Dallas endured Bo’s silence for nearly an hour before Mister Richardon finally came out with the security footage they needed. The drive back to the police station had been silent, as had the walk through the parking lot, and Dallas followed Bo all the way to the stairs before the shorter man stopped and turned to face him.
“You don’t have to come with me.”
“Do you want me to?” Dallas asked.
“I don’t much care either way. It’s up to you.” Bo turned and headed down the stairs.
Letting out a harsh breath, Dallas followed him. “What’re you going to do?”
“Check to see if we have a match with the DMV’s records.”
“If we do, I will give you that name.”
Despite the words sounding condescending, Bo managed to speak them in the same way he said everything else. They were matter-of-fact and far from being a way to look down on Dallas. It was an odd balance to walk, but as far as Dallas could tell, Bo seemed entirely unaware that it could be taken another way by someone looking to be offended.
“You wanna watch the security footage with me?” Dallas asked.
“If you feel you need a partner for that, yes, I will watch the footage with you.”
“Do you… enjoy watching them?”
Bo unlocked the lab and opened the door. After flipping on the light, he answered with a quiet, “Yes.”
“Sweet. You wanna watch it down here? That way you don’t have to be upstairs with the Saturday day shift?”
“If you would like to do that, we can.” Bo set his camera bag on the floor and lifted his satchel over his head, setting it on the table. “I apologize for involving myself in your life. It won’t happen again.”
“You didn’t do anything wrong by asking questions, Austen. I’ve been sleeping like shit for over two weeks. You asking questions and writing at the same time just… set something off in my head.”
“It’s not your fault I haven’t been sleeping, either. You didn’t do anything wrong. You have nothing to apologize for, not to me.” Dallas set the security footage on the counter, hanging back to give Bo as much space as he wanted. “You were asking about avier, not me. Were you trying to figure out if you were both awkward for the same reason?”
Bo glanced up at him. “Yes.”
“Were you… abused?”
Bo cleared his throat. “My biological parents were far from fans of being ‘blessed’ with an… above average child. As I recall, my mother is the only one who ever physically laid a hand on me.”
“She beat you for being smart?” Dallas asked. Rather than responding, Bo lifted his shoulders. “I’m sorry, Austen. I mean, that…”
Okay, compromise. We kill Austen’s mother, Ed suggested.
Might take you up on that one. “I’m sorry you went through that, Austen. No child deserves any of that.”
“You and your brother know that first hand.”
“Yeah, guess we do.”
Finally, Bo’s silence in Mister Richardson’s lobby made sense to him. He hadn’t wanted an apology. Hell, he probably hadn’t even considered himself worthy of one, since he had seen himself as the problem. Instead, more than likely, silence had been his way of avoiding conflict with his biological mother. Bo’s awkwardness was amplified anytime he opened his mouth, and if his biological mother had already hated him, speaking would’ve made it worse. Bo’s silence was his coping mechanism, his submission to end the abuse, to end the situation he didn’t want to be a part of.
Dallas made a mental note of that. If Bo’s silence lasted for any prolonged period of time, it was because he needed an escape from the conversation or situation he had found himself in.
“So… DMV,” Dallas said.
Bo nodded. “Let me check the computer.”
Bo cleared his throat. “The… the computers are upstairs. I’ll be back in a moment if you’d like to stay here.”
“I’ll stay here. Unless me coming with better fits your pattern.” Bo simply shook his head. “Okay. I’ll be here.”
Hands tucked behind his back, Bo stepped past him. For the first time, Dallas let himself truly take in the lab. The damn thing was spotless, immaculate. Every item on the counters and tables seemed to be in their designated place, straight and lined up against the wall. The floor was free of dust or dirt, despite how many times Bo must have walked into the lab straight from an outside crime scene.
Dallas occupied himself with nothing but Ed’s pleas for murder for nearly twenty minutes before Bo came back, a single piece of paper in his hand. He gave it to Dallas and walked back to the table at the other end of the room.
Dallas shook out the paper. “Robert Sawyer, twenty-two years old. Jesus. He started doing this symbolism shit when he was pretty damn young.”
“So… if it’s a cult–you know, if that’s the theory we hypothesize on here–he’s definitely not the leader of it.”
“ ‘Definitely’ is a strong word in regards to such a hypothesis. Age isn’t an end all, be all situation. The main aspect in regards to leadership is, in all honesty, charm. One must be considered charming by others before they can lead a cult of people toward a unified belief. After that, so long as the charm exudes confidence and promise of great things, people will flock, and they will follow.” Bo cleared his throat, shifting his weight between his feet. “Though… I will agree that it’s unlike he’s the leader. It’s doubtful he’d be the only cut-up corpse on the beach if he was their leader.”
“Like the Jonestown guy, yeah?”
Bo nodded. “Yes. If the leader must go down, they all do.”
Dallas set the paper on the counter and reached up to adjust the strap of his sling. “Security footage, then?”
“We can watch it together if you’d like to, but you should alert his family of his death first.”
“Yeah, not a bad call.”
Bo nodded toward the counter. “The paper I gave you includes his last known place of residence. With his age, there’s a relatively good chance that residence belongs to his parents.”
“Good place to start, if nothing else.” Dallas grabbed the paper. “Did you, uh, ever attend a notification of death with your favorite officer?”
“I’m afraid not. I’m no more experienced in that than you are.” Bo shifted uncomfortably. “I can still go with you, though, if that’s something you would prefer.”
“That’d be appreciated, Austen.”
Bo nodded. “Will you give me a moment to mark the security footage as evidence before we leave?”
“Yeah, of course.” Dallas grabbed the tape and took it over to Bo. “Record whatever you need to. I’m gonna stop by my desk and grab my notepad. So I’ll just wait for you up there?”
“That’s fine with me.”
“Great. I’ll meet you up there when you’re ready to go.”
Dallas took a step back, clearing his throat. “Hey, uh, look, I don’t wanna overstep, but… if you don’t wanna sleep here tonight and you can’t sleep in an empty house, I’ve got a couch you’re more than welcome to. You know, until your analyst gets back.”
Finally, Bo met his gaze. It was brief, but Dallas was certain it had happened. “What would you expect in return?”
“You to drop the ‘Mister’ you’ve started putting in front of my name.”
“I appreciate the offer. I… will take it into consideration.”
Dallas smiled. “Works for me. Take your time, and I’ll be upstairs till you’re ready to head out.”
“And then where?”
“Hopefully the parking lot.”
A faint smile tugged at one corner of Bo’s mouth. “I would agree with that plan. I won’t be long.”
Dallas gave him a two-fingered salute and walked out of the lab. He figured Bo would never realize it, but not immediately rejecting Dallas’s offer was damn good progress. Maybe finding something more on the ‘common ground’ scale had helped.
Or he senses we’re monsters and totally wishes he were dead. He just wants us to expedite the process, Ed said.
Or, he senses that you’re an asshole, and he’s going to do us all the favor of killing us both.
Ed only laughed his response.
Dallas walked up the stairs of Robert Sawyer’s last known residence, Bo a good two or three feet behind him. Dallas let out a harsh breath before knocking on the door. It wasn’t long before a woman opened it. She eyed Dallas, gaze settling on his badge for several seconds before her gaze shifted to Bo.
Finally, her eyes lifted to Dallas’s face. “Can I help you?”
“Hello, ma’am. I’m Officer Silver from the LAPD. This is the last known residence of Robert Sawyer. Do you, by any chance, know him?”
“I-I’m his mother.”
“Miss Sawyer, I’m very sorry to tell you this, but your son was found dead yesterday morning.”
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