Temperance Brennan stood at the entrance to the U.S army base outside Baghdad. Her brown hair blowing in the breeze, she waited, poised behind a particularly enigmatic reporter who seemed to have been trying to arrange a meeting she didn’t have the clearance for. The feisty blonde, who’s bright features never seemed to tire was determined, Temperance would give her that; only when it was absolutely clear that pushing the matter was going to move her away from her objective did she concede. One could only assume the story she was looking for was the one Temperance had been called in on. She agreed to her scheduled interview with public relations and proceeded onwards.
Slightly irritated that the journalist’s persistence had cost her valuable minutes and she was bordering on late, Temperance walked up to security and flashed her credentials: “Dr. Brennan, forensic anthropologist. I’ve been called in to consult”. The guard gave her badge a purposeful scan, handed it back to her and waved her through the gates.
As she entered the base, she was relieved to be removed from the heat, temporary as it was. The Iraqi weather was a double-edged sword. On one hand, it was hot enough to demand short sleeves and shorts, yet its wind and frequent sandstorms made these clothing choices undesirable. She’d been prepared regardless; as a recognized and trusted forensic anthropologist, it was not the first time she’d examined human remains in a Middle-Eastern country. She’d received a call from General Richards requiring her skills to solve a particularly delicate case. From what they told her, the body had been found inside the grounds of the base, but only just. They needed to know both who the body was and how it got there in order to plan their next move.
She walked through the doors and a soldier led her down the hall towards the back of the base. It soon became clear, however, that the air-conditioned interior of the base would provide only a brief reprise from the sweltering heat outside. She was led out the rear entrance to a convergence of personnel a few meters away from the door. The army physician waved her over. Temperance took a breath and joined those circling the remains: a partially exposed skeleton, buried in the dry desert sand.
“Temperance Brennan, forensic anthropologist”, she flashed her badge as formality; these people invited her into their territory, they knew who she was. Still, protocol existed for a reason. She did her initial inspection of the body, checking for age, sex and any other visible identity markers. After a few minutes she concluded, “Victim appears to be a caucasian male in his mid-twenties. Body’s been exposed to extreme temperatures for at least a year, most likely more. Judging by the dental work, most likely of North American origins. Regardless, dental records should speed up the process of identifying the body,” she stated while one of the individuals surrounding the body jotted it down.
“Are you sure about that?” the General seemed unsure of her conclusion. Temperance was never amused with people who assumed she’d come to her doctorate by chance instead of study and drive.
“We’ve only been here six months, there’s no way it could be any of our men.” He seemed worried in the way one does when they are trying really hard not to appear so.
Temperance added, in the hopes of reassuring him “I haven’t concluded positively that it’s an American or a even soldier for that matter. I’d need further examination and dental records to verify identity without error,” her retort came out a bit brasher than it should have, and it was obvious.
“There is another addendum to this body, Dr. Brennan,” he explained apologetically. “Just prior to your arrival, we found these in the vicinity of the body,” he pulled out a baggie containing a set of army dog tags. Richards clarified “They were picked up to make a quick I.D, although with skeletonized remains we can never be too sure, which is why we called for a consult.”
“Which means you are now trying to solve a murder and a disappearance,” the anthropologist clarified.
General Richards gestured for her to follow him as he walked towards his office, “It also means we have to handle this with the utmost discretion. I don’t know who this body we have was, but I’d rather be sure before we alert any media or authorities.”
- - - - -
Hannah Burley was used to dry heat. This was just another of many days in the sweltering Iraqi sun. After getting into a heated debate with the security officer at the entrance to the base she had been assigned, she finally went inside to wait for her scheduled meeting with their “this is what we want you to know” guy. Where she was, in fact, still waiting. Her afternoon was becoming a tad more interesting than usual. She’d known something was different when she’d arrived at the base: she could make out personnel scurrying to attend to some commotion happening just outside her line of vision. She thought it was just one of those army experiences she could add to her correspondence to give it some reality. Something that wasn’t planned and given to her in direct, policed, statements.
She gauged by the fact that she’d just seen a woman walk towards the supposed commotion, regal and most definitely not dressed for the army, this was a lot more than just some occasional staple of life in the war. From what she could pick up with her handy eavesdropping skills: there was a body somewhere in the vicinity, and she was pretty sure she wasn’t supposed to know about it.
Sitting still when there was a story waiting to be discovered was never her forte. Hannah was built for journalism. She was a stubborn individual; she’d persist through sweat and tears to find the truth. Despite knowing what she should do and was allowed to do, she’d purse it regardless of “classified”.
The consultant, who Hannah assumed was a medical examiner, exited the general’s office.
“I will be back tomorrow. I’ll need a suitable place to work in and a way to contact the Jeffersonian,” she said as she turned towards the exit. The reporter smiled, she respected a woman who could hold her own in the world of men. Heck, it was one of the reasons she chose this assignment. To prove to the world she could do the same.
Hannah made a split second decision and jumped up to follow the woman. The PR guy was busy, she had no idea when her meeting was going to happen and she wasn’t going to miss this opportunity to find out more.
“Excuse me,” Hannah paused, unsure of how to address the person in front of her.
“Dr. Temperance Brennan” the woman corrected her.
“Dr. Brennan, why does the army need to consult with a medical examiner? Isn’t the army equipped with a physician that can work in that capacity,” she questioned.
Temperance Brennan, as the reporter had guessed wasn’t one for modesty and revealed more than she had probably intended “I’m a forensic anthropologist, what I do is much more specialized than the duties of an army physician or even a regular medical examiner.”
So the body was more of a skeleton. Hannah had previously worked on a story involving the identification of unknown remains and was familiar with what the profession’s object of study. The question now was why Brennan needed a thirty-minute meeting with the General.
“What did General Richards have to tell you?” Hannah asked feigning innocence, hoping to get a bit more out of the doctor.
“That’s a confidential matter, Ms.?” Now it was Dr. Brennan’s turn to ask something of her.
She smiled with a twinkle in her eye “Hannah Burley. Pleasure to meet you. That’s fine. I was just wondering if I could aid in any capacity, I’ve been covering this general area since the war started.” She took her notepad out of her bag and scribbled down her name and contact information. “This is where you can reach me if you need help at all,” Hannah handed over the piece paper and started walking away.
“I doubt I will” Brennan replied pocketing the paper.
“I’ll see you around” Hannah answered smugly.