Sunday: December 8, 2024
7:32 AM; CLINSTONE, THE AUSTEN-TAYLOR HOUSEHOLD, FAMILY ROOM
“Good morning, sweetheart,” Thomas said softly, his phone pressed to his ear. “No, I… I don’t know when I’ll be home. I’ll do my best to come see you before you leave again. I just wanted to say happy birthday,” he said.
Bo frowned, tucking his laptop under his left arm. “You can go home, Tom,” he said quietly. Thomas’s blue eyes shifted to the blonde’s face. “Jamal will get you a flight back home today. It’s your… daughter’s birthday?”
“And son’s. Twins.”
“Go,” Bo said softly. “I’d hate to miss out on my girls’ birthdays,” he added.
Thomas cocked his head to the side. “Are you sure?”
“Thank you,” Thomas whispered. Bo nodded. “Good news, sweetheart. Looks like I’ll come back today.” Bo smiled faintly and walked out of the family room. He set his laptop on the table in the small breakfast nook and headed into the kitchen. After filling up the coffee pot’s reservoir with water, he turned it on. He leaned back against the counter, crossing his arms over his chest.
His plan was to do whatever he could to find out who his stalker was before the sun set that evening. He knew it was going to take a lot of time practically glued to his laptop, but it was something he was willing to do. It was something he had to do. For his family.
Bo looked down as a small hand tugged on his shirt sleeve. He smiled softly. “Hey, buddy.” Elijah, still in his pajamas, held his arms out toward Bo. Bo uncrossed his arms and bent down to pick up the boy. “You’re getting heavy, you know,” the blonde said, swinging him around to rest on his hip.
“Nuh-uh,” Elijah denied, wrapping his arms loosely around Bo’s neck. “What if I just, you know, stay small and cute forever?” he asked.
Bo chuckled. “Well, I suppose you could, but I don’t think that’s something science has accounted for just yet.” Elijah dropped his head to Bo’s shoulder. “But, the good news is that you’ll always be adorable and as you get older, that’ll change into people telling you how handsome you are.”
“And that’s a good thing?”
“Definitely a good thing.”
“Are you handsome?”
Bo snorted. “I’m short enough that everyone taller than me calls me adorable,” he said. “Which, you know, is most of the men I know,” he added. Elijah gave a little laugh, lifting his head to look up at Bo again. “What awesome things do you have planned for the day?”
“I dunno,” Elijah said, lifting his shoulders. “What’re you doing?”
“After coffee is made, I think I’ll be stuck behind a computer most of the day,” Bo said. “But there’s snow on the ground, if you guys wanted to go out and, what, build a fort? Dig a hole?”
“Maybe,” Elijah agreed with a slight nod. “Would Jensen go out with us?”
“Probably. He’s really good at snow forts,” Bo said. Elijah smiled. “Are you hungry?”
Elijah nodded. “Waffles?” he questioned.
“Of course. I’ll do waffles.” Bo’s arm tightened around the boy as he pushed away from the counter and pulled open the freezer. After breakfast, he could get back to the search for his stalker. That was what mattered the most for the day.
3:09 PM; CLINSTONE, THE AUSTEN-TAYLOR HOUSEHOLD, DRIVEWAY
Bo flinched as someone knocked on the passenger side window of his car. He turned toward the door just as it opened. He smiled faintly. “Hi.”
Jamal smiled back at the blonde, sliding into the car and closing the door. “What’re you doing out here? Your family’s in the back building snowmen and shit.”
“I’ve been trying to find the killer,” Bo said. He looked down, tapping the unopened cigarette pack against his thigh. “Whenever I have a craving that I don’t want to bother Jensen with, I just come out here and hold this for a little bit. I don’t plan on smoking any of them, but it’s a reminder of how far I’ve come, how much I don’t want to fall back on who I was after Bridget died.”
Jamal nodded, clearing his throat. “You don’t have to find the guy, Bo. I’m working on it.”
“I know. But I’m working on it, too,” Bo said. He turned back toward Jamal. “Let me feel useful. Just for a little bit.”
“You’re always useful.”
“You didn’t use to think that,” Bo said quietly.
“Are you talking about when Katherine was gone?” Bo nodded. “I was drinking then. After she left? I was a drunk.”
“I couldn’t tell.”
“Frank was good at making sure I kept it hidden. I wasn’t sloppy about it,” Jamal said softly. “Bo, I went to AA meetings every other evening for two years after she was arrested. I was miserable when she was gone, and I took it out on you and anyone else that would tolerate it without lashing out. I…” He cleared his throat. “I told you my wife was killed. I had already adopted Katherine by then, and she was the only family I had left from the time of my wife’s death. Losing her was… was a dark reminder of the past. I had a hard time handling it, and I’m deeply apologetic for what I did to you—how I made you feel—during that time.”
“Thank you.” Jamal nodded. “And I’m sorry. For your wife and for Kathy. I know I’m not the only person in the world that’s been through some dark shit,” Bo said.
“No, but you didn’t ask for the darkness surrounding your life. I asked for mine. I knew what I was getting into,” Jamal said simply. Again, he cleared his throat. “You close to finding the guy?”
The blonde lifted his shoulders. “I know what kind of car he drives. A blue van,” he said.
“Yeah, I… I knew that one.”
“The person that you said you were watching over? That was the person you sent to find him, right?” Bo asked.
“Yeah. She got pretty banged up,” Jamal said quietly.
“Did you give you a description of him?” Bo asked.
“She didn’t get a great look at him before he tried to fucking gut her.”
“Jesus Christ,” Bo whispered. “Well, umm, I know that, about seven hours ago, he switched out his blue van for a silver Ford Fusion,” he said. “He’s already switched the plates several times, but I was able to track him into Chesterwick again. He was there about two hours ago. If he’s heading back here, he’ll be gone for at least another hour,” he explained. “Jamal?”
“When you get this guy, I want to know who he is as soon as you figure it out. Okay?” Bo asked.
“I can do that,” Jamal said softly.
Bo nodded, turning to look out the window instead. “Your hands. Is that from teaching somebody a lesson?”
“More or less.”
“Is he dead?”
Bo turned back to the older man. “Really?”
“I don’t kill everyone I come in contact with, Bo. I do my job as the description entails. If the business is rough him up, I do just that,” Jamal said.
Bo shook his head slightly. “You probably could’ve used stitches on at least one of those knuckles.”
“More than likely. But I’m planning for another lesson teaching in a few days if we find this guy when I want to,” Jamal said. “No sense in getting stitches now.”
Jamal cleared his throat. “You know, kiddo, if you ever decide that all of this is too much, tell me. I’ll find someone else to take over for me, someone that won’t undermine what I’ve worked for.”
“Unless you order me to harm someone I care about, I’m still in. I signed up for this, Jamal. I promised you that I would take over,” Bo said. With a short sigh, he turned toward the window again. “I’m not going anywhere,” he added softly.
11:54 PM; CLINSTONE, THE AUSTEN-TAYLOR HOUSEHOLD, BREAKFAST NOOK
“Listening,” Jamal said after the second ring.
“He switched cars again and I managed to turn on the GPS in it,” Bo said, sounding nearly breathless as he stared at his laptop. “I’m sending you his coordinates. It’ll change every single time he moves. I… Jamal, I think we got him,” he whispered.
“That’s why you’re the brains, kiddo. I’ll call you as soon as I nab him,” Jamal said. “Bo?”
“Job well fucking done.”
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