Monday: February 22, 2027
8:50 AM; CLINSTONE POLICE DEPARTMENT, DETECTIVE SERGEANT JENSEN AUSTEN-TAYLOR’S DESK
Ryan leaned back in one of the chairs in front of Jensen’s desk, holding his coffee cup on his thigh. “Think he has a job?” he questioned.
Bo nodded. “Unless he’s somehow on government assistance, he’d need one. It can be assumed that he buys at least one drink for the women, and if not for them, he definitely buys himself one.”
“Wouldn’t that impair his ability to choose a woman?” Jensen asked.
“It depends on how much he drinks and how often he drinks,” Bo said. “Buying the drink doesn’t necessarily mean he drinks it, either. It just means he has one in hand. He’s in a bar full of drinking. Not having a drink could make him appear out of place, make it easier for someone to pick him out of a crowd and remember him,” he explained.
“Hold a drink so he doesn’t stick out like a sore them,” Jensen said.
Bo nodded. “Right. If he sticks out, a bartender or a patron recognizes him when they’re questioned. ‘Oh, the guy that didn’t drink all night? Of course I remember him.’ It’s dangerous and stupid. He wouldn’t dare allow himself to make that mistake,” he said.
“Can we look at credit card records of some sort?” Ryan asked.
“Not without any suspects. We don’t even have a person of interest at this point,” Bo said.
“We couldn’t get a warrant,” Jensen clarified. He cleared his throat, smoothing a hand over his tie. “No evidence, no suspects, no people of interest, no solid profile. Nothing. He’s invisible to us, a ghost. We’ve got one guy sitting in prison for shit he didn’t do, and we’ve got the real killer running around in the world doing shit we can’t control.” He let out a heavy breath. “Where do we go from here?”
“My offer still stands,” Bo said. “I start rifling through old records.”
“Can you do it with an algorithm?” Jensen asked.
“Mm… not easily, no. There are far too many variables to create one that will do a good enough job of it. One wrong letter or number, and we miss an entire town or county. It’s safer to do it manually,” Bo said.
Jensen shook his head. “I don’t like that.”
“Well, neither do I, but it’s either this or nothing at all.”
“We’ve got four kids to raise. You already don’t get enough sleep,” Jensen said.
“Look, umm…” Ryan cleared his throat. “I don’t know how your marriage works or who gets to decide what because you’re both men or whatever, but… but isn’t it his choice?” he questioned. “As long as he’s there for your family, does it matter what he puts his free time into?”
“No, but I’m still his boss, and this is still my case,” Jensen said.
“As your partner, I’m going to suggest we let him do whatever he wants if it means progressing your case,” Ryan said.
“And as your husband, I’m going to go ahead and remind you that I’ll do it regardless of your answer,” Bo said.
Jensen drummed his fingers against his desk before pushing his chair back. “Fine, whatever. Do it.” He pushed himself to his feet, grabbing his coffee mug from his desk. “But don’t come crying to me when you feel like you’ve got too much on your plate.”
“Deal.” Bo watched him walk away before looking back at Ryan. “Thank you.”
Ryan nodded. “No problem. Does, uh… does he always try to control you like that? Pulling the ‘I’m the boss’ card is kind of a dick move, isn’t it?”
Bo chuckled softly, lifting his shoulders. “If someone else pulled that card on their spouse, yes, it’d be wrong. But Jensen knew me when I was in a very fragile place, and, uh, and he knows it’s easy for me to slip back into that kind of emotional state. It’s the easiest to get back to a dark place when I have too much on my plate. He’s trying to protect me, that’s all.”
“So you don’t mind it?”
“Not at all. I appreciate it, honestly. Normally, I’d side with him on the matter, as well, but I haven’t solved a case of multiple homicides since before our boys were born. I need a win,” Bo said.
“The solves make you feel useful,” Ryan mumbled. “Right?”
“Mmhmm. Jensen knows that. He just, you know, doesn’t appreciate the self-destructive methods I use to go about getting a solve,” Bo said with a chuckle.
“He should give you more credit. If you’ve been raising four kids, working a full-time job, and doing… doing whatever the hell you two do in your free time, I’m sure you can handle this.”
Bo snorted. “If you had seen me when I was drinking my life away, you’d think otherwise,” he said simply. He took a sip of his coffee and cleared his throat. “I’d say that ninety percent of the time, he knows exactly what a situation is going to do to me. Pulling the boss card to try and protect me from myself is… highly appreciated, even if I’m going to ignore it.”
Ryan shook his head, pushing himself to his feet. “He knows you’re a jackass, right?”
“Yes. We both are, and we’re both aware of it.” One corner of Bo’s mouth lifted. “It’s a mutual understanding, to say the least.”
Ryan rolled his eyes. “Coffee. You wanna a refill? I’ll pour you another while you start digging up house records.”
“That’d be great, thank you.”
“No problem, Bo.”
4:19 PM; CLINSTONE POLICE DEPARTMENT, PARKING LOT
“So… you haven’t spoken to me since this morning,” Bo said, buckling Castor into his carseat. “You were entirely silent during lunch.”
“What do you want me to say?” Jensen questioned.
“I don’t care what you say. I just want you to stop brooding,” Bo said.
“All right. I’m concerned that your idea to spend all waking hours on this manual search is dangerous to you, your mental state, and your general health.” Jensen lifted his shoulders. “That’s all I need to say, and I’ve already said it.”
“That’s appreciated, Jens, but just a little bit of faith in my self-control and stability would be nice. If my own husband can’t find a way to believe I’m not stable, no one else will believe it, either.”
“Well, I don’t mean it that way, and you know that,” Jensen said.
“The point stands,” Bo said. He leaned out of the car, shutting the door. “I love you, and because I love you, I understand why you say and do certain things. I know why you think I shouldn’t do it, and I’m okay with that. But now that you know I’m going to search for it, I’d appreciate just a bit of support. I have to manage my time between the records search, four kids, three animals, normal housework and chores, and anything else that may pop up. The smallest hint of support here could help a lot, Jens,” he said.
Jensen’s expression softened. “I know. I’m sorry.”
Bo shook his head. “You don’t need to be sorry, Jens. Just no more silent treatment, okay?”
“Sure, Eli.” A hand on the blonde’s face, Jensen leaned down to kiss him. “I love you,” he whispered.
Bo smiled. “I love you, too.” He patted Jensen’s chest, taking a small step back. “Come on. We have kids to take care of and homework questions to answer.”
The younger man snorted. “Sounds good, babe.”
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