Title: The Ghost and Mr. Hotchner
Fandom: Criminal Minds
Characters: Spencer Reid, Aaron Hotchner, Jason Gideon, Derek Morgan, Jennifer Jareau
Pairings: Aaron Hotchner/Spencer Reid
Genre: Ghosts, Paranormal, Romance, Asexuality, Canon-Divergent
Word Count: 3851
Warnings: Major Character Death — Kind of, Canon-Typical Violence
Aaron Hotchner has had the ability to see and talk to Ghosts all of his life. It isn’t glamorous, and it’s nothing like television or the movies. It can be painful, and he can’t help everyone. But when one particular ghost wants to stay with him, and he finds himself falling in love, Aaron finds his life getting infinitely more complicated.
“Thank you guys for coming out here. We’ve been trying to get a handle on it, but the problem is the robberies are so wide spread. When the case came to us it was because we are dealing with a county wide issue, and not just a city wide issue. That is the other problem. Los Angeles County is over 600,000 square miles. We are one of the largest counties in the country and it makes it difficult to police. I have the reports from the cities where each robbery took place. Deputies Markham and Graves have been on this case the longest.” The Sheriff introduced the two deputies and left them to it.
“Hello, I’m SSA Aaron Hotchner, this is SSA Jason Gideon and SA Derek Morgan. We just need an office with a couple of pinboards or whiteboards and we can get started.”
“We have something set-up in the conference room already. We started to map out where the robberies took place. Now, I know a string of bookstore robberies is not necessarily on your list of priorities, but these were high-end rare book dealers. One that was stolen was an original signed copy of a first ever edition of Dune. Another was a very rare original of Don Quixote and more. Some of these books retail value are in the six figures.”
“Specialties, means we are looking for collectors who don’t mind where the books came from. We’ll need a list of all the antique and rare book dealers that you know.” Gideon was looking up at the board and noticed one was a first press printing of John James Audubon’s paintings. “This one is worth somewhere around $500,000 dollars. A rare set of his original copies just sold at auction for 1.9 million. We are not dealing with amateurs here Hotch.”
“No, they have a list and are trying to complete it. Probably to sell the items on the black market. Deputy Graves, was this the first victim?” Hotch was looking at the picture of a gray-haired man in his sixties.
“Yes, Desmond Wright. Ran a small bookstore near the Claremont Colleges in Claremont CA. It’s about thirty-five minutes from here in good traffic. If you’d like I can take you there.”
“Morgan you have Markham take you to that scene, looks like he only had an assistant. Then go talk to the coroner. Hotch, you go to the second one in Glendale. This looks to be a bigger store that deals with more than just rare books. See what you can get, they are bound to have more employees. I’ll get the analyst on the line and see if we can narrow down this list.” Gideon studied the board and the murders, trying to figure out what was going on.
“Alright, we’ll meet back here and try to narrow down what we have.” Hotch left with Graves and Morgan with Markham. As they sped down Interstate 10 towards the 210 which would take them into Glendale, Hotch couldn’t help thinking about what this was all about.
“These crime scenes are very spread out. The other bookstores in the county that got hit lost potentially millions in assets. How do you patrol such a large spread out area?”
“It’s hard sometimes. We have satellite offices all throughout the County, but its centralized in downtown Los Angeles. We’re the lucky ones, Glendale isn’t that far, you’re colleague is going to be on the road a while. It doesn’t help when traffic is this dense and at this time of day. We probably won’t see him back for a couple of hours, at best.”
They talked a bit more then pulled into a parking lot behind the bookstore and got out. When Hotch approached he took his time to look around the outlying area of the bookstore.
“Heavy vehicle and pedestrian traffic. Well lit, a restaurant on one side and more stores on the other. A mix of store and restaurants on the other. No outside cameras. These guys were bold and good at what they are doing. We aren’t going to catch them easily.” Hotch walked inside and took in the store itself. He noticed the locked and organized cabinets behind a glass walled counter. There was a hatch for employees and when Hotch tried to lift it he found it locked. There was also a swing door under the hatch, so no one could crawl under to get inside. The glass went from counter to ceiling.
“Glass walled, the counter is solid wood and the hatch and swing are both locked.” Hotch walked around and saw where the rare book enclosure butted up to the storeroom and the small door for employees. “They either got in through the employee door, or they threatened an employee. Were there any reports of them taking any of the employees hostage?”
“No, at least not that they would tell us.”
“We need an employee list and to speak with each of them. Is there a satellite office here in Glendale that we could meet them at if we need to?”
“Yeah, one up in Montrose. It’s not more than ten minutes from here.”
Hotch took a look through the rest of the bookstore and made notes as he went.
“Let’s go to the coroner’s office see what they can tell us.”
“It was a gunshot to the head, what more can they give us?”
“We can determine, often, by the angle of entry how tall or how far away a person needed to be to make the shot. There is a lot they can tell us if they were here and saw what happened..”
Graves just shook his head, and led Hotch back to his car. At the morgue Hotch questioned the Medical examiner and tried to get more information. After that they made their way back to the Los Angeles station. It was about two and a half hours later when Morgan arrived back and they were comparing information and added it to the board.
“We have a team. Three, possibly four man team. There had to be a stressor to make them start killing we just have to find it. Gideon, we should also find an expert in rare books that wouldn’t mind talking to us. We need some insight here to what is happening.”
“I got a name, Dr. Spencer Reid. He runs a bookstore in Pasadena called Pandora’s Box . He’s an expert in rare books, Hotch, why don’t you go see Dr. Reid tomorrow and find out as much as you can. Morgan, we’ll speak with any witnesses from Glendale. Right now, though, we should get some food and some sleep.” Gideon stood and thanked the Sheriff and told them they would be there again early the next morning.
As soon as they got to the hotel, Hotch got on the phone and spoke with the babysitter, making sure his son was okay. He sat down to the sandwich and chips he had picked-up and started to go through the files one more time. It didn’t take too long for the day to have caught up to him when he felt his eyes start to droop. Sighing he put the files away, took a long hot shower and crawled into bed. He knew morning was going to come way too early.
“Good morning, I’m here to see Dr. Spencer Reid? I’m Supervisory Special Agent Aaron Hotchner with the BAU. I was told he owns this bookstore?” Hotch couldn’t help smiling at the young man standing before him. He was pleasantly good looking and Hotch couldn’t help his appreciation.
“I’m Dr. Reid, What is it I can I help you with?” Spencer stood from the stool he was sitting on, obviously he had been doing some writing on the computer, but he closed it down quickly before Aaron could make anything out.
“We’re investigating a series of robberies at several rare and antique bookstores around L.A. County. I’m sure you’ve heard the news by now that they have turned to homicides.”
“Yes. It’s unfortunate. I knew Marcus Stillman, one of the victims. He was a good man, loved historical nonfiction as well as some gen historical fiction. We would attend conventions together.”
“I’m sorry about your friend. I was told that you are actually quite the person to speak with about the books that have been stolen. We have no discernable pattern and were wondering if you’d be able to help us out. Maybe, with a pattern or if you can figure out why these particular books, then we may be able to predict where they will strike next.”
“Of course. Do you have a list?” Spencer held out his hand and Aaron couldn’t help noticing the long slim fingers. Hotch didn’t know why he was reacting this way, he always had a hard time understanding attraction to other people. With Haley he had fallen for her personality and the fact she thought he was funny. Smiling he handed the man the list of books that had been stolen so far. He watched Dr. Reid mull over the list. The biting the lip thing almost made Aaron crazy. It was cute and he couldn’t stop smiling.
“Of course,” the Dr. exclaimed as he slapped the papers on the counter. “These are parts of the Americae Thesaurus .” Dr. Reid turned back to his computer and started to do a search on it, clicked on a few websites, then printed something out and handed it to Hotch.
“The Americae Thesaurus , is latin for the American Treasures. A set of rare books from the late 1500’s up to the early 1800’s. They are rumored to have been part of a secret library of early philosopher and religious leader John Winthrop. It was said to have been passed down from father to his five sons. Each son supposedly contributed to this library. This so-called library went missing during the Civil War, and all we’ve ever had to go on is a single diary his youngest son had kept. Much of what is known is hearsay, and little snippets of journals here and there by friends of Winthrop who believed as he did. Many have claimed to have seen this library, but there’s never been any definitive proof. Several historical experts have attempted to put together a comprehensive list of this library.” Spencer looked-up finally from what he was doing and Aaron couldn’t help smiling.
“That’s quite the story. Does your store have any of these books?”
Spencer looked at the list he had printed out and moved around his store. Hotch couldn’t help watching him. It was the small quirks, the way he ran his fingers over the spines of the books, the biting of the lip, the furrowing of the brow that intrigued Hotch. He couldn’t say there was a sexual attraction, he rarely ever was attracted to someone sexually and even then it wasn’t something that he maintained. It was a quick flare, then gone. No, he was attracted to Dr. Reid’s mind, those little quirks and god help him, those long fingers..
“Yes, I actually have two of the books on the list. Do you want to borrow them till your case is solved?”
“No. But, I’d like you to meet us at the Sheriff’s office in L.A. and consult, as far as the books and their significance go.”
Spencer smiled wide, “Of course anything to help you catch Stillman’s killer.” Spencer was worrying his bottom lip again and Hotch didn’t know what made him do it, but he reached out and gently pulled lip from teeth and rubbed a thumb over the young man’s lip.
“You’ll make your lip bleed.” He stood and smiled at Spencer then gave him the time to meet at the precinct. Aaron thanked the young man then left..
Unfortunately Dr. Spencer Reid wouldn’t make that meeting the next morning and Hotch was standing over the body after he had done his sweep of the crime scene.
“Well shit.” Hotch had heard from next to him.
“I’m sorry. I feel like this may have been my fault. If I hadn’t come see you maybe you would have stayed under their radar.” Hotch knelt next to the body, gunshot wound to the heart. Taking a deep breath he gently moved the hair out of the young man’s face with his gloved hand.
“No, I was targeted. They came for the Malleus Maleficarum. That was one of the books that was rather well known to have been in Winthrop’s library. As a religious figure he most certainly would have had that book.” Spencer looked down at his body and sighed.
“Well, I still feel a little bit responsible, all I can say is I’m sorry.”
“Wait, you can hear me?” Hotch looked to see that most of the LEO’s were in the store making notes about the crime scene, but not close enough to the body to hear their conversation.
“And see you. I have to say you are one of the calmest ghosts I’ve ever had to deal with.”
“You see dead people?” Spencer smirked and Hotch looked up glaring at him.
“Please don’t quote that damned movie. Ever since it came out you ghosts like to make that joke. It gets old.” Hotch kept looking like he was doing his own inspection of the Doctor. “And don’t even give me Ghost Whisperer . I’m not a girl, and I don’t help every ghost I see. It’s impossible.”
Spencer chuckled and knelt beside Hotch. When he did Hotch felt the cold energy coming off Spencer and instead of being annoying, it was almost comforting. Aaron never knew why he could see the dead, but he could. This ability was one of the reasons he moved into the FBI from being a prosecutor. He wanted to help people and felt he could make some kind of difference. It was also one of the reasons his father was an abusive bastard, he thought Aaron was evil and needed that evil beaten out of him. Sighing he zipped up the black bag and his heart broke a little.
“That is a little disconcerting.”
“I wish I could make it easier for you. Hopefully when we catch these people you’ll be able to move on.”
“What if I don’t want to?”
“Your choice, but it will just get harder to leave the longer you stay. Look, I can’t talk anymore, too many ears around. I’ll come back tonight.”
“Wait, what if I want to go with you?”
Aaron looked and saw Morgan and Gideon coming towards him and knew he only had a few seconds.
“I’m sorry Spencer, you can’t. I’ll come tonight and we can talk more, okay?”
“Fine.” Dr. Reid crossed his arms and frowned as he watched his own body being wheeled away. “Definitely disturbing.” Aaron almost chuckled at the put upon sigh coming from the ghost.
Walking away from the spot where Spencer was murdered, Aaron found Gideon and Morgan looking through some papers in a small office.
“This store is connected to his apartment. The office is the buffer between them. I was going to go in there next, what to join me?” Gideon asked as Aaron walked in.
“Sounds good. Morgan, did Garcia find anything?”
“Yeah, he had a comprehensive inventory list. I’m gonna split this up and have the LEO’s help me go over everything and see what’s missing. Do you believe him Hotch? About this supposed missing library?”
“It doesn’t matter if we believe it ever existed, it just matters to the UnSubs. They want these books for someone and the list so far seems to be filled with expensive, rare books. There has to be a connection between them. Some legendary library might be the only explanation, at least so far.” Morgan grabbed the list and Aaron watched him walk out to the LEO’s. He distributed it and gave instructions, then Aaron turned back to Gideon.
“Is he here?” Gideon walked to the door connecting apartment to office. Aaron had told Gideon about his ‘gift’ one late night when they were working a case together before they decided that a team might be a step forward in advancing the BAU. Gideon was skeptical at first until the next case when it was a series of child abductions and Aaron had knowledge he shouldn’t have had. He still didn’t accept right away, but after several cases he came to accept it.
“Yes. He’s unusually calm about being dead. He seems to have processed it faster than most.” Aaron pulled on a pair of gloves and walked behind his partner as they entered the apartment.
“Hey, what are you doing?” Spencer followed after and was more than put out that other people were going to be touching his stuff.
“We have to do this Spencer. It’s procedure.” Aaron whispered to him. “Jason, we should call JJ and see what she can do about the media. After this case, we should think about bringing her along, it would help when we are in the field.”
“She’s proven herself already. I agree, next case she’ll go out in the field. But, she needs firearms qualification before she does. Just because she’s media doesn’t mean she shouldn’t protect herself.” Gideon started to look around the living room as Aaron went straight for the kitchen then moved to the den. He heard a choked sob next to him, Spencer hadn’t left his side.
“What is it Spencer?”
“My personal library.” Spencer moved over to one of the shelves and tried to pick-up one of the books only to have his hand go right through it. “Well that just sucks.” Aaron watched the ghost frown as he folded himself on the large, comfortable looking, reading chair in the corner of the den. Aaron couldn’t help feeling sad for the young man and he sighed as he took out his phone.
“Look, I ah, I’m sorry about this.” Aaron waited for the call to connect.
“Office of the All Knowing Oracle, what can I do you for my handsome dark haired warrior?” The bubbly voice on the phone had Aaron chuckling, but Spencer frowning.
“She’s different,” Spencer groused as he crossed his arms over his chest and Aaron was charmed by the little pout on his face.
“You have no idea,” Aaron chuckled.
“Who are you talking to sir?”
“No one Garcia, I need you to do me a favor. I need everything you can find on Dr. Spencer Reid. I need to know next of kin and if he has any enemies professionally or academically.”
“I’ll get right on that Sir.”
“Also, can you do a search on high-end book collectors. They would have to be in the top 10 percent of wealthy collectors Garcia. Look at anyone paying out 6 or 7 figures for a single volume. When you have that get it to Gideon.”
“I’ll be back at ya soon. Garcia out.”
“You could have asked me.” Spencer watched as Aaron went through the den, mentally cataloging everything there.
“I could, but I’d still have to make it official by calling the Bureau and having the tech analyst doing a search. It’s procedure.”
“And you are the type of man that always follows procedure?” The snarky tone had Aaron looking sideways at the ghost who was trying very hard to glare at him.
“Always.” Aaron lifted the corner of his lips just slightly.
“Hotch.” Aaron heard Gideon calling for him from the bedroom. He made his way there and felt Spencer at his back, the cold of his ghostly form was gently pressed along his side and it made Aaron shiver.
“Yes Jason?” Aaron stepped into the small room that looked like it had been ransacked.
“Holy shit!” Spencer went past Aaron and into his room looking around at the destruction.
“This is interesting. What could he have been keeping in here? And this level of destruction means he knew one or more of the unsubs.”
“They wore masks. All I could see were eyes and the voices were muffled.” Aaron ignored him as he and Gideon worked to profile the scene.
“We have no way of knowing what was in here unless he had a comprehensive list of his personal items on his computer. I’ll have the tech girl search his computer, see if she can get anything from it.”
“I don’t think there’s anymore we can get here Jason. I’m having Garcia run a search on wealthy book collectors and having her find his next of kin. I should be hearing back soon. We’ll take the laptop with us. We can always come back if we find something.”
“Agreed.” Gideon made his way out of the apartment and then the bookstore.
Aaron stayed behind a moment and turned to Spencer.
“I’m sorry, I have to go, but I promise I’ll be back tonight. We can talk more, but anything you tell me I won’t be able to use.”
“Okay.” Aaron wished he could wipe the worry from Spencer’s brow, but he couldn’t. He smiled softly and genuinely felt really bad that he had to leave. As he got in the SUV with Gideon he couldn’t help looking back and seeing the ghost standing in the doorway looking lost. Aaron closed his eyes and laid his head against the seat not understanding the feelings that had come over him for a man he had only met once.
“He didn’t want to go, did he?” Aaron sometimes hated how astute Gideon was. Sitting back in the seat Aaron just shook his head as he turned over the ignition. A few moments later they were speeding down the freeway when Aaron finally spoke.
“I can’t help all of them. I wish I could. He doesn’t want to leave and I agreed to go speak with his mother. I’m coming back tonight and I’m going to try to talk him into…you know…” Aaron waved his hand as if he were gesturing towards the sky.
“Do you think that’s a good idea?”
“I can’t just leave him like that Jason. Everyone deserves a chance to move on. Spencer is no different.”
Gideon was silent and Aaron felt like he was being assessed like someone about to interrogated.
“I’ve never seen you so invested before. You normally do what you can, then move on. I know it isn’t his age, you’ve worked with younger. What is it?”
Aaron didn’t know how to explain it himself. It took him a while to figure out what to say.
“Its his mind. I didn’t talk with him long, but I looked him up later in the hotel last night. The man was brilliant and it breaks my heart that such a bright mind is gone. I wished I could have done something for him to prevent this.”
“Hotch, you can’t blame yourself for what happened. You aren’t responsible.”
“I know Gideon. But, maybe he wouldn’t have been targeted if I hadn’t gone to see him.”