Chapter 19

If life for the BAU could ever be said to be quiet, it was just that for the next few months. There had been a handful of away cases, most of which Karen had covered for JJ. But there came one when Will had vacation time, and JJ couldn't reasonably keep him from looking after Henry.

"Why don't you stay at the house, Will? Henry can sleep in his own bed, and have his toys. It would just be easier."

"Are you sure, cher?" Will reminded JJ of their former intimacy whenever he got the chance.

She wasn't, but she wasn't about to give him the satisfaction.

"It's for Henry, Will. It just makes sense. And besides, I won't be there. That's the whole point, isn't it?"

"Just sayin'. If you don't want me there, I don't have to be there."

She began to wonder if he was pursuing some legal technicality at the suggestion of his attorney, and made a mental note to call Richard Cartwright.

"Well, to be clear then, I would prefer you not be there when I'm home, but when I'm away, it's okay for you to take care of Henry in his own home."

"It's our home, JJ. I just don't live there anymore."

She was even more suspicious that he was making some legal point. For all I know, he's recording our conversation.

"You're right, Will. We both owe on the mortgage. But you agreed to have Henry stay there with me while we worked through the divorce. Correct?"

He realized he'd pushed her too far. "You're right. I'm sorry."

Now she was convinced he was recording. Will only apologized for public consumption.

She told him what he needed to know about the preschool and the current state of Henry's daily routine. Closing her phone, JJ headed to the plane.

"You don't look happy." Reid had brought her tea while they were waiting for takeoff. They'd be briefed in the air.

She told him about her conversation with Will. "I didn't have time to call Richard, but I will tonight."

"What do you think he's trying to prove?"

"I haven't the foggiest. That's why I need to call Richard. I can only tell that he's up to something, but I can't tell what."

Reid had a different concern. "JJ, this is the first extended time he's had alone with Henry since you separated, isn't it?"

She nodded. "I know what you're thinking, Spence. But I didn't feel like I could insist Henry stay with Karen. Not with Will available full time. I can just imagine what his lawyer would have done with that if I had."

"I know. I know you didn't have any choice. It's just that…I'm worried about Henry."

They'd already been close. But in Will's absence, Reid had become something of a fixture in JJ's household. He'd missed them terribly when they went back home, and had accepted JJ's frequent invitations to dinner. Henry was coming to count on seeing his Uncle Spence often.

Reid continued. "He's a bright kid, but he's only four. And he's emotionally invested in his father. I worry about Will taking advantage of that."

She'd watched her husband do it in the past, so she knew he was capable. Reid was right in worrying. But she'd been advised by her lawyer not to give Will ammunition for court. At this point in the process, she didn't have many choices.

"I know you're right, Spence. But what else can I do? If it's at all possible, I'll make a point of calling in when Henry's back from school, and I'll call again at bedtime. I think I'll be able to pick up on it if anything's going on."

Reid knew the constraints she was operating under, and didn't want to stress her further. "We can always ask Garcia to make a godmotherly visit."

JJ brightened at that. "Great idea! Let me call her now, before we're in the air."

It would be a short flight. They were headed to Philadelphia.

"Good morning, crimefighters. Well, I guess it's not very good, is it?" Garcia began with her usual chatter.

"Philly police think they've got a brand new serial on their hands. The first body was found a week ago. They thought they were looking at a mugging gone bad until a second body turned up early this morning. And now they think they may have a related missing persons report."

She directed them to their tablets.

"Victim number one was identified as Stacey Fitzgerald. She was a twenty-six year old fourth year medical student. Her body was found in a dumpster not far from where her car was parked outside the hospital. She'd finished a shift and left after she'd signed out her patients. She never returned home, but her roommate said that wasn't unusual. She often spent the night with her boyfriend, also a medical student."

They held their questions until she gave them the information on the other victims.

"Victim number two was Judy Littleton, age forty-three, an administrative assistant for a two man accounting firm. She was found early this morning, behind a dumpster. This one was also near a hospital, but apparently that's not hard to accomplish in Philadelphia. There are something like thirty of them."

"Forty-one, but that includes the specialty hospitals," offered Reid.

"Yeah. So there are a lot of them. So they don't feel like they can be sure whether the hospital locations are just a coincidence or not."

"Garcia, did you say there was a third potential victim?" Alex wanted all the information available before she began positing connections.

"Blake gets the prize for 'best listener' this morning. Yes, there is a third potential victim. This one definitely has a hospital connection. Marina Glower is a fourth year resident in ob/gyn, age thirty-one. She was expected home this morning after having stayed overnight in the hospital to deliver a baby. But she never returned.. Her husband called the police after he couldn't track her down at the hospital. He went over there and saw her car still parked in the lot. But they can't locate her."

Rossi needed clarification. "How many hospitals might we be talking about, Garcia?"

"Three. All clustered in the city, all in, shall we say, challenged neighborhoods."

"Meaning there are high crime rates there?" JJ asked her good friend.

"High rates of everything that we associate with cities. Crime, violence, poverty."

Reid wasn't surprised. "Many hospitals, and especially teaching hospitals, are in needy areas. It helps the training, and it helps the neighborhood. Usually it's a win-win situation."

"Except when things like this happen to the people trying to help," observed Morgan. "Baby Girl, it sounds like the police are hedging their bets, but I'd say there's a definite connection with the hospitals."

"But we've only got one definite victim with a connection. We don't even know that the most recent one is a victim yet. And the second victim didn't seem to have anything to do with health care." Alex wanted to be cautious in her thinking.

Hotch moved things along. "Cause of death, Garcia?"

"Strangulation, both of them. They each had some fresh bruises, like maybe they'd put up a fight. And hand imprints on the cheeks of each."

"Are the police thinking they were killed where they were found? Or were these dump sites?" JJ knew that, when serial killers were involved, dumpsters were usually used for exactly what they sounded like.

"They're not sure. It looks like the bodies were located where it was expected the women might have recently been, but then….they're dumpsters."

They were already prepping for landing, so Hotch made his assignments.

"Blake and Reid, you'll go to the ME. Morgan and JJ, I want you to go the sites where each body was found." He wanted the same sets of eyes looking at both sites for similarities and differences. "Rossi, you and I will set up with the police. They've got the missing woman's husband there. We'll interview him."

They agreed to meet back at the station in two hours.

Dr. Farthing was a petite woman in her early forties, by Reid's estimation.

"I've been doing this for twelve years now, and never seen defensive wounds like these."

"On both of them?" Reid was looking for patterns already.

"Both. They were both killed by strangulation, but they've got virtually identical patterns of fresh bruises. And I'd stake my considerable reputation on the vast majority of them being defensive. These women fought like crazy."

"How do you know they're defensive wounds, Doctor?" Blake needed clarification.

"Location. See these bruises on the forearms? They're on the extensor surfaces. Except that each of them has a similar bruise on the palm of the hand. Victim number one's is on the left, number two on the right."

She had them laid out side by side so the profilers could compare the bodies.

Reid rolled the body of Stacey Fitzgerald and noticed additional markings on her back and calves. When he went to do the same with Judy Littleton, he found he was unable to lift her.

Dr. Farthing saw his dilemma. "I wasn't able to do it either. Usually I can distribute their weight enough to carry them myself, but she was over three hundred pounds."

It was true. The body habitus of the two victims was entirely incongruous. Blake and Reid were already concluding that victimology might offer little assistance to this investigation.

"But I can save you the trouble. Virtually identical, except her marks are angled in the opposite direction."

Reid was getting a mental picture of what might have happened. "So, I assume we're thinking these marks were made by some sort of weapon?"

Farthing nodded. "Something linear, and round." She pointed to a rounded indentation in the skin of Stacey Fitzgerald's forearm. "Something like a pole, or the handle of a tool like a broom or rake….or even the narrow end of a bat."

"And I suppose the police haven't turned up anything like that?" Blake was wondering.

"Not that they've asked me to compare to the wounds."

Reid moved over to Blake, wanting to experiment with something.

"Okay, I'm the assailant. I've got this pole in my hand and I'm coming after you with it." He went through the motions of swinging the pole. Blake instinctively raised her arms to fend off his attempted strike at her head. When he swung it again, she made a grab for the invisible weapon.

"The palm bruises!" Farthing was becoming impressed with the BAU.

"And I'd be willing to bet that we'll find out that Stacey Fitzgerald was left-handed, and Judy Littleton right-handed."

Alex understood that Reid was saying the women would each have grabbed for the pole with her dominant hand. "But what about the bruises on their legs and back?"

Reid shrugged. "You've got me there." There were limits to his genius, after all.

"There's one more thing I should show you." Dr. Farthing retrieved an ultraviolet light and darkened the room. She moved back and forth between the cadavers, shining her light on each of their faces.

"Do you see it?"

Reid had bent closer, and was squinting to focus better. "Yes. Virtually identical. But so light, so hard to see with the naked eye. Why, do you think?"

Alex saw what Reid did. Without the light, they were virtually invisible. But with the light, they could easily make out the imprint of a hand on the left cheek of each victim.

"My best guess? I think they happened immediately post mortem, or even while the women were dying. So the effect of bruising was minimal, because the blood flow was already so diminished."

Alex and Reid looked at each other. A post mortem assault on a victim was very telling. Either these women had something in common with their assailant, and with each other, or they were representatives of the person he actually reviled. This was one very angry unsub. And there might well be yet another woman being targeted.

They reconvened with the rest of the team and met Detective Jackson, who was leading the investigation for the Philadelphia PD.

Morgan led them off. "The dumpster where Stacey Fitzgerald was found was a block away from where she parked her car."

JJ interjected, "Parking's pretty tight for all the city hospitals, so the medical students have to fend for themselves with street parking. They've been warned about the area she was in, because there have been a number of muggings. The hospital offers an escort service from their security department, but I guess they're short staffed, so it can take a while. It sounds like Stacey told someone she wasn't going to wait for them, and thought it would be okay, since it was barely dusk."

Rossi was reaching a conclusion. "So it's a pretty good bet that she was accosted and killed right there."

Alex thought his suggestion would be consistent with the injuries and manner of death of the victim.

Morgan went on. "Judy Littleton was found behind a dumpster, but not inside it."

Reid offered his suggestion as to why that might be. After telling them about the bruises found on the victims, he told them about his inability to lift Littleton at the ME's office.

Morgan smirked at him. "That's not saying much, Pretty Boy."

Alex made a face at the brawny profiler. "She would have been over three hundred pounds of dead weight, Derek. I doubt you could have lifted her either. Reid's right. I think the only reason she wasn't in the dumpster was because the unsub couldn't lift her."

"But she would have defensive wounds?" Morgan wasn't sure he could believe that.

JJ stepped into this one. "Anyone can fight back, Derek. Being in fear of your life gives you lots of strength, and courage."

He stood corrected. "All right, I'll give. Anyway, the dumpster was a few miles from her workplace, and even farther from her apartment. But her car was parked on the street, near the hospital."

Hotch punched in Garcia's number.

"At your service, my liege."

"Garcia, find out if Judy Littleton was registered as a patient at the hospital yesterday."

Alex added, "Check with the labs and radiology too, Garcia. They sometimes have different registration systems."

Reid was listening, but had already gotten to work on mapping homes, workplaces and crime scenes. Now he turned to Hotch and Rossi. He needed information on their potential third victim. Rossi reported for them.

"Her husband's beside himself. I guess she wasn't scheduled to be at the hospital last night, but she'd bonded with the woman who was delivering, and she wanted to be there. He was worried about her being in that neighborhood at that hour, and offered to drive her. But she insisted, since she didn't know how long the labor would be. And now he's kicking himself."

"Is there any chance she's just crashing in a call room or something?" JJ was hoping for the best, even though she knew it was unlikely.

"They're still looking. It's a pretty old building, with lots of add-ons over the years. Apparently there are little rooms tucked into nooks and crannies all over the place. It's gonna take them a while," Rossi replied.

"Guys, if this is the same unsub, wouldn't this be a break in the pattern? I mean, we don't have a history of the first victims going missing. If the pattern was the same, we'd be looking for Dr. Glower somewhere near where she left her car."

Reid was right. Maybe the missing ob/gyn resident wasn't part of the case after all.

If she was, Hotch knew, they needed something to break, and soon. He made new assignments.

"JJ, Alex, go over everything we know about the two definite victims. Reid, stay with the map and work up a geographical profile. Rossi and Morgan, go to the hospital. Turn up something."

Rossi didn't comment, but smiled to himself as he left with Morgan. He would never understand how or why it worked. But whenever Hotch became frustrated and simply directed them to solve the case…..they did. He hoped they wouldn't disappoint their unit chief this time.

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