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Loving and Losing

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Reid’s phone rang early the next morning. Duty calls, he thought. He got dressed and checked on Emma, who was sound asleep, and then looked around for Paisley. He found her in the living room, drinking coffee and watching television.

“Leaving?” she asked, already knowing the answer.

“We’re needed in L.A.” Reid said, making himself some coffee.

“Alright, good luck.”

“Thanks,” said Reid as he grabbed his go-bag and coat.

As usual, the team had a plan before the plane landed in L.A. Reid and Rossi were sent to the hospital to talk to Colleen Everson, the woman who had been beaten, raped, and forced to watch her husband die. Morgan and Prentiss met the LAPD detectives at the Everson house, and JJ and Hotch went straight to the station.

They hadn’t gleaned much from Mrs. Everson, who’d already tried to kill herself twice. Reid joined JJ, where they conferenced with Garcia.

“Garcia, this unsub’s had practice,” Reid said. “A lot of it. Maybe not in L.A., but he’s definitely done this before.”

Garcia understood. “Word. This is not his first crime party. I seriously can’t find a single case in L.A. that equals this level of emotional destruction.”

Reid thought for a moment. “We need to expand the search to all of Southern California. He can be in other cities with a quick ride on the freeways.”

“Yeah, will do.”

“Thanks, Garcia,” Reid said before hanging up.

“We’re going live on the 11:00 news,” said JJ. “You think he’ll be watching?”

“It’s late,” Reid replied. “He could already be hunting.”

Prentiss and Spicer arrived a moment later, in mid-conversation.

“I’ve just always believed that things happen for a reason,” Spicer was saying. “It’s hard to find the reason for this, though. Utterly meaningless crimes…” He stared at a photo on the board. “No obvious motivation. Pure evil.”

Reid couldn’t help but speak up. “Evil can’t be scientifically defined. It’s an illusory moral concept that doesn’t exist in nature. Its origins and connotations have been inextricably linked to religion and mythology. This offender has shown no signs of any belief.” At Spicer’s expression, he said: “I’m, uh, Spencer Reid.”

“Matt Spicer.” said the detective, shaking his hand.

“Jennifer Jareau,” said JJ, making the final introduction. “The media’s been asking for you.”

“Yeah, well, nobody else around here wants to talk to them,” said Spicer. “I figure it hasn’t hurt me yet.”

“Uh, they’d like an interview for the 11:00 news,” JJ explained. “Can we go over a few points?”

“Absolutely.” Spicer said, following JJ out of the room.

Reid listened as Hotch began to deliver the profile.

“Forcing a child to witness this is clearly sadistic. He destroyed the boy’s innocence and took away his childhood. This probably mirrors the unsub’s own experience.”

“That’s an excuse for what he’s doing?” asked an officer in the back.

“There’s no excuse for what he’s doing,” Hotch assured him.

“We’re not justifying anything,” Rossi said, taking over. “Everything he says, everything he does, tells us what makes him tick, that’s all.”

Now it was Prentiss’ turn. “The message that he left us was misspelled, which says that he was not well-educated.”

It was always like this - everyone on the team knew when it was their turn to talk. They didn’t even have to look at each other to know. Years of practice allowed them to work in harmony.

“And based on the vicious nature of his crimes, the press has named him the Prince of Darkness,” JJ was saying.

“Prince,” Rossi repeated. “That’ll fuel his ego.”

JJ nodded, obviously annoyed the media was sensationalizing things again. “Yeah, and he’s gonna be all over the news.”

“Once we unravel his need for darkness, we’ll find him,” Hotch said.

“I have scoured and searched,” Garcia began as everyone gathered around the laptop where she was on video chat. “And you were totally right. This unsub has been doing it forever. There is nowhere he hasn’t been in the last 26 years. Honestly. Every single state. Well, 48 continental. My point… He is the worst I’ve ever seen, and we have all seen some things.”

“How did you connect him?” Hotch asked.

“Everything you said,” Garcia said. “He’s drawn to the dark. He shows up during a blackout, he robs, he kills, he leaves a witness.”

“How’s he getting away with this?” asked Kurzbard.

“He never hits the same city twice.” Garcia said.

“Except Los Angeles.” Morgan commented.

“I’m sending everything your way,” said Garcia. “And you better load up that printer, ‘cause it looks like he started in southern California way back in the summer of 1984.”

They set to work sorting through the files and picking up patterns and timelines.

But still they were too slow. Their work was interrupted as Spicer and Kurzbard left to investigate another murder.

Back at the station, JJ was alerting the media that the rolling blackouts had been cancelled for the following night.

“We’re talking over 200 houses in 26 years,” Prentiss said.

“When he started in San Diego, it was all about the robberies,” said Reid.

“By the time he got to Orange county, he robbed and assaulted his victims,” Morgan said. “First murder was in Long Beach, and he left a witness.”

“He got away with it for 26 years,” said Hotch. “Why did he come back?”

Spicer and Kurzbard returned, with new information. There had been no message, but the neighbors had been hypervigilant and called the police as soon as the gunshots went off. Spicer was particularly angry that a baby had been left in a closet.

They discussed what everything had to mean. Why these victims? Why this time? Why did he stay in Los Angeles? Why did he kill the first two women in Newton division? Slowly, they started to piece things together

He’d started 26 years ago, just as Kurzbard had. “You think this is because of me? That all these people are dead because of that?”

But as they dug deeper, they found it had nothing to do with Kurzbard. This unsub was after Spicer, having killed a couple named Joe and Sylvia Spicer years ago, leaving a child and a baby alive. The child, they realized, was Matt Spicer.

Spicer was in denial. He’d believed for all these years that his parents had died in a car accident, as his grandparents had told him.

“This guy is taunting you,” Morgan said, having followed Spicer to another room. “He left a young boy alive, and now a baby. He wants you to know it’s him.”

“How could I not know?” Spicer asked hopelessly.

Morgan helped him calm down and tried to help him remember the night his parents died. Somehow, the memories came back, but not in one piece. It was enough, however, for Morgan to realize why the unsub had returned.

He left survivors all over the country, but Spicer was different. The unsub felt he’d turned Spicer into a hero, as he was the reason Spicer was alive. And if he hadn’t killed his parents, Spicer never would have become a detective.

The unsub had read an article about Spicer, in which his daughter Ellie had been mentioned. The team went straight to Spicer’s house, but Ellie and Kristin, Spicer’s sister, were already gone.