A/N: Thank you to all my readers and reviewers! We broke the hundred review mark, woo! Also, thank you for your patience; a PM from Hexal kickstarted me into writing this again. *is guilty* Sorry it takes me so long to write.
Also, for those of you still wondering, the quote taken directly from the show in the last chapter was actually two lines. Garcia says: "You, my fine furry friends, are welcome." And Hotch says to the team: "Remind me to have her drug tested." xD Though I can't remember what episode that was in now. Google it!
WARNING: I should say that if you are of a sensitive disposition, you might want to skip the first section of this chapter (though, then again, you probably wouldn't be watching Criminal Minds if that were the case.) Anyhow, I creeped myself out a bit writing it, so don't read it if you think it might upset you, 'kay? 'Kay. :)
Disclaimer: Don't own. (I wish.)
Chapter Five: The Senselessness of Suffering
Lisa was dimly aware of the sound. She knew what it meant, recognised it from somewhere, but her tired mind couldn't quite make the connection.
The only thing her brain could focus on was exactly how much pain she was in. Her knees ached from prolonged contact with the cold, stone floor. Her arms burned from being held constantly above her head, secured to a chain hanging from the ceiling. A hysterical voice in her head drew comparisons to meat hanging on a butcher's hook. Her hands were numb, the bindings on her wrists so tight that they cut off the blood circulation to her fingers.
But by far the worst was the bright slashes of agony burning across every part of her body. Lisa shuddered with the strength of the pain. She could still feel vividly the sensation of the blade sliding slowly across her skin, parting the flesh and letting the blood spill out. Her tremors grew worse as she remembered the way he had murmured poisonous words, velvet soft, in her ear; the way his left hand had gently caressed her bare skin, in a mocking parody of a lover, while his right hand had slowly cut lines into her body with excruciating, torturous precision.
Lisa's brain replayed the memories over and over, her mind unable to focus on anything else other than the physical and psychological torture that she had been through. Every attempt to shift position slightly to relieve the ache of fatigue in her muscles, made a wave of fire sweep through her body as the damaged flesh shrieked a protest. The blonde witch was painfully aware of every single one of her wounds, of the long, narrow lines of agony etched in her skin. Rivulets of blood trickled down her arms, down her torso, down her legs, pooling on the cold, stone floor.
Lisa hung, trembling with fear, pain and exhaustion, wishing she could just pass out, could just fade into the merciful oblivion of unconsciousness. Every moment felt as if it stretched out into an eternity. The only things that seemed to exist in the entire world were the sound of her laboured breathing, loud in the silence, and the agony that wracked her body.
A loud crack echoed in the silence of the darkened room. Lisa's entire body went suddenly, completely rigid. Ice and terror filled her, so strong that for a moment her heart almost seemed to stop. The blonde's breath caught in her throat and the hairs rose on the back of her neck, as the soft swish of robes and the feeling of a presence filled the space behind her.
"Good morning." The same rich, alluring voice that had filled with her relief only yesterday now sent fear cascading through her. Lisa choked back a whimper. How could she have been so stupid as to trust this man? Let him lead her away from her house, when safety had been mere metres away?
"I do hope you haven't been bored without me. I'm afraid I had to take care of something."
Footsteps echoed on the stone floor behind her and the witch tensed even more. There was a soft thud. She flinched violently as a pair of arms snaked around her waist and pulled her back against velvety robes.
"But don't worry. I'm finished now and I can spend the whole day with you." His voice was both soft and malicious; as contradictory as the brush of his long fingers down her cheek; a gentle sensation that jarred horribly with the pain caused as he touched the wounds he had inflicted.
Lisa closed her eyes in dread, biting back a cry of fear as she heard the metallic rasp of a knife leaving its sheath.
"Won't that be fun?"
It was dark all around him. Reid strained his eyes, but there wasn't even the faintest glimmer of light to see by. Nevertheless, he ran, fleeing through the darkness from a nameless terror. As he stumbled and tripped over something, quiet, whispery laughter rose all around him – as if a thousand ghosts were laughing at his expense.
"Reeeeeid..." The voices echoed through the nothingness, as dry and scratchy as dead leaves skittering across the ground. "Reeeeeid…"
"Spencer!" A voice, loud and clear and laced with worry, rang out above the ghost-voices.
"Spencer!" Her cry seemed to trail off, and then her voice began fading in and out, as if he were listening to a radio with poor reception. "…not stupid…stick around…in his madness…go and find…re-group…finished by now." And then, very quietly and clearly, "Oops."
Then a different voice entirely spoke, one that struck chords of recognition within Reid; familiar but yet forgotten, and the shock of remembrance felt like being drenched in a shower of icy-cold water. "I'll take care of it."
A pair of intense green eyes seemed to fill the darkness, and then the voice spoke again. A single word fell softly from unseen lips. "Oblivate."
Reid shot upright in bed, gasping. The hotel room was still dark, though the faint light around the curtains suggested that morning wasn't far off. His panicked breathing sounded loud in the pre-dawn quiet.
What on earth was that?
The dream could have been something created by his subconscious, but it hadn't felt like that. It had felt like –
Excitement rose in Reid. He could have sworn he had never heard the voice in his dream before; but at the same time, on some level, it had sounded familiar. Which was impossible, because he remembered everything. He could only think of one reason – that he had heard it and had forgotten, courtesy of a blow to the back of the head.
A sense of hope swelled within Reid. Perhaps his memories were coming back! He threw aside the covers and began pacing up and down the length of the room, filled with a sudden restless energy. The feeling of relief was indescribable. He had been desperately afraid that the damage was permanent.
Then again, it was obvious that it had been a fragmented memory, mixed up with other things. After all, Hermione had been in the dream too…
Suddenly uncomfortable with where that train of thought was going, for some reason, Reid pushed it away and ignored the niggling little worry trying to catch his attention. Instead he focused on trying to remember the rest of the memory.
The profiler was still there an hour later, when his phone rang. With a sigh of frustration, Reid got up and crossed the room to get it off his bedside table. He couldn't recall anything else. The gap in his memories hadn't been filled; he only had a clear recollection of the dream. Clearly, he was only remembering subconsciously.
"Hello? Reid here," the profiler said absently, his mind still elsewhere.
"Reid, it's Hotch." The grim tone of his superior's voice made him straighten up. "I know it's early, but we're leaving for the police station right now. Another girl was taken last night."
The young genius' heart sank. "On my way."
The profilers spent an hour going over the new information together, before they spilt up. Prentiss and Morgan left to interview the family of Lisa Ferguson, and JJ and Hotch were holding a press conference. They hadn't been able to put it off any longer; Lisa was the thirteenth girl to be kidnapped in seventeen days and the reporters and journalists were eagerly clamouring for information.
Reid sighed and placed a new pin in his map. JJ was going to release the profile of a sexually sadistic killer, along with the physical description of the black-haired, green-eyed young man. They were only stating that he was 'wanted for questioning'. Because, really, the only evidence against him was the fact that he was present at the aftermath of the majority of the crime scenes.
Unfortunately, that's all we've got to go on. The young genius glanced across the room, where Gideon was flipping through the files of the murdered girls yet again, trying in vain to find some new connection between them. Apart from determining the type of serial killer the Unsub was and the likely nuances of his personality, the B.A.U. team had very little to work with. He had left behind practically no evidence; at least, nothing that could be traced. So that left the B.A.U. chasing their one lead; the persistent presence of this young man with black hair at the crime scenes.
Reid stepped back from his board to survey the geographical profile. It was distinctly unhelpful. He sighed and turned away, his eyes landing once more on Gideon flicking through the information collected on the victims. Reid couldn't help but feel that they were missing something vital in victimology, some missing link between the girls. The way the Unsub killed them…it seemed far too personal and filled with hatred to be random.
The young profiler looked up to see Hotch and JJ coming into the room, looking more tired than ever.
"I don't suppose you could get us all coffee? Morgan and Prentiss will be back soon and then we can regroup and share information. I think we'll all need the caffeine to support us."
"Sure," Reid gave Hotch a brief smile, hiding his concern at how tired the older man looked. "I'll be right back."
When Reid walked into Starbucks, he was so thoroughly preoccupied with trying to work out what it was that they were missing about the case, that he didn't immediately notice Hermione. In fact, he didn't even see the brunette until he was standing beside right her, his brain pulled out of its inner contemplation as his eyes suddenly registered what they were looking at.
Hermione was leaning against one of the little counters, adding sugar to one of the four cups in front of her. The sight of her triggered that feeling of déjà vu again, even stronger than before, and all the questions generated by the information Garcia had uncovered last night rose in his mind. However, they were pushed aside as he really took in her appearance and realised that the young woman looked completely exhausted. There were dark circles under her eyes and her hair looked wild and untamed. It had clearly not seen a brush that morning. Reid found it oddly endearing but that emotion was quickly overrode by a sense of concern for her wellbeing.
"Hermione?" the profiler asked. "Are you okay?"
The brunette jerked convulsively, her hand flying to her hip as if to draw a weapon, before she realised who it was. "Oh, Spencer," she said, straightening a little and attempting a smile. It didn't work very well. "Good morning. Nice to see you. I didn't expect us to meet in Starbucks again."
Reid's concern had only been deepened by her reaction. Why did she seem to expect to be attacked? "Well, it is the same Starbucks," he pointed out reasonably, before moving on to what he really wanted to say. "Hermione, are you feeling alright? You look…" he hesitated, not wanting to offend her.
"Terrible?" Hermione offered, running a hand through her unruly hair and giving him a wan smile. "No, it's fine, I'm not upset," she said, waving away the beginnings of his stuttered protestations. "I know I look bad. It's just that I barely slept last night, I was so worried."
"What happened?" Reid asked curiously.
"I… " the young woman exhaled heavily and looked away. "Two of my friends were out virtually all night. They were only supposed to have been gone a couple of hours but they didn't get back to our hotel until 5 o'clock this morning. Ginny – another of my friends – and I were worried sick that something had happened to them."
Something clicked in Reid's head and suddenly a lot of strange things about Hermione's behaviour seemed to slide into place. "Oh! I see. You mean the serial killer?" he asked. That made an awful lot of sense. He remembered Hermione telling him yesterday that she was visiting Chicago with three friends; they must be cursing their appalling timing. Perhaps her wary, cautious behaviour was because she was afraid of being attacked – by the Unsub. It felt like the truth, but it also felt like he was still missing something.
Hermione looked completely startled, almost dropping her coffee cup. "E-excuse me?"
"I meant that you were worried about them being attacked by the serial killer who is currently at large. The one that my unit is currently tracking down," Reid explained, though he was sure that she knew what he had been referring to and had simply been surprised that he had guessed correctly.
"Oh, right." Hermione hastily mopped up the bit of expresso that had been spilled with a paper napkin. "Yes, I was worried about them being attacked by the killer. They're a headstrong pair of idiots," she added, clear affection in her voice. "And if you don't mind, I'd best be off to bring them and Ginny their coffee."
"Of course," Reid moved out of her way. "I'll speak to you later."
The brunette gave the first real smile he'd seen from her all day and placed the four cups of coffee into a paper tray. She made to walk past him but he reached out and gently caught her right wrist. She halted and looked at him inquisitively.
"Hey," Reid said, trying his best to be reassuring. The concerned little crease of her brows made him want to ease her mind. "It'll be okay, alright? We'll catch him. Don't worry."
Hermione smiled at him again. "I'll try."
Reid smiled back tentatively and was about to release her wrist, when his eyes dropped down and suddenly his breath seemed to turn to ice in his lungs. Hermione's sleeve had been pushed up slightly, exposing part of her forearm – and a scar that he had seen on the bodies of twelve dead girls.
A/N: I'm so evil, aren't I? Thanks for reading, and I hope you review as well! :D