Will is walking through a dark forest. It's not a living forest, because there are no sounds of startled birds, animals moving around or even leaves rustling. In fact, there aren't any leaves, because Will can see the contours of branches covered in snow by the very faint light of the stars. It's not cold, even though he's barefoot, and the branches don't bar his way. They're just there when he looks at them.
There is a sense of urgency, but Will doesn't know what there is to be urgent about. He should keep moving, though. He sweeps through the clumps of trees, smoothly, with no snow falling on him, and the branches eventually thin out. He can see a remote light ahead, larger than a star. It might be the moon. He brushes the final branches away, and the blue-white shapes of snow covered ground slope away in front of him in waves, frozen and silent, and he sees, not the moon, but a house. He knows this shape. It's his own house, lit from within by several lamps. As he watches, the luminescence of it grows and the shape of the house changes, until it's his house, but also the moon. This makes him, not alarmed, but… puzzled, and a little bit sad. He stands there, and the moon/house stays where it is, and he knows he can stay at the edge of the woods and watch it, but if he tries to come closer, his house will disappear completely into the moon and eventually the moon will set and he will be left alone in the dark.
He stands there, gazing longingly, wishing he could be inside his house, in his bed.
It's muddy. It's been raining for hours every day for days now, and Will spends several minutes wiping his dogs down, getting all the dirt off their paws and legs (and in Buster's case his whole body) before he lets them back into the house, one at a time. They wait patiently for their turn by the door while Will goes through two old towels and one rag before he's done. He locks the door behind Eunice who is last and watches her trot away toward the stairs, her only goal a nap after their morning adventure.
Will is wet too. His parka only does so much, keeping the rain out, and after the walk and getting the dogs clean he is sweaty and uncomfortable. The drive to work is slow, not many people willing to speed in the rain, even though it's almost stopped by the time he turns into his assigned parking. He pulls his parka off while he walks through the hallway to his office and Jenkins from DITU ducks out of the way as he passes him.
"Hey Graham! Watch where you're going!" he shouts after him.
Will doesn't answer. His thoughts are already full of today's schedule. He has office hours until two, and then two lectures in a row. One on general forensics for the new students and then a smaller workshop thing for electives. This is his longest day this week. His students are generally good about not asking too many questions, but he's not looking forward to the workshop, which is bound to be full of specialized questions calling for his opinions. He's not good with those. He tends to say either too much or too little. His psychiatrist tells him he has interesting things to say, but a lot of the time when he talks about things he hasn't planned out in advance, other people fall silent and stare at him. It happens with alarming regularity.
After work, Will takes on the long drive to Baltimore. It's where his psychiatrist has his office. He also lives there, and has in fact invited Will to his house a few times. Will never stayed long, because although Doctor Lecter is a fantastic cook, Will doesn't feel at home with all the opulent furniture. It's overwhelming, like a glossy lacquer covering everything and smoothing out every single imperfection. Will doesn't understand how Doctor Lecter can stand it.
Doctor Lecter's office is better. It doesn't look like any other psychiatrist's office Will has ever been in (and he's been in quite a few) but it suits this particular man — high ceilinged, full of books, dark, rich color everywhere. The office has a loft, where most of the volumes are. When Will doesn't feel like sitting down opposite Doctor Lecter's sharply interested gaze he sometimes climbs up there, continuing the conversation while browsing book titles. Will gets the feeling Doctor Lecter has a very rich inner life, and the titles on the spines of all those books certainly reflect that. It's possible it was his first visit to the office that made Will stick with this psychiatrist. Their introduction wasn't the best. Jack Crawford, his boss, had been trying to get him to go out in the field again and brought out a pet psychiatrist to help him convince Will that this would be a good idea. It hadn't worked, of course — Will is much too stubborn and knows himself too well — but the pet psychiatrist, who had turned out not to be very much Jack's pet at all, had stuck.
Will takes a breath or two before he crosses the street and enters the old brick building. No matter how many times he comes here, and it has been at least once a week, sometimes more, since they started two years ago, it still makes him feel a little anxious. This feeling passes as soon as he walks through the waiting room and Doctor Lecter ushers him into the actual office. There is a peculiar stillness in there. A specific kind of… safety. Doctor Lecter smiles slightly as they sit down — all his expressions are slight and Will hates him a tiny bit for that ability.
"Did anything interesting happen this week?" Doctor Lecter asks him. "You look rested."
"Oh, nothing much," Will says. "It's been raining a lot. The dogs found a carcass day before yesterday."
Doctor Lecter tilts his head. "Deer?" he asks.
"Nah, a boar, actually. Or at least that's what it looked like. It was weeks old, though. I brought a piece of it in to work, for the students."
"I imagine that was interesting," Doctor Lecter says.
"It was supposed to be a lecture, but since a good sample of what I was talking about kind of fell into my lap, I turned it into a practical. They were on an autopsy segment anyway, might as well let them have a look at some well developed parasites."
"Some parasites are quite beautiful," Doctor Lecter agrees. "I made sketches of some practical examples when I studied Medicine in France. I may still have them somewhere."
Doctor Lecter has a remarkably well-ordered small archive of his sketches. Will can't imagine he'd ever not know where any one of them is, but he spends a good half hour going through anatomy sketches with him, admiring what is indeed several drawings of examples of different parasites embedded in what looks like living flesh, clamped to provide good access or simply cut open, the insects in their various stages of development peeking through. Will usually has good talks with Doctor Lecter, but it's been some time since he's seen pictures drawn with such obvious care and enthusiasm for the subject. It reminds him of crime scene photos, somehow. He compliments the doctor on his talent of composition and tells him he'd love to see more of his art sometime. He leaves his appointment in a great mood.
After sessions with Doctor Lecter Will usually buys something and eats it in his car while driving back. Tonight it was a burger with extra fries, and despite wiping himself and the steering wheel off the best he could afterward, his dogs spend more time trying to lick his fingers than actually looking for places to pee on their walk in the dark. It's windy, but there hasn't been any rain since lunch. Buster manages to find a patch of mud anyway.
Will is not any kind of active field profiler, but he likes to puzzle over cases that seem to be getting nowhere. His boss has given him a close to full access account in the hopes of someday tempting him to come go over crime scenes with him. Will hasn't so far, but sometimes he sends emails with impressions he gets from crime scene photos. A recent case, only a few weeks old but stalled, describes a woman murdered underneath her bed in the house where she lived alone. Signs were found that someone spent the night under the bed two days after the body was found, despite the fact that the house had been closed off, but the tissue samples found on the floor, in unusual quantity, seem to prove difficult to analyse.
The pictures are high quality as usual. Will enlarges the ones of the pool of blood without the victim, and then a couple of the ones that show most of the victim's body in situ. He scratches Charlie's head while he tabs between them, thinking. His immersion is not as intense as it used to be in person, but there are hints of loneliness, confusion and despair, especially when he includes some shots of the room's interior. He's probably not going to be able to help the investigation on this one. Confusion and despair aren't rare in certain types of killers. It's interesting about the tissue samples though, and their size. Reading the preliminary analysis on them, they seem like more the kind of thing you'd get from a zombie than from a human being. Perhaps the killer was trying to open the skull, but didn't have the tools for it. It did look as though the goal has been to tear the victim's face off.
Confusion and despair — tearing this woman's face off. Will imagines it, pulling the woman underneath the bed, holding her still while she screams and gurgles as he slits her mouth wider, wider, scrabbling at the edges of the wound with his fingers to open it up even more, to… get inside? But nothing comes of it, his goal isn't reached and eventually (the woman still beneath him, dead or dying) he leaves, not having achieved what he was after.
Will blinks. Confused is a good word for it, yes. There's only thwarted purpose there. Will looks through the case again to see if any other similar attacks have been discovered, but there's nothing. He'd expect the killer to try again with this result, but maybe something has happened to him.
Will makes himself a cup of tea, three of the dogs following him into the kitchen. It's Winston, Ruth and Eunice who still aren't convinced that Will only feeds them at meal time. They haven't lived with him for long enough yet. Will ignores them, and when that doesn't discourage Winston and Ruth, points to the living room and clicks his tongue sharply. They know this one. It's one of the ones Will spends most time on, teaching it to any new dog that comes to live with him. "Go lie down." Winston casts him a final reproachful look and leaves the kitchen last to let Will finish making his tea without dogs underfoot.
It's late, but he's in a strange mood. He doesn't want to go to bed yet. Instead he brings his tea back to his laptop and brings up the old cases. The Chesapeake Ripper ones. The pictures of these aren't as high quality as those from newer cases, but Will has no problem recreating them in his mind. He can only get so far, though. Take this one, for example, from six years ago: The body was found in progressively smaller pieces and there are dutiful pictures of each of the parts, even the ones that are tiny cubed pieces of the victim's lungs. Some of the body is missing, as is always the case in Ripper murders. In this one it was parts of the thighs and the kidneys, which was surprisingly hard to puzzle out, since the body was in so many pieces. Will drifts into the images of it with grateful familiarity, thinking about parting joints with exact precision, imagines starting the process with the victim alive, cutting off pieces that won't kill him fast, adjusting the restraints as he goes. He can never get a sense of motive off the Ripper cases, or much emotion. There is usually a sense of doing exactly what he wants to, though. A quiet calm. A sense of fulfilment. He rests in the perfection of that case for a long time, flicking through the pictures, then closing his eyes and seeing the process, then going back to the pictures.
Afterwards his mind feels calmer but now there's an other restlessness in his body he knows he can kill with a drink or two. He downs two half-full tumblers of whiskey in rapid succession and goes to bed. He jerks off, thinking of nothing.
Will is entering a body on a morgue table. He is folding the edges of a chest wound back and stepping into it. The overhead light source only illuminates the wound and the room outside the table is lost in darkness. There is plenty of room next to one of the lungs (the ribs have been broken and are helpfully folded away). The slick walls of lung and liver are unbroken, but there is an unoccupied space between them that he slides into. After a while, the outside room disappears and there are only shifting wet organs around him, the walls of the body making space for him easily. As he lies there in the darkness, he notices a squirming noise, like tiny thin limbs scrabbling for purchase. He turns his head toward the source of the noise, pressing his ear against a slick surface, bulging slightly. Something is moving in there. He probes with his fingers gently against the wall, and he can feel the mass of something, or several small somethings, just behind it. He wants to see what it is. It's dark, but if he can get through the wall, he knows he will be able to see. Will fumbles with his fingers over the slick surface until he finds a seam in the flesh. He gently coaxes it apart, and it opens for him slowly. Nestled in a glow just inside are several cozy grubs, white and tan, sliding against one another. One of them has little spindly legs and is crawling over the others toward him. It squirms against his hand, slipping between his fingers. It bumbles its blind head against the skin of his palm, tiny mandibles opening and closing.
Will comes in to work to get some writing done. He owes an article to Law and Human Behavior and sometimes it's easier to actually get the work done if he's in his office when he writes. The risk that brings is students undeterred by the sign on the door stating that anything they want to ask him can be done by email. Also, colleagues. And at times, Jack Crawford.
Office policy is to keep his door open unless he has a visitor, for improved transparency or something like that. Will isn't really interested in what is decided in the staff meetings, as long as he is allowed to do his work when he wants to do it. For some reason, they let him keep his own hours. His lectures are always well attended, so Will assumes the way he teaches works for everyone who has a say.
Will gets two pages into his text about forensics in difficult weather conditions before Jack Crawford strides into the room, leaning over his desk, his hands on either side of Will's laptop.
"We might have him," Jack says.
Will pulls his laptop closer, irritated. He glances up at Jack and then away. He doesn't like staring people in the face, but it's a little awkward when they're standing right on top of him looking down at him, if he doesn't acknowledge them in some way.
"We need you, Will," Jack says. "Do you remember the BSHCI inmate who escaped last week?"
"Since when do you need me to catch Doctor Chilton's leftovers?" Will says, but his blood runs cold. There's something more. He can feel it.
"I know for a fact that you remember the Chesapeake Ripper," Jack continues. "Right before Abel Gideon went into custody two years ago, the Ripper went dormant. Last night he may have become active again."
"Are you saying… You're not saying that Abel Gideon is the Chesapeake Ripper," Will says slowly. He can't be. Will has even been to study the man in question, together with Alana Bloom and several others attached to Quantico.
"This points in that direction," Jack says. "Doctor Chilton is very hopeful. Will, we need you to come look at the scene. No one but you has what we need for this."
"No…" Will says, his mind still racing with thoughts and impressions of Gideon coupled with impressions he's had of Ripper cases. They don't match up. It can't be.
"You've studied the Chesapeake Ripper cases more than anyone else we have, and you have your…" Jack waves his hand in the air.
"What, my party trick?" Will says. He hasn't been on an actual live crime scene in person for years now. But if there's even a small chance that the Ripper is active again, that he could experience a new murder and maybe get further into the mind of this killer… A chance of understanding him better. "No, " he says, trying to sound firm. "There's a reason why I don't do that anymore."
"You do it every week, with the cold cases," Jack protests.
"It's not the same!" Will closes his laptop, hoping it'll save the text he's written. "It's not the same at all," he continues, turning his chair away from the desk, out from under Jack's massive presence hanging above him. "I look at pictures, I get impressions — not the same as reliving the actual murders."
Jack comes around Will's desk, standing in front of his chair, towering over him again. "We need you," he repeats.
Will doesn't like Jack's tactics. They're effective, but crude. That he's expecting Will to fold just because Will has less body mass than him speaks volumes about how desperately Jack wants him to do just that. It makes Will want to resist him, just because. He stands up, which makes Jack take a step back to avoid bumping into him. It's a tiny thing, but it helps.
"I'll think about it," he says. "Like I said, there's a reason why I don't do that."
"But isn't it worth it?" Jack says. His voice doesn't do pleading well. It comes out more like an order. Everything he says comes out as a deep, booming thing. "If we could finally catch him?"
"I'll sleep on it," Will says, gathering up his parka and shoving his laptop into his bag. He'll have to finish writing his article at home. Or in a café. Or anywhere else but here.
On the way out from the building, he runs into Alana Bloom. Doctor Bloom has helped Jack solve several serial killer cases. She doesn't have Will's problem with being at the actual sites, but then, their approaches to profiling are very different.
"Going home, Will?"
Will stops half way out through the sliding doors and turns to her. "I couldn't get my writing done in there, I need to be somewhere else."
She smiles a small, dry smile. Her coat and lipstick both are very red. She really is beautiful. "Jack get to you?"
"Have you seen it?"
She nods, not pretending she doesn't know what he's talking about. "We're pretty sure it's him."
The door makes an attempt to close, and Will moves just inside to avoid it. He's anxious to get out of the building, but the temptation of more information keeps him on the threshold. "How exactly are you sure?"
She glances around, but the only other person in the lobby right now is the security guard further in by the elevators. "The composition," she says. "It's… artistic. Look, you should come see it."
Will leans his head against the glass surface of the doors, having closed again. "Not you too. You know that could backfire. A lot."
"It's been years," she says seriously. "Personally, I think you could risk it. You have a lot more tools in your arsenal to defend yourself with nowadays. Doctor Lecter has been good for you, hasn't he?"
Will sometimes forgets Doctors Lecter and Bloom are colleagues and acquainted, and as such may discuss professional cases. Probably not on a detailed level, since Will is reasonably sure they're both much too professional to gossip. At least he hopes they don't. He's certainly talked quite a bit about Alana with Doctor Lecter, a year ago when he had that debilitating crush on her. It still twinges a bit, but she's in a relationship now, and it was never more than a wistful longing, anyway.
"Yeah. I don't know. It feels like a lot to risk." Part of Will wants it very much. He's spent years looking at the Chesapeake Ripper cases from afar, never being able to get close to him. He's not like anyone else Will has ever studied. His methods are… unique. Breathtaking.
Will turns away, starting back out through the door. He has to back away first, to make it open again, which brings him closer to Alana. "I'll think about it," he mutters over his shoulder and hurries outside as soon as the doors react.
His laptop didn't save the last paragraph of what he'd written, but it's not too bad, he can fix this. Except as soon as he's home, he finds excuses to do anything but finish his text. He takes the dogs for a long walk (it's back to raining, but he doesn't mind, it complements his mood). He goes through his fly tying supplies, noting that he needs to order more nano silk. He's almost out of brown. He spends a long time browsing the website of his favorite supplier. They have new beads. He spends a little more money than he'd planned to.