Penelope looked up from her laptop thirty minutes later, the feeling of dread growing in her stomach as she paused to listen to their song. In a matter of moments, the lovely melody had morphed and shifted into something dark and sinister, and she felt her hands turn to ice as she frantically looked around for Hotch, knowing that he would be the only one who could explain what was happening to her in that moment. "Garcia?"
She glanced at JJ and shook her head, getting to her feet and hurrying out into the hallway, frantically heading for the break room where the coffeepot was, knowing that their boss was probably there, since he wasn't in the briefing room. "Aaron!" she cried out as she slid into the room, feeling tears tremble at the corners of her eyes.
"What's wrong?" he asked as he set down his mug, coming straight to her side and resting his hand on her shoulder.
"I know this is so personal, but when you were on the phone with Haley and Foyet, did your song change? Did it start to sound ominous and sad and wrong?"
He nodded. "Why?
"That's happening to me, now. Oh god, Hotch, Erin is in terrible danger, and I have no idea how to find John Curtis. It is him, I know it is, but he is still a ghost. And now I feel like I'm no good to you, because all I can focus on is what our song sounds like in this moment. Please, help me!"
Again, he nodded, wrapping an arm around her waist as he guided her over to the table, gently pressing her down into a chair as he pulled out his phone. "Alex, I need you to turn around and head back to the hotel. We're now almost certain that John Curtis is the Replicator, and he's done something to Erin. Yes, that's how Penelope knew something was wrong. I don't know anything more than that, just make certain you get back to the hotel as soon as you possibly can. I'll start the search for Erin here on my end." He disconnected the call and turned his gaze on Penelope. "What can you tell me about Curtis?"
"Not much. But first, let me call the hotel itself. Please?" He nodded and she tugged her phone out of her blouse and unlocked it, calling up their hotel and pressing the phone number before bringing it to her ear. "Yes, hello, this is Penelope Garcia, with the Behavioural Analysis Unit, and we're staying there while on our current case. My partner and her friend came back to the hotel about thirty minutes ago, and we've reason to believe that my partner is in grave danger. Would you please go up to our room and check on her?"
"I'll have to put you on hold."
"That's fine, I just need to make certain that she is all right. We're in room 318."
"I'll be back on the line with you in about five minutes."
"Thank you." She looked up at Hotch as the discordant strains of the hold music mingled with the sound of her new song. "Everything is all right for the moment, our song is still strong, but it's sounding so scary."
He gave her the saddest look she had ever seen, save from Haley's funeral, and this pushed her over the edge, into his arms, letting him comfort her as she sobbed out her sorrow and frustration. "We're going to find her, and everything is going to be all right," he said lowly as he started to guide her out of the break room and back to where the team was gathered. JJ and Derek were at her side in a blink, and she stepped out of Hotch's arm to allow her best friends to pull her into a warm embrace. "All right, we have it on good authority that Erin has been taken by John Curtis, our current best candidate for the Replicator. Rossi, you and I are going to head in the direction of the hotel, looking for Erin, while Penelope waits to hear back from the hotel, just in case Erin is being held there. Blake is already on her way back there, so she might be able to spot Erin along the way as well. Reid, JJ, Morgan, I want you to support Penelope and give her whatever she needs as she tries to hold herself together."
"How certain are we…?"
"My song has changed!" she cried out, interrupting Derek's words as she looked up into his face. "It sounds…" She broke off as a new element to the song appeared in her mind, and she bit her lip harshly to keep from bursting into fresh sobs. "Please, Hotch, let me go with you and David. Please."
"No, Penelope. You're in no state right now."
"I was foolish, and had Jack to think of, and knew where Foyet was. We don't have that much knowledge on Curtis. I need you to focus and try to get me as much information as you can on Curtis or his partners. Look into the man from a few weeks ago, the one who planted the tainted wine in Pennsylvania. There might be a connection that we overlooked there. The work will focus you. It focused me. And hold on to your song. The moment you hear another change, call or text me, and we'll redouble our efforts."
"Okay, fine. But the moment you find her, you need to call me and let me know where you are." Hotch nodded before reaching out and touching her shoulder lightly. "Don't look at me like that, I'll lose my control again, and I need to have that control if I'm to get us the answers we need. Find her and bring her home to me. And when you get to her side, you tell her that I love her."
"I will." He squeezed her shoulder before gesturing towards the door with his head. David nodded and they walked out together, leaving Penelope alone with her friends. "And remember, stay here."
"Yes, sir," she muttered as she watched them leave.
She started to attention as the voice on the phone came back to her ear. "Yes? Was Erin in our room?"
"No, and I've contacted the police already, since there are signs of a struggle in there. Your associate, Doctor Blake? Just arrived back and will assist the police when they arrive. I knew that you were waiting on an update, and that's all I can give you right now."
"Thank you so much, that is exactly what we needed to know. I'm sorry that your night will not be quiet because of this. Thank you for taking time to check for her." Penelope knew that the woman was saying something else to her, but she couldn't concentrate beyond the word goodbye, and she ended the call before turning unseeing eyes on JJ. "Alex is at the hotel right now, dealing with the police. Reid, JJ, would you go help her? I don't want any of us to be alone right now, since we have no idea what's happening. Plus, she could always use another set of eyes."
Reid nodded, and then came over to her side, hugging her tightly. "I didn't get my song for very long," he whispered in her ear. "I will do anything to make certain that your song lasts."
"Thank you," she whispered back, smiling to feel him ghost his lips against the shell of her ear before stepping away and giving him a sad look, hoping beyond hope that they would find Erin in time.