Status: complete

All the Madness in the World


"The single biggest problem with communication is the illusion that it has taken place." – George Bernard Shaw


Being a profiler at the BAU had a long list of requirements, but the number one thing that they should always put in the job description was applicant must have virtually non-existent social life and prepare to marry the job. How JJ did it with a husband and a kid was beyond me. We’d been in the middle of a girl’s night (Garcia using her godmother duties as an excuse to buy a bunch of stuff for Henry) when the call came.

We were en route to Franklin, Alaska, where three people had died in less than a week. Given the small population of the town, this was a significant pattern and clearly pointed to our speciality: a serial killer. There were no connections between the victims and different kill methods were used every time, but the kill times were too close together for it to be multiple unsubs. Following the timeline we only had one more day until the killer would strike again, which meant we were all—even Garcia—flying over immediately.

Out of all the girls, JJ was the one I was least close with (despite the fact that I adored her), but she was the only one I’d chosen to confide in about what was going on with Hotch. She was, after all, married; I figured she could understand the scenario best and also keep it secret. She’d told me that what I was feeling was justified, and that there was nothing I could really do except wait for the feelings to pass and then talk it out. There was no use talking if I still felt sour, it would only make me feel worse.

“Morgan and Prentiss, I want you to work the crime scene—we need to know exactly how he ambushed his victims. Reid and Rossi, the bodies, find out what you can there. JJ and I will work victimology, and Natasha and Garcia I need you to look through the town records, find something we can use.”

“Yes sir.” Garcia said, jotting things down on a notepad. “I should let everybody know that reception in the area is unreliable at best. I’m giving everyone satellite phones for communication, I’ve already preprogrammed all your digits into the speed dial—guess who’s lucky number 7?”

She handed out the phones to everyone and I went through the contact list, memorizing which number directed to each person. We landed in Anchorage and had to transfer to another plane to make it to Franklin: it was a claustrophobically isolated town. It was so small that the police station doubled as the post office, leaving no room for us to set up and forcing us into an Inn across the street from the station. It felt odd, because it was such a small town we all were told to dress down and keep things casual to fit in better with the townspeople. I hadn’t dressed down for a job the entire time I’d been working at the BAU.

Garcia and I found our way into the Inn and started setting up the computers, her feeding me directions while simultaneously linking up to the database so she could gain access to the records. Her fingertips were flying across the keyboard as a pair of feet came clunking down the steps, which were wooden—just like everything else here.

“Whoa, what are you doing?” a boy asked, about 20 years old. He braced himself on the edge of the couch, looking at the screen with wonder.

“I’m trying to make this place a little less analog.” Penelope said, waiting for a beat as the silence filled up before she realized her mistake. “Sorry, I forget my hacker jokes aren’t funny. My name is Penelope, and this is Agent Natasha Reid, we’re from the FBI. It’s my job to connect my kick-ass system to your sheriff’s database so I can get the skinny on your neighbours…and you.”

“Or you could just ask us what you want to know.” He shrugged. “Isn’t it better to just talk to us directly than to look up our dirt secretly?”

“Unfortunately, our experience shows us that information never lies.” I offered. “People do. Your name would be?”

“Josh. That’s my mom, Carol. She owns the place.” Garcia nodded, cracking her fingers before showing him how she did her work, pulling up all his files and reading off facts about him. Where he went to school, where he used to live, that he moved back 3 weeks ago. He took a seat between us, watching the screen, and exchanging a few jokes with Penelope. “Guess I’m clean then, no dirt. That means I’m safe?”

“For now.” I smiled faintly before asking for some privacy for us to get back to work. He apologized and left us to our digging.

When the evening rolled around the team met up in the main area, Rossi loading up the fireplace as we exchanged what we’d found. Spencer explained that the way the bodies had been treated pointed to a psychopath. The case was tricky because it was such a small town that most people knew the kind of skills needed to kill, after growing up hunting and making fires, and that everyone pretty much knew everyone’s schedule.

“How are we supposed to keep everyone safe?” JJ asked.

“Sheriff, I highly suggest putting into effect a curfew until we catch the killer.” Hotch said. “Garcia, how’s it coming with town records?”

“We ran everyone through CODIS, nothing’s come up so far. I’m going to pull an all-nighter, should have background checks done by sunrise.”

“Okay. The rest of us should get some sleep, start fresh in the morning.”

“I’ve got four of the upstairs rooms available.” Carol said, holding a mug of tea at the outskirts of our circle.

“Uh, four?” Spencer asked as I realized what this meant.

“Looks like we’ll have to double up.” Hotch said.

“I’m not sleeping with Reid.” Derek said quickly, earning an offended look from Spencer. I met Hotch’s eyes by accident and quickly looked away, turning to my cousin.

“It’s okay Spence, I’ll bunk with you.” I said, getting to my feet as Garcia grabbed Derek’s hand and claimed dibbs on him. Emily and JJ grouped up, leaving Hotch and Rossi to take the room with two single beds. I told Garcia that I could stay up and help her but she promised she’d be fine and shooed me off to bed. Spence and I entered the room that would be ours, the floorboards creaking with every step. “It’ll be like when we were kids.”

“Something tells me we won’t be waking up to French toast.” He said, bags clunking on the floor. We took turns in the bathroom, changing and getting ready for an attempt at sleep. When I came out he was sitting cross-legged on the bed, one hand supporting his face as he stared at the case file. I joined him, the mattress squeaking as I moved. “We need to find some parameters to help narrow the suspect pool.”

“Well,” I began, tying back my hair. “We know the likelihood of the killer being female, and to ambush the victims they’d have to be, what—between 16 and 60?”

We continued this well into the night, neither of us willing to call it quits as we bounced ideas off of each other. When we realized we had pretty much reached our limit we lapsed into recalling events from our childhood. The time aunt Di let us camp in the backyard (where Spencer first started teaching me about Astronomy), the first time we pulled an all-nighter building the most epic of blanket forts, and the time I made a make-shift splint out of branches and a yo-yo string when he’d fallen out of a tree during a family vacation.

The reminiscing was cut short by an alarming sound. Our room was the only one on the back side of the building, putting us closest to the forest the property backed onto. The window was open a crack to let in some fresh air, and through it I heard a scream.

“Did you hear that?” My body stiffened as I strained to catch more noise. “It’s Garcia. Go get the others.”

I grabbed my gun and pulled on my shoes, running down the stairs before he’d even gotten out of the room. My heart was racing and I tried not to think about the worst case scenario. I tried not to imagine Penelope’s dead body. The back of the property was full of trailers and old mobile homes, probably doubling as a storage ground for the town. When I turned the corner I saw Penelope kneeling by a body, tears streaming down her face as her hands shook.

“Which way did he go?” I demanded, drawing my weapon and waiting for her response. She was too shaken up and I had to ask again. “Penelope, which way !?”

She pointed off to the right and I followed after, flicking off the safety on my gun and wishing I’d remembered a sweater. I caught sight of a figure moving into the woods and I sped after him, running as fast as I could while trying to keep a visual. But as soon as I entered the tree line, my sight was gone. The branches were so thick that what little light there was couldn’t get through. I stopped for a moment, keeping my breathing quiet as I tried to listen for footsteps. It was silent.

My eyes still hadn’t adjusted to the dark but I tried looking anyways, heart pounding out a beat in my chest. A twig cracked off to my left and I spun to face the sound, wincing as a gun was fired and something grazed across my temple. I jumped away immediately, instinctively clasping a hand to my head while trying to see the unsub. Every part of me wanted to go running into the dark, desperate to catch this guy for getting remotely close to Penelope; but the logical side of me knew that he’d gone for the kill shot. If I hadn’t turned my head, it would have gone straight through my skull and I’d be dead. As furious as it made me, I had to back off.

“Tash?” Derek was calling my name from outside the forest. “Natasha!?”

“I’m here.” I called back, walking towards the sound of his voice while casting nervous looks over my shoulder. He looked relieved only for a second until he caught sight of my head. “I’m fine, Derek, relax.”

“Natasha, look at yourself.” He said wide eyed. I looked down and noticed for the first time the fountain of blood streaming down from my wound. He tried to pick me up but I insisted on walking back, promising that it was just a graze: head wounds always bled a lot. I winced at the looks I got when we made it inside, and forced Derek to go tend to a shaken Penelope. I knew just by her face that the person she’d been sitting beside didn’t make it. Spencer was on the phone calling the doctor as Emily gave me a towel to press against my head.

“Here, let me.” Hotch moved to hold pressure but I pushed his hands away. He stood frozen and I tried to ignore the look on his face.

“I’m fine.” I said curtly, turning to Spencer. “I don’t need a doctor, I just need a bandage, it just grazed me Spence.”

Derek was trying to get Penelope to answer a few questions but they got into an argument and she stormed off. JJ promised to go up and check on her when she’d had some time alone. He turned his attention to me next, and I rolled my eyes.

“Why didn’t you wait for back up?” He said sternly.

“I didn’t know how long it would be before you guys showed up, I didn’t want him to get away. You would have done the same thing, Morgan. Don’t give me this talk.”

“You could have been killed.”

“Wouldn’t be the first time, sweetheart.” I wiped some of the blood from my face and neck before turning over to a clean side and pressing again. “What do we know about the victim?”

“Morgan and I talked to him earlier today, he was pretty vocal about wanting to leave.” Emily said.

“But this was different, we should have had another day. And he just happened to kill right outside the Inn we’re staying at?” I said. “I don’t think that’s a coincidence. He’s saying he’s not scared of us. He’s evolving.”

“Judging from the wounds in his stomach I think he took a trophy of some sort, probably a liver or spleen. We’re probably looking at someone with abandonment issues.” Spencer added as the doctor (who doubled as the mortician) entered in a bathrobe and slippers. He came up and started tending to me despite my insisting that I was fine.

“Alright, it’s getting close to morning. Let’s gather everyone and go over what we know.”


Hotch and the sheriff had gone to talk to the principal at the local school about any children that may have exhibited homicidal tendencies at an early age. She came up with one kid who showed a little too much enthusiasm hunting: Josh, the tavern owner’s son. He was being interrogated at the station by Rossi and Hotch while Spencer, JJ, and I continued Garcia’s work where she’d been cut off.

“Find any ties between Josh and the victims?” Emily asked.

“They all have hunting licenses.” I offered sarcastically. “It’s like a needle in a haystack.”

“We need Garcia.” JJ said.

“Ready to go.” She said from behind us. JJ gently protested that she maybe should sit this one out, but she insisted otherwise. “Josh is your suspect?”

“He fits the profile.”

“No, it isn’t him. He knows me, he knows I’m a techie and I don’t carry a gun! If it was Josh, I would have been dead you guys.”

We couldn’t rule him out solely on that, but it was something to keep in mind. Derek walked in as Penelope found something, the missing link. Thinking along the lines of the unsub’s profiled abandonment issues, she discovered that all of the victims were planning on leaving Franklin soon.

“Welcome back, red delicious.” He teased, sitting beside me. She smiled but pushed on.

“And here’s another girl who’s leaving in a few months, Kat Allen.”

Morgan and Prentiss left to go talk to the girl and get her into protective custody. JJ got a call from Hotch and relayed that they’d placed Josh—along with about twenty other men—in prison for the night. The killer was due to strike again tonight and if he didn’t, it meant he was someone in the jail. Carol wasn’t very happy about it, but there was nothing we could do. There was this itching feeling in my stomach, something that told me Josh wasn’t the unsub.

But it was just a feeling.

That night none of us got much sleep. Spencer reminded me to change my bandage and played a few rounds of cards with me. He tried once to get me to talk about what was bothering me but I kept it from him. I left him sometime around 11, going down to the kitchen and getting myself a coffee.

“How’s your head?” I cringed at the sound of his voice, keeping my back to him.

“Fine, thanks.”

“Do you think Josh is our unsub?” Hotch asked as I started to walk away.

“It doesn’t matter what I think, you’re the one calling the shots.”

“Natasha—” I would have kept walking but his phone started ringing and my heart dropped: it could only be one thing this late at night.

I watched his face as he listened to the Sheriff, hearing the muffled explanation that there was another victim. The second he hung up I went to get everyone else.

It fell on Spencer and Rossi to break the news to Josh in the morning at the station that his mother was the fifth victim. I didn’t want to imagine what it would be like: this wasn’t exactly a normal circumstance. He was in jail because of our call. He wasn’t there in his mother’s last moments because of a decision that we’d made.

He was going to hate us.

And with a very good reason. But Spencer called me afterwards and said that the way he was acting meant he knew who the killer was. The profile had changed when Rossi made a link between recent animal mutilations (previously credited to a vicious bear) as the red flag in homicidal triad 101. Not only was our unsub a psychopath, he was a teenager. A teenager with severe abandonment issues taking it out on anyone else who tried to leave—even if they weren’t directly leaving him.

The take down went by in a blur. It was a rapid chain of events that kept us on the run the second Hotch left to talk again to the principal of the school. There was a boy, Owen, who Josh had been like a brother to before he left for school. He came from a troubled home and fit the profile to a tee. The problem was that by the time we made it to the residence he was already gone and Josh was leading a hunting party with a good head start and itching for a kill.

Our only advantage was a tip from his mother, despite the fact that her abusive husband tried everything to keep her from talking. Owen was heading to Lake Lafayette, which gave us the chance to cut him off at the harbour. We all piled into the cars and barely had a chance to take cover before Owen came running down the docks, followed by the hunting party. There was a standoff that ended in the men chasing Owen surrendering and letting us taking him before anyone did something they would regret.

I was more than relieved when we were finally on the plane back: if I never saw Franklin, Alaska again it would be too soon. None of us had gotten much sleep in our time there, so we were all pretty exhausted on the jet. There wasn’t a whole lot of talking: there usually wasn’t whenever we had a case involving kids—either victims or unsubs.

We were halfway home when I got up to make a coffee: my mistake. The spoon clanked against the sides of the mug as I mixed in the cream. My system was so strained that I didn’t hear him coming until he was right beside me. With a sigh I turned away slightly, searching for the sugar.

“Can we please talk?”

“I don’t think there’s anything to talk about.”

“Natasha, please don’t do this.”

“I apologize if my behaviour isn’t satisfactory, sir.” I took a sip from my mug and tried to walk around him, but he held me back at the last moment. JJ was the only one facing us who was till awake, and her eyes quickly fluttered away.

“I don’t want to be like this.”

“You should be careful, sir, people might get the wrong impression.”

He released me and I walked off, taking a chair in the corner and turning away from the rest of the plane. I didn’t want anyone to see the stupid tears running down my cheeks. JJ took the seat beside me. She stayed silent, only reaching out her hand and taking mine in hers. I squeezed back, thankful for her presence. As much as I hated it, he was the one who said we needed to back off. It was his choice. His decision.

I was just following orders.
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