Genre: Gen. Drama. Case story. H/C.
Spoilers: Anything up to S2's Soft Target is fair game.
Notes: This is my first attempt at a "case story," so to speak and is probably one of the most detailed plots I've written recently. It when through a few forms, and I have to thank Devra for alphaing this story, telling me not to give up on it, and giving it another look when I finished major edit #1 :).
Warnings: Crimes scenes are mentioned and detailed, but nothing worse than you'd see in an episode of the show.
Disclaimer: Not mine. Just borrowing and plan to return...eventually.
Also, this fic is complete and should be all up shortly, so no worries there.
Those were wonderful words, even if they meant there'd be a pile of paperwork waiting for him on his desk the moment he stepped back into the office. But paperwork hardly mattered when the right person was in jail with a trail of evidence long enough to keep him there forever. It was satisfying and for Don, the reason he got every morning. The part of the job he loved.
Sadly, their suspect had left six college professors dead in his wake. The tip they needed hadn't occurred until shortly after victim number six.
Some parts of the job never got easier.
Truth was, Don had another reason to be glad the case the closed. A far more personal one.
Every single victim had been male, a college professor in the sciences, and under the age of forty.
He had found it hard to let Charlie out of his sight. Even harder to let Charlie work on this case. Their father had freaked, and Don had spent so much time anguishing over it that he had gotten very little sleep and absolutely no peace of mind.
Until now. Score one for math and the FBI. The bad guy was behind bars and Charlie's safe in Pasadena. All's well that ends well.
And Don was left with the paperwork, which was perfectly fine with him.
He bolted up, his ragged breathing obscenely loud in his ears as his eyes slowly adjusted to the bedroom's darkness. A glance at the clock told him it was nearly 4 a.m. He ran a hand across his face, surprised to find it soaked with sweat. Surprised, because short of his muttering Charlie's name, Don had no clue about what had just happened.
A dream, he assumed, but he rarely, if ever remembered his dreams. It was about Charlie, that much he was certain. Judging from the sweat, this wasn't just any dream. This was better classified under the heading of nightmare.
His heart was still pounding and he closed his eyes. Why had Charlie's name been on the tip of his tongue? The case was closed. He'd seen Charlie just a few hours ago, ate dinner with him, Dad, and Larry. He'd spent so much time yawning at the table, both dad and Charlie had wanted him to stay, but had he insisted he was fine and drove home shortly after.
So why was his heart beating so quickly? Why the sweat?
His hand reached out towards the bedside table, grabbing his cell phone. He flipped it open and dialed Charlie's number.
He was about to hit send, when he stopped himself. It was late and he was being ridiculous. This was ridiculous. Charlie was fine. He, on the other hand, was a different story so he shut the phone, took a deep breath, then settled down among the pillows.
One thing was for sure as he tossed, turned, and pounded the pillows; he sure as hell wasn't getting anymore sleep tonight.
"You know, that file's probably a whole lot easier to read if you actually opened it."
Don shook his head and looked up to find Megan standing next to his desk, holding a cup of coffee.
She put the cup down next to his keyboard. "I think you need this more than I do. I can go and get another cup."
"Thanks." He picked up the cup and took a long sip. "Didn't get much sleep last night," he explained. Much was an understatement, of course, because none was probably closer to the truth.
"No kidding," Megan commented. She took a moment to assess him. "You okay?"
She didn't look convinced, but thankfully, decided not to push the issue, but instead peered over his shoulder at the unopened file on his desk. "We closed the Peters' case."
"I know. Doesn't mean I finished all the paperwork, though."
"O-kay," she said, giving him an odd look.
He ignored it and took another sip of his coffee. "Megan," he started, but was interrupted when he spotted Charlie heading towards his desk. An alive and well Charlie, though he wasn't sure why he was expecting anything else. He'd called the house that morning and his father told him Charlie had already left for campus. Don had called Charlie's cell and gotten his voice mail.
He was obsessing and he knew it. But that wasn't what really bothered him. The fact that he had no idea why he was being so paranoid did.
"Charlie. What are you doing here?"
"You called me," Charlie answered, his brow crinkling in confusion. He reached into his pocket and took out his cell phone. "You left four messages."
"And you actually checked them?"
"Yes." Charlie sounded slightly hurt. "Dad said you called the house, too. What's up? New case?" He picked up the file on Don's desk.
"No." Don grabbed the file, but not before Charlie had a chance to open it.
"This is your last case. I thought it was closed."
"Paperwork," Megan volunteered. "I'm going to get coffee. Want a cup, Charlie?"
Charlie shook his head. "No thanks." Megan walked away and Charlie frowned. "Okay. No new case. Why did you call, then?"
"Can I call just to say hi?"
"You can," Charlie said, "but you don't."
"Sure I do," Don insisted.
Charlie shook his head. "No. No, you don't. Don, I repeat, what's up? I have a two o'clock class I should be prepping for right now."
"Nothing," Charlie repeated. "Okay. Well, then, I'm going to try and catch the bus back to CalSci." He started to leave.
Don stopped him. "Wait."
Charlie turned. "What?"
"You're here. Least I can do is buy you lunch."
"Lunch?" Charlie raised an eyebrow.
"You do a lot of stuff or me. Lunch is the least I can do."
"Lunch?" Charlie repeated. "Don, I once spent an entire night putting together a geographic crime index and you didn't so much as say thank you. Now you call me, not just once, but four times, tell me to come down to the FBI to take me to lunch?"
Don shrugged. "I owed it to you. I mean especially after the whole Val-"
"We settled the Val thing," Charlie countered. "This isn't about that last case, is it?"
Of course it was, but Charlie didn't need to know that slight bit of information and Don sure as hell wasn't about to admit it. "Of course not."
"Which means it is," Charlie shook his head then ran a hand through his hair. "Don, you had like four agents on me all the time. It was stifling, really."
"It was needed."
Charlie sighed. "Yeah, well, it's done. And I really do have a two o'clock class, so if you're serious about buying me lunch..."
"I'm serious. Let's go."
Don put the file back down on his desk. Lunch with Charlie, then back to the office. Hopefully it would be enough to put whatever was plaguing him to rest.
He surveyed the scene. He was alone, a fact that struck him as odd, and he frowned because he was never alone at a crime scene.
The office was in disarray, the typical signs of a struggle plain as day. Papers had been scattered, books littered the floor, and a piece of chalk had been crushed into white powder; whether by the assailant or the victim was for forensics to determine.
He turned and found himself facing the chalkboard. It was covered in numbers - no, make that calculations - and there was a clear jerk toward the end of a sequence as if the writer had been suddenly interrupted. Don ran his finger across the board and...
His eyes popped open, and all he saw was the white ceiling of his bedroom. The fan was on and it was slowly turning, creating a moving shadow.
Don glanced at his clock. 2:42 a.m. Wonderful.
He scrubbed his face, blinking to clear the sleep from his eyes. Another dream, but this one was different. This one he remembered, clear as day.
Not a nightmare. But somehow, it had shaken him. And he had no clue why.
He sighed. The only thing he was sure of was he needed some sleep and it wasn't happening tonight.
He thought about the chalkboard, the numbers, as he drove to work and Charlie immediately came to mind, but that wasn't right because the handwriting hadn't been Charlie's. But it had been the work of someone math inclined.
He almost called Charlie.
Instead, he tried to push it out of his mind and turned into the FBI parking garage. He was about to turn off the engine when his cell rang.
"Don, he's back."
He had a feeling he wasn't about to like this call.
"Peters isn't our man. Or if he is, we've got a copycat on our hands."
This was not what he needed to hear.
The déjà vu started the minute he stepped out of the car and walked onto the campus of Pasadena City College. He chalked it up to pure coincidence; after all he wasn't one to believe in dreams.
But when he entered the professor's office, it was there as clear as day. The papers, the struggle, the crushed chalk, the board full of calculations, complete with the abrupt stop in the sequence.
For a moment, Don just stood there.
Megan tapped his shoulder and he jerked.
"Sorry," she said.
He moved closer to the board and studied it. The same handwriting. Don had to admit -it was eerie. But he didn't have time to dwell on it. "They find him yet?"
She shook her head. "No. But if the MO is the same, it's not looking good. He had office hours yesterday afternoon, had a couple of students stop by. David and Colby are trying to locate them. His wife was alarmed when it got to be after two a.m. and he hadn't come home."
"I take it he doesn't stay out late?"
Megan shook her head. "Every night, home in time for dinner."
"Except for last night. We got a recent photo of this guy?"
"Yeah. School ID photo. He's only been working here six months."
"Six months?" Don repeated. "How old is this guy?"
Someone passed Megan a printout. "Twenty-nine," she answered and handed the sheet of paper to him.
Don almost dropped the page the second he got his first glimpse.
Brown eyes. Curly hair. Short brown curls, not as long as Charlie's, but the similarity was striking and not something Don wanted to see. The young professor was smiling broadly.
"Happy guy," Megan commented.
"Yeah," Don muttered. He was almost grateful when his cell phone rang and he handed the picture back to Megan as he answered. "Eppes."
"We've got a body."
Straight and to the point, something Don was used to on the job. The caller didn't even need to say anymore more. And though he couldn't be sure, he had a gut feeling as to whose body it would turn out to be.
He ended the call.
"Greg Carlson, twenty-nine. Found strangled next to a dumpster in West LA. He'd been tortured, but the full coroner's report won't be back for a couple of hours. We have to have the wrong guy." Megan grabbed a folder and leaned against the table across from Don.
David shook his head. "No way. The evidence is rock solid. We're talking DNA. This has to be a copycat. Peters was all over the news. All anyone needed to do was pick up a paper and read the details."
"Plus Peters confessed," Colby added.
Don had to sigh at that. He'd been down that road and been wrong. He wasn't going to make assumptions here, even when there was a confession. He stared at the crime scene photos that had been tacked up on the wall.
"There's no cut across the forehead this time."
Megan put down her own paperwork. "That's true. He'd be breaking his pattern and serial killers rarely break their pattern."
"Unless they're caught." Colby leaned back in his chair. "Our guy Peters have any friends?"
"He worked alone. Or so he says..." Don's voice trailed and found himself trying to look anywhere but at the victim's face. He'd called Charlie as soon as he'd seen the body, reassuring himself Charlie was alive and well. By shear luck, Charlie had picked up his cell. Perhaps Charlie could work his magic again.
Yet this time, Don had a feeling something was different. Something other than the lack of the Peters' typical MO. And this something involved Charlie, though Don had absolutely no concrete evidence or even any reasoning to back that claim. Unless his dreams counted and Don wasn't too sure about having his nighttime dreams examined by anyone. He knew they were crazy; he didn't need other people to confirm.
"We find those students? The ones who went to his office hours yesterday?"
"I already spoke to one," David replied. "Colby and I are talking to the other kid at two."
"Good." Don turned completely away from the photos. He needed to sit at his desk, piece together evidence, anything that would solve this case, yet get him away from the victim's face. "Charlie's coming in to run some more numbers. Someone let me know when we have the full forensics report."
He walked away, plunking himself in front of his computer. Evidence, right. Too bad there wasn't any. Peters' was behind bars when this happened, so they had to start over from scratch. Don found himself staring down at his keyboard as if it would yield all the answers.
"Hey. You called?"
Charlie. Don jerked up at the sound of his brother's voice.
"Sorry," Charlie apologized. "You know, you're really jumpy lately."
Don ignored the comment. "Another one, Charlie. Your equation pointed us straight to Peters, but now we've got another murdered professor on our hands."
"I know. Greg Carlson." Charlie sat down in a chair across from his desk, tapping his fingers on the armrests.
"That's right. How did you know his name? I just got back from the crime scene. Don't tell me the press-"
"No. I saw Megan on the way in and caught a glimpse of the crime scene photos." He paused a moment. "Actually, Greg and I were acquaintances. He attended the lecture I did on H Infinity Control of non-linear systems a few months ago. He'd read my paper. We exchanged emails, even met for lunch once or twice. He was starting a new teaching job and we talked math and lesson plans. He was a nice guy." Charlie let go of the armrests. "It has to be Peters. My algorithm picked him out almost immediately."
"Your algorithm also picked out a housewife in New Jersey, who had been grocery shopping during the last murder. Besides, Peters is out of the picture this time."
Charlie leaned forward in his seat. "Don, maybe he didn't do it."
Don raised an eyebrow.
"This could just like that sniper case. With the commonality of murder weapons, yet-"
"This isn't a bunch of blue houses," Don interrupted. "But you're right; it could be a copycat. I'm hoping you might be able to help me."
Charlie shrugged. "I can try, of course, but one death isn't enough data-"
"Make it enough data. I certainly don't want a report performance." As soon as the words left his mouth, Don realized they were harsher then he intended. But he couldn't get Carlson's face out of his brain. Learning he and Charlie knew each other did not make him feel any better. All it did was raise another red flag and added another agent to the total he'd again have tailing Charlie.
Charlie stared at him a minute and Don shifted, avoiding direct eye contact, and immediately regretting it. The lack of sleep had him on edge, and coupled with the rest of his day, he wasn't himself. Not by a long shot.
"What's different this time?" Charlie asked.
"Different?" he repeated.
"Peters' MO. The cut-"
"Across the forehead," Don finished. "It's not there."
"You know, the chances of a serial killer changing-"
"I know, Megan already mentioned that, and the statistics are hard to ignore. But he'd been tortured." Don regretted sharing that detail when he saw it was now Charlie's turn to shift uncomfortably. "Charlie, I'm sorry-"
"I know." Charlie was quiet a minute. "Look, do you know anything about services or-"
"It'll be a day or so before the body's released, but I think we have his wife's contact info," Don responded. "I can get it for you."
"That would be great," Charlie said softly. "And the case - I'll see what I can do."
"No problem." Charlie started to leave, but stopped himself at the last second. "Don?"
"You are going to have someone watching me again, aren't you?"
"I always do."
"You're over reacting. Like you did with lunch a couple of days ago."
"Lunch was lunch. Whoever is out there is dangerous, Charlie. And he or she is hunting professors. Forgive me for being slightly concerned. Especially when Carslon looks exactly like--" He caught himself before he finished his sentence. But it wasn't fast enough.
"Like me?" Charlie finished. "Greg and I both have curly hair. So do millions of other people and millions more have curly hair that is also brown. The statistical chances of--"
"I don't care about statistical chances. I care about my brother being oblivious to the fact that he could be setting himself up to be the perfect victim."
"The perfect victim?" Obviously, Charlie wasn't pleased with that statement.
Again, Don was reminded of how he needed sleep. "I didn't mean that. I meant...forget it. Go. Run your numbers."
For a second, he thought Charlie might protest, might try and drag out the argument, but he didn't. He let it drop and nodded.
"Fine. Give me the data and I'll do my best."