A fan fiction story by Melpomene based on the characters and backstory of "Profiler" and composed without permission. No copyright infringement is intended and no monies have been earned.
“Georgie Porgie Puddin’ Pie kissed the girls and made them cry…”
The man walked through a darkened room and swept aside the dusty draperies to watch as chilling rain fell heavily from the night skies. Behind him the walls were papered with newspaper articles and surveillance photos. In each picture the same woman stood out. Dark and smoldering with an uncommon beauty. Sitting at a table with a dozen laughing people, walking along a sidewalk, even pushing a full grocery cart across a parking lot, her head bent attentively toward the small boy at her side, she radiated exotic attraction. The only flaws on the photos were her companion’s faces; each had been obliterated with thick red ink.
“Mommy, I want to go home.”
The room was dim, only the flickering light of the television illuminated a pair of rumpled beds and peeling utilitarian wallpaper. A gas wall heater rumbled to life drowning out the gentle cadence of the unwatched program. On one of the beds sat a small child, his pajamas pooled on the floor where they had been discarded soon after he had been wrestled into them, a stuffed dog was clutched to his chest as he looked longingly at his mother.
They had lived in the small room for nearly a week, the fourth such room in a series of ever-changing residence hotels, a handful of belongings stacked neatly in one corner and an almost continuous parade of federal agents and law enforcement officers traipsing in and out of their disrupted lives, further muddling anything they might have been able to call a scheduled existence.
“I know, baby. I know. Soon. We’ll be able to get out of here soon.”
Claudia looked up from her son’s apprehensive face to another familiar face with a similar expression. The thirty year-old single mother shook her head slowly and closed her eyes against the torrent of emotions that threatened to overwhelm the tenuous hold she had managed to maintain. Controlling the distress, she rose and walked across the room to kiss her son’s head and settle him back beneath the blankets of his bed.
“Go on to sleep now, Trinity. Everything’s going to be just fine.”
Looking again at the man who stood just inside the hotel room, Claudia smiled at her son and blew him another kiss, nodding to the silent agent who occupied a corner chair to let the little one know he wouldn’t be alone. Following her guest silently out the door, she paused on the front stoop of her hotel room and exhaled the breath she had been holding.
“How you holding up, kid?”
“God, I just want this to all end, to be some kind of drawn out nightmare I can wake up from and then be able to go on with my life as usual.” Claudia raised a thin hand to her face and carelessly pushed back the lock of hair that had fallen across her brow. “I’ve got a four-year-old child in there who wants nothing more than to go home. How am I supposed to explain to him that we can’t do that because there’s a lunatic out there who has decided he needs to terrorize me to my dying day, not to mention the fact that he burned down our home and has killed most of our family? I wish to God that I had listened to everyone when they tried to convince me to go into cultural anthropology rather than forensics. Maybe then Trinity would have something that vaguely resembles a normal life.”
“Trinity will be fine, Claud. He’s probably the most well adjusted child I’ve ever met.”
A derisive chuckle escaped her despite her attempt to muffle it. “Well, I’d hate to run into the kids you know.” Opting for a turn to lighter topics, she added, “Did I ever tell you that in Trinity’s world there are no deaths due to natural causes?” She continued when her friend shook his head. “Nothing ever dies of old age. Even the beetles and bugs he finds dead in the garden are homicide victims. Those ants, you know, are a vicious bunch, they carry teeny tiny guns… and lots of ammunition.” Sighing and shaking her head again, she looked to her old friend.
“You would never have been content with cultural studies and you know it. Claudia, you’re the best forensic anthropologist I’ve ever had the opportunity to work with. You see things that other people miss. You’ve solved more cases single handedly in the last two and a half years than I could even dream of. We’ll get you through this and then you and Trinity can go back to a completely normal, boring life.”
“Boy you’re full of compliments tonight. What do you want, Merrick?”
“There are some people I’d like you to meet.”
“Claud, hear me out on this one. I’m not even sure that these folks can do anything to help us but they do have experience with this kind of terrorization.” Placing a steadying hand on her shoulder, Merrick continued. “We need help, if something doesn’t happen soon I’m afraid he’s going to get to you again. Trinity wasn’t with you the last time he cornered you alone, Claud. Do you want to find out what would happen if he gets his hands on him the next time? It’s almost time for his next visit.” He hated to dredge up the past and its host of horrific memories but was at a loss as to how to get Claudia to cooperate. “They won’t be here to pass judgment, Claud. I just want to see if they can offer us any help.”
“Fine.” Merrick closed his eyes as the hotel room door swung shut behind Claudia’s retreating form. Without waiting for any further sign he turned back toward the parking lot.
“What’s the word?” John asked rhetorically as he peered through the car window at the old-fashioned motor hotel.
The winding unorganized layout of the building belied multiple additions and a long list of owners. Each of the rooms had an external door that opened onto a central parking area. The parking lot itself was jammed with all manner of vehicles. Of the twenty-eight rooms in the hotel, eight were occupied by federal agents and two held members of the local police force. Whoever this mystery woman was, she had accumulated an entourage of concerned guardians.
Sam watched the group of men who sat on the covered second floor balcony smoking and talking, protected from the icy downpour if not the frigid air itself. How these guys could manage to sit around in near freezing temperatures without sticking out like sore thumbs was a testament to Quantico’s ever-improving training techniques.
The man who had spent the last day and a half sequestered with Bailey in the VCTF offices strode across the oil and rain slicked pavement unfazed by the pouring winter shower. He leaned through the window of Bailey’s car as John and Sam watched from John’s vehicle.
Soon after approaching Bailey’s car Agent Merrick Trahan stood erect and returned to the hotel. It was looking to be a very long night for everyone involved, for him, for Bailey Malone and his agents, and especially for the one person he wanted most to protect but had been unable to do so for the last three months: Claudia Matheson. Merrick dejectedly led the VCTF to the room adjacent to Claudia’s. He, like Claudia, wished for an end to their troubles he just didn’t see a happy ending in sight.
“It looks like the word is that we’re in for a cold shower,” Sam said as she unbuckled her seatbelt and grasped the door handle.
Once in the musty room Merrick picked up a discarded cigarette lighter and lit the scented candle Claudia had forced into his hands earlier that week. Inhaling the sweet exotic scents of jasmine and gardenia he smiled; she was right, the candle did help get rid of some of the sickening claustrophobic feelings emanating from the room. He dropped the lighter on the dresser and waited for his anticipated guests.
They were holed up in the stifling quarters for half an hour, discussing the specifics of the case without Merrick actually telling them anything useful. Grace had given up and was sitting on the foot of one of the beds flipping through a two day old newspaper and silently watching as George occupied himself with setting up what computer equipment they had brought with them. Only Bailey, John, and Sam remained attentive, albeit frustrated.
“Merrick, if you want our help, you’re going to need to give us something to work with.” Bailey stood up from the small table and glanced at Sam who sat staring at the one police report they’d been provided with. “We’re federal agents here, not psychics.”
“I know, Bailey. It’s just a difficult situation for everyone involved and especially so for the lady of the hour. She can tell you more than I can about the case, if she will.”
“If she will?” Sam looked up at the man she knew only as Agent Merrick Trahan, a past acquaintance of Bailey’s who had asked for their help. He was almost as mysterious as the woman he was trying to protect. Tall, toned, blonde, and blue eyed, Merrick looked like a poster boy for Quantico but his eyes were shadowed with concern and his brow was creased with worry lines.
Merrick sighed and rubbed both hands across his face before placing them palms down on the tabletop and addressing the FBI’s foremost profiler. He had worked with a number of forensic scientists in his seven years with the bureau; all had been similar in personality, all except Claudia and apparently Bailey’s team. These people weren’t agents first and scientists second, they wanted to do their jobs for the betterment of society not for bureau advancement.
“I approached Bailey because of your team’s experience with Jack-of-all-trades. I’ve been able to assimilate a four year relationship, so to speak, between you and the man who has been tormenting you and your loved ones.” Merrick quickly continued before the shock had worn off his stunned audience. “I wasn’t trying to pry into things that were none of my concern, I merely wanted to be sure I wasn’t setting Claudia up for disappointment from the start. I may be anyway, but at least now I know that you’ll be better able to understand what it is she’ll tell you.”
“The biggest problem will be getting Claudia to open up at all. She’s not exactly what you’d call talkative. She was quiet to begin with but ever since the stalking began, she’s become even more introverted. It’s only been three months but I’m not sure she can make it much longer.”
“What’s happened in the last three months?”
“You name it, it’s happened.” The door suddenly swung ajar letting in a gust of chilling wind laced with sleet and buffeting the woman who stood on the threshold. She was tall and dark, nothing about her was light--from her olive skin to her black hair and eyes, even her expression was dark and brooding. Wearing black leather and sporting short rain-slicked hair she made an imposing figure more suited to a biker bar than an FBI brainstorming session.
“Solomon has killed my parents, brother, sisters, ex-fiancé, best-friend, and neighbor and co-worker. He has abducted me once for a period of four days, shot me four times, stabbed me twice and twice poisoned me. I have tried repeatedly to resign my position within the FBI only to have my resignation unequivocally denied.” She glared pointedly at Merrick. “Without Agent Trahan’s knowledge, I even tried to give myself over to Solomon himself just to put an end to it, only to be beaten and tortured and dropped off at a local emergency room. Solomon was angry because I was apparently acting out of character. Something has to be done. I refuse to further endanger or lose anyone else and Merrick seems to be convinced that you will be able to offer some assistance although I can’t say as I share his enthusiasm.”
Sam watched the newcomer’s face as she rattled off the list of recent occurrences without so much as a tremor in her voice or flicker of emotion in her eyes. Merrick, she noted, didn’t look as enthused as Claudia seemed to believe he was; the man watched Claudia with an eagle eye, catching even the smallest gestures of those around her. He was a man who had obviously taken on the task of protecting the woman as a personal endeavor. Silently, Sam wondered about the extent of the relationship between the two agents.
After a lengthy silence, she spoke, “Solomon?”
“Yes, Claudia’s little joke. The first attack happened on a Monday and resulted the death of Claudia’s ex-fiancée. Dr Jake Harrison was a prominent and well-respected ob-gyn at Saint Elizabeth’s Hospital. He had moved his practice here three years ago to escape the violence of Atlanta. He and Claudia met a few months after he moved to town; they were engaged for a year and a half and had been amicably separated for two months when he was found dead in his office. The pathologist’s report listed forty-eight stab wounds thought to have been caused possibly by a Bowie knife.” Merrick pulled out a thick file and handed it to Grace to peruse.
“The next attack came on Tuesday of the following week. My brother was in town visiting my family when the Sisters of Blessed Charity discovered him at morning vespers strung to the life-sized crucifix inside the chapel of Saint Anne’s.” Claudia wrapped her arms around her waist and walked toward the bed that was still unoccupied. “Andrew was a priest just out of seminary and wanted to spend some time with the family before he began missionary work in Algiers. He had more broken and fractured bones than whole ones when they conducted the autopsy. But that isn’t what killed him, he was drowned, presumably with holy water.”
John entered the conversation, “Solomon Grundy born on Monday, christened on Tuesday…”
“Married on Wednesday...” Claudia paused a moment before continuing her gruesome tale.
“My eldest sister, Julia, was a wedding planner. She worked closely with, Taryn, my best friend, who designed all those little trinkets and knick knacks that you supposedly need for weddings or christenings or whatever, you know, bundles of rice, little parasols with ribbons and flowers and stuff, lots of frilly pointless things no one ever really needs but feel compelled to distribute nonetheless. Julia and Taryn met my other sister and my parents for lunch just before the café blew up. The blast was so strong that it leveled the building and most of the surrounding shops have since been condemned. They were all just trying to get out away for a moment, taking a break from preparing for Andrew’s funeral. I was supposed to join them but I got a last minute call from the forensics lab claiming to have some new leads on Jake’s murder. When I got there, no one seemed to know who called and there was nothing new to tell.”
“Solomon,” John supplied.
“We believe so, yes.”
“When did the bomb go off?” Bailey rifled through the stack of files Merrick had at last made available to them.
“Exactly twenty minutes after I received the call. I was on my way back to the café when the ambulances and fire trucks started to pull away. There was nothing to be done, my family and everyone else who happened to be in the café at the time of the explosion was killed instantly. At least they didn’t suffer or even know what was coming.” Claudia took a deep breath. “That’s when I felt that Trinity would be safer if he was far away from me. An old family friend had just moved to the Blue Ridge Mountains. Mrs. Snow had grown up there and was planning on retiring there and was more than happy to have Trinity’s company. I asked Merrick to fly with Trinity for me, I had hoped that if I weren’t with Trinity, Solomon might take his attention away from him.”
Merrick continued the tale when it was apparent that Claudia wasn’t going to continue. “I returned, several hours later, the local field office was in an uproar. Solomon had managed to get past four armed guards and bypass the house’s state-of-the-art security system to get to Claudia. He then drugged her while she slept and, from all appearances, carried her right out the front door and to his waiting car. He left his calling card for us to discover, a heart cut from the personals section of the newspaper and pierced with a burned matchstick. It took nearly four days for us to decipher the twisted little clues he kept sending us, by the time I got to Claudia she was dehydrated and in shock. He hadn’t laid a hand on her but he’d kept her drugged for too long and she was experiencing some pretty severe side effects. Two hours after being admitted to the hospital Claudia began to be bombarded with flowers, cards, and trinkets all from Solomon. The following week several parcels were delivered to Mrs. Snow’s residence, all bearing Solomon’s calling card.”
Claudia buried her head in her hands, willing herself to listen to the rest. She most wanted to jump up, bundle up Trinity and flee… go anywhere they might be safe. But safety was the one thing that was lost to her until Solomon was captured and locked away for good.
“His MO constantly changes but the focus remains invariable. He doesn’t want to kill Claudia; we don’t even think he truly wants to do her any lasting damage. The only instances where he did any physical harm to Claudia have been in moments of extreme rage resulting from moments when he feels she is ‘acting out of character’and even then he didn’t risk her death. The profiler who was working with us felt that he was trying to get her attention away from her family. The most effective way of doing that was to take her family completely, and permanently, out of the picture. She also felt certain that the incidents which resulted in Claudia’s being shot weren’t intended to end her life. He seems to have flawless aim and each time he’s shot her well below her chest.”
“Who was profiling for you?” Bailey asked.
A quick look passed between Merrick and Claudia before she murmured her reply, “Agent Nadia Samuels, my next door neighbor.”
“Agent Samuels was discovered in her home two weeks ago this Thursday. She had died of carbon monoxide poisoning, apparently from a faulty heating system. The only problem is that she had just had the system checked three days before the accident. The company’s records show that there was no problem, nor has one been detected since.” Merrick searched for the appropriate file before offering it to John, the only agent who wasn’t already studying some aspect of the case.
In a stuttering, syncopated rhythm the two agents continued to elaborate on the details of the stalking. Two incidents of attack and superficial stabbings both of which were followed by the delivery of a paper heart and matchstick, two cases of poisoning which left Claudia ill but not in danger of her life. Long hours later their story came to a halt and Merrick rose from the table.
“I don’t know about you and your team but we’ve had a long day.” He stretched and walked to stand next to Claudia, placing a hand on her shoulder and drawing her out of her extended silence.
“Yes, I need to get back to our room.” She glanced sideways at Sam, and offered in explanation, “Trinity gets upset when he wakes up and I’m not there. Besides, I don’t like him to be out of my sight for long.”
Merrick’s watchful gaze followed Claudia as she walked out the door and stepped into the pouring rain. “Like I said, we need to get this guy soon. The woman Claudia has become is nothing like the woman she was four months ago. We’ve all had to make adjustments in the way we lead our lives, but hers has been the biggest sacrifice. She used to be happy.” Merrick sat down in the place Claudia had vacated. “My reasons for asking for your help with this were two-fold however. Claudia and I have worked together with violent crimes for about two years now and I’ve never seen her affected in this way.”
“Given that she’s lost nearly her entire family, it’s understandable that she would be depressed,” Sam noted. “I would be more concerned if she weren’t.”
“I understand that. I was probably closer to her family than I am to my own. They were the kind of people who still got together every Friday night for a big dinner. I can’t remember a Friday evening that Claudia didn’t insist that I join them. She and I used to have these long debates, all in fun of course, about co-dependency and the Southern family. Claudia says that without co-dependency the Southern family wouldn’t exist. She adored her family and they adored her. Claudia was their shining star.”
“They were all successful in their own ways, her sisters and her brother, but Claudia’s achievements were remarkable. She earned her PhD the year she turned 27 and went straight into the FBI to work with violent crimes. She’s the best forensic anthropologist I’ve ever heard of and she’s completely oblivious to the fact. She’s able to ascertain things from a pile of bones that’s unbelievable. Others in her field admit that much of what she finds is relatively obvious to the trained eye, but she can reason through the crime at break-neck speed. She and Nadia Samuels often worked together; they’d plunge into a case in the morning and would reach a final verdict and profile in a few days, sometimes within the same day. She’s fast but thorough. She’s earned a number of awards and recognitions in the last couple of years.”
“She sounds like our kind of girl,” Grace stated, looking up from one of Claudia’s field notebooks. The stack of old-fashioned composition notebooks littered the second bed, filled with tiny precise script and neat field sketches. “You know, if our guys took notes like these, I’d never have to visit the crime scenes.”
“We got the notion to check the paper hearts under black light from your dealings with Jack. Each one has its own private message from Solomon to Claudia. He’s relentless.” Merrick closed his eyes momentarily. “I’ll make Agent Samuels’ profile available to you, Dr. Waters.”
“Sam, my friends call me Sam.”
“Alright, Sam then. I’ll see if I can get into Claudia’s room before she turns in for the night. She’s got all of Nadia’s notes.”
It was late when Sam decided to take a break from Agent Samuels’ notes and step outside for a breath of fresh air. She heard a church bell toll three when she spied a lonely shadow nearby. Easing closer to investigate she discovered Claudia standing on the pavement, staring blankly ahead, and holding a cigarette in one hand. She was surprised when Claudia addressed her.
“I quit smoking the day I found out I was pregnant. The day I got the first note from Solomon I went out and bought a carton.”
Her voice was so low, Sam had to strain to hear her words. She slowly stepped closer but remained silent.
“It doesn’t matter where I go, he finds me. I’ll wake up one morning and there on the door will be another paper heart, another matchstick. Then it’s off to another place that’s supposed to be safe. Poor Trinity is so distraught. He hates change and that’s all our lives have been recently.”
“Well, children are remarkably adaptive.”
“Not Trin.” Claudia turned her head to focus her attention on the acclaimed profiler. “As much as Merrick is trying to help, there are only superficial similarities between Jack and Solomon. I’ve known all along that Solomon was trying to get my attention; he isn’t quite as cryptic as Jack in his killing. I guess we just ran out of options. I keep waiting for the call that says my son is dead, he’s just about the last person in what I would claim as my family.”
“What exactly is the nature of your relationship with Agent Trahan?” Sam decided that Claudia had dealt with enough subterfuge; straightforward honesty would be the best option with the stressed woman.
Claudia smiled. “Merrick Trahan and I have known each other forever. I took dance lessons from his mother when I was just a little thing. I was four and he was nine the summer we decided to see if it really was hot enough outside to fry eggs on the sidewalk… it was. It was Merrick who convinced me to apply to the bureau. I was content to work with local law enforcement agencies but he was so sure I’d like the FBI crime lab better. He was right, I’ll give him that much.”
Sam smiled in reply although it was difficult to imagine the woman as a little girl bedecked in pink tutu and tights. She wondered how much of the tough exterior was a direct result of Solomon.
“Merrick values your abilities.”
“Merrick put me on a pedestal the first day he met me. I was the first baby he had ever held.” Claudia grinned again.
“You’re beautiful when you smile.” Sam wasn’t sure if Claudia was more surprised by her admission, or if she was by the very fact that she had uttered it. She felt a certain empathy toward the other woman and was relatively sure that was the reason Merrick had requested them on the case. Claudia needed someone who knew what it felt like to have all she held dear ripped away from her. No one who hadn’t experienced it would be able to know how it felt to live in constant fear that someone might die merely because they knew you.
“Do you think you’ll ever be able to go back to life as normal without looking over your shoulder every time some one walks past?”
Sam thought for a moment. A life without Jack hounding her seemed such a distant concept. How would she adjust to normalcy? “I don’t know, but I’d like to have the opportunity to find out.”
The morning dawned cold and wet. Merrick was still shrugging on his coat when he heard the angry shout. Charging out of his room he came face to face with Claudia. Her eyes were blazing as she tossed the paper heart in his direction and dashed back into her room. Bailey, John, and Sam joined him curiously on the sidewalk.
“Damn it,” Merrick cursed softly. He handed the slightly crumpled evidence to Sam and began to knock on the door to Claudia’s room. Although there were muffled noises coming from within his knock went unanswered. “Claudia? Open the door. Claud!” Merrick’s calls went unanswered.
Turning on his heel he rushed to his own room to retrieve the spare room key that would allow him entrance to Claudia’s room. Claudia’s screams met him as he touched the key to her door. Something was definitely wrong. “I’m coming in, Claud!”
When Merrick threw open the door, half a dozen people flooded in: Bailey, Sam, John, Grace, George, and Merrick all stood in horrified awe at the sight that lay before them. An open suitcase lay on the foot of one of the beds, clothes thrown into and around it. Claudia was crumpled on the worn carpeting; her face buried in the disheveled hair of a little boy who would have appeared to be sleeping had his lips and eyelids not been blue. The child was undeniably dead, and it had happened right under their noses.
“Oh God, Claud…”
“No! Don’t you dare touch him!” Claudia shouted when Merrick leaned down beside her. She clutched the little boy tightly in her arms, rocking him fiercely. “It’s too late, his skin is so cold…”
“Claudia?” Grace knelt next to the distraught woman. “Claudia. I’m a doctor. Let me see him.”
Claudia reluctantly relaxed her grip on her lost son but refused to allow the child to be taken from her embrace. Before Grace could even complete a visual examination, Claudia murmured, “Rigor Mortis is already beginning to set in… he’s been dead for hours. How could he have died without me knowing?” Her plea and her anguished gaze were focused on Merrick.
“I’m going to kill the bastard.” He slammed his fists against the doorjamb in irrepressible rage and hatred.
Sam returned her gaze to Claudia and noticed that Grace too turned to face the woman. Claudia’s voice had lost its earlier panic and fear, all that was left was cold resolve and she quietly repeated the single word of her reply, “no.” Adding, “he’s mine and you don’t get to tell me how to handle it anymore, Merrick. He’s crossed the line and I’m not backing down until I find him and once I do a team of forensic pathologists won’t be able to id his body.”
“Claud, please. Don’t let him win, don’t let him steal your humanity.”
Merrick’s pleas fell on deaf ears. “It’s too late, Mer, he’s already won. He’s taken almost everyone I love from me. I’d watch my back if I were you, you’re the only one left living that I care about. You know he’ll go after you next.”
“He’s not going to go after me…”
Claudia cut him off, “That’s exactly what Nadia said, remember?” Placing a light kiss on Trinity’s cold brow and whispering something in his unhearing ear, Claudia rose and faced Grace. “You’ll be careful with him, yes? I know you have a son of your own. I can’t bear the thought of anyone else touching him but I need to know how Solomon did it.”
Grace nodded wordlessly. It wasn’t often that she had to deal with the families of her ‘patients’ and she couldn’t help but wonder what she would be feeling if she were in Claudia’s shoes and it was her own little boy laying lifelessly on the faded carpeting of a cheap motel room.