Author's Note: Thanks for the reviews! It means so much to me, really. Like you have no idea. It means the world to me. It's the Morgan to my Garcia and the Dork to my Reid. Also, extra points to whoever can tell me the Firefly reference I snuck in here hehe :)
"A warrior considers himself already dead, so there is nothing to lose. The worst has already happened to him, therefore he's clear and calm; judging him by his acts or by his words, one would never suspect that he has witnessed everything" - Carlos Castaneda
"I can honestly say, from the photos and from what we have, that our unsub doesn't like crowds. He is most likely shy, quiet, keeps to himself. He could probably very well handle a group of kids walking home together, but the thought scares him. He is terrified of a lot of people. One is enough for him. That shows signs of weakness and insecurity. He wants something he can control and, if there are more than one, it can get out of his control, out of his grasp. He needs to be in charge and have predictability," Reid announced, not being able to stand the silence that currently engulfed the airplane.
"We will find out more once we talk with our sheriff," Hotch said, staring out the airplane window, "When we get there, we will go there first. We need to talk with him and see the bodies. We also need to talk with the parents and find out about these girls' habits – did they tend to stray off the paths? Did they know not to go up to strangers? Is there any reason they might have gone with an abductor?"
JJ was looking at the picture of her son when Reid sat down next to her. He cocked his head to the side, and stared intently at the picture at the baby. It seemed like just yesterday he had held that little thing in his arms against his will. He hadn't wanted to hold him, he had no paternal instincts at all, but he held that baby and he never knew his heart could swell to that size. For a split second, he wished that child was his. For a split, fleeting second that dissipated as quickly as it had come.
"I think sometimes," JJ looked up towards Reid, "what if it were him?"
"Then we would do what we have always done," Reid didn't really know what to do. He was always so awkward and socially inept, but he patted JJ's shoulder, "You will be alright. You're strong."
"But how strong?"
The plane eased into the landing, as if it were a knife cutting through butter. It was simple and clean –precise. If only the case could be so easy.
The black SUV was waiting for them as they left the tarmac. After climbing inside, they made their way towards the sheriff's office. Such a small town had no need for a big police taskforce. Instead, all Tallulah had was a single sheriff and a deputy.
"Seems a bit like Mayberry," Emily Prentiss said, absentmindedly as the SUV headed down the dirt road. Mud caked the once-green hills and seemed a little disheartening, "I mean the small town, only two law enforcers."
"You call Fife a law enforcer?" Morgan grunted, "What'd he enforce?"
"Slapstick?" Reid offered.
Despite the seemingly light note, the team knew they would have their work cut out of them. The SUV pulled into the gravel parking lot of the sheriff's office and they hopped out, slamming the doors shut behind them.
"Sheriff Williamson?" JJ asked, "I spoke to you on the phone?"
"Ah, yes. Thank you for coming. I am glad you're here. Tallulah needs ya – we're not cut out for this kinda thing."
"Four girls go missing and you come up with no leads until they are all found dead, a month after the first goes missing?" Reid asked.
"Don't say we weren't trying, son. We just didn't have anything to go on. No one here in Tallulah would do somethin' like this. This is down right cruel. Those poor little girls," the sheriff shook his head in disbelief, "Jessi Samuels was last to go, but the coroner examined the bodies. Said they all died at the same time but taken weeks of each other."
"He's keeping a collection," Hotch noted.
"And yet can't take on a crowd," Reid reminded, "May we come in and look at your files?"
"Of course," Sheriff Williamson nodded, "I sent most of what we had but things have been hectic here. We just never 'of seen something so horrible here. Worst we got is traffic violations, maybe a skipped water bill – other than that, nothing. We aren't some big city here. We're not used to big city crime."
"Do you think the person committing these murders is someone from around here?" Hotch asked, following the sheriff into the small, brick building. It reminded him of a post office. Once inside, earlier Mayburry speculations had proven true – there was just a single jail cell.
"Well I know most everyone in this town. It's a family sort 'a place, you know. I know most people and their grandparents here. I see these kids grow up, get married, and have kids 'a their own. It's tough to think that someone I know can be doin' this, but I am not about to cross out options because I don't favor them much."
He handed JJ a stack of four files – one for each girl. As she began to flip through the pages, she kept shaking her head. It was unbelievable that someone could do such a horrible thing, but she had seen such monstrosity in the past – it was her job. Not to say that she was used to it. Every case was just as shocking as her first. There was no way she could allow herself to become desensitized.
"Each girl was taken on their way home from either the park, school, or a friend's house. They all knew each other – there's only one elementary school here in Tallulah and they are all about the same age. Not that they were close or anything, only two of them were real close friends. They were taken at different times – a week apart almost – but all died the same day according to the medical examiner."
"Perhaps," Reid offered, "he got scared off. He thought you were on to him and decided to dispose of the bodies. You said you had no leads at all?"
"Well," Sheriff Williamson blushed, "we had one. There's a kid, he's always been a problem child. I'd hate to think that he would do something like this, but he did give me a bad feeling. His name is Clarke Daniels. He has two counts as being a peeping-tom, but that was back when he was a teenager. Teen boys will be mischievous."
"That's no excuse for invading privacy," Emily added, "What else do you know about Clarke?"
"He was an odd child. His mother moved here when he was four, escaping an abusive husband who died a few towns over of a farming accident. The kid went through some counseling at his school, but he never was quite…right. When he was a kid, he kicked his neighbor's dog to death…"
"Hardly a lovely child," JJ rolled her eyes, "Didn't you know that killing of animals is a sign of a future serial killer? It's a red flag…"
"I know," Williamson nodded, "But if you could just have seen this kid…his dad had been a real piece of work. He had been through hell and back before his fifth birthday. It was a tragic story, really. And he had such a sweet face. Beautiful blue eyes, looking like a little angel."
"Angel with a devil-streak," Morgan scoffed.
"We have talked to his mother. She didn't know anything."
"Did you talk to Daniels yourself?" Hotch pressed.
"Not really," Williamson admitted, "He works with a forest-clearing team called Green-Lite. I called his boss, he told me he was out on a job about three miles in. We're a huge forest town, mind you. Lumber is the business here and the forests are lush. Our workers are gone for days at a time."
Reid asked, "Is it certain he was on his job? Is there a way the boss could have been mistaken?"
"Well, I guess. I didn't want to press it right away."
"It's been a month and four girls are dead!" Hotch snapped, frustrated with the sheriff.
"I…I just don't know how to handle this…"
"Go do something useful," JJ ordered, "and get the families of these kids up here as soon as possible. Also, get a hold of Daniels. We got to talk to him."
"I will," Sheriff Williamson said, going towards the phone, a kicked puppy.
Morgan whipped out his cell, "I'm calling Garcia. She can get us some more info on this kid. Hello? Garcia? Sexy god of crime-fighting? That's a new one. Work your magic, baby girl. I need you to get me all you can on a Mr. Clarke Williamson. Yeah. He's a little sicko, I know. Well, thank you baby. Oooh don't push your luck, alright? Behave."
"What'd she say?" Reid asked, curiously.
"Well, she called me a sexy god of crime-fighting," Morgan smirked, earning himself a disapproving glance from Hotch, "and she told me basically what our sheriff said – he was abused when he was a baby, moved here when he was four, his father died in a farming accident, he has two accounts of peeping, kicked his neighbor's dog to death – little freak – and he had a few run-ins at school. His record said he got caught fighting three times in a year back in freshman year. Now, he's out of high school and working on the tree-clearing team. After this mudslide, they have a lot of work on their hands. She also said something that our sheriff seemed to leave out."
"Our Mr. Creepy-Dog-Kicker was the one that reported finding the bodies."
"Hmm, seems as if Williamson's memory failed."
"Also, what's creepy is he reported the bodies to the local paper, not the police. After the reporters mucked around the dump-sight, the police were notified."
"Well that's weird."
"Anything else?" Hotch asked.
"She told me that she'd like to peep in on me sometime, preferably while I was naked enjoying a warm bubble bath."
"Oh God!" Hotch recoiled, staring at Morgan as if he had just sprouted a third head, "I can't know that!"
"Mental picture!" Reid shuttered, earning himself a punch to the shoulder.
"Guys," JJ interrupted, "We got more important things to worry about than Morgan in a bubble bath, remember? Let's just focus on this case and less on mental pictures of a sudsy Morgan, alright?"
"I could stand to hear a bit more," Prentiss smirked playfully at Morgan who grinned back at her.
"Well, I try."
"Try less to be sexy and more to solve this case," Reid suggested.
"Did you just…you just called me sexy!"
"I-I didn't say that," Reid stuttered, trying to recover his blunder, "I s-simply n-noted what I have heard from Garcia and others. It wasn't a suggestion that I thought you were…um…sexy."
"Uh-huh. Who's 'others?'"
"Shut up!" Emily spat out at him, "God!"
"You think I'm sexy?" Morgan nudged her playfully.
"Oh shut up, as if you don't think you're sexy."
"Well, I do work out…"
"Okay!" Hotch shouted, "Focus people. We still have four chopped up girls found in the mud. I think we have more important things we need to be concentrating on."
And it was true. As much as they enjoyed their banter, there were dead girls that needed answers. It was time to get back out there and face those pictures tucked away messily in those files. Dismembered girls, peeping toms, possible serial killers – it was all part of the business.
The business was murder.
The job description was solving it.
And the cases would stay with them until the day they took their last breath.