"Love is not a feeling of happiness. Love is a willingness to sacrifice." Michael Novak
Pima County Sheriff’s Department, Green Valley, Present Day.
The team congregated in the Pima County Sheriff’s Department early the next day. Hotch had only managed to get a couple of hours’ sleep next to Morgan, but it was enough to allow him to look at the profile with fresh eyes. By midday they had added enough information to the profile to make it useful and they were ready to present it to the local police and the dozen officers from other parts of Pima County who had come to assist.
“The man we are looking for is likely to be in his mid-twenties to thirties,” Hotch said, addressing the twenty or so cops who were gathered in front of him in the bullpen, some scribbling notes, others watching him intently. “He has narcissistic personality disorder which means he will be arrogant and he will be immensely proud of the murders he has committed so far,” Hotch said. Morgan carried on,
“The Unsub, or Unknown Subject, will be very intelligent but he will have a menial job, simply because he cannot - and will not - play well with others. He will take the slightest criticism very badly, reacting with anger or violence.”
“Because of this, the Unsub is likely to have been fired from one or more previous jobs,” Prentiss continued. “His narcissism will be a result of the unreliable parenting he received as a child. It is likely that he had a violent or negligent father figure.”
“He will come across as overconfident and will make a point of belittling those around him to make himself feel better. He will have no remorse for what he has done,” Hotch said.
The entire team turned to look at Deputy Commander Watts.
“It’s Robert Fox,” he said.
“You think he’s the Unsub?” Hotch asked.
“I’m damned sure he is,” Watts said. “He’s gotta be about twenty-seven, maybe twenty-eight now. I remember my younger sister telling me about him; they were in the same year at school. His mom died when he was seven, and after that he got all messed up. His dad, Jacob, started drinking and beating him, or so people said.”
Out of the corner of his eye, Hotch noticed Sheriff Falconer shift uncomfortably against the table he was leaning on.
“When he was nine he blew up his neighbour’s rabbit...”
“Blew it up?” Morgan repeated.
“He was a really smart kid, he knew how to blow up all sorts of stuff. It got him in a lot of trouble too. Just about took my sister’s eye out one time.”
As soon as Watts had mentioned the name, JJ had called Garcia to run a search on him. After only a minute on the phone, JJ shared Watts’s conviction, so she walked behind the rest of her team to stand beside Hotch, and while everyone else was listening to the Deputy Commander, JJ leaned in towards her Unit Chief.
“That was Garcia on the phone,” she said quietly. “She said that when Robert Fox was eight, he went to the cops and told them that his dad was beating him but they wouldn’t believe him.”
“That would explain why he chose to taunt the police with that note,” he murmured back, keeping his head very close to JJ’s to avoid anyone else hearing. She continued,
“Apparently the kid was in hospital several times a year with scoliosis and broken bones and all of his injuries were consistent with - ”
“Being forced in to an enclosed space,” Hotch finished. “That’s why he buries his victims alive, he’s recreating what happened to him when he was a child, except now he’s the one who’s in charge.” JJ nodded. He caught her eye and saw his own feelings of foreboding reflected there before she stepped back from him. Hotch turned to the Sheriff.
“Why wasn’t Robert Fox’s abuse allegation taken seriously?” Hotch asked, interrupting Morgan. The room fell silent. Several people turned their gaze to the Sheriff. Again, the old man looked uncomfortable.
“He was just a kid, he was lookin’ for attention, that’s all,” he said.
“Weren’t you concerned when he ended up in hospital several times a year?” Hotch continued. He knew he should be having this conversation in private but he couldn’t help himself.
“He was a clumsy kid.”
“Damn it, no he wasn’t!” The whole team turned to see Commander Holmes standing at the back of the group, watching the Sheriff with fury. “You knew that kid was being beaten and you didn’t do a damn thing about it. I saw him come in here twenty years ago, crying and covered in bruises and you ignored him. You took an eight year old boy home to the man who was beating him just because you wouldn’t accept that Jacob Fox, your goddamn golfing partner was a drunk, abusive son of a bitch!”
The Sheriff rose to his feet with fury in his eyes. "Take a walk, Commander,” he said. "Right now."
Holmes held the Sheriff's gaze for a moment longer before kicking away his chair and storming from the bullpen.
Sheriff Falconer sat back down and said nothing. The two dozen men and women gathered there were watching the Sheriff uneasily. Several painful seconds passed and the large clock on the wall counted each one loudly.
“I think Robert Fox works night shifts at the mine,” Watts said, finally breaking the uncomfortable silence. The entire room seemed to breathe a sigh of relief.
“But working as a miner would mean he would have to work with a lot of other people, that doesn’t fit the profile,” Prentiss said.
“No, no, he’s like an electrical technician or something. That’s what I heard anyway.”
The word 'electrical' rang in Hotch's ears. It seemed to have been a recurring theme throughout their short time in Green Valley.
"Wait," Reid said, apparently having had the same thought as Hotch. "Sheriff, you said there had been a lot of power outages recently."
"Yeah, so?" he said sharply.
“When was the last one?” Reid said, coolly, ignoring the Sheriff’s acidic tone. “Excluding last night’s of course.”
He paused for a moment, scratching his balding head. “Tuesday night I guess.”
“That’s when the family was abducted,” Prentiss said.
“And what about before that?”
“It was last Saturday night,” one of the cops piped up.
“That’s when the Law student was taken,” Hotch said.
“So every time there’s a power outage, someone else goes missing,” said Rossi.
"Fox is an electrical technician in charge of an entire mine," Reid said, talking more to his team members now as he sounded out his idea. "In theory, he could overload the mine and cause a power surge that would knock out the power for the whole town."
"But why?" Watts asked.
"Because it means he gets the night off work to abduct someone," Hotch said. "It also means that people's homes are in darkness and there are no streetlights. He is setting up a perfect environment in which to abduct people without being noticed."
"There was another power outage last night," Rossi said, turning to Hotch and looking grim.
"So he has probably abducted someone else already. And we only have a few hours to find them.”
Rossi, Prentiss, Reid and Morgan were already at Robert Fox's house, tearing it apart in the hopes of finding something that could lead them to the next victims, but Hotch had remained behind with JJ. She had put out a press release just a few minutes ago, setting up a tip-line and giving the profile to the public. They hadn’t mentioned Fox by name in case they incited a manhunt, but it seemed that the town already had their suspicions.
“I know who the killer is!” one person shouted down the phone. “Little Bobby Fox! He’s bat-shit crazy!”
Hotch caught JJ’s eye as he walked through the bullpen. She rolled her eyes as she listened to yet another worked-up Green Valley resident ranting down the phone.
“Yes, sir,” she said, in her most placid voice. “We will certainly look in to that. Thank you.” Hotch smiled a little as JJ hung up the phone with a look of bewildered exasperation, tearing the top page from her notepad and lobbing it in to the trashcan with practised ease.
Hotch turned as he heard the slightly uneven footsteps of the Sheriff coming up behind him, his shoes clicking on the chipped linoleum.
"Jacob Fox is my friend,” he said. “I never thought he would actually hurt Robert."
"You don't need to explain yourself to me," Hotch said, turning towards their makeshift conference room.
"I thought the kid was just messing around." Hotch gave a non-committal murmur and continued towards the other end of the bullpen. "What was I supposed to do?" the Sheriff asked, and Hotch snapped.
"You were supposed to investigate the allegations that Robert Fox was being beaten by his own father!" he said. The Sheriff looked taken aback at the outburst. "Or you could have at least handed the case over to someone who wasn't personally involved with the family. If you had done that, and the boy had gotten some justice maybe he wouldn't have ended up like he did." He slammed the glass door of the conference room, very aware that he had overstepped the line. He stood for a few seconds, trying so hard to pull himself together that he didn't even notice JJ enter the room.
“You okay?” she asked.
“Yes,” he said curtly, but JJ kept watching him, her blue eyes expectant. “I know I shouldn’t have lost my temper,” he said after a moment. “But the police are here to protect people, especially kids. And they failed. They let him get hurt.”
“I know,” JJ said. “And maybe that’s why Robert Fox turned out the way he did, but maybe it’s not. You know as well as I do that there are dozens of factors that go in to making a serial killer. Sheriff Falconer can’t be to blame for all of them.”
“I know that,” Hotch said. “I’m going to drive out to Fox’s house. Will you be okay here?”
“I’ll be fine,” she said, turning to the door. “Be careful.”
After a few calming breaths, Hotch followed behind JJ and strode back across the main room towards the front door, but the sound of raised voices from the Sheriff’s temporary office caught his attention. Holmes had returned and was standing in front of Falconer’s desk, hands clasped behind his back and his expression unmoving as the Sheriff roared at him.
“Who the hell do you think you are speaking to me like that in front of my officers? I should have you suspended!”
“For what exactly?” Holmes’s voice was much quieter than the Sheriff’s but it still carried out in to the silent bullpen, as everyone sat at their desks, listening intently while pretending to be engrossed in their work. “For telling them exactly what I saw twenty years ago?”
“Get off your damned high horse, Holmes. You were there too. If you were so concerned about how I was doing my job, why didn’t you do anything about it?”
“You know damn well I did you sly son of a bitch,” Holmes said, his cool countenance breaking at last.
“I didn’t say I was finished,” Holmes growled. “I tried to get some justice for that kid, for months after you threw me under the bus with the Commander, but he kept shooting me down at every turn because you were still feeding him your bullshit stories about how Jacob Fox was a great guy. Jacob Fox would never hurt his son. Jacob Fox is Mother Goddamn Teresa. And he believed you because you were a Lieutenant and I was just a rookie. I trusted you. That little boy trusted you. And look what your lies have done now.”
“If you don’t get your ass out of this office right now I’ll have you fired,” Falconer said. Holmes tore his badge from around his neck, took his gun from his belt and threw them on to the table. The gun knocked over a large mug, and coffee spilled across the Sheriff’s paper-strewn desk.
Hotch heard someone groan beside him and he looked around to see Deputy Commander Watts watching the spectacle unfold.
“Oh Holmes,” he breathed. “What are you doing?”
Holmes approached the Sheriff, slammed his hands down on the desk, his face inches from the Sheriff’s.
“Seven people are dead because of you,” he said, so quietly that Hotch was almost lip reading through the glass. The Sheriff blanched, but he was speechless as Holmes turned and left the office, slamming the door behind him and walking out of the building without a backwards glance.
Watts watched Holmes leave, then turned to Hotch with worry in his eyes. “Sheriff Falconer isn’t a bad man,” he said, glancing back to the office where the Sheriff was now sitting with his head in his hands. “But neither is Holmes. They both believe they’re doing the right thing. Holmes especially. He blames himself for things… thinks they’re his responsibility,” Watts was getting more and more distracted as he stared after the troubled Commander. “I - I’m sorry I have to go,” he said at last, hurrying from the station after his partner.
Hotch joined Morgan, Reid, Prentiss and Rossi as they began pulling apart Robert Fox’s house. It was a small, poorly kept bungalow, grubby on the outside, but filthy on the inside. Black garbage bags were taped across the windows and the brittle, overgrown plants in the garden were beginning to creep up on to the small porch.
Hotch stripped of his suit jacket as he stepped out from the air-conditioned SUV and in to the sun, and pulled on his bulletproof vest over his shirt. Morgan and Reid filled him in on what little he had missed, but before he could even enter the front door, his phone started to ring. It was JJ.
“I’ve just had a call from a man who says he’s just come home to find his wife and daughter missing - Mary and Rosie Banks.”
“He’s sure they are actually missing?”
“Yes. The Unsub left another note.”
“Give me the address.” JJ read him the address; it was only a few blocks away.
“Prentiss, with me,” he said, getting back in to his SUV. She pulled off her rubber gloves, handed them to Morgan and jumped in to the passenger seat.
“What’s up?” she asked as he started to drive.
“We know who Fox has abducted; a mother and daughter have just been reported missing.”
“Just two victims?” Prentiss said. “I thought he would still be escalating.”
“The father and son were away on a trip, looks like he was intending on abducting them all, but he didn’t know that two of them were out of town.”
“But he’s usually so organised,” she said.
“Then it looks like he’s devolving,” Hotch said, soaring through the red lights at the intersection.
“At least he’s much more likely to make a mistake.”
“But he’s also twice as dangerous.”
They pulled up at the house just as another police car arrived. Watts got of his car and headed in to the large, red-brick house. Commander Holmes was nowhere to be seen.
Hotch and Prentiss pulled off their kevlar vests and followed suit, past the white picket fence and neatly tended front yard, and in to a large, bright hallway. At the far end, a huge two-storey window looked out over the vast golf course, a sea of vibrant green the contrasted sharply with the dry desert that it lay upon. Hotch and Prentiss both looked through a large archway to the left to see a frantic looking man sitting on the leather couch, clutching his son’s shoulder. Watts was already with them.
“Mr Banks?” said Watts.
“You have to find my wife and my little girl,” he said, standing abruptly. “Please. It’s all my fault. Oh God I should never have left. Mary told me to hold off ’til next weekend. I should have listened.”
“Listen to me, Mr Banks,” Watts said, putting his hand on the man’s shoulder, “this isn’t your fault. We’ve got half of Pima County down here, and the best criminal profilers in the country. We will get your family back.”
“Well that’s new,” Prentiss said, standing with Hotch in the hallway and pulling her eyes away from the distraught father. “It looks like there was a struggle this time. He’s definitely devolving, he’s completely losing control of his abductions.” A broken glass vase, a coffee cup and several books were scattered across the floor where a little wooden table had been tipped. A murky brown puddle had spread across the floor, staining the pristine cream carpet. Hotch surveyed the scene carefully, trying to work out what it was that was nagging at the back of his mind.
“Oh, and he knows the FBI is here,” she said pointing to a note placed on the sideboard.
Tick tock, Agents.
“He’s taunting us again.”
They both circled the large entranceway, looking for anything else that might point them to Robert Fox’s whereabouts, but despite the scene of destruction, there was still nothing to be found. Prentiss’s cell rang. After a quick conversation with Morgan, she hung up.
“Fox wasn’t at his house, it doesn’t look like he’s been there for days,” she said.
“Anything to indicate where he is hiding his victims?”
“Okay, we need to start canvassing the area, the neighbours must have seen or heard something that can give us a clue –”
This time, Hotch’s cell buzzed in his pocket. It was a number he didn’t recognise.
“Agent Hotchner,” he said.
“You don’t have long Agent Hotchner,” said a man’s voice.
“Who is this?” he asked, waving at Prentiss. She realised immediately who was on the phone and called Garcia to try and trace the call.
“You know who this is. You’ve already ransacked my house.”
“Yes, we did. We were looking for Mary and Rosie Banks.”
“You think I’d be stupid enough to keep them in my house?” Fox said.
Hotch was faced with a split second decision. Should he congratulate and compliment Fox in an attempt to keep him calm, or should he insult his intelligence, make him angry and hope he slips up and reveals something of import.
“No, I don’t think you’re stupid,” he said. “You’ve come this far without getting caught. It’s very impressive.”
“You’re damn right it’s impressive,” he growled. “Not even the FBI can catch me. You don’t even have any evidence against me except your stupid profile which, by the way, is total bullshit. You’ll never find me.”
Prentiss gave Hotch the thumbs up, telling him that they had Fox’s location.
“We have every intention of getting Mary and Rosie back,” Hotch said.
“I would love to see you try.” And the line went dead.
“He’s in a warehouse a few miles out of town. Garcia’s already sent me the coordinates,” Prentiss said.