When Spencer and Alice entered the kitchen, Agent Hotchner was on his cell.
“Penelope, that’s a hell of a lot. Not all of them will be connected. Yes… Yes…. Alright. I’ll let you know.”
He disconnected and then looked at Alice and Reid.
“In the nine towns and counties that immediately border the Bluedove Mountain range and it’s surrounding national park, there’s been seventy bodies found. Some identified, others remaining Jane or John Does’.”
“As many as seventy? How are we not aware of these?” Dr Reid asked, eyeing Alice carefully. He noted how she slipped into the seat closest to the kitchen door. She obviously knew that would be the quickest exit for her. The girl’s eyes flickered between the Agents as they talked and the older two Manchesters watched the whole scene with looks of both concern and horror on their faces.
“The FBI were made aware of some, but we either didn’t see the cases as requiring immediate assistance or we didn’t have anything to go on and shelved them. Others, we weren’t even invited in on.”
“Over what time scale is Garcia looking?”
“She went back as far as the seventies.”
Alice was toying with the salt shaker that was placed in the centre of the small kitchen table that she’d sat at. “Discount anything before 1986 at least.”
“Are you sure?” Agent Hotchner asked her and she nodded.
“I’d think you could discount anything before 1990 to be honest. I don’t think there would have been anything in the first few years.”
“The first few years of what, Alice?” Ellen Manchester spoke up, her arms crossed in front of her chest. She was leaning against the kitchen worktop in front of the coffee machine, five mugs were set out but so far no coffee had been poured.
Alice ignored her sister’s enquiry, still playing with the salt shaker.
“Are there any other identifiers we should look for?” Spencer asked her softly, sliding into the seat next to her.
She nodded. “A tattoo or a branding. Or in some cases, missing skin on the base of the neck.”
Reid noticed that she sounded a lot calmer now than she had earlier, the only obvious sign that she was nervous was her hands fidgeting and the occasional quick scan of her eyes around the room.
“A tattoo or branding; is there a particular image that it would be?” Agent Hotchner spoke to her again.
Alice glanced at her sister and brother in law and then gathered her hair up in her fist, lifting it from neck and pulling her shirt collar down. The two agents moved to behind her, bending down to get a closer look.
Aaron squinted, he could see the detail of the black lines and could make out the shape of an animal in tribal form but he couldn’t tell what it was. He looked at Reid who was doing the same thing, his tongue poking into his cheek as he tried to work out what it was. Finally, he got it.
“It’s a rabbit right?”
Alice nodded and started to release her hair.
“Alice, can you hold it up. I need to send a photo to our technical analyst.”
She dropped her hair immediately and spun in her seat. “No photos.”
Spencer crouched so that he was eye level with her, like he would if he was communicating with a child.
“Hotch will crop the image before sending so that it literally just be the tattoo. No hair, no other skin. Just the tattoo. I presume that the tattoo’s are all identical?”
“For the most part yes. Some turned out worse than others though.” Alice made direct eye contact with him for the first time and Spencer could see bright green eyes, eyes that had obviously seen so much.
“Then there would be no way that the image could be traced back to you if it fell into the wrong hands. Not that it WILL fall into the wrong hands. You are completely safe with us. We won’t let anything else happen to you. But we need to have that picture.”
Agent Hotchner was impressed with his younger colleague. Spencer had already made a connection with the girl, he knew she was afraid and seemed to be able to put her at ease somewhat. He spoke to her softly, but assertively.
Alice slowly gathered her hair back up into her fists, making sure that every last strand was pulled into her hand. Aaron quickly took a photo on his cell and then cropped it accordingly, showing the photo to Alice for her approval. She nodded and he sent it, calling Garcia back.
“Penelope, narrow the search to after 1990 and you’re looking for cases where the body has either a tattoo or a branding of a rabbit on their neck, or an injury to the neck resulting in missing skin.” He paused and covered the mouthpiece to speak to Alice.
“Would there be any other markings anywhere else on the body?”
She shook her head. “I don’t think so, no. As far as I’m aware they’ve always used the rabbit as their emblem.”
He released the call to Penelope after telling her that he’d sent her an image to look for. Alice had unscrewed the cap to the salt shaker and was emptying the salt into her hand, making a funnel and then letting it filter back through. Ellen was staring at her disapprovingly.
“Agent Hotchner, Dr Reid, I don’t wish to be rude but what exactly is my sister helping you with here? I’ve let you into my home and now you’re talking about markings on dead bodies. I really don’t understand.”
Hotch looked between the two sisters and then down at Reid who was still crouched on the floor beside Alice who was completely focused on transferring the salt between the shaker and her hand. He didn’t even realise that she’d heard the exchange, the expression on her face was transfixed. It was only when she spoke in a dull voice that it appeared that she had been listening.
“You can tell her about the file. Robert knows anyway.”
Ellen glanced at her husband. “YOU know what this is all about?” Looking back at her younger sister she exclaimed, “You’ve confided in him, but not me!?”
“He doesn’t look at me like I’m a crazy ex drug addict. He didn’t ask constant questions and then get upset when I say I can’t tell him. He was just there when I did want to talk.”
“So he knows where you were for four and a half years? And I don’t?“
Alice looked up at her sister. “No. I haven’t told anyone where I was those years. I didn’t ever want to have to tell people where I was. I didn’t ever want to talk about it. I got out, I escaped, I survived it. That was all that mattered. But then when I was scanning news reports, I kept coming across dead bodies. Of people I knew, of people I lived with. I thought they’d have stopped when I left, that maybe losing me made them realise how wrong it was. But they didn’t stop, they’ll never stop. If I’d have stayed, it could have been me.”
Her voice started to crack and her calm nonchalant demeanour started to vanish again.
It was Spencer who finally spoke. “Stayed where, Alice.”
A/N : bear with me here, yeah? I know it sounds ridiculous…