Lisbon could only imagine the frozen, stunned look on Lenny's face. The long beat of silence almost spoke for itself.
As soon as the owner found his tongue, he began backpedaling immediately. "I…what? Who are you? What are you doing back here?"
"Lost a button," Jane said, holding up his arm. Lisbon could see that there was, indeed, a button missing from his ragged jacket cuff. "Did I just hear you right? You said someone promised you this woman wouldn't get hurt?"
"No, no – you misunderstood. I promised Grace she would be safe working here tonight. I told her this was a safe neighborhood. That's all you heard…"
"Nice try," Jane told him. "But you're a terrible liar. And, from the sound of it, a murderer, too."
"That's insane – I would never hurt Grace."
"Maybe not," Jane said, "but the man you hired to rob your store wasn't so careful, was he?"
"I never hired anyone. I had nothing to do with this…"
"Well, if we can't agree, then I guess we should leave it up to the police to decide," Jane replied cheerfully. "Shall I call them in and tell them what I just heard?" He took a deep breath and raised his voice. "Officer?" He got a little louder, almost yelling. "Offic-!"
"Shhhhhh!" Lenny hissed. "All right, all right. Just – what do you want?"
"Hmmmmm…" Jane tapped a finger to his chin, pretending to think it over. "I'll take half the insurance payout, plus your watch."
"You can't have half," Lenny whispered angrily. "No way."
"Are you really in a position to bargain? Once the police start looking into you as a serious suspect, the trail won't be hard to find. The price for my silence is low compared to a lifetime in prison for felony murder, don't you think?"
"Fine," Lenny snapped. "Half the insurance money, plus my watch, and you keep your mouth shut."
"Just one quick question: If you were so anxious to protect this woman, why not hire someone you actually trusted?" Jane asked curiously.
"I did trust Kenneth. I trusted him with my life." Lenny sounded disgusted. Something metal clinked against the floor. "Here, take this and get out. You can come back next week for the money, but I'm done answering your questions."
"That's all right," Jane said pleasantly. "I think I have all I need." He raised his voice again. "Cho, is that all we need?!"
Agent Cho brushed past Lisbon and strode into the room. "It's enough," he said quietly.
"What the hell is this?" Lenny protested.
Lisbon poked her head into the refrigeration room in time to see Cho holding his badge up for Lenny to see. "Agent Cho, FBI. You're under arrest for conspiracy to commit armed robbery, insurance fraud and assault."
Lenny's shocked eyes quickly turned murderous as they fell on Jane. "You little bastard! You set me up!"
"Now you know how I feel," Grace said coldly, opening her eyes and sitting up. Then she winced and rubbed the back of her neck. "Ooh, stiff…"
Every last drop of color drained from Lenny's face. Lisbon had worked in the medical field for almost a decade, and she'd never seen anyone turn so white so fast. She took a step closer, just in case the guy actually fainted.
"Grace…" he mumbled feebly. "You're alive…"
"No thanks to you," the redhead replied, accepting Rigsby's hand as he hurried over to help her up.
"But…I…" Lenny was at a loss for words, and Cho took the opportunity to handcuff him, read him his rights and march him out into the hallway.
Lisbon and the others followed, exchanging triumphant grins. Jane happily admired his new gold watch, while Rigsby told Grace how great her performance was.
"My nose was itching the whole time," Grace laughed.
They emerged into the main store a smiling, chattering group, buzzed on the high of a successful operation. Even Cho looked pleased, although for him a pleased expression and a grim one weren't all that far apart. For Lisbon, it was like the rush after stitching up a spurting artery – seeing the patient stabilize, knowing she'd done her part to save a life. Or, in this case, solve a crime.
The best moment, however, was the look on Enrique's face when he saw Grace: The purple gum fell right out of his mouth. He immediately ran over and threw his arms around Grace in the mother of all bear hugs, exclaiming,
"¡Es un milagro! ¡Un Milagro!"
"No miracle," Jane told him, once Enrique finally let go. "Just a trick."
In a quick flash, Jane made a red plastic bottle cap appear from inside the boy's ear. Enrique grabbed hold of the cap, eyes sparkling.
After that came a flood of confused questions from the police officers, which Cho, Lisbon, and the others all tried their best to answer. Once the whole story had been told – in both English and Spanish – things began to settle down. Cho transferred custody of the prisoner to Officer O' Dell, and everyone took turns giving formal statements.
Lisbon finished relaying her official version of the events to Officer Roberts, then went to join Rigsby and Cho, who were huddled in a far corner, talking in low voices. She had a feeling she knew what they were discussing, and had a few ideas of her own to add to the conversation. As soon as she was finished there, Lisbon moseyed back to the front of the store, where Jane was teaching Enrique how to make the bottle cap vanish into thin air, and then reappear.
While Lisbon watched, the boy held the cap between two fingers and then flicked his wrist, managing to almost completely conceal the plastic in his palm.
"Getting better," Jane told him.
The boy beamed and went back to practicing.
Lisbon gave Jane an appraising look. She noticed his hands were stuffed in his pockets, probably shaking too badly to do the trick himself. "How're you feeling?"
"Oh, I'll live," Jane murmured, his wistful eyes never leaving the boy. Lisbon wondered if he was thinking of his own child.
"Hey," said Grace, ambling up beside Lisbon. "Officer Roberts just needs to get Enrique's statement, and then we're all set."
Shoulders wilting, Enrique stopped playing with the bottle cap and headed over to where Officer Roberts waited with a pen and notepad.
As soon as the boy was out of earshot, Grace looked at the others in concern. "Will he be all right? After everything he did for us, I don't want him to get in trouble…"
"We'll keep an eye on him," Jane told her. "It's all a matter of timing."
Before Lisbon could ask what he meant by that, Cho and Rigsby walked up to join the group.
"That was a pretty good sting," Cho said, looking around at everyone. "You'd all make good cops – except you." His eyes had fallen on Jane. "Consultant, maybe. Not a cop."
Jane smiled. "Like Sherlock Holmes. Yes, I can see that…A brilliant mind, assisting Sacramento's finest on their toughest, most hard-to-crack cases. An indispensable asset, called upon in the darkest of times. A clever observer of human behavior, able to pinpoint even the slightest indications of deception…"
"A dangerously over-sized head," Lisbon said sourly, "in desperate need of deflating."
Everyone, including Jane, laughed.
"Seriously, though," Rigsby said, his expression sobering slightly, "You do have kind of a talent. Agent Cho and I have been talking, and we both think you might be onto something with this serial killer, John."
All of the mirth had died from Jane's face. He was now looking back and forth between the two men almost hungrily. "You…" Jane swallowed roughly. "Will you look into it?"
"I can pull some strings," Cho said. "Have our guys look over your family's case and any others with a similar MO. See if there's a pattern."
"I can help you," Jane said quickly. "I know this killer. I've been to all the crime scenes, and I've spoken to the families involved."
"How'd you land that kind of access?" Rigsby asked curiously. Jane opened his mouth to answer, but the ADA held up a hand. "No – never mind. If it's anything illegal, you probably shouldn't tell me."
Jane shrugged. "Fair enough." His hopeful eyes turned back to Cho. "What do you say?"
Cho gave him a flat, appraising look. "I say your input could be valuable. But you have to get sober, first."
"I can do that," Jane promised. "I will do that."
Cho studied Jane's face for a long moment. "Okay," the agent said finally. "Give me a call when you're ready, and we'll talk." He handed Jane a scrap of paper with a phone number written on it in dark, slanted letters.
Jane clutched the paper tightly, like he was afraid it would disappear or blow away.
"And I'll use my resources to look into Jared Renfrew's case," Rigsby added. "If he really is innocent, then maybe we can find enough evidence to reopen the investigation."
Momentarily speechless, Jane stared at Rigsby, then looked back at Cho. "Thank you." The words sounded frail and rusty, like he didn't get a chance to use them very often. "Both of you."
"Sure," said Rigsby, smiling. "No problem."
Agent Cho gave a curt nod.
"Do you have a number where we can reach you?" Rigsby asked. "In case there's an update on the investigation?"
Jane glanced over at Grace. "She knows where to reach me."
Rigsby cocked his head at the pretty redhead, baffled. "How do you-?"
"It doesn't matter," Grace said quickly. "I'll go grab a pen, okay?"
Rigsby nodded. "Okay. Thanks."
Jane, meanwhile, was waving his hand, trying to attract Cho's attention. "Uh, Agent? I think you're needed over there…" Jane pointed to where Officer Roberts was taking Enrique's statement. Lisbon noticed that the officer was frowning, and Enrique was shifting uncomfortably.
Lisbon, Jane and Cho hurried to the boy's side.
"Everything okay?" Cho asked the officer.
"Yeah, he gave me his statement and everything, but I still need his contact info – I asked him for it, but I don't think he understood me. My Spanish is pretty limited…"
"That's okay," Cho said. "I'll get his address. And I'll make sure he gets home safe."
Officer Roberts nodded. "Appreciate that, Agent."
Cho put his arm around the boy's skinny shoulders and gently herded him toward the exit. Jane and Lisbon followed, walking side-by-side.
"How did you know the officer was asking for his contact information right then?" Lisbon asked.
"Body language," Jane replied succinctly.
She tried not to look too impressed. "Ah." If he really could get sober, then the FBI was about to get one hell of a consultant. And on that note…
"Here," Lisbon said, pulling a card from the small stack she always kept in her back jeans pocket. She pressed the paper into Jane's hand.
"Alcoholics Anonymous," he read aloud, as they pushed through the partially-shattered glass door and stepped out onto the dark sidewalk.
"Sacramento General has a really great program," Lisbon told him. "They've helped a lot of people. And you did promise Cho you'd get clean…"
"It was your idea, though, wasn't it?" Jane asked. "You put him up to that."
Lisbon just shrugged, unwilling to feel guilty for doing the right thing.
Behind them, the door jingled and Rigsby and Grace stepped outside. Lisbon could see that Rigsby was holding a small piece of paper with a ten digit number scrawled on it in loopy, bubbly handwriting. Jane spotted the paper, too, and waggled his eyebrows at Rigsby as if to say, Got her number for you, didn't I?
Rigsby blushed and stuffed the number in his pocket. Lisbon rolled her eyes. A few yards away, Cho was opening the back door of his sleek black Jeep Grand Cherokee for Enrique. The boy climbed inside and waved at them all as he buckled in. Lisbon grinned as she and the others waved back. Even after Enrique pulled the door shut, she could still make out his faint movements behind the tinted glass.
"You're not going to turn him in, are you?" Grace asked, as Cho returned to the group.
"I said I'd get his address," Cho said. "I never said I'd give it to them."
Grace smiled in relief.
Rigsby, too, was grinning. "Smooth."
The store's bell jingled again as the two officers stepped outside. Officer O' Dell led a very disgruntled-looking Lenny over to her cruiser, while Officer Roberts began to cordon off the doors with yellow crime scene tape.
"Darn it," Grace said suddenly. "I should've called Craig from the store phone while I was in there. He's probably worried sick by now…"
"At least he'll be at home waiting for you," Lisbon grumbled. "There's no way my brothers toughed it out on their own for over three hours. I'm either going home to an empty house, or one that's about to be declared a murder scene…"
"Oh, I don't know," said Jane. "Sometimes ordeals like these can actually bring people together."
Lisbon snorted and started to say, "Not my brothers," but broke off when Jane smiled and nodded at something behind her. She turned just in time to see Tommy's beat-up blue Dodge Ram pull in behind the police cruiser. Her youngest brother leapt out of the driver's side while James threw open the passenger door. They spotted Lisbon instantly.
Both men ran over and began smothering her with hugs, either not knowing or not caring that they were hugging each other a little bit in the process.
"Oh, thank God," Tommy murmured, wrapping his arms around her even more fiercely. "When we heard about what happened…"
"How did you hear what happened?" Lisbon asked, her voice somewhat muffled by James' jacket. "How did you even know I was here?"
"The news," James said, reluctantly releasing her.
Tommy held on just a few seconds longer before finally letting his big sister go. "Yeah, they said there'd been a robbery here, and we could see your car parked out front. Then they said a woman had been killed, and we thought…"
Lisbon's stomach twisted. "Oh, God. I'm so sorry. I should have found a phone right away and called you guys. I never meant to put you through that…"
"It's okay," Tommy mumbled, going in for another hug. "You're okay. That's all that matters."
James nodded. His eyes looked wet as they traveled over the shattered glass door and the robber's dark blood drops spattering the pavement.
"God, I can't believe someone actually died here, tonight…" he said softly.
"Oh, no," Grace told him quickly. "That was just me they were talking about on the news. I was fake-dead."
James and Tommy both stared at her.
"Long story," Lisbon said.
Tommy patted Lisbon's shoulder. "Well, we've got plenty of time to hear it back home. The kids just started an Ice Age marathon, and Annie actually found a part of the bird that's edible..."
"Well, by her definition," James put in, starting to steer Lisbon in the direction of the truck. "Come on, you can ride back with us, and we'll pick up your car tomorrow."
"Okay," Lisbon agreed. "But we better get that ham out of my backseat before we go."
At the mention of the glazed ham, she saw Tommy's eyes shine a little bit brighter. Lisbon grinned and glanced back over her shoulder. She saw Jane starting down the sidewalk, waving his goodbyes to the others.
Lisbon looked back at her brothers. "Um, can you guys just give me a sec?"
She jogged over and caught up with Jane, falling into step beside him. "Leaving without saying goodbye?" she teased.
"I waved, but you were looking elsewhere."
"Ah. Well, it wasn't really goodbye, anyway – I'll be seeing you around the hospital in the next few weeks." She nodded at the AA card in his hand. "Won't I?"
Jane winced. "Eh. Maybe. We'll see."
"So, you're headed home right now?" Lisbon asked.
"And you won't be alone?"
"How far is it?" Lisbon pressed, hoping he wasn't planning to walk twenty blocks by himself while suffering from alcohol withdrawal. It seemed just like the kind of ludicrous thing he would do.
"Oh, it's not far," he assured her. "I'm right at the corner of Fourth and Palms."
Lisbon nodded. "All right. Good. Go straight home, then. And if you start to feel any worse, make sure you call the hospital. Okay?"
Jane's eyes sparkled. "You are a bossy one, aren't you? I bet you're in charge of your whole department…"
"Been running the Sac Gen ER for the past three years," Lisbon admitted, with a touch of pride.
"Well, they're lucky to have you," Jane said softly, ducking his head.
Lisbon smiled. "Thanks…"
There was a pause, then she added, "You know, if you do come by the hospital, maybe you could update me on your family's case. Let me know how the investigation's going and everything…"
"I could," Jane said thoughtfully.
"I'd like that."
They came to a stop at the street corner, and Jane held out his hand. "So…until we meet again, Dr. Lisbon?"
She nodded and clasped his hand firmly. "Until we meet again, Mr.—Oh!" Lisbon gasped as he pulled her into a sudden, Tommy-fierce hug.
Beaming, Jane released her. "Sorry about your wallet, by the way."
Lisbon chuckled, still a little flush from the unexpected hug. "That's okay. It was kind of ugly anyway."
"Just remember – you should always check your pockets after a handsome stranger brushes past you."
Lisbon cocked an eyebrow quizzically. "A handsome stranger…? Oh, you mean you."
Jane grinned. "Funny. That's funny." He turned and started to cross the street. "Oh, I almost forgot – tell Rigsby he owes me a hundred dollars!"
He flashed her one last impish smile over his shoulder, and Lisbon rolled her eyes at him before turning to wander back down the sidewalk. Cho, Rigsby and Grace were all still standing in front of Lenny's, and Lisbon made her way over to them.
"I hope he'll be okay," Grace said, watching Jane amble off down the street.
"He should be," Lisbon told her. "He doesn't have far to go – he said he lives right at the corner of Fourth and Palms."
Rigsby frowned. "No one lives at the corner of Fourth and Palms – there's nothing there but a BP station, a Taco Bell and a homeless shelt…" His eyes widened in realization. "Oh."
Lisbon felt a small pang in her chest. Indeed, Jane would not be alone tonight – she knew from her EMT days that Sacramento shelters never had any shortage of residents.
Rigsby looked over at Grace. "So that's where you know him from?"
"I volunteer there on weekends. I-I didn't want to say anything…I thought it might embarrass him." She looked slightly miserable.
"Well," Lisbon said firmly, "he won't be there forever, right? He's got motivation, now. He's got a reason to pull his life together."
"Do you really think he'll be able to do it, though?" Grace asked, her eyes following Jane's distant progress down the block.
Lisbon thought about it honestly for a moment. In the short time she'd known him, Patrick Jane had stolen her wallet, sleuthed out the details of everyone's personal lives, rescued them all from a locked refrigeration room, and uncovered a conspiracy to commit robbery.
A small smile touched Lisbon's lips. "I think he can do anything he puts his mind to."
"Me, too," Rigsby chimed in. "My money's on Jane, all the way."
Grace beamed at his answer, then all three of them turned to look at Cho. The Asian man cocked his head slightly, watching for a moment as Jane strolled off down the sidewalk. Finally, Cho shrugged and said,
"You never know."
Lisbon's smile widened. For some reason, his opinion had mattered the most of all.
"Oh, and speaking of your money," Lisbon said cheerfully, her eyes back on Rigsby, "Jane says you owe him a hundred bucks."
"What?" the ADA protested. "Why would I owe him—Oh, right…But that was only if he got us out by eight, right?" Rigsby quickly checked his watch. "And it's after nine, now, so really there's no way to know, unless someone checked the time right after we got rescued…"
"Seven-fifty-six," Cho reported promptly.
"Damn," Rigsby grumbled.
Lisbon glanced toward Tommy's truck and saw her brothers leaning on it, waiting. "All right, well, I guess I'd better get going. It was nice meeting you all – I hope we'll see each other again someday. Maybe next time it'll be under better circumstances…" Lisbon smiled wryly and took a step back, waving goodbye to her three new friends.
A soft chorus of "bye"s and "nice to meet you"s followed Lisbon as she headed for the truck. She stopped short at the sight of her SUV, remembering the ham. Lisbon reached into her jacket pocket for the keys, but her fingers brushed against something else – something that crinkled. Frowning, Lisbon pulled out a small, clear plastic bag. Inside, she could see a tiny red rubber ball and five grey metal jacks.
"Need a hand with the ham?" Tommy asked, trotting up behind her. "Hey, are those jacks?"
Lisbon nodded, still staring at the package in her hand.
"Man, we haven't played that game in forever," said James, who'd walked over with Tommy. "Remember that time the ball knocked over Mom's favorite vase, and you and I tried to glue it back together so she wouldn't notice?"
Tommy grinned. "Yeah, I remember you accidentally glued your hand to the top of it, and she wondered why you just kept standing there not moving."
Both men laughed out loud, and Lisbon felt a funny flutter in her chest. It had been so very long since she'd heard that sound…
"Where did you get these, anyway?" James asked, plucking the bag from Lisbon's palm.
"They must've been in the Cracker Jacks box I bought," Lisbon said slowly. "Or, tried to buy anyway, but I don't know how they got—"
Jane's words suddenly rippled through her mind, complete with an image of his most devilish smile:
You should always check your pockets after a handsome stranger brushes past you…
Lisbon recalled his unexpected hug – a perfect opportunity to slip something in her pocket. Grinning, she glanced down the street at the spot where she'd last seen him, but he'd already rounded the corner, out of sight.
No matter. She would thank him the next time she saw him. Lisbon knew where to find him, now, and he knew where to find her.
Until we meet again.
And, in the meantime…
She turned back to her brothers, still smiling brightly. "Come on. Let's go home."