11:23 AM; AMES, SERENA BISHOP’S APARTMENT, HALL
Jeff Biggs stood in the hall, a key in one hand, his phone in the other. “I’m standing outside of it. I thought you’d like the whole experience,” Jeff said, glancing down at his phone.
Rick chuckled. “It’s appreciated, Jeff. Thank you. Go ahead and head on in.”
Jeff nodded, unlocking the door. “I talked to the doorman, and he recalls Serena coming in, but he doesn’t remember seeing her leave. He mentioned there were a few times when he left his station to go to the bathroom or to escort someone to the apartment. He was contacting the landlord to see if he’d allow us to have security footage without a warrant.”
“Solid work, Officer Biggs,” a man said. Jeff glanced down at the screen again as he pushed open the door. Rick had introduced the blue-eyed, dark-haired man as Sergeant Jacob Mason.
Jeff stepped into the apartment, dropping the key into his pocket. It had been the desk copy of the key, so he knew there was no need to protect it from any sort of cross contamination. He reached back with one gloved hand, closing the door. “Christ.”
“It’s been ransacked,” Bo said quietly.
“That’s one word for it,” Jeff murmured. His phone held out in front of himself, the rear camera facing the room, he glanced around. “It seems like it’s mainly papers and books on the floor or things swept off of a table. You know, shit that could’ve been thrown around during a struggle or a chase of some kind,” he said, walking toward the small living room of the apartment.
“Right. I would imagine that’s the case here. I don’t think this is a robbery or burglary kind of situation. It doesn’t fit with this M.O.,” Bo explained.
“The coffee table in there. It looks cracked. Could there be blood anywhere on the surface?” another man’s voice asked. Jeff glanced at the screen. Detective Jensen Taylor.
“Maybe. Could you get the camera closer to that, Officer Biggs?” Bo asked.
“You bet.” Jeff squatted down beside the table. “There’s definitely blood here,” he said, laying a hand on the table.
“Damn,” Bo whispered. “You guys don’t have a lab down there.”
“I could call in the tech we use, though. She can come collect the sample,” Jeff suggested.
“That’ll take weeks for us to get back,” Rick denied.
“Well, he could have the tech collect the sample and have it brought up here for testing,” Bo suggested. “Or I could head to Ellepath, take my own pictures, draw my own samples, and do all of the testing before I even get back to Clinstone.”
“Either works for me. I’ll fill out the paperwork and hand it on over to LT either way,” Jacob said.
“Well, Officer Briggs, are you willing to put up with me?” Bo asked.
Jeff chuckled, pushing himself to his feet with a grunt. “More than willing, Austen.”
“Good. I should be down today, then. I have a few things to wrap up here, but Rick will keep you updated,” Bo said.
“Great. See you soon, Austen.”
“You, too, Officer Biggs.”
12:00 PM; CLINSTONE, THE AUSTEN-TAYLOR HOUSEHOLD, BREAKFAST NOOK
“I cannot thank you enough for this. We’ll be home late, but we’re not planning on staying the night there. Jake’s taking Katie and the eldest twins after he gets off from work, so it’ll just be the other four you have to watch over until we get back,” Bo explained, lifting his gaze to Natalia’s face before going back to packing his camera into the open bag on the table. “And you know they’re easy to watch, so it shouldn’t be too much trouble, I hope.”
Natalia laughed softly. “Bo, honestly, it’s no trouble at all. Watching over any child that isn’t Charlotte is a piece of cake,” she assured.
Bo chuckled. “Yes, there is that,” he agreed. He zipped up his camera case, sighing quietly. He squatted down and pulled Amber into a hug. “I love you. Behave yourself. And… I’ll be back tonight. You’ll be asleep,” he said.
“I love you, too.” Amber squeezed him tightly as he pressed a kiss to the top of her head. Bo released her, and she ran over to hug Jensen.
Bo smiled softly, grabbing Kayla’s hands. “You’ll be good, won’t you?” he asked, reaching up with one hand to tuck her dark hair behind her ear.
“You know I will.”
“Good girl.” He pulled her into a hug, burying a hand in her hair. “I love you, Kayla.”
“I love you, too.” A pause. “Dad,” she added in a whisper.
Bo smiled broadly, closing his eyes as he hugged her just a bit tighter. “Thank you,” he breathed. Kayla nodded as she pulled away from him. Bo laid a hand on her cheek, leaning up to kiss her forehead. “I love you. I’ll see you soon.”
After both girls had hugged Jensen as well, the couple headed outside, got into the car, and started the nearly three and a half hour drive to Ellepath.
Jensen reached over, laying a hand on Bo’s thigh. Bo looked down briefly before laying a hand over Jensen’s. “Where do you wanna grab lunch?” he asked.
“You choose. Wherever you want to go works for me,” Bo said softly.
Jensen chuckled, flipping on the turn signal. “Tacos it is.” Bo rolled his eyes, one corner of his mouth lifting in a smile. “Thanks for choosing me.”
“Instead of Rick or Jake. They made you choose who went with, and I just…” Jensen shrugged. “Thank you for choosing me.”
“I’m always going to choose you, love. You know that,” Bo said softly.
“I know,” Jensen murmured. He squeezed Bo’s thigh. “The wedding. I was thinking purple.”
“Mmhmm. You have a couple purple flannels, and they’re actually my favorite color on you,” Jensen said.
Bo smiled faintly. “The more you know, huh?” he asked.
Jensen chuckled. “Yeah, something like that. But I was shamefully scrolling through Pinterest while you and Rick were interviewing Mister Horn.”
“I was listening! I was just, you know, also scrolling through pretty pictures,” Jensen said. Bo rolled his eyes. “But that, like, deep burgundy color or whatever the hell it is. That’s the one I like,” he said.
“Well, when we go through the drivethrough, bring it up on your phone and I’ll see what I think,” Bo said.
Bo lifted Jensen’s hand, pressing a kiss to his palm. “If we do purple—or any color for that matter—I thought one of us could wear white and the other could wear black or gray. I like the idea of us matching without looking, I don’t know, identical, I suppose is the correct word.”
“Like how Jake and Alice’s colors matched but they weren’t wearing the same amount of each color? Black was an accent for Alice, but black was Jake’s main color,” Jensen said.
“I like that idea,” Jensen said softly. “Oh, also, there are places that will custom make your cake topper.”
“Which means you found someone who will make your ideal butt touching topper?”
Bo laughed. “I’m so proud of you.”
“Aww, babe, thanks. I’m pretty damn proud of me, too,” Jensen said. “Do you have Harper booked for pictures?”
“And the band’s booked?”
“So what’s actually next?”
“Well, once we figure out our colors, I’ll let you order whatever custom-made ass-grabbing cake topper you want,” Bo said.
“Yes,” Jensen whispered.
The blonde rolled his eyes. “And then we’ll look through flowers and wedding invitations. Once we have colors narrowed down to a definite selection, our invitations can match those, as well.”
Jensen nodded. “Sounds good to me, Eli.” He cleared his throat. “Case-related question?”
“Why the pause?” he asked.
“I don’t know,” Bo admitted. “I’ve worked cases where the killer takes long breaks, and the reasoning behind it is almost always different. Sometimes, it’s a lack of opportunity to nab a new victim. Sometimes, it’s a… cool down period, I suppose. I’ve dealt with a case where it was because the killer was staying with family or family was staying with the killer. The reasons are all across the spectrum, and it’s typically impossible to figure out why they’ve stopped,” he said.
“Why do you think there’s a break?” Jensen asked.
Bo turned his head toward his boyfriend. “Honest answer?”
Bo sat silently for a moment. “I don’t think the killer has a heavy desirable hunger to kill like many killers do. I don’t think it’s curiosity or something they’re doing because their mind has convinced them it’s a necessity. I think… it’s a hobby of sorts. They know they don’t need to do it, but they enjoy it whenever they do, so they grab a victim and kill them whenever it seems like they need to get back into the hobby.” Bo lifted his shoulders, turning back toward the window. “But, you know, it’s a theory, and I certainly don’t know enough about our killer to draw any real conclusions.”
“I know. I just like listening to brain process things,” Jensen said softly. “Besides, you’ll figure it out. We just have to give it time to all settle so we can… put everything together a little better.”
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