*I have to start this off with a giant thank you to the staggeringly awesome kavileighanna, without whom this chapter probably never would have been written. I am more grateful than you will probably ever know.
And to my readers, who have waited almost a year for this, I am so sorry. All I can say is that sometimes life gets in the way of things you'd much rather be doing. I sincerely hope you enjoy this chapter.
City Morgue, Boston, MA
The coroner meets Reid and Elle at the door and ushers them down to the morgue. The bags under his eyes indicate that he slept about as much as they did the night before, if at all, and Reid has to jog to keep up with him.
When they reach the morgue, the coroner steps into his office for a moment and returns with a file. "First things first," he starts, "I went over Melissa Jacobs' autopsy last night, like you asked. Her body has already been returned to her family, but everything in that file leads me to believe that she is one of your killer's victims. And there's something in there that you definitely need to see." He hands the file to Elle, who starts flipping through it immediately.
"Whoa," Elle murmurs. "Is this for real?"
Reid peers over her shoulder and scans the page she's reading. "He mutilated her genitals?"
The coroner nods. "Yes. That's something new, right?" he asks. "He hasn't done that to any of the other victims?"
Reid shakes his head, exchanging a grim look with Elle. "His rage is escalating, and so is his timetable. He's spending less and less time with each victim."
"Speaking of victims," the coroner says, "I reexamined Emma's body and found something I'd missed." He leads them to the table where Emma Portman is laid out, and pulls on a pair of gloves. He beckons them closer and picks up her arm, turning it to show them one of her wounds.
"When I was going over the autopsies, I found similar wounds on all of the victims, which you'd probably expect." He sets the arm down for a moment, brings up pictures on the monitor of four nearly identical wounds. "Now, these are all from victims of your killer." He shows them Emma's arm again. "Do you see the difference?"
Reid and Elle both nod. "Emma's is smaller," Elle says. "Cleaner, too. Not nearly as jagged as the others."
The coroner nods. "That's because I believe that Emma's wounds were inflicted post-mortem. The rough, jagged nature of the other victims' wounds indicates that they were alive and struggling when they were inflicted. Ante-mortem torture, fitting with your killer's MO. But not Emma's."
"Are you saying that you don't think Emma Portman is one of our killer's victims?" Reid asks.
He nods again. "All of her wounds, every laceration, every contusion, except for one were inflicted post-mortem. There's a single blow to the side of her head that likely rendered her unconscious, and of course the ligature marks around her neck. But I'm confident that everything else was done after she was already dead."
Elle and Reid exchange another look. "We need to get back to the office," he says. "Update the team." He looks to the coroner again. "Was there anything more that you had to tell us?"
"No," he says. "Just that I hope you find these bastards."
"We could use your help with that," Elle says. "Could you make up a list of anyone that would have had access to Kerri Henning's body, or any of the previous victims' bodies? If someone is trying to pass Emma off as one of our victims, they would have had to have known about the murders first."
"I'll get right on that," he says. "I'll call you if I find anything."
"Thank you." Elle turns to Reid. "Let's go tell the others."
FBI Field Office, Boston, MA
The phone call with Captain Lehane is short and to the point. Emily has no doubt that he's already mustering the troops, so she makes her way to the bullpen to do the same.
She's waiting on one of her senior agents at his desk when she notices that Reid and Greenaway have returned from the morgue. She makes eye contact with Hotchner through the conference room window, and he motions for her to join them.
"Hey, Pearson," she calls to one of her younger agents.
The young woman is at her side almost immediately. "Yeah, boss?"
"Could you round up everyone that's working the serial?" she asks. "Tell them the BAU team will be delivering the profile in about fifteen minutes."
Pearson trots off and Emily heads into the conference room, immediately picking up on the tense energy surrounding everyone.
"What did the coroner have to say?" she asks.
Reid clears his throat. "Emma Portman wasn't killed by our UNSUB," he says. "All of her wounds were inflicted post-mortem to make it look like she was."
Emily sighs. "So we have two killers on our hands."
"It's not ideal," Hotchner says. "But for now, let's focus on getting the profile out there. Is Captain Lehane on his way?"
She nods. "With his entire homicide department, if I know him." She glances out to the bullpen. "My people are ready, too."
"We're just waiting on the Captain, then," Hotchner says.
Emily nods again. "I'll let them know."
Hotch watches Prentiss brief her people for a moment before turning to Dave and Morgan. "I want the two of you to stay on the Portman case," he says. "She may not have been killed by our UNSUB, but someone wants us to believe that she was."
"We can start by trying to find the boyfriend," Dave says, then turns to J.J. "You said that the Senator is coming in to speak with Prentiss today?"
"Yeah," J.J. confirms, "sometime this afternoon."
Hotch nods. "Sit in on the interview, Dave," he says. "Learn what you can, but tread lightly. The last thing we need is for him to stonewall us."
A knock on the doorframe interrupts Dave's response. The young agent in the doorway shifts nervously. "Agent Hotchner? Captain Lehane and his men are here."
"Thank you," he says. "We'll be right out."
He gathers his notes and leads the way out of the room. All attention turns to them as the team files out behind him.
"Thank you all for coming," he starts. "We'll try to make this as brief as possible. The person we're looking for is a Caucasian male in his mid-twenties to early thirties. He's a loner, and he likely has very few friends or close personal relationships."
"He flies under the radar," Dave chimes in, "which is how he's been getting away with this for so long. People simply don't notice him. This is probably the case in his job as well, which he and others view as menial and unimportant."
"Our UNSUB is what we call a sexual sadist," Morgan says. "This means that he derives sexual pleasure from hurting others, hence the extensive torture that he subjects his victims to. The lack of sexual assault on the victims tells us that he's most likely impotent."
"A guy like this does not take rejection well," Elle adds. "He's got a type; young, blonde hair, blue eyes. So it's possible that he suffered a rejection from a woman fitting that description, and that these girls are surrogates for her. If that is the case, he will eventually seek her out as a target."
"It's important that we find this man quickly," Hotch says. "His violence and rage are escalating, and it's only a matter of time before he tries to abduct another girl. We'll be releasing this profile to the press later today, and we will keep your departments up to date as the investigation progresses. Thank you."
J.J. turns to him as the crowd disperses. "I'm going to revise my press release and start contacting the local media."
"Good," Hotch says. "When will you be ready to go live?"
J.J. checks her watch. "Two o'clock should work," she says. "That way it can run on the evening news." She starts to leave, then turns back to him. "Hotch? How do you want to address Emma Portman?"
"Don't mention her yourself. Keep your answers vague if someone asks about her," he says. "The last thing we need is for her killer to realize that we're onto him."
"Got it," she says, nodding. "I'll let you know when I'm ready."
Prentiss wanders up as J.J. leaves. "I just got a call from Senator Portman's aide," she tells him. "He should be here within the hour."
"Would you let us know when he arrives?" he asks. "Rossi and Morgan are going to continue to investigate Emma's murder, and I'd like for one of them to sit in on the interview."
She nods. "No problem." Her gaze wanders for a moment, finally settles on the photos of their victims. "I can't help but wonder what would have happened if I'd realized what was going on sooner," she says softly. "How many of those girls we could have saved."
"There's no way you could have known," he tells her. "And focusing on the 'what-if's isn't going to help us solve this case. We need to focus on catching a killer. We'll get justice for them when we catch him."
Prentiss hesitates for a moment. "Do you think we can catch this guy before he hurts another girl?"
He wishes he could say yes. "I don't know," he admits. "But I hope to God that we do."