Saturday: February 28, 2026
6:02 AM; CLINSTONE, THE AUSTEN-TAYLOR HOUSEHOLD, KITCHEN
Bo turned on the coffee pot, thankful that Cecilia was still asleep. The longer she was asleep, the longer he could drink coffee. He leaned back against the counter, crossing his arms over his chest and bowing his head. He sniffled, clearing his throat. Tired didn’t begin to do him justice. Sleeping on the couch meant a solid hour or three of sleep, and it wasn’t treating him well.
Jensen was still sound asleep in the keeping room, which Bo was thankful for. As long as one of them was staying well rested, they’d be okay. He lifted his head as he heard Hati’s claws clicking against the kitchen floor. One corner of his mouth lifted as he reached out to scratch her ears. “Do you want to… go outside?” he questioned slowly.
Hati’s ears perked up, and the Boxer jumped before dashing out of the kitchen. With a grunt, Bo pushed himself away from the counter and headed for the breakfast nook, where Hati waited patiently by the door. He unlocked it, sliding open the glass door. Hati dashed outside, leaping off the porch and into the snow. Bo shook his head, sliding the door shut again.
Bo turned, looking back at Jensen. The younger man still lay stretched out on the couch, rubbing his hands over his face. “What?” Bo questioned as he walked into the keeping room.
“Why’re you up?” Jensen asked, his voice muffled behind his hands.
“Just can’t sleep, Jens,” Bo said. He pulled Jensen’s hands back, leaning down to kiss him. “I’m just going to do some work stuff for a while. You can go back to sleep.”
“Mmhmm.” Jensen patted Bo’s cheek before lazily rolling onto his other side. Bo smiled before walking back into the kitchen. He poured himself a cup of coffee, adding in his usual sugar and creamer. He dropped a spoon into the mug, stirring it as he walked back into the breakfast nook. He set the mug on the small table before letting Hati back inside. He pulled a towel from the small hook on the wall, squatting down to dry off her paws.
He patted her side. “Good girl,” he whispered, pushing himself to his feet. He hung the towel up as Hati ran into the keeping room. She jumped up behind Jensen on the couch, dramatically throwing her head back against his. Bo smiled faintly, heading back into the breakfast nook. Before he even sat down, his phone dinged with a text. Jamal’s name was written across the screen. Bo frowned, unlocking his screen.
Jamal: Coffee isn’t breakfast. Eat.
His brow furrowed as his blue eyes roamed over the walls, near the ceiling. Had Jamal installed cameras in Clinstone?
Bo: Are you watching me?
Jamal: I don’t have to be watching you to know that you believe coffee is a solid breakfast for you.
Bo: So… not watching me?
Jamal: I don’t have cameras in your house, if that’s what you’re asking. My job isn’t to invade your privacy, kiddo.
Bo smiled faintly.
Bo: Of course.
Jamal: I’m serious though. Eat.
Bo: I will.
Bo walked back to the kitchen and pulled open the freezer. He grabbed a banana and strawberry smoothie, letting the door shut again. He grabbed a straw and headed back for the breakfast nook. As soon he sat down at the table, his phone dinged again.
Jamal: How’s the case?
Bo: Not very far yet. There are some details that just aren’t lining up for me yet.
Jamal: Well, don’t be too hard on yourself for it. Still only the first few days. Give yourself a bit of leniency.
Bo: Yes, I’m trying to do that. Jensen made me relax after work yesterday instead of doing any more work.
Jamal: Good. Destressing is essential to success, Bo.
Bo: Yeah? Have you ever destressed in your life?
Jamal: Of course. You and Wayne help with the destressing. I’ve got four grandkids I’m allowed to run around with. That counts for something.
Bo felt a twinge of guilt that Jamal could only count Kayla, Amber, and Wayne Duncan’s children as his grandchildren. Kathy and Dallas Silver had three kids, kids that Jamal wasn’t allowed to see very often. Bo knew for a fact, however, that Dallas had snuck the kids into the station a couple times to see Jamal for a few minutes every few months.
Bo found it sad that the two serial killers in Jamal’s life were kinder to him than Kathy was or ever had been.
Jamal: I’ll be hiring a new analyst when you get back to L.A.. You’ll have to train them.
Jamal: Because I’m firing Travis.
Bo: Although I hate to be redundant, why?
Jamal: Your husband informed me that Travis believes you’re an idiot. I won’t tolerate that. I’ll be firing him as soon as you’re back to help someone new learn a thing or two.
Jamal: Don’t ‘Jamal’ me. If you want to hire him back when I’m dead, feel free to. Until then, he’s on his ass.
Bo, as per usual, gave up on his personal stance of the subject rather quickly.
Bo: Thank you.
Jamal: My pleasure, kiddo.
Jamal: How’s Kayla?
Bo: We might have to have her homeschooled. She’s had an actual panic attack just thinking about going back to school. I won’t let my child suffer just because they let some man get pushed off the roof in front of their students.
Deep down, Bo knew it wasn’t the school’s fault at all, but the fact that school had exposed his young child to a corpse made him rather bitter about the building and those in charge of it.
Jamal: Let me know what you decide on that. I can have her in the best online school in the country in less than thirty seconds.
One corner of Bo’s mouth lifted as he sent a simple ‘thank you’ to Jamal. He reached out and opened the lid of his laptop, waiting patiently for the lock screen to come up. He typed in his password and passed a hand through his blonde hair.
Jamal: The boys?
Bo: Healthy and developing. They should be born sometime in June.
Jamal: Will Miss Delacroix be in California for that? Or will you guys be in Clinstone? I just need to know which state I should plan on being in.
Bo: I’m not sure yet. I’ll have to talk it over with her and Jensen. I’ll keep you updated?
Jamal: Sounds like a plan.
Bo: Are you busy next Saturday?
Jamal: No. Why?
Bo: I thought we’d spend the weekend with you in L.A.. Go out for supper or something. Have a cheat day and eat junk food and cake.
Jamal: Sounds thrilling, but why?
Bo: Because your birthday’s the following Tuesday, and I’ll have to be in Clinstone with Jensen and the girls.
Jamal: Wow, I don’t think I’ve ever been this repetitive, but WHY?
Bo: It’s to celebrate your birthday, jackass.
Bo: Just because Kathy doesn’t know how to act like you’re a family doesn’t mean I don’t.
Jamal: The girls will be here?
Jamal: Then… yes. Thank you.
Bo felt a smile spread across his face.
Bo: My pleasure, Jamal. We’ll possibly fly in Friday night?
Jamal: Works for me. The girls could stay with me that night, give you and Jensen a little free time.
Bo: That’d be great, thank you.
Bo set his phone down, plugging his flashdrive into his laptop’s USB port. He opened the folder with the autopsy and crime scene photos. He still wanted to do his best to identify the murder weapon before watching the footage from the traffic camera. If nothing else, correctly identifying the weapon that way would make him feel more useful.
He opened one of the rarely used applications on his laptop, one of the many he used for weapons identification. It was one of the few things he still preferred to do hands-on rather than with technology, but for this case, he’d cave eventually. He uploaded several pictures of the victim and input her height, the angle at which the blade had cut through her spinal column, and his own rough estimate of the blade.
He pushed the laptop away from himself, unwilling to watch it sort through the information and every weapon known to man. Bo took a small sip of his coffee before grabbing his cell phone again. He opened his usual organizational application, clicking on the folder with ‘executioner’ written in a neat cursive font. One corner of his mouth lifted. The cursive was Alice’s handwriting. He’d once asked her to write out all of her letters for him so he could input them into the app.
He glanced at the top of his screen as another text from Jamal came through.
Jamal: I do have to do yoga next weekend (against my will, btw), so… the girls could go with if they wanted? The trainer comes to my house, so we won’t have to go anywhere.
Bo: I’m sure they’d love that. As long as you let them play one of those dance games afterward. They have a lot of energy.
Jamal: Oh, I’m aware. I wish they had known me when I was able to run around more. They’d think Grandpa J was a lot more fun that way.
Bo: Please. They love you and think you’re awesome.
Jamal: Ha. Thanks.
Bo: My pleasure, but I mean that, Jamal. The girls think you’re great.
Jamal: Good. My attempts to be the cool grandpa have worked.
Bo snorted, rolling his eyes, sending Jamal a simple, ‘Clearly’. He leaned back in his chair, flipping through the photos he had taken of the victim. He had, unsurprisingly, seen his fair share of beheadings in his day. Thanks to the mafia families that reigned in Los Angeles, Bo usually ended up at the crime scene of a beheading at least once a week when he was in California.
He’d seen a lot of clean cuts in those beheadings, and he had always matched them to a machete. The photos for Nadia Gibson didn’t match the marks for a machete. He was still leaning toward the idea of a sword, most likely a specter.
Jamal: You’re eating?
Bo: I have a smoothie thawing out in front of me. I’ll make an actual breakfast once everyone else is awake.
Jamal: Fair enough. Works for me.
Bo: Have you ever seen a sword used in a beheading?
Jamal: Depends. What kind of sword?
Bo: Possibly a specter. I’m not certain yet. It’s a theory.
Jamal: I’ve seen it a couple times. The Minetti twins do it that way when they feel like being kind to their victims. They don’t like machetes.
Jamal: I guess they also don’t like ending it quickly, but that’s besides the point.
Bo grimaced. He’d seen the Minetti’s handiwork first hand. They were still easily the most violent people he’d ever come across in his line of work, and he’d met people like Steven Brady—the Hunter—and Hector Robinson—the White Rose Butcher.
Bo: Because I know that this beheading wasn’t done with a machete. I’m just trying to figure out why someone would use a specter for a decapitation. The weapon was definitely old. I found some sort of cleaning agent on the bone that testifies to that fact–still working on figuring out the cleaning agent, though.
Bo: Why use an old weapon for murder? It could break or crumble, leave evidence behind. Why not just spend the fifteen to thirty buck for a solid machete?
Jamal: Maybe he’s an ancient ghost.
Bo: But really. I can’t make it make sense.
Jamal: What do you think the killer’s going for?
Jamal: How tired are you?
Jamal: Bo, kiddo, you’re clearly tired. Killer chooses an older weapon because he’s a fucking EXECUTIONER.
Jamal: Well, don’t ‘oh’ me. What’s running through your mind?
Bo: That I should probably take a nap today.
Jamal: Probably. Why haven’t you been sleeping?
Bo: Cecilia’s sleeping at the house until the plumbing in her apartment’s been fixed. I let her sleep in the bed, and Jensen and I have taken the couch.
Jamal: And the landlord’s taking forever?
Jamal: Ah fuck that. I’ll send a guy to her apartment and have it fixed by the end of today. Send me her address.
Bo smiled faintly as he texted Jamal’s the address of the apartment complex. He leaned forward, grabbing his coffee mug from the table. He took a small sip before holding it against his chest.
Jamal: Thanks. You should’ve told me that sooner. I would’ve fixed it.
Bo: I know. But to my credit, I’ve been tired and I forgot.
Jamal: I know. Anything else you’d like to cough up before I head out for the day? I’ll be busy until at least noon your time.
Bo: No, I think that’s it.
Except for the fact that I want you to fire Kathy, too.
Bo: Thanks, Jamal.
Jamal: My pleasure, kiddo. Talk to you soon.
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