Out of Africa

Puzzle Pieces

"Don't fight a battle if you don't gain anything by winning."
~Erwin Rommel.

Nairobi, Kenya.

Ahoo gave another small sigh of agitation as she shifted in her seat. Finally, Agent Hotchner returned to the conference room, while Clyde Easter headed down the hall again.

"I'm done waiting," she informed George, rising from her seat. She was out the door before he could even open his mouth to reply.

Still, he let her go. She was young and brash and had not learned the virtue of patience, but perhaps all of those things were on her side when it came to the brusque Englishman. Either way, she'd have to learn when and how to fight her own battles soon enough—why not now?

"Agent Easter," Ahoo called out, causing the Englishman to spin around in surprise.

He watched her approach with a mixture of amusement and irritation—she couldn't be an inch over 5'3", and yet she had an impressive sense of presence and purpose. Burdened by self-purpose, as the saying went, but still, it was endearing when worn by such a young and earnest individual.

"Yes, Agent…."


"Ah, yes, of course. You must forgive me; I'm still trying to play catch-up with everyone's names and identities. Canadian, yes?"

"Yes. But that's not the point—"

"It's very much the point, Agent Shir-Del. I like to know to whom I am speaking before engaging in conversation. It's good practice and better politics—perhaps you should make note of it."

"I don't have time for politics," she kept her tone neutral, but there was enough edge to prove her seriousness.

"It seems you don't have time for a great many things," Clyde Easter smiled in relaxed amusement.

"What the hell is going on?" She'd wasted enough time with pointless chatter.

Easter pretended to think on it for a moment, then slowly responded, "Well, I am just getting the lay of the land here, but I do believe there was a terrorist attack of some sort, not too long ago. At which point, we were—"

"Don't be an ass," Ahoo's tone was harsher than she intended.

Clyde lost his smile, but he seemed relatively unfazed, "Has anyone told you how particularly insufferable your conversational skills are, Agent Shir-Del?"

"Constance Connelly has been missing for hours, and you know it."

Now that got a reaction from the coy Englishman. He stood straighter, glancing around, "And who told you that?"

"So you're not denying it."

"I'm not confirming it, either. Now what makes you think that Connelly is missing?"

"I went down to her workstation. She wasn't there, and she hadn't been there for a long time. She left her cellphone behind. The Americans mentioned that you had already been down earlier, looking for her as well."

"Bloody Americans," Easter looked away, setting his hands on his hips. He should have known that it would be another American causing trouble.

As he was wont to do when his back was in a corner, he cut to the chase, zeroing his gaze back onto Ahoo's face as he asked, "What do you think is happening?"

Suddenly, she was at a loss, "Well….I don't know. That's why I'm asking."

"Give it a shot. You're an analyst and investigator of some sorts, aren't you? They wouldn't have brought you along if you didn't have some kind of deductive reasoning skills."

Easter's demeanor had changed completely—he'd gone from amused and relaxed to on-edge and almost menacing. He was standing closer to Ahoo, hovering over her like an ominous thunderhead.

She swallowed the instant reaction of fear that rose in her throat, blinked, tried to comply. "You've—you've got one agent missing and another shot. I don't know if they're connected, even though the events happened on the same case. I just…I think perhaps Interpol shouldn't be running point on this any longer."

Now he grinned again, but it was the same warmthless wolfish grin that Constance gave earlier, "And who do you suggest to take the reins? The Canadian authorities, perhaps?"

"That's not what I meant."

"Then what, exactly, is the purpose of your concerned confrontation?" The smile was gone.

Ahoo stood her ground, "Something's wrong, and with a case like this, we can't afford to make mistakes or keep secrets."

Something passed behind Clyde Easter's eyes, quick and unreadable. He took a step back, detachedly proper in an utterly English fashion as he intoned, "Agent Shir-Del, our job descriptions are not the same. And in my world, secrets are the only thing we can afford to keep."

He turned to go, casually tossing over his shoulder, "And if it eases your concern, we do know Miss Connelly's whereabouts. We just do not see the need to share them with you."

It wasn't a lie. Not in the least.

Jeff Masterson was wearing that same ridiculous shit-eating grin when Rowena Lewis returned, "So, should I go ahead and book the Sacred Heart for the 15th?"

"Let's not get too far ahead of ourselves," she warned. "Besides, I'm not even Catholic—why would I have a Catholic wedding?"

He feigned shocked disapproval, placing a dramatic hand over his chest, "Rowena Lynette Lewis, I am the closest thing you've got to a mother, and you will not deny me the comfort of knowing that I got you married off in a nice, Catholic wedding."

She stamped down a grin and rolled her eyes, picking up her lab coat and slipping it back on again, "Jesus, you sound like you're from Queens."

"I am from Queens."

"Yes, but you usually don't sound like it."

Jeff gave a slight shrug, "We can't all be Albany girls, Miss Lewis."

"You couldn't, that's for damn sure." She grabbed a new pair of latex gloves and blew into them before slipping them over her hands.

"Ouch. I thought love was supposed to make you all smiling and cheery and a helluva lot more bearable."

She grinned at this, simply bumping her shoulder against his.

There was a beat of contented silence as Rowena began her next task and Jeff continued his current one.

"He is a very nice man," she admitted quietly.

"Good. You deserve it."

"It's not going anywhere. I mean, he actually said—well, he said if we weren't separated by an ocean, maybe…but it's not going anywhere."

Jeff turned to look at her, "You still deserve good people in your life, no matter what their role. He's a decent human being who sees you as a decent human being, too. You deserve that—to be seen."

Her eyes flicked up to meet his. The doubt was unmistakable, and heart-breaking.

"I don't think I like being seen," she confessed. "It's too messy."

He couldn't argue with that—allowing yourself to be seen meant opening your heart, opening yourself to possible harm from others. And yet he knew that anyone who truly got the chance to see Rowena Lewis would fall in love with what they saw, without a second's hesitation. He had, in ways he could never fully explain or express.

He shook his head, cleared his throat, focused his attention on the task at hand, "Well, Roe, I see you, whether you like it or not. And nothing's gonna change that."

She didn't reply, but he could feel her smile. As usual, she'd understood all the things he didn't say.

Nairobi West Hospital. Nairobi, Kenya.

Emily's fingertips gently traced the petals of a gloriana rothschildiana lily as she listened to the conversation around her. She wouldn't have known the name of the flower in her hand, if Spencer hadn't supplied it—Rowena Lewis had gotten her flowers, but Reid had delivered them.

She liked the fact that the bouquet wasn't traditional—no daisies or roses or anything remotely familiar, but instead a collection of Kenyan wildflowers. The lilies, with their distinctive gold and crimson petals curved upwards in a curious fashion, had immediately caught her attention. Of course, Reid had felt the need to point out that they were poisonous if ingested, at which she gave him an incredulous look and informed him that the hospital food wasn't bad enough to resort to eating flowers. Rossi had snorted at that, and she'd seen that now-familiar look of almost-fatherly pride in his eyes.

Now the talk had turned from flowers to creatures of a different poisonous nature—Constance Connelly, to be specific. The work day at CID was done, with little to report, but Clyde Easter and the BAU team had come to her hospital room to further discuss the issue of how the hell an Interpol operative was an undercover terrorist.

Hotch was in the corner, on his cellphone. Finally he turned back to the rest, "I've got Penelope. Penelope, you're on speakerphone."

Emily smiled slightly at that—it brought back memories of all the inappropriate things her blonde friend had said over the years, prompting Hotch's now-expected refrain of informing her whenever he put her on speakerphone.

"Ok, so as you know, I'm juggling this case—which by the way, sir, let me say how much less stressful that is, now that I know all of you are in the loop—with the other case in Pennsylvania, so I don't have as much dirt as I normally would. Not to mention, Constance Connelly isn't an easy woman to track—I mean, this level of off-the-gridness only comes from someone trying to stay off the grid."

Clyde and Emily exchanged glances.

"It's….kinda part of our job description," Emily explained. "Even after I left JTF-12, I still kept up my usual level of security, out of habit."

"And Constance spent a very long time with Interpol," Clyde added. "Staying low would have become second nature to her by now."

Penelope made a small disgruntled hum—obviously, she didn't appreciate Constance Connelly's second nature. "Here's what we've got so far. Born in Northern Ireland to James and Susanna Connelly, one older brother…um, she was with Interpol in the 80s and early 90s. She left for about ten years."

"A lot can happen in ten years," Rossi commented quietly.

"She was gone somewhere—the Middle East, I think," Easter tried to remember. "She was offered a position with the British diplomatic system, and she took it. Said she was done with guns and death."

"Maybe she made her current connections there," Rossi suggested, tucking his hands in his pockets. "We've seen it before—people go native, adopt causes. Could be something like that."

"I don't think so," Penelope's voice interrupted. "Her entire diplomatic career was spent in Jerusalem. Mariatu Wasaki isn't exactly a national favorite in Israel."

Easter's face scrunched in confusion, "You're telling me that she spent ten years in Israel?"

"Eight, actually. Looks like she was fairly mid-level, nothing of note."

"Jerusalem doesn't have a British embassy," Emily shared Clyde's confusion.

"They have a British consulate," Easter corrected.

"There's a difference?" Penelope was confused.

Clyde explained, "Embassies deal with international affairs of state, general diplomacy, and high-level cases involving citizens of their own nations. Consulates deal with minor issues, such as visas, tourists, and trade relations."

"It would make sense for her to spend eight years at an embassy, since diplomatic missions like that are considered long-term," Emily added. "I mean, it's not entirely common, but not unordinary. However, spending that many years in any location for a consulate posting is practically unheard of."

David Rossi crossed his arms over his chest, "And we're supposed to just believe that she spent eight years doling out visas and then suddenly decided to rejoin Interpol? Why did she come back?"

"Well, she didn't, exactly," Clyde looked slightly chagrined. "I found her, after she returned to Northern Ireland—I pressured her to return to Interpol."

"I'm detecting a behavioral pattern with you," Rossi murmured.

"So she was in Israel for eight years," Hotch surmised, ignoring his team mate's comment. "But Easter, you said she was gone for ten. What happened to the missing two years, Penelope?"

"That's just it. She leaves the consulate at Jerusalem, and pops up at Interpol—the only reason we know she was in Northern Ireland is because Mr. Easter just said so."

"Her mother," Clyde remembered. "Her mother is unwell, has been for quite some time. I know she returned home to care for her."

"She's the only one left," Penelope spoke up.

"Yes. Her brother died—in some war or another, I think, many years ago—and her father has been gone for some time as well. So Constance was the only one to take care of her mother."

"No, I mean Constance is the only one left." There was the sound of keys tapping furiously as Penelope pulled up some information. "I checked, earlier—Susanna Connelly died almost five years ago."

"That would account for the missing two years," Hotch spoke up. "She probably came home after her mother's death."

"I don't understand it," Clyde felt his lungs tightening again. His head was swimming. "She said—on the plane, she mentioned having to constantly call her mother."

Clarity returned. Clyde looked around, "God Almighty, she made at least half a dozen phone calls, on the ride from London to Nairobi. We were discussing the case—she knew about the first attempt to grab Wasaki at the abandoned building. She had to have been the one who alerted him. I mean, if she wasn't calling her dead mother, she had to be talking to someone, didn't she?"

Everyone exchanged heavy glances.

"Well," Spencer Reid cleared his throat. "I think we found our mole."

"Everything we hear is an opinion, not a fact. Everything we see is a perspective, not the truth."
~Marcus Aurelius.

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