The Christmas Miracle Chapter 2
Home of Derek and Penelope Morgan – Evening
The drive back to the Morgan’s had been quiet…deadly quiet. Derek was still fuming at the dirty trick his mother had played. He’d made himself clear, several times that he did not want to play Santa Claus; it wasn’t his thing…his style and she knew it. She knew perfectly well what the Children’s Miracle Network meant to him. He’d even donated the proceeds from the sale of his last two restorations to the network earmarking the local children’s hospital specifically. As he unlocked the door to their home, visions of revenge danced wildly in his head. Fran Morgan had won this battle but if he had anything to do with it she would not win the war.
Penelope watched her husband huff and puff as he stormed into the house and head straight to the liquor cabinet. It had been a while since she’d seen him this angry. She had to admit that Fran was a force to be reckoned with and poor Derek never stood a chance. There was no chance in hell he’d not show up in that red suit on Christmas Eve now. One point for Fran Morgan Rossi, she thought. The next few days were sure to be pure hell and her mother-in-law owed her big time.
Home of Dave and Fran Rossi –
Dave chuckled to himself as he listened to his wife’s humming as she put away the last of the food. Jingle Bells was her victory song for the evening and he had to admit she’d played a splendid hand. Derek was beaten before he’d even set foot into the mansion. Grabbing the last near empty wine bottle from the table he joined her in the kitchen.
“Pretty pleased with yourself, aren’t you Bella?”
Dave wrapped his arms around her and pulled her tightly against his body.
“What do mean?”
“You know exactly what I mean, cara mia.”
“I have a vision for this year’s pageant and my son fits perfectly.”
“We both know that Derek looks nothing like Santa, not even close.”
“That’s not what I mean, Dave. I want him to be able to connect to the holidays. He’s always either away on a case or flying into Chicago at the last possible moment and the whole time he’s like Ebenezer Scrooge.”
“And you think tricking him into doing something he doesn’t want to do will change that? He’s Ebenezer on steroids right now. I hope this doesn’t backfire on you, Fran.”
Fran turned in his arms to face him and wrapped her arms around his neck.
“It won’t. Trust me. Three days from now, Derek will be dressed in red and ready to spoil those kids rotten.”
Just then Dave’s phone rang alerting him to a text message. Pulling it from his pocket he frowned as he read the message.
“Don’t celebrate just yet.” Then waving the phone in the air. “We just got a case.”
BAU Headquarters – Quantico, VA –
Hotch handed the stack of case files to Reid who took one and passed them around the table. Derek felt hope springing eternal as he examined the particulars of the case.
“Tracey Perkins, forty-one was found in the basement of her home by her husband when he returned from a business meeting this afternoon.” Hotch began.
“Christmas garland?” Morgan noted.
“It looks like this unsub was in the Christmas spirit when he strangled the mother of four to death before stabbing her post-mortem ten times in the heart.” Dave added.
“Pure rage!” Said Reid.
“Maybe one of her kids did it.” Morgan mumbled under his breath.
Dave smiled and shook his head as he quickly glanced at the younger agent.
“Our next victim was discovered last night.”
Each member grabbed the next picture in their files and placed it on top of the previous one.
“Same M.O.” JJ began.
“Green garland this time.” Reid observed.
“I wonder what could have driven this unsub to such anger?” JJ asked to no one in particular.
“Maybe she represented a mother who’d pissed them off in some way.” Derek shot a glance at his stepfather.
“Come on Derek it’s Santa Claus for god sake.”
“I’m NOT doing it!”
“Am I missing something here?”
“No Hotch, just a family misunderstanding.”
Rossi frowned this time as he shot a warning glare at Derek.
“Last but not least, the body of Bertha Mathers was found stuffed in her chimney, garland around her neck and multiple stab wounds to the heart. We have reason to believe she may have been the first victim.”
“Why Christmas? Is nothing sacred?” Penelope whined.
“Well, Atlanta is asking for our help let’s see if we can get this wrapped up so we can get back before Christmas Eve.”
“Or not.” Morgan whispered under his breath.
“Wheels up in thirty.”
Atlanta Police Department- Downtown Atlanta, GA – Morning –
The large precinct felt like a ghost town. It looked like most of the force had already taken off for Christmas. Detective Marshall Howard greeted the team as they entered.
“Agents, thank you for coming.”
“It looks a little sparse around here.”
“We try to operate with a skeleton crew over the holidays. Everybody’s on call, just in case.”
Everyone greeted each other with handshakes and the lone wave of Dr. Spencer Reid.
“Thanks for calling us in.” Derek spoke with such sincerity in his voice.
“We could definitely use your help skeleton crew or no skeleton crew. Follow me I have the conference room already set up for you.”
It had been several minutes and at least a dozen search requests later when Penelope dialed Morgan.
“Tell me something good Sweetness.”
“Well, I dug deep into the lives of our victims and when I say I dug deep I mean I know the last time they…”
“Baby, baby you do want your man home for Christmas, right?”
“Yes, yes…okay…listen up.”
The team all smiled and shook their heads. The banter between the two never ceased to amaze them.
“Each of our victims were very active in their community…their children’s schools, volunteering at local hospitals and all of them were very active in their churches.”
“Did they know each other?”
“Hold your horses Junior G-Man.” Then. “It doesn’t look like any of them knew each other but their community work is almost identical to each other.”
“So our unsub knew the victims but the victims didn’t necessarily know each other.” Rossi added.
“It looks that way, yes.”
Just as Hotch was about to give out assignments, Detective Marshall entered the room.
“We have another body.”
“Rossi, Morgan head to our latest victim and JJ you and Reid go talk to the husband of Bertha Masters. If she is really our first victim then maybe we can find out why she was the only one found in the chimney.”
Everyone nodded and headed out toward the SUV’s. Morgan hopped behind the wheel while Rossi rushed to the passenger side.
“You knew didn’t you?”
“You knew what my mother was up to all along.”
“I swear I didn’t have a clue. All I know is that when my wife wants something she knows how to get it.”
“The Children’s Miracle Network? Really? Come on you know and my mother knows how much that work means to me.”
“I swear, I didn’t know. I didn’t know their fundraiser was coming to dinner…”
“Right. You expect me to believe that?”
“Honestly Derek, your mother is smarter than the both of us put together and you never stood a chance against her. I thought you
knew that already.”
“Yeah okay. I’m warning you old man, payback is a bitch and when I get my mother back you better not be anywhere around because the wrath of Derek will hit you too!”
“The wrath of Derek? Really? Is that the best you could come up with?”
The two men exchanged glances and burst into laughter as Derek pulled the SUV into the driveway of their latest victim.
Atlanta Police Department –
“Okay what do we have?” Hotch began.
“Each victim was killed in their home, strangled and stabbed multiple times post-mortem.” Said Reid.
“Let’s not forget the Christmas theme with the garland wrapped around their necks.” JJ added.
“Two of the victims were found in the basements and one stuffed in the fireplace.” Rossi noted.
“Why the change? Why did our unsub go from fireplace to the basement?” Morgan asked.
“Ease.” Reid answered
“What do you mean, Reid?” Hotch asked.
“It would be very difficult to stuff a body into a fireplace. I mean I know that a lot of Christmas stories have Santa coming down a chimney, which for a man Santa’s size would be near impossible without him getting stuck that is if he could actually fit in the first place. Then to travel down the chimney which is on the average only…”
“We get it kid.” Morgan interrupted. “So, the basement was easier, hence the change.”
“If these women did not know each other, we still need to find out who knew them all or if they were just random targets.”
“Hotch I think the victimology tells us that they weren’t random.”
“Each woman was married, a mother and spent a lot of time volunteering in their community. Our unsub is probably someone active in the community as well. There has to be some crossover some where we just haven’t found it yet.”
“So what do you have against Santa?”
Rossi had followed Morgan to the coffee pot. Both of them had just returned from following another lead, which had turned out to be a dead end.
“Santa, why are you so against the old guy.”
“I don’t have anything against Santa, Rossi.”
“Then why won’t you help your mother out for the pageant?”
Morgan turned to face the older man before responding. There was so much he could say, none of which would make any sense.
“Look, Dave I don’t want to talk about this, okay?”
“No not okay, Morgan. When you tell her, no and you never tell her, no I have to live with the aftermath.”
“Hey, you married her…for better or worse, remember?”
“That’s not what I mean. She doesn’t ask you kids for much, so when you have a reaction like you have she…”
“She worries and you know what happens when she starts worrying.”
“You’re freezer is packed, eh Dave?”
“The one in the house, the one in the garage and the one in the guest house.”
“I remember being a kid and whenever I got in trouble, by the time I got home from school we had enough food to feed the whole neighborhood.”
“So you understand.”
“Yeah I understand.”
Derek added his sugar and cream as Dave poured the last remaining coffee into his mug. He couldn’t help noticing the sadness suddenly overcoming Derek.
“What’s going on? Talk to me.”
Derek took a seat at one of the tables in the small break room and sipped from his cup before answering.
“My dad was killed a little over a month before Christmas. My mom was in charge of the Christmas pageant at our church. Man, I loved my mother’s pageants. She made my sisters and me perform in the play and that year she’d finally gotten my dad to be Santa Claus.”
Dave slowly realized why Derek was adamant about not playing Jolly Ol’ St. Nick and as he continued to listen everything made sense.
“I never went to another pageant after that. I’d pitch a fit if Ma even tried to make me go. After a while she just gave up.”
“Derek I’m sorry, I didn’t realize.”
“It’s not your fault.”
Dave sensed that there was more. Suddenly Derek stood and moved to the other side of the room with his back to Dave. Dave stood too and followed him.
“Why do I feel there’s more that you’re not telling me?”
“What about Carl Buford?”
“A couple weeks after he took me to his cabin…after he…”
Derek closed his eyes for a moment to gather his emotions. It was as if he was that little boy again trapped alone with the vile monster.
“Carl asked me to come into his office. I was scared, I didn’t want to but he said he had a Christmas present for me.”
“Derek you don’t have to tell me…”
“No, no I need to get this out, it’s been too long.”
Dave took a step back to give him some space.
“I went to his office…he was wearing one of those silly Santa hats. I saw the box in his hands and he was smiling. He told me to come closer then…”
“I saw that his pants were unzipped.”
Dave felt helpless in that moment. He was angry and had no idea of what to say that would bring his stepson some peace.
“Derek I am so sorry for what happened when you were a kid. Carl Buford was a monster. He’s dead now rotting in hell where he belongs!”
“When does it end? Every time I think I’ve put it behind me something happens and I’m right back in that cabin or in his office at the community center.”
“Derek you’re the strongest man I know and a lesser man would have let Carl destroy him or he would have become what Carl was, but you didn’t Derek. You’re still here, fighting bringing down unsubs who hurt children.”
“How do I get my mother to understand? I know it’s important to her but I don’t think I can go through with it, man. She won’t listen…she doesn’t hear me.”
Dave gently placed his hand on Derek’s shoulder. Derek flinched and then slowly relaxed under the realization that Dave wasn’t Carl and Dave would never hurt him and most importantly, he wasn’t that little boy anymore.
“You need to tell her, Derek. She needs to know then she will hear you and she will listen.”
“I don’t know if I can. I know she blames herself for what happened to me. She’s never said it but I know she thinks it’s her fault.”
“Yeah you Morgan’s are the Keepers of the Guilt. That’s something she won’t even talk to me about.”
JJ rushed into the break room before the two could go any further.
“Garcia found something. Hotch wants to see us in the conference room.”