Thursday: February 26, 2026
5:09 AM; SAN DIEGO, THE PITMAN ESTATE, MASTER BEDROOM
“Why?” the man questioned.
“Because it’s an order, that’s why,” Jamal said simply. His phone sat on the nightstand on speaker. Jamal sat down on the end of his bed, his hands working to tie his tie. “Consider it an executive order from the man himself, Mike.”
A pause. “H–how do you know my name?” the man, Mike, asked.
“I know everything about you, Mikey-boy. Engaged to a Jenna, father of an Emily and a Samuel, and a soon to be father of another baby boy who I believe you’re naming… Eric?” Jamal questioned. The silence on the line told Jamal exactly what he already knew; he had been correct. “So, Mike, just don’t do the embalming today. That’s all you have to do.”
“Why?” Mike questioned in a whisper.
“Because I said so, Mikey, and I’m not a man that enjoys repeating himself. Not to mention that I’m the one who gets to ask the questions. Truthfully, Mike, you’re lucky I haven’t already put myself on a plane to come slit your fucking throat. So, are we clear on the goddamn embalming?”
“Yes, Mister Pitman. I’ll make sure he isn’t embalmed.”
“Ah, thank you, Mikey. It’s good to see we’re finally at an understanding,” Jamal said. He cleared his throat, turning his wrist to the side as he buttoned the cuff of his shirt. “Say, Mikey, your little girl’s birthday’s coming up in a few days. Correct?”
A pause. “Uh-huh.”
“Right, I thought so. Expect another thousand dollars wired into your bank account within the next twenty-four hours for your cooperation. Use some of it for your little girl. The rest of it’s yours.”
“Thank you,” Mike whispered.
“Ah, my pleasure, Mikey. You enjoy your day, all right?”
“You… you, too, Mister Pitman.”
“Always do,” Jamal said softly. He reached over and ended the call before lifting his dark eyes to Frank’s face. “What?”
Frank shrugged. “Nothing, sir.” He handed Jamal’s suit jacket over, crossing his arms over his chest. “I know you enjoy threatening people, but isn’t the idea of throat slitting just a smidge too far in this particular case?”
“Probably,” Jamal agreed, shrugging the jacket over his shoulders. “I don’t have the best of morals any more, Frank. My father took those from me. You know that,” he said.
“Yes, sir. I… I was there,” Frank agreed quietly. He cleared his throat, holding out a hand, which Jamal promptly grabbed. Frank pulled the older man to his feet.
“Either way, the threat got me what I needed. Problem solved,” Jamal said. He buttoned his jacket before smoothing his hands over it. “Plans for the day?”
“Mrs. Lucchese wants to meet with you,” Frank said.
“For?” Jamal questioned as he walked out of the room, Frank at his side.
“She has a job she’d like to give Mister Austen.”
“What kind of job?”
“A prison job.”
“No, he’s not ready for that. I’ll handle it,” Jamal said.
“Sir, with all due respect, I don’t think you can,” Frank said.
“Frank, you gotta have more faith in me than that, right? You’ve seen me do some pretty crazy shit.”
Frank snorted. “There is that, sir,” he agreed. “I’m just saying it could be dangerous. It involves a breakout, sir.”
“And that’s why Bo’s not handling it. He has things to do in Clinstone, things that do not involve throwing himself into the middle of danger.”
“Sir, again, with all due respect, eventually, he’s going to take over for you and you won’t be around to protect him. He has to learn to do this if you want him to… to be you,” Frank said.
“Ah,” Jamal murmured, holding up a hand. “I don’t want him to be me. I want him to be Bo. He’ll take over me, yes, but I don’t want him to be me. That’s something I wish to curse no one with.” He snorted, wrapping a hand around the stair railing. “Frank, once I’m dead, I don’t want Bo to be compared to a Pitman. Ever. He’s better than that.”
“There’s nothing wrong with him being compared to you. You aren’t your father, Jamal,” Frank said softly as they headed down the stairs.
“I know. But… but I want him to be respected rather than feared. I want him to be a leader without scare tactics and abuse. I need him to be Bo, not me. We don’t need another Pitman running around once I’m dead. Wipe out the name. There’s nothing but bad karma to go along with it.” Jamal stopped, turning to look at Frank. “You have to take care of him when I’m gone. Even if it’s just for a year. You have to make sure he stays himself. You’ll do that for me, won’t you?”
Frank nodded. “I’ll make sure of it, sir.”
Again, Frank nodded. “My pleasure, sir.”
12:09 PM; CLINSTONE, LITTLE DELIGHTS DINER
“Allie and I are thinking of moving.”
Jensen lifted his gaze to Jacob’s face, one eyebrow raised. “I don’t see that being a good thing,” he said quietly. Bo was at the gym, leaving the lieutenant and detective to eat lunch together.
Jacob smiled faintly. “We’ll be in Minnesota, and I’ll still work at the station. We’re just thinking of moving up to Stokely. It’s about an hour and a half north.”
“Ah. Just about halfway between here and Chesterwick.”
“Bingo. It’s unfair for Al to drive three damn hours there and another three back every damn day,” Jacob said.
“Well, what’d you guys do when she used to work for Sullivan?” Jensen asked.
“Katie and I lived in Clinstone, and Al had an apartment up in Chesterwick. Hell, the only reason I live in a house now is because we bought one when she quit her job. My happy ass was fine living in an apartment for the rest of my life.”
Jensen chuckled. “You guys gonna be able to swing that?”
“More or less, yeah,” Jacob said. “I mean, between my pay increase this year and Allie’s job, we’re able to save more. And I still have my Christmas bonus in the bank, too. Totally untouched. We’ll be able to lay a down payment without much trouble.”
“That’s fucking great, Jake.”
“God, I know. Got Bo to thank for it,” Jacob said. He cleared his throat, looking down as he stirred his fork through the salad in front of him. “Can I ask you something?”
“I don’t know. Sounds ominous.” Jacob rolled his eyes. “No, go ahead,” Jensen said.
“How’d I end up with the lieutenant’s job?” Jacob asked.
“Because you deserved it.”
“Sure, let’s say that. Myra hadn’t been chief long, and early retirement or not, it’s a stupid excuse. David deserves to be chief, and he’s damn good at it. I’ll give him credit for that. But none of it makes sense.”
“Do you… want a real answer?” Jensen questioned. Jacob only nodded. “Jamal’s been threatening to replace Cooper with you years before Bo ever met you. When she was lieutenant, I mean. Jamal hated her because it took a lot of bargaining to get her to… follow orders. She wasn’t a team player.”
“So I got the lieutenant’s job now because I’d take orders from him?” Jacob asked.
Jensen shook his head. “No. You got the lieutenant’s job because you deserved it and so Jamal could prove a point to Cooper. He replaced her with David and bumped you up another position. He doesn’t give a shit what orders you take from him. He’ll only ever tell you to do something if Bo asks him to. He knows where to draw the line, and he draws the line at Bo’s family.”
Jacob nodded slowly. “So I… still technically earned it?”
“One hundred percent, LT.”
Jacob rolled his eyes. “Don’t call me that.”
Jensen chuckled. “I just like the way it makes you squirm. Why are you still so uncomfortable with it?”
“It only bothers me when it’s you and Bo. You two asshats are family, so it’s weird for you to call me ‘Lieutenant’ or any variation of it, that’s all,” Jacob explained.
Jensen nodded. “Makes sense. It’s like when I call Bo ‘Mister Austen’ just to fuck with him.”
Jacob laughed. “You’re an ass.”
“Mmhmm, and I take a lot of pride in it.”
“Oh, believe me, I know.” Jacob tilted his head to the side. “How’re the girls?”
“Amber’s fine. Loud and obnoxious, really, but I love her. Kayla stayed home from school today, so Renee and Denzel were kind enough to put off their flight to stay with her,” Jensen said quietly. “I mean… she slept in her room last night, but I think the idea of going back to school is terrifying for her. Bo says it could be some acute stress disorder and that it’ll go away within a couple weeks. He called the school this morning and we’re picking up her homework for today and tomorrow after work. But I worry about her.”
“Just make sure she knows you’re there for her. If she needs to talk or even if she just wants a hug, you know? Kids benefit a lot when they know they’ve always got someone there for them,” Jacob said.
Jensen nodded. “Bo’s paid pretty special attention to her since she saw the body. She knows we’re there for her, thankfully. Makes our job a little easier, I think.”
Jacob snorted. “Amen to that. My job was easiest when Katie knew she could talk to me about anything she wanted.” He tapped his fingers against the table. “But you two are doing great with those girls, and you’re gonna do great with your boys in a few more months. That’s what matters.”
One corner of Jensen’s mouth lifted. “Thanks, Jake.”
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