"Did she just say Haven?"
Hotch glanced up from the speaker phone in the middle of the conference room they were borrowing. "Yes, she did. Garcia, Detective Fowler just stepped in. Could you repeat that?"
"The Maine Highway Patrol just found an abandoned car and a giant pool of blood soaked into the ground on the coast road, halfway between Camden and Haven. It looks like your killer is on the move."
Hotch watched Fowler set his hands on his hips and take in a deep breath with a frown. He was a big man and his frame filled the doorway. Unease didn't look comfortable on his face. "What is it, Detective?"
"I thought you said he was local? That he was picking out his favorite spots in town," said Fowler, gesturing at the blown up pictures of the dumpsites tacked to the board.
Morgan, who stood across the table, straightened up. "Camden's a small town. If he feels like we're getting close, he could be feeling pressure to run," he said. "If he knows Haven at all, he might be setting up shop all over again."
"God help him." Fowler ran a hand over his face. It was an odd sentiment, but Hotch barely had time to exchange a worried look with Morgan before Fowler clapped his hands together and said, "That's it then, you're out of here after him?"
"You don't want to come with us?" Hotch asked sharply. Letting go of a serial killer was usually the last thing a local cop wanted after three missing persons turned into three bodies, let alone one that wasn't arguably out of his jurisdiction yet.
"Look, I got enough to deal with here -- the families, everyone scared out of their minds." Fowler rubbed his hand over his chin. "God knows I want this guy as bad as any of those parents. But if this is anywhere nearHaven, their chief will want the case, and I'm not inclined to fight him for it. My chief wouldn't let me if I wanted to."
"You could say that," Fowler nodded. "But they're good cops. Though you'll want your best talker on the phone when you talk to Wuornos, or the new guy, whatshisname, Hendrickson."
"They don't like outsiders," Hotch surmised. That could be a problem, but he'd put JJ on it and see if she could get them an invitation. This case was a nasty one, and worse, they had little in the way of physical evidence to narrow down either the search area or the profile. If their unsub was moving to a new town, they would have even less to go on.
"Understatement." Fowler nodded emphatically. "They take care of their own in Haven."
Fowler shrugged. "Nothing so overt, you know? Always polite while you're talking to a brick wall. But the number of gas leaks they have in that town? You hear things, crazy things, but it doesn't much spillover, so."
So Camden PD let sleeping dogs lie.
"Thanks for the tip," Morgan said, crossing his arms and sending Hotch a worried glance. Hotch shared his concern, but they would deal with it when they got there.
As Fowler left, Hotch turned back to the phone. "Garcia, I need everything you've got on Haven, Maine."
Maine's coastal road was a beautiful drive. JJ had to keep reminding herself to keep her eyes on the road as the sea stretched out in a gorgeous blue-grey from the rugged cliffs that stretched as far as the eye could sea. Picturesque little houses dotted the curves, and in the distance a tiny lighthouse stuck out into the water.
Hotch had split the team to cover their bases. Rossi and Reid were staying in Camden for the time being to finish following up with local photographers while Prentiss and Morgan went to check out the new kill site with the State Police. Hotch and JJ were on their way to brief the local Haven police, see if they couldn't start out on the right foot.
Detective Fowler was kind enough to call ahead for them, and on the way Garcia briefed them on what she'd found so far.
"Haven is a lot like Camden," she began, her voice coming out small on Hotch's phone in the cup holder. "Small coastal town, same cute houses and quaint downtown. The biggest industries are fishing and tourism. They have two high schools, two little league teams, three banks and way more people moving in and out of town than anywhere else in the state."
"Deaths?" Hotch asked.
"Higher than normal, but they're mostly from natural causes or accidents. They either have really bad infrastructure or some seriously atrocious geology -- lots of hunting accidents and gas leaks. Like that doesn't sound fishy. And my favorite: all the property damage done about a year ago? Meteors. Tell me that's not weird."
"A meteor on the ground that didn't make national headlines?" JJ glanced from the road to Hotch.
"The number of conspiracy theory websites about Haven is unnerving," Garcia added.
"Let's save the conspiracies for after we catch the unsub," Hotch said. "Right now we need to make sure that if our killer does come here, we're not shut out by the local police."
"I'll start running the current profile, but I'm warning you now, it's gonna be like Camden -- tourist season is still going strong," Garcia said and signed off.
JJ blew out a breath and watched the scenery go by. "If Haven is crawling with people wearing tin hats, I might have to go the other way on idyllic vacation spots."
"Might?" Hotch raised his eyebrows at her.
"There are other coastal towns. They can't all be bad."
"I'm sure Haven has a rich history to go with the conspiracies. Maybe a shipwreck or three," said Hotch.
"Henry would love that. Pirates are a magic word these days," said JJ. "What about you? I haven't heard you weigh in on the vacation ratings."
Hotch smiled. "I don't have anything so complicated as Reid's system. And like you, a completely different set of priorities."
"So?" JJ prodded when he didn't go on.
Hotch spared a glance for the ocean. "I'm still deciding."
For every case they'd been on, JJ understood. It was hard to reconcile a place you associated with death with the joy and freedom of a week away from home.
The Haven police department was located downtown in a red brick building that had probably been there since the twenties. The foyer turned onto an open plan room, which had windowed offices on each wall and a hallway leading to the back. Every person in the room stopped what they were doing and stared when the Hotch and JJ walked in.
Hotch didn't let it unnerve him and just asked the closest officer to see the chief.
A tall barrel-chested man in a button down shirt and a bullet-proof vest came out of one of the offices.
"Dwight Hendrickson, Chief of Police," he introduced himself, shaking Hotch's hand with a quick, firm grip.
"Agent Hotchner. This is Agent Jareau. Detective Fowler in Camden said he spoke to you."
"He did," Hendrickson nodded, giving them a once over that didn't seem too impressed. "He said his serial killer was now my serial killer. I'm thrilled."
If the situation weren't so dire, Hotch might have cracked a smile at Hendrickson's dry delivery. As it was he was all too aware of every person in the office leaning closer to hear what they were saying. To his credit Hendrickson noticed too.
"Let's talk in my office," he said. "Laverne, you know where Nathan and Audrey are?" he called to a non-uniformed black woman sitting at a desk with a phone and the radio. She was filling in a crossword and didn't look up, only raised a hand and waved them off.
"I sent 'em to that piece of highway the State Police called in, honey. Sounded like they should get there sooner than later." She finally glanced up and gave Hendrickson what could only be termed a grandmotherly don't-cross-me look over the top of her glasses.
Hendrickson's head canted, annoyed -- the whole thing news to him -- and then melted into a sigh. He raised his eyebrows at Hotch and JJ.
"Our people are headed there too," Hotch answered the unasked question.
"All right. Laverne," he turned to her again. "Let them know the FBI are on their way."
"You got it, sugar," said Laverne peaceably, finally setting down her crossword. Hendrickson sighed again but didn't comment as she brought the radio to life. He led JJ and Hotch in to his office. They exchanged a look behind his back, neither of them missing the subtle undercurrents of an employee who thought best. Amused, Hotch didn't think it meant anything more than a small town police department being a quirky small town police department. Getting this done was certainly going to be interesting.
"Excuse me," JJ said as Hendrickson closed the door, the blinds rattling. "I gotta ask. Is there something we should know about?" She indicated Hendrickson's vest.
Hendrickson didn't even blink, as if wearing a vest in the middle of a police station was no big deal. "Can't be too careful," he said, ushering them toward the chairs in front of his desk. "Welcome to Haven."
"The sea here is beautiful, I'll give you that." Prentiss cast her eye to the horizon. The ocean stretched out below them, the coastal cliffs dotted with houses, and a lighthouse sticking out in the water like a lone sentinel. Across the water, she could just make out the hazy outline of an island before it faded into the deepening afternoon sky.
"But?" Morgan raised his eyebrows at her, coming over from talking with the highway patrolman who was guarding the site.
"But I still don't get the fishing thing."
"It's just you, the ocean, and a couple of beers."
"That sounds so boring to me."
"Says the woman who would lie down for hours with cucumbers on her eyes," Morgan teased, grinning.
"I'm not saying you can't have a good time. I just don't get the appeal," Prentiss raised her hands up in her defense. She understood that they all sought relaxation in different ways.
"When this is done, we should go out on the water before we leave," Morgan suggested, though they both knew the likelihood of that happening was low. They'd have too much to do and probably no more energy to do it. Already, they'd been in Maine nearly a week -- a very frustrating week with no real breaks in the case. The brown stain, three feet across, that dampened the dirt of the overlook was the first change in their unsub's MO, and it was the best lead they had had. She only hoped he'd made a mistake this time.
"I'll go if you can convince Reid to go," she said, squatting beside Morgan as they both inspected the ground.
The stain was blood. Off to the side a half dozen wire flagpoles marked spatter or potential signs of a struggle, but the footprints were smeared and she doubted they'd find anything useful from them.
"It's like the other sites," Prentiss said, her finger sketching the outline of the puddle. "The victim lost enough blood to bleed out. The unsub stuck to the asphalt or obscured his tracks."
"The officer said it was called in from a call box almost two hours ago. No one was here when he showed up."
"Any way to figure out how long the blood's been drying here?"
Morgan shook his head, and the sound of another car pulling up -- a blue Ford bronco -- saved him from answering.
A man and a woman got out of the car. Both wore guns and badges that were visible on their belts as they approached. The man waved to the highway patrolman and went in that direction, while the woman came over to them.
"Wow. They weren't kidding. That's a whole lot of blood," she said staring at the ground before acknowledging Morgan and Prentiss. "Who are you?" she asked just as flatly, eyes narrowed at them even as they flickered to the FBI badges they wore in plain sight.
Prentiss pushed down her first reaction, but couldn't help sending Morgan a quick, can-you-belive-her look -- and that was before she raised an eyebrow at the crappy highlight job and more eyeliner than Johnny Depp.
"Agent Emily Prentiss, FBI." She held out her hand which the cop took gingerly, though her grip was firm.
"Agent Derek Morgan."
"Audrey Parker, Haven PD. That's my partner, Nathan Wuornos." She nodded to the other cop who glanced over when he heard his name. "They didn't tell us this rated the FBI," she said neutrally, but in her face Prentiss read between the lines just fine. They weren't wanted, even if Parker was too professional to say it out loud.
Her partner, Wuornos, strolled over, notebook in hand. He and Parker traded a look before he shook hands and squatted down by the blood stain.
"What's the FBI doing out here?" he asked, not looking up, as suspicious as his partner. And, wow, Fowler hadn't been kidding about them not liking outsiders.
But keeping in mind his friendly warning, as well as Parker's continued narrow stare, Prentiss decided to ignore the distinct cold shoulder and just roll with it.
"We're with the Behavior Analysis Unit. We've been working a serial murder case in Camden -- three other crime scenes where the victims were murdered, just like this," she said.
"All outdoors, all near rocks. No weapons, no usable forensics, not many signs of a struggle," Morgan listed off the rest.
"No body?" Wuornos turned this time, one knee touching the ground for balance just outside the edge of the stain. Prentiss wasn't sure if he was being sarcastic or not; he kept his features still and serious, which was hard to get a read off of. The look Morgan gave her said much the same. The stoic type she supposed.
"They get dumped somewhere else," Morgan replied. "In Camden, the kill sites were all over town in nice secluded spots. None of them overlooked the ocean. Is this place significant in any way?"
"Not that I know of," said Wuornos, neutrally.
"Not a bad thing to check, though." Parker's eyes were drawn to the stain, the hostility dropping in favor of the evidence before her. "Is that more blood over there?" She pointed to the thin arc of blood that was probably from the first slice across the neck.
Taking it as a sign of a truce, Prentiss went over what they saw here -- similar to what they had found in Camden. "It's a calculated kill, but very bloody. There's a limited amount spatter so he either covers up the initial arterial spray if there is any, or angles the body so it all goes in the same place on the ground. Either way the victim bleeds out in minutes. We had one trace of a body lying in the blood pool at the first site -- an imprint in the soil -- but the lack at the second and third and now here suggests that he's taking more precautions."
"Do you know who the victim is?"
"Not yet," said Morgan. "We matched the last three to missing persons cases. Verified with a DNA comparison of the blood to family. That's why we're in town."
"To see who in Haven might be missing," Parker finished the thought, her voice gone serious. She and Wuornos traded another long look with each other.
"Know of anyone?"
"There's a couple open cases."
Wuornos was interrupted by the squawk of the radio in the bronco.
"Nathan, honey, you or Audrey there?"
Parker turned and stared for a second before swinging back around, her nose scrunching. "I bet that's about you," she said, then went to answer it.
While she did, Wuornos gave Morgan and Prentiss a dead-eyed stare as he stood up, arms crossing, and here it was, the inevitable pissing contest. Prentiss was grateful they didn't have to do this for every case they took, but it was so annoying when there was that one recalcitrant cop who was dead set on doing things his way. It never ended well.
"Look," Morgan started.
"You just want to help," Wuornos finished, smiling tightly. "I know. It's your case, it's jumped towns. . . But we can take it from here." And even though Prentiss was expecting it -- and her first reaction was that, no, they couldn't, they weren't equipped -- something about the way Wuornos said it, was like it was an offer rather than a warning.
"No offense," Morgan said for the both of them, while Prentiss tried to get a read off this local cop who sounded . . . tired, "but this guy's not pretty and he's not leaving a lot of clues. You're going to need all the help you can get."
Wuornos actually cracked a smile at that, terse and cynical. "We always do."
Parker returned, nodding back toward the truck. "Their boss is talking with Dwight right now. The crime scene team is on their way."
"So that's that then," said Wuornos.
"Hey," Prentiss said, "we're all on the same team here. We just want to help catch the killer."
"Yeah," Parker said, deadpan. She swung toward Wuornos again with her crossed arms mirroring his, the pair of them a matched set. "A serial killer in Haven. This is going to be fun."
Morgan and Prentiss arrived with Hendrickson's detectives not long after Hotch got off the phone updating Rossi. One of the other officers had just dropped off the missing persons files to JJ while Hendrickson was after someone to round up some more chairs so they had space to work in the common area of the station. It wasn't Hotch's first choice, where they'd be the center of attention, but he preferred it to the interrogation room the chief had offered them. He was just glad they weren't being shut out.
Hendrickson made the introductions and they all moved to his office to talk.
"Eddie and Bob are still out there collecting evidence," Detective Wuornos reported, taking a spot by the window with his partner. Morgan and Prentiss gravitated to the other side of the room.
"What were your impressions?" Hotch asked, including the detectives in his question.
"It looked like the last two in Camden," Morgan said. "Brutal but controlled. Lots of blood, but I doubt we're going to get much more from there."
"Where have you been finding the bodies?" Parker asked.
"They haven't," Hendrickson answered for Hotch, handing Detective Parker the photocopies they'd brought from Camden.
"The Camden PD received postcards of local tourist attractions with the bodies displayed," Hotch said. "It's part of the pathology, showing off the kills and desecrating the town spots best known for their beauty. It's also a very confident move. He doesn't think we'll catch him."
"Our current profile is that we're looking for a white male, in his late 20s or early 30s," said JJ. "He took his victims during the day, so he blends in and is socially conforming, possibly an alpha male personality, which would explain his confidence. We think he's approaching them as a tourist, maybe at a local hot spot after work where the two could meet."
"The unsub is still highly functioning, and probably doesn't trip their stalker meter," Morgan added. "He's also smart. He's using forensic countermeasures and we haven't found a trace of the bodies at any of the sites where they were displayed."
"Unsub?" Wuornos frowned at the term.
"Unknown subject," Prentiss said. "We call our killer that so we don't introduce any bias into our profile."
"Does it work?" Wournos asked. He took the photocopy next, frowning.
"Most of the time," said Prentiss.
While they studied the bodies in the copies of the postcards, Hotch took a moment to study their new colleagues. They were both dressed informally, in jeans and jackets for the late summer weather that included a constant breeze off the sea. Parker made a face when she first looked at the photocopy, but it soon settled into a concentrated and somewhat sad expression. Wuornos didn't flinch at the photos, his face smooth and unreadable. But when he looked up to ask his next question, his eyes were sharp.
"You think Erica Rosen is the victim?" he said.
"Yes," said JJ, a bit of a surprise in her voice, but she quickly recovered. "I guess you don't have that many missing persons," she said.
"It's really only one in the last week, since Beattie called in the other three," said Parker. "The harbormaster. She already contacted the Coast Guard about their boat."
"The file says you two did the follow up?" JJ said.
"Her parents came in two days ago when she didn't show up for work," Wuornos nodded. "She had her own place, lived alone, and, from the look of it, didn't make it home Sunday night. We didn't get any leads. No one saw anything out of the ordinary."
"So she's been missing for two days." Prentiss blew out a breath, glancing out the window back toward the rest of the station. "That fits our timeline. I'm surprised her parents aren't here beating down your door."
"They wouldn't. They're at the church. Candlelight vigil started yesterday," said Parker, her tone slightly mocking.
"Hey, people deal with grief in different ways," Morgan chided.
"The Good Shepherd?" Hendrickson asked, but it sounded like he was hoping it wasn't.
"That's the one." More undercurrents threaded through Parker's voice, and Hendrickson's muttered "crap" only confirmed it.
"What does that mean?" Hotch asked sharply, holding out a hand out to stop Morgan from jumping in. "Why are you worried about the church vigil?"
There was a long look between the three local cops that ended when Wuornos said, "You want to field that one, chief?"
Hendrickson looked like he didn't, but went ahead anyway. "The parishioners at the Good Shepherd Church can be proactive in going after justice," he said, "whether or not it's actually justice. They're a fire and brimstone church."
"That have anything to do with the meteor shower that happened a year ago?" asked JJ.
"No, that got a different group in town all riled up," Wuornos said with little humor. "The old reverend at the church was belligerent going back thirty years, and the new pastor isn't shaping up much better."
"He's young," said Parker, and Hotch couldn't tell if she meant that as a good or bad thing, and from the look her partner shot her, he didn't either.
"We'll handle the interviews then. It might be better coming from an outside source," Hotch said. He got no objections.
"I doubt you'll have much luck tonight," Hendrickson said. "Better wait till morning. We'll have the crime scene photos by then."
Hotch nodded and made the executive decision to call it a day. They had until the mail arrived to know for certain whether or not their unsub had moved to Haven. Hotch wanted them all to be fresh for tomorrow.