Love Me When I’m Gone ~ Chapter 5
The TV muted, Booth leafed through the pictures, unable to sleep. Technically, he could sleep, but the dreams he’d been having made sleep less desirable than usual. He’d kept himself awake on the flight to LA, getting involved in a Dean Koontz novel he’d been meaning to read for several months. A transcontinental flight gave him plenty of time to read – and avoid napping.
Originally, his plan had been to arrive Friday night, hit the competition check-in when it opened, and get a good night’s sleep before the events started Saturday morning. That was before Yiska and his magic powder had turned his sleeping habits upside down.
Booth had stopped to talk with Dr. Gordon Gordon after he’d let the Jeffersonian Friday afternoon. During the time that he was there, he had added a smoker to the side of the barbeque he’d built for the doctor on his last visit, and told him the whole crazy story. The Indian, the impossibly old photo, the stoner dust, the possibly fake photos, and the intensely weird dreams that he couldn’t remember.
Dr. Gordon had told him that the combination of hallucinogens, the suggestions planted by Yiska, and the photographs – real or not – had allowed his subconscious to run wild.
In time, the doctor had assured him, the effects would fade. Most likely within the week. His subconscious was probably just playing with the "what if?" scenarios the pictures provided. And if they didn’t stop, the doc promised him a nice, comfy rubber room. In the meantime, he should try enjoying the experience.
“Enjoy – sure.” Booth took a swig of his beer. It was warm, and he grimaced. He though about getting a fresh one, but one per day was his limit.
He’d learned long ago that he had an addictive personality. Gambling, drinking, drugs, women, eating, fighting. Everything he enjoyed, he enjoyed to excess. If he didn’t police himself, he’d be as bad as some of the people he’d arrested.
Sitting the half empty bottle down, he looked at the pictures again, trying to piece together the man that was in them. Now that he’d had some sleep and talked to Dr. Gordon, Booth was more curious that frightened.
“So, I was a repo man in… “ He read the info printed along the bottom of the picture. “1973. Look at that hair, Jesus!
“Unknown man accidentally shot and killed by police while he was apparently repoing Marcus Bailey’s car, and his body was misplaced by the city morgue. Bailey was under investigation for – and DNA evidence later proved him guilty of – a series of rapes and murders. Bailey was also killed in the shootout. The coroner later ruled that his neck had somehow been twisted until broken. Officer McGregor was cleared of all charges and the shooting ruled as accidental.
Booth tossed the picture into the trash with the others he’d already looked at and discarded, and downed another swallow of beer. “That’s three disappearing dead bodies. Next?”
The next picture was the one that really spooked him. Two people playing tennis at night on a court lit by the headlights of multiple cars. Cars that had men wearing guns leaning on them. Being connected with mobsters was no laughing matter. If the FBI thought he had mob ties of any kind, they’d crawl up his ass with a telescope.
1946. Bugsy Siegel and unidentified accomplice known only as ‘Fangs’. Fangs disappeared June 18, 1947, two days before Siegel’s murder. There were unconfirmed rumors that Fangs was murdered and buried in the desert. No body was ever found.
“Which makes one – no, two no body found. Founds? I’m either a hard man to kill or I just don’t stay dead long enough to be buried.”
Hodgins’ reincarnation theory had taken a beating. While he could have been the “mysterious figure” lurking on the edges of the Irish Mob in Chicago in 1925, and the dead bootlegger – vanishing body number one – in Montana in 1931, He’d have been the wrong age to be the same man in New York City in 1942 who was involved with an “unspecified government agency” during World War II.
“CIA.” Booth snorted. Had to be. They loved all that cloak and dagger crap.
If NY guy been the reincarnated Fangs, he’d have been ten years old. The man in the picture was closer to thirty. The repo man in 1973 would have been twenty-one if he were the reincarnation of the missing body from the Hyperion hotel in 1952 – missing body number three – while the bum hit by a car in 1993 – missing body number four – would likewise have been only twenty if he were the repo man reincarnated.
“Sorry, Hodgins.” Still… maybe he’d run Hodgins picture through the facial recognition program just for the hell of it. After all, the man had backed up his practical joke theory when he’d been close to freaking out over these photos.
Whether or not the reincarnation theory was valid, the pictures were all of the same man. Now that he’d opened his mind up to the possibility, Booth could see it. The jaw line, cheekbones, the eyes were the same. The man’s weight varied, but couldn’t disguise the broad chest and shoulders – the same ones that gave him so much trouble finding shirts and jackets that fit comfortably.
The one thing that really tripped his weird-shit-o-meter was that the man’s age was the same in every picture. Not five years younger, or ten years older, but the same – exactly the same age in every one.
This was him. And the photos weren’t fake. A coincidence? Relatives with similar looks? He tossed the photos down. He didn’t believe in coincidences, and even his own brother didn’t look this much like him.
What bothered Booth most about the man in the photos was the eyes. Haunted and guilty. The same look he’d seen in the eyes of men who’d crossed a line they’d never intended to cross. The same look he’d seen in his own eyes reflected in the mirror for years after he’d left the Army.
He picked up the 1952 Hyperion Hotel picture and studied it again. “Who are you? How many men did you kill?”
Booth studied the profile. The familiar jaw line, the small scar on the forehead, the faint birthmark on the cheek. Hair slicked back, lips drawn down into a permanent frown, forehead creased, shoulders hunched under whatever burden he carried. The body language screamed “don’t look at me – don’t touch me – don’t get close – “
And the eyes… The eyes were dark and piercing even in black and white. No spark of life. A thousand yard stare. A killer tightly reined in.
Somehow he was this man. Booth shook his head. He wasn’t. Couldn’t be. This was one time the evidence was lying. He wasn’t a reincarnation or some creature of the night that lived forever. He threw the pictures in the trashcan.
Tipping the beer up, he drained the last of the warm beer before dropping the bottle into the wastebasket along with the pictures. He checked his watch. Still time to get some sleep before the competition check-in opened. Hopefully, he could grab a few hours of sleep with no dreams.
A hand caressed his face…
Nails scratched his chest – pain that felt so good…
Blue eyes, evil and cold
He loved those eyes
Hazel eyes, innocent and sweet
He loved those eyes
“Angel, don’t leave me…”
“Your soul reeks – get away from me!”
Soft fingers stroked his forehead ridges – pleasure that felt so painful…
Booth twisted in this sleep, struggling to make sense of the images.
Two blonde women circled each other, ready to do battle
He looked into the mirror…
there was nothing there
good versus evil lover versus lover
one of the women exploded into ash
the other stood victorious before turning into ice
He looked into the mirror…
evil was there
a monster with fangs
and wrinkled rat-like face
burst up from the earth
flesh sloughing off and trickling away to reveal bone
fanged skull grinning at him
“Angelus, my boy…”
Booth sat up, wide awake, his heart pounding.
“Oh my God – oh my God – “ He scrambled out of bed, stumbling to the bathroom.
He pressed his hands to the mirror, relieved to see his own reflection. Normal, no fangs, no evil smirk.
“What the hell was that?”
Flipping the lid down on the toilet, he sat on it, trying to catch his breath. He turned on the water and leaned over the sink, bathing his head and neck with cold water.
Booth rested his face against the cool porcelain while his heart began to slow down to its normal rhythm. Once he was sure he could stand without collapsing, he shut the water off and stood up.
Not bothering to towel off, he walked through the darkened hotel room. The clock on the wall told him he had a half hour before he had to be downstairs. No sense in going back to bed now. Even if he wasn’t scared to death to sleep again.
Turning on the lamp next to the sofa, Booth picked up the wastebasket and rummaged through it. When he found the Hyperion picture, he pulled it out and set the wastebasket back down.
The unknown man from 1952 looked sideways out of the picture at him.
“Welcome to the SoCal LEO Marksmanship Competition.”
“Thank you.” Booth showed his ID to the perky brunette behind the sign-in table.
“Special Agent Booth.” She found his check-in packet quickly, and handed it to him. “We just need to get your picture for your competition ID, and then you can sign up for the individual events.”
“I signed up online for the events I wanted.” He told her.
“We’ve added some new events since the registration ended.” She tapped his packet with her fingertip. “There’s a list inside. One of the things we’ve added is an urban obstacle course.”
“An urban obstacle course?”
“Yes, sir. It’s supposed to simulate an urban chase. There are pedestrians, cars – it’s quite a challenge.”
“I’ll bet.” Booth moved to the area marked for pictures. He put on his best serious agent look.
“You can smile.” She grinned at him as she clicked the camera controls on the laptop. “It’s official competition policy to have a good time while you’re here.”
He considered asking her if she’d help him have a good time, but judging by the way her competition t-shirt and black shorts fit her body; she was probably an off-duty LEO and would kick his ass.
Instead, he settled for a bad boy smile that would hopefully have her asking him.
Quickly printing and laminating Booth’s ID, the brunette gave him a wistful smile. “Some days I’m sorry I’m married.”
“I’ll bet the men around here are sorry every day.” Taking the badge and the lanyard she handed him, he gave her one last smile and a wink before walking away.
The information and pictures of the new obstacle course looked interesting, but not enough to get him to sign up. He’d had more than his share of running around city streets like a crazy man – after crazy men – in real life.
Booth browsed along the tables, snagging the free pens, key chains, and other freebies to take home to Parker. He paused for a long time at the table for the sniper event. It was an event he avoided as a rule – too many bad memories – but it was a required qualifying event for the all-around award, and he really liked the idea of taking home the top prize.
He turned at the voice. At the table next to him was Travis Crawford, an old friend from when they’d worked together at the Pittsburg field office. “Hey, Travis, how’s it going?”
“Pretty good.” He reached out to shake hands with Booth. “Saw you on the TV with the D.B. Cooper case. Good job.”
“Thanks.” Booth grinned. “Nothing like a high profile case to make all the crap cases worth it. You still in fraud?”
“Hell, no! Finally got into homicide. Haven’t been shot at since.” Crawford winked at Booth. “The wife’s happier, too.”
“Did she come with you?”
“Again I say hell, no.” The other man grinned. “She’s visiting her mother in San Diego. She gets to have family time with the old bat, and I get to focus on the competition instead of running her all over LA sightseeing.”
“So where’s the bar?” Booth asked.
“Now I resent that.” Crawford laid a hand over his heart, as if wounded. “That you would assume I know where the bar is.”
Booth raised his eyebrows.
“I may have heard a rumor that it’s through that door, around the corner, and down the hall to the left.”
“Any rumors on the food?” He followed Crawford toward the door.
“The hot wings are exceptional, and the nachos are so-so.”
“How do you make so-so nachos?”
“That’s a crime. We should investigate.” Booth pushed the door open. “You’re the junior agent, you buy the first round.”
“You’re still a cheapskate, Booth.”
It was late even by California standards by the time Booth made it back to his room. The wings had been good and the nachos pretty decent even with what seemed to be canned jalapeños. The beer was definitely top notch.
Normally, he didn’t drink as much as he had tonight. He’d done so with the hope that the alcohol would put him into a deep enough sleep to keep him from dreaming. It was a tactic he had used often – too often – when he’d first left the Army.
Any twinge of guilt at breaking his one beer a night rule had been drowned under the twin rationalizations of being with friends that he hadn’t seen in a long time, and the idea that he’d shoot better with a slight hangover, something he’d done before, than the lack of sleep. Something else he’d done before, but with less success.
“Our Father, Who art in heaven – “ He yawned and crossed himself. “Please let me sleep in peace.”
Stripping his clothes off, Booth crawled naked into bed and pulled the covers up over his chest.
He’s got blood! He’s a monster!
He struggled but couldn’t free himself. There were too many of them.
Come on! String him up!
Here’s a rope!
He met her dark eyes through the shifting bodies.
Guilt, shame, relief.
A rope tightened around his neck and he was shoved against the cold, marble railing.
Hands lifted him up and over.
Fingers dug into his flesh, tearing his clothes and into his skin.
Far below, the marble waves waited like the cold embrace of the ocean.
He twisted desperately trying to get away, the fear of falling making him cry out.
Push him! Push him out!
Swing, you freak!
He was falling
The floor getting closer
The rope around his neck tightened
The floor raced closer
The rope jerked him to a vicious halt, choking him.
He couldn’t breathe.
Swinging back and forth.
The marble waves washed back and forth
Booth snapped awake as he hit the floor, the impact forcing the air out of his lungs. He couldn’t seem catch his breath, he was suffocating.
sit up, he sucked in air in huge gulps, and fought out of the sheets that had
wrapped around his throat in his sleep. “Oh, Jesus – I can’t take these damn
The beer hadn’t helped. He’d still had the dreams – nightmares now – and a headache on top of them. Getting up from the floor, Booth went into the bathroom.
For a moment, he was afraid to look in the mirror, but he shook the feeling off and forced himself to confront his reflection. It was there, pale, but there.
He splashed cold water on his face, hoping to clear his senses. Remnants of the dreams chased around inside his head. A lynch mob after his blood, throwing him off a balcony to hang. Two women fighting each other at times, and fighting him at others.
“Only you could have a dream with two blondes in it and not get laid.” He told his reflection.
Wiping his face dry, he tossed the towel on the counter and left the bathroom for the small living room of his suite. Booth sat down at the table and turned on his laptop. He’d nearly left it at home, but had decided to bring it at the last minute so he could email Parker.
Instead of sending his son a message, Booth found himself staring at the picture of the mystery man from 1952 that he’d brought with him. There was something about this one that nagged at him more than the other pictures had. He wasn’t sure why, but he couldn’t let it rest.
Googling the Hyperion Hotel brought up several murders and strange occurrences spread out over several decades from the 1920’s until the hotel had closed in December of 1979.
A body had been chopped into pieces so it would fit in the hotel’s meat locker in 1952. One of the hotel concierges, Roland Meeks, had shot several customers to death one morning in 1979, leading to the hotel’s closure. And… He looked at the picture again – the mystery of the hanged man who had disappeared.
There were several websites devoted to the myth of the man who was supposedly lynched one night in 1952 by a panicked mob of hotel residents. One of the other residents, a candle salesman who had been staying in room 215, had committed suicide or been murdered and the body went missing. The mysterious man who lived in room 217 had been blamed.
Booth checked another page and verified that the murdered man from room 215 was the same man who had been found in pieces in the meat locker. That was the one piece of evidence that all the sites agreed on. After that, they seemed to diverge on different crazy paths.
One site swore the lynched man had been a demon who drove the other residents to murder to steal their souls. Another said that there was a demon hiding in the hotel that lived on the energy of the residents, and that he’d driven them to the madness while the hanged man was only a victim. Still another said the mysterious man was a cannibal who drank blood and ate human flesh, which was why he’d murdered his neighbor and cut him up to eat later.
The only reasonably sane site claimed that Judy Kovacs – the alleged bank robber who had checked into the hotel and, like the man in room 217, had subsequently disappeared – had killed the salesman in room 215. The site’s theory was that either he had discovered her secret and she had killed him, or that the man from room 217 was her lover and together they had killed the salesman and had then run away with the money.
The only things all the sites agreed on besides the body in the kitchen freezer, was that after the other residents had run away from what they’d done, the man’s body had vanished, leaving only the dangling rope behind.
Doing a search of the LA Times, Booth found their articles from 1952. Factually, there was a chopped up body in the meat locker, placed there by the bellhop Frank Gilnitz, who claimed that the hotel manager had told him to hide it after the resident had allegedly been found dead in his room.
The coroner’s report indicated the man had died from a single, most likely self-inflicted, gunshot wound to the head. It was the third suicide in three months at the hotel. However, based on the bellhop’s actions of dismembering and hiding the body, he was sentenced to prison for murder and executed two years later.
“Justice was blind, deaf, and dumb in this case.” Booth shook his head at how swiftly the bellhop had been blamed, tagged, and bagged.
There were several residents who claimed to have seen another resident lynched, while they watched but didn’t participate, of course, and there was a rope dangling from the ceiling beams of the hotel’s lobby.
There was no body, however, and while the resident of room 217 was eventually declared missing, his body was never found. The rent had been paid for the week, and it was generally assumed that he’d been frightened by the mass hysteria that had gripped the other residents and had simply left.
After a lengthy investigation, the official explanation was that a gas leak was responsible for the abnormal behavior of the patrons, compounded by their fear at discovering there had been a murder at the hotel.
“That’s it?” Booth did several more searches but turned up nothing different about the incident. “Someone vanishes and it’s nothing to worry about?” He leaned his chin on his hand and stared at the screen. Something just didn’t add up.
Searching for other information on the Hyperion, he found that the case with the concierge had been similar. The residents who’d witnessed Meeks going from room to room with a shotgun had simply watched and then hid in their own rooms. Another gas leak was blamed for their behavior as well as for Meeks’ murderous rampage.
The building had sat vacant for nearly twenty years before it was opened up by a PI group, Angel Investigations, in 2000. “Hmm…” Booth frowned. Angel Investigations? Yiska had called him Angel. Was there a connection? He continued reading.
The agency had handled primarily bizarre and strange cases – some said cases with links to the supernatural. The agency had gone out of business in 2003, bought out by or absorbed into the law firm of Wolfram & Hart, and the building was closed up.
Roughly a year later, in 2004, there was a large explosion in the alley behind the hotel. One body had been found, a black man in his early thirties, believed to have been an ex-employee of Angel Investigations. It was theorized by some that he was possibly disgruntled and trying to get even with his ex-boss by damaging the property.
Rumors at the time were that a terrorist bomb detonated prematurely, part of a feared large scale attack on LA that had never materialized. The official story was that there had been a gas leak.
What a coincidence.
The pictures of the back of the building showed it had been heavily damaged, the stone walls pitted and the upper floors collapsed in on what looked like a courtyard.
“That’s some gas leak.”
The alarm in the bedroom went off, and Booth glanced at the time at the bottom of the computer screen. 6:30, time to shower, grab breakfast and head out for the first competition.
Shutting off his laptop, he headed for the shower, stretching his tired muscles. His plan to sleep through the night not only hadn’t worked, it had backfired on him. He had both a hangover and the groggy lack-of-sleep feeling he’d hoped to avoid.
“Shake it off, Booth. Winners never quit and quitters never win.” He yawned. “Damn it.”
By the end of the day’s events, he’d finished respectably enough in the first rounds to move on, but Booth wasn’t completely happy with his performance. The Bullseye event was done one-handed, and wasn’t an event that should be attempted while hung over and sleepy. Too many of his shots had barely made it into the center circle.
Crawford and his friends had kidded Booth about getting too old to party all night and work all day. He’d grinned and gone along with the jokes, but it wasn’t the beer that had screwed him up, it was the lack of sleep for the past few nights. Okay, and maybe the beer.
After his event was over, Booth had begged off heading back to the bar to take up where they’d left off the previous night. He’d told his buddies that he had to go pick up something for Parker, but what he really wanted to do was check out the Hyperion Hotel up close and personal.
Now he was sitting in front of the hotel, wondering if he should get out of the cab and go inside, or just have the guy drive around the block again. The windows were boarded up, and there was tattered police tape still clinging stubbornly to the fence and stone columns. Not only did the hotel not look inviting, it looked downright foreboding.
“Hey, buddy, you seen enough?”
“Gimme a second.” There was a weird feeling of déjà vu about the place. He’d seen the hotel before, had been here before. Booth looked up at the open windows on the upper floors, thinking he’d seen movement, but it was only the remains of curtains wafting about in the warm air.
“It’s your nickel.” The cabbie turned the AC up another notch. This wouldn’t be the first time he’d brought some rube to look at the hotel that had survived the terrorist explosion. Back when it first happened, there’d been a steady stream of conspiracy theorists coming by to snap pictures and take measurements.
Even that loony Michael Moore guy had done a piece on how the Bush administration had covered up the facts that they’d set off the explosion themselves to take the focus off the war in Iraq.
He shook his head. What a moron. If the government had set the bomb, the building would have come down. Everybody knew they had the best explosives.
Finally deciding he should get out and take a look around, Booth got out of the cab. “Don’t go anywhere – I’ll be back in a couple of minutes.”
“The meter doesn’t stop, buddy.”
Booth turned and gave the guy a look that had pinned lesser men to the wall. The cabbie just shrugged.
The gates to the front courtyard were rusted shut, and Booth gave up after an experimental tug. Moving around the building, he found that the boards over the windows were nailed down too firmly to move.
At the back of the building, the damage was worse than what he’d been able to see in the online image. One corner of the building had collapsed and the stone was black, appearing to have melted in places. No way in presented itself, and Booth made his way back to the front of the building.
Through the gate, he could see the front door and the windows within the courtyard were boarded up as well. There was no easy way in. Huffing out a disappointed breath, he walked across the street to where his cab waited.
A sound caught his attention. It was soft. Almost like a sigh. He scanned the courtyard. Was someone hiding inside the gate? Squinting, Booth tried to pierce the shadows inside. Nothing. He scanned the front of the building again.
On the third floor, a metal grating hung down from the window it had originally covered. No way to get up that high. A curtain dangling from beneath the boards covering the second floor window jerked back and forth, snagged in the dead branches of the tree that had fallen against the wall. Hmm…
Getting back into the cab, Booth grinned. “Take me to the FBI building.”
“Turning yourself in, buddy?” The cabbie laughed at his own joke.
“Nope, just need to do a little research.” And then get the right equipment to climb a tree and scale a wall.