“Yes.” They all answered in unison.
Wednesday, October 30, 2013
Garcia has accepted Morgan’s dislike of Halloween as a challenge and plans an intimate themed evening for the two of them. What results is an evening of horror that changes them forever.
Derek Morgan hated Halloween. It was unsettling and creepy watching people running around with masks and costumes pretending to be someone or something they were not. Reid always managed to find a way to scare the bejesus out of him and Garcia loved passing out oddly decorated homemade cupcakes and cookies to the team as she too would be dressed in some insane costume.
Once Garcia found out that he had planned a quiet evening alone away from the revelry of Halloween, she decided to make it her mission to make him fall in love with one of her favorite days of the year. So, instead of going to her annual party with Reid she decided to have a cute Halloween party for two complete with decorations, food and costumes. Well, Morgan was still refusing to dress up but if she had her way, before the evening was over, he’d be doing pretty much anything she asked him to do.
Garcia was running late; she’d gotten a bit carried away shopping at the local market for treats and she couldn’t resist all the decorations that were now marked half off. So, with bags in hand and balanced precariously in her arms she rushed into the parking lot toward Esther. As usual, she was not focused on her surroundings, so excited about getting to Morgan’s house and seeing the look of shock on his face when she showed up with all of her goodies.
The darkness of the night provided great cover for the evil that lurked only feet from Garcia. Most of the cars that had been there when she arrived were now gone and Esther sat virtually alone in the large quiet lot. Morgan had told her so many times to be alert and to look around, to pay attention, but she always rolled her eyes and teased him about being paranoid. Ever since she’d been shot, he was even more over-protective than usual. It frustrated him that she hadn’t changed her behavior about safety even after being shot. She was trusting to a fault and he feared that she’d one day pay for it with her life.
Garcia let out a sigh of relief when she finally arrived at her car dropping the bags at the trunk and fumbling for her keys. She loved carrying a big purse for all of her trinkets but it made finding things so difficult, especially in the dark. She grunted in frustration as she rumbled through her purse, cursing herself and wishing she’d grabbed them out and had them in her hand before leaving the store. She could hear Morgan’s voice in her head and that made her even more frustrated.
Suddenly, out of nowhere, Garcia was pushed violently against the car. She felt a hard tug on her purse and she instinctively held onto it for dear life. A sharp kick to her side, forced her to the ground and another blow to her head forced the purse from her grip. Everything seemed hazy, the ground beneath her cold as she tried to make sense of what was happening. Another kick to her back and she screamed in pain. She could hear chuckles and deep voices calling her names as she tried in vain to get to her feet. It was so dark and no matter how much she tried to cry out for help no one came, just the evil voices. Finally she felt a heavy blow to the side of her head and everything went black.
Home of Derek Morgan – Later
Morgan checked his watch again. He knew how she could get carried away when it came to shopping but now he was beginning to worry. He dialed her number but it just rang eventually going to voice mail. He considered calling JJ but he knew she and Will would be out with Henry. Garcia always gave him a hard time about being over-protective but he didn’t want anything to happen to her again. He still had nightmares about her being shot and he’d failed miserably in trying to teach her about being careful.
Just as he began dialing her number again, he received a call from an unknown number.
“Morgan.” His heart began beating wildly.
“Derek Morgan?” The voice replied.
“My name is April Carter at D.C. General. Your name was on an Emergency Contact for a Miss Penelope Garcia…”
Before the woman could go on, Derek interrupted her in a panic.
“…What happened? Is she alright? Talk to me!”
“Mr. Morgan, Miss Garcia was brought in a few minutes ago and she is being treated in our Emergency Room…”
“I’m on my way!” He interrupted again.
Morgan went numb. He grabbed his keys and ran out of the house towards his car. He couldn’t think or process anything. He prayed; something that he still didn’t do often, and asked God for protection for Penelope. He skirted in and out of traffic nearly causing at least two or three accidents. He managed to call JJ and left her a message about what happened.
Morgan arrived at the hospital in less than eight minutes and burst through the automatic doors. He had to find her. It was chaotic and he wanted to scream as he dodged sick patients standing and walking at a snail’s pace through the halls. It took all of his restraint to not grab the uninterested, preoccupied clerk at the desk. She seemed even slightly irritated at him when he interrupted the re-telling of her date of the previous evening.
“Garcia. Penelope Garcia. Where is she?” He barked.
The clerk’s scowl immediately softened when she noticed the caramel-colored, chiseled, gorgeous and slightly panicked specimen before her.
“She’s uh…she’s in exam room number two down to the left, sir.” She answered drooling.
“Thanks,” He responded as he headed down the hall.
The clerk stood and leaned over the counter watching him as he sprinted away.
Morgan quickly found the room and burst inside. The sight of her stopped him cold in his tracks. A nurse nearby approached him quickly and forced him back into the hallway.
“I’ve go to see her!”
“Sir, the doctors are working right now!” She answered holding him back and away from the door.
“No. You don’t understand. I need to see her!”
“Please sir, let the doctors work. As soon as we can, we’ll let you know how she’s doing.”
The nurse quickly turned and went back into the exam room leaving a distraught Morgan pacing in the hallway. He rubbed his hands across the back of his neck as he alternated between pacing and peering into the small window of the door.
“Derek!” A familiar voice from a distance rang out.
He turned and saw JJ rushing toward him. He met her halfway and she saw nothing but sheer terror in his eyes; mouth gaped open but unable to speak.
“What happened? I got your message.”
“JJ, I don’t know they won’t tell me anything. They won’t let me see her…”
“Was it an accident? What?”
“I’m telling you, I don’t know. We were supposed to hang out at my place and she was late. I kept trying to call her but she didn’t answer her cell…JJ, she looked so bad…I can’t lose her, JJ!”
JJ quickly grabbed him by the neck and pulled him into an embrace. She knew how much Morgan loved Garcia. The two stood there for what seemed like forever comforting each other, afraid of what could have happened to their friend.
It had been nearly two hours since Derek had received the call that Garcia had been brought in. JJ and Derek sat quietly near the door of the waiting room, JJ holding onto Derek’s arm and he, staring into space vaguely aware that the rest of the team, Hotch, Rossi, and Reid had arrived almost an hour ago. Hotch and Rossi had spoken in detail with the police and gotten some details on what happened. The two had agreed to withhold the information from Derek until they knew more about Garcia’s condition.
An older man dressed in worn green scrubs approached the group with a serious look on his face.
“Yes.” They all answered in unison.
Derek stepped forward bracing himself for bad news. He couldn’t shake what he saw when he’d forced his way into the exam room earlier.
“My name is Dr. Nils Hensen. I’m the attending this evening treating Miss Garcia.”
“How is she, doc?” Morgan said cutting to the chase.
“Miss Garcia sustained multiple injuries, contusions and bruises on her upper torso, broken ribs on her left and right side, she also suffered several blows to the back and side of her head.”
“Damn! Baby Girl.” Morgan moaned and rubbed his face in anguish.
“Is she going to be okay?” Hotch asked taking control of the conversation.
“Miss Garcia is in a coma. I’ve got to be honest with you. I’m concerned. We won’t know the extent of her head injuries until she wakes up…if she wakes up.”
“What do you mean, if she wakes up?” Derek was shaky now.
“With head injuries there is still so much we just don’t know. The sooner she wakes up the better we can tell what’s going on.”
The entire team looked defeated and deflated by the doctor’s blunt assessment of Garcia’s condition.
“I’m sorry I don’t have better news, folks.”
“Can we see her?” JJ asked teary-eyed.
“She’s being moved to a room now. Once she’s settled then you can see her but please don’t stay long.”
“Thanks, Doctor.” Hotch said.
Dr. Hensen nodded and left the room. Everyone looked at Morgan who began following the doctor out of the room, trying not to let his team see him lose it. They stayed behind watching him as he rushed down the hall. After he was out of sight, Hotch and Rossi briefed everyone else on what they had found out so far.
Hospital Room of Penelope Garcia – Early Morning
The dimly lit room was quiet except for the light beeps of the monitors. In spite of anything anyone had tried to say, Derek had not left her side. He had not slept nor had his gaze left her swollen, bruised face. He had lost track of time and in the last several hours he’d prayed more than he had his entire life. The last thing he remembered was Rossi and Hotch giving him the details of what had happened. He still hadn’t processed it all.
She was so pale, so still, so beautiful. He thought how cruel life was. He fought the inclination to be selfish and to make this about him. Who would think that as soon as he had told her how he felt that she would end up here fighting for her life. He didn’t want to believe that this was confirmation that he wasn’t meant to be happy and that everyone close to him ends up hurt or worse. That was crazy he knew it but it was hard not letting his mind go there. She was so good, so giving of her heart, loving fiercely with every ounce of her being and she didn’t deserve becoming the victim of a greedy evil creature. He wouldn’t rest until everyone responsible was dead. He knew it may very well cost him his career with the FBI but it would be a small price, a very small price.
“Baby Girl, it’s Derek, Baby. You can’t leave me, you hear me? I love you and we have a whole lot of years to live together, so you need to open those pretty brown eyes for me, okay?”
Garcia lay motionless except for the light movement of her chest caused by her breathing. Derek exhausted gently laid his head on their joined hands and closed his eyes.
BAU Headquarters Quantico, VA – Afternoon
The team had gathered in the conference room to discuss Garcia’s attack. The air was thick, serious and gloomy. Their hearts and minds were consumed with worry but they all knew that the one and only goal was to find the ones responsible. Morgan was understandably absent. He hadn’t left Penelope’s side. They’d all tried unsuccessfully to get him to leave.
Even though they hadn’t made a formal announcement, everyone assumed that they had finally gotten it right. Morgan had seemed less Morgan-like and Garcia had seemed more…distracted. Hotch had even caught the two kissing in the elevator one morning recently and forced himself to reprimand them half-heartedly. JJ wanted desperately to go to the hospital to see her best friend but she knew that duty called.
“According to the police report, Garcia had parked her car at the far end of the lot. I’m guessing that the lot was full when she arrived to do her shopping.” Hotch started.
“…And knowing Garcia, she probably spent more time than she’d planned in the stores.” JJ chimed in.
“Yeah, and when she left the lot was pretty much empty.” Reid added.
“It looks like there’s been a pattern of muggings at this lot over the past several years. Halloween seems to be the night of choice for these jokers.” Rossi concluded.
“A witness noticed three men, dressed in black wearing masks of Disney Characters running from the lot shortly after 9:30. He heard what sounded like screams and when he went to investigate that’s when he found Garcia.” Hotch continued.
“Have we heard anything from the hospital this morning?” JJ asked.
“I checked with the nurse just before I came in and there’s been no change.” Hotch answered. “Let’s stay focused. I know we’re all worried but we’ve got to find these guys the sooner the better.”
“Yeah, before Morgan finds them.” Rossi added.
The group nodded around the table as they continued to work.
Downtown New York High Rise Office Building- 70th floor Penthouse
A tall well-dressed man stands looking out onto the city, dwarfed by the massive wall of windows and high ceilings of the large expensively decorated corporate office. Everything around him signifies power and money. He is deep in thought, hands clasped behind his back, the fingers of his left hand wiggle, a nervous twitch.
He is interrupted by a light knock on the door.
“Boss.” A nervous male voice calls from the other side of the room.
“Come in.” He answers without turning around.
“G told me you wanted to see me.” The man says as he approaches.
“I’m disappointed in you, Myles. I so don’t like being disappointed.”
“I’m sorry, Boss. My guy assured me that he would take care of the matter. I’ll fix it! I promise.”
“You’re very lucky I’m a forgiving fellow. I believe everyone deserves a second chance.” He said, still looking out onto the city.
“Yes Sir, thank you Sir.”
“It’s going to be very difficult to finish the job. Up until now they think it’s a simple mugging and that super agent hasn’t left her side.”
“Not a problem, Boss. I’ll handle it, personally.”
“Yes you will or I’ll handle you, personally.”
Myles Butler had worked closely with his boss for nearly ten years and he knew he always made good on a promise. He absolutely did not accept failure from anyone and he would surely kill him without so much as a blink or a spike in his blood pressure if he failed in completing his task. He scurried from the office before he changed his mind and decided to kill him before his afternoon martini.
As his incompetent employee slithered from his office Richard Lynch slowly turned from the window and reached for his half-empty bourbon glass with a wicked grin on his face, realizing that soon he’d have the revenge he’d wanted for months now. As he drained the remaining alcohol he picked up a framed picture from his desk and looked wonderingly at the two men in baseball caps smiling back at him.
“Soon son, soon.”
Hospital – Late Afternoon
Morgan still had not left Garcia’s side and she still had not regained consciousness. The nurses had come in every hour to check her vitals and left without a word as they scribbled notes in her chart. Morgan was numb. He’d tried talking to her, pleading with her to open her eyes but she hadn’t responded. He didn’t know what else to do. He rubbed her hand it felt so light in his, so fragile. He’d lost count of the times since she’d been here that he’d told her he loved her and he’d give anything to hear her say that she loved him back. They’d seen each other through so many things; he’d actually believed that they were indestructible together. She was his shield against the evil and craziness of the world. When he was haunted by his past, she chased away the demons that visited him in his sleep. She’d been able to convince him that it was okay to love him and love him she did. He was supposed to be the hero but she’d saved his life just by her love so many times. Now she laid here silent, somewhere where his words could not reach her and his training was not strong enough to pull her back. He kept staring at this woman that he loved, who had taught him how to love and there was nothing he could do to help her.
It wasn’t until he heard a light knock at the door that he realized that he had been crying. JJ stuck her head in the door and then entered the room standing on the opposite side of the bed looking down at her friend. She glanced over at Morgan, he wasn’t doing well and her heart went out to him.
He shook his head as his gaze remained on Garcia.
“Morgan, you’ve got to rest. I know you haven’t since you’ve been here.”
“I can’t leave her.”
“You’ve got to take care of yourself. She’s going to need you when she wakes up.”
“JJ, if she hadn’t been so hell-bent on having this special Halloween celebration for me…I’m like the Halloween Scrooge…”
“Derek, this isn’t your fault!”
“She should have been at home with me or out with Reid at their Halloween party they go to every year.”
JJ moved to Morgan’s side of the bed and grabbed his arm pulling him to his feet.
“JJ, what are you…”
“Come on, just for a minute. We’ll just be outside the door. You can see her through the window.”
Reluctantly, he followed her out of the room, glancing back at Garcia before stepping out.
“Derek, listen to me. This is not your fault. You can’t take that guilt on it will destroy you. You’re dead on your feet, you’ve got to rest, eat.”
“I’m sorry, but I can’t leave her. If something happens to her, I’m not sure I’d survive it.”
Morgan turned facing the window. JJ placed her hand on his back and they both stood silently crying together.
The flight from New York to D.C. had been relatively uneventful. Myles was tired but anxious to wrap things up for Mr. Lynch and hopefully get back on his good side. This was his first big screw up and he didn’t want to lose his life because he couldn’t take care of some defenseless computer geek.
Myles Butler, career criminal and head goon for one Richard Lynch grabbed his bag and headed to the D.C. General Hospital.
Hotch, Rossi, and Reid had arrived and stood alongside JJ peering into the window of Garcia’s room. Morgan sat next to her bed just like he had for the last 18 hours. They had wanted to come sooner but they wanted to stay on the case and had even gotten a lead. They hoped that the news that they had discovered the identity of the three men who had attacked Garcia would make Morgan feel better.
Morgan turned as he heard the door open and his team quietly entered. Suddenly the room was filled with all the people that loved Garcia; still she lay motionless in the bed.
“Morgan, I know you don’t want to leave her but you need to get some rest.”
“I’m not leaving her, Hotch. Please don’t ask me to.”
“We identified her assailants.” Rossi said.
Morgan jumped to his feet and looked piercingly at the older agent.
“We have D.C. police on it. They’ve issued an APB on them. We’ll have them in custody in no time.” Rossi tried to sound reassuring.
“Who are they?” Morgan said angrily.
“Three low-life goons who rent themselves out to the highest bidder. Bird Cummings, Mitch Evans and Arturo Ramos, all from Richmond.”
“Now I’ll leave.” Morgan moved toward the door.
“Morgan. Don’t even think about it. We’ve got this. We love her too and we are not about to let them get away with this.” Hotch ordered.
Morgan reluctantly sat down and gently took Penelope’s hand in his and began stroking it softly.
“Hear that Baby Girl? We know who did this and were going to bring them in. They’ll pay for this, I promise.”
After the team had left for the evening, Morgan pulled out his phone and made a call.
“It’s me. I need a favor.”
D.C. General Hospital – Next Day-Late Afternoon
Nothing had changed; Garcia had not awakened and Derek still sat holding vigil next to her. JJ had brought him something to eat before she headed in to work and insisted he take a few bites before she left. He complied realizing he didn’t have a choice. The D.C and Richmond Police Departments still had not apprehended Cummings, Evans or Ramos but they felt that they were closing in since no one fitting their descriptions had left the city by plane, train, or bus and the highways were being heavily monitored by law enforcement. JJ thought it was odd that Derek had not asked about the three men during her visit.
Shortly after she’d arrived at the BAU the team received a phone call. The bodies of Bird Cummings, Mitch Evans and Arturo Ramos had been found in a rundown Richmond apartment. The men had been tortured for several hours and then shot execution style in the back of the head.
“Either we have a vigilante on our hands or somebody’s cleaning house.” Rossi said.
“Maybe this wasn’t a regular mugging. Just made to look like a mugging.” Reid added.
“If that’s the case Garcia could still be in danger.” Hotch pointed out.
“Who would want Garcia dead?” JJ asked to no one in particular.
D.C. General Hospital – Room of Penelope Garcia
Derek had closed his eyes and fallen asleep his head resting on his and Penelope’s hands. Her sudden moving caused him to jump. He raised his head and looked into her eyes. He couldn’t believe it. His heart leaped with joy as he rushed to grab and push the call button. He smiled for the first time in days, she looked at him confused, he didn’t notice, he was too happy to see her awake.
“Baby Girl! Welcome back!” He stood and moved closer to her.
She was interrupted by his gentle embrace and kisses on her forehead and cheek, which startled her as she stiffened in his arms.
“What are you doing? What’s going on?”
Morgan released her puzzled searching her face, surely she was joking. He approached her again and she moved away from him with terror in her eyes.
“Get away from me! Nurse!” She yelled at the top of her lungs.
Morgan moved away from her stunned not knowing how to react. Nurses, orderlies and doctors rushed into the room in response to the commotion. The nurses tried to get Derek to leave but he refused, wanting to stay with Penelope.
“No. Wait! Penelope it’s me, Derek!”
“Please keep him away from me! I don’t know him! Please!”
Derek was crushed at her rejection. This couldn’t be happening. He’d waited too long to be with this woman, gone through too much with her to suddenly be wiped out of her life. The orderlies and doctors grabbed him and removed him from the room. Nothing made sense as he was escorted to the waiting room with the doctors.
“Mr. Morgan, Miss Garcia has amnesia. This sometimes happens with head injuries.”
Dr. Hensen was the same doctor who had been on duty when Penelope was initially brought in.
“This can’t be happening. When will she get her memory back?”
“It’s hard to tell. We’ll be running some test tomorrow morning to see how extensive it is.”
“Please I’ve got to see her. I’ve got to explain things to her.”
“I don’t think that would be a good idea. Give her time to sort things out. You being in there will only confuse her more.”
“Are you crazy? I love that woman! She loves me! I’m not leaving.”
“Suit yourself, Mr. Morgan but I have to insist that you stay out of her room until further notice.”
The doctor without further discussion turned and left Morgan standing in the waiting room alone. Morgan dropped into a nearby chair face in his hands, defeated and wondering how much more he and Penelope could take before they both broke.
The nurses had given Garcia a light sedative and had finally settled her down. She couldn’t remember anything about who she was, her life, and especially nothing about the man who only days ago had been the love of her life. It had taken them almost nine years to declare their undying love for each other after dancing the dance of denial for so long. They’d come out of the proverbial closet and were just moments away from declaring the relationship to the world. Now, this stranger who had seemed so happy to see her frightened her and because of that had been banished from her room and perhaps even her life.
The night shift was taking over for the day shift. Assignments made and the new guy filling in for a regular employee who’d suddenly taken ill was assigned the amnesiac in room 235. The day nurse mentioned the commotion earlier and he was anxious to meet his patient for the evening. As he approached her room, he knocked lightly and when she turned to acknowledge him he smiled and slowly approached her bed to introduce himself.
“Hello Miss Garcia. I’m Myles, your nurse for the evening.”
To be continued…
Sunday, October 27, 2013
Morgan tries desperately to heal from the recent tragedies in his life but will the damages be too severe to have a life with Penelope?
Apartment of Penelope Garcia – Wednesday morning
Penelope laid on her side watching him as he slept. She knew that when he showed up at her door a few hours ago he’d wanted to talk and apologize for sending her away. His apology front and center in his eyes yet she would not let him speak. She gently took his hand and pulled him into her apartment and insisted he lie down and rest. Like they had done countless times before she laid with him wrapped tightly in his arms falling asleep at the sound of each other’s breathing. There was so much they needed to say to each other, but it could wait. All that mattered now was that he was there with her.
It was good that Hotch had given the team the rest of the week off. They all were so close that this last week had touched them all deeply. Penelope quietly and gently slipped from Derek’s embrace and headed toward the kitchen to get a pot of coffee going. She had no idea what the day held but she wanted to be awake and alert. As the coffee began to brew, she could here the shower running which prompted her to scrounge through her refrigerator for breakfast fixings.
She was so deep in thought as she briskly whipped the broken eggs that she didn’t here him enter the room and she jumped slightly as he placed his arms around her waist.
“Good morning, Beautiful.” He said planting a kiss near her ear and inhaling her essence.
“Good morning Hot Stuff. How’d you sleep?” She asked now smiling.
“Better than I have in a long time.” He released her and sat at the kitchen table.
Penelope poured him a mug of coffee and set it in front of him.
He quietly took a sip and stared out of the window deep in thought. The silence between them was comfortable. It was like that with them they didn’t feel the need to fill every moment with chatter and noise. She knew he would talk when he was ready. He knew she would not pressure him to talk before he was ready.
Penelope placed two plates on the table and after grabbing her coffee she sat and the two ate. Afterwards, he placed his hand over hers and waited for her to look up.
“I’m sorry, Baby Girl. I shouldn’t have sent you away last night. I didn’t mean to hurt you.”
“Derek…” She knew this was coming.
“I was being stupid, selfish…I wouldn’t blame you if you were mad.”
“I’m not mad. I’m just…”
“Confused, I guess. I thought I had done something wrong, like maybe I was smothering you…”
“No you could never smother me. I-I-…” Derek wasn’t quite sure how to put his feelings into words. “I didn’t want you to suffer because of me.”
There it was. He’d said it and even though he had understood what Rossi was saying last night he still felt that he was bad news for Penelope and anyone else close to him.
Penelope squeezed his hand and took a deep breath as she searched his face. In his eyes she saw the little boy that had been abused by a treacherous predator, she saw the man who fought so hard to prove that he didn’t need anyone, couldn’t trust anyone and who was always waiting for those close to him to hurt him or leave him. This was the man she had fallen in love with, the man who’d move heaven and earth for those he loved even if it cost him his life.
“Derek, honey, I don’t understand. How could I suffer because of you?”
“I’m damaged goods, Baby Girl. I don’t want to disappoint you or hurt you. I’m not sure if I’ll ever be whole or…”
She knew she could no longer keep silent about her feelings for this man. He was struggling drowning in what he thought was his own unworthiness, as if he had caused or deserved all the bad things in his life. She had invested too much time and too much of her heart to let that happen.
“I love you, Derek Morgan.” She said interrupting him.
He looked at her as if he had only thought he’d heard her. How could she love him? He was broken and shattered and he was certain that he’d never find all of the pieces again.
“What did you just say?”
“I said I love you Derek Morgan.” She waited wondering if she’d made a mistake.
“I love you too, Penelope Garcia. But…”
“But nothing. We’ll take it from there. One day, no one moment at a time.”
BAU Headquarters, Quantico, VA – Monday morning
Monday offered the team a real reminder that evil was alive and well. There was no respite or breather or even a truce for good measure. The team had been called in earlier than usual and were gathered around the conference table reviewing graphic pictures of the latest case. Hotch stood giving the details as larger versions of the pictures before them hung illuminated on the board next to him.
“Denver needs our help in a series of murders that have claimed the lives of three young children.” Hotch paused to gauge Morgan’s reaction.
“Tracy Reese 14, Amanda Sparks 13, and Jennifer Torres 15 were all found in shallow graves less than a mile from their homes last night.”
Morgan felt his heart leap and stomach turn. Desperately he tried to hide the emotions welling up inside him. For the first time in his career he began to doubt himself. He wasn’t sure if he would be able to handle a case involving children, especially young girls this close to Ellie’s death. He continued to focus his stare on the file knowing his team, in particular Hotch were focusing on him.
“The girls were all supposed to be at a sleepover at Tracy’s house when they were discovered missing the following morning, their beds had not been slept in.” Hotch continued.
“No signs of forced entry. The girls must have known their abductor.” Reid surmised as he fumbled through the pages.
“No signs of sexual assault or torture.” Rossi added.
“What could have caused these girls to leave without the parents knowing?” JJ asked to no one in particular.
“Well at least the Denver PD thought to call us in quickly.” Morgan chimed in.
Garcia felt a twinge of hope as she listened to Morgan. She shared his concern about being able to handle a case like this so soon, but she’d never let him know. She believed in him and his commitment to his job and the victims. Justice had always trumped anything that he was personally dealing with. However, she wasn’t going to fool herself this wasn’t going to be easy for him.
“Given the fact that they did, let’s get moving. Wheels up in thirty.” Hotch added.
The team gathered their files and headed out. Hotch waited behind to grab Morgan before he left. Penelope hung outside of the conference room to give the two men some privacy.
“Morgan, you don’t have to join us on this case if…” Hotch began.
“I’m going, Hotch. I need to go. I’ll be fine.” Morgan insisted.
“Are you sure? No one will think less of you if you stayed behind.”
“I’m fine. Really. I can do this.”
Hotch nodded and left it at that. He headed out passing Garcia in the hallway. Morgan knew she’d be waiting for him.
“Hey Baby Girl, don’t you worry. I’m fine.” Morgan looked down into her eyes.
Garcia half- smiled and rubbed his arm matching his glance.
“I know. I’m not worried.”
“Yeah, you are.” He replied and his smile broadened.
“Okay, maybe a little, but I believe in you and I know you can do this.”
“Thank you, Mama. I needed that.”
Morgan pulled her into a strong embrace, as he closed his eyes and inhaled as if to gain some extra strength from breathing her in.
“I love you, Baby Girl.” He added releasing her.
“I love you too. Come home safe, my love.”
“That’s the plan.”
Denver, Colorado Police Department - Evening
The team headed to Denver, Colorado and hit the ground running. The lead detective, Stephen Coles, a twenty-year veteran of the Denver PD met them as they came through the precinct doorway. He along with the victims’ families were waiting to talk to the BAU profilers hoping desperately for answers. Hotch sent JJ to reassure the parents that they were going to do all they could to bring the case to a close as soon as possible. The rest of the team set up in a spare conference room near the rear of the building.
About an hour later, Rossi and Reid had completed their interviews with the parents of all three girls. Garcia had come up with more information as she continued to research everyone who had ever been a part of the three young girls’ lives.
The team was now seated around the round conference table, with Detective Coles and with Garcia on speaker.
“What do you have Garcia?” Hotch began.
“All three girls attended the same middle school but I’m sure by now you already know that.”
“Is that it, Baby Girl?” Morgan asked with slight irritation.
“You know me better than that, handsome crime fighter.” Garcia replied.
The team looked around the table with slight smirks on their faces.
“Each girl participated in a summer reading program with a Josiah Martin, 32, who is a resource aide at the middle school the girls attended. So the interesting thing is, Josiah Martin has a prior arrest for looking into the windows of girls in his neighborhood when he was 20 and when he was 21 he was caught breaking into the bedrooms of his neighbors and stealing unmentionables from the little girls.”
“Looks like we may need to pay Mr. Martin a visit.” Rossi added.
“How does a man like this get a job at a middle school?” Morgan asked.
“School districts are required to run extensive background checks on everyone before they hire them. His record should have shown up even in a preliminary search.” Reid said.
“Garcia…” Hotch began.
“I know. I’ve sent his address to your PDA’s” Garcia interrupted.
“You’re the best, Mama.” Morgan said.
“Yes I am.” She shot back.
Hotch sent Rossi and Morgan to Martin’s residence while the others stayed behind to work from the precinct. The two rode in silence for a few minutes as Rossi watched Morgan from the corner of his eye and wondering if it was wise that Hotch had sent Morgan out in the field.
“I know what you’re thinking Rossi.” Morgan kept his eyes on the road as he drove.
“What?” Rossi answered feigning ignorance.
“You’re wondering why Hotch sent me and not someone else.”
“He must know you can handle it.”
“I’m fine. Don’t worry.” Morgan assured the older agent.
“I’m not worried, but if you feel you can’t, I’m here. I got your back, understood?”
Home of Josiah Martin –
Derek parked the SUV in front of the small rundown house. It was dark inside except for a dim light coming from the front room. As the two approached they could hear the sound of the television playing. Rossi knocked on the door. After a few seconds they heard the sound of a lock being twisted and then the door opened slightly. A slight man poked his head through the crack in the door.
“Josiah Martin?” Morgan inquired.
“Yes. Can I help you?” He said innocently.
“Agents Morgan and Rossi with the FBI.”
The two held up their badges.
“What can I do for you gentlemen?”
“We’d like to ask you a few questions.” Morgan added.
“It’s pretty late. Can we do this tomorrow? Josiah asked.
“Well, the sooner we get some answers, the sooner you can finish watching the Flinstone marathon. Morgan said sarcastically.
“Actually, it’s Scooby Doo.” Josiah returned.
“Let’s go.” Morgan responded, running out of patience.
Martin closed the door and walked toward the SUV with Rossi and Morgan. Rossi secured Martin in the back seat and sat up front with Morgan. Rossi looked over at the stone-faced Morgan.
“Flintstones?” Rossi smirked.
Derek shot an almost-smile at Rossi and headed to the Precinct.
Denver, Colorado Police Department – later
The team was still focused on the details of the case when Morgan and Rossi returned with Josiah Martin in tow. Hotch looked at Rossi with an inquisitive look. Rossi nodded that all was well and the three headed to an empty interrogation room. JJ was on the phone with Garcia.
“How’s he doing, JJ?”
“He and Rossi just walked in with Martin and it looks like he’s still in one piece so that’s a good sign at least.”
“I’m so worried about him. You know how he gets when it involves children.”
“Yeah, we all know. He really seems to be holding it together, though.” JJ assured her.
Rossi and Morgan both were interrogating Martin hot and heavy. Rossi kept a close eye on Morgan and only had to pull him back after lunging toward Martin twice and that was pretty good in Rossi’s opinion.
After two hours, both agents determined that Martin was not their UNSUB. His alibi was solid and his M.O. was too different from the murders. Morgan was beyond frustrated as he reluctantly released Martin.
Hotch realized that they had done all they could do for the evening. The team was exhausted and so he ordered everyone to head to the hotel and get some rest.
Hotel - later
Morgan showered and grabbed a small bottle of scotch from the mini bar and poured the contents into a glass filled with ice. He knew that the nightmares were going to haunt him tonight. Already he could see the three victims in his mind. They were front and center along with Ellie, asking him why he hadn’t saved them in time. He opened another bottle and gulped it down straight from the bottle. Then his phone rang.
“Hey, Baby Girl.” Morgan sighed.
“Hello Handsome. You sound exhausted.” Garcia replied.
“I thought we had him. But Martin’s alibi checked out and the M.O.’s don’t match.” Morgan closed his eyes and leaned against the headboard.
“Now we’re at square one again. “ Morgan continued.
“Then we keep looking, okay? We keep looking.”
“I don’t know if I can look in those parents eyes and tell them that we have nothing.”
“We’ll get this guy, we always do. Now you need to get some rest.” Garcia insisted.
“I can’t sleep, Baby Girl. I’m already seeing those little girls and Ellie too. I’m afraid to close my eyes.”
“Tell me what I can do to help, Sweetie.”
“Just talk to me.”
“I don’t care. Just talk.”
Denver – Tuesday Morning
The team was back on the case. Most of them had managed to get a few hours sleep. Morgan had even managed to fight the nightmares after Garcia had talked him to sleep. He felt bad that he’d kept her up but he honestly didn’t know how he would have gotten through the night without her. She was a lifesaver, his God-given solace. He still couldn’t figure out what he had done to deserve her.
“Good Morning My Furry Friends. Last night while we were all sound asleep, I adjusted some of the parameters and re-ran my search on the middle school staff and bingo!”
“What’d you find?” Hotch asked.
“When I looked back ten years instead of five I found something crazy interesting. Joanne McMasters, the school’s librarian had three young daughters ages 3, 4, and 5.”
“Had?” Morgan asked.
“This is where it gets trey-weird. Joanne McMasters and her husband Warren had been having mega marital problems. Warren moved out and two days later, she discovered her daughters missing when she went in to wake them for school. Their bodies were found in shallow graves just outside of town. Warren confessed to the murders and is now serving a life sentence in the state pen.”
“That’s why there were no signs of sexual abuse.” Reid said.
“Or torture.” Hotch added.
“ I don’t get it. This is the second person at the same school that got passed a background check.” Morgan was starting to have a hard time with this one.
“It sucks but Joanne had no history that would have alerted the school of a problem.” Reid added.
“Unfortunately, you’re right boy genius.” Garcia noted. “She graduated with honors from Denver U, she’s active in her church and is a model employee.”
“One other thing, Joanne McMasters spent six weeks in a sanitarium after the murder of her daughters but because she entered voluntarily, she left and according to her records her departure was against doctors recommendations.”
“Why?” JJ asked.
“Her doctor was concerned because she claimed to have visions of killing little girls and burying their bodies in shallow graves.”
“Damn!” Morgan began pacing the floor.
“And as a final and even creepier note, Sunday was the ten year anniversary of her daughters’ murders.” Garcia added.
"They'd be the same age now as our victims were." Said Reid.
“That’s the stressor.” Hotch noted. “Rossi you and Morgan go pick her up.”
Morgan’s adrenaline was pumping as he and Rossi headed out. He wasn’t sure how he would react once he came face to face with this woman. He knew he had to keep his temper in check; they still had to follow proper procedure and make a case. Everyone was still innocent until proven guilty and he wasn’t going to do anything to cause a killer to go free.
Garcia knew that Hotch had sent Morgan out again. She wanted to call and check in with him but she knew better. She trusted him to do his job. He had to prove to himself that he could work through his grief and still be the agent he’d always been. He was the best and nothing was going to change that.
Hotch trusted Morgan and he was confident in him even though Morgan himself had doubts. He knew exactly what he was doing when he kept him in the field. Rossi was there just in case and he wasn’t going to allow Morgan to go off the rails.
Jet – Tuesday Evening
It was late but Derek was glad they were headed home. They had arrested Joanne McMasters and she confessed to the murders shortly after Derek began interrogating her. She seemed relieved that she had been caught. Derek was able to stay calm and convince her to tell the truth so that the victims’ families could have closure in this horrible ordeal. As he wrapped up the paper work for the local PD he couldn’t help think about the waste of three young innocent lives and wondered how the families of the lost would recover. He realized that they would recover the same way he would have to. Time would have to be the great healer, one day at a time. He leaned back and closed his eyes, the fatigue finally catching up with him. His phone rang and he knew it was his Baby Girl. With his eyes still closed he answered.
“Hello Handsome. Good work today.”
“Thanks. We did it.”
“No. You did it.”
“Baby you know I couldn’t have closed this case without you and the whole team.”
“That’s not what I mean.”
“You fought through everything and you worked to help find a killer. Don’t you see, the world needs you and others like you to fight the good fight.”
“I’m glad you believe in me, Baby Girl. It means everything. I just wonder…”
“If in the grand scheme of things if it really matters?”
“Derek, of course it matters. Do you even have to ask?”
“I just wonder sometimes. Maybe I’m just tired.”
“Well. Hurry home, Hot Stuff. I’ll leave a light on.”
Home of Derek Morgan – Much later
Morgan dragged his tired body up the walkway toward his front door. Penelope had promised to leave a light on and she indeed did that. He opened the door slowly and saw his sleeping beauty curled up on the couch covered with a light blanket. She looked so peaceful lying there. No doubt she had tried to stay awake for him but she had to be tired since she kept watch over him last night over the phone. He walked over and planted a light kiss on her forehead and she began to stir slowly waking up.
“Hey Baby Girl. I didn’t mean to wake you.”
“Looking at that gorgeous face is worth waking up for, Handsome.” She said as she sat up and made room for him on the couch. “Welcome home.”
“It’s good to be home.” He replied.
He was tired but he wasn’t quite ready to attempt sleeping. He knew what was waiting for him in the dream realm and he wasn’t up for it just now. The two sat silently, comfortably for several minutes until Derek’s phone sounded. Shooting Garcia a puzzled look, he answered.
“Speaking. Who’s this?”
“It’s Jeremy. Jeremy Parker.” The young man hesitated.
“Jeremy. What’s going on, man?”
Morgan shot a glance at Garcia again. He had given Jeremy his card at the services but he hadn’t expected to hear from him.
“I’m sorry to call so late. I forgot about the time difference.”
“No worries. What’s going on?”
Penelope quietly excused herself to give Derek some privacy. He tried grabbing her hand for her to stay but she mouthed that it was okay, kissed him lightly on the cheek and headed toward the bedroom.
“I’m not sure. Things are so hard now.”
“Have you thought about seeing a therapist?” Morgan suggested.
“My mom wants me to but…”
“Jeremy, talk to me.”
“I don’t understand why I’m alive and Ellie and her mom are dead. I did that. I killed two people and I get to walk around like nothing ever happened. Like they never existed.”
Derek could hear the remorse in the young man’s voice. He knew he was crying and struggling to keep his composure.
“Jeremy, listen to me. You’re alive because there’s work for you to do. It wasn’t your time, man.”
“I start college in the fall. Did you know that?”
“No I didn’t. Congratulations.”
“Ellie won’t get to go to college. “ Jeremy broke down. “You know why, because of me. I am so sorry!”
Derek was at a loss. He didn’t know if he would have the words or ability to make Jeremy understand or to help him get through this; he was still wondering if he himself would get through it. He felt compassion for the man who had killed Ellie and that was the last thing he expected to feel. As Jeremy cried, he remembered how torn up he had been at the services and Derek’s feelings of anger had melted immediately upon meeting Jeremy and his mom.
“Jeremy. It was an accident, a terrible accident but you can’t let it destroy you. If you do then Ellie and her mom died in vain. You’ve got to turn this around and do something good with it. You have to find a way to give Ellie and her mom’s life meaning.”
“How?” Jeremy began to settle down.
“I don’t have the answer to that but I’m sure you’ll find a way. You said you’re going to college in the fall, right?”
“Then you do your best. Make sure you graduate and do something that makes a difference.”
Penelope stood in the doorway of Derek’s bedroom and listened at the words coming from this amazingly kind man. She knew firsthand what Ellie’s death meant to him. She watched how he ached and mourned and she wondered if he’d be able to come back from this tragedy. Here he was at midnight, talking and encouraging the young man who had accidentally caused the deaths. Her love grew deeper for him and she didn’t think that was possible. She was clueless that what she saw in him he could not see in himself.
Derek and Jeremy continued to talk for several minutes and just before they ended their conversation, she rejoined him on the couch.
“I don’t know why you would take the time to talk to me, Agent Morgan but thank you.”
“No thank you. I think I needed to talk just as much as you did. Call me anytime, you hear me?”
The two said goodbye and Derek hung up and without looking over he pulled Garcia closer to him as he wrapped his arm around her shoulder and settled into the couch.
“You good?” She asked him.
“Yeah, Baby Girl. I’m good.” He answered.
“Now, if you ever wonder again if what you do matters, I think you just got your answer.” She added laying her head on his chest.
“Yeah, I think I just did.” He agreed as he planted a gentle kiss on her head.
“Your purpose in life is to find your purpose and give your whole heart and soul to it” – Gautama Buddha