4:01 AM; CLINSTONE POLICE DEPARTMENT, MORGUE
Bo stood beside the steel table the female victim—Megan Jordan—lay on, his hands clasped together at his chest. He had opened the blood box as soon as he had gotten back to the station. Megan’s phone had been in there, as expected. A note, however, had not.
Bo let out a heavy breath, closing his eyes as he tilted his head back toward the ceiling. If it weren’t for the possibility of Gwen seeing a note addressed to him, he would ask her to do the autopsy. But he was concerned with how disturbing the note may be, and he wasn’t willing to let anyone else read it.
Eventually, he’d get in trouble with the department for not documenting the notes, but he didn’t care. After this, he wasn’t certain he wanted to do his job any more.
Forcing his eyes open, he looked down at the corpse. He let out another breath, a sound caught somewhere between a low exhale and a whimper. He unclasped his hands, reaching out to pick up a scalpel in his right hand. “Okay,” he whispered. He touched the scalpel to the stitch closest to the woman’s left shoulder. “You can do this. It’s not the absolute worst thing you’ve ever done,” he said quietly.
His teeth sunk into the scar on the inside of his bottom lip and, with a deep inhale, he sliced cleanly through the stitches. He felt the unfamiliar stir of sickness in his stomach as the skin near her shoulder slid back and away from the cut, slicing the upper half of the woman open in a way that normally didn’t bother the blonde.
Bo swallowed roughly, glancing up at the ceiling before slicing through the stitches on Megan’s right. He cut through the stitches on her abdomen, immediately setting the scalpel down and turning away afterward. He inhaled deeply, hating how weak he felt.
He ran the underside of his wrist across his forehead and turned back to the body. Her ribs were broken. Several were missing altogether. Her heart, as expected, was missing. Bo’s stalker had stolen that straight from Ammut’s M.O. handbook. In its place sat a plastic baggie, a folded note inside. On the outside of the note, a heart—the cartoony version—had been drawn. Bo’s jaw tensed as he reached into the woman’s chest cavity, his fingers grazing her left lung as he grabbed the baggie.
“Sick bastard,” Bo muttered. He crossed the room, turning on the water in the sink with his elbow. He ran the baggie under the water before setting it on the counter. He shut of the water and pulled off his gloves, tossing them into the garbage. He opened the baggie and pulled out the note. In a manner of preparation, he sat down on the floor, the folded note held in his hands.
This way, he could say the stalker hadn’t been the one to knock him flat on his ass.
Bo drew in a deep breath, letting it out slowly. Nodding slightly, he unfolded the note.
Bo’s heart skipped a beat as he swallowed roughly. “That has to be a coincidence. It has…” He trailed off, his brow furrowing as he tried to convince himself that the nickname was entirely coincidental, that it had nothing to do with him, that it was just a cutesy little name the stalker had taken a liking to.
I bet it’s been a while since you’ve been called that. What was his name?
Ah, yes. Aramis. You were his odd little duck. He was always so proud of every single little thing that you did. You were like a son he never had.
A freak, sure, but a son. He cared about you so much. Remember when he let you stay in his guest bedroom so you could run away from Mommy and Daddy like the little shit you were?
Good morning, little duck. I hope you’re as excited as I am for Sunday.
I can’t wait to see you all together again. I get all kinds of jittery just THINKING about what Jensen will do when he finds out about me. And the girls…
I find myself dreaming about how they’ll react after I finally get my hands on you, my little duck.
Bo dropped the note to the floor, his hands shaking as he reached for his phone. He unlocked his screen and dialed Jamal’s number. His thumb hovered over the green ‘call’ button. He frowned, sniffling. If he called Jamal, he’d send his men to the house without Bo’s permission. Bo didn’t want to scare Jacob’s kids.
He tapped his thumb against the back button his phone several times before locking the screen. This one just wasn’t Jamal’s problem.
5:32 PM; CLINSTONE, THE AUSTEN-TAYLOR HOUSEHOLD, KITCHEN
Bo flinched as a hand touched his shoulder. He turned, lifting his gaze to Thomas’s face.
“Sorry,” Thomas apologized. “He wants you.” Wordlessly, Bo took Elijah from Thomas, balancing the young boy on his hip. “I wasn’t expecting you to stay at work all day.”
Bo shrugged, pulling open the refrigerator door. “I had things to do,” he said quietly.
“I kind of guessed that much. Are you all right?” Thomas asked.
“Peachy,” Bo said.
Bo grabbed a bottle of water, turning back toward Thomas. He forced a smile to his face that felt just as genuine as he was broken. “I’m fine, Tom. The case today didn’t even relate to me. It was just a homicide. It was just like any old case I used to work. It was a relief from everything else that’s been going on.”
“Right,” Thomas said slowly. “You know you don’t have to lie to me, right?”
Thomas frowned. Bo was always hard to read, and the two words he’d just spoken with absolute seriousness were no different. “Okay,” Thomas said quietly. “Well, I’m gonna go ahead and take a shower then. Let me know if you change your mind and suddenly aren’t so peachy?” he asked. Bo nodded. “You don’t have to do this alone,” Thomas whispered. A hand on the side of Bo’s head, Thomas pressed a kiss to his forehead. “I love you. Don’t shut me out now.”
“Sorry,” Bo whispered.
Thomas shook his head. “Don’t be. You go sit down and relax. You look like you could pass out. I’ll make supper after my shower, okay?”
Bo nodded. “Thank you.”
“You’re welcome, kiddo.”
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