12:07 PM; LITTLE FALLS, IRENE HAYES’S HOUSE, FRONT PORCH
Jacob knocked on the door again before leaning back against the house. “She might not answer the door.”
“What makes you say that?” Jensen asked.
“She doesn’t have a phone, Jensen. Her address was never updated. Bo says she doesn’t even drive a car any more. You want my guess? She’s one of those, uh… government truthers, you know? She thinks they’re spying on her through every single device in the world. Phone, car, radio, TV… all that shit. I doubt she’ll answer the door to a couple of cops.”
“Because we could be spying on her, too,” Jensen said quietly.
Jensen shook his head. “I don’t believe it. People like that aren’t around any more.”
Jacob rolled his eyes. “Jensen, man, do you even use the internet? Yes, there are people like that around,” he said. He leaned to the side, knocking on the door once more. “Ma’am? Miss Hayes? We’re from the Clinstone Police Department. I’m Detective Sergeant Mason. This is my partner, Detective Taylor. We need to talk to you about your daughter, Erika,” he said. He held up a hand, his gaze falling to the ground.
“Nothing. She’s probably not home,” Jensen said.
Jacob snorted. “She’s home.” He knocked on the door again. “Our phones have been turned off and placed in the cruiser. I can move the car further away from your home, if you’re more comfortable with that. We can also remove our radios if you’re uncomfortable with having them in your home.”
“That’s not going to work,” Jensen said, shaking his head.
Before Jacob could respond, the door cracked open. “Leave your radios in your car,” the woman said quietly. “Then we can talk,” she added.
Jacob smiled softly. “Of course, ma’am.” He held out a hand. Jensen rolled his eyes, unclipping his radio from his belt and tossing it to Jacob. “I’ll be right back, ma’am.” He clapped Jensen on the shoulder as he walked away from the house, heading back for the cruiser. Jensen watched him put the radios in the glove box before closing the door, locking the car, and heading back for the house.
Irene Hayes pulled open the door the rest of the way. “Come in.”
“Thank you, Miss Hayes,” Jacob said softly, stepping into the house. Jensen followed, closing the door behind him.
Irene crossed her arms over her chest. “What’s this about?” she asked.
“Miss Hayes, I’m sorry, but your daughter died in Clinstone on Friday,” Jacob said.
Irene’s eyes stayed on Jacob’s face, but she didn’t respond immediately. “How? Was it murder?”
“Yes, ma’am, I’m afraid so. We’re doing everything we can to catch the person responsible,” Jacob said, his voice soft. “When you’re ready, we’d like to ask you a few questions,” he added.
Irene nodded slowly. “You… you stay here. I’m going to go back coffee.”
“Of course, ma’am,” Jacob said.
Jensen watched her leave the room before looking back at Jacob. “Do they always respond that way?” he asked.
The sergeant shook his head. “Every person’s different. The third woman I ever notified of her daughter’s death… She laughed. It was how she coped. You don’t know what to expect when you knock on someone’s door for this.” Jacob sighed quietly. “But no matter how they react, it’s never going to be easy. Not for them, and not for you. This? It’s one of the hardest parts of the job.”
2:14 PM; LITTLE FALLS, IRENE HAYES HOUSE, DRIVEWAY
Jensen followed Jacob down the drive, hands shoved into the pockets of his dress pants. “We spent two hours in there, and we came out with… nothing,” he said.
Jacob lifted his shoulders. “It happens that way sometimes,” he said quietly. He unlocked the cruiser and pulled open the driver’s side door. “Call Bo. Let him know we’re on our way back and see what they found out with the girls,” he said as he got into the car.
Jensen nodded, pulling open the door. He grabbed his phone off the seat before sliding into the cruiser. He shut the door, clicking his seat belt into place with one hand as he unlocked his screen with the other. “Do you wanna stop for food before we get back to Clinstone?”
Jacob glanced at the time as he started the cruiser. “We could grab something in Clinstone. Then I can pick up something for Allie, too. You know, if the kids are eating at your house, of course.”
“Yeah, I’ll ask Bo,” Jensen said, selecting Bo’s name from his contact list. He pressed his phone to his ear, waiting.
After three rings, Bo greeted him with a simple, “Hey, lover.”
Jensen snorted, a soft smile on his face. “Hey, Eli.”
“Still in Little Falls?”
“Mmhmm. We are just now pulling away from the mother’s house,” Jensen said.
“Good. How’d that go?”
“We didn’t get much. She didn’t talk to her daughter often, obviously. She doesn’t know the names of any of her friends. She doesn’t know if she has a boyfriend. She doesn’t know anything about the victim. Nothing about possible enemies or who she’s in contact with. Basically a shit show.”
“Yeah, that’s how it goes down sometimes,” Bo said quietly. “Good news, though. Rick and I got a bit of information from the friends on Serena Bishop. Serena was at a bar with her friends. Cocoa. Stupid name for a bar, if you ask me, but you get the point. Anyway, she left the bar with somebody else, a man. It appears that she left the bar with the bartender, Jack Horn. He lives in Ames, as far as I can tell, and Rick’s trying to get ahold of him so we can talk to him, too. We’ll see where that goes.”
“Well, good. At least the day isn’t entirely useless,” Jensen said. He leaned an elbow against the window, pressing his fist to his temple. “Jake and I are gonna stop for food once we get to Clinstone. Should be around six-fifteen. You want us to get something for the kids and you? Or are you planning on making supper?”
“I’ll talk to the little gremlins when I get home, see what they want. Does Jake want his kids tonight?” Bo asked.
Jensen glanced over at Jake. “You want the kids at our place tonight?”
“No, I’ll be taking them. I’ll drop you off at your house and pick up the kids,” Jacob said.
Jensen nodded. “Hear that?”
“Yep. I’ll be getting home between four-thirty and five. I’ll call you then to let you know if I’m making supper or not,” Bo said.
“Okay, sounds good.” Jensen cleared his throat. “When’re we visiting the revenue in Chesterwick?”
A pause. “Friday, I do believe.”
“Mmhmm. Are we having a cake?” Jensen asked. Beside him, Jacob chuckled.
“Yes? Why wouldn’t we have a cake?”
“Umm… I don’t know? I haven’t been to many weddings, you know,” Jensen said. He could practically hear Bo roll his eyes.
“Yeah, Jens, people tend to have cakes at their weddings. We will, too,” Bo explained.
“Awesome. Are we gonna have a cake topper?”
“I don’t know. Do you want one?”
“Sure. We can have one.”
“Great. Can mine be touching your butt?” Jensen asked. Jacob laughed, shaking his head as he readjusted his grip on the steering wheel.
Bo snorted, the sound quickly turning into a laugh. “I–I don’t know about that.”
“Why not? It defines me perfectly.”
“Yes, I’m more than aware. I was only around you for two hours after you woke up this morning, and you smacked my ass seven times. Believe me, I am aware, Jens,” Bo said.
The younger man chuckled. “Yeah, well, you know.”
“Look, we’ll discuss non ass grabbing cake toppers first, okay? And then…” Bo let out a heavy sigh. “And then we’ll go from there.”
“Eli, if you let me get the one I want, you can have whatever cake you want. Whatever design, whatever frosting, whatever flavor. All yours,” Jensen said.
Bo laughed softly. “We’ll see okay? We have time. You know that.”
“I know.” Jensen smiled faintly, green eyes watching the passing trees out the window. “I’ll see tonight, okay?” he asked.
“All right, Jens. I’ll see you in a few hours. Love you.”
“Love you, too, Eli,” Jensen said softly. He ended the call, setting his phone on his lap.
“I don’t think I’ve ever heard you call him that before,” Jacob said.
“What? Eli?” Jensen questioned. Jacob nodded. “I typically don’t call him it around other people. I think it’d make him uncomfortable, honestly,” he said.
“Probably,” Jacob agreed.
Jensen stared out the window, remaining silent for a moment. “Question?”
“The whole time you’ve been a cop, what’s been your worst crime scene?” Jensen asked. “Mine’s, uh, mine’s when I saw Amber’s parents, you know?”
Jacob nodded, drumming the fingers of one hand against the steering wheel. “Car accident,” he said quietly. He cleared his throat. “November twenty-second, 2018. Forty-five car pile up. It was when Allie and I were still partnered up at the station. It was icy out and… and one car after another just kept running into the one in front of it. Two semis flipped over on the interstate, and hell kinda followed after that.” He looked over at Jensen before his eyes shifted back to the road. “Allie and I had to mark the victims. You know, find out which ones were dead, label the ones that could be helped the fastest, and then, umm… and then some of them were just labeled as being beyond help.”
“You had to choose who lived or died,” Jensen whispered.
“Yeah,” Jacob whispered back. “I saw so much shit that night. I could sleep. I was having nightmares. All I wanted to do was drown myself in alcohol and hope for the best. Even now, it’s one of those cases that just fucking gets to me. The worst one you ever see will never go away, but in the end, it makes you better at your job. I was a cocky son of a bitch before I saw that scene. Before that, all I wanted to do was make sure I was the one who cuffed our perps. Now look at me. Sergeant of CPD’s homicide division.” Briefly, he held out a hand, pointing at Jensen. “The bad ones make you better at what you do. You never forget the bad ones because they make you who you are.”
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