Wednesday: August 30, 2028
3:07 AM; CLINSTONE, THE AUSTEN-TAYLOR HOUSEHOLD, KEEPING ROOM
Bo sat on the couch, leaning back against the armrest. Jensen sat in front him, leaned to the side and sound asleep on Bo’s chest. It was the second time the younger man had fallen asleep in a way that was uncomfortable for both of them, but the blonde didn’t mind. Jensen’s closeness and the uncomfortable pain in his back was much better than his husband being asleep all the way in the bedroom.
Jensen shifted, his arm sliding out from under his head and falling to Bo’s lap instead. Bo combed his fingers through the younger man’s hair, a book held in his braced hand.
Bo was beyond tired, but he couldn’t sleep, not yet. He wasn’t willing to risk further nightmares. Not of Bridget or Bernard or the killer they still had next to nothing on. Tiredness affected his focus and his attention span. It affected his ability to act happy or okay, but he didn’t care. Sleep just wasn’t in his cards for now.
And he would make that work, despite the toll it was already to taking on him. He needed to find the killer, needed proof or suspicion to bring in a good suspect. He needed more, and he’d do everything he could to help Jensen and Ryan find what they needed to bring someone in, to make an arrest.
He just couldn’t help but fear that it was something that would prove far too difficult. So far, there were no eyewitnesses that could help them identify a killer. No cameras in the house had caught a killer. Despite the fact that the family did, indeed, have a gaming console, the camera in the sensor was turned to face the back wall, leaving it entirely useless when it came to getting a look at the killer that had been in the damn living room.
That pissed Bo off, too.
Jensen cleared his throat, nuzzling Bo’s chest as one of his hands grasped at air. Unable to find anything to officially grab onto, he let out a soft sigh. Hati lifted her head from the floor to look up at her owners. Both nearly entirely still, she let her head fall back to the floor.
Bo lifted his hand to flip a page in his book before resting it on Jensen’s back. The younger man made a sound of near appreciation that made Bo smile, even though he was in a mood that was far from happy.
Still, Jensen had a way of making him feel happy, even if only for a little while, and even when he was sound asleep. Bo appreciated that.
But it didn’t change the facts that he had laid out in front of himself. It didn’t matter if he was asleep or awake, tired or well-rested, at home or at the station, reading a book or watching a movie. It didn’t matter. There was a killer in Clinstone, a killer that liked slitting throats and raping young girls.
Those were the facts, and Bo could do absolutely nothing to change them.
5:45 AM; CLINSTONE, HILLCREST MOTEL, ROOM 107
“All right, I gotta go for work. Checkout is at seven, and then you need to be back at the house for the electrician,” Miley said. She pressed a quick kiss to Oscar’s forehead. “Make sure you eat something for breakfast. I’ll text you to make sure you eat. Umm… I think that’s it.”
Oscar chuckled, reaching back to squeeze her hand. “I’ll be just fine on my own, babe. I’ll eat,” he assured. He nodded toward the door. “Go on. I don’t want you to be late.”
“Good call.” She patted his arm. “I’ll see you tonight, enjoy your research, don’t work yourself too hard.”
“Same to you, Miley. Don’t overwork yourself.”
“I’ll do what I can, hon,” she promised as she headed for the door.
8:06 AM; CLINSTONE POLICE DEPARTMENT, LAB
“You know,” Jacob said as he walked into the room, a cup of coffee in his hand, “I wish you’d just try to sleep through the night. Even just a few hours is better than nothing.”
“You’ve seen me much tireder than this,” Bo said, stirring the spoon through his coffee.
“No, I’ve seen you run on much less sleep than this. You seemed more awake and alive then. You didn’t have four kids and a husband back then,” Jacob said. “You’re tired as hell. Why can’t you admit that?”
“I can admit it. I am tired. But I can’t sleep,” Bo said.
“I’d rather not suffer the nightmares that come from… from all of this,” Bo said. “Not right now. I can’t handle that right now. Maybe tonight or tomorrow or the day after that, but right now, I just can’t.”
Jacob sighed, setting his cup on the counter. “When was the last time you slept?” Placing his hands on the counter behind him, he lifted himself onto it.
“Mm… I’ve been awake since around eleven forty-something on Sunday,” Bo said.
“Jesus Christ, Bo.”
“I’m managing,” Bo said. “I’m drinking water and eating healthy and going to the gym. Between, you know, way too many cups of coffee during the day, I’m staying healthy. I’ll sleep through an entire weekend when this is all over. I’ll catch up on it whenever I can,” he promised.
Jacob shook his head. “I know you’re all about being irritating and a total jackass, but the lack of sleep is unhealthy.”
“I saw you sitting on your deck at two this morning. You didn’t sleep, either,” Bo said. “Don’t call me out if you know you have bullshit I can call you on, too.”
The lieutenant offered a smile. “What can I say? You’re like a little brother. I gotta worry about you,” he said.
“I’ll be okay, Jake,” Bo promised. “I just need time to… to wrap my mind around all of this first. After that, I’ll get some sleep.”
“How about I buy some steaks tonight and grill ‘em up? We’ll cut up some veggies for Castor, maybe a potato, too. Does he like potatoes?” Jacob asked. Bo nodded. “Sweet. We can grill out again. It’ll be simple, basically no cleanup needed afterward. Then, you know, we can all just relax and forget about this for a few hours.”
Bo glanced up for a moment before nodding. “Yes, I… I think we’d all like that. But it has to be my choice of veggies.”
“Deal.” Jacob took a long sip of his coffee as Bo’s eyes fell back to his laptop. “We’re gonna catch this guy, Bo.”
“And… and we’ll do it before anyone else gets hurt.”
“Well, I don’t know about that one, Jake. That’s a damn hefty promise,” Bo said.
“I know,” Jacob said quietly. “But we’re gonna do our damnedest to make it happen. Right?” he asked.
Bo lifted his blue eyes back to the lieutenant’s tired face. Jacob needed the reassurance just as much as the blonde did. So, Bo nodded. “Right,” he confirmed.
11:30 AM; CLINSTONE POLICE DEPARTMENT, LAB
Bo looked away from his laptop as his phone dinged with a text, momentarily silencing his music. He unlocked his phone and opened up the text from Cecilia.
Cecilia: Dominic’s not the monster you made him out to be.
Bo: I didn’t say he was a monster.
Cecilia: You did too!
Bo: I said he was a killer. The case I’m working now? This killer is a monster. Mister Wilkinson is not. He’s just a killer.
Cecilia: But you were still mad when you found out I’d be defending him?
Bo: Yes, because you promised me you’d never defend anyone that I had helped put in jail.
Bo: Still, I’ve given you the keys to my home and you’re currently staying there. Quite obviously, I’m relatively okay with it.
Cecilia: Are you okay?
Bo: Define okay?
Cecilia: Are you… you know, thinking about things the way you were after the Hunter?
Bo: Jupiter, no.
Cecilia: Well, that’s good, I guess.
Cecilia: What’s wrong then?
Bo: This case is, well, terrible. The guy’s a monster.
Cecilia: So you haven’t been sleeping again.
Cecilia: Jesus, Bo.
Bo: Well, you know how I get. Hard cases take their toll on me. A lack of sleep’s a hell of a lot better than spending my nights trying to drink myself to death.
Cecilia: Only slightly. Getting behind the wheel sleep deprived is the same as getting behind the wheel wasted.
Bo: It can have the same effects on a person, yes. It’s why Jensen’s still driving ninety percent of the time.
Bo set his phone down as a woman walked into the lab. “Good morning,” he greeted, pushing himself to his feet. “Is there anything I can do for you?”
“I just figured it best to come down and introduce myself.” She crossed the room and held out a hand. “Emilia Buchanan. I’m the acting chief while Mister Quinn is out of town.”
“Oh, yes, of course. Bo Austen-Taylor, forensics.” Bo shook her hand. She was rather tall, somewhere around Jacob’s six-foot stature—and that was without the heels she was wearing. Her name sounded vaguely familiar, but Bo was far too tired to place it. He released her hand, tucking his own behind his back. “Well, I appreciate you coming down here. That’s… very professional of you.”
Emilia flashed a one-shade-away-from-perfect-white smile. “It’s what I aim for,” she said. Her eyes scanned the lab as she tucked her thumbs into the pockets of her dress pants. “Very clean in here.”
“I do my best to keep it that way,” Bo said.
She nodded. “That’s good.” She turned back toward him, her smile soft enough that it didn’t show any teeth. “We’re going to get along just fine, Mister Austen-Taylor. It’ll be a pleasure to work with you.”
Bo offered a tired smile. “You, as well, Chief.”
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