All heads turned in the direction Morgan was looking when he
called out her name. There, indeed, was Emily Prentiss, now standing in the
doorway. She hesitated for a moment, taking in the welcome sight of her old
friends, and then made her way directly to JJ and pulled her up into a hug. JJ
melted into it. If Garcia's hugs meant love and support, Emily's meant
strength. Even surrounded by the rest of the team, JJ felt better knowing that
Emily was with her.
Hotch cleared his throat.
"Prentiss, it's good to have you back." He gave her a small smile and a nod of welcome before turning to the others. "I know it's been a while, but we'll have to catch up with one another later. Right now, we've got a lot of work to accomplish."
As she took her seat at the table, Emily smiled and acknowledged each of the others, resting her gaze on Reid, taking the measure of him. She'd heard he was regaining some of his weight, but he still looked gaunt to her. And…..frayed. Like he was trying very hard not to unravel. She made a personal vow to get him alone.
"I've briefed Prentiss on what we know about the Replicator, and the disappearance of Will and Henry LaMontagne. She'll bring the resources of Interpol to the investigation."
Emily spoke up. "I've had a conversation with Section Chief Strauss as well. As you probably know, Interpol doesn't actually investigate cases. We coordinate information among law enforcement agencies internationally. In this case, we are looking at anyone involved in any way….unsubs, victims, even law enforcement…..listed in the case reports of the BAU going back to the time Hotch joined the unit."
Rossi had a thought about that. "I had the same idea you apparently did. But I've reconsidered it. I know it looks like its personal, against this particular team. And I haven't been a part of this team for as long as Hotch has. But I was part of an earlier team. I think we need to go back to the BAU's inception."
Hotch had already formed the same opinion. "Dave's right. It could be that he's targeting the members of our current team as symbolic of a team from the past. We need to go back to the beginning of the BAU."
Garcia pushed her chair back. "Sir, if that's the case, may I be excused? The earliest BAU cases have been scanned in, but they're not truly electronic. I'll have a lot of work to do."
Hotch nodded. "Go ahead, Garcia. Get some help….Kevin Lynch, maybe?"
She looked uncertain for a moment, but then agreed. Anything for the team, no matter how awkward it was for her, now that Kevin was seeing someone else.
"I'll help too, Garcia, any spare moment." Reid knew his speed reading might be invaluable for this task. The technical analyst smiled her thanks as she left to get started.
Emily spoke up again. "As I was saying, the primary role of Interpol is to help facilitate the exchange of information. However, for this case, Section Chief Strauss has secured clearance for me to help with all aspects of the case, including the investigation."
Rossi let out a whistle. "Go, Erin." Sometimes he really could remember why he'd loved her.
"Glad to have you back, Princess." Morgan smiled at his oft-time partner.
She flashed him a wide grin. Despite the grim circumstances, it felt very good to be back with her old team.
Hotch went around the table for updates. "JJ?"
"Will has a brother in New Orleans. I explained about what happened, and the legal risk for Will, and about the Replicator, but…"
"But he thought you were exaggerating just to get him to report on Will." Emily finished it for her.
JJ nodded. "And I spoke with a few of Will's old unit as well. They pretty much gave the same impression. They said the right things, but the tone was….uncooperative, at best." She hadn't been surprised, knowing how close Will had been with some of his colleagues. The NOPD roots went several generations deep for many of the people Will had worked with before.
"So then I spoke with the chief there. I had the sense that he, at least, was listening."
"JJ, do you know if our field office in New Orleans is on good terms with NOPD?" Alex inquired. "Maybe they'd be able to move things in the right direction."
Every FBI office had previously been alerted to look for possible Replicator cases, and now they'd also been notified about the missing father and child. The FBI was taking the disappearances very seriously. Hopefully they could help NOPD to do the same.
"That's a good idea. I'll call them right after we break."
"Good." Hotch continued around the table. "Reid?"
"I made the same kinds of calls to Will's unit at DC Metro, and to his captain there. I got pretty much the same response that JJ did from his colleagues, but his captain is on board. And I think Detective Kiernan has made some noise there as well."
"He should be calling in soon, shouldn't he?" Rossi was looking at his watch. It was already 7:45. He hoped that the delay in Kiernan's briefing meant there was some breaking news.
Reid continued his report. "We're assuming Will's driving, since they haven't shown up on any flight manifests. Although if he's used cash to buy train or bus tickets, it would be virtually impossible for us to know. So, assuming the driving...It's roughly 1100 miles from here to New Orleans. That's almost 17 hours of straight driving. And that would be assuming he took a direct route. And," he looked at JJ and smiled, "Henry isn't exactly a great traveler in the car."
In spite of herself, she had to laugh. Whenever she took him to visit her mother in Pennsylvania, it was necessary to let Henry get out and run around almost hourly. He wouldn't be any less antsy with Will.
"And they have to eat some time. So it would probably take them between 20 and 24 hours to make it to New Orleans by car." It was unusual for Reid to be so inexact in his calculations, but there were simply too many unknowns.
JJ spoke up. "He would have stopped….Will. He doesn't like to drive tired. Even now, even with this, I think he'd have stopped for the night."
"Maybe not, JJ. He might not have wanted to risk having some desk clerk report a father and child traveling together. He'd know we'd have a BOLO out." Morgan wasn't sure he agreed with his teammate.
"He wouldn't have to let them know about Henry. You know how it is at these motels, Morgan. They don't exactly escort you to your room." Rossi thought it was still a viable possibility.
Blake wanted to make sure they'd considered every possibility. "Could they have camped, JJ? On their own, or even at a campground?"
The blond profiler nodded. "Will camped a lot in New Orleans, but he hadn't gotten that into it up here. Still, it's possible. Although, with Henry, I think it would be difficult."
Acknowledging even more uncertainty, Reid continued his analysis of the presumed road trip. "Well, we know he signed Henry out of preschool after lunch yester…...actually, it was two days ago." With such disrupted days and nights, it was hard to remember.
"So he might have gotten there as early as midday yesterday, but most likely they arrived today." Rossi looked to JJ for confirmation. She nodded.
"So, should we relocate?" Alex wasn't sure how the team was thinking. "Should we go to New Orleans?"
Hotch took control. "I think we need some indication that they're there before we make a move. Will is a police officer. He might very well anticipate our train of thought. He might have gone in a different direction."
JJ felt strongly otherwise. "I really don't think he would try to do this on his own, Hotch. I can't see him not going to friends."
"Well, just to ask the obvious, JJ….does he have any other friends? Anywhere else at all he could go?" Morgan had his own opinion about Will LaMontagne. And Will's having a wide circle of friends didn't jive with it.
JJ shook her head. "He has friends, sure. But "Southern friends" are different, or so he always told me. The people who've known him since he was a kid are like family to him. And so are those cops who were on the force with him since the beginning. No, I really think he's headed to New Orleans."
Emily and Reid exchanged a glance with each other, and with Hotch. They each understood the situation to be much more complicated. Emily started to explain.
"Actually….we don't even know that Will has done this. We don't know that the Replicator didn't…"she threw a glance at JJ, who now knew exactly what her friend was about to say. "…do something to Will..and then take Henry."
All of them cringed internally. They'd known it was a possibility, but hearing Emily voice it was sobering.
She continued, following her line of logic. "So we need to think like the Replicator, as much as we need to think like Will. And that makes this a lot harder."
Reid had been staring at the table. Now he lifted his head and followed her train of thought.
"Even if Henry's with Will, we still need to think like the Replicator. He's probably been watching them the whole time. He could catch up with them anywhere along the way."
It was the first time he'd said it aloud to anyone but Hotch. He caught the look of shock on JJ's face. She'd been thinking of it as an 'either/or', and now Spence was saying that it was probably 'both'. And he thought she looked upset with him for not having told her.
He continued. "I still think New Orleans is our best bet. JJ is sure that it's where Will would go….and I think it would feed into the Replicator's game for things to go down there."
JJ closed her eyes, stricken with thoughts of what 'go down' might mean to her four year old son.
Reid was firm in his opinion. "I think we need to go to New Orleans."
Hotch spent a few moments considering, and then decided. "All right. Agreed. The plane is standing by. Wheels up in thirty."
As the meeting broke up, Reid leaned close to JJ and whispered.
"I'm sorry I didn't tell you what I was thinking before this. It's just that...well, I know how bad this is for you. It felt like I'd be making it worse."
She held him with a steady gaze, not angry, but not exactly happy with him, either.
"I understand you had good intentions, Spence. But you were wrong. I don't need to be shielded from anything concerning my son. I do need to know that you'll be honest with me, about everything. No matter what. Please don't be holding anything back."
Reid returned her gaze, appropriately chastised. "I'm sorry. And, I promise."
While they were speaking, Emily resumed her greeting of the team, hugging Morgan, Rossi and Hotch in turn. Blake received a more reserved handshake, but a sincere smile. Reid lingered in the background as the rest each made their way out to get ready for departure.
When it was only the two of them left, they stood, six feet apart, looking at each other, each face bearing a small, sad smile. Too much had happened since they'd last been together, and too much was threatening them now. It wasn't appropriate to celebrate their reunion. But it was appropriate to acknowledge their love, and their grief, and the many years of friendship that bonded them.
Emily held her arms opened wide, and Reid slowly closed the distance between them. He walked into her embrace and simply stood there, holding her, and allowed himself to be held, for well over a minute. He buried his face in her shoulder, breathing in Emily.
She kept him close, trying to convey so much that needed to be said, that should have already been said, in a single embrace. And then, without even thinking about it, she fell back into her old pattern of interaction with him.
She felt him stiffen in her arms, and then heard him snort.
"I'm skinny?" As if he'd ever been anything but.
"You're too skinny. Didn't I hear that you were eating better?" It was an acknowledgement of her keeping tabs on him.
He stepped back from her and they caught each other's hands.
"I am gaining weight now. I was skinnier before JJ and her mother made me their special project."
Emily's brows went up at that. She and JJ had spoken often in the time following Maeve's death, but not as much in the past two weeks. "JJ and her mother?"
"Her mother's a really good cook." He realized his mistake at once. "Not that JJ's not a good cook. too. She's great, actually."
Emily slowly nodded at him as she observed, "Been eating her cooking a lot, have you?"
Now he blushed. "Well, she was worried about me. I had a hard time….you know…"
The banter was broken. They couldn't simply slip back into the relationship they'd had before without acknowledging how much his life had changed.
Emily reached up and took his face in her hands. "I'm so, so sorry for what you've been through. For what you've lost. I wish to God I'd been able to come then."
He covered her hands with his, using his eyes to convey his gratitude for her love.
"It's okay, Emily. I knew you wanted to, and I knew you cared. To tell you the truth, it's probably better that you didn't. I wasn't fit company for anyone then. Just ask JJ."
She studied him again. Despite her many conversations with JJ at the time, she was picking up something new from Reid. Something JJ hadn't mentioned.
Could it be that she doesn't realize? Or is she just holding it to herself? Maybe she's just being cautious after Will. But….Wow!
Aloud, she said, "So, JJ helped you a lot after you lost Maeve?"
He nodded. "I wasn't…I couldn't…well, she broke through it. I honestly don't think I would be back with the BAU if not for her." Maybe not even alive.
Emily felt like she might be more aware of the status of things between her two good friends than they were. Apparently, perspective offers great wisdom.
"Reid, how is she, really? JJ?"
His face immediately bore a look of concern. "She kind of lost it last night. Who can blame her? I mean, how can anyone think about their child….. about Henry...and what could be happening to him? I don't know how she's even standing, Emily. I'm barely holding it together myself." She could hear the anguish in his voice.
She leaned back from him, taking stock. "And yet, you are. Holding it together, I mean. How, Reid? How, after….everything?"
He shrugged. "She needs me."
Emily squinted at him. "She does, doesn't she?"
It was lost on him.
"She's so scared, Emily. She's scared about Henry, and I think she even scared herself last night, losing control. To tell you the truth, she kind of scared me. But I know that she needs me, and I'm going to be there for her."
Yes, you are, aren't you? Her smile was genuine as she pulled him back into a hug.
"Oh, it's so good to see you! Let's put this Replicator nonsense behind us so we can have a proper reunion, shall we?"
They were in the air thirty minutes later. Detective Kiernan had missed his phone window, and ended up making the report shortly after take off.
"Okay, I've got good news, 'eh' news, and….maybe bad news." He'd been made aware of the complexities of the case.
Rossi, sitting with Blake, was his usual sardonic self. "Oh, please, let's hear the good news first."
"Okay, first, the luminol."
Reid was next to JJ, and laid a hand on her arm as she listened.
"The only blood was on the floor, as you saw, Dr. Reid, and a small amount in the sink. Nothing in the tub, on the floors or walls…anywhere in the house. It looks like this might have been just a simple accidental cut or scrape."
JJ expelled a held breath and sat back. Reid squeezed her arm in acknowledgement. Perhaps nothing violent had happened in the home.
Kiernan continued. "No prints other than the family's anywhere that we could find. DNA will take longer, so we can't be 100% sure no one else was there. But it seems unlikely."
The BAU members were all familiar with the cunning of some of their unsubs, and knew that the absence of fingerprints wasn't necessarily reassuring.
"That was the 'eh' news. The bad news….there were a couple of impressions in the soil outside the boy's bedroom window. Very slight, not much pressure exerted. But they were there."
JJ felt her heart race. She knew this was 'good news' because it might offer them a lead. But the idea that someone….and especially someone as vile and dangerous as the Replicator….had been looking in the window at Henry sent a chill up and down her spine. She unsuccessfully tried to stifle a shiver.
Morgan had a question. "What do we know from the prints?"
"Size eleven, right foot impression a little deeper than the left, off label pattern."
Reid analyzed the information. "The shoes would fit an average male between five foot nine and six feet tall. If he had average feet. And that would put his average weight at 175 pounds…"
"If he's of average weight and build." Rossi hated it when a clue went virtually nowhere. "Do you have anything solid?"
Kiernan responded to him. "Nothing on the BOLOs, he hasn't used a credit card, and he hasn't tried to make another ATM withdrawal. Not that trying would help him."
All of Will's accounts, including his residual joint account with JJ, had been frozen, with the idea of hindering any forward progress on his part. His credit card had been left open in the hope of tracking its use. Now, Emily thought they needed a change in strategy.
"There's probably no point in keeping him from getting cash. If he's in New Orleans, he won't need it because friends and family will help. And, if he's not, if he's still on the road somewhere else, it's probably better for him to keep moving. If the Replicator's following them, they'll be at greatest risk when they stop."
There were sounds of assent from the others on the plane.
"We should restore it. I hear you, Agent...?" Kiernan had not yet been introduced to Emily.
"Emily Prentiss. I'm with Interpol."
"Interpol? Hmm.." Kiernan couldn't wait for this case to be over. To be working side by side with both the FBI and Interpol was too impressive not to be able to share.
Hotch spoke up. "Detective Kiernan, we need to secure cooperation with NOPD. As you know. Will LaMontagne was a long time member of the force there, as was his father before him. We're sensing some…..resistance."
Kiernan's image on the screen was nodding. "I get you. I've got an old training buddy there. Let me see what I can do."
Although Will was now a fellow member of DC Metro, Kiernan had too many years of experience to allow false loyalty to trump good police work. He would follow his own counsel on this case. At this time, that counsel was telling him to work in alliance with the FBI. He signed off with his promise to contact NOPD.
Just before they landed, they had an urgent call from Garcia.
"Peeps, we've got something. It looks like the BOLO just paid off, in a roundabout way. Actually, it paid off yesterday, but we didn't know. There's still nothing from the police, but there was a trucker listening in on the police band. He noticed an SUV with Will's plates parked at a diner off I-59 just outside Tuscaloosa. Called it in yesterday, but the info just made its way through channels."
JJ was anxious. "Did they say anything about Henry? Was there a child with him?"
Garcia knew she was about to disappoint her good friend. "Sorry, Jayje, they only reported about the vehicle."
Hotch tried to reassure his young agent. "It's a lead, JJ. At least it sounds like we're on the right track. We know where he's heading. And I'm willing to bet that it also means that Will has Henry."
Reid was partially relieved at that. But we still have to find them. And we need to make sure the Replicator doesn't get to them first.