Chapter 4: What Spencer Said
I understand that you are going through a hard time,
But what you need to recognize I'm in one, too.
You say that maybe we should take some time apart,
But you go your way;
I'll get by, and you'll go get high.
You just see if I mind!
-Better Than Ezra, "Get You In"
The sweats had stopped thanks to his break in the men's room, but now Reid was exhausted. The day was only half over, but he felt like he'd run a marathon. Things had gotten bad in Houston, the worst yet, and it was the first time he'd used while working. Since then, the temporary serenity and euphoria brought on by the Dilaudid had become necessary to making it through his day. The downside, of course, was the constant cycle between highs and lows. It wore him out.
He trailed after J.J. and Jack like a droopy puppy, sulking behind his dark glasses and avoiding eye contact with either of them. He watched as the two women exchanged looks, no doubt communicating in that silent language all women were mysteriously gifted with at birth. For all his brain power, girl code was one language to which he was not privy.
After his screw up in Houston - scaring that poor woman at the shelter half to death, reading Jack the riot act when she'd called him on it - he decided it was probably better to hang back and let them do the talking. Though the employees at the various bookstores and bars remembered the victims, they had little to offer in the way of enlightenment.
As they left yet another café none the wiser, Jackson let out a frustrated sigh. "This seems to be a bust."
"Not necessarily," Reid countered. "We know our victims were active in the social scene. It means the UnSub wasn't limited to picking them out at the school or the park."
It wasn't that she minded the disagreement - on the contrary, it helped her think, get a clear picture; learn. What made the vein in her temple twitch was the tone he used. It was new, and it made her want to strangle him a little. "Good point," she said in a carefully controlled voice. "The fact that these kids were so visible - the type who would be missed quickly - shows his continued escalation."
"So you think he's choosing these particular victims because they're popular, not in spite of it?" J.J. asked.
"In part," Jackson replied with a slow, thoughtful nod. "I suspect there's more to it, but their visibility is a component. What do you think, Reid?"
He shrugged. Though the sunglasses obscured his eyes, she knew he wasn't really paying attention. "It's plausible," he said at last, sounding largely uninterested.
Jackson and J.J. shared another of those damn looks before the dark-haired woman turned away in exasperation. "Fine," she muttered under her breath, "be that way."
"Let's go talk to Michelle's roommate," J.J. suggested. "She's the one who reported her missing."
Jackson opened her mouth to agree when J.J.'s phone rang. As she listened to J.J.'s end of the conversation, her heart sank. The media liaison hung up and shook her head. "That was Hotch. He wants you guys to continue without me. Gideon says we're ready for a press conference."
Jackson glanced at Reid, smiled. "No problem. Boy genius and I can handle it, can't we?"
He blinked at the two women a moment before letting out a little snort and stomping away.
They watched him go, and Jackson turned to J.J. with a rueful tilt to her lips. "Is that a yes or a no?"
"Are you sure you'll be ok?" J.J. asked quietly, her pretty face creased in concern.
"Yeah, it's fine." She flicked her fingers, waving it away. "Hotch obviously wants us together for a reason, so I just...deal."
"Does he know how bad it's gotten?"
Jackson fidgeted. Glanced down the sidewalk at Reid. Back at J.J. "No," she finally admitted.
"Tell him, Jack. I mean it."
"Are you coming or what?" Reid yelled from half a block away.
"Duty calls," she said to J.J., rolling her eyes. "See you later."
"Good luck," she replied with a little grimace.
"Thanks," Jackson said, shooting Reid an apprehensive glance. "I think I'll need it." Casting J.J. a quick wave, she hurried to join the other agent. "Ok, ok, I'm coming. Keep your pants on."
"I wasn't really planning--"
"An expression, Spencer. What are you, a Vulcan?"
His face scrunched, and he hurried to follow her as she rushed past. "I'm not quite that literal," he griped.
She eyed him as he fell in beside her. He had his hands buried in his pockets, his shoulders hunched. It was a classic defensive pose, and she decided to steer clear. "Garcia sent the roommate's class schedule," she said, moving the conversation into less shark-infested waters. She consulted her BlackBerry a moment. "She's in Fundamentals of Design right now, assuming she went to class at all. What do you think, check the class or their room first?"
"Room," he answered shortly. "She probably skipped."
"Right-o. She lives in Colben Hall, the main building. Room 217."
Back at the station the rest of the team was busy assembling the profile. Gideon had returned from the crime scene to consult with Hotch and Morgan, and they were awaiting Reid and Jackson's report from the school before presenting it to the locals.
"These kids were well known," J.J. was saying. "Everyone we talked to knew their faces, names, everything."
"He's choosing popular couples who are, on the surface at least, very happy," Morgan said, scribbling on the dry erase board as he spoke.
"On the surface," Gideon repeated thoughtfully. "That might be the key. We'll have a better idea once Reid and Jack talk to the roommate."
"You're thinking he stalked them long enough to see the chinks in their relationships?" Hotch said.
"Yes. He's patient, but not so patient he's willing to wait for a couple who might not accept his ultimatum."
Morgan tapped the dry erase marker against the table as he considered. "He's young and fit enough to carry these kids fairly long distances, but he's old enough to wait them out. Plus he's obviously had time to get everything just right."
"He's someone who blends in," Hotch said. "A maintenance man or, if he works at the park, a ranger or volunteer."
"He could be both," Gideon remarked. "He works at the school, and he volunteers at the park in his free time."
Morgan jotted that down on the board. "He obviously has a van or closed-bed truck, something he can transport them in."
"This guy is smart," Gideon mused, rubbing his hands as he studied the evidence board. "And he's not interested in their physical suffering. It's the psychological anguish he enjoys."
"Why doesn't he let the other one go?" J.J. asked. "If he enjoys their emotional pain so much, surely living with the memory of killing your lover would be the ultimate torture."
"I seriously doubt he wears a mask at any point, and he's too careful to leave witnesses," Hotch pointed out.
"It's possible he did, though," Gideon said. "Has Garcia had any luck with those missing persons reports?" he asked Morgan.
"I haven't heard from her," he answered. "She said she'd call as soon as she found something."
"If he originally let one go, the crimes probably went unreported. That would be part of the deal," Hotch said. "Morgan, ask Garcia to look at school records - any students who abruptly dropped out mid-semester. Look for average students, not the sports stars or potential valedictorians."
The good-looking black man nodded and turned away to make the call. As he faced the squad room he caught sight of a familiar lanky figure moving their way. "Here's Reid," he said over his shoulder, "but Jack's not with him."
"Oh no," J.J. murmured.
"What?" Hotch asked, dark brows drawing together over deep, penetrating brown eyes.
J.J. sighed, shook her head. "They were..." She hesitated, tried again. "Reid was kind of being a jerk, and I could tell Jack was getting frustrated."
"You don't think he killed her and stashed the body, do you?" Morgan asked with the flash of a smile.
Hotch glared, instantly quelling the taller man's mirth. Suitably chastened, he bent his head and started dialing Garcia. "I had hoped E.J. would come to me if Reid's behavior became more than she could handle," the team's leader said.
"I told her to talk to you. She said she was dealing with it," J.J. explained.
"Let's just ask Reid, shall we?" Gideon suggested with a thin, sphinx-like curve to his mouth.
The young man in question popped his head into the room to find the entire team staring at him. His face scrunched. "What?" he asked, sliding hands into his pockets.
"Where's Jack?" Gideon asked gently.
"Oh," Reid replied, shrugging, expression going smooth. "I just assumed she came back here."
"You assumed?" Hotch demanded as the lines of disapproval drawn on his well-made face deepened.
"I didn't ask," Reid replied easily. "She had a hissy fit and stormed off. I figured she'd come back here to pout."
"What did you say to her?" J.J. asked, aghast.
"Um." He suddenly became engrossed in the images on the evidence board.
"Spencer," Gideon prompted.
He let out a long-suffering sigh. "I criticized her ability to question witnesses."
"Criticism has never bothered her before. She knows she's not a trained profiler, and she likes the opportunity to learn," Hotch said in that flat, stern voice all his agents had learned to fear.
Reid fidgeted. "Um. It was sort of...strident...criticism? In front of the witness...?"
"You did what?" Hotch barked as J.J. threw up her hands in exasperation and Gideon rubbed his short, graying hair.
"Look," Reid defended, "Michelle's roommate was holding out. I knew she wasn't telling the whole truth, but Jack wouldn't read her."
"What did you say, Spencer?" Gideon asked, brows raised.
"I told her..." He squirmed as it suddenly hit him how incredibly inappropriate he'd been. He let out a little breath. "I said if she refused to use her ability to help us, then she wasn't of any use to this team."
Silence fell, hard and echoing.
"Morgan," Hotch said, not taking his fierce, disappointed gaze off his youngest agent, "go find her. Spencer, you and I will talk later. Right now we're going to focus on this case, and you're going to remember that this is a team. No one is more valuable than anyone else."
Reid, flooded with shame and humiliation, nodded slowly. Morgan hung up from his conversation with Garcia - after listening to a few choice words about Reid's behavior - and quickly left to find their wayward colleague.
Wow. Stoned Spencer is a stinker.Let me know your thoughts and/or opinions with a review, kind readers!