“All parents damage their children. It cannot be helped. Youth, like pristine glass, absorbs the prints of its handlers. Some parents smudge, others crack, a few shatter childhoods completely into jagged little pieces, beyond repair.”
-- Mitch Albom
6:30 am Friday, Offices of the FBI Behavioural Analysis Unit, Quantico, VA:
“She dumped you because her sister didn’t like you?” Emily Prentiss’ astonished voice held more than a hint of laughter as she climbed the stairs to the conference room. Somehow, it shouldn’t be surprising. Sometimes it seemed like Morgan set himself up for things like this simply by breathing.
“I think you have to have more than one date before it counts as ‘dumping,’ don’t you?” Reid asked from the back of the pack. This time, Emily snickered.
The BAU offices were coming to life, murmurs from the bullpen below blending with the creaks of their feet on the stairs, the buzzing of computers and fluorescent lights. The cup of coffee was warm in her hand and she gave in to temptation at the top of the stairs, pausing to take a sip.
Morgan sighed and shook his head. “Nice to know you have my back, Reid. And not just her sister – her twin. They’re close. She decided I was a dog, and I never got the chance to get a word in.”
“You didn’t hit on both of them, did you?” Emily stood aside to let the guys pass her, her eyes alight. “In that case, she wouldn’t be wrong.” Morgan just pressed his hand to his heart and looked at her with eyes not nearly as wounded as he wanted her to believe.
“Twins are actually a very common fantasy,” Reid said as he passed them, heading for the conference room door. “While there haven’t been any studies directly considering the prevalence-“
“I dated twins once,” Rossi cut in. “Inadvertently.” He sat down in his usual chair to the right of the door and took a drink from his mug. Emily sat down across from him, skimming the board as she did so. Burned bodies, charred houses; this was going to be a messy one.
“And-?” Prentiss asked, one eyebrow raised in question. JJ finished hanging photographs on the board and looked back over her shoulder at the conversation in progress.
The door opened one last time, then closed behind Hotch with a certain amount of deference. Emily felt the urge to sit up a little straighter, and only barely resisted.
Rossi smirked and leaned back in his chair. “And that’s all I’ll say.”
“Come on, man. You can’t leave us hanging with a setup like that,” Morgan objected.
“Are we ready to begin?” Hotch cut in, settling into his chair at JJ’s nod. Morgan took his seat between Prentiss and Reid, shaking his head at the laughter in Prentiss’ eyes.
JJ took up the conversation, gesturing to the board behind her. It was filled with images of burnt-out shells of houses, and seven corpses, charred beyond recognition. “Over the past four months, a series of house fires have killed eleven people in New York state. The last two have been in New York City itself. Five hours ago,” JJ nodded at the board, “the home of Bryce and Jessica Weston. The homeowners were found in the living room, bound. They were so badly burned that dental records were needed to make the identification.”
“A serial arsonist over such a wide geographic area?” Reid leaned forward and rested his arms on the table as he peered at the images. “Usually arsonists focus on properties in their immediate surroundings, as targets for revenge, or from a lack of impulse control. Within five square miles, at most.”
“How do they know it’s the same guy?” Morgan frowned, tapping his pen against his ankle where it was propped up on his knee.
“It’s the UnSub’s signature,” Hotch replied. “The fires were set inside the house, using methyl alcohol as an accelerant and a fault in the house’s own electrical system as the ignition. All of the victims were bound before the house was lit up.”
“But not killed,” Prentiss supplied.
“No. Smoke inhalation in the lungs proves it. All of the victims were burned alive.”
Rossi swivelled his chair to get a better look. “Any evidence of torture prior to death?”
“Nothing found,” JJ shook her head. “There may be something new on the latest victims; the local coroner is still processing the bodies.”
“This doesn’t seem like the work of a classical sadist,” Morgan frowned. “At least based on the victimology. We’ve got multiple races, ages and sexes involved here; everything from a single woman through to a family of five.”
“But not class,” Rossi pointed out. “A lawyer, a social worker, a government administrator – the victims were all professionals. It’s not likely to be a sexual fantasy, with that cross-section, but could it be class resentment?”
“Then why go all the way upstate to find victims, when you have all of New York to pick from?” Morgan asked, cocking his head.
Hotch’s brow creased just a little bit further. “Garcia’s working on the victimology right now. She’ll update us if she finds any connections between them.” He closed his folder. “Wheels up in thirty.”
7:30 am Friday, Upper West Side, New York, NY:
“Daaaaaaad, he’s got my shoes-“
“Give me back my baseball mitt!”
“Why? It’s not like you have any friends to play with anyway, dumb-butt-“
“Don’t you call your brother names, young man-“
Billy slammed his notebook closed and jammed it into his backpack. He’d have a better chance of finishing the problem set at school than in the middle of the chaos that was breakfast with his two younger brothers. It was a little quieter in the hallway; it gave him a chance to regroup, find his history textbook (why and how did it end up on top of the lamp?) and ... shoes. One on the mat where it was supposed to be, and one... not.
“Hello, good morning, you two – knock it off.” His mother blew through the kitchen and into the hall at about a hundred miles an hour, sliding her arms into her blazer and her feet into her shoes. Billy’s dad pressed a travel mug of coffee into her hand, wiping his own hands down on his apron. “Thank you.”
Billy was on his hands and knees trying to get his second shoe out from under the credenza when she passed by and ruffled his hair affectionately. “Eat your toast, Billy. A good breakfast is vital for proper learning. There have been studies. Goodbye, I love you, I’ll see you all tonight.”
“Bye, mom-“ she opened the door and jumped back instead of bustling down the stairs, and Billy grinned at the sight of the blond boy standing with one hand raised in a fist as though about to knock, his eyes widening with surprise.
“Good morning, Ted,” his mother’s voice was warm with affection. She slipped around him rather than wait for him to move, and headed down the stairs.
“Morning, Dr. Kaplan,” Teddy half-turned to watch her go, then stepped inside and held a warm, strong hand out for Billy to grab onto as he jammed his feet into his sneakers. “What’s her rush?”
“There’s some big deal case they’re working on right now; the FBI are sending a task force in today. I overheard her talking to dad about it last night.” He wished he knew more than that; not because he needed to impress Teddy, not at this stage, but purely for his own curiosity’s sake. It wasn’t like his mom’s job was all that interesting. Ninety percent of the time she interviewed people who wanted to be cops. The rest was talking people who already were cops off of ledges after things went south. That ten percent was the reason she was up nights, sometimes, her voice and his dad’s reduced to low murmurings in the kitchen. But this was different. “Hang on. Dad!-“ Billy turned and called back over his shoulder. “Teddy’s here; I’m going.”
“Have a good day, boys,” his father’s voice echoed out from the kitchen and Teddy held the door for Billy as they headed for the brownstone’s front stairs.
“The FBI? Seriously? Woah.” Teddy jumped down the last couple of steps and waited for Billy at the bottom. The morning sun glinted off the dozen silver hoops and cuffs that ringed his ears, made his hair shine golden. Billy could seriously just stare at him all day. “...they only bring the FBI in for the really big stuff, like... slave trafficking. I saw this show once where Mexican immigrants were being smuggled across state lines in the bottoms of 18-wheelers...” Teddy trailed off and frowned at Billy, who’d fallen a little bit behind. “What? Do I have something on my face?”
“Hunh, what?” Oh yeah; super-intelligent, Kaplan.
Teddy grinned, a smile like the sun breaking. “You’re staring, Bee.”
“Like looking at you,” Billy felt the heat of the flush rising up his cheeks and the answering smile tugging at his mouth. He took a couple of steps to catch up, realized that Teddy was leaning in for a kiss- “hang on,” Billy shook his head and pushed Teddy down the block until they could turn the corner, out of sight of the house. “Mrs. Moskowitz is back from Florida.”
There was a flash of hurt in Teddy’s eyes. “I thought you decided you were going to come out to them?” He crowded Billy back against the wall as they rounded the corner and braced his arms on either side. Billy glanced around, just to be sure, then slid his hand up to clasp the back of Teddy’s neck and tug him down for a kiss. Teddy tasted like mint toothpaste, with a hint of those awful protein shakes that his mom made for him every morning. Not, Billy considered, resting his arm on Teddy’s decidedly more muscular one, that he could complain about the end results.
“I did. I am,” he stalled. “But I want to do it, not get ratted out by a voyeuristic busybody of a neighbour.”
Teddy nodded. “Fair enough.” He claimed another kiss, his lips dry and a little chapped, and Billy leaned up to follow his mouth when he pulled back the second time. Teddy adjusted his backpack on his shoulder and started walking again. “Have you thought about how you’re going to tell them?”
Billy groaned. “I dunno. It’ll have to be somewhere with distractions,” he said firmly, shoving his hands in his pockets. “Maybe I can pay off the brats to break something on cue. Because you know my parents; you know exactly how this is gonna go,” he gave Teddy a pained look. “I’m just so thrilled,” he imitated his mother’s voice with a shrill falsetto, “that our relationship is actualized enough that you feel safe confiding in me, William.” Teddy laughed. “Tell me I’m wrong.”
“You’re not wrong,” Teddy admitted, “but it is kind of sweet. Your folks love you.”
“Yeah, I know,” Billy sighed, folding his arms behind his head and stretching. “I just wish sometimes they could do it a little less... therapeutically.”
Teddy just snorted. “You don’t know when you have it good, Kaplan.”
Billy dropped his arms and grabbed for Teddy’s hand, laced their fingers together when Teddy didn’t resist. “I’ve got it pretty good right now,” he offered up as an apology, and got a squeeze in return. “What about your mom?”
“I have a feeling she knows,” Teddy confessed, looking sheepish. Billy’s surprise must have been immediately apparent, because he kept explaining. “She gets this twitch when your name comes up, like she’s trying not to smile. Plus, Captain America boxers.”
“Those could so have been yours,” Billy muttered, his face red again. “We wear the same size.”
Teddy leered at him and squeezed his hand again.
“What does she think of me?” Billy ventured after a moment. There was absolutely no question that his parents adored Ted – at least, they did right now, when they thought Ted was his best friend. It remained to be seen what would happen when they found out that he was a whole lot more.
“Mom? She adores you,” Teddy dismissed the question. He arched an eyebrow a second later and grinned. “Barring your occasional descent into unfounded neurosis, what’s not to love?” He pulled Billy in closer, looped an arm around Billy’s neck, and pressed a kiss against his temple. Billy leaned into Teddy’s warmth and the feel of his lips against Billy’s skin, and-
Their bus drove by and Billy yelped with alarm. “Crap! We’ll be late for homeroom.” Conversation forgotten, FBI forgotten, the two boys raced down the street towards the bus stop, bags and jackets flying behind them.
10:00 am, Friday, 19th Precinct, New York:
Some of the others might joke about how police departments blended into each other after a while, how the mix of types changed up but the overall feel didn’t, but JJ could never bring herself to agree. The bad paint jobs and worse coffee might be universal, but the people were always new. The way each group merged and blended, each new mix of personalities and pressure points to be managed, cajoled, deployed for her own purposes- She wasn’t a profiler, had never wanted that job. This was her playground.
The 19th precinct was superficially similar to the other NYPD precincts they’d worked with before. The captain – fit, mid-forties, Black, wore his off-the-rack suit like it was a dress uniform – welcomed them with a grim smile. “Glad you could make it here so soon, agents. I’m Captain Oliver.”
“Aaron Hotchner, Jennifer Jareau, our communications liaison,” Hotch replied just as grimly.
“We spoke on the phone.” JJ shook Oliver’s hand, followed his gaze back to where the rest of the team was following them into the building.
“I wish we’d been able to get you in on this sooner,” Oliver continued, once the group had gathered and he was able to lead them down the hallway and past the desk sergeant. “We didn’t manage to connect the dots until yesterday.”
“We’re here now,” JJ said, more for form’s sake than anything else.
“We’ve got a room set up for you here,” Oliver pushed open the glass door to a repurposed meeting room and glanced at JJ for her approval. That was always a good sign at the outset; he was taking her seriously, which should have been a given.
Then there was the room – a table long enough for spreading out files, printer, corkboard, coffee machine; she ran it against the list in her head and came up satisfied. “This will be fine, captain.” JJ turned an approving smile on for him as the rest of the team made their way in, a uniformed officer bringing up the rear.
“Blake Burdick,” Oliver introduced the tall man, who nodded to the team. Burdick’s gaze flickered quickly over each of them in turn, and his shoulders settled as a little tension ebbed. He was relieved that they were there; another good sign. “Officer Burdick was first on the scene yesterday after the fire department; he can answer any questions you have.”
“Anything you need,” Burdick agreed, scrubbing one hand across the back of his neck. He was older than the captain, closer to Rossi’s age than anyone else, and had the settled and weary air of a uniform lifer.
Hotch didn’t hesitate. “Everything you have on the current case.” Reid had already started to unpack his bag, files accumulating on the tabletop. “Morgan and Reid, to the most recent crime scene. Prentiss, I want you with me in the files. JJ, arrange meetings with any members of the victims’ families who are in town. We need to flesh out the victimology if we’re going to understand what’s going on here.”
“I’ll drive you over,” Burdick offered, leaning back behind JJ to direct his words to the guys.
“Rebecca Kaplan is our staff psych,” Oliver continued. “She’s in with Jessica Weston’s mother right now. The woman is a mess.”
“We’ll speak with both of them. I’d like to get Doctor Kaplan’s impressions. Rossi?”
10:45 am, Friday, Weston residence, New York:
The shell of the house was still wet from the early-morning hosedown. Water at a maximum of 290 psi from the crosslay hoses over ten minutes to put out the fire, include deluge gun use, becomes approximately 960 gallons of liquid at an evaporation rate corrected for elevated temperature- It would be three days at least before the wood and brick would be dry again, assuming that the current weather system held. Unlikely at best, given standard weather patterns for New York in the spring. Frowning, Reid followed Burdick and Morgan under the yellow caution tape and approached the scene.
The arson team was still working their careful way through the house, orange and yellow evidence tags highlighting the trail of their meticulous progress. Their team lead was a petite woman who Burdick introduced as Lieutenant Marconi. Reid stayed back while Morgan shook her hand, gave her a tight nod and a half-hearted wave.
“The fire started in the kitchen,” she began as they picked their way between evidence markers and charred floorboards marked as stable. “And spread to the rest of the house from there. It went up quickly; even if the family hadn’t been bound, I don’t know if they would have had time to get out.”
Morgan turned, scanned the room, the layout, the calculating look in his eyes familiar. “He had access to the house, not just the downstairs. You found accelerant upstairs?”
“Up the stairs, along the hallway, splashed just inside the door of every bedroom. He was thorough.”
“The bodies were found in the living room?” Reid asked, pacing back and forth along the hallway between the kitchen and living room to gauge the space, what the UnSub would have seen, felt, smelled – correction. Smell was not an accurate indicator at this point, the cling of ash and acrid smoke overlaying everything in a thick blanket of entropy. “So he wakes them up, brings them downstairs, why? Why not kill them in their beds?”
“Because that’s not part of the fantasy,” Morgan suggested, touching a tipped-over cabinet with gloved hands. “The floor’s wet where this should have been. It didn’t get knocked over by the fire crew; this was dumped before the fire started. He ransacked the place; he was looking for something and got angry when he didn’t find it.”
Burdick had been watching them, still and steady in the doorway, but that declaration made him come into the room and engage. “You keep saying ‘he.’” He dropped to one knee and eyeballed a scorch mark that had been flagged with an evidence tag. “How do you know? Maybe it was a crazy ex-girlfriend?”
“Statistically speaking,” Reid didn’t need to pause to think, the facts unfolding behind his eyes the moment he needed them, pages of a mental book turning and splaying open for him. “Most serial arsonists are young white males. Fifty-eight point seven percent of fires are set by offenders before they reach eighteen, and seventy-nine point seven percent before twenty-nine. The typical young arsonist has an unstable family life, typified by divorce, abuse, chaotic relationships, and frequent geographical relocation. Seventy-one percent have a prior criminal record, and less than a third have steady employment.”
Burdick was staring at him, so was Marconi, and Morgan was having a hard time fighting back a smile. Pride, Reid might have called the expression if he was being optimistic, but it was just as likely to be irritation.
“So we’re looking for an unemployed white teenager from a broken home?” Burdick grimaced. “Doesn’t narrow things down much.”
“Other facts don’t lend themselves to that interpretation.” It was lurking just out of reach, the piece that would make this puzzle fit together in clean and elegant lines, logic puzzle solved. “The geographical profile doesn’t fit. Arsonists of the frustrated-teen type don’t transition between locations.”
“So it’s a kid with a car,” Burdick replied. Morgan moved back through to the kitchen and stepped onto a chair that was near to the disassembled ceiling light fixture. He poked at it with the end of his pen, the wires dangling black, white, green for ground, household current of 110 would be enough to spark, light, ignite-
“In that case we would expect to see unsophisticated methods for setting the fire, accelerant of opportunity,” Morgan said. “Fixtures like this are designed with safeties to prevent accidental fires; he knew what he was doing when he took this apart. I think we’re looking for an adult. One who knows wiring, and has access to methanol. That’s not a common household substance.”
Marconi folded her arms in front of her and nodded. “Sounds like you’re talking about a general contractor.”
Morgan dropped back down to the floor with easy grace. “Did the Westons have work done recently? That could have given our UnSub access to the house beforehand to case it out. I’ll call Garcia.”
“You realize that there are over twenty-two thousand general contractors in New York alone?” Reid cocked his head. “Garcia’s going to be pissed.”
“That’s why I’m calling her, pretty boy. I can take the heat.” Morgan chuckled, shook his head and flipped open his phone, heading for the door. “Hey there, sexy mama. I have a question for you…”
1:00 pm Friday, Bronx High School of Science, NY:
“Pass me the soldering iron.”
“Are you sure about this?” Eli did it anyway, staring at the project laid out in bits and pieces on their shared lab bench. Wires trailed off and coiled around power supplies and boards laid in haphazard piles. He took advantage of Jonas’ distraction to sort a handful of LEDs back into the appropriate colour piles.
“Of course I’m sure,” Jonas replied with an air of supreme confidence. “Your problem is that you’re never sure. Even when you should be.”
Eli scowled at him – because really, what did Jonas actually know about anything? He was lucky he had Eli to stop him from walking into walls half the time, the kid was that out of it. “I’m sure that you’re doing that wrong,” he pointed out. “It’s going to short circuit.”
“That’s not what I’m talking about. And you’re wrong.”
“Your face is wrong.”
“Your mother is-“
“Gentlemen,” Mr. Mustoe rapped his knuckles on their desk as he passed by, his white lab coat spotted here and there with streaks of what looked like ink, a handful of tidy burn holes dotting the front panels. “A little more focus on the lab and less on theoretical geneaology, hm?”
“Yessir,” the two boys chorused, Eli’s jaw set. Jonas looked up and blinked owlishly through the safety goggles.
The silence in the physics teacher’s wake lasted all of a minute and a half. “Cassie says that Kate says that you guys aren’t talking. Again.”
“What are you, gossip central? You’re worse than the girls.” And the last thing he wanted to talk about was not-talking. Not-talking to Kate, especially. Speaking of someone who wasn’t sure what she wanted. ‘I need time’ was like ‘you’re so cute.’ Girl-code for ‘you’re nice, but you will never see me naked.’
See: conversations he was never having with Jonas.
“Swap that one out for the blue one,” Eli said, stabbing a finger at the circuit board under Jonas’ hands and pulling out the assignment sheet from his binder.
“Nu-unh. Don’t be stupid. Call her, grovel, whatever.”
“Not a chance. She knows my number, she can – the blue one!”
“This will work.”
Jonas connected the leads before Eli could grab them out of his hands. There was a flash, a loud pop sound that didn’t bode well at all, followed by a burst of brilliant green flame and a hit of ozone and burning-electronics smell just to make his day that much better.
The flame vanished before Mr. Mustoe could spray them down with the extinguisher that he was wielding like a weapon, and Eli buried his face in his hands with a groan.
The circuit board blinked its remaining LEDs in a cheerful pattern.
“Hunh, what do you know?” was Jonas’ only contribution.
The bell rang.
“So,” Jonas continued, oblivious to Eli’s pained expression. “Diner after school?”
“I need to go by the library and get my work schedule for next week,” Eli ran through his list of options – home to Grandma and homework alone, or cheeseburgers with Jonas, Billy and Teddy, and the strong possibility of having to punch all of them for bringing up the Kate thing again.
On the other hand, cheeseburgers.
“Yeah. I’ll meet you there.”
3 pm Friday, 19th Precinct, New York:
Five hours in and the table was piled high with paper and the board in the far corner covered with notes and photographs. The detritus of lunch - boxes, chopsticks, packets of soy sauce - sat in the middle of it all. Aaron Hotchner watched Rebecca Kaplan’s expressions and her hands while she spoke, her sincerity and intensity impressing itself on him with every tightly-controlled gesture. “But other than that,” she concluded, passing Hotch the file folder containing notes from her morning’s interviews, “I don’t think there’s anything directly relevant.”
Hotch turned the folder over in his hands, flicked his thumb across the edges of the white pages tucked neatly inside, each tabbed and labelled. “We’ll be the judges of that; even small details can be extremely useful. Thank you for this.”
“If there’s anything else, just let me know.” She stood at his nod and left, as briskly and efficiently as ever.
“This has to be it.” Prentiss entered in a flurry of movement and Hotch looked up, Rossi and JJ mirroring his motion. Burdick trailed in behind her and let the door close. “Alice Brooksley, the third victim?” She brandished a printout with a look of triumph. “Her work history finally came in. From 1985 to 1992, she was an administrator at the Creche, an adoption agency in New Jersey. And unless I miss my guess, that’s the same time period that Cheung and Loyola were also affiliated.”
Morgan was already in motion, searching through the stacks of files until he had the reports he needed, victims of the first and fourth fires staring up at Hotch when Morgan flipped the folders open. “You’re dead on, Prentiss. There are three years of overlap between all of them – 1988 to 1991. You think?”
“I think,” she agreed. Hotch tamped down the surge of hope – it was too soon to let himself believe that they’d found the key, but... He hit 5 on his speed dial and waited for the connection.
It took less than two rings before the line engaged with a click and a familiar warm voice greeted him. “Font of all knowledge, speak and be recognized.” Burdick cocked his head at the informal answer, and smiled slightly when none of the team reacted.
“Garcia,” the corners of his mouth tugged up, just for a split second. “You’re on speaker. Run a search for any other fires associated with former employees of the Creche adoption agency, based out of New Jersey. Relevant years of employment are 1988 through 1991, but keep the search broader than that.”
“I will have that for you in two shakes, oh captain my captain,” Garcia answered, and he could already hear her fingers dancing over her keyboard as she spoke. He put the phone down on the table and glanced up at the rest of his team to gauge their reactions.
“Who’d want to kill social workers and administrators?” JJ was musing aloud, her face clouded.
“An adopted kid with resentment issues?” Rossi suggested, leaning back in his chair and toying with his pen. “Or one who didn’t get placed. Abuse happens in foster homes. Some of that housing is unfortunately prime territory for already damaged kids to get worse, not better.”
Garcia was back on the line before Hotch could reply, with her usual bubbling and infectious excitement.
“None for former employees, sir, but I widened the search on a hunch, and I did get a hit on a set of adoptive parents. A fire in Springfield, New Jersey, about four months ago. The family house burned down, same MO as our guy.”
Hotch stared at the board and let the images rearrange themselves in his mind’s eye to fit the new information. “Why wasn’t that case included in our files?”
There was the distant sound of a click, and then Garcia’s voice once more. “Because nobody died. At first the local PD thought that it was the son who’d set the fire – he’s, oh, here. He’s got a juvie record, mostly petty stuff, some vandalism, but they weren’t able to link him to the fire itself. No physical evidence except for his presence at the scene, but since it was – you know – his own house, that was hardly enough.”
“Where is the family now?” Prentiss braced her hands on the table and leaned in, directing her question towards the phone.
“Emily, my dove! Frank and Mary Shepherd have… separated, and are filing for divorce. I have addresses for both of them, emailing them to Hotch now, along with the juvenile court records. Oh, ouch.”
Now what? “What is it, Garcia?” Hotch asked, before she could continue.
“The Shepherds have a second court action in the works; they’re filing for dissolution of the adoption, citing ‘undisclosed mental health issues’ as their reason.”
The reaction from his team was about what Hotchner expected, winces and frowns. Burdick was more impassive, thoughtful. “And the boy?”
“Thomas Shepherd, all of seventeen. His… here. His birth mother is one Wanda Lehnsherr, moved to the United States from Germany in 1986.”
“Did she just unseal sealed adoption records?” Burdick reacted, looking at Hotch as though expecting him to be just as startled, or appalled. He would learn.
“It’s ok, sugar; I’ll put them back exactly the way I found them when we’re done,” came the cheerful response from the other end of the line. “It says here that she was admitted to in-patient care already pregnant, suffering from extreme depression, suicidal ideation and -“ Garcia lost the jovial tone to her voice, a flat affect creeping in. “And paranoid delusions. She remained in hospital until the end of her pregnancy, at which point her twin sons were taken as wards of the state and she was transferred to the Carrier Clinic in Belle Mead, New Jersey, for long-term care.”
Reid was sitting forward now, his elbows digging into the table surface and his fingers tightly clenched. “Delusions; what kind of delusions? Anything involving fire?"
"No. It says here that when asked to identify the father, she claimed that her babies had been fathered by an alien robot."
Burdick blinked. "That's a new one."
"Not really,” Reid loosened his fingers deliberately, forcing blood back into them as he rubbed his hands together. “Dissociation fantasies are common methods of grappling with conflict; when the conscious mind is unable to cope with some or all facets of reality, the unconscious mind can generate fantasies that return a sense of control. Everyone does it to a certain extent; in a healthy person, we call it daydreaming. It’s when the person is no longer able to distinguish reality from fantasy that we consider it pathological. Robot sex is more commonly a male fantasy, incorporating the removal of agency from the sexual partner, but there was a case in New Mexico about ten years ago where a local woman claimed that she was in a polyandrous marriage with four extraterrestrials-”
And this would be the point where Hotch was going to need to take control back before everything dove off the rails. “Thank you, Reid,” he held up his hand to cut off the tumbling flow of words, nodded at Rossi. “Loss of control; that’s a common factor in arson cases as well. The mother has hallucinations; what are the chances that her sons do as well?”
“Garcia,” JJ spoke up. “You said there were twins. But only one of them was adopted by the Shepherds?”
“That is correct!” Garcia replied. “The Shepherds adopted Thomas, and his brother went to a family in New York City.”
“The name?” Hotch requested.
"William. Adopted sixteen years ago by Jeff and Rebecca Kaplan."