Love Me When I’m Gone ~ Chapter 4
At the airport in Portland, Booth began to feel tired, as if he’d been up for days. Probably just the usual let down after a case. He yawned as he settled into his seat for the flight back to D.C. and leaned his head against the bulkhead. At least he’d have plenty of time to sleep.
“I put your pie in the overhead.” Brennan told him.
“It’ll get squished!” He protested.
“I put it in last. Really, Booth – “ She sat down in the aisle seat. “If I can pack evidence for shipping without destroying it, I’m sure I can pack a piece of pie.”
“Not the same thing.” He yawned again. “Put it in the middle.” Luckily, no one had purchased the third seat in their section, and they had an empty seat between them. He’d already put the armrest up to give himself more elbow room and shifted part way onto the empty seat.
“I’m going to put my laptop there. I have to work on my final report for the Jeffersonian on Mr. Cooper.”
“What final report?” Easing his seat back, Booth wondered if he could get away with not putting it up when they took off. He wasn’t built for airplane seating. There wasn’t enough room for his legs. Or his head. Or really any part of him.
“The board wants me to do an article for publication.” Brennan frowned, remembering the email she’d received. “They said not to use too many big words.”
He chuckled. “Use ‘em anyway. Make them get a dictionary.” Booth yawned again. “And remember – “
“I know how to spell Booth, and you’re not in the article.” She chided. “It’s about the remains.”
Brennan smiled fondly as he closed his eyes. Booth could be quite attractive, when he wasn’t being annoying.
Booth jerked awake, startled. He looked around, blinking and trying to figure out where he was. A touch on his shoulder caused him to jerk again, and he turned to find Bones looking concerned.
“Are you all right?”
“Yeah…“ He sat up and ran his hands over his face. “Just – I dunno. Weird dreams.”
“I don’t know. I just know they were weird.” Stretching, he looked out the window to see the lights of D.C. below them. “Jeez, I slept the whole way?”
“Obviously.” She closed her laptop and slid it into its bag. “We’re going to land in a few minutes.”
His stomach growled, startling him. “Man, I’m hungry. Get my pie for me when you put that up, will ya?”
“Your pie?” Brennan got up from her seat and opened the overhead bin, stowing the laptop away.
“Yeah, my pie, the piece you put up there and promised not to squish.” He frowned at her. “You squished it, didn’t you?”
“No. I ate it.”
“I ate it.” Settling back into her seat, Brennan put on her seat belt and tested it to be sure it was snug.
“You ate my pie?” His face fell.
“You were right – the peanuts weren’t sufficient for dinner, and the sandwich they served was something I considered taking back to the lab for testing.” She shrugged. “So I ate your pie.”
Booth’s bottom lip quivered, and for a moment Brennan wondered if he might actually pout. She pulled the container out of the pocket on the chair back in front of her. “I did save you a bite.”
“A bite?” He snatched the box away from her and opened it. Sure enough, there was a precisely cut square of gooseberry pie inside. “That’s it?”
“You said that you hadn’t had gooseberry pie before, so I saved it for you. It’s a good sized bite, twice what I’d eat.”
“I’m a man, I take bigger bites!” She’d eaten his pie, he couldn’t believe it. “You hate pie.”
“I don’t hate pie, I just prefer other foods. It was very tart.” She made a face. “I don’t know how that has anything to do with a goose.”
She was lucky they didn’t have the window that would open, or he’d toss her out. Booth glared at her as he picked up the bite of pie with his fingers. The flavors burst in his mouth, and he closed his eyes. The sugared crust and sweet whipped cream perfectly complemented the tart gooseberries. Maybe they’d ship him a pie if he asked really nicely.
Unfortunately, the small taste only reminded him of how hungry he was. Booth chased the crumbs around the box, scooping them all into his mouth. “What did you do with my sandwich?”
“I didn’t get you a sandwich.”
“You were asleep. I assumed you’d eat when we landed.”
“And what if I’d woken up thirty minutes ago?” Booth growled. Maybe he could pry the window open. “Never mind.” Reaching up, he hit the call button.
“They weren’t very good anyway.” She told him.
The flight attendant appeared a few moments later. “Can I help you, sir?”
“Yes, you can.” He smiled up at her. “I’d like a sandwich.”
“I’m sorry, it’s too late for us to give out food or drinks. We’re about to land.”
“Please? I was asleep and I didn’t have dinner and I promise to eat it really fast. Please….” Booth turned his charm into a sad puppy dog look. It never failed him.
“Well…” She looked over her shoulder. “Okay, I’ll be right back, but you’ve got to eat it quick. Don’t let the other flight attendants see.”
He made an x on his chest. “Cross my heart.”
A few minutes later, Booth was bolting down a cold and slightly stale ham and cheese sandwich, his head ducked down below the level of the seat backs so that no one could see. It wasn’t very good, but it was food.
“You’re going to make yourself sick.” Brennan warned. “You should chew before you swallow.”
“’M am.” He mumbled through a mouthful.
“Agent Jacinta sent an email while you were asleep.” She told him. “The tests on the powder were negative for toxins. It’s harmless.”
“Good.” He chased the sandwich down with what was left of Bones’ soda.
“Some of the ingredients were hallucinogens, though, which would explain the strange dreams and the, uh…” She shook her head as she watched him scoop crumbs off the plastic that had been wrapped around the sandwich. “Munchable effect.”
The soda went down the wrong way, and Booth started coughing. “Hal – hallucinogens?”
“They’re not harmful.” She assured him. “They’re similar to cannabis or salvia divinorum, both of which are used by American Indians during rituals to induce a state conducive to dreams and visions. Salvia divinorum is also known as the Diviner’s Sage, or Sage of the Seers, for that reason.”
“Sage? Like what my mother puts in the Thanksgiving dressing?”
“You wouldn’t put this particular sage in dressing.” She grinned. “Not unless you wanted everyone to get stoned and get the munchables.”
“That’s munchies, and no.” Booth took another drink of the soda before handing the empty can to the flight attendant who was collecting trash. “Great. Here’s hoping I don’t get hit with a random drug test anytime soon.”
“I’m sure if you tell them an American Indian threw hallucinogenic powder in your face, they’ll understand.”
“Sure they will.” He could see the look on the director’s face now.
“Why wouldn’t they? I’ll vouch for you.”
“I’ll put it in my report. I have to write one up on the incident anyway.” The airplane began to descend, and Booth put his seat upright.
“Agent Jacinta said he was writing the report.” She told him.
“Yeah, well, I get to write one, too. Especially since I seem to have been stoned all the way home.”
“It wasn’t like you were doing anything. You slept. And drooled a little bit.”
“What?” His hand shot to his mouth. “I do not drool!”
She smiled. “I was only kidding. But if you had, I’d have wiped it off.”
Booth looked out the window and rubbed his hungry stomach. He’d rather Bones was given the opportunity in his bed than on an airplane. Lost cause, buddy.
The next afternoon, Booth was feeling decidedly hung over, without the fun of having been the life of the party. He’d had strange dreams that he couldn’t quite remember. There was a blonde woman – possibly two – but he couldn’t recall their faces. It wasn’t fair that he’d had kinky dreams and couldn’t remember them.
He’d spent most of the morning suffering from a headache and hadn’t been able to concentrate on writing up his final report on the D.B. Cooper case. After a lunch that made him queasy, Booth decided to visit the Jeffersonian and see if a change of scenery would help.
Sliding his access card through the reader, he entered Bones’ lab area. She was working with a jumble of bones. “Hey.”
“Good afternoon.” Brennan didn’t look up from her work. “I was expecting you this morning.”
“I overslept.” He’d gone to bed without setting his alarm, something he hadn’t done in years. “I still feel a little off.”
“Psychedelic tryptamines shouldn’t have that effect; that’s one reason that they’re popular.” She glanced up at him. “You look fine.”
“Yeah, well, I feel like crap.”
“Did I hear psychedelic tryptamines?” Hodgins smirked as he and Angela came into the room. “And here I figured you for a ‘just say no’ kind of guy.”
“I am a ‘just say no’ kind of guy.” Booth glared at him. “Some weirdo threw an herbal sage powder in my face yesterday.”
“Oh my God, are you okay?” Angela asked.
“I’m fine.” He assured her.
“You just said you feel like crap.” Brennan corrected him.
“Listen, Spock, it’s okay if I tell a little white lie sometimes.” He sat down on the edge of the table, ignoring her confused look. “I feel like I partied hard, without remembering the fun.”
“Oh yeah, been there.” Angela smiled wistfully. “Nothing like wondering how you ended up with someone else’s underwear on.”
Booth raised his eyebrows. “That’s a little more than I needed to know.”
“Me too.” Hodgins muttered. “Is that why you’ve got the shades on?”
Booth had forgotten he had his sunglasses on. He reached up and pulled them off, tucking them into his jacket pocket. The sun had hurt his eyes when he’d left his office.
“Oh, dude, your pupils are totally dilated.” Hodgins told him.
“Let me see.” Brennan turned from the remains she was examining to look at Booth. Taking his chin in her hand, she peered into his eyes. The pupils were much larger than they should have been. “Maybe you should go home and rest.”
“No thanks. I’ll just have more weird dreams.”
“Weird how?” Angela asked. “You know there’s a lot of symbolism in dreams. I’d be happy to interpret for you.”
“I can’t remember anything.” He told her. “Just that they were weird.”
“Well, that bites.”
“There’s a woman, or maybe two, but that’s it.” He shrugged.
“Okay, that really bites.” Hodgins echoed.
“Why did he throw powder in your face?” Angela asked. “I mean, you went up there to ID a body, that’s hardly something to get angry over.”
“It was the man who thinks he knows Booth. The one who gave me the picture.” Brennan told her. “He said that Booth’s memories had been stolen and that it powder would help him remember.”
“The guy’s a fruitloop, remember?” Booth added.
“The picture guy? Oh, that reminds me! Be right back!” Angela ran out of the room.
Hodgins watched her go, then turned back, a love-struck smile on his face. “Wow, isn’t she something when she moves? Pure poetry.”
Booth didn’t say anything for a moment. “You know, I liked you better when you were the grumpy one.”
“Live with it, man. I’m in love.”
“I think it’s great, Hodgins.” Brennan smiled at him. “It’s nice to know that two people can be happy in an unnaturally monogamous relationship.”
“She had you going there for a minute, didn’t she?” Booth laughed at the expression on Hodgins’ face.
“Here!” Angela came back into the lab. “Look at this.” She handed a piece of paper to Booth.
“What is it?” He ran his eyes down the rows and columns of numbers and symbols. “I didn’t do that well in foreign languages.” Not completely true, but he didn’t read Squint.
“It’s a report on the photograph. You know, the photograph?”
“Oh, come on! Let’s not start with that again!” He tossed the paper back at her.
“No, Booth, it’s a real photograph. I don’t know how they did it, but it’s over twenty five years old.” Angela pointed a finger at one row of numbers. “The age is approximately twenty five to thirty years old. This is a real photograph, and it’s you.”
“I can’t believe you’re still on this! It’s got to be a joke!” Booth stood up. “I’ll talk to Conrad, I bet he did it. He’s all into that Photoshop stuff.”
“Dude, this is like finding the Loch Ness monster or something.” Hodgins looked up from the report. “I mean, this may be proof of reincarnation. There’s no faking this kind of thing.”
“But Booth is older than twenty five.” Brennan pointed out.
“Yes, but he’s not older than thirty five.” Hodgins gave Booth a triumphant smile. “So it could be proof of reincarnation.”
“You know what? I’m going to prove once and for all that this isn’t me. I’ll show you that there’s a lot of people who look like me.” Booth put his sunglasses back on and stomped out of the lab.
Angela gave him an appreciative once over. “Honey… nobody looks like you do.”
The FBI had a very expensive, very secret facial recognition program that they used to scan databases, searching for criminals, terrorists, and other threats to US security and safety. Even its name was top secret. It was off limits to all except qualified personnel, and it was not to be used for anything other than official FBI purposes.
Luckily, Booth had some leverage with John Royce, the agent who ran the division. Last year, Royce had called in sick for two days and had actually gone to Dallas for the NFC East title game. Booth had been there as well, using approved vacation time, and rooting for the Eagles despite the unfriendly crowd.
From his seat a few rows away, Booth had spotted his supposedly sick colleague and had captured half a dozen pictures of Royce bare-chested – except for blue and silver paint – with his cell phone’s camera. Royce would be in a world of trouble if his division supervisor happened to get copies.
In exchange for deleting the pictures, Royce had given Booth an hour alone with the computer that housed the facial recognition program.
Booth whistled softly as he scanned in a copy of his FBI photo. The machine and the program weren’t as complicated to use as the Squints wanted everyone to think. Scan in the pic, set a few parameters, and sit back and wait.
“Nothing to it.” He sat down at the desk, set the parameters for all and print, checked execute, and waited.
The screen displayed a rotating box that gave cryptic updates. “Database sq1_45 scanned. Database RF47_T scanned.” None of the names meant anything to Booth. For all he knew it was looking through high school yearbooks from Nowhereville, USA. Which… could be.
He watched the tray where pictures would come out for a few moments before getting bored. “How do Squints do this all day?” Pulling out his cell phone, he opened up the games folder and started a game of Collapse.
When a picture spat out into the tray, Booth looked up and grinned, and then went back to his game. More pictures soon began to follow the first one.
He reached up a hand to pat his own back. When he took these pictures of total strangers who just happened to look a little like him back to the lab, he’d be able to say “see there, lots of people look something like me”.
After several minutes, curiosity got to him, and Booth paused the game. Getting up, he pulled the printed photos from the tray and shuffled through them. His confidence faded, and he began to feel a nervous twitch in the pit of his stomach. The pictures were all of him.
Different clothes and times, but him. These weren’t men who looked something like him, they were him. The faint scar on his forehead that Angela had mentioned, as well as the small birthmark just under the edge of his right eye were present in all of the photos. A few of the pictures gave him an unsettling sense of déjà vu.
Hodgins’ reincarnation theory was looking more and more likely with each picture the computer printed out.
“This has to be a mistake.” He stared at the pictures in disbelief. Confronting Conrad occurred to him; if anybody had the smarts to pull off a practical joke this intricate, Jason Conrad was the man. Then again, that’s what Conrad would expect, and he’d be waiting to laugh his ass off.
“Well, you’ll wait a long time, buddy.” Booth sat back down to wait until the computer had finished its work.
“I know you’re all wondering why I’ve gathered you here today.”
“Because one of us killed Colonel Mustard in the library with the lead pipe?”
Booth glared at Hodgins. “You think you’re funny, you think this is all a joke. But tampering with FBI evidence is serious business.”
“Who’s tampered with evidence?” Hodgins glared back. “My life is evidence.”
“I’m with Jack, what have we done?” Angela asked.
“If this is some practical joke that you guys have cooked up, with or without conspirators in my own office – now’s the time to confess.” Booth handed the folder he’d brought with him to Bones. “Pass those around.”
Brennan opened the folder and took out the picture on top. Her eyes widened, and she handed the folder to Cam. By the time the folder and its contents had made its way around the group, there was a collective silence. They appeared to be as unnerved by the pictures as Booth was.
Except for Hodgins. “This is proof of reincarnation! You’ve done it! Can I go next?”
“It isn’t a toy.” Booth wasn’t sure if he was happy with their reaction or not. There was no way that they were faking. Individually, they might have been able to pull it off, but all together, someone would crack. It was one of the reasons he’d done this as a group. “So you guys had nothing to do with this?”
Cam shook her head. She held up a picture, looking from it to him and back again. “Are you kidding? I can’t even get the red eye out of photographs. This is way outta my league.”
“This is you, Booth.” Angela shivered as she looked through the photos. Her job was to see the uniqueness in faces, and every one of the pictures was Booth. The men in them were wearing different clothes and hairstyles, but they were all Booth. “I don’t know anything about this. I can’t imagine how this can be done.”
“Wow, Chicago, 1929. New York City, 1904 and 1942. Las Vegas in 1946. Is that… oh my God…” Hodgins laughed. “That’s you with Bugsy Siegel!”
“It is not!” Booth protested.
“Dude, it says right here, ‘Bugsy Siegel and unknown accomplice, 1946’. Are you saying the FBI made a mistake?”
“No, it’s just…” Booth had been tempted to destroy the pictures that showed him – or whoever – with Siegel, but had decided against it. “This can’t be me.”
“You better hope it’s not you.” Cam held out a picture. “’Bootleggers gunned down trying to escape, 1931’ – that dead body looks an awful lot like you. Hmm… it says the body went missing.”
“Weird. So does this one.” Hodgins held out another picture. “Los Angeles, 1952, ‘the Hyperion Hotel murders’.”
“Another one of the many missing dead bodies.” Booth said wearily. All of the pictures included mysterious disappearances of bodies or a tie to violent crimes, or both.
Brennan snatched the picture from Hodgins before Booth could take it, and read over the information printed on it. “Unidentified man, believed to be the resident of room 217. Hotel guests reported that he was hanged from the rafters. No body found. There was a gas leak, and possibly mass hysteria. A dismembered body was discovered in the kitchen freezer, but this man was never found.”
“I checked with my mother, to see if maybe we had relatives in these places.” He shook his head. “She said all of our family came over in the mid and late eighteen hundreds and settled around Philly and the east coast.”
“There was a large wave of Italian immigrants from around 1800 to 1914.” Brennan told him. “Most of the immigrants settled along the upper east coast of the United States, but that doesn’t mean that you didn’t have an ancestor or two who moved out west.”
“I am totally freaked.” Angela handed the pictures back to Hodgins.
“Me, too.” Cam gave hers to Hodgins as well.
“You know, this has to be a joke, right?” Booth felt queasy. First the old man and his faded photograph, and now this. “Hodgins, you’re into conspiracy theories, this stuff can be faked, right?”
Hodgins looked at him for a minute, not saying anything. Then he nodded slowly. “Sure, man. I mean the government can fake anything. Just look at the Zapruder film. It’s got to be fake. The Secret Service rounded up all the film that was taken except that one? And it just happens to fit their lone gunman theory? “
“Right, right.” Booth nodded. “This is just a really intricate practical joke my buddies are pulling on me.”
“Exactly! Who better to fake this kind of thing than the FBI?” Hodgins wasn’t convinced for one minute these were fakes; he lived on conspiracy theories and had seen far too many faked photos. They never had the quality these pictures had.
“Let’s just get rid of these.” Cam took the folder and dropped it into the trash can. “We’ve got plenty of real life mysteries to work on around here.”
Booth’s phone rang. He pulled it out of his jacket pocket and looked at the display. A picture of an unsmiling Director Hoover was above the number. He grinned. “A Bureau number. I bet this is about the picture.”
“Don’t let ‘em think you’ve fallen for it.” Hodgins advised. “It’ll make ‘em crazy.”
“Booth.” He listened for a moment. “Sure, go ahead and connect him.” The others were looking at him expectantly, so Booth covered the receiver with his free hand and shook his head. “Switchboard – it’s Sheriff Samuels.”
“Back to work, people.” Cam shooed the others away, following them out of Brennan’s office.
“Bones said the powder was harmless, and I don’t really want to keep the old man in jail.” Booth told the sheriff.
“Good.” Samuels said. “Because I really hate to keep him here – it seems like he’s getting older by the hour. And he’s promised me he’ll never do anything like this again.”
“I’d just like to talk to him before you let him go.”
“Sure thing, give me a minute.”
Booth fidgeted while he waited. Why did he want to talk to the old man? What difference did it make? He’d almost made up his mind to hang up and pretend the call had dropped when he heard the receiver being picked up on the other end.
“This is Agent Booth.”
“Booth?” The old man’s voice was tired. ”Oh, that is what they have named you.”
“Why – just tell me more about who you think I am.”
“If it will help you to remember, I will tell you.”
Booth bit his tongue. This wasn’t going to help him remember anything – he wasn’t even sure why he’d asked.
“Tah-tah-kle-ah, the Owl-Woman monster, was stalking the area and feeding on the children. She and her sisters killed seven before you stopped them. You fought them and drove them into the river.”
“They eat the flesh.” The old man told him. “They were trying to kill Si Yett, she who guards the bridge of the spirits. When you drove the Tah-tah-kle-ah into the river, it stopped their killing and brought the fire from the mountain, as foretold.”
“The fire from the mountain?” Why did that somehow ring a bell?
“Si Yett needed its power to guard the bridge of the spirits. The mountain breathed, but it would not let the fire go.”
“Fire? From the mountain? Do you mean – “ Booth’s mind snapped the pieces together. “The Mount St. Helen’s eruption?”
“Okay, so you’re saying that this Angel guy caused the volcano to blow?” This story just kept getting crazier by the minute.
“It was time. Afterwards, the people of our town saw your real nature and turned on you. Matthew and I helped you escape to Portland, and you said you were going to keep heading east.”
“Because I was a vampire?”
“Yes. It was wrong of them to turn on you, but it’s the nature of frightened people.”
“You’re crazy.” This Angel must be the drifter the waitress had said had killed the children. Somehow this old man had messed up the past and thought Angel was a hero instead.
“Listen to your dreams, Angel, they will help you remember who you are. Someone has stolen your life from you. Focus on the dreams, and it will come back to you. You’ve been taken away from the side of good – “
Booth hung up. Yiska clearly belonged in a nut house.
“He still thinks you’re a vampire?”
He jumped and turned to find Bones watching him. “Geez! Don’t sneak up on me!”
“I didn’t sneak anywhere, I’ve been right here the whole time.” She raised her eyebrows. “This is my office.”
“Sorry. All this has made me jumpy.” He let out a sigh.
“You should go home and get some rest.” Brennan placed her fingertips against his forehead. “You don’t have a fever. It’s probably the traveling combined with the hallucinogens you inhaled – and this practical joke, which is completely out of hand.”
A chuckle escaped him. “It’s not everyday I get to snort drugs and get away with it. It’s not as much fun as I thought it’d be.”
“Go home.” She pushed Booth toward the door. “You’ve got the trip to Los Angeles in a couple of days, and I don’t want you to have any excuses for not winning the competition.”
“Please, it’ll take more than poultry seasonings to knock me off my game.” As he went past the trash can, he leaned down and snagged the folder that Cam had tossed there. “Later, Bones.”