Disclaimer: I do not, in any way, shape or form, own rights to Criminal Minds. This is purely fan(atical)-based, for fun and cookies.
Summary: The team takes a seemingly hopeless-to-solve case in West Virginia. In their pursuit, they unknowingly stumble upon a killing spree that's been going on for over half a decade, and put one of their own in danger in the process.
Note: My first Criminal Minds fic. I will try to make it as mysterious as possible, but I'm a fluff writer at my core!
"As a boy I used to go to the Chamber of Horrors at the annual fair, to look at the wax figures of Emperors and Kings, of heroes and murderers of the day. The dead now had that same unreality, which shocks without arousing pity." ~Ernst Toller
"Whatcha got there, Boy Genius?" Reid looked up from the book he was holding with one hand, to see Garcia and JJ staring at the coin he was weaving through the knuckles of the other. He stilled his fingers and turned in his office chair to face the two women, quickly deducing-from their lingering smiles and paper soda cups-that they'd just come back from one of their infamous Girls Only lunches and would most likely be giggly and overly-sociable for the rest of the afternoon.
He glanced back at his hand, "What, this?" He pinched the alloy disk between his thumb and forefinger and waved it, "Just my magic coin."
"Magic, huh?" JJ played along, as familiar as anyone with Reid's sleight of hands at this point. She perched on the edge of his desk, carefully placing her cup in an area where it wouldn't leave a water ring on anything important, and crossed one leg over the other while Garcia leaned in over the man's shoulder curiously. "What's so special about it?"
Reid cleared his throat, suddenly nervous, but for reasons that had nothing to do with performance anxiety. Though it had been years-ones filled with numerous relationships of varying seriousness on both sides-since his kiss-on-the-cheek, we're-better-as-friends experimental football date with JJ, he still felt a strong physical reaction every time the liaison came close to him. His eyes dilated, his palms began to sweat, and he could hear his blood pounding in his ears, and there was nothing he could do about it. Not only was he her best friend, her son's godfather, and her coworker, but he was also not the type to try to swoop in on the rebound, just three months after she'd broken things off with her fiancé. So he settled for this: Magic tricks in the office, platonic dinners on week-ends, and attempting to make her laugh on flights back from particularly trying cases.
"Well," he said, standing up and choosing to put all of his focus on the quarter. "Magic coins are good for a lot of things. Getting a soda, spinning like a top-"
"Scratching off a lottery ticket," Garcia offered with a glint in her eye.
"Making a wish," JJ chimed in almost wistfully.
"Precisely," Reid nodded. "But the thing about magic coins is, they're a pain to keep under control. They never stay still," he began weaving the quarter through his fingers again. "They're always changing their mind," he closed it in one fist, then opened it to reveal the coin gone, only to appear in his other hand a second later. "They multiply like rabbits," he held up his hand and showed a quarter wedged between every finger, making four total, then shook out his hand to show only one again. "And to top it all off," he finished, tucking the coin into his pocket, "They're never where you left them." After a beat, he held out his hand and the quarter fell, seemingly out of nowhere, into his waiting palm.
Garcia blinked at him, mouth open, and then began clapping. "You have got to teach me to do that someday, sweetness." She'd learned a long time ago that it was pointless to ask him how he did his tricks, but that didn't stop her from asking him to teach her every single one. He never did, but at least he never came back with some pithy reply.
When Reid looked at JJ, she was smiling that warm smile that she seemed to reserve only for him, and she reached out to take the quarter from his hand, holding it at eye-level to examine. "You should show that one to Henry this week-end; you're still coming over for dinner on Saturday, right?"
"Wouldn't miss it," he promised. When she tried to hand the quarter back, he held up his hand in protest, "Keep it."
"Sure," he shrugged, "I mean, everyone needs a magic coin, even if it is just for getting a soda."
"Or making a wish," she added, slipping it into the pocket of her blazer. "Thanks, Spence."
He just offered a tight-lipped grin in response as she waved goodbye to Garcia and started toward her office, where her phone was already ringing. "Reid," the tech analyst said once they were alone, drawing the man's attention back to her. She was jerking her thumb over her shoulder, "You were going to help me fill in those holes in my paperwork, right?" Because of his eidetic memory and Garcia's aversion to writing her case reports as soon as the corresponding case was closed, it wasn't unusual for Reid to find himself in the dark of the computer room, reminding the woman of any details she may have forgotten. It wasn't technically allowed by the Bureau, but as long as the work got done and the details were right, no one pressed the matter.
"Right," Reid told her, grabbing his things and following her down the hall. In her office, he grabbed the first folder he saw as Garcia turned on some easy listening music. "Okay," he said, settling into a chair and running his finger along the words as he read them, "The Alaskan Effigy Killer… Garcia, we worked this case two months ago."
She gave him a bashful look and said innocently, "There's just been so much good TV on lately."
"Reid. Garcia." Almost two hours later, after Garcia had finished her paperwork and proceeded to show off her latest program-one that allowed her to open sealed files without the danger of being detected or identified-to Reid, Hotch's voice sounded through the intercom and drowned out the Bon Jovi power-ballad that was playing in the background. "Conference room; we have a new case."
Five minutes later, the two were seated amidst the rest of their team as JJ turned on the projector and started her briefing. "Five years ago, there was a string of Missing Persons cases in and around Harrisville, West Virginia." She clicked a button and the image before them changed, showing six faces smiling at them from casual photographs. "In the span of eleven months, six people went missing. Local police dismissed them as runaways at first, because the first two to go missing-Missy Turteltaub and Jacob Walsh-were teenagers with documented behavioral issues. They also didn't connect these as serial abductions the last victim-a middle-aged paralegal named René Gerry-was taken, and two witnesses came forward saying they saw Miss Gerry being pulled into a green, mid-sized SUV. This same SUV was mentioned by a witness in the abduction of Jacob Walsh."
Morgan raised his hand to stop her, "If this happened five years ago, why are we just now hearing about it?"
Hotch, eyes glued to the case file, replied, "Missing Persons and local authorities pursued it for a while, but the case went cold after Gerry was taken."
"So what's changed?"
"This," JJ said, clicking her remote again to pull up two new images. Each was of a body-one male, one female-unclothed and half buried in crisp orange leaves. For a moment, no one registered the significance of these images; they didn't look real. There was no bruising, no blood, no gaping wounds; they looked like gelatin-molded mannequins, painted to appear real, but not really people at all. Sensing their confusion, JJ explained, "Last week, the bodies of Missy Turteltaub and Daniel Egan were found just outside of Harrisville, after a flash flood. Both asphyxiated, both bodies covered in what appears to be wax."
There was a beat of silence before Garcia asked, in a small, scared voice, "I'm sorry, but are we talking, like… House Of Wax?"
"What's House Of Wax?" Reid inquired, the way he always did when someone made a pop-culture reference he didn't quite understand.
"It's this Elisha Cuthbert movie-" Morgan started.
Hotch cut him off, surprising everyone by saying, "Vincent Price, originally."
"Well, Lionel Atwill," Rossi objected, tapping her pen against the table, "If you want to get technical. It's been done three times."
Garcia rolled her eyes, answered Reid's original question, "It's a movie about a guy that kills people, then covers their bodies in wax and sculpts their features and puts them on display in a wax museum."
Up front, JJ nodded, "And it seems like that's exactly what our unsub is doing."
"Not that this isn't awful," Prentiss said carefully, "But if it happened five years ago, what do the local authorities expect us to do about it now? Too much time has passed; the unsub could have very well moved-or even died-since this happened."
"That's why I initially passed up the case. But yesterday," JJ clicked another button to show them a photo of a young woman-twenty, at most-with curly black hair and almond-shaped brown eyes, smiling from ear to ear. "Yolanda Ramirez came home from college for the week-end. According to her mother, she forgot her toothbrush and went out to pick up a new one; a witness reported seeing her grabbed from in front of the pharmacy."
"Let me guess," Rossi said as he jotted down a few notes, "Someone in a green SUV?"
Again, JJ nodded, "With tinted windows and no plates."
"They'd have to live pretty close to get away with driving a car with no plates."
"Which is precisely why we'd do more help there than here," Hotch decided, flipping his manila file shut, "Garcia, I want you with us on this one. Wheels up in thirty." He stood to leave and Garcia, wide-eyed and alarmed, jumped up to chase after him.
"Me, sir? H-how could I even-"
"Town security cameras will probably be all we have to go on," they heard their team leader telling her in his all-business tone, then a whimper of reluctant surrender.
As the team began filing out to collect their go bags, Reid met JJ's stride and asked, "So have you seen this House Of Wax movie?"
"The latest one, yeah," she affirmed.
"How does it end?"
She tapped her index finger to her chin-a simple gesture that always made Reid's mouth dry-as she tried to remember. "It turns out that everyone in the town is made of wax," she said slowly, "And the main characters accidentally burn down the wax museum. I think."
Reid stopped short. "That doesn't bode well for us, does it?"