9:02 AM; CLINSTONE, THE AUSTEN-TAYLOR HOUSEHOLD, KEEPING ROOM
Renee draped a blanket over Jensen’s shoulders, smiling faintly as he let out a soft sound, snuggling up against Bo. She couldn’t begin to fathom the pain they’d feel in their muscles once they woke up, and she couldn’t wrap her mind around how they had fallen asleep in such an odd position in the first place. She figured the heavy combination of stress and lack of sleep had played a role in their choice of sleeping position.
She brushed Bo’s hair away from his face before heading into the kitchen to turn on the coffee maker. Less than thirty seconds later, she heard the front door open. “Jamal,” she greeted once the older man walked into her field of vision.
Jamal nodded his own greeting. “Mrs. Austen.”
“You can call me Renee.”
“I’m aware. It’s a respect thing.”
“It’s not disrespect if I’ve given you permission to call me by my first name.”
He chuckled softly. “I know.” He turned his head toward the keeping room, shaking his head. “I can’t believe they slept like that. They were that way when I left, but I assumed Bo would at least stretch out his legs.”
“At least they look adorable.”
He smiled. “There is that.”
Renee cleared her throat. “You can sit down, Jamal,” she said softly. Jamal nodded, pulling out a stool at the counter and lowering himself onto the seat. “You look like you have a lot on your mind.”
“Do you… wanna talk about?”
Jamal chuckled. “I don’t really share feelings, Mrs. Austen. It’s a little pointless in my line of work.”
“Share it anyway.” Renee offered a smile. “I like to listen.”
“I taught Mister Mason how to pick a lock.”
“Let’s call it bonding.”
“Why would you want to bond with him? You know, out of curiosity. He’s a good boy, Jamal. He’s not…”
“Someone I include in my circle? I’m aware,” Jamal said. He lifted his shoulders. “Your son means the world to me, Renee. I don’t have many people I can say that about any more. Everyone that ever meant anything is dead or hates me. I have Wayne, and I have Bo. I make it my business to be kind to those that my people interact with. Mister Mason is very important to Bo. Might as well get to know him before I die. I need to know who will care for Bo when I’m gone. He won’t be in a good place.”
“I know,” Renee said softly. She leaned down slightly, crossing her arms over the countertop. “Why’d you have to go and get my baby so attached to you?”
One corner of Jamal’s mouth lifted. “I tried not to. I had managed to convince him I hated him for a while. Figured it was better for him to think that than to know I cared about him. I couldn’t stand losing someone else.” He jerked a thumb over his shoulder. “Blame Frank. He told me to stop being a dick once I got sober.”
Frank held out both hands. “I told you to do what felt right rather than what you had convinced yourself was right.”
Jamal snorted. “It means the same thing,” he said. “You’re aware of what will happen when I die, right?”
“You mean that you’re training my only son to take over for you?” she asked. Jamal nodded. “Yeah, I’m aware.”
“He made that decision on his own. I’ve given him multiple chances to get out of it,” he said. “He’ll have Frank at his side, you know. He won’t be alone. And when Frank can’t handle this any more, we’ll get Bo a new Frank. But… you know, not named Frank.”
Renee laughed softly before sighing. “He’ll be safe, right?”
“Of course. I’m still alive and kicking,” Jamal said. “Bo’s smarter than I am. He’ll play things differently, make plans with far more… intellect. He’ll be safe,” he said.
“Don’t sell yourself short,” Renee muttered, pushing herself away from the counter. “You’re smart. Doing what you do, you’d be long gone if you were stupid.”
“There is that, yes,” Jamal agreed.
Renee turned, grabbing a mug from the cupboard. “You want coffee, Pitman?”
“You don’t have to get me anything.”
“It’s no trouble. Answer the question.”
He smiled faintly. “Yes. Thank you.”
“Frank?” Renee asked.
“Yes, please. Thank you, Mrs. Austen,” Frank said.
Renee poured three cups of coffee and set them on the counter. Frank crossed the room to grab one, thanking Renee once more. “How long are you planning on staying, Jamal?”
Jamal lifted his shoulders. “I’ll leave when Bo decides he doesn’t want or need me here any more,” he said.
“What about L.A.? Don’t you have a station to run?”
Jamal chuckled. “Yes, but, uh, Dallas was actually in charge for the past couple days.”
“Bo makes it sound like you hate Dallas.”
“I… disprove of the way he and Katherine went about life. I don’t hate him as a person,” Jamal explained. He cleared his throat. “I’ll be advising Bo to promote Dallas to lieutenant whenever he feels that it’s right. He doesn’t have to, but I’m sure he’d like. Dallas is his closest friend in L.A..” He tilted his head to the side. “Besides Jensen, of course.”
“Of course,” Renee echoed. She tapped a hand against the counter. “What else is on your mind?”
Jamal shrugged, wrapping his hands around his coffee mug. “I think I need to fire Katherine, but I don’t know how to do it without Bo finding out what Mister Mason told me.”
“What’d Jake tell you?”
“Katherine told Jensen that Bo was only marrying him to get over his grief of Miss Decker,” Jamal said.
“Jesus,” Renee whispered. “Well… Bo says you don’t trust Kathy.”
“I don’t. She’s always out for herself. If she had the option to save herself of her husband, she’d choose herself, end of story.”
“Fire her, then. If Bo asks, it’s because of that. You can’t trust her to protect her fellow officer,” Renee said.
“So I assume Bo hasn’t told you about the Kathy issue, right? You’ve only heard it from Jake?”
“Yeah,” Jamal said quietly. “Although I might scare it out of Jensen. He’s like a bird. It doesn’t take much to make him sing.”
Renee rolled her eyes. “Leave the poor man out of this. If he’s going to tell you, he’ll do it without being scared into it,” she said.
“What else is on your mind?”
Jamal chuckled. “You certainly like to push, Renee.”
“I’m a mother. It’s what I do.”
“I know who the Executioner is.”
“Mmhmm. Bo asked for my help. He’ll search for the evidence to back it up once he’s awake,” Jamal said.
“Do you know why he kills?” Renee asked. Jamal shook his head. “Nope. I vetted the guy, looked into everything he’s ever done in his life. No fucking clue,” he said. “I suppose that’s for Bo to find out, too. I’m only here for the basics, and the basics is his name. Miguel Santángel. I know who he is, what he looks like. I know where he’s from, where he’s staying, where he goes. But why he does it? No idea.”
Enjoying the story? Consider dropping a comment or a like down below!!
Love what I do and want to help support me? You can ‘buy me a coffee’ on Ko-fi!