Green Valley, AZ.
Green Valley, Arizona
While the air was developing a definite chill back in Virginia, it was still warm in Pima County. The team stepped out of the shiny black SUVs that had been waiting for them at Continental Airport and in to the midday sun. Reid undid his top shirt button, Morgan took off his leather jacket and Prentiss rolled up the sleeves of her green sweater. Only Hotch remained formal with his suit jacket on and collar buttoned. A man limped out of the Sheriff's Department and approached the group.
"Sheriff Falconer," JJ said, extending her hand to the man in front of her. “I’m Supervisory Special Agent Jennifer Jareau, we spoke on the phone. These are SSAs Hotchner, Morgan, Prentiss, Rossi and Dr Reid. Thank you for coming down from Tucson to meet us.”
“Yeah, thanks for coming," the man said. He must have been pushing sixty with a distinct, shiny bald patch on the top of his head. “And as for coming down from Tucson, I don’t see that I had much of a choice. This’ll be making national news in the next few hours. Would look pretty bad if I wasn’t here.” He paused to shake his head, and take a deep breath. “I gotta tell you, I grew up in Green Valley, worked in this very building for most of my adult life before I moved up to Headquarters. Nearly four decades in this place, and I ain’t never seen anything like this.
"Unfortunately, we have," Hotch said. The Sheriff limped off and the team followed him in to the mercifully cool building and through the unfamiliar bullpen. "I would like to send my agents out to look at the crime scenes, accompanied by some of your detectives if possible," Hotch added.
“They've already been over the crime scenes with a fine toothed comb," Sheriff Falconer said, and Hotch detected a little hostility in his voice before he sighed and continued. "But I guess a fresh set of eyes never hurt." He waved over two officers.
"This is Commander Holmes," he said, indicating the tall, dark haired cop who had approached them. “He’s in charge of this district.” He looked like he was in his early forties. He was wearing a white shirt with a grey tie and his eyebrows seemed to be creased in to a perpetual frown, he reminded Hotch a little of himself.
"And this is Deputy Commander Watts." Behind him, Hotch heard Morgan give a little cough. Watts was a little younger than Holmes, and was dressed in the same light brown uniform as the rest of the department. He had brown hair and green eyes, his countenance far more approachable than his superior’s. He shook hands with each of the agents in turn while Holmes just gave a curt nod.
“They've cleared some space for you in there," the Sheriff said, leading them in to a little glass walled office. A large table sat in the middle of the room and a whiteboard covered most of one of the walls. The rest of the wall space that wasn’t occupied by windows was painted the same light grey as the rest of the department. "I'll leave you to get settled. I’ve moved in to the office next door until we get this situation under control. So if you need anything you know where to find me,” he finished, and backed out of the office. When the door clicked shut, Morgan turned to Prentiss who had her lips pressed tightly together, trying not to laugh.
"Holmes and Watts?" Morgan said. "Like Holmes and Watson?"
"If his first name is Sherlock, that will make my day," Rossi said, smiling.
There was a time when Hotch might have cracked a smile at the coincidental names of the officers, but his sense of humour had been shelved a while ago.
Rossi stifled a yawn and it spread like a disease around the room, a Mexican wave of yawns as everyone else covered their mouths or, in Morgan's case, just stretched his mouth widely and presented the room with a clear view of his tonsils. Everyone in the team was tired. They had only just returned from a five day case in New Hampshire when they got the call about Arizona. They all needed a break, but no one was showing the strain as much as JJ. He glanced over to her staring blankly out of the window, biting her nails. The usually serene agent had been out of character for weeks. Hotch moved around the table to put down his go-bag. As he passed JJ, he took her hand away from her mouth.
"Stop worrying," he said. Morgan's cell phone began to ring.
"Hey, Baby Girl, you're on speaker," he said.
"Oh, the more people who know about our undying love the better, my angel," said Garcia. Morgan smiled. He put the cell phone in the middle of the table so everyone could hear what information the technical analyst had collected for them.
"Now," she continued, "here's the lowdown. Green Valley, Arizona has a population of about 17,000. It's part of Pima County and is home to the Green Valley division of the Pima County Sheriff's Department, but you know that already because that is where you are standing, I would imagine. As a point of interest, Green Valley is home to one of the very few Rhenium mines in the U.S."
Her last statement was met by questioning looks from most of the agents.
"Rhenium is one of the rarest elements in the Earth's crust," Reid explained, as if it were common knowledge, "not to mention one of the most expensive at about four thousand five hundred and seventy five dollars per kilogram. It's used to make jet and rocket engines and even to treat liver cancer."
"I totally knew that," Garcia said, sounding a little put out that Reid had beaten her to the interesting information. "Now, Pima County has a fairly high crime rate in comparison to the rest of Arizona, although it is mostly property crime. Safe to say that seven murders in four weeks is kinda out of the ordinary for little ol' Pima."
"Thanks, Garcia," said Hotch.
"No problem, Hot Stuff." Hotch turned to stare at the phone and Morgan gave a snort of laughter.
"Oh my God, sir, I'm so sorry. I didn't mean that, it's a force of habit, it's usually Morgan that... I mean, not that you aren't... you're lovely but that wasn't meant for you, I... oh God."
"Just hang up, Garcia," JJ said from her perch on the window ledge.
"Yeah. Okay. Bye. Oh God."
"Okay," Hotch said, still eyeing the phone with a frown. "I want everyone to split up and profile the crime scenes. There's every chance that we will see something that the local cops missed. Reid, I want you here with me to interview the families and work on the profile."
The team dispersed, Reid tucked his wavy hair behind his ears and started drawing up titles on the big whiteboard on the far side of the room. Outside, Hotch saw Prentiss approach Watts.
“Hey, can you take me to the family's abduction site? I'd like to go over it again."
"Sure, it's only couple miles from here," he said.
"Great." She turned and headed for the door. "The game's afoot Watson."
The Deputy Commander followed with a sigh. ”It's Watts.”
Watts pulled up at the side of the road and got out of the car, and Prentiss followed suit. The sky was an endless pale blue, vanishing behind the Santa Rita Mountains to the east, and curving down to touch the Sierrita Mountains far in the west. The dark tarmac lay like a grey ribbon across the pale, sandy earth, seeming to weave its way through the sparse, green shrubbery that speckled the desert.
“That’s where the abandoned car was found,” he said, pointing to a stretch of road that looked no different from the rest. Prentiss walked over to it, looking up and down the flat road, superimposing the crime scene photos on to the scene in front of her.
“So the car had a burst tire, and there was a spare wheel and jack on the ground?”
“Yup,” said Watts. “But no sign of a struggle or any kind of resistance from the family.”
“How would you get two physically fit adults and their child in to your vehicle without any kind of struggle?”
“I’d hold the daughter at gunpoint, get the father to drive my car to a secondary location where I’d hold them hostage.”
“Yeah, me too,” Prentiss said, biting her lip and staring at the road as though she could see the abduction taking place while they stood. “The father wouldn’t risk deliberately crashing the car or calling for help if his daughter had a gun to her head.”
“And the mother probably wouldn’t risk it either,” Watts said. “They’d both be hoping they could escape when they arrived at their destination.”
“You’ve thought a lot about this,” Prentiss said, watching him talk through the crime, his green eyes narrowed in a frown.
“It’s all I can think about,” he admitted. “I’ve seen some pretty grizzly things, but I guess I was naïve enough to think I’d never see anything like this.”
“Don’t join the BAU, whatever you do,” Prentiss said with a dry smile. “You’ll lose all faith in humanity in your first week on the job.”
“How do you do it?” he asked, looking at Prentiss and she was surprised to see genuine desperation in his eyes. “How do you sleep at night after seeing stuff like this?”
“You have to find a way to switch off when you go home at night. Talk about it, don’t talk about it, make jokes about it if you have to, otherwise every case will eat you alive.” Watts just nodded slowly. “And catching the bad guy always helps,” she added, giving him an encouraging smile. “Now, stand there.” She placed Watts where the family’s car had been, and started walking up the road, away from the town. She found a shallow dip at the edge of the road and stepped in to the dry brush.
“Can you see me?” she called.
“No,” he called back. Prentiss looked around and saw several small bushes crushed in to the sand, no doubt from the wheels of a large car, but as the Unsub knew well, the sandy ground wouldn’t betray him by holding on to his tire tracks. She walked quickly back down the road towards Watts.
“If I was sitting in an SUV I could watch the passing cars from that ditch almost undetected,” she said. “Especially in the dark.”
“He must have put out tire spikes or something,” Watts said. “There’s no way a car blew a tire by chance while he was waiting.”
“He might initially select his victims at random,” Prentiss said, “but once he’s chosen his target, he plans their abduction meticulously.”
“But how do you catch someone who doesn’t leave any evidence?” Watts sighed.
“We might not have any physical evidence,” Prentiss said, “but everything about him, the victims he chooses, the way he abducts them and how he kills them, it’s all evidence that can help us create a profile and eventually track him down.”
Watts looked a little dubious. “You can really find a murderer from just his behaviour?”
“You’d be surprised at what we can do with next to no leads,”
“That’s amazing,” he said. Then he caught sight of Prentiss’s expression and he groaned. “Don’t say it. Just don’t.” But the opportunity was too good to miss.
“Elementary, my dear Watson,” she said, with a grin. Watts shook his head and turned back to the car, but he couldn’t prevent a reluctant smile from crossing his face.
“You want to drive up to Tucson and meet the medical examiner?” he asked. “It’ll only take a couple hours. The M.E. has already sent his report to us, but I get the feeling you’ll want to take a closer look for yourself.”
“Sure,” she said, “let me just grab my magnifying glass. And maybe my pipe.”
“Would you give it a rest?” Watts asked, but this time he didn’t even try to disguise his amusement.
“No,” she said, glad that he was looking a little more cheerful. She had seen one too many officers run themselves in to the ground, haunted by cases that they couldn’t get out of their minds. She didn’t want the same thing to happen to Watts. She had only known him for a few hours, but he was quick man to get to know, and she found that she liked him already. But as they climbed back in to the cop car and pulled out on to the road, Watts’s eyes darkened again as he stared at the abduction sight, and felt, with the kind of clarity that always burdens a good man, just how terrified the young family must have been.
When the team returned, night had fallen. The fall days were short and warm, but after the sun set the temperatures plummeted and by seven o'clock that evening, it was almost completely dark outside. They congregated in the back room and shared what little they had gleaned from their day.
JJ and Rossi had scoured the abduction sites of the first three victims.
“Okay, so the first three victims were all prostitutes which is why no one payed much attention to their disappearances,” JJ said. “They each disappeared on a Saturday from around the same area, but no one claims to have seen anything out of the ordinary. The first victim, Carla Sanchez was seen getting in to a dark SUV the night she disappeared, but that was all the information we could get.”
"The abduction sites of the the family and the Law student were spotless. There wasn't a single fingerprint or fibre and no one saw anything," Prentiss said, massaging the bridge of her nose as though she had a headache.
"There was no evidence at the burial site either," Morgan continued. "I mean absolutely nothing. The guy even covers up his footprints before he leaves. We've got nothing."
"Let's stop focussing on what we don't know then," said Hotch snappily, standing up to pace in front of the whiteboard. But he immediately regretted his tetchiness. He looked at his team and saw that they were as weary and exasperated as he felt, and he felt a familiar rush of gratitude for their loyalty and friendship, although he could never properly articulate his feelings to them. "Okay," he continued, more gently, "what do we know?"
"The Unsub is probably a Green Valley resident; he's familiar with the area. He is organised, there was no sign of a struggle so he either knew his victims or he was charming enough that they didn't immediately suspect him," Rossi said, leaning back in his chair, one hand absent-mindedly stroking his goatee.
"He probably has a reasonably high I.Q. if he’s able to pull off seven abductions and murders without leaving a trace," Reid said. “That takes patience and planning.”
"Of the three family members who were taken from their car, only the father showed signs of assault. The mother and the little girl just had ligature marks," said Prentiss, who had spent the rest of the afternoon in the M.E.'s office with Deputy Commander Watts.
"Was there a sexual element to the father's assault?" Hotch asked.
"Well in that case he's clearly got unresolved anger with a father-figure in his life."
"So, why is he choosing to bury his victims alive?" Morgan asked.
"Maybe something similar happened to him when he was young," Prentiss said.
"Maybe. Or the knowledge that his victims are dying slowly is how he gets off," Rossi said.
"At any rate, this Unsub is accelerating rapidly, he can't maintain this level of organisation and control for long," Hotch said.
"So we have to wait for him to kill again and hope he messes up?" Morgan asked, sounding less than pleased with the notion.
Before Hotch could reply, the room went dark. In fact, as they would soon find out, the entire town did. Someone let out a high-pitched squeal. Hotch reached in to his inside jacket pocket for his flashlight and clicked it on. JJ had her hand on Rossi's arm, looking slightly alarmed, but it wasn't her who had let out the little noise of fright. Reid was hanging on to Prentiss's elbow looking like a startled deer. When Hotch shone the flashlight on him, he straightened up, trying to regain some form of dignity.
Prentiss smiled and patted the jumpy young doctor sympathetically on the shoulder and Morgan gave him a good natured shove.
"Scaredy-cat," he said, but abruptly stopped laughing when the door behind them creaked open loudly in the dark. Slow shuffling footsteps entered the room. A chair scraped across the floor.
Hotch's flashlight was quickly joined by three more as Morgan, JJ and Rossi also pointed theirs towards the door.
"Woah," said Sheriff Falconer, putting his hand up to shield his eyes from the glare. "Didn't mean to startle ya," he said, glancing over to Reid who was now standing slightly behind Morgan. "Seems like we've had a bit of a power outage. They're getting pretty common round these parts. We probably won't have the power back 'til morning so you might want to take an early night."
Morgan groaned his disapproval. "We have an Unsub who could kill three, four, maybe five people in the next thirty-six hours and we're just going to go to our hotel?”
“You must have a generator,” Prentiss said.
“They’re waiting to get it repaired,” Falconer mumbled.
“I’ll bet,” Prentiss said, drily. Falconer shot her a distasteful look that made Hotch take an immediate dislike to him.
"We're staying here, Sheriff,” Hotch said.
"Sure, you do whatever you gotta do," he said. “I’m heading back to Tucson but I’ll be back in the morning. My Chief Deputy went and died of a heart attack last week so I need to organise a replacement before the Governor goes out of his mind. Can’t get any damn police work done these days without bureaucracy getting in the way - ” he stopped himself when he realised he was rambling. “I’ll get one of the officers to find you some lamps,” he said, a little more composedly. “I tell you, there's gonna be a lot of happy miners tonight."
"Why is that?" Rossi asked. The Sheriff stopped on his way out to answer.
"They don't need to work when there's no power. No point in them mining for something they can't see."
Hotch held his flashlight high and moved round the table in the middle of the room. He sat down, pulling his notes towards him and was joined a few seconds later by the rest of the team. No one was prepared to let a power outage stop them from catching this Unsub. The continued discussing what they knew, and speculating on what they didn’t. But several hours and several cups of cold coffee later, they had to call it a night. By dim, battery-powered lamplight they had managed to scrape together a preliminary profile, but it wasn't much to go on. All they could do now was get some rest and pray that the Unsub didn't kill again before the morning.