I originally wrote this as a strange companion piece to Mabelreid's 'The Inside Job', but I found it stood well enough on its own. Hope you enjoy! (Usual disclaimers.)
The phone rang atop the robust agent's desk; the sound was quickly drowned out by a rousing rendition of Pachelbel's "Canon in D Major" accompanied by a world-class string section. Finally the man looked down at the flashing light that illuminated his phone and quickly hit the 'mute' button on his stereo system. "Joshua 'ollenbeck," the man said, his thick French-like accent oozing over the mouthpiece. "Oo may I ask ees calleeng?"
"Josh? This is Aaron Hotchner…"
"Ah, yes, bonsoir, Agent 'otchnair. What may I do for you?"
"Josh, we've got a little bit of a situation. I need your help."
"Of course! Come, come. Where shall we meet?"
"My technical analyst is going to send you a file—eyes only," Hotch said, heaving more relieved breaths as Josh spoke his assent. "Just follow the instructions?"
"We're sending the file now." Josh looked up to find his personal cell phone was buzzing at him—new email message, it read on the tiny screen.
"We'll talk later. And Josh?"
"No thanks ees necessairy. Au revoir." Josh hung up the phone and began to study the message the BAU team leader had sent him. "Sacre bleu," he said under his breath. "No wonder thees ees a problem…"
Two hours later Josh was sitting in a small diner off of Constitution, sipping a strong black tea mixed with a little lemon and cream. The establishment was sparsely populated, and the older agent enjoyed the homemade turnovers and scones that were made on site daily. He took a bite from a peach turnover, marveling at how anyone could come up with such a recipe that melted in the gourmet's mouth. Behind him, the entrance bell sounded once, and footsteps drew closer to the small booth that the agent occupied.
"Josh," the newcomer said, his voice quiet and clipped.
"Agent 'otchner," Josh replied. "I took the libertee." A steaming cup of French roast was waiting for the younger agent, and Hotch helped himself to three spoons of sugar and a dash of cream.
"You saw the file?"
"Yes. Ees disgraceful, ees what." Josh made a face. "She 'as wanted you gone for some time now, though why that ees I could not say. She ees ambitious, thees ees true, but then, look what 'appened to Caesar."
"I dunno," Hotch said, stirring his coffee blankly. "Five years ago…yeah, I'd have wanted that office. But now?"
"Ce'st vrai," the older agent said, taking a sip of his tea. "Theengs 'ave changed."
"Could you ever give up your position?"
"Yeah. I mean, you were married. And from what I hear, quite the 'adventurer' at one time."
"Oui. Not like some we know, but then we are not at that age anymore, either," Josh admitted with a small, impish smile. "I belieeve M. Rossi would agree with me."
"What now?" Hotch asked, gesturing towards the file. "I mean, this gets out, and…"
"Oui. No one weel ask for your kind of help, not for anyone in the speceealeetee. Een any case, you know 'ow I feel about your peeple…especially the young ones…you say they were all eenvolved?"
Hotch tipped his head a fraction, sipping his coffee. "She sent people to go after each of them. I'm not sure how she managed it, but we now both know the 'why'."
"They are where?"
"Holed up at my place, for the time being. But I don't think that's the best place for them at the moment—not with Strauss and Collins still out there gunning for them."
"Mais oui. I 'ave 'eard of thees man. Nasty piece of work. I do beleeve that 'e theenks 'e is superior to all men, as far as your profession goes?"
"Josh, he's driven at least three unit chiefs crazy. He does have a superiority complex, but it's the rampant narcissism that holds him back, not anything else."
"Some, they weel not see that the flaw ees een themselves." Josh waved the waitress over and ordered a house salad with Italian. "Anytheeng for you?" he asked his guest.
"The same. And please, more coffee." The waitress nodded once and set about fetching the order. The small coffeeshop fell silent as the two men pondered what to do about this new situation.
"Thees Collins…what was eet your Strauss tried to 'ave 'im do?"
Hotch sighed. "We know he terrorized Reid and his girlfriend…"
"Ah, mais oui. The young lady from Atlanta."
"Yeah. Spent three days trapped in Reid's apartment. They're both pretty shaken up. Emily was attacked two nights ago as she tried to walk to her front door—she's lucky it wasn't worse. Morgan's still in the hospital with a leg broken in three places due to an 'accident' at one of his houses he's been trying to rent, and don't get me started on JJ and Will."
Hotch's head tipped a fraction of a degree as he gave a small sigh of resignation. Josh inhaled sharply. A deep frown crossed the Frenchman's features.
"Eet sounds to me like these 'eencidents' were designed to scare, pairhaps eenough to, eh, 'send them packing'?" Josh's face looked a little sheepish as he tried out the colloquialism. Hotch smiled a wan smile, and the round man brightened a little.
"Well, we've pretty much confirmed that. Reid and his girlfriend have said as much, and there's a man that Collins had working for him that backs that up."
"You trust 'im?"
"There's a part of me that doesn't, but then he did help Reid and Austin escape their apartment, as well as give an 'anonymous' call as to where JJ and Will could find their baby," Hotch admitted. "Reid recognized the voice when Garcia pulled up the call log, and he backs him, so…"
"Yes. There ees that. You theenk she ees steel trying to 'ave you removed?"
"What better way to accomplish that than scare off my own team? I can't say I'm not without faults too, Josh. Strauss knows I've got some issues too, and she's hitting all the right buttons. Rossi tried sussing her out, but she's gotten quicker." Hotch finished his salad and sighed. "She may just get her wish this time."
Josh drank the last of his tea and then waited patiently as Hotch finished his coffee. "Do you want to know the deetails, or…?"
Hotch thought about the man's unspoken offer. "Probably better I don't."
"Yeah. Nice place you picked, by the way."
"Eh. Best coffeeshop een the citee. Reminds me of home."
Hotch smiled at the man's statement.
"Your peeple, they weel go to my 'ome at once. There ees space enough for them, and there ees a working coffeepot and espresso machine."
"Reid'll like that. Emily too."
"Oui. Plus anyone stupid eenough to try and take them from there deserves what they receive, no?"
The younger agent laughed a little at what happened the last time a friend 'accidentally' set off Josh's house alarm. "Yeah, I guess."
"Ce'st bon. The key ees een the usual spot."
"And Morgan? He's still in traction…"
"Our mutual friends are currently at work. She would be a fool to try anytheeng there, oui?"
Josh clapped a hand on Hotch's shoulder. "Leave the rest to me, eh? Section Chief or no, I 'ave more rabbit 'oles to pull treeks from than she." The pair walked out of the coffeeshop and into the dark street, their separate cars driving off into different directions of the lonely night.
Thank God for Josh, Hotch said, silently thanking the mutual friends that had 'introduced' the team to the accomplished counterterrorism expert. I don't know what we'd do without him right now… The unit chief smiled a little as he turned left on Dupont Circle and headed for Rossi's to relay the information. A phone call from there would set everything in motion, and Hotch knew in his gut that his team's 'problem' would be solved in a matter of hours.
A/N: Here's where it ends for me. I'm kind of interested what each reader thinks Josh might do to Strauss and her cohort, so I invite you to come up with a short on your scenario for posting!