Long Shadows – Chapter One
"All sins cast long shadows." – Irish proverb
The grey drizzle of the afternoon had faded to a cool, clear Boston night. A series of seafood restaurants along the street had left their doors open, letting their savory scents pour into the street and dissipate like smoke. It was late enough that most restaurant patrons had left, and the street was mostly empty. A taxi pulled up along the curb in front of a darkened pub, and a young woman with dark curls climbed out. As the taxi sped away, she removed the scarf at her throat and glanced up. The pub's sign, still glinting with a wet sheen from the earlier rain, read "The Black Shamrock".
Tucking her scarf into her pocket, Emily Prentiss pushed open the door. She was immediately engulfed by the familiar smell of Guinness and cigarettes. The wailing of a guitar was being pumped through the speakers. She looked around, brown eyes darting furtively across the room. Few patrons, mostly along the bar. Two exits: the door she'd just entered from, and a second down the hall by the restrooms. The middle-aged bartender had a gun tucked into his pants; he looked like he could grudgingly, but skillfully, put it to use.
Emily had her own Glock tucked into her jacket, but she still jumped slightly when she felt a hand fall on her shoulder. "Jack," she sighed, her heart rate returning to normal, "don't sneak up on me like that."
The man grinned, revealing stained teeth. "Sorry, Lauren," he said, shaking his greasy hair out of his eyes. His Irish accent was faded, diluted by the sharp vowels of Boston. "My contact's running a little late, but he'll be along soon. Why don't you find a seat?"
She nodded. "You'll bring him over when he comes?"
He tipped his chin towards a small corner table under a stained glass window. "So I will."
Emily left him at the bar and took a seat at the table, facing the door. She pulled a pack of cigarettes from her pocket and slipped one between her teeth. She lit it and took a drag, trying to calm her nerves, and let the smoke curl from between her lips. Sean McAllister's voice echoed in her head over the din of the pub. 'Don't push it until you've made a connection, but use your instincts. Remember, Lauren doesn't know who he is, so bring up Valhalla as soon as you can. We'll have a man at the bar; if anything goes badly wrong, get the hell out of there.'
She realized she'd been biting her fingernail, and quickly replaced it with her cigarette. She took a mental note of the irony of replacing a bad habit with an unhealthy one, but the sight of Jack Fahey sitting at the bar reminded her why she'd lit up to begin with. Emily forced herself to remain calm. She'd been prepped on the intel they already had on Ian Doyle, limited as it was, and she knew the details of her cover identity as instinctively as she knew her own life. Assuming Doyle bought her cover, she would be fine.
Emily looked over at the bar again and almost choked on her cigarette. Fahey had left his seat and was greeting someone at the door. She focused her gaze on the ashtray, unwilling to look up at the man she knew was now following Fahey over to her table. She had seen his face a hundred times before, in case files and dossiers and grainy photographs. She knew his crimes and his aliases; she had studied every piece of intelligence they had on him. All that was left to learn was his profile: piecing together his behaviour, his background, and his motives so that they could end the violence and bloodshed he was spreading across the world.
She stubbed out her cigarette. She had to move eventually, and almost without her control, she found herself standing. Emily's eyes went to Fahey, unable to look at Doyle in the flesh just yet.
"Lauren Reynolds," Fahey said, by way of introduction. "This is the guy I told you about."
Emily held her hand out across the table and finally looked at Doyle. "He told me everything but a name," she added, a smile coming to her lips. Inside, she wanted to scream. Ian Doyle was standing in front of her: a man whose hands were stained with the blood of thousands, a man who could kill her without a second thought if she slipped up.
"Ian Doyle," he replied, taking her hand and fixing his blue-green gaze on her. His accent was much thicker than Fahey's. "Pleasure." He had one eyebrow slightly cocked, as though laughing at some private joke. Emily tipped her head and his smile widened, tugging at one corner of his lips. With a jolt, she realized that he was actually attracted to her. The thought sickened her, but she had known what she was getting herself into when she accepted the assignment. A few months of flirting and touching were a small price to pay for the information it would yield.
So Emily shut off her instincts and tucked all her existing knowledge of Doyle into a locked corner of her brain. He was an arms dealer, yes, but that only meant that he was someone she wanted to do business with. He was attractive, with his fiercely bright eyes and teasing smirk. His voice was low, and he spoke in that lilting Northern Irish accent that she'd always found a little sexy. The fact that his voice had condemned innocent people to die had to become irrelevant.
Doyle was still watching her with that wolf-grin across his mouth. Fahey, sensing he was no longer wanted, quickly said, "I love being the man. Bringing people together." He clapped Doyle on the shoulder. "Have fun, kids."
Fun. Emily would have laughed, had she not been concentrating on matching Doyle's provocative stare with one of her own. He was clearly intrigued by her, and she felt her stomach turn. She desperately wished she hadn't put out her last cigarette so hastily; there was nothing to distract her now.
"Jack told me you were Provisional IRA," she said, trying to ease the tense silence.
Doyle gave a short laugh and lifted his drink, pausing before taking a sip. "Used to be. Then the peace accord happened. Now I've got to look for work like everybody else."
Emily tried to convince herself that his voice sent shivers down her spine, but all she felt was a ripple of terror. She pushed it aside and said in a low voice, "Except… 'Ian'. That's a Protestant name, isn't it? Not a lot of Protestants in the IRA." When his grin widened, she continued, "Or is that how you proved you were a good fighter? Defending your mother for giving you that name?"
Doyle seemed to be studying her, that smirk still glued to his face. She laughed softly to quell the shame she felt at playing so coquettish. How Doyle had gotten involve with the IRA was, in fact, a mystery to Interpol and the CIA. Just another hole in his backstory that Emily was attempting to fill through half-lidded glances and seductive smiles.
When Doyle spoke again, it was with the same tone of intrigued flirtation. "And what is it you do, Lauren?"
The cover name caught Emily off-guard, but she recovered within a moment and replied, "Right now, I'm trying to get into business with a former IRA captain. He's gone freelance; you might have heard of him." She lifted her head and met Doyle's stare straight on. "Valhalla."
For the first time since their meeting, Doyle's eyes left Emily's. He seemed lost in memory, his gaze wandering without focus across the wall behind her. He took another drink and quietly said, "Yeah, I might know him."
Fearful that he might become suspicious, Emily boldly changed tactics. "Well, since this is sensitive…" She leaned forward, her lips parted. When she spoke again, it was in French. "It might be better to discuss this privately." She prayed she hadn't gone too far, too fast. Sean McAllister's Scottish brogue intruded on her thoughts again. 'He'll be attracted to you. Use that. Do whatever you have to do.'
Doyle straightened in his seat. His eyes glittered as he replied in French, "You're just full of surprises, aren't you?"
She laughed, biting her lip, and willed herself to want this man. "You have no idea."
Emily clutched her coffee cup and forced herself to count to sixty in her head. Her other hand held her gun under the table, still fixed on the empty chair across from her. When the minute was up, a few glances around the little park confirmed that Ian Doyle was out of sight and earshot. She let out a slow breath. She knew he wasn't bluffing about surveilling the rest of the team. His words had rattled her; for the first time in years, she found herself craving a cigarette.
She tried to clear her head and think logically. Garcia and Morgan, Rossi and Seaver, Reid, and Hotch. With that level of detail, Doyle had at least three or four men in D.C. with him. Maybe they could track them, find out if they were old associates that she would remember from the old days. She would have to call Tsia and Clyde and warn them.
But surely Doyle knew about their involvement, if he'd been watching her. Emily let go of her coffee and ran her fingers through her hair. No one around her was safe. She thought of Hotch, dragging exhausted feet into Jack's bedroom to kiss his sleeping son goodnight. She thought of Haley's sister Jessica, making up the couch so that Hotch could spend the night and be there when Jack awoke.
She froze, her fingers trembling on her gun. The rest of the team could defend themselves if Doyle tried anything, but Jessica and Jack were vulnerable. Hotch might be able to protect them, but he'd have no warning. Doyle had been thorough in his surveillance, and he surely knew about Emily and Hotch's relationship. What if he decided to send her a warning, throw her off her game? He was getting revenge for Declan—what if he chose to do so by going after Jack?
Emily reached into her purse. She wished she had a disposable cell phone, although it likely didn't matter at this point. She dialed '2' and prayed silently to any god who might be listening.
"Em?" came the sleep-slurred voice of Aaron Hotchner. "Is everything all right?"
She realized she had no idea what to say. She couldn't simply ask if everyone was ok without explaining the situation, and that was not an option.
"Emily?" His voice was stronger now, more alert. "What's wrong?"
"Nothing," she replied coolly. "Just—are you okay?"
She could almost hear him raising his eyebrows. "Uh, yeah. Why?"
"Jack and Jessica, they're okay, too?"
There was a long pause, presumably while he moved around the house. "We're all fine," he finally answered. "What is this about?"
Emily bit her lip and exhaled heavily. "Um… I just—there's this… man, from my past, and he's threatening me." She quickly added, "He's watching the team. And I'm sure he knows about us." When there was no reply, she began to panic. "Aaron?"
"Where are you?"
"I'm fine, I've got it under control. You don't need to be involved." Emily stood up from her table and tossed her coffee cup in the trash.
"Someone's threatening my girlfriend and my family, Emily. I think I'm involved."
She began pacing back and forth. "Aaron, I can't tell you what's going on," she pleaded, "but I promise you, I'm working on it. I honestly can't tell you any more than that."
"Where are you?" he asked again.
"Aaron, don't, please. It's too dangerous for you to leave Jack and Jessie." She could never forgive herself if he came to help her and lost his son in the process.
"They'll be ok. This man is threatening you, so I'm a more likely target than anyone else. He has nothing to gain by attacking my family." She heard the zipper of his jacket over the phone. "Emily, please, where are you?"
"I'm fine," she repeated. "I'm going to a hotel for the night."
His voice was dangerously low. "Emily Prentiss. Tell me where you are. Right. Now."
She swallowed hard and looked around. Seeing no one else, she returned to her chair and rested her forehead against the cool metal of the gun. "Dupont Circle. The little park, at one of the tables. But—"
"I'm coming. Stay where you are." He hung up.
Long Shadows – Chapter 2
"There is often the look of an angel on the Devil himself." – Irish proverb
Nausea boiled in the pit of Emily's stomach as she swung her legs out of bed and stared off into space. Behind her, Ian Doyle traced his finger across the sheen of sweat that covered her bare back. The room was deathly silent, the moans and pants of a few minutes earlier hanging in ghostly echo.
"Do you have a cigarette?" she asked hoarsely. She felt him move aside, heard the creak of a drawer sliding open. He held out the cigarette and she turned her head, focusing on the pillow, the headboard, anything but him. She closed her lips around the little tube, feeling his thumb brush against her chin, and waited for him to light it. The intimacy of the gesture made her skin crawl.
He leaned back against the headboard, watching her. Emily reached down and gathered up the sheet, which had long since fallen from the bed, and wrapped it around her slim form. The orange glow of the cigarette was the only light in the room, save for a sliver of moonlight in the window, and it brightened and dimmed like a distantly burning beacon.
"You don't have to cover yourself up," Doyle said.
Emily looked halfway over her shoulder, staring at him. His eyes raked across her barely covered body before coming back up to meet hers. His pupils were wide and dark, with an eerie spot of orange where they reflected the cigarette.
"Ian," she said quietly, "how often do you do this?"
The corner of his mouth quirked up. "Do what?"
"You know." She gestured to the bed, the whole room, with a sweep of her hand. Their clothes were scattered like twigs after a storm. "This."
Doyle seemed to enjoy her discomfort. His eyes twinkling, he repeated, "This?"
She glared at him, but a smile was playing on her lips. "Screwing your new suppliers."
He chuckled and reached across the bed, tugging at the sheet. Emily allowed herself to be pulled down as he slid his hand to the back of her neck and joined his lips to hers. His tongue tangled with hers and she gripped his shoulders, letting the sheet fall from her body. Her forgotten cigarette dangled from her fingers. His other hand traced down her bare torso, and his fingers dug into her sides.
"Ian," she said, pulling away with some difficulty, "I'm serious."
Doyle moved his hands to her hips and shifted her so that she straddled his waist. She dropped her cigarette in the ashtray and splayed her hands across his chest, feeling the hardened ridges of scar tissue beneath her fingers. They stared at each other across the darkness. Finally, he replied, "Most of my suppliers aren't as pretty as you, Lauren." When she bit her lip and smiled, he added, "And I find myself… drawn to you."
Emily blushed and tried to climb off of him, but his hold on her hips was tighter than she'd thought. She sighed. "I just… Look, this is supposed to be business, and here we are in your apartment—"
"I thought you were attracted to me." He was grinning now.
"I am!" she protested, laughing. She had to play this just right. She couldn't let him have her so quickly, and she'd already figured out that he was attracted to the thrill of the chase. Ian Doyle was a hunter, the kind who wanted a challenge from his prey. Emily just had to strike the right balance.
"So what's the problem?" he asked. His fingers stroked the smooth skin of her hip.
"I just want to make sure we can do business and still…." She trailed off.
Doyle caught her off guard when he tilted his hips up sharply, hitting that spot just right, and she yelped in surprise. He dragged her down again for another fierce kiss, teeth and lips scraping together. His fingers twisted into her messy curls as he rolled them on the mattress. He pulled back and hovered above her, pinning her knees between his. She leaned forward and kissed the side of his neck, and then slid her hand down his straining bicep.
"Make sure we can still do that?" he asked with a sideways smirk.
Emily nodded and pushed her hair out of her eyes. "Yeah," she agreed breathlessly. She reached across the bed for her cigarette in the ashtray, now only faintly glowing, but Doyle stilled her hand.
"Let me get you a new one," he said softly. As he leaned over for the pack, Emily exhaled heavily and stared up at the ceiling. This wasn't where she'd pictured herself when she agreed to work with the JTF. It certainly wasn't what she'd had in mind when she joined the CIA. For some reason, Emily thought of her mother. Ambassador Prentiss had been proud of her daughter for making it into the CIA, if a little disappointed that it wasn't the State Department. If she only knew what that prestigious, exciting job was now making her do….
But she would never know. All she knew was that Emily was doing some kind of dangerous work that had to be kept secret. She couldn't even be in contact with her mother during the assignment, let alone tell her what was going on. Not that she would want to tell her—Elizabeth Prentiss would have a heart attack if she knew Emily was using her body this way.
"Penny for your thoughts," Doyle said, holding the cigarette before her.
She took it from him and lit it, buying herself time to think of a response other than 'I'm sleeping with you because the CIA told me to and I'm wondering if my mother would approve.' Exhaling the first sweet wisps of smoke, she finally answered, "I'm wondering what I'm getting myself into."
"I was under the impression that you were getting yourself into my bed," he quipped. She pushed his arm playfully, and he sat down beside her. "Doing business with me, you mean."
"And sleeping with you," Emily added. "I… hoped this wouldn't be a one-time thing. Sleeping with a buyer goes against everything I know, but…." She rolled over and glanced up at him through the haze of cigarette smoke. "I want you, Ian."
He ran a finger down the side of her face with surprising tenderness. "Tell you what, Lauren. When we do business, it'll be just business. We'll conduct it wholly apart from everything else."
"And what will everything else be?" she asked.
He shrugged. "Us? I'm only in Boston for another month or so. We'll see what happens."
Emily froze, but covered for it by pressing a kiss to his shoulder. "Only a month?"
Doyle lay down on his side, propping himself up on his elbow, and leaned in so that their noses were almost touching. "We'll see what happens," he repeated. He pulled the cigarette from her lips and kissed her before tossing it in the general direction of the ashtray.
"You're wasting those, you know," she chided with a smile.
His response was to begin kissing her neck. "We've still got the rest of the night to use up," he whispered against her throat. His hand slid across her stomach, and she arched against him with a whimper. "Let's make the most of it."
One month. Emily had one month to convince Doyle that she could be more than a supplier-with-benefits. Sleeping with him wasn't going to be enough. Sean McAllister had suspected as much—as far as they could tell, Doyle rarely stayed in one place for long—but she had hoped against hope that it would be simple. Mixing business and pleasure was already going to be difficult, but this latest revelation had complicated things further. Emily had to convince Doyle to take her with him when he left the country in a month.
She had to make him fall in love with her.
The park at Dupont Circle appeared deserted as Hotch strode across the street, his heart pounding in his throat. He had sped over as soon as he'd hung up the phone, but he now wished he'd kept Emily on the line. He squinted, glancing around the park. He could barely see the little tables, mostly obscured in shadows. One area of the park was eerily half-lit by a flickering streetlamp, and Hotch thought he could see a figure tucked into the darkness. When the lamp flashed again, he distinctly saw Emily's coat peeking out from behind a tree.
"Emily?" he called softly, advancing towards her.
Emily whirled around, arm outstretched, clutching her Glock. Hotch held his hands out, as though appeasing a wild animal, and stood in place until she lowered her weapon. "Em, it's me," he added unnecessarily.
She tucked the gun into her holster and glanced around deliberately before beckoning Hotch towards her. As he neared her, she pulled him in for a hug, but he placed his hands around her face and pressed his lips onto hers. They stayed like that for a moment, silent and unmoving, before Hotch pulled away and rested his forehead against hers.
"I'm sorry," she whispered, "I panicked."
Hotch slid his hands down to the small of her back and gripped her body against his. "God, Em, I didn't see you when I got here and I thought the worst had happened." He leaned back and stared at her. "What the hell is going on?"
Emily shook her head. "Aaron, I'm glad you came, but I don't need your help. I told you—I don't want you in any more danger than you already are."
"Bullshit," he said uncharacteristically, making Emily freeze with surprise. "You already said he knows about our relationship, about the whole team. Whoever this is, we can take him. I can take him." He placed a hand under her chin and tilted it up. Their eyes met: his dark and fierce, hers frightened. "Hon, I'll stop him. You just have to tell me what's going on, and I'll take care of it."
She stepped back and crossed her arms over her chest. "It's not that simple!" She ran a hand over her face, exhaling forcefully to try and calm herself. "God, Aaron, do you have to be such an alpha-male all the time? You can't just come swooping in to save the day—if it was that easy, I'd do it myself. I don't need you to rescue me."
Hotch said nothing, waiting for the storm to blow over. Emily rarely had these tirades, but when she did, he had learned that it was better to keep his mouth shut until her anger had faded.
"You don't get it, do you?" she continued. "This man is after me, and there's nothing he won't do. The only thing I can do is try to protect you, and the team, and—" She was biting her nail again. "Do you have a cigarette?"
He raised an eyebrow. "Uh, no," he replied slowly. "I don't smoke, and neither do you. You haven't for years."
She threw him a sarcastic half-smile. "Yeah, well, I was feeling nostalgic. Sue me."
Hotch placed his hands on her shoulders. "Emily. This isn't like you." His voice was higher than usual, betraying the distress he was trying to keep hidden. "Please."
She allowed herself to be steered over to the table. She sat, but Hotch remained standing, leaning against the arm of the other chair.
"Please," he repeated, taking her hand and squeezing it gently, "just tell me."
Emily heaved a sigh, her shoulders sagging. "It's an old case, back from my days at… before the Bureau. We caught a man and sent him to prison, but he escaped and now he's hunting me." She looked up at him. "But I can handle it."
He shook his head. "Em, I know you're strong. But you said yourself that it's not simple. I can help you." Seeing the way her jaw tightened, he tried again. "The team can help you. Hon, I tried to take care of George Foyet on my own, but it wasn't until I had the rest of the BAU behind me that I could do anything."
"Aaron, Foyet was awful, but this man…." Her voice started to break. "You have no idea."
Hotch switched tactics. "He's keeping tabs on all of us now. Look at it this way—help us defend ourselves. Tell me who we're up against."
Emily stamped her foot. The tears were welling in her eyes now. "Damn it, stop guilting me into this. I can't tell you, don't you understand?"
He pulled her out of the chair and into his arms. She clutched his jacket with shaking fists and buried her face in his shoulder. He stroked her hair, feeling her shudder against him. She murmured something unintelligible against his chest.
"I'm working on it with some old colleagues," she repeated. "People who were on the original case. So I'm not doing this completely on my own."
Hotch kissed her forehead softly. "I know, Em, I know. It's just…." He paused, and Emily lifted her head to look curiously up at him. He took a deep breath. "I waited too long to stop Foyet, and I lost Haley because of it. I nearly lost Jack. My life fell apart because my stupid pride got in the way, and Foyet played me like a fool. He tore my family to pieces." He rubbed his thumbs under her eyes where her mascara had smeared.
"Emily, I don't know where I'd be without you," he said quietly. "I was a wreck in so many ways after Foyet, and you… you put me back together. You made me smile again; you made Jack smile again. You took a broken man and a scared little boy, and you rebuilt a family."
She gave him a watery smile. "I love you, Aaron."
"I love you, too, and that's why I can't lose you. I don't care how long it takes, or how dangerous it is." He cupped her face in his hands, and she could see his eyes shining in the darkness with unshed tears. "Emily, I cannot lose you."
Emily bit her lip and stared at her shoes. Twice she opened her mouth, and twice she swallowed the unspoken words. Finally, she cleared her throat and began speaking, still looking at the ground. "You have to swear you will never tell anyone this. I suppose I'll have to tell the team eventually, but you have to realize that these details are highly classified, and knowing them could put you in even more danger."
Hotch wondered if it was possible for his heart to forget how to beat. It certainly felt like it had. "I promise."
She bit her lip for a few seconds. "I haven't been working for the Bureau for ten years. My records were changed to protect me. Before I came to the FBI, I worked for the CIA. That's where I got my profiling experience—I wasn't lying about that. I was part of a team called the JTF. It was one of those small groups that sprang up in the panic after 9-11, when we realized we weren't invincible to terrorists. We were tasked with profiling terrorists so that we could better protect ourselves from them, predict their moves and stop them before they attacked us. Obviously, it involved getting close to those terrorists."
If he had doubted it before, Hotch was now absolutely positive that his heart and lungs had both ceased to function.
"There was an arms dealer, former IRA. We knew his name and his alias in the black market, but not much else. He was feeding weapons to half of Europe and the Middle East; his client list read like a real-life Evil League of Evil. Al Qaeda, Hezbollah, African warlords… he was facilitating so much destruction and bloodshed that he had to be stopped. And someone had to get the information on him." She glanced up at Hotch, her eyes sad and fearful.
"You went undercover," he guessed. When she gave a single nod, he added, "You had to get close to him."
Emily sank into the chair behind her without a word. Hotch sat down across from her, waiting. Finally, she whispered, "Yes. I had to get close to him."
There was nothing Hotch could say in response to that.
Long Shadows – Chapter 3
"The best way to keep loyalty in a man's heart is to keep money in his purse." – Irish proverb
Emily cradled her cell phone between her ear and shoulder as she flicked her lighter. "Yes, Clyde," she said into the phone, "I've got all three groups of weapons." She held the lighter to the cigarette between her lips and flicked it again, to no avail. Frustrated, she jammed the cigarette and offending lighter into her pocket.
"OK, then everything should be in order," Clyde replied, his voice tinny and crackling from the poor connection. "The offshore account is up and running, so we'll be waiting for the transfer from Doyle once the deal goes through."
She pulled off her coat and threw it in the corner, where it fell over the three large boxes stacked against the wall. She was in an old warehouse on the western outskirts of Boston, about to perform her first weapons deal as Lauren Reynolds. The three weeks since her first meeting with Doyle had been a flurry of activity for the JTF as they prepared to give her cover identity the resources it needed. While the business deal with Doyle had been put on hold until today, Emily had still been working on moving things forward in their personal relationship. Although she didn't have a set deadline, she guessed that she had about a week left before Doyle left the country, and she wasn't counting on having much advanced notice.
Almost as if he'd read her mind, Clyde's voice floated over the phone. "How's Operation Seduction going? Got him wrapped around your finger yet?"
Emily pursed her lips, wishing he was in person so that she could kick him. "That's enough, Clyde." From outside came the roar of a van approaching the warehouse. "I've got to run," she said quickly. "Tell Sean I'll call him tomorrow." She closed the phone and tucked it into her pocket.
She heard the engine shut off and silently prayed that she could pull this off. She made her way over to the cases of weapons, biting her nails, and hoisted herself up to sit on one of them. Up until now, she'd kept Doyle interested in her—or rather, in Lauren—by playing on his attraction to her. That was simple, albeit repulsive at times, but his real acceptance of her would come from whether her cover identity passed the test today. There was no way he would consider keeping her around long-term if she didn't convince him that she was worth it, as both an arms supplier and a lover.
Even worse, it sickened her to think that she was surrounded by actual, functional weapons, ones that would inevitably end up in the hands of a killer. It was necessary, of course, to sell Doyle a few weapons in order to preserve her cover, but she was providing him and his clients with the means to wreak slaughter and carnage, and the guilt gnawed at her heart.
"Lauren?" Doyle's voice echoed across the warehouse.
Emily leapt down from her perch and strode towards him with a wide smile, her heeled boots clicking against the worn concrete floor. He placed a hand on her waist as she drew closer and tugged her in for a kiss. She pulled away after a moment, resting her hands on his chest, and playfully said, "Ian, I thought we were just going to focus on business."
He leaned down and put his lips next to her ear. "I suppose I can wait until later," he whispered, his voice low and rich.
Emily winked at him and stood on tiptoe to peer over his shoulder. "You've brought company."
Doyle nodded. "Two of my trusted associates. This is Liam." He gestured to the man on his right, a tall, bulky figure with frizzy grey hair and a permanent scowl. His stance was ramrod straight, and his arms were crossed over his chest. His gaze flickered back and forth between Emily and Doyle. "And that's Riley," Doyle added, indicating the man on his left. Riley was much younger than the other two men, with riotous, curly red hair and a smattering of freckles across his nose. His hazel eyes glittered as he stared at Emily, and she felt goosebumps rise on her skin.
"So you're Lauren Reynolds," the man called Liam said, taking a step forward. His Irish accent was even thicker than Doyle's. "I hear you've got something to sell us."
Emily nodded and turned on her heel. "It's a small shipment," she said, gesturing to the three boxes, "but since we're just starting out, I thought I'd keep things as simple as possible. Assuming you like what you see, I've got the account information so you can wire me the money." She leaned against one of the cases, resting her forearm on its dusty surface. "And of course, if this venture proves successful, I can easily secure more."
Riley walked hurriedly past the other two men and pulled some kind of metal tool from his back pocket. He jammed it under the lid of the first box and pried it open, coughing as sawdust filled the air. "AK-47s," he pronounced, peering into the box.
Liam glanced at Emily, and she shrugged. "Nothing beats reliability," she pointed out.
Doyle nodded. "Open the other two."
Riley lifted the second lid with greater ease. This time, his eyebrows rose a little as he inspected the contents. "Semtex," he said approvingly. Emily and the rest of the JTF had been fairly confident in the Semtex's ability to impress. It was a plastic explosive, popular in the Provisional IRA and other terrorist organizations because of its dependability and the difficulty in detecting it.
As Riley opened the third box, he let out a low whistle. Liam and Doyle came to his side, and the three of them dug through the box together. Emily leaned against the wall, legs crossed, and waited for their reaction. A satisfied smile twisted across her lips, but her pulse was beating against her throat like a war drum. She had done all she could to convince Doyle that Lauren Reynolds was real; now, it was out of her hands.
Doyle and Liam continued to search through the case, but Riley stepped back and ran a hand through his red curls. "RPG-7s haven't been easy to come by the last few months," he said. "You've got a lot of variety, too—the paratrooper model is a hell of a lot easier to carry, so it is."
"And the 7V2's got a lot more capabilities than your run-of-the-mill 7 model," Emily offered, glad that Sean and Clyde had given her a crash course in small arms and light weapons. "It's got the UP-7V sighting device for extended range ammo. The Russian Ground Forces only started using them in the last year."
Liam tilted his head towards the box of RPGs. "Where did you get all these?"
Emily shook her head and grinned. "If I told you, I wouldn't be able to do business with you, now would I?" She glanced at Doyle, who had finished checking the RPGs and was watching her with his curious smirk.
Liam's brow furrowed, but he seemed to accept her answer. He turned to Doyle. "Do you want us to load these up, then?"
Doyle nodded, his gaze still on Emily. "I do."
The other two men exited the warehouse to bring the van in for easier loading. Doyle swiftly crossed the room and wrapped his arms around Emily's waist. She slid her hands underneath his brown leather jacket and caressed the small of his back. He brought his mouth down to hers, his tongue brushing against her lips, but she was too distracted to respond in kind. She had survived the first business deal; she had passed the unspoken test. Her heart beat like a hummingbird's wings on the inside of her chest.
"What are you thinking about?" he asked quietly.
She gave a little laugh. "I don't think your friend Liam likes me very much."
Doyle kissed her forehead. "He's a good man, just cautious. It's served him well over the years. We've been working together a long time."
Emily longed to ask about his history, about Valhalla, but her instincts told her to hold back. If she played her cards right, there would be plenty of time later to ask about it, when he would trust her enough to give her more information. Behind her, she heard the crunch of the van dragging gravel from its wheels into the warehouse. She pulled a piece of paper from the top of her boot and slipped it into Doyle's jacket pocket.
"That's the account information," she said, sliding her hand down his chest to rest at his belt buckle. "Will I see you later?"
He nodded. His fingers slid underneath the edge of her sweater and stroked the thin strip of skin left bare by her shirt. "Come by my apartment 'round six. I'll cook us dinner and we can celebrate a successful business transaction."
Emily grinned. "You cook? This I have to see."
Doyle smiled back and added, "Besides, I have something to ask you."
She stretched up to press another kiss to his lips, and then pulled away. "I can't wait. See you later, Ian."
Emily grabbed her coat from where she'd tossed it earlier, pulled it on, and walked out of the warehouse. Outside, all the air rushed out of her lungs as she collapsed against the side of the building in relief. Against all odds, she had convinced him that she was a worthy investment; all the time she'd spend in his apartment, in his bed, was paying off. Ian Doyle believed that Lauren Reynolds was the real thing.
Emily and Hotch barely spoke as he drove them to her hotel. They rode the elevator in silence, palpable tension hanging in the air like a dark fog. Sweat beaded on Hotch's forehead, and he glanced at Emily out of the corner of his eye. When they arrived at her room, she pulled out her key in one hand and her gun in the other. She unlocked the door and slid quickly into the room, gun at the ready. Hotch took his cue from her and drew his own weapon with clammy hands, checking the bathroom while she cleared the rest of the room. She locked and deadbolted the door, and then dragged a chair over and propped it underneath the handle.
Hotch felt as though he was watching someone he'd never seen before. Who was this woman, who triple-locked doors and rented hotel rooms with fabricated passports under false names? This woman, who had her records changed, who slept with terrorists? This woman, who said she loved him, but then failed to tell him about half her life?
The bedsprings gave a grudging whine as Emily sank onto the mattress. She began peeling off her boots, her hands moving methodically over the leather. "How long will you stay?" she asked quietly, cutting through the thick silence.
Hotch shrugged. "I should get back to Jack and Jessie before they wake up," he replied. "But I'll stay most of the night with you." He pulled off his jacket and tossed it aside. "If you want me to."
She set her boots on the floor and leaned forward, resting her elbows on her knees and her chin in her hands. "Of course I want you to stay," she said. She gave a long exhale and stared at his shoes. "Aaron, I know it isn't enough, but I'm sorry. I really am."
He ran his hands over his face and rested against the desk. "I honestly don't know how to respond to that, Emily," he said. "You lied to me."
"I had to!" she protested. "I had to hide it from everyone, for my own safety. You know what 'classified' means."
"Since when have we lived by the federal rulebook?" he shot back.
"Since my life depended on it!" Emily's hands were balled into fists. "Please, Aaron, I wish I could have told you—"
"Told me that you screwed a terrorist? Told me that half your life is a lie?" Hotch could hear the rush of blood roaring in his ears. His whole body felt heated. "Christ, Emily, what else have you lied to me about?"
He instantly regretted his words. Emily raised a quivering hand to her lips, her eyes glimmering. She looked as though he'd physically slapped her across the face. She started to stand, and then sat down again, her legs unable to support her.
"Em, sweetheart, I didn't mean it."
"Nothing," she whispered. "I haven't lied to you about anything else." One tear beaded on her lashes, but refused to fall. Her voice shaking, she continued, "I'm not proud of what I did, but I'm proud of what I accomplished." She looked up at Hotch, and his heart sank when he saw her wet, reddened eyes. "I helped put a terrorist behind bars, stopped him from selling dangerous, illegal weapons. And I put together a profile on him, which at least brings us a little closer to catching him now that he's escaped."
Hotch dropped to his knees before her and wrapped her hands in his. "Em," he murmured, "look at me."
She turned her face away. "You said you couldn't bear losing me, Aaron. You don't know how lost I'll be if I don't have you."
"Please look at me."
Emily glanced down at him. The stubborn tear finally freed itself, and Hotch caught it with his thumb before it could trail down her cheek. "I spoke in anger," he told her, gazing up at her earnestly, "and I didn't mean what I said. You didn't deserve for me to hurt you like that." When she said nothing, he continued, "You did what you had to do. I wish there had been a better way for you to build your profile, and I wish you could have told me the truth. And I have to admit, I wish I didn't now know what a cool liar you can be."
Another tear slipped down her cheek. "I swear, Aaron, I've never lied to you about anything except my CIA work. You have to believe me."
Hotch leaned forward and touched his lips to her cheek, kissing away the tear. "I believe you, Emily. And I understand that you had to protect me, and everyone else. I'm glad you've told me now, even though I wish it were under different circumstances." He cradled her face in his hands. "And as much as it hurts me to hear about it, I'm glad you're telling me and the rest of the team about the man who's after you." Hotch's jaw flexed and tightened as he said, in a deadly low whisper, "Because I swear to God, if that son of a bitch touches you, I will end him."
Something about the way that Hotch had unknowingly echoed her earlier words to Doyle gave Emily comfort. She wiped her eyes with the back of her hand and said, "Thank you, Aaron. I just want you to know that you can trust me."
He nodded. "I do. And I always will."
Emily pulled her hands free from his grasp and moved towards the head of the bed, curling one arm underneath the pillow. She motioned for Hotch to join her, so he pulled off his shoes and crawled onto the bed with her. He sat up, placing a pillow behind his head, and tucked her head against his chest so he could wrap his arms around her shoulders. Not for the first time, Emily was struck by how snugly her body fitted against his.
Hotch dropped a kiss on the top of her head. "I love you, Emily."
"I love you, too, Aaron," she murmured, nuzzling her head against his stomach.
They lay together, cocooned in silence and each other's warm bodies, and Emily felt herself begin to drift off. Hotch's fingers began to comb soothingly through her hair, and she couldn't help yawning.
"How much sleep have you been getting?"
She was embarrassed, knowing he would reprimand her. "Since this whole mess started?" She took a slow breath and considered the question. "Hard to say. I've been having trouble falling and staying asleep."
"Nightmares?" His voice was low and sympathetic.
"And paranoia." Emily brought her hand to the hem of his t-shirt, running her fingertips along the rough seam. Her finger accidentally brushed his stomach, and she felt the muscle twitch underneath the shirt. "I keep hearing noises and thinking it's him. Maybe it's my imagination, I don't know."
Hotch's hand stilled in in its path through her hair as he asked, "Are you safe at your place?"
She shook her head. "I don't know. I actually probably am; he'd get no satisfaction from kidnapping or killing me. Not yet, at least. He hasn't gotten the psychological warfare out of his system."
The cool, detached way with which Emily spoke of this man made Hotch's blood run cold. It was the same way she delivered a profile on a case, her compartmentalization skills hard at work. He felt her tilt her head backwards against his hand, and began moving it through her hair again.
After a few minutes of silence, Hotch inquired, "What's his name?"
Somehow, the name gave more structure to this faceless hunter; it solidified Hotch's image of the man who wanted to torture and kill his girlfriend. And in doing so, it solidified his determination to make that man pay. "Did he ever hurt you when you were… undercover?"
Emily shook her head emphatically. "Never. We had a few arguments, but he was always a gentleman with me. He loved me."
The question that had hovered like a vengeful spirit at the back of Hotch's mind all night finally surfaced. He tried to bite back the cold fury in his voice as he asked, "Did you love him?"
Emily yanked her body away from his and almost fell out of bed. "Tell me you did not just ask me that."
"Em, I don't care if you did," he pleaded. "You were undercover with him for almost two years, pretending to be his lover. It would be a natural coping mechanism for you to develop feelings for him."
She glared at him. "First off," she spat, "you sound like Reid, and it's not particularly attractive. Second, stop trying to make me out like the Patty Hearst of the 21st century."
Hotch winced. "I wasn't trying to say—"
"You were trying to say that it would be perfectly natural for me to fall in love with a parasitic, sociopathic killer. Think about that, Aaron."
He placed his hands on her shoulders. "You're right, Em, that came out all wrong." He tried to smile at her. "I guess I'm batting zero tonight, huh?"
Emily crossed her arms over her chest. "I'll give you one more chance to say it right." She lay back down beside him again, leaving a little more room between their torsos than before. "Choose your words wisely."
He took a deep breath and gathered his thoughts. "What I was trying to say is that you're an incredibly strong, self-confident, well-adjusted woman. You were able to go undercover with a terrorist for an extended period of time, and you survived it. I don't know anyone else who could do that and still become the wonderful, beautiful person that I met four years ago."
She moved to rest her head back on his body, and he felt her crack a smile against his chest. "Keep talking."
Hotch smiled back. "Most people wouldn't be strong enough to develop a way of handling that kind of assignment, but you are. The fact that you didn't crack under the pressure tells me that you were able to compartmentalize, like you always do, and cope with your situation in a way that others wouldn't be able to."
Emily stayed quiet for so long that Hotch worried she'd fallen asleep, but she finally spoke. "I think… I think there might have been a part of me that loved him, or at least accepted him. I never lost track of who I was, but there were times that it was easier to forget my real identity and let my cover take over." She bit her lip. "If nothing else, there was a part of me that thought he could be… saved. I saw a side of him sometimes that made me think he didn't have to be who he was. And every once in a while, I thought that maybe, possibly, I could draw that part of him out and make him a better person. Make him into the man I convinced myself I loved."
Her words hung in the air for a minute afterwards. Hotch's breathing was steady, a rhythmic rise and fall that rocked Emily into a state of calm. "You're an amazing woman," he said softly.
She snorted. "I hated myself for years afterwards."
"You shouldn't have." He rubbed his thumb against the thin skin of her neck, making her shiver. "We're going to stop Doyle. He's not going to hurt you, Em. You and I will work together, and with the BAU and your old colleagues behind us, we'll catch him."
Emily snuggled closer to him. "I wish I could be as confident about that as you are."
Hotch nudged her chin and bent his head towards hers. Their lips connected in a soft, gentle kiss. "I love you," he said simply, "and I won't let anything happen to you."
She crawled underneath the covers and pulled them up to her chin. Hotch slid down beside her, and she reached over to turn off the light. She pressed her back against his chest and he snaked an arm around her waist, drawing her body to his. "I'm sorry," she said into the heavy blackness of the hotel room. She didn't clarify further, but there was no need to.
He kissed her shoulder. "You had to keep yourself alive," he replied. "And if you hadn't, I wouldn't be with you today. So I'm grateful."
Emily stifled a yawn.
"Sleep, hon," Hotch chuckled. "You need it. I'll be right here beside you."
"Love you," she murmured sleepily.
"Love you, too."
Long Shadows – Chapter Four
"It's difficult to trust a woman." – Irish proverb
The rundown apartment building leaned against its fellows in one of Boston's seedier neighbourhoods. Yellow paint that might once have been white flaked from the bricks, and the swollen, splintering door was barred behind a rusted iron gate. Emily found the buzzer marked 'C. Murray' and, as instructed, gave it two quick presses and then held it down for two seconds. The speaker groaned and crackled to life, but no one spoke. She leaned close and murmured, "It's me."
The iron gate shuddered and clanged as the lock slid back, and Emily pulled it open and entered the front hall. The comforting weight of her Glock brushed against her waist as she began to climb the creaking stairs. Exiting on the third floor, she came to the last door and knocked, five staccato taps with the backs of her knuckles. She smoothed her hair and glanced up at the peephole, waiting.
The door opened. "You're late," Doyle said quietly. His eyes searched hers. "I was worried you mightn't come."
Emily grinned and stepped inside. "Why wouldn't I come?" she asked. Her heart beat a panicked tattoo on the inside of her ribcage. She was late because she had been meeting with her team from the JTF, discussing the day's transaction and Emily's future as Lauren Reynolds. She was almost certainly going to leave the country with Doyle, and while the JTF was well-prepared, they were all nervous about widening the playing field.
Doyle reached behind her to push the door shut. He slid the deadbolt home, but his hand stayed on the door, his forearm brushing her waist. His other hand rested on the wall next to her head, effectively pinning her body against the door.
Emily looked up at his dark gaze, and her smile faltered. "Ian," she whispered, "what's wrong?"
His blue eyes flicked across her face. The hand on the wall moved to cup her cheek, then tuck a stray curl behind her ear. "How long did you say you've been in the arms business, Lauren?" His hand slid down her hair to rest at her throat.
She licked her lips. "Two and a half, maybe three years."
Doyle's finger stroked her pulse point, and she gave an involuntary shiver. "Riley checked your account before I transferred the money. You only opened it last month."
For a moment, Emily considered whether she could make it out the door and down the stairs before he started shooting. She felt his hand against her neck. She would never survive an escape attempt. Raising one eyebrow, she replied, "Ian, you're being paranoid."
"Am I, Lauren?"
She nodded. "I open different accounts for every client. It's safer, both for myself and my buyers, that fewer connections can be made if any account is compromised. I opened the newest one about a week before we met, when I got in contact with Fahey." She placed a hand on his waist and fingered the silk folds of his shirt.
Doyle tensed when she touched him. His thumb dug into her collarbone. "If you're lying to me—"
"I'm not," she said. "It's not unreasonable for you to worry, but I promise you, this is real." Her fingers tightened on his shirt, and she looked up at him earnestly. "I'm real, Ian."
He sighed, but did not release his grip on her neck. He stared down at the floor for a few seconds. "I've extended more trust to you than to any other supplier," he said finally, "because I want to believe you. But I don't want to get burned." His eyes met hers. "And if you try to burn me, I'll drag you down in flames with me."
Emily's breath hitched. "Ian," she whimpered, "you're scaring me. Please, I'm not trying to betray you."
Doyle leaned close, his mouth a scant inch from hers. His breath was hot against her lips as he muttered, "God help you if I ever have reason to doubt you." His mouth seized hers, knocking her head back against the door. Emily whimpered as his teeth nipped at her tongue. She fought back tears and forced herself to wrap her hands behind his neck, lightly scratching his scalp with her short nails as she kissed him back.
Doyle plundered her mouth, trapping her against the door with his body. When he finally released her, she stumbled and almost slid to the floor. She winced as she raised a finger to her swollen lip, feeling the track of bite marks indented in her skin. She didn't need to check to know that the throbbing spot on her collarbone would soon blossom into a bruise.
He touched her cheek softly, and Emily flinched. His voice was gentle as he said, "I'm sorry, Lauren. I do trust you." There was no remorse in his eyes; the emptiness of his gaze made Emily nauseous. "But I need you as much as you need me, and I need you to be mine. I need you to be honest with me."
She nodded numbly. She wanted to say something, anything to convince him that she needed and wanted him, but the words wouldn't come. How could she survive the coming weeks and months, pretending to love him while he violated her like this? How could the profile be worth this pain, this degradation? How could anything be worth it?
Doyle nudged her under the chin, and she looked up at him. Something in his eyes seemed to soften, and he whispered, "Please forgive me, Lauren. I never want to hurt you. If you'd had as many people try to betray you as I have, you'd understand."
Emily snapped back to reality. She had a mission, a cover to preserve, and she'd been on the verge of losing it. Doyle was giving her a chance to redeem herself. "I forgive you, Ian," she replied, her voice weak and cracking. She swallowed and tried again. "If you trust me now, then I forgive you."
He kissed her tenderly, but even the slight pressure of his lips still hurt her bruised mouth. She felt him smile into the kiss. Pulling away, his smile grew. "I have a surprise for you."
Emily followed him down the little hall with some trepidation. The sudden change in Doyle's demeanor was almost horrifying to watch; it was though he'd become a different person in the space of a few moments. This was the sociopathic behaviour she'd been warned about: the charm, the manipulation, the incredible ability to fake appropriate responses without actually feeling them. If she hadn't been looking for the clues, she wouldn't have seen them. But the uncanny valley of his superficial emotions was impossible for her to ignore.
She gasped as they turned the corner into the kitchen. The table had been covered with a lacy white cloth, and a single red candle flickered in the center. Two place settings were laid out with mismatched plates, and for the first time since she'd walked into the apartment, Emily could smell food.
Doyle put an arm around her and tucked her body against his. She tried not to recoil. "It isn't much," he admitted, "but it was the best I could do under the circumstances. Consider it an apology for my behaviour before." He kissed the top of her head.
She let herself imagine that this made up for the way he'd attacked her. "It's lovely, Ian," she said, giving him a warm smile. "I have to say, you're a man of many talents." She took a long sniff. "Something smells delicious."
He chuckled. "All in good time." He moved to the counter and poured two glasses of wine, handing one to her.
Emily raised the glass. Her reflection swirled in the red pool of wine, and she could already make out the bruise on her neck. "To a successful business transaction?"
"And many more like it." He started to tip his glass against hers, but suddenly pulled back, thoughtfully biting his lip. "I was going to save this for later, but perhaps now is the time to ask." He set his glass on the table.
She shifted her weight, forcing herself to breath steadily, and waited for him to continue.
"We've only known each other a month, and I know I'm not the easiest man to be with." His eyes drifted to her neck. "But I need you, Lauren, maybe more than I should."
"I need you, too," she whispered automatically, clutching her wine glass.
Doyle sighed and ran a hand over his short, bristly hair. "I'm leaving the States in a few days." He took a deep breath and stared into her brown eyes. "And I don't want to leave you."
"Come with me, Lauren," he implored. "I'll keep you safe, and you'll want for nothing. We can keep doing business; you can even keep dealing with your other buyers. But I want you with me."
It was the thrill of the hunt that turned him on. He wanted her, but he didn't want her too easily. Emily knew he needed to feel like he'd fought for and won her. Without realizing it, she began biting her fingernail. "It's a tempting offer, Ian. But…" she trailed off.
"But? You'll still be able to do business from Europe," he argued.
"No, it's not that that I'm worried about." Emily shook her head. "For one thing, you lead a far more dangerous life than I'm used to." This was a blatant lie. In fact, as long as she stayed in Doyle's good graces, she was probably safer under the watchful eyes of both his men and the JTF.
"I'll protect you," he promised. "No one will harm you while I'm living, I swear it." He took a step towards her. "Don't you want to stay with me? I can't have read you that far wrong."
"You haven't," she admitted, "and that's what scares me the most. I want to be near you, Ian, to travel with you and live with you and fall asleep in your arms every night." She exhaled slowly, shudderingly. "But it scares me that I met you barely a month ago, and already I can't stand the thought of leaving you."
Doyle cupped her face in his hands. "Then don't."
Emily brought her free hand up to her cheek, resting her fingers against his. "What about Liam and Riley? Are they on board with this?"
"It doesn't matter what they think. What matters is that I want you with me." He gave her a soft kiss.
She sighed heavily and pretended to consider his words, but her mind was made up. It had been made up the moment Ian Doyle's dossier had appeared in her files. Emily only had to work up the courage to place her life in his hands.
"Please, Lauren," he whispered. "Please say you'll come with me."
She leaned forward, pressing her chest against his. "Of course I will," she said quietly, kissing him. "I'm yours, Ian. I'm yours."
Emily jolted awake, smacking her head against the window of the Metro train. She hated sleeping on trains, but last night had been another sleepless one. Her bitter argument with Hotch had itched at her brain all night. The insomnia hadn't helped her temper, and she still felt irritable when Hotch woke up shortly before sunrise and gave her a chaste kiss goodbye. Now she was dozing off against a dirty train window, a far cry from her usual morning routine of breakfast a little Greek café near George Washington University. Then again, most of what she'd done in the past few days was a far cry from her usual routines. She could no longer safely follow her old patterns or visit her old stomping grounds; there was no doubt in her mind that Ian Doyle knew all her habits.
It was for this reason that Emily had spent the last hour fighting to stay awake on the Green Line, which traveled through unfamiliar Maryland neighbourhoods and had brought a few unsavoury characters into the train car. Trying to ignore the unkempt older man staring at her legs, she rested her had against the window again and felt her eyes slide closed.
A hand fell on her shoulder. Emily snapped awake, her hand flying to the hip where her gun rested, and looked up with wild eyes. Clyde Easter leaned over her, watching her with a mixture of concern and unease. Tsia Mosely sat on the seat beside him, perched on the edge of the dark orange leather.
Clyde squeezed Emily's shoulder. "You ok?" he asked.
Better not to beat around the bush. "Ian Doyle is here in D.C.," Emily said in a low voice. She sat up straighter in her seat and smoothed the wrinkles from her pants.
"How can you be so sure?" inquired Tsia.
Emily let out a sigh and forced herself to look both her former colleagues in the eye. "I sat next to him last night."
Clyde's voice was deadly quiet. "What?"
"He said if I warned my team or told anyone, he'd kill them." She shrugged. "I don't know why he didn't kill me when he had the chance, but I suspect that this is about more than revenge. Ian always has a plan."
"And why didn't you stop that plan in its tracks by killing him?" Clyde asked.
Emily glanced around the mostly empty train car and lowered her voice as she answered, "He's not working alone. He's got people who are still loyal to him and people whose loyalty he can buy."
"Then you can't fight him alone," Tsia reasoned, laying a comforting hand on Emily's knee. "You have us, not to mention a crack profiling team with all the resources of the FBI."
"No," Emily and Clyde replied at the same time. They looked at each other, and Clyde continued first. "The three of us know Doyle better than he knows himself. He's a parasitic psychopath; he doesn't play games. We can't waste time bringing your team up to speed, not to mention putting them in danger."
"They're already in danger," Tsia argued. "We need as many people as possible working to stop Doyle… before more innocent people die." Her voice drifted off, and Emily remembered that Doyle had killed Tsia's fiancé, Jeremy. This was her fight, but it wasn't personal anymore—Doyle had expanded his plans. She had to do the same.
"We may not have the entire BAU," Emily said quietly, "but we have Hotch."
Clyde's head swung around. "You told your boyfriend?"
Emily glared back at him and replied in an icy tone, "I had to tell him. Ian knows about our relationship, and Hotch is in as much danger as the rest of us." She looked at Tsia, and her eyes softened. "And don't forget that he's my boss. He has access to the FBI's resources without dragging the rest of my team into this." She began tapping her foot nervously. "I think we should start with who Ian might be working with. I know he's got enough people with him to keep watch on all my colleagues, and he's probably watching you two as well."
Tsia nodded. "If we can find out who he's got with him, we can start keeping an eye out for them as well. Even if Doyle doesn't make a mistake, one of his men might. Maybe we can locate one of them."
"Let's start with his old associates," Emily said. "He probably found some of his men from the old days as soon as he escaped from prison." Her eyes lit up. "Ian was in Russia, right? He might have picked up some men while he was there."
"Emily," Clyde tried to interject.
"We can look at prison records, old contacts from his arms deals—"
"Emily," he repeated. His eyes were dark. He seemed to watch Tsia with more wariness as he spoke in hushed tones. "Doyle… wasn't in Russia. He was in North Korea."
"You and Sean said he was in Russia," Tsia whispered haltingly.
Emily reached her conclusion faster. "You and Sean lied to us," she said bluntly.
"Emily, it isn't like that, you have to let me—"
She grabbed Tsia's wrist and pulled her to the end of the train car, throwing a warning glare at Clyde over her shoulder. Once they were out of earshot, she lowered her voice and said, "We can't trust Clyde anymore."
Emily raised a finger to her lips. "Don't let him hear you," she warned. "Do you remember…" She wracked her brain, trying to think of a nearby safe house that Clyde wouldn't think to look in. "9th St.? How the door works?"
Tsia nodded, her eyes wild and frightened.
"Get off at the next stop. I'll move to another car and get off at the following stop. Call me when you get to the safe house; I'll probably be about ten minutes behind you. Don't talk to anyone, especially Clyde."
The other woman gave a weak smile as the train's brakes began screeching. "You really think we can do this? Stop Doyle, I mean?"
Emily's gaze was stony and cold. "D.C. isn't his comfort zone, it's mine. This ends here."
"Doors opening," came the cool voice from the speakers on the ceiling. The suits and high heels of the morning rush hour swept towards the door, and Tsia melted into the crowd. Emily hurried off behind her and slipped into the next train car. She gripped the pole as the train lurched forward and tried not to lose her balance. Through the grimy windows that separated the train cars, she could vaguely see Clyde with his arms crossed over his chest.
She forced herself to look away and focus. This didn't necessarily mean that Clyde was helping Doyle, but it did mean that she could no longer trust him. Truth be told, she would rather it have been Tsia that she had to isolate herself from; Clyde was the better agent and profiler. But Emily had to accept that the old days of the JTF were gone, and the most trustworthy resource she had was herself.
The train shuddered as it reached the next stop. Making sure that Clyde wasn't watching, Emily stepped onto the platform and pushed through the crowd to the escalators. She squinted as she emerged from the station, sunlight gleaming off the tinted windows of office buildings, and pulled her sunglasses out of her bag. Someone bumped her shoulder and she whirled around, thinking it was Clyde. It wasn't, of course, but her paranoia about being followed had already kicked in. Emily yanked off her sweater, stuffing it into her bag, and threw her hair into a ponytail. She spotted a little table claiming to sell designer accessories, and as she strode by, she casually plucked a scarf from the pile and wound it around her throat.
Hopefully, the quick change would be enough to throw off Clyde or anyone else who might be tailing her. She paused for a moment to get her bearings, and then set off for the safe flat where she'd sent Tsia.
As she approached the building, Emily was surprised to find how quickly her CIA instincts came back to her. They hadn't all been pushed to the back burner, as a number of them were quite useful for a BAU agent. But the hurried attempt to change her appearance, the way she evaded imaginary tails everywhere she went…. It was as though she'd slipped out of her own body and into someone else's. It was no wonder that Hotch had looked at her so warily that morning, like she was a stranger prowling through his life. Given how much she'd lied about, maybe she really was a stranger to Hotch. If he didn't know who she really was, could he truly have fallen in love with her?
No, she had to push those thoughts away before they consumed her. She came into the front hall of the building, and surveyed her options. Stairwells were unsafe, but elevators were worse, so she headed for the stairs at the end of the hall. Her footfalls echoed off the concrete walls as she climbed the steps. Cringing, she eased open the door to the second floor and rounded the corner, her gun ready to fire.
The hall was empty and silent. Emily crept forward, and as the door to the safe flat came into view, so did a dark stain on the carpet. A few tendrils of dark hair lay across the stain, sticky and red. Emily's hand flew to her mouth to muffle the gasp that rose. She inched down the hall, already knowing but not accepting what she was about to find.
There it was. Tsia's face, frozen in a glassy stare, unmarred except for the clean, dark hole in her forehead and the trickle of blood across her temple. Emily took a deep breath and tried to look anywhere except at her friend's motionless body. She flattened herself against the wall and kept her Glock trained on the doorway of the apartment. The door had a hole just above the peephole where the bullet had ripped towards Tsia's head. Bile rose in Emily's throat, and she swallowed hard.
The living room was empty, as was the sparsely furnished bedroom and the dirty bathroom. Whoever had killed Tsia had already gotten the hell out of Dodge, although he couldn't have been more than a few minutes ahead of Emily. She wondered if it was one of Doyle's men, or if Ian had done the deed with his own hand. She wondered if it even mattered.
Her phone buzzed angrily on her hip. She found a text from Hotch: "Are you safe? Call me." Emily had completely lost track of time, and even though she was already late for work, she knew she would have to disobey him. If she called now, she wouldn't be able to keep herself from telling Hotch about Tsia, and she couldn't risk him tipping off the rest of the team with his reaction. She would have to wait until she got away from the apartment and gathered her wits about her. The neighbourhood wasn't exactly a paragon of safety, but Emily didn't know if the shooter had used a silencer. Someone could have already called the police, and she couldn't risk being caught at the scene.
Briefly, she considered the possibility that Clyde had guessed at her plan and informed Doyle, or even shot Tsia himself. But it was futile to dwell on that. Regardless of Clyde's true allegiances, she had already cut ties with him. Only time would tell what his endgame was.
Emily walked back out of the safe flat, and as she did, she made the mistake of glancing down at Tsia again. Big brown eyes stared lifelessly up at her, and the stench of blood and gunpowder filled her nose. The nausea surged back with greater strength, and suddenly she was running down the stairs, caution thrown to the wind. She barely made it to the alley before she began retching. Tears and sweat mixed on her cheeks as she heaved.
When she was done, she leaned back against the sharp brick wall and slid to the ground. Tsia was dead. Tsia had been brutally murdered, and it was because of her. Clyde was at best a liability and at worst a traitor. There was no one left to help Emily. She was fighting Ian Doyle alone.
Her phone buzzed again, and Hotch's name reappeared on the screen: "Call me now. I'm worried."
But Emily wasn't fighting alone. Hotch was more than capable of helping her stop Ian Doyle before his murderous rampage could spread further. As much as she wanted to solve this without dragging him into the fray, Doyle had already done the dragging. It would be selfish of her to continue on her own.
She slid her phone open and dialed Hotch.
"Emily, thank God!" His voice was husky on the other side of the phone. "Are you all right?"
"I'm fine," she whispered, trying to ignore the lingering taste of vomit in her mouth. "I had to… make a detour."
"Is it because of him? Doyle?"
"Yes," she replied. "And… Aaron?"
"What is it?"
"….I think I need you to help me with this case." Emily cleared her throat and hesitated. All her loved ones were in danger. Those who could defend themselves had the right to know how. "I think I need the whole team."
Long Shadows – Chapter Five
"It is better to exist unknown to the law." – Irish proverb
Even with their limited data, Interpol had guessed that Valhalla was quite wealthy from his business dealings. Emily had found this somewhat hard to believe based on Doyle's activities in Boston. His apartment was haphazardly furnished in a rundown neighbourhood; his cars were decent, but not expensive. The only indicators of his wealth were the nice restaurants that he regularly took Emily to. It didn't make sense—he was a good businessman, and he was clearly making a lot of money. His arrogant personality suggested a life of extravagance that he didn't seem to have.
The real destination of Doyle's money became clear a few days later, when Emily climbed aboard his private jet for the flight to his expansive villa in Tuscany.
Doyle came up behind her and wrapped his hand around the back of her neck. She jumped, startled, but covered for it by pressing a kiss to his cheek.
"Are you ready for this, love?" he asked.
She laughed. "For the plane ride? I mean, my ears always hurt on smaller planes, but I think I can handle it."
Doyle winked at her as he walked down the plane's aisle to swing his bag onto a seat. "You know what I mean." He sat down and patted the seat next to him. "Are you ready to do this with me?"
"Of course I am." Emily sat down and covered his hands with hers. "Ian, I've had time to think about this. Wherever you go, I know that's where I want to be."
"Good," he replied simply. He leaned across her to address his men across the aisle. "Liam, wheels up in five."
Emily reached for her purse. "Mind if I step out for a smoke before we take off?"
"You can smoke on the plane, Lauren."
She delivered a swift kiss to Doyle's cheek and whispered, "I knew there was a reason I liked you."
Soon after takeoff, Doyle moved to the front of the plane with Liam, and the two began speaking in hushed tones. Emily chewed her nails and watched them from her seat. Emily Prentiss the agent longed to eavesdrop on the conversation; for that matter, Lauren Reynolds the arms supplier was intrigued by the possible business discussion. But Lauren the girlfriend knew her place in Ian's life, and it was Lauren the girlfriend who decided to get up and make friends with the other two men on the plane.
"You're Riley, right?" she asked, sitting down next to the freckled redhead whom she'd met at her first arms deal.
"Yeah," he replied. He nodded his chin towards the man across the table. "And he's Brendan."
Brendan was a few years older than Riley, maybe closer to Emily's age. His dark brown hair was just beginning to grey at the temples. The hawk-like nose and prominent cheekbones gave him a harsh look, but his eyes seemed surprisingly kind. There was something friendly in his gaze, a smile turning up the corner of his lips as he extended his hand toward Emily.
"It's a pleasure, Lauren," he said. Like Riley, his Irish accent was softer and less pronounced. "We were just going to start a game of cards. Care to join us?"
"I'd love to."
He produced a pack of cards and began to shuffle. Emily pulled out a cigarette, and Riley lit it for her. The three played a few rounds of poker, interspersed with good-natured squabbling as they mixed together dollars, pounds, and lire. As they played, Emily sneaked glances towards Doyle and Liam, but she couldn't hear their conversation. The thought of being in a foreign country with men who would kill her without a moment's hesitation if she slipped up still made her nervous; she'd had nightmares about it all last night. She inhaled heavily and let the bitterness of the cigarette calm her.
One hand led to a round of particularly high betting, and Emily squealed with delight as they all revealed their cards. She drew the pile of money to her side of the table and looked up at Doyle to find him watching her. His eyes glittered in a way that Emily had learned meant he was pleased. She blushed and winked at him.
"Now, boys," Doyle smirked, "I've already paid Lauren. You don't need to be giving her any more money."
They all laughed.
"How long before we land?" asked Brendan.
Doyle looked at his watch. "A good few hours. It'll be morning in Italy, but it's nighttime in the States."
Emily stood up and stretched. "In that case, I think I might take a nap." She settled back in her original seat and pushed her chair all the way back. "Ian, I could get used to this life."
He chuckled and took the seat beside her. "Maybe I should sleep as well."
"Good," she whispered. "I always sleep better next to you." She kissed his stubbled cheek and tucked a pillow beneath her head. "I'm notoriously good at sleeping on planes," she warned him, "so don't let me sleep through the landing. I want to see out the window as we come down."
"I'll make sure to wake you," he promised, grinning. "Sleep well, Lauren."
"You too, Ian," she mumbled, settling against his shoulder. Her eyes slid closed and her breathing began to steady.
... ... ... ... ... ... ... ... ... ... ... ... ... ... ... ... ... ...
"Lauren, we're here."
Bleary-eyed and yawning, Emily emerged from the SUV. Her boots crunched against the gravel to the other side of the car, rubbing her eyes. Doyle gestured towards the house with a grand sweep of his arm. "What do you think?"
The villa itself was a beautiful peach-coloured, three-story building with a stone roof. There were balconies and patios and rooms with huge windows that overlooked the sprawling grounds. It reminded Emily of the extravagant embassy houses she'd grown up in. The front drive, where they stood, was accented by a little garden with purple flowers that blossomed in the shade of a fruit tree. The back of the house was hidden from view, but beyond it were more trees and a little gazebo. Somewhere, a dog was barking.
"Oh, Ian," she breathed. For a moment, she tucked away the reminder that she was on a life-threatening mission and slipped into the fantasy of Lauren Reynolds. She was on vacation, at a private villa in Tuscany, with a gorgeous man who'd managed to capture her heart in just a few short weeks. And all it was costing her was her body and a few RPGs.
Doyle pulled her to him and kissed her forehead before tugging her towards the house.
"Shouldn't we help unload?" Emily asked.
He shook his head. "The men will take care of it. Come inside, I asked the housekeeper to have breakfast ready for us."
Emily thought of the dinner he'd made for her back at his apartment in Boston. Ian Doyle was practically a profiler himself. His understanding of human behaviour allowed him to become whoever Emily wanted him to be. He was charming and romantic; he knew where all her buttons were and how to push them just right. But he was a sociopath, and he was literally too good to be true.
He led her upstairs and out onto one of the terraces, where a little table was laid out with a few dishes of food, a pitcher of orange juice, and a pot of tea. Doyle pulled out her chair and trailed his fingers down the bare skin of her arm as she sat down.
"Ian," she said, pouring herself a cup of strong black tea, "this is unbelievable." She gestured to the table, and then to the entire house. "You're unbelievable."
"I'm glad, love. You don't know how pleased I am that you're here with me." Doyle reached down and nudged her chin, tilting her head up so that their lips met. Emily caught the familiar taste of cigarettes and black coffee and something sweet that she could never quite place. Her tongue mingled with his, and she realized with a jolt of horror that she'd come to recognize the familiarity of his kisses; worse, there was a kind of comfort in the hungry way that his mouth searched hers. When had she started wanting to kiss him? How long before she stopped having to fake attraction and arousal? What if it was already beginning, and she was too blind to see it?
The revelation caused Emily to pull away suddenly, but she was saved from having to explain by the huge ball of fur that came bounding across the terrace. The dog put its paws on Doyle's leg, nearly knocking over the breakfast table, and began to pant enthusiastically. Doyle laughed and patted its head.
"Lauren, I'd like you to meet Murray," he said.
She grinned. "A formal introduction?"
"Of course," he replied solemnly, but his eyes were twinkling. "Go on, Murray, say hello to Lauren."
The dog trotted over to Emily's chair and sat obediently, his tail thumping against the stone floor.
"So you're my competition for Ian's affections, huh?" she asked the dog. Murray's tail thumped faster, and she laughed, looking over at Doyle. "He's such a sweetheart. I've never seen a dog that big, though—what on earth is it?"
"Irish wolfhound." Doyle leaned back in his chair and watched them. "He likes you."
"I like him, too. I'm just so surprised to see that you have a dog, though. I would have thought—" Emily stopped short. She couldn't very well say that having a pet was unlikely for a sociopath, given their proclivity toward animal cruelty. She sipped her tea to buy time and finally continued, "Well, with all the moving around you do, it's just unexpected."
Doyle started to reply, but was interrupted by a woman, who looked to be the housekeeper, hurrying towards them.
"Monsieur Doyle, pardonnez-moi, le chien," she said in rapid French. She was a small woman, her brown hair streaked with grey and pulled high into a bun. Her hairstyle and uniform made her look severe, but it was clear from her features that she had been pretty when she was younger.
"Louise, ce n'est pas un problem," Doyle said. The woman nodded respectfully and tugged on Murray's collar.
"Oh, let him stay," Emily pleaded. "He's so friendly."
The housekeeper looked to her employer for confirmation before retreating into the house. Doyle watched Emily with a mixture of amusement and intrigue. She smiled at him and returned to her breakfast. Murray flopped to the ground between and resumed panting. After a moment, Doyle began eating, too.
They ate mostly in silence, except when Doyle paused to point out some feature of the villa or the surrounding landscape. Emily sneaked scraps of bacon to Murray under the table. It felt like a typical breakfast that a typical couple would share. But there was nothing typical about an arms dealer and a CIA plant sharing toast and eggs, and the discomfort Emily had felt before was starting to creep back.
To break the tension that only she could feel, she cleared her throat and asked, "So, are Liam, Riley, and Brendan the only men here with you?"
"They're the only ones who travel with me, but I have other associates here in Italy."
"Have they been with you long? Since your IRA days, I mean?"
Doyle cocked his head to the side and gave her his trademark half-smile. "You're a curious one this morning."
Emily blushed. "I was just chatting with them on the plane. They seem nice, although I still maintain that Liam doesn't care for me."
He waved his hand dismissively. "You're here, aren't you? That's what matters." He settled back in his chair and paused to think before answering. "Brendan joined the Army right before the ceasefire in '94. He came to me on Liam's recommendation. Riley's our youngest; he was part of the political side of things until the second ceasefire, in '97." He steepled his fingers. "They were both frustrated, both passionate about their cause. And passion is the first step in breeding a good warrior."
"What about Liam?"
Doyle crossed his arms over his chest. Again, he spent a few moments in silence before speaking. "Liam's something of a mystery, even to me. But he's the best man I know."
Emily nodded slowly. She finished the last of her tea and stood up, walking over to stand at the edge of the terrace. She could see the front driveway: the men and the cars had all disappeared, and the only person down there was an elderly gardener tending to the fruit tree in the center of the drive. The bright sunlight was beginning to dim to grey, and she could see dark clouds rolling in the distance. Doyle moved to stand behind her and slid his hands around her stomach. He tucked his head against her shoulder and buried his nose in her hair. She reached behind to caress the back of his head.
"I know I sound like a broken record," Emily said softly, "but I still don't quite understand how I earned the right to be here with you."
His voice was muffled by her thick hair. "The right?"
"You're an attractive man, Ian, and I have no illusions." She turned in his arms and leaned back against the railing, looking up into his blue-green eyes. "I know I'm not the first woman to fall for you. But I also know that asking me to leave the country with you was a big deal." She stroked his weathered cheek. "What did I do to deserve you?"
Doyle leaned down and gave her a gentle kiss. "I can't entirely explain it. But somehow I know that you're special, Lauren. I know I can trust you. I've forgotten how to live without you, and I don't want to have to relearn it."
"You trust me, Ian? You really do?"
"I really do."
Emily took a deep breath to steel herself. "Tell me about Valhalla."
For a moment, Doyle seemed not to have heard her. He stared down at her just as he had before. Then he exhaled heavily and replied, "I'm sorry, Lauren."
"You know what I do for a living," she reasoned. "I want to know about Valhalla. You told me about your men—can't you trust me with this?"
"It's not the same, love. It's just…." He looked up and spoke towards the cloudy sky. "Valhalla is… he's…." He glanced back down at her. "Valhalla is different."
"You don't know how grateful I am for this," Emily said into her phone. She was walking up the front steps of the FBI building at Quantico. She took one last paranoid glance over her shoulder before she entered the front hall. Presenting her badge to the security guard, she headed into the elevator.
"I did have a couple agents working with me, but…." Her voice caught in her throat. "No, not CIA. International organizations. It'll make a lot more sense when I explain later. I just need to talk to the team."
Emily paused and shifted the phone to her other ear while the person on the other end spoke.
"Yes, Hotch knows. He was the first person I told." She smiled wryly. "No, he was still pissed. We didn't part on the best of terms." She chuckled. "I know, I know. You're such a sweetheart."
The elevator announced its arrival. As Emily exited and rounded the corner towards the bullpen, she felt her heart start to speed up. Somehow, no matter what was going wrong, the sight of her team brought a smile to her face. Garcia was perched on the edge of Reid's desk, her fingers ruffling his new haircut. Morgan's laugh rang out as Reid tried to swat Garcia's hand away. Above them, leaning against the railing, Rossi surveyed the scene, the corners of his eyes crinkling under his thick eyebrows.
They had no idea of the bombshell she was about to drop on their lives.
Emily's attention was brought back to her phone. "He's already cleared it with Strauss," she said. "It's on a temporary basis, just a consult or whatever the bureaucratic term is, but you're good to go." She paused again as the other person said something. "Well, she can just put it in her pipe and smoke it."
She pushed open the glass door to the bullpen and headed for her desk. "Uh-huh. Well, I'm in the office now, so I've got to run. Thanks again for doing this. I'll see you soon." Emily stuffed her phone in her purse and sat down heavily in her chair. Her fingernail automatically found its way to her mouth.
"Prentiss!" Morgan called. Emily didn't hear him; she stared blankly at the floor, where her foot tapped a nervous beat. "Prentiss?"
"Hmm?" she said suddenly, looking up so fast that she heard her neck crack.
"You're an hour and forty-three minutes late," Reid pointed out helpfully. He came over and leaned against her desk. "Are you OK?" His eyes went to her hand. "You're chewing your nails."
"Yeah, well," she sighed, "I've had worse habits." She glanced up at Hotch's office. His door was open and the blinds were up, but the space, usually so familiar and inviting to her, only filled her stomach with dread.
Morgan followed her gaze and smirked. "Damn, Prentiss, you sure are lucky. If it was anyone else who was this late, Hotch'd have their head."
"Oh, stop teasing," Garcia said. "She's a first offender; you, my chocolate dream, have come in hungover so many—"
"I'm not hungover," Emily interrupted, smiling in spite of herself. Garcia's spunk and sense of humour were always infectious.
Morgan raised one eyebrow. "Really?" He took in her pale face, mussed makeup, and sweaty ponytail. "You must have had a rough morning. Come on, spill."
"Can we not do the third degree, guys?" she snapped.
Surprisingly, Morgan and Garcia backed off, retreating to his desk to sneak glances in Emily's direction. Only Reid stayed, and he stared down at her with open concern.
"Emily," he said softly, "what's wrong?"
"Seriously, Reid, I mean it. I don't want to talk about it."
As soon as she saw the hurt in his warm brown eyes, she regretted her words. The young doctor nodded and slunk off to his own desk, leaving Emily alone. She looked up at the ceiling and willed away the tears that sprung to her lashes. She'd been at the BAU less than five minutes, and already she'd managed to hurt and alienate half of the people she trusted to help her. Was this what Doyle had wanted? Had he hoped she'd lose her team? If he knew anything about her—and he knew plenty—he must have counted on her trying to fight by herself.
But Doyle would be his own undoing. By killing Tsia, he'd chased Emily into the hands of the one group of people that could help her take him down.
She looked up at Hotch's office again and was startled by his sudden appearance in the doorway. Their eyes met, dark on dark, and he nodded once. Emily heaved a sigh and stood up, making her way to the stairs. As she reached the upper level, she saw Rossi waiting for her outside his own office. She stopped in her tracks.
"Not you, too," she groaned.
Rossi cracked a smile and approached her slowly, as though she were a deer he was trying not to scare off. "I'm not going to interrogate you. I'm just worried about you. This isn't like you, Emily."
"Oh, sure, profile me, that's exactly what I wanted," she answered sarcastically. When he didn't turn away, her tone softened. "Look, Dave, I'm having a bad week. I promise I'll tell you all about it, but I have to talk to Hotch first."
Rossi nodded and gently touched her shoulder as she swept by him. She stepped into Hotch's office, feeling the eyes of her whole team on her back, and closed the door.
In an instant, Emily was in his arms. Hotch clutched her to his chest as she buried her face in his shoulder. Her body shook with sobs.
"I'm sorry, I'm sorry," she whimpered, over and over.
Hotch whispered back, "Sh, Em, sweetheart. You can cry." They stood in the center of his office, wrapped around each other's bodies. For the briefest of moments, she forgot about everything: Doyle, Tsia, all the trouble and danger she'd caused. No harm could come to her as long as Hotch held her.
Emily slowly disentangled herself and slumped down on the couch. Hotch brought his chair around to face her and sat down across from her. He rested his hand on her knee and asked, "Do you want to talk about Tsia?"
She shook her head emphatically. "No." Already, the tears were beginning to dry from her cheeks. "I want to talk about Ian. I want to talk about how we're going to beat him."
Hotch gave her a half-smile. "That's my girl."
"Have you told the team anything yet?"
He leaned back in his chair. "No, they're all just catching up on paperwork. I only told Strauss, so she could clear bringing in a consultant."
Emily nodded. Now that her crying jag was over, she could turn to what came naturally to her—devising a plan of attack. "She'll be here soon, I just got off the phone with her. We should get the team into the conference room." She released the elastic that bound her hair and ran her fingers through it. "I've already got the files on Doyle from Interpol, at least what Clyde could pull."
"I thought you said Easter might be dirty," Hotch pointed out.
"Then we should get Garcia to pull anything she can find, as soon as we've briefed her." Emily stood and began pacing back and forth. Hotch couldn't help but watch her with admiration. Her intensity when she was in her element was almost unrivaled, and the fire it lit in her eyes was beautiful.
"We have to assume Doyle knows as much as possible," she continued, unaware of her boss' gaze. "Assume he knows that I found Tsia, that I think Clyde's gone rogue, and that I've come here."
"What's your assessment of the team's safety?"
Emily could have broken one of their cardinal rules and kissed him right there in the office. Leave it to Hotch to put it so bluntly. She couldn't handle emotion right now, and she was grateful for the opportunity to disengage and compartmentalize. "I don't think he'd come after them," she replied thoughtfully. "Everything Ian does is calculated and practical; he doesn't play games. Still, we should be cautious. Garcia should stay with Morgan. Jessie and Jack…." She frowned. "They shouldn't stay with you. If Ian does decide to attack someone other than me, it'll likely be you."
"I'm sure Dave can take them in," Hotch pointed out, trying not to betray his own nervousness. "He's got the room, and under the circumstances I'm sure he'll be more than willing."
"Good." Emily glanced at her watch. "We should rally the troops. I have to grab the files from my bag—meet you in the conference room?"
Hotch nodded and followed her out of his office. As she hurried down to her desk, he leaned over the railing and called, "Team, conference room, now."
Emily felt the thrill of adrenaline rushing through her blood. This was real; this was happening. The best team of agents and profilers she'd ever seen was tackling the most important case of her life. And despite all of the fear lurking in the back of her mind, she was beginning to return to normal. For the first time in days, she felt confident.
She entered the conference room and headed straight for the board at one end of the table. It felt strange, occupying the role that had always been JJ's and was now filled by Garcia. Emily turned to face the team and found four pairs of curious eyes on her. At the back of the room stood Hotch, stoic and fierce, ready to defend her. She nodded to him.
While Emily pinned photos to the board, Hotch addressed the team. "We have a new case. This one… hits close to home. There is a man who has a personal vendetta against Agent Prentiss. He has the resources and skills to be incredibly dangerous, and we should absolutely not underestimate him. Because of the intimate nature of this case, we will be taking special precautions to ensure the safety of all team members. This man's desire for revenge means that his victimology may extend to those who are close to Prentiss."
Hotch took a deep breath, and Emily jumped in, referring to the photos on the board as she spoke in a clear, unwavering voice. "Seven years ago, Ian Doyle was arrested in Italy. He was a former IRA terrorist and had become an international arms dealer. His arrest was the result of a two-year investigation by a joint task force that included agents from CIA, MI6, French DGSE, German BND, and Interpol. One goal of the investigation was to develop a profile of Doyle. This was accomplished. The other goal was to incarcerate him for life for his crimes." For the first time, her voice took on a slight tremor. "That was not accomplished."
The team was rapt with attention. Garcia's lip quivered with fear, and Reid and Morgan were both wide-eyed. Even Rossi, usually so calm and unflappable, was frowning. Emily locked eyes with Hotch, and he gave her an encouraging nod.
She continued, "Several weeks ago, Doyle escaped from prison in North Korea. He made his way across Europe and came stateside within the last week. His goal appears to be killing all those who were involved in his capture. Three of the five agents from JTF-12 are already dead."
Emily paused to gather her thoughts. What could she say next? Her colleagues would be horrified when they learned of her specific role in Doyle's capture. She decided to hold back further information and let what she'd already said sink in.
Rossi spoke first. "Are you one of the two remaining agents?"
"I am. I was the CIA agent. It is possible at this time that MI6 Agent Clyde Easter—" here she motioned to his photo—"is acting against me, potentially as a traitor." Emily was biting her nails again.
Reid was next. He leaned forward with his elbows on the table as he asked, "Has Doyle made contact with you in any way?"
"Yes." Emily chose her next words carefully. "A few text messages, all untraceable. A flower with very specific meaning that was left outside my apartment. And last night…." She trailed off. Had it really been less than 24 hours since she'd seen Doyle? "…Last night, I met him in a park in Dupont Circle. He made it clear that he has both the manpower and the intel to get the revenge on me that he wants."
"Did he contact the other agents he killed?" asked Reid.
"Not to my knowledge."
"So why single you out?" Rossi mused.
Emily opened her mouth to reply and found that the words wouldn't come. Her confidence faltered, and she looked to Hotch for help.
He cleared his throat and spoke in that deliberate, lawyer-like manner that she'd always loved about him. "Emily has an especially personal connection to Ian Doyle. As part of the investigation, she went undercover to infiltrate his organization."
For the first time, Morgan spoke up. "What happened when you were undercover?"
She still wasn't ready to face what she'd done with Doyle, not under the team's scrutiny. Her actions would be unforgivable in their eyes, she was sure of it. The door to the conference room opened, and Emily felt a flood of relief at being spared.
"What are you doing here?" Reid exclaimed.
Jennifer Jareau smiled brightly. "I'm here to help."