Love Me When I’m Gone ~ Chapter 6
The FBI office in downtown LA was a beautiful, airy place. Booth would have mistaken it for a hotel or upscale store if it hadn’t been for all the agents in suits. Not that his office in D.C. wasn’t sharp looking, but this place fit the Hollywood image of what an FBI field office should look like.
He’d checked in, shown his ID, and was waiting for someone to come start the FBI territorial mating dance. Subtitles not included.
“Agent Booth, welcome to LA.” Agent Sahlberg shook his hand. “I understand you’re looking for a little info on one of our past cases.”
Translation: why are you digging around in my territory? Booth smiled. “Strictly on my own time here, Agent Sahlberg. This is more of a private research project than a real investigation.”
“Sure, sure, I understand.” The other agent nodded. “I thought you were here for the SoCal LEO competition.”
Translation: why don’t you do this from your own office? Booth smiled again. “Busman’s holiday, I guess you could say. I saw a picture of this guy – “ He pulled the photo of Mr. 1952 out of his jacket pocket and handed it to the other agent. “I’m wondering if it’s my great uncle Bill. He used to tell the craziest stories. What do you know? Looks like one of them might have been true.”
Sahlberg examined the picture, carefully reading the information printed below it. “Uncanny resemblance. I’d almost say this was you.”
Translation: what the fuck are you trying to pull? “Amazing, isn’t it? You put the pictures side by side of him in his World War II uniform and me in mine – we’re dead ringers!” Booth thought his face might break from smiling so much. “He’s dead now, but Mom’d get a real hoot if his crazy story about the guy getting chopped up and stuffed in the meat locker is true.”
“It’s true.” Sahlberg admitted reluctantly. “A lot of strange things happened at that hotel over the years. It was a magnet for weird-ass people. Especially once that private detective agency moved in. They ran some kind of scam about ‘helping the helpless’ – “ He snorted in obvious disbelief of the motto. “They were modern day spiritualists and mediums. Reeling people in who wanted to believe in that shit.”
“Who you gonna call?” When Sahlberg gave him a dirty look, Booth rushed on. “I just want to take a look at the info you have – I’m not looking to try and solve an old case. I’m way out of my jurisdiction.” Translation: I’m not looking to step on your toes or solve any of your cold cases.
Sahlberg looked up from the picture, clearly weighing his request. He couldn’t deny Booth access to the files, but he could make him go through official channels, which would take days, if not weeks, and by then Booth would be back in D.C.
After a few minutes, Sahlberg shrugged. “What the hell. I’ll have someone show you to the records room. Just be sure and let me know if you find anything new, understand?”
Translation: my town, my case, my credit. “Got it. Not a problem. I’m not here to work; this is strictly for the family newsletter.” Booth hoped that Sahlberg wasn't assigning Agent Finn. The only other time he'd been to the LA office, he and Bones had worked with Agent Finn, and he'd hated the woman on sight. She'd seen the FBI as a stepping stone to a Hollywood career – his FBI wasn't a stepping stone.
Sahlberg walked over to the agent sitting at the main desk and picked up a phone. He spent several minutes talking to someone on the other end before coming back. “Agent Baranoski will be right down. She’ll be at your disposal while you’re here.”
Translation: she’ll be watching you like a hawk. Booth nodded. “I appreciate that. I only have a little while before I need to get back to the hotel and get some sleep. Tomorrow’s the range event. Don’t want to shoot any innocent bystanders.”
For the first time, Sahlberg’s face shifted to a friendly expression. “I hear there’s a couple of the Agency’s boys competing. Kick their asses, will ya?”
No translation was needed. The dislike between the FBI and CIA was legendary. “There’s a few – most didn’t make it out of today’s event. They can’t even hit a standing target.” He grinned. “I’m not too worried about ‘em.”
Booth turned and nearly recoiled. He was looking at possibly the oldest and ugliest woman he’d ever seen. “Yes?”
“I’m Agent Baranoski. Good to meet you.” She held her hand out.
He took it warily, half expecting to meet claws and scaly skin. He winced as she firmly gripped his hand and shook it. “Nice to meet you.”
“If you’ll come with me, I’d be happy to show you where we can access the records you’re interested in.” She motioned toward the elevators.
“Thanks.” He told Sahlberg. Translation: I hate your guts, asshole.
A couple of hours later, Booth had a better picture of the Hyperion Hotel and its activities over the years. Reality was even crazier than what he’d found on the ‘net.
Pouring himself a fresh cup of coffee, he sat down to go back over his notes. Baranoski had made herself useful by making copies and pulling up old microfilm files. And thankfully sitting at the other end of the long table, out of his sight. Well, at least she wasn’t Agent Finn – he was grateful for that. He'd disliked Finn as soon as he'd heard her name, though he couldn't say why.
A combination of Spanish and art deco styles, the Hyperion had been built in 1928, and it had been very popular with the Hollywood crowd. William Randolph Hearst had lived there at one time, as had several movie stars. It was a typical Hollywood hotel.
Except that during construction, a worker had pushed two co-workers off the roof and then leaped to his own death. There were other odd accidents and possible suicides, but nothing high profile and they were all chalked up to the economic depression the country was in at the time.
Until 1941. August twenty-third, 1941, three of the hotel's residents attacked the members of a wedding party with knives and spears they’d apparently made from curtain rods. There was a rush to get out of the hotel and several people were trampled. The bride was the daughter of an LA city councilman, and the incident made headlines.
He’d gotten most of the details for the incidents in 1952 and 1979 off the ‘net, but later cases – up until the hotel was shut down and even after – had similar instances of “mass hysteria” and “mob mentality”. All credited to gas leaks.
The body of suspected bank robber, Judy Kovacs, had been recovered from the abandoned building in 2000, thanks to an anonymous tip. Apparently she had been living in the hotel since 1952, but wasn’t listed on any of the hotel’s records. There was also no record of who had delivered food and water for her during the hote's vacancy, as she appeared to be an invalid. None of the stolen money was found with her body and it was assumed that it had been used to pay whoever had been taking care of her during this time.
After Angel Investigations had reopened the hotel, the number of strange events had gone up, spiking in 2003, then stopping after they’d closed the hotel and merged with Wolfram & Hart, until the explosion in 2004. Strange fireworks, explosions, attacks, and break-ins had happened on a regular basis.
All had been casually investigated and promptly closed by the LAPD. According to the records, Angel, Inc. still owned the building and the mortgage had been paid in full in 2004.
Booth frowned. That smelled of cover up. Maybe there was a real case hiding here after all.
The private investigation agency had a history nearly as curious as the hotel. Angel Inc, as it was referred to in reports, had originally been at another, smaller location downtown from 1999 to 2000. They had relocated to the Hyperion after an explosion had destroyed the building their office was in.
The LAPD reported that the explosion was set by either a disgruntled ex-client or ex-employee. Or it was possibly caused by a gas leak.
“Lots of disgruntled people around this Angel guy. Guess that’s what he gets for setting off volcanoes.” Booth had already decided it couldn’t be a coincidence that Yiska had called him Angel and that there had been an Angel Investigations headed up by a man who looked exactly like himself. “There are no coincidences.”
“That’s why my mama always said.”
He turned to look at Baranoski. She wasn’t any easier on the eyes than she had been earlier, but she was friendly – and very sharp, as it turned out.
“The same night that the explosion happened at the Hyperion,there was a storm that came out of nowhere that was so intense that nobody could get close until the next morning." She told him. "And there was an explosion at the Wolfram & Hart building at the same time, brought the whole thing to the ground. That’s another place where odd things happened all the time, only nobody was saying nothing.”
“Money?” The information he’d skimmed on Wolfram & Hart indicated they were a large legal firm who handled questionable clients that were never convicted. Of anything.
She nodded. “Like they were printing it in the basement. Which, considering some of their clients, is a possibility. You know who you need to talk to?”
“Kate Lockley. She’s the investigating LAPD officer on a lot of these cases you’re looking at, and from what I hear, she worked a lot of even stranger stuff.” Baranoski smiled knowingly. “Anything weird, she was on it. A real X-Files freak.”
“I’ve seen her name quite a bit.” He’d already decided that Officer Lockley was a person of interest. “It appears she worked with this private detective agency from time to time.”
“I can’t allow you to look up her address, you know.” Baranoski got up from her chair. “I’m going to run down to the cafeteria and grab a fresh pot of coffee.”
“I appreciate that.” Booth smiled at her. The translation on that was perfectly clear. You look her info up while I’m gone and neither of us gets in trouble.
He quickly accessed what he needed, finding that Lockley was no longer with the LAPD. She’d been discharged on medical disability in 2000. Which meant she was a nutcase and had been given a partial pension to avoid the publicity of firing her.
Her address had changed several times over the last eight years, each address in a more rundown area of LA. How he knew that, he wasn’t sure, but he did. She was either trying to hide from someone or she was drinking up her pension. Either one fit the profile.
Booth quickly wrote down her address, not wanting to risk printing out the information and leaving any kind of trail that might get Baranoski in trouble. He shouldn’t have judged her on her looks; he knew better. Sahlberg had set him up by making sure he didn’t have a young, impressionable agent to influence. And it had backfired completely.
“Young or old, I kill them all.” A smirk curled one corner of his lips.
The apartment building had clearly seen better days. Paint peeled from the gray stucco, giving the appearance of someone who’d been out in the sun far too long. Several men lounged on the front steps, passing around a bottle in a brown bag.
Booth parked the rental he’d borrowed from Crawford and set the alarm as he got out. Normally, he didn’t worry about his vehicle being stolen, but then again, who in their right mind would steal what was obviously a police vehicle? His rented Civic, however, was a vehicle of another color.
He walked past the bums, tossing them a twenty to keep an eye on the car as he went into the building. The stench nearly made him back up. Years of working murder cases did nothing to help him deal with the smell of piss, beer, and human despair.
One look at the elevator made the decision to take the stairs instead an easy one. Four flights of stairs was better than a possible nonstop trip to the basement. The stairs were filthy, littered with trash, needles, and bottles, but at least they wouldn’t drop out from under him. Hopefully.
At Lockley’s door, he knocked and waited. After a few moments, he knocked again. Harder this time.
“Keep your shirt on!” Came a voice from inside.
The door jerked open and Booth took a step back, his hand dropping instinctively to the butt of his gun.
“What do you – “ Kate’s eyes widened. She stared at him for a minute before bursting into laughter. “I knew you weren’t dead! Oh, wait, dust – let’s be sure I’m politically correct.”
“Do you know me?” Booth could smell alcohol on her breath. Looking past her, he could see her apartment was a mess, beer and whiskey bottles strewn everywhere.
“Do I know you? What kind of sick joke are you playing now? Get out of here, Angel. You’ve already ruined my life, there’s nothing left.”
“I’m not Angel. My name is Seeley Booth. I’m with the FBI.”
“The FBI? Is that your new angle? Tired of being a PI and a corporate bigwig?”
“May I come in? I’d like to talk to you about the Hyperion Hotel and Angel Investigations.”
“No! You cannot come in.” Kate shook her head. “Not now or ever.” She turned and walked back into the apartment.
Booth leaned in to see where she’d gone. She’d left the door open, which would constitute permission to come in if she’d been a suspect, so he stepped into her apartment. “I just want to ask you a few questions.”
Turning, Kate saw that he had entered the apartment. “I didn’t invite you in! How did you get in?”
“You left the door open.” He jerked a thumb over his shoulder at the open door. “I walked in. Listen, I know this is going to sound crazy, but – “
“The barrier should have kept you out!” She looked around the small apartment, shoving papers off the table.
“The magic barrier that keeps your kind out!” She moved to the couch, digging under the cushions, looking for something.
“Magic…. Okay…” Booth backed up. Clearly, Lockley wasn’t a stable person.
Rushing at him, a large cross in her hands, she pushed him backwards. He raised his hands to defend himself, allowing her to shove him back out into the hallway.
“I uninvite you! I never invited you in! You’re breaking the damn rules!”
“Lady, you need help.”
“Me?” She brushed a strand of dirty blonde hair out of her face. “I need help? Oh, that’s rich coming from you!”
“I just want to know about the Hyperion Hotel and what you know about a man named Angel.”
“You want to know about it? Go there! Go back to the alley where you died, and stay dead this time!”
The door slammed in his face.
Booth stood staring at it for a few minutes. Died? Stay dead? Great.
Becoming aware of Lockley’s neighbors peering out their doors at him, he roused himself and headed back down the stairs. The doors slammed shut as he passed by, and chains rattled into place.
Hodgins’ reincarnation theory was making more sense all the time, even with the age problems. Glancing at his watch, Booth saw that he had an hour before he needed to be on the field for his next event. He needed to wrap this up and get back.
Outside, he tossed the old men another twenty and headed back to his hotel.
“Hey, Booth, thought you were going to forfeit.” Crawford said as Booth ran up to the contestants’ area and checked in.
“I forgot about the damn traffic out here.” He’d barely made it back to his hotel with enough time to change and get out to where the event was being held.
“I figured you were taking a little nappy wappy.” The other man kidded.
“Funny. Do me a favor and stand in front of me while I shoot, would you?”
“You’d have a better chance of hitting the target with me helping.” Crawford countered.
This afternoon’s event was Action Shooting, one of his favorite events. Reactive targets were set up at varying heights and distances. They were to be shot in order, and they had to fall over. Scattered among them at random intervals were standard paper targets. They also had to be shot in order. And everything had to be done within a set time period.
Booth slid a clip into his gun and examined the extra clips carefully. He’d spent a lot of time deciding what rounds to use for this event. The reactive targets required momentum to knock them over, but there was a trade off in the recoil. The more recoil, the harder to aim and fire rapidly with accuracy.
He smiled to himself. Luckily, he’d had lots of practice. The rounds he’d selected were a perfect balance of power and momentum.
“If I can have everyone’s attention.” An event official spoke into the microphone. “I’d like to take a few moments to explain the scoring procedure.”
Everyone competing knew the scoring procedure, but everything had to be explained for the spectators and cameras. Booth used the time to study the layout of the targets.
“We’re using the Comstock scoring method, which is total points divided by elapsed time. The targets must be fired at in a set order, in this case from left to right. Each target will be scored according to where the target is hit, and in the case of the reactive targets, also on if they fall over as required. Each shooter is allowed three shots per target.
“There are penalties which can be deducted from a shooter’s score, such as not engaging all of the targets, engaging the targets in the wrong order, or firing more than the allowed number of shots at a target. The shooter must decide if the penalty outweighs the points he might get if he takes the target down with one too many shots – or if it’ll put him over on time. It’s an event that requires brainpower as well as gunpowder.”
“Blah, blah, blah.” Crawford muttered.
“We hope you enjoy watching this event. Today’s top ten shooters will advance to the next round, and the top three from that round will advance to the finals. Thank you.” There was a smattering of applause as the official ended his speech, and the first shooter stepped up to the firing line.
“You should have hung around today and watched that urban chase event.” Crawford told Booth.
“Yeah, it was pretty damn good. You had to run through cars and people standing around - fake people, because it was live ammo. There was all kinds of stuff, and they had this target on a track. It had to be shot in certain places to stop it. Fastest time, without hitting an innocent bystander or anything else, won it.”
“Did you enter?” Booth watched the first contestant miss putting down one of the reactive targets.
“Hell no, I didn’t come out here to run around and sweat.” Crawford snorted. “Besides, I don’t think I could’ve beat the guy that won.”
“Some young guy, right? Fresh out of the police academy?”
“Nah, the guy’s got about a dozen years on the NYPD, but he ran like his ass was on fire and the target had the only water for miles.”
Booth laughed at the description. “Who was it?”
“I dunno, he had some funny Italian name. Something that ended with an i.”
“That narrows it down.” He gave Crawford a dirty look. “What’s wrong with Italians?”
“Not a thing, I love their food.” The other man laughed.
“Racist asshole.” Booth chuckled, knowing his friend was joking.
“Hey, there he is.” Crawford pointed at another competitor. “Brownish hair, not too tall, scar on his face.”
Booth turned to look. His face lit up as he recognized the other man. “Bos! Hey, Bos!”
The other man turned around and smiled as he saw Booth. “Hey, Booth!”
“How are you doing?” He shook Bosco’s hand and then gave him a solid cuff on the arm.
“Pretty good, all things considered.”
“Travis Crawford, this is Maurice Boscorelli. Bosco, this is Crawford.” Booth introduced the two men. “Bos and I were in the Rangers together over in the Gulf.”
“No joke?” Crawford shook Bosco’s hand. “Hell of a job over there, man.”
“Short job, you mean.” Bosco laughed. “Just when things started getting good, they threw down their guns and surrendered.”
Booth had seen more war than he’d wanted to see, and not just in the Gulf. He changed the subject. “Are you going for all-around?”
Bosco shook his head. “I didn’t sign up for the sniper event. I don’t have any training or experience at it. That was for you college boys. I’ll settle for taking home a lot of individual prizes.”
The other two laughed at his confidence. Booth heard his name called and headed for the firing line. “You know those prizes you’re taking home are going to be second place prizes, right?”
Booth took several deep breaths, centering himself and closing out the background noise until there was only him and the targets. And his gun. Bringing it up into line, he fired the first shot.
The reactive targets fell quickly and gracefully as he hit them one after the other. One shot per target. In between the reactive targets were paper targets, smaller and stapled to small wooden poles. Each shot went solidly in the black center.
When he was done, he glanced up at his time and smiled. Ten seconds faster than any of the other competitors, and his score was a good twenty-five points higher. Yeah, baby, yeah! Booth pumped a fist in the air.
In the stands, a contingent of FBI agents whooped and hollered as his name was announced as the leader.
“Show off.” Crawford elbowed him as he came back to their group.
“If you’ve got it, flaunt it.” Booth said smugly.
“Get out of the way and give a real pro a shot.” Bosco joked as he went to the firing line.
“This guy’s good.” Crawford said as they watched Bosco swagger confidently. “He’s an annoying little prick, but a damn good shot.”
“He’s a good friend.” Booth told him.
“Hey, I didn’t mean anything – “
“No, no, I know.” He assured Crawford. “He is an annoying little prick, but he’s the guy you want at your back when the shooting starts.”
“I hear you there.”
When all the rounds for the event had ended, Booth held the top spot, with Bosco threatening him by a tenth of a second and two points. Crawford squeaked in at number ten.
Crawford took their ribbing with good humor and offered to buy dinner. Earlier, he’d almost challenged them to a bet of loser buys, before remembering Booth’s problem. Either way, he’d have ended up paying, so it was all good in his way of thinking.
“Hey, there’s a gun show at the convention center.” Bosco said between bites. “I’m thinking about going, you guys want to come along?”
“Sure. I’m always looking for stuff for my collection.” Crawford was an avid collector of World War II era guns and weapons.
“What the hell, why not?” Anything to keep him from going to bed too early, Booth thought.