Title: The Homeless Man in the Landfill
Rating: Eventually NC-17/MA but for now, it's a T.
Disclaimer: These characters do not belong to me. I am just borrowing them to play with them for awhile.
Summary: A new case brings the team closer this Christmas – Brennan and Booth test the waters of a new relationship and Angela and Hodgins rekindle some of the old magic.
Author's Note: This could be a long one. Maybe something like A Dangerous Aficionado or thereabout. When the NC-17 chapters come up, they will be posted on my site which you can access through my profile. Please review! Thanks!
"Spare change please!" Charlie Norman shook his old tweed flat-cap at bag-laden shoppers, a handful of quarters clinking and rattling as he did. Repositioning himself atop a filthy trench-coat, he tried to meet their gazes and was unsurprised that the middle-class citizens of DC steadfastly refused to look him in the eye. It was easier, he knew, to pretend that the seedy part of society that he belonged to, didn't exist. "In the spirit of the season?" he called to a well dressed woman carrying a briefcase in one hand and several boutique bags in the other. She glanced sideways for a fleeting moment then firmly ahead. Ignorance is bliss, Charlie thought, leaning back against the wall.
Above his head an icy sleet fell sideways and the narrow overhang of the building's roof barely kept his hair dry. He glanced into his cap, counting the loose change – most of which he'd put there himself as a psychological rouse. There were buskers along the street with guitars and accordions playing Christmas songs and singing jovially, their smoky gruff voices providing some measure of entertainment for the shoppers.
"Tis the fucking season," Charlie muttered to himself, tipping the quarters into his palm and patting his cap unto his head. Christmas always had been the worst time of the year – even before the unfortunate events that led to him being reduced to a beggar on the streets. "Season of joy my ass." A long time ago, when Charlie had first found himself roaming Washington at night, he had witnessed many old-timers murmuring to themselves and he had been sure they were crazy – that they had resigned themselves to their fate and without purpose in life came insanity. All these years later, he was a mumbling lunatic in the eyes of the newcomers and he had come to realise that the hope of better things had long since diminished but his mental capacity, alas, had not and God help him, he wished it had.
"Bitter cold night tonight."
Long seconds passed before Charlie realised that the statement had been directed at him. Looking at the sidewalk with a frown he saw a pair of shiny brown shoes – expensive leather – attached to a long pair of legs. Lifting his eyes, Charlie caught a glimpse of the man through the sleet and the twinkling street-decorations that caught the water like diamonds, damn near blinding him.
"Bitter cold every night in December," he replied tersely. "and January. February too." The stranger chuckled and his jovial demeanour irked Charlie greatly.
"Listen, I've been in DC for business and I have to leave unexpectedly. I have a room at the Cityside Hotel if you're interested in a dry place to sleep tonight." Once, when he was gung-ho and arrogantly certain that his stint as a homeless man was purely temporary, Charlie would have rebuked any form of charity with a stern 'go fuck yourself, asshole'. Much like his belief that those who talked to themselves were insane, his fiery enthusiasm was a thing of the past. Although he did not thank the stranger, or even speak at all, Charlie accepted the credit-card sized passkey and the clean brown trench-coat offered to him.
The coat fit like a glove and for a moment he experienced a glimpse of déjà vu. For a second it was the man he used to be – the man that people didn't avoid looking at when they passed him in the street. Standing straight, resolutely proud, Charlie read the address on the back of the key-card and left.
Friday 19th December
Seeley Booth could stand the sight of many things but rotting flesh and maggots were not on that list.
Camille Saroyan like his partner Temperance Brennan, appeared to be in her element as she picked through the remains of the body. "Male," she called out over her shoulder. "Fifty five to sixty is my guess."
"The smell is revolting," Booth complained, his nose pressed to his sleeve as he eyed the body. "Can you determine cause of death so I can get the hell out of here?" Cam's gloved fingers tentatively pressed around the hairline and she poked and examined. Something squelched beneath Booth's feet as he moved and his breakfast lurched in his stomach.
"Cause of death cannot be determined right now," Camille announced, getting to her feet. "Although I'd say he's been dead less than a week. It looks like more..."
"Yeah, yeah, yeah, highly bacterial environment and all that. Ship it to the Jeffersonian so I can go!"
"Carefully!" Temperance Brennan called shrilly as federal agents advanced towards the corpse. "I know you," she continued as she extended a latex-clad finger towards Agent Pryce. "You're none-too-gentle with the remains." The young man shot her a glare that would have evoked a response had her cell-phone not trilled in her pocket. "Brennan." Booth hurried to defuse the situation, insisting that no, Doctor Brennan was not Agent Pryce's boss and of course she didn't mean offense.
Camille removed her gloves and heaved a sigh. "Poor bastard," she said with a half-hearted gesture to the body. "Days before Christmas, his family must be out of their minds with worry." Booth studied his friend carefully, the lines between her eyebrows when she frowned, how her mouth seemed to tighten with solemn compassion. "My grandfather died on Christmas Eve when I was seven. My mother was devastated and my grandmother had died by February." She lowered her head sadly. "At least Grandpa had his family around him. But this guy..." Booth dropped his hand to her shoulder and squeezed, his touch persuading her to lift her dark eyes to his.
"You okay, Camille?" It wasn't in her nature to be emotional on a case – years as a cop had taught her that. She nodded firmly.
"It's Christmas, Seeley," she answered lifting one corner of her mouth in a lopsided smile. "The most depressing time of the year." Booth waited for her to elaborate and when she didn't he wondered if perhaps he ought to ask, however he remembered well that Camille would always confide in him eventually if there was something she desperately wished to get off her chest. Now, it seemed, was not the time for she had turned away and was packing away her equipment, her head bowed.
"That was Sweets, he has cancelled our appointment for this afternoon," said Brennan, breaking his train of thought. "Family emergency." Booth saw their therapist in his mind's eye and tried to imagine a family scene that fit and somehow, he could not. "I never imagined Sweets had a family," Brennan told him, as though reading his mind. "Anyway, he's rescheduled for Monday."
Truth be told, Booth didn't think they needed therapy but it was oddly comforting to know that Sweets was around to talk to. Though everyone pretended his psychological probing was infuriating and mostly inaccurate, Booth secretly had faith that Lance Sweets incessant quest for the team to question themselves and their motives was a good thing. Still, appearances had to be kept and he grinned. "Great, now lets get all this stuff to the lab so you and your people can tell me who this guy is and how he died. In the mean time, I'll be at the diner eating pie!"
"That's all he had?" Angela asked as Camille lined up the items from the victim's pockets. "Robbery, maybe?" Three dollars in change, a comb, a mint-wrapper and a folded piece of paper had been removed from the dirty khaki pants the man had been wearing.
"I had thought that too, until I found this." Camille held up a red plastic wristband, the style of which had been made popular through the MAKEPOVERTYHISTORY campaigns. Now every charity had their own version in every colour under the rainbow. "It's for a homeless shelter here in DC. Sandra's Community Shelter, with an address printed on the inside. This isn't designed to make a statement."
"It's so the homeless know where to find somewhere to sleep..." Angela said. "Was he murdered? Who would murder a homeless man?" It certainly wouldn't be for money, she knew.
"I don't know. His face was badly decomposed so the bones have been stripped and when Dr Brennan has finished with the skull, I'd like you to do a facial reconstruction. Maybe if we have a face, someone at the shelter will know who he is." Angela nodded her consent and left.
Camille had thought about this man's family earlier – how they would be receiving such dreadful news so close to Christmas. Now she knew that no one wondered where he was, no one cared and that was immeasurably worse.
Tucking her hair behind her ear, Camille perched on the edge of a stool and reflected upon the past few Christmases. Most years she would visit her family, eat too much food and drink more mulled wine than what any person should consume in a period of a week. Four years ago, she had been certain that traditions would be inevitably changing with her marriage to Chris Adams. Until he had dumped her two days before Christmas.
"The victim died of a gunshot wound to the back of the head." Brennan stepped unto the platform, pulling Camille from her depressing reverie. "The bullet penetrated here," she went on, pressing her fingertips to the cushiony spot at the top of her neck, "and went into his brain. He died instantly. Whoever killed this man did not want him to suffer, but he certainly intended him to die."
"He was a homeless man," Camille told Brennan, reiterating what she knew about the red wristband. "Angela's going to get working on a reconstruction." Brennan examined the address that was carved into the plastic strip. "Why would someone murder a homeless man? I can't fathom a realistic motive," Cam said. "It wasn't money, it's unlikely to be jealousy nor is it likely that our victim was caught in bed with another man's wife..." Brennan placed the wristband on the steel table next to the victim's other belongings.
"I'm not a cop," she said at last. "But there is always a motive."
Thanks for reading. Don't forget to drop me a review to make my day. I will update this story shortly with romance and smut!