12:14 PM; CLINSTONE, THE AUSTEN-TAYLOR HOUSEHOLD, FOYER
Bo pulled open the door slowly, his shoulders relaxing as his blue eyes landed on his uncle’s scarred face. Thomas Smalls offered a smile that only lifted the right side of his mouth. The nerves in the left side of his face were permanently damaged, making it impossible for the left corner of his mouth to move. He stepped into the house, shutting the door behind him.
Bo wrapped his arms around Thomas, his head resting near the older man’s shoulder. Silently, Thomas wrapped his nephew in a hug, resting his cheek against the top of Bo’s head. “I’m glad you’re okay,” Bo whispered.
“Kid, out of all the things that could have killed me in this life, your stalker isn’t going to be the one that gets the upper hand,” Thomas said. He buried a hand in Bo’s hair. “We need to talk about that. This stalker? Since when?” he asked.
“Monday morning,” Bo said quietly, his arms tightening around Thomas.
“Mmhmm. How many notes?”
“Two. Two notes, two bodies. They’re imitating cases that I have a connection to,” Bo said.
“And what have those been?”
“The Gym Bag Killer and CGK,” Bo said.
“Which means they know you’re related to me,” Thomas said, barely flinching at the reminder of the serial killer that had almost taken his life back in 2005. He cleared his throat. “How close was the CGK scene? How realistic?”
“I–I don’t know. I saw the cut on her face, took the note, and asked the detectives to call in the ME.” Bo sniffled. “I can get into the station’s database and check the crime scene photos, though.”
“Yeah, okay. Let’s do that,” Thomas said softly. Bo nodded, stepping away from his uncle. Thomas followed Bo into the family room. All three of Jacob’s children sat on the couch, watching whatever movie was playing on the television—Bo wasn’t sure. He grabbed his laptop from the coffee table and headed for the breakfast nook just off the kitchen. Thomas grabbed one of the chairs from the round table and moved it closer to the one Bo sat down in. “Jake’s kids?” Thomas asked.
“Alice is in the hospital after premature birth of their twins,” Bo said quietly, typing in the password for his laptop. Or, what he believed was his password. According his laptop, it was incorrect. “Jake’s barely functioning, so I’m taking care of the kids,” he added, rubbing the heel of his palm under his eye.
“What about the twins?”
“Alive. One of them needs… a new heart, I think. I can barely remember my damn password, clearly, so I wouldn’t quote me on anything that I say.”
Thomas reached over and laid a hand over both of Bo’s, stopping him from his second attempt at his password. “Close your eyes.”
“Close them.” With a heavy sigh, Bo did as told. “Breathe in. Low. Use your diaphragm so your shoulders don’t move.” Thomas watched the blonde for a moment. “Home. Picture… picture home. Think about where you are, who you’re with. Imagine that you’re there instead of here,” he said. Slowly, a soft smile turned up either corner of Bo’s mouth. “Open your eyes and type in your password,” Thomas said, lifting his hand.
Bo did as told, successfully choosing the correct password this time. “Thanks,” he whispered.
Thomas nodded. “Where’d you go?” he asked.
The smile came back to Bo’s face as he dragged his fingers across the mousepad. “Jensen and our girls. Los Angeles,” he said softly.
“Always a good place to be.”
Bo nodded, bringing up the application he had synced to CPD’s network. “When you think of home… where is it?” he asked.
“Anywhere with Jeanette,” Thomas said, referring to his wife. The right corner of his mouth lifted. “It doesn’t matter where it is. Home isn’t a place for me. It’s a person, and that’s my Netty.” Bo smiled faintly, but he didn’t respond. After bringing up the pictures Gwen and Misty had taken that morning, he turned his laptop toward Thomas. Instinctively, Thomas’s hand moved up to cover the scar on his face as his free hand swiped through the pictures on the screen.
The cut on the victim’s face started just beneath the left eye socket, cutting down the cheek and into the jaw line. The cut was smooth, seamless, unlike the scar on Thomas’s face. CGK had gotten the blade stuck between his molars, an unexpected event that had caused the killer to wiggle the blade free, widening the cut, extending the damage.
The cut on the torso started just above her pelvis and ran up to her chest. The mark was perfectly straight, lined up directly in the middle of her torso. Thomas closed his eyes for a moment. He had to see the same mark every time he accidentally caught his reflection before getting into the shower.
“You shouldn’t have to do this,” Bo said. “I shouldn’t have called you.”
“You called me to let me know I could be in danger,” Thomas said. “You didn’t ask me to do this. I insisted upon it,” he murmured.
The single cut beneath the right side of the victim’s rib cage was clean, done in one thrust. The same mark on Thomas’s right side wasn’t done cleanly. The scar was longer than the normal cuts done by CGK back in his day. Thomas hadn’t been tied down like the other victims. He had been fighting back, and it had resulted in the work turning sloppy, the scars turning nasty.
On the woman’s right hip, the letters ‘CGK’ had been carved. Thomas felt his stomach churn. The letters carved into his own hip had never been finished. The killer had gotten through the C and half of the letter G when Thomas had managed to shove him away, grab his gun, and shoot him, three bullets from under the jaw and through the brain.
Thomas cleared his throat, gently pushing the laptop away from himself. “He’s very… accurate in his recreation,” he said quietly.
“I’m sorry,” Bo whispered.
Thomas shook his head. “It’s not your fault. If I didn’t want to get attacked by a serial killer, I shouldn’t have gone into that house by myself,” he said.
Bo cleared his throat. “What, umm… what does CGK stand for?”
“I don’t know,” Thomas said. “I mean, I had guessed, but I killed him before I had a chance to ask.”
“What did you think it meant?”
“Cut. Gouge. Kill.” Bo nodded. “So… what’s your plan?” Thomas questioned.
“I don’t have one,” Bo said.
“Well, where’s Jensen?” Bo cleared his throat, turning his head to look out the window. “Oh, of course. He doesn’t know. Why doesn’t he know?”
“He’s working an important case in L.A..”
“And he thinks that’s more important than you?” Thomas asked.
“No. I know it’s more important than me,” Bo said. He turned back toward his uncle. “If I told him, he’d drop everything and bring the girls back with him. I promised Mom and Dad that they would be there for Thanksgiving. I can’t be there, and I refuse to break the rest of that promise,” he said.
“You’re at least aware that you’re insane, correct?” Thomas questioned.
“More or less, yeah. Although that fact doesn’t seem to bother me as much as it bothers you and Cecilia. It’s logical to put him first,” Bo said.
“Not while you’re suffering,” Thomas said. “That’s the part that makes you crazy.”
Bo opened his mouth to respond, stopping himself as Elijah padded into the kitchen. “What’s up, buddy?”
“Can we eat soon?” Elijah asked.
“Yeah, of course. Do you know what you want?” Bo asked, pushing his chair back and standing up. Elijah shook his head, holding his hands out toward Bo. At the age of five, Elijah still liked to be held as often as possible. Since he was short and still weighed next to nothing, Bo wasn’t planning on complaining anytime soon. He bent down and picked him up. “We’ll figure out something. I’ll be in the kitchen, okay?” Bo asked, touching a hand to Thomas’s shoulder.
“Sure, kiddo. Where are the letters?” Thomas asked as he stood up.
“Umm, my room. They’re on the nightstand,” Bo said.
“All right. I’m gonna go ahead and read through those, if that’s okay.”
Bo nodded. “That’s fine,” he said quietly. “Preference for food?”
“Nope. Make whatever works for kids one through three. I’ll make it work,” Thomas said.
Bo smiled faintly. “Thanks.” Thomas nodded, lifting a hand slightly before leaving the room. Bo sighed, moving Elijah over to rest on his hip. “Let’s go see what we can make for lunch, hmm?” Elijah nodded, letting his head rest on the blonde’s shoulder.
10:04 PM; CLINSTONE, THE AUSTEN-TAYLOR HOUSEHOLD, MASTER BEDROOM
“It was pretty uneventful,” Bo lied.
“No cases?” Jensen asked.
“There was a homicide this morning, but I didn’t go to the scene. I have Jake’s kids to worry about,” Bo said.
“Ah, fair enough. How’re they holding up?” Jensen questioned.
“It’s… getting easier for them, I think. I mean, it’s either getting easier or they just don’t want to be around Jake right now,” the blonde said.
“For lack of a better word, he can be kind of an ass,” Bo said. “We went to visit him today and he shoved me into the wall because I suggested that the names of the newborns were important to him and Alice,” he said.
“In pain or not, he doesn’t have the right to push you around,” Jensen said through his teeth. “Did he leave any marks?”
Bo’s gaze shifted to the finger-shaped bruises on his upper arm. “No.”
“Besides, it’s my fault. I keep bringing it up. It’s like rubbing salt in the wound. I’m the asshole here,” Bo said. “I just need him to sign the birth certificate, that’s all.” He cleared his throat, readjusting his grip on his phone. “Maybe I’ll just forge his signature. It’d be easier than talking him into signing it.”
“Trick him into signing it,” Jensen suggested.
“He’d probably kill me if he found out. I don’t want to risk that,” Bo said. He dropped to his back on the bed, sighing as he pressed his phone to his ear again. “Enough about me and all of this. How’s the case coming along?”
“Not a lot of progress. Nothing interesting has come up, that’s for damn sure,” Jensen said. “Are you sure you won’t make it back for Thanksgiving?”
“I wish I could, Jens. But unless Alice makes a full recovery right now and gets out of the hospital before then, I have to be here. Jake can’t take care of their kids. He just… he can’t,” Bo said.
Jensen sighed quietly. “Yeah,” he whispered. “I miss you. I don’t realize how shit my sleep schedule is without you beside me. I think I’ve slept, like, four hours since you left.”
“I know exactly what you mean,” Bo said softly. “But after Thanksgiving, you can come back to Clinstone with the girls. And then we can both get a good night’s rest.”
“That’s basically forever away,” Jensen said.
“I know. But, if you want, you can come here Thursday night instead of Friday. I can ask Mom and Dad to hold lunch instead of supper.”
“That would be amazing,” Jensen whispered. “Yes, do that, please.”
Bo smiled faintly. “I’ll call Mom tomorrow and ask.” He closed his eyes. “How’re the girls?”
“Good. Kayla can’t wait to see you again. She says she misses you tucking her in,” Jensen said. He chuckled. “Apparently, mine just aren’t good enough.”
“That’s because mine are so much better, love.”
“I know. You’re better at figuring out where to put the blanket than I am. I get to close to her chin.”
Bo snorted. “I spent a lot of time tucking your tired ass in, so I’ve had a fair share of practice. Word of advice? Stop just before you hit her shoulders,” he said. “She doesn’t like it when things touch her neck or throat. It makes her nervous.”
“Will do. Thanks, Eli.”
“You’re welcome, Jens.” Bo let out a heavy sigh, draping an arm over his eyes. “You’ll have to talk to Jamal to let him know you’ll need to come back Thursday instead of Friday.”
“Yeah, if I can manage to get ahold of him. He’s barely been at the station or near his phone since you left,” Jensen said.
I think he’s tracking down my enemies, Bo thought. “Well, you know Jamal and his external business agreements.”
“Fair point. God, can you imagine what’s gonna happen to L.A. once Jamal’s forced to retire?” Jensen asked.
Bo swallowed, an uncomfortable feeling settling in his stomach. That was another thing he was lying to Jensen about. Bo was going to take over for Jamal, and he wasn’t set to change a single thing about the department or the way Jamal got business done. “I imagine Jamal’s finding someone that’ll be a good backup for him. He’s not going to let everything he’s worked for be destroyed.”
“Also a good point,” Jensen agreed. “You wanna stay on the phone until you fall asleep again?”
“Yes, please,” Bo whispered.
Jensen chuckled softly, a sound that brought a smile to Bo’s face. “All righty, Eli.”
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