Title: By the Blade

Disclaimer: These characters, except the sadistic ones, are not mine.

Rating: M, and for those who want to know, it'll be rated as such for sex.

A/N: Thanks for all the lovely reviews, thus far. I hope you'll continue to read!

.-.-.-.-.-.-.-.-.-.-.-.-.-.

"Live by the sword," Jeff Harbourne said, striking a match that filled the little shack with light. He drew the flame to a cheap cigar, and sucked the essence of tobacco into his lungs.

"Die by the sword," Jerry replied, nodding slowly. "And since I use a gun?" He smirked cockily, noticing that it was snowing again. He took a swig of brandy from the flask he kept inside his pocket.

"It'll be a bullet that takes you out, my friend," Jeffery said, pulling the drapes. "I can't say I agree with the level you've stooped to. A trained assassin, taking money so someone else can kill them?" Jerry shook his head, as if unable to comprehend the logic.

"I'm not even sure he kills them, Jeff. Maybe he roughs them up in a little sex game or whatever, but either way, I don't care. Five grand a pop…? I'm in. Beats taking the flack for murder." He'd been trained by master assassins, men who'd been doing the job for forty years, and he'd learned well. But he was almost fifty himself – and he didn't have the stamina to run, like he used to.

Twenty years was enough for him.

"You've become a coward," Jeffery said, propping his feet on the coffee table. Jerry didn't think his friend had much right to talk. He lived his tired life in a little wooden hut, shivering and alone. Jerry might have been alone, but he was making a fortune.

"I killed one last night," he admitted, pleased at the twinkle in Jeff's eye. "Brings back a buzz." Jerry hated to admit his sadistic nature, but they'd been trained together. Jeff understood. "She was a…"

"Don't speak ill of the dead, Jerry," he warned, wiggling his finger as though he were righteous, as though he hadn't murdered dozens of people. Maybe more. "What happened?"

"She turned vicious. I was taking her back for… him," Jerry explained. "Dumb bitch," he straightened his tie and took a second swig of brandy. "Sorry," he apologised in response to Jeffery's glare. "Anyway," he lifted his flask in a mock toast. "To Christmas, and being in the game." Jeffery didn't drink much, he had always figured a clear head made for a better assassin. He lifted his cigar, instead.

"To the game, old buddy. To the game."

.-.-.-.-.-.-.-.-.-.-.-

Temperance Brennan spun on her chair when her office door breezed open, and the atmosphere was immediately attracted to the dark haired FBI agent outside. Normally she'd have added 'cocky' and 'arrogant' to her mental description, but today, Booth looked anything but arrogant. He looked harassed, tired.

"Brennan," he said politely, stepping inside. Behind him, an equally tall, equally dark-haired agent followed. "Bones, meet Daniel McKenzie. Daniel, this is Temperance Brennan she's-"

"A genius from what I've been told," McKenzie said. "Nice to meet you, Dr Brennan." She took his outstretched hand and smiled tightly. He was slightly older than Booth, his dark hair was peppered with grey, but he still looked young enough to be handsome – in a much less rugged way than Booth.

"Likewise," Brennan said, turning in her chair to Booth, whose awkward stance, tight shoulders and perpetual frown notified her to something being amiss. "So," she said, crossing her legs and folding her hands on top of her desk. "Are you going to fill me in?"

His immediately answer was to groan loudly and slouch back into her couch, his eyes weary. She suspected his sleep had been disturbed. "Julie-Anne Jensen is only one. One of four," he said, at last. "But she's famous, and her disappearance is likely to make news pretty soon," he levelled his gaze on hers. "It goes without saying, Bones, that your complete confidence is required on this." She blinked, indignant.

"If it goes without saying, Booth, then why say?" McKenzie flickered his gaze to his newly assigned partner, gnawing his lip.

"It's a figure of speech, Bones," Booth explained patiently.

"I know it is," Brennan replied testily. "I just dislike the suggestion that I am less than discreet in my job." She straightened in her chair, and unfolded her legs. Booth studied her expression for a long moment, then, upon realising that he'd hurt her feelings, murmured an apology, which she graciously accepted. "She was raped," Brennan said softly, as though it were information she'd rather not reveal. "Her… vaginal tissue, or," Brennan swallowed, unwilling to accept that the woman's gruesome death was effecting her. It was not. But it was disturbing. "What was left of it, showed significant signs of trauma. Several of her bones were broken, including her ankles. So badly so that, when Zach untied her, her feet just… fell off." Booth looked queasy, his lips were tight.

McKenzie inhaled deeply, closing his eyes. "We're dealing with one sick bastard, huh?" Brennan blinked.

"That's rhetorical, right?" She asked.

"Yes, Bones," Booth hurried to answer. "Go on." Brennan clicked her mouse a few times, and the newly cleaned bones, arranged perfectly on the examination table flicked up on her screen. She tilted the monitor towards Booth and McKenzie, zoomed in on the neck, and circled an area with her fingernail.

"The bones are crushed so badly, it's almost as though someone stood on her neck and broke it." McKenzie was shaking his head, slowly, his eyes bright as he glared at the image. "And we found this," Brennan opened her drawer and removed a clear plastic bag. At the bottom, a platinum band topped with an enormous princess cut diamond lay. "We checked it for evidence, but all the blood was hers. Hodgins cleaned it. It was in her mouth…" Booth blinked, taking the bag between his finger.

The stunning gem caught the light, and sparkling imperially. "You're looking at a ring worth almost a million dollars," he said. "I remember reading about her. She got engaged last year." Brennan scoffed.

"I can only imagine what magazine you read it in, Booth," she said, rolling her eyes. Booth didn't deny her accusation, perhaps because he was so enthralled in the monetary value of the jewel he held in his hand. "You should probably get in touch with her fiancé. Couldn't he be involved?" Booth's attention was drawn now.

"No," he said. "Tony Alvarez was killed in a plane crash two months ago. She was never seen wearing this ring since…"

"I never had you pegged you as someone into celebrity gossip, Booth," Brennan said, glancing sideways at him. He caught her gaze, held it and she was forced to look away. She'd noticed recently that Booth was almost hypnotic at times. She stared instead, at the broken neck on her monitor.

"Bones, I wasn't checking her out for the gossip, you do know that, right?" She pushed her chair back and brushed past him.

"I do now," she said, smirking. "Anyway, you should take that down to the FBI. Angela has a drawing, if you want to see it… just to confirm, of course." Booth nodded.

And then he needed to work out exactly how he intended on breaking the news that one of the nations biggest and hottest glamour models was dead.

Sometimes he hated his job.

.-.-.-.-.-.-.-.-.-.-.-.-.-.-

Reviews feed my soul and make me happy.