The manila envelope lands on top of the stack of files and forms already cluttering his desk. He huffs at JJ but dares not complain, because under the efficient looking mask she wears, he knows she's as tired as he feels. Even if they are not going to the field for the next week there're still lots of desk job for them, and three days with little sleep and hours spent at the hospital do not make it easier.
Next time, he swears, the first thing he'll do after confirming that Aaron is alive, is call Strauss to threaten her and make completely clear that under no circumstance is he to be named Acting Agent In Charge.
"What is this?" he asks, picking up the envelope. Other than Aaron's name, there's nothing written on it.
"There's this agent at the CIA, he's not certified but they sent him to a couple seminars and now he handles the criminal profiling in their easiest cases. Hotch looks over his final reports, professional courtesy, and gives them his OK."
Great, because what he needs is more work. Still, he repeats his silent mantra, not JJ's fault, not JJ's fault and manages to thank her with a smile. They both know it is bullshit, but oh well.
By the end of the day the pile is down to one third of its initial size. It is an hour after his usual leaving time, and he has no desire to keep pouring over paperwork, so he only takes the envelope home. Some light reading is going to be a welcome break after hours of filling mind numbing governmental formats and going over familiar cases for the hundredth time.
He is in no rush to look at it, thought. One of the reasons he retired relatively unharmed instead of burning out like Gideon, or punishing himself on a daily basis like Katie, is his reluctance to tarnish his private space with horrors. Sometimes he had to, back in the earlier days of the BAU, and sometimes he still has to. But making sure it is an exception and not the rule has helped him, and he has all the intention to keep it so.
So he stops at Aaron's hospital for a two hour long visit before being kicked out, and takes Munchie for a short walk after dinner. But in the end, it turns out he doesn't have to worry about his mind dwelling on the bloody details. The case, which he reviews in his studio, with a glass of good brandy in his hand, is not the simple light thing that JJ's words made him believe. The accompanying photos showcase the work of a sadistic nutcase with too much time alone with his victims, but David barely glances at them before moving to explore the rest of the documents.
There are two other leafs of paper besides the file itself. The second one, he realizes with interest, is a well written recollection of the events surrounding the case. It reads as a fictional story, but to his trained eye the details that mark it as real or at least realistic are easy to spot, and it is missing the hair-pulling inaccurate bits that police novels and crime TV series love to dwell in. It is told chronologically, and he finds himself putting clues together and slowly but steadily creating his own profile.
Two hours later he's still sitting at his couch, both the file and the second document spread over his lap. Taken as a whole they give him a more complete picture, as there are elements missing in one or another, but not both. As a writer himself, as well as a governmental worker, he can understand the reasons: there's a limit to how much detail can be used before losing the reader, and there are things that you just don't put on an official document.
To be honest, he's a little bit jealous. He's both methodical and a damn good profiler, but he can't help wondering whether he would have noticed certain patterns on the victimology and the locations had this been one of his solo cases. The geographic profile, in particular, is the most complete he has ever seen. Nowadays the BAU works with Garcia's programs, which are an extraordinary advance compared to the unit's earlier days, but even them pale in comparison to the painstakingly detailed map in his hands.
And then there's the writing style. He, David Rossi, is the better writer, there's no doubt. There are several paragraphs he would rewrite, add a bit of background information, change the order of. But the potential is there, both in the author and in the story being told, and only the fact that he has to show up at the office in less than five hours stops him from powering his computer on and opening the document processor.
It is only when he's finally convinced himself to go to bed when he gives a second look to the remaining manuscript. The structure is clearly that of an academic article, which is why he'd put it aside after the first glance. One of the reasons he had abandoned an FBI career for the writing stint was his desire to share the knowledge they had accumulated, paired with his utter dread for academic papers. He couldn't write one, even if his life depended on it, and thus all written scholarly contributions from the BAU came from Gideon. It didn't seem to bother the other agents, being not academically inclined either, but to Dave it was a source of discomfort.
He had been particularly delighted when a Dr. Dana Williamson made a name for himself on the field of criminal psychology, eventually specializing in profiling. There were other researchers working on the same theme, but Gideon had always been the uncontested lead … until Dr. Williamson started branching out into pattern analysis, bringing new understanding to their shared study subject and linking the more hard sciences to their psychological basis. Dave would have loved to see Williamson and Gideon butt heads, knowing just too well how vicious scholars could turn, but unfortunately Gideon had disappeared before such encounter happened.
It is his familiarity with the man's work what makes Dave pause the second time his eyes scan the document's front page. It is a working paper rather than a publishable article, but the phrasing is so unique that all thoughts of sleeping flee Dave's mind. He has a copy of every article ever written under Dr. Dana Williamson's name, here in his personal library, within reach, for reference. And even though it is quite extensive, he can already say the paper in his hands is not among this collection.
It always takes him two or three passes before he fully understands all the implications in Dr. Williamson's work, but even if he's skimming over the words he can already say where it fits among the man's research's main structure. He'd clearly delineated it on an early date, and Dave, along with the rest of those in the field interested in its academic advance, has been slowly watching it take form.
The document in his hands is clearly the next one in the series.
"Should I leave these here?" JJ asks suddenly, making him jump. It is not like he's breaking into Aaron's office, he's been given permission to use it and what's in it until the Unit Chief recovers from Foyet's attack. But until today Dave had avoided doing so, instead asking JJ to locate the relevant documents for him.
"Ah yes please. There are some reference records here I'm going to need, so I'll probably spend most of the day, or probably the rest of the week …" he trails off, knowing full well the unsolicited explanation is making his behavior more suspicious. Indeed, she looks at him curiously while setting a new bunch of files to review and formats to fill on the desk.
"I'll pick yesterday's from your office," she offers, and he's thankful that he had the foresight to finish the last ones after arriving way too early to work, instead of diving into Aaron's personal archive as he'd itched to.
He plunges into the pile with extra attention, careful to give each file the focus it deserves. The stack is not big yet, but he knows that as the day progresses it is only going to grow, and the fastest he gets them out of the way, the soonest he'll be able to continue losing himself in the treasure hidden in Aaron's lowest cabinet.
By five thirty he's not only broken his own record on productivity, he's also managed to bring the unit up to date a day before the original estimates, something JJ delights in telling him.
"Just don't tell the Dragon Lady," he responds, and JJ chuckles. Everybody has left or is preparing to leave, and he can tell she's looking forward to a less hectic day tomorrow, and then the well deserved free weekend after that.
"Oh, about your review of the CIA file," she says while gathering the documents, "there should be a stock format in Hotch's email; you just have to change the date."
He looks at the turned off computer as she leaves, wondering whether it'd matter much if he waits until tomorrow. On one hand he can't be readier to leave, two thick folders full of what he's almost sure is Dr. Williamson's early, unpublished works, already set aside. On the other hand …
It hits him, as the computer's screen comes to life, that Aaron has been in contact with Dana Williamson for months, maybe even for years, and never mentioned it to Dave. He knows about Dave's admiration for the man, goddammit, even joked about him putting everything on hold whenever Williamson published a new article.
Despite the hurt and anger, he's still unprepared to see the second item in the inbox. It lacks a subject line, but the mail program identifies it as coming from a will.iamson. The email address, strangely enough, is a collection of numbers that ends with @jstor.org, and the time dates it as having arrived shortly after noon. The text, he discovers when his hand clicks on the mouse without his conscious thought, is short and vague.
I heard you're busy. Don't worry about the documents, it can wait.
He's wondering what his next step should be when what he recognizes as an instant messaging window pops up. The program is unfamiliar to him, none of the commercial ones he's seen, or even the FBI one nobody really uses.
Who are you and what are you doing at Agent Hotchner's computer?, the text reads, and he takes a second to silently thank for the proper grammar and punctuation before replying.
? ? ?
It is not the best he can do, but given the circumstances, he thinks it conveys his confusion quite well. 'Who the hell are you', 'what the hell are you talking about', and 'how the hell do you know who I'm not' are prime examples of the questions packed in those three signs.
You opened an email sent to his official address. I know he's not at the office at the moment.
He allows surprise to take over for a second before realization hits him. Could it be that he's talking to whom he believes he's talking to?
I'm David Rossi, he writes, hits enter and then adds immediately, I'm covering for Agent Hotchner at the moment.
He waits but no reply follows, and he's left wondering whether he said the wrong thing. Then he notices a light blinking, the camera's. Funny, he hadn't realized-
It turns off. What the hell. Just then a new line of text appears.
Sorry for that, I had to be sure. Rossi frowns, but has no time to complain before more text follows. I don't know what would be the right way to do this, especially given the circumstances, so I'm just going to … jump into it, so to speak. Agent Rossi, I'm a great admirer of yours.
Dave shakes his head, a smile slowly turning into a full blown grin.
Can I assume I'm talking to Dr. Williamson?
The answer is immediate.
Oh, yes, yes, excuse my modals. Dr. Dana Williamson, at your service. You can call me Dana.
Well, Dana, thank you, he writes, chuckling to himself, you can call me Dave. And as we're putting the cards on the table, I have to admit myself on being a great admirer of yours, as well.
Oh, but he's going to have so much fun.
Did you get the document?
He sips his wine, guiltily looking at the unopened package in the corner of his home desk. He's too tired to read it, too tired in fact to be doing anything other than sleeping, but there's something he needs to cover before saying goodnight.
Earlier today. I must warn you, it is chocked full on red marks. Lots of mistakes, it seems like a chimpanzee wrote it.
He smiles at how easy it is for him to trade barbs with the other man. Dread slowly gathers at his gut as he thinks of what he's planning to do.
You realize it is my comments on your most recent chapter, right? My paper's draft should reach you next Friday.
Dave spits the wine he was in the middle of drinking, coughs and chuckles at the same time. Oh that little shit. He shakes his head, feels the smile disappear and the merriment slowly drain from him. He has to, it is now or never.
I need to ask you something, he writes, considers for a moment and then adds, If you have no idea what I'm talking about, please ignore it. He forces himself to push enter, and waits.
He's been wondering how to breach the subject, from direct questioning to subtle interrogation. His final choice is something that won't compromise others if he's been reading things wrong, and that will hopefully help deal with the ugly aspects of what he's about to do, if he's right. Hopefully.
He waits, and waits, and waits. It feels like an eternity, but finally something happens. It is not a text, but the light of his computer's built in camera turning on, and a secondary window on his screen flicking to life.
"In my defense, I was young and naïve," the CIA agent they met in LA two months ago says, a smile both small and nervous in his face. "And I honestly thought you'd figure it out earlier, if at all."
"Yes, well," Dave says, grinning, "You can't blame me for taking a while to get over the fact that the guy I've been talking to is fourteen and not eighty, like I believed."
"Late twenties," the young man says, rolling his eyes. "And does my age really matter?"
Dave smiles softens. He hadn't immediately realized that the man, the kid, that Jason Gideon had once trained fit into what he knew for sure about Dana Williamson - namely, that he worked for the CIA, had a deep knowledge of criminal profiling, and was something of a friend of Aaron. But when it finally clicked, he had been more hurt by the fact that the friend he had spent hours talking to didn't really exist.
Except he did, kind of. There were things that couldn't be faked, and Dana's … Gray's … whatever his name was, his analytical mind, the way he grasped concepts and helped Dave bounce ideas could not be other than real. So yes, there were trust issues they were going to have to work through, but Dana … Gray … hadn't recoiled and hid as Dave had feared.
And really, the age thing was but tangential.
"No, it doesn't matter," he admits, watches the smile in the other man's face get increasingly brighter. "Not a single bit."