A/N I have no proprietary claim on BTVS, Bones or 7th Heaven. All I do have a proprietary claim on is a pile of bills and an old Subaru. Seeley Booth finds out how deep the rabbit hole really is.
THE TALK OF THE TOWN
Curiosity killed the cat, or so they say. But some will immediately fire back that satisfaction brought him back. Like hope, curiosity is both a great and terrible thing. If not for curiosity we (as a species) would still be sitting around fires eating whatever we’d gathered and whacking each other with sticks and rocks. Advances in medicine, sanitation, farming, exploration and building are all attributable to curiosity. But then so is warfare, torture and the possibility of nuclear annihilation. Because once curiosity opens a door, we can’t shut it again, no matter how much we might wish that we could. If we are lucky, then the door that curiosity opens will be more of a benefit than a bane; however, if the opposite is true, then we can only hope that no one dies. Because unlike the cat, we have only this one life; at least most of us do.
Seeley Booth was in a good mood. They’d just wrapped up the case against a serial killer and he’d been celebrating with the “squint squad”. In addition, his little side investigation on Harris was really beginning to yield some juicy nuggets of information. Once he had all of his ducks in a row, he’d seek out the DHS agent and ask some serious questions. He walked into his apartment and was closing the door when his instincts began screaming at him that something wasn’t right. As his hand whipped down to draw his gun, Seeley found that it wasn’t moving. Someone had grabbed him and wasn’t letting go, someone far stronger than he was. Using that grip as leverage he whirled and struck at his opponent, but he only struck air, and now his arm was locked painfully behind his back. He was being held in place, hurting and disoriented when a light came on.
“You’re an excellent investigator Agent Booth,” Xander Harris remarked, “but you’re about as subtle as a thrown mallet. Now have a seat and let’s get some things cleared up,” he continued, gesturing grandly to a nearby chair. Xander hated this, hated bringing someone into the dark world because he knew that it was a one way journey. He had hoped that Seeley would let things lay, but he’d started digging, and in doing so had discovered some truths that had teeth. Now he had to guide a very smart and very suspicious man into that world and hoped to God he paid attention; otherwise there would be one less FBI agent in the world.
Seeley felt himself being frog-marched across the floor and down into a chair. When he turned to see who had man-handled him, he got quite a surprise.
“I believe you are familiar with Agent Camden,” Harris said quietly, and indeed Seeley remembered Agent Camden; Agent Ruth Camden, all five one of her. At first Seeley was trying to wrap his mind around how such a small woman had held him so firmly, but then he looked into her eyes and found that he had a whole new set of questions to consider. Her eyes were brown, and looked as though they could be warm, but now they were cold and hard and old. Seeley had seen eyes like them, in combat veterans that had seen too much, he had seen them in his own face once or twice. How a woman as young as this could have eyes like that intrigued him. Objectively he knew who Ruth Camden was, new her history and vital statistics, but looking into her eyes, he realized that he knew absolutely nothing. Despite that, he tried to get a little control back.
“Ruth Camden, age nineteen from Glenn Oak California; reported missing from Larkspur Sanitarium on the day after her eighteenth birthday. Obviously you’ve been with DHS pretty much since you escaped.”
“I didn’t escape,” she answered quietly. Her voice was low and measured, with only a trace of anger seeping through her tight control. “Once I was legally an adult, I checked myself out. Since my parents put me there, I didn’t feel it necessary to let them know what was going on in my life.”
Before Seeley could continue he was cut off. “There’s a part of her story that you don’t know, Seeley. Now why don’t you shut up and you might learn something.”
Once he was sure he had the FBI man’s attention, Xander continued. “I’m gonna tell you a story, then I’m gonna show you the proof. So until that time, please just keep your questions to yourself and lay off the snarky commentary because as much as I appreciate good sarcasm, we really don’t have time. Now, the world is older than you believe, and despite what you learned in church, it didn’t start out as paradise. There was a time when demons controlled the Earth . . . . . .”
It was a lot for Booth to take in, but one thing he prided himself on was the ability to spot someone lying, and even though what he was talking about was clearly insane, Booth would swear that the man in front of him was telling the truth. He realized that it could simply be a case where the man was delusional and truly believed what he was saying but it didn’t feel that way to Booth, and this confused him, a lot. “Not that I buy this for one second, but you said something about proof?”
“Miss Camden, that’s your cue;” Xander said.
Booth watched as the girl emerged from the shadows and handed him a crowbar. “Bend it.”
“Bend it, that is if you can,” she replied.
Shrugging, Booth took the chunk of iron in both hands and did his best to twist it, bend it or anything, but it didn’t give an inch. “OK, what now,” he asked, handing the tool back to the girl. He then just sat goggle-eyed as this tiny little girl proceeded to tie a knot with the same bit of iron that he hadn’t been able to do anything to. ‘Now that is impressive,’ Booth thought, but he wasn’t ready to admit that all of this monsters and occult crap just yet. He turned back to Xander. “So ya got one strong girl, that doesn’t have anything to do with monsters and vampires and anything like that. Heck she could be some kind of weird, genetic freak of nature and she’s the only person in the world that can do stuff like that. I’m not convinced.”
“I didn’t expect you to be, at least not yet,” Xander replied smoothly. Then he leaned forward slightly, “have you spoken to your friend Sid lately?”
Booth’s eyes narrowed at the seeming change of topics, “you know I haven’t.”
“He just kind of dropped off the grid mid summer of 2003 didn’t he?”
“Yeah, I tried tracing him, but nothing came up.”
“Did you ever wonder why?”
“Sure I did; oh wait, you’re gonna tell me he was killed by a vampire,” Booth added with smooth condescension.
“Nah, Sid was a demon; or more precisely, a half demon.”
“Well think about it, someone who knows exactly what you should be eating, not what you want or what you think you want, but the perfect thing for you to be eating. Now if it was only with people he knew that would be one thing, but to do it with people that he’d just met, now that’s impossible.”
“What, he’d been running a restaurant for years; he just had a knack for that kind of thing.”
“Or he just knew because of what he was.”
“Best guess is that he was part Pythia.”
“What the hell is that?”
“Ask your friends at the Jeffersonian, they can fill you in.” Xander got up and started to head towards the door, then turned. “You also might ask Dr. Hodgens about ‘Watchers’ or the ‘Watchers Council’. I imagine his answers will be quite amusing.”
Booth relaxed a bit as the girl backed off, but he noticed that she never took her eyes off of him. “So anything else,” he asked.
“Well, not to go all X-files on you, but the truth really is out there, you just have to be able to believe it. So try the Internet or some of the older books the Jeffersonian has in storage and you should get an idea about what’s really going on. The one thing you don’t want to do is to go looking for these things at all. You might just survive the first encounter but that would be more a matter of luck than anything else. You can talk to Riley if you think you have to, but be sure that it’s somewhere away from work or he won’t say a thing to you.”
Booth was shocked at the last bit and started to say something, but the girl cut him off.
“There are secrets out there that have teeth Agent Booth, you want to be careful. Now if you’ll excuse us, we’ve got to go look up some sisters in San Francisco.”
“Wait a second,” Booth called out,” if this stuff is as dangerous as you say, then why only tell me part of it?”
“Because it’s the kind of thing you won’t believe unless you find it out for yourself,” the girl shot out as the door to his apartment closed.
Booth sat in his apartment and thought about what he had seen and heard. The girl hadn’t even strained when she had twisted the crowbar. Booth picked it up again and looked at it for a second, then tapped it with a finger just to verify that he wasn’t dreaming. He couldn’t even imagine how much force that had taken. And the information about Sid, that was just too weird for words, how could Sid not be human, or be only part human? He didn’t have scales or feathers or anything like that, he was just a guy that was good at his job. Then a memory; or a series of memories tickled his brain. Booth realized that he had never seen Sid eat anything, he drank but never ate. Booth was half tempted to fire up his computer and start looking for some of the things that Xander had hinted at, but stopped himself. These things had existed, if they existed, without his knowledge for years, a few more hours wouldn’t make a difference. So with that in mind he went to bed, but his sleep was troubled.
IN A PLANE OVER NEBRASKA
“This is a bad idea Xander.”
“Listen Ruth, I’m not advocating what they did or saying you should forgive them; but they are your parents and they deserve to know that you’re not turning tricks somewhere or dead in a ditch; that’s all. And since we’re gonna be in the vicinity anyway, I figured it was as good a time as we’d get.”
“Fine,” the girl said, pouting a bit, “but I reserve the right to be rude.”
“I’ve got no problem with that.”
“So long as we’re clear, now why are we going to San Fran?”
“I’ve got a line on some witches that should be powerful enough to do a locater spell that can cut through the interference that keeps pointing to the body.”
“White, black or grey?”
“White, definitely white magic.”
“Good, I hate putting up with all the ‘I’m so powerful’ crap you’ve got to put up with when you’re trying to talk to black hats and poseurs.”
“You and me both. Ya know, I think it must be in some sort of instruction manual for those types, I mean we hear it all the time.”
“I can see it now, ‘Cliché’s for the Mildly Evil and Non-powerful’.”
“Now that sounds like a best seller to me.”
“Pythia,” Dr. Daniel Goodman repeated.
“Yeah, you heard of it?”
“Yes Agent Booth, I have. In mythology ‘The Pythia’ was another name for the Oracle of Delphi.”
“Well, an oracle is someone who tells the future, has knowledge of what is to come, puts people in the right direction; that kind of thing. The most famous was the Oracle at Delphi, in Greece. You would make a sacrifice or just pay money and then ask the Oracle questions. She, it was always a she, would answer.”
“So are we talking ESP or that kind of thing, or just some kind of scam?”
“Again, according to myth it was much more than a scam or ESP; power waxed and waned, cities rose and fell, and empires were won and lost, all on the words of the Oracle. They believed that the Oracle was a way of directly communicating with their gods.”
“So the ancient Greeks believed that this oracle thing was real?”
“They built their religious life around it.”
“I guess that’s believing it. Thank you Dr. Goodman,” Booth said as he turned to walk away.
“May I ask what this is about Agent Booth?”
“It’s just something a person said to me a couple of days ago, I saw you and that tickled my memory so I thought I’d ask.”
“I see, well have a good day then,” Goodman replied as he watched the agent walk away, It was clear from his expression that he didn’t buy what Booth had said for a minute.
“Hey Hodgens, ya got a minute,” Booth called out.
“One or two, I’m waiting on some results,” the squint answered back.
“I’ve got this hinky situation and I thought you might be able to help.”
“Hinky, what the hell does that mean?”
“You know, strange, unusual, . . . . . hinky.”
“So why don’t you just say strange or unusual instead of using made up words.”
Booth just pinched the bridge of his nose for a moment; sometimes dealing with these people wasn’t nearly worth the aggravation it came with. “Like I was saying, I’ve got this case and I need some help with the background.”
Hodgens hesitated, then decided that pushing any more of Booth’s buttons wouldn’t be worth it; “OK, what’s up?”
“I busted this guy for selling drugs, he’s into peddling the designer stuff; and he starts going on about how he’s in danger from something called the ‘Watcher’s Council’. Now I thought he was just making stuff up, but I decided to check out this club he was talking about, it was some Nil club in Baltimore. Now when I get there, things are going like a usual roust, but then I use the words ‘Watcher’s Council’; and the entire place got mute. I mean I could have started knee-capping and no one would have talked. So I go back to the hype to find out what the hell’s going on and he’s dead. No OD, no one came or left, he’s just dead. Anyway, I figured that this ‘Watcher’s Council’ might be one of those conspiracy things that you’re up on, so I thought I’d ask.”
“Dude,” Hodgens said, with near reverence in his voice, “you got close to the Watcher’s Council. That’s up there in the Holy Grail of conspiracies, along with the Priory of Sion and Roswell.”
“The conspiracy theory about the Council predates everything, including the Templars and the Masons. Every time anything unusual occurred; there would be some mention of a ‘Watcher’, ‘Member of the Council’, or ‘Slayer’; somewhere in the accounts of the incident.”
“Slayer,” Booth interrupted, “what the hell is a Slayer?”
“According to what’s out there, the Slayer is the power behind the Council. It’s a girl, always a girl, and she’s taken in when she’s young and trained to be the perfect warrior; stronger and faster and deadlier than any man. Now no one knows if there’s only one slayer at a time or many, there’s just not enough information out there, but one thing is clear, wherever the Council is, that’s where the Slayer is, and vice versa. And if you piss off the Council, you end up dead, no exceptions.”
“So where are these guys?”
“If you believe the different web sites that cover these kind of things, they started out in Africa, most likely Egypt, then Greece, followed by Rome; then after some problems with the Vatican, they settled in England.”
“Are they still there?”
“Well that’s where it gets really interesting. You remember that museum that blew up in London a few years back?”
“Yeah, it was called Cultural Wonders and Investigations; wasn’t it?”
“That’s the one. They’d made a name for themselves sponsoring expeditions all over the world. Rumor says that most, but not all; that was found went to the British Museum, but that they kept the best stuff for themselves. Anyway, think about the name for a second.”
Booth did and the answer came to him. “You’re saying that someone blew up the Watcher’s Council?”
“Or at least tried to, there are still reports of Watcher type activities coming in, although most are from around Cleveland these days.”
“Cleveland, as in Ohio?”
“The mistake by the lake; yep.”
“So now thy might be within FBI jurisdiction,” Booth said quietly.
“Booth,” Hodgens said, his eyes serious for a change, “if you’re going after these guys then you want to be careful. And I mean real careful.”
“Why, I’ve got the power of the US government behind me.”
“True, but if they exist, they’ve been around for centuries. I can’t even imagine all the connections they have or the financial resources they could tap. Not to mention that these people seem to like their privacy, you step on the wrong toe and we’ll be working with Agent Parata again but on a full time basis.”
“Are you suggesting they’d take out a Federal Agent?”
“I don’t know,” Hodgens replied, “but I will tell you what I do know.” Here he looked around. “There used to be two branches of the Hodgens family that controlled the Cantilever Group. The American branch oversaw the businesses in North and South America and Australia while the British branch handled everything in Europe and Asia. About eighty years ago, there was some trouble and a group that called themselves the ‘Watchers Council’ approached the British branch and told them to fore-go certain businesses and technologies. Being what they were, they said no. Within three years, the American branch was the only part of the family still alive, every member of the British branch of the Hodgens family was wiped out. The thing is, every death was ruled an accident, every one.”
“You think the Council had them all killed?”
“Yep, so be very careful, and if you do find these guys, let me know; I owe them one or two.”
“Will do, and thanks.”
“Sure,” Hodgens looked the agent in the eye, “I’d tell ya to walk away from this, but there’s no chance of that, is there.”
Booth said nothing, but the answer was clear enough. As he headed back to the parking lot, he wondered at his motivations. Why couldn’t he just walk away, why did he have this burning need to find out about this Council and the things they dealt with. Seeley thought about how the way he looked at everything had changed over the last few weeks. Now he was actually considering the possibility that Demons were real, that Vampires truly walked the earth and that super-strong girls fought them; it was a lot to deal with. Now he had to decide what to do next, should he talk to Mr. Riley Finn of the Department of Homeland Security or drop in at a certain school in Cleveland that appeared to have financial ties to the Watcher’s Council. He paused with his car keys in his hand, wishing he’d followed Cam’s advice and walked away a long time ago and realizing that curiosity wasn’t always a virtue, even for an investigator.
GLENN OAK, CALIFORNIA
“I’m serious Riley; he’d be an excellent recruit. I mean he’s a former Lieutenant Commander in the Navy, he’s got all the skills and he’s finally growing some roots.”
“No, I’m not suggesting this because his brother is being a pain in the ass. Actually I wouldn’t have thought about it except for running across his information while researching. Now I realize the fact that he’s ex-Navy has your olive drab panties in a twist, but give him a chance.”
“I know it’s your shop, but you gotta admit that the guy is pretty much pre-trained. In my book you can’t have too many trained people around, not to mention the fact that his fiancé already knows about the dark side of things so that will help with the whole breaking in process.”
“No, her family has run a slaughter house for a few generations. A lot of their workers are either Demons or partials not to mention dealing with some of the nightlife looking for handouts.”
“Listen, just think about it.”
“Right now, getting ready meet Ruth’s parents.”
“Because they deserve to know she’s not dead or a hooker somewhere.”
“That’s up to Ruth, whatever she decides, I’ll back her play.”
“Fine, but seriously Riley, you really need to lay off the caffeine or Sam’s gonna kick your ass.”
“If Africa didn’t, what makes you think you’ve got a chance?”
“Yeah, yeah, I hear ya. Take it easy man.” Xander cut the connection and turned to his slayer. He could see the tension in her; and in a way, it amused him. She could go toe to toe with things out of your worst nightmares without flinching, but she was nearly shitting peach pits at the idea of talking to a couple of middle aged people. Yeah they were her family, but still, it was kind of ironic. “So you ready to go?”
Ruth turned to him and shot him a smart ass grin, “nope, but that’s never stopped us before.”
“Too true,” Xander muttered as the two exited the car.
She was afraid. He was close to learning what he needed to know, but there was a risk of being discovered. She planned on it eventually, but to have it happen too soon could be disastrous. Unfortunately all she could do was hope.