“So where are we going?” David Rossi asked Garcia, the flamboyant computer technician, as the team entered the briefing room.
“Portland, Oregon has requested assistance. They have a killer that likes to break bodies and he’s not particular as to whose.”
“Explain,” Rossi ordered.
Penelope Garcia tapped a button on the remote. A smiling Latino male with thick muscles appeared in front of a weightlifting gym. “Monday morning, Every Body’s Gym wasn’t opened on time and by on time, I mean the ridiculously early hour of four am. When two of the early customers went around back to tap on an office window and inform Mario Ramirez, 27, – the guy in charge at that scary hour and apparently forgetful about unlocking the door- they found Ramirez in the back alley. Someone had broken multiple bones and then threw him off the gym roof. Since the only security camera in the building is on the front door, locals believe that someone followed him in the back door and attacked him. There’s evidence of a struggle that starts in the office and tracks all the way to the roof. Where the unsub pushed Ramirez over the ledge.”
The profilers flipped through the photos on their computer tablets.
Dr. Spencer Reid was reading the paper file, as was his custom and preference. “Huh. The coroner reported that while the left femur and the right tibia and fibia had compound fractures, she believes that it happened up to an hour before the drop. The sudden stop of the body hitting the pavement broke Ramirez’s neck. With those bones broken, I’m not sure how much Ramirez could fight back, or even escape. It takes an incredible amount of force to break a young man’s femur. I’m not sure if it could be done by hand without a way to leverage the body. Garcia, did they include x-rays? I need to see if the unsub twisted the bone in order to get it to break.”
Garcia shook her head no. “But I’ll contact them and send it to you before your plane lands.”
“So why did the unsub drag Ramirez up the stairs? Making an overabundance of evidence, hoping to hide something in the mess? Or overkill?” Rossi mused.
“More torture? Or sending a message?” Emily Prentiss added.
“That was exhibit one,” Garcia would let the profilers get to work after giving them all the evidence. “Exhibit two is Marta White, a spry 61 year old. Eight days later on a Tuesday afternoon, she was beaten in her back yard, dragged next door and drowned in her neighbor’s pool. White had a conceal-carry permit and never went anywhere outside her home without her gun. The gun was found on the ground, beside the pool with three bullets missing. The bullets haven’t been found. The pool owner and her kids found her when they came home from school.”
Reid shook his head at the autopsy report. “She had a broken scapula, humerus and three ribs. Breathing would have been extremely painful. Fighting for her life while being pushed underwater would have been excruciating.”
“If it is the same unsub that is overkill.”
“And yesterday morning, Friday, exhibit number three, Emma Nelson, 30, was beaten to death on a running path. She’s a yoga instructor, been taking self defense for a number of months and was found with an unused bottle of mace ten feet away. She was found at seven am and the coroner estimates that her time of death was approximately six fifty-five.”
“That’s close,” Rossi was instantly suspicious. “Who found her?”
“I thought you might ask that,” Garcia tried (and failed) to smile. She clicked the remote control and brought up a picture of two petite, young females. Even working together, it was hard to imagine them killing the bodybuilder. “Jenna and Jessie Porter.”
“The unsub was right there,” Derrik Morgan shook his head at the close call. “They’re lucky he didn’t go after them.”
“Though he is getting bolder with each kill, he is still targeting isolated victims,” Prentiss reminded him.
Reid shook his head at the evidence and rattled off the broken bones. “Pelvis, clavicle and two ribs. How did the unsub possible accomplish that with his bare hands? The force needed is tremendous. But there is a definite pattern: the unsub is essentially paralyzing his victims with the bones that he chooses to break. He doesn’t need to restrain them because they would be physically incapable of escaping.”
“The victims are never undressed. No emphasis is placed on sexual organs. No signs of rape. Plus, the victimology is all over the place.”
Morgan shook his head. “There’s no evidence of a tool used at any scene, all of the damage was done by hand. Ramirez was killed near weightlifting equipment. White was beaten in her gardening shed and Nelson was killed in the woods where the Unsub could have easily picked up a heavy stick to finish the job. In each case, the Unsub ignored anything that could have made the killing easier. This is personal. He has to use his hands.”
Rossi eyed the victims of the pictures and shook his head. “We’re sure they’re connected? The victimology and the timing and the places are inconsistent. Do the locals have more than ‘sadist beating’ to tie the murders to each other?”
“Yes,” Garcia told him. “He spit on all of them. A big, fat loogy. The DNA just came back, that was when they called us. It is a match to each victim but it isn’t in anyone’s system because the DNA broke down in the same strange way.”
Reid blinked at the impossibility and immediately flipped to that particular page of the crime scene report. “How did he do that?” he murmured.
“He’s spitting on them. Obviously, he doesn’t respect them.” Emily frowned as she viewed the photos. “It seems so personal and yet none of the victims overlap.”
“Do the media know that the murders are connected yet?” Jennifer Jareau, affectionately known as JJ asked. She used to be the team’s media liaison before being added to the profiling team and keep how important it was.
Garcia shook her head ‘no.’ “They’ve kept it out of the papers thus far.”
“And we aim to keep it that way,” Hotch told them, “until the profile indicates that it will be advantageous to do otherwise.”
Morgan pointed out the obvious, at least to profilers. “You don’t go from nothing to beating people to death. He has to have domestic abuse or assault and battery in his background, but no one’s ever pressed charges against him.”
The initial briefing complete, it was time for Special Agent in Charge, Aaron Hotchner to give the marching orders. “Garcia, start in Oregon and the surrounding states for beatings done without any tools or weapons that caused a lot of damage. It’ll be a big list but we’ll find ways to narrow it down. Meanwhile, try to find some link between the three victims.”
The (currently) red-haired woman nodded. “Will do.”
“Wheels up in thirty,” Hotch told the rest of the team. “We’ll discuss more then.”
Morgan began the conversation on the FBI’s plane with a statement all could agree on. “Strong, male and a sadist. And smart enough that none of them are found alive.”
Rossi nodded his agreement and added his educated guesses. “This guy is all over the map on time. I think he’s unemployed. He doesn’t try to transport the victims to someplace with more privacy. Maybe he can’t? No personal vehicle.”
“I think he’s stalking them,” JJ suggested, “since he catches them at different times of day and night alone. He’s striking when he knows he’ll have time to make them suffer.”
“And the various times plus the time commitment that is stalking are yet more indications that he doesn’t have fulltime employment.” Rossi added more evidence to his theory.
“You would expect someone with this much rage to be emboldened with each attack but instead of keeping to the risky behavior of the day, he went back to the night,” continued JJ.
“The victims are isolated but don’t tend to exhibit risky behavior. One doesn’t go running with mace or carrying a gun without being willing to use it.” Hotch directed the conversation to the facts.
“Why these three?” Morgan was stumped. “I’m still surprised that he didn’t attack the two that found Nelson. He would have been high off the kill and those two wouldn’t have presented a challenge for someone that had overcome the others and their defenses. Did he fear that he would be able to only incapacitate one? He didn’t even try to jump one and try to use her to control the other. Does he not have even that rudimentary of social skills?”
“That’s a lot of rage. I keep circling back to that,” Prentiss said.
“What if,” Morgan mused aloud, “he watches them die and in the case of Nelson, who was found still warm, he kills them if a witness gets too close?”
Rossi tilted his head in acceptance of the possibility. “Then that’s a lot of patience, too. Not a combination we see often.”
“The time of waiting and watching the death is increasing with every kill. That’s the part that he’s getting off on, watching the helplessness and fear,” said Hotch.
“That’s how he’s getting bolder,” Reid stated. “The longer he waits for his victim to die, the more likely he’ll be caught or they’ll survive the attack. He returned to a lesser populated time because he wanted more time to watch.”
Rossi knew how this kind of unsub developed. “He’s going to have to up the ante next time for his personal rewards, but how? He was controlled enough to not attack multiple victims, so he probably won’t do that. He uses a blitz attack and somehow gets close enough that normally situationally aware victims don’t notice him until it’s too late.”
“He might be asexual or unable to perform,” Morgan guessed. “He started with a male, but I doubt he’ll return to that sex.”
Prentiss argues, “Except that it’s emotional gratification that he’s getting, not physical. It’s who he thinks will show fear. I don’t think sex is one of his considerations.”
“Re-interview the Porter sisters,” Hotch told Emily and Derrik. “They were too close to the unsub to completely miss him. Reid? You’ve been rather quiet.”
“I’m trying to figure out how he manages to degrade his DNA. Why bother spitting on them in the first place if he’s going to do something to his spit?”
“That’s something you’ll have to figure out. Or ask him.”
The Portland PD had three SUV’s waiting at the airport. Two were for their use and the third was to deliver their luggage to their hotel. The waiting sergeants insisted on driving everyone to headquarters for introductions. Hotch would have preferred sending a couple of agents directly to the most recent crime scene but the agents gained the impression that Police Chief Renard was more hands-on than that. The man would want to take measure of the federal agents before releasing them in his city.
Reid scurried off to the bathroom as soon as they arrived at the prescient. He knew he would have time while Hotch met up with the police chief. Then the chief would introduce Hotch to the local detectives and then Hotch would take it from there. There was a certain song and dance that Reid could predict to plus or minus five minutes. He still hurried and was trying not to be obvious about wiping his slightly damp hands on his sweater on his return trip. His route to his team was blocked by local cops. Two plain clothes detectives were joined by one of the sergeants that had driven the BAU team from the airport.
“Nick, I hope you broke open the case,” the sergeant griped. “The feds are here and it’d be nice to send them back under the rock from whence they crawled.
“Whence?” the older African American detective teased. “Where do you get stuff like that, Wu?”
“Hey, I’m educated.”
“And there’s two of us in this team,” the younger one told Wu as he sorted through the messages left on his desk. “I don’t do all of the heavy lifting.” He smirked at his partner. “Just most of it.”
The older detective just pointed his finger at his partner. Spencer was trying to figure out a polite way of scooting around them.
Wu was still complaining. “Nick does a fair job at the profiling woo-woo. What can a team of profilers do that Nick can’t?”
And suddenly, Spencer really wanted to eavesdrop.
“Let’s find out,” the older one leaned against his desk to view Hotch in the police captain’s office and other rest of the BAU by the coffee machine while they waited for the room assignment. “What do you get off of them, Nick? Any of them useful?”
Nick turned to observe. “The one with Renard is the leader, obviously. He earned it, very good at his job, not a political type unless his team needs it. He could have gone higher if he wanted but he stays with his team out of… loyalty. He’s widowed, a kid or two. He’s been through several personal fires and it’s only tempered him.”
“And the others?”
Nick was silent for a moment as he spied on the agents around the coffee machine. From Reid’s perspective, it was obvious that Nick decided to describe the team’s second-in command, Rossi. “The oldest one? He can compete with you for ex-wives. He doesn’t need the job financially. He’s been around the block a couple times and stared down every bully on it.”
Hank huffed. “What about the hot blonde?” He meant JJ.
“Live-in boyfriend… with a kid. She fought hard for her job. The brunette’s unattached but I wouldn’t call her free and her baggage comes with international stickers.
Reid found Nick’s analysis of Emily Prentiss fascinating. All that was left was Derrik Morgan. “What about the brother?” Hank asked.
“Worked his way up from the ‘Hood and,” Nick smirked, “he’s a good friend but he’s a tomcat. He likes to rebuild things.”
“Can we use any of them for bait?”
Nick shook his head. “No. Granted, they all have supreme acting skills and if our perpetrator was the normal kind they’d work. But he’s attacking those that change which means he has access to people’s back-story somehow.”
“So we’re back to using you for bait? You can look guileless and almost a victim when you choose.”
“My history is different. I haven’t been a victim since I was twelve and I had Aunt Marie to defend me.”
“Bad ass Aunt Marie.” Hank shook his head.
Reid, though impressed, considered the young detective to be an average profiler, almost equal to the BAU team.
Nick wasn’t done. “There’s someone missing. Wu, is that all of them?”
Reid’s jaw dropped. Many people could pick up the tiny details that were necessary for profiling but it was a very rare person that could identify that a piece was missing.
“Nope.” The sergeant looked conniving as he jerked his head to where Reid was standing behind them. “That’s the last one.”
Hank and Nick turned to view the eavesdropping Reid. Hank looked as unrepentant as Wu. Nick had the grace to be a bit embarrassed.
“Please,” Reid told him. “Continue.” Normally, he’d insist on the ‘don’t profile the profilers rule’ but this was too fascinating.
“You’re the youngest member but not the most inexperienced. Genius of some sort, specifically recruited to fill in the blanks and you do a good job of it. You have one doctorate, minimum. You could easily be a professor but you like the variety of the job. No kids, no significant other. A bit of a mama’s boy.” Nick was still looking at Reid, but, for whatever reason, he was keeping his observations to himself. Reid was horrified to wonder if Nick could see the drug addition or the genetic mental tendencies.
“Freaky, isn’t it?” Hank commiserated.
Reid controlled his reactions and agreed. He was thankful when Captain Renard opened his office door and summoned the two detectives. He needed to find some coffee pronto. He would also call Garcia. He needed to talk to a friend just now.
Special Agent Aaron Hotchner had been ‘invited’ into enough cases to know when the police really didn’t want them there but someone higher up had demanded federal intervention. Police Captain Sean Renard was the perfect political creature, in that he didn’t let a hint of his opinion color his reaction to the BAU. His ace detectives, on the other hand, let skepticism seep out of their pores. They were good detectives, Hotch had to admit, somehow realizing that they were dealing with a serial killer long before the lab could connect the degraded DNA between the three very disparate victims.
“We’re not sure how the unsub –Unknown Subject- picks his victims yet,” Hotch admitted. “Though the three lived geographically near to each other, there doesn’t seem to be any overlap in the places that they visited or social circles. Our working theory is that he likes the challenge of killing people who can defend themselves.”
“Wrong,” Detective Nick Burkhardt murmured under his breath. He wasn’t paying much attention to the others in the room, more intent on scanning through all of the data that Garcia had been able to find on the three victims. The FBI had access to considerably more information than Portland’s computer technicians. His partner, Detective Hank Griffin, looked amused at Burkhardt casually bucking authority. A glance at the captain proved that the man was waiting to see how Hotch would react before bringing his man in line.
“I’m interested in hearing your theory, Detective Burkhardt,” Hotch said. He was speaking the truth but he was also trying to get the man to be willing to work with his team.
Burkhardt tore his attention away from the FBI folder, but he looked first at Renard rather than Hotch. Whatever Burkhardt saw in Renard’s demeanor -and Hotch was surprised to realize that it was more than what he was seeing- made the detective straighten and address the rest of the room. “He’s picking people he views as prey that are trying to become adept at defending themselves and teaching others to do so as well. He wants prey to stay in their place. And warning the students to quit trying.”
“Interesting theory, please elaborate.”
“You have seen the pictures of Ramirez,” Burkhardt stated.
“He was a body builder, slight but muscular.” Hotch recalled the first victim with ease.
Burkhardt and Griffin nodded. The older detective reached into the police file on Renard’s desk and flipped through until he found the picture he wanted. He handed that to Hotch. “That’s a Ramirez family picture from six years ago.”
At first glance, Hotch thought that the victim wasn’t pictured and then he looked closer. Four years ago, Mario Ramirez was a stick, just starting to show the slightest bit of muscle definition. He had worked very hard to become the body builder that had been posed in front of the gym. He had probably used some sort of steroid.
Burkhardt didn’t wait for Hotch to verbally agree with him. “Also, on odd hours, Ramirez would have a small class of ah…’weightlifting for non body builders.’ They mostly worked out in the early morning when they wouldn’t cross paths of those who naturally had a more… impressive build.”
That was something that Garcia would not have been able to find. And knowing the time of day of the discovery of the corpse added validity to the theory. The unsub could have been sending a message to anyone else that might be trying to work out of the prey mentality. “And White?”
Burkhardt shifted and raised the FBI folder. “We’re short on information on Mrs. White. She was an elderly divorcee that went to the shooting range every Monday at five pm, she moved her practice to Tuesdays during holidays. She had a carry-concealed that she put fifty rounds through weekly. According to the range owner, she had been doing that for almost two decades. Her ex had put her in the hospital one too many times and she taught herself to shoot. She was determined to never be a victim again. She would not let her skills lapse. She bought a second handgun just last month, after nineteen years of using the same one. We can’t find it in the house and we’re pretty sure that the murderer didn’t take it since he left her carry-concealed at the crime scene. I think she bought it for someone else and is teaching them but whoever it is, is not coming forward.”
The theory was sound.
“Nelson was a yoga instructor, but she had been taking self-defense lessons for the last eight months. She had posted a letter of intent to start a self-defense class on the board of her classroom. It was supposed to start in two months if enough students signed up. Minimum was ten and she already had seventeen. She would spend the intervening time getting her teaching certification. Ten years ago, she weighed a hundred pounds more. She too had a dramatic change in her lifestyle.”
Hotch nodded. “I can see your logic and how it affects the profile. Have you found how the unsub discovered his victim pool?”
“That’s where we’re stumped,” Burkhardt admitted. “We still don’t know White’s student so how did the… unsub,” the detective tested out the federal term, “know that she had one?”
“That’s a very good question. I’ll have our tech analyst start searching for the student.” Hotch met the detective’s stare and asked a question that had been plaguing the team. “Why is the unsub attacking the victims where he does and why leave them in different places?”
“He’s leaving them to be found by their students. The Porter sisters were signed up for Nelson’s self-defense class. The two that found Ramirez were part of his ‘body-building for non-body builders’ class and Ms. White had taken her neighbor, Sue Gram, to the shooting range whenever she could find a babysitter for the boys. It wasn’t often and Gram denies White buying her a gun. Gram didn’t want a firearm in her house until she knew her sons were responsible enough to leave it alone.”
“We must find out how he is picking his victims. This kind of unsub is not going to stop. He has such a specific victim type, that eventually he’s going to have to expand his parameters.”
Griffin could see the danger as well as any profiler. “At that point, anyone who shows a little gumption would be a target.”
As soon as the BAU had closed the door on the department, Reid spoke up. “Guys, one of the detectives is a very talented natural profiler.”
“Burkhardt,” Hotch filled in. “He has a viable theory of victimology.”
Reid shrugged. “Well, he knew who was married, who had been married, correctly guessed the number of divorces and who was widowed. He knew children and who was in charge and who filled in to the rest of the blanks on the team. He knew what we could have been. He got everything right. It stands to reason that his victimology would be close to the truth.”
“Has he had any education?” Hotch posed the query.
“None beyond the normal detective classes. I already asked Garcia.”
“Should we tell him the ‘don’t profile the profiler’ rule?” Morgan asked.
“It’s way too late for that. Way.”
“Is anyone getting more than ‘talented cop’ off of him?” JJ asked.
“Trusts his boss and his partner, straight, long term significant other,” Rossi rattled off. “His partner is an experienced, good cop.”
“Both are willing to give us a chance as long as we give them one,” Hotch shut down the speculation. “Burkhardt’s a profiler on his own turf. There’s something to be said for home field advantage. Make sure he knows that we respect him and he won’t give us any problems. He can be a valuable asset as long as we don’t shut him out. He respects his captain and has a better read of Renard than I do. He’ll do whatever Renard wants him to do, even if it doesn’t match with Renard’s verbal orders, for example, like sharing information.”
“Neither one is a glory hound. They just want to catch this guy,” Reid added. “Some of the support staff on the other hand…”
“It’s to be expected,” Prentiss shrugged. “What’s Burkhardt’s victimology theory?”
“The unsub is targeting people that worked hard, very hard to not be victims anymore. Not only did they learn to protect their own interests, these same people are now teaching others how to protect themselves.” Hotch handed out Portland’s files. “He had all the information in here.”
“How are we going to find and warn the rest of the unsub’s victim pool?” Rossi asked the others. “If Burkhardt is correct and we’re pretty sure he is, we’re going to have a hard time identifying potential victims.”
“The unsub has been very specific thus far, if he’s getting off on the waiting before the killing then he’ll have to widen his scope soon. Not killing anymore just isn’t an option.” Morgan shook his head. “The easiest place to find another victim would be the gym. He knows who is in the first weightlifting class, at least some of them. Who stepped forward to lead after Ramirez’s death?”
“We’re going to continue as planned. You and Emily will re-interview the Porter sisters,” Hotch said. “Ask about any sense: smell, hearing. He had to be there. Reid will work on a geographic profile. The rest of us will be going to the gym. We’re looking for a local that has probably fallen on hard times and has an underlying temper.”
Hotch let Rossi take the lead in questioning the gym owner, Rich Jansen. The man obviously used his own equipment. He glanced over JJ, both dismissively and while objectifying her body. Single and handsome enough that he could pick up one-night stands easily, Jansen didn’t have the emotional depth for a romantic relationship.
“We need to run down the alibis of everyone who had been in the gym in the last few weeks. Customers, prospective customers and even people that might have had a beef with Ramirez,” Rossi told Jansen.
“Ramirez hadn’t had any problems with customers in months. Granted, it had been a little rough on him in the beginning but the guys were used to him now and he did beef up. He finally looked like he belonged here.” The gym owner shrugged, “and that new class of his was bringing in the money. I never thought to carter to the dweebs.”
Rossi didn’t particularly like Jansen, but it didn’t interfere with his job. “We’ll need the daily sign-in sheet for the last several months, as well as the names of those who used to give Ramirez a hassle.”
“Look, Ramirez was a mouse. You can’t blame the guys for a little harmless hazing, but that ended months ago.” Jansen angled his body so that he could keep Burkhardt in view. “Right, detective?”
“That’s what I had heard,” Burkhardt answered. “I also heard that it wasn’t going to happen to any customers in the future.”
Jansen flinched. “Of course not. Heh, heh, that would be bad for business.”
“Yes, it would.”
Jansen back up a couple steps. “You know, I’ll just go get that customer list right now,” and he fled.
Rossi and Hotch exchanged a glance that shared their worry. Jansen was scared of Burkhardt. Rossi followed the man to ensure that he didn’t rabbit to avoid Burkhardt.
In direct contrast, a nervous little man, a customer, cornered Burkhardt as soon as Jansen was out of sight. He was obviously worried, literally wringing his hands, and expecting the detective –not the FBI- to fix the problem. “What are we going to do?” He said, initiating one of the oddest conversations Hotch had ever witnessed.
“Are you going to stop working out?” Burkhardt’s tone changed completely to one of encouragement.
“Should we? I mean, just for a little while, just until you get him and end him?”
Hotch could tell that Burkhardt was torn between telling the man to stay safe and not caving to the obvious desires of the unsub. “Everyone staying in groups, or at least pairs?”
“We’ve been doing that since you first put the word out. But what else can we do? What about your friend, the ah,” the man glanced at Hotch and obviously changed his word choice on the fly, “clockmaker. Do you think he’d come down and, you know, hang while we work out?”
“Do you have some place where he can do his Pilates?” Burkhardt asked with a grin.
The little man started nodding so hard, Hotch wondered if his head could possibly fly off. “Sure. No problem. We can do that.”
“Then call him and ask him,” Burkhardt seemed to think the solution was simple. “He’s in the phonebook.”
The man squeaked. “Me?”
Burkhardt’s patience was fraying. “He can’t bite your head off over the phone.”
“But he might hunt me down to do it.”
“Vegetarian,” Burkhardt joked. “You’re not his type.”
The man took it seriously. “But he’s only been a vege…” the little man trailed off as Burkhardt glared. “Look, he’s your friend and you’re a… cop. He won’t say no to you.”
“If you offer him some high end alcohol, he won’t say no to you either.”
“Get him drunk?” the little man nearly shrieked.
Burkhardt held out his hands to calm the man down. “He doesn’t drink to excess. Look, Monroe is easy to bribe: he likes fine alcohol, food and music. Pick one and apply. For that early in the morning, you’ll need some really good coffee waiting for him too.”
“Coffee’s easy,” the man considered his options. “What kind of music?”
“Hey, the young….” Yet another aborted word, “violinist you didn’t arrest. Would Monroe like his playing?”
“Monroe’s a big fan of Roddy. If you can get Roddy here that early on a school morning for practice, Monroe will be here.”
The little man started nodding again. “Good, good. We can work with that. Young Geiger will do it in exchange for a week of dinners.”
“Probably,” Burkhardt agreed. He waited until the man hurried away looking for his phone to arrange the protective detail. The detective shook his head in mock despair. “Why go for the simple bribe when you can do complicated?” he said softly to Hotch. Hotch considered the fact that the weaker man on the social ladder considered the detective as safe while the man in charge most definitely had the opposite view.
Rossi returned with the customer list and security tapes from Jansen. The gym owner neglected to return to the same area as Burkhardt. Rossi was also on the phone with Morgan. He shook his head at Hotch. “They did separate and group cognitive interviews to no avail. The Porter sisters didn’t see, hear or smell anything of use.”
The locals had better luck with their phone calls. Detective Griffin waved to get everyone’s attention as he was ending a conversation. “Dr. Harper, our coroner,” Griffin explained to the Feds, “called. She found cause of death for Nelson. Water in the lungs.”
“She was found on dry land,” JJ argued. She had been wandering through the gym, starting conversations with the customers and hadn’t come up with any obvious suspects.
“Dry is relative this time of year,” Griffin said wryly. “But yeah, she was nowhere near to someplace where she could have drowned. The nearest stream in that park was about a half mile away and we have no evidence of Nelson being near there. Harper said that perimortem bruises showed up on her chest where the sicko sat on her to pour water down her throat. From the new bruises on her upper arms, he knelt on her too.”
The detectives and the agents retreated to a semi-private alcove of the gym to converse. “That’s the second time water has played a part of the death,” Hotch said. “It’s becoming vital to his MO. He would be able to kill anyone without water.”
“He brought the water with him,” Rossi announced.
“And that’s why he let the Porter girls go,” JJ nodded as parts of the profile were sliding into place. “He had used all of his water on Nelson.”
Hotch nodded. “We need to re-interview all of the people around the area and see if anyone was carrying a bucket or anything that could hold liquids. Marathon runners can have something that appears to be a small backpack for water.”
“I’ll call Morgan,” Rossi volunteered.
“I’ll contact the park service,” JJ offered.
Hotch waited until he could corner Burkhardt in the police station with only FBI agents and Detective Griffin. Captain Renard was nearby but not obvious. “You knew Ramirez,” Hotch stated. He knew Burkhardt could read his unstated fury. That kind of connection should have been mentioned. “You had a conversation with Jansen so that the man would stop harassing Ramirez.”
“It wasn’t a long conversation,” the detective admitted. “I didn’t know Ramirez well. He was something of a friend of a friend asking for an outsider’s point of view and intervention if needed. And before you ask, I didn’t know that White existed but I had been putting out feelers for a self-defense teacher for months for my girlfriend. Nelson was qualified and local but wary of working with a cop. Nelson was already my girlfriend’s yoga teacher. We had a meeting scheduled for tomorrow and it was only when I was in the yoga studio that I saw that she was going to teach self-defense, finally.”
“Nick can wear anyone down,” Griffin muttered. “He goes after you like an enthusiastic puppy and if you say ‘no’ he looks at you and you’d swear that you had just kicked him. You can only kick a puppy so many times.”
Burkhardt glared but there wasn’t much heat behind it. “I’m persistent… and nice.”
“Stubborn as a mule,” Griffin retorted.
Hotch noticed Captain Renard standing behind his men looking mildly amused. “Captain, do you have anything to add?”
The detectives looked abashed. Renard addressed Hotch. “I was aware of Burkhardt’s search for a competent self defense teacher and I was aware that his paths had crossed Ramirez but not White’s. I deemed the connections as no consequence. Also, I have always been of the opinion that Burkhardt was a bulldog once he sunk his teeth into a case.”
Hotch had to admire the skill in which Renard went from delivering pertinent information to teasing his detective. His tone of voice hadn’t shifted at all. Griffin was trying to hide his grin and Burkhardt was trying not to groan.
“Are you withholding any other information?” the team leader asked the detective directly.
Burkhardt shook his head. “Nothing that you could use.” That wasn’t as promising as Hotch had hoped.
“What makes you a judge of that?” Rossi challenged him.
Burkhardt grinned, but at the same time seemed so very alone. “I swear if I had any way to prove it, I would pass it along. Right now it’s just… it’s worse than hearsay, it’s fairy tales.”
Hotch nodded and accepted the bald honesty.
“Detective Burkhardt is very talented,” Hotch mentioned to Captain Renard in the privacy of his office. He was trying to be circumspect in dealing with the police.
The captain’s face hardened immediately and his answer jumped straight to Hotch’s point. “Nick could propose to his girlfriend any day now. She is a veterinarian settled in the community. Nick’s CIs are getting more trustworthy and cheaper by the day. Nick is a vital part of the community. He’s needed here. They do not have any interest in leaving Portland.”
Hotch raised an eyebrow at the vehement brush-off. Whatever Renard’s feeling for Burkhardt, it was more personal than that of a captain’s favorite detective. It bordered on possessive. He would have Garcia look into it. He liked the enthusiastic detective too much to leave him to be used in a politician’s hands.
JJ was smiling when she returned to the conference room. “My contact at the park service came through. They have rangers stationed at every entrance of the park and they’ve asked everyone if they’ve seen someone carrying a bucket or some other type of container the day of Nelson’s murder. They found a couple that remembers seeing someone familiar and more than that, the couple had a name: Jack Parrish.”
“I know him,” Griffin announced with a rueful headshake. “I’ve brought him in a couple times. Small time thief, but he’s never battered anyone. He’s pointed a gun at a couple gas station attendants but he’s never used his fist. He’s been in and out of jail for a decade. He has a favorite pawn shop. Wu will probably be able to pick him up there.”
“I haven’t met him,” Burkhardt confirmed.
“Nah. You get all the weird ones, but don’t worry, he’s a pain in the ass in interrogation. He never admits to anything. You can meet him there.”
Griffin nodded through the one-way window. “So, is he one of those that you can walk in, scare and he’ll confess the candy bar he stole when he was eight?”
Burkhardt tilted his head and evaluated the suspect. “It was a bike, when he was in his very early teens and yes. You were right, he’s not the unsub but he probably saw him.”
Griffin turned and looked at Morgan and Reid. “I’ve got a fiver that says he’s right about the bike. And the age. Any takers?”
“Burkhardt, Griffin, quit hustling the Feds,” Renard chided.
Griffin was less repentant than Burkhardt. “There’s a five dollar betting limit in the office so that Nick doesn’t have to report his gambling gains to the IRS.”
“Burkhardt, go scare him. We don’t have time for this.” Hotch and Rossi were otherwise occupied so Morgan let the police captain call the shots. Morgan had noticed Hotch trying not to horn in on the locals’ authority.
It didn’t take long for Burkhardt to walk into the interrogation room. Parrish straightened with a smarmy smile and a cocky tilt of his chin.
“Jack Parrish, we haven’t met before. I’m detective Nick Burkhardt,” the detective introduced himself.
The man instantly paled and twitched oddly. His chin dropped defensively. Morgan had never seen such physical behavior before.
“Oh, so you have heard of me.”
Parrish nodded and glanced to the door. His handcuffs jingled as he jerked them. Burkhardt ignored the obvious signs of distress.
“You’re a thief,” Burkhardt told him. “I want to know what you’ve stolen.”
The man gulped. “All of it?”
“All of it.” There was an amused smirk. “Start at the beginning.”
“When I was eleven, I stole a bike. I don’t remember anything worthwhile younger than that. After the bike, it was mostly food. Then phones, computers, TVs, VCRs until they were useless. If I needed something and it was there, I’d take it. If I saw something that I could pawn, I’d take that too. I took too many things to tell you the exact when and where of it all.” He begged Burkhardt to understand.
“Tell me about everything you’ve taken this week.”
Jack Parrish had started Sunday with car that had been left running with the keys in it, a purse he had yanked off a woman, a potted plant on someone’s stoop. And on and on it went. The profilers watching the interrogation were amused at the lengthy list but finally Parrish recall the day of Nelson’s death.
“Friday, I found the bucket, I swear. It was on the side of the trail and it looked brand new and I thought, ‘why not?’.”
“When did you see it?”
“Seven-ish? There were cops on the trail and I thought they might be looking for me since I drove to the park with a stolen car, so I, ah, went off the trail in the opposite direction and I found it downhill. It looked like someone had thrown it off the trail.”
“Did you see any one?”
Parrish shook his head. “Nothing. I was alone.”
“Were the birds singing?” Burkhardt asked.
Parrish blinked at the odd-ball question and had to think hard. “No,” he said slowly. “Oh, wait. About five minutes after I picked up the bucket, the birds to the south started making a racket and took to the air.”
“Like they had been startled?”
“Yeah,” Parrish decided. “Exactly like that.”
“I don’t think so, no.”
“Thank you, Mr. Parrish, you’ve been very helpful.”
Parrish brightened. “Does that mean I can leave?”
Burkhardt didn’t say a word and the BAU agents were on the wrong side of the room to see his face but his glare must have been truly impressive if the way Parrish shrunk back meant anything. “Your charges are between my captain and the DA. I’ll ask the judge for a reduced sentence for your assistance.”
“Yes, sir,” Parrish mumbled.
The few moments it took Burkhardt to walk back to the observation room were enough for the BAU team to control their facial muscles.
“How do you do that?” Morgan asked, he had too. He had never seen anyone conduct an interrogation so effortlessly.
“He just does it,” Griffin answered for his partner.
Burkhardt dropped the folder on the desk. “I think he told the truth. Despite starting his criminal career earlier than I thought, he doesn’t know who the unsub is.”
“You got close to the age,” Griffin told him with fake condolences. “Frankly, I’m surprised he waited that long.”
Morgan knew how to focus on the immediate. “How did both the Porter sisters and Parrish cross paths with the unsub and yet neither of them saw him? Is he invisible?”
“We need to narrow down the unsub’s age,” Hotch told his team. “Basing off of the victims isn’t possible.”
Rossi listed the obvious. “His physical abilities indicate that he’s young but he has more self control and patience than one would expect from a twenty-five year old.”
“The first victim was twenty-seven and that was the most impulsive we’ve seen this particular unsub. He killed Ramirez without water,” JJ supplied.
“It was raining that night,” Griffin remembered.
Prentiss nodded. “That could be the reason he went outside though he had no logical reason to do so: He needed the water to be there.”
Reid joined the others and laid the map on the table, “I finished my geographic profile, but there is no visual overlap. He’s all over the city. We’ll have to find some other similarity. If Burkhardt and Parrish are correct on their assumptions in the park, we might have a cone of directionality, but it relies on more assumptions than I am comfortable making.”
Renard frowned. “Where did you get the map?” His eyes traced certain routes. “That’s old. Things have changed since it was printed.”
Griffin had a realization. “Wait a sec.” He walked to his desk and returned with a newer map. When the two were lined up, it was easy to see the clue. “The unsub is sticking to areas of the city that haven’t changed in the last ten years.”
“Oh,” Burkhardt breathed.
“Detective, what do you see?” Hotch prompted. “You’ve had a better handle on this unsub from the beginning.”
“I don’t think he’s a local, but I think he used to be. I think he returned home to Portland and people had changed. That’s why your tech couldn’t find him in the Portland incident reports.”
“The actual stressor could have happened anywhere,” Rossi agreed. “Then he came home, maybe to put himself on an even keel or more likely for safety and then what?”
Reid jumped in with a partial profile. “He saw Ramirez. He knew Ramirez before leaving Portland. Maybe the unsub used to bully him, but he comes back and Ramirez doesn’t act like prey anymore. That’s why he knows the back roads and shortcuts so well but is avoiding the new developments. But there’re problems with that theory. He had to be stalking Ramirez for him to catch him alone. Ramirez lived and socialized in the newer section of town, but worked in the gym that had been there for thirty years.”
“Okay,” Prentiss slowly spoke. “Let’s refine the profile. Ramirez catches his attention somehow and the unsub starts poking around. He doesn’t like how Ramirez has changed and he really doesn’t like how he’s teaching others to change too. He kills Ramirez in such a way that it’s a warning to his bodybuilding class. The gym is the most logical place for them to have crossed paths.”
“But I couldn’t find anyone one the list or on the surveillance that matches the profile,” Garcia reminded her over the open phoneline.
“He’s still pretty young. Doing the math, he left as a teenager and returned as an adult,” Rossi mused. “It explains why we can’t match anyone from the local domestic calls.”
“Garcia?” Morgan called.
“Ready and waiting, my sweets.”
“We’re looking for someone who graduated from high school with Ramirez and went out of town or state for college and just returned within weeks of Ramirez’s death. He might have a juvie record but he’ll definitely have some domestics called on him wherever he might have been. Start with people who graduated from Ramirez’s school within four years.”
“In either direction,” Reid added. “If this guy is as big of a bully as we’re thinking, he would have enjoyed picking on upperclassmen.”
“Well, I’ve got a list of eighty-seven domestic disturbances. Not as bad as it could be but worse than we’d all like. But here’s the thing, Ramirez’s ten year reunion was two days before his death.”
“So everyone is in town.”
“Yes. Thirty-nine of which are on my list.”
“Send the information through. All of it. We’ll organize it and examine it in the morning. Everyone go home,” Hotch suggested. “We need sleep and we’ll look at the files in the morning with new eyes.”
Griffin arrived, well rested, and with a large box of Voodoo Doughnuts to share. Burkhardt beat him to the office and didn’t look like he had slept, but he did look refreshed and brimming full of new ideas. He pounced on the donuts with a child-like glee that reminded the experienced agents just how new of a detective he was. JJ and Emily split a donut but the rest enjoyed the local specialty. Renard looked tempted but refused. Wu, on the other hand, stuck his head into the conference room to steal one.
“We’re running out of time. The unsub is going to strike soon.” Hotch dropped the stack of files in front of Reid. “Can you winnow down the suspect pool any? They all went to school together with Ramirez. They communicate, especially now, so close to reconnecting at the reunion. As soon as we start questioning some of them, the others will know and the unsub will probably vanish. He’s moved once for safety, he’ll do it again to keep out of law enforcement’s spot light.”
Reid flipped opened to the first file and started to read at his normal pace. Burkhardt’s jaw dropped as Reid’s finger slide down the page, absorbed all of the information, declared the suspect unlikely and then picked up a new file.
Burkhardt was practically green with jealous of Reid’s ability to speed read. He didn’t bother hiding it. When he saw Hotch’s amusement he shrugged. “My aunt left me volumes of family stories upon her death and for being a librarian, it is remarkably unorganized.”
Renard was too interested in the personal revelation. Burkhardt caught Hotch noticing thus and suddenly closed down. Somehow Hotch had broken years of trust with one observation, not even spoken aloud.
Reid broke the silence. “I’d be interested in seeing the books.”
“My family has been interested in fairy tales and folklore since, well,” Burkhardt’s grin widened, “the Grimm brothers.”
“Oh, are you related?” Reid asked.
“According to family history, yes.”
“So the books are in German.”
Burkhardt laughed. “Pretty much.”
Reid had worked his way through a dozen files and still had eight possibles. “I think this is going to be dependant on alibis and personal interviews.”
“We’ll divide up,” Hotch decided. “Griffin and Burkhardt, Morgan and Rossi, JJ and I. Reid will text everyone the addresses as he reads the files.”
“Let’s go say ‘hi’,” Burkhardt challenged with a grin.
It was a long day of interviewing belligerent suspects. No one stood out as a probable unsub. Burkhardt and Griffin were the first to return to the office.
“You went through your list awfully fast,” Morgan pointed out. “Are you sure you didn’t miss the unsub.”
Hotch wondered if he should have separated the local detectives and paired them with the BAU. He knew and trusted his team. Though talented, Hotch didn’t have the same experience with Burkhardt and Griffin.
“Nick didn’t miss him,” Hank was quick to defend his partner. “He just doesn’t need more than a couple words with a guy to know if someone is a bully with the ability to kill.”
“But you’re welcome to waste you time reviewing his work,” Renard added. He was being honest but he was more verbal than normal, trying to mend fences with Burkhardt. The detective in question stayed on the opposite side of the room from his boss.
“If you didn’t miss him and we didn’t miss him, then he wasn’t on Garcia’s list,” Morgan told him. “How was he not on the list?”
“What incorrect assumption did we make?” Reid motioned to the stacks of files.
Burkhardt was scrolling through his phone. “I’m going to troll my CIs and ask them if they know anyone who fits the profile.”
“Anyone that will talk to me?” Griffin asked his partner.
Burkhardt shook his head.
“Keep in touch,” Renard ordered. “Keep Griffin up to date on your whereabouts.”
Burkhardt watched him carefully but nodded. He hurried out the door, already dialing one of his CIs. Griffin and the BAU dove back into the suspect list looking for irregularities. They knew they had a limited time until the unsub struck again.
A few hours later, Burkhardt had returned empty handed and those who had stayed to comb though the expanded list of files were doing no better. Everyone was waiting for the next victim to show up dead, they just didn’t expect her to call in the middle of the attack.
Burkhardt’s phone rang and the detective was obviously displeased with the caller. He answered with a curt, “Burkhardt.” The tone changed almost immediately. “Ms. Schade? Adalind? Calm down. You can do better than panic. Where are you?” Whatever the woman on the other end of the phone said made Burkhardt’s mouth tighten in distress. He turned to one of the uniforms. “Wu. Track the GPS of the phone I’m connected to and text the address to Hank.” He grabbed his jacket and ran out the door.
His partner was on his heels. Hotch sent Morgan with them and called Garcia. If the local couldn’t trace the phone call with the head start, Garcia would.
“Adalind? Adalind?” Burkhardt looked down at his phone. “Lost her. Wu did you get an address?” he yelled down the hall.
“Of course. You doubt the Asian?” the sergeant yelled back. “It’s in Hank’s phone.”
“Adalind? Adalind Schade?” Griffin echoed. “My ex, Adalind? Didn’t you tell me that she was bad news and that breaking up with her was the best thing I’ve ever done? Why did she call you for help?”
“I’m not dating her. Occasionally, she is a CI.”
“Does Juliette know?”
“She’s the one that made me help her.”
“Do you think it’s the same unsub? Adalind is no one’s prey.”
“She lost her job, her apartment and got disinherited. Her car was even repossessed. She was out on the streets, Hank.”
“But I know exactly where your theory falls apart,” Griffin answered. “Adalind would never help anyone else.”
Burkhardt winced the tiniest bit. “I got her a job as a lawyer for Child Services and you know the way she hates to lose. Not only is she bullying her way through case after case and getting them settled for the best of each child, she’s successfully gotten three high risk students into college after turning eighteen and doing halfway decent with their grades.”
“I gave her an enemy to dismantle, mostly to keep her focus off me. Once we get the unsub in custody, she’s going to make a nuisance of herself.”
“That I believe.”
Morgan kept his mouth shut. He was pleased they had a possible live victim.
Burkhardt parked the unmarked police car on the side of the road and faced the wild forest. “Adalind!” he shouted. Morgan and the local cops had their guns in hand in case the unsub was near.
The bushes rustled and a blonde woman stepped out into the open. Adalind Schade’s arm was hanging listlessly to her side, broken. Her bare feet poked out of holes in her nylons. Her normally flawless hair, clothes and made-up face were filthy and ragged. Her beauty was visible despite the new crisis. Schade ignored her ex-boyfriend and eyed the federal agent with distrust. “What is going on?” she demanded of Burkhardt, as if he were an idiot skipping his chores. “Aren’t you supposed to protect the streets?”
“What’s going on?” she asked again, taking in Morgan and Griffin flanking Burkhardt.
“You might have crossed paths with a possible serial killer, ma’am,” Morgan told her.
“You couldn’t put out a warning,” she accused Burkhardt.
“I didn’t think you fit the unsub’s criteria.”
“Obviously, you thought wrong.”
Morgan stepped in between the two, trying to play peacemaker. “Ma’am. How about we get you to the hospital so they can set your arm, give you some pain medication and only after it kicks in will we interview you concerning your experience.”
Schade and Burkhardt were still deep in a staring contest. “I want clean clothes,” she demanded.
Now, Burkhardt smiled but it was closer to his smile for a bully than that of the protected. “I’ll send Monroe.”
Schade didn’t like the offer, but she didn’t refuse it either.
Hotch took one look at Ms. Schade (freshly showered and clothed in a tailored suit that cost as much as his) and decided that JJ would have the best chance of getting the woman to open up. As a suave, driven career woman who had been buffeted by circumstances beyond her control, JJ understood Schade’s mindset.
Unfortunately, Schade would not trust JJ. Her answered were curt and just barely truthful. Like any good lawyer, she answered the question, only the question and offered no additional information.
JJ was floundering. “Did he wear a mask?” she finally asked.
“Yes. You wouldn’t see what I saw.” Whatever secret Ms. Schade was keeping that, at least, was the truth.
“Tell me what he said,” JJ prompted.
“He told me that I should accept my circumstances. That I should lay down and die.”
“And what was your response?”
Schade lifted her chin. “I refused and kicked him in the balls.”
“Good for you,” JJ cheered grimly. “What happened next?”
“He hit me. Hard. Lifted me right off my feet and sent me across the building. I finally could get to my mace in my purse. I shot it in his face, took advantage of the distance he gave me and I ran. End of story. Where’s Burkhardt? I want to talk with him.”
Behind the one way glass, the rest of the BAU team looked at Burkhardt. The man looked rather chagrinned at the victim’s demand.
“Do you know how much she hates you?” Rossi asked the detective.
Burkhardt nodded solemnly and the profilers knew that the hatred was mutual. “I caught her and prevented her from doing something illegal. I stopped everything before it was enough to prosecute her –a lawyer- but since she failed in executing the job, she lost everything. In some ways, it’s my fault that her family abandoned her and because her family threw her out, she lost her job and then her place. Her hate for me is just slightly less than her hatred for everyone else.”
Hotch nodded at the room. “Go get answers.”
Burkhardt picked up his notes and left.
“Another audition?” Rossi teased Hotch quietly. The Agent in Charge refused to answer but there was a moment of alarm on Renard’s face. Morgan’s too.
“Is someone leaving the team?” Morgan asked.
“Not that I’ve been informed,” Hotch answered. “But taking into account length of training and several more psych classes I’d like him to get under his belt plus the general time in the field as a Fed, about the time he finishes all of that, someone will have moved on or will be taken out of the field due to injury.”
“He’s just wants to have a batter on deck,” explained Rossi.
Burkhardt entered the room and told JJ, “I’ll take it from here.” The female agent was experienced enough to accept the change with grace. As soon as she vacated her seat and exited the room, Burkhardt took the chair and dragged it away from the table, all the way to the wall. He was putting excessive space between himself and the victim. “Ms. Schade,” he said coolly.
The lawyer grinned with too much teeth. “Detective Burkhardt,” and the words were practically a threat.
“He’s treating her like she dangerous,” Morgan murmured.
“And she’s treating him the same way,” Rossi pointed out. “As if he wasn’t her first call the moment she was in trouble. She didn’t call 9-1-1. She called Burkhardt. He’s in her speed dial.”
“At what point did you realize someone was watching?” Burkhardt started.
“Leaving the office, but I have admirers, it didn’t worry me then. I was late. It was dark.”
“Did you spot the Unsub on your walk to the tram?”
“Nothing full on. A few profiles maybes. He was careful not to draw attention.”
“At what point did you realize something was wrong?”
“Something hit my shoe. I think it was a rock. It broke the heel. It was too much of a coincidence. Walking in the shoes despite that slowed me down to the point where I missed my bus, but I wasn’t going to walk barefoot until it was vital to survival.” She could have let someone know that the circumstance was wrong but had been fiercely independent and determined not to waste her contacts on a nuisance or a vague worry. She believed that she had limited good-will with her contacts and considering that a man she hated, Burkhardt, was the first one she called when the incident escalated, it was somewhat understandable that she waited. Schade had no one she could depend on if she was resorting to Burkhardt.
She shrugged, most graceful. “I think he threw a rock or something into a tree as I was passing under it. A dead bird fell on my head.” There was a bit a restrained fury but curiously not horror at the memory. This was not a girl that got squeamish.
“And you thought?” Burkhardt prompted.
“That one of the enemies I had made was harassing me.” She looked pointedly at Burkhardt and Burkhardt scoffed.
She knew who had perpetrated the ugly prank now and so continued the story. “I got out my phone and didn’t walk under any more trees, but that meant that I couldn’t pass under the trees on Oak Street to the next bus stop. The only bus stop in town not near trees is on Wickliffe.”
“Do you know why he herded you to that part of town?” Burkhardt asked.
“Two of my clients live there.” Adalind looked ashamed about confessing, “I wouldn’t lead him to the clients. When I realized his plan I ran the opposite direction.”
“You controlled the situation.”
Adalind stiffened. “I did as much as able.”
“You ended up in a warehouse near the port.”
“Yes. Directly on the water. I tried to exit the opposite door and the… guy was waiting for me. Dripping wet. I think he swam around –or under the building to beat me to the other side.”
Burkhardt waited a moment. “And that was when he said…”
“That I should accept my circumstances. That I should lay down and die.”
“Did you see his eyes through the mask?” Burkhardt asked.
“They were black but it was too dark to really tell.” Ms. Schade was looking slightly shaky. “It was very dark,” she murmured.
Burkhardt noticed. “Would you like a break for some water?”
Schade nodded, relieved.
Burkhardt stood and waited at the door as Schade collected her belongings. “Adalind.”
The woman jerked.
“You’re no one’s victim.”
Schade pulled herself together and smirked. “Damn straight. Where’s my water?”
When the survivor and the detective didn’t return to the interview room in a timely manner, Rossi asked, “Where’s Schade? Sitting down with a sketch artist?”
“One better,” Griffin told them. “Nick is an artist and she’ll talk to him but none of our regulars. He found a quiet corner to draw. Schade is with him.”
“Those two have a very interesting relationship,” Morgan had to say.
Griffin didn’t answer and they all knew that he had been manipulated in whatever illegal scheme that Schade had attempted.
Rossi mused aloud. “No love lost between the pair but they trust each other to a certain extent. They know where other stands.”
“As long as Schade is honest with Burkhardt, they can hate each other with the fire of a thousand suns,” Hotch told them all.
Fifteen minutes later, Burkhardt arrived with a sketch of a reptilian mask and an estimated height of the unsub. He was over six foot tall. Unfortunately, nothing more. The mask indicated that the unsub was trying to hide his true self to his victims but it wasn’t unusual.
The next morning, Burkhardt knocked on the captain’s office door as Hotch and Renard were discussing the best way to handle the media starting to pick up the scent of the serial killer story. Renard waved him in.
“Sirs, we have a problem… and a way to identify the unsub.”
The detective also had their undivided attention. “One of my CIs just reported that there might have been an earlier victim. A man, Nathan Nichols, in his late twenties, just a couple doors down from White. He’s missing and has been since before Ramirez died. I checked his house.” He waved a cell phone in an evidence bag and a gun in a second bag. “We have one phone call between him and the gym where Ramirez worked and apparently White bought the gun for him, serials match. He went to a different high school than Ramirez.”
It wasn’t hard to follow Burkhardt’s train of thought. “You think Nichols is the first victim of the unsub and that he was one that the unsub bullied in high school. He was the stressor for the unsub.”
Hotch palmed his phone and started dialing. “I’ll get Garcia on it. We’re looking for every parameter as before, in the second high school, plus an extremely fast swimmer.” Burkhardt handed the agent a name of a high school scribbled on a napkin. Before all of the agents and detectives could gather around the conference table, the computer guru had an answer.
She paused long enough for Hotch to switch her to speakerphone and then announced, “Winner in the unsub evil villain of the day is a plain –but tall- young man named, Bulebuk De Dau. Nathan Nichols had one main tormentor in high school and that would be De Dau. His back story is interesting. He was born in the Sudan, near the Nile. Somehow, at the age of eight, he was put on a plane for the states where he was fostered by one Luke Taymor.”
The last name had both of the local detectives sitting up and taking notice. “Taymor?” Griffin repeated. “Any relation to Leo Taymor?”
They could hear the click of the keyboard and then. “Why yes, mysterious voice, Luke and Leo were brothers. Luke was older. Leo inherited his brother’s fifty acres when his brother went missing. That fifty acres is currently in probate since Leo followed his older brother into the MIA category. De Dau was nowhere, and I mean, not even mentioned or hinted at in Taymor’s will. De Dau had been living with him for ten years at this point. There are no domestic reports on record.”
“Leo was a crooked cop and then moved on to be a corrections officer,” Griffin told them. “He could have covered it up.”
“When did Luke go missing?” Hotch asked.
“He was last seen the day after De Dau’s graduation. De Dau barely graduated, he kept his grades just high enough to be on the swim team and he was a champion swimmer. De Dau was a person of interest in Taymor’s disappearance but was already in Sudan before anyone knew that Taymor wasn’t around and no one had contact information. I’m not seeing any activity on his passport until three weeks ago when he arrived in Portland via New York. He was completely and I mean completely off the grid. I don’t even know where to start tracking someone down if they don’t have any computers, let alone computer databases. Obviously, De Dau has never been accused of domestic violence, just some suspensions in high school for bullying in the US. But here’s the interesting thing… De Dau had been question twice concerning suspicious disappearances. Nothing could connect De Dau to the victim but he had been a person of interest in both cases.
“Once, when he was fourteen, an eleven year old Heath Wildmen disappeared. Heath had a habit of cutting across the very edge of the Taymor property on his way home from piano lessons. On day he never returned home. De Dau and Taymor were questioned but they didn’t say anything suspicious. Two years later, Kelli no last name known, a homeless CI, disappeared. When the cop that she reported to started asking around, De Dau was questioned since she squatted on his route home from the pool. Again, De Dau didn’t raise any flags. Two years later he exited the domain of my computers, stage left, to the wilds of Africa.”
“It’s going to be hard to profile De Dau without knowing exactly what he was up to in Sudan.” Rossi wasn’t pleased with the prospect. “For someone like De Dau, he wouldn’t have played the hermit. He needs someone to bully to consider himself successful.”
“He needs multiple people,” Reid corrected with the reminder, “since he has a tendency to kill them off.”
“He would have made a splash, the problem is finding the ripples.”
“Garcia, send every case where De Dau was questioned,” Hotch ordered.
“It arrived stage right into your e-mail five minutes ago,” she huffed and hung up.
It was odd for Garcia to call when they hadn’t asked for a search, but Hotch found a quiet corner and immediately answered the phone when she rang. “What is it, Garcia?”
She sounded uncertain, off-balanced. “Sir?”
“Yes, Garcia.” Just a simple confirmation was enough to center her.
“I just got off the phone with the most interesting person from France. He said that he was peripherally attached to Doctors Without Borders. He sent me a file on De Dau. The man walked into a tiny town on the Nile, killed the tribal leader and assumed control. He demanded worship and tributes and was basically terrorizing everyone in that village until NATO came to calm things down in the civil war and subsequent treaty between the north and the south. He was one of the aggressors purposefully displaced. He was assumed to be KIA but he must have escaped and made his way back to Portland.”
“That’s… interesting,” Hotch was force to say for lack of a better word. “How did they know to send this information to you?”
“He was really, and I mean, really vague about it. I’ll send you the file and everything looks legit but I didn’t find it myself so I can’t confirm its trustworthiness.”
Hotch was always amused by Garcia’s trust in the facts she hacked over those handed to her. “We’ll read it with a skeptical eye. Send it to the fax machine so that we can print out a copy for everyone.”
“And sir, I believe I might have found the connection in the… ah… side project you requested. I needed Emily’s help to comb through French income tax records.”
“It’s already on your phone.”
Hotch would deal with it later. He had an unsub to stop.
Ten minutes later, when Hotch explained the mysterious source of the new international files, both of the Portland detectives twisted to peer into Renard’s office.
“Called in a favor?” Griffin guessed.
“Called in a favor,” Burkhardt confirmed.
“He has family in France,” Griffin explained to the BAU agents.
Morgan reached for the top file. “Let’s see what his favor netted us.”
Silence reigned for several moments as all of them digested the contents.
“Well, it makes sense,” Rossi was the first to comment on the French report.
Prentiss tilted her head the slightest bit. “They didn’t leave out any nuances between the French and the English translation. What you’re reading is what they reported to their superiors.”
“This unsub really thinks that he was a god,” Reid muttered in disbelief. “When he was removed from power, he had a psychotic break over and above his previous delusions. Interesting. He took on the name Sobek while he ruled.”
“And the significance?” Morgan prompted.
“Sobek was a deity of Ancient Egypt, associated with the Nile and with the head of a crocodile. So De Dau somehow decided to take on Sobek’s identity and demanded worship and people to be killed as an offering for him. Why pick Sobek out of all of the gods? He isn’t the most well known associated with the Nile. And like all gods associated with the Nile, he was worshipped for fertility.”
Burkhardt choked on his coffee and drew the attention of all the agents. “Sorry.” He coughed. “I wasn’t expecting that. Schade mentioned that he had a crocodile mask. I drew it as close as possible.”
“So the mask wasn’t hiding himself from his victims but showing them his true self,” Reid re-evaluated the profile.
“So he doesn’t think he’s a prophet of a god, he thinks that he is actually a god. What is he going to do when we catch him?” Rossi mused.
“Grandstand? Or suicide?” guessed Morgan. “We’ve never seen anyone with this level of delusion.”
“So we need to find someone local who knew De Dau. We could start at the school?” Griffin offered.
Hotch agreed, but qualified it. “Later. First, we need to check out Taymor’s house.”
Taymor’s house was a bust. No one was living there. No one but vandals had lived there since Luke Taymor’s death. If De Dau wasn’t at his childhood house, where was he?
“I’m looking for information on the social ladder of a certain graduating class,” Reid told the high school secretary.
She smirked and pointed across the street. “That coffee shop has been a favorite of every graduating class since its inception. If you’re looking for someone in the last thirty years, chances are good that there’s an alum who knew them sitting in there right now. They’ll clear out about twenty minutes before school lets out and the current crop works on their caffeine addiction.”
Reid looked over his shoulder at the store front decked out in school colors. “Thank you,” he told the busy secretary.
The whole troop walked across the street to the shop. Hotch stepped forward and showed everyone his badge. “We’re looking for some information. Does anyone know what happened to Bulebuk De Dau after graduation?”
“Bule?” The name was well known to this school’s alumni. The man talking to the agents was big all around. It was safe to assume he had been on the football team as a teen. He puffed up with importance as every eye was on him. “Swim Team captain that led them to state.”
“Led is a misnomer,” another alum, a woman argued. “He never once encouraged another team member. It was more like he won every heat he raced easily and he threatened the other swimmers to win theirs.”
The man rolled his eyes. “Nickel Head was just telling tales. Exaggerating. Bule might’ve played a little rough with the idiot but he didn’t actually try to drown him in the school pool. Even the coach didn’t believe him.”
None of the law enforcement reacted in favor of gaining information. Rossi could keep his tone even as he stepped forward and asked. “Do you know if Bule is back in town?”
“Yeah, I’ve seen him,” the man shrugged. “But then, only when he wants to be seen. Bule is a smart like that. He’s a survivalist. Taymor made him one by making life in that house a living hell. There’s a cave on the old Taymor property, gotta be on the north side of the lake, Bule never let me see it, but he used to live out there a lot. Taymor was a mean SOB. There was a reason that Bule was on the first flight out of the country after graduation. He wanted to go back to his origins and he wasn’t planning on returning.”
“Do you know why he did?”
The man shrugged. “He didn’t say. He did look a little rough though. Said he ate something that disagreed with him.”
“One last question,” Rossi smiled with too many teeth. “Nickel Head would be the nickname for whom?”
The man was stumped. It was obvious that he didn’t know the man’s real name.
“Nate Nichols,” the woman filled in. Her dislike for bullies and her compassion for their targets were pronounced in the single name. “Nate was a good guy. He wasn’t the type to exaggerate or lie. He started running long distances in the last couple years. Did his first 5k two years ago and was working up to a marathon next year. And a,” she hesitated, not entirely sure of the correct phraseology, “mini triathlon this year. It was the first time he’d been swimming since the incident with Bule.”
“Wuss,” the male alumni muttered.
“Where would Nichols train for the swim portion of the race?” Hotch asked. As a racer that had been training for his own triathlon, he knew the limited opportunities available.
The woman nodded and explained that Nichols would train in an old YMCA, the same location as some of his high school races. The profilers exchanged glances as they all knew that De Dau would be familiar with it. It was logical to assume that the pool was the first place the two crossed paths upon De Dau’s return to the states.
JJ took the woman aside for a more private interview and Morgan took the man aside for the same reason. Neither gleaned anything of import. The detectives and agents waited outside while the conversations happened.
“We need a tracker for the Taymor property,” Rossi said. “We have to find that cave. That’s where he’d be with it in legal limbo. Know any good local ones?”
Griffin looked at Burkhardt and Burkhardt threw his hands in the air. “Monroe made me promise that he wouldn’t have to deal with the Feds.”
Griffin huffed. “Like you can’t talk Monroe around.”
“That’s beside the point. I promised.” Hotch liked that Burkhardt tried to keep his promises.
“Monroe’s good?” Hotch demanded of the locals.
“He’s part bloodhound,” Burkhardt promised with a hint of a wicked grin.
“It’s going to take a couple hours to gather the manpower and the warrants to search the Taymor property. Can you, Griffin and your CI get there and find the cave before we get there?”
Burkhardt grabbed his jacket, and this blinding grin was more of a wolf on a scent. “We’ll try.”
“Be careful,” Hotch warned.
It was a couple hours before Hotch and Renard compromised on the personnel searching the Taymor residence. As the BAU arrived, a pale yellow Beetle was departing.
Morgan hitched a thumb in the direction of the Beetle. “Your tracker?” he asked Griffin.
The detective nodded, but added, “Mostly Nick’s. If I offer good enough alcohol, he’ll concede to work with me, sometimes. If Nick vouches for me and he’s unavailable.”
“Did he find the cave?”
“Yes. Honestly, we probably could have found it without Monroe since De Dau is getting cocky and leaving actual trails, but Monroe got us to the cave quicker and confirmed that there is only one entrance. Nick’s watching it now.”
The take down was completely different than expected. The cops surrounded the area. De Dau must have heard something, because he rushed out of his cave and toward the lake (where he had expected to out swim them?). Detective Burkhardt had placed himself directly in that path. De Dau skidded to a stop because his pathway was blocked and that moment of indecision was all the BAU needed to block any remaining paths. De Dau surrendered. It was obvious he was waiting for an opportunity to escape but he wasn’t going to commit to an action without some forethought.
“He’s patient,” Morgan observed. He was more surprised than not. “He’s young to be that patient.”
“He’s watching Burkhardt,” Prentiss countered as the detective took the initiative to put the cuffs on the subject and read him his Rights. “And he’s paranoid.”
Morgan shook his head in wonder. “I really want to know what the guy did to get so much respect, fear and trust. De Dau stopped dead in his tracks when faced with him instead of plowing over him. I would have placed money on the opposite happening.”
“We’re missing something in the profile,” Prentiss said.
“Which one?” Morgan replied. All of the agents and higher ranking police officers were starting to congregate around them for the post-action review. He shook his head at the dense forest surrounding the cave. “Fifty acres. We’ll never be able to link De Dau to the child’s disappearance without a body. We’ll need him to confess.”
“There’s a lake,” Burkhardt pointed out, having joined the conversation. He was looking right at Renard, almost challenging him.
The captain nodded, “I’ll have it dragged immediately and call out the scuba search and rescue for the places that can’t be dragged. I’ll coordinate the search while you and Hotch take De Dau in to the station.”
Now that the detective pointed it out, water was the most likely hiding place. Hotch agreed with Renard’s division of labor. De Dau was less likely to attempt an escape with Burkhardt present. The rest stayed behind to search the premises for evidence connecting De Dau to all three of the murders.
Morgan and Prentiss were the first to enter the cave through the layers of blankets at the door. They had a hard time breathing in the surprising heat that greeted them. De Dau had multiple propane heaters running but that wasn’t enough for sleep. He also had multiple blankets in his bed.
“Morgan,” Prentiss called. “Look here.” She had found the bullets with minimal evidence of blood or bleeding in a corner with a bloody knife. “He must have removed them himself.”
“We’ll try to match them with White’s gun. Then we’ll have evidence of him at that scene,” Griffin promised. “I found some more clothes with blood and one that smells still of mace. We’ll try to match it to Ramirez or Nelson.”
The agents didn’t find much more. The cave was Spartan and De Dau was a minimalist. He obviously knew what he could live without.
Rossi stood on the bank of the lake and shook of water off his hand. “It’s cold. If he likes that kind of heat,” referring to the cave temperature, “it explains why he went to the YMCA to swim, they have heated pools. That’s why he ran into Nichols. The pieces are starting to fit together.”
Not long after all De Dau was processed and chained in interrogation, Renard stopped by the conference room where the BAU was developing an interrogation strategy. “We found Nichols’ body,” the captain announced. “He was stuffed into an underwater cave in the lake and stuffed further back was Luke Taymor and six more human bodies, or rather their bones, three of those children. In the very back of the cave, divers found the bones from at least two dozen animals. We’re trying to match the dental records to missing reports.”
“Well, it’s a clear linear progression,” Reid reasoned. “Small to large.”
“Least difficulty to most,” Burkhardt agreed. “We’ll be lucky to find a missing persons report on the first adult because he was homeless. I’m betting that the first two children were runaways too.”
“It’s still circumstantial.” As always, Hotch was the voice of reason. “We’ll need more to get a conviction. Telling him about his underwater boneyard is not going to shake him. We need leverage.”
“Interestingly enough, it looks like an animal of some sort has been gnawing on the bones. The coroner has Nichols’ body and she’s hopeful that she can determine a cause of death.”
The BAU and the detectives stood outside the interrogation room again. This time watching Hotch prod the brick wall of De Dau’s haughty ego. Burkhardt turned down the heat in increments. Rossi looked on and approved. “I would have put it down to 65 Fahrenheit right off the bat.” Burkhardt grinned at him and did just that. The suspect obviously preferred higher temperatures. It was their job to make his uncomfortable.
Hotch wasn’t get anything out of De Dau. The suspect didn’t consider the FBI worthy of answering.
“Can I go rattle him, sir?” Burkhardt asked.
“Yes,” Renard said.
The detective left for a moment for his prop but quickly returned with a simple glass of water. De Dau was suspicious as Burkhardt casually placed the standard peace offering within reach. “What’s that?”
“Gift,” the detective answered calmly.
Renard stiffened and then turned his head to hide the tiny smile. The suspect reacted by swiping the glass and sending it flying across the room. Though no drops landed on his hand, De Dau obsessively wiped his appendage on his pants. Hotch didn’t react to Burkhardt’s entrance or De Dau’s over-reaction. He was watching the suspect carefully for the crack in his armor.
“Did he just threaten the suspect?” Rossi asked.
“How?” Morgan replied. Both men looked to their genius. “Reid?”
“Well,” Reid considered. “De Dau is Sudanese, by heritage and multilingual like many there. I don’t believe the transliteration means anything in Arabic, you’d have to ask Emily and I have no idea about Dinka.” The genius’s mind sped through the languages he did know. “Interestingly enough, if a German said ‘gift’ the translation would be ‘poison’.”
“But Nick’s not fluent in German,” Griffin told them. “And none of us have any reason to believe that De Dau is either.”
“So it’s a subtle, unsubstantiated threat.” Rossi was amused. “He did it in front of witnesses and still it’s not provable, but he managed to throw De Dau completely off his game. I like it.”
Hotch pounced while De Dau was distracted by Burkhardt and soon had De Dau’s statement twisted around to the truth. De Dau was proud of killing Nichols because he hadn’t stayed in his place in life. Ramirez, White and Nelson were killed for trying to help others ‘born victims.’ De Dau had no remorse.
Reid was pouting that De Dau refused to say how he degraded the DNA in his saliva. The genius couldn’t find anything in the cave that could accomplish it. When De Dau did go to trial, DNA would not be mentioned. Though with the confession and the other evidence, a life sentence was guaranteed and the death sentence was possible but not probable. The case was solved and the team was packing up.
Hotch had one last thing to do.
“You are aware of Garcia’s talents,” Hotch told the police captain.
Renard just watched him. Waiting. Not nervous but very, very wary.
“We asked her to find the connection between you and Burkhardt and she found this.” Hotch slid the photo over Renard’s desk. “Burkhardt doesn’t know, does he?”
Renard shook his head mutely, for once not in complete control.
“Little brothers are a pain,” Hotch told him bluntly and fondly. “I speak from experience. Burkhardt’s more likely to believe us. I know that it won’t be on your timetable, but would you like me to tell him?”
Renard reached for the picture and though his hand didn’t shake, Hotch was sure it would have on a lesser man. “When are you leaving?”
“We’ll be ready in two hours.”
Renard nodded. He would consider it. Renard wanted to keep family close and he wouldn’t risk Hotch stealing his little brother away while there was this chasm of distrust between them.
Burkhardt sat in Renard’s office and for the first time was obviously unsettled. Hotch would be the mediator. He handed over the photo. Burkhardt recognized the woman immediately, even though she was frozen in time at nineteen. “That’s my mother. The boy?”
Renard nodded. “Yes. Is me. Your mother worked for my family during her rebellious years. She was my nanny, part-time. I saw more of her than my own parents.”
“Oh.” The word was a breath of understanding more than anything else.
“Your mother was kind in a difficult situation and kept in touch nominally through the years.”
“Do you still have the letters?” Burkhardt leaned forward, losing his reserve.
Renard shook his head, but reached into his desk and pulled out a series of photos. Burkhardt accepted them without any of his previous reserve. “They’re me.” He blinked and then looked up at his captain for confirmation.
“Yes. Your mother knew that life was not guaranteed and asked me to be your safety net in the event of her death. When the crash happened, I was not in the position to assist anyone and your Aunt Marie was raising you according to your mother’s wishes.”
Hotch wondered if Burkhardt could understand the emotional complexities of a young boy, a bastard child of an influential family, and his nanny. Renard was probably fonder of Kelly Burkhardt than of his own biological mother, who had rarely been in the same country as Renard. Emotionally, Renard considered Burkhardt to be his younger brother despite the fact that the relationship might always be one-sided.
Burkhardt returned the childhood photos of himself to Renard but retained the single photo of Kelly Burkhardt and the small smiling Sean in her arms. “Can I keep this for a little while?”
The captain nodded and admitted, “I have one of the originals still.”
Hotch could see that this was becoming personal, dismissed himself from the conversation and exited the room. His team had already said their goodbyes and was ready to leave. It was time for the BAU to return to DC and eventually, the next case.
Juliette fixed her cup of hot cocoa and set it on the corner table. She cuddled next to Nick, her boyfriend, and smiled as he wrapped one arm around her and set the photo he had been studying aside. “Have I thanked you yet?” he murmured into her hair.
“For what exactly?”
“Being wonderful and accepting and… helpful is too small a word for you.”
Juliette pulled away from him only long enough to pick up her mug and then returned to his side. Ever since Nick had ‘fessed up after the Wildermen deaths, the silences between them hadn’t been heavy with secrets. Nick had confirmed her suspicions that Larry had been more than human in a way that he could always see and she would never see. The fairy tales that had scared her as a child were real and deep with an beautiful, winding subculture. Nick had revealed the entire community that had Eisbibers delivering gifts and dämonfeuers abducting her. Nick had brought Monroe over again and this time she heard a truthful answer to every question. Monroe woged and cheerfully explained about Blutbaden. The two of them had taken her to Aunt Marie’s trailer at Forest Hills Storage and showed her Nick’s heritage as a living Grimm.
Immediately she grasped the importance of the reference books. The next day, she bought a laptop and a scanner. Every free hour since the revelation, Juliette would drive to the trailer and start the painstaking process of scanning in the books and entering enough key words for searching ease. Monroe was horrified at the idea of exchanging the solid books for something digital but he could be bullied into helping (mostly translating the German into English) when he wasn’t off chasing the dangerous Wesen of the week.
Ever since Nick had been assigned to the Ramirez’s murder, Juliette had buried herself in her new project. She also had a side project of cataloguing wesen woged DNA. Her database was too small to even be considered a database, but it was growing with every sample Nick smuggled to her. De Dau’s spit being only the most recent added. She had a lot of free time on her hands with Nick busy with the Feds. She had been the one to stumble over the Grimm journal entry of Dooshaboon Molt, the murdering wesen. The name meant ‘drag death’ in Arabic. According to Nick’s ancestor, the wesen in question was crocodile like. It preferred warmer climates and would eat anything it could kill by blunt force or drowning as they were excellent swimmers. They excelled at camouflage and were patient enough to lay in wait. It was protected by its parents for the first couple years and then abandoned. The child could survive in the wild near water and if it was ‘rescued,’ it would eat its rescuers as soon as it was big enough to accomplish it. Dooshaboon Molts were big into hierarchy and considered Grimms to be their equal. In one way they were correct, for every Grimm a Dooshaboon Molt killed, the Grimms killed in return. They would not work with the Seven Houses and so the Royals offered a bounty for any proven killed.
Dooshaboon Molts were hard to kill, as everything would become lodged in their tough hide of their woged form. A few had been killed from a distance with a high powered rifle with a bullet that would rip through their body before they had a chance to woge, but Dooshaboon Molts were extremely aware of their surroundings and had excellent hearing. If a person could get close enough and had a sharp enough blade, they could be beheaded. The most common way of killing Dooshaboon Molts was through poison.
Bulebuk De Dau was a unique case. Even Agent Garcia of the BAU wasn’t sure how he had been shipped over to the US and into Luke Taymor’s care. The local wesen had considered Taymor to be a mean SOB, even for a Löwen, and no one had looked too hard for him when he disappeared after De Dau’s graduation and subsequent trip to the Sudan. Nick was only guessing, but Taymor might have taken De Dau in for presumed future rewards in the wesen gladiator fights.
The Verret had chased De Dau out of Sudan and back to the country of his schooling. Renard shared that De Dau would probably rule the prison hierarchy until the time when someone trying to gain the Verret’s good graces would pay some cook a fortune to poison him.
That was only if Adalind Schade didn’t get to him first. Once Adalind had given Nick an idea of his woged form, Juliette remembered reading about the Dooshaboon Molts. Nick had called up Bud, his Eisbiber contact, and received a name of the only one that had gone to high school in the area. The Portland wesen knew all about the bully and his favorite victim. It hadn’t taken Nick long to link De Dau to White through Nichols. He found evidence of the fight between Nichols and De Dau, but because it would have raised questions about wesen in general, he had only taken Nichols’ cell phone and borrowed gun to the police station and the Feds.
“What are you going to do about Captain Renard?”
Nick sighed and dragged his thoughts to the current problem and away from the solved problem. “I have no idea. He spilled a lot of information considering there had been a Fed in the room. My mother once worked as a Grimm for one of the Seven Families.”
Juliette held a hand out for the photographic proof and Nick obediently gave it. She studied it with a woman’s eye. “I think your mother loved him to spend so much time with the child. I would think that the Royal family would have tried to keep her busy. She intentionally made time for the captain.”
Nick looked yet again at the photo over her shoulder. “You think so?”
“Yes.” She pointed at the little boy. “Look at him, no fear. He’s barely holding on. He knew that she wouldn’t drop him. Your mother made him feel safe. So, I ask again. What are you going to do about Captain Renard?”
Nick shook his head. “Is there anything to do while I wait it out?”
Juliette handed back the photo. “Just don’t be mean.”
The detective blinked. “Me? Mean?”
“And I don’t just mean unintentionally. I’ve heard stories from Hank of what you do in interrogation and I know that Monroe isn’t telling me everything about your Grimm work. You know how to be cruel, just please don’t do it to the captain.”
Nick thought about it. “This is like you telling me to help Adalind even though she tried to kill my aunt. That has not been a picnic.”
“She didn’t succeed and it’s a good thing that she trusted you since she could describe the wesen in question to someone who knew the truth. Otherwise, the Feds –and you- would still be chasing your tails. And what about those kids she’s helped. You haven’t found any untoward in those cases.”
“Nothing provable anyways,” Nick murmured. He still didn’t know how one foster mom ended up surrendering to the cops for child abuse of her own free will and scared out of her mind. There was a reason that Adalind was not allowed to be alone with either Hank or Juilette as a part of her Grimm Parole (as Monroe called it) complete with spot checks of her apartment. Monroe had been forced to work with the ex-hexenbiest but he treated Adalind much like Nick did, as a very dangerous, very untrustworthy but potentially useful person.
“Renard can’t be worse that Adalind,” Juliette argued.
“He’s smarter, less impulsive. He is more dangerous, but I don’t think he planned on the BAU finding his connection to Mom. But there’s always the slim chance that he planted the evidence for the BAU computer tech to find.”
“You’re paranoid. That’s a very slim chance. So what are you going to do?”
“I’ll wait and give him a chance. He has protected me but he certainly has his own agenda.”
Juliette settled against Nick’s chest with a small smile. “Well, it’s a start.”