Chapter 4: Some Explanations
You know that you're my best friend;
That kind of love will never run out.
-Ari Hest, "When Everything Seems Wrong"
“Jack,” J.J. hailed her darker colleague as she emerged from Hotch’s office. “We’re set up in the conference room.” She paused to study Jackson’s face with a deep, concerned frown. “Are you ok? I heard Detective McCall was a friend.”
Jackson didn’t bother trying to drudge up a smile for J.J.’s benefit; she knew her friend would understand, and she wouldn’t be fooled by any attempt at bluffing. “I’m not sure it’s really hit me yet,” she admitted. “I just want to focus on the case; the sooner we find this UnSub, the sooner I can…” She hesitated; shrugged. “Mourn, I guess,” she finally decided.
J.J. gave her shoulder a quick, gentle squeeze. “If you need anything, case-related or otherwise, you know where I am. I mean it, Jack.”
“Thank you, J.J.,” she replied, genuinely touched by the other woman’s concern. “I appreciate it.”
The blonde’s lovely face lit with a warm smile. “Anytime. Now I’m off to call Spence; Hotch wants him kept up-to-date so we don’t have to waste time filling him in when he gets back.”
“Go on, mother hen; I’ll see you later.” The two exchanged parting smiles before Jackson smoothed her face and entered the conference room. Crime scene photos glared at her from every angle, and she let her eyes drift over them without focusing. Her gaze came to rest on Morgan and Detective Prentiss where they sat together at the round table. Files were strewn everywhere, and the two had obviously been in deep discussion about the details of the case.
“Hey, pint size,” Morgan greeted her as he looked up from an autopsy report.
Her mouth curved, and she was grateful that Morgan, at least, wasn’t treating her like she was about to lose her shit. “Morgan, Detective Prentiss,” she said with nods to each of them.
“Please,” Prentiss said, “if we all keep Agenting and Detectiveing each other, we’ll be here all day. Just plain ‘Prentiss’ is fine.”
“Prentiss,” Jackson replied, “everyone around here calls me ‘Jack.’ I’d like to apologize for my earlier behavior; I wasn’t exactly myself.”
The other woman smiled ruefully. “Neither was I. No apology needed. Taj always spoke very well of you.”
Jackson’s brows quirked in surprise. “Taj talked about me?”
“You’re Els, right? Yeah, he was constantly talking about how perceptive you are. He said…” She suddenly frowned as an old memory resurfaced. “He told me once that if anything ever happened to him, you were the person I should call. He said you would figure it out. I laughed at him when he said it. I’d almost forgotten that.”
“Detective McCall was in fear of his life?” Morgan asked.
Prentiss shrugged. “Not exactly. It was something he said sort of off-handedly. It’s been a while ago, and he hadn’t mentioned it since.”
Jackson’s face had gone tight; her mouth was a grim line. “Taj never did or said anything without a reason. He knew someone would come for him sooner or later.”
The detective drummed the end of her pen against the table. “She’s right,” she told Morgan with a slow, thoughtful nod. “Taj was always very precise. He wouldn’t have said something so paranoid-sounding unless he had a reason to be paranoid.”
Jackson’s legs suddenly felt weak, and her face was pale as she collapsed into one of the nearby chairs. “I think we need to go over the victim list very carefully, Prentiss. Taj was a spy; Alyssa Horton was CIA-trained. There are other connections; Taj wasn’t the only one who had reason to be paranoid.”
“You think the victims might be specific targets because of their involvement with the Agency?” Morgan asked, brows drawing together over wide brown eyes.
She shook her head. “It’s too early to tell. Two doesn’t make a pattern, just a funny coincidence.”
“Or the other victims could be camouflage,” Prentiss offered.
“Like in the Beltway Killer case,” Morgan agreed.
“There have only been two double murders, right?” Jackson asked.
Prentiss nodded, pointing out the crime scene photos on the board. “Alyssa Horton and John Dempsey, and now today, Taj and Alexander Nelson.”
“Dempsey was an employee at the convenience store and Nelson owned the café. It’s possible that the first two murders were simply to establish an MO that the UnSub could then use to cover up the killings of his actual targets – Horton and Detective McCall,” Morgan speculated.
“We should get the team together,” Jackson said. “Gideon and I need to explain a few things, I think, and we all need to be briefed on the case thus far.”
“Aren’t you down a man?” Prentiss asked. “Agent Reid?”
Morgan and Jackson exchanged a silent glance. “He’s…been ill,” Jackson answered. “He might be able to join us tomorrow. Hopefully.”
“It’d be nice,” Morgan said. “I think this case is gonna require everything we’ve got…and then some.”
Jackson let out a soft breath as her clear green gaze drifted over the photos once again. “I think you’re right, Morgan. And it scares the hell out of me.”
“The Silar Creek Slayer,” Gideon stated into the conference room’s expectant silence.
“Never heard of him,” Morgan remarked.
“No,” Jackson agreed, “you wouldn’t have. The whole thing was kept very quiet.” She shifted in her chair; took a sip of bitter coffee. “The Slayer killed four women over six months in 2002 and 2003. He stopped abruptly after the fourth victim, and he hasn’t been heard from since.”
“Do you have files for these cases?” J.J. asked.
Gideon shook his head. “Doubtful. Maybe buried somewhere at Langley. Who knows.”
“This was never a BAU case,” Hotch observed.
“I was consulting with the CIA at the time,” Gideon said. “I knew about the Slayer, but when I offered my expertise—”
“The Agency preferred to keep things in-house,” Jackson interrupted quietly. She told them everything she’d told Hotch and Gideon earlier, excepting the more esoteric parts of her high school’s curriculum. “I can get us files. It won’t be easy, but I can get them,” she concluded.
“What does any of this have to do with our case?” Prentiss asked.
“Taj was a lead investigator on the Silar Creek case,” Jackson told her. “Just before we were shut down, we theorized that the Slayer stopped killing because he was finished, simple as that.”
“Finished?” Hotch echoed. “E.J., you don’t really believe—”
“I don’t know what to believe, Hotch. All I know is I got into the investigation near the beginning; we never got anywhere through three other deaths; and then shortly after the fourth murder we were unceremoniously shut down.”
There was another silence as the group mulled this over. Finally, Morgan said, “What was the Slayer’s MO? Gun?”
“No,” Gideon said. “He garroted his victims from behind.”
“That’s totally different,” Morgan said. “Why would someone go from garroting to shooting? It doesn’t make sense.”
“I’m not saying our UnSub is the Slayer,” Jackson told him. “All I’m saying is Taj was involved in that case, and Alyssa was a student at Silar the same time as the Slayer’s victims.
“You were a student at Silar, too,” Hotch commented.
“Ye-es,” she agreed reluctantly, “but I graduated in ’99. That’s several years before the Slayer got started.”
“Still,” Morgan said. “If our current UnSub is going after people involved in that case, or is finishing what the Slayer originally started, then it’s possible you could be a target.”
“That’s a secondary concern right now,” she insisted.
“Is it?” Prentiss said. “Taj was apparently worried that someone might be after him; he said you would know why. What other cases did the two of you work together besides this one?”
“Taj wasn’t my partner. We were involved in some of the same cases, sure, but the only one we worked very closely was Silar Creek.”
Hotch rubbed his face in resignation. What a day. One agent out with hydromorphone withdrawal; another the possible target of an UnSub. The inevitable jurisdictional battles with the CIA. The strange tension between E.J. and Gideon. “Alright, here’s what’s going to happen. E.J., get us the Slayer files. I can make some calls, too, if I have to, and if all else fails, we’ll get Garcia on it. J.J., call Reid again. I want to know when he might be able to come in; we need him here. Gideon, work with Morgan and Detective Prentiss to start drawing up a preliminary profile on the shooter.”
He paused. Then, “I’m going to talk to Garcia; we need whatever she has on the victims, and I want her to start looking into the Silar Creek victims, too.”
“So you think the two cases are connected?” Gideon asked.
“I don’t know,” he admitted, “but we need to find out. E.J., I know you consider your own safety secondary to this case, but you are not to leave this office without an armed escort, do you understand me?”
She nodded with uncharacteristic meekness. “Yes, sir.”
He cast a grim glance around the room. “Alright, people; let’s get to work.”
So I sort of have this problem. I wrote the last chapter, but I'm a little stuck on the stuff to get from here to there. I have about three more chapters written, and I'm working on the rest, but it's being difficult.
Also, to answer Quentin2's question, the town of Silar Creek, the school, and the Silar Creek Slayer are all my creation. I wanted to give E.J. some back story. :)