Beth sighed. She was tired, she was late, and, for the first time since she joined this team, she did not want to go into the office. She was actually tempted to turn around and leave. Still, she’d never been one to back down from a difficult situation. But this was really going to suck. At least Fickler was still trying to convince her to take him up on that terrorism task force. In fact, he’d probably set this up just for that.
There her team was, having a wonderful time and the minute she walked in it would all be ruined. They’d start to resent her. Probably take it as an indication that she couldn’t be trusted and then she’d have to transfer. It’s not as if it were the first time it’d happened. Probably wouldn’t be the last. Although, if she were in charge it would probably be others desperately transferring away.
The urge to flee was almost overpowering. But her chance was gone. Sam had seen her, if she left there would be a problem. And since Mick always seemed to keep an eye on wherever Sam had his, no matter how intensely he seemed to be flirting, she needed to get in there before he noticed her hesitation. Sam would ask her about it in private, but Mick would say something the moment she stepped through the door. She moved across the gym, pasting a smile on her face, and braced herself for what she knew was coming.
“Beth,” Prophet said, as soon as she stepped through the door, “did you get your car sorted?”
“If I had, I wouldn’t’ve been late.”
She could feel the atmosphere freezing. So could everyone else. She was in a room full of profilers, after all.
“Oh, good, you know each other,” Sam said, coming up behind her.
The two teams split to opposite sides of the room, only Penelope hesitating on where to go.
“We … worked together, in Seattle,” Hotch said tightly.
And they’d made a damn good team in Beth’s opinion. But if he was going to get all upset and hold grudges, he should never have asked for her opinion on a personal matter. He should have known better.
“Do you know the rest of his team.”
“Only by reputation.”
Rossi, notorious womaniser, one of the original BAU members. Morgan, even more notorious womaniser. Supposedly charming. Prentiss, the ambassador’s daughter, the one Mick had been flirting with. Jareau, the liaison. She and Gina had been talking. And Reid, the genius prodigy, who had been deep in discussion with Prophet before she arrived.
They were clearly all good friends and her mere presence was a problem. Beth took a seat at her desk and wondered if she was supposed to take the plant with her when she left. Everyone else took their seats and Hotch gestured at Jareau.
“We’ve got what look like identical murders on both sides of the country, suggesting a pair of serial killers, either working together or competing with each other.”
“That’s why we’re having two teams take this case. One team will head up to Vermont and the other to Oregon,” Hotch said.
“We were thinking of possibly mixing the teams up,” JJ continued.
Everyone was surprised that it was Mick who said no immediately. Everyone, even Coop, had expected him to jump at the chance of spending time with Prentiss. Mick himself was surprised to find how little he cared about that. His team was staying where he could keep an eye on them, thank you very much. Not only had they nearly lost Beth, but Fickler was still trying to steal her away, and Hotch would clearly not take proper care of her. And if he couldn’t be trusted with Beth, then he couldn’t be trusted with any of them.
“What’s your objection to mixing things up?” Rossi asked. He was pretty sure he knew exactly what it was. Rawson’s hackles had gone up the moment it became clear that Hotch and Griffith did not get along. It wasn’t surprising, really, he knew her reputation. What did surprise him was that it was Hotch that seemed to have the problem. He’d noticed the way she’d frozen and hesitated when she saw who was in the office.
“I don’t think that tracking down serial killers is the right time to start messing with team dynamics,” he said.
“He’s not wrong,” Morgan agreed. He wasn’t sure he was willing to trust the other team with any of his team, for all Rawson had saved Prentiss’s life before, so he quite agreed with the man. “Better to stick with people we’re already comfortable with and used to working with.”
Coop could recognise when Mick was about to dig his heels in and show just how stubborn he could be. He liked Hotch, he really did, but there was clearly a problem with Beth, he thought he probably had a problem with Prophet’s record, Gina was like a daughter to him, though he’d never admit it, and he didn’t think Hotch would be able to handle Mick.
“They’re right,” he said quietly. “I’m all for switching people around occasionally, but we should probably start with something less dangerous.”
Mick looked at him like he’d lost his mind.
Hotch sighed. He hadn’t thought they’d actually go for it, but he really did think it would be best. “The reason that we’re suggesting this is because one of the unsubs is going after brunettes and the other blondes. In which case it’s better not to provoke them by bringing agents that fit their type.”
“That’s idiotic,” Griffith said immediately. She hadn’t changed a bit. “At the very least you’ll want them in the interrogation. And the mere suggestion that agents would be at risk and so should be prevented from working the case is both absurd and smacks of chauvinistic nonsense. Every agent is at risk every time they go out into the field.”
She was right, she usually was, but he didn’t have to like it. Prentiss and JJ were glaring at him, but Rawson and Morgan seemed to be reassessing their objections.
He sighed, “I know, but that doesn’t make me any happier about it.”
“So, who gets Vermont and who gets Oregon?” Rossi asked.
Hotch weighed up his options. He was more willing to put Prentiss in that position than JJ, but Griffith was a better choice to defend herself than LaSalle. Besides, JJ mostly stayed at the local police station unless they really needed everyone in the field.
“We’ll take Oregon,” he said finally.
Coop nodded. He was pretty sure he knew how Hotch had made the decision and he didn’t disagree.
The rest of the briefing went more smoothly. They intended to use Garcia to liaise between the teams, but they all had each other’s contact details in case it proved necessary. Soon they were on planes heading in the opposite direction.
Gina and Prophet were teasing Mick about Prentiss, no doubt she’d be receiving similar treatment from her team. Beth tuned them out and concentrated on the case files. She’d barely had a chance to look them over before Sam was sitting beside her.
“What’s the deal with Hotch?” he asked quietly.
“If he didn’t want my opinion he shouldn’t’ve asked for it.” She didn’t bother explaining any further. She’d known Sam for nearly fifteen years, he’d know what she meant.
“That’s not what he said.”
“I don’t doubt that he views the matter differently.”
“He didn’t say much, only that it was about Elise.”
“I have no idea who that is.”
He made a non-committal noise and then gestured to the files, “What do you think?”
“I don’t know, I’ve barely had a chance to skim them.”
He took the dismissal for what it was and she buried herself in the files.
Mick took the teasing from his teammates with good grace. Privately, however, he was rather confused by his reaction. For all that he liked to keep his love life simple, Prentiss was the kind of woman he could consider settling down with. Someone who’d both understand and challenge him. And yet he’d just been going through the motions that morning. She’d gone from a very real possibility of forever to just another woman. He could not understand it. Still, he didn’t think she was actually interested, so it probably didn’t make much difference. It was still weird though.
It was a fairly quick flight to Vermont, but Beth felt that she had a fairly good handle on the victims by the time they landed. What she really wanted was to get her hands on a map of Vermont. The bodies were fairly evenly distributed among forested areas, of which there were many in Vermont. She looked at the timeline and sighed. The chances of undiscovered bodies were high. Still, they had eight victims so far which was more than Oregon did.
“Right, what’ve we got so far?” Sam asked once they were settled into the Burlington field office.
“Killington,” Beth said.
“What?” Prophet asked, confused.
“They have a town named Killington, which just happens to be in the middle of the dump sites we’ve found.”
“Seriously?” Mick asked. “Who names a town Killington? Do they have a Murderville too?”
Beth ignored him and pulled out a map of Oregon.
“How many maps did you bring?” Mick asked incredulously.
“As many as seemed relevant. Here. Deadwood, Oregon.”
“Think it’s significant?” Coop asked.
“Maybe. I’ll let Garcia know what I’ve found and they can see if they’ve got a similar pattern over there.”
Gina answered him, “We’ve got eight brunettes, different ages, heights, no connections found between them so far.”
“But they’re all likely to be strong, confident women,” Prophet said. “We’ve got a lawyer, a doctor, a professor, another lawyer, three businesswomen, and a scientist.”
“No-one in law enforcement though,” Mick said.
“And no-one that fits that description in law enforcement is missing,” Gina added.
“Any chance that it’s lack of options,” Coop asked.
“Or lack of respect?” Beth suggested.
Prophet looked through the conference room’s glass walls. “I count seven women just in this area that fit, Beth makes eight. I’d be surprised if it wasn’t because they know that the moment a LEO goes missing they’d have everyone after them.”
“And we’ve got a similar pattern in Oregon,” Mick said, looking over those files. “Doctor, school principal, doctor, lawyer, businesswoman.”
“Right, so they’re going for the same kind of women, except for the obvious difference, so what’s that about?” Coop asked. He enjoyed listening to his team talk things through, feeding off each other’s ideas.
“A competition of some sort makes sense,” Beth said.
“Are we sure it’s two guys?” Mick asked at the same moment.
“What are you thinking?” Coop asked.
“What are the chances that it’s one guy moving between the states, changing victim type to cover his tracks?”
“Or because he associates different women with the different states, so he’s killing two different women over and over,” Prophet suggested.
“But if they were surrogates we should see more physical similarities,” Gina argued.
“It is possible,” Beth said, looking over the autopsy reports. “There’s nothing to suggest any of the women were killed at the same time, but given the length of time they were undiscovered for, we might not know if they were.”
“So do we look for one killer or two?” Prophet asked, turning to Coop.
“We’re focusing on whoever’s killing these women in Vermont. If he turns out to be the guy who’s killing women in Oregon as well, all the better. We’ll just keep it in the back of our minds when looking at suspects.”
Coop assigned Gina and Prophet to stay in Burlington and talk to the victims’ families. All the women had lived in or near the city. He took Beth and Mick down to Killington with him, to start looking at dump sites.
Prophet and Gina made a good interviewing team, both were able to adapt themselves to the atmosphere they were in.
“How do you want to do this?” she asked.
“They all here?”
“Yeah, I think so. Taylor said they were in conference room 3.”
“Okay, let’s keep them together. None of the women seem to know each other, but if they go over schedules together, they might jog each other’s memories.”
Detailed schedules for eight women took a long time to sort out, but by the end of it they had a few overlaps. Alice Gilmour and Helena King, the two lawyers, may well have run into each other at the courthouse, though Gilmour practiced family law and King worked in the DA’s office. Gilmour attended the same yoga class as Mary Coleman, one of the businesswomen. The other two businesswomen, Ava Gaffey and Linda Hooton, attended another gym and may have come across each other there. Jane Pratt, the scientist, and Theresa Walker, the doctor, had both attended a conference on biochemical analysis of childhood diseases. Walker was also the paediatrician that King’s children saw.
At first, Anniken Magnusson, the professor, did not appear to overlap with any of the women. Her husband mentioned a farmer’s market she liked to go to as an afterthought, and it turned out that both Gaffey and Pratt had been there, though their families had not remembered it until Magnusson’s husband mentioned it.
“Thank you all for your assistance,” Prophet said, hours later.
“I know that was hard, but any indication of where he’s finding his victims will help us catch him,” Gina added. “If you think of anything else please call us at once.”
The other three only made it to one of the dump sites before dark. It was enough to give them some information, though.
“These don’t seem to be the kill sites, so he’s got to be fairly strong to carry them out here,” Beth said.
“Have to know his way around the woods, too,” Mick said. “This is a fairly remote area that most people don’t get to unless they’re serious about hiking.”
“Why here though?” Coop asked. “What’s significant about this place?”
There was nothing that stood out to them, but as Beth said, they’d probably have a better idea once they saw the other dump sites.
Lying in the uncomfortable bed in the Killington motel that night, Beth found it difficult to fall asleep. First she blamed it on the bed, but she’d slept in worse. Then she blamed it on the murders, but that had never bothered her before. She tried to make the argument that it was her resemblance to the victims, given her recent encounter with Rawlins. That lasted until she saw the one thing that they all had in common, but did not apply to her. Or most people in law enforcement for that matter. Which led to what was really bothering her.
The morning’s meeting with Hotch. She wasn’t sure if the team wanted her gone or not. They hadn’t acted like it. They’d all clustered around her when the problem became clear. She wondered if it would last. And what was she meant to do with the plant? She hated interpersonal relations. And Mick’s attitude had been weird. From what she’d overheard, it sounded like he’d gone after Prentiss quite strongly, yet he wouldn’t even consider a move that would put him in her company for a good while.
And what had Hotch said to Sam? Who the hell was Elise? The girl’s name had been Hannah. No, Heather. Something with an H anyway. She may have been wrong, of course. Last she heard they were still married, though she did her best to avoid gossip. So who was Elise?
In one of the rooms beside hers, Sam slept deeply. Mick, in the room on her other side, was also having trouble sleeping. He didn’t like having the team split up these days. It was too soon. Still, neither Prophet nor Gina matched the victim type and they really did need someone to go over the abductions.
He let his mind wander to Prentiss. There wasn’t anything different about her, so it must be him who had changed. Had he built her up too much in his mind, thought her so perfect for him that reality could never measure up? He didn’t think so. There was nothing about her that had disappointed him when he’d seen her this morning. It was him that had changed. Without even noticing. That was worrisome. For all he liked to act the stereotype, he generally kept a close eye on himself. He knew himself.
A noise from next door drew his attention and he frowned. Beth should be asleep by now. She didn’t usually have trouble sleeping. Not that he kept track of his teammates’ sleeping habits. That would be weird. Snipers just tend to be naturally observant, that was all. He wondered what was keeping her up. Should she have gone to Oregon, where she didn’t resemble the victims?
Then she’d be with Hotch, and that was clearly a bad idea. He was curious about what had caused the rift, though. He knew her reputation. They all did. There was a reason she profiled like a fugitive. She was used to being kicked off teams, having to relocate often. He hoped they’d made it clear they wanted her to stay with them. He wasn’t totally sure, but he thought that she’d probably have taken the director’s offer if she thought they didn’t want her to stick around. He really didn’t understand why people had so much trouble with her. She was direct and honest. There were no games with her. You always knew where you stood with her and she wasn’t afraid to make her opinion known. Surely that’s the kind of person you want on your team?
Gina and Prophet were woken way too early the next morning, given how late they’d stayed up going over the schedules. Another woman had disappeared. Sally Trench, 36, had dropped her kids off at school, but never made it to work. She owned a craft store in town. They interviewed her employees, her husband, her children. No-one had any idea where she might be. There was no sign of her car either.
“Would she pick someone up?” Prophet asked.
“No. No, she’d never give a ride to a stranger.”
“So, someone she thinks she knows, then,” Gina said.
“Makes sense,” Prophet agreed, pulling out their master schedule and adding Sally in. “Here we are,” he said. “Linda Hooton attends a craft circle every fortnight at Sally Trench’s yarn shop.”
They weren’t able to reach the others, who were visiting more of the dump sites, so they liaised with Garcia. She added the new victim to the group and relayed what the others had learned.
“Beth noted that all your vics are married, but only some of the ones in Oregon are. They also haven’t found any connections between theirs, but they think that’s probably because they’re missing a fair few victims. And they also had another woman go missing this morning, so it looks like there are definitely two of them.”
“Great,” Gina said. “Do we have any idea how long he keeps them for?”
“Sorry. Some of them were so decomposed we don’t even have a cause of death.”
Sam, Beth, and Mick were hiking to their fourth dump site of the day.
“Would it have killed him to put a couple in one place?” Beth groused to herself. She was comfortable in cities. Out here her height put her at a disadvantage. She practically had to run to keep up with the guys and she couldn’t see a damn thing. It made her cranky. She was almost tempted to go slower, but they’d leave her behind and she liked the thought of that even less. Still, if she slowed a little they’d still be in sight, that should be okay.
She didn’t think they’d even noticed her falling behind. While they might be able to talk to each other at the pace they were going, she was too busy trying to keep up. She kept her eyes on their backs. She was not letting them out of her sight. She’d heard too many horror stories of people lost, alone in the woods. The problem with gluing her eyes to them, though, was that she was not watching the ground. Tripping was inevitable, she thought, as she picked herself up and dusted herself off. Now, though, her eyes were looking at the brush she’d landed facing. There was something there.
When her brain finally parsed the image, she called out immediately, “Sam!”
She stepped forward, clearing some of the debris away. Yes, that was definitely a body. And a fairly fresh one at that. Now they were up to nine. She moved back onto the trail, surprised that the others weren’t there already.
“Sam! Mick!” she called again. There was no response. She knew which direction they’d gone in and she could see far enough along the trail to know they were out of earshot already.
“Seriously? Guess I’ll just wait here then.” She sat down on the path. She could probably catch up to the guys, but she couldn’t be sure she’d be able to relocate the body, so she was staying right where she was. They’d notice she wasn’t with them and come back before too long.
Mick’s skin was crawling. There was something wrong and he couldn’t identify what it was. He tuned Coop’s voice out. It still wasn’t clear. “You seeing something out of place, Coop?”
“No. What is it?”
“I can’t put my finger on it,” he said, turning to face the other man. His eyes scanned the trail behind them. “Where’s Beth?”
Coop spun around. “Maybe she’s still coming.”
“Right. We were going pretty fast. Forgot about her tiny little legs.”
“How much further to the site?”
Mick checked the GPS, though he was pretty sure he knew, “Another mile and a half. Do you think we should go back for her?”
“I’m sure she’s not that far behind us.”
Mick looked at him blankly. “Except that she fits the victim profile and we know the unsub is comfortable in this area.”
“She’s armed,” Coop responded, falling into step with him as they headed back along the path.
“Both she and Prophet were armed when Rawlins took her.” He wondered if he could tag them with GPS trackers. Then Penelope would always be able to find them.
They saw her before she noticed them, sitting up against a tree. At first Mick thought she was injured, but once she saw them she stood up and beckoned them over to her.
“You should’ve said something if you needed a rest,” Coop said.
“I would’ve,” Beth responded, not entirely sure she was telling the truth.
“I didn’t need a rest. I tripped. At exactly the right place,” she gestured into the brush beside the trail. “The chances of which are extremely low. Like astronomically small. Which suggests way more bodies we’ve missed.”
Coop sighed and pulled out the radio the park rangers had given them. They needed crime scene guys up here immediately.
Having a fairly fresh dump site was more valuable than the older ones could be. The fact that the body had clearly not been there long helped as well. It was clear that it really was just a dump site, there were no indications of remorse and very little had been done to hide the body.
“The fact that he felt comfortable taking her there, despite knowing that the area had been compromised shows either arrogance, or a lack of concern over being caught, like you’d expect from a psychopath. Probably both,” Beth said, when they were back in their commandeered command centre.
“And that he was ready to abduct Sally Trench so soon after this woman died indicates a need or compulsion of some sort,” Gina said, her voice echoing slightly through the computer’s speakers.
“We don’t have the autopsy report yet,” Beth continued, “but from what we could see there was some fairly methodical torture followed by a complete loss of control for the actual killing.”
“Definitely fuelled by rage,” Mick agreed. “And there’s no attempt to clean the body. It’s just dumped, as is.”
“And since she was actually fully dressed, and there’s no indication of redressing, given the state of the clothes, I have to assume she was dressed the whole time,” Beth said.
“So you don’t think there’s a sexual aspect?” Coop asked.
“I don’t think the victims were raped,” she clarified. “The unsub may be getting sexual gratification from the torture or some other aspect.”
“And we still don’t know who this latest victim is?” Prophet asked.
“There was no ID on the body. Penelope’s checking what we know against missing persons reports,” Mick told him.
“Hopefully those reports will give us an idea of how many bodies are still out there,” Beth added.
None of them liked the idea of that very much, but they had to view the situation rationally.
“Okay, Mick, you head back to Burlington to help Gina and Prophet. Beth and I will stay here and talk to the medical examiner and then we’ll join you there.”
Mick gave him a look that communicated exactly how little he liked that plan, but went anyway.
The autopsy report told them little that they didn’t already know, though it did confirm that there was no sign of sexual assault, as Beth had asserted.
Soon, they were eating dinner together in Burlington.
“I feel like we’ve got nothing on this guy,” Mick said glumly.
“Yeah,” Prophet agreed.
“That’s not totally true,” Beth argued. “The lack of sexual assault must be significant.”
“And there’s been no sign of Sally Trench’s car, so he must’ve been able to talk her into giving him a ride,” Gina added.
“So you think he’s using some sort of ruse?” Coop asked.
“Sally’s husband was adamant that she would never give a ride to someone she didn’t know,” Prophet said.
“Right, so whoever he is, she thinks he’s a friend,” Gina agreed.
“We know he’s holding them for a while, torturing them, so he must have somewhere he can do that,” Beth said.
“He knows his way around a forest,” Mick said, “and he’s probably a pretty big guy.”
“Based on what?”
“The fact that he’s killing these women in one place and then carrying them for miles along trails before dumping them.”
“So someone strong who can carry deadweight with ease,” Coop summed up.
“And these were mostly smaller women,” Gina said.
“Think he’s carrying them up there in some sort of pack?” Coop asked.
“It’s what I would do,” Mick said. “They all had broken legs and some dislocations. Might not just be torture, might just be what’s needed to get them into the bag.”
Gina glared at the whiteboard. How could there not be a single person that met their criteria in Vermont? He had to be there somewhere! Except, of course, they weren’t looking for a person, they were looking for a man.
“Guys? What are the chances we’re looking for a woman?”
The guys looked at her blankly, but Beth nodded.
“There’s nothing that actually requires the unsub to be male, we’re just basing that on statistics. And that would explain the lack of a sexual component.”
“Women aren’t usually this violent,” Mick said.
“Or this prolific,” Prophet added.
Beth snorted. “Let’s pretend I’m the killer,” she said. “I’m angry because some other woman took something from me. A man, maybe, they’re all married. Maybe a job. Either way, I’ve got a lot of rage and I want this woman to suffer. What do you think I’d do?”
“Fair enough,” Mick said. He could easily see Beth raining violence down upon someone if she were mad enough. She preferred intellectual sparring, but she was quite capable of getting physical.
Coop called Penelope and asked her to search for women that met their parameters instead.
“What’ve you got, P?” Prophet asked when he answered the phone.
“Okay, so I’ve got a few possibles, but while I was going through them one sort of stuck out.”
“What about her?” Coop asked.
“This is Erica Hanmer,” a blonde appeared on the screen in front of them. “I flagged her because there was a sealed CPS file in her background. This is her twin sister, Michelle, an attorney in Portland, Oregon.”
A second picture appeared beside the first. This woman had dark brown hair and a far smaller build.
“She’s trying to kill her sister?” Beth asked, confused.
“You must be an only child,” Penelope said. “According to CPS reports, they regularly tried to murder each other. I’m talking serious, end-up-in-the-hospital, stabbing and maiming. Apparently they were jealous of each other because they both thought their father favoured the other. Turns out he was molesting them. He went to prison and they were sent to separate foster families, with supervised visits. It was thought that it was better to separate them until they had a chance to heal.”
“Where’s the mother in all of this?” Mick asked.
“Dead. Hit by a drunk driver when the girls were ten.”
“But they never stopped competing with each other, or hating each other,” Gina said.
“But why start killing surrogates?” Prophet asked. “There must have been a trigger of some sort.”
“Hold up a minute, guys, I’m going to patch the others in,” Garcia said.
They were now sitting in a three way video call and could see the team in Oregon seated around their computer. Garcia caught them up on the information they had so far.
“So we’re looking for a trigger?” Morgan asked.
“Do you think we have enough for a warrant yet?” Beth asked. “We’ve got two missing women being tortured right now.”
“Even if we don’t, we can still go talk to them,” JJ said.
“No,” Beth disagreed. “It’s unlikely, but there’s a chance they could panic and murder the women ahead of schedule.”
“We can’t risk it,” Rossi agreed.
Hotch shook his head, “We need more than what we have right now.”
“So let’s see if we can find that trigger,” Coop said. “Sooner is better.”
“We’re also going to need to tie them to the victims in some way. These are clearly not random attacks,” Hotch said.
They all turned to the files on their tablets.
“Looks like they were starting to get along better for the last few years,” Prophet said. “Their social media has a load of pictures of them together.”
“Until Michelle stole Erica’s boyfriend and married him,” Prentiss said.
“Ooh, ouch,” JJ said.
“Yeah. Erica went to the wedding but looking at the pictures, she was not having a good time.”
“And the wedding was three weeks before our first victim was reported missing,” Beth said.
“So we might not be missing victims here,” Hotch said, picking up on her thoughts with ease. “It may have taken a few victims for Michelle to notice and respond to her sister’s actions.”
“Were the murders publicised in Oregon? How would she find out?” Mick asked.
“Good question,” Penelope said. “Checking now, but there doesn’t seem to have been.”
“So how did she find out?” Morgan asked.
“Email, text, phone calls, video calls?” Reid suggested. “There are so many ways that could have been done.”
“I’ll see if I can find anything,” Garcia said.
“Right, while she does that, let’s get with the families and see if we can find connections to all the victims,” Coop said.
They were able to tie Erica Hanmer to seven of their eight known victims, as well as Sally Trench, the missing woman. They were no closer to identifying the body Beth had found, but they had put her picture out to the media and so they hoped they would have a name soon.
Having tied the suspect to most of the known victims, including the missing woman, they were able to get a warrant. She owned two properties. A large home in suburban Burlington and a cabin near Killington. They sent a team to the house, but the focus was on the cabin. She needed space to hold the women while torturing them, and the cabin was isolated and convenient for the dumping of the bodies.
The report from Burlington came in well before they reached Killington. There was no sign of Erica and the only thing of interest was a flier indicating that the paediatrician would be consulting at a local free clinic that Erica’s company supplied equipment to. She was now linked to all the victims.
The property that the cabin was on was quite large, but the cabin itself was fairly self-contained. There were only two doors, so they split up and went in both sides at once. They had brought a SWAT team with them, but it turned out to be completely unnecessary. Erica had clearly had no idea that the police were anywhere near to suspecting her.
She had a videolink to her sister open and was completely absorbed in explaining all the torture she was inflicting on poor Sally. As soon as she saw what was happening, Michelle disconnected. Unfortunately for her, the other team caught up to her within the hour.
Once they had Erica in custody at the police station, Coop sent Beth and Gina in to interrogate her. The first thing she did was demand her lawyer, so the team spent time putting more of their evidence together while they waited. Finally, the lawyer arrived and Beth and Gina returned to the interview room. As agreed, Beth took the lead. It was hoped that the superficial resemblance she had to the sister would unbalance Erica and cause her to say more than she intended.
“Erica,” she began, “you were apprehended while torturing Sally Trench, who you had previously abducted. There is no question as to your guilt there. We can tie you to these eight other women who were murdered. In some cases it is clear that they were tortured in much the same way as Sally Trench.”
She added a photo of the unidentified victim to the nine already on the table. “If you co-operate by confessing, identifying this victim, and fully disclosing the names and locations of any further victims, the DA is prepared to consider more lenient sentencing.”
“You have no real evidence that Ms Hanmer was involved in these other crimes,” the lawyer argued.
“We don’t. Yet.”
“Forensics specialists are currently investigating your home, cabin, and car, Erica,” Gina said softly. “Are you certain no evidence will be found?”
“The deal only applies to the crimes you confess to prior to our locating any physical evidence of your involvement,” Beth added, glaring the lawyer into submission.
After speaking to her lawyer privately, however, Erica insisted on her innocence. The team left the matter to the locals. She may not have confessed, but it seemed there was plenty of physical evidence at the cabin. Additionally, Michelle had provided a full confession of her crimes and agreed to testify against her sister.
Having finally returned home, the teams had made a plan to meet up for drinks that evening. Beth had no intention of attending. She thought it would be better if she weren’t there to strain the atmosphere, and she should probably get her transfer paperwork started. She usually kept a set ready, but she’d thought this time might be different. She should have known better. As the rest of the team started packing up, she pulled the forms up on her computer.
“Beth?” Gina called, pausing in the doorway. “Aren’t you coming?”
“Not tonight,” her smile was brittle. “I really need to get this paperwork done.”
“What paperwork?” Mick asked lightly. His tone might have been casual, but the look he gave her told her just how suspicious he was.
“The case reports? The reports we need to write after every case? Remember those?”
He stalked towards her desk and she felt like prey. Mick was definitely a predator.
“You’re never behind on your paperwork. And you wrote your report on the plane.”
“That was just a first draft.”
He was looming over her now, leaning across her desk. She was suddenly glad she’d never had to face him in an interrogation. She hadn’t realised how intimidating he could be.
“Is that?” he grabbed her laptop and turned it to face him. “It is! Why are you filling out transfer forms?”
He almost sounded betrayed.
“What?” Gina asked, walking over with Prophet. At least Sam was in the gym.
“Director talked you into it then?” Mick asked.
“Into what?” Prophet wanted to know.
“He wants her to head up a terrorism task-force in New York.”
“How do you know about that?” she asked.
“Overheard you and Coop talking about it. Does he know about this?”
“You said, you said you didn’t want to leave a team that you fit in, so what changed?”
She grimaced. Snipers. Entirely too observant.
“Do you want to leave us?” Gina asked softly.
“Of course not.”
“Then why are you doing this?” Prophet asked. Now he sounded betrayed.
“I always keep a set. It’s best to be prepared.”
“And yet, you’ve been with us for nearly a year and you’re only just filling them out? No. This is something else,” Mick said.
The silence stretched out uncomfortably. Gina and Prophet were clearly waiting for her to speak, but she didn’t know what to say.
Suddenly, Mick stopped his pacing and turned to lean over her desk again. “This is because of Hotchner isn’t it?”
What was she supposed to say to that? He was right after all. And it seemed that the lack of an immediate denial was all the confirmation they needed.
“Were you just going to leave and not say anything?” Gina asked.
“Why would you transfer because of a guy that’s not even part of the team?” Prophet asked. “Did he say something to you?”
Mick just stood there, watching her.
“No, not to me. But he spoke to Sam, and he’ll no doubt speak to all of you. It’s just better to be prepared.”
“So you think he’ll convince us to transfer you?” Gina was confused.
“Have you done anything that would actually convince us you don’t belong here?” Prophet asked, sounding suspicious now.
Mick grabbed a chair and sat in front of her desk. “It can’t possibly be that bad, Beth. Just tell us.”
“I don’t know what to tell you. We worked really well together until he asked my opinion on whether or not he should propose to his girlfriend. I said no. Marriages tend not to last in law enforcement. After that things just went downhill.”
“That doesn’t sound like Hotch,” Prophet said.
“I know. If I thought he’d have that reaction, I probably wouldn’t have said anything.”
“Sounds like there’s something you’re leaving out,” Mick said quietly.
“He told Sam it had something to do with Elise, but I’m pretty sure the girl was Helen. I’ve no idea who Elise is…” she trailed off.
“Well, we’re not going to kick you off the team just ‘cause Hotch doesn’t like you. I’m pretty sure he doesn’t like me either,” Prophet said.
“And don’t bother trying to transfer,” Gina said. “I’m going to tell Penelope to prevent any transfer you put in going through unless we say otherwise.”
“Now, will you come for drinks with us?” Mick asked.
“I really don’t think that’s a good idea. It’ll just make the atmosphere unpleasant.”
The other three shared a glance.
“If you don’t go, we don’t go,” Mick said.
That was the point at which Coop walked in, freshly showered. “I thought you guys would be gone already.”
“We decided we’d wait till we could all go together,” Prophet told him. “As a team .”
Coop knew he was missing something, but it looked like it had been sorted out, so he let it go. If necessary he’d get it out of one of them later.
They walked into the bar as a pack. Coop was in the lead, with Beth right behind him. Gina and Prophet had stationed themselves on either side of her and Mick brought up the rear. He could tell that she truly believed they would have a better time without her and he didn’t trust her not to slip off if she thought she could manage it without them noticing.
The other team was already there.
“What took you guys so long?” Morgan asked. “Not only did you get back hours ago, but your office is closer.”
“Beth insisted on finished her report,” Mick said.
“And if you’d done the same I wouldn’t have to put up with you complaining about it tomorrow.”
“Ah, but if I complain enough, you help me.”
Beth looked scandalised.
“Wait you hadn’t noticed that?” Prophet asked. “He’s been doing it for months.”
“Mick Rawson,” she started.
“Hey, I buy you drinks when we go out to say thank you,” he protested.
“I’m pretty sure she hadn’t noticed that either,” Gina put in.
“I don’t believe this,” she said. “My own team, conspiring against me!”
Mick laughed, for all she was trying to appear indignant, it was clear she was more amused than anything.
They settled across the tables the other team had occupied and Mick made sure to put himself between Beth and Hotchner. He noticed Gina pulling Penelope aside, their quick, whispered conversation involved a fair few glances in Beth’s direction and ended with vigorous nodding on P’s part, so he assumed Beth wouldn’t be able to transfer any time soon.
He turned his attention to flirting with Prentiss. He wasn’t really feeling it anymore, and wanted to see if he could put his finger on what had changed. Also, he had a reputation to maintain. Nothing jumped out at him but the time she moved to chat with Gina and JJ. He turned to talk with Rossi, Morgan, and Reid.
“I don’t think she wants to be bothered,” Reid was saying.
“She’s here, isn’t she?” Morgan said. “Just go say hi.”
“At worst she tells you to leave her alone and that’s not such a big deal,” Rossi said. Calmly. Reassuringly.
It worked because the younger man stood up and moved. Mick was expecting him to walk over to the woman reading a book at the bar, but that’s not what happened. No, Reid went just two tables over and sat beside Beth. He started talking, extremely fast from the look of things. At first Beth looked confused, then understanding dawned and within moments they were both clearly enjoying a spirited debate.
Mick was completely taken aback by the sudden surge of jealousy he felt. He was not remotely prepared for that and felt a brief spike of panic. It definitely explained the sudden lack of interest in Prentiss though.
Prophet walked over and said, “Is Reid hitting on Beth?”
“Oh yeah,” Morgan grinned. “I didn’t think it would work. I figured he’d go over there and start talking about something random and she’d shut him down.”
“I don’t think she knows he’s trying to flirt,” Prophet answered, also grinning. “They’re talking linguistic analysis.”
Rossi snorted as Hotch moved over to them.
“Morgan, I don’t think you should leave Reid to speak to Agent Griffith alone for too long.”
“Why not?” Mick challenged immediately.
“You two should keep an eye on LaSalle,” was Hotch’s response.
“Why?” Prophet asked.
“She’s directly caused agents to leave the bureau. Particularly younger, more vulnerable agents.”
“Can you prove that?” Mick challenged. Sure, Beth was rather blunt, but if they couldn’t handle her they probably didn’t belong in law enforcement.
“Aside from numerous agents saying they were leaving because they felt attacked by Agent Griffith?”
“Wait,” Rossi said, drawing the single syllable out. “Did they just say Agent Griffith or did they name Beth specifically?”
“Beth is Agent Griffith,” Hotch said.
“Yeah,” Rossi agreed, “but Agent Bill Griffith was actually fired for sexually assaulting a number of young female agents.”
Hotch stared at Rossi. “I thought he took early retirement because of an injury.”
“That’s what they said, but they were trying to cover up the fact that they hadn’t so much as given him a warning by the time he assaulted a high-ranking general’s niece. Hers was something like the thirtieth complaint.”
“It took them that long to deal with it?” Prophet asked, horrified.
“No-one wanted to believe someone they knew would do such a thing. They were much happier believing it was just women who were angry they couldn’t hack it in law enforcement.”
After a short silence, Mick turned to Hotch, “Sounds like you owe Beth an apology.”
“But don’t do it now,” Morgan interjected. “Not while Reid’s doing so well.”
Yeah, no. Mick was not having that. “Do you want to explain why you didn’t act as soon as you realised you were wrong? She’s going to be mad enough already.”
“Besides,” Rossi said, “you don’t know when you’ll see her again and she’s not likely to pick up the phone if you call.”
Hotch privately agreed, but wasn’t really sure he wanted to face her. Still, it was best done in public. She wasn’t likely to get violent, but it was always best to be on the safe side. Hotch strode over to the table Beth and Reid were seated at.
Rossi turned to watch Mick. The man was clearly having feelings for her, but seemed completely oblivious. Still, he’d get there eventually.
“So what’s it like working in a red cell? I know you’re able to respond more quickly to requests because you don’t have a requirement for victim numbers, and that the fraternisation rules don’t apply to you, but what else is there?”
“Fraternisation rules?” Mick asked blankly.
“Yeah. Unlike us, you’d actually be able to date your co-workers without one of you having to transfer out.”
“Really? I didn’t know that.”
“Ever thought about it?” Morgan asked.
“Nope. You, Proph?”
“Never crossed my mind.”
“Really” Morgan was incredulous. “If I was on the same team as LaSalle, I’d’ve definitely thought about it.”
Both men looked amused at that.
“Not my type,” Mick said.
“I thought ‘female’ was your type?” Prentiss asked snidely, coming up behind them.
“Generally, yeah, but there are always exceptions.”
Rossi tuned the banter out. He’d planted the idea, that was all he could do. Turning his attention back to where Hotch and Beth were talking, he was pleased to note they were both being very civil.
Beth had been surprised when Reid had come to talk to her. Still, he was smart and it wasn’t often she got to have a purely intellectual debate these days. She’d kept one eye on Hotch the whole night. She needed to know if he was going to try and get to her team. Sam might accuse her of paranoia, but she felt it was always best to prepare for the worst case scenario.
And she was right. As soon as he noticed Reid was sitting with her, he went over to where Mick and Prophet were. They had a bit of a talk, it certainly looked like they were challenging Hotch. The next time she checked on them, Hotch was moving in her direction. Her heart sank. This was it. She was going to have to leave the team. She should never have come here.
“Reid, would you give me a moment with with Agent Griffith?”
Reid looked startled and surprisingly disappointed -- he must really enjoy these kinds of debates -- but readily agreed. Hotch sat across from her. She raised her eyebrow. If he thought, for even a second, she’d make this easy for him then he didn’t know her at all.
He cleared his throat and, clearly uncomfortable, began to speak. “It appears I owe you an apology.”
She was not expecting that. She didn’t know what to say, so chose to stay silent. He said nothing either, staring at his hands on the table.
“So are you actually planning to apologise, or are you just gonna sit there?”
He grinned at her. “I’m trying to figure out the phrasing that will upset you least.”
“Should’ve thought about that before you came over here.”
“I was told that I should do it as soon as possible so that you couldn’t accuse me of avoiding it.”
“Good advice. So what exactly are you apologising for?”
“I’ve been considering you responsible for the actions of an entirely different Agent Griffith.”
“Well, at least that’s a reasonable mistake to make. What were these actions exactly?”
“Dave informs me that they were in fact sexual assaults and not the verbal attacks I had assumed.”
Beth laughed. Probably not the expected response, given that Hotch was looking at her as though she’d grown a second head. She noticed the teams relaxing at the other two tables behind him. Hotch started chuckling as soon as it became clear that she could not stop laughing. Every time she got herself under control, she lost it again as soon she looked at him.
“I have to say I was expecting rather more chair kicking. Possibly some shouting,” Hotch ventured, when she solved the problem by resting her head and arms on the table in front of her.
“It’s just so ridiculous,” she looked up at him. “Though I must say I’m extremely disappointed that you didn’t at least say something sooner.”
Hotch took advantage of her newfound composure to change the subject and they spent the rest of the evening catching up.