The Devil’s Den

By Beth

FBI Files (Seven)

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Chapter 7

“What the hell?” Buck asked in astonishment, as he entered the hospital room Vin was staying in. Balloons, flowers, and get well soon cards littered the walls, tables, and bed. What captured the ladies man’s attention, however, was the plastic life-sized blow up doll still encased in its box.

“The guys from SWAT sent this,” Josiah chuckled. “Seems Brother Vin has some hidden secrets.”

Vin rolled his eyes and smiled shyly.

“Better hide the doll before Buck finds a good use for it,” JD snickered.

“I don’t need no doll,” Buck responded, “to get a ladies attention.”

Chris chuckled but kept quiet. He looked again at the files in his lap.

“Shit, Vin,” Buck started, “That scar on your neck is goin’ to drive the women wild,” he slapped his hands together and grinned. Without warning he unbuckled his belt and started pulling his pants down.

“What are you doing?” Nathan asked, not losing the humor in his tone.

“Look at this,” Buck said, pointing to the slightly puffy circular scar on his thigh just above his knee. He looked up and made sure everyone was looking. “I tell all my ‘lady friends’ that I got this on a bust,” he nodded, proud of himself. “Works like a charm.”

“You got that falling on your ass while cleaning Nettie Wells gutters,” Chris chuckled.

“The girls don’t know that,” Buck replied, shacking his head as though he were saying, duh.

The sound of a woman clearing her throat caused all seven of the FBI agents to turn. She smiled, looking at the ladies man who still had his jeans dropped around his ankles; his red and white boxers didn’t help the situation. “Is there I problem I should see to?” she asked softly. “Maybe it’s too cold in here?”

Buck’s face went red and he turned quickly and replaced his pants. Vin threw his pillow at the agent, while trying to keep from laughing.

“I’ll come back in a little while.” The beautiful red head said, closing the door behind her.

“Burn,” JD laughed, covering his mouth.

Buck smirked before grabbing the kid around the neck in a headlock and giving him a noogie. JD yelped and flayed his arms, trying to push the taller, and in essence, stronger man off. Buck grinned all the while, twitching his mustache.

Ezra cocked an eyebrow, having experienced something similar when he was younger. It wasn’t unusual for departments, or teams to act in such ways. The tension everyone was under called for outlandish pranks. Dark humor and jokes were common in the Behavioral Science Division…it had to be, in order to complete their tasks and keep their sanity.

When the nurse reentered the room, everyone looked up and Buck immediately released JD. She moved over to the bed and checked Vin’s blood pressure. Vin sighed and rolled his eyes, not caring for the attention.

“When can I leave?” Vin asked, his voice still harsh. He took a sip of water, trying to ease the scratchiness in his throat.

“Doctor Pickles is signing your paperwork as we speak.” She smiled and patted his arm. “I’m going to miss having you around.” She winked at him before disappearing through the door.

“She’s comin’ on to you, Vin,” Buck said, shaking his head in disbelief. How could the sharpshooter not see it?

Vin shook his head, having learned to avoid this kind of conversation. Once had been enough. “Where are we headed?”

“Colorado,” Ezra answered softly. He held in his grasp a package of letters from Mason’s  mother…hopefully, he could learn something from them. 

Everyone looked up at him, knowing what he had to say, without having to hear it.


Vin sat between Chris and Buck in the small puddle jumper that the state of Utah had called a plane. The others were scattered around, sitting in different seats. Seeing as how they had been the only people with the insane idea of traveling at three in the morning, the seven of them were the only passengers. They were making their way to Boulder Colorado. Vin scratched at the wound on his neck that remained covered with gauze and tape. He felt guilty, having fallen victim to a ‘stupid mistake’ on his behalf. He’d put the team behind, and another victim had surfaced in the Colorado Rockies. This time it had been a young man.

The resident agency in Boulder had taken care of the crime scene and sent a priority package containing photographs, notes, the autopsy report, and formal reports to Chris and his team. Like the others, this victim wasn’t any different, except for the fact that Danny Crane had been murdered in his hotel room.

Ezra read through the file, trying to understand Mason’s motives for this particular victim. Danny was a young cop…who happened to be homosexual. He was known as being soft spoken, a gentlemen, and willing to help those in need. He’d tried to keep his personal life, personal…but now everyone knew. He’d been prom king at his high school, a football star through college, and a heartbreaker for any young woman who was fortunate enough to lay eyes on him. He’d joined the force hoping to make a difference.

“Says here that fingerprints were left all over the room…most covered in blood, both belonging to Mason and Crane,” Josiah said, reading through a report.

“Whose blood?” Buck asked, while keeping a close eye on the sharpshooter who sat next to him and Chris.

“The type matches Crane…except for what was found on the outside of the door. They’re still trying to run the DNA match,” Nathan answered, shaking his head. “You feeling all right, Vin?”

The sharpshooter nodded and leaned his head back. He was tired, sore, and emotionally drained. Hell, they all were, and it was only a week and a half into the case.

Chris looked up from his files and nodded when he caught eyes with Nathan. They’d get to their destination and take some time and slow down.


The motel rested on the outskirts of town, a truck stop and diner were the only adjacent buildings. People drove in and out all day and night, and nobody gave them a second thought…until now. It was a casual place, two stories with approximately 25 rooms. Freezers and soda machines were framed under the stairs at both ends of the walkway. Lights lit the upstairs awning, however they did little to illuminate the places that were perfect for a-would-be-killer to hide. The ground floor was the worst, particularly the stairwells.  

“Feels strange,” JD said, looking at the front of the motel where Danny Crane had died.

“What does, Kid?” Buck asked, shoving JD forward.

“We’re staying in the same motel where that kid died,” JD replied, shrugging his shoulders. “It just doesn’t seem right.”

“It’s not, Brother,” Josiah said, stepping up beside the two.

Chris stepped out of the manager’s office after having secured five rooms for the night. He wasn’t thrilled about staying here…none of them were. But Nathan wanted to take samples from the crime scene for his own sake and Ezra needed to view the room. Chris shook his head and watched as several new occupants of the hotel stood outside room number 16…waiting for something. Many held Bibles, and some wore black, while others just looked in wonder at the sight where a man was murdered. 

Vin stepped up beside Chris, needing to find a place to lie down and sleep a while. He was pale, and it was obvious to the others that he needed time to rest. Chris grabbed the sharpshooter’s arm and directed him toward the room they’d be sharing. Josiah and the others headed up the stairs as well.


Chris unlocked the door to his hotel room and moved aside as Vin sluggishly pushed past him. He headed for the closest bed and flopped down on his belly, not bothering to kick his boots off. Chris shook his head, he knew they’d pushed Vin hard since being released from the hospital. If it hadn’t been for Nathan’s medical patience and knowledge, the sharpshooter would be spending another night in a hospital.

Chris threw his and Vin’s bags onto the dresser next to the TV and then pulled off the Texan’s boots. Chris tossed an extra blanket over his agent as he slept and turned on the radio…wanting to hear the results of baseball game. He could hear through the paper walls, JD on the right, making his nightly call to Casey, and Buck, who was most likely searching for something on the tube. The others were just down the way a bit.


Nathan cut the police tape that kept the murder scene from being compromised. The resident agency in Boulder had processed the body upon discovery and taken hair, fiber, and blood samples from the room. Though the murder took place inside a motel room as opposed to the back of a van, as suspected by Ezra, all the signs were analytic of Mason.

When the door was pushed open, Nathan took a deep breath, trying to prepare for the sight. Chris, Josiah, and Ezra followed. Death had a distinct smell, and this room sang with it. Blood had been splattered on the walls like paint on a Jackson Pollock painting. The blankets from the double bed had been thrown back like someone had slept and made themselves at home in the room. The TV was still on, and written in blood was ‘help’.

Chris’ jaw clenched tight, the muscles in his neck expanded, and his stomach turned in disgust. At this moment he was thankful that Vin, JD, and Buck hadn’t come down.

Ezra looked around and carefully moved to the corner of the room. It gave him a clear picture of everything. The light on the nightstand was enough to read by, and he opened the file he’d been carrying and started reading the letters sent by Mason’s mother to her son.

Chris watched his agent for a moment before looking toward his science officer. “Well?”

“The blood on the walls isn’t arterial spray,” Nathan said, looking at the evidence and the forensics report.

“So it was placed there on purpose,” Josiah surmised. He knew when he entered the room there was a presence of anger and it weighed heavily on the older man.

“He lost control,” Ezra said softly, looking up from the letters toward the others. “Agent Ragens’ report stated that Mason and Crane were seen together at a gay bar…they arranged to meet here. Perhaps Danny Crane was looking for something…that something ended up being Mason.” He looked toward the door, as though the serial killer was entering. “Mason entered, seeing his victim…”’ he looked across the table and toward the bed.

“Danny Crane wasn’t ‘known’ as being flamboyant with his sexual preference,” Chris said, looking at the bloody footprints. “Who saw him at the bar?”

“It was his ex, a man by the name of Peter Black…He stepped forward after the police released a statement regarding the murder,” Josiah said, stating what he’d read earlier.

“He wasn’t listed as a possible suspect?” Chris questioned.

“The FBI cleared him…” Josiah answered, taking a long sigh. It was times like this that he hated his job.

The room looked as though young Danny Crane had been placed in a blender. The cheap print of a landscape that hung above the bed was now splattered with droplets of blood. It was a physical contradiction: a peaceful serene setting, coated with the horrors of evil.

“Why’d he move from women to men?” Chris asked.

“Unlike most serial killers, Mason is afraid of what he desires,” Ezra answered. He handed Chris and Josiah a handful of letters that Beverly Mason had written her son. “He grew up with two sets of ideals. His mother’s alcoholism/religious fanaticism…as stated in those letters…and his father’s lack of attendance—”

“I thought you said serial killers were born?” Nathan asked.

“I did,” Ezra replied, “but that doesn’t mean the argument is still valid. However, there are outside influences that trigger the motivations of an individual capable of this type of behavior.”’

“So what are you saying?” Chris questioned, running a hand through his hair.

“Mason knows what he’s doing is wrong…not because it feels wrong, but because the law says it’s wrong.” Ezra stepped out from the corner of the room “His fantasies have always been of the male gender, but because of his misguided upbringing he’s never been able to execute them…’

“You make it sound like a damn play on a football field,” Chris barked.

“We all have fears, some more powerful than others. Look at the women he’s killed…in Mason’s mind he’s made them out to look like men…the men he in essence, fantasizes about. With the latest victims he’s cut their hair attempted to physically change their outward appearance…make them into men.”

“Then why the history with children?” Nathan asked.

“Easy prey,” Ezra answered flatly. “Same with the women… The idea of taking on a man is more intimating…particularly, someone as cowardly as Mason.”

“Sounds unreal,” Nathan commented.

“So what will the profile of Mason’s next victim be?” Chris questioned, trying to find a solution before another person was killed needlessly.

“He’ll seek someone opportunistic. He lost control…” Ezra said looking around the room, “…and he’ll need someone who can give him that back.”

Chris sighed and ran his fingers through his hair. He wasn’t sure what he was doing, and he felt as though he were chasing a ghost. “So where is he going?”’ he asked, harsher than he’d anticipated. “I’m getting tired of seeing bodies everywhere. I want to find this guy.”

“We’re doing the best we can, Brother,” Josiah said, folding his fingers together.

“Obviously, it’s not good enough,” Chris snapped, leaving the room in a huff.

The stress levels intensified as Nathan shook his head and followed the team leader from the room…both men had seen enough. Ezra watched them go, feeling as though he’d failed…again. He seated himself in one of the chairs at the table and looked intently at the room, the way the blood had been splattered against the walls, the placement of the bedspread and sheets, the towels that had been covered in blood that now rested on the floor next to the bathroom door. He looked closely at the fingerprints on the plastic cups, on the sink and mirror. Ezra knew that the handprint on the door was Mason’s that had been his calling card. But when did he lose control? What had triggered the violence? Had murder been on Mason’s mind when he entered the room…yes, Ezra thought, because he left his print.

“Do you need anything, Brother?” Josiah asked softly.

“No, thank you, Mr. Sanchez.”

Josiah nodded and stood momentarily in the doorway. He looked hard at Ezra and the room he sat in. The horrors man was capable of was monstrous, and for someone to do such things was evil through and through. Josiah knew better than anyone how beliefs could drive motivations. People all over the world suffered for their religious causes…right or wrong, they had a right to them. But for someone to kill for pleasure, to cause and inflict pain on another human being because they wanted to was truly evil.

Josiah looked again at Ezra and left the room, knowing the profiler needed time along to think. They all did.


Ezra sat in the chair and looked at the items in the room, trying to see what Mason had when he’d arrived. The light next to the bed was dim enough to not be a bother, and light enough to read by. The once rust colored carpet had faded in spots and was now stained black with blood in places. Some of the furniture had been carved into and drink stains marred the surfaces. 

Ezra looked toward the door, watching as Mason entered the room. He could see the killer move gracefully across the carpet, not making a sound. Danny was expecting him, so he hadn’t felt the need to lock the door. People came to this hotel for one reason, and one reason only. Ezra watched Mason’s movements; he even manipulated his actions…seeming soft when he was brutal, cold when he was hot. That’s how he got close to Danny, the young man was looking for a person he could be helpful to…someone with less experience than himself.

The profiler reached into his pocket and retrieved his recorder and pressed record. “Mason was scared, he knew Danny was a cop and knew how to take care of himself, but that’s what Mason wanted…a man’s man. The two men had consensual relations, but that’s when it went bad…Mason saw himself being judged by his mother…” He looked at a few of the letters Beverly had written her son. “She didn’t believe her son could do what he’d been convicted of… She stood by him, telling him she was praying for him…telling him that she loved him despite his unwillingness to join her church.”

The wall covered in blood had been deliberate…a last attempt for Mason to control the situation. “Mason lost control when he realized, in his warped perception of things, that he’d failed his mother’s ideals of himself and his homosexual desires.” 

The eerie feeling of Death hung in the air, and that harsh smell of dried blood permeated the room’s interior. The now savaged space seemed hostile as Ezra walked with Mason and Danny Crane through the horrors.  “Crane’s autopsy showed that he’d been asphyxiated,” the profiler said softly, “however, there was 83 stab wounds on Crane’s body…the autopsy report was inconclusive in regards to wounds occurring before or after his death. Dr. Jurman, the forensic pathologist, believes Crane’s windpipe and larynx was crushed after the stabbing…perhaps that’s when Mason regained control…the stab wounds alone weren’t enough to kill Danny immediately…”

Ezra leaned back in his seat and ran his fingers through his hair. He wasn’t sure what to do or where to go. Right now, finding Mason was the number one priority…not the 83 other cases sitting on his desk back in Washington. He might belong to Chris Larabee’s team, but the Bureau made sure he wasn’t lacking for work. It wasn’t any different for the others either. Vin was constantly being sent out on situations regarding his former SWAT team. Buck usually spent two or three days a week on reconnaissance missions. Nathan was in the lab most of the time, working on the team’s cases as well as others. JD was constantly being called to the Computer Analysis Response Team’s headquarters for backup support. And then there was Josiah, terrorism was high on the Bureau’s priority list, and he was one of the best when it came to terrorism concerning religious beliefs or fanaticism.

Ezra sat up, trying to clear his mind from his other duties and the duties of his teammates to Mason. He rubbed his eyes, feeling his lack of sleep trying to overtake his body. He couldn’t stop until Mason was found. Ezra stood up, took one last look around the room and exited.

A brisk wind hit him on the face and he welcomed the fresh feeling it gave him, working like a hot cup of coffee. The crowd had disappeared, and for that Ezra was thankful…he really didn’t want to deal with people’s fascination with death…more vividly, murder. He looked at his watch, surprised to by what it read…only a few more minutes before dawn. The open sign to the diner flickered on and Ezra moved toward it. He needed some coffee, a decent place to sit and a place where he could think.


Chapter 8

Chris slammed his cell phone closed, angry at the situation and himself. Vin still slept on his bed, completely oblivious to his surroundings. It was going to be a while before he was ready to face the world head on. Chris looked at the pile of papers spread out onto the small table. Those papers were filled with ‘useless’ information.

“We’ll catch him.”

Chris turned and looked at Vin who’d rolled over onto his back. He looked hard at him. His voice was still scratchy, and it still sounded painful to talk, but he had. Chris smiled and asked, “How’re you feeling?”

Vin shrugged and sat up, kicking his legs out from under the covers. “Like Buck said…the scar will drive the ladies wild.” He grinned, but there was a sadness in his eyes.

“It could have been worse,” Chris said, knowing what his agent was thinking.

“I should have seen him…I should have been payin’ more attention to what I was doin’.” Vin’s Texas accent thickened.

Chris looked hard at Vin: “If it had been anyone else in that stairwell…we’d be having a funeral about now. Buck told me what happened, and he agrees…you’re one lucky SOB, and the only reason you’re sitting here today is because you’re as good as you are.” He threw one of Vin’s shirts to him. “Get dressed…we have some work to do.”


The diner was only moderately busy as travelers and truckers ate, gassed up their vehicles, and took time to stretch their legs. Chris and Vin walked across the street with Josiah and Nathan following. JD was still sleeping and Buck, Chris assumed, was gassing up the rental car.

Fake plants rested next to the windows and a newspaper stand had been positioned near the door. Waitresses moved around the floor like dancers rehearsing for a ballet. Chris looked toward the back and was surprised to see Ezra sitting in one of the far booths. He looked tired, but focused on the papers before him.

Chris reached out and gently grabbed a waitress’ arm as she past. “How long has he been here?” he asked, pointing in Ezra’s direction.

“Since we opened this morning,” she answered. “Coffee and wheat toast is all he’s ordered.” She smiled and headed toward the back.

Chris nodded and head to where his agent sat. The others followed.


Ezra looked up from his notepad and removed the headphones from his ears. He leaned back and waited for his teammates to seat themselves around the table. Josiah and Nathan each grabbed a chair and placed them next to the end of the booth…there wasn’t quite enough room.

“You had any sleep?” Chris asked bluntly, slipping into the bench across from his agent. He really didn’t need an answer. Ezra still wore the same clothing, his hair was disheveled, and a days worth of growth appeared on his chin and above his upper lip. “Because you look like shit.”

Ezra rubbed his eyes and tossed his headphones onto the table. A plate with a half eaten slice of toast rested next to a coffee cup that was in desperate need of refilling. “At any rate…” he sighed, wishing he were someplace else.

Five heads turned in the direction of Buck and JD as they bounded into the diner. JD’s hair was wet and dripping onto his shirt collar, and his eyes looked as though he still hadn’t awaken. Buck, however, was pushing the kid forward with more energy than a Chevy engine. He winked at a few of the waitresses, grinning all the while.

“Boys,” Buck said, shoving JD into the seat beside Ezra. The ladies man then squeezed himself in.

“Whatever you’ve had, Brother, I want some,” Josiah chuckled, wishing he had more energy.

“Me too,” Vin added, looking up toward the waitress who made her way toward the table.

The woman stopped abruptly and handed out seven menus, her auburn hair glistened in sections as the light from the room radiated. She smiled and started, “Can I get you boys anything to drink.” Her rough voice wasn’t expected, having come from someone so small and frail. 

“Coffee,” came the collected response.

The woman smiled and turned, expecting to take their orders when she returned.

“So,” Buck sighed, “What now?” The seriousness in his tone was noted.

“Director Morris has authorized support from resident agencies…whatever we need…” Chris let his statement hang. “We just need to know where to go.” He rested his elbows on the table and looked at Ezra.

The profiler rubbed his eyes and replaced all of the papers into one of the manila folders. He didn’t know what to say. What could he? Considering the alternative.

“If we can’t catch this guy, why are we even here?” JD asked, sitting back as the waitress filled seven cups with coffee.

The woman paused a moment after hearing JD’s comment and looked at the men, she focused on Chris…who seemed to be the leader. “Are y’all…FBI agents?” she smiled, as she asked the question.

“Why?” Chris asked suspiciously.

The woman shrugged her shoulders and smiled. “There was an Agent…” she tapped her forehead with her pencil, “…Parker…yes, Agent Parker…”

Ezra’s eyes snapped to the woman and the words she spoke. “Did you get a good look at him?” he asked, harsher than he’d anticipated.

The waitress smiled: “He was…you know, easy on the eyes. He left a package, wanted me to give it to you—”

“Who?” Chris snapped, feeling his stomach turn.

The woman shrugged, unsure of what to say. “He just said to give it to the rest of his team when they got here…”

Chris stood up abruptly. “Take me to it,” he ordered, motioning for the rest of them to follow.

She turned nervously and headed toward the cash register with seven men on her heels. She grabbed the envelope and pushed it across the counter.

“Why didn’t you give this to the police or FBI when they arrived on scene for the murder across the way?” Buck asked, not wanting to scare the woman anymore.

“Agent Parker said not to give it to anyone except the seven FBI agents who would be here,” she said nervously. She rang her hands together and nervously picked at her wedding ring. “Can I see to my other customers?”

Chris nodded and motioned for her to go. He grabbed the package and left the building in a hurry. Ezra sighed and paused at the door, watching his teammates follow their leader. He turned and gently touched the waitress’ arm.

“I didn’t mean to do anything wrong,” she sighed.

“You didn’t,” he assured, looking at her nameplate. “Candy,” he smiled, when she nodded he continued, “Can you tell me what Agent Parker looked like?”

“Tall, reddish brown hair…” she sighed, thinking a moment, “he wore glasses.”

Ezra nodded and pulled out an old photograph of Mason. “Is this him?”

Candy shrugged, looking close at the image. “Possibly,” she answered.

“Did he say anything else to you?”

“No, he just had coffee and toast…was well dressed… He looked like a nice man.”

Ezra smiled tightly. “Thank you for your help.” He turned to leave.

“Did he kill that cop?”

Ezra’s jaw clenched as he smiled tightly, unwilling to answer. Slowly, he pushed the door open and followed the others.


Nathan looked at the photographs with a knot in his throat, feeling sick to his stomach. Some of the pictures were of him while performing autopsies, some of children, others of women, a few of men. Nathan’s jaw clenched and his eyes watered. Mason was comparing his own brutality to Nathan’s ‘ability’ to ‘butcher’ the human body. He didn’t understand the writing on the pictures, only the images themselves. Of all the things in the world, Nathan cherished life above all else.

How could he?

How could Mason compare his morbid desires to men whose soul purpose in life was finding men like him? This was Mason’s idea of fun…making everyone else believe they were just like him. How could he be such a monster if everyone was capable of murder? Vin was. He’d killed men, granted he never saw their eyes when he did it, but he was still guilty of taking a life that wasn’t his to take. Buck had killed too, and he had seen their eyes. He’d killed a man with his bare hands. Sure, he claimed he had to do it in order to save his partner from dying…but he’d still taken a life. And there was young JD Dunne, admiring Buck’s every move so that one day soon he too, would know what it felt like to kill, to take a life.

Ezra reached up and took the photographs from Nathan’s hands and looked them over. Josiah stepped up and wrapped a strong arm around the doctor’s shoulders, offering the only comfort he could at the time. One by one, Ezra laid the photographs out on the hood of the rental car, placing them in the order they’d arrived…or at least, the order Mason had intended for them.

Chris grabbed the first photograph of a child that had been burned badly in a fire. The boy’s face unrecognizable, his hair gone…he was just a boy. Chris’ stomach clenched and he tried to maintain his composure.

“Don’t personalize it,” Ezra said softly, knowing whom the picture was intended for.

Chris locked eyes with his profiler. Two sets of green irises melted together, and Chris knew without a doubt that the child in the photograph was his son, Adam. He handed the image to Ezra and walked off, needing to get himself collected. Vin followed.

Ezra held the photograph and saw the words through the image.

Perhaps the fire was a blessing Chiller'>?

Ezra laid the image next to the others. “Do any of these look familiar?” he asked, looking at his teammates.

“Hell, Ezra,” Nathan sighed, “I’ve done a lot of autopsies…but most of these look like some old ones I did a few years ago.”

“What about you, Josiah, Buck?”

“I’ve only drawn my weapon in the line of duty three times,” Josiah said softly, “and I’ve never fired it at a living soul.” His words were soft, almost inaudible. He pointed to a picture with a woman covered in a light blue sheet up to her neck. “That is…was, my sister, Hanna,” he looked up toward the sky and rubbed the back of his neck, “she hung herself two hours after my last visit to her four years ago.”

Ezra nodded and gathered up all the photographs before Buck and JD could find the ones directed at them. Mason’s game had gone too far.

“What are we going to do?” Buck asked, looking to where the kid was standing, unwilling to look at the images Ezra had quickly put away.

“Mason wants to play…” Ezra smiled wickedly, “so let’s up the ante.”

Buck’s cheeks slowly grew into a grin. “How high?”

“Fucking gold bullion,” Ezra replied, heading up to his hotel room.


Chris sat at the small table, tapping his fingers on the slick surface. Though he was there with the rest of his men, his mind was a thousand miles away. Vin sat across from him, knowing the mighty volcano was about to explode.

“How did he get all this information about us?” JD asked, looking at all of Ezra’s files.

“I contacted Assistant Director Travis and told him about the situation,” Josiah said, sitting on the edge of the bed. “It would seem that one of Mason’s fans…a woman who went by the name of Bambi—”

“She was one of the people who wrote him wasn’t she?” Vin asked. He scratched at his throat and took a long drink of water from the plastic cup.

“Yes,” Ezra replied, “she was.”

“Anyway,” Josiah continued, “it seems her real name is Helen Walsh…she works—worked—with the clerical staff at the Salt Lake City FBI Field Office…”

“Nobody thought that this was a little odd?” Buck questioned, “A federal employee writing a serial killer?”

“She used an alias, and just because Mason no longer has rights doesn’t mean those that ‘sympathize’ with him, don’t.”

“After Mason’s escape, when surveillance was put on all of his contacts, it was discovered then, that Miss Walsh was ‘Bambi’.” Josiah rubbed his pants above his knees with the palms of his hands and shook his head. “She’s being held at this moment and charged with public corruption.”

“How long ago was she arrested?” Nathan asked.

“Four hours ago… It seems that she was caught trying to send personal files through the mail…to Mason.” Josiah looked up, his face sullen and questioning. “She was trying to send all of our files…including Travis’.”

“At least they caught her,” Vin sighed, leaning back in his seat. “Where in the hell was she trying to send them…?”

“To Dr. Owen’s office in D.C,” Josiah answered.

“Smart woman,” JD said sarcastically. “So what do we do?” he asked, turning questioning eyes toward his comrades.

Ezra stood up and tossed the new photographs onto the tabletop. “I want to go after Mason’s mother—”

“What good is that going to do?” Chris snapped, getting to his feet. He glanced at the photographs and turned his head abruptly. The pain was still raw…he didn’t need to see the images to remind him of it.

“The relationship Mason shares with his mother is very oppressive. She sees what she needs to, and he wants her to accept him for him…”

“But he’s a killer…?” JD asked confused.

“And all killers have a motivation. I’ve always expected that it was Beverly Mason who, in some way, triggered the emotions her son has… Inadvertently, she was the reason he started killing. It may have been something as simple as forcefully kicking Mason out of the house for his unwillingness to join her church, disapproving of a girlfriend, or maybe admonishing him in some way. Something external happened to push Mason over the edge…”

“Blaming that on his mother isn’t going to sit well with a lot of people,” Buck commented, resting his elbows on his knees.

“A trigger, or stressor, can be anything and can occur at any time, there is no hiding from it because we all face life’s crises day after day, but we don’t make the decision that you’re going to kidnap, rape, and butcher a person because of it…It’s not his mother’s fault Mason did what he did, but she’s the one and only person that can drive him to justify his murders… He’ll need to explain that to his mother…dead or alive.”

“So what do you want to do?” Chris asked, placing his hands on his hips.

“We know there’s 24 hour surveillance at her home and workplace,” Ezra started. He cleared his throat and systematically pulled out his old deck of cards and started flipping them between his fingers. “When Mason hears of his mother’s death, he’ll be pulled to the funeral…”

“How do you know…?” Nathan questioned. “How do you know he’d try and go home? He has to know his mother is being watched.”

“He does and he will,” Ezra replied. “He’ll need to make sure that his mother is indeed dead. I propose a ruse of sorts. Place an article in his hometown paper regarding the life of Beverly Mason. Write about the difficulties she’d faced as a young person and how she became so influential in her church… We need to make Mason angry enough to tell his mother how she destroyed his life…”

“How do we keep from driving him to kill?” Vin asked, with a frown.

“I see Mason as becoming impotent regarding his kills…he’ll have an impenetrable desire to return to his mother in a poor attempt at ending their relationship—”

“Sounds too far fetched,” Buck said, scratching his head. “I doubt this guy is going to walk into a funeral parlor and say ‘goodbye Mom and fuck you’.”

Ezra grinned, his dark eyes not lost within his sleep-deprived features. “He’ll come, if not to the funeral then to the memorial service.”

“What’s that mean?” JD asked sarcastically.

“Plan a church gathering, but just bury the ‘body’, and have a graveside service a week later…due to ‘unforeseen circumstances’.”

“Beverly Mason ain’t dead, folks,” Buck commented, raising his eyebrows in suspicion.

“It’s a ruse, a deception of sorts…”

“How are you going to get a whole town to go along with it?” Buck continued to push.

“I’m sure we can work something out with the Bureau if we have to. They don’t want the name tarnished with this fiasco and perhaps finding a way to keep Mrs. Mason quiet regarding her son could be a bargaining tool.” Ezra took a deep breath and ran his hand over his face.

“Sounds like a long shot,” Chris said, running his fingers through his hair.

“I’m up for it,” Vin added, frustrated with the situation, and needing, like the others, to see it closed.

Reluctantly, Chris nodded in agreement and he looked at his men. “You really think this might work?”

“He’ll be there, Mr. Larabee, it’s going to be our responsibility to find him.”

“Okay.” Chris headed for the door and paused a moment when he heard JD clear his throat.

“Can we, uh,” he paused, bowing his head, “go someplace else and rent rooms…this place freaks me out.”

 Buck laughed and pushed the kid forward. “Hell, JD, you want me to hold your hand while you pack…maybe the boogie man is hidin’ in your closet.”

“You’re an ass hole, Buck, plain an simple.” JD shook his head, leaving the room with his best friend on his heels.

“Pack up,” Chris ordered. “Maybe we can catch a plane to Oklahoma tonight.” He left the room, knowing the others would do as he requested.

Nathan looked over to Josiah and Buck, unsure of his next step. His life had never been easy, but the idea of being compared to a serial killer made him physically sick. The things he had to do to a human body were necessary…weren’t they? He had to weigh the heart and lungs, test blood and urine samples, he had to make sure that a stabbing victim died of blood loss, not asphyxiation, or vice versa.

“You all right, Brother?” Josiah asked, getting to his feet. He sighed deeply, feeling the length of the day in his bones.

Nathan nodded: “Yeah,” he said softly, heading for the door. “When was the last time you had any sleep?” he asked, looking toward Ezra.

As if on cue, the profiler yawned and shook his head. He’d sleep when the job was done. Ignoring the question he looked around the room for a moment, searching for his suitcase.

“Still in the car,” Buck answered the unasked question.

Ezra nodded in thanks and followed the others out of the room.


The images told the stories. Mason wasn’t just comparing himself to the members of the Criminal Investigation Team, he was pointing out their weaknesses. Each of the images had been written on, being directed toward someone on the team: Chris and Adam, Josiah and his sister, Nathan and his cases…it didn’t end.

Ezra looked at the images and registered the meanings behind Mason’s words. He’d compared his desire to kill, to Buck and Vin. It was true, Vin Tanner was a sharpshooter, and he killed from afar. Mason compared that to himself in his ability to choose his victims. He watched them from a distance, like a hunter would his prey. Killing from a distance didn’t make Vin’s job any easier. He lived with his own personal demons, but he did his job because he knew he had to. Mason didn’t see it that way. He saw murder, death, and killing as the same—no difference, except for the opportunity.

Buck was a different story. He was one of the best at hand-to-hand combat, and everyone knew it…even Mason. Buck was also well loved by the ladies…that was a sentiment that went both ways. However fun-loving and carefree Buck wanted to be, there was a sadness that was well hidden beneath his smile, his dashing good looks, and seductive brown eyes. He’d lost his friend, and three years prior he’d watched his best friend fall into the hells of grief after the death of his family. But that had only been the beginning. Mason knew a little about the men on Chris’ team, and that was the problem. A little was too much. He’d managed to find out that Buck had killed a 21-year-old kid that had attacked him, after attempting to kill his partner with a knife. Buck’s defense move had been to stun the younger man, but a twist of fate ended with him dying. That had changed the ladies man’s life. He’d seen people die before, but he’d never taken a life. He came to the realization that he had that power and more than anything. it terrified him. Mason was using that to his advantage.

JD was a different story all together. He knew the pain of loss and death but not like the others. He was still learning how to become callused to all the horrors the world had to offer. He’d lost his mother to cancer. It had been a slow and painful death, and JD had been by her side the entire time. Even the guys from his former unit at the FBI made sure he doing okay during that period in his life. Though he acted brave up front, inside he’d been crying. What Mason saw in JD was his youthful enthusiasm, a spirit that needed to be taught…and he’d made it clear that he was learning from the right people.   

Despite his age, Josiah was not a man to fool with. Sure, he had salt and pepper hair, a few crows feet around his eyes, and lines highlighting his mouth, but that didn’t mean he was old or out of shape. Josiah was known for his muscles and his temper when pushed. Mason liked that, and he told him so on the image of Hanna on the examination table.

Was she yearning for death while you were there…did you leave knowing her intentions?

The picture was hard enough to look at, but the words written on it were haunting. Personal. Those thoughts had passed through his mind over and over again. He didn’t need Mason pointing them out like a fault that needed to be fixed. Josiah’s own guilt was enough to burden the world…this was a kick in the ribs while he was down.

Ezra looked up from his files into the front seat. Chris drove, one hand on the wheel and the other resting comfortably on his thigh. Vin sat next to him, resting peacefully. His head lay back, eyes closed, and lips partially opened. He was still recovering from his ordeal…he was doing better than anyone could have hoped.

The car behind them followed closely. When Buck flashed the headlights, Chris knew it was time to stop for the night and get some rest. They were all tired, and needed some time to collect themselves. Ezra flipped the files closed and rested his head back against the seat.


He crept through the shadows like a spirit in the wind. Every step, touch, and feel he knew and thrived on. It was the anticipation of finding his prey, knowing there was an off chance that he could get caught…that’s where it started…the thrill, the excitement, and the expectancy.

He watched her, learning how she walked, how she moved, the way her hair swayed as a breeze caught it. She smiled at people as she passed them carrying her grocery bags. Her blonde seven-year-old son walked and skipped in front of her, and Mason’s heart swelled with anticipation. He could feel the blood flow through his veins as forceful as water over a damn.

There were two of them.

He reached up and scratched his nose, smiling beneath his hand. The dark of night was upon them and no one to watch. He stepped out of the shadows, appearing like white on black. He moved, like any other, toward the car the woman was getting ready to leave in. Her son bounded to the passenger side door and slipped into the front seat. She opened the driver’s side door and jumped when a stranger walked up to her.

“Did you drop this?” he asked softly, holding out a five-dollar bill.

“No,” she responded, looking suspiciously toward him and then the grocery store. She grabbed her purse, making sure her wallet was still inside.

“You were the only one around so I suspected…” He scratched his chin with his hand that had been placed in a cast. Dirt and grim lined the crevasses…obviously it was getting closer to the time to have it removed.

She smiled…relaxing. “I’m sorry,” she apologized, shaking her head.

“It’s okay,” he responded, turning to leave.

The woman nodded and tossed her bag into the car next to her son who was eating a granola bar. She looked up, watching as the stranger walked slowly toward his vehicle. She shook her head and slipped into her car.

Mason smiled to himself as he slipped into the driver’s seat of his van. He turned on the radio, listening to the voices moving through the speakers. He followed the little Honda, keeping a safe distance behind them. It didn’t seem as though a long time had passed when she pulled into a driveway, applied her breaks and immediately exited her car. Her son soon followed, running toward the house. The front door opened and the boy rushed passed his father, as two large dogs jumped toward the yard and car.

The woman handed her bags to her husband and kissed him on the cheek, and then she smoothly entered her home. Mason didn’t have to see it to know that there was a dinner cooking in the oven, the TV or video games were playing in the background…perhaps a phone was ringing as well.

He leaned back in his seat, absorbing everything he could. He took a deep breath, and pressed his hands to his thighs, and exhaled slowly…like an addict getting a fix.

It was heaven.


Ezra woke with a jump and caught Chris’ eyes upon him through the rear view mirror. Ezra looked out the side window as the dark of night absorbed the land. The lights in the distance told them they were getting closer to town, and hopefully an airport was close by.

Chris pulled into the first hotel he came to. Cars were parked everywhere, indicating rooms would be scarce. He slipped out of the driver’s seat and went inside to ask. Vin yawned and rubbed his eyes. He was tired, and needed some time to rest.

“Are you feeling all right, Mr. Tanner?”

“Vin,” he corrected, “Call me Vin…that mister shit’s gettin’ on my nerves.” He leaned his head back and watched Chris through the windows.

“You didn’t answer my question?” Ezra pushed, opening the car door allowing the night’s breeze to enter.

“Hell,” he sighed, “I could use some vacation time.” He chuckled, knowing he wouldn’t get any. “Guess I should be used to it by now…working long hours for shit pay.”

Ezra smiled: “I couldn’t agree with you more on that subject.”

“Can I ask you somethin’?” Vin’s Texas accent shown through, becoming stronger the more tired he grew.

“You can ask me anything,” Ezra sighed, “But I reserve the right to answer subjectable questions.”

Vin smiled, expecting a comment like that. “Where’d you get your car?”

Ezra raised an eyebrow and asked, “What car?”

Vin turned in his seat: “You know, that sweet lookin’ Chevy Corvette…1965 to be exact?”

Ezra shook his head: “Her name is Blue, and I acquired her through a gambling transaction.”

“You’re shittin’ me?” Vin chuckled. “You know that’s illegal?”

“It’s all in how you word it,” Ezra replied with a grin.

The driver’s side door opened and Chris slipped inside after motioning to Buck and the others in the car behind him. “They’ve got two rooms available. I’m having them send up some rollaways, but at least they’re connected.” He put the key in the ignition and pulled forward toward the wing of the hotel they would be staying in. “Our flight leaves tomorrow morning at eleven a.m.”

“Travis agreed with Ezra’s plan?” Vin asked, unbuckling his seatbelt.

“Yeah,” Chris answered with a sigh. He parked across from the door to the hotel and quickly slipped out of the vehicle. He watched as Buck followed suit.


Bags were grabbed and tossed over shoulders, while briefcases and files were held tightly. Seven tired, and mentally exhausted men made their way inside. Burgundy carpets lined the hallways and lights flickered above. Several doors had been marked with ‘Do Not Disturb’ signs.

Chris slowed to a stop in front of room 184 and pointed to the next door down. “We’re adjoined with 186,” he said sharply, tiredly. “The extra beds should be…” he was about to finish his statement when he saw the rollaway beds being pushed down the aisle. Thank God, he said to himself, pushing the door open.

JD bounded down the hall toward the vending machines, needing a sugar fix of some kind. Josiah laughed, needing a touch of youth at the moment. Hell, maybe later he’d take a swim. It would feel good to get his mind off of Mason and his exploits.

“What are you smiling about?” Nathan asked with a grin.

“The irony of life, Brother,” Josiah responded, heading into the room. “The irony of life.”


Mason smiled when he saw the little blue Honda coming down the road. She was on her way to drop off her son at school…Mason knew because he’d been watching…waiting for her…for them. The hood to his van was propped up and he put on his best ‘distressed’ look and started digging around in his engine. She’d recognize the van. He was sure of it.

That, after all, was his plan.

He heard the small engine down shift long before he saw the car. And then came the sweet sound of crushing gravel being smashed under rubber tires. He pushed his volunteer firefighter hat back on his head and scratched uncertainly at his scalp before pulling the cap’s bill forward…disguising his hair color.

She rolled down her window and pulled up alongside the van. She’d smiled when she saw the bumper sticker, ‘Proud Parent of Honor Roll Student’. “Can I call someone for you?” she asked, holding up her cell phone. Maybe she’d called someone…maybe she hadn’t. Cautiously, she remained seated in her car. She knew this road wasn’t well traveled.

“No,” he smiled kindly, exposing his right hand that was still in a cast. “I’m supposed to be meetin’ the chief for breakfast, but he’s out on a fire…he’ll be by in a couple of hours I s’pect.”

“Which fire department?” she asked, testing his honesty.

“District eight,” he answered, scratching his temple while looking inside the engine.

“You’re a long ways out.”

“Yeah,” he agreed. “Nelly’s makes the best donuts so I was tryin’ to take a box to the station for the guys, but this piece of shi—crap,” he quickly corrected, looking toward the boy, “seems to have a valve come loose every once in a while.”

The woman nodded and smiled in understanding. “Is there anything I can do?” she asked softly, looking toward her son and then back at the stranger.

He sighed a moment, contemplating the question, before hesitantly answering, “Could I get you to try turnin’ it over while I hold the valve?” His voice was soft and humble…so honest.

She sighed and looked at her son. “Stay here,” she ordered, before getting out of the car. She knew if she didn’t help that it would be hours before someone came by in this direction. Later in the day it was a different story, but so early in the morning…

Mason smiled and escorted her toward the driver’s side door of his van. “Make sure you keep your foot on the brake,” he said, opening the door for her. “And sometimes the clutch sticks.”

She paused a moment before slipping into the seat. Her heart raced, and she knew she was taking a chance…a big one, and her son was in the car. She grasped the steering wheel and jumped when he gently leaned into her. “What did you do to your arm?” she asked, with a shaky voice.

He smiled sharply: “Nothing.”

Her eyes opened wide and she screamed, “JOHNNY, RUN!!” 


Chapter 9 

The newspaper was plastered with the accounts of a serial killer roaming through the streets and cities from California to Maine. Mason was being seen by more people than Elvis ever did…or does. Chris tossed the paper onto the chair resting next to him. The airport was small, but large enough to supply a direct flight to Ferndale Oklahoma. The home of Beverly Mason was there, the place that Chris’ unit hoped to find and capture the serial killer.

Support from resident agencies and FBI field offices had enabled the team access to information and anything else they required. Travis and Director Morris had insured that Chris and his men anything they needed. The Field office in Oklahoma City was sending all their available agents to Ferndale to work side-by-side with resident agents from Woodward and Chris’ Criminal Investigation Team.

“People are scared,” Buck said, sitting next to his long time friend.

“They should be,” Chris answered flatly. He looked hard at JD and Vin as they flipped through some magazines at the stand. “Do you think it’ll work?” he asked, glancing toward Ezra who seemed content standing near the window while looking out.

Buck leaned back and rubbed his hand on his thigh. “Been doin’ a lot of thinkin’ on the subject,” he sighed, “…if Ezra thinks this guy’s goin’ to do what he thinks…then yeah, I think it’ll work. Shit,” he leaned forward, “we should have done this to begin with.”

Chris shook his head: “I asked Ezra about that…”

Buck raised his eyebrows: “And?”

“He said that Mason wasn’t ready before. He said that Mason’s starting to lose control of his actions, he can no longer keep his feelings and desires contained. Ezra knew it when he saw the condition of that young cop.”

Buck nodded in understanding. There was a long pause. “Jimmy Black,” he said softly, without warning.

“Who?” Chris asked, feeling that Buck was making a confession.

“The kid I killed,” he sighed, “…it was just a stupid mistake.”

“It wasn’t a mistake, Buck…it was your life or his, and I’m damn sure you made the right choice.”

“I’ve often wondered.” There was a sadness in Buck’s voice that Chris hadn’t heard in quite some time. It wasn’t the same kind of despair that was felt after the death of a loved one. This was the kind of pain someone, of normal feelings and human emotions, felt after taking a life that wasn’t theirs to take. “He knew where to hit me,” he spoke softly of Mason. “We’re all capable of murder…” he looked at his friend, “…what makes us so different?”

Chris’ jaw clenched shut and he fought the anger that riled in the pit of his stomach. He looked hard at his friend, and those men around him…all of whom where in their own little worlds, contemplating their lives as Mason had dictated to them. “I wake up everyday with the images of Sarah and Adam branded into my mind and I have no desire to lose that.”

Buck turned slightly and looked at his friend.

“She told me once that the most important thing I could ever do was make this world safer for my son to live in…I tried to, but I failed,” Chris said sadly, looking at Buck. “We do what we do to stop those who take what isn’t theirs. Mason is a monster—none of us…are like him.”

“Nathan told me a while back that he asked Ezra what motivated a man like Mason…” Buck said, shaking his head.

“What’d he say?”

“Fear…it is fear that motivates him.” Buck shook his head, not understanding.

“Fear of what?”

“Himself,” Josiah answered, slipping into an empty seat.

Chris looked up and met the older man’s hazel eyes. Chris could understand that, fear from himself…it was almost ironic how much it reminded him of himself. He ran his fingers over his face and through his hair, thinking of how far down he’d fallen after his family’s deaths.

“Your flight is boarding,” the stewardess said, motioning toward the men; the only passengers flying at the moment.

Everyone stood up, grabbed their luggage and slowly made their way to the door. Vin and JD quickly finished paying for their purchases before following the others.

Everyone was ready for this to end.


Ferndale’s airport wasn’t an international airport, but it did handle several larger airplanes. Even the air force base that was stationed close by stored several of their airplanes in the hangers. People moved about handling their own business. Children hung happily from their parents’ hands, pointing, laughing, and looking wide-eyed.

“SAC Larabee?” an older man asked, stepping toward the group of seven. He held his hand out and shook Chris’ who’d stepped out front after hearing his name.

“I’m Chris Larabee,” he answered.

“I’m Special Agent Randy Brown from the Oklahoma City Field Office.” He stepped back and walked with the men toward the doors. “Do you all have your luggage…?”

“Yes,” Chris answered, knowing the situation had heated considerably.

Agent Brown stopped before heading out through the doors. “I received a file this morning in regards to a kidnapping in Blakely.” He started walking again, talking about the case. “The town is about a three hour drive from here.”

“You believe it’s Mason?” Chris asked, keeping in step with the agent.

“Agent Spellmen, our resident profiler, believes it is. Following Special Agent Standish’s first profile and the belief that he’d arrive here in due time…he came to the conclusion that the victim, a Maggie Harper, was lured from her vehicle and then taken by force after attempting to aid a man with his broken down van.”

“Who was the witness?” Ezra asked, knowing there had to have been one.

“Her son Johnny… It seems he had crawled into the driver’s seat of the car his mother had been driving after she’d exited and when his mother screamed for him to run…he, being, seven years of age, started the car and drove down the road.” Randy shook his head, not quite believing the situation himself, but like most men his age…he’d seen stranger things. “He eventually crashed into the mailbox at the local grocery store where he ran inside screaming for help.” He motioned toward the large suburban he’d driven to the airport to pick up all the agents. “By the time police arrived in the area that Mrs. Harper had stopped at, she was gone as well as the van.”

“What was the boy’s description of the van and the perpetrator?” Buck asked, tossing his bag into the back of the vehicle.

“Danny said that the van was dark blue with tinted windows. He said there were several bumper stickers on the front and rear of the vehicle. He thought it might be a Ford…”

“He a bright kid?” Vin asked, thinking it odd that a boy of seven would remember such details.

“Hell, by the time I was nine I knew the difference between a 240Z and a 260,” Buck said, slipping into a seat.

“What bout the suspect?” Ezra pushed, not at all surprised by what he was hearing.

“The kid thought the guy was old.” Agent Brown rolled his eyes. A twenty-year-old was old to a child of seven. “He wore a fireman’s baseball cap, and had on blue overalls.”

“Is Beverly Mason willing to agree to the terms?” Josiah questioned, feeling as though this might be a bigger problem than anyone was realizing. A woman close to her son, devoted to her religion, and a recovering alcoholic might have a problem with ‘breaking the rules’.

Randy sighed and shook his head. “I’ll let you all see that for yourselves.”

Chris looked at Vin who only shrugged, not sure of what to make of the situation. Ezra nodded in understanding…Beverly Mason would not want to see him again…nor would she be a willing participant in their plan.


The same pink flamingos stabbed the earth with their wire legs in the flower garden that circled the home. They were a bit paler, sun bleached, and weathered, but the same. A small white fence now framed the yard and Beverly Mason’s mailbox had been painted white with purple and pink flowers decorating it.

The home rested alone on three acres on the edge of town. A school had been built not far from where she lived, and a strip mall was in the process of completion. One day, her land would be worth more than her life…

Agent Brown waved to the undercover car parked across the street in front of a dentist’s office, letting the surveillance crew know that they were going inside to speak with the ‘person of interest’. Doors were opened and slammed shut, and as a result the porch light flickered on and the front door opened. An older man with snow-white hair, a white collar, and black attire stood stoically in the entryway. A bible was grasped in his hand.

“Father Peters,” Randy said, “We’re here to see Mrs. Mason.”

The father nodded: “Try and understand what this woman is going through, Brother, and show her the respect she needs and deserves.”

Chris shook his head and moved past the man in black with disbelief. Mason was a monster, and they wanted to protect him…not on his watch.


Father Peters moved inside and took a seat near the fireplace while the eight FBI agents filled the room. Mrs. Mason stood with her back to them, looking at the photographs on the mantel of her fireplace.

I won’t do it,” she said firmly, not bothering to look around the room. “This is my home…I was born in that old shack out back…I was married here, raised a son here, changed my life here…I won’t leave it to fill your needs of revenge. My son is innocent.”

“Your son has murdered sixteen—possibly seventeen people,” JD said in disbelief. How could a mother stand by and watch her son kill.

“Don’t smart mouth me,” she snapped, turning suddenly. Her face held the stories to the years of her life. Crows feet, age-spots, and bags marred her features. Years of alcohol abuse hadn’t done her any good either. Though she was sixty-five, she could have passed as being seventy-five. Her gray hair had been cut short and was probably styled each and every week for church. She looked at each of the men in the room, her eyes wondering slowly over their bodies…their souls. She locked eyes with Ezra, and her anger became apparent.

This was his fault.

She moved across the brown shag carpet and stood before the profiler. Ezra knew what was coming. The woman reached up and with the speed and strength of someone half her age, she struck him across the face. “How dare you come into my home,” she said angrily, softly…if she spoke any louder she would have yelled. “You took him from me. He helped children—saved their lives… He was a doctor…” She looked hard at his reddened cheek. 

Ezra clenched his jaw, unable to look anyone in the eye…except Beverly. Without warning, he opened the file he’d been carrying and tossed a few of the more…horrific photographs onto the coffee table. “If you don’t help us,” he looked from the pictures to her, “you’re cutting the throat of his next victim.”

“How dare you!” she cursed, and then looked toward Father Peters. “The monster that did this is not my son!”

“Maybe not the monster,” Ezra whispered, “but the man is.”

Beverly looked up, and clasped the cross around her neck, seeking strength.

Josiah’s soft heavy voice moved through the air like the echo of thunder, “And the Lord said unto him, Therefore whosoever slayeth Cain, vengeance shall be taken on him sevenfold. And the Lord set a mark upon Cain, lest any finding him should kill him.”

The mother of a monster, and the daughter of God turned and looked at the big man. Her eyes watered, and her chest tightened around her heart. “Genesis…4:15.”

“Who can find a virtuous woman? For her price is far above rubies. The heart of her husband doth safely trust in her, so that he shall have no need of spoil. She will do him good and not evil all the days of her life,” Father Peter’s said softly, looking up and meeting Beverly Mason’s eyes. “It’s your duty to protect those children that can’t protect themselves.”

Beverly seated herself in her large chair and wiped the tears from her cheeks. “Was I such a horrible mother?” she asked herself, rather than those around her.

Ezra seated himself across from her, ignoring everyone else in the room. She hadn’t been willing to talk to him after Mason’s first capture…but now, maybe she would. “When did it start?” he asked, listening as the others made themselves more comfortable.

“He was a shy boy,” she looked up, “always doing things alone, as though he didn’t have a friend in the world.” She leaned back in her seat, still playing with the cross around her neck with her left hand. “I had started drinking heavy after his birth, so I don’t remember what he was like as a baby.” Her chin quivered, and she inhaled quickly. “I remember though, this one time,” she looked up, seeing a wide range of emotions, “I had taken my husband’s truck to the grocery store…Tom was seated next to me, he wasn’t quite two at the time. On the way there I stopped at bar…just for a second you understand.” She knew she’d been wrong, but her need to drink was placed above all else. “A few hours later my husband found me asleep on the sofa…I couldn’t remember where I parked the truck…I couldn’t remember where I left my son.”

“How old was he when you quit drinking?” Chris asked, standing with his arms crossed over his chest behind his seated profiler.

“Eleven…I think,” she answered honestly. “I found a cat in the garage that had been cut open…like an autopsy or something like that. When I asked him about it, he said it was already dead and he just wanted to see how the insides worked…he said he wanted to become a doctor.” Beverly smiled tightly, wishing she had thought harder about her son’s actions. “I went down and bought him one of those plastic models of the human body that had to be put together like an airplane or car…” she sighed, “…I never thought…”

“What happened between you and your son?” Ezra asked, pushing the subject. He leaned forward in his seat, resting his elbows on his knees with his fingers folded together. So far, the profile he’d written of Tom Mason almost three years prior, was correct.

Beverly choked and squeezed her eyes shut. How did he know? “Excuse me,” she gasped, getting to her feet and heading to the bathroom.

“I don’t think pushing Mrs. Mason any further will justify your cause.” Father Peters said, getting to his feet. “She’s been coming to my parish for many years and is one of the sweetest and devout people I know. She’s not responsible for her son’s actions…despite how much she loves him—and she does…despite what he’s done.”

“She may not be responsible for what he’s done,” Buck started, “but she is responsible for her own actions and the actions she refuses to take in order to stop him…He’ll kill anyone who steps in his way…that includes you…Father.”

“I understand your desire and—”

“No,” Ezra interrupted, “you don’t.”

“Lying is a sin,” the father argued.

“So is murder,” Chris snapped.

“You have to understand,” Father Peters argued, “her life has been difficult enough without the added pressures of the local government blaming her for killing those children… She didn’t do it. And she no longer knows the man who did. Tom Mason may be her son, and she has tried for years to bring him to the light of the word of God, but he has refused repeatedly…”

“There is no sin greater than all the rest, than the sin of blasphemy unto God most high,” Josiah said sadly. “Tom Mason has turned his back on God, Brother…his fate lies with Jehovah, and there his fate will be sealed. It’s not for us to decide…but it is up to us to find him.”

“I’ll do it,” Beverly said, stepping back into the room looking somewhat better than she did. A reapplication of lipstick had been applied, and her face was powdered. She wanted to look younger than her age, but her eyes told a different story…a story that had been told and retold in every language available.

Agent Brown stepped out of the house to make some phone calls. Ezra stood up, looking at the mother who had come so far in changing her life from the one she’d led so many years before. He wasn’t impressed, he’d seen too much to be. But he was inspired…if they could catch Mason now…how many lives could they save.

“I’ll call one of the reporters I worked with a couple of years ago to get the story in the paper,” Ezra said to Chris, before leaving the house.

“Nathan,” Chris said, getting the doctor’s attention, “get down to the ME’s office and start on the paperwork needed to get a death certificate for Mrs. Mason. Josiah, you and Buck take her to the safe house and correlate all of her new information. JD,” he looked toward the kid, “get on the horn to Travis and let him know things are a go.”

“Are you sure you want to do this?” Father Peters asked, looking to his parishioner…his friend.

Beverly nodded bravely. “I have to,” she said softly.