Through the Streets of London

Chapter VII: Getting to know each other

"Question everything. Learn something. Answer nothing." ~ Euripides

After the afternoon briefing, Hotch went to his hotel and stayed there. He had dinner at the restaurant of the hotel, a drink at the bar. He was too exhausted to walk around. Emily had told him that they could go for dinner some other day but she wanted to let him rest the first evening. He was glad, not only because he was indeed too tired from the flight, but also because he was too confused about everything, the cases and his feelings… Both of them were a complete mess and that was the only thing certain. He fell asleep thinking about everything and nothing...

The next morning came and he headed to the Interpol Office, his hotel was only a fifteen minute walk away. The road was full of rushing Londoners heading to their jobs. He didn't look any different with his briefcase and his suit under his coat. He arrived at the office and the room that Emily had provided them earlier than the time agreed, only to find Gloria already there making coffee with her back towards the door. She was wearing a pair of blue buggy jeans, a black, thick blouse, a long, woollen jacket with stripes and flat boots. Hotch still wasn't comfortable with her, in spite of Emily's reassurances, so he had decided to keep an eye on the woman.

"Morning," he said clearly after he passed the door as quiet as possible.

"Good morning, Agent Hotchner! You are an early bird, aren't you?" she replied back without startling.

She wasn't jumpy, he checked in his mind. He had thought last night that maybe the agent had some form of PTSD, given her story, and that was what was giving him the bad feeling. Emily had only admitted "that she was struggling" but no details.

"So are you as I see, Gloria. And just Hotch, please," he replied. He could play along, at least for Emily's shake, and if he warmed up to her, he could evaluate her better.

"Good! All this: agent this, agent that, was driving me crazy. Do you want some coffee, Hotch?"

"Sure."

When she brought him a big cup of black coffee with no sugar beside it, like she knew he didn't need it because indeed he drunk his coffee black and without sugar, he got obviously suprised.

"What? Did you think that only profilers profile?" she said winking at him, "And I don't have PTSD, Hotch, so you don't need to check other things besides if I am jumpy by sneaking behind me."

Nice, he thought. The woman was reading him, too. Now he was sure that he wasn't only the observer but also the observed.

"So… Emily called, she's gonna be here in an hour or so, we can start without her. I split the cases based on the country that they took place," she continued in professional tone, showing him the folders in the piles on the table and the photos with short notes on the transparent board, "and I put them in chronological order, as well."

"It's better to start from the Rome murders," he proposed taking the two files.

"Oh yeah, you wanted to speak to the undercover agent. So shoot," she said sitting down beside him, crossing her legs and leaning on the table.

"How long did you work on that operation?" he started opening the last file.

"Three years almost."

"And you noticed the suspect in the area when?"

"The last month."

"Before the first murder or after?"

"One day after."

The woman was unnerving him a little. She wasn't giving any further information apart from what he asked exactly.

"And how?"

"I was frequenting a bar for "job reasons" and he appeared there frequently."

He looked at her intensely leaning back to his chair. He wasn't going to continue like this. He was going to press her to say the full story by herself. She raised the corner of her mouth.

"What isn't in the file and you need to know is that you usually don't expect a foreigner to pop up in a low life bar more than once. But he did. He kept to himself and was looking around. After his appearance three junkies and two married men that they were coming with women that weren't their wives disappeared. The lawyer had never appeared in that bar but the cop had come two or three times and the suspect followed him the night he got murdered. You know the rest about the witness and I can say he was reliable."

"Why was the policeman at the bar, if he was clean?"

"He was working into a local investigation and they were trying to buy him but he wasn't biting."

"And how are you sure that they didn't kill him because of that?"

"In those occasions they didn't kill anyone. They just befriended his partner, his supervisor. Always someone would go for the treat. But that exact guy wasn't the type to betray his job, not even his wife!" she continued smiling ironically.

"And you know this how?" Hotch knew that he was asking something that he didn't really need to know.

"I don't think this is relevant," Gloria answered folding her arms.

She was getting defensive, he thought and she knew that he was aware of that. The truth was that he wanted to have a closer look to what means "going under", play the bad for too long and mainly for a woman. Maybe in this way he could understand Emily. He knew that some other members of his team had judged her, even Morgan had done it in the beginning: "She slept with a terrorist for a profile!" Rossi had told him that. He, himself, never judged her for what she had done, never, because he just couldn't and not because he understood. But now he got the opportunity to examine someone else, that he didn't care if she felt like being judged or questioned. Probably in that way he could understand Emily and why she had made those choices when her story was uncovered, choices that hurt him more than he had admitted back then. So he pressed Gloria more.

"The accuracy of this story is vital, it is the reason you started the investigation."

"I was the one who was trying to buy him with more than one treats and I had experience to tell, if you know what I mean. Happy now?" she said offended.

She stood up leaning on the wall still looking at him with her eyebrows raised. She obviously didn't want to share that information with him, with a man and a stranger.

"You know, none of us is proud of what we are doing under, Agent Hotchner," she continued her eyes dropping to the floor.

He held his gaze on her. He had already guessed that Emily had felt embarrassed, too. But know he could observe the full toll that this kind of jobs took to a person.

"And then, how are you...?" he said quietly.

Actually he was just thinking out loud. His question wasn't about judging how she was going under but the woman in front of him clearly thought that and she snapped, turning to him again.

"Both of us in this room, we aren't exactly saints to judge each other! As far as I heard you are a really quick shot!" she attacked him, referring obviously to the fact that he had fired enough kill shots in his career.

Even if he got angry, he restrained himself. He had sounded too rude, even though it wasn't his intention, and Gloria too defeated and he knew he was a jerk. The undercover jobs were extremely vital. The agents that did them should be respected. So he clarified more smoothly.

"I meant how you are coping coming back to some people that know…"

The woman was for a bit stunned and then her eyes softened. She guessed probably why he was asking. He couldn't really tell. However, she answered in an accusing tone.

"It depends to what and whom you are coming back. If you are coming back to a complete professional mess or to whom that suddenly values you psychologically and doesn't see further than his nose, then it is pretty bad."

He could tell that the first part was about herself. He knew from his spying on her and Emily's discussion that the woman was facing difficulties in the office. But the second part? Was she speaking about Emily? The "nose" was "his" nose? He thought that he was quite supportive with Emily. Could she have any other impression?

At that moment Emily appeared through the door and she was surprised to find Gloria standing and upset and Hotch puzzled.

"Good morning..." she said throwing looks at both of them, "Is everything alright?"

"Yeah," Gloria answered, "Your friend there got a little bit too curious. I'll be back in a few. Excuse me," she said going out.

Emily turned to him.

"Hotch?"

"Nothing," he said back and he was glad that Emily didn't push the subject.

"Try to understand men. If you understand each other you will be kind to each other. Knowing a man well never leads to hate and almost always leads to love." ~ John Steinbeck


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