Author's Note: I'm sure it is obvious, but as a disclaimer - I do NOT own Criminal Minds or any of its character, but I'd love to. :)
Spencer felt his phone vibrate. He reached in his pocket to grab it and his fingers touched his 1-year sobriety coin. It had been a gift from his sponsor, Robert "Bob" Lozano, from the Beltway Clean Cops chapter of AA. The text was from Bob. All it said was "she said yes 703-555-1595" Damn, he was sure she would say no, but he didn't have time to think about that now. He was in South Carolina standing in the bullpen area of the Columbia Police Department (CPD) Headquarters with the rest of the team about to give a profile.
It was New Year's Day 2009 at 3:00 pm and a 5-year-old boy, Billy, had been missing almost 24 hours. Agent Jordan Todd, filling in for JJ while she's on maternity leave, had only received the call for help from the CPD this morning at 7:00 am. No one had noticed the child was missing until his mother called her estranged husband at midnight to wish her son a Happy New Year and found out he thought their son was with her. The babysitter usually kept Billy until almost bedtime when his mom was at work. She would then walk Billy to his dad's apartment after dinner. When the babysitter didn't bring Billy by 9:00 pm, he figured his wife had picked the boy up and got high and passed out.
The mom was an ER nurse and had picked up two 12-hour shifts working over the holiday. The hospital frowned upon that, but she needed the extra money and most of the nurses wanted to be off for New Year's. The CPD had been working under the assumption that it was a domestic case when she first called, because the father had a history of taking the boy on trips without the mother's consent. They had contacted the babysitter at 5:00 am and she told them 2 cops that had arrived with an accident report and had taken Billy around 4:00 pm the day before. The babysitter was helping give a police artist a description of the 2 at the station. When Agent Todd was contacted, she arranged for the team to meet on the plane and they were debriefed in route to Columbia, SC by 9:00 am.
Hotch was telling the group gathered in the precinct how the father's drug habit had helped lead to this abduction. Spencer unconsciously reached down to finger his 1-year bronze medallion again. On the front it had the AA motto "To Thine Own Self Be True" around the edge and in the middle the words Unity, Service, and Recovery on three sides of a triangle with a number 1 in the center. On the back were the words: "I know I am not alone and it is okay to ask for help." in script lettering.
He had been clean for 1 year, 6 months and 17 days. He had only used for 4 months and 11 days, but that did not make it easy to stop. He had become addicted to Dilaudid when he was kidnapped, tortured, and drugged by an unsub, Tobias Hinkle. It was Raphael, one of Tobias' personalities that kidnapped him on Super Bowl Sunday, February 4th, 2007. Over the three days he was held captive, Tobias administered Dilaudid three to four times a day. Tobias thought he was doing him a favor by helping him take away the pain of the beatings from "his father", another personality.
Spencer will always remember Friday, June 15, 2007 as the first day of his sobriety. The next 20 days were sheer hell while he was weaning himself off the drug. He called in sick on Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday the next week. On Thursday, he had gone back to work, but it was obvious to everyone that he was not himself.
He really had not been himself since he was kidnapped. Everyone at first shrugged it off as PTSD (Post Traumatic Stress Disorder), but they soon realized it was much more. He wasn't as sharp as he used to be, he snapped at both co-workers and witnesses, and was more quiet than usual. He continued to be of service on their heavy caseload and no one wanted to see him fired so they pretended that everything was fine.
After the kidnapping, Hotch had made him take a week off and go to the mandated therapy sessions. The FBI required agents that have taken a life to see someone, plus the fact that he had been taken hostage and beaten, he needed to go to several appointments. He knew exactly what to say to the FBI psychiatrist to convince him he was dealing with the issue. He couldn't make too light of the situation and make the doctor think he either wasn't dealing with it or was lying. But if he sounded too upset they wouldn't have let him come back to work. He knew the exact words to use to walk that thin line. He didn't want to stay home with his thoughts; he wanted to get back out in the field as soon as possible. Reid did not mention the Dilaudid to the psychiatrist and the drug use was not listed on any of the official reports.
When Reid took the rest of the drug from Tobias' pocket after he had died; he told himself he was just taking it so he could detox by himself. He did not want the drug use mentioned in the field report or at any doctor, psychiatrist or hospital visits. He knew any sudden stop in use of this strong of a narcotic could lead to severe withdrawals and even heart failure. But in reality, he had started to like that he could escape his thoughts. He had every police report and crime photo from all of the cases he had ever worked on in his memory and sometimes he would like to forget. Dilaudid was the first thing that ever gave him that escape. He was very careful of the dosage, only used occasionally and with the stash he had, he was able to stretch it out for over 2 months.
Several times he planned to quit, during a few of the cases, when he realized he could be a danger to himself or others he told himself he would detox when they went home. But there was always another case and another reason not to quit. He hated feeling weak. He even had obtained the drug illegally. From his time in DC and in the FBI he knew where and how to get a supply without much chance of getting caught.
The events of June 15th, the day he finally quit, will always be a huge reminder to help keep him clean. He had nearly been caught in a DEA sting that day. Because of his observation skills and FBI training, he saw that a drug bust was about to happen. He had been fortunate, if he had arrived 5 minutes earlier, even with his training, he would have been caught in that sting. He had to make a decision that day, did he want to lose everything or finally quit. He started his detox that day and had the determination to finish over the next 20 days.
He really had wanted to talk to someone on his team about it, but that wasn't possible. At first he thought he was keeping it a secret and nobody knew, but ultimately he knew that there was no way he could keep anything like this a secret for long. Everyone knew he was having a problem and he knew everyone wanted to help him. They each had approached him at one time or another but he couldn't risk their careers talking to them about it. Plausible Deniability. Suspecting something and knowing for sure that he was still using were completely different. If he talked to anyone about it and anytime in the future their superiors found they knew he was using and they didn't report it, they could lose their job. He needed work through this himself.
He knew he wasn't as sharp as he should be, but he still was able to help solve their cases. As long as he was doing his job, he was sure Hotch wouldn't fire him. There had been several times he had helped break the case, although looking back, he should have figured it out earlier. They had been sent to New Orleans on a case one-month after he came back to work. He had noticed that the murders and the letters from the unsub were reminiscent of a famous case of Jack the Ripper. If he hadn't been high or busy visiting with Ethan Bellamy, a friend and former FBI training colleague, he would have figured that out sooner. Fortunately, he had been able to help catch the unsub before he had taken his final victim and gone off the grid completely. Even Ethan, whom he hadn't seen in years, could tell he was using. Ethan had tried to talk to him about it, but he wasn't ready to talk or quit and was sure he was smart enough to still do his job.
In the bullpen, Prentiss and Morgan were going over the details of the child's abduction from the babysitter's home. A couple dressed in CPD uniforms had come to the home with an official looking accident report saying that the boy's father had been hurt in a car crash and he was being treated at the hospital where his mother worked. The "officers" were there to take the boy to see his parents. Over the past 6 hours the team was able to piece together a profile. With the babysitter's descriptions of the abductors and the dark blue sedan they were driving, a photo of Billy, a conference call with Agent Katie Cole from The Crimes Against Children Unit, a lot of leg work going through past abduction cases in the area, and Garcia's computer searches on suspects that would be aware of the family's and babysitter's habits, they had located an encrypted website with Billy's photo for an auction. They had dealt with this type of thing before and knew they needed to act quickly, but for now everyone was pleased that the boy was alive.
The auction was scheduled to end at 10:00 pm. They had 7 hours to find Billy. Hotch and Reid started to give the profile of the abductors and how they would be handling the auction, what were the best ways to find them, and because they wanted the boy to bring top dollar that they would most likely keep him in a local home with lots of privacy and would want to keep him safe and harm free until he was given to the highest bidder. At that point the boy would likely be taken out of state and would be nearly impossible to find.