Chapter 14

JJ was still ruminating over what Hotch had told her. The obstacle of getting Will out of the house might be a big one, but looming even larger was the question of the custody of Henry. According to Hotch, there were competing attitudes about what constituted the best situation for a child. It was no longer assumed that a child's place was with his mother. The stability of the household, the behavioral history of the parent, and the ability to support the child were all taken into account. And, when the child was old enough to express himself verbally, the child's wishes were elicited before an award of custody was made. Joint custody was common in divorces which were amicable, as well as in many of those far less so.

Our incomes are pretty similar. Neither of us will be able to afford the house unless one of us pays alimony or child support. That's all a wash. And Will is so good at covering up. He's never done anything extreme, and he's never shown his nature publicly. No one would know about his behavior. Maybe I should ask for joint custody. Maybe he wouldn't fight me on it then. Maybe he wouldn't try to take Henry from me. But what if he wants to move back to New Orleans? Does Henry have to feel like he'll be split in two? Please, God, let me be able to reason with him.

JJ still hadn't realized how capably Will was able to manipulate Henry.

Loring burst into the conference room.

"We've got another one!"

"Another kidnapping?" Reid turned from the map. "Or another child returned?"

"Another kidnapping. Another day care," he said as he handed Reid the address.

"Was it another little boy?" JJ wondered about that part of the pattern, cringing a little as she asked. All she could ever picture was a younger Henry, frightened and taken from everything that was familiar to him.

"Little blonde-haired two year old. Bobby Lyons. Shoe fell off as she was bringing him to the car, and the mother went back to look for it."

JJ silently vowed never to leave Henry alone in public, anywhere, even for a second.

Reid pointed at the map. "This day care is in the same zone as the others. I really think this is her comfort zone. We should find out if anyone with connections at the Walmart lives in this zone."

Hotch was on his cell, talking to Morgan and Rossi, advising them about the new kidnapping.

"Damn it, we need to get ahead of this. Now we've got another family in crisis." Rossi was disgusted.

Morgan gave their report. "We're almost done with the interviews. The manager even called in a few employees who had the day off. Alex is finishing with them now. So far, nothing."

Hotch transmitted Reid's suggestion on looking for someone living within the presumed comfort zone.

"It's a good idea, but so far, we have absolutely nothing." Rossi echoed Morgan.

Those at the precinct could now hear footsteps approaching rapidly through the phone.

"Wait, Hotch, here comes Alex. It looks like maybe she's got something." Morgan handed the phone to her.

"Hotch, there's a woman who thinks she knows who it might be. She couldn't make out much from the video, but she thinks the body shape is similar to the woman she's thinking of."

"Is she an employee?"

"The woman I interviewed is an employee, but the woman she suspects is a customer. A woman who was a frequent visitor for a while. She was shopping for baby things a while back, over a year ago, maybe even two. And she needed a lot of help with it, so the employee remembered her. But mostly she remembered that, after she'd bought everything, she came back. She needed a second set. She hadn't known she was having twins."

"How can anyone not know they're having twins?" JJ knew how detailed prenatal ultrasounds were these days.

"Nobody, unless they don't have prenatal care." Alex was agreeing with JJ.

"But if she was so meticulous about getting things for the baby, don't you think she'd have gone for prenatal care?" Reid was working the logic of it.

"She would." Hotch agreed with him. "So, possibly she simply wanted twins, or maybe she'd been carrying a twin, and lost it."

Reid made a sudden movement, drawing their attention. JJ couldn't help but notice his face. It was bearing the look he always got when the synapses connected. He'd figured it out.

"And now she's trying to find the match! Think about it…it's why she keeps taking kids who are so similar. Boys of a similar age, and hair and eye color. She's trying to match her own child. And, when they don't match, she gives them back!"

Loring, who was less familiar with the kinds of cases the BAU usually encountered, thought the reasoning was a bit wild. But he also noticed that the others were all on board with Reid. So he joined them.

"Okay, I'll go along with it. But how does that help us find her?"

"Well," Alex was still on the phone, "we could ask the store to look for a record of the right pattern of purchases. You know, acquiring baby items slowly, and then a large duplicate purchase."

"Wouldn't that take a long time?" Loring doubted this was the way to go.

JJ was more hopeful. "If they'll give the data to our technical analyst, she might be able to hurry it up."

Reid agreed. "And she could narrow it down to purchases by women who live in the comfort zone."

Hotch thought they were on the right track, and asked Rossi to use his powers of persuasion to get the data to Garcia.

"We're on our way to the newest kidnapping scene. Call if you get any resistance."

Deborah Lyons was, understandably, distraught. Not only had her only son been taken from her car, but he was missing his afternoon dose of asthma medication.

"He was just in the hospital last week, but he was doing so much better. What if he starts having trouble breathing again?"

So far, all the children taken had been generally healthy. Now the team had to wonder what their unsub would do if a child was not only a poor match, but also 'defective'.

"It's possible she'll return him faster," opined Reid.

"Or she might dispose of him altogether." Hotch felt a need to consider the worst case scenario.

They could see through an office window that JJ was doing her best to comfort the woman and keep her calm. When the husband arrived, JJ stepped out of the room.

"She's terrified, and I don't blame her." JJ had to actively banish the image of a crying, frightened Henry from her mind. "I can't imagine." Or I wish I couldn't imagine….

Another thought occurred to her. "You know, I'm wondering about something. If we're thinking she lost the twin so long ago, why did she just start taking other children now? What prompted it?"

"Good question," acknowledged Reid. "Maybe something happened to the child she still has."

Something had.

Rossi was apparently persuasive enough to convince a behemoth like Walmart to release data to the FBI….but only after multiple disclaimers and waivers were created and signed off. After that, it didn't take Garcia long to find the right pattern of purchases, made by Carolyn Magnusson. She lived in the comfort zone, and had given birth to a son twenty five months ago, according to county records.

Hotch, Reid and JJ were at the day care in the comfort zone, and thereby closest to the Magnusson home. Accompanied by Detective Loring, they went to the address, finding a small house on a rear lot, isolated by a wooded copse from its nearest neighbor.

By agreement, JJ approached the door ahead of the rest, and knocked. No need to break this one down. A woman fitting the description of Carolyn Magnusson opened the door.

"Yes?" Meek, quiet.

"Carolyn Magnusson?" A nod.

"We're from the FBI. We're here to investigate the disappearance of several little boys."

"Like mine?"

JJ was puzzled. "Like yours?"

"Are the boys like mine? Because I lost one, and I've been looking for him. But I can't find the right one."

Now JJ understood. This woman was badly confused, perhaps deluded.

"May we come in?"

Carolyn stepped aside to allow the group to enter. Loring and Reid started a search of the house while JJ and Hotch continued speaking with Carolyn.

JJ's voice was soft, and sympathetic. "Can you tell me how you lost your little boy? When?"

Carolyn's hand was patting her abdomen. "He was here, but then I lost him. And his brother misses him so. So I've been looking for him."

Still using her soft voice, JJ pushed. "Have you been looking for him for a very long time?"

"Ever since I lost him. But I couldn't find him. And then Peter….that's his brother….he couldn't live without him. So I had to try again. But none of them fit. Peter doesn't like them. He won't wake up and play with them."

JJ shot Hotch a look at that. Something about it sounded ominous. She tried once more.

"Ms. Magnusson…Carolyn…..did you take other little boys for Peter to play with?"

Carolyn was nodding, glad to be understood. "Yes, I did. But he won't play with them."

Hotch interjected, wanting to be sure. "Ms. Magnusson, did you take little boys before as well?"

She seemed surprised that he would ask. "No, no! I just looked for him. But now Peter won't get up and play, so I had to find his brother."

Realizing that the exchange would only make sense in their unsub's mind, the two agents interrupted the interview. Momentarily, they heard a child's cry…and then another. JJ breathed a sigh of relief.

Both Loring and Reid came back carrying little blonde boys. Reid handed his to JJ and motioned to his superior. "You need to see this, Hotch." When JJ rose as well, he added, "You don't."

His tone told her he was protecting her, and she could only guess what he was about to show their unit chief.

The plane ride back was more somber than would have been expected. It was a first for the BAU. All of the kidnapped children had been recovered, unharmed. Even the most recent victim, Bobby Lyons, was only a few hours late for his medication.

But the story of the unsub was also unique, and remarkably sad. Carolyn Magnusson had, indeed, been pregnant with twins. But she'd lost the twin during the first trimester. Postpartum depression had done the rest. Her husband had left her, unable to cope with his wife's change in demeanor. But, inexplicably, he'd left his surviving son behind. In the care of a woman who was, at times, catatonic, the child failed to thrive. He finally became so small, and so weak, that he could no longer rise, no longer eat, no longer even cry. Carolyn mistook it for sadness and longing for his twin. And she set about to find him a match.

Reid related more than anyone could imagine to the story of the boy abandoned by his father and left in the care of his mentally ill mother. He'd made a silent bond with young Peter Magnusson as he'd picked the child up from his crib. He probably weighed under fifteen pounds and could barely open his eyes. But he'd managed eye contact with Reid, and the young agent had prayed it was a good sign.

Before they took off, Reid followed up with the hospital. "They think he'll survive, but they don't know how intact he'll be. They said the brain is the last organ affected, so he may be okay. But they won't be able to tell for a couple of months." At hearing that, six souls sent up prayers simultaneously.

After they were aloft, Reid puttered in the galley and then headed down the aisle with two mugs in his hands. He handed JJ her tea and took the seat beside her.

"When will you and Hotch talk to Will?" It was his way of making sure she was still planning to do so.

"Hotch will come over tomorrow night, after work. It will be Friday, so Will can look for a place to live over the weekend."

"If he agrees to go."

She nodded slightly. "Yes, if he agrees."

"And if he doesn't?" He wanted desperately to hear that she wouldn't consider staying at the house with Will.

"If he doesn't….I don't know. I just hope he will."

"JJ, I meant what I said before. I'd rather have you and Henry stay with me if he won't get out."

She patted his hand. "I know. And I love you for it. But let's just pray that Henry will be able to stay in his own home, and sleep in his own bed."

And that he won't hold this against me for the rest of his life.

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