Seeley looked up when someone took the seat next to his. He smiled widely, recognizing his partner. She didn't look particularly pleased to be on this red eye flight. It might have been displeasure with him, he couldn't be sure. Things were somewhat different between them, had been for the past little while, so he shrugged it off as another one of those differences.
"I really wish you wouldn't call me that. Others might hear you."
"They don't care what your name is."
"My name is Tempe, Booth, not Bones."
"I'm sorry, Bones, but that's who you are to me. I mean it in a respectful way."
She rolled her eyes and fastened her safety belt once she'd stowed her briefcase under the seat in front of her.
"Are you going to tell me why I'm here?"
He arched a brow at that.
She must have taken his silence to indicate the confusion he felt because she sighed softly, reaching for her briefcase.
"Those X-rays you had me look at. Is that what this is about?"
"Yes," he said simply. It was foolish really, this was one of his 'in his spare time' things. A case of interest, nothing more since had the charges brought against the woman had already been dropped.
"Tell me again why I've looked at five years worth of X-rays on a person who's not dead?"
"Because I asked you to? And you like your partner so much you want to keep him happy by doing these favors once in a while without asking too many questions."
"Is that right?"
"It just seems like it's an invasion of privacy. I mean, I could basically tell you her life story."
"And what was it?"
"A bad one."
"A bad one? Is that your scientific analysis, Dr. Brennan?"
"A violent one. Booth, she's had broken bones on top of broken bones. Hairline fractures that were never cared for properly so they never healed."
"You can tell that?"
"Well, it'd be difficult to prove without looking at her bones, but yeah. I mean, you can see when a bone has healed."
"Huh. Okay. So, she was what? A boxer? A cliff diver? What?"
"Booth, these are domestic injuries. I can't think of any line of work that would put this woman into the way of harm this often."
He steepled his hands together in front of him, glancing out the window as the flight attendant announced they were preparing for departure and nodded. Bones hadn't rushed to get here on time. "You're right."
"Well, yeah, I know I am. What was this? You were testing me?"
"No, Bones," he said with a grimace. As if he could think up any tests she'd actually fail. He wasn't that smart. And if he was, he wouldn't have enough time to think up something that could trip her up. "A friend sent me those. The case interested him."
"Tell me about it."
He leaned over to grab his briefcase, snapping it open. He found what he was looking for in the side pocket reserved for miscellaneous stuff. Things that weren't really cases but that had been sent to him or caught his attention. He had former Army buddies in various positions of authority across not just the United States but the globe and people were always sending him stuff.
He pulled out the file labeled DOBBERS, PATRICIA and set it on his lap. Once they'd taken off he'd put down the tray table. He opened it, looking at the woman's face. Woman. She was barely old enough to qualify as a woman when it started. She was pretty. Or at least had been once upon a time. Years ago, when she was captain of the cheerleader squad, competed in beauty pageants, smiled happily for her mother's camera the nights of high school dances, and appeared to all concerned to have her life ahead of her.
So, why had she settled for an abusive drunk of a husband who was not quite literally old enough to be her father? No children had resulted from the marriage and he could find no record that she had been pregnant at the time they got married on her eighteenth birthday. So, it wasn't a shotgun wedding.
He'd almost had one of those. He hadn't thought much about it since Rebecca had said no, because in the end she'd been right to. With everything going on with Angela and Hodgins over in Squint territory, well, it was hard not to let it creep into his thoughts once in a while.
"Patricia Dobbers. Age twenty-seven. Married her late husband, Leland Dobbers, at the age of eighteen to the date."
He looked up from the folder. "Meaning, Bones, they got married the day she turned eighteen."
"Why didn't you just say that?"
He rolled his eyes. "Sorry. No children. Leland Dobbers was thirty-four when they married."
"That's a pretty big age difference."
"That thought occurred to me, too. No one's sure how they met. She was pretty secretive about it. There are pictures in the file of her with Leland during her senior year, dances and things."
"Five years into the marriage, a marriage that you yourself just described as being violent based on the X-rays."
Bones leaned in, peering at the file folder holding the contents that told of Patricia Dobbers life. "This is her?"
"Yes. The woman from the X-rays," he said, sliding the file folder toward her so she could see for herself how striking the girl was.
"She had done some modeling and pageants during high school. She was described by friends as not having let that stuff get to her. So, you had a down to earth, personable beauty queen. She was popular, hung with the popular crowd but from interviews conducted she was liked by everyone."
"That is unusual. So, what happened after high school?"
"About a year after they were married, Leland Dobbers packed up his belongings, including Patricia, and moved from the East Coast to rural Minnesota. She claimed it was a job transfer, but no one can find any record of Leland doing anything more than odd jobs since his arrival there. The area does a lot of outdoorsy type business, so he could have done some cash work as a guide or something that we don't know about."
"All right. So, that was eight years ago?"
"Right," he said quickly, glad to know she was paying attention. "So, anyway, during that year before their move her mother said she noticed some differences in Patricia but she just attributed them to being a newlywed and her husband being so significantly older."
"Right, that type of age gap at Patricia's age. Well, there were things he could legally do she would not be able to. That could make the relationship very one-sided, controlling."
"He seemed to be all about control. One thing I should mention."
"I knew Leland Dobbers."
"What?" Bones eyes shot up to meet his.
"We went through boot camp together fifteen years ago. That's why my buddy sent me the file."
"Were you friends with him?"
"No, he was as mean as a snake back then. Add alcohol and he was venomous from fifty feet away."
"So, Miss Prom Queen got involved with this guy how?"
"No one knows for sure. He was always into photography, so perhaps they met that way. It's the only thing I can come up with. He has no kids, so he didn't meet her that way. You know, at events or pageants."
"Huh," was all Bones said, returning to the file.
"So, once they moved, contact was pretty well cut off. Patricia manages over the course of the next four years to get a couple of letters off to her mother. They were all very guarded, though, saying nothing personal. And there was no return address. I'm sure it was just an attempt to let her mother know she was okay, when in reality the lack of animation worried her mother."
Bones was looking at him again.
"Four years ago, suddenly one day she kills him."
"That's the beauty of it. The state's attorney claims she hung him. She claims it was a sexual game he enjoyed, and truthfully, there were some devices in the house that indicated she might not have been lying."
"Booth. Going by these pictures, he was at least six feet tall and had to be over two hundred pounds."
"Yeah, that's about right, more if he put on weight since I knew him and those pictures."
"And she's what? An inch or two over five feet? She hung him?"
"Yes. The charges were dropped, because they couldn't come up with evidence on her. There was no financial motive. He hadn't been cheating on her that they could find, so no other woman. Could those injuries you see be from rough sex?"
"I suppose it's possible for some, but in my professional opinion, no."
"And a woman like her, built like her?"
"She wouldn't have stood a chance."
"Well, that's why my buddy sent me this file. He's been following up on her. He was one of the officers at the scene. She lives alone on this property, no neighbors for a couple of miles."
"He likes her."
"I think he does. I'm not sure he realizes it, but yes."
"What does this have to do with you? The X-rays? The file?"
"Well, the thing is, he's noticed over the past two years that her wood's still getting chopped, her yard mowed with a push mower. And it's a substantial piece of land. There's a picture of it in there."
Bones sifted through the file folder and found the picture in question. "Wow, that's amazing."
"Yeah, quite picturesque. I've been up to the area a few times, fishing or snowmobiling. God's country. If there was ever a truer statement I haven't seen it."
"Let's not go there today, Booth."
"Right. So, he asks around, wanting to be sure local merchants aren't taking advantage of the widow who's trying to make ends meet."
"There was no life insurance?"
"Nothing out of the ordinary. Enough to pay for the house and to ensure she lived comfortably, but she still has to work."
"Thing is, he can't find anyone who's doing these jobs for her."
"Have you ever chopped wood, Bones? Enough fire wood to keep a house warm for an entire winter?"
"No, I can't say that I have."
"It's hard, physical labor. The type even a six foot, two hundred pound man would find exhausting. And from what he's been able to find out, these were the projects he did exclusively prior to his death."
"Well, in circumstances like these, you make do."
"Firewood can be bought, Bones. She wouldn't have had to chop it herself. She could have paid a neighbor kid, there are a couple of high school kids that live nearby, to do it."
"So, what? I'm not sure what you're saying."
"She's switched jobs recently, too."
"That's not unusual."
"My friend says she's gone for days at a time. She trusts him to water the plants, pick up the mail, and so forth. So, he knows first hand that she leaves, going out of town."
"Our job takes us out of town pretty often, Booth."
"She worked at the local technical college in the admissions office prior to Leland's death, Bones. And now all of the sudden she's gallivanting around the world not just the United States. She's performing labor intensive tasks that from everything my friend has been able to determine she never did before her husband's death. And we're talking going back to when she was a kid. This is a beauty queen, remember."
"I remember," Bones said, picking up Patricia's senior year class picture. "She was so pretty. So young."
"Chuck, my friend, says he's seen her, witnessed first hand, her doing some things he's not sure the governor of California could do."
Booth shrugged. "Arnold Schwarzenegger. You do know who he is?"
"Yes. He's a former competitive weight lifter in addition to an acting career."
"That's not to say I've seen any of his movies."
"None of them?"
She paused a moment, seemed to give it serious thought. "No."
"We'll have to fix that."
"He's got some good ones. You cooked for me, the least I can do is expand your pop culture knowledge."
"That's assuming I want it to be expanded."
"You'll function much better in the real world if you do, Bones."
"So, what are we doing? You think she did kill him?"
"Well, going by the X-rays and her medical history, I'd say she was probably justified if she did. So, no, I'm not here to reopen the case. It's been closed, charges dismissed, and ruled an accidental death. I just want to meet her. See for myself what Chuck's talking about."
"And I'm here why?"
"I just thought a trip would do you good. Besides, take a look at the file. This company she's working for now. On paper it's legit, a large corporation, but there's something going on here, Booth."
"What do you mean?"
"I don't know. It's called The Council, Inc. The board of directors are all legit, they exist and everything but only one even has a college degree."
"Booth, there are kids who own companies."
"I know, I know. Their financials are quite impressive, yet there's no real paper trail."
"No, the money's there. For all I know it could be funneled from various accounts held by the owners. This incident with Patricia Dobbers. It's not the only one that's occurred."
"After Chuck sent me the file, I put a call in to some of my buddies around the States. Just curious if any other women fit this description."
"And what description is that, Booth? A widow who suddenly finds herself needing to take care of herself and pulls it off? Not every woman needs a man to look out for her. You of all people should know that."
"What's that supposed to mean?"
"I just meant, you know, Parker's mother."
"You don't think I help her? I may not be there every day, but I help her. I pay child support, I take him on weekends, I make sure I'm at the school things he does that she tells me about." If he sounded bitter, he had every right to be. More and more frequently, he was getting emails late giving him information on this or that. It was almost as if Rebecca was trying to push Booth out of the picture, or turn Parker against him.
"Let's not argue about that. What did you find?"
"Well, there have been some pretty interesting cases. A couple like Patricia, all of the sudden after years of abuse they stand up for themselves. And do it in a logistically impossible way. There was a young girl about nine or ten who actually netted me the most information to date. She went from being unable to hit the ball past the pitcher's mound to nailing it out of the ballpark every time in the blink of an eye."
"Oh, sorry. I knew that."
"And I mean, quite literally in the blink of an eye. A reporter interviewed her for the local paper. It was her story that really got my interest piqued in this. Especially when I realized what happened to her happened the same day Leland Dobbers was hung."
"What did she say?"
They were at cruising altitude now, so Booth unlatched Bones' tray, setting Patricia's file on it so he could grab his briefcase again. He pulled out a second file folder. This one not as thick as Patricia's. In it was the interview done with young Lillian MacDowell. There were other articles and write-ups on more women. All linked to the same date. He placed it on the file folder.
"Read for yourself."
He knew what it said. He'd read it several times already. So much so that he'd made a copy of the article certain he'd wear out the original copy.
Young Lillian MacDowell had gone 0-2 in the game in question. She stated in the interview that she was at bat for the third time, had swung and missed once for a strike. She stepped out of the batter's box before the second pitch, coming back in she readied herself.
She told the reporter that she couldn't describe what happened. She didn't know beyond all of the sudden she felt this wave of power rush through her. She tried brushing it off, but the feeling wouldn't leave her. It lessened somewhat and eventually disappeared, but she knew it was still there. The next pitch she nailed over the right field fence, much to the surprise of everyone in attendance at the softball game that day. Including herself.
Since that day, Lillian MacDowell has been a powerhouse, a force to be reckoned with and had burned through local school records left and right. Most recently, she'd led her high school softball team, a varsity player as a freshman, to the state championship for the first time in the history of her school.
Lillian wasn't the only one he'd found that spoke of a wave of power rushing through her. Oddly, every person he'd found talking of this phenomenon had not only all been girls or women, but it happened on the same date. From everything he could tell, it happened not just on the same date but also at the same time. To the minute.
Seeley Booth had no idea what that meant, but something had happened to these women and girls that day. He wasn't really there to investigate what had happened to them. For the most part, the women and girls were managing to stay under the radar. Some like Patricia used that power to get out of a bad situation. Patricia wasn't the only one to have doubt cast her way either, but all had managed to get out of the situation.
All Seeley had to do is look at the pictures of Patricia Dobbers before and after Leland Dobbers had entered her life to know that her situation had been bad. He'd known it before Bones' diagnosis based on the X-rays he'd given her to look at. Without that power surge, for lack of a better name to put on it, Patricia would very likely still be in that situation. Instead of a medical file that hadn't had an entry logged since the day Leland Dobbers showed up dead, it would be even thicker now four years later.
"The company has been around for years, centuries. It's older than old. It was the Watcher's Council. They experienced a name change. And a personnel change after, get this, the building blew up. Take a guess when, Bones?"
He could see that she was going through the other articles, notes, and miscellany items he'd collected on this subject. All coming back to that fateful date and time.
"Four years ago."
"So, you agree with me that Patricia┘"
"She wasn't justified, Bones. No one's justified in taking another's life."
"I didn't say justified."
"Yes, I know and understand. And like I said, it's not just her that was in this situation. It's too bad other women can't get out. That's where we're going by the way."
"She's speaking at the opening of a battered women's shelter in the area she lives in. I just want to see her up close and in person."
"You think you'll know if she's evil, Booth? A cold-blooded killer?"
"No, Bones, I just want to make sure that it was worth it. That she's at peace."
"Your friend Chuck?"
"He doesn't know what I do. And like I said, he likes her so he's too close."
Bones closed the file folders and turned to look at him. "You're a good man, Agent Booth."
"You're concerned for her."
He shrugged. "I'm just curious, Bones. I had some vacation time due me."
"You knew I did, too."
"Exactly. Have you ever been fly fishing, Bones?"
"What?" She gave a light laugh. "No."
"Let me tell you, there's nothing like it. Just you, the water and the fish. Your cares drop away to the point it was as if they never existed."
"And you think I need that?"
"I think everyone does. You've been carrying a lot on your shoulders. You haven't really taken the time for yourself you need after almost dying."
"Let's not go there."
He slid his hand over hers on the armrest they shared, squeezing gently. "I won't. We'll go see the woman speak, take in some fishing. Rest and relaxation, Bones. You should try it, you might just like it."
"What about Lillian and the others?"
"There's nothing I can do about them, really. Not all of them have problems like those that Patricia did that need fixing. And not all got the attention young Lillian got. So I'm sure there are a lot I don't know about."
"We don't know about. You brought me into this, I'm curious now, too."
"I'll keep track like I have been, and as long as they stay like Lillian I'll let them be."
"Do you think this The Council has something to do with it?"
"If they don't, it's an awful big coincidence. And, I just don't believe in anvils disguised as coincidences."
They were both quiet for a moment. If Bones was uncomfortable with his hand still placed over hers she showed no sign of it. And, so he left it there. It wasn't a romantic gesture, just a friendly one. She'd been through a lot, her dad was currently popping in and out of her life. She needed a friend, contact that didn't come with expectations or innuendos.
"Can you imagine getting that kind of power all of a sudden?"
"It'd be tempting to abuse it."
"Yet, there hasn't been an insurgence of violent crimes or women taking over the world. What does that tell you, Booth?"
"Either some of these women don't even know what's going on, or they're just doing what they did every day before this incident. Just better." He let his head fall back against the back of his chair, sharing the pillow with her he'd gotten before she'd come on board the plane. "And better is okay in my book."