GENRE: Suspense (hopefully) and Romance (eventually...you just have to hang on long enough)
CHARACTERS: All the regular ones. Strappado takes place at least half a year from where they are now on the show.
DISCLAIMER: Of course I don't own Bones and its characters. I am only the creator of this storyline.
STORY TITLE: Strappado is the medieval inquisition name of a torture method we now know as 'reverse hanging' or 'Palestinian hanging'. It is a form of torture where a victim's hands are tied behind his back and secured to a pulley. He is then hoisted off the ground. Once the victim is suspended in mid-air, the torturer has three options. The first is leaving the victim dangling. This causes intense pain and possible dislocation of the shoulders. The second option is to add a series of drops, meaning the victim is dropped partway, several times in a row. This not only causes more pain than the first form of Strappado, it can lead to broken shoulders. And finally, the third option, is tying the victim's hands to the front and hanging him from his hands. The ankles are also tied together and heavy weight is attached to them. Besides intense pain, this method also causes serious damage to the arms, hips, and legs. The term Squassation is actually more accurate to name the last option. Weights can be added to the body as well in the first two forms of Strappado. The signature of all forms of Strappado is that there is little visible damage on the outside of the victim's body.
I have chosen this torture method as story title because our beloved squint squad will experience a few horrid events similar to the sudden jerks I mentioned earlier. Someone is out to get them and by pursuing them and making their lives miserable, he has theoretically hoisted them off the ground, has added weights, and is dropping them as sudden and as vicious as he pleases.
AUTHOR'S NOTE: Before we begin this lovely new adventure, I'd like to thank Faux Maven. When real life dragged my regular beta (the great M) away, you were kind enough to offer me your services. I cannot thank you enough! Not only did you introduce me to the concept of theme chapter titles (just so you all know, the theme I use for Strappado is 'torture'), but you are amazingly thorough and incredibly fast with bumping my chapters back. Not a single detail escapes you and you don't hesitate to speak your mind; just how I like it. All the time you have invested in this story's time line -- working out the main story lines, fine tuning them, and doing a bit of research -- know that it is greatly appreciated! I hope our 'collaboration' will continue this way.
That being said...Grab your flashlights/candles/torches and follow me as we descend into the dark and gloomy world of Strappado! And before I forget, this chapter was inspired by the song It's All Over by Three Days Grace.
- I -
-- THE SKULL SPLITTER --
The Skull Splitter -- Such a lovely medieval torture device. Imagine an angel's halo being placed on your head. On the inside of the halo there are about ten very pointy spikes and on the outside there are one or two screws and sometimes two handles. Once the Skull Splitter is securely locked around your head, the screws are tightened, slowly driving the spikes into the side of your skull and causing excruciating pain. In the extreme, your torturer could grab the handles and jerk you from side to side or he could hoist you into the air by the aforementioned handles, resulting in the removal of the top of your head or the fracture and severing of your upper spine, which apparently is known as internal decapitation.
In this chapter, the man who is after our squints, has chosen his victim, placed an imaginary Skull Splitter on their head, and is slowly tightening the screws until at some point the halo becomes so tight, his victim's skull explodes.
Thursday November 15 - Somewhere in Washington D.C. - 21:03
It was a dark and dreary night. One that usually formed the ominous décor of mysterious tales of horror, but accurately described the time of day when a lonesome figure pulled the front door shut. He didn't bother to double-check whether the door was truly locked. Though he didn't want anyone breaking into his magnificent two-storied mansion that was sure to attract petty low life thieves as well as the more professional kind, the seven foot gate with bars as thick as a closed fist and the expensive professional burglar alarm he had installed gave him all the reassurance he needed. No unexpected visitors would dare crossing into his territory. In case there was a burglar foolish enough, the extra security precaution he had taken would surely scare him off.
He smiled as he caught sight of a pair of vicious looking Doberman Pinschers staring at him from behind the solid iron bars of their cage. He went up to them and opened the cage. They immediately disappeared into the dark. As silently as possible, they would tour his property and guard all entrances. Him they wouldn't harm since he had trained them since they were puppies. To any other trespassers they would not be merciful. He had trained all hesitation out them because he could not risk them forgetting their mission. His collection was too precious to be stolen away.
Nodding decidedly, he zipped up his jacket and swung his medium-sized bag over his shoulder. He turned, smiling broadly, and moved across his larger than average driveway. His footsteps crunched loudly on the gravel and mixed with the soft tune he began humming. All thoughts of his dogs and his valuable collection were forgotten since his mind was already elsewhere. He had waited for a night as cold and pitch-black as this one. The dark would effectively cloak the first step in his plan for revenge.
His heavy Caterpillar boots led him to a black SUV parked further down the driveway, close to the gate protecting his property from the world outside. The yellow-orange light from the porch cast upon the dark metal was reflected by the side mirror as he opened the door on the driver's side. His oddly shaped, but light-weight bag was tossed on the passenger seat. Without granting his home, dogs or anything else behind him a second glance, he summoned the car to life with a flick of the ignition key, opened the gate, and sped off. At about nine in the evening, on a gloomy Thursday evening with mist threatening to take over the streets, it didn't take him long to leave the outskirts behind and wander through the street network of downtown D.C.
The car came to a stop across from a tall building that shot up out of the ground like an overgrown mushroom. Squinting in the darkness, he broodingly stared at the apartment building. Because he had thoroughly surveyed and had explored the area during tedious and carefully planned out walks, it didn't take him long to scan the familiar perimeter for unusual activity. Everything was quiet and exactly as he had anticipated. His attention turned to the apartment building again. His trained eyes raked every brick and every window before coming to a stop on a faint light glowing like the weak flame of a candle almost entirely burned up from a window on the fifth floor.
The corners of his mouth turned upwards in a satisfied and slightly sadistic grin. She was right on schedule. He hadn't expected anything else from her. Whenever she was examining remains or even when she was doing every day things like going out for groceries or doing laundry, he had observed that she had her routines. A sense of adventure was an inerasable part of her character, but so were logic and fixed patterns. She was as punctual as an atomic clock, a creature of habit at heart.
If he wasn't mistaken---and he hardly ever was---she was entertaining someone at the moment. His name was John Percy. They had met at the supermarket three blocks from where she lived, at the end of aisle six, while simultaneously reaching for the same orange. From that moment on, John had become a regular visitor of her apartment on the fifth floor. For the past three months they had gone out for a bite to eat three times a week, always on Tuesdays, Thursdays, and Saturdays. Afterwards they would go up to her apartment and John wouldn't descend again before midnight. It was one of her first patterns he had picked up on.
His satisfied smile grew sour. She didn't deserve John, or any other man for that matter. She didn't deserve luck---not one bit, not even a glimmer. Not after she had mocked his intelligence, had escaped the horrible fate he had doomed her with, and had plainly ridiculed his devious intentions by staying alive. But the tables were about to turn. With what was safely tucked away in his bag on the passenger seat he would settle the score and would tip the balance in his favor.
Not wasting anymore time while gazing up longingly, he grabbed his things and left the warmth of his car. He tried to move poised and purposefully, but his long and somewhat hasty strides betrayed exactly how eager he was to restore his honor. As he rounded his SUV and stepped onto the sidewalk, he furtively glanced around ensuring that everything was still quiet. The streets were pretty much deserted. The couple walking on the other side of the street probably hadn't noticed him because of his black burglar-like attire and the woman on his right side moving closer probably took him for someone with a peculiar love for black clothes who had just returned from a trip. The bag slung over his shoulder was meant to support the latter idea.
Because he didn't want to raise any suspicion, he vaguely nodded at the woman before casually strolling over to the entrance door of the apartment building that was the twin sister of the building he had studied two minutes ago. When he tried the door, he was pleased to find it open. It would have been out of the ordinary if it had been locked. His intense survey of both hers as well as the neighborhood's habits had taught him that the main entrance doors were locked at precisely ten in the evening. As he pushed the door open, he checked his watch. 21:32---perfect. He would be out again before the janitor would come out of his apartment with a set of keys dangling from his fingertips.
The entrance hall was crossed briskly. The elevator was with him in no time. It seemed almost ridiculous how casual he was standing in the center of the elevator cage, his bag hanging from his right shoulder and the fingers of his left hand tucked in the front pocket of his dark jeans. Every time the light indicated a new floor, he felt satisfaction poking his insides. Across the street she was having a pleasant evening without any thoughts of unexpected disasters occupying her mind. He was going to change that. He was going to teach her a lesson. Nobody outsmarted him without paying dearly as a consequence.
At last the elevator reached the sixth floor. Again he walked briskly. He followed the hallway down to apartment 6E. Muffled sounds of music, of televisions playing rather loudly, and of children causing trouble because they had to go to bed, reached him through the closed doors he passed. These families were going about their everyday lives, unaware of the despair and horror he was about to spread. Though unnecessary, his eyes flicked through the hallway one last time to ensure he really was alone. Then he knelt down on one knee and pulled a set of lockpicks out of his back pocket. He carefully inserted two crooked needles into the lock and fumbled around for a bit. Not half a minute later he heard a distinct click. The door swung open soundlessly.
After quickly having tucked away his tools, he entered the apartment he knew was empty. He immediately headed for the living room window. The faint glow in the opposite building was still there. It was created by a pair of lamps being lit in the living room. He could distinguish two figures sitting at a dining room table. A pair of candles on the table gave their faces a golden hue. The dark forms of presumably cutlery resting on empty plates suggested they had just finished dinner. In a few moments they would head over to the couch where they would talk while sipping wine. He had chosen that particular moment to attack. In the middle of their animated conversation, he would strike. They would never know what hit them. Well, one of them would, but wouldn't live to tell the other.
Firmly clutching his bag, he slid open the seven foot high glass doors leading to the patio. Flat 6E was located at the corner of the sixth floor. The modest terrace was built on the right side of the building, overlooking a rather broad courtyard in between two apartment buildings. During summer, the building's occupants would sit on their balconies and would watch the people on the other side of the courtyard do the same. But it wasn't a summery day. It was a dark Thursday night mid-November. Earlier that day, showers of drizzling rain had wetted the city streets. Now the sky was clearer than ever. There wasn't even a new moon tonight. He had made sure the night would be at its darkest for he did not want to be caught by bright beams of moonlight.
Once he had sought out the perfect spot to huddle down, he sat the bag at his feet and pulled the zipper open. The gritty noise echoed over the empty courtyard. Swiftly he retrieved all the parts he needed and quickly pieced them together. In less than a minute he had assembled a small caliber rifle, ready to use. As a finishing touch, he stretched a baby-bottle nipple over the end of the barrel. Why go out and buy a professional silencer when a simple nipple could do the trick? He set the stock against his shoulder and peered through the telescopic sight over the barrel right into her apartment. They seemed so close to him now, so vulnerable. Every laugh, every dancing lock of hair, a glimpse of milky white skin her plunging neckline revealed as she shifted---he caught it all and registered it minutely for future gloating.
As expected they stood up and started towards the couch. In a minute they would sit down. In the next two minutes, he would lock onto one of them and he would revel in the power laying a finger on the trigger brought. As soon as he pulled it, his victim's fate would be sealed. He imagined how the bullet would whiz through the air. When the bullet hit the window, it would spider-crack before bursting into a million pieces. The bullet would continue its journey unscathed until it connected with warm skin and drilled through it straight into the victim's skull. He almost shuddered with delight upon visualizing the panic that would consume her.
They were halfway the living room now. Much to his surprise she suddenly grasped John's arm to halt him. What was she up to now? He almost groaned as he witnessed her pull John's arm. She couldn't possibly tug him to her bedroom now, could she? Of all nights she could have chosen to act out of the ordinary, she had chosen tonight! She truly deserves her punishment, that bi...He breathed out audibly when they approached the window. Good girl, he thought. Come closer so I can aim at your pretty little head.
They didn't stop at the window however. As John stole secret glances at a relaxed but reserved Brennan, she opened the sliding doors and stepped onto the patio. A twisted grin appeared on his face when he saw John followed her and imitated her stance by resting his forearms on the railing and leaning forward. Excitement raced through his veins and nearly made his hands shake. There would be no exploding window now, but only a clean shot and a dry thud as the body hit the ground. Thoughtfully he gazed at them. In just a few moments he would end one life and would ruin another. The power he felt was almost overwhelming.
As he pushed the safety off and laid his finger on the trigger again, testing the solid bend of the moon shaped hook, a sudden hesitation took him by surprise. He had not killed before. Not directly anyway. He had kidnapped people, had chained them to walls, and had shivered gleefully upon hearing them scream with horror as he brought out his tools; but he had never been this close to directly delivering death. Slowly choking the life out of a victim, for example, took time. It was a lengthy process of torture where the victim fought for every breath of air. Pulling a trigger and sending a bullet on its way was a different kind of business. The effect---death---would be immediate.
He was still hesitating when John leaned in to softly kiss her. Did he really want to become an angel of instant death? He would be no more than an ordinary murderer then. Gone would be his distinctive tactic of trapping his victims in secluded and confined spaces. Shaking his head, he tightened his grip on his rifle. His plan was flawless and remarkably well thought out, just like all of his other plans. The energy and thought put into the murder were the same. The only difference was the time in between capturing his victim and death. The outcome was the same either way---he took a life. He gritted his teeth confidently. He would carry this plan through every single stage, all the way, to the bittersweet end. His resolve hardened when her hands crept around John's neck. She had brought it upon herself. What he was going to do now was only a natural response to the humiliation she had rained upon him by escaping.
Through the telescopic sight he saw her chest heave because of her shallow breathing. She appeared to be turned on by John's kiss. He licked his dry lips as he caressed her skin, the nape of her neck, and the swell of her breasts with his eyes. What a desirable creature she was. How foolish she was, too, for thinking her ordeal had ended as soon as that bastard had pulled her out of that basement. He first stared at her auburn-reddish hair cascading lusciously over her back and shoulders, then zoomed in on her remarkably emotionless eyes. There was no spark to detect in their depths, as if she was mentally elsewhere. He lightly shook his head, uninterested because he honestly didn't care what she thought of her relationship with John. His lips were no more than a thin line when he locked onto his target.
"Goodbye Dr. Brennan," he murmured right before squeezing his finger and shattering her world into a million pieces.
The effect was immediate, as he had anticipated, and far more satisfying than he had imagined. All he heard was a not too loud pop and a delicious whizzing of air. John looked dumbstruck for a moment before his knees buckled. Blood trickled out of the small red dot in between his eyebrows as he staggered backwards. Brennan's face was a perfect picture of shock. Horrified she saw John roughly go down hitting the patio floor with a thud.
Grinning, he patiently waited in the shadows. Everyone in the area was still minding his own business. Not a single soul was aware of the spectacle he had carefully prepared. Soon Brennan would recover enough to call 911. The local police would gather in her apartment in a babel of confusion. All the while he would stay in the dark on the patio of apartment 6E. Nobody would spot him because no-one would think of looking at this balcony since the owner was away on a three month tour of Europe. In the hysteria that was surely to break loose, he would slip out of the apartment, would casually walk out of the building, and disappear into the night on his way to the next target.
As he sat there, going over the final steps of stage one in his plan, he felt the thrill of revenge fill him to the brim. Without averting his eyes from Brennan, who had sunk to her knees next to her most recent lover's lifeless body, he began shuffling backwards. He momentarily let her out of his sight to go inside the apartment where he almost respectfully placed his rifle on the coffee table in plain sight. He left the torn nipple where it was for the bastard to think about. There, now he'll definitely find it. He nodded satisfied and went back to the patio. There he huddled down again and was just in time to see Brennan pull out her cell phone. Perfect, he thought. Good girl. Soon the place would be invaded by local P.D. Soon he could slip away and meet his next victim. Soon...but not yet. All he could do now was revel in the power Brennan's panic flooded him with and gaze at the corpse whose fate it was to forever stare up at the night sky with glazed over eyes.
And so the game begins...