"For Everything a Cost"

Gideon; Rated R
Written for the Box-a-Thon on livejournal. Prompt: #22 - Some things never change. Takes place before the season premiere.

Mason Cooley once said, "Repetition comforts me for a time, then closes in."

Claire wiped her forehead with a cocktail napkin and scanned the room. Seated at the bar, she was nursing a vodka tonic and trying not to fidget on the stool. She was crazy. She had to be. That was her only explanation. This wasn't her, who she really was. She was playing a part and any minute now she expected someone to jump up, point at her and scream, "CHARLATAN!"

A man sat down next to her, gave her a glance and ordered from the bartender. She continued to look around and mangle the napkin.

The man got his drink and turned to her. "You must be Claire. I'm Mickey." He held his hand out.

She studied him as she shook his hand. Non-descript was the nicest thing she could say. She pulled her hand back, saying, "I don't normally do this sort of thing."

"Talk to strange guys over the internet and then agree to meet them in person? Or hang out in bars?"

His easy smile was infectious and she found herself smiling back. "Both, I guess."

"Me neither," he replied, taking a drink of his beer. "My friends think I'm a homebody."

She could believe it. His body looked like it was unfamiliar with the inside of gym, though he wasn't obese. Just... soft. She hadn't felt any calluses on his hand when she'd shook it, which went along with his claim of being a customer care worker for a plastics manufacturer. 'Come on, not everyone has to be a muscular, body-building lifeguard,' she chided herself. 'Give him a chance.'

"This is nice," he said. "I'm glad you agreed to meet me. I haven't been on a date in over two years."

"I'm glad I agreed to meet you, too." She leaned forward and confessed in low voice, "I haven't had a date in over two years either."

He laughed. "It was fate, then, that we meet." He glanced at his watch. "How about having dinner with me?" He held up his hand to stop her when she started to speak. "I know we both agreed on just drinks, but I'd really like to spend more time with you." He smiled engagingly, and added, "You do eat, don't you?"

The protest died on her lips. Claire could read the resignation in his eyes, like he knew deep down she was going to say "no." For some reason, she just couldn't bring herself to disappoint him. "Dinner sounds great," she answered.

A big weight seemed to lift off Mickey's shoulders. "Wonderful!" He paid the bartender, insisting on picking up her tab as well. "I know this great steak place not far from here." He placed his hand gently on the small of her back as he followed her out the door.

- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -

"The latest victim is Claire Kennedy," JJ said, looking at the file of information in front of her. "She told her roommate she was going out for a while, and never returned. Last seen at a bar called the Pickled Onion. Police found her near Dandelion Falls just off the Parkway in North Carolina." She looked at the team assembled around the conference table. "That makes six total."

"That they know about," Hotchner corrected. "Six victims found in a period of just less than three weeks."

"He likes what he does," Morgan mumbled, "great."

"Did we get a description from the bartender?" Reid asked.

JJ shook her head. "All the bartender could remember was that he was average height, average weight. Unmemorable."

Jason Gideon remained silent, staring at the DMV photo of the young, blonde woman. Tacked beside it was a photo from the crime scene technician, body contorted at a painful angle, ligature marks around her neck, wide eyes staring sightlessly. "Most of the bodies have been found in North Carolina, correct?" he said finally, breaking into the conversation around him.

"Five in North Carolina between Ashville and Bleak Mountain, one in Tennesee just outside Gatlinburg," JJ confirmed.

"We'll set up base in North Carolina and coordinate with the other states along the Parkway. Get your stuff together," Gideon said, rising from the table, "the jet leaves in half an hour."

- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -

"The media has dubbed him the Parkway Killer," Ranger Dubose said with disgust. "If you ask me, that's just giving him the attention he wants."

"How do you know he wants attention? Has he contacted the police or the media?" JJ asked.

"No, but they all do." Dubose had been with the Blue Ridge Parkway Ranger service for over twenty years and had the world-weary jaded attitude that those in law enforcement sometimes develop.

Gideon studied the board that had been erected in a corner of the tiny police station: victim photos, crime scene photos, a timeline of when and where the victims were believed to have been abducted and when and where they bodies had been found, a map of the Parkway with the dump sites circled in red.

"The unsub strangles his victims," Gideon said, talking more to himself than to those in the room.

"Beaten and strangled," Dubose said, "but no signs of sexual assault."

"It's not always about sex; power, recognition, revenge." He studied the map of the Parkway.

"All the victims disappeared from various places along the parkway. A housewife, a waitress, a college student, a salesclerk, a nurse's aide, an amateur photographer." Gideon pointed to each photo as he ticked off their occupation. "Absolutely nothing in common except the Parkway."

"All were found near bodies of water," Morgan said.

"The Green River Killer," Gideon stated, still looking at the board, "he's trying to copy the Green River Killer."

"That name sounds vaguely familiar," Dubose said.

"Gary Ridgway was known as the Green River Killer," Reid stated. "Over a span of sixteen years he killed forty-four women, though he later claimed the number was closer to seventy-one.

"Most of the victims were either prostitutes or teenage runaways, picked up along Pacific Highway South, and strangled to death. Most of the bodies were dumped in and around the Green River in Washington except for two victims who were found in Portland, Oregon."

"But this guy's picking up all kinds of women, and we're not anywhere close to the West Coast," Dubose pointed out.

Gideon bit the inside of his lip to keep from saying something degrading and hateful. No matter how many times he dealt with the local authorities, their inability to read between the lines never failed to irritate him.

"The similarities are there, though," Hotchner spoke up. "All women of the same age Ridgway targeted, all picked up along or in an establishment near a major roadway, all strangled with no obvious signs of sexual assault, all dumped near water.

"The Parkway is this guy's playground, and we've got to learn the rules if we're going to catch him."

"Why copy some other guy?" Dubose asked offhandedly.

"Why bumble your way through when you can learn from the masters," Gideon answered matter-of-factly. He looked into the smiling photo of Claire Kennedy. Her eyes stared out at him, sparkling with so much life and energy. She looked at him as if to say, "Don't worry Jason, you'll get him. You'll get the bastard and put him behind bars where he belongs." So many victims, so many killers that weren't caught. The cities and methodology changed, and so did the victims, but really, when you stripped away everything, wasn't it all just a variation of Mrs. Plum in the study with the lead pipe?

He rubbed the bridge of his nose, wondering when he became so disillusioned. It didn't matter, he had a job to do. "Assemble the officers," he said to Dubose, "we're ready to give a profile."

- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -

Our desires always disappoint us; for though we meet with something that gives us satisfaction, yet it never thoroughly answers our expectation. - Elbert Hubbard

Copyright June 2008 by Cait N.

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