|What's In a Name?
Author: Eligent PM
Reid comes back from a long sick leave with a new sense of confidence, which puts a strain on his relationship with Hotchner, leading Reid to question his place on the team. And it doesn't help that the current unsub is highly intelligent and uncatchable.Rated: Fiction T - English - Drama/Crime - S. Reid & A. Hotchner/Hotch - Chapters: 10 - Words: 40,139 - Reviews: 186 - Favs: 354 - Follows: 59 - Updated: 09-24-06 - Published: 08-28-06 - Status: Complete - id: 3127571
|A+ A- Full 3/4 1/2 Expand Tighten|
What's In a Name?
Disclaimer: I'm just borrowing!
Author's Notes: This story is a sequel to my previous story Little Boy Lost, some names and events are mentioned, and some consequences are dealt with, but the base story is a stand alone. And once again; no matter what my spell check program might allege, I'm not English speaking. How you people can manage a normal every day life with all those prepositions running around, I'll never know. And what's with your aversion to compound words? Anyway, I hope you enjoy the story.
"Tigers die and leave their skins; people die and leave their names"
He was staring directly into her beautiful pale blue eyes, the very moment she died. Those precious moments when satisfaction turned to surprise and then horror. Her cheeks were dry, but in the corners of her eyes glistened the tears he hadn't given her time to cry. He was that fast. These were his happiest moments, when peace came over him at last and he felt elevated above his unfulfilling mortal existence. He lay still for a while, feeling the warm blood from her slit throat dropping from his chest as he rested on his elbows on top of her. He heaved himself off the bed and dried his hands on a towel he had left by the bed. He then fetched a paintbrush from his backpack and went back to the bed. He climbed on top of it, until he was standing by the headboard, one foot on each side of the woman's head. The blood under his feet was wet and sticky. The depression of his feet on the mattress made her head loll back and open up her neck wound even more. He bent down and dipped the paintbrush in the red blood. Standing up again he carefully wrote the woman's name on the wall, with big block letters.
Climbing off the bed he looked at his handiwork and sighed. These moments were much too short for his liking. He headed for the shower. It was time to move on.
Waking up was never Reid's favorite part of the day, and today was no different. He figured it was still early, because he hadn't heard his alarm clock. Either that, or he'd forgotten to set it last night. That thought made his eyes fly open and he turned to his left, looking at the red numbers glaring back at him. 5.45 a.m. Still a half hour away from ringing. He briefly entertained the idea of going back to sleep, but found that he was much too restless.
Today was his first day back at work after his two and a half month long sick leave, and he was so ready to get out of his apartment. The first couple of weeks he'd been too full of painkillers to do much other than eat, sleep and watch the incredibly bad movies Morgan kept dropping off every few days. Then he had to go back to the hospital to have surgery on his knee, to repair some torn ligaments. During his post-operative convalescence he had once again been stuck in bed, eating, sleeping and watching the even worse sequels to the incredibly bad movies Morgan kept dropping off every few days. One of the drawbacks to having a photographic memory was that it was now full of crappy special effects and fake screaming. After that a lot of his time had been taken up by his physical therapy, and in addition, his apartment was now cleaner than it had ever been. He had also written three articles, one for each of his doctorates, and sent them off to relevant magazines in hope of being published. Even though he was no longer an active part of the academic community, he thought it was a good idea to keep his name from being forgotten.
He sat up on the side of his bed and flexed his knee a couple of times, working out the morning stiffness. He flicked the off button on this alarm so that it wouldn't go off while he was in the shower. But before heading to the bathroom he loaded and started the coffeemaker. Once he was showered and dressed he went back into the kitchen. He found a bowl and poured cereal in it and went to the refrigerator for milk and juice. His refrigerator was completely covered with children's drawings, courtesy of Bailey and Cassie Sanders from Fairmount. He'd kept in touch with the Sanders ever since his kidnapping. He loved each and every one of the drawings. They made him feel like he was part of a family, like an honorary uncle or something. The last batch of drawings showed several variations of the same theme; Santa Clause and what they hoped he would bring them. It was two weeks until Christmas, and Reid was really looking forward to playing Santa. The pile of not yet gift-wrapped toys in his living room just kept growing bigger and bigger every day.
As he stood in the elevator on the way up to BAU headquarters he had to take a deep breath to calm the butterflies in his stomach as he was removing his hat and gloves. He was actually nervous, and he couldn't figure out why.
A cheerful cry of "Surprise!" met him as soon as he walked into the bullpen. Reid could feel his cheeks redden in pleasure and suddenly the butterflies were gone. His team gathered around him to welcome him back. His cheeks were kissed and his back was slapped and a piece of cake that was really too sweet to eat this early in the morning was thrust into his hands.
Hotchner let the festivities go on for a half hour or so before he went up to Reid and asked him to accompany him to his office. Reid complied, the butterflies making a return visit. Hotchner let Reid walk in before him and closed the door behind him. He gestured an invitation to sit and walked behind his desk to sit down.
Reid sat opposite him. Looking at all the new baby pictures on Hotchner's desk suddenly made two and a half months feel like a long time as he compared it to Jack's development. Hotchner cleared his throat to get his attention, and Reid obediently swiveled his head to make eye contact.
Hotchner opened a file that lay on his desk and looking very stern he said, "Here I have statements from you physician, your surgeon, your physical therapist and your physiatrist, all declaring you fit for duty. However, I am missing a very important statement."
Reid swallowed. "Which one?"
"Yours." He smiled at him. "Do you feel well enough to start working again?"
"Yes." Reid's answer was without hesitation.
"You are absolutely sure?"
Hotchner closed the file, crossing his hands over it.
"Will I be evaluated, like Gideon was when he came back?" Reid asked
"No," Hotchner said, rubbing his brow. "Well, no more than usual anyway. Your situations are very different, and according to your physiatrist you show very few signs of PTSD. However, you and I will start the day at the shooting range, just to make sure everything's in order before I let you out in the field again."
Reid could barely hold back a groan.
Reid left the shooting range feeling quite satisfied. His shooting had been just as good, or just as bad, depending on your point of view, as it had been before he had been injured. He had felt a twinge or two in his shoulder at the end of the session, but out in the field you were rarely expected to fire continuously for a full hour. Hotchner had been pleased enough too, and had now officially signed off on his return. Reid was especially glad that his wrist had held up so well. He touched the scar that ran across his left wrist. The doctors had said that it would fade with time, but it would never go away completely. Reid didn't really mind. He had grown rather fond of that scar.
Now he was on the way to the round table room where the team would brief him on their on going case. The whole time he had been on sick leave they had refused to talk about work, saying that it wasn't his concern at the moment, so he was totally out of the loop, not even knowing how many cases they had had.
He walked into the room and saw that he was the first one there. It was obvious that the team was working on a big case. Looking at the many photos tacked up on the boards, Reid concluded that they were dealing with a serial killer.
Though he could not see an immediate link between the victims, other than that they were all women, their deaths had all been the same. The photos from the crime scenes could almost be mistaken for carbon copies. Some creep had slit these women's throats and then used the blood to write their names on the wall above the bed. Reid walked along the boards, where the victims hung in chronological order. Linda Aposini, Susy Care, Gina Deso, Anna Tosino… Suddenly he stopped in front of a picture. 'Oh my god… Ann Shava… It can't really be her.'
"Hey Reid. You ready to cudgel your brains for us?"
Morgan's greeting made Reid jump and twist around, startling Morgan in turn with his extreme reaction.
"Dude, you okay?" Morgan looked concerned, and Reid felt that he had to nip this in the bud to prevent any and all attempts to treat him with silk gloves in the future.
"If you don't stop sneaking up on me, I'm gonna sew a bell into your jacket."
"You can sew?" Morgan deadpanned.
"All right, children, playtime is over." Gideon came in and none-too-discretely steered Morgan to a chair.
Reid also sat down as the rest of the team followed. Hotchner was the last, so he shut the door before taking the seat next to Reid. He handed Reid a file, identical to the ones in front of everyone else. Reid opened it, and made sure he had a pen and a legal pad ready to take notes.
Hotchner opened the briefing. "We've had this case for three weeks, during which one murder has taken place. The murders started a little over a year ago, but we haven't been able to establish a time frame. Two of the murders were only three days apart, and the longest has been seven weeks. All in all we have eleven victims, in eleven different cities, in nine different states."
JJ showed Reid a sketch of a timeline over the murders. "The serial killings were only identified on the death of the tenth victim, Rosa Mentac. She was killed in Amarillo, Texas. The fifth victim, Ann Shava was killed in San Antonio, Texas, six months prior to Mentac. An FBI agent in Texas who was working on Shava's case found the connection and started to ask around other states. He compiled the complete list of ten victims and sent it to us."
"That's a long time for this to go unnoticed," Reid said.
"Yes," Morgan agreed. "Unfortunately, the unsub is smart enough not to leave any physical evidence behind that can be cross-referenced in any national databases, no DNA, no fingerprints. His footprints have been recovered from every scene, so we are positive it's the same killer, but there is no database for footprints."
Reid looked at the pictures from the crime scenes. The unsub's footprints were indeed clearly visible in the blood on both sides of the victims' head and on the floor leading away from the bed.
"You have seen one crime scene, then?"
"Yes," Elle answered. "Victim number eleven, Eva Glass, was killed in Sacramento twelve days ago. We were there within hours of the finding, but everything looked like all the other scenes. All the murders have taken place in rather large hotels, in rooms registered to the victims. We have been checking on the staff of the hotels, and the guests, but as you can imagine, with so many locations, there's a lot of them. None of the victims have lived in the city that they were killed in. The room is undisturbed, except for the bed. The victim's throat has been slit while she's been lying on her back on the bed. Then her name has been written out on the wall."
"Rape?" Reid wondered.
"No," Elle answered him. "There're signs of sexual activity, but as far as we can tell it has been consensual. There doesn't seem to be any physical violence either, prior to death."
"And a link between the victims?"
Hotchner answered him. "We haven't been able to find one. The age span is 17 to 56, they are from different parts of the country, have no apparent common physical traits. They work in everything from a school cafeteria to a high respected law firm. They had different reasons for staying at a hotel. Some were on vacation, some on business trips, or conferences. One was in town for a friend's wedding. Until we find what links the victims together, we're going to have a hard time catching the unsub, as we know nothing about his motive or how he chooses his victims, or where he will strike next."
"What do we know about the unsub? What does the profile say?"
Gideon sighed. "Male, Caucasian, single, late twenties to early thirties. He's probably very good looking, and charming. He is restless, never holds a job very long, but is most likely quitting, not getting fired. He might even be without residence, living on the road. High intelligence quotient. Probably well educated. He has a great need to assert himself and feels superior to others. These killings are a manifestation of something, we just don't know what yet."
"Has he made himself known?"
"No," Gideon said, "But he could be biding his time. Remember that it wasn't long ago that it was discovered to be a single unsub doing all murders. We have also been able to keep this from the press for now, so he wouldn't know where to turn to boast. But I'm rather sure we'll hear from him sooner or later."
Gideon clasped his hands together on the table in front of him and then addressed the group at large, "Should we go public? We have come to a standstill, we're not getting anywhere. There are so many variables to check, we could be spending the rest of our careers on this case if we don't get a break soon. What do you think?"
The team was quite for a while, weighing the pros and cons in their minds, until Hotchner spoke up.
"If we haven't got anything solid in two days time, we'll hold a press conference, to try and lure the unsub out of hiding. Let's give Reid a chance first, though." Turning to the younger man he said, smiling, "A fresh pair of eyes could make a world of difference, especially eyes like yours. Take your time and try to see if you can pick up on anything we have missed."
Reid lowered his eyes, pretending to read the papers in front of him, to hide his embarrassed pleasure at the unexpected praise. The rest of the team filed out of the room, leaving him alone with the material. Even though it was plentiful, it didn't take long for Reid to read through it. When he closed the last file he sat for a while, staring into space, trying to will his brain to make subconscious connections. From what he could see though, his team had done its usual fantastic job, compiling all the local reports into a coherent source of information.
He felt that the profile was a little thin, but understood that that came from the inability to find a motive. They would get there.
The forensics reports made for a conflicted reading. On one hand, the unsub was very meticulous. The room would be cleaned, with no trace of fingerprints anywhere. They never found a hair, a fiber or any other forgotten or overlooked physical evidence. In every room there was an ashtray, full of cigarette ashes, but never any cigarette butts. Those had been removed. But on the other hand, a very clear path of bloody, undisturbed footprints always led from the bed to the shower. The shower itself was always cleaned, even the drain, and all towels were removed. So why didn't the unsub clean up the footprints? It showed signs of dissociative behavior. No murder weapon had ever been found. According to the pathologists the incisions showed that the unsub was right-handed. His shoe size was 8, not terribly big for a man, but not exceptionally small either.
Reid could see no flaws in the findings or in the logics of his team. The profile was as complete as it could be at this stage, and he could find nothing undetected in the crime scene photos either. Switching tactics he focused of the victims.
He drew out a grid pattern on his legal pad and started filling the columns with relevant criteria, age, hair color, occupation, where they lived, where they died. There had to be a pattern here somewhere. He was well aware that this procedure had already been done, probably several times, but he found it easier to see the patterns when he wrote them down himself, instead of just reading someone else's. It was long and arduous work, as he kept thinking of new criteria and had to cross reference them with each victim's file.
Finally, after having filled eight papers with scribbling, he could think of nothing else to check for. Sitting up straight he rotated his neck on his shoulders, trying to work out the stiffness that had occurred. Next to him on the table stood a tepid cup of coffee, a green apple and a sandwich. He frowned. He hadn't noticed anyone coming in. He was really grateful, though. Looking at his watch he saw that he had worked passed his lunch hour. 'They must really be frustrated about this case,' he reflected. In the past his team had been known to threaten bodily harm if he didn't let his work rest at meal times when he got too absorbed.
Unfortunately it didn't seem like his hard work had yielded any results. He kept scanning his notes while he ate his sandwich. Most criteria fit for two or more of the victims. Six had been married, four were blond, two were high school drop-outs, two had been wearing red dresses, five had dogs, five were mothers, three were vegetarians, eleven were dead. Could they really have been chosen randomly? But it was highly unusual for serial killers to choose their victims randomly.
He got up from his chair and started pacing, up and down in front of the boards with the victims' photos, willing them to tell him their secrets. He must have missed something, but what?
Once again he stopped in front of Ann Shava's photo. She looked nothing like he remembered her. She had died in San Antonio, a long way from home. Three weeks later, Lena Norwes was killed in Savannah… Savannah? Reid's forehead crinkled as he felt an idea chase through his head. If only he could catch it. What was significant with Savannah? His eyes went back to Ann, staying on her name, written out in bold letters above the photo. Finally his neurons sparked and the proverbial light bulb illuminated his face. 'No… that must be a coincidence…'
He went back to the first murder and started to trail the names chronologically. The nagging feeling that had been hunting his mind all day suddenly started screaming. For a moment he stood paralyzed. How obvious it was, now that he knew!
He pivoted around and raced out of the room, pushing open the door hard enough for it to bang against the wall, startling his co-workers.
"Reid? Are you okay?" Elle sounded concerned.
"I've got it, I… I… it's…" Reid's hands were flying in all directions, trying to tell the story on their own.
"Calm down, buddy," Morgan said, "Just tell us."
But Reid only waved at them to follow him, and rushed back into the round table room.
Elle and Morgan looked at each other and shrugged as they made their way to the room, splitting up to fetch the others from their offices on the way.
They re-gathered in the round table room where Reid had pulled up a new board where he was hastily writing down the victims' names and the cities where the murders had taken place. Elle thought to herself that it was a good thing that they all knew this information by heart already, since Reid's enthusiasm made his handwriting only barely legible. The list was depressingly long;
4. San Diego
5. San Antonio
7. New Orleans
When he finished the list he turned to his team. "Do you see it?"
Five pair of eyes looked at him, questioning, confused looks.
Gideon said patiently, "No, Reid. You are going to have to explain it to us."
"They are anagrams!"
Once again he stood silent, grinning, waiting for them to make the connection.
"Anagrams?" Morgan sounded confused.
"Oh, right, sorry," Reid said. "An anagram is a word or phrase made from another word or phraseby rearranging its letters, for example; smother is an anagram for thermos. See?" He wrote down thermos and smother on the board and crossed off the letters to show how an anagram was made.
"Yes, thank you, Professor, I do know what an anagram is. And what kind of example is that anyway? Most people would have said cat and act or god and dog." Morgan sounded a tad irritated. "My question was really; what do you mean by saying that they are anagrams?"
"The victim's name is an anagram of the city where the next murder took place. See?" Reid's voice was rushed in excitement. "The first murder victim was Linda Aposini, right. Well her name is an anagram for Indianapolis, where the second murder took place. There the victim was Susy Care, which is an anagram for Syracuse, where the third murder took place and so on."
The team looked shell-shocked.
"All the way through the list?" Elle almost whispered, horrified by the implication, which Gideon chose that moment to voice,
"It's a game to him," he said. "Like when you spin a globe and see where your finger ends up. He's using these women as some sort of road map, a where-to-go-next."
Hotchner, however, took a more practical approach. "Does this mean that we know where the next murder will take place?
Reid's answer was immediate. "Las Vegas."
Reid's breakthrough had put his fellow agents in a frenzy, and ideas and theories were bouncing around the room as their well-tuned minds worked together.
"This guy is probably in Vegas as we speak," Morgan said.
"What makes you think that?" JJ asked.
"Well, since he chooses his next location via his victim, he probably feels that his work in that city is done once the murder is done. Plus, we know that Trina Long and Liv Lashen were killed only three days apart, so he would have had to leave New Orleans and gone to Arlington pretty much right after Long's murder."
"I agree," Gideon said, "but I don't think he's quite that fast. He probably stays at least a day, maybe even two. He needs to quit his job through the official channels to not look suspicious. And I think he wants to be there when they find the body, and read the local papers. That's where he will get most coverage."
"This also explains the lack of a timeframe," Hotchner said. "Finding women whose names are perfect anagrams for cities must be really difficult, right?" He looked at Reid, who nodded. "Since he preys on tourists and not locals, it's not like he just sits down with a phone book or anything."
"No…" Gideon sounded pensive. "That would probably feel like cheating to him. He's arrogant enough to think that this…game… he's playing, is no different than doing the New York Times crossword-puzzle. He probably has a set of rules that has to be followed before the actual murder can take place."
"Okay," JJ tried to be pragmatic. "We know he's in Las Vegas., but we don't know when or where. What now?"
"Yeah," Elle said. "Where do we start? Do we try to find him or the intended victim? Because I'm telling you, finding the victim is going to be nigh on impossible. Even if we have Reid sit down and look at all registration lists for every hotel in Las Vegas. Can you imagine how many hotel rooms there's gotta be in that city?"
She turned to Reid.
"There are 124.270 hotel rooms in Las Vegas. Give or take. And they have over 35 million visitors every year."
She looked at him for a moment, unblinking, before she valiantly swallowed the "How do you know that?" that was begging to be said. Instead she turned back to the rest of the team.
"Right. So those lists will be changing every minute with people checking in and out and booking rooms, etcetera."
"And finding the killer won't be any easier. He can be at any hotel too, if our assumption that he works in the hotels is correct, and we have no idea what his name is, or what he looks like," Morgan observed.
"But we do know when he is supposed to have started his employment." JJ remarked. "It's a starting point."
Hotchner sighed and stood up. "It's closing in on five o'clock. Let's call it a day and fly out to Las Vegas first thing tomorrow. JJ, can you set us up?"
"Absolutely. Do you want me to come too?"
"Yeah, that's probably a good idea. We better get ready to go public soon. I'll call the Las Vegas field office and tell them to expect us. So, good night, sleep tight and we'll meet at the airport at eight tomorrow."
The team stood up and gathered their files and papers. As they were filing out of the room, Morgan threw a casual arm around Reid's shoulder.
"So… can you make any fun anagrams out of my name?"
Reid thought for a moment. "How about Darker Gnome?
Morgan grimaced and glared at Elle who was smothering a giggle.
"No?" Reid asked. "I also have Drake Monger."
"Drake Monger…" Morgan tested the sound of it. "I like it. It can be my new online name. Thanks man!"