When the shrieking alarm began to beep at 8:00 am, Emily reached over JJ's body to slam it with her fist, groaning, "It's too early ... Let's just stay in bed for a little while longer."
JJ curled her body toward Emily, kissing her softly on the lips. "I'd love to, baby, but we can't. We're meeting with that gardener at 9 and then we've got to head into town to pick up some stuff for the house. Come on. We can have a nice lunch in town and introduce ourselves to some of our neighbors. Everyone here is supposed to be very friendly. Not like in New York, where we barely even spoke to the people down the hall in all the years we lived there."
"Mmmnnnummph," Emily responded, grabbing the covers and pulling them over her face. "Fine. But you take the first shower."
Fifteen minutes later, JJ opened the blinds and tore the covers off of an ardently-protesting Emily. "I don't want to hear it, babe. It's your turn."
All the cross-country driving and the undercover drama and the sexual acrobatics of the previous evening had left Emily feeling surprisingly sore. You're an FBI agent, she told herself sternly. Now get it together before you need to do some physical re-training.
After showering, dressing, and putting on makeup, Emily made her way downstairs and immediately smelled the delicious aroma of espresso brewing in the kitchen. "A cup for you," JJ offered, smirking slightly at the elated expression on her face. "A little nonfat milk and three Splenda, just how you like it."
"Did I ever tell you you're the best?" Emily commented, gratefully accepting the azure blue coffee cup from her hands and kissing her on the cheek.
"Yeah," JJ replied teasingly, flipping her blonde hair behind her shoulders, "but it never hurts to hear it again."
"Well, then, you're the best," Emily repeated, gulping the slightly-bitter caffeinated beverage until there was nothing left.
"Another?" JJ inquired and Emily nodded her head yes just as she heard the doorbell ring.
"That must be the gardening guy," Emily said, turning toward the doorway. "I'll get it." She walked hesitantly toward the door, sharply inhaling before glancing through the peep-hole and seeing Spencer standing there, looking uncomfortable and anxious as he shuffled his Converse sneakers against the doormat outside. This is your first test, Emily reminded herself. Do not fuck it up.
"Hello! You must be Spencer!" she exclaimed, in a voice nothing like her own. "Why don't you come on inside? We've got some espresso brewing if you'd like a cup."
Spencer shifted his hazel eyes and nodded, entering the living room.
"How do you take it?" Emily asked.
"How do I take what?" he echoed, visibly confused.
"Your coffee," she responded through gritted teeth, reminding him that this was supposed to be their first meeting. "How do you take it?"
"Oh! Um, black ... with lots of sugar. Um, maybe I should do it?"
"No, no, you're a guest here!" Emily patted his arm reassuringly before calling into the kitchen. "Alexandra, can you bring out another cup for Spencer here? He says he likes it black with a lot of sugar."
"Sure thing, honey," JJ called back.
"So. Spencer. I'm Vivian, and back there, brewing up that delicious espresso, is my partner Alexandra. We saw your advertisement and we could really use your help. Why don't you tell me a little bit about yourself?"
When JJ came in with the two cups of espresso, she smiled sweetly and introduced herself before placing the cup in Spencer's trembling hands.
"Um, well ... I live next door. I'm working as a part-time caretaker for a woman who has some ... healthcare issues."
"But doesn't that take up all of your time?" JJ inquired curiously.
"No, she's ... she's an elderly woman with bipolar disorder. I just have to make sure that she takes her medication and sometimes we go on walks together or she'll have me read the newspaper to her ... but it gives me a lot of free time, and I'm trying to save money for college," he explained. "When I was 18, I had a full scholarship to Ole Miss, but my mom got sick with cancer and I decided to take care of her instead of going. She died last year. Since my scholarship expired, I decided to move here for the in-state tuition assistance and raise enough money to start paying off the loans I'm going to have to take out."
"That's smart of you," JJ mused.
"Oh, this one here used to be a financial planner back in Manhattan," Emily bragged, squeezing JJ's hand. "Any advice you need, you just ask her."
"Th-thanks," Spencer stammered. "And since Ms. Winters has lived in this town the longest, if there's any information you want about what it's like to live here, you can ask me and if I don't already know, I'll find out from her."
"Like ... information about all those murders we've been hearing about?" Emily asked boldly, sitting back in her seat and crossing her arms over her chest.
"Vivian!" JJ hissed. "Did you have to?"
"Yes, I have to! We finalized a deal on this house before discovering that there might be a ... a ..." She forced a shudder. "A serial killer on the loose?"
"All I can say is to take safety precautions," Spencer replied carefully. "But coming from New York City, you're probably already used to doing that. The people here are more trusting, almost naively so. That's why I dug a firewall tunnel around my area of the house around back - and I should probably tell you that for it to work, I had to expand it into your backyard and kitchen, too."
"Why would you need a firewall?" JJ asked suspiciously. "I mean, you could be the serial killer, for all we know."
"I, um, I have a girlfriend? Back in California? And sometimes we like to ..." He coughed, blushing, as Emily and JJ exchanged amused glances. "Sometimes we like to send text messages that aren't exactly G-rated. And since this whole town operates under the same IP address and anyone can easily hack into it, I wanted some privacy."
"How does it work?" Emily inquired, certain that he was telling them about this for a reason.
"Well, if you're in the kitchen or the backyard and you send a text message, anyone trying to hack into your messages will just see a bunch of characters that don't make sense. But the person receiving it will see the text you meant to send."
Emily nodded. This was truly a brilliant move, probably orchestrated by Garcia to divert suspicion about the nonsense text messages they were supposed to send every night. If the unsub hacked their phones, she'd assume that they were in the kitchen or the backyard under the protection of the firewall. Ingenious.
"But will you be able to see our messages?" JJ asked, looking concerned. "I mean, you're a twenty-something male living next door to a lesbian couple. How do we know you haven't taken further liberties with our property so you can ... I don't know, peek into our bedroom at night?"
"Alexandra!" Emily admonished her, an apology forming on her lips before Spencer interrupted.
"No, no - it's OK. But you need to worry more about all those kids running around with infrared binoculars and miniature video cameras than you do about me. In fact, Ms. Winters was positive she saw a suspicious-looking red truck outside of your home the day before you arrived and became hysterical, babbling about the truck and secret video cameras. She was so upset I had to administer an injection of lorazepam to calm her down."
"So ... there could be cameras here now?" Emily said in a low voice, an uneasy shiver running through her.
"If Ms. Winters is right - and please keep in mind she has a long history of delusions - it is possible," Spencer answered, tucking his golden hair behind his ears. "But, according to her, you'll never find them. Or even if you do find them, there will be multiple types in multiple rooms, smaller than a tack."
JJ's eyes watered with genuine tears. "I don't want some pervert watching us every night!" she sobbed. "Forget the down payment. Let's just go home. Let's go back to New York now."
Emily laid a steady hand on her arm. "Alexandra. Baby. Calm down. We've been here for one night. If some kid gets off by watching us, then how is it any different than the Peeping Tom we didn't even know about, until the cops knocked on our door with all that video footage? At least now we're aware of it and can put on a show for that little perv. Or we can always do it in the car." She leaned in to kiss JJ who, to her surprise, kissed her back. If not for Spencer clearing his throat awkwardly, they might have forgotten that he was even there.
Glancing at him, Emily couldn't wait to describe to the rest of the team how his face turned bright red, beads of sweat appearing on his forehead, with his leg jiggling up and down at an unprecedented speed upon seeing them kiss.
"Anyway," Emily added dismissively, "this is coming from a woman with some serious psychiatric issues. Maybe she imagined the whole thing."
"You're right," JJ said, straightening her back. "But if we find even one camera, I am calling every single one of my legal contacts to go after him on warantless wiretapping charges."
"She's so protective," Emily cooed, stroking JJ's arm. "You'd never know it, but there's an absolute tigress hidden underneath that blonde hair and those blue eyes."
"I ... I can see that," Spencer choked out.
"So when can you start and how often do you think we'll need maintenance?" Emily asked, turning her body toward him.
"I'd say twice a week. How's ... Wednesday and Saturday around noon?"
Perfect. The two days following their mandated "date nights" at the lesbian-friendly bar and the independent cinema.
"And how much do you charge?" Emily wanted to know.
"Thirty dollars for maintenance, fifty if you want me to do any decorative planting. Trust me, it's the lowest rate in town by far - and I'm right next door, so if you ever have a problem, I'll take care of it for free."
"Sounds great!" Emily mustered up some enthusiasm in her voice. "We'll see you on Saturday, then."
"Oh, I'm sure you'll see me around town before that," he responded. "But I'll be here and ready to work on Saturday. Since this place was cleaned up before you moved in, I don't think you'll need me in the next two days, but if you do, here's my phone number." He reached inside his pocket and pulled out a miniature notebook, quickly scrawling down his name and number along with a message. "And that's my e-mail."
He folded the paper and handed it to Emily, who put it in her pocket. "Let me see you out," she said smoothly, showing him to the door and shaking his hand. "It was very nice meeting you."
"Likewise," he replied, ducking his head slightly as he headed back toward the house next door.
"I'm going to take a look at the garden and think about any additional plants we might want for decoration," Emily told JJ after closing the door.
She surveyed the property and pulled out Spencer's note. It contained a new number - probably a throwaway cell phone like the one's they'd been issued - and committed it to memory. Then her eyes scrolled down and a chill went through her as she saw what he'd written when he claimed to be giving them his e-mail address.
It read: Be careful. We think she's already watching you.