Friday: January 3, 2020
6:00 AM; MINNESOTA, THE SURGEON’S HOUSE, BASEMENT
Much like the morning before, he slid a plate under each of the cell doors, first to Cleo, and then to Natalie. “Something came up at work, and I need to head in for a while, but this is breakfast. I’m hoping to be done before noon, but if not, I’ll still make the time to bring you lunch, I promise.” He raked a hand through his hair before pushing himself back to his feet. He laid a hand on Cleo’s door. “I love you both. It won’t be long before you’re both back to normal. Before… everything is back to normal. But for now, I have to go in. I’ll… I’ll see you soon.”
8:05 AM; CLINSTONE POLICE DEPARTMENT, MAIN FLOOR
“The guy has basically a perfect record in every other department he’s worked in, but for us, he’s late.”
Jacob glanced over at Carter before going back to mixing up the perfect balance of caramel and vanilla syrup in his coffee. “I’m sure he’s around here somewhere. He doesn’t really seem like he wants to be our friends or anything, so he probably just doesn’t want to hang out around in the bullpen.”
“Already checked the lab and the morgue. Even peeked into the bathroom. Nothing.”
“Well, I doubt he hates us enough to ruin his record.” Jacob stirred his coffee one more time and took a sip. Perfect. “You check the back room in the lab?”
“Back room? We have a back room?”
Jacob snorted. “Yeah, but it’s not nearly as creepy as you made it sound. It’s just where they do forensic stuff. Blood spatter pattern analysis and shit like that. I’ve heard the guy’s great at that, so if I had to guess, he’s not late, he’s just analyzing.”
“Let’s go find out.”
Jacob watched Carter walk out of the break room. He shrugged to himself and followed his partner down to the lab. Jacob had gotten so used to people at the station coming and going that he hadn’t really thought much of having another new coworker, but it seemed to be clawing at everyone else’s nerves, Carter’s included. So far, everyone he had talked to wanted to know what Bo was doing, where he was, and where he came from. It was a constant dull roar of questions and concerns. Jacob couldn’t wait for that to die down.
Jacob knocked on the door at the back of the lab. A moment later, Bo opened the door, one red-stained glove held in his spotless gloved hand. “What can I do for you?”
“Was just looking for ya.” Jacob nodded to the slab of ballistics gel on the table behind Bo. “Whatcha up to?”
“Analysis.” Bo pulled off his other glove and tossed them both into the trash. “I was trying to find a match for the blade used on Tess Brown’s throat. I’ve come to the conclusion it was likely a tanto-point partially serrated five-inch blade.” He reached back and grabbed one of the knives from the metal tray near the table. “Much like this one.”
“A damn pocket knife?” Carter asked.
Bo lifted his shoulders. “Generally speaking, when you’re planning to slit someone’s throat, you plan to carry something… concealable. Most people don’t carry around a, say, bowie knife or machete just in case they need to kill someone.” He scratched his cheek. “Quiet honestly, it’s only in movies where a pocket knife is a surprising choice of weaponry for this kind of homicide.”
“Fair point, Austen,” Jacob said. He leaned back away from the doorway, eyes scanning the rest of the lab.
“I did some cleaning,” Bo said before Jacob could ask. “Your analysts are a bit messy, and I… work better in a tidier environment. I’m not quite sure how they ever got anything done in here,” he added, his voice much quieter than before. He cleared his throat. “Is there anything else I can do for you, Detectives?”
“No, that’s all. But since we’re here—have you had breafast?”
Bo nodded. “Thank you for asking, though. I’m just going to clean up my work here and do a bit more digging. A pocket knife is a fact of the case, but it isn’t necessarily helpful. I’d like to find something more useful than that if I can.”
“Sounds like a plan. Thanks, Austen,” Jacob said.
Bo nodded an watched the two detectives leave the lab. He closed the door, grabbed his earphones, which he had draped around his neck when Jacob had knocked, and pushed them back into his ears. He pressed the play button hanging on the wire of the right earphone. As a violin cover of some popular song started playing, some of the tension he’d harbored during his short conversation with the detectives drained from his shoulders.
There had been a time when classical music or piano covers had been his choice of working music. After he worked the Ammut case with Kathy and Dallas, any music with a piano anywhere in the instrumental was haunting. Ammut had stolen the hearts of her victims and used piano instrumentals on loop within the house to call the police to the scene. That hadn’t quite ruined classical music for him, but when Kathy and Dallas had run away, their connection to him and the Ammut case had been enough to damn classical music to its own hell for him.
Bo let out a breath, closing his eyes for a moment. What was or wasn’t ruined for him didn’t matter. What he had or hadn’t needed to adapt to since Dallas fled didn’t matter. What mattered was that he had a job to do. He had a case he could work on. He had information he could find.
He could be useful again. That was all that mattered.
12:00 PM; MINNESOTA, THE SURGEON’S HOUSE, BASEMENT
A young man came down the stairs, a plate in each hand. Cleo stood and grabbed the bars of the cell door, watching as he bent down to slide the plates under the doors. As he rose back to his feet, his green eyes met Cleo’s. Unlike the older man’s eyes, there was no love or compassion staring back at her. He seemed… sad.
Without a word, he turned around and headed back for the stairs.
Once the door at the top of the staircase had shut and the lock had clicked back into place, Cleo asked, “Have you seen him often?”
“No,” Natalie said quietly. “Just, umm… just one other time. When he kidnapped me.”
3:47 PM; CLINSTONE POLICE DEPARTMENT, MORGUE
Bo had tried to take his notes in the lab—he really had—but he’d eventually ended up in the morgue anyway. He had always taken notes in the lab when he’d worked with Dallas and Kathy, and for now, that fact was one that needed to change. Switching things up almost made him feel in control of his own life again.
After going through more of his notebooks than he could easily keep track of, Bo was certain he had ruled out the possibility of a copycat killer here in Clinstone. While some aspects lined up with those in other killings, nothing from the Clinstone case hit every point on any of the cases he had in his notebooks. He had another notebook or two he could go through, just to make sure, and he planned on spending his night that way once he got home.
Staying up all night to work on a case meant he was useful, and that made him feel good. He’d milk that feeling for as long as he possibly could.
4:02 PM; MINNESOTA, THE SURGEON’S HOUSE, UPSTAIRS OFFICE
He sat behind his desk, the younger man seated across from him. Clearing his throat, the older man laid out four pictures on his desk, all of them of women. The young man looked over them twice before selecting the third image from the left.
The older man nodded and swapped the pictures out for four new ones. The young man scanned them like before and touched a finger to the second image from the left. Again, the older man nodded. “That’s all I have for now. I’m still looking, though. I want everything to be… perfect.”
“We’ll get there. I’ll be on the lookout too, and if I see anyone… Well, I’ll let you know. But we’ll get there. Everything will be perfect. We’ll get there.”
7:30 PM; CLINSTONE, BO AUSTEN’S HOUSE, KITCHEN
Bo stood in front of the stove, stirring the pan of shrimp and pasta scampi—minus the sauce—one last time. He lifted the pan off the stove and scooped a small portion onto a plate. Setting the pan back on the stove, he added red pepper, fresh chives, garlic, and scampi sauce. He stirred it all in and allowed it to sit over the heat again to warm up the final ingredients.
He fanned a hand over the plate on the counter. When he was certain it had cooled down enough, he set it on the floor for Acamas. Human foods were only a small piece of her caloric intake every day, but he still loved preparing foods he could include in her diet. It made his ability to cook feel a bit more useful. He turned off the heat and scooped his own portion out of the pan. Plate in hand, he headed for the dining room. He slid into one of the hard wooden chairs and set his plate down.
Pulling his notebook closer, he grabbed his pen and clicked it three times. He added a new bullet point to Jacob’s page.
- Less standoffish than the others
Bo let out a breath and pushed the notebook away from himself. He hadn’t yet been able to place what it was about him that so deeply bothered the people at the station. That he’d worked with a serial killer, been best friends with a serial killer. That he’d worked for Jamal Pitman. That he’d graduated high school and college early. That he’d been cutting up corpses and photographing them for the majority of his life.
There were so many options, so many possibilities. If he tried to work through them all, it’d surely drive him insane. He planned to avoid that exact outcome for as long as he could. He’d come close to the brink while working to catch Dallas and Kathy, and if he could avoid ever getting that close to losing himself again, that was what he’d aim to do.
Bo scratched his cheek before swapping out his notebook for the case file. He’d flipped through it and taken notes on everything within about a dozen times, but nothing new had revealed itself.
Most killers were comfortable killing people their own age. There were obvious exceptions, but killers often picked an age range and stuck to it. Ripping the life from people of the same age over and over again made it normal, safe. Comfortable. Tess Brown had turned forty-four last November. It was likely the killer was in their forties too. Forty to forty-nine, maybe.
Bo flipped through his notes until he found the sticky note he had been using to take down his tentative notes on the killer.
- no HM
- Caring methodology, no S or P
- UKP or IDP
At the bottom of the list, he added a new bullet:
- PAG: 40 to 49
After a moment of consideration, he added one more:
- MLG: MK
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