A black SUV was waiting for Therese and Carol at the airport. As they drove to Virginia, Carol called Hotch to get an update and to let them know where they were going. She was disappointed at learning that Spencer and Rossi had interviewed the Airds, but got nowhere. She should have known that Jennifer wouldn't roll over that easily. She had decades of being a frozen, cold-hearted bitch under her belt.
As they pulled up the long drive to the Aird estate, the house looked quiet and empty and Therese marveled at the opulence of the house. “How many people live here?”
Carol just snickered, her nerves still on high alert. Internally, she prayed this wasn’t a waste of time, but she had to trust Therese’s instincts. “Harge, his parents, and most of the time Florence…wait, did I tell you about that? About what Harge did to Florence? God, everything has been so crazy.”
“No. Did you ever live here?” Therese asked as they got out of the vehicle and walked towards the front door.
“No, although Jennifer Aird expected me too. It was definitely a point of contention in our marriage. I guess hindsight being what it is, I really should have seen the signs…his possessiveness, his odd relationship with his mother. I should have known.”
“We show people what we want them to see. Harge was careful and did his best to hide his true nature. How do we get in?” The door was locked.
Carol pointed to a gravel walkway that led to the back of the house. “Kitchen door is usually unlocked for the staff to come in and out of. We’ll try that first.”
Therese could tell that Carol was still blaming herself for everything. “None of this is your fault, you know. You left him. When you finally saw who he really was and when you realized who you were, you did the right thing and you left. You cannot blame yourself for his actions.”
“Can’t I?” The kitchen door opened. “I married a sociopath; I had an affair; I divorced him; I started a relationship with…” Carol didn’t finish that last sentence.
They walked through the kitchen and into the main areas of the house. “You started a relationship with me. That’s what you were going to say?” Therese asked. “Do you regret that?”
“No! I regret that it caused this!” Carol pointed to her injured face. “I regret that my actions caused you to get hurt!”
Therese stopped walked around and moved to stand directly in front of the older, blonde agent. She was a few inches shorter, but stood straight to make herself look taller. “I’m going to say this one last time Carol, so listen very carefully. YOU did not do this. YOU did not hit me, YOU did not kidnap me, YOU did not arrange all of this. HARGE did this- he did all of it! It was Harge and Tommy. I don’t blame you, so stop blaming yourself!”
Carol was struck by her intensity, but did not reply.
They continued to move throughout the first floor of the house and despite how large it was, to Therese it felt suffocating. Everything was immaculate, nothing out of place. This seemed odd to Therese. “Does Rindy have a room? Where are her toys?”
“Upstairs.” They walked side-by-side to the staircase and Carol watched as Therese’s eyes glided over everything in the house. “What are you thinking?”
“Everything is impersonal, like I’m in a museum, not a home. Hard to believe people live here with how cold and dark it all seems.”
“You just described the very reason I could never live here.” Carol explained. “I mean you’ve seen my home, nothing like this.”
“Your house is warm. It could use some more furniture, but there are pictures and clearly people live there.” Therese smiled remembering her last afternoon at Carol’s. It had been the best day of her life, until that night.
“Jennifer is all about the illusion of perfection. Outward appearances and the family name and reputation. She’ll do anything she can to hide all of this, you know. The scandal will be unbearable to her.”
“Tell me about Florence.” They slowly made their way through all the rooms on the top floor. Apparently Jennifer and John had separate bedrooms.
“Harge attacked her, strangled her on Sunday night. Garcia found…” Carol sighed and stopped walking, She sat on the edge of John Aird’s bed and took a minute to gather her thoughts. Therese came and sat beside her, placing a delicate hand on her thigh. “Garcia found out that Harge was paying Tommy to follow us, to follow you. He had a private account, somewhere he could upload all the images and…videos. He saw everything we did, Therese.”
Therese understood the implication. “Everything?”
Carol nodded, “Florence said he went ballistic Sunday night. Garcia found the video that was posted earlier that evening. From the looks of it, he was on a roof across the street, but he had a direct view into my bedroom.”
Her head was pounding again, but this time it was anger. Her face went rigid, “Carol…I…”
“I know, angel. When I saw it…I felt like something was taken from us, stolen, like a violation. And then later that night is when you were taken, so obviously it was that video that set everything into motion.”
Therese sat silent for a few minutes before she stood and started walking again. She walked out of John’s room and into Harge’s bedroom. “So Harge saw the video and sent Tommy, but Tommy ultimately had his own agenda and Harge really had no clue that he wasn’t actually in control.”
“Looks that way.” Carol agreed. She hated this room, the dark green walls and mahogany furniture seemed overly masculine, uninviting and with one exception, not personalized. She saw the one framed photo in the room, a family photo of Harge, Carol, and Rindy when she was only a toddler. She looked at the bed shivered, remembering the first time she and Harge had sex; it was in this room. And just like the rest of the house it was cold and impersonal, his parents downstairs while they did it quietly and quickly.
Therese looked at the photograph. “He thinks you’re still his.”
“He killed Abby, not Tommy. And then he kept killing her over and over, because in his mind she took what was his. Did he think that would cause you to come back?”
Carol thought about that for a moment. “I don’t think so. I think he wanted to punish me, which is why he took Rindy. I think his goal is to make me suffer for having the audacity to leave him.”
“This room is wrong,” Therese walked back to the door leading to the hall. “It isn’t where he would feel safe or comfortable. There is nothing about Harge in this room, like it wasn’t really his space.” She walked back into the hallway, Carol following.
“Tommy was using him,” Therese started thinking out loud now, allowing Carol to see the inner machinations of her mind, “manipulating him and yet his narcissism wouldn’t let him see that. When we find them, we’ll have to use that. We’ll need to make him believe he is in control, that he is smarter, stronger…cater to his delusions.”
Carol could sense what Therese was implying and it made her uncomfortable and Therese picked up on her shifting energy. “It would all be a lie, Carol, but it would buy us time. Show me Rindy’s room.”
This bedroom was unlike every other room in the house. There were bright colors, stuffed animals and toys and dollhouses. It was like something out of a toy catalogue. Still, Therese noted the clear feminine themes and toys didn’t quite fit with the personality of the little girl she had played video games with.
“It’s beautiful, but this room isn’t about Rindy.” Therese looked around. “I see what you mean about illusions. Does Rindy like staying here?” Therese asked and Carol shrugged.
“She never told me otherwise. I know she plays outside a lot when she is here. There is a huge swing set out back.”
“And where did Harge play when he was a boy?”
It seemed like an odd question. “I don’t know, he never really spoke of his childhood.”
“So when you would come here, for family dinners and such, he would never reminisce? Tell you about his secret hiding places? That kind of thing?”
Carol thought back for a minute. It had been so long ago. “He did tell me once about how he created an imaginary kingdom out of boxes or something. He would hide there.”
“Storage? Attic? Basement?”
“This house has both.” Carol explained. “We’re already on the second floor, we could find the attic first.”
It took a few minutes, but when they found a door to the attic it was locked. “I don’t think either of us is in the shape to break that door down.” Therese laughed.
Carol’s phone buzzed with a text message. “It’s Hotch, there is nothing at any of their other properties, but there are also no signs that they have left the country…oh Shit! They didn’t have grounds to hold them and they are on their way back to the house so we need to finish up. Let’s check the basement.”
The door to the basement was closed, but not locked. Therese reached out for the door knob but hesitated before turning it. “Do you have your gun?”
Carol pointed to her holster. “Yes, why?”
“Just a feeling.” Therese started to open the door, but Carol stopped her. “I think we should know by now to trust your instincts. You don’t have a weapon, so let me go down first.”
“Okay, but give me your phone.” Therese held out her hand and Carol handed her the device. “She punched in something quickly and then opened the camera app. “I’ll take pictures when we get down there since we have to hurry.”
Carol pulled her gun from the holster, readied herself, and slowly opened the door. The stairs were steep and led into darkness. “I think there is a light at the bottom." She crept carefully down the stairs, one at a time, not sure what to expect. She found the light switch and flipped it on, but nothing happened. “Shit. Can you use the flashlight on the phone?”
Therese turned on the flashlight and came down the stairs, but once she let go of the basement door it closed behind her. The uneasy feeling returned. She shined the light around the room, but it appeared empty, so they turned to go back up the stairs until they heard a muffled cry from somewhere behind them. Carol turned quickly, weapon raised as Therese stood behind her, aiming the light towards the direction of the noise.
“FBI! Come out with your hands up!”
“Harge! I know you’re here!”
Suddenly the room was plunged in to darkness and something hard came down on Therese’s arms, causing her to drop the phone and fall to the ground. She could hear a struggle as she searched the ground for the phone. Carol was fighting in the darkness, she heard metal hitting the ground, Carol had dropped her gun. She heard a punch land followed by a masculine grunt. Carol screamed in pain and then her voice was muffled. And when Therese’s hand finally found the phone and the light was turned back on, she saw him with his arms around Carol’s throat in a choke hold. “Welcome home sweetheart,” Harge sneered. "I see you brought company."
He was standing behind her as she struggled, elbowing him as hard as she could, causing him to loosen his grip enough so that she was able to kick her gun across the room. Therese felt it hit her foot, but before she could bend down, Carol was back in his grasp. “Now, now, love, that is no way to treat your husband.”
“Fuck you!” She tried to scream but the pressure against her throat was making it increasingly difficult.
“Not in front of company and our child, Carol!” He chastised her. Carol’s eyes went wide and Therese moved the light around the room quickly. Rindy was here, somewhere. Behind them, there was door to a wine cellar. Therese thought of the tracker Carol had mentioned. The tracker that had mysteriously gone silent. If Rindy was locked in the wine cellar, it could have blocked the signal! She felt the gun at her feet, but couldn’t reach down and get it without a distraction.
As if reading her mind, Carol started fighting again. She pulled and jerked and flung her head back in an effort to break his nose. She kicked and screamed until he grabbed her injured arm and squeezed hard, bringing her to her knees in pain. Luckily, it had been enough. Therese held the gun out in front of her. There was the muffled sound of Rindy screaming behind her. Could she see what was happening? Therese tried to remember if the door had been solid or had there been a glass panel. “Let her go.”
“Harge, please,” Carol pleaded.
His face lit up. “I always loved it when you begged. You never could get enough.”
Something clicked in Therese’s mind and she looked down into Carol’s eyes. Read my mind, Carol.
“Is that why you really wanted to come here Carol? To get back with him? You said I wasn’t enough…is that what you meant?” Therese’s voice sounded hurt and betrayed.
If at first Carol was confused, she quickly caught on to the game Therese was playing. Make him believe he is in control and that he is stronger, better, and smarter.
“I’m sorry, Therese, honestly, but I realized that Harge is the only man for me.” She had worded it carefully, praying it would go over this head. “I need my family and they have to come first.”
Carol slowly stood and backed her body into Harge’s. “Can you ever forgive me? I know this was all my fault.” It was a dangerous game for sure, and one that had no guarantee of working, but at least it bought them time, help was on the way.
Rindy kept pounding on the door, harder and harder, calling out for her mother. “Let me get our daughter Harge and we can go. We’ll take Rindy and we’ll just go. Therese won’t stop us.”
Harge turned Carol around so that he was facing her and pulled her close. He kissed her hard, slipping his tongue into her mouth. She tried her best to fake it, to kiss him back, but it was revolting. She could feel his manhood swelling, turned on by the power he felt and it made her want to throw-up. He pulled back and looked at her coldly. “You’re lying, but it doesn’t matter. Therese can let her out. Rindy shouldn’t have to suffer any more for the sins of her mother.” He spun her back around, his forearm pressing harder against her throat.
Therese ran to the cellar door and unlocked it. Rindy came rushing out, screaming for her mother, she tried to go to her, but Therese pulled her back. “No! Stand behind me, Rindy.”
“It was dark! And it was cold! Daddy wouldn’t let me out!” Rindy was crying as she held on to Therese, burying her head in her stomach. Therese stoked her head. “You’re safe now, honey. I’ve got you.”
“Take your hand off my daughter, you filthy dyke!” Harge screamed! “Come here, Nerinda!”
Rindy didn’t move. She grasped on to Therese’s legs tightly. Therese turned back towards Carol and Harge, and raised the gun again.
They all looked up as the sounds of movement were suddenly above them. “Mommy’s home. Time for us to go.” Harge growled into her ear.
Carol and Therese knew that Hotch would have seen the SUV, would know they were still here. Back-up had arrived, which meant now was their chance. Carol used the distraction and spun, landing an elbow against Harge’s jaw. She tried to push off of him, but he was too fast and his hands were wrapped around her throat, squeezing, and cutting off her air supply.
Therese held the gun in her hand and screamed one last warning. “Stop or I will shoot!”
Harge moved to behind Carol, using her as a human shield. “Do it,” Carol managed to get out before he started squeezing harder.
Therese looked down quickly at Rindy and back up to Carol. Her vision was still slightly blurred, and her body was damaged, her brain injured…what if she missed! Carol rasped out the words again as the color drained from her face. Therese pulled the trigger.
The basement door flew open! “Carol! Therese!” J.J. was screaming down to them.
“Down here!” Therese called up to her. “We need paramedics!”
Therese had pulled the trigger and Harge had flown backwards, taking a bullet in the shoulder. Carol’s knees had hit the ground, freed from his grasp and she crawled over to her daughter and pulled her into her arms before turning to see Harge bleeding against a wall. Therese bent down and wrapped her arms around both of them, protecting and holding them as J.J. and Hotch ran down the stairs, guns drawn.
Hotch walked over to check on Harge and bent down to place pressure on his wound. “The bullet went through. He’ll be okay. Ambulance is on the way.”
“Where are the Airds?” Therese asked.
“Handcuffed together on the stairs.” J.J. smiled as she holstered her gun and turned to check on Carol. She was struggling to breathe. “We need to get her upstairs and quickly!” J.J. helped her stand and then up the stairs while Therese kept Rindy close and they followed. They were met by the paramedics who immediately went to work with ice packs on Carol’s neck. She was placed on a backboard and quickly moved into an ambulance, Therese and Rindy following to ride with them.
Carol awoke in another hospital room, only this time she was the one in the bed. Her neck was bandaged and her throat sore and dry. She tried to move her head around, but it hurt too badly. “Therese.” She was able to get it out in a whisper.
Therese was quickly by her bed, looking down at her. The bruising on her head was a little lighter, her eyes a little brighter. “Carol, try not to speak. You had to have surgery to repair some ruptured vessels in your throat. Whisper only, okay?”
Carol mouthed, “How long?”
“It’s Sunday.” Therese replied as she moved some blonde strands out of her eyes. "Your surgery was Friday night."
“She is safe and staying with J.J. until you are cleared to go home.”
“Alive. He had surgery on his shoulder and once he’s healed enough, he’ll be taken to prison to await his court date. And before you ask, John and Jennifer are being charged with obstruction, and are under house arrest. You can relax. It’s over Carol…it’s all over.”
Carol reached a hand up and held it to the side of Therese’s face. “Can’t believe you missed.” She whispered and smiled.
Therese had to think a moment before she understood what Carol meant. “I didn’t miss, Carol.” Therese smiled warmly as she looked lovingly into Carol’s suddenly deep blue eyes. “Regardless of what he has done, I wasn’t about to kill Rindy’s father in front of her.”
Carol’s eyes started to water. “I love you, my angel.” She pulled Therese down and placed a simple kiss on her lips.