Well, shit. Now look what y'all have made me do. Curse you and your inspiring comments!
By the way, since I painted myself into a corner by saying Dean hadn't talked to Prentiss or anyone else for at least four years by the time of last story's culmination, this is taking place like wayyy in the future. We'll just pretend the world is exactly the same as nowadays, yeah?
As You Are Now, So Once Was I
April 10, 2017, 11:10 P.M.
Federal Correctional Institution, Edgefield
Edgefield, South Carolina
Dean is busy folding sheets across from another inmate when he hears it. She'd only said a few words to him, all of them meant to get a rise, but he's good with voices. In his line of work—previous line of work—he'd had to be good with memorizing things like that. Pathetically often, it was the demarcation between life and death.
Slowly, he looks up at the grainy, small TV screen mounted on the wall, and yes, it's definitely her. The subtitle that the news channel has so helpfully provided reminds Dean that her name is SSA Jennifer Jareau, media liaison for the BAU. She looks virtually the same as last time Dean'd seen her; her hair's a little longer, and her face is starting to (albeit faintly) show the stress of her job, but overall, it might as well have been yesterday she was with the rest of her team visiting him.
"What can you tell us about how the victims were killed?" pipes up a media hound, and Dean tries not to look so interested.
"Rumor is, the latest woman had every bone broken in her body but her house was locked from the inside," shouts another one. "Is that true?"
Dean doubts anyone else could see it, but he notices the split-second hesitation she gives, the slight downturn of her mouth, and knows that however the lemming had achieved the intel, it's correct.
"When we get more information on the crimes, we'll let you all know," J.J. says cagily, and if Dean had it in him to grin at the response, he would. "For now, just make sure someone knows where you are at all times, and do a cursory check of your home before you go to bed. If you think something is awry—more than the usual misplacing—call the tip line we've set up. Thank you."
There's, inevitably, a barrage of questions for her, and a billion flashing bulbs, but J.J. takes it all in stride, walking off the platform with precision. Dean would normally just write the whole thing off as a regular, run-of-the-mill news story, but something about the media clown's question, the one that J.J. had avoided, stirs something in his mind. He's not quite sure what, but he intends to find out.
Emily had been true to her word and, in telling the Federal Bureau of Prisons that Dean had been invaluable to their investigation, he was able to be moved to a medium-security facility. He'd requested to have as solitary a cell as possible, and thankfully, he'd been granted that. Unfortunately, it didn't hold insofar as he doesn't have to participate in communal rec time and chores, but at least he has a four-inch thick mattress this time, and doesn't have to be cuffed every time he's let out of his cell.
Initially, it'd obviously been the intention of the other prisoners to try and do some kind of hazing ritual to Dean, especially given he hadn't so much as said one word to any other inmate. (And that even in as dark a place as Dean's mentality is now, he's still prettier than the other prisoners, which tends to make them disgruntled.) What they hadn't bet on, however, was that just because Dean's got a proportioned face doesn't mean he's not had paramilitary training. To say he sent the head of the gang out of commission for a while is a nice way of putting it. He was sucker punched by one of the guards for his actions, but apart from that, he'd been left alone.
Dean makes up his mind. It's not really all that hard. If it weren't about something the BAU is doing, if it weren't for his hunter instincts lighting up like the Fourth of July, he'd just ignore it. But he's never ignored his gut in his life, and even after…everything…that isn't going to change, if he has anything to say about it.
So he looks up at the man across from him, whose jumpsuit IDs him as 13192, and holds out a pack of cigarettes. (Just because Dean doesn't communicate with anyone doesn't mean his Hold 'Em skills are any worse.) "Pack for your comp time," he offers, thinking that at least in this instance, his low and scratchy voice works to his benefit.
13192 manages to withhold being startled, and peers at Dean in scrutiny. "What you need it for?" he demands, pausing.
"Don't ask and I'll make it two," Dean antes, setting down another pack on the table.
13192 gives him a gritty smile and pulls the cigarettes towards him. "Knock yourself out, pretty boy," he replies. "You crazy, you know that? You weird."
Dean stops himself from putting a fist in the guy's nose, just takes the transaction. They are only allowed ten minutes on the computer every week, but Dean's been doing research his entire life. He can do a hell of a lot in only twenty minutes.
April 7, 2017, 10:23 P.M.
F.B.I., Behavioral Analysis Unit
J.J. waits until each member of the team sits at their unofficial places around the table, each of them reflexively opening the files and skimming them for a few seconds before deferring to her. Satisfied that she has at least the majority of their attention (she thinks Morgan and Prentiss are still mourning their respective Friday nights cut short by being called in), she turns to the screen. A few clicks of the remote later, six pictures appear, three of them showing the victims prior to death, and the other three documenting the crime scenes.
"Manistique, Michigan, population thirty-five hundred," J.J. begins. "County P.D. requested our help after they discovered the third body in a string of deaths they can't quite figure out."
"Deaths?" Emily catches on with a frown. "We don't know if these are homicides?"
J.J. gives a frustrated shrug. "Not for sure, but considering the way they died is pretty much impossible to be self-inflicted or by chance, they're guessing there's an unsub."
"What other information do you have for us?" Hotch asks, veering J.J. onto a path she knows well.
And, predictably, she looks much more at ease doing so. "The third victim, Kari Jansen, was found this morning," she says, pointing to a redheaded woman. "Before that, there was Amita Levin—found twelve days ago—and Zachary Beltway, found six days ago."
"That's not much of a cooling off period," Rossi observes, humoring the supposition of a serial killer. "Less than a week between murders."
"Looks like it might be a pattern, though," Morgan inputs, chewing on a pen cap. "That could be an advantage for us."
Emily makes a noise of reluctant dissent. "I don't know, three victims isn't necessarily a pattern. Plus, it looks like the unsub's not preferential to sex or age. Jansen's twenty-seven, Levin's eighteen, Beltway's forty-two. This is going to make profiling a lot harder." To J.J., Emily inquires, "What do we know about how they died?"
"Lucky us, we get more problems," she replies. "Each had a different manner of death. Every one of Jansen's bones was broken, but her house was locked from the inside—no forced entry, no indications she unlocked the doors at all before going to bed. Levin had internal bleeding, and her heart was stabbed five times, but she had no outer wounds, except for a scar from an atrial septum surgery when she was a baby. And Beltway's lungs were filled with water, as if he drowned. Same composition of water as in Lake Michigan."
"Well, that's not that weird," Reid says hopefully. "There are three and a half thousand drowning-related deaths a year, and over seven hundred boating-related ones. Even more when you factor in homicide. Also, Beltway's a male: statistically, they're four times as likely to drown than females."
"'A lot' would've sufficed just as well," Morgan suggests, glaring at Reid, who looks thoroughly unashamed.
J.J. sighs, ignoring Morgan's input. "Except that the security cameras from his apartment, which show him entering, never saw him coming out, let alone to the lakefront."
Quietude embraces everyone as they try to come up with answers, but no one can produce anything. Reid tries, but he only gets so far as to give a statistic and then the beginnings of a science fiction book plot before Morgan throws a pen at his face.
Amply out of options with the paper aspect of the case, Hotch stands up. "All right. Thirty minutes and we're in the air."
Well accustomed to the drill, they all sort together their folders and head off to make sure everything is packed, each one having a feeling this case'll be a bewildering one.
April 11, 2017, 9:45 A.M.
Federal Correctional Institution, Edgefield – Recreation Room
Edgefield, South Carolina
When Dean's cell block gets let out for rec time, he bypasses the gym equipment and the library, going straight for one of two computers they have there. Strictly speaking, the internet is only for things like sending emails (screened of course) or doing college correspondence courses, but Dean assumes news sites are harmless enough. That's not to say Dean couldn't hack into a database in about ten seconds, but for right now, he doesn't need to do so.
The earliest article is from a week ago, with few details, but Dean does find some viable enough information. Like, for instance, the general nature of how the victims died, what their names were, their basic stats. He doesn't see any connection between them, but that's not unusual. What is unusual is everything surrounding their demises. More worrisome is how many articles there are, given how damn tiny the city is.
Lake Michigan City Officials Stumped
Three victims and no one knows what's going on?
Manistique Calls in F.B.I.
Townspeople fear for their lives as agents have no leads.
Work of a Serial Killer?
Crimes are too difficult to decipher for the police. Are we safe?
Latest North Michigan Victim Discovered Drowned
Inside sources say no one saw him go out to the lake.
Agent Jennifer Jareau: "When We Get More Information, We'll Let You Know."
And when will that be, Agent? How many more people are going to die?
Dean has a feeling J.J. is used to this kind of thing, but small town gossip is often more dangerous than serial killers. To make matters worse, that nagging voice in his head that says the crimes remind him of something nearly drives him insane, the answer right at the tip of his tongue. It isn't until he's going on eighteen minutes of computer time that it hits him.
"Ah, fuck," Dean mutters to himself. Playing devil's advocate, he tries to think of another way this could go down, but he can't. Which means that he's going to be in for a really, really annoying series of events.
Closing all the internet windows, he walks over to the guard hesitantly. Looking completely disinterested, the guard barks a "What do you want, Winchester?" at him, hand twitching minutely towards his taser.
"I need to make a phone call," says Dean. The guard doesn't look remotely surprised Dean's talking.
"To who?" asks the guard, now frowning. Far as he can tell, Dean doesn't have anyone living to call.
Dean almost wants to smirk. "Special Agent Emily Prentiss, FBI," he answers, bringing out the business card she'd given him four years ago that he'd kept. It's crinkled, but the name is still very legible. As is the official government seal and the prestigious division of the BAU.
The guard's eyebrows raise, clearly questioning how in the world Dean'd gotten a hold of the card. It's not the first time he's had a prisoner claim to want to talk to officials, but it is the first time he's had a prisoner be in possession of legitimate proof of previous contact. Then he remembers how Dean came into the prison in the first place.
"What's this about?" he inquires. "You really think they're gonna grant you another favor for your supposedly good detective work? Think again, boy."
Dean shrugs. "Doesn't matter what I'm calling about," he answers. "Last time I checked, an FBI agent is a perfectly reasonable person to contact. And I think I've racked up enough phone time for one conversation."
Out of amusement more than anything else, the guard relents. "Fine. Indulge your fantasies."
He calls over another guard, who steers Dean towards the phones, taking a stance ten feet away from Dean. It's not much privacy at all, but at least right now, Dean doesn't need any. Remembering the numbers from memory, like Emily had just given him the card a minute ago, Dean presses the sticky keys on the phone, bringing it up to his ear in anticipation.
"Prentiss," comes the voice over the line, the same voice Dean heard back in Marion. "Hello?"
"Emily?" Dean asks. "Er…Agent Prentiss."
He hears Emily's phone drop on a table, and a questioning voice on the other end—Morgan or Hotchner, Dean wagers—before she scrambles to pick it up, shushing her colleague. "Dean? Winchester?" she gapes, startled.
"You answered," Dean smiles. Truthfully, he'd not been sure she would. Especially after all this time.
"I said I would," Emily says slowly. "Um…what exactly is this about? I can't pull any more strings for you, if that's what you're—"
Dean shakes his head, even though she can't see him. "No, you did enough," he says. Cutting to the chase as he knows he doesn't have a lot of time, he says quickly, "Listen. I caught Agent Jareau's press conference yesterday, and looked up the case you guys are working. I think I can help."
Dean was afraid this would happen. But he's never been one to back down, not at least in something like this. "I think I can help. The weird ways those victims died? I can tell you one thing right now: it ain't your average psychopath."
April 11, 2017, 9:50 A.M.
Schoolcraft County Police Department
Emily slowly, almost catatonically, presses the End button on her phone and sets it down on the table, fully aware of Morgan's demanding gaze. "Don't tell me that was really Dean Winchester," he says, in as awed a voice as Morgan is capable of. "Emily, that was four years ago."
"I know," she finally answers. "But it was him. And he…he said…he said he could be of assistance again in this case."
Morgan laughs, until he sees Emily's face is the farthest thing from humor. "What?" he asks. "Seriously? How'd he find out about it?"
"Said he saw J.J.'s press conference. Then he looked up whatever information's on the internet. Supposedly, he thinks he can send us in the right direction. Like…like last time."
Rolling his eyes, Morgan crosses his arms over his chest. "Oh, come on," he says in disbelief. "That was a one time thing. We were all burnt out, that's why we couldn't see those weird Latin carvings. Besides, you saw how broken that guy was. We all did. What are the odds he hasn't gotten worse?"
Emily turns to Morgan quickly, her eyes shadowed fire. "God, Morgan, give him credit. We never would've solved that case if he hadn't helped. Even if we had seen the words, we wouldn't have been able to figure out what they meant. They were barely legible. Reid isn't fluent in Latin. He just recognized the saying. And face it. This case isn't going much better. Unless you have some genius idea that'll crack this."
Morgan clenches his jaw, knowing Emily's right. Not that he really wants to crown Dean with the glory of getting the crucial clue, but he does have to. And he doesn't doubt Dean could at least float an interesting idea past them. But still, Morgan wasn't blowing smoke about Dean being broken. The guy may rub him the wrong way, but Morgan would've been able to see inside Dean even if he weren't a profiler.
Dean was shattered, his psyche was damaged beyond repair, he was on the precipice of a complete mental breakdown, he just hadn't quite jumped yet. Morgan isn't afraid of Dean, more like (much to his reluctance) he's afraid for Dean. Regardless if the probably-killer thinks he could help on the investigation, Morgan doesn't want to risk Dean's extremely fragile state of mind.
Like most of, if not all, the rest of his team, there was something…off about Dean in terms of his serial murderer-ness. Dean hadn't exuded all the characteristics of one, and while Morgan certainly isn't going to write off the possibility, he's not a hundred percent on the side of Dean being the worst since BTK. Prison's as safe a place as anywhere for someone like Dean (Morgan has a shrewd suspicion that a mental hospital would only cause Dean to take a mental swan dive faster), and if Morgan has anything to say about it, Dean's going to stay there. Not necessarily because he deserves to—and damn, Morgan kicks himself for thinking that—but because it's safe.
"Prentiss, no," he says. "We've barely started on this. I promise that if we get farther in and we still haven't got any leads, then we'll consider talking to him. But for now, we wait."
Emily pauses, as if she's considering Morgan's offer. But he can see in her face that she's already set her mind to the opposite. "You really want to wait for more people to die?" she challenges, knowing it's utterly unfair. Sighing in apology, she continues softly, "I have all the trust in the world in our abilities, Derek, but what's the harm in having Dean consult again? We don't even have to tell anyone else, if that's the best way to go about it; it can just be you, me, and Dean who know. But my instincts are telling me that maybe Dean has seen something in those articles, in those reports, that we haven't. You know just as well as I that we've sworn to do everything in our power to solve this. And I can see it in your eyes, too: you understand that."
"What happened to our agreement not to profile each other?" Morgan retorts half-heartedly.
Emily ignores him. "You said yourself once," she replies imploringly, thinking back to one of the darkest moments of her life, "that you'd have my back. Always. All I'm asking for is a chance here."
Morgan remembers the promise vividly, despite the fact that it was almost a decade ago. You don't forget something like that. "All right," he agrees, running a hand over his shaved head. "All right. I'm going to Hell because of this, but okay. What's the plan?"
People are trapped in history, and history is trapped in them.
— James A. Baldwin