Title: Pathways of the Mind
A Buffy the Vampire Slayer/Profiler crossover story.
By: Ghostrider
Summary: The mind. It can be a beautiful thing. But what happens when it is corrupted by evil?

Rating: R

Authors Notes: This story takes place approximately 7 years in the future.

Disclaimer: Joss Whedon, Fox, Mutant Enemy, the WB and UPN own the characters.

A Buffy the Vampire Slayer/Profiler Crossover story.
By: Ghostrider


Rating: R


The night sky had opened up several hours ago, turning the streets as shiny as dark mirrors, reflecting the light of the streetlamps like ghostly firelights and keeping most people off the streets. The rain had settled into a light drizzle, making everything look hazy. Suddenly, the late night quiet was disturbed by the sound of several vehicles approaching. The intersection of Long Wharf and Atlantic Avenue had turned into a large parking lot as several SUV's, two Step Wagons and several large Impala's stopped on all sides.

Almost immediately, they disgorged a large number of men, dressed in black combat gear; their heads and faces covered by helmets and masks, night vision goggles attached to the helmets. Uniformed officers began to seal off the area as the FBI's HRT, backed up by Boston's SWAT, rapidly made their way along the sidewalk towards the end of Long Wharf. Keeping to the shadows, the agents made their way towards one of the last buildings on the wharf, as other teams of Boston's SWAT did the same from the rear. Several officers had covered the rooftops on either side of the building, just in case.

Pressing his back against the wall, the lead agent tried opening the service entrance to the building, making sure his team was out of sight of the building's doorman. It wouldn't do to alarm their prey to their presence. When the door refused to budge, the lead agent motioned for another agent to move forward with the lock pick. Within seconds, the door opened and lead agent stepped inside, his MP5 moving in all directions quickly, the powerful tac light underneath the barrel sweeping through the semi-darkness. After giving the All-Clear-signal, the rest of the team followed in, quickly searching the area.

"Service area clear and secure. Team One and Two taking service elevator."
"Copy. Be advised, Boston SWAT has secured all sides of building, except front. Also surrounding rooftops."
"Copy that", the lead agent said, keying the throat mike closed.

The service elevator stopped on the 15th floor, Team Two quickly stepping out into the brightly lit hallway, covering every exit and stairwell. Nobody would be able to go either up or down, without running into several heavily armed agents. A couple that just stepped out of their apartment were immediately pushed back inside, two agents stepping inside and motioning them to remain calm. Other agents accessed the elevator controls and moments later, both elevators' doors opened and they engaged the emergency brakes, effectively rendering them useless.

The service elevator ascended to the 16th floor and here too a similar scene played itself out. Luckily, there was only one resident on this floor, aptly named the Penthouse Floor. Using handheld scanners, the agents checked for hidden camera's and other surveillance devices as the hugged the walls. Finding none, they quickly made their way to the double doors at the end of the hallway.

"Fiber optics."

The agent who'd opened the service entrance came forward, squatting between the lead agent and his 2IC, pushing a thin, black cable underneath the door. The small screen it was connected to, showed the image of an opulent hallway, leading into a living room.

"Infrared shows negative. No lifesigns here."
"Check for surveillance."

The tech agent took out his scanner as he handed the screen to the 2IC and slowly, methodically checked the door and the surrounding frame for any evidence of an alarm system, cameras or any other type of security device. Finally, he shook his head, indicating he hadn't found anything. Removing the fiber optic camera, he stood back, taking out his entry toolkit.

"Team One ready for Silent Entry. Updates?", he asked quietly into his throatmike.
"Negative on updates. Mission is go. I repeat, mission is go."

After motioning for the tech agent to begin opening the doors, he turned to his team, giving them orders using handsignals. It was unneccesary as they'd done this kind of thing hundreds of times before, in training and in real-life situations. Each man blindly trusted his partners, knowing that they had each other's backs. As the doors swung open, Team One burst into the hallway and livingroom quickly and silently. Within minutes, the large penthouse had been searched and found empty. Recalling the blueprints of the penthouse, the team leader slowly turned in a circle, visually checking his surroundings.

Next to the fireplace, there was a hallway, leading to the master bedroom. Slowly walking into the bedroom, he turned his head to the left, noticing a massive walk-in closet. The two agents in the room looked at him questioningly as he stepped into the closet, checking the rear wall, measuring his steps. He then stepped out into the hallway again, looking over the wall; he quickly turned to the two agents who'd followed him.

"Check the closet's back wall."

Moving into the living room, he began to methodically check the fireplace. His 2IC guessed what he was doing and motioned for two other agents to help him. It didn't take long to find what they were looking for; one of the other agents pressed on one of the stones partly covered by the ashes, causing a soft click to resound through the room. The whole fireplace seemed to move forward slightly. All agents immediately stood at the ready as the team leader began to pull the fireplace backwards, revealing a steel door.


The girl, no more then fifteen years old, was lying on a steel autopsy table, her hands, feet and head tied off to the sides and top, making it impossible for her to move. Her breathing was frantic as she shivered from the cold feel of steel on her nude body. The whole room was huddled in darkness, except for the large operating room light right atop of her. She had no idea how long she'd been here; the last conscious thought she had was leaving school to go home. After that, waking up, shivering in a small room, alone, nude; she had screamed for help until her voice had given out. Then after God knew how long, the man coming to get her. She'd tried to fight, tried to run, tried pleading with him but nothing worked. He'd hit her hard, causing her to fall unconscious again. When she woke up, she was tied to the table, her mouth taped shut with duct tape.

He was still here, she could hear his footfalls as he walked around the room. Suddenly, he appeared beside her, his face coated in shadows. Megan looked up at him, fear and pleading in her eyes. A hand began to stroke her forehead, fingers softly stroking through her hair, like her father used to do. At the thought of her father, soft sobs wracked her body.

"You are so beautiful, my sweet. So very, very beautiful. And so full of pain. So much pain."

The man's voice had an almost hypnotic quality, as it seemed to drive away her fears. In the back of her mind, Megan knew this was wrong. She knew she should be frightened but somehow, he managed to calm her fears. It was almost like she was falling asleep again, as her father read her a bedtime story, making her feel save and loved.

"I'm going to take away your pain, my sweet. I'm going to take away your pain and make you soar like a beautiful eagle. You will fly away on the wind, you will be free of this mortal coil full of sorrow. Your beauty will shine for all to see. Everybody will see your true beauty, as you were meant to be seen. I promise you, my sweet Megan. My beautiful, sweet little girl."

Lulled into a daze by his voice, Megan didn't feel it when he began to draw lines on her nude body, the cold paint marking her perfect skin as he traced lines all over her body. One straight down from the hairline to the V of her thighs. Another one tracing the outline of her scalp, behind her ears towards her neck. Megan almost could feel her father there with her, holding her, comforting her...

Until she caught sight of the razor sharp scalpel as it came into her field of view. Suddenly, the spell her captor had been weaving was broken as the scalpel, impossibly large as it slowly descended towards her, filled her eyes. Terror unlike any other gripped her and she screamed, her body convulsing in sheer terror, trying to get away. Her screams were muffled, causing her to nearly choke on her breathe, visions of all of the most horrific slasher movies she'd seen, dancing before her eyes as she stared at the scalpel. Feeling the cold sting of it as it made contact with her hairline...

Then suddenly...

there was light...

there was sound...

voices, lots of voices...

something like firecrackers at the Fourth of July...


lots of movement...

She kept screaming in terror, her heart pounding in her throat, her body convulsing, trying to get away from the vision of the scalpel descending... Finally, blissfully sinking away in unconsciousness to escape the terror of her own gruesome death.


The agents moved down the narrow, darkened staircase single-file, the tac lights and red lasers casting ghostly shadows all around them. Judging from the length of the staircase, it went down one floor. For security reasons, the lead agent had cut his team in two, leaving a number of agents in the penthouse aparment. Coming to a stop at the end of the staircase, another steel door barred them further entry. Working quickly, the 2IC pulled a black-coated Mossberg M590 tactical shotgun from his back, aiming it at the upper hinge. After a nod from the team leader, he fired, the sound of the discharge deafening as it rolled off the walls. Pulling the slide back even as the steel of the door and the wooden frame around it were shredded, the agent lowered the shotgun, aligning it with the lower hinge and fired again.

Not even waiting for the noise to die down, the lead agent smashed his right shoulder into the door, making it fly backwards into the room, crashing to the floor. As he jumped inside, the sight that greeted him nearly sent him into an uncheckable rage. A young girl, barely a teenager, bolted to a table and the freak standing next to it, ready to gut her with the surgical scalpel in his hand.

Time seemed to slow down as he watched the girl's captor throw the knife his way. Ducking slightly, he swung the MP5 upwards, the red laserdot connecting with his opponent but before he could order the man to stop or pull the trigger, he was thrown backwards against the wall, his chest feeling as if it had been kicked by a mule. Time sped up again and only then did he hear the sound of a gun discharging. Their quarry had pulled out a gun from under his smock and rapidly fired at the doorway, pinning the other agents there as he moved to another door.

"Harris! What the hell is going on there? Harris, answer me! Sandoz! Come in!"
"Harris's been shot! Send a med team up here, stat!"

Groaning in pain, Harris pushed his 2IC away, staggering forward and slamming into the other door, busting it off its hinges, surpressing the pain rushing through his chest.

"Belay the last message, team leader in pursuit of subject", Sandoz said, motioning the rest of the team to follow their leader. The rest of the entryteam had come downstairs, the medic quickly looking the girl over; finding her in good health, he radioed for the EMT's as he proceeded to cut her loose.

"All units! Subject is on foot, using secret passages! Watch those damn exits!", Sandoz screamed as he too took off after the other pursuing agents.

Harris ran, catching a glimpse of his quarry as it burst through a door; not stopping, he shouldered it open, coming up on another set of stairs, going up. Too late to stop his forward momentum, he could feel the heat of a bullet passing too close to his face for comfort. Falling forward, he fired the MP5 on full-auto, even as bullets kept raining down around him. Ignoring the sharp pain from his chest contacting the hard concrete steps, he surged upwards, taking steps two at a time and finally burst through the door, finding himself again in the same hallway his team had used to approach the penthouse. The wall opposite the hidden door stopped his forward momentum, knocking what breath he'd left out of him.

Bouncing off the wall, he was thrown against the closing door, saving his life as bullets ripped into the wall where he'd been only moments ago. The man turned his gun to the left, all the while pulling the trigger, the bullets ripping off fragments of wood panelling and rug. Without conscious thought, Harris depressed the trigger again, firing the remaining bullets of the clip in the general direction of his quarry.

Almost simultanuously, both weapons clicked on the last bullet, a deafening silence surrounding both men. Brown eyes behind a face mask met madness-tinted green ones. With a roar, the fugitive slammed his left shoulder into the wall next to him, a hidden panel coming loose and jumped in. Biting back a cry of pain and frustration, Harris got to his feet and ran to were his quarry had disappeared. Fury and adrenaline fueled his body as he jumped in headfirst, sliding down the steel chute, similar to waste disposal chutes in other buildings.

"One-Four to task force leader! Team Leader just jumped into some sort of chute."

The agent looked down the chute, trying to see where both men had gone as his comm-set crackled to life, the gravelly voice filled with frustration.

"Chute? What are you talking about?"
"There is a hidden waste disposal chute in the wall of the hallway, sir. This guy had it all figured out. Don't know where it ends."
"Goddamnit! Team 3 and 4, converge on the building! Get to the lobby and the cellar!"

A light up ahead announced the end of the dizzying slide and Harris prepared himself; jumping headfirst into a situation had always been his way, no need to go changing now. As his upper body emerged from the chute, he quickly put his hands on the floor, using them to contain his forward momentum, then pushing off as the rest of him cleared the chute, landing on his feet in a crouch. Looking around as he replaced the empty clip, he saw he was in what could be best described as a small storage room. Cleaning supplies, rags and all kinds of odds and ends were lying about, shelves everywhere. Hearing the click of a door closing, he ran towards it, nearly ripping the door off its hinges. The ping of an elevator opening caught his attention and he turned towards it.

For the first time, he got a good look at his quarry as their eyes met again for the second time. The stylishly cut black hair, aquiline nose, softly rounded chin and cheeks... The man could have stepped off any page of a GQ magazine. But it was the eyes that really caught his attention. The green eyes that glowed with madness and burning revenge. Revenge for being disturbed in his perceived safe haven. Revenge for not being able to finish his mad thirst for blood. He would make his hunter pay dearly for his interference. All of that was communicated through his eyes. Harris' face pulled taught, his eyes narrowing as time slowed down again. With an uneartly roar, he moved forward, the MP5 bucking in his hands as the bullets spit forward, slamming into the back of the elevator and making dents into the steel of the closing doors.


"We've got automatic weapons fire on the 7th floor", the voice said through the comm-link.
"Team One and Two, converge on the 7th. Three, cover the 5th and 6th floor.


The lead agent cursed under his breath, knowing that again, his quarry had outsmarted them. He knew they couldn't shut down all the elevators in the building for fear of warning him. Standard Operating Procedure would dictate that only those elevators that went to the floor on which the suspect was believed to be, would be shut down. Pressing the buttons for the other three elevators, he spotted the windows looking out on the front of the building. Running towards them, he fired several rounds through the safety glass, shattering it. Removing the nylon rope from around his shoulders, he quickly tied off one end to the steel window frame, throwing the rest out of the window. Buckling it to the D-rings of his rappeling gear, he leaped headfirst out of the window. The rope pulled taught, as his feet managed to catch grip on the surface of the building and he began to run down the side of the building. Within seconds, Harris was standing on the ground, the few people outside looking on in fright at the black-clad figure who'd appeared like a ghost out of thin air. Immediately, several guns were trained on him as the officers of Team Four turned around to face the new threat. Just then, the elevator chime sounded and the doors opened.


As the doors opened, he could see his hunter standing outside, the weapons of his collegues pointed at him. Moving quickly he grabbed a frightened young woman, who'd been staring at the scene with suspended disbelief. Wrapping an arm around her neck, he raised his gun as his hunter screamed something that caused the other police officers to turn around. Maniacal laughter echoed in his head as he opened fire indiscriminately, the people around him running for cover. Counting off the rounds he'd fired, he removed his left arm from around the woman's throat, replacing it with his gun arm, the left hand plunging in his coat pocket and removing a fresh clip. Before anyone had time to react, he'd ejected the spent clip and slammed the fresh one into the gun, his left arm again wrapping around the woman's throat.

She smelled divine, the fear running through her system filling his nostrils like the finest jasmine in bloom. Running his nose along her slender neck, he inhaled deeply as he jammed the barrel under her chin. Crouching behind her, he began walking towards the entrance of the lobby, all the while grinning madly.


Harris slowly stepped backwards as the suspect and his hostage made their way towards the street. The other officers held their guns aimed at the suspect, trying to get a good shot, waiting for that one split-second opportunity.

"Everybody hold their fire. Suspect has a hostage. I repeat, suspect has hostage, hold your fire", Harris spat, as his eyes held those of his quarry.

"You really thought you could catch me, officer? You're not smart enough", he laughed as he stood facing his hunter. "I'm walking out of here and there is nothing you can do about it, absolutely nothing."

Harris didn't say a word as he watched the suspect walk backwards, he just matched him step for step, keeping the distance between them the same. The cat-and-mouse-game continued, as he kept on prattling, expounding on his brilliance and cleverness, taunting Harris and every other police officer and agent, until he had broken through the ring of law enforcement officers. Suddenly pushing his hostage towards Harris, the suspect broke into a run, all the while firing backwards. Harris managed to catch the woman, pushing her to the ground without a word and started to run after his quarry again, pulling out his KZ-45 .45 handgun.

The suspect shoved his way through the crowd at the entrance to the Marriot Hotel on State Street, rushing into the lobby amidst screams of fright and indignation. Reaching the bank of elevators, he rushed into one just as a couple emerged from the opening doors. Slamming his gun hand into the man's face, he pulled the woman inside with him as her male companion slumped to the floor, blood pouring from his head wound.

Cursing as he couldn't get a clear shot with all the panicking people around, Harris ran towards the bank of elevators, a Boston PD SWAT member on his heels. Jumping into an arriving elevator, he began pushing people out.

"Where is he now?"
"Third floor and heading up!"
"Watch where he stops and radio it through", he yelled back to the police officer as he slammed his finger on the button to close the doors.

Thoughts ran rampant through his mind, alternative scenarios colliding with each other as he reviewed the suspect's profile.

'The roof. The bastard is heading for the roof', he realized as the elevator headed up; moments later his suspicion was confirmed as the officer in the hotel's lobby radioed that the suspect's elevator had indeed stopped at the 7th floor. Not waiting for the doors to completely open, Harris ran out, his eyes searching for the fire escape doors on the 6th floor. Rapidly ascending the steps, he burst through the doors, his eyes zeroing in on the crumpled form of the woman. Kneeling next to her, he quickly checked her for injuries. Finding none, he roughly shook her.

"Where did he go? Where did he go?"

Sobbing, she motioned behind her, another emergency exit visible in the corner. Without a second's thought, Harris jumped up and stepped into the stairway, his gun waving around, as his ears tried to catch any sounds. The air was cooler, almost as if cool air from outside had been let in. With a determined grunt, he jumped up the last flight of stairs, barreling through the door, onto the roof. He could almost feel the bullets rushing past him as his ears resounded with the sound of gunfire. Rolling forward to keep his momentum, he returned fire towards where he thought the shots had come from.

Lying flat on his stomach, he looked around, his ears listening for any telltale sounds. The only thing he could hear was the soft sound of the rain as it hit every surface, mixed with the sound of night-time traffic in the city and the crackling of police radioes in the distance. Harris slowly got up into a crouch and began making his way forward, the gun in front of him, turning with his eyes, both an extension of the other.

A light scratching sound alerted him as he came up to a roof-mounted heating exhaust, making him jump and roll, coming up in a crouched position as his gun trained on the area. He saw a flash of the suspect's head as it went down the sloped side of the hotel's exterior and ran towards the edge of the roof. Cursing under his breath, he jumped to follow, grabbing the nylon cable, attached with steel O-rings to the angled sides of the building.

The suspect suddenly slowed down and swung sideways, into one of the open balconies. Harris approached the same spot rapidly, just as two bright flashes shattered the darkness of the night, the bullets chipping away the concrete around him. The sound of breaking glass and screams echoed through the night as he too jumped down onto the balcony and ran through the smashed sliding door, not even looking at the terrified couple in the bed.


'Must get out of here! Cannot let them catch me. They don't understand! I'm an artist!'

These thoughts ran through his mind as he ran down the 4th floor hallway, his clothes soaked to the bone and ripped from when he'd slid down the side of the building. His fingers were bleeding, leaving grotesque prints on the wall as he tried to catch his breath. Hearing the door he'd come through only moments ago, crash open, he ran towards the emergency exit, jumping down the short flights of stairs and bursting out on the 3th floor. Turning around on unsteady legs, he saw that both sides of the restaurant's entrances were covered by police officers, screaming for him to drop his weapon and surrender.

'No! I won't... I can't... No surrender! My work! All my precious work! It can't be for nothing! I won't let it! You hear me? I won't let you take away my work and make it meaningless! It's not meaningless! You bastards!'

With a roar of defiance he fired shots towards both sides of him, then ran straight for the large windows, as hotel guests and employees scattered out of his way, effectively blocking him from view. He didn't stop, letting his momentum propel him forward, smashing through the 3rd story window into the rainy night.


Pushing and pulling scared, stumbling people out of his way, Agent Harris fought his way to the broken window, not even sparing a glance as he jumped feet first, out into the rainy night. Coming down, he let his weight bend his legs together, falling towards the side, letting the rest of his body take and cushion the impact. Immediately rolling over his back, he sprung up into a low crouch, the MP5's powerful Xenon-tac light turning a complete half-circle. Almost immediately, it caught sight of its quarry, the figure stumbling towards the docks and the boats that would lead it to freedom.

Suppressing the pain in his chest with a groan, Harris got up, running after the suspect unsteadily. With each step, his strides gained more power, the adrenaline flowing through his system, fueling the building rage. The gun didn't waver from its target as he closed in, his footsteps echoing impossibly loud from the wooden planks. The bastard wouldn't get away. Not after what he'd seen moments after stepping into that chamber of horrors.


Tourboats were lined up along the slip as he made his way forward. There, at the end, his salvation awaited. A fast, powerful boat, ready to take him away from his pursuers, those that didn't understand his genius. Then, he would show them! Every single one of them would receive a personal introduction to his genius. Yes! They would become his next works of wonder. His greatest triumph! He could see it all so clearly now. Using his last bit of strength, he started running, his injuries making his body flap around awkwardly. Almost there... Almost there... Almost to freedom...


He pulled the trigger, the bullets ripping up the wooden planks beneath the suspect's feet, chewing into his soles and throwing him to the ground. The man turned onto his back, his gun aiming death center of mass, his index finger applying just the right amount of pressure to start the hammer's backward's travel, before striking the bullet's primer.

Using his left foot, Agent Harris kicked the suspect's gun away from its intended target, the shot ringing through the night, the bullet embedding itself into the side of one of the tourboats. Both agent and suspect were breathing hard as the rain kept coming down. Pulling the helmet off, he threw it to the side; next, he removed the empty clip, replacing it with a full one and sighted the gun at the suspect, turning off the tac light.

The suspect looked up into the face of his pursuer, seeing nothing but intense coldness in the dark orbs of his eyes. Nothing but the fire of death superimposed on ice, colder then the iciest glacier. And then it started. Laughter bubbled up from somewhere deep inside of him. Mad laughter as he realized his reign of terror was at an end. His body convulsed with maniacal laughter, almost rolling him off the slip into the murky water of Boston Harbor.

"You have the right to remain silent and refuse to answer questions."


The first shot impacted next to his left ear, showering him with wood chips, drowning out his laughter.

"Anything you do say can and will be used against you in a court of law."


The second shot scratched his right cheek before digging into the plank, choking off his laughter, his eyes going impossibly wide.

"You have the right to consult an attorney before speaking to the police and to have an attorney present during questioning now or in the future."


The third shot hit the wooden plank, directly next to his elbow, wooden splinters embedding themselves into his skin. Fear, real fear began to fill his crazed mind as he tried to backpedal, using his feet to push him away from this madman standing over him.

"If you cannot afford an attorney, one will be appointed for you before any questioning if you wish."


The fourth bullet nicked the skin on the left side of his neck, a small stream of blood splashing out as he screamed in fear.

"Stop it! Stop shooting! I give up! Don't shoot me! Please don't kill me!"

"If you decide to answer questions now without an attorney present you will still have the right to stop answering at any time until you talk to an attorney."


The fifth bullet passed so close to his head, he could feel the buzzing in his skull as wood chips rained down on his face.

"I have money! Lots of money! Just let me go! Please, just let me go!"

"Knowing and understanding your rights as I have explained them to you, are you willing to answer my
questions without an attorney present?"

The gun slowly moved sideways, until the barrel rested in a perfect line to the head of the suspect.

"Damn it! He's out of the hotel", Bailey Malone said gruffly as he finished talking on the radio.

"Where is Alex?"

"He went out the window, after the suspect. Seems they've taken off to the slips near the hotel. John, stay here and coordinate with the locals", he ordered as he ran off towards the pier, Rachel falling into step with him.

"I just hope we're not too late."
"What's that supposed to mean, Bailey?"

Malone turned to the redhead running next to him.

"You tell me, you're his best friend. This case has been giving him nightmares for weeks. I've seen men near the edge before, Rachel and right now, he's just about ready to topple over."
"Let's go."

Rachel picked up the pace as they reached the boating slips, her eyes searching for any sign of her partner and friend. Bailey's words had scared her. It wasn't that she didn't believe he had any evidence for them. It was because she knew he was right. Even before this case, Alex had been sullen, withdrawn and irritable. He'd always been a quiet, reflective person, at least since she'd known him. Her instincts had told her that it wasn't his usual demeanor and she'd tried to get to know him. While not succeeding to draw the real Alexander Harris out, they did become fast friends. But lately, it seemed he was slipping deeper into whatever pit of despair he carried within him. Bailey was right, they had to get to him before he did something.

The sound of gunfire pulled her from her thoughts, her eyes focusing on the area the sound came from. Both agents set off on a run towards the two figures there. Snippets of words were carried to their ears over their pounding feet, sounding suspiciously like the Miranda rights. Sending a quick Thank You to the heavens, Rachel slowed down. Until the last sentence rang in her ears, sending a blood curdling chill through her body as time seemed to slow down around her.

"Finally, you have the right to die, so others may live free from the disease you spread."

"Alex, no!"

She didn't know who shouted those two words. It couldn't be her. Her voice couldn't sound so full of fear. Coming to a stop near the agent and the suspect, Rachel's eyes took in the scene before her. It couldn't be real, yet it was. Her mouth was moving, words were coming out of it. Words she couldn't seem to understand herself. Her mind seemed to have taken leave. Comprehension had gone.


"Alex, don't do it!", Rachel Burke shouted over the pounding of the rain.
"Put the gun down, Harris. You don't want to shoot him.", Bailey Malone added as he and the red-headed profiler slowly advanced on the two men, their weapons drawn, barrels aimed at the ground.

"See? Now they're going to follow the age-old cliche of trying to talk the cop down. Try to make him see that if he pulls the trigger, he is no better then the scum he's taking down", Harris stated casually as he kept the MP5 trained on the suspect.

"I tell you, every cop show has at least one episode where something like this happens. And they always manage to get the frustrated cop to give up and put down their gun. It's just not realistic, you know? I mean, what happens if I don't kill you right now? Let's see. Those clothes your wearing? They cost at least twice as much as I make in a month. That watch? Heh, it'd take me a year's salary just to buy it. Obviously, you've got money. So what does that mean?

It means you'll get the best lawyer money can buy. You or your family is well-connected, so they'll call in favors. Your lawyer will spin the truth so much, he'll have the jury thinking your victims death was a good thing for society. You'll probably get maybe two years in a max security mental hospital because you're 'mentally unstable' because of trappings of your life and your demanding parents screwed up your perceptions. Then be paroled and shipped to some minimal security country club sanatorium for a few months and then hit the streets again, completely cured. And what happens then? Come on, tell me."

Harris kicked the suspect hard in the ribs as he asked the question.

"Tell me! You murdering bastard! Tell me!"

Harris kicked him again and again as he screamed out the questions, before calming down a bit, the gun still aimed at the suspect's head.

"Fine, be that way. Doesn't matter, I'll tell it for you. When you get out, you'll start again. You're going to find a nice secluded place where no one can find it. Then you're going to kidnap those young girls again and start your slicing and dicing routine again", he continued in a conversational tone, as if he was talking about what groceries he was going to buy.

"Alex, he is not worth it", Rachel said softly. "Yes, it may sound cliche, but don't pull the trigger. He'll be death and you'll be in jail for murder. What kind of justice is that?"

"Justice? That isn't justice, Rachel and you know it. Killing this freak is justice. Killing this monster who did what he did to all those kids is justice. Pulling the trigger and ending his pathetic existence would constitute breaking the law and administering justice. Another paradox for the philosophers to ponder, don't you agree? Just like the chicken and the egg."

"Harris, the moment you pull that trigger, you become him. I've been there. I know."

"Really, Malone? What is this? Another one of your wisdoms from the old days? Another story about 'Nam? This freak kidnapped kids and cut them to pieces, placing their body parts into jars like they were specimens in a lab. What do you think his lawyer is gonna claim, huh? Multiple personality disorder? Or some other kind of mental illness. He's going to have the best minds money can buy parading like a flock of geese on the stand, scrambling our minds so badly that by the end, we'll be thinking we're the ones that killed those girls."

Rachel pushed Bailey's gun down, softly shaking her head at him as she stepped closer to her friend and partner.

"Alex, right now, you're on the edge. You kill him, you will slip into the darkness. Once you're in there, it becomes a vicious circle. One you can't escape anymore. You'll become what he is. A murderer. No matter what else you have been, or will become, you don't want to become that. I know it, you know it. You, of all the people I know, have a greater understanding of that darkness. You've seen it up close. You've felt it. You've fought against it for years. Do you really want to immerse your soul into that pit? Do you really want to give yourself over to its darkness? Think long and hard about it, Alex, because once you take that first step, getting back is impossible. If it is what you really want, kill him and step out of the light. Become what you've always despised. If it's what you really want, I'm not going to stop you, Alex. But remember that it's the easy way out. The coward's way."


The suspect's labored breathing had slowed to near normal levels as he saw the fire and ice in his pursuer's eyes slowly begin to ebb, the words from his friends seemingly taking effect. He began to rejoice, victory was at hand. He would live and continue his magnificent works of art. Even if he would be locked up for a while, it was worth it. Wasn't Columbus ridiculed for years, until he discovered the West-Indies? Weren't all the great artists scoffed at during their life, only to have their works admired as genius by the generations that followed them? He would bide his time and then, he would regain his position among them. Millions upon millions would see his works and be hit by their magnificence. He would get the adulation he so richly deserved. Oh yes, they would clamor around him like they did with Andy Warhol. And his tormentor would be the first one to exclaim his awe and adoration for him. Yes, he would.

And he already had the perfect canvas for his next creation. This heavenly creature with the hair of spun copper, she would be the crowning glory of his work when he was finished. And then everyone would bow to his genius. He would show them. He would show them all.


Harris let Rachel's words sink in... stirring a memory... an echo from the past. Raven tresses framing a soft face with full lips, perpetually adorned with a sexy, enticing smirk. Dark, smokey eyes that could turn you into a quivering mass of mush. But he'd seen behind what was hidden behind those eyes. And he had done nothing about it. Only when it was too late did he try and salvage what was left. But it had been too late and they had all paid the price.

Now he was on that same edge. That same point of no return. He knew, intimately, the pain it would cause if he stepped over it. The abyss of despair he would inflict upon his friends. Could he willingly live with himself if he did that to them? She couldn't. She didn't. She'd craved death. Actively sought it, to release herself from all the pain she'd caused others. Wanting to die to make all the pain, the hurting stop. To find some semblance of peace, of rest. Taking a shuddering breath, he bend down, turning the suspect onto his belly and slapped the cuffs on him, tightening then as hard as possible, then lifting him up and pushing him forward.

"Get this freak out of here before I change my mind", he said harshly before walking away, leaving his friends breathing a sigh of relief.


Walking up to the gathered vehicles, Bailey and Rachel spotted John Grant, the other member of their team, with a sick look on his face, leaning against on of the SUV's.

"You look a little green around the gills, John. How bad is it?"
"Bailey, if they need volunteers to turn the switch, put me on the list."
"That bad?"
"Worse. Way worse."

John took a moment to gather his wits about him, then recounted what he'd found out so far.

"There is no question as to whether or not we have our perp. We've found the 10 missing girls. Or rather, what's left of them."
"What's left of them?"
"Yes, Rachel, what's left of them. This guy is the sickest bastard we've ever trailed. 10 jars. 10 jars with their heads on alcohol! He cut off their hair, complete with the skin! He just cut the skin then ripped it off by the hair, cleaned and prepared it and put it on mannequins. He cut off their heads and placed them into those jars. He did it while they were alive, Rachel. They felt everything. Everything. Those faces... They hold such horror..."

John couldn't continue, taking deep breaths to stop the feeling of nausea from overwhelming him. The chamber of horrors he'd just witnessed would haunt him for the rest of his life. Not even when they were pursuing Jack-of-all-trades had he seen such madness as displayed today.

"John, Grace is up there?"

Nodding affirmative to Bailey's question, Grant pushed himself off the SUV and walked over to talk to some of the Boston office agents. Bailey and Rachel looked at each other, their gazes speaking volumes. Steeling themselves, they started for the building.



Malone's voice cut through pathologist's thoughts, alerting her to the presence of the VCTF's commander. Meeting his gaze, she took a deep breath, trying to calm her frayed nerves and the feeling of nausea.

"Hey, Rachel, Bailey."
"What have we got?"
"Well, his latest victim is sedated and or her way to the hospital. Poor girl will probably have nightmares for the rest of her life. I'm going to recommend to the attending physicians to have the best psychiatrist assigned to work with her."

Motioning around the sterile room, Grace continued.

"Well, our perp certainly knows his way around medical equipment. All of this is state-of-the-art. But instead of playing doctor, he was into practicing vivisection."

Following her gaze, Malone and Rachel saw the reason for John's sickly look and the tremble in Grace's voice. Staring back at them, were two rows of large glass jars, human heads floating inside the alcohol solution. The mouths were opened in grotesque displays, eyes bulging, as if the victims died screaming their lungs out. Rachel had a feeling that wasn't far from the truth here. Feeling the bile rise in her throat, she quickly turned away from the display, only to be greeted by a cart filled with jars containing other bodyparts. The agents cataloguing them had sickened looks on their faces and Rachel had a feeling a lot more people then the rescued girl were going to have nightmare or need counseling. Grace's voice broke into her musings.

"We've just started cataloguing everything but I'm confident that we'll be able to match everything up. There's a nice computer database here that I'm sure George is going to have a field day with. Our forensics team is already going over everything with a fine tooth comb. This is a slamdunk, Bailey."
"Yeah, although Alex thinks otherwise."
"What do you mean?"
"He thinks our perp is gonna walk with just a slap on the wrist."
"Because he's rich, white, successful and from one of Boston's oldest families? I think he might be right."

Bailey walked off to confer with some of the agents on the scene as Rachel came to stand next to the team's pathologist.

"Alex almost snapped down there, Grace. He was moments away from killing him."
"He probably should have."
"Grace, I'm serious!"
"I know you are and I'll say it again. He probably should have. This guy, he's a monster! Take a look around you and tell me if I'm not right. Alex is right, this guy is not gonna get the chair, or an injection or life times 10. We'll be lucky if he spends more then 3 years in some federal country club."

Looking bewildered at her friend, Rachel Burke reached out a hand, touching Grace's shoulder, squeezing softly.

"I'm sorry. It's just... I'm looking at all of this and it hits me. What if it had been one of my kids? I'd go crazy. Now, I've got to tell 10 families that their children aren't going to come home anymore. And I'm thinking, what if one of these days, that is going to happen to me? That some police officer is going to come to my house and tell me that one of my children is dead?"
"I can sympathize. It's never easy. At least, most of the time, you have the knowledge that they didn't suffer much at all. but here..."
"Their minds were probably completely gone by the time he was halfway through getting his jollies. The pain must have been so intense, the brain just shut down, allowing only the most basic operations like trying to breath. God, I hope their hearts gave out long before that. Nobody deserves to go like that."

The two women stood there for several moments, thinking about the trials ahead as they cleared up this case.

"I'm finished here", Grace stated with a shaky voice, removing her gloves. "Forensics will bag everything and send it to the lab at Langley."
"Let's get out of here, then. This place ..."
"Yeah, I know. Me too."

Walking out of the apartment, the two women headed for the elevator, passing several FBI agents and local police officers. Stepping inside, they waited until the doors closed.

"How is Alex?"
"Physically, fine, even if he took two bullets in the chest."
"Whoever invented the vest should get a medal. And mentally?"

Rachel Burke took a moment to gather her thoughts before responding.

"Mentally, he's nearing the breaking point. I told you, he almost shot the bastard. If Bailey and I hadn't shown up, he would be in cuffs right now."
"I've never seen him bite into an investigation as he did with this one. I doubt he got more then 8 hours sleep during the past few weeks. It's almost like this thing touched him personally."
"Yes. I asked him about that. All he said was that he wanted to give closure to the families. It's like he knows how it feels to lose someone and not know whether they're alive or not. If they're safe somewhere or lying in a ditch."
"He needs to rest, get a grip on everything. Maybe talk about it with someone he trusts."

Rachel turned towards her friend, giving Grace a wry smile.

"Nice one, doc. But you're right. He's on the edge, teetering and ready to fall over. I've never seen him like this and I've known him for over 9 years now and tonight it was like looking into a black hole. I have never been so scared."
"Then I suggest you get out there and save him, girl."
"I intend to. I don't have a boatload of friends and I sure as hell am not going to lose this one."