Executioner – Chapter One


Chapter One

Tuesday: February 24, 2026

Bo had been correct in his assumption that Kayla wouldn’t be able to sleep. She had made it to just around two o’clock before waking up. Unable to sleep any longer, Bo had decided to head out to the kitchen so they could talk without disturbing Jensen—even though the younger man was an incredibly heavy sleeper.

Bo poured Kayla a glass of chocolate milk, pushing it toward her before pouring himself a cup of coffee. “Do you want to… talk about any of it?” he asked.

“I don’t know,” she said quietly. “What’s there to talk about?”

“What you saw, how it made you feel… I’m up to discuss anything, Kay,” Bo said softly.

Kayla watched Bo for a moment before dropping her gaze to the marble countertop. “I saw him jump,” she whispered. “Or… walk. It was like he walked right off the roof. Just… He just went down. It was like he… like he didn’t even think about it. He just did it,” she explained. “I covered Amber’s eyes ‘cause she was walking in front of me, but I couldn’t make myself look away.” She looked up at Bo as he stirred his coffee. “Why couldn’t I look away?” she asked.

“Believe it or not, it’s actually normal to find yourself unable to look away from something… tragic,” Bo said.

“Why?” Kayla questioned.

“That depends. Do you want a real answer to that?” She knew what that kind of question meant when it came from Bo. Did she want the version where he pretended he didn’t understand it, either? Or did she want the version where he simplified a long explanation for her to help her better understand the situation. So, she nodded. “The short version is that humans are complicated and we do weird things because… well, because our brains tell us to. Have I ever explained what psychology is?” Bo asked.

“I don’t think so.”

Bo nodded, thoughtfully taking a sip of his coffee as he worked to find the simpler terms required to explain things to a child. “Psychology studies the human mind, in short. It helps show us how the mind works, how it… takes in things, processes them. You with me so far?” he asked. Kayla nodded. “Good. Psychology helps us understand behavior, why we act the way we do, and all of that relates to why we can’t look away from sad or ugly things.

“See, humans are, again, complicated. The truth of the matter is that when we see something like that, we don’t actually want to look away. It’s normal to not look away. It’s an urge, so to speak, to think about someone hurting or you yourself being injured.”

“And that’s why we look at bad things? Even if we don’t want to?”

“Yes, that’s part of it. It’s a curiosity of sorts. We as humans are curious. It’s how we’re built, designed. It’s how the brain functions. We like to see what’s hidden or kept secret, like death. We’re drawn to it, even.”

“If we like to see it… why do I feel bad about it?” Kayla asked.

“Identification,” Bo said. He offered a smile. “Sorry, that’s another big word. Umm… when you see a person that’s hurt or… or dead, you feel connected to them because they’re still a human life. They have a family, and when see them hurt, there’s a part of your brain that tries to see how you would feel if that was… your father or father, let’s say. Feeling sad or bad about not being able to look away is normal, too.”

Kayla stared down at the counter for a moment, processing the information Bo had thrown out. She nodded slightly before lifting her green eyes to his face. “So we look because we’re curious, but we feel sad because that person has a family? A–and because we know we’d be sad if he was our family?”

“Yes,” Bo said softly. “That’s right. You got it.” Sometimes, he hated explaining hard concepts to Kayla. She was already intelligent, but she wanted to know more, and Bo rarely refused to explain something to her once she asked about it. He hated it because he knew that, one day, she’d be a lot like him—far too smart for her own good. Kayla, however, would never suffer the way he did. He and Jensen wouldn’t cast her out and make her hate herself. They’d do everything in their power to make sure she never saw intelligence as a curse like Bo always had.

“Huh,” she said quietly. “Dad?”


“Do you… think that man killed himself?”

“I don’t know,” Bo said honestly.

“Make an educated guess,” Kayla said, repeating a phrase she had heard Jensen use many times when Bo refused to make a bold assumption about a case.

Bo took a sip of his coffee, setting the mug down before crossing his arms over the top of the counter. “Well, I haven’t looked at the pictures or anything like that. But if you wanted my actual opinion—which is nothing more than the biggest assumption to ever exist—I would say no. I don’t think he killed himself,” he said.


“Because a school isn’t the place you go to do that kind of thing,” Bo said. Not without a gun in your hand, anyway, he couldn’t help but think.

“Why not?” Kayla asked.

“I…” Bo cleared his throat. “I don’t have a real answer to that. Dignity, I suppose, is one reason.” Kayla’s half-glare told him all he needed to know about the word ‘dignity’. “Sorry. It’s like the right to be respected. Grandpa J? He has a lot of dignity, and it’s the reason people respect him. You don’t want other people to consider you weak or something like that. You want to be alone if you decide… decide to hurt yourself. It allows you to keep your dignity,” he explained. Like when cats hide under a bush or in an old building to die alone. They know it’s their time. They want to keep their own little form of dignity.

“So… so you think someone else hurt him?” Kayla questioned.

Bo considered this for a moment before offering a shrug. “Anything’s possible,” he said simply, plainly.

“If someone did hurt him… you’ll find him, right?”

“Would it help you sleep at night?” Bo asked.

Kayla nodded. “Uh-huh.”

“Then, yes, if someone hurt that man, I’ll find who did it,” he said.

She held up a hand, her elbow resting on the counter. “Promise?” she asked.

He hooked his pinky around her, whispering, “Promise.”

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