Transitions

Chapter 51

"Please, David, we believe they're in danger and we don't think Will realizes it. He didn't know about the threat or the need for the security detail."

JJ was willing to beg Will's cousin if it would get her the information she needed.

The man remained unmoved. He wouldn't have even granted the women admission to his house had he not received that phone call from his aunt. Blood ties were important on every level for Will's large, extended family.

Emily noticed a grouping of photographs on the mantle over the fireplace. Several of the photos held David, his wife Jeanette, and two blonde haired children, both boys. She rose and casually walked over to study them.

"Beautiful family you have here. Are these recent?"

"Couple of years ago. The boys are seven and nine now."

Emily nodded. "They look just like Henry, don't they, JJ?"

The blonde profiler was too distracted by the task at hand to pick up on where her friend was trying to bring the conversation. She passed a brief glance toward Emily, and then did a subtle double-take as she caught the look on her colleague's face. Now she understood.

"You're right, Emily, they do. They would have been only a little older than he is when that picture was taken." She reached into her pocket, pulling out her phone. "See what I mean? This photo of Henry was taken only a few months ago."

She passed him the phone, praying that he would feel more connected to her...or, at least, to Henry... when he saw the picture of the laughing little boy. She scrolled back to a time before the breakup, to show him a picture of herself, and Will, and Henry, in happier days.

Both JJ and Emily watched as David swallowed thickly, apparently moved. But then he regained his composure and handed the phone back to her.

"I love my boys, just as I know Will loves his. He won't let anything happen to him. And I can't be the one that causes them to be separated."

Emily was frustrated, and raised her voice. "It won't be you separating father and son. Why can't you understand that? They've got a serial killer after them and we're trying to save them!"

Her words apparently carried into the kitchen, where Jeanette had gone after the introductions, to prepare lunch. She rejoined them in the family room now.

"David, what is this about? I heard yelling."

Emily was more subdued now. "I'm sorry, I shouldn't have raised my voice."

"But you did. And I heard something about a serial killer. Is my family in danger?"

JJ responded. "Only mine, Jeanette. Will and Henry. We have evidence that he was watching them. We think he may have been following ever since they left." Ever since Will took Henry from me. But she couldn't phrase it that way. Not for this audience.

Jeanette looked at her husband. "David?"

"It's Will, Jeannie. I can't betray him."

"But it sounds like he's in danger."

Emily spoke up again. "And we don't believe he's aware of it. It wouldn't occur to him to take the necessary level of precaution." He would only be trying to hide from his wife, and the mother of his child. Skank.

Jeanette looked to her husband again. "Henry is only a little boy, David. What if it was Matthew, or Luke?"

He fought with himself for a few moments, but ultimately the pressure of the situation….and the pressure of the women…..won.

"All right. I've got a small cabin in the bayou. It's about two hours from here. We shared it when he was living here. Used to do a little hunting and fishing there. Will has a key."

JJ knew they couldn't afford to waste more time. "Are you sure he would have gone there?"

"I stocked it for him two days ago."


"We're headed there now.….He has a prepaid, but David says the service is spotty there. He tried calling him, but couldn't get through. I have the number, I'll keep trying.…..Right, maybe it would be better from a number he wouldn't recognize... Rossi, maybe?…...All right, we'll meet the rest of you there.…...Thanks, I'll try."

Emily glanced over at her colleague, whose eyes were intently on the road ahead of them.

"We'll get him, honey. This is good, right?"

JJ wanted desperately to believe so. "But they're so isolated there. Anything can happen. And, I remember from when Will took me on a bayou cruise once….it's unbelievably noisy there. No human sounds, but that just allows the animals to show themselves. And they make a racket. It would be easy to creep up on them without Will knowing."


"Hey, Pretty Boy, you're looking pretty ragged. Why don't you get some shut-eye. We won't be there for over an hour."

The team was converging on the cabin in the bayou in three separate SUVs.

"I just want to check in on JJ first. See how she's doing."

Morgan eyed him. "You do that."

Reid punched her number on his phone. "Hey. It's me. How are you holding up?"

He hadn't put it on speaker, so Morgan could hear only his half of the conversation.

""We're a little over an hour out…. Yeah, I think you started out closer…...Don't think like that….. It will be okay. A little over an hour from now, this will all be over…..JJ..….I know...I know…...but he'll be okay...…..because he has to be."

Morgan shouted out, so JJ could hear him. "Hey, Blondie, don't you worry. We've got him now. Reid's right. Another hour, and this will all be over. Keep your chin up."

"Did you hear that? Morgan said…okay, yeah, you're right, he's loud." Reid chanced a smirk in Morgan's direction. "Okay, we'll see you there. And JJ? Please be careful. Wait for us, okay?...Please…...Okay…...Me too."

Morgan's brows went up as Reid ended the call. "Me too?" Knowing what it usually meant.

"Yeah, 'me too'. I want Henry home safely, too."

"Oh."


In the third SUV, Rossi was yelling at his cell phone. "This isn't even government issue! I upgraded, and still it can't reach the bayou!"

For better than thirty minutes, he'd been trying to contact the number David had provided for Will, to no avail. His frustration was evident.

Hotch was concerned about the implications of this. Not only was it proving difficult to get calls into and out of the bayou, but it might be difficult to connect calls among the team when they were in the area. Greg Charles had provided them with satellite-based equipment, but warned his old friend of its limitations.

"Even this may not work if the tree canopy is too thick. You'll need to find some open space for communication."'

Garcia had already located the area of the cabin on a satellite map, but couldn't make out the actual structure because of the forest. Now Hotch gave her two additional tasks.

"Find a place where the team can meet up before we enter the bayou. And then find us a clearing near the cabin. If we need support services, we'll need a way to call for them."


Back in the second SUV, Morgan was startled when Reid came suddenly awake.

"Bad dream, Pretty Boy?" He knew his friend was prone to them, and especially so since Maeve.

Reid rubbed his eyes. "It started out that way, but …." He hadn't shared his Maeve dream with anyone but JJ. But Morgan's loyal friendship made him feel safe sharing it here.

"It started out with Henry, and JJ, and Will was holding them hostage…"

Morgan huffed. "Kid, if we find out that guy's mixed up in this…..there will be no end of the earth safe enough for him. I'll find him."

Reid gave a small smile of appreciation for the sentiment. "No, it changed then. To a dream I've been having for a while. It always feels like Maeve is with me, and like she's trying to tell me something. But I've never been able to figure out what it is."

"Maybe it doesn't mean anything. Maybe it's just your way of holding on."

Reid turned to look at Morgan. The way he'd spoken, it was as if he'd had personal experience with it.

"What makes you say that?"

Morgan turned his eyes to his friend and then quickly back to the road. "It's what happened to me, when I lost my dad. Granted, I was a kid. But I would dream about him a lot, and always felt like he had a message for me."

"Did you ever figure it out?"

"Nah... not unless he was telling me to grow up and be a cop, like he was. But I did, so...maybe." Morgan was pensive for a minute, looking back at his own life, and dreams, and wondering. He turned back to Reid. "Does she talk to you?"

"Sometimes. Sometimes she just points. It's always about a book."

"The book you gave her? Or the book she gave you?" All of the team had become aware of the exchange when Reid begged them to help him find her.

"I don't know." Reid's voice was filled with frustration. "It's the same book, really. I guess I'm going to have to go through it cover to cover."

Morgan threw him a look an smiled. "Can't you just do that in your head, Pretty Boy? Eidetic memory and all?"

He'd been so distracted that it hadn't occurred to him. "Yeah…..yeah, I can. Thanks, Morgan."

He spent the rest of the ride 'reading' "The Narrative of John Smith", to no avail. When he'd 'finished' the book, his mind went immediately back to thoughts of JJ and Henry. And then, as if the distraction had somehow permitted his mind to make a straight path to the answer, suddenly, he knew. It had been right in front of him all along, so obvious that he couldn't believe he hadn't seen it. Maybe I wasn't ready.

Morgan had his eyes on the narrowing road and didn't notice the change of expression on Reid's face as he came to the realization.

That's it! That's what you've been trying to tell me!


The team met at a 'scenic view' pull-off along the side of the road leading to the cabin, and made their plan.

It was agreed that Emily and JJ would approach the cabin first, to avoid intimidating Will with the whole team. If he was alone with Henry, the others would hear Emily's phone alarm, and join them. They didn't need connectivity for that. If the alarm hadn't sounded within two minutes, the rest of the team would approach the cabin stealthily, assuming there was trouble ahead.

"Please be careful. We don't know that it's only Will and Henry in there. We don't even know if it is Will and Henry in there." Reid was standing next to JJ.

"It's got to be, Spence. David spoke with Will, and stocked the cabin for them. I'm sure they're there."

"Well, be careful anyway. If we can find them, so can the Replicator."

"Thanks, I was trying not to think about that."

Fleetingly, he felt bad. But he also knew he was right. "You need to think about that, JJ. Don't let him surprise you. Expect him, anywhere, at any time. He's that good."

She relented. "I know, and you're right. We need to be on alert at all times. Don't worry, Spence, we'll be careful."

He was sure they would. And he was worried anyway.

The team got back into their SUVs. Garcia had found a clearing about 200 yards from the cabin. They would leave their vehicles there, and use it as a communications base. The rest of the journey would be on foot, through a heavily wooded area. Reid flashed on how much JJ hated the woods. But she was so driven that the surrounding didn't seem to faze her at all.

The vegetation was so thick that it was virtually impossible to tell that it was still full daylight as JJ and Emily approached the cabin. There was, as JJ had predicted, a cacophony of animal sounds, but no human noise.

The cabin was barely that, actually more of a one-room hut. It looked like there was an outhouse associated with it, indicating a lack of indoor plumbing. The women attempted to peek into several windows, but they were dirty, and dark. They couldn't make anything out.

Emily signaled to JJ, who nodded, and then went directly up to the door and knocked. And knocked. And knocked. Finally, she simply turned the handle, and the door opened. Cautiously, JJ stepped in, gun drawn, Emily right behind her.

Despite the darkness outside, it still took the better part of a minute for their eyes to adjust to the total dark of the cabin. And, when they did, Emily set off her phone alarm instantly.

Reid thought, it's too soon, even as he was running in the direction of the cabin. They'd strategized what a late alarm might mean, but hadn't even discussed it going off early. But his rapid firing synapses gave him the answer. They're not there.

Emily met them on the small porch and broke the news. Reid was right. The cabin was empty.

"But you need to see inside."

They followed her, bringing the power of six flashlights to the confines of the small room. It was hard to tell what was newly disorganized and what was inherent mess. But they could see shattered glass in front of the fireplace…and they could see blood, on the wooden floor, on a small braided rug, and on the table. Not huge volumes, but smeared blood, over a substantial expanse of the cabin.

JJ was standing, silent, eyes wide, trying to take it in, at the same time that she was trying not to let it in. Reid started to move toward her, when she seemed to notice something under the cot, and went toward it. They all watched as she bent, and reached down, and pulled out an object. And then collapsed again, to her knees.

Emily was closest, and went to her. She took the object from JJ's hand and passed it off to Morgan. Now Reid could see it as well. When he did, the room started to close in, and he felt sick to his stomach. He made a dash to the woods.

"What is it, Morgan?" He was angled so that Hotch's view was obstructed in the tight space.

Morgan turned around, holding it up. "It's a little stuffed dog."

Brownie.


"Pretty Boy? Hey, Kid, you okay?" Morgan had gone in search of Reid in the woods, and found him near the river.

He was squatting, his forehead leaning on his clasped hands. As he got nearer, Morgan could hear that he was crying. He squatted next to his good friend.

"Hey….Kid…come on now. I know it looks bad, but it doesn't have to mean anything. Maybe one of them got cut and needed stitches. Maybe he didn't realize they'd left the dog behind."

It was as though Reid didn't even know he was there. He kept his crouch, audibly pleading for mercy.

"Please, God…..please…..I will never ask for anything again in my life, but please…..please don't let him hurt that little boy. Please….Please…"

Morgan was frightened. For Henry. For JJ. For Reid. He felt helpless. And he didn't like to be helpless...or frightened. He liked to fight. And now he wanted to see some 'fight' in Reid.

He put an arm around his erstwhile little brother's shoulders.

"Come on now, Kid. Come on. Get yourself together. Come on, JJ needs you."

Reid's psyche had been telling him the same thing, and he'd been arguing with it. Now he argued with Morgan.

"What possible good could I do her? I couldn't keep this from happening, I couldn't even see the Replicator for what he was back when…..back when…..when Maeve…."

"Kid, none of us saw that. But we know now, and we can still win this. We can still get them back. Come on. C'mon, now." He started to tug at Reid to get him up.

As the two men stood, Morgan pulled Reid to him, embracing him. "It'll be all right. We have work to do, but it will be all right." The younger man clung to his colleague for a moment, seeking and receiving strength.

As they released, Morgan held Reid away from him. "Okay? Ready to go back?"

He wasn't, but he nodded anyway, and followed Morgan back through to the cabin clearing.

They'd moved the SUVs in. JJ was now sitting in one of them, facing out through the open door. Reid went to her immediately and she rose, stepping into his arms.

He could feel her shaking, but she'd already spent all of her tears.

He did his best to comfort her. "We'll get him back. We will. This is just a bump in the road. We'll find him, and he'll be home with us. He'll be right back to normal. He'll play with his men, and his blocks…..He'll make his tower right through the ceiling if he wants to."

She tried to join him in the same vein. "He can have chocolate chip pancakes every day for breakfast, lunch and dinner, if he wants to."

They both tried desperately to smile, and then Reid tried to find the fighting spirit that Morgan had found lacking.

"You know, I don't know about you," he whispered into her ear as he held her, "but I'm ripping mad right now. No one separates Brownie from Henry and gets away with it. Just you ask Henry."

She couldn't keep up the banter. She started crying again, holding onto Reid as a lifeline. Please, God, let me ask Henry. I just want to be able to ask Henry.


They were gathered once again at the NO FBI office, waiting, praying for Garcia to find them a lead on the Replicator. Reluctantly, Reid had left JJ's side to speed read through older BAU files that had been scanned into the computer.

Greg Charles' unit was still at the scene, scouring the site for evidence. They'd uncovered a set of athletic shoe impressions that looked virtually identical to the ones found outside Henry's window at home. Fingerprints and DNA would prove to be very complicated, as David lent his cabin out to friends quite frequently. Luminol had been put to use as soon as the sun set, but this was also complicated to interpret, given that it was a hunting cabin.

Kevin Lynch had been able to track the IP address to the general vicinity of Fairfax, Virginia, but even that was only approximate. Garcia was now cross-checking the vicinity with known addresses of past unsubs, victims and law enforcement.

Hotch had an intuition about this case. It felt familiar, even if the MO was replicating so many others. There was something about it, but he couldn't place it. He started talking it through with his old friend.

"There's something that feels almost intimate about this, Dave. Like the Replicator feels an attachment to us. Some sort of identity, however twisted it might be. But we haven't got anyone-none of the people we've arrested- on the outside. All of them are either incarcerated…..or dead."

Rossi stroked his beard for a moment. "Could they be running something from inside? You know, some of these guys have 'fans'. It might explain how he could have been following both Reid and Maeve-he might have help. Or should we be looking at family members? I know we're looking at family members of the victims, but are we looking at family members of the unsubs? Could that be why he feels connected to us?"

Hotch thought Rossi was on to something and immediately called Garcia to ask her to expand her inquiry.

"Already happening, my liege. We're just being slowed down by the scanned-in cases. Or, I should say, we were being slowed down, until 'Speed Reid' started helping us. We should be able to run all the names through the program in….oh, an hour..two, at max."

Hotch had to stifle a rare smile as he realized his team had moved on ahead of him in analyzing the case. But he had another directive. "Run them as you get them, Garcia. Don't wait for the full list. We need to find him."


In the end, it happened almost simultaneously. Garcia's program ran a new name and came up with a 'ping' to the northern Virginia area. Reid saw an addendum electronically added to the scanned record that had yielded the name. And NOPD called the office with urgent news.

Garcia had buzzed through to Morgan's phone, and he'd put it on speaker. "We have him! Or we think we do. Reid, you were right, it might have been the trigger…."

Her report was interrupted when Greg Charles ran into the room.

"I just got off the phone with NOPD. Emergency Services just reported a 911 call. The operator says it sounded like a child. He got cut off, but before he did, he was crying for his mommy. And his Uncle Spence!"


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