Out of Africa

Unanswered Questions

"Guilt isn't always a rational thing….Guilt is a weight that will crush you whether you deserve it or not."
~Maureen Johnson.

March 2009. Washington, D.C.

"David," Father Davison's voice stopped him as he walked down the aisle. "The Agent. Did the information about the case come to her directly?"

"Why?" Rossi felt a pinprick of curiosity, mingled with an unnamed sense of dread. Davison didn't ask questions without reason.

"You open yourselves up to understanding the worst monsters, you invite evil into your lives. It's a vulnerable position."

"Meaning what?" He didn't like where this was going. Emily was already giving off some weird vibes on this case; she certainly didn't need men of God whispering spooky predictions over her head.

Davison simply smiled, "Take good care of her. And you."

September 2013. Nairobi, Kenya.

He'd failed that obligation, David Rossi knew that. Prentiss had been a mere twenty feet away from him, and he'd failed to protect her.

He should never have gone down the stairwell. He should have stayed up top, should have let Kimathi and Azoulay take the stairs while he kept an eye on Prentiss.

Never leave your partner alone. That was basic academy stuff.

Watch each other's back. Keep each other in sight at all times. That had been Hotch's only command, and Rossi had nodded in agreement.

And yet, when the moment came…

"She's going to be OK," Spencer said, almost to himself and not for the first time.

"Of course," he tried to sound nonchalant, but felt as if he failed.

They had been in the waiting room for almost half an hour, unsure of what else to do or where else to go. It was a familiar and unwelcome feeling when it came to Emily Prentiss. Hopefully Hotch was still with her.

Speak of the devil—Aaron Hotchner was making his way down the hall, face set in its usual mask of sober neutrality.

"How is she?" Spencer was already on his feet.

"They're putting her in a room right now. The shot was clean, through and through, so no surgery. But there are some muscles that will have to repair themselves, so it looks like she'll be on crutches for a little while. And the doctors have decided on a blood transfusion, which they'll start once she's settled in her room."

Rossi breathed a small prayer of relief. Getting shot wasn't exactly a consummation devoutly to be wished, but Emily had the luck of the draw on her side—of any prognosis she could have gotten, this was definitely the one to hope for.

Now to the business of finding the bastard who put a bullet in his gattina.

"Did Emily confirm that Wasaki was the shooter?"

An odd look passed over Hotch's face. "No. Though I'm sure that will be the general assumption."

Hotch was hiding something; Rossi could sense it. Something about his furtive glance, the way he worded his response. Still, Dave knew better than to push.

Reid noticed the odd behavior too, because his brow furrowed in light confusion. And he, too, chose to ignore Hotch's reticence—instead, he asked, "So what do we do now?"

Their unit chief gave a heavy sigh, "We return to CID and continue the hunt for Wasaki."

The two agents nodded, following him through the glass doors of the emergency room and back into the parking lot.

Reid glanced over at Rossi, You're noticing that something's off, right?

Rossi raised his eyebrows in affirmation, Oh, something's off, kid.

The young doctor merely glanced at Hotch again, the concern evident in his expression. So many things had already gone wrong today—they couldn't afford any more missteps.

He made a small gesture towards Hotch, who was still walking obliviously in front of them, Should we…?

Rossi gave a curt shake of his head, No.

Spencer shrugged, Your call, man.

Even if Aaron Hotchner couldn't see this silent exchange, he could certainly feel the questioning and concerned glances behind him. He hated keeping them out of the loop, but Emily hadn't given him permission to share the information with them yet—and like so many times before when it came to Emily Prentiss, he found himself keeping secrets that rubbed against the grain, though he told himself that it was all for her benefit and safety.

CID Lab. Nairobi, Kenya.

Ahoo Shir-Del bit her bottom lip as she entered the lab again—this time, she'd come without George, and she suddenly felt very vulnerable. She was greatly outnumbered by lab techs, and here she was, blowing in to cause a ruckus.

The final reconstruction hadn't been sent—and given Constance Connelly's general speed, it didn't make sense. If you did the math, she'd only taken about four hours apiece on the first two, and yet had spent almost seven on this last one.

Ahoo felt a tremor of nervousness in the pit of her stomach—Constance wasn't exactly the warmest person in the world, and Ahoo doubted that confrontation would positively affect that.

But her worry seemed for naught, because Constance wasn't at her work station. The last body was there, the laptop was waiting, though its screen had gone blank (she hasn't been here for a while). The most peculiar thing was the cellphone sitting beside the laptop (she's been gone, and she left her phone…on purpose?).

Ahoo looked around, unsure of what to do. Then she spotted a familiar face—Dr. Benjamin Arterton, one of the British forensic experts who'd been so helpful at the shopping center.

"Doctor," she stepped forward, and he skittered a bit, slightly startled and then subsequently embarrassed by his reaction.

"Ah, um, yes?" He clasped his hands in front of himself, trying to appear more austere.

"I'm looking for Constance Connelly—she came in last night, with Interpol. She's supposed to be working on the facial reconstruction," she gestured to Connelly's work station.

"Well, I'm sure she'll be back soon. Probably went for a coffee."

"I—ah, I think she's been gone for quite some time," Ahoo pointed out. "I was just wondering when you last saw her."

"I'm not sure I ever saw her, actually," the doctor admitted. "What does she look like?"

Ahoo described the woman in question. Dr. Arterton made a slight face, "No, I'm not sure that I noticed. But the closest work station to hers is Masterson and Lewis, the Americans—perhaps we can ask them. As it just so happens, I was on my way there."

Ahoo nodded and followed the doctor around the corner, where Rowena Lewis and Jeff Masterson were working away at a ballistic trajectory map.

As usual, the dynamic duo smiled at the newcomers.

Arterton wasted no time with pleasantries, "Agent Shir-Del is looking for Miss…Conners?"

"Connelly," Ahoo corrected. "The reconstruction expert from Interpol—she's at the workstation next to you—"

"Isn't that the same one that British guy was looking for?" Jeff turned to Rowena in slight confusion.

His partner nodded, "Clyde Easter. He was in here less than an hour ago, looking for her, too. But we haven't seen her."

Ahoo was perplexed. The woman had been in a room full of people, and no one had seen her. How was that even possible?

She thanked them all for their time and left.

Dr. Arterton remained, looking over his shoulder nervously. Jeff and Rowena exchanged curious glances.

"Something we can do for you, Doc?" Jeff asked, his tone still congenial, perhaps even mildly amused.

"Ah, yes, actually," he stepped forward again. "It's getting a bit late, I know, but I'm going out for some coffee. I thought perhaps you'd like to join me, Agent Lewis."

There was a beat of surprise in Rowena's face, then a smile. "Coffee sounds perfect. Let me get this wrapped up—it'll only take a few minutes."

"Of course. I'll be waiting upstairs." He smiled, gave another slight nod, and disappeared.

Jeff made a low teasing noise. "Coffee. Very smooth. Didn't know the Doc had it in him."

"Me, either," Roe admitted with a grin.

"He seems nice."

"Jeff, it's just coffee."

"If it was just coffee, he would have invited me, too."

She took off her lab coat and tossed it hap-hazardously onto an empty space on the counter. "Maybe if you worked on your sunny disposition, he would have."

He was grinning like a madcap. She tried not to share his grin, but failed miserably.

"It's just coffee," she repeated.

"So that's what they're calling it these days."

She flipped him the bird as she walked out the door. This, of course, only made him laugh harder.

Yonah Zamir was sick again. She washed her face in the sink of the women's restroom, taking a deep breath to calm the pounding in her head. The face staring back at her was haggard, drawn, exhausted.

What is wrong with me? She'd been in many situations more stressful than this, hadn't she? And she'd weathered all of them with ease and dexterity. So why was this one different?

She knew the reason. No other mission had been attached to such a deep part of her being—she'd never wanted another target as badly as she wanted Mariatu Wasaki, and the fear of losing him (again, after so many years of chasing) was making her body break under the stress.

It didn't help that she was also walking a thin line between protecting her country's interest and basically aiding and abetting a terrorist. The idea that any of her actions would contribute to Wasaki's freedom was a hard weight to bear.

So much hangs by so little. Her fingers automatically strayed to the breast pocket of her shirt again, to the button that kept safe her secret—she pulled away, giving a slight shake of her head that sent another wave of nausea rippling through her body. No. Be strong, Zamir. Do what is right.

But was this right? She thought that when the moment came, it would be one of total moral clarity, that she would know and feel beyond all shadow of doubt that she was making the right choice. Now she felt the painful realization that she may spend the rest of her life second-guessing her actions, never truly knowing if she'd done the right thing.

She barely reached the toilet before sickness hit again.

It seemed like a sign. Of what, she didn't know.

By the time Rowena Lewis and Benjamin Arterton were walking across the lobby of the police building, the BAU members were returning.

Rowena took one look at their drawn faces and her own paled in uneasy fear, "What happened?"

"You don't know about the op?" Spencer seemed surprised.

"I've been in the lab all day—I didn't even know there was an operation in place. You took a tactical team out today?" The wheels were spinning behind her hazel eyes, trying to take in all this information at once.

"We had a lead on Wasaki and Ade's location," Dave supplied. "A team was sent out. No one was apprehended, but Emily Prentiss was shot."

"Oh my God," Rowena's entire body went absolutely still from the blow of the shock. "Is she…?"

"She's recovering—it was a flesh wound." Hotch assured her. Her broad shoulders slumped in relief. "We just got back from the hospital."

"Give me her room number, when you get a chance. I want to send flowers, or something—does she like flowers?"

"Anything but lilac freesias," Spencer informed her.

"How very specific," Roe found her usual grin. "Thank you."

"I'll give you a room number, as soon as I know," Hotch promised.

Rowena gave a slight nod. She and Ben Arterton stepped aside, allowing the BAU team to continue to the elevators.

"You care very deeply for Chief Prentiss," the Englishman pointed out quietly.

"I do," Rowena admitted.

"Yet you haven't known her that long."

"No. But I….I know her well, I suppose. I know her deeply, and that isn't ever based on a length of time. We're kindred spirits, in a way."

"Kindred spirits." He smiled. "What a lovely concept."

As usual, George seemed to know that something was wrong before Ahoo even spoke—he was on his feet the second that she appeared in the doorway of the conference room, before she could even gesture for him to join her in the hallway.

"What's going on?" He kept his voice low.

"Something's up. I don't know what it is, but something's definitely up."

"Why, Agent Shir-Del, don't kill me with the specifics, please."

She rolled her eyes at his sarcasm. "I went downstairs, to check with Connelly on the reconstructions—she wasn't there."

"How disappointing for you."

She fought back another wave of irritation, "You're missing the point, Whitting. She wasn't there, and she hadn't been there for a long time. I couldn't find a single person in the lab who had seen her, much less remembered who she was. And then two of the Americans mentioned that Clyde Easter had been looking for her earlier, too."

"And what do you deduce from all of this?" George Whitting still seemed unfazed by this revelation.

"You always say to listen to your gut. My gut is telling me that something's wrong. One agent shot, another missing? Interpol's scorecard isn't exactly sparkling right now."

Now George became serious, pressing his lips into a thin line as he mulled over this new information.

He took another beat to size up his protégé. "And what does your gut suggest we do?"

"Confront Clyde Easter head-on. He won't like it, but we don't have time to play guessing games."

He contemplated this answer, then gave a definitive nod.

"Good call, Lion-Heart. Let's go talk to Mr. Easter."

"Three things cannot be long hidden: the sun, the moon, and the truth."

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