Thursday: August 24, 2028
12:30 AM; CLINSTONE, THE AUSTEN-TAYLOR HOUSEHOLD, MASTER BEDROOM
Jensen leaned back against the headboard, Bo seated between his legs. Although the younger man’s eyes were closed, he was awake. Bo sat with his laptop balanced on his legs, adding the finishing touches to part of the speech Jensen and Jacob would give to the public later that morning.
Jensen’s arms tightened around Bo’s waist as the blonde closed the lid of his laptop. “All done?”
“For now,” Bo said quietly. He leaned to the side and set the laptop on his nightstand. “Are you tired?”
Jensen drew in a long breath, dropping his head to rest on Bo’s shoulder. “Probably.”
Bo smiled faintly, rolling his eyes. He pushed his fingers into Jensen’s hair, closing his eyes. “You need to sleep.”
“You do, too.”
“I know.” Bo turned his head and pressed a kiss to Jensen’s temple. He moved to the foot of the bed, allowing Jensen to move back to his own side of the bed. He folded the covers back and climbed under them, while Jensen tossed them to the end of the bed before laying down. “It doesn’t matter what you’re doing. You’re always messy,” Bo muttered, reaching down to tug the covers over Jensen’s shoulder.
The younger man chuckled. “Doing my best, Eli.” He turned onto his side, shoving an arm under his pillow. “There were… a lot of words in that speech you were typing.”
“Every single one of them is important,” Bo said.
Jensen nodded. “No, I know that. I just… What if I fuck it all up?”
“You won’t. That’s what Jake’s there for. You’ll both run through it together, and even that’s only after Connie looks through it. She’ll probably change a few parts, take out words, simply other parts… It’ll be okay,” Bo said.
“Why can’t you do it?”
“Because… this is the Hunter. This isn’t a killer that has it out for me or anyone I love. Me being on TV isn’t going to happen unless it draws the killer out, a–and that just isn’t the case with this one,” Bo said. “If I don’t need to be there to antagonize a killer, press releases are for David, Jake, and you to handle.” Jensen sighed, closing his eyes. “I know it sucks. But we all have a job to do. Yours is to help protect the people.” Bo brushed Jensen’s dark hair away from his forehead. “That includes getting this information out to them.”
“Is it really protecting them if it scares the shit out of them?” Jensen asked.
“The best way to protect a town of people is to scare them, in my experience. People aren’t cautious until they perceive a threat.” A pause. “Or, at least, the mass percentage of the population. Those that are paranoid or something similar perceive the world a bit differently than others,” Bo said.
One corner of Jensen’s mouth lifted. A hand on Bo’s cheek, he tilted his head up and pressed a kiss to the blonde’s forehead. “Fair enough. Fear is a pretty good driver. I know that.” Gently, he pushed Bo’s shoulder. “Sleep.” Bo chuckled, rolling onto his back. Jensen snuggled up against him, wrapping his fingers around the blonde’s shirt. “We’re gonna catch this bastard.”
“That’s… the hope, anyway,” Bo said quietly. “We’re going to do everything we can to get him before anyone else gets hurt. That’s the important part.”
Jensen nodded. “Of course. We’ll get him.” Neither man knew who they were trying to convince that it would be okay—themselves or their husband—but they both hoped for the best when it came to the case, and that was all they could ask for now.
8:01 AM; CLINSTONE POLICE DEPARTMENT, MEDIA LIAISON CONNIE LEE’S OFFICE
Bo rapped two knuckles against the open door and leaned into the room. “I’ve got a surprise for you, Connie.”
Connie Lee lifted her hazel eyes to Bo’s face, raising one perfectly arched eyebrow. “What’d you do?”
“Aww, come on, Connie. I have to do something wrong to talk to you?”
“Usually. What do you want?”
Bo chuckled, walking into her office. He held a thin folder out to her. “Key phrases and sentences that need to be in the press release Jake and Jensen will be delivering today.”
She stared at him for a moment before grabbing the folder and flipping it open. “You’re going to scare the hell out of the public with this, Bo.”
“That’s the goal.”
Connie sighed. “I gotta run this past Quinn,” she muttered, pushing herself to her feet. “You go busy yourself elsewhere, Austen.”
“Thanks, Connie. You’re a doll,” Bo said. She grunted her response as she walked past him. Bo adjusted the strap of his satchel on his shoulder and walked out of her office. He glanced over at Jensen’s empty desk before heading down the lab.
Jensen sat in his usual chair at the table, two cups of coffee in front of him, his phone in his hands. Bo smiled faintly as he walked across the room. He bent down and pressed a kiss to Jensen’s temple before sitting down beside the younger man. “You talk to Connie, then?”
“Yes. She’s going to show everything to David,” Bo said, lifting his satchel over his head. “Truthfully, I think she just wants him to agree with her that I’m totally crazy for wanting to scare the public, but I don’t believe she realizes just how much David backs me.”
Jensen chuckled. “I think most people here don’t realize just how close you two are,” he said. “Most people don’t know you knew him back in California.”
Bo nodded. “Fair point.” He pulled his laptop from his satchel and set it on the table. He opened the lid and tapped a finger against the power button. “Are you entirely sure nothing useful came of your interviews with the neighbors?” he asked.
“None of them had much to say. Nothing but what time they thought they heard the parents come home,” Jensen said.
“Do you know where the parents came from?” Bo asked as he typed in the password for his laptop.
“Some sort of summer vacation. The old lady across the street said they’d been gone almost three weeks,” Jensen said.
“They left their kids alone for three weeks?”
“They were old enough to be left alone. The parents took that opportunity and just… went for it,” Jensen said.
Bo shook his head. “Did you find out what kind of vacation they went on?”
“Nah. None of the neighbors knew. They went on trips a lot, I guess. Sometimes they took the kids, other times… they didn’t. But they rarely actually told the neighbors where they were going,” Jensen said.
“That’s what I thought.”
“They lived in a relatively small house. If they had that much money to throw around, they certainly weren’t flaunting it around the house,” Bo said.
“Maybe because they had to spend it all on their vacations,” Jensen countered.
Bo snorted, rolling his eyes. “I’ll look into their bills, see where they spent their money. If nothing else, a plane ticket will give us some sort of idea as to where the hell they spent three damn weeks.”
Jensen nodded. He set his phone on the counter, grabbing his coffee. He pushed the second cup closer to Bo with the back of his hand. “Maybe it’s because I prefer to be around you and the kids, but I don’t see where you could even spend three whole weeks without getting bored or wanting to just go back home. I don’t get it.”
Bo lifted his shoulders. “I don’t quite understand it, either. I mean… Bridget and I visited a lot of places here, went a lot of mini-vacations, but we were never gone for more than a week. Actually, we were rarely gone for more than a weekend. I suppose it depends entirely on the people. Maybe they just needed a lot of alone time.”
“Three weeks of alone time right before their kids were going to go back to school? So much alone time that they didn’t think it was weird that they hadn’t heard from their kids in almost a damn week?” Jensen said.
Bo sat silently for a moment, opening up the file he had saved the crime scene photos in. “I don’t know. It’s hard to know what they wanted or why they did things the way they did if we can’t ask them. And… we can’t ask. The best we can do is theorize and hope something has a smidgen of evidence to back up whatever claim we may make,” he said. He grabbed his cup of coffee, took a small sip. “Really, though? No one knew where they were going?”
“Asking the same question again and again isn’t gonna change the fucking answer, Eli,” Jensen said, swiping his phone from the table. “None of the neighbors knew anything. They were gone for weeks. That’s what I know. Stop asking.”
Bo stared at him for a moment before nodding. “Of course. My apologies.”
Jensen closed his eyes briefly, sighing. “No, I’m sorry. Just tired.”
“That’s also on me. So… further apologies.”
“Don’t,” Jensen warned. Bo only nodded. Jensen tapped his thumb against the side of his phone before leaning over to press a kiss to Bo’s temple. “I’m sorry.”
“I’m just tired and stressed. The last thing I wanna do is walk out in front of those reporters and tell them about all the terrible shit that happened to this poor family.”
“I know. It sucks,” Bo agreed. “But it has to be done if we want any chance of keeping people from getting themselves killed.”
Jensen inhaled deeply and let it back out in one big rush. “I hate this.”
“You and me both.”
Jensen rested his chin on Bo’s shoulder, green eyes scanning the laptop screen as Bo flipped through the pictures of the victims. “Why wait around for the parents? I don’t understand what would drive a killer to hang around the scene for a week just so he could kill two more people. It risks leaving behind evidence that wouldn’t have been there otherwise. Why take the risk?” he asked.
“Maybe… if the parents had been left alive, they would’ve been able to answer a question of our that would get him caught,” Bo said quietly. “I don’t know what that question would’ve been, but if that’s the case, he must’ve thought he had a damn good reason to hang around.”
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