6:02 AM; CLINSTONE EMERGENCY ROOM, ALLEYWAY
Bo stepped up on the bottom lip of the dumpster, camera in hand, the body of the lens pressed against his shoulder. He leaned over the top of the dumpster, moving his camera up to his face instead. He snapped a picture of the victim. Her body lay in prone position—face down. He took several more pictures of the corpse before swinging a leg over the dumpster. He froze, immediately wrapping his hand around the dumpster to keep his balance. He closed his eyes, pressing his camera to his chest.
“Bo? You okay?” Detective Anna Floyd asked.
“I’m fine,” Bo said quietly. He swallowed, tilting his head back as he forced his eyes open.
“We can call Gwen or Misty,” Anna’s partner, Detective Skye Ramirez, suggested.
“No, I’m fine,” Bo repeated. “I just lost my balance for a second. That’s all,” he said. That was a lie. This was the dumpster they had found Tess Brown in four years ago. If GBK’s imitation was bad, what had the killer done to prove a point this time? He swallowed roughly, turning and climbing onto the left side lid of the dumpster. In a slightly squatted position, he started taking pictures of the body again.
Focused on his work, he missed the worried look that passed between Anna and Skye.
Bo set his camera on the lid of the dumpster and carefully lowered himself into the dumpster, his feet on either side of the corpse. He grabbed his phone, turning on the flashlight application. Apprehension settled in his stomach as he crouched down, wrapping a gloved hand around the body’s shoulder. He cleared his throat, drawing in a short breath before turning the body over.
He nearly stumbled back, straightening out suddenly instead, smacking his head on the bottom of the dumpster lid. “Motherfu…” He trailed off, closing his eyes.
“I’m fine,” Bo said through his teeth. Fine was a bit of an overstatement. A long cut ran down the left side of the corpse’s cheek, beneath the eye down to the jaw. It mimicked the scar on his uncle’s face to near perfection. The media, however, didn’t know that Bo was related to Thomas Smalls. Thomas had been attacked by a serial killer and had been left with several scars after the incident. He was lucky to have survived.
Bo had idolized the man and had documented the killer’s case from the very beginning, but the internet didn’t know that. The stalker wasn’t getting information on him from quick internet searches like Cecilia had suggested.
Bo quickly searched the victim’s clothes until he found the note that he knew would be addressed to him. He lifted himself out of the dumpster, grabbing his camera as he jumped down from the dumpster. “Call Gwen. I… I have kids at home that are going to be awake soon. I need to take care of them,” he said.
“Okay, Bo,” Anna said softly.
Bo walked past the two detectives and headed back to the parking lot. He unlocked his car and slid into the driver’s seat. He slammed the door, reaching out with a shaky hand to turn the key in the ignition. He set his camera on the passenger seat and turned on the light above him. He unfolded the note, his gloves still pulled on over his hands.
I wonder how Uncle Tom would feel if he saw that woman’s corpse. If he saw someone that reminded him so much of what he sees every time he looks in the mirror. Scarred and flawed.
Much like you, right? The scars on your wrists, your scar from surgery, the scar on your knuckle where they stitched it up after you punched the outside of the police department, the scar on your thigh from when Steven shot you.
I know how much you idolize your uncle, how obsessed you were with everything his mind was capable of. You followed the CGK case very closely.
What if I finished the job that he started?
Bye-bye, Uncle Tom.
Bo dropped the letter, fumbling for his phone as he leaned up to pull it from his pocket. He dialed Thomas’s number from memory, pressing the device to his ear. His heart pounded in his chest as he waited for ring after ring after ring.
Seven rings later, he was sent to voicemail. He pulled his phone away from his ear, redialing the number.
After four rings, Thomas answered, “Bo? Can I assume this isn’t a ‘how are you doing’ call?”
“It’s a… ‘please tell me you’re okay’ call,” Bo whispered.
“I’m fine. What’s going on?” Thomas asked.
“I think my stalker wants to kill you,” Bo breathed, dropping his forehead to rest on the steering wheel of the car.
A pause. “Everyone, or just me?”
“Just you, I think. It’s hard to tell. I can’t think straight.”
“Well, I…” Thomas sighed. “Give me a couple hours. I have to make a few arrangements first.”
“Arrangements?” Bo questioned.
“I’m not letting you do whatever this is by yourself, Bo. I’ll be there soon,” Thomas said softly. “Sit tight, kiddo. I’ll see you in a bit.”
6:15 AM; LOS ANGELES, CALVIN SMYTHE’S HOUSE, FOYER
Calvin Smythe, a blonde serial killer turned decent human being, pulled open his front door. He yelped as Jamal threw the door open the rest of the way and walked into the house. Calvin held out his hands, countering every step Jamal took forward with a sudden step backward. “Whatever you think I did, I’m sure I can explain it,” Calvin said.
“At the moment, I’m holding a grudge against that time you tried to murder my daughter,” Jamal growled. He shoved Calvin into the wall, his forearm pressed into the shorter man’s windpipe.
“She kinda forgave me for that,” Calvin whispered, wrapping his gloved hands around Jamal’s arms.
“How do you think I escaped?” Calvin asked. Jamal grunted, pushing his arm harshly against Calvin’s throat. “I’ll stop talking,” Calvin gasped, tilting his head back against the wall.
Jamal stepped away from him suddenly, allowing the blonde to draw in a breath. “Clinstone.”
“Minnesota. Bo Austen. What about it?” Calvin asked, a hand held gingerly to his throat.
“When was the last time you were there?” Jamal asked.
“Sunday,” Calvin said. Jamal pushed him back against the wall, pressing his gun to the shorter man’s temple in less than five seconds. “Okay, okay, okay. Wrong answer, yeah? Umm… not Sunday, then?” Calvin asked, his voice cracking. “Oh, God, whatever you think I did, it wasn’t me, okay? You’ve got the wrong blonde, Pitman. Just get your hands off of me.”
“You just happened to be in Clinstone on the day that a stalker murdered an innocent woman and delivered her to my Bo?” Jamal asked. “This is some giant fucking misunderstanding, huh? Is that it?”
“Yes,” Calvin said loudly. “I don’t have any grudges against Bo. And I don’t kill any more,” he said. “I haven’t touched another person since Kathy let me go. I promised her I’d stop, and I did! It’s as simple as that.”
“What were you doing in Clinstone?”
“There was a concert there.”
“A concert?” Jamal asked.
“It’s when a band gets together and sings and—”
“I know what a fucking concert is,” Jamal interrupted with a growl, digging the muzzle of his gun into Calvin’s temple. The blonde winced. “What kind of concert? What band?”
“Abacus. They’re called Abacus,” Calvin said.
“Umm…” Calvin let out a sharp yelp as Jamal’s finger moved to the trigger. “I don’t know!” he shouted, squeezing his eyes shut. “I just listen to music I like! Jesus shit, Pitman, I don’t know what genre it is. One with guitars and drums and lyrics!” he exclaimed.
“For a former serial killer, you sure are a chicken shit,” Jamal said.
“It’s different when the gun’s on you,” Calvin whispered.
Jamal scoffed. “You can’t use that argument with me. I’ve had guns jammed under my chin, pressed to my temple, and shoved into my mouth. A finger has always been on the trigger. I was never scared on any of those occasions,” he said.
“Yeah, well, I’m not tall, scary ass old man.”
Jamal laughed, shaking his head as he took a step back. “Don’t fuck with me, Calvin. Did you see Bo on Sunday?”
“In passing,” Calvin said. He rubbed at where Jamal’s hand had rested against his bare skin, a frown on his face.
Jamal’s gaze snapped up to Calvin’s face, one eyebrow raised. “Be more specific.”
“He was outside on his porch when I drove past to head back to my hotel room,” Calvin said.
“What was he doing outside?”
“Umm, I don’t know. Sitting? He was on the phone, I think,” Calvin said.
“Uh-huh. With whom?” Jamal asked.
“I don’t know.”
“Yes, Calvin, you do know, don’t you? You slow down your car, rolled down your window. Who was he talking to?”
Calvin swallowed. “Jens? That’s the name he said,” he said quietly.
Jamal nodded slightly. “Sounds about right,” he murmured. He gestured to Calvin with his gun. “Why’d you drive past Bo’s house?”
“To get to my hotel room.”
“Why’d you choose that road?”
“Because it’s the one my GPS told me to take,” Calvin said.
“I’ve been in Clinstone and I’ve been to my boy’s house, so I find myself doubting that,” Jamal said.
Calvin sighed quietly. “I have… taken an interest in Bo.” He held out his hands as Jamal took a step closer to him. “Not in a bad way. Jesus Christ, like I said, I don’t kill any more. I just… He had a terrible childhood. He was abused and made to feel worthless for the first six years of his life. His father never tried to kill him or anything, but I’ve always been interested as to how he turned out… normal. Or, at least, more normal than I ever was.”
“Because he’s smart. Because he didn’t let his anger blind him the way you did,” Jamal said.
Calvin held out a hand as Jamal stepped even closer. “I’d rather you shoot me than touch me again. I can’t handle any more of that today,” he whispered.
Jamal grunted. “The gloves. What’re they for?”
“I feel like I’m being burned when people touch me, like all of my nerves are being fried,” Calvin said.
“Like I said, my father tried to kill me. Lack of nurturing and affection or something like that. I’m not a medical professional,” Calvin said. “So if you’re going to kill me, do it. Just make sure you have the balls to tell Kathy that you’re the reason I’m dead.”
Jamal pressed the gun to Calvin’s forehead. The blonde closed his eyes. “Dammit,” Jamal growled, stepping back as he let his arm drop to his side. “You’re lucky I promised Wayne I wouldn’t kill you. The only thing I want to do right now is pull the trigger.”
“Then do it.”
“I’m a man of my word. I don’t break the promises I make to my family,” Jamal said. “Ever,” he added. He reached back, shoving the gun into the holster at his hip. “Anyone else go to Clinstone with you?”
“None of your serial killer friends?”
“No,” Calvin repeated. “I hang out with Wayne. Outside of the group, Wayne’s the only person I allow myself to be close to. He has a family, Pitman. He can’t get up and leave for a concert.” He lifted his shoulders. “You of all people know what it’s like to have responsibilities, Pitman.”
“Mm.” Jamal’s hand rested on his gun. “I believe you. Tragically. But you do know what I’ll do if you hurt my Bo, right?” he asked.
“Yeah… I know,” Calvin said quietly. “I’m not a danger to Bo or society, okay? Kathy gave me a second chance and I took it. Wayne helped me through it, and I’m never going back. Bo’s safe. From me, at least. I don’t make promises for the rest of the world.” Jamal grunted his response as he turned back toward the door. “Pitman?”
“What kind of danger do you think Bo’s in?” Calvin questioned. “How serious is it?”
“It doesn’t matter. Anything that poses a threat to him is serious to me, no matter how big or small it may be.”
“You really do care about him, don’t you?”
“I’d lay my life on the line for Bo any day of the week. That’s all you need to know,” Jamal said.
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