Reid was determined to get JJ to talk to Hotch before they
returned to DC. He simply couldn't conceive of her returning to that household
with Will LaMontagne still in it. They would need their unit chief to help her
get out. Or, more precisely, to get Will out.
As he left her earlier in the evening, he'd exacted a promise.
"Before we head back, JJ. It has to be before we head back. You can't go back to living with him. I can't let you."
She'd raised her brows at that, and he realized his mistake. It wasn't up to him. He couldn't try to control her decisions any more than her husband could. He needed to persuade her.
"JJ, you said yourself you were afraid the other night. I'm afraid for you, too. Can't you see it could get completely out of hand without warning?"
Reluctantly, she nodded. "I just would rather do things in a more controlled way, you know? Because if I make any sudden changes, I know there will be an outburst. And I don't want Henry to have that kind of experience, that memory."
He knew her defenses were up, keeping her from seeing the obvious. So he went ahead and stated it for her. "JJ, what kind of memory will Henry have if Will attacks you? If he… forces you?" He could still barely say it.
She stared off, no tears this time. She was now almost numb to the idea.
"All right. All right, you're right. I can't let it go on any longer." Said in a monotone.
"JJ, if you need somewhere to go, somewhere to stay….I've got room."
"I'm hoping Hotch will have a way that we can stay in our own home. But", she said, rubbing his arm, "thank you, Spence. It's good to know that we can come to you, if we need to."
"You're welcome. You know I'd do anything for you, don't you?"
She gave him a wry smile. "It's what I count on, Spence."
They rode the elevator together the next morning.
"Did you get any sleep?" He could see dark circles under her eyes, much like the ones he usually wore.
"No. But, then, I didn't expect to. You don't look so well-rested yourself."
He'd barely slept either. Having spent hours with JJ, he then needed to research the idea Maeve had given him about the case. But he'd had trouble settling his mind, so it had taken an extraordinarily long time. And, once his research was complete, his mind went immediately back to JJ and Henry, and his need to find a way to keep them safe.
They met up with the others and traveled together to the precinct. As they exited the SUV, Reid managed to pull Hotch aside. "When there's time, before we go back, there's something I need to talk to you about. Actually, something JJ needs to talk to you about."
He wanted to make sure the process was started before JJ had a chance to renege. His study of psychology, as well as his years with the BAU, had taught him about victim behavior. His mind still recoiled at the idea of JJ as a victim, but he knew it was true. Whether or not anything physical had happened, she'd been victimized.
Hotch's expression was unreadable. If he found the request strange, or if it caused him worry about his two youngest team members, he didn't show it. Instead, he nodded that he'd heard, and then went about the business of running the case. He was most talented at compartmentalizing.
Detective Loring met with the BAU before calling the task force together. He'd been alerted that there was new thinking about the Lounsbury situation, and wanted to hear it for himself before bringing it to the larger group. Most of them assumed they had their unsubs, and were now strategizing on how to search for the missing children. Before diverting them from that task, he wanted to be sure he trusted the direction the BAU was taking.
Hotch nodded at Reid to begin.
"Okay. We all know that Marcia Lounsbury became a suspect when it was found through genetic testing that her DNA didn't match that of her son. But what we couldn't explain was why her husband's DNA did match. That would make the child his, but not hers. And yet, Mr. Lounsbury insists that the child belongs to both of them. Why would he do that?"
Alex didn't think it was necessarily a rhetorical question. "Well, this is admittedly 'out there', but could he have had an affair with the biological mother of the child? As in, could his wife have kidnapped the child from his biological mother, because she found out her husband was the father?"
Alex's scenario was something Reid hadn't considered at all, and yet it was plausible. It was possible Marcia Lounsbury was a chimera, but it was also possible she was an unsub.
"Hmm…interesting. I hadn't thought about that. But then, if she is the perpetrator in all of the cases, would we be postulating that her husband had fathered each of those children? And that he's being complicit in all of it?"
"Stranger things have happened, I guess." But Morgan also wanted to be practical. "But it's not the most likely scenario."
"But it wouldn't mean that we didn't happen upon a single instance, not related to the other abductions. Remember, we have one that took place at a gas station, and the others outside day cares." Rossi offered yet another possibility.
JJ, coming alive with her second cup of coffee, joined the conversation. "Since the other children are still missing, proving the relationship between them and Mr. Lounsbury would be more complicated. But not impossible….we could get samplings of hair, or maybe saliva."
Hotch acknowledged that each of his team members had made an important point. But he wanted Reid to finish. "Reid…"
"Yes. So, any or all of what you've all just said could be true. But so could what the Lounsburys have said. There's a concept called chimerism, where there can be more than one type of DNA in different organs of the same person. There have only been a handful of reported cases, but geneticists think it might be much more common. After all, most people don't get their DNA tested at all, let alone from multiple organs of their bodies.
"It mostly seems to happen when there is more than one fetus at the start of the pregnancy. If that fetus dies, the other absorbs some of the cells into their developing organs. If they were non-identical to begin with, then those organs can carry a mix of the person's DNA, and that of the fetus that died. "
Reid's voice began to rise in pitch as his speech accelerated in pace, and his hand gestures were becoming more animated. Hotch recognized all three 'tells' of Reid's approaching ramble. He wasn't wrong.
"It's fascinating. I was reading about it last night. It doesn't have to be just from the transfer of DNA from a fetal demise, it can happen in reverse. A baby's cells can migrate to the mother, and be incorporated. And the other way around. It can even happen that we have some of our grandparent's cells inside us. There are studies…."
He was attuned to the direction of his unit chief, and stopped immediately, realizing he'd gone off. In truth, Reid counted on Hotch to bring him back whenever it happened.
"Right, I should get to the point. There have been several case reports of exactly what Marcia Lounsbury claims. Mothers whose DNA didn't match that of their children. One woman found out when she needed a kidney transplant, and tissue typing of her blood indicated that neither of her adult sons could be hers. But their tissue did match a maternal uncle. So they tested other organs of the mother, and found that the DNA in her cervix was a match."
He concluded with, "If we want to know if the Lounsburys are telling the truth, we'll have to get more DNA testing done on Marcia Lounsbury, from different organs."
"And until we do, we need to keep open minds about this…all of it." Hotch wanted to make sure Detective Loring was with them. "Until we know otherwise, we're still looking for the unsub, as well as the children."
Loring was nodding his agreement. But he couldn't help but rue how complicated the case had just become. There were now so many theories on the table that he might have to increase the size of the task force.
The BAU presented their theories to the larger group. Until they could sort through whether the day care and gas station abductions were related, and until they had more DNA information, they held back on giving a full profile. For now, they could say that these appeared to be opportunistic abductions. But whether they were for the purposes of trafficking, or molestation, or slavery…or for the purpose of the unsub filling a child-raising fantasy, couldn't be known. Because of the care the unsub seemed to have taken with putting the children in the car seats, they did feel they could say it was unlikely the unsub intended to harm the children.
"But if the purpose for which the child is taken goes unfulfilled, that could change," warned Rossi.
Hotch made his assignments. "We'll break these down by abductions. Blake and Morgan, you've got the first family. Meet with them and with the day care staff. JJ and Reid, you'll take the second. Rossi and I will take the gas station abduction. Detective Loring will follow up on the DNA testing. We've arranged for it to be expedited. We're all back here by noon.
As they drove to meet with the Carpenters, the parents of young, abducted Daniel, Reid admitted to JJ that he'd told Hotch she needed to speak with him.
"You promised, JJ. And you need to give him some time to work on it."
"I know what I said, but I'm not sure…."
"JJ, you know as well as I do that's what victims do. They lose the ability to fight back."
"I'm not a victim!" She shouted it at him, angry.
He turned to her, then back to the road. "Then stop acting like one."
He knew it was harsh, and that it would hurt, but she needed to see what she was doing.
JJ was silent, sullen. It was so rare for Reid to be short with her that she couldn't help but pay attention.
Is he right? I've been telling myself that it could happen if I wasn't careful, if I let it go on too long. But has it already happened, and I haven't been able to see?
He could never stand to have anything between them. This time was no exception. He gave in.
"I'm sorry, JJ. I shouldn't have said that. And I should have waited for you to go to Hotch on your own."
She relented. "No, Spence, I'm the one who's sorry. You were right. You are right. I am acting like a victim. And I refuse to be one. I'll talk to Hotch tonight."
He gave her a small smile as he reached across to squeeze her hand.
The Carpenters were devastated. Eighteen month old Daniel was their only child, taken from them eight days ago. Eric Carpenter was protective of his wife.
"We've been over all of this with the police. Can't you just get it from them?"
JJ was gentle. "Mr. Carpenter, the police asked us to come in, to bring fresh eyes to the investigation. All of us want nothing more than to bring your son home to you."
He rubbed his chin in a way that told them he wasn't used to being unshaven. "It's just that she hasn't been able to eat or sleep, and it's not healthy for her, or for the baby."
"Baby?" Reid wasn't sure if he was referring to Daniel. But his question was answered when Angela Carpenter entered the room, obviously pregnant.
The two FBI agents looked at each other. This hadn't been in any of the interview reports.
They all made their introductions, and Reid and JJ extended their sympathy to Angela. Her distress was visible.
"I should never have left him. It's just that he left his little bear in his cubby after nap, and he can never get to sleep without it. So I just ran back inside to get it, and when I came out, he was gone." She flashed her husband a look, and he responded by taking her hand and rubbing her back.
JJ watched them. It would have been easy, maybe even expected, for Eric Carpenter to have blamed his wife for leaving their son unattended. She'd seen it happen many times before, loved ones blaming each other for something over which none of them had control. But it wasn't happening here. Here, a husband was standing in loving support of his wife. Fleetingly, JJ wondered what that felt like.
The pregnancy was the only new information that came to light during the interview with the Carpenters. She was due in three months, they'd chosen not to learn the sex, and both were happy to be having a second child. When he'd told them that, Eric's voice broke on the word 'second'. Neither of the couple was sure they would ever again see their first.
Their next stop would be the day care center. On the way, JJ called the rest of the team to report their findings.
"It wasn't in the interview report, but Angela Carpenter is six months pregnant."
They were able to recognize Morgan's whistle over the phone. "Emily Bruback is pregnant too. Only four months, she says, but she's definitely showing."
Rossi reported in for himself and Hotch. "Christine Kapp left her son alone at the gas station when she went inside to pay. She was on her way to an OB appointment. She's due next month."
Reid came through on JJ's speaker phone. "So it would have been obvious to anyone looking at them that these women were pregnant at the time their sons were taken. What if the unsub is taking children that she thinks can be easily replaced?"
"Showing compassion for the parents, as she did for the children." Hotch stated the implications of the behavior. They were coming closer to being able to deliver a profile.
Just then a broadcast text came across all of their phones. Detective Loring had urgent information. Hotch had Garcia conference all of them into the call with the detective.
"We've got something. The manager of one of the local Walmarts called in. They've got a toddler, a boy, blonde, blue-eyed. He was abandoned in a carriage there. I'm headed over." He gave them the location.
"On our way," said Hotch. Each of them prayed that at least one set of grieving parents would be given comfort today.