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“Do you know where the film crew is?” Hotch asked Todd.

“They haven’t moved from their rooms at the hotel in Springdale.” At Hotch’s raised brow, Todd elaborated, “Not my jurisdiction I know, but I know my people and what was left of the body didn’t match anyone that wasn’t missing. The cameraman reported Swift missing in my office after a full day had passed, so it was a gray area. My deputies volunteered to sit on the place. The film crew was the only ones that made sense and in a place this small, they stick out like a sore thumb. They tried to be sneaky, but after they were seen in town twice, everybody knew to look out for them. That woman and her crew were reported trespassing fourteen times in the last week.”

“And you didn’t arrest them?” Morgan was surprised but not, Swift had enough money to bankrupt a tiny town like Huntsville fighting a petty misdemeanor.

Todd chuckled darkly. “For trespassing? We cover a lot of ground out here. We have kids that have to ride the school bus for fifty-five miles to get here and we’re the law for all that. Swift didn’t trespass in town. When you own forty acres, you don’t put up a lot of ‘private property’ signs. Around here, you know what land you’re on. Swift always said that she and her crew got lost and didn’t know they were on private property. It was possible. When the owners found her snooping, they’d point a gun at them and call me. If they didn’t have a gun, they’d call us anyway and tell us that Swift had been there. Can’t do much if the trespassers are long gone before I or a deputy can show up. She was a right nuisance, so much so that the town council convened the day before she was killed to draft a new law that we’d be able to use against her and not catch one of our own. I had no evidence against them in relations to the dead female. She looked like she had been done in by a wolf and neither of the camera crew are registered Shifters.”

Morgan huffed. “I bet not, that would be near suicide with the reputation of the show.” After a short pause, he changed the subject. “We’re going to need the list of people who lodged a complaint against Ms. Swift, and we’ll need to talk to them,” Morgan warned Todd.

“You don’t think one of my people did this, do you?” Todd sounded horrified.

“Actually,” Reid explained, “Those that lodged a complaint are the ones least likely to be the unsub, because they are exhibiting trust in the establishment. We need to talk to the residents to be able to trace Ms. Swift’s movements since she arrived. I’ll be able to build a geographic profile based off of it.”

Todd looked relieved. “Oh, I’ll have Rita get that list together right away.”

Hotch said, “Thank you.”

From the very back of the van, JJ spoke up. “If you could just drop me off at the sheriff’s station before the rest of you go to the camera crew’s hotel, that’d be great.”

Morgan twisted around to view JJ. “How’re negotiations with the show’s producers?”

JJ’s smile was all teeth. “It was hard between the producer, Richard Swift, which I’m betting is a relative and all the dropped calls. I do believe that I’ve postponed the media storm, though. They don’t want to be scooped on their own show. They said that they’ll have much of the information we requested here by tomorrow. It’s going to be hand delivered by someone I’m betting is supposed to take up where Sherri left off.”

“Good job, JJ,” Hotch told her. “Do you need help setting up the command center?”

“No. I can handle it.”

At the station, the BAU males did get out to help carry in all of their equipment and to be introduced to a couple of the deputies there, but then they were back on the road immediately following. Todd made a point of telling them that cell phone reception was spotty in the hills, so to be wary of their location and insure that someone always knew where they were headed. He also warned them of watching where they stepped; rattlesnakes, king snakes and other snakes were all native to the area and could be hiding anywhere. The snakes were active since it was late spring and warm. The environmental preliminaries mentioned, the team switched topics and peppered the sheriff with questions concerning the socio-economic structure of the town, potential problems and every incident he knew surrounding Sherri Swift.

Reid asked Todd about local junkyards. Where would he go if he needed a part or was retiring a vehicle? Todd told them that a vehicle had to be in really, really bad shape to take in to a junkyard. Most people would just drive it into the hills somewhere and leave it if it didn’t have any useable parts. If something could someday be scavenged, then they would park it out of sight and come back to it later. Most people knew who had what vehicle so if they bought something; they knew whose ‘junkyard’ to visit for parts.

The locals had over a thousand acres to hide a vehicle and if they knew how to disable a GPS unit –it wasn’t that hard- they could have made the evidence disappear. Either a local was trying to set up an out-of towner, or the unsub was from out of town.

With all the leading questions, Sheriff Todd wasn’t surprised when Hotch directed him to pull off at the junkyard they were about to pass. Todd was surprised when faced with Sherri Swift’s van. All of them were surprised when they found the shotgun. They weren’t sure how it played a part in the case, but it would be important. Morgan was nominated to sit on the van until a tow truck could come and then deliver it to Little Rock where crime scene technicians could scour it top to bottom.

Todd drove Hotch and Reid to the hotel where Sherri Swift’s camera crew was staying. At an hour and a half away, the hotel was the closest one to Huntsville. The BAU had the option to reserve rooms at the same hotel or to rent a house in town. Hotch had chosen to rent in Huntsville, so that they would be on hand if a riot took place. Sherri Swift and her help had not been offered the same amenities.

The hotel was in decent shape and was clean. Todd checked in with his deputy while the FBI agents approached the front desk. The manager gave Hotch the correct room numbers when he and Reid showed their FBI badges. Hotch knocked on the door to the room that Sherri Swift had been staying and a woman answered it after the first knock. Reid could tell that the FBI wasn’t who she was expecting. So who had she been expecting? A man with a video camera on his shoulder was standing behind her. He was expecting to have to use it immediately.

“I’m Special Agent in Charge, Aaron Hotchner. This is a member of my unit, Dr. Spencer Reid. I believe you are Ms. Emily Felten and Mr. John Siddall. May we have a word?”

The woman glared first at Hotch and then at her partner. Reid was simply ignored. Siddall put down the camera when Felten nodded curtly.

Hotch evaluated at the two crew members. Emily Felten was five foot, five inches tall, one hundred fifty pounds, mousy brown hair and glasses. John Siddall was six foot, two inches tall, two hundred ten pounds –all muscle, and a shaved head. Felten was standing in front of Siddall with her arms crossed and her chin high. Siddall had his arms crossed and was decidedly not looking at anyone. He was hunched forward just the slightest bit.

If Hotch was profiling the two people the same way Reid was, Reid would be interviewing Siddall and Hotch would take Felten. “Reid, please interview Mr. Siddall down in the lobby. Ms. Felten? Where would you prefer to be interviewed?” Hotch offered the woman a smidge of control, in the hopes of trading it for cooperation.

Yep, Felten was the brains and Siddall was the brawn. Reid was supposed to establish a rapport with the big man while Hotch intimidated Felten. Reid was about as non-threatening as an FBI agent could get. Reid smiled at Siddall. “Sir, if you please?”

Siddall nodded and walked to the lobby and then the corner chair Reid had indicated. He sat and folded his hands into each other.

Reid sat across from him and leaned forward. “Tell me about Sherri,” Reid asked the big man softly.

John Siddall smiled through suddenly wet eyes. “Driven. In one word, Sherri was driven. She was smart and beautiful. Her career meant everything to her.”

“You were in love with her,” Reid stated.

Siddall nodded. “Yeah. No surprise there. She was a force of nature. All eyes were just pulled to her.”

“Did she return your affection?” Reid knew that the truth would be complicated but would Siddall admit to it? Reid had seen enough of the show to profile Sherri Swift and had concluded she was a textbook narcissist. He had been expecting a string of lovers rather than bringing a boyfriend with her on her travels.

Siddall paused. “She appreciated me,” he finally admitted honestly. “I was available. I am a damn good photographer and I’m good in bed.” And he didn’t demand anything from her.

“But she didn’t love you.”

“She’s…” Siddall broke a little. “I think she was starting to love me. With me, she could have her career and some fun too.”

Reid didn’t mention his suspicions that with Siddall, Sherri Swift had a warm and willing, good-looking body for when she wanted to burn up some energy, few emotional attachments and a built-in bodyguard and fall guy if anything turned sour. Reid doubted she had been faithful when the opportunity presented itself. In contrast, Siddall would have done anything for Sherri. Reid was waiting for the first lie given to protect her memory. “So you were dating?”

“She was my girlfriend,” Siddall said proudly. “But we couldn’t tell anyone because she’s in the public eye so much.” Siddall deflated. “I guess that doesn’t matter any more.”

“How do you like your job?”

“I like it a lot. I don’t mind carrying everything and I really liked capturing Sherri as she made her big speeches on camera. That was when she was happiest.”

“What about the people with their secrets?”

“They’re dangerous,” Siddall defended the team’s actions. “Look at what they did to Sherri. They should all be locked up.”

“They are only dangerous when you corner them. No one gets killed until after Swift Supernatural Exposés shows up on the scene. It’s rarely dead bodies that bring Sherri to town, but there are normally dead bodies after she leaves.”

Siddall looked rather stumped at Reid’s logic. Reid didn’t push. He had planted the seed; Siddall would only change his mind after he thought through all of the ramifications. “Tell me what happened last night.”

Siddall wasn’t looking at Reid when he started. “Sherri went off on her own.” Lie, Reid evaluated. “She often did that.” Siddall met Reid’s eyes. Truth. “She said that she had a lead.” Truth, then his eyes slid to the side. “She left and said that she’d call me when I needed to bring the camera.” Lie.

“How did she leave?” Reid asked.

“How?” Siddall looked confused.

“Did she have the team van?”

“Yes. She left the chase car for us to follow,” Siddall lied, but at least one that had a bit of truth mixed in. Reid guessed that Sherri Swift had come up such an arrangement before. Reid would have Garcia find the chase car registration. He guessed that it would be the plain, grey sedan in the parking lot with the California plates. It made sense that a team of three adults would have at least two vehicles, as invisible as possible.

“So what did you do while you were waiting?”

“I watched TV with Em.”

“What show?”

Siddall sniffed. “Em channel surfs constantly. I don’t bother trying to watch something with her.” Truth. “I mostly fussing with my camera in the same room… but Sherri never called.” Lie. “She’s done that before.” Truth. “When she never back in the morning, I started to worry.” Lie.

“Did you call her?” Reid asked.

Siddall shook his head no, vehemently. “Oh, no. If I called and she was in the middle of a delicate interview, Sherri would be pissed. I did it once and Sherri said that if I ever did it again, she’d fire me on the spot.” Truth. “‘Sides, we’ve been having a horrible time keeping in touch on this project. The phones keep dropping calls and losing reception. You know what I mean?” Truth.

“Haven’t experienced it yet,” Reid said, “but Sheriff Todd warned us of the possibility.”

“Todd,” Siddall snorted dismissively.

“You’ve met?” Reid asked.

“He kept telling us to stay off private land and when I went to report Sherri missing, he gave me a hard time because it had been over twenty-four hours. Sherri knew the importance of people knowing where she was because her job was dangerous so she always –always- made sure that she checked in at the minimum of every twenty-four hours.” Truth. “Once a day had passed, I knew Sherri was in trouble, and I knew that she had been looking for something in Huntsville so that was where I reported her.” Lie. “I also reported her missing here in this town, just in case.” Truth, mostly. “Sheriff Todd didn’t even tell me about the body that had been found on the edge of Huntsville and sent to the Little Rock city medical examiner. It was only when Em threatened to call the studio and get the Feds involved, did he help at all and that was to call you guys.” Truth.

“Do you own a gun?”

Siddall looked surprised and alarmed. “No.” Truth. “I’ve always been able to take care of myself with my fists. I’ve never bothered to learn how to use a gun.” Truth.

“What about Sherri?”

Siddall hedged. “Yeah. She liked to think that she could take care of herself. She knew how to use a gun.”

Reid finally stood, ending the interview. “Thank you for your time, Mr. Siddall. I might need to talk with you again. Don’t leave town.”

“I won’t,” Siddall promised. “I have to claim the… body. I need to take Sherri back to her folks. I haven’t seen her; I wanted to be the one to identify her but the people in Little Rock said that they had to identify her through dental records. Could you get me in to see her?” He looked horrified at the idea, but determined it was necessary. As if it was on a list he had to accomplish. Reid found the mix of emotions curious.

“I don’t believe so. It wasn’t a pretty sight.”

“Werewolf kills never are,” Siddall told him authoritatively, “but I need to see for myself that Sherri really is dead. I mean, there’s still hope. She could be alive. It could be a mistake.”

“No,” Reid told the man firmly. “I am very sorry but Sherri Swift is dead and at this moment, we don’t even have confirmation that she was killed by a Shifter, let alone a sub-type.”

“You don’t know?” Siddall echoed, his voice oddly flat. “It’s easy, you just look at the body and if it’s a wild animal and nothing’s been eaten, than it’s a were.”

“It is not that easy,” Reid countered. “Over half of all reported Shifter victims are manufactured. Twenty percent are teens or anarchists stealing a dead body and using knives shaped as a Shifter claw to create chaos. Forty percent are adult murderers attempting to disguise their own kills. They too use the Shifter Claw – I believe that that is its trade name- to inflict the wounds. The Shifter Claw is readily available on the internet.”

“I didn’t know that,” Siddall said. Reid had a hard time translating the statement. He eventually decided that it was partly true.

“There’re even ones that replicate a feline type of Shifter as opposed to a canine.”

“And you can tell the difference,” Siddall sounded amazed.

“A trained medical examiner had no trouble telling the difference.”

“Oh. Thank you for telling me, Dr. Reid. I’ll be in our… my room, if you need me.”

“Don’t leave town,” Reid reminded the man walking away.

Siddall nodded once to indicate that he had heard the order. Reid walked outside to the rental SUV and waited for Hotch to show up. He did fourteen minutes later with an unfamiliar laptop in hand.

Reid nodded his chin at Hotch’s load. “Sherri’s computer?”

“Yes. I planned to overnight it to Garcia for the computer tech to work her magic. Felten said that Swift had a password for everything. We don’t have time to guess, so Garcia will have to hack it.”

“That won’t take her long,” Reid was certain.

Reid and Hotch climbed into the vehicle and waited for Todd to start the engine. Hotch rehashed Emily Felten’s witness statement in the SUV as Todd drove them back to Huntsville. Morgan would meet up with them once the van was delivered. “Well?”

Reid quickly summarized the interview with John Siddall. “He’s lying. But he’ll stick to the story until we can find a hole and maybe even then. He said that Swift went off on her own and that there’s no recording of the last night when she died. He said that he was in his room all night. He was Swift’s…” Reid hesitated, but then used the witness’s term, “boyfriend.”

Hotch raised and eyebrow. “Felten referred to herself as Swift’s slave and Siddall as Swift’s receptacle.”

“Crude but probably accurate.”

“Felten said that she and Siddall were sitting in the same room, watching TV, waiting for Swift to call.”

“Siddall said basically the same thing.”

“So they are using each other for alibis. That means they were both with Sherri. If it really was a Shifter, why aren’t they saying so?”

“What are they hiding?”

“The manager couldn’t see the rooms or the resident parking lot, nor are there any cameras. We don’t have any independent witness.”

Reid turned his attention to their driver. “Sheriff Todd, Siddall said that you gave him a hard time?”

Todd grunted. “The man has been living with the woman for over a year and waits a full twenty-four hours to report her missing? I smelled a rat.”

“We’ll need that incident report,” Hotch warned him.

Todd shrugged. “I’ll tell Rita. You guys deal with a lot of paperwork.”

“That we do,” Hotch agreed. He settled a bit in the passenger’s seat. They still had more than an hour of drive time to use to the best of their abilities. “Since we have time, why don’t you tell me all of your interactions with the Swift team? That way I don’t have to read the reports, Reid can skim them later.”

Todd nodded and then launched into a series of stories. They all followed the same formula: a resident caught Swift and her crew sneaking around. Todd and/or a deputy drove out to the resident’s place and tried to find any evidence of property damage or a law that they could have broken, but they never found anything actually illegal. The Swift team was very good at skirting the laws.

Todd parked his SUV in his reserved parking spot. Reid climbed out and stretched. Now that the film crew was available and interviewed, the genius’s role would have to change. “Reid?” Hotch started as soon as they walked into the sheriff’s office.

Reid smiled at him. “I know. You need someone to plow through all the lawsuit data and create a list of viable unsubs –people that Sherri Swift hurt.”

“I don’t have to tell you who to add to the list and who belongs on a secondary list.”

“If their court case is progressing nicely, they belong on the secondary list. If they’re a Shifter and their court case is stuck somewhere or they don’t have the money to pursue a case they belong on the primary list.”

“Exactly.”

Hotch wandered off to make nice with the locals and Reid settled in to read. Todd had thankfully offered nicer seats to go with the conference room table that would be the BAU’s office for the duration of the case.

Reid was in the middle of reading the second lawsuit when his phone rang. He looked at the screen and read Prentiss’ name. He answered it with a simple, “Yes?” He could hear the sounds of a car being driven in the background. Rossi would be the one driving.

“Oh, good. We finally have good enough reception. I’ve been trying to call for ages. It was a werewolf,” Prentiss reported. “Hotch isn’t answering his phone, so please tell him. We found the scene of the crime. We had to chase off a huge king snake, so Hotch owes us.” Prentiss could follow a trail of strong feelings better than trackers could follow footprints in the snow (and feelings after or while hiding a killing were often very strong). She could also recognize the ‘feeling footprint’ of any supernatural being. It was her one true talent. Emily Prentiss was a very weak Shaman. She was so weak, in fact, that most Shamans and Shifters couldn’t identify her as such. A real Shaman would be able to follow the trail of the Shifter to his or her current location and a very strong Shaman would be able to recreate the scene of the crime from the dust and wind. Talented Shamans tended to not work in minor government roles. The government couldn’t afford the cost.

criminal-minds-02-shaman

“What else?” Reid asked.

“Someone moved the body to the edge of town. Someone big and strong and probably on two feet. Rossi found those tracks. The fight between Sherri and the werewolf was a mile away from the dump site. But get this, we found a silver buckshot in a tree at the kill site. And there is evidence of blood. We didn’t find a gun.”

“We found the gun, but you were saying…?” Reid prompted his friend.

“There was a chase. Swift chased a werewolf, a fight and I think the werewolf got cornered and then wounded. But it’s all supposition, nothing I can say in court.” Emily’s Shaman status was a matter of record, but it rarely helped in court. The defense would simply hire a stronger Shaman to ‘prove’ how easy it was to trick Emily. Emily Prentiss could use all of her observation skills though and the stronger Shaman would only prevail fifty percent of the time.

“What did you pick up?” Reid was asking a question for information that would be limited to the profile reports.

“Animal terror. Sheer, frantic, overwhelming terror. Trying to escape.”

“Not from Swift?” Reid confirmed.

“No, from the Shifter. The terror overpowers whatever Swift was feeling at the time.”

“Anything else?”

“You know how I said that the person who moved the body was on two feet?”

“Yes.”

“That’s because there are tracks for a four-wheeler. That’s how the body was moved. Rossi found them too. The four-wheeler was around the werewolf. I don’t know who followed whom, but they came from the same direction. It’s nothing that I can track,” because of the lack of extreme emotions went unsaid, “and the two groups went over terrain that is regularly used by locals for both walking and on four-wheelers. It’s even crudely marked so visitors would know which way they needed to go. We need a real tracker and I’m not even sure that they would be able to pick out our four-wheeler tracks from all the other tracks.”

They needed a tracker that they could trust. They didn’t know who in town they could trust. They knew that a Shifter lived in town and Shifters tended to be excellent trackers. There were added difficulties with a Shifter tracker. There was a high probability of a second or a third Shifter in the community. The victim/unsub was a werewolf and werewolves could be found in packs. They protected their pack above all else. If there were more Shifters in the community, they already knew who Sherri Swift had been chasing and were protecting the unsub. The BAU needed a tracker that wasn’t a Shifter that could mislead the investigation. How could they hire a tracker without hiring a Shifter? None of them could identify a Shifter by sight, not even Prentiss and Morgan. Prentiss was too weak. Some Shifters could identify other Shifters by ‘feel’ like a strong Shamans could, but those were surprisingly few and far between. The most common way for Shifter strangers to identify each other was by smell while the human form was wet. According to Morgan, who answered many of Reid’s questions in a long-suffering manner, the smell of a Shifter’s wet hair was similar enough to the smell of their wet fur to be a huge clue.

Otherwise, one couldn’t identify Shifters by appearances. There was a normal in England –who was most emphatically not normal- with an extraordinary success rate at identifying Shifter and Shaman alike. The normal, named Holmes, was a ‘consulting detective.’ The man had a website dedicated to his ego, his genius and his deductions. While Reid read it regularly, he rarely commented. Any exchanges with the detective left Reid frustrated and annoyed, though often better informed.

Holmes even, at one time years ago, had posted a list of how to spot a Shifter and a second list of how to spot a Shaman. Alarmed, Reid had showed Garcia. She had understood in the inherent danger of people trying to apply the conclusions on those around them. Garcia had promptly hacked the website and had taken down the update less than an hour after its three AM posting. Reid –through Garcia- had sent a carefully worded e-mail detailing the dangers to society the post contained. Garcia had added a less carefully worded postscript informing Holmes that he ever posted anything similar again, she would promptly disable his website and any subsequent replacements.

The response was interesting as it was addressed to ‘Mycroft’ and congratulated ‘him’ into making Holmes believe that ‘Dr. Reid was an American federal agent of above average intelligence.’ The e-mail was filled with derision and immature pique but since Holmes didn’t threaten to upload his observations every hour, it didn’t matter.

Reid wasn’t sure how much he trusted Mr. Holmes’ lists. He had accidently memorized them, or rather, he couldn’t forget them since he had read them. He didn’t believe that he could correctly apply them in this case to weed out any potential Shifter tracker.

Reid cornered Hotch in the break room and informed him of Rossi and Prentiss’s results. Hotch listened solemnly and then sent Reid back to the case files to weed out the suspected unsub from the pile.

It only took Reid reading through the third lawsuit against Swift Supernatural Exposés to see a pattern and to realize that they were chasing the wrong lead. He checked the last page of every case summary for confirmation and found the same clue on forty-seven of the fifty-three cases. In twenty-two of the cases, the defendant was a Shaman. In thirty-one, a Shifter. Reid took the information to Hotch. Hotch read through it and, as a former lawyer, recognized the implications immediately.

“Santoro is uniting all of the lawsuits against Swift Supernatural Exposés. It looks like they have enough for a class action suit,” Hotch said.

“Exactly, so even the suits that have stalled, or were previously thrown out of court, now have new life infused into them.”

“Santoro united the Shaman and Shifter victims?” Hotch asked.

Reid nodded, impressed. “It’s almost eighty percent for the Shifters. She has all the Shamans in agreement but Santoro is actively negotiating with everyone who has a suit against Swift. They’re keeping it very quiet so far but in looking at all the preparation work, it’s clear that they are planning for this to go all the way to the Supreme Court.”

“We can only hope so,” Hotch muttered. “In any case, our unsub won’t be among those files. They are all too focused on Santoro. She’s commanding their attention, whether they want her to or not.”

“Agreed. I’ll inform Garcia and have her strike these from our unsub list.”

“Good.”

“And I’ll concentrate on the episodes that endangered someone and the victim didn’t file a lawsuit against Swift Supernatural Exposés,” Reid preempted Hotch’s next order.

“Good. Let me or JJ know if you need anything.”

“Will do.”

Reid called up Garcia for her assistance. Garcia had all of the files organized by whoever had been hurt the worst by Swift Supernatural Exposés. Those that had been killed after the airing of a show and had close family and friends were the highest on Reid’s suspect list. Reid personally called the family members. All of them answered. Two of them assumed that he was part of US Representative Santoro’s legal team. So not only was Santoro uniting all the legal cases, they were gathering up those that never started legal proceedings. By adding all the evidence, the unsub was beginning to look like neither a local, nor a personal victim of Swift Supernatural Exposé. By eliminating the most probable suspects, the BAU was searching for an unsub that either a, was a Shifter that wanted Sherri Swift dead out of principle or b, someone who wanted Sherri Swift dead for a yet unknown reason but used a Shifter as bait, either willingly or unwillingly. Such a combination was unlikely, so the BAU was investigating the fact that someone used the Shifter out of convenience. Only the camera crew would have been close enough to take advantage of convenience, or was someone lurking? No one could lurk like a Shifter and they had Emily’s confirmation that a Shifter had been involved.

Fact: a Shifter and a normal human were both involved in Sherri Swift’s death. The BAU needed more facts. To that end, Reid called up the medical examiner in Little Rock for the autopsy. Sheriff Todd had sent Sherri Swift’s remains to the federal building for review. Dr. Rivers hemmed and hawed for fifteen minutes, saying that something wasn’t quite right and could Reid get back to him in twenty-four hours? Reid pressed for a moment and then decided that he wanted an accurate autopsy and not something rushed. He asked Dr. Rivers to transfer him to the Crime Scene Unit. A friendly, cheerful man named Joe answered the phone and all of Reid’s questions. No, the Swift Supernatural Exposé van had not been wiped clean. It only had the fingerprints of the film crew. So either one of the film crew had been involved in the cover-up or a Shaman was involved. The shotgun only had Sherri Swift’s fingerprints, no one else’s. Sherri Swift could not have moved the gun from where she shot the Shifter to the van after she had died, but none of the fingerprints were smudged.

A Shaman could have moved the gun and the van without leaving prints or smudging the existing ones. A Shaman would have reason to frame a Shifter and a talented one would be able to alter Emily’s perception of the event. It was possible that a Shifter had not been involved at all. Interesting. Emily was on the books as a weak Shaman and if it was a suspected Shifter attack, the BAU (and Emily) would have ordered to the site. That was SOP. Anyone who knew anything about federal investigating procedures would be able to find that with five minutes of research. A Shaman as the unsub? Finding an unregistered Shaman was even more difficult than finding an unregistered Shifter. Reid would run the theory by the rest of the team and see if a Shaman profile would fit the known facts. A Shaman could do many things but they wouldn’t be able to change the wound pattern after the fact unless they were directly in the vicinity of Dr. Rivers and manipulating his thoughts. A Shaman would never have let Dr. Rivers express misgivings over the initial cause of death. If Dr. Rivers remembered the phone conversation tomorrow and explained autopsy clearly, Reid would know that a Shaman was not influencing the medical examiner.

They needed more clues. The blatantly missing clue was the four-wheeler. Where was it? Why wasn’t it near the van? The fact that it was still missing was important, but Reid didn’t know where to begin looking for the four-wheeler. With only one data point, it was impossible to build a geographical profile as to the unsub’s comfort zone.

They needed some way to narrow down the profile.

*cm*cm*cm*

Sheriff Todd was talking to someone, probably the person who had arrived in the rental car outside. Reid watched Hotch glanced at JJ and she knew her job. JJ hurried to interject herself into the conversation; they couldn’t have the sheriff accidently giving out information to the press. JJ brought the stranger to Hotch after a short conversation. Reid sat to the side to quietly observe. Hotch didn’t need him to question the man, just to be the occasional distraction.

“Hotch, this man claims to be Sherri’s brother, Stephen Swift. Stephen Swift, this is Special Agent in Charge, Aaron Hotchner.” She point indicated Reid, “And Dr. Reid. They’ll need to interview you.” She walked off with his driver’s license in hand and was already dialing Garcia.

Hotch nodded sternly. “Please sit, Mr. Swift, as we confirm your identity.”

The man sat with a practiced, engaging smile. He was maintaining eye contact with Hotch and ignoring Reid. That suited Reid just fine. “I’m glad to see that you are taking this case so seriously. The producer sent me, with all of the mail and recordings that you requested. They’re in the car. Swift Supernatural Exposé is named such because the whole family is involved in someway. My sister is… was merely the face of it all. My dad is the producer. My mom takes care of the books.”

“May I have your keys?” Hotch requested, “so we can get a start on the paperwork?” For someone like Sherri Swift, the stacks of paper would be mountains.

Stephen understood. He was the one who would have had to carry it from the airplane to the car. “Here.”

Hotch accepted the keys and threw them across the police station to Morgan who caught them easily. Hotch noticed that Stephen looked a little envious at the obvious athletic ability. He resembled Reid, only ten inches shorter and with glasses. He was a smooth urban, decent looking man, but he was no jock. Reid tilted his head and narrowed in on the man’s glasses. He saw no optical curve and wondered if Swift needed corrective vision. Reid doubted it. The man was not a jock, so he was faking studious and educated. He was probably of average intelligence, but he would have Garcia check for both an ophthalmologist and school transcripts.

Hotch used the observation for his next leading question. “You mentioned the rest of your family. What do you do?”

“I’m a background fact-checker. Researcher. Sherri calls me up to get histories of towns and families after she’s got her film.”

The profilers knew there was a little lie in there. “How does Sherri find her subjects?”

“She gets tips, thousands, millions of tips and sifts through them until she gets a real one.”

“She does that herself?”

Stephen rolled his eyes. “Yes. Well mostly. We have a staff that can weed out the obvious liars and crackpots. Sherri’s got a nose for finding supernaturals in hiding, she never said how. She’s paranoid, even about the family. She refused to e-mail, phone when she’s close. She thought that someone has tapped our lines and was reading our e-mail, stuff like that.”

After seeing some of the things Garcia was able to ‘find,’ Reid considered such paranoia warranted. Sherri had been smarter than Stephen and probably had lorded it over her sibling. She was possessive over her methods. “So when was the last time you talked with or saw your sister?”

“After she turned in her last show. Two weeks ago?” Stephen thought about it. “Twelve days if you want to be precise.”

“Please be precise. What happened?”

“She turned in her tape, did the needed voiceovers, collected whatever she needed, told us that she had a lead here in Arkansas and left. Normal family together, Sherri and I bickered a bit, but the books are balanced, so no real stress. Sherri didn’t care for how well I had researched her last case. We argued, but that’s normal.” Reid was sure it was, Stephen was at least as narcissist as his sister, just better at hiding it.

“Was she worried at all?” Hotch asked.

“Sherri? Never. She was excited though. She said that this lead here was going to make for the best show we’ve ever filmed.”

“Did she tell you why?”

“Naw.” Stephen looked around. Was he lying or looking for something? “See, Dad is a bit of a hardass. If Sherri doesn’t come through on a lead or picks a wrong one, he yells at her. So she doesn’t really tell anyone what’s happening beforehand. That way Dad can’t be disappointed. We have a schedule to keep and she’s been cutting it close on the filming. We’re only two shows ahead of the airing schedule. If she was wrong here, it would have put us way behind. Don’t know what Dad will do now that Sherri –and the episode- are gone.” Stephen hardened his jaw. “Dad sent me here to make a tribute episode for Sherri. I’m going to find what Sherri was looking for. I’m going to take over the face of the show and keep it going.”

Hotch showed the slightest hint of being impressed. He was stroking the man’s ego for more information. “You knew why she was here.”

“Yeah, she let it slip. A real werewolf or something masquerading like one. She was so sure something was here that she told me to get a head start and do the history of the town. You gotta understand Dad and the fact that even Sherri is wrong at least half of the time. Weres are really good at hiding and tons of people think they’re right when they were really just drunk when they saw what they thought they saw.” He sounded disgruntled at the thought. As if Shifters were going out of their way to make his job harder than necessary. “Sherri chases a ton of leads that go nowhere. She has to be right, or we get sued. And with the show’s popularity going up, when some weres see her, they go on vacation, just leave town until Sherri moves on. Sherri was sure that had happened at least three times this year already, but it wasn’t anything she could prove.”

“Does Sherri know how to use a gun?”

The question caught Stephen by surprise. “Yes. Why?”

“Where and when did she learn?”

“As a kid, Dad taught us both.” Stephen looked ashamed. “She’s a better shot than I am. I mean, I’m pretty sure that’s still the case. I haven’t picked up a gun in… oh eight years. It might be even longer for Sherri.” Reid would get Garcia to concentrate on where Sherri could have bought a gun. Reid realized that it was probably one of the reasons for the van; they didn’t want any record of a gun going through airport security.

“Does she own a gun?”

“Not that I know of. Why are you asking?”

“There’s evidence of a gun at the crime scene. We’re eliminating the possibility that it wasn’t Sherri’s.”

“It wouldn’t have been Sherri’s. Mom handles all of the billing for Sherri’s team and Sherri was such a cheap-skate, she would have asked to be reimbursed for buying a gun. I would have heard it if she had bought a gun. She didn’t.”

Hotch hmmed. “That’s interesting, because we found the gun and the only prints on it were Sherri’s, inside, outside, there were quite a few prints and none of them didn’t match your sister. If it wasn’t her gun, where did she get it? Who would lend her a gun?”

Reid liked how Hotch left an obvious lie for Stephen. Hotch must have been hell in the courtroom, he was constantly leading the witness.

“I have no idea.” Stephen winced slightly but it looked practiced to Reid. “Sherri’s more reliable tips came from the rougher neck of the woods. I know those people traffic guns.”

“Where did her tip concerning Huntsville originate?” Reid finally inserted himself into the conversation.

“A trucker. Which is a common tipster demographic for our show.”

“What did the trucker say that convinced Sherri?”

“He said that it was a pack of three werewolves and the youngest one was pre-adolescent.” Stephen finally showed some true emotion: joy. “The youngest were on record is fifteen. Swift Supernatural Exposé is going to have proof that weres can happen before the teens, like everyone believes happens.”

Hotch was a professional and didn’t show his distaste at Stephen’s desire to endanger a minor. He thanked Stephen Swift for all of his assistance and escorted him out the door. Hotch made noncommittal noises about keeping Stephen informed of the ongoing investigation.

Hotch returned to the BAU’s temporary work space and closed the door. He addressed Reid. “You warn Morgan what’s coming and I’ll brief the rest of the team.” He glanced at his watch. “How long until everyone returns?”

“Well, based upon speed limits and familiarity driving the roads and distance…”

“Reid,” Hotch was too weary to deal with him at the moment.

“Rossi and Prentiss should be back in an hour; Morgan, closer to four.”

Hotch didn’t like that the team was spread so thin, but there was no recourse. He held out a hand. “Pass me some of Swift’s tip files. Let’s build a working victim profile.”

Reid passed his boss a stack of files and organized the others. He excused himself for five minutes to call Morgan and tell him what was going to happen as soon as returned. Prentiss, Rossi and JJ all found a seat and started reading through the hints and clues and hate mail as to how Swift Supernatural Exposé worked and who would consider themselves Sherri’s enemy. They knew what Stephen believed Sherri was after, but did the facts concur?

The team was hard at work when Morgan finally returned, bringing dinner. They ate quietly, each focusing on their pile of folder. Only when all the food had been devoured did Hotch get up and close the door, locking it even to keep the locals out.

Emily took this as tacit approval and started the conversation the BAU had to have. She addressed Morgan. “Is it possible for a child to be a Shifter?” Reid already knew the answer to this question, but kept silent. It wasn’t his story to tell.

Morgan met her eyes squarely. “I Shifted the first time when I was nine. When my father died before my eyes. I was a lion cub standing over my father’s body, trying to protect it. Scared the shit out of the thieves that had been trying to rob the convenience store. Luckily, all the cops knew about my dad and they had Shifter tranqs in the squad cars. They tranqed me and dropped me off with my mom and no mention of any Shifting made it into any report. Even the owner of the store didn’t know that I had Shifted, he was too busy hiding behind the counter. The accounts of the thieves were dismissed as the ramblings of drug addicts.”

“Stress plus DNA,” Reid reminded her. “Morgan’s father was a known Shifter, even if his mother has no Shifter DNA, at all. Him dying was an extreme stressor.”

Morgan offered up helpless hands. “I didn’t Shift again for three years. Mom found me a… tutor to show me the ropes and even then, I didn’t Shift but once every other month.”

“I thought bi-weekly Shifting was necessary for control,” Emily looked to Reid for an explanation.

Reid was quick to speak one. “Ten hour, bi-weekly sessions are necessary for those learning control or don’t have much control in the beginning. Teens, with their hormones already working against them, especially benefit from such a schedule. Adult felines, interestingly enough, tend to more follow Morgan’s schedule: one night every other month and sometimes up to fifteen nights in one month, during rough patches. Ninety percent are nocturnal. Adult canines statistically Shift in groups, so they plan it so that everyone can participate. What little research that I can find seems to indicate a monthly pattern, perhaps that’s where the ‘Shifting during the full moon’ myth originated. Avians tend to skip six or more months and then they stay in their Shifted form for a week to several months. Reptiles in temperate climates only Shift in the summer months. In desert and sub-tropical climates, it is assumed that they Shift more often, but data is sketchy.”

Emily blinked and Rossi smirked at her. “You asked,” he reminded her.

Emily turned rueful. “I did indeed. Thank you, Reid.”

“You are very welcome.”

“Alright, enough fun,” Hotch said. “Everybody get back to work. How does this affect the profile?”

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