Saturday: December 7, 2024
3:07 AM; CLINSTONE, THE AUSTEN-TAYLOR HOUSEHOLD, BREAKFAST NOOK
Bo looked up from his laptop, offering a smile. “Hi.”
Thomas cleared his throat as he sat down across from Bo, setting two coffee mugs on the table. “Can’t sleep?”
Bo shrugged as Thomas pushed one of the mugs closer to him. “Thank you.” Thomas nodded. “I’m trying to not feel quite as useless as I have felt this whole time. I only managed to stay at work yesterday for an hour, Tom. It… it’s not who I am, who I’m supposed to be,” he said quietly.
“So it’s taking a couple days to get back on the horse. That doesn’t make you useless,” Thomas said. He wrapped his hands around his coffee mug, tilting his head to the side. “What’re you doing, then? To… fell useful?” he asked.
“Well, I was trying to figure out where our killer was, where he hides, what he drives,” Bo said. He drew his left foot up to rest on the chair, wrapping an arm around his leg to hold it against his chest. “Jensen filled me in on where they found the boy. The boy himself is still too drugged up to tell us much of anything, but they found him in Smoke Hills.”
“Which was the Hunter’s burial grounds,” Thomas said quietly.
Bo nodded. “Right. There are, like, seven different entrances to that forest, four of which have parking lots. I think I found the killer’s car. It’s a blue van, but the plate belongs to a black Chevy, and the Chevy’s plate belongs to a red convertible, and the convertible’s plate belongs to a grey Malibu.” Bo lifted his shoulders. “He switches the plates all the time. I’ve looked at over thirty cars, and half of those aren’t even from cars registered in this state.”
“He’s determined to make sure you don’t find out his real name,” Thomas said quietly.
“Right, that’s what I was thinking, too. Which… is a bit nerve-wracking, because now I’m scared… that I do know him. He knows I’ll recognize the name,” Bo said. “Or, at least, I can’t come up with a better reason as to why he’d go through so much trouble with switching plates.”
“Possibly,” Thomas said simply. He lifted his coffee mug and took a small drink. “Maybe he just likes playing cat and mouse.”
“Which one am I?” Bo asked.
Thomas shrugged. “That’s up to you, kiddo. Are you running away from the bastard? Or are you turning the tables and chasing him down?”
Bo remained silent for a moment, absentmindedly drumming the fingers of his right hand against his laptop’s keyboard. “I’m going to turn the tables,” he said quietly.
“There you go. Then it looks like you’re the cat, and that little coward is the mouse,” Thomas said softly. “Now, does he stand a chance against you?”
“No,” Bo whispered.
“No,” Bo repeated just a little louder than before. “No, he doesn’t stand a chance at all.”
Thomas smiled. “Thataboy. Let’s find this guy.”
“You’re going to help?”
“That’s what I’m here for, right?” Thomas asked.
“Even… even though you know that I’m handing him over to Jamal?” Bo questioned hesitantly.
“Yes, even though. You’re family, Bo. I’ll turn a blind eye on this one.”
“Thank you,” Bo whispered. Thomas only nodded.
11:30 AM; CLINSTONE, THE MASON HOUSEHOLD, KITCHEN
“So,” Jensen started, putting a plate back into the cupboard, “how far did you get in tracking our guy?” he asked.
“I know what car he drives and I tracked it from Clinstone to Magnolia and then back to Clinstone when he drove to Smoke Hills,” Bo said. “Other than that, not much more than we’ve had.”
“Have you told Jamal?”
“Not yet. I want to wait until I have something solid to go off of. When we’re done cleaning here and we get back home, I’m going to try and see if I can find where he keeps his car when he’s not, you know, kidnapping and killing people,” Bo said.
Jensen nodded. “Well, the car is still more than we had before,” he said.
“Yeah, I suppose,” Bo said quietly. He leaned to the side, gently elbowing Jensen in the side. “I thought that after this is all over, we could leave the girls with Jamal and spend a day alone for the first time in over a year. Expensive dinner… nice hotel room.”
Jensen smiled broadly. “I think that’s pretty well-deserved, right?” Bo nodded. “Sometimes, Bo, I shit you not, you have the best ideas.”
Bo chuckled. “I try.”
“After this is over, I’ll make reservations somewhere fancy. Make up a list of places you want to try and… and I’ll choose one?” Jensen asked, closing the cupboard.
“Sounds like a plan,” Bo agreed.
“Good.” Jensen leaned down and kissed him. “I’ll be in Charlotte’s and Elijah’s room. I do believe a certain someone has made a mess of everything,” he said.
Bo laughed softly. “Okay. I’ll be back to help in a few. I just need to finish cleaning out the fridge.”
“Okie dokie. See you in a bit.”
3:08 PM; CLINSTONE, UNKNOWN LOCATION
Jamal helped Nicole sit up on the edge of the bed. “Good or bad?” he asked.
“It’s okay,” Nicole said, offering a shrug.
“How’s your pain?”
He nodded. “All right. We’re gonna stand up and I’ll walk you out to my car. We’ll get on my plane, we’ll go back to L.A., I’ll get you home, and I will explain everything to Wayne so he doesn’t place the blame on you. He’ll know it was my idea not to tell him about this,” he said.
“Okay,” Nicole said. Carefully, she grabbed his bruised hands, doing everything she could not to touch his knuckles. Despite what the older man said, they looked sore, and she wasn’t planning on making his pain worse. With a grunt, she lets him pull her to her feet.
“Still good?” Jamal asked. She nodded. A hand between her shoulders, he steered her toward the door. “I’m going to need you to close your eyes before we step outside and not open them until I tell you to.”
“Because I’d prefer to not kill you right now,” Jamal said.
“Because… I’m going to tell everyone about your secret hideout?” Nicole questioned.
“It’s not my secret hideout,” Jamal said. “So close your damn eyes.” Letting out a dramatic groan, Nicole did as told. Blindly, she allowed Jamal to guide her out of the building. A door closed and after a little more walking, a door opened. “Duck. It’s the car,” he said. He laid a hand on top of her head to help her into the car. “Eyes stay closed,” he added before shutting the door. He rounded the car and opened the driver’s seat. He slid into the car, pulling the door closed.
“Don’t you always have someone driving you around?” Nicole asked.
“He’s busy,” Jamal said simply, turning the key in the ignition.
“Is anything more important than taking you places?” she questioned.
“Yes. He’s babysitting someone for me,” he said. He shifted the car into gear and started down the discrete gravel driveway.
“Someone I had to leave behind when I came to save your ass,” Jamal said.
“So the person that totally destroyed your hands?”
“You ask a lot of questions, Nicole.”
“I do that when I’m nervous. Sorry,” she said.
“I’m not going to kill you. This is a nice car, and Frank just had it reupholstered last week after the last time I spilled blood in it” Jamal said.
“Also comforting,” Nicole said. “Did they really used to call you Death? Or were you just saying that to prove a point?”
“It’s tattooed on my chest, Nicole. I don’t fabricate stories to prove a point. I offer up the truth to prove a point,” he said softly.
“And that always works?”
“If it hasn’t worked in the past, they never lived to tell the tale.”
“You know, in another life, I think we would’ve gotten along pretty damn well,” Nicole said.
Jamal chuckled. “Darling, you’ve only ever laid your hands on bad people, people who were killers,” he said. “I never took the moral high ground on that one. You would’ve hated me in another life, too.”
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