"If they were in Tuscaloosa yesterday, they've got to
be in New Orleans by now."
JJ was disappointed. Once Will got to New Orleans, he'd have the benefit of his network of friends and relatives. They might have had a better chance to catch up with him on the road. But maybe it would help protect them from the Replicator somehow. Or not.
Reid read the look on her face and tried to cheer her. "This is the best of our scenarios, JJ. That Will has Henry."
"Maybe. No one actually saw Henry."
He could hear her outlook becoming more grim with each word. "He's got to have Henry, JJ. TThey were together at the house, he knows Henry is gone. If Will doesn't have him, he would have asked for help by now, wouldn't he?"
He had a point. JJ nodded, feeling a little better. "True."
"So we've had a sighting, and we know that we're on the right path, and we're already getting ready to land. That's all good, isn't it?"
He tried to keep his voice positive, not wanting to belie his own concern about the Replicator possibly having found Will as well. Because the Replicator seemed to have an inside knowledge that replicated what the FBI knew. Somehow.
She flashed him a look and gave him the smile he was so desperately trying to elicit.
"All right. Yes, you're right. It's a good development."
He smiled back, satisfied. "And we're going to find Henry." He'd decided to push.
She knew. He wanted it to be a mantra. "And we're going to find Henry." Please, God, let us find Henry.
They set up shop quickly in the NO field office of the FBI. The office chief, SSA Charles, greeted Hotch warmly.
"Aaron, it's good to see you again. It's been a long time."
Hotch shook the man's hand as he made introductions. "It has. And it's good to see you again as well, Greg. You'll understand if we have to get right to work. Have you had any luck with NOPD?"
Greg Charles shrugged. "It's a good old boy network, all right…..makes it tough. They're good at what they do, but they are fiercely loyal to one another. Most of them weren't much interested in talking to us about Will LaMontagne."
Reid caught it. "Most?"
"Most. Thank God for equal rights. There are a lot more women on the force now than in the past. A lot of them mothers. They were more than willing to listen."
"And?" JJ was understandably anxious.
"And, they agreed to keep their eyes and ears open. On the down side, most of them are newer to the force. They don't actually know your husband."
JJ knew what that meant. "So he wouldn't have reached out to them."
SSA Charles nodded. "Right. But they'll pass along anything they do hear."
Hotch knew that was disappointing news to JJ and Reid, but he didn't want to lose momentum.
"All right, then we'll focus on his family and his friends outside law enforcement. JJ?"
"I've got a list of them here. I've reached all but two of them. They all said they hadn't heard from him, but…"
"But you don't know that you can trust that." SSA Charles finished for her. He'd been in the New Orleans office for a long time, and was familiar with the deep roots of the community. But he'd also been brought in on the issue of the Replicator. "We've called in all our field units who aren't involved in active investigations. They'll split the list with you to visit all of LaMontagne's friends. If there's information out there, we'll shake it loose."
Emily spoke up. "We've got the resources of Interpol as well. If there's anything that crosses the border, we'll be able to assist right away."
New Orleans was coastal. Once international waters were reached, investigations became remarkably complicated. Greg Charles appreciated more than anyone the advantage of having Interpol involved.
Hotch made his assignments. JJ and Emily would take Will's closest family. While they may have had the fiercest loyalty to Will, they were also the most likely to feel bonded to Henry. JJ would use that attachment to play on their sympathy.
Rossi and Blake would take Will's non-law enforcement friends, Morgan and Reid would deal with his fellow police. Hotch would do similarly, from an administrative angle. He and SSA Charles would meet with the captain of Will's old unit.
They'd prioritized their meetings with Will's family and friends based on JJ's best estimation of how close they were with Will, counterbalanced by how reasonable they were. So far, they'd been turned away outright by two close high school friends, and been given reluctant cooperation from two pairs of aunts and uncles. But neither set was able to help.
"We wish we could help you, ladies, but we haven't seen or heard from our nephew for a couple of years. Not even a Christmas card."
JJ felt like she was being admonished for having had a negative influence on Will. If they only knew…
One of the women had clearly been moved by a photograph of Henry with Will and JJ.
"He looks so much like Terry….Will's mother. She was my favorite sister. She had Will much later in life, and then wasn't there to see him make us all proud with NOPD. I was so thankful that Bill lived to see it."
"Please, don't you have any idea where Will might have gone with him? Henry is so young, and…."
The woman took pity. "Try my nephew….my brother's child. He and Will are the same age. Bill and Jack….David's father….were on the job together. Their families were close. Will and David were raised pretty much as brothers. And I'm pretty sure David has a hunting cabin somewhere."
JJ's eyes were closed, but she was speaking her prayer aloud. "Please, God, let this be it. Please."
Emily, driving, looked over at her good friend. They'd been entirely task-oriented so far, and hadn't had a chance for other conversation. But David lived an hour outside the city, and there was time now.
"How are you? Really?"
JJ gave her a sideways glance and snorted, trying to dismiss the concern with sarcasm. "Me? I'm great. Just great."
The young blonde knew her friend was trying to draw her out. But she was afraid of reconnecting directly with the fear and hurt. She'd been able to do nothing but connect with it last night, and she'd completely lost control. It had frightened her. Had she been alone when it happened, she didn't know..…but thank God Spence was there. Thank You, God, for him.
She'd said none of it aloud, but Emily realized the inner turmoil. "Don't talk about it if it's not the right time. I know you want to stay strong."
JJ hadn't realized she was so transparent, but she was glad for her friend's perception and understanding. She reached across and squeezed Emily's free hand in thanks.
JJ thought the personal conversation was over, but Emily wasn't done. This time, she took a different tack.
"Reid's still skinny. He tells me you've been working on that, though."
That actually got a laugh. "Yeah, I have. Me and Mom. She came to stay with Henry so I'd have a better chance in court…my support system, you know? And she took Spence on as a personal project."
Emily laughed as well. She'd met Sandy Jareau only once, at the wedding, and had the sense that she was a force to be reckoned with.
"He seemed to imply that you'd made him something of a project, too."
JJ flashed her another sideways look. What are you really asking?
"You know how he was, Emily. I told you, after Maeve died….well, it almost seemed like Spence had gone with her. It was actually kind of scary. But I hung in there with him and slowly…...painfully, sometimes….but slowly, he's come back. He's with me again….with us, I mean."
"…..and….the team. You know, he's back."
"Oh. The team. I thought you meant with you and Henry."
She had. But she wasn't ready to say it.
"Henry…..he made all the difference in the world for Spence, I think. The first time we had Spence over for dinner after…..well, I think it took Henry all of ten seconds to get Spence to smile. And then they played the whole night. He loves him so much…..they both love each other so….." She had to stop.
Emily heard JJ's voice becoming choked until she finally couldn't speak any longer. She reached her hand over and caught JJ's.
"We'll find him. And he'll be okay. And then you, and he and…..'Spence'…..can have all the time in the world together."
JJ was too distraught to realize the meaning behind Emily's statement.
Morgan and Reid were having less luck with Will's colleagues. None of them seemed impressed with the FBI credentials.
"Look, man, leave it alone. What's it to you if a guy goes on a trip with his kid?"
Reid put on his patient voice, feeling anything but.
"We have very good reason to believe that they're being followed, and may be in grave danger. We just want to make sure nothing happens to them."
The two profilers hadn't chosen to share about Will's having taken Henry, without warning, while in the midst of a custody settlement. But it seemed the word was already out among the NOPD officers. And they'd already chosen sides.
"Will LaMontagne can take care of himself. He doesn't need the FBI looking out for his 'best interests'."
The cop's response was similar to those they'd been getting all day.
Morgan spoke up. "Well, you'd better hope he can. And that he can take care of that little boy at the same time. Because otherwise something very bad is going to go down. And you could have prevented it. C'mon, Reid, let's get out of here. It doesn't look like NOPD is interested in really taking care of its own."
Hotch and Greg Charles were just finishing their meeting with Captain Proulx when the unit chief's cell sounded. They'd secured a promise of cooperation from Will's former precinct captain, but neither of the FBI men could be sure it was anything more than lip service.
"Sir! Sir! Sir! Sir!"
If the use of an actual title of respect hadn't already alerted Hotch, the tone in which Garcia shouted it did the trick.
"You have something, Garcia?"
"I do! We do, Kevin and I. And it's not good."
Hotch looked at Greg Charles, not wanted to openly dismiss him, but not ready to share Garcia's tactics…..and whatever she was about to tell him….outside the team just yet. Charles, having his own version of Garcia, understood, and moved away.
"All right, go ahead, Garcia."
"Sir….we've been hacked. Not us, the BAU, but us, the FBI. Including the BAU. Kevin thinks it might have been some sort of vendor bringing equipment in-they mostly just check for explosives and chemicals when they go through security, they might not have any idea about electronics-or it could even have been a vendor's vehicle parked close enough to capture wireless."
"I thought communication was automatically encrypted."
"Most of the time. Always, when it's external. But not always when it's internal. We think the Replicator managed to get into the system to look at our case files."
They'd been thinking there had to be an internal connection, since so many of the replications captured so many of the details of the actual cases. But now it looked like that internal connection might have been electronic, rather than human.
"How did you find it?"
He couldn't see the proud smile Garcia was sending in Kevin's direction.
"Kevin noticed it. A blind copy to each file. That's not all that unusual, considering some of the internal monitoring that happens. But they're usually random. Kevin noticed that it was every one of our cases for most of the past year. And he noticed something else."
Hotch heard the second tech analyst's voice coming through his phone now.
"The system is set up so that any blind copy must be encrypted. It's supposed to give an additional level of security, since there's no name on the copy line. But none of these were. Encrypted, that is. And they all went to the same IP address."
Garcia again now. "It was almost like 'hiding in plain sight', except we couldn't see it. We're tracking the address now, sir. That's turning out to be a little….complicated…..but we'll get him!"
"Good work, both of you. Let me know when you've got more."
Hotch closed the call and stood, staring ahead. An external threat, now actively coming after the BAU, several of their members already devastated by it. It would take all of their resources, and all of their resolve, to win this one. And he was determined that they should.