Bonekeeper – Chapter Twenty-One


Chapter Twenty-One


“Miss Cole, thank you for coming in today. I know this can’t be easy for you,” Bo said, his voice soft as he sat down in front of the woman at the steel table.

Natalie Cole sat slouched in her chair, arms crossed over her chest. She wore a baggy sweatshirt, her thick, black hair tugged back in a loose, messy bun. Her face was free of makeup, a thin pair of wire-frame glasses perched on the bridge of her nose. It was more than clear to Bo that she wasn’t handling the death of her friend well.

“We just need to ask you a few questions, Miss Cole,” Rick said from beside Bo.

“Ask away,” Natalie said quietly.

Rick glanced over at Bo, a silent signal to ask any questions he had. “How close were you and Serena Bishop?” the blonde questioned.

“We’ve known each other since elementary. Fourth grade,” Natalie said. She sniffled, reaching up to tuck a loose tendril of hair behind her ear.

“And when was the last time you saw her?”

“Saturday night.”

“What were you doing?”

“I was with Serena and three other girls to celebrate a birthday.” She cleared her throat. “Lara West. It was her thirtieth birthday. We hadn’t gotten together for a while, so we all decided to make a big event of it. Bar hopping, a bon fire… you name it, I guess.”

“What was the last bar you went to?” Bo asked.

“Me… or Serena?”

“You didn’t go to the same bars?” Rick asked suddenly.

“We did, for the most part. She left for an after party,” Natalie said.

“What bar did she leave from?” Bo questioned.

“Uh, some bar in college town. Ames. I don’t remember the name off the top of my head,” she admitted. She closed her eyes momentarily. “I think it’s called Cocoa. I don’t know. It was some stupid idea, but it’s apparently one of Lara’s favorite places to drink. Cute bartenders or something like that.”

“Where’d she go from there? Serena?” Bo asked.

“I don’t know. An after party, maybe.” Natalie offered a half-hearted shrug. “She didn’t tell me. She just came over to say goodnight at… nine or so? I don’t know.” She sniffled, dropping her head into her hands. “That was the last time I saw her,” she whispered.

Bo cleared his throat, clicking the end of his pen. He had jotted down a few notes, but most of his notes were stored in his head rather than on paper. “Did Mrs. Bishop drive to that bar by herself?”

“No. God, her car’s still parked in my driveway.”

“So she left with someone else.”

“I guess.”

“Did she leave with one of your other friends?” Bo asked.

“No,” Natalie whispered. “They were with me the rest of the night and well into the morning. Serena’s the only one that left. I don’t know who she left with or where the hell she went. I just know she left and ended up dead in your damn town,” she said.

“Take it easy, Miss Cole,” Bo said softly. “I’m trying to piece together a timeline of the events that led up today. I am not here to place blame on you.”

“I know. God, I know,” she whispered. “I’m sorry.”

“You have no reason to be sorry, Miss Cole. This is difficult for you,” Bo said. “Just take your time. We’ll continue questioning when you’re ready.”

“Thank you,” she breathed. She sniffled, pushing her glasses up to sit atop her head. She scrubbed both hands over her face. “I don’t know who she left with. I don’t even know why she left. But… but I know she talked to Lara before she left. Maybe she knows more than I do.”


“Oh, yeah. She talked to me. She was heading to her boyfriend’s house,” Lara West said.

“She’s married,” Rick said.

Lara raised an eyebrow. “Your point?”

“If she had a boyfriend, why would she tell you that? She was married. You could’ve ruined her marriage,” Bo said.

“Her marriage was weak, Mister Austen. Husband on business trips, kids always at the house, soccer mommy, little to no sex…” Lara trailed off, shrugging. “She had to find something fun to do.”

“Who else knows about this… boyfriend?” Bo asked.

“All of us do. Serena told us everything.”

“What’s his name?” Rick asked.

“Oh, well, I don’t know that.”

“Then she doesn’t tell you everything,” Bo said.

“Everyone has a secret. His name was hers.”


“Are you sure you don’t know who Mrs. Bishop left with?” Bo asked.

“I’m sure. I have no idea who she left with. I was on the dance floor. I couldn’t see the door, let alone whoever she was leaving with,” Natalie said.

“So you had no idea it was her boyfriend?”

“Her husband was on a business trip.”

“I’m not talking about her husband.”

Natalie coughed, slapping a hand to her chest. “You think Serena was cheating on Dale? She loves that man. Dead or alive, she’ll always love him. She honored him, basically bowed to him. He hated being on a pedestal like that, but he put her on one, too, so it balanced out,” she said.

Bo frowned, glancing up briefly. She wasn’t lying. He knew that much. Or, if she was, she was like him and had no visible tells. “One of your friends said you all knew about her boyfriend,” he finally said.

“On the very, very off chance that Serena had a boyfriend, I sure as hell didn’t know about it,” Natalie said.

“How was her marriage?”

“He was out of town a lot on business, but she didn’t care. They made up for it whenever they were together. Fancy, expensive suppers while the kids were with his parents, romantic evening at home. They’d get the kids the next day, go out shopping or go see a football or baseball game together. When they were together, they made up for all the lost time in between,” Natalie said.

“So no problems?” Bo asked.

“None that were visible,” Natalie said. She shrugged, shaking her head. “If something was wrong between them, she never told me about it.”


“A boyfriend?” Sage Wright asked. “Good God, no. She loved Dale. The last thing she’d do…” She shook her head. “She wouldn’t cheat on him.”

“One of your friends says otherwise,” Bo said.

“They’re lying.”

“No cracks in their marriage?” Rick asked.

“Not any that would cause her to go jumping into some douchebag’s bed,” Sage said. “The only problem Dale and Serena ever had was that they didn’t get to spend every single hour of the day together, because that is exactly what they wanted to do. They hated being apart. Picking Dale up from the airport to see him again? That was always one of the highlights of her week. She loved it, being able to hold him and kiss him again. Do you think that’s the kind of person that would cheat on her husband?”


“Which friend told you that?” Rose Woods asked.

“I’m not really allowed to tell you that,” Bo said.

“Because I can safely assume it was Lara,” Rose said. “Lara has seven boyfriends, all of whom don’t know about each other. She owns a house with one of them, an apartment with three of them. She has a child with one of them! She thrives on the ‘thrilling’ aspect of getting caught. She needs to survive. Lara’s the youngest. The rest of us? We’re in our late forties, early fifties. We’re too old to be playing games like that. Lara’s clinging to it while she can. Serena was the oldest. So you wanna know why Lara believes that bullshit? Because Serena lied to her in order to fit in with her.”


“Serena didn’t have a boyfriend,” Bo said.

“Yeah, she did,” Lara said, crossing her arms over her chest.

“No, sweetheart. She didn’t. She lied to you so you’d accept her more than before. She was older than all of you, and you were the youngest in the group. If she fit in with you, she officially fit in with everyone.”

“What’s that supposed to mean?”

“She wanted to be like you. You know, with all seven of your boyfriends,” Rick said.

“Who the hell told you that?”

“I’m not obligated to tell you that,” the officer said.

“She wouldn’t lie to me. Not about that.”

“She did, Miss West,” Bo said softly. “So if Serena didn’t leave with her non-existent boyfriend, who did she leave with in order to appease you?”

Lara stared at the table for a moment. “Jack.”

“Who?” Bo questioned.

“He’s the bartender. His shift ended right before Serena left,” Lara said. “Maybe she left with Jack.”

“Does ‘Jack’ have a last name?” Rick asked.



Bo stepped out into the hall, closing the door behind him. “Let them all go home. Try to get ahold of Jack Horn?” he asked.

Rick nodded. “On it. And, Bo?”

Bo turned toward the officer. “Hmm?”

“Good job in there. Back and forth between them, you know. Good job.”

The blonde smiled. “Thanks. You, too, old-timer.”

Rick rolled his eyes, shoving Bo’s shoulder. “I’ll track down Jack, you asshole. You go take your notes. I know you’re dying to go take care of all that jazz.”

“Yeah, I’ll get on that. Keep me updated on Jack?” Bo asked.

“Yuh-huh. Will do.” Rick glanced down at his watch. “Wanna do lunch after I tell the girls they can head on out?”

Bo tilted his notebook to the side to catch a glance of his own watch. “We could do that. Let me grab my satchel from the lab. I’ll meet you in the parking lot?”

“Sounds like a plan, lab geek.”

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