Thursday: February 25, 2027
8:21 AM; CLINSTONE POLICE DEPARTMENT, LIEUTENANT JACOB MASON’S DESK
Bo sat down in front of Jacob’s desk, crossing one ankle over the opposing thigh. Although the lieutenant was in a meeting with David, Bo had decided to wait for him. He still had no news on the case, nothing of extreme importance, anyway. Truly, the blonde just wanted to talk to his best friend. Since Jacob and his family had moved out of Clinstone, the pair didn’t get to hang out as often as before. Bo was still adjusting the change.
Jacob walked into his office nearly ten minutes later, closing the door behind him. The lieutenant crossed the room, sitting down at his desk. He smiled. “Morning, Blondie.”
“Anything on the case?”
Bo shook his head. “No, not yet. Four names, but that’s it,” he said. “Today’s one of the days I’m only allowed to work through the records while I’m at the station. Jensen’s rules.”
“Good ones, though. Keeps you from overworking yourself.”
“So, what’s up?” Jacob questioned, pushing his glasses up on the bridge of his nose.
“Not much, really. I just wanted a chat with my bestie,” Bo said.
Jacob grinned. “I’ve known you for, what, seven fucking years and you’ve never said ‘bestie’ before?” he asked.
“What can I say? Your shortened terms for things are contagious after an extended period of time,” Bo said.
The older man laughed, folding his hands over his chest. “Well, you know. That’s what I’m good for.” He tilted his head to the side. “How’re the boys?”
“Good. Both of them are in the daycare now. Grayson was a bit fussy this morning but… he gets that from Jensen.”
Jacob snorted. “Not on an early riser?”
“Oh, he is. Just on his own terms.” Bo smiled faintly. “Also like Jensen.”
“Char was that way too. She’d sleep till, like, noon,” Jacob said. “Allie always said she got that from me. Lijah’d wake up at the asscrack of dawn and call it morning.”
“I mean, technically, that is morning.”
“I know that, you dick. You’re supposed to be on my side.”
Bo chuckled. “My bad. I’ll correct it, okay?”
“Sure, go for it.”
Bo nodded, clearing his throat. “At dawn? Man, your baby was an asshole.”
“Thank you!” Jacob exclaimed, smacking a hand against the edge of his desk. “That’s how you be a bestie.”
Bo laughed, rolling his eyes. “God, Jake, I miss being an idiot with you.”
“I know. I miss it, too,” Jacob said quietly. “I still wish Al didn’t work in fucking Chesterwick. Otherwise, we’d still live here,” he said.
“I could have Sullivan’s firm moved to Clinstone or Cliffburn. Hell, even to Stokely, if Alice wouldn’t mind the same drive time she has now.”
“You could not,” Jacob denied. His brow furrowed as his sapphire blue eyes locked on the blonde. “Could you?”
“Jamal has a lot of pull, jake. You know that.”
“Yeah, but not over Sullivan,” Jacob said.
“Well?” Jacob echoed. “What the hell’s that mean?”
“Jamal can snap his fingers and get a person thrown in jail. He does that by having control over the prosecution lawyers in each state,” Bo said. “For example, Adam Sullivan.”
“Pitman controls Sullivan?”
“Sometimes. Other times, Sullivan has free range over his practice and he’s allowed to run a case however he sees fit. Jamal tends to only pull stunts like that when it’s needed,” Bo said.
“So when Sullivan had you prosecuted, it wasn’t needed?” Jacob asked.
“Woah, that was different,” Bo said, holding up a hand. “Jamal didn’t have Sullivan under his thumb yet. He didn’t need him under his thumb until after my issue,” he said.
“If it weren’t for you getting arrested… Pitman wouldn’t have control over Sullivan?”
“No. He only needed control to make sure something like that doesn’t ever happen again,” Bo said. “He has control over the prosecution here, Kansas, Los Angeles, and New York.”
Jacob glanced up briefly before realization dawned on him. “The mob,” he murmured.”
“Yes,” Bo said after a moment. “It keeps a lot of issues silent. It’s better that way.”
The lieutenant nodded slowly. “I get that. Silently taking care of business is a thousand times better than shooting up a whole town to get one guy out of prison.”
“It’s good, though. It means things will be easier when you take over for him,” Jacob said. “Right?”
“Ah… you betcha.”
A smile tugged at one corner of Jacob’s mouth. “Good. I don’t want that shit to be hard on you. This is hard enough on me, and it’s mainly paperwork and meetings,” he said. “You’re still like my baby brother. I don’t wanna see you rundown again. It’s never pleasant to see, you know?” he asked.
“I know,” Bo murmured. He dropped his foot to the floor, leaning forward in the chair. “Secret time?”
“Related or unrelated?”
“Unrelated.” A pause. “Both, actually, I suppose.”
Jacob nodded, glancing at his closed door. “Go ahead.”
Jacob cleared his throat. “Yeah?”
“I received an email from him yesterday morning.”
“It was something he wrote before he… died. It was set on an automatic timer, basically, so it’d get sent to me. It, uh… it opens with ‘Big brother, if you’re reading this, I’m dead’ and then, umm, and then, ‘Probably at your hands’,” Bo said.
“Does Jensen know?”
“He knows about the email, nothing about the direct quote,” Bo said.
“Are you okay?” Jacob asked.
Bo nodded. “Better than I thought I would be,” he admitted. “In the email, he talks about how he was loved and raised much better than my biological parents raised me. They loved him. They took him shopping and to baseball and football games. They went to the park to play with the other children. When I met him, he told me he was locked in a basement and treated like a bastard spawn of some sort because of me. But he lied to me. He was loved,” he said.
“How’d that… how’d that make you feel?”
“Relieved,” Bo breathed. “It felt damn good to know that he wasn’t mistreated. One way or another, knowing that he was loved by them made so much of the guilt go away. I mean… I’m still guilty, and I still feel guilt for obvious reasons, but none of that spawns from him being mistreated any more.” He clasped his hands between his knees, offering his shrug. “It’s like a giant part of that weight has been lifted off my shoulders.”
“That’s a damn good thing, Bo. It hasn’t shown quite as often since you got married, but… but every now and then, you look like the world’s crushing you, and I know a lot of that revolves around him,” Jacob said.
Bo nodded. “It hasn’t been easy,” he admitted. “Pretending it didn’t happen doesn’t work, but I can’t be angry and depressed all the time because I have four kids to help raise and a job to do.” He swallowed, clearing his throat. “I’ll never be able to forgive myself for what I did. I know he was a killer. I know my family was at risk. I know he was a danger to himself and to the rest of society. But none of that makes what I did okay or correct.”
“Was it bad? Yeah. Morally. But if you look at anything, you can always find something wrong with it,” Jacob said.
“I got promoted to sergeant even though there are detectives here that’ve been around for an extra decade, and the same goes for Jensen. You only got Hati because someone died. Same for Amber and Kayla. You only know Jensen because…”
“Because Bridget was killed,” Bo finished.
Jacob nodded. “I only ended up with Alice because her children were murdered.” He lifted his shoulders. “Everything good can be put in a negative light. That thing you did? It doesn’t make you a monster. Are you gonna regret for a long damn time? Possibly forever? Of course you are, but that’s why you aren’t a monster. Never forgetting the negative part is what keeps you human.” He cleared his throat. “In, uh, in my opinion, at least.”
A ghost of a smile crossed the blonde’s face. “Thanks, Jake.”
“Hey, that’s what I’m here for, Blondie. Brothers, remember?” Jacob asked.
“I remember,” Bo assured. “But still, thank you.”
“You betcha, brother.”
10:00 AM; STONE HARBOR, NEW JERSEY, 117TH STREET
“We’re moving Dad into the assisted living place tomorrow, Ma,” Mickey said. “Is that okay with you?”
His mother wrung the towel in her hands, her eyes on the counter rather than her son. “He’ll be okay, won’t he?”
“Of course, Ma. It’s a good home. Good staff, good rooms, good food. We’ll pack up some things, head down tomorrow, get him moved in, and hang out there for a while. You and I will come back home and see how everything goes. You can visit as often as you want, Ma. Promise.” He pulled his mother into a hug. “It’s gonna be okay, Ma. I’ll take care of you, and I’ll take care of Dad. Okay?” Silently, she nodded against his chest. “It’ll be okay, Ma. We’ll make it work, you and me.”
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