Another body was found on the side of the lake. Time of death was a little hard to put, but it was estimated a week before the BAU unit had flown to Pennsylvania, the day before the letter was sent. The team were divided at first but came to a similar conclusion later in the day that the body wasn’t that of the girl he had spoke so earnestly about in his letter, because he would have had to kill her before writing it, if he did indeed write it by the postmark and there was no reason to say that he hadn’t. This, however, had been one of the harder bodies to see. Like the others she showed long signs of abuse and ligature marks, as well as the broken hyoid bone and violent strangulation, but there was something new happening that worried the team even more. Not only was her neck broken when her neck was wrong, but a brand was burned into the young girl’s thigh, almost unnoticeable from the water damage and practically missed for a tattoo, the only thing that made the coroner take another look was the parent’s. Their daughter never had a tattoo, and certainly not one like this. It looked like a crude little cross, but at the same time had an eerie elegance in shape and size, with a circle, a band like a ring around the intersecting arms. Half of it had rotted away but the time that the team had found her, but she was only 17. “Is he escalating?” J.J. sat at the head of the local police conference table, they used the large office as a home base for the investigation, normal occupying something of the sort in any other town they came to, her blackberry in her lap, foot tapping impatiently as she waited for another of LaMontagne’s updates with the baby, this was one of her first times back since he was born after all. “The Unsub did refer to her as his ‘new favorite pet’ in the letter, didn’t he? Maybe it’s his way of marking them now, his first attempt failed and none of the other girl’s were perfect enough” Morgan spoke up from across the room at the coffee maker, Reid standing next to him with a cup already in hand. “True, but he was already doing something like that with the collars, the bruising on the victim’s necks didn’t get there over night, and it was almost like when you see animal abusers. Dog’s are statistically the most abused animal, most commonly found either starved or with their collar’s left on and cutting into their neck as they grow.” The 27 year old genius piped in, walking over to a board lined with photo of the girls and the map of their locations “See here, the victims all appeared to be malnourished and the black bruising sometimes had cuts around it.” “Like they were tugging or trying to get away?” Prentiss was poring over a large file a few chairs down, but she lifted her head for that. “Yes that’s one possibility, but more likely it could be that they are kept chain down somewhere, like the Unsub’s basement, a cabin in the woods, somewhere where they couldn’t be heard or seen. He’s not like Eugene Watts who, even though he killed nearly a hundred women, he would sometimes never touch them. For our Unsub, he wants to be able to keep them there, alive.” “When do you think he’s going to toss this girl away? If he’s going to before we find him” Prentiss’s dark hair shifted like a theater curtain over her face, marking her distaste for the man in question as Reid sipped his extra sweet coffee, he hadn’t slept since they’d gotten there the day before. “I’m not sure. Part of me thinks that it’s just a matter of time before she ends up thrown down that hill, but there’s a more irrational part in the back of my mind telling me that there’s something different about the girl he currently has, like he made a mistake marking this one… Though logic may not suggest it I honestly believe that he’s going to hold her for as long as he maybe. Maybe forever, in his mind.” From the back corner of the room, leaning heavily against the wall Agent Hotchner was fixing the board of evidence with a truly unsubtle glare, but in some ways that was his default expression “I agree, I think that this girl is still alive, and going to be the longest of the girls so far. He’s probably had her just as long as he had the last victim, the branded one.” “What are you getting at Hotch?” Morgan was sitting on the table now, listening to the activity around him, the room buzzing with dozens of questions but so few answers. “I’m saying that he may be keeping two or more women at a time.” Their leader signed; bring a hand up to his temples and looking thoroughly exhausted. “Wait,” Spencer put down his cup of sugar and did an about face to the missing persons reports “Wait that just might… make sense…” “What do you got smarty pants?” Morgan tilted his head, raising a brow in thought. “My pants are smart only in their ability to keep me clothed and warm, Morgan.” his reply was quick and with a deadpan expression, like it was nothing to say something of the sort, “If he’s keeping more than one girl at a time that might be why he’s so hard to find. He’ll be someone that the town’s used to not seeing for a few days, maybe even weeks-“ “A job that keeps him away from the family, like a trucker, real estate, or even just someone expanding their business?” “Right Morgan,” the young man’s eyes lit up for a moment as he tucked long strands of soft brown hair behind his ears, the circles under his eyes becoming a little less noticeable in his excitement, “He’d also have to have a large secluded space, but he said that he wouldn’t dump the girls in his own backyard… it wouldn’t be here in town, but maybe the next town over, typically an old warehouse or perhaps even just a large unoccupied house, somewhere where he could keep them tied up where no one would notice, where no one would hear.” “But Reid,” J.J. looked up, confused for a second “The woods I understand, but if they were in a town they‘d be screaming, how would he be keeping them quiet? According to the Tox-Screens the girls didn’t have enough of anything in their systems to keep them out of it; they’d be awake and aware.” “Part of his job could be something that would cover the noise, like heavy construction or renovation. The Unsub could have also built the places where he hides them, kind of like a customized space or something sound proofed perhaps.” Reid went on, pacing the floor in front of their Unsub’s canvas, his handiwork “You hear that Garcia?” Hotchner turned to the monitor where their marvelous hacker queen had set up a video connection. “Got it good, give me a minute honey and I’ll check all construction related topics in the county” She practically purred, fingers whirring over the keyboard so fast it was a miracle she didn’t have to replace it every ten seconds. “Good, and Garcia?” “Yes, oh mighty one?” “Don’t call me honey” Hotch smiled a little, but it was gone in a flash as he walked to the door “I’m going to check with the locals, see if they now anyone that’s been missing lately and haven’t noticed.” “Aw, come on sugar, you still got me” Morgan smiled to their blonde tech nerd, opening his arms in what looked like he was waiting for a hug. “Of course I have you, lollipop, wrapped around my gorgeously painted little pinkie.” she held up her hand, not looking from the screen where there was light reflected on her glasses, her nails a neon green for the day to match the new streaks in her hair, contrasted brilliantly with a cute little black and bubblegum pink dress ensemble. She’d be showing of her heels if the timing was appropriate. “Oh come on.” Morgan pouted a little, but he was laughing at the heart of it. It probably sounded like a ridiculous moment, but there were so few of those in their lives, especially on cases, they needed them from time to time. While the others milled around the room checking on men with rap sheets in the area or trolling through missing person’s for young women of the Unsub’s type: Petite, Caucasian brunette with minimal piercings and green eyes. They generally weren’t from the area so there wasn’t a huge stir when they left a hotel without checking out properly, or were just there getting gas on the way, a tourist heading up the mountain. The only thing that had alerted anyone to this small town area was the bodies constantly showing up on the shores of their reservoir, leading to the conclusion that if the Unsub hadn’t wanted them to be found, they honestly wouldn’t have been. Reid reached back and grabbed the arm of a chair, sliding into it without taking his eyes from the board. Brenda Johnson, Taylor Mitchell, Charlotte McGhee, Katherine Lima, Krista Dubai, Margaret Collins, Kyrie Neilson, Alexis Michaels… he looked at their pictures, the missing girls that had yet to be found, would they ever be found? “Hey, what’s up little man?” the elder BAU members always called him something like that, Gideon was probably the only one that stuck with Dr. Reid over the years, but he didn’t mind, they were his own weird little family. “They all look like sisters Morgan… I want to find her.” Spencer leaned back heavily into the chain, leaning on one arm, chin on his palm “She deserves to go home.” “Yea man, they all do.” Morgan looked on, picking up the picture of Margaret, a school photo from her senior year, “that’s why we keep doing this, even if the outcome isn’t what they want, each of these girls needs to be found, alive or dead, so they can at least rest somewhere where their family can bury them, keep them safe.” he looked down to his younger colleague who was still scanning the photos, his eyes always coming to rest near the middle at one or two of them. “Hey. We’re going to find her, Reid, ain’t no doubt about it.” “I know…” Spencer felt the lie tumbling off his tongue; they had no way of guarantying her safe return, not even if there was going to be an ending to her sad tale, whoever she was. Morgan grabbed his shoulder and gave him a reassuring squeeze before moving on; there was work to do anyway. “…Would you forgive me if I couldn’t find you in time?” he whispered to the wall of pictures, suddenly tired to his core. He was beginning to understand the reasons for Gideon and his cabin in a way that wasn’t purely logistical, but he was beginning to relate. “… I wouldn’t forgive myself.” There was the sound of banging, no, something… like it was being thrown. There was a brief glimpse of a memory, of a time when she was little and had accidentally dropped the laundry basket when she was taking it back to her room, jumping and watching it as it tumbled down the stairs and out of sight. That was it, something bigger though, that’s what the sound was. Something big and heavy falling down a flight of stairs. She jumped and clung to the throw pillow her captor had finally giving her, a ‘present’ for being well behaved, backing herself into the corner in a crouch position. She could never hear anything through the walls of this mini prison, but she sometimes, if they were loud enough, could hear through the door, especially on days like today when He left the door cracked just a little, probably to make sure she wasn’t trying to escape, making sure the chains weren’t rattling. But there was something different today. Two voices started shouting. Two? Two men now? Her heart started racing and she felt her breathing stop, what if he was going to bring a friend to see his ‘pet?’ what if he was going to share her?! That couldn’t be it, no, it couldn’t, and she couldn’t take it! When they didn’t go straight to her room she started to relax, something like a cat coiled to attacked suddenly dropping her guard and curling into a ball to nap, but she wouldn’t nap, she was only listening… “…the f could you be such an…!” He was screaming, moving though, it was going in and out “….-should have seen! Could have found out where we are!” “…sorry, sorry! Please…” this one was new, meeker, but he was a man too… she was certain of it. “Wait! Ssh….” Him again… she laid down and pretended to be asleep, but jumped when suddenly her door was slammed all the way shut, yelping out a tiny pathetic scream. Now she couldn’t make out the words, but more doors slammed, and there was more yelling and… another scream? She wasn’t alone?