DISCLAIMER: I would have to include a separate novel if I were to disclaim for all the toys I'm borrowing for this story. The short and sweet of it? Joss Whedon, Mutant Enemy, Wes Craven, CBS, etc. etc. etc. If I've forgotten someone, it's not because I don't care; it's because I couldn't remember. Big statement: Not Mine. Just playing in the sandbox.
AUTHOR'S NOTES: 1. To understand much of the storyline involving certain characters, it will help to read Resurrection is for the Unbelievers. 2. The Chicago of this story, as well as that of Resurrection is for the Unbelievers bears little resemblance to the real Windy City. Where I could, I tried for realism, but for the sake of the narrative, much has been fabricated out of whole cloth. My apologies to any natives of the city, I'm sure it's much nicer than I've depicted. 3. I am not a profiler in real life, nor do I play one on TV. Neither am I a psychologist in other words, I'm probably wrong about some things, and I know it, but hey, it's fiction so enjoy! 4. To my beta readers, Ann & Tater, a big, heaping helping of Thank You, Thank You, Thank You. 5. Love it, Hate it: Razz the Writer: email@example.com
CHALLENGE: Submitted as part of the Epic Proportions challenge.
ARCHIVING: Only with the permission of the author.
Ward 17 Chicago, ILLINOIS
Rain like a river washed streams of claret from her fingers. Overhead, the sky rumbled sonorously as trenchant waves of water poured over the grayed and battered city. Exiting the shadowed confines of the alleyway, a figure was caught in the brief flare of a streetlight. Limned in phosphor, the person paused in the white-white halo.
Huddled against a nearby wall, Dazzle Razzle shivered as another stream of cold water slid down her back. It was a very slow night, and this stranger was one of the few people the prostitute had seen in hours. She opened her mouth to call out the standard greeting, but paused when the figure turned to look in her direction.
Though hooded, Dazz could see a coppery fringe of hair peeking out from under the rain-soaked fabric. Wet runnels of crimson liquid stained the nose and mouth. Dark, ugly splotches of claret blossomed in startling array against the pale gray of a worn fleece hoodie.
Whisper fine threads of fear coiled in the pit of Dazzle Razzle's stomach, and she reached up to finger the gaudy silver cross that dangled between her breasts. Swallowing, she met the gaze of the strange woman and was startled by the cold, dead eyes that unflinchingly looked back. Then, the woman smiled, tipped her head back, and laughed as the rain rinsed the traces of blood from her face.
Approaching headlights sent the stranger scurrying off into the shadows. With a shudder, Dazzle muttered, "Damn, she must've gotten some fucked up shit." When she'd realized that the figure was a woman, the prostitute had almost challenged her for working what was, to Dazz, her corner, but one look at the blood marring the stranger's features had staved off those thoughts. Whatever John the crazy newcomer had found, Dazz wanted no part of him.
Removing a wilted pack of cigarettes from the relative dryness of her cleavage, Dazz fought with her lighter until a weak flame was produced. The sudden, all-too-short spark of heat barely sufficed to light the mashed end of her smoke. Taking several long drags, the prostitute peered out at the empty streets and sighed.
For a moment, the statuesque call girl considered calling it a night, but visions of her pimp's angry reprisals kept her feet rooted firmly to the spot. It did not, however, stop her from checking for her mace and her shank. Briefly, she looked to the rooftops as if searching for something or someone, but as always, she spotted nothing.
Are you up there, or are you home, all safe and dry in the arms of your woman?
"Before I am lost,
hell must open like a red rose
for the dead to pass."
BAU F.B.I. Headquarters Quantico, VIRGINIA
Though the clock showed that the hour had long since crept past the point when most of the other agents had gone home, three offices still had bars of light shading out from under their doors. The first door bore the name plaque of Aaron Hotchner. Lead agent for the Behavioral Analysis Unit, Hotch had poured himself into the world of profiling criminals in the wake of his impending divorce.
The next office belonged to David Rossi. Once retired, Rossi had returned to service when Jason Gideon had left after his girlfriend had been slain by a serial killer. Driven by a decades old search for justice, David Rossi put in extra hours to work on a case that had been cold so long, that even the victims' families had given up hope of a resolution.
As the third member of their informal after hours club and the BAU's Communications Liaison, Jennifer, "JJ", Jareau, spent more time than any of the other agents ensconced in her office, going over files and searching for that one case that required the unit's immediate attention. For JJ, the call to duty was not about finding refuge from a personal storm or even seeking justice for long silent voices. Instead, the endless wallow in a flood of evil was about creating peace. Those who had shared the broken road of the lost, helpless and slain the families and police officers involved in the cases deserved to have the sense of peace that a solved case would bring them.
Pinching the bridge of her nose, JJ looked down at the file spread before her and sighed. This one had all the earmarks of being a prime candidate for the BAU. Six men found beaten, strangled and mutilated in the alleyways of Chicago's Seventeenth ward. Very little evidence existed, but three weeks ago, a witness had come forward and given the police a description of a possible suspect. JJ glanced at the sketch, noting the Be On the Look Out advisement as well as the vague nature of the physical description. Beyond that, there was not much to go on to assist in discovering the identity of the suspect.
It's better than nothing at all. The witness had to have been at least semi-sober for this image to be so striking.
The fax was smudged, but not so badly that JJ couldn't see the boldly drawn picture of a person whose eyes were so haunted, they appeared to have just gazed into the deepest pits of Hell. With a face that was narrow and elfin in nature, it was difficult to tell if the suspect was male or female, though the witness had believed it to be a woman. According to the vital statistics, the suspect was a red haired, green-eyed Caucasian between the ages of twenty-four and thirty and had been dressed in a gray hooded sweatshirt and a pair of dark colored slacks.
JJ sighed and rubbed her eyes. The description would likely fit a number of Chicago's citizens. Setting aside the BOLO, JJ shuffled through the rest of the case file, which consisted of crime scene photos, evidence logs, witness statements and a hand-written note from a Captain MacPherson, begging for the BAU's assistance.
There was such a note of desperation in the man's tersely worded missive that, coupled with the horrific crime scene photos, impelled JJ to close the file and stick it onto the pile that she would deliver to Supervisory Special Agent Hotchner for immediate consideration. Were there other cases where the crimes were just as terrible? Of course, but something about this one had triggered all of JJ's carefully trained instincts, and Hotch trusted that judgment. Gathering the stack of manila folders, JJ stood and made her way to her boss' office.
With a soft knock, she pushed open the door and said, "Here are the five most pressing cases, Sir."
Distractedly, Hotchner said, "Thank you, JJ. Go home. Get some rest. I'll have my choice ready for you in the morning. You can brief the team after lunch."
Dimly glowing numerals on the dashboard clock displayed the time as 10:47. In the darkness of JJ's neighborhood, the illumination seemed brighter than normal, throwing a haze of green shadows over the interior of her car. Pulling into her driveway, she glanced around, noting with mild disgust that the post holiday slump had left its stamp on the street.
Wilted decorations, dead Christmas trees festooned with all manner of unwanted ornamentation, and garbage cans that overflowed with fragrant, rotting refuse had cropped up at the edges of sidewalks and driveways. JJ wrinkled her nose and then exited her vehicle, gasping as her feet hit the walkway.
A layer of slush caked the cement, and by the time she reached her porch, the young woman's feet were soaked. Pushing open her door, JJ kicked off her heels and grumbled about ruining yet another pair of hose.
"You'd think I'd remember to put on a pair of sneakers before leaving the office," she muttered as she turned on lights and gathered her mail.
Without so much as a tank of fish to keep her company, the agent was less than enthusiastic with the prospect of a meal alone, followed by a long night of staring at the ceiling, praying that her sleep would be restful. Most nights, JJ attacked slumber with the same single-minded determination that had carried her out of East Allegheny and into one of the FBI's most respected units. Of late, though, her dreamscapes had been torn asunder by nightmare visions. It was to be expected, given the field in which she worked. What was not anticipated, however, were the lushly fanciful dreams wherein she allowed herself to act upon certain unprofessional desires.
Staring at the partially reflective surface of the microwave door, JJ closed her eyes against her own image and allowed herself to momentarily wallow in the memory of warm, velvety brown eyes twinkling in undisguised merriment. As though summoned by the tacit permission to dream, the picture resolved fully, becoming the woman to whom the eyes belonged.
JJ's breath caught at the moment of perfection so quickly supplied by her tired mind: Emily Prentiss, her dark hair pulled back into a ponytail, Kevlar vest hanging partially askew as she and Derek Morgan traded affectionate jibes after a particularly grueling case. It was a rare glimpse for JJ, since her role as press liaison often led her to miss the events following the apprehension of a suspect.
Surrounded by a bevy of reporters, JJ had glanced up at just the right second to catch sight of the brunette agent. Their gazes had met, and JJ was further shocked to be the recipient of one of Emily's all too brief, but heartbreakingly beautiful smiles.
With a sigh, JJ opened her eyes and allowed the memory to fade. The clock now read 11:14, and she was hungry.
Dinner, it turned out, wasn't horrible. Of course, reheating leftover Chinese from Garcia's most recent, "Moo shoo and Movies" night wasn't really much of a challenge.
"And to think, Aunt Lilly spent all that time teaching me to cook," muttered the young agent as she forked through the plateful of Kung Pao chicken. With the television on low, JJ picked her way through the meal, stopping now and then to enjoy a sip from a glass of ruby red merlot.
The vintage, something French and quite probably expensive, had been Emily's well-meaning contribution to Garcia's movie night, but had gone untouched in the wake of a surfeit of beer, snacks, and junk food. It had, however, been broached, so the older agent had suggested they toss out the remains. Ever practical, JJ had instead taken the bottle home and was now enjoying the warm, full flavor of the wine. Slowly, a genial sense of lassitude settled over her, letting the cares and worries of the day dissolve into a comfortably sleepy haze.
She was reaching for the remote when her phone rang.
"Jareau," she said, without looking at the caller ID.
"Hey, JJ, good, I'm glad I caught you up." The slightly husky tones of Agent Emily Prentiss' voice reached through the phone and slapped her into full wakefulness.
"Is there a problem? Are we being called in?" JJ sat forward, set aside the wineglass, and reached for her gun.
"No, no, nothing like that. It's really, nothing, really. I just-" The agent's voice cut out momentarily and was replaced by the faint noise of car engines.
"What? Could you repeat that?"
"Crap. Sorry about that. I was " The agent's voice faded again. "-Out and my car got a flat. The tow service won't be here for at least an hour to fix it."
JJ felt the stirrings of a smile prick the corners of her mouth. "Can't you change a tire, Agent Prentiss?"
"Oh sure, I can change a tire. There's just this one little problem though the axle's bent nearly double. It adds a level of difficulty I hadn't anticipated. I'm afraid I left my 'Wonder Woman pills' in my other purse today." There was a teasing edge to Emily's tone.
"Emily! What the hell happened?" JJ shot to her feet and grabbed a nearby pair of sneakers. Shoving her feet into them, she grabbed her coat and car keys and headed out of the door without turning off the television. "Are you all right?" The huffing cough of her engine as it turned over almost drowned out Emily's response.
"I'm fine, JJ," said Emily with a laugh. "Really. A little shook up, but otherwise I'm okay."
"So where are you?" JJ's startled sound of surprise at Emily's response was followed by a drawled, "That's a bit remote. How'd you happen to get a flat all the way out there?"
"I think I hit a brick or something. Whatever it was did a number on the undercarriage, but I'm okay." Emily's laughter turned slightly nervous. "It's just that, well, I'm out here, and it's dark and quiet, and funny thing, I have this job where I get to exercise my over-active imagination in order to solve crimes that tend to happen in places just like this."
"Well, I'm on my way, so just sit tight. I'll be there soon."
"Would you just talk to me while you drive? I'd rather not sit here in the dark with nothing but the wind for company."
Thoroughly charmed, JJ smiled and replied, "Sure. What did you want to talk about?"
"I don't know, how about you tell me what your favorite movie is?"
Office of Lockley and Associates Chicago, ILLINOIS
To the casual observer, the quaint, two-story turn-of-the-century building located near downtown Chicago was little more than the unremarkable business and residence of one Kate Lockley and her partner, Elizabeth Blaine. A detective agency with experience in many of the common practices of such places, what set Lockley and Associates apart was its uncommon specialty.
The clientele that passed through the doors would never suspect that behind the pleasant exterior of Kate Lockley's secretary and assistant lurked secrets that would force the entire world to rethink its stance on the supernatural. Those that populated the deepest, darkest shadows of the world the places beyond even the gray areas where the criminal element made their homes they knew of Kate and her people. Some, like the former law firm of Wolfram and Hart, had appreciated their unique talents, while others considered them a nuisance and a threat.
"Honestly, Boss, don't you and Doc ever take a vacation?" Dozens of small, sluggishly bleeding wounds covered the arms and face of Kate's half demon assistant, Derskingorlus. His normally teal blue scales were dulled to a pasty gray, and his bright, lime green hair hung limply in his eyes. Sprawled in a chair behind a desk, the half demon looked over at his employer and bit back a sigh.
On the other side of the desk, Kate stood beside her seated partner, Elizabeth Blaine. Biting her tongue in concentration, the private investigator chose not to reply as she daubed several small droplets of Dermabond onto a gaping wound in the redhead's arm. Even though Elizabeth sat perfectly still, it was obvious that Kate was having trouble mending the wound. The torn and shredded flesh bled profusely, and for a moment, Kate considered abandoning the glue in favor of a needle and thread.
Putting greater pressure on Elizabeth's arm, Kate felt more than saw the other woman's flinch. When she looked down at her lover, she caught the fleeting expression of pain that flared in the other woman's eyes. "Just need to hold this a bit longer, Doc," she said soothingly. "It's almost done."
Pain was not a stranger to Elizabeth Blaine. Once human, she had suffered the curse of vampirism, the bleak emptiness of death and finally rebirth and bonding to a symbiotic life form known as the Tos ki'Dren. None of the three lives had been free of pain, either physical or emotional, though her latest incarnation certainly afforded Elizabeth a certain tolerance of the hurts of the flesh. Working with Kate Lockley, the vampath, as Elizabeth's kind was known, had learned that pain was just a part of the job.
Usually, she could shunt the hurt aside, but in this case, Elizabeth's iron will was being undermined by hunger. One drastic side effect of being a host for the Tos was the development of a form of empathic telepathy. This manifested in several ways, the most basic being a kind of rapport that the vampath could establish via touch.
It was through this empathic bond that the Tos fed, though it also required nourishment in the form of caloric intake. After a long night of battling monsters, the symbiote had gorged on a surfeit of emotions and now needed something a little more solid to top off the more esoteric meal.
With a weak smile, Elizabeth dropped her control long enough to establish a rapport with Kate. After three years of being the blonde investigator's lover, the bond was stronger than ever and falling into the link was like being wrapped up in a soft, warm blanket. Thought translated to emotion, which Kate could easily interpret. Make it quick, love. I'm starving.
Slowly, Kate released Elizabeth's arm, and laid a hand on the vampath's shoulder. Still joined by their link, she projected a reassuring reply of, Not long now.
Watching them, Dersk felt a familiar pang of jealousy stir in his gut. Laying his head against the back of the chair, he groaned and said, "Evil warlocks, psycho vampaths, unholy spawn of demons, and the occasional mad god can't a day go by without a miniature apocalypse?" Lifting his head to eye his boss and her lover, he was forced to grin at the gooey faces they were making at each other. And I might as well be singing bad pop songs in a minor demonic dialect for all they're paying attention. Those Who Guide and Make, their cuteness knows no bounds. However, unlike Elizabeth, Dersk was not a friend of pain, or its little cousins, ache and exhaustion. At that very moment, all that the half demon wanted was to crawl into bed and sleep for a week. He looked down at the rents in his brand new jeans and sighed. The pants were ruined. His demonic blood had stained the fabric in multiple places, and the wounds were beginning to ache fiercely.
"Dersk," growled Elizabeth. "It was just a pack of werewolves. That doesn't even qualify as a footprint on the path to an apocalypse, miniature or not. I know you're hurting, but right now you need to just shut up and wait your turn."
Rolling his eyes, Dersk said, "Werewolves, schmerewolves. There were twelve of them and three of us. We should have called Willow and Kennedy. Ohio isn't that far away, and they'd have loved to come out and play."
"Four," grunted Elizabeth softly as Kate wrapped a layer of gauze around her arm. "Father Luke was there, too."
Strapping one last piece of tape over the bandage, Kate looked up from her work and said, "I'm sure we all would have liked to have had them beside us, but they're needed at Slayer Central right now. We're just going to have to get along without them."
"Oh, right. As if a batshit insane coven of vampire witches is that difficult for a bunch of slayers to handle," Dersk said disdainfully.
"It would be if they weren't also dealing with demonic interference in local politics, a possible dragon sighting, and a projective telepath with nightmares that make mine look tame," said Elizabeth. "The slayers have their hands full and need all the extra bodies they can get. Willow is their best chance against the telepath." The vampath turned to Kate. "I still think that we should have gone with them."
Raising one pale eyebrow, Kate said, "And leave Chicago to the werewolves, vampires, and stray demons that make the Windy City their home away from Hell?" She chuckled wryly and added, "My bottom line only lets me play hero for so long, Doc. Without Angel's connections to Wolfram and Hart, we need to concentrate on the small stuff so we can pay our bills."
"You're right." Elizabeth sighed, stood, and pressed a quick, loving kiss onto her lover's mouth. "Thanks."
Kate shrugged as if to say, "No problem."
Over the years, they had worked the after-slay bandaging into a ritual that was as much a part of their daily lives as Elizabeth's supernatural nature or Kate's fondness for her sidearm.
The vampath retrieved a fresh set of bandages and pulled on a pair of latex gloves. "I guess I just like the chance to go out and kick a little apocalyptic ass every now and again."
Kate snorted. "I'd rather keep to the small stuff like werewolves, vampires, and cheating husbands, Doc."
"Don't forget the occasional showdown with fire-breathing, multi-clawed, gnarly toothed Khemdar rats," said Dersk airily. "I mean, really, Boss. How could you forget the rats?"
Kate made a face. "My bad." Moving over to the desk, she changed her gloves for a fresh set and then began to assist Elizabeth in dressing the half-demon's many injuries. "Go ahead and add Khemdar rats to that tally. God knows I'd not want to forget the little bastards. They might try to eat my garbage can again."
After they'd finished gluing, patching, and bandaging each other up, Kate wandered over to the mini fridge she had tucked away in the corner of her office and withdrew a couple of bottles of orange Gatorade and a vial of viscous, carnation pink liquid. From the top of the fridge, she retrieved three plastic cups, and into these, poured a measured amount of the pink stuff and then topped them off with the Gatorade.
"Drink up, everyone," she said even as Elizabeth and Dersk both made similar faces of disgust. Before leaving, Willow had made sure to put together a large batch of the "after slayage" potions that the group had come to rely upon to help heal the numerous injuries that went hand-and-stake with the work of keeping the worst of Chicago's supernatural citizens from turning the city into another Hellmouth.
In between chugs, Elizabeth said, "I love Willow dearly, but I swear, if she keeps tossing Kennedy's dirty socks into her 'pick-me-up' tonics, I'm going to scream." With one, final gulp, the vampath crumpled the cup and tossed it into the trash. "Guh. Okay, I'm heading out to find something that doesn't taste like dirty meth head. Any requests?"
"Pizza!" crowed Dersk at the same time that Kate said, "Not pizza!"
"Right, burgers it is then," said Elizabeth. As she ducked out the door, she added, "I'm going to make sure Father Luke got home safely, as well."
Kate nodded. "Thank him for me, and tell him he's invited to dinner next week. Remember: no pizza!"
Pouting, Dersk said, "Why does girlfriend always trump demonic whipping boy?"
"Because it does," said Kate as she took hold of the back of the chair, spun it around, and shook it, partially dislodging the half demon, who grudgingly moved to the couch.
There really wasn't anything Dersk could say to that, so he just stretched out, closed his eyes, and pretended to nap until the vampath returned.
Warrenton & Rosslyn, VIRGINIA
The lonely stretch of highway was completely devoid of any cars other than Emily's dark sedan. Twin beams of light cut through the darkness and illuminated the ruin of the older model Crown Victoria's undercarriage. As JJ pulled in behind the vehicle, she watched as the passenger door opened and the brunette agent slowly emerged, carrying a gym bag and a small, decorative purse.
"You weren't kidding when you said it was deserted out here," said JJ as Emily climbed into her car. The older agent was shivering and let out a soft sigh of relief and appreciation at the comfortably warm temperature inside of JJ's vehicle. Dropping the gym bag at her feet, she let her head fall back against the seat and closed her eyes.
"Oh God, you have no idea how glad I am to see you," said Emily. She let out a long, explosive sigh and added, "It's damned cold tonight."
"There's an extra jacket in the back seat," said JJ as she carefully maneuvered the sedan back onto the freeway. "You sure you're okay with leaving your car?" With an effort of will, JJ kept her eyes glued on the road ahead rather than stare at the amazing outfit that the older agent was wearing. From the black leather pants, to the extremely low-cut silk blouse and the scarlet heels that did everything but shout, "Fuck me," Emily was dressed to conquer, and JJ was sorely tempted to raise a white flag.
Turning to grab the coat, Emily said, "Anyone who wants that old thing is welcome to it. It's followed me from at least three different field offices." She gave the old black Crown Vic a parting glance and added, "Besides, the heater's busted, and the radio only gets three different stations, all of them boring." Pulling on the fleece-lined denim with a soft noise of appreciation, Emily settled back into her seat and got comfortable. Surreptitiously, the brunette inhaled and fought to contain a moan of pleasure. Mmm, it smells like JJ's perfume, and it's warm. At this rate, she may never get it back.
JJ managed not to look too surprised. "You drive a Bureau vehicle?"
Emily shrugged and gestured to the dirty white drifts of slush that edged the roadway. "Sure. It's not like I can use my own wheels in this weather."
"I'm afraid to ask." From the corner of her eye, JJ watched as Emily first gazed out the window, then at her.
There was a smile lurking in the shadows of the brunette agent's eyes. Licking her lips, she slowly enunciated, "It's a motorcycle."
"You're shitting me." Why do I get the feeling that I should have known this? I bet Garcia does. Hell, I bet Penelope's already wrangled at least one ride with her. Briefly, the thought of what it would be like to be on a motorcycle behind Emily Prentiss flashed through JJ's mind, and she nearly groaned aloud. Heat that had nothing to do with the temperature of the car caused her cheeks to redden, and made JJ grateful for the shadowed darkness within the cab.
"No, I'm as serious as a heart attack. I keep it in storage during the winter months and only take it out when I have time." Emily shrugged. "There hasn't been much in the way of free time available since I arrived. The bike is safer where it is, and it makes more sense to use the Bureau car."
"You're just full of surprises," JJ said softly as they pulled off the freeway and onto the street that led to Emily's apartment.
Emily's grin was contagious. "I'll take you for a ride sometime, if you want."
Oh I want. I want way, way too much. A ghostly sensation of vibrating machinery and the warmth of pressing her body tight against Emily's back trilled along her nerves. JJ shook her head, forcing the fanciful thoughts to dissipate. "I don't think so. You couldn't pay me enough to get on one of those death traps."
"I wouldn't let you get hurt, JJ," said Emily softly. Not ever.
Glancing at Emily, JJ was struck by the expression of abject longing that flashed in Emily's eyes before the older agent turned her gaze out toward the city.
Don't make me want what I can't have, Emily. It never ends well. This was not an unfamiliar moment for JJ. It seemed that she and the older agent had been engaged in a shadowy game of flirt and counter-flirt since the brunette had joined the BAU. There was a certain safety in the harmless exchanges, but over time, they had changed, becoming less playful and far more serious. A door still stood between them, yet they both held the key. It remained to be discovered if one or the other would attempt to unlock it.
"So," JJ said hesitantly as she searched for a way to change the subject. "Hot date?"
"What?" Startled from her reverie, Emily shifted in the seat and sighed. "No, no. In fact, I think tonight should be folded, spindled and mutilated, and then filed away in the category of 'What the hell was I thinking'."
JJ grimaced. "That bad?"
"Worse. Would you believe I honestly thought I was on another planet? I swear, that's the last time I let Garcia set me up with one of her friends."
"Oh God, please tell me she didn't set you up with "
"Her cousin's best friend's half sister's nephew's buddy from Arizona? Oh yes. Did you know that there are monsters that walk among us every day? And I'm not talking about the ones who are candidates for the BAU." Emily pressed her fingers to her forehead and groaned. "I must have heard every single vampire, chupacabra, and big foot myth ever written."
Sympathy etched every line of JJ's posture even as she tried not to laugh.
Emily sighed. "Go ahead, laugh. You know you won't be happy until you do." She tried to frown, but ended up snorting softly. JJ chuckled. Emily snickered. They looked at each other. JJ laughed, but then quickly bottled it up, biting her lip.
"Next time, ask me first believe me when I say that I've met most of Garcia's extended circle of friends, and there aren't many I'd recommend as blind date material." Least of all Steven Dunlop. God, what was Garcia thinking?
A droll grin crept across Emily's lips and she drawled, "Thanks, I'll keep that in mind."
JJ pulled into the apartment complex just as the skies opened up and let loose with an unholy deluge of rain. Groaning softly, Emily started to unbuckle her seatbelt while softly muttering about getting soaked before she took three steps.
Hesitantly, JJ reached across the seat and brushed her fingertips over the sleeve of the jacket. "Take this," she said. "You can give it back to me when I pick you up tomorrow."
At the feather-light touch, Emily froze. Weakly, she said, "You don't have to do that. I can take a cab."
"Nonsense. We're both going to the same place. In fact, we can stop and get coffee and avoid having to drink the battery acid at work for at least another hour." There was something tantalizing about the possibility of catching Emily just as she'd woken, or better yet, fresh from the shower, her face still soft from the heat of the water and smelling of the marigold body wash JJ knew the older agent preferred.
Emily smiled shyly and bit back a laugh. There it was again. That game that she and JJ played where they danced around almost flirting, but then would inevitably end with them backing away before the light banter moved beyond the safe boundaries of friendship. How long should she wait before replying? How much time could fill the space of three heartbeats, and if she allowed the thudding rhythm to carry into numbers four and five, did that mean that she was finally ready to throw caution to the wind and reach for what she truly wanted?
Her tongue crowded with words, Emily somehow found the courage to say, "Make it breakfast and I'll see you at six-fifty."
Now caught on the other end of the seesaw of tease and counter-tease, JJ allowed herself only a brief hesitation before replying, "See you at six-fifty, Agent Prentiss."
Office of Lockley and Associates Chicago, ILLINOIS
The headline read, "BEWARE OF THE KISS OF THE VAMPIRE Killer Slays Again". Below, the text of the article related the death of one Geoffrey Donovan, aged twenty-four. The latest in a series of violent and brutal attacks on the young men who frequented the city's prostitutes; a reporter researching a story had discovered Donovan's body stuffed into a trash bin behind a local tavern. He went on to discuss several unusual aspects regarding the crime, including information that had previously been withheld from the public.
Looking up from the article, Dersk let out a low whistle. "What an asshole. Doesn't that reporter guy know that blowing the cops' secrets isn't going to win him any friends on the force?" He shook his head and read, "The victim's chest was covered in rings of bite marks that, to this reporter's untrained eye, appeared to have been deeply bruised as though the assailant had sucked on the wounds." Lowering the paper, the half demon said, "Oh please, vamps always go for the throat. What a complete moron." Scanning down the paper, he added, "Heh, Captain Mac sounds like he wants this reporter to take a long walk off a short pier."
"All cops want all reporters to do that," said Kate as she served herself dinner. "What'd Mac say?"
"Oh, he confirmed that the wounds were bite marks and then he said, 'I refuse, however, to speculate upon their purpose. Be assured that we are taking great pains to solve this case.' Care to interpret that, Boss?"
Mouth full of spicy glass noodles, Kate muttered, "Foovies." The choice of Chinese over burgers or the nixed pizza proved to be a pleasant surprise. There was a little restaurant not far from the agency, and since Kate and her crew had helped to rid them of a pesky invasion of Khemdar rats, they were always willing to throw together late night meals for the investigator and her associates.
Having lived with Kate for three years, Elizabeth was the most qualified to interpret her lover's mangling of the language, but even she was taken aback by the phraseology. Raising one ruddy eyebrow, she delicately deboned a chicken wing, licked her fingers and said, "Dick, don't talk with your mouth full."
Kate paused in her chewing, stuck her tongue out, swallowed, and said, "They're just about one death away from calling the FBI, if they haven't already."
"Boss, that's amazing," said Dersk as he dunked an egg roll into a pot of wasabi sauce.
Visibly confused, Kate said, "What is?"
Around a mouthful of egg roll, Dersk replied, "You got all that into 'foovies'." He swallowed and added, "I'm impressed." Belching, he reached for a cup of tea, sipped at the tepid liquid, and then made a face. "Damn, I hate it when it goes cold." Spinning around in the chair, he stuck the cup into a nearby microwave and squinted at the appliance's faceplate. After a few seconds' perusal, he punched two buttons and waited.
"Fibbies," said Kate, and then she took another bite of her glass noodles.
"Huh?" Dersk paused in his efforts to reheat his tea and shot Kate a look of pure confusion.
"I believe that's cop talk for, 'FBI'," said Elizabeth. Turning to Kate she added, "Really honey, you mustn't confuse the poor boy. His brain's melting out of his ears right now from all that wasabi and hot mustard."
"Oh ha-fucking-ha," said Dersk as he stuck his tongue out at the vampath. "Just because I like my food to bite back "
Elizabeth grinned, revealing the growing length of her fangs. "Be careful what you wish for, Snake Boy."
The microwave dinged, and Dersk retrieved his tea. Blowing on the now steaming liquid, the half demon said, "Funny, you don't look like a carton of General Tsao's best." He eyed the cooling remnants of the dish and grinned.
Dropping her fork into the now empty container, Kate said, "Go ahead. I'm stuffed." She leaned back in her chair and patted her stomach contentedly. Glancing at the clock revealed the time to be close to one in the morning. Plenty of time, then. "When you're done, head over to Bash'Ems and find out what the mood is among the nonhumans. A headline like this is bound to ruffle a few feathers."
"And scales, fangs, and claws, too," said Elizabeth wryly. Standing, she brushed crumbs from her shirt and said, "I'm off for patrol."
Kate caught her hand and pulled her close, butting her head against the vampath's abdomen. "Don't stay out too long. We've already had a long night." Double standard much, Kate? She's a big girl, just like Dersk is a big boy. Still, the investigator left her head resting against her lover's belly, content to listen to the faint thud of Elizabeth's heartbeat.
Combing her fingers through Kate's hair, Elizabeth said, "I'll take the short route. It's just maybe I can get a handle on this SOB's identity. Give the CPD a late Christmas present."
Dersk stood as well. Shrugging into his leather jacket and morphing into his human guise, the half demon said, "Just don't bite off more than you can chew, Doc. I'm not in the mood to be hauling bits of you back home so the Boss can patch you up. Again."
"Love you too, Snake Boy," said the vampath as she flashed Dersk the bird and then bent to kiss her lover on the forehead. As she turned toward the weapons closet, she was stopped short by a tug on her belt loop.
"I think you can do better than that," Kate said as she stood and drew even with her lover.
The lascivious glint that sparked in the vampath's eyes was all the invitation Kate needed to draw her lover down into a long, heartfelt kiss. Falling into the empathic rapport that was part and parcel of Elizabeth's nature, Kate smiled and hummed softly as their love expanded to puddle around them, cocooning them in a warm blanket of desire that had only grown stronger as the years passed. When she had first fallen for the vampath, Kate would not have been able to imagine herself three years down the road, and still deeply in love with Elizabeth, but now, she was content to look at a future of tomorrows where she and Elizabeth would grow old together.
With a gentle bite to the vampath's lower lip, Kate whispered, "Hurry home, dear."
Apartment of Emily Prentiss Rosslyn, VIRGINIA
At 6:52 a.m., JJ found herself confronted with the utterly adorable appearance of Emily Prentiss, toothbrush in hand, foam of white paste around her lips, and her hair still wet from the shower. Though dressed, most of the buttons of her burgundy blouse were still undone, revealing the pale cream of the camisole underneath. The heavy black leather belt upon which the agent wore her gun was strung through the belt loops of a pair of dark gray wool slacks, but was not buckled and the holster was empty.
JJ tried. She really tried not to let her gaze drift down Emily's half-clad, tousled, and mussed appearance, but she just couldn't stop herself.
"Am I too early?" she asked, while holding up a bag that was wafting delicious scents in Emily's direction and a crate containing two steaming cups of coffee.
Blinking owlishly, Emily shook her head. Is she checking me out? She's checking me out! "I overslept," she said sheepishly. "Late night, you know?" Stepping away from the door, she indicated that the blonde agent should enter.
JJ slid by the brunette with a smile. "I'll get this set out why don't you finish waking up?" Oh God, this was a bad idea. I am never going to get that image out of my head. That the picture of Emily Prentiss in the morning would be so much more pleasant than the thousand shades of evil she had to observe on a daily basis had already occurred to JJ, and the silent protest was a weak one at best. In time, she would come to cherish this memory like a beloved stuffed animal; it would be the perfect armor against the ever-rolling onslaught of ugliness that battered at her psyche every day.
Still bemused by the blatant ogling that JJ had given her, Emily found herself nodding and saying, "Okay." When she returned from the bathroom, plates, bagels, and little tubs of cream cheese had been set upon the table. It was far too homey for Emily, and she had to fight to keep from wrapping up the blonde agent in an affectionate embrace that was far more than friendly.
You are co-workers, Em. Jennifer Jareau is not one of your take-home party dates. No liberties, okay? You're finally where you want to be, where you've dreamed of being for years. Don't fuck it up by hitting on someone who works with you.
"This looks great, JJ, but you didn't have to go to all this trouble," said Emily with a smile as she sat at the table. "We could have gone to McDonalds."
The face JJ made was so comical that Emily couldn't help but laugh.
"I think not," said JJ darkly. "Breakfast is not a time to pack your belly with grease, chemicals, and more grease."
"Ew," said Emily, wrinkling her nose. "I may never eat there again, now."
Taking a seat opposite to the brunette, JJ said, "That's the point. Here, try this." She proffered a small jar of jam. "My aunt makes it."
Emily hefted the container of dark purple preserves. It was still sealed and had no label other than a wax impression of an unidentifiable fruit affixed to the lid. "What is it?"
"It's jam, silly. Put some on your bagel and try it."
Licking her lips thoughtfully, Emily gave the lid a twist and was surprised when it popped open rather easily.
JJ chuckled and said, "I loosened it for you."
Eyeing the blonde communications liaison, Emily said, "How long did you work at it?"
With an enigmatic smile, JJ replied, "Just try the jam, Emily. We do have to be in at eight."
Snickering softly, Emily lifted the lid away from the jar and took a whiff of the contents. The scent immediately reminded her of lazy summer afternoons wandering in the Alps, gathering wild berries with her grandfather. Without hesitation, she dipped the tip of a finger into the spread and tasted it. The flavor that exploded in her mouth made her moan in gustatory appreciation. "Black raspberry. Delicious." Heaping a generous portion onto her bagel, she passed the jar back to an open-mouthed JJ.
Flummoxed by the sight of Emily's unhesitatingly visceral enjoyment of the spread, JJ took the jar and absently slathered jam onto her own breakfast. What the hell kind of a dance is this? How much longer can we pretend that we don't know what's happening?
The business of eating pushed aside conversation, but the lack of verbal communication did nothing to dispel the growing tension that was oddly comforting. Several times, each woman looked up, only to find the other staring at them, a bemused, somewhat confused expression slowly growing in their eyes. Every breath grew more fraught with words that clamored for the chance to be heard.
"JJ-" Emily said, her voice a bit strangled with the struggle to not blurt the stomach-churning emotions that were turning a simple breakfast into an effort of will.
JJ forgot to breathe.
A phone chimed, another buzzed, and responses so habitual, they were programmed, found both women answering with the short, but typical, "Prentiss" and "Jareau".
"Yes, Sir. No, Sir, I have not. Right. First thing when I get in." JJ's face had lost all trace of its uncertainty as she effortlessly slid into her role as communications liaison.
"Hey, Garcia. What's up?" Penelope Garcia, the BAU's technical analyst and resident information guru, had become one of Emily's best friends. Since an incident the previous year wherein Penelope had been shot, the brunette agent had made it a point to get to know the quirky woman who was so important to JJ. In Garcia, Emily had found someone she could confide her secrets, even when they involved a certain blonde communications liaison. From the beginning, Penelope had made it plain to Emily that trust was of paramount importance to her. Over movie nights, shared meals, and the occasional shopping trip, both with and without JJ, Emily had come to rely upon that honesty and had begun to share some of her life with the analyst.
"The sun, Biker Mama. And a little bird told me you had a wee bit of trouble last night. I was just checking in to make sure you're all right." Unlike JJ, Penelope had loved the idea of Emily on a motorcycle and had made the agent promise to take her for a spin the first chance she could get.
Emily chuckled. "I'm fine, Penelope. JJ was kind enough to provide a timely rescue."
"Oh?" There was a wealth of meaning crammed into the single syllable. Laughing delightedly, Garcia said, "Well don't dilly-dally on my account. Tell Garcia all about it, Stud."
"Maybe?" Garcia squawked. "Oh, I do not think so, Missy. You will not be holding out on anything this juicy. Now spill it." When Emily did not respond, Garcia began to ponder. She also turned up the volume on her phone. At the edge of the highest point, she heard a very familiar voice. The wicked smile that lit up her face could have powered half of DC. "Oh you naughty, naughty girl," she drawled.
"What? What'd I do now?"
Garcia chuckled. "You, my little stud-muffin biker mama, are having breakfast with the object of your affections, are you not?"
Emily winced. "Yes," she squeaked, sparing a moment to glance at said object, who was, to Emily's relief, deep in her own conversation.
"Say no more, my girlie-girl. Go. Shoo. Enjoy the most important meal of the day. But-" She paused and sighed wistfully. "I want details. Lots and lots of details, got me?"
Feigning nonchalance, Emily said, "We'll see."
"Finish your breakfast, Biker Mama. You'll need all your brain cells a-humming and a-jumping so you can go to work and be big strong profiler woman."
Rolling her eyes, Emily said, "Goodbye, Garcia."
On the heels of the analyst's laughter, the line went dead. Setting aside her phone, Emily picked at the remainder of her breakfast while JJ continued her conversation. In the interim, a pad of paper and pen had appeared, and the communications liaison was busily taking notes. Every so often, she would set her pen aside and take a delicate bite of bagel or a sip of coffee.
It was quite methodical, Emily decided after a few minutes of observation. JJ would write a few lines, take a bite of bagel, write a few more lines, and then take a drink of coffee. Then the cycle would start all over again. Just when it looked like the conversation would outlast the breakfast, JJ nodded and said a final, "Yes, Sir. I'm on my way in now, Sir." Ending the call, she sighed heavily and said, "Are you ready? One of the cases up for review has another body. Hotch wants me to get the files ready for the team to go over by ten."
There wasn't much left to her breakfast, so Emily stood and said, "Sure. Just let me get my gun." After depositing their dishes in the sink, the brunette walked to the wall opposite her kitchen, opened up a panel, depressed a series of numbers into a keypad, and removed her service sidearm and badge. Holstering the weapon, she pulled on a charcoal gray suit jacket and said, "After you," to the waiting JJ.
Unavoidably, there was a strained quality in the air between the two women. It was as if everything had suddenly become brittle like frozen glass. Those unspoken words that had fought so hard to be heard were now hiding in the rapidly growing mire of work, duty, and propriety. Emily allowed herself a moment's self pity before stowing her thoughts and desires into one of her favorite compartments.
Glancing at JJ, she realized that someday soon, they would have to talk, but today would not be that day.
BAU FBI Headquarters Quantico, VIRGINIA
JJ felt like she was a million miles away. File folders, crime scene photos, and endless sheaves of police reports fanned over her desk, and yet, all she could see when she closed her eyes was the look on Emily's face in that moment before Hotch's call had derailed her morning.
With a small sigh of regret, JJ gathered up the files and headed for the bullpen. Meeting the eyes of the team, she glanced toward the conference room and was soon followed by the rest of the agents. Their boss, Aaron Hotchner, was the last to enter the room. Closing the door behind him, Hotch crossed to stand next to JJ as she passed around the file folders for the case that had been chosen as their next job.
"Chicago has a serial preying upon young men in ward seventeen," said JJ without preamble as she took her place at the head of the oval table.
"Over the last nine months, six men have been found beaten, strangled, and mutilated in and around the alleyways near known prostitute strolls," added Hotch as he took a seat. The others mirrored their boss, choosing places around the table and opening files.
JJ picked up the remote and began to shuffle through the slides in the presentation. On the screen, the panoply of gory images began to flash, starting with the image of a young man; his body bent at an impossible angle, lying as though tossed aside like so much refuse. The next photo was taken from a closer position and detailed a series of deep bite marks that covered his chest and torso, most notably in a ring pattern around the pectoral muscles. Around his throat, a ligature mark that appeared to have been made by a thin, twisted implement had swollen and puffed into a gross caricature of a necklace. His face was a mass of fresh cuts and bruises.
The pictures of six more victims appeared, all bearing a similar pattern of violence.
"The bite marks are both ante and perimortem; the bruises definitely antemortem they show signs of healing." Looking from the screen to the agents, JJ said, "This morning, the latest victim was discovered in an alley behind a local bar."
Emily winced at the images displayed on the screen. "With that much violence, the victim must have made some noise. Someone might have heard the commotion."
Agent Derek Morgan, a native of Chicago, snorted. "That's if they weren't spaced out or busy." Shaking his head, he said, "It's going to be tough to find someone willing to talk about anything hinky in that neighborhood."
"Are you kidding? It's going to be difficult getting anyone to talk about the weather in that neighborhood," said Emily. "It's been seven years or so since I've been in the area, but it can't have changed that much." Before coming to the BAU, the brunette agent had worked in field offices in Chicago and St. Louis.
Hotch nodded at the two agents. "I know, which is why I'm counting on your ties to the community to help."
Morgan frowned, but said, "Right." The last time he'd been home, he'd been a suspect in a serial murder case that had ended with his vindication, but had resulted in a very prominent man in his neighborhood being arrested for the crime. There were bound to be a few people who would still view him with more than a little suspicion. Trust would be hard won. "I'll give Gordinski a call and see if he can point me in the right direction."
Emily shrugged. "I'll talk to some people. They might be able to offer a few names."
Dr. Spencer Reid looked up from his perusal of the case file and said, "Anecdotal evidence suggests that the clients of prostitutes come from a vast array of backgrounds and profiles all of these victims appear to be between the ages of twenty-one and thirty-four. Also, all of these men have hair that is a rather specific shade of red. I'd be interested to know if the color is natural." Pressing his knuckles against his lip, he added, "Violence against prostitutes is common nearly sixty percent of reported cases are perpetrated by the clients."
Hotch nodded. "Right, that's why I want you to geoprofile the neighborhood. With the victims being of such a clear type, I'd like to nail down a target area for the police to investigate."
"None of these men look like they need to sell themselves to earn money," said Emily. "Victim number five is wearing Armani loafers and number two has a Patek Phillipe on his wrist. I don't think they were hooking."
"Garcia, I want you to check into the backgrounds of the victims. Try to see if you can find out why they were in the area," said Hotch.
"I'm on it," said Garcia with a nod as she gathered up copies of the files and headed for her office.
"Any thoughts, Dave?" Hotch turned his attention on the elder statesmen of their group. David Rossi had been one of the men who had first put together the BAU. Once retired, the older man had returned to active duty when another agent had abruptly left the team.
Rossi frowned and stroked his short, neatly trimmed beard. "There's something odd about this one, Hotch." Thumbing through the pictures, he shook his head and added, "I'm not sure. I need to think on it some more. Maybe on the plane, I'll have something to add."
Hotchner nodded. "All right everyone, gather your ready bags. Wheels up in forty."
Apartment of Elizabeth Blaine and Kate Lockley Chicago, ILLINOIS
Awakening to the insistent tease of teeth over a rapidly hardening nipple, Kate opened her eyes and looked down at her lover. With a soft moan, the investigator slid her hands into Elizabeth's hair and tugged.
"C'mere," she murmured huskily.
"Mm, morning love." Elizabeth allowed herself to be drawn up into a long series of slow, open-mouthed kisses that grew more and more heated as the fuzziness of sleep gave way to their insistent desire. Like a warm, golden flood of sunshine, Kate's love flowed into the vampath, filling all the shadowed sections of her heart with joy.
Three years, Elizabeth thought as she floated in the blissful radiance of their passion. There've been so many times when we could have failed. When the monsters we've faced might have destroyed what we have. Instead, we grew stronger, and our love deeper. Humbled, the vampath offered a silent prayer of thanks. Every day, I know that my second chance was the greatest blessing I'll ever receive.
It had not all been roses and chocolate truffles. In any given relationship, troubles were bound to spring up around miscommunications, which would in turn, lead to a better understanding between the couple involved. Not so, with regard to Elizabeth and Kate. The nature of the vampath's abilities meant that Kate could rarely hide her feelings from Elizabeth. More than once, Kate had tossed Elizabeth out of the apartment until she was ready to talk. Unfortunately, the emotional highway was not a two-way street, and Elizabeth often buried her own emotions rather than burden Kate with her troubles. It was a situation that irritated the blonde investigator to no end, and "Talk to me, damn it!" had become a familiar refrain to their arguments.
Three years, and the determination not to give up on their relationship, had given them time to adapt. Elizabeth learned to be more forthcoming, while Kate accepted that sometimes, the vampath just needed to be near her, even if she could do nothing to help. Most of the time, the compromise worked.
In the rare moments, when no equal ground could be found, it was hell for both women. Yet they would never trade any minute of their time together for a different path.
One surprising benefit of their relationship came from the Tos ki'Dren itself. Not only did the symbiote grant Elizabeth a host of supernatural abilities Willow had theorized that the entity was just protecting itself because, in its natural state, the Tos was extremely vulnerable but Kate had developed some unusual skills as well. Again, it was Willow who postulated that because Kate was Elizabeth's chosen mate, the Tos had chosen to confer some small powers to her in order to keep the vampath happy. The transfer of powers wasn't much, but Kate's wounds tended to heal faster, and she could, sometimes, sense subtle emotions from the people around her.
Dersk called it Kate's "BS-o-meter". Everyone else just accepted it as a part of the nature of the paranormal it had a tendency to rub off on anyone who was around it for long. Staring too long into the shadows inevitably meant that something was bound to look back, and in Kate's case, that something was actually beneficial, if at times a little disconcerting.
When given to speak on it, Kate would alternately praise and curse the gifts of the Tos, depending on if they were being helpful or just another nuisance. All in all, the investigator was happy to take full advantage of the symbiote.
For her part, Elizabeth was just grateful to have found someone who loved her despite her rather unique history.
As Kate's hands began to slip and skid their way down Elizabeth's body, the vampath pushed aside trivial thoughts to concentrate fully upon showing her lover just how glad she was to be awake.
Later, as Kate was working on a skip trace and Elizabeth was running sword drills in the back room, Dersk related what he had learned from the nonhuman community.
Perched on a stool midway between his boss and her partner, the half demon rubbed at his eyes, yawned and said, "Well, the general consensus is that it's not one of us." He lit a cigarette, took several drags, and said, "Demons eat their victims, vamps turn 'em, and everyone else knows better than to leave their trash lying around for the mortals to find."
Elizabeth paused in her exercises while Kate shot the half demon a mildly annoyed look.
Dersk shrugged and said, "Hey, I don't make the prevailing opinions, I just relate them."
"Has anyone seen anything? It's all well and good for the boys at Bash'Ems to hold up their appendages and play innocent, but if I know anything about that crowd, it's that they appreciate a good kill. It's like crack for them some of them would do anything for a ring side seat." Elizabeth stowed her sword and pulled out a pair of wicked looking daggers. Repositioning the practice dummy, the vampath began to attack it with a single-minded intensity that made Dersk shiver just to watch.
"I didn't pick up anything about a new pastime among the blood magickers, but that doesn't mean anything. They prefer to do their own dirty work. However, I did overhear a couple of baby vamps talking about a freebie they picked up from some guy's leftovers, so maybe they might have seen something. I'll ask around at Flugrut's later." Dersk yawned again and then dug around in his jacket pocket. "Pollatrix gave me this." He offered his boss a folded, stained, and rather fragrant piece of paper.
Delicately, Kate accepted it, wrinkling her nose at the odor. "I don't suppose you've been able to convince him to bathe more frequently?" She unfolded it, revealing a police sketch and BOLO request.
"He's a refuse demon, Boss. I gather that the more fragrant he makes himself, the more he attracts mates."
"That is not a mental image I'd like to carry around for the rest of my life," said Elizabeth as she wandered into the office to take a look at the BOLO. Wearing only a sports bra and lightweight track pants, the vampath's toned and muscular body revealed more than an unusually pale skin tone. Roped and coiled over her arms and shoulders was a series of tattooed thorns, all done in blackwork. Here and there, tiny spots of color picked out the shapes of budding roses, but those were few and far between. On her abdomen, the figures of two beautifully illustrated dragons faced each other, framing the vampath's navel. As she turned, Dersk noticed a new addition to Elizabeth's body art.
"Hey, when did you get new ink?" Perched on one of the thorny branches, the new dragon looked out at the world with eyes that matched Kate's, and in its claws, it held a stylized key.
"Just before Christmas," said Elizabeth. "It was a gift from Willow."
"Oh, well it's gorgeous." Dersk knew that the vampath's body art was something more than a visual affectation or expression of her counter-culture nature. Just exactly what it meant, he never quite understood, but he knew that it had something to do with her need to make amends for her actions as a vampire. Though she had not had quite the same reputation as say, Angelus, or to a lesser degree, Spike, the vampiric Elizabeth Blaine had still managed to leave an impression on the nonhuman world.
And now, the vampathic version leaves another kind of mark. I bet it stings a hell of a lot more than the first one. Dersk grinned. In battle, Elizabeth was all fury and fire. Driven by the innate abilities of a hunter, but honed by years of training with a slayer, the vampath approached a fight with a zealousness only matched by the depth of her compassion for those she worked to save.
Kate perused the BOLO, clicked her mouse a few times, entered something, and hit return. Now looking at a much cleaner version of the police sketch, the investigator closed her eyes and sighed.
"Could they have found a worse eyewitness? This could be anyone. Hell, it could be Elizabeth if you squinted hard enough!"
The vampath moved to stand behind her lover and took a long look at the image on the screen. Cocking her head to one side, she said, "Hmm, it's either a woman or a very pretty man. The information says it's a woman, but I've seen lots of pretty boys down at Limbo and Wilde's."
Dersk joined them. "You could be on to something. In this case, the male of your species is far more deadly than the female." The half demon was referring to the fact that men were more likely to be serial killers than women. He peered closely at the image. "You're right about the Limbo boys, though Doc. There's at least six different guys who resemble that image, and two of them aren't even human."
With a startled grunt, Kate looked up at Dersk and said, "Do you think they could be behind this?"
"What? No, I mean " Dersk closed his mouth and sighed. A thoughtful haze drifted over his eyes. "Well no. No, of course not." He frowned. "Hey, just because there's someone out there chewing up humans doesn't automatically mean that it's of demonic origin."
"Nevertheless, I think the possibility should be explored. Elizabeth, you and Dersk should check this out. I'm going to head down to the precinct to see what I can get from my sources there." Kate shut down the computer and stood to grab her coat.
"Right," Dersk growled discontentedly while Elizabeth jogged upstairs to change. "Why can't we just stick to the seriously bad juju? I mean, is it too much to ask to have a simple case of vamp infestation or even better, a cheating spouse?"
Quirking a grin as she holstered her sidearm, Kate said, "Why be normal?"
Office of Captain James MacPherson
"You must be the folks from the BAU," said the short, balding form of the police captain in charge of the task force assigned to catch the "Kiss of the Vampire" killer. He extended his hand and found it captured in the strong grasp of a petite blonde that preceded the group of agents wearing what he could only describe as "FBI Agent Casual". "James MacPherson, but you can call me Mac."
"Jennifer Jareau. We spoke on the phone," said JJ warmly as she shook the man's hand.
He smiled, his cheeks dimpling in pleasure. Pulling his hand back, he reached up to smooth the sides of his graying hair and sighed. "It's a real cluster fuck, Agent Jareau. Anything your people can do for us would be well-appreciated."
JJ made quick introductions and then said, "Why don't you show us where we can set up and we'll get started."
The team was led to a cramped room that was overflowing with boxes of case files. MacPherson had the grace to look slightly abashed at the condition of the conference area.
"Sorry about the mess. We're horribly understaffed."
Hotch spared the man a brief, but solemn smile. "It's all right, Captain. This will be fine." Glancing at the files, he said, "JJ, would you make sure that Garcia has copies of these?"
"Of course. Captain, if you could point me in the direction of your computer records room?"
As JJ and the officer left, Hotch turned to the rest of his team and said, "We know the media has had access to information we usually like to keep back, and that can't be helped. What we need to do now is find something else something only the killer knows then link it back to the UnSub. Prentiss, you and Dave head over to the morgue. Get everything you can on the latest victim."
"Right," said Emily. She glanced at David Rossi, wondering how the taciturn agent would react to working with her. In the months since he'd joined the team, they'd only been partnered a few times, and each time, she always felt as though Rossi didn't quite trust her.
Cocking his head, Rossi returned Agent Prentiss' gaze with a steady, measured look of his own. He supposed he shouldn't, but he often found the situation with the younger agents amusing. The puppyish Dr. Reid treated him like some ancient guru while the territorial Derek Morgan puffed up his shoulders and barked like a dog defending a bone. At first, the technical analyst, Penelope Garcia, had regarded him with the absent-minded respect one gives anyone with a title. It was only after coming under his too intense scrutiny during the Battle case that the young woman's attitude had changed. Now, whenever Rossi had to deal with the quirky woman, he could almost taste the palpable aura of dread that laced her voice.
That will change, old man. She's one of those people who can let things go. Not like you twenty-odd years on and Miss Garcia won't even remember you; much less care that you were a rotten bastard to her once.
Agent Jareau seemed to view him as the gruff old uncle of the group, and he supposed that he was fine with that. Not that his pride wasn't a little damaged, after all, in his day, he was considered quite a catch, and if he was ten years younger, he might consider asking her out to dinner.
I suspect that even were I Morgan's age, the lovely Miss Jareau would still fail to grant me a second glance.
David Rossi had been around the block a time or twelve, and he knew attraction when he saw it. Unless he missed his guess, then very soon, Agent Hotchner would be perched on the horns of a very sticky dilemma.
Though at this point, I think Hotch might simply close his eyes and pretend it wasn't there, just because it would irritate Strauss.
Director Erin Strauss had made no secret of the fact that she disliked the man in charge of the BAU, and because of it, had tried and failed to remove him from the team.
Erin, you always were far too political for your own good. This brought him back to the young agent eyeing him now with the critical gaze of one deciding whether they were about to be led to the execution chamber. Rossi almost smiled. He rather liked Emily Prentiss, and not just because she was the daughter of a politician. In another life, David Rossi might have tried to take advantage of that accident of birth, but now, at this end of his career, all that mattered was results.
She thinks I don't trust her when the truth is, I just don't care. As long as she does her job, keeps her private life private, and doesn't get in my way, I'm perfectly fine with that. Hotch is the one who doesn't trust women, not me.
"You like pizza, Agent Prentiss?" Rossi asked softly, and just barely managed to keep from chuckling at the half-second look of complete surprise that flooded Prentiss' eyes.
At the morgue, they learned very little, though Rossi appeared quite pleased with something he'd discovered, and afterward, the two agents found themselves in a hole-in-the-wall pizza joint that looked as though the interior decorating had been done sometime in the mid 1950's. Taking a seat in a corner table, they put in an order and waited while the silence between them grew ever more uncomfortable. Finally, Emily pulled out her cell and set it on the table.
"I'll call Garcia. She can patch us through to the team."
Rossi nodded. "Good idea."
Over a couple of slices of deep dish, Prentiss and Rossi discussed their gleanings while the rest of the team listened in via speakerphone.
"Rohypnol and Ketamine were found in the victims' blood," said Prentiss. "Which explains why no one heard anything. The victims were probably unconscious during the attack."
"The rain destroyed any DNA from the lipstick around the bite marks, but there were traces of latex left in the wounds," said Rossi. "This suggested the use of a prophylactic, so they're running tests to determine origin and, if possible, brand."
Emily took up the recitation while Rossi took a bite of the rapidly cooling pizza. "The contusions on the head and face were caused by a large, blunt instrument, but they haven't yet determined the exact nature of the weapon."
"Anything on the ligature?" said Hotch, his deep voice sounding oddly tiny coming over the small speakers of the cell phone.
"Nothing useful. It was a braided or twisted piece of wiring common to most household cables." Emily sighed. "Again, the rain washed away most of the evidence."
"Whoever did this is strong. They had to be able to drag seven well-built men into an alley, beat and then strangle them all without anyone noticing anything strange. I'd like to find out more about how quickly the drug cocktail acted on the victims. The amount of power the UnSub needs to control victims suggests that we're dealing with a man, but," Rossi paused and then said, "I don't feel comfortable saying that for sure. There's something about this that says otherwise."
"What do you mean?" said Prentiss around a mouthful of pizza.
There was silence on the cell as well.
Rossi shrugged. "It's just a feeling, and I'm trying to be better about sharing my feelings." From a briefcase, he pulled out a file and laid out a succession of photos. The gruesome nature of the images made Emily glad that they'd chosen an isolated seat rather than one closer to the other customers. "Look at the pictures," said Rossi as he tapped the photos. Each was a close-up of the victims' chests. "Notice the patterns here, and here?" he pointed at the nipples and navels of the men.
"Dave, we can't see what you're talking about," Hotch said impatiently.
"Photos A-12, B-14, C-22, D-8, E-15, F-9 and G-11" said Emily as she lifted and identified each image.
"All right, we're looking at them," said Morgan. "Wait a minute. I think I see what Rossi's saying. Look." This time, it was Prentiss and Rossi's turn to wait for an explanation.
JJ's soft, "Oh my God," made Emily bite her lip in consternation. Of late, the older agent had been stricken by a purely instinctive desire to shield the younger woman from the horrors of their job. Intellectually, Emily knew that JJ was more than capable of handling it, but the brunette was coming to learn that where Jennifer Jareau was concerned, intellect and reason quickly gave way to emotion and instinct.
"Prentiss, Rossi get back here as soon as you can. Garcia, could you run a check for any other crimes with a similar M.O. but were not homicides?"
"You got it Boss-man," said the technical analyst.
The phone call ended, leaving Prentiss and Rossi to finish the now-cold meal. Both agents were used to such inconveniences as cold food or short sleep and had long ago learned to fill up and take naps whenever they could, for the next opportunity might not come for a long while.
While they ate, Rossi watched Emily study the photos, a tiny frown creasing her forehead. "You see it, don't you, Agent Prentiss?"
Emily looked at the photos that were still spread on the table. At first glance, all she saw was the remains of seven men whose lives had been ended far too soon. It was only when the images began to run together, and the distinguishing marks of each man blurred away, leaving only crimson-stained hulks of tissue behind, that Emily saw it.
The pattern of bite marks had a design about them that became startlingly clear the longer she looked. Picking up the shot of victim number four, she squinted at it and then said, "So what kind of UnSub bites a phallic image into his victims?"
Rossi replied, "We could be dealing with a sexual sadist. Those bites weren't meant to enflame or entice the victims they were too deep and too full of rage. The lipstick traces might indicate gender or is possibly a part of the UnSub's fantasy. Either way, I suspect that we are dealing with a severely damaged individual."
"So basically, this guy is turning his victims into walking dicks?" Derek Morgan said as he tossed the pictures onto the table. "There is a very good reason why I'm not visiting my momma right now."
"Speaking of, how is your family, Morgan?" said Emily as she walked into the room. Absently, she allowed her gaze to stray to the other end of the table where JJ had taken up residence. Surrounded by a stack of files, the communications liaison was busily taking notes while on the phone with someone. Probably Garcia. I wonder if she has our hotel reservations yet? It's getting late, and I'm in dire need of a shower.
The blonde agent looked up and flashed Emily a quick smile before returning to her call.
On the wall hung a map depicting the sites of each attack, and Reid was busily marking and shading each area according to a list of notes he had painstakingly culled from the case files. Already, Emily could see a definite pattern emerging. All of the kills had taken place in and around the Seventeenth ward and were all within a block or two of areas of known prostitution.
"They're good, they're good. Wondering when I'm coming by for dinner. Figured I'd head over there when we pack it in for the night. Save the government some money and get some real sleep for a change," said Morgan as he turned to glance at the other agent's work. "Hey, Reid, what do the yellow dots mean?"
The boyishly handsome agent twitched and then stepped back from his work. Running a hand through his disheveled hair, he said, "The yellow markers indicate the presence of a bar or club in the area. Red for other violent crimes, blue for the known position of patrol cars, and green for private security."
Emily wandered over to the map. "Interesting. It's like our UnSub knows where all the right holes are." She indicated each of the pins that represented the victims. Each murder had taken place as far from the presence of security or police as possible, while still being near a bar or club.
"I've still got to place markers for fifteen more bars, but I think I can pinpoint what our UnSub's comfort zone is," said Reid absently as he retrieved another piece of paper and a fresh box of pins.
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