Through the Streets of London

Chapter X: Nothing is as it seems

"There is something about a closet that makes a skeleton terribly restless." ~ John Barrymore

It was three thirty when Hotch decided that there was no possibility of sleeping that night. He kept turning in his hotel bed thinking about which his mistake with Emily was. He had introduced Beth to the team. He had shown that he was moving on and he regretted it at that very moment. But what could he have done? He knew that given the rules and his and Emily's pride nothing could have happened. He had thought that this was his conviction for not being able to express his feelings, for the troubled kid he was hiding inside, for failing multiple times with his son's mother: to just pass his whole life in a distance of a breath from a woman that he knew that she could take him all, but to never be able to cross that gap, just because he was he and she was she, met under conditions that they couldn't overcome. Beth looked so much like Emily, so he had thought that maybe he could have used a substitute. He was a man, also, and the lack of a certain action for a quite long time had blurred his judgment. With Emily he maintained the place of the supporting boss and friend. Which mistake had he made with this though? He had regretted too many times that he wasn't the one to track down Doyle. But he knew that his team would have never given up and they needed a leader not fired to have their backs. He had already pulled every single string available to help her recover from her injuryand disappear. She knew that. What was his fault?

He went to the Interpol Office the earliest he could. There was no point to hang around his room anymore. He felt like a caged lion angry to no one but himself. That day he had the lecture. He didn't like those kinds of things at all but at least he could get distracted. They had to focus on the case afterwards. He got at the entrance of the building only to find Gloria outside smoking. He wondered if that woman ever slept.

"Good morning!" she greeted him.

"Morning," he spat back without any intention to stand there and have any conversation.

"Wow… Someone woke up from the wrong side of the bed…" he heard her murmuring and he turned giving her a death glare. To his surprise he was met with a sympathetic set of eyes but he was too occupied to think about it and went inside.

The lecture was ok. It was almost two o'clock and he was about to conclude when Gloria knocked the door and entered without waiting for an answer.

"Sorry for the interruption, guys. Hotch, we have a problem."

He finished the lecture in no time and headed downstairs to the Metropolitan Police floors. What had happened was completely unexpected. How could a man in custody get murdered? Their suspect was dead! The whole police bullpen was extremely busy. He spotted Gloria but he couldn't see Emily around. He entered the cell, the guy was lying dead beside an empty tray.

"Emily is out for something irrelevant that had to do with an embassy. She is already on her way back," Gloria guessed his thoughts standing up from the floor.

"What happened?" he asked.

"It looks like he was poisoned through his food. The police will pass any evidence to us," Gloria said to him when her phone rang, "That's Emily again," and she answered it taking a few steps away.

"Are you for the dead prisoner?" an officer asked him.

"Yes? Agent Hotchner, the liaison with the FBI."

"This is the list of who spoke with the victim during the last four days.", the officer informed giving him two sheets of paper.

Actually he wasn't the proper person to take any evidence but his instincts told him to overlook that. Hotch went through the two A4 pages. Nothing was ubnormal until he reached the final name. He knew from the beginning that something was wrong…

"Please gather any evidence and bring them upstairs, regarding Emily Prentiss, Head of the office," he told the young man quickly.

"OK, Sir," the police officer answered and left.

He went towards Gloria that had just finished the phone call and grabbed her by the arm.

"We have to talk," he told her strictly.

"What the…" she tried to protest.

"I don't want to make a scene, just come with me," he ordered her.

She obliged and followed him upstairs. Once they entered the room where they were working, he shut the door. Gloria turned to him angry and confused.

"What is going on?"

"You tell me what is going on, Agent Paterson," he told her harshly. He wanted answers and quickly.

"Without a question I can't enlighten you, Agent Hotchner," she replied dismissively raising her eyebrows.

"Did you speak to that man in custody?"

"Of course not. I told you I can't."

"Are you sure?"

"How can't I be?", her tone was ironic. Her attitude was unnerving him even more.

"So how can you explain to me that your are listed as his last visitor?" he raised a little his voice, showing her the list that the officer had given him.

"What?!" she got surprised, at least she seemed so. She looked into the list herself. Hotch knew that he couldn't rely on reading her behaviour. She was a trained liar. That was for sure.

"Did you speak to him?" he asked strictly and sharply.

"I told you. Never," she spat back looking him in the eye.

"So are you saying that you never went to his cell? Your name just appeared minutes before the man got killed!" he said not convinced.

"Are you interrogating me, Agent Hotchner?", she replied leaning back on the wall, "I don't think that you have any authority for doing that." She seemed pretty untouched by his tone, another thing he wasn't very used to. It normally worked with agents and the majority of unsubs.

"It's only a matter of time before they decide that the man was going to be released to the American authorities. Then we can have a proper official interrogation," he answered her underlining the word "official". He knew that the problem wasn't only the fact if she spoke to the prisoner or not. He fell dead just after that. There was no obvious motive but it did seem pretty bad…

"Am I just guessing or the real question in that head of yours is if I did kill him?", she told him putting her hands on the table bending closer to him. Actually the fact that she continued the argument surprised him. He was expecting her to react by not.

"Did you know the suspect?"

Gloriabent her head and shook it in disappointment. Hotch didn't know if it was because she hoped he didn't think that far or because he was into something and she was getting caught. He used her lack of answer to his advantage.

"The man was killed under police custody and he had an accomplice that, as it seems, he works for international agencies. I need to know if …!" he continued, knowing that he was taking a very long shot. If he hadn't been in so bad mood with everything, maybe he wouldn't have taken it. There was no base for something like this.

"Woah! Hold your gears over there!" she cut him off and at this point he could say that he had broken her. He could only see simple frustration.

"From the beginning something doesn't fit, Agent! You started an investigation after a witness that doesn't exist! Did you know anything more?", he pressed raising his voice again.

"Oh yeah… I knew him," she answered in lower voice and her left hand went to the three buttons keeping her flannel shirt closed over a black cotton blouse, "The last time I met him he gave me this!" she continued taking off the shirt and turning her back to him.

That was the day of surprises, he was very aware of that at that moment. Her blouse was open till the middle of her back. Three diagonal scars were on the right side. The three edges of the lines were close, almost over her spine. The cuts opened like rays, the higher one was shorter not reaching her shoulder, the others continued below her blouse and considering the bad condition of the scars the cuts should have been very deep. They were just like those of the victims…

"There was one last case in Rome, mine, of which there is no record. He didn't know I was an agent. He was just after the character I played," Gloria continued sitting on a chair not bothering to put her shirt back on. "He came from behind and overpowered me. A junkie disturbed him and he didn't finish but I think he still believed that he killed me."

Hotch felt a little bad for the woman. He knew how it was to meet with a blade… But he still couldn't trust her. She had covered this whole story. She had lied to everyone, including Emily and him, and opened an investigation that she was too involved. He had to push her now that she seemed vulnerable.

"And that's why you went to him today?"

"I didn't go down there, Agent Hotchner. Believe it or not!"

He examined her carefully. Her training was coming back. She raised her eyebrows.

"What's going on? Do I suddenly fit the profile of the snapping, unstable agent who wants to disturb your case? I brought you here for God's sake!"

At that moment Emily entered the room. Their argument could be heard from outside judging from her upset face. She saw Gloria with the scars exposed. The other woman didn't turn her head. Instead she put her face between her hands, her elbows on the table. Emily seemed to imagine what had happened and to Hotch's surprise she didn't look like she didn't know.

"Hotch, I need to talk to you," she just said simply without looking at him directly.

He followed her outside of the room into her office and before she turned to him he asked her stunned:

"Did you know?"

"Yeah, Hotch. I knew," she said folding her arms avoiding to look at him. The situation between them was already complicate and they had some serious stuff to deal with. How could the things become so messy?

"You covered all this up," he couldn't believe it that she had made such a decision.

"I'm the one who told her to cover her own story when I saw that something was definitely wrong, that it wasn't just an attack in the street," she carried on.

He shook his head in disappointment. Emily's move was completely reckless.

"The cases would have never opened, if we had dared to say that it started from an agent so much involved in it. We are not FBI here Hotch! We need permissions from people above, from local authorities, governments even!" Emily continued finally making eye contact with him and getting angrier by the judgment that she knew was in his head, "She was the only link and just one of the random victims. I kept an eye on the case. She was doing good! Those crazy guys were killing people around the world, Hotch! I couldn't risk the case to disappear in a steaming bureaucratic path of non-sense!"

He could understand to an extent. She never changed, screwing the politics and the rules for the greater good. But still something was hurting him.

"Why didn't you tell me personally?"

"I was planning to do so after what happened today. In any occasion I didn't have any intention to create any problems with the case, Hotch. We didn't have," she added underlining the "we".

"Why didn't you trust me with this from the start, Emily?" he should tell her about the visiting list, prove her that she maybe was wrong, but at that point their personal unsolved issues surfaced. For the first time in his life he let his personal feelings take the priority.

"Because we both know that you don't deal so well with this type of stories. You are too prejudiced, Hotch, with these bios," she stated as a matter of fact and he knew that she was putting herself too in those bios, "You wouldn't have even been here if you knew. You wouldn't trust the facts because you see her like a messed up person, like the rest of us."

"Emily, I didn't see you like a messed up person!", he was dumbfound. How did she have that idea?

"You did Hotch!" she shouted at him, her eyes throwing fires.

It was too long since her anger was addressed to him, since he disappointed her by stopping her friend's case. But then he was her superior, she couldn't protest too much. Now, there were no ranks between them, just suppressed thoughts, feelings and tension and last night's events only accentuated them.

"You did, the moment you valued that I gave you that advice for Jack because I was trying to get your trust back! You didn't think of anything else, not even for a single moment. You put your damn reliability in danger for me, Hotch! You got me back by your side the moment I walked in again! You never thought that I had no reason to think that you didn't trust me! But for you I was just an agent with issues!"

And then it hit him. That case was the thing that Gloria was thanking Emily about. Her story was what Emily was hiding, the man she wished to be there was him and that last quote of hers was his mistake and he felt like a fool…

"There are two ways to be fooled. One is to believe what isn't true; the other is to refuse to believe what is true." ~ Søren Kierkegaard

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