The Nature of Nurture
The team sat round the table as Jennifer Jareau handed out another set of crime scene photos
"The local PD called us in when the third murders were discovered. George and Ellen Marcus. As you can see from these pictures, the MO is the same."
"When were they discovered?" Aaron Hotchner looked up from the picture in his hand.
"Two hours ago. They had been dead for 6 hours, so the murder took place at about 3 this morning."
Spencer Reid did not look up. "How does that compare with the first two?"
"Philip and Catherine Harling were killed seven days ago. Exactly one week ago. John and Sonia Ashley a week before that. Same day, the same time of day."
Hotch stood up. "We leave in 15 minutes. We can talk on the jet. Let's not waste any time."
The jet was comfortable and warm, but as usual, none of the occupants felt either. The pictures they had spread out on the table between them induced anything but.
"In all three cases the woman was killed about an hour before her husband. He was made to watch from a chair, tied with zip ties." JJ was looking away from the pictures. She'd seen enough of them. "She was strangled and raped; he died of blunt force trauma to the head."
Reid looked puzzled. "Strangled and raped? Not raped and strangled?"
"The local PD thinks that in both cases, she was strangled into unconsciousness first." "That could be a signature." said Derek Morgan.
"Lets see the crime scene first before we make any snap judgments," warned Hotch.
"But it's certainly unusual." commented Emily Prentiss, "I've not come across that before."
"Then the husband is tied to his dead wife," continued JJ. "Raped and killed lying next to her."
Reid was studying the pictures carefully "That shows a sadistic tendency."
"Reid, I want you to look at the victimology. There has to be more connecting them than the fact that they were married. Emily, see if there are any other crimes with similar MO's. Garcia will help you on that.JJ, make contact with the PD and find a place to set up, and then work with Emily. Morgan, you and I will go to the crime scene while it is still fresh."
"I'll come to the scene with you to take a look at how they lived. It'll give me a good start in the victimology." Reid put down the photo he was holding and looked across at Hotch. Hotch inclined his head slightly. He never wasted words.
"Local PD has kept the scene clear for us." JJ said.
"OK," Hotch stood up and moved to the back of the plane, "Let's get some rest before we arrive. We'll be there in about 45 minutes." Hotch sat down and closed his eyes.
Reid took a small palm-top out of his satchel and began another game of chess. After 2 minutes he snapped it shut in frustration.
"You lose again?" grinned Emily.
"No. I won again." Reid put the computer away and took out a book. Emily tilted her head so that she could read the title.
"'Advanced Computer Chess.' Oh I see!" She stood up and went to sit with JJ. She hated this time, waiting to get to a scene. She was not one for idle chitchat, but at least JJ would be company.
Hotch, Morgan and Reid looked around the bedroom. The two bodies had been moved, but everything else was as the killer left it.
There was very little blood, except where the husband had had his skull smashed.
"This is interesting," Reid said as he picked up a pamphlet from the side table.
Hotch walked across and stood behind him. Reid glanced up at him and showed him what he had found. "Marriage counseling." He handed the pamphlet to Hotch.
Hotch flicked through the pages until he came to a circled phone number. He handed it back to Reid.
"Check the first two crime scenes." Reid took out his mobile and left the bedroom. Hotch turned to Morgan. "Anything?"
"I think there was more than one Unsub." He looked around the room. "One person working alone could have done this, but this chair," he pointed to a chair that was placed beside the one that the husband was tied to, "is from another room."
"It was brought in here for someone else to sit on, and watch."
"Yeah. This sicko brought an audience with him."
"See if it was the same at the Harling and Ashley homes."
Reid had come back into the room. "The Harlings and Ashleys were having marriage problems too. They attended the same therapy unit." Reid put his phone away.
"Reid, you and Morgan pay them a visit. We'll meet back at the PD. We're done here."
Reid and Morgan left together, Morgan on his mobile.
Hotch looked round the room again, sighed, turned and left, closing the door gently behind him, as if to shut the images out of his mind.
"I'm sorry, but we can't reveal the names of our clients. It's…"
Morgan didn't give her time to finish. "Your dead clients!" he shouted over her, getting startled looks from the couple in the waiting area. Reid discreetly moved in front of him. "Er. Is there somewhere private we could...um...talk to you?"
Morgan shot him a look, but said nothing.
The woman smiled at Reid, and ignored Morgan. "Yes of course. Through here."
She led them through to a small office with a tiny window, a desk with a computer terminal, and a chair either side of the desk. She went behind the desk and booted up the computer. Morgan sat down on the other chair. Reid stood by the door.
She looked straight at Reid. "Did he say dead?"
"The Ashleys were killed two weeks ago, the Marcus's last Monday night, and the Harlings last night. We need to check to see if any of these couples were coming here for counseling."
"I don't know if I should give you this information," Morgan leaned forward, trying to intimidate her. She ignored him, continued speaking directly to Reid. "But under the circumstances,"
She reached across to the printer and retrieved a print-out, and handed it to Reid. He glanced at it and handed it to Morgan. Reid could see he was getting annoyed.
"Please could we have a list of any assistants who work here on the days that these couples came here, particularly those who attended the sessions."
"The sessions are private, actually, no-one sits ion on them." She scrolled through the list on her screen. "Oh! Just a minute, there was a gentleman who sits in on all the Monday sessions. He's a student, studying sociology." She pulled a sheet of paper towards her, and wrote on it. "Benton Cross. A very personable man. I remember his voice, so quiet and gentle."
Reid let Morgan take the paper off her.
"Thank you for your co-operation, Miss...er."
"Julie" she smiled.
"Julie…yes, thank you."
Reid turned and left the room, Morgan followed, but only after shooting an angry glance at Julie.
"Stupid woman." Morgan muttered as soon as they were out of earshot.
Reid considered whether or not to get into an argument with Morgan over it, and decided not to. Logic would never win an argument with anger.
"Come hither, Sweet Prince. How may I honor thee?"
Morgan switched his phone to speaker. "I have a name for you. Find all you can. Benton Cross, mature student of sociology."
"You need wait no longer, Princey.
"Benton Cross, aged 32, lost his mother when he was 7 in suspicious circumstances. Father by all accounts brutalized his son for three years, when social services took him into care.
"And...there's a brother. Identical twin called Wesley. Brain damaged at birth, suffers with cerebral palsy and has a mental age of 12.
"Both been in juvey for peeping and later detained for attempted rape. Benton did 6 years and Wesley 3. Father died of alcohol poisoning 3 years ago."
"Can you see what kind of marriage his parents had?"
"Seemed Ok at first. Started to go wrong after the twins were born. She was admitted to hospital twice for injuries sustained….wait for it….walking into a door. Right, so you can fracture your skull by walking into a door!"
"Were charges ever brought?" Emily asked.
"No. She stuck to her rather stupid story. What's wrong with these women?" Garcia shook her head in wonderment.
"And he's a student?"
"Indeed he is. His social worker said, and I quote, 'This young man is turning his life around. It shows that it is never too late.'"
"Do you have a current address?"
"Sure do, Babe. Coming to you now."
Morgan smiled. "You never let me down, princess."
Garcia smiled as she broke the connection.
"Lets go." Said Hotch, already out of the door.
"FBI. Open the door!" Give them the benefit of the doubt, though Hotch would have been surprised if there had been an answer. He stepped back and nodded to Morgan, who did his thing and kicked the door down.
The agents checked each room in turn, no sign of Cross.
"I don't think he's been here for a while," Emily commented, "The food in the fridge has gone off, and look at this dust."
"Probably since he started killing. He doesn't want to be found." Reid said, "So where has he been living for the last two weeks?"
"They." said Morgan, coming down the stairs. "There are two bedrooms, both been lived in."
"Well he's not here." Hotch sighed. "Let's get back and work up a profile. We have enough information, and it may tell us where they've gone to hide."
"There's no need." said the cop in charge of the case. "There's something better than a profile in the interview room."
"He came in about an hour ago." JJ explained as they made their way to the viewing room. "Claims he's Wesley Cross."
They looked at the man sitting on the other side of the glass. JJ handed them the picture of Cross that Garcia had sent them.
"He's really scared." said JJ. "He could hardly speak when he came in."
"I'll talk to him. Join me, Reid." Hotch with Reid following, went into the room.
Wesley looked up at them in fear. "Benny frightened me. He hurts people. I thought he would hurt me."
Hotch sat down opposite him. The table had been taken out of the room. He leaned forwards and made eye contact.
"Wesley, did Benny hurt you?"
"No. Just scared me. He hurts people. He hurt that lady and man. He made me watch." Tears were streaming down Wesley's face. "He made me be in the dark. I don't like the dark."
Reid stepped forward. "You are safe now. He can't hurt you now. We won't let you be in the dark."
Reid stretched out his hand, hesitated and withdrew it. "Have you had something to eat?" Wesley shook his head. "I'll get you something."
"I'll be back in a minute." Hotch followed Reid out of the room.
"We can't talk to him here. He needs to get back to the BAU."
"We've maybe got a week if Cross sticks to Monday nights." Morgan said, "If!"
"Let's hope so. Reid, you return to the BAU with me, the rest of you, work a profile, and see what you can get here. We'll relay anything we get to Morgan."
On the jet, Reid was playing with his palm top again. This chess program was worse than useless. He could beat it every time. He made a mental note to ask Garcia to write him a program that worked 'outside the box'. Again he snapped it shut. "You want coffee Hotch?"
Hotch looked up from the case file. "Yes please, but go easy on the sugar. Hayley's been on at me about getting tubby." H went back to the file, smiling.
Wesley gave Reid a nervous smile. "Er…yes please. I don't have sugar." He got up and limped behind Reid.
Wesley took his cup, and Hotch's. "Can I take this too him?" He was like a little boy, trying to please. Reid knew what that felt like. It had defined his whole life.
"Sure." Reid sat back down and sipped his coffee. The sugar rush made him edgy. He wanted to discuss the case. "Hotch…"
Hotch was asleep.
"H-how long until we land?" Wesley asked. "I don't like this."
Reid resisted the impulse to give him the statistics of airplane travel safety, and stood up.
"I'll go ask the pilot."
Reid stepped towards the curtain. He thought he heard a sound behind him, but before he could turn around, Wesley Cross had his hands around Reid's throat.
Reid pulled at his hands to try to pull him off, but the grip was too strong. He felt Cross's thumbs pressed into the base of his skull, pushing his head forward, preventing any chance of crying out. Desperately he tried to kick at the bulkhead, make a noise to waken Hotch. He felt his feet leave the floor. His arms became heavy and fell to his sides. His eyes rolled upwards and Wesley Cross let go. Reid fell to the floor. Hotch didn't move.
Wesley nudged Reid with his foot. Nothing.
He walked over to Hotch, and shook him gently. Nothing.
He picked the laptop up from the table, and swung it at Hotch, hitting him hard in the temple. There was a crack as his skull splintered, and blood began to flow. Hotch slumped sideways on the seat, blood running into his eyes and hair.
Wesley smiled and went to find the pilot.