7:00 PM; CLIFFBURN, PRESTON GRAHAM’S FARM, FRONT PORCH
Freddie stood beside Evie on the porch, arms crossed over the banister. “Thanks for coming over.”
Evie nodded. “Yeah, no problem.” A pause. “I hope you get some sleep tonight, Freddie. You look like hell.”
He chuckled, uncrossing his arms to scrub both hands over his face. “Me too, Ev.” He dropped his hands to the banister as he heard tires crunching on the gravel and frozen snow in the driveway. He turned and pressed a kiss to Evie’s forehead. A kiss on her lips had never really called to Freddie, and he hoped that would continue to not bother her for at least a little while. Murderous mother and sister aside, Freddie still had a few other feelings to work out, one of which revolved around the way he genuinely felt about the opposite sex.
Freddie cleared his throat. “Tell your parents ‘hi’ for me.”
“Can do.” She patted his cheek. “I’ll see you tomorrow, Freddie. Love you.”
“Love you too, Ev.” Freddie watched her head down the two stairs at the end of the porch, watched her climb into her parents’ car. He lifted his hand in departure, waiting until they had pulled out of the drive before he headed inside.
He could hear the television in his grandfather’s bedroom. He headed into the kitchen, grabbed a bottle of water, and retreated to his own bedroom. Done with studying for the evening, he didn’t know what he was supposed to do. If his sister truly was anything like their mother, she wouldn’t hesitate to kill him if she thought he was even thinking about going to the police.
He couldn’t risk that. She’d find out about Evie, one way or another, and she’d take Evie out first. She’d probably go after Grandpa second and Dad third before finally killing Freddie.
He wouldn’t let her kill his girlfriend or his family. He’d find a way to tell the police. He would. He just needed time, and he needed to make a plan. He just had to make sure it was the best damn plan he could possibly come up with.
He needed to know the plan wouldn’t leave room for error, an error that would certainly get someone he loved killed.
It was a lot for a fifteen-year-old to shoulder, to say the least, but he’d dealt with worse.
7:09 PM; CLINSTONE, THE AUSTEN-TAYLOR HOUSEHOLD, KEEPING ROOM
With Amber and Kayla playing a video game in the family room, Jensen cleaning up in the kitchen, and the twins seated on the floor tossing a ball back and forth, Bo sat down beside David on the couch, setting a folder and a notebook on his lap.
“Got lots of questions planned for me, lab geek?” David asked.
Bo shook his head. “Not too many. I mostly want to walk through the night at the bar, if that’s all right with you.”
Bo reached out and smoothed a hand over Adalynn Quinn’s head. The child, only two months over a year, was David’s first and only child. She had been born with Cecilia’s darker than charcoal hair, and her baby blue eyes had since turned to something much closer to David’s green ones.
“When did you go to the bar?” Bo asked, lifting his eyes to David’s face.
“We left the house around ten or so. We stopped at the gas station, grabbed a couple bags of chips for a snack.” David shook his head, a faint smile toying with either corner of his lips. “But we probably got to the bar around ten-thirty after that. Give or take, you know?”
Bo nodded. “Sure, that works. When it comes to the woman who approached you, did you notice her when you and Cecilia first got to the bar?”
“I don’t think so. I mean, everyone was kinda wearing the same damn thing. Cecilia was really the only one I would’ve been able to pick out of a crowd.”
“Simply because she’s your girlfriend? Or because of what she was wearing?”
“Umm, little bit of both, I guess. A lot of the girls–especially the younger ones–were wearing leggings instead of jeans, and the ones wearing jeans had them tucked into their boots. Cecilia didn’t. She had bootcut jeans on, the boots on under them.” He cleared his throat. “She, uh, was also wearing a pretty tight flannel.”
“Mmhmm.” Bo raised a brow. “So you’d recognize her breasts.”
“I’m a straight man dating a damn gorgeous woman. You’d recognize Jensen’s ass, right?” He shot a look in the boys’ direction, but neither one seemed to be paying attention to anything that wasn’t their game of catch.
Bo snorted. “It depends on what pair of jeans he’s wearing.”
David chuckled. “Fair enough. Either way, I could’ve picked Ceci out of any crowd. To me, everyone else in that bar just looked pretty much the same,” he said with a shrug. “But people were coming and going all night, so I’d never be able to say for sure when she came in.”
Bo nodded. “That’s fair. When she approached you, what were you doing?”
“Cecilia and I had been dancing. She went to the bathroom, so I hung back by the wall. I was watching the singer–Adam, uh, lars, I think–when she actually came up to me. She touched my arm, called me handsome, said it was too lonely over by the wall. I told her I was a boyfriend and a father, told her to lay off. She got… really angry and told me to get off the dance floor. Like, irrationally angry, you know? Most drunk people just go the hell away and find someone to, like, grind on or something.”
“The idea of irrational anger checks out. She was upset her plan wasn’t going as she had, well, planned. She didn’t want to have to try snagging several different people that night. She had wanted the first time to be a success.”
“Unrealistic expectations for a criminal, if you ask me. Even the homicidal… dumbs-dumbs expect at least something to go wrong in a public place, right?”
Bo glanced up at the ceiling before lifting his shoulders. “Yes and no, I suppose. I understand internal anger, but it’s the fact she got visibly angry that throws me off. She went into that bar with a plan. She probably sat down, scoped out the people there, and picked you out because you were standing off by yourself. She thought you would be lonely and drunk, that she could sweet talk you out of there without any trouble at all. She didn’t account for anything outside of that, and she expected it all to go down exactly as it had in her mind. When it didn’t, she reacted much stronger than the well-planned killers usually do. That’s where I stumble.”
“You can’t make the external expression of the anger make sense,” David said.
Bo shook his head. “Everything else about this leads me to believe she’s in control. She’s in control of the plan, the victim, and the night. She sinks her claws into them. End of story. She knows what she wants to do and she makes a solid plan for it. But when one tiny step goes haywire, she blows up.” Again, he shook his head. “It doesn’t make sense to me.”
“Think it’s not her first kill? Like, maybe she’s done it in a different town or state before? And if she has, maybe it went a lot smoother there, so she was already way too cocky for her plan here in Clinstone.”
“I’m not sure. It’s a possibility, but Gwen and I believe it’s her first homicide in general. Here, other towns, other states… We think Angie Hall was her first.”
“Why? There wasn’t any hesitation in what she did, right?”
Bo shook his head. “It’s more in the way it was done. For me, anyway. She did it in a dark alleyway where other people could witness a kill that was just for her. To me, it would make sense that, with miss Hall, she hadn’t figured out that the thrill and fulfilment for many killers are stronger when done in private with no one else around. It allows the killer to… bask in their work for a longer amount of time. You get a better look into the victim’s eyes. You get a better look into the victim’s eyes. You get a better look at the life as it leaves their eyes. You get to experience every single thing about it, engage all five senses. The more experienced killers seem to enjoy that far more than the alleyway-type kills.”
After a moment, David nodded, eyes drifting back to Castor and Pollux. He couldn’t believe how they seemed to pay absolutely no mind to the conversation about death and homicide. He lifted his gaze to Bo’s face again. “All right, I can see that.”
Bo cleared his throat. “Did she walk away without complaining?”
“After she got angry and I told her there were lots of drunk people she could dance with–I think I called her darling in my best southern accent–she glared at me, but she walked away. I watched her, but she was still just standing there when Cecilia came back from the backthroom. I lost sight of her after that,” David said.
“Did you ever see her again? Even for a brief moment?”
“I saw her at the bar a couple times, usually just long enough to buy herself or… or Angie another drink.”
Bo nodded. He looked down at his closed notebook before clearing his throat again. “You’ve said she was dark-skinned?”
“Well, darker than me, I think. But you know, it’s winter in minnesota, so it’s really not hard to be darker than me. Tanning places exist, you know?”
“So you don’t know if she was actually Black?”
“No. I wish I did. It was just really dark over by the walls of the dance floor. Sorry, Bo.”
“No, that’s okay. Anything’s helpful, David.” Bo turned his head as he heard Jensen’s footsteps off to his right. “Hi.”
“Hey, baby.” Jensen jerked a thumb over his shoulder. “All the dishes are in the dishwasher, so I’m gonna head out to the gym. You’ll be okay holding down the fort?”
“Yeah, no problem.”
“Sweet. I’ll be back in, like, an hour, hour and a half.”
“Okay, love. Drive safe.”
“Will do.” Jensen leaned down and kissed him before smiling at David. “Night, Dave.”
“Night, Jensen.” David watched him walk away before letting out a sigh. “We’re going to catch her, aren’t we, Bo?”
“Of course,” Bo said with a nod. “We usually do, don’t we?”
“Usually,” David agreed. “We’ve missed a few, though.”
Bo nodded. He knew enough to know David was talking about GBK. Unfortunately, telling David the real reason they had been unable to catch GBK was off the table. Instead, he settled for, “Yes, but I have a better track record in Clinstone.”
David chuckled. “I guess so.”
Bo looked down as the ball the boys were playing catch with hit his foot. He leaned forward and grabbed it before tossing it back to Castor. “There you go, buddy.”
“I can’t wait till she starts talking,” David whispered, shaking his head. “She just, you know, babbles right now.”
“She’ll get there,” Bo assured, turning back to the police chief. “Which are you hoping for? Mom or Dad?”
One corner of David’s mouth lifted. “I don’t mind either way. Sometimes, over the baby monitor, I hear Ceci encouraging her to say Dada. It’s… God, I love that woman.”
Bo smiled. “She’s a good soul.”
“She is. I can’t thank you enough for introducing us, Bo. My life’s a hell of a lot better with her in it.” He snorted, adding, “Clearly.”
Bo smiled. “My pleasure, David. You both deserved someone to love, someone to love you. I’m just glad I wasn’t entirely incorrect on the assumption you two would get along well.”
“God, you were right, you little matchmaker.” Bo rolled his eyes. David reached out and touched his fingers to Bo’s lap. “Anything else?”
“I don’t think so. Well, actually… what time did you leave the bar?”
“I don’t know for sure. It was before last call, though. We’re old, and we both had work in the morning.”
Bo chuckled softly. “Fair enough. Well, I think that’s it, then.”
“Sorry, Bo. I know it’s not much help.”
“Hey, like I said, anything helps. I’ve worked with less before.”
David nodded. “Good point.” He patted Bo’s thigh. “I’m gonna head home, get Addie to bed. You’re good here?”
“Yes, I’m okay. They’re all pretty easy to keep entertained.”
The police chief chuckled, squeezing Bo’s shoulder. He pushed himself to his feet, holding Adalynn to his chest. “I’ll see you tomorrow. Otherwise, call or text me if you need anything else.”
“Will do, David. Goodnight.”
David nodded. “Night, Bo. Oh, and thanks for supper.”
Bo smiled. “No problem, David. Don’t forget her diaper bag.”
“Good call, lab geek.” David leaned down and grabbed the bag from the floor, hiking it over his shoulder before heading out of the keeping room. Bo leaned back against the couch, listening until the front door closed. “Daddy’s going to take some notes, and then we’ll get both of you cleaned up and to bed, okay?”
“Story?” Castor asked, looking up at his father.
Bo nodded. “Of course, kiddo. You guys can pick whatever bedtime story you want.” The boys high-fived, as if convincing their father to read to them later had been some incredibly difficult task. Bo only smiled, shaking his head. Almost four years, and Bo still didn’t understand how he and Jensen had ended up with kids as perfect as the twins. It had been even longer since they adopted Kayla and Amber, and he still felt the same way.
They had lucked out with kids as amazing as the four they had. Bo could only hope that, in the midst of being police chief in Los Angeles and the analyst in Clinstone, a fifth child would turn out the same when he and Jensen finally got around to it.
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