Love Me When I'm Gone ~ Chapter 7
Booth looked over the pistols laid out on the table. Very nice stuff. Berettas, Colts, Brownings – minus their clips and chambers, for safety – every gun he could imagine, all with custom made grips. The man behind the table was respectable looking, and exuded genuine pride in his work.
There were ATF agents moving through the crowd, some subtly, some not. Unfortunately, gun shows attracted real criminals along with real collectors. Booth had been doing his own scanning of the crowd, unconsciously comparing them to his mental catalog of wanted posters.
He ran a finger along an ivory handled Beretta with an Ranger logo imbedded in the ivory. That would look really nice when he pulled it from his holster. “How much?”
“Jes – “ Booth bit off the curse. He was already overdue for confession, and he’d be saying Hail Mary’s for days as it was. “That’s a little pricey.”
“The pistol is nickel and the grip is hand-carved ivory.” The man said unapologetically.
“It looks good.” He really wanted it. Ego, but it would look damn intimidating.
“Excuse me. Um… excuse me.”
Booth turned at the sound of a woman’s voice. At the next table, a dainty blonde was trying to get the attention of the vendor. What is the guy, blind? She was wearing tight jeans and a t-shirt that covered enough but not everything. What was she doing here? There were very few women in the crowd, and this one didn’t fit the typical profile.
“I want to look at the knife in the case.” She tapped the glass display case on the table.
“Just a minute, honey.” The man was showing another customer a samurai sword.
“You say this was actually used in World War II?” The customer asked.
“By a real samurai warrior fighting at the Chosin Reservoir.” The vendor told him.
“Oh, please.” The blonde rolled her eyes. “That’s bull.”
“Excuse me, sweetheart.” The vendor shot her a dirty look. “I’m a veteran, I know what I’m talking about. There’s a certificate of authenticity.”
“Whatever, that blade isn’t right.” She took it out of the customer’s hands. “Look, see how it bends? It’s not tempered right. If it’s from Japan, I’m a brunette.”
Booth’s eyebrows went up, impressed by the strength in the small hands. However the blade was tempered, it was thick.
The customer was also watching wide eyed as she easily bent and manipulated the thick blade. He’d already tested the blade’s strength and hadn’t been able to bend it at all.
“Listen, sweetheart, just shut up and go get your nails done.”
“Excuse?” The vendor took a step back as the blade materialized under his chin.
“I just had my nails done, thank you very much. And Chosin was in the Korean War. I know because my perfectly good history report was ruined because Chosin Frozen wasn’t an ice cream company.” Bringing the blade back around, she sliced it through the air experimentally. “At least I’m not overcompensating for something small.”
Booth watched, amazed, as the petite blonde put the sword through moves that he’d never seen outside a kung-fu movie. He smiled. Looked like he wouldn’t be poking around an abandoned hotel tonight after all.
The vendor came out from behind his table, reaching for the sword, and she deftly slid it out of the way, leaving him grasping air. “All right, honey, give it up.”
“Honey?” She spun around and slapped the sword down, shattering the glass in the display case. “Don’t call me honey.”
“Hey!” The vendor yelped.
Booth mentally marked honey off his list, along with sweetheart.
Other people walking past or shopping at nearby vendors looked up at the disruption, and the crowd thinned around them. Gun shows were generally a quiet affair, despite the image painted by the media, and most people went out of their way to avoid trouble.
“Whatever, you need to move along.” The vendor put his hand on her arm. “You’ve been touching the weapons and disturbing my customers.”
“Hey, she knows you were trying to rip me off.” The customer protested.
“You busted one of my display cases – get out of here before I call my lawyer.”
“I just want to look at the knife in the case. Then I’ll go.” She shook his hand off her arm.
“Speaking of looks – “
Booth saw the vendor’s hand descending toward her ass, and moved toward them, ready to shove the man back and tell him to back off. “Hey, buddy – “
Before he could grab the vendor’s hand, and hopefully score points with the lady for saving her, she’d spun and taken the vendor to the floor, planting a small and stylishly booted foot on the guy’s throat. There was some applause and whistles from the people around them.
“ – and let that be a lesson to you.” Booth shook a finger at him.
“I was – just trying – to get you – to leave – “ The man gasped. “Please – “
“Miss, are you okay?” Booth asked her.
She turned, and her eyes widened. “Angel?” She let go of the arm that she’d been twisting, and the vendor groaned in relief. “Angel?”
For the first time, Booth wished he were this Angel guy – wished it from the depths of his soul as she looked at him with such hope and love. “No, sorry. Seeley Booth, and you are…”
He watched her expression change. Despair and sadness seemed to well up from within her, leaving her broken. Reaching out, Booth wanted desperately to comfort and shield her from whatever had done this to her.
Shaking her head, she backed away. “No.” She looked back at the table, ran her fingers over the knife inside the broken case. “It’s fake, it’s all fake.”
She walked away, and Booth gaped. Well, that sucks. He’d never had a woman walk away like he was second best before. “Hey! Hey wait!”
He started after her, but a hand grabbed his arm. “I’ll take four fifty, but not a dime less.”
“What?” He turned to see the vendor from the table he’d been standing at. “What?”
“The gun, the Ranger logo?” The guy prompted.
“Yeah, never mind that.” Booth started after the blonde. She was half a dozen tables away and moving fast. “Hey, wait up!”
He pushed his way through the crowd looking for her, but she’d disappeared into the mass of people. “Damn it!”
People stared at him. “Did anybody see a cute little blonde, about chin high?” Booth held his hand up level with his chin. “No? Anybody?”
He sighed. “Damn…” Looked like his original plans for the night were still on.
After a stop at the oversized we-have-it-all store, Booth was ready to visit the Hyperion Hotel once more. Thanks to the store, he did have it all – at least everything he needed to do a little breaking and entering so he could investigate the place.
There was no one around, and Booth quickly scaled the rusted gate and dropped into the courtyard. The trees and overgrown shrubbery would help hide him from passing cars or anyone who might walk past. Considering the time of night, it wasn’t likely he had anything to worry about, but old habits died hard.
He ascended the fallen tree to the highest point that rested just under the boarded-over second story windows. Pulling the rope out of his bag, Booth tied a loop in one end and tossed it up to catch on the metal grating hanging from the third floor.
Booth jerked on the rope a couple of times, making made sure it’d bear his weight before sliding into his climbing harness and clipping it to the rope. Technically, it wasn’t breaking and entering. The windows on the upper floors were missing, and he’d be able to get inside without breaking anything. That made it just entering – which was acceptable. In a way.
Booth quickly climbed to the third floor and went in through the broken window. And since he was an FBI agent and he was investigating… “Just keep rationalizing, Booth, old boy.” He said softly.
He took off the climbing harness and left it next to the window. Rummaging around in his bag, he found the small flashlight he’d bought and flicked it on, covering most of the lens with his hand. With the trees in the courtyard shielding the front of the building from the street, the light wasn’t likely to be seen, but better safe than in handcuffs.
The room’s had been damaged by the weather, but was otherwise a typical hotel room. Booth opened the door and went out into the hallway, noting the room number for his return.
Wandering through the empty hallways, he had an uneasy sense of being watched. There was no one in the building as far as he could tell, but the feeling persisted.
The place seemed familiar somehow, as if he’d been there before. The wallpaper and carpeting was new – and somehow he knew that it had been recently replaced. When he opened doors or turned corners, Booth sometimes expected to see people, almost caught glimpses of them. A woman with cropped hair, a white man with a scar across his throat, a black man with a smile and a weapon.
Opening a random door, he caught a glimpse of a woman with long brown hair, but when he blinked, she was gone. He knew this room. There was something about this room...
The furnishings were all covered in dust. No one had been here at least since the explosion. A cold chill brushed against him, and Booth stepped away from it, closer to the wall.
“Wait a minute…” He ran his free hand over the wall. “This wallpaper wasn’t always here.”
Pulling out his knife, he sliced an x into the wallpaper and peeled it back. Beneath the wallpaper was paint. Booth frowned. That hadn’t always been there, either. He scraped at the paint with his knife until he uncovered what was beneath it. Letters. Writing. Mathematical equations beyond anything he’d ever seen.
How did I know that was there? Something cold brushed against him again. Shaking his head, he backed away before turning and leaving the room.
On the second floor, he stopped at room 217. What was inside? Skeletons, bodies? Booth put his hand on the doorknob. “Stop it.” He shoved the door open.
It was empty. Dust covered the furniture.
“See there? Nothing?” He turned to leave the room.
Music started playing softly. “Whoop-de do, whoop-de-do, I hear a polka and my troubles are through…”
Booth spun around, snatching his gun out of its holster. His heart pounding, he turned slowly, looking for the source of the sound. “Come on out! Show yourself!” His voice echoed along the empty hallway.
“Whoop-de-do, whoop-de-do, this kind of music is like heaven to me…”
He moved slowly toward the source of the music. Somewhere on the other side of the dusty bed. Carefully, he ducked down to look under the bed. Nothing.
“Whoop-de-do, whoop-de-do, it’s got me higher than a kite…”
Between the bed and the wall. Nothing.
“Hand me down my soup and fish, I am gonna get my wish…”
In the small closet. Nothing. Booth gritted his teeth and refused to let his fear get the better of him.
“Lead me to the floor and hear me yell for more, because I’m a whoop-de-do kind of guy…”
The sound was coming from the other side of the wall.
“Fine, wiseass.” Booth snarled. “We’ll see who’s scared.”
“Whoop-de do, whoop-de-do, I hear a polka and my troubles are through…”
He ran out of the room and barely broke stride before kicking in the door to the adjacent room. “Show yourself!”
“Got me higher than a kite -- got me higher than a kite -- got me higher than a kite –“
Shining the flashlight around the room, Booth looked for the source of the music and whoever was playing it. “Perry Como music isn’t that scary, buddy! Come on out!”
No one came out of hiding. He shined the light under the bed and in the closet, even in the stained bathtub. No one was there. And no radio of any kind.
“Got me higher than a kite -- got me higher than a kite -- got me higher than a kite –“
Booth retreated to the hallway and closed the door. The light from his flashlight bounced off the gold plate engraved with the room number. 215.
The music stopped abruptly.
Shaking his head, Booth turned and jogged to the end of the hallway and down the stairs. His mind was playing tricks on him. Just like Dr. Gordon Gordon had said.
He paused at the top of the stairs leading down to the lobby floor. The air was freezing. His breath materialized in the air in front of him. “I’m not crazy.” He said through chattering teeth. “Not crazy. Not crazy. Just… creative.”
Determined, Booth walked down the stairs and into the lobby. There were markings on the marble floor, and he crouched down to look at them. Thick lines, sloppily drawn or painted. Red, glistening like blood.
He touched one, examined the stain on the end of his gloved finger. Paint, not blood. “Five bucks says this is a – “ He stopped himself. No betting, even with himself. “This is probably a pentagram.”
Standing, Booth played the flashlight around the lobby. The room was huge, with marble columns supporting the arching ceiling. To one side, there was a counter and an office. Maybe his mysterious buddy was hiding in there.
With caution, he entered the office. Like every other room he’d examined, it was empty. The only difference was that this room had been tossed. Books and papers were everywhere, the desk lying on its side and the chairs broken. “Someone wasn’t happy with their job.
“What am I doing here? This is stupid, there’s nothing to find here.” Twirling the flashlight by its strap, Booth headed up the stairs for the second floor. Once there, he looked down at the floor below. A large pentagram spread across the marble tiles, gleaming wetly in the moonlight.
Leaning over the railing, he grinned. “Pentagram, I knew it! Oh, yeah. Who da man? I da man.” The grin turned to a frown. “Wait… why is it wet? It shouldn’t be –“
Vertigo hit him suddenly, and he clutched at the railing. He could see the green marble coming up at him, feel the rope tighten on his neck. The flashlight slipped from his grasp and fell to the lobby floor, the lens shattering and the light winking out.
Booth staggered back and fell to the dirty carpet, his hand clutching his throat. Something was strangling him – he couldn’t breathe. It jerked tighter, burning the skin around his neck and tugging him upward.
Gasping, he rolled over onto his hands and knees, struggling to draw air in. Something cold wrapped around him, and Booth jerked away. He got his feet under him and lurched up, leaning on the wall and moving toward the stairs.
Suddenly, he could breathe again, and he gratefully sucked in air. “What – what the – “ This was enough, he was getting out of here. He didn’t care any longer what secrets the Hyperion held.
No longer worrying if anyone else was in the hotel and if they were watching him, Booth hurried along the hallway and back up the stairs leading to the third floor. He was halfway to the room he’d entered the hotel through when he heard the sound.
Stopping, he listened. Soft coos and baby gurgles. A baby? There was no way there was a baby in here. He moved on toward the way out.
The happy sounds turned to whimpers, and then to cries of distress.
“Crap!” There was no way he was leaving if there was even the possibility that a baby was somewhere in the hotel. “Hello? Do you need help?”
There was no answer, but the cries grew louder and more strident – frightened shrieks that grated on his nerves. He’d never heard Parker cry like that, thank God, but he’d heard babies at crime scenes make those sounds.
“I’m coming! Where are you?” Booth focused on the sound, following it up to the fourth floor.
He hesitated as the sound led him toward the ruined corner of the hotel. Ending up under a ton of rubble wasn’t how he wanted to go out. “Where are you? Come on out and I’ll help you!”
The crying went up sharply, stopped, and then continued, as if the baby had been snatched up by someone.
“I’m out here in the hallway!” Booth paused before a door – the sound seemed to be coming from inside. He pushed the door open, cursing as he realized he’d lost his flashlight. “Where are you?”
“Where – “ His eyes widened. The room was brightly lit and clean. A white bassinet dominated the space.
He slowly approached it. “Hello?” His heart was beating in time with the frantic cries coming from the bassinet. Hand shaking, he reached out. “Please don’t be Rosemary’s baby.”
The cries stopped and the room was plunged into darkness. Booth blinked several times, trying to regain his vision. Where was the baby?
Moonlight coming through the busted French doors revealed an ordinary room with everything covered in dust. Sofa and tables. No bassinet. He took a few more steps into the room, looking through the archway into the rest of the suite. Bed and dresser. No bassinet.
“This is… this is… “ Booth backed out of the suite. His mind was obviously working overtime. Dr. Gordon Gordon hadn’t said he’d have nightmares while he was awake. “It’s your own fault, Booth. Abandoned building – middle of the night, power of suggestion – your own fault.”
Leaving the door open, he jogged down the hall. No matter what else he heard, he was getting out of the hotel.
When he arrived at the window where he’d entered, Booth slipped the climbing harness back on. It wasn’t until he was back outside on the street, walking quickly to where he’d left the rented car, that he realized he’d walked through the hotel in total darkness, navigating as easily as he would through his own apartment in the dark.
Throwing the car in gear, he floored the gas and headed away from the Hyperion Hotel as quickly as he could.