Quest for a SupervisorAuthor: é
When a delusional unsub targets members of the BAU with his taunts, the disappearance of SSA Aaron Hotchner and his family is discovered. The remaining team members scramble to decipher the cryptic clues and save one of their own.Disclaimer:
I only own the character of Roger and my story.Note:
According to my googling skills, the prison Faith broke out of, the Northern California Women´s Facility in Stockton, California, was “deactivated” the year her escape episode aired. With the choice of altering history so that the prison was still open in 2006, or moving Faith to an open women’s prison so I could research visiting hours and such… I opted to make one up in a location that, as far as I know, doesn’t exist in real life.
It sucked when they arrived too late to save the victims from the unsubs.
Of course, in this case, they failed to save the unsub—well, technically Garner was now a known subject—and his victim from an unsub or unsubs still to be determined.
With a curse, Derek turned away from the body of Rebecca Bryant. He absently ordered the SWAT agent to stay before he wearily walked up the stairs and out of the house. The brisk night air chilled his skin. The weather had definitely remembered that it was December. Soft footsteps came up behind him. Derek looked up as Elle stopped by his side. "CSU should be here soon," she said.
Derek nodded. "Good. How´s Gideon?"
"Withdrawn. He´s been off ever since we got this case, but this scene… I think he feels we let go of Hotch´s trail for nothing."
"He´s not the only one," Derek admitted. “ God, I hope this investigation doesn´t take priority over Hotch." He gestured back at the crime scene. "You think that´s wrong?"
"It´s human," Elle answered. "And a feeling all of us have. Except maybe Reid. Whatever´s been on his mind, has distracted him from the full implications of this."
"Maybe he and Rossi found something."
"Then why wouldn´t he say anything? Unless… No, if the news was bad we´d be informed," Elle said. "And if it were good…"
"Why keep it quiet?" Derek finished. "I know." He crossed his arms over his chest and leaned back against a tree.
Dave might miss the feeling when he successfully caught a killer, but he did not miss sleep deprivation or working off of stale coffee at the crack of dawn. Granted, he got up early with decent coffee for his duck hunts, but the work involved was relaxing, not stressful.
The throbbing from his nose did not help.
He dropped the report he had finished reading onto the file he had spread out on the coffee table in Aaron´s office. Dave stared at the light coming in through the windows. The forensics report from Aaron´s house offered nothing more than what he and Reid had gleaned. The phone dump on Aaron´s home had revealed that an Anya Jenkins and someone from the Hyperion hotel in LA had called the Hotchner residence at the times an Anya and a Lorne had called to warn about Ringers. Anya´s area code traced to a location in Aaron´s hometown, Sunnydale, California. Erin had already submitted requests for any information on Ringers to LAPD, Sunnydale PD, and the California Bureau of Investigation. Ian Edgerton was due back in Quantico today, and Jason and the rest of the team should be able to start working with him, which would hopefully help. Though with little physical evidence, and not enough for a solid profile, there was little to lead them to the persons who had done this to Aaron and his family.
If anyone had done anything to them.
Despite what he had told Erin Strauss the night before, the missing travel bags and suggestions of struggles in both houses raised unpleasant implications. The fact that Jessica Brooks either owned an incomplete luggage set or managed to take a travel bag of her own added to it—as did the fact that Forensics found Aaron’s prints on the discarded license plates. Of course, there could always be an alternate explanation.
With a frustrated sigh, Dave leaned back over the coffee table and looked at the subpoenaed phone records. Nothing from Brooks’ house or the cell phones… Dave frowned and picked up Brooks’ records. While she had no calls in or out the evening they vanished, her cell had pinged off the tower nearest Aaron’s place for a few hours before Haley’s GPS made the journey to her sister’s. So, the whole family was hanging out at Aaron’s, Dave thought, and some sort of struggle occurred in the living room. Then they went to the sister’s, and… what? Dave pulled the photos of the wrecked house out again. The overkill in the vandalism suggested that whoever did it did not get what they wanted. But if that were the case, Aaron and family fled to Albuquerque of their own volition, with no contact. Dave tossed the photos onto the table and stared at Aaron’s personnel photo. Damn it, Aaron. What the hell did you get yourself mixed up in, that you couldn’t call or come in for help?
Are you… Are you dirty?
Aaron had always struck Dave as a straight-arrow. He had held himself as incorruptible, with no secrets in his closet. As he remembered the younger man, every fiber of Dave’s being wanted to argue against Aaron crossing over to the criminal side, but people could change over time. In the years since his retirement, he had seen or spoken to Aaron maybe five times.
Dave closed his eyes and rubbed his forehead. Whatever had happened, he could not afford to shy away from investigating Aaron and his family if he wanted any hope of finding them. He stood and left the office to find a researcher.
"You´re too skinny!" Spencer blinked up from the Marjorie Kemp book he had been reading his mother for the last hour. Diana Reid still clutched her son´s hand in a death grip. She no longer bit the nails on her free hand though she still held it close to her mouth. "It’s because you drink too much coffee and work on stuff that´s too sad," she continued. “It’s not good for you.”
Spencer smiled, touched by the concern. “I do all right.”
“You could do better. You’ll need to do better if the Heirs of Sineya fall. It’s hungry, and it’s waiting.”
“It?” Spencer tried to sound casual.
“You’ve only glimpsed Hell, Spencer.” His mother patted his hand with her free hand. “Don’t worry about me. You made the right choice in placing me all those years ago. It’s your team you need to look after.
“Where is everyone?” she asked as she looked around the cabin. “The Tristan discussion was supposed to start hours ago.” Her gaze fell out the window, and Diana Reid began panicking anew at the distance from the ground. Spencer resumed his reading to calm her.
Unfortunately, he could not calm his mind. He knew from experience that not all his mother’s words should be discounted.
Especially when they mirrored warnings from old friends.
I'm sorry to hear how things are going for you. Hopefully Aunt Elizabeth will change assignments soon. If it makes you feel better, rich foreign kids aren't the only ones who can snub outsiders. Dad agreed to let me throw a small party to meet the high school kids in the neighborhood. Yeah, I can't believe he agreed either, but he made it clear he and Mom would keep a close eye on things and would not hesitate to call the cops if someone brought drugs or booze. Anyway, we saw plenty of kids when we moved into the house but almost none of them showed up. The ones that did trashed the house. One tried to make out with Dad and then stabbed him in the neck with a carving fork! Can you believe it? He's fine—she didn't hit the arteries, but she must have yanked or twisted the fork so that the skin tore, because he looks like he has an animal bite on his neck. They freaked Mom out too. She's still crying in her room!
One of the kids trashing the place was some jackass who tore down my first set of flyers for the party with some condescending excuse about local cult taboos. He brought friends who started fighting with the other group. They claimed they were helping us, but it seems they´re rival gangs or something. I think they were really trying to kill each other! This one girl—the jackass called her Hails. Some sort of street name, I guess—She certainly hit like a hailstorm; after she lost the wooden spike her group used as a weapon, she broke Mom’s heirloom table with a single punch and tried to impale the girl who necked Dad with a piece of it! The table’s not the only thing broken: we lost the sofa, the television, Aunt Getty’s vase—the hideous one, thank God—several dishes and glasses, and other knickknacks. We have holes in the drywall and this weird dust coating everything.
But that’s not what makes me angriest. The neighbors, the kids who didn’t come, even the police—who arrived well after everything was over—act like the attack’s our fault. They’ve got this snobby attitude that we should have learned about the local groups’ beliefs and taboos. You’d think we moved to another country, not another part of California! Several people even flat-out said they tried warn us. And some did say some things about Sunnydale’s cults or tribes, but they didn’t say anything helpful! Mom and Dad are ex-Marines; they can handle petty criminals, and the notion that bad guys need to be invited in is downright childish! This town sucks. I aso not looking forward to school…
With a sigh, Emily folded the letter back up and slipped it back into the scrapbook. It was the last letter she received before her mother shipped her out of Italy and off to Aunt Jenny and Uncle Leroy to “straighten her out”. The last letter before Emily’s life turned upside down. Emily placed the scrapbook back in the nightstand by her bed. She had never wanted to return to Sunnydale. Unfortunately, her bids to transfer out of ST affairs had been rejected. At this point, she did not care if she ever got into the BAU. A desk job in Missouri would be preferable to the jobs she handled.
And it carried considerably less risk that the Bureau would find out certain facts about her.
Grumbling, Emily picked up her travel bag and stalked toward the door. As she locked the door behind her, her cell rang. She glanced at the caller ID and answered, “Prentiss, here… I’m leaving now, sir.”
“David Rossi. I didn’t think you were on the lecture schedule.”
Dave blinked up from his late lunch of cashew chicken. At the open door stood a face Dave had not seen since his Marine days. He had known that Edgerton had joined the Bureau, but their paths had not crossed before Dave´s retirement.
"I´m not," Dave answered as he set the takeout carton on Aaron´s coffee table, well away from any of casefile. He stood and walked over to the younger man. "I´m helping out with something. What are you up to? You look well."
It was true. Edgerton´s skin looked weathered and worn but the man held a friendly smile. "Can´t complain. So do you. Mostly." Edgerton dark eyes flickered to Dave´s bandaged nose before he glanced pointedly at the rest of the office. "Hotchner step out?" Dave winced at the question, and Edgerton´s eyes widened. "What happened?"
"He´s gone missing… and things don´t look good."
"Damn." Edgerton´s expression darkened. "Do they need any help?"
Dave sighed as he considered Edgerton´s implied offer. Aaron´s team would soon be joining things, and there was a balance between not enough help, and too much. The last thing Dave wanted was so many hands they fell over each other. On the other hand Edgerton, like him, might be more objective than Aaron´s team was likely to be. "What brought you looking for him?" Dave asked.
"Had a request to contact Chief Strauss ASAP and brief her on a case I´d been ordered off of. I have reason to believe that Hotchner knows more about the situation than I do."
Dave frowned at Edgerton, an uneasy suspicion forming. "What do you do these days?" he asked.
"Fugitive Recovery, when I´m not training agents for SWAT/HRT. The case is a prison escapee, name of—"
"Lehane," Dave finished bluntly, and then cursed when Edgerton´s eyes widened and confirmed his guess. Dave reached up and rubbed his forehead. "Her prints came up in connection to Aaron´s case. Wha—"
"YOU!" Dave turned to find the colorful analyst storming up the mezzanine stairs, a thick file in her hand. "YOU DID THIS, YOU MISERABLE BITCHRAT!" Garcia reached Dave, and in complete disregard for Edgerton´s presence thumped Dave in the chest with the edge of the file. Hard. "Whatever you think, Hotch´s a good man!” she hissed. “We know that, and can be trusted to search his past without shying away, because we know that´ll be proven in the end!" The file’s edge thumped Dave´s chest again. "No one wants Hotch found more than our team, and I am the best damn technical analyst this bureau´s ever seen! If you really needed to look into the past to find him, you should have told me. I could have put this together in less time than any two techs combined, much less, that, that… airhead!"
Garcia shoved the entire file against Dave´s chest and released it. Dave barely caught the file before it fell to the floor. Garcia turned and stalked off toward the stairs. "I never let a hacker breach my system." The curly-haired brunette Dave had requested pull the information stood at the foot of her stairs, her arms crossed over her chest. "Perhaps you´ll find the real airhead in the mirror."
"What´s going on?" Gideon stepped out of the conference room. Over his shoulder, Dave could see Erin entering the bullpen. "Just word that we had gotten some information," Dave replied smoothly. No one in the bullpen moved to contradict him. "You ready for the briefing?"
"I´ll be right there." Dave ducked back into the office, and shoved the existing file together. "We´ll need to hear your story too," he said as he passed Edgerton.
"They´ve brought you back to work a case?"
Dave could hear the skepticism in Edgerton´s voice. "There was a temporary shortage of manpower, an owed favor, and parties interested in writing clauses into my contract that limit the cases I can write about in the future." Dave looked up. "I am qualified for what they had me consult on."
"I´m sure," Edgerton replied, his expression inscrutable. "Well, lead the way… Bitchrat," he added with dry humor.
Ian and Rossi reached the room at the same time as the BAU´s new section chief. "Chief Strauss," Ian greeted the blonde woman and extended his hand. "It´s good to see you again." Actually, Ian had only met the woman briefly and was indifferent to her. Still, he might need to work with her in the future. "I´m not sure how much I can help, though. I was ordered off Lehane’s case less than a day after her escape."
Strauss nodded grimly. "I understand," she said as she turned into the conference room. "Every little—"
"What´s he doing here?" Gideon demanded as Ian walked into the room. Aside from Gideon, Ian recognized two other agents in the room, Derek Morgan and Elle Greenaway who sat with Gideon at the round table. The colorful tech who told off Rossi sat on an orange couch by the windowed wall, a laptop on her lap. The curly haired brunette sat in a chair on the opposite side of the room, her arms crossed over her chest. "With the Garner case wrapped up, we can focus on Hotch," Gideon continued.
"We got a hit on a fugitive case of his," Strauss said. "But someone´s burying the woman´s movements in our system. I called Edgerton to fill in what he can." Strauss pulled a chair out from the round conference table and sat a couple feet to the side of it, and a little behind Gideon. "Agent Jareau is talking with a representative of the PD in question, and Dr. Reid won´t land for another hour. They can catch up then."
Recognizing his cue, Ian pulled a slim folder out of his carry bag as Rossi sat next to Gideon. "I´m afraid I don´t have a casefile," he said as he sat next to Rossi and flipped through the folder´s contents. "I was ordered off the case, and most of the materials were forwarded to whoever´s now handling it. However, a couple photos, and a copy of my notes were misfiled."
From the amused and skeptical looks around the conference room, everybody suspected the "misfile" was no accident. But really, this proved Ian´s hunch that he would need some evidence that such an escape actually occurred. He handed the photos—a mug shot and a couple frames from the visiting room´s video feed—to Gideon, who sat closest to where Ian stood. “At ten am, October 13, Faith Whitney Lehane staged a rather… unusual breakout from the Stockton Women´s Facility in Sutton, California. In the middle of a visit, she stepped back from the partition and then dove through it as if it were merely sugar glass.”
“Sugar glass?” Rossi asked as Gideon finished looking at the photos and passed them over to Strauss. She barely glanced at each one before handing them to Rossi.
“It´s what Hollywood usually uses when they need glass broken on-screen," Ian answered. "It´s more fragile and the shards less sharp."
"Is it possible someone put the wrong type of glass in?" Greenway asked.
"No," Strauss answered before Ian could. "It´s literally a form of hard candy, albeit not tasty. A substitution could not happen by accident, and there´s no way everyone wouldn´t have noticed if someone tried it intentionally."
"Since when did you care about special effects?" Rossi muttered.
"Since your eldest goddaughter wants to be a stuntwoman, and spent last summer cooking the stuff up in our kitchen," Strauss shot back. "But how did Lehane manage to break through real plate glass?" she asked turning back to Ian.
"Forget that," Morgan said, staring at the photo in his hand. "How the hell did she not get sliced to ribbons and bleed to death?" Strauss frowned, but did not say anything to Morgan.
“Well, Lehane cut herself up a bit,” Ian resumed his briefing, “but somehow managed to cause the glass to shatter away from her. And no one knows how she did it. The best guess anyone came up with was that she somehow spotted and exploited a flaw in the window. Anyway, after she cleared the partition, she somersaulted to her feet and quickly knocked out both guards in the visitation room. She then grabbed a chair and smashed out one of the windows over the visitor’s parking, grabbed her visitor by his jacket, and leapt out the window with him. After falling two stories onto the roof of a blue coupe, the pair were able to pick themselves up and run to the man´s SUV."
"Two stories?" Gideon asked.
"Yes. The man seemed to favor one leg as they scrambled away, but Lehane did not appear hurt, though she seems to have intentionally taken the brunt of the fall. They drove out of the visitor’s lot before security was notified. Enough blood was left behind for a tox screen. Lehane was not under the influence of PCP or steroids.”
Under the table, Ian absently tapped his knee. “As if that weren’t odd enough, the escape appears to have been spontaneous, at least on Lehane’s part. The guy visiting her had produced ID that convinced the guards he was Lehane’s lawyer, so they did not record audio, but video surveillance exists. Two minutes into the conversation, Lehane paled at whatever he said. The next thing she said had her visitor drop the phone and scramble away from the glass as she made her move. Additionally, Lehane went out of her way to injure the guards as little as possible. She´s clearly skilled at hand-to-hand combat, and could have killed them both with far less effort. All the guards for her cell block agreed that Lehane is dangerous, but doesn’t cause trouble. In fact, the only major incident she was involved in over the last year was an inmate who had attempted to assassinate her the day before her escape. The guards also shared the opinion that Lehane could have escaped at any point during her stay. Rather odd for the remorseless thrill killer her file described, so I looked further into her history to try to get feel for who she really was. I didn´t get much, but something doesn´t add up. Four years ago, Lehane was accused of stabbing one Alan Finch, the deputy mayor of Sunnydale, California, through the heart. She turned herself in, apparently on advice of counsel, and the Sunnydale DA promptly charged her with fleeing the scene of an accident."
"Accident?" Greenaway asked sharply. "I can understand not charging her with homicide if they could only prove she was there, but how did they come up with that?"
"From what I gathered, the detectives had already found witnesses that claimed Lehane overreacted when Finch grabbed her shoulder from behind just after she and an associate fended off an attack by half a dozen gang members. Lehane spun as she struck, and tried to stop the bleeding when she realized that Finch was not an assailant. She only fled after Finch died and appeared more traumatized than fleeing punishment. As she was barely eighteen, and the detectives connected the gang in question to the disappearances of other young women, the prosecutor allowed Faith to plead to a reduced charge. She was ordered to attend counseling and community service—the later she served in the mayor´s office." The number of raised eyebrows amused Ian, but honestly that arrangement had thrown him too. "Twenty months ago, Lehane was arrested and charged with Finch´s murder in Los Angeles. It seems it was a ploy to leverage her cooperation with a recently launched state probe into corruption in Sunnydale’s PD, courts and Mayor´s Office. It didn´t work.
"With the evidentiary and jurisdictional issues, her case looked to be a long, drawn-out battle. Then for some reason, the investigations into Sunnydale disappeared and she was quickly sentenced. Unfortunately, I got pulled from the case before I could request the court transcripts." Ian stood and walked to a coffee pot in the corner of the room.
"That´s it?" Rossi asked incredulously as Ian pulled a Styrofoam cup off the top of the small stack. "You said Aaron should know more about the case than you do."
Ian shrugged as he poured the coffee and tried to appear casual. "Hotchner’s name, cell, and American Bar ID number were listed in Lehane’s emergency contact info at the prison," he replied, keeping his back to the group. "Not that I realized that he was that A. H. Hotchner until I called…" Ian paused as he set the pot back on the burner. “It was a short conversation. He assured me that if he heard from her, he would try to convince her to turn herself in, but that he had a case to concentrate on. I was ordered off Lehane so soon after that, I thought he had something to do with it. But when he called back, he seemed genuinely surprised."
Ian turned back to the table. "He asked who had taken over the case. As I had no idea, I referred him to the AD who ordered me off. Hotchner never said why he called, or how he was associated with Lehane."
"Could Lehane be undercover?" Morgan asked.
"What kind of undercover work entails death-defying breakouts?" Rossi asked.
"I don´t know," Morgan shrugged. "But it would have to have a huge potential payout, with folks that need hard-core convincing. And, well Hotch was posted out west before he took over the BAU."
"In Seattle," Greenaway said. "And even if he had been in California, they´d have changed to another contact when he transferred out."
"Besides, Lehane just turned twenty-two," Ian pointed out. "That´s too young for Bureau recruitment." And as far as Ian knew, Hotchner had never run an undercover op.
"You sure?" Strauss asked. "She looks older."
Ian nodded and was about to speak when the brunette technical analyst said, "Agent Hotchner and the sisters grew up in Sunnydale. He could be a friend of Lehane´s family."
Ian shook his head and said, "Lehane´s from Boston." At the same time Morgan blurted, "Hotch is Californian!?"
The woman nodded. "Born and raised. Agent Hotchner still has family ties to Sunnydale, and possibly the mayor´s office, so he still could have been asked to look out for her."
The other technical analyst bristled in all of her colorful glory. "Hotch would never be involved in anything shady!”
“I wasn’t saying he was part of the alleged corruption, Garcia. It could have just been a harmless favor for an old friend worried about the girl. But if his disappearance does link back to Sunnydale, his past might not be as clean as you think.”
Garcia snorted and relaxed back into the couch. “Trust me,” she said as a tall, slender blonde walked into the room. “Whatever you think you know, however it may look, Hotch makes straight arrows look bent. He would never anything illegal, and never look the other way.”
The blond-haired Anya released Aaron from the long bear hug she had enveloped him in. She stepped back into the yellow house and gave Haley, Faith, and Jessica quick hugs before she turned to the room. “That’s Dawn, Buffy’s sister,” she gestured at a tall, brunette teenage girl on the telephone. “Willow,” a redhead Roger’s age, sitting on the sofa, who nodded briefly before turning to the black-haired woman next to her, “and her girlfriend, Kennedy. Rona, Pilar,” Four teenage girls playing scrabble. “Natalie an—”
“Hey, who ate the last Pepperoni Hot Pocket?” a short, blond-haired boy asked as he walked into the room. “I clearly had my name on the box. “See?” He held up the box to the room at large. "Eh. En. Dee—”
“That’s Andrew,” Anya said. “He’s our hostage.”
“Hey!” Andrew protested. “Guest, now!”
“Hostage?” Aaron asked. He sounded as comforted by the description as Roger felt.
“He was enthralled by the First,” Anya said. “Then he wasn’t. He was too annoying to keep prisoner, so we untied him, but he refused to leave.”
“I’m on a noble, yet laborious quest to redeem my stained past and earn my spot at the Hero—”
“You’re a pathetic little worm whose tenuous grip on reality allowed the alleged ghost of a misogynistic loser to convince you to sacrifice your best friend in an attempt to summon a Turok-Han,” Anya said harshly. “Then when said friend had insufficient blood volume, you got so freaked at slaughtering a mere piglet that you began to break free. The only traits in your favor are passable cooking skills and being moderately tolerable when you can move about freely.”
Andrew folded his arms over his chest. “Just for that, you can’t have any soufflé.” He frowned over at Roger and the Brooks. “You guys staying here, too?”
“Yes.” Anya stepped to Aaron’s side. “This is my grandbaby, Aaron.” She patted his arm. Suddenly everyone else in the living room stared at their group.
Grandbaby? Roger wondered. This Anya looked to be in her mid-twenties, whereas Aaron was pushing forty.
“His wife, Haley, sister-in-law, Jessica, psychically-adopted daughter Faith, who’s actual relation to his mother is too involved to bother explaining, and a fake redhead I’ve never seen before.” Anya looked pointedly at Roger.
“Er, Roger,” she said quickly, waving at the room in general. “Grandbaby?” she asked, looking from Anya to Aaron and back.
“She’s far older than she looks,” Aaron said quickly. He turned to Anya. “Is there a good place to get caught up with events? We had to clear out of DC quickly and Lorne could only fill in so many blanks.”
"Sure. Right this way." Anya led them through the door Andrew had emerged from and into a kitchen full of girls. She glanced out the window at the people working out in the backyard. "Er, maybe the basement…"
"Whatever Hotch´s connection to Lehane," Gideon said as JJ entered the room. "If she´s involved in his disappearance, we needed everything we can get on what she´s involved in." He turned to Edgerton. "Who ordered you off her case?"
"AD Wright, out of the LA field office."
Strauss stiffened and frowned at the words. "I see," she said flatly. Elle´s stomach sank with certainty that Strauss had already discussed Lehane with him. Strauss turned to JJ. "What news do you have?"
"Albuquerque PD has agreed to e-mail the security video to Garcia."
"Albuquerque?" Gideon asked.
"That´s where the AFIS hit on Lehane´s and Agent Hotchner´s prints originated," Strauss said. She folded her hands together on the table in front of her.
JJ nodded as her eyes swept through the conference room. Elle saw her frown at Edgerton and the new tech. What’s her name, Holly? Haley?
“It was a late night disturbance in a convenience store, Ma’am,” JJ said. “A small group rushed the store and attacked the customers and cashier. AFIS flagged Hotch and Lehane as possible matches to partial prints, but until we see the footage, it’s impossible to tell if they were in the store at the time of the attack, or even at the same time.” She walked over to sit next to Garcia, who was booting up her laptop.
“Have the matches been confirmed yet?" Morgan asked. “Why—”
“You know him Jayje?” Garcia’s voice drew attention Elle’s attention. She looked over shoulder and saw JJ staring at the photos Edgerton had passed around the conference room.
“Hotch does,” JJ said.
“How would you know?” Gideon asked sharply. Angrily. “What o you know?”
JJ looked up at the room at large, and quickly composed her expression. “He came looking for Hotch when we were in LA on that stalking case. He was waiting in the parking lot at the hotel when Hotch and I drove back that last night. It was odd.” JJ frowned as stared at the floor. “Hotch didn’t seem happy to see him from the start, but after he realized the guy was limping, he got angry… The guy claimed he tripped, and Hotch said that he had heard the man fell down two stories—" Across the room, Edgerton crushed the Styrofoam cup in his hand. Elle´s stomach fell at the implications of Hotch withholding the ID of Lehane's escape partner.
"—And that he should have known it was him when he first got some call…" JJ continued, frowning as she concentrated on the memory. "That made the guy uneasy, but he insisted that whatever Hotch had heard, had good reason. That he’d explain and Hotch would be able to verify most of it with the appropriate people in the Bureau, and related agencies… I believe he referenced an ST division at some point.
"Hotch told the guy he that had five minutes and that it had better be worth checking out. They went off to the side, about fifteen feet away and talked quietly for several minutes before they seemed to get into an argument. I didn’t hear much until Hotch said the guy could wait for his story to be verified. That was when Morgan called to me, and I guess Hotch was distracted too, because when I looked back, the guy had vanished and Hotch was rushing between cars and looking around. He looked furious when he gave up and entered the hotel.”
Elle remembered when she and Morgan returned to the hotel. Furious did not cover Hotch’s demeanor when he emerged from the shadows. Incensed came closer, but the man had dismissed inquires and stalked off to his room.
“I remember that,” Morgan frowned. “Hotch was still making calls the next morning. I’d thought we were going to get a PR nightmare or come under review or something.”
"From seeing him talk to someone in a parking lot?" Strauss asked.
"We didn´t see Hotch at first, much less anyone else," Elle said. "JJ was staring in his direction and looked worried, so Morgan asked if she was okay… When Hotch emerged from the shadows, he was holding his phone. I assumed he´d gotten a call, but all he said was that it wasn´t anything we had to worry about that night… He must have believed this guy´s story, or least considered it plausible, if he didn´t send us after him."
"We hope," Rossi muttered. Then he sighed at the glares sent his way and stared at JJ. "You´re sure Aaron tried to keep the guy there as he checked out the story?"
"His exact words were ´So long the world´s still not due to end this week, you can afford to wait while I check´. I remember because Hotch isn´t normally prone to hyperbole."
You can say that again, Elle thought. Though under the circumstances...
"Okay," Gideon said, sounding defeated. "Lehane is connected to Hotch, and we have to determine how." He glanced over at Garcia. "Even if it means entertaining the possibility that he wasn´t always as clean as we thought." Garcia squirmed under Gideon´s gaze, but eventually she nodded and stared at her lap, her obvious protest unspoken. "Ms. Jones," Gideon shifted his gaze to Garcia´s brunette rival, "you pulled Hotch´s financials for Rossi?" The tech nodded. "You find anything unusual?"
"No, not really. The Hotchners do keep a portion of their income in an offshore account, but it´s not money they´re trying to hide: they report it on their tax returns and all deposits are transfers from their Commerce money market account. The transfers tend to correspond to Haley Hotchner´s consulting work, a—"
"What consulting work?" Elle asked. "I never caught what she does." She had asked Haley what she did once, when she first met the woman while Hotch was profiling for the Seattle field office, but the conversation got sidetracked.
"Come to think of it, neither did I," JJ said.
"I thought she was a housewife," Morgan said. "Hotch always says he needs to call home, when he wants to talk to her." Next to him, Gideon nodded.
Garcia shook her head. "She works from the home," her disappointment with Morgan evident in her tone. "Some sort of artist."
Jones snorted. "Hardly. She´s a translator."
Garcia frowned and shook her head. "No, I heard her complaining to Hotch about characters missing from a mural a few weeks before they put her on bedrest."
"Her second doctorate was in ancient languages," Jones said. "Specifically in the differences between Sumerian and Babylonian cuneiform. She does some work for museums," Jones said. "But most of her consulting fees are paid by the CIA, NSA, and sometimes the Bureau, which I can´t find an explanation for."
"Well, what´d she get the first Ph.D. in?" Rossi asked.
"Oh. Not that, then," Rossi said.
"How often can she consult for the Bureau?" JJ asked. "If it´s a lot, wouldn´t she have a civilian employee ID rather than using a visitor’s pass when she visits Hotch?"
"Depends on if her work requires a security clearance," Gideon said.
"And if the Hotchners or the government felt her work was sensitive enough to keep quiet about," Edgerton spoke up from his corner of the room. "Linguistics ability lends itself to cryptography or more current languages."
Strauss nodded. "If it´s both, she´d be in high demand. Possibly have the option of protection."
"And a whole new list of possibilities behind the family´s disappearance," Gideon said. He rubbed his forehead. "I´ll see if my contacts at the CIA can shed any light on the nature of Haley´s work, and any risk it may pose."
"What about the sister?" Rossi asked. "Any skeletons in her closet?"
"Not that I can tell. Ms. Brooks has a biochemistry masters and a DVM from the Western University of Health Sciences, and currently works at a major vet clinic in Maryland. She moved to the DC area three months ago. Before that, she was involved with research at Ohio´s State´s College of Veterinary Medicine. No financial or legal difficulties. No husband or ex-husbands."
"Well, she´s unlikely to be the main target, then," Strauss commented.
Elle frowned, willing the pieces to form some sort of picture. Her mind refused to respond with ideas.
"Guys, I just got the video," Garcia said.
"Can you play it for us?" Rossi asked at the same time Gideon said "Put it on the screen".
In a couple minutes, the video began playing on the wall. Clearly the product of a low-end security system, the grainy video showed Aaron Hotchner filling travel mugs from the coffee dispenser. Twenty feet behind him, a redheaded woman sat reading a book in a dining area. The store clerk moved in and out of the video frame as he stocked cigarettes behind the register. The tape played a few seconds before two black-robed figures walked into the store, with some sort of mask over their faces that made them look like their eyes were gouged out and scarred over with Greek letters. The two split, one going left out of the screen, while the other went toward the girl reading, raising a large ax to strike. The girl glanced out the window beside her, then spun and ducked as she caught sight of the robed guy´s reflection. At the same time, Hotch turned and dropped the mug he was holding as he rushed to the girl´s aid.
Hotch got intercepted and nearly skewered by a third robed figure that came out a door labeled "employees only" next to the soda dispenser. As Hotch defended himself from his assailant, the redhead at the window threw her book at the ax-wielding robed man and leapt over the table. She grabbed her backpack off the table as she vaulted it, and then shoved the table into her assailant.
The robed figure who had walked off-screen suddenly flew back and landed on a magazine rack. Lehane rushed after him. Behind her, Jessica Brooks emerged, an infant carrier in her hands.
The assailant who landed on the magazines pushed himself to his feet, only for Lehane to punch him squarely in the nose. The man stumbled back, but grabbed a dagger from his belt. Lehane grabbed his wrist to stop the blade's decent.
The redhead glanced wildly around the store, doubtless in search of aid or escape.
A gasp filled the room as the camera caught her face. Elle turned to Strauss, who had turned grey. "Karen?" Strauss squeaked as a visibly shaken Rossi reached for her hand.