(Sequel to The In-Between Times)
By Helena Fallon
Disclaimer: This is a work of fan fiction and there is no intention of infringement of copyright of the Criminal Minds series. I have borrowed some Criminal Minds characters to play alongside some I have invented but I do claim the copy right of the characters I have taken care to create and research.
In memory of Helen Rinaldi who wrote an occasional journal over the course of her final decade. This journal revealed her inner thoughts, her observations of the continent where she was then living and all the little things she felt that she couldn't trouble her friends with. For her friends, who finally got to read these very personal entries, it reminded us of the wonderful person we had once laughed and cried alongside, whose belief in the goodness of humanity outshone the pain of her final years.
It was almost 1:30 when Spencer walked through the glass doors of Fairfax Estates and entered the elegantly designed reception area with its champagne coloured walls and light oak floor that complimented the gentian blue leather seating, light oak furnishings and tall green foliage. There were no flowers because Glenda, one of the receptionists, suffered from hayfever. There were several paintings on the walls that on closer inspection a viewer would find that they were limited edition JEM prints of the Blue Ridge Mountains.
Glenda greeted Spencer with a radiant smile, "Hello Spencer, Jo will be surprised she's working in her office and has no appointments all afternoon," she told the young man who she thought was looking a little subdued. But then she dismissed the idea and put it down to the dismal colours he was wearing that day; grey slacks, grey wool jacket, black cashmere v necked vest over a leaf green shirt and topped off with a silver grey tie with a tiny green hexagonal design. Glenda always thought he looked better in deep reds and blues but he did have a liking for greens and browns…
"Thanks Glenda," he said as he turned to the left and tapped on the second door he came to.
"Come!" a familiar voice summoned but Spencer's stomach turned with the rising doubt over how she would respond to his news.
He entered and closed the door behind him and saw Jo over by the window perched on her stool over a sloping artist's desk that displayed plans of an apartment layout. She looked up and the smile was instantly on her face and then became more guarded as she picked up his mood.
"Spencer…somethings wrong…What's happened?"
He took a deep breath and thought he would just get it over with.
"I've been seconded to Maryland to work with the 'Crimes Against Children Unit," he said but his intense eyes never left hers as he was trying to read her reaction, every nuance was under scrutiny.
Jo slipped off the stool and made her way over to him and just stood before him, staring into his eyes with her own steady dark orbs.
"Can I come with you?" she simply asked and Spencer felt the tension over flow.
He reached and hugged her close revelling in the normality of the hint of the jasmine perfume she wore.
He whispered into her dark curls, "You'll come…I want you to be with me…It's not the easiest of assignments, none of us like things where children are involved."
Jo hugged him and thought she could feel him shaking a little as she slipped her arms under the jacket and rubbed the cashmere clad back.
"Were you thinking of leaving me behind?" she challenged looking into his face.
"I know we'd discussed the possibility of moving but it's finally happened and …I didn't dare think too deeply if you wanted to change your mind with the reality…"
"Spencer," she said firmly, "I'm going with you…When?"
"I've got to report to Katie Cole on Monday morning."
Her eyes widened, "Don't give you much time to sort out accommodation!"
"I've just got to see her then I don't know when I will actually start," he replied but Jo noted the tone of apology.
"Well, it's close and I can get to work here and there are some nice places…"
There was a knock on the door. Jo let go of Spencer but he didn't like feeling the loss of her warmth. "Come!" she called.
Jeff Bevan walked in looking a little apprehensive, "Where?" he asked without preamble and Spencer was pleased for the bluntness and closeness of this family.
"Oh Uncle Jeff, it's only the Maryland office…"
He grinned, "Oh that's good we'll soon find you a safe place to live, we do have properties in the Maryland commuting areas,"
Marilyn slipped in to join them. "Did I hear Maryland. Shall we take a look at what's available? I know we have some nice places there because I chose them myself," the Aunt said softly and Spencer sensed the invisible family ties wrap around him and he felt a little more settled for the first time that day.
The two women disappeared to the far corner of the room where Jo had her computer and they were quickly reviewing the stock of property available.
"Is it permanent?" Jeff asked.
"No, it's a secondment to cover for maternity leave. I'll be working under a woman I've worked with before and she's very good but her deputy is expecting in 6 months time. She has type1 diabetes so the doctors are very careful with her…"
Jeff smiled, "So you're keeping your apartment in Alexandria then?"
"Of course! The psych department at Quantico say they're going to call on me to help with psych evaluations so I'll need it. Besides, I've finally got it how I want it…Typical really...took me five years to decorate and furnish it to how I want and then I get moved!" Spencer grumbled but he was grinning because Jo had said she was going with him and suddenly the world had stopped spinning crazily and he felt more in control of things again. What was it that Gideon had written…'A profiler needs to have a solid footing' …Spencer knew that for him Jo was definitely part of his foundations for coping with the job.
"So whereabouts is the office?" Jeff asked and was pleased that Spencer and Jo were staying together. The family saw them as a stable couple and he and Marilyn looked upon them as like their own children.
"College Park," Spencer replied still watching his Jo beside her Aunt at the computer.
"Not Baltimore?" said Jo looking up and a little puzzled, "I thought it would be Baltimore…"
"No, the Crimes Against Children Unit is based in College Park…why?" and saw two beaming women staring at him. The family likeness was all too evident, the broad open face of the Petersen stamp although Marilyn had the blond hair of her Nordic ancestry while her older brother had passed on the very dark brown Italian hair to his son and daughter.
"Oh College Park is a nice area and very easy to get to Washington from there because it has it's own station with the metro link. Then there's the Interstate 95 so it's easy to get back to Alexandria…Just like a man not to think of those things!" Marilyn said with a teasing tone, "We have a couple of developments in Berwyn Heights and three houses there, it's a nice little town. But College Park itself is pleasant and we have a several apartments there but I think they are all taken at the moment by university lecturers."
"Yes, we do have some very nice property there," agreed Jeff, "Mmm…it may be a tough placement but the area has its compensations," continued Jeff but Spencer was observing the women plotting the re-location, he didn't mind about where he lived just as long as Jo was with him.
"Let's leave them to it, lets go and ring Margaret and tell her your news, she'll soon tell everyone else…" Jeff invited and they slipped out into his office and Jeff went to get him some coffee while Spencer told Margaret Petersen about the changes to come.
Spencer's self-doubt concerning his relationship was soon totally dispelled, as everyone else in the Petersen family seemed to naturally think that Jo would be going with him. In fact, Spencer realised that if he had not asked Jo to go with him then the family would have been disappointed and worried that there were problems between the young couple. While at the office, Alan rang to talk about the new posting and to wish him well saying that it was quite an easy drive to that part of Maryland so he and Margaret would be visiting once they were settled. Alan also realised that the work would be emotionally demanding but the judge advised Spencer to make sure that he left the work at the office when he went home. Spencer acknowledged the good sense of Jo's father counsel and it added another pillar of stability to his world. Gideon may have moved on but so had Spencer's world since his time in the Clinic. In fact Gideon was no longer central to his world like in the past. The other team members obviously thought that Gideon's desertion of the BAU was a personal loss to the genius but it was not as devastating as it would have been before he had met Jo and the rest of her family. The Petersens and the Bevans were part of his other off duty world now and one that held more stability for Spencer Reid than Jason Gideon had ever done. He hoped Gideon was safe and he cared about his welfare but Spencer felt that their relationship had been evolving to a more mature level of respected colleagues before he had suddenly left.
Melinda rang and chatted and also assured Spencer that they would still visit and the children would look upon it as an adventure to go somewhere new. Spencer began to feel more at ease as this family gathered him into its bosom, he had always longed for this feeling of belonging to a strong family unit and now he felt the safety net of this one catch him and he felt loved for who he was.
Marilyn and Jeff insisted that the Maryland apartment, or house they chose for the duration of his placement, was going to be effectively rent free as a perk of Jo's continued employment with the company. It was very generous and would enable the pair to save a good portion of their salaries for perhaps a future vacation and the Petersens hoped a house together at some stage. They decided to go and view a few properties the next day, as long as it was in a safe area and had enough space for Jo to paint, neither of them seemed to be very bothered about the actual property. Jeff shook his head amused at the young couple but the pair obviously viewed Alexandria as their real home.
Meanwhile, Aaron Hotchner was enjoying a Friday at home preparing for his new challenge. The things he had packed up from his BAU office were carefully placed in the attic room awaiting his return he firmly told himself.
Max had rung him at 7 a.m. to tell him of Gideon's departure and Reid's actions. He asked Max to call him when he knew what was going to happen with the BAU now that Gideon was no longer in the picture and decided to get up and have an early breakfast. Hayley had quickly fallen back to sleep after Max's call but for Hotch once awake it was difficult to just lie there.
"What happened to having a lazy day?" Hayley asked as he came down from the attic stairs.
"I got woken by Max's call and then I decided to put those things I'd brought from the BAU upstairs…I thought they would be better stowed up there than in the garage. Do you have any plans for today?" he asked to imply his intention to spend time with the family.
"You are sure that you're not going to be called in to help with the BAU again?" Hayley asked suspiciously, especially after the recent Milwaukee case.
"Look, the changes are being implemented now. From Monday I'm based at the Washington office. There will be no travelling around the country at a moments notice although there may be the occasional working dinner to press home the Bureau's position," he said and walked over to Hayley to put his arms around her.
"The good bit is that I get to be home every night even if I can't guarantee the time," he added as he hugged her.
"What do you think is going to happen to the BAU now Gideon has resigned?" Hayley pressed because she knew he worried about the younger agents.
"I don't know but they will be under some stress because the Director had no intention of going easy on Strauss."
"Well she deserves to be taught a lesson," Hayley replied loyally.
"She didn't understand the nature of the work and had a glimpse of it in Milwaukee and it distressed her. She'll not forget that experience and, to be honest, I hope it gives her a few sleepless nights because she deserves them with how she has treated people," Hotch said firmly and Hayley hugged him knowing that this woman had been unreasonable and totally crossed her husband. Aaron didn't usually react so strongly against people unless they had done something he considered to be totally unfair.
"Daddee!" Jack shouted as he appeared on the landing in his sleep suit. Both parents broke apart and smiled back at his delighted grin to see his father there.
"Daddee play!" he ordered.
"Jack we've got to get you dressed and have breakfast …then we play," Hotch said gathering up his son and pushed away his worries about his former colleagues.
The rest of the day for the Hotchners was spent in the routine world of shopping and play. Aaron was more than happy to kick a ball around the park with Jack while Hayley organised lunch. A sudden shower of rain meant that the afternoon plans became concentrated upon indoor play but water play at the kitchen sink with various plastic cups, spoons and boats kept Jack happy for a good two hours before he pronounced that he was sleepy. Hayley mopped the floor and when she returned to the living room found her husband crashed out on the sofa watching a trashy ancient film.
"Aaron!" she laughed.
He looked up sheepishly, "Jeez Hayley, I never thought I'd feel so tired playing and supervising Jack…" he admitted but Hayley looked on sympathetically knowing that the intensity of the past few months had finally taken their toll on the man.
"Is there enough room for me?" she asked with twinkling eyes and Aaron moved over and they sat together laughing the afternoon away with an appalling film because they didn't want anything too demanding.
At a little after 6 o'clock Hotchner's cell sounded and Hayley gave him a bemused look as he took his cell and headed for the study.
"Hotch you asked me to ring with news of the BAU when things were more settled," said Max.
"Yeah, what's happening, and how is Reid?"
"Reid has been seconded to cover maternity leave at the CACU, under Katie Cole, it's her deputy who's taking the leave. It will be good experience for him but I also have Arthur at College Park twice a week because they have had cuts with the psych department at the complex there. Would you believe the lead psych and his deputy were retired at the same time and I couldn't persuade either to stay a little longer…you see the stress gets to us too!"
Hotch sighed at the news, "That's a tough placement but he got on well with Katie when we worked that Peter case with her. How did the rest of the team take it with Gideon going as well?"
"They were more concerned about the effect of Gideon abandoning Reid and were not expecting him to be re-deployed. I went down to the BAU in the afternoon and they were all pretty subdued. Barry reckons that they were shocked that it was Reid who was moved and they were very surprised when it filtered back that he would be covering for Katie's deputy. It pulled Morgan up a bit because he saw that management was obviously continuing Reid's training even if other agents were left treading water. Prentiss was interesting because she thought it was a very tough assignment and didn't envy Reid but she said to me that it would do the genius good to get away from the BAU for a bit and develop his own reputation. She's a thoughtful woman with a lot of sense when it comes to managing other agents, I think she might be good as a deputy with another unit."
"You don't see Morgan as management material?"
"He has got to curb that need to be the all action agent and quieten down. He's impatient and would get very frustrated with the management meetings and the politics whereas Prentiss has seen all that as the child of diplomats and its all second nature to her."
"Yes, I agree but Morgan may not like it if he doesn't get the opportunities like the others…" replied Hotch who understood all too well what Max was saying.
"Liquid tends to find its own level, Hotch, the coming months having to work on their own in the field will be a challenge to both Prentiss and Morgan. Barry has been warned that he may be pulled back into field work."
"How did he take that?" Hotch asked because he knew that he had enjoyed the field work with the old team under Gideon.
"Barry just nodded and said that at least he had the experience of being trained by Gideon and he'd never forgotten the work. Barry is good with people that is why he manages that bullpen well so Strauss won't want him out of the office too much. The thinking at the moment is that Barry will head the initial briefing of cases and he will choose the agent to be sent out to a case. I know Morgan and Barry clashed when he worked with the team, while Reid was on sick leave, but he's a very experienced profiler and the senior now even if Morgan didn't like his style of doing things."
"I hope Morgan doesn't make waves because he's not automatically sent out…"
"Yes…I think Barry is very aware of Morgan's temperament, but it will be his job to choose the agent most appropriate to the case and not the one whose feeling 'stir-crazy' because he's been confined to the office for weeks," Max assured.
"I don't envy Barry's position now. I'm the one who persuaded him to stay with the BAU because he could be relied upon to keep things running smoothly while I was away with the team," confessed Hotch.
"I know and he will still be trying to keep the place running smoothly until you get back!"
"So there are no plans to replace Gideon then?"
"No…the Director meant it…Strauss has annoyed too many people and she is being given enough rope to show him what she can do…"
"She's not going to cope," Hotch said alarmed.
"It will soon become apparent to her and then she will have to ask for help won't she…People don't want the BAU, it's one of the most demanding units and the experienced career agents need some profiling in their backgrounds even to be considered for such a position. There are very few out there and they don't want the hassle of it at the moment with the cuts…Anyway that's it for now."
"Anything about Gideon?" Hotch asked hoping that Max was using his contacts to keep a track on the depressed man.
"He's been spotted driving through Pennsylvania, probably heading to see Stephen."
"Yeah, that would make sense. I wish he had personally said 'goodbye' to Reid but at least he left him a letter." Hotch said and hoped Reid was coping but he didn't want to ring him because he felt he had enough to sort out over the coming days. Hotch also believed that Reid needed to feel that he had the strength to cope without his old colleagues interfering at every hurdle.
"Reid will be all right, the Petersens are a good family and Jo will go with him even if he doubts himself…she will be with him," said Max firmly.
"I've never met her so I don't know…"
"I know her parents and they would have been very careful with whom their daughter mixed with after her brush with death. Craig Petersen wouldn't introduce his sister to any man he hadn't first personally vetted…"
"Oh…very protective of her…"
"Exactly, the New York boyfriend dropped her because she wasn't perfect after the attack and it took a few years for her to get her confidence back…But you ought to make a point of meeting her. I'm going to have them over for one of our dinners just before Christmas."
" I told Reid that I would invite them over here once we were all settled into the new routine," Hotch replied and felt that he must not let that opportunity slip away and decided that by the end of January they would be over for a meal.
"Good idea, Hotch…We'll have to exchange notes!" said Max with a mischievous tone to his voice and Hotch knew that Max would do no such thing because he respected his guests far too much to gossip about them behind their backs."
Hotch laughed, "Right as if you would but I am really looking forward to meeting Jo because the few times that Reid spoke about her he just sounded so happy."
"Yes, that is why I'm hoping he'll cope with this secondment," Hotch then heard a female voice tell Max that the meal was being put on the table…"I've got to go my dinner's ready and we have a daughter sitting down with us for once…Goodnight Hotch."
"'Night Max and thank you," said Hotch and the line went dead. He didn't like the changes to his unit but this was the sort of thing that happened when financial cuts had to be implemented.
"Everything all right?" Hayley asked quietly from the study door.
"Yeah, nothing I can alter at this moment," he replied and smiled at her. Hotch was going to make the most of this weekend with his family before his new work began on Monday.
The night closed in and Gideon saw that there was a Motel ahead; he knew that he needed to stop and get some rest. He had been driving most of the day through Pennsylvania vaguely heading north trying to escape the encroaching blackness that was trying to overtake the grey that was now his world. He parked, signed in and found the room small but clean. There was a small diner attached to the Motel that sold equally plain but wholesome food that was cooked by the wife and daughter of the owner.
He sat in his room and hoped that Spencer would forgive him but he just didn't have the emotional strength to say goodbye to his face. He had not wanted to see Spencer's enormous expressive eyes shining their concern his way. No, Gideon knew he had to cut loose and try and piece his life together again before the job totally consumed him. Since Sarah's death he had found it difficult to respond to others who had tried to include him into their lives. It sounded so selfish to reject their concern in this way but sometimes the hurt was so deep that you had to get well away from those that reminded you of the very thing that had destroyed your happy world. He couldn't even go back to the BAU to clear his office but he suspected that Hotch would take care of that and his things would be stowed away for him. Gideon didn't even want the photographs that reminded him of his successes, not at that moment, because they reminded him of the job, the job that had been instrumental in Sarah's death. If he had not been a profiler, if he had not originally let Frank go for the children…then none of what happened would have come about and he would have retired to be with Sarah.
The myriad of colours that had filled the days shared with Sarah were now gone, it was now all a grey world to him, everything around him seemed without the vibrant colours of life and diversity of the world. He lay on the bed but the darkness in the room was entering his inner word too and he had to fight that, he had to see Stephen first and try and make amends.
Gideon remembered how well he had got on with Sarah's sons. They had each made a point of telling him after her funeral how happy their Mom had been with him and it was those memories that they hoped he would treasure as much as her children would. It had made Jason Gideon feel very humble, they seemed to be eager to include him in their lives even if Gideon felt the guilt heavily in his heart for their mother's death.
'Guilt'... he thought about the guilt he was now drowning in. He prayed that Spencer would have the maturity to understand why he couldn't face him with his departure. He had been planning it during his suspension but he had kept up appearances for the psych team and Spencer. It had been a long week; the Monday had been spent finishing the packing up and labelling boxes at the cabin ready for them to be taken into store to join the things from his apartment. He had acted the part for the inquiry, the confident profiler never doubting his profile but he had his doubts and Morgan reminded him of the thin line between confidence and arrogance when you occupied a senior profiler position. He just couldn't face the work anymore; it had destroyed so much of his life that he had to get away before it totally claimed him as one of its victims. In a way he was already a victim, the job had destroyed one marriage, helped to end other tentative friendships and ruined the possibility of another long term relationship in the most brutal manner imaginable…Jason Gideon knew that he was just holding on to his sanity.
Gideon wondered what would happen to the BAU with the financial cuts but whatever unfolded he was sure that Hotch would keep the team together…they were a talented group and Strauss would not break them. He knew Spencer would be all right because he had Jo in his life and she was a steady woman, not the flashy type but she had worked out what she thought was worth fighting for in her world. Gideon smiled to himself, she was quite feisty and had the strength to cope with the absences that came with Spencer's work.
Spencer had grown up since the Clinic. …Gideon thought about all the mistakes he had made when the young genius had returned to them and yet Spencer still had the forgiveness in him to want Gideon to be helped and not punished for those mistakes. Gideon hoped that Spencer would never lose that compassion but the job might destroy it…Perhaps if Jo stayed in his life then she would keep their world together as a fortress against the evil that the sensitive genius would experience in his work. Gideon hoped that would be so…he wanted them to have a happy ending…he wanted to believe in happy endings once more in his world before the encroaching blackness engulfed him forever.
Hayley and Hotch had managed to keep their relationship alive with warmth and understanding. Gideon knew that Spencer observed Hotch and admired his leadership qualities…in fact, they had always worked very well together… 'Yes,' thought Gideon, 'He would not be missed because the working partnership between Hotch and Spencer would keep things on an even keel despite the troubled waters the BAU was sailing in.'
Spencer and Jo had returned to Alexandria armed with the knowledge of 4 properties in the Fairfax Estates portfolio that they could visit tomorrow. It was all arranged that they would collect the keys from the small College Park office in the morning and tour the area and properties as they wished. On the way home, Spencer had told her in more detail about what had happened in the morning and how he had been unsure about her reaction. She shook her head in disbelief but their world was changing and it was being challenged by external influences.
"We ought to look upon this as an adventure," Jo said as they talked over the meal of macaroni cheese and green beans.
"Yeah, you're right," replied Spencer trying to be as positive as this woman opposite him.
"I thought you said that you had worked with Katie Cole before?" said Jo who picked up on his subdued reply.
"Look, none of us like the cases that involve children and this unit only deals with that…mostly paedophiles…kidnapping kids for their own use or others. Trawling the internet for the vulnerable youngster who reveals too much about themselves on chat sites. No matter how much schools warn them, kids always think its never going to happen to them…" Spencer answered remembering the case where he had meet Katie. It had been when Elle had forced her way back in and she had tried to manipulate him with Hotch. "Then there are the divorced parents who use their children as weapons against each other…one parent kidnapping the child and disappearing. We have a very big country to disappear in. There's the child prostitution, child sex tourism, not to mention keeping an eye on those on the national sex offenders register" Spencer tried to explain but could Jo really understand the enormity of it all. She came from a stable family and her brother's marriage was happy and he couldn't see any fault lines that might cause it to split and. He just hoped that he would be able to cope with the issues brought up by the work.
"But its not forever, probably less than a year, and then Max has said that the psych department will still have you back to help with psych evaluations…You will get some respite and then there will be me…" she grinned her black eyes sparkled in the kitchen lights.
He smiled at her re-assurance and knew that he would have been appalled had he not had Jo and might even have considered resigning. Then there was Gideon just going like he did, it was a kind of desertion but the emotional impact had been lessened because he was a stronger person now although Reid had to give Gideon some credit for writing him the letter. However, it didn't prevent the feeling of disappointment that his mentor had abandoned the rest of the team without a word. Spencer thought that his feelings about today were like walking on fine sand, sometimes you felt steady and then suddenly your feet would be struggling to find stability on the shifting fine particles beneath them. Spencer sensed that these stumbling feelings would continue until he actually got to the new placement and started profiling people and where he fitted into the unit.
"I need a lazy bath," Jo suddenly changed the subject.
"Is that a hint that I'm doing the washing-up?"
"I cooked the meal…" and pushed back her chair. Spencer was already reaching for her plate.
Jo ran the water and put in a few drops of the lavender oil, it was very relaxing and she felt she needed this time to think. Jo let the water caress her body and opened up her mind to her troubled thoughts. She had not wanted to show any doubt in front of Spencer but her main concern was about her own ability to be strong enough for him. Since the assault in New York her family had rallied around her and cushioned her against the cruel world. It had only been in the past year that she had been living out of the family home and now she was living in Spencer's apartment. Everyone had been so positive about moving to Maryland, and she had to admit it was the best possible placement outside of Washington DC, but it was still the first time since Sandrine's murder that she would be far away from her family. Jo chided herself and told herself firmly that it was an adventure, a different state and new people to meet and places to explore.
Spencer had looked so tense when he had entered her office earlier and she wondered about what her reaction would have been if he had been sent to the abyss of New York…Jo selfishly admitted to herself that she would not have gone with him if he had been. She knew that a daytime visit was all she could cope with even now, New York still terrified her and brought back the nightmares of her attack and Sandrine's death. It was such a relief when Spencer had said Maryland and he was so sweet because she wanted to be with him. But it would be strange now not to have Spencer in her world and her family thought they were good together and treated him like he was part of their family. Jo sighed, she felt as if she was teetering on the tightrope of life that she was walking along. She loved Spencer but there was a price and that price included coping with his work.
The water was getting cold so she got out and reached for the thick Egyptian cotton crimson towel. This apartment was full of happy memories for both of them.
Jo padded back into the bedroom dressed in her emerald silk robe and saw that the lute was forlornly lying in the middle of the bed but the musician was no where to be seen. She noticed that the door to the first closet was open and went over to close it. Spencer used the first walk-in closet for storing things rather than clothes. She looked inside before closing the door and Jo saw him was just standing there holding a purple silk scarf lost in thought.
"Are you all right?" she finally asked as he seemed to be looking so sad as he gazed upon the cloth.
"Oh Jo!" he flinched in surprise.
"Sorry, I didn't mean to make you jump."
"It's all right, this was my father's…My Mom hated it but my Dad loved this scarf and he took it with him when he left but it got sent to me by one of his colleagues when I was at Quantico. The guy was retiring and found he'd several things that had belonged to my father and wondered if I would like them. I used to wear it but after the Clinic, I tried to get my feelings for my Dad in a better perspective. I guess it was the fact that I had nothing from Dad after he left and then he was dead…" the young man rambled, fumbling to find the right words for the complex emotions that surrounded his memories of his parents. "You know it was all so final and I did love him even if he did leave me. I have some early memories of doing things with him that were happy…but when he left I had to cope with Mom and those good memories got pushed aside because I had to deal with the problems of day to day living with a sick mother and bullying at school. Jeez…I just wish it had not been the Crimes Against Children Unit," he confessed because he knew that was at the bottom of all this introspection and the need to touch the scarf and remember his father's love and his weakness….
Jo knew about the scarf and had heard about some of those early memories but they had been recalled in happier moments when they were exchanging tales of growing up. She always thought that because he seemed to like being with Craig's children that whatever had happened to Spencer as a child had not put him off children altogether. Spencer always said that he had little experience with children but he had only to reveal his magic tricks and he had a captivated audience. But the best part about Spencer was that he always seemed to have time to listen to children. Lydia and their other friends' children adored him and the key to all of this was that children loved to be listened to by an adult and they picked up on his inherent gentleness.
"What else was sent to you?" Jo asked gently knowing that Spencer rarely spoke about his father and he treasured the few things he did have that his father had once owned.
"There were some notebooks and an occasional journal, the journal is more than a diary and he refers to letters and cards sent to me that I never received so my Mom obviously intercepted them. He seemed very sad that he never heard from me and asked his lawyer to find out how I was doing at school but Vernon wasn't the most conscientious or sensitive man." Spencer shrugged, "Perhaps I'm doing Vernon an injustice because I'm sure it must have been difficult dealing with Mom, even the Mental Health professionals could find her trying on her good days. I suppose I coped because I learnt strategies to live with her and read her moods well but to an out- sider, especially like Vernon who was a lawyer and not a doctor or nurse, Diana Reid was to be avoided as much as possible.
Dad lived with a colleague and somethings were not sent back to Nevada after his death. The things from his college room were packed up and sent but because my parents were not divorced…these things were sent to his home address and of course my Mom destroyed things before I got the chance to see them. I had just started my first degree when he was killed and living most of the week with the Bishops. It was only because I wrote a thank you letter and told his colleague how much I treasured the scarf that other things began to surface over twelve years after Dad's death. I keep things in this chest I found in the attic when I was clearing the house for sale after Mom entered Bennington, the money went towards her care."
"Why don't you bring it out into the bedroom and you can show me…" Jo invited hoping that he would share this part of his life with her and by doing so would find some comfort in the remembrance.
"Yeah, all right," Spencer said, draping the purple scarf over his arm and picked up the oak box with fancy brass side handles, hinges and a large brass key in the lock. Spencer carried it over to the bed and placed it on the floor. He opened the lid and Jo could see that the box obviously contained personal 'treasures' of his life so far with letters and folders marked University of Las Vegas, Harvard and Princeton. These folders he took out and placed them on the bed and then reached down to pick up a leather bound 'A4' sized book about an inch thick and placed it on his lap, running his long sensitive fingers over the dark green leather.
"This is hand-written, my Dad had a small, precise and very clear way of forming his letters…not like my scrawl," he said softly and opened the book reverently as if this breathed with the dead man's thoughts.
Jo was surprised to find a neatly written page in black ink, a fountain pen had been used not a ball point and each entry began with the date; the day first. followed by the numeral, then the month and finally the year. It was the discipline of a diarist but contained personal thoughts and reminiscences rather like talking to an internal friend.
…It is now six months since I left Nevada and I have had no response to my letters or gifts sent to Spencer, perhaps I should send such things by Vernon but I don't want to trouble him further with my family problems. Vernon has made sure that there is enough money invested to pay the utilities and keep Diana's account topped up. Vernon has informed me that Spencer is progressing well at school and I am not to worry about my son, as he seems to be copying very well with the situation at home.
My research collaboration here is going well and I have received invitations to visit other departments in Sweden, Germany and France during the coming academic year. Brian says that once I've completed my teaching commitments here I can take off to see these colleagues. I find the inter-action with these fellow mathematicians mentally stimulating in a way that was lacking in Nevada. That sounds very selfish and if I'm honest it is. The situation at home was stifling my creativity. Diana's illness meant that I could not entertain colleagues at home nor take up invites extended to me. It became socially isolating to be Diana's husband. Diana's refusal to comply with her doctor and take the necessary medication just got to a point that I thought I would hit her out of sheer frustration because you cannot reason with her when she becomes intransigent.
"Did your Dad ever hit her?" Jo asked concerned at these deeply personal thoughts.
"No, I never knew him to hit anyone. Dad was not a confrontational person and usually would go to his study and play his violin rather than have a shouting match with Mom. Mom saw this as weakness but it can also be seen as someone who knew it wasn't worth the effort of upsetting the atmosphere of the home when quarrelling just might have made Mom's reaction even more difficult. They did some times have arguments probably because Dad had repressed too much of his feelings. There are a lot of entries which reveal that he still loved my Mom…Look I'll show you," said Spencer and he turned the pages looking for a specific date, "Here," and he passed the book over to Jo.
Today is Diana's birthday. I hope that she is well and having a happy time. I'm sure that Spencer will try and make it a good day for her. The first time I saw Diana she was looking radiant with flowing golden hair almost to her waist and wearing a white cotton dress. It was Diana's twenty-second birthday. Her tall lithe beauty turned heads and she knew it but this woman had the confidence to ignore the men who glazed on her. I didn't follow her retinue and was therefore different and a challenge. We were both known for our areas of study at Berkeley and normally our paths would not have crossed but the Head of Library services persuaded both of us to sit on the library users board as post-graduate student representatives. Diana possessed one of the most sensitive and lively minds I'd ever met and she was funny and cultured and very easy to talk to. She overlooked my shyness and patiently listened to my ideas about medieval music, poetry and art and then smiled and I was lost. She could bewitch with that smile. Spencer has her smile but thankfully more of my steady temperament.
Of course I was totally lost and it was only later that I discovered about her experimenting with drugs, but at least I persuaded her to let me take her to a clinic to get her detoxed before it ruined her chances of employment.
It all came back to haunt us; this schizophrenia may have its origins in her drug taking. I hope that Spencer will have the strength and good sense not to be drawn into the drug scene that is on most campuses these days. He will be 12 soon and nearing the end of High School. Vernon tells me that arrangements are already being made so he can study mathematics at Las Vegas where I'm sure my former colleagues will keep an eye on him.
Well, Dearest Diana, have a happy birthday. I have not sent you anything because I'm certain you'd throw it in the trash but I still love you, so I send you my loving thoughts knowing that together we were destroying each other rather than enhancing each others existence. I hope you are not as lonely as I feel, you have our son to keep you company. Although you told me to take him…You do not know how much I wanted to but where would he have fitted into my existence here, living in one room in a colleagues home so that I can keep your bank account healthy. I love our son and hope he will understand one day and that he will not hate me when I return.
Enough of my painful thoughts, this should be a happy entry because it is my beloved Diana's fortieth birthday and there should be happier times to be remembered today.
"Four months later he was dead. I was so surprised to be sent this journal a couple of years ago. When I read the entries I can hear my Dad's voice reading the words in my mind," Spencer said softly, "I have some letters from people who knew him and they all recall instances of their friendship with him. Several have invited me to call on them if I ever go to England…"
"Then we'll go next year as our vacation," Jo said firmly, seizing the moment to dispel his negative mood. "Are they still in the Cambridge area?"
"No, a couple are but one lives in a place called Winchester, another Bath and I think the old head of the department moved to Normandy."
"Oh wonderful, we can take the Eurostar…you'll like going through the Channel Tunnel it's very fast and comfortable," she assured and Spencer caught her enthusiastic mood."
"Would you like to see some of the letters I've been sent?"
"Yes, your father must have been much treasured as a friend for his colleagues to have taken the time to write and to preserve things that reminded them of their friendship. You should go and talk to them before its too late. You know travelling to Italy and seeing that side of my family was very special and I met great aunts and saw old photographs and it was wonderful. I felt close to my Grandmother again by hearing about early her life and the family in the old land!"
Spencer nodded and felt his unease at the thought of change begin to settle down for the night. He found a couple of letters and passed them over for Jo to read while he placed the precious journal back in the chest. Spencer thought the suggestion of making plans to see these people was a good idea and he'd write a few little notes, to put inside the Christmas cards he intended to send, with the news of a possible visit next year. He reached over for his lute and began to play a selection of his favourite Dowland and he couldn't stop the thoughts that bubbled up questioning just what had Diana destroyed while he was not at home. It was obvious that these very personal things had been withheld and not sent home by these colleagues because of their suspicions about her controlling actions and the effects of the illness.
"I'm sorry, I'm sorry…Please not again…Please forgive me…"
"Spencer!" she demanded, firmly shaking him by the shoulders but he seemed lost in the nightmare world of Hankel again. She had thought that these nightmares had totally receded into the background, but this time of change and uncertainty had brought them forth from deep within his subconscious as a reminder of that time of fear. He was in a cold sweat and totally in the thrall of the memory.
"Spencer!" she tried again, but he was trying to push her away from him. She reached over and put on the lamp and then squeezed his bony shoulders as hard as she could.
The man beneath her hands went still, rigid and she wondered what horror he was reliving as he seemed to be holding his breath and then his eyes shot open and unseeingly stared at her. Jo held her own breath and could hear her heart thumping away in her chest. The brown eyes slowly became alert and looked at her in bewilderment and his hands reached up to touch her arms as if to test that she was real.
"Jo…Oh God, I've not had a nightmare like that for weeks…I was back in the cabin with Hankel and he was hitting me and finally put his gun to my head…Sorry Jo…" he shook his head to clear his mind of the residue of the images.
"It's all right, you've just had a distressing time recently…its probably because you're feeling vulnerable about your place in the Bureau," Jo said softly rationalising it for both of them.
"Yeah…You're a pretty good psychologist you know," he said feeling his heart slowing down to a more natural rhythm.
Jo reached up and stroked his hair, soothing him as she would have done a distressed child who had woken with a nightmare, "It's all right, I know they can come back when we feel under stress and vulnerable…I still have the odd nightmare even now…"
"What? Since we've been together?" he asked with concern.
"No, but the first few weeks I lived in my Alexandria apartment…It was such a big step to live away from the very secure home with my family. I'm all right now and have been since being with you and I don't get nightmares while you're away," she re-assured and it was true, she felt very safe with Spencer.
Spencer reached for her and cuddled her to him, "It's been a difficult couple of days, what with Gideon taking off and then the BAU yesterday…" he conceded.
"But we're still together," Jo reminded him and Spencer hugged her for her comforting words and hoped that he was going to be strong enough to cope with the challenge of the CACU. But at the back of his mind was the feeling of foreboding that was darkly looming ready to pounce and shatter his happy private world.
The End of Chapter 1