Chapter Six - Prentiss
Prentiss reads the files assembled by Elle Greenaway, in whose shadow she spent her first three months at the B.A.U., and then reads the department's files on Buffy Anne Summers, a girl who has never been arrested for anything but seems to be mixed up in everything going on around her.
Prentiss can relate.
Holding both sets of files in her hands, Prentiss feels like she has the bulk of the puzzle pieces but she has no idea which pieces' edges are supposed to lie against which.
The most recent robbery and murder jackets are just a few pages with a scattering of bare bone facts printed on them. There is not yet enough meat there to hang suppositions or theories on, so Prentiss turns her thoughts to Buffy Summers while she retrieves her go-bag and asks her neighbor to look after Sergio. She knows how the B.A.U. originally interpreted the girl's actions, situation, and personality but, if they had been entirely accurate, Buffy Summers would not still be walking around with an unofficial 'Person of Interest' label stuck to her folder.
Prentiss gets her affairs in order and soon finds herself on the jet. Alone, she helps herself to a bottled water from the mini-fridge, fishes a highlighter out of her briefcase, and goes through the very first Summers file again. Prentiss highlights the cold, hard facts and ignores everything else.
When she is about halfway through her project, Rossi joins her. Rossi peers over her shoulder for a few seconds then, as he moves to claim the seat across from her, he says, "Good idea. We need a fresh perspective."
Prentiss angles a quick smile in his direction and then bends her head over her work again. Across from her, Dave gets busy with his own highlighter.
One by one, the other members of the team join them on the jet. Before the pilot even turns on the jet's engine or the fasten your seatbelts sign, Reid is rattling off serial killer statistics, especially as they pertain to women, and citing famous examples of serial killers with high body counts who were never anyone's first suspect or, in some cases, ever caught. Knowing that facts comfort him, Prentiss tunes him out rather than arguing with him about the perspective of his facts. Instead, she thinks about the perspective from which they have been viewing Buffy Summers. They assumed that Buffy Summers was the Hemery High serial killer. But what if she wasn't? What if I assume that she was a potential target... who somehow figured out that she was in danger and ran.
The thought strikes a chord within Prentiss. She digs out her folder on Buffy Summers and flips through it, skimming the highlighted portions for the relevant information. There! The murders stop while she's running. But then why would she go back to L.A. and the serial killer? Why do people usually go back? When they've done what they needed to do or because they've found out that going on is pointless. If the UnSub was obsessed with her, he would have chased her to Virginia, China, or through the gates of Hell if necessary. So the UnSub follows her to Nevada, she somehow finds out, gives up on outrunning him, and goes home. When she gets back to Los Angeles, Summers' parents do what any parent would have done and confront her about running away. She breaks and tells then what's been going on with her and...
Prentiss flips to the appropriate portion of her file. ...and somehow ends up in a mental institution. She gets out and...
Ignoring the others, Prentiss flips a few more pages to the next highlighted portion of her file. ...burns down the school gym. The murders stop that same night. If Buffy Summers wasn't the UnSub, if she was supposed to be one of his victims, then something went badly wrong for the UnSub. Summers probably killed her would-be killer and disposed of the body in the fire.
Prentiss pauses, reviews her working theory, and wonders, But what happened between then and now? There's a huge chunk of time in her life that's unaccounted for.
Emily tunes back in to the conversation going on around her in time to take part in the in-flight meeting regarding the newest cases. They spitball ideas regarding Greenaway's murderous, bank-robbing cheerleading squad, the four non-bank-related murders that she attributes to them, and the ritualistic string of murders, which is clearly the work of a group of ritualistic serial killers. There is simply no other way that it could have continued for so long. The only questions are: How large is the group? How organized is it? And how spread out are its members?
The entire thing reminds Prentiss unpleasantly of the gypsies who picked little girls seemingly at random, murdered their families, and brainwashed them into being perfect wives to their sons. Prentiss really
hopes that there is nothing like that going on this case.
Shortly before they land, Garcia pops up on Morgan's laptop and says, "Greetings! I come bearing information, my brightly-colored puppet pals!"
Prentiss can practically see Hotch mentally scheduling another 'random' drug test for Garcia. For herself, Prentiss bites the inside of her lip and watches from the corner of her eye as JJ quickly whirls toward the nearest window. Prentiss can see JJ's wide grin in her reflection.
"Some of you already know some of this stuff and I've e-mailed all of this information to all of you but bear with me and I'll give you the cliff notes version of Buffy Summers: A Life," Garcia says. Through the connection, Prentiss can hear the clickity-clack of Garcia's long, carefully manicured nails dancing over her keyboard. "Buffy Anne Summers and Dawn Marie Summers -- and yes, that is
what their momma named them -- were born in Los Angeles, California to extremely
wealthy parents. Buffy, the older of the two, seems to have been the queen bee at Hemery High. She was the head cheerleader on the freshman squad, won the beauty pageant, and was the homecoming queen. Then she flipped out, ran away from home, and stayed gone for a few weeks. She went home again for unknown reasons and was promptly whisked into a mental facility by her parents. Her admittance paperwork says that she was having delusions of vampires and vampire slayers."
"Garcia..." Hotch groans. "I don't suppose that you got a court order before you started reading her medical files?"
"Don't ask," Morgan advises. "It's already done."
"It's a fairly common delusion to have been specially chosen by some higher authority to rid the world of sin or, in this case, vampires," Reid adds, distracting Morgan and Hotch from the legality of Garcia's search. It would be a neat trick but Prentiss is nearly certain that he did it inadvertently. Reid is excellent at multitasking actual tasks but incapable of dividing his attention between topics.
"That same year, someone murdered a string of teenagers," Garcia continues. "The victims, thirty-two known or suspected and who knows how many unknown, all hailed from Buffy Summers' high school. All of them knew her or would have known of
"Also not unusual," Reid interjects. "Sociopaths are often quite charming to those around them. They're usually the last person any of their neighbors would ever suspect of their crimes. What is
unusual is her gender. There aren't a lot of sociopathic serial killers that are women."
"That we know of," Prentiss interrupts, hating the gender normalization in that sentence. "Maybe they just get away with it more often since investigators are usually hung up on a statistic that can't be accurately verified. All you can say with any accuracy is that the serial killers that we catch aren't normally
Reid frowns but JJ and Morgan both grin at Prentiss.
"Here's a fun fact," Garcia interjects. "The corpses from the Hemery High murders, some of which vanished later for heaven knows what purposes, all turned up with bites in their throats which should remind everyone here of Buffy Summers' admittance paperwork."
"Duly noted," Hotch says. "Anything else, Garcia?"
"The mental facility seemed to find Buffy Summers about as sane as anyone else, if severely starved for parental attention, which makes sense as her parents were hip deep in a fair spectacular divorce. Two weeks after her mother sprung her from the facility, Buffy Summers burned down the Hemery High gym during the Spring Fling dance due to, and I quote, 'an electrical wiring thingy or possibly mice with cigarettes who have never smoked before and will never ever try it again.'"
Prentiss, who knows a thing or two about falsehoods, can practically feel that lie disturbing the Force. Master Yoda would deeply disapprove. On a more professional level, Prentiss admires anyone with the faculty to accept that they are a poor liar and use it to their advantage, redirecting official attention from asking the right questions or considering things too closely. It is roughly the same trick that coyotes use to lure fawns away from their mothers.
Prentiss does exactly the same thing every day.I just need to figure out what the right questions are,
Prentiss thinks. After I know the answers to those, I'll know what Summers was hiding.
"Don't tell me anyone believed that?" groans Morgan, falling for Summer's distraction with terrifying ease. Morgan has a great many strengths, both personal and professional, but he has never been on the predator side of the equation. Sometimes, his inner-fawn shines through with alarming clarity.
"Most people don't have your finely tuned sense of paranoid, my love," Garcia cheerfully replies.
"As a teenager, she was very wide-eyed and cute," Rossi puts in. "So long as you didn't make her laugh.""Anyway,"
Garcia interjects, wrenching them all back on track. "Shortly after that she, her mother, and her sister move to Sunnydale, California. Their paperwork trail goes cold there. It was probably sucked down to the bottom of that enormous sinkhole with the rest of the town. The only records that I've got so far from Sunnydale are Summers' admission paperwork and her freshman grades at the Sunnydale campus of the University of California. When I looked into Summers' admittance file, her high school grades stank but her S.A.T. scores were surprisingly high. Higher than mine, at any rate. Summers' grades her freshman year were actually pretty okay. That year she had two roommates, a Kathy Newman who abruptly disappeared and a Willow Rosenberg. Kathy Newman was one of several students, mostly freshmen, who disappeared during Buffy Summers' year of college."
"Didn't anyone notice that people go missing wherever this girl goes?" asks Rossi, his tone disbelieving. "She's practically leaving a trail of corpses behind her."
"Willow Rosenberg seems to have survived their acquaintance," Garcia says. "I'll see about getting in contact with her and the sister. But, aside from her university grades and Joyce Summers' will, there's nothing until the Summers sisters went to London after Sunnydale collapsed. Hank Summers must have refused custody of his younger daughter because Buffy was listed as Dawn Summers' legal guardian. In London Buffy inherited a fabulous fortune that puts her somewhere between Smaug the Dragon and Bruce Wayne on the billionaires' list."
"Again, does no one notice the trail of dead bodies?" Morgan demands, his tone frustrated.
"Apparently not, my delicious sugar plum. Buffy used her newfound fortune to buy some real estate outside of London and in Cleveland and set up the first two branches of her schools: the Kendra Young Preparatory Academy in Cleveland and the Anyanka Jenkins Preparatory Academy in London. A few months later, the Summers sisters moved to Rome where the younger one finished high school and the older one finished college, earning undergraduate degrees in psychology, Latin, Italian language, and Italian studies."
"Making up for lost time, I see," Prentiss notes. "How'd our girl do?"
"Both sisters' grades were really good, actually. While they were in Rome, Buffy founded another academy, this time the Tara Maclay Preparatory Academy."
"All of this charity and civic mindedness sounds good on paper but let's not forget that these school cater to Summers' preferred victims," Rossi interjects. "Teenagers."
"Buffy and Dawn graduated in the same year. They went to Africa where Summers founded yet another
academy, this one called the Sineya Preparatory Academy. They also went back to school at the same time, Dawn to Oxford and Buffy to Singapore."
"A falling out?" Hotch asks.
"Maybe," Garcia says, her fingers a flurry in the bottom corner of the monitor. "Maybe not. At the University of Singapore, Buffy goes for a graduate degree in psychology and two undergraduate degrees, one in Chinese language, specifically Mandarin, and the other in Asian literature."
"That seems kind of far to go for a graduate degree," Reid says while shifting nervously in his seat.
"Apparently, University of Singapore has one of the best programs in the world," Garcia replies. "While she was there, Buffy Summers opened up four more academies, one in Singapore, another in Tibet, one in Canada, and another one in Africa."
"Tibet?" Rossi demands sharply. "Why Tibet?"
"I don't know," Garcia replies.
"When you get a chance, Garcia, look into the backgrounds of all of these people that these academies are named for," Hotch orders. "And track down Buffy Summers' financials."
"Will do, fearless leader!"
"When you do, send them to me," JJ volunteers. "I'll take first crack at them."
"Sure thing. Okay, there's not much left. Buffy finished out her degrees and took both her clinical exams and a year-long internship in Singapore. Then she moved to Australia, took the boards there, and landed a job in a university clinic. She took a couple of university classes on... the Aborigines, of all things. The littler Summers, having meanwhile graduated from Oxford, joined Buffy in Australia. They shared an apartment, so probably no earlier falling out. Dawn enrolled in a master's program at the same university and is currently attending classes there and working as an adjunct professor."
"What, no academy in Australia?" Morgan asks sarcastically.
"There's apparently one in the works," Garcia replies with a bright grin. "About a month ago, Buffy Summers quit her job and came back to the U.S. The Cleveland branch's school councilor took a long paid vacation at about the same time that Buffy Summers showed up. Summers assumed the title of visiting cheerleading coach and the mantle of temporary school councilor. That was about ten days before Martha White was abducted. And that's all I've got for now."
"Keep at it," Hotch orders. "Give us everything that you can find on her."
"Gotcha. P.G., over and out!"
While the others speculate on the new information and bounce ideas off of each other, Prentiss raids her e-mail account for the file that Garcia had sent out. Using that and the highlighted portions of her files, Emily begins to draw up a tentative timeline for Buffy Summers.
She is still working on it when the jet lands.
Waiting on the tarmac are three black SUVs and three agents, one of which is a dark-haired woman with sly eyes and bright red lipstick. She reminds Prentiss of an alley cat: wild, wary, and underfed. Judging by her smile, and the warmth with which JJ, Reid, and Morgan greet her, that woman is Elle Greenaway.
Hotch, however, is cool and even distant with Greenaway, who is stiff and defiant in the face of Hotch's silent disapproval. For the first time, Prentiss wonders what the exact circumstances of Greenaway's departure from the B.A.U. were. Truth be told, Emily had never particularly cared before.
When the others finally remember to introduce them to Elle Greenaway, Prentiss and Rossi are friendly but polite.
"I knew you'd want to hit the ground running," Greenaway says to Hotch, her smile strained. "So I arranged enough resources for everyone to pair up and get to work."
"Thank you," Hotch stiffly replies. "Prentiss and Morgan, go check out the boarding school and its principal. JJ and Reid dump our things at the hotel, check in at the field office, set up our area, and liaise with the locals. Rossi and I will visit the dump sites for the last couple of ritualistic murders to get a feel for them. Any questions?"
"I'd like to swap with Reid," Prentiss says before anyone has a chance to leave on their assignments. "I'm working on a theory and access to any other files would be great."
"Okay, Reid, you go with Morgan. Prentiss, you're with JJ. When we're done with our assignments, we meet back at the field office."
When they split up and go to their vehicles, it does not escape Emily's notice that Reid and Morgan's driver is Elle. Prentiss doubts that happens by chance. She and JJ do not have an action-packed assignment and the other car will have Hotch in it.
"Hey, anything I can do to help with your project?" JJ asks after they have finished exchanging pleasantries with the agent assigned to drive them.
"That'd be great. If you'd throw any case facts you find my way, it'd be a huge help," Prentiss replies. "I want to lay everything out chronologically and see what we're dealing with."
JJ and the driver spend the rest of their ride discussing the climate of the field office, its relationship with the local departments, and what sort of resources will be available to her and the team. Prentiss spends it working on her timeline.