Frozen in time

Disclaimer : I do not own Criminal minds or any of the characters, and I certainly make no money writing these stories!

Chapter 1: Stand-off

Reid felt a shiver run through his spine when the barrel of the gun dug further into the back of his neck. Most people would have just closed their eyes and waited for it to finish, but Spencer Reid was not most people. He was a control freak, so his first reflex was to keep his eyes wide open and look around, assessing his surroundings to locate any device that could be used to fight back his assaulter. In the corner of his eye, the young agent could see the tip of Derek's nose, as he was hiding behind the desk, his gun already at hand. The man must have noticed too the dark agent's gun because he pressed his own weapon further into Reid's flesh and hissed: "I wouldn't do that, Derek, if I were you."

Xxx

Flash-back

Emily Prentiss was kneeing in one corner of the dead-end, just behind a large grey bin. One elbow resting on her knee while the other arm was stretched forward, as though the light dance of her fingers in the air could help her analyze her surroundings better. She was talking to herself quietly, accompanying each observation with a similar gesture of the hand, until Derek Morgan came to stand behind her. Feeling his presence, the brunette stood and took a step back.

"Did you find something?" He asked, his eyes set on the dried blood that had taken the shape of an oblong circle.

"The crime scene is pretty neat. They took the body away a few minutes ago, but I arrived just in time to see the original disposition. She was lying on her back, her feet in this," she added, turning around and pointing to the street, "direction. Which means the unsub somehow attracted her into this isolated place and cornered her so that she couldn't get away."

Derek nodded, observing the medical examiner who was just closing the body bag at the entrance of his official van.

"No sign of fight?"

"Nothing on the scene." Her eyes lingered on the bare concrete ground. Apart from the nearby bin which was crammed with plastic bags, the dump site was extraordinarily clean. "No blood spatters on the wall, and no sign of defensive wounds on the body, as far as I could see."

Derek fished the cell phone out of his trouser pockets when he felt it vibrate against his thigh.

"It's Hotch." He said, briefly looking at the caller ID before turning away. "Yeah, Hotch. We're at the dump site."

As her colleague walked a few steps away to avoid being overheard by the local officers buzzing around the scene, Emily's attention shifted back to the blood pool on the ground that had long dried. Aaron Hotchner had sent them both to the dump site while they began working victimology. He often did that, knowing that Emily had a special eye for details. She would notice anything out of place, and her empathy for the victims was so strong that crime scenes would instantly 'talk' to her, giving her clues about the last moments of the victim that none of her coworkers could even imagine. While Reid's and Rossi's intelligence were based on psychological factors, Emily's understanding of the cases were based much more on emotions and sensations.

"Strauss is giving them a hell of a time… He didn't say it, but I felt he needs back up at the BAU." Derek's voice came from her back.

"Oh, I can't wait." Emily smirked. Indeed, she was one of the rare agents at the BAU who could speak into Erin Strauss' face without flinching. There was no doubt as to why Aaron Hotchner wanted Emily at his side to confront the dragon.

"There's something else, Morgan. The unsub folded both her arms over their chest and rearranged their hair." She continued, when it was clear that Derek would not respond to her sarcastic comment.

"It's not only a ritual. He feels remorse for what he did." Derek commented, his eyes lost somewhere in the distance.

"Even the killing itself is… almost gentle." Emily shrugged as the word escaped her mouth. She was not sure that she had chosen the right word, but the idea seemed to have reached Derek, who nodded in return.

"One shot, right through the heart."

"The guy doesn't go off on making his victims suffer."

Both agents turned when the well-known noise of the journalistic troops came to their ears. Despite the early hour and the joined work of Jennifer Jareau and the local police to keep the new crime away from media attention, they had smelt the blood. Emily sighed, getting ready to fight off the intruders with her badge and gun if necessary.

Xxx

"Thank God you're here…" JJ whispered as she walked towards Emily and Derek. In her back, the brunette could already see Erin Strauss stand in the middle of the bullpen, with three uneasy-looking agents. "We definitely need another pair of hands to keep her from going through the roof…" She added sarcastically, escorting her colleagues through the bullpen.

"Good morning, Madam." Emily said politely yet with distance as she leaned against her desk, acknowledging Hotch's discreet look. He hoped that the two agents had not come back empty-handed, or he would spend the rest of his career filling in paperwork behind some obscure desk.

"Agent Prentiss, Agent Morgan. I hope you have distinctive evidence for us, or the director will have us for his breakfast." The blonde said, crossing her arms defensively in front of her chest.

"Well, what we can say for sure is that it was the same unsub…" Derek began, almost awaiting the Section Chief to take out her shoe and stab him with the high heel.

"Okay, let's discuss this in a more private place." Hotch offered, nodding towards the empty conference room. The case was hitting hard enough on the Bureau and they didn't need all agents to overhear their theories about the unsub who already murdered three times without leaving a single evidence.

"So" he announced once David Rossi had ended the cortege and closed the door behind him. "What do we have? Prentiss?"

Emily, who had been awaiting his signal, took a step forward and began reciting what they had gathered at the dump site.

"The victim has been shot once, through the heart, just like the others. Same MO, the unsub apparently attracted his victim into this isolated street. We will know more after the autopsy, but the ME could already say that it happened some time between ten and twelve last night."

"Why the delay in discovering the body?" Reid asked, already thinking of the geographical profile. The third victim had been killed in a busy area of Washington DC, packed with bars and gourmet restaurants. Certainly not the place where a gunshot would be common.

"There were no witnesses. He probably used a silencer, like with the previous victims. It was the garbage men who found the body this morning, around five." Derek answered, following Reid's theory till the end.

"The body had been disposed exactly like the others. Arms folded, hair and clothes rearranged…" Emily's voice trailed off as she noticed the look of anger and impatience on Strauss' face. "And no weapon on the scene."

"Okay." The Section chief finally interrupted. "So we have three agents killed off the job in less than a month, and absolutely no evidence. No crime weapon, no DNA, no witness… What is your next move?"