Elle looks at Reid covered in blood, and never feels as protective as she does in this moment. The unsub is dead, and it wasn't a clean job this time. She knows it's because Paul Dempsey reminds Reid of Carl Heber. She knows because she was trained to know, but knowing and caring are two very different things. The only thing she cares about is that Paul Dempsey will never kill another cop.
When Reid is finished, she gives him a hand up. Reid insists on blood borne pathogen safety protocol, so they're both wearing nitrile gloves. Hers are green today, and his are lilac: he always buys the multicolored packs and their hands are of a similar enough size to share. Either way, when Elle peels the gloves off there will be no blood on her hands.
The clean up goes smoothly. Bloody gloves and clothes go in bio-hazard bags, tools get wiped down and put back in the tool box, guns go back into their holsters. Paul Dempsey gets left behind like the trash he is.
Back in the car, Reid pulls out a worn copy of Proust and Elle flips on the radio to an oldies station. They have a long way to drive tonight. She's hoping to get to Las Vegas by morning to let Reid hit the poker tables before they continue on. It's the easiest way to keep themselves afloat, and if it lets the FBI believe Spencer Reid and Elle Greenaway spend their days drunk and their nights gambling, well, that's better than the truth. Still, this is the last time Elle is willing to risk it. She expects to get a heads up before warrants are issued for their arrests, but one never knows, and she's determined to keep Reid safe.
If they do get a heads up, Elle thinks it'll be from Garcia. She still has a soft spot when it comes to Reid. Not that having a soft spot is a hard thing to have when it comes to Reid. Elle has one too and she's seen the rage and hate he hides behind those puppy dog eyes and babbled statistics. She watched as he put seven bullets in Carl Heber's torso and afterwards, all she had wanted to do was swoop him up into a hug and then make him eat something. The Las Vegas Police must have agreed, because no charges were ever filed in Heber's death.
Of course, Carl Heber had been a child killer who, with his partner, Gregory Dunlap, had murdered three FBI Agents and five cops while making his getaway. That, and he'd been found with a gun that Reid had told police had been pointed at him. Seven shots were surely overkill, but no one who had heard the story was really surprised. Carl Heber had destroyed Reid's adopted family and so Reid had destroyed Carl Heber.
The problem with that, Elle knows well herself, is that one kill isn't enough. Taking Carl Heber down doesn't bring Morgan or Prentiss or Hotch back to life. It doesn't free Gideon from the mental hospital that Reid was forced to leave him in. It doesn't stop the cracks in Reid's psyche from widening, and it doesn't stop the cravings for Dilaudud. All killing Carl Heber does is stop Carl Heber from killing more people, and that has to be enough. The only vengeance they can give their colleagues, their friends, their family is to keep the unsubs from killing more people.
So that's what they do. Paul Dempsey is the fourteenth unsub that will never kill again because of them.
It's Garcia who figures out that Reid and Elle are SSA Bailyn's unsubs. Leah Bailyn runs the BAU these days, but the only person Garcia tells is JJ. There may not be a team anymore, but JJ will always be family to Garcia.
JJ goes over the evidence again and again. She waits almost a week and then she tells Strauss. Strauss hauls SSA David Rossi out of retirement on the basis of JJ's report.
Rossi is old school. A cowboy from back in the day when profilers worked alone and obsessively. He makes it clear that this is his case, that he doesn't need a team, and even if he did, he won't want the remains of Aaron Hotchner's. He bans them from any more investigation and makes it clear the consequences of snooping will be severe. JJ and Garcia take an immediate dislike to the man, on top of ignoring his dictates.
Garcia does most of the snooping. Both digging into Rossi's past and hoping for any leads of Reid and Elle. She figures out that Rossi knew both Hotch and Gideon, and was friendly with them both before his retirement. He's written a handful of books and makes an obscene amount of money on the lecture circuit. His solve rate is good, but it's not as good as theirs was.
Reid and Elle are a harder mystery to solve.
Rossi comes back to the BAU because Strauss asks and because he owes Hotch nothing less. Hotch's team, however, wants him gone. The media liaison and the tech have made that abundantly clear. They were the ones who realized their former team mates were Bailyn's impossible unsubs. They were the ones that had to have tipped off those same team mates that the FBI was on to them.
Rossi sighs to himself. This is why teams are bad. Sure, it keeps the unsubs from getting obsessed with their profiler, but teams in such high-stress positions become loyal to each other first. Teams cover for one another no matter what. Hotch's team is just worse than most. They've been covering for each other since one of them pulled the plug on Emily Prentiss' life support against her mother's wishes, and probably long before that. There's no way to know what lapses in protocol and out right illegal behavior they've been hiding. Rossi thinks it's a good thing Hotch died at the scene. He didn't have to watch his team self-destruct. Gideon watched and look what it did to him.
The mental hospital is top of the line, but Rossi knows it's nothing more than a living morgue for Jason Gideon. Someday soon whatever is keeping Gideon tethered to this Earth will let go and he'll finally be at peace.
The orderlies have Gideon waiting for him out on the patio. He has a five o'clock shadow and barren eyes.
"Jason," Rossi says in greeting.
"Dave," Gideon responds with a nod.
Rossi is relieved that Gideon is talking today, and better yet remembers him. The doctors hadn't been able to guarantee him either thing.
"It's lovely out here," Rossi says, taking the chair next to Gideon.
Gideon peers at him curiously. "Why are you here?"
"I came to ask you about Spencer Reid." This is the next hurtle.
"Reid is a good kid: bright, driven. He'll make a great agent and a better profiler."
This is what Rossi was afraid of. Gideon has been set a drift in time: remembering his victories and forgetting his failures. Maybe this is the only gift that could be given to the man.
"Anything I should know?" Rossi asks.
"Edictic memory, IQ of 187, his social skills need a little work, but it's not like you'll be taking him to any dinner parties. He'll surprise us all." Gideon sits still for a moment, staring off at the horizon and when he speaks again, his voice is different, lower. "Tell Spencer I'm proud of him."
For a second, Rossi knows Gideon remembers. No one has told him about Carl Heber or Reid or even about Prentiss, but every once in a while he remembers that Morgan is dead.
Rossi starts to ask him about Reid's weaknesses, but before he can get the question out, Gideon is gone again.
"Tell Hotch to drop by, okay Dave?" In Gideon's mind, Aaron Hotchner can never die.
Reid has the newspaper spread out on the hotel bed, searching for clues. Emily is sitting crosslegged next to him, staring at the paper just as intently.
"Six cops dead in Baltimore in the last six months. The city must be out for blood," Emily says.
"The local cops are at least," Reid replies.
"We can't go after anyone right now, Reid," Elle says. "Rossi is looking for us to do exactly that."
"Hotch would want us to get this scum off the streets," Emily says.
"Hotch wouldn't want us to get arrested."
"And if we keep our heads down and use that supersmart brain of yours, we won't," Elle says. "Besides, the Fed got partials at the last scene. They're crawling all over the city. Two more of us won't help."
Emily sighs. "Three, but Elle is right. Too many Feds."
"Then what are we going to do?" Reid asks with a huff.
"We're going to lay low until Rossi gives up and retires again, and then we'll get Hotch and Morgan all the revenge they need."
The killings stop.
It's been three months since Paul Dempsey was slaughtered and Rossi doesn't have a single lead. It's bad enough, he's brought Jareau and Garcia back into the loop.
"They're disciplined enough to stop killing. To completely drop out of sight." Rossi paces Garcia's bunker. "Where would they go?"
"I don't know, sir. If it were just Reid, I'd say Las Vegas, but there's been no trace of them there since the night after Dempsey was killed," Garcia says. There have been agents in and around Las Vegas since Rossi first read the case file. He'd been sure Reid would want to stay close to his mother, but he'd been wrong about that.
"I've been watching the surveillance tapes that the casinos pulled for us. I don't think they'll risk going back, even with the monetary incentive," Rossi says.
"Elle might go to Seattle," JJ says with a shrug.
Rossi presses his knuckles into his eyes. "At least one of them is still thinking straight, and between Gideon and Hotch, I know they're good. Try again."
"Reid might want to visit Emily, Agent Prentiss' grave. He did that several times before Carl Heber was killed," JJ says.
"Or he might want to visit Gideon, since he must know his mother is under guard."
"Reid is smart enough to figure out that if his mother is being watched, so is Gideon. And I don't think Reid is remorseful enough to come back to her grave when there is no social expectation that he does so," Rossi says, making JJ and Garcia bristle. Prentiss' death has been a bone of contention between them, since Rossi first walked on the job.
"He would, but he's smart enough to avoid that trap too," Garcia says, gripping her pen tighter.
Emily Prentiss's hospital room is everything money can buy. Everything but a complete recovery.
There is a big bay window that lets light stream into the room and comfortable chairs for visitors, but the underlying hum of life support belies any thought that this is anything but a hospital.
Prentiss shouldn't be here. She has a 'no extraordinary measures' request on her jacket, Garcia had double checked that herself, but her mother had overruled the doctors, overruled her team, and so here Prentiss is. Elizabeth Prentiss never visits her daughter. Garcia visits her every other day, splitting her week between Emily and Gideon. She can't decide which visit is more painful.
Prentiss is on life support for a month before they discuss what should be done. Her mother is hell bent on keeping her alive even though the doctors say she will never wake up. Both Reid and Garcia know this is not what Emily wanted. Garcia, because she'd hacked Emily's medical files, Reid because he and Prentiss had actually discussed it once.
It's another month before they work up the nerve to do anything about it. JJ, Garcia and Reid gather in Emily's room in the morning. They hold an impromptu wake, telling stories and remembering Emily. Garcia strokes her hair, JJ holds her hand, and Reid pulls the plug on the life support.
Reid had insisted he be the one. "I'm not coming back to the FBI," he had said. "Let me do this."
No alarms go off, Garcia has seen to that. Emily Prentiss' chest just ceases to rise.
"Reid," Emily says, directing his attention to the television.
There's a crime scene on the screen. "Five dead cops, Reid. Five dead cops and a dead little girl. Just like Stacey Tierney. Just like Morgan and Hotch," Emily says.
Reid looks intently at the screen, like staring harder will give him more clues to work with. There is no video of the bodies, but the red and blue of the cop car light bring him right back to Carl Heber's slaughterhouse.
Reid remembers the first shot. The crack from the treeline. He remembers his head whipping around, trying to find the source of the noise. He's distracted by a grunt. He turns his head again, and this time he sees. Hotch is on the ground, the white of his shirt completely red. There is another crack, just in time for Reid to realize these are bullets, but not quickly enough for him to reach Prentiss before she too is hit.
JJ and Reid take aim at the same moment. Bang, bang. Bang. Three shots in quick succession and Gregory Dunlap is dead, falling from his treetop perch.
JJ calls for medics as they run. Reid reaches Dunlap's body first, secures the gun, and then checks for a pulse. There is none. Every single one of their shots hit their mark.
SWAT is swarming behind them when Reid turns back to access the damage done to his colleagues. Gideon is holding on tight to Hotch's body. That's all it is, a body.
Everett Delaney's body is found mutilated in a barn in Western Pennsylvania. The cops have been looking for him for three weeks, not because he was missing, but because he killed a little girl and five cops. Given the state of the body, the report goes straight up the chain of command to the BAU.
"We'll help you," JJ says, looking at the crime scene photos, "but there are two conditions."
"I'm listening," Rossi replies.
"First, you stop visiting Gideon. He doesn't have the answers you are looking for and you're hurting him. Leave the man in whatever peace he has left. Second, when the SWAT team goes in to take Reid and Elle down, they get a no-kill order. You know neither of them will shoot at a cop, so take them in alive. We know the Bureau doesn't want a case, but neither of us will do anything if they're just going to be taken out." JJ glares defiantly at Rossi through out the speech.
Rossi nods. "Okay. As long as they don't shoot at the SWAT team, it's a deal."
"They won't shoot a SWAT team, not without some serious provocation," Garcia adds.
"I agree. I'll do my utmost to keep them alive," Rossi says with a nod. "Anything else?"
"First of all, take Prentiss off your victims list. She had a 'no extraordinary measure' note on her jacket and her mother over ruled the doctors. Reid didn't kill her, Gregory Dunlap did," Garcia says, clearly thankful to be getting that off her chest.
"I don't think Prentiss is Reid's victim. You're right, I looked into the whole thing. I know the two of you were there as well," Rossi says. "I think Prentiss was the trigger."
"And Hotch and Morgan weren't?" Garcia asks.
"It's possible, but Agent Reid had a long list of things that could have triggered this. He was kidnapped and tortured in Georgia and, if Bureau rumors are true, he gained an addiction to something out of that little scenario. Frank Breitkopf targeted Gideon, Morgan and Hotch died, Gideon spiraled into a major depressive incident, and finally Reid pulls the plug on Prentiss' life support. Incrementally, they probably all contributed to the situation in which we now find ourselves," Rossi explains.
"So how do you know?" Garcia asks.
"We will probably never know which of these was the trigger, but my money says Prentiss. She was his friend, and he had to kill her."
Elle watches as Reid talks to the air. From her point of view this is a two-man operation, her and Reid against the scum of the world. She knows that from his, it's a three-man team: him, her, and Special Agent Emily Prentiss.
She'd never actually met Prentiss, but after almost a year with Reid, she feels like she's known the woman since childhood. Reid's Emily is strong and blunt, she's opinionated and intelligent, and most all she's loyal and dedicated to the cause. Elle wonders if the real Emily Prentiss would have come close to the one built up inside Reid's brain. It doesn't matter, the Emily Prentiss Elle wants to meet has only ever lived inside Spencer Reid's head.
She's dangerous, the Emily in Spencer's head. She's bloodthirsty and relentless, and she's the one who who talked Reid into going off script on Everett Delaney. Elle knows Emily doesn't actually exist, but things go much smoother when she pretends she just can't see her; if she is just a ghost and not another sign of Reid's deteriorating mental state.
Delaney is already dead when Reid calls her, shot twice and stabbed twelve times. When she arrives, Reid is still bloody. She sits him down on a hay bale and cleans his face with wet wipes.
"Sorry we forgot to wait for you," Reid says as she hands him clean clothes. "Emily didn't want to miss him. He was stalking another little girl."
"It's okay, Reid. You got him," Elle says.
"The body was found 50 miles east of Akron, Ohio," Rossi says, laying out the information from the Delaney file. "Reid and Greenaway are no longer worried about DNA or fingerprints. They know that we know who they are, and they were never worried about prosecution anyway. They are, however, still worried about being found, and they're pretty good at covering their tracks. We had a break, though. A surveillance tape for a gas station. Greenaway pays in cash for what had to be a full tank and Reid never exits the car. As far as we know, it's the first time they've been caught on camera since Las Vegas."
JJ and Garcia stare at the grainy pictures of Elle. Her hair is pulled up into a quick ponytail, and even with the low resolution, she looks tired.
"I think something about Delaney caused them to go off script," Rossi says.
"You think if they've managed to stay off camera this long, something must have forced them into a situation where they couldn't do the research up front," Garcia interjects.
"Wait, the gas station they stopped at, where is it in relation to the barn where Delaney was found?" JJ asks.
"About 30 miles southeast," Rossi says, marking the spots on a map.
"On a full tank of gas in a Ford Explorer, they could go approximately 450 miles," Garcia says and Rossi carefully scribes a circle on the map.
JJ and Garcia stare at the map for a moment before looking at each and then back down at the map.
"Do you think?" Garcia asks.
"Would they really go there?" JJ responds.
"What?" Rossi interrupts.
"If they really are hiding out in that red circle, there is a place we didn't think to look," JJ says.
"Gideon's cabin," Garcia adds.
Reid feels safe here, even though he knows Elle is still mad that he and Emily went off on their own. They'd killed Delaney without her, and then called her after. Elle usually does the shooting while Emily watches, but this time, Emily had wielded the gun. He doesn't know why Elle is worried, Emily is a good shot. Delaney didn't even get a chance to run.
"Stop thinking so hard, Reid," Emily says. "We got the bad guy. Now we just need find the next scumbag to take out. Elle will be fine as long as we remember to bring her along this time."
Reid smiles faintly, and goes about making tea for them. "Elle doesn't like it when we forget her, but she's more worried about Rossi."
"David Rossi is too old and inflexible to find us."
"He was a good profiler in his day. Hotch respected him."
"Gideon could be quick to judge sometimes. And he held on to a grudge," Reid says.
"Either way, we're smarter than Rossi," Emily adds.
"Let's just hope we're luckier, too."
Elle does the grocery shopping alone. Mostly because Reid wants to explain to Emily the origins of starfruit or the manufacturing process of Corn Pops and all the talking to thin air gets them weird looks. She's worried, eventually, someone will put two and two together and they'll get arrested buying Pop Tarts, so Reid stays at home. Plus, this way she gets an hour of quiet, away from Reid's two-sides conversations and his inquiries into when they can kill again. She wants to be out there hunting too, but it's too dangerous with Rossi dogging their every step. Especially after Delaney.
She knows they should move on, that Gideon's cabin is too closely connected to their past. It makes Reid feel safe and calm, though, and if they are going to wait out Rossi then they are going to need that.
Elle buys bananas and more coffee and Jif peanut butter--the only kind Reid will eat--and a paperback detective novel for herself. The checkout boy rings her up and bags everything into a single paper bag. Reid has a thing against the plastic ones.
Outside, the sun is bright in her eyes and that's why she misses it at first. There's a whole SWAT team out here with Kevlar body armor and guns drawn. For a second, she thinks about going for her piece and ending this right here, but she'd never shoot at a fellow cop. Instead, she slowly places her groceries on the ground and stands back up, lifting her hands to the sky.
"Gun!" one of those cops yell, and she instinctively turns towards his voice. Someone in the crowd of cops must be jumpy, because a trigger gets pulled.
As the bullet rips through her rib cage, she wonders why it hurts less this time.
The leafs have just started to turn, and Gideon's cabin looks like a scene from one of those landscape painting by people Garcia can never remember the name of. Hacking into the cabin's security system had been more difficult than it had any right to be. The man had been seriously paranoid. Garcia had done it though, because it is the best way to get Reid safely into custody and Gideon's paranoia can't trump her skill.
Rossi lets them ride in with him, even though neither of them should be anywhere near this scene.
"I might need one of you to talk him down," he'd said, and that was that. They've come to an understanding these past few months. Garcia can admit it now: David Rossi is one of the good guys.
Garcia still can't bring herself to think of Reid as a killer, even though she is the one who first came to that conclusion. She remembers Reid as the gangly kid who trailed behind Gideon while he recovered. She remembers the physics magic and the silly birthday hats. She remembers his strength, and how glad she'd been to see him alive after Hankel. She remembers how gently he'd kissed Emily's forehead and how he'd cried when she drew her last breath. She is here, if for no other reason, to bear witness for that Spencer Reid. Her friend.
Rossi brings out a bullhorn, presumably to order Reid out of the house, but JJ frowns, and pushes it back down to Rossi's side. "Let me," she says, and Rossi nods, holding out the bullhorn.
JJ doesn't take it, instead she strides past the stunned SWAT team and knocks twice on the cabin's door. "Spence, it's me, JJ."
Rossi gestures furiously for SWAT to lower their guns and Garcia holds her breath, waiting for a response. She hopes they are right, that Reid isn't so far gone that he'd hurt JJ.
"JJ?" Reid asks loud enough that Garcia can hear through the barely cracked door. He sounds confused.
JJ pitches her voice low, and Garcia loses the thread of the conversation. She can only watch as the door slowly opens wider and JJ urges Reid out of the cabin like a wounded animal.
It takes fifteen minutes. Fifteen minutes of held breaths and mumbled prayers. Garcia can do nothing. She hasn't felt so helpless since she sat in Tobias Hankel's house hoping against hope that they would find Reid in time. She wonders now if they had always been too late.
Reid hands his gun over to JJ. It's the same revolver he walked away from the FBI with, the same one he shot Carl Heber with. Once it's in JJ's hands, SWAT rushes in, and Reid submits to the handcuffs without complaint.
Rossi gets the call once Reid is safely in the back of a cop car. Greenaway is dead. He kicks himself, mostly because he made a promise to JJ and Garcia, but also because he'd truly meant to take Greenaway alive. There were questions only she could answer, questions he had really wanted to ask.
He takes a single deep breath, and then pulls JJ and Garcia aside, sheilded from Reid and the SWAT Team.
"She had a gun," Rossi says. "She had a gun and one of the locals spooked. A single bullet through the heart. I'm so sorry, she died at the scene."
JJ turns and leans on Garcia and they breathe together like that for a few slow moments, as Rossi watches. They've been victims and cops and family today and he wishes he had been there to see the glory days. To see Aaron Hotchner's team take on evil and win.
He'd been wrong before, he realized. All teams weren't bad things, in fact, they were the only thing that could even hope to hold people together when things went this badly. He wishes he had been here for more than the fall.
JJ and Garcia go to Elle's funeral together. It's bright out, not a cloud in the sky, and mockingbirds call out to one another. The turnout is small, just a handful of people they don't recognize, them and David Rossi. He is sulking around the tree line, looking like he's going to bolt any second now.
Garcia looks at JJ and JJ just nods. Garcia smiles back and then turns, extending her hand to Rossi. He joins them reluctantly, and Garcia takes his hand.
"Garcia?" Rossi asks, confused.
"You're one of us now, Rossi," Garcia says.
David Rossi is five days re-retired, but he understands what she means, and joins them at the graveside. The priest keeps it brief, and JJ lays calla lilies on the casket before they move on.
At first, he thinks they are heading back to the car, but instead they walk deeper into the cemetery. Prentiss is here, back among the tall oaks and dappled sunlight, and even further back, Hotch. Only Morgan is missing, buried next to his father in Chicago.
They stay until the sun is low on the horizon.
The lawyers say Reid isn't mentally competent, and since he's refusing medication, it doesn't look like there will ever be a trial.
Garcia visits him once a week and JJ joins her when she can. They bring Reid crossword puzzles and logic problems and sometimes they even play cards. Most visits are spent in silence. Reid doesn't talk much these days.
Today is a good day, Reid smiles at Garcia's running commentary and keeps up with the game.
He lays down his cards: a four and a five, pulling the inside straight. Garcia folds her ace eight and looks at her watch. "I have to go, Reid. I'll be back next week for you to beat again."
Reid nods, and stacks the cards. "Emily wants you to know she likes your hair," he says in a scratchy voice.
Garcia tries to smile as a shiver runs down her back.