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Sickles and Straw Men

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"And given the condition of the body, you're thinking it was set out around the start of the harvest, same as the others?" Reid asked, crouching beside the hole the scarecrow pole had been removed from, running the earth through his gloved fingers. Samples had been taken days ago, when the body was found and removed, so there was nothing to be lost in handling it.

"We're pretty sure, yeah. The ME says it'd be harder to tell if there was rain, but it's been cool and clear. It's a good year for the corn, if these murders don't fuck it up." The officer pointed into the corn. "We've had to block off part of the field as the crime scene, and the owners are pretty upset, because this is the healthiest corn they've got, over here."

"I'm assuming the soil, here, was tested for blood residue? At the very least because it's the site the body was found and it would be helpful in determining if this was the site of the evisceration or just a dump site."

"Didn't see much point," the officer admitted. "A lot of the farms here use bloodmeal on the corn. Corn wants a high-nitrogen soil, and bloodmeal and manure are cheaper, around here. Unless we're lucky and there's enough undamaged material to go for a DNA test, it's kind of pointless, and you're going to wind up with mostly pig or cow anyway."

"So, where do we think the organs went?" Rossi asked, watching Reid prod the soil, contemplatively. "Is the killer taking trophies, like those Egyptian jars? The entire abdominal contents of a body is a lot of volume, particularly times four."

Reid looked down the row as if seeing it for the first time. "With the length of time and the rate of decomposition, I'm not sure there's going to be much organ to find, but you might try digging along the rows of corn near the body. If this is the healthiest corn in the field, and the farmer's already using bloodmeal, I'd be willing to bet someone buried the organs here and left the body to mark the spot they'd treated. That doesn't really answer the question of why it would occur to someone to do that, but it's consistent with what little evidence we have. It's at least worth looking at."

"So, what's the story with you two? I know you're both on Fitzgerald, which I'm not on, except the part where I was investigating the actual Fitzgerald part of Fitzgerald, but I'd think you'd be sick of looking at each other, by now," JJ joked, as she and Chaz set up the room they'd be working out of, hanging the map and photos of the crime scenes.

"What, we're stuck on the task force from hell, so we can't be friends?" Chaz reached over JJ's head to pin a corner she couldn't quite reach.

"Reid doesn't really... have friends," JJ said, carefully, taping a photo to the top of a white board and starting a list from the initial report under it. "I know that sounds ridiculous. Obviously, he's friends with some of our team, but it takes him a very long time to be comfortable with most people. Aside from Frank. We have no idea what happened with Frank."

"Frank's a genius, and he's not a shit about it." Chaz set to work at the other end of the board with the most recent case. "Which is surprising, because he's a shit about everything else. No, that's not fair. He's incredibly kind and thoughtful, he's just an obnoxious prick -- not that someone should applaud him for being that way, but angry that no one else thought to make those accommodations first. Less 'I'm better than you' and more 'you should all be better than this'. He has expectations, but he doesn't actually think anyone else is going to meet them."

"Kind and thoughtful? Frank?" JJ eyed Chaz sideways, wondering if he knew who Frank actually was, like she and Garcia did. "He makes me nervous. There's something wrong, there. As much as Garcia tells me she used to know him, and he's always been a good guy, there's just something about him that bothers me."

"It's probably the chaos. Like any chaotic system, he's predictable, but only if you know how he works. Otherwise, he looks random and uncontrolled, and I don't think either of those are true. He's just not operating under the same set of principles most of regional normal is using, and there are a lot more moving parts." Chaz checked the paperwork in his hand against what he'd written on the board. Writing and talking at the same time was always a little more interesting.

"He strikes me as dangerous in ways I can't really put my finger on," JJ hedged, remembering that Garcia had been hesitant to have her undertake the initial negotiation with Langly. "I've only really met him a few times, all of them on cases, but I just can't take him at face value. You've spent more time with him. Should I be worried about Reid?"

Chaz snorted, taping up the next photo and switching the marker to his other hand, so he wouldn't be in JJ's way. "If you're worried about Reid beyond what a breakup would do to him, I'll remind you that Frank's not the only dangerous individual in that relationship." He held up the hand with the marker in it. "Yes, I get that he shouldn't have to be, but I think you're underestimating Reid's ability to take care of himself. The man's almost forty, and he's a field agent and a profiler. I'm relatively sure a healthy personal relationship with someone who already understands the complexities of his work isn't going to be more difficult for him than it is for the rest of us."

"You're single," JJ reminded him.

"That's intentional. You married a cop. You get where I'm going with this? It's the 'someone who already understands the complexities of the work' problem." Chaz finally looked away from his work, catching JJ's eye. "And I know what you're doing, Agent Jareau. This isn't actually about Frank, at all. You're trying to figure out if I can handle working with Reid, because you know what he's like, and you know it puts people off. Well, surprise, there's two of us. ... Except I actually do know how to use a computer."

"Why are you not a profiler?"

"First mistake. I am a profiler; I'm just not BAU."

"You cannot possibly be serious. This is about the Octium job?" Yves looked back and forth between Byers and Frohike.

"More directly next to the Octium job." Byers tipped his head. "You remember why we -- they -- needed the chip?"

"Something about you not getting turned into a paste, as I recall. I can't say I was paying that much attention at the time. Unlike ninety percent of the female population, I never found your absolute helplessness endearing, Byers."

"And yet, you're all over it, when it's Frohike being useless." Langly tipped his head back to look up at Yves. "I see how you are. You only like floppy dick when it's floppy granddad dick."

Byers huffed and sputtered, entirely appalled. "Langly!"

"You're how old, Langly?" Frohike asked, clearing his throat.

"Not my point." Langly looked back down at the screen. "Besides, when am I ever helpless or useless, huh?"

"You don't want me to answer that," Byers assured him. "But, this is hardly the point. The point is that my father once uncovered an Air Force covert ops project that was not in the best interests of the American people--"

"That's putting it lightly," Langly scoffed.

"--and he disappeared after they tried to kill him. He wouldn't go after them, and we didn't have enough information or support to do anything, at the time."

"So, you've been lying in wait this whole time, and you've finally been found out?" Yves did not look impressed.

"Oh, it gets even better than that." Langly turned on another screen and laid out the basics of the original abduction that got them involved. "This guy with the State Department stuck his foot in the same hole and got bit. Overlord's people kidnapped his wife and daughter -- shut up, Byers -- and the daughter was one of our sources, so that's how we got sucked back in. And then when we figured out that this whole thing was actually the same project that almost killed Byers and his dad, back in the day, we couldn't just sit there and do nothing."

"And ... now you think you have the support you need?" Yves looked around. "I suppose you're better funded, at least."

"Special Agent Langly's Boyfriend got us an FBI task force, which I'll tell you because your employer already knows about it." Frohike sipped his coffee and looked up at the original Fitzgerald investigation. "He's been hassling the agents involved."

"Bollinger's the other case," Langly corrected.

Yves finally found words. "Langly has a boyfriend? Langly's dating someone? There's a person out there who imagines this is a good idea? There's a federal agent with poor enough taste to--"

Langly looked up again, smugness writ large across his face. "Oh, yeah. I'm boning this hot, young profiler. Hot. So hot. Extra spicy. Ask Byers, he wants a piece of that."

"I do not want to sleep with your boyfriend, Langly." Byers sighed, rubbing his face. "But, he is conventionally attractive, highly intelligent, and well-spoken. None of us are sure how this happened, but they're apparently in love."

"Frohike, take my seat. Fuck up my main display and I'll find a yardarm to hoist your nuts on." Langly got up. "I gotta take this call."

"There's... nothing ringing..." Yves looked over her shoulder to watch Langly's retreating back.

"No, I'm pretty sure it's ringing. He's just the only one who can hear it." Byers watched that sink in. "He's a lot more interesting than he was the last time you saw us."

"You've got both of us, and no one else," Reid said, when Langly answered. "I got your message. Four for dinner? Allie or Garcia?"

"Oh, I wish." Every intentional sound Langly made came through, and nothing else, leaving the long, hissing inhale crystal clear. "So, right around the turn of the century, we knew this chick who did corporate espionage. And she got hired to come after one of our fronts. By Helmsman. And now there's a pending contract for a hit."

Reid looked to the foot of the bed, where Chaz sat, eating questionable Mexican food. "I need to get home now."

"No! Absolutely not. And somewhere, someone's laughing, but stay in Nebraska. It's safe in Nebraska. Well, for certain values of 'safe', that involve serial killers instead of lunatic journalists and semi-domesticated assassins, but from what you said, you got sent for a reason, and I'm assuming it's a real good one, if you took Villette with you."

"We're still waiting to hear what happened in Baltimore, but I can promise you it wasn't what we were told was happening in Baltimore." Most of the words were coherent, despite Chaz having his mouth full. "Turn on the news and see if there's anything about a mass shooting."

"A mass shooting in Baltimore?" Langly sounded surprised. "No, I'd have picked that up. The traffic routing would be screwed up. There'd be emergency broadcasts."

"Then you're right. We're better off in Nebraska." Chaz gave Reid a pointed look. "Any chance your old friend's contract had more names than just yours on it?"

There was a long pause. "Frohike says no. It's just us. So, if this is related, he's using more than one contractor, which is consistent with what we've seen, so far."

"Just... make sure I know you're alive." Reid swallowed. "And don't do anything stupid, Frank."

"Me? Stupid? When have I ever--"

"Two nights ago, when you decided to dance with the murder-spider without eating first." Chaz waited to take another bite until he finished the sentence. "Seriously, Frank, don't do anything stupid. We'll probably be home in a few days. I don't imagine this one's going to be that hard."

"Oh, great, now you cursed it," Langly scoffed. "Now, it's gonna be something epic and weird."

"Four victims--" Reid started and then caught himself. "I'm not supposed to be talking about this. This isn't Fitzgerald, and you're not on it."

"And I'm not really big on the murder thing. Corpses. Blood. Let's just not."

"So, what are your plans to avoid becoming a murder victim?" Chaz asked.

"Right now, we're going to have Yves accept the contract, and then feed Helmsman bad info, while we use her contact with him to nail him down. And I hope you do get back, soon, because this is going to be a pain in the ass to keep up for more than a week or two, and literally everyone I could give this information to is in Nebraska."

"That's not true." Reid took a deep breath. "Give it to Garcia. She's been involved in enough of this that even if she's not part of the taskforce, I don't think she's going to take it poorly. If you've come to a point where you have to go after him, before we're back, tell her, and she'll come up with someone to send in. Probably the tactical team we've been using for the raids. I don't want this to happen while I'm stuck in rural Nebraska, but if it has to happen, know that you can still get help. I'll call her, before I go to bed."

"Are you sure we're not going to wind up telling him we're coming?" Langly drawled.

"I'm not sure how much it's going to matter, at that point. We took out two facilities, and no one knew we were coming. If he's getting information, he's getting it too late."

"Yeah... all right. Yeah. Let's go with that." Langly sounded like he was trying to convince himself. "So, back to the 'going to bed' part... You two going to call me, when you go to bed?"

"When have we ever-- We're on a case. We are in a motor lodge in rural Nebraska. What makes you think--"

"Because I know the two of you? You freak out about something, and then you bone down to burn it off. And don't tell me you're not freaked out, I can hear it in your voice, Reid."

Chaz held up a finger and took a few swallows of something that claimed to be horchata, before replying. "Are you actually suggesting that we strip down and put you on speaker?"

"... May-- Yes. Yes, okay, I am. You know why? Because I'm pretty flipped out, too."

"What about By--"

"Come on, Spencer." Amusement crept across Chaz's face. "Phone sex for your boyfriend? He's suffering without us."

"Okay, and now you've made it gross." Reid squeezed his eyes shut. "I promise I'll call you, when we get into bed. That's it. You will know I'm alive; we'll say goodnight; you can go to bed with Byers."

A long pause, and then, "I'll take what I can get."