Therese slept peacefully through the night and woke feeling calm and happy after dreaming of a certain blonde. She got ready for work and only after getting in her car did she realize that she no longer had the creepy sensation of being watched. Maybe it had all been in her head after all. She made it all the way to Quantico without looking over her shoulder once, but now she needed to focus on keeping her emotions in check. Just the thought of seeing Carol made her smile, but she knew a room full of profilers would easily read her, so she had to control it.
As she walked in to the offices of the BAU and set her bag on her desk, she immediately looked around for Carol. She tried to tell herself that just one look at her eyes or just one smile and she could go about her day and hopefully focus. God, all this happiness was kind of annoying.
Gen sat at the desk next to her pretending to read the morning paper and sipping her coffee. “How was your weekend?” She asked without looking up.
“Good, uneventful.” Therese lied. It was amazing! I kissed Carol! She wanted to scream, but couldn’t. “How was yours?”
“Busy.” Gen said and sat down the paper as Phil and Dannie came walking into the offices together, discussing some weekend sport event. They hadn’t even set their ready bags down before all of their phones were buzzing. //conference room//
Carol walked out of her office, phone in hand and the rest of the agents followed. As Therese walked into the conference room, she saw Carol standing in a corner speaking quietly into her phone. “I understand….yeah we’ve got it…20 mins tops.” Garcia came running in with the brown folders for each agent and passed them quickly.
“Don’t sit down.” Carol turned and spoke to everyone in the room. “We’re heading for the helipad. Looks like we may have another victim in Baltimore, so you can read the files on the chopper. It will only take us about thirty minutes to get there and I don’t anticipate us needing to stay the night, so leave your ready bags here. Let’s go.”
The four younger agents climbed into the back of the chopper and Carol sat in the front with the pilot. It was really hard to talk to each other over the sound of the engines, so Therese just read over the limited information that she found in the folder. Once they landed, everyone ran towards the waiting SUV’s and they all took their normal positions. Gen and Phil in one car and Carol, Dannie, and Therese in the second vehicle.
Carol took out her phone and called the other car, keeping the conversation on speaker. “Sirens on- we need to move fast. The body hasn’t been moved yet, and they are waiting on us, but they need to do so as soon as possible. We will all be going directly to the scene. Be aware, this is a possible new victim.”
“What does that mean?” Dannie asked.
“Apparently, the MO is not exactly the same. We’ll know more when we arrive, should be about 10 minutes out.”
Therese stared out the window as they sped through the neighborhoods on the outskirts of the city. She knew she should be focusing on the job at hand, but she was helplessly distracted. She just wanted a minute alone with Carol, but it didn’t seem like that would be happening anytime soon and she mentally chastised herself for even thinking about all of this. She tried to center her thoughts on what needed to be done. Someone is dead and you want to kiss your girlfriend. Wait…girlfriend? Is she my girlfriend? Jesus, get yourself together.
They arrived at the beautiful, two story, brick, colonial style home. The neighborhood was quiet and upper-class. As they exited their vehicles, Carol gathered them all together by the front door speaking in a direct, cold, and full supervisory special agent tone. “Here is what we know. Sandy Cuevas, 28, found this morning by her housekeeper. The door was left slightly open, no signs of forced entry. Baltimore PD contacted us immediately when they recognized the similarities. The medical examiner is waiting to move the body, so we need to be thorough, but quick. Any Questions?”
Everyone replied with a “No” and they all entered the house. Therese immediately started her process of shooting photos of everything she looked at in every single room while most of the others went directly upstairs. Therese was focused on scanning the bookcase in the living room when Carol came up behind her. She didn’t want to interrupt, but it had been such a crazy morning that she hadn’t even had a chance to say good morning to the younger woman. “Hey you.” She whispered.
“Hi.” Therese felt her heart skip a beat, feeling her Carol standing directly behind her. Her Carol.
“I don’t want to stop you; keep doing what you do. I just needed one second alone with you.” Carol sighed.
Therese did not stop snapping her photos. “All I’ve wanted to do since waking up was look into your eyes. It’s just been so crazy.”
“Turn around.” Carol said softly. Therese lowered her camera and slowly turned to look into the beautiful ocean that lived in Carol’s eyes. It was enough. They paused, allowing themselves to have this one moment, and then immediately went back to work.
“I have what I need down here, I’m ready to go up.” When Therese walked in to the master bedroom, she paused to take in the scene before her. The victim was tied to the bed with some kind of fabric ties and her clothes were still intact. The bruises around her neck were dark purple.
“Jesus.” Carol sighed. “It never gets easier to see this shit.”
“There are so many differences,” Gen came up beside Carol and Therese. “Do you think it is the same guy?”
Carol looked over at Therese. She really wanted her insights before saying anything. Therese instantly understood. “Give me a minute.” Her eyes were quickly darting around the room and then she started taking photos of everything she could. She looked in the closet, at the pictures on the wall and on the dresser, and finally in all of her drawers, including the nightstand. “Yes, I think it is our unsub, or unsubs.” Therese corrected herself.
“But our guy has only been striking every six months. If this is him, it would be a major escalation.” Dannie said to no one in particular.
Gen was the first to reply. “It isn’t unusual for an unsub to escalate and devolve when they know the authorities are on to them. But usually there are mistakes, more disorganization. We aren’t seeing this.”
“We need to know if there is DNA.” Phil was talking to the crime lab techs that were working around the room.
A younger woman in a white paper hazmat suit with evidence bags was moving around the room. “So far, no liquids or fluids have been found. We’ll look for hair and fibers next.”
“No bodily fluids?” Dannie questioned. “So she wasn’t raped.”
“I agree that it is different, but there are too many similarities.” Therese spoke to Carol.
Carol looked back at her from across the room. After only a few days of working together, they had developed a distinct pattern of evaluating a crime scene. Carol would stand back and survey the scene, while Therese sought out seemingly insignificant details. It would start with “What do you see, Therese?” and suddenly Carol was brought into the world in Therese’s mind, seeing the things that no one else could see.
Therese took a deep breath before she started. She knew everyone was in the room, but she was speaking only to Carol. “The obvious, fabric belts instead of rope, more facial trauma. He slammed her again the wall, see the dent over there?” Therese pointed to a clear mark in the drywall. “He was angry, less prepared, but still organized enough to stage the scene. The strangulation marks are the same which leads me to believe—“
Carol interrupted her. “Your two unsub theory was correct, but for some reason we have one working alone.”
“Exactly.” Therese replied. “How long till DNA and the medical report?”
“They’ll put a rush on the autopsy, but DNA takes longer to process. Hopefully we’ll have them both by tomorrow, at least preliminary reports.”
Phil, Gen, and Dannie shared looks around the room, suddenly feeling invisible as Therese and Carol spoke back and forth as if they had some secret code or language. “Should we reconvene outside and let the techs finish?” Gen suggested. Carol looked over at Therese to make sure she had all she needed and then agreed. They let Dannie, Phil and Gen leave the room first and then Carol motioned for Therese to follow them. She placed her hand lightly on the small of the younger woman’s back and felt her shudder under her touch.
Once in the yard, the round robin brainstorming began again. “Swanky neighborhood,” Phil said as she looked around.
“Rich neighborhood for sure.” Gen agreed. “What did she do for a living?”
“Lawyer.” Therese answered.
No one spoke for a minute, once again exchanging looks. “Ok, I’ll ask. How do you know that?” Dannie smiled as he asked the question.
“Law books on the shelf, law review magazines on the table, and the diploma on the wall.”
“Seriously?” Phil looked at her.
“You all went directly upstairs. I looked around the whole house to get a more complete picture of her.” Therese shrugged. “It’s what I do.”
“And you do it well.” Gen complimented her.
“But why all the pictures then?” Therese was sure they had already covered this, but she was willing to answer Phil’s question again.
“I don’t have a photographic memory, or an eidetic memory like Dr. Reid, and I need to be able to go back and look again in case I miss something.” She explained simply. “I guess we all have our processes, and that is mine.”
Carol gave her a wink of encouragement, before returning to the others. “Now back to the issue at hand.”
“Something triggered him to not only work alone, but he was angrier. I mean, that was closer to the first murder.” Gen stated cautiously, not wanting to upset Carol.
“You can say it, Gen. Abby’s murder.”
“Is he angry at his partner? Or is this still anger at Abby?” Gen finished.
“He wasn’t prepared,” Dannie added. “It’s almost like he decided to do this last minute. But what if, and hear me out Therese, this wasn’t the same guy. What if he just wanted us to think it was?”
Phil was the first to counter. “How would he know the specifics like body placement? Those details haven’t been released to the press.”
“True,” Dannie agreed before turning to Therese. “I guess what would really seal the deal on your theory is whether or not our victim was gay.”
“She was.” Carol and Therese said in unison.
“I’m afraid to ask,” Phil pinched the bridge of his nose, “but you know this how?”
“There was a woman in the pictures around her house, a current or ex-girlfriend, suits in closet, thumb rings, oh and the strap-on dildo in the nightstand,” Therese paused. “Good enough?” Therese said quickly, almost annoyed that she was still having to explain it all to them. How could they not see it? Wasn’t all of that obvious?
Carol almost blushed at the mention of the sex-toy, but managed to suppress it. Everyone’s phone buzzed with attachments, but Carol’s rang.
“You’re on speaker, Garcia.” Carol answered.
“Good morning crime-fighters! Ok, so I’ve sent you all her most recent text messages- looks like she sent one to an Aubrey Dunn last night around 9:30. Based on her phone GPS and credit cards receipts, she was at a bar called Club Hippo, love that name by the way, and then her phone shows her going home and then shutting off shortly thereafter.”
“Thank you, Garcia. Can you send us the address to the club and the home and work information for Ms. Dunn?” Carol said as she started mentally running through a list everything they needed to do.
“Done and Done. Let me know if you need anything else. Garcia out.”
“Dannie and Gen, you find Aubrey. Find out if she was the girlfriend and get as much info as possible on our victim. Phil you go with the Baltimore police to the medical examiner’s office. Stay with the body. I know we won’t get DNA results today, but I want as much forensic information as we can get before we leave, so stay on them. Therese and I will check out this club. Keep in touch.”
Carol drove quickly and with a laser like focus, while Therese looked out the windows, taking in the city that was flashing by. “What are you thinking?” Carol asked. “Do you know how many times a day I ask you that?”
“Sorry.” Therese knew she should be thinking about the case, but all she could really focus was being alone…in a car…with Carol. Sitting this close to the stunning blonde and smelling her perfume had Therese’s senses on overload. As much as she wanted to confess all of that, she understood that wasn’t what Carol was really asking. “I was wondering…why the escalation? What triggered him to increase his aggression and to act alone?”
I finally get her alone, and this is what we have to talk about, Carol thought to herself. Normal couples get to talk about vacations and favorite colors and movies. We get death, great way to start a relationship. Are we in a relationship? That’s what I really want to ask her. Does she want to do this? To try to be something? I won’t be in the BAU forever, just this case. Will she wait?
“Carol?” Therese could tell she was thinking and assumed she was thinking about the case, but for the briefest moment a look had crossed her face and Therese wondered if maybe she didn’t want to talk about the case.
“Can you call Garcia? It’s only 10:30, the club won’t be open; we’ll need the owner or a manager to meet us there.”
“Right.” Therese did as she was told and then went back to looking out the window.
“GPS says we’ll be there in about fifteen minutes.” Carol hated the awkward silence sitting between them. “Plenty of time for you to tell me what you are really thinking.”
“You go first.” Therese blushed.
Carol turned her head and glanced over at the brunette with a smile. “I asked you first, but fine. I hate that our time together is spent hunting a serial killer and I want to do something normal with you.”
Therese’s face lit up in a bright smile. “I know I should be thinking about this case and I feel terrible, but all I can think about is kissing you.”
“Oh…” Carol let out a contented sigh and then she felt Therese’s small hand on her thigh. Oh, she is such a brave girl. Heat radiated through her black pants and her heart started to beat faster.
Nothing more was said or needed to be said as they drove the rest of the way to downtown Baltimore. It was a weekday, so the city streets were busy and the parking lot Sandy had used the night before was filled with cars. Carol parked on the street in front of the club. It would still be a few minutes before the club manager got there to talk to them, so they walked across the street to the parking lot. “The chances of us finding anything is low, but it’s worth a look,” Carol explained.
Therese stood in the parking lot and looked back across the street at the club. It took up half a city block and there was a back alley behind it. “What’s back there?”
“Let’s go check it out.”
They walked in front of the mirrored glass front of the club and Carol noted how much taller she was than Therese. They moved down the alley than ran beside the club to find it opened to another parking lot.
“Security camera on the corner.” Therese said as she pointed up to a building across from the club. “I know she parked out front, but we should check anyway. He may have parked here.”
They walked back to the front of the club and waited until the manager arrived. Though neither of them spoke, it no longer felt awkward. They enjoyed the confortable silence of just begin close to one another. A small red sports car pulled up in front of them and a young man in a tight grey shirt and a man bun got out. “Are you the FBI agents I’m supposed to be meeting?”
Carol reached out her hand. “I’m SSA Carol Aird and this is Special Agent Belivet. Thank you for meeting us this morning.”
“I’m Joe,” he shook respective hands. “How can I help you?”
Carol gave Joe a few details about the woman and how she had been at the club the night before. “Any receipts, video footage, and we’ll need to speak with the bartender who was on duty last night.”
“I worked the bar last night…are you…are you telling me this was Sandy?” His eyes grew wide. “Oh my god…”
“You knew her?” Therese asked sympathetically.
“She was a regular, every weekend. She and her girlfriend would come and dance on Saturday’s and if they were ever on the outs, which was quite often, Sandy would come on Sunday nights.”
“She had problems with her girlfriend?” Carol inquired.
“I mean yes and no. Aubrey wanted to get married, but Sandy wasn’t ready to settle down. So they would fight, but they were really meant to be together, so it was impossible for them to stay apart.”
Carol and Therese shared a look, understanding that feeling.
The inside of the club was divided into two parts. As you walked in the front door you could go right into a smaller space with a square bar in the center and a small stage. If you went left, it led down a long hallway with bathrooms and into a larger room with a sunken dance floor and bars on either end. There were large speakers that lined the room and wall to wall mirrors.
Joe led them down the hall, past the bathrooms and into the club office. “I have all the receipts and such from last night. Sandy paid with cash though, always does…did.” He corrected himself. “She was always a good tipper.”
“What about video?” Carol asked.
“Well, yes, but I’m afraid the quality is really shitty. The owner has been thinking about selling the club to some national drug chain, and he hasn’t really been interested in upgrading anything. It still uses VHS tapes for fuck’s sake.” Joe turned on a small black and white TV monitor and then rewound the tape a bit. He pressed play and then fast forwarded well-worn tape until Sandy came in the bar. The three of them watched as she ordered her drinks and played on her phone, not noticing the way the stranger next to her slipped something into her drink.
“Son of a bitch!” Joe yelled at the camera. “He did it right in front of her! How did she not see that!”
“Selective attention.” Carol answered. “Our brain can only pay attention to a small amount of information at a time. She was so engrossed in her phone, it was easy for him…and he knew that. He’s smart.”
Carol felt the shiver move down her spine as she watched the man at the bar. There was something about him that made her incredible uncomfortable.
“Do you have another angle? You can’t see his face.” Therese asked.
“No. Like I said, it’s an old system. There is only the one camera and it’s mostly to make sure the bartenders aren’t skimming.” Joe said apologetically. “I can tell you that I didn’t recognize him. He definitely wasn’t one of our regulars. In fact, I kinda got straight vibes off of him and I remember Sandy telling him to back off or something.”
“So she rejected him.” Carol looked over at Therese. “Could have been his trigger.”
Therese nodded and continued to watch the tape as Sandy got up to leave. A few minutes later the man got up to follow her.
Carol froze and went rigid. It was the way he moved, something in his demeanor. Therese felt the change in Carol’s body language and instinctively reached out to her, but Carol quickly jerked away. “I…uh…I need to step outside and make a call. Finish watching.” Carol ran out of the bar, needing the daylight and fresh air. No… no… no…her brain kept screaming! It just wasn’t possible!
Therese felt the sting of begin rejected but didn’t have a chance to really react before Carol ran out of the office. She asked Joe if they could keep the tape. She hoped that their crime techs would be able to clean up the video some, but she wasn’t over optimistic. “Do you remember how he paid?”
“No. But there were only four other people in the bar last night.” He pulled out the receipts and Therese typed their names into her cell phone to send to Garcia. “I think that’s all we need for now. We’ll call you if we have any further questions.” Truthfully, she knew she needed to look around the bar, but Therese just wanted to go find Carol and find out what was going on with her.
She walked outside to find Carol on the phone, speaking in a hushed tone. Her eyes looked panicked and her hands were shaking. Therese stood back and watched her, taking in all of her facial expressions and body language. Her profiler instincts kicked in and suddenly, she understood. Carol hung up the phone and turned back towards Therese, unable to meet her eyes. “You think it was him. Tell me why.”
Carol didn’t answer her question, choosing instead to walk back towards their SUV. “He gave you the tapes? Did you get the receipts?”
Therese got in the SUV before answering. “Yes, now stop avoiding my question.”
Carol started the car and merged into the city traffic, still not answering.
“Carol.” Therese was relentless.
“I don’t, it’s nothing.” Carol lied, speaking harshly. Therese could tell she was lying, but she didn’t understand why. Carol’s walls were up and Therese knew there was no point in pushing, at least not right now. She chose instead to text the four names to Garcia followed by a text that said, //anything you can find//
They drove back to the helipad in silence to meet the others and to head back to Quantico. It was awkward and uncomfortable, but they both left it alone. Clearly, Carol had seen something in that video that spooked her and Therese assumed it had something to do with Harge, but she didn’t know for sure. She could only hope that Carol would open up when she was ready. In the meantime, Therese would start her own investigation. If the killer was indeed Carol's ex-husband, Carol was in trouble and Therese felt the need to protect her.
Carol’s mind was racing all the way back. She had been so happy that morning, just because of the slightest touch and a lingering glance and now it was all going to crash around her. She knew now she would have to put as much distance as she could between herself and the brilliant agent she was so taken with. She didn’t know how she was going to explain this to her, or to the rest of the team. Maybe she wouldn’t. Maybe she would call Hotch and turn it all over to the other team. No…this was her responsibility. In any case, she had to step back from whatever she was feeling for Therese. Maybe it was all for the best. Therese was a young woman whose career was really just taking off. What kind of life was Carol really offering? Sideways looks, office gossip, serial killers, oh and a child with a crazy ex-husband. No, this was going to be better for Therese in the long run. End it now, before it even really started. Carol’s mind was made up.