12:42 PM; CLINSTONE, LITTLE DELIGHTS DINER, PARKING LOT
Bo leaned back against the car, an arm crossed over his chest as he brought his cigarette back to his lips, his elbow resting against the crossed arm. He inhaled deeply, closing his eyes briefly. It was relatively warm that afternoon, and with most of the snow melted, most wouldn’t even know they were in Minnesota.
Bo was thankful for that.
Of course, it didn’t change the fact that he was in jeans, one of his heavier flannels, and a beanie, but that was just because he spent most of his days being cold, even standing directly in the sunlight.
He blew a puff of smoke out of the corner of his mouth, flicking the cigarette to the ground as Jensen walked out of the diner. Bo ground the toe of his shoe into it, offering a smile once Jensen stopped in front of him. “Hi.”
“Hey.” Jensen handed the bag of food to Bo and leaned down to kiss the blonde’s forehead. “Doing okay?”
“For at least the next hour,” Bo said quietly. He nodded toward the car. “Station or park?”
“Station?” the younger man suggested. Bo nodded, reaching back to tug open the passenger side door. “I had a minor breakthrough while you were ordering food.”
“Before or during the smoke break?”
“During,” Bo said as he slid into the car. He shut the door, watching Jensen round the car and climb into the driver’s side. “I think I figured out the part of the equation I’ve been missing on the coding for the application. No matter what I’ve done so far, it keeps getting stuck after about two pings.”
“So what do you think you’re missing?” Jensen asked.
“In all honesty? I’m pretty sure I left out the X variable on the equation,” Bo said. “Or, at least, on one of the equations. With the way my mind’s been functioning, it doesn’t surprise me that the most obvious mistake would glare at me for hours upon hours before I realized it,” Bo muttered.
“Hey, now. No need for the self-hate, baby. You’re tired or you’re having… a hard time,” Jensen said, his voice soft. “It’s understandable that you might miss something. Now you just have to fix it.”
“I suppose.” Bo let out a breath. “Thank you,” he added, clicking his seat belt into place.
“No problem, Eli.” Jensen fastened his own seat belt and started the car. “Do you love me?” he asked as he backed out of their parking space.
“Maybe. What do you want?”
Jensen chuckled. “Can you get me my fries?” Bo opened the bag on his lap and grabbed the small container of fries, promptly handing it over to Jensen. “Thanks, babe.”
“Mmhmm.” Bo leaned back in his seat, resting his hands on top of the bag. “I was reading some of the emails this… person sent to Miss Fraser.”
“I thought you weren’t going to do that.”
“I wasn’t, but I’m not always… great at following my own rules,” Bo said. “There are a couple emails where the sender told her to kill herself, that she deserved it, that she didn’t deserve to be on this earth anymore. She was a monster, and she needed to rid the world of herself. That’s involuntary manslaughter. That’s what I needed.”
“That’s good, Eli.” Jensen laid a hand on Bo’s thigh. “Be careful reading those, okay?”
“I will. I don’t think I’ll read any more of them for a little while. I want to worry about finding the person responsible first. A lawyer can worry about the emails,” Bo said.
“Good.” Jensen cleared his throat. “You can, uh, hate me for this if you wanna, but I scheduled us a trip to the spa when we’re in L.A.. You need a good massage and some nice… nice lavender influence to help mellow things out, even if it’s just for a bit. You can be mad about it, if you want to, but you can’t cancel it.”
“I’m not about that. I think it could be nice,” Bo admitted. He squeezed Jensen’s hand. “Thank you.”
“Sure, thing, babe. Your mom and dad already agreed to watch the kids for us. Mekhi and the others will, you know, stand guard and whatnot. Everyone will be safe. I hate leaving them alone for a couple hours, but if it helps you relax or feel better…”
“Yeah.” Bo cleared his throat. “I’ll just tell Mom and Dad that the guys are keeping guard for Jamal’s benefit because he worries. They don’t need to know there’s any kind of threat.”
“Right,” Jensen said quietly. “What do you think’s gonna happen after you find out who this person is? I mean… with you, not the case.”
“I don’t know. One less thing to worry about. One less thing on my plate,” Bo said. “But after that, I don’t know. There’s this, there’s neutralizing this threat on us, there’s the vigilante, there’s Wilkinson’s pain in the ass situation, there’s taking over for Jamal… There’s a lot of things to wrap up and deal with.” He scratched his head. “But I’m going to work on me and I’m going to work on… on the depression and the bad days and the self-hate issues. I’m going to work on all of that through everything else. I just, you know, need help.”
“That’s what I’m here for.”
“I know, Jens. It’s appreciated.” Bo lifted Jensen’s hand, pressing a kiss to his palm. “After I find out who this harasser is, I’ll dive a little deeper into self-improvement. Until then, there are other things to worry about first.”
“Okay, Eli. I’ve got your back no matter what. You know that, dontcha?” Jensen asked. Bo nodded. “We’re gonna get to L.A. a little before six tonight. Mom and Dad’s for supper, kids are spending the night there, and then we take Hati and Acamas to the house before we go visit Jamal, get the rundown on the threat, okay?”
“Okay.” Bo let out a sigh, closing his eyes. “You’re a lifesaver. You realize that, don’t you?”
“I do my best, Eli.”
5:53 PM; LOS ANGELES, THE AUSTEN HOUSEHOLD, FOYER
Bo offered a smile as his mother pulled open the front door. “Hey, Mom,” he greeted.
“Hi, baby.” Renee looked down as she hugged Kayla and Amber. “Grandpa’s in the kitchen. You two wanna go see if he needs anything?”
“Sure, Grandma.” Renee waited until bo set Castor down before she tugged her son into a hug. “You look tired.”
“Been a long week, Mom,” Bo said, wrapping his arms around her. “I’ll get some sleep tonight, though. It’s okay.”
Bo pulled back, grabbing Castor’s hand. “We’ll be in the kitchen.”
Renee’s eyes snapped to Jensen’s face as soon as her son left the room. “Mind telling me what’s actually going on?”
Jensen smiled, bouncing Pollux up on his hip. “I love you, Renee, but Bo’s business isn’t mine to share,” he said. “He’s okay. He’s just, you know… going through a rough patch. He has bad days like everyone else.”
“Bo’s bad days are a little more important to me than everyone else’s bad days,” Renee said.
“I know. But he’s okay,” Jensen assured. He handed Pollux over to the woman. “I’m gonna grab the animals from the car. Don’t worry too much, okay? He just needs some time to relax. So this? This is good for him.”
10:06 PM; SAN DIEGO, THE PITMAN ESTATE, MASTER BEDROOM
“Hey, kiddo,” Jamal said as Bo walked into the room. “How are you?”
“I’m fine,” Bo said off-handedly. He sat down on the edge of the bed, leaning back to give Jamal a soft hug. “How’re you?”
“Healing.” Jamal cleared his throat, glancing up at Jensen before his eyes fell back to Bo. “We have the drug dealer for Robinson in custody in a safe house across town. He’s been beaten, cut, stabbed, tortured… You name it. He’s not breaking. We have nothing so far. Truthfully, and unsurprisingly, he seems to like pain more than hate it.”
“We don’t have anything to use against him? No family? Money? Anything?” Bo asked.
“We’re trying, but nothing’s sticking. Parents died when he was in young and he went into a group home. Ran away when he was fourteen and lived on the streets. He’s been in and out of gangs, but there aren’t any outstanding relationships there.” Jamal laid a hand on his chest, clearing his throat. “I’ll be honest with you, Bo. I was ready to give Phoenix the okay to kill the guy. He’s useless to us.”
“You’re one hundred percent certain he’s useless?” Bo asked. “You know for a fact that nothing can come from this guy?”
“I’ve interrogated a lot of people, Bo,” Jamal reminded.
“You’ve been in the hospital and in this bed. You haven’t been to this interrogation,” Bo said.
“Been watching it.” Jamal leaned over and grabbed a tablet from the nightstand. He handed it over to Bo. The blonde set it on his lap, eyes on the screen. A beaten man sat in a chair, hands behind his back, ankles tied to the legs of the chair. Phoenix came into view, a gun in his hand. He was talking, but with the video muted, Bo wasn’t certain what, exactly, was being asked of the man.
The beaten man spit at Phoenix’s feet, earning him a quick strike of the gun to his already swollen face.
The man only laughed.
“Have you tried not hitting him?” Bo asked.
“Yeah, then he tells knock-knock jokes,” Jamal said, grabbing the tablet.
“Did he have a cell phone with him?”
“Disposable. He only had it for a couple days when we picked him up. No incoming or outgoing calls or texts,” Jamal said. “The only actual bit of information we’ve gathered from him is that they don’t talk often. Once a week at the maximum, usually less.”
“A very ineffective way to run an organization of any kind,” Bo said quietly. As Phoenix hit the man again, he set the tablet aside. “It only protects the queen of the hive. Everyone else is at risk of being snatched and killed without issue.”
“I know. It’s irresponsible to his men.”
“Does he have surveillance on them?”
“Not that we’ve seen. As far as we can tell, he’ll only know this dumbass is missing when he calls and doesn’t get an answer.”
Bo shook his head. “If I had to guess, Robinson leaves them voicemails. He doesn’t want to talk directly to them, give them a chance to speak to him. He’s their king. Their peasants. They don’t have the right to talk to him.”
Jamal considered this for a moment before nodding. “It’s certainly possible.”
“That being said, unless you prominently display this guy after killing him…” Bo trailed off, offering a shrug. “All we have to do is wait for the hive to call his soldiers to the house. We get a voicemail and an address, and we barely have to lift another finger.”
Slowly, a smile spread across Jamal’s face. “I love you, you little shit.” Bo rolled his eyes, looking back at Jensen, who only smiled at him. “Frank?”
“Give Phoenix a call. Tell him our man’s useless,” Jamal said.
“Of course, sir.” Frank nodded at Jensen as he walked out of the room, pulling his phone from his pocket.
“I know you’ve got a lot going on, Bo, but this? You’ve got taking over me in the bag. You’re a lot better at this kind of thing than you’ve ever given yourself credit for,” Jamal said, patting Bo’s thigh.
“Thank you,” Bo said quietly, eyes on the screen as Phoenix shot the beaten man. His head snapped back before falling to his chest. Bo turned away from the screen as blood dripped to the concrete floor in the safe house.
It wouldn’t be long before he was in charge of the lives of Jamal’s men. He could only hope he was better by then. He never wanted to be the man hiding in his base, letting his men stand in the line of danger every single day just so he could remain invisible.
It was better to live life like Jamal, hide the evil in a respectable job. Everyone knew who he was, knew what he did, what he was known for.
But no one could prove a single damn thing.
Bo hoped for the same.
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