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Stained in the Blood (of a whole generation)

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Chapter Two:

3:30 pm Friday, 19th Precinct, New York:

 It wasn't difficult to profile Dr. Kaplan, even though Prentiss had only been introduced to the in-house psychiatrist a few hours before. Professional, driven, passionate about her work and, judging by the way she carefully aligned the paper clips on the case files in front of her, meticulous. At least when under stress. And right now, she was definitely stressed.

"Yes, we went through the Creche to adopt Billy," Dr. Kaplan answered Emily's question, her eyes flickering to Hotch, sitting with them at the table. "But not our other two. And Billy knows he's adopted, but we've never made a distinction between him and our biological children." She raised her chin and stared the profilers down, daring them to contradict her. "He's a bright, well-adjusted young man."

"That's not in question, Dr. Kaplan," Hotch soothed. He was better at the ‘we're-all-parents-together’ routine than Emily was, despite appearances, and it was always interesting to watch him work it. Kaplan frowned, but settled back in her chair. "We're more interested in anything you can tell us about the agency, why it might be a target. Anything you can remember would be of help."

Kaplan folded her hands in her lap and frowned. "It was a long time ago," she began. "We went through them because everything in New York was so backed up; we would have had to wait at least another year for a placement. The Interstate Compact approved the adoption, and the agency seemed very professional. We didn't know about the problems they were having at the time, of course."

The file was sitting open in front of Prentiss on the table and she skimmed the printout of the article on top. "The kickback scandal?"

"That's right," Kaplan nodded. "About a year after we took Billy home, there was an investigation and the whole agency was shut down. Improper and incomplete documentation, bribes to judges, potentially forged relinquishment documents... We had to submit a statement and provide copies of all of Billy's paperwork, naturally, but everything was in order. We were lucky."

Hotch flipped a page. Prentiss held her breath. It was one thing to know what had to be done and another to be there for it. In so many ways this was so much easier than other notifications could ever be. Everyone was still alive, for one thing. But that moment, that hush that settled just before they tore someone’s world apart; that was a scar more permanent.

Hotch turned the folder and pushed it gently towards Dr. Kaplan. A photograph was clipped to the paper on top, and for a second Dr. Kaplan’s eyes flared with recognition, a look which quickly shifted into confusion. A young man with dark brown hair and elegant features stared up at them defiantly, both alike and so utterly different from his brother. "Were you aware that Billy has a twin?"

It was like watching the woman take a blow to the gut, the way she seemed to stop breathing for a moment. Kaplan stared, first at Hotch and then down at the file folder between them, eyes wide and almost panic-stricken. She didn’t need to say a word. She hadn’t known.

One second ticked by, then two, Kaplan’s mouth working with no sound coming out. She moved, breaking the spell of the moment, and reached out to pull the photograph closer.  Her hand came up to push strands of dark hair back behind her ear as she bent over the photograph, studying it, memorizing each line and shadow.

“He looks very much like Billy, doesn’t he? But this boy’s eyes are blue; Billy’s are brown. They can’t be twins,” she replied with something like satisfaction, pushing the folder back with her fingertips.

“It’s rare, but there are cases where even identical twins have different hair and eye colours,” Emily answered, trying to inject a measure of calm into her voice. It was so natural to resist the truth, to grasp at any straw, but it was so important that she believe them now.

“And even with the similarities, they could easily be fraternal. We’ve seen the records, Dr. Kaplan. Your son and Thomas Shepherd-“ Emily nodded at the folder between them, “are twins. Thomas was adopted a few weeks before Billy, by a family in New Jersey.” She slipped the second sheet out from under the photograph, handed her the documentation that Garcia had unsealed. “His house was the first one attacked.”

Kaplan’s head jerked up and her eyes went wide. “Is he-“

Hotch shook his head. “No. He and his parents survived. But the Shepherds – and the agency employees who have been killed – they were targeted for a reason. And once we know what that reason is, we can get in front of the UnSub and stop him before he can kill again.”

Emily passed her a notepad. "We're going to need you to write down anything and everything you can remember about the Creche. Who you dealt with, how they seemed to you, even incidental conversations. Anything you can remember about the victims, especially."

Kaplan nodded and took the pad. Emily could almost see the shield of professional detachment sliding down around her as she did so, a defense mechanism long honed by practice. "I have our records from all of that at home, and I'll have my husband fax them to me. We didn't deal with Mr. Cheung at all; that was all through our lawyer. Our original caseworker passed away about five years ago. Breast cancer. It's why the names didn't connect for me, originally." She was apologizing, regret hanging heavy behind her words.

"There's no way anyone could have made those connections, especially not in time to save the Westons," Hotch cut right to the heart of the matter and Dr. Kaplan deflated, then squared her shoulders and nodded firmly.

"I'll pull together everything I can."

They stood and she headed for the door, then paused, one hand on the back of an empty chair. “Is there any chance we could meet him? And his parents, of course.” There was no need at all to ask whom she meant.

Hotch nodded, his expression carefully schooled to suggest nothing. "We have agents meeting with the Shepherds to discuss the attack on their home. When this is all over and things have settled down-“ he paused, a pause that had to be deliberate, to allow Dr. Kaplan to fill in the blanks to her own preference.

“Yes, of course,” she nodded slowly, her eyes drifting back to the photograph again.

“Considering the circumstances, Doctor Kaplan, we’re arranging for a police guard for your home tonight."

“I suppose that’s necessary,” Kaplan replied, “but I can’t say that I’m fond of the idea of being under house arrest.”

“This isn’t house arrest. Until we understand how this UnSub is choosing his targets, anyone who had formal contact with the Creche in those key years has to be considered a potential victim. This is for your protection, Doctor.”

“Like I said,” she replied, her smile thin. “I understand that it’s necessary, but I don’t have to like it. And now- Now I have to figure out how I’m going to explain all of this to my son.”

 

4 pm Friday, Springfield, New Jersey:

Happy families are all alike, that was how the quote went, but unhappy ones were each miserable in their own ways. Or something like that.

That was a bit of a stretch, Rossi decided, sitting in a hideously uncomfortable paisley armchair in the temporary apartment currently rented by Mary Shepherd. The living room was sparse, had the look of something pre-furnished, a place of refuge for her after the fire and the beginning of what Garcia’s research had suggested was shaping into a bitter divorce.

There were scattered mementos and photographs placed on the shelves, an attempt to make the place feel like home, but none of the pictures included Thomas.

Frank was also present for the interview, parked in the matching chair and glowering at the pair of FBI agents as though everything was either directly or indirectly their fault. His meaty hands, knuckles scarred (whether from his assembly line work or bar fights, Rossi wasn't quite ready to decide), were resting on the arms of the chair, his fingers drumming.

Mary Shepherd, tall and slim with dark brown hair, perched on the very edge of the couch beside JJ, her hands trembling and fluttering around her face as she spoke. The delicate wounded-bird motions spoke to an instinctive part of his brain that wanted to protect. It was silly to look for signs of her son in her face, on the base level, but something about the guarded look in her eyes reminded him of the photograph.

"He always was trouble, even when he was a baby; he'd just cry and cry and nothing could soothe him. They all said it was colic and he'd grow out of it, you know, but it takes its toll, a baby crying and not being able to soothe him. And he's always had trouble at school. We had him tested for dyslexia, you know, but he can read just fine."

"There's nothing wrong with that boy except sheer stubbornness," Frank spoke over her, and she ducked her head reflexively.  

"Mrs. Shepherd?" JJ prompted kindly, and the older woman revived under the attention. JJ was good at that, at smoothing ruffled feathers. Note to self; work with her on interrogations more often.
 
"Well, then we saw a new doctor, and she said he had ADHD," Mary ticked the diagnosis off on her fingers, "and then I did some reading? Because that didn’t seem to fit, and the medications didn’t seem to be helping, and I thought maybe he also had ODD, and possibly RAD, on account of being adopted and all."

“You’re not a doctor, Mary,” Frank cut in. “All that alphabet garbage is just new ways of saying ‘pay us thousands of dollars to say we have no goddamned idea.’” His eyes flickered to JJ and he looked a little bit abashed. “Sorry for the language.”

“There's nothing linking Reactive Attachment Disorder to healthy adopted infants with no history of abuse," Rossi said. "ADHD, RAD, Oppositional Defiance Disorder - that's a lot of labels for one kid to carry around."

“And there were always a drugs, new regimens; we even had him enrolled in some clinical trials, Doctor Milton signed us up for them. New therapies that were supposed to help...” she trailed off, wringing her hands. “But nothing ever did,” she finished quietly. “He’s just always been so angry.”

Frank rose from his chair, paced around behind it, leaned his hands on the back, a shield between himself and the other three in the room. His shoulders slumped a little and he fought to bring them back to straight, and when he looked closer Rossi could see the tired lines around his eyes, the bags beneath them that Frank’s initial bluster had been an effort to conceal.

“In my day, we just called 'em as we saw 'em - bad seeds. His mother was out of her mind,” Frank clasped and unclasped his hands. “He's been nothing but trouble since the day we got him, and –“ his shoulders did slump, then, in something like defeat. “And while I know what the police said, Agent Rossi, I don't believe for an instant that he had nothing to do with that fire. When there's trouble around here, you can bet your ass that Tommy is right in the middle of it. He’s got no respect for anyone, or anything."

JJ leaned forward to look around Mary Shepherd’s shoulder, and Rossi watched Shepherd while she carried on the line of questioning. "The night of the fire, Mr. Shepherd; do you remember anything unusual?"

“Other than my house burning down, you mean?” Shepherd caught himself, gave his head a tight shake and took a breath.  Rossi leaned forward, hands clasped and hanging below his knees, to listen to the answer.

“No. I heard noises,” Frank began, holding JJ’s gaze, his shoulders and jaw set and determined. “Went downstairs to check it out. The place had been trashed, cabinets turned out, I figured Tommy had been looking for something. Maybe to pawn; or smoke, I have no idea. But it was one hell of a mess.”

“Did you smell anything unusual, or hear anything out of the ordinary?” Rossi pushed.

“No, nothing,” Frank replied. “Look, we’ve already been over all this, with the police, with the insurance company, with the arson investigators. There was no-one else there, I couldn’t get the light to turn on in the kitchen. I went back to the living room, and it was empty, with crap thrown everywhere. And then everything was on fire. I yelled for Mary, and we ran out of the house.”

“You yelled for Mary-“ Rossi cocked his head. He couldn’t be saying what his omission was suggesting, but then – they’d seen enough real depravity that casual indifference shouldn’t have been so alarming. “Not Tommy?”

“Tommy was sleeping in the treehouse,” Mary supplied hastily, glancing at her husband – at her soon-to-be-former-husband – before she spoke. “He does that sometimes. When he doesn’t feel like sleeping in the house. I saw him go out there after dinner.”

“So he was out of the house the whole evening?” Rossi asked, just to be sure. “It was the middle of winter; that’s a cold night to spend outdoors.” There was a tell, a flash of anger between Frank and Mary, and Frank looked away first.

“The whole evening,” Mary nodded. “He has a sleeping bag up there, took his school bag to do his homework,”

“So he said,” Frank’s mouth screwed up in a frown of distaste.

“To do his homework, Frank,” Mary shot back, one sign of defiance that flared and then died again, her hands back to fluttering. “And then we went to bed, and when we woke up there was banging downstairs, and then everything was filled with smoke. Tommy was out of the tree house when we got outside, and we waited for the fire department.”

“And,” Frank added, “the police.”

“How did he seem, when you found him?” Rossi asked.

Mary pinched her lips together and there, there was the sign of doubt that he’d been waiting for, the thing that had made her stand by Frank at first and not her only child. “Quiet,” she supplied softly. “Flat. Not angry anymore.”

 

4:00 pm, Friday, The Beacon School, New York:

The school was mostly deserted by the time Teddy left the locker room, hair still wet from his post-practice shower. The rest of the basketball team was still back there, making crude jokes and shit-talking about the game, but he had places he’d rather be. Billy wasn’t at his locker, though, or waiting for him by the front door. Teddy pulled his phone out of his pocket, just in case, but there were no texts, or missed calls. Which meant one last place to check.

“Hey, you,” Teddy dangled his upper body over the railing on the front stairs of the school, flashing a grin at the dark head below. Billy’s eyes were wide when he looked up from his math book, back against the wall in the sheltered recess.

He was standing and brushing off his jeans by the time Teddy made it down the stairs and around the side. Teddy waited until Billy had stuffed his book back in his messenger bag before taking advantage of the semi-private hiding place to drag Billy in for a kiss. Billy’s lips were warm, and his hand came up to grab at Teddy’s shirt and hold him in place for a minute longer. “Everything alright?” Teddy asked, once they’d broken apart. He scanned Billy’s face, but there were no new bruises, and he didn’t flinch away.

“I’m fine,” Billy started walking toward the sidewalk. “Kessler was lurking, and I didn’t feel like playing ‘dodge the goon’ while I waited.”

It was Billy’s matter-of-fact acceptance of things that made Teddy angrier than the existence of the bully in the first place, and he felt his jaw clench at the idea of Billy running scared from anyone. Especially a butthead like Kessler. “I keep telling you, come hang with us in the gym during practice. No-one cares if you sit in the bleachers, and he wouldn’t dare pull anything with Mr. Trevor right there.”

Billy shrugged, and tucked his hands into his pockets. “I get more homework done when I’m not being distracted by sweaty guys in gym shorts,” he joked, laughing when Teddy grimaced. “I don’t need you to protect me, Ted,” he continued after a minute, getting serious again. “I can handle Kessler.”

Teddy raised a hand, then dropped it again. “We’re partners, Billy,” he said, bumping Billy’s shoulder with his own. “We look out for each other. It’s part of the deal.”  

Billy smiled at that, looking up and then away. “Yeah, I know.” That hung in the air for a second before he changed the subject back. “Anyway, it’s only a couple of months before he graduates and is out of here for good.”

“Assuming he graduates. I’m amazed that moron can even read.” Teddy’s tone was as light as he could make it, but he couldn’t entirely ignore the anger underneath. But then they were off and running with the jokes, and Billy was smiling and acting like nothing was wrong, and it was easier to let it all go. At least for now.

--

Eli was already at the door when they arrived at the diner, and Teddy waved to flag him down. Eli waited for the pair of them to catch up, his hand half-lifted in greeting. “No Jonas?” Teddy called out as he and Billy got close enough, and Eli shook his head.

“He should be here,” Eli shrugged and pushed the door open, his massive backpack shifting on his shoulder. The guy seemed to carry half his locker in there, but the weight of it never seemed to bother him. “He said he’d grab a table.”

Jonas was in a booth, not a table, but at least it was one big enough for the four of them this time. His head was down, his brown buzz-cut all that was really visible as they approached. He missed their approach entirely, typing furiously on the laptop on the table in front of him. He was caught off guard when Eli grabbed the earpiece of his headphones and pulled it away from his head. “Hi!” he yelped, coloured a little, then shuffled over to give Eli room to slide in beside.

There was general confusion and scuffling and backpacks piling up in the corner of the booth, and by the time the dust settled and food had been ordered, Billy and Teddy were half-sprawled across one side of the booth and Eli was trying to read the screen over Jonas’ shoulder. “Is that Cassie again? Isn’t she coming today?”

“She’s grounded.” Jonas pushed his headphones down so they sat at the back of his neck, and clicked his speakers off. The tinny beat died away. “Not from the computer; from me.” He looked woebegone. “Her stepdad thinks I’m a bad influence.”

And that wasn’t actually as funny as it first seemed on the surface, Teddy decided. Jonas came across as all geek – like, winning-robot-wars and able to recite Pi to the 200th digit kind of geek. But he had one hell of a protective streak, and Teddy could half-imagine him mouthing off to Officer Burdick at exactly the wrong moment.

Billy just laughed. “You? What trouble are you going to get her into? The incredible dangers of Katamari Damacy marathons?”

“Dunno,” Teddy grinned. “Katamari can get pretty intense.”

Billy snickered, and Eli sat back in the booth again, shaking his head.

“I don’t know. It just sucks,” Jonas complained. “Oh, Eli? If Mr. Burdick ever asks? You’ve been helping Cassie with her math homework on AIM.”

“I’ve been what? I don’t even have an AIM account.”

“That’s not what he thinks.”

“Aw, come on!” Eli let his head fall back against the cushions of the booth and groaned. “The last thing I need is a cop with an attitude problem thinking that I’m hitting on Cass.”

“It’s not like that! Anyway, Cassie deletes all the chatlogs so it’s not like he’ll know-“

The bickering was as comforting as it was familiar, and Teddy felt his muscles unknot, Billy’s shoulder warm where his arm was draped across it. The weekend stretched out ahead of him, warm and fresh and inviting. The game against Central was tomorrow evening, and if he finished his history paper at Billy’s place tonight, then they’d have all afternoon to hang out-

Billy’s phone rang, a shrill warning siren that he’d assigned for his parents when he’d been mad at them months ago. “You still haven’t changed that?” Teddy laughed, as the noise brought him out of his daydream. Eli and Jonas were still bickering, but lowered their voices to give Billy a chance to talk.

“Hey dad. Yeah. At Woolster’s – yeah. Study group with the guys.”

It was only sort of a lie; they usually did eventually get around to complaining about projects and test prep classes and PSAT scores. But most of the time it was just fries and comic books and movies they hadn’t seen, or had seen, or swore they would never see and ended up watching anyway, and it was one of the best parts of Teddy’s week.

“Teddy, Eli and Jonas, yeah.” Billy replied. Teddy picked up the paper wrapper from his straw and dragged the corner across Billy’s ear. Billy swatted at him and pretended to glare.

“Sure – what does she want?” Billy reached across the table and stole the pen that Eli had been tapping on the table, pulled Teddy’s napkin out from under his elbow to start taking notes. “Okay. Tuna sandwich, side of coleslaw, bottled water. Got it. Yeah.” He hung up and tucked his phone back in his pocket with a sigh, and started digging through their stuff.

Teddy arched an eyebrow, and refused to move out of Billy’s way. “Takeout run?” It was unusual enough to be worth asking; Billy’s dad was usually huge on the whole home-cooked meal thing.

“Mom’s working late; that big FBI case, dad asked me to bring her dinner.” Billy jammed a handful of his fries into his mouth and fought to get his wallet out of his pocket.  “They got here today,” he explained to Eli and – well, just to Eli, since Jonas was head-down and typing away again, oblivious. “Looking for some guy who’s been setting fires.”

Eli leaned forward on his elbows, attentive. “Someone’s been setting fires? Do they have any leads?”

Jonas stopped typing and blinked up at them. “Five deliberately set house fires in the past month, at least eleven confirmed deaths – police thought it was kids, but now they suspect a serial killer.” So maybe he had been paying attention. Teddy’s surprise must have shown on his face, and Eli’s definitely did, because Jonas gave them a scathing look. “Don’t you guys pay attention to the news?”

“How do you get ‘serial killer’ from ‘FBI’?” Eli sat back, his eyes narrowing with the question.

“The people they called in,” Jonas said, his hands moving as he explained. “It’s a group of specialists; behavioural analysts. They only get invited in when the police think they’ve got a real psycho on their hands.”

“Oh yeah; like Doctor Loomis from Hallowe’en?” Teddy raised an eyebrow.

“Yeah, but with guns.”

“Loomis gets a gun early on,” Billy pointed out, crawling over Teddy to get out of the booth. Teddy put up his legs and made himself a roadblock, and got an elbow in the sternum for his trouble.

“Your mom’s a cop, Billy; does she carry a gun?” Jonas asked, still poking at his keyboard.

“My mom’s not a cop. She just analyses people for the cops. And she doesn’t need a gun. She’d just talk to a bad guy until he gave in to the overwhelming urge to throw himself into traffic.” Billy said, his voice muffled by the hoodie he was pulling back on over his t-shirt.

Teddy stared, mesmerized, at the strip of skin bared when Billy’s shirt rode up. “Want me to walk over with you? I need to get home soon anyway.”

 “Aww; young love,” Eli snickered. “When’s the wedding?”

 “Sure, that’d be great,” Billy replied to Teddy first, and slung the strap of his bag over his shoulder. “Don’t be jealous, Eli, just because I’ve got game and you don’t,” he jibed, rubbing his knuckles over Eli’s shaved head, jumping back before Eli could swat him away.

“Hardly. No offense, Teddy, but you’re really not my type.”

Teddy flexed his muscles as Jonas laughed, then cocked his head. “You still haven’t called Kate?” Teddy hazarded a guess.

“I’m not calling her. If she wants to talk to me, she can call me.”

“Oh brother,” Billy rolled his eyes.

Teddy laced his fingers through Billy’s as they walked away from the table. Eli and Jonas’ voices rose and fell behind them in the familiar tones of another argument, until the bustle and noise of the diner drowned them out completely.

 

5:00 pm, Friday, 19th Precinct:

Hotch set his laptop on the table so the screen was visible to everyone, Garcia’s office with its dozen computer monitors on display. Morgan watched as her fingers flew across the keyboard that was just out of view below the screen. She shook her head; that was never a good sign. If Garcia couldn’t find a thing, generally, that meant it wasn’t there to be found.

“Even widening it out got me nothing,” she reported, the pink fuzzy ball on the end of the pen tucked behind her ear bouncing in time with her movements. “There are thousands of general contractors in New York City alone-“

“Twenty-two thousand, seven hundred and forty-one,” Reid supplied from his seat, not looking up from the map spread out on the table in front of him. Morgan snorted, earning him a confused blink from Reid in return.

Garcia took it all in stride. “Yes, thank you darling. I have also checked electricians, home inspectors, home security companies and – on a whim and a prayer – plumbers. But despite those vast quantities of men and women willing and able, there are none who have any connection to the Creche agency during your three-year window, and none of the victims had any renovations done in the past ten years. At least none that they hired licensed contractors for.”

“Did we just go back to square one?” Morgan groaned, running the next set of options through in his mind. If not contractors with access, where did that leave them? “What about contractors based out of New Jersey?”

“That search is currently running, oh best beloved,” Garcia nodded off-screen, at a monitor that Morgan couldn’t see. “I’ll let you know haste-post-haste. So far, I have to say, it’s not looking good.”

Rossi dropped his coat on the back of a chair, JJ coming in the door behind him. “That would be a ‘no’ on the handymen, I take it?” he asked, eyebrow up. “We need to bring in Thomas Shepherd,” he switched subjects without preamble.

“Do we like him for this?” Morgan asked, reaching for the notepad sitting at his elbow. The teen still didn’t fit the profile, but any lead was better than nothing. 

Hotch replied before Rossi could. “New Jersey PD cleared him,” he shook his head. “No traces of accelerant on his hands or clothes, no tools in his belongings that could have been used to strip the fixture, no evidence that he’d ever purchased methanol, and he was in custody on the dates of the fires at the Loyola and Dwyer homes.”

“The physical evidence matches his mother’s story, that he was up in the tree house before the fire. He may be our only actual witness.” JJ took her seat, reaching for a bottle of water from the side table.

“Where is Thomas now?” Hotch asked, his eyes flickering to the laptop screen.

“He was at the Essex County Juvenile Detention Center for two months after the whole ‘house set on fire’ incident,” Garcia said. “After he was cleared, he was released to a group home in Union County. Sending you the relevant deets as we speak. Anything else, my dear ones?”

“That’s all for now, Garcia.” Hotch nodded. “Let us know the moment you have more.”

“As though upon the wings of an eagle,” Garcia agreed – at least, Morgan assumed that meant she agreed – and signed off with a flourish and a blown kiss.

Hotch sent a file to the printer and straightened again. “JJ, call the group home and arrange for us to sit down with Thomas. We need to know what he saw that night. Morgan, Prentiss, back to the files on the Creche; see if you can find what we’ve missed. Whatever is going on here, this isn’t necessarily about the specific victims, which means his next hit is going to be all but impossible to predict.”

“Is it possible that it’s something related to the twins specifically?” Prentiss asked, rocking back in her chair and flipping her pen over in her fingers. “The Shepherds were the first ones targeted, and the subsequent fires have all been in New York, closer to the Kaplans.”

“But it’s not a direct line,” Reid objected. “And half of the victims were upstate, with no connection at all other than association with the agency. If the UnSub had access to records that gave him Thomas Shepherd, he would have found the Kaplans long before now. Not to mention he didn’t follow up with Thomas when he had the opportunity. He let him walk away.”

Rossi tilted his head. “Then Thomas doesn’t have whatever it is he’s looking for. Maybe it’s something to do with the mother?” Reid looked at him sharply. “Just putting that out there.”

“Wanda Lehnsherr is still hospitalized,” Morgan reminded him. “Garcia checked with the Carrier Clinic and they’ve had no reports of any breaches of security, either in or out.”

“Any visitors?”

Morgan shook his head. “The only visitor she gets is a brother, Pietro, and he’s been in Poland on business for the past month. They don’t expect to see him again for another six weeks, at best.”

“We still need to talk to her,” Hotch nodded at Rossi in thanks. “But I don’t want us getting too focused. We still need to deliver a profile, and right now all we have is speculation.”

The notes on the pad in front of Morgan blurred into each other as he sifted through the events of the day. He jotted down a handful of things – Adult. Methyl alcohol, Creche.  Electrical/home repair knowledge. Hunting.

He underlined that last a couple of times, then glanced up to find Hotch watching him. “This guy, Hotch,” Morgan began to try to put into words the thoughts he’d been chasing all day.

“He’s not killing because he has to; it’s not what drives him. It’s an afterthought; a way to clean up after himself. He’s practically tearing these houses apart searching for something, in a short span of time and while the residents are home. That suggests that he knows exactly what he’s looking for, and doesn’t care how he has to go about getting it. He’s organized enough to bring his own accelerant, but disorganized enough to go in when he’s most likely to get himself caught. This guy has a serious vendetta, and he’s not going to stop until he’s accomplished his goal.”

“Then we need to find out what that goal is,” Hotch replied seriously, as though it would simply be that easy. High hopes, man. “And get to it before he does.”