A Shot in the Dark
Hotch lay in bed, feeling irritable and useless. He felt as though he had spent this entire case either unconscious or in bed. Some leader, he thought. He sat up straight and pushed himself to his feet, despite the burning pain in his chest as his stitches pulled at his skin. He walked slowly over to his go bag in the corner of the room feeling a little nauseated, and when he bent down to find a pair of socks, there was a sickening sensation in his chest and he could almost hear the sound of his broken ribs grinding together.
"Hotch?" Morgan had appeared in the room with a stack of paperwork from the Sheriff's office.
"I'm fine," Hotch said automatically, straightening up slowly and returning to the relative safety of his bed. "Is that the suspect list for the Sheriff’s murder?”
"Yeah," said Morgan, eyeing him warily. "You sure you're okay? You look kinda pale."
"Fine," he said, gesturing for Morgan to hand him the papers. "That's a lot of suspects."
"Four pages of ‘em," he agreed, leafing though the sheets.
"Any luck questioning Jacob Fox?" Hotch asked.
"JJ and Prentiss haven't brought him in yet," Morgan said, and Hotch became a little concerned but before he could worry too much, Morgan's phone rang.
"Hey, speak of the devil," he said. "It's JJ." Hotch wondered why she had called Morgan and not him and he checked his phone for missed calls but there were none. He realised that he was no use in the investigation while he was stuck in hospital but he would have liked to have been involved. Morgan answered the call but remained silent for a long time, listening intently. In fact he didn't speak a word for the entire phone call but his expression spoke volumes. Something was very wrong. When he hung up at last, all he said was,
"Jacob Fox has Emily."
"I don't know."
"I don't know," he said, moving towards the door.
"What do you mean you don't know? He called from her cell phone," Hotch said, his voice and his temper rising. "Where the hell is she, Morgan?"
"I don't know, man! I would have asked but he said if I spoke he would kill Emily. He didn't even mention JJ, I don't think she's with them." He ran his hands over his head, pacing anxiously in the doorway. "I need to find her. I have to go."
"Get Garcia to trace JJ's cell," Hotch said. Morgan obeyed, and texted Garcia. Within thirty seconds, Jacob Fox's location was in his hand. When he looked up, Hotch was pulling on his shoes and grabbing a sweater.
"You aren't going anywhere, Hotch," Morgan said.
"We are a lot closer to Jacob Fox's house than anyone else. JJ might still be there. I can't afford to wait for the cops."
"You're going to kill yourself," Morgan said, but when he met Hotch's gaze he seemed to realise that there was no reasoning with him.
"Will you just help me?" he asked. He hated the sound of the words but he couldn't make it all the way down the stairs and out to the SUV by himself. Morgan grabbed two sets of car keys and helped Hotch out in to the main part of the ward, pausing only momentarily to avoid one of the nurses. They stepped in to the elevator and Morgan hammered the B button with his thumb for the entire journey down to the dark basement where their SUVs sat waiting. Hotch pulled open the driver's door of the closest vehicle, fighting back the waves of dizziness and nausea that kept threatening to submerge him. He closed his eyes and leaned on the car door, taking deep breaths and willing himself to keep going for JJ.
"Just go," he said, waving Morgan away. "Find Emily. Back-up won't be far behind."
Morgan got in to his own SUV and tore out of the basement parking lot, following the coordinates that Garcia had sent. JJ's cell phone was about four miles outside of town and hopefully so was Emily. Morgan could feel the rage growing inside him, something he hadn't felt for a long time. If Jacob Fox harmed Emily, he would kill him. There was no hesitancy, no doubt or uncertainty in his mind, only fear and anger. If anything happened to Emily, he would be lost, so the only option was to get her back, and nothing in the world was going to stop him.
Prentiss sat in the back of the car for hours as Jacob drove further and further in to the desert. Jacob had abandoned JJ's phone twenty miles back meaning no one knew where they were. It could be several more hours before anyone came to find her, but hopefully someone would have found JJ by now. There was a gnawing anxiety in her stomach, not only because she was being held hostage but because she had no idea what had happened to JJ. Every time she thought about her, her anxiety grew dangerously close to utter panic.
At long last, Jacob pulled over in a section of desert without a single identifiable landmark. He stepped out of the car, swiftly locking the doors behind him, leaving Emily bound and alone in the stifling heat.
For almost an hour now, Jacob had been wandering around outside the car in the dying afternoon light, finishing off a bottle of scotch that had been stashed in his glovebox while Emily tried to form a coherent plan for escape. Once Jacob was sober she might be able to reason with him, get him to surrender, but while he remained drunk, none of her plans were without risk.
She shifted uncomfortably, her shirt sticking to her back in the warm car, half relieved that it would be dark soon, but she also realised that it would be even harder for someone to rescue her in the pitch black desert.
A second killer had been so unexpected that they had very little information on Jacob Fox except what they found out when they were raking through his son's past. Prentiss wished Reid were here, he would remember every minute detail but instead she had to settle for her own distinctly average memory. She closed her eyes and tried to picture the files they had read.
Jacob Fox was 67 years old, he had lived in his house on West Cedro Drive for twenty-five years. His wife, Terri, had fallen down the stairs and broken her neck twenty years ago. It was ruled an accident despite some local suspicion that she had been pushed. Her death had been a stressor for Jacob and after that he started hitting his son, Robert. Maybe because he had accidentally killed his wife. And maybe Prentiss could use that to get under his skin.
Jacob unlocked the car and climbed back in to the driver's seat and she caught sight of JJ's gun which was stuffed in to the waistband of his worn jeans while his own gun was held tightly in his hand, pointing in the region of Emily's shoulder.
"Can you just put the gun down?" she asked.
"I'm not stupid."
That remains to be seen, she thought.
"Who do you think will get here first?" he asked, as easily as if he was asking her who might win the football. "Agent Morgan? Or maybe some of those useless cops from the Sheriff's Department. I suppose it doesn't really matter, I'll just hold you hostage until I get what I want."
"And what do you want?"
"To kill the bastards that killed my son."
"I won't let that happen."
"You won't have much of a choice, sweetheart." His speech was less slurred now and he was considerably more articulate than she had expected, nothing like the stereotype she had categorised him in. This was her chance to reason with him.
"They won't sacrifice two FBI agents to get me back. It's all about minimum loss," she said. "In fact, once they find JJ, they'll know that you are planning to kill Morgan and Rossi and they won't let them anywhere near this truck." Jacob looked hesitant for a second, the only change in his angry and smug demeanour for several hours.
"What makes you think that little blonde agent is still alive?"
"Because I don't think you would hurt a woman," she said. "Not on purpose." It was a wild stab in the dark, but when the colour drained from Jacob's face, she knew she had found his weak spot.
"Not on purpose," he echoed.
"You pushed your wife down the stairs," she said and she held his gaze firmly for a few moments until he finally looked away.
"I didn't mean to," he said quietly, staring down at his knees. He shook his head, he began to fidget and look around wildly, growing more and more agitated. "I didn't mean to. I didn't mean to!" He threw the car door open and stumbled out. Prentiss slipped though the space between the front seats and out the door to find Jacob doubled over with his hands on his knees, gasping for breath and muttering to himself.
"What happened to you, Jacob?" she asked. "How did you end up like this?"
"How the hell do you think?" he said between short, rasping breaths. "I started drinking and I didn't stop."
"Because of what you did to Terri."
"I wanted to forget."
"But instead you made Robert suffer. He lost his mother and then he lost his father too."
"He just gave up when she died. He stopped trying in school. He started acting out. It made me so angry. He just lost all his motivation."
"Maybe you beat it out of him," she said. Perhaps it wasn't a good idea to push Jacob so far, but if she didn't get him to break down, there was still a chance he would decide to kill her.
"I hated myself for what I did to him," he said, his fist clenched so tightly over his own gun that his knuckles were almost entirely white.
"But you kept doing it for eight years."
"I didn't mean for it to go on for so long!" he said, his voice rising. "It's a vicious cycle. I couldn't stop!"
"Eight years, Jacob." He covered his face with his hands and let out a loud, tormented yell. While his eyes were covered, Prentiss lunged forward and grabbed JJ's gun from his waistband, pointing it at Jacob's chest.
"Drop your gun," she said.
"I didn't mean for any of this," he moaned, seemingly unconcerned that she had a weapon.
"Put the gun down, Jacob." He slid down the side of the car and landed with a soft thud on the ground where he put his head back in to his hands and started sobbing uncontrollably.
Great, Prentiss thought, rolling her eyes. She kept her gun on him but left him to his grief for a short while. There was very little she could do until back-up arrived anyway, her set of keys for the cuffs were lost somewhere in the undergrowth of Jacob's garden.
"The gun, Jacob," she said again. His convulsive crying changed just then, and she realised that he had started to laugh. He dropped the gun on the ground.
"It's not even real," he said. Prentiss dipped down and picked it up, finding it much lighter than she had anticipated. It was a decent replica of a Beretta but it was entirely made of plastic. The trigger didn't even move. "It's just for show. Never fired a gun in my life," he said.
"Could have fooled me," Prentiss muttered, dropping the gun back down beside him. She leaned against the hood of the truck, feeling slightly more relaxed now she knew Jacob wasn't armed.
"You didn't kill JJ did you?" she asked. He shook his head and she felt relief wash over her. Now she could concentrate on getting herself out of this mess and getting Jacob to turn himself in.
"Just stuck her in the basement," he muttered. "God, what is wrong with me?"
"Why did you kill the Sheriff?" she asked. Jacob ran his hands tightly through his short hair.
"I can't believe I did that... I... I don't understand."
"Why?" she repeated, more out of curiosity than anything else. Now that he wasn't waving a gun in her face, she found herself feeling a little twinge of pity for him. He had killed the Sheriff, he had kidnapped her and hurt JJ and he wanted Morgan and Rossi dead but for all of his terrible actions, he was still nothing more than a tormented man, being forced to face his demons and hating himself more and more every second because of it.
"He was my best friend,” he whispered. ‘We grew up together, We were inseparable. Even when he was moving up the career ladder and I was still a drunken mess, he never left me behind.” Jacob tipped his head back and looked up at the darkening sky and the few silver stars that were beginning to emerge. “When I heard that Robert was dead, I thought he had killed him,” he continued. "And I was so drunk, I didn't listen to reason. And now he’s dead. My best friend.”
"You need help, Jacob," she said. He just nodded. For a long time, he sat on the ground, slowly sobering up and occasionally descending in to fits of tears. Prentiss wondered how long it would be before back-up arrived. She couldn't drive handcuffed and despite his repentance, she still wouldn't trust Jacob behind the wheel. She made a mental note to start carrying a spare set of handcuff keys.
Once night had really fallen, Prentiss stepped over Jacob's hunched frame and clicked on the headlights of the truck so that at wedge of the desert was illuminated with yellow light. She resumed her position leaning against the hood and gazed up at the clear, navy sky, which was now littered with bright stars.
"The cops will be here soon," she reminded him, and this time he didn't threaten to hold her hostage or kill her. We're making progress, she thought. "Are you going to turn yourself in?"
"Yes," he croaked. Several minutes passed where neither of them spoke and Prentiss grew a little bored. She began to wonder if she really could drive with her hands cuffed, but that would leave her unarmed and Jacob could still do something crazy like lunge for the steering wheel or strangle her while she drove, so she resigned herself to the fact that they were stuck there until they were rescued. It wasn't worth the risk.
The only thing to break the silence was an occasional sniff or groan from Jacob, who was now completely sober for the first time in God knows how long, and seemed to be struggling to come to terms with everything he had done. He remained crouched on the ground and Emily kept stargazing, admiring the ethereal swirls of light above her. At one point, she thought she heard the crunch of tires on the dirt but when she paused and listened harder, she was met by nothing but silence.
"I believe you, by the way," she said after a while, not bothering to take her eyes off the sky.
"That you didn't mean to kill your wife." Behind her, she heard him get to his feet.
"Thanks," he said. "That means a lot." There was a movement just in front of her and she was both surprised and relieved to see Morgan approaching swiftly out of the darkness. But he didn't even look at her, he just raised his arm, pointed his gun at Jacob and shot him between the eyes. Emily turned around just in time to see the old man hit the ground, an expression of complete shock still on his bloodied face. She looked back at Morgan who was visibly shaking, uncontrollable rage in his dark eyes. He was barely recognisable as the man she knew.
"Morgan," she breathed. "What have you done?"