Little Boy Lost
Summary: The team is called out to find a serial kidnapper and murderer who targets young boys. But how far will the unsub go to find out what the team knows about him? And how far will one agent go to save a lost boy?
Disclaimer: Don't own anything, just borrowing.
Author's notes: I am not American (and English is not my first language, for that matter), so all my knowledge of American culture, law-enforcement work, practical government etc. is gained from television, movies and other pop-culture media. Any inaccuracies are because of this. The town of Fairmount is like Simpson's Springfield; completely fictional and at an undisclosed location.
"Hold the elevator, please!"
Spencer Reid sped towards the elevator where the doors stopped closing at the last possible second and were once again sliding open, as someone inside pushed the open button. Slightly breathless Reid slid into the elevator, coming face to face with his coworker Derek Morgan. "Are you late too? Good."
"And good morning to you too, Reid," Morgan smirked.
"Sorry. Good morning." Reid ran a hand over his head, flattening the ruffle left by the wind and straightened his tie.
"So," Morgan said conspiratorially, "I'm blaming traffic, what's your excuse?"
"Neighbors?" Morgan raised an eyebrow in surprise.
"Yeah," Reid sighed. "My next-door neighbors, the Allens, they are starting a neighborhood watch group of sorts, and they figured, since I'm working with the FBI and everything…"
Morgan threw his head back, laughing. "Oh yeah, I can just see you with a little cap and a flashlight, running around peoples backyards."
"I live in an apartment building, Morgan. No backyards to run in. Besides, they only wanted to know if I could get some sort of professional discount on pepper spray and nightsticks and stuff."
"Seriously? They said that?"
Reid shrugged. "Well, they wanted pepper spray for something anyway. I'm thinking it's best not to be too curious."
The elevator doors opened, and the agents got off on the floor where the Behavioral Analysis Unit was located, just as both their cell phones started ringing, almost simultaneously.
Morgan went to answer his, but Reid ignored his and walked into the bullpen, waving at Elle Greenaway, who was sitting on the edge of her desk. She had her phone pressed to her ear, and was tapping her fingernails on the desk in annoyance. Seeing Reid she hung up, which also quieted his cell phone. "There you are, finally! Where have you been?"
Behind Reid, Morgan hung up his phone, having gotten a similar reaction from JJ, who was glaring at them from her office.
"What's the rush? We're ten minutes late, tops." Morgan defended himself, at the same time as Hotchner came out of his office.
"Round-table room people, now!" he called without stopping.
Reid and Morgan looked at Elle.
"We've got it," she said.
"Got it? You mean the Fairmount kidnapper?" Reid's eyes grew big. "Finally!"
The Fairmount kidnapper had started making nationwide headlines several months ago. Someone kidnapped young boys from their homes, their beds even, on Sunday nights, and early Saturday morning the unfortunate boy's body was discovered on a playground or a schoolyard. The unsub's pace had also escalated. In the beginning, the boys had disappeared up to six weeks apart, but now a child went missing each and every week. This case had dominated the media for several weeks now, and ever since the Fairmount sheriff's department had signed the case over to the local FBI office Hotchner had fought tooth and nail to get the case signed over to them, but interdepartmental hubris had thwarted his every attempt as a very strong-minded and reluctant lead agent had been convinced her team would solve the case in record time. That was six weeks and four dead boys ago.
The BAU team filed into the round-table room, where Gideon was pinning up photos on bulletin boards. Happy before pictures. Boys water combed for their first school picture. Missing front teeth, baseball uniforms, Halloween costumes, birthday parties.
Then the after pictures. The pale little bodies, with eyes forever closed, smiles forever erased. All in all, eleven little boys would never come home again.
Reid swallowed around an uncharacteristic lump in his throat. The cases involving children always got to him, much more than any others. He focused on the one before picture that stood alone. Bailey Sanders, five-and-a-half years old, currently missing. Today was Wednesday. Bailey had less than three days to live.
Reid caught Gideon looking at him, eyes slightly narrowed, a calculated, worried look. Reid flashed him a quick smile, before looking down, absentmindedly scratching an eyebrow, avoiding looking at anybody else. He would be fine, he could do this. It was just another case. But these poor little boys got to him, made him sad and angry.
"All right team, take your seats," Hotchner said. "We're only doing a short briefing here, we'll do most of the work on the plane." He nodded to JJ, who started handing out thick pre-copied files.
"You are all acquainted with the case from the news, but this morning all police-reports and other materials were made available to us," she said. "Here we have synopses of what the agents on the case consider are the most important information to be dealt with. You will also find several CDs and DVDs, so don't forget to bring your laptops. These CD's contain witness reports, interviews with suspects and their background checks, backgrounds on the victims and their families, forensic reports, etcetera. There is a lot of information here. They've made over 700 interviews so far. The forensic evidence is very slim. Get to know this material."
Hotchner took over, "This unsub has a very set pattern. All victims have disappeared from their own beds, sometime between nine p.m. Sunday night and six a.m. Monday morning. They are found again the following Saturday morning, in public places. They have then been dead between six and ten hours. Their deaths have all been estimated to have taken place around midnight. They are found in the pajamas or other sleepwear that they were wearing when they disappeared. The victims are between five and eight years old. They are all Caucasian. They go to different schools, play on different teams. Two of the boys were cousins, but that might have been a coincidence. There is no other such connection between any victims or any other obvious connection either."
"There are no signs of sexual abuse," Elle interrupted, turning the papers in front of her. "There are no other injuries either. No bruises, no cuts, no blood. Just irritated, red skin. Where does that come from?"
"The coroners believe that the bodies have been cleaned with the rough side of a kitchen sponge, or a similar material," Hotchner informed them.
"Pre- or post mortem?" Morgan asked.
"They can't tell," Hotchner said. "Maybe both. This is one of the reasons the forensic evidence is so slim, everything that might have been have been washed away. Also, cause of death in all cases has been drowning. Probably in a bathtub, since all the water analyzed has been local tap water."
"What about the tip lines?" Morgan asked.
"They have several," JJ informed them, "And they are being flooded with calls. Everything from worried parents to the usual nut jobs."
"This unsub won't call." Gideon spoke for the first time, from where he was standing, slightly apart from the rest of the team, arms crossed over his chest. "This is very private for him, he doesn't want all this attention."
"What makes you think that?" Elle frowned. "Aren't serial killers usually attention seeking? Wanting to show off their superior intelligence and all that?"
"Typically yes," Gideon agreed, "But this unsub doesn't fit that profile. There has been no contact with either the media or the families of the victims. There have been no ransom notes or messages at the crime scenes. The unsub wants to remain anonymous. He is fighting a private battle with himself."
"But where do the victims fit in in this battle?" Elle asked.
"I don't know;" Gideon said. "Maybe it's their innocence that's important, maybe they are some sort of companions. Maybe he just wants a shot at a normal family life."
"Or a replacement." The team turned to Reid, who nervously pushed a strand of hair behind his hair. "Maybe the unsub has lost a child, a son, and is trying to get him back, but somehow the illusion just doesn't hold up."
Gideon nodded. "That's a good thought."
Hotchner's phone beeped and he looked at the text message. "Okay, the plane is ready. Elle, look into the victims' backgrounds, and check all their families and other adults in their lives. Morgan and JJ, the crime scenes and the evidence. JJ, also get us rental cars and hotel rooms. Gideon and I will look into the witness reports. Reid, take the suspects, check backgrounds, see if anybody has lost a child, especially by drowning. By that profile our unsub would also be Caucasian, but don't get blind-sided by that, check everything out. I want us to have a viable profile by tonight. Now, let's get to the airport."
The team quickly assembled their material and went to fetch their ever ready travel packs and made their way to the airport.
The plane ride was mostly quiet as everybody got started on their assignments. All that was heard was the clicking of keyboards, the rasps of pens on paper and an occasional discussion. Upon landing JJ took them to the airport's car rental service and checked out two SUVs. Hotchner and Morgan both grabbed a set of keys. Fairmount was a two hour drive from the airport. The town currently had 10 872 residents, 227 of those were Caucasian boys, ages five to eight. '227 possible victims,' Reid thought in the backseat of Morgan's SUV as they entered Fairmount. The team navigated themselves through the town to the sheriff's office where the case command center had been set up.
"I don't get it," said Reid, looking out the window at the parking lot of the sheriff's office, which was teeming with reporters and news vans.
"Don't get what?" Gideon asked from the front seat.
"How he can dump the bodies without getting caught. Look at this media circus! Between the reporters and the police, every playground and schoolyard in town must be well covered on Friday nights and Saturday mornings."
"Maybe he's a reporter," Morgan theorized.
"Maybe," Gideon agreed. "But the unsub is definitely a resident of this town, he knows the layout, and he can locate his victims easily enough. But we'll look into the people who found the bodies."
They exited the car and joined up with the rest of the team, letting JJ professionally lead the way through the media horde, while the rest of the team put on their best poker faces.
The sheriff's office was a two-story building. When they walked in they were greeted by a lobby area, with a reception desk and chairs spread out in the waiting area, all surrounded by green plants and vending machines. By the right wall was the stair up to the second floor, which contained a few offices, the bullpen and locker room. The Fairmount sheriff's department currently had 18 employees, including Mrs. Dann, the grandmotherly receptionist, and Lionel Green, janitor and handyman. Those numbers had now gone up as several state troopers, and of course FBI agents had temporarily joined the ranks.
Between the reception and the stair was a locked door that led to the holding cells, evidence storage and armory, all the non-public areas. On the right side of the reception, double glass-doors led into a large conference/press room, which was now the home of the Fairmount kidnapper command center.
JJ had called ahead, so the BAU team was met in the lobby by Sheriff Daniel Johnson, and the FBI-agent in charge, Marilyn Dammers. Hotchner quickly stepped forward to shake their hands and introduce the team.
"Welcome to Fairmount, people," Sheriff Johnson said, tipping his head. "Sorry it's not during better times. This is usually a very nice place to stay."
"You get many tourists?" Gideon asked, as the team was being led into the conference room.
"We get our share, fishers and hikers mostly," the Sherriff said. "There's some great outdoors around here."
"Yeah, what kind of fishing?"
"Trout and salmon mostly, and they are mighty big too. You a fisher, agent Gideon?"
"When I get the chance," he admitted.
The command center was dominated by a large table in the middle that could easily hold 20 people. Along the back wall computer stations had been set up. All windows were covered, both by blinds and drapes, darkening the room and shutting out curious eyes. Fluorescent lights beamed and buzzed in the ceiling. A door led into a soundproof, glassed-in cubicle where the tip lines were being monitored. Plenty of whiteboards covered the area, playing host to pictures, documents and notes. The room was rather empty though, just a dispatch controller and two FBI agents conferring in a corner. Reid walked over to a map that was all but dominating the right wall, where he was joined by Hotchner and Sheriff Johnson.
"Fairmount is a big little town," Hotchner remarked.
"That it is," the Sheriff agreed. Using his fingers to draw up imaginary lines he explained, "The town center here holds maybe 6000 people, outside that we have plenty of farms and saw mills and such, lots of small family businesses. We have a national park that starts up here, which also falls into our jurisdiction, though we've got ourselves a pair of park rangers that handles most business up there."
"And the dots are where the victims were found?" Hotchner questioned.
"Yes, the red dots are where they lived, and were taken. The green dots are where they were found. You see they are numbered, to show which victim was found where."
"What's the connection between the locations?" Reid asked.
"None that we can see, other than that the dumpsites are all places that young children often go to."
"There has to be more," Reid persisted. "Look." He drew a line with his finger in a jagged diagonal over the map. "All locations are on the furthest north, northwest and west side of the town, but within these perimeters there are no obvious pattern between the victims. So this must be the part of town the unsub's most familiar with. Either he lives there, or works there. Is there anything that you can think of that would make distinguish this part of town?"
Sheriff Johnson shrugged, bewildered, "Such as…?"
"Such as zip codes, area codes, postal routes, patrol beats, school districts, voting districts, church parishes…"
"Wait," the sheriff interrupted Reid. "My god, boy, you're right!"
"School districts! We don't much think about the school districts here, because we only have one high school, but for the elementary schools and junior highs, the town is parted in two districts. Mostly because we have so many students being bussed in from the countryside. All the disappearances have been in the West Fairmount school district. I can't believe we haven't spotted it before." He gave Reid a hard slap on the back and went off, calling "Yo, Dammers, got something new for you!"
Hotchner smiled at Reid, who was rubbing his back. "Good job," he said. "Now, we've got at least one of the locals on our side."
Reid looked at him. "You think the local FBI office feels like we're stepping on their toes?"
"Well, Dammers was none to happy to have us, anyway. You finished your notes?"
"All right then, let's regroup."
The BAU team gathered at one end of the large table, beginning the difficult task of assembling their individual findings so far into an accurate profile.
By 8.30 p.m. all the law-enforcement personnel involved in the investigation gathered in the command center to hear the profile.
Hotchner took the floor. "Our unsub is male, Caucasian, middle-aged. He lives alone, and he is a resident of Fairmount, but has probably only lived here for a few years, at the most. He has always kept a low profile. He most likely works in a public office, but on a low level. Chances are you have already interviewed him, but most likely as a witness, not a suspect."
"He will have had a family once," Reid said, standing next to Hotchner. "He will have had a child, a son, who died by drowning several years ago. It would have been accidental, but most likely due to negligence. His wife is either dead, or they are divorced. Marriages seldom survive the death of a child, especially if it has been an only child and if there is guilt in the picture. He moved here to get a new start, but without success. A few months ago, something happened, a stressor that spurred him into this behavior. The finalization of his divorce maybe, or something else that was emotionally difficult for him to handle. He is driven by guilt and the need for redemption. He uses his victims as a chance for a do-over, but it's never enough. He's looking for forgiveness from his son, which is why the victims have no injuries, but nothing he does can change what happened, and it frustrates him, so he keeps repeating the events, looking for something he could have done different."
Morgan took over. "He's a loner, but not overly so. He has a normal 9 to 5 job. As Hotch said, it's most likely a low-level desk job. He is well liked by his colleagues, and well trusted by his boss, but he has no career ambitions. He's not overly concerned with fitting in, but he doesn't want to stand out either. He's the guy who brings store-bought potato salad to the company picnic, and doesn't mind working extra when someone is sick. During the weeks of the kidnappings he won't have missed a single day of work. He is very organized and methodical."
Gideon stood up and faced the crowd. "He's looking for something that he can't possibly get, and therefore he will not stop until he's caught. Right now he's very stressed, and scared that he will be caught before he's finished. The media coverage scares him. He doesn't want the attention, he feels that this is a very private matter that concerns only him and his son. The media is the reason he has escalated to one child a week. But that also means that he starts planning his next kidnapping before the last one is over, which means that even in the kidnapping moment, he knows this boy is not who he is looking for. But he's pathological, he can't quit, not until he has found forgiveness."
"As I'm sure you all understand," JJ said, "This profile cannot leave this room. Leaking this to the press could be catastrophic. The unsub must not be stressed anymore than he already is, or he can become unpredictable. We want him to feel as safe as possible, if we want to find Bailey Sanders before it's too late."
"This quiet life he leads now will not match his life before the accident," Reid said, "He will have had a much more high-profile life where he used to live. He probably worked long hours, which now feeds his guilt of not being there for his son. Considering the way he is able to sneak into the victim's houses without leaving any traces, he probably had a job that trained him in evaluating houses in a short time. He would have been in home security, or sold home insurance. Maybe he was an architect or a realtor. He's used to moving around in other people's houses."
Elle walked over to the large map on the wall, directing everybody's direction to it. "Since the unsub is relatively new to the town, this area he's focusing on is the part of town he's most familiar with, either from work or as a residential area. You should look for him in the city hall administration, or city planning, the company that directs the garbage trucks, or as this is a school district, the company that drives school buses, places like that."
The room fell quiet. One of the younger deputies looked skeptical. "You don't happen to know his favorite color and a shoe size as well?"
Sheriff Johnson shushed him, annoyed with the disrespect. "All right, people," he said, "Now we have a fresh angle. I will see you all back here tomorrow morning, bright and early. And wear comfortable shoes, I foresee much legwork in your future."
The attempt at comedy was met by smiles and a few groans as the room cleared, leaving only the BAU team, Dammers and Johnson.
"Any possible suspects must be reported to us before interrogation," Hotchner informed the Sheriff.
"He knows that," Dammers said surly. "We've had the same policy."
Hotchner ignored her comment. "Reid, Elle and I will spend tomorrow talking to the victims' families. Gideon and Morgan will go over the witness list again, to see if they can flush out a suspect from it. JJ, the media is killing us here, can you do something?"
"I'll look into it, try some moves," she promised.
"Good," Hotchner said. "Now, dinner and then let's get some sleep."
When they filed out of the room, Reid turned around and looked at the photo of Bailey Sanders again. The lump in his throat was back. Gideon came to stand beside him.
"Gideon… what if we don't get him?" Reid asked.
"Then we don't get him," Gideon said gently. "We can only do our best. We don't always win, you know that."
"I know. But these kids… In 51 hours he will kill Bailey Sanders."
"Then we have 50 hours to find him," Gideon said simply.
"And now we're going to the hotel to sleep away six of those hours." There was a hint of bitterness in Reid's voice.
"Humans need sleep, Reid. We've made real progress today, Bailey has a better chance now than he had this morning. Let's be glad for that. Now, come on." He slung a friendly arm over Reid's shoulders, guiding him out of the room, "I'm thinking Italian for dinner. How about you?"
Reid folded his arms on the table and laid his head down with a groan. He had a killer headache. Today had been futile and heart wrecking. Despite all the new information, none of the devastated parents had been able to help them further. Bailey's parents had been the hardest to interview. They still had a sliver of hope, fragile as it might be. Mrs. Sanders kept glancing at the clock every few minutes, saying that she couldn't stop herself from counting down her son's last hours in life. Bailey was the twelfth child to disappear, and his parents had watched the news just like everybody else.
"Are you okay?" Elle asked, putting her hand on his shoulder.
"I'm fine." It came out rather muffled, as he hadn't bothered to lift his head.
"Come on, the Sheriff wants to see us."
Reid reluctantly stood and they walked over to where the rest of the BAU team, Dammers and Johnson were waiting.
It turned out the day hadn't been much better at the command center either. Four new suspects had been brought in and questioned, but without any luck. Dammers' people had done background checks on all city employees and the Sheriff's people had gone through dozens of private companies without finding anything. JJ however had worked wonders with the media, keeping them calm without giving them any real information. It was 8 p.m. and their deadline was down to 28 hours. Johnson and Dammers had sent most of their people home, but the BAU had no intention of calling it a night.
"Let's get some food and go over everything again," Gideon suggested.
"You okay with Chinese?" Johnson asked, "There's a really good restaurant not far from here, we order from them all the time."
No one objected so the sheriff placed the call. "Hi Mikey, it's Danny Johnson… Yeah, another long night, had a lot of those lately. How about you?... uh-huh… so, do you think you can put together enough for twelve?" he said, including the shift at the tip line. "Oh, well that's all right, I'll send someone down to get it, don't worry about it… just put it on our tab. Yeah, sure… twenty minutes, okay."
He disconnected the call. "Their delivery van has broken down, so I promised someone would go down and fetch the food."
"Don't worry about it," Morgan said. "Well send Junior."
It took Reid a couple of seconds to recognize that Morgan was referring to him. "What, me?"
"Yes, you, genius boy," Morgan tossed the keys to the SUV over the table to him.
"Well, technically," Reid began, "I wasn't the last person to join the team, therefore I am not the junior member."
"Don't kid yourself," Gideon said, "No matter how many new team members we get, you'll always be junior, Junior."
Reid looked at his team, everyone was grinning at him.
"Fine." He stood up. Feigning a hurt expression, he said with his best martyr voice, "It seems like such a waste of my talents, though."
Morgan's laugh came out as a snort. "Right, okay… just leave us an obscure fact or two and I'm sure we'll survive until you get back."
"The restaurant is called The Red Dragon and it's…"
Reid interrupted the Sheriff. "I know where it is, we drove past it earlier today. And Morgan, the banana isn't a fruit, it's a berry, and the banana tree isn't a tree, it's an herb. Also, it's physically impossible to lick your own elbow."
Several snickers followed him out, but the team quickly sobered up again. Gideon, however, was glad to see that Reid was getting a little break from the case. The high body count and the victims' ages had gotten to him. In many ways, he was still very new to this occupation. Gideon looked over at Morgan, and quickly hid a smile as he saw his co-worker stare suspiciously at his own elbow.
Reid walked into The Red Dragon, which was almost empty. There was only one other customer, who was just breaking open his fortune cookie. Reid paid him no heed and walked up to the counter.
"Can I help you?" A pleasant-looking elder man came out of the kitchen, drying his hands on his apron.
"Yes, Sheriff Johnson called in an order."
"Yes, of course. It's going to be a few minutes yet."
Just then Reid's stomach growled loudly. The man, Mikey, laughed. "A few minutes too many, huh?" he said, pushing a basket of shrimp chips in Reid's direction.
"I kind of forgot about lunch today," he admitted, taking a chip.
"You are one of those new FBI agents, right? A profiler?" Mikey asked.
"Yeah, that's us," Reid admitted.
"Are you getting any closer to catching this monster?"
Reid grimaced. "I can't really talk about it."
"I understand," Mikey said. "I hope you do though. My granddaughter has already lost one classmate, I would hate for there to be more."
Reid agreed with him whole-heartedly. "It's almost empty in here, slow night?"
"Slow weeks," Mikey said dejectedly. "The social life in this town has taken a real beating. Had it not been for the police and the reporters, I might as well close down. Ah, here's the food now."
A younger man came out of the kitchen, carrying three paper bags filled with food containers. "Do you need any help getting it out into the car?"
"No, I'll manage," Reid said, hefting a bag higher up on his hip. "Thank you."
"Drive safely, and good luck with the case!" Mikey called after him.
Reid left the restaurant, just as the other customer walked up to the register. A half minute later Reid heard the door slam behind him, while he was walking towards the SUV. He also heard the steps behind him, but didn't really listen to them. Juggling the bags, he got the car key out of his pocket and hit the button on the remote to unlock the car. He was just reaching for the backdoor when someone slammed into him from behind. Slightly stunned, he dropped the bags of food and reached for his gun, but someone else's hand was already there. The assailant's foot swept out and took out Reid's legs and he ended up on the ground next to the car, crushing one of the food bags. He felt the cold metal of a gun barrel press in to his neck, and a beefy hand closed over his mouth.
"Not a peep, you understand?"
Reid nodded. The barrel of the gun shifted and a second later Reid could feel the hand pawing for the handcuffs at his belt. Knowing that the gun wasn't pointing at him at the moment, Reid put his hands on the ground and pushed upwards. This dislodged the hand over his mouth, and Reid used his upward motion to aim a punch at his assailant's face. His arm was stopped though, as the assailant's reflexes kicked in. He seized Reid's arm by the wrist, and with the other he brought the gun butt down full force on Reid. Reid cursed as he felt the skin split open just above his eye, and for a moment he saw only black spots. His arm was twisted behind his back as his legs were once again kicked out from underneath him.
"Bad move, partner," the man growled. This time he kept the arm twisted and planted a foot on Reid's neck while he fished for the handcuffs. Reid twisted and turned as best as he could, but to no avail. His arms were cuffed securely together behind his back. The man pulled him up and pushed him up against the car as he raided his pockets.
"Stop this," Reid said. "I'm an FBI agent, let me go."
"I know who you are…" the man said, pulling Reid's badge from his pocket and locking at the ID "…Special Agent Dr. Spencer Reid. And I want a word with you."
He threw the badge on the ground, where it was soon joined by Reid's wallet, cell phone and keys. The only things the assailant pocketed were the keys to the handcuffs and to the SUV. He then opened the backdoor and with a steady pressure of the gun against Reid's neck he forced him into the car. He secured him with the seatbelt, leaving Reid immobilized in the backseat. Closing the door, he crossed over to the driver's side, whistling as he went.
"What about your car?" Reid asked when the man started the SUV and eased it out of the parking lot.
"Oh, it's back at work. I'll just take the bus in tomorrow morning. No one will notice. I'm always there first anyway."
Reid slumped back in his seat. Blood was running down his face from the cut on his forehead, and it was sticky and itched where it pooled at his neck. He kept his eyes on the window, trying to keep track of where he was being taken, and tried to look inconspicuous while his hands were moving behind his back, trying to find something that would help him.
Hotchner looked at his watch. "How far away is this restaurant? Shouldn't Reid be back by now?"
Sheriff Johnson looked at the watch as well. "Yes, he should, it's only ten minutes away."
"Maybe the food was late," Morgan said, but he was already punching a speed dial on his cell phone. Reid's phone rang six times before going to voicemail. Here Morgan left the message he would deeply regret over the next couple of days.
"Hey Reid, where'd you go? You get kidnapped on the way or something? Not a valid excuse! Hurry back, Elle has started gnawing on her pencil."