- Discussion-Child Abuse
- Discussion-Domestic Abuse
- Discussion-Sexual Abuse
- Explicit Sex
- Hate Crimes
- Crime Drama
- Established Relationship
- Urban Fantasy
Spencer looked around the area they had been shown to. The O’Halloran compound looked nothing like a cult compound. In fact, it was a place that Spencer would have loved to live when he had lived in Vegas. It had a park in the center of the area, and there were no real walls but just house after house around that park. It was a beautiful place and no matter where you went, you heard kids playing, saw them playing, and saw them being able to be kids.
Prentiss sat down beside him but Spencer kind of ignored her a little bit. He just watched the kids play in the park. He could feel the eyes of the adults in the area on him. He was glad of that as it meant that they didn’t trust outsiders, but none of them were hostile to the two other Shifters that were no of their pack.
A soccer ball came flying at Spencer’s head. He reached up and caught it before looking to find the kids that were playing. One of them ran up to him, out of breath and a smile on her face.
“I’m sorry!” the girl cried out. “My brother’s kick went really bad. He’s just learning.”
“It’s okay. It would have been okay if I had been hit. Here you go.” Spencer handed to ball over to her.
“Did you want to play with us?” The girl pointed to where there was a group of kids from teenagers to younger playing on a field just ten feet over.
“I don’t know.”
“Go and do it. We were early.” Prentiss bumped her shoulder into Spencer’s.
Spencer looked around for the adult that was watching the group, and he waited for them to nod or shake their head. There was a nod after a moment.
“Sure. Now, I’m not the greatest at this. I’ve been learning with my partner’s kid, and he’s much better than me.”
“That’s okay. I’m the only one of this group that plays.” The girl tucked the ball under her arm and reached out to take Spencer’s hand and tugged her with him. It was like she was afraid that he was going to run away from her. Introductions were made all around on their names and such. Spencer filed them all away.
“My name is Cherish,” the girl said with a grin after she had introduced all of the others.
“Cherish huh? That’s a very pretty name.”
“It’s what my mother called me when I was born her gift that she would cherish for the rest of her life.” There was a tone in her voice that said that it seemed the mother hadn’t had a very long life. Spencer didn’t ask though.
“Come on Valdez, let’s play!” The eldest girl Sabrina said.
Spencer pushed the name from his mind for the moment. They had come to talk to Carlos Valdez’s little sister about him. Why he would be targeted. Spencer remembered the file. Father died after he tried to break up a fight between two humans at a bar. Mother pregnant and died in childbirth because of lack of care. The file had been Carlos’s real file, the one that said he was from the Shea pack. Carlos had packed up what he wanted from his childhood home and went to seek refuge with his uncle in the O’Halloran pack. His mother had changed packs when she had fallen in love with a man who had been in at the time the Reid pack. Spencer was pretty sure that the Shea pack hadn’t allowed her to have the care that she needed to have a successful birth. That meant that Carlos was right to leave the pack with his new baby sister to take care of. Cherish had been a surprise at the end of their mother’s fertility time. Carlos had turned eighteen just days before Cherish had been born.
The pack imperative for a kid who just became an adult in a hard way like that demanded that Carlos protect his sister from something that he thought would harm. Spencer pushed those thoughts away though and focused on the game in front of him. He was put on the team that only had one teenager while the other had two.
Spencer lost track of time as he played with them. The score wasn’t kept, but each goal was celebrated by everyone, no matter what team they were on. Spencer dropped down to the ground and felt the rest of the kids playing with him drop around him. It wasn’t quite a puppy pile, he was still a Shifter not from their pack, but they were touching him slightly, fingers here and there. Cherish had an arm draped over him. Spencer looked over to where Prentiss was to see O’Halloran and his wife sitting beside her. Spencer started to get up but Cherish pushed at him.
“It’s fine, Doctor Reid. You enjoy yourself. We brought lunch for everyone to eat. After they have rest for a few minutes. I had a helper as Agent Prentiss what you would like. She suggested a chicken salad with Poppyseed dressing and a sandwich.”
“Sounds great, thank you.”
“Cherish how are you feeling today?” Sally O’Halloran asked.
“I’m okay. I had fun playing, and it didn’t hurt as much.” Cherish looked at Prentiss and then at Spencer. “What kind of doctor are you?”
“Not that kind. I’m not a medical doctor. I hold doctorates in science.”
“You are part of the people who are looking to find the people who killed Carlos aren’t you?” Cherish asked.
“Yes, I am. I promise to do my best to find who did it.”
Spencer found the missing piece of the puzzle to why he was so sure that it was small pack despite the issues that were at hand with the Shea pack while he was laying there with Cherish’s arm thrown over his chest. He just needed more information.
“Doctor Reid,” Sally said as she walked over to stand over him and Cherish. “Why don’t you take yours and Cherish’s lunch back to her house that she was living in with Carlos? You can see the happy life they built.”
There was something else that they wanted him to see and judge it on his own without their bias.
“And Agent Prentiss?”
“I figured that she would do well talking to Carlos’s friends here.” Sally gave him a smile s she crouched down to help Cherish up to a standing position. “Divide and conquer is a good way to do things is it not?”
“Yes, it is.”
“I can show you my room and the rooms where Danny and Sabrina live.”
“Danny and Sabrina.” Spencer looked at the teenager Sabrina as he stood up.
“Danny is Sabrina’s older brother, and they lost their mom and dad as well. Only it happened when they were on vacation together for their anniversary two years ago.”
“They were robbed and killed in Mexico City,” O’Halloran offered. The look on his face said that it was an accident which was good as Spencer really didn’t want to start to have to try and get information on that crime.
“I’m glad everyone is rallying to take care of you, Cherish.”
“It’s what pack means, taking care of those who need a little help.” Cherish ran to the table and grabbed the bagged lunch that had her name on it before she moved to find the one with Spencer’s name on it. “We can walk to my house.”
Spencer nodded and followed her, taking his lunch and holding her hand as they started to cross streets. The traffic was calm unlike a lot of the city. Spencer remembered what the neighborhoods he had lived in a kid had been like and even though when he was younger, they were in what was called pack areas nothing was like this. He had never felt so safe in a pack area before.
Cherish ran up the steps into the house and found that the door was unlocked, but then there was a neighbor in the house beside that was sitting on the porch knitting. Spencer nodded at her, and she narrowed her eyes. Spencer held up his FBI badge, and she nodded before going back to her knitting. It made Spencer feel a little bit upset that his childhood had never been like that. He looked around the room as Cherish ran to the kitchen. Spencer followed, looking into each room as he went. He found Cherish pouring them both glasses of water. She also had a glass of milk.
“Do you like milk?”
“Do you want a glass?”
“Please.” Spencer sat down in the chair that was opposite where Cherish had settled her lunch bag down before he got into her bag to settle her items out on the table. He did the same for his own, folding the bags down to be thrown away when he got up. Cherish carried over the two water glasses and then the two milk glasses before she sat down. She opened the wrapper on the food and lifted the bun to put a little pepper. It was a chicken salad sandwich. There was also a bag of chips, a cup of fruit, and what looked like potato salad with her lunch. Spencer had his chicken salad with dressing, a BLT, a bag of chips, a cup of fruit, and macaroni salad.
“Miss Sally runs a deli just a few blocks over. She makes all of the meals for the kids when we don’t have school. Especially kids like me and Sabrina who don’t have parents and our siblings take care…took care of us.”
“So Danny and Sabrina live here now?”
“They have lived here since their parents were killed. Pack living is what Carlos called it. I like it because even though everyone is older than me, they love me and they take care of me. I’m trying to be good for them as we are all grieving.”
Spencer wondered at what kind of therapy Cherish was in because she was too forthcoming for a kid who had just lost their brother.
“Miss Josie is very nice, and she’s been talking to me in person for years. I talk to her, and she helps when I am upset at Carlos for things. She came over and was the one who told me about Carlos. I’m going to miss him. I don’t understand why and Miss Josie said that we might never know why someone killed him.”
Spencer kept his mouth shut on that one. They really might never know why Carlos and the other two were killed, but Spencer had a feeling it was over pack things. Most of the people who had been killed so far had pack issues. Not all of them were with Shea, so that ruled out Shea convincing a smaller pack to do his dirty work, at least from what they knew at the moment.
Cherish talked about her life with Carlos, probably having been coached because the BAU was coming to talk to her about her brother. It sounded like Carlos had tried his hardest to give her a really good life. He seemed like a really good brother. He had given up his life to give his sister the best life that she could. The pack helped him when he was going to college, but he had chosen to stay here instead of going to Carnegie Mellon for college.
After lunch, Cherish settled herself on the couch with a book, and within a few minutes, she was asleep. Spencer didn’t feel right leaving her along, so he wandered around the house. He saw the happy life that the Valdez’s had before the parents died and then after before Carlos died. Spencer hoped that Danny and Sabrina did well by her or if not someone else stepped in. The pack was family, but Spencer knew that pack didn’t always stay family.
Carlos had an office to do the accounting work that he did for a few local businesses on the side while he worked in an office during the day as an accountant. He was rifling through the paperwork, ignoring the accounting stuff and separating it into each place so that it could be collected when it was time and given back for them to find someone else to do it. He did make a note on one about something they could do to help them save a little tax money and put his work cellphone and name on it. There was a recent bank statement that showed the money had was put in by both Carlos and Danny. They had a rather lovely nest egg which was good given that they were going to need a little help to stay afloat.
Then he found at least one of the things that O’Halloran wanted him to find. Spencer pulled a pair of latex gloves from his pocket, pulling them free of the baggie he carried them in before slipping them on to pick up the stacks of letters. It was all the old school cut and paste method for warning someone. Spencer hoped prints or something could be found on it, but he didn’t quite hold his breath. It was threats against Cherish or someone would make him pay, and there was a ransom demand that was more than Carlos and Danny put into their nest egg in a month much less to make money payments like that. Spencer set those aside to be bagged up and evidence. He found more of them in a safe that was open with a note from Sally that she had been the one to ask Danny to open it before he left for work that day.
The next thing that Spencer found had him calling Aaron.
“Hotchner,” Aaron said from the speaker on the phone. Spencer had set it down on the desk beside him so he could talk while using his hands to look at things.
“So, someone who lives in the house with Carlos Valdez, meaning either him or his best friend Danny, was looking into some things with the Shea pack. Have you ever got the actual paperwork that states what Danny does for the Mayor’s office?”
“He’s a private investigator who looks into pack things. He’s been the one looking into the Shea pack and the problems with it.”
“Well, I would say Danny is also looking into the threats made against Carlos for leaving the pack. All of them state that if he comes back, they won’t kill Cherish, but if he wants to stay away, he will have to pay them money each month. It’s more than they could pay according to the bank statements. We need a team here to secure information from the office. I put on gloves when I found the first threat, but before I had no gloves on so, my fingerprints are everywhere.”
“I’ll send a team to look over the area. What about the little sister?”
“She’s asleep on the couch. I’m sure I can find someone to watch her while the house is carefully gone through.”
“I’ll make sure that the team knows to treat the area with respect. How much longer will you and Prentiss be?”
“I don’t know. I’m not with her. I went with Cherish to her house. Don’t worry I clocked four people following us that are from O’Halloran’s personal guard. I’m safe as I could be even with Prentiss around me. O’Halloran isn’t going to let anything happen to Cherish. I think I’ll save this stuff for the team and I’ll let you know when Cherish is up from her nap, and we can walk back to the park. Sally O’Halloran, the pack mother as it seems, made lunches for all of us. I spent this morning playing soccer with a bunch of kids.”
“Sounds like you had a good day.”
“It helped Cherish to get to trust me to let me walk around her house and to talk to me. She knows nothing of what else might be happening beyond her living here. She’s not going to be good for any of that.”
“I’m glad that means she can live her life without fear. I need to go as our next interview is on her way back. There is a lot going on, and I think that we can all agree; it’s a small pack, we just need to understand the motive to be able to track them and arrest them.”
Spencer made an agreeing noise and rang off. He heard Cherish starting to wake up, and he made his way back to her.
“I think I’m ready to go back to the park, Spencer,” Cherish said. She looked every bit of the seven-year-old girl that she was in that moment. Spencer held out his hands, and she rushed to him and let him pick her up. Spencer carried her outside, and they started to make their way to the park.
Prentiss was ready to go when Spencer got there, and they both said their goodbyes. Spencer made a promise to visit Cherish once before they left.
Prentiss allowed Spencer to take the driver’s seat, ti wasn’t fought over that much the other time they had been in Vegas for a case, Spencer was allowed to drive because he knew the area really well.
“So what did you find out?”
“A lot that I don’t want to talk about until we are around the whole team. I need help bouncing some ideas around, and I don’t think that Aaron is going to like it.”
“Why?” Prentiss asked.
Spencer didn’t answer at first. He slowed to a stop as the light turned from green to yellow. The traffic was light even though they had just crossed over out of the O’Halloran pack area. He looked around as the cars passed in front of him. When those slowed down, he readied himself to go forward, making sure that the cross traffic was stopping first.
“Because while I think that it is a small pack doing this, I think that whoever is leading that pack is taking their orders from Shea. There are too many that have been killed over the years in accidents, and too many of these people from the Lighthouse and O’Halloran packs are involved in the Shea pack in one way or another.”
“So we need to look harder at the Shea pack?” Prentiss asked.
Spencer slowed down a little as they came to an intersection that they had a go on, but the side streets were stop signs, and not everyone actually stopped at them. He looked left, right, and then left again before speeding up.
“REID!” Prentiss yelled as a truck in front of them swerved over into their lane, heading right for them. Spencer slammed on the breaks and turned the SUV to try and get out of its path, but then he saw out of the corner of his eye another truck heading at them. It was going to t-bone them if he didn’t correct what he was doing so Spencer turned the wheel more and took his foot off of the breaks and sped up. Instead of hitting the SUV right at Spencer’s door, the truck that was coming from the side hit the ass end and spun it. The one coming from the front rammed into the front end, and between the two they smashed the SUV. The sudden jerking of the vehicle to a stop with a spin made Spencer’s head bounce off of the door, and he knew nothing more.