“What do the unsubs need?” Reid asked, poised at the board. He and Garcia’s previous lists had rendered no leads, so they were trying again with the whole group.
Burkhardt swung his chair thoughtfully. “Humans that people are not going to miss, some way of sort through the available bodies since they are only interested in the relatively healthy. Some pretty decent medical equipment for harvesting the parts. Some place to harvest that people won’t go snooping and some way to distribute the… uh medicines. We caught the case last time because the guy delivering a fresh heart got into a car accident.”
Morgan asked, “How many people should be missing?”
“I would expect at least one a day. Minimum.”
“They have the entire city to hunt in, all sides of the delta to hide, but we’re not seeing those kinds of numbers in Louisiana or Alabama,” Garcia chimed in from the East Coast. “Most visitors to the fair city leave too.”
“Maybe they’re elsewhere in the United States and shipping to here?” suggested Emily. “This is a major shipping hub.”
“No. The fact that the assistant chief was trying to stop the investigation before it started means that they’re here. They are here someplace,” Burkhardt was dead certain. “In Portland, when we found their harvest center, we found the pit where they burnt the parts of the body they didn’t sell. We found one hundred and twenty-three different sets of teeth in it. They had killed one hundred and twenty people before we caught on, but they were people that no one reported missing, all runaways and homeless. Just because we can’t find the missing doesn’t mean anything.”
“We can’t look for bodies either,” Morgan complained. “Between the sharks in the bay and the gators in the bayou, there are number of ways to get rid of human bodies.”
“Do you think anyone would tell us where the predators are gathering that doesn’t makes sense?” Reid wondered.
“We can ask,” JJ said. “No one would raise an eyebrow if we asked Fishing and Wildlife those kind of questions. We might get honest answers.” Will had supplied the news that the precinct they were currently residing in had a reputation for sketchy results.
“It’s a longshot,” Hotch agreed, “But go ask. We are starting from scratch, here. So we have two approaches the case: first, we have Tully’s finances which we hope will lead us to the distribution chain. Second, we have the missing people, who are they and where are they being abducted? Rossi, you have JJ and Garcia, of course, and you find where and when he bought the product. You’ll be going through his trash and receipts and interviewing Tully as many times as he’ll let you. Reid, Prentiss, Morgan, Burkhardt and I are going to try to find the unsubs through their victims. We can’t assume the conference room is secure. We will try to keep someone on site in the interim. Try not to leave clues lying about. For now, I’ll stay and try to keep up on our DC work.”
“We’re not moving to the federal building?” Burkhardt confirmed.
“We move and the case is handed over to the local FBI, and we all know how easy it would be to make all the evidence disappear if we’re not here.”
Considering they had one consumer and five bottles of ground up human organs (one of Tully’s stash had been purely plants), the evidence was already slim.
“Morgues? Funeral Homes?” Morgan suggested. That would reduce the charge from murder –which was Burkhardt’s opinion- to misappropriation of human remains.
Burkhardt shook his head. “No one already dead. The one body that we connected to the case had managed to get out of his restraints after being drained of blood. In his attempt to escape he drowned in the nearby river and washed up within the Portland city limits. The victims are alive when they start the final surgery.”
“How about someone expected to die?” Emily threw out. “If someone was going to get a closed casket, they family could be burying an empty box.”
Burkhardt refused that suggestion too. “No. Last time they targeted the healthiest of the street kids, using the bait of a job offer to pick them up. The doctor at the free clinic was giving them names to target… as well as performing the killing surgeries.”
“Do they use anesthesia?” Ried asked worriedly. “We could track the drugs.”
Burkhardt’s mourning was obvious. “Not always and only to keep the body still before the actual surgery. From what I understand, common practice is to drain the body of enough blood to severally weaken but not kill. So the person is still alive –not drugged- and begin surgery then.”
“How many unsubs are we talking about?” Rossi asked. “The more people, the more likely the secret will slip out.”
Burkhardt pointed at Reid’s stack of Portland case files. “You saw how many were killed and arrested during the takedown. In addition to that, you have the driver that was transporting parts to the distributer, another single person. They are all motivated by money, but it’s more than that.”
“Oh?” Reid asked.
“Last time, they were all but the distributor were related. Cousins mostly. Some people that married into the family.”
“Extra ties,” Morgan mused.
“I know it’s presumptuous,” Burkhardt mused, “but do any of the unsubs from the Portland case have relatives living in New Orleans?”
“Garcia?” Hotch prompted.
“Looking, looking. Huh. Double huh. We have thirteen, a very unlucky number, of relatives, blood and otherwise of unsubs in Burkhardt’s case that claim New Orleans as their home. None of them have a current address listed and all of them have P.O. Boxes. Ten of them have Louisiana driver’s licenses. None of them are employed or claim unemployment.”
“You can do better than that, Baby Doll ,” Morgan teased.
“Sweet Cheeks, I can’t even confirm that they exist, let alone where they are.”
“What about the distributor,” Rossi asked. “I don’t see any notes on that conspirator.”
“Dead,” Burkhardt answered. “And the family is not involved in New Orleans.”
“How can you know,” Rossi pressed.
Burkhardt didn’t flinch. “I know.”
“You’re withholding vital information in case.”
“The Portland case is closed and we have no concrete evidence that anything I know from there pertains to this.”
“You’re withholding vital information in case,” Rossi ground out.
“I’m protecting my people.”
Rossi was so frustrated he was shaking. “We need to know. We won’t spread the information beyond this room.”
“Rossi,” Reid snapped. All members of the team were surprised with the genius’s interference. “You don’t need to know anything more than the Portland distributor is dead and the family is not involved in New Orleans. Remember your first case with the team?”
Hotch broke the tense silence. “Burkhardt, what clues can lead Garcia to the distributor in New Orleans?”
Burkhardt thought carefully. “The storefront has got to be a small business. You can’t have too many people in on the payroll. Family run, maybe, but with a high profit margin. The kind that would normally signify time to pay someone not family to run the cash register. The legal part of the business would be like a garden center that specializes in herbs, a tea shop or a pharmacy. Not some place where people sit down and chat. Maybe a microbrewery?”
“Okay,” Garcia mused. “Looking through small businesses less than five employees where glass jars filled with unidentifiable stuff would fit in. Hmm, I found two candy shops, two microbreweries, a vineyard, ten garden centers, three pharmacies, one tea shop and a partridge in a pear tree.”
“E-mail the list.”
“It’s already on your phones.”
“Reid, Prentiss, you get the first half of the list. Morgan, Burkhardt, the second. Make contacts around town with prostitutes and hookers. See if anyone had gone missing. We need to find the victim pool.”
“I’m driving,” Morgan called out. Burkhardt shrugged his acceptance.
On their way out, Morgan and Burkhardt passed a striking woman in an expensive suit. Morgan checked out the whole, curvy package. Burkhardt and the woman had a two second stare down. “Detective Burkhardt,” he introduced himself.
“Deborah Grogan.” She handed Burkhardt a business card before walking away.
“Know her?” Morgan asked.
“Her type,” Burkhardt answered, flashing the card. “I hate lawyers.”
“You think that’s Tully’s?”
“Sure of it.”
“She’s looks out of his budget.”
Burkhardt twisted to watch her ‘introduce’ herself to the assistant chief of police. “But not his.”
Morgan agreed silently. The pair drove around town, visiting the possible distribution centers and homeless. Burkhardt would focus on the people outside as Morgan focused on the people in. They found that three of the garden centers also sold marijuana and two of the pharmacies sold prescription drugs without a prescription, but nothing related to the case.
From the homeless, they got three names. Garcia ran them and found two in the morgue from natural causes. The last one was MIA but they should be looking at many more people missing. Morgan was getting frustrated and was starting to believe that the actual harvesting was happening elsewhere.
Burkhardt was still sure and determined and looking past the homeless and junkie for answers. Burkhardt spotted someone and grinned when he saw that someone staring at him in horror. “Perfect,” he muttered and took off after the man when he dropped his donut and ran. Morgan had to work to keep up. Burkhardt was fast. He managed to loop around the zig-zagging runner and trap him between the detective and the agent. The runner tried to dodge, but Burkhardt was excellent at being in the way.
Finally the runner stopped and put up his hands. “Don’t kill me, don’t kill me,” he begged.
Burkhardt seemed resigned and insulted all at once. He was barely out of breath. “Of course, I’m not going to kill you. I’m a cop, Detective Burkhardt from Portland, and Morgan over there is an FBI agent. He won’t let me kill anyone. I’m just looking for information. I’m looking for a witch.”
“A witch?” He twitched, looking for an escape route.
“I don’t want you. You’re busy as a bee to get ahead. I want someone looking for shortcuts; I want a witch. Someone who would use ground up human parts if they thought it would help. Someone who wouldn’t like the FBI snooping in their spice cabinet because there’s something in there that would get them arrested.”
“Oh. Oooooohhhh.” The man looked gleeful at the mental picture. Still worried about himself, but liking the idea of sic-ing Burkhardt on someone else.
“I just need someplace where I can find a witch or two. Your name never comes up. In fact, this conversation never happened.”
The man twitched again. He really wanted to, but he wasn’t sure.
“What about Grogan, Grogan and Hines,” Burkhardt mentioned the law company that sent Tully an attorney. It made sense that the case circled back to Tully.
The man snorted, “Grogan, Grogan and Hines is lousy with witches.”
“Exactly what I wanted to hear,” Burkhardt grinned. He handed the man his business card. “If you come up with anything call me,” Burkhardt asked. He looked past Morgan and handed the man a stack of business cards. “Give these to your friends, and tell them the same. If they know anyone who would use human remains for shortcuts or know who they’re killing or where they’re killing or anything about the distribution of the product. Give me a call, send me a text and don’t do anything dangerous. That’s my job.”
“Sure, sure. For sure.” The man dodged around Morgan and hurried to his waiting friends, where he passed out Burkhardt’s cards. The group hurried away. Morgan and Burkhardt let them ‘escape.’
“How on earth did you know that he’d like to get a witch in trouble?” Morgan had to ask.
Burkhardt looked a little blank. “I don’t know, I just did. He ran from me so I knew that he knew why I was in town. I knew he had information I wanted.”
“Are you sure that we’re looking for a witch?”
“Yes. The use of human remains in a… potion came up in a separate case concerning someone who believed they were a witch. The Unsub then had been a lawyer.”
“You didn’t mention that in the conference,” Morgan stated.
“I’ve read Rossi’s books. He doesn’t believe in practicing black magic as a motive. I didn’t want to get into an argument that would waste time we could be searching on the streets.”
“The stats are against black magic as a reason to kill,” Morgan had to point.
Burkhardt laughed. “And where are the stats on people killing to grind up and sell.”
“Point. Next time tell me. I’ll listen with an open mind. I’m assuming Reid knows this just like he’s met the family of the former distributor?”
Burkhardt had to think about it. “No, I don’t think witches came up in our discussions. We had other priorities.”
“Well, text him and tell him so that he knows what he needs to keep an eye out for. Now what?”
“We sit outside of Grogan, Grogan and Hines and wait for someone who can be leveraged to talk to us.”
“Oh, I can do better than that,” Morgan said as he pulled out his phone and dialed his favorite girl. Garcia answered on the second ring. “Baby Girl, we are looking for someone.”
“Is it me?”
“No one so vivacious, baby. A stuffy lawyer from Grogan, Grogan and Hines.”
“Oh, sounds suspicious. Tell me more.”
“A woman raised by a single mother,” Nick replied. “And has been at the law firm for less than five years.” At Morgan’s questioning look, he explained. “We want someone we can shake. She takes big risks, Garcia, and has been promoted and demoted already. One of those demotions happened when she almost lost a case, but someone on the opposing council’s side died or got horribly sick.”
“Creepy,” the computer tech muttered.
“Yes, she is. She would have used some of the human remains to poison her target.”
Burkhardt looked amused at the squealing. “Any luck?”
“Interestingly enough half of the lawyers there are women raised by single moms. Go girl power. And yes, we have a winner. Eliza Grogan is the granddaughter of the first Grogan of Grogan, Grogan and Hines and the niece of the second. She’s been at the firm for four years. Been advanced twice and demoted once and for a case where the opposing council had a really convenient heart attack at the age of forty-two. Rare, but no unheard of. He’s still recovering.”
“That’s who we’re looking for. Can you tell us if she’s in the law offices?”
“Yes I can and Yes she is.”
Morgan looked at Burkhardt and knew, “We do not want to face her in her workplace.”
“Baby Girl, do you know what time she normally leaves for the day?”
“You didn’t ask that and I didn’t answer seven o’clock.”
“Understood. Chat with you later.”
“I’ll be waiting,” she said before hanging up.
“Dinner?” Morgan asked.
Burkhardt grinned. “I smelled some really good Cajun spices coming out of a restaurant as I was chasing him.”
“I like that plan.”
After confirming that Morgan wouldn’t be insulted if Burkardt spent all of dinner on the phone, he did. He was involved in three texting conversations and called his fiancée in the middle. The food tasted as good as it smelled and Morgan had a ball flirting with the waitress. At the appointed time, they excused themselves from their conversations and drove over to the law offices.
They only had to wait ten minutes before Eliza Grogan sauntered out the door. Burkhardt grinned at Morgan. “Look at those heels, she’ll never outrun us.”
Morgan laughed and watched as Burkhardt herded the woman into an isolated alcove. Like most of the other encounters of the day, Burkhardt introduced himself as a detective from Portland. Grogan looked like she wanted to run.
Burkhardt didn’t waste any time. “So I know about Eric Brand. I want to know where you got the ingredients to cause the heart attack.”
“I don’t care what you want,” Grogan snarled. She had a beautiful Cajun accent. Slow and easy, even as she sputtered with hate and vitriol.
Burkhardt pointed at finger at her, so close she could have bit it. “I can make your entire life disappear. Poof. Gone.”
Grogan stared at that finger as if it was poison. “You are a cautionary tale… Burkhardt.”
“I know. I plan on remaining one. Where did you get the ingredients? You tell me and I walk away.”
“You. Will walk away.”
“I’m not a federal agent. It’s not my jurisdiction.”
“I don’t know anything about poison.”
“Your face and I’m sure your spice cabinet will tell me differently. If I make a fuss, even if I don’t get my answers which will make me make more of a fuss, what will Mom think? What will all those other women at work think?”
Grogan thought about it and then dug around in her purse for a pen and a paper. She scribbled something on it. “I’ve never used this, of course, but I’ve heard things from clients. I don’t want to see you again.”
Burkhardt took the paper right from her fingers. “Then don’t do anything that will get my attention.”
Grogan sauntered away, the strut much less sure than before.
“What did you get?” Morgan asked.
“A website. Garcia should be able to get through the security and blocks.”
“I’d bet on my baby girl any day of the week. What about Grogan? You’re really not going to follow up on it? She gave a man a heart attack.”
Burkhardt grinned. “Not my jurisdiction. But I might have asked Garcia to send Eric Brand a hint. He’s a good lawyer and he probably can figure out where the poison was hidden. He’ll go after her and be wary enough that she won’t be able to do it a second time.”
“You don’t think she’s going to go home and dump all human remains down the toilet?”
“Naw. She’s a skinflint and is barely making ends meet at it is. You saw her shoes. She can’t afford to waste anything. She’ll go home and hide them in the best spot in the house.”
“And that doesn’t worry you?”
“No, I’m good at searching, if I need to find it. What worries me is that she’ll be using the French name of everything and I’ll miss it. None of my CI’s back home speak French. I need to get someone here who will talk to me.”
“What about the guy you chased down? You didn’t take his number though.” That was a grievous oversight, even though the guy hadn’t even offered his own name.
“I don’t think he’d know it all. He’s not the type. Rather like how a normal citizen wouldn’t know all of the nicknames for marijuana. When he calls, I’ll ask though.”
“You really think he’ll call?”
“For the gossip alone.”
“Come on,” Morgan said. “Let’s get back to the office and see if anyone had better luck than us.” They both knew that they would have received a phone call if there had been a good lead. No news was bad news.
The rest of the team was waiting for the men to arrive. No one looked hopeful. Morgan spoke first and relayed the events of the day. Garcia promised to get right on the website. Reid and Prentiss had similar results as Morgan and Burkhart; some drug trafficking but nothing related to the case and no one was truly missing.
Rossi reported, “Tully’s new lawyer is refusing all contact. She won’t even bargain for a lighter sentence. We have one receipt of the dried gallbladder. We now know that he paid three hundred for it, but it’s handwritten, so he didn’t use a credit card, and it was in the trash. Trace evidence is not going to help.”
“He overpaid,” Burkhardt muttered.
“How did he go from a website to a handwritten receipt,” Reid asked. “We’re missing something.”
JJ had gotten a better response. “So I have four isolated areas of higher than normal shark and croc activity.”
“Are any of them near an isolated road?”
“Three of them are,” JJ reported.
“Put them on the map with the suspected Post Office pinned,” Hotch told Reid. “See if we can spot anything.”
Burkhardt examined Reid’s color coded map for two minutes, before digging out his phone. “If you’ll excuse, I need to go call Juliette.”
Hotch barely waited until the detective was out the door before asking, “How was it with Burkhardt?”
“His people skills are incredible. He went from chasing a guy to getting information from him in less than fifteen minutes and that includes the mile sprint. The lawyer, he managed to threaten to get the website from in less than five. He left it very open to get information from both, plus five of the guy’s friends. He collects CI’s as fast as I collect phone numbers. I think half the reason he doesn’t report his CI’s is because the paperwork would take too long. He didn’t initially understand the advantages of using Garcia, but he caught on fast.”
“Why are they talking to him?” Hotch’s mystification was shared by the entire team.
Morgan had a theory. “It’s as if the entire city thinks that Burkhradt is effective because he’s a crooked cop, but once he convinces the honest ones otherwise –it doesn’t take a lot of convincing because he really isn’t, they fall over themselves to help out because he is efficient. Those that hate him on sight still believe that he’s crooked and that he can punish them with the weight of the law.”
“But why him?”
“They don’t know his face, but they know his reputation.”
“We should find out what case got him known,” Rossi suggested. He turned to Reid. “Do you think he’ll tell us about his CI’s after knows us and trusts us?”
Reid shrugged. “Maybe, but he really is not interested in joining the BAU.”