8:19 AM; CLINSTONE POLICE DEPARTMENT, DETECTIVE SERGEANT JENSEN AUSTEN-TAYLOR’S DESK
Bo approached his husband’s desk, stopping behind the empty chair in front of it. Detective Ryan Jass sat in the other chair, talking. “We fought for, like, an hour,” Ryan said.
Jensen raised an eyebrow. “Seriously? Because you left an empty milk jug in the fridge?” he asked.
“Ah, because she left an empty milk jug in the fridge. She was pissed because I wouldn’t take the blame for it,” Ryan corrected.
Jensen laughed, shaking his head. “That’s what you get for dating a chick, Ryan.” Ryan rolled his eyes as Jensen lifted his gaze to Bo’s face. He smiled. “Hey, babe.”
“How made would you be if I went to L.A.?” Bo asked.
“For how long?” Jensen questioned.
“I’m not sure yet. There’s a case there, and Beverly can’t handle. It’s far too gruesome for her,” Bo said.
“You got a picture?” Jensen asked. Bo nodded, handing his phone over to the younger man. “Jesus Christ.”
“Yeah,” Bo said simply. “Jamal called me and asked if I wanted to help with it. I said I’d ask you,” he said, grabbing his phone as Jensen held it out to him.
“It’s totally up to you,” Jensen said after a moment. “When would you leave?”
“Pretty much as soon as I call Jamal back.”
Jensen let out a low whistle before offering a shrug. “If you wanna go, go. Jake and Alice can always help if I need anything for the kids. Hell, so can Cecilia and David. Minus the fact we’ll both sleep like shit, I’ll be all right,” he said.
“You’re amazing.” Bo leaned across the desk and kissed his husband. “I’m going to run home, say goodbye to the kids. I’ll be taking Acky with me, but I’ll leave Hati with you. Umm… oh, my report from the scene is down in the lab. As far as I can tell, not a homicide. Death by extreme allergies, though,” he said. “I’ll bring it up for you before I leave, and then you two can go home and enjoy a day with family instead. Okay?”
Jensen smiled faintly. “All right, babe. Sounds good. Hey, good luck. Call me when you get to L.A.”
“I will. I love you.”
“I love you, too, Eli.”
10:02 AM; LOS ANGELES INTERNATIONAL AIRPORT, LOBBY
“Hey, kiddo,” Jamal greeted, pulling Bo into a hug as soon as he set his things on the ground.
“Hey, Jamal.” Bo closed his eyes for a moment before stepping away from the older man. He lifted his camera case back over his head, adjusting the strap against his shoulder. He picked up Acamas’s pet crate and nodded toward the door. “We should going, yeah?”
Jamal nodded. “Of course. It’s nearly a half hour drive,” he said, turning around. Bo followed him through the airport. “Now, this case is… is temporary. You can head home whenever you’d like. I’ll find someone to take over for you as soon as you want to leave.”
Bo snorted. “Are you kidding? Do you know how long it’s been since I started and finished a case in this damn city?” he asked.
“Quite a while. Before, umm… before Katherine and prison,” Jamal said.
“Bingo. This could be fun, not to mention a nice change of pace.” They walked outside, where Frank immediately pulled open the back door of the car. “Thank you, Frank.”
“Of course, Mister Austen.”
Bo slid into the car, setting Acamas’s crate near his feet. Jamal sighed before climbing in after him. “It’ll suck being away from Jens and the kids, obviously, but that doesn’t mean I don’t want to be here.”
Jamal smiled faintly, patting Bo’s knee. “Good. Thank you.”
“No problem, Jamal.”
10:31 AM; LOS ANGELES, BRENTWOOD, BEVERLY PARK DRIVE
Bo stepped out of the car, quickly followed by Jamal. The two men ducked under the yellow tape and headed for the crime scene, where two detectives and Dallas were waiting. “Dallas,” Bo greeted.
Dallas nodded. “Hey, lab geek,” he said with a smile.
Bo held out a hand. “I don’t believe we’ve met yet. I’m Bo Austen-Taylor, forensics.”
The woman shook his hand first. “Detective Katalina Lopez.”
The man flashed a smile as he shook Bo’s hand, “Luca Roth.”
Bo nodded, silently committing both names to memory. “Well, it’s good to meet you both. I apologize for making you all wait this long for some pictures and evidence collection,” he said.
“Hey, nothing like working on a good tan, huh?” Luca asked.
Bo snorted, stepping back far enough to set his camera case on the grass. “I suppose there is that,” he agreed. He assembled his camera and locked the flash into place before straightening himself back out. He let the camera hang around his neck as he pulled on a pair of gloves. “Have you identified him?” he questioned.
“Archibald Knight, according to facial recognition,” Dallas said. “Matched him with his driver’s license.”
Bo nodded. “Do his folks know he’s dead yet?”
“Good,” the blonde murmured. “When we get him back to the morgue, I’ll clean him up so his family can come in for identification and questioning. Jamal?”
“Is this their case, then?” Bo asked.
“You two will either love working with me or absolutely hate working with me,” Bo said, tilting his camera to the side to snap a picture of the bloody corpse.
“Why’s that?” Katalina questioned.
Dallas scoffed from behind the blonde, crossing his arms over his chest. “Because he’s a fucking pain in the ass,” he said.
Bo nodded. “Because of that,” he confirmed.
“Where does the love part of this equation come in?” Luca asked.
“He also makes your job about a thousand times easier,” Jamal said. “Thank me later.” Bo rolled his eyes, squatting down beside the victim’s face for a much closer angle. “He’ll also pretend he isn’t a genius. You’ll tell him he is, and he’ll deny it.”
“Because he’s a pain in the ass,” Dallas added.
“Exactly,” Jamal agreed.
“He’ll only offer you a theory after you’ve ripped it from him. It’s like pulling teeth. He doesn’t want to tell you unless he can confirm it with one hundred percent certainty, but if you push hard enough, he’ll finally give in and offer a theory,” Dallas said.
Jamal nodded. “That’s an especially fun quirk. Have fun with that,” he said. He reached down, touching a hand to Bo’s shoulder. “I gotta run back to the station. Frank will drop Acamas off at your house, and you and Dallas can ride back to the station together,” he said. “All right?”
“Okay. Thanks, Jamal,” Bo said.
“No problem, kiddo.”
“The killer would’ve been straddling him,” Bo said, standing up. He shifted, stepping over the body so one foot rested at either side of the victim’s hips. The toes of his shoes rested in the partially-dried pool of blood at his feet, but he didn’t mind. He’d already photographed that, and he had plenty of other shoes to wear. “The killer would’ve been on their knees right about here,” he said, squatting down over the body.
“Will you be able to get a height?” Dallas asked.
“Possibly. Presumably,” Bo said. He snapped a picture of the victim’s chest, of what was left of his ripped shirt. “The blood spatter on the throat here?” he questioned, taking another picture.
“That’s not from the actual wound. It doesn’t match. The spatter wouldn’t have come in at that angle,” Bo said.
“The heart was pulled from the chest,” Luca said. “Could it be from the killer holding the heart over the guy?”
Bo cocked his head to the side, one corner of his mouth scrunched up in thought. “It’s certainly a good theory, but I think not. That’d be much closer to a ninety-degree angle than this is. This is closer to… eighty or so. I’ll take measurements and give you that one for certain,” he said.
“What else could it be from?” Katalina asked.
“Any number of things.”
“I’m not sure,” Bo said dismissively. He stood up, stepping over the body once more. He dropped back into a squatted position, snapped a picture of the man’s left hand. “The knuckles are torn and bloody. The palm is bruised,” he said. He leaned to the side, peering over at the right hand. “Same can be said for the right hand,” he added, lifting his camera for a picture.
“Which means?” Luca questioned.
Bo lifted his blue eyes to the man’s face. “What do you think it means?” he asked.
“Umm… he fought back?”
“Definitely a possibility,” Bo said quietly. “The bruises are, best guess, from the killer’s knees. Mister Knight probably tried to hit the killer and the killer didn’t want to risk a transfer of prints or DNA, so they pinned his hands beneath their knees instead. It keeps him from hitting the killer, and it keeps him from squirming too much.”
“It keeps the chest still,” Katalina said.
“Bingo. Or, at least, as close to motionless as possible without him being dead,” Bo said. “The initial cut of the skin would’ve most likely been done with a scalpel, but with the deep tearing of tissue, it’s incredibly hard for me to say that for certain. I can do my best to replicate in the lab, but… it won’t be easy, nor will it result in a result we can hold ourselves to,” he explained. Luca lifted his helpless gaze to Dallas’s face.
“He can do his best, but we’ll never be able to say for certain that a scalpel is what the killer used. The cuts are too rough for that,” Dallas clarified.
“What about the sternum?” Luca asked.
“Mm…” Bo leaned down, his camera between his face and the victim’s chest. He took a picture of the bone. “Definitely a bonesaw. I should be able to use the kerf marks there to figure out more details about that. Blade length, blades per inch… that kind of thing.” He rose to his feet, tilting his camera back to rest the lens against his shoulder. “How many people have been in this scene?” he asked.
Luca glanced up briefly before his gaze fell back to Bo’s face. “Six, counting you. There were police officers around here at the beginning, but they were just taping off the large perimeter and putting up roadblocks,” he said.
Bo nodded, turning as he scanned the area inside the taped perimeter. “So… has anyone found a phone or iPod around here? Any kind of listening device? Something for music?” he questioned.
“No,” Katalina answered. “Why?”
Bo bent down, pulling a pair of bloody earphones from the corpse’s jacket pocket. He let them dangle from his fingers, cocking his head to the side. “They’re bloody. If they were in his pocket the whole time, they wouldn’t be bloody or spattered. He was wearing these when he was attacked. The killer put them in his pocket. So have we found anything one would use to listen to music?” he asked.
“No,” Dallas repeated. “There was nothing here. I walked the area on my own. There’s nothing here,” he assured.
“Hmm.” Bo frowned, gesturing toward his camera bag. “Evidence bag, please? Front pocket.” Luca jogged across the way and grabbed a bag before coming back to stand in front of Bo. The blonde dropped the earphones into the bag, watching Luca seal it. “Well, we know our killer likes to take trophies, then. Phones or… something similar,” he said.
“It could still be on,” Dallas said. “We could try tracking it,” he added.
Bo nodded. “It’s worth a shot. You two should head back to the station and see if his phone’s on. If not, see where the GPS last pinged,” he said. “Dallas and I will wrap things up here.”
Luca nodded. “Yeah, of course. You want me to take this with? Or leave it with you?” he asked.
“You can set it on the grass by the camera bag,” Bo said. “Thank you,” he added as Luca walked away from him.
“No problem, Austen.” Luca lifted a hand in departure. “See you at the station.”
“Of course,” Bo said with a nod. He offered a small wave to Katalina as she walked past him. “How long have they worked here? I was just here last month,” he said.
“January,” Dallas said. “Jamal promoted them in January. You haven’t actually been at the station the times you’ve come back, Sherlock. That’s why you don’t know them,” he reminded.
Bo snorted, nodding. “Of course. Valid point.”
“How’re the kids?” Dallas asked as Bo squatted down, sticking a gloved hand into the jogger’s other pocket.
“Good. Cas is officially at the stage in life where he wants to throw a temper tantrum every time someone breathes, but we’re working on remedying that,” he said. Finding nothing in the pocket, he pushed himself back to his feet. “Pollux is a little more mellow at the moment. Jens says it’s because he hasn’t quite hit his terrible twos.”
Dallas chuckled. “Yeah, that’s definitely a period of time I’ll never miss,” he said, shaking his head. “Toddlers are the worst, in case you hadn’t figured that out on your own yet.”
“Oh, believe me, I most definitely have,” Bo said. He moved, snapping a picture of the jogger’s shoes. “Did you happen to take a body temp when you arrived?” he asked.
“Yuh-huh. We’re looking at a TOD of sometime between three and four this morning,” Dallas said.
“And that’s why I miss working with you. Always on your game,” Bo said.
Dallas chuckled. “Kinda picked that up from working with you for so damn long, Blondie.”
“I know. Point stands,” Bo said. “I’m going to take a few more pictures here and walk the perimeter just to make sure nothing was missed. Would you like to call in the coroner so we can get the body moved back to the morgue?” he asked.
Dallas nodded, pulling his phone from his pocket. “Will do. I’ll be at the tape. If you need something, holler,” he said.
“Will do, Dal.”
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