A/N: Sorry guys, I think I'm a bit rusty after the long hiatus – I hope that you're still enjoying the story! Let me know if you feel I've struck any wrong notes below, and I am trying to work up a longer chapter for you soon – I know these have been running short. And welcome, new readers! Feel free to go back to Chapter 1 for the backstory, or start with this case!
Reid, struck by an idea a few moments later, turned away from the photographs and scanned frantically around the conference room for the appropriate tool. Pens, pins, flags, markers, and an empty coffee cup were all visible, but no ruler or measuring tape. Frowning, he stepped hurriedly out of the conference room door, and made eye contact with Jameson. The officer was in conversation with another officer, the report on the newest victim still in his hands. He appeared to stop mid-word when Reid caught his eye, and shot his colleague a look Reid couldn't decipher while he walked to meet the young agent.
"Can I help you, Doctor?" Jameson asked, his brow furrowing a little bit.
"Yes," Reid began, his words tumbling out in a rush, "I just need some kind of a ruler or measuring tape- I'd like to measure the distance between the victim's hands and their personal items placed on the floor." As he finished his sentence, he realized he'd provided far more information than Jameson needed.
An eyebrow quirked up slightly. "No problem," the man said, and took a step away. "Actually," he continued, "I was going to go back and let you know – you were right about the wallet. They found one with the body of the latest victim." There was a pause while both men considered this information. Each angled his head to the opposite side of the other. Then Jameson came to himself, quickly, and opened a drawer, handing Reid a soft tape measure. "Here you go," he said.
"Thanks," Reid said, absentmindedly, his body bent forward as he hastened to get back to the conference room. Jameson watched him hustle away with an indecipherable expression, his arms folded across his chest, crime scene report still in one hand.
Back among the photographs, Reid quickly measured the distance between each victim's hands. He wasn't at all surprised that his suspicion was confirmed: the distance between them was extremely similar – down to 1 cm of difference (some of which might be chalked up to differing camera angles used by CSU.) He quickly called Hotcher to request that he measure this distance and the new crime scene, too. The UnSub had to be extremely good at estimating distances visually, or he brought along some kind of tool to create the consistent distances. Reid thought briefly back over the crime scene photographs, but couldn't recall anything with measuring lines on it at the scenes, nor any common item of standard size that could have been used as a substitute. Even the men's wallets were different sizes from one another.
His eyebrows lifted. The distance between the victims' hands and the wallets ranged from 8.5 cm to 9.5cm. The longer side of all American credit cards (and most state driver's licenses, too), was 86 mm. But what could that mean?
He lifted his cell phone again to call Hotchner; perhaps the rest of the team would find the information useful. It rang as he flipped it open. He frowned at the screen. "Hello?" he asked. "Garcia found that the four victims all banked at different primary banks – or, three of them did. But all four had recently received a payment from or opened a new credit card with a regional bank that none of them used as a primary –that's the only financial connection, so far. There don't appear to be bank personnel in common, though, at least not yet. It will take some time to run through the financial history, but Garcia is looking for unidentified transactions across all their accounts, or common contacts – or even dollar amounts." Reid nodded.
He felt, rather than heard, someone looming behind him, and turned quickly, phone still to his ear, expecting for some reason to see Jameson. Instead he found himself face to face with the Unit's most famous author, eyebrows lifted in a combination of impatience and curiousity.
"Well?" Rossi seemed to say, as he spread his hands. Reid covered the mouthpiece with his palm, as though to respond, when Morgan spoke up again.
"Reid? You still there?"
"Yes, yes, Morgan, I'm still here," the young agent replied. "Sorry, Rossi just arrived back from the Kinroy crime scene." He quickly related his discovery to Morgan, who promised that a a photo of Javier's hand would be on Reid's cell momentarily. Reid nodded, hung up, and then swiveled to face Rossi, planning to bring him up to speed quickly and then head over to ask Jameson to print out the crime scene photograph for him. The phone's display was too small for any kind of reliable measurement.
However, midway through his recitation, Calla's former partner appeared with another sheet of paper. This one caught the light. Reid paused in mid-word. He was starting to feel irrationally frustrated by Jameson's sudden appearances – even though he'd planned to seek the officer out, himself.
Rossi, sensing something in Reid's expression, took the initiative.
"Yes, officer? Do you have something for us?" he enquired.
"Just a printout of some crime scene photographs Dr. Reid requested," Jameson said, handing them to Reid while maintaining eye contact with Rossi.
"And, doctor," he continued, "I just wanted to let you know that we are feeding that satellite imagery from 175 to your technical analyst, and we have traffic pulling camera feeds off of the smaller highways as well." He nodded and left the room, with Rossi's thanks.
Rossi quirked an eyebrow as he turned back to Reid. "Something up with that one?" he asked, mildly.
"Uh, no, no" Reid hastened to assure him. The two agents turned their focus back to the crime scene photographs.
Penelope Garcia ran her hands through her copious hair, tugging on some curls as she did so. She uttered a sound that Reid thought would be a significant challenge to transcribe in the English alphabet. The entire BAU Dallas presence had reunited with grim faces around the precinct's coffee table.
"Nothing," she said, "pure nothing. No common bank staff. There are four branches of this bank, and the victims used three of them. The branches don't even share a security firm. I mean, yes, eventually there's a top level supervisor who signs off on the whole structure, but he's not even in the state currently and never had contact with any of the victims for these transactions. There are no common payors or payees across all of them. Some of the victims did shop at similar places, in person and online, but never all of them, and not with any unusual patterns. Like, Greene bought his groceries at the same place, once a month, as Munroe – but only that once a month, which is when he had other activity that only happened at that time. There is no financial evidence that they ever met one another."
The team's faces remained unchanged as Penelope continued her litany. "The murder weapons were all bought at different places at different times – at least those we can trace, and those are the ordinary ones. Ballistics on the gun doesn't match anything in the system. " Another pause. Still no change.
"Kevin and I have been focusing on the traffic cameras, and I've been using new software I've been working on with DHS, trying to identify vehicles that are the same, or have the same plates, across the different feeds - but that is taking time, and we are also trying to confirm with visual reviews. All the victims had their own cars at their homes, but we're including those, too, and keeping a log of everything that's flagged. . . but so far, I don't think I have anything useful."
"Thank you, Garcia," Hotchner said, his brow furrowed. The technical analyst hung up, rather abruptly.
The head of the team – in all but name – looked around, making eye contact with each of the agents in turn.
"So, we don't have much to go on, right now, in terms of evidence," he began with his customary slowness. "But we do have some elements of a profile." He looked at them meaningfully, waiting for someone to chime in.
Morgan began. "Well, given the makeup of the victims, it's likely the UnSub is a male, not over 40. The use of multiple weapons often indicates a younger killer, but in this case, the planning and methodical nature of the crime scenes – the lack of forensic evidence, and Reid's point about the placement of the wallets – suggests greater organization than that. He's probably no younger than 25."
Prentiss continued, "While most serial killers are white, something about the way these victims' bodies has been placed suggests that the killer is black or Hispanic, closer to the races of his victims. Whereas white killers who kill people of different races often do so to express hatred or fear, these victims were arranged carefully, and in home settings – as though the killer felt comfortable where they felt most comfortable."
"And Munroe lived in a neighborhood where a white person would have been pretty noticeable – even given the distance between plots of land there," Reid finished.
JJ chimed in with a discussion of the lack of crime scene evidence. The care the killer had taken to clean up after himself – successfully – not only let them know that he was good at cleaning up, a person who knew how to use various cleaning products well, but also that he had a reasonable amount of time, no less than thirty minutes, at each crime scene before he left.
"That brings us back to an original question, though," Reid pointed out, his brow furrowed. "Why did he have so much time? His victims didn't die right away. There wasn't anything physically or chemically preventing them from calling for help, or leaving some more traces of struggle, or even possibly clues, if they knew they were dying. Why would they wait there patiently in the same room as their killer, waiting to die?" A moment of silence followed this question.
Then, Prentiss: "Maybe that's just it." The team looked at her expectantly. "They did seem to just sit there patiently. Each of these men – reasonably fit, healthy mean – had some time in between losing his fingers and the death blow – which he did not use to escape, or fight back, or do anything that disrupted the final crime scene at least. Maybe the UnSub convinced them they deserved to die, or that they wanted to."
"Or maybe," added Rossi, "he got them to participate."
"What do you mean, Dave?" Hotchner asked. "Well, I was just thinking," Rossi said. "None of them appeared to have unusual financial activity, I know. And yet they were each found in front of a login screen for a bank account. Each of them had a wallet, a symbol of everything he owned, just out of reach of his fingers. And some of those fingers were removed, like the ritual of punishing a thief."
"Or," Reid added, "like 指詰め – amputating portions of a little finger in atonement, like the Yakuza do in Japan."
"Right," Rossi agreed, nodding quickly. "And, if the UnSub was engaged in some kind of lottery, some kind of gamble, about what would eventually kill each of these men – it's possible that somehow, he involved them in it, too."
"I think that's an interesting theory," Hotchner said, his face darkening as it always did when the methods of a brutal killer began to become clear to the team. "But, of course, the only way you can convince someone to keep gambling," he said, looking up again, "is to convince them they have a chance to win."
The team sat back as a unit in their chairs as Hotchner pulled out his phone. "Garcia," he began, and paused to frown at whatever she'd responded this time, "keep Kevin on the traffic cameras. But I'd like you to get us any records on other recent amputations of fingers – non-lethal ones this time. And please flag any correlations with gambling, or hunting." Now, they had a direction to follow.