Sunday: March 7, 2027
9:03 AM; LOS ANGELES, THE AUSTEN-TAYLOR HOUSEHOLD, MASTER BEDROOM
Bo shrugged a flannel over his shoulders, wincing as he held his left arm close to his chest. He sat down on the edge of the bed, carefully buttoning the shirt. Behind him, Jensen rolled onto his stomach, hooking an arm around his waist. Bo smiled faintly, dropping a hand to rest on Jensen’s arm. “Are you awake?”
“Mmhmm,” the younger man mumbled. He cleared his throat. “How’s your shoulder?”
“A little more sore than yesterday morning, but still bearable,” Bo said.
“Mm.” Jensen rolled onto his side, pulling his arm back toward himself. He ran the heel of his palm up Bo’s back, closing his eyes. “You should take something for it. Tylenol, ibuprofen, something,” he said. “And then sit down and ice it.”
“I’ll take something after I make breakfast, and… and maybe I’ll get around to icing it tonight. I need to go through the background details that the algorithms dug up, see if anything raises any flags,” Bo said.
“I’ll make breakfast. You take something for the pain and start reading through the background checks,” Jensen said.
“I could live with that,” Bo said.
Jensen chuckled softly, pushing himself up so he was sitting. He pressed a gentle kiss to Bo’s shoulder. “I think I’ll throw a breakfast pizza in for me and the girls. You wanna join in? Or do you want a smoothie?”
“I saved a protein smoothie to your Pinterest. Can you try giving that a shot?”
“I sure can.” Jensen climbed off the bed, crossing the room to grab a shirt from the dresser. “And put your sling on. You don’t need to go out of your way to put strain on it.”
Bo snorted. “I know, love. Thank you.”
“No problem, babe. Just take it easy today.”
“I’ll do my best.”
11:21 AM; LOS ANGELES, THE AUSTEN-TAYLOR HOUSEHOLD, STUDY
Jensen walked into the study, the baby monitor in his hand. “How’re you doing in here?” he questioned.
“I’ve taken some notes,” Bo said, setting his pen down. He picked up his notebook and held it out to the younger man.
Jensen set the baby monitor on the desk, grabbing the notebook. “Anyone important you’re looking at yet?”
“Flip to the second page. Skim down to Michael Lambert,” Bo said. Jensen nodded slightly, flipping the page. “He’s forty-seven. He and his folks are from Stone Harbor, New Jersey.”
“How far’s that from Trenton?” Jensen questioned.
“Around a hundred and fourteen miles,” Bo said.
“Hour, fifteen minutes?”
“There about,” Bo agreed.
“Is he your top suspect?” Jensen asked.
“Currently, yes. Although I’d still call him a person of interest rather than a suspect,” Bo said.
The younger man nodded, his eyes scanning the words written on the page before him. “What makes him number one?”
“Mmhmm. They’re brothers. Martin’s older by about a year and a half, but he’s been in movies and TV since he was five. Martin lives in Los Angeles, and Michael’s lived in Cliffburn for the last two years. I haven’t done anything advanced yet. No bank statements, no payment receipts… nothing like that. But, the initial background check dug into Michael’s school records, and I quickly extended that to Martin’s.
“Martin, throughout middle school and high school, averaged an C-grade in all of his classes. Michael, despite having dyslexia and a slight learning disability, was an A student. He did extra-credit reports, he stayed after school for study sessions, he did the work required to retake tests.”
“He worked his ass off to be better than his brother,” Jensen said. “Why?”
“He couldn’t be famous or adorable like Martin. He had to make up for it some other way,” Bo said. “Martin was on the football team. Michael joined when he could and became captain. Martin was in track. Michael joined and broke Martin’s records. He couldn’t be Martin, but he needed to prove he was still something. He refused to become a story people would tell, one where the older brother was a famous actor and the other was nothing but a poor Jersey hick no one would be able to remember.”
“This it was something he was proving to himself? To his brother? His parents?” Jensen asked, setting the notebook down. “Who was the message directed toward?”
“I’m not sure yet. If we get lucky, and if he is a suspect rather than just someone of relative interest, my more advanced search will uncover some of that history. We need to know how he was raised, how his parents treated him. Does Martin help out his parents or his brother? How often do they both visit home?” Bo lifted his shoulders. “I don’t have anything concrete enough to offer an actual theory just yet,” he explained.
“Maybe not yet, but you’ve already gotten something, and that’s amazing, Eli,” Jensen said. He cleared his throat. “How about you take a little break? Come down for a while?”
Bo looked down at the time in the bottom right-hand corner of the laptop screen. “I haven’t been up here all that long,” he said.
“I know, but if you stay up here, you’ll never ice your shoulder. I just want to keep pain to a minimum, babe. That’s all,” Jensen said. “I thought we could take the twins over to your parents’ place for a bit, and you and I could take the girls on down to the recreation center. Play a little pool, let the girls play some volleyball or shoot some hoops.”
Bo smiled faintly. “That could be fun. I think I’d like that,” he said.
“Great.” Jensen cracked a smile. “It just means you have to ice for a bit first.”
“Twenty minutes?” Jensen asked.
Bo snorted. “Sure, love. I’ll be down in a few.”
Jensen nodded, grabbing the baby monitor. “A few minutes, not hours.”
“Deal,” Bo said. He held up his right hand briefly before reaching out to close his laptop. “Just let me reorganize my notebooks and folders here. I’ve… sort of made a mess of the desk here.”
Jensen chuckled. “That’s all right. Do you want me to help?” he questioned.
“If you want. That’s up to you,” Bo said.
Jensen nodded. “Sure. Clean the desk, ice the shoulder, leave the house in favor of being around other human beings. How fun is that?”
Bo rolled his eyes, pushing himself to his feet. “Your definition of fun is a bit different than mine. The only appealing part is getting to hang out with the girls,” he said. “We haven’t gotten to do that much since the boys were born,” he said quietly.
“I know. But we’ve got a week to spend with them now. No school, minimalistic work, Kay’s birthday tomorrow, Jamal’s after that, and then we go back to Clinstone and wrap this case up. Sounds good?”
One corner of Bo’s mouth lifted in a smile. “Sounds perfect, Jens.”
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