The task force meeting was abbreviated, to allow them to
pursue the new directions. Morgan and Prentiss were dispatched to Kansas City
to investigate the leads with the hotel and restaurants that were connected
with Morton and Causman. They'd already inquired about Kansas City connections
with each of the workplaces, and hit paydirt. Causman was expanding his real
estate empire to that not-so-distant city, and Elaine Morton's legal firm had
assisted with the closing on an office property he'd purchased. Whether that
working partnership had led to anything more was an item of intense interest.
Others in the task force would pursue the possibility of a dating service connection between or among the victims and recipients. They knew that, if such a connection was made, one of the recipients might well be the unsub. The BAU knew their best bet for finding an internet related connection was Garcia, and she was pulled from all of her other tasks to prioritize it. Reid would handle the bulk of the print material.
Rossi was intrigued by some of this. "Can anybody tell me how these on-line dating services work? Do any of them actually work?"
Hotch took the opportunity to launch a barb at his old friend. "Haven't you accumulated enough ex-wives yet?"
"I'm not saying I want to use it. I just want to know if it works." Pause. "You know, for future reference." Rossi was one of the few people who could make Hotch laugh.
Across the room, JJ was helping Reid, albeit at a fraction of his speed. The two of them were, in contrast to their two older colleagues, notably silent.
Acutely aware of JJ, and her upset with him, Reid was having a little difficulty concentrating. He needed to clear the air so he could work. Without looking up at her, he spoke.
She flashed a sideways glance at him, then resumed her reading.
Clearly that wasn't going to be enough. Reid tried again. "I'm sorry and I shouldn't have said anything to Emily."
She lifted her head to him, not quite ready to relent. Reid caught her gaze and held it. When he spoke, his words had an intensity to them.
"I'll only say this once, and then I won't bother you with it again. If you ever need anything…if you ever need me…I'm there. That's all."
She just looked at him, steady on the outside, shaking internally.
He might as well have said he doesn't think we'll make it. How is that supposed to be supportive? But his sincerity, and his good intent, was apparent in those deep brown eyes of his. So she could only make one response.
He was aware that they hadn't quite cleared the air, but it was something. Reid was able to get down to work. He wasn't at it for long before Hotch came walking over, holding out his cell. Garcia was on the speaker.
"It's called 'Made For You'. I found an application from a year ago. Made from the same IP address as Elaine Morton. Everybody uses a pseudonym on the site, but I'm sure it's her. Single white female, professional, divorced, late 20s."
Reid pointed out the discrepancy. "She was 32, Garcia. Even a year ago, she wasn't in her late 20s."
"Everybody lies on these sites about something, Spence." JJ's tone told him they were almost back on normal footing.
Garcia continued. "JJ's right. People lie about their age, their weight, their jobs. Elaine Morton had everything going for her. The only thing she really might lie about was her age."
Hotch thought they were getting distracted. "Anything on any of the others, Garcia?"
"Yes, I've got a likely for Marta Leon as well. Now I need the IP addresses for the two gentlemen, so I can see if any of the responses to the women came from them."
JJ spoke up. "I'll ask Detective Brenner to get us the IP addresses of any of the computers they had access to."
Rossi had joined them. "Better make it only the computers they used frequently, or privately. There are a host of them at the real estate offices and the store."
Garcia countered. "Get me all of them, it won't take me long."
It was several hours before they had all the pertinent IP addresses, but it took Garcia less than one to make a connection. By then, Morgan and Prentiss were on their way back from Kansas City. They'd phoned in with their findings.
"It's a good think Elaine Morton was pushy, because the hotel concierge remembered her right away." Emily was reporting. "She was at the hotel twice, and the desk clerk remembered her asking for an extra room key for her guest. He wasn't as certain when he looked at the photo, but he thinks it could have been Causman."
"So we've got a connection between one of our victims and her recipient. So maybe we won't need you to look at the dating sites, Baby Girl." They were conferencing.
"Ah, but you do, my Chocolate Thunder. Because there was a connection between them on 'Made For You' as well. And it was made before the trips to Kansas City."
JJ was intrigued. "So they made a connection on line, and then connected anyway, through their work?"
Reid wasn't so sure. "Didn't the law firm say they used locals for representation in Kansas City? We know they represented Causman, but we don't know that they sent her to do it. It's possible Elaine Morton went there to meet Causman only because of their on line connection."
Hotch wanted more information. "Did the people in Kansas City notice anything between them? An argument? Some kind of hostility?"
"We asked that, and neither the concierge nor the desk clerk noticed anything. But then Prentiss got the idea of asking the bell hop and the room service clerk. Bingo! Room service said there was a pretty loud argument. Nothing violent, but a lot of yelling. And he thought she was winning. That might have tipped Causman, we've already identified him as a narcissist."
In the SUV, Morgan looked at Emily as he concluded this, smiling his pride. He would miss her expertise almost as much as her personality.
Hotch wanted still more. "Garcia? Anything on the others?"
"Well, now that you ask, Senior G Man, yes, there's something very interesting. I ran all of the responses to Marta Leon against our two guys' IP addresses and got nothing. But when I put Mr. Ruiz' IP address in separately, I found his application….with a response from Marta Leon."
Rossi silently promised himself to get more up to date on his electronics as he asked, "So, he ran an ad, and she responded to him?"
Hotch summarized for them. "So we have electronic dating connections between the two pairs. But nothing that connects the pairs, is that correct, Garcia?"
"So far, sir. Nothing connecting them."
JJ began postulating. "So, if we're thinking the males actually killed the females, does that mean they're working together? But we haven't found any connections at all between them, except on line."
Taking it up, Reid added, "Or it could be someone completely outside the foursome, targeting online matches. We could be looking at a pretty large population at risk, if that's the case."
Hotch was rubbing his eyes. "All right, Reid, you and JJ go back to Ruiz. Find out everything you can about this 'Made For You' business. Dave and I will take Causman."
The residual tension was with them in the SUV on the way over to see Ruiz. As though they'd been having an ongoing conversation, JJ broke it with, "He's a good dad. He loves Henry, and Henry loves him. And I think he loves me."
He stole a glance sideways from his seat behind the wheel. "JJ, if you don't want to talk about it….."
She looked at him, shrugging her shoulders. "I don't. But it's between us now, isn't it?"
He thought a moment before responding. "JJ, it's only important what's between you and your husband. It's none of my business, you're right. And I can keep it that way. I just…It's just…..I'm just used to worrying about you, I guess. And I just want you to be happy."
Now he turned to her. "Really."
What he didn't add aloud was "and you shouldn't only 'think' he loves you."
She could see that he meant it. He cared, but he no longer seemed dependent on her. There was something about him that seemed more assured, more confident, even happier. She squinted at him.
He didn't understand. "What?"
"You're different. You seem ….I don't know…more centered." And less attached to me.
"Yes, you. You seem more self-assured." She smiled, having successfully moved the spotlight off herself and on to him. "Almost like…." And her brows went up, as she remembered what she'd been thinking before. "Spence, are you seeing someone?"
He mentally kicked himself for not being able to hide how flustered that made him. "Me? No!" Definitely not 'seeing'.
She eyed him. "Are you sure? Because you're acting like someone who's interested in someone…or has someone interested in him."
He was. Interested in Maeve. And she was interested in him. She was changing his life, letter by letter, and phone call by phone call, because she was genuinely interested in him. But he still couldn't bring himself to share it with JJ. It was too new. And it was too special. He wanted to keep it for himself, for just a while longer.
Reid prayed a silent thanks that they'd arrived to the Ruiz home. It effectively ended the conversation.
Inside, they found Jasper Ruiz and his son, Paulie. Soon they were joined by Jasper's sister, Anita. He made the introductions.
"She helps me out, ever since….ever since Clara died."
Anita shook hands with the FBI agents and explained. "I come over at least once a week, and I make meals that Jasper can freeze. He works so hard, and he gets home too late to cook healthy food."
"She found out we were living on fast food and take out, and she came to my rescue." He leaned over and kissed his sister's temple.
JJ and Reid explained they were there about the 'Made For You' dating site. Jasper Ruiz looked completely shocked. "What? I would never do that, I've never even heard of that."
As he was protesting, JJ could see a look pass over Anita's face. She tried to catch Reid's eye, to alert him. He saw. And he directed his next question to Anita.
"Ms. Ruiz, do you think you can shed any light on this?"
Jasper looked confused, until he turned his head and saw his sister's face. Then he rolled his eyes. "Oh, no. You?"
"Lo siento, hermano. It's just that it's been years now, and you're so lonely. I just thought maybe I could help…"
JJ was gentle. "Ms. Ruiz…Anita….did you contact anyone who responded to your brother's ad?"
"Just to one. She was Latina, and she had a small child, it seemed like a good match…..oh, Dios mio! Was it her?
JJ reached out a hand in reassurance. "We don't know anything yet. It was just a question." She rose, signaling Reid that they should go. "Thank you both for your time. We'll be in touch."
They left the siblings to work through the well –meaning gesture that had seemingly gone so horribly wrong.
Causman hadn't given anything new to Rossi and Hotch. So now they were left with the online dating service connection between each of the two pairs, and the liaisons in Kansas City for the first pair. But nothing connecting the two sets. And one very big question, which Morgan was now posing to Garcia over the speakerphone.
"Baby Girl, how could the unsub have figured out the identities of the people on the site. Aren't they encrypted?"
"Oh, Derek, how I wish they were. Better encrypted, anyway. Remind me to stay away from these sites, I think it would be safer to trawl the bars in DC."
They could hear hear typing on her keyboard as she continued. "It was easy to hack, I didn't even have to write my own program. Anybody with a little better than average skills could do it." She couldn't resist. "Which leaves out Rossi and Reid."
Her imagination gave her an accurate picture of the faces the two made in response to her jibe.
"So either Causman's got some computer skills, or Ruiz is good at subterfuge. Or we've got a totally unrelated unsub going after couples matching on the site." Emily didn't feel like they were all that close to cracking the case.
Rossi may not have been skilled with the computer, but he'd been doing this job for a very long time. "We can't totally rule it out, but it's unlikely we've got an unrelated unsub. We should have had another case by now. And I can't imagine someone would have found a human head on his front porch and not reported it."
Hotch gave his opinion. "I think Dave's right. This isn't unrelated. It feels personal. We've got to look at either Causman or Ruiz."
Reid suddenly sat up straight. "It's Causman." He spoke with authority.
"Reid?" Hotch waited on his genius yet again.
"The 911 tapes."
"The tapes? What about them, Kid?"
"Causman said, 'we're safe.' 'We're safe.' He lives alone. There was no one else there. Except the head of Elaine Morton. He was referring to her when he said 'we'. Think about it. It was that relationship that started it all."
All of them trusted Reid's memory enough to go with it. But there was a question.
"So, why did he kill Marta Leon then? And send the head to Ruiz?"
"Forensic countermeasure." Emily sounded like she was thinking aloud, which was precisely the case. "He was trying to make it look like a serial."
Hotch agreed with her. "He's got a huge ego, probably felt like he could outwit the locals. It wouldn't surprise me if he chose Ruiz based on his job, which would give him easy access to the murder weapon."
"And Marta Leon was killed just because she had the misfortune of responding to Ruiz' ad. Two totally innocent, lonely people, just trying to raise their kids alone." JJ stared into the distance, her face showing both sympathy and, Reid thought, empathy. She's relating to this more than she should.
It was late by the time the plane took off. They were satisfied that Causman was in custody, but each of them was still pondering the serendipity of life. So many random circumstances had led to the death of an innocent young mother, at the hands of someone whose anger was directed at someone else entirely.
This would be Emily's last trip on the BAU jet. To honor the occasion, Rossi had snuck something aboard. Just this once, there actually was Cristal on the plane, and he called everyone from their individual reveries to share the occasion.
"To our great colleague, Emily Prentiss, on the marking of a milestone. At this point in your life, your course diverges from ours. But you leave us with precious memories of a beautiful heart and soul. And our loss is someone else's gain. To precious memories." Rossi held his glass aloft, the others following suit. There were tears in all six sets of eyes.
Emily gathered herself enough to speak. She'd refused a party, so soon after the wedding. This would be her formal goodbye to her teammates. "You guys, you know I love you. Each and every one of you."
She made eye contact with each of them as she spoke. "I've never worked with a better group of people, and I doubt I ever will. I will hold each of you in my heart for a very long, long time." And then she got the twinkle in her eye. "Unless, of course, you forget that London is only a plane ride away. Really, I expect a lot of visitors. And I'll be mad if I don't get them."
The real ending came when the plane landed. Prentiss was due to fly out to London on the weekend, which was only a day away. She made a point of giving an individual goodbye hug to each of them as they left to their own vehicles. Her final embrace was for Reid.
She hugged him and then kept her arms around his waist as she leaned back. "I will never forgive you if you don't come to see me, you know."
He smiled at her. "I will." And then he squirmed. She picked up on it right away.
"Reid?" She thought he was just having trouble saying goodbye. But he wasn't. He was struggling with something else. He wasn't really ready to share, and yet they were out of time. And he so wanted her to leave feeling happy for him.
"Reid? What's wrong?" She asked him again.
He smiled, more to himself than at her. After a couple of false starts, he said, "It's not what's wrong, Emily. It's what's right. There's something right in my life."
He'd been looking down, now raised his eyes to her. She could see them shining. And she broke out in a wide grin. Emily knew him very well.
"You've got someone? You've met someone?"
He chewed on his cheeks. "Well, it's more 'got' than 'met', but yes, there's someone in my life."
And he explained about Maeve, and how they'd found each other, and how he couldn't wait to talk to her every week, and how she was so interesting, and interested in so many things that interested him...and how she was, always, interested in him.
Emily found herself tearing up. This was the craziest kind of relationship she could imagine, and yet, somehow, it fit. And it was making him happy. And so, without ever having met or spoken with her, Emily decided that she, too, loved Maeve Donovan. And she was leaving her erstwhile little brother, her would-be son and precious friend in good hands.
Embracing one final time, they each promised to preserve their friendship across the great divide of the Atlantic.