Ink of Seshat
A sequel to Sobek Drowning (of sorts)
A piece of the book binding was wedged in the shelf. Nick wiggled and finagled and finally it pulled free… opening a door to a secret bookshelf. Nick’s jaw dropped. Aunt Marie’s trailer had been in his possession for almost a year. He had searched it from one end to the other. Juliette and Monroe had searched it and none of them had found this secret bookshelf. Nick wasn’t an idiot; he knew that these secrets had to be kept if the trailer fell into Wesen hands. A wesen could tear the silver fifth wheel to shreds and still not find it. As long as Nick could restrain himself and stay out of the bookshelf except for emergencies, his scent would not attract attention to this wall.
Still, it was open now and Nick was sure that the answers to the key were in here. He just had to find them. Despite himself, his eyes were drawn to the simple books at the end of the bottom shelf; four labeled KB, two labeled DR and seven labeled MK KB would be his mother’s initials. MK would be Aunt Marie’s. Nick didn’t know anyone off the top of his head with the initial’s DR, but he grabbed those journals with the other two authors’, careful to re-hide the secret shelf. It didn’t take long to realize that these books detailed personal mistakes and weaknesses. Since he was mentioned in both of his relative’s books, what did that make him?
The DR book was different. The writer (Nick was sure she was a woman) would record everything from startling insights to Wesen hierarchy to the speech patterns of varies species. She even included poems, some of her own and some that had been passed down from generation to generation of Wesen. She detailed the symbolism important to each type. Then there were her poems of being a Grimm, her despair and fear and the blurring of reality. Nick realized that this woman, as intelligent as she obviously was, also contended with some sort of mental health issues. It didn’t help that he noticed that within certain poems, she alluded to the key. Her mentions of blood and death were few and far between. From a woman suffering from depression, among other things, he would have expected more. Was she a Grimm like him? Always looking for a solution that didn’t end in the morgue? Or was her medical condition so debilitating that she had the eyes of a Grimm and none of the drive to keep the balance? Still she had the answers Nick needed, but was she even alive to share them?
Nick had to find the owner of the journal.
He tore through the trailer looking at genealogies but it was one of Aunt Marie’s books that mentioned a cousin ‘Diana’ that was an English professor and also didn’t adapt well to inheriting the Grimm. In another book, Aunt Marie mentioned that Diana had borne a son and in yet another book, her son checked her into a mental hospital. She had been diagnosed with paranoia and depression among others. Aunt Marie worried about her safety even though she was hidden under her married name of Reid.
Finally, Nick had enough clues to start searching. He was careful to use a public computer and to stay out of the view of any Wesen, even the friendly ones. Nick didn’t want loose lips to lead to a woman who couldn’t defend herself.
It took months of searching before Nick found Diana Reid in a sanatorium in Las Vegas. He borrowed Bud’s car, took a week of vacation, withdrew enough cash to last and drove south. He kissed Juliette adieu and promised to stay safe. He had his phone with him, but off. He kept an eye on the rearview mirror the whole way. As far as he knew, no one was following him. He slept in the car and avoided every wesen he could. He would visit Diana Reid in the sanatorium as soon as visiting hours began.
She looked up and smiled, confused. It was hard not to compare this frail, broken woman to his vibrant and strong Aunt Marie. Ms. Reid probably had several more years of life to go, but Aunt Marie had been stronger on her deathbed.
“I’m sorry for visiting without warning. My name is Nick Burkhardt.”
She blinked and her eyes unclouded the slightest. “Kelly’s boy? Ah, last of the line.”
“Yes, ma’am. I was hoping you could tell me a bit about my mother… and my Aunt Marie. Did you know my Aunt Marie?”
Ms. Reid patted the visitor’s chair. “Please sit. Yes, I’d love to tell you about Kelly and Marie.”
“Thank you, Ms. Reid,” Nick told her fervently.
“Call me, Aunt Diana,” she prompted. “We are family. Second cousins, once removed.”
“I wasn’t sure of the relation,” Nick admitted. “How well did you know my mother?”
“I spent summers with her and Marie at her grandfather’s house.”
“Fun?” Nick asked hopefully.
“When it was just us girls, yes. But we were there for a purpose.”
“Yes. There was a high likelihood of one of us gaining the inheritance.”
Nick searched her eyes and mourned. “In the end, you all got it.”
Diana took a shaky breath. “Yes. We did.”
Nick watched her struggle to control her fear. “Tell me of the fun times.” He needed her on an even keel.
Diana nodded. “Your mother. Oh dear, I hated playing hide and seek with her, even when she was young. I was the oldest,” she told Nick. “Marie was the youngest, poor girl. But your mother could disappear whenever she wanted. Even, or rather, especially in places when you swore there was no place to go. Your mother could vanish. There are four parts to the inheritance,” and her voice took on the authority of a professor. “The physical, the mental, the instinct and the artist. Before the inheritance takes hold, there are flashes of talent in one or all of these arenas. Your mother excelled in the physical and the instinct, the artistic side was highly practiced and she studied hard. I was solely the mental and truly, I never gained the other parts. Your Aunt Marie? The artistic and the intellectual, the others were well supplemented when the inheritance fell on her shoulders. From the things that Marie told me, you had all four before. She knew you would gain the inheritance, but she was determined that you’d have a normal life for as long as possible. She worked hard at her deficiencies so that you could be free.”
Nick leaned forward with a smile, eager to hear all of this. He almost wished he could have brought Monroe. The Blutbad would have loved the history lesson. Distracted, Nick nearly fell out of his chair when there was a knock on the open door.
“Hello, I’m Dr. Leslie Gheno,” the pretty blonde in a labcoat said. “I’m responsible for…”
Her visage shifted and she snarled. Hexenbiest! Nick leapt forward and reached for his gun, but Aunt Diana stopped him. “It’s okay, Nick. Leslie is my doctor.”
Nick was too shocked to do anything but stare at Aunt Diana. Why on earth would she agree to a hexenbiest? Nick could think of multiple reasons why a hexenbiest would agree to treat a Grimm and none of them were pleasant. “Why?”
Aunt Diana waved away the question. “It’s okay, Nick. Leslie, thank you for visiting but Nick and I have some things to discuss.”
Gheno looked like she wanted to argue, but Aunt Diana straightened and for the first time, Nick saw her steel. Gheno agreed reluctantly. Nick was sure that she would try to eavesdrop or order someone else to do it. He couldn’t ask the truly important questions now, like what was the key for? Once the hexenbiest withdrew, Nick dropped into the visitor’s chair.
“I went through a lot of trouble to hide this visit from any wesen,” he had to tell her.
Diana smiled, understanding and thankful. “I have a deal with a certain Royal family. I’m safe here but I do appreciate the thought.”
“What’s the deal?”
“It doesn’t matter.”
Nick gaped at her. “Yes, it does.”
“No, Nick. It’s a good deal. Everyone is safe if I stay here. This is the best for which I could hope. I wouldn’t survive as an active Grimm and if I die, the inheritance falls to my son.”
"What are you sacrificing?” The Royals and hexenbiest would not protect a Grimm without something in return.
"Nothing important, Nick. Don’t worry about it.”
Nick was definitely going to worry about it. Nick remembered the list of open positions on the sanatorium bulletin board. He would study it intently on his way out and try to find some trustworthy wesen to apply.
“Why don’t you take my journals?”
Aunt Diana certainly had he attention. She slowly shuffled to a bookshelf and started stacking books.
“You just leave them in plain sight?” With a hexenbiest skulking around?
Aunt Diana smiled and again he saw the hint of Aunt Marie intelligence. “They’re in code.”
If they were encoded enough that a hexenbiest couldn’t understand them after years of trying, Nick wasn’t hopeful that he would be able to. “What’s the code?”
Aunt Diana waved him over to the shelf. “It’s different for every page. Look, I’ll show you.” And she did.
Nick couldn’t help but be impressed with all of the different codes used in every book. He walked out of the sanatorium with a couple of job applications, a deep and abiding respect for his Aunt’s intelligence and a large pile of books that might hold the family secrets.
He also left behind a fuming hexenbiest. Gheno was going to cause problems. Nick had to get some friendly wesen hired to protect Aunt Diana as soon as possible. He turned on his phone. He had calls to make and honorable wesen to find. Since this Grimm was known in wesen community, he didn't need to hide anymore.
When Spencer’s phone rang and it was a familiar ‘Vegas number, he hurried to find some privacy in the police department. “Hello, this is Doctor Reid.”
“Dr. Reid, this is Dr. Gheno, your mother’s physician here at the sanatorium.”
“Is my mother okay?”
“She’s mostly fine, but she recently had a visitor that upset her and she refuses to take him off her accepted visitors list.”
“Who is the visitor?”
The name brought to mind a talented Portland detective but what business would he have with Spencer’s mother? Surely it was another person with the same name. “What upset my mother about the visit?”
“He was asking her opinion on some old police cases.”
“Was he a detective?”
The odds were so far against it… There was no way… “From Portland?”
Silence, the kind of deadly silence that Spencer had experienced when negotiating with psychopaths. “I was unaware that Detective Burkhardt had discussed the situation with you.”
He hadn’t but Spencer had five years on the job that pointed suspicion at Dr. Gheno rather than Detective Burkhardt. Burkhardt, for some reason, was far from his designated territory and worrying his mother’s doctor with his questions. What possible connection could have led Burkhardt across state lines that Gheno didn’t want linked? “Thank you for informing me of my mother’s medical condition, Dr. Gheno. I will address the situation at my earliest convenience.”
“With your verbal consent over the phone, I can place Detective Burkhardt on a no admittance list and there shouldn’t be any further incidents.”
Spencer thought about it. Gheno was pushing, showing her hand. Obviously, Gheno wanted Burkhardt far from Diana Reid. By caving to the doctor’s demands, he should be protecting his mother until she could be removed from the situation. “Let’s do that,” Spencer told her.
“Very good. I’m sorry to interrupt your day with such a petty matter.”
“No, no, thank you. Please continue to keep me informed.”
After a few more pleasantries, they hung up. Spencer didn’t wait for the phone to show him the stats from the call. He used his speed dial to call Garcia and reached out to the nearest officer’s desk to call his mother.
Garcia answered first.
Spencer cut off whatever witty greeting she had planned. “Garcia, I need you to check on the whereabouts of Detective Nick Burkhardt. We worked with him in Portland. Has he been to Vegas and when?”
She grasped the importance of the call immediately. “On it. His cell phone pinged two cell towers in Portland today but yesterday he was on the Strip. In Las Vegas. I’ll confirm with the airlines…”
“Hello?” Diana Reid answered the phone.
“Mom? Why did Detective Burkhardt visit you yesterday?” The FBI agent was pleased that Garcia was smart enough to keep her mouth shut and type.
“Spencer? How did you know?”
“Dr. Gheno called me and wanted him added to a No Admittance list. Why did Burkhardt visit you?”
“He’s a distant relative,” Diana informed him. “He found one of my journals in his family’s effects and hoped that I had answers. He’s a good boy. Marie did a good job with him. I told him he could call me Aunt Diana. I hope you told Dr. Gheno ‘no’.”
“No, I told her she could.”
“Why would you do that?”
“Because, her insistence was worrying me and I was afraid of what would happen to you if I put up a fight. I can get him off the list later or we can move you and you can write your own No Admittance List.”
“Really, Spencer. There is no need to worry. You’re starting to sound like Nick.”
Spencer switched how he referred to the Detective, if nothing else than to keep his mother talking. “Nick’s worried about you?”
“Yes. He wants me to switch institutions. He did not get along with Dr. Gheno.”
“The two just don’t get along.” Diana hmmed. “I might have made it worse when I gave Nick some of my journals that I don’t let Leslie read.”
“You gave Nick some of your journals?” Spencer couldn’t believe his ears.
“I had written down some family things in there and he was interested. I had no reason to refuse the request.” Nick now had journals that Spencer had never read. For as long as he could remember, Diana had had two sets of journals. One set Gheno and Spencer routinely reviewed and other set were off limits.
“Mom. What do those journals contain?” Spencer had never heard his mother deflect more.
“I told you, Spencer. Family things.” She paused and finally said, “If anything happens to me, you should really talk to Nick before you do anything else.”
Spencer’s blood ran cold and in his other ear, he could hear Garcia catch her breath and her fingers pause on her keyboard. “That’s it,” Spencer declared. “You are leaving that institution today. I’m getting a plane in an hour and will be there by midnight.”
“Oh Spencer. There is no need to overreact. Nothing’s going to happen to me.”
“No. You are not.” It was the surest Spencer had ever heard his mother, it made him second guess everything. “Maybe you should call Nick now. He can reassure you. He can tell you about the bodyguard he doesn’t think I’d recognize. I’m safe here. I expect to get a phone call from you on Sunday, as usual. I love you, Spencer.”
And she hung up on him. His mother! Hung up on him!
“Do you want a plane ticket to Vegas or Detective Burkhardt’s number?”
“Let’s start with Burkhardt and if you could get me a schedule of flight departures?”
“Done.” And then she rattled off the ten-digit number.
“No prob, sweet cheeks. I’ll look into your mom’s doc and see why she’s acting squirrely. Keep me informed and I’ll put you on the first flight to Vegas if you breathe the word.”
“Will do.” Spencer would need her help one way or the other. He heard her disconnect the call and then he used the phone number to call the detective that was also a relative.
“Detective Burkhardt,” the man answered his phone.
“Detective, this is Dr. Spencer Reid with the BAU.”
“Wait a minute, please,” and then the background noise hushed. “Dr. Reid. I… This is a surprise.”
“What’s a surprise is you visiting my mother yesterday.”
“Reid,” Burkhardt breathed. “Oh.” And then again a more emphatic, “Ohhhh.” The detective previously hadn’t connected Diana Reid in a Vegas mental institution to Dr. Spencer Reid of the FBI.
“You visited my mother,” Spencer repeated.
“Yes. I did.”
“Happened,” the detective echoed and Spencer was reminded that he was facing a more-informed, expert interviewer. Spencer was going to receive exactly as much information as Burkhardt was willing to give and not one clue more. “I was hoping that she would have answers concerning my parents.” Spencer remembered that the man’s parents had died in a suspicious car accident when he was a child.
“And did she?”
“Why did she give you her journals?”
“She thought they might hold memories. She mostly wrote childhood occurrences in those.”
“Like how my grandfather used to take her, my mother and my aunt into the woods to practice tracking, or my grandmother would speak nothing but German to them.”
“My mother knows how to track?” Spencer did not know that. “In the woods?” He couldn’t visualize his mother tracking. His mother? Tracking?
“Up to a point,” Burkhardt admitted. “It sounds like she was better at the book learning and languages and my mother excelled at the outdoor lessons. Aunt Marie was second to both of them.”
Interesting. “What else?”
“Honestly, I skimmed over most of the stuff about your mom thus far.”
Spencer could understand that but… “Why wouldn’t Mom let me read them?”
“My grandfather, your great uncle, was… not a good person.”
Spencer tried to figure out if the man had been abusive or a murderer. He, his wife and most of that generation had died long before Spencer and Burkhardt had been born. From what was his mother protecting him? And why did it involve Gheno? “Surely the statute of limitations applies?”
Burkhardt hmmed. “Dr. Reid, can I get back to you? I’m in the middle of a case.”
“One last question: Is my mother safe? How effective is the bodyguard you hired?”
“Oh,” Burkhardt sounded completely chagrinned. “She noticed already?”
“Yes. How much do I owe you? My mother’s protection is my responsibility.”
“I used a favor to get the bodyguard a job in the… ah… sanitarium. I’m not actually paying’em anything. They’re just keeping an eye on Aunt Diana, just in case.”
“Are you using the plural to hide the gender pronouns or do you have a bodyguard on my mother every shift?”
Burkhardt made a sound of concern. “Look, my captain’s glaring. I have to get back to work. Don’t worry about Aunt Diana, now that I know about you, she’s in less danger than I thought.” The detective hung up without answering the FBI agent’s pointed question. Spencer had a feeling that Burkhardt was telling the truth and omitting huge portions of the situation.
“Reid?” Hotch asked from the doorway. The BAU had their own case to solve, but at the first opportunity Spencer was going to insist on a skype chat with his cousin and if that didn’t work, he’d fly out to Portland and make him answer questions. Spencer would sic Garcia on the sanatorium records, she’d be able to find the bodyguard(s) in five minutes.
“Coming,” Spencer told his boss. He walked forward and texted Garcia at the same time. The computer tech would find answers.
“Are you able to concentrate?” Hotch demanded.
Spencer put his phone away. “Now I am. Sorry. My mom’s doctor is acting squirrely.”
“Squirrely,” Hotch echoed, slightly amused and sympathetically alarmed.
“Garcia’s word. She’s looking into it when she has time. Everyone else seems to think that it’s just a mystery and not something over which I should be concerned.”
“But you are concerned,” Hotch read his body language.
“Slightly. I can put it aside for now. The two people with answers won’t take any more calls from me today.”
“Let me know if you need to leave.”
“I will,” Spencer promised.
Hotch watched him and all of his clues. Once he was satisfied, he turned and led Spencer back into the bullpen and the BAU case.