Criminal Minds is the property of creator, Jeff Davis, production companies, Touchstone Television, Paramount Network Television, and The Mark Gordon Company. No copyright infringement is intended. No profit will be made.
Author's Note: Sometimes, stories appear in my brain, like a volunteer tree growing in a garden. I'm really not sure what wind blew the seed in, only that it took root, and started growing.
Criminal Minds is a favorite TV series of mine, especially because of the characterizations and character interactions. The members of the Behavioral Analysis Unit are the quintessential good guys. They endure day-to-day confrontations with the most harrowing of human evils. They manage, even when facing horrific crimes, to remain sensitive and empathic not only with victims and their families but with the killers as well.
In the real world, members of the BAU are cycled out to other units on a regular basis, and no agent is kept on a particular case for more than six months. This is to avoid the inevitable burn out of dealing the soul-crushing details of murder, rape, and destruction and also to prevent the agents from becoming obsessed with a particular perpetrator. In the fictional world, these strictures would prevent the development of an effective ensemble cast. It's also interesting - at least to me - to note that while experts believe there are 30-50 serial killers active, if the real BAU could find and stop serial killers as quickly as they do on the tv show - 20 episodes a season, 7 seasons in, adjusting for spree killers, non-serial killer kidnappings, and escaped IRA terrorists - there would be only the smallest handful of serial killers left. The BAU, fictionally, might actually put itself out of work. Now, wouldn't that be a story?Rescue Me
There was a very dim light, like a nightlight or one of Jack's toys, and Haley was whispering to him.
“Aaron, wake up, please God, wake up. He'll kill me.”
He flinched, trying to force himself up, awake or otherwise, to protect her. But something didn't match. His muscles, especially his chest muscles, lanced with pain as soon as he moved. It was a special kind of pain he remembered from training and at least one incident in the field. He'd been tased. Haley. He grunted, trying to move, and felt someone holding his left wrist, rubbing the inside of it gently. There was a cold, wet cloth on his forehead. The voice changed. It wasn't Haley anymore.
“Agent Hotchner? Wake up. Please wake up. It's safe, but you've got to wake up. I don't know when he'll be back. Wake up, Agent Hotchner.”
Her voice was soft and low and strangely gritty, like she was getting over a cold or had a two pack a day habit. He recognized her accent as Californian. Whoever she was, she wasn't Haley. Haley was dead.
It stank like a long uncleaned urinal.
He managed to put his right hand to his brow and massage the bridge of his nose. As soon as he moved, she – whoever she was – fell silent and still.
“What's that smell?” he asked in a quiet voice.
“Uh-ammonium sodium h-hydrogen phosphate,” she answered, stumbling over the words. “From urine. I make it a little at a time, in case he decided not to turn on the lights again. But but it's almost three hours until they normally come on, and you're
here. I thought the risk was worth it.”
She was past nervous almost to terrified, but keeping herself together through sheer determination. Good. He got his eyes open and his elbow underneath him so he could prop himself up. The washcloth fell off.
The light was a jar with an inch or two of glow-in-the-dark sludge. That's where the smell came from. The woman crouched beside him on the balls of her feet, ready to leap back or to the side, vibrating with tension and fear. He glanced around, but his eyes hadn't adjusted well enough to pierce the utter darkness. He had an impression of a small space, like a tiny efficiency apartment. The floor was plywood, but smooth, almost polished. He looked up at the woman beside him, and for a moment, he thought it was a trick of the light, but she turned her face a little, and it remained.
Her face was scarred – knife scars, if he guessed correctly – as if someone had drawn lines from the middle of her face to the outer edge. From the outer corners of her eyes, from her cheeks, the corners of her mouth, her chin, and three separate scars on her forehead. She'd been deliberately mutilated. It didn't fit the profile of the their unsub.
She was watching him, hardly blinking.
“Can you tell me where we are?” he asked, getting to his feet.
She released his wrist the instant he moved his arm.
“I don't . . . really know,” she admitted, keeping her voice to a bare whisper. “It's where . . . where I've been for a long time, but there aren't any windows, no clocks, no calendars. It's safe from the elements. So far. And . . . you can hear him coming before he turns on the lights.”
“Before who turns on the lights?”
“Him. I just call him Pygmalion,” she said, rubbing her left arm with her right hand. She was missing the last finger on that hand. “Seemed silly to keep thinking of him as 'that guy'. He comes and turns on the lights when it's time for day. I think. I don't have any way of knowing if he's really using a twenty-four hour cycle. But, if it's night, he doesn't watch or listen. At least, I don't think so. Except . . .”
“Except,” he repeated, urging her to speak more.
“You're here,” she answered. “That's never happened before. He's never put another person in here, and he dropped you in through the hatch. He didn't leave sleeping pills for me and then bring you in the other way.”
Now that sounded like their unsub.
“What's your name?” he asked. She obviously knew his. She must have looked at his badge.
She flinched and caught herself. This time, her voice was so low, he had to listen as hard as he could and read her lips.
“A-amanda. Amanda Mason.”
Hotchner didn't have Reid's eidetic memory, but he recognized it as one of the possible victims of the current unsub.
“You disappeared from Long Beach more than two years ago,” he said.
“Did this man, Pygmalion, did he kidnap you?”
She shook her head emphatically, then ran her hands through her hair and tucked it behind her ears. Her left hand was missing the last finger as well, and her earlobes had been cut off. This wasn't just mutilation. Someone had tortured her.
“The first man. He . . . uh . . . did things,” she said, glancing up at him. From her expression, she knew he'd noticed the scars. “I don't know why, but I think he gave me to Pygmalion. He killed the others. I saw them.”
“I understand,” Hotchner answered.
There had been a question as to how far their unsub was willing to go to secure victims. The profile showed an extremely cautious, narcissistic, obsessive compulsive man in his early forties to mid fifties. It was one thing to kidnap a woman – or a man or a child, as their case included – on one's own, taking all the risk. It was another to acquire them from a different source. The question was, were they partners?
“He . . . he took care of me,” Amanda said, not meeting his eyes. “I remember a bed and monitors and IVs, and I thought I was in a hospital until . . .”
Hotchner waited while she fought for the breath to speak. If she had been here more than two years, and there'd never been another person, except for Pygmalion, who sounded and profiled as extremely remote, she would almost certain have agoraphobia and demophobia. It was incredible she was doing so well.
“There weren't any doors,” she finally said, her voice almost squeaking with effort. “There's the hatch in the ceiling, but there's no other way out. Except, he has another way in.”
“Amanda,” he said her name firmly, and her eyes snapped up at him. She stopped shaking. How long had it been since she'd heard her own name?
“Right now, my team is looking for me,” he told her. “I will tell you this: with or without their help, I am going to get you out of here.”
She covered her mouth with both hands and nodded, as if terrified to make noise. He took out his cell phone and checked it. There was no reception at all. Not surprising.
“I think this is a shipping container,” Amanda said. “All metal. Nothing gets through. But it doesn't get hot or cold either.”
It was quite cold in there, actually, though not as cold as outside. When she put her hands down, he noticed the collar around her neck – just tight enough to meet the skin all the way around. He looked her over. She wore a t-shirt and knit pants, she was thin as a rail, but also had some muscle mass to her. She was barefoot – and missing the last toe on each foot – but on each ankle was another tight fitting band, the same as the collar. He glanced up at her face.
“Negative reinforcement,” she told him. “Every morning, there are instructions. If I carry them out properly, I get food, sometimes a book or a movie. If I don't do them properly or refuse to, he shocks me.”
Yes, that fit the profile of their unsub to a T. He would make sure the man spent the rest of his life in solitary confinement.
“He's panicked, Amanda. I came here to interview him regarding several disappearances,” he said, keeping his tone certain and confident. “He probably tased me when I was following him to his office. I wasn't out long enough for him to take me far. We're on his property right now. My team knows where I was headed, and they will come and find me. By the time they arrive, we should either be out of here or have found a way to signal them.”
“If he doesn't kill us,” she whispered.
He studied the hatch above them.
“We haven't recovered any remains,” he answered, sounding a little speculative now. “His property is large enough to hide them, though. His profile doesn't point to active killing or even genuine interaction with his victims. Most likely, he would close off the container and let his victim suffocate or starve.”
“For the love of God, Montresor,” she whispered to herself.
Agent Hotchner glanced at her, the shadow of a smile tugging at the corner of his mouth. Even he recognized the quote, and Reid would have informed the entire team that it was from Poe's “The Cask of Amontillado,” when Montresor had bricked the hapless Fortunato up in a niche in the basement.
“Tell me about the ways in,” he said.
She nodded, taking a deep breath.
“The hatch isn't the only way in,” she told him. “There's no way he could have fit the treadmill or the hospital bed that used to be here through the hatch.”
“He didn't put those in before you were here?” he asked. “Maybe before he sealed the room?”
She shook my head. “When I was first here, I was on a hospital bed while I recovered. I was restrained, but I wasn't really up to moving around anyways. He would give me a shot, and I'd fall asleep, and when I woke up, there'd be something new or something missing. Like the treadmill. And he . . . he comes and goes too quietly to be climbing in and out of the hatch.”
“That's good,” he said, nodding encouragingly.
He held the jar up, but the light was starting to fade.
“Try swirling it around,” she suggested. “It needs contact with oxygen to glow.”
He followed her instructions, and the light brightened.
“How did you say you made this?”
“I . . . uh . . . I boiled down my urine and then distilled it. It was the only thing I could figure out. Most of the time, I'm fine in the dark, but I knew sooner or later, I'd need light.”
“That takes a lot of time.”
She shrugged. “One thing I've got.”
“What did you use for a heat source?”
She hesitated, glancing up at him and then away, and then licked her lips.
“It could help me figure out how to get us out of here,” he said.
“MREs,” she answered, whispering. “Sometimes, he's gone for days, so he leaves me a few. They have a chemical heating element, just add water. They get really hot, too.”
“Do you have any left?”
She swallowed. “Three.”
He nodded, thinking.
“I've been over the walls again and again,” she told him. “At least twice each night, after the lights are turned off. Either he doesn't watch or he's okay with it.”
“What have you found?”
“The cabinets,” and she pointed over at them, “have a false back. It allows him to put things in or take them out. But the doors are metal and locked. From tapping on them, I think they're pretty thick.”
“The shelves,” she said, pointing to them. “That's where I get to keep the stuff he gives me. Books, movies, things like that.”
Even in the low, greenish light, he could see her face flush hotly, and she wouldn't meet his eyes. No doubt she was embarrassed that she had cooperated with the unsub.
“Amanda.” Agent Hotchner leaned in only by an inch or two, careful to keep at least a foot between them. “You have survived in here for two years. I think you may be his first victim. What you've managed is remarkable.”
She hugged herself. “Is it . . .” Then she paused. “I don't know if I can leave. I don't . . . the whole world out there. I don't think I can . . .”
“It will be all right,” he assured her. “Once we get you out of here, you'll be hospitalized, and then we will do everything we can to get you re-integrated into society. Now, tell me about the shelves.”
“There's a gap between the back of the shelves and the next section of wall,” she explained. “It's not much, but when I've listened, I thought I could hear things – movement, television, that sort of thing. Once the room was set up this way and I could get around better, I noticed that the shelves were screwed down. They hadn't been before.”
“Let's look at that,” he said.
While she held the jar, Agent Hotchner examined the shelves. They were made of pine – sanded, stained, and sealed. He removed the items and tugged at the shelves, gauging their strength.
“I can kick these down,” he said, “but that's going to cause a lot of noise. If Parkson is anywhere around, it'll get his attention.”
“Hang on,” she said, and handed him the jar.
She went over to a mattress laid on the bare floor in the corner of the tiny room and put her hand down between the wall and the mattress, then reached in somewhere and after a moment of groping, pulled out a small, metal object.
It was a washer. It had been filed, probably by being rubbed against the floor or something metal over hundreds of hours, until one side was shaped like the end of a screwdriver.
“I've only gotten to try it a couple of times,” she told him, “but I think it'll work. It won't stand up to much torque though, the metal's too thin.”
He took it and gave it a quick inspection. Then he looked at her hand.
Very gently, he caught her right hand in his left, holding it with his thumb across her palm.
“The first man did this?” he asked.
She nodded. She held up her left hand so he could see it was the same on both.
“He, uh . . . Pygmalion,” she said, “there were stubs left, but they were infected. I think he removed the last bit of bone, trimmed everything and sewed the skin together properly. He did the same on my feet and ears.”
She pulled my hair back and turned my head, showing him her scarred ear and lack of earlobe.
“I have . . . a lot of scars,” she said. “I'm still alive, though. And, Pygmalion . . . he did take care of me.”
“You are still alive,” Agent Hotchner confirmed, “and what you have done is remarkable.”
A muscle in his cheek twitched just slightly, but his gaze was level and assured.
“We should get started,” he said, letting go of her hand.
She nodded. “The surface of the wall is metal too,” she told him. “But, I don't think it's very thick. When I tapped it, it sounded much more hollow. And it's the right dimensions for a door.”
“No handle on this side,” the agent remarked. “Unless he's got some serious hardware on the other side – which I doubt – I should be able to kick it in.”
She held the jar up for light as he unscrewed the shelves as quickly as he could. He started with the middle shelf, knowing they could duck, and he could stomp the lower ones into splinters if necessary. Through the floor, he felt the vibration of a door opening followed by footsteps.
“He's back,” Amanda whispered.
“Stay calm,” Hotchner answered, his expression not changing a whit.
“It usually takes him a few minutes to turn on the lights, but-”
“Stay calm,” he repeated.
Amanda shook with terror, and she looked back and forth.
“He turns on the computers first, then the lights, then the monitors, so he can see what's going on,” she managed, talking as fast as she could. “He's not going to like what he sees.”
The lights came on.
She put the jar down on the floor and backed up all the way to the mattress.
“I'll get us out of here,” Hotchner repeated.
“I know,” she panted, sitting down abruptly, “but he's going to shock me, and it's best if I'm si-”
She went into a full body spasm, arching and falling over. She'd been right to sit on the mattress. The voltage must have been turned to the maximum, and much as it horrified him, he turned immediately back to the shelves, and with a hard, splintering kick took out the bottom three. She thrashed, gagged, and choked, and it was clear the unsub intended to kill her or use the threat of killing her to subdue him. Hotchner kicked the back panel as hard as he could, knocking it in. It was just a cheap door.
His eyes hadn't adjusted to the bright lights Pygmalion had turned on, but the room the door led into was much dimmer.
“FBI! Put it down and back away from the computer!” Hotchner yelled.
The unsub grabbed at a gun, Hotchner's own service weapon, and Hotchner knocked it away, grabbed the man by his shirt, hauled him away from the desk, and slammed him to the ground. The man was flabby and had no upper body strength. His handcuffs were on the computer desk, just where his gun had been. He grabbed them, put a knee in the unsub's back, took one wrist and brought it down.
“Silas Parkson, you are under arrest for battery of a Federal agent, kidnapping, assault and battery, and attempted murder.”
“NO!” the man screamed. “You can't!”
He pulled the other arm down and snapped it into the cuffs, then, keeping his knee in Parkson's back, grabbed a phone cable and yanked it free, and hogtied Parkson's ankles to the handcuffs. It didn't stop the man from squirming until he was sweaty and red in the face.
Hotchner glanced, found his gun, checked it, and holstered it. He looked at the computer system, spotted the shock trigger and made sure it was open. It felt like he'd moved at light speed, but he knew all too well how long it could take to bring a suspect down and secure them. On one of the monitors, Amanda lay, unmoving, on the mattress.
He ducked back through the door, grabbing his badge from the floor and stepping over to Amanda. He noticed the overly smooth texture of the plywood floor again. In the time she'd been held captive, she must have walked the floor smooth.
He grabbed her by the shoulders, turned her over, and checked for breathing. No breath sounds, but he could find a heartbeat, fast and irregular. That long of a shock might have caused her diaphragm to spasm hard enough to stop breathing. He put one hand on her forehead, feeling the scars under his hand, pinched her nose shut, and opened her mouth with the other hand. Then he took a deep breath, sealed his mouth against hers, and exhaled strongly. Her chest rose.
“Come on, Amanda,” he told her. “You need to breathe.”
He gave her another breath.
If she didn't respond, he'd have to get her out of the container to the outside where he could call for help. One last rescue breath, and just as he started exhaling, she flopped, pushed him away with an arm, and turned over, coughing desperately. She shook with violence as she coughed, full throated and all the way to the bottom of her lungs. Then she gasped long and loud, went limp, and started breathing on her own.
He rolled her back, slipped one arm under her legs, got his cell phone out and put that arm under her shoulders, then picked her up, holding her close against his shoulder so he could get his phone to his ear. He scrolled through the numbers until it sat on Garcia's, climbed through the broken doorway and stood for a moment in the unsub's tiny headquarters.
“NO!” the man screamed again. “You can't take it. I MADE IT! You can't have it! That's stealing!”
“Shut up,” Hotchner snapped.
This room was also a shipping container, but it still had the original, outward swinging doors, and one of them was left ajar. He put his back to it, shoved it open, and dialed Garcia without even checking for reception.