A short time later, the entire team was ready to enter the enormous warehouse, a lone grey shape in the middle of the sprawling expanse of brown earth that vanished in to the horizon. The sun was beating down from the endless blue sky and Hotch felt sweat drip down his back under his shirt and kevlar vest. Deputy Commander Watts stood by his car, making the wise decision to keep back while the agents prepared to go inside.
Hotch put his ear-piece in to his ear, then glanced at Morgan who gave him a quick nod as he stood poised at the door. Hotch pulled the door open, trying to move the heavy steel as quietly as possible, and Morgan slipped in immediately, gun raised, followed by Prentiss and JJ while Rossi and Reid circled around the back to ensure there wasn’t another escape route for Robert Fox to scurry out of. Hotch brought up the rear and he was hit with a blast of hot air as he entered the steel building. They spread across the warehouse in perfect synchronicity, checking every corner in a matter of moments.
"Clear!" came Morgan's voice.
Hotch felt around the wall for the light switch and flipped it. Row by row, the warehouse lights came on revealing the little girl and her mother tied to a pipe against the wall. They were both blindfolded but the Unsub was nowhere to be found.
“I need a medic in here!” called JJ as she hurried towards the victims.
Rossi and Reid entered the warehouse by the front door and approached Hotch, Watts just behind them.
“There’s no sign of him outside. He’s either long gone or he’s still in here somewhere,” Reid said, pulling his cellphone out to track Fox’s coordinates.
“Are the medics on the way?” Hotch asked.
“They’re a couple of minutes out,” Watts said.
"I don't get it," Reid said a moment later, standing in the middle of the warehouse and staring at his cell phone, looking all around. "The GPS tracker on Fox's phone says he is right here,” he pointed to the spot where he was standing. “Exactly here.” Before Hotch could say anything he heard Prentiss call his name.
"Hey Hotch!" she shouted, her voice emanating from behind a pile of crates. He went over to where Prentiss was standing with Morgan, both of them looking at something on the ground. As he got closer, he saw what looked like a set of hinges and a handle drilled in to the concrete floor.
"There's a trapdoor here." Morgan said. He stamped his foot down on the floor and Hotch heard the hollow sound of wood. "It's a fake floor, this whole section isn't concrete. There must be a basement or something."
"Okay, open it," Hotch said, pointing his gun towards the hatch. Morgan did the same and Prentiss took hold of the metal handle. She looked at Hotch and on his signal she pulled the trapdoor open in one swift move. There was nothing visible but a dank, dirty floor and a wooden ladder.
"We'll check it out," Morgan said, climbing down the ladder and in to the dark with Prentiss close behind.
"Be careful," Hotch said. While he waited for them to re-emerge he watched JJ who was busy consoling the mother and daughter, untying the ropes that bound their wrists and ankles.
“Do you know where Robert Fox went?” he heard her say.
“No,” Mrs Banks said. “I just kept hearing a door open and close and he was muttering something about a basement, but then everything went quiet. I’m sorry, I don’t know!”
“Shh, it’s okay,” JJ said, gripping the woman’s hand. “Don’t worry about any of that. The only thing that matters is getting you home.” She turned to the little girl, whose face was buried in to her mother’s arm, and said something to her, but her gentle voice was too quite to carry to the other side of the building. But whatever she had said, it had worked, because Rosie Banks sat up a little, wiped her nose on her sleeve and spoke to the agent with a bashful smile. Hotch was dragged away from his observation when Prentiss and Morgan re-emerged and pulled themselves out of the hatch.
"I don't know what that is," Prentiss said, a little breathlessly, "but it's not a basement."
"It must be four, maybe five times the size of this warehouse and there are tunnels everywhere," Morgan said.
Hotch called over the rest of the team and phoned Garcia, putting her on loudspeaker as Reid and Rossi joined the group.
“Good afternoon, sir, what can I do you for?" said the always perky technical analyst.
"Can you get the building plans for this warehouse?"
"I'll have them for you in just a hot second, sir." He stayed on the line, hearing the clicking of her keyboard. While they waited, the medics arrived, led by Watts, and they helped Mary and Rosie to their feet and guided them from the swelteringly hot warehouse. Rosie even stopped to give JJ a cheerful wave, which she returned before heading over to join her team. A moment later, Garcia spoke again,
"You, sir, are standing on a partially built mine."
"Yes indeedio," she said, "but this is something of an illicit one. A few years ago, five young fellas bought this warehouse and they said they needed it for storage, but their pants were well and truly on fire because they started digging tunnels in the basement looking for a mineral called-"
"Molybdenite," Prentiss said. Hotch, Reid, Rossi, Morgan and JJ all shot her the same surprised look.
"What?" she said. "I'm not allowed to know stuff?"
"Points to Prentiss," Garcia said. "It's a mineral that has rhenium in it. It sells for a pretty penny so these kids started selling it to a... shall we say 'less than credible' aircraft building company. Long story short, there was a big plane crash and the whole scandal was uncovered. A lot of people were killed, it was terrible. The boys all went to prison and the warehouse has been abandoned ever since."
"So you're saying there is a whole network of mines underneath us where Fox could be hiding?"
"Is it safe down there?" Hotch asked.
"Super duper safe, sir, according to the reports I have here. Most of the tunnels were blocked off when the cops discovered the whole operation, and the remaining tunnels have all been reinforced with beams and the likes."
"Could you - "
"Send you a map of any remaining tunnels? Already done, sir."
He thanked Garcia and hung up, mildly amused by the number of times she had called him "sir", clearly overcompensating for her embarrassing slip of the tongue the day before. He opened the file Garcia had sent him and gave the map a look over.
"Okay, Prentiss and Morgan you take the first tunnel here," he said, pointing to the first narrow path to diverge from the main passage. "Dave, you and JJ take this tunnel further down and Reid, you and I will take the main tunnel.”
Hotch called over Watts who had just re-entered the warehouse followed by some of his officers.
“We think Fox is somewhere in these tunnels. We’ll need officers waiting here at the hatch in case he slips past us, and some others patrolling the outside of the warehouse too.”
“No problem,” said Watts. “I won’t leave this spot. He’s not getting away.”
The team descended the ladders in to the mine. As soon as his feet hit the rough ground, Hotch felt uncomfortable. He was by no means claustrophobic but being stuck in an enclosed space with an Unsub was not high on his list of favourite things to do. Together, they walked along the damp tunnels. The smell of mould and wet earth was cloying; it seemed that the stagnant air had been trapped down here for years, but at least it was a little cooler.
With six flashlights shining through the darkness, it was relatively easy to see but when Prentiss and Morgan split off from the group, followed by JJ and Rossi a few moments later, Hotch became acutely aware of how dense the darkness was. Every so often, their movements along the tunnel would disturb some of the dirt and rocks that made up the mine walls, making little clattering noises that set Hotch on edge.
When Reid eventually left his side to investigate another smaller tunnel that had not appeared on the map, the only guidance Hotch had through the darkness was the little halo of light cast by the flashlight in his hand. He rounded each corner cautiously, expecting to find the Unsub at every turn. The image of someone appearing from the blackness behind him kept playing on his mind, making him periodically check over his shoulder. He continued in to the deepest part of the mine and realised he had lost all sense of direction. Ahead of him, he thought he saw a faint flicker of red light.
"Hotch," a voice whispered in the darkness. He jumped a little before he realised that it was only Morgan talking to him through his earpiece.
"Yeah, Morgan," he replied, feeling his heart banging against his ribcage.
"We've reached the end of our tunnel, the Unsub's not here, we're heading back."
"I'm still looking," Hotch said, “but it doesn’t look like there’s any sign down here either.”
As he was speaking, he kept staring ahead for another glimpse of the light he thought he had seen, sweeping every inch of the mine with his flashlight before he proceeded. He couldn't see any evidence of Robert Fox but he saw that glimmer of light again, and this time it didn't vanish. The closer he got, the higher the light seemed to become. It was only when he was standing a few feet away from it that he realised the red speck was on the ceiling. Shining his flashlight directly above him he saw a tangle of wires, a timer, several blocks of C4. He was standing squarely beneath a bomb and he had led his team straight in to a trap.
"Everybody get out! Get out now!" he yelled.
He ran as fast as he could back down the corridor. He could hear Morgan yelling to Prentiss in his earpiece.
He only just managed to round the corner before the deafening blast filled the tunnels. A ringing filled his ears, so loud that it sounded like screaming. A thunderous rumble shook the very walls as the mine began to collapse. Hotch ran. He bumped in to walls, almost blind in the blackness. He felt rocks fall from the ceiling on to his shoulders. Soon he could hear the voices of the rest of the team and saw flashlights ahead. He could see Reid amongst the falling rocks, Rossi was pulling him, but Reid wouldn't move.
"Reid what the hell are you doing?" Rossi yelled.
"I'm not leaving without him!" the young agent called back. Hotch was so close to them now. A huge piece of rock fell from above and landed on him. Hotch cried out in pain as he felt the crack of his collarbone. He fell to the ground, scrabbling in darkness.
"God damn it, Reid! Run!" Hotch yelled.
"Come on Hotch, you can make it!" He pulled himself up and kept running. "Hotch! Come on!" He was so close now... The last thing he saw was Reid's outstretched hand just inches from his own before the entire mine and the building above collapsed in on them.