This is just a brief recap of relevant events so anyone who didn't read Humanity can catch up.
I don't expect reviews for this – you've already read it, but just to refresh your memories...
Thank you to Chiroho for the beta!
A/N - I don't own Criminal Minds - don't sue!
Previously on Criminal Minds...
When the Blue of the Night
"Beware of the door with too many keys."
- Portuguese Proverb
"Penelope," Will said, a note in his voice making her stand up, Henry now quite content to play with the pink and silver hair accessory he had plucked from Garcia's head. "I need you to look at something."
She felt concern and apprehension rise inside her chest, and gestured for him to enter her room, swiftly clicking a couple of keys to comply with the secrecy contract she'd signed.
"What is it? Is everything okay? Have you heard from JJ?" The questions poured out rapidly, her mind now in overdrive.
Will sat down on one of the office chairs, his expression confused. "I received a letter," he said, opening the baby bag hanging on the back of Henry's stroller. "I haven't told JJ about it because she and the team are busy enough right now, and it's probably nothing, but I wanted your opinion." He handed her an envelope that had been torn open roughly.
Garcia looked at the front and noted that Will was the addressee. She pulled out paper that was standard, used in offices throughout the state, and read what had been printed on it. She raised a hand to her mouth and subdued a slight cry as its meaning became clear.
"I think it's an empty threat, Pen, and it's the first one that's been sent," Will said. "It came through the mail yesterday. I just wondered if anything had been sent to the rest of the team."
Shaking her head, and controlling the slight shake in her hand, she slipped the letter onto the scanner and uploaded it onto her system. "Have you told anyone about this?" she said, rather hurriedly.
"No. I read it last night when I got home from being out all day with Henry. It seems like a joke, rather than a serious threat," he said. "But I still couldn't sleep. I haven't said anything to JJ, Pen. She's exhausted, and this would only cause her to worry."
Garcia thought quickly. Letters like this weren't uncommon. Unfortunately, psychos had fans; fans who wanted someone to blame for their perceived injustice, and would therefore send empty threats to the people that had helped put their 'hero' away. But all threats were taken seriously and looked into, and she would pass this on to the relevant team, just as she had seen JJ do, but without worrying her team. They needed to focus. When they returned home, that would be when they should know, unless Strauss deemed otherwise. "I'm going to give this to Agent Mansfield," Garcia said, feeling more assured than she had done a few seconds ago. "He looks into threats like these. I'll ask him to have someone check on everyone's apartment, make sure that things are as they should be, and you just keep yourself and this little man safe."
Will nodded. "Thanks, Pen," he said. "Are you going to tell JJ?"
She tipped her head to one side. "Maybe," she said. "I'll see what Agent Mansfield says." Feeling better, she crouched back down onto Henry's level and began to indulge herself in his giggles, managing to record one burst of laughter so she could play it back whenever she needed reassurance that there was still love in the world.
Rossi squinted at the screen. "Is that Agent Mansfield?" He wondered if another trip to the optician was in order; he was convinced he had an astigmatism.
"No, sir. Why would Agent Mansfield be in my office?" Garcia said, clearly lying. He needed to give her lessons in the art.
"Well, if you should see him, remind him he owes me a bottle of Laphroaig," he looked accusingly at the screen before flicking it off, knowing that if Garcia came up with anything else, she'd call him, a form of communication he much preferred.
"Hi, my name's Penny. How are you this evening?"
There was deep breathing on the other end of the line, and Penelope Garcia looked to the heavens and prayed that it wouldn't be another one of those. She was four calls into what was going to be a long shift, and as much as she loved what she did and how she could help the families of the victims, today had already been a difficult day.
"I'm okay, Penny. How are you?" It was a man's voice and it sounded assured and confident, which was unusual given what the helpline was for.
"I'm fine," she said, trying to sound reassuring. Maybe the man was just putting on a brave face. She'd had a few that started out confident and collapsed as the conversation progressed. "Is there anything you'd like to talk about?"
"There are plenty of things, Penny," he said. "But I'd like to start with you. Are you really fine?"
A shudder went through her and she glanced at her supervisor, Amy, who was preoccupied with another call. She couldn't hang up. Sometimes people needed to know more about who they were talking to before they felt confident to discuss their anxieties. "Well, it's been a long day and a difficult one, but it makes me feel better knowing that maybe by the end of it I might have been able to help someone."
"That's nice, Penny. Why has your day been difficult? Do you want to talk about it, Penny?" his tone was smooth, but there was a hidden edge to it that sent shivers down her spine.
"I'd rather talk about your day. How's that been?" she said, moving the focus of the conversation from her. If he continued to be weird, then she would refer him to a male counsellor and terminate the call.
There was what sound like a muted laugh. "It's been good. In fact on a scale of one to ten I'd say it's been a seven, but it's going to get better this evening." This time the laugh was clear and loud. "Much better, in fact. I'm going to be proactive in getting over my grief."
Grief, he'd mentioned a key word. Maybe he was just finding it difficult to connect with her and begin talking. "You know, sir," she said. "Maybe you'd feel more comfortable talking to one of my male colleagues. I'll see if David's available." She heard the nerves enter her own voice and queried their presence.
"You know, Penny, I'd rather talk to you. You see, you're the reason I called tonight. I wanted to speak to you, Penelope. Why aren't you having a Halloween party? You did last year."
She felt the blood drain from her face. He was right. Last year she'd had most of the team over, bar I and Morgan, and a few other friends for pumpkin pie and scary movies. Even Rossi had been there. But it hadn't been a social event, like something that was reported on the internet or mentioned around headquarters. "I'm sorry, Sir, but I'm not comfortable taking this call," she said, following the script word for word. "I'm going to have to terminate it." She pressed a button and heard a dial tone just above the sound of her rapidly beating heart.
Standing up she pulled the headset off, a few tendrils of hair coming loose, and she made her way out of the room, wondering exactly who she should call, given that Agent Mansfield was on holiday and she had been told not to say anything to the team until they returned from Utah.
Trust is a gamble that few of us can afford not to take. Every time you open a door, answer a call, say hello, you trust the person at the other end. Trust that they will not hurt you, sadden you, or ridicule you. Without trust, we would not survive; human contact is essential, but we must trust the people from whom we receive it.
Agent Spencer Mansfield opened his door to several people on Halloween. He gave trick or treaters candy and a smile, thinking of what his own children were doing that night with their mother in another city. He paid the window cleaner, and let his neighbour in for a coffee and a chat about the youth of today, and then he locked the door when she left and checked his email to make sure that nothing had happened in the few hours since he'd left the office.
When the doorbell rang again just as he was about to get changed for bed, he trusted the familiar face standing outside and let them in, knowing that a crisis was prevailing in his visitor's life, and he didn't want to turn them away. He wasn't like that.
No alarm bells went off in his head as he entered the kitchen to make coffee, because this was someone he knew, someone he trusted. Agent Mansfield forgot the statistics that most people were killed by someone they knew, and not a serial killer. We trust the people we choose to know.
And sometimes we place that trust wrongly.
When Agent Mansfield looked up from pouring the coffee he couldn't quite take in the gun with the attached silencer. And as the trigger was pulled and the bullet shimmied through the air to land neatly in his chest, he still couldn't quite believe that this was happening.
You see, trust is something we should place with caution. We should consider to whom it is we are giving our trust; a cheating lover; a gossiping friend; or a colleague whom we never thought would be on a different side to the one we are.
As Agent Mansfield lay there, the door clicking shut as his killer left, he considered who else trusted the man, and wished he had enough breath left in him to warn them.
But they would just have to find out for themselves.
There was no snow on the ground as JJ left her parked car, and fumbled in her bag for the keys to the new house she and Will had just moved in to. It had a larger garden for Henry to play in when he was older, a guest bedroom, and another, smaller room, for when they decided that Henry needed a brother or a sister. The move was still recent enough for her to get a brief thrill every time she came home.
A light was on upstairs, telling her that Will had waited up. She guessed he would be reading, his preferred pastime, not being a fan of TV unless it was sport that was on. She smiled as the key slid into the lock, looking forward to that first cuddle of Henry, then one from Will after that. She turned the key.
Rossi opened the mailbox before heading up the driveway. He was expecting another letter from his editor confirming the figure for the next two books, and he was interested to see what was in it. It wasn't the money, it was more to do with what sort of slant they wanted from the next book, what they thought the public was interested in. He was considering taking a sabbatical for three months from the BAU to write it, only coming in for the big cases, as he suspected that his editor was looking for a book that focused on just one killer. An in depth exploration of a single criminal mind.
The letter was there, as he'd expected, along with a handful of bills, and a delivery note to say that his neighbour had signed for a package. He double checked the house number for the neighbour and breathed a sigh of relief; it had gone to Mrs Hartshed at number twelve. If it had ended up at number sixteen, then he never would have seen the twenty-two year old malt that had been sent from his whisky club.
He pulled his key from his jeans pocket, the security light coming on brightly and almost blinding him, but at least it meant he could insert the key easily. His cell phone sounded as he was about to turn, and he pulled it out, looking at the message. He breathed a long sigh of relief; it was Jolene, texting to say that her sister was now out of hospital. He turned the key.
Morgan glared at Reid as he walked slowly from the elevator towards his apartment door. He lived in what must have been the state's smallest apartment block with only two apartments on each of the four floors. But that wasn't the cause of Morgan's wrath.
Since their rather uncomfortable conversation earlier, Reid hadn't stopped talking. At first, it had been a blessing as it had completely taken Morgan's mind off everything that had happened, but by now he had the start of a headache and was desperate to fall asleep in an attempt to be fresh for his interview with Strauss tomorrow afternoon.
However, he'd driven Reid home, and was determined to make sure he was settled in his apartment before heading over to his own. It wasn't penance; he had suffocated any feelings of guilt, knowing that it was a pointless emotion once the cause of it had been identified and then put in the process of being rectified. It was a genuine affection for the boy genius. He just wished he'd brought earplugs.
"You sure you'll be okay?" Morgan said, standing outside Reid's door as he hunted for his keys. The eidetic memory had some flaws, and recalling where he had put keys was one of them.
"I'll be fine, Morgan. I can order groceries online for delivery tomorrow. I have everything I need. Seriously, you need to get home and get some rest," Reid said, inserting the key.
Morgan nodded, too tired to debate something that was actually true just for the sake of it. He stood back as Reid turned the key.
"You don't need to give me a ride home," Emily said, glancing at Hotch as he drove. "Morgan would have been happy to take me. I think he would have appreciated the distraction from Reid."
Hotch looked oddly harsh as he indicted to turn into the parking lot of her apartment block. "I wanted to make sure you got in okay," he said. He had been quiet for the whole of the ride, and she was beginning to wonder why.
"Aaron," she said as the car came to a halt. "Are you going to tell me what the matter is?" She placed a hand on the clip of his seatbelt and looked at him severely. For her own peace of mind she needed to know what was eating him up.
He turned to her, and she was reminded of the other time he had taken her home and they had been parked near here. "It feels strange knowing I'm not going to spend the night with you," he said, a confession.
"Then why don't you stay here tonight?" she said after a brief moment's thought.
"Is that wise?" he said. "We've not spent a night apart, and we've only just started to see each other. This could become rather intense."
Emily nodded. "You're right; it could. But we're not a pair of teenagers. We know what we want, or at least I do."
He turned away from her briefly and looked out of the window. "I want to wake up with you in the morning," he said. "If I don't, I'll feel that what we had was just because we were in Utah."
She removed her hand from the seatbelt clip and placed it on his arm instead. "I want you to stay with me tonight, for the same reason," she said. "Now let's get out of this car and go somewhere we can get some sleep."
He looked at her, the corners of his mouth twisting upwards faintly. Then he got out of the vehicle and pulled their luggage out of the trunk. Emily let him. She'd fought sometimes for her right to not be treated like the weaker sex, but Hotch carrying her belongings made her feel looked after rather than undermined.
They got to her apartment door with passing a single other soul. "Coffee?" she said, pulling her key out of her purse.
"Just bed, I think," he said, and she turned the key in the lock.
The sudden sound blared through the night air, causing nearby night time creatures to seek shelter, and any passersby to fear the worst. The explosion was quick and without pomp or circumstance, a swift, sharp bang that punched glass from windows, and anyone near enough off their feet.
The door that had just been opened was torn from its hinges with the force of the blast, falling onto the person who had just turned the key.
And then there was a shocked silence that bathed the immediate vicinity, shortly succeeded by the flashing lights of emergency vehicles and the sounds of sirens wailing like banshees. There was no rest for anyone. Wicked or not.
Hope this served well as a recap and got everyone up to date who didn't read Humanity.
I'll post the first 'proper' chapter on Sunday.