Summary: Another day, another victim, another mind gone mad.
Author's note: I'd hate to ruin this by giving my explanation before you've read my story so you can find it at the bottom of this page. Big thanks to M for looking over my grammar. As always your suggestions were more than helpful.
She halted about two feet away from the car wreck. Her jumpsuit all the way zipped up to her chin and her hair twisted in its infamous bun, Brennan's eyes slid over the melted tires of the car. Not only were the wheel covers scorched, every scrap of paint of the car's body had been burnt. The windows were tinted a dark shade of brown bordering on black with golden slivers of light---a subtle hint of the raging fire the car had fallen victim to. The burnt-to-a-crisp vehicle fit its final fate perfectly. The still smoking car seats---half eaten away by ever-hungry flames---and the exploded car radio formed together with what once could be called a car, but now was no more than a piece of scrap metal, making it one of the most tragic crime scenes Brennan had ever witnessed. It wasn't so much the devastated state of the car that got to her, although it added to the effect. It was the victim sprawled out on the backseat that made her shake her head in disgust. She'd never fully comprehend a killer's wish to put his most low-minded and horrid emotions on display. Every time a life was taken, a mark---a cry of frustration, despair, or passion---was left behind for the entire world to see. Today was no different---another day, another victim, another mind gone mad.
Her bag bumped against her thigh when she spun 90° to scan the perimeter for her partner. She discovered him among a group of CSIs, other FBI agents and local policemen. Opening her mouth to call him over, she realized what she was about to do was futile. Her calls would be brushed off, even blatantly ignored by him. He had made it painfully clear that he didn't want to be any closer than ten feet to the remains until they were properly cleaned and spread out on an examination table. He had claimed the smell made his stomach churn dangerously. Since vomit would definitely compromise evidence, Brennan had left it at that. The time of edgy remarks about the revolting stench of death and the sounds of a pen scraping across a tiny notebook were over.
The deep breath she took squeezed the clean air out of her lungs and replaced it with pungent wafts of the heavily degraded remains of the burn victim. She waited until the smell had invaded every corner of her body---until a cocoon of hurt and misery shut her off from her surroundings. If she wanted to do this examination properly, she'd have to distance herself from everything that could possibly distract her. Brennan needed to be alone with the victim. Her bubble of loneliness created after her parents' disappearance and strengthened by recent events would provide just that.
Once Brennan's clinical mode had set in, she set her bag near one of the rear wheels. Planting her palms on her thighs, she leaned forward to scrutinize the remains resting on the backseat through the gap the open car door provided. Perhaps resting wasn't the correct word. The way the skull was turned sideways, cheek flat against the seat, and how the left arm was laying where the victim's stomach used to be indicated the victim might've been asleep when the car was lit on fire. However, the right arm dangling down palm up contradicted this presumption. If the victim really had been asleep, the arm would've hung down palm of the hand facing the car floor. Taking the unnatural 120° angle of the wrist also into account, it was safe to say the victim had been carelessly tossed into the car after the wrist had been snapped back---which would have been extremely painful. Brennan's eyes flicked over both arms. There were no indications of a fall from great height---only a broken wrist. An uncomfortable feeling settled in her stomach when she concluded the wrist had been forced into its crooked position on purpose.
Her gaze swept over the remains in the search of specific skeletal parts that would give her the sex of the victim. When she locked onto the narrow sacrum, the large femoral heads, and the large oval obturator foramina, she briefly closed her eyes as though filing the information away. The victim was male. Approximately twelve hours ago, someone had parked the car with the man on the backseat, drowned the vehicle in gasoline, and savored a short moment of intensity and power right before he had lit and flicked a match at the victim to seal his fate. Brennan's stomach turned when an image of a man regaining his consciousness turned his head from side to side as his senses returned and registered the stinging smoke and merciless flames washed over her. She quickly straightened as she pushed the image to the back of her mind. Until she had found evidence that the man had been conscious during the fire, she had to stay neutral and had to claim that he could have been awake, but that there was no certainty.
First snapping on a pair of latex gloves and then furrowing her brow in concentration, Brennan put her hands on the car door and side of the car so she could lean in and take a proper look at the body. She absent-mindedly noted that the left leg was folded on its side in a 90° angle under the right leg---another indicator of the careless treatment of the victim by the killer. Expertly studying the skull, Brennan calculated angles and compared them to what she knew about Caucasian, Negroid, and Mongoloid skulls. With a curt nod of her head, she reached her conclusion---Caucasian male. Her frown deepened when her eyes slid over the jawbone. After briefly glancing at her feet when she shuffled closer, Brennan carefully put a hand on each side of the man. Hovering above him, she intensely studied the set of his jaw. With a finger clad in latex she lightly traced the bone. The build of the bone and its ratio with the rest of the skull threw off her balance for a second. Her breath hitched when she composed herself, blocking another image that had invaded her head. After eight weeks of deadly silence and identifying more victims than she had done in the past year, she had expected to be able to look at jawbones with her usual scrutinizing stare. But as she withdrew her slightly shaking finger, she had no choice but to accept the knowledge that whenever she examined a skull, she'd automatically miss how he used to clench his jaw whenever strong emotions got the better of him.
Instead of dwelling on memories of how he kneaded his jaw muscles, she redirected her concentration and tilted her head to the side to gauge the front of the skull. Two dark hollows where his eyes had been stared back at her---as well as a clean penny-sized hole in between his brows. Brennan let out a relieved sigh, for which she reprimanded herself immediately. Just like with the other mental images that had popped into her mind, she had to ignore the comforting fact that the victim had been dead before he had been grilled to a crisp. From the size of the hole she could determine a small caliber gun had been used. She was no ballistics expert, but if she relied on all the gunshot wounds she had seen in her forensic career, she guessed a 9mm pistol---a standard FBI gun---had been used. Shot through the head. It had been a quick and painless death, which she was, once again, in a strange way grateful for. Brennan pursed her lips to a thin line and willed her clinical nature to resurface. Years of working with a gut-following scenario-positing agent had corrupted her scientific approach of death.
Brennan commanded her gaze to travel down. Thankfully her eyes obeyed, unlike her brain. It kept producing images of her former partner as she poked and prodded the remains until she squeezed her eyes shut and concentrated on naming all 206 bones in alphabetical order. For the past eight weeks she had kept herself upright fairly well, but lately she had more and more trouble distancing herself from the victims. Every crime scene she visited could be his. Every body she examined could be his. She was getting tired of the nausea sickening her every fiber at the prospect of running into him whenever she was needed to identify a victim. Somehow all her memories had to be deleted and the cold walls of her personal cocoon had to be fortified.
By the time she reached trapezoid in her alphabetical list, she felt she could open her eyes again without flashes of her former partner troubling her. With tense shoulders and her forehead hurting from frowning for so long, she shifted her weight until she was right above the victim's shoulder. Through patches of burnt flesh she detected wear on the shoulder joint, like it had received multiple blows in a short period of time. The victim being hit full-force with a blunt and heavy object was another possibility. Brennan's stare didn't waver when she discovered three broken ribs hidden under a shield of clothes burnt into whatever was left of the man's skin, nor did she flinch when she poked an irregular dent on the rib that was sitting in a patch uncovered by the fire. Another gunshot injury---an older one this time. The victim's sixth rib had been grazed by a bullet years ago. Brennan made a mental note to pass this information to Angela when she was searching for a match with the facts Brennan gave her about the victim. They'd have to look for someone who had a history with guns.
Done with her preliminary examination of the upper body, Brennan moved backwards to take a look at the pelvis and legs. Her gaze stole over the man's thighbones and kneecaps before it came to a stop on his feet. At that precise moment her brain stopped functioning. Her breaths became shallow and she was suddenly acutely aware of her blood pumping wildly through her veins. In the distance she heard Zach arrive. He was mumbling an apology about being stuck in traffic. Tremors ran up and down her spine as she crouched down by the victim's feet. With featherlike strokes she traced his right foot sole. Early wear inconsistent with the victim's presumed age was shouting---screaming even---an undeniable truth at her. More than two years ago she had seen the same irregular breaks stare back at her on glossy X-rays. Shadows of the pain in his eyes when she had confronted him with his torturous past pummeled her consciousness and clouded her vision. Through the dense fog in her mind and shards of her protective cocoon, Zach's voice asking how far along she was with her examination faintly resounded. Slowly straightening up, as if she was in a dream, she kept staring wide-eyed at the victim's feet. Science was both a blessing as a curse. All those years she had donated---sacrificed---to science now weighed down heavily on her shoulders. Brennan couldn't deny the facts in front of her. The set of his jaw, the broadness of his frame, the wear and tear on his shoulder and feet---all pieces of a puzzle she had been trying to solve for the past eight weeks.
Her voice was barely audible when she whispered, "Male, Caucasian, 32 years old." Brennan didn't even wait for Zach to concur with her findings. What had often occupied their minds, but had never been voiced out loud, had happened. Realization hit her full-force, robbed her of all her hopes, and left her mentally crippled by the shattering reality of her conclusion. With burning eyes she backed away from the vehicle, from the man sprawled out on the backseat, and from the painful facts science stabbed her with. "Male, Caucasian, 32 years old," she repeated. "It's Booth."
The first time I listened to The Backseat by Zornik it triggered a visual of Brennan studying Booth. As has been pointed out by for example Labsquint and IhartBooth the song suggests angst. It took me a couple of tries, but eventually I just let Musie run wild and this is the result. About the first 20 seconds of the song, right before the guitar kicks in, suggest a quiet moment to me. Those 20 somewhat seconds triggered the visual I described in the first 3 paragraphs. The endless, almost monotonous, background music represents Brennan's gaze as it sweeps over the remains. There's one particular moment in the song where the music stops, slowly builds up, and is then released with some sort of bang. The exact moment those high-pitched voices in the background break loose again, that's the moment I tried to capture at the end of the story when Brennan's brain stops working. I also tried to capture the desperation I heard after that "bang". I'm rambling, I know. What about I shut up and let you review? lol
One last thing...Some shameless plugging. The next NJC as well as news about the Review Campaign, co-written fics between Jemb and I, and of course about our individual stories can be found at the Sunflower Lily Productions homepage. You can find the link on the NJC forum on this website, on my profile, and if you insist on looking it up through the search engine at LJ under the name sunlilprod. Thanks for reading.