Chapter 7: Details
Every word comes out in gasps. The heat of her tears could be felt in her throat, the pain of crying burning her voice. Her body aches from lack of sleep and from trying to keep her eyes open. She has been crying for days. Out of guilt, disbelief, and missing.
“Brielle, I know this is difficult for you”, Hotchner said, empathy clouding his judgement, “but I need you to tell me what you can remember about that night and Daniella”.
She looks up at him, noticing his attentiveness. She shuffles in her seat.
“She was visiting me. She was stressed and just wanted a break”, she starts, wiping her nose on her sleeve, “She just wanted a break and to come home. It was my idea to go to Larkin’. She’s gone because of me”.
She muffles her cries in her arms. Hotchner’s body softens along with his eyes, as he inches closer to her. Placing a hand on her knee, he convinces her to look up at him.
“Brielle, this is not your fault. The only person to blame is the person who hurt Daniella. But we cannot find this man without your help.”
The young woman wipes her tears with her shirt sleeve, stuttering out some breaths. Aaron’s knees gently touch the floor as his hands move to the girls biceps. After a few minutes, Brielle had resumed a normal breathing pattern, prompting Aaron to ask, “Do you want to tell me what she’s like”?
Brielle blurts out a humorous scoff saying, “She was hilarious. Such a firecracker”, before she looks to the side to find the right words.
“She wouldn’t take crap from anyone, never afraid to put someone in their place. She was uh, was talking to this guy online once, and she called it off because he kept asking her to ‘visit’ him, even though she wanted to meet in a public place first to make sure he wasn’t a creep”, she chuckled.
“She seemed smart”.
Brielle takes a deep breath. Her eyes squeeze shut, in an effort to keep the tears away. Her face shifts toward her lap, as her hands engulf each other. In a voice barely stitched together, she asks, “How did this happen to her”?
Hotchner’s heart slips into his stomach, the same way it did when he had to tell Jack his mother would not be home anymore. The pain of losing someone you love drains you, but seeing your child go through it? That damn near killed Aaron; and seeing it unfold for someone else brings those sleepless nights back.
“That’s what we’re going to figure out”, he told her, his lips curling up slightly. He hopes no one on the team sees, he would not hear the end of it.
Soon after, the door to the room creaks open. The man who enters is tall, medium build, with a tattoo on his right arm. Initially, he startles Brielle.
Hotchner notices and says, “Brielle, this is my colleague Matt. He and I want to try a cognitive interview to help you remember the night you last saw Daniella, would that be alright”?
Although unsure, she nods, prompting Matt to sit across from her.
He says, “Alright Brielle, let’s start by closing your eyes”.
She folds them shut as she listens to Matt speak. “Take a few deep breaths...relax your body...good. Now I want you to think about that night, what were you guys doing before the bar”?
The evening chill dances across her skin with the memory, “We had just left a restaurant, we ordered appetizers”.
“Was it happy hour”?
“It was”, she laughed.
Matt asks more trivial questions to make her immersed and comfortable. After some affirmations, Matt asks, “Okay, Brielle, is anyone there who is bothering you two? Or just one of you”?
She thinks about the bar, the red hues of the lights not helping her tipsy vision. The firmness of multiple bodies pressing on her back as she and Daniella squeezed past the crowd. How the sweat of others lingered longer than desired. One of the bodies was a guy, sporting a white tank top and blond hair. He bumped into Brielle and apologized.
“There was one guy who wanted to buy her drinks. He was really persistent, and drunk”, she started, her face contorting to find the answers.
“How did Daniella react”?
“She flirted with him a little bit, but he got too handsy and she told him to back off”, Brielle rambled, “But another guy pushed him away”.
“Did this other guy pursue one of you”?
“No he just left, I think he apologized on behalf of him. He seemed nice”.
Hotch nods and asks, “How persistent was the first guy”?
“He started getting loud. Practically threw a temper tantrum”, Brielle said, pausing as the color slowly left her face, “Oh my god, it’s him isn’t it”?!
“It’s possible, but it’s too soon to know”, He assured, keeping his voice gentle and steady.
“Do you know what he looked like? What he was wearing”?
“Yes, he was wearing a black t-shirt. He had brown hair, white. Built. Just looked like a drunk frat guy”.
Aaron provides a nod, thanking Brielle for her time. “We are going to find him Brielle”, he reassured, standing up with her and escorting her out of the room.
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Chapter 6: Suspicion
Warning: The following contains descriptions of bodily trauma and of dead bodies.
Sena offered to drive out to the Medical examiner’s office, which Reid did not mind. It’s not that he did not like to drive, he did, but Sena needs something to focus on. Besides, her music choice reminded him of drives with Derek.
“I have always found MEs a little shady”, Sena said, as she took the turn into the Medical Examiner office parking lot.
“How so”? Reid replied.
She put the vehicle in park, jerking her arm toward the back seat for her badge. Byun’s face remains tight and stern, which isn’t her usual characteristic.
Voice tart, she puffs, “Working with dead bodies all day, often alone. I’m afraid they are making their own Frankenstein in their spare time”.
“Well, if someone was trying to bring someone back to life in the way of ‘Frankenstein’, it would be a mute point. Several reanimation experiments from the 1780s-”
“Reid. I’m kidding”! Sena bursts, throwing her hands on the steering wheel, and her cheeks an awful burn color.
Spencer’s lips close into a frown, feeling uncomfortable. She had never barked at him before, or anyone for that matter. She did not understand his ramblings often, but Sena was polite and made jokes about it, like Rossi. Byun is not quick tempered. But more startling, she never called him Reid.
She looks over at Spencer, noticing his tension. She leans into her seat and sinks her arms to her sides. Her fingers fiddling with each other, she mumbles, “I’m sorry”.
Spencer orients himself to face her better, his shoulder rooting in the leather seat.
“Is this about Emily leaving”? He asks.
Sena sends him a disagreeing look. “No”, she said, “No I am happy for her”.
“Then what is it”?
“I don’t want to tell you”.
“’Cus you won’t like it”.
He raises his brows and looks up at her, egging her to say something. Finally, she breaks.
“I don’t like Hotchner”.
Spencer nods his head. “You’ll get used to him”, he said.
“Like hell I will. He’s more serious than that eagle muppet”.
Spencer bursts out a laugh but Sena continues to rant, “He just, he walked in here like he was the leader, when he isn’t. Not yet. And everyone just sorta accepts it and is okay with that? I’m not. Prentiss is our leader”.
“Hotch is intense, but you’ll get used to him. It’s an adjustment for Rossi and I too, we haven’t worked with him in four years. Just give it time and he will grow on you”, he said.
Sena leaves a pause, her brows scrunch up with her lips as she shared, “Aren’t you worried about that”?
“Him being out of the field for a while. You can pass all the tests and stuff but, it doesn’t really prepare you. How do you know he will be on his A-game”?
Spencer retreats to his own mind. She has a point. Not about Aaron’s skills as a profiler, but him as a person. He left the Bureau due to unforeseen circumstances, who’s to say that won’t impact how he profiles? How emotionally ready is Hotchner?
The wariness in Reid’s chest comes through as he voices, “I don’t know”.
The office walls are a dark teal, making the building feel like the underbelly of a ship. Despite the feeling of air conditioning, the sterileness of the building tricks the brain into sensing humidity.
Sena contorts her face, her nostrils flaring and mouth pressing shut. She shoves her hands into her pant pockets saying, “Not what I expected of a Texas ME office. They’re mostly beige, and belt buckles”.
“Do you think you will run into someone you know here”?
“God, I hope not”.
As they turn the corner, Sena’s eyes meet those of a pale, blank man. His eyes lay vacant in his head.
“Agent Byun and Dr. Reid I presume”, he said flatly, his scrubs getting snagged on the clipboard.
“Yes, you’re our ME”? She asked, shaking the man’s hand, despite her uncertainty. Reid provides a small wave, not comfortable touching the man’s hands.
“I am, the bodies are in here”.
The three of them walk into the room. Sena sent Spencer a look, as if saying the man proved her point, but he is focused on the task at hand. The women’s bodies are covered out of respect. The Medical Examiner first lifts the sheet off of the first body, revealed to be Ramona Marckus.
“Both Miss Marckus and Cortez suffered similar injuries, blunt force trauma to the head, and bound in the same way. To me, it seems they were bound to a chair”.
“How can you tell”? Sena asked.
The medical examiner pulls the fabric to show the legs, flicking his light over to them, orienting them to get a better view of the calves. “There is antemortem bruising on the backs of Marckus’s calves, appearing self inflicted. She was fighting to get out”, he said.
Byun shares her looks between Reid and the ME, saying, “So, given the injuries, we may have a sadist”.
The ME hands Sena the report, wandering toward the back counter to pick something up. When he returned, he held a jar, full of saline and what appeared to be tree bark.
“I found this in Mrs. Cortez’s stomach, it’s consistent with what they were bound with. It’s leather”.
“May I see the jar”? Byun asked.
She gave the file to Reid, before he said, “Do you know what kind of leather”?
“Not what kind of skin, but it is vegetable tannin. My guess from the color and levels, walnut or mahogany”?
Byun swirls the remains of the leather in the jar, holding it up to the light. “It’s quebracho tannin”, She said, “Very expensive. The trees only grow in South America”.
Reid looks at her, dumbfounded, “How do you know that”?
The woman pulls out her worn wallet, saturated in a chestnut color, “My dad makes leather stuff. Made me my wallet”.
The examiner removes the entirety of the sheet. Before them, Ramona Marckus is fully exposed. Her body displayed the scars of her restraints, and the wounds she likely begged to end. A handful of punctures in the skin of her upper stomach, all no bigger than the head of a nail.
“Cause of death was penetration of the lungs, I am struggling to identify the murder weapon”.
“Entry was aggressive”, Reid said, leaning over the body to examine further, “All of these wounds are at different depths. The method of killing seems too disorganized to be a sadist”.
“He’s still refining his skills”?
“Could be a factor”.
Reid stares at the wounds further, noticing how the tissue had ripped and pulled. Her flesh had grayed from the chill, her blood blackening from the air. Despite the missing life from the body, the wounds had been engorged and inflamed from the trauma. He studied the pattern in the skin, the injury itself appearing in the shape of a comma. As if it were a fingernail, like her flesh had twisted.
It all came together for Spencer, his mouth sitting open and eyebrows together.
“Spencer”, Byun asked, “Whatcha cookin’ in there”?
Spencer corrects his posture, now standing tall, but looking down at Ramona’s body. His face still in surprise, he said, “The murder weapon was a corkscrew”.
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