Log in

No account? Create an account

Previous Entry | Next Entry

Fic: Sobek Drowning

Sobek Drowning Part 1


“So where are we going?” David Rossi asked Garcia, the flamboyant computer technician, as the team entered the briefing room.

“Portland, Oregon has requested assistance.  They have a killer that likes to break bodies and he’s not particular as to whose.”

“Explain,” Rossi ordered.

Penelope Garcia tapped a button on the remote.  A smiling Latino male with thick muscles appeared in front of a weightlifting gym.  “Monday morning, Every Body’s Gym wasn’t opened on time and by on time, I mean the ridiculously early hour of four am.  When two of the early customers went around back to tap on an office window and inform Mario Ramirez, 27, – the guy in charge at that scary hour and apparently forgetful about unlocking the door- they found Ramirez in the back alley.  Someone had broken multiple bones and then threw him off the gym roof.  Since the only security camera in the building is on the front door, locals believe that someone followed him in the back door and attacked him.  There’s evidence of a struggle that starts in the office and tracks all the way to the roof.  Where the unsub pushed Ramirez over the ledge.”

The profilers flipped through the photos on their computer tablets.

Dr. Spencer Reid was reading the paper file, as was his custom and preference.  “Huh.  The coroner reported that while the left femur and the right tibia and fibia had compound fractures, she believes that it happened up to an hour before the drop.  The sudden stop of the body hitting the pavement broke Ramirez’s neck.  With those bones broken, I’m not sure how much Ramirez could fight back, or even escape.  It takes an incredible amount of force to break a young man’s femur.  I’m not sure if it could be done by hand without a way to leverage the body.  Garcia, did they include x-rays?  I need to see if the unsub twisted the bone in order to get it to break.”

Garcia shook her head no.  “But I’ll contact them and send it to you before your plane lands.”

“So why did the unsub drag Ramirez up the stairs?  Making an overabundance of evidence, hoping to hide something in the mess?  Or overkill?” Rossi mused.

“More torture?  Or sending a message?” Emily Prentiss added.

“That was exhibit one,” Garcia would let the profilers get to work after giving them all the evidence.  “Exhibit two is Marta White, a spry 61 year old.  Eight days later on a Tuesday afternoon, she was beaten in her back yard, dragged next door and drowned in her neighbor’s pool.  White had a conceal-carry permit and never went anywhere outside her home without her gun.  The gun was found on the ground, beside the pool with three bullets missing.  The bullets haven’t been found.  The pool owner and her kids found her when they came home from school.”

Reid shook his head at the autopsy report.  “She had a broken scapula, humerus and three ribs.  Breathing would have been extremely painful.  Fighting for her life while being pushed underwater would have been excruciating.”

“If it is the same unsub that is overkill.”

“And yesterday morning, Friday, exhibit number three, Emma Nelson, 30, was beaten to death on a running path.  She’s a yoga instructor, been taking self defense for a number of months and was found with an unused bottle of mace ten feet away.  She was found at seven am and the coroner estimates that her time of death was approximately six fifty-five.”

“That’s close,” Rossi was instantly suspicious.  “Who found her?”

“I thought you might ask that,” Garcia tried (and failed) to smile.  She clicked the remote control and brought up a picture of two petite, young females.  Even working together, it was hard to imagine them killing the bodybuilder.  “Jenna and Jessie Porter.”

“The unsub was right there,” Derrik Morgan shook his head at the close call.  “They’re lucky he didn’t go after them.”

“Though he is getting bolder with each kill, he is still targeting isolated victims,” Prentiss reminded him.

Reid shook his head at the evidence and rattled off the broken bones.  “Pelvis, clavicle and two ribs.  How did the unsub possible accomplish that with his bare hands?  The force needed is tremendous.  But there is a definite pattern: the unsub is essentially paralyzing his victims with the bones that he chooses to break.  He doesn’t need to restrain them because they would be physically incapable of escaping.”

“The victims are never undressed.  No emphasis is placed on sexual organs.  No signs of rape.  Plus, the victimology is all over the place.”

Morgan shook his head.  “There’s no evidence of a tool used at any scene, all of the damage was done by hand.  Ramirez was killed near weightlifting equipment.  White was beaten in her gardening shed and Nelson was killed in the woods where the Unsub could have easily picked up a heavy stick to finish the job.  In each case, the Unsub ignored anything that could have made the killing easier.  This is personal.  He <I>has</I> to use his hands.”

Rossi eyed the victims of the pictures and shook his head.  “We’re sure they’re connected?  The victimology and the timing and the places are inconsistent.  Do the locals have more than ‘sadist beating’ to tie the murders to each other?”

“Yes,” Garcia told him.  “He spit on all of them.  A big, fat loogy.  The DNA just came back, that was when they called us.  It is a match to each victim but it isn’t in anyone’s system because the DNA broke down in the same strange way.” 

Reid blinked at the impossibility and immediately flipped to that particular page of the crime scene report.  “How did he do that?” he murmured.

“He’s spitting on them.  Obviously, he doesn’t respect them.”  Emily frowned as she viewed the photos.  “It seems so personal and yet none of the victims overlap.”

“Do the media know that the murders are connected yet?” Jennifer Jareau, affectionately known as JJ asked.   She used to be the team’s media liaison before being added to the profiling team and keep how important it was.

Garcia shook her head ‘no.’  “They’ve kept it out of the papers thus far.”

“And we aim to keep it that way,” Hotch told them, “until the profile indicates that it will be advantageous to do otherwise.”

Morgan pointed out the obvious, at least to profilers.  “You don’t go from nothing to beating people to death.  He has to have domestic abuse or assault and battery in his background, but no one’s ever pressed charges against him.”

The initial briefing complete, it was time for Special Agent in Charge, Aaron Hotchner to give the marching orders.  “Garcia, start in Oregon and the surrounding states for beatings done without any tools or weapons that caused a lot of damage.  It’ll be a big list but we’ll find ways to narrow it down.  Meanwhile, try to find some link between the three victims.”

The (currently) red-haired woman nodded.  “Will do.”

“Wheels up in thirty,” Hotch told the rest of the team.  “We’ll discuss more then.”


Morgan began the conversation on the FBI’s plane with a statement all could agree on.  “Strong, male and a sadist.  And smart enough that none of them are found alive.”

Rossi nodded his agreement and added his educated guesses.  “This guy is all over the map on time.  I think he’s unemployed.  He doesn’t try to transport the victims to someplace with more privacy.  Maybe he can’t?  No personal vehicle.”

“I think he’s stalking them,” JJ suggested, “since he catches them at different times of day and night alone.  He’s striking when he knows he’ll have time to make them suffer.”

“And the various times plus the time commitment that is stalking are yet more indications that he doesn’t have fulltime employment.” Rossi added more evidence to his theory.

“You would expect someone with this much rage to be emboldened with each attack but instead of keeping to the risky behavior of the day, he went back to the night,” continued JJ.

“The victims are isolated but don’t tend to exhibit risky behavior. One doesn’t go running with mace or carrying a gun without being willing to use it.”  Hotch directed the conversation to the facts.

“Why these three?” Morgan was stumped.  “I’m still surprised that he didn’t attack the two that found Nelson.  He would have been high off the kill and those two wouldn’t have presented a challenge for someone that had overcome the others and their defenses.  Did he fear that he would be able to only incapacitate one?  He didn’t even try to jump one and try to use her to control the other.  Does he not have even that rudimentary of social skills?”

“That’s a lot of rage.  I keep circling back to that,” Prentiss said.

“What if,” Morgan mused aloud, “he watches them die and in the case of Nelson, who was found still warm, he kills them if a witness gets too close?”

Rossi tilted his head in acceptance of the possibility.  “Then that’s a lot of patience, too.  Not a combination we see often.”

“The time of waiting and watching the death is increasing with every kill.  That’s the part that he’s getting off on, watching the helplessness and fear,” said Hotch.

“That’s how he’s getting bolder,” Reid stated.  “The longer he waits for his victim to die, the more likely he’ll be caught or they’ll survive the attack.  He returned to a lesser populated time because he wanted more time to watch.”

Rossi knew how this kind of unsub developed.  “He’s going to have to up the ante next time for his personal rewards, but how?  He was controlled enough to not attack multiple victims, so he probably won’t do that.  He uses a blitz attack and somehow gets close enough that normally situationally aware victims don’t notice him until it’s too late.”

“He might be asexual or unable to perform,” Morgan guessed.  “He started with a male, but I doubt he’ll return to that sex.”

Prentiss argues, “Except that it’s emotional gratification that he’s getting, not physical.  It’s who he thinks will show fear.  I don’t think sex is one of his considerations.”

“Re-interview the Porter sisters,” Hotch told Emily and Derrik.  “They were too close to the unsub to completely miss him.  Reid?  You’ve been rather quiet.”

“I’m trying to figure out how he manages to degrade his DNA.  Why bother spitting on them in the first place if he’s going to do something to his spit?”

“That’s something you’ll have to figure out.  Or ask him.”


The Portland PD had three SUV’s waiting at the airport.  Two were for their use and the third was to deliver their luggage to their hotel.  The waiting sergeants insisted on driving everyone to headquarters for introductions.  Hotch would have preferred sending a couple of agents directly to the most recent crime scene but the agents gained the impression that Police Chief Renard was more hands-on than that.  The man would want to take measure of the federal agents before releasing them in his city.

Reid scurried off to the bathroom as soon as they arrived at the prescient.  He knew he would have time while Hotch met up with the police chief.  Then the chief would introduce Hotch to the local detectives and then Hotch would take it from there.  There was a certain song and dance that Reid could predict to plus or minus five minutes.  He still hurried and was trying not to be obvious about wiping his slightly damp hands on his sweater on his return trip.  His route to his team was blocked by local cops.  Two plain clothes detectives were joined by one of the sergeants that had driven the BAU team from the airport.

“Nick, I hope you broke open the case,” the sergeant griped.  “The feds are here and it’d be nice to send them back under the rock from whence they crawled.

“Whence?” the older African American detective teased.  “Where do you get stuff like that, Wu?”

“Hey, I’m educated.”

“And there’s two of us in this team,” the younger one told Wu as he sorted through the messages left on his desk.  “I don’t do all of the heavy lifting.”  He smirked at his partner.  “Just most of it.”

The older detective just pointed his finger at his partner.  Spencer was trying to figure out a polite way of scooting around them.

Wu was still complaining.  “Nick does a fair job at the profiling woo-woo.  What can a team of profilers do that Nick can’t?”

And suddenly, Spencer really wanted to eavesdrop.

“Let’s find out,” the older one leaned against his desk to view Hotch in the police captain’s office and other rest of the BAU by the coffee machine while they waited for the room assignment.  “What do you get off of them, Nick?  Any of them useful?”

Nick turned to observe.  “The one with Renard is the leader, obviously.  He earned it, very good at his job, not a political type unless his team needs it.  He could have gone higher if he wanted but he stays with his team out of… loyalty.  He’s widowed, a kid or two.  He’s been through several personal fires and it’s only tempered him.”

“And the others?”

Nick was silent for a moment as he spied on the agents around the coffee machine.  From Reid’s perspective, it was obvious that Nick decided to describe the team’s second-in command, Rossi.  “The oldest one?  He can compete with you for ex-wives.  He doesn’t need the job financially.  He’s been around the block a couple times and stared down every bully on it.”

Hank huffed.  “What about the hot blonde?”  He meant JJ.

“Live-in boyfriend… with a kid.  She fought hard for her job.  The brunette’s unattached but I wouldn’t call her free and her baggage comes with international stickers.

Reid found Nick’s analysis of Emily Prentiss fascinating.  All that was left was Derrik Morgan.  “What about the brother?” Hank asked.

“Worked his way up from the ‘Hood and,” Nick smirked, “he’s a good friend but he’s a tomcat.  He likes to rebuild things.”

“Can we use any of them for bait?”

Nick shook his head.  “No.  Granted, they all have supreme acting skills and if our perpetrator was the normal kind they’d work.  But he’s attacking those that change which means he has access to people’s back-story somehow.”

“So we’re back to using you for bait?  You can look guileless and almost a victim when you choose.”

“My history is different.  I haven’t been a victim since I was twelve and I had Aunt Marie to defend me.”

“Bad ass Aunt Marie.”  Hank shook his head.

Reid, though impressed, considered the young detective to be an average profiler, almost equal to the BAU team.

Nick wasn’t done.  “There’s someone missing.  Wu, is that all of them?”

Reid’s jaw dropped.  Many people could pick up the tiny details that were necessary for profiling but it was a very rare person that could identify that a piece was missing.

“Nope.” The sergeant looked conniving as he jerked his head to where Reid was standing behind them.  “That’s the last one.”

Hank and Nick turned to view the eavesdropping Reid.  Hank looked as unrepentant as Wu.  Nick had the grace to be a bit embarrassed.

“Please,” Reid told him.  “Continue.”  Normally, he’d insist on the ‘don’t profile the profilers rule’ but this was too fascinating. 

“You’re the youngest member but not the most inexperienced.  Genius of some sort, specifically recruited to fill in the blanks and you do a good job of it.  You have one doctorate, minimum.  You could easily be a professor but you like the variety of the job.  No kids, no significant other.  A bit of a mama’s boy.”  Nick was still looking at Reid, but, for whatever reason, he was keeping his observations to himself.  Reid was horrified to wonder if Nick could see the drug addition or the genetic mental tendencies. 

“Freaky, isn’t it?” Hank commiserated.

Reid controlled his reactions and agreed.  He was thankful when Captain Renard opened his office door and summoned the two detectives.  He needed to find some coffee pronto.  He would also call Garcia.  He needed to talk to a friend just now.


Special Agent Aaron Hotchner had been ‘invited’ into enough cases to know when the police really didn’t want them there but someone higher up had demanded federal intervention.  Police Captain Sean Renard was the perfect political creature, in that he didn’t let a hint of his opinion color his reaction to the BAU.  His ace detectives, on the other hand, let skepticism seep out of their pores.  They were good detectives, Hotch had to admit, somehow realizing that they were dealing with a serial killer long before the lab could connect the degraded DNA between the three very disparate victims.

“We’re not sure how the unsub –Unknown Subject- picks his victims yet,” Hotch admitted.  “Though the three lived geographically near to each other, there doesn’t seem to be any overlap in the places that they visited or social circles.  Our working theory is that he likes the challenge of killing people who can defend themselves.”

“Wrong,” Detective Nick Burkhardt murmured under his breath.  He wasn’t paying much attention to the others in the room, more intent on scanning through all of the data that Garcia had been able to find on the three victims.  The FBI had access to considerably more information than Portland’s computer technicians.  His partner, Detective Hank Griffin, looked amused at Burkhardt casually bucking authority.  A glance at the captain proved that the man was waiting to see how Hotch would react before bringing his man in line.

“I’m interested in hearing your theory, Detective Burkhardt,” Hotch said.  He was speaking the truth but he was also trying to get the man to be willing to work with his team.

Burkhardt tore his attention away from the FBI folder, but he looked first at Renard rather than Hotch.  Whatever Burkhardt saw in Renard’s demeanor -and Hotch was surprised to realize that it was more than what he was seeing- made the detective straighten and address the rest of the room.  “He’s picking people he views as prey that are trying to become adept at defending themselves and teaching others to do so as well.  He wants prey to stay in their place.  And warning the students to quit trying.”

“Interesting theory, please elaborate.”

“You have seen the pictures of Ramirez,” Burkhardt stated.

“He was a body builder, slight but muscular.”  Hotch recalled the first victim with ease.

Burkhardt and Griffin nodded.  The older detective reached into the police file on Renard’s desk and flipped through until he found the picture he wanted.  He handed that to Hotch.  “That’s a Ramirez family picture from six years ago.”

At first glance, Hotch thought that the victim wasn’t pictured and then he looked closer.  Four years ago, Mario Ramirez was a stick, just starting to show the slightest bit of muscle definition.  He had worked very hard to become the body builder that had been posed in front of the gym.  He had probably used some sort of steroid.

Burkhardt didn’t wait for Hotch to verbally agree with him.  “Also, on odd hours, Ramirez would have a small class of ah…’weightlifting for non body builders.’  They mostly worked out in the early morning when they wouldn’t cross paths of those who naturally had a more… impressive build.”

That was something that Garcia would not have been able to find.  And knowing the time of day of the discovery of the corpse added validity to the theory.  The unsub could have been sending a message to anyone else that might be trying to work out of the prey mentality.  “And White?”

Burkhardt shifted and raised the FBI folder.  “We’re short on information on Mrs. White.  She was an elderly divorcee that went to the shooting range every Monday at five pm, she moved her practice to Tuesdays during holidays.  She had a carry-concealed that she put fifty rounds through weekly.  According to the range owner, she had been doing that for almost two decades.   Her ex had put her in the hospital one too many times and she taught herself to shoot.  She was determined to never be a victim again.  She would not let her skills lapse.  She bought a second handgun just last month, after nineteen years of using the same one.  We can’t find it in the house and we’re pretty sure that the murderer didn’t take it since he left her carry-concealed at the crime scene.  I think she bought it for someone else and is teaching them but whoever it is, is not coming forward.”

The theory was sound.

“Nelson was a yoga instructor, but she had been taking self-defense lessons for the last eight months.  She had posted a letter of intent to start a self-defense class on the board of her classroom.  It was supposed to start in two months if enough students signed up.  Minimum was ten and she already had seventeen.  She would spend the intervening time getting her teaching certification.  Ten years ago, she weighed a hundred pounds more.  She too had a dramatic change in her lifestyle.”

Hotch nodded.  “I can see your logic and how it affects the profile.  Have you found how the unsub discovered his victim pool?”

“That’s where we’re stumped,” Burkhardt admitted.  “We still don’t know White’s student so how did the… unsub,” the detective tested out the federal term, “know that she had one?”

“That’s a very good question.  I’ll have our tech analyst start searching for the student.”  Hotch met the detective’s stare and asked a question that had been plaguing the team.  “Why is the unsub attacking the victims where he does and why leave them in different places?”

“He’s leaving them to be found by their students.  The Porter sisters were signed up for Nelson’s self-defense class.  The two that found Ramirez were part of his ‘body-building for non-body builders’ class and Ms. White had taken her neighbor, Sue Gram, to the shooting range whenever she could find a babysitter for the boys.  It wasn’t often and Gram denies White buying her a gun.  Gram didn’t want a firearm in her house until she knew her sons were responsible enough to leave it alone.”

“We must find out how he is picking his victims.  This kind of unsub is not going to stop.  He has such a specific victim type, that eventually he’s going to have to expand his parameters.”

Griffin could see the danger as well as any profiler.  “At that point, anyone who shows a little gumption would be a target.”


As soon as the BAU had closed the door on the department, Reid spoke up.  “Guys, one of the detectives is a very talented natural profiler.”

“Burkhardt,” Hotch filled in.  “He has a viable theory of victimology.” 

Reid shrugged.  “Well, he knew who was married, who had been married, correctly guessed the number of divorces and who was widowed.  He knew children and who was in charge and who filled in to the rest of the blanks on the team.  He knew what we could have been.  He got everything right.  It stands to reason that his victimology would be close to the truth.”

“Has he had any education?” Hotch posed the query.

“None beyond the normal detective classes.  I already asked Garcia.”

“Should we tell him the ‘don’t profile the profiler’ rule?” Morgan asked.

“It’s way too late for that.  Way.”

“Is anyone getting more than ‘talented cop’ off of him?” JJ asked.

“Trusts his boss and his partner, straight, long term significant other,” Rossi rattled off.  “His partner is an experienced, good cop.”

“Both are willing to give us a chance as long as we give them one,” Hotch shut down the speculation.  “Burkhardt’s a profiler on his own turf.  There’s something to be said for home field advantage.  Make sure he knows that we respect him and he won’t give us any problems.  He can be a valuable asset as long as we don’t shut him out.  He respects his captain and has a better read of Renard than I do.  He’ll do whatever Renard wants him to do, even if it doesn’t match with Renard’s verbal orders, for example, like sharing information.”

“Neither one is a glory hound.  They just want to catch this guy,” Reid added.  “Some of the support staff on the other hand…”

“It’s to be expected,” Prentiss shrugged.  “What’s Burkhardt’s victimology theory?”

“The unsub is targeting people that worked hard, very hard to not be victims anymore.  Not only did they learn to protect their own interests, these same people are now teaching others how to protect themselves.”  Hotch handed out Portland’s files.  “He had all the information in here.”

“How are we going to find and warn the rest of the unsub’s victim pool?” Rossi asked the others.  “If Burkhardt is correct and we’re pretty sure he is, we’re going to have a hard time identifying potential victims.”

“The unsub has been very specific thus far, if he’s getting off on the waiting before the killing then he’ll have to widen his scope soon.  Not killing anymore just isn’t an option.”  Morgan shook his head.  “The easiest place to find another victim would be the gym.  He knows who is in the first weightlifting class, at least some of them.  Who stepped forward to lead after Ramirez’s death?”

“We’re going to continue as planned.  You and Emily will re-interview the Porter sisters,” Hotch said.  “Ask about any sense: smell, hearing.  He had to be there.  Reid will work on a geographic profile.  The rest of us will be going to the gym.  We’re looking for a local that has probably fallen on hard times and has an underlying temper.”


Hotch let Rossi take the lead in questioning the gym owner, Rich Jansen.  The man obviously used his own equipment.  He glanced over JJ, both dismissively and while objectifying her body.  Single and handsome enough that he could pick up one-night stands easily, Jansen didn’t have the emotional depth for a romantic relationship.

“We need to run down the alibis of everyone who had been in the gym in the last few weeks.  Customers, prospective customers and even people that might have had a beef with Ramirez,” Rossi told Jansen.

“Ramirez hadn’t had any problems with customers in months.  Granted, it had been a little rough on him in the beginning but the guys were used to him now and he did beef up.  He finally looked like he belonged here.”  The gym owner shrugged, “and that new class of his was bringing in the money.  I never thought to carter to the dweebs.”

Rossi didn’t particularly like Jansen, but it didn’t interfere with his job.  “We’ll need the daily sign-in sheet for the last several months, as well as the names of those who used to give Ramirez a hassle.”

“Look, Ramirez was a mouse. You can’t blame the guys for a little harmless hazing, but that ended months ago.”  Jansen angled his body so that he could keep Burkhardt in view.  “Right, detective?”

“That’s what I had heard,” Burkhardt answered.  “I also heard that it wasn’t going to happen to any customers in the future.”

Jansen flinched.  “Of course not.  Heh, heh, that would be bad for business.”

“Yes, it would.”

Jansen back up a couple steps.  “You know, I’ll just go get that customer list right now,” and he fled.

Rossi and Hotch exchanged a glance that shared their worry.  Jansen was scared of Burkhardt.  Rossi followed the man to ensure that he didn’t rabbit to avoid Burkhardt.

In direct contrast, a nervous little man, a customer, cornered Burkhardt as soon as Jansen was out of sight.  He was obviously worried, literally wringing his hands, and expecting the detective –not the FBI- to fix the problem.  “What are we going to do?”  He said, initiating one of the oddest conversations Hotch had ever witnessed.

“Are you going to stop working out?” Burkhardt’s tone changed completely to one of encouragement.

“Should we?  I mean, just for a little while, just until you get him and end him?”

Hotch could tell that Burkhardt was torn between telling the man to stay safe and not caving to the obvious desires of the unsub. “Everyone staying in groups, or at least pairs?”

“We’ve been doing that since you first put the word out.  But what else can we do?  What about your friend, the ah,” the man glanced at Hotch and obviously changed his word choice on the fly, “clockmaker.  Do you think he’d come down and, you know, hang while we work out?”

“Do you have some place where he can do his Pilates?” Burkhardt asked with a grin.

The little man started nodding so hard, Hotch wondered if his head could possibly fly off.  “Sure.  No problem.  We can do that.”

“Then call him and ask him,” Burkhardt seemed to think the solution was simple.  “He’s in the phonebook.”

The man squeaked.  “Me?”

Burkhardt’s patience was fraying.  “He can’t bite your head off over the phone.”

“But he might hunt me down to do it.”

“Vegetarian,” Burkhardt joked.  “You’re not his type.”

The man took it seriously.  “But he’s only been a vege…” the little man trailed off as Burkhardt glared.  “Look, he’s your friend and you’re a… cop.  He won’t say no to you.”

“If you offer him some high end alcohol, he won’t say no to you either.”

“Get him drunk?” the little man nearly shrieked.

Burkhardt held out his hands to calm the man down.  “He doesn’t drink to excess.  Look, Monroe is easy to bribe: he likes fine alcohol, food and music.  Pick one and apply.  For that early in the morning, you’ll need some really good coffee waiting for him too.”

“Coffee’s easy,” the man considered his options.  “What kind of music?”


“Hey, the young….” Yet another aborted word, “violinist you didn’t arrest.  Would Monroe like his playing?”

“Monroe’s a big fan of Roddy.  If you can get Roddy here that early on a school morning for practice, Monroe will be here.”

The little man started nodding again.  “Good, good.  We can work with that.  Young Geiger will do it in exchange for a week of dinners.”

“Probably,” Burkhardt agreed.  He waited until the man hurried away looking for his phone to arrange the protective detail.  The detective shook his head in mock despair. “Why go for the simple bribe when you can do complicated?” he said softly to Hotch.  Hotch considered the fact that the weaker man on the social ladder considered the detective as safe while the man in charge most definitely had the opposite view.

Rossi returned with the customer list and security tapes from Jansen.  The gym owner neglected to return to the same area as Burkhardt.  Rossi was also on the phone with Morgan.  He shook his head at Hotch.  “They did separate and group cognitive interviews to no avail.  The Porter sisters didn’t see, hear or smell anything of use.”

The locals had better luck with their phone calls.  Detective Griffin waved to get everyone’s attention as he was ending a conversation.  “Dr. Harper, our coroner,” Griffin explained to the Feds, “called.  She found cause of death for Nelson.  Water in the lungs.”

“She was found on dry land,” JJ argued.  She had been wandering through the gym, starting conversations with the customers and hadn’t come up with any obvious suspects.

“Dry is relative this time of year,” Griffin said wryly.  “But yeah, she was nowhere near to someplace where she could have drowned.  The nearest stream in that park was about a half mile away and we have no evidence of Nelson being near there.  Harper said that perimortem bruises showed up on her chest where the sicko sat on her to pour water down her throat.  From the new bruises on her upper arms, he knelt on her too.”

The detectives and the agents retreated to a semi-private alcove of the gym to converse.  “That’s the second time water has played a part of the death,” Hotch said.  “It’s becoming vital to his MO.  He would be able to kill anyone without water.”

“He brought the water with him,” Rossi announced. 

“And that’s why he let the Porter girls go,” JJ nodded as parts of the profile were sliding into place.  “He had used all of his water on Nelson.”

Hotch nodded.  “We need to re-interview all of the people around the area and see if anyone was carrying a bucket or anything that could hold liquids.  Marathon runners can have something that appears to be a small backpack for water.”

“I’ll call Morgan,” Rossi volunteered.

“I’ll contact the park service,” JJ offered.


Hotch waited until he could corner Burkhardt in the police station with only FBI agents and Detective Griffin.  Captain Renard was nearby but not obvious.  “You knew Ramirez,” Hotch stated.  He knew Burkhardt could read his unstated fury.  That kind of connection should have been mentioned.  “You had a conversation with Jansen so that the man would stop harassing Ramirez.”

“It wasn’t a long conversation,” the detective admitted.  “I didn’t know Ramirez well.  He was something of a friend of a friend asking for an outsider’s point of view and intervention if needed.  And before you ask, I didn’t know that White existed but I had been putting out feelers for a self-defense teacher for months for my girlfriend.  Nelson was qualified and local but wary of working with a cop.  Nelson was already my girlfriend’s yoga teacher.  We had a meeting scheduled for tomorrow and it was only when I was in the yoga studio that I saw that she was going to teach self-defense, finally.”

“Nick can wear anyone down,” Griffin muttered.  “He goes after you like an enthusiastic puppy and if you say ‘no’ he looks at you and you’d swear that you had just kicked him.  You can only kick a puppy so many times.”

Burkhardt glared but there wasn’t much heat behind it.  “I’m persistent… and nice.”

“Stubborn as a mule,” Griffin retorted.

Hotch noticed Captain Renard standing behind his men looking mildly amused.  “Captain, do you have anything to add?”

The detectives looked abashed.  Renard addressed Hotch.  “I was aware of Burkhardt’s search for a competent self defense teacher and I was aware that his paths had crossed Ramirez but not White’s.  I deemed the connections as no consequence.  Also, I have always been of the opinion that Burkhardt was a bulldog once he sunk his teeth into a case.”

Hotch had to admire the skill in which Renard went from delivering pertinent information to teasing his detective.  His tone of voice hadn’t shifted at all.  Griffin was trying to hide his grin and Burkhardt was trying not to groan. 

“Are you withholding any other information?” the team leader asked the detective directly.

Burkhardt shook his head.  “Nothing that you could use.”  That wasn’t as promising as Hotch had hoped.

“What makes you a judge of that?” Rossi challenged him.

Burkhardt grinned, but at the same time seemed so very alone.  “I swear if I had any way to prove it, I would pass it along.  Right now it’s just… it’s worse than hearsay, it’s fairy tales.”

Hotch nodded and accepted the bald honesty.


“Detective Burkhardt is very talented,” Hotch mentioned to Captain Renard in the privacy of his office.  He was trying to be circumspect in dealing with the police.

The captain’s face hardened immediately and his answer jumped straight to Hotch’s point.  “Nick could propose to his girlfriend any day now.  She is a veterinarian settled in the community.  Nick’s CIs are getting more trustworthy and cheaper by the day.  Nick is a vital part of the community.  He’s needed here.  They do not have any interest in leaving Portland.”

Hotch raised an eyebrow at the vehement brush-off.  Whatever Renard’s feeling for Burkhardt, it was more personal than that of a captain’s favorite detective.  It bordered on possessive.  He would have Garcia look into it.  He liked the enthusiastic detective too much to leave him to be used in a politician’s hands.


JJ was smiling when she returned to the conference room.  “My contact at the park service came through.  They have rangers stationed at every entrance of the park and they’ve asked everyone if they’ve seen someone carrying a bucket or some other type of container the day of Nelson’s murder.  They found a couple that remembers seeing someone familiar and more than that, the couple had a name: Jack Parrish.”

“I know him,” Griffin announced with a rueful headshake.  “I’ve brought him in a couple times.  Small time thief, but he’s never battered anyone.  He’s pointed a gun at a couple gas station attendants but he’s never used his fist.  He’s been in and out of jail for a decade.  He has a favorite pawn shop.  Wu will probably be able to pick him up there.”

“I haven’t met him,” Burkhardt confirmed.

“Nah.  You get all the weird ones, but don’t worry, he’s a pain in the ass in interrogation.  He never admits to anything.  You can meet him there.”


Griffin nodded through the one-way window.  “So, is he one of those that you can walk in, scare and he’ll confess the candy bar he stole when he was eight?”

Burkhardt tilted his head and evaluated the suspect.  “It was a bike, when he was in his very early teens and yes.  You were right, he’s not the unsub but he probably saw him.”

Griffin turned and looked at Morgan and Reid.  “I’ve got a fiver that says he’s right about the bike.  And the age.  Any takers?”

“Burkhardt, Griffin, quit hustling the Feds,” Renard chided.

Griffin was less repentant than Burkhardt.  “There’s a five dollar betting limit in the office so that Nick doesn’t have to report his gambling gains to the IRS.”
“Burkhardt, go scare him.  We don’t have time for this.”  Hotch and Rossi were otherwise occupied so Morgan let the police captain call the shots.  Morgan had noticed Hotch trying not to horn in on the locals’ authority. 

“Yes, sir.”

It didn’t take long for Burkhardt to walk into the interrogation room.  Parrish straightened with a smarmy smile and a cocky tilt of his chin.

“Jack Parrish, we haven’t met before.  I’m detective Nick Burkhardt,” the detective introduced himself.

The man instantly paled and twitched oddly.  His chin dropped defensively.  Morgan had never seen such physical behavior before.

“Oh, so you have heard of me.”

Parrish nodded and glanced to the door.  His handcuffs jingled as he jerked them.  Burkhardt ignored the obvious signs of distress.

“You’re a thief,” Burkhardt told him.  “I want to know what you’ve stolen.”

The man gulped.  “All of it?”

“All of it.”  There was an amused smirk.  “Start at the beginning.”

“When I was eleven, I stole a bike.  I don’t remember anything worthwhile younger than that.  After the bike, it was mostly food. Then phones, computers, TVs, VCRs until they were useless.  If I needed something and it was there, I’d take it.  If I saw something that I could pawn, I’d take that too.  I took too many things to tell you the exact when and where of it all.”  He begged Burkhardt to understand.

“Tell me about everything you’ve taken this week.”

Jack Parrish had started Sunday with car that had been left running with the keys in it, a purse he had yanked off a woman, a potted plant on someone’s stoop.  And on and on it went.  The profilers watching the interrogation were amused at the lengthy list but finally Parrish recall the day of Nelson’s death.

“Friday, I found the bucket, I swear.  It was on the side of the trail and it looked brand new and I thought, ‘why not?’.”

“When did you see it?”

“Seven-ish?  There were cops on the trail and I thought they might be looking for me since I drove to the park with a stolen car, so I, ah, went off the trail in the opposite direction and I found it downhill.  It looked like someone had thrown it off the trail.”

“Did you see any one?”

Parrish shook his head.  “Nothing.  I was alone.”

“Were the birds singing?” Burkhardt asked.

Parrish blinked at the odd-ball question and had to think hard.  “No,” he said slowly.  “Oh, wait.  About five minutes after I picked up the bucket, the birds to the south started making a racket and took to the air.”

“Like they had been startled?”

“Yeah,” Parrish decided.  “Exactly like that.”

“Anything else.”

“I don’t think so, no.”

“Thank you, Mr. Parrish, you’ve been very helpful.”

Parrish brightened.  “Does that mean I can leave?”

Burkhardt didn’t say a word and the BAU agents were on the wrong side of the room to see his face but his glare must have been truly impressive if the way Parrish shrunk back meant anything.  “Your charges are between my captain and the DA.  I’ll ask the judge for a reduced sentence for your assistance.”

“Yes, sir,” Parrish mumbled.

The few moments it took Burkhardt to walk back to the observation room were enough for the BAU team to control their facial muscles.

“How do you do that?” Morgan asked, he had too.  He had never seen anyone conduct an interrogation so effortlessly.

“He just does it,” Griffin answered for his partner. 

Burkhardt dropped the folder on the desk.  “I think he told the truth.  Despite starting his criminal career earlier than I thought, he doesn’t know who the unsub is.”

“You got close to the age,” Griffin told him with fake condolences.  “Frankly, I’m surprised he waited that long.”

Morgan knew how to focus on the immediate.  “How did both the Porter sisters and Parrish cross paths with the unsub and yet neither of them saw him?  Is he invisible?”


Part 2