"What are you thinking, JJ?" Hotch encouraged her.
"We've only looked at gym members and gym personnel. But what if it's someone who services the equipment?"
Morgan seized on the idea. "Or the pools, or the saunas….they need treatment and cleaning regularly."
JJ chastised herself. "I don't know why I didn't think about this four years ago."
"You were just coming back from maternity leave, weren't you?" offered Rossi.
"Yes, but I still should have…oh. Right."
"What?" Reid prodded her.
"It's like Rossi says. I was just coming back from maternity leave. I was still trying to lose the baby weight, and I was feeling sluggish. Not that feeding Henry in the middle of the night might not have had something to do with my energy level."
There was a small wave of chuckles among the team. JJ had been exhausted for months after returning to work.
"So," she continued, "I joined a gym. I'd only been to our FBI gym on site before that, but I needed one closer to home so Will and I could work it into our schedules. We tried out three or four gyms before deciding on one. And I ran into the same guy at two of them, calibrating the resistance machines."
"That didn't happen until after we'd been out on this case though, right? So it's not your fault that you didn't think of it before." Reid didn't want her carrying around any unnecessary guilt.
Hotch brought the conversation back to the issue at hand by calling Garcia.
"At your service, Fearless Leader."
"Garcia, look for common service companies among the gyms. Equipment, pools, saunas, hot tubs.."
JJ extended the list. "Pen, also look for common vending machine companies, cleaning companies, locksmiths…"
"Locksmiths?" asked Alex.
"Sure," Morgan answered. "People lock their keys in the car, or they lose their locker key, or forget their combination. Happens all the time."
Garcia's fingers were fleet on her keyboard. "Gonna wave my magic wand over this, be back in a jif. Poof!"
It wasn't exactly a 'jif', but Garcia had results for them within the hour.
"Okay, Crimefighters, listen up. There's a lot here. First, what's not here. The three gyms have three different hot tub and pool services and three different cleaning companies. And, before you ask, no, there's not been a common employee among the three. But, all three use the same calibration service and food vendors. The locksmiths are more complicated."
"How, Baby Girl?"
"Well, none of them use just one service. If a patron needs a locksmith, they give them a list of names to call. It's usually an emergency service call, so the patron goes with whichever can respond first."
"How many different companies are we talking about, Garcia?" Reid wondered how complex this would get.
"They really don't have a clue, Sweet Cheeks. There are thirty seven locksmith services in the city."
JJ smiled at Reid's blush. Almost every conversation with Garcia resulted in at least a mild change of color. Then she remembered another common requirement among the gyms she'd visited.
"You know, they usually make anyone who comes in sign the ledger at the desk. That includes vendors."
Alex saw where she was going. "Do you think they would have kept the books that long?"
Reid knew. "They made copies for the case files. I saw them in the murder books."
Rossi was following as well. "I get that we're thinking to look for common names in the books around the times the women went missing. But why wouldn't the police have done that?"
"Because sometimes the vendors only sign in under the company name. You know, Ace Lock Company. They don't necessarily write their own names. It's fairly lax." Morgan was familiar with gyms as well.
"So, we need to look for any vendor that was at any of the gyms during the time period and then cross reference the employees…." Began Alex.
"And then look for whoever lives in this area." Reid pointed to the area he'd shaded in on the map.
"Baby Girl…." Morgan didn't get anything more out before she replied.
"Those copies they made for the murder books…I don't suppose they were scanned in?"
Reid understood. "I'll go through them and get you a list, Garcia." He headed out to find the lead detective.
"Baby Girl, we'll call you back when he's done."
"'Til next time, my love."
The other vendors didn't pan out, but they couldn't be sure about the locksmiths. There were four locksmith call-outs in the twenty four hours preceding the first kidnapping, three preceding the second and four preceding the current incident. There was an overlap of one company between the first and second cases, but none with the third. Reid gave Garcia all of the information and set her the task of looking for employees in common.
"Look for someone with a home address in the area we're targeting. It doesn't matter where the company is. He's got to have a home base if he's keeping them for almost two weeks after he takes them."
Hotch added, "Look at all of their addresses going back four years, to the Sanchez case. He wouldn't be a recent arrival to the area."
As Garcia did her research, JJ pulled up a satellite version of the map so that they could see the kind of vegetation and terrain they would be dealing with once Garcia had an address. When an unsub kept a victim alive for an extended period of time, it was usually in a remote, lightly populated area.
Hotch's phone buzzed.
"Go ahead, Garcia."
"I'm a genius among geniuses. Really, we are a super team. You were spot on. There's only one person who meets all of our criteria. Gilbert Rappe currently works for SecurLock. He lives at 231 Frontage Road. Rented, not owned. Been there five years, but, oddly, with an interruption. Rented to him, then, about three years ago, another tenant for about a year, then rented to Mr. Rappe again."
"Sounds like he liked it. Wonder why?" Rossi had that feeling. They had their man, he was sure of it.
Reid and JJ located the address on the satellite map. "It looks like a larger lot, and there's a shed in the yard."
Hotch joined them in looking at the tablet. "It's heavily wooded." That was both good and bad. The trees would offer cover to the team, should they need it. But they also offered cover to the unsub. "We'll need to try to keep him in the open. Let's go."
Hotch directed the team to split between the two SUVs. He drove one of them while he had JJ, in the passenger seat, call the number for SecurLock.
"I'd like to speak with Gilbert Rappe, please."… "No, he helped me when I locked myself out of my car. Now my friend's done the same, and I thought I would ask for him again."….."Oh, no, thank you anyway. Her boyfriend just got here with an extra key."
She turned to Hotch. "He's on a call, and then he's done for the day."
Reid was in the back seat. "Let's hope we beat him home, then."
They cut the sirens two miles from the address, and Morgan drove his SUV casually past the long driveway. No luck on beating Rappe home.
"The locksmith van is parked there. And I think I saw some movement back by the shed." Rossi was riding shotgun with him, passing the information to those in the other SUV.
It was decided that Rossi, Morgan and JJ would approach the shed through the surrounding woods, while Hotch, Blake and Reid made a noisy arrival in their SUV, hoping to distract Rappe. If he was in the shed, they had to assume he was near the victim. It would be safer for her if they separated the two before trying to arrest him. The team met up and reassorted the members to set the plan in motion.
Once the others were situated in the trees just beyond the clearing, Hotch hit his siren and turned into the driveway. He was pleased to see Rappe framed in the doorway of the shed, looking out. As Rappe realized what was happening, he moved to close the door of the shed...but was pulled out by Morgan, who'd raced across the clearing to catch him off guard. Morgan had the advantage of surprise, but Rappe was strong. Not strong enough, it turned out. He tried to push the profiler away, and found himself wrapped in an iron grip. Rappe was buff, but Morgan was….buffer.
"Oh no, you don't!" Morgan threw the man on the ground and put a knee to his back while JJ and Rossi rushed the cabin. Ashley Brinks was bound and gagged, terrified by the commotion.
"It's all right, you're all right, we're from the FBI," soothed JJ as Rossi loosed the woman's bindings. Once freed, she clung to JJ, who supported her as she slowly walked her outside. Passing Hotch, JJ smiled. It was always good to bring one home.
"So, why did he do it? And why the gap in time?" Blake had been on her weekly video chat with her husband and hadn't heard the case summary.
"Turns out he had a little side business going at the gyms...steroids. Great place to find customers. But, like most drug dealers, he started using them himself." Rossi started the story.
"I noticed he looked pretty filled out," Blake acknowledged.
Morgan took it up. "Steroids can really mess you up. Make you crazy. And sick. He was both." He settled into the seat next to Blake to before he continued.
"He had a little psychotic episode three years ago, and was hospitalized for three months. That's apparently what threw off his schedule. And he'd become impotent. Put that together with the psychosis, it's a dangerous mix. Just needed to 'prove himself' by taking and assaulting the women, repeatedly. Except he had to use his other 'tools' to assault them. Then the psychosis would break, and he'd realize what he'd done….and kill them, so they couldn't talk."
"All in the name of 'health'." Rossi was more inclined to secure his health status with a good red wine.
In the back of the plane, Reid and JJ were discussing their upcoming changes in living arrangements.
"Have you told Will about this?"
"It's not really his business, Spence."
"I'll take that as a 'no'. But …don't get me wrong, you know what I think of him….but he's Henry's father. Shouldn't he know if I'm staying there?"
"We stayed together once before, remember? Courtesy of his bad behavior?"
Her bitterness over Will's lack of cooperation in the divorce hearing was still strong. Reid understood, and supported her. But he didn't want to give Will any ammunition.
"Still, I think we should tell him. So he understands."
"Well, you can tell him tonight, if you'd like. It's early enough."
Reid thought about that. "Will he leave then, do you think? If you're home early?"
"I'm not giving him another option. He hasn't stayed overnight when I've been there. Not yet...and not now."
"So you and Henry will be alone tonight?"
"One night, Spence. We'll be okay."
He wasn't convinced. "I have my go bag. Why don't I come home with you, and stay the night. I...or both of us, don't you think?...can talk to Will. Then I can stop by my place tomorrow and gather up what I need."
He was rarely insistent with her, but she could tell from the look on his face that he would be insistent now. "All right. It's a plan."
They got to the house at 8:37 PM. Reid's eidetic memory marked the time from the digital clock on his dashboard. It would stay in his memory for a very long time.
He followed JJ through the front door and into the living room, not especially looking forward to what he was sure would be a confrontation.
"Will?" JJ expected to see him asleep on the sofa, but it was empty. The television was on, tuned to children's programming.
She turned to Reid, smiling.
"This can only mean one of two things. Either they realized we were here and that Henry was up too late…so they made a mad dash for the bed, trying to fool me...or, Will fell asleep reading to Henry. He used to do it all the time."
Reid smiled back at her. "I'll let you handle that. I'll wait out here."
He put down his bags and sat down, recognizing the program on the TV as one he'd first watched as a kid. He could hear JJ's voice coming from Henry's bedroom. She was speaking so softly that he surmised Henry must be asleep. He tried to give his attention back to the program, but was too distracted by trying to prepare for the upcoming conversation with Will. Gradually, he realized that he'd not heard the deep tones of Will's voice responding to JJ. He thought it odd, and although he didn't want to invade their privacy, his curiosity won out. He muted the television so he could hear better.
That's when he realized that JJ wasn't having a conversation at all. He could hear her now. So softly. Repeating, over and over and over again, "Oh, my God...oh, my God...oh, my God..."