Monday: March 12, 2029
7:50 AM; CLINSTONE, THE AUSTEN-TAYLOR HOUSEHOLD, GARAGE
Jensen pulled open the back door of the car, Pollux on his hip.
“Hello,” Police Chief David Quinn’s voice greeted through the BlueTooth in Jensen’s ear.
“Hiya, morning, Dave,” Jensen said, leaning into the car to set Pollux in his car seat. “I don’t mean to be a dick and spring this on you, you know, ten minutes before I’m supposed to be at the station, but I don’t think I’m gonna be able to make it in today.”
David remained silent for a moment before asking, “Is he okay?”
“He’s, well, you know. He’s Bo. It’s hard to have a good answer to that one,” Jensen said honestly. “He’s had a hard couple days, weeks, something, and he’s still asleep at the moment. I could come in if you absolutely need me, but…”
“But you don’t wanna leave him at the house alone,” David finished for the younger man. “It’s fine, Jensen. Bo needs you, and you’d be way too distracted to get anything done here anyway.”
“Thank you. You can, uh, put me down for on call. I’ll answer the phone if I gotta. I just don’t want him wallowing in… in whatever all by himself,” Jensen said.
“I get it,” David assured. “Are you planning on bringing the boys in for daycare? Or are you keeping them there with you guys?”
“Well, after I drop off the girls, I’m planning on swinging by the station to grab a few things. The boys are with me now, but I think I’ll be keeping them at home after that. Easier that way, I guess.”
“Sure, whatever you need.” David cleared his throat. “I’ll see you in a little bit, then.”
“Sure thing, Dave. See you in a few.”
8:25 AM; CLINSTONE, THE AUSTEN-TAYLOR HOUSEHOLD, BREAKFAST NOOK
Bo lifted his head as he heard footsteps behind him. He pulled out one of his earphones, closing his eyes as Jensen wrapped his arms around his shoulders. “Hi,” Bo greeted.
“Hi,” Jensen said softly. “Figured you’d still be asleep.”
“Hati woke up shortly after you pulled out of the garage.”
“Sorry. I was gonna make her go outside before I left, but you two looked pretty comfy,” Jensen said.
“Mm.” Jensen turned his head to the side, kissing Bo’s cheek. “So… what’re you doing?”
“Waiting for her phone and laptop to get enough of a charge in them that I can turn them on,” Bo said. “I still don’t know what, exactly, I’m planning on looking for, and I don’t really think I’ll find much of anything, but having something to focus on is a hell of a lot better than having nothing at all to keep my mind from wandering.”
“Of course, baby.” Jensen closed his eyes, resting his forehead on Bo’s shoulder. “What if you don’t find anything and it turns out it’s definitely a suicide?”
Bo let out a heavy breath. “I don’t know yet. I’m still thinking going back to L.A. for a few cases would be the best option. The girls’ spring break starts this Friday, and if nothing turns out by then, I can hold off on leaving until Friday so we can all be in L.A. together.”
“Okay,” Jensen said softly. “Can you make me a promise?”
“Mm… presumably. What’s the promise?” Bo asked.
“Don’t work too hard on this. Take breaks, sleep more than an hour a night, eat regularly… Just be healthy and safe, okay?”
“Promise.” Bo reached back, laying a hand on the side of Jensen’s head. The blonde turned just enough to kiss Jensen. “I love you. You might have to remind me to take a break or to eat. My mind and body aren’t exactly working together to alert me of that kind of thing at the moment.”
“Sure, Eli.” Jensen pushed himself away from Bo, clearing his throat. “Just remember that, umm, that not finding something on this girl isn’t the end of the world. It’s a suicide. It seems sketchy. I know that, but we both know how this turns out.”
“I know,” Bo said quietly. “It just feels like something I still have to do. Just in case. Even if it’s just because I need something irrational to cling to.”
“I know, baby.”
Bo turned in his chair, crossing his arms over the top of it. “Thank you for calling my absence into the station. David texted me to let me know, and… and that’s appreciated. I don’t know if I could’ve worked up the sheer… sheer energy to do that today.”
Jensen offered a smile. “My pleasure, Eli. Really.” He looked back over his shoulder at the sound of Pollux’s excited screech. “I should, uh, probably see what the hell they’ve found.”
Bo chuckled softly, nodding. “Go on. I’ll be here.”
“After her phone charges,” Jensen as he walked out of the room, “we’ll go to the park. I’d rather you be obsessed with that outside than inside.”
“Sure, Jens!” Bo called after him. He figured Jensen’s plan was for the best anyway. Being outside was better for his sanity and overall feelings about the world than keeping himself cooped up in the house. Even he knew that; he just didn’t like to admit it often.
With a sigh, Bo turned back to the table. He reached out, holding his finger against the power button at the top of Martha Fraser’s phone. One corner of his mouth lifted as the screen lit up.
Bo stared at the device for a moment before pushing his chair away from the table and rising to his feet. The phone would be at full charge in half an hour, if the age and model were anything to go by. The same could be said for the woman’s laptop. He’d spend half an hour with Jensen and the boys. They’d go to the park afterward. Then, and only then, would the blonde allow himself to get lost in a case that didn’t even exist.
9:00 AM; CLINSTONE, RIVERVIEW PARK
Out of the three parks in Clinstone, Riverview was Bo’s favorite. It was close to the house, close enough that one could see it just by looking out one of the windows on the east side of the house. It had the safest play equipment, thanks to donations from the adults in town. Overall, it was the most peaceful to Bo. Between the rustling of the trees and the soft sounds of the Rock River and the stream of cars driving through East Main Street, it was calming.
Almost calming enough to make him forget that, just under four years ago, a woman had been beheaded and dumped in the very River he sat beside, washing up in Trojan Park Baseball Field just across the way.
Bo shook his head, ridding himself of the thought. That had been a real case. The Bonekeeper had been a monster. That had all been real.
Martha Fraser, not so much. The two didn’t relate, and allowing the two cases—if he could even call the Fraser girl’s death that—to cross paths in his mind was a rather dangerous path to take.
Jensen squatted down beside Bo, holding a cup of coffee out to him. “I’m gonna go push Dorks One and Two on the merry-go-round. Holler if you need anything,” he said.
“Okay,” Bo said quietly. He pressed a kiss to Jensen’s jaw, grabbing the cup from him. “Thank you.”
“Sure thing, Eli.” Jensen patted Bo’s thigh, scratching the top of Acamas’s head before pushing himself to his feet. Bo watched Jensen head to the merry-go-round, where Castor and Pollux were already giggling, impatiently waiting for their father’s return.
Bo sighed, smoothing a hand over Acamas’s back. He sat Indian style in the grass, the cat curled up in his lap. Hati, however, stood in the river, barely going in far enough that the water covered her paws. In general, the dog hated water. Today, she clearly felt adventurous, just not too adventurous.
Bo reached back and pulled his satchel closer to himself. He flipped back the flap of it and pulled out Martha Fraser’s laptop. He opened it, flipping the keyboard back to rest on the backside of the screen. He tapped the login screen and, once the keyboard popped up on screen, type in the name of the young boy Martha Fraser had shot and killed.
The screen unlocked, opening up to her home screen instead. A picture of the boy’s face greeted Bo. He frowned, resting the device on his thigh. Martha definitely felt guilty about the boy’s death. There was no doubt in the blonde’s mind about that particular aspect of the woman’s life.
She had killed him three years ago. How long had it taken her to feel guilty? To realize that it was clearly her fault that a parent had lost their child far too young?
Bo scratched the top of Acamas’s head, his brow furrowed. The cat purred, nuzzling his palm. He opened up the laptop’s user settings and, after messing around for a while, he found what he was looking for.
A month ago, she had changed her password to the dead boy’s name. A month ago, right around the same time she had been diagnosed with depression. Bo raised an eyebrow, tapping the small letter X at the upper righthand corner of the screen. He touched a finger to the yellow folder on the toolbar and opened up Martha’s downloaded pictures.
He clicked the one of the dead boy’s face, the one she had set as her desktop background. Under details, he checked the date it had been downloaded to her computer. Unsurprisingly, that had also been a month ago.
With a soft sigh, Bo opened up Martha’s internet browser and opened her search history. He went back a month in the feed, carefully scrolling through each site and link she had visited the day she’d downloaded the image.
Nothing. Nothing that led back to an image, anyway.
She had, however, opened her email right around the time she downloaded the image. He tapped the email, opening the message in a new tab. The boy’s face stared at him from the dead woman’s email inbox.
Bo cleared his throat, skimming over the subject header of the email.
Martha Fraser Found Not Guilty Of Murdering Young Boy
Bo raised an eyebrow, his blue eyes shifting to the first line of text beneath that, the only other text on the screen.
Most people at least pretend they feel guilty after killing an innocent child for no reason other than being unable to control themselves, Martha. Maybe you should give pretending a shot.
Bo tapped the email at the top of the page, the email address that belonged to the sender of the image.
He leaned up just enough to pull his phone from his pocket. He unlocked the screen and swiped to his second screen, opening up one of the many apps that resided there. Glancing back at the email, he typed the address into his phone and waited.
The address came up inactive, and, according to his phone, it had been that way since the day it sent Martha the email. When it had been active, however, it had belonged to someone who had kindly given themself the first name MarthaFrasher, last name EatShit.
“Subtle,” Bo murmured.
Proof of a homicide? Definitely not. Proof of harassment, a harassment running so deep she had thrown herself off a building to get away from it all?
5:39 PM; CLINSTONE, THE AUSTEN-TAYLOR HOUSEHOLD, KITCHEN
“Oh, hello,” Bo greeted as Jensen wrapped his arms around the blonde’s waist. “What can I do for you, love?”
“Why don’t you let me take over, here?” Jensen asked.
“I think I can manage to cut up some vegetables, Jens.”
“No doubt. I just…”
“If I was going to be any risk to myself here, I’d have already done it,” Bo said quietly. Still, he set the knife down on the counter and turned to face Jensen. “There. All yours.”
“Thank you,” Jensen said as Bo moved to wash his hands. The blonde offered a simple nod. “I know you don’t want me to, but I worry about you.”
“I know, love. There’s nothing wrong with that, Jens. I just… Well, I don’t much like being reminded that I’m a bit broken.”
“Depression doesn’t mean you’re broken,” Jensen said. “Just means you need help, someone to talk to, someone to listen.” Bo rested his hands on Jensen’s stomach as the taller man caged him against the counter. “I’m a real good listener, Eli.”
“I know,” Bo whispered. He wrapped his arms around Jensen’s neck as he lifted him onto the counter. “I’ll talk. Ask whatever you want.”
“Mm.” Jensen pressed a kiss to Bo’s forehead before pushing himself away from the blonde. “What’d you manage to find out at the park?”
“It looks like she started feeling guilty about the murder a month ago, give or take.”
Jensen nodded, turning on the water in the sink to wash his hands. “Right around the same time she was diagnosed with depression, then?”
“As far as I can tell, yes. Her computer password is the boy’s name, her desktop background his face. The picture was downloaded a month ago, the password was changed a month ago.”
“So… something set the sudden change of into motion.”
“Right.” Bo crossed his ankles, wrapping his hands around the edge of the counter. “I traced her download history back to an email. Someone had sent her a picture of the boy. That’s why she saved it.”
“Someone harassing her?”
“Definitely. The email address itself was created for the sheer purpose of tormenting her. The sender’s name?”
“MarthaFraser EatShit. First and last name. And then they deleted the account after they sent the email so she couldn’t do anything about it,” Bo said.
“Think it’s someone related to the boy? The parents? A sibling gone rogue?”
“Well, I dug through that when I found the first email. I’m sure that are many others, as well, but I didn’t exactly get that far,” Bo said. He cleared his throat, scratching his thigh. “I tracked the IP address of the computer that was used to send the email with the picture of the boy.”
“Well, it took a while, but I traced it to Hong Kong. When I tried to access it, I got boxed out of it. Encrypted files and numbers, to put it… as simply as I can at the moment,” Bo said.
“So… best guess?”
“I don’t know.”
“Make an educated guess,” Jensen insisted.
Bo looked down at himself, forcing his hand away from his thigh and back to the counter instead. “My best guess—as it stands, it’s only based on the little bits I gathered today, but there’s certainly more to go through tomorrow—is that this person isn’t from Hong Kong. I don’t think it’s a family member of the boy. I think it’s someone with computer and-or hacking experience. It’s someone who knows what they’re doing.”
“Someone that can ping off an IP address anywhere they want,” Jensen said.
“Why would some random person harass the hell out of some random woman?” Jensen asked. He cleared his throat. “Besides the fact that she… killed a kid, I mean.”
“I don’t know. That’s what tomorrow’s for,” Bo said. “I don’t know how long it’ll take me to figure this out, but it’s a case in my book, even if it’s not a textbook homicide, and I’ll drive this damn thing into the ground if I have to, but I’m going to figure out who our sender is.”
Jensen smiled softly, leaning over to kiss the blonde. Bo laid a hand on Jensen’s cheek, closing his eyes. “I love you, Eli. I’ll be right there with you the whole damn time,” he said.
“I love you, too. A–and thank you.”
“My pleasure, Eli.”
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