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 Four

Oak Hollow Memorial – Evanston, ILLINOIS

"Hello, I'm Dr. Julia Mason, how can I help you?" The woman that approached the agents was middle aged, attractive, and very business like.

JJ liked her immediately, though that may have had something to do with the scent of lilac and cigarette smoke that reminded the blonde agent of her aunt.

Proffering her hand at the same time as she and Emily flashed their badges, JJ said, "I'm Jennifer Jareau, this is Emily Prentiss. We're with the FBI's Behavioral Analysis Unit. You've got a woman named Mary Jacobs listed as a patient here?"

Warily, Dr. Mason shook JJ's hand and said, "Yes, she's one of our long term patients."

"Is there somewhere we can talk, Dr. Mason?" said Emily.

The doctor shrugged. "I suppose we could use my office. I'm about due for a break. If you'll follow me?"

They did, and soon, the three women were ensconced within a comfortable, well-appointed office that was as different from the rest of the hospital as a carnival was from a funeral home. Warm and filled with rich shades of brown and burgundy, wood and leather, Dr. Mason's office was a refuge from the institutional blah of the outer hospital.

Indicating a French press filled with dark, richly scented coffee, the doctor said, "Can I offer you some coffee? I grind and brew it myself. Otherwise, I'd have to drink the sludge the nurses swill."

"Please," said Emily.

"Thank you," murmured JJ.

After half a week of cop shop coffee, neither agent was willing to look a gift horse in the mouth. Or in this case, a cup of very good coffee topped off with premium creamer and served in cups that had seen more than a haphazard rinsing in the men's washroom.

"We're investigating a series of murders, Dr. Mason," said JJ. "And Mary's name came up as a person of interest."

"Well, I don't know why," said the doctor. "She's in a persistent vegetative state and has been that way since coming to Oak Hollow." She leaned back in her chair, steepled her fingers and said, "She's completely non responsive. I hope you didn't drive all this way for nothing, ladies."

Emily rested her cup on her knee and said, "Actually, what we really need to know is what happened to the baby."

Surprised, Dr. Mason said, "Pardon?"

"Shortly after the attack that put her into a coma, Miss Jacobs gave birth to a daughter. We're interested in finding that child, or anyone connected with her," said JJ.

"Well, I don't know. I don't think I've ever met anyone claiming to be the patient's daughter. Her mother, yes. Barbara Jacobs came by once a week to spend time with Mary."

"Has she been to see her this week?" said Emily while JJ pulled out her cell to send a text to Garcia.

"No, I'm afraid Mrs. Jacobs won't be visiting any more. She died about six months ago. Heart attack, I'm told. Sad thing, really. Mary used to be the only one on the ward who had a regular visitor. Now, she's just like the rest; visitors show up once in a blue moon."

"Do you know who it is that visits?"

Dr. Mason pursed her lips, "Not off hand, no, but the floor has a sign-in sheet. Maybe one of the nurses will remember?"

Emily nodded. "We'll talk to them. Meanwhile, could you find out who currently has power of attorney for Mary Jacobs?"

"I'll have to check with our legal department on that, unless you have a warrant?"

"We can get one," said JJ.

"That might be best. After all, the patient's not going anywhere."

Carol Flores was a brightly cheerful young nurse with a shock of curly red hair, a ready smile and a flirtatious nature that immediately irritated Emily. Okay, so it was only that last part that irked the older agent, and perhaps that was because the nurse was turning her pretty smiles and large, luminous green eyes on JJ, but that didn't mean Emily couldn't find her just the smallest bit suspicious.

Maintaining a silent, brooding presence behind her blonde cohort, Emily let JJ do the talking while taking copious mental notes.

"Sure, I remember Mrs. Jacobs. Nice lady, if a bit on the preachy side. Old school bible thumper, you know?" Carol angled her head so as to look up at JJ with the air of someone sharing a bit of harmless gossip.

Returning the young nurse's smile, JJ said, "Actually, we're more interested in knowing who visits Mary now. Dr. Mason told us that someone still comes by, if not as often."

Carol's eyes widened. "Oh, I know exactly who you mean. Really gorgeous chick with hair like fire and eyes that look like they're seeing right through you." She let out a soft sigh. "Quite the hottie. I think her name was Michelle…" Picking up a clipboard, the nurse thumbed through several pages until she found one about half way down the stack. "Yeah, here it is: Michelle Coleman." She held out the clipboard for the agents to see. "I remember her now. Quiet, kind of shy, but nice enough once you got her talking."

Emily took it, pulled out her cell, and snapped a quick picture of the signature. It might be nothing, or it might be just the clue they needed to lead them to the UnSub. Stepping away from JJ and the nurse, Emily quickly dialed Garcia.

"Yeah, hey. I think we have a name. Michelle Coleman. I'm sending you a picture of her signature now. Any new information there? It was a heart attack? Okay, I'll let JJ know. Did you get that warrant? Oh, she is? Okay, that's what I expected." She fell silent as Garcia spoke, then made a noise somewhere between amusement and frustration. "All right. We're about done here. I'll call Hotch on the way back to Chicago." Hanging up, she walked back over to JJ and murmured, "We're on the right track."

JJ reached into her pocket and pulled out the police sketch of the woman Dazzle Razzle had seen and said, "Does this look anything like Miss Coleman?"

The nurse took the sketch and examined it. "Well, kind of. I mean, Michelle's… well… she's kind of butch. Wears her hair in a ponytail most of the time. Dresses in t-shirts and jeans, and I don't think I've ever seen her in makeup. Shame, it would have done wonders for her face. But yeah, this could be Michelle. She in some kind of trouble?"

JJ took the sketch back and tucked it into her pocket. "She's a person of interest in an ongoing investigation."

Raising her eyebrows, Carol said, "I used to date a cop. That means she's a suspect." The nurse shook her head disbelievingly. "I sure can pick them."

"Oh?" JJ sensed the nurse had something more to add.

Carol looked around and then leaned toward JJ. In a conspiratorial tone, she said, "I asked her out once. We had a drink at a place up the way. I was really into her, but she spent the entire night staring at this male nurse from the third floor. For a dyke, she was certainly acting straight." The nurse shrugged and then winked at JJ. "I guess my gaydar isn't always right "

Feeling her ears heat, JJ said, "Did Miss Coleman ever give you her phone number?"

"You know, she didn't. We only went out once, and the next time I saw her, Mrs. Jacobs had passed. I was on rounds and only caught a glimpse of her as she read to Mary from Barbara's bible."

"When was the last time she visited?"

"Oh, that entry I showed you was the last time she'd been by. To tell you the truth, I'm afraid that's probably the last time she'll visit. She left rather abruptly. Even threw away Mrs. Jacob's bible. Shame. It was a pretty old thing. I saved it, just in case she had a change of heart."

Emily pulled out a pair of gloves when the nurse admitted to having the book. "Do you have it here? Could you point to where it's kept?" she said brusquely.

Startled, Carol stepped back and gestured to a drawer in the desk. "It's in here. I'll just get it for you."

"Let me, please." Emily opened the drawer and shifted the contents until she found the old, leather bound book. Withdrawing it, she chose a section at random and checked the interior. Her face a closed mask, she said, "JJ do you have an evidence bag on you?"


Pier 17 – Chicago, ILLINOIS

Kate was on her way to the Tenth precinct when her cell buzzed. "Lockley. I'm in traffic so make it quick."

"Honey, I hate to interrupt, but-" There was a grunt, and a muffled thud on the other end of the line. "I could use a little back up here."

"Where are you?"

"Pier seventeen. Look for the warehouse with a red-feathered eagle. It's just off the main road, about half a mile from the lake."

"I'm five minutes away, Doc. Hang in there." Kate switched lanes, hopped off the freeway and started racing through residential streets and back alleys. Taking corners at hard angles, zigging and zagging around parked cars, stray cats and the occasional pedestrian, the investigator expertly wove her way across the city.

"Don't come in hot – they've got live ones."

Great, that means there are hostages.

There was another thud, and a soft groan from Elizabeth, followed quickly by a scream of agony that was too masculine to have come from the vampath.

"Doc, please tell me you didn't just rip someone's throat out while chatting on the phone with me." Kate could see the wharf now. Like a sea of stars, the ships in port were lit up and glittering in their berths on the rippling waters of Lake Michigan. Offset from the piers, the warehouse district huddled against the shore, and from this distance, Kate could just barely make out the names of several large corporations stenciled on the sides of the cargo containers. Most of the buildings were well lit, peopled with the night crew still hard at work transferring pallet loads of merchandise into the concrete and brick structures, but there was one or two that were dark. It was to those that Kate turned her attention, seeking the symbol of the red-feathered eagle.

Elizabeth chuckled darkly. "Okay, I won't. I can hear the FJR. You must be fairly close. I'll see about sending up a bat signal."

Slowing, Kate watched for her lover's sign. Ahead of her lay the torn and twisted fragments of a broken cyclone fence and beyond that an old, weathered brick building squatted in a sea of darkness. Faded paint indicated that there was something marking the wall, but it was too much in shadow to tell if it was the red-feathered eagle. However, the general state of the lot suggested long term abandonment. The investigator was about to ask for location confirmation when one of the upper windows exploded outward in a shower of glass and wood fragments. Kate watched in amused surprise as something plummeted toward the ground. She reached for her sidearm, but the body disintegrated before she had even unsnapped the holster.

The bat signal. Oh, how I do love you, my violent little vampath. Holding back a snort of laughter, Kate said, "I'm here. Where's the entrance?"

"Southwest corner. I think there's eight of them left."

"Where are the hostages?"

"In a cage suspended above the main warehouse floor. I can't quite get to them yet – they've got a pet hellhound guarding it."

And here I am without a net. Ah well, that's what the triple loads are for.

The door was easy to spot, once she knew where to look. Bringing the bike to a stop, Kate killed the engine and ran in, flicking on her torch and looking for a target. A bad experience on a prior case had taught her not to remove her helmet when entering a situation of potential danger. Instead, she kept it on, trusting that the low-light function of the face shield would allow her to see.

Sounds of combat drew her deeper into the warehouse and, as she rounded a corner, she stumbled into a group of three vamps.

"Hello boys," she caroled softly. "I'm afraid you're trespassing." Firing once, she grinned in approval as her shot dusted the first one before he had time to react. As the others leapt to attack, she fired twice more, noting with grim satisfaction that the helmet also kept the vamp dust out of her eyes.

"Dick? I heard gunfire. Everything okay?" Elizabeth sounded winded, but unhurt.

"I'm fine, Doc. Just took out three by the door. You?" The hall dead-ended at a door. It was partially open, and Kate could just make out the dim shapes of the main warehouse floor.

"Peachy. I've got four on my six and two in the air. Anytime you can jump in would be great."

"Never fear, the cavalry's here," said Kate as she dove through the door and joined in the fray.


Streets of Ward 17

JJ drove while Emily informed the rest of the team about what they'd learned of Michelle Coleman as well as the content of the Jacobs family bible. "The book appears to be a normal bible until you get past Genesis and into the later texts. Then, whole sections are outlined, highlighted, and have several of the key phrases underscored and annotated. Reid, this is more your expertise than mine, but at a casual glance, I'd say most of the marks are in Leviticus and Deuteronomy." Closing the book, she slid it back into the evidence bag, took off her gloves, and rubbed the bridge of her nose. I swear, when this case is over, I'm taking a vacation. My head feels like the ball stand at a t-ball game.

"We'll take a closer look at it when you get back. Garcia has confirmed that Michelle Coleman is Mary Jacobs' daughter. Barbara Jacobs was her grandmother. It's possible that her death was the stressor that set her off," said Hotch.

"Garcia, could you work your magic and see what you can come up with for a last known address on Michelle Coleman?" said Morgan.

"Already on it, Hot Stuff. The address is being faxed as I type and get this, it's rented to a Marcus Coleman." They heard the sound of the fax machine, while JJ's phone beeped, indicating the arrival of a text message. When she checked it, Emily found a copy of Michelle Coleman's driver's license.

"Wait, I thought the UnSub was gay," said Morgan.

"Just because she lives with someone whose name is apparently masculine does not mean that her partner is, in fact, male," said Reid. "Nor does the fact that they appear to share the same last name indicate a gender bias. They could have chosen to legally change their names to reflect their desire to demonstrate some of the heteronormative functions of society, even if they cannot actually marry."

"Do we know if Michelle has a brother?" came Rossi's calm question.

"There's nothing in the records that indicates the presence of a sibling," said Garcia. "But I'll run a check just to be sure."

"At this point, we shouldn't assume anything," said Hotch. "Prentiss, I want you and JJ to meet Rossi downtown and look for that prostitute. Show her Michelle's picture and see if she ID's it as the woman she saw. Reid, Morgan, and I will go to the Coleman apartment and see what we can learn from Marcus."

"Okay, we're on our way," said JJ as she switched lanes and started to head for the clubs and bars where the murders had taken place.

"I'll start digging into Michelle Coleman's life. Anything else?" said Garcia.

Something that the nurse had said had been nagging at Emily and she blurted, "Hey, the first victim – what did he do for a living?"

"That would be Paul Marquez," said Garcia. She started to type, but was interrupted by Reid.

"Paul Marquez. Twenty-two, single, lived alone and worked as a nurse out at Oak Hollow Memorial in Evanston."

Biting back the urge to curse, Emily said, "Guys, I think she met him while going to visit her mother."

"Does anyone know where Marquez was the night he was killed?" said Rossi.

There was a shuffling of papers, and some incoherent mumbling as each agent wracked their brains for the information.

"Here it is!" came Reid's jubilant cry. "His roommate said that they'd gone out for drinks and dancing at Club 88. The roommate left, but Marquez remained behind to catch a show featuring female impersonators."

"Dazzle Razzle said she saw victim number five coming out of Limbo. Their main attraction is the dance floor, but they also have a small stage where male and female impersonators perform," said JJ. "I'm almost to Club 88 now. I'm going to drop Emily off and head back to the station house and go over the files to see if I can pinpoint where each of the victims were last seen."

"Good idea, JJ. Rossi's on his way. He'll meet Emily at Limbo." The phone went dead as the blonde agent pulled the car up next to the curb in front of Club 88.

"We're so close," said Emily. "I can feel it. We're going to get this bitch."

With a mischievous chuckle, JJ said, "Just don't haul in every redhead you see, okay? I really don't want to have to face another overly earnest priest."

Emily colored and ducked her head. "Erf, yeah, that was… I don't know. Something about that Blaine woman just strained my every last nerve and made me hyper suspicious."

Laying her hand on Emily's, JJ said, "It's all right, Em. She gave me the willies, too. Unfortunately, just because someone makes your skin crawl doesn't mean that they're automatically guilty." There was only the mildest hint of reproach in JJ's tone.

"I know. I owe that woman an apology. Maybe I'll call her tomorrow. You know, I actually worked with her partner once. It was in LA, on an old rape case – we must have spent hours in the morgue, up to our eyeballs in dust bunnies and cobwebs, digging out files and evidence while bitching about our jobs. I wonder why she left the force."

JJ shrugged. "Bet Garcia could find out, if you were really curious."

"Or I could ask her. I seem to recall she had a fondness for Irish whiskey. Maybe we could all catch a drink when this is over."

"Might be kind of fun. We'll have to talk about this more at another time – there's Rossi's car." JJ withdrew her hand, smiled shyly and said, "See you later?"

Emily returned the smile. "I wish I could kiss you right now," she said, her voice a soft, husky trill that sent a cascade of goose bumps down JJ's back.

Blinking slowly, JJ leaned toward Emily and said, "Then kiss me."

"What? Here? No way!" Emily's face was a study of shock and dismay.

Jerking back, JJ fought hard to keep from overreacting. "Why not? Are you afraid of being seen as a lesbian?" She glanced out of their windows pointedly, but couldn't quite keep the anger from her voice as she added, "It's not like anyone is paying attention."

Quick to reassure, Emily said, "No, of course not, JJ. Labels aren't something I need or care about. Heck, I don't give a damn if people think I'm a purple chicken fucker. However, I do care about my job, and yours, too. We can't afford to let the case become tainted by any hint of impropriety."

Thoughtful, JJ replied, "That might very well be true, Em. On the other hand, if we hide everything we're feeling, then eventually, we'll regret making the decision to cross the line."

Emily closed her eyes briefly. "JJ, I like you. Quite a bit, actually. Probably more than I'm ready to admit. And there's nothing more that I'd rather do than to take you out on a fabulous date where I can show the world how much having you by my side thrills me to pieces. I'm just not sure that right here, right now is the time and place for that."

"I like you too, Emily. That's why I want to do this; to take the risk. Kiss me. It doesn't have to be anything special, just you and me enjoying a moment that isn't about UnSubs, evidence or the BAU."

Emily looked away, her gaze fixing on some point far in the distance. "You make it sound so easy, Jennifer."

JJ's short, sharp bark of laughter caused the brunette to jerk as if slapped. "Easy? No, it's not. It's impossibly difficult; probably the hardest thing I've ever done was kissing you, Emily Prentiss. But I can't help it. When I look at you, I see a future of tomorrows that stretch into infinity, and I have to reach for that because I want every day to be filled with the insanely great feeling that I have for you." As she'd spoken, JJ's voice had grown soft, filled with a ragged tenderness that forced Emily to abandon the view of the street.

Fully captivated by JJ's face, Emily dared to reach out and trace her fingertips over the blonde's flushed cheek. "You can wreck me with your words, you know. You've put my fear in ruins."

Smiling weakly, JJ said, "Then we're even, because you've been shattering me with your eyes for almost as long as I've known you. Now, kiss me, Emily Prentiss, because you have an UnSub to find."

Unable to deny the soft command any further, Emily leaned forward and pressed her lips to JJ's. The kiss was soft, undemanding and felt so right; the agent wondered why she'd fought so hard to deny it in the first place.

Parting, she said, "I'll call if we get anything."

JJ nodded, and replied, "Same here. Now go. Rossi is heading this way."


Pier 17

Office of Lockley and Associates

In the end, it was no more difficult than any normal nest purging. The presence of six street kids brought Father Luke to the scene. Together, they worked for several hours to locate safe havens where the kids could recover from their ordeal.

Afterward, even with the best of intentions, exhaustion took over and drove the women homeward. Filled with the mildly ebullient fever of those who have done a good job, Kate and Elizabeth sat down to share a meal with Dersk and hash out what they knew of their other, more mundane case.

Over pizza and beer, they pooled their knowledge.

"I've got nothing new on Coleman, but I did hear from a buddy over at Bash'Ems that her apartment got raided by the FBI tonight." Dersk smirked wryly. "Guess they figured a few things out all by their lonesomes. Anyway, hopefully it'll all be over soon, and we'll see the arrest on the morning news." With a loud, satisfied belch, he said, "Then I can go back to surfing for deadbeat dads, lost heirs, and obscure translations of Egyptian hieroglyphs."

Elizabeth chuckled. "Aw gee, Snake Boy, one might almost believe that you're bored."

Sticking his tongue out at her, Dersk retorted, "Not bored, just tired of being hunched over a computer all day. I need to breathe the fresh, smog-tainted air and drink in the sight of all that your human world has to offer once in a while."

There was a moment filled with the ticking of a clock, the distant rush of passing cars, and the subtle creak and groan of the building as it settled. Then, with a sudden, loud shift, the three friends started laughing.

"You're full of shit, Dersk," said Kate. "You love desk work. Your precious hide doesn't get bruised that way."

Grinning hugely, Dersk chuckled and said, "Of course, Boss. I'm too pretty to sport such ugly shades." His form flickered, and then shifted to the scaled, brilliantly hued shape that was his demonic nature. "Don't you agree?"

"Oh yeah, you're so beautiful, Snake Boy," said Elizabeth. "Better be careful or you'll start shattering mirrors with your godlike gloriousness."

Dersk struck a pose until the giggles that he was valiantly trying to suppress won free and then, he fell to the floor, howling with laughter while Kate and Elizabeth chuckled at his antics.

After the half demon finally regained control of himself, Elizabeth said, "Okay, so we're pretty sure we know who the killer is – why aren't we calling those FBI folks?"

Kate pursed her lips and then said, "Well, I thought about doing that earlier, but then, I realized something: we have no solid evidence. Sure, they've seen her place, but beyond the emotional snooping you did, Dick, there's nothing they can put before a jury as proof. We just can't go in and say, 'She did it because we say so'."

Caught in the middle of a yawn, Elizabeth said, "Then what are we going to do?"

Shrugging apologetically, Kate said, "If we can't do it by the old book, let's make a new one. Your symbiote's evidence won't buy us an arrest warrant, but it might just get us into a position to catch her in the act." She sighed and then yawned. "Unless, of course, the FBI finds her first. Then it's all moot, and we can go back to earning a paycheck."


Baycrest Arms

Streets of Ward 17

The cold flicker of police lights reflected off the face of a small, shrouded figure that stood in the shadows near a stand of evergreen bushes. She watched as they paraded in and out of her home, taking boxes of her things off to God-knew-where without so much as a by-your-leave and what was she to do? Grandmother told her that men were horrible, fickle creatures whose only goal was to take from you all that was dear.

It seemed that she was right.

Turning away from the apartment complex, she ran for refuge.

The lateness of the hour was not lost on the very exhausted brunette leaning against the door of the black SUV. It seemed that the longer she sat there, the more likely it was that she would slowly slip into a coma. Three members of their team were still at the Coleman apartment, documenting the reams of evidence found there. Emily stifled a yawn and tried not to look down at her watch for the umpteenth time.

JJ had called, twice, with information that confirmed that Michelle Coleman was definitely their UnSub. At least five of the victims had been seen at, or known to frequent the drag clubs where the UnSub worked. From documentation and evidence at the apartment, Reid made the startling connection that Marcus and Michelle were one and the same, and used both male and female aliases to perform at a variety of local clubs and bars. This lead the team to speculate that the UnSub possibly suffered from an identity disorder. Garcia had dug up some arrests for lewd behavior, as well as one six-month stint in a mental hospital. A late-night call to Coleman's former psychiatrist all but confirmed the team's suspicions regarding the UnSub's mental state.

Emily rubbed her eyes and concentrated on sipping from the cup of hot coffee that Rossi had just given her. They had visited Limbo, Club 88 and most of the bars in the areas around the dumpsites and had yet to spot the UnSub – either as Sheila Divine or as her male alter ego, Marcus Cole.

Surreptitiously, Emily eyed her companion. Though she knew Rossi must have seen her kiss JJ – the SUV's windows were tinted but not opaque – he had not brought up what was quite probably a complete breach of protocol on her and JJ's part. Not to mention the whole, lesbian thing. Ugh. Labels. I hate labels. Why can't we all just accept that what we do in our bedroom as consenting adults with other consenting adults is no one's business but those involved?

"I think after this we'll call Hotch and see if he needs help at the Coleman place," said Rossi. "Though I suspect I'll have to remind him that we are all not robots and do require a minimal amount of rest in order to be effective. As much as I hate being behind this nutjob, I'd rather not have to explain to Section Chief Strauss why I managed to shoot the kneecaps off the UnSub."

It was such a completely unexpected statement, that Emily burst into laughter. With a sly grin, she said, "Better than having to explain why it is you fell asleep before drawing your gun."

His laughter was only a little forced. Just as suddenly, though, his mood shifted. "Emily, I hope you have considered your choices wisely. If you're not careful, the road you are on could become quite rocky."

With each of the older agent's words, Emily felt her heart rate increase until she was certain the rapid fluttering could be heard on the other side of the city. It took an effort of will not to spout a useless denial. Instead, she exhaled slowly and said, "Point taken, Sir. I'll be on my guard." Part of Emily wanted to regret kissing JJ in public, but she couldn't. JJ was right – they needed to have time for each other, and if that meant stealing a kiss in the car, then so be it.

Rossi smiled, a tiny quirk of the lips that was almost lost in the edges of his salt and pepper mustache. "Good." As he brought the car to a halt, he turned to look at her and said, "This job that we do, it can eat us whole. It drives away family and destroys friendships until all that is left is the quest for justice. There is no reward, no glory and certainly very little money to be made in its service. So, if you and JJ can carve out a place for each other without hurting the team, then I'm very happy for you. However, if I ever suspect that there's a problem, Erin Strauss will be the first call I make." His gaze bored into her and, for the first time in a long while, Emily felt the stirrings of fear for a superior. "Elizabeth Prentiss will be the second."

Never had Emily's stomach dropped so fast. At thirty-eight years of age, she should not have been so terrified of facing the potential wrath of Elizabeth Prentiss, but the long-ingrained habit was so much a part of her, that Emily sometimes wondered if she would miss the sensation if it were to suddenly vanish. Discovering that her daughter was involved in a lesbian affair with a coworker would barely dent Ambassador Prentiss' admittedly tough hide. However, should that affair somehow cause a scandal, the good ambassador would likely have more than a few choice words to impart upon her errant daughter.

It would not be a good day, and right then and there, Emily vowed that there would never be cause for that day to pass.

"Trust me when I say that I will do all that I can to ensure you'll never need to make those calls, Sir."

Rossi nodded. "Good. Now, let's go see if we can get lucky."

With weary determination, they exited the vehicle and headed toward another seedy bar.


The Black Water Club – 4th Ward

The walls were red, like blood, closing in and battering against her eyes that had seen it all. Can't go home, can't go away, can't run, can't hide. For her, it was just a matter of grabbing and squeezing the life out of time.

Under her feet, the stage was hard, like stone quarried from the marble-rich mines of Colorado; only there was this great, sucking hole lying before her. Rows and rows of greedy men with wanting eyes and liar's hearts loomed in and out of the flashing strobe of the stage lights. Licking her lips, she mouthed the words of the song and chose the one who would be freed this night.

He stood at the back of the small cluster of men that prostrated themselves before her, his eyes a beacon of blazing green against a sea of dull blue and dirt brown. That he was beautiful was a given; nothing else would do as an offering.

The song, her song dwindled to its last. Lips shaping the words as her body swayed to the dying melody, she glanced toward the bar and then at her chosen one.

"I can feel you breathe. Just breathe." It never seemed difficult. The siren's lure of her body was always enough to draw them, eager and puppy-like, to her side.

Up close, he smelled of earth and sweat; the energy of his bravado seethed off him in waves. "Hey baby," he said, placing a possessive hand on her back. "I'm Tommy."

Tommy was a Jack with a beer back kind of man, which made the insertion of her favorite spices easy. Easier still was drawing the slightly befuddled, bleary-eyed boy into the alley behind the club. His hands were all over her, pawing and groping, while his mouth on hers tasted like ash and blood.

Falling against wall, she reached up into the secret place, the break in the brickwork where she'd concealed her rod and gripped the handle. Its weight was a familiar comfort as she withdrew it slowly, taking care not to alert her would-be paramour.

His mouth left hers abruptly as the rod came down. The body was heavy, but she was strong; her power was a gift from God, Grandmother had always said so. The cord in her hands looped about his throat easily. Pulling, always pulling, yanking, tugging, struggling to drag the monsters from her, to feed the beast that burned inside her gut, and she lost herself to the moment, until the red, red haze blurred into the long, still black of night.


The Reliant Hotel

In the grand scheme of cases, this one was drawing to a close. They had everything except the suspect. In the closet of the UnSub's apartment, CSU techs had found clothing that tested positive for blood, as well as other evidence that proved Michelle Coleman's guilt. At nearly four in the morning, Hotch sent everyone back to their hotels to get some rest. Coleman had not turned up at the apartment or at any of the clubs at which she was known to perform. In the morning, the team would broaden the search to include other areas of the city, especially the Fourth ward, where the most recent murder had taken place.

Out of convenience, Emily rode with Rossi and once inside her hotel room, stood staring at the empty space on her bed with an uncharacteristic distaste. Pushing aside wistful, romantic notions, she went about performing her evening ablutions and crawled under the fresh sheets.

Half an hour later, sleep was still an elusive, taunting promise that her body refused to accept. The empty, cold space beside Emily mocked her with the missing piece to a puzzle she had only recently come to realize was hers to complete.

Go on, get up and do it, Em. You know you want to, and besides, isn't it about time you made some overtures? JJ's been doing a lot of the work in this thing as you insist on calling it. Why don't you just wise up, and take what you know would be gladly given? The advice, of course, was sound. It was also running counterpoint to a nameless, voiceless dread that started somewhere in her toes and was slowly creeping its way up her body.

Could she do this? Just ignore years of conditioning herself to set aside her desires in favor of what was best, of what was acceptably politic within the world that Emily existed? It all seemed so easy when she was with JJ. The rush of emotion, heady, fear-killing sensations that wiped away all cause for doubt was so much stronger in the blonde agent's presence.

Alone, all Emily had was her will, and a tangled web of feelings that left her weak-kneed and wanting. Had she loved before? Yes, of course; she wasn't a child. Relationships had come and gone. Most were barely a blip on her life's radar. Yet this time, she sensed something different. A uniqueness to the situation that had very little to do with the circumstances and everything to do with the crazy, uncontrollable feelings she had whenever she thought about a certain blonde press liaison.

Damn it, I don't even know if she's still awake. She tried to tell herself to forget it, to just close her eyes and sleep. Tomorrow was already here, and the morning would see them far too busy to worry about missed opportunities. Yet a subtle, insidious voice within whispered, You would forgive her for waking you, were your positions reversed.

"Fuck, I hate it when I'm right," she muttered. Before she could lose her nerve, Emily stood, pulled on her slacks, grabbed her room key, phone, and sidearm and went to brave an uncertain welcome.

The knock on her door was completely unexpected, but when JJ pulled herself from the drowsy state of almost sleep she had fallen into, the intrusion was completely forgiven. Standing before her, brunette hair tousled in the wild waves of one who has had a restless night, clad only in a thin tank top and navy slacks, was Emily. The older agent's face was a pathetic study of apology, though her eyes bore a deep, unspoken hunger that kindled a similar need within JJ.

"I couldn't sleep," said Emily softly. "I-" Here, she faltered, but with a brief pause, continued. "I missed you." As if saying the words had unlocked the gates barring her thoughts, she blurted, "I wanted to hold you. I couldn't get it out of my head."

JJ felt the smile start from somewhere deep inside. "Well then, by all means-" She stepped aside to allow Emily entrance. "Don't let me stop you."

Hovering at the threshold, Emily whispered, "This is it, you know. I can't go back from here, JJ. I'm going to want it all, now."

Calmly, JJ took Emily's hand and led her into the room. As the door closed, she gently relieved the older agent of her burdens, placing the gun and room key in a drawer and the phone on the nightstand. Murmuring, "I think we want the same things, Em." JJ turned back the covers on both sides of the bed and then, with simple serenity, she crawled in, turned out her light and said, "Come to bed, Emily. I need you to hold me."


Alley Behind The Black Water Club

Six months ago, when Tommy Reynolds's life had changed forever, he had thought waking up inside a coffin had sucked. In retrospect, that had been pleasant compared to the sick sensation of lying in a pool of his own blood, brain matter and viscera. As a crown to a night already filled with coming home to find his entire clan dusted, his food gone, and his dog dead, it was severely lacking in the glory and excitement promised by the demonic entity that had given him life after death.

When the crazy redheaded bitch had finally stopped biting the hell out of his chest and left, Tommy had sat up, wiped away as much blood as he could and then stumbled off toward his van. Dawn was not far off, and if he didn't get out of the sun, the job that the hottie from the club had started would be irrevocably finished.

Sleep did much to restore the damage the three-foot length of pipe had done to his face, but the young vampire suspected that it would take a good feeding to undo the destruction of his chest and throat. Without a reflection, he could not discern the true extent of his injuries, but the ravaging burn of pain that sheeted from his groin to his ears every time he moved was indication enough of its severity.

As soon as he could, he was going to find something to eat, and then, then he was going to find that fucking bitch and rip out her fucking throat. After that, well the sky was the limit. With a feral grin, Tommy began to envision what it might be like to turn the little psycho. After all, every good vamp needed a girl, and she certainly had been a real looker.


Office of Lockley and Associates

The Black Water

Streets of Chicago

The morning news brought no footage of an arrest in the Kiss of the Vampire slayings. Instead, Michelle Coleman's face and aliases were the top story on every station and emblazoned in bold print across the front page of the Tribune. A DNA match had been made and conclusively linked to one victim, and as the tests were completed, several more of the victims could be linked to Coleman. As the CPD's prime suspect, there was a full court press to locate and apprehend her.

A thirty-minute press conference featuring the Agent Jennifer Jareau, Captain MacPherson, and Supervisory Special Agent Aaron Hotchner discussing the case had kicked off the media frenzy and current manhunt. Reports dominated by clips of the press conference topped every hour while reporters lurked in droves outside of the Tenth precinct.

No one at the Tenth precinct gave much notice to a report of almost two liters of blood found in an alley behind a bar in the Fourth ward, but one man, Larry Kaplan, realized it was information that was worth something to a certain private investigator. He made a call and was not surprised when the grinning, spike-haired young man that worked as Kate Lockley's secretary delivered his favorite lunch.

Armed with the new information, Kate, Elizabeth, and Dersk hit the streets, starting at the Black Water. The vampath took the alley while Kate and Dersk spoke with the owner.

"I'm real surprised the cops didn't come round and take a look at this mess," drawled the soft-voiced young man who had been more than happy to let Kate and her people take a look around. "I know there ain't no body back there, but that's a damn sight more blood then you see from any old fight." He looked at Kate and smiled shyly. "We get our share of altercations Ma'am. The Black Water ain't exactly known for its peaceful atmosphere, but generally the blood that is shed is minimal."

Kate nodded. The pale, heavily made up young man looked about as harmful as Morticia Adams at a school bake sale. In fact, I think that's whom he's borrowing his look from. Hmm, must not snap fingers. "This might sound unusual, but did you happen to have anyone by the name of Sheila Divine perform last night?" said Kate. The interior of the Black Water was a disturbing shade of crimson, and the investigator forced herself to focus on the proprietor. From the ruddy glass of the light fixtures, to the claret-hued shag carpet, everything within the nightclub was nauseatingly sanguine. Just the kind of place where a newly turned vampire with delusions of Anne Rice might hang out.

The club owner laughed. "Who, that pallid Prima Donna? Please, the Black Water doesn't cater to her kind of boy. We like our performers to be a little more Marilyn Manson and a little less Marilyn Monroe."

Okay, no Coleman involvement. Definitely vamp. "All right, how about anyone new? I saw the flyer advertising the open mic last night."

Long fingers topped off by nails painted in glittery black enamel tapped against thickly painted lips. "I believe there was a couple of newbies. It is rather difficult to recall – we get quite busy on open mic nights."

Daring a look around, Kate said, "Do you operate security cameras in here?"

"But of course, sweetie. We've had some trouble in the past and have learned not to trust in the impartiality of the law."

Tucking her hands into the back pockets of her jeans, Kate cocked her head, looked at him and smiled winningly. "So what would I have to do to get a look at last night's tapes?"

For Elizabeth, the scent of blood always carried a wave of memory so vast that it often took a moment to clear the cobwebs of history from her mind. As a medical student working the night shift in a New Orleans morgue, she'd been up to her elbows in claret more times than she could count. As a vampire, she had slaked an impossible hunger with the rich, coppery-sweet liquid. In her present vampathic state, blood not only evoked memory, it enflamed her symbiote.

Squatting in the back of a dingy alley, she stared down at the slowly drying pool of gore that spread across the broken pavement like the unwanted remains of a horrible cooking experiment. At the base of her skull, Elizabeth began to feel the low, buzzing tingle of the Tos as it thrummed to awareness. The longer she stood there, enrapt in the crime scene, the stronger the symbiote's hunger grew. With deft control that had become second nature, Elizabeth loosened the fetters on the Tos and gave in to the feral side of her being.

The events that had occurred in the alley had left a mark that went deeper than castoff blood spatter or scattered bone fragments. Carved into brick and concrete, metal and wood, the terrible act that had caused the blood pool throbbed on the land like an open wound. This close to the actual event, Elizabeth had a chance to feel the emotions of the participants as though she had been witness to the act.

Exhaling slowly, she braced herself, reached out with one hand and then let it fall into the sticky, half dried liquid. At first, all she felt was the chill of the pavement, the briskness of the breeze and the unyielding metal of the dumpster against her back. Slowly, these faded, leaving behind phantom sensations that ebbed away until all that was left was the hollow, rhythmic thump of her heartbeat.

Butterfly light, the first trickle of emotion ghosted across her senses. Lust, burning, driving, stumbling, pulling, leading, lust that, in a startled moment of fear, gave way to pain, and finally, an overwhelming sense of glee. The feeling was blazingly potent; Elizabeth felt her lips pull back into a grin, revealing fangs that had budded into fullness. Glee was followed by satisfaction, which was in turn was followed by a muddled, jumbled mess of need, want, desire, hate, and exultation. Shaken, she was about to pull back when one last, final burst struck her. Anger, pure, unadulterated rage rode over her like a herd of wild horses, leaving her gasping for air and quivering with the residual traces of hate.

Slowly, the vampath regained control, and then stood, using a discarded wad of newsprint to wipe the worst of the blood from her hand. Heading for the club, Elizabeth mulled over what she had learned and realized one thing: if they didn't find Michelle Coleman soon, another, far more dangerous individual would join the hunt.

And as far as I know, the CPD hasn't deputized any vampires lately.

Hour after hour passed as the manhunt went on without success. Elsewhere in the city, flyers depicting Michelle Coleman's face were handed around, but still, the suspect remained at large. When they weren't in the field, the agents were manning the phones, taking calls from potential witnesses. It was a giant pile of "we're getting nowhere," and Emily was frustrated enough to crack.

Taking a break, she went outside and stood in the sun, letting the fierce brightness wash away the thick, angry lines of tension that had wrapped over her neck and shoulders.

"The worst part about this job is the waiting," came the soft, calm voice of Aaron Hotchner.

Emily turned and met the steady, clear gaze of her supervisor. Expecting to see something – reprimand, disappointment, disgust, even – in his eyes, she was surprised to find only the lingering weariness of a man whose life has not played out at all like he planned.


"I'd like you and JJ to head over to the Fourth ward and assist the Twenty-second with the canvas of their clubs. Garcia's found another three that had Coleman employed under one of her aliases."

Nodding, Emily said, "And maybe someone has seen her recently. Right. All right, let me go get my coat and we'll head out." She turned and went back toward the precinct. Within the first few steps, Emily had expected Hotch to speak, to say something that acknowledged his awareness of the shift in her relationship with JJ, but he remained silent. All she felt was the weight of his gaze on her back. A little unsettled by the encounter, Emily made her way to the bullpen, grabbed her jacket, and then met JJ at the SUV.

Waking with JJ curled against her had been one of the ten best moments of Emily's life. Awash in the tender emotions coursing through her, Emily had spent several long minutes visualizing a lifetime spent with the young blonde. Not since she'd heard her mother say, "I'm proud of you, Emily," when she'd graduated the Academy had the brunette felt so overwhelmed with emotion. It was like single-handedly solving a case, winning the Super Bowl, and discovering the cure for cancer all rolled into one volcanic eruption of adoration.

Falling in love was not a strange sensation for Emily Prentiss; doing it while knowing the other person was running headlong on the path beside her was a completely new experience.

Many had knocked on the door to her heart, but few had ever entered, and fewer still had remained long enough to make it a home. That morning, lying with her head pillowed on JJ's shoulder, and feeling the other woman's long, tapered fingers comb through her hair even as gentle snores gave incontrovertible evidence to the blonde's lack of wakefulness, Emily had felt something akin to child-like wonder come to glowing life in the pit of her stomach. The warm radiance of it spread throughout her body, making it seem as though she were floating on a cushion of air.

Upon seeing her, JJ smiled affectionately and said, "Someone's in a good mood. Guess that means you're driving." She tossed the keys at the brunette, who snapped them up easily.

Shrugging a little sheepishly, Emily said, "Mm, what can I say? I can't help it. I've had the best sleep of my life these last couple of days. It's been great."

As she buckled her seatbelt, JJ said, "Really? It must be contagious because I slept like a log. Even with a lumpy mattress."

They looked at each other briefly before breaking into a fit of snorting laughter. "Okay, we are officially insane," said Emily as she started the car.

"Is that what this is?" JJ's face grew thoughtful and then she said, "Well, I guess it's not so bad. Think our HMO will let us share a padded room at the asylum?"

Pulling out into the afternoon traffic, Emily said, "Why not? You know the government loves cutting corners."

It would have been comical if it weren't so frustrating. Separately, the agents of the BAU and the investigators from Lockley and Associates checked and re-checked nearly every bar and club in the Fourth ward, and Michelle Coleman was not to be found. Descending below the streets to speak to the refuse demon Pollatrix, who was one of Dersk's best underworld contacts, produced no information either. Things were just as bad for Hotch and the rest in the Seventeenth, though they at least had the evidence from the Coleman apartment to sift through for clues.

Even trying to tap into the powers of the Tos symbiote was useless, as Elizabeth had to be in close proximity to her target in order to home in on their location. Otherwise, she was simply overwhelmed by the sheer mass of emotion that clouded the city like a particularly thick batch of pea soup. Worn to frazzled shadows of their usual, good-natured selves, the mood in Elizabeth's car as they drove around town was distinctly aggravated.

"Boss, can we stop for a pop? I'm bushed," said Dersk. Stretched out in the back seat of the Duster, the half demon looked every bit as tired as the women felt.

The mildly whiny tone of the half demon's voice set Elizabeth's teeth on edge. "We're all tired, Snake Boy. Just, deal with it."

"I just want to get something to drink that has more than a passing acquaintance with caffeine, Doc. Sheesh."

"In a bit. We've still got four places to check."

"Yeah, for this round," said Dersk snidely. "Don't you think we could take a little break?"

Very softly, her voice so controlled that it crackled through the car like a whip snap, Elizabeth replied, "Eight, possibly nine dead young men aren't in the mood to hand out breaks right now."

"Why not? They're dead. They're not going anywhere." Petulant, even a little angry, Dersk's question was like a slap in the face to the vampath.

"Would you like to walk home?"

"Sure. It wouldn't be the first time!"

"All right, that's enough!" Kate's voice was a strident blade that cut through the bickering of her companions with the smooth efficiency born of long practice. "Doc, I'm starving. And I know that you're hungry too, or you wouldn't be so damn touchy. Let's find some place to stop and get a bite. We need a break or we won't be able to function and the sun hasn't even gone down yet!"

Sullenly, Elizabeth said, "You're right. I'm sorry, Dersk."

The half demon sat up, slid forward and patted Elizabeth on the shoulder. "S'ok, Doc. We're all a little frazzled. This Coleman chick is a nutter and half and if she isn't caught soon, someone else is going to die. I don't want that to happen any more than you do." He rested his cheek against the cool leather of the seat back and sighed. "But I gotta eat, and so do you. If you hang a left, we can probably get a table at that little café next to the Black Water."

With a weary smile, Elizabeth said, "Good idea. After we eat, we can check in at the club and see if any of the regulars remember anything unusual from last night."


Mummy's Café

"Emily, let's stop here. I'm starving." JJ pointed at a tiny, hole in the wall café that was just half a block from the next club on their list.

Eyeing the dilapidated sign that proclaimed the restaurant, "Mummy's Café", Emily said, "I don't know, JJ. I'm not sure I'm ready to experience the dubious delights of a place named after something that's been dead for thousands of years."

JJ chuckled and gave the old sign a curious glance. Faded, flecked paint worn and weathered by years of exposure boldly proclaimed the business name, which was then echoed in stylized hieroglyphs and decorated with cartoonish versions of sarcophagi, burial masks and Egyptian gods. "I don't know, I think it's quaint, in an urban kind of way. " She shrugged and added, "It can't be much worse than McDonald's or Burger King." Indicating the ubiquitous fast food joints with a nod, JJ said, "I'm not really in the mood for grease balls and lard."

Turning an indelicate shade of green, Emily said, "Well, when you put it that way, Mummy's it is. I just hope the blue plate special isn't canopic soup or deep fried linen wraps."

"Eww, oh stop it," said JJ as she lightly smacked the other agent on the arm. "Or was it your plan to make me lose my appetite?"

Affecting an injured pose, Emily said, "JJ, honey, if you're going to beat me, can I at least put my collar on first? It's always so much better when I look the part."

Torn between absolute shock and nervous laughter, JJ made a sound that was something like a snort and a chuckle. Taking a deep breath, she arched one eyebrow and said, "Does this mean you'll call me 'Mistress' and do everything you can to please me?"

Glancing sidewise at JJ, Emily calmly replied, "I don't need to call you Mistress to do that, JJ. All I need is lots of time and privacy."

Suddenly feeling as if all the air had been sucked from her lungs, JJ shivered and said, "You are going to be the death of me, Emily Prentiss." Exhaling, she added, "But at least I'll die with a smile on my face."

The interior of Mummy's was less exotic than the sign promised. Booths lined the walls, the pale blue upholstery faded and worn from years of hard use. An old fashioned counter ran the length of the restaurant, and by the amount of people perched on the circular chairs, it was a popular destination.

All of the tables were full, and Emily was ready to turn around and head for one of the fast food places when JJ put a hand on her arm and said, "Em, look. It's Elizabeth Blaine and her partner, Kate Lockley."

Spotting the investigators in a booth at the other end of the café, Emily bit her lip and then made a decision. "Come on, I'm starving and they've got a corner seat. They can share with a couple of the FBI's finest." So saying, the brunette agent strode past the other customers and up to the table.

Dersk nudged Kate and muttered, "Fibbies at four o'clock, Boss."

Snickering softly, Elizabeth said, "You really like that term, don't you, Snake Boy?"

The half demon picked up his chocolate milkshake and took a drink while maintaining an enigmatic silence.

With a snort, the vampath rolled her eyes and said, "The place is full. Should we offer to share the table? It's not like we're cramped or anything."

Kate looked up to meet the gaze of Agent Emily Prentiss. The brunette quirked an eyebrow in her direction and then started toward the booth.

"I don't think we're going to get a choice. Move over, guys. Let's show the Feds we know how to be friendly," said Kate. One by one, they moved over and made room at the table so that when the agents arrived, Kate was able to gesture to the open space and say, "Have a seat, ladies."

JJ inclined her head graciously and said, "Thank you. Although I threatened to settle for fast food, I'm glad that I won't have to. I've seen too many drive-throughs this week as it is."

Seated next to the blonde agent, Emily Prentiss first exchanged a quietly polite greeting with Kate, nodded at Dersk and then met the full on steely glare of Elizabeth Blaine. For a long moment, the brunette considered how she was going to approach the big, hairy, purple elephant on the table. Delicate negotiations had always been something more within her mother's purview, but Emily had long ago learned that one has to give a little to get something in return.

To that end, she smiled at the silent redhead and said, "Sorry about the other day. It's been a hell of a week."

Elizabeth frowned, opened her mouth, and then shot an outraged glare at Kate, who contrived to look innocent. Making a face, the redhead sighed and said, "Yeah, okay. Sorry I was such a bitch about it. I guess I have issues with authority figures." Extending her hand, she said, "No hard feelings?"

Taking it, Emily was pleasantly surprised to find the grip strong but not overpowering. "Of course not, as long as you feel the same." She smiled, and then laughed out loud at the brief look of consternation that flitted across Elizabeth's face. "Well, now that we've gotten that out of the way, what brings you ladies and gentleman," she said, giving Dersk a quick wink. "Out to this part of town?"

It took until after the waiter had brought their meals before the shock of Kate's rather droll answer to Emily's question wore off.

JJ was the first to speak.

"Miss Lockley, I really don't think you should be involving yourself in such a dangerous endeavor."

For some reason, the young man at the end of the table thought that was highly amusing, because he let out a strangled sound that could have been laughter if he hadn't fought so hard to contain his mirth.

"Agent Jareau, you may or may not be aware of this, but I was a homicide detective for many years. In fact, I've even worked with Agent Prentiss, though she probably doesn't remember me. I was still a rookie at the time."

"I remember you," interjected Emily softly. "In fact, I was surprised to see you as a civilian, Lockley. You seemed like you were married to the badge."

Kate shrugged noncommittally. "Shit happens. Look, the point is, we know this town better than you do, and we know the people. I think we should work together. Pool our resources."

"I don't think-" Emily stopped mid sentence when she felt the gentle pressure of JJ's foot against her leg.

"Miss Lockley-"

"Kate. You are neither English nor a butler."

JJ grinned. "Kate, then. As much as we would appreciate your insight, you must understand that apprehending a murderer is not the same as locating a deadbeat dad or proving spousal infidelity. Especially in regards to this suspect – Michelle Coleman will not surrender easily."

"Easy or hard, she'll still go down. I'm not afraid of her," said Elizabeth.

The tone of the redhead's voice made every hair on the back of Emily's neck prickle in atavistic dread. There was something very dark and primal about the other woman that made the older agent want to capture and cage it before it metamorphosed into some monstrous evil that made Bundy and Dahmer look tame.

Softly, the brunette agent said, "You should be. Michelle Coleman has likely murdered eight healthy men." She gave the redhead a quick, dismissive glance. "You wouldn't be much of a challenge."

Bristling, Elizabeth fisted her hands, causing the muscles in her arms to flex and jump. "I'm stronger than I look," she growled. "I'd be happy to prove it to you, Agent Prentiss."

For one, wildly insane moment, Emily considered it. Oh I wish. God knows it would probably do me a world of good to go a few rounds with her. If nothing else, maybe I could figure out why she grinds on my every nerve. Before she could respond, though, Kate leaned over to softly speak to her partner, effectively interrupting the conversation.

Out of the corner of her eye, Emily watched as JJ's hand slid across the table and casually snitched a fry from her plate. The gesture was so absurd that she chuckled throatily. "JJ, if you want fries, why don't you order them?"

At the brunette agent's words, the sullen look on Elizabeth's face vanished. "Oh my God, yours does it to you, too?" Elizabeth laughed at the outraged expression on Kate's face and said, "I swear, it doesn't matter what I order, if I don't get fries, she pouts for the rest of the day."

Both blondes had matching sets of crimson ears and while Kate continued to appear mildly irritated, JJ just shrugged and said, "They taste better when they're stolen."

Everyone chuckled and then the young man, who had been mostly silent, said, "Does this mean you'll stop the hissy fitting and act like adults now? Sheesh, and they say men enjoy their pissing matches! I will never understand you hu-er-people."

"Shut up, Snake Boy," said Kate and Elizabeth simultaneously, which earned them a rolled-eye glare from their secretary.

Toward the end of the meal, Emily's phone rang. Excusing herself, she went outside to take the call.

"Prentiss. Anything?" Agent Hotchner sounded as weary as Emily felt.

"Aside from a couple of overzealous private detectives with 'glory hound' written in bold letters on their foreheads? Nothing." Emily ran a hand through her hair, and sighed. "I'm beginning to wonder if Coleman hasn't fled to Canada."

"Garcia has been watching the usual egress points and hasn't come up with anything suspicious. What about the PIs? Who are they? How much do they know?"

Emily glanced into the café, smiling as she spotted JJ showing Dirk her badge. The Bureau encouraged its agents to put on a good face for potential recruits, and the young man was exactly the kind of person the FBI employed.

"Kate Lockley, Elizabeth Blaine, and Dirk Gorlusky – we interviewed Blaine a couple of days ago. Their investigations have pretty much paralleled ours. How they got the information, they won't say, but they claim to have known about Coleman's identity for at least a day longer than us. Lockley said that she was going to call in a tip, but then she saw the press conference and figured we already knew. She didn't add too much more, but she did suggest that we check out the dressing room at Club 88."

"Do you think they found something?"

"I don't know, Sir. But I've worked with Kate Lockley before, and she was a good cop. I don't know what made her leave the force, but she was pretty adamant about her partner's innocence the other day, and instead of hiring a lawyer, she put her agency to work looking for the UnSub. That says something, I'm just not sure what."

"All right, I'll send Morgan and Reid over to the club. Why don't you and JJ find out if Lockley or Blaine has any contacts we might have missed? Meanwhile, I'll get Garcia to dig into Lockley's background. We already know Blaine's clean."

"Okay. I'll call if we come up with anything." Ending the conversation, Emily pocketed her phone and headed back into the café. Now, I wonder if JJ remembers the deputation protocols.

It turned out that JJ did, in fact, remember the proper protocols. After observing the forms, the four women headed over to the Black Water while Gorlusky took a taxi back to the investigator's office. With access to the agency's computer, he would be free to connect with their 'net contacts while the others pounded some more pavement.

Though not a perfect solution, Emily had to admit that Kate was good at her job when they were let in to the Black Water without complaint. The club had just opened and was rapidly filling with an array of heavily made up individuals of a mostly Goth persuasion. White faces, kohl-lined eyes, and jet-black hair made any variation from that theme stand out like a canary in a crowd of crows. Elizabeth, with her blood-colored hair, pale features, and distinctly predatory presence, stalked through the customers with the easy grace of a queen among her subjects.

Information, when it came, was less than enlightening. Most had seen or heard something about the suspect, and almost all remembered seeing Coleman perform as Sheila Divine. Following a slim lead, the four women exited the club with the intention of going to another, more mainstream establishment.

"There's a leather bar over on 12th, Doc and I will head over there and talk to some of the regulars. We'll call you if we find anything," said Kate.

"If you see Coleman, don't try anything heroic, just call us and keep her in sight, do you understand?" said Emily as they exchanged cell numbers.

Rolling her eyes, Kate replied, "You know that I have a permit to carry concealed, and I have cuffs, right? If I have to, I'll make a citizen's arrest. I'm not letting her get away just because you don't want to have to deal with the extra paperwork."

Emily laughed wryly. "All right, Lockley, but if you get yourself shot playing hero, don't come crying to me."

"Kate doesn't cry when she gets shot, she curses like a sailor, but she never cries. That's reserved for sappy movies, good books, and great sex," said Elizabeth, who then proceeded to run like hell for her car at Kate's outraged squawk.

"She is so dead," muttered Kate as she followed her partner.

JJ watched them go and then said, a bit wistfully, "I think the team would probably implode messily if I said something like that about you."

"Are you kidding? Morgan would live off that for days, and Garcia would throw a party. Reid would probably dredge up some wild factoid about how tears are another form of orgasm. Rossi would give me that oh-so superior look of his and then chuckle softly while Hotch would glare at all of us like we were slightly disobedient children," Emily said, finishing her statement with a wry laugh that made JJ smile fondly.

"You make it almost sound worth it." They headed over to their SUV. While they were inside Black Water, the sun had set, clothing the city in the gray shadows of dusk. Breezes carrying the chill of the lake had JJ reaching for the jacket she'd stowed in the back seat.

Winking teasingly, Emily said, "Well, if you're going to do it, you should probably conduct a little bit of field research before you make such a bold statement."

Caught in the act of putting on the jacket, JJ closed her eyes and chuckled softly. "I guess I deserved that one." As she climbed into the car, she said, "Oh, I meant to ask you earlier – do you really have a collar?"

Emily's smile grew wide and innocent. "Why? Do you want me to?"

Shaking her head, JJ said, "All right, all right, I surrender. You win, smart ass."

Laughing, Emily put the car in gear and pulled into traffic.

Part 5

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