VII. Will IV
“Tell me,” Crawford demanded, “that we didn’t get the wrong man.”
Will could hear the tension in his voice. What he really wanted to know is if Will had shot an innocent man ten times at point blank range. The answer, of course, had always been “yes.” Garrett Jacob Hobbs, whatever his horrendous crimes, was—in essence—Frankenstein’s monster. He was used and abused, broken apart, and when he tried to build himself into something vaguely resembling a person suit, it came out horribly, horribly wrong.
He turned briefly to Crawford and raised an eyebrow at him, his request evident despite his silence.
“Move out!” Crawford called and the lab techs left the scene quickly and efficiently, though they did whisper to one another as Will stood there, tall, hands in pockets.
It was cold in Minnesota, the snow having freshly fallen. It was dull, damp, wet, without a bit of the sparkle that Klara enjoyed in Maryland snow. He hadn’t taken off his warm jacket even when he walked into the Hobbs house, not even making it to the kitchen where the ghost of Garrett Jacob Hobbs lingered at the edge of his vision. Before him lay the naked body of a girl. Her hair might have been considered auburn in the correct light. Her dull eyes were now gray in death—certainly having been blue in life.
Taking a step forward Will closed his eyes and let time swing back. He was himself and yet he was not. He was desperate, full of rage and pain and why did he leave me alone in this world?
Then there was this girl, a mirror image of himself if he looked in the mirror. The right look, the same lost expression, but she didn’t know, she didn’t understand. Why didn’t Daddy want him?
His design was always to make his father love him more—and in that moment the unutterable truth clicked into place.
Will, shaking the mirage of Abigail Hobbs from the clutches of his mind, approached the body quickly and carefully. His eyes then scattered about the room, the pillows thrown on the ground, the blankets roughed up on the couch in the corner. He moved to it quickly, leaned over, and took in a deep breath.
The light tingle of sex, barely detectable, nonetheless fluttered at his nostrils. Hannibal would be able to have detected it immediately, Will thought grimly, but Hannibal was safe at home in Maryland with Klara.
He then took in the scene once again, letting the waves of fear and desperation wash over him before he walked decidedly out of the house. He hoped he’d never have to go back again.
“Let me guess,” Will greeted Crawford, tone brusque. He didn’t bother to greet Alana Bloom who was standing beside him, in a fashionable designer coat that brought out the unnatural color in her cheeks. “Abigail Hobbs wanted to come home.”
Alana reacted visibly with the slight tick of her nose pinching and her eyes glistening. “Why do you say that?”
“Because,” Will told her, making eye contact steadily to get his point across, “the girl inside was raped.”
“There are no signs,” Crawford began. “No sign of penetration or bodily fluids on the victim’s body.”
“A person—male or female—can be raped if they are forced to undergo any form of sexual activity. I imagine that the victim was forced to penetrate her assailant with a foreign object—so there would be little left on her body except maybe her fingers.—You can smell it, though, on the back sofa. It’s faint but there.”
“And you allege that it’s Abigail Hobbs,” Crawford checked.
Will finally let his gaze slide down the length of Alana’s hair and then off toward the yellow police tape where people were gathering. “I know it is,” he answered. “The attacker came in and threatened the victim. The victim would have been forced to undress and then coaxed toward the kitchen—the last place where Abigail Hobbs possessed her twisted fantasy—before it was taken from her.” (Or, when her father finally found a way out via suicide by cop.) Will shifted uncomfortably. “They had sex—coerced at the very least—where Abigail Hobbs could have seen the kitchen in her line of sight—and, well. It’s obvious that she pulled down the stag head from over the mantle and—after subduing the victim one way or another—unsuccessfully attempted to mount her on the antlers.” He paused. “Like Elise Nichols. Like the other girls who went missing, I’d imagine.”
Alana shifted uncomfortably, glancing toward the house.
“She wasn’t strong enough,” Crawford agreed. “Why this way?”
“Think, Jack,” Will answered, letting his eyes snap to the general location of his right shoulder. “She would have sex with her father and he’d go out and kill a girl—carve her up like an animal and somehow use every part of her—Abigail was trying to recreate all of it. I imagine, however, she found lesbian sex unappetizing given the increasing points of desperation in the scene.” He shrugged. “Or any sex. She had an Elektra complex. No one’s going to satisfy her urges. No one but him and he’s unavailable to her.”
Crawford was silent for several long moments and then looked at Alana. “I thought you were escorting Abigail here.”
Suddenly off balance in the conversation, she admitted, “I left her with a uniform and came to see what happened. Abigail was—concerned—especially since that boy threatened her earlier at the house.”
“At which point,” Will guessed, “you took her back to whatever motel you’re staying at and she asked to be alone—and then hours later you got the call and went to check on her. Shower, right?”
Alana looked startled and Will knew he was right.
“Good luck, Jack, tying Abigail Hobbs directly to the scene.” His tone was wry and tired. He had been in his office preparing for a lecture when he’d gotten the call, leaving directly from Quantico. Thank goodness he had adopted away the last of his pack just the day before. Harley was going to a farm with several children up the Potomac. She’d enjoy it there, he was sure, and would no longer be alone in his house in Wolf Trap.
Crawford was clearly frustrated with the situation, but it was what it was.
“I’d look for the—object of penetration—” Will suggested, off-hand. “It would be something not only practical but sentimental to Abigail. She wouldn’t get rid of it. It might still be somewhere in the house or even back at the motel.”
“It would prove nothing other than sexual activity,” Alana argued.
“Yes, but if the dead girl’s fingerprints are on it as well as Abigail Hobb’s sexual fluids,” Will pointed out, wishing he didn’t have to contemplate such horrors, “then you’d put Abigail Hobbs at the scene. I’d watch her more closely after this—whatever you two were doing isn’t working if Abigail Hobbs is reenacting an entire sexual cycle of her father’s abuse and—unorthodox coping mechanism.” He grimaced just at the thought.
Crawford stamped his feet in the cold and nodded. “We’re on it.” He signaled off to someone, a preliminary order. Then, unfortunately, he looked directly at Will. “I want you to talk to Abigail Hobbs.”
Uncomfortable, Will pushed his glasses up his nose, glad he was wearing warm gloves that were unusually flexible. “We’ve been over this,” he tried again, for what seemed like the countless time. “I consult. Talking to victims or suspects directly is not consulting.”
Crawford huffed in the air. “Then we’ll get your psychiatrist—”
Twisting his left fingers together to feel the smooth metal against his skin, Will drew strength. “I agreed to lend you my imagination. I retired from my life as a homicide detective years ago.”
“To teach,” Crawford grumbled. “That didn’t stop you from applying to be a full agent.”
No, no, it hadn’t. “Perhaps, Agent Crawford, you should trust your own screening procedures.” The words weren’t his own. He had gleaned them off of Alana’s thoughts time and time again and with her standing with both of them in their impromptu tête-à-tête, it was easy to just borrow her syntax.
Alana clearly recognized her own words because she looked sharply at Will, her eyes wide and questioning.
Will did not answer, nonverbally or otherwise. Instead, he glanced back at the house. “Anything else, or can I catch the next flight out?”
Crawford considered, clearly warring within himself. “No, you get on back. I understand congratulations are in order. I’m sure you have a warm dinner waiting for you back on the East Coast.”
He did not notice the twitch of Alana’s mouth at Crawford’s words.
Looking at the sky, Will knew he wouldn’t be getting in until the early hours of the morning, local time, but that didn’t mean he wanted to stay in this place with such desperation lingering in every wooden board and nail. “More like breakfast,” he groused, but the thought brought a small smile to his face.
Turning away, Will heard Crawford begin to bark out orders and officers and lab techs began to swarm back into the house.
Alana was just a few steps behind him when Will noticed the mass of red curls in the crowd and the tailored coat unlike the parkas the locals were wearing. That was certainly out of place, and he stored it away for later contemplation.
At Alana’s touch at the crook of his elbow, Will turned slightly, not stopping his progress. She then fell in step beside him and tried to smile pleasantly, “Congratulations?”
“Getting hitched,” Will admitted as he came up the police tape and ducked under it when a uniform lifted it for him. Turning back to where Alana was standing, still and clear and beautiful and wrong, he smiled at her at the thought of everything he was going home to. “Hannibal is making an honest man out of me!”
And with that he disappeared into the crowd.
If he thought he saw a stag along the borderline of the trees, Will shook it off. It was Minnesota, after all.