Transitions

Chapter 6

Stopping by the lab first, Hotch and Reid examined the boxes that had held the women’s heads. It had already been determined that the unsub had left no fingerprints. Testing had confirmed that what looked like blood absorbed into the cardboard was, indeed, blood, consistent with the types of the victims, respectively.

“There’s not enough, though.” Reid was estimating the amount of blood present in the packaging. “He had to have let most of it drain out before he put the heads in the boxes. The lab tech said there was a disproportionate amount of water in the seepage too, like they’d been frozen and thawed.”

They’d profiled that the unsub was a male, based on the amount of strength it would have taken to wield an axe with enough force to sever the heads.

“We already know that each of the women apparently went missing two days before her head was delivered. It would make sense if he’d killed them right away, and then preserved the heads in a freezer for an additional day.” Hotch was trying to piece together what they had so far.

“That would fit with what the ME told Morgan and me yesterday. The torso of Elaine Morton was beginning decomposition, but her head was preserved. The unsub probably dumped the body on the same day, and sent the head the next day. When we find Marta Leon’s torso, it will probably be the same.”

“We don’t know if the victims were conscious when he killed them, but the fact that they were restrained leads me to think they probably were, at least for a period of time. So he’s got to have a space isolated enough to allow him prevent anyone hearing what was going on.”

Reid agreed with his boss. “And one that would allow him to get the women in, and the bodies out, without being noticed.” He was bending, examining the packages again, and now looked up sharply.

Hotch noticed Reid’s eyes moving back and forth, as he always seemed to do when he was bringing something up from his extensive memory. He waited his young agent out, knowing from long experience that his patience would be rewarded.

“Hotch, didn’t they tell us that the delivery service was completely local? That there was no warehouse processing, that they just did same day deliveries within a twenty mile radius?”

Hotch was nodding, thinking he knew where Reid was going. “So the unsub presumably placed the delivery order on line using their own laptop, then placed the frozen head in the box, and left it on the victim’s porch. Per the delivery service records, both times the pick up and delivery took place within three hours. By the time the men arrived home, the heads were thawed.”

“Right. But the bar codes….”

“Bar codes?” Hotch now realized he hadn’t followed Reid at all.

“The bar codes. The service here doesn’t need to use them, so they had to have been on the packages already. The unsub reused boxes he already had.” Reid was getting excited. “And look, both packages have the same bar codes. At one time, they were both sent to the same zip code. Kansas City, Missouri, if I’m not mistaken.”

Hotch had been getting excited about the breakthrough right along with Reid, but now he simply stared at his genius, mouth agape. “You recognized a bar code?”

Reid acted like it was nothing. “From when we had that case, remember? Of the homeless people who were going missing? We made them give us the case because it crossed state lines, between Kansas City, Kansas and Kansas City, Missouri. JJ noticed it on the envelopes.”

“And you remembered that?”

“I have an eidetic memory, Hotch. I remember what I read. Bar codes are just written in a different language.”

Hotch gave a slow nod as he pulled out his cell, yet again astounded by the mind before him.

“Garcia, we need you to look into any connections to Kansas City, Missouri, among any of the victims or recipients, and any of their contacts.”

It wasn’t until he closed the phone that Hotch realized he’d never asked to confirm whether Reid was right about the bar code. He would do that now, but he would keep Garcia at her task. Reid’s brain had never disappointed him yet.

###################

The entire team reconvened at noon, Garcia on Morgan’s phone via speaker. Reid explained about the Kansas City connection, and how he’d discovered it. Emily and JJ exchanged amused smiles over it, while Rossi sat, open-mouthed. He didn’t think he would ever get entirely used to Reid.

“Ok, what have you got for us, Baby Girl?”

“Well, neither the women nor the men have ever lived in Kansas City, Missouri.” Reid had, indeed, been correct about the denotation of the bar code.

“But both Elaine Morton and Robert Causman have used their credit cards there. Same hotel, different restaurants.”

“At the same time, Garcia?” Reid was hopeful.

“Alas, no. They were both there a little over a year ago, but she was there first, and then he was, a few weeks later. I can’t connect Ms. Leon or Mr. Ruiz to Kansas City at all.”

Emily was thinking. “You know, the fact that they used their credit cards at different times doesn’t mean they weren’t both there together…twice.”

The others agreed, and Hotch had an additional thought. “Garcia, look into whether the workplaces of Morton and Causman have conducted business there.”

Reid had been busy at the map while they were talking. “It’s under a three hour drive from Springfield to Kansas City. Any one of them could easily have gone back and forth in a day, without leaving any kind of trail. This might be a dead end. Sorry, guys.”

“Let’s leave the question open and see what else we’ve got. What about the workplaces?” Hotch directed their attention to JJ and Emily.

JJ started. “Elaine Morton was a legal secretary in a small firm. They seemed pretty casual there, and the attorneys seemed to know a lot about her. We spent most of our time with Attorney Coleman, as the other was headed out to a real estate closing. Elaine had been with them for the past four years. Before that, she lived in Chicago. According to Coleman, she moved after her second divorce, wanting to “get away from things”.” JJ was making finger quotes, mimicking Coleman. “She told him she got interested in becoming a legal secretary after she went through her first divorce. That first marriage was to a man who was almost forty years older than she was, and who has since died. Apparently she received a healthy settlement as a result, and hence has no financial concerns. Her second marriage was brief, and ended after an incident of domestic violence. He’s still incarcerated. I guess he beat her up pretty badly.” JJ winced as she spoke the words.

Emily continued their report. Their second victim’s story was much shorter. “Marta Leon was a paraprofessional at her daughter’s school. She became pregnant at 18, throwing off her college plans. She never married the father, who is now serving with the army in Afghanistan. Marta was taking on-line courses at night, hoping to get a degree in education. According to the principal, she was an excellent worker. Her colleagues couldn’t think of anyone who would want to harm her.”

Next, Rossi started on what they’d learned from the men’s workplaces. “We went to the home improvement store where Jasper Ruiz works. He’s been there for ten years, and has worked his way up to manage his section. Which is, unfortunately, outdoor machines and tools.” He looked at the others for their reactions. This meant that Ruiz had easy access to the presumed implement of death.

Rossi continued. “His boss says he’s an excellent worker, more serious ever since his wife died from cancer. He doesn’t socialize much, since he’s the sole caretaker for his son.”

Morgan finished the recounting. “We already know that Robert Causman owns several real estate franchises, which he visits irregularly. Most of his work is done from home, according to his secretary, although he does do some travel to conventions and conferences…and quite a few vacations. The secretary also told us that he’s been married and divorced twice in the fifteen years she’s worked there, most recently three years ago. We’ve asked Garcia to look into settlements. No matter how much he might be paying out, though, he’s still got plenty of dough.”

Hotch and Reid had been back to the men’s residences, but had not uncovered anything additional to what was already known.

“So where does that leave us?” Hotch was in the habit of having the team summarize the case at intervals, to be sure they were all similarly aware of the important findings.

Morgan started. “We have two women dead, their heads each delivered from their own homes to the home of a seemingly random male. Only one torso found so far, at a separate site. The women appear to have been abducted from their homes, or from another location and brought to their homes, because in each case the laptop was stolen and used to arrange the package delivery.”

Reid added to the story. “We have no specific connections between or among any of them, except that the first victim and recipient pair had each used their credit cards in Kansas City within a few weeks of each other. And that the boxes that held the heads had, at one time or another, been sent to Kansas City.”

“So we’re questioning whether there might have been a social relationship between Morton and Causman, but we have nothing between the second victim and recipient,” Rossi contributed.

Emily had noticed something. “Speaking of relationships, we have four single adults here. Two of them divorced, one never married and one widowed.”

“And, you know, I’d sort of noticed this before, but wasn’t sure what to make of it. The second pair both have Latino last names. It may not mean anything, but you never know.” JJ offered her observation.

Reid was nodding. “Sometimes cities end up with some neighborhood segregation by ethnic group. But they don’t seem to have lived in the same area of the city. Same thing with churches. Sometimes they sort out by ethnicity, but Garcia didn’t find anything there either.”

Hotch was satisfied with the recap, if frustrated at the lack of significant progress. “All right. Everyone grab something to eat, and then we’ll convene with the task force after lunch. Hopefully Garcia will have completed the rest of her background work by then.”

The others left in search of food, but Emily noticed that Reid was staying behind, plotting on his map.

“Not hungry, Handsome?”

It took him a moment to answer, as it usually did when he was thinking. “Huh? Oh, I just want to get this up. I do better when I can look at it.”

“Well, make sure you eat. You’re too skinny.”

Looking at her, Reid realized Emily wasn’t referring only to the meal at hand. She was telling him to take care of himself, when she would no longer be around to remind him. Emily saw that he understood her meaning.

“I will.” It was sincere.

“Good. Now, I’m going to tell you something, but you can’t act like you know. Technically, I didn’t promise not to tell, but I don’t think JJ realizes it.” And Emily told Reid about the conversation she’d had with JJ that morning. She saw the concern in his eyes as she described JJ’s emotional state.

His voice was grim. “I knew it. I knew she didn’t really want to get married that night. She must have felt forced into it.”

Emily disagreed. “She’s a big girl, Reid. She could have stopped it. When have you ever known JJ to be forced into anything?”

In a quiet voice, he answered her. “She was forced to leave us, once. She resisted when she thought it was a choice, but when she realized it wasn’t, she went along. She told me about it. She didn’t want drama. And walking out on Will on the night of a wedding she didn’t arrange would have been too much drama for her.”

Emily considered it. Reid might be right. It would be entirely consistent with JJ’s desire to live her life below the radar, to ensure her privacy….even if it cost her.

She sighed, disappointed for her good friend, but seeing no alternative. “Even so, it is what it is. The best we can do now is to be supportive of her.”

“You know I am. And I will be. Thanks, Emily, for trying.”

On those words, JJ burst back through the doorway. It was obvious she’d been about to say something, but one glance at Reid and Emily stopped her. Both of them tried to look innocent, but she could tell she’d interrupted a conversation, and she was sure she knew the subject matter.

“Emily.” She didn’t have to say anything else.

Emily gave her sideways shrug. “Technically, I didn’t promise anything. And I love you too much to be so far away and not be able to help. So I thought…”

JJ looked from one to the other, and then visibly closed down. “There’s nothing to help with. You both need to let me live my life, and my marriage, on my own.”

Reid had seen this JJ before. The proud one. The one who kept you at arm’s length. She’d mastered the art with the media, but only rarely practiced it on her friends. This was one of those rare times.

He knew enough not to argue with her. He just looked at her, letting his eyes present his case. I just don’t want to see you hurt. But if you are, I’ll be there.

Emily stepped back from the intense gaze passing between her two good friends. She could almost feel the exchange. There was electricity in the air.

Until Hotch’s arrival broke the spell. Seeing him, JJ turned, reminded of what she’d come back to the room to say. She took a moment to recover herself, and then spoke.

“Hotch, I’ve been thinking. The way we were describing the women, and the men. Single, divorced, widowed, having children, or childless, Latino or white……it sounds like a singles ad, doesn’t it? Maybe they met through a dating service, or an ad? We can look at the local papers.....” She looked meaningfully at Reid as she said this, knowing his speed reading would come in handy. “….but, more likely, it would be on line.”

It jelled with all of them. Hotch punched a button on his phone. “Garcia.”

Transitions

Chapter 6

Stopping by the lab first, Hotch and Reid examined the boxes that had held the women's heads. It had already been determined that the unsub had left no fingerprints. Testing had confirmed that what looked like blood absorbed into the cardboard was, indeed, blood, consistent with the types of the victims, respectively.

"There's not enough, though." Reid was estimating the amount of blood present in the packaging. "He had to have let most of it drain out before he put the heads in the boxes. The lab tech said there was a disproportionate amount of water in the seepage too, like they'd been frozen and thawed."

They'd profiled that the unsub was a male, based on the amount of strength it would have taken to wield an axe with enough force to sever the heads.

"We already know that each of the women apparently went missing two days before her head was delivered. It would make sense if he'd killed them right away, and then preserved the heads in a freezer for an additional day." Hotch was trying to piece together what they had so far.

"That would fit with what the ME told Morgan and me yesterday. The torso of Elaine Morton was beginning decomposition, but her head was preserved. The unsub probably dumped the body on the same day, and sent the head the next day. When we find Marta Leon's torso, it will probably be the same."

"We don't know if the victims were conscious when he killed them, but the fact that they were restrained leads me to think they probably were, at least for a period of time. So he's got to have a space isolated enough to allow him prevent anyone hearing what was going on."

Reid agreed with his boss. "And one that would allow him to get the women in, and the bodies out, without being noticed." He was bending, examining the packages again, and now looked up sharply.

Hotch noticed Reid's eyes moving back and forth, as he always seemed to do when he was bringing something up from his extensive memory. He waited his young agent out, knowing from long experience that his patience would be rewarded.

"Hotch, didn't they tell us that the delivery service was completely local? That there was no warehouse processing, that they just did same day deliveries within a twenty mile radius?"

Hotch was nodding, thinking he knew where Reid was going. "So the unsub presumably placed the delivery order on line using their own laptop, then placed the frozen head in the box, and left it on the victim's porch. Per the delivery service records, both times the pick up and delivery took place within three hours. By the time the men arrived home, the heads were thawed."

"Right. But the bar codes…."

"Bar codes?" Hotch now realized he hadn't followed Reid at all.

"The bar codes. The service here doesn't need to use them, so they had to have been on the packages already. The unsub reused boxes he already had." Reid was getting excited. "And look, both packages have the same bar codes. At one time, they were both sent to the same zip code. Kansas City, Missouri, if I'm not mistaken."

Hotch had been getting excited about the breakthrough right along with Reid, but now he simply stared at his genius, mouth agape. "You recognized a bar code?"

Reid acted like it was nothing. "From when we had that case, remember? Of the homeless people who were going missing? We made them give us the case because it crossed state lines, between Kansas City, Kansas and Kansas City, Missouri. JJ noticed it on the envelopes."

"And you remembered that?"

"I have an eidetic memory, Hotch. I remember what I read. Bar codes are just written in a different language."

Hotch gave a slow nod as he pulled out his cell, yet again astounded by the mind before him.

"Garcia, we need you to look into any connections to Kansas City, Missouri, among any of the victims or recipients, and any of their contacts."

It wasn't until he closed the phone that Hotch realized he'd never asked to confirm whether Reid was right about the bar code. He would do that now, but he would keep Garcia at her task. Reid's brain had never disappointed him yet.


The entire team reconvened at noon, Garcia on Morgan's phone via speaker. Reid explained about the Kansas City connection, and how he'd discovered it. Emily and JJ exchanged amused smiles over it, while Rossi sat, open-mouthed. He didn't think he would ever get entirely used to Reid.

"Ok, what have you got for us, Baby Girl?"

"Well, neither the women nor the men have ever lived in Kansas City, Missouri." Reid had, indeed, been correct about the denotation of the bar code.

"But both Elaine Morton and Robert Causman have used their credit cards there. Same hotel, different restaurants."

"At the same time, Garcia?" Reid was hopeful.

"Alas, no. They were both there a little over a year ago, but she was there first, and then he was, a few weeks later. I can't connect Ms. Leon or Mr. Ruiz to Kansas City at all."

Emily was thinking. "You know, the fact that they used their credit cards at different times doesn't mean they weren't both there together…twice."

The others agreed, and Hotch had an additional thought. "Garcia, look into whether the workplaces of Morton and Causman have conducted business there."

Reid had been busy at the map while they were talking. "It's under a three hour drive from Springfield to Kansas City. Any one of them could easily have gone back and forth in a day, without leaving any kind of trail. This might be a dead end. Sorry, guys."

"Let's leave the question open and see what else we've got. What about the workplaces?" Hotch directed their attention to JJ and Emily.

JJ started. "Elaine Morton was a legal secretary in a small firm. They seemed pretty casual there, and the attorneys seemed to know a lot about her. We spent most of our time with Attorney Coleman, as the other was headed out to a real estate closing. Elaine had been with them for the past four years. Before that, she lived in Chicago. According to Coleman, she moved after her second divorce, wanting to "get away from things"." JJ was making finger quotes, mimicking Coleman. "She told him she got interested in becoming a legal secretary after she went through her first divorce. That first marriage was to a man who was almost forty years older than she was, and who has since died. Apparently she received a healthy settlement as a result, and hence has no financial concerns. Her second marriage was brief, and ended after an incident of domestic violence. He's still incarcerated. I guess he beat her up pretty badly." JJ winced as she spoke the words.

Emily continued their report. Their second victim's story was much shorter. "Marta Leon was a paraprofessional at her daughter's school. She became pregnant at 18, throwing off her college plans. She never married the father, who is now serving with the army in Afghanistan. Marta was taking on-line courses at night, hoping to get a degree in education. According to the principal, she was an excellent worker. Her colleagues couldn't think of anyone who would want to harm her."

Next, Rossi started on what they'd learned from the men's workplaces. "We went to the home improvement store where Jasper Ruiz works. He's been there for ten years, and has worked his way up to manage his section. Which is, unfortunately, outdoor machines and tools." He looked at the others for their reactions. This meant that Ruiz had easy access to the presumed implement of death.

Rossi continued. "His boss says he's an excellent worker, more serious ever since his wife died from cancer. He doesn't socialize much, since he's the sole caretaker for his son."

Morgan finished the recounting. "We already know that Robert Causman owns several real estate franchises, which he visits irregularly. Most of his work is done from home, according to his secretary, although he does do some travel to conventions and conferences…and quite a few vacations. The secretary also told us that he's been married and divorced twice in the fifteen years she's worked there, most recently three years ago. We've asked Garcia to look into settlements. No matter how much he might be paying out, though, he's still got plenty of dough."

Hotch and Reid had been back to the men's residences, but had not uncovered anything additional to what was already known.

"So where does that leave us?" Hotch was in the habit of having the team summarize the case at intervals, to be sure they were all similarly aware of the important findings.

Morgan started. "We have two women dead, their heads each delivered from their own homes to the home of a seemingly random male. Only one torso found so far, at a separate site. The women appear to have been abducted from their homes, or from another location and brought to their homes, because in each case the laptop was stolen and used to arrange the package delivery."

Reid added to the story. "We have no specific connections between or among any of them, except that the first victim and recipient pair had each used their credit cards in Kansas City within a few weeks of each other. And that the boxes that held the heads had, at one time or another, been sent to Kansas City."

"So we're questioning whether there might have been a social relationship between Morton and Causman, but we have nothing between the second victim and recipient," Rossi contributed.

Emily had noticed something. "Speaking of relationships, we have four single adults here. Two of them divorced, one never married and one widowed."

"And, you know, I'd sort of noticed this before, but wasn't sure what to make of it. The second pair both have Latino last names. It may not mean anything, but you never know." JJ offered her observation.

Reid was nodding. "Sometimes cities end up with some neighborhood segregation by ethnic group. But they don't seem to have lived in the same area of the city. Same thing with churches. Sometimes they sort out by ethnicity, but Garcia didn't find anything there either."

Hotch was satisfied with the recap, if frustrated at the lack of significant progress. "All right. Everyone grab something to eat, and then we'll convene with the task force after lunch. Hopefully Garcia will have completed the rest of her background work by then."

The others left in search of food, but Emily noticed that Reid was staying behind, plotting on his map.

"Not hungry, Handsome?"

It took him a moment to answer, as it usually did when he was thinking. "Huh? Oh, I just want to get this up. I do better when I can look at it."

"Well, make sure you eat. You're too skinny."

Looking at her, Reid realized Emily wasn't referring only to the meal at hand. She was telling him to take care of himself, when she would no longer be around to remind him. Emily saw that he understood her meaning.

"I will." It was sincere.

"Good. Now, I'm going to tell you something, but you can't act like you know. Technically, I didn't promise not to tell, but I don't think JJ realizes it." And Emily told Reid about the conversation she'd had with JJ that morning. She saw the concern in his eyes as she described JJ's emotional state.

His voice was grim. "I knew it. I knew she didn't really want to get married that night. She must have felt forced into it."

Emily disagreed. "She's a big girl, Reid. She could have stopped it. When have you ever known JJ to be forced into anything?"

In a quiet voice, he answered her. "She was forced to leave us, once. She resisted when she thought it was a choice, but when she realized it wasn't, she went along. She told me about it. She didn't want drama. And walking out on Will on the night of a wedding she didn't arrange would have been too much drama for her."

Emily considered it. Reid might be right. It would be entirely consistent with JJ's desire to live her life below the radar, to ensure her privacy….even if it cost her.

She sighed, disappointed for her good friend, but seeing no alternative. "Even so, it is what it is. The best we can do now is to be supportive of her."

"You know I am. And I will be. Thanks, Emily, for trying."

On those words, JJ burst back through the doorway. It was obvious she'd been about to say something, but one glance at Reid and Emily stopped her. Both of them tried to look innocent, but she could tell she'd interrupted a conversation, and she was sure she knew the subject matter.

"Emily." She didn't have to say anything else.

Emily gave her sideways shrug. "Technically, I didn't promise anything. And I love you too much to be so far away and not be able to help. So I thought…"

JJ looked from one to the other, and then visibly closed down. "There's nothing to help with. You both need to let me live my life, and my marriage, on my own."

Reid had seen this JJ before. The proud one. The one who kept you at arm's length. She'd mastered the art with the media, but only rarely practiced it on her friends. This was one of those rare times.

He knew enough not to argue with her. He just looked at her, letting his eyes present his case. I just don't want to see you hurt. But if you are, I'll be there.

Emily stepped back from the intense gaze passing between her two good friends. She could almost feel the exchange. There was electricity in the air.

Until Hotch's arrival broke the spell. Seeing him, JJ turned, reminded of what she'd come back to the room to say. She took a moment to recover herself, and then spoke.

"Hotch, I've been thinking. The way we were describing the women, and the men. Single, divorced, widowed, having children, or childless, Latino or white…it sounds like a singles ad, doesn't it? Maybe they met through a dating service, or an ad? We can look at the local papers..." She looked meaningfully at Reid as she said this, knowing his speed reading would come in handy. "….but, more likely, it would be on line."

It jelled with all of them. Hotch punched a button on his phone. "Garcia."


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