Title: Sour Cherry Pie Life
Genre: Drama, Angst, Humor
Crossover: Supernatural/Criminal Minds
Summary: Dean has retired to the civilian life. Too bad no one told the serial killer currently stalking teenagers in Indiana.
Author's Note: Written for crossbigbang.
The sky was still dark when Lisa groggily walked into the kitchen and poured a cup of coffee. Like always, she didn't ask what he was doing up or how long he'd been awake; Dean was pretty sure she already knew the answers to those questions. Dean folded up the newspapers, map and his notebook when she sat down. Lisa never wanted to know the particulars of the things he researched when he couldn't sleep, just that they'd been passed along to other hunters and that things were taken care of.
They had their little routines in place for mornings, even on days when the nightmares had him up at three. The rest of the day was a little more erratic, between work schedules, school schedules, and the occasional after school activity for Ben, but mornings were constant. Dean was always up earlier than Lisa even after a good night, so he made coffee and usually breakfast. Lisa was up next, typically a half hour or so before Ben, though she was pretty incoherent until the caffeine had time to seep into her system. Ben would trudge into the kitchen grumpy and demanding food in a manner worthy of his uncle at that age, and Lisa and Dean would take turns teasing him. Eventually they'd all head out to work and school for the day.
They didn't discuss anything serious in the morning. Mornings were light, no matter what happened the day before. Lisa was really invested in the idea of fresh beginnings.
This made things a little inconvenient, since he'd spent the last three hours uncovering something that she needed to know and he wanted to get a chance to tell her before Ben stumbled in. At least his early schedule had moved hers up an hour or so. He should have enough time to wake her up all the way before they were interrupted. "Pancakes?"
She looked at him over the edge of her mug. "Did you know that I've gone up a dress size since you moved in and started cooking breakfast?"
"Pancakes?" he repeated, and was rewarded with a roll of her eyes and a smile.
"Sure, why not?" Lisa stood up when he did and tucked herself up against him. "Maybe you'll help me work it off later."
Dean had to admit that it was a plan he liked, even if he couldn't focus on it right now. "I, uh, need to talk with you about something."
She went still for a second before taking a step back. "I'm not going to like this talk, am I?"
"Probably not," he admitted, keeping his hands busy with the mixing bowl and pancake mix. "I noticed a pattern. Kids Ben's age are getting taken and then showing up dead days later. They just found the second one yesterday afternoon." It wasn't a strong, well-established pattern, not yet, but it was enough to make him take notice.
"Do you know what's doing it?"
Dean shook his head. "Not a what. Pretty sure it's a who." He scowled down at the pancake batter he was mixing. "The way these kids are being taken and the way they're killed doesn't make sense for a creature or a demon. And when things don't add up like that, it usually points to a human." He set the bowl aside and started rummaging around for the griddle, setting it on the burners and letting it heat up.
"So the police can handle it," Lisa said, and he could practically taste the relief as she smiled at him and slipped her arms around his neck.e relief as she smiled at him.
"Do you know how long the FBI took to hunt down me and Sam?" Dean demanded. "Almost two years, and then they only caught us when someone gave us up. I'm not exactly bursting with confidence here."
"You can't just go after a human being," she said, stepping away again. "It's not you, Dean."
Every fiber of Dean's being screamed at him to protect his family, to keep fighting until every threat was gone. He knew, deep down in his gut, that this scumbag would come to Ben's school. If there was an underlying fact in the way the universe ran, it was that Murphy's Law was written with the Winchesters in mind. His son was in danger, and he had to stop it. "How about pulling him from school? Just until they nail this guy," he added at Lisa's suddenly sour expression.
She regarded him thoughtfully, moving until she was close enough to touch him. "How about this? You make up a plan for everything the school would need to do to keep Ben safe. We'll talk with Principal Peters. If he doesn't agree to it, and there's another kidnapping, we'll keep Ben home on the condition that he keeps up with his work."
Dean was a little suspicious at this easy acquiescence; he was expecting more of a struggle before getting her to agree to anything. He had a bad feeling that this meant she believed their son was in danger, which felt like confirmation that the universe had it in for anyone connected to him. He had kind of wanted to think that he was just being paranoid, but if Lisa was this easily convinced then there was definitely a problem. "Deal." He gave her a kiss and started pouring circles of batter onto the heated griddle.
"Good. Now, I'm headed upstairs. I need to get ready for work."
"Pancakes will be ready and waiting. Go ahead and send Ben on down." He'd have a half hour after Lisa left to throw on clothing and head for work. Maybe he would be able to get in a little more research afterwards.
It was a late Thursday afternoon when Hotch told them all to report to the conference room. JJ was standing at the head of the table and all the profilers could tell from her posture that this was going to be a bad case.
"What do we have?" Aaron Hotchner asked.
"Whitestown, Indiana, March tenth. Sometime between the end of school at three-thirty and five o'clock eleven year old Kathleen McDonnell disappeared. No witnesses. She walks home and sometimes stops at different friends' houses. At five, her parents started getting worried and called around. No one had seen her. By five-thirty, the police were called and by six, an Amber Alert went out. The police searched all over and found nothing. Seven days later Kathleen was found, object-raped and strangled to death in an alleyway in town. Again, no witnesses. She had been dead for approximately twenty-four hours before being found at noon when a busboy took out the trash to the dumpster behind his restaurant.
"The same day Kathleen's body was found and approximately twenty miles away in Big Springs, Christopher Casolari was kidnapped on his way home from school."
"Switching sexes?" Rossi's disbelief was shared by the table. "Are we sure that they're related?"
JJ nodded. She had been expecting the question. "I think you'll agree when I finish."
Rossi waved a hand indicating that she should do so.
"He disappeared between three-twenty and four-thirty. This Amber Alert went out by five. No witnesses. For the same reasons as the rest of us, no one connected the two cases. Then seven days later –today-, Christopher was found, object-raped and strangled to death in an alleyway in his town. He had been dead for approximately twenty-four hours before being found at ten. This time it was a business owner," she double-checked her notes, "a hairdresser who found the body as she was taking out the trash."
"Today again, thirty miles away from Christopher's town and forty miles away from Kathleen's, Kristin Moore didn't make it home from school." She glanced at her watch. "Amber Alert went out twenty minutes ago. No one is expecting any helpful tips from the tip-line."
Hotch took over. "We have six days to find an organized, intelligent, careful bisexual pedophile, something we really haven't seen before. Wheels up in twenty."
He closed the panel of the compartment and put the seat back into place, locking it in so none of the weapons would shift as he drove over the rough terrain. The amulet around his neck swung against the edge of the door as he stood up and he absently reached up and tucked it under his shirt, clutching it in his palm for a moment before hiding it from view.
The Jeep's engine made a slight groaning noise before it turned over and he grabbed the notebook he kept on the passenger seat and made a note to have it checked out the next time he was in civilization. Lately those little details seemed to slip away when he didn't write them down.
He reached for the radio out of habit and loneliness and found a local station playing classic rock, letting the familiar sounds of crashing guitars soothe him as he drove away. There was a possible striga working out of a hospital in Pennsylvania and he needed to get there soon. And the fastest route there would take him past Indianapolis, which was only a short drive out of his way to check on Dean.
"I need a favor, Jen," Dean said as he set the sheets of paper onto the reception desk. "Can you make a bunch of copies of this and hand them out to the teachers?"
"What are they?"
"Plans to keep the kids safe. Peters is a moron and won't enforce it, but hopefully some of the teachers will decide that it's worth it and use them." Dean felt like growling under his breath at the other man's ineptitude. He'd spent almost an hour being patronized and ignored before he'd been completely dismissed. "I'm yanking Ben out of school until they catch this asshole."
Jen looked worried. "Are they in that much danger?"
"There's two kids dead, one missing, and we're right in the guy's path," Dean said grimly. "My kid's not gonna be next." He'd gone through way too much in his life to let some human asshole lay a finger on Ben.
"Do you think I should pull Katie?" Jen asked, ignoring the papers he'd handed her and looking at him instead. Sometimes the faith she had in him scared him a little. Dean knew a lot about certain things, but those things didn't always necessarily translate well to the normal world. Most of the time he was just making shit up as he went along.
"If the teachers stick to the plan, the kids will be safer here than at home by themselves."
She let out a shaky breath, obviously unconvinced. "Would you let Katie stay with you and Ben during the day?"
Dean shrugged, forcing his fists to unclench and relax. Nothing pissed him off more than authority figures who didn't know what they were doing. "Shouldn't be a problem. I'm just gonna set up a little corner of the garage so he can take care of his schoolwork. Katie can settle right in next to him. Lisa or I will stop by to drop off homework or pick up work for the next day." It had been one of Lisa's qualifications when she'd agreed to let him pull Ben, and one he agreed with entirely. Ben was smarter than a GED and a job at a local mechanic's shop, and he'd need school to make it happen.
Jen nodded, looking relieved, and paged the classrooms so the teachers would send both of the children to the office. "Can I talk to the other parents? The ones who know you?" The unspoken 'the ones who were involved in the changeling mess' was heard and received with a nod.
"Go ahead. I'm pretty sure I can watch out for 'em at the shop."
Katie came in first, and Jen pulled her aside to explain what was going on. Ben was close behind, shoulders tense until he saw Dean waiting for him. "We going home?"
Dean nodded. "We'll walk Katie down to her locker first, go get your books, and then head back to the garage. I left Greg Davis minding the shop while I got you."
"Katie's coming with us?"
"Her mom wants her kept safe." And that was one thing Dean could do very well.
Lisa had only asked Dean for three things when he moved in: that he quit drinking, that he look for a job, and that he tell her when something was wrong. He'd worked on all three with varying degrees of success, though that last item was somehow the hardest for him.
She'd never demanded that he give up hunting. He'd decided that on his own, before he showed up at her doorstep, and sometimes she regretted that particular decision of Dean's. His focus as he studied the map, marking every school that he thought might be a target and adapting a plan to keep the kids at that school safe, made her think that this was what he was like on a hunt. It suited him. He came alive on the hunt.
Ben was sitting at the table with him, listening as his father explained in low tones why he'd settled upon that area as the bad guy's comfort zone. He was lapping up the information, paying far more attention to Dean than he probably ever showed to his teachers. It reminded her of the way her son had taken to the gun lessons, even while she struggled with loading and firing the .22 Dean had made sure she could use and insisted she carry. The Winchester genes bred true, the ones that mattered anyway. Ben might have her eyes and hair, but the rest of him was Dean.
Dean leaned in while Ben asked a question, a small smile on his face when he answered, and Ben lit up at whatever he had said.
"So what's the count up to?" she asked, sitting down across from the two of them with her tea.
"Eleven public schools and four private," Dean said, setting down his pen and rubbing his forehead. "Luckily seven of them have similar layouts so I won't have to do much to fix a plan for them."
"Do you need to?" Lisa asked. "Shouldn't those principals see the danger and fix things?"
Dean and Ben shared a startlingly similar look, master to apprentice. "There's too much risk that they won't know what's wrong until after something happens. The cops haven't exactly been putting out a statewide bulletin on this . . .creep." She could tell he'd wanted to use another term for the bad guy, and appreciated his restraint in front of Ben. If there was one guarantee from Ben right now, it was that whatever his father said or did would be carried over into Ben's own behavior and vocabulary. His teachers were less than appreciative.
"All right. How are you guys doing at the garage during the day?"
There was a smile, almost a grin. "If nothing else, they're picking up a trade. Even Katie knows how to change the oil in a car now."
That was pretty impressive. Lisa didn't know how to change the oil in her car, though she could change a tire if she needed to. "Mike's all right with them hanging out all day?"
"They're all pretty good kids. He said if they stayed out of trouble and didn't cause any damage they could stay as long as I needed them to."
"Just so you know, you're not pulling Ben out of school permanently just so he can keep you company at the garage. No matter how much he begs."
"Aw, mom," Ben complained, and she couldn't help but laugh and smooth his hair down.
"Go upstairs and get ready for bed. You've got a big day ahead tomorrow." She waited until her son had disappeared upstairs, grumbling under his breath, before turning to Dean. "Something happened."
"If the bastard sticks with his schedule, the missing girl is going to turn up dead tomorrow and he'll grab someone else that afternoon. They're running out of time to catch him."
Well, that explained the tenseness of his shoulders. Lisa ached for the family of the girl. She wondered if they knew their daughter was probably already dead, if it would be better to know or to be blindsided by the news. "What are you going to do?"
"I'm going to keep Ben and his friends safe and hope that the teachers are doing the same at the school. Not much else that I can do against humans." He looked tired now, worn down, and Lisa leaned down and wrapped her arms around him from behind, resting her chin on his shoulder.
There was a lot that she could say now, from 'it's not your responsibility' to 'I know you'll protect Ben with your life,' but Dean probably wouldn't react well to any of them. Instead she just whispered, "I love you," in his ear. It was all she could do for him.
Reid's assurances that this entire case, while fascinating, didn't truly stray from what they really already knew helped a little, but Aaron could tell that the whole team was getting a little frustrating. Reid had been working on the geographic profiling, trying to find some sort of vector for where the unsub would be going next, Morgan and Prentiss were trying to find commonalities between the victims, and JJ was trying to smooth over agitated, grieving parents. Kristin had been found that morning in the dumpster of a local antique store despite every effort spent trying to find her before such a thing happened. They had known they were looking at a limited time frame and now everyone was tired, angry, and frustrated at their inability to nail the unsub. They were probably within a hairsbreadth of being asked to leave by the local authorities. The best that they could hope for was that Kristin's body would help track down her killer.
JJ interrupted his train of thought with a clearing of her throat. "Hotch, we have another report. There was an attempted kidnapping at a school fifteen miles west of here. A teacher managed to stop it."
They had known that the unsub would be moving on to a new victim today, based on all previous evidence, but that particular method of kidnapping was more bold than the unsub had been so far. Rossi was working with Reid to refine the geographic profile with this new information, so Hotch took Prentiss and Morgan with him out to the school.
They were still in Indiana, this time a small town called Cicero. The school was controlled chaos when they got there, the teachers managing to keep order and double-check that every child was picked up by an actual approved guardian and that none slipped away on their own. It was one of the most controlled school lockdowns that Hotch had ever seen.
The teacher who had stopped the kidnapping was staying with the near victim in the nurses' office, waiting for the boy's parents. She was pear-shaped, with wide hips and slender shoulders. Bruises peppered her arms and she had one on her chin. She wore them with pride and she deserved to, since she had saved young William Trey's life.
"Ms. Secor, you normally don't spend your free period outside. Why did you today?"
"I was in the right place at the right time, but it wasn't an accident. It was suggested in the memo."
She pulled a stack of papers from the top of the pile she was carrying and handed it over. "Ben's father wrote it up and put it in everyone's mailboxes after the principal refused to enact it. Everything here is pretty common sense; I didn't see any reason not to follow the suggestions for a couple weeks with that wacko out on the loose. Most of the other teachers have been following it all this week. I'm glad I did. Billy won't end up like those other children now."
Hotch glanced through the papers with a growing sense of amazement. As Secor mentioned, everything was common sense and easy to follow and would have kept every school child protected. Ben's father had identified the most likely abductions spots and placed a teacher at each one. "Is Ben still here?"
"Oh, Ben hasn't been here since Thursday afternoon. That was when Mr. Campbell had an argument with Mr. Peters and Mr. Peters said that he couldn't make the teachers follow this. Campbell took Ben home and has been calling me for homework assignments every night. Lisa –that's Ben's mother- has been dropping off the completed homework every morning on her way to work."
"Did any other families' follow suit?" JJ asked
"Yes, my class is half its normal size. Once Mr. Campbell removed Ben, several other parents did so as well. From what I've heard and from the homework papers that Lisa has dropped off, most are staying with Mr. Campbell during the day. None of the other ages have the same thing, but I don't think they know Mr. Campbell as well."
"Do you know where we could find Mr. Campbell and the children?"
"I assume that it's the garage that Mr. Campbell runs. I'm not sure that calling Ben's house would help you since they screen their calls. You should ask Jen."
"Jen?" Hotch echoed.
"Jen Hoskiss, Katie's mother. She's also the school secretary. She was the first parent to follow Mr. Campbell's example. Katie and Ben have been best friends for years."
It took some time to arrange a meeting with Jen Hoskiss. She was in the middle of the bedlam, answering phone calls from frantic parents, getting messages to the correct teachers and making sure that each child was leaving with an approved guardian. They weren't able to sit down until almost five p.m., and by then the woman was clearly nervous and worried. "I need to go pick up Katie soon," she blurted out as soon as they were alone. "Dean needs to close up the garage at six."
"This shouldn't take long," Prentiss assured the woman. "Do you mind telling us why you pulled Katie from school?"
"Because Dean pulled out Ben," she said immediately. "The only way he would do something like that is if there was real danger."
"And how would Mr. Campbell know that there was danger?"
She shook her head. "He just does. He saved Katie's life once, when she was eight. Saved me too, in a way."
"Saved her how?"
Ms. Hoskiss shifted in her chair. "I thought there was something wrong, but no one would believe me. Even Lisa thought I was just grieving over Steven. Dean is the only who paid any attention, and he was the one who brought Katie back to me."
Hotch frowned. There was something going on here. "Was Katie abducted, like William Trey almost was?"
"No," she said immediately. "She was just lost. Dean helped find her."
They let her go when it became clear that the woman wasn't going to be saying anything else helpful. She wasn't telling them everything, and Hotch thought she almost seemed afraid to go into detail. It was obviously time to go speak with Dean Campbell.
It was a stupid impulse, and he knew it. Every time he came even close to passing near Cicero, Indiana, he had to stop and look in on Dean. It was a dumb thing to do, and it was probably going to get him caught someday, but he couldn't help it. He had to know that Dean was all right, that he was safe and happy with Lisa and Ben. That Sam had given up having his brother in his life for a good reason. Dean pulled him in like gravity, the polar opposite magnet that attracted him with an irresistible force.
He knew the way to the garage by heart, knew all the back ways through the whole town like he'd lived there, and it didn't take him long to pull up across the street into the small grocery store. The engine died with a rattle that made him wince a little. It needed a mechanic badly, and he still hadn't had time to find one that he wouldn't make him feel bad about pawning off a bad credit card.
The garage was moderately busy, as it usually was on a weekday. The place where Dean worked did good, steady business, and he knew that the owner trusted Dean because Dean was pretty much in charge and left to run the place five days a week.
The first sign that something was off showed up when he saw Ben and a girl about the same age step outside of the garage when he knew they should be in school. Dean ushered them back inside soon enough, but Sam was able to catch a glimpse of more children in the background. It was frustrating, staying hidden when he wanted to go inside and find out what was going on, why Dean had deviated from his routine.
A black SUV that practically screamed 'government car' pulled up and Sam took that as his cue to leave. The man who got out of the car was exactly the kind of person Sam tried to impersonate when he pulled out the fake FBI badge, and it was more than a little worrying that they were coming to Dean. He had planned to check on his brother and get back on the road, but this was a development he needed to keep his eyes on. Something was going on with his brother, something that threatened Dean and the safe, happy life that Sam was protecting, and he couldn't let that go unhindered.
The chaos of the attempted abduction and the ensuing scramble to keep a lid on the situation until they had it figured out pushed back the meeting with Dean Campbell until the next day. Ms. Secor had insisted on going back to school that morning, which meant they had to increase the school security as a precaution, so it was almost noon by the time Hotch and JJ headed towards the garage where the man worked.
The baseball had bounced around the back corner of the Bigelow's Garage and a dark blonde girl followed, her attention focused on the object rather than her surroundings.
"Hey there," JJ bent down and picked up the ball for the tiny pre-teen. She offered the ball to the child.
The girl merely stood there and stared.
"I'm not going to hurt you. Are you Dakota?" JJ had seen a picture of Katie on Jen's desk and knew this girl wasn't her. JJ had also gotten a list of names of the other children Dean Campbell was watching. Dakota was the only other female name on the list.
Her name seemed to shock Dakota out of her stupor. She started backing up and shaking her head. Hotch was pleased to note that the child had never gotten close enough to be grabbed. Two boys came tearing around the corner. They moved to flank the girl, both staring at the FBI agents.
It was well past time to identify themselves. "I'm Special Agent Aaron Hotchner of the FBI and this is Special Agent Jennifer Jareau."
The boys ignored them and the one on the right grabbed Dakota's arm and lightly tugged her behind him. "Dad wants you. Now."
Looking relieved, Dakota used this as an excuse to turn and run. The boys covered her retreat. The talker –must be Ben Braeden- never took his eyes off the adults. The agents followed slowly; they didn't want the kids to think that they were being chased. Right around the corner they were met by an adult male with a very heavy wrench in his hand. He could and would do damage with the wrench. Intent was evident in every muscle of his body. He was also standing between the agents and the children.
"Mr. Campbell?" Hotch assumed.
Hotch very slowly reached for his badge, careful to be as non-threatening as possible. "I'm Supervisory Special Agent Aaron Hotchner of the FBI and this is Special Agent Jennifer Jareau."
Hotch was sure that Campbell hated to drag his eyes off of the agents, but he did and he studied the badge long enough to assure himself of its veracity. Hotch was pretty sure the man would have been able to spot a fake. "What do you want?"
"We just want to know how you were so sure that the… kidnapper was going to arrive at your son's school this week."
"I wasn't sure," Campbell protested.
"You removed your son from the school premises within the same hour that the third adolescent was reported missing and you have not allowed him back."
Campbell shifted. Guilt? Or something else? "Better safe than sorry."
"Why did you do it?"
Campbell shrugged. "The worst possible outcome seems to be the one that comes true for my family." Truth, from Campbell's point of view, at least. Hotch would have Garcia check Ben Braeden's records. How often did Campbell yank him? Was this paranoia?
"He did come to Ben's school, didn't he?" Campbell suddenly snapped rhetorically. "Jen called as soon as she could. Who did he try to get?"
"Thanks to you," JJ smiled, "and Ms. Secor, no one was taken."
"Who did he get close to?"
Hotch debated telling him, but then the gossip and probably Jen Hoskiss would inform him as soon as he asked. "William Trey. He's safe at the hospital now with his parents. Just bumps and bruises."
Campbell nodded. "Good. Is that ass, Peters, finally going to protect all of the kids in that school?"
"That was our advice."
Campbell nodded again. "These kids will stay here until you catch this s…," a quick glance at the obviously eavesdropping kids, "SOB."
"What do you think the Unsub will do next?" Hotch asked.
Campbell was surprised they asked for his opinion and quickly figured out that they suspected him of having inside information. "I don't know." He ran a hand through his hair. "I really don't know. People are crazy."
"And kids?" JJ asked.
Campbell glanced over his shoulder and met Ben's eyes. Both males grinned. "I love kids. They're pretty much the only ones you can count on to be honest."
Again, absolute truth. Hotch tried to be as calm and understanding as possible. "Mr. Campbell. We know that you are not involved, but we have to investigate every piece of the puzzle. Please tell me that you have an alibi for the last three Thursdays. Today you were with these children?" He started.
All six of the children nodded vigorously. Katie piped up. "We have to tell Dean if we go Ianywhere/I, even the bathroom and we have to go with someone."
"He's been with us the whole time," Ben said defiantly. "We've stayed at the garage since it opened."
"Well, good. And last Thursday at noon?"
"Here. I was changing the oil on Mr. Davis' car. I was listening to the radio on an ear bud so that I could hear it over Davis. That man likes to talk. Come over here," Campbell waved the agents into the tiny office and handed them the logbook. Campbell stayed outside the door and was constantly tracking the kids. "Stay in the garage, Andy." The boy quit wandering near the bay door and joined the others near the workbench. Various schoolbooks were scattered around.
Hotch read through the entry and compared it to those around it. "Why didn't he pay?"
"Had to leave in the middle. He agreed to watch the shop while I ran to the school if I ate the price of the oil change. So I did."
It sure sounded like the truth to Hotch but he still had JJ record Davis' contact info on her phone. "The previous Thursday?"
Campbell reached over and flipped through the logbook pages. He stopped at the appropriate page and read his own handwriting upside down. "The Perry Family Aveo. Brake job." He rolled his eyes. "I had promised her that it would be done by noon and the damn rotor would not come off. Sue Perry was less than understanding that it was taking a while. I think she even called up Mike –he owns the garage- to complain about my service."
Again, JJ recorded the data. Hotch flipped earlier in the book. The time recorded was a little before noon, but not by much. "Mrs. Scheulch?"
"Old lady, sixty or so. I swear she drives her Cadillac into shopping carts at the grocery store so that she can come here and watch my ass as I take out the dents. She usually stays to chat for about a half hour once I'm done. I think she gets lonely or something." He shrugged as if it didn't really matter to him. "Must be pretty desperate to sit around and talk with me, I guess, but she's pretty much harmless."
JJ finished taking down the last patron's information and Hotch took one last look around. Most of the children had gone back to their schoolwork by now, though the man's son and Katie Hoskiss lingered nearby. "We might have more questions for you later, Mr. Campbell. Can you let us know if you think of anything or if anything happens that you think might be suspicious?" He'd seen William Trey before they loaded him up into the ambulance and there was more than a passing similarity to Ben Braeden. There was a good chance the man's possible paranoia had paid off.
Campbell accepted the card he offered and tucked it into his wallet. "I can do that," he told them. "I've really got to get back to work now."
"We understand." He waited until they were out of earshot before Hotch turned to JJ. "JJ, under what circumstances would you hand over Henry –while he was possibly in danger- to a non-family member?" Hotch was staring at all the kids surrounding Dean as he asked the question.
It didn't take JJ long to answer. "Only if I knew that the person could do a better job protecting Henry than Will and I could."
"And that knowledge would only be gained through experience."
JJ nodded at the children. "That kind of trust can only be gained through experience. I would trust Henry with the other members of our team and my family. That's pretty much it."
Hotch palmed his phone and called Garcia as they headed back out to the car.
"Welcome to the grand stage of computer magic," the tech answered. "What miracle can I pull out of my hat for you?"
"Garcia, I need you to find everything on Dean Campbell."
"Are we thinking that he's our Unsub?"
"No. He's got a good alibi for three out of the five times that we know about, but he's something. And I think our Unsub is going to fixate on him and the children he protects soon. Whatever the Unsub's previous plans, Campbell knocked them off track. We can't truly predict what he'll do now that his pattern has been interrupted. Also, how many days of school has Ben Braeden missed this year before the Unsub came to town?"
"Two days for the flu. One day late fall with a cold."
"A week for chicken pox."
"Double check those dates and make sure they don't correlate to anything a paranoid father might keep his son home for."
"Yes, sir." Garcia hung up.
"You think he's paranoid?" JJ asked.
"No. But that's an easier explanation than how he knew that his son's school would be targeted next."
"Couldn't someone without training figure out the Unsub's methods?"
"We always say that the best profilers are the Unsubs."
"Hotch. We see people during the worst time of their lives. Some people out there have to be good people too. Campbell saw a threat and removed his son from the line of fire."
"The general population is not that aware. Only great trials can produce that type of precaution. Campbell shouldn't have been able to predict the unsub like this. We need to know why and how in case there's a connection."
He would lay down the law with the kids later. They weren't supposed to separate for anything, not even for a second, not even to go to the bathroom, and just because he was within yelling distance didn't mean they could just ignore that rule. Billy Trey could be Ben's stunt double, the two of them looked so alike. He knew what that meant when it came to serial killers. Ben needed to be kept safe. That was the most important thing of all.
Right now he had the FBI to deal with, and the possibility that they could pin his real name to his face and make his life complicated again. If there was even a hint of the Winchester name from them, he would have to run and leave Lisa and Ben behind. He couldn't bring that kind of trouble on his family. Lisa was a fucking saint for letting him into her life in the first place.
The questions were pretty much what he expected. It pissed him off a little that they were wasting their time with him when this son of a bitch was probably already picking a new kid to take, but once they'd confirmed his alibi they'd move on and leave him the hell alone, hopefully.
Ben took up a position at his side, his chin up and arms folded in a deliberately belligerent pose once he'd figured out the direction of the FBI's questions. Katie was on his other side, tiny and determined. Dean wondered how the hell these two had come to be his protective detail.
The agents left once they'd recorded the details of his alibi. He'd never been so glad to see Mike's OCD record-keeping when they asked about his whereabouts. Ben headed reluctantly back to his friends when Dean asked about his homework, Katie following behind him, and Dean returned to the Thunderbird he was rebuilding. It was hard to tell, but he was probably in the clear, so long as no one got any bright ideas about DNA or fingerprints. He had no idea if those things stayed in the database this long after a suspect was presumed dead, but it was better safe than sorry.
Garcia called back about an hour later. The team was still at the police station, working frantically to try and figure out the unsub's next move. Now that his prey had been taken from him, there was no predicting his movements. Would he try another school, go back to his method of scooping kids up after school, or focus his attention somewhere else entirely? There had been no sign on the radar so far, but that was anything but a good sign. "What have you got for us, Garcia?" Hotch asked, putting her on speakerphone in the tiny conference room they had claimed.
"It's not good news," she admitted.
"Just tell us what you have, Baby Girl," Morgan said.
"Sir. Before Dean Campbell moved in with the Braedens three years ago, he did not exist. He did not legally change his name so, at this moment, I have no idea where he came from."
"Keep looking," Rossi told her. "Skills like those don't appear overnight. Someone somewhere knows where he came from."
"Yes sir," she said, hanging up.
They buried themselves in the profile, digging into the unusual victimology and the recent departures from the pattern. The unsub had become secure enough to attempt a high-risk grab and had gotten burned. Would he revert to the safety of his previous pattern of try something even more risky?
Hotch had been working on that question for two hours when Garcia called back.
"Hotchner," he answered his phone. Reid didn't look up from his maps, though Prentiss was watching him, her attention and focus pulled away from the pile of possible sex offenders in the area.
"Well, sir, in a spell of awesomeness that amazed even myself I have managed to find who Dean Campbell used to be. Since you doubted that he had a criminal record and he didn't show up in my search for him there, I searched for lost and missing people three years ago and further in Indiana and the surrounding states and I found him."
"Dean Smith, former Director of Sales and Marketing of Sandover Iron and Bridge Inc of Toledo, Ohio. They had a rash of mysterious deaths, mostly suicides –one of which, Dean witnessed a guy shove a pencil into his own neck. Can we say yuck! The following Monday, the president of the company, Dean and an IT guy by the name of Sam Wesson disappeared. On the same day, Dean's family all died in a car crash in California. They have Dean on security cameras working OT at the time of the crash so no one was looking at him for the dirty deed."
"But that many deaths in one weekend could have easily been the stressor that caused Dean to abandon all he knew," Hotchner hypothesized.
"That's what the cops thought too. So Smith was completely off the radar for over a year and by off the radar, I mean that I can't find a whiff of him anywhere and then he showed up in Indiana as Dean Campbell applying for a job as a car mechanic. And his home address was and is the same as Ben and Lisa Braeden's."
"I thought you might ask that so I did a little digging. About the same time that Campbell applied for the job, he also walked into a clinic with Ben and they had DNA tests. It turns out that Ben is Dean's biological son. I can place Dean Smith and Lisa in the same state at the time of Ben's conception but not much more."
"It was a one night stand, or near enough," Hotch pronounced.
"Sounds about right. Dean Campbell replaced 'Father Unknown' on Ben's birth certificate."
"Good job, Garcia. Any luck at finding a connection between the victims?"
"When I know, you'll know, sir."
It wasn't hard to find out at least the general outline of what had happened at Ben's school. Ironically, the FBI presence helped a little. News that the FBI was in town investigating the possible kidnapping meant that it was just a little easier for him to flash a badge and get answers as long as he was wearing a suit.
Those answers made things a little more turbulent, instead of less. Dean had managed to get himself into the middle of this mess, like he always did, and attracted the attention of the FBI just by being himself. Sam would have worried more if he hadn't known that all records of Sam and Dean Winchester had been wiped from the federal database a few years ago. It was probably a parting gift from the angels, or more likely Castiel. Sam had a feeling that anything from the side of Heaven that worked out for the Winchesters was a direct result of Castiel's interference.
He sent a mental apology to the families in Pennsylvania. They would have to wait. Dean needed his protection.
The house was pressing down on him a little, like it did sometimes since he first came to Lisa and Ben. Dean knew that he had been a wreck when he showed up three years ago. He still had nightmares, more than occasionally, and when he moved in he had still been drinking way more than he should have been, though Lisa and Ben had done an admirable job of putting him back together. Sometimes he thought he saw Sam out of the corner of his eye, or in the background during the news, but it was never his brother when he looked again. Dean had called Bobby eight different times over the course of the that first year, certain that he'd seen Sam, only to be told with Bobby's typical gruffness that Lucifer was obviously still locked up tight and so was his brother, since the signs of the apocalypse hadn't reappeared. He had finally taught himself to stop looking for Sam and the knot of fear and hope and love that had taken up residence in his chest years ago had slowly eased into something a little more manageable. His more recent nightmares were more likely to feature horrible things happening to his new family rather than his old. God knew this recent problem was giving him a few extra nightmares.
There was no sign of any police progress online, though Dean wasn't really expecting it. He knew the FBI were notoriously close-mouthed when it came to discussing open investigations, something he had used to his advantage when hunting, and the guy he had met at the garage yesterday seemed to be even more reluctant to share than most. There was one tiny paragraph about Billy Trey's almost kidnapping, but nothing further.
He sifted through a handful of online news sources, checking for any possible hunts. It was long-ingrained habit, the kind developed over a lifetime, and he hadn't managed to break it yet. He had handled one or two salt and burns in the immediate area, both of them more potential problems than real dangers, and passed every other case off to Bobby since the older man was the closest thing to a hub for most of the Hunters out there now that the Roadhouse and Ellen Harvelle were gone.
At five or so he started a fresh pot of coffee. Lisa would be up soon and it would be nice to spend some time with her before everything went insane. The past few days had been rough and he wanted that quietness. He'd come to crave her steadiness when things got crazy. Dean had a feeling that those two dumb kids who had managed to conceive Ben on that wild weekend wouldn't come close to recognizing Lisa Braeden and Dean Campbell, responsible parents and homeowners.
Sometimes he had a hard time believing it himself.
"Agent Hotchner!" The portly, Asian principal hurried to catch up with him. Hotch stopped in the sidewalk and politely waited. He understood the necessity of working with the local schools to increase the security, but it always took more time than he had available. It was one of the reasons he had lobbied for the BAU PR position and eventually, JJ. The principal finally reached him and handed Hotch a stack of papers. "You said that we have to improve our security. Would this suffice?"
Three pages in and Hotch knew where he had seen this set-up before. It was similar, in some places word for word, to the memo from Cicero. "Where did you get this?"
"It was delivered anonymously and there was a note on it saying that we were possibly in the kidnapper's path and that this would make our kids safer. I blew it off, but you say that we need more and this is already written. Would this work?"
"Yes. Did you hear about the aborted kidnapping attempt yesterday?"
"The only reason that the attempt failed was because the teacher was following the directions in the memo made by the same person who wrote yours."
The principal was pleased. "Oh, good. The teachers will complain less about losing their free periods if I can say that."
"Thank you for showing this to us. Do you know if any other schools got the same sort of memo?"
Principal Woo shook his head. "Not that I know of, but I could ask around."
"Please do." Hotch handed him his FBI business card. "If any of them have received a security plan like yours please call me and have them fax me a copy of the plan."
"Of course, of course." Woo looked confused. "If you're saying that this isn't the work of the kidnapper, why don't you know who made this up?"
"We do. Just tell anyone who asks that a good citizen who wishes to remain anonymous sent those out."
As soon as they were in the car, Hotch called up the garage that Campbell worked at. Ben answered the phone, "Bigelow's Garage. You crash them, we mash them back together."
Hotch smiled slightly but didn't let it seep into his voice, nor did he pause. "Ben, this is Agent Hotchner. May I speak with your father?"
"Just a sec. iDad!/I The FBI guy is on the phone."
As expected, Campbell took possession of the phone a moment later. Hotch knew that he would never be far from Ben and the other kids. "Agent," Campbell drawled.
"Mr. Campbell, we would like to meet with you and go over the school security plans you've already completed. You did a phenomenal job creating them for the schools and we would like to know which schools you have already contacted so that we don't have to reiterate anything you've accomplished."
There was a pause, something Hotch tentatively identified as surprise. "Huh. Yeah, I guess so. Can it wait until after I close up tonight?"
"That's fine. Come by the station this evening."
Despite how obviously worried Dean was, Ben was having the time of his life. Schoolwork didn't take nearly as long when you didn't need to wait on the teacher to explain things, and he usually finished his homework for the day by noon. Then the real fun of the day began.
The past week had proved to the others that Dean was, beyond a doubt, the coolest dad around. In between fixing cars and answering homework questions, he had taught them all how and why an engine works and showed them how to make one work better. Then he gave them a pile of old parts and had them try to build one while he worked through the routine oil changes and diagnostic estimates that apparently made up a typical day for him.
It made him a little sad, sometimes, and more than a little angry at people like Principal Peters. He knew Dean was a hero. All of his friends from his old neighborhood and their moms knew it too. He had no idea why other people couldn't figure it out when it was so obvious how awesome Dean was. He was Batman and Han Solo and Indiana Jones and it was stupid that other people didn't look at him and know this.
Right now they were waiting for Ms. Hoskiss to pick up Katie. She was always the latest, since she had to stay until the school was locked up. Katie was fidgeting a little. She hated to stay still. Dean was keeping them both inside while they waited, just inside the garage door. He'd already locked the doors and he was just waiting to drop down the big bay door when they left for the night.
"What's taking so long?"
"Stay in the garage, Ben," Dean said. He was distracted, looking around him. "I'm sure Jen's on her way. We'll head for home as soon as she's here to pick up Katie."
"Is something wrong?"
Dean looked at him, a little startled. "What? No, of course not. Everything's fine, Ben."
Ben huffed. He was pretty sure Dean wasn't telling him the truth, not completely, but there was no way to call him on it. "Then what are you looking for?"
There was an odd look, one that usually meant he was puzzling out some weird grown-up issue. "I don't know. Something's weird." He tilted his head, listening for something, and then stepped outside the door, waving Ben and Katie back a little.
This time of day was quiet around the garage. Most of the last-minute, stop-on-the-way-home shoppers at the grocery store across the street were gone by now and there was only the occasional passing car to disturb the relative peace. Ben tried to listen like Dean was, straining his ears and coming up on tiptoe in his efforts.
"What the hell does Sue Perry need now?" Dean muttered, stepping out further and craning his neck.
To Ben, the next few moments passed by very quickly. There was a startled grunt from Dean, a shove back from the door. He wouldn't remember hearing the gunshots later when the FBI lady questioned him, just the way Dean looked when he went down and the car speeding away.
Katie was already running towards the office, hopefully to call for an ambulance. Dean pulled himself up until he was sitting, and Ben was pretty sure that his dad was purposefully trying to not make any noise to indicate how hurt he was, but the blood was kind of hard to miss. He saw the blunt end of one of those ugly Aveos as it raced away and heard the harshness of Dean's breathing.
"It's all right, Ben," Dean said. His dad's face was pale, the freckles that Ben had inherited and that were the bane of his existence standing out. "It's just a shoulder hit. I've had worse."
Katie came running back to them, her dark eyes wide and frightened. Dean was her hero now too, had been ever since the day he had rescued them from the changelings. "The ambulance is coming," she said. "I called 911."
"Awesome," Dean managed to grit out, his eyes sliding closed for a second before they popped open again. "Do me a favor, Ben? Keep watch. Stay hidden by the door until the cops show up."
Ben nodded, a little frantic, and went to do as he asked. His heart was pounding in his chest because Dean was pale and there was a lot of blood and what if Dean died because of some asshole who didn't even have the guts to look his dad in the eye?
The pre-teen looked over from his position by the door. "Yeah, dad?"
There was a smile from Dean, shaky and fleeting but real. "It'll be OK, kiddo." He kept smiling until the ambulance pulled in and Ben lost sight of him in the whirl of police and FBI and paramedics.
"So Campbell wrote up security plans for more than his son's school and he passed them out." The news hadn't been as surprising as it should have been.
"I want to know how many he passed out and when and where. If I'm right, Campbell's geographic profile matches Reid's."
"It shouldn't be in his skills set. The best Sales and Marketing guys are good because they know where the market is going and can make their company be the first ones there. Smith was young to be a director and an MBA from Stanford is nothing to sneeze at, so he must have been very good, but this shouldn't be the same thing."
"In other news, if the Unsub didn't know about Campbell or Smith or whatever we're calling him, he soon will. Campbell is making it difficult for the Unsub and the Unsub will retaliate as soon as he figures out where to aim his ire."
"We could take credit for the security plans," Rossi offered. "I don't think Campbell will mind."
"The question is: should we?" Reid definitely had everyone's attention. "It would be much easier to distract and capture the Unsub if he's focused on Campbell."
"Campbell will never consent to being bait. It would put Ben and Lisa Braeden in the line of fire."
"So we take them out of the line of fire."
"He hasn't trusted officials with the safety of the children around him, why would he trust his family to us?"
JJ hurried into the conference room that the FBI had been using. "I was talking to dispatch," she started. Hotch had asked her to put an alert that 911calls from certain locales were forwarded to them. "Dean Campbell has been shot. An ambulance is on the way. So are the LEOs."
"Damn it. Do you think it might have been the unsub?"
"Too much of a coincidence to assume otherwise."
Lisa was in a full-on run by the time she cleared the doors of the gym. Dean's garage was two blocks over and one down from where she worked, so close that getting into a car would probably have slowed her down, and the familiar journey seemed to simultaneously take forever and whip past in a blur.
There was an ambulance backed up to the garage, engine running but lights turned off at the moment, and she hoped that was a good sign. The local cops at the door recognized her and let her past them, and she was in the cool shade of the building before she slowed down.
Her eyes went to Ben first, like they always did, and found him standing with Katie and Jen. There were people over there that she didn't know, but Dean didn't seem to be protesting their presence so they were likely FBI. There was some blood splattered on his hands and shirt and he looked freaked out by whatever had happened, but he didn't look like he was hurt. In fact, as soon as he spotted her he hurried to her side, wrapping his arms around her in the kind of spontaneous hug that had been practically nonexistent since he turned twelve.
With Ben alive and unharmed, Lisa's next priority was to check on the same thing for Dean. Her heart was still pounding after her run, but it managed to send up a couple of painful thumps when she saw him on the gurney. The green T-shirt he'd been wearing this morning was now a pile of bloodstained rags on the ground, and he looked pale and uncomfortable and a little cold. There were white bandages wrapped around his left shoulder, partially obscuring the scar there.
Oddly enough, the first thought that came to her was how strange it was to see Dean out in public without a shirt. He wasn't self-conscious about his scars, exactly (Lisa didn't think that Dean had ever been self-conscious about his appearance in his life), but they were something private and he didn't enjoy the inevitable questions that came when strangers saw them. It felt wrong for them to be displayed like this. He hadn't even taken off his T-shirt when they went to the beach last summer, resulting in a farmer's tan that had been pretty hilarious.
The fear overwhelmed that thought once everything had sunk in. "What happened?"
Dean glanced at Ben, still glued to her side. "Ben's fine. I'll be all right. Both of the kids are still safe."
She stepped in close and touched his uninjured arm. Now that she was next to him, she could see the blood smears on pale skin and too-sharp focus in his eyes. "What happened?"
"Some asshole drove by and shot Dad," Ben said angrily. There was an echo of his father's rough growl in his voice, a glimpse of the man he was becoming, and it hurt just a little.
"Language," Lisa said absently, tucking away the little hurt of Ben growing up and studying the man in front of her. "We'll meet you at the hospital," she said, her tone leaving no room for argument. There was no doubt in her mind that he'd have tried to just go home if she hadn't showed up, although hopefully he would have been unsuccessful in the attempt. He seemed to think that hospitals were strictly for things like impalement and loss of a body part. Last year she'd walked in on him stitching up a gash in his leg in their bathroom. She'd had to argue with him for ten minutes before he let her take him to the ER, and even then it seemed more like he was humoring her and avoiding conflict than agreeing that it was a necessity.
Dean nodded reluctantly, though she suspected it was more because to do otherwise would attract more attention from the FBI. He reached up with his good hand and caught the one of hers that wasn't holding onto Ben like a vise. "Everything's going to be okay," he said, just loudly enough that she and Ben could hear it. "I've had much worse, done by people who actually knew what the hell they were doing."
As if that made it better. Lisa leaned over and kissed him, giving his hand a squeeze before letting it go. "I'll see you at the hospital," she reminded him before turning and leveling a glare at the paramedic as he looked for a vein in the arm she'd just released. He happened to be a guy named Steve Walker who had tried and failed to get her to go out with him years ago. "Assuming Steve gets you there before you bleed to death."
It was at this moment that two of the unknown individuals, presumably FBI agents, broke away from a frantic Jen and a tearful Katie and came over to Dean. "Mr. Campbell, I'm Agent Rossi. We haven't had a chance to meet yet. I was wondering if you got a look at the car."
Oh, Ihell/I no. "Excuse me? Are you seriously questioning him while he's sitting here bleeding?"
Lisa Braeden was tearing Rossi a new one, all because he dared to ask Campbell to identify the car before the paramedics put the injured man into the ambulance. Actually, it was a pretty normal reaction from one half of an emotionally healthy couple. Emily was about go comfort the woman when Campbell grabbed her wrist.
"Hey. FBI, right?" Campbell was incredibly aware for a gunshot victim. She couldn't help but be a little impressed. She knew first hand how hard it was to maintain concentration when you were in that kind of pain.
"Special Agent Emily Prentiss," she told him.
"Cool. So, you'll make sure that she gets updates on my condition? You know, that she doesn't completely torch her bridges?"
Emily had to smile at his charm. "I promise."
"Good." Campbell relaxed a bit. Then he sat up, much to the consternation of the medic trying to put in an IV. "The woman shot me. A guy was driving, didn't get a good look at him. I think it was a stolen car. In fact, I think it's the Perry's Aveo. I stepped out 'cause I recognized the sound of the engine, but that wasn't Sue. Had red hair like her though and Matt Perry likes me and he sure as hell doesn't drive like that. The woman had a floppy hat that covered most of her face." He frowned. "I can't tell you much more."
Emily had to blink at the recitation. "Was she wearing gloves?"
Campbell thought about it. "Yeah, she was." Frowned again. "They were thin and whitish. Latex, maybe?"
"Was she calm? Or agitated?"
"Pretty calm and a damn good shot 'cause the guy never slowed down and I dropped as soon as I realized something was up and she still hit me. One bullet missed," he suddenly remembered. He twisted to point it out to Emily but she and the medic both held him down.
"We'll find it," she promised. "You said that the driver didn't drive like Matt Perry. What did you mean by that?"
The paramedic moved Emily out of the way. "Ma'am, you can question him at the hospital. This man needs immediate physician attention." What Campbell really needed was someone not asking him questions that he would be inclined to move as he answered.
Campbell rolled his eyes but didn't argue. He just yelled out to Emily before the ambulance doors were shut, "Matt thinks he's a race car driver and he drives like it. This guy didn't. He wasn't crawling along, but he wasn't speeding either. I would bet that he was doing exactly the speed limit."
Lisa heard Campbell yell to Emily and was suddenly focusing on her. "Were you questioning Dean?" she demanded.
"He made me promise to get you to the hospital and to make sure that you were informed about his condition. The car I'm driving is this way," Emily pointed.
She had completely taken the wind out of Lisa Braeden's sails. Lisa fumbled for a moment. "I'd really like to have a car to get anything he needs."
"Ma'am, he's going into protective custody and so are you. You'll have a bunch of FBI agents to go for things."
Now Lisa hemmed and hawed.
"We won't leave you stranded," Emily said. "I promise. If the FBI doesn't take you where you need to go, we'll get a squad car to drive you. But our highest priority right now is to get you and Ben to the hospital."
The woman was looking from her son to the departing ambulance and back to Emily, eyes darting from one to the other as if trying to evaluate every option. Finally she nodded. "Hospital first. Then we'll need to go home and get a few things."
Lisa was worried, and Dean hated that. It was just a shoulder wound. He'd had worse from his own brother once upon a time, been clawed and strangled and even electrocuted, and his dad would have called him a wuss for even considering going to the hospital with such a minor injury. Five years ago, this particular problem would have been solved in a motel bathroom with a pair of sterilized tweezers and a bottle of Jack. God, civilian life was making him soft.
Lisa's worry was making Ben nervous, which Dean hated even more. Ben tended to be a little overprotective of his family, which usually made him a little proud. It was less enjoyable when it was aimed at him.
Various members of the FBI were also crowded into the room, both the ones who had questioned him earlier and some new agents that took the time to introduce themselves. As someone who had spent the better part of his life trying to avoid this kind of attention, Dean wanted very badly to clear them all out, send them away and lick his wounds in private.
He could tell he wasn't going to get the chance.
The doctor chased about half of them away, though the one built like a football player played bodyguard for him as they wheeled him to X-ray and the brunette woman stayed with Lisa and Ben. He both hated to see that skinny kid go and was glad that he'd gone with the two older guys; it had been a long time since he'd had such a strong (good) reminder of Sam at his geekiest and best.
Dean was prepared for some confusion once they got a look at the x-rays; he still remembered the gaping disbelief he'd encountered just after he'd gotten the glamour shots of his ribs back when Cas had first carved the symbols into his bones. He'd been fairly successful at avoiding such things since then, but this time it was pretty much unavoidable. What he wasn't ready to see was a cheerful doctor slapping a radiograph onto the lightbox and revealing only a broken collarbone, with no sign of anything at all unusual on the rest of the bones.
"Son of a bitch," he muttered, leaning forward to get a better look and wincing as he jarred his shoulder. He wondered if he could ask for another set to be done so he could get a look at the rest of his ribcage.
"It's a fairly clean break for a gunshot," the man said, oblivious. "It shouldn't be difficult to set once we get the bullet out."
He could tell that Lisa was trying to keep her own surprise from showing. She'd seen the x-rays of his chest last year when he'd finally brought in everything that wasn't a weapon from the Impala. As weird as it would have been to see those symbols etched into his ribs, it was even stranger knowing they should be there and Inot/I seeing them.
"How long is it going to take?" Agent Morgan asked. "We've got to get these three somewhere safe and out of the public as quickly as possible."
"I can get him into surgery to remove the bullet and set the bones right now. He'll need about six hours to recover, though. We're going to need to give him a unit of blood and watch out for any reactions before it's safe to release him."
"I'll watch out for Lisa and Ben," the female agent said. Dean didn't know if she'd ever been introduced to him, or if he'd just forgotten the name in all the chaos and gunshot wounds. "You stay with Dean."
Morgan shook his head. "We might as well all stay together in the waiting room. They aren't going to let me go into surgery and this isn't the kind of unsub who is going to risk a hospital assassination."
"There's too much of the profile up in the air to chance it," she said. "So far Dean and Jen Secor are the only ones who have gotten close enough for a look and apparently whoever is pulling this off is willing to kill to keep going."
"I'd feel better if you both stayed with Lisa and Ben," Dean said, a little woozy from blood loss but still coherent enough to make that decision. He wanted them watching out for his family. If something happened to him, Castiel would probably bring him back. Lisa and Ben had no such safety net.
"Tough," Agent Morgan said. "Prentiss has a point. You've already been shot once because you were in the way of the unsub. There's a chance that whoever shot you will come back to finish the job. I'll set up outside the OR just in case."
Dean wanted to argue, but there wasn't much point and he was getting too tired and in too much pain to do so effectively. He just nodded, tried to look reassuring for Lisa and Ben, and leaned back against the bed. There was time for one quick prayer to Castiel to watch out for the two of them before they put him under.
Morgan watched the really tall nurse flip through Dean's medical chart. There was a seriousness in the man's expression, a solemn intentness that Morgan normally saw in surgeons and SWAT members.
The man had been in the room when Morgan came inside. He'd noticed Morgan as soon as the agent entered the room, given him a sharp-eyed once-over, presumably looking or injury or illness, and then dismissed him entirely.
Morgan made himself comfortable in the chair beside Dean's bed. "How did the surgery go?" he asked.
"Fine." The man offered Morgan an uplifting smile and the profiler realized that this man's bedside manner must be phenomenal. Morgan hoped he would still be on duty to calm Lisa Braeden when the woman returned.
"When will he wake up?"
There was a shrug. "Forty-five minutes, no longer than an hour."
"That soon?" Morgan had figured two to three hours at least.
The nurse smiled again, apologetic. "I could be completely wrong." He returned the chart to the foot of the bed. "If you'll excuse me?" The man walked out, probably to finish his rounds.
Morgan settled I to watch the door and the patient. He also set his watch timer to forty-five minutes. Prentiss might be back with Lisa and Ben by then, and the woman's mind would definitely be a little more settled if Dean was waking up by then.
He kept watch while he waited, checking the hallway outside of the room and glancing out of the windows for suspicious activity. The surgeon stopped by after about half an hour to check the wound. Morgan asked her the same question he'd asked the nurse and got a wildly different answer of about two hours, which was disappointing but more in line with what he expected. He thought about mentioning to the doctor that a nurse was giving contradictory times, but decided it wasn't something that mattered.
That first estimate, given to him by the nurse, had almost completely disappeared from Morgan's mind when his watch beeped and Dean's eyes cracked open.
Morgan called Hotch to let him know when Campbell was awake from surgery. Prentiss had taken Lisa Braeden and her son to their house to pick up what they would need before they headed to the safe house. Lisa had insisted on waiting until they knew that the man had made it through safely.
Hotch was glad to hear it, in his own buttoned-down way, though he had a few questions for the man. Some of them could be answered by the things he had told Prentiss before he went into surgery, but some of the others were a little more complicated. "We need to know more about how he knew something was wrong. He's a victim now, just as much as the others, and we have to get a profile on him."
"So am I questioning him about the missing year? Or about his life as Dean Smith?" Morgan asked.
"The missing year," Hotch answered. "I don't think you'll have time to open the other can of worms, and I think whatever happened to put him on this edge had to have happened during that year."
"Hotch, people go off the grid for a reason. Whatever Dean's reason is, he's not going to want to talk about it."
"I know and I don't want to get bogged down in this mystery when we have two unsubs out there taking kids. I just need to know how he'll jump when he's on the hot seat. It's not like we can take him out of the unsubs' sights now that they've already found him."
"All right, I'll give it a shot. Any progress finding the car?"
"We found it abandoned three miles away in the parking lot of a grocery store. No surveillance footage between here and there. We're trying to see how and when it was stolen in the first place. The important thing now is to keep Campbell safe. He's our best lead right now."
"I'll call when the doctor says its safe to move him." He hung up and headed into the recovery room. The doctor had cleared the man for visitors, though he'd warned that it might be a while before Dean woke up from the anesthesia.
"Dean, do you mind if I call you Dean?" Morgan asked, just to see if the injured man would tense up. "Because our tech analyst, and she is good, found you in our system as Dean Smith."
Dean's jaw dropped open. "How the hell… Damn… I wasn't expecting that." The way the he mouthed his own name indicated that he spoke the truth. "I haven't heard that name in a very long time."
"So can I call you Dean?" Morgan asked.
Dean waved the hand attached to the uninjured arm. "Go ahead."
"You understand that the Unsubs are gunning for you, right?"
Dean rolled his eyes. "Ya think." Morgan realized that with one comment, he managed to lower Dean's already low expectations of the FBI.
"We're going to keep you safe."
"You're going to try," Dean countered.
"Do or do not," Morgan replied in his loftiest tone. "There is no try."
Dean grinned. Morgan had effectively broken the tense moment and given the man some hope that they weren't all sticks-in-the-mud that didn't think outside the box. Now Morgan had to keep him talking. "We've also sent the families of the children who were staying with you to various safe houses. Ms. Secor, as well. Our FBI agents have confirmed that the female half of the Unsub team talked to the teachers at Ben's school to find out about you. If they are using teacher gossip for information and not the police, they won't be able to track the children down."
Morgan tilted his head to examine the burn scar, shaped like a handprint, on Dean's injured shoulder. He'd caught a glimpse of it at the garage before they'd wheeled the man away, but he'd been a little more focused on other things at the time. "Interesting scar."
"You ever wake up, feeling like you've died and have no idea what happened since the last time you were conscious?"
"Yeah," Morgan laughed. He had experienced that a time or three. "Too bad. It's a scar that should have one hell of a story behind it."
"I hurt bad enough at the time that I really didn't want to know."
"Did you spend that year off the grid drunk?"
Dean closed his eyes in pain. "I was definitely drinking more than anyone would recommend. I don't remember all of that time and what I do remember, I want to forget."
"When we went to pick up some clothes for your family, we noticed that there wasn't any obvious alcohol in the house." That had been a useful clue from Prentiss, who was far more observant than she had a right to be. No beer in the fridge, no bottles tucked into the kitchen cabinets. If the man was drinking at all, he was being incredibly circumspect about it.
"One of Lisa's rules when I moved in."
"I can see her point," Morgan hedged. "Ben imitates everything you do."
Dean rubbed his face with his hands. "Yeah. I know. But he's a good kid, he'll do better than I did."
Morgan shook his head. "I don't know about that. You wrote up… what fourteen security designs in a week to keep kids safe? In a week? That's impressive. If Ben matches his father, he'll go very far."
One of the local LEO's came to the door of the room, knocking against the frame politely before he came inside. "The safe house is ready," he told them both. "And the doctor says it's safe to move him."
Moving the small family to the safe house wasn't as difficult as it seemed like it should be, even with one of them injured and under the influence of painkillers. Dean was apparently a light, compact packer who had taught his family how to do the same. Prentiss told him as they were loading the three of them into the black SUV that Lisa and Ben had packed not only their bags, but one for Dean as well in less than ten minutes.
Driving to the safe house was easy, no tails of any sort. The only worry was when they arrived. Reid had already scouted the building and had told the others that no one was around. It was safe to drive up the long driveway to the safe house.
Then the stupid SUV stalled just off the street.
Morgan had never seen anything like it. Then Dean's door was opened and a man stood outside. He hadn't been there before. Morgan was sure of it. Morgan and Prentiss had their guns aimed at him, but he was unarmed and uncaring of their weapons.
"Dean," he said.
"Cas. You got my message," their witness told him.
"I did." Cas reached out and touched Dean's injured shoulder gently. "Do take care, Dean. Your time is not finished." Then Cas stepped back, closed the door and casually walked away, his trench coat flapping in the wind.
"Seriously?" Ben broke the stunned silence. "He's watched too many movies."
Dean laughed and it wasn't because he found the statement funny. He was remembering some horrible memories. "Agent Morgan," he looked at Morgan. "Can we get inside?"
Morgan had the feeling that Dean was on the edge of some sort of breakdown, and that was the last thing any of them needed. He turned the key in the ignition and the engine turned over as if nothing was wrong. The drive up the driveway was eventless. By the time he parked in front of the safe house where Reid was holding the door open, Morgan could almost convince himself that it had never happened. While the trained investigator wanted to know what was going on, something else insisted that he really, really didn't. For the time being, he was going with his instincts on this matter.
She was pretty much resigned to the fact that Dean would be having a nightmare tonight. The combination of pain, opiates, Castiel and unfamiliar surroundings would just about guarantee it. So when Dean's even breathing began to hitch, Lisa was ready and waiting to wake him up before Ben caught on.
Dean might never talk about the content of his nightmares, but they were easy to catalogue if you were paying attention. The ones where he woke up calling out for Sam were the worst; those usually meant up to a week of a too-quiet Dean pulling back from both her and Ben. Sometimes he came out of the dream swinging, still fighting whatever monster his memory had conjured up. He took himself to the couch fairly quickly after one of those.
Tonight it was Hell, no doubt brought on by the fresh gunshot wound in his shoulder. Like the other types of nightmares, Dean refused to share the details, but over the last three years she'd learned more about Dean than probably anyone else alive could boast. She didn't need the exact details of a photograph; an impressionist watercolor was specific enough. These kinds of dreams were best wiped away with a pleasant distraction, and usually she was more than willing to provide that distraction. Tonight, though, Ben was sharing their bedroom and the FBI agents were down the hall. Sex was off the menu for the evening.
The next best thing that she could think of was the Impala, but she didn't know enough about cars to ask the right questions. Movies and music weren't relaxing enough, so that left books.
They'd been together for a year before she discovered Dean's reading habits, though to be honest it was less of a surprise then it would have been if it had been brought up back when he first moved in. Dean wasn't what most people would have thought of as a reader, and his reading choices under those circumstances were even more unexpected. They spent the next forty-five minutes talking about Jim Butcher's Dresden Files, with Lisa confessing that she'd thrown the book across the room at the end of "Changes." Dean had so many arguments about the way the supernatural was portrayed in the books that talking about it was one of the best ways to keep him occupied until the dream-images faded away.
After a while, Dean relaxed enough to drift a little, and Lisa did the same, curled up against his side. Neither one of them really went back to sleep, but this was an enjoyable way to spend the early morning hours.
"Figures," Dean said when they first started hearing the police officers stirring outside the room. "Finally get a vacation, and the FBI wakes me up at 6:30 in the freaking morning. Unbelievable. Bet they don't make decent coffee or pancakes, either."
"You go ahead and grab a shower. I'll wake up Ben and do quality control on the coffee."
Dean gingerly shifted into a sitting position. "Give me a hand with this sling first?"
Lisa helped him with both the sling and the t-shirt, watching how carefully Dean moved any part of his body that might affect his left shoulder. "Are you going to be OK in the shower?"
Dean nodded, though he was a little pale. "Done this song and dance before, only back then I didn't have any real pain meds." He dropped his voice a little. "Cas did something to out at the car, and it's not as bad as it should be. Might need help after, though."
Lisa counted it a win that he'd brought it up. She'd planned on showing up with coffee anyway when he would be coming out of the shower, but it would be much easier to offer help with that admittance out in the open. "Wouldn't want to miss out on seeing you in a towel," she teased.
"Mom," Ben groaned from across the room. "Quit being gross."
Dean smirked. "So what do you say we make out a little," he said, loudly enough for Ben to hear. The boy made a disgusted noise and retreated into the bathroom.
"Now that we have the room to ourselves," Lisa began suggestively, leaning in for a kiss only to be interrupted by a knock at the door.
Dean was the one who groaned now, though the sound was a little muffled by Lisa's mouth. "It's open."
Lisa had arranged herself in a slightly more dignified (though less comfortable) position by the time the FBI agent entered the room. "I thought I'd see if you needed a hand changing that dressing."
Dean had swung his feet over the edge of the bed and was tentatively standing up. Out of deference to the situation, he had gone to bed in a pair of sleep pants, which was handy now that a Federal Agent was standing in the room. "I can handle it, thanks."
Lisa frowned as she watched Dean make his unsteady way across the room. "That better be code for, 'yes, please, Agent Morgan, as soon as I get out of the shower.'"
"No, it was pretty much my secret way of saying 'I can handle it,' Lisa." He leaned against the wall next to the bathroom door. His face was pale, but it was set in an expression that she recognized from her son. While Ben was normally an easy-going kid, sometimes he dug in his heels on something and no one could get him to move. She'd always suspected that he'd gotten that from his father. She had Inever/I been this stubborn. No, Lisa Braeden was Ipersistent/I.
"If you end up back at the hospital, I'm going to read Carver Edlund in the waiting room. And I'm going to tell all the nurses how wonderful the story is," Lisa threatened. Dean scowled and rolled his eyes, but nodded in compliance with her unspoken request. She hadn't even needed to level the threat of Becky . . . "Oh shit," she blurted out while Dean was more or less obediently sitting down so Agent Morgan could get a look at the dressing on his shoulder. "I forgot to tell Becky what happened."
Dean snorted. "I'm sure she'll be ok."
Lisa ignored him. "Did Dean's name make the news?"
"I don't think so," Agent Morgan said absently as he got a better look at Dean's shoulder. "JJ is pretty good at keeping names from the press."
"Does anyone know for sure? Can we find out?"
"We can call JJ and ask her to check."
"Lisa, I don't see the problem. It'll probably only be about a week and then you can tell her everything."
"Except if she finds out you were shot, she'll probably show up and start looking for us." He made a face of displeasure at that thought. Becky wasn't one of his favorite people, though to be fair the fact that she wrote gay incestuous porn starring Dean and his brother was probably responsible for that reaction. While Lisa found that a bit off-putting herself, she would always be grateful for the younger woman and her decision to track down everyone who'd been mentioned in the "Winchester Gospels" and connect them on the internet. She'd also introduced Lisa to the books themselves, which made life with Dean much easier to understand.
"Who's Becky?" Agent Morgan asked. There was a slight smirk on his face.
"She's a friend of mine," Lisa told her. She paused, trying to think of a way to explain the young woman to a stranger who hadn't been clued in to Dean's world. "She's a little . . .intense."
"She's kind of crazy," Dean said, wincing as Agent Morgan touched a sore spot on his shoulder. "But she's practically family at this point and she worries about people in her own weird way. And she has this way of bull-dogging her way through people to get what she wants."
Ben came out of the bathroom at this moment to see both his mother and the FBI agent hovering over his father and asked the obvious question. "Do you want me to leave the room?"
"You could go and scrounge up breakfast," Lisa suggested. "I'm going to jump in there for a minute, Dean, and then you can take your shower. I'll grab mine once you're done."
When Emily Prentiss arrived to switch over with Morgan, she found Dean Campbell and Lisa Braeden teaching Ben how to play poker. More specifically, they were teaching him how to read the other people at the table, how to recognize tells, and how to avoid giving his own. Once she'd touched base with Morgan and the two uniforms staying at the house, she moved into the common area with the family. They made space and dealt her into the game.
Dean turned out to be very good at reading people when it came to poker, and she had a feeling that if he'd been playing in earnest he would have cleaned her out. As it was she quickly lost her allotted share of peanut M&M's. Lisa managed to stay in the game because she knew her boyfriend very, very well, but even then she lost more than she won. The game ended when it came time for dinner and Dean's next round of painkillers.
"How did you figure out where the unsub would be going?" Prentiss was very, very curious about this by now. Dean had figured out the pattern before Reid, and that took a lot of skill.
Dean held his coffee mug close with his good hand, every single bit of body language screaming caution and wariness. "I knew we were looking at a predator," he said. "Predators follow instinct when it comes to their hunting territory, even human predators. And I knew if there was something bad in the area that it would probably end up coming after my family. So I took the two points that I had and added Ben as a data point. Wasn't that hard to plot out an area from that." He shrugged, careful to only move his right shoulder. "I might have missed one or two schools, though. There's more info available now."
"Where did you learn how to do that?"
Dean smiled, mostly to himself. "My dad taught me. We never really hunted any game, but he thought that learning how to look for patterns like that was important. If you try, you can adapt it to marketing and advertising."
She nodded, noting how his hands shook slightly when he took a sip from his mug but not commenting on it. It was obvious that the injury and stress from the situation was taking a bit of a toll on the man. Given what they'd been able to decipher from his personality, Dean was a man who liked his privacy. All this enforced closeness with strangers was probably wearing on him. "So why did you decide to become a mechanic? Where did you learn how to do that?"
"It's just something I'm good at," he told her, looking up into her eyes. "I've always been good with engines. I kind of wanted to go into engineering, but my dad wanted me to go into the family business instead."
"So when you left your job in Toledo you just reinvented yourself the way you wanted to be," Prentiss mused.
"It seemed like a good time to do it," he told her. His mouth quirked up in a smile. "Lisa and Ben were a part of the life that I wanted but wasn't supposed to have."
Lisa Braeden settled a plate of food down in front of him right then, giving his uninjured shoulder an affectionate squeeze before sitting down next to him. "So how long is this going to last?" she asked Prentiss. "I could only get a week or so of Ben's school assignments."
"We're closing in on the two of them," Prentiss assured them both. "I'm going to go over the perimeter one more time before I leave you with the officers. We're going to take what you managed to see when you were shot and what the teachers could tell us and use that to help identify them." She probably didn't need to check the perimeter; they were well out of the unsubs' usual hunting grounds, but Prentiss had a feeling that the couple would be willing to drive pretty far out of their way now that Dean was in their sights. She wondered if the attack on Dean had escalated an urge to kill that was more satisfying to one of the unsubs than their previous acts.
"Good," Dean said. "I hope you catch those two and bury them so deep that they never see the light of day." The words were growled out, the anger and intent behind them obvious.
"That's the plan." She didn't need to ask about the vitriol. She suspected that it was less about being shot and more about the fact that William Trey had a close physical resemblance to Ben. If Dean was astute enough to put together the geographic profile of their killers, he had certainly noticed that little detail.
"So we have confirmation that there are two unsubs. Computer rendering of the male kidnapper from Billy Trey's and Ms. Secor's witness statements in no way resembles the woman that chatted with the teachers at Cicero Middle School. She could not be disguised as the man and the man could not be disguised as that woman. The woman who Dean identified as shooting him. According to Dean's statement someone else was driving the car. From the hair left in the Aveo, we know that the shooter was wearing a red-haired wig." Morgan was studying the information on the board, trying to see if his time away had changed the way the case looked.
"Guys," Reid sat up straight in his chair. "I just figured out why the victimology is all over the place. JJ, pair up Christopher Casolari with William Trey and then the girls next to each other." She quickly followed the directions and Reid's observation was easy to see. "We have two unsubs with two different victimologies. They're using each other as a cover."
"Preferential pedophiles don't work together like this," Morgan reminded him. "The dynamic doesn't work."
"Normally, no. But it fits. Two known unsubs and two obvious victimologies. They must have something more than convenience binding them together. It will be ridiculously easy to get them to turn on each other once we get close."
"The female is the dominant," Rossi surmised. "I would bet money that she has everything in place to convict her partner and to get off scot free. She was planning on leaving the male unsub behind with all the corpses and moving on to a new hunting ground. We hadn't seen a hint of her until after everything started falling apart. She knows how to cover her tracks."
"The boys are her victims," Hotch added. "When her male partner messed up the kidnapping of William Trey, she had to step in and do it right. That's why she went after Dean, he messed up her turn. She's cleaned up for the male unsub before, but she didn't think it through this time. She's devolving and getting sloppy. She didn't kill Dean. We'll get her on Dean's attempted murder but not Christopher's death. Not unless we can get a confession."
Emily shook her head. "Where would a male and a female pedophile met? In order for the female unsub to let the male do all the kidnapping on his own, there is an incredible amount of trust between them. That's not something that would develop over a cup of coffee in the park watching other people's children play."
"School," Reid supplied. "High school would be my first bet. College would be a little late. Either that or they are relatives. Brother-sister or cousins. They started molesting younger kids in their reach and covered for each other. They never stopped."
"It's a bit of a leap to go from raping children to killing them," Hotch reminded them. "Female child predators rarely kill their victims. What stressor would push the female –and it has to be the female that made the decision to start killing- into something so drastic."
"What do all pedophiles fear?" Morgan asked rhetorically. "They fear being found out. They fear exposure."
"Her long term victim threatened to tell someone, or did and she had to shut them up. This whole thing was to intimidate her victim."
Emily waved a hand at the pictures of the male victims. "Well, we know what her long term victim looks like."
"Guys," Reid interrupted. "We need to separate the two unsubs out. They are not strictly working as a unit. The first victim is always important. The very first victim of the couple was Kathleen McDonnell but that was the submissive's kill. The first victim of the female –the dominant- was Christopher Casolari."
Hotch could follow Reid's train of thought easily. "Christopher threatened to tell and the female unsub needed to hide him among the other victims. Garcia, have you been following?"
The computer tech answered through the speaker phone. "Yes and can I say 'eewwww'?"
"Garcia," Hotch said.
"Yes, sir? My computer and I are waiting. Just tell us what we're looking for."
"You're looking for a man and a woman living together in Christopher's neighborhood, no more than a five-mile radius, probably closer to a mile. Might be on Christopher's walk home from school," Hotch told her. "They might be married but if they did, it was only through a justice of the peace. There was no ceremony; neither of them cared enough for a production. Keep in mind that they might be posing as or might actually be relatives. They are between the ages of 30 and 40, but search between 25 and 45."
"The woman has a much higher paying job. It might be in the school district so that she can get to kids, but I'm betting that it's something else," Reid continued. "She volunteers to get to the children. And she does it somehow that there's no paper trail. He gets paid much, much less at his job and it's no where near children if he works outside the home at all. She doesn't trust him that much. They don't have any children of their own."
"One hundred and eleven couples," Garcia reported. "And this is one moment when the feminist movement bites us in the butt. You gotta give me something more."
"All of them got married by a justice of the peace," Rossi asked in disbelief.
"No, but that I have to hunt down individually. I can do that once you guys narrow down the list more."
"Cross-reference all of Christopher's activities with that list. Is there any overlap?" Morgan asked.
"She's smarter than that," Reid reminded them.
"All right, Garcia," Hotch made the decision. "I want you to start finding who married all the couples on that list. If they got a pastor to do it, it probably wasn't on the weekend. Start with those that are closest to Christopher's home. Cut down the list as much as you can. Give JJ the numbers and the names so that she can ask the religious leaders about the weddings. The rest of us will be giving the profiles to the police department. We'll knock on the front door of the top five or ten on your list all at once. Hopefully, we'll get the right house, because these two will spook if they aren't in the initial questioning."
"Garcia," Reid called. "Have any of those been accused of stalking or inappropriate behavior around minors? I would be surprised if the female let it get to court but I'm betting that the male has gotten caught before. Maybe in a different town. I'm betting that they moved into the area within the last five to ten years."
"You know, if they've never been charged, they aren't in any system."
"We know, Garcia, but we're hoping that you can find something."
"Do any of them have sealed criminal records? If I'm right and they started this in high school, they could have been covering for each other then."
"I'll work on it and get back to you as soon as I have a shorter list."
Hotch looked at his agents. "While we give the PD the profile, Prentiss and Morgan are going to re-interview the Casolari's. They know the unsubs. Between them and Garcia we should be able to narrow the list. JJ, have the captain gather his men. We have a profile."
"Our unsubs are someone you would never expect to be pedophiles," Prentiss began the presentation to the grieving parents. "Some of the kids might have accused them, but the unsubs always backed each other up with such iron-clad alibis that you or your neighbors feel silly questioning them about what your children have reported about them."
"We have two very different unsubs," Reid initiated the profile in the police department. "The female is dominant. The male is submissive. The male might even claim to have raped and killed all of the children to protect his partner and the woman will let him. He will be looking at the female for clues and leads to follow. He won't say anything to you if you press. He will probably willingly take the fall for her. The woman will let him do this so long as nothing can be placed at her door, but if there is even a chance that she will be exposed as a pedophile she won't allow the police to take her alive."
"It's a man and a woman living in the same house, but they never touch each other. They are both uncomfortable around other adults, especially the man," Morgan told the Casolari's. "He lets her make all the decisions and that's the way she likes it."
"When we go into the right unsubs' house, there is going to be a very clear demarcation between his and hers," Hotch told the gathered officers. "It might be as simple as the house belongs to her and the garage is his domain. They will have separate bedrooms, maybe even have separate entrances."
Prentiss leaned forward in her chair. "Some of the children in the neighborhood will love going to their house and others will avoid it at all costs. Our guess is that Christopher suddenly went from one extreme to the other in the two weeks before his death. He'd brush it off, but he was suddenly home more."
Melissa Casolari gasped. "The Hamptons. Roy Hampton works out of his garage. He fixes up arcade games and most of the kids in the neighborhood hang out there because he lets them play for free. He says that the kids are doing him a favor, making sure it works correctly."
"I've been over there," Don Casolari argued. "I didn't like the idea of them attracting all the kids when they didn't have any of their own," he said at Morgan's surprise. "Roy never looks twice at the boys. Some of them walk all over Roy."
"Is Roy married?" Emily asked. She wasn't about to fill them in on the details and theories that the team had until there was a little more confirmation.
"To Jessi," Melissa filled in. "She's a caterer for all the school events. She gives a special discount to the PTA. She's always offering them food, but only right after school, nothing that would ruin their appetite for dinner."
"It's not Roy," Don insisted. "He didn't even know which one of the boys was Christopher when I stopped by."
"Where do they live?" Morgan cut right through the BS. This wasn't the time or place to correct them on unverified details. "I'll give the names and addresses to our computer tech and she'll confirm their alibis. Okay?"
The Casolaris finally agreed.
The Hampton house was a tidy two-story brick box. The grass was neatly trimmed, although there wasn't any other attempt at gardening evident and the house was very plain, nondescript, even. It was another form of the kind of camouflage Hotch had seen human predators attempt time and time again, and it was apparently effective.
The SWAT members took point, for the most part, and he was glad to let them have it. Morgan was one of the first from the team once SWAT made their path, Agent Prentiss coming around from the other side almost simultaneously. She went with the team that cleared the second floor while Morgan followed the second team into the basement and Hotch and Rossi stayed on the ground floor.
Roy Hampton was in the basement and he went along without any dramatics. He confessed almost as soon as he was in handcuffs, claiming all responsibility for the rapes and murders of the children. It would have been satisfying if they hadn't all known that the man wasn't the brains of the operation.
Jessi Hampton's personal stamp was all over the house, with the exception of the cluttered basement and a garage full of old arcade games, but she was nowhere to be found and her five-year-old Ford Taurus was missing from its place.
It hadn't been hard to steal a glance at the profile the FBI had made for the woman who had shot Dean. It was a little risky, walking into the police station with a fake FBI badge, but well worth it. John Winchester had always preached about knowing your enemy, and Sam intended to gather as much information as he could in his current quest.
She had cleared out of the house in a hurry, leaving her husband behind to get arrested and take the fall for both of them, and Sam had let her, following at a safe pace so that she wouldn't notice him. This was what he really wanted anyway. The bitch had been careful and the most they'd be able to pin on her was Dean's attempted murder. If she had a good enough lawyer he could probably convince a jury that she was being coerced into helping and that she had missed on purpose. That wasn't good enough for Sam.
Jessi Hampton had to pay. She had hurt Dean. She had put Dean's son in danger. She had almost destroyed Dean's new life, the one they had both sacrificed to make possible.
He followed her to the edge of town and a small run-down gas station, staying far enough away that she wouldn't register his presence as she filled the gas tank on her practical, average sedan. It didn't take long to case the station and note the absence of surveillance cameras except for inside the tiny convenience store and the one bored clerk who was busy reading the skin magazine under the counter. The woman couldn't have picked a more perfect location.
Her car was parked at the furthest pump, the one the clerk inside would need to strain to see, and that was probably deliberate. She was trying to make it out of town with as little notice as possible. It was likely that the only reason she hadn't paid at the pump was a reluctance to leave a credit card trail. The woman was planning on disappearing as thoroughly as possible, and she was doing an excellent job of it so far.
Sam had driven past the gas station when she pulled in and parked on the street around the corner. He had just as little desire to be noticed and remembered as Jessi Hampton. He approached the woman from the clerk's blind spot, glancing out of the corners of his eyes for any sign of untoward attention. This had to go exactly right if he wanted to walk away clean with the threat neutralized.
She was standing between the pump and her car, hanging up the nozzle with the same kind of focus that Sam could imagine her using when she shot his brother, when he approached, reaching into his suit jacket and pulling out the fake FBI badge. "Jessi Hampton? I'm Agent Ulrich, FBI. I'd like to ask you a few questions. Would you mind coming down to the station?"
There was a flash of surprise and anger on her face before her face dropped into something like resignation. "No."
"No, I will not be coming to the station. I will not allow you to parade me in front of everyone." She reached into the bag hanging over her left shoulder, quick as a snake, and pulled out a .38 revolver, doubtless the weapon she had used to shoot Dean.
For a moment Sam worried that he'd miscalculated badly and that she was about to shoot him right here on the street. He nearly pulled his own weapon out in knee-jerk response despite his determined goal to not shoot the woman and leave a trail. Instead he carefully took two steps back. "This doesn't have to end this way," he said, trying to keep his voice calm.
There was a bitter, ironic smile from Jessi Hampton. "Yes it does," she replied. The barrel of the gun came up to her temple and she pulled the trigger without hesitation.
Sam turned and walked away, satisfied. A couple of years ago he would have been horrified at this outcome, but he'd become a little wiser over the years and now he welcomed it. Dean was safe and neither one of them had needed to dirty their hands with the woman's blood. The profilers had gotten that much right, at least. Jessi Hampton hadn't allowed anyone to take her alive. She had feared exposure of what she was more than death, probably because she didn't know what was waiting for her.
He smiled as he started up his jeep and drove away.
The news came while Roy Hampton was still languishing in the interview room, and it made an already complicated case even more difficult. It was unlikely that a woman like Jessi Hampton would take the time to cover her tracks, pack up her car, stop at the edge of town to fill the gas tank, and then commit suicide, but all evidence pointed to her doing exactly that. There weren't any surveillance cameras in the surrounding area, so the team had to rely on the less than observant clerk at the gas station and the physical evidence. It was the same gun that had been used to shoot Dean Campbell, with only her prints, and the angle and lack of bruising was enough for the coroner to feel safe declaring it a suicide. As far as any of the team could determine, something must have happened that made the woman fear exposure.
The instant her husband heard the news he immediately recanted on his confession, but by then they'd had the opportunity to gather enough physical evidence that any prosecutor worth his salt should be able to get a conviction for all three victims.
It wasn't perfect. They had no idea what kind of confrontation had made Jessi Hampton kill herself, and there was absolutely no evidence of her transgressions in the Hampton house. It was possible they'd never know the truth of what had happened, but there was no changing it now. The case was over. It was time to head home.
Dean had never legally been in a morgue before. It was an odd situation for him. He had met up with Jen Secor outside and spent a few minutes quietly talking to her before Agent Morgan brought them in one at a time. Jen was clearly shaken by the situation. She was a quiet, gentle person and Dean knew that she had never needed to do something like this before.
Sadly, it was once a fairly regular event in his life and Dean didn't really feel anything as he stared down at the dead body of the woman who had put a bullet in a shoulder. Relief that she and her husband weren't around to put Ben in danger anymore, maybe. His father would probably have been happier if he'd taken care of the problem himself, but Dean was glad it had happened that way. He was pretty sure he knew exactly where the woman was now and she deserved it, deserved everything she had coming for the things she had done.
"She committed suicide at a gas station?" he asked Agent Morgan quietly.
The man made a shrugging motion, carefully contained body language neither confirming nor denying. "That's what all the evidence says. We knew she'd probably do something like that before she'd allow anyone to take her in and risk exposure, no matter how watertight her alibis were." There was a wealth of things the FBI agent wasn't saying, but Dean let it pass. That wasn't his life anymore.
He took one last look at the body on the table, nodded to Morgan, and walked away. He needed to be with his family now, and they needed him.