Love Me When I’m Gone ~ Chapter 2
“Dude! This is you – this is so you!”
“It is not!” Booth tried unsuccessfully to snatch the picture from Hodgins. He’d hoped that Bones had forgotten about the picture she’d brought back from Washington the day before yesterday, but then, he should have known better. Bones never forgot anything.
“I’m with Hodgins.” Cam took the picture from Hodgins as he struggled to hold it out of Booth’s reach. “There’s even that cute little scar on your forehead.”
“That’s just a spot on the picture.” Booth dismissed the supposed scar.
Hodgins snapped his fingers. “You know, this is like that old Renaissance painting that has a guy in it who looks like Bob Hope.”
“Bob Hope? In a Renaissance era painting?” Brennan repeated doubtfully.
“The nose and everything.” He pantomimed a ski slope shape in the air. “Proof right there of reincarnation. I saw it in the Enquirer, or maybe it was the Weekly World News.”
“Oh, yeah, there’s reliable sources. Right up there with the New York Times.” Booth scoffed.
“Hey, scoff if you will, but they know what’s going on. Area 51, the Bermuda Triangle, Hoover being a transvestite. They’re the only ones reporting the truth.”
“Hey!” Booth’s amusement faded. “Hoover was – Director Hoover was not a transvestite!”
Hodgins smiled. “It’s documented, man. Hoover liked to dress in frilly undies.”
“That’s a rumor started by the Mafia.” Booth’s eyes narrowed.
“Okay, we can debate if Hoover wore ladies’ panties some other time.” Cam ignored Booth’s glare and tossed the photograph on Bones’ desk. “We’ve got remains to identify. Back to work, people.”
“Right.” Angela palmed the picture as she walked past the desk. “Work. Lots of work to do.”
While the squints scattered to various parts of the lab, Booth headed to the parking lot. He needed to get back to his office to work on two versions of the official statement. One would be used if the remains were those of D.B. Cooper, and the other would be used if they were not. If this was Cooper, most likely the Deputy Director or the Director would give the speech, but he knew from past experience that they would expect him to have the statement already written. Grunt work was never done.
His phone rang as he pulled out onto the street, and Booth pulled it out of his pocket and flipped it open. “Booth.”
“Don’t you ever just say hello?”
“Rebecca. is something wrong with Parker?” He ignored her question. They’d been through this argument before.
“He’s fine, still on a sugar buzz, but fine. I wish you wouldn’t let him eat junk food.”
“It’s a ballpark, all they have is junk food. We had a healthy breakfast and a healthy dinner.” This was another argument they’d been through before.
“Healthy? I didn’t know McDonald's had healthy food.” She said sarcastically.
He clenched his fingers so tightly around the phone that the case creaked, but kept his voice level. “I made scrambled eggs and bacon – “
“The one thing you can cook – “
“And we went to Shaffer’s for dinner.” Booth ignored her remark. Rebecca had been bitchy lately, and he wasn’t going to give her the satisfaction of losing his temper.
“Are you sure you’re going to be gone this weekend?”
The question took him by surprise. His trip to LA had been planned for several months. “Yes, I’m sure. Why?”
“Because Drew and I were thinking of going to New York City this weekend.”
“Great, Parker loves New York. I can probably get you tickets to The Lion King. He loves – “
“Alone?” Tires screeched and horns honked as he nearly shot through a red light when it dawned on him what she was saying. He backed up, stopping behind the crosswalk lines and ignoring the dirty looks of the drivers going the other direction. “Alone?” He repeated.
“Drew and I need a little alone time. We’re – we’re having some issues, and we need to work through them.”
“Fine, I’ll take Parker to LA with me.”
“Oh no, I don’t want him around guns and shooting. Can’t you just cancel?”
“Let me see if I understand this. You want me to cancel something I’ve had planned for months – a competition where I’m representing the FBI against some of the best marksmen in the world – so that you and Drew can run off for some last minute mattress dancing?”
“It’s not like that! It’s a romantic weekend!”
“Yeah, like our romantic weekends?” He said sarcastically. “When we checked in and never left the room?”
“Drew is a real romantic. He planned this getaway as a surprise. Unlike you – “ Her voice dripped ice. “He doesn’t need sex all the time.”
“I don’t remember you complaining.” Booth hissed back at her. The light turned green and he shot through the intersection. “You know, you need to make up your mind what’s important to you. You can’t have it both ways. Either you’re a mother or you’re not.”
“Just because I want time alone with my boyfriend doesn’t mean I’m not a good mother!”
So much for not losing his temper. Booth rubbed a hand over his face. “Look, I can’t cancel. I can take Parker with me, or I can run him up to my Mom and Dad’s. They’d love to have him for the weekend.”
“I suppose that would work.” She huffed.
“It’d be easier if he just came along with me. He’d get to see his old man in action.” He couldn’t help the note of pride in his voice. “He can see how good I am.”
“Yeah, let him see how good you are at killing people.”
Booth’s jaw dropped – he couldn’t believe she’d thrown his past in his face. “Okay, that was totally fucking uncalled for!” It wasn’t as if he didn’t feel guilty for the deaths he’d caused – yes, they’d all deserved it, but it was a heavy weight nonetheless. “I was a soldier. If I killed someone they damn well deserved it! How many people do you think I’ve saved since then?”
“Yeah, yeah, you’re balancing the scales.” Rebecca parroted. “That’s why you walk around with a gun on all the time.”
“Well maybe I can try being a construction worker like Drew and make lots of pretty buildings.”
“I don’t know why I even talk to you. You know, sometimes you’re a pain in the ass. It’d be easier if I didn’t have to deal with you.”
“But you do.”
“No. I don’t.”
Panic gripped his heart. Panic born of the fear that she’d cut him off from Parker. “Rebecca, I’m sorry, it’s no big deal. I’ll cancel, I’ll make up an excuse. You and Drew can go to New York.”
“Never mind, forget it.” She hung up.
“Oh, God.” He dropped the phone and pulled over, ignoring the honks and angry yells from the drivers he’d cut off. “Oh, God. Please…”
There was very little he feared in life, but the thought of being cut off from his son set his heart racing and his breath coming in painful gasps. Resting his forehead on the steering wheel, Booth tried to head off a full-fledged panic attack. He wasn’t the kind of person who had attacks, panic or otherwise, but he was hovering on the edge.
Maybe Bones was right. Maybe he needed to get a lawyer and make Rebecca set up a formal – legal – custody agreement. He was Parker’s father, and he had legal rights. Except… they'd never married and maybe he didn’t have any legal rights… maybe he should just work harder to maintain the status quo.
He picked the phone up and dialed Rebecca’s number. When she answered, he rushed to apologize. “Rebecca, I’m sorry, I shouldn’t have said that about Drew. You know, I can cancel, it’s not a problem.”
There was silence from her end, and Booth bit his lip in frustration. “Rebecca?”
“It’s okay.” Her voice was soft and wobbly. “I’m such a bitch sometimes.”
“It’s not your fault. We just fall right back into the same old arguments.” He sighed. “It’s easier than being reasonable, I guess.”
“I just – I really like Drew, you know? I think I love him.” She sniffled. “And Parker really likes him – and he’s not trying to take your place. Drew’s got his own son so he’s really careful to be Parker’s friend and not a replacement dad. He knows what it feels like.”
Booth hated to admit it, but the few times he and Drew had met, even he liked the guy. “You guys having a rough time?”
“Kinda. You know how it is, couples go through these things. Sometimes we’re so busy working and taking care of the kids that we lose sight of each other.”
“Yeah…” Somewhere they’d lost sight of each other. He knew exactly how it could happen. Maybe if he’d proposed before she’d peed on the stick…
“Listen, go to your competition. You’re good and it’ll mean a lot to Parker if you bring home another trophy. He loves to tell his friends about it.” She sniffled again, but her voice sounded stronger. “That idea about taking him to your parents, that’s good, that’ll work. They haven’t had him to themselves in a while, and I know they love him.”
“Yeah.” A smile curved his lips. “The old man melted from the moment he saw him.”
“I’ll pack a bag and send it to school with him, and you can pick him up there on Friday, okay?”
“Sure, that’ll work. I’ve got to go back to Washington tomorrow sometime and do a press conference, but I’ll be back by Thursday night.”
“Washington state, I assume? Since we’re in D.C.”
“Yeah, they found a body out there that may be D.B. Cooper. Or it could just be some unlucky parachutist.”
“D.B. Cooper? Really?” Rebecca’s voice went up with excitement. “Wow, the last of the big mysteries.”
“It’s gonna kill the romance around the whole thing, though.” A lot of people loved the idea that someone had beaten the system for two hundred grand.
“Yeah, well, romance isn’t always what it’s cracked up to be.”
“Sure it is. Come on, maybe Drew’s more romantic than I am.” He hesitated. “Not that you were complaining, right?”
“No, I wasn’t complaining.” She laughed softly.
“Good – I mean… I’ll be there to pick Parker up after school Friday.”
“I’ll tell him this afternoon; he’ll be excited.”
“Great. I’ll talk to you later.”
“Seeley…” Rebecca hesitated
“Seeley, I’m sorry for what I said about… you know…”
It had hurt – still hurt, to have his past thrown in his face so cavalierly. Worse even to have her mock his personal mission of redemption. “It’s all right, Rebecca. I know you didn’t mean it.”
“I didn’t. Really. I was just… just …” She sighed. “Just being a bitch.”
“Forget about it.” He waited, not certain if she was going to say anything else. “Rebecca?”
“I’ll tell Parker you’ll pick him up Friday.” She hung up.
Putting his phone away, Booth heaved a sigh and guided the SUV back into traffic. All hail the status quo.
His report done, more quickly than usual thanks to Sheriff Samuels’s help, Booth emailed it off to the paper pushers. The press releases – is and is not D.B. Cooper – he likewise emailed up the chain of command before printing out a copy of each to take with him.
Shutting off the lights in his office, he closed the door and headed for the elevators. “See you bums later.” He said to the agents working at their desks.
“Oh, sure, now that you’re all famous, you’re leaving early.” One of them mocked.
“That’s right, famous and, let’s not forget – “ Booth straightened his tie. “I’m hot.”
Ducking the paper wads that flew his way, he stepped into the elevator.
On his way out of the FBI building, Booth spotted Jason Conrad in the main lobby. He nodded and returned the half wave. Conrad was in Internet Crimes, and they’d worked together on a few cases in the past. ‘Net love wasn’t always true love.
“What’s the word?” Conrad asked when Booth was close enough for conversation.
Booth shook his head. “Dunno yet, I’m going to Squintville now.”
“Come on, I got fifty bucks it’s Cooper.”
“I don’t gamble anymore.”
Booth grinned and walked away. “Read the newspapers like everybody else.”
At the Jeffersonian, Booth parked in his usual spot, beating out Professor Clarke from the moldy oldie department. Getting out, he slipped on his sunglasses and began whistling a cheery tune.
Professor Clarke sent him a message that he was Booth’s number one fan – from a safe distance. Squints were so much fun. Still whistling, Booth bounded up the stairs.
Inside, he found the platform empty. The remains were there, but no Bones. No bones? I crack myself up. “Bones! Hey, where are you?”
“Booth?” Brennan stepped out of the doorway of where the “Angelator” was kept. “We’re in here.”
He smiled at her. “Did you ID the guy?”
She returned his smile. “Come here and see what Angela’s been working on.”
The squints were gathered around the holographic display area and were grinning at him in a way that made Booth nervous. “Ah… guys… hi…” The last time he’d seen looks like these, he’d ended up stripped and dumped on the quad during Greek week
“Look at this.” Angela turned on the machine. Two men stood side by side in the holographic display area.
Booth frowned. One of the men was himself and the other was the guy in the picture Bones had brought back from Washington.
“Now watch.” Delicately, Angela adjusted the controls. The two holograms slid toward each other, overlapping and becoming one. “This is you – I mean not even an ancestor who resembles you. You. Kinda creepy, huh?”
“It’s got to be a fake somehow.” Booth couldn’t tear his eyes from the holograms. They split and merged over and over. A perfect match each time.
“Why?” Brennan asked.
“To freak the Feds.” Hodgins nodded sagely. “To hide Cooper’s money.”
“What? What does this have to do with Cooper’s money – the stolen money?” Booth corrected himself quickly. It was not Cooper’s money. Technically, it was the insurance company’s money.
“Well… did you find it?” Hodgins asked.
“Yes – no – “ Booth finally pulled his gaze from the holograms. “Not all of it.”
“There you go.” The other man’s blue eyes lit up, the conspiracy fueling his imagination. “I bet the statute of limitations is up on it, too.”
“Cooper was indicted in a Federal court; there is no statute of limitations.” Booth told him. “The insurance company’s claim on the money is still good – it shows up, and they’ll confiscate it.”
“Figures.” Hodgins frowned, his neat conspiracy theory evaporating into smoke without the mirrors. “The government’s always got a way around the law.”
“Sure, man, whatever.” Booth shook his head. He wasn't getting into the arguement that the government made the laws.
“This isn’t a fake.” Angela interrupted her fiancé. “It’s a real photograph, probably from a cheap personal camera; they were pretty popular at the time.”
“It’s most likely from a Kodak Pocket Instamatic 20, circa 1972 to 1975.” Brennan confirmed. When the others turned to look at her, she shrugged. “My brother got one for Christmas one year. The pictures looked like that.”
“Oh, my God, remember those commercials with Michael Landon?” Hodgins fluffed his hair up. “All that hair?”
“He spent a lot of time at the little beauty shop on the prairie? But he was hot.” Cam laughed.
“The only odd thing, there really should be a reflection of Booth here on this object.” Angela tapped something harvest gold colored on the picture. “But there’s not. I just noticed that.”
“The only odd thing?” Booth’s eyebrows went up. “Besides it not being me?”
Cam looked over Angela’s shoulder. “Is that a vase? Or a really ugly lamp? Hmm…” She frowned. “Maybe the flash washed it out. It’s an indoor shot, and those Pocket Instamatics had that funky flash extender.”
“It’s not me.” Booth repeated.
“Could be. Plus the picture is really badly faded out.” Angela shook her head sadly. “That happens with old pictures if they’re not taken care of.”
“For the last time – “ Booth snatched the picture out of her hands. “It’s not me!”
“Chill, man, it’s probably a practical joke.” Hodgins grinned. “One of your buddies in black is yanking your chain.”
Booth's eyes narrowed as he remembered how he’d bumped into Conrad on the way out of the FBI building. Maybe it hadn’t been such an accidental meeting after all. The guy had probably set this whole thing up as a joke.
He tossed the picture down and jerked his thumb in the general direction of the table where the remains rested. “Have you done any work on what’s his name?”
“You mean Mr. Cooper?” Brennan smiled.