Chapter Seventeen: Which Old Witch? The Wicked Witch!
Parker watched his dad and Bones circle the dance floor, swaying together to the music. Their eyes were both shut and they held each other close. He tapped his foot and considered getting some punch. It was kind of boring in the gymnasium, and super hot, and being out in the open had started to freak him out a little. He'd had the sensation that someone was watching him.
He started for the punchbowl, but a hand on his shoulder stopped him. He whirled around, certain, for a moment, that the woman who had chased him at the creek was touching him. "Hey!"
But the hand belonged to a young woman he didn't recognize. She looked down and blushed. "Sorry, I didn't mean to frighten you."
"Oh, uh... that's okay." Parker looked around for Mrs. Hoake or maybe his dad, but after a moment, he steeled himself. This lady wasn't his attacker, and he wasn't scared of people he didn't know. At least – he never had been before.
"I'm Carrie Williams," she said with a smile. "Are you Agent Booth's son?"
Parker flashed her a broad smile. "Yeah. If you're looking for him, he's over there dancing with Bones."
Carrie lifted an eyebrow. "Bones?"
"That's what we call Dr. Brennan." Parker fidgeted. Something about her made him very uncomfortable, and Dad had always said to trust his instincts. "I've got to go, Dr. Sweets wants to see me."
She smiled. "You look very much like your father, has anyone ever told you that?"
"Most of the time people say I look like my mom." Parker started to walk off, but Carrie grabbed his arm.
"I hear you had quite the adventure this afternoon." Her face was all sympathy, but there was something wrong with her eyes, Parker decided. "I'm sorry. You should never have to see anything that terrifying that young."
"I hit her over the head." Parker yanked his arm away. "I'll be fine."
"Of course you will." Carrie smiled gently.
Parker shuddered as he walked away, finding Dr. Sweets among the crowd, sighing with relief when he sat down next to the doctor. Lance didn't even look up when he greeted Parker, just continued to watch Dad and Bones do their weird dancing thing.
"What's up, Parker?"
Before he could stop himself, words tumbled out of his mouth. "Am I going to turn into some kind of paranoid freak?"
"What?" Suddenly Lance's full attention was on Parker, and that was a little uncomfortable. Parker looked away.
"Like, am I always going to be scared and stuff?"
"No." Lance didn't even hesitate, which was nice, but it made Parker a bit nervous. "You want to know how I'm sure of that?"
It was a little bit weird how sometimes Lance knew what he was thinking before he did. "How?"
"Because you're not paranoid. Paranoia means that your fear doesn't make sense."
"Doctor Hodgins says it's not paranoia if they really are out to get you."
Lance sighed. "Well, yes, that's true, I suppose. The point is, Parker, that you actually were attacked. Your natural instincts are going to be in overdrive for a few days, and then you'll calm down."
"Yeah. I guess so." Parker shrugged. "I don't like it."
"I can understand that. It probably feels like you aren't in control of yourself, right?"
"I guess so." Parker shifted in his seat.
"Those instincts are a good thing, though. We have them for a reason. You should always act reasonably on your instincts to make yourself safe."
"Do you think that's why Dad's still alive?"
"Dad. He's always getting shot or going off to war and he never gets scared."
"Your Dad has had all kinds of training that teaches him what to do in all of those situations, and you know what?"
"He gets scared." Lance looked up and waved to the approaching partners. "Hey Agent Booth, Dr. Brennan."
"You guys danced forever," Parker said, rolling his eyes in an effort to cover up the uneasiness that still had his insides all twisted up. But he caught the expression on Lance's face – the one that told him it was okay to do what would make him feel better, and he hugged his dad.
Donaldson let the door to the hotel room shut behind him, already half asleep. It had taken forever to process the crime scene, and he had a stack of paperwork half a mile high to complete and send to Agent Booth. He tossed his suit jacket on the badly upholstered maroon chair and loosened his tie before he yanked his shirt from his waistband.
Grabbing the remote, he flipped the TV on for background noise while he dragged himself to the shower. The grating tones of a female popstar who whined more than sang were just irritating enough to keep him awake.
He stepped under the spray and braced himself with one hand against the wall, closing his eyes. The door to his bathroom sprung open with a bang and he nearly jumped out of his skin.
"What the fuck! Quentin! How did you get in here?"
"Sorry, Donaldson. I lifted your key earlier," she wiggled her fingers. "Old habit. It's just that there's an urgent call for you. You're going to want to take it." Quentin's eyes never strayed from his face, but Donaldson flushed anyway.
"Could you get out of my bathroom for a second, please?"
"Certainly. Phone's on the counter," she said, giving him a wink. "Don't worry, I didn't see anything."
"Oh yeah," Donaldson muttered, "that makes me feel better." He stepped out of the shower and grabbed the phone. "Agent Donaldson."
"This is Forrest, from the KC Field Office. We thought you and your supervisor might like to know that Mrs. Williams has reported her daughter Carrie Williams missing two hours ago."
Donaldson paused. "Is there any chance that she's our next victim?"
"I don't know. Just thought I should pass that on. We're trying to track her down here, but her cell phone's off and there's no credit card activity for the past twenty-four hours."
"I'll call Booth and let him know."
"You do that, Agent Donaldson. We'll continue to work this as a missing persons case."
"Keep us apprised of things on your end. We'll work the angle that she's another victim."
The phone disconnected and Donaldson cursed, reaching for his towel to wrap around his waist in case Quentin was camped out in his bedroom. Thankfully, she wasn't, and he was able to don boxers and a pair of pants before there was a knocking at his door.
He threw on a t-shirt and answered it. "Come on in, Quentin."
"The naked look was good, but this is significantly less awkward," Quentin said cheerfully.
"Yeah, I thought so too," Donaldson mumbled, ushering her in while reaching for his phone. "I've got to get Agent Booth on the phone and let him know that Carrie Williams is missing."
"The Senator's daughter?"
Donaldson nodded. "That's the one."
"I did some research on her. Well, I did some research on everyone in this case. You guys know she was estranged from her father, right?"
"No, I don't think that came up," Donaldson said.
"Oh yeah. It was fairly common knowledge in her sorority that she hated his guts."
"Wait. How do you know this?"
Quentin grinned. "She's a tri-Delt. I was a Zeta Tau Alpha, but you know Greeks, we tend to stick together."
"Don't say that until I've amazed you further, Grumpypants. She was also kicked out of her sorority."
"Couldn't get along with her roommate, it turns out. Her roommate, years later, still says she's some sort of sociopath."
"Maybe Senator Williams has got a crazy gene he's passing on to all of his children," Donaldson said, rolling his eyes. "We haven't encountered a sane one yet. Well... Helen Rettinger seems nice enough."
"You'd think so, but if you dig a little deeper you'll find that's not the case at all," Quentin said. "She's got a wonderful life now, of course, but as a teenager she had some real issues. She was hospitalized, briefly, for bi-polar depression."
"Well, her mother had that." Donaldson said. "So we've got a whole family that's rife with mental illness, and we don't know where two of them are."
"We can't only that any one of them had anything to do with the murders we're investigating," Quentin said pragmatically.
"True enough. I've got to get Booth on the phone - he's going to want to know. Not much he can do about it from the middle of nowhere, but he's going to want to know."
The Rettingers piled into the old Ford pick-up truck they'd taken to the dance and headed out of town. It was a bit early, but they hadn't really felt festive. Three murder victims found on their property in a week had dampened their spirits, and was taking a definite toll on the family.
"They think I had something to do with it," Helen said, fiddling with the hem of her shirt as Hebrew steered them down the highway. "I can see in their eyes that they think I had something to do with it."
"Objectively, it makes sense, Mom," Hank said. "But they can't do anything with what they think. They're going to need proof."
"Been watching Law and Order again, loser?" Hal asked. "Come on, the real world's not like a TV show. This FBI guy has to blame somebody and tidy it up fast. A Senator's dead. There's going to be a lot of people who are going to want someone to take the blame for all of this."
"Boys, you are not being helpful," Hebrew said firmly, "and if you don't have anything helpful to say, I would appreciate you not saying anything at all. Your mother and I have enough on our minds as it is without adding any more worry."
Hank crossed his arms and stared out the window. "I'm just saying: they need proof. That one lady is a scientist... they aren't supposed to leap to conclusions."
"Yeah, but they do it all the time," Hal countered.
"I meant what I said, boys. We can talk about something else or we can all ride home in silence. What would you prefer?"
For several minutes, there was a moody silence in the pick-up as they bounced over the patched road. Helen cleared her throat. "So. Did you boys have a good time tonight?"
They mumbled some kind of response, and Hebrew interrupted. "Helen, that car's following pretty close, don't you think?"
"Well now, that's odd," Helen said, glancing over at the speedometer. "You're going five over."
"Could be one of those hot-shot FBI guys that think they can take these roads at eighty-five," Hebrew said. "I wish he'd get off my tail, though."
"You could pull over," Helen said, fiddling with the radio.
"Whoa," Hebrew shook his head, his eyes firmly fixed on the rearview mirror. "That's way too close, buddy. Back up." He tapped on the brakes, and that was where it got out of control.
The car following them sped up and they felt the collision rattle through the vehicle. Helen slammed forward, her head meeting the dashboard violently. The boys were tossed about in the backseat, and Hebrew hit the steering wheel. They spun off the road and overturned in a ditch. The pick-up wobbled on its side, teetered, and flipped. Seconds of screaming metal and shouting faded away to complete silence. Hebrew coughed and came back to consciousness. "Everyone okay?"
"Hal and I are fine, Dad," Hank said. "What about you and Mom?"
"I think I'm okay," Hebrew said, and looked over at Helen. "Helen, are you all right?" She didn't respond, her head lolling forward, hanging limp. He looked back at the boys in panic. "Either one of you have your cell phones? Call for help. Helen? Helen?"
The door opened to the passenger side of the truck, and Hebrew was about to breathe a sigh of relief when he heard the distinct sound of a cocking gun and saw the barrel of a hunting rifle pointed at his sons' heads.
"Don't move." The voice was low, but probably female. Hebrew nodded slowly. "We're just here to take our sister. Nobody else has to get hurt."
"Hey, that's our mom!"
"Boys, shut up," Hebrew said softly. "We can work something else out. You can have anything you want. I don't have much cash on me, but..."
"Oh please. Like we'd run you off the road just to take your money. This isn't New York."
"We could just kill them," another voice suggested. "We could string them up like Munchkins from a tree."
"We stick to the plan." The cold metal of the gun rested against Hebrew's brow now. "Don't move while we retrieve Helen."
The other voice began to giggle madly. "Oh, sis, she's really bleeding."
"She's been in a car wreck, dear. That happens. You really ought to be more careful when you drive."
Helen was lifted up and out of the car by the crazy woman with the giggle, and Hebrew struggled against his seatbelt.
"Now, now. Stay still. We were going to go about this in a more subtle way, but... well, our time has become... precious. And I am terribly sorry about this, but..." Hebrew felt something sharp against his temple, and then he saw nothing but blackness.
"Carrie Williams has gone missing."
Brennan looked up from where she was removing her shoes. "The senator's daughter that we interviewed a few days ago?"
"Yesterday. Seems like it's been longer than that, though, right?"
"Yes." Brennan sighed. "Do they have any leads?"
"Cell phone's off, no credit card activity, but no ransom note or communication from kidnappers of any kind."
Brennan shook her head. "Is it possible that we're too late and the killer has already taken her Dorothy?"
"I hope not. We've got people all over the state looking for her." Booth collapsed on the bed next to her, laying flat on his back and staring up at the ceiling. "You know what it's like, Bones?"
"It's impossible to predict your analogies, however, I find the surprise to be the most pleasurable part of our conversation."
Booth raised his eyebrows but smiled. "Thanks."
"You're welcome. What it's like, Booth?"
"It's like we're playing black jack against the house."
Brennan smiled, remembering, for one moment, the sight and sounds and feel of Vegas, and the way it had felt to be Roxie. "It's impossible to win, if you play for a length of time, against the house."
"Exactly. Can't catch a break, Bones, that's the trouble."
She rubbed her foot with both hands. "I should go back over the files - I wish I had access to the bones. They could probably tell me something - there's got to be something I've missed, and now with another woman's life on the line..."
"I hate to call them in the middle of the night, but maybe we ought to call everyone at home, too. Maybe there's something we're missing."
Booth's phone rang again. "This is getting ridiculous," he said to Bones with an eyeroll. "Special Agent Seeley Booth. Oh hey, Sheriff. Got good news for me?"
His eyebrows knit together. "Yeah, okay. Thanks. Right."
"What is it, Booth?" Brennan asked as he hung up.
"Get your shoes back on, Bones. The Rettingers have just been run off the road, and whoever did it took Helen Rettinger."