Chapter XV: Shootings and cars
"To believe or not to believe, is a problem. To leave or to conceive is another problem. To ascertain and to achieve is to solve the problem." ~ A. Saleh
In the heat of the moment, the only thing in Hotch's mind was to protect Emily from whatever was hapening. He dropped his body over hers to shield her and both fell to the floor, the glass window of her office smashing over them. The shots came from outside and as suddenly as they started, they stopped. His ears were still ringing. Emily was beneath him and then he registered what he had done. He had protected her with his own life. He had never done this before. Actually they never had come to any point close to this. He loved her more than he had even realized…
She moved touching his sides, checking if he was ok.
"Hotch?", she whispered. "Hotch!" she spoke louder, starting panicking because of his lack of reaction.
He finally focused again.
"Are you OK?" he asked quietly.
"You are the one who fell over me. Are you?" she said.
He nodded and removed his weight from her standing up, still remaining covered by the exterior wall. He helped Emily getting up without looking in her confused eyes. She had realized what he had done, too. Avoiding the broken glass around them, they went to the corridor finally shielding themselves behind a full height, solid wall.
"Where is Ria?" Emily looked around anxiously in the bullpen full of people trying to figure out what had happened.
The other woman was going to the roof and that meant she was in an open space. Emily moved towards a door in front of a staircase. They found Gloria dropped some steps up, beside another door that apparently led outside. She looked at them relieved. Emily rushed to her side.
"I'm OK," Gloria said. "Thanks to the door."
"Are you sure?" Emily asked concerned.
"It's nothing," she told Emily. "I just slipped on some steps while moving backwards. If he had started firing two seconds later, I would have been as good as dead," she carried on as she stood up wincing a little."What was that?"
He had no idea. They didn't just stand there by chance, all the three of them. If the shooter had waited a few seconds, he could have killed Gloria, for sure. Was it a warning? They had accepted their sins and now was he going to make them pay? Then why wait? The Unsub had some kind of sick game in his head.
Crime Scene Team came into the office, ballistics analysis and so on. It only proved the previous. He had shot too high into Emily's office. In no way, he wanted to kill them. They figured out that the shooter should have been on the roof of one of the opposite buildings. The three of them went to that roof, while the forensics still analyzed the place for any evidence. But there was nothing except for the marks on the wall, where he had placed the gun.
"Military long range weapon," Hotch said thankful to his training in SWAT.
"And he knew how to use it well,", Emily continued looking at the considerable distance from the roof to the Police building.
"His targets were just the roof and the window though," Hotch noticed. "And he could watch us from here, too. How often do you go to the roof?" he asked Gloria.
"Three, four times maybe per
day? When they say that smoking can kill you, they don't usually mean by
getting shot on the roof, you know," she replied. After the last ordeal,
she was more skeptical. Hotch didn't know if it was because she almost
got killed again or it was something else. "However these types of
weapons are very rare to find them illegally, mainly here," she added.
"Then we should check any information on those illegal networks," Emily stated.
"I'm gonna make some calls," Gloria said and left.
"What's going on, Hotch? He did all this. He didn't kill us. Why?", Emily turned to him.
"I have no idea. Let's get back to the office. I don't think we are so safe out here," he said simply.
There shouldn't be in actual danger, at least not for the moment. But his bad feeling had only grown stronger after all that.
Once they returned to the Office they picked a room without windows, no one wanted any more surprises. They had the press covered. Shootings to the Police building were going to hit the pages but the police managed to manipulate the press telling that they had to do with something else. Hotch called Garcia.
"Oh my English squad, tell me you are OK! We heard about the shootings!" Garcia asked anxiously.
"We are fine Garcia. Thanks!" Emily told her.
"What do you have on Marks?" Hotch asked.
"This disgraced agent had nothing to catch my investigative eye. He was never married, extremely religious and I found nothing interesting in his accounts and contacts, apart from frequent phone calls to overseas mobile numbers that they don't exist anymore."
"He was contacting his partner," Emily said.
"Three weeks ago took vacation time, exchanged 4000 dollars to pounds and took a flight to London."
"What about his professional file?" Hotch asked.
"He was in SWAT in California, good recommendations then he took up that undercover mission for a narcotics investigation in Vegas. But it is kind of spooky don't you think? Having a person like this in our Office? I mean I thought that the bad guys are out there, not here!" Garcia whispered.
"The bad guys are everywhere, Pen. Unfortunately," Gloria spoke as she entered the room.
"Did you find what went wrong with his last undercover mission?" Hotch asked.
"His first and last, you mean my kind Sir. He got involved into a questionable shooting," Garcia replied. "Nothing was proved , he denied everything but he was forced to desk duty after this."
"Who was the victim?" Emily asked.
"Another gang member near his partner's church."
"How long after he started the operation he did it?" Gloria asked.
"Thanks, Garcia. Keep me posted if you find anything else," Hotch spoke.
"Please, be safe my furry friends!" Garcia said and ended the call. It was the second time that she said that and Hotch felt that they were going to need her wishes.
"He killed a bad guy and it felt the right thing to do and he carried on," Emily said.
"Right and wrong blur down there…" Gloria murmured.
"Did you find anything about the gun?" Hotch asked her.
"There are some 'contacts' and the proper 'recommendations' for the few sellers of these goods. But I don't think that anyone is going to speak to us, not as Interpol, Police, FBI, whatever anyway," she answered looking at Emily with meaning.
"Gloria, you don't mean…" Emily started getting upset. Apparently the other woman was thinking of putting up a character and talk to the 'contacts'.
"Emily, this guy lives underground. If we don't look there we would never find him. And bringing someone else won't help. It will take too long or we may have another victim," Gloria interrupted her.
"What if he did all of this on purpose and this is another trap?" Emily told her.
"Oh come on! The guy can't know all the Met's information!" she argued.
Hotch had to admit that probably Gloria was right. But they couldn't risk it.
"Try to find the most possible sellers and we will see what we are going to do. Everything will be found from here. Ria, the guy shot at us! You are not going anywhere. And this an order," Emily told her strictly.
"Yes, Ma'am," Gloria said and left. In different circumstances Hotch would have smiled with how similar her "ma'am" sounded to Emily's. But at that moment he was worried that the younger woman complied too easily and judging from Emily's face, she was thinking the same.
"We have to make him surface. If this is a warning, we are his next targets," Emily said.
"We accepted our sins. We wants us to stop otherwise, we are going to have the same end as his victims," he added.
"We have to clear you a gun," Emily mentioned and she took the phone in her hand, dialing a number.
There was no indication that they were going to end up in this situation and the English laws regarding firearms were more complicated and stricter than the American ones, so he hadn't gotten a clearance for bringing or carrying a gun.
He nodded. The truth was that he needed one. Many years ago a Native American guard had characterized him as "the gun head" of the team and he was, no doubt and with a danger around he wasn't feeling safe without one, not for himself so much, but for Emily. He didn't want to be in circumstances that he couldn't react. His mind drifted back in her office during the shootings. His eyes should have gotten softer while he was watching Emily talking on the phone about legalities and regulation, because once she was finished she said what was in her mind since that incident.
"Hotch, whatever I said, whatever I showed for you anyway, you have no obligation towards me," she struggled to speak bending her head.
"Emily…" he said shaking his head. She was convinced that her feelings were one-sided. It was too difficult for him to undo five years of ignorance towards them in one word, mostly not for a man not good with words. She didn't leave him time to speak anyway.
"And the next time that anything happens, please don't protect me like that…" her voice trailed off at the end.
She was worried about him, afraid for him. Another moment flashed into his mind. Back then, just hours before she had approached him on the plane, they were chasing that kid killing his former classmates for stealing his story about the school shootings. Emily heard the gunshot and called his name. She shouldn't have done it normally. She hadn't known what had happened and she could have startled the situation. But she had gotten afraid for him and of anything happening to him. For a profiler, he had missed it…
He got close to her and touched her shoulders like he had done during that "talk" for their UnSub. With all this they didn't have time to talk about it and neither that moment was a good time.
"Emiy, when I said that I care too much, I meant it," he spoke, making her look at him. "Till this ends, I just need you to know that I meant it," and he tried to pull her to him but he felt her resisting and he regretted his initiative. Was she still angry with him? Was she still affected by whatever their UnSub brought up? Was she confused with him? He didn't know the answers and the knock on the door didn't help him find them.
It was the ballistics report and a case of a bank robbery where possibly the same weapon was used. The match wasn't 100% due to the condition of the bullet from the bank robbery. They checked if there was any connection with the Executioner's cases.
"There's nothing. He contacted someone and bought it," Emily spoke. "Let's see if Gloria found anything,",she stood up and Hotch followed her to the room besides.
To their surprise Gloria wasn't around. On the table there were two open folders and a copy of the ballistics report. One of the sellers was involved in one's of the Executioner's cases. What made Emily anxious was Gloria's badge lying on the side. A note was handwritten on a paper "Sorry. In case I don't contact back in six hours", followed by a number that Hotch guessed it was an english license plate. Emily seemed to get the message. One hour and half had passed since Gloria had left them. She picked up the phone again.
"I need to know where one of the cars was last tracked. And I need it now!…" she barked to the other side of the line.
Gloria had gone to follow the contact. Hotch knew that maybe they had to follow the leads, staying here didn't help but they couldn't take chances with anyone's life and the agent had decided to risk it despite the orders.
"Sometime I'm talking to the walls!", Emily exclaimed after writing down the address that they gave her and ending the call.
"She had some points earlier," Hotch admitted.
"I know, Hotch! But she isn't disposable to take risks like this!" Emily replied angry and concerned. "At least one of us could have gone with her! But she didn't want to put anyone else in danger. Sometimes she just forgets about herself," she murmured.
"I'm going to find her," Hotch said taking the paper with the address from Emily. Liking Gloria or not, she was a member of this temporary team. Someone had to have her back.
Emily nodded. She trusted him of all people with her friend's safety.
"Wait a minute," Emily said and left. She came back with a gun. "Take it. I'm going to have it cleared when you come back. And the kid in the parking can give you a second key to her car.", she took the badge from the table, "And give this to her and please tell her that to normal people it means resigning," she told him and Hotch didn't really understand it. He moved towards the door, taking off his tie. Wherever the woman was, a man in a suit would have looked suspicious.
"And be careful. Both of you." she spoke quietly. She was worried for both of them.
He nodded and left. He took a cab to the address. Driving there wasn't option as he didn't know the city and he wasn't used to driving on the right side. Having someone else to drive him could only add more complexities. He could tell that he went to an area in the south London. It was freezing outside and some snowflakes were floating from time to time. He found the black, small SVU parked. As it wasn't the best idea to stand outside, he unlocked the car and got in the passenger's seat. After some time he noticed Gloria walking towards the car. She had changed into a short, loose, red, woolen skirt, an open top and a waist long, black leather jacket. With this outfit he didn't really want to know either how much cold she was, or where exactly she was keeping her gun. Before she came too close to the car , he opened the door and got out. He shouldn't take her by surprise her too much. He wasn't trusting her condition and he was concerned about how she would react. Gloria's hand went instinctively to her upper thigh, exactly where he had guessed she was keeping the gun, getting cover in an entrance and pointed the barrel at him in no time.
"It's me," he said. In the deserted street she could hear him clearly.
She lowered the gun and came closer.
"Next time just wait for a call. I am not used to have people around watching out for me," she told him annoyed that he startled her, as she climbed in the car and hedid the same. "But I'm one of the lucky ones!" she changed tone.
Hotch looked at her in question.
"I know you for four days and I got to see you without a tie!"
He ignored her and he took her badge out of his pocket and gave it to her.
"Emily told me that to normal people it means resigning."
"I used to tell her that when you go under you leave the badge because you are gonna do whatever it tells you not to and she used to answer that to normal people leaving it means resigning," she explained taking from his hand, "I hope Emily isn't too angry,", she added concerned.
"She is more worried."
"If I'm not fired already then it's ok! And a right story can give you everything," she got her phone, pressed a button and put it in the case beside the wheel.
"Tell me you are alive!" Emily's voice came from the phone.
"Alive enough to make calls. And Hotch… fortunately! We have a possible residing area for our guy. His seller used to meet him a lot around four blocks from here around this time," Gloria rushed to speak giving her the names of the streets.
"I'll contact the police," Emily answered.
"And we'll keep an eye.", Hotch said. "We might be lucky."
"OK…" Emily replied after some moments. "And Ria when you get back here, we have some serious talk to do.", she said in a strict and concerned tone.
"Alright, Em,", Gloria replied thoughtfully and ended the call. "Sometimes I still don't know how she puts up with me…" she carried on mainly to herself, as she started the car.
"She is your friend," he answered neutrally.
"Hmm… The Emily I last remember… She would have never risked for the bad business I have turned into," she said in the same tone and Hotch noticed a spite in her voice. The woman had proved that she trusted Emily completely and cared for her, but she was holding something.
There was a reason that Strauss tried to use Emily as a spy on his team, he thought…
"Did you know Emily before the...?" he asked referring to Doyle's operation.
"Oh, before!" she said smiling. Obviously whatever she was holding had to with the after. "She was a bright agent and a kind person, even stressed with being always perfect, professionally right, having good relations with the bosses. Oh yeah, there was a time that Emily was politics friendly, if you can believe it!" she laughed a little. "But that overzealous leaded her to take a dive into the hell." she carried on.
He rubbed his forehead, concerned. He admired Emily for her bravery to do it, but she made herself suffer. What she told him in that "talk" proved it. The other woman noticed his skeptical face.
"They wanted to profile that bastard and catch him. There was no plan for the 'particular' involvement at the start. After they concluded that they had no other way. Emily had the brains and the training. But any training in the world can't help with these jobs and the bosses around here don't think about the consequences in the big picture. If you are the best for something, they push you to do it. Clyde thought I am crazy when I told him to find someone else and not make a good girl play the bad one," she shook her head.
"Did you consult in Doyle's case?", he looked at her taken aback.
Wasn't she too young? She found his surprise entertaining for one more time.
"I did help a bit.", she said vaguely. "I was 29 years old but I had already been undercover two times with high flags. Youngest agent ever going under, too, blah-blah… I was a star back then, Agent Hotchner. I used to have better days, you know," she added without any hint of arrogance.
He got even more surprised. 29? That meant that she was almost 39 now. He had guessed that she was at least 4 years younger.
"Oh yeah, I know I don't look my age but thanks!" she said winking at him.
how was she after?" he asked concerned after a long pause.
"A confused version of the previous.", Gloria answered neutrally not giving him more details but he was sure there were some. "She crossed the Atlantic Ocean before. Like now... 'Escape'… Escape from the frying pan to the fire.", at least both of them agreed that they were escapes without any meaning. She parked the car. "Anyway. The matter is Emily came from the BAU a better person. And you, Hotch, played a big role in that.", she carried on sincerely.
She didn't say "I guess" or "I think". She was certain and she didn't speak about the rest of his team, Hotch noticed in his head. He looked around in thought. But with the corner of his eye he spotted the shadow of a man getting out of a car and walking in the street towards a door.
"That's him," he recognized him.
"If he goes inside we can loose him. These buildings are too old and they have passages."
"And we don't have time to wait for back up," he stated and he wasn't still cleared to use the gun he had. It was mainly for emergency.
"Screw the protocols. He's gonna be yours any way," Gloria said guessing his thought.
They couldn't rely only on one gun, he knew it. He pulled out his gun asking:
"Always," she replied simply.
They jumped out of the car covered by the doors. Hotch released the safety of the gun and Gloria pulled her own.
"Andrew Marks! Hands in the air and no smart moves!", Gloria shouted.
The man was taken aback for just two seconds. Then he rolled towards his parked car retrieving his own gun and he fired towards them forcing them to get cover behind the open doors of the jeep. One bullet smashed the glass window of the driver's door. They managed to take a couple of shots but they missed him. When they got up, Marks had opened the back door of the car and he fired again to forcing them get cover for one more time and the next thing heard was a car door closing. Marks started the car as Hotch fired two shots to the car. Gloria jumped in their jeep, starting the engine and turning on the lights, the siren and the GPS. Hotch got in, too. She pressed a button on her cell on the dashboard and she unparked the car hitting the gas.
"We spotted the UnSub and we are pursuing. It's a red Opel Corsa," Hotch said.
"Vauxhall, there are no Opel cars in the UK," Gloria corrected him. "Emily, take our positions from the GPS of the car."
"And he is armed," Hotch added.
"OK," Emily's voice came from the device.
was really late and the streets of London had very little traffic. The wheels of
their SUV were squeaking creepily at every turn. Hotch got hold on the
door. Gloria was driving worse than Morgan in high speed. But keeping up with the UnSub was hard as he kept changing directions
abruptly and his car was much smaller than theirs. Gloria pressed the gas all the way down once they hit a straight road and the engine roared.
"Come on, my boy! You can do it," she spoke impatiently to the car obviously.
They had to reach the car in front of them. If they lost him, they were never going to find him again.
Hotch had no idea where they were. They crossed Thames at some point. They were heading towards the north that was all he could say. They kept going when Hotch recognized that they were turning into Oxford Street. Sirens could be heard around them. There was little traffic. Going towards the centre wasn't a smart move and Marks was smarter than that…
"Where the hell is he going Hotch?"
"Sometimes there are no words. No clever quotes to neatly sum up what's happened that day…" ~ Aaron Hotchner