2010-09-24: The Slave Of Duty



Date: September 24th, 2010


When the choice he's always made could possibly be a bad one, Agent Hamm finds he has difficulty letting go of that possibility.

"The Slave of Duty"

"There's a man in the fireplace."

Smoke, brick — and shit. The poetically scented location leaves much to be desired, biasing a handful of officially jacketed techs and uniforms spread thin in the large interior of the gutted industrial room, now left to the elements — and the bums. Several of these, their trim suits and badges that shine in a slightly different direction designating them as apart from the native law, glance over from their separate deliberations to deign the short stature beat cop with a passing glance of expertise. "The body's been moved," speaks one man.

Even passed up, Officer Hamm maintains a stance of feet shoulder-width apart and a stare that politely asks permission to do all that penetrating in his eyes. Not rattled by the brush-off; his softly distressed face is for else, "Yes, I know," earning him a second glance from the BAU captain, unsure why this is still going on. "But there's a man in the fireplace." Compelled by the peculiarity of the thing, the officer's deeply concerned but contained fact, all of the supervisory agents find time to glance over shoulders and past other officers to the thick brick fireplace at the end of the room yards away.

The only structural addition beyond four walls and some load-bearing pillars, the fireplace sits as also the singular decoration that wasn't taken out or stolen in years of abandonment. Sans a mantle, it's only a wide outcropping of brick from the already brick wall, leading to the small rectangle cave where soot has long since become king — not to mention old newspapers, remnants of more use — and the days-deceased corpse was so recently enthroned. And, in that legacy, a man lies. Back to the ground, his feet propped higher than his head in the corner and crossed at the ankles, he could even be said to be reclining. Blond hair against the floor as his chin points to the sky, he stares up.

All eyes followed there now return to Hamm — briefly, with the captain — and the others to their work with breezy disregard for the sight. The captain doesn't even fully shake his head; he just juts out his lips shortly for the loosest kind of dismissal. "Yeah," he says, light, and only for the benefit of the officer there, so politely requesting explanation. All he'll get: "He does that."

* * *

In the end, it comes down to boxes. Six-sided cardboard is all it takes to contain everything that tells anything about a single person as it pertains to the summation of the case: the rise and fall of a man. It's all there, in sets of three, a veritable garden of paper and boxing sprouting evidence to be plucked up by prosecution. A reason for everything, and evidence of every reason — the job — because, when the prosecution comes around, this is all they'll take with them. Not biased feelings, or intuition, or a thought — or a chance of a thought — just… boxes.

Hamm's fingers cup the outline of one of the cardboard judges, his hand creasing along the edge in a grip ineffective in its purpose. The box is due to be closed and processed; it hasn't moved since the agent came in. Packing, putting the lid on a pile of damning observations, is as clear as throwing away the key — even with the man represented in those boxes already in custody. This… is as final a farewell as will be happening. Steadily, the behavioral analyst sucks in a low, filling breath, tightening, in it, his hold on the container, fingers digging temporary bends into the material. His forehead creases with the effort of keeping low-digging eyebrows from shadowing his eyes any further, as the sudden look of bother falls over him. There were no choices — only the law. This— is the law. The job. And, as such, is beyond contestation.

Huffing only half out of exertion, the diminutive agent hefts up the box most determinedly in a representation that's switched tracks. Sliding the weight to bear on his hip, he frees another hand as he nears one of the bulletin boards that had been wheeled into this room especially for now; it remains the only one with anything left lingering. Snapping off photos he helped raise, he detours here and there to rub at markered writing with the side of his hand, staining the skin with the blackness of thoughts and theories being blotted out. The contact of skin and board creates a light squeaking, the only noise in the room, past this or that rustling of fabric. But even that is dulled by the loss of Hamm's jacket — folded, over a chair — as he stands only in a darkly striped button-up, the sleeves strict at his wrists. The thought of which… gives Hamm pause, halting his knuckles from further destroying the next lettering. His jacket. He glances, finds it there — waiting, sure. But why.

Why would he take his jacket off, unless he felt like he'd been planning on staying a while. Those eyebrows win a bit more ground, deepening wrinkles, as his head turns distractedly away from the table, the telling action. When the white board comes into focus again, he follows his hand to where it'd been rubbing. Lifts the hand. Pauses. Draws the fingers away from obscuring the half-erased words. Witness saw

* * *

Blue gloves pick at a crime scene already too littered for those with a job to do. Those more at a loss move mouths against radios. Expectancy aims towards those gathered FBI agents off in their huddle; so they're here to break the case, let's have it. There isn't much more for officers to do until ordered, and most of them have chosen to have their own pow-wow in the back near the edge of the crime scene tape where chatter cannot be discouraged. But, already broken from the crowd, Officer Hamm is strolling past CSU and milling detectives, to the fireplace. The man inside remains unaware, his hands folded over his stomach in all the careless abandon of one who's mistaken a death bed for his own.

But, on the verge of being quite close to the cordoned off area, Hamm picks up a mutter. Inaudible to him and, as he braces a hand against the outer edge of the fireplace outcropping, it ceases when the blond head suddenly turns to him. At his height, Hamm barely has to lean in order to look into the crawl space of the industrial-sized pit section, leaving him to strictly stand as he stares at a man lying. The arms in the fireplace shift — his dressy grey suit jacket is spared none of the soot from every movement — and as the hang of the jacket's edges falls away from his belt, the trappings of the job become visible, if not any more believable even in the current environment. In that determined prompting, all the judgment ironed out from where it probably should be, Hamm inquires simply, "Why are you in the fireplace?"

The agent doesn't look perturbed to have been disturbed in his ashy lounge. Rather, a suggestion of a smile creases his mouth before he answers, as plainly as Hamm asked, "It's my job."

"To be in the fireplace?"



"Exactly." Curved towards his new company at the shoulder, he slides his weight there to free up his legs for a slight adjustment; he replaces one ankle with the other. Hamm's questioning is knocked off its course, and the off-balance registers on his face as he takes a quiet moment to accept confusion, rather than plow forward. The agent's absurd patience is only stacked on top of all other evidence of that descriptor being apt. Blue eyes shining with some pleasure gleaned at this interaction, he studies Hamm's face, knowingly waiting for the next question he can watch being formed there.

It's a cop's question; surrounded by the patterns of a crime, the back-up of suited agents who do less fireplace-diving, the progression of Hamm's curiosity seems natural. "What do you see?"

The agent swivels his head to where it had been, staring into the far-reaching chimney and up and beyond. From above, the sky stares back, only its gaze — while, perhaps, less penetrating than the agent's — is brighter by merits of its ace card; the sun streams in from an open top, bathing the agent where he lays in a swathe of light. Therefore, some disconnect when the blond man's mouth moves confidently: "Stars."

Once again, Hamm graciously lets his bafflement display, not hiding it behind ego or embarrassment. Scraping feet against dirty flooring, Hamm edges more forward, finally getting a crouch out of his back when he ducks the first step into the fireplace to really give this whole agent-pit-sky thing a good consideration. But even, closer, things do not come into clarity, and he's forced to an urging, "I'm… sorry?"

"Oh, you don't have to be," the agent replies merrily, liberally interpreting words as he turns his head to Hamm for a short burst of reassuring smiling before he rededicates on the view above. "I've been looking a lot longer." Hamm considers this — really, does quite intensely — but all he has to show is the tug of one eyebrow and of his lips to the side, trapped in dead-end thought. He waits out the long, following seconds where he's being ignored for, perhaps, constellations. And when the agent has completed his charting of the night sky that isn't there, he finds Hamm there, again. "I'm a bum." Off the officer's frown, and then swift comprehension, "Right. I need a camp, someplace to sleep at night. This is something that can actually be very territorial, meaning I'm not going to go too far out of my comfort zone without some kind of outside interference, or I'm a new face on the scene. So when I happen to get this entire cozy bit of industrial architecture to myself, I— choose the only spot in the room completely open to the elements…? It's all broken up there, just sky…" Sky that he absorbs with eyes the color of, that reflects off a soot-patterned dress shirt the same sweet shade. "I see… stars…" All of that sky turns upon Hamm, brimming not with accusation — ego, or impatience — but free encouragement.

"What do you see?"

* * *

Witness saw

It gleams in shiny black erasable accusingly back at Hamm, whose eyes never drift even with the distraction of memory. A break in the case, even a shady one, it was the first solid ball to get the others rolling. After he slammed the window on Detective Powers, the interview had come together… it's there in words Hamm's already erased but can see plainly as if he hadn't. Suspect enters through window after climbing fire escape, ignores wheelchair-bound Creevey, goes for the victim. Determine, take out the highest threat; an organized attack, and one Hamm — any agent — would expect of an intelligent unsub. Intelligence one could never really deny Laurence Miles having — not if you wanted to be at all prepared.

Preparing a deep inhale, Hamm dashes his hand through the words. Wi e aw. He stares. Then he attacks the rest of it until there's nothing but the faint residue that will remain until a proper cleaning. Witness; he snorts — the law is the law, but he wouldn't have really minded if Powers had punched the man. He had been disagreeable consistently, pretty much flaunting his information. Proud of—

Setting the last photo into the top of the box, he freezes. Proud. Arrogance — the kind when you know you have something that your enemy doesn't — nothing can touch you. The kind that would have you utterly ignore a man in a wheelchair as not possibly ever being a threat. And you could call Laurie — even Roscoe — a lot of things…

The box in his arms tumbles helplessly as the support his hands disappears, crashing it to the floor with a flutter of photos. Hamm veers into the table, those five other perfectly aligned boxes waiting to be carted off. They're full to the brim of everything that could represent a man, except the one thing that was so readily assumed from the get-go. Digging hands into the stacks of this and that, reports and crime scene studies, Hamm overturns one file after another for the thing he knows isn't there.

* * *

The only thing sparing the police station parking lot from looking like a scene of constant emergency is that the lights of the horde of cop cars sitting there are not flashing. But there's no denying the authority of the location; one doesn't even need to step inside to be assaulted with all the blue and badges. Other cops mill outside, now in a tenser version of a cigarette break, as their courtyard is broken by the strides of three FBI agents and the detained suspect between them, marking the way towards a large, and rather nondescript, van. When the first of the van's back double doors opens, so does the glass one of the police station mirroring it. Pounding steps in a controlled hurry, Agent Hamm makes it to the van just as Laurie's being guided to get a foot up on the step inside.

"Agents," he diligently greets his colleagues first — which ruins his attempt to then turn to the former one of their fold; the head agent steps into his path at the acknowledgment.

"Hamm, you won't be following us. Your notes from the case will need to be made available." His dismissing turn reverses — only to give the other agent a grimly genuine clap on the arm. "You did fine work getting this closed. We'll take it from here." A lump sticks in Hamm's throat, oppositional to the pride that praise might seem more naturally invoked. Vividly, he can almost see the thirty pieces of silver in the man's hand as it comes in between them. Rapidly blinking, Hamm deflects off the agent as the man hefts himself up into the back of the vehicle, reaching to make sure the halted attempts to get Laurie to do the same are successful.

But with a few halted steps, the first nearly the last when Hamm second-guesses himself, the process hits a snare. Hamm grabs Laurie by the forearm as the man gets up the first portion, rising him nearly above the much shorter agent's reach. Nearly. It's in the last second that he pulls, almost childishly, on that t-shirt sleeve. "Why?"

Laurie doesn't even pause to mull on it: "You don't have to be; we're just doing our jobs."

Muttered sentiments here and there to the effect of hurry it up, the agents take control in loading their lingering suspect into the hold. From the inside, the door handles are grasped, swinging both of them shut, and disconnecting the van's contents from the rest of the world.

* * *

Near panicked sounding squeaks fill the room as the marker tears across the board faster and with more pressure than the tip can bear. Hamm's sleeves have been reined in at the elbows, leaving his wrists free to control his harried writing pace. From the burial ground of Witness saw sprouts 30-40, single, white male. From that sprung more, blossoming outwards in rows of personality quirks, rituals, and deliberations about the whys of the crime scene. Jotted notations here and there, following the order of each crime, as each action reveals another small suggestion of the person behind them.

It's a profile.

And, backing away with the uncapped marker still poised between his fingers like a weapon, Hamm stares at the two words he's managed to return to, draw lines towards and from, and circled in multiples.

Proud. Job.

"We never bothered," he muses, tapping the marker against his mouth and leaving little tick-marks on his upper-lip. "Because the ritual told us who it was, we started with the name and made the reasons fit. They did fit…" But the words, glaringly circled as they are, jump out from the others disobediently. Proud, job… proud, job. The black spots above Hamm's mouth become an indication of minutes as they pass, and, when they fall too many in a place, it's a black spot like the lump of thoughts forming a pool in his hazily colored eyes. When this has gone on — an inordinate amount of time to not notice the half-mustache on your own face — Hamm steps right up to the board, slashing two lines out from job in a little family tree. Off-spring one is: the law, off-spring two: vengeance above the law.

… we're just doing our jobs

A little wince in Hamm, a grimace of the lip, as he steps away now to observe these two things as they've been organized in his mind, and now on the board. The triangle of social justice versus personal justice wants to intersect but is inescapably separate, while also connected. Or… Hamm retraces his steps, pacing forward to scribble a line between them, that intersection. It's called: Undercover. He steps back. The pieces — fitting after all… until his eyes stray to the side and that other word. That grimace transforms his whole mouth. He swings the marker up towards it and stops short, glancing at the undone tip. A finger traces along his new black features but then falls away: unimportant. Does it work? Is it arrogant to think it's your job to kill criminals that get off? Sounds more like a burden… a duty… what's the job…

… I'm a bum.


It's my job.

Mouth tightens; eyes widen. Hamm, his steps steadier than his shocked to revelation head, steps into the board. A line negates all else there. He draws another from it, delegates several words into the new space.

The JobTaking another's place.

"Shit…" The mouth reanimates to frown, and he comes in to tightly draw a straight connection between Taking another's place and Proud. "I'm arrogant," he mutters lowly, heavy and breathy with the effort of his mind leaping to new life on a case murky with bias, "I'm arrogant, but I have to follow another's pattern, another ritual. Not my own. I don't even get any credit. I'm slighted… angry… something," the marker begins to shake determinedly at the board, giving its own nod, "I have to do something about it just to make myself feel better. I left something— " Hamm throws himself around, landing at the table where papers have been displaced for a profile that only came into existence half an hour ago. Now he shuffles more of the cards of this hand by, looking, staring, studying — trying to strain eyes to see past the conclusions they had already made.

It would seem that nothing would break — except Hamm's nervous energy — when a happenstance report slides out from underneath countless others. A little thing, with a little notation.

"… Oh shit."

* * *

Progress has overtaken the scene, letting those assigned to jobs do them, and once again separating the variety of uniforms into clumps of natural segregation. Once again, Officer Hamm's small figure invades these invisible boundaries, strolling up towards the standing circle that represents the foreigners to this neighborhood. Now settled in with his fellows, the fireplace agent leans near the sole woman member of the team as she, of her own volition, gives his back the pat-down it needs to shake some of that soot loose. He seems to not care either way, but allows her to do so undisturbed. With her body slightly turned in that direction, she's the first to spot the approaching officer and it puts a note of amusement in her eyes that translates into the crooked way her mouth moves as she announces, in low tones, to the group. "Your fanboy's back…"

Accordingly, the agent branches away from her, turning over that shoulder with an enthusiastic lean that welcomes Hamm right up to the circle — though the officer doesn't oblige; he remains a polite distance away that the agent then breaches, instead, with no regard. "I wanted to thank you— and your team— for stepping in with us today. Helping out."

His mouth pulling down in casual evaluation, the agent spreads his hands near his shoulders, palms out as he gives an accompanying shrug that overdoes the whole gesture. "Ehh," he says, the tone-perfect accompaniment to the expression, "We do what we do to do it."

"Still," Hamm insists, more prodding than pushing with his tone, though his hand comes outright into the space between them forcefully enough, "Thank you. From Officer Hamm to you."

In an instant, the agent's hand connects with Hamm's, taking it heartily and then giving their combined hands a lively jolt. "Officer Hamm," he repeats approvingly, "But what do your friends call you."

Eyebrows raise on Hamm — suspicion, or surprise. It's a combination, but not one that stops him. His hand still caught in the other's — and it would perhaps continue to be so until he answered — he supplies neatly, "Tony."

* * *

"Powers! Listen— it's about Miles. He killed him! I mean— he would've killed him. That's the key. Look, I think I'm onto something— this old warehouse on 5th— I'll explain just as soon as I— " —- bzzzzt… dead.

Cracking and crunching, as the phone takes the brunt of the blow, but that only hammers into the side of Hamm's head as the impact extends. Stumbling through the flash of fog around his vision, his fingers burn with the possibility of breaking, losing the entirety of his grip as the remnants of the cell scatter to an already littered floor. The wandering hand on the other side gropes for support and finds it in a metal pillar, as he grabs up onto it, he presses his back to the meager cover and blinks until his enemy comes into focus.

The man was waiting for him. Swathed in the black of the darkness around them, he observes with the cool lack of empathy the struggle of the agent to stay on his feet and make a stand. A bit of a sneer pulls up his wide thin-lipped mouth, making a distasteful expression of his entire face where skin stretches baldly over his clean head. It's not until the last moment, that tiny little pin-prick of there's a chance — then he violates all hope with the straight-raise of his arm and the Glock in his hand. The aim is unmistakable, even as he scoffs to hold it so low. And the intent; the safety never even started on.

All this filters over Hamm's face in an instant. Testing, he starts to lift a hand, waits. When there's no reaction from his intended executioner, he brings it all the way to brush crumbs of cell-phone off his shoulder. In the same motion, he straightens, shoulders back against the pillar of his support but refusing to depend on it; he stands his own. "Congratulations, you've truly become invisible. Now you're even killing as the shadow of another man."

The sneer overtakes his face, a sheer pool of rage, creating a terrible mask out of long, wickedly thin features. "He cannot call himself a man who rolls over like a dog." Anger pushed back is superiority. "You couldn't just do your job, Agent Hamm. This is what happens."

For an instant, a kind of fight would seek to make storms of the adrenaline in Hamm's head, stomach— all that churning about as his mind whirls with options— all that he knows, has to know, are useless. But the words— it starts as only a suggestion, that cool sense of… calm. Then the agent's stance relaxes the slightest, meanwhile tugging his shoulders up a little proudly, raising his chin as his eyes don't wander but where they're looking sets off dreamily. A crease. "I… see stars."


There's no happiness, no light at the end of that gun barrel, but a little twitch in Hamm's face plots out the lately disused course anyway. He never makes it to a smile — there's just too much regret — and only enough time to register but the one. So, in the now, at the moment of trigger pull, Hamm spares his last for an inhale. "I'm sorry, Laurie…"

The loud blast startles the flock of crows nesting along the old railing tops of the building, sending them all cawing and complaining in a burst of fluttering black and ruffled feathers. Even as the violence echoes away into silence, their persistent alarm continues into the air — the sole sentinels to an end, as the rest of the world rushes by.

* * *

"Tony," says the agent, as warmly as he accepted his hand, though, in possession of a name, he allows Officer Tony Hamm to have all of his fingers back. Both men's freed hands instinctively fall to their sides: Hamm to his hips over the top of his uniform belt, and the agent slipping his own lazily into his pockets.

But Hamm does not consider the exchange yet completed. Lifting several fingers off their hip perch for a small gesture, he inquires, "And what do yours call you?"

The blond agent unhesitatingly gives a swift, decisive shake of his head, his features tugging into an expression of guiding dismissal at his own expense — same as the way he rolls his eyes before staring the officer sincerely in the face. "Oh, well. I don't have any friends," he assures the officer helpfully. And the teasing theatrics smooth out — crease again — into a wonderful smile. "But you can call me Laurie."

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