As midnight approached, Hotch began to move his team into position. Most of the Phoenix PD were gravitating towards the North Tower where it was believed Caleb was going to launch an attack. Meanwhile, a smaller group—led by Morgan and Prentiss—headed towards the South Tower in an attempt to secretly infiltrate the compound. In the back of their minds, everyone knew this was going to be a difficult extraction, especially considering the fact that other than Caleb, it was unclear if anyone else living in this compound was an adult. And no one felt good about having to fire on children, even if they were carrying weapons.
With moments to go before midnight, Morgan, Prentiss, and their small team were lying in wait, watching for the last of the guards at the window to disappear farther into the house. Attempting to stay as much in the shadows as possible (a feat that was easier said than done), Morgan silently gestured to the officers to flank out, half behind him, half behind Prentiss. As the last child left the window, Morgan waited a full minute before signaling the others forward.
Two officers came forward with a large battering ram and beat the door down in just one swing. Morgan and Prentiss led the fray as they entered the compound, weapons drawn though (thankfully) not meeting anyone. Remaining quiet just in case their presence hadn’t been discovered yet, Morgan ordered several of the officers to check down one hallway while he and Prentiss headed down another.
“You think they’ll have the kids down here?” Prentiss asked in a low voice, standing shoulder to shoulder with Morgan, covering his back.
“It’s a safe bet,” Morgan replied. “If they were planning to lay a siege on the North side of the compound, Caleb would want the kids as far away from all the action as possible.”
“And what about Allyson?” Prentiss asked, and Morgan didn’t respond right away. Something in his gut told him that there was a good chance Caleb would keep Allyson close to himself as a human shield. He knew that they were coming in for her, and he wouldn’t waste an opportunity to exploit his leverage as long as he could.
That is…if he hadn’t already killed her.
“Morgan, look.” Prentiss motioned with her flashlight to a door up ahead, light pouring out of the bottom of it. Faintly, they could hear what sounded like dozens of voices on the other side, all speaking in hushed, frightened tones. Several of the voices even sounded like they were crying, while others were attempting to soothe them. Morgan put his hand on the doorknob, glanced once more at Prentiss, and pushed the door open.
They were instantly met with nearly two dozen pairs of eyes, all staring widely at them. After quickly assessing that the room was free of hostiles (no one in the room looked older than twelve), Morgan and Prentiss quickly holstered their guns so as not to frighten the smaller children (although by the looks on their faces, they were already past the frightened stage).
“It’s all right,” Morgan said. “You’re safe. All right? We’re going to get you out of here.”
“Don’t listen to them! They’re trying to take you all away from here!” A voice had popped up in the back from a girl who clearly looked to be the oldest in the room. Morgan instantly recognized her as Annabel Lewis, the first girl to go missing from this immediate area.
“It’s not safe for you all here anymore,” Morgan said. “And we know all of your parents are very worried about you. We want to take you back home to them.”
Annabel scoffed. “You don’t understand anything, do you? There’s a reason why we’re all here in the first place. It’s because we don’t want to go home.”
“It’s because Caleb promised you something,” Morgan replied. “He said that he could give you the family that you desperately needed. Didn’t he?”
“He did,” Annabel said. “And he has. We’ve known nothing here but love and happiness. Caleb and Mallory care for us like their own.”
“And what happens when Mallory’s baby is born?” Prentiss asked. “What happens when Caleb realizes that his own child means more to him than any of you?” She looked straight into Annabel’s eyes as she added, “What happens when he realizes he wants more?”
Tears leaked out of Annabel’s eyes. “Caleb would never…not after what…what he knows…”
Prentiss stepped forward. “Annabel, I know what your father did to you. And I know you felt betrayed when your mother took his side. I understand. But she did it because she was scared. Because she thought that making him happy would stop him from hurting you. And I know that’s not the best excuse, but I spoke with her. And not a day goes by where she doesn’t wish she could take it all back. And she misses you. So much.”
Annabel opened her mouth to refute, but was quickly overcome with sobs, sinking to the ground. Two of the younger children instantly raced to her side to comfort her. A young girl no older than eight, and a boy who looked very much like Quentin Mays. Morgan saw many of the children looking from Annabel to himself and Prentiss, apparently unsure what to think right now.
“I know you’re scared,” he told the crowd. “And I know Caleb may have treated you all well. But you aren’t safe here anymore. He’s hurt children in the past. And he will do it again.”
He knew it was harsh to display such an awful truth to such small, innocent minds, but they needed to know that this wasn’t the place for them to be. Their parents needed them home. They needed to be back into a safe and secure environment, not being watched over by a raging sociopath.
“Is that what happened to Jeremy?” This time, the question came from a small girl near the middle of the room. Morgan recognized her as Kaylee Adams, the youngest to go missing in the past year. “Jeremy wasn’t at dinner last night. Micah said he was going to the ‘Special Place.’”
Morgan made his way into the room and knelt down so that he and Kaylee were eye-level. “Can you tell me where this ‘Special Place’ is?” he asked.
“We aren’t allowed down there,” said a young, freckle-faced boy. “Caleb’s number one rule is to never go in the basement. That’s the ‘Special Place.’”
“No one ever comes back from it,” Quentin piped up, still attempting to calm down Annabel. “But Caleb says it’s better that way. They go on to a better place.”
Morgan closed his eyes briefly before glancing up at Prentiss. He turned back to the kids, addressing the room as a whole again. “If you all come with us, you won’t have to worry about this ‘Special Place’ anymore. We will make sure nothing bad happens to any of you. Can you trust us?”
His eyes scanned the room briefly before landing on Annabel in the back. As the oldest in the room, he felt like she was the ringleader. If they could convince her, they could convince the others to come. Slowly, she got to her feet, wiping the last of the tears from her eyes, and taking several steps towards Morgan. Her gaze, however, fell on Prentiss.
“My father will never touch me again,” she said. It was more of a statement than a question, and Prentiss nodded in response.
“I will personally make sure of it,” she said.
Annabel paused for a moment, but finally nodded and turned to the others. “Let’s go,” she said, before heading towards the door. One by one, the children got to their feet and followed suit, some of them still looking unsure, grasping the hands of their friends as a comfort. Morgan ordered two of the Phoenix PD to escort them outside before turning back to Prentiss.
“You thinking what I’m thinking?” he asked.
Prentiss sighed. “Yeah. And part of me hopes that I’m not completely right.”
Consciousness was coming in slow ebbs and waves as Allyson struggled to stay awake. Aubrey’s cries were still echoing in her ears, as if the poor child was being tortured right in front of her. The entire right side of her body throbbed from where she had hit the floor, but she barely had enough strength left to care anymore. If that girl died because of her, how the hell was she supposed to live with herself? How was she going to be able to face the team after what she had allowed to happen? No one was supposed to get hurt. No one save for her, that is.
A call sounded from what seemed like a mile away. But everything sounded far away in Allyson’s addled brain right now. Not only that, but she knew she had to be hallucinating. Because that voice sounded way too much like Morgan’s. And there was no way that Morgan was actually here; that he was actually coming to save her.
There it was again. Only this time, it sounded closer and clearer. Not like he was off in some distant field miles away, but rather like he was right outside the door of her cell. He sounded worried, like he was looking for her. Would he think to check this room?
“M-Morgan…” Allyson choked out, not even certain if her voice was audible at this point. She was so tired. Every part of her body was screaming at her to just succumb to the exhaustion and pass out, even for just a few minutes. But she couldn’t. Not until she knew that Aubrey was okay.
The door at the end of the hall flew open, and Allyson fought to adjust her eyes to see two figures advancing on her. Next second, Prentiss’ face came into her line of vision as Morgan retreated behind her, pulling a switchblade from his pocket.
“Ally? Can you hear me?” She had never heard Emily’s voice sound quite so concerned. Doesn’t she realize I’m not the one she should be concerned about right now? Allyson thought. There were plenty of people in here who needed their help more than her.
The ropes around her wrists suddenly fell away, bringing both relief and pain as blood rushed back to her hands, her bruised wrists throbbing. Morgan’s face quickly replaced Prentiss’ as he cupped her head in his hands.
“Stay with me, Ally. Come on. There we go. We got you, Street Fighter. You’re okay.”
Again, not the problem right now, Allyson thought, attempting to push herself into a sitting position, Morgan and Prentiss quick to assist her.
“He took her,” she said, attempting to shake off the last of the exhaustion and force her brain to focus. “Caleb took Aubrey. We can’t let him kill her. We can’t.”
“We won’t,” Morgan said, grabbing her under the arm and easing her to her feet. “But we need to get you to the medics—”
But Allyson was shaking her head before he even finished that sentence. “No. No, I’m fine. We have to get her first. She was trying to help me.”
Morgan and Prentiss exchanged looks, each of them knowing exactly where she was coming from with this. They nodded and headed towards the stairs. Morgan had placed one of Allyson’s arms around his shoulders—an act which she initially had declined, but after her legs began shaking violently with her first few steps, she reluctantly accepted it—and the followed Prentiss out of the room.
“What about the others?” Allyson asked.
“Hotch’s team is attempting to take out most of their weapons on the other side,” Prentiss explained.
Allyson felt a small smile creep up her face. Spence got my message, she thought happily. “How about the kids? The younger ones?”
“We found them,” Morgan replied. “Phoenix PD took them out. They’re okay.”
All except Aubrey, Allyson thought bitterly, fighting through the pain and forcing her body to move faster. They made their way through Caleb’s study and, just as they were attempting to determine where to head next, the three agents heard screaming coming from the left hallway which led to the main room of the house.
As they emerged into the room, Prentiss and Morgan instantly drew their guns (Allyson wishing more than ever that she had a weapon of her own right now) as they caught sight of Caleb, one arm holding Aubrey in front of him, the other pointing the barrel of his gun straight at her temple.
“Let her go, Caleb!” Prentiss shouted. “It’s over!”
Caleb shook his head. “Oh Agent, it was over long before it started. You think you won? You think by taking my children away from a place they feel safe is a victory?”
“And how many more children were going to have to die before they learned how ‘safe’ this place actually is?” Morgan asked.
“I did what had to be done to protect my family!” Caleb shouted. “I know what’s best for my children! I’m a good father!”
“Is that what you told the court when they took Christopher away from you?” Morgan asked.
“How about when they accused you of murdering Sandra?” Prentiss added.
The hand holding the gun began to shake violently against Aubrey’s temple. Fury was rising up inside Caleb. “I didn’t kill my wife!”
“She was going to take your family away,” Morgan said. “You said it yourself. You do whatever it takes to protect your family.”
“Caleb, Aubrey is not at fault here,” Allyson added. “Take your beef out on me. I’m the one at fault here.”
Caleb shook his head. “I’m not going to prison,” he said. “You can’t put me in there. I won’t go!”
He had barely raised his hand before Prentiss’ gun exploded, striking him right between his eyes. Aubrey stood frozen in fear, looking as though she was unable to cry out of pure shock as Caleb’s body fell to the floor. Allyson beckoned the frightened girl forward, taking her in her arms as another scream rang through the room.
Mallory, who had evidently been hiding in the back corner, now raced to the center of the room, kneeling beside the body of her husband, sobs wracking her body as she laid her head against his motionless chest. In a sense, Allyson felt pity for the poor girl. She’d spent ten years being brainwashed by this psychopath. Hell, she was even carrying his child. He was the greatest thing that had ever happened to her. And now he was gone. Allyson almost felt sorry for him.
“Take her outside,” Allyson said, handing Aubrey over to Prentiss. As much as she wanted to escort her would-be savior out, she could feel the exhaustion taking over again. The adrenaline rush she’d gotten staring down Caleb was fading fast. And given the fact that Morgan would probably need to escort Mallory out, she would need all the limited strength she had left.
However, as Prentiss led Aubrey away, Allyson suddenly saw Morgan pick his gun up again. She turned to see that Mallory had grabbed Caleb’s weapon out of his hand and was now pointing it at the two agents, her eyes red and her face tear-stained.
“Mallory, you don’t want to do this,” Allyson said, holding her hands up in surrender.
“He was my everything,” Mallory choked out. “And you took him away.”
“Mallory, just put the gun down,” Morgan said, and out of the corner of her eye, Allyson saw him hesitate slightly. She knew he didn’t want to shoot a pregnant girl.
“We were just trying to help them,” Mallory whispered, fighting back a sob. “We just wanted a family. Our family.”
“You can still have that,” Allyson said, chancing it and taking a step or two forward. “Think about your baby, Mallory. Caleb will live on in your child. He will be your child and no one will ever take that away from you.”
Mallory shook his head. “He won’t have a father. Every child needs their father.”
“He has you,” Allyson replied. “And you will love him and care for him better than anyone. And no one is going to take that away from you. You understand me?”
For a second, for one split second, it seemed as if things were going to end okay. Though Mallory still had the gun pointed at them, her tears had temporarily taken over as she put her other hand to her swollen belly, caressing the area where the fetus was napping. For a second, Allyson could see the motherly instinct take over as she imagined holding this baby in her arms, loving it, nurturing it. She didn’t need Caleb for that. He wouldn’t love this child like she would.
However, that second ended as abruptly as it started as all traces of warmth faded from Mallory’s face as she looked the two of them square in the eye. “I love you, Caleb,” she whispered.
The explosion that followed seemed amplified. Morgan had fired a shot, striking Mallory in the shoulder and causing her to instantly collapse to the floor, screaming and crying in pain. But not, however, before she had managed to get a shot off herself. Not before the bullet from her gun had a chance to sail the short distance between them before settling itself right in the middle of Allyson’s stomach.
For a moment, time stood still as she looked down at the red stain growing ever larger across her abdomen. Everything seemed to stop at that moment. She couldn’t hear Morgan screaming her name. She couldn’t feel the pain that was no doubt radiating through her body at this moment. She couldn’t even feel the floor as it rushed up to meet her. All she could see were the lights above her, growing brighter and brighter the longer she stared. All she could feel was a coldness, seeping into every pore of her body.
And, as Morgan’s face swam in and out of her line of vision, she felt those waves of exhaustion from before return to her, and this time, she graciously let them in as she closed her eyes and drifted away.
Subjective: it felt a little weird having an off day. I even felt slightly guilty and could hear the voices of disapproval in the back of my head. But since burnout was a big problem for Step 1 I’m trying my best to avoid it.
Objective: Worked a little on a paper, went grocery shopping, then had dinner with the boyfriend. Did the 9 leftover UWorld questions, skimmed the cardio section of FA and the acid base section of Step 2 secrets.
3 things I did well today: (1) completed the catch up goals! (2) went grocery shopping! (3) worked on paper!
3 things I could do better: (1) did not exercise… (2) I think I can probably fit at least 40 more UWorld questions on Catch Up Fridays if there’s nothing left over from the week (3) stop feeling guilty about having one free day a week?
1) For the love of god.. start exercising
2) aim for 40 questions on Catch Up Friday if there is nothing else left over for the week
3) realize that no burnout >>>>> UWorld