Hacker – Chapter Twenty-Six

NOT EDITED

Chapter Twenty-Six

7:02 AM; CLINSTONE, THE AUSTEN-TAYLOR HOUSEHOLD, MASTER BEDROOM

Bo’s eyes fluttered open in the half-dark, half-light state of his bedroom. His mind felt foggy, his body tired. His brow furrowed as he looked down at the hand on his chest. His heart raced. Jensen was in San Diego with Jamal, the kids, and the animals.

Oh, Jupiter, what have you done? Bo wondered. He shoved the hand away from him, drawing a groan out of the man behind him. He tossed the covers back and climbed out of bed. He reached out and turned on the bedside lamp.

“Christ.”

Jake?”

“Who the hell did you think it was?” Jacob asked, rolling over to grab his glasses. He sat up, clearing his throat as he slid them onto his face. “Are you okay?”

“Just… just coming down from a panic. Give me a second.” Bo let out a heavy breath, crossing his arms over his chest. “What’re you doing here?”

“You called me, Bo.”

Bo uncrossed his arms and looked down at his bandaged wrist. “Oh,” he whispered. “Did you call Jensen?”

“No, that’s not my place. I just stayed here to make sure you were okay.”

“Thanks.” Bo sat down on the bed, scrubbing both hands over his face. “Are they deep?”

“No. You… X-ed out your bird, though. Said it was a sad bird and didn’t deserve to be with the others.”

“Ah,” Bo whispered. “I remember now.”

“What happened, Bo?”

“Silence went to my head, I think is the best way to describe it. And then I was going to take a shower, but Jensen’s razor was on the counter.” He raked a hand through his hair. “I called Alice and Celia and David first. No one answered, Jake. I tried so hard, and then I dropped my phone, and picking it back up and calling anyone else was just… too much.”

“I’m sorry, Bo.” Jacob squeezed Bo’s shoulder. “What’re you gonna do today?”

“My algorithm should be done tracing the IP addresses on the emails sent to Miss Fraser. I don’t imagine they’ll all be spot on, so I’ll be narrowing it down, looking for the ones that are the most likely, looking for who’s been sending them.” Bo cleared his throat. “This person harassed her until she died, Jake. They’re sending emails to me, now. I’ve gotten two of them so far. I’m going to use those to help find them.”

“Jesus Christ, Blondie. Have you read them?”

“No, I promised Jensen I wouldn’t.”

“Good. Smart,” Jacob said quietly. “You should come to the station. You can sit in my office all day.”

“Okay.”

“I, uh, I’m going to clean out anything sharp in your bathroom. Then you need a shower.”

“Okay.”

“You just sit here, all right?”

“Sure, Jake.” Jacob patted him on the back as he climbed off the bed. “Jake?”

“Yeah?”

“Thank you for coming over. I’m still a bit foggy, but I know I was at least a little bit of an ass. So… thank you.”

“You betcha. That’s what I’m here for.” Jacob patted Bo’s cheek before disappearing into the bathroom. Bo sighed, reaching out to grab his phone. He had two text messages, one from Cecilia, one from David.

Cecilia: Sorry, sweetheart! I was sleeping when you called. Are you okay?

Bo: I’m okay. Butt dial, my bad.

Bo let out a breath and opened David’s text.

David: Saw you called Celia and me last night. What happened?

Bo: Oh, you know me. Rough patch. I’m okay.

He sighed, opening his text message thread with Jensen. He stared at the last text he’d sent to Jensen, sent only seconds before he’d gotten on the plane back to Clinstone.

Bo: I’ll be safe. Promise. I love you so damn much, and I’ll see you guys really soon.

Bo’s shoulders fell. “There’s that losey P-word again,” he muttered.

“You say something, Bo?” Jacob asked as he walked into the bedroom.

Bo glanced down at the small bag in Jacob’s hand before shaking his head. “Just need to stop making promises I can’t keep.”

“No one can keep all of their promises, Bo. Life’s too hard to force yourself to adhere to that ideology,” Jacob said. He crossed the room and laid a hand on Bo’s shoulder. “You’re too hard on yourself. It’s okay if a promise falls through. You keep the ones that matter the most, brother. That’s all there is to it.”

“I always seem to break the ones related to my safety, my health.”

“We’ll work on that, okay? You just gotta realize you’re just as important as everyone else you’ve ever helped save, Bo. Your life matters just as much as theirs. You’re not less than them. You’re important, too. You just have to drill that through your thick skull first, and those promises about you? It’ll be a hell of a lot easier to keep them.”

“Thank you,” Bo whispered, reaching up to squeeze Jacob’s hand.

“You betcha.” Jacob nodded toward the bathroom. “You go on and get your shower started. I’ll be in the kitchen starting breakfast. I’m gonna make you eat something.”

Bo offered a chuckle, nodding as he sniffled. “Okay.”

“Holler if you need anything.”

“Okay.”

“And, uh, for safety reasons, don’t lock the door. Just in case,” Jacob said. Bo nodded. “All righty. See you in a few.”

9:37 AM; CLINSTONE POLICE DEPARTMENT, LIEUTENANT JACOB MASON’S OFFICE

“Umm… Jake?”

“Yeah?”

“I don’t have any of my stuff.”

“What do you need?” Jacob asked, lifting his head.

“Sticky notes and a pencil, and then I have some addresses I need you to run through the system for me,” Bo said.

“Sure, sure.” Jacob pulled open a drawer and grabbed a notepad and a pencil. He held them both out to Bo. “I’m gonna run to Little Delights, get some more coffee. You want anything?”

“I could… use something. Umm, my usual?”

“You betcha.” Jacob pushed himself to his feet. “I’ll be back in just a few brother. I’ll shut the door behind me so no one will bother you.”

“Thank you.” Jacob nodded once, squeezing Bo’s shoulder as he walked past him. Bo let out a breath as soon as the door to the office closed again. His algorithm had narrowed the originating IP address down to one of twenty-one places. He hated the idea of having Jacob run them through the system, but the lieutenant had—thankfully—passed it off like it was truly no big deal.

All twenty-one originating addresses were around the east coast. The Hacker was definitely somewhere on the east coast. Bo was certain of it. A person could easily waste their time throwing the pings all over their world. Wasting their time to program so many of the originating pings so close to each other would have been pointless, and that was nothing but a mistake on their part.

Bo raked a hand through his hair before clicking the little button on the grip of the pencil, pushing out the lead another click. He would, with Jacob’s help, pin down the name of their hacker, and then, slowly, things would normalize.

He hoped, anyway.


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