Will wasn't sleeping when Jack called, but he let the phone ring out anyway. It was late; extremely so, and he should've been asleep. Besides, he was technically on vacation. He'd asked for the week off, though had agreed to stay on call. Only as a last resort, he’d stipulated before leaving. Only if Jack had exhausted all other options; if it was an emergency.
He was almost certain whatever this was didn't qualify.
He couldn’t prove it, of course. He didn’t have a clue what was going on with Jack and the rest of the team. He’d tried to keep up by prodding Alana over lunches, but she’d been annoyingly tight lipped. She gave snippets of gossip or retold jokes the CSI team had been making that day; she passed messages from Beverly or-- if he brought her up-- discussed Freddie. Otherwise, though, she kept it casual. If he started asking about casework, Dr Bloom changed the subject.
You’re on vacation, remember?
He tried arguing, tried saying that only meant he wasn’t working. She didn’t have to keep him in the dark. But she did, citing the stress being out of action could cause.
There’s no point worrying about what you can’t fix.
And he agreed to a point, or enough of one to let Jack ring out.
Whatever was going on, it was 3:00 AM and he was off duty.
His phone made a bright spot on the pillow. It stung his eyes, but he stared at it anyway. He needed to adjust, and it’d be easier here than in the kitchen, which he’d be going to before calling back. He needed coffee before talking to his boss, especially after a few days of peace. Wolf Trap was quiet, and even his loudest dog was no match for Jack when the man got going.
Trying not to squint, Will watched the graphic of a handset pulse on the screen. It bounced a few times before disappearing, replaced by an envelope. A message, but not a long one. Barely ten seconds had passed. It’d just be a curt hiss. Will could already hear Jack’s agitation. Or no-- urgency was more accurate. Jack was in a hurry more often than he was agitated.
As he blinked at the screen going dim, Will considered ignoring the call altogether. Only briefly, though. It wasn’t really an option. Jack knew his sleeping patterns and probably suspected that he’d been screened. If Will put it off, the messages would only get more surly and his screen would be covered in letters. No point in that. He couldn’t avoid the man forever, and if he tried, it’d put Jack in a bad mood.
Abandoning the fantasy, Will kicked off the covers and propped up in bed. He pawed his eyes before reaching across the pillow to dial up his phone’s volume and play the message aloud.
I know you’re awake, the recording said. Jack’s voice was grainy, and beneath it rolled the familiar sounds of traffic. Not heavy, but consistent. Call me back. I know you’re off duty, but trust me: it’s an emergency.
It closed without a sign-off and Will fumbled to pause in the middle of another, older message: one from Dr Lecter, received a week ago, telling him that he’d arrived in Washington. Hannibal had been invited to speak at a medical conference in Seattle, and would be gone for the next three weeks. Which meant no impromptu meals or swinging by his office after a lecture, though he’d been given permission to call for sessions as needed.
It isn’t my preferred method, Hannibal said the night before his flight. He’d invited Will over for a send-off dinner, and brought the idea up over it. While they picked at their plates of pickled tripe and honeycomb and swirled their raspberry beer, Hannibal found four different ways to assure Will it was fine if he needed his therapeutic services during the conference.
I lived without them for years, Dr Lecter. A couple weeks won’t kill me.
Of course it wouldn’t, Hannibal agreed. Still, wouldn’t Will just take his number?
He hadn’t used it yet; there hadn’t been any reason to. His vacation had been going smoothly. Apart from meals with Alana, he hadn’t seen anyone at all. No stressers, no dreams, no problem. This, though, watching his phone go live in the night and hearing Jack’s grizzly voice-- it set his teeth on edge. Which was premature, and also stupid. He didn’t even know what the man was calling about.
Not wanting to put it off any longer than necessary, Will dragged himself out of bed. His toes curled, protecting themselves from the coldness of the floor, and he padded down the hall to his kitchen. He slowed when he passed the living room to peek in on his dogs; all were piled and snoring in a ring around the heater. Their chests rose and fell slowly against the cherry glow of exposed coiling. Peaceful. He wished he could fall down into the knot of them.
Hurrying on into the kitchen, he turned on the stove light. It was dim, but enough to make coffee by. He filled the filter, set the drip, and once the water started bubbling, turned his attention to his phone again. He checked to make sure Jack hadn’t called back and he hadn’t, which was promising. It meant he was making good time. At this rate, he might still catch the man in a good mood. Only if he were lucky though, and this wasn’t a real emergency.
It only rang once before Jack picked up, confirming Will’s suspicion that he’d been hovering over his phone.
“I don’t like being screened,” the man said in lieu of greeting.
“I don’t like being called at three in the morning.”
The comeback wasn’t as good as Will hoped it would be. His voice was groggy. He sounded half dead. Still, it did the trick.
“Fair enough, but like I said: emergency.”
Will hummed and propped his elbows on the counter, bringing his face close to the little coffee pot. Steam pillowed out, warming the tip of his nose.
“What kind of emergency?”
Through the line he heard the other man shift. He sounded trapped, like he was sitting in his car. If Will concentrated, he could hear the faint sounds of traffic still. He wondered if Jack had pulled over to wait for him.
“The kind that involves a new lead on an otherwise stalled case.” He shifted again, squeaking on leather. “Remember those bodies from a few months back--”
Will couldn’t resist interrupting. “You’ll have to be more specific.”
Jack didn’t appreciate it. “If you let me finish, I will be.” He paused, allowing Will a moment to mouth off again. When he didn’t take it, Jack pressed on. “The ones in midtown, each found two weeks apart.”
Ah, Will thought. He did remember those, and that he’d thought at the time how odd it all was. Odd timing, odd season-- Late summer; heat-sped rotting--, and odd that the killer had chosen to dump in midtown. Boston was a busy place even after dark, and midtown hosted dozens of high traffic venues. Its museums, theatres, libraries, and restaurants drew hundreds. Disposing of a body between them all would present a challenge.
That challenge, however, was apparently one the killer was up to. Jack’s team hadn’t been phoned in on account of one body. They were brought in after nearly three months of them had been scraped up like litter from the gutters, alleys, and underwalks. Six in total had been found, and all but the last two had been claimed by surviving relatives. There were notes, though: videos, photographs, audio recordings, transcripts, and autopsy reports. All of them, along with the remaining bodies, were surrendered to Crawford.
The coffee pot screamed, shattering the silence of the kitchen, and he jumped. Down the hall, his dogs stirred in their sleep. A few whined, scraping their paws across the floor reflexively, but seconds later settled back into their dreams.
“You found another one?” he asked, shoulders unpinching in turn.
Straightening up, he plucked a mug from the cabinet and filled it near to sloshing with fresh brew. He didn’t leave any room for cream. He only took that when Hannibal was pouring. Between the two of them, Dr Lecter cared the most about flavor profiles. For Will Graham, a cup of coffee was about its potential bite. Deadening that was a waste, both of time and effort.
“Recently, I assume.”
Crawford sighed, blowing out the line. “Two hours ago. I thought about calling then, but--”
A few beats of silence. Will used them to take a steaming sip, and then, when Jack still hadn’t pressed on:
“But you wanted to be sure.”
“I did.” There came a muffled, background click, as if Jack were unfastening his seatbelt. “If it wasn’t what I thought, I intended to let your night go uninterrupted.”
“But you are sure? Now, I mean.”
“Uncomfortably,” Jack confirmed. “Fits the profile perfectly, and before you say it--”
Will took another sip, slurping a little.
“The gritty details,” Jack said, “The ones we keep out of the press? All were present. If it’s a copycat, they were already working together.”
Or had leaked information, Will didn’t say. The confidentiality of their cases had been compromised before. There were very few places enterprising tabloid journalists couldn’t weasel in. That said, Jack had recently been exceptionally careful. Freddie’s constant nosing had become more than inconvenient.
“So you’re sure,” Will allowed. “It’s three in the morning. What do you want me to do?”
Will grunted. “Non-immediately, then.”
“I’d like you to put your vacation on hold. Please,” Crawford added. “You can refuse, of course.”
Will doubted that very much.
He took a deep pull of coffee, ignoring the scald. “Hold implies that I can resume it later. You mean that, Jack?”
“Cross my heart.” Will imagined him making the motion against his coat breast. “In as little as two days, depending.”
“How much information we can lift. This is the first crime scene we’ve had control of from the jump.”
That was true. The others had either been gone for weeks or tampered with by the time the FBI was given over control. There might be a dozen new leads to pick up, or none at all.
“I had lunch plans tomorrow,” he said as a last ditch.
“Already cancelled. Dr Bloom is planning on calling you around eight.”
Of course she was. In lieu of himself, Jack must’ve called her straight to the scene.
“Did you tell her you were calling first?”
“She asked. I declined to answer.” Will could almost hear the other man’s smile stretch. “I’m sure she took that to mean that I intended to.”
“That’s what matters. I’d rather her be upset with you than me.”
And she would be, because Alana was thrilled that he was on vacation. He’d only been toying with the idea of it before; it was her insistence that pushed him into formally requesting it. It wasn’t healthy to go more than six months without breaking, she said, and when had his last vacation been? He couldn’t tell her.
“She’ll get over it,” Jack muttered. “She knows how valuable you are, and like I said: you can resume it the minute we’re done.”
Whenever that was, he thought derisively, taking another punishing gulp of coffee.
And provided that another emergency didn’t immediately come up.