Status: complete

All the Madness in the World


"All secrets are deep. All secrets become dark. That's in the nature of secrets." – Cory Doctorow


“So I figured the best way to clean the bowl would be bleach, to really get all the slime or algae off the sides.”

“Oh, Natasha. You didn’t.” Emily said wide-eyed, holding her coffee half way up to her mouth.

“I’d never had a fish before!” I laughed, knowing it was a poor defence. “Anyways, needless to say I didn’t rinse it as well as I should have and the next day…well, Flipper took a little trip down the toilet. My dad tried convincing me that it was the way to fishy heaven but he forgot that by 9 I knew Santa and the Easter Bunny were all a lie. I cried for a week.”

“Poor Flipper.” She laughed, finally taking a sip. JJ leaned around the corner, case file in hand.

“We’re ready in the conference room.” Nodding to her, Emily and I followed after her as I continued my story.

“So for my next birthday my parents bought me a book on how to care for my new betta fish.”

“How long did he last?”

“I got a big tank so he actually lived for 5 years. I’ve always had fish as pets, they’re so low maintenance.”

We were the last to enter the room and I took my spot between Emily and Spencer. JJ closed the door, passing out the case files for each of us before picking up the remote. With one click she brought up the picture of a two girls, both around age 16, pretty with brunette hair and smiling faces: the before pictures.

“Arlene Fowler, 15, and Stacy Markham, 16, both from Chamberlain Village, Virginia. Arlene was found two weeks ago by a couple of hikers on a trail, Stacy was found three days ago on the same trail.” With a click the happy faces were replaced with the dead looks and empty eyes. “There were identical markings on the two girls, and local police decided to call us in.”

The pictures were joined by two more, but these were much more horrific than the other two. Not because of any gore or violence, no they were terrifyingly familiar. Both pictures were of the girls’ necks, and raised on their skin like a bad scar was an all-too recognizable symbol. My heart rose in my throat, and I watched as Spencer jumped up and snatched the remote out of JJ’s hand, flicking off the screen before turning to me with worried eyes.

“What the hell Reid?” Morgan said scrutinizing him.

“Turn it back on.” I said quietly. He meekly shook his head, taking a step back as I got to my feet. “Spencer, turn the goddamn screen on!”

He tried to keep the remote from me but I wrestled it out of his hands, turning it back on and pressing the buttons to bring up more crime scene photos. Everything was the same. Everything was exactly the same. I stopped only at the presence of a new image: that of a message carved into one of the girl’s backs.

I will destroy my mistake

My hands fell limp at my sides as I stared at this. Spencer took the opportunity to reach forward and take the remote once more, switching the screen off and calling to me. My eyes were glued onto the now blank screen, and I felt the contents of my stomach restlessly rising up.


Without words I turned my back on him, taking deliberate steps out of the conference room. The farther I got the quicker I went, eventually breaking into a run as Spencer came after me, calling my name. Kicking the door open to the washroom, I threw myself into the first stall and collapsed at the base of the toilet, all stomach contents finding their way out of me as I struggled for breath between each heave.

Spencer wandered in, despite the clear fact he was not a female, and hovered behind me as I wiped my mouth. I sat down, curling my legs against my chest and staring straight ahead. He awkwardly sat down beside me, draping an arm across my shoulder.

“It’s okay, we’ll…we’ll find him. I promise. .” I couldn’t bring myself to reassure him I was alright, because I wasn’t. I just sat there for a while, a few tears escaping my eyes, trying not to think about everything fighting its way into my conscious mind. After some time I pulled the corner of my sleeve across my cheeks, drying them to the best of my ability. Getting to my feet, I asked Spencer to go tell Hotchner I needed to talk to him.

He nodded, sprinting away as I took a minute to compose myself in the bathroom mirror. It would be no secret that I was crying, but given the scene that had unfolded in the conference room Hotchner had to know something was wrong. When I was ready I left the sanctuary of the empty washroom, seeing Hotch standing outside of his office waiting for me.

It was odd to see much emotion on his face; his hard expression was something I’d grown to accept as normal. So to see concern on his features took me by surprise. I walked at a normal pace until I stood before him, and he motioned for me to go inside. I did as I was instructed, taking a seat as he closed the door and took a seat before me. He folded his hands and placed them on the desk, hanging us in silence for a few moments.

“What happened out there?” He refused to remove his eyes from me, subjecting me to a constant stare that made me feel like I was under interrogation. With a deep breath, I tried to explain.

“There’s a…um…a sealed folder in my file. From when I was fifteen.”

“Is this something I should be worried about?”

“It’s not—It’s not drugs or anything like that. I…I had it sealed because I didn’t want everyone to know about it and…you know, treat me differently or…”

“Natasha do you know the unsub?” He asked seriously, causing me to panic a little before I finally got myself together. Sitting forward in my chair, I pulled my hair to the side and showed the remnants of a burn mark identical to the ones on Arlene and Stacy.

“Yes.” I leaned back, fixing my eyes on a spot on the wall. “When I was fifteen years old he abducted me and held me captive for four months before I escaped. I’m the mistake. The one that got away.”

He said nothing. I kept my eyes diverted from his and lowered them to the ground, pulling my hair tightly over my neck as if the gesture could remove the scar altogether. Rubbing my head for a moment, I heaved out a sigh and got to my feet.

“I’ve had a profile of sorts going for a few years now, so I’ll let JJ finish and then…well, give my take on things I guess.”

“If you aren’t comfortable telling everyone—”

“I’d rather they hear it from me.”

He nodded, getting to his feet and holding the door open for me. Each step that brought me closer to the conference room fell to the frantic beating of my heart. The rushing blood was audible in my ears and I felt my body go cold as everyone pretended not to stare. I took my place as if nothing had happened and Hotch motioned for JJ to start up again.

With some hesitation she got back into it, listing everything I already knew. He had a type: brunette, young, white. He had a hunting ground: the suburbs. He had a signature: a burn mark on the neck in the shape of the symbol of mars. He had a timeline. When JJ was done she cast a glance at me and sat down.

“Well the dump site’s in a pretty open place; that might mean he’s disorganized.” Derek began. I shook my head feverishly and sighed before starting.

“This guy is organized.” My voice was so much weaker than I’d intended, and the fact that all eyes were on me did not give me much confidence. “He, uh…He calls himself Ares, like the Greek God. He has completely adopted the persona as his own. He’s not from Virginia, he’s from Nevada, and the time between the girls was uncharacteristically short. He used to kidnap girls from suburban areas and hold them for a few months. He believes these girls are vessels of Athena, Goddess of War; and through his rituals he thinks he can exorcize the deity and claim the throne for himself. He is a sadist who might be suffering from a psychotic break and he will not stop until he’s caught.”

After everyone had time to process everything, Emily spoke up: “You said the time he’s holding them for is shorter now, perhaps because of a trigger?”

“No. His ritual takes time. This was quick and sloppy, and the message, that was for us. For me.”

“Did you work this case in Nevada?” JJ asked gently.

“I was this case.” I said with a weak smile. “I was victim number eight.”

The standard silence filled the room and submerged us into a void.

“We don’t take any other cases while this one is open.” Hotch said, collecting his folder from the table to signify the end of the meeting.

“I’ve got a more concrete profile at home, along with a few notebooks’ worth of anything I thought might be useful. Feel free to ask me any questions, alright?” Everyone generally nodded, and I got to my feet, pulling my sweater tightly around my body. “And one more thing, please don’t…you know, treat me like a victim. I don’t need sympathy or sensitivity, it was fifteen years ago.”

“JJ, contact the Las Vegas field office and see if you can get a hold of any of the detectives who worked this case. Reid, start on a geographical profile of all the sites, try to find some sort of pattern. Rossi, Prentiss, contact the relatives of the girls; see if they had similar habits or routines. Morgan, work with Garcia on pulling up any file you can on the case. Check social networking sites, emails, check if there was anything else in common than appearance. Natasha, I’ll escort you home to get what you’ve been working on.”

Everyone went off to complete their assigned tasks as I went down to my desk and pulled on my jacket. My foot tapped incessantly while I waited for Hotch. Emily passed me, offering a smile that I returned weakly. After a minute or so I turned to face Hotch’s office just in time to see Morgan and Rossi leaving it as well. Rossi came down the stairs and stopped at my desk, asking if he could have a word. I nodded, leaning against the desktop and keeping my arms crossed.

“You know, I remember working this case back when I was first in the BAU.”

“First time we ever met.” I nodded.

“Why didn’t you tell me?”

“I didn’t want you to know me as the girl from the hospital that wouldn’t help the case.”

“No one blamed you, Natasha.” He said honestly, placing a hand on my shoulder. I smiled weakly, nodding for lack of anything to respond with.

Hotchner came down the stairs and I fell into step with him, my arms crossing instinctively as some feeble attempt at security. We took his car, and after we were both settled in and he had a general idea of where he was driving, I voiced my concerns.

“I could have driven myself, you know.”

“Given the current circumstances I don’t think it’s best.” I told him to turn left. “As of today Morgan, Rossi or I will be escorting you home.”

“Hotch, that’s completely unnecessary!” I exclaimed, wide-eyed at the very thought of such an inconvenience. “I can get home by myself, I don’t need a bodyguard.”

“The last time an unsub was targeting our team, one of my agents was shot in her home. She had been brought home by another agent. It’s my job to look out for my team, so I won’t let that happen again.”

There wasn’t much I could say to that, so I shut up and stuck to just giving out directions. If I’d just gotten him back when it had happened, all of this could have been avoided. Everything would be different…