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.
stills from Episodes 8-10 (umm, hellooooo angry/jealous Henney)
Translation (via auto extractor)
Episode 8: MC and the young man are sitting in his car in a parking garage; he asks if she’s been avoiding him. The car lights flash on and in front of them, a man and woman are making out - the woman is the same one who warned MC to stay away from the boss, and she’s making out with a mystery man. The man in the car asks (to no one in particular) “how can you…at work?” appearing shocked at the coworkers hooking up in front of them.
Episode 9: Boss is walking (to his car) in the garage and also sees the Woman in Pink making out with another man,; he is visibly upset. He grips the bottle of coffee in his hand so hard that the plastic crumbles.
Episode 10: Boss sees the Woman in Pink kissing another man, and notices MC sitting in a car with a young man, outraged towards both women. Standing on a rooftop, he says “this coffee. it’s just like people - full of love in the beginning, and disappears at the end like nothing happened. Ironic.”
Episode 5: MC is talking to herself in the mirror, trying to tell herself she can’t leave another job because (she has a crush on a coworker). Her reflection says she’s lying to herself. A young man oversees her talking to herself and thinks she’s interesting.
Episode 6: MC and the young man are taking a break and chatting, and she tells him she’s not really into dating, especially at work. He responds to each of her statements with “Really?” and then they lace their fingers together and hold hands. Boss sees the pair of them from far away, and feels betrayed.
Episode 7: Boss is meeting with MC at a conference table one morning, and invites her to have coffee with him. He picks up a bottle on the table and says “This coffee is just like me. Cold (brew) and hot (brew) mixed together; a cold head and a passionate heart!" She looks on, awkward and tense, and replies, “how witty!”
I couldn't wait until the end of the week to start posting this set of ads for Georgia Craft coffee
stills from episodes 1-4:
y'all can thank @the-soot-sprite - did a little extra digging and found a translation for this set of ads
Episode 1: A young woman (MC) starts a new job, [either narrating a letter or email to her father] telling her father that she won’t start an office romance again. She sees (Daniel Henney) drinking coffee at his desk; he’s the new team leader. She says good morning, but her inner voice/dual personality narrates and says “I wanna take him home”
Episode 2: Team Leader/Henney asks if (MC) has any questions; she bashfully asks if he has any hobbies. He seems irritated, slams his coffee drink on the table and replies “Business only, please” but his dual personality/inner voice says (in the ad narrator’s sing-song voice) “…for now…”
Episode 3: A woman with short hair in a pink suit (WIP) asks the MC if she’s new/works on the marketing team, then warns her not to get too close to the boss (Henney) and says he’s no good. Her inner voice/dual personality says “I wanna know HOW GOOD!”
Episode 4: The WIP delivers a report to (Henney) and romantic music plays over the scene. Boss asks “is this (about) work?” and she replies “work can be fun” and they shake hands. The MC walks past to see them shaking hands, wondering if they’re in a relationship together, then runs off, pretending to have seen nothing.
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”.
Before I published Chapter 6, I wanted to introduce Tusajigwe Selemani, who is one of my original characters in Criminal Minds: The Acts of Paul Boyer!
We got to learn a little bit about her in previous chapters, but I think she deserves a full introduction! Tusa is very professional, but plays a sibling role to Sena (and sometimes Luke). She is the team’s new Technological Analyst, and you all will find out more about her as you read along!
Tusa is unique because she actually grew up in Tanzania. She was taught computer science from her father Edwin, and she is a total daddy’s girl because of it! However, she is also an American Citizen, because her mother is from San Diego, California and is an Engineer who travels all around the world.
When she began working for the US Government, she started wearing lots of clothing that are super preppy and professional-esc.
I would like to find a Tanzanian actress to represent Tusa, and if you have any suggestions please let me know! Until then, I like the idea of Tusa’s likeness being in Teyonah Parris.
I hope you like her because I absolutely adore her! I cannot wait to share her story with all of you!
Luke coasts down the street, the dial tone blaring through the car's speakers. The tone barely skips one beep before Tusa answers.
“Scam calls not accepted”, she stated, as she tip-tapped away on her keyboard.
An arrogant grin spreads across Alvez’s face, as he asks, “I’m a scammer now”?
“Well, you didn’t answer my text about movie night. So yes, you are a scammer”.
“I’m sorry, Pen got a new kitten behind my back, and we are trying to get Roxie and Belle to get along”, he said, the grin still present in his speech.
“Oh”, Tusa said with surprise, a somber hint filling her voice, “Well that’s alright. Is the cat cute”?
“Despite me not being a cat person, it is adorable”, Luke said, feeling her discomfort on the other end. “Hey, we can have a movie night another night okay”?
His voice is buttery to her, but his words slip past her ears. Just as quickly as he could raise her pulse, it would slow the minute he talked about Penelope. The woman didn’t have a face to her name, but she could summon the rains of the Amazon through Tusa’s eyes.
They have never met, but Tusa has heard nothing but great things. How she is kind, witty, talented. Garcia even left a note for her. Everyone talks about Penelope Garcia like she is a legend, because she is one.
Tusa hates being the one to fill Penelope’s shoes. It makes her skin prickle and her throat sour. She doesn’t want to, but she resents the woman. The unfortunate part is, it isn’t because of her reputation that Selemani disliked Penelope so much.
She perked up her voice, going an octave higher, before saying, “Yeah, yeah I know. I was just looking forward to it. But on the upside we avoided Sena rooting for Monty Python for the hundredth time”.
“That’s a good point”, he said before saying, “Hey while I got you, can you help me find-”
“Find the Church that belongs to those shirts? Bud who do you think I am? I already did it”.
Alvez chuckled as he listened to her. “Address is 7226 Grand Blvd, and it’s a Mormon Church. The t-shirts are for a program they have called Home Sweet Home, and proceeds help the homeless. The church makes a lot of money, and last I checked they ordered 6,000 t-shirts”.
“And they got to be storing those somewhere”.
“That’s what I thought”.
“Alright, thank you Chica I’ll talk to you later”.
“Bye”, she said, rushed, hearing him hang up.
She sat, frozen from the conversation, before she threw her hands to the air. Her hands encompass her face, leaning back in her chair and releasing a groan. All the pressure behind her eyes had moved to her stomach. The aching in her gut festers with every thought of him.
Slipping her palms down her cheeks to her lap, she says, “Luke Alvez, you are breaking my heart”.
The black pavement glisten in the sun from the unforeseen water shower. Rossi's shoes kick up water drops; upchucked tequila and wasted food becoming more fragrant. The open corridor housed a soiled, kelp-colored dumpster, its neighbors being wrinkled heaps of plastic. Hidden from the opening of the alley, where the ground lay littered in cigarette butts and chewed gum, is the temporary resting place of Daniella Cortez.
"She was propped up against the dumpster", the detective remarked.
Rossi observes the corner. Although the untrained eye would be unable to tell, a small stain of rusty brown glued to the asphalt. Daniella's body had made its presence.
He crouches down, examining the stickers and graffiti that lingered on the brick and steel. The majority of them had faded around the edges and are stained from the decaying muck. "The alley seems fairly secluded in the daytime. How trafficked are the alleyways at night"? Rossi asked while the gears in his head turned.
"Everyone tends to stay away from the alleyways at night, but on Fridays and Saturdays some prostitutes sit here, waiting for guys to drive by. That's how she was found actually".
Rossi's eyes squint. There is one piece of paper, crumpled over itself, but not colored by the garbage mildew. "A prostitute found her"?
"Yeah, said she came back looking for her wallet and found the body instead. She said that the victim wasn't anyone she had seen before, but she saw the victim come out for a smoke".
"Did she see anyone that picked her up"?
"No. She said that she picked up the last guy of the night, and their alibis checked out. Daniella was alone out here".
As the detective continues to ramble, David's eyes fixate on the brick. He slips his hand into a latex glove, plucking the paper from the brick wall. His fingers swivel the folded square open, revealing a manufactured drawing. The thin, black lines branch from one another, to make a set of twig feet, wings, and a minuscule beak. But most startling, the image is clouded in a burgundy red.
"Detective, does this sticker seem familiar to you"? Rossi asked.
The detective hovered over Rossi's shoulder, looking at the image. "That's a sticker a bar nearby uses instead of stamping. Bar's called A Larkin'".
Rossi's face scrunched at the name. "Probably where she was before. Did you guys interview bar staff yet"?
"No, but it is just across the street, I'll take you over there".
Rossi thanks the detective, putting the sticker in a bag for evidence. He stares at the blood-stained lark. Gideon would have thought the lark symbolism was clever for the bar, despite the dumb name.
David halts his walking. Jason believed birds were like people, that they explain themselves through their behaviors. Jason studied their symbolism in various cultures and religions. Birds always had a significance for Gideon, so what was the significance of his letter being with a robin painting?
He pulls out his phone, dialing Tusa. "Selemani"?
Before he could hear her speak, the background rings with metal gently scraping plastic. She must be on her lunch break. Her voice thick and full, she spouts, "Present, sir. You guys get a good lead yet"?
"Not on my end, but would you do me a favor"? He asked, his words spilling like those of a child caught red-handed. "An old friend asked me to look at a case of his. I may have found a potential lead for him, but I need your expertise".
On the other end, Tusa ceases her fidgeting. David could feel her sincerity through the phone. It is something he appreciates about her. Although Penelope's presence is well missed at work, Tusa carries a similar warmth as Garcia. If someone she cared about truly needed something, she would get it for them.
Her voice takes a serious tone, "Alright sir, I'm all ears. What do you need me to do"?
"What is the symbolism of the robin"?
The rattling of the keys is followed by her saying, "Robins represent perseverance, fresh starts, good luck. Associated with spring, Robins tend to migrate during March. Any of this help"?
It was sheer luck that Rossi and Stephen discovered the letter. Stumbling upon that one book, out of all the books Gideon had, and turning to that page. Sheer luck learning about Harper. Does the robin pertain to her?
Rossi's face relaxes slightly, the corners of his mouth upturning. "Yes, that does help. Thank you, Tusa".
"You’re welcome, sir".
After hanging up, Rossi took a moment of pause. His hand found the picture of Harper before he had told it to. Staring at the baby picture, he said to it, quietly, "You're a March baby, aren't you Harper"?