The call came at 3.52 p.m.
"Bow down before your goddess, Hot Lips."
Suddenly Morgan's heart was soaring. "Garcia, you beautiful woman, I knew you could do it! Hold on, I'll put you on speaker phone."
He did just that, as his team and most of the other command center personnel gathered around him. "Okay, shoot," he said.
"The man's current name is Donald Mason," Garcia said.
Elle immediately pulled up the man's information from her list. Mason was an administrator in the part of the county's office that among many other duties was the liaison with the businesses that supplied the food for the school lunches in the West Fairmount School district. He had been interviewed as a witness by two deputies after the third victim had been found on the playground opposite his office. He had said nothing that was consequential for the investigation, and no one had spoken to him again.
"He changed his name two and a half years ago, right before he moved to Fairmount," Garcia continued. "He used to be Thomas Norwood. He lived in San Francisco where he was a partner in a large insurance company, specializing in home insurance. His wife's name was Marian, and they had one child, a son called Matthew, who died when he was six. Accidental drowning. According to the police report, Norwood was giving Matthew a bath when the doorbell rang. It was a delivery man, with documents concerning Norwood's work. But the delivery man's pen wasn't working, so Norwood had to find one before he could sign for them, which apparently took longer than one would expect. Once he got back up to the bathroom the boy was dead. The coroner thought that he had stood up in the tub and then slipped, knocking himself unconscious. Norwood called 911 and tried CPR, but the kid was dead. He and his wife separated a couple of months later, but they never got divorced. Norwood changed his name and moved. Mrs. Norwood is now dead. She committed suicide on May 23d this year."
"That's just three weeks before the kidnappings started," Sheriff Johnson noted.
"That would have been the stressor," Gideon said, "Loosing the only family he had left, his only living link to his son. His address?" The last was directed at Elle, who was already clicking on the print symbol on the computer screen.
"Right here. But shouldn't he be at work at this hour?"
"We'll send teams to both places," said Hotchner. "Thanks Garcia."
"Yeah," Morgan agreed. "You're a pearl. I'm taking you to dinner when we get back."
"I'll hold you to that, babe. Now go find Reid, will ya." She hung up.
"You heard the woman," Morgan said. "Let's go find Reid." Taking his jacket he turned towards the door, but stopped mid-stride.
In the doorway stood Reid, pale and bloodied, clutching a child in his arms.
"Hi guys," he said.
The drive back to town had been arduous. Reid was glad that the SUV had automatic transmission, because he was basically down to one hand. His wrist wouldn't stop bleeding. He had hoped that he wouldn't have damaged his arteries, but it didn't look like he'd been that lucky. Also, the synthetic fabric in his tie had proven to be a rather inadequate material for a bandage. It was too glossy to stay knotted, so he had to keep tightening it with his teeth while he was driving. Mostly he kept the hand pressed against his stomach, where he could feel the blood seeping through, wetting his shirt. He was sweating and his vision kept blurring, so he didn't dare drive too fast. But Bailey was looking at him with so much trust in his eyes, encouraging him to continue.
When they entered the town Reid headed for the one place he knew he would feel safe; the Sheriff's department and his team. When he turned onto the right street, he slowed the car down and groaned. He had forgotten about the press. They stood behind barriers being upheld by several deputies. They were keeping a walk path to the stationhouse clear though, and there Reid saw his chance. Trying to look inconspicuous he drove slowly along the street, and then, at the last possible moment he turned, driving up the path. Luckily it was wide enough, since it was meant to be able to accommodate emergency vehicles, should the need arise. He parked the car with the passenger side towards the front door and got out. Several of the deputies were running towards him, guns half-drawn.
One of them was calling to him, "Hey, you can't stop there!" He skidded to a halt a few feet away from Reid, bewilderment clear in his eyes. "Dr. Reid?" His eyes moved to the car, where he saw Bailey. "Is that…?"
"Yes," Reid answered. "Just keep the press away from him, would you?"
"Yes, sir." The deputy's voice was trembling with respect as he turned and ushered his other colleagues back towards the barrier where the reporters' excitement had increased ten-fold.
Reid ignored them as best he could as he rounded the car. He opened the passenger side door. Bailey had already undone his seatbelt and was reaching his arms towards Reid again. Reid took a second to fold up the collar of his jacket to hide the boy's face as much as possible before picking the boy up and making his way towards the front door.
The reception area was empty, except for Mrs. Dann, who just stared at them as they walked by, heading straight for the command center. Over all other noises, Reid could hear Morgan's voice.
"You heard the woman. Let's go find Reid."
He stepped in through the open doors, stopping at the threshold, taking in all the surprised gazes.
For a second Morgan wondered if he was hallucinating. Then Gideon and Hotchner rushed past him. Gideon went to take the child out of Reid's trembling grip, but Bailey whimpered and attached himself even harder to Reid, who grimaced at the added pressure to his bruised torso.
"It's okay," he soothed the boy, petting his head where it rested on his shoulder. "It's okay, these are my friends. No one will hurt you here. And Sheriff Johnson over there, he's gonna call your mom and dad and they'll be here really soon." He looked at the Sheriff, who nodded and went to place the phone call.
Gideon had pulled up a chair, and he and Hotchner carefully took Reid's elbows, guiding him down. Hotchner smiled affectionately at his youngest agent.
"So, no rescue needed, huh?"
"Not this time, but thanks anyway," Reid smiled back.
Gideon, however, took on a much more serious approach. Taking in Reid's appearance he said, "My god, Spencer, what happened to you?" He knelt down next to the chair and went to take Reid's bloodied left wrist, which was now staining the back of the jacket draped over Bailey's back. "Did someone call an ambulance?"
He got an affirmative response as Morgan approached them with a large first aid kit. He knelt down next to Gideon, opened it and handed Gideon a pair of surgical gloves.
"Hey Doc," he said softly, pulling on his own pair. "Good to see you."
"You too," Reid said, taking a firm grip on Bailey's neck so he wouldn't turn his head and look at Gideon tending to his wrist. He didn't particularly want to watch it himself either. Now that he was finally in the safe haven of his team, his adrenaline was plummeting, and he was starting to wilt.
Gideon carefully untied the make-shift bandage. He frowned at the gaping wound, immediately recognizing it as being self-inflicted.
"Why did you cut yourself?" he asked as he received a thick compress from Morgan and pressed it into the wound, making Reid hiss in pain.
"You did this to yourself?" Morgan asked incredulously, handing Gideon a new compress as the first one quickly saturated with blood.
"I had to. I was handcuffed to a pipe and needed to get loose. This was all I could think of." Reid explained.
Morgan just shook his head, not wanting to imagine the situation in which his friend had felt the need for such a desperate act. "I could just kill you for this," he said affectionately.
Reid gave him a weak smile. "I thought you might say that."
Gideon tied the compress in place with gauze. He took off his bloodied gloves and patted Reid on the knee as he stood up. "You did good, Reid," Gideon said. "You got back alive, that's what counts."
Out of respect for Bailey's frightened reactions the pair had been given a lot of room, so Gideon and Hotchner walked away, giving others a chance to come near. Morgan though, had no intention of leaving his friend. He had something to say first. "I'm really sorry this happened to you."
Reid sighed. "So am I. I really screwed up, didn't I, Morgan?"
"What?" This was not a turn Morgan had expected the conversation to take.
"I got taken by surprise, I wasn't watchful enough. And, I let him kidnap me with my own gun and take me away in my own car. You don't think the bureau will kick me out for this, do you?" he said, stroking Bailey's hair as the boy in his lap played with his shirt buttons.
"No, of course not. That was not what I meant. Reid…"
"Excuse me," agent Dammers interrupted them. "Dr. Reid, can you give me a threat assessment of the situation I'll be sending my team into?"
"Of course. Do you know where to go?"
Morgan stood up and left. Their conversation would have to wait. He would, however, inform his team about Reid's feeling. Together they would set him straight.
"Yes, the unsub's been identified and we have both his work address and residential address," Dammers said.
"You've ID's him?" Reid said with surprise. "I didn't know that… What time is it?"
"He might have left work already then, he said he would try to leave early tonight."
"Okay," Dammers said. "So we'll concentrate our actions on the farm."
"Can you give me a pen and paper?" Reid asked. "I can draw up the schematics of the house for you."
Dammers fetched the requested items. As Reid drew he explained where everything was. "I didn't see any weapons," he said as he handed the sketch over. "But he still has my gun."
"Bailey!" The voice's intensity carried over all other noises in the room, as did Bailey's answering cry.
He leapt out of Reid's lap, leaving behind an emptiness Reid hadn't quite expected. But watching Mrs. Sanders clutching her son tightly, and Mr. Sanders hugging them both with tears in his eyes, made him feel like it had been worth every drop of blood in his body.
The paramedics came in right after the Sanders, but by then Reid was no longer conscious. When he relinquished the responsibility for Bailey to the boy's parents, his body no longer faced any disturbances to keep it from shutting down as it had so long felt the need to do.
Gideon had expected this, so when he saw Reid slumping down in his chair he had been at his side in a second to keep him from ending up on the floor, and he held him there until the paramedics had the gurney set up. It had already been decided that Gideon would accompany Reid to the hospital, while Hotchner, Morgan and Elle went with Dammers' team to the farm. JJ would also stay behind to prepare the press conference she would have to give after the raid on the farm and to update Quantico of their progress. However, they all stayed long enough to see Reid safely loaded on the ambulance.
"FBI!" The cry was heard all over the farm as the front door was kicked open and agents spread out in the house.
Hotchner and his team went directly to the basement, where they knew Reid and all other victims had been held. They had to go single file down the stair, with Hotchner leading. They found Donald Mason aka Thomas Norwood sitting on the bed. He had Reid's gun in his hand, but wasn't pointing it at either them or himself. Instead he had his head down, watching the gun, running his fingers over it. He didn't even seem to notice the FBI-agents at first.
"FBI. Put the gun on the floor, sir," said Hotchner, as Elle and Morgan flanked him on either side, all with their weapons steadily trained on the man on the bed.
"I figured you'd be along," he said, locking up. "That Spencer really is a clever little bugger, isn't he?"
"Put your gun down, sir," Hotchner repeated, inching a little closer. In the corner of his eye he could see his teammate's blood on the floor, but his training forced him to ignore it as long as there was a threat present.
"What? Oh, yes, of course." Tom slowly bent down and put the gun on the floor, three other guns following his every move.
"Stand up, turn around and put your hands on your head." Elle stepped forward, having holstered her weapon and brought out her handcuffs, trusting her team to keep her covered.
The kidnapper complied, having given up his hopes the minute he had come down into the basement and found it empty. He had always known he would be caught some day. In an odd way, he was even relieved. He let them handcuff him and search him for hidden weapons.
Morgan took up his radio and contacted the rest of the team. "The subject has been secured in the basement. The location is clear. We're bringing him up now."
Morgan and Elle escorted the prisoner upstairs, leaving Hotchner standing in the middle of the room. He took in the still closed handcuffs hanging from the radiator pipe, the broken plate on the floor and the blood surrounding the area. He then looked at the open handcuffs, hanging on the bed, the key still in the lock. He was suddenly filled with an intense pride for his agent and he was awed with the courage Reid had shown in this room.
It took several hours before the BAU team could reconvene at the hospital. They found Gideon in the OR waiting room. On the TV behind him was JJ. It was a recap of the press conference she had given two hours ago, and it was being shown on every channel, nationwide. "We are happy to report that the man known as the Fairmount kidnapper has been apprehended and that his latest victim, Bailey Sanders, has been returned to his parents, alive and well." She had professionally avoided all questions regarding Reid, and instead praised the Sheriff's department for their dedicated work effort during the last difficult months.
Gideon was sitting with his arms resting on his thighs, hands clasped in front of him. He looked up as his team entered the room and forestalled their questions by saying, "He's in surgery, that's all I know right now."
It took another half-hour before a doctor came out to talk to them. "I'm Dr. Lindstrom," she said. "Are you here for Spencer Reid?" At their confirmation she continued, "First of all, he's going to be fine. It'll take a while though. We've repaired the damage to his wrist, it was a rather clean cut, but it did nick an artery. We're expecting him to regain full use of his hand. In surgery we also repaired a small tear in one of his kidneys, nothing too dangerous. Other than that we have set two fingers on his right hand and wrapped up his ribs, he had two broken and another two were cracked. His right knee might need surgery in the future, but we have to wait for the swelling to go down before we can make a proper evaluation. His dislocated shoulder has apparently been set without a professional present, but it seems to be doing fine. We will keep monitoring it though. We'll be giving him continuous blood transfusions for the next couple of hours, and we have set in a broad spectrum of antibiotics, as there seem to be a small infection in his body. He'll be on crutches for a while, which will be difficult considering he'll only have one arm, not to mention the strain it will put on his ribs, so you shouldn't expect much mobility from him. Are you his boss?"
"Yes." Hotchner said.
"I'm putting him on sick leave for at least two months, and after that we'll see."
"Can we see him?" Elle asked.
"He's in recovery now, but will be moved into the psychiatric ward in an hour or so."
The team exploded.
Doctor Lindstrom seemed surprised by their strong reactions. "It's standard procedure. When a patient presents with this type of self-inflicted wounds, he or she is always put under suicide watch."
"Doctor, have you been briefed about his history?" Gideon asked.
"Only that he was a kidnap victim that managed to escape."
"That's right. And that wound was his escape plan. He had to cut his own wrist to escape a pair of handcuffs, so that he could save the little boy that was being held captive with him."
The doctor paled. "The Fairmount kidnapper?" she asked.
Gideon nodded. "Please, doctor, you must change his orders. Letting Reid wake up in the psychiatric ward could be disastrous."
Doctor Lindstrom nodded. "I'll have him moved to a regular ward. Someone will be by to let you know when you can see him."
"Thank you doctor."
As the doctor left, Gideon turned to his team. "No one tells Reid about this."
They all agreed.
Waking up was never Reid's favorite part of the day, and today was no different. His mouth was dry and his body felt stiff, as if he had lain in the same position too long. He heard sounds around him, and took a little time to identify them before opening his eyes. Pen strokes on paper, keystrokes on a computer, a muted TV, some other scraping sound he could not decipher. He slowly opened his eyes, blinking a little.
He was in a hospital room, and he was not alone. The rest of the BAU had apparently moved in too. He had a distant memory of seeing them all last night, but between painkillers and fatigue, he had no real memory of what had been said or done.
He was in a semi-private room, but the other bed held no patient. Instead Elle and JJ had made camp there. They sat opposite each other with their computers set up on a table between them. Hotchner sat in a chair by the other wall scribbling on a legal pad. Gideon sat next to him. He had his legs stretched out in front of him, his arms crossed over his chest, head leaned back and eyes closed, though Reid could not tell whether or not he was asleep. Morgan sat in a chair by Reid's bedside. He had his feet up on the bed and was watching a basketball match on TV. The unidentified sound came from the Jell-O jar he was scraping out with a plastic spoon.
"Isn't that supposed to be for me?" Reid asked, making Morgan jump and take his feet down.
"Oh, you're awake." He looked at the empty cup in his hand. "I could get you another."
Reid shook his head. "Water?"
Morgan raised the head of the bed up to get Reid into a sitting position. He then took a cup with a straw from the bedside table and filled it, and helped Reid hold the cup as he drank.
"What are you all doing here?" Reid asked.
"The case is pretty much wrapped up, and we've done all we can here. The rest is up to the sheriff and Dammers." Hotchner explained. "They want us back at Quantico, so we're flying back tonight, but Gideon will stay with you."
"You don't have to stay," Reid said immediately.
"I know," Gideon replied smiling. "But I'm staying,"
"So, what's going on with the case?" Reid asked, trying to hide his pleasure at Gideon's answer.
"Mason, or Norwood, whatever you want to call him, has clammed up completely," Elle said. "But we're hoping for a confession, to spare us all a long trial. Otherwise the physical evidence from the house is plentiful, they have found all the victims' fingerprints in the basement and in the bathroom."
"I'll testify if it's needed," Reid offered.
"We figured as much," Morgan replied.
"You should make sure he gets a psychiatric evaluation too, I think I saw some evidence of split personality disorder."
"I'll tell Dammers," Elle promised.
"You've become a bona fide hero," JJ said.
"I have?" Reid said in surprise.
"Absolutely," she smiled. "The Sanders are singing your praise world wide, and so is Dammers."
"Yes, she is really impressed with you," Elle said. "She's been having a hard time with the press though. She's basically being crucified for not bringing us in sooner. Especially by the other victims' parents."
"But me being kidnapped was a coincidence," Reid said. "We might not have found the unsub otherwise."
"We know that, but it looks very different to those grieving," Gideon said. "This whole town has a very long healing process ahead of it."
"Reid, we need to talk to you about something," Hotchner said.
Reid hung his head and fiddled with the blanket beneath his hand, expecting a rebuke.
"On this case you have," Hotchner continued, "conducted yourself in a dignified and mature manner beyond your service years. You have gone above and beyond your duty and shown an awe-inspiring sense of responsibility, courage and compassion. The bureau is grateful to have you."
Reid was gaping, his cheeks burning hot. "But… but I thought…." he stammered
"We're all mighty proud of you, Reid," Gideon said.
"Yeah," Morgan chimed in, "Remember, you're braver than you believe, and stronger than you seem, and smarter than you think."
Reid looked at him with his eyebrows raised. "Isn't that a quote from Winnie the Pooh?" he asked.
Morgan looked embarrassed. "It's still valid," he said as Elle cuffed him lightly on the head.
"Anyway," Hotchner said. "The important thing here is for all of us to remember that a crime can be blamed on nobody but the criminal. And that means that no one here is at fault. No one," he said a little sharper, looking at Morgan.
Reid looked between them, his eyes widening when he caught the implication. "No, no, no," he said, turning to Morgan. "If this isn't my fault, it cannot possibly be your fault, that's just illogical."
"But I sent…."
"You asked me to go get food, Morgan. That's all."
"No buts, Morgan," Reid said harshly. "This isn't your fault. Live with it."
Morgan couldn't find any argument to contradict him, which made him slowly come to terms with the truth in his friends' words. He knew the feelings would live on, at least for a while, but he now knew how to deal with them and he was grateful.
There was a knock at the door and the team turned to see Bailey and Mrs. Sanders standing in the open door. Mrs. Sanders stayed at the door, but Bailey wasn't the slightest bit unsure of his welcome. He marched right into the room and clambered up on the chair Morgan had vacated and from there he climbed up on the bed, making Elle scramble to move all tubes and wires out of the way. Reid shifted to make room for the boy who sat crossed-legged at his side.
"Hi Spencer," he said.
"Hi Bailey." Reid was pleasantly surprised to hear Bailey talking.
The boy held a gray and white stuffed dog in his hand. He put it on Reid's stomach and let it walk up his chest until it hit Reid's chin.
"This is Pox," he informed Reid.
"Yes, Daddy bought him for me when I had the chicken pox. You can kiss him if you want."
"Oh. Okay," Reid said and pressed a somewhat embarrassed kiss on the stuffed head.
Bailey looked around, clearly annoyed. "Where is your teddy bear?"
"I don't have one."
Bailey frowned. "But you have to have a teddy bear when you're in the hospital, to keep you company at night, my Daddy says so."
The adults in the room all hid their smiles, as Bailey himself was very serious.
"Don't worry, Bailey, I'll make sure he has a teddy bear before he goes to sleep tonight," Morgan said.
Bailey flinched a little when the man spoke and moved closer to Reid, but he seemed pleased with the offer.
Morgan signaled for the rest of the team to follow him out, to give Reid and Bailey time alone. The last thing they heard was Bailey saying, "Guess what, grandma is baking oatmeal cookies for you too, so I can come back and visit you tomorrow too."
Gideon and Mrs. Sanders stayed in the door to keep an eye on their charges as the rest of the team went to the gift shop to find the perfect teddy bear for Reid.
"How's he doing?" Gideon asked.
Mrs. Sanders sighed. "He's doing well, I suppose. It's still so fresh, though. We had our first meeting with a child psychologist today, and it went well. He won't go anywhere without keeping me or my husband in sight, and both he and his sister seem to have moved in permanently in our bedroom. And at the moment I'm glad to have them. You must know how very grateful we are to have our son back."
"What that young man did for our son, we can never repay him for that."
"He wouldn't expect you to even try." Gideon said. "Can I ask you for a favor?"
"Of course," Mrs. Sanders agreed. "Anything."
"I think it would be good for both Reid and Bailey if they were to keep in touch."
That night found Reid soundly asleep in his hospital bed, watched over by a panda teddy bear named Einstein and Gideon snoring in the next bed.
Author's Notes: Well, that was the end of my little writing experiment. Thank you all for indulging me. And many thanks to all my wonderfully kind reviewers.