CHALLENGE: Submitted as part of the Epic Proportions challenge.
ARCHIVING: Only with the permission of the author.

Mercy is for the Just
By sHaYcH


Part Two

10th Precinct

As a former detective, Kate Lockley knew all the right things to say and do to be nearly invisible in the bullpen of a crowded homicide division. Leaning against an out of the way desk, the investigator kept one eye on the door to the conference room, where the FBI agents were busily stirring up their witch's brew of a profile, and the other on the office of Captain MacPherson. The gruff older man would not appreciate the presence of a private detective sniffing around the edges of such a high profile case.

From the bullpen gossip, she'd learned that one of the key witnesses in the case was the prostitute, Dazzle Razzle. Not too surprised to find one of their informants involved, Kate filed the information away for later consideration and then continued her subterfuge. Hoping to gather more data, the investigator perused a stack of files intently. The files were part of the ruse she'd used to gain access to the bullpen. Under the auspices of looking for someone's missing husband, she had convinced the desk sergeant to let her occupy an unused desk while she went through the missing persons reports.

The deception would not last long; she would have to leave soon or risk being spotted. Still, lingering a few extra minutes had provided one more, very interesting tidbit of information. The killer's signature was rather unique, the nature of which prompted Kate to cover a very unprofessional snicker.

I'll have to get Dersk to do a bit of web surfing to see if there've been any similar cases in other cities. Leaving a victim decorated with a rather painful looking phallic symbol has got to be fairly unique. I hope. The former homicide detective spared a thought of sympathy for the men and women who had to deal with this particular case. Before she'd become known for wanting only the "weird" cases, Kate had worked on four serial murders, and sometimes, she still had nightmares filled with starkly graphic memories of those crime scenes.

The conference room door opened, and out came a couple of the agents. Shadowed circles under their eyes spoke of the long hours they'd already been at the job, but the set looks of determination on their faces showed that they would keep going until they dropped. One of them, a tall, dark haired man with a taciturn expression said something, and two of the other agents peeled away from the main group and headed toward the exit.

That must be Agent Hotchner. Kate had heard the man's name bandied about the bullpen as the man in charge of this particular group of profilers. He looks like Angel-lite. All broody eyebrows and stern intensity - I bet working with him is a real joy.

The two agents, a lovely brunette and a strikingly handsome black man, were almost to the door when they were stopped by a new voice. "Emily!" A petite, pretty blonde called out, causing the brunette to turn and look. "We're at the Reliant on Westfall. The desk has your key."

Is everyone in the FBI always so pretty? Or is it just this particular squad that seems to have an abundance of the good genes? Kate wondered silently.

Emily smiled, and suddenly, Kate had a flash of memory that took her back to her days as a rookie cop in Los Angeles. Hey, I know her! Damn, where do I know her from… She was still trying to chase down the memory when one of the precinct's officers cleared his throat. Looking up, she smiled and held up a random file. "I think this is him. If I can just make some copies?"

The officer frowned, but pointed at the dilapidated copier in the dingy corner of the bullpen. "Try not to jostle it too much; the roller's cranky," he grumbled.

"Got it. Thanks." Kate nodded and ambled over to the Xerox machine that was older than some of her co-workers. It was as she was lowering the cover to the copier that the investigator remembered why "Emily" had seemed so familiar.

The Hollins case – she was the agent they sent to pick up the files. We must have spent six hours digging through boxes in the morgue. God, it's been what, twelve, thirteen years? Gotta love coincidence. Kate smirked. Unless of course, it isn't. The investigator knew that where she and her agency were concerned, serendipity usually wasn't random. I guess we'll cross that bridge when we come to it.

Copies in hand, Kate left the precinct. If she was lucky, she and Elizabeth could catch up with Dazz before she was too high to talk.


The Reliant Hotel – Room 321

Emily closed the door, gazed at the dingy interior of the room, and sighed. For the last two hours, her feet had felt as though she'd been dancing on steel ball bearings. Kicking off her less-than-sensible high-heeled boots, Emily staggered over to the bed and collapsed on it. With her eyes closed, she could almost ignore the overwhelmingly dismal surroundings, and instead, pretend that the bed was a tropical island surrounded by sun, sand, and brightly colored foliage as far as the eye could see.

The first day on a new case was always hardest, bringing with it a host of troubles to overcome. First up had been reestablishing her connection with a couple of old coworkers, and that was followed by a long day of slogging through evidence and case files. Unfortunately, neither endeavor produced a lead that would assist with the investigation.

I need a vacation. There was a knock at the door, causing Emily to groan softly and then drag herself upright.

"Who is it?" she called out, reaching for her sidearm with a caution that had become standard when any agent was not in an area they considered safe.

"It's me, Em," came the muffled sound of JJ's voice. "Hungry?"

Opening the door, Emily greeted the blonde agent with a smile and an enthusiastic reply of, "Starved. But I'm also exhausted. Please tell me you found someone who delivers."

JJ laughed and held up two grease-stained bags. "In a manner of speaking," she said as Emily stepped aside to allow her entry. Their gazes met as the blonde agent slid by, and both shared similarly shy smiles.

"So the guys are across the way?" said Emily as she and JJ made their way over to the small table that occupied one corner of the room.

"Yeah. Garcia said that there are so many conventions in town right now, that finding a block of contiguous rooms was impossible, even for members of the FBI."

"That's going to give the UnSub a lot of potential victims, as well," said the brunette agent absently as she accepted the bag with her dinner in it. Opening it, she discovered a Styrofoam container that smelled suspiciously like hamburger. A purely covetous grin spread across her face. It wasn't often that she got to indulge her love of "greasy spoon" food. Usually JJ chose things that were at least slightly healthy. Soon, she was tucking in to a cheeseburger with all the trimmings and making inroads into a serving of French-fries that would have comfortably fed a small army.

JJ nodded. "I know. I've spoken with Captain MacPherson, and he's agreed to bump up patrols around the bars and nightclubs, but he can only do so much. This precinct is overworked and understaffed." When opened, JJ's meal proved to be the ubiquitous health food offering of all greasy spoons: a chef's salad.

"Maybe a press conference might help." As a general rule, law enforcement officers did not like giving information to the media; however, there were times when a little exposure could be helpful.

Nodding, JJ said, "I sent a draft of a statement over to Hotch. I expect he'll send it back, and I'll be up half the night retooling it." JJ snagged a fry from Emily's tray, causing the other agent to make a sound of outrage.


Mischief sparkling in her eyes, JJ cocked her head and gave Emily a look that said, "What are you going to do about it?" and bit into the fry with obvious relish. "Mmm," she hummed. "Yummy."

The nuances of the phrase set off a cascade of thrumming nerves in Emily's groin. Swallowing heavily, the brunette agent wrestled with her libido, trying to push away the rising tangle of emotions that she could not, would not, deal with while in the field. Something of her struggle must have shown, because suddenly JJ's expression softened, and she reached out and laid a hand on Emily's wrist. The rush of sensation that single touch engendered set free all the clamoring feelings that had been burbling between them. Like floodwater breaking the walls of a shallow trench, Emily felt her resolve give way to the wide-eyed newness of acceptance.

"Em?" Layered with overtones, undertones, and a world of questions, the single syllable nearly undid the older agent. Unable to reply, Emily twisted her hand up and captured JJ's.

The soft flush that flowed over JJ's face, as their fingers entwined, was a better statement than a thousand hesitant words all dancing around the very frightening subject of mutual attraction. They sat like that for several minutes until Emily picked up a fry and offered it to JJ. Very deliberately, the blonde leaned over and accepted the potato wedge with a single snap of clean, white teeth.

Heart battering a staccato beat in her chest, Emily hoarsely whispered, "I'm glad hotel doors automatically lock." She took a deep breath. "Jennifer," she said, her voice husky with the import of the name.

"Emily," returned the blonde with the same level of serious inflection. Their hands were still clasped tightly. Was this the moment when it finally came out? Would she finally be able to loose the ties holding a thousand times a thousand words of want, need, and desire? Please, Emily, you've always been so candid, so unafraid of saying what you think and feel. If you reach for me, I'll close my eyes and fall forever.

"It shouldn't be here," said Emily, shaking her head. We should be at home, sharing a bottle of the finest wine after a great meal, not staring at each other over greasy burgers and cheap salad. Looking briefly into JJ's eyes, Emily thought, I should be giving her flowers. Lilies and jonquils bound up in a silver ribbon to lay at her feet while the sun shines as golden as her hair. She shook her head briefly and then looked up at the ceiling and sighed. "God, this is tough." A fragile smile twitched on her lips as she said, "You'd think this would be easier at thirty-eight."

JJ squeezed Emily's hand softly. "Funny, I was just thinking how easy you make it seem." I wonder what would happen if I reached for you, instead? Slowly, she released the brunette's hand, turned it over, and ran her fingertips over the palm, causing Emily's fingers to spread. With a gentle smile, she bent and placed a single kiss in the center of the older agent's hand, then curled the fingers closed. "Hold onto that for me, would you? I might need it later."

With the warmth of JJ's kiss still burning into her palm, Emily whispered, "You're dangerous, Jennifer."

"No more so than you, Emily. Eat your dinner. We've still got an UnSub to catch."

Dutifully, the brunette finished her meal. She even shared her fries with JJ, who offered to reciprocate with salad, but Emily declined.

"I like rabbit food as much as the next gal, but right now, I'm communing with the grease in this burger."

JJ made a face. "If that's what you call 'communing', then I believe your gall bladder needs to have a serious discussion with your arteries."

Gesturing with a catsup-soaked fry, Emily said, "You're the one who chose it. I would have eaten a salad, you know."

With a snort, JJ retorted, "But then how could I steal your fries?" Putting action to words, the blonde agent reached over and snagged another of the vegetables in question.

"Aha! The truth comes out at last. You are so diabolical with your ulterior motives of grand theft potato." The easy laughter between them was like golden honey, smooth and sweet.

JJ's phone chose that moment to chirp. "It's Hotch," said the agent as she picked up the cell. "Hey, yeah. Just finishing dinner. All right. I'll get to work on that right away, Sir." She ended the call and sighed. "Back to the grind."

Already rising and beginning to clear away the detritus of their meals, Emily tried hard not to show how disappointed she was that their time together was at an end. So deeply was she concentrating that she jumped when JJ's hand came to rest on her arm.

"Emily, I'm glad we…" She quirked an affectionate grin. "Talked."

With her gaze pinned to the hand that was so gently touching her, Emily could barely breathe as she said, "I wish you could stay."

An explosive sigh demonstrated how deeply those words had affected JJ. "I can't. Hotch is sending Reid over with his recommendations for the press release." JJ started to withdraw her hand, but it was caught and she was drawn into a loose embrace that left her light headed.

Brushing her fingertips over JJ's face in a feather-light caress, Emily whispered, "I want to kiss you, you know."

JJ's smile was warm and inviting. "I know. I want you to kiss me, too. But Em, you're right. It shouldn't be here." With one hand on the brunette's chest, she could feel the steady rhythm of Emily's heartbeat. It was like a lifeline, drawing her in and keeping her safe while she set free the words that had been silent so long. "When I kiss you for the first time, Emily Prentiss, I want to know that the only thing that matters is your mouth on mine." JJ leaned forward then, and tucked her head under Emily's. The brunette's arms closed around her, and JJ sighed contentedly. "I want us to have all night, the first time."

It was as if someone had crawled inside and kicked over every one of Emily's carefully constructed containers. Monster-sized floods of emotion, all with the name "Jennifer Jareau" on them, washed through her in wave after wave of shivering intensity. Fighting the burn of anxious tears, the brunette agent softly said, "Okay." With one last, tight hug, she released JJ and watched her walk out of the room.

Holy fucking God, what the hell just happened?

"Garcia's Sugar Shack. If you got the sugar, I got the shack." The technical analyst's voice was a husky purr.

For a moment, Emily stared blankly at the phone; quite certain she had dialed the wrong number. Only the presence of Penelope's last name kept the agent from hanging up and dialing again.

"Garcia?" said Emily just as she realized whom the analyst was probably expecting. Blushing furiously, she added, "Sorry, I'm not Morgan."

"Hey Biker Mama, no worries. What's up?"

"Ah, erm, well, the proverbial cat just might have finally clawed its way out of the bag." God, she was so bad at this. How hard was it to just admit that she'd finally gone and done it. I told JJ how I feel. No, that's not quite right. JJ kissed my hand. Oh God, I feel like I'm stuck in a bad Arthurian romance.

"Ahmm, and? Come on girl, dish. Tell Garcia all about it."

Slowly, haltingly, Emily allowed the events of the past few days to tumble out. Penelope listened calmly, providing commentary, as it was needed. When the older agent had first joined the BAU, Garcia had been happy to see another woman on the team, even if she was saddened by the reason for her presence. Losing Elle Greenaway had been a blow no one on the team expected, and Garcia still felt the absence of the other agent.

That the new agent had caught JJ's eye almost immediately had not escaped Penelope's notice. In point of fact, the analyst had noted that Emily's languid brown eyes had been locked onto JJ almost from the get-go as well. To hear that her friends had finally bitten the bullet, well, it was a "squee worthy" moment for Garcia.

So she squee'd. Loudly. And almost missed the ringing of her work cell. Only when the music started up for the second time did she hear it. Putting Emily on hold, she picked up her cell and said, "Speak and be heard by the great and powerful Oz."

The brief laugh that presaged JJ's, "Hey Garcia, I need you to look something up for me," was all the warning the analyst received before the communications liaison launched into a list of questions.

Near to bursting with the news of her friends' new status, yet unable to indulge in her favorite pastime of gossip, Garcia reached for her laptop and thought, I am in Hell. This is payback for some horrible, horrible thing I did in a former life. Just what that might have been, Garcia chose not to imagine and, instead, focused on finding what JJ needed so she could get back to listening to Emily pour out her heart.


Office of Lockley and Associates

Sherman Park

"Dazz saw the suspect? Weird, in a 'why does this shit always happen to us' way, hmm?" Elizabeth sighed and scratched at the thin scab that was all that was left of the wound on her arm. It had been a quiet couple of nights since the FBI had come to town. Even the nonhumans were lying low. Increased police presence meant that it was harder for those whose appearances weren't normal to pass undetected, even in the shadows.

"That's what I heard from the bullpen chatter. Think you're up for a chit-chat with your favorite streetwalker?" Kate put the finishing touches on a paper airplane and let it fly. The missile seemed to hang, suspended by unseen wires, for quite some time, before pegging Dersk in the back of his scaly head.

Without turning away from the computer, the half demon bent, retrieved the airplane, and chucked it back in Kate's direction. His toss, however, did not quite equal Kate's, and it landed far short of the investigator's desk.

"How's that search going, Dersk?" said Kate.

He held up a teal-blue scaled hand. "Just a sec, Boss. Willow's giving me some tips on Boolean operators."

Elizabeth frowned. "Is that some kind of demonic phone service?"

Looking up from his laptop, Dersk said, "Search parameter stuff." When both women gave him shared looks of confusion, he shrugged and said, "Hey, you guys paid for me to learn how to use this thing. Why don't you let me earn that responsibility? Go talk to Dazz. See if she's got anything more to add to Miss Average Freaky over there." He indicated the BOLO fax that was affixed to a large whiteboard. Alongside that were several newspaper articles, the salient facts from those listed in bold black marker.

No one had yet hired the agency to look into the slayings, but Kate had long learned to follow her instincts when it came to cases. Nothing about it shouted, "weird", yet the nomenclature chosen by the press had put this one square in her bailiwick.

At one time, she might have shadowed the police at the request of Angel, as he acted under the aegis of his position as a section head for the Los Angeles office of the law firm of Wolfram and Hart, but the demon-backed business had pulled up stakes and vanished into the ether, taking Angel and most of his crew with them.

These days, Kate's altruism was allied with Slayer Central and the new Watcher's Council. They didn't have much secular influence, nor did they have access to the kind of cash flow that Wolfram and Hart had commanded, but Kate and Elizabeth agreed that the slayers' moral center was much closer to their own. When Willow and Kennedy had been called back to Ohio, they had taken with them Kate's pledge that they would continue to do their part to keep a lid on Chicago's nonhuman population.

With the news outlets ranting on and on about vampires, things had the potential to turn very ugly. All it would take is one vamp deciding that he's going to take advantage of the situation, and suddenly, there's a bloodbath.

Kate stood and wandered over to the board. Taking down the BOLO, she said, "All right, we'll get out of your hair, Dersk. When you're done with your research, you can head home for the night."

The half demon grinned. "Well, I'm not going to look a night off in the face. I think I'll get my groove on over at Limbo."

Elizabeth laughed. "Try not to get thrown out this time, Snake Boy. I hate picking glass out of your ass."

"Well as I live and breathe, if it isn't my favorite roof walker. Where's Ken Doll, Lizziebear?" Dazzle Razzle was flying high and on top of the world. Some rich white boy with too much cash in his pocket had paid plenty for his pleasure, and now she was dipping into the profits. Pulling a crumpled pack of smokes from her cleavage, she stuck a cigarette between her lips and leaned toward the vampath.

"On vacation," said Elizabeth as she held out a lighter to Dazz's ever-present cigarette. She nodded at Kate. "You remember Kate, don't you, Dazz. She's my partner, and she'd really like to ask you some questions about that woman you saw the other day."

Looking a bit dazed, the prostitute blinked owlishly. "What woman?"

Kate held out the BOLO and said, "This one."

The one glance Dazz took seemed to sober her quite a bit. Waving her cigarette airily, the prostitute said, "Oh her. Looked like the Devil hisself was on her ass. Took a poundin' that one. Bad John. S'why I don't work that stretch no more." Dazz shook her head violently. "Ain't no use lettin' 'em fuck you up just for a few bucks. 'Sides, EZ Boy'd kick me from here to the waterfront if I came home all bruised and bloodied." She took a long drag and on the exhale, said, "'Don' be messin' wi' mah merchandise, girl.' Sh-yeah, right. This girl's not stupid, nuh-uh." Batting her eyelashes, she gave Kate an expectant look.

With a wry grin, Kate held out a twenty, only to snatch it back at the last minute. "Tell me something new, Dazz. Gimme something I can use to find this girl."

Dazzle made a face. "What you on about, pretty girl? You ain't no cop, and this ain't about none o' Ken Doll's monsters." The word "monsters" came out hushed, and immediately after, Dazzle clumsily crossed herself.

"Dazz, you know those guys who got themselves a bad case of really dead?" said Elizabeth softly.

The prostitute shrugged. "Sure. Them boys endin' up all cut up 'n stuff's bad for bizness. EZ's all mad that the po-po ain't caught the guy that did it yet."

"We're trying to find out who killed them before anyone else gets hurt." Making a face, the vampath added, "I'm just sorry to say that it's taken so many deaths before someone did something about it. Even you deserve to feel safe out on the streets at night."

The prostitute gaped at Elizabeth with something approaching surprise. Then she laughed. "Oh honey, they weren't no corner boys. Weren't even Johns."

Kate latched onto the tidbit. "Are you sure about that?"

Shrugging, Dazzle dropped her cigarette and crushed it with the heel of her boot. "Sure, I'm sure. That one they found in the alley behind Tooley's had his hand stamped for that new place up the way… Limbo, I think they call it."

Wordlessly, Kate handed Dazzle the twenty and wandered away, pondering the information.


Front steps of the 10th Precinct

Apartment of Kate Lockley and Elizabeth Blaine

"To aid the Chicago Police Department's investigation into these cases, we are looking to speak to this individual," said JJ calmly as she pointed at an enlarged version of the police sketch. "He or she is to be considered a person of interest. If anyone has any information regarding this individual, please contact the CPD tip line. Thank you." She paused, knowing that there would be a flood of questions to follow.

A pretty red haired reporter from a local TV station stepped forward and said, "Is this person dangerous?"

Calmly, JJ replied, "As I said, at this time, they are only a person of interest. Next question please?"

"Does Chicago have a serial killer?" asked another reporter.

"Do they really think anyone will have any real clues?" said Dersk as he watched the FBI press conference. It was lunchtime, and the investigators had closed up the office and headed upstairs for one of Kate's home cooked meals. On the TV, the blonde FBI agent at the podium was certainly hotter than any Fed the half demon had seen before, but he was most impressed with how well she seemed to handle the crowd of reporters. Question after question came and each was answered with a skill and aplomb that far outstripped the youth apparent in her features. Delivering a cautionary statement without creating an aura of fear or inciting panic was no easy feat, but Agent Jareau had done just that.

"You'd be surprised how many people will call in. Of course, most of the tips will be false, but every single lead will have to be traced. It's possible that there is someone out there with the right clue that will break the case wide open, and that's why tip lines exist." Kate was in the kitchen, preparing the wok for one of her stir-fries while Elizabeth stood off to the side, deftly chopping vegetables and slicing meats.

"I bet the job of answering those phones goes to all the rookies too," said Elizabeth as she tossed a handful of vegetables into the now crackling oil.

Shrugging, Kate said, "Sometimes. Most of the time, though, it's all hands on deck because the more experienced officers have learned how to weed through the crackpots and spot a viable clue. In this case, I suspect that the FBI hopes that the killer will call in." Kate gave the wok a deft twitch, causing the vegetables to flip and land back in the pan.

"Interesting. So, Dersk," said Elizabeth, a sly smile edging onto her lips. "How was Limbo?"

The half demon shrugged. "It was okay. Not the greatest, not the worst. I saw a killer drag act though. Called herself Sheila Divine and if I didn't know it was a drag act, I would have sworn she was the real deal. You guys should go see it sometime."

Elizabeth chuckled while Kate grinned.

"Funny you should mention that," said Kate as she added the final ingredients of their lunch to the wok. Wiping her hands on a towel, she turned to begin pulling out plates and said, "Because we have info that points to Limbo as being the last place Matthew Ryan was seen alive."

"Yeah? You gonna call 1-800-GOT-ACLUE?" said the half demon wryly.

Throwing her dishtowel at him, Kate said, "No, but I was thinking that you might be a gentleman and ask a few lady friends out for a drink later."

A sly grin stole over Dersk's face. "Do I get to dance with those lovely ladies?"

Kate crossed her arms and gave him a look.

"Aw, please Boss? One dance? C'mon, you can't possibly understand how much good it'll do my rep to be seen with two dyk … er-awesomely gorgeous babes like you and Doc."

Kate exchanged a glance with her lover, who shrugged. As she set out plates on the table, Elizabeth said, "It sure beats paying him time and a half."

They both looked at Dersk and chuckled at the comical expression on his face as he struggled with choosing between two of his chief loves: image and money. The young half demon was visibly trying to think of some way to have both, and Kate snickered wickedly.

"All right, Dersk, choose one: a dance with Elizabeth and me, or overtime pay."

Jaw working as words fought to be spoken, Dersk fisted his hands, growled and finally said, "You do not play fair, Boss." Standing, he began to pace, his teal blue scales rippling colorfully in the light as he walked the short length of the flat. "Choices, choices, too many choices," he muttered. "Money or girls, money or girls…" Stopping in front of the full length mirror that hung on Kate's closet door, he inspected his reflection while at the same time, seemed to hold a silent argument with himself.

After several minutes, Kate said, "Dersk, lunch is getting cold. You've got thirty seconds to pick one or the other and then the offer's gone for good and you get nothing."

Like a child about to be denied a favored treat, Dersk blurted, "Dance! I want to dance!"


Sam & Allie's Café and Coffee Shop

The team met for lunch, and over coffee, salad, and sandwiches, they discussed the case and the evidence gleaned so far from the reams of files.

"When we deliver the profile, we need to give the cops some specifics, but make sure they keep them in house. I don't want the UnSub to see anything more than what's already out there," said Hotch as he dumped three packets of sugar into his coffee.

Rossi grunted and then said, "Are we going to say we think it's a woman?" The two men had spent almost an hour the previous evening discussing the possibility and still couldn't agree.

Hotch frowned. "Has Garcia come up with anything more?" He directed his question to JJ, who shook her head.

"No, nothing else has popped up in VICAP or NCIC. She's checking with INTERPOL, but it might be a while before we hear back from them." JJ rubbed her eyes tiredly. After staying up half the night working on the press release, then giving a press conference first thing in the morning, the agent was ready to relax a little.

"Well the good thing about that is that it looks like this is an isolated incident," said Reid. "The bad part is that this is the UnSub's hunting grounds, and consequently, all the information we have is what we've seen." The young agent was staring intently at a tower consisting of his flatware, a saltshaker, and three packets of sugar. Somehow, he'd managed to construct a miniature windmill and was attempting to get the blades to turn.

"We've had less and still managed to do just fine. I'm sure something will break. Maybe we'll get a lead from the tip line," said Morgan as he finished up the last of his lunch.

Rossi kept his gaze on Hotchner. He knew the younger man was reluctant to say the killer was a woman. It had nothing to do with any kind of chauvinism. Years of data had shown that women were extremely unlikely to become serial killers and even Dave had to admit that he was on the fence over some of the details. He just couldn't shake the sense that they were dealing with a woman. A man, even a slight-statured man, who wandered off with any one of the victims, would be noticed. Even in a gay bar, or perhaps, most especially in a gay bar where image was everything and everyone paid attention to those who got lucky to see if they measured up against the victor.

"Come on, Hotch. If I'm wrong, I'll buy you dinner at The Cabin," Rossi said suddenly.

Hotchner sighed. "Dave, if you're wrong, someone could get hurt."

Rossi shrugged. "I'm willing to take that chance. Besides, if I'm right, we'll have a better shot at catching the UnSub."

Looking away from Rossi, Hotchner turned to Emily and said, "Prentiss, it's your call. I want you to re-examine the files and make the decision. If you agree with Rossi, include it in your portion of the profile. Everyone else, you're free for an hour and then we meet back at the Tenth."


10th Precinct

In the bullpen of the precinct, the agents waited while the officers positioned themselves in a haphazard array around the room. Whiteboards and corkboards filled with information stood behind Agent Hotchner, who looked a lot like a high school chemistry teacher that was about to deliver a mind numbing lecture on the properties of the hydrogen atom.

Near the door, Agent Prentiss covertly hid a yawn while across from her, perched on the edge of a counter that ran under the bank of clerestory windows that lined the south-facing wall of the room, Agent Jareau made occasional notations on a small pad of paper.

Agents Reid and Rossi stood to either side of Agent Hotchner. The older agent looked to have slept quite well. His eyes were clear and his demeanor calm, while the younger man's appearance was mussed from long hours of pouring over files and maps.

As soon as the last officer was in place, Hotch said, "This is what we know: our UnSub is driven by an uncontrollable, sexually motivated rage. The attacks are violent and brutal and show a high degree of complexity."

Rossi chimed in with, "This UnSub is strong, but does not appear to be physically threatening. The use of a drug cocktail to subdue suggests that the UnSub prefers stealth over brute force."

"His comfort zone seems to exist along this stretch of streets," said Reid as he pointed to the path of markers he'd painstakingly placed on a map. "Note how he cleverly avoids both your patrols and private security. This suggests that he's familiar with the area. Perhaps even lives or works there."

"The mutilations are in the form of a phallic image," said Morgan. "In every case, though, the victim's actual genitals are ignored. This shows that the UnSub has the need to depersonalize the victims. Those men weren't men, they were walking phalluses."

There was a subdued snicker, which quickly passed.

"The UnSub is organized. Calm, in control of the situation," said Emily. After studying the collected evidence and considering all that they had discussed regarding the UnSub, the agent had made a decision. "She is attractive, charming, able to convince strangers to have a drink, and to follow her into a dark alley all without arousing suspicion."

Hotch nodded and picked up the narrative. He had suspected that the brunette agent would agree with Rossi's assessment and had tailored his physical profile to match. "She is white, between the ages of twenty-five and forty. She is well educated. Outgoing without being obnoxious. She enjoys being the center of attention but is incapable of making deep attachments. Her coworkers will think of her as shallow, but not arrogant."

One of the patrolmen raised his hand and said, "It's a woman? I thought only guys were serial killers."

"Statistically, serial killers are ninety percent more likely to be male than female," said Reid. "However, there are certain indicators in this case that lead us to believe that this UnSub may be female."

"So is this woman in the sketch our girl?" asked MacPherson.

"It's a good likelihood," said Hotch. "But keep an open mind. This profile is just a guide, not a full blueprint. If you get a lead you think is good, don't dismiss it out of hand just because the subject is male."

The bullpen was a chaotic symphony of ringing phones, talking detectives, and chattering printers. Captain MacPherson looked out over his people with an expression of pride and consternation. Tips flowed in like the evening tide on the new moon, and wading through them was just as difficult. Mired amidst the overflowing piles of dross, there had to be a few bright gems of truth, and it was up to the men and women of the Tenth to find them.

When Agent Hotchner had first put forth the idea of setting up a phone bank, the older officer had felt as though the Feds were giving up without making more than a token effort at solving the case. It came as quite a shock to the seasoned police captain to discover each of the agents had manned a phone for almost nine hours apiece before heading out to conduct interviews with the local street populace.

Turning to his lieutenant, MacPherson said, "Anything useful, Jacobs?"

Cradling his phone on his shoulder, the officer stretched and said, "Got a lot of maybes, but mostly junk. Three people swear she looks like their dear, dead daughters and at least fourteen people want her number."

MacPherson snorted. "Out of the woodwork and into our investigation. Why can't the crazies just stick to reporting UFOs and Bigfoot?" He clapped the lieutenant on the shoulder and said, "I'll sit in on this for a while. Why don't you take a break, Dan? You've earned it."



Club 88

The Streets of Ward 17

Limbo was closed to the public. A rocker in town on tour had taken over the club, and not even Dersk was able to finagle his way into the doors of the now invite-only establishment. Heading over to Club 88 instead, Kate spotted several black SUVs that all but screamed, "Government Vehicle Here!"

Inside, the crowd was mostly male, though here and there the smaller, lither forms of women flitted about, obviously enjoying the entertainment. The club was split into two levels. The bottom floor was the main attraction, featuring the drag show, tables, and an ever-present wait staff ready to ply customers with a rainbow array of drinks and appetizers. On stage, a group of three performers were shimmying to "Babylove" and drawing cheers and whistles from the audience.

Upstairs was a dance floor complete with disco balls, flashing lights, and a popular DJ. There was a velvet rope across the stairway, but Dersk was easily able to get them through. Since he was most familiar with proper club etiquette and fashion, the half demon had taken charge of the night's wardrobe and made certain that both Kate and Elizabeth were dressed in what he called, "Knock 'em-rock 'em wear."

While neither woman was certain what that meant, for both, it manifested in two ways: leather and denim. For Elizabeth, a modified version of patrol gear sufficed to turn "boring and broody" into "vampishly vampathic". Leather pants, leather boots, and a leather vest that was just shy of pornographic were put to use showing off the vampath's toned and tattooed body. Kate, on the other hand, was adorned in denim and silk. Jeans so blue they were almost black, motorcycle boots, and a white silk shirt that flowed like gossamer over her body made up the investigator's attire.

Because the women's outfits were so monochromatic, Dersk had chosen to mimic the hue of his scales in his clothing. In human guise, but wearing shades of blue, he escorted Kate and Elizabeth into the club and upstairs to the dance floor.

The music was loud, backed with a bass beat that echoed in their chests like a second heart. Drawn into the press of the crowd, the threesome had to fight to stay together but somehow managed to find a spot that wasn't occupied.

Already moving and grooving, Dersk looked at his boss and smiled. Dancing slowly in front of Kate, he shouted, "Okay Boss, pay up!" With a gesture, he indicated that Elizabeth should get behind him.

The vampath grinned. So Snake Boy wants to be the cream filling in a Liz-Kate sandwich, hmm? I can handle that. Reaching her arms around the half demon's waist, Elizabeth gripped Kate's hips, and pulled her tight against Dersk. Then, listening for a second, she caught the beat of the music and started to grind against the half demon.

Kate nearly lost it. When she felt the tingling prickle of her lover's touch followed by the smooth connection of their rapport engaging, the investigator was ready to question Elizabeth's sanity. Then she saw the look on Dersk's face after the first of the vampath's hip gyrations and understood. Elizabeth was giving him exactly what he'd wanted. And everyone knows to be careful what you wish for – getting it might not be all it's cracked up to be. Sliding her hands up Elizabeth's arms, Kate allowed the sensual beat of the music to dictate her movements.

Caught in the middle of what should have been heaven, Dersk suddenly realized just how much he'd bitten off. The heavily carnal emotions that leaked from his boss and her lover wrapped him up in a haze of want and need that left him breathless with frustrated desire. He looked up at Kate's face and watched as she gazed over his shoulder and smiled. There was so much love and happiness in that expression and none of it – not even one fraction of it – was meant for him.

Suddenly feeling very cheap and tawdry, Dersk coughed and pushed his way out of the dance. Breaking apart, Kate and Elizabeth smiled sheepishly at him even as he shrugged. Mouthing, "Sorry," he raised his eyebrows in inquiry and pointed to the floor below them.

Kate held up two fingers, mouthed, "Two seconds," and then turned back to Elizabeth. "Dance with me?" she yelled and Elizabeth grinned.

Taking Kate's hand, the vampath drew her lover close and spun them off into the crowd, leaving Dersk to fly solo.

After saying, "Have you seen this person?" about a hundred times in less than two hours, Emily was beginning to feel like a broken record. Beside her, JJ looked twice as exhausted as she felt. Dark circles had puffed out the blonde agent's eyes, and Emily was certain it was because of the late nights the communications liaison had put in working on the case.

Hotch and Morgan were two blocks to the east while Reid and Lieutenant Jacobs covered the southern end of the street. Ahead, the flashing lights of a neon sign that proclaimed the legend, "Club 88," was a beacon for the milling crowds of men and women that populated the sidewalk. Beyond that was Limbo, though on this night, it had been closed to the general public.

"Think we should check Limbo anyway?" said JJ as they flashed their badges at the door to Club 88.

Emily shrugged. "Probably. Bet the bouncers demand a warrant though." Inside the club, they found the ratio of men to women slanted heavily toward the males. "Oh, perfect hunting grounds for the UnSub," muttered Emily.

Scanning the crowd, they moved over to the bar and got the attention of a barely dressed young man.

With a smile, the muscle-bound bartender leaned over and said, "What can I get you ladies?"

JJ eyed him appreciatively. He was cute, in a puffy, steroid-hardened sort of way. Returning the smile, she held up her badge, displayed the BOLO sketch and said, "Have you seen this person?"

Only mildly taken aback, the bartender replied, "Honey, I've seen lots of that person. Look around you. That could be half of the men or two-thirds of the women in this place." Pulling out two glasses and filling them from a tap, then dropping a couple of wedges of lemon into them, he added, "Heck, we have at least three different gals like that on stage every week." Squinting at the picture, he said, "Stick around; you'll probably see Sheila in a bit." He pushed the drinks toward the agents. "Lemon water. Your voice sounds like you've been talking all night. It's on the house."

For a moment, Emily considered signaling JJ to leave, but the absolute gratitude that flooded the younger agent's eyes at the sight of the drink kept her silent.

Leaning toward JJ, Emily said, "Let's find a table and check in with Hotch. Maybe he's had better luck."

JJ nodded and gathered the glasses. At the very back of the club, they found a table wedged between a hideously large fake plant, a statue of Marilyn Monroe, and the passion-pink and lime green striped wall. As soon as they were seated, Emily brought out her phone and called Hotch.

"Hey, JJ and I are following a possible lead at Club 88. How are you guys doing?" She covered her ear to hear his reply.

Tuning out the conversation, JJ concentrated on sipping the cool water. Even with the noise of the music and chatter around her, the young agent could feel the press of exhaustion as it dragged on her body, pulling her into a dazed state of numbness.

Two different drag acts had performed before Emily pocketed her phone. She gulped half the glass of water before turning to JJ. "Hotch and Morgan haven't had much luck. Jacobs and Reid talked to three different redheads, but they all had alibis."

JJ licked her lips. Fighting back a yawn, she said, "Did they find that prostitute – Dazzle Razzle?"

Emily shook her head. "No, but you know how that goes."

Nodding, JJ said, "Yeah. She could be on a different corner or doing a private party."

"Or taking a night off – you just never know." They finished their waters. Another act passed, and an intermission was called. The club lights came up, and the agents watched as the flow of patrons around them shifted.

Sighing, Emily said, "We should get back out there. I'll fall asleep if I sit much longer."

Softly, JJ groaned. "Yeah, you're right." Smiling sheepishly, she added, "But I wish you weren't."

Greatly daring, Emily reached across the table and covered JJ's hand with hers. "Another hour and I bet Hotch sends us back to the hotel. It's been a long couple of days, and something's bound to break soon. You know that."

JJ laced her fingers with Emily's and smiled sadly. "I know, but I hate that it means someone else is going to be hurt."

Emily had no answer to that. It was the nature of their work. They needed more clues and to obtain them, they needed another victim. It was hellish and heartbreaking, but there was nothing to do but press on and keep working until they caught the killer. The alternative was something Emily preferred not to consider.

She could relocate; go to a different city and start all over again. These cases would go cold, and we'd have to let it go and move on to someone else, somewhere else.

Already, they had spent several days in Chicago. If they didn't have a break by week's end, Emily knew that Section Chief Strauss would order Hotch to bring the team back to Quantico. It was not the way any of them wanted to see the case end.

Withdrawing her hand from JJ's, Emily said, "Let's go see if we can find a lead."

One dance somehow morphed into six and then eight and then, they were kissing and falling into the bond that shrouded them in a velvet cloak, blocking out the heaving press of humanity around them. Kate only became aware of her surroundings when she was roughly grabbed and shaken. Angry, she turned to give the rude person a piece of her mind only to discover that it was Dersk.

"You want to check out the stage downstairs? They're almost done for the night," he shouted.

Feeling just a little guilty, Kate indicated that Dersk should lead the way. The touch of Elizabeth's hand on her back was a welcome reminder that she had not been alone in her distraction. Flashing her lover a sheepish grin, Kate noted that Elizabeth's face was tinged with the pink of guilt. As they left the last step behind them, the investigator leaned into the vampath and whispered, "No harm, no foul. We had our fun. Now, we work."

"Was a time when you'd have said something else," said Elizabeth softly. In the beginning of their relationship, there had been some terrible arguments over how much they could indulge in their affections for one and other while on duty.

Kate shrugged. "We don't have a client in this case, Doc. It's not like we're losing any billable hours, here, right?" She winked to take the sting from the words.

Grinning, Elizabeth said, "So, if I said that I wanted to take you home and make love to you for the rest of the night, you'd let me?"

She wanted to say yes. Oh, God, Goddess and all the little Powers That Be, she wanted to accept the offer. If the years had done anything for their relationship, they had made the physical attraction grow from the volcanic explosion of lust into an enduring legacy of desire that only deepened as the days passed.

However, Kate would be strong. She would deny herself this distraction, even as she had allowed the other. There was, after all, a killer out there, and human or not, Kate felt driven to stop him. You can take the badge out of my pocket, but you can't kill the cop inside of me.

Smiling at Elizabeth, Kate murmured, "Hold that thought, would you, Doc?"

Switching places with a couple looking to head upstairs, Elizabeth, Kate, and Dersk pushed their way through the small crowd and to the bar. The bartender smiled at them and said, "Can I get you something?"

As Kate started to answer, Elizabeth turned and glanced at the stage. Expecting to find someone dressed in an outfit that would have made Liberace proud, the vampath was surprised to discover that the performer was outfitted in a simple, long white sheath gown. Made of silk or satin, the material flowed and clung to the performer's body, giving tantalizing hints at what lay beneath the ivory fabric.

Intrigued, Elizabeth watched, wondering what kind of song the person would choose. The slow, sweet strains of Faith Hill's, "Breathe," answered the question. Body and mouth moving in perfect mimicry of the music, the drag queen's routine had the audience completely enthralled. She didn't strut so much as flow across the stage in an ethereal dance that had her moving just out of reach of the men to which she directed her song. As the tune neared completion, the performer seemed to settle her attention on one man, and to him she directed the last line of, "I can feel you breathe." Bowing her head, the female impersonator whispered a quiet, "Thank you," into the microphone.

The applause was thunderous.

"That was our very own Sheila Divine, ladies and gentlemen. Sheila, take another bow!" came the MC's voice.

Caught up in the performance, Elizabeth didn't realize she was clapping until Kate touched her arm to offer her a tumbler of whiskey and soda. Taking a drink, the vampath smiled at her lover and then turned back to the stage. The performer named Sheila Divine was waving at the crowd and blowing kisses. A brilliant smile curved her lips and proclaimed her pleasure at the accolades.

"She seems almost too good to be real," Kate murmured.

"Oh? How do you mean?"

Kate shrugged. "I'm not sure, but I know that I've got all the right parts to be female, and I'm not half as feminine as she seems."

Elizabeth grinned wickedly. "Oh, yeah, you're all woman, Dick." The line earned her an elbow in the ribs.

"Behave, Doc."

With a low chuckle, the vampath said, "Well, whoever he is, he's good." As she studied the performer once more, Elizabeth felt the Tos symbiote stir within her. The subtle twinge of nerves at the base of her skull suddenly flared to full life as the drag queen's face was caught in the brilliant glare of the stage lights. Without even having to close her eyes, Elizabeth could easily picture the thick charcoal lines that the police artist had used to bring Dazzle Razzle's words to life, and it didn't take the vampath long to realize that the person on the stage was a dead ringer for the suspect in the police sketch. The epiphany brought with it a subtle tang of wrongness that oozed off the performer's body in dark waves. "Shit," muttered Elizabeth as she thrust her drink into Kate's hand. "I'll be right back."

Before Kate could respond, Elizabeth had melted into the crowd.

Having spent most of the last several minutes chatting up people at the bar, showing around the police sketch and trying to run down anyone who might recognize the person in the picture, Dersk had come up empty. Joining Kate just as Elizabeth vanished, the half demon watched as the vampath's distinctive red hair was quickly lost in the crowd of men and women jockeying for space in the club. With a low whistle, Dersk said, "After three years, I still haven't figured out how she does that."

Shaking her head, Kate said, "Me either, and I live with her."

Senses flung wide open, Elizabeth used the shadows and her own natural abilities to fade from public perception. The female impersonator had vanished into a backstage area that was accessed by a single door hidden by a cluster of fake foliage. Luck was with the vampath as she turned the handle and found the latch undone. Between one breath and the next, Elizabeth had slipped through the door and was stalking down a short hall.

The dressing room door was unlocked as well, but when the vampath entered the dimly lit chamber, she found that it was empty. Closing her eyes, she allowed the emotional resonance of the room to wash through her and was completely unprepared for the surge of violence that assaulted her senses.

Fear, anger, hate, greed, envy, and lust – every flavor and shade of the darker side of human nature had, at one time, been expressed in this room. The walls were so saturated with it, that there was almost an aroma; a miasma of darkness that turned Elizabeth's stomach and made the hairs on the back of her neck prickle in anticipation of danger. Nostrils flaring, she looked up in surprise when she caught the faint tinge of dried blood.

A sound in the hall caused the vampath to freeze, but it was quickly gone. Can't stick around long. Too many people could catch me right now. Gotta find something that belongs to that drag queen though. Need to catch his scent.

Determinedly, Elizabeth moved through the dressing room, looking for something that would belong to the female impersonator named Sheila Divine. On a rack at the back of the room she found it. A long, white fur boa with the initials "SD" stitched in precise letters on the label gave off a faint, floral scent mixed with a deeper, more masculine musk. An unidentifiable, sweet undertone confused her momentarily.

Like a cat flehming for the scent of a mate, Elizabeth opened her mouth to inhale and taste the smells clinging to the boa. Fangs budded, and then erupted as the strange odor was revealed to be very old blood. Hissing softly, the vampath dropped the boa and dug out her cell. A single keystroke connected her to Kate.

"I've got something. I'm on a trail. Meet me outside," she whispered softly, not bothering to wait for her lover to respond. Closing her eyes, she extended her senses, and sought the one bright spark of emotion that would signify her prey.

Emily's cell buzzed insistently as she and JJ turned away from the homeless woman who had been searching through a half full trash can outside of a drug store. "Prentiss." Covering the receiver, Emily called out to the blonde agent who was about to cross the street, "JJ, wait up."

Stopping to turn and look back at her companion, JJ noticed the phone and her eyes lit up in expectation. "Hotch?" she asked, coming to stand next to the brunette agent.

"Yeah, we're just about done with this street. No, no we haven't found anything either. Okay, we'll head in and see you guys in the morning." She sighed. "I know. I'll do that after breakfast. With Morgan? All right. Got it. Good night, Sir." Ending the call, she turned to JJ and said, "We're done for the night. Hotch says we can only give this case three more days." She pursed her lips and shook her head. "I hate this."

JJ put her hand on Emily's shoulder. "I know. In the morning, I'll go back over the case files. Maybe there's something in them we've missed, or maybe more of the evidence has been processed."

Emily nodded. "I'd offer to help, but Morgan and I are going back to the ME's office to talk to them about the prior cases." Rubbing her eyes, she added, "You want to drive? I'm so tired I can barely see straight."

"Sure. You can get coffee in the morning."


They started to head to where their SUV was parked, only to pull up short near the entrance to Club 88. Standing in front of the club, two women and a young man were having a quiet conversation that would have gone completely unnoticed except for one, salient detail: one of the women was a good match for the suspect in the police sketch.

"We couldn't be this lucky, could we?" said JJ as she and Emily both reached for their badges and headed across the street. The blonde agent eyed their target and had to contain a low whistle of appreciation. Whoever she was, obviously knew how to dress to catch the eyes of everyone around her.

"Probably not, but I'm not about to risk it," replied the older agent. With one hand on her gun and the other holding her badge, she approached the woman they had both seen.

The feral tint to Elizabeth's eyes had finally faded, leaving the hazy green to shine eerily in the cold white light of the streetlamp above them. Upon exiting the club, the vampath had followed the spark of "wrong" to a nearby alleyway. A glimmer of crimson and the crunch of footsteps had drawn Elizabeth on, and as she had approached, the distinctive sound of a woman's low, throaty chuckled had echoed off the walls.

Yet when the vampath moved beyond the haphazard sprawl of garbage cans and piles of debris, what she had found was just a couple kids catching a quick fumble out of sight of their friends. The air was too foul with the odor of rotting garbage for Elizabeth to catch Sheila Divine's scent, so she went to the rooftops to see if she could spot the drag queen's dark red hair among the throngs of people circulating up and down the street. Not even a hint of crimson flared among the sea of blonde, brunette, and wild shades that obviously came from a bottle. Even the itchy traces of wrongness had faded, leaving the rather ordinary emotions of lust and desire in their wake.

Cursing softly, Elizabeth headed back to street level and met Kate and Dersk at the entrance to the club. With a frown and a shake of her head, the vampath let them know that the quarry was lost.

"Damn," said Kate softly. "Was it a good lead?"

"I think so. Maybe. I'm not sure." Elizabeth shrugged, and then cursed. "My head's all screwed up from the lust overload."

Frowning, Kate said, "Well, let's head back to the office. We can hash it out some more in the comfort of the apartment. Maybe together we can figure out what made you twitch so hard."

"Yeah, Doc. I mean, it's not like you can't come back tomorrow and see Sheila again. She performs every night, from what the bartender said."

"All right. Let's go. I'm getting hungry." Elizabeth turned to head for their car.

"I'm afraid we're going to have to ask you to come with us," came a low, throaty voice.

Elizabeth turned, and was confronted by two leather-jacketed badges proclaiming the bearers to be agents of the FBI's Behavioral Analysis Unit. One of the women looked weary beyond belief while the other wore an expression that was both defiant and cautionary. Oo, what have we here? Delicately, Elizabeth extended the symbiote's influence, probing at the surface emotions of the two agents. The whirling, excited mass of feeling seemed to gather speed the longer they stood there, enflaming the Tos. Fueled by twin hungers, Elizabeth's iron control wavered a little and she grinned rakishly. Crossing her arms, she drawled challengingly, "What if I say no?"

The brunette agent's face darkened, and her hand closed over the bulky grip of a gun. "I'll have to insist."

With an amused chuckle, Elizabeth said, "I'm not the one you're looking for, Agent –"

"Prentiss, Emily Prentiss. And how would you know who I'm looking for?" Later, Emily would not be able to point out exactly what it was about the woman that had irritated her, but at that moment, the agent was absolutely certain that she had found a lead.

Elizabeth shrugged. "Because I'm not." She began to turn away, but stopped when Emily started to draw her firearm. Adrenalin flashed through the vampath, and she had to force herself not to hiss and reveal the rapidly budding fangs in her mouth. Instead, she settled for glaring warningly at the agent.

"Excuse me a minute, Agent Prentiss-" Kate tried to interpose herself between the agent and her lover, but was blocked by the surprisingly strong grip of the other agent.

"Please, ma'am, I'll have to ask you not to interfere," said JJ softly.

Kate frowned briefly and then said, "Agent-"

"Jareau, Jennifer Jareau."

"Well Agent Jareau, your partner is attempting to question my partner without the presence of an attorney, and for no apparent reason other than she happens to look like someone in a badly drawn police sketch." Kate started to reach into her pocket, and then stopped at the sudden widening of the blonde agent's eyes. "Easy, I'm just going to reach into my pocket and pull out my credentials. I'm a PI and Elizabeth is my partner."

JJ stepped back even as Emily and Elizabeth continued to glare at each other. "Go ahead," she said softly.

"Doc, slowly pull our your credentials. You too, Dirk. Just, go slowly – these agents have had a very long day, and we don't want to make it any longer." Dirk was the name that Dersk had chosen as his human persona. It came in handy when dealing with what he jokingly termed, "mundanes".

Emily stared at the blonde who suddenly seemed to have taken control. There was something familiar about her, but she just couldn't put her finger on it. The woman's mannerisms, her calm nature, the way that she held herself all screamed, "cop" to the older agent.

I know her, I know I do, but I don't remember ever working with her here in Chicago. Perplexed, Emily glanced over at the woman's credentials. Kate Lockley. Where do I know that name… More than anything, Emily wanted to rub her temple. A headache the size of Gillette Stadium was screaming its way through her brain, and all she wanted to do was curl up and sleep for half an age.

The other woman's name was Elizabeth Blaine, and the young man's license identified him as Dirk Gorlusky. Putting away her own badge, Emily relaxed a little.

"All right, so you're PIs. That doesn't mean you're not the woman in this flyer," said Emily as she pulled out the sketch. Holding it up to Elizabeth's face, she immediately saw a few differences, namely that the woman in the sketch had a much smaller jaw line, but Emily had a hunch, and she'd learned long ago to go with her gut.

"Agent Prentiss, were I this woman, I would not have waited around so that your tired, cranky ass could find me."

"Doc," said Kate warningly. She tried to put a hand on Elizabeth's arm, but was blocked by a look from Agent Jareau.

"JJ, call Hotch and tell him I've got someone matching the description on the BOLO and that we're bringing her in for questioning." Removing a pair of handcuffs from her coat pocket, the brunette agent said, "Will I need these, or will you cooperate?"

Elizabeth's eyes were stormy gray, but she said, "You won't need those, Agent Prentiss. You are, however, making a grave error in judgment."

Emily's only answer was to escort Elizabeth over to the SUV while JJ made the call to Hotch.

Watching as they drove away, Kate blew out an exasperated breath and then said, "Oh for crying out loud. Dersk, call Father Luke and have him meet us at the Tenth precinct, please." The two then jogged to Dersk's car, and while Kate drove, the half demon put in a call to their friend. The priest was not a lawyer, but Elizabeth trusted him, and he'd come through for them in the past. Without the muscle of Wolfram and Hart to depend on, the investigator was willing to tap any resource she could and Kate suspected that Father Luke was far more resourceful than appearances painted him to be.


Interview Room Four – 10th Precinct

"Tell us what you have, Garcia," said Agent Hotchner as he gazed through the one-way glass. On the other side, the leather-clad redhead that Prentiss and Jareau had brought in sat calmly, her eyes closed, her face an impassive mask.

Standing beside Hotch, holding his phone out so that both he and the older agent could hear was Derek Morgan. Agents Reid and Rossi stood across from them, their faces reflecting their exhaustion.

"Okay, here's what I know right now: Elizabeth Anne Blaine, born four, eleven, nineteen and seventy-two in Clarksville, Tennessee. Daughter of Annette and Michael Blaine: deceased. Car accident. Drunk driver in Elizabeth's freshmen year at college… ah, she was in med school in New Orleans up until eight years ago and then dropped out – next appears on the radar a five and a half years later, working as a PI in Chicago for a firm called Lockley and Associates. She has a record – a few traffic violations, one DUI and half a dozen citations from the CPD thanking her for her work in tracking down deadbeat dads." Garcia sighed, and then yawned. "In other words, she's as clean as a whistle."

Hotch's brow furrowed. "Where'd she go for those missing years?"

They could hear the clicking of keys as Garcia typed. "I'm not finding much… oh, wait… she was in Hungary, working with a relief agency."

"Thanks, Garcia. Keep checking. Let us know if anything else comes up," said Hotch.

"So this girl, she loses her parents, goes to med school, drops out, goes to Hungary to work with refugees, and then comes back to the US to bust deadbeat dads and take pictures of cheating spouses? This doesn't make any sense," said Morgan. "Look at her. She's dressed like an extra from a Mad Max movie, and yet she holds herself like a soldier trained for battle. She's not upset or scared – she's calm, almost too calm."

"She's either guilty as hell, or she's innocent and knows it," said Rossi. In the room, Elizabeth opened her eyes, gazed at the mirrored glass and smiled.

"I always wanted to know what a fish felt like," she said calmly. "When you guys are through checking your facts, could I please get a sandwich? I'm starving."

Morgan shivered. "I really don't like this girl. She makes my teeth hurt."

"Unfortunately, your dental discomfort does not make her a suspect, Morgan," said Reid softly.

"Let's go talk to her then," replied Morgan.

"Father Luke, thank you for coming," said Kate as she walked up to the blind priest and took his hands in hers. Pressing a kiss to the side of his bearded cheek, the investigator whispered, "They think Elizabeth is the Kiss of the Vampire killer."

The priest schooled his face to impassivity as he hugged his old friend's partner. In the years since he had come to Chicago, he had acted as both mentor and confessor for the former vampire and though a part of him harbored a lingering pain for a future that would never be, Luke had long accepted his role in Elizabeth's life. They don't teach you how to fall out of love, even in the seminary. Luke's path to the priesthood had been unorthodox, to say the least. Eight years ago, he had been just another EMT working the late shift in the French Quarter of New Orleans. The discovery of a body that wasn't exactly dead had led to a horrifying adventure that ended with Elizabeth Blaine turned into a vampire at the hands of a being that named itself Judas Iscariot and Luke partnering up with a vampire slaying priest named Uffizi.

Almost a year after that, Luke had been alone and stranded in Hungary after having seen his beloved Elizabeth die, Uffizi turned to a vampire, and Iscariot fed to the wolves. Struggling to find his way across Hungary, Luke had lost his sight when a coven of vampires had trapped him in an abandoned building. Rescued by the vampire Uffizi, and bearing a cryptic message of doom, Luke had barely made it to the hallowed ground of an ancient church. The priests there had tended to his physical hurts, but nothing could heal the tattered remnants of his heart. Delivered into the care of an elderly cardinal named Siqueros, Luke learned how to let go of his anger and pain. In time, he even found a sort of peace in the service of God.

On his deathbed, Siqueros had ordained Luke. As one of a handful of men and women charged by the Church to guard mankind against those things that are beyond the pale, Luke's first assignment was to come to Chicago and find the resurrected Elizabeth Blaine and serve as her guide and confessor. It was a tall order, but one that he had gladly fulfilled.

He had come to know Kate Lockley, Elizabeth's partner and lover, as well as their friend, Derskingorlus, quite well. With Uffizi's words echoing in his ear, he had helped them to stave off the talons of evil whenever he could.

To find that his friend was being accused of the crimes she sought to prevent was almost sickening; never mind the fact that, had fate chosen differently, she might very well have been guilty. I was such an idiot. If only I'd stopped and considered my actions fully, rather than let myself be blinded by greed and lust. Elizabeth might never have lost a single minute of her life to that monster. If only I could have done something… found a way to stop the progression of the vampirism, killed Iscariot before she turned… Thankfully, this time, he could do something.

Kate led the priest over to where Agent Jareau was sitting on a desk, tiredly perusing a sheaf of papers. The young woman looked up at the investigator's approach and smiled wearily.

"I'm sorry, Miss Lockley, but I can't –"

After almost two hours of the blonde's irritatingly calm platitudes, Kate still found the wherewithal to rein in her temper. "Agent Jareau, I'd like you to meet Father Luke Adams, Father, this is Agent Jareau. She's with the FBI."

Projecting the aura of calm that only a priest can achieve, Luke said, "Agent Jareau, I'm here on behalf of my congregant, Elizabeth Blaine. I'm hoping I can be of some help."

JJ slid off the desk and took the priest's hand, shaking it briefly before saying, "Elizabeth's not in trouble, Father. We're just asking her some questions."

"Ah, but if you do not acquire the answers you seek, you will perhaps be tempted to treat her with less than the professional courtesy she deserves. She is, after all, an investigator as well. Please, I wish to assist my friend and see that no more of your precious time is wasted. There are far more important matters you could be handling."

There was something almost hypnotic about the way the priest spoke. JJ found herself lulled by his soft, gentle voice. Perhaps it was her exhaustion, or maybe it was just the fact that she didn't have the same ability to see everyone as a potential UnSub like the rest of the team – whatever it was, JJ wanted to believe that Elizabeth was as innocent as she claimed.

"Come with me, Father," said the blonde agent.

Emily hated basement level file morgues. They were cold, dank, and smelled worse than the men's locker room at Quantico. Yet here she was, a solitary refugee from the circus of the upstairs bullpen, seeking God knew what in the files that Garcia had pegged as being connected with Lockley and Associates.

There were far more of them than the brunette agent had assumed, though only three contained reports of violence associated with the detective agency. One was for a simple assault charged against the kid, Dirk Gorlusky. The facts were relatively straightforward: the young man had been tailing a man suspected of cheating on his wife, only the man had confronted him and then attempted to take Dirk's camera, which started a fight. Another involved Kate and a female client who refused to pay for services rendered. This one didn't have much information and only ended with a note in the file stating that the woman had ended up convicted of murdering her husband. There's a story here, but I'll be damned if it's related. The final case file was the golden arrow Emily needed to pierce the armor of insolence that Elizabeth wore like an oversized t-shirt.

August fifteenth, two thousand and five – officer reports seeing a woman who appeared to be one Elizabeth Blaine bite the victim's shoulder, but upon investigation, the alleged victim had no memory of the act. Emily snorted. No one had thought to do a physical examination of the victim because right after that, the man had started loudly confessing to a host of crimes, including the rape and murder of three women in upstate New York. The CPD had been so anxious to ship the man off to face justice that no one had bothered to follow up on the officer's initial observation.

Well, Miss Blaine, let's see if this rattles your cage.

Elizabeth stared at the handsome black man who sat across from her. Agent Derek Morgan had come in with a pile of gruesome pictures and an attitude that she was going to tell him everything. Instead, what he had gotten was a silent, stone wall. The vampath wanted to smile. Frustration and exhaustion rolled off the agent in waves, and Elizabeth drank it in like coffee, using the man's emotions to fuel her own determination.

"See, what we have here is an eye witness who gave a pretty good description of a woman who looks just like you. And you know what else? That person, that woman was covered in blood. So, maybe you can see my point here?"

"Put me in a lineup then, Mr. FBI Agent Man. I'm sure you'll find it illuminating."

Slamming his hands down on the table, Morgan stood and stalked over to Elizabeth. Muscles flexing, the agent got into the vampath's space and growled, "Some cooperation on your part would go a long way toward proving your claim of innocence, Miss Blaine."

"I've been cooperating for two hours, Agent Morgan. Between answering the questions that you, Agent Prentiss and Agent Hotchner, have asked me, I feel like I could have written a biography by now. And I still haven't gotten my sandwich. Now, am I under arrest, or –"

The door opened then, admitting Agent Prentiss. "Do you like to bite people, Miss Blaine?" she asked, her voice a low, controlled purr.

Almost as soon as the door had closed behind Emily, and before Elizabeth could reply, it opened again, this time to admit Aaron Hotchner. "This interview is over. Miss Blaine, you are free to go with our apologies." He nodded to the two agents, who both looked torn between cheering and contesting the order. "Go get some sleep."

Elizabeth did not need to be told twice. Before they could say, "Boo," she was out the door and on her way to the bullpen where Kate was waiting.

As Emily was leaving, Agent Hotchner pulled her aside and said, "Next time you want to interrogate a suspect, make sure she doesn't have an unshakable alibi first."

Pressing her lips together in brief frustration, Emily nodded and said, "Yes, Sir."

A huge smile lit on Elizabeth's face when she spotted Father Luke standing just outside of the interview room.

"Luke! Hey, good to see you, my friend," she said, going to him and giving him a hug and a kiss on the cheek. Softly, she whispered, "Thank God you're here. I was about to go bonkers in there."

Luke chuckled. "I'm sorry I could not come sooner, my friend. I was with a sick parishioner."

"It's all right. What finally changed their minds about me? I'm sure it wasn't the scintillating aura of purity and innocence I'm exuding." With a wry grin, she indicated her club wear.

Releasing her, Luke patted her shoulder and said, "I provided an alibi that had the added benefit of being the truth."

One ruddy eyebrow lifted in disbelief. "I needed an alibi? Maybe I should have asked for a lawyer," said Elizabeth as they began to walk toward Kate and Dersk. She spared her lover a weary grin and received a worried smile in response.

Luke shrugged. "They did feel you greatly resembled their suspect. I'm sure they weren't too keen to hear that on at least three of the days the killer acted, you were with me most of the day."

Frowning, Elizabeth said, "Wait, we haven't been that busy, have we?" Sometimes the priest aided in their efforts to purge and purify places tainted by the aura of evil. On other occasions, Father Luke's skill as an EMT was called upon to guide Kate through patching up Elizabeth when the vampath was too injured to assist.

Luke smiled cheerfully. "On New Year's, you were with me in the soup kitchen; on the twentieth, we discussed your thoughts on children in confessional, and on the eighth, there was that little outing to the home of the Harriman's." He made "Harriman" sound like "Hairy man".

"Oh, well, I guess we have been a little busy." She quirked a smile, and murmured, "Harry-mans?" I've heard werewolves called many things, but that's got to be a first.

Shrugging, Luke said, "I told them the same thing we told the police. Rabid dogs; extreme unction."

"Is that what you came up with?" said Dersk. As they drew even with Kate and Dersk, the half demon was able to overhear a part of their conversation. Three bodies had been left after Kate and her crew had slain the werewolves. Father Luke had volunteered to stay behind and call the police.

"More or less," said the priest. "I usually take a walk around the area every night. It's very calming. Anyway, since that neighborhood is close to an open field where unwanted dogs are routinely dumped, many are often violent. It would not surprise me to learn that some might even be rabid." He smiled and then said, "It's late, and I'm tired. Perhaps we can discuss this another day?"

"Oh, of course," said Dersk, who then smiled sheepishly. "If you want, I can take you home, Father. After I drop off Doc and the Boss, of course."

"Thank you, Dersk. I appreciate that."

Stepping away from Luke's side, Elizabeth went to Kate and said, "Maybe I should cut my hair."

Kate closed her eyes briefly against a fleeting flash of anger. Being unable to do anything to help her lover had been incredibly hard for the action-oriented investigator to take. However, she was not about to drop her carefully held guard in a room full of cops.

Sensing Kate's turmoil only served to enflame Elizabeth's anxiety, causing the vampath to babble. "Or maybe braids? Pigtails?"

Kate chuckled weakly. "Let's go home, Doc. It's time to let the police get back to the business of catching real bad guys." This last was said loud enough to carry through the open doorway where the investigator knew that the FBI was lingering. And if I'm lucky, a certain Agent Prentiss is choking on it.

Part 3

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