Reid sat nervously in Hotch's office, not sure why his boss had called him in. Hotch was on the phone; the man lived on the phone, so Reid waited.
Hotch stood, obviously he was trying to end the call. "Yes, sir, I will take care of that. Of course, no problem, I will look into it personally. Thank you, yes I do appreciate your faith in me and my team."
He was silent for a moment, "Yes, thank you, yes. Of course sir, Agent Jareau is getting ready to present the case. Yes, Jack's doing great, and the girls, sir? Good. Thank you, sir. Yes, goodbye." He lowered the phone to the cradle and brought his hand back up to his forehead, he rubbed at this head and eyes. He took a deep breath.
"Your friend in Washington?" Reid said, knowing that reaction was usually only to one person in Hotch's life.
Hotch nodded. He straightened his jacket. Reid always called that 'straightening the armor' and Hotch looked up with a smile. "So I have news."
Reid frowned quickly and looked at the phone.
"No, not that. It's the Townhouse, there's an offer on it."
"Wha...what? What happened to the collapsed housing market?"
"I know, but it means we have to go house hunting."
"You mean like now?"
"This weekend." He frowned at Spencer. "It's okay isn't it? You did say you'd like a home with me."
"I liked the townhouse, already."
Hotch felt the world start to collapse around him. He'd been sure this would make Reid happy. "I..I thought it'd make you happy." His frown felt desperate.
Reid moved to the window and drew the blinds. As he turned he caught Aaron's hands. "I am happy, I am. I just didn't expect it so soon. Are you sure? You and me?"
"I love you. I want us to have a home we choose together. Well, the three of us."
"Yes, please. You know I haven't really lived in a house that was mine. When I was little we had a house, but after dad left we moved from one apartment to another."
Hotch smiled, relieved. "So tonight we'll have a family meeting?"
"That's amazing, yes. You know I take care of my mom? We'll have to have a budget…"
Hotch bit his lip. "There're some things we need to talk about, before we talk with Jack. So think about what you really want in a house, okay?"
Reid nodded. "I'll make a list."
He walked back to his desk with a smile. He sat and stared at the files in his in-basket. Morgan gave him a look.
"What's up with you, Pretty Boy?"
"I'm going to buy a house."
"Excellent move, you need help you call me, okay? I got a good contractor if you get one that needs it."
"Thanks Morgan… I don't even know what I want in a house."
Morgan looked up to Hotch's office. "You're going to need a good school district right?"
Spencer grinned and nodded. He was in the clouds.
"You better come down to earth, those real estate brokers will see you coming."
"We're going this weekend."
"Closer to Quantico?"
"I think so, I'm not sure though. I don't care, it's going to be home."
Morgan grinned at his friend. "Yeah, seriously if you guys need any help- you call me, got it?"
"Thanks Morgan. I better get back to work if I want this weekend free."
Reid picked up the first file from his pile but just stared at it. He picked up a small writing tablet and wrote on it.
Number 1: Good school district
Number 2: DC or Virginia
Number 3: Place for books
Number 4: Master suite
Number 5: Outside Reading Area
He sat thinking; he'd have to rely a lot on Hotch knowing what a good house was. He figured he'd know more about all that. Apartments were easier.
Hotch sat at his desk for a moment and forced himself not to look down into the bullpen to watch Reid's reaction to the news. He smiled to himself and wondered if Reid would be ready for all the news he had to share with him. They'd never really discussed money before. It was going to be interesting.
He typed into the computer his list of wants for the house;
Closer to Jess
Out of DC / closer to work 20-30 minutes
Updated plumbing and electricity – no fuses
Traditional – see how Spencer feels about older homes
Ready to move in – no contingencies
3 or 4 bedrooms?
Room for books / office
Kids in the neighborhood
Backyard / Gardener?
He saved the file. He'd add to it later.
Prentiss flipped open one of the three case-folders on her desk. The two victims included had been within a day of each other. The murders had taken place in different parts of town, but within the same demographics.
Cause of death had been… messy. Bludgeon-deaths were indicators for high rage, and yet, there didn't appear to be anything personal about the crime-scenes. The victims didn't have any points of real intersection in their lives. The first victim, Tyrone Adams, was a successful entrepreneur who worked in the medical devices industry. He ran his inventory from his home and had a small staff that ran his warehouse while he ran the front-end of the business. He lived in an upscale middle-class neighborhood with a gross income range of 130K household income. The majority of the injuries had been to the back of his head and then post-mortem to his chest and throat.
The second victim, Ana Redkins, who reported under her maiden name of Ana Shernov, lived in an equally upper-middle class neighborhood. Household annual income was around 150K for the area, her security system had been deactivated, and she had been bludgeoned to death. Most of the wounds she had received were to the face and head, but post-mortem the over-kill had surpassed Tyrone's substantially. She had been beaten so severely the coroners were hard pressed to find a bone not broken in her chest, back, and arms.
Crime scene investigations revealed the homes were broken into with sophisticated techniques, but were hard-pressed to give point of entry.
It was either a spree killer coming to life, a serial killer already rapidly devolving, or a strange mixture of both. The home invasion skills made her think there somehow had to be more in the history, but she knew this would be the case the team would have to go for next.
She stood from her chair and blew at Reid's ear as she walked by. "Dr. Spencer Reid, are you slacking off at work?" She smiled. He was… actually making a list- she could have sworn she read 'Number 5-Outside reading area' before he covered up his steno-pad and blushed.
"Oh, sorry, I didn't mean to take you from it. I've got to go up to Hotch, I think we have our next case." She nudged the file-folder and gave Morgan a look behind her.
"Where is it out of?" Reid asked.
"Eastchester, New York. Over the past two days, two people were bludgeoned to death, there's escalation there too. I think this is only going to get worse."
After a few minutes in Hotch's office, Prentiss left to walk back to her chair as Hotch announced to the bullpen, "Wheels up in forty."
On the ground, the team quickly met up with two homicide detectives, Clara Bly and Jose Gutierez.
After a round of introductions started by Hotch, the team proceeded to the station.
"…So, I know you guys just got here, but my partner and I, we were thinking this isn't our normal homicide. See, even the city troubles that come up here… it's not how it's done. Sure we get the occasional drug-related homicide, but- those are gun deaths. We don't get people beaten to death in their houses at random. Domestic abuse, maybe it'll be physical- but even that- I've never seen someone do that to a person's face." Detective Bly shook her head, "I've been doing this job for ten years, and I just haven't seen this level of anger."
Morgan looked at Detective Bly and smiled sympathetically, as a former cop he had wondered about something, "This happened two days ago- this might sound frank but I'm asking because you're the front line, you see patterns that we might not get to see—what about this made you not wait to call in for help from us?"
Detective Gutierez let out a snort of a laugh and smiled, "Agent Morgan, between us, we have over 30 years of experience in police-work. Clara here used to be in vice before she made the move to homicide, but me? I was involved in burglary. This guy- he's too good to be breaking in to murder. That's not where these skills are from. We got a pro cat-burglar who just turned pro killer. His skills aren't gonna make anyone feel safe until his ass is in booking. He killed a high-ranking reporter for NYC channel 5 news. She might not be a celebrity on the global level, but we have heat. Worse, she just did a special about the rise in home invasions and then poof. Our first vic was killed, then the next day she was."
Reid's eyes went wide, "Wait, when you say she had an editorial about that- what was the time that aired?"
"It was the 11 O'Clock top story. She did a piece about this one cat who's been robbing the middle-class and painted a not-too-kind view about this jerk stealing from hard-working folks and taking the easy way out. Now, I get the economy, I do- and I know desperate people, but desperate people aren't the sort of people with these skill-sets. Our perp disabled three alarm systems, one surveillance system, and broke into houses with high-end locks, I mean, this isn't a chain and a bolt-cutter. And from what I can tell, it didn't take him much too long. My partner has a theory but we're waiting to hear back to see if it holds water."
JJ locked eyes with Detective Bly, "A theory?"
"…Well, the first house had a for-sale sign up, and realtors use key boxes, now he sold his house… three weeks ago, but if this guy was casing joints- if he really is a cat burglar- he'd get those keys, have an easy in, and then just have to worry about the security. He killed the owner before the new family moved in, so- ya know, he might have just been waiting… I dunno, I just have a hunch this isn't what the guy came in to do. Not the first vic."
"…The prior home invasions, do you have any that you've linked to him so far?" Reid licked his lips, "There are different variables to each home-robbery as I'm sure you know, but if his signature is tied to those crimes it could help a lot."
Morgan was already dialing Garcia as the detectives considered it.
Back at the station, Reid's wish for information on home invasions was granted in the form of seven case-boxes dropped on the desk he chose to drop his bag.
"…As I said, we get desperation, we don't get those skills and that though. These are the cliff-notes of our BNEs for the past two months. Have fun."
"Wait, wait, that's only two months…? I need to go back at least six."
One of the detectives let out an airy laugh, "Kid, there's 7 case boxes… trust me, we have time to…"
Reid flipped the first lid down and took up a file, read through the fifty pages within it in the first minute before looking up, "Yeah, I need the files for the full six months, and to know where your coffee pot is. Hotch, I'll be de-piling."
The older man nodded, "Let me know what you get out of it. Prentiss, work victimology, JJ and Morgan, crime scene 1, Rossi you're with me, we'll go to the second crime scene. Reid, keep lines open with Garcia and see what you both pull for a pattern."
Reid nodded as he finished the fourth file. He tacked up a map and put in a push-pin. "Alright."
Hotch and JJ walked back into the station each carrying copious amounts of food, bagged up. Hotch glanced at the clock on the wall, it was 10 PM, and within the next few hours there was a very really possibility that they'd be called out to another murder.
Reid looked half dead, surrounded by over twenty case-boxes, only one was left un-opened, but he had stopped putting pins into the map over an hour ago. He downed another coffee and glared at the image in front of him. There was a pattern in the strikes, he knew it, he just… couldn't see it.
Hotch gestured to one of the bags in his hands toward Reid, "Take a break, eat something, then go back to it. If you keel over, we're still not going to find the pattern."
With that, he peeled himself back from the chair and trudged to the break room where the others had converged.
Half-through a sub, Reid watched as Prentiss, Morgan, and Rossi exchange what they found from the different crime scenes and victims.
"Well, the victims were in completely different social circles, but they were on the same level. By all accounts, Mr. Adams was a stand-up guy- he didn't have kids, but he was close to his family. Never married, but he was in a long-term relationship with a woman he met through his church, they were together for a few years, apparently it was going well, and he was buying a home that they could share together before he took the plunge to ask her to marry her. That's what his brother implied."
" The girlfriend confirmed they were planning to move in together. Mr. Adams had a double BA, one in IT and one in management. He went to SUNY Stony Brook, graduated 8 years ago. He started his business while he was in undergrad. He was ambitious, and charitable. He did volunteer with urban out-reach programs and he took urban kids out camping to give them a greater view of the world, also taught swimming to urban youths. He was a role-model."
" Mrs. Redkins was also impressive, she graduated with a Masters in Journalism and Communication from NYU ten years ago, was an intern for NYC Channel 5, and then… kept moving up. Made anchor after she broke some stories on local corruption and frauds on 9-11 funds, she's been married since she graduated with her BA, her husband works in downtown Manhattan for an overseas investment firm as a lawyer, they have one child. When she was killed, her husband and her child had been visiting his parents, she stayed behind for her nightly recording but they had plans to meet back up in the morning. When she didn't show, her husband called it in. His alibi checks out."
"The commonality is the upper-middle class status. These people are pillars in their community, well loved, highly thought of, respected. They worked hard, pulled themselves to a good standing, and by all intents had a good life ahead of them. This was an attack on success, the victims' gender and race isn't what makes him choose who he goes after. He's sophisticated, but he's not patient."
"He does plan though- but not for the murder. That came up. That was him getting mad. This guy, he's got skills, very real skills in disarming security systems. He probably has a background in the industry or technology fields. He knew to wear gloves, and forensics is coming up a wash, so he probably pinned back his hair too. His ruse is probably simple, but effective. The murder isn't as well thought-out. It's a sudden blitz… but not because he was caught. No, he hides in these houses, he gets a thrill knowing they don't find him, that he can pounce when he wants and do what he wants. In Mr. Adams' case, time of death was after midnight. The stages of bruising indicates the attack lasted an hour. He spent an hour beating this man to death with the first thing he could grab. He took a wrench to him because he was hiding in his utility closet, he was probably waiting for Mr. Adams to go to sleep for the night, rob him, then leave. But something changed, he got angry, he blitzed Mr. Adams from the back, before he could react he was down. He did show signs of remorse on Mr. Adams. He covered him up then called 911, like he woke up from his anger and realized he did something wrong. He still took cash, gold jewelry, collectable sports cards. and some photos Mr. Adams had but left anything with diamonds."
Rossi chimed in, "Crime scene two, reads the same with how he planned and how he entered. It might be happenstance that Ana Redkins was moving, but it's early and hard to tell. Her house was sold, they were still packing up. Her husband did report a signed baseball and a signed hat were missing, as was money and gold jewelry, but anything with diamonds stayed, same with his Rolex. The unsub knows that those can sometimes be tracked. Gold can get melted down, sent out, not a problem, but if it's traceable, it stays. He's a seasoned thief. He knows what to take, what he can sell, what has fast turn-around time."
"But Ana… her death was personal. He might not have known her directly, but she was a TV personality, so he didn't have to. Something she said made him angry, so angry that he broke every bone in her torso. He spent three hours with her, then took maybe 10 minutes to sack the house. That was all the cool-down time he needed." Rossi stopped, thoughtful.
Reid pulled at the hem of his shirt, "Garcia mentioned that Ana Redkins' last report was about a string of robberies. She referred to the perpetrator as cowardly. From the files I've been going through, this unsub has not missed a day of robbery for the past five months. Every day he has robbed an upper-middle class home within a one-hundred mile radius of here, mostly concentrating towards NYC. He steals usually anywhere from under one thousand dollars-worth of goods to five thousand dollars-worth of goods depending on the jewelry and collectibles. He's making a good living at this. I think he views himself as a hero. I think he's romanticizing his crime, probably likening himself to Robin Hood somehow, that he's stealing from the rich giving to the poor… but there's no way to know where that money is going just yet. He hasn't targeted homes when children were THERE though, suggesting that even though he doesn't care if a child lives in the home that he doesn't want them to witness it. I think he's a father."
"Any idea where he might try for next?" JJ asked, Reid bowed his head.
"…I haven't figured it out yet…" He paused, he could see the shapes he was working on, but it didn't indicate when or where or how, it all felt so happen-stance, like the neighborhoods he targeted were done so like darts on a board. Reid's mouth suddenly gaped. "JJ! You can tell a person's throwing style for darts looking at a board, right?"
"…Reid?" Her concerned tone came off as baffled by the sudden flash of energy.
"I think he's picking an area with a large enough radius that he can literally throw darts at a board to pick out WHERE he'll strike. There were clusters of houses, three closer than what one would want to strike when taking counter-measures for police, but he did it anyways. But then, the next week he was on opposite corners. He's using chance to create a randomized pattern… so if I look at his old patterns and understand his groupings I can predict –if I can figure out his skill with darts and handedness- which areas would be statistically more probable to…"
"Right, right… I've got it." JJ smiled letting out a breath, "Let me… look at the map. I'll tell you if he's right or left handed."
As the early morning passed by with no calls, the group went back to the hotel.
Hotch smiled at Reid as the younger man was still fidgeting, still going over probabilities and statistical anomalies in his head.
"Spencer, you need to sleep just like everyone else."
Reid opened his mouth for a moment but closed it before he spoke, instead he turned to Hotch.
"…If Rossi is right, the reporter angered the unsub, he killed a man out of anger. That isn't very good for his righteous thief mental image. So he had to kill her, he had to punish her, and he didn't feel remorse. She hurt his image, he obliterated her face… and then he stopped stealing? He's not done. He might be done HERE, but he's not done. And now- his high from stealing has a new high. Murder, he's going to snap again, and it's going to be easier and easier for him to fly off the handle. He should've been out tonight and if he's not it's because-"
"He might be out tonight and we won't know until morning when someone finds out they're missing."
Reid bowed his head. "I think he'll relocate. He had this level of skill off the bat at 5 months ago. No improvement, no deterioration, he's done this before. There isn't a learning curve here. He moves between cities. He's going to move. He's going to feel there's too much heat and he'll up and leave. And you know the press is keeping this story running. It was one of their own. They want him caught."
"I know. But we have to wait to know if he's moved on already or not. Once he does we have to figure out how to track him."
The wait for word was excruciating. They spent the entire day in the police headquarters without word of any home invasion of any kind. They read reports and reviewed the other cases.
They met and spoke together about the chances of the unsub moving on. They had Garcia begin a search of the entire eastern seaboard for similar burglaries. Reid spent the days with his maps and Hotch spent it nervously reading through files that seemed similar. By the end of the day they agreed to wait one more evening. They met in Hotch's room and the entire team watched news reports for almost 3 hours.
"If nothing happens tonight we'll head back to D.C. We know he'll strike again, just when and where is the question." Hotch seemed unnerved by the wait.
Prentiss suggested dinner and all agreed. They headed out to a nearby Italian place that Rossi recommended and could get them into on a Friday night. The meal was good and they enjoyed each other's company, but it felt unfinished because the case hung over them incomplete. They swung by the police headquarters for an update and when they found nothing, they headed back to the hotel. In the lobby Hotch asked JJ to have the plane ready at 8 in the morning.
Saturday was pretty much a bust for house hunting. They got back to D.C. after ten and after picking Jack up it was well after noon that they saw their first house. The five houses they saw were either too old or too new. None of the three of them were inspired and they all went home feeling like they'd never find what they were looking for.
Sunday dawned bright and the Real Estate Broker picked them up at the Townhouse. Hotch grinned as Jack bounded into the car and clicked himself in, Hotch ducked into the back seat with his son. He'd switch with Reid for the front seat after the first house.
"So tell me again what are you fellas looking for in a house?"
"What do you think Jack?"
"A big room with a fireplace."
Hotch raised a brow, he didn't think that'd be the first thing Jack would come up with. "A good school district; with a straight run to the freeway and quick access to Quantico, and a view if we can get one."
Reid licked his lips, "Somewhere to sit and read outside."
"And you said 3 or 4 bedrooms, a modern kitchen in an older home. Is that about right?" The broker grinned. "With the economy the way it is, we just might find everything you want, fairly reasonably." She was enthusiastic and very bright. She'd gotten the Townhouse under contract within a week of it being on the market. And she'd promised to be circumspect around Jack and Reid about money. Though at this point Reid realized that there had been an inheritance and insurance and the sale of the townhouse and Hotch's old house, so house prices weren't going to be his lover's first worry.
They walked through the first house rather quickly, Reid didn't really like how it was situated, it felt dark. Hotch walked a little slower and tried to see his and Jack's things in the house. Jack watched the two men and looked for clues. But even he frowned and summed up everyone's feelings. "Not what we were hoping for."
The broker looked at him and nodded. "Well I have a few others, not far from here."
The next house took their breath away, it was a good sized traditional home; Reid walked in and smiled. The wood floors gleamed, there were lovely bright windows. Jack ran to a bay window that filled the room with even more light, In the bay was a window seat and Jack climbed into it, he saw himself reading here. Hotch smiled at his son, who sat in the window seat, like a contented cat.
The kitchen had been redone in a gorgeous cherry wood finish, there were no appliances, but Hotch consoled Reid that there often weren't and that he and Jack always wanted to get colorful ones. Spencer now imagined Reds and Blues in his new kitchen. The kitchen opened into a dining and family room that Spencer's old school could have held a dance in. The dining area was tiled in a subtle slate color, the family room was carpeted in a muted green. And much to Jack's pleasure, there was a real fire place with a mantle.
The doors that lead to the backyard were off the family room and Jack stood at them, staring out. They walked out onto the small deck. The back had been landscaped simply with grass and trees and from one of the trees was a swing. On the other side of the fence, accessed through a locked gate, was a jogging path and beyond that was park-land.
"It's like living in a park."
Reid smiled and Hotch nodded. They all walked into the house again, on the other side of the kitchen and in back of the living room was a small suite of rooms that could be a second master suite or guest quarters. Then they all walked up the stairs to the second floor. The bedrooms and two of the bathrooms were up here. Jack chose the smaller of the bedrooms that faced the side yard and looked further out to a stand of trees. Hotch and Reid checked the other bedroom which was certainly big enough for two desks and shelves of books. The Master suite had a sitting room and twin walk in closets. The windows opened onto a balcony that was placed to look right into the park, where there was a glimpse of the river.
"This is wonderful." Spencer enthused. "Can we take it?"
Aaron loved his lover's enthusiasm. "Let's look at one more house, okay?"
Spencer shrugged. "This one is amazing, I could live here." He spread his arms and then hugged himself.
"Oh one more thing," The broker hooked a finger and through a door from the Master suite she led them into a small office space. Spencer immediately stamped it his.
Then from the ceiling she pulled down a set of stairs that lead to an attic space. Jack ran up the stairs and started yelling for them to come up. Hotch followed. The area was only vaguely finished, but the light sparkled and Jack was spinning in the effect of the round window at the peak of the house. There was a second set of attic stairs that led to his bedroom. They put those down and came into the room where they'd left Spencer and the broker.
"What do you think Mr. Hotchner?"
"It's great, I'm a little worried about the stairs and Dr. Reid's knee, but we can talk about it. Shall we look at the last house?"
Jack and Spencer looked at each other and sighed. Aaron sat in the front seat of the car, unconsciously taking it in for a second time.
Jack said from the back, "You know daddy, Spencer and I really like that house."
"I know Jack and I like it too, but I want us to look at just one more. Okay buddy?"
There was another sigh from the two in the back seat and a rather sad, "okay."
The third house was an older Victorian style house. It sat on a little over an acre of land and though it needed paint, was gorgeous to look at. Hotch added maintenance to the list in his head.
There were stairs up to the first level that let them into an entry hall. To the right was a huge living room and dining area. The floors had been recently resurfaced and gleamed. The myriad windows let in the light. The fireplace stood on the far wall and looked in need of repair. Jack stood and inspected the fireplace, he shook his head.
The stairway stood behind the dining area, but they'd see the first floor first. Under the stairway was a closet, and beyond that the entry to the kitchen. The kitchen was huge, room for table and chairs, done in French blue tile, the floor in rough wood planking. A small breakfast nook was tucked near the rear porch and it had a wall of windows looking to the back yard, where there was a huge garage structure. The deck off the porch was large and in fair repair.
A small hot-tub graced the deck, and a pool house which had a studio apartment was across the deck from the sun room-back porch area. In the house proper, and across from the living room, was a front bedroom with a walk in closet and another bedroom which was, at the moment, full of bookcases. The bottom floor bath was spacious and had been completely updated except for the clawfoot tub. They walked around the back yard; that would need landscaping and looked into an old vegetable garden that had been fenced off. Hotch took a quick look into the cellar, it could be refinished and there'd be even more square footage, or he could keep the wine that Rossi gifted him down here. He walked back into the house to meet the others.
They climbed the stairs to the second floor. This was an open area that was the master suite and bath. The sitting area looked over the trees in the rear yard, there was clearly enough room to have a library and office and a couple other areas. Tucked in behind the bath was a small area which was in the slant of the roof.
Jack got up into his dad's arms and put his head on his shoulder. "Can we have the other one daddy? This one is prettier on the outside, but the other one feels better on the inside."
He carried his son downstairs and set him on the floor in the dining area. The broker was sitting in the window seat. She looked up expectantly.
"We're all agreed, get us a deal on the Franklin Street house."
"If I were buying a house that would have been my choice. So let's go to my office and get the paperwork started."
TBC in Chapter Two.
Please R & R!