Chapter XVIII: The sinners fall
"I always tell the truth. Even when I lie." ~ Al Pacino
Hotch turned and saw the Interpol agent standing on his left, a few steps behind. Gloria had taken advantage of the priest's distraction and slipped inside the room. But she wasn't holding a gun. So what the hell did she have in her mind? At least, she managed to drag the priest's attention away from Emily, but not his gun. The grip of his hand loosened, though. Emily coughed a little. That gave Hotch some relief.
"Monica, or should I say Gloria?" the priest said.
"In flesh and blood. Not too long time since Rome, don't you think?" Gloria said.
The priest had really noticed the woman down there. Monica should have been her alias name. Or did they actually know each other? Hotch was getting nervous. The bad feeling he had for her, since the first moment he met, her came back. She couldn't be a part of this, could she?
"Your real name is too beautiful for what you were doing there. But you know what I mean, don't you?" he continued.
"About the last part of your mission? I have an idea…" she replied neutrally giving Hotch a quick glare. She knew what he was thinking for one more time. Damn the woman, sometimes she could see straight into his head. She was telling him that they were on the same side and she had a plan. She had called the back up. Of course, they were on the same side. But his instincts were in overdrive with the situation.
They were, also, in a room with an UnSub that had nothing to lose, knew that he was trapped, Emily was in danger and Hotch was with an agent whose tactics didn't know and he couldn't trust that she was in position to handle the situation they were in. He had to find out what she had in her mind. He had to inform her about the priest's old MO with the chemicals, too. She couldn't have knowledge of that, for sure.
"A priest holding a gun. Quite the contradiction. I knew that the priests are like Englishmen, they have a gun but they always keep it in the drawer."
That phrase was from a book, he thought. Her quote didn't fit. 'Englishmen'… She was telling him that she had a gun on her.
"No one is going to learn about your mission, if you get killed," Hotch played the card of the recognition to the priest to prevent him from focusing on the gun thing.
"Unlike you, agent Hotchner, I don't seek recognition… I don't have ambitions."
"The guys out there are ready to call you terrorist. Shootings to the police building, explosions and now you are threatening to kill the head of Interpol and a high-rate FBI agent. These sound too much like terrorism around here," Gloria said, at least she was following his lead.
"And the use of chemicals, as well," Hotch added informing the other agent about the Silvano's MO.
"I've seen that before,",Emily spoke, looking at Hotch with a look that he recognized after so many years working with her.
Hotch's assumption was right. He had drugged her with a chemical and Emily knew where he was keeping them.
"People don't need to know," the priest replied. Nice, the guy killed people for the greater good. "But you didn't mention yourself," he continued looking at Gloria.
"No one gives a damn about me," she replied and Hotch could say that she blieved that too strongly.
"Gloria…" Emily spoke. She was sensing faster than Hotch where all this was going. She knew her.
"However, Father, I get that your mission wants to make a point. But I am getting confused with it," Gloria spoke again.
What was that twist? Hotch noticed that she was calm beyond coolness and he got worried. She wasn't planning on antagonizing him, was she?
"You should understand it better than anyone. Redemption, Gloria. You were asking for it. You still do," the priest replied.
"I don't know what are you talking about," she replied indifferently.
"You are a lost soul. I saw it myself in Rome..." the priest said in his soothing tone that was giving Hotch the chills.
"'Lost soul?' You make it sound so dramatic, like I was some broken butterfly," she interrupted him, smiling ironically.
She had arrogance in her voice, too much of it and her tone was cold. He had no idea where all this was going. But Emily's eyes were telling him to trust her. Arrogance? The woman had never shown a single hint of it since he met her. That was one single thing that he couldn't add to her character at all.
"Weren't you broken, Gloria?" the priest continued in his spooky calm tone. "Coming into that church? I remember you in that corner, broken, lost, asking God for relief. You felt it on that ground, bleeding to death. Just like the woman in that alley…" the priest told.
He had seen the woman's lowest. The priest was bringing up things that could break the agent given her issues. Hotch had witnessed himself that she was really affected by what they had seen that morning, her anger and her will for revenge. Even in her small phrases, they were there. But to his surprise she didn't even flinch. Thank God she was handling the situation better that he had thought. She could handle herself despite the emotional luggage she was carrying around.
"Who has you told, Father, that the criminals don't pray to God not to get caught? I was high every time I was in that church. Have you seen that in any law enforcement job description?" she answered in the same tone. "Anyway. I know you are not terrorist. I know your mission but as I said I have lost your point somewhere," Gloria continued, folding her arms in front of her. "Emily killed a terrorist. That Hotch's guy, I think, deserved it as much. Come on. Wouldn't you have killed them yourself, if you could? So where is the point of all this? You have the only contract with God to clean the Earth from sin?"
Hotch was getting even more worried. She was using the staged crimes. But there was a problem with these scenes. She was the victim in hers. He intervened. She had made a point that they could use.
"She is right, Silvano. In many ways we are just like you. I don't know if we sent them to a better place but certainly we made this place better," and he wasn't lying exactly… Nice now he was dragging himself into the priest's fantasy…
"I knew that deep down you, you understand," the priest said looking him in the eye.
"What do you mean?" Hotch asked.
"You, Aaron, you are like me."
Hotch was getting confused, not exactly confused but this whole thing was getting too dark. He noticed Gloria taking some steps closer to the priest taking advantage from his distraction with him. The priest wasn't considering her a danger apparently. She was stealing glances towards Hotch. She had tried to press a priest's button but they finally pressed another one without knowing.
"You just wanted him dead. You said it yourself," Silvano said.
"Who wouldn't? The man had killed as many people as you," Emily spoke trying to cover him but the priest pressed his hand to her throat again, not much but enough to stop her from talking and he carried on.
"Emily is not like me," Silvano ignored her, "She didn't pull the trigger to kill Doyle. You killed Foyet for torturing you and killing your wife. And you killed Doyle too for torturing this woman. You let your team find him when it was none of your business. In any way, you are the one that pulled that trigger in reality. You, you know how it is the will to kill, to kill someone because of what they have done and are still doing."
"Yes I do," Hotch admitted.
The man could sense the truth so many times… Just like Hotch knew minutes ago that he wouldn't have been able to hold his temper, if the priest had hurt Emily, the same way he knew back when they were looking for her, that he would have put that bullet between Doyle's eyes for hunting her, for hurting her, even if he had told Clyde that he wouldn't. At the end he did, even if not literally. How many times had he thought that he was so good in finding UnSubs because he could be one of them? Uncountable…
"Emily has suffered enough for her sins. She used the feelings for a monster. But she got her punishment by having real feelings for another one. Let her out of this," Hotch tried to convince the priest, putting together the phrase with difficulty. This thing was too messy...
"This was your redemption, Aaron, to admit exactly this: the monster…" the priest answered, ignoring the first part of Hotch's words.
"Like he needed it. The guy is carrying around his regrets like the weight of the world," Gloria spoke, the arrogance back in her voice. She wasn't trying to give Hotch excuses. She was trying to control the conversation. They had hit a dead end and they had to stay ahead of the UnSub. Any pause could mean that all of them were dead.
"And you don't, Gloria?" the priest turned to her. "You know, you are a lot like him. Another evil chasing evil… All of you here, playing the tough and the perfect, when you are nothing of that, chasing the evil, when you are exactly that… But you, Gloria, were already asking for redemption. Do you want to confess my child?"
"Seriously? Come on Father. They confess those that have regrets. Whatever I was doing down there, believe it or not, I was doing it long before it was for 'chasing evil'? How do you think I was recruited in Interpol?" Gloria smiled ironically. "I didn't have regrets back then, why should I have now?"
Given her talk with Emily in her office, Hotch was getting aware that part of her story was true. She was recruited pretty young judging from her story in the car but maybe she wasn't for the youngster of the year award…
"Ask, Agent Hotchner, he never saw that I had a single one," she turned to Hotch.
Her eyes were cold, but she was trying to tell him something. At that moment Hotch quickly registered that she had a habit of adressing to him as 'agent Hotchner' when they were disagreeing, fighting whatever to call it. The moments that they were getting along she was calling him Hotch. And "seen"? She had told him over the phone that she went to the church while she was a mess. She had too many of them but she was playing a role. She was lying and she was asking him to play along.
Arrogance… Pride… "From that sin the angles fell…" The will to ignore and to be better than God made the angels fall. Shakespeare was speaking about ambition, arrogance. Gloria was demonstrating that sin. She was actually playing a character commiting that sin. This was dangerous. A single proper phrase could turn her into a target in the purest way and she was asking him to accuse her. The UnSub had said he was like him. He could influence him. Hotch didn't want to come to this point. But it was the only way out. Emily was already light head. Gloria should be the person that the priest knew the least about. He wouldn't be able to turn the game. Hotch should play along. She wanted for sure Emily out of the priest's hands and he had to trust that she had a survival plan in mind for herself, even if he doubted it strongly. He didn't want to sacrifice another person to save Emily. She would never forgive him…
"She didn't, Aaron?" the priest asked obviously a little bit puzzled with the turn.
"No. And even when they things got ugly she was hiding stuff." , Hotch spoke strictly and he saw Emily's eyes turning anxiously towards him. She had a pretty good idea where all this was going and she was getting frightened that he was pushing it.
"Of course, saving my ass was more important than solving your case!" she answered to him with force. "I am neither the hero stuff that you think you are, not the angel stuff that she thinks she is."
"I had an idea," Hotch said anger in his voice.
"To do what I do, agent Hotchner, you don't just play the criminal. You are one of them. But you are the useful stuff."
"Then why did you start the case, Gloria?" the priest asked not very convinced with their play. "Why did you go looking for my partners?"
"Oh I had a new boss to please. I got stuck in the same position the last time she was around."
"There should have been some pretty good reasons!", Hotch said in his strict tone.
"Oh! Come on, Agent Hotchner! Being a little dirty always helps."
"What did you find about her, Emily?" the priest turned to Emily.
Hotch noticed a glimpse of anxiety crossing Gloria's eyes. She was dragging him into her play but she didn't want to get Emily involved. But she nodded to her the moment the priest wasn't looking.
"She... she was involved with a gang as teenager," Emily spoke uncomfortable with the situation.
"This is not enough to ground someone, you know I know. If she is what she says, you don't care to protect her, do you?" the priest said still not convinced.
"Pff.. Just say it. You were the reason he dumped me to return to his wife, finally!" Gloria pressed her to speak.
"She had an affair with her still married boss," Emily said, confused.
Gloria was taking advantage of the priest's distraction with what was being said and she was getting closer to him.
"I had sensed that the woman down there was too bad to fight for good," the priest said biting the bait.
If Gloria was playing it that well, Hotch was absolute sure. Damn the woman was dangerous. She could fool him, himself. But he knew that in reality there was more to the previous story. The two women wouldn't have gotten along with each other so well, if this had been the truth.
"In that world, Father, the virtue thing doesn't really go far. And I'm very glad that I don't even know what this means. Otherwise I would have been stuck between folders like your weak friend Marks."
"You want to play the tough but you aren't. I saw you in that woman's crime scene, Gloria, troubled, frightened…"
"Her real problem was that we found out that she wasn't so clean for one more time," Hotch spoke throwing her a line to tell.
"Oh yeah. Another boss around here that thinks he knows everything finding out. Do you think I was feeling relief dying? I was thinking that I had seen enough to know that something was wrong down there, but my boss ignored me. For one more time I was stuck below a useless man," she said rising her eyebrow.
Hotch was surprised. He could sense that that last was the absolute truth. Had she told Clyde? He had pressed his agent beyond the normal point and even after that, had he ignored her warning? Of course, the "you know there is a serial killer out there" phrase was extreme but he had to take her in mind. Easter knew, for sure, that she was using from time to time but he was the one that had brought her to that point. She was a capable agent, Hotch had seen it during the case. She was even more than just a good agent. He was suddenly feeling too guilty for his attitude and even for the words he had said during that "play". She had become fit for the victimology completely, though, and he knew that now only one line was left.
"As for the church it was the quietest place for the drugs to wear off. I wasn't asking for any redemption, Father. I don't believe in any god."
"Then you are going to be the first to get your punishment!" the priest got enraged with the last part.
Everything happened too fast. Gloria had managed to get really close to him with her last phrase. The priest turned the gun towards her and fired but only after she had jumped to the side grabbing his hand, even with her condition and her injuries, avoiding the barrel. Her unexpected move forced him to let Emily go, who reached quickly into his pocket taking a small bottle out of it, the chemical he was planning to use. She fell on the other side coughing hard. Hotch dove towards the gun on the floor on his way to help Gloria. But he heard her yelp of pain. She had fought the priest but she couldn't make him drop the gun and as she had reached for hers he had managed to grab her right hand and pull it behind her back violently. The priest had the advantage to know her problem. An armed policeman burst through the door of the hotel room hearing the gun shot.
"Don't…" Emily ordered the young man.
"You really do look for redemption but you want to play the hero," the priest told Gloria whose face was twisting in pain.
Hotch paused for a moment. He was in the same position as earlier. But now the woman struggling in the priest's hands wasn't Emily and he didn't have a completely clear shot just like before. Hotch knew that this time he should act like he was trained to do. In any way, the others would do it.
"You are not going out of this room, Silvano. Let her go," Hotch told.
"Are you going to shoot this time, Agent Hotchner? What the woman that you love is going to think now that you feel ok to kill her friend? You couldn't cause Emily's death but you can hers?"
"Take the damn shot, Hotch!" Gloria shouted at him, trying to escape or just to make space for him to shoot.
She was looking straight at him and not at the others that appeared through the door following the first one. Hotch locked his eyes with Gloria's. She blinked in acceptance. She was giving him her OK.
"No, you were right. He is just OK with killing the sinner, just like I do," the priest told the struggling woman in his hands. "Just like me," he added pressing the gun to her neck.
"He is nothing like you," Emily spoke suddenly.
Hotch heard trust in Emily's voice. Emily trusted him that he could shoot without harming her friend, like she had done, when she was in her position. She trusted him more than he trusted himself.
He fired aiming at Silvano's head the moment they had the further distance, wishing strongly that they didn't move, or the UnSub didn't press his trigger in the few milliseconds that the bullet took to hit its target…
"We don't need wings to be angels. We don't need reasons to be right. Your love makes us all better, that who we really are, Angels and Heroes at heart…" ~ Brian Littrell