Chapter XI: Who killed the prisoner?
"Sometimes it takes a good fall to really know where you stand." ~ Hayley Williams
"Emily…", what should Hotch say? That he had turned a blind eye to her first actual act to reach out to him, without even realising it, because he had thought so much about it and had concluded that he would never get a chance with her? Because he was too concerned with her psychological state and it didn't even cross his mind that she had actually made a move on him? Oh God! He had sensed something that evening on the plane when she approached him and told him "I felt something was wrong", but then he just got into his analysing mode and broke it down to psychology, traumas and behaviours…
"Emily, back then I was concerned…"
"I'm sorry," she started regretting her bursting out, turning her back to him, "I know you were just concerned," she said not in a tone of accusation, but a tone of defeat.
He had to correct her. At least he had to show something, stop hiding but she didn't leave him any time.
"What happened and Gloria spoke to you? I had told her to wait for me," she carried on shifting to her professional mode. They didn't have only a messed up relationship, they had a messed up case in their hands, too.
"According to the prisoner's visitors list she was the last to see him and the man fell dead forty minutes later, poisoned," he told her giving her the list, "She claims that she never went downstairs."
"There should be another explanation then," Emily replied.
"Emily, you know as well as me that this doesn't look good. How sure are you that she isn't deep enough in the case to snap?"
"Hotch, first she isn't silly to leave her name behind, if she ever killed someone! Second, she has passed every psychological evaluation ever known! I see her every day. I hang out with her. Don't you think I would have seen it, if something had been too wrong? I used to be a profiler, you know," she was getting upset again. He knew that she valued his opinion and she was uncomfortable with him criticizing. But he had to.
The matter was that something else was happening, too, and he just started to acknowledge it. Emily was behaving like the old Emily, again. He hadn't noticed it before because he was too preoccupied with all the rest, but at that moment he could see it clearly. When Emily had come back to the BAU after her "leave", she was too calm, too passive. She was missing her normal nerve. But now the woman in front of him had it again. She was again the fighter and the stubborn person she always was. That was good. He couldn't say how she changed but he was happy. It was a good to be herself again, the woman that he loved... However, he had to continue with their argument and with the old Emily it was going to be more difficult.
"I am not questioning your decision but I am questioning her stability," he said smoothly.
"Which I took in mind for my decision!"
"She is your friend…" he had already guessed what was coming.
"And what? Am I too involved? Do you think that I see her like myself and that clouds my judgment? What does your knowledge in psychology say again, Hotch?"
"Emily, she has nothing to do with you!" he continued still in his professional tone. They couldn't go down the same road. "She is a trained liar, she knows how to deceive and my knowledge in psychology says that she is hypervigilant and she hides it. She has clear issues with authority. I can't still figure out what else is off with her and I've seen too much!"
"Your profile was really that bad. Hotch, you have to trust me with her!"
"She has been undercover for five times! The facts blur and you are aware of what effect such a high number of operations can have on someone's mental state!"
She bent her head moving her head from side to side. She doubted him but also her agent. He knew that he could influence her, make her see.
"Whichever the case, we can't continue if we don't investigate all the possibilities," he added.
"I'll talk to her," she said comprising finally, she always trusted his judgment. "She will open up to me. With you she gets too defensive and believe me, she spoke because she wanted to. Don't ever think that you made her do it."
When Emily went for the door knob, he touched her arm softly noticing her shivering a little.
"And Emily, I was and I am never just concerned with you," he said in low voice, underlining the word "just", mimicking her way of pronouncing the sentence. "I need you to know that…"
She turned and looked him with big eyes in question. But she turned again opening the door and escaping his touch.
They entered the room. Gloria was still sitting on the chair, her shirt still on the table. She turned her head towrds them. Hotch sat at the corner of the table. Emily took a seat opposite her.
"Gloria, I'm sorry that you had to tell the story to Hotch alone."
"Not a big deal, Emily," she answered casually, "He wanted his answers and the facts were quicker than us."
She eyed him but he could see that she was more relaxed with Emily. Maybe she trusted her really.
"Your name on the list is weird, you know that," Emily continued neutrally.
"Oh yeah… And I didn't even pass from that floor today," she replied thoughtfully, "My name is on the case file of the guy though. Whoever did it, he used it. He had looked through files before."
"The fact is that we lost our only lead. Maybe we should have tried what we had considered before. If he had seen that he didn't kill you, maybe we would have thrown him off his game and made him talk."
"You said no," Gloria corrected her but without any accusation in her tone.
"I said no, because there was a specific danger."
"He wasn't a part of those guys. There wasn't any actual danger I've told you."
So Emily had ordered her to stay away from the guy. She didn't seem like someone that followed orders too well. Hotch had understood Emily's strategy. She wanted to make her admit whatever she had done by saying to her that it was ok. He almost smiled. He had missed her "compassionate" techniques. Emily was trying to lure an answer out of her, but the woman didn't seem to be aware. Hotch was grateful that Emily talked to her. If he had tried himself, the World War III would have broken loose by then… However, the agent should have been aware that Emily wasn't stupid. If she was hiding something, her instincts would have kicked in. If she wasn't faking it and actually biting the bait, that could only mean one thing: she had nothing to hide.
"Exactly," Emily continued, "Are you sure you didn't take any initiative?"
"Emily how many times I didn't follow your orders?" Gloria was getting confused, really confused and not frustrated.
"Actually, I got a feeling that you wanted to prove him that he didn't beat you, that you survived. That's why I said no. It's logical you know, the guy cut you almost to death, he left you with a permanent problem," Emily continued and Hotch knew that she was trying to provoke her.
"You know very well that I wouldn't have the damage, if I had been found earlier...", and then it seemed that it hit her. She leaned back to the chair disappointed, "Are you questioning me? You too?" she looked betrayed and she gave him a glare. "You made her doubt.", she told him. Emily bent her head.
"A pair of objective eyes doesn't harm, agent", Hotch started.
"Objective? Good luck with believing that!" she said back and for a moment he was stunned. Could she tell that he wasn't too objective with Emily? Emily never thought that he had feelings for her so she couldn't have said anything.
"I can't even believe that I'm getting caught between this," she moved her finger between him and Emily. "Emily, he is getting overprotective because he thinks I'm a threat to you. And obviously his opinion clouds yours. I knew it, damn it! I knew it from the moment he landed," she said, not in an aggressive tone to Hotch's surprise. She wasn't attacking Emily.
"Gloria…" Emily tried to cut her off and from her tone of voice Hotch could tell that she was already feeling bad for baiting her friend.
He couldn't let the other woman turn the game, however. Gloria looked him in the eye. She spoke before he had the chance to and to his surprise she changed subject:
"As long as you influence my boss' opinion, Agent Hotchner, let me tell you something: If I wanted to blame someone for my condition, the man downstairs was the last one."
"How does that…?" he said rising his eyebrows. Emily was rubbing her temple annoyed.
"Hotch, she is right!" Emily interrupted him looking at him. Then he remembered what she had told him the first day at her office. Clyde had left his agent uncovered. He didn't like the man but was there any possibility to prevent this? The woman got in a serial killer's path, there was no way to predict this. But yeah many times the agents blamed their leaders for not predicting the unpredictable. He was, however, puzzled that Emily seemed to share the opinion. She continued standing up and glared him and Gloria.
"We have already lost too much time arguing. We have to figure out what the hell happened and stop questioning each other," she was taking the lead and Hotch didn't see only the old Emily in front of him but he saw someone that had started to look too much like him, too.
"That's the first right thing said today," Gloria said, getting up to put her shirt on.
"Wait a minute," Hotch told her having a second look at her scars.
"What's the matter, Hotch?" Emily said.
"These are the three initial cuts," he started looking at Emily that understood.
"You mean that it's like he wanted to..." she was searching a right verb, " to do something specific… Maybe a wing. The angels fell…"
"His way of cutting was bizarre from the start. But on the dead victims it isn't obvious because of the open and multiple cuts. The phrase meant much more. They have religious motive," Hotch stated.
"Yeah… Thank you for informing me that I have an angel wing carved on my back…" Gloria said using the right verb herself, putting her shirt on and sitting down again.
Emily got concerned with her. The truth was that she was a victim and they had violated everything from her physical wounds to her psychological ones and he had made her friend turn against her for some minutes. But he wasn't feeling too badly. She started it, she should be able to deal with it. His phone rang. He answered it, putting it on speaker. It was Garcia.
"Go ahead, Garcia."
"Good afternoon, my captain! To who else do I have the honor to speak to?
"All of us," Emily said.
"Wow! I'm so proud to speak to the whole English squad!"
"Go ahead, Garcia," Emily told her.
"Did I just hear the same sentence with the same tone just different voice?", Penelope asked confused. They should have sounded too much alike. Gloria threw a look at them standing side by side over the phone.
"Anyway!" Garcia continued, "For the news coming we should pay our thankful respects to Rossi for persuading Mrs Strauss to do some phone calls."
"persuaded" a woman? How am I not surprised?", Gloria said and smiled.
Her tendency to change moods so quickly was one other thing that he didn't like but at that moment he was enough surprised with her knowing what she knew and he tried to push out of his mind any weird images… He noticed also that Emily was smiling, too, not surprised. How did that woman think that Rossi was still in retirement, if she had talked with Emily about him? Anyway, that was the last of his problems.
"Then you know how the man is with the ladies, Glory! As I've said, I noticed yesterday that really odd thing with the names starting with RR. I checked the rest and all of them they are nowhere to be found. I mean they have only birth certificates and passports.", Garcia carried on.
"Just a moment. All of them?" Gloria said. "Hotch, we thought about secret services but when you go under with an alias you don't normally need a birth certificate. They are in Witness Protection Program."
"I knew you are always gloriously brilliant, my love, just like me!" Garcia laughed. "Here comes the rest of the story: Thanks to Rossi I got some access to WPP. So it appears that the mystery man you caught is Larry Foster, a priest from Vegas."
"Religious and from the city of the first murders. Sinful city…" Emily said.
"Why was he in witness protection, Garcia?" Hotch asked.
"His church was in a pretty bad area and when I say bad, I mean really bad. He witnessed the killing of an elite gang member and he started receiving threating letters."
"Hotch, all the victims in Las Vegas were mentioned in files, any of them wasn't," Emily said.
"The three first were in the case file he was a witness. Ah, and he disappeared two years after going into the program!" Penelope added.
"Garcia, look for any law enforcement agents mentioned in his file. Look for anyone that the justice system failed and that had great involvement in religious organisations," Hotch ordered.
"Whatever you want, my kind Sir! Take care of the girls!" Garcia replied and ended the call.
"Nice. Now that we have a name, we don't have the man," Emily said.
"But he was obviously killed in order to keep his mouth shut. Anyway, I'm going to see how that poisoned food ended up in his plate," Gloria added standing up again.
"There is one question, though. Did the Planner come here just to kill him? If so, maybe now he is flying to who knows where," Emily thought out loud.
"There is another possibility," Hotch replied. The two women looked at him in question.
"That he lives here?" Emily tried to follow his thought, "They started from US. That's where they met. The Planner should be American."
"That he was here earlier," Gloria said. For another time, Hotch was thinking that, at least when it came to the job, they were fully tuned in. "The guy had no cash almost, no tickets, no Oyster card but he was well groomed and according to witnesses he was in the area for three days. He was staying with someone."
"This means only one thing…" Emily started.
"That the Planner is in London…" Gloria continued.
"And he has been here from the start," Hotch finished.
"He who has rejected his demons badgers us to death with his angels" ~ Henri Michaux