Twenty-Eight

I t was late, past 2:00 in the morning, when Baldwin heard a knock on the door, looked up to see Memphis standing in his office. They’d arrived in Quantico at midnight, and Baldwin had arranged for a room for Memphis in one of the dorms.

“You should be sleeping,” he said. “We have a long day ahead of us.”

“I could say the same of you. I was sleeping, but my body clock thinks it’s morning, so here I am. I don’t suppose you have any real tea, by any chance? Maybe a drop of something stronger?”

Baldwin scrubbed his fingers through his hair. “Yes, I do. I’ll go get it, and then I’ll fill you in on what we’ve got.”

Baldwin took the hallway down to the row of cubicles that housed his team. He was technically the unit chief, though he transitioned between the Nashville Field Office and the Behavioral Analysis Unit in Quantico. There were three Behavioral Analysis Units in the Behavioral Science Unit-Unit One-Terrorism and Threat Assessments, Unit Two-Crimes Against Adults and Unit Three-Crimes Against Children. He managed BAU Two-had been the unit chief for four years. He had his fingers in BAU One as well, though his involvement was tertiary and very, very quiet. Terrorism was the number-one priority of the Bureau, had been since the evolution of their purpose after 9/11. It played well for him-in his other persona, Baldwin profiled assassins for the CIA in a covert operation known as the Angelmakers. That part of his life had been thankfully lacking in necessary endeavors lately.

He had forewarned his BAU team that they’d be needed to help finalize the profile for the Metropolitan police. He’d chosen two excellent lead profilers for this assignment-Charlaine Shultz, a former Little Rock homicide detective with a boisterous laugh and a deadly acumen for murder, and Dr. Wills Appleby, a psychiatrist turned profiler Baldwin did his residency with. They’d met the first day of classes at Johns Hopkins, spent four years grinding through med school together, then a completely grueling psychiatric residency.

When they’d finished up, Baldwin had gone on to George Washington University to get his law degree, thinking he’d be a medical ethicist. Instead, he met Garrett Woods. Garrett recognized the potential in him immediately, potential Baldwin didn’t know existed. He snatched him up for the FBI, and Baldwin hadn’t looked back. He was a Supervisory Special Agent now, and Garrett was running all of the Behavioral Science Unit.

Baldwin recruited Wills in turn. Outside of a few people from Hampden-Sydney, where he did his undergrad, Wills was his oldest friend.

Not all his profilers had doctorates or medical degrees. He’d found early on that instinct can’t be taught-some people have it, and some don’t. Appleby was one of the few psychiatrists who were also profilers; most of his staff were former police officers. It was easier to teach the psychological components of profiling than it was to train instinct. Practical investigative experience, how to read a crime scene, that instinctive ability to assimilate a violent crime, none of those things could be taught. All of his recruits went through an extensive, intensive training program. Very few washed out-he’d gotten very good at picking who would mesh with this type of work.

Except for one. He’d made a massive, colossal blunder when he’d hired a woman named Charlotte Douglas.

He had unconsciously stopped at the office that used to belong to her. Charlotte had deceived them all. She’d passed every psychological test the FBI had, had risen to the position of Deputy Chief of BAU Two. And all the while, she’d been utilizing the tools available at the FBI-specifically CODIS and ViCAP-to track down killers she was interested in, for her.

Whispers had been circulating that Charlotte’s computer contained material that could be used to blackmail certain agents into submission. The investigation was ongoing. Good riddance, Baldwin thought, then felt immediate sorrow, as he often did when Charlotte came to mind. She’d been dangerous to him on many, many levels.

He’d love to know what her little files held about him. Ex-lover, definitely, he was sure she’d probably documented every minute of his time with her, though it was a short-lived relationship. But what other secrets did Charlotte harbor? A brilliant woman, her encryption codes had proved nearly impossible to crack. They’d only tapped into a third of what she had stored on her computer. It was as if she was a codex from an earlier era, when codes were unbreakable because they were written in dead languages no one could possibly decipher. Charlotte’s mind was an undiscovered country.

He shook himself, pulling out of the reverie, realized one of his teammates, Dr. Pietra Dunmore, was staring at him. He caught her eyes, silky brown and deep-set, and recognized that she’d known exactly what he was thinking about. She just nodded, too polite to call him out. She’d worked closely with Charlotte, too.

“You should be in bed.”

“Ha,” Pietra said. She gave him a rueful smile. “Boss, I got the DNA sample profiles from Taylor Jackson, checked in CODIS. The murder in Chattanooga was a match. I don’t know why it didn’t show up when we ran the search on the DNA from London and Florence-I’ve sent the issue to the database team for them to work out.”

Baldwin sighed. “Might have been one Charlotte dug her fingers into, rerouted to her private database,” he said.

“That’s probably a pretty safe assumption. We’ll get it figured out. But II Macellaio is definitely responsible for at least one of the four Nashville murders. There’s another DNA chain running, from the case yesterday, but I won’t have that until tomorrow.”

Baldwin was torn between groaning and throwing his fist in the air in glee. It was expected, but this definitely threw a monkey wrench into the profile. Memphis’s assumption about II Macellaio being biracial was quite prescient. It was the only decent explanation for why he was killing both black and white women.

“Starvation, strangulation and necrophilia. This one is a real piece of work.” Pietra looked pissed off-Baldwin could understand why. She was the perfect physical type for the U.S. killings-petite and black.

Baldwin scrubbed his hands through his hair, then said, “Okay. Let me work this into the official profile. I’ve been operating with that theory all along, just in case. Won’t take me but half an hour.”

“I’m happy to help.”

“That’s okay. Tomorrow’s going to be a long day. Go grab some sleep.”

“Sure thing, boss.” She disappeared down the hall, he continued on his path to Garrett’s office, thinking.

The killer had changed M.O. s definitively, working back and forth across the Atlantic. The Florence killings and the two latest Nashville killings were by far the most sophisticated; the London murders seemed more like crimes of opportunity. Il Macellaio lived in Florence, then, where he knew the lay of the land. Which meant he must also have a place in Tennessee. Someplace private. A room of his own.

The London murders were an exercise in convenience. Something took him there-a job, a woman, vacation. Il Macellaio’s urges had gotten so strong, his desire to kill was overwhelming him. Even away from his home base, outside his comfort zone, he couldn’t wait until he got back to Florence. Three months, that’s how long the murders had been going on. Okay then, so for three months he’d been living in or regularly visiting London. So what made him come to Tennessee?

Baldwin was dawdling. He went to the end of the hall, to his boss’s office. Garrett was in D.C. at the moment, but Baldwin knew he kept a bottle stashed in his desk. The head of the Behavioral Science Unit was a scotch man, too. He usually kept it in the bottom left drawer; yes, there it was. Dewar’s White Label. He shook the bottle; plenty left for a nightcap.

He started back to his office. This case was eating at him. Maybe he was losing his touch. Losing his focus. He’d been fighting the realization that with Taylor in his life, he cared more, and less, about his job than ever before. Every minute he spent away from her was too long. Perhaps his feelings were clouding his judgment. Perhaps he needed to reexamine his role at the BAU, his motivations, his goals. Assess whether he really wanted to stay in this job, or wanted to move back to Nashville full-time. Or try again to convince Taylor to join his team at Quantico, where he could keep an eye on her. The Pretender wasn’t going to give up, or give in, until he saw them both destroyed. Could he live with himself if something were to happen to her? Of course not. It would be his final undoing.

He forced the thoughts aside. He’d revisit them once this case was over. II Macellaio was haunting him. He was missing something. Something important, that would lay out all the answers.

But what?

Memphis was skulking around Baldwin’s office when he noticed the framed photograph on Baldwin’s desk. It was of Taylor, an utterly lovely picture highlighting her glowing skin, honey-blond hair, gray eyes, pillowy lips. She was smiling without showing her teeth, a dreamy expression on her face. She’d been utterly unaware of the camera, that much was evident.

God, she looked so much like Evan.

Yes, the eyes were the wrong color, but that mouth, the teasing look. He could read Evan in the shadows of Taylor’s face.

He missed her already. He wasn’t sure what drew him to Taylor Jackson, her face, her intelligence. The fact that she was alive and Evan was dead? “Bugger,” he said softly.

Baldwin finally returned clutching a bottle of Dewar’s and two cut-crystal lowballs. At least the man had good taste.

Baldwin put the glasses on his desk and poured them each three fingers.

“Drinking on the job?” Memphis asked.

“Might help us both sleep,” Baldwin answered.

“Perhaps it will,” he said, then clinked his glass against Baldwin’s. “Perhaps it will.”

Contents