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Christmas Morning Surprise

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“This is disturbing,” Agent Booth said, staring at the remains on the examination table before him.

“I gotta agree with ya there,” Angela said, wrinkling her nose in disgust. “I mean, I’ve seen some truly weird things on this job, but this? This is a step way beyond.”

“I don’t really see how this qualifies for being any more bizarre or disquieting than the usual,” Tempe said, grabbing a clipboard and beginning her usual evaluation. “I’m sorry I had to call you all in on Christmas morning, but the Institute wanted this taken care of immediately. Okay, so we have a male. Age?” she asked, looking expectantly at Zack.

“Um, indeterminate,” Zack said, a note of apology in his voice. “There are significant age markers in some of the skeletal structure, but calcification doesn’t seem to match.”

“So… old?” Booth said, his voice significant.

“Yes,” Zack said. “I just don’t know how old.”

“What about the analysis of the fibers from the scene?” Tempe said, directing her question to Hodgins.

“You’re… you’re really not going to like this,” he said, half-grinning. “They appear to be made of red flannel.”

“Why would that bother me?” she asked, frowning.

“The particular type of cotton plant this flannel comes from is extremely rare, in fact, extinct rare. It hasn’t been around since about 1400,” he said, “and the bits of white are polar bear fur.”

“Uh-huh,” she said, checking off something on her notepad. “Anything else?”

“Yeah,” Hodgins said, exchanging a look with Zack. “You tell her. Why should I have all the fun?”

“The fibers had a high concentration of fine particulates generally found from the release of wood particles via intense heat,” Zack said in a monotone that still betrayed some confusion.

“Are you telling me this guy was covered in…?” Booth began, only to be interrupted by Hodgins.

“Ashes and soot, head to foot,” Hodgins said.

“Tell me there’s no stump of a pipe in his teeth,” Angela said, sitting down on the railing surrounding the lab. “Really, say there wasn’t.”

“There was no buildup of tobacco-related deposits either in the lungs or on the teeth,” Zack said in what was almost a consoling tone.

“Right, so elderly male, dressed in antique clothing with soot stains,” Tempe said perfectly calmly, making one last mark on her page. “Cause of death?”

“Blunt force trauma,” Zack said. “Please don’t ask me what kind of object inflicted the trauma.”

“Why?” Tempe asked.

“Because they appear to be reindeer hooves,” he said in one very fast breath.

Temperance Brennan slid her gaze towards him slowly, her mouth hanging slightly open.

“Reindeer are not indigenous to the Washington D.C. area,” she said cautiously. “That’s very, very strange.”

“It’s only now that you’ve come to that conclusion?” Angela said, producing her sketch of the deceased… which strongly resembled a Hallmark card. “Seriously, Tempe, I knew we were in the land of weird when we find the note from the killer. This is just creepy, creepy frosting on the Christmas cake.”

Everyone glanced once more at the note, scrawled in red and green paint, that had been found next to the body: “How you like them reindeer games? This one’s for the misfits! R.”

“So, we’re all agreed this murder probably was perpetrated by a person with a Christmas obsession?” Brennan said, her face puckered in consternation.

“Either that, or Charlie in the Box finally got fed up and framed Rudolph,” Hodgins said with a giggle.

“I don’t know what that means,” Tempe deadpanned.

“Does anyone want to go out and drink eggnog until they’re very drunk… maybe eat a few cookies in tribute?” Booth said sadly.

“I’ll get my coat,” Angela said, closely followed by Hodgins and Zack.

Temperance Brennan looked after them for a minute, then shrugged before following them, muttering, “I don’t believe in the Judeo-Christian mythos of the season, but that doesn’t mean I can’t still appreciate cookies.”

When they came back the following day, the remains were completely gone. When the security cameras were checked, there seemed to be a glitch of about five minutes somewhere around midnight. However, as Hodgins, Zack, Booth, and Angela fiddled with the tape later, they realized that while the picture was gone, audio was still available. Unmistakably, they heard someone speaking.

“Ho! Ho! Ho! Oh, that little Rudolph is such a brat sometimes. Now, where did they put my spleen? Ah, there it is! Oh, ho, such nice boys and girls work here! That deserves something extra special,” said a deep voice.

Everyone stood still in amazement, staring at one another in shock.

“Did anyone else find a giant chocolate Santa on their desk this morning?” Angela asked timidly.

“Yup,” Hodgins and Zack replied in unison.

“Well, I guess you can’t kill the spirit of Christmas after all,” Booth said, smiling broadly.

“Guys, let’s not tell Tempe about this,” Angela said. “I think it might rearrange her universe an eensy bit too much.”

“Agreed,” Zack said, and after a moment, Hodgins reluctantly nodded in assent.

“Hey!” Tempe said, popping her head in the door, “Who put the chocolate Yuletide symbol of the old Norse god Odin in his guise as the giver of winter gifts in my office?”

“I’m assuming you mean Santa?” Booth said, giving her a look.

“Yes, well, if you want to use that term, it’s not incorrect,” she said, shrugging. “So who was it?”

“No idea,” Zack said, patting her on the shoulder as he went past.

“Got me,” Angela said innocently, following Zack.

“Government conspiracy?” Hodgins suggested as he quickly went after Angela, hoping a stray bit of mistletoe was still hanging around the lab.

Tempe glanced at Booth, who smiled, shaking his head.

“Just enjoy, Bones,” he said. “For once, don’t question it.”

“Fine,” she said as she walked beside him towards the door, “but I do have one question.”

“What?”

“What exactly is a Charlie in the Box?” she asked as she flipped off the light.