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What a Tangled Web We Weave
He caught himself looking at her at the oddest and most inappropriate moments. Like now, standing at a crime scene in what felt like the Arctic tundra. True, it was really only Indiana in the winter, but the Arctic just had a snappier ring to it.
At any rate, now was entirely NOT the time to be drawn in by her.
Really, what was so attractive about windblown hair and a nose redder than Rudolph's? But, yet, there it was again…that draw he felt more and more lately. It was almost magnetic, capturing him against his will and pulling him closer and closer to someone he couldn't have and shouldn't be looking at.
When has that ever stopped you before, a voice remarked dryly from the depths of his psyche?
The answer, he knew, was that it hadn't. And that had created more problems for him than he liked to remember. In fact, two of those three alimony checks he wrote every month had resulted from that so-called magnetic pull. By now, he should have known how to ignore the siren's call, shouldn't he?
Serendipitously stealing another look in her direction, he noticed the faint lines bracketing her delicate mouth. She only got those telltale markers for two reasons. Either she had a hell of a migraine hovering on the horizon, or Emily Prentiss had seen something that didn't fit into one of the many organized boxes her mind automatically formed. Unfortunately, usually one led to the other. And neither boded well for him, her current partner on this particular case.
Moving around a couple of gawking sheriff's deputies, Dave barely quelled a scathing comment. Swallowing it down, he gave himself a mental pat on the back at his unusual restraint. Damn Aaron and his kinder, gentler, more cooperative Behavioral Analysis Unit. Twenty years ago he could have had a good go at the two younger men behind him. Now, it was all about team spirit and unity crap.
What happened to the days when all he had to worry about was catching the fucking bad guy?
Shaking his head to clear his mind once again, he moved closer to his current prey. Kneeling beside Emily on the dewy grass, Dave murmured, "Anything useful?"
"Take a look at her, Rossi," Emily said, nodding toward their unsub's newest unfortunate victim, her eyes still trained on the still white face of the woman lying on the ground. "Do you feel like something is off here?"
Narrowing his eyes on the body, Dave said softly, his words for her alone, "The body's obviously been staged. Her face is turned away. Could be a vague sign of remorse on the unsub's part."
"Her hands, Dave," Emily said with a shake of her head, gesturing above the pretty young woman's clasped hands, her own hands hovering in the air. "Specifically, the nail polish."
"What about it?" Dave asked, squinting as he stared down at the pale pink nail enamel coating their victim's nails. Maybe he should have remembered his reading glasses, he thought belatedly as he had to blink to focus.
"Kate would never wear that color," Emily stated evenly, nodding at the hands of their dead victim, "with that suit."
Jerking his gaze toward Emily, Dave frowned as he narrowed his gaze. "Since when do we refer to our victims by their first name, Prentiss?" he asked sharply, his acute hearing catching her slip easily. The guilty flush creeping up her neck was the only confirmation he needed to know that he'd tapped into a hidden truth that Emily very definitely had not wanted seen...by him or anyone else. "Prentiss?" he prodded when an answer was not forthcoming.
Pressing her lips together, Emily tried to collect her scattered thoughts as she shifted her weight on her ankles. True, she hadn't known the identity of their newest victim when they'd gotten the first call this morning that the unsub had stolen another woman's life. She had left the Indianapolis precinct where they were based with no more knowledge than any other member of her team. But one glance at the slain woman upon their arrival had confirmed it to her, though.
And she'd said nothing. Her desire to stay with the case had been tantamount, and the realization that Kate Bosworth had been killed had been a powerful motivator. "It's complicated, Rossi," she replied, keeping her voice low as she heard more vehicles pulling into the grassy field where the body had been dumped.
"Simplify it then," Dave ordered tersely, leaning back on his heels, his weight sinking his shoes into the damp ground. "What do you know about this woman and how do you know it?"
"Kate Bosworth," Emily murmured, nodding toward the once pretty woman who was now ingloriously displayed for the entire world…or at least the police world. "She was a diplomat's daughter, too."
"Like you," Dave commented, his mind already busily adding this new intelligence to his mental file on the case. And if his mental synapses were firing correctly, he was already beginning to feel the stirrings of something that was definitely close to trepidation.
"Like me," Emily confirmed simply, meeting his eyes for a scant second before she glanced back at the still body.
"So, let me get this straight. This guy has now killed a Senator's daughter, the mayor's niece and now a diplomat's daughter. Did you know all the victims, Emily?" Dave asked bluntly, his eyes boring into her bent head.
"Not directly. But they all traveled in my mother's circle. I honestly never made the connection until I saw Kate's body," Emily replied quietly.
"Where's your mother from, Emily?" Dave bit out, every word clipped as he waited for the answer he felt that he already knew.
"Carmel," Emily answered hesitantly, "about fifteen minutes from here."
"Christ," Dave snapped, his fist clenching against his thigh. "And you're just now giving us this? What were you waiting on, Prentiss?"
"For it to make some sense," Emily retorted, finally turning to face him, her dark eyes flashing angrily. "There's no direct connection between me and this case. I hadn't seen Kate in almost ten years."
"Close enough," Dave growled, scrubbing a hand over his face. Hotch was just gonna love this. When the press got wind of the fact that the Indiana-grown Ambassador's daughter was working the case, they'd be all over them like a fly on shit. Not to mention the fact that Emily could be in the killer's sights as well. What a clusterfuck. Inhaling deeply, Dave demanded, "We'll get back to your less than forthcoming approach to the case in a minute. What about her hands, Prentiss? What are you seeing here?"
"Kate is wearing a red suit, Rossi," Emily stated calmly, gesturing to the sleeve of the victim's soiled Christmas red suit. "Her nails are painted pale pink. No socialite worth her stature is going to wear those two colors together." A wisp of a memory floated through her mind then, laughter filling her ears and the smell of acetone assailing her nose, a long ago late night slumber party invading her thoughts. Shaking her head, Emily forced herself to clear her mind, to return to the present. Memory lane was not her destination…not now.
"Fashion faux pas aside, do you see anything else unexplainable?" Dave snorted, rolling his eyes as he shook his head, her observation not impressing him at that moment.
"Look at the nails, Rossi," Emily snapped, unwilling to be swayed from her reasoning. Letting out a deep breath, she observed, "This nail enamel is obviously cheep. It's cracked and warped already. And the nails have been filed...by a novice."
"You're saying the unsub gave her a manicure before he killed her?" Rossi asked, only half sarcastic now as he let himself actually focus on the body, Emily's words driving him forward.
"I'm saying he filed and painted her nails," Emily shrugged, watching as the man beside her nodded slowly.
"An act of remorse?" Dave queried, bending his head to study the nails more closely.
"Or she fought back," Emily proposed. "Perhaps he was trying to eliminate physical evidence."
"Doesn't explain why he'd take the time to paint them, too. We need to find out if the other victims were treated similarly. I don't see any other signs of defensive wounds," he noted, scanning the body again, years of crime scene analysis allowing him to notice idiosyncrasies that might lead to breaks in the case. But mostly, he let himself take the moment while he fought down the rising anger that threatened to make its presence known again.
Shaking her head, Emily swallowed. "The ME said the damage to her face was caused post-mortem," Emily whispered, forcing herself to look down at Kate's battered face. "Tentative cause of death is just like the others. Asphyxiation."
"Assaulted?" Dave asked softly, guarding his tone as he heard the hesitation in Emily's voice.
Nodding, Emily suppressed a shudder at the violence her one-time friend had endured in the hours before she'd succumbed to the monster that stole her life. "Repeatedly," she replied, keeping her voice steady by sheer willpower.
Rising, Emily faced Dave squarely as he pulled up into a standing position. "Hotch is going to want me off this case, isn't he?"
"Oh, yeah," Dave chuckled, without humor, his lips pulled tight as he dusted his hands against his jeans. "And you'll probably have a nifty little protective detail, too, if I know Aaron the way I think I do."
"Excuse me?" Dave replied, cocking one eyebrow as he stared down at her.
"I said no," Emily repeated insistently, raising her chin slightly as she met his dark eyes, her own gaze even and unwavering.
"Any particular reason you're getting ready to dig in your heels like a child, Prentiss?" Dave asked wryly, crossing his arms over his chest.
"It's simple actually. I know how to catch our unsub," Emily said calmly.
"Care to share?" Dave retorted, his stomach already sinking as her eyes glinted determinedly.
"I'm your bait."