Chapter 9: Fin de Partie
The guilty one is not he who commits the sin, but the one who causes the darkness.
- Victor Hugo
The basement walls were solid concrete, but at least the flick of a light switch provided a steady fluorescent glow and they were able to stow their flashlights. A long, narrow hallway offered several closed doors along its length, and Jackson and Hotch shared a rueful glance. Plenty of places for two UnSubs to hide, the look said.
They pressed their backs together and made their slow way down the corridor. The first door was on Hotch's side, and he kicked it in with ease. The room proved to be a narrow, empty closet.
Jackson, though small at only 5'3" , handled the first door on her side with little trouble as well. She stepped just inside a dark room and scanned it quickly before pronouncing it clear.
Another door on Hotch's side: empty.
Jackson's next room: empty.
One more door loomed, and both agents braced themselves, sure that trouble waited behind the final panel. Hotch pushed it open, and they burst through, weapons ready. They scanned the room, tensed for danger, but it, too, was empty.
"That was rather anticlimactic," Jackson remarked, relaxing her stance but not holstering her weapon.
"No kidding," Hotch replied with a frown, turning a circle in the center of the room. "I was expecting...something."
"Did we miss a door?"
"I don't think so. Maybe we missed something upstairs?" he wondered, starting toward the door.
"It was really dark," she said, stating the extremely obvious.
"True," he replied, voice heavy with irony. He frowned, stepped closer to the wall, examining the poured concrete. "I guess now we know where all the money went." He turned to her. "Tanya could be down here somewhere. We should look more carefully."
"He has this basement for a reason," she agreed.
His back was to the door, and all the hinges were very well cared for, so it was only natural that he didn't hear anything even so close. He saw her face change, though, a minute tightening of muscles under smooth skin, a change so tiny that only someone trained as he was would have noticed it. He tensed instantly, but something about the look she gave him told him to stay still, don't move, whatever you do don't fucking move. He wondered inanely if she were using some sort of mind whammy on him, but then decided that he didn't give a damn if it meant the difference between his blood being safely in his body where it belonged or pooled out on the concrete floor, like Lacey's in that alley.
"I told you we had company," a voice said. Hotch recognized Lloyd Henry, and he closed his eyes briefly, cursing himself. "Don't you want to say hello to our company?" Henry was saying.
Jackson still had her weapon in hand, a black gun in a dark, dark room. Henry hadn't seen it yet, and he hadn't seen Hotch, and she wanted to keep it that way. She kept her eyes on him, concentrating all her attention on his face, not daring to look away.
"I'm sorry," Henry told her. "She's shy."
"She?" Jackson croaked through a throat suddenly gone desert dry.
Henry presented what he was holding, and it was all she could do not to shriek at the sight of Lacey Middleton's severed head cradled in Lloyd Henry's loving arms. Hotch saw the alarming change on her face, the sudden pallor, the greenish tinge, and a terrible, sick feeling washed over him.
"Oh, Lloyd," Jackson whispered, "what have you done?"
"Me?" he said, sounding genuinely puzzled. "I didn't do it. Josh did. He did it for me. I just wanted her to be with me forever."
"But, Lloyd, you told me you cared for her. Josh hurt her. He sliced her throat and cut her into pieces. Look at her, Lloyd; that's not the woman you cared for."
He looked down at the head, his face a hideous parody of affection. "She's so beautiful," he cooed. "Isn't she beautiful?"
Hotch shifted just a little, hoping to turn toward them, but he was too close. Henry's head snapped up, and Jackson coughed to cover the sound. "I'm sorry, Lloyd. This basement is cold. Can we go upstairs?"
His blue eyes narrowed. "You didn't come here alone. I heard you. Where's Agent Hotchner?"
She blinked at him innocently. "We split up. I'm not sure where he is. You didn't see him?"
"You're very pretty," Henry said, stepping closer. "Your features don't quite match, do they? That's what makes your face interesting. You have an interesting face. An audience would enjoy looking at that face, I think."
"Thank you, Lloyd," she said, trying her best to smile. "Why don't you put, um, Lacey down so we can talk more comfortably?"
"I thought you'd be perfect as Eliza Doolittle."
"Yes, definitely. Can you do a cockney accent?" He was moving steadily closer, and as he spoke Hotch shifted, moving his hand toward his holster. He felt like an idiot for putting his weapon away, but he would flog himself over it later.
"Um, maybe. I don't know. Do you think My Fair Lady or Pygmalion? I've always been a fan of Shaw. Do you like Saint Joan?"
Henry's eyes went so wide she could see the whites all around, even in the pale light from the hall. "You know Shaw?" he gasped.
"Oh, yes," she told him. "I know Beckett, too. Tell me, Lloyd. Why Endgame?"
He chuckled, smiling slyly. "Oh, that was clever, wasn't it? I got Josh here! He came straight here when he saw me pick up Tanya last night."
Jackson frowned. "I don't understand. Tonight's closing, right? I mean, it would be."
"Yes," Henry confirmed, "but I always take the girl to the show the night before closing, then Josh collects her for me when I go on closing. So I picked Tanya up last night, and Josh was going to collect her tonight. Only he can't. I already collected her!"
Her eyes flicked toward Hotch, a barely perceptible movement. "Is Tanya...like Lacey, Lloyd?" she asked carefully.
"Oh, no, not yet," he said carelessly. "Maybe I won't keep her. She's not as interesting as you. I could stare at you for a long, long time."
His words chilled her more than she would ever admit to anyone, and she held herself tight, struggling not to shudder. He was looking at her like a bug under a microscope, and she did not want to hear his thoughts. Henry was unarmed, and Hotch was standing right fucking there, but she felt fear creeping up her spine on tiny, icy mouse feet. She opened her mouth, searching for words, struggling to find something, anything to say that would keep him talking and give Hotch more time, but her mind felt leaden with sudden terror and revulsion, and she couldn't make a sound.
Sensing some change in his newest agent, realizing some event horizon had been reached within her, Hotch knew it was time to act. "That's enough, Henry," he said, pressing his weapon against the side of the man's neck.
Jackson, breaking free from her paralysis as quickly as she had fallen into it, raised her weapon, pointing it at Henry's chest. "Put her down, Lloyd," she said, her voice soft and deadly. "Put her down, or I swear I will shoot your ass right now."
His face suddenly pale and glistening with sweat, Henry slowly bent, placing Lacey's head carefully on the concrete floor. Hotch cuffed him before he straightened, reading him his rights in a tight, efficient tone.
"Is Brady here, Lloyd?" Jackson demanded, holstering her weapon.
He glared at her. "He's going to take her," he said. "He's going to take her and it won't be for me! He'll do it for himself."
"I think that's the least of your problems," Hotch said. "Are Tanya and Brady in this building?"
Letting out a petulant sigh, Henry nodded. "There's a trapdoor in the closet down the hall. I'll show you."
"Yes, you will," Hotch confirmed grimly, leading him out into the corridor. Henry indicated the closet Hotch had first opened, and with a thrust of his head pointed out a small switch that almost completely blended into the wall. In their tense, nervous state, the two agents had missed it.
"Brady's in there with Tanya?" Jackson asked in a low voice.
"Yes," Henry said. "You should hurry."
"Jackson, take Henry upstairs. I'll go get Tanya," Hotch told her.
"No way," she replied instantly. At his look, she shook her head stubbornly. "You said we weren't to split up, and you were right. What if I had been alone in that room? Or if you had? It could've been messy. We're going up together, and then we're coming back down together. Hopefully with backup."
His expression showed exasperation, but she thought she caught a gleam of growing respect in his dark, hooded eyes. "Alright," he said at last. "Hurry up."
They ascended quickly, and just as they reached the theatre's back entrance, Hotch's phone rang. Leaving one hand on Henry, he reached for it. "Hotch." A pause as he listened. "Gideon, we're still at the theatre. We've got Henry; he says Brady is here with Tanya." Another pause. "How long?" He glanced back at Jackson. "Good. We'll wait for you." He hung up and holstered his phone. "Reid and Gideon are on their way. They'll be here in just a minute."
She relaxed a fraction. "Excellent. Let's hope the Detroit P.D. is as timely in their response."
Jackson wasn't disappointed: as they rounded the building, police cars were pulling up. As Hotch had requested, their lights and sirens were turned off, but they were moving. A door opened and Detective Steen, Jurczak's partner, tumbled out.
"Agent Hotchner, Dr. Jackson. I see you found our lost boy!"
"Oh yeah," Jackson agreed, "and he has been up to no good."
After handing Henry off to an officer, Hotch filled the detective in on what they'd seen inside the building, and what Henry had told them. Steen rubbed his balding white head in consternation. "Jesus H.R. Christ. What a clusterfuck. We goin' in?"
"As soon as Gideon and Reid get here. That should be them now," he said, nodding toward the black SUV pulling up behind the barricade of blue and whites.
The two agents hurried over, donning vests as they came. "Hotch, Jack, Detective," Gideon greeted them shortly. "From what Henry told Agents Hotchner and Jackson, there's a woman's life at stake here," he said to Steen. "We need to move quickly. Let's take a small team, go in fast. I don't want any bullets flying unless the UnSub makes a direct threat to the hostage or to one of us. Ok?"
Steen nodded. "Sounds good to me. Three of my guys, your team. Let's hit it."
"Hotch, Jack, you've been in there. Take point."
Without further ado they were off, weapons out and pointed toward the sidewalk. They rounded the building, hit the back door, and made their cautious way through the darkened theatre. They took the stairs in teams of two, keeping low, and Hotch and Jack both called an all clear as they hit the bottom.
"Cover me," Hotch said into his radio as he moved toward the closet. The team arrayed behind him, weapons pointed at the small, unassuming room. He reached in and flipped the switch, raising his weapon as the back wall began to swing open. All was silent and dark.
"Joshua Brady!" Hotch called into the space. "FBI and Detroit P.D.! Release the woman and come out now!"
Silence again, in a strange repeat of earlier events.
Hotch and Jackson exchanged a wordless glance, and they both began to inch forward, shining their lights into the dark space. They had only gone a few feet when she held up a hand, halting the team's progress. "Did you hear that?" she whispered to Hotch.
He narrowed his eyes, listening hard, and after a second he nodded. "Tanya," he breathed.
"Tanya, can you hear me?" Jackson called. "My name is Elliot Jackson. I talked to you yesterday, out on the street. I'm here to help you. Make a noise if you can. We're going to help you." There was another whimper, louder this time, and a strange sound like something muffled hitting metal. The rest of the team fanned out behind them, shining their lights around the room.
"There," Gideon called, his beam illuminating the far wall and a bizarre tableau.
"What in the name of all that's holy...?" Steen murmured, mouth agape.
"Endgame," Reid said. "He staged it after all. That must be Brady."
The man propped against the wall must, indeed, be Brady, but he was quite dead. He was tied to a ladder, Clov's ladder from the play, and his throat was slit like a red, gaping grin below his chin. A wheelchair sat in the center of the scene, empty, awaiting Henry's return. Two trashcans were set against the back wall. On one was a severed head in a shabby old wig.
"Nell," Jackson said, illuminating the head with her light. Hamm's mother, as played by one of Henry and Brady's victims.
Tanya was in the other bin, alive but bound. She, too, wore a wig, this one in a man's style. "Nagg," Reid said, shaking his head. Hamm's father.
"Why are we just...?" Angrily, Jackson shoved her weapon into its holster and rushed toward Tanya. "Are you hurt?" she asked softly, pressing a hand against the girl's shoulder a moment before carefully untying her. What she saw when she touched Tanya's skin made her flinch, but she kept her gaze steady.
Gideon and Hotch joined them a moment later and helped her pull the girl from the large trash bin. Her legs were so cramped she couldn't stand, so Hotch carried her from the room as Gideon called for a medic.
Elliot was left standing in the center of Henry's sick tableau, surrounded by cops but feeling alone. "'No one that ever lived ever thought so crooked as we,'" she quoted softly. Shaking her head, she turned away, walking slowly from the room and the basement to join the rest of her team above ground.
Before I forget...thanks to Courtney and her query of, "Why do so many people keep severed heads in their fridges?" for the inspiration here. I did it just for her!
Some reviews going into the very end ending would be lovely, my dear readers. :)