by Winnie


Rating- T 
A/N:  I’d like to dedicate this to Marti and Dawn and hope you both enjoy the story. Thanks to Marti for the wonderful beta.

James Branch Cabell once said, "The optimist proclaims that we live in the best of all possible worlds, and the pessimist fears this is true."



Right now he wasn’t sure if he was a pessimist or an optimist, but he was sure he was in the worst of all possible worlds.
Aaron Hotchner was cold, colder than he’d felt when George Foyet had repeatedly stabbed him. Darkness surrounded him, but he knew that wouldn’t last long. Whoever was behind his kidnapping wanted to make damn sure he wouldn’t escape his prison. He shifted his legs, wincing as needles and pins spread throughout his lower limbs. 
Aaron moved his legs and heard the clink of the length of chain attached to his right ankle. He silently cursed his inability to move as he tugged on the cuffs encircling his wrists. He had no idea how much time had passed since he’d first awoken to the darkness and the discovery that he was a captive of an unsub who seemed to want to remain nameless and faceless.
Aaron occupied his mind with trying to figure out who would want to put him ‘on ice’ and realized the list was endless considering his work with the BAU. He tried again to pull himself up, but he couldn’t seem to find the strength to do so. A sound near his head made him wince as he realized the rat was back and he wondered when the damn thing would be brave enough to crawl closer and see if he was part of the natural food chain.
Aaron let his head rest against the cold stone wall and kept his eyes closed as he listened to the rat. His stomach rumbled, the noise reminding him that he hadn’t eaten since before the meeting with his team at the end of the last case. He had no idea how long ago that was, but if the arid feeling in his throat was any indication it had to be at least 24 hours.
Aaron felt his mind drifting, but jumped when he felt something scurry across his fingers and knew the rat had finally crossed the barrier between curiosity and fear. Now the fear was his own as his squeamish stomach churned. Whoever his captor was remained faceless and nameless, but the fear he coveted was evident in the way Aaron tried to make himself invisible to the creatures sharing his cell.
Spencer Reid looked at the name on the top of the new file and felt chilled to the bone. They'd been called in to find that the missing man was a member of the BAU. He looked at the words on the page before him and wished there was some way to turn back time. Emily Prentiss, Derek Morgan, and David Rossi were seated around the conference room and a heated debate had already started.
“I don’t care what the rules say, Rossi! Hotch wouldn’t turn his back on us. He’s out there somewhere and he needs us to find him, not some wet behind the ears kid who thinks he knows everything about victimology!”
“Morgan, calm down!” David Rossi snapped and looked at the other members of the team. “Look, I’m not saying we’re going to sit this one out, but we need to keep our heads and look at this just like it was any other case…”
“But it’s not any other case,” Spencer Reid said. “Therein lies the difference no matter how you look at it. We know the victim and no matter how hard we try to ignore that fact it won’t make it go away. We need to find Hotch before this man…”
“Or woman,” Rossi interrupted.
“Unsub,” Reid corrected. “Follows through on the threat.”
“Then first we need to profile the Unsub and this case,” Rossi told them. “That means we look at this as if Hotch is just another victim and not a member of this team.”
“We need to go over everything Hotch did after he left the restaurant,” Prentiss offered.
“That’s a good starting point…did he call any of you?” Rossi asked and took a deep breath when he got the answer he expected. The call he’d received was the only one Hotch made before he disappeared.
“You talked to him didn’t you?” Prentiss asked softly, her voice filled with worry.
“He called me at nine last night to say he’d be in early to discuss the Chavez case,” Rossi answered.
“Do you think Enrique Chavez had anything to do with Hotch’s disappearance?” Reid asked.
“It’s too early to start making guesses,” Rossi told him. Enrique Chavez was a man who epitomized the words ‘serial killer’ and yet they’d been unable to catch the bastard until Hotch had found something hidden in one of his numerous letters to the editor of the local newspaper in his hometown. The man had used an old encrypted code from a WWI journal and Hotch had recognized something in the way the words were written that set off alarm bells. Chavez was caught at the home of a young woman whose parents had left for dinner. The man was so shocked at being caught he’d opened fire on the police and been shot several times. One of the bullets had left him paralyzed and although he was serving time he’d sworn he’d kill the man who’d put him in the wheelchair. That man was Agent Aaron Hotchner.
“Was he at home when he called?” Reid asked.
“I don’t know, but his car was parked in his designated spot when I went there this morning,” Rossi explained. “We know whoever has Hotch…”
“Agent Rossi, there’s a call for you on line two.”
“Ask them to call back…”
“I told them that, Sir, but he said he had information about your missing man.”
“Put him through!” Rossi ordered and put the phone on speaker. “This is Special Agent David Rossi…”
“I know who you are, Agent Rossi and I am sure Dr. Reid, JJ Jareau, Agent Prentiss, and Agent Morgan are listening in so I will make this short.”
“What do you know about Agent…”
“Listen carefully, Agent Rossi, or I will simply allow Agent Hotchner to die. If you comply with my wishes then I will see that he has a chance of surviving until you find him…if you find him.”
“What the hell do you want?”
“Ah, Agent Morgan, I am so glad you are as hotheaded as your profile dictates. You see I have been profiling the profilers while they have been busy profiling my brethren. I want you all to know I am pleasantly surprised at finding I have chosen the right victim in this. Agent Rossi, I will contact you later with my demands.”
“Did you get a trace?” Rossi interrupted Prentiss.
“No, Sir, he wasn’t on long enough,” the woman answered.
“Damnit!” Morgan cursed.
“I wonder,” Reid said and tapped his pen against his chin.
“What are you thinking about, Reid?” Rossi asked.
“The Unsub seems to have two victims in this case. He has Hotch, but he’s also fixated on you. He was very specific in saying he would contact you with his demands,” Reid explained.
“I caught that as well,” Prentiss offered.
“He sounds well versed in the art of profiling and was probably involved with the police at some time,” Reid said, and realized they’d automatically started profiling the man who seemed to have singled out David Rossi.
“Did you recognize the voice at all, Rossi?” Morgan asked.
“No, but I thought I detected a hint of a southern accent,” the older agent answered and paced the floor. There was something about the man’s voice that nagged at him, but right now he couldn’t quite grasp what it was.
He watched his victim closely and wondered what it would feel like to slit his throat and feel the warm rush of blood flow through his fingers. Agent Aaron Hotchner was helpless and a perfect victim to show Chavez he was ready for the next level. The fact that David Rossi was a co-worker to this man made it even better, and gave him an opportunity to right a wrong done long ago.
He returned his attention to the man seated in the darkness and knew he must be getting hungry and thirsty by now. He reached for the glass of white wine and sipped, enjoying the sweet bouquet as he watched Aaron Hotchner through the window. The criminal profiler appeared to be sleeping, but appearances were not always what they were cracked up to be.
He walked to the door and opened it slowly, watching his captive with an intensity born of hatred.
Aaron knew he was being watched, and did his best to remain still even as the door slowly opened and light spilled a few inches into the room. His vision blurred, but he worked to focus on whoever was going to step through the opening and knew he needed to keep his wits about him.
Aaron kept his eyes at half-mast as he waited for whomever it was to make up his or her mind. So far his captor remained faceless and voiceless, but something told him that was about to change. He kept his legs straight, ignoring the cramps that coursed through them. He heard his captor chuckle softly before pushing the door completely open and entering the dank cell.
“I know you’re awake, Agent Hotchner, so please stop the charade.”
“Who are you?” Hotch asked, fighting to get enough saliva to form the words. He shifted his legs in an effort to ease the cramps, but only succeeded in sending spikes of pain along his tense nerves.
“Who I am is of no consequence to you. Suffice it to say you are but a means to an end. Are you thirsty, Agent Hotchner?”
Aaron simply stared at his captor, taking in every scar, every nuance of the man’s features and anything else that might help identify him when he escaped.
“What are you thinking about, Agent Hotchner? Are you burning my image into your mind in hopes of finding me once I leave?”
Hotch didn’t bother answering. He was a realist who knew the score, and understood that he would probably die before any rescue came. There was very little light to see by, but there was no doubt that this man would kill him.
“Agent Hotchner, I’m sure even in your present circumstances you are trying to work up a profile on me. Are you afraid of me?”
“Why should I be?”
“Answering a question with a question?” the man said with a grin. “Perhaps I will ask you another? Actually I believe I just did, Agent Hotchner. I will ask again…are you afraid of me?”
Aaron knew no matter how he answered this man would not be satisfied. He’d be stupid not to be afraid, but years of being a profiler had taught him not to show the Unsub anything that could be a sign of weakness. He shifted slightly and sat up further, but cried out when his captor slammed his foot down on his right hand, grinding his boot against the knuckles.
“When I ask a question of you, Agent Hotchner, I will expect an answer,” the man said.
David Rossi looked up from the files on his desk and knew by the look on her face that it did not bode well for his request. He wanted Hotch's team working this case, but he also knew procedure, and that meant they were too close.
“Agent Rossi, I know how hard this is on all of you, but do I have to remind you that protocol dictates...”
“Erin,” Rossi said, pointedly using her first name. “This team is the best the FBI has and right now they are working the case as, better than any other team.”
“I know how good they are, but that doesn't change the fact that you're too close to this one.”
“That's why we're right for it, Erin. Did you read the notes I sent this morning?”
“I read them, but it doesn't change anything.”
“Doesn't it? This Unsub seems to have zeroed in on me and I'm not going to back down from him.”
“I could make it an order.”
“You could, but somehow I doubt it would stop the Unsub from contacting me. He wants something from me, Erin,” Rossi said and moved to the window.
“You could be reading too much into this.”
“No, I don't think so. There's something about the way he spoke. He's educated, and I believe he was either a police officer or ex-military.”
“Why do you say that?”
“He talked about profiling the profilers. That's not something everyone picks up on and he seems to know a lot about the team,” Rossi observed. “I have Garcia working through the files to see if any of Hotch's old enemies were recently released from prison. We'll find him...this team, not some outsiders who don't have something personal involved. Kidnapping Hotch made this personal for all of us and we are not going to let him down.”
“All right, but you will allow another agent to help in Hotch's place. Maybe having someone without a personal stake just might help you find him.”
“Thanks, Erin.”
“Don't make me regret this decision, David,” Erin Strauss warned before leaving the office.
Rossi took a deep breath and moved back to the desk. He opened the top file and began searching through the names and dates, silently praying they'd find something that would lead them to Aaron Hotchner before he had to call Jack's aunt and tell her what was happening.
Aaron Hotchner cried out as the man ground his heel against the bones in his hand and swallowed convulsively once he removed his foot. He lifted his throbbing right hand and rubbed gently as he cradled it against his chest.
“Are you afraid of me, Agent Hotchner?” the man repeated.
“No, I'm not,” Hotch answered and stared into the dark eyes. He saw a flicker of something that might have been admiration, but he didn't really give a damn what this man thought of him.
“Very good,” the man said and walked away, stopping a few feet to his captive's right. “You live up to the profile I worked up on you, but by the time I'm through with you the fear you feel will be very real.”
Hotch closed his eyes and tried to think of anything, but where he was. God, he hated the thought of what this would do to Jack. He'd been so traumatized after Haley's death, but he was strong and Haley's sister would make sure he was cared for.
“What are you thinking about, Agent Hotchner?” the man asked and tipped his head to the right before moving closer to his captive whose eyes remained closed. “Are you thinking about your son? What's his name? John...or is that Jack? If you're lonely I could arrange to have him...”
“Don't what?”
“Go near him and I will kill you!” Hotch warned.
“Do not think you can give me orders, Agent Hotchner. I can easily get my hands on the boy. I believe he is staying with his Aunt Jessica, but have no fear, I do not believe in bringing children into adult matters. I'm sure his Aunt Jessica will take good care of him until...well until forever if your team does not comply with my demands. They will comply, Agent Hotchner, maybe not in time to save you from finding out what pain is, but eventually they will do as I say. I'm very good at what I do and have trained myself to find out just what makes a man tick. Did The Reaper scare you? Do you feel any guilt over what he did because you would not give in to his single demand? What was it? Oh, yes, stop searching for him and he would stop killing. Why did you allow him to find your family and kill your lovely wife?”
Hotch swallowed several times, and watched as his captor made a slow circuit of the room. He tried to ignore what the man was saying, but the truth was he did feel somewhat responsible for the deaths that followed his refusal to give in to Foyet's demands. The worst of it was he was right; Haley's death could have been avoided if he'd just given the bastard what he wanted. He knew he needed to find out everything he could and the fact that this man was willing to talk about himself and his plans was something he would take advantage of.
“I warned you about not answering my questions, Agent Hotchner,” the man said softly. With a flick of his hand he lashed out, and smiled when the knife got the desired effect as he drove it into his captive's right shoulder. He slowly pulled it free, relishing in the sickening sound it made. “Why did you allow him to find your family and kill your lovely wife?”
“I didn't,” Hotch answered, painfully aware of what this man would do if he didn't answer his questions. He needed to do whatever it took to stay alive and make this bastard pay for what he'd done.
“Didn't you? I did a thorough search of your team's background before deciding who I should take. It was quite a difficult choice, but in the end I chose you because you and David Rossi seem to know each other rather well. Derek Morgan, on the other hand seems to be a bit of a hothead and I wonder why you put up with him. Emily Prentice is more than she seems...did you know about her background with Interpol? No need to answer that one since it is obvious you did. Dr. Spencer Reid is an enigma in himself. Does he really have an IQ of 187, and an eidetic memory?”
Hotch heard the change in the man's voice when he said Rossi's name and wondered whether they knew each other. If so, what was it about Rossi that seemed to anger the man? Whoever he was, he was well educated and seemed to have done exactly what he claimed.
“Reid's smart,” the captive answered.
“Yes, indeed he is. That leaves Penelope Garcia, now she's a strange one. She seems to enjoy flirting with Derek Morgan and I'm not so sure they aren't seeing each other outside of work. She certainly knows how to hack the computer systems of every agency in the country...possibly in the world. Do you condone what she does or does she hide her activities from you?”
“She does what she has to do,” Hotch told him.
“Yes, I'm sure she does. Did she learn her lesson after that cop with the Munchausen Complex shot her or has she continued to delve into people's backgrounds like a super snoop?”
“Like I said...”
“She does what she has to do,” the man said. “Well, I have to give my old friend a call and let him know how you're fairing, but I guess I should take care of that wound...after all it would do no good to have you bleed out before I succeeded in getting what I want.”
“What do you want?”
“All in good time, Agent Hotchner,” the man said. He checked the chains and made sure they were secure before leaving the cell.
Hotch closed his eyes and tried to ignore the pain emanating from his shoulder and hand. It was impossible to ignore his captor when he returned and pressed something against his shoulder. Hotch cried out at the burning sensation, and fisted his left hand as the man scrubbed the wound before slapping a thick piece of gauze over it and taping it in pace.
“That should hold until I return, but I need to assure your team mates that you are alive,” the man said and showed Hotchner today's paper. “Now, hold this for me or I'll simply press it into the wound. I assure you it would not be pleasant for you should you choose the latter. What's your pleasure, Agent Hotchner?”
Hotch knew there was no choice, and reached for the paper. He held it in place while the man snapped a picture with his phone.
“Well done,” the man said and reached for the paper before placing it on the floor. “Now, since I will be gone for some time I believe it is in both our best interests that you sleep and not try to escape. That said, I know you're not allergic to anything, so say goodnight, Agent Hotchner.”
Hotch felt the needle enter his shoulder and fought to escape, but his tormentor injected whatever was in the syringe before standing and walking to the door. It didn't take long for the drug to take effect and he felt his eyes close. He heard the door click closed as darkness claimed him.
David Rossi looked at his laptop as if it was a foreign object to be dealt with in the worst possible way. He'd been in the office for several hours, going through the old files, hoping to come across something that would point him in the right direction. He'd cleared out his mailbox, but when the beep sounded he'd opened it to find an email from an unidentified source containing an attachment. Normally he would never open something unless he knew who it was from, but the subject line had caught his eye and held his attention.
That was all it said, but it was all he needed to open the email. The words were in bold, capital letters, and he wondered if the Unsub was losing his sight. It would be added to the possible profile they were working up.
He opened the attachment, and silently cursed at what he saw. Aaron Hotchner sat on the floor holding today's paper with the headlines easily visible. His hair was a mess and his eyes were rimmed in dark circles that spoke of fatigue. His face was pale and there was blood on his left hand, while his right one looked like someone had stomped on it. The man, who was almost compulsive in his attire looked like a bum who crawled through the rubbish next to the dumpsters.
“Rossi, is everything okay?” Morgan asked from the open doorway.
“I just got an email from the Unsub,” David answered.
“What?” Morgan snapped and entered the office. One look at the picture made him curse and he vowed to make the bastard pay. “Did he say anything?”
Rossi brought up the email and waited for Morgan to read the missive before leaning back in his chair. “There are many reasons someone uses bold capital letters in an email, but there are two obvious reasons.”
“They're angry, or they have bad eyesight,” Morgan said. “We need to get Garcia working on this. She might be able to find out who sent it.”
“I know,” Rossi said and stared at the picture of Hotch as the other members of the team entered his office. He listened as Morgan updated them and Reid quickly read the note.
“He is definitely fixated on Rossi,” Reid observed. “He uses specific words like 'entirely on you' and 'I know better than to tell you to keep this between us'. It's a private message, yet he knows you won't keep it private.”
“Meaning he's not afraid of you bringing us into this,” Emily advised.
“Is there anything about the note that stands out to you, Rossi?” JJ asked.
“Aside from the obvious, no,” Rossi answered. “He's well educated and smart enough to know we'd want proof that Hotch is alive.”
“What do we do about Jack?” JJ asked worriedly. She was a parent and understood what it meant to be away from your child. Hotch was a single parent, and the sole provider for his son. Now, a madman had him and he would be asking questions about why his father wasn't coming home like he always did.
“Is he staying with his aunt?” Rossi asked.
“Yes, I can get her number from Garcia and call her,” JJ answered.
“What will you tell her?” Reid asked.
“Just that Hotch is missing and we don't know much right now,” JJ told him. “I'll make sure she can keep Jack with her and tell her we'll call as soon as we know anything more.”
“Agent Rossi, I was told to report to you by Director Strauss.”
“John?” Rossi asked, surprised to see the man standing in the doorway.
“Do you know him?” Morgan asked.
“Sorry, yes, this is John Bridges. I worked with him several years ago on a case involving a young woman murdered by her sister,” Rossi explained and reached out to shake the other man's hand. “It's good to see you again.”
“You too, Sir,” Bridges said.
“I thought we agreed to work on a first name basis,” Rossi said.
“Yes, Sir, but that was before...”
“Nothing's changed, John. Call me Dave,” Rossi said and introduced him to the other members of the team. “John knows profiling and worked hard until we found a connection between the two sisters. Janet and Teresa Higgins were identical twins and did everything together until Janet met someone and fell in love. They were to be married, but when Teresa was found dead in her apartment the wedding was postponed. We profiled the case for days until Malcolm Donaldson realized the woman he was with was actually Teresa. The only reason he figured it out was because John spotted several discrepancies in the profile of the dead woman.”
“It was a team effort, Dave,” Bridges said.
“Maybe, but you brought it to our attention and made sure Donaldson knew what to look for,” Rossi said.
“Tell me about this case,” Bridges said and sat on the edge of Rossi's desk.
“It involves one of our own,” Morgan said, not sure what he thought of the newcomer.
“Director Strauss said it has something to do with Aaron Hotchner,” Bridges observed. “Wasn't he involved with The Reaper?”
“Involved is not how I'd put it,” Morgan snapped. The Reaper had taken his badge and had used Morgan's credentials to drop Hotch at the ER after he'd stabbed the BAU's head agent repeatedly. Foyet had murdered Haley Hotchner, and Jack would have been too, except Hotch had told him to 'work the case'. It had saved the boy's life and Hotch had finally killed The Reaper once and for all.
“I didn't mean involved...I meant he had a personal interest in what happened. Didn't he murder Haley Hotchner before her husband managed to kill him?” Bridges asked.
“Yes, he did and it was declared justifiable homicide after director Strauss and several other officials questioned everyone involved,” JJ explained. There was something about this man that grated on her nerves, but she couldn't put her finger on just what it was. 
“I read the reports and I agree with the decision. I'd have done the same thing if I'd been in Agent Hotchner's position,” Bridges told them.
“Yeah, well, pray you're never in that position,” Morgan stated.
“Believe me I do,” Bridges said. “Now, I'm not here to step on any toes, but I'm hoping I can be of some assistance in this case. So what do we have so far?”
“We believe the Unsub knows...”
“Me,” Rossi interrupted Prentice. “The message and the phone call were directed at me. He's also worked up a specific profile on each member of this team...”
“Except for me,” Bridges offered.
“You're not part of the least not in the sense that you belong here,” Reid observed. “The Unsub profiled Hotch's team members and you were an unknown variable.”
“Maybe that could work to our advantage,” Prentice offered.
“Maybe, but this Unsub doesn't seem to like unknown variables,” Rossi said. “Everything he's said and done so far points to someone who would feel out of place if he didn't know everything about the people he was 'profiling'. Reid, is there anything that stands out in the message he sent?”
“Aside from the shape Hotch is in?” Reid asked and took a deep breath before turning his attention to the message. “I believe he'll keep Hotch alive until he gets what he wants.”
“That might help if we knew what he wanted,” Morgan said.
“It's obvious he wants something from Rossi, but until he gives us more information we won't know what that is,” Jareau observed.
“We get Garcia checking into Unsubs who have ties with Rossi and Hotch. Starting with Chavez,” Morgan told her.
“Tell her to go back at least 10 years, but it might even be further back than that,” Rossi said as Morgan left to update Garcia.
“I'm going to go over to Jessica's home and tell her what we know so far,” JJ stated.
“Keep your phones on and make sure you stay in touch. That goes for all of you,” Rossi ordered and saw the same look on each face. “We don't know very much about this Unsub and the fact that he has Hotch means he could very well go after anyone on his team. Just be careful and watch your surroundings closely.”
Jessica Brooks watched her nephew playing with several police cars. The child had been through so much in the last year, but like his father and his mother he was far stronger than he looked. She'd seen him place one of the action figures inside a box and when she asked him about it, he'd simply said he was 'working the case'.
Haley had been such a wonderful mother and she'd seen the joy in her sister's eyes when Jack brought things home from school. Her sister had loved Aaron Hotchner, even though she'd divorced him. That love had not faded or died just because a sheet of paper said they were no longer together. There'd been many nights when Haley had cried herself to sleep.
“Aunt Jessica?”
“Yes, Jack,” Jessica said.
“Someone's at the door,” the boy told her.
Jessica was saddened by the effect his mother's death had on him, even though they were only subtle changes. She'd seen him flinch when the doorbell rang or when a sudden noise caught him unawares. He tried not to show it, but it was easy to see his mother's death had affected him more than he let on. He was such a small boy, yet he'd already been through more than most people would see in a lifetime.
“Aunt Jessica?”
“Sorry, Jack, I was daydreaming,” Jessica told him and wiped her hands on her apron before going into the living room. She walked to the door and opened it, her hand going to her mouth when she saw who was there. “Please tell me you're not here because something happened to Aaron.”
“Jessica, where's Jack?” JJ asked softly.
“He's playing in the other room.”
“Can I come in?”
“I guess so,” Jessica said, swallowing convulsively as Jack came into the room.
“JJ, is daddy with you?” the boy asked hopefully.
“No, Jack, daddy's working a case,” JJ said and hugged the child. “He'll be home as soon as he can.”
“Okay...I think I'll work the case too,” Jack said, shoulder slumping as he turned and walked out of the room.
“Where is he, JJ?” Jessica asked.
“We don't know, Jessica,” Jareau answered. “Rossi spoke to him after he left the restaurant last night, but no one has heard from him since.”
“Does it have anything to do with that case you were working on?”
“We don't know, but we're going to do everything we can to find out. Have you heard from Hotch at all?”
“Not since he called me last night and asked me if I could stay with Jack. What's happened to him, JJ?” Jessica asked as she led the way to the kitchen.
“We received a call from an Unsub...”
“Why do you people call them Unsubs?”
“It stands for unknown subject,” JJ answered.
“What did this Unsub have to say?”
“He said he has Hotch.”
“Do you believe him?”
“He sent us a picture. There's no doubt it was Hotch and he was holding a newspaper with today's date and headlines,” JJ told her.
“Was Hotch all right?”
“He's alive, and right now we have to hold on to that. The team...his team will use every skill he taught us to find him. You have my word on that.”
“Will you find him in time?”
“We're going to find him and bring him home. I came here to fill you in because I didn't want Jack to hear it on the news or from his classmates,” Jareau explained.
“I'll keep him home from school and I'll talk to him about his father. Jack's smart and he knows Aaron's job is dangerous...he's proved that by 'working the case' and hiding when The Reaper invaded his home,” Jessica observed.
“Do you want me to help explain it to him?”
“No, I'll handle Jack, but make sure you call me with updates. He will be asking questions.”
“I'll call as soon as there's anything to report,” JJ said and hoped the news, when it came, was good especially for Jack's sake.
Penelope Garcia hated her job, but not because of the people she worked with. She hated that they dealt with the worst possible lowlifes. The scum that she wiped off the bottom of her shoes was a few steps above the Unsubs they dealt with.
Garcia was used to the strange looks she was given because of the outlandish way she dressed and the bright colors she often splashed through her hair. Even her glasses and pens were a statement to people that she would never conform to what she called 'established behavior'. Her nails were longer than she normally kept them and the color was a hot pink with bright yellow stripes through each one.
Penelope took a deep breath as she continued to search through the files that dated back more than 10 years and involved cases worked on by Hotch and Rossi. The fact that Aaron Hotchner was the missing man made her blood boil and although she gave 100% in all cases, this one struck home. It made her realize they were far more vulnerable than they realized.
The problem facing the team was that they were too close, yet that was also the very reason they would solve this case. One of their own was the victim, and they would work the case from both angles. They just needed to narrow the search parameters, because right now there were too many possibilities. She tapped at the keys, hoping and praying she would find something that would give the others a place to start, but so far she had nothing.
Garcia couldn't even bring herself to flirt with Derek Morgan when he called. That alone drove home just how much she was affected by having someone she cared about being in danger. Hell, she'd been shot by a man who thought she was looking into his private life. Derek had been right about him, but not in the way she'd thought. She'd made her peace with what happened and knew in her heart Derek had not meant anything by what he'd said. She'd just taken it to heart. That mistake had nearly cost her her life and she would never ever take that for granted again.
Hotch and the others had made sure she was protected and worked the case until they found out who he was. They'd caught him, not only because that was what they did, but because it involved her and she was part of their team. She'd make damn sure she did the same thing for Aaron Hotchner. His team needed him, his son needed him, and one way or another they'd find the SOB who'd taken him and make him pay.
Hotch awoke to darkness and briefly wondered how long he'd been out. His right shoulder and hand throbbed with every beat of his heart and the headache was undoubtedly caused by whatever his captor had injected him with. He slowly eased himself into a sitting position and cradled his right arm with his left.
Aaron leaned his head back against the wall and kept his eyes closed as he thought about his captor. He wasn't an imposing figure, but he seemed well educated. His speech and inflections on certain words made him think the man was of Irish descent, but there was also a hint of another dialect. The Unsub also seemed to know his way around drugs, because whatever he'd been given had knocked him out.
Hotch fought through the haze of his memories and tried to remember how the Unsub had caught him. He'd been with the team, celebrating the fact that Enrique Chavez would be spending the rest of his life behind bars. Chavez deserved that and worse for what he'd done, and Aaron did not regret putting the bastard in a wheelchair.
The last thing he remembered doing before waking up to this nightmare was talking to David Rossi about Chavez. The team was to meet at the office and go over the case one last time before starting on the next one. He'd been so tired that he'd pulled into his driveway, relieved that Jack was spending the night with his aunt, because right now he didn't have the energy to drive to her home. He'd called to make sure Jessica was okay with keeping Jack, and right now he was more than grateful that she'd said yes, because having Jack here would have been just as hard as finding Haley's body after Foyet was through with her.
Hotch did what he was trained to do and fixated on the moments after he'd spoken with Rossi. He'd exited his vehicle and took his briefcase from the passenger seat before closing and locking the driver's side door. It was dark, and he knew the light sensor would click on once he crossed the path to his front door. He'd taken two steps away from his truck when something had pierced the skin on the back of his neck. At first he'd thought it was a wasp or bee, until he reached up to touch the spot and his knees had suddenly buckled. He'd lost his briefcase as he fell forward, his head impacting with the ground as his attacker walked slowly toward him. He tried to lift his head, but didn't have the strength for anything as his eyes began to slide closed. The last thing he remembered seeing was a pair of expensive shoes and a Rolex watch.
Hotch moved his legs and heard the chains clink against the surface of his cell. His right arm was free, but a metal cuff still encircled his left wrist, and was connected to the wall by a length of chain like the one attached to his legs. He continued to work at getting his legs free, but his captor had done his homework and all he did was rub the skin on ankles raw.
Aaron knew the only way he was getting out of this is if his team found him, and right now that seemed like a long shot. His team was the best, and he clung to that like a drowning man clings to a lifesaver. The problem was they were close, and sometimes the reason an agent couldn't work a case he was close to was just that, he was too close, and emotions could cloud his judgment. He felt himself drifting and rested his head against the wall behind him as fatigue, thirst, and hunger made him wonder just how long he'd been this man's captive.
He watched as Aaron Hotchner shifted his legs and was glad he'd installed cameras that could pick up the images, even in the darkness. Hotch, as his friends called him, was strong, not just physically, but mentally as well. He'd lost his wife to a serial killer and had barely been in time to save his son, yet there was no denying the guilt his words had ignited in the team leader.
He'd brought food with him, but had yet to give it to his captive. He knew the man was awake, probably hungry and thirsty as well, but for now he just wanted to watch Hotchner while he was oblivious of his presence. The man was good at what he did, evidenced by how many cases his team had worked and solved. Sure, it was a team effort, but a team was only as good as its leader and vice versa.
“I know you're there.”
He was shocked by the words, but smiled when he realized Hotchner was probably just testing him. The man was cagey, but that's what made this so gratifying. He didn't bother answering, but watched as the captive shifted his legs and tried to stand up, surprised when he actually managed to get to his feet.
“Are you still profiling me?”
“Why would I do that, Agent Hotchner? I know everything I need to know about you,” he answered and switched on the overhead light in the cell. He smiled when the captive groaned and shielded his eyes. Pain was something he enjoyed, especially when it was someone else doing the suffering. He looked at the food he'd placed on his desk and picked up the soup, sandwich, and coffee. He carried them to the door and opened it to find Aaron Hotchner standing on his own two feet at the back of the cell. “You must be hungry, Agent Hotchner.”
Hotch stared at the man as he came forward and placed the food beside him. He didn't think, just reacted and kicked out with his left leg. It caught his captor by surprise and Hotch knew he couldn't let the man regain his momentum. He'd fallen to his knees, and struck out with his left arm as he managed to get to his feet and kick out again. This time it caught the man on the outer part of his left leg and a muffled curse escaped. Hotch fought for his life and used his hands as a club, but his nemesis managed to move out of the way.
He knew he had underestimated his captive and cursed the man as he struggled to get away. Hotchner had managed to do something no one else had ever done, but he would not allow him to escape. He pushed himself away as the other man tried to use his folded fists as a club and managed to escape what could have been a devastating blow.
Hotch cursed the fact that he'd missed with his fists, and tried to kick the other man, but the chains attached to his ankle made it impossible. He could only watch helplessly as his captor climbed unsteadily to his feet.
“You will pay for that, Agent Hotchner,” he said and stared at the other man who managed to stand on his feet. “Eat your food because you will need your strength to get through the next part of Rossi's test.”
“Go to hell!” Hotch cursed and tried to reach him.
“We're already there, Agent Hotchner,” he said and turned to walk out the door. His knee was already beginning to swell as he locked the door behind him and made his way to his office. He opened the top drawer of his desk and took out the bottle of single malt scotch whiskey and poured three fingers into the glass on his desk. He downed the contents and sat watching his captive with angry determination in his eyes. Aaron Hotchner would pay for what he'd done, and he'd see to it that David Rossi saw every minute of it.
Hotch stood where he was for several seconds after the door was shut and locked. It felt good to know he'd inflicted some damage, albeit it was nothing that would cause any permanent problems. He slowly sat down and looked at the bag of food as his stomach rumbled, reminding him he hadn't eaten in some time.
Aaron reached for the bag and opened it to find a bottle of water, a burger with everything he'd normally order, and fries, well done. The Unsub really had done his homework and Hotch bit into the burger. He briefly wondered whether the food was drugged, but it really didn't matter, because he needed to eat and drink if he was going to be alive when rescue came.
Hotch had no doubt that his team would find him, they'd proven how well they worked together, long before he'd taken over from Gideon. He reached for a fry and slowly ate it while thinking about his son. Jack was so much like his mother and he cursed himself for being unable to save her. He knew he'd done everything he possibly could, but that didn't make it any easier on him. Haley was dead, and Jack had only him to rely on. He'd be damned if he didn't do everything he could to stay alive and watch his son grow up.
Derek Morgan took a bottle of beer from the refrigerator and made his way toward the back of his house. He was tired beyond anything he could remember and yet sleep was the furthest thing from his mind. How many times had he butted heads with Hotch, and yet he respected and admired the man. He just found it hard to do things the way Hotch did.
Morgan thought about the way he'd found Hotch with Foyet, and the pain and anguish that could not be denied. George Foyet deserved everything Hotch had done to him, and Morgan had told Strauss just that. Haley Hotchner had done everything she could to protect her son, including giving up her life to go into protective custody.
Derek took a long drink from the beer and wondered what he would do if he'd been in Hotch's place after the bombing of the SUV in New York. SSA Kate Joyner had been badly injured and they'd been unable to get medical attention for her. Hotch had also been injured in the explosion and Morgan often wondered how he'd kept moving. Hotch had literally held the artery until a paramedic arrived, only the man wasn't there to help. He was there to make sure the bomb arrived at the hospital where another unknown variable was in place. In spite of everything Hotch had done for her, Kate had succumbed to her injuries, and again Hotch had shouldered the guilt. He'd done a good job of hiding it, but Morgan remembered the look on his face when he'd told them about Joyner.
Hotch had asked him if he trusted him, and Morgan had not been able to answer that at the time, at least not truthfully. Now, if Hotch asked him that question again the answer would be, implicitly. He'd grown over the last few months and understood what Hotch was asking him at the time. He would and did trust everyone on the team to watch his back and not feel helpless when he was with them.
Derek just hoped he would have the chance to tell Aaron Hotchner just that.
John Bridges looked at the man seated across from him and hoped he could help him with this case. David Rossi was damn good at what he did, and even his books followed his own words.
“How is your mother, John?” Rossi asked.
“She's come to terms with what happened. She knows it wasn't your fault and wanted me to give you this,” Bridges said and took a small black case from his jacket. “She said to tell you it was time to settle old debts and that yours are paid in full now.”
Rossi took the case and looked inside, not surprised to find a collection of cartoons from papers dating back to the time when his partner had been John Bridges, Sr. They'd jokingly started finding cartoons that reminded them that there was more to life than just the scum they tracked down. The last one had been clipped from a little paper from his hometown and even now it was nestled inside his wallet. He'd placed it there after his partner's death and carried it as a reminder of what they both believed in. 
“Your father was an amazing man, John. He knew more about profiling than anyone I know...except for one man.”
“Aaron Hotchner,” Bridges said.
“Aaron and your father could have taken down anyone if they'd been partnered. I wish...I often wonder whether your father even realized what he was doing was profiling,” Rossi observed.
“My father never saw it like that. He just thought he was doing the job he signed on for. Mom once told me he was shocked by how easy it was to read some people or to look at an Unsub and know what he was thinking or how far he would go to get what he wanted. You were the best in the business, according to dad.”
Rossi smiled as the waitress brought over a bottle of Bud for Bridges, and a shot of single malt whiskey for him. It was often his liquor of choice, unless there was a good wine on the menu. He'd invited the team for a late dinner, but John was the only one to accept his offer and they'd wound up at a restaurant Aaron Hotchner had recommended. The food was great and the prices were reasonable, but at this late hour it was nearly deserted.
“Do you have any idea who the Unsub could be?” Bridges asked.
“Not really, and the problem is I won't know anything more until he calls again.”
“Keep asking for proof that Agent Hotchner is alive.”
“I will, but there will come a time when the Unsub will demand something in return.”
“Like you?”
“Maybe, but I think if it was me he wanted he would have gone straight for the throat instead of going through Hotch.”
“He wants you to feel guilty about your part in whatever he believes you've done.”
“Or didn't do,” Rossi said and leaned back as he watched the waitress flick through the television stations until she found a baseball game. “Whatever happened to Daniel Roberson?”
“I'm not sure, but the last time I heard from him he said he was doing all right and enjoying his retirement. I didn't know you knew him.”
“I met him a couple of times. Your dad always talked about him and he looked up to Daniel as a mentor. From what I've read he's done a lot for the department's widows and children's funds.”
“He still does. He helped mom and I a lot after dad died,” Bridges said reflectively.
“I'm glad he was there for you,” Rossi said. He didn't know Roberson, only met him a few times, but he respected him for what he was doing for the people left behind when an officer was killed.
“Thanks,” Bridges said. “He didn't want to retire, but after that last injury he never had a choice.”
“That was just before your dad and I were partnered,” Rossi said. “I know how hard it was for Roberson. Your dad told me he was never the same after that.”
“No, he wasn't, but at least he didn't sit back and wallow in self-pity,” Bridges observed.
It was closing in on midnight when they called it a night and went their own ways. Rossi headed for his home, his mind still working overtime while his body was ready to shut down for the night. There were days when he wished he'd chosen another line of work, and this was one of them. The problem was if he had, he wouldn't have met people like John Bridges and Aaron Hotchner.
Rossi entered his home, tossed his keys on the table beside the closet and headed for the living room. He sat down on the sofa, leaned his head back, and closed his eyes. He drifted toward sleep, but it was a long time coming as his mind continued to work through the people who could be the Unsub in this case that struck so very close to home.
Anger had been replaced by feelings of dominance since leaving his captive alone in his cell. Aaron Hotchner may have won this battle, but there was so much more to go before the war was over. He'd placed several calls while watching the agent eat the meal he'd been given and everything would soon be ready for the next phase of his plans. 
David Rossi would be the first to enjoy Aaron Hotchner's downfall, but it would take time. The captive would suffer while Rossi watched it through live stream. The first call had been to an old friend who owed him a favor, one that would be wiped out if he came through. The man was amazing with computers and had worked with several government agencies. No one could truly say what Noel Harrison did for them, but there were rumors of viruses he'd placed in systems around the world. He'd retired a wealthy man, but he was more than willing to return favors to those he owed.
Noel had told him it would take 12 hours to set up the live feed and make sure it was sent to a few select computers. He knew Penelope Garcia could break through anything if she put her mind to it, but he hoped he could keep her busy with other things. The second favor should send viruses through the computer systems of several law enforcement agencies, including the FBI. 
He watched as Hotchner moved so that his back was against the wall. There was no mistaking the grimace of pain as he lifted his right arm with his left and cradled it against his body. Rossi was only part of the reason he'd chosen Aaron Hotchner; the other was because he had survived things most men would not have. 
“Oh, Agent Hotchner, this is only the beginning of the end for you,” he whispered and hoped he was right about the look he'd seen in the man's eyes. If he was, then this was going to be a satisfying game for him.
Aaron could sense the man watching him, but kept his eyes closed as he struggled to control the waves of pain emanating from his right shoulder. He knew his captor had stopped the bleeding and placed a bandage over it, but he'd done nothing for the pain the wound caused.
Hotch knew he had to think of something else to keep his mind from acknowledging that he was hurting. He thought about Jack and what his son was doing right now. The problem was, he had no idea whether it was day or night. If it was late, then Jessica would be getting him ready for bed, maybe reading him a story. God, he hoped Jack didn't know he was missing, but his son was very astute and would be wondering why he hadn't come to pick him up. How many days had passed since he'd been kidnapped? Was the team any closer to finding out who his unknown kidnapper was?
Aaron had seen his face, but he didn't recognize him, yet he hadn't really expected to. This man seemed to want something from Rossi, but what it was would have to wait until the man was ready for 'the big reveal'. What did this man have against Dave Rossi? What was it that made a man want revenge so badly he would kidnap someone he didn't know just to get to the man he thought wronged him? 
Hotch shook off those thoughts and turned his mind back to his son. Jack was everything in the world to him, and the thought of leaving him an orphan was not something he wanted. They'd both been devastated by the loss of Haley Hotchner, but they'd had each other to lean on. If this Unsub succeeded in killing him, then who would Jack have left? Jessica would make sure he was cared for, but that wasn't the same and he didn't want to do that to his son. Somehow or another he would get out of this mess and when he did he vowed to spend more time with Jack, time that they both needed. 
“I'll be home soon, Jack,” he whispered and shifted until he found a more comfortable spot on the hard floor.
“You should never lie to your son, Agent Hotchner,” he whispered as his captive seemed to give in to the sleep he needed. He looked at the phone as it began to ring and recognized the name before answering it. “Hello, John, I was wondering if you'd lost my number.”
“I would never do that. I just wanted to let you know I'm working with an old colleague of yours...David Rossi.”
He nearly choked when he heard the name, but quickly recovered. “Really. I haven't spoken with him since your father's funeral. How is he?”
“He's okay. He's working with the BAU again and I asked to help in a case they are working on.”
“Is it a big case?”
“Not sure what you mean by big, but it involves one of the agents Dave works with. Someone kidnapped Aaron Hotchner...”
“I believe I've heard of him. Isn't he head of the BAU?”
“Yes, he is, and it's hard for Dave and the rest of his team.”
“I thought policy dictated that the team could not work the case because they were too close.”
“It usually does, but Hotchner's team is unique and if anyone can figure out who this Unsub is it's them. They've got quite the reputation.”
“There's more to profiling than reputation, John. You should know that by now.”
“I know...believe me I remember everything you and dad told me, but this is different.”
“Maybe, but you be careful you don't get caught in the crossfire if Hotchner's team screws this up. I'd hate to see a good man's career ruined because of another man's mistake.”
“I don't think that's going to happen, but I wanted to touch base with you because dad always said you were the best. I figure if anyone can help this team with this case it's you.”
“Sorry, John, but I retired, remember?”
“I remember, but I also remember you telling my dad that the job might get tough, but no matter how tough it got you could never really leave it.”
“Yeah, well, I never was very good at saying what I really meant. It was good to hear from you, but you be careful, Son. I'd hate to have to put another good agent in the ground.”
“I'll be careful, but don't be surprised if I call you again.”
“I'm counting on it. Goodbye, John,” he said and hung up the phone. A smile formed on his face as he thought about John Bridges working with David Rossi and Hotchner's team. The very idea that John might come to him for advice was something he'd never dreamed of, but could add a whole new dimension to the danger in what he was doing. Something he hadn't felt since his time with the FBI.
Penelope Garcia looked up from her notes and shook her head when JJ asked if she had found anything in the case files on her laptop. It had been two days since Hotch disappeared, and the team was frustrated at being unable to find one of their own. She knew they would probably need the table in the conference room and set up there while she waited for the others.
“Garcia, how far back do these files go?” JJ asked.
“The ones I'm looking at now go back five years, but most of the people in here are either still incarcerated or they died. There are four that seem to have disappeared, but I'm working on finding out what happened to them,” Garcia answered. She'd made three separate lists and made enough copies of each list so that every member of the team had one.
“Tell us what you need,” Prentiss told her.
“I need more time, but I don't know if Hotch has that,” Garcia told them, fear and worry evident in her voice. The outlandish outfit and hairstyle she wore told the others just how worried she was about the missing man.
“We'll find him, Garcia,” Prentiss vowed.
“I know...I just...” Penelope couldn't finish her thought and knew the two women understood what she wasn't saying.
“I remember this guy,” JJ said of the first file she looked at. “Hotch and Gideon worked this case alone because Morgan and Reid were advising on a case for another department. Garcia, bring up everything we have on Samuel Cromwell.”
“He's a real piece of work and was sentenced to four consecutive life sentences, but he escaped while being transferred. They said it was an inside job, but they were never able to prove it. He was thought to be amongst those killed when the prison bus went over the cliff, but his body was never recovered,” Garcia explained.
“Did Rossi have anything to do with him?” Prentiss asked.
“No, Rossi came in after the fact. Hotch and Gideon were instrumental in adding Cromwell to the FBI's most wanted list, but like I said he disappeared,” Garcia explained.
“I'd like to see him caught, but unless there's some connection with Rossi I don't think he's our Unsub,” Prentiss offered.
“Remember this one?” JJ asked and showed the two women the picture she was holding. Pedro Martinez was a serial rapist who tortured and raped a dozen teenagers. The number was probably higher, but Martinez had clammed up when he'd been sentenced to death by lethal injection. The man was supposed to be on death row, but he had connections outside of prison and had fixated on Rossi as the man responsible for his capture.
“You guys are in early,” Morgan observed as he and Rossi joined the three women. Reid had stopped to speak to a reporter they knew and hoped the youngest member of the team would not give away too much. Hell, there really wasn't much he could say, not until they found something concrete.
“I couldn't sleep,” Garcia said and tried to find the smile she usually wore when this man entered a room. She enjoyed flirting with Morgan, but since she'd been shot she'd come to realize that was all it would ever be between them. Harmless flirting between two grownups who knew that was where it would end.
“I don't think any of us can,” Rossi said.
“Where's Reid?” Prentiss asked.
“Talking to Carolyn Lewis,” Morgan said with a hint of disgust. The woman had been in his face on more than one occasion and he'd been glad when Reid intervened so he wouldn't have to speak with her. 
“She's like a dog with a scent,” Garcia observed. There were reporters who knew and understood how hard their jobs were, but people like Lewis didn't give a damn about anything except getting the scoop on everyone else.
Rossi moved to the counter and poured a cup of the strong coffee before making his way to the table. He moved to sit in his usual seat, leaving Hotch's conspicuously vacant as the others grabbed coffee and took their seats. “Okay, Garcia, let's start with you. What did you find in the files?”
“Not a whole lot,” Penelope said and then corrected herself. “Don't get me wrong. There are lots of names on the list I've compiled and I've divided them into sections. One is a list of everyone Hotch has helped put in prison, the second is a list of people from Rossi's past, and the third is a list of cases they've worked on together.”
“Let's concentrate on the ones we worked together first,” Rossi said. “How many are there?”
“Since you joined the BAU and have been working with the team there are 126 Unsubs residing in prison and another four unaccounted for,” Garcia answered and went on to explain what she'd told Prentiss and Jareau. 
“We need to verify that those numbers are correct, even if it means calling the prisons and talking to the wardens,” Prentiss told them.
“I thought of that, and took the liberty of having one of the other agents do that while we worked on the ones we know are unaccounted for,” Garcia said.
“Good work, Garcia,” Rossi told her as he looked at the files before him.
“You know we could be working this from the wrong angle,” Reid observed.
“How so?” Morgan asked.
“We're assuming that the Unsub has ties to Rossi, but what if we're wrong? What if this Unsub just sees Rossi as a substitute for himself?” Reid asked.
“I don't understand,” Garcia said.
“What if...oh, hi, John,” Reid said as the newcomer entered the office.
“Did I miss a memo about longer hours?” Bridges asked.
“No, sorry, we're just...”
“You don't need to explain, Morgan. I understand...this one is personal,” Bridges said and took the file Garcia slid toward him. “Thanks, what did I miss?”
Rossi quickly brought the man up to speed and motioned to the man seated across from him. “Reid was just about to give us his theory.”
“I was just thinking we should not narrow the field to just those Rossi helped incarcerate. We should also look at anyone who might feel he betrayed them in some way,” Reid answered.
“That will probably add at least another hundred or more,” Rossi said. “We could probably add my ex-wives and their families to the list.”
“So where do we draw the line?” Garcia asked, not at all sure the man was joking.
“We don't,” Morgan told her. “We can't...Hotch can't afford for us to leave anything out.”
Aaron Hotchner was growing tired of waking up with a raging headache. He knew his captor was drugging him and had been awake when the man came into the room and shoved a needle into his arm. There was a difference this time from the other awakenings. A new discomfort and he felt the pressure on his shoulders as he shifted his weight. He opened his eyes, but was forced to shut them again because of the too-bright light that shone down on him.
“I am glad to see you are finally awake, Agent Hotchner. It is time to send a message to Agent Rossi and the rest of your team. I believe Penelope Garcia is your wonderful computer tech and I am sure she will appreciate the genius it took to make this possible.”
Hotch heard the hated voice and forced his eyes open. He searched the shadows beyond the light, but nothing seemed to move. He'd seen every kind of vicious, sadistic Unsub and understood his position did not bode well for him. Whatever was about to happen was meant to cause pain, both physically and mentally. A dark shadow moved forward, but he couldn't quite see his tormentor.
“I am certain you have seen every kind of torture imaginable, Agent Hotchner, but have you ever endured the physical pain that often accompanies the emotional one? It is usually a painful process for the captive and in my case it is also painful for me, but the results should be quite rewarding in spite of my own discomfort. I would enjoy seeing your team's reaction to what I am about to do, but since I wish to remain anonymous, I shall stay out of the camera's range.”
Hotch could hear the sound of footsteps and the click of something metallic against the floor. It told him his tormentor was using an aid to walk. Whether it was something the man needed or for show he didn't know, but he listened for anything that could reveal the man's identity. 
“Are you listening to me, Agent Hotchner?”
“I hear you,” the BAU agent answered. He knew if he didn't, the man would not hesitate to act on the threat he'd made early in his incarceration. He needed to be smart about this and if answering the bastard kept him from physical pain, he could swallow his pride and give him what he wanted.
“Very well,” the man said and Hotch heard his footsteps and the clicking sound as he walked past him and stayed outside the circle of light. “I know you've been shot and what George Foyet did to you with his knife was certainly painful, but was it torture? Not was too fast and he made sure you got the medical attention you needed. I have no such plan in mind. You will die here, but not before I bring Agent Rossi the reward he so deserves.”
“What happened between you and Rossi?” Hotch asked, hoping he could get the man to open up to him.
“He took something from me, but that is a story best left untold...for now. I believe it is time to start your journey into the world of torture, Agent Hotchner, and since I have no desire to get my hands dirty I will sit back and watch. The man who has just entered the room is a gifted artist and has assured me that he will keep you alive for as long as I say. So, while I do enjoy our conversations, I believe it is time to start.”
Hotch swallowed several times as a cart was wheeled toward him and took a deep breath when he saw the instruments that were placed in perfect symmetry across the top. It wouldn't take much of an imagination to understand what they were for. Hotch knew there would come a time when he understood the other side of an Unsub's victim's pain.
Penelope Garcia looked at the monitor and continued correlating the information they'd gathered so far. It wasn't much, but they'd solved cases with less and this time it was personal. JJ and Emily had left the office for a meeting with the warden at the prison to find out if any of the inmates Hotch had put away were dealing with outsiders who also had a reason to go after the agent. Rossi and Morgan were meeting with an informant in hopes the woman could give them some answers about two of the men from Rossi's past. The woman had her own contacts and owed Morgan several favors.
Garcia tapped several keys, bringing up the last two names on her list. She frowned when she saw Enrique Chavez had been rushed to the hospital for complications stemming from an attack by a fellow prisoner. She reached for the phone to call the hospital, but stopped when her computer beeped and a pop up appeared in the top right hand corner. At first she thought it was an advertising that had slipped past her defenses, but there was something about it that made her click on the little icon.
“Oh, God,” she cried, her right hand flying to her mouth as she quickly placed a call to Derek Morgan.
“Tell me you have something, Baby Girl.”
“Derek, I just...I see him. It's Hotch!”
“Whoa, slow down, where's Hotch?”
“I don't know, but someone's sending what looks like a live feed to my computer. Where are you guys?”
“We're on our way. Can you save it?”
“I'll try...Oh God!”
“What's wrong, Garcia?”
“Hotch looks...he's strung up, Derek...he has a bandage on his right shoulder and he looks like he's in pain.”
“Can you see anything around him? What kind of room it is? Anything that might give us an idea of who's holding him?”
“No, he's hanging by his arms and there's a bright light, but it's only on Hotch. He's not alone... there's a shadow moving just outside the circle of light,” Garcia explained and gasped when she saw the item in the unseen tormentor's hand.
“What's wrong, Garcia?”
“The Unsub...he's got a...I think it's a cattle prod,” Penelope answered and cursed the man when he pressed it against Hotch's bare chest and the strong current caused the agent to grit his teeth and cry out.
Aaron Hotchner had seen the item in the man's hand and knew this was not going to be good. He braced himself as best he could, but there was no way of minimizing the pain as this new tormentor touched the weapon against his chest and pressed the button. Hotch's head shot back and he clenched his teeth until the weapon was removed. He tried to breathe past the nauseating pain, but found his body jerking in the chains as this time the cattle prod was placed against his left side.
His body was rocked with the electrical current until it was released and he sagged against the bonds holding him in place. He barely had time to take a breath when it started again and a muffled scream escaped as he swallowed convulsively. He wasn't sure how long it went on, but he'd felt the cattle prod at least four times that he could count. He managed to lift his head as a voice spoke from the darkness.
“Agent Garcia, by now I am sure the others have joined you, and since Agent Hotchner is not very talkative at the moment I will speak for him. Agent Rossi is the cause of this and Agent Hotchner will continue to suffer until I decide otherwise. Now, I am sure you are all interviewing the usual suspects, but I can assure you that I am not amongst them. Eventually, I am sure you will find me, but until that happens I shall endeavor to keep Agent Hotchner on his toes. What I have shown you today is just the beginning, so for his sake I would say you should try a little harder to find us. That is all for now, but keep watching for more from me. Just to show I am a fair man I will keep the live feed going for...hmm, let us say another ten minutes. That should give you time to realize you are not as good as they tell you, Agent Garcia.”
Garcia felt the others watching as Aaron Hotchner was tortured by the unknown Unsub, but didn't say anything until the screen went blank. She checked to make sure she was still recording what they'd witnessed and wiped the tears from her eyes. Her hands shook as she looked at Morgan and Rossi and she knew they were just as angry at what they had seen as she was.
“Garcia, make sure you save that and see if you can trace it back to the point of origin,” Rossi told her.
“I recorded it, and I'm trying to trace it, but he's bouncing the signals between several towers. It could be coming from anywhere,” Garcia said, her frustration mounting.
“Easy, Garcia, you're better than he is. You'll find him,” Morgan told her.
“I know, but...I just keep thinking of Jack. He's already lost his mother and to let something like this happen...happen to his father,” Penelope said as she held the feather topped pen between the third and fourth fingers of her left hand. “He's good...”
“But you're better,” Morgan repeated and watched as she continued to move through the layers of signals.
“Damn right I am,” Garcia told him as JJ, Emily, and John Bridges came into the room.
“What's going on?” Prentiss asked.
“Another message from the Unsub,” Morgan answered
“ that Hotch?” Jareau asked.
“Yes,” Rossi answered. There was something about the man's voice that sounded familiar in spite of the use of a distorter. It wasn't so much the sound, more the inflections on certain words. He'd heard it before, but right now he could not remember where.
“Rossi, do you have any idea who this bastard is?” Morgan asked, angered at what they'd witnessed.
“No, but there's something about his voice...the way he speaks without contractions. It's not something we hear every day,” Rossi explained.
“Well educated?” Bridges suggested.
“Maybe, but it could be a habit he's gotten into,” Rossi said. He could see the pain etched in Aaron Hotchner's features and the guilt he already felt intensified.
“You know this is not your fault,” Jareau said softly.
“I know...he's like Foyet and wants to see me suffer. I've been profiling all my life and I know what Unsubs like Foyet and this guy want. I'm not going to give them the satisfaction of seeing me fall apart.”
“Dammit!” Garcia snapped.
“What's wrong?” Prentiss asked.
“I lost the signal,” Garcia answered when the screen went black. She wasn't sure what was better. The live feed that told them Hotch was alive, or the blank obsidian screen she now faced.
“Were you able to narrow down the search at all?” Morgan asked.
“Not really, but I'm going to get him!” Garcia vowed.
“Tell us what you need, Baby Girl!” Morgan said.
“Silence...I need silence and coffee!” Garcia shot back. “Tell Kevin I may need his help!”
“Will do,” Prentiss said.
“No way in hell are you smarter than me!” Garcia spat and began going through the procedures she'd been taught, and adding a few of her own. One way or another she would find out where this signal originated. With Kevin's help they'd find it sooner rather than later.
Aaron Hotchner wasn't sure if he wanted to be awake, but the needles and pins in his arms and legs would not allow him to rest. He sucked air through tightly clenched teeth and felt the manacles snap around his ankle. His chest burned and he opened his eyes when he felt someone staring at him.
“Hello, Agent Hotchner, I trust that little experiment was not too much for you.”
“Go to hell!”
“Keep talking to me in such a manner and the next live feed I send will be to your sister-in-law's computer. Do you think young Jack would enjoy seeing his father subjected to a device such as a cattle prod?” the man asked and struck out when Hotch ignored his taunts. “I warned you what would happen if you did not answer my questions, Agent Hotchner. Perhaps I will bring young Jack...”
“No, don't,” Hotch said and swallowed convulsively. “I don't want Jack to see me like this.”
“Very well,” the man said and towered over his captive. “I will leave you to rest. Dinner will be served shortly and since you will need your strength I would advise you to eat. Perhaps I will even allow you a small glass of red wine. Sleep well, until next time, Agent Hotchner.”
Hotch closed his eyes and pictured his son's face as he tried to ride out the throbbing pain in his right shoulder. He must have lost consciousness at some point because the knife wound was covered in a white bandage. There was a thin strip of red at the center that told him it hadn't quite stopped bleeding when it was taped in place.
Hotch could almost hear Jack's laughter; smell the shampoo and soap he used on his son, and felt it soothe his own tattered nerves. Jack, 'working the case' brought a smile to the injured man's face as he drifted toward sleep and prayed that he would get to hold his son again.
Penelope Garcia had once been asked if she liked her job and she'd answered no, and had seen surprise on the young profiler's face. The woman was fresh out of the academy and wanted to know she'd made the right choice. Garcia had promptly told her the job was hard and sometimes the hours were long, but she was used to that. The problem was the people her team was forced to deal with. The lowest scum that walked the earth were the subject of their investigations. That was the part of her job she didn't like. The best part of her job came when Hotch and the others closed the case with the Unsub either locked in prison for the rest of his life or dead; she preferred the latter.
“Garcia, did you hear me?”
“What? No, I...did you find something, Kevin?”
“I've narrowed the search down to this state, but every time I try to get past the loop he's using it shuts the search down,” Kevin told her.
“Then we need to overwrite the program and find a backdoor into it,” Garcia said. She tapped several keys before looking at what he was doing. She told him what she wanted him to do next, and reached for the cup of cold coffee on her desk. “Make sure we don't lose the path we already have.”
“I know, Penelope,” Kevin said and reached out to touch her hand. He knew this was hard on her and was already planning a way to get her to relax once they found Aaron Hotchner. He just hoped the man was as strong as his team seemed to think he was. “We'll find him.”
“I know,” Garcia said as she fought back the emotional tide that washed over her. She swallowed several times before she turned back to her computer and renewed the search parameters as the clock slowly ticked away the seconds above their heads.
JJ knew she had to update Jessica on the search for Aaron Hotchner, and wished she had something solid to tell her, but so far there was nothing new. She rang the doorbell and turned to look around, smiling as several children played in the nearby park. She could see their parents nearby and hoped they were vigilant in watching over the precious gift they'd been blessed with.
JJ turned back to the door and forced a smile on her face when Jack looked up at her, his aunt hovering right behind him. “Hello, Jack.”
“Hello, JJ, is daddy with you?” Jack asked hopefully.
“No, your daddy is busy with a case, but I wanted to come by and talk to your Aunt Jessica,” Jareau explained.
“Jack, why don't you go finish your homework while I talk to Agent Jareau,” Jessica said and smiled as the boy shrugged his shoulders before leaving them alone. “Come in, JJ.”
“Thank you, Jessica,” Jareau said and followed the woman toward the kitchen, not surprised when she stopped and locked the door.
“I may be paranoid, but I don't want anything to happen to Jack.”
“I don't see it as paranoid, Jessica...I keep my doors locked at all times. I know it's sad that we feel the need to do that, but it comes with the time we live in and I won't let my guard down,” the BAU agent told her and understood how hard this was for the woman. She'd lost her sister to a madman and wanted to protect her nephew and save him from the horrors of life.
“Is there any news on Aaron?” Jessica asked softly and watched the door in case Jack wanted something.
“We've heard from the Unsub...”
“What does he want? I don't have money, but...”
“He doesn't want money...”
“Then what does he want? Why is he doing this?”
“He wants us to feel helpless and we can't show him that. Garcia and Kevin are trying to break through the signal and when they do we'll have a better idea of how to proceed.”
“Why Aaron?” Jessica asked and offered to make coffee.
“No, thank you,” JJ said and moved to sit at the table with the other woman. “We know the Unsub took Hotch because of his friendship with Rossi.”
“Why would he do that?”
“He wants to see Rossi suffer...”
“I don't understand. Why not just go after Rossi?”
“We're still working on the profile, but Unsubs like this don't need a reason. They do it because they think they can hurt someone far worse by going after someone close to them. Rossi and Hotch are friends and this Unsub wants Rossi to feel guilty for letting this happen,” Jareau explained.
“Do you know if Aaron is alive?” Jessica asked softly.
“Yes, we do,” JJ answered.
“The Unsub sent us a live feed. Hotch is alive...”
“He's hurt,” the agent told her.
“How bad?”
“It's hard to say, but Hotch is strong, Jessica, and he'll do everything he can to stay alive for Jack's sake. He loves his son and he wants to see him grow up,” JJ assured her.
“I hope you're right, JJ, because Jack's already lost one parent and I'm not sure he'll understand if Aaron doesn't come home soon.”
“We're doing everything we can to make sure he does come home, Jessica. I need to get back to the office, but I'll call as soon as we know anything.”
“Thanks, JJ,” Jessica said and walked the other woman to the door. She knew Jack wanted to play at the park with his friends, but right now she didn't think she could watch him properly. She needed to keep him safe from Unsubs like the one who took his father and to do that she had to watch his environment in the best way possible.
“Aunt Jessica, why are you sad?”
“I'm not sad, Jack, I just have something in my eyes,” Jessica lied and smiled as she wiped at her eyes.
“That's what mommy always said when daddy didn't come home,” the little boy said and tried not to show how scared he was of that happening.
“Oh, Jack, your daddy will be home soon.”
“She used to say that too...I miss her.”
“I know and so do I,” Jessica said and pulled him into a tight embrace as sobs wracked his small body. 'You better come home soon, Aaron,' she thought and hoped his team was as good as he told her they were.
Darkness had fallen over the city hours ago, but for Dave Rossi, sleep was a rare commodity that eluded him. He knew Garcia was still working, but it was time to send her home and convince her to come at it with fresh eyes and an open mind. Between her and Kevin they'd made slow progress toward finding the Unsub's location. He turned and walked out of Hotch's office and realized he wasn't the only nocturnal agent when he spotted Morgan, JJ, Reid, and Emily seated at the conference table.
“I thought I told you all to go home and get some sleep,” he said.
“You did, but we wanted to go through the files again,” Reid said.
“I take it nothing's changed,” Rossi said when Morgan dropped the file on the table and angrily slapped them.
“Not a damn thing,” Morgan snapped.
“Then there's no reason to keep looking at them,” Rossi told him.
“There's got to be something in here,” Prentiss said.
“Reid?” Rossi turned to the youngest member of the team.
“Not in here,” Reid answered dejectedly.
“Go all need sleep,” Rossi told them.
“And you don't?” Morgan asked.
“I do, and that's why I'm crashing in Hotch's office, and since there's only one couch the rest of you need to go find your beds and come at this bright and early tomorrow morning. I'll make sure there's an unlimited supply of coffee when you arrive,” the older man answered and waited for them all to rise. They walked out of the conference room and made their way to Garcia's office to find Kevin sleeping with his head resting on the desk while Garcia continued to work her magic.
“Garcia, it's time to take Kevin home,” Prentiss said.
“Not yet...I just need...”
“You need to get some sleep,” Morgan said and took her hand. “None of us want to admit how tired we are, Baby Girl, but this time Rossi's right.”
“I just need a few more minutes...”
“That's what you said three hours ago, Garcia,” Rossi said, but there was no anger in his voice. He knew she was doing everything she could to trace the signal, but now, like the others, she was running on empty and that's when mistakes were made. “Go home...get some sleep and maybe something will click in the morning.”
“Okay,” Garcia said in a small voice as she pressed a button that would automatically update the search while she was away from the office. She shook Kevin and smiled when he sat up and looked at her with wide bloodshot eyes.
“Did you find something?” the man asked.
“'s late and we need to go home,” Garcia told him and reached for her light jacket. The team surrounded them as they exited the room, painfully aware that Hotch was suffering while they were forced to give in to the rest they needed.
It was interesting to watch a man who'd been tortured, especially a man like Aaron Hotchner. How many times had he seen men and women fall apart after losing someone to violence? How many widows had he spoken to about the death of a loved one? How many times had he knocked on a door and a child answered with a smile before calling their mother or father to the door?
He'd lost track of the faces, and that's what made this so much easier. What he was doing now went against everything he'd done in his life, but it felt right. It was too late to do anything else; his road was chosen and would soon be stained with Aaron Hotchner's blood. Perhaps, it was for the best...his son would probably be better off with his aunt and grandparents. They would not put his life in danger with their job the way his father had.
“Do you still feel guilty over her death, Agent Hotchner,” he whispered and touched the screen. The man he'd hired to do the dirty work was sleeping in the guest room, but he would be put back to work very soon. It was dark outside, but the first rays of dawn were already beginning to brighten the night sky. He’d slept very little since his physician had dropped the bombshell on him less than a month ago. He had six months left, five now, and perhaps that was the clincher that made him act on his thoughts.
He thought about John Bridges and his family and what they'd been through since the funeral and wondered what they would think of his actions. He'd once sworn to uphold the law and make sure justice prevailed. That vow had been impossible since seeing John Bridges Sr. lying in a coffin while David Rossi stood with his widow and son. It had been too much for him and he'd silently sworn to make the bastard pay. It had taken a long time to find the right trigger, but when he'd seen him with Aaron Hotchner, he'd realized the time had come.
He'd recognized the same depth of friendship existed between the two men as he'd shared with John Bridges Sr. and that's what he wanted to destroy. He would have waited longer, just to be certain, but the doctor's death sentence had made him move up his plans. There would be others hurt by his actions, but that was what he called collateral damage and in cases like this that was to be expected.
He stood up, grabbing the edge of his desk when pain shot through his gut. It was hard, but he managed to get past it without taking the medication his doctor prescribed. He wanted that for later, when Hotchner was dead and Rossi understood it was his fault. At that time he would end his own life and take Rossi's guilt ridden face with him to whatever hell he found waiting for him.
He made his way out of the office and soon stood before the prison housing his captive. He wanted to tell Hotchner it wasn't about him, that he was simply a means to an end that he knew nothing about. He shook those thoughts away and wondered why he'd changed over the years. Would he have acted on his own dark side if John had survived?
He reached for the door, opened it and stepped inside. He'd left the light on after Greeley had finished the last session and could see the damage heaped on the man hanging from the hook above his head. There were numerous marks on his chest that spoke of the damage done by the cattle prod and he knew this was only the beginning. It surprised him that he didn't feel repulsed at the sight, if anything he felt delighted that he was the cause. What would his partner think of him now?
“You will have to be strong to survive long enough to help me meet my goal, Agent Hotchner.”
Hotch had heard the man enter and kept his eyes closed when his captor moved closer. His ankles were locked by manacles to a hook in the floor since he'd attacked his tormentor, leaving him with no way to defend himself. His body was slowly going numb, but he knew that would not last long as his nemesis reached out and pressed against the wound in his right shoulder.
“I know you are awake, Agent Hotchner, and I believe I warned you what would happen if you ignored me,” the man said.
“What do you want?” Hotch asked and forced himself to ignore the pain as he stood up and stared into the man's eyes.
“I believe I already answered that question, but I do understand why you find it necessary to repeat it. You are here to help me make David Rossi pay for his part in the death of John Bridges Sr.,” the man said.
“Rossi had nothing to do with it.”
“Were you there, Agent Hotchner?”
“Were you?” the BAU agent asked.
“No, but I know John was a good man and damned good at his job and because of Rossi's actions he died and left his wife and son alone,” the man spat. “Do you know how lucky you are that your team is still whole? When you accepted Rossi you not only put yourself in danger, but everyone on your team. He will get them all killed and then you will lose everything you hold dear. I was too late to stop that from happening, but you could have done something to prevent it if you had just seen him for what he is.”
“Rossi is a good man!” Hotch cried out when the man struck his shoulder, but there was nothing he could do to stop the abuse when a second blow landed on his chest.
“It is time for round two, Agent Hotchner, I do hope you have the strength for it,” the man said and walked away.
Hotch sagged against the chains and closed his eyes until the pain eased. He knew it wouldn't be long before his torment started again, but this time he needed to stay awake and aware long enough to send a message.
John Bridges Jr. looked at the files spread across the conference table and tried to figure out who was behind Aaron Hotchner's kidnapping and torture. There were numerous possibilities, but the team had narrowed it down, yet something about the voice was familiar. He wasn't sure why, but what he did know was that the way the man spoke was not something you heard every day. He'd gone home to sleep, but had lain awake until he'd given in to the fact that sleep would be a rare commodity until he figured out what was bothering him.
John had managed to get through several files and been able to cross four names off the list, but he wasn't sure that was a good thing since it was quite possible the name wasn't even on the list they'd compiled. He looked up in time to see David Rossi start a pot of coffee and realized it was already morning.
“I thought you were going home?”
“I did...couldn't sleep and it doesn't look like you've slept very much either,” Bridges said.
“You'd be surprised...Hotch has great taste in furniture,” Rossi said and sat across from the younger man. “Did you find anything?”
“No, I've gone through most of the files, but I keep thinking we know this guy, Dave. I've listened to his voice and I know it's distorted, but there are patterns.”
“I noticed that too. He doesn't use contractions. I know it's not much, but there aren't many people who speak like that and he would stand out.”
“I know...”
“What's wrong, John?”
“I don't...I think I know this guy, Dave, but I just can't make the's like he's speaking in old style English. It kind of reminds me of Daniel,” Bridges offered.
“ dad's old partner. Daniel always said English should never be bastardized,” Bridges said. “I wonder if there's a list for people who talk like that?”
“There are lists for everything these days so it wouldn't surprise me,” Rossi said and turned as Garcia strode into the office. “Good morning, Garcia.”
“Morning...I thought I'd come in early and check out a few things I thought of last night,” Garcia told them and headed for the coffee pot. “Has there been anything new?”
“Not since yesterday,” Rossi answered and joined her at the coffee pot. He thought about Daniel Roberson, and Bridges reminding him that the man spoke in perfect English. It was a rare trait in this day and age and he wondered whether the man lived close enough to do this. Then again, he didn't really know Roberson, and couldn't think of a reason why the man would be angry enough with him to go after Aaron Hotchner.
“I'm going to try a new filtering program to see if we can figure out where the signal is coming from,” Garcia explained and added sugar to her coffee before heading to her office.
“Is she as good as she thinks?” Bridges asked.
“No, she's better,” Rossi answered. “If I had to put money on it I'd put it on Penelope Garcia. She's damn good at what she does and I doubt there's anyone better.”
“Oh, I don't know. I met this kid in Denver. He works for the ATF...JD Dunne. Ever heard of him?”
“Not really, but I was out of the loop for a while. What team is he with?”
“ATF team seven under Chris Larabee,” Bridges explained.
“I heard of them...Larabee's team was dubbed The Magnificent Seven wasn't it?”
“I think so. They've got one hell of a good track record,” Bridges said. “I worked with Josiah Sanchez a couple of times. He's a damn good profiler and would probably fit right in here.”
“I heard that too, but right now we've got work to do...we need to find one of our own,” Rossi said and looked at the files.
“Dave, I don't know how much help I can be here, but maybe Daniel has some information we could use. I know it's a long shot, but he might just know if there's a 'club' of some kind for people who speak like he does.”
“You make it sound like a disease,” Rossi said, but told the younger man to go ahead. He sat back at the table and stared at the files in front of him. He could hear Garcia working at her computer and hoped he was right when he told Bridges that Garcia was even better than she realized.
James Greeley loved his job, but he never thought of it as such. What he did was an art form, one that a man was born to and not something that he could learn. It took a special person with the right compulsion to make his mark on the canvas of skin that covered another man's body. He'd known very early in his life that he had what it took. He started with small animals, like the rodents that scurried around in his family's house and yard.  By the time he was ten, he'd killed several neighborhood dogs and cats, but deep down he knew that was not what he was meant to do with his life.
He'd always been small for his age, but had suddenly shot up four inches in less than a year. He'd been proud of his body and worked hard to keep in top physical form. On the day he turned thirteen he wanted to celebrate his birthday by bloodying his hand with the stupid dog that had tried to bite him on the last day of school. His mother and father worked late and often left him to his own devices and he knew exactly where the dog would be. He knew he'd have several hours to do what he wanted, but his plans changed when he happened upon a man sleeping in a ditch a mile from his home. The man was a transient whose body would probably never be found, but he'd died magnificently and awakened a thirst for evil that could no longer be quenched by the blood of animals; at least not the four-legged variety.
By the time he reached the ripe age of 18 he'd made several kills and had perfected a talent he'd been born with. The police had questioned his family after a young, newlywed couple was found tortured in their own home. They asked him if he'd ever been to the house, but he denied it and since there was no evidence to tie him to the crime, he'd walked away a free man. After that he'd realized he had a knack for this and when he found an article on an obscure web page, he'd quickly come to the conclusion that he could be a rich man by hiring himself out as a man who worked on the human canvas created by God.
Daniel Roberson was a dying man, but he'd paid in full for what he wanted. The fact that the captive was a member of the BAU made it even more special. It also added an element of danger that he'd never felt before as he readied the small blades he'd brought with him. There were also several syringes, whose contents he could not pronounce, nestled inside a black case with a green velvet lining.
Roberson wanted Aaron Hotchner to suffer, and there was no doubt in his mind that the cocktails in the syringes would do just that. The small blades would ensure blood loss, but not to the extent that the agent would die too soon. This was something he wanted to make last, not because he had anything against Hotchner, after all the man was damn good at his job. He wanted it to last because he wanted to feel that power, that surge of emotion he felt every time he watched that first drop of blood slide down the perfectly sculptured knife.
Greeley closed the case and drove to Daniel Roberson's home, licking his lips as he felt the adrenalin rush that came whenever he worked his magic. It started the minute he decided what instrument he would use and continued until he closed his eyes and slept. It didn't really stop then as his dreams were constantly filled with images of past victims. He often wondered what the FBI profilers would have to say about him if they knew he existed. He pulled into the driveway and parked behind a silver BMW and took his case from the seat beside him. He made his way to the door and rang the doorbell, surprised when the feeble man opened it and motioned for him to come inside. They made their way into the office and he took the seat across from his employer.
“Mr. Greeley, what do you have planned for Agent Hotchner today?” Roberson asked when he saw the case the man carried.
“In this case are several items designed to not only cause pain, but to make it last and intensify the effects of the torture. I have brought several knives that were designed by me and specially made by a small firm in Asia. They are not well known, but their craftsmanship rivals the best firms in the world. The other items are four syringes filled with a cocktail of ingredients I can't begin to pronounce, but they will enhance Agent Hotchner's pain and make it last longer.”
“Did you bring what I asked you too?”
“I brought a special mask that will allow me to work on Agent Hotchner without being recognized. I have done this many times, Mr. Roberson, and there were several clients who wanted the process immortalized,” Greeley told him.
“Very well. I have everything set for you so we should begin as soon as you are set up,” Roberson told him.
“Is there a table in the room?”
“No, but you can take the one next to the sofa,” Roberson told him.
“That'll work. I will have everything set up in ten minutes,” Greeley told him and left the man where he was.



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