Hodgins didn't think twice. He ran after Angela. He had to make sure she was all right. He had never seen her so upset before. Who could blame her? Hodgins hoped he never met Epps in person. He'd be tempted to punch his lights out, just for today.
Angela stood in the corner of his lab. Hodgins could tell she was fighting back the tears. "You okay?" Immediately he knew that was the dumbest thing he could have asked.
"Okay? Okay?" Angela repeated. "A demented serial killer sends me a human heart as part of his twisted revenge game and you wonder if I'm okay?" Hodgins winced. Maybe he should have phrased a little more delicately. "Maybe everyone else in this place can just shut off their emotions on cases, but I can't!"
"And we wouldn't want you any other way," Hodgins admitted. At least she had her fighting spirit back. That was a good sign. When she looked up slightly flushed, he continued. "No, really, I mean it, Ange. You keep us unfeeling jerks in line. Whenever you show us the faces of these victims, you remind us why we should care about a pile of bones, why we should dig a little harder for the truth."
Angela smiled, "You can be really sweet sometimes, you know that?"
"Don't tell anyone," Hodgins grinned, "I'd hate for it to get around."
"Hah, you don't fool me anymore, buster," Angela said. "I know under that hardened cynic lies the soul of a frustrated romantic. You've got the biggest heart of them all around here."
"Doesn't make what I said less true," Hodgins ducked a little at the compliment. He did wear his heart on his sleeve, especially where Angela was concerned. He didn't think she noticed though. "We'll find this bastard, Ange. We just have to decipher his clues."
Angela rolled up the sleeves of her lab coat, "So how can I help?" He'd seen that determined look before, too. Usually he didn't argue with her, but in her mindset, he wasn't sure it was a good idea.
"Are you sure you're up to this?" Hodgins asked doubtfully. "No one would begrudge you if you weren't..."
Angela said, "I'll be honest, Jack. I wanted to run and hide the minute I heard Howard Epps was loose. I even planned to take some time off." Hodgins' panicked expression must have shown clearly on his face, because she patted him on the shoulder. "Brennan talked me out of it, because everyone needed me here more. What I want to do and what I need to do aren't always the same." She stared back towards the room where Saroyan and Brennan were examining the heart. "He wanted me to be scared. Instead he's made me angry. Angry at him for making me so sick to my stomach. Angry at myself for opening that package. What was I thinking? We know a madman's on the loose and what do I do? In this day and age, I should know better than to go open up strange packages."
Hodgins interrupted, "Hey, hey, you can't beat yourself up over this. You can't be paranoid over every little detail. That's my department, remember?"
"I am not letting Epps get to me," Angela said flatly.
"I'm just saying," Hodgins said, "it's a healthy human reaction to let it bother you. He makes all of us nervous. You don't see Cam walking around with this same confidence, do you?" Truth be told, none of them felt reassured or confident. After two different encounters with Howard Epps, all of the Jeffersonian forensic team knew exactly what he was capable of. Angela's package just raised the tension even further. His eyes softened. "I'm glad I know you're here. At least then I'd know where you were. At least I'd know you were safe."
"Didn't that little present today tell you anything?" Angela retorted. "None of us are safe, Jack, even in our own offices." She shuddered just thinking about the contents of that parcel. How could anyone do that to another living being? "He's trying to attack all of us, those closest to Brennan. They can put up as much security as they want and he'll still figure out a way to get through."
Hodgins shrugged, "He comes near you again and so help me I'll..." He trailed off, not wanting to finish that thought. "I'd still rather know where you were than not." He added. "Epps is a master manipulator. He knows how to push our every little psychological button."
"That news article might as well have given him a blueprint on how to strike at us," Angela replied. Hodgins winced, recalling how pleased the group was with the coverage. The archaeological departments scored a lot of public relations coups, so it was nice for them to get the attention for once. "I want to help. I want to do everything that I can to stop that maniac from striking again. The more we learn about his latest victim, the quicker I can give them a face."
"Then you can help me with his latest puzzle," Hodgins led her over to his computer screen. He explained about the bottle of bone dust Booth and Brennan had found at the pay phone. "Zach and I were doing an analysis on the fragments when we heard you scream. Zach pinpointed the victim's age, but he'll need to do more tests for more information about our victim. I'm more puzzled by these organic compounds Epps mixed into the bones -- cardamom, tamarind, and kokum."
"So he ground up the bone fragments with herbs?" Angela read over his shoulder. "That's weird."
"I've been wracking my brains to make the connection between the three of them." Hodgins said, "but nothing's coming."
Angela shrugged. "I don't know a medical one, but they're all spices used in curries."
"Indian food! Of course, I should have remembered that." Hodgins hesitated before leaving. "Will you be...?"
"I'll be fine, now," Angela offered a little smile. "Give Booth the information. And thanks."
Hodgins retreated back to the other lab where they were examining the heart. At least he knew Angela would be better now. Maybe not completely okay, but plenty strong enough to take on anyone.