Thursday: November 28, 2024
2:03 AM; CLINSTONE, THE AUSTEN-TAYLOR HOUSEHOLD, MASTER BEDROOM
Bo slid his arm out from beneath Elijah, careful not to disturb any of the three children sound asleep in his bed as he sat up. He grabbed his phone and moved down to the end of the bed before standing up. He looked back at Jacob and Alice’s kids before walking out of the room, shutting the door behind him. Because Thomas was asleep in the family room, Bo walked into the laundry room and closed the door.
Flipping on the light, he lowered himself to the floor and dialed Jamal’s number. He pressed his phone to his ear, closing his eyes.
Immediately after the first ring, a gruff, “Talk to me,” came through the phone.
“I’m scared,” Bo whispered.
“You don’t have to be. It’s okay to be, but you don’t have to be,” Jamal said. “I won’t let this person hurt your family or you. You have my word,” he said softly.
“I know. But… but what if bringing them back Sunday puts them in danger, too? I mean, that was the original plan, so it’s not sooner than originally planned. The note talks about how bringing them back sooner than planned is the dangerous part,” Bo said. “So does that mean they’re safe if we wait until Sunday?”
“I can’t make promises on the mind of a stalker, Bo.”
“You stalk people,” Bo said.
“I do it a bit differently than crazed stalkers. I’m… Well, I’m not exactly normal, but my brain still functions closer to reality than most stalkers. I’m not crazy,” Jamal said. “I’m rational. Stalkers… typically aren’t.” A moment of silence passed between them. “Bo? You gotta let me know what you’re thinking, kid. I can’t read your mind.”
“I know. Apologies.” Bo cleared his throat. “It’s just that when Jensen and the girls come back, I’ll probably still be watching over Jake and Alice’s kids. With Tom here, that’s seven people besides myself that I have to keep safe. And if the stalker knows about Jake and Alice, it’s nine. Not to mention Mom and Dad in L.A.. O–or you.”
“I assure you that my ass is entirely safe. And you know I have people watching your parents. A security system was installed in their house yesterday. No one’s getting through my men,” Jamal said. “Jensen went through my training before he was allowed anywhere near you. He learned to fight, defend, counter, and kill. When Jensen’s in Clinstone with you, you won’t be the only one standing at the frontline of protection. He’ll be there, too, fighting at your side. No matter what,” he explained.
“I don’t want him to know about it, Jamal,” Bo said. “He’ll get mad that I kept it from him. I don’t want that.”
“How do you expect to keep it from him?”
“I haven’t exactly figured that out yet,” Bo admitted. “But I’ll get there. I just don’t want him to worry about me any more than he already does. I can legally carry a damn gun to work every day and he thinks I’m sort of fragile butterfly. I’ve killed people in incredibly close proximity, and he thinks I can’t handle protecting myself. It’s disconcerting. I hate it, especially when there’s a situation in which I have to protect everyone,” he said.
“Kiddo, Jensen thinks that way because he loves you. I think I need to protect you because I love you. When Mister Mason isn’t wrapped in his own grief, he wants to protect you because he loves you. Your parents protect you because they love you. It’s a constant stream of that, and, in general, there’s nothing wrong with it. It’s affection. It’s love. You just aren’t used to it,” Jamal said.
“I suppose,” Bo agreed quietly.
“Bo, I won’t ever let you lose someone the way you lost Bridget. I should’ve followed my gut back then and put protective detail on her, but I didn’t, and the result was…” Jamal trailed off, and a silence hung between the two men. “It was catastrophic, to say the least,” he whispered. “I won’t let that happen again. I promise you that. You still trust me, right?”
“Good. Then nothing will happen,” Jamal said softly. “I’ve got you, kid. Spend your time making sure Mister Mason eats enough food to sustain his life. I’ll spend my time keeping your family safe.”
Bo smiled faintly. “Thank you.”
“Ah, again, it’s my pleasure, Bo. I protect my own. That’s all there is to it,” Jamal said. “Try to get some sleep, kid. If I can hear that you’re tired, you’re stretching yourself too thin. Sleep before you crash.”
“Okay,” Bo whispered. “I love you, Pitman. You know that… don’t you?”
Jamal chuckled. “I’ve been made aware. I love you, too, Bo. So get some rest. I’ll be right here the next time you call.”
“You’re welcome, kiddo. Goodnight.”
“Night,” Bo whispered. He ended the call and set his phone on his thigh. He raked a hand through his blonde hair, letting out a heavy breath. The fact that Jamal was willing to answer the phone no matter what time it was made it easier to get through the day. It made him feel comfortable with leaving his family in Los Angeles.
4:45 AM; CLINSTONE, THE COPYCAT’S WORKSPACE
The man smiled softly as he ran a gloved hand over the clay figure before him. It was small, nothing but a few inches tall. With Bo’s security system, he knew he couldn’t physically walk onto Bo’s lawn or up to his porch. For accuracy, he wished he could get all the way up to the porch, but he couldn’t risk Bo catching a glimpse of his face.
Bo would memorize every little detail about him, no matter how brief an interaction was between them. He couldn’t risk that.
So his little figure would go into the mailbox instead, just like the last note had. A third note, of course, would be dropped in with it.
Since the pint-sized blonde had dismantled all of his listening devices, he couldn’t be certain what Bo knew or what he was doing any more. It made making the notes threatening a much more difficult process, but he figured he’d be able to manage. As long as Bo continued to see him as a danger, the pure threatening factor didn’t matter. Tearing Bo’s old life wide open and rubbing salt into every old wound was more than enough to please the man. He chuckled softly, passing a hand through his dark brown hair. He had waited years to begin his execution of his plan, and it had finally begun. This was the thing that would bring about the final downfall of Bo Austen.
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