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Death by a thousand cuts

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Beth let out a long, slow deep breath as the sound of the gunshot echoed in the otherwise silent room. She had been right. For all he said, Rawlins wasn't terribly interested in getting his hands dirty. And yet, there was no way this could end well. He had to kill her, or they'd start a massive manhunt for him. It was possible that the others hadn't realised that Stahl had a partner, and even if they had, there was no way for them to know it was Rawlins. It was sort of obvious in retrospect, he was the only person who knew they were meeting the gun guy, but she didn't even know if Prophet was okay. For all she knew he'd been killed. Suddenly, she couldn't breathe. The idea of Prophet dead was just too much. The silence was rent by the sound of Rawlins cursing. She pulled herself together and tried to focus.


Stahl lay on the ground in front of him, his brains spreading across the paving behind him. Sam quickly took a picture and then froze. Stahl was here, which meant the partner had Beth. And they didn't know who the partner was. He sent the picture to Beth's phone, hoping that would be enough, and directed the crime scene guys to get anything off Stahl's phone as quickly as possible. There was a chance Beth was still alive, but it got smaller and smaller as time went on.

The team regrouped back at the police station. They had to figure out who the partner was.


Rawlins had a police scanner, which didn't surprise Beth in the slightest. The code for a suicide came in and there was something about that which pleased him. That couldn't be good.

"Looks like your boss took the easy way out."

Beth bit her lip. The idea of Sam doing such a thing was laughable. It was as ridiculous as him killing someone. More so, actually, since he would kill an unsub if necessary. That was the same moment she felt her phone vibrate in her pocket. If she could get to her phone and dial out, Penelope could trace her. She'd just have to get her hands free without Rawlins noticing. He was still jumpy.

"Why hasn't Richard called in yet? He was supposed to be watching."

And Stahl was a much better candidate for suicide than Coop. There was no doubt in Beth's mind. But it did leave them with a problem. The team wouldn't be able to interrogate him and Rawlins wouldn't be able to contact the team with further demands.

"I don't have time for this," Rawlins muttered, and stalked out of the room. 

Beth immediately began trying to free her hands.


The team sat around a table morosely. Stahl had a partner. The partner had Beth. Who might be dead. There had been no acknowledgement of Coop's message. They had nothing. Prophet was brooding quietly. Gina had started pacing and Mick was slowly rocking back and forth in his chair.

"How'd he know?" he asked, suddenly, dropping the chair to the ground.


"Stahl. The partner. How'd they know where you were gonna be?"

"Right," Gina agreed. "The guy who set it up must have tipped them off."

"Rawlins?" Prophet asked, surprised. And then, annoyed, "He said it takes a team to carry out an execution."

"You think he might be the partner?" Coop asked.

"He's all we've got right now," Prophet said, as Mick leaned forward to dial Garcia.

They asked her to look into their new suspect, but there was nothing that stuck out. Still, they knew where he worked, where he lived, and the car he drove. If he knew anything they would know soon enough.


Rawlins walked back into the room, angry now. She had only managed a slight loosening of her bonds. Not nearly enough to free herself. And then there was pain. When she came to, she was in darkness and moving. So probably the trunk of a car. Being short made it easy for her to stretch out a bit more, and she was pleased to find that though her hands and feet were tied, they were not tied to each other. And they were bound with rope. Given enough time she should be able to free herself.

She did not have enough time. It felt as though no time at all had passed when she felt the car stopping. He picked her up and threw her over his shoulder as though she weighed nothing. She was carried a short way and then down some steps. It smelt damp. And then he dropped her on something hard. She was going to have bruises. If she lived long enough. Maybe she should take up the director on his terrorist task force offer. Terrorists were usually nice and straightforward. Less interesting, though. And she had serious doubts about her ability to manage a team effectively. Not that she was likely to get a chance, she thought, as Rawlins removed the blindfold.

She was in some sort of bunker or something. Underground, judging by the light filtering through the doorway. He untied her hands but kept a strong grip on them. More bruises. She tried to fight him, but he just lifted her up in the air, like he was playing with a child. If she wasn't terrified she'd have been incensed.

"It's been a while since I've been here," he said, conversationally. "Haven't needed to, since I had Richard to play with, but you're a special case."

"What did you do here?" she asked. If he was talking, he wasn't killing her.

"I used to bring people here. Prostitutes, homeless people. String 'em up and enjoy 'em till I got bored and needed someone new. You'll join them outside in a week or so."

So those were bloodstains she was seeing. Lovely.

"This is going to be real uncomfortable for you. It's set up for someone bigger."

Her hands were now chained to the wall and her feet were at least a foot off the ground. She tried to kick out at him but he just laughed at her. There was a ring in the ground and he used the rope that had been on her hands to secure her feet to it. And then he left. She was in complete darkness, hanging from her wrists. This would be more difficult to get out of.


Rawlins was not at work. Mick and Gina had not found him at his house. Thankfully they had a warrant to search the place. If Beth had been there, she wasn't now. There were some long, dark hairs though, and some blood, which the lab would be testing immediately, if Prophet had to do it himself (he wouldn't, he didn't know how, but he'd stand over them until they did). They put an APB out on his car and set about digging through his life.

Gina watched Mick's steadily growing frustration. He looked like he was ten seconds from losing it. Prophet had barely said anything, he was blaming himself. Coop was intensely focused. She wasn't sure he'd notice if Mick exploded. She called Garcia. That got both Mick and Prophet's attention, but Coop stayed focused on the papers he was looking through.

"Can you check for anything that might tell us where he'd go?"

"I've got nothing," Penelope answered, sounding close to tears. "He's a Dallas native, but his parents are dead."

"Where'd they live?"

"In his house. He inherited it. Hasn't lived anywhere else. All his grandparents were dead before he was born. He's barely on social media, he doesn't have any other properties, I can't find anything!"

"Thanks, P. Keep trying."

"I will," she promised, too upset to make one of her usual jokes. She had no intention of doing anything else until Beth was back with them. She might not have known the woman long, but she liked the snarky brunette.

Gina sighed and turned her attention back to Rawlins house. Prophet had slumped further in on himself and Mick looked like he was prepared to tear the house to pieces with his bare hands. A siren outside distracted them. The scanner in the corner came to life. The suspect had been located, right outside. Gina was pretty sure Mick and Coop had teleported, they were outside so quickly.

Rawlins was playing dumb. Mick wanted to throttle him. He was not losing someone else. If Rawlins was going to be recalcitrant, then Mick would do whatever it took to make him talk.

"Where is she?"

"I'm not saying anything till I've spoken to my lawyer."

Mick made a grab for him, but Gina and Prophet pulled him back. They needed him to talk. Coop had him taken away and his car impounded. Mick was surprised he didn't drive a truck, but that didn't matter. What mattered was the hair and blood in the boot. Rawlins wasn't talking and they had no idea where Beth was.


Beth grimaced and tried to stop the tears from falling. Her wrists were raw. She was hoping that blood would provide enough lubricant to get her hands free, but it took far more effort to draw blood than she had anticipated. She was not a masochist by any stretch of the imagination. This hurt and she didn't like it. She was pretty sure that she'd like being stuck here when Rawlins returned even less, though, so she kept trying.

Her left hand slid free suddenly, putting all her weight on her other wrist. She screamed. It was painful enough that she wondered if she'd dislocated her shoulder. She didn't have time to worry about that though. She got her cell phone out, the light hurting her eyes after so long in the dark. She dialed Garcia's number, but there was no signal. Being underground would do that to you. She screamed again, this time in frustration. She was tempted to throw her phone across the room, but couldn't take the chance of it breaking. She put it back in her pocket and grabbed the manacle with her free hand. She needed the leverage to pull her right wrist free. That arm was not co-operating at all. Every move she managed sent streams over fire down her arm and into her back. At least there was no one to hear her. And if there was, maybe they'd help her. They'd probably make her life worse, though, so she'd stick to hoping for nobody.


Rawlins still wouldn't talk. Kept saying that he didn't know what they were talking about. He did admit to telling Stahl that they were on to him. Said he'd told the other man to turn himself in. The fact that Beth's blood and hair had been found in both his house and car didn't seem to concern him. The lab reported that hers wasn't the only blood found in his car, but the rest was old. Mick really didn't care about the other blood. Sure it was sad that he'd probably murdered some other people, but right now Beth was the only one that mattered.

They were doing their best to break him. Prophet was in there with Coop, telling him about what he could expect to happen to him in prison. And still he maintained his innocence. Mick wanted to switch off the cameras and beat it out of him, but that would never be allowed. And they still didn't know if Beth was even alive. She had to be. Anything else was unacceptable. They had to break Rawlins.


Beth collapsed on the floor of her prison. Her arms were free, she was pretty sure that her shoulder was at the very least sprained -- could you sprain a shoulder? She didn't know. She was both hungry and thirsty and she was pretty sure her brain was doing something weird. It was hard to concentrate, but this was the third time it had been hit today, so she probably had a concussion. She needed to focus though. If Rawlins came back she would need to be ready for him. And while she waited she would need to see if she could get out of here. He was cocky and over confident, which would work in her favour. If she was lucky he wouldn't have even bothered locking the door. She wasn't likely to be lucky though. This whole day had proved that.

There was nothing she could do about that. What she could do was pull herself together and untie her feet. Her right arm was pretty much useless, though. She hoped she could get out of here before Rawlins came back, she didn't think she could fight him with only one arm. Once her feet were free she took a few moments to restore blood flow before trying to stand. She felt her way along the walls until she came to the entrance. She made her way up the stairs and was disappointed, though unsurprised, to find the door locked. The door did, however, open slightly before the padlock stopped it. Being small was useful once again. She set her phone to call Garcia and stuck her hand into the gap. The call was answered immediately.

"I'm sorry, guys, I'm not finding anything you can use on him."


"Beth? Beth! Oh my God! You're okay!"


"Are you back? Where are you? Why didn't anyone tell me?"

"I'm locked in an underground torture chamber."


"I need you to figure out where I am before Rawlins comes back."

"Oh, he won't be back," Garcia said distractedly, her attention focused on tracking Beth's phone. "They're currently questioning him, but he won't talk."

"Guess he shouldn't have told me about all the torturing and murdering and the bodies he's buried here then."

"Okay, I've got an idea of where you are, but it's not very specific. Let me patch the guys in on this."


Gina was wondering if she could provide enough of a distraction to Coop and the lawyer to allow Mick and Prophet to beat Beth's location out of Rawlins. Sure, he'd probably end up free, but they'd have Beth. That was more important. Her phone rang, startling her. She put it on speaker.

"Garcia, please tell us you have something."

"I've got Beth!" she squealed.


"Where? Mick asked.

"Not totally sure. I've sent the area to your phones."

"Is she okay?"

"I'm pretty sure I've got a concussion," she started.

"Beth!" they shouted, relieved to hear her. She was okay.

"Right, Gina, get Coop and Prophet and as many cops as you can, and organise medics. Beth, what can you tell me about where you are?"

"I'm in Rawlins' underground torture chamber. It's got those double, basement-style doors padlocked. Can't see much through the gap. A tree, the sky."

"Where's the sun in relation to you?"

"I don't know. Behind me, maybe?"


All the men jumped when Gina slammed the door open. 

"We've got Beth," she said.

Coop and Prophet were up in an instant, not sparing a glance for Rawlins or his lawyer. She relayed what she knew as they moved out to launch a search party.


It took them longer than they would have liked to locate Beth. Still, they had her on the line and could talk to her, which reassured them all. She wasn't quite right. She'd get distracted and start rambling to herself, but they were pretty sure that was due to the head injury. None of them were really listening to her current ramble, until Mick caught the words 'sweaty stench'. She couldn't bear for them to move from the gym to the office without showering. He tuned back in and, sure enough, she was complaining about exactly that. Well, that was, hopefully, something. The fact that she could tell them apart by the scent of their sweat was a little weird, but it meant she was downwind from him and fairly close. He picked up the pace and started moving in her direction. He hadn't seen any sign of the doors she'd mentioned when he heard her shriek. In stereo.

"I've got her," he shouted.

He moved to kneel down beside the doors. The last thing he wanted was for his weight to be too much for the old wood and end up falling in on top of her. It seemed like forever before the guy with the bolt cutters arrived, the medics right behind him. And then they'd packed her into an ambulance and whisked her away again. Gina had gone with her though, and they'd all be at the hospital soon.

The doctors wanted to keep her overnight for observation. Beth was not pleased, but for once no one cared what she thought. She would not be alone. The staff might object but her team would be in that room as long as she was. And possibly her hotel room as well. Mick might even try camping out at her house once they got back to DC. Not that he knew where she lived, but he was pretty sure he could convince Penelope to tell him. She'd probably join him if she wasn't working. He was pretty sure that Prophet would want to keep an eye on her too. He'd been blaming himself, as if he hadn't been shot himself. He hadn't suggested anything of the sort to her, though, which proved the knock on the head hadn't caused him any damage.


Mick was pleased. They had won. Rawlins was going down, and they were going home. Together. As they should be. Gina was sleeping, leant up against Prophet, who looked extremely pleased with himself about something. He had his headphones in and was reading a book. He could hear Beth and Coop chatting quietly behind him, almost lulling him to sleep.

"So I guess you'll take the director up on his offer, then?" Coop almost whispered.

Mick's eyes shot open. What offer?

"I thought about it. I think terrorists are definitely safer. Easier to deal with, at least. They're all reasonably predictable."

Mick growled softly. They couldn't have her. She belonged on his team.

"But?" Coop asked, before Mick could sit up and give them a piece of his mind.

"But I've done the terrorist thing before. This is more interesting."

"Still, you'd be heading up your own team."

"And you really think that'll end well? There's a reason I'm one of the most transferred agents. I don't think that exactly indicates an ability to be an effective manager."

"Well, I'm happy for you to stay with us, as long as you don't feel like you're settling."

"Settling? Sam ... I've never been ambitious, you know. To have a team I finally fit well with? That's not only competent, but isn't threatened by my being competent? That's willing to take my theories into account? That's way more important than being the boss."

"They didn't have a problem with you being the boss."

"And if I thought I might find more agents like them I might be more inclined to consider it. Do you know that the longest I've spent on one team is a year? Over a decade in the FBI and this is the first time I've found a place I fit. I'm not giving that up, whatever Fickler says."

Mick settled into the couch and closed his eyes. She was staying with them. There was nothing to worry about.