scarlet

Another First


 

 

Sacramento

November, 2001

***

Agent Lisbon gestured with the folder. “So don’t let him push you around. I know this is a pain in the ass, but he called the boss and there’s nothing we can do about it.”

“Yes, ma’am.”

“And don’t take all day. If it looks like it’s a bust, just come on back. We’ve got plenty of open cases that need our attention.” She shook her head, then muttered, “Yahoo,” under her breath.

Cho nodded and repeated, “Yes, ma’am.” He waited, but she was done.

So, he stood up and was almost to the door when she called out, “Agent Cho?”

She was writing something on a notepad and didn't glance up. “Yes, ma’am?”

“Stop calling me ‘ma’am.’ It’s ‘Lisbon’ or even ‘Agent Lisbon.’ Anything but ‘ma’am.’”

Cho paused, then said with an invisible smile, “Yes, ma’am.”

She looked up. An answering smile, tiny but there, bent her lips. She jerked her head, ‘go.’ He left.

***

He’d been to a television studio before. Once as a rookie on a double homicide and a long time ago when he was a kid. He’d visited the local news station to accept an award for most runs earned in a season of little league. He’d been so star struck that it was only afterwards on the ride back home with the certificate in his hands, that he’d realized he was disappointed. The place had basically been a warehouse, undecorated except where it would show on camera. The sets had been made of plywood and the furniture was cheap and flimsy.

This, though, was a lot fancier—a large, sleek building with a front office that was surrounded by three-story-high windows. Even the receptionist was glossy—dark hair, white dress, and a smile that said she had to be making low fifties. He walked up to the desk and flashed his credentials. “Agent Cho to see Mr. Patrick Jane.”

She smiled falsely, barely glancing at his badge. “You’re late.”

He just stood there. If she thought he was going to apologize for the long drive and heavy traffic, she had another thing coming.

After a minute she said, “Mr. Jane is already on the set.”

As if he cared about that, and again, after a moment, she gave in with a grudging, “I’ll get someone to take you to him.”

He nodded.

She tapped her headset and said something sotto voce, then actually looked at him. “Someone will be here shortly. You can wait over there.” She pointed to one of the overstuffed chairs by the windows.

“Thank you. I’m fine here.”

“It might be a while.”

He crossed his arms. “I’m fine here.”

She gave him a dark look and turned away, pointedly ignoring him.

His wait was actually under forty-six seconds. A kid, maybe late teens, jogged in from the left corridor, covered with technical gear—three pagers, a headset, a clipboard, and a large key ring with so many keys that he jangled. He saw Cho and switched his route, grinning as he ran.

His grin, though, was only for the receptionist. He leaned on the countertop and said, mostly to the girl, “You’re from the CBI? Hey, Marissa. Did you see the show this morning?”

The girl unbent enough to turn around. “I missed it.”

“That’s too bad ‘cause it was great. You should—”

“I’m here to see Mr. Jane,” Cho said firmly. He recognized a crush when he saw it—they’d be here all day if he didn’t interrupt. “Where is he?”

The kid stopped grinning. “Oh, yeah. This way.” He jerked his thumb to the right then said to the receptionist, “See you later.”

“By, sweetie.”

The kid turned red, but kept going, going so fast that Cho had to stride to keep up.

They hurried down one long hallway that was lined with doors until they got to a set of tall, double doors at the end. The kid peeked in, then waved Cho to follow.

It was a studio. With a stage on the left that was filled with living room furniture—sofas, a coffee table, and a window with a view of the city—fake, of course, because Coit Tower was suddenly west of the city.

The place was humming with low-level noise, not only from the production crew and equipment, but also from the audience, already sitting on the risers. Cho grabbed the kid by the sleeve. “Wait. I can’t talk to him here.”

“It’s the only place. They’re taping in thirteen minutes. He’s down there talking to Jennie.” He pointed to the stage—Cho couldn’t see anything. “C’mon.”

Cho tightened his lips, but followed anyway—around a big camera then a potted plant, making sure to avoid the power cords that snaked everywhere.

“Mr. Jane,” the kid called out to a man with his back to them. “I’ve got someone here to see you.” He turned and said, already walking away, “Can you find your way out?”

Cho nodded without looking. The man—Lisbon’s ‘yahoo’—was talking to a brunette, gesturing with his right hand as if he were conducting an orchestra—whatever he was saying was making her fidget with her hair and blush. Great, a charmer. “Yes.”

“You’ve only got twelve minutes. Don’t make us late—Andy will scream and you don’t want that.”

Cho ignored him because right then Mr. Jane turned. And smiled.

He was very good looking. A face made for television with his slicked-back fair hair, his shiny smile and shinier silk suit. He was also older than he appeared from the back—maybe in his late thirties or early forties.

Cho cleared his throat. “Mr. Jane?”

The man came forward. “My friends call me Jane. Like the girl.”

His voice was as pleasant as his features and had a slight twang that Cho couldn’t place. “Okay.”

Jane smiled again, an odd, strangely intimate smile, and held out his hand. They shook. His handshake was firm, his palm warm and dry.

“Thank you for meeting me here, Agent Cho.”

“I’m told we don’t have much time.”

“Right. Down to business it is. Here—” He touched Cho’s elbow, guiding him gently off to the side where two stools stood. “Please. Sit.”

Cho sat and folded his hands together. He hated being touched by strangers. “What’s this about?”

Jane sat as well, mimicking his pose and he wondered if it was by accident or intent.

“Well?”

Jane cleared his throat, then said, “I was watching the news on Channel 4 the other night. About the I-5 Killer.”

Cho sighed silently. Everybody had been talking about it—weeks ago. “Eric Carmichael admitted to the crimes. He’s waiting final arraignment in L.A.”

Jane waved his words away. “Yes, I know all that, but he didn’t do it.”

“He didn’t?”

“No, he didn’t. It was his wife.”

He snorted—he couldn’t help it. “Cathy Carmichael? Killed all those people?”

“Yes, she did. All seven of them.”

“And how do you know this?”

“Her sister told me.”

Cho frowned. “Her sister?”

“Yes, Elaine Paulson.”

“Elaine Paulson is dead. She was the I-5’s first victim.” It wasn’t his case, but everyone in West Coast law enforcement knew the details, it was that serious.

“Yes, she was.”

He clenched his jaw. He drove an hour and a half for this. When he could be working on other cases, preventing crime or punishing criminals. “Mr. Jane—”

Jane touched Cho’s knee—his fingernails were gleaming and neatly trimmed. “It’s ‘Jane.’ Please.”

“Jane,” Cho ground out, “I’m busy. This isn’t helping any.” And don’t touch me again.

Jane raised one eyebrow—perfectly, of course—and said, “How is it not helping?”

“We’ve already got the killer.”

“No, you don’t.”

“Yes, we—”

Jane held up his hand. “Just talk to Lisa Reynolds.”

“Who’s Lisa Reynolds?”

“She’s the personal assistant of the Carmichael’s lawyer. Elaine says Lisa Reynolds was having an affair with Carmichael and Cathy found out. She’d already killed her sister by then and four other people, but decided to frame her husband for the entire thing.”

“Why did she kill her sister?”

“Donald and Elizabeth Paulson were very, very rich, and they left all their money to their two children.”

“Don’t tell me—their daughters, Cathy and Elaine.”

“You got it.”

“So she was killing two birds with one stone?”

“Yes.”

“And killed six people to hide the motive behind the first murder?”

Jane grinned. “Bingo.”

Cho ignored the grin, ignored the way it made him feel. “Why didn’t Lisa Reynolds come forward with this information?”

“Fear, guilt—the usual.”

“Your ghost isn’t very convenient. The state has spent a lot of money on Carmichael’s trial.”

His voice was laced with sarcasm, but Jane didn’t seem to mind. In fact, his smile just got bigger. “I told you, the—”

It was Cho’s turn to interrupt. “Yeah. I heard you the first time.” He sighed and looked around. The hosts, the woman from before and a man wearing an ugly sky blue suit, were staring at them. He turned back. “You’ve got to get over there.”

Jane shrugged. “They can wait.”

Cho sighed. “Mr. Jane—”

“Listen.” Jane leaned in and somehow Cho found himself leaning forward as well. This close, Jane’s breath smelled like peppermint. “Just contact Lisa Reynolds. I promise you won’t be disappointed.” He cocked his head. “Please?”

It was the soft ‘please’ that did it, though Cho only admitted it later, when he had time to think. He nodded slowly. “All right. But if you’re wrong, my boss will come down on you hard for wasting the CBI’s resources.”

“He sounds like a good man.”

“He’s a she and she is.”

“Here.” Suddenly, like a magician, Jane was holding a slip of paper between two fingers. Cho took it. It was a simple white business card with the words, Patrick Jane, Psychic Consultant and a phone number in pale gray raised lettering. Below that, in neat script, was another phone number.

“Will you call me when you’ve talked to Reynolds?”

“If she’s got any useful information, yes, I’ll call.”

“Good.” Jane stood up. “Jennie’s about to combust. Better go.” He straightened his tie and cast a sidelong look Cho’s way. “How do Ilook?”

Cho stared because, really?

Jane grinned again, boyishly charming, and touched him for the third time, this time on his shoulder and was gone before Cho could think to say, ‘stop touching me,’ or, ‘whatever you do to people won’t work on me.’

***

He didn’t stay for the show. He snuck out, back the way he came. Down the hall, out into the lobby. He waved to the receptionist, just to piss her off, then got out his cell and left.

Lisbon picked up just as he reached his car. “What happened?”

Her voice was fuzzy and small over the bad connection. “He says the LAPD got the wrong man in the I-5 case.”

“You’re kidding?”

He unlocked the car and got in. “Nope.”

“You told him that case is closed, right?”

“I did. He told me he’s got an informer who knows the identity of the real killer.”

“And that person is?”

“The killer or the person with the information?”

“Both.”

He put on his sunglasses. He and Lisbon had only been working together for a week and he didn’t know her well. But well enough to know that she expected quality work from her subordinates. And that she didn’t have much of a sense of humor.

“Agent Cho?” she asked when he took too long to answer.

“Yeah, okay. You’re not going to believe this, but he says that the killer is Carmichael’s wife and—”

“Cathy? Cathy Carmichael is the I-5 Killer.”

Her disbelief was palpable and he said a silent, ‘shit.’ “Yes.”

“I met her. She’s shorter than me. And she’s afraid of guns.”

“I know, boss, but that’s what he says.”

“How did he get this information?”

“This is the part you’re really not going to believe.” And then, before she could jump on him again, “Jane says it was her sister—Cathy Carmichael’s dead sister—that told him where to find the proof.”

“You’re kidding?” she asked again.

“No.”

“Okay, I’ll bite. What’s the proof?”

“The dead sister says the Carmichael’s assistant, someone named Lisa Reynolds, has information that would interest us.”

“Damnit.”

“What do you want me to do?”

“Tell Mr. Jane he’s a crazy yahoo, and come on home.” She hesitated then said more quietly, “No, then I’ll get a call from the A.G. and the you-know-what will hit the fan.” She sighed heavily—he could hear it, even over the bad line. “Okay. Call Reynolds. See what she says. If the information pans out, bring her in so I can talk to her. If it looks like it’s gonna take a few hours, make sure you find a hotel. I don’t want you driving back late tonight.”

“Will do.” He hung up and took out Jane’s card again. Stroking the lettering, he began punching numbers.

***

He closed the door with this foot, locked it, then looked around. As hotel rooms went, it wasn’t too bad—a bed, a desk, a bathroom. He’d been in worse.

He took off his jacket and hung it up, then toed off his shoes. He should call room service because he was hungry and he was never was able to sleep when he was hungry. But he was also very tired, and that was an easier, more immediate fix.

So he fell on the bed and stretched out. What a day. What a very, very long day.

That wasn’t over yet and he got his cell out and opened it up, thumb poised over the menu button. It was after ten but Lisbon told him to call, no matter what time. He’d already left a message earlier to let her know the status of the re-opened case—he’d told her he’d call again, so he should really do it.

But somehow he found himself digging through his wallet for Patrick Jane’s business card. And somehow he found himself dialing quickly, barely looking at the elegant numbers because somehow he’d already memorized them.

The phone was answered on the third ring. “Yes?”

“Mr. Jane?”

“Yes?”

There was noise in the background, people laughing, music blaring. “I’m sorry, is this a bad time?”

“That depends. Who is this?”

Idiot. Like he would know who you are. “Cho. Agent Cho. From earlier—”

“Oh, yes, Agent Cho. I’m sorry. Hold on.” There was pause, then the noise shut off abruptly and Jane came back on. “That’s better. Now I can hear you. I take it you have news?”

Cho wanted to mutter a biting, 'hasn’t the sister already told you?’ because he was almost embarrassed from his minor faux pas, and he was never, ever embarrassed. “Yes.”

“And that is?”

“Elaine Paulson was right. Lisa Reynolds confirmed that she’d been having an affair with Eric Carmichael. I hunted down Cathy Carmichael. When I confronted her, she fell apart and admitted she was the I-5 killer. Then she tried to grab my gun to kill herself.” He shouldn’t have informed a citizen of police business, but somehow he couldn’t help himself.

“Wow.”

Cho smiled up at the ceiling and agreed, “Yeah, ‘wow.’”

“Do these investigations always go so smooth?”

Cho snorted. “No, hardly ever.”

“Then you must be good at what you do.”

His voice was warm and smooth like honey and Cho wanted to say, ‘you must be too,’ even though it didn’t make sense. Even though there was no reason. Instead, he loosened his tie and unbuttoned his collar. “I’m sorry to have interrupted your party.”

“No, it’s okay. My wife had a good day at work and we’re celebrating with a few friends.”

Wife. “Oh.” He hadn’t noticed a ring. Which was a stupid mistake, and completely unlike him.

“Are you still in town? Why don’t you come—”

“No,” he said quickly. “That’s okay. I’ve got to work on the case.” Liar.

“No rest for the wicked?”

“Something like that.” And then, because the conversation was winding down and he hated long pauses, he muttered, “I’ll call if anything else comes up. Thank you for your assistance.”

Jane hesitated, then said, just as soft, “My pleasure.”

“Goodbye.” He hung up and lay there for a time, just staring at the ceiling. Then, because being pissed off and gloomy over nothing wasn’t his style, he sat up and dialed Lisbon’s number, already thinking about the report he was going to write.

***

The next day he returned to Sacramento and wrapped up the already-wrapped-up case. He told Lisbon about his conversation with Jane, leaving out most of it. Even with the little he related, she was intrigued.

But not enough to actually invite him to the office to meet him, which suited Cho just fine and he put away the business card just as he put away Jane’s face, his honey voice.

He soon found himself on other cases, other criminals, and didn’t run into Patrick Jane until two years later when a second young woman turned up with her throat slit, her toenails painted with her own blood, and a smiley face on the wall above her bed.



fin.

~~~~~~~~~~~~

Story notes:
Patrick Jane/Kimball Cho
The Mentalist
2,800+ words
Episodes referenced: None, really -- just tiny bits from the first season
Most characters belong to people and organizations that are not me.