendship thing, really they had, but it wasn’t going well. All he could think about was just how much he loved and missed her. It hurt him to know that he should still be grateful to have her presence in his life at all, when all he wanted was something more. And now, he was seeing her being continually disappointed by the one man who was meant to truly care about her. As he picked up his pen, he decided that O’Laughlin had better make it up to her; it was the least she deserved. He couldn’t get involved though, it wasn’t his place to say. What he really had to do was put it out of his mind and think about work again.

Bristol, UK, Wednesday, 09.11pm GMT

Rich Hardbeck had arrived a couple of hours ago, just as he expected he would. For a while, Red John kept the two young men in separate rooms. He wanted to get to the bottom of what had happened, what they’d done and why, before disposing of them. Young Aloysius had sang like a canary, but Rich was proving a tougher nut to crack. Eventually, he had admitted to following his ‘career’ for some time, something he found almost humbling. It was just a shame that these kids always seemed to take things too far. There was only ever going to be one Red John and sooner, rather than later, he was going to disappear into obscurity.

Killing was getting boring. Patrick Jane’s vendetta was equally dull. He was missing huge expanses of his young daughter’s life and something had to disappear from his busy schedule. His job, his real career was a source of income. Murder was just something he did as a hobby. It was only natural that that was going to be one of the first things he sacrificed.

“Write it.”

The boy looked back up at him with bleary eyes. Already, Red John knew that it was such a waste of a life. But really, people had to learn. These kids had threatened to ruin everything and naturally, he had to come in and pick up the pieces. He now knew that they were both as guilty as each other; just because Aloysius had pulled the trigger, it didn’t mean that Richard wasn’t inexplicably embroiled in the sorry state of affairs. Red John repeated the words and Rich continued glaring at him. He clearly already knew exactly who he was and why he was doing this.

“Fucking Yanks,” Rich spat with disgust.

Rich was bright, he never for a second believed that this had been some kind of vendetta based on his lifestyle choices, which could have been a plausible motive to single him out from the crowd. The fact he was a metal head and seemed to be attempting to fry his brain with a toxic mix of beer, drugs and songs with no discernable melody meant he had more detractors than fans. Simplifying his personality down to his taste in music was an underestimation, however. People were always so much more complicated than they looked on the outside and that was what fascinated Red John about them. There was something so delicious about the moment when the penny dropped, when they realised that resistance was futile. That they were most likely going to die. But Rich had already sped way past that emotional state, he was trying to resist once more, trying to fight back.

However, like most cynical and jaded British teenagers, it was clear that he believed that ‘stupid fucking Americans’ thought they ruled the world. That the only thing that made a difference between the man in front of him and other US citizens was the fact he was wearing leather gloves and holding a knife in his hands.

That he was Red John. The serial killer that he had been fascinated by for years.

Frantically, Richard jerked his right leg and Red John watched with amusement. All he succeeded in doing was shifting the chair barely half an inch. Like Alo, he had taped him to it. Really, Rich should have expected that at the very least. When his mind eventually caught up with his body, he realised a pen had been roughly shoved in his right hand. That Red John wanted him to write a confession. To admit that Alo had accidentally killed Liv and he’d helped cover it up. And that he and Rich had decided to commit suicide together, simply because they couldn’t handle the grief of everything they had done together.

It was ironic. Neither of them needed to die. If Rich hadn’t made the fatal mistake of drawing the smiley face on the children’s jungle gym in the park, then he wouldn’t have been here at all. The worst that either of them would have been facing was imprisonment, for a relatively short period of time.

Instead, things had turned out so much worse, for the pair of them.

“You fucking bastard,” Rich spat furiously. “You think you can fucking tell me what to do, you cunt? Why the fuck should I write this bullshit letter of yours?”

“Really?” Red John interrupted, with the faintest hint of amusement in his voice. “And you kiss your own mother with that mouth? I should cut your tongue out.”

“I’d like to see you try. Fucking Yank.”

Red John remained silent as Rich reconsidered what he had just said.

“Well. If I wasn’t tied down to this stupid fucking chair, you steaming pile of-”

“Enough. I suggest you write down what I tell you word for word. We both know how this is going to end. And no subliminal messages or changing it as you see fit. Otherwise, you’re just going to be prolonging the inevitable.”

The knife moved steadily towards Rich’s neck and it was only when a few pearls of blood broke through the skin that he acquiesced. Red John was relieved; he had wondered if the teen would take into account that there was no point in misbehaving because sooner or later, he was going to die. As soon as he was finished, still quivering with fear, Red John snatched the paper away and read through it, satisfied. Then, he dropped it to the floor and smiled slightly, before walking away.

“Where the fuck are you going now?” Rich yelled and Red John didn’t even stop to listen. “Hey, I’m talking to you, you bastard!”

Five minutes later, he returned, with Alo. He was already sobbing frantically and it took Rich a couple of seconds to realise that the knife blade was now being held to Alo’s neck. Then, he noticed that with Red John’s assistance, Alo had a gun firmly held in his grip. The serial killer was never going to treat them the same way as he did his older victims. That would have just defied the whole objective of flying over here. Instead, he knew exactly what he needed to do.

He guided Alo’s right hand upwards, until Rich was staring down the barrel of the gun.

“Oh fuck, don’t make me do this, please don’t make me…” Alo whimpered, having clicked what was happening.

Red John applied a little pressure to Alo’s finger and thus, the trigger.

The bullet whistled through the air at lightening speed and with accurate precision, directly into the centre of Rich’s forehead. Immediately, the boy slumped over, dead.

Alo’s leg buckled in shock and the boy continued sobbing. However, Red John didn’t wait for a second. Instead, he manoeuvred Alo’s arm so that the barrel was pointing directly at his temple. Once again, he fired the shot and the second of his two victims had died instantaneously. There was no chance that he was going to survive.

With a deep intake of breath, Red John briefly felt for his two latest victims. But they had it coming, it needed to be done. It could have ruined everything he had been working for in the past couple of years. Besides, there was still things he needed to do.

Like wash down the wall and remove that smiley face. And reorganise the bodies, so it definitely looked like a suicide pact, for a start.

Part Twenty

Sacramento, CA, USA, Wednesday, 01.31pm PST

Antony Cera sat in the interrogation room, exuding an air of confidence. He seemed completely nonplussed by the charges he’d already received. Cho was irritated by that; sometimes, he wished that suspects would take their situation more seriously. He also didn’t seem to have even an ounce of remorse for the injury he’d inflicted on poor Van Pelt. She would be fine within a couple of days or so, but Cho knew that shock was beginning to hit in. There was also the simple fact that he’d spent days running instead of simply talking to them. Really, he had painted a terrible picture for himself from the start. If he had wanted to even look innocent from the offset, it would have been far better for him to behave as his colleagues had done.

Just five minutes earlier, Rigsby had come running up to him with said evidence. Normally, forensics reacted a lot faster, but thanks to the complications with Organised Crimes, had ended up with a back-log. That meant their analysis had been pushed behind. It was a shame, because if it hadn’t, they would have been able to look to arrest Cera sooner. His fingerprints had already been in the database because he had committed the odd petty crime before, theft and the like. Clearly had very little regard for the law. Even if they didn’t have the fingerprinting evidence, Cho would have still been convinced of Cera’s guilt anyway. They had enough to charge him with, but to make the case airtight, Cho needed a confession. Besides, he was intrigued. He wanted to hear what the man’s motive was from Cera himself.

He sat down opposite the man and opened the manila case file. Cera smiled benignly back in response. Cho knew that the sooner this was over and done with, the better. He just wanted to get Cera transferred out of CBI custody and into jail as soon as possible now.

Half of him suspected that Cera would claim self-defence. They often did, even if the medical evidence was groundless. Reports from the medical examiner had already stated that Hayes hadn’t been able to fight back when he’d been killed. That he had a high percentage of sleeping medication in his bloodstream. He’d been drugged and then stabbed to death. There was absolutely no way he had been a risk to anybody in that state. Even if he hadn’t been brutally murdered, the amount of drugs in his system would have prevented him from attending both the rehearsal and the first performance of The 39 Steps at Merced Theatre.

“Why did you run?” Cho started, not bothering with leading up to the key questions.

“Wouldn’t you if you had cops running after you?”

“Innocent men don’t run.”

“Don’t they?”

“No.”

“Well maybe, this one did.”

“Or maybe, you’re lying through your teeth in order to try and get out of a sticky situation,” Cho supplied innocuously. “Because that’s what this is, isn’t it? A sticky situation. And how many of them have you wriggled out of before?”

Cera shrugged, laced his fingers together and rested the back of his head on his hands. Clearly, he was trying to make sure that he appeared as relaxed as possible. That this was nothing, that he could make a murder charge simply disappear if he wanted to.

“I think I may need my lawyer.”

“He’s on his way,” Cho answered smoothly. “But why not make this easier on yourself?”

“On you, you mean,” Cera corrected him. “If I just confess, that means you get to sign your little forms and get a pat on the back from your boss man, doesn’t it?”

“Oh my boss already knows the outcome of this case. Like me, she just wants to know why you did it.”

“She?”

“Yes. Do you have a problem with that?”

“No, why would I? I bet she’s a demon in the-”

“So, what was your relationship with Miranda Hayes?”

Cera leaned forward, regarding Cho. He’d had plenty of time alone to prepare for this. While alone, he could run through plenty of scenarios and had worked out how to deal with most, if not every one he expected. Cho knew that the trick was to catch him out. He’d done this so many times before, that it was second nature.

“We were friends.”

“The kind of friends that sleep together?”

“You could say that.”

“What was her husband like?”

“Her husband was a bastard,” he spat out. “He didn’t appreciate her the way she should be appreciated.”

“How did he react when he found out you’d been having a sexual relationship with her?”

“Oh he was mad, alright,” Cera answered, almost smugly. “Threatened to kill me.”

“And you got scared?”

“Nah, why would I get scared? He may look pretty on stage, but he’s a lightweight off of it,” he answered back, keeping his eyes firmly focused on Cho. “No way he could fend off a knife, half asleep.”

“I didn’t mention anything about the murder weapon.”

The man clamped his mouth shut when he realised that he had said too much. Cera had spent so long pent up, unable to talk about how much he loathed Hayes, how jealous he was of his successes and the fact he had a beautiful wife. A man whom he felt infinitely inferior to, especially due to the love and adulation he received from adoring fans. Cho was satisfied. He had got the confession he wanted and now, everything made perfect sense. It was always good to get a win and there was nothing more satisfying than closing a case the traditional way.

Bristol, UK, Wednesday, 11.11pm GMT

They remained silent as they headed towards the harbour. Neither Grace nor Nick knew what to say to one another. Then again, Grace considered as they walked steadily onwards, they didn’t really know each other. It was merely through association. For a while, all he had been to her was her best friend’s boyfriend. They got along well enough, but as for really knowing and understanding each other, that was a whole other ball game. In fact, both of the Levan brothers remained a little bit of a mystery to her; it was something she mentally noted to rectify. After all, it was impossible to say when something would happen to any of them. Liv’s death was evidence enough of that. If she didn’t take the chance to get to know them and soon, she may never have the chance to do so at all.

It didn’t take them too long to locate the address that Grace had been given. The warehouse looked strangely imposing and Grace couldn’t help but wonder why Rich would ever come down here. It wasn’t the kind of place he would normally head towards; if he ever needed some time alone, he liked to disappear to the record shop, or alternatively, a gig in some small pub or bar. Automatically, Nick reached out to give Grace’s shoulder a reassuring squeeze. When she flinched, he pulled away, realising that he was probably going a step too far. She was in a committed relationship and had been for a while, everyone knew that. The fact that she and Rich had seriously considered marriage and almost gone through with it spoke volumes. The last thing she needed right now was the thought that somebody else, someone who was meant to be a friend, was trying things on with her. Even though she desperately wanted the comfort, Grace just couldn’t seem to accept it. Not from Nick, anyway. He’d become too well established as being a bit of a player.

“Hey, hey. It’ll be fine,” Nick said, noticing the tears at the corners of her eyes. “This is just a hoax. Open the door and we’ll soon be back on easy street, I know it.”

“Yes, you’re right,” Grace answered, smiling weakly. “I’m just being silly. Rich has never thought… like that before. Somebody must have just hacked into his account.”

“Exactly,” he continued, emboldened by the sudden conversation. “He probably just needed a breather; it’s been a crazy week.”

Realising that Nick was speaking sense, she placed her hand on the handle, closed her eyes and opened it. The room they were exposed to was dark and more importantly, empty. Wrapping her arms tightly around herself, Grace took a step inside and was relieved that Nick immediately followed her. It was cold inside, with a fresh breeze running throughout. Grace shuddered slightly. The silence was almost deafening; the only sound filling the small room was that of her footsteps and Nick’s just behind. Soon, he drifted off, into one of the side rooms and she headed further into the depths of the warehouse.

“Rich,” she called tentatively, to no avail. “Rich, are you here?”

“Nothing in here, Grace,” Nick shouted at her and she jumped in response.

Nick fell silent once more and Grace continued to look through room after room. The place was like a TARDIS; just when she thought there would be no more rooms, she found another. She didn’t mind the wandering though, it felt like it was more productive than just sitting at home, doing nothing. Even if it had been a simple hoax, at least it got her out of the house and made her stop thinking about the fact that Rich had just disappeared on her with no explanation. It was always better for her to be doing something to take her mind off things like that. As she approached a door, Nick did the same and startled her. They had lost sight of each other a good five minutes ago and she had almost forgotten that he had accompanied her to the warehouse at all.

“Shit, Nick, you scared me.”

“You don’t want to go in there.”

“But…”

“No, really, you don’t.”

“Why not?”

“Look, just take my word for it, okay? Let’s just go…”

Rolling her eyes, Grace elbowed him out of the way. Ominously, the door swung open. The room was harshly lit and she had to squint at the sudden influx of light. When her eyes focussed, she immediately saw exactly what Nick was trying to protect her from. The two prone bodies of Alo and Rich lay stock still. Pools of congealing blood beside them, with a handgun lying between their two bodies. Covering her mouth, Grace fled from the scene, trying desperately not to throw up. Never in a million years was this how she imagined things would end between them.

And, more importantly, what the fuck could have driven Rich and Alo to doing such a thing?

Sacramento, CA, USA, Wednesday, 03.12pm PST

“So, how exactly would the FBI approach the Red John case?” Jane asked, leaning back in his chair as he did so.

“Jane…” Lisbon spoke, with a warning tone.

O’Laughlin glanced at Lisbon and like Jane, immediately noted her obvious discomfort at the question. Then again, they were running out of things to discuss. There was only so many times they could cover old ground without feeling like they were just running around in circles. He had already suspected that Lisbon’s tether was beginning to run short. Then again, Van Pelt had repeatedly told him that she wasn’t the most patient of people in the first place. It would be good to talk about something new rather than things that were out of their hands. Besides, it took his mind off of Red John and how he was doing in England. The last thing he wanted to do was slip up in front of Patrick Jane and Teresa Lisbon. He’d already come far too close to doing so on several occasions already, something which he was kicking himself for. Lisbon had already implied that she did not entirely trust him and if she was getting suspicious, that meant Jane certainly would be as well.

“I don’t mind, Teresa,” O’Laughlin answered, with a slight smile. “He has every right to ask. After all, Red John is his case.”

“Actually, it’s mine,” she responded stiffly, irritated by the fact that not only had he ignored protocol, but as with so many people, he had forgotten the fact she was the lead agent, not Jane.

He sighed. O’Laughlin always knew that it was going to be a long day, but Lisbon was seemingly in a particularly foul mood. Then again, it had been a stressful week for her and Bertram’s added pressure was only making things worse. They were all painfully aware of the clock ticking downwards. That the amount of time they had to sort out this debacle was running short. Despite how he was having to act, none of them wanted the Red John case to be passed to FBI hands. The main difference was that he wanted it to stay in CBI hands for arguably morally abhorrent reasons. But that, of course, depended upon how the situation was viewed. All Red John wanted to do was to disappear from media scrutiny to spend time with his family. He simply believed he owed Patrick Jane an explanation before he did so. Just because he was a serial killer, it didn’t mean he was utterly soulless. He just had a different way of viewing the world.

“If you really must know…”

There was the sharp buzz of a cell phone. Immediately, O’Laughlin held up a single finger and glanced at the screen. He felt a wave of relief come over his body when he recognised the name; it was about time. Quietly, he excused himself from the room, he made a concerted effort to ensure he did not catch the eyes of Jane or Lisbon. They didn’t need any more ammunition. If he wasn’t careful, they would soon start asking more uncomfortable questions. As he answered the call, he could vaguely hear the pair of them bickering behind the closed door of Lisbon’s office. It never took them long and it was little wonder people referred to them as the old, married couple of the CBI. But still, that wasn’t his concern. The man on the other end of the line was.

“It’s done.”

“What is? You have to tell me…”

“I can’t tell you anymore, you know that,” Red John answered smoothly. “Be expecting a call from your colleagues in Bristol soon.”

“And that will happen before our deadline? Before Thursday afternoon?”

“I expect so.”

The call ended almost as suddenly as it began and somewhat stunned, he headed towards the kitchenette. He would have preferred a cigarette, but a coffee would have to do in the meantime. O’Laughlin stalled as much as feasibly possible; he really didn’t want to head back into World War Three, even though he had finally had the update he craved from Red John. Knowing that it would be over soon was going to make the next few hours all the more tortuous. He could only hope that the telephone call he was now eagerly expecting would happen soon. Then, he could happily return to the FBI while monitoring the CBI via Grace Van Pelt. This situation had made dealing with principally Van Pelt seem so much easier, even if the girl was woefully naïve considering how long she had already been a cop for. Still, it was all good news. Red John had cleared up the blip that had got in their way and soon, he would be able to meet Jane face to face once more. Then, they would both be able to return to their day jobs without a second thought. Life would be simple once more.

Eventually, he made the short walk back to Lisbon’s office. For some reason, it felt shorter than before, most likely because he especially didn’t want to return. Jane gave him an appraising look as the door swung open. O’Laughlin couldn’t help but think that Jane was reading his every thought, even if the concept was utterly ludicrous.

Part Twenty One

Bristol, UK, Thursday, 12.21am GMT

She’d tried to look at the note lying between Rich and Alo immediately. Grace wanted, needed, to know exactly what it said. She was desperate for any kind of explanation for what she had just discovered. Needed something just to try and make sense of it all. However, Nick had immediately stopped her. He had said something about disturbing the evidence or crap like that. Of course, he was right. The last thing that they wanted to do was compromise whatever the police found. Just because it looked like a suicide pact, it didn’t mean it actually was.

However, when she finally found out what that damn note had said, she’d wished that she hadn’t known. The fact that Alo and Rich had supposedly ‘accidentally’ killed Liv was just impossible to comprehend. Why the fuck would they do something like that? What had driven them to messing around with dangerous weapons? Why did it have to drive them to suicide? Rich had acted a little oddly after Liv’s death, but Alo had been almost like his normal self and she had simply accepted that he was grieving like the rest of them were. It seemed like there were no forewarnings whatsoever that something like this was about to happen imminently. Really, it all felt like some kind of sick scene from a crime show. One where they find the dead bodies of innocent teenagers and it looks like a suicide, but eventually some genius works out that it’s not. Except it wasn’t something on the television, or in a play, or in a film. It was real life. And from where she was standing, it looked very much like Rich and Alo had taken their own lives. Even if they hadn’t, there wasn’t some miracle man hiding in the shadows to unravel the web of lies. Said web of lies probably didn’t even exist; it was simply her clutching at straws, unable to comprehend her deceased boyfriend’s guilt.

Grace pulled the blanket tighter around her shoulders and stared up at the night sky. The stars twinkled back at her as Nick sat down beside her. He smiled slightly and wrapped an arm around her. Tentatively, she leaned her head on his shoulder, more willing to accept the gesture of comfort than she had been earlier. She needed him now; all the hopes she’d once had had just been brutally destroyed in the blink of an eye.

“How did all this happen?” she asked.

“Dunno. It seems… wrong,” Nick answered, unaware that the question had been entirely rhetorical.

Seconds later, a gurney was wheeled out. On top of it was a body bag. She didn’t know if it was Rich or Alo and quite frankly, Grace didn’t care. All she wanted was to rewind time, to go back to when everything was easy. When it hadn’t been fucked up by something as stupid as death. When her friends were alive and she felt like there was some kind of point to life. Sooner or later, she knew she would feel better about it all. Or at least, it would stop feeling quite so painful to address. However, that didn’t make the present any easier to deal with. And the forthcoming days were only going to get even harder.

“What are you looking at?”

Nick glared at a short man with glasses, who appeared to be looking at them. There were moments when people just wanted to be left alone and this was most certainly one of them. They both knew that the police hadn’t finished asking questions, that this was just a quiet reprieve from the insanity. Come morning, they would be expected to return to the station to ask a load more. He dreaded to imagine what exactly they would have to answer, but he hoped that there wouldn’t be anything too incriminating. Grace didn’t deserve that. She had lost one of her best friends and her boyfriend in such a short period of time. It was little wonder that she had reacted the way she had. People had been known to completely lose it over far less.

“I’m sorry,” he answered, with a slight American accent. “Could you tell me where the rail station is?”

Balked, Nick quickly answered him. Grace remained beside him, still shivering. He wasn’t entirely sure whether or not it was because of the cold or if she had gone into a state of shock. Whichever, it didn’t matter. Though he didn’t know Grace all that well, Nick was determined to make sure that she got through this okay. She was a sweet girl and deserved that. After all, they were all hurting. Or at least, would be, once the news had spread.

“What happened here?” the man asked, intrigued, as the second body bag was removed from the warehouse.

“None of your fucking business, that’s what,” Nick snapped in response.

The man simply shrugged in response and hauled his backpack back onto his shoulders. Neither of them knew who he was, nor did they care. If they had realised that it was Red John, making sure that his plan had worked to perfection, then maybe they would have felt a little differently.

Sacramento, CA, USA, Wednesday, 07.32pm PST

Lisbon was relieved. Of course she was. Firstly, Cho had managed to neatly close the Hayes case, receive a commendation for his efforts and talk Amalia Ford out of suing Jane for all he was worth in the process. Van Pelt was going to be fine, after forty eight hours leave to convalesce from her head injury. And then, there was her debacle. It amazed her that things had come together at all; that the Malone case had somehow been closed. If those kids hadn’t gone wandering into the warehouse, then who knew how long the bodies of those responsible would have stayed there, slowly decaying? What if the Avon and Somerset Constabulary hadn’t finally had a witness come forward? They would have lost the case to the FBI, despite the fact it was blindingly obvious that Red John had no involvement whatsoever. But they would have had to sacrifice it, simply to look like they were doing something to try and catch the criminal mastermind. And Jane, he would have gone completely off the rails. Lisbon wasn’t quite sure how she would have managed to deal with that. Controlling Patrick Jane was a trial at the best of times, without any additional stresses. Especially so whenever there was a threat to the Red John case. He was unsurprisingly possessive of it, more so than she was, and for good reason.

Still, at least it hadn’t come to that. And now, they knew the full story, or as much as they were ever going to know. How the three kids had played a game of Russian Roulette, just for fun. That they hadn’t realised that the gun was loaded. That Richard Hardbeck had written a confession note, in accordance to the suicide pact. Aloysius Creevey had been the one to fire the shots that ended not only Olivia’s life, but his and Richard’s too. It was depressing, even more so than the majority of their cases. All they had been after was a cheap thrill and instead, it had ended with the loss of three young lives.

“So, that’s it then?” Jane stated.

“Yes,” Lisbon answered, knowing full well the question had been rhetorical. “But at least we still have the case, right? That the English case was proven to be a copycat killer. And just in time too…”

“Too many people died though,” he mused.

Automatically, he grabbed one of her stress relievers and threw it at her chessboard. The pieces flew everywhere, but Jane needed the release. He was relieved that Red John hadn’t gone international, the very thought that he could had horrified him. But still, hearing about teenagers killing each other was something that unsettled him. It went beyond the hazards of the job description; it was simply horrifying. And to make matters worse, there was nothing that could have been done to prevent it, even if he had been in the same country as them. Jane understood what it was like to be consumed by grief and rage, to the extent of feeling suicidal. If somebody really wanted to take their own life, there was little that could be done to stop it.

“Jane!”

“What?”

“Do you really think that kind of behaviour is appropriate for the workplace?”

“I don’t know. Isn‘t it?” he asked, with the sole intention of winding her up.

“You know it isn‘t and should know better,” Lisbon responded, before adding, “though sometimes, I do wonder…”

After letting her sentence die in the air, she shook her head and stalked out of her office. Neither of them wanted to discuss the case any further and they both needed to shake it out of their system in their own way. After all, they had worked with one another for far too long to even briefly think otherwise. Jane smirked and laid back down on her couch, easing himself into the soft material. Investing in the new piece of furniture had certainly been a wise decision. Lisbon seemed simply relieved that Red John hadn’t become an international mastermind criminal. That the case was still theirs. Then again, she was still convinced that he, Patrick Jane, would eventually hand Red John over to CBI custody willingly. Sometimes she was terribly naïve for one so cynical.

This case was still troubling him, though. Something about it didn’t quite add up. If Aloysius had been the one to shoot Olivia Malone, why had Rich been driven to suicide too? He had too much to live for and his young girlfriend had been obviously besotted with him. So, why would an innocent boy happily write a confession like that before allowing his best friend to shoot him in the forehead? Had it been his idea to play Russian Roulette? What about the Red John connotations, had that been Rich’s planning in order to try and get Alo out of the murder charge? Had Red John found out about the supposed copycat and decided to take matters into his own hands, as he had done so before?

Jane shook his head. Sometimes, it was for the best that even he didn’t stir things up. If he did, then the CBI would definitely lose jurisdiction over Red John and Lisbon would start getting all worried about him. She was very exhausting whenever she ended up like that, even if she did have his best interests at heart.

Maybe next time he saw Red John, he could ask him? Because it was going to happen, sooner or later. He was sure of it. And when it did, the bastard was going to be sorry that he ever lived. Then die a slow, painful death, just the way his wife and child did.

In the mean time, those poor kids had simply been added to the long list of people that Patrick Jane wished to avenge.

Bristol, UK, Thursday, 11.21am GMT

Mini, Franky and Matty were told the news of Alo’s and Rich’s deaths in almost the same manner as they had found out about Liv’s. However, instead of Professor Blood barging into the common room, it had been a classroom. And instead of being told they were going to be interrogated about their connections, they were informed it was a suicide. They were offered time off college, counselling, crap like that. Not that any of it made a difference at that moment in time. How would it? It didn’t bring Liv, Alo and Rich back. Didn’t change the fact that the gang had been decimated, figuratively speaking. Nor did it prevent the immense feeling of loss that each of them felt, one way or another.

Naturally, they took the time off. Not just because they were teenagers and would willingly accept days where they were free to do nothing, but because they genuinely needed it. Dealing with Liv’s death alone was one thing; having another two stacked on top of it was another altogether. Franky was surprised that Blood had been so generous; he wasn’t famed for being sensitive about his students’ feelings. Even his daughter hadn’t been able to get away with very much at all in the past. He was all about the college’s ratings, to hell with how the young people he dealt with actually felt. Then again, even he couldn’t ignore these repercussions, especially with them coming so close to home for him. Literally.

They hadn’t seen Grace, not yet. Franky dreaded to imagine just how she would be dealing with this. Mini was struggling to comprehend the losses; Franky could read her like an open book. Then again, she needed her friends more than ever and for two to die so senselessly and so close to one another, it was hardly surprising she was shell-shocked. Realistically, she suspected they all were. It was just that she was able to deal with the feelings better. However, her life had been a train wreck, so Franky was used to people letting her down one way or another. It was something she expected and therefore, this was nothing new to her.

In a way, she knew they should be grateful that Rich, Alo and Liv hadn’t dragged them into their sordid games. Alo should have known better than to point a gun at anyone, loaded or otherwise. If it had been all of them playing the game, the magnitude of the fallout could have been far greater. Equally, it could have been so much less too. If all of them had been present, it would have been inevitable that one of them would have told the police the truth. Grace, probably. Then, one of them would have been imprisoned and the rest of them would have been free to live the rest of their lives.

They convened at the Fishpond Tavern. It was always their first port of call if they needed to talk. For some reason, the dingy pub managed to be the suitable venue for celebrations, mourning and everything in between. As Matty lead Mini to a seat, Franky ordered their drinks. It felt strange; like three drinks were missing off of their regular order. It was something that she would have to get used to, sooner or later. It wasn’t as if this was just a fractured friendship or a couple breaking up. It was so much more permanent than that. They would never hear a snide remark from Rich, or a daft comment from Alo again. Nor would they hear Liv’s dulcet tones; something none of them had really had a chance to comprehend before this latest blow.

When Grace arrived, guided by Nick, she looked just as shocked as Franky imagined. Wordlessly, she handed them both drinks and both nodded in gratitude. Now was not the time to talk, that would come later. Instead, they just wanted to sit in silence and grieve. They had the answers they had craved for with regards to Liv’s death, but they had been the worst explanations possible. Even if she had been randomly hacked to death by a stranger, it would have been easier for them to deal with. Instead, they had to come to terms with the lies and deception on top of the deaths. That was something that would be easier said than done.

However, they would get over it, eventually. They had to. There was no shame in feeling sad, angry and in grieving. It was a natural part of the process, it was only human to feel in such a way. It would take time for those feelings to pass, for them to accept them and be able to move on.

That was all that would be needed.

Time.

end
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November 2011

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