Major spoilers for all seasons of Dexter to S4, then VERY AU. Warning, character death!
See earlier chapters for disclaimers etc.
On Twisting the Hellmouth
On Archive of our Own
Note I've made a couple of small edits since this was posted last night.
By Marcus L. Rowland
"Doakes’ fingerprints were all over the slide box and the slides, but if I’d been checking them I would have made sure that his prints were there before the blood went onto them as well as after. It doesn’t look like anyone did that."
"Who would have taken the lead in the examination?"
"Looks like it was Morgan..."
"...This case is surrounded by killers, like flies on a corpse. The Ice Truck guy, the Skinner, the Butcher, Trinity, they’re probably all real. I think that Morgan is one of them."
I wanted to kill him, but I couldn’t do it the way I like, the way that the Butcher likes. It took me half an hour to come up with a plan that I could bring off quickly. I had everything I needed in the shipping container I rent for some of my more questionable possessions. A couple of small diversions on the way in to work, and the problem would be solved.
One useful aspect of fatherhood; it's easy to find a reason to leave the house. Around 1 AM Harrison woke us, and I "accidentally" dropped the tube of teething gel and trod on it while taking care of him. Result: a mess on the bathroom floor, and diligent daddy Dexter vows to set off there and then to get more. I went out to the all-night supermarket - ironically, perhaps, the one where I'd first met Nathan Marten - and bought some teething gel for Harrison, a couple of tubs of formula, four packs of diapers, bread, milk, and ten bottles of soda. On the way back I swung by my shipping container to pick up a couple of tools of the trade, then detoured past Arthur Mitchell's home, parked two blocks away, and paid a brief visit to his car. The rest would just be a matter of timing. Harrison and Rita were peacefully asleep when I returned, and I managed to get into bed without waking her, so hopefully she wouldn't know just how long that little errand took me. I slept like a baby, and so, for once, did Harrison.
In my experience most serial killers tend to be creatures of habit. It makes it easier to keep surprises to a minimum. Despite all of the disruption marriage and children bought into my life, I still tend to go through the same rituals - shower, breakfast, catch the news, kiss Rita - every day, and leave for work at the same time. If anything, Trinity's movements were more predictable than mine, lacking the extra complications of my job, young children, and endless sleepless nights. I'd only observed him for three mornings before the NCIS circus came to town, but he'd started the same way every morning, almost to the second. I could work with that.
The timing was relatively easy - I just had to be somewhere on his route, in a position to see the car and make sure he was alone, then make a phone call. There was a Dunkin Donuts he had to pass so I took a slightly different route than usual, got there ahead of him, bought my usual assortment (taking care to pay cash and lose the receipt) and a coffee, and sat in my car to drink the coffee and eat a tiger claw. Mitchell drove past right on schedule; I knew that he was still twenty minutes out from work, and didn't normally stop anywhere, so gave him a minute to get clear before heading off in a different direction, towards my own work. As I approached the first bridge, in heavy traffic, I pulled out an elderly pre-GPS burn phone and hit speed dial, listened as it rang then stop, then ejected the battery. As I crossed the bridge I threw the phone and battery into the sea. I don't have a police radio in the car, but with luck I would learn if it had worked within the next couple of hours.
I realised that I was being followed shortly after I dumped the phone; I just had to hope that whoever it was hadn't been close enough to see me. Whoever it was drove an elderly black Dodge Charger, which I'd seen intermittently since leaving home. I hadn't taken the most direct route, though the doughnut shop wasn't implausibly far from it, and there was no good reason why anyone else would take that exact route unless they were following me. What worried me was that the car was so conspicuous; was someone trying to spook me into doing something stupid? Was I supposed to try to evade the obvious pursuit, so that someone less obvious could continue to follow me and see me do something incriminating? Well, that just wasn't going to happen. I guessed it was La Guerta's freelance friends; the NCIS agents would be using rental cars, and they tend to be newer and much less conspicuous. I drove on to work, trying to think how an innocent man would handle the situation. By the time I got there I had a plan; not one I liked much, but one that would probably muddy the waters a little.
Intercontinental Hotel, Miami
"What it comes down to is that we're suspecting Morgan because he has kids and because Abby thinks he should have run one extra test," said Tony DiNozzo, "and pretty much ignoring the fact that his sister was shot at the same time as Lundy. There's no firm evidence."
"He's right, boss," said Timothy McGee. "There must be plenty of other people with the same opportunities, we're trying to make the facts fit our theory."
"We've been assuming that Fornell's idea was correct," said Ziva. "With so many deaths it's natural to look for a common cause. But there's really nothing to support it."
"I know," Gibbs said calmly. "He isn't our man for the Lundy killing; that doesn't necessarily mean he's not the Bay Harbor Butcher, or Marten's killer."
"Let's stop pretending we're here to solve the Marten case," said Tony. "That would be a nice bonus, but the reality is we're here because of Lundy. If it wasn't for that Vance would have told us to leave Marten to local law enforcement. Would you have really pushed hard to keep the case?"
"Maybe you're right," said Gibbs. "Let's concentrate on Lundy for a while, and see if that shakes anything loose."
When you're a spy, practically the first thing you learn, after the location of the water cooler and the coffee machine, is how to tail a suspect. Mostly it's a matter of patience, timing, and communications; you need to stay focused on the target, keep him in sight, and swap tails often enough that he's never aware of your continuing presence. Sometimes, though, you want the target to know, and hope that he'll try to shake you off, and maybe lead you to something useful. This was one of those times, and it wasn't working.
Morgan's drive to work was boringly routine; one stop to buy coffee and doughnuts, then a steady pace the rest of the way to work. I was driving my Charger, which isn't exactly inconspicuous, came close to rear-ending him a couple of times, and must have been the next car behind him for two thirds of the journey. For all the attention he paid I might as well have been a thousand miles away. Was he really that dumb? Given his job, which calls for good observational skills, it didn't seem likely. But the previous evening he'd repeatedly said how tired he was, and tired people do stupid things.
After an eternity at 3 MPH below the speed limit, we eventually reached the precinct. About the only oddity I noticed was a donut stand nearby, perfectly poised to catch the obese cop market - why hadn't he bought his doughnuts there? But the queue at shift change was probably answer enough. I watched through a monocular as he went into the building, doughnuts in hand.
"Got anything?" Sam was the backup driver on this rodeo, parked a little way down the road, and as bored as I was.
"Either he never looks in his rear view mirror, or he's playing it very cool."
"Or he has nothing to hide."
"I'm voting for playing it cool," I said. "Otherwise we've just wasted a couple of hours."
"You can say that again."
"Wait a minute... he's on the move again..." While we were talking Morgan came out of the building again, carrying an equipment case, and drove off. I followed him for a few miles, ending up at a crime scene, a burned-out car, with a distinct smell of burning flesh. Uniforms were out in force, directing traffic around the obstruction so I couldn't get too close, but it looked like Morgan was taking blood samples from the body.
I went around the block, found a parking space where I could see his car through the monocular, and waited another thirty minutes for him to leave, then followed him back to the precinct. When he arrived he started talking to someone in the car park, not anyone I recognized. And then my phone rang, Sam again. "Get out of there Mikey, it's a trap!" I looked around and saw four uniforms closing in from different directions, and a big police van pulling in to block my way out. I was still trying to figure out how to get out without hurting someone or getting shot when a fifth cop I hadn't spotted told me to get out of the car, and I decided that it would probably be a good idea to oblige.
Newman Hotel, Miami
"We're always happy to cooperate with law enforcement, Agent Gibbs," said the security manager, "and I wish I could help you with tapes, but the simple fact is that we went digital eight years ago. The hard disks are small by modern standards, and the owners will only authorize replacement equipment if something goes wrong. As we've added more cameras at higher resolution the period we can record has dropped. Currently it's about four days in the lobby, convention suites and other high-traffic areas, two in corridors and elevators. Usually that's plenty of time for the police to take a look and download recordings if there's an incident, but for some reason nobody requested it this time, I guess because mister Lundy wasn't killed here."
"Any chance you could recover anything, McGee?"
"Sorry, boss, not if the disks are used that intensively."
"Never apologise. If you can't, you can't." Gibbs turned back to the manager. "Can you give me anything useful? What happened to Lundy's room?"
"We cleared everything once the police were done with it, all of his belongings are in our secure store. We're still waiting to be told what to do with them."
"Whoever cleared his room was thorough," McGee said a few minutes later, looking up from the clothing and personal items spread over two tables. "They took Lundy's laptop and all his files, must have been years of work. I don't have any idea where to begin."
"I do," said Gibbs. "I'll call Fornell, ask him to check Lundy's files at the Bureau. Everything he did before he retired was on their payroll, and the FBI keeps backup copies of everything; they won't have shredded them yet. That should give us everything up to the last year or so."
"Might be worth checking his apartment too," said Tony, "He probably kept file copies there. Or a mail box, he would have wanted to send copies home while he was on the road."
"Ask them to check his computer too," said McGee, "If he was obsessive about backups, he may have been using on-line storage when he was on the road."
"Or this," said Ziva. She held up a tiny USB stick, about an inch long.
"Where did you find that?" asked Tony.
"In his suitcoat pocket."
"Hidden?" asked Gibbs.
"Inside a handkerchief. Not good tradecraft."
"Good enough. Whoever cleared the room missed it. So did the police."
"Let's take a look," said McGee, getting out a PDA and an adapter cable. "Okay... the dates of the files correspond to the last week or so before the murder, from the size there are a lot of pictures. It's encrypted, boss, looks like one of the standard commercial packages."
"Can you open them?"
"Sure, but without the code key I'll need something a lot faster than my laptop to do it quickly. I'll email them to Abby." He headed for the door.
"Just a second. Tell her to try Debra, Debra Morgan, Bay Harbor, Bay Harbor Butcher and Trinity as key words."
"I can do that here." He tried them, one at a time, then said "Got it!"
"Which one was it?" asked Tony.
"None of them," McGee said apologetically as he checked files. "I remembered his obituary, it said he was a widower and gave the wife's name as Michelle. It seemed worth a shot."
"Good call," said Gibbs. "What's in the files?"
"So far lots of pictures of buildings, the screen is too small to make out many details."
"There's a business centre upstairs," said Tony. "That ought to have a computer we can use."
"You two go check it out, but make sure nobody is looking over your shoulders when you use it. Ziva and I can finish here."
Crime Scene, Miami Metro
"Thanks for coming over," said Angel Batista, "our explosives guy is tied up on another case, I was hoping you could take a quick look, give me some suggestions, a couple of angles I can work while we're waiting for the detailed forensics."
*My pleasure," said Horatio Caine, looking at the burned-out car. "I see they've removed the body, but let's start by making sure that nothing else will blow up in our faces..."
Twenty minutes later he stepped back from the car and turned to Batista. "This probably started out with a relatively small explosion, almost certainly a pipe bomb under the driver's seat. That shattered a brown glass bottle filled with some sort of flammable liquid; maybe gasoline, maybe something more volatile, creating an aerosol of droplets which ignited as a fuel-air explosion. The blast triggered the air bags, trapping him in the seat through the fire. If the blast didn't kill him it was probably flame inhalation."
"How was it detonated?"
"Cell phone, a simple detonation circuit and a couple of batteries. There are pieces taped to the bomb, mostly melted."
"How difficult would it be to make something like that?"
"A little basic electronics, there are plans for all of it on line. Anyone who can use a soldering iron could do it."
"Hell of a way to go."
Caine raised his sunglasses. "Someone certainly got his number."
I never liked explosives; too wholesale, and too much chance of hurting innocents. But I learned to use them, in the same way that I'd learned to use a rifle, shotgun, and half a dozen other weapons; not because I wanted to, once I'd found methods I liked, but because I might need to use them one day. The decision to kill Trinity so impersonally hadn't come easily, but now that I knew he was dead, and that nobody else had been hurt, it was a weight off my mind. My Dark Passenger seemed to agree; it was still there, still needed to kill, but a little of the urgency was gone. And to be frank I was glad to have finally got rid of the explosives, they were old and made me nervous. Though the bottle of ether I'd added to the package to give it some extra punch would be missed, I don't often need it, but it really isn't that easy to get hold of the stuff without a paper trail.
I have to admit that even I find burned corpses unpleasant, so much messier and smellier than the neat bundles I prefer, but enough of his clothing was left that I was sure that it really was Mitchell, which was nice to know. I took blood samples from the body for more official identification, though it might be a while before I dared to take a slide to my secret cache.
Driving back, I noticed that I was still being followed, and put my second plan into motion, calling the precinct desk sergeant and telling him that I thought someone was on my tail, maybe the people who shot Debra. By the time I got back a small reception committee was waiting. To my feigned surprise the driver of the black car was someone I knew. I came over, saying "I'm so sorry, mister Westen, I thought... well, I'm not sure what I thought. For a while there I was worried that Trinity was on my tail. Sorry guys, it's all a mistake, you can let him go."
The uniforms went back to their coffee and doughnuts, grumbling a little, and I apologised again, adding "Is that it? Is Trinity after me?"
Westen seemed to think for a second, and I suspected that he was making up whatever lie would best suit his purposes. Eventually he nodded and said "I was thinking more of the Bay Harbor Butcher. If he's still around, and your sister and Lundy got in his way, it's possible that he'll be after you too. But if it was Trinity that shot them, it's possible it's him that's after you."
Not likely, since I just killed Trinity and the Butcher would never hurt Deb, but never mind. I tried to sound alarmed. "I still think the Butcher is dead, but you'd better come inside. I'll get you a visitor's pass."
"Don't you want to make sure he doesn't attack me?"
"I don't think that there's any need for that," said Westen. "He's unlikely to try to get inside the precinct."
"Yes, but I have to go out to crime scenes, what if he's just waiting to attack?"
"You didn't seem worried about it yesterday."
"I didn't think of it yesterday, but you must think there's a chance he might attack me, or you wouldn't be here." I started to head into the building, leaving the choice of following me to him.
"It's a very remote chance," said Westen, giving me a card with a cell number. "I can't stay on this all day, but if you'd like to give me a call if you have to head out, I can probably catch up. I'll be back before your shift ends."
"Okay. One thing though... isn't it more likely that he'll try to take another shot at Debra? Have you got anyone at the hospital?" I tried to sound worried; it wasn't difficult, because Westen worried me. I wanted him out of my hair and doing something that wouldn't affect me.
"That's a good point. Okay, I'll get someone over there to check it out, make sure that things are secure. Talk to you later."
I made a mental note to call again if I had to go out, say at 2 AM if I had to make another diaper run. Keep that up for a few days and he might turn his attention elsewhere.
Right now I had more important fish to fry anyway. I needed to get up to the lab, find a reason to suspect that Mitchell might not be Mitchell, and get the ball rolling on identification. He'd left evidence (which I'd carefully concealed, in hindsight not a good idea) at the office building killing. Maybe he'd done that every time. If I put his DNA into the system there was a chance he'd match something at one of the crime scenes.
8240 Palm Terrace, apartment #10B
In any form of covert operation, it helps to know as much as possible about the opposition. Sometimes this involves complicated sting operations and hundreds of man-hours of work. Sometimes it's as simple as calling a contact at the DMV. That's how I'd been ready to follow Morgan to work earlier in the day; it was also how I'd found his other address, his former bachelor apartment.
I'd guessed that Morgan might have sublet the place when he married, but it was still listed in his name. Expensive, and not something you'd expect from someone with all the expenses of a growing family. Since both of us had met him, Fiona did the initial approach, ringing the doorbell and prepared to apologise for her mistake if he answered. When nobody answered she slipped on gloves, quickly picked the lock, and was inside and had the alarm deactivated inside thirty seconds. Once she was sure she was alone she called me in, carrying a little kit of useful tools. Sam kept watch from the car park, ready to call us if Morgan arrived.
The first thing I did was take a few pictures to make sure that when we left it would be exactly as we'd found it. We spent the next fifteen minutes checking the apartment and planting a couple of discreet bugs. I'd found a shotgun in a locked trunk in the wardrobe, but nothing really relevant to the Bay Harbor case, and I was thinking that it was probably about time to get out, when Fiona quietly said "Michael, I've found something."
I found her using a Swiss Army knife to pry off the front of an air conditioning unit. "This was switched off, but the others are on. I took a look with the fibre-optics probe, I think there's something hidden inside. Some sort of box, could be a gun case."
"Wait a second, Fi." I got a folded newspaper from my travel kit and spread it on top of a book shelf under the air conditioner, then got out my own knife - spy tip, never leave home without one - and pried at the other side. I noticed some small scratches and indentations, enough to make me think I was far from the first to open it.
Together we got the air conditioner out, and lowered it onto the shelves. "Is that what I think it is?" whispered Fiona.
"I think so." I took a couple of pictures, to show the box's exact location, then carefully lifted it out and opened the lid.
"Jesus!" For once Fiona's Irish was really obvious in her voice.
"He's been busy, hasn't he?" Glass slides, each with a neatly centred red blob, filled nearly half the slots in the case.
"What the hell do we do?"
I took a couple of pictures and said "Put everything back exactly where we found it and get the hell out of here."
"And after that?"
"Try to figure out what we do next..."
Small question for readers - do we ever see exactly how Dexter opens the air conditioner on the show? Do we ever see anything to confirm (or disprove) the idea that his apartment has a burglar alarm?
Comments please before I post to archives.