8:20 AM; CLINSTONE, IVORY HILL, PARKING LOT
After a quick trip to the Little Delights Diner for coffee, Jensen pulled the cruiser into a parking space in the nearly empty parking lot outside of Clinstone’s bar. Bo climbed out of the passenger seat, leaning back in to grab his camera bag as Jensen slid out of the driver’s seat.
In the backseat of the cruise, Jacob rapped his knuckles against the window. Jensen only smiled at the man.
“Let him out, Jens,” Bo said, glancing at his husband over the top of the car.
“Aww, Eli, you’re no fun.”
“Never claimed to be, love,” Bo reminded. Jensen rolled his eyes, a faint smile still on his face as he pulled open the back door.
Jacob climbed out of the car, closing the door behind him. He shoved at Jensen’s shoulder, drawing a laugh out of the younger man as he stumbled to the side. “What’s the plan, Blondie?”
“I’m going to take some more pictures. Gwen did a damn good job, of course. I just feel… more in control of my thoughts if I have my own too.”
“Right. Whatever works for you, brother.” Jacob rounded the car, his coffee cup held to his chest. He leaned against the back door as Bo fitted the external flash onto his camera. Playfully, he punched Bo’s shoulder with his free hand. “Good to have you back in Clinstone, lab geek.”
Bo looked over at Jacob long enough to smile at him. “Thank you, Jake. I’m more than glad to be back too.” He twisted the lens into place and stepped back, closing the door. “Which alley is it?” he asked, turning to face the bar.
“Uh… the one to your left.”
“Thank you.” Bo headed for the alleyway, Jacob and Jensen trailing behind him. He turned toward the bar, eyes sweeping over the wall and ground where Angie Hall’s body had once been. The blood had been washed away, most likely by one of the bartenders or the building’s owner.
Bo cocked his head to the side. Tilting his camera back against his shoulder, he pulled his phone from his pocket. “You weren’t at the crime scene, were you, Jake?”
“Only when the girl’s body was still here. And even that was pretty much just to talk to Will about it. He was pretty fucked up when I got here.”
“Right,” Bo murmured. He unlocked his phone and opened up the pictures Gwen had sent them. He scrolled through the images before looking back up at the wall. “I-I know this is my mind doing that thing where it over analyzes everything I see, but there’s a sticker here that wasn’t here when Miss Hall’s body was found.”
Jensen stepped up behind Bo, looking down at his phone before looking back at the wall. “It’s a smiley face.”
“I dunno. If you, as a normal human person, don’t kill people in your free time, do you genuinely leave your house with the intention of leaving a smiley face sticker where a young girl had been murdered?” Jensen asked.
“Well, I’m not a normal human person.” Bo turned to Jacob. “So?”
Jacob stared at the blonde for a moment before letting his sapphire eyes drift over to the wall. He hated when Bo used him as an example of ‘normal’. Over the years, Jacob had learned to hate the word. Normal. Who the hell decided what normal way anyway? Bo didn’t get to fit into society’s view of ‘normal’ because of the way his mind worked? Because he had graduated high school and college early?
Jacob hated it.
Still, he cleared his throat, shoving his hands into the pockets of his dress pants. “Well, I wouldn’t. I’d like to think I’m capable of being respectful to the dead,” he said. “But you have to keep in mind that we aren’t exactly short on kids in this town. Teenagers do stupid shit just to be cool or make a statement.”
“Right. Again, over analyzing.” Bo shoved his phone back into his pocket.
“Why don’t you take a picture of it anyway?” Jensen asked, his voice soft. “You never know, Eli. Don’t turn around and walk back the way you came just ‘cause you’re scared crossing the bridge is the wrong way. You can always turn around if it’s wrong. Always.”
“Yes,” Bo said quietly, “I suppose you’re right.” Jensen pressed a kiss to the top of the blonde’s beanie-clad head and stepped back as Bo squatted down for a different angle on the wall.
“You’ve gotten damn good at handling his doubt,” Jacob said once Jensen stopped beside him.
“Thanks. I do my best, if nothing else. After I fucked up on the Bonekeeper case and told him his theory was crazy, I… I had to do better. I can’t make that mistake again. People died because of that mistake. Bo woulda helped prove it was her a hell of a lot sooner if it hadn’t been for me.” Jensen cleared his throat. “But I’m working on it. I’ll always work on it.”
“It’s a hard adjustment, man, especially for you. You didn’t have a lot of experience with people your age or people in general until college. You’ve done great.” Jacob patted him on the back. “Is, uh, is he really doin’ better?” he asked, his voice dropping even further in volume.
“Yeah. Still not at his best, obviously, but… much better than he was when he was working the Hacker case.”
“Yeah, he said as much. Just wanted to make sure I wasn’t being lied to, you know?” Jacob asked.
Jensen nodded. “I get it. I have a no-lie policy with him. I don’t lie to him if he doesn’t lie to me. Works… sometimes, even though it’s usually like pulling teeth with him.”
“That’s because I believe you both deserve something better than knowing about all the dark things that go on in my head on the bad days,” Bo said, pushing himself to his feet. “I love you both. Even when you think you want to know every detail about what goes on up there, I feel… guilty, I suppose is the correct word. Letting either one of you into my head, putting all of that on your shoulders instead of keeping it on mine? It’s not something I enjoy doing.”
“I’d willingly shoulder every damn bit of darkness that goes on up there if it meant you got to be happy and okay,” Jacob said.
Bo smiled softly. “I know you would. But for what it’s worth, I am happy. I have bad days, but I’m happy. I just need to adapt to everything again. Another new job, doing things without the option to fall back on Jamal… These aren’t things I’ve entirely accepted yet. But I’m trying, and after that, I truly believe this wave of doubt will go away again. I just need time to get used to some things first.” He reached out and squeezed Jacob’s upper arm. “Thank you for worrying about me regardless. It means a lot, Jake.”
“You betcha, Blondie.”
Bo turned to Jensen and laid a hand on the younger man’s chest. “Do you mind being a gentleman and grabbing my satchel from the car? I’d like to take and record a few measurements before we head back to the station.”
“Can do, babe.” Jensen pressed a kiss to Bo’s forehead and headed back for the cruiser.
Bo let out a breath. “I’m just going to jot down a few things, snap a few more pictures, and then we can go on back to the station.”
Jacob shrugged. “Take all the time you need, brother. I’ve got nothing better to do today, and your husband certainly isn’t going anywhere until you’re all done here.” He took a sip of his coffee before using the cup to gesture to the alleyway. “You do whatever you gotta do, lab geek.”
A small smile tugged at one corner of Bo’s mouth. “Thank you, Jake.”
“Oh, you betcha, brother.”
8:30 AM; CLIFFBURN, BEAN ME UP COFFEE
Seated in a booth near the back of the coffee shop, the black teenager stared down at the table, hands wrapped around his coffee mug. It was his second cup of the morning, though he normally aimed for no more than one. He lifted his head as a woman slid into the seat across from him. “You’re late,” he said quietly, looking back down at his coffee.
“Sorry. Forgot. This wasn’t on the top of my list for the day.”
He shook his head, pushing a second mug across the table. “It’s cold now.”
“Mm.” She leaned back, crossing her arms over her chest. “What do you want, Freddie?”
The boy, Freddie, lifted his eyes to her face. “That dead woman in Clinstone? Was that you?”
“Maybe it was, maybe it wasn’t. What’re you gonna do about it?”
“I’ll turn you into the cops, Fiona. I told you you didn’t have to be like our mother.”
“And I told you that we are specifically destined to do exactly as she does. People look up to her, Freddie.”
“Killers look up to her.”
“We’re more human than people like you, Freddie. People have been killing people since God put us here,” the woman, Fiona, said.
“Jesus Christ, Fi,” Freddie said through his teeth. “The Bible isn’t meant for people like you or our mother. It’s meant for people with faith, people that believe in something bigger than themselves, people that want to be good.” He shook his head. “If that woman in Clinstone was your work, you aren’t someone the Bible’s meant for.”
“Oh, get off your high horse and grow up, Freddie. It’s just a target, just a thing put here for the taking.”
“She. She is a person. Was. She was a person, Fi.”
“Nah. People like me and Mom? We’re people. You still have a chance to be better than this, Freddie, bigger than this. You could join us.”
“You’re both monsters, and I want nothing to do with it,” Freddie said.
Fiona dropped her hands to the table, rolling her eyes. “Mom raised you to be better than this.”
“Our mother raised us to be monsters.”
“She raised us to be Gods.”
Freddie reached out and grabbed her hands. “Fi, please. You can still come back from this. We can tell the police she manipulated you, controlled you. There was that case several years back, remember? That Puppet Master guy? The girl he was controlling testified against him. She got off scott free! You could do it too.”
Fiona ripped her hands from his grip. “Watch your back, Freddie. You talk to the pigs, and my victims won’t be weak, drunken females anymore.”
Freddie watched her leave before dropping his head to his hands. The threat was obvious. She’d kill him if he talked to the cops. A part of him though it was worth the risk, but the other part of him knew exactly what his older sister was capable of. She was a lot like their mother, and although she had left them when the cops got too close to catching her, his sister had different plans.
She wasn’t ever going to let them get that close, close enough to chase her away. But she’d risk it all if it meant shutting him up. Freddie knew that better than anyone.
He lifted his head as he heard footsteps approaching. For a moment, he allowed himself to believe it as his sister, ready to change for the better, but when he looked up, he found himself looking at his waitress.
“Can I get you anything? A refill?” the girl question.
Freddie shook his had. “I should be getting back to school.
Her eyes drifted to the cold cup of coffee he’d passed to his sister before her gaze shifted back to him. “How about I get you something to go, hon?”
Freddie’s shoulders relaxed. “That… would be wonderful. Thank you.”
“Sure thing, hon. I’ll be back in just a sec.” She smiled. “On the house,” she added before heading back to the counter. A sigh tumbled past Freddie’s lips as he scrubbed both hands over his face. He’d deal with school first. Worrying about his sister and all of her potential victims could wait.
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