Happy Face Killer – Chapter One


Chapter One


For the first time all morning, Bo Austen-Taylor patted his pocket for his cell phone. Coming up empty, his brow furrowed. “Frank?”

The older man seated in front of the desk lifted his head. “Yes, sir?”

“Is there… any chance that you’ve seen my phone?” Clearing his throat, Frank reached out and pushed the cell phone across the desk. “Oh. Thank you. Sorry about that.”

Frank smiled. “It’s your first day as Chief, Mister Austen. You’re nervous. Misplacing your phone isn’t that big of a deal. No need for apologies here.”

Bo snorted. “Yes,” he said quietly. He grabbed the device and unlocked the screen. “So… if Jamal is officially retired, and he’s not going to be at the Estate, where’s he going?”

“I’m still on Mister Pitman’s payroll, sir. I’m afraid I can’t give you any information that he hasn’t already given you.”


Frank chuckled, shaking his head as he went back to reading the newspaper in his hands. “He’s happy, though. Safe. That’s what I can tell you.”

Bo offered the slightest nod before his eyes fell to his phone. He had a few missed text messages, but the first to catch his eye was from six o’clock earlier that morning, Clinstone time. Dispatch in CLinstone, Minnesota had reported a ten-fifty-four.

Possible dead body.

Bo was more than willing to bet that the body in question had been found somewhere near the bar in Clinstone. In his experience, drunk people calling in a corpse usually resulted in the dispatcher labeling the corpse as a possibility.

Drunk people weren’t always the most… trustworthy of individuals, especially when it came to the reporting of a crime.

The next message Bo read only confirmed the thought. A one-eighty-seven at Ivory Hill.

Confirmed homicide.

Bo leaned back in his desk hair, pulling his knees to his chest. He opened up his text message thread with Clinstone’s police lieutenant, Jacob Mason. The text from Jacob had come in just after nine, shortly after the Change in Command Ceremony had wrapped up, where Jamal Pitman had retired and Bo had been sworn in as Chief of Police, had ended.

Jake: Blondie! Saw you on TV. You did damn good up there! (Even though you looked like you were gonna piss yourself) How’s the new office?

Bo:  Terrifying. Jamal’s officer has my name on it, Jake. MY NAME.

Jacob’s response came almost immediately. Clearly, the homicide hadn’t been a big enough situation to get Jacob out of his office. Or, if it had, it hadn’t been enough to keep him away for long.

Jake: You deserve it though. You have to know that.

Jake: You’ll hate the respect and title that comes with it (only an LT over here and still hate it) but you absolutely deserve it, brother

Bo: Thank you.

Jake: You betcha

Jake: Guessing you wanna know about the 187, right?

Bo: Caught me red-handed, Jake.

Bo waited a moment, clicking the picture Jake sent him as soon as it loaded.

A young black woman sat against the exterior wall of Ivory Hill, her shirt ripped and soaked through with blood.

Bo: Assault and mugging gone wrong?

Jake: Looks like it. We found her wallet dropped a little ways down the alley, found a bloody pocket knife in the garbage around the same area too

Bo: Fingerprints?

Jake: Gwen’s working on it. Misty’s supposed to come in and help soon, but word is that she’s planning on putting in her 2 weeks

Bo’s brow furrowed.

Bo: Why?

Jake: Don’t know yet. Family, better offer, something. I’ll keep you updated on her.

Bo: And… updated on the case?

Jake: Of course

Jake: Jass and Lehmann are on the case until Jensen’s back. I can tell Jass to keep him updated?

Bo: That’d be lovely, thank you.

Jake: You betcha

“Everything okay, sir?” Frank asked.

“Oh, yes, definitely.” Bo glanced up at him, clearing his throat. “Just checking up on everything in Clinstone. I feel as though I’ve been in L.A. forever.”

Frank chuckled. “You’ll be back in Clinstone on Sunday. It’ll be okay, sir.”

Bo nodded, sliding his phone onto the desk. He rested his chin on his knees, wrapping his arms around his shins. “How often do I have to be in L.A. during the school year?”

“I mean, I’ll be honest with you, sir, most of this job is signing papers, filing paperwork, and pure politics. You’re answering to the mayor and the city council. You’re answering to people who don’t know a damn thing about police work or law enforcement. If you get lucky and Mayor Woolf stays in position for a while, it’ll be pretty easy. She’s the least annoying person Jamal’s ever had to answer to.

“So… if there isn’t a meeting or a mass shooting that you need to answer for, you don’t have to be here sitting in this office all hours of the day. Between Lieutenant Silver and myself, we’ll be able to fill your seat while you’re in Clinstone. Calls will be redirected to you, paperwork will be forwarded to you… So on and so forth. It’ll take a little bit of time to get used to, but we’ll get there. WWe’ll find a nice, easy middle ground that works for everyone, okay?”

A smile tugged at one corner of Bo’s mouth. “Thank you, Frank. Honestly.”

Frank nodded. “Of course, Mister Austen. It’s what I’m here for.” He cocked his head to the side. “Let me guess. There’s a homicide in Clinstone you’d like to see.”


The elderly bodyguard chuckled softly. “Well, I assure you it won’t be solved by the time you return. It will definitely still be an open case, and you know your friends at CPD will be very happy to have you back.”

Bo offered a smile. “And I’ll be very happy to be back,” he murmured. He let out a heavy sigh. “Another question?”

“Of course.”

“How often do I have to be here for… for the darker side of all this? The, uh, the mafia-related things?”

“That can be a hard question to answer.”

“I was afraid of that.”

Frank nodded. “It tends to depend on what Mrs. Lucchese is doing. Or… any of her allies, for that matter. Any and all of those situations can revolve around you and where you put your officers. There will be times you need to be here for a face-to-face meeting with her or your men, as well. Otherwise, a lot of that can easily be done over the phone.”

“Good. That’s… that’s good.” Bo dropped his feet to the floor, scooching his chair closer to the desk. I’m terrified of all of this, Frank. I don’t know if I can do it. I know I promised Jamal I would, but…”

“Mister Austen, I know you don’t believe this, but you’ll be fine. I’ve seen you adapt to many situations with virtually no flaw. Your first job in L.A., the switch to this Bureau, the switch back to Central, the switch to West again, your work in Iowa, your work in Clinstone, when you came back home for good.” Frank lifted his shoulders. “I’ve seen you adapt, Mister Austen. You’ll adapt this time around too. You just have to give yourself a bit of time.”

Bo let out a breath, resting his elbows on the desk. He clasped his hands in front of his mouth, closing his eyes. Tragically, despite Frank’s good intentions, those adaptations hadn’t been flawless for Bo. They had been unbelievably difficult. His adaptation to the Central Bureau had been filled with adults consistently hating on him, adults reminding him he belonged in the basement. His first adaptation to West had been short-lived, but he hadn’t loved being there. Even his detective partner had hated him, not that Bo blamed him for it.

His adaptation to Clinstone had been hell, driven by an obsessive urge to record every ounce of information he could about every single person he met so he would never unintentionally befriend a serial killer again. He had been miserable. He had hated every damn second of it.

But Frank didn’t know that. Frank had nothing but good intentions.

“Thank you, Frank.”

“My pleasure, sir.”

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