Hotch shaved carefully and secured his tie in a Windsor knot before jumping into the black SUV, which Emily had acquired, and heading for the Holiday Inn on the edge of town. He didn’t bother to park, simply left his car in the side alley and marched up to the front desk. A young man with sallow pockmarked skin and greasy slick backed hair loitered uneasily behind the desk. He kept moving his hands from lap to the plastic counter as if he wasn’t quite sure what to do with them. He’s new here. Good. He’ll be easy to intimidate, Hotch thought, from the worried glance he gave as the door slammed back against the wall at Hotch’s entrance.
“Supervisory Special Agent Aaron Hotchner,” he barked as he slammed his credentials on the desk. “I need to know which room Special Agent Ashley Seaver is staying in.”
“Sure, um, one second,” the youth typed something into the computer with shaking fingers. “Room 417”
“Key card.” Hotch held out his hand. The young man hesitated and Hotch’s brow furrowed into warning lines. Luke, as his name badge proclaimed him to be called, quickly scanned a card and pressed it into Hotch’s hand.
“Thank you.” Hotch whirled away but he could feel the gasp of relief from the terrified young clerk. He hopped into the elevator and impatiently jabbed at the door close button. His rage was simmering just below the surface and making it extremely hard to maintain an aura of calm. He needed to keep her alive, just long enough to get Spencer back. What happened after that was up to his mood at the time. He slid the key card through the lock, gently and was pleased as the green light lit up. Stepping into the room, he saw two beds but only one was being slept in. At least the Bureau had sprung for individual hotel rooms this time. It made his job far easier. Pulling out his gun, he walked silently to the side of her bed, picked up her sidearm, and pressed the cold metal against her pale forehead. Her eyes shot open and tried to adjust to the sudden brightness as he flicked on the bedside light.
“Hello, Agent Seaver,” he purred and stripped the comforter off her. She was sleeping in flannel pyjama pants and an old football jersey. “We’re going to take a little walk. I suggest you put on some shoes.”
“Agent Hotchner?” she sounded very small and very afraid.
He chuckled, “you can call me Hotch. Now get moving.” Slowly she rose and he moved with her towards the door. She pushed her feet into a pair of sneakers and he slid his gun back into his belt before flicking open his favourite knife and holding it against her side. They moved towards the stairs, his arm flung around her like they were old friends. Stepping out through a back door into the alley, he motioned her to step towards the car. This was boring. He’d expected some resistance. He raised her gun and brought it crashing into the side of her head. She bounced gently off the car door as she fell like a marionette with cut strings. Quickly, he duct-taped her hands, feet and mouth then threw her into the boot. The GPS was already programmed to take him to a warehouse owned by a very naughty client of Emily’s who wouldn’t talk. Now he just needed to make a phone call and soon he’d see Spencer again.
He pulled out a mobile that JJ had given him from her stash of burner phones and dialled a familiar number.
“Hello,” the voice was slurred and groggy. Maybe he had been drinking. Celebrating. Maybe he was just exhausted.
“Jason,” Hotch smiled. “It’s so good to talk to you again. It’s been too long.”
“Aaron,” all the weight of sleep or alcohol left the older man’s tone, replaced by surprise and a wary anger.
“I’m glad we’re still on first name terms. Now, to business. You have something of mine. I have something of yours. I am willing to trade. I’ll call you back in an hour to discuss terms.” He hung up and shoved the car down a gear before slowly pulling out of the alleyway.
Jason Gideon staring at his phone with a deepening sense of dread before dialling Morgan’s number.
“What?” the unit chief groaned into the phone.
“Hotch just called me. He says he’s got something of ours and wants to trade. I’m going to check on Seaver.”
“Why Seaver?” Morgan still wasn’t really awake.
“She fits his type.”
The team gathered in the foyer in varying states of alertness. Rossi was alternating between livid anger and blind panic. Seaver had become like a daughter to him and this cut him to the quick. Morgan was pacing like a caged animal. Blake was blankly staring at the wall. Gideon dialled Garcia.
“Hotch, has Seaver,” he stated without preamble. “He will be calling back in the next ten minutes. Trace it.” He hung up before the tech analyst could ask any questions. Morgan’s phone buzzed and he answered it without having to check the caller ID.
“I know, Baby. Yes it’s bad. He came to the hotel and used his creds to get a key. Gideon already tore the clerk a new one. Yes, I’ll let you know. Love you too.” Gideon’s phone rang as Morgan was about to hang up. “Baby Girl, that might be him calling early. You got the trace running?” He nodded to Gideon who answered, squaring his shoulders.
“Got me on speaker, Jason?” Gideon sighed and pushed a button. Hotch wanted an audience. He always had some narcissistic tendencies.
“You are now.”
“Hello everyone.” No one replied. “Jason, got the trace running?” Hotch couldn’t hide the amusement in his voice.
“Yes, Aaron.” Gideon rubbed a hand over his eyes. How could they fight the guy who had helped write the majority of their handbooks?
“Good. We’ll see how good these burner phones really are. Garcia should be being bounced all over the city.” Gideon looked over at Morgan who shook his head. “Anyway, we don’t have all the time in the world. Poor Ashley is waiting for her knights in shining armour or something like that. I’ll cut the UnSub crap. I want Spencer. You want her. Let’s trade.”
“You know we can’t do that, Aaron. You know it doesn’t work that way.”
“True. However, I will tell you where to come. You can bring all the SWAT you want. All I ask is that you enter alone with Spencer and that we have a few minutes together. We will then surrender ourselves into your custody. Deal?”
“You should be discussing this with Morgan?”
“What can I say? I have a strange feeling of nostalgia for when you were the unit chief. I’ll call again in half an hour. I expect the arrangements to be made. I will give you an address at that time.” Again Hotch hung up.
“Anything?” Morgan asked exasperatedly. “Thanks anyway, Baby, I’ll call you when I know more.”
“Do it,” Rossi stated quietly and Blake nodded her agreement.
“It’s not that simple,” Morgan argued, “We can’t just hand over a man who is guilty of god knows how many murders.”
“What choice do we have?” Gideon asked quietly. “Aaron says he’ll surrender afterwards.”
“And you believe him?” Morgan stared incredulously.
“He always was a man of his word,” Gideon shrugged.
“He’s not the same man. You’ve been telling me that for months, Rossi.” Morgan looked around, seeking an ally.
“I know but we just have to hope. Let’s go get this ball rolling.” The team walked out of the lobby, leaving Morgan to trail after them uncertainly. Hotch was running this show. It was just as if he was the unit chief again and the team was following his orders.