Disclaimers: Fox owns the Bones characters, created by Hart Hansen. BBC owns the Sherlock characters, created by Steven Moffat, based on Arthur Conan Doyle's original blueprints, of course.
Author's Note: I considered posting this as a separate story, but decided instead to make this a prequel to "On This Winter's Night With You". This is an alternate take on how Pelant goes down. This is also what happens when PBS airs the Sherlock finale one week after Fox airs the Bones finale. Seriously, why are there not more Bones/Sherlock crossovers? Spoilers for both "The Reichenbach Fall" and "The Past in the Present".
Summary: You never know who will turn out to be your savior...
The Handwriting On the Wall
Prequel to On This Winter's Night with You
The Detective in the Diner
"It has long been an axiom of mine that the little things are infinitely the most important."
—Arthur Conan Doyle, "A Case of Identity"
Somewhere in Georgia:
He sat quietly at a table toward the back of Bob's Diner, a dingy old café in a wide spot in the road that called itself Hawks Bluff, Georgia, some 75 miles south of Macon. He kept his collar turned up so that no one could see his eyes. Not that there were any patrons to watch him; apart from the pert red-haired waitress and the cook who never ventured out of the grease trap that passed for a kitchen. Since he first arrived in the United States, he seemed to possess the ability to render himself, if not literally, then figuratively invisible. Rarely had anyone spoken more than a sentence to him since his arrival two months ago. Which didn't bother him at all. In his native London he had become too much of a celebrity, thanks to that infernal blog of John's, before it all went so horribly wrong. Indeed, he was enjoying his newfound anonymity.
The bell over the doorframe rang lightly as the front door opened. A woman pushing a baby stroller entered and took her seat at the bar. He glanced at the woman as she removed the silk scarf she wore over her head, revealing a cascade of curly blond locks. "I'll have a grilled cheese sandwich and an iced tea, unsweetened. And is there a gas station nearby? My car ran out about two miles north of here."
"Sure, honey," the waitress answered, "there's a Texaco just two blocks east of here on State Highway 15."
"Thank you," the blond muttered as the waitress scurried off to fill her order. While waiting for her sandwich, the blond divided her time between perusing the contents of a manila folder she was carrying and murmuring endearments to the baby in the stroller. When the waitress arrived with her sandwich and tea she ate pensively, still engrossed in her research. There was something about her, a deep intelligence to be sure, but something more. A haunted quality, a burden she carried reluctantly but steadily. Here, he thought, was someone whose life was on hold and did not know how to resume.
Someone like John.
He quietly studied her as she ate, hiding his face behind a convenient newspaper so as not to arouse her suspicions. Her mannerisms, any telltale behavioral tics, anything that would tell him her story. Once he satisfied his mind regarding the blond stranger he made a decision.
For the first time since he arrived in the States, he decided to strike up a conversation with someone. He threw aside his newspaper and approached the blond.
"Excuse me," he announced his presence stiffly as she finished her tea, "I couldn't help but hear that you required assistance. May I offer you some?"
"Wha-what do you mean?" Her nervous stammer stood out like a neon sign in the darkness. Clearly she feared discovery.
"No reason for concern, Madame," he replied cordially. "I merely overheard you inquire about a petrol station. Where is your car?"
"About two miles south, on State Highway 15."
"Which, by a strange coincidence," he declared, "happens to be the direction I'm heading. And I happen to have a 10-liter canister in my car. So I'll drive you to the station, and then to your vehicle, where you can fill up and go on your merry way."
The blond regarded him dubiously for a moment. "Why should I trust you? I don't even know you?"
"A wise precaution," he agreed. "Perhaps if I introduced myself. Mr. Holmes, at your service."
She looked him over once again; a nest of unruly brown hair, a lean face with cheeks so sharp and saturnine that they could cut paper, a cultured British accent—she guessed north London, perhaps Manchester, eyes hooded and unreadable but smoldering with intelligence. She normally ceded that her partner's ability to read people was superior to her own, but in this instance she decided to trust the stranger.
"Joy," she introduced herself. "Joy Booth. And this is Christine," she added, introducing the baby in the stroller.
"Fine," he announced, placing twenty dollars on her table. "Shall we?" The two walked out of the café and he escorted her to his vehicle, an old but serviceable blue Dodge Neon. Unlocking the passenger-side door Holmes gestured for Joy to enter the car. "Regrettably, I don't have a booster seat for Christine."
"The stroller converts," Joy explained. "I appreciate your assistance, Mr. Holmes."
"My pleasure," he replied. Once she set up Christine's seat and sat next to her in the back, Holmes turned on the ignition and the car sped off to the Texaco.
Once they filled up the gas can (again Holmes insisted on paying) and began the drive back to her car, Holmes idly switched his car radio. "—try to understand / The New York Times effect on man! / Whether you're a brother or whether you're a mother / you're Stayin' Alive, Sta-[click]" He turned off the radio in disgust and drove in silence for a few more minutes. His passenger remained silent in the backseat, her attention fixed on the infant next to her.
Eventually Holmes glanced at his rearview mirror at his passengers. "Now that there is no fear of discovery," he intoned levelly, "perhaps you should tell me your real name."
Joy raised her head in startlement. "I told you, back at the diner," she insisted, "it's Joy."
"No it isn't," Holmes answered in a calculated tone. "You became a fugitive from the law within the last couple of months, and are traveling under an assumed alias with your daughter, but you are not guilty of the crime of which you are accused. You have kept a low profile, speaking rarely to anyone. You are a scientist of some sort, possibly a forensic anthropologist. You were comfortably well-off before circumstances dictated your flight. You are unmarried but involved in a long-term relationship, presumably with the girl's father. You exercise extensively and are a vegetarian."
Her first instinct was to glance at the car doors; she wanted to grab Christine's car-seat and jump out the car. Assuming she survived the impact with the side of the road, she doubted she could make any distance by foot before every law enforcement officer in a five-mile radius would catch her. She fought the urge to cry as she faced her inevitable fate. Forgive me, Booth, she thought to herself, I'm so sorry—
"Oh don't simper, woman," Holmes barked at her. "I'm not going to turn you in or anything of the sort. I am, as I promised, taking you to your car to fill your tank, and where you go from there is not of my interest."
She stammered briefly at Holmes' statement. "But how—how did you—"
"I noticed when you first introduced yourself," Holmes continued rapidly, "that your mouth was shaping itself to make a 'T' sound. I would guess that your real name therefore start with a 'T'; Theresa, Tiffany, Tammy, something like that. You are therefore traveling under an alias. If you had traveled under that name for any length of time or introduced yourself frequently as 'Joy' then the masquerade would be second nature for you. The peroxide in your hair and the fact that you entered the diner with your face partially obscured by a silk scarf indicates that you have no desire to be recognized. I also noticed the folder you were poring over. The heading bore the name 'C. Pelant', whom I must assume is of significant importance to you. The page you happened to be looking over, I couldn't help but recognize as a forensic photograph, presumably of a murder victim. Not a significant leap of logic to suggest that C. Pelant is a person of interest in this case, likely the perpetrator of the crimes you are accused of. Clearly you can read a forensics report, which indicates that you work in that field or similar. Your clothing, though unwashed, is exceptionally well tailored, and your baby stroller looks fairly high-end as well. There is no wedding ring on your finger, nor any marks to indicate that you ever wore one. However you are wearing a charm bracelet with a baby-bottle charm." She instinctively glanced at her wrist, looking at the tell-tale bracelet. "Normally such a piece of jewelry is not purchased by the wearer, but a gift from someone else. I think we can rule out Christine, so that leaves the most obvious choice, a boyfriend, presumably the child's father. The positioning of your hips indicates that you have given birth within the last six months or so, which corresponds with Christine's physical development, but you've clearly shed any excess fat that resulted from your pregnancy, thus I must assume you work out. As for being a vegetarian, despite the fact that, as a fugitive, you would need to husband your resources and could not rely on credit cards, you had ordered the grilled cheese sandwich, which while not the least expensive item on the menu, was the only vegetarian option at that particular bastion of fine cuisine."
She lowered her head in abject defeat, tears slowly leaking out of the corners of her eyes. "Brennan," she whispered.
"I beg your pardon?"
"Brennan!" she spoke in a dead, flat voice. "Temperance Brennan! That's my name!"
"Ah, Temperance," he muttered absently. "There's your 'T' sound."
"So at least you can pronounce my name correctly when you turn me into the FBI," she growled acidly. "But I beg you, please, let me take Christine home to her father. At least let me make sure my daughter is protected."
Holmes said nothing, but pulled his car over to the shoulder. Shutting off the gas, he adjusted his rearview mirror so he could more clearly see his back-seat passenger and she could see him. "I think that you had better tell me your story."
Brennan gulped slightly, controlling her tears for the time being. "What, don't you follow the news outlets? They've been running my story for the last two months!"
"I'm sure that is true, Dr. Brennan," Holmes chided, "I prefer to do my own editing. Please, indulge me."
Brennan regarded the steely gray-green eyes that stared back at her in the rear-view mirror. "What you said just now," she commented, "reminded me of Booth."
"Booth," he mused. "Christine's father, I surmise?"
Brennan nodded. "He was—no, is my partner, in every definition of the word. He calls me 'Bones' because I work with bones in the field of forensic anthropology..."
"Yes, very interesting," Holmes interrupted haughtily. "Perhaps if you confined your narrative to the pertinent details."
His tone hit her almost as hard as a slap across the face, and for a brief second a flare of anger surged through her body. Of all the arrogant, insufferable, insensitive...she stopped and considered the strange man sitting in the driver's seat. This must be what people think when they first meet me, she thought morosely.
She looked again into his eyes. They appeared haunted, as though by past traumas. Like Booth's eyes, when they first became partners and he described his Cosmic Balance Sheet. Holmes too had fought against the worst of evils. She decided to risk trusting him again.
"Until about three months ago, she started, "I worked with the Medico-Legal lab at Jeffersonian Institute in Washington D. C. as a forensic anthropologist. It was in that capacity that I met and partnered with Seeley Booth, a Federal agent. I, along with my associates at the Jeffersonian, would examine remains and other evidence to aid in investigating murders. About eight months ago, a skull and a set of vertebrae were discovered in American Heritage Museum..."
Within the next ten minutes, as clinically and dispassionately as she could, she related the facts in the case of Christopher Pelant. A self-proclaimed "Hacktivist" who claimed to be making some sort of statement against the Powers That Be, a statement written in the mutilated corpses of his victims. As he was under house arrest for shutting down the Department of Defense's communications network, and constantly wore an ankle monitor, efforts to prove his guilt ultimately proved fruitless. And then it all went to hell, as Pelant framed Brennan for the murder of a friend of hers, Ethan Sawyer.
"And you chose to become a fugitive," Holmes said. Neither a question nor a condemnation, merely a statement.
"I realized that I could not risk arrest," Brennan replied sorrowfully. "Even if acquitted, there was the very real possibility that Christine would be taken away from me, that Booth and I would lose our daughter. I was afraid! Afraid of seeing Christine ground up in the foster care system the way I was! Afraid—afraid that I would never see her again." Her voice faded as she inhaled deeply, clenched her fists, anything to prevent herself from breaking down in a fresh pool of tears.
Holmes turned his eyes away from Brennan and looked down the road ahead of them. "I will take you to your car now, Dr. Brennan." With that he triggered the ignition and pulled out of the shoulder and back onto the road.
The rest of the trip was made in absolute silence, neither passenger nor driver wishing to disturb the melancholy peace that settled between them. A few minutes later, Holmes located the abandoned vehicle by the side of the road and pulled over. "Your car, Dr. Brennan, as promised," he intoned.
He quietly opened the trunk of his car to retrieve the gas canister, while Brennan pulled Christine's stroller out of the car. Without preamble Holmes filled Brennan's tank while Brennan restored the baby-seat to the back seat of her car. "Madame," Holmes addressed her in the same stiffly cordial tone that he used when they first met, "it is my sincere hope that you are able to weather this ordeal."
"Uh, thank you," Brennan nodded, somewhat perplexed. Given that she had just spilled the story of her recent life to a complete stranger, she wasn't sure what she should have expected. Somehow, being summarily dismissed by this infuriating man seemed almost anti-climactic. Without another word she buckled Christine into her carseat, stepped into the driver's seat, put her key in the ignition and pulled away onto the highway for parts unknown.
Holmes watched as Brennan drove away, his stoic posture revealing nothing of the inner tumult of his mind. Temperance Brennan was certainly a puzzle to him. A solitary woman by nature, he sensed, but not by choice. Not for the first time, he recalled his last meaningful conversation with John.
"Alone is what I have," Holmes said flatly. "Alone protects me."
John just shook his head and walked away. "No," he answered, "friends protect people."
And in the end, he proved himself to be both right and wrong. He chose to protect his friends, John, Mrs. Hudson, LeStrade, by allowing the world to believe that he had stepped off the roof of a four-story building rather than live with being disgraced, staging his death and gladly accepting a solitary existence as a non-entity. Only by his seeming suicide could he insure that the assassins Moriarty hired would not kill the only people who would care if he lived or died. In the end, alone did not protect him. But perhaps alone could keep his friends safe.
And now, Temperance Brennan was choosing a solitary life, after having tasted the joys of companionship, of having a loved one to come home to, to share her days, to make love with, to protect the ones that mattered most to her. For her daughter, her lover, her friends, she sacrificed her own happiness.
"No," he whispered to himself, "this cannot stand. You are not me, Temperance Brennan, and I would not wish me on my worst enemy."
Holmes returned to front seat of his car, reached under the passenger side seat and pulled out a laptop computer he kept fully charged. Powering on the computer and waiting for it to boot, he considered the parameters of his research. Pelant. Department of Defense. Jeffersonian. Opening a browser window, he began his search. He read the open reports regarding the Jeffersonian's initial probes into the grisly murders of which one Christopher Pelant was suspected. How the investigations led to dead ends with the sudden implication of Brennan in the murder of Ethan Sawyer. Broadening his search to include the term "Hacktivist", he also dug up several blogs, rife with anti-establishment screeds and conspiracy theories. Plus a few odd chatroom archives, dating back to 2010, with other like-minded individuals. Quite a few of whom lived in or around Afghanistan for some reason.
He also discovered (after deciphering a ridiculously easy password sequence to break into their systems) the most recent crime being investigated by the Jeffersonian Medico-Legal team; the murder of former FBI Assistant Director Andrew Hacker. His dismembered remains were discovered two days ago encircling the base of the Washington Monument which had been graffitied with blood, spelling the words; "Mene, mene, tekel upharsin." An FBI agent, Seeley Booth, had been considered a person of interest but after initial investigations was not a suspect. Grasping a new thread, Holmes widened his search again to include "Seeley Booth". A decorated Army Ranger, proficient sniper, successful, albeit maverick, FBI agent. "Atrocious taste in socks," Holmes observed. Frequently working alongside the Jeffersonian. Alongside Brennan. One son from a previous relationship, Parker Booth. A cursory glance at a hospital registry showed the name Christine Angela Booth, daughter of Seeley Booth and Temperance Brennan. Born in a barn, brought to the hospital shortly afterwards for a quick check-up. Holmes located a color photograph of Agent Booth, comparing his features to those of Temperance and Christine. "That explains the cheekbones at least," he mused absently.
Satisfied that he had enough facts to make a reasoned analysis, he put his laptop aside, made certain that the driver's side window was rolled tight, and closed his eyes. It was a discipline he taught himself, to shut out all outside distractions and enter a fugue state, what he called his "mental palace". Safely locked away from the world, he immersed himself in the facts of the case, seeking to connect a thousand dots into a coherent picture...
Pelant—Hactivist—blogging to Afghanistan—2010—Afghanistan—special advisor to the Afghan Army—Seeley Joseph Booth—Jeffersonian—Temperance Brennan—message in blood—Mene, Mene, Tekel Upharsin—numbered, numbered, weighed, divided—the Fall of Babylon—Pelant, sending a message—a country divided—Booth and his family divided—
How could Pelant be under house arrest and still commit these murders? What's the connection to him and the Jeffersionian? What's the key—What's the key—
THERE IS NO KEY, DOOFUS!
Moriarty's words, over six months ago. Over a lifetime ago. They hit Holmes like a wave of ice-cold water, shocking him out of his fugue state. Shaking himself like an animal shaking excess water from his fur, he reined in his frustration. So close—he was so close to the key—
In his last encounter with Moriarty, the criminal mastermind managed to be acquitted of grand theft, even when he was caught in the shattered display case in the Tower of London, gleefully wearing the Crown Jewels. The first step in an elaborate charade designed to discredit the famed consulting detective, to show him up as a mere mortal. An elaborate charade that, in the end, was powered by a mundane deception. The supposed smartphone ap that allowed Moriarty to break into the Bank of England, the Tower of London and Pentonville Prison simultaneously ultimately was designed to signal his confederates. And it worked. Holmes was kept happily chasing his tail in search of a diabolical plot, only to get a banal resolution. And a reputation in tatters.
A mirthless laugh pushed its way past Holmes' mouth. It all started to fit together. In so many ways, Holmes realized, Pelant was Moriarty. Intelligent, amoral, arrogant—and in the end, banal.
With that newfound knowledge, Holmes re-opened his laptop and did one last search, of the Washington D. C. telephone directory. He looked up a specific number, withdrew his mobile phone and dialed.
"Hello, I wish to speak to Seeley Booth, please."