Fandoms: Criminal Minds/Dollhouse
Characters and Pairings: Reid/Echo, Garcia, Morgan, Topher, Paul Ballard, Adele DeWitt
Spoilers: S5 for Criminal Minds, mid S2-ish for Dollhouse
Warnings: Angst, angst, het, and angst
Disclaimer: Dollhouse and Criminal Minds belong to their respective creators, who are not me.
A/N: Written for library_of_sex for help_haiti
Summary: Spencer Reid discovers someone uncannily familiar while on a case in California. He has to find her again, but isn’t expecting things to go so far…
“Dr. Reid? This one’s for you.” Reid looked up from his notes as the plainclothes officer waved in another of the university’s staff into his borrowed office. To avoid alarming the unsub, questioning professors in his most likely classes had to be done with discretion. And Reid, of everyone on the team, could actually successfully pass as an academic. “Pass” perhaps being too mild a word. He fit in with the climate here so seamlessly that he’d already had a student try to wander in, mistaking him for a TA.
“Dr. Reid? I’m Dr. Alecia Tripplehorn, from Engineering.” The professor couldn’t have been any older than Reid; indeed, he might have had a year or two on her. Brunette, vivaciously pretty, and plainly dressed. Muted colors, business-casual, and slightly disheveled, with a cardigan thrown over everything to ward off the air-conditioned chill, as far from the more formal and image-conscious professors as Reid was from Hotchner or Rossi. One of Dr. Tripplehorn’s arms was possessively cradled around a bundle of papers, the other steadied a satchel on her hip.
She gave him a small, tight-lipped smile and raised her hand in a half-wave of greeting. Reid froze partway through an almost identical motion, blinked once, and gestured to the chair across from him.
“This shouldn’t take too long,” he said distractedly, and quickly scanned a card that had been paperclipped to her file. “Dr. Tripplehorn, you’ve only been at the university for three weeks?”
“Yes, I’m filling in for Dr. Raymond. He needed to finish his research project, but he also needed to work one-one-one with his doctoral candidate students. I was happy to help out; he only wanted the best for his class,” she said earnestly.
“You do realize why I’m here?” Reid asked. Dr. Tripplehorn was fairly calm about the whole situation, but some academics could bury themselves so far away from the real world that they never realized the danger all around them.
“The shootings, of course. I’ll do anything I can to help,” Tripplehorn said, learning forward.
The cadence of Tripplehorn’s speech sounded very familiar to Reid, uncannily so, and he had to mentally shake his head to refocus his attention on the task at hand.
“We’re trying to get a profile out discretely. A campus-wide announcement would likely cause the unsub to go into hiding. We hoped that long-time professors would recognize these behaviors in their students.”
Dr. Tripplehorn shook his head at his warning, interrupting him. “Dr. Reid, I haven’t been here very long, but I’ve read everything my students have written, and I’ve met with them all on a personal basis several times. I have an excellent memory. Tell me who you’re looking for.”
She listened attentively as Reid described an intelligent, highly organized young man, who often felt overlooked and constantly sought approval from authority figures. When that approval had been denied, he would lash out.
“Initially in small ways, perhaps in letters of complaint, escalating to vandalism, and now murder,” Reid concluded.
“Scott Walker,” Tripplehorn said immediately, her face draining of blood. “I never met him personally, but he tried for extra credit, anything he could to get an extension on his due dates. He had some interesting theories, but his experiments had flaws and Dr. Raymond couldn’t let him go forward. He sent letters to Dr. Raymond’s office; he let me see them so I’d be informed if Scott showed up again…”
“Do you have them still?” Reid asked urgently.
“No, they’re back at my office, but I remember what they said. I remember anything I read.”
Before Reid could react to that, Dr. Tripplehorn was quickly reciting the content of a dozen letters, polite complaints thinly veiling a desire to hurt because he’d been denied. It was exactly what the profile had predicted.
“I need to call my unit chief.”
A minute on the phone with Hotchner to keep him up to date, and two with Garcia on a conference call, and she’d pulled up enough corroborating evidence in Scott Walker’s public records to make him their most likely suspect.
“Reid, we’re heading to Walker’s apartment right now. You gather as much of the evidence as you can there, and then we’ll meet you back at the precinct. Good work.” Hotch’s terse words only meant he was particularly busy, simultaneously getting into his bulletproof vest, alerting the police officers, and directing the rest of the team while still carrying on a conversation with both Reid and Garcia.
The call ended, and Reid turned back to Dr. Tripplehorn, her face pinched with worry.
“Dr. Tripplehorn, I’ll need to get those letters for evidentiary purposes, but your help has been invaluable,” he said sincerely, and saw her relax immediately.
“Of course!” she said, getting out of her chair. “Your team…” she hesitated. “They won’t hurt Mr. Walker if they don’t have to, will they?”
“If he surrenders, he won’t be harmed,” Reid promised. She looked relieved, and began to lead him towards her office. Reid followed her down the wood-paneled corridors just a pace behind. He had figured out what was bothering him about her after a minute in her presence, but couldn’t say anything. His first thought, upon meeting a woman who spoke and moved just like him, was that Morgan was playing some kind of elaborate joke. But after looking at Dr. Tripplehorn’s records and hearing her speak, he’d dismissed the idea. More information was needed.
“Dr. Tripplehorn? Where are you from?” Reid asked tentatively.
“Las Vegas. Some of Dr. Raymond’s friends have a lunchtime poker game, and they banned me after two hands,” she said with a bit of a smile.
“I learned to do my best, even if people don’t always like me for it. No one appreciates a twelve-year-old high school student throwing off the grading curve.” Dr. Tripplehorn’s smile had turned sad.
“I… know exactly what you mean,” Reid said faintly.
Dr. Tripplehorn paused outside her temporary office and looked back at him with wonder.
“You really do too, don’t you?” she asked.
Reid nodded numbly.
“I was beaten up so many times…”
“Shoved into lockers.”
“Well, we showed them, right? A doctor of Engineering and an FBI profiler.” Dr. Tripplehorn’s smile had turned almost triumphant. The door clicked open under her hand, and Dr. Tripplehorn went right to a locked filing cabinet to get Scott Walker’s letters. “There. I hope these help.”
“They will. I…” Reid paused, forcibly struck by how much the desk top looked liked his back at the BAU. He had the feeling he could accurately tell the contents of each and every drawer. “Your parents must be so proud,” Reid said, testing, and watched her reaction.
“I know they are,” she said, looking a bit wistful and sad. Reid wondered if he’d misread her and just put his foot in it again.
“I didn’t mean-. I’m sorry.”
“No! No, they’re not dead. My father… My mother wasn’t… well.” Dr. Tripplehorn made a swift and subtle gesture towards her head. “I took care of her. It was hard, but she’s getting excellent care now, and I write to her all the time. She likes reading about my adventures.”
Reid had to grip the side of the desk as he felt his knees go weak.
“Are you all right?” she asked, reaching out to him.
“I’m-. You-,” Reid was nearly sputtering, completely at a loss for words in his shock.
Reid’s phone rang, and he automatically answered it, Garcia’s cheerful voice filling his ear.
“We got him, Boy Wonder. “One Scott Walker is in custody, and being very annoying talkative about his heinous crimes, if Derek’s complaints are to be believed. Hotch wants you back ASAP so we can wrap this thing up and get you all back home.”
“It’s Jack’s birthday tomorrow,” Reid realized, remembering that most of the team had been wrangled into helping Hotch cope with his son’s entire pre-school class coming over.
“Yes indeed, and you are in both my and his good graces for cracking this case so early and making sure this party can go off without a hitch. Do you have any idea how hard it is to get balloons delivered…”
Reid listened to Garcia’s cheerful chatter with half his attention as Dr. Tripplehorn went to answer a knock on her door. A tall, strong-looking man in a suit spoke to her briefly, and she nodded in agreement with whatever he was saying. Strange, the man didn’t look like a college student or another professor, or even a grad student. If anything, he reminded Reid of Morgan; he had the same watchful air as an agent. But the local field office hadn’t had any agents to spare, and the body language between the stranger and Tripplehorn was wrong for him to be a boyfriend.
“Dr. Reid, I have to do something,” she said apologetically, softly interrupting him. “It was really good to meet you, under the circumstances. I’m glad I could help.”
“Likewise, Dr. Tripplehorn,” Reid said, speaking in pure reaction, unable to process anything new.
“Alecia,” she corrected gently.
“Spencer,” he managed.
She reached out to clasp his hand briefly, her skin warm and soft, and then she was gone.
“Boy Genius, are you even listening to me?” Garcia asked, wrenching Reid’s attention back to his phone. “Detective Martinez will drive you back to the precinct.”
Reid mumbled something in agreement and hung up. He began to slowly walk towards his temporary office, and stopped after a half-dozen steps. The phone was back at his ear as he ran after Alecia.
“Garcia, I need you to look up any information on a Dr. Alecia Tripplehorn, temporary professor of mechanical engineering at UC Berkeley.”
“Ok, I can do that, but who is she?” Reid could hear Garcia typing away in the background.
“She’s the one that identified Scott Walker.” Reid dodged a janitor mopping the floor and almost slipped on the wet stone.
“Ok, ok, Dr. Alecia Tripplehorn, age twenty-seven, Christ she’s younger than you, doctorates in Engineering, Mathematics, and Chemistry, says she grew up in Las Vegas and moved to South Dakota when she was fourteen- whoa, that’s weird.” Garcia paused in her datastream, and Reid could hear the puzzlement in her voice as she rattled off an uncomfortably familiar background.
Reid had been all but sprinting through the corridors, and couldn’t find where Alecia had went. It hadn’t been more than a few minutes. Where could she have gone?
“Garcia, can you access the university security cameras for the exterior of Etcheverry Hall?” he asked desperately.
“Yes…. I… can. Let me look… Reid, she’s not there. I’m looking, looking…” Reid could almost feel Garcia’s eyes scanning each corner of the building as he kept moving, looking for any hint of her or her friend.
“She was with a tall man, early thirties, short dark hair, strong build, gray suit, about five minutes ago,” he said desperately.
There were several more moments of agonizing silence, and then Garcia came back.
“Reid, she got into a van with him. Willingly,” she said gently.
“Are you sure? Garcia-.”
“Trust me sir, I have seen enough creepy creepy abductions to know when a girl is trying to say no, and she wasn’t. Maybe this guy is just a friend?” she suggested.
“What about her records?” Reid continued stubbornly.
“I’ll grant you that they are uncannily familiar, but there’s no sign of tampering on these files, and believe me, I’ve been checking. References, birth certificates, education, even her Facebook page shows pictures of her with friends and co-workers at all ages. Her published research papers are through South Dakota State, and cover every year she’s been employed there…” Garcia paused, and Reid could almost hear a shrug on the other end of the line. “Reid, she looked pretty weird on the surface, but she didn’t go to your schools, and graduated from high school in a different state. This looks pretty kosher.”
Reid was about to protest when his phone beeped at him.
“Your lord and master calls, Wonderboy. I’m out.” The phone clicked, and Hotch picked up.
“Reid, officer Martinez is wondering where you are. Did you get those letters?”
Reid looked from one end of the corridor to another, empty and echoing, and sighed silently.
“Yes, I got the letters. I’m on my way back.”
BAU, Quantico. One week later
Reid had Garcia burn him the few seconds of tape that showed Dr. Alecia Tripplehorn leaving Etcheverry Hall. She hadn’t asked what he wanted it for, nor had she bothered with legal niceties. He had the DVD in his hands ten minutes after he asked, without a single word spoken to anyone else on the team.
The short tape showed Alecia walking out of the building, talking with the man in the suit in a familiar way. She definitely knew him, trusted him, and was familiar with him. Him showing up at the university was not out of the ordinary, because she showed absolutely no signs of hesitation. The man opened up the passenger side door for her, politely, and Alecia said something to him, looked back at the building and smiled. She sat down in the van, the man got into the driver’s seat, and they drove away. The license plate had been obscured from the angle; Reid had checked it three times.
Uncannily familiar. That’s what Garcia had called Alecia. But not identical. And now she was gone. Dr. Raymond had returned later that afternoon after she had gone, and Dr. Tripplehorn had returned to her former position at South Dakota State University. Her assistant had informed Reid that the doctor had taken a vacation after working so hard in California, and wouldn’t be able to take calls until she had returned.
“And when will that be?” Reid had asked, as politely as he was able.
“A couple weeks, and after that she’s going to be doing some pretty heavy-duty research. But I’ll pass your message along…?”
“Spencer. Dr. Spencer Reid.”
“Dr. Reid. I’ll let her know.”
After that call, Reid had watched the video several more times, trying to glean some information out of it that he might have missed. He’d ended up watching it until his eyes blurred. By his fifth viewing, Reid knew there was an ugly name for what he was feeling.
It didn’t stop him until the tenth viewing, when he realized that nothing else was going to appear in the background, and that obsession rarely did any good, even when it was used on the side of right.
It disturbed him more than a little that it had taken him so long to remember that. Reid took a deep breath, tried to distance himself a little, and focused.
L.A. Dollhouse, three weeks later
“Did I fall asleep?”
“For a little while.”
“Shall I go now?”
“If you like.”
Echo emerged from the chair, vaguely smiling and apparently unaware of the role she’d played this afternoon. Another roll in the hay for a discerning Dollhouse client, nothing she hadn’t done a dozen times before. Except that now there was a difference. Her smile wasn’t quite as vague, her responses were a little more aware, and the books she’d filched from somewhere she was actually reading at a ferocious rate, not just puzzling out a word here and there.
There was a slight knowing look in her eye when she left Topher’s office, a kind of amusement at the routine as Dr. Saunders looked her over and pronounced her in good health. It was subtle, as if Paul hadn’t been spending most of his waking moments around Echo, he might not have noticed it.
But he did, and he could easily time when her improved memory had started: last month when she’d been imprinted with that genius professor for three weeks. They’d had to terminate that engagement abruptly when they’d realized the FBI had been questioning her and other staff members about students they knew. It had required a lot of fancy computer cover-ups and the use of some of the Dollhouse’s PR personnel to fake being bosses and assistants, according to Topher, but it had turned out all right.
In Echo’s case, more than all right.
A day after they’d wiped Dr. Alecia Tripplehorn and imprinted her with a saucy pirate wench for someone’s birthday bash, she’d startled the hell out of him by remembering her name was Echo. From there, her memory had only gotten better. Not perfect, but better.
And sometimes that was more than a little startling. The next day, Paul was driving Echo from her latest engagement, when languid and mostly silent “Clarissa” unexpectedly had something to say.
“Paul, I need you to warn him. Tell him about me.”
Paul jumped in his seat and managed to avoid crashing the van when Echo spoke up from the back. No more Southern drawl and slow, deliberate delivery, this was decidedly Echo’s more energetic and clipped tone, though impeded by the imprint.
“You’re back?” he asked, catching her eye in the rearview mirror briefly.
“I’m always here, it just takes me time to find my way out…”
“”We nearly got into a crash, so warn me next time,” Paul admonished.
“I… will,” Echo said. Her brow furrowed as she concentrated hard, dragging her own memories to the forefront of her mind.
“Warn who?” Paul asked.
“Spencer,” she said with conviction.
“Spencer…” Echo paused, thinking hard through her imprint of demure debutant. “Reid.”
“Do I know him?”
“You… saw him. Last month. At the university.”
Paul choked. “The FBI profiler? You want me to tell him about you?” Paul had been careful to not stay long in the profiler’s presence on purpose. The FBI was too big for every agent to know every other agent, but Paul knew his own tale of disgrace had to be an office horror story by now. And profilers had a reputation for putting pieces together that most would rather keep apart.
“Yes. He’s looking for me. I know it. He wants to find me.” With every passing minute, Echo was sounding more grounded and solid, more her.
“Do you want him to find you?” Paul asked, wanting to get her reasoning before he counseled her against this madness.
“More than anything in the world.” The look in Echo’s eyes, even through the mirror, made Paul flinch with its intensity.
“Echo, why? Why get him involved?”
Echo shook her head. “He could help free the others, and he would want to. But I don’t want him to get involved. Not… too close.” She reached up and squeezed Paul’s shoulder in acknowledgment of his own loss. He’d tried to find Echo, had gotten too close, and had nearly lost everything.
“Ok,” Paul nodded slowly. “Ok, how do you want to do this?”
“He needs to know what he’s dealing with. How powerful this is, and how far it goes.”
“How is telling him about the Dollhouse going to stop him from getting too close?”
“He doesn’t know he’s playing with fire. But he’ll do better if he figures it out himself. Alpha sent you information about me. Send some to Spencer, the same way,” she urged.
“I don’t suppose you know his address?” Paul muttered, not liking the plan, but willing to help. Willing to take any steps forward to deal with this nightmare they had found themselves in.
Echo closed her eyes for a second and her face took on an inquisitive, almost childlike quality. Paul had seen that look before, on Dr. Alecia Tripplehorn. Then she opened her eyes and casually rattled off an address in Quantico.
BAU, Quantico, three days later
“Reid, is there something going on with you?”
Reid blinked as Morgan’s question penetrated, and quickly shook his head.
“I know we’re not supposed to profile each other, but I can’t not notice there’s been something on your mind since that Berkeley shooter case.” Morgan sat down on the edge of Reid’s desk so he had to look at him.
“It’s… nothing’s wrong,” Reid said reluctantly, blushing a bit in embarrassment when he considered the burned DVD buried in the back of his drawer. And the new piece of mail he’d just stacked on top of it.
“So, something’s going right? My man,” Morgan said, grinning. “Is it that actress… Lila?”
“No!” Reid said, too quickly.
“All right, all right, someone new?” Morgan persisted.
Reid just looked at Morgan, silently imploring him not to ask further. Moran dropped his broad grin and became more serious.
“Reid, it’s not that hard to figure out there’s something pretty important going on. You’ve only been half there these last few cases. Though half of your mind is usually more than enough.”
Reid managed a weak smile. “J.J. said that yesterday.”
“You and I both know the only reason Hotch hasn’t said anything to you is because he hopes you’ll talk to someone before it becomes a problem,” Morgan warned him, flicking his eyes up to Hotch’s office door.
Reid pressed on damp palm to his thigh, feeling the flat round of his sobriety medal in his pocket under his fingertips.
“If I can’t… I’ll call someone,” Reid said quietly. “I just need to try something on my own.”
Morgan looked unconvinced, but then J.J. waved them into the briefing room, and he had to drop it.
Reid waited just a moment before following him up. He’d received an anonymous letter yesterday, one that held a small picture of Alecia. On the back someone had scrawled, “She’s in the Dollhouse. Don’t give up.” His own tentative inquiries hadn’t turned up anything conclusive, and he couldn’t tie up the facial recognition system on an unknown person with no possible connection to an active case. Morgan was right. It was time to talk to someone.
Garcia’s office, the next day
Garcia stared at her computer with an unusual amount of frustration. Usually it didn't take her more than a second to figure out where to start when anyone asked her a question. This search engine or that, special access or not, password protected? no problem. With full access to databases that most people didn't dream were as easy to access as they were to her, there was little information, aside from perhaps the Defense Department, that was closed to her.
But the Dollhouse? An urban legend, thoroughly debunked, something she and Kevin had giggled about in occasional fits of geeky superiority. It wasn't something that the informed worried about. Besides, conspiracy theories were rather looked down upon when you worked for the FBI. Reid knew that. He might be occasionally naive, but he was literally the smartest person she knew. He didn't believe in fairy tales and urban legends, except perhaps about what they revealed about the human psyche. She'd heard him use an unsub's paranoia against him not more than a month ago; so whatever had made him all but beg her to look into the Dollhouse had to be recent, and had to be serious.
She glared at the screen like it had just offered her a personal challenge. Reid didn't ask her for much, and definitely didn't swear her to secrecy before making a request. She owed him enough to see if there was anything real behind the usual smoke and mirrors of a typical tall tale.
"Ok," she muttered to herself, and threw open every database and search engine she had access to. "Let's go."
Even Topher Brink's enemies would have to admit he was a genius. Certifiably, objectively, it was beyond dispute. He was one of the best with neural mapping, engineering, circuitry, neurobiology, and computers. He could, and had, built his own computers from scratch, and had personally designed or improved nearly every system in the Dollhouse. He could tamper with the human mind in ways that some would have considered impossible, immoral, or downright blasphemous.
Topher just considered it cool.
It was the mind and the technology that manipulated it that was his passion, and so while the computer systems at the Dollhouse were second to none, they did not have the touch of genius about them that the chair and Doll technology did. They weren't Topher's babies. That was why, when the outer perimeter of the Dollhouse computer defenses were breached, it was only the standard Rossum Corporation measures that were brought to bear.
Garcia could see the alerts and alarms going off on several screens, warning her that powerful countermeasures were being deployed against her search. She grinned, her fingers dancing across the screen, leaving the FBI-tagged search strings going while she sent out others from dummy systems not tainted with the FBI's technology. Her searches had gone through tons and tons of conspiracy theory websites about the Dollhouse, and plenty more on Dr. Alecia Tripplehorn, Reid's mystery woman. Everything checked out neatly, too neatly, so Garcia had sent her probes deeper.
Tripplehorn/Las Vegas/Dollhouse/UC Berkley/timeframe Jan 2010 - March 2010
Topher had been about to get a new high score on Whack-a-Mole when alarms started chirping on his computer console. He looked over at it, bemused, wondering idly why in the world it would be making that particular set of beeps. He'd set up so many different alarms it was difficult to remember them all. It wasn't one of the ones relating to the Dolls, or one of the ones he'd installed so Adele couldn't sneak up on him. That meant it was...
Topher dropped his soda can and lunged for his keyboard.
Garcia was sure the FBI probes had been the ones to trip the alarms, and sent a few more commands to them to keep most of the defenses on them. Everything had a back door, a password, what the programmers used to update the system, and those were so much more vulnerable than trying to go in the front way...
"No, no, no..." Topher chanted softly, throwing up more and more screens and roadblocks to the relentless searches. His eyes were wide with disbelief. This was an FBI computer trying to get in, and Rossum was supposed to have countermeasures in place for that! But this, this was like getting with a swarm of FBI wasps, like there were a dozen systems or more trying to get in at once-.
Topher blinked at the screen and chuckled.
"Cute, very cute. I don't think so, puppet master."
"Take away my right hand, and my left hand can still smack you," Garcia muttered as her FBI dummy strings were shut down. She slammed up her own defenses to keep from getting backtracked, but that slowed her own search down. Time to give her counterpart something else to think about.
"Wha?" Topher said. A new window had popped up on his screen.
"Never gonna give you up, never gonna let you down..." wailed from his speakers.
Muting the volume, and shutting down the feed, Topher took a second to crack his knuckles.
"Ok, this means war."
Garcia was blinking away tears from where all her screens had flared brilliant white a moment ago, but was grimly pleased to see her remaining search strings hard at work, burrowing past facade after facade. She was less pleased a moment later when cartoon badgers started a conga line across her screen.
Topher was cursing under his breath when he saw files starting to come up on his other monitor, files of the people scanned for building the imprints. They didn't have names attached to them, they were in a separate file, but Adele or Boyd was going to kill him if whoever was attacking the computers figured out who they were!
His main monitor started to flash pictures of tooth-rottingly adorable kittens, and he restrained himself from pulling his hair out by sheer force of will.
Garcia looked at the brain scans uncomprehendingly, but bounced them to her external hard drive anyway. She was getting closer. This latest search string had gotten past a real mother of a password, and was starting to search in a whole new area. Finally, things began to be collated in her results window, and she grinned in triumph.
Topher felt blood draining from his face when he realized the foreign probe was actually searching within the Dollhouse mainframe itself. He launched a powerful scrambler that was going to take him hours to repair the damage, and abruptly shut down all the external feeds, plunging his lab into darkness.
The Jaws theme music started to play over Garcia's speakers, and her screens began to fuzz. The information in her results window started to disappear, and she squeaked in dismay. Shutting down her feeds and dumping what information that remained into her external hard drive, she quickly unplugged it and cradled it protectively in her hands. She stared at her system in a state of shock before the automatic repair and diagnostics came online to fix what damage she'd wrought getting the information out of its impenetrable fortress.
Gingerly, she attached the hard drive to her own computer and pulled up what information she could. Whatever the guy on the other end had launched, it had ripped vast swathes of information away from her search strings. She only had a few paltry bits left. A pair of what looked like pictures of a brain, and a few word associations:
Tripplehorn imprint - Active - Echo
Dollhouse - L.A. Flower street.
Multi-brain imprint - base SR
Garcia sighed at the pathetic remains of her data, and printed out what she had. She sure as hell hoped this was what Reid was looking for.
"Trying a new decorating scheme, Mr. Brink?" Adele asked.
Topher banged his head as he crawled out from under the desk, where he'd been soldering in some new chips to replace those he'd fried in his attempts to save himself from almost certain Adele-related doom.
"Uh, oh! The lights?" He laughed nervously. "Uh... glare! Interrupting my WoW session!" he said brightly.
Adele looked at Topher with a jaded eye.
"Which I should never be playing on company time, and will never do so again," he amended.
"See that you don't," she said coolly, and turned to leave.
Topher let out a silent sigh of relief, and quickly crawled back under the desk to save himself.
BAU, Quantico, next day
“I take it back,” Garcia said. She’d imperiously summoned Reid to her office with an anonymous e-mail, and had double-checked the locks twice after he’d come in. “I think it’s true.”
Reid had a wave of anxiousness and relief so strong his vision went blurry for a second. “You found her?”
Garcia hesitated, and picked up one of the folders on her desk. “Whoever is behind this has some seriously scary protection. They almost got me, but I pulled a few things out of the fire.” She presented him with the few words and brain scan pictures, and watched his reaction.
“Thank you,” Reid said, staring at them with single-minded concentration.
“I don’t know if it’s worth anything…” Garcia stopped as Reid went deathly pale. “What?”
“The scans… It’s me.”
“You?” Garcia asked.
“It’s my brain. This scan is me.”
“Of course you know what your own brain looks like,” she muttered.
“I had a brain scan after Tobias Hinkle because the doctors were afraid I’d done something when I-. After Tobias revived me.” Reid skittered verbally over his near-death experience. “I was fine…”
Reid’s mind had already made the connection, but he was slow to say it out loud. The Dollhouse urban legends said they could turn people into anything. Dr. Alecia Tripplehorn had all of his own traits and an uncannily similar background. Garcia had pulled his own brain scan from a massively well-protected server.
Alecia was him. The Dollhouse existed, and they’d made someone into him.
“She’s me,” Reid whispered.
“Oh, that is just not right on so many levels,” Garcia said, angry, but not at him.
“But how? The technology to overlay a new personality is beyond anything I’ve ever heard of…” Reid cut himself off. It was his job to do educated speculation, but this was so far outside his realm of experience that he couldn’t even hazard a wild guess.
“What now?” Garcia asked, bringing him back to the present.
“She’s in L.A. Flower Street. I should go there-,” he started, only to have Garcia interrupt him.
“Ah, Reid, I found something else while I was looking.” She sounded somewhat reluctant.
“From the Dollhouse computers?”
“No, from ours. I took a look through our own system after I tried the Dollhouse. A few agents have looked into it over the past five years, thinking it might be a human trafficking ring or something. All of the lead agents voluntarily ended their investigations because they lacked evidence. Except for one.” Garcia flipped open another folder and held it towards Reid, one that held the personnel file on an ex-agent named Paul Ballard.
As soon as Reid saw his face, he started in recognition. It was the man who’d spoken to Alecia at Berkeley!
Reid could read the man’s file faster than Garcia could tell him, but he let her say her piece anyway.
“Agent Ballard kept going after leads about the Dollhouse even after his superiors told him to stop. He was wounded in the line of duty going after a Dollhouse lead, and then kept investigating against orders. The FBI terminated him a year ago, and by terminated I do mean fired. But he dropped out of sight soon after that, and I haven’t been able to find him.” Garcia was looking more and more stressed with every word. “Reid, someone buried him deep for trying to go after these people. Even if he hadn’t been fired, there are disciplinary actions all over his file.”
Reid appreciated the warning, and nodded in acknowledgement. He’d had a feeling, ever since he’d watched the video of Alecia getting into that van, that official channels weren’t going to find her. He might not have enough experience to get the kinds of gut feelings Rossi did, but this one time, he was willing to trust intuition over intellect, and listen to the advice of a friend, rather than his own mind.
“I have vacation time I’ve never used,” he said. “I won’t make it official. I just… I have to try, Garcia. I have to do something.”
She bit her lip and closed the file. “You be careful. Or, or, I’ll tell Morgan!”
On to Part 2