10:55 AM; CLINSTONE, THE AUSTEN-TAYLOR HOUSEHOLD, KITCHEN
“Jake, Jake,” Bo whispered, pushing his hands against Jacob’s chest to keep him from leaving the room. “She’s okay. I swear on my life that her parents are with her in that hospital room. She is not alone. You need to eat something before you end up in the hospital,” he said.
“What if… what if something happens and I’m not there?” Jacob asked, his voice breaking.
“Nothing’s going to happen,” Bo promised softly. He held the sergeant’s face between his palms, forcing the taller man to look at him. “And if something does happen, you can… I don’t know, what do you want? You can punch me in the face?” he asked.
One corner of Jacob’s mouth lifted ever so slightly. “ ‘Kay,” he whispered.
“I’m still a pacifist, though.”
“We’ll figure it out if we ever cross that bridge, and as long as I’m breathing, I’m going to do everything I can to make sure we don’t have to.”
He hugged Bo tightly, dropping his head to rest on the blonde’s shoulder. “I’m just so scared,” he breathed.
“I know you are. That’s to be expected, Jake,” Bo said quietly, laying a hand on Jacob’s back. “But she has her last surgery tomorrow and they’ll wake her up a day or two after that. You told me that,” he said. “So when Alice wakes up, you need to be healthy. You have to be well-rested and well-fed. You can’t look like a damn zombie when she wakes up. You have to be… You have to look like you,” he whispered.
Jacob nodded, sniffling. “Okay.” His arms tightened around Bo before he moved a hand up to the back of the blonde’s head. “I love you.”
“I know,” Bo said quietly. He closed his eyes, scrunching the back of Jacob’s shirt in his fist. “I love you, too.”
11:30 AM; CLINSTONE, THE AUSTEN-TAYLOR HOUSEHOLD, FRONT PORCH
“Good morning, sweetheart,” Renee Austen greeted.
Bo smiled as he closed the front door and stepped out onto the porch. “Morning, Mom,” he said softly. “How are you?” he asked, shoving his free hand into the pocket of his jacket as he walked down the steps and headed down the path to the sidewalk.
“I’m okay. How are you?”
“Good, I’m good.” He cleared his throat. Lying to Jensen was one thing. Lying to his mother was an entirely different situation. It made him feel even guiltier than lying to Jensen did. “How’s Dad?”
“Still asleep, but very good,” Renee said. “He’s basically back to being… to being Denzel. He’s great, Bo,” she said softly.
“That’s amazing. Are you still planning on holding supper tomorrow?” Bo asked, pulling open the mailbox and grabbing the mail.
“Of course. I hate that you can’t be here,” she said.
“Yeah, I know. I hate it, too,” he agreed, closing the mailbox. He flipped through the mail as he headed back toward the house. “I was thinking you could hold lunch instead. Then Jensen and the girls can come here sooner,” he said.
“Oh, sure, baby. I can do that,” she agreed.
Bo stopped walking, his breath catching in his throat. “Right,” he whispered.
“Bo? You okay?”
“Uh-huh. I’m fine,” he said. He swallowed roughly, pulling the note out from the middle of the letters in his hand. “Just a second, okay?” he asked.
“Sure, baby,” Renee said softly.
My darling Bo,
I heard you wanted Jensen and your girls to come home sooner than planned. Oh, what’re their names again?
Ah, yes. Kayla and Amber.
Go ahead. Bring them home. All the more fun for me. How much would Jensen hate you if the next victim was his little Amber? I suppose it’s YOUR choice if they come home Thursday evening, but choices have severe consequences. Keep that in mind before you call Mommy and Jamal.
I could even give the world a quick replay of Bridget Decker. Poor Bo Austen. Everyone he loves dies before his eyes.
We’d be famous, little Eli. That could be fun… don’t you think?
“M–Mom?” Bo asked. “Umm, you can go ahead and keep it set as supper. It looks like I’ll be caught up at the station most of tomorrow evening. Jensen and girls can just stay in L.A. for now,” he said quietly, his blue eyes scanning the note again.
“Are you sure you’re okay, sweetheart?” Renee asked.
“I’m fine, Mom. Promise.” He forced a chuckle that actually sounded genuine. “Just working a homicide case. I think the case I’m working and Jensen’s case would benefit from fewer distractions.”
She laughed, but Bo knew damn well that she didn’t believe him. “Okay, honey. Call me if you change your mind?”
“Will do, Mom.”
“I love you, Bo,” Renee said softly.
“I love you, too, Mom. I’ll see you soon.” He ended the call, dialing Jamal’s number as he headed back toward the house.
“I’m listening,” Jamal said after the first ring.
“Jensen and the girls are not coming to Clinstone tomorrow night,” Bo said. He stepped into the house, frowning. He stepped back outside and shut the door again. “I don’t care if you put them on a no fly list to make sure they don’t grab a commercial flight. They do not leave Los Angeles.”
“Of course. What’s changed?” Jamal questioned.
“Another note, that’s what,” Bo said. “He’ll kill Amber and then he’ll kill Jensen like Bridget. I can’t…”
“Hey,” Jamal said loudly. “I promised you that nothing would fucking happen to them. I will not let them anything happen to Jensen or the kids. I won’t let anything happen to you. Do you trust me?”
“Yes,” Bo whispered.
“Good. I don’t break promises, Bo. You know that, correct?”
“Don’t… don’t ‘sir’ me. You aren’t supposed to fear me. Not you.”
“Sorry.” Bo wrapped his free arm around himself. “Jamal, I don’t know what to do,” he whispered.
“I’m working on that. You give me the word, and I’ll have someone find the guy behind this,” Jamal said.
Bo shook his head, his eyes scanning the houses across the street. “Not yet.” He cleared his throat. “Right now, I just need to make sure they’re safe. Are you busy tomorrow?”
Jamal snorted. “No, I’m not busy. What do you need me to do?”
“Cameras in the house. I need to be able to see them to know they’re okay. I know it’s crazy, but…”
“It’s not crazy at all, Bo. Katherine is crazy. This isn’t,” Jamal said. “I’ll do it tomorrow and send you the feed to link to your phone. Does that work?”
“That’s… amazing. Thank you.”
“You’re very welcome, Bo.” Bo heard a car door shut, immediately followed by the start of an engine. “If you’ll excuse me, I have a… client to scare the shit out of. Call me if anything changes or if you need something, okay?”
“Okay, Jamal. Thank you. Again.”
“Never a problem, kid. Keep your head on straight. I’ll fix this,” Jamal said. Bo pulled his phone away from his ear after Jamal ended the call. He tucked his phone into his pocket and headed back into the house. He shivered at the sudden relief from the cold, kicking off his shoes as he shut the door. He walked into the kitchen, setting the mail on the counter.
“You okay?” Thomas asked.
Bo shrugged, unfolding the note and setting it down in front of Thomas. He stepped around the older man, reaching up to open one of the cupboards. He grabbed a small glass and filled it with water. He leaned back against the counter, crossing an arm over his chest as he took a small sip.
“What the hell is this? I mean… How does he know that?” Thomas asked.
Bo lifted his shoulders. “Either tapped my phone or bugged my house,” he said, his voice barely audible. “Or both, but I would assume the house is bugged. My phone’s a little too advanced in security to be messed with. If this guy was planning it for a while, though, he could’ve bugged the house before I came back to Clinstone. I didn’t have the security system activated while we were gone, otherwise it goes off every time Cecilia gets the mail for me,” he said. He sighed. “Where are the kids?”
“Family room. Watching a movie, I think,” Thomas said quietly.
Bo nodded. “Jake still asleep in my room?”
“Last I knew.”
“Okay,” Bo whispered. He inhaled deeply, setting the glass on the counter. “I’ll be back.” He walked into the family room, grabbing his laptop from the coffee table. He offered a smile when Katie’s eyes met his. He straightened himself back out and headed for the kitchen again. He set his laptop on the counter, opening up the lid and tapping a finger against the power button.
“What are you gonna do?” Thomas questioned.
“Check my phone, for starters,” Bo said. He typed in his password and pulled his phone from his pocket. Dragging down a small bar from the top of his screen, he turned on his Bluetooth connection. At the bottom of his laptop screen, he did the same. “People used to tap into Kathy’s phone all the time, so I created an application of sorts to easily figure out if it had been tapped, tampered with, or even if the GPS location had been tracked recently. Since then, it’s been improved several times of course, but that’s to be expected,” he explained, opening up the app in question.
Thomas watched him open up several different menus on screen before crossing his arms over the counter. “And what’s your plan if your phone’s been tapped?” he asked.
“I don’t know. Willingly hand myself over to the stalker?” Bo questioned. “If he can get into my phone, he’s smarter than I am. That’s not something I want to deal with, not now.” He dropped his hands to the counter as a series of numbers appeared on the screen, each set scrolling by far too quickly to read. At the end, Bo snorted. “Told you. Not tapped.”
“So now what?” Thomas asked.
“Now we open this one,” Bo said, going back to his desktop and double clicking a separate application. “Again, people used to bug Kathy and Dallas’s house all the time. I’d do a manual check of it at least once a week, and that got tedious, so I did something much easier. Back then, I basically wired a series of RF detectors and spectrum analyzers throughout the house and connected them all back to the app. As long as the blueprints of the house are also backed up in the app, a simple click of a button here detects every single bug in the house,” he explained.
Thomas watched the blueprints of the house pop up on the screen. Small green dots appeared in several of the rooms. “So… those are the bugs?” he asked.
“Yep.” Bo shook his head, pushing himself away from the counter. He walked into the small breakfast nook, opening his satchel and pulling out two pairs of gloves. He handed a pair over to Thomas. “What an asshole. I can be stupid, but I’m not that stupid,” Bo muttered, his eyes raking over the laptop screen again as he pulled on his gloves.
He walked into the family room, lowering himself to his knees behind the couch. He ran a hand beneath the couch, rolling his eyes when his fingers grazed something smooth. He pulled it free from the couch and rose to his feet again.
“What’re you doing?” Katie asked.
“Checking for dust bunnies,” Bo said. “A clean house is a healthy house,” he added.
“Uh-huh,” Katie said slowly. “Right.”
Bo shrugged, walking back to the kitchen. He grabbed a plastic baggies, dropping the device into the bag. He grabbed a pen from his pocket, clicked the end and wrote ‘FR 1’ on the bag. “Can you get the ones from the back bedrooms? Just keep track of where they came from.”
Thomas nodded. “Can do,” he said quietly.
Bo walked back to his bedroom, opening the door quietly. Jacob was stretched out on his stomach in the middle of the bed, his arms hugging the pillow to his head. Bo smiled faintly as he crossed the room. A hand on the edge of the bed, he lowered himself to the floor. He reached under the bed, pulling out the listening device from the middle of the frame.
On Jensen’s side of the bed, he pulled open the nightstand drawer, clearing his throat as he pushed several items out of his way. At the bottom of the drawer, he removed the tape from the device and grabbed it, pushing the drawer shut again. He removed one from the bathroom and two from Jensen’s closet. Obviously, the stalker had known that only Bo would be returning to help deal with the Alice situation.
Bo walked back into the bedroom, only stopping on the way out when Jacob said his name. “Yes?” Bo questioned, turning back to look at the sergeant.
“They’re still at the hospital with her, right?” Jacob asked, his voice rough with sleep.
“Yes, Jake. She’s not alone.”
“Good,” Jacob murmured. He cleared his throat, snuggling back into the pillow. “Very good,” he added quietly. Bo walked back up to the bed, grabbing the covers with his free hand and pulling them over Jacob’s body. He walked out of the bedroom, shutting the door behind him.
He met Thomas in the kitchen. “And now?” Thomas questioned as Bo started putting the bugs into their own baggies.
“And now I load the audio recordings onto the computer, deactivate the devices entirely, find out how long they’ve been here, take them apart, and find out when, where, and how they were made,” Bo said.
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