Author's Note: Whee! An actual follower! I adore you, Werebunny, I really do. Hope you enjoy the first part of the climax of the case - and the team's reactions when they find out who Gerald is!
When the team, including Garcia, had returned to the office and were gathered in the conference room, Damien laid the letter down on the table. "This came into the office about half an hour ago. It's from the unsub. It was no accident that the first body was found in the Fae Shoppe: the unsub's targeting me. I don't know who it could be, but whoever it is knows entirely too much about my past. These killings are some sort of twisted revenge for a choice I made five years ago, a choice that very few would have made. Whoever the unsub is, they think I made the wrong decision."
The letter was passed around, with everyone except for Gerald reading it. The adept was standing just to Damien's left, his face very pale, but his grey eyes determined. It was time to come clean.
When everyone had read the letter, Emily shot Damien a puzzled look. "Who is this other person the unsub is talking about?"
Gerald's voice was soft, but carried well in the sudden silence. Damien gave him a reassuring look before turning to his team.
"There's something I never told any of you about my quest to stop Calesta. What I'm about to tell you isn't something that can be bandied about. If you don't want to carry the burden of that kind of secret, then we can proceed as things are, but the case is likely going to be compromised."
Morgan spoke for them all. "We're not blind, D. We're profilers: we knew there was something you weren't saying. We're all in this together, though: you can tell us. It won't leave this room."
Damien nodded his thanks, then took a deep breath and stepped off the metaphorical cliff. "I'm sure you remember the stories in the paper about the adept who helped me defeat Calesta: you might have guessed by now that they were talking about Gerald. The papers never knew the full story, though."
Gerald took up where Damien had left off, his face an expressionless mask. "I used to serve the Hunter." Gasps rang throughout the room, but the adept didn't pause. "I'm not proud of what I was, but I did what I had to, to survive. I met Damien when he was passing near the Forest: the Hunter sent me with him, because Calesta posed a great enough threat that even he was worried. Over the course of the journey... things changed. I realized that I'd become a monster, and for the first time in far too long I regretted that. Thanks to Damien, I also realized that I didn't have to stay that way if I didn't want to. When the Crusade moved in on the Forest, I didn't go back. No one, aside from a few of the shadier merchants in Sheva and those in this room, know what I used to be."
There was silence: Garcia in particular looked very pale. Finally, Hotch spoke quietly.
"I'd be lying if I said I wasn't shocked, but... I've been a field profiler for eight years. This case is one of the most gruesome we've ever caught. In my entire career, I've met exactly two people who could stand that kind of slaughter without flinching - you, and Damien here. I knew the reason for that couldn't be pleasant."
"A lot of people who join this unit have shady pasts." Rossi said, shrugging. "You don't choose to work in Hell unless you've already passed through at least once."
Damien and Gerald made the mistake of making eye contact, and Damien couldn't stop a slightly hysterical laugh from bubbling out of his throat. Gerald just shook his head, smirking wryly. JJ stared at them.
"What's so funny?"
"Not that I'd expect any of you to believe me, but we've actually been in Hell." Damien said, shaking his head. "Literal hell. Fire and brimstone, that sort of thing."
This was met with shocked stares from all. Reid looked the least unsettled - and the most speculative. "It's real, then? That's remarkable... I wonder..."
"Don't." Hotch said dryly. There was some faint laughter at that, diffusing the tension slightly: Damien was the only one who saw the shadow that flitted through Gerald's eyes, and the way the adept lifted his hand to trace an unconscious path down his cheek, where a livid scar had once marred his flawless skin.
Damien cleared his throat. "Alright, now that we've got the shocking explanation part over with... how are we going to catch this nutcase?"
Reid grimaced slightly. "I was going to say earlier that the handwriting analysis on all the messages would suggest the unsub is a woman."
Damien exhaled heavily and braced his arms against the table. "Lovely. In that case... between that, the content of the messages, and the unsub's knowledge of who Gerald is - we're probably looking for one of the Hunter's surviving victims."
Rossi looked thoughtful. "How many of the Hunter's victims escaped the Forest alive, in a time frame recent enough to be the killer?"
"Four." Reid said, in the same breath that Gerald said, "Seven."
Shock rippled through the room, and Reid looked dumbfounded: he'd gotten a statistic wrong? Seeing his expression, Gerald shook his head, a bitter smile twisting his lips. "Oh, I don't doubt that the official count is four. Trust me, though, the official count is wrong. I was... fairly high in the Forest's hierarchy. Of those seven, two didn't have the mental capacity to pull off this kind of calculated crime, and one of those two, along with three others, have committed suicide since then."
Reid's eyes widened. "Four dead and one other incapacitated - that only leaves two possibilities!"
Emily leaned forward, her dark eyes intent. "If you can give us their names, we can run a search through the records, see if any of them are in the area... Tarrant?"
Damien looked sharply at the adept, and felt his heart twist. Gerald had suddenly clutched at the back of a chair, the blood draining from his face. He looked like he was about to be sick. Gently, Damien reached out and touched his shoulder.
"Gerald? What is it?"
"I... I don't even know." Gerald whispered, his grey eyes beginning to glimmer with what looked like tears. "I never knew their names. I can barely remember their faces, and I didn't... I never even knew their names..."
His heart twisting, Damien abandoned all pretenses and put his arm around the adept. Gerald leaned into him without protest, proof of just how unsettled he was. Damien shot a quick look around at his teammates, silently daring them to protest. Morgan looked crestfallen, Rossi seemed ruefully resigned, JJ, Garcia and Emily looked like they were aww-ing in their minds, and Hotch and Reid were smiling fondly at each other. Damien allowed himself to relax and held onto Gerald a little tighter, thinking hard. Seven women...
"Wait." A memory jolted through Damien, sending shocks down his spine. "Gerald. Out of the ones that survived - Narilka's alive, and she's sane. She's in Merentha though, she married Andrys last week. That only leaves one unaccounted for."
JJ stared. "Narilka Lessing was taken by the Hunter? How in the world did she get away unscathed?"
"She was taken shortly after I started to follow a different path." Gerald said quietly, not looking up and making no move to abandon the shelter of Damien's arm. "I helped her get away."
"If we could find a picture of all the possibilities, would you recognize the one we're looking for?" Hotch asked gently. Gerald nodded stiffly.
Five minutes of strained silence later, Garcia bustled back into the room carrying a small stack of papers. "This is what we have from the old missing files on the women who were taken by the Hunter. The sketches were a little outdated when we got them, but at least they're fairly accurate."
Gerald took the stack of drawings without a word and flipped through silently, his grey eyes dark as he saw once more the innocent young women that he'd slaughtered like so many animals. Damien's heart ached for the adept: just when he had finally put his lengthy past behind him, to have it all dredged up again like this...
Gerald's hand stilled on one of the pictures, and his face went absolutely white. "This one. I remember her... she fought. Most of them just gave up, sooner or later, but she kept fighting right until the end. I think that's why he let her go."
JJ took the picture and checked the file, her gaze thoughtful. "Hmm. Now why does that name sound familiar? Elana Rawlston..."
Damien nearly fainted. The room seemed to tilt under him a little, and he staggered, his own face going pale. "My God. Did you say Elana Rawlston?"
JJ glanced up, startled. "Yes, why?"
Damien fell back into a nearby chair, his knees refusing to support him. Realizing his hands were shaking, he clenched them, swallowing hard. "I... shit. I knew her. Hell, I dated her. We grew up together, in Ganji..."
Gerald was looking faintly sick again. Rossi gave Damien a sympathetic glance. "Hard to believe that she could do this?"
"No." Damien said quietly, memories washing through him. Seeing the shock on his team's faces, he shook his head. "I know it's cold, but honestly, no. She... Elana came from a bad home, and even then I could tell she wasn't quite right in the head. She was insanely possessive, clingy, panicky - and she had a mean streak, even then. That's why I left her. She stalked me for a few months afterward: I shook her off when I got my first assignment from the Church. I had no idea she'd ever made her way this far east... but she's exactly unbalanced enough to do this. If she managed to finally track me down again, only to find out I was traveling with one of the Hunter's servants... God, she must have snapped then and there. I'm amazed it's taken her this long to start killing, honestly."
Emily raised her eyebrows. "Wow, boss. I didn't know you made a habit of dating psychopaths - no offense, Tarrant."
"None taken." Gerald murmured. "If she's hunting victims by the Hunter's methods, though, we have almost no chance of predicting where she'll strike next. Contrary to what the more hysterical factions of the public liked to think, most of the Hunter's prey were simply victims of opportunity."
As usual, Reid was the one to start talking before he finished thinking. "You know, there's an interesting tendency in most of mankind to objectify unpleasant topics: for example, the way those affected by the Hunter's actions often refer to his victims as 'prey', distancing the women from the rest of the population and equating them more with animals-"
Hotch's patented death-glare silenced the young genius, but everyone in the room was already cringing, waiting for Gerald's reaction. The blond adept merely lifted an eyebrow at the suddenly pale agent, and said softly, "If you spent far too many years of your life leading innocent women to their deaths, Doctor Reid, I think you'd objectify them as well."
There was a tense silence, broken by JJ. "If we can't predict the next strike by victimology, how else can we try to get in front of this woman?"
Damien was staring at the map on the wall, colored pins denoting the sites where victims had been found, frowning absently. "First the Fae Shoppe, to make sure I'd get the case..." he muttered, thinking hard. "Then an alley a block from my old apartment, then the steps of the Cathedral. All places connected to me somehow. Where else could she hit? Cee's apartment, maybe... or - Gerald, where are you staying?"
"At the Eagle's Crest." Gerald said, and Damien rolled his eyes.
"Of course you are."
The Eagle's Crest was, of course, the most lavish hotel in Jaggonath. Gerald smirked. "It's only temporary while I sort out a few things. I'll have a permanent residence soon, I'm just wading through the last of the paperwork."
"Alright. I'll set a detail on the hotel - and don't even bother." he added sharply, as Gerald opened his mouth to protest. "Elana's not even close to being stable, I'm not letting you out of my sight until she's behind bars."
Gerald sighed. Before anyone could say anything further, a call for JJ rang through the station. The blonde ducked out for a moment, and Hotch turned to Damien. "What's the plan?"
Damien opened his mouth, but at that moment JJ hurried back in, her face pale.
"D, that was a call from the station - they just received a nine-one-one from Lady Ciani's apartment. According to the officer who answered... it sounds like it was Elana Rawlston who made the call."
Dun dun dun! What comes next in Elana Rawlston's evil scheme? You'll find out - soon enough!