Disclaimer: See Chapter One
A/N: Thanks to everyone who reviewed and offered their well wishes about my hand. It's fine now and working just the way it should which is a good thing for all.
Also many thanks to everyone who rec'ed the story so far.
There were twelve bags sitting at the end of the bed she'd managed to sleep in for about four hours. Twelve bags that were very different from the plain black duffel bag she'd hauled in from the rental the night before. All the stuff in the bag she'd brought herself was geared toward warmer weather, clothes meant for wear in all the places she'd been since she'd stood of the edge of Sunnydale over seven years before. Sure there were a few things meant for cooler weather, she always ended up back in England and Cleveland between setting up Council schools, but nothing that could handle the blizzard that was going to make her life hell until she knew the person who had taken all those girls was locked up.
Freshly showered and with the cushy robe provided by the hotel wrapped around her she headed for the the bags. None were all that big, not even a quarter of the size of most hiking packs she'd seen before. But then that was the point, slayers couldn't fight with some massive thing strapped to their backs and it had taken them one mission gone wrong to realize their initial mistake and find a way to correct it.
Now all gear packs for missions were smaller outside and bigger inside. All thanks to Andrew their geek king and his love of bad British scifi shows. As much as she would never admit in out loud Andrew had become a very important part of their team. He managed to constantly come up with ideas that worked, kept the girls alive and for that she figured he was managing to atone for his past in his own way.
She picked up both packs that had a blue stripe on the side, setting aside the printed out maps to use later and read the tags on each of them. She and Faith were the two slayer heads and that meant that no matter what the gear was they each had a customized pack for every possible mission or scenario. Even if she could count on two hands the times she'd had to use them, she was a Director now after all and that meant that she spent only as much time in the field as she wanted aside from apocalypse season. Hers were always marked with blue, Faith's red. One of her packs said-Extreme Winter Survival Pack One (gear) and the other said-Extreme Winter Survival Pack Two (clothing). She ignored the first pack, everything she'd need would be inside, there was no question about that, and opened the second pack. She hauled everything out, the mound of clothing almost staggering as she looked at it. It took a minute but she sorted it out, hoping she had the layering right since she hadn't ever had to use a pack for winter conditions before.
The first layer was actually pretty thin and almost skin tight, the cloth some synthetic stuff she couldn't possibly guess the name of. She did know that thanks to Andrew a lot of the gear they used was also used by military all over the world to survive in extreme conditions. Nothing was spared when it came to their girls. The second layer had more movement to it and was slightly thicker, reminding her of long handle underwear without being icky. Finally she put on a pair of comfortable jeans and the white long sleeved shirt that was provided and tucked the shirt in. The belt had plastic for the buckle rather than metal and was ugly to boot but she ignored it. Style wasn't really something on her mind
Finally she moved on to the outer layers. Two pairs of thick socks and boots that laced up high over her pant legs. She vaguely remembered Faith complaining about the snow in Cleveland and seeing her sporting a similar look when she'd visited a two years before for Christmas. Next came a thick green pull over sweater made of fleece. Now all that was left was the last bits and bobs that she'd set over to the side of the clothing. Three pouches, three twelve inch knives for her belt and boots, a flashlight, and the GPS tracker that was standard for all slayers-she attached all of them to the ugly nylon belt.
She glanced out the window of the cabin, the snow was falling harder which meant that time was not on her side, and then back down at what was left. With an exhaled breath she started moving around the room, gathering up her phone, keys, ID's, and everything else she needed. Five minutes later she snatched up her unopened pack and maps before bracing herself for the cold as she opened the cabin door. Immediately the cold hit her face like a bus and she was very glad she'd put on the beanie hat and thick coat and gloves that had been among the gear. It wasn't light out yet, not even six in the morning but she had work to do.
First she'd go to the Police Station, check and see if there'd been any developments and what the FBI planned to do, and then even if she had to do it alone she'd start searching the locations Willow had marked on the maps. That was, of course, after she'd managed to get all the gear into her rental and then clean all the snow off it.
“We're looking for a male between the ages of eighteen and forty-five. Someone who travels and is highly skilled with electronics.” his gaze went over the group of officers listening and taking notes only to have it pulled to the left as Ms. Summers made her way into the police station.
“Now this UnSub is a sexual sadist who is highly organized and methodical. Based on where Dawn Summers was found we know he's very familiar with the National Forest and how to survive in the harsh winters as well as avoiding Park Rangers and tourists in the summers.” he began to tune the rest of his team out as they continued the profile while he watched Summers stay to the side of the rest of assembled group. His mind went back over what he'd seen and knew of her from the information they'd gathered.
She clearly cared about her sister, had even shown signs to J.J of guilt at not being present to protect Dawn despite the emotional control she'd shown. That told him something very important about her personally and about her history. And her own statements about Dawn being a target backed it up. Buffy Summers carried all the hallmarks of a leader who had seen combat with troops she cared about deeply, of a survivor of war.
And the fact that her file was sealed only served as further proof that his profile of her was correct. It was in her words, her actions, and her body language. Body language that he took note of as he watched her. Outwardly she appeared relaxed, none of the signs of being closed off or angry present. But that was the surface. He had to watch carefully before he noticed it because she showed none of the signs of being hyper vigilant. But it was there, he was certain she was aware of every move made around her, of everything around her be it animate or not. His mind went back to their first meeting. She'd managed to come up behind the three of them without a sound despite wearing boots that should have made her approach more than noticeable.
Actually the only time he'd heard her move at all in any sense was when they'd had to walk on snow.
She was being watched, she knew it, had spent too much time having nasties watch her from hidden spots over more than a decade of being a slayer not to know the feeling. Only this time the feeling was redundant, she could see Agent Hotchner watching her, assessing her, profiling her. Some small part of her wondered what he saw or thought he saw but another part, the larger part didn't really give a damn. He had no way of really knowing her without being let in on things that people like him didn't need to know about.
Leave the human evil to them, she and her own would deal with everything else.
And she didn't have time to be waiting around and listening to a profile. She knew what she needed to know about the man who'd taken Dawn and all those other girls, she'd managed to get her degree in psychology after all. Sexual sadist, organized, methodical-she knew the implications and the meanings. But she knew something else too. He'd made a mistake.
He'd taken Dawn.
She knew the things he'd done. The methods he'd used to watch her sister and the others, that he'd tortured them all. But she wasn't looking at the things he'd done any more. No, she was looking at the things he hadn't done. At the obstacles he had to overcome. She'd become a master of logistics , planning, and organization in the last seven and a half years. Hadn't had a choice. They'd had to rebuild a worldwide organization that had lasted thousands of years from scratch. Taking the few workable aspects from the old regime they could salvage and using them in whatever way they could while building a whole new system to accommodate not one slayer but thousands of slayers, witches, watchers, and other types of staff. And there was still so much more they had left to do even after years of hard work already. Work she was putting on hold at doing herself until this was over.
She pushed herself off the desk she'd been leaning on and headed into the room the FBI had taken over, all too aware that Agent Hotchner was still watching her. Inside she found Penelope, the adorable blonde wearing pig tails in her hair and a fuzzy purple sweater with pink polka dots.
“Penelope.” the be-speckled head looked up sharply and a noise like a sweek toy escaped the other woman.
“Buffy! Has anyone ever told you that you are freakishly quiet?”
That, despite everything made her lips quirk. “I've had it mentioned once or twice.” she moved over to the table and pulled the folded up maps out of her pocket. “Any progress?”
“A big fat whopping dose of no. I went over all the records on all our victims and aside from being brilliant and destined for great things these girls had nothing in common. Nine were from middle class families, four from low income families and relying solely on scholarships and three from upper class families. I wasn't sure where Dawn fell in.”
“Let's just say we make do.” she wasn't going to tell anyone that Dawn was being groomed to take over Giles' spot when their surrogate father retired in a little over ten years. That information was need to know among even members of the Council until they had their annual meeting and post apocalypse party in May.
Then a thought struck her. They were all college students. “Have you looked at the colleges?”
“You think there might be a second connection?”
“I think its the only thing they've got in common besides being freakishly smart.” she shrugged. How else had the sick son of bitch found them otherwise? It wasn't like Dawn had been advertising her presence in Denver after all. She looked down at the map she'd left on the table. “Has anyone begun to organize a search of all the possible locations that he could be holding these girls at?”
“No, we haven't.” Agent Hotcher was standing in the doorway, suitably tall and well built enough to make him seem like he'd chosen the spot deliberately so he could be both imposing and dramatic. And clearly she'd spent too much time around Xander during their down time with his love of tvtropes and the mass media if she was beginning to mock people in terms of bad stereotypes from crime and drama shows.
Clearly she needed a personal life that didn't involve slayers, red tape, diplomacy, travel and spending all her off time letting her brain turn to pudding because she spent every other waking hour having to be on top of a thousand other things.
“Given the weather conditions a search is impossible without specialized equipment. Equipment we don't have access to.” she could see the others standing behind him now, watching them like they were the most fascinating thing ever. Or maybe it was just her they were watching, they were profilers after all.
“You don't. But I do.” she reached over and unfolded the map, the red marks of possible locations glaring as they peppered it. Twenty three old mines and five known caves. With only six of them it would take hours. “I had one of my people pull maps and Dawn's last physical assessment reports along with what the hospital here had on Dawn's injuries. Based on that they came up with this.”
Agent or rather Dr. Reid came over on his crutches and looked down at the map on the table. “Guys, there's twenty eight possible locations here.” he looked up from the map and it struck her how young he looked, how innocent. A lot like Willow had looked when they were teenagers before Oz had left and Tara had died. “This covers an area of over a thousand acres.”
“Yeah, I know. Its a lot of possibilities but they need to be searched. Those other girls are still out there and I won't leave them with some sadistic piece of crap for any longer than I have to.” the last bit she directed at Agent Hotchner, letting him know that she intended to go out with or without help.
“You're not really going to go out in a blizzard, are you?” Penelope looked wide eyed, almost worried.
“The worst of the blizzard isn't due till this afternoon. If I hurry I can get to at least half the places marked before then.”
“You're not going alone.” Agent Morgan stepped around the others.
“Morgan.” Agent Hotchner didn't look happy but she had a feeling that the man almost never smiled.
“No, Hotch, she's right. We've given the profile but there's something else we should be doing.” he gestured to the map. “This is it.”
There was dead silence in the room for almost a full minute before Agent Hotchner gave a nod. “Alright Ms. Summers we'll join you.” he looked over at the rest of his team and they all gave nods. “Reid, see if you can narrow down the locations marked. Anything near hiking trails or campsites isn't likely to be used. This UnSub tortures his victims for at least two weeks that we know of. For that he'll need isolation. Get one of the locals to go over it with you in case there are any trails that aren't marked on maps.”
He turned to her, looked her in the eyes. “You said you could equip us. How?”
“I just had Will do her magic.” she didn't even crack a smile, it wasn't the time. “I've got full gear sets for each of you in my rental and a dozen snowmobiles waiting at a local shop that rents them.”
“Told her to get in touch with you if she manages to come up with anything else.” she heard footsteps heading into the room and wasn't surprised when J.J and Agent Prentess made it back from changing into the gear she and Agent Morgan had hauled in from her rental first.
“What's her handle?”
“WiccanRose.” she glanced over at the two agents but turned back when Penelope made a noise that defied any description she had words for. Which was saying something because she'd heard Lvactrrakl demons sing.
“Garica, you alright?” Agent Prentiss looked alarmed.
“WiccanRose? The WiccanRose! The one who managed to hack the NSA and CIA databases in a single day in 2004? You're Willow is WiccanRose!” if the pitch and volume got any higher she was going to lose an eardrum.
She blinked at Penelope a couple of times. “Un, yeah?” then she thought about it. What had happened in 2004? Then it dawned on her. “Yeah, we kinda had an emergency.”
“Emergency.” the brunette just looked at her, emotions clear. “What does the IWC do exactly?”
She kept her face blank, well almost. She couldn't help the parody of a smirk that ended up there. “Trust me. You don't want to know.”
He looked down at the two gear bags Summers had handed him and read the tags. One said gear and the other clothing (male-xander build). What was xander build? Unless Xander was a name and the clothes were meant for someone with his body type. Which made more sense. Sort of. For an agency to use a specific name of a person in describing a body type meant that everyone had to know the person or at least of the person and that generally meant they were high in the chain of command. He filed the information away and opened the bag labeled clothing.
Five minutes later his eyebrows had gone up, down and up again about ten times. The gear in the bag was better than even what the US military used. Actually it looked like it was the very best money could buy, from both the private and public sectors. And when he coupled that with the three knives and small medical kit that attached to the belt he had no illusions that the IWC avoided hostile situations.
“Morgan.” he looked up at Rossi's voice. “Reid's got something.”
“I'll be right behind you.” he watched the older man leave and gathered up what was left of the gear from the first bag and the strap of the second before following Rossi out and into the room the Estes Park Police had given them to use.
“I know that. But he used a custom designed listening device to stalk Dawn and then ambushed her. I know my sister. If she had had even a hint that she was being watched she'd have called in.”
“We already know the UnSub keeps his distance, probably because he lacks the ability to charm his way into close proximity to his targets.”
“I don't think that's the only thing.” Summers shook her head at Rossi. “That listening device was expensive to make. Willow priced the components at over a grand. He's taken sixteen girls and if he's had one of those on each of their houses.”
“Then the UnSub has to have access to a large source of funds.” Hotch turned to Garcia. “Garcia.”
“Already checking electronics experts with large bank accounts and ties to the Estes Park area.” keys clicked and he glanced over at Summers, watching and assessing for what felt like the hundredth time in less than a day. Nothing about her made sense. Not her reactions, not her connections and not her history.
She was twenty eight years old and at the top of the food chain of an Agency with enough power to have the President of the United States not only on speed dial but to call in a favor from. And yet, when he profiled her behavior he could see it. She was someone who had gone from battlefield to boardroom. Who had made life and death decisions and carried them like a career soldiers did.
And though everything about her and IWC left him with more questions than answers he found he respected not only her determination but willingness to put her own life at risk to find the other victims.
***Reviews are love. And I'd also like to know anything anyone would like to see in the series. Just remember that its set from early season 5 of Criminal Minds and Mid Season 7 of NCIS.