Status: complete

All the Madness in the World

Show and Tell

"Tragedy is a tool for the living to gain wisdom, not a guide by which to live." – Robert Kennedy


The boxes of case files had been sent over from Nevada; they lay like scattered corpses on the table in the conference room. Everyone had come in early today; filled with the same determination everyone at the station had each time another girl went missing. This time we’ll get the son’a’bitch. But just like with the officers, their determination would weaken and their hope would falter; and after enough time they would understand. They would come to the same conclusion everyone did, in the end.

JJ and Emily were helping me set up the board, laying out the pictures of each girl while I listed off what I remembered about them. I’d looked over these files time and time again: every name and school picture etched into my brain. I could never forget them, never be ungrateful for what I’d escaped.

“Let’s start with the first girl.” Emily said, marker in hand and ready at the board.

“Laura Melding.” I paused for her to write out the name. “She was taken for four days in January 1989. The 4th to the 8th.” This continued on across two and a half boards until we stopped at Stacy. Emily’s neat writing lined each column beneath the photographs.

1. Laura Melding –January 4th 1989 – January 8th 1989 [4 days]

2. Cynthia Fell - January 21st 1991 – January 27th 1991 [6 days; 2 year break]

3. Trisha Lent – July 15th 1991 – July 22nd 1991 [1 week; 6 month break]

4. Marla Tram – January 11th 1992 – January 18th 1992 [1 week; 6 month break]

5. Sophie Golding – July 3rd 1993 – July 24th 1993 [3 weeks; 1 ½ year break]

6. Rita King – July 12th 1994 – August 12th 1994 [1 month; 1 year break]

7. Elizabeth Knoll - January 16th 1995 – February 28th 1995 [1 ½ months; 5 month break]

8. Natasha Reid - June 5th 1995 – September 6th 1995 [4 months; 3 month break]

9. Arlene Fowler – May 9th 2012 – May 14th 2012 [5 days; 17 year break]

10. Stacy Markham – May 25th 2012 - May 28th 2012 [3 days; 11 day break]

It was overwhelming to see all these faces again. It never felt fair—that I’d made it out alive and they hadn’t. What made me so special? A cop for a father and perfect timing? Whatever it was, it was unjust. On the whiteboard I started to make a list of the criteria Ares used to pick his victims. Young, brunette, an absent father who mimicked a missing Zeus. And the traits. The Greek Goddess Athena was rational, intelligent, a peacemaker, a defender, and pure. This was how he chose us. I turned to the boxes, rifling through a few and eyeing the familiar files.

“What’re these?” I found a box full of video tapes that had yet to be processed. JJ eyed the box briefly before brushing it off as some kind of evidence that wasn’t logged properly. My heart sunk as I realized there were 8 tapes. One for every girl. A shudder ran through me, a creeping darkness that no amount of human contact or police presence could erase. I had seen these tapes before.

Emily and JJ were focused on the boards, so I deemed it safe to leave the box there for a moment while I took care of things. It was a short walk down the hall to Hotch’s office, even shorter because I most certainly did not want to talk about the tapes. I knew, though, that what I would ask was a huge leap of faith on everyone else’s part. There had to be something given in return. Peeking my head in the door, I knocked twice and he looked up from his desk.

“Do you have a minute?”

“Certainly.” He motioned to the chair across his desk. I quietly closed the door behind me, my fingers clutching at the ends of my sleeves as I took a seat. He gave me his full attention and waited patiently as I summoned the courage to speak.

“There’s um…There’s a box of video tapes that came in from Nevada.”

“JJ said she’ll get to them as soon as they’re done the—”

“Ares filmed us, Hotch.” I blurted out, immediately casting my eyes down. “He had this…ritual he did and he filmed it every time. I’ve seen each of those tapes at least six times each, everything is exactly the same except for with Marla, the fourth girl. She was epileptic and had too many seizures so he got rid of her quicker. I can tell you anything you need to know about the tapes, just…I’d—please don’t ask anyone to watch them. For the girls’ sake.”

He balanced the options in his head, eyes resting on mine. After a moment he asked if I was sure there was nothing I might have forgotten, that the tiniest details help, etcetera. It was time for the bargaining chip. I took a determined breath and offered, in exchange for my taking the tapes, a personal recount of everything that happened. In place of video proof: a first-hand account.

“Are you sure you’re comfortable with that?”

“Just call everyone to the conference room and I’ll start from the top.”

“It isn’t necessary for everyone to be there.”

“It’s fine, Hotch.” I lied. It was so far from fine. It was so off from any distant relation of a comfort zone. “That way we’re all on the same page.”

I smiled weakly and got to my feet, taking quiet steps out of the office and back to the conference room as Hotch rounded everyone up. At least Penelope would be spared. When Spencer walked in I had half the mind to make him the exception, force him to wait outside as far from me as possible—but he would never stand for it. Everyone came in and took a seat as I pulled the box with the tapes close to me. No one would ever see them suffer again. I left it to Hotchner to relay our brief discussion to the others, and I said simply that it would probably work better if someone walked me through it with a cognitive interview. Derek volunteered and I was silently thankful it was him. He pulled up a chair in front of me as the others looked on wearily. I had to block out their existence: it was bad enough having to tell Derek—even worse with Spencer in the room.

“You don’t have to do this, you know.” I took my seat across from Derek, pretending that the whole team wasn’t waiting by with their pencils and notepads.

“A deal is a deal.” I couldn’t let them watch the tapes. Those girls had suffered enough already, had their last moments seen by too many eyes in Nevada. If all I needed to do to stop it happening again was relive my time, it was a fair trade off. Shifting backwards, I tried to get as comfortable as possible. “But Derek…I haven’t thought about this stuff for a long time. I might get lost in there.”

“I gotcha, girl.” With a final nod he began. “Alright now close your eyes. I want you to think back to the day you were kidnapped. What did it smell like? What did you hear?”

It had been years since I’d rifled through this part of my memory. I’d covered it up with so many layers of self-defence mechanisms that at first I couldn’t remember anything at all. But it came, in time.

“Someone’s got the barbeque on. I can smell it from down the street. The Royce’s sprinkler is on; it always is when I walk home. I try to keep my steps in time with every other tick of it.”

“Good. Now look around, what do you see?” It was as if a dam had been opened; a plethora of sensory information was flooding my memory. I was fifteen again, back on my street. My house behind me, Spencer’s a short ways ahead. My destination.

“There’s a Jehovah’s witness knocking on someone’s door. A squirrel runs across the road. I think about Spencer’s chess match and imagine the faces of the people he’s beating. I think about the telescope he’s going to buy when he wins. Mr. Adamson waves to me as I walk up the lawn to my house—he gets his mail and closes the door.”

“Is there anyone or anything else that looks out of place?”

“No, I walk up the stairs and—wait, no I see a—a car reflected in the window. It’s…it’s blue. A four-door sedan. I ignore it and I take off my backpack to get my keys. I hear it now—why didn’t I remember before?”

“Hear what?”

“The doors—I hear two open and close—car doors. By the time I straighten up I see his f-face in the glass. Oh God…he’s coming up the lawn with a boy—the boy, Phobos. He’s smiling at me but I can’t—I can’t turn around, I’m so scared. Oh God, he’s right here. I try to scream but he covers my mouth and they’re carrying me—he has a knife to my throat—no, a needle. He gives me something. He’s going to kill me—he’s going to kill me.”

“Tash, I’m right here. He can’t get you.” I feel Derek’s hands grip mine but they do nothing to pierce through the memory.

“They throw me in the back seat with the other boy—Deimos—he keeps me pinned down against the seat. I’m screaming—I call for Spencer but he isn’t there and Aunt Di can’t hear me and Ares tells Deimos to shut me up and he drives fast and then slow and then everything goes black.”

“Okay. Let’s take a break.” Derek said calmly. I shook my head, keeping my eyes shut and trying to remember every detail. With a deep breath, I began to explain to the team everything that happened to me and the other girls.

After the car I wake up in a basement: it has one window and is divided by a barred wall, like that of a prison cell. Everything is dark and gray and cold and unforgiving. There is a toilet in the corner, a mattress nailed into the cement floor on all corners. But most of all: it is quiet. There are no sounds of passing cars or distant ambulances or a cityscape. There are crickets and the sound of wind blowing through leaves and the occasional snap of a twig. Wherever I am, it is secluded. A cabin in the woods, perhaps. I am alone. A door slams off to the left and someone comes down the stairs: Ares. He holds a cattle brander in one hand, the end of it red hot, and a key in the other. He opens the cell door and I scramble into the corner, begging, pleading for him to let me go. He tells me to shut up and pulls my hair away from my neck before pressing the brander against my skin. I scream and wail. When he finishes, he calls me Athena and tells me to accept my fate.

Phobos and Deimos take turns keeping watch. They are in charge of giving me food and water twice a day. They are keeping me alive for a reason: the ritual. For the days leading up to the full moon Ares will come downstairs and put a tape on the VCR where I can see it. He glares at me and takes a seat, leaning forward to watch the video. It is the tape of Laura Melding, victim number one, and her torture. He points out his own mistakes to me, acting as if I had seen this all before. He thinks I am Athena and that I was in all of the girls before: my vessels, he calls them. He is perfecting the method of expelling me from my vessel to properly kill me.

Every fourth day he marks me again: the circle with an arrow at the top. The symbol of Ares or Mars or Male or whatever. It is pressed into my skin again and again so it has no chance of fading away. But it is every full moon that he does his ritual. Phobos sets up the camera. I am told to change into a Greek dress. Ares rapes me. He ties me to an old gurney and hooks me up with needles and tubes. He drains me of so much blood. He drugs me with something, I don’t know what, but I stay awake despite my fatigue. He beats me, over and over, telling me that the throne is his. That it was always his. He asks if I understand and I say yes. He calls me a liar and beats me again. When he’s finished he asks if I’m ready to give up the throne and I say yes. I beg for him to stop. He does. He leaves me for Deimos to clean up and expresses his disappointment that I choose to lie to him. He needs me to be pure before he can expel me.

“Five days after the fourth ritual Ares left and Phobos came into the cell.” I’d managed to open my eyes again, feeling horribly nauseous at the memories and my own hands trembling in Derek’s grasp. “He wasn’t supposed to. But for the time I was there I worked one of the mattress nails out of the ground and so when he tried to rape me I stabbed him in the chest. Deimos was there, but he didn’t try to stop me when I ran out. I got out of the house and ran until my feet bled and I reached a house on the outskirts of Reno. The family let me in and called the police.”

Of course, there was nothing any of them could say. The worst, though, was Spencer. I’d never wanted him to hear the whole story; he’d seen me so fractured when it happened. I knew he blamed himself, but I didn’t. I’d been targeted—he would’ve gotten me sooner or later. Taking a deep breath in, I excused myself to get some air. At first I was going to just step outside, but my feet found their way into the elevator and I decided to go up to the roof.

I wormed my way around the big vents and pipes and air ducts that decorated the rooftop. My shoes crunched against the dirt on the ground. When I got to the edge I paused, looking down. Eleven storeys up—the fall would kill me. Maybe things would be better if I just jumped. How many more girls would he kill before he tried to get me? As much as I had faith in the team, I knew Ares. This demon, this shadow that followed me wherever I went: always a step ahead. Always ready for my next move. He wouldn’t be caught, not by the police or the FBI or anyone. He would never stop.

The more I thought about it, the more sense it made. I stepped up onto the ledge, the ground so far away but such a fitting place to end: where I should have been starting anew. He was probably watching me right now, this very second. An anxious feeling swarmed in my stomach as I leaned forward. Ares didn’t hesitate to waste two more girls to get my attention: what would happen when that wasn’t enough anymore? Who would he go after then—the team? Spencer? No, I wouldn’t stand for it. I lifted one foot off the ledge, my heart racing as every bit of fear from my captivity found its way into me once more. I couldn’t go through this all again, not when I had lulled myself into a sense of relative security. Just push off with the other foot, that’s all it would take.

I had been so focused on my own thoughts that I didn’t even hear him behind me, but in a heartbeat I was ripped from the ledge and held down despite my thrashing. It took a minute for me to stop screaming, to actually open my eyes and realize it wasn’t Ares but Spencer. When the panic left me he eased up and helped me to my feet. There was desperation in his eyes and I began to think about how stupid of an idea suicide was. How could I leave Spence behind? I sighed, pulling him into a hug and apologizing. Tears threatened to erupt but I held them back. He had seen me cry one too many times.

This little boy who had been both parent and child and friend to me in my darkest times. When both our fathers were gone, we were there for each other. When our mothers fell victim to their illnesses of the mind—Dianna to schizophrenia and Elise to depression, one quelled with sleep and the other with drink—we were there to raise each other. The mutually dependent Reids. This was why I couldn’t lose him: because he had taken the place of everyone I’d lost, a stand in for the childhood taken from me. I had adapted to losing everything else at the cost of him being a surrogate for it all. If Spencer was gone, I lost everything.

“I never should have gone to that chess match.” He said quietly. I held him tighter. Skinny little Spencer Reid: the boy genius with a heart of gold. I wanted to tell him to shut up, tell him how stupid it was to think such a thing and that nothing could have prevented what happened. But I knew if I opened my mouth I would definitely cry. I had to be strong, I had to protect Spencer. There was no other option. I had to keep him safe from the demon at my heels.

He was all I had left in the world.
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