When Jason Gideon had first walked into the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s office, it had been to do a consultation on their local arsonists. He’d come planning on spending a few hours in a room, going over files, reading reports, looking at maps. Maybe do a few interviews. What he hadn’t expected was to find himself caught up in a simple case of jewel theft. Yet somehow, though the consultation was done and he should be on his way back to DC, he found himself sitting here in an interview room across the table from a kid who looked close to sixteen—his records put him at just a few weeks shy of twenty—watching the calm brown eyes that stared back out at him from a face that looked far more innocent than his file would suggest.
Really, the locals had this kid dead to rights. He’d been caught holding the figurative smoking gun. They had found him at the museum, priceless jewels in hand, his broken leg showing just why he hadn’t run. It was open and shut. Except, every cop agreed—there was no way he had done this job alone. Not with the type of security that was on the museum. There was just no way it was a one man job and the one man that they’d caught wasn’t talking.
The sheriff had asked Jason if he’d mind taking a look while he was here. Really, it hadn’t seemed like that big of a deal. He was already there. It wasn’t hard to stand and observe their interrogation. Only, as he’d stood behind the glass, Jason had found himself drawn in.
This kid made absolutely no sense to him. A student at Caltech, where he’d been attending since he was fourteen years old, and already in possession of two doctorates in mathematics and chemistry and two B.A.’s in psychology and sociology, working on a third Ph.D. in engineering—he was an absolute genius. There was no doubt about that. IQ of 187, eidetic memory, and his transcripts said that he had been clocked at a reading speed of twenty thousand words per minute. He was the gem of Caltech at the moment. A genius among geniuses. He’d never been in trouble there, only missed a few days now and again, and that was no different than any other student. He came from a single family home, his father having left when he was younger, and his mother extremely supportive of his education. There wasn’t a single mark on his record. All in all, he looked like the very last type of person one would expect of this kind of theft. Yet there he sat, calm and collected, saying nothing. The only time he’d spoken at all was to say that he understood his rights and to deny it when they mentioned accomplices. Other than that, he managed to talk without ever actually saying anything, twisting his words and the officers words around without a single one of the officers seeming to even realize what he was doing.
He was a puzzle. And Jason Gideon had never been able to walk away from a puzzle.
At his request, they sent the kid back to rest under guard at the hospital. His leg was in a cast and he had a minor concussion. They’d only brought him down here to speak because the doctor had okayed a day trip. But they wanted to keep him for observation for a few more days at the hospital. Jason took advantage of those few days to dig a little deeper into the history of one Dr. Spencer Reid. What he found started to paint a slightly different picture.
While Spencer attended Caltech on scholarships, a close look at those scholarships showed just what the money was there for, what it could and couldn’t be spent on, and just how much there was. Paired up with the tally of expenses that Jason built for Spencer's life, it didn’t add up. He dug deeper, looking at more, and found a few more pieces. His mother was in a sanitarium. A very expensive sanitarium, of which her insurance only covered half the costs of, and she’d been there since Spencer had her committed when he was eighteen. Paranoid schizophrenia. He didn’t have her medical records so there was no telling just how long she’d had that diagnosis, but he imagined it’d been there for a while if her eighteen year old had had her committed. It put Spencer's teenage years in a slightly different light.
It was when Jason looked at Diana Reid that a few things started to crop up, to make him wonder. They were nothing concrete, nothing that he could prove, but they were all parts of the puzzle. How was it that Diana had managed to stay in her home right up until the day she was committed on the minimal income that she was capable of bringing in? Eventually, in the last few years, she’d brought in nothing at all. So how had she had the money to pay for her home? Electricity? Groceries? It wasn’t from the absentee husband. Nothing indicated he was paying any kind of support.
How was her care being paid for now?
Those were all questions that Jason didn’t have an answer for. A bit more digging, quite a few phone calls, and a bit of persuasion finally answered some of it. But that answer only brought more questions. Diana’s bills had been paid from a private, offshore account that was under the name of Penny Montgomery. Whoever that was, they had paid Diana’s bills—and, by way of transfers from Diana’s account to Spencer's, they’d paid Spencer's bills too—and they were currently paying for her care at Bennington.
All of this just made Jason more and more curious.
He gathered the information to him and carefully built a personal file on this kid. Then, once he had everything he could, he sat in his hotel room alone for an entire day, thinking about what it was he needed to do. By the time he left the next day, he had a plan in mind, and had already taken the appropriate measures to get it in place.
That was how he came to be here, sitting in the interview room across from Spencer Reid, observing as much as he was being observed.
He was good at what he did. The glasses, the shaggy hair, the bit of bangs in his face, the slight tilt to his head; all of it was orchestrated. Of that, Jason was sure. It was all made to make him look young and innocent. Like a shy little bookworm. The very last person one would suspect for something like this—for anything, really. There had to be some truth to the look. Everyone that Jason had spoken with at the school had insisted that Spencer was a sweet, shy young man, always willing to help, to go the extra mile with his work. They said he was reclusive, unsure in social situations, but never unfriendly. How much of that was really him and how much was an act? That was what Jason was trying to figure out now.
The silence stretched on for a few long minutes between them. It was Jason who finally broke it. His lips twitched ever so slightly in a small smile, his only concession that Spencer had won this initial round. Calmly, he leaned forward, folding his arms on the table. “Did the other officers explain to you why I’m here, Dr. Reid?”
The use of his title had Spencer's eyebrows shifting up just the slightest bit. No one yet had afforded him that respect. The only reaction that Jason saw to it was an almost unnoticed twitch to his lips that he would bet was humor. It was there and gone again before Jason could get a good enough read on it, though. Spencer's expression was once more that calm, shy look. “No, sir.”
He was polite, just as he’d been when Jason had observed him talking to the cops. There was a soft note to his words, just a bit of hesitance, like he was unsure. Whether it was sincere or not remained to be seen. Jason would play his game, for now.
“My name is Jason Gideon. I work at the BAU. That’s…”
“The behavioral analysis unit, a department within the FBI.” Spencer finished for him. “I know who you are, Agent Gideon. I attended your seminar last year on profiling at Caltech. What I don’t know, however, is why you’re here. Why has a profiler been brought in on my case?”
Jason lifted his eyebrows. “You don’t think your case is worthy of being looked at?”
“I believe my case is as about as simple as they come.”
There were a few different ways that this conversation could go. Jason had known that coming in. You had to be prepared to take things in various different directions depending on how the interview was going. As he sat there now, looking at this young genius across from him, he made a decision on how he wanted this to go, changing his original plan. Something told him that some random, blunt pieces of honesty would get him much further than anything else. “I believe your case is far from simple.” He told Spencer, carefully watching his face. “I believe there’s more here than meets the eye. A lot more.”
“Is that so?”
“A couple of the officers out there think that you might be innocent.” Jason told him.
This time there was no denying the twitch to Spencer's lips. “They think the man they found holding the jewels might somehow be innocent in this? My faith in the sheriff’s department grows. That is truly impressive police work.”
There was a hint of something in his voice that Jason had heard in plenty of interviews through the years. It was that tone of derision when law enforcement came up. With what he’d learned of Spencer's background, the history with his mother, it wasn’t any great stretch to assume that the young genius had grown up with a fear or dislike of law enforcement. He’d probably spent quite a lot of his life trying to avoid them. If his mom had been sick for as long as Jason believed she had been, then it was no stretch of the imagination to think that Spencer had probably put a lot of effort into not attracting the attention of social services, not wanting to be removed from his mother’s care. That would mean he would’ve worked hard to avoid police, too. Add in Spencer's suspected lifestyle now, well, that derisive tone wasn’t surprising at all.
“Why did you steal the jewels?” Jason asked. When his question brought no answer, just as he’d expected, he tipped his head a little. “Was it to help pay for your mother’s care? Bennington is a rather expensive, high class institute.”
Ah, there it was. A crack in his armor. Temper flashed hot and bright in Spencer's eyes before he smothered it back down. “I don’t pay for my mother’s care.” Spencer said calmly. “Someone else does. A friend of the family.”
He could’ve played the part here, looked in the file he held and pretended that he didn’t know, that he hadn’t studied this boy. But the honesty he’d showed so far seemed to be working better than any of the interview techniques the others had tried. “Yes. A Penny Montgomery. Penny must be a very good family friend. They pay for your mothers care and have, in fact, been paying bills for quite a while now. For the both of you.”
“Good friends are few and far between.” Spencer said, smiling.
“That’s true. I can’t think of any friends I have that would take the fall for a robbery for me. I can’t imagine the type of loyalty that takes.”
Spencer folded his hands in his lap and said nothing. Just, smiled.
“I thought about this, when I was looking at your file.” Jason sat back as well, crossing his legs and resting his hands on the file that was in his lap. “I understand loyalty. I do. But to take the fall for this kind of crime? You know that you’re going to do time for this. So I asked myself, why would he take the fall for his friends? Because there’s no doubt that this job was at least a three person job. I imagine if we dug enough, we’d find someone on the inside. How strong must your loyalty be to not even flinch at taking this all on yourself?”
“Is loyalty amongst criminals a strange thing?” Spencer asked. It was a delicately worded question. Curious, without implicating himself or implying anything at all.
“On occasion. Not many criminals would take a fall like this without implicating at least one of their partners. Not unless they had something much more important to protect.”
Ah! There it was. Nothing overt, no. Just a micro expression, a twitch barely caught. Enough to let him know he was on the right track here.
“You’re quite the puzzle, Dr. Reid.” Jason said, jumping off that track and onto another. “There’s quite a lot about you that doesn’t make sense. Things that don’t add up.”
“Is that so?”
He had to give Spencer credit. There was no edge to his tone. He was giving nothing away now. Whatever little crack he’d showed before was closed back up now. Little did he realize that that was just as telling as anything else. All of it gave Jason more information. More to put into the mental profile he was building on this fascinating kid. The more he spoke with him, the more he was convinced that the plan he’d built was right.
Jason drew in a breath and prepared himself. Time to start to push. And Spencer had unknowingly given him just the buttons to use.
“I’m going to play it straight with you here, Dr. Reid. You’re in a lot of trouble. And you’re going to be in a lot more. Because this isn’t your first theft, is it? This isn’t the first time you’ve done this. You’re too collected, to professional to not have any practice at playing a con. You’ve been playing all of us since the moment the police picked you up.”
Spencer's eyebrows shot up towards his hairline. He said nothing, though. Just waited.
That was fine. Jason didn’t need him to talk yet. Picking up the folder from his lap, he set it down on the table and left his palm flat on it, drawing Spencer's eyes down there just as he’d intended. “I did my research on you, Dr. Reid. I looked into your past. I spoke with the college and a few of the people there and I spoke with your landlord at your apartment. They didn’t tell me much, but they told me enough. Enough for me to have a few more questions and to give me the answers to a few important things.” He sat up a little straight and met Spencer's gaze dead on. “You’re a con man, Dr. Reid. A very good one, yes, but a con man.”
“Like recognizes like.” Spencer fired back smoothly.
To the kid’s surprise, Jason laughed. “True. In some ways, profilers are like con men. We both read people. Only, instead of judging who might be the best mark, we judge who might be the best Unsub. Catching them is essentially playing out the very best con for the job. I have to admit, you’re one of the best I’ve seen for one your age. But you’re not perfect. Everyone makes mistakes. Tell me—if I look a little deeper into your past, into who you are now, what am I going to find?”
“I don’t know.” Spencer spread his hands out, his face so innocent, so earnest, and it was one of the best acts that Jason had seen in a long time.
Time to really press. “What if I looked into this friend your landlord says visits you? I’m sure if we pulled up security footage near your place, we might be able to catch a face. What am I going to find if I look into him?”
And there it was. That small little chink once more. A slight tightening around his eyes, a flash of something sharp in the dark brown depths. Oh, yes.
Jason didn’t let him answer. He just pressed even more without giving him the chance to recover. “What about if I start to look into your absences from school, Dr. Reid? You don’t take much time off, but there are dates that you’re gone. What am I going to find if I look into those? Or into your spring break trip two years ago to Rome? Because I will look. I’ll get a team together and we’ll comb through every inch of your life, every tiny little detail, and start matching it up with unsolved thefts. What would we find if we tried to match those up? Something tells me there might be quite a lot there.”
Oh, this kid was good. He knew he was screwed here. With each word Jason said, he knew his grave was steadily being dug. Yet he didn’t break. His mask cracked a little, yes, just enough to show Jason the calculation that those sharp eyes were capable of. They didn’t look as innocent anymore. They were watching him carefully, reading him, assessing, planning, that amazing brain of his working faster than anything until finally his gaze turned calm once more. “I’m assuming there’s an ‘or’ here?” Spencer asked him. He arched one eyebrow. “You word choice implies there’s another option to everything you just listed. As I’m assuming you know I’m not going to hand over any names to you, I feel safe in inferring that there is some other option you plan on offering here. You’ve been strangely honest up until now, Agent Gideon. Don’t start playing games now.”
“Doctor, we’ve been playing a game since the first moment I saw you.”
Spencer conceded that point with a small tip of his head.
The rightness of this settled over Jason once more. Yes, he’d made the right call here. He had absolutely no qualms as he sat up and folded his arms onto the desk once more. “I can wipe the slate clean for you, Dr. Reid, like nothing ever happened. No jail time, no record, none of it.”
“In return for what?”
“A job.” Jason said. He had the pleasure of watching the surprise widen Spencer's eyes, the most open and honest emotion that he’d seen yet. “The Bureau’s willing to wipe this clean for you and in return, you would come and work with us. With me, actually, at the BAU.”
Spencer blinked a few times at him like he couldn’t quite process this. “You’re telling me that you want to, to clear my record and sweep this all under the rug, and all I have to do is agree to become a profiler, like you?”
“A mind like yours is too bright to waste rotting away inside of some prison cell.”
There was suspicion now. He hadn’t really expected anything less. Spencer was too smart to take things at face value. “I’m not trading information for immunity.”
“No information.” Jason agreed, smiling. “However, you have to understand that this would mean this part of your life would be over. The lifestyle, the people, would have to be left far behind. Because, the Bureau will be watching, and the first sign that you’re slipping, don’t think that they’d hesitate to take away the protection they’ve given. You agree to this, you’re going to have to start over, Dr. Reid. Start fresh. A whole new life, with all of this left far behind you.” Sitting back once more, he folded his hands into his lap again. “Or, you turn us down and I call my team out here and we start looking. Digging our way into every inch of your life.”
The glare Spencer gave him was sharp. “Blackmail is a poor way to start any working relationship.”
“I’m simply offering you two options. Which option you take is entirely up to you.”
The interview room went quiet. Jason watched carefully, trying to read the expression on Spencer's face, in his eyes, but it was like the young genius had shut down. He’d pulled inside of his head and left his face blank. It wasn’t hard to imagine what was going on inside of that mind of his. He’d be analyzing all sides of this, all possible outcomes, looking at every inch of it and weighing all his options. Jason knew which choice he’d take, though. He knew it even before the life came back to those brown eyes and they locked on his once more.
A small smile curved Spencer's lips. “Where do I sign?”