Love Me When I’m Gone ~ Chapter 3
“I don’t understand why you’re not giving the speech.”
“It’s not a speech, Bones. It’s a press conference.” Booth kept his somber FBI-agent-on-duty expression in place. “This is a high profile case, so it’s only right for the director to be the one in charge.”
“You’re the one in charge.” Brennan frowned. “Special Agent In Charge – doesn’t that mean you’re in charge?”
Other agents were shooting dirty looks their way. “Bones… the director’s talking.” He said softly.
“We already know what he’s going to say. You wrote his speech.”
“Can we talk about this later?”
“Why?” Her eyebrows drew together in a quizzical expression. “Now is the perfect time. He’s not taking questions yet – which he probably can’t answer anyway because he hasn’t done any of the work – and Sheriff Samuels hasn’t given his speech yet. We’re going to be here for hours.”
A few feet ahead of them, the deputy director cleared his throat meaningfully.
“Bones!” Booth hissed. “Later!”
“Fine.” Brennan glared at the back of the deputy director’s head. “But I still say it’s not fair.”
“Life isn’t fair.” He grinned. “Isn’t that what you always tell me?”
“Shhh!” She elbowed him as Sheriff Samuels stepped up to the makeshift podium.
Brennan was later mollified as Booth was called forward by Director Mueller to answer specific questions about the discovery and handling of the remains.
“Happy now?” Booth asked as they escaped the pack of reporters.
“I, for one, am perfectly happy.” He loosened his tie and undid the top button of his shirt. “One of the greatest mysteries of our time has been solved, and we had a hand in it.”
“Mr. Cooper’s crime was hardly one of the greatest mysteries of our time. The Kennewick Man, oh! The murder of Pope John Paul I, now there’s a mystery.”
“He had a heart attack!”
“The Kennewick Man?” She frowned. “I don’t think so.”
“I don’t think so in his case, either. The Vatican refused to allow an autopsy; it was very suspicious.”
“He was old man – he’d lived a very long and holy life, and he had a heart attack.” Booth crossed himself out of respect.
“During an investigation of the Vatican bank? An investigation he started, and there were other murders connected to the investigation as well.”
“Okay, nobody kills a pope! Come on!”
“Because! They’re – “ He groped for an explanation. “Holy! They’re protected by God!”
Brennan arched an eyebrow. “They why did he die? And if they’re protected by God, why do they ride around behind bulletproof glass?”
“You make me crazy.” He raked a hand through his hair. “One of these days they’re going to cart me off to a rubber room, and it’ll be your fault.”
“That’s ridiculous! How can – “
“Angel!” A voice interrupted her.
They turned to see Yiska walking toward them. The Indian had a concerned look on his face.
“Oh, great. Just what I needed. I’m ready for the men in the white coats now.” Booth sighed.
“Angel! You’re out in the sun!” The Indian shot a glance at the sky. It was a typically Washington overcast day, but the sun was out. “You must get inside!”
“It’s okay. I have sunglasses and sunblock. In the car.” He took Bones’ arm and pulled her toward the black SUV they’d borrowed from the field office in Portland.
“Booth!” She pulled free. “Skin cancer is a very real concern. There’s no reason to be rude.”
“Sure there is.”
“Angel, you know me, the picture was proof. Your friend, she knows – ” Yiska started.
Booth cut him off. “Look, I don’t know how you did that with the picture, but that’s not me. I’m not whoever you think I am.”
“You are!” He insisted. “Don’t you remember fighting the Tah-tah-klé-ah demons with me? I know that the others weren’t kind to you after they found out you were a vampire, but I helped you escape from town, remember?”
Booth’s eyes had widened as Yiska’s rambling speech concluded, and he backed up a step. “Vampires? Demons? Okay then… nice meeting you, we have to go now.”
“Come to my house.” Yiska reached out to him. “I can help you remember.”
“Right, I’ll do that right after I visit the tooth fairy. She’s been carrying funds across state lines, breaking into people’s houses, stealing teeth.” Booth snagged Bones’ elbow again, his grip too tight for her to pull away. He moved farther back, out of the Indian’s reach.
Brennan let him lead her away, casting a nervous glance over her shoulder. The old Indian was standing with his shoulders slumped, a sad look on his face.
“You’re not going to argue with me?” He asked her as they approached the sheriff’s office.
“No. I didn’t realize he was quite so delusional.”
“I feel for the old guy, but I’m not willing to get involved in someone’s fantasies again.” Unconsciously he rubbed at the recently healed spot on his chest with his free hand, his eyes meeting hers.
Shuddering at the memory, Brennan looked away, not wanting to recall those expressive brown eyes staring up at her in pain and confusion.
A sign in the window of the small café next to the sheriff’s office caught Brennan’s eye. “Hey, they have pie and coffee, a dollar ninety-nine. Sounds good, I’ll buy.”
Her offer caught him by surprise. “You don’t like pie.”
“I never said I didn’t like pie; you’re putting sentences in my mouth!” She reached for the door handle.
“Words, not sentences, Bones. Although – “ He grinned as he pulled the door open before she could. “I guess that ‘I don’t like pie’ is technically a sentence.”
“I did not say – “
“But you did say you’re buying, right?” As she went inside, Booth looked across the parking lot – the old Indian was still watching them. He closed the door firmly. “Right?”
“You’re the one with the expense account.”
The café was warm and welcoming, decorated with folk art pictures of roosters and hens. A waitress greeted them with a smile. “Two? Do you have a smoking preference?”
“I’d prefer that no one smoked. It’s very unhealthy.” Brennan told her.
The waitress gave her a blank look and then laughed. “That’s a new one.” She waved them toward the dining area on her left. “Nonsmoking it is. Booth or table?”
“Booth is fine.” He resisted the urge to make a joke. He didn’t want to alienate the waitress; he preferred good service. There were several FBI agents at other tables, and he nodded to them as he passed.
Once they were seated, the waitress handed each a menu and took their drink orders before leaving them to look over the selections.
“Wow, look at the list of pies!” Booth whistled softly. “Chocolate, coconut crème, butterscotch, rhubarb, peach – “
“Technically the peach is a cobbler.” Brennan pointed out.
“It’s got a top and bottom crust, therefore pie.” He told her.
“That’s not the definition of a pie. The chocolate pie doesn’t have a top crust.”
“Okay, but it’s not a fruit pie, either.”
“Neither is pumpkin pie.”
“What?” He looked up from the menu.
“Your theory is that fruit pies have two crusts and cream based pies have only one, correct?”
“I wouldn’t call it a theory.” Booth smiled up at the waitress as she set his cup of coffee on the table. “Just an observation.”
“Which is the rudimentary basis for forming a theory.” Brennan told him. “You observe something, note its characteristics and how it relates to other items in the same category if possible, and form your theory based on the collected data. My challenge to your theory is, where does pumpkin pie fit?”
“What do you mean? It’s a fruit. Speaking of fruit – “ He closed the menu. “I’ll have a slice of the rhubarb pie.”
“Good choice.” The waitress smiled at him.
“Pumpkin is a squash, which is technically a vegetable. So is rhubarb.” Brennan closed her menu and handed it to the waitress. “Two eggs, scrambled hard. Bacon done, but not too crisp. Wheat toast, no butter.”
“I’m not sure about pumpkin, but rhubarb is a fruit, right?” Looking up at the waitress for support, he smiled again. “Right?”
“Um… no… it’s a vegetable. Sorry.” His smile made her want to agree to anything, but as a veteran waitress, she knew better.
He frowned. “Really?”
“Really.” She bit her lip. His frown was almost as attractive as his smile. “Still want it? I mean it’s good, but tart.”
Booth nodded. “Why not? And I want a slice of the gooseberry to go – that one’s a fruit, I know.”
“It is.” The waitress smiled in return. “Want whipped cream on it?”
“Two pieces of pie?” Brennan asked after the waitress left.
“One for on the plane. That little bag of peanuts isn’t enough to fill up Parker.”
“Oh, nuts!” She snapped her fingers. “Pecan pie! Where does that fit into your theory?”
“I’ll have to give it more study.” He took a drink of his coffee.
The rhubarb was tart, but good, just as the waitress had promised, and Booth took his time eating it. He watched Bones eat her breakfast with precisely sized bites. And she thought he had weird theories about food.
The waitress warmed his coffee up. “Thanks for finding D.B. It’s going to do a lot for Cougar.”
“We didn’t find him.” Brennan corrected her. “We just identified the remains.”
“What Bones means is thank you.” Booth told her.
“Well, whatever you did, we’re grateful.” She looked around the dining room. It was nearly full of customers, and not all were FBI agents. “Business is already up.”
“Doesn’t it bother you to have someone’s death bring tourists to your town?”
“No.” The waitress shrugged. “It’s not like we knew him, and he’s been dead for a long time.”
“I think it’s a little ghoulish.” Brennan jumped as something hit her leg under the table.
“What it is, is the end of a mystery. And we were in on it. It all works out in the end.” Booth nodded and smiled.
“Exactly.” The waitress returned his smile. “It gives the town gossips something else to talk about for the next few years besides the volcano and all the murders back in the ‘70’s.”
“Was Yiska living here then?” Brennan asked her.
“Yeah, he’s got some crazy story about the killer.” The waitress shook her head. “We all love him, but he’s a few bottles short of a six-pack, you know?”
A confused look crossed Bones’ face and Booth jumped in before she could comment on bottles and/or six-packs. “He thinks I’m somebody he knew back then.”
“Well, that’s a new twist.” She made a face. “Usually he’s going on about the murders. There were seven children killed over one summer back in… 1979, I think. The killer was never caught, and the police think it was a drifter who lived here that summer. He disappeared after the last murder, and they never found him.”
“Is the case still open?” The idea of delving into a cold case – especially one involving a child killer – appealed to his sense of justice. “Maybe I can take a look at it.”
“As far as I know.” The waitress shrugged. “Sheriff Samuels would know. I’m sure he’s been through the file, he’s that kind of guy.”
“I’d be happy to look at the forensic evidence.” Brennan volunteered. “Someone who preys on children shouldn’t be allowed to get away with murder.”
“Too often they do. Of course – “ The waitress smiled again. “Yiska says it wasn’t a man, it was a group of demons trying to set off the volcano. Like I said, he’s not all there.”
“So I noticed.” Booth wondered again about the picture. One of his buddies had probably worked up the picture and put the old man up to it. Though, if he had to testify to it, he’d say the old man wasn’t that type of person. Yiska seemed too open and simple for such a complex practical joke.
The bell over the door tinkled, signaling more customers coming in, and the waitress dropped the check on the table and left after promising to bring Booth’s gooseberry pie.
“I guess I’m getting stuck with the tab?” Grousing good naturedly, he reached for the check.
“Hey, you’re the one on the government payroll.” Brennan teased. “Although, technically, I am as well.”
“Let your Uncle Hoover take care of it. As many cases as you’ve solved, he’d love – “ Booth paused as someone stopped at their table. Looking up, he saw the old Indian standing there. “Okay, this has got to be a joke. Am I on Candid Camera? Conrad in 'Net Crimes put you up to this, didn’t he? That’s who faked the photo, am I right?”
“No.” Yiska shook his head. “This isn’t a joke. I don’t know why you don’t remember. You were here, and you helped save the children. It didn’t matter to me that you are a vampire.”
“Look, this has gone far enough.” Booth was quickly losing his temper. If this was a joke, it was well past the time for someone to confess. “I’m not whoever you think I am. There’s no such thing as vampires and demons.”
The Indian sighed. “You’ve been changed. You’re not who you once were.”
“I am who I once was and who I’ve always been. FBI, which means leave me alone, or I’ll show you my shiny handcuffs.”
“You don’t remember killing the Tah-tah-klé-ah?”
“You know, I’ve killed a lot of people, but that one doesn’t ring any bells.”
Brennan’s eyebrows went up. Booth wasn’t usually flippant about his kill record. In this case, she concluded, it must be part of his alpha male makeup that was making him confront Yiska with his prowess.
“Tah-tah-klé-ah, the Owl-Woman monster, was stalking the area and feeding on our children. You fought her, Angel, but we saw that you were a vampire and – “
“That’s enough!” Booth snapped. The other agents in the room looked up, and a couple of them got up from their tables and began to ease closer.
“I’ve heard all I want to hear about demons and monsters. Either you’re crazy, or you’re pulling my leg – and I don’t care which anymore. Just leave me alone.” Booth said tightly. Yiska was much older than he was, and it wouldn’t leave the best impression with the locals if he shoved the old man.
The waitress had returned with Booth's pie, she set the sack on the table and put her hand on the Indian's arm. "Yiska, come on now, enough's enough. Let the man finish his coffee."
The old man didn’t respond. Instead he lifted his right hand and opened it, tossing a white powder in Booth’s face.
As fast as his reflexes were, Booth wasn’t able to pull back quickly enough, and the powder hit him full in the face. He held his breath, but the powder seemed to crawl up his nose and into his mouth of its own volition. He choked and coughed, fighting for air.
Two agents grabbed Yiska and pulled him away, efficiently handcuffing him. “It’s all right.” He told them. “It will help him remember who he his.”
Brennan had bolted up from her seat, struggling to get out of the booth, sending dishes crashing to the floor. “Booth!” She ran to his side, using her napkin to wipe the powder from his face. “Booth, are you all right?”
“F-fine – “ He coughed. “Fine.” Bones slid an arm under his, and he let her help him to his feet. A dizzy spell made him cling to her for a moment. “What was that?”
“It’s not harmful. It’ll help you. It’ll help you remember.” The old man told him.
Brennan ran a fingertip across his cheek. She smelled the powder and then tasted it. “I believe it’s an herbal compound, things common to the area. I don’t think it’s anything harmful, but we should check.”
“We’ll take him next door and hold him until the results come back.” One of the agents told him.
Another agent pulled an evidence kit from his briefcase. “Dr. Brennan, if you’d take a sample, please.”
“Certainly.” She took the swab from the kit and slid it over Booth’s face. Oddly, the powder looked to be disappearing. “I think his skin is absorbing it.”
Booth didn’t want the old man arrested. The last thing the bureau needed was publicity for arresting crazy locals. “I’m all right, let him go.”
“We’ll just have the sheriff hold him until the analysis comes back.” The other agents were aware that no matter the outcome, this wouldn’t be good press for them. All the same, they weren’t going to let someone who’d attacked an FBI agent get off scot free. “Come on, old man.”
“I’m sure it’s harmless.” She’d been shocked by Yiska’s actions – his delusions were obviously more developed than she’d thought, but she hadn't believed he’d harm Booth.
“Listen to your dreams, Angel!” The old Indian yelled as he was being led away. “Listen to your dreams and remember who you are! Don’t let them steal your soul!”
“Oh, my God, I’m so sorry!” Their waitress wrung her hands. “He’s never done anything like that. He just tells his crazy story and… and… he’s just never done anything like this!”
“It’s not your fault.” Booth assured her. “Can you tell me where the bathroom is?”
“Sure, sure, down the hall to the left.” She pointed to the small hallway at the back of the dining room. “And forget the check, it’s on the house.”
“We’re not allowed to take gifts, but thank you.” He told her as he walked away.
“Even pie?” She turned to Brennan.
“It’s an ethics thing.” Brennan told her. “He’s very ethical.”
In the bathroom, Booth washed his face several times in hot water and the pink soap from the dispenser. Satisfied that he’d gotten the powder off, he grabbed a handful of paper towels and lifted his head to look in the mirror.
For a moment there was no reflection. He blinked. Was this a mirror or just a picture on the wall? He looked around, searching for another mirror. When he turned back, his reflection stared back at him.
“What the hell?” Booth dried his face and ran his hands through his hair. The old man had planted the idea that he was a vampire, and his mind was fulfilling it. “Shake it off, Booth. You’re not a vampire. Vampires are soulless, evil creatures and you are one of the good guys. And there’s no such thing as vampires!”
Back in the dining room, he found Bones sitting at their table. She stood up as he approached. “Are you feeling okay?”
“Peachy. As in pie.” He grinned at her. Her face was pale. “Hey, I’m okay, don’t worry. It was probably just powdered sugar, you know how that stuff can choke you.”
“It wasn’t sweet.”
“Baby powder, then.” He snatched the sack off the table, and guided her toward the front door. “When Parker was a baby, a bottle of it popped open – Parker and I both nearly choked to death. Dangerous crap.”
“Possibly…” Brennan frowned. She’d tasted a few other things. Sage and possibly some type of mushroom.
The manager waved them away from the cash register. “It’s taken care of, and don’t tell me you can’t accept free gifts, the sheriff said to charge it to his account.”
On the one hand, he wasn’t supposed to accept gifts. On the other… “Bones was going to pay anyway, so it’s okay.”
“I was not!” She protested. “I wouldn’t have let you buy two pieces of pie.”
Outside they found Sherriff Samuels waiting beside their borrowed SUV. “Agent Booth, I’m sorry about Yiska. He’s never done anything like that. I don’t know what got into him.”
“Don’t worry about it.” He shrugged. “I think the old guy may need a few nights at the funny farm, though. Maybe some meds.”
“Could be. He’s been getting deeper into his stories the last few years. It happens to all of us when we get old, I guess.” The sherriff said sadly.
“Actually, American Indians – “
“They prefer Native Americans.” Booth interrupted, happy to correct her for a change.
“No. Although that’s the politically correct term currently in usage, they prefer American Indian. As I was saying, American Indians have fewer cases of Alzheimer’s disease, and those that do have it tend to live longer and with less dementia than Caucasians.” Brennan told Samuels.
“She’s just a fountain of information, isn’t she?” He chuckled. “Like having Google along for the ride.”
“You have no idea.” Booth told him.
The sheriff held his hand out. “Thanks for putting Cougar on the map, Agent Booth.” At the look on Brennan’s face, he laughed again. “For making it a more visible dot on the map, that is.”
Shaking the other man’s hand firmly, Booth smiled. “Glad to help out. Oh, and on that plaque you’re going to put up, there’s three e’s in Seeley and none on the end of Booth.”