“This just in,” bellowed CNN anchor Wolf Blitzer as BAU Chief Aaron “Hotch” Hotchner watched on TV. “Mere minutes into Pope Adrian VII’s first Mass we are reporting that Adrian has been shot amidst a firefight that has erupted in St. Peter’s Square...it is absolute bedlam and anarchy in there, requiring the assistance of an entire Roman Legion. To fill us in a little more, we turn to our Roman correspondent, Sextus Pilus. Sextus, what can you tell us?”
“Wolf,” started Pilus, who spoke with a distinct Scottish accent since that is where he learned his English, “there isn’t much that we can tell you at this stage. I do know the Romans have managed to retake control of St. Pete’s Square and that the corrupt soldiers, including the sniper that shot His Holiness, are all in Roman custody. The situation on the ground is, as I am told, just getting back to normal but other details, such as the condition of the Pope, are unknown to us at this stage.”
“So we don’t even know if he made it out alive?”
“There was a lot of confusion, Wolf, after the shot. Some witnesses report that His Holiness managed to escape and left his smock behind, while others contend that they saw the body of the Pope being dragged out and that the person witnesses saw running was an apparition...it’s very hard to get a clear account of what happened at this stage.”
“Did the Army say where the shot came from?”
“Witnesses are saying they heard the shot from the southwest corner, in the direction of the Friezenkirk observatory...indeed, that’s where the sniper was found. As far as who attacked the Pope, the authorities are not divulging any information at this time...what I do know is that there were Vatican soldiers, or people dressed as Vatican soldiers, who opened fire on the crowd...estimates vary on the dead and injured, with totals as low as 53 and as high as 1075. Roman officials have promised us to clarify this at a later time.”
“Thank you Sextus.” Hotchner then heard something that caught his ear.
“One other thing Wolf...at the scene of the crime, a power drill with the number ‘10’ was reported at the scene by witnesses. We don’t know for sure what this means but we’ll keep you posted. We also found a cross that’s an exact replica of the one from the Church of the Holy Sepulchre at the scene, leading to speculation that ‘Peter the Roman’ is involved.”
“Thank you Sextus.”
“Dave,” said Hotchner, calling his colleague, David Rossi.
“Yes Aaron?” Rossi replied, hearing Hotchner’s concern.
“How many people work at Decius Tarsus’ mansion?”
“Tarsus’ mansion is next. At the Obelisk, a power drill with the number ‘10’ was recovered.”
“I heard. I just heard about it on the news.”
“Adrian was supposed to be victim No. 1. Decius and his maids will round out the total to ten, as our killer kills in groups of ten.”
“Doesn’t fit the victimology, though. Our killer has only killed one man so far and that man seemed like collateral, not as an intended victim...now, I know Adrian ran on a platform involving women’s rights, so he could have been the tenth victim.”
“So we have one person that is missing. In any case, I don’t want to take any chances...set up a security detail for Tarsus’ home.”
Rossi sighed. “I hate that guy...Tarsus is a despicable human...but...he’s still human...I guess. I’ll get it set up.”
“In the meantime, we need to explore Adrian’s side of things. Cardinal Claes is our prime suspect...he’s the only one who could have the manpower to pull off the assassination attempt and has the motive to do so.”
Rossi and Hotchner said their goodbyes and ended the call. Rossi then slumped in his chair.
“What’s wrong?” BAU teammate Emily Prentiss, visiting Rossi’s room, asked.
“Hotch wants us to set up a security detail for Tarsus,” said Rossi, with frustrated indignation.
“Tarsus? I’m sorry, but I don’t think he deserves our protection...in fact, he just may be our UnSub.”
“You think so?”
“Just look at him...we’ve got a guy who treats women badly. Very badly. He’s a classic narcissist who will do anything to make himself look good...he lied about the women quote just like he lied about the story about sending a man the rest of his mortgage payments after the man fixed Tarsus’ flat tire. The ‘10’? That’s just his way of saying his guys are the ones committing the crimes...and the cross? Red herring. He’s trying to pin this on Claes because he’s the criminal du jour when he’s got nothing to do with this. Rossi, everything points to Tarsus.”
“I don’t think we can dismiss Claes just yet...he’s got more reason to kill Adrian than Tarsus does. However, the other killings...it does fit Tarsus’ profile. We’ll keep tabs on him and see what turns up.”
Gaia Cornelia’s Workshop, Neapolis, Campania
“I think this is the drill you need,” said Gaia Cornelia, helping out a customer.
Her curly brown locks fell beautifully against her snow white skin, her well-built frame and simple clothing belying her no-nonsense, workmanlike attitude. “It’s slender, so it fits in the corners a lot better.”
Her curly brown locks fell beautifully against her snow white skin, her well-built frame and simple clothing belying her no-nonsense, workmanlike attitude. “It’s slender, so it fits in the corners a lot better.”
“Thank you,” said the customer.
“Excuse me just one minute,” said Cornelia, noticing two police officers enter her store.
“We gotta take you in,” said one of the officers, a burly man brandishing his badge, identifying him as Officer Zayaletta.
“What’s wrong officers?” Cornelia asked, stunned.
“We found the body of Ms. Fulgencia Drusia, a maid for Decius Tarsus, in your shop this morning,” replied Zayaletta.
“There must be some kind of mistake. I’ve been here all day,” said Cornelia, sternly. She noticed something off about Zayaletta, but couldn’t put her finger on it. “I need to see your badge again.”
Zayaletta didn’t waste any time. He grabbed Cornelia, turned her around and violently threw her against the wall, where his partner handcuffed her. The customer Cornelia helped out couldn’t help but notice what was happening, and decided to hide behind a shelf. Zayaletta, though, noticed the customer. As his partner violently dragged the resisting Cornelia from the store (at one point smashing her head against a shelf), Zayaletta grabbed the customer and threw her to the ground, where he handcuffed her, pulled down her pants and sexually assaulted her, before dragging her out of the store too and into their jerryrigged car. Zayaletta then made a phone call.
“We got her,” said Zayaletta. “Plus a nosy witness.”
“Good,” replied the voice at the other end. “Bring them to me.”
Caesar’s Office, Roman Senate
“All right,” said Roman Emperor Caesar Valerius IV, switching off the TV, clasping his hands and leaning forward toward FBI Director Lucius Black, wearing a sarcastic smirk on his face. “Explain this to me, ‘cause I’m just...a little lost by all this ‘profiling’ you’re doing. Do you think the Pope is someone you can just play with?”
Black was unnerved in his chair. “You heard Claes...he was calling for peace,” explained Black. “We had to call his bluff, see what he really wanted...and what you saw is what you saw...Claes is a criminal who cannot be trusted.”
“Oh so this is about proof-making...I assign you to look after the Pope and you think it’s okay to use him as evidence against a criminal...are you out of your mind?”
“Caesar...let me remind you that this wasn’t my idea. This was Adrian’s idea, and, while extreme, I saw the merit in the exercise. So I approved it.”
“...and your little game cost the lives of 274 innocent civilians in St. Peter’s Square.” Valerius chuckled, sardonically. “Tell me why I shouldn’t fire you right now?”
“There were certain logistical points that we could not account for. I told him about all this...His Holiness understood my concerns. We both believed that we’d get the full support of the Vatican Army...we didn’t think they’d turn on us. I’ve known many of those guys for years...so did Adrian. Really, this boggles my mind...we were betrayed, Caesar. Deeply betrayed.” Black took a few, slow deep breaths, sighing heavily.
Valerius nodded his head after a few thoughts, conceding the point to Black. “That is true, but your agent…Derek Morgan. You have him lead your profiling team and he sends in his two worst agents in terms of combat to battle an army. Not only that, but as soon as the shots fired, he didn’t gather his agents or give them instructions…he just bolted towards the Friezenkirk. Alone. Don’t try to dispute this information, Black. I heard it from multiple sources, including Cardinal Newman. At best, Morgan is someone who has issues trusting others to do their jobs and, at worst, he is completely incompetent as he has no idea how to use his own agents…and you think he’s a leader?”
“Caesar…I think you’d be the first to understand that Morgan, Reid and Hawkes are not army veterans…they’re trained detectives. Fortunately, Morgan has military combat training and is built like a soldier, but still…they can’t possibly expect to fight an army. In fact, as you already know, we weren’t expecting to fight an army…circumstances went way beyond our control. Furthermore, this is Morgan’s first assignment leading an investigative team in three and a half years, and the first time he’s dealt with a hand-picked team…he’s still learning the ropes, and knows he made a mistake. He also scolded them for their actions…Reid and Hawkes knew they made mistakes. Plus, Morgan knows them well enough to know they’ll learn from those mistakes…he’s worked with them for years…in fact, Reid started at the FBI with him in 2002. He knows what he’s doing.”
Valerius sighed, cocking his mouth to the side. He then wagged his finger pointedly. “I’m putting a lot of trust in you, Black…don’t blow it.”
“Caesar…I’ve known you for over 15 years…when have I ever let you down?”
“Well, there was the time you made dinner for the office…that didn’t go so well.”
Black laughed. “Just be thankful you didn’t hire me to cook.”
“Okay,” started Prentiss, taking a look around Gaia’s store. “So witnesses say that earlier this morning, two people posing as police officers violently abducted Gaia and another customer who was also in the store, before leaving without locking the store.”
“Why leave the door unlocked?” asked BAU alternate Jason Gideon, pensively.
“Maybe they did it on purpose,” said Hotchner. “They wanted us to find something…or they wanted to defile Gaia’s store.”
“The ‘10’ power drill was found here,” said Rossi, picking up said drill. “So defiling seems like a possibility.”
“Okay,” said Gideon, turning and facing the other agents with purpose, “but why just rob Gaia’s store and kidnap her? If these are the same UnSubs who murdered all those women…wouldn’t they rape and kill Gaia in her store right then and there? Why keep her alive?” He paused, because he had a theory and wanted to see if another agent caught on first before continuing.
“He needs something out of Gaia,” said Rossi, “but what?”
Prentiss called the agents to another corner of the store.
“What is it Prentiss?” said Hotchner.
“It’s a message,” said Prentiss, holding up a cloth that appeared to have fallen from being affixed to the ceiling:
للعثور عليها، أدريان، يجب أن تتبع ثعبان
“It’s written in Arabic, more specifically Egyptian Arabic…the Egyptians came by and took Gaia.”
“Muslim terrorists?” said Rossi, chuckling. “I knew we were going to bump into them at some point.”
“Prentiss, can you translate it?” asked Hotchner.
“Of course,” said Prentiss. “The document is a little scuffed, so I’ll need some time to make out the wording exactly, but I can translate it.”
“Good,” said Gideon.
As the agents walked to their cars, Rossi and Hotchner couldn’t help but reminisce.
“Hey Aaron,” said Rossi, his hands casually in his coat pockets.
“Yeah Dave,” said Hotchner, slowing his pace for his friend.
“Remember the days when all we had to deal with was some deranged loner who shot people in a blind rage? Call me crazy, but I miss those days.”
Hotchner laughed. “This has been a strange case. Just goes to show that there are no freebies anymore.”
“Reconnaissance for Samaria is complete, sir,” said Praetor Legatus Primus Julius Emitrius to Valerius. The pair were seated in Valerius’ office.
“Okay,” said Valerius, leaning forward with interest. “What have you found?”
Emitrius pulled out a map from his tablet. “It appears that the Samarian defence is concentrated at the beachhead near Ashkelon. This is because the Samarians are already engaged in several skirmishes with Philistine militants, so that area of Samaria is already battle-hardened and thus we’d encounter the stiffest resistance. Our best bet is to go through Ashdod…their defences are not as strong in that area, and it provides a clearer path to Jerusalem.”
“Have you already contacted Philistine authorities? Perhaps we can get their assistance…it would make the war effort easier.”
“Already done sir. We’ve also contacted the Jewish leaders in Ashdod, as well as the Polish, Quebecois, the Chileans and the Parisians. Everyone who has an interest in taking out Cardinal Claes is on our side.”
“Good. So when does the assault start?”
“Well, we gave the Samarians until noon today to accept our ultimatum.” Emitrius checked his watch. “That gives us…another fifteen minutes. Our troops are at the ready to strike the minute the deadline passes.”
Valerius nodded heartily with approval. “Good. Let the Christian heretics in Jerusalem know that they messed with the wrong nation.”
Neapolis Police Headquarters, Neapolis, Campania
“Agent Hotchner?” said Neapolis Police Chief Umberto Rocchi, running towards Hotchner with urgency.
“Yes Chief Rocchi?” said Hotchner.
“We identified the body found earlier today hanging from the trident at the Fountain of Neptune. It’s Fulgencia Drusia…dental records identified her since her face was beaten beyond recognition.”
“Was there any sign of sexual assault?”
“Drusia was raped. Repeatedly.”
“Was there a power drill found at the scene?”
“Yes there was…complete with the ‘10’. It was recovered a ways from the scene because we speculate that it fell from Drusia’s hand. That’s all we know at this stage.
“Thank you.” The Chief then left Hotchner, allowing him to reconnect with the other agents.
“Fulgencia Drusia’s body was found at the Fountain of Neptune,” said Hotchner.
“Fulgencia?” said Prentiss. “That’s the maid I gave my card to.” Prentiss sighed with frustration and disappointment. “I can’t believe she’s dead.”
“This only furthers my belief that Tarsus is the ultimate target of these attacks,” said Hotchner.
“Who could it be, though?” said Rossi. “We’ve already checked his records, and the police have already interviewed him…there’s no one that checks out as a smoking gun for someone that would hate him this much.”
“Let’s recap the profile,” said Hotchner.
“This is an organization of UnSubs,” said Gideon. “They’re highly motivated, organized and dedicated. They have a specific woman in mind since the women they’ve raped and killed have a specific appearance. They’re tied to Decius because of the power drill with the number ‘10’ on it, as per his quote, so whomever is leading this organization, disagrees with the quote. This is further bolstered by the fact that the power drill is inserted into a screw head that’s the wrong bit for the drill. We find today the cloth with Arabic writing on it, which suggests that this group are Egyptian terrorists. However, before that, there was a cross and a power drill found at the scene of Adrian’s attempted assassination, indicating that Claes is behind the murders. Emily…have you translated the message?”
“Yes,” said Prentiss. “It says ‘Adrian, if you want to find her, follow the snake’. However, there’s something-”
Gideon cut her off, annoying Prentiss. “So that means Claes has recruited the Egyptian terrorists, and that Gaia Cornelia is connected to Adrian in some way. We need to start looking into her.”
“Guys,” said Prentiss assertively, getting animated. “We’re missing the point. Tarsus is the UnSub. As I already mentioned to Rossi, everything that we’ve found so far is a red herring. This is a man who is quite open about how he treats women poorly, Rossi and I saw that first-hand. He lied about making the quote just how he lied about paying off the mortgage of a man who helped him with a flat tire. He plants all these clues so that we think someone else is behind them but we know better. The ‘10’ on the drills say it all…we all know that the root for ‘Decius’ is 10…it’s a clear marker that he’s behind the crimes. As I was going to say about the message, it’s clearly not written by a native Egyptian- it’s written by someone who found a phrase they liked and threw it into Google Translate. I don’t know enough about the Vatican attack to know for sure if that was a red herring, but it wouldn’t surprise me if it was.”
“All this still implicates Claes,” said Hotchner. “We’ll have to check the records, but he’s likely not a native speaker of Arabic so it would make sense for him to use that as a red herring just to throw us off. I know what you are trying to say about Tarsus, but Claes has far more of a motive than Tarsus does to kill Adrian, and it fits the fact that Adrian favours women’s rights. The evidence points to Claes.”
“We should still get Garcia to run a background check on Gaia,” said Rossi. “It’s obvious that she’s the woman whom the other victims were surrogates for.”
“How did we miss this?” said Gideon, frustrated. “I saw her name on those drills…I dismissed it because the ‘10’ was much more prominent.”
“It happens,” said Hotchner. “When we notice a message on a car, do we automatically assume the company who made the car is involved in the crime?”
“Good point,” said Gideon.
“In any case, I’ll call Garcia,” said Hotchner. “This UnSub wants something out of Gaia, which is why he didn’t kill her, and out of Adrian, which is why he’s in the message.”
FBI Headquarters, Quantico, Virginia
“You’ve reached Penelope Garcia, who holds more info than the Library of Alexandria could dream of having!” said Technical Analyst Penelope Garcia, cheerfully through the phone. “What’s the request today?”
“Garcia,” said Hotchner, “we need you to run a background check on Gaia Cornelia. We need to know what kind of links she has to Fulgencia Drusia, Decius Tarsus, Cardinal Wilhelm Claes and Pope Adrian VII.”
“Got it.” Garcia reacted normally before her attention was piqued at the last moment. “Pope Adrian? I thought Popes weren’t allowed to get married.”
“We’re not saying that at this stage. All that we know is that the UnSub left a message at the crime scene that referred to Adrian, so we need to know what connections he has to Cornelia.”
“Okay.” Garcia tapped away at her computer. “My, Gaia’s beautiful…she looks like someone any man would sin over.”
“Right…sorry. Well, according to official Papal records, Adrian took his Holy Orders in 1997, a year after he went through a string of confessionals and Sacraments of Reconciliation…now…as I unseal the Papal records…wow…Adrian took a vow of celibacy during this time and had to cleanse himself to do it because he and Gaia had been in a relationship prior to his time in Mali.”
“Thanks Garcia. See what else you can dig up.”
“Righto, El Capitan!”
“What did she find?” asked Gideon, as Hotchner got off the phone.
“Adrian and Gaia were in a relationship prior to his time with the Army in Mali,” said Hotchner. “In fact, Adrian decided to become a priest shortly after he returned from the war, going through numerous rituals of contrition in order to get properly ordained…it’s a long record.”
“The Vatican keeps a record of that?” said Prentiss. “I’ve been to confession numerous times…I didn’t know they were writing it down…in fact, I don’t think they’re supposed to.”
“The rules are different if you’re becoming a priest,” said Hotchner. “In order to go through the Holy Orders, the prospective priest must make a detailed list of all of his sins, with the overseeing priest documenting all the various rituals he has to go through to cleanse himself of those sins. In addition to this, the prospective priest must also submit to a criminal background check before he can proceed into the priesthood…this was all enacted in 1993 by Pope John Paul II when news of the sexual abuse scandals first came out.”
“So that’s what this is all about,” said Gideon, analyzing. “Our UnSub is seeking to expose Adrian’s past…and bring him down by proxy.”
RSC Headquarters, Rome
“All right,” said BAU teammate Derek Morgan, in an interrogation room with the sniper, Pasquale Casiraghi. He angled his body in his chair in such a way that Casiraghi could see how much Morgan towered over him, as well as how fit and strong he was. Morgan spoke very threateningly. “There’s two ways we can go about this. You can either tell me what I need to know right now…or…I charge you with attempted murder of the Pope…and believe me, Pasquale…the Roman magistrates aren’t going to be that accommodating to you if it came to that.”
Casiraghi just sat there, with smug silence.
“Oh really?” Morgan chuckled, sticking his tongue out of the side of his mouth in sarcasm. “You think this funny, don’t you? Let me remind you that you attempted to assassinate a head of state…that makes you a terrorist, and we can keep you here as long as you want. Of course…if you talk…we just might be able to talk about a deal.”
Casiraghi scratched his face, continuing to stay silent.
Morgan was prepared for this. “Suit yourself then.” He got up to leave the room, but before he did, he unfurled a large picture of Adrian with his arms folded and smiling smugly and placed it right in front of Casiraghi’s sightline, forcing him to stare at it.
After leaving the room, Morgan left to check on his teammates Spencer Reid and Zoe Hawkes.
“What have you found?” asked Morgan.
“We knew from how the shot was fired,” explained Reid, “that the shooter has something against not just Adrian but the Catholic Church as a whole. Otherwise, why position the flag in such a way that you’d have to shoot through it?”
“…and disrespect the flag, right,” concurred Morgan.
“Furthermore,” piped in Hawkes, “the shot came from the Friezenkirk, which is a Frisian Church. Now, this could just have been picked because it provided the best sightline toward the Obelisk, but I still find it interesting that the Belgian Claes would pick a Frisian monument to shoot from.”
“So you think Claes is a red herring,” said Morgan.
“The Frisians and the Belgians hate each other,” said Hawkes, “so yes, I do.”
“Good work,” said Morgan, patting both agents on the back. “I need to speak with Adrian.”
Down the hall, Adrian was relaxing in a break room. Before Morgan greeted him, he received a phone call from Hotchner, which he took before meeting up with Adrian.
“What have they found?” said Adrian.
“My boss at the FBI just called,” said Morgan. “He wants to know what you know about Gaia Cornelia.”
“Gaia?” Adrian’s face was overcome with concern, worried for Gaia. “Well, I had nothing to hide…and this is proof of that.” He sighed heavily before continuing. “Gaia and I were high school sweethearts…we had sex numerous times. We were in love, and I thought I was going to marry her. Then we had a falling out…it’s why I joined the military and eventually the priesthood…that part of my life concluded.”
“Why did you two break up?”
“Gaia is a strong-willed woman…some would be intimidated by her but I wasn’t. She’s a very kind and loving soul, but she’s headstrong…she can get stubborn at times and I think, at that age, I felt like she was too much of an authority figure for me so I ended things…and turned to the priesthood. The horrors in Mali showed me that I had to restore hope and a belief in God in the people in the world…so I did what I had to do to become a priest. The public knows about it…it’s no secret…but I guess Claes is trying to bring it to the forefront again, after he failed to do it successfully during the election campaign.”
Morgan sensed something was off in that story but didn’t know what. Unbeknownst to Morgan, prospective BAU agent Patrick Jane walked into the break room and fixed himself some tea.
“That boy in Mali,” started Jane as he was making his tea.
“When did you get here?” Morgan asked, surprised Jane had shown up.
“Oh, I just finished at the firing range,” said Jane. “Really digging the baby Glock...love the flashlight on top of it...it’s incredibly light...doesn’t even feel like you’re handling a gun at all. It’s also so smooth and-”
“That boy in Mali,” said Adrian, interrupting out of aggravation. He sighed before continuing. “Okay, that boy in Mali made me realize I didn’t want to be a father...so I ended things with Gaia after the war and went into the priesthood. I couldn’t bear the thought of losing a child...Gaia understood where I was coming from.”
“So all this stuff about Gaia being strong-willed,” noted Morgan, “was just you trying to give a palatable explanation so you wouldn’t have to explain the harsh truth.”
“Okay,” said Adrian, ashamed. “You caught me. Well, the stuff about Gaia being strong-willed is true...I just repressed my other reasons for breaking up with her...you understand, sometimes it’s just easier to skirt the truth than to deal with it. Can I come back later? I need to atone for this sin.”
“Absolutely,” said Morgan.
Adrian left for the chapel. He needed to pray for lying, as well as pray for Gaia’s safe return.
In the chapel, Adrian found Reid, fixatedly analyzing the various art found there along the walls and in the windows.
“Surprised to see you in here,” commented Adrian. “I thought you told me you were atheist.”
“I think you have me confused,” said Reid, who didn’t break his glare. “What I meant was that rational thought and other kinds of reasonable inquiry don’t really leave a lot of room for the supernatural to operate...by its very definition, the scientific method cannot allow for the supernatural, because the goal of the method is to find natural causes for things. However...there’s just certain things the natural can’t explain, like how karma seems to work...I know rational thought would suggest karma is just coincidences but sometimes things just seem ‘too’ coincidental that one can’t deny that there may actually be a supernatural force at work trying to keep us all in line. There has to be a reason why we’ve had skeptic thought for millennia yet the belief in the supernatural is still so pervasive...I think it’s better to say I’m agnostic than atheist.”
Adrian nodded in acknowledgement. “I see.” He then noticed the plastic bag Reid was holding. “Is that the cross recovered from St. Peter’s Square?”
“It is. It’s been stylized and painted to look like it came from the Church of the Holy Sepulchre, but something’s off about it. I can see crack marks around the centre of the cross...looks like there was a circle there.”
“Let me have a look at it.” Adrian studied the cross, looking for inconsistencies. “This was moulded from the cross of Saint Marinus, which has a circle around the centre of the cross.”
“That’s it!” Reid was enlightened, and continued with unbridled excitement. “Tarsus…he’s trying to frame Claes. He went so far that he’s even trying to replicate the Cross of the Holy Sepulchre! In doing so…he’s revealed where he is…San Marino! I gotta step outside...get Morgan. Thank you Your Holiness.”
“No problem Dr. Reid.” Reid left allowing Adrian to pray.
Meanwhile, Morgan was getting background information on their new leads.
“Hey babygirl,” said Morgan excitedly on the phone. “Work your magic!”
“You got it, my Dark Knight!” Garcia beamed.
Morgan continued playfully. “Oh so I’m Batman now.”
“Oh you always were...just not with those disgusting tights...never understood why heroes wore their underwear outside of their uniforms...anyway, I got some wonderful information on Wilhelm Claes.”
“I’m all ears.”
“It turns out that our Papal pretender was also a pretender of honour. You see, our dear Claes was the high school priest when both Adrian and Ms. Cornelia were there, and, at one point got accused by Ms. Cornelia when she was in high school of inappropriate conduct...the records don’t clarify what happened because, and here’s the fun part, the investigation closed abruptly for some reason, never to be opened again.”
“Father Claes covered it up.”
“Exactly. So when Adrian ran for the Papacy this year, it must have triggered all kinds of memories for him.”
“...and when he lost...he started killing.”
“You’re right. At the beginning of the year, right after he lost the election, Claes was wired around $100 million from an unknown account in San Marino...which I traced to...”
“Exactly. It took some doing because Tarsus had some crazy hacks going on there but I pulled through.”
“So Claes is really behind all these murders, and, to make sure he doesn’t get his hands dirty, he hires henchmen. Since he doesn’t have the money for that, he recruits Tarsus, who hires a team of hitmen to do the dirty work. Have you found anything so far, Garcia?”
“How come you guys didn’t start looking for the hitmen right away?”
“Well, each one performed their task cleanly and efficiently, and their MO’s were extremely similar. Furthermore, none of the victims, in their criminal investigations or in their backgrounds, provided much in the way of links…the hitmen covered their tracks extremely well. Our only hope was to figure out who they work for, because by then we’ll be able to see their entire employee list. They’re mission-oriented killers…they wouldn’t reveal themselves until we figured out what the mission was about…and now we know.”
“Oh okay…so…anyway…after receiving $100 million from Tarsus, Claes paid a few associates to commit his crimes…the one that got the most? Some $10 million? That would be your sniper, Pasquale Casiraghi.”
“Thank you babygirl.” Morgan smiled. “You really are something.”
Garcia frantically piped in trying to stop Morgan from hanging up. “Wait! That’s not all!”
“No, it’s not. Claes was born in San Marino…his parents moved there from Belgium three years before he was born. In fact, he doesn’t even have a home in Jerusalem…his credit card activity reveals that he only moved to Jerusalem to raise an army to go against the Pope. Furthermore, this army of his has numerous ties to Egypt…and there’s a civil war going on there between the Copts and the Arabs and the Catholics…it seems like Claes wanted Tarsus’ involvement so that his own armies could get the upper hand in Egypt.”
Morgan was impressed and intrigued. “Wow…this is something! Thanks babygirl.” As he hung up the phone, Reid and Hawkes caught up with Morgan.
“Guys!” said Reid, excitedly. “Tarsus has a base in San Marino. The cross found at St. Peter’s Square…it’s made to look like it came from the Holy Sepulchre but it’s really the Cross of Saint Marinus, the founder of San Marino.”
“So you don’t think Claes has anything to do with this at all,” said Morgan, challenging Reid’s assertion.
Reid and Hawkes were perplexed. “Yeah, we’re certain,” said Hawkes. “Just five minutes ago you were agreeing with us.”
“Five minutes later I talked to Garcia,” said Morgan. “Turns out Claes is a part of this after all. He lives in San Marino…he only moved to Jerusalem so that he and Tarsus could turn the tide of the civil war in Egypt.”
“So Claes put all these red herring clues to make it look like he didn’t commit the crimes when he actually did,” said Hawkes, analyzing.
“This doesn’t make any sense,” said Reid, animatedly flummoxed. “Why would someone go through all these lengths to make it look like someone else is framing them for a crime they actually committed…I mean, wouldn’t you rather just frame someone else? The St. Peter’s Square Attack…makes more sense if it was framed on Peter II than it would if Peter II framed himself.”
Jane couldn’t help but interrupt.
“Maybe,” he started. “That’s what he wants you to think. You see…Tarsus…he’s sloppy. Obvious narcissist…and lazy. He wanted to make sure that he did the bare minimum in covering his tracks so that he wouldn’t get caught, but he couldn’t resist putting his own touches on the crimes…I mean, the ‘10’? Seriously, why not just put your own name on the drill for all to see?
“Claes, however…he’s smart. He’s in a war. He knows he has to cover his tracks a lot better. That’s why he went to all those lengths to look like someone else committed that assassination attempt on the Pope, when we all know that only Claes would realistically have the resources to pull something like that off. In fact…I don’t think that cross is a mistake…we might think it is but I think it’s a setup. See, the Church of the Holy Sepulchre is an Orthodox Church, and the Samarians are Orthodox, plus making all those announcements from Jerusalem gives one the impression that is where he is based. Besides, why go through the trouble of forging a cross from the Holy Sepulchre when he could just get one? They’re not hard to find. No, his real camp is in San Marino, where he has his real army…he only helped out the Samarians knowing that the Romans would retaliate and turn their attention on to them, figuring that if he could draw the Romans into the civil war in Egypt and take out his enemies, he’d get the upper hand in winning the war…and Rome took the bait.”
“So where does Gaia fit into all this?” said Adrian, joining the conversation.
“Well,” said Jane. “Looks like Claes wants a final battle with you, Your Holiness…and the only way to do that is to take your former girlfriend and maybe score some political points along the way.”
Undisclosed factory, Khartoum, Sudan
As the minutes passed, the woman’s screams became louder and louder. She was naked, her hands were bound together and were affixed to a chain suspending her from the ceiling, while her legs were spread as far apart as they could, affixed each to a chain suspended from the ceiling, giving the impression that she was lying on her back in the air.
Tending to her was a man, who was quite happily enjoying himself with her. As her moans got louder and louder, it served to egg him on even more. In her mind, all she wanted was for the ordeal to stop, but, by now, there was nothing she could do.
When the man finished, he put his pants back on and joined his friend outside.
“I never thought rape could be this fun,” said Claes on the phone to Tarsus.
“These women,” said Tarsus, “they really need to know who really controls them.”
“Gaia was a maid of yours, wasn’t she?”
“No, but she was friends of the Vestal Virgin I assaulted...and she blew the whistle on me. So I blew the whistle on her instead...and once we get Adrian here, the whole world will know about her hypocrisy.”
“...and teach these women about where they belong...the kitchen.”
Tarsus laughed, nodding in agreement, before Claes decided to re-enter the room so that he could rape Gaia again.
RSC Headquarters, Rome
“Now that we’re all here,” said Hotchner as the entire team plus Adrian gathered in a boardroom, “what do we know about the Tarsus and Claes team?”
“I think this is Claes’ team,” said Morgan. “He had the highest profile target, and his crime was the cleanest of the bunch. He fooled us for a while.”
“Tarsus appears to be the junior partner in this,” said Jane. “The ‘10’ says it all, like he has to have his stamp on these crimes...someone with more confidence wouldn’t feel the need to compulsively point something like this out.”
“I still think Tarsus is far from being submissive, though,” said Reid. “He didn’t become CEO of Sabre by being weak...plus, he knows Claes needs his money...so he probably feels like an equal to him.”
“His group is also highly motivated and dedicated,” said Prentiss. “I’d say the deadly precision at which they commit their crimes indicates a cult-like mentality, and definitely suggests a religious undertone.”
“Meaning that Claes is likely an extremist and will turn Egypt into a dangerous militant theocracy if we don’t act,” said Hawkes.
“I got some info on the henchmen,” piped Garcia through the phone’s speaker. “There was one other reason why they were all hard to track, and that’s because they all used one-time aliases where they committed their murders. All of their names are bull-related- heck, someone even used ‘Bull Durham’- and all had credit card transactions related to their crimes in the weeks prior to their assaults. Took some digging though...only if one knew Tarsus was involved could you make the connection.”
“Garcia,” said Gideon, “can you trace the aliases to the real persons? Maybe we can arrest them.”
“I can trace them to real people,” replied Garcia. “I sent them to your phones. However, they got smart and fled. They’re all back in Egypt.”
“Working on the next step,” noted Rossi.
Ashkelon, Philistia Province, Judea
Right on schedule, the bombardment of Ashkelon began at the stroke of noon. The Romans started with air strikes before landing beachheads once the beach defences were softened. Aided by the Philistine contingent, by 4PM, the Romans had managed to tear a hole through the Samarian defence, allowing for easy access to the downtown core. With two cohorts marching downtown, the others worked at encircling the city, meaning it got “cut off” from the outside world two hours later. After some more fierce downtown fighting, Ashkelon was secure, just after sundown.
Emitrius wasn’t content with just Ashkelon. He ordered his troops forward, hitting the defences of Lachish in full force in the hour. Halfway through the assault, Emitrius received a call to pull back.
“Retreat?” Emitrius said, flabbergasted. “Valerius, we’re on a roll…we can’t stop now! This is an outrage!”
“Emitrius,” said Valerius on the phone with him, “the Samaria link is a red herring. Cardinal Claes fooled us into thinking the Samarians were involved with the assassination attempt…Claes is really just using the Samarians to get Jerusalem for himself, and wants to strike at them at some point.”
“Okay…I’ll tell my men to hold their fire except for defensive purposes,” said Emitrius, disappointed.
“All right,” said Valerius to Samarian Emperor Paul Alsap. “I told my men to stand down.” Alsap nodded his head and gave the order to his general to stand down as well.
“You do realize this won’t be enough, Caesar,” said Alsap, still angry with Valerius.
Valerius was contrite with egg on his face. “On top of my heartfelt apology, we will also pay for the repairs to the cities we’ve destroyed, as well as provide compensation to the families of the soldiers we’ve needlessly killed, as well as any civilians caught in the crossfire. We will also throw in some extra cash for indemnity as well. You have to understand, Cardinal Claes played us too...and I’ll have to answer to my people for being fooled.”
Alsap’s anger started to dissipate seeing the contrition on Valerius’ face. “Claes is clever. He was able to sweet talk me into helping him out...I didn’t realize he was a sham.”
“Anything to get ahead, especially in the powderkeg that is Judea and Egypt.”
“Egypt is the prize...with the Suez and the fertile Nile Valley. It was once the breadbasket of Rome.”
“Since we are brothers in being duped by the heretic, we will help you in this war and bring this man to justice…your terms are acceptable to us, Caesar.”
“Glad we came to an agreement.”
The walls of San Marino
“Morgan,” said Hotchner, standing stoically, staring at the city walls at a building that served as a makeshift command post several feet away. The BAU were there with a Roman SWAT team, with the Rimini Legion on call nearby. “We can’t just go in there…we have no concrete proof that Claes is in there.”
Morgan was pacing, furiously, around the command centre. “This man is good,” said Morgan, intensely. “I want this so badly…I’m not going to let him win. I just he’d stop hiding like a coward behind that stupid wall!”
Outside of the command centre, Rossi, who gained military experience serving in Vietnam as a youth, held a walkie-talkie to radio a reconnaissance helicopter overlooking San Marino.
“Dolphin,” said Rossi, radioing the helicopter. “Do you see anything?”
“Negative Graybeard,” said Dolphin.
Back at the centre, Reid and Hawkes were brainstorming, hoping a clue would unlock a path into Sammarinese territory.
“The clues fit a lot better if they’re tied to the Sepulchre,” said Reid, wiping his face with frustration.
“All we’ve got is the cross of Saint Marinus,” said Hawkes, breathing heavily and still frustrated.
“The cross could mean anything Zoe...it’s not going to narrow down where in San Marino Claes is.”
Hawkes could only sigh heavily, stressed at the lack of clues.
“Derek,” said Adrian, approaching Morgan. “Let me go in there.”
“We can’t let you do that Adrian,” said Morgan sternly.
Adrian replied in kind. “I’m the Pope, Derek. They will listen to me.”
“Adrian, this is a trap. Claes knew we’d figure out that he was here and he’s just waiting to capture you too and bring you to your death right next to Gaia. That’s why he took her...because he knew he could get you too.”
“For all we know, Gaia could already be dead. My death doesn’t matter. I’m a military man, Derek...I laugh in the face of death.”
“Gaia is still alive...Claes needs you to see her alive because only then will the pain of her death, in front of your eyes, will be more brutal. He needs to draw you in to have the cruelest fate possible. Then he can claim that you and the Church are hypocrites, because then the world will have a visual of the two of you together. He needs her to be alive for that to happen...so the longer you stay with us, the longer that she stays alive!”
Adrian sighed and nodded reluctantly. “Very well then. Just find the bull.”
“Yeah, Tarsus is here, not Claes. Remember, everything has been set up to make us think one possibility is really the other...besides, why would Claes hide here when he’s got all of Egypt to work with? He’s also the submissive partner...eventually we can break him down and find Claes.”
Morgan nodded, enlightened by the Pope’s suggestions. He then radioed the info to Rossi.
“Dolphin,” radioed Rossi.
“Dolphin here,” said Dolphin. “Go ahead Graybeard.”
“Look for a bull structure or a number 10 or some kind of facsimile thereof...Tarsus is here in San Marino, not Claes. Since he’s a classic narcissist he’ll pick some kind of symbol that relates to him. Copy that?”
“Got it. Copy.”
Rossi grabbed his binoculars and started to study San Marino from what he could see. A few minutes later, Dolphin radioed in.
“This is Graybeard. Go ahead Dolphin.”
“Found a cattle ranch in Serravalle, with the number ‘10’ on the silo. I’m using infrared to look inside and...oh this isn’t good.”
“What is it?”
“He’s got a nuke.”
The Command Centre, right outside of San Marino
“He’s got a what?” said Morgan intensely through the phone.
“Tarsus has a nuclear warhead trapped in that silo,” said Rossi.
Morgan sighed heavily, wiping his face with stress. “You have got to be kidding me.”
“I wish I was Morgan. This case is getting stranger by the minute.”
“Wait for further action. In the meantime, send us the scans.”
Within a few minutes, the team received the infrared scans of the device and were studying it.
“I can’t believe this idiot has a nuke!” said Morgan, exasperated.
“It could be a red herring,” said Reid with a nervous smile.
Morgan was apoplectic, his eyes getting menacingly big with the blood vessels in his shaved head becoming much more prominent. “Yeah, genius…it could be a red herring…and while we sit here playing his bluff he’ll trick us and blow up half of Europe ‘cause we just thought it was all a joke.” He then flailed his armed wide, animatedly, and got right into Reid’s face. “That’s why we can’t play chicken with this guy, idiot!” He then put his hand underneath the table Reid was sitting at and violently flipped it across the room, before storming off.
Reid make a snarky reply. “One of these days one of those blood vessels will burst.” Hotchner, concerned for Morgan, followed his teammate, having stayed calm for the entire exchange.
“Morgan,” said Hotchner, walking into the room Morgan had hid to.
“Leave me alone Hotch!” yelled Morgan, slumped into a corner, holding his head.
Hotchner stayed calm. “Morgan, I know this situation is stressful…but you can’t let these things get to you if you want to be a leader.”
“I know Hotch, but this…this is beyond the pale. Plus what Reid said was incredibly stupid. He knows better than that.”
“Reid, though not very tactful, is right though…given what we know about how this case has progressed, not everything is what it seems…that nuke could just be a decoy. In any case, you need to learn how to channel your emotions and deal with your stress…this job isn’t easy.”
Morgan had calmed down by this point. “How do you do it Hotch? You’re always so calm in the face of adversity.”
“Trust me, Morgan, it’s not easy. Takes a lot of practice…and time. I’ll help in any way that I can. Now, can we go back to the case?” Morgan agreed, going back to the command post with Hotchner.
As soon as he saw Reid Morgan gave him a giant hug.
“I’m sorry man,” said Morgan, hugging his best friend. “You understand this has been unbelievably stressful, right?”
“It’s okay,” said Reid, responding in kind. “I didn’t take it personally…this has been a bizarre case and you’ve been through a lifetime of stress in such a short period of time. Really it’s no big deal.”
“Okay now guys,” said Hawkes, who couldn’t help but crack a joke at their expense. “Kiss and make up.”
Morgan reacted with playful disgust. “I love Reid,” he said as the two agents parted from their embrace, with Morgan rustling Reid’s hair at the end, “but not like that. This ain’t Criminal Minds.”
“So what do we know about the weapon?” asked Morgan, getting back on track.
“It’s a one megaton nuclear warhead,” said Reid, “so I was right…kind of.”
“I don’t follow,” said Hotchner.
“What we have is still a very powerful bomb,” explained Reid, “but today’s nuclear weaponry has surpassed that level of payload in terms of direct damage…if Tarsus’ intention was to simply launch a nuclear bomb at a target, he would have amassed several of them at once, or acquired a bigger bomb.”
“He could still have other bombs though,” countered Morgan. “Just because we’ve found one doesn’t mean we’ve found them all.”
“That’d be quite expensive,” said Reid. “One nuclear warhead already costs hundreds of millions of dollars with little reinvestment value because the technology is constantly changing, plus San Marino’s not big enough to hold that many undetected warheads.”
“So what’s his gameplan?” asked Hotchner.
“Tarsus is planning an electromagnetic pulse attack,” said Reid.
“An EMP?” said Morgan, intrigued. “How do you figure?”
“An EMP attack can provide much more long lasting and far-reaching damage than a conventional nuclear warhead,” explained Reid. “For example, a nuclear warhead detonated at 400 kilometres over the Earth’s surface at, say, Amsterdam, would be enough to cripple the entire electronic infrastructure of the European continent. Furthermore, even if the missile was intercepted by the Romans, the resulting EMP would likely incapacitate the entire Italian peninsula, as modern anti-ballistic missile defence systems don’t intercept the missile until it hits an altitude of 100 km, at least, which would still be enough to cripple Rome.”
“So it’s in our best interests to make sure he doesn’t launch it,” analyzed Morgan.
“Correct,” said Reid.
“I want to know something,” said Prentiss, “how does a EMP strike figure into Tarsus’ overall message?”
“He figures he can cripple the Romans into the Stone Age, forcing more physical labour,” explained Hawkes, “and physical labour tends to favour males…hence why all those drill bits were the wrong size…he wanted to show that women ‘can’t’ do physically demanding ‘workmanlike’ jobs.”
“What’s our next step?” asked Hotchner. The agents sat there, pondering their next options before Jane piped up.
“Tell the Romans to play some sort of war games with the Samarians,” said Jane. “Make press releases saying that the two of them are still at war and have the two combatants pretend they’re still fighting each other when they’re actually not. If we can trick Claes and Tarsus into thinking the Roman troops are still distracted in Samaria that would give us enough time to try to deactivate the bomb before it gets launched, because if Tarsus thinks we’re on to him, he’ll launch it in a panic…and we’ll have some real trouble.”
“Let the mind games begin,” said Morgan, making the phone call to Black.
San Marino, 22:10 local time
“Here’s the plan,” said Morgan, briefing the SWAT team that was accompanying him into the farm. “We’re all going to drive in to San Marino. Discreetly. Then we drive to the farm. Most of you will forage the barn to cover our backs and find Tarsus, but some of you will come with me to deactivate the bomb. Remember, whatever you do, do it discreetly. The Sammarinese government is working with Tarsus here...if they find out that we’ve found the bomb it could jeopardize our entire operation and compromise our safety. Is that understood?” The SWAT team all nodded in agreement, as Morgan and the rest of the team drove toward the farm.
“Babygirl,” said Morgan, calling Garcia. “See if you can hack into the hardware and disrupt its communication system.”
“Okay mon cherie,” said Garcia, “it’ll take some doing though...these things aren’t on conventional Internet networks.”
“Do what you can,” said Morgan, hanging up.
Once at the farm, the SWAT found the place deserted, allowing for easy access into the silo. After securing the farm, the SWAT kept watch, making sure no one interrupted Morgan during his work.
“Okay Derek,” said Morgan, talking to himself which spurred his thought process. “It’s been a while since you looked at a nuclear warhead...what do you know about the bombs?” He stared intently at the large device, before grabbing a ladder and climbing, reaching a small panel at the side of the bomb.
“Behind here is the power chord...I find it...I disarm the bomb,” he mused to himself. He unscrewed the panel, and stared at the wires. Eventually, he came across a large green wire hidden in the mass of wires.
He reached in, carefully, because any one of those wires could set off the bomb if they were jumbled too much. Eventually, he was able to dig to the green wire, which he effortlessly cut with his pliers. Having now disarmed the bomb, Morgan climbed down the ladder, ready to rejoin his unit.
What he saw when he came out from the silo astounded him.
“Oh s***,” he said, staring in disbelief.
23:15 local time, BAU Command Centre
“Morgan?” Hotchner said, calling Morgan’s cell phone. His level of worry went up each second Morgan did not respond. “Morgan? Morgan? Are you there? This is Hotch.”
“He’s not answering?” Rossi asked, concern overtaking his face.
“We gotta go in there,” said Prentiss, anxiously. “What are we waiting for? Morgan’s in trouble.”
“We can’t just barge right in,” said Gideon, his own face awash with worry. “We still don’t know if that nuke is incapacitated.”
“We’re also dealing with an independent country,” said Jane. “Our authority doesn’t extend there.”
“I think it does,” said Hawkes. “Last year, San Marino defaulted for the first time in their history...Tarsus bailed them out, making sure his companies could be registered in San Marino to avoid paying Roman taxes. Tarsus is also bankrolling other Sammarinese institutions, such as the army...in short, Tarsus is San Marino.”
“I also think the presence of a nuke is pretext enough,” opined Reid, doing his best to handle his nerves over the situation.
Roman Senate, Rome
“What are you talking about, your agent’s in trouble?” Valerius said, incredulously, to Black after Black informed him of what happened. “I thought you said if we played war games you’d have the nuke disarmed safely.”
Black slumped into his chair, his face overcome with emotions worried for Morgan. “Sir, we don’t know yet what happened to Morgan...he’s not answering his phone. It’s like he disappeared.”
“Black, Black, Black!” Valerius was beside himself with sarcastic laughter. “Unless San Marino is a black hole- which, for our taxmen, it is- no one just ‘disappears’…Morgan’s somewhere…you just have to find him!” Valerius gave Black a death glare, folding his arms disbelievingly at a man whose agents seemed two steps too slow for the entire investigation.
“Your Majesty…I know this hasn’t been pretty…but this case…”
“Don’t ‘this case’ me! I pay you to solve them, not to bumble around going on ‘hunches’ and putting the entire nation in danger!”
Black sighed heavily, wiping his face due to stress. “Your Highness, please…we can’t lose our cool…look, I’m frustrated too…it seems like every time we get something right it blows up in our faces.”
Valerius let out a deep breath, reluctantly agreeing. “This has been a bigger case than even I thought it could be.” He then pondered a little before deciding his next course of action. “Put San Marino under siege. No one leaves or comes in. No one. No exceptions. I will take that city by storm…no questions asked, and if I have to burn it down, I will. That will serve as a lovely message to the world about what happens when you stroke the Roman fire!”
23:00 local time, Outside of the warhead housing silo, San Marino
Every one of them dead. The hundreds of men Morgan led into the farm were all perished, done in under a hail of sniper bullets, not a single SWAT team member a match for the Sammarinese Army that challenged them. Worse, Morgan stood in bewilderment, as those same Sammarinese troops were staring down on him, their guns so menacingly trained at his head.
He stood there, breathing heavily, thinking about what to do next. He then decided that he wasn’t going to let the Sammarinese take him without a fight. It was then that Tarsus appeared from behind a shadow to set him straight.
“No no no,” said Tarsus, wagging his finger at Morgan and walking towards him. “I wouldn’t do that, tough guy. You forget, the instant you pull out that gun, every one of these trained snipers will put a bullet in your brain…and maybe through it too.”
“Sir,” said Tarsus’ second in command, Enricus Iapitus, “can we kill him now? We’re all getting restless.”
“No,” said Tarsus, caressing Morgan’s face, which caused Morgan to swat away Tarsus’ hand. “You forget, Derek, about the guns,” he scolded, leaning in real close to Morgan’s ear.
“Now can we kill him?” said Iapitus.
“Still no,” said Tarsus, caressing Morgan again, much to Morgan’s chagrin. “I like this one. He’s everything a man should be. I’m going to take him back with me. Arrest him- and do it quickly- we need to escape before the Romans catch on and blockade us.” Two soldiers dutifully handcuffed Morgan and ushered him into the trunk of a black Sports Utility Vehicle, which Tarsus was driving. Iapitus and another soldier joined the ride, with Iapitus watching Morgan in the trunk. The soldiers managed to escape San Marino mere minutes before the Roman order to commence the siege went up, allowing them to escape to the coast where a small aircraft was waiting for the group.
“We got lucky,” said Iapitus once the plane was in flight. He couldn’t help but notice the Romans starting to move on San Marino.
“Enricus,” said Tarsus, “when you’re good, you’re lucky- and we, my friend, are good.”
BAU Command Centre
“Hello?” Hotchner said, receiving the phone call.
“Is my honeybunch okay?” Garcia asked, worry overcoming her voice.
“Penelope.” Hotchner’s normal calm voice couldn’t help but allow his own concern to creep in. “We don’t know that yet. The Romans are going to move in to San Marino and we’ll find out.”
“Oh please...please tell me he’ll be okay.” Garcia began to sob.
Hotchner himself also began to well up. “Penny...please...we’re going to get him back alive. I promise.” Hotchner ended the call, collecting himself for a few minutes before rejoining his team.
“How did we miss this?” Rossi asked, puzzled at how Morgan could find himself in danger. “It’s like Tarsus planned this entire investigation.”
“Rossi,” said Jane, the only one who didn’t show a major amount of worry. “Stuff like this happens...they got lucky and we didn’t. Simple as that.”
“How can you be so dismissive of this entire situation?” Prentiss asked Jane, her voice filled with disgust. “If you care about me, you should care about my team too!” She then stormed off.
“Emily,” said Jane, trying to stop her from leaving but he couldn’t. He followed her.
“Emily,” said Jane, putting his hand on Prentiss’ shoulder.
“Don’t,” said Prentiss angrily, moving away from his touch. Jane pulled away his hand.
Jane let out a heavy sigh. “I didn’t mean to sound like I didn’t care about him...maybe it’s all just because I don’t know him like you do and thus haven’t developed that kind of a bond with him, but I’m also trying to be levelheaded about all this...look, we’re not going to find him if we just go with our emotions.”
“You were still very callous in there...as if Morgan was nothing.”
Jane cocked his mouth to the side and sighed. “I do feel bad too.” He hung his head in shame. “I remember now that I thought this could be a setup...I don’t know why I didn’t think about that before Morgan went in there.”
“So you’re only worried for him because you screwed up?”
“No...it’s because I put a man who I deeply respect in peril. Morgan also said to me the other day that he trusts me and that he values my tactics, however insane they may be.” He sighed heavily. “I can’t tell you what that means to me.”
Prentiss saw Jane’s genuine concern, and gave him a hug, which he returned. The two of them held each other, with Jane cradling Prentiss’s head for quite some time.
01:22 local time, The walls of San Marino
The Romans went to work starting with attack helicopters clearing the defenders from the top of the wall, with soldiers in Hummers driving towards the wall and shooting at any defender that they saw trying to challenge them. The fighting stagnated at the wall as the Sammarinese backed up their wall with small artillery and tanks, hidden in area farms, which the Romans couldn’t challenge yet since their tanks had yet to arrive. Half an hour later, the full force of the Rimini Legion was able to kick in, with Roman tanks able to engage the Sammarinese tanks at Dogana.
After fierce fighting, the Romans finally broke through the wall at Dogana and started to drive into the heart of San Marino. The mountainous terrain provided some difficulties for the armoured vehicles, but the Roman Air Force made up for that, gunning down whatever Sammarinese artillery vehicles that showed up before they faced the tanks. Turning the tide of the battle was the simple fact that Rome had military aircraft, something the Sammarinese just weren’t able to obtain, due to their country’s small size.
By 05:02, the southcentral part of the Sammarinese wall had fallen, forcing the depleted Sammarinese Army to fight on two fronts. This allowed the Special Forces to enter the towns and buildings and eliminate the rest of the resistance piecemeal. An hour later, the tanks from the north met up with the tanks from the south, culminating in one last stand by the Sammarinese at the Three Towers. At this point, the battle became one between the Air Force and the castle defenders, which were slim pickings for the Romans. By 07:15, the last of the Towers, Guaita, had fallen, meaning the Sammarinese resistence was no more. San Marino was now officially in Roman hands.
There was still the task of finding Morgan, which fell to the Special Forces. For most of the morning, the Forces combed the Sammarinese interior, looking in every building, tree and tunnel they could find. By noon, the BAU- which tried to fight the urge to sleep but couldn’t- were awoken by the worst possible news.
“Okay,” said Hotchner, downcast after receiving the telephone call. “I’ll tell them.” He then lowered his head as he faced his team.
“Did they find him?” Reid asked, quivering, as both he and Hawkes were holding each other’s hands nervously as the rest of the BAU waited with baited breath.“No,” said Hotchner, welling up. “They took him.”