As usual, Sam Cooper arrived at the team's headquarters early. Beth usually arrived sometime after him, but today she pulled up in her car just as he began to head inside. Coop stopped and waited for her to catch up to him so that they could walk inside together.
"You're a bit early this morning, aren't you?" Coop asked.
"Yeah." she answered. "My neighbor's stupid dog woke me up this morning at four o'clock, barking at God knows what. I swear I wanted to kill it."
Coop laughed as he replied, "I'm sure it didn't bark just to annoy you. I hope that you're awake enough because we've just been assigned a particularly difficult case. I have a feeling it will be a long one."
Beth groaned as she responded, "Great, that's just what I need. Don't worry. I suppose I'm as ready as I'll ever be."
When the two of them entered the main room of their building, Coop stopped just inside the doorway in order to turn on the lights. As he did so, they both were surprised to find Mick lying down on the couch, in what looked like a very troubled sleep. As they quietly started walking over toward him, he jumped up as if he were startled.
"I'm sorry," Coop apologized as he and Beth took a step back. "We didn't mean to startle you. Are you all right?"
"I'm fine, Mate," Mick answered as he leaned down to fix the cushions and pillows on the couch. "You didn't startle me. By the time I finished my paperwork last night, I was too tired to drive home. So, I slept here. It wasn't the most comfortable sleep I've had, but it wasn't the worst either."
Coop watched his friend as he fixed up the couch and from his obviously disturbed sleep that he had found him in and the quick look of fear he had seen on his face as he jumped up from the couch, it was obvious that Mick was lying. There was something bothering him, but as he always did, he shrugged it off. Beth saw this as well, but they both just turned away as they all began to set up the room for their next case and waited for the others to arrive.
Each of his teammates could be hard to read at times, but Mick was the one who was the most secretive. Prophet was usually the angriest of the group. When something bothered him, he'd vent to the team to get his anger out and both Beth and Gina didn't usually have a problem with sharing their thoughts and problems to Coop.
Coop always shared all of his thoughts and fears with the rest of the team while they were working a case. However, when it came to his personal problems, he was very good at keeping them away from work. However, if anyone knew that there was something wrong with him, Mick did.
Gina and Prophet walked in a few minutes later and as they did, Sam quickly pushed aside his thoughts in order to begin telling his team about their newest case. They all gathered around the table that was in the center of the room, while Sam pulled out the case files from the bag that he had carried in with him and handed them around.
"Erin Strauss asked us to head down to Charleston, South Carolina where a young woman was just brutally stabbed," Sam began. "Two young couples, a family of three, and several others were all killed as well, all killed in different ways. There is nothing that links these people together, except that there is one thing that proves that these people were all killed by the same UNSUB."
"There's a message left on a wall inside all of our victims' homes, written in their own blood," Prophet spoke up saying. "Your time is coming soon', all written in capital letters."
Beth replied, "That's creepy. It's obvious that our UNSUB has left a message for someone in particular that he knows will eventually come into play throughout this case. He is targeting someone, maybe one of the authorities that called us for help, maybe someone else entirely."
"The message may also just be a message for himself; a reminder to himself that he is waiting for someone that he wants to take his revenge out on," Mick added. "Our UNSUB may be killing random victims with random weapons, but he is an organized offender. He brings his choice of weapon with him and takes it with him when he leaves. He wipes his prints from the home, leaving no evidence behind that can lead us back to him. There are also no witnesses to these crimes, meaning that he knows when he will have the time he needs to commit these kills without anyone seeing or interrupting him. He stalks them. He has planned everything and it looks like our killer hasn't just stuck to Charleston. There are deaths in other cities within South Carolina, as well as in North Carolina too; each of them with the same bloody message on the walls."
"It appears that these deaths began about two weeks ago," Jon added. "There are a lot of deaths in such a small amount of time and there doesn't appear to be any specific time between these deaths…"
Gina interrupted, "Making it more difficult to determine when the UNSUB will strike next."
Sam answered, "We've got our work cut out for us. I suggest we try to get as much rest as we can on the road because I doubt that we'll get much once we get to Charleston. When we get there, we'll go right to the hotel since it will be very late and head to the precinct in the morning."
"Is there any chance that Strauss will ever chip in for a nice jet for us, just like Hotch's team has?" Beth asked as everyone began to gather their things together.
"I don't think that it's in the cards for us," Prophet replied. "She hates us too much."
Mick and Sam were the last to leave the room and as his friend packed his things, Sam observed him a little more closely. It was then that Mick caught Sam watching him. He stopped what he was doing and stared at Sam.
He finally asked, "What's bothering you this morning, Coop? You've been watching me this whole time. It's a bit unnerving. Did I do something wrong?"
Sam responded, "No, you didn't do anything wrong. I am just wondering what is wrong with you. I know that something's bothering you. We startled you when Beth and I walked in earlier and you were sleeping uneasily on the couch."
"You're the one who's always said for us to push our personal problems down until the case is over," Mick answered.
"You're really going to twist my words around to avoid telling me what's wrong?" Sam replied. "Come on, Mick. You know you can tell me."
Mick nodded as he answered, "I learned that one of the scumbags I put away after I had killed his brother years ago just got released from prison."
Sam asked, "Are you afraid that he'll come after you?"
"No," Mick quickly responded as he shook his head. "The man would have killed his brother himself for a spot of heroin. He hates me just as much as anyone else I've ever put away. It bothers me because I know that he'll continue to kill innocent people like he and his brother did before. I can't believe that he was even set free in the first place. They wouldn't tell me why he was being set free and I tried to tell the authorities there that it was a big mistake, but they didn't listen to me. I was on the phone all night arguing with them."
"It isn't your fault that he is free," Sam said. "Sometimes, our justice system is unjust and faulty. You cannot blame yourself for something that you have no control over. If this guy kills again, the men assigned to the case will find him and put him away again."
Mick nodded his thanks and stepped out of the room. Sam turned around to shut off the lights and then followed out after Mick as he thought about what Mick had said. He knew that Mick always blamed himself for things that he had no control over. He also understood why Mick felt he had to keep his secrets to himself. He didn't want anyone to take time worrying about him when they needed to keep focused on the cases they were given.
When this case they were working on was over, Sam figured he would try to find out as much about this killer that was troubling Mick and would try to get a profile on him to help out those who will take on the case, should he decide to kill again like Mick felt he would do.
As Sam reached the SUV that the team drove to and from their cases, he quickly pushed these thoughts to the back of his mind and began to focus on the case on hand, just as Mick and the rest of the team were doing as well.