Chapter 2: A Brief BAU Road Trip
Look like the innocent flower,
But be the serpent under it.
-William Shakespeare, Macbeth 1.5
Earthshine, Mississippi (en route)
The team had landed in Natchez ("Hey, guys, did you know that before the Civil War, Natchez, Mississippi had the most per capita millionaires of any city in America?" Reid had quizzed them as the plane touched down.) a few hours earlier and were now packed into a Bureau-issue SUV; the local Field Office had only been able to provide one; heading east to Earthshine. Situated well off the river, the town had enjoyed neither Natchez' pre-war prosperity nor the recent boom of riverboat casinos. It also hadn't fallen into faded-glory decay like Natchez, or been hit by the horror that had been Hurricane Katrina, and overall it had puttered along in its small, swampy corner of Mississippi, barely lifting its slightly weathered head to acknowledge the outside world.
"Insular," Prentiss summed up succinctly.
"Typical small town," J.J. remarked with a roll of her eyes.
"Maybe, but maybe not," Hotch said as he studied the file. "Small towns in the South are different than small towns anywhere else. This place isn't much changed from before the Civil War."
"Or, hell, before the Revolutionary War," Rossi said.
Morgan cleared his throat and shifted uncomfortably in the driver's seat as they sped past yet another homestead proudly flying the Mississippi state flag and the Confederate flag – which, in Morgan's opinion, was pretty redundant, since the state flag had the old Stars and Bars as part of its design. Prentiss caught his expression in the rearview mirror, and their reflected eyes met in a brief moment of solidarity.
The moment passed before the others could notice, and both agents turned their attention back to the case.
"Hey, look at this!" Reid said. He shoved the map at Prentiss. "There's a Prentiss County in Mississippi!" He was grinning from ear to ear, like he'd just discovered penicillin, and the other agent peered at the map in apparent interest.
"Hum," she said after a moment, "there's also a Jefferson Davis County."
"I think the memo about the Civil War being long over got lost in the mail," Rossi said.
"Where are we going?" Prentiss asked as she passed the map back to Reid.
"Here," he said, pointing to a spot in the southern part of central Mississippi. "Chakchiuma County. The Chakchiuma were part of the Yazoo tribes, and they spoke a Choctaw-Chickasaw dialect. In fact, their name means 'Red Crawfish People' in the Choctaw language. Weird that the county named after them is way down here; their territory was in the northwest part of the state, on the upper part of the Yazoo River."
"Thank you, encyclopedia Reid," Morgan said.
"You're welcome," the young agent earnestly replied. "Ha! Look, Lawrence County is the only thing separating Lincoln County from Jefferson Davis County. He's like some sort of peacekeeper. The Switzerland of Mississippi," he said as he continued to study the map.
"He was a vampire, you know," Garcia said from the laptop J.J. was holding.
"Who was a vampire, Garcia?" Hotch asked, struggling to keep the impatience from his voice.
"Jefferson Davis. Wait, no, he wasn't a vampire; he was just working for the vampires. He was misled. Or power mad. Or both."
"What the hell have you been reading, baby girl?"
She sniffed. "Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter. It was a little violent, which gave me the whim-whams, even though you'd think I'd be used to it by now. But I really liked it. You guys should all read it. We could have a BAU book club!"
Reid's face was scrunched. "Garcia, Abraham Lincoln never hunted vampires. He served as a Congressman from Illinois before becoming the sixteenth—"
"I know, smarty. It was fun."
"If you think that blows his mind, give him an eyeful of Pride and Prejudice and Zombies," Prentiss said. "That'll really knock his mismatched socks off."
Reid had opened his mouth to comment, but Hotch forestalled him. "Let's focus, everyone. I seriously doubt Jefferson Davis was actually in league with vampires, or that Abraham Lincoln hunted them. Having said that, the rural Deep South often resents Federal involvement – an issue that does stem back to the Civil War. We'll need to tread lightly with the locals."
They all nodded agreement as Hotch fixed each of them with a carefully constructed Hotch-Glare. Satisfied that his team was all on the same page, he turned his attention back to the tech analyst, gesturing for J.J. to pass the laptop up to him from the backseat. "Have you found anything to connect the victims, Garcia?"
She shrugged. "It's a small town, sir. As we learned on our last case—"
"It's impossible not to connect the victims," Prentiss said.
"Bingo, my raven-haired beauty. Two of the victims used the same dry cleaner, all three of them shopped at the same grocery store, two went to the same church—"
"Wait," Reid said, "church?"
"Yep-o, young master sleuth. Carey Dixon and George Carpenter warmed pews every single Sunday at the First Baptist Church in Earthshine. They regularly contributed to the offering plate, and they were heavily involved in church activities."
"What about Audrey Dee? Was she a church-goer, too?" Rossi asked.
"Negative, sir, at least as far as I can tell. Audrey Dee was the second grade teacher at Chakchiuma County's only school, and George Carpenter had a son there – but not in Audrey's class. Carey Dixon had no children."
Prentiss drummed impatient fingers against the armrest while Reid leaned over from the third seat in the very back of the SUV. "I guess our UNSUB doesn't consider church attendance much of an alibi against witchcraft," he said.
Rossi considered as he flipped through the file yet again. "Maybe he thought they were too demonstrative? That they were such dedicated church-goers because they were covering for something?"
Prentiss nodded agreement. "But the second victim didn't attend church at all, so he must have had another reason for choosing her."
"I'd like to know what caused these burns on Audrey Dee's buttocks," Rossi said. "The ME doesn't have a definite conclusion."
"Probably a heated stool." Reid's voice floated distractedly from the very back, and Rossi swiveled to see the team's youngest member absorbed in autopsy photos instead of his map.
"A…what?" J.J. said, gulping.
"No, no, he's right," Prentiss said. "Women were sometimes forced to sit on a white-hot iron stool as they were interrogated. From the location and pattern of these burns…" she trailed off and glanced up to see everyone (except Morgan) staring at her. "What? Hotch told us to do research. Reid's not the only one who can remember stuff."
"A white-hot stool," Garcia said in disgust. "This boy is one serious sicko."
"The worst part is he's drawing from actual history," Prentiss said, "and he really believes in what he's doing. To him this is important, sanctified work; he genuinely thinks he's doing something good."
Hotch drew in a long breath. "Alright. Morgan, you and Prentiss go to the most recent dump site after you drop the rest of us off at the Sheriff's office. Reid and Rossi, head to the morgue to get a look at George Carpenter's body. J.J., you and I will meet with the Sheriff." He paused. Then, "I don't think I need to remind you how quickly fear can turn even the most benevolent town into a frenzy of violence and persecution; we just saw it in Alaska. These people are going to be scared, and at least a few of them might wonder if our witch hunter is on to something. Let's keep our cool and set an example for local law enforcement."
I don't designate a pairing in this story, and there isn't one. It's 100% canon, which means if you squint the right way you can see pairings pretty much everywhere. Read it and match up whom you choose, just as you would do watching the show. :D