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Stained in the Blood (of a whole generation)

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 Chapter 3:

5:30 pm, Friday, 19th Precinct:

The precinct was in a lull when Billy and Teddy arrived, the day shift’s activity mostly over and the hour too early for the night shift’s parade of crazies. Billy balanced the take-out box under his arm as he pushed the door open onto the familiar lobby, Teddy following close behind as they made their way up to the front desk.

Gibson was on duty, which was cool. She was always friendly, unlike some of the others who had no time for him. His mom was nowhere to be seen, but that wasn’t unusual; the case that was keeping her late probably had her tied up in interviews as well.

“Hey, Sergeant Gibson,” Billy nodded to the desk sergeant, setting the bagged-up box on the counter. “Dinner run for my mom. Can you let her know I dropped it off, when she gets out of whatever?”

“Billy!” Gibson put her hand over the mouthpiece of the phone she’d been speaking into and waved him down. “Your mom wants you to wait. She should be finished in a few minutes.”

“I swear, my homework’s mostly done,” he said with a grin, but Gibson didn’t smile back. That was a bit weird, as was the way she kept looking at him sideways, like she was trying not to stare.

She gestured to the handful of chairs along the wall on the reception area. “Grab a seat; I’m sure she’ll be out in a minute or two. Your dad knows where you are?”

“Yeah,” Billy nodded and wandered down a little past the desk, craning his neck to see into the room beyond. That was a meeting room, but right now it was all set up like a freaking command center, with computers and display boards and pictures of burned-out houses- and him.

A mug shot of him.

“When did you get arrested?” Teddy’s voice right behind his ear made Billy jump. He turned and shook his head, and then Gibson was half-rising out of her chair.

“Boys.” Her voice was firm and brooked no argument, even if Billy had been inclined to argue with someone wearing a gun.

They headed back to the row of chairs, Billy’s feet dragging. He shouldn’t look back, shouldn’t betray the new knowledge that he had of things he definitely wasn’t supposed to have seen. “I’ve never been arrested,” he murmured to Teddy. Teddy’s brow creased when he frowned, and Billy ached to reach out with his thumb to rub the fold away. “I’ve got to get a better look.”

Teddy glanced up at Gibson, then nodded. “On it.” He dropped his bag on an empty chair, but headed over to the desk instead of sitting down, while Billy folded himself into a seat and fussed with his phone. “Hey, Sergeant Gibson,” he heard Teddy start, that easy charm just flowing off of him in that way that always made adults relax. “I was wondering – is Jamal going to be playing tomorrow? He was awesome last time we went up against Central, and I heard he was moving up from being an alternate-“

Billy counted down from fifty, waited until Gibson had engaged in the conversation. “I’ve got to hit the bathroom,” he announced. “It’s ok – I know where it is from here,” he waved off Gibson’s attention and she turned back to the conversation without paying him much mind. Awesome. Three minutes, that’s all he needed.

The room was empty when he pushed the door open with just a touch. The board he’d glimpsed through the window – that was what he was after, and Billy moved closer, grabbing his phone and flicking to the camera.

It was his face staring back at him, but it wasn’t.

The shape was the same, the floppy dark hair, the too-narrow chin, but his eyes were different.

Billy raised his phone, and took a picture.

Sprawling handwriting on the label read ‘Thomas Shepherd.’ Billy’s birthdate. More notes beside that read ‘twins,’ underlined twice. ‘Wanda Lehnsherr.’ ‘Creche – UnSub adopted/foster?’

He took another picture.

The rest of the board was all about the fires, just like Jonas had described – and Jesus fucking Christ, were those charred bodies?

Voices were echoing in the hallway now and Billy hurtled out of the room before they could catch him. He wasn’t going to be fast enough. Two of the FBI – had to be – saw him, the big black guy calling his name as Billy ran. He heard footsteps behind him but he knew this building a lot better than they did, a lot better than most, and he spun on his heel down one hallway, two lefts, then out the back door to where some of the officers liked to sit and smoke.

The air was crisp and clean, the wind brisk, and for the moment, he was alone in the alley behind the loading bay.

Billy breathed in. Thomas Shepherd. Holy fuck. He breathed out.

Teddy. Billy’s phone was still in his hand and he thumbed a quick text.

Out back. Fuckery abounds.

And then he had to stop and think and try and wrap his head around it all.

 Twin. The agency that had handled his adoption. Twin. It echoed in his head as though he’d said it aloud, and the sound choked in his throat when he tried. He didn’t have much time; they’d find him any second now. Think it through, Kaplan. Be logical. His birthday,his birth mother’s name, the photograph that he had never posed for. Blue eyes instead of brown, but did that mean anything?

Holy shit. I have a twin brother, and the FBI is looking for him.

Holy shit, I just ran away from the FBI.

His phone was still in his hand. He dialled a number. Jonas answered on the fourth ring, the sound of typing in the background.

“Jonas? It’s Billy. Stop for a second and listen to me. I need your help.” He was having a hard time catching his breath, his voice sounding wrung-out even to his own ears.

The ticka-ticka stopped. “Billy? What’s-“

“Shut up and listen for a minute. I need you to find someone for me. His name is Thomas Shepherd. I think he’s in New York, or maybe New Jersey.”

“Shepherd? But-“

“I’m at the police station. The FBI have my picture up, Jonas, and not just mine. They think this Thomas guy is my biological brother. My twin. And from the pictures, I think they’re right.” The words tumbled out in a flood, a torrent of stumbling sentences that he couldn’t stop to reword without having to think about what he was saying.

Why didn’t they tell me?

There was an expulsion of air from Jonas’ end of the line that was somewhere between a gasp and a sigh. “Holy shit, Bill-“

“Yeah. Yeah, I know. I took pictures of their board – I’ll send them to you. I’ve got to know-”

“I’m on it.” Jonas’ voice was calm, collected, reassuring, and it was easy to be lulled by that, to take a second to breathe, to trust that Jonas would come through.

Plans; he had to have a plan. “Don’t call back, alright? I’ve got to go back in; I left Teddy in there. I’ll see you online tonight.”

He hung up, sent the pictures, sagged back against the wall.

His phone buzzed in his hand.

B? U ok? U coming back in, or m I coming out?

Coming back. Just need a min.

k. Ur moms here, w MIB.  wht happend?

Not me in pics – twin? M and d never said anything

There was a long pause, then:

im here. come back in whn ur ready. Ill stall.

--

“Doctor Kaplan?” Hotch turned as an officer approached them in the hallway, Rebecca stopping mid-sentence to allow the uniformed man to continue “Your son’s here. He’s waiting at the desk.”

She nodded her thanks and gestured for Hotch to accompany her as she turned down a different hallway, this one leading to the front of the building. “Please let me do the talking at first.” She had drawn her professional shell around herself again, looking ahead. “It will be better coming from me. He’s going to be unhappy about it either way.”

Hotch nodded. “There’s no point in burdening him with the entire case history, just the understanding that-“

Rebecca had stopped as they drew near to the reception desk, and Hotch followed her gaze. There was only one teenager waiting in the chairs on the other side, a tall, broad-shouldered blond boy in a letter jacket, texting furiously on the cell phone in his hands. He looked nothing at all like the photographs of William or Thomas. “Do you know him?”

Rebecca laughed, just once, and softly. “You could say that. Theodore Altman. He’s Billy’s-“ she hesitated for only a second, a pause short enough to be almost unremarkable. “-best friend.” And the expression that softened her face, just for a moment, was a little bit wistful and a little bit fond.

More voices behind them, then, these ones familiar. Hotch turned as Morgan and Prentiss approached, Morgan breathing slightly more heavily than usual. Prentiss looked around and behind them first, searching for someone or something else, before turning her attention to Hotch. “Is he here?”

That was not good. Hotch caught her gaze, held it. “Is who here?”

“Billy Kaplan,” Morgan answered, running his hand back over his head. “He was here – he was looking at the board, Hotch. We came back in just as he was leaving.” The look he gave Dr. Kaplan was apologetic. “I have no idea how he got back there, but-“

Dr. Kaplan closed her eyes, took a deep breath and centered herself. “He’s resourceful,” she replied after a second. “Where did he go?”

Prentiss shook her head. “He ran off when we came in; he seemed extremely upset. Where would he be likely to go?”

There was a soft scuff from behind them, and Hotch turned. Altman was standing by the counter, apology and concern writ large on his face. “If you’re talking about Billy,” he said a little hesitantly, his phone still in his hand. The look he turned on Dr. Kaplan was apologetic and uncertain. “He’s coming back in. It’ll just be a minute.”

 

6:00 pm, Friday, 19th Precinct:

It was the raised voices that caught JJ’s attention as she came out of the meeting with Captain Oliver. The door to one of the interview rooms was standing only slightly ajar, just enough to allow the passage of sound.

She could see the source of it through the window – Rebecca Kaplan and a young man who had to be her son, the pair of them talking over and around each other, hands moving in the space between them as words tumbled out. “Why didn’t you tell me” was interrupted by “we didn’t know, Billy; they never a word-” When she looked back, Kaplan was reaching out to draw her son into an embrace.

Another young man was sitting in the hallway, his eyes dark with concern and a cell phone to his ear. JJ gave him a reassuring smile. He smiled back, just for a moment, then returned his attention to his phone call. “I’m staying at Billy’s tonight. There’s a lot going on. Yeah,” he was saying as she walked past. “Family stuff, and he needs... he needs a friend. I’ll explain later. Thanks, Mom.”

JJ turned into the meeting room and paused in the doorway. She launched into her update before Hotch and Rossi had a chance to ask. “I spoke with Captain Oliver, and he’s got officers in the process of contacting all the families who adopted from the Creche during that time span, as well as all the birth parents. It was a small agency, thankfully, so there’s only a few dozen left to track down.”

“This is going to create a panic,” Prentiss said, leaning back in her chair and fiddling with the pen in her hands.

“But if it helps reduce his easy victim pool, it’s worth it.” JJ couldn’t help the little burst of hope, as futile as it sometimes seemed. They did the work, they caught the bad guys. That was supposed to be the deal.

Voices echoed in the hallway as the Kaplans strode past, the blond boy from the hallway trailing in their wake.

“William Kaplan, you will do nothing of the sort. The only thing you need to do is go home and get your homework done, and leave this to the professionals. I don’t want you anywhere near this investigation.”

“Mom, just listen-“

JJ pulled her attention back as Hotch started to speak. “We’re ready to deliver the profile.” He’d seen her distraction, gave her a curious look, but didn’t pursue it.

That little surge of hope became a larger one, and she refocused. Call the precinct together, need to use the bullpen for the space, it would be better to wait twenty minutes for the shift change to finish. “I’ll let the captain know.”

--

Hotch didn’t need notes for this. JJ watched from the back of the room as he led the briefing with that carefully controlled expression that could be read as indifference, when it really went so much deeper than that.

“Our suspect will be a white male. While normally arsonists are young, our UnSub is likely between the ages of thirty and fifty. He’ll be socially awkward, and won’t make eye contact easily. He’s someone on the fringes.”

“We know he has a vehicle,” Reid continued, “likely an older station wagon, or a van. He needs space to carry his gear with him. He may work or have worked as a general contractor or electrician in the past, and is currently either unemployed or self-employed. The chase itself is consuming him. He doesn’t have the focus to hold down an office job.”

Prentiss took over without needing to wait for a signal. “There was some kind of trigger four months ago; a death, or a loss, that’s pushed him over the edge. Setting fires is often a substitute for sexual release, but that doesn’t seem to be the case with this man. He’s hunting for a specific target, and whatever it is that he wants, it’s connected to the investigations and the shutdown involving the Creche in the early 1990s. He could be an adoptive parent, a birth parent, or someone else whose life was negatively impacted by the investigations.”

Morgan picked it up from her when she paused and nodded. “When cornered, if he feels that his mission is in jeopardy, he will likely lash out. We have to anticipate that once we find him, he’ll fight back rather than surrender.”

“Any questions?” Oliver asked, then waited a beat. There was no response. “You’re dismissed. Let’s catch this guy.”

 

10:00 pm, NYC:


10:03 pm Hulkling has entered the chat

10:04 pm Stature :: teddy! Are you over at billy’s?

10:05 pm Patriot :: Is he ok? Jonas filled us in.

10:05 pm Hulkling :: Hey Cassie – yeah. He’s scrounging up snacks /waves at Eli

10:06 pm Hulkling :: @Eli I think so? Maybe. It's been a weird day. Weirder than normal, I mean. Dinner was awkward

10:12 pm Wiccan17 has entered the chat

10:14 pm Wiccan17 :: hey guys

10:14 pm Stature :: billy! {{{hugs}}}

10:14 pm Wiccan17 :: thanks

10:16 pm Wiccan17 :: any news on Thomas?

10:16 pm Vision (sees all, knows all) :: Working on it. I can track him up to about two weeks ago, then he goes off the radar.

10:16 pm Stature :: what does that mean?

10:17 pm Vision (sees all, knows all) :: It means no trail, not stuff I can see. He was in juvie, then some halfway house thing

10:17 pm Patriot :: JUVIE? Is he some kind of criminal?

10:18 pm Wiccan17 :: they thought he set his house on fire; that much I know

10:18 pm Patriot :: Did he?

10:19 pm Vision (sees all, knows all) :: No. It was this other guy they're looking for now.

10:20 pm Stature :: billy's got an evil twin!

10:20 pm Hulkling :: How do you know Bill's not the evil twin?

10:20 pm Wiccan17 :: not evil? also, no goatee.

10:21 pm Hulkling :: You could grow one. That might look good

10:21 pm Wiccan17 :: you think?

10:22 pm Patriot :: You guys are sitting in the same room, can you flirt offline? Pls?

10:22 pm Stature :: someone's bitter

10:23 pm Patriot :: Can we stay focused?

10:24 pm Vision (sees all, knows all) :: Right. So Thomas had been checking in at these group meetings (<3 electronic timetabling), but stopped 2 weeks ago.

10:24 pm Stature :: maybe he went home?

10:25 pm Vision (sees all, knows all) :: There should be paperwork filed somewhere if he did - can't find any. Cass, did your stepdad say anything?

10:27 pm Stature :: not to me, obvs. but if they knew where he was, and he was in trouble? they'd totally be taking him into protective custody right now.

10:27 pm Wiccan17 :: yeah; there are cops outside my house now. “Protection detail.”

10:29 pm Stature :: so they probably don't know where thomas is either

10:29 pm Patriot :: Or they're just careful enough not to put that kind of information where it can get hacked into by teenagers.

10:29 pm Hulkling :: Point.

10:30 pm Vision (sees all, knows all) :: I'll keep digging.

10:30 pm Stature :: @billy: when jonas finds him, what are you going to say?

10:31 pm Wiccan17 :: I haven't figured that part out yet. 'hi, i'm the twin brother you never knew you had, btw, someone might be out there trying to kill everybody related to our adoption?' it's like a bad lifetime movie

10:31 pm Stature :: i bet it'll be amazing. think of all the questions you might be able to answer for each other

10:32 pm Patriot :: We're better off leaving the finding and the explaining to the proper authorities.

10:32 pm Wiccan17 :: You're not serious, Mr 'the system is inherently biased'?

10:33 pm Patriot :: Racial profiling's not an issue here; you don't want to get in the way of a federal investigation! They'll nail you to the wall.

10:33 pm Hulkling :: Point x 2.

10:34 pm Wiccan17 :: I don’t care about that. I supposedly have a brother, and he’s probably in danger. I can’t just sit around and wait.

10:36 pm Vision (sees all, knows all) :: It's a moot point until I can figure out where he's gone.

10:36 pm Patriot :: If you can figure it out.

10:37 pm Vision (sees all, knows all) :: Until.

10:37 pm Stature :: what harm can it do to help out? billy has a right to know his own family.

10:42 pm Stature :: where'd they go, anyway?

10:45 pm Stature :: guys?

10:46 pm Patriot :: They're either fighting about this, or making out.

10:46 pm Vision (sees all, knows all) :: Or fighting as a prelude to making out.

10:48 pm Stature :: crap; my stepdad's home. gotta go.

10:48 pm :: Stature has left the chat

10:49 pm Patriot :: I'm out too; I've got that lab report to write up.

10:49 pm Vision (sees all, knows all) :: See you Monday

10:49 pm :: Patriot has left the chat

11:30 pm Vision (sees all, knows all) :: When you guys come up for air, ping me. I may have found something.

 

3 am Saturday, Midtown, NYC:

 “I don’t know where she is!”

He’s lying, the falsehoods spilling from his lips. So many of them, all the same. Lying, like before, bulbous spiders, bellies swollen and gross, spinning webs of deceit. Fire cleans the cobwebs from the darkness, tongues of pain, clean and pure, the last caress they knew.  

They didn't have what I needed, couldn't answer. Wouldn’t. It's only one question, so simple; it's an insult that finding the answer should be so hard.

“Where is Lenore James?”

I know he heard me, know that he knows; I can see it in his eyes, a new light.

The rest didn’t break.

He will.

“I don’t know – no-one knows. She vanished! I swear, I don’t know.” The ropes cut into his wrists as he pulls; the red is entirely the wrong shade, not bright enough, not orange and yellow and flame enough.

“You know. Someone knows, and you’re the one who kept looking. Where is Lenore James?”

“I don’t know!”

“What name is she using?”

“I don’t know!”

“Where is the boy?”

“Please, stop – please-“

He knew.

I rarely stay to watch, these days; it all becomes the same, after a while. Flesh curls from bone, blackened and charring, the way little hairs roll back first, shrink away and tighten, then crumble to dust before the pink-dark flesh follows- It's not the sight of fat sliding, melting, igniting, but the smell. Sick-sweet as it lingers in the air, charcoal and grease and muscle-turned-meat.

A pity that it takes him so long to come up with the information. If only he had been co-operative from the beginning, all of this mess could have been avoided.

I walk away as fire licks curls up the wall. That smell rises again, warm and thick.

I will find them both, or this world will burn.