Surgeon – Chapter Five


Chapter Five

Friday: January 3, 2020

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.”


“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.


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.”


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.


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.”


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.

Unnamed Killer

  • no HM
  • Caring methodology, no S or P
  • RSK
  • 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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Surgeon – Chapter Four


Chapter Four


The knock on the open door of the lab pulled Bo’s attention from the array of photos spread out on the table. He lifted his head, eyes landing on Jacob. “What can I do for you, Detective?”

“You can just call me Jake. ‘Detective’ is, like, my dad,” Jacob said, a faint smile on his face. “Anyway, I was wondering if you wanted to grab lunch with Lemon and me.”

“I’m okay. I do appreciate the offer, though.”

Jacob nodded. “Okay. Can I bring you back anything instead? I know you’re probably not too familiar with Clinstone yet, but our diner’s got the best fries in the world.”

Bo offered a smile. “No, thank you. Enjoy your break, Detective.”

Jacob nodded again, slapping a hand against the door frame as he turned to walk away. He made it a whole step and a half down the hall before backing up into the doorway again. “Whatcha workin’ on?”

Bo let out a breath. He’d been afraid he’d ask that. “I’m just looking over the crime scene photos.”

“Think we missed something?”

“Not necessarily.” ‘Think’ insinuated that Bo hadn’t done his job properly the first time, that he had done it so quickly and sloppily that he believed he’d left a dozen clues behind. ‘Think’ wasn’t the case. But it still never hurt to look over it again. “I believe we found all there was to find, but it’s never a bad thing to go back and make sure.”

“You’re thorough. My fiancee was that way too.”

Bo searched Jacob’s face for a moment. “Was?”

“Sorry, not like that. She’s very much alive.” Jacob lifted his shoulders. “Used to be a cop too. Now she does the even more difficult job of taking care of the kids.” He circled a hand in Bo’s direction. “She’d like your photo collage there. That was, like, the Alice staple of crime-solving.”

Unfortunately, Bo didn’t know what to say. He didn’t want anyone in his personal circle, and that meant not letting himself be in anyone else’s circle. Talking with the detective about his fiancee and her old work habits certainly seemed like a bit too much… circling.

Jacob cleared his throat. “Hey, umm… I know Baker and that Silver guy were your friends. I’m sorry about everything that happened in Los Angeles. I’ve been friends with cops that turned out to be pieces of shit, but none of them were serial killers. Or married to one.”

Bo managed to muster up a nod. Nothing else felt appropriate. The nod barely did.

“Well, I’ll get outta your hair. Let me know if anything turns up in those photos, yeah?”

“Of course, Detective.”

“Jake,” he reminded before walking out of the lab. This time, he didn’t immediately return.

Bo let out a sigh, dropping his elbows to the table and his head to his hands. Why the hell did change have to be so difficult? And why did Clinstone have to have the only cops he’d ever met that weren’t assholes to him? He wasn’t in Clinstone to make friends. He hadn’t packed up and moved to Minnesota to pal around with anyone else in the station.

He wanted to wake up, go to work, go home, go to sleep, and do the same damn thing day after day after day. No parties. No drinks at the bar. No lunches at the diner. No friendships or crushes or family or any of it. And he wasn’t going to let Jacob’s friendliness or attempts at conversation change his mind.


“Good evening, Brooke, darling,” the man said, nodding at both women in greeting. “Darling, I’ve made your favorite for supper,” he said softly, his gaze landing on Cleo. He squatted down and slid a plate through the small opening at the bottom of the cell-like door. “Lamb chops. It’s been such a long time since we’ve had them.”

His eyes, unfairly calm and caring for a kidnapper and murderer, practically begged Cleo for acceptance. Standing before her, the man looked just as unimposing as he had when he’d come up to her in the bar. It seemed unfair that monsters were allowed to be charismatic, that they were allowed to walk around without any outward indication of the darkness brewing inside them.

“Thank you,” Cleo finally whispered.

He smiled, the corners of his eyes crinkling. “You’re welcome, darling.” He slid a second plate under Natalie’s cell door. “And for you, Brooke.”

“Thank you.”

“You’re welcome, princess.” He pushed himself to his feet, clapping his hands together. “I’ll be back for your plates soon. In the meantime, bon appetit.”


For the first time since he’d been in Clinstone, Bo sat down on the couch in his new… place of residence. ‘Home’ certainly wasn’t the right word. ‘House’ probably worked fine. Maybe even ‘hotel’ fit a little better. He wasn’t sure how long he’d stay in Clinstone, and the small, sparsely furnished house served as proof of that. He’d brought little more with him than his flannel shirts and his cat’s things. He’d brought along more of her furniture than his own. There was still a very real chance he’d pack up again in a few months and move somewhere else, somewhere even further away. Halfway across the country hadn’t been far enough. Maybe if he found a state Kathy had never been to.

Though he’d probably have to switch countries entirely to be successful in that particular endeavor. One that didn’t speak English at all or watch any news about America. that would offer the highest chance of success if he truly wanted to escape the hell Kathy Baker’s cross-country avoidance of consequences had unleashed on his life.

Maybe it wasn’t fair to blame it al on Kathy, but it was easier to. Dallas had been Bo’s closest friend for years before Kathy ever came into the picture, and he’d hardly consider Kathy a friend. The woman herself would probably laugh at the idea. Friend. As if he were worthy of her ‘friendship’. Bo had simply been polite, professional, and friendly to her over the years, as she was his friend’s partner, and then his friend’s girlfriend. And then-fiancee and wife. Being an ass to Kathy would’ve lost him Dallas, and Bo had assumed he wouldn’t have been able to live through that loss.

Though hindsight was twenty-twenty, and now Bo knew things would have been easier if he and Dallas had stopped being friends, if Bo had been nothing more than a distant co-worker in a different police station by the time it had come out that Dallas was a murderer. If he hadn’t still been friends with Dallas by then, Jamal never would’ve made it his job to find where they had gone. He wouldn’t have been banished to the basement to hunt down a runaway murderer and his wife. He would’ve simply… kept working as normal. Kept going home as normal. Kept hanging out with his other friends as normal.

Bo looked down as his one-eyes tabby—Acamas—jumped onto the arm of the chair and rubbed her head against his arm. A smile tugged at one corner of Bo’s mouth, and he reached out to scratch between her ears. “You’re right. I shouldn’t dwell on it. Easier said than done, huh?”

She let out that little brr noise he loved so much and rammed her head into his shoulder. He crossed his left ankle over his right knee, allowing Acamas to sit in the small triangle of space his folded leg had created. She curled up and rested her head on his leg, her purr vibrating softly against his calf. Bo couldn’t help but smile as he ran a hand over the top of her head.

Unlike the majority of people he had met, Acamas didn’t judge him for who he was, and he appreciated that more than words could say. He didn’t judge her for having one eye, and she didn’t judge him for being above and beyond ‘average’. For being friends with a serial killer. For shutting down and building up walls yet again. For closing himself off. She only loved him in return for all that was… wrong with him.

Bo considered himself incredibly lucky to have her in his life. He wasn’t even sure he’d be alive most days without her.

With a short sigh, he ran his hand down Acamas’s back one more time before grabbing his notebook from the end table. He had told himself to stay away from any of the notebooks that held any information that in any way, shape, or form related to his time working with Dallas or Kathy, but he couldn’t help himself. Going through the notebooks to compare the killer’s MO with killers he had worked or researched in the past was part of working a case. It had been for years. Even if the names of the Baker-Silver cases clawed at his eyes and squeezed at his heart, he wasn’t willing to surrender this specific part of the ritual. Not yet.

Comparing the current MO to those of other killers helped rule in or out the possibility that this was a copycat, an unsolved case, or a multi-state killer. Without much else to do in Clinstone, it was a way to occupy his time until he could finally close his eyes, evade the images of Dallas Silver in his mind, and go to sleep.

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Surgeon – Chapter Three


Chapter Three


Bo stared down at Tess Brown’s body, half a frown set deeply on his face. Unless testing revealed something that was otherwise undetectable, the autopsy had brought forth little of interest. There had been nothing strange or abnormal in the woman’s stomach. He hadn’t found signs of chloroform in her throat. He hadn’t found any obvious signs of injection, so as far as Bo could tell, she hadn’t been drugged. But he’d run more extensive tests, just to make sure.

The potential for drugging aside, there were a few things he was absolutely certain of. She hadn’t eaten anything in at least the last six to eight hours leading up to her death. There were no signs of physical or sexual abuse. Really, she hadn’t even been harmed, if one didn’t count the large laceration of her throat. That hadn’t been done to harm her; it had been done to kill her. In most situations, Bo tallied the two in distinctly different categories.

Shaking his head, Bo finished moving Tess Brown’s body from the autopsy table to a drawer in the morgue. He pulled off his gloves and slid a tag with BROWN, TESSA written on it into the nameplate on the face of the drawer. With a fresh pair of gloves on, he set to work on cleaning the autopsy table.

Watching the woman’s blood swirl down the drain in the table, he couldn’t help but think how disturbed the detectives upstairs would be if they knew how little this all affected him. How he could cut these people open, weigh their organs, check for signs of assault or poisoning, and stitch them back up without feeling much of anything at all. There had been a time where he had felt connected to the victims he worked on, a time where he’d felt connected to their stories.

But that seemed like a lifetime ago. Every wall he had torn down over the years had been built up again the moment it had come out that his best friend was a serial killer. The walls had gotten taller and thicker the longer Dallas Silver had been gone, the longer Bo had been forced to sit in the basement of the LAPD and search every database he could in an attempt to find Dallas and Kathy. The walls had protected him the best they could, and he had no intention of ever bringing them down again.

He tossed his gloves and washed his hands. He grabbed his notebook and tape recorder from the metal tool tray and sat down in the corner of the morgue, on the floor. If he stood up and walked three feet to his right, he could open a door and step straight into the lab, where there was a large table perfect for note-taking. But he had always taken notes in the lab when he had worked with Dallas and Kathy, and things needed to change. Change was the best way to avoid memories, and avoiding was what had to be done if he had any hope of surviving.

He pulled back the red cover of his notebook. He’d pulled it fresh out of the package that morning before he’d left the hotel. Brand new, free of any notes about cases in Los Angeles, cases he’d worked with Dallas, cases he’d worked with Kathy. It was a blank slate.

Leaving the header blank, he skipped the first line and wrote Tess Brown’s name on the second line. He underlined her name and went about making notes of the crime scene. She had been found in a dumpster outside of the emergency room in Clinstone. The laceration had been six inches in length. It appeared to have started on her left, the blade pulled to the right.

He moved onto the autopsy. The lack of stomach contents. The lack of anything suspicious. No notes or signatures tucked away in her throat or in her clothes. The weight of her organs. The health of them. For the most part, the slit throat had been one of the few indications she’d been dead at all.

Bo closed the notebook, tucking his blue pen neatly into the spiral that bound the pages together. He set the book on the floor at his right and picked up a blue notebook from the pile on his left. He pulled back the cover and, with a fresh black pen, wrote Jacob Mason’s name on the header of the page.

Jacob Mason

He flipped the page, wrote Carter Lehmann’s name in the header.

Carter Lehmann

A new page.

Myra Cooper

Bo glanced up at the ceiling before closing the notebook. He hadn’t been present when the detectives had gone inside and interviewed the person who had found Tess Brown’s body. As far as he could remember, he had no other names he needed to write down.

When it came to this particular method of madness, there was a reason for it. Keeping tabs on every single person he met in Clinstone, Minnesota would keep him from ever making the same kind of mistakes he had made in Los Angeles. He would never let anyone into his personal circle ever again. He would never befriend a serial killer again.


Jacob looked up as Bo stopped in front of his desk. He closed the folder in front of him and waved a hand toward one of the chairs between Bo and the desk. The other was occupied by Carter. “Austen, hey. Sit.”

Bo forced a smile. “I’m all right with standing, sir. If that’s all right with you.” He handed a folder to Jacob before passing the other to Carter. Clearing his throat, he retreated to a safer distance, about a foot and a half in front of the desk and a good chair and a half away from Carter.

“Jesus Christ, Lemon, the dude’s got even nicer handwriting than you do. Never thought I’d see the day,” Jacob said. Carter only snorted.

Bo tucked his hands behind his back, making a mental note to add ‘nice handwriting’ to Carter’s list once he returned to the morgue. Bo’s handwriting had always been… neat, borderline mechanical. In school, his teachers had compared it to the text on a computer. It took time and a bit of finger cramping, but it was worth the pleasant readability.

“That’s everything I know about Tess Brown,” Bo said with a slight nod toward the folder in Jacob’s hands. “She was killed December thirty-first around eleven PM. Before she was killed, she was chloroformed. Aside from the chloroform, I found no other drugs or foreign substances within her system, though I am still running further tests on her blood just to make sure I didn’t miss anything. She also hadn’t eaten anything in at least six to eight hours before she was killed. You can determine how important you consider that factor.”

Bo cleared his throat before continuing, “Tess Brown was reported missing on December twenty-third by her boyfriend, and said boyfriend died on the twenty-seventh. Because her boyfriend is dead, Tess Brown has no other family you need to contact. He was all she had left.”

Jacob and Carter shared a quick glance before looking back at Bo. “It’s… impressive you found all that in a couple of hours,” Jacob said after a moment. “Not to mention that you had time to write it down for us. That’s appreciated.”

“It’s… what I do,” Bo said slowly. He swallowed, ticking off yet another thing he had already screwed up in Clinstone. He should have taken less time, presented them with less information, done less work. Something. Anything other than what he had done. “It’s my job.”

Jacob set the folder on his desk and leaned back in his chair, crossing his arms over his chest. He raised a brow. “Tell me, kid, you sure that’s all you know about the girl?”

Bo found it a little odd that Jacob called him ‘kid’. He knew the detective was only about four years older than him. More specifically, three years and three months older. He assumed one of two things made Jacob feel older than he was: a new baby in the family—presumably the ‘Charlotte’ he had talked about on the phone, or the ‘Allie’ he had talked to was older than he was.

“About the girl?” Bo asked. “As in, the victim? Tess Brown. Yes, I’m sure that’s all I know. But I have profiled a few likely things about your killer.”

“Profiled?” Jacob echoed.

“You guys… don’t typically profile?” Jacob asked.

“Not in-house.”

“Oh,” Bo whispered. One more thing that makes you stick out like a sore thumb, Austen. Three for three. Are you sure you were aiming for NORMAL in this town? Bo shifted his weight between his feet. “I… I suppose I have a surprise for you, then. More than likely, Tess Brown is not the first person this killer has killed. There are no hesitation marks on the throat laceration. There are no practice marks anywhere else on the body.

“Despite this, it would seem that the killer doesn’t want their victims to feel any pain. They took chloroform to Tess Brown, and once she was unconscious, they slit her throat. She bled out incredibly quickly, as the killer made sure to hit her carotid artery, which is… essentially an off switch built into your throat. The killer knows what they’re doing, and they know how to do it well.”

“But the dude doesn’t want the victim to feel pain,” Jacob said. “Why? What’s the point of killing people if you don’t get some sort of joy out of it?”

“Anything I could say on that matter would simply be an assumption.”

“Is there a problem with that?” Jacob asked.

In the long run, there wasn’t really a problem with assumptions, but it was one of the few Kathy-isms that Bo had allowed himself to keep. She had believed assumptions got in the way of solving a case. Which, in hindsight, was borderline hilarious, as most things a detective did were hunches or assumptions until it was proven beyond the shadow of a doubt that the killer really was the killer. But it was still something she always said, especially if it meant shutting someone up before they could inject an idea she couldn’t take credit for.

Maybe it wasn’t the best Kathy-ism to keep, but he unfortunately didn’t get to choose what stuck and what didn’t.

“I don’t enjoy injecting my own assumptions into a detective’s work,” Bo said.

“What if I give you permission to?” Jacob asked.

“No, thank you.”

Jacob snorted, but he nodded. “Fair enough.” He gestured to the folder. “Thank you for all the info on Tess.”

“My pleasure.” Bo waited a moment longer to confirm neither detective had anything more to say—to his face, at least—before turning around and starting back toward the lab. He still had a few things he wanted to check out in regards to the crime scene. He was absolutely certain Tess Brown hadn’t been killed there, but a closer inspection of the photos and collected evidence would help guarantee he didn’t pass over anything that could be used to determine where she had been killed.

The case in Clinstone was the first time in quite some time that he didn’t go with a detective to question witnesses or suspects. He’d done it with Dallas from the first day the man had joined the LAPD. He’d attended questionings and interviews before and after Dallas, as well. But… Clinstone was a fresh start. No one expected him to do much more than look at bodies and photograph crime scenes.

A labor-intensive task like a deep dive into the crime scene photographs was just what he needed to distract him from going back to simply being a lab geek, tucked away in the basement.

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Surgeon – Chapter Two


Chapter Two


Admittedly, Bo found himself shocked at the crime scene alleyway. He’d ducked under the yellow tape at an uncountable number of Los Angeles back alley homicides, and there was always an unmistakable feel to them. In Los Angeles, even before you saw the body or the blood, you knew this was the perfect kind of alley to kill someone in. They were poorly lit, even when the sun was out. They came to a dead end to make escape impossible for the soon-to-be victim.

But the alley behind Clinstone’s ER was… different. The back door to the ER was well-labeled, and a motion-activated light sat above it. No camera, of course—it was never that easy—but the place didn’t exactly feel like a death trap. It felt almost… safe.

However, given that there was a woman dead in the dumpster with a slit throat, safe was certainly an incorrect assumption.

Camera in hand, Bo stepped up on the bottom lip of the dumpster and leaned over the top. The lid had most likely been open ever since the body had been found. It allowed him a good look inside, but it wasn’t a great angle for pictures. He lowered his camera. The left side of the dumpster was still closed. Surely he could get up there without too much trouble.

He swung a leg over the dumpster and climbed onto the lid, his camera pinned to his shoulder.

Jacob raised an eyebrow as Bo leaned down to snap a picture of the victim. “You are far agiler than Misty.”

Bo snorted. It had far more to do with balance than agility of any kind. It was more about figuring out how far apart his knees had to be so he could lean forward without falling into the dumpster and onto the body. But that knowledge could stay inside his head. He knew more than most how much others hated genuine explanations about ‘complex’ abstracts and ideas.

So he settled for a simple, “Thank you.”

“What’re you seeing in there?” Jacob asked.

Bo preferred keeping assumptions and guesses to himself, only giving the detectives absolute facts once he had completed an autopsy and thoroughly examined the crime scene. But unless fate or god or whatever the hell there was struck down the detectives with a freak lightning storm, he’d always be expected to list things off as he saw them, to make educated guesses based on those same sights. Though he didn’t enjoy it, he was used to it.

“Our victim was most likely killed by a throat laceration. There’s a substantial amount of bruising and blood around the cut, so it happened before her death rather than after. She was alive when it happened, just not for long afterward.” Bo held out his camera. “Detective Mason? Can you take this?”

Jacob walked up to the dumpster, but he made no move to grab it. “I don’t know much, but I know I’ve never been allowed to touch Misty or Gwen’s cameras. You sure you want me to do that?”

Bo offered a smile. “I have faith that you can handle it.”

“Well, if I drop it, it’s totally on you.”

“That’s fine. I have no intention of suing you over a broken camera.” Bo gave the body of said expensive camera a light shake. “So?”

Jacob grabbed it and quickly lifted the strap over his head. “This is fucking heavy, man. How the hell are you toting it around while you’re balancing on a dumpster?”

Calculations of what it took to balance with the extra weight of the camera weren’t hard for Bo to run through. He knew how much his camera weighed with the addition of the external flash and his lens. He knew the force of gravity and what kind of angle he needed to help counteract it. Most importantly, he knew the width of the base–how far apart his feet were–he needed to balance. For Bo, it was practically second nature.

“I’ve had my fair share of practice,” Bo said. He pulled his phone from his pocket and dropped to his stomach on the garbage lid. He grabbed the victim’s hand and pressed her thumb against the home button on his phone. Slowly, he rolled her thumb across it, left to right. He carefully lowered her hand to rest against her stomach and pushed himself back up. He swung both legs over the dumpster’s edge, balancing himself on the thin lip of the dumpster.

“Austen, be careful. Please.”
Bo glanced down at Jacob. “I’ll be okay, Detective, I promise.” His eyes shifted back to his phone. “This here is Tess Brown. Five-eleven, blonde hair, green eyes, turned forty-four on the fifth of November.”

Carter raised an eyebrow. “Did you just do that on your phone?”

Dammit. Bo closed his eyes for a moment. This wasn’t Los Angeles. This was Clinstone. This was his fresh start. And he’d already ruined it. “Yes,” he finally said.


Bo held up his phone and offered a quiet, “The home button has a fingerprint sensor.” That wasn’t quite it. It did have a sensor, but only because he’d modified it to, only because he’d programmed it to send the fingerprint data to an app he’d created years prior. It took the readings and rifled through the fingerprints in the police database, working overtime to sort through those that held the same loops, scars, deltas, ridge endings, islands, and bifurcations as the one that had been scanned. It had taken years to get right, just like his portable DNA identifier and his phone’s facial recognition scanner.

But that answer was long and offered an inside look straight into his brain, and he didn’t want to do that. He’d already screwed up by using the fingerprint reader now instead of once Tess Brown’s body had arrived at the morgue. He didn’t intend to mess up his fresh start any further.

Clearing his throat, Bo jumped down from the dumpster’s edge. “There’s an app that takes the data from the fingerprint scanner and runs it against those in the system.”

Jacob cocked his head to the side. “ ‘There’s an app’ because you created it. Right?”

Bo let out a breath, shoulders falling. “Yes, sir.”

“Christ, dude. Don’t be ashamed of that shit. That’s amazing.”

“Theoretically,” Bo said after a moment. He shoved his phone into his back pocket and took his camera from Jacob. “I’d like to document the scene further while we wait for the coroner to arrive. Then we can get her back to the morgue, and I can see what I can get from there. It’ll be easier to get an idea of what happened once she’s… not in a dumpster.”

Jacob watched him for a moment, but he didn’t ask any further questions as Bo had feared he would. Instead, he nodded. “Okay. Lemon and I will head to the barricades and let you work in peace.” He jerked a thumb over his shoulder, toward the end of the alleyway. “If you need anything, holler. Sound good?”

For the first time in what felt like years, Bo’s shoulders relaxed. “Sounds perfect.”

Once Carter and Jacob had relocated to the other end of the alley, Bo felt at peace, in his element. What felt like a lifetime ago, he had worked almost exclusively surrounded by people. A detective, a beat cop, the chief, another analyst. It had always felt like someone was looking over his shoulder, waiting for him to mess up, waiting for their chance to prove he didn’t belong there. But here, even though he’d screwed up and used his fingerprint scanner out in the field in front of the detectives, they had simply… left him alone. Unsupervised. Heck, they were so far away that Bo could only just barely make out what Jacob was saying about lunchtime. Maybe Clinstone, Minnesota was far enough away from California to be different. Maybe it still had a chance to be the breath of fresh air he needed.

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Bartender’s Vampire – Chapter Two


    Kyle Barrett leaned back against the bar, eyes focused on the dance floor. More specifically, focused on Sabien. The short man was out there in the middle, dancing like no one was watching. But Kyle was definitely watching. Something about Sabien was absolutely alluring and demanding of attention. A group of young women danced around him, descending upon him like moths on a flame. They fawned over him, hands dragging over the beautiful black and gray gothic vest he wore, getting as close to him as humanly possible.

    Sabien didn’t seem to mind, though Kyle had initially assumed he was gay. He could be bisexual, of course, or in general, he just didn’t care if women grinded up against him. Anything was possible in the grand scheme of things, especially if the broken-hearted man was only at the bar that night to try and claw his way out of the depths of betrayal.

    Those betrayed eyes had been unreasonably sad when he’d been up by the counter, but Kyle had still thought he was a gorgeous man. Up close, Sabien was incredibly pale, something that made his blue eyes all the more striking. They stood out on his freckled face, looking almost unnatural. His jet black hair was slightly slicked back in some sort of messy side swept undercut. He was short, maybe only five-foot-six or so, despite the nearly dangerous flicker Kyle had caught in those strikingly sad blue eyes when he’d first come up to the bar.


    Kyle looked back over to his shoulder, a smile coming to his face. “Hey, man.” He turned the rest of the way around and stuck out a fist.

    The lanky man on the other side of the bar bumped it with his own. “Slow night?”

    Kyle shrugged. “Not too bad. Everyone’s just officially drunk enough that they’re more into the music than more drinks.”

    “Mm.” The man, Ellis Day, lifted himself onto a bar stool and crossed his arms over the counter, brown eyes shifting to the dance floor. “So… we both know you’re like, the worst liar.”

    “Rude and uncalled for, but okay.”

    One corner of Ellis’s mouth lifted as his gaze drifted back to Kyle. “Is it the one in the vest?”


    “The super pale fancy gut out there. Dress pants, black button up, that gothic ass vest. Is that the one we’re watching?”

    “Would you keep your damn voice down?” Kyle asked in a whisper. He glanced back at Sabien, still dancing with his flock of college girls. “Yes, I’m watching him.”

    “Gonna ask him out for a drink? Coffee?”


    “Why not? Already ruled out an interest in guys?”

    Kyle shook his head. “No, he just got out of a relationship. It sounds like the break-up wasn’t too great, either.”

    “Is it ever?” Ellis asked, one eyebrow raised.

    “Well, no. But it seems like the guy was a total dick.” Kyle cleared his throat. “Can I getcha anything?”

    “Beer’d be great.”

    “Coming right up.” Kyle popped the cap off a beer bottle and set it down in front of Ellis.

    Ellis took a short sip before using the bottle to gesture to the dance floor. “Been a while since you had any fun, y’know?”

    “I’m not sure ‘fun’ with a guy who just got his ass handed to him is the route I wanna go.”

    Ellis snorted. “If that were true, you wouldn’t be drooling over him.”

    “I’m hardly drooling over him. I’m just… watching. There’s no rule against that, even if he just got out of a shitty relationship.

    “Well, I guess that’s true.” Ellis looked out at the dance floor, eyes no doubt scanning for a dance partner for the night. He was a bit too gangly to look like he knew what he was doing when it came to dance, but the man had been in some form of dance classes most of his childhood to work on his balance and coordination. It usually led to at least one success on the dance floor, so Kyle didn’t really see much point in poking fun at him for his lanky ass.

    “Think I’m gonna head out there and see if that gal by the jukebox wants a dance or two.” Ellis flashed a smile. “Don’t stare at the goth dude too much, yeah?”

    Kyle rolled his eyes. “Yeah, I’ll do my best to control myself.” Admittedly, Kyle’s ‘best’ would be pretty low effort, but he did plan to make his stares a little closer to sneaky glances.

    Ellis threw out a thumbs-up and slid off his barstool. Once he made it out to the dancefloor, he did a lazy shimmy beind Sabien, one ‘you jealous?’ eyebrow raised in Kyle’s direction. Kyle mouthed an exasperated, “Stop that!” and made a quick shooing motion with one of his hands. Ellis flashed an annoyingly shit-eating grin and headed off toward the woman by the jukebox.

    Kyle’s gaze drifted back to Sabien and his dancing flock of ladies. There was something  undenibaly captivating about the man’s pale, freckled face, and clearly, Kyle wasn’t the only one who had noticed it. Or maybe it was just nice to see a new face around the bar. [TOWNNAME] wasn’t the smallest town around by any means, but only having a couple thousand residents meant most of the folks that walked into the bar were familiar faces. There was always something capitavating about a stranger when you were used to serving regulars and friends.

    But Sabien was oddly the most capitavating stranger he’d ever met.


    Well after last call, while all the night’s patron’s cleared out, Kyle went about wiping off the bar. Someone cleared their throat about the softest one could possibly clear a throat, but it still drew his attention. Kyle lifted his head, a smile coming to his face. “Hey, Sabien.”

    “Hello.” Again, the shorter man cleared his throat, tucking his hands into the pockets of his tight-fitted dress pants. “I… appreciate you being willing to talk about me, about my boyfriend. My… my ex-boyfriend. I don’t have may friends to talk to about things like that, so… Well, I appreciate it.”

    “No problem, man. Comes with the job.” Kyle scratched at his temple, shifting his wiegt between his feet. “If you need to talk again, I… work every night. Y’know, if you ever need a friend or somethin’.”

    “I might take you up on that offer. I suppose we’ll see how awful my boyfriend crisis seems by evening.”

    Kyle snorted. “Sounds like a plan. Boyfriend crisis or not, I’m pretty much always here to chat about woes.”

    Sabien offered a little smile, but it fell away fast. “Kyle, is it?”


    “Thank you for affording genuine kindness to a stranger, Kyle. I’m sure that kindness has unintentionally saved a life before, but… but I can say for certain it savd one tonight. I thank you greatly for that.”

    Before Kyle could even begin to come up with a response, Sabien pushed a folded fifty dollar bill into the tip jar and walked out of the bar.


    Kyle woke up to the heart-racing sound of someone pounding on his door. Before the unfortunate barrel roll out of bed landed him on his ass, he heard the door open.

    “Jesus, Ellis. Put some pants on, kid.”

    Ellis snorted. “A man’s castle is his place to not wear anything more than his undies, Mister B. Besides, you totally woke me up.”

    “Is Kyle home?”

    “Yeah!” Kyle called from his room. A hand wrapped around the edge of his nightstand, he pulled himself to his feet. His tailbone was already beginning to regret his fall to the floor, but whatever his grandpa wanted seemed pretty damn urgent. He wasn’t usually a ‘knock down the apartment door’ kinda guy.

    The two little raps on his bedroom door were about a million times quieter than the damn battering ram fist of fury his grandpa must’ve used on the front door. “You decent?”

    “Yeah. What’s up?”

    His grandpa cracked the doo open and scanned the room before opening it the rest of the way. “I called you damn near a hundred times this morning.”

    Kyle sat down on the edge of his mattress, clearing his throat as he raked a hand through his hair. “I just got home a couple hours ago. It’s on do not disturb mode. And silent, I think. What’s goin’ on? Everything okay?”

    “Well, now that I know you’re home and alive, yes.”

    Kyle’s brow furrowed. “What’s wrong, Grandpa? Did something happen? Is everyone okay?”

    His grandpa let out a heavy sigh. “A kid was killed by the bar. I mean, not a kid kid, but a young man. Around your age. With how close we found him to the bar, I was worried about you.” Before Kyle could really digest the whole homicide next to the bar thing, his grandpa added, “Anyone strange come into the bar last night?”

    “No. Just… bar patrons. I’m sorry, you said someone was killed? Like murder?”

    “Yes, in an alleyway not too far from the bar. You sure you didn’t see anyone suspicious come in there last night? Maybe someone sweaty or agitated?”

    “Grandpa, I’m sure. Do I know the guy?”

    “No, I doubt it. I’ve only heard his name in passing. I didn’t even know what the kid looked like until I showed up at the scene this morning.”

    “Do I have anything to worry about? I-I mean, you busted in here like you were convinced I was gonna be dead when you got in. Are we in danger? Are…? What’s going on?”

    His grandpa held up both hands for a moment, a silent ‘calm down, it’s going to be okay’. “Everything’s fine. But we don’t get homicides around here often, so when a kid around your age gets killed near your place of work, it puts me on edge in regards to your safety, especially when I can’t get ahold of you. But that doesn’t mean you’re in danger. It just means I worry about you.”

    “That’s it?”

    He nodded. “That’s it.” A pause. “Disable that ‘do not disturb’ shit so your damn phone rings when I call you. Next time I’m not waiting for Ellis to answer the door. I’ll bust it down.”

    Kyle chuckled softly, scratching the side of his head. “Okay, I’ll make sure it’s set so it rings when you call.” He raised a brow. “You… think there’s gonna be a next time? Like a serial killer situation?”

    “Here? No. But not having some killer running around town on a rampage doesn’t mean I’m going to stop worrying about you.”

    “I know.” Kyle offered a smile. “But I’m safe, Grandpa. No one weird or murder-y came into the bar last night. If that changes anytime in the future, you’ll be the first to know.”

    “Good.” His grandpa pulled off his bal cap long enough to scratch the top of his head. “Sorry if I scared you, kiddo. But you’re about all I got left.”

    “I know. Don’t worry about it, Gramps. Thanks for making sure I was safe, really.”

    “Of course. I love you. You stay safe.”

    “I will. And you do the same. You’re the one working the homicide.”

    His grandpa snorted. “Yeah, I s’pose. I’ll be safe.”

    “Good. Love you too, Gramps.”

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Chapter Three

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Bartender’s Vampire – Chapter One


    “I dare you to lie to me again,” Sabien said through his teeth, fangs glinting in the moonlight.

    A wicked smile formed on the taller man’s face as he stared down at the pale Vampire. “I love you,” he said slowly. He offered the most dramatic shrug Sabien had ever seen. “That right there, darling? That’s the biggest lie I’ve ever tol to anyone in this world. And to think you believed it. Pathetic. You’re pathetic.”

    Sabien grunted, doing his best not to lose whatever sembalnce of calm he hadleft. He’d been alive for a couple hundred years. He had absolutely no problem with calmness.

    “My whole family knows what you are, Sabien. We’ve found people that would love your blood, your fangs. Christ, they’d pay an arm and a leg for them.” Finally, the an pulled his hand out from behind his back, fingers tight around a wooden stake. “My ‘love’ for you is gonna make us rich.”

    Sabien lunged at him, shoving him back against the building closest to them. In the alleyway, he sunk his teeth into the man’s neck, free hand clamped down over his mouth. When he finally stopped clawing at him, Sabien released him and watched him hit the ground. Sabien sank down after him, balancing on his toes for only a moment before the sudden weakness knocked him to his butt. Though Kolten apparently had never loved Sabien, he had certainly loved Kolten.

    They’d only made it ‘official’, as Kolten had always called it, six months ago, but Sabien had spent damn near an eternity prior to the declration convincing Mother and Father to allow him to court a human in the first place. And still, after all that time, Sabien had never sensed it was all fake. Had never sensed Kolten was out for his blood. His fangs. His life.

    Sabien didn’t have much real world experience, and Jesus, did it show.

    “I can’t believe you did this to me,” Sabien whispered. “And to you. Jesus, look what I did to you.”

    His mind couldn’t work out who was to blame. Kolten had intended to kill him. He had brought Sabien to a dark alleyway in the middle of the night witha stake tucked into the back of his jeans to kill him. Sabien had only defended himself.

    But it sure didn’t feel like self-defense when it was against your boyfriend.

    Though the cops wouldn’t be able to arrest him without exposing to the world at large that Vampires were real, Sabien knew it was still better the less time he spent at the scene of the crime. Mother and Father would be upset he’d left the body behind, but it was Kolten. He couldn’t hide Kolten away and toss him out to sea. He deseved to be found, to have a funeral, a prope burial. It was the least Sabien could do, though it’d never be enough. Kyle was dead, so far gone that Sabien couldn’t even bringhim back as a Vampire. He was just… gone. Forever. Nothing would make up for that.

    Sabien pulled himself to his feet and walked out of the alleyway, pulling his coat tighter around himself, like the warm enveloping hug woul somehow erase what he’d done. Unfortunately, it did not.

    He wiped his mouth wththe back of his hand, then his palm. When his palm came back clean, he crossed the road and crouched down on the sidewalk to wipe his hand in the grass. With his skin free of Kolten’s blood, he rose back to his feet.

    There was a bar about three blocks up the street. It’d be one of the few places open at this time of night that wouldn’t have blindingly bright lights. There, he could find a phone and call Mother. She’d be angry if she found out about Kolten’s death through any other avenue. If Sabien could avoid piling his mother and father’s anger onto his shoulders, he would.

    By the time he’d made it to the bar, the warmth and revigeration from Kolten’s blood had run its way through his veins, ridding him of at least some of the guilt, hurt, and anger. It would only last a day or two at a maximum, but the lively feeling of it would help him blend in at the bar. In any case, Sabien considered that a good thing, given the situation of the evening. The easier he could hide the guilt and pain from the people inside, the better. The last thing he needed was to be so suspicious that everyone inside remembered him when the cops came around to ask about Kolten.

    A little bell dinged above the door as Sabien walked into the bar. He made his way up to the counter laid his hands on it. “Excuse me? Do you know if there are any payphones near here?”

    The bartender turned to face him, a dimpled smile on his face, curly brown hair falling over his forehead. “No, sorry. I don’t really think those are around here anywhere anymore. Need to call someone?”

    Sabien offered a closed-mouth smile, his fangs safely hidden away. “Yeah. Mom lives a couple states over, and she gets rather worried when I don’t update her.”

    “I’m guessing you know her number, then,” the bartender said, stuffing a hand into the front pocket of his dark blue jeans.”



    Sabien stared at the device in the man’s hand. He’d seen othe humans walking around with one in hand, eyes glued to the screen. Mother and Father had aways been rather anti-whatever-the-hell-that-thing-was. Rather, they’d always been against Sabien having one. Still, he grabbed it, eyes scanning the bright screen and colorful little squares all over it in neat rows of four. “Sorry, umm… I’ve actually never used one before.”

    “Oh. No problem.” He grabbed Sabien’s hand, moving it to tilt the device back toward himself. “Jesus, dude, your hands are freezing.”

    Sabien offerd another smile. “Poor circulation.” It was pretty easy to have poor circulation when one’s heart only beat fast enough to keep to keep him on his feet.

    “My grandpa’s got that in his hands and feet. You should try those copper compression gloves. I know a lot of people wear them for pain and arthritis, but I think they help with circulation too”

    Sabien, for only a moment, let his smile grow past closed-mouth safety. The guy was cute, helpful, and relatively non-judgmental—qualities Sabien both loved and hated. Kolten had seemed to be those things too. And look at what had happened with him. “Maybe I’ll give those a try. Thank you.”

    The bartender nodded. He touched a green square on the screen that looked like a phone and touched a dotted square to bring up a number pad. That, Sabien was familiar with. His landline had a nice little number pad on it too, though the numbers on his were worn away rather than pristine and clear like the digital ones. “So you just have to type her number in there, press the gren phone, and then you’re good to go, just like a normal flip phone. Or house phone… or pay phone. Your choice.”

    God, he smelled good. Bothon the cologne side of things and the ‘I vant to suck your blood’ side of things.

    Sabien looked down, clearing his throat. Breaking eye contact didn’t always fight the hunger that came alongside a fresh kill, but it usually helped. With his mind coming back around to focus on the task at hand rather than the beat of the bartender’s heart, Sabien typed in the number for Mother and Father’s house. He lifted his gaze back to the bartender’s green eyes and stuck out a hand. “Sabien.”

    The man flashed that dimpled smile again and shook his hand. “Kyle.

    “Mind if I take this call outside, Kyle?”

    “Nah, go for it, man. Long as you bring the phone back.”

    “I will.” Sabien pushed himself away from the counter, almost missing the flash of worry in Kyle’s eyes. The human had been kind to him. There was no reason Sabien couldn’t offer up a bit of reassurance. Sabien puled his wallet out of his back pocket and tossed it onto the bar. “I’ll be back in a few. Make sure my cards aren’t stolen, if you wll.”

    Kyle snorted, a smaller dimple-less smile coming to his face. “I’ll make sure.” Sabien nodded and headed out of the bar. He didn’t have a license or family photographs in his wallet, so Kyle wouldn’t be able to sound the alarm on the fact that Sabin ha been in his twenties for quite some time now. Humans could be noesy, but if—or when—Kyle went through his wallet, the only ‘shocking’ thing he would discover was that Sabien’s cards were registered with the last name Johnson.

    Sabien Johnson didn’t exactly have a wonderful ring to it, but he had Mother and Father to thank for that choice.

    Outside, Sabien rounded the corner of the bar, stepping into the alley. He touched the green phone button—though aggressively stabbing it with his index finger a million times was robably closer to the correct version of events—and pressed the devce to his ear. After four rings, he heard the phone pick up. He waited a moment, but they didn’t offer an introduction. Sabien took a shot in the dark, “Mother?”

    “Sabien.” The greeting was somehow even colder than Sabien had been prepared for.

    “I killed him,” Sabien whispered.

    “Good. It should have been done a long time ago.”

    Sabien closed his eyes, tilting his head back against the bar’s brick wall. “Mother, it’s not… I loved him.”

    “You never should have. It was stupid, Sabien.”

    “Whatever,” Sabien breathed, quiet enough that he hoped Mother didn’t actually hear him. “I lost my cool and just… did it. He said he had told his family what I was, what you and Father are. He had people waiting to buy my blood, my fangs. He was going to kill me, and I just…” Sabin shook his head. “His family knows. That’s what’s important. We need to take care of them before they find out Kolten’s gone and come after me or you and Father.”

    “You sure chose a real winner, Sabien.”

    “He was cute!” And he didn’t care that I was cold. He didn’t care that I couldn’t go out in the sun without covering every inch of sin. He didn’t care my heartbeat was too slow to hear. He said he loved me. “I don’t want to sit and talk about how shitty my boyfriend was, okay? I’m just letting you know that you and Father need to be careful.”

    “We always are, Sabien. This mess exists because of you, not us.” A pause. “Goodnight, Sabien.”

    Before he could even think about responding, she hung up. Sabien hit the back of his head against the wall, bottom lip caught between his fangs. Eyes closed, he pulled the phone away from his ear and held it to his chest instead. He always felt guilty on the rare occasion he almost needed to kill a human being, but this was different. This hadn’t been an almost situation. This had happened. His boyfriend was dead, the very blood that had kept him alive now flowing through Sabien’s veins. It didn’t matter what Kolten had said. Sabien had loved the man, even if Kolten’s reciprocation of it had all been a lie.

    Sabien forced  his eyes open and pushed himself away from the wall. Back inside the bar, he stopped at the conter and set the phone down. Once Kyle finished pouring a drink for another patron, he grabbed the device and slid Sabien’s wallet over. “Thank you,” Sabien said softly.

    “Mmhmm. Thanks for not running off with my phone,” Kyle said, holding the thing up before shoving it back into his pocket. Sabien offered a nod and watched the playful smile quickly fade from the bartender’s face. “Everything okay, man?”

    “Oh, I don’t think it’s your job to stand here and listen to all of my problems.”

    “Ah, but that’s precisely my job. Serve drinks, listen to crazy stories, give some bartender-ly advice. It doesn’t have to be perfect advice by any means. The listening’s where i get most of my tips.”

    “Mm.” Sabien knew he should leave, get back to his home in the country. The place was small compared to the mansion his mother and father lived in, but he liked the overall cozy feel of the place. It made it feel… homey.

    But he wasn’t ready to go back to an empty house just yet.

    With a sigh, he lifted himself onto one of the barstools. He crossed his arms over the counter, one hand covering his wallet. “I suppose I’ll take something that doesn’t taste like absolute shit.”

    Kyle smiled. “So not beer, then. I can do that.” One corner of Sabien’s mouth lifted. At least this guy got it. That was something. That night, Sabien would certainly benefit from a little something.

    Sabien wasn’t really much of a drinker. Though he knew there were quite a few Vamps around that drank themselves silly, Sabien didn’t see the point. Unless he was severely hungry or injured, the alcohol couldn’t numb him or get him drunk or buzzed. After repeating his college career a time or two, Saien had learned how to behave as a drunk from watching human afte human tip back shot after shot, but in the long run, drunken parties were only really any fun when someone else at the party was sober. Like when he’d been with Kolten.

    He let out a heavy sigh as Kyle set a drink down in front of it. “What’s it taste like?”

    “Think fruit punch if it were a little boozy.”

    Sabien nodded his thanks, wrapping a hand around the glass. He stared down at the light-red drink, tapping his index finger against the glass, his ring clinking to the tune of its own boring musical. “Why do this job if you just have to hear about the troubles of other people?”

    Kyle shrugged, crossing his arms ove the counter. His white button-up stretched at the new position, the fabric pulled taut across his chest and around his biceps. He wasn’t a bodybuilder by ant means, but he had more muscle built up than Sabien did.

    Of course, Sabien could still throw him across a field in one joyful swing, but he figured that didn’t count, since he was undead and all.

    “I like getting to talk to other people so many times a week. Human interaction and all that good stuff. And here in the bar, I get to talk to people from all walks of life. Rich, poor, middle class, happy as hell, sad, celebrating, drowning their sorrows. Some of tohse peple, I get to help them feel better for the night, and others I just get to serve a drink to, talk about their kids or their job. It’s nice getting to know people, gettin to help when I can.” Kyle shook his head. “I guess I like helping, is the short answer.”

    “Helping can be good.” Sabien took a small sip of the drink, thankful that Kyle hadn’t bulshitted him. It tasted a lot less like alcohol and a lot more like fruit punch. Drinks, unlike human food, he could get away with, alcoholic or otherwise. They ran through his system about the same way blood did, though he lacked the benefits blood offered. “Men suck,” Sabien finally said, the words quiet.

    “Yeah, sometimes we definitely do.”

    Sabien shifted on the bar stool, lifting a hand to scratch at his freshly shaven jaw. “He wasted over half a year of my life.”

    “Men suck,” Kyle echoed. sabien only nodded. At least Kyle could listen without blaming  his broken, slow-beating heart solely on his choice in men. It was better than discussing it withhis parents.  “What’d he do to you?”

    Sabien met his eyes, momentarily surprised that Kyle would ask a follow-up question. “He told me ‘I love you’ was the biggest lie he’d ever told.”

    Kyle winced. “Well, good riddance to he bastard, then.” Sabien forced himself to nod, forced himself to pretend, for just a moment, that loving Kolten Peterson was the biggest lie he’d ever told too.

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Chapter Two

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An Update

Hey, guys. It’s been a while, so before I start trying to post chapters and stories, I wanted to chat just a bit.

My relationship writing has been broken for quite some time, but Roxie’s passing in December broke it even more. Toss in some anxiety, depression, grief, insomnia, and a chronic illness, and you have a recipe for a gal who can’t write.

Even now, I still don’t really know where my problem lays. I don’t know if it’s my characters or my plots or my pain or my memory or my depression. I don’t know if it’s society or all in my head. I don’t know where the problem is, and that makes it hard to fix.

But with that being said, I am still writing. It’s just not nearly as much as before. I used to write over 100,000 words a month, and now it’s a good month if I manage to write 10,000. This means that progress on stories is incredibly, painfully slow. Which makes it hard to post stories, especially if I want to do it on a consistent schedule.

With that said, I’m currently working on a few things. I’m rewriting The Surgeon, book one of the Bo Austen series. I am yet again starting another rewrite of Truths and Chains, book one in the Minetti Boys romance series. I’m attempting a Little Mermaid retelling, currently titled The Amber Mermaid. And I’m also working on a rewrite of book one of the Dallas Silver series. This used to be Symbolically Carved, but at the moment, I’m testing out a new version titled Butchered Beneath the Street Light. Finally, I’m working on a vampire romance. Two of you have actually read the original draft of this romance, but I’m rewriting it and planning to finally post it here. Hopefully, the first chapter of that one will go up this week, but I still need to make a cover for it first.

Things have been less than great for a long time, both in terms of my physical and mental being. But I’m working on both the best I can.

I hope to see you later this week with at least one chapter. As long as all my animals have good days and I don’t have any massive crashes or downswings, it should be doable.

In the meantime, be good to each other and be kind to yourselves. I’ll see you soon.

Surgeon – Chapter One


Chapter One

Thursday: January 2, 2020

    “I’d like to be the first to welcome you to Clinstone PD, Mister Austen.” Lieutenant Myra Cooper brushed a lock of blonde hair out of her face, brown eyes brightening as she smiled and held out a hand. “We’re very lucky to have you.”

    Bo Austen shook her hand. “I appreciate you hiring me on.”

    “Of course. My pleasure. You came highly recommended.” She cleared her throat. “Most days, you’ll be replacing our usual forensic analyst, Misty. She’s pregnant, due in a week or so. She’s supposed to be taking it easy for a bit, and that’s why you’re here.”

    Bo nodded. He knew the job was temporary, that he’d have to go back to Los Angeles once their regular analyst came back from maternity leave, but he was appreciative of the opportunity regardless. “Thank you for everything you’re doing here.” Bo offered a smile. “I’m in desperate need of a break from the City of Angels.”

    “I can certainly see why.” Myra snorted. “One day working under Jamal Pitman, and I think I’d leave the field forever.”

    Bo offered the smallest chuckle he could force out. “Where am I off to?”

    Myra pointed to the open door of her office. “The detectives you’ll be working with today are out there on the main floor. Mason and Lehmann.”

    “Thank you.” Hands tucked behind his back, Bo walked out of her office. The strap of his satchel cut across his left shoulder, the satchel itself settled at his right hip. In his left hand, his camera case was clutched, leaving his right hand free for the necessary handshakes without the need for any fumbling or rearranging. The smoother things went, the better.

    Bo’s eyes landed on a man dressed in a suit and a blue tie. His face was lit up with a wide smile. He stood behind his desk, one hand pressed to the top of it, the other holding a cell phone to his ear. “You’re kidding? Did he really?” His smiled broadened. “That’s amazing. Christ, you better be taking tons of pictures for me, baby.” His eyes settled on Bo, and he lifted his hand from the desk to offer a two-fingered wave. Bo waved back, unwilling and unable to match the man’s smile.

    His tie was the same sapphire blue of his eyes, which hid behind a pair of plastic-framed glasses. “Good. I’m gonna want you to send all of those to my phone. Like, now. Yes, seriously.”

    Bo’s gaze shifted to the man seated at the desk beside the blue-eyed man. He was less muscular than the one glued to his phone. The blue-eyed man leaned over and smacked the other man’s shoulder with the back of his hand. He mouthed something that Bo couldn’t quite catch. The other man nodded and rose to his feet.

    “You’re just making me sad, babe,” the blue-eyed man said. “Hey, I’ve got a wild idea. Ready? You come to work for me, and I’ll be a stay-at-home-mom for you. Sound good?” He chuckled as he pushed himself away from his desk. “Was that a no? It kinda sounded like a no.” He walked over to Bo and held out a hand, moving the bottom half of his phone to his cheek. “Detective Jacob Mason. You’re with me and Lehmann today. Got a crime scene downtown.”

    Bo shook the detective’s hand. “Bo Austen. Forensics.” It only struck afterward how pointless the introduction was. The detective already knew who he was. That was why he had come over. That was why he had said Bo was with them today. It made him look nervous or incapable of paying attention. He only hoped the detective was still too busy with the person on the other end of the line to notice.

    Jacob looked away for a moment. “How about tomorrow?” he asked into the phone. His eyes shifted back to Bo as he jerked a thumb over his shoulder. “Partner, Carter Lehmann.”

    The man in question stepped up behind Jacob and shook Bo’s hand. “You’re Misty’s replacement, then?”

    “Yes, sir.” Bo couldn’t help but lock onto Carter’s eyes. They were hazel without being, well… hazel. There was a ring of blue and a ring of green in each one, speckled with little dots of brown in the middle of the ‘hazel’ color in the middle.

    “Awesome. You’re replacing our ME today too. Think you can handle that?”

    “I can handle nearly anything you throw my way, Detective.”

    “Good. Come on, I’m driving.”

    Phone still pressed to his ear, Jacob laughed as he followed Carter out of the station. “No, you’re right, I shouldn’t laugh. But come on, Al. You gotta admit it’s a bit hilarious.”

    Al. Short for Allison or Alice, maybe. Bo glanced at Jacob’s left hand. No ring. Fiancée or girlfriend?

    “Okay, fair, but you’ll realize how funny it is in a day or two.” Jacob elbowed Carter’s upper arm. “Charlotte pissed on Al after I left this morning.”

    Carter snorted. “You are not nearly cute enough for that woman to put up with your shit and your kids pissing on her.”

    Jacob scoffed. “I’m fucking beautiful. Don’t know what kind of shit you’re on, Lemon.”

    Lemon. Throw in the exchange of cute, beautiful, and the accusation of drug usage, and there was no way in hell the pair weren’t great friends outside of the station, as well.

    “No, the rule is that I can’t swear in the house,” Jacob said into the phone. “I’m in a parking lot, babe. You aren’t in charge of the parking lot. You don’t even work here anymore.” He yanked open the passenger door of a police cruiser and slid into the seat. Bo climbed into the backseat, shutting the door behind him as Carter got into the driver’s seat.

    “Where’d you come in from, Austen?” Carter asked as he started the cruiser. He cranked up the heat against the cold that had seeped in throughout the early morning.

    Bo shifted. He had hoped they’d save this conversation for at least day two. “California.”

    “Hold up a sec, babe.” Jacob turned around to look at Bo, his phone held away from his ear. “You were Baker’s forensics guy during her last case, weren’t you? That Wings shit down in Iowa?”

    Obviously, even Minnesota wasn’t far enough away from California to escape the Kathy ordeal. Choosing a state bordering Iowa had been a mistake. He’d learn from that for next time. “Yes, I worked her last case with her.”

    “Damn.” Jacob shook his head. “Glad that was a shitfest I wasn’t invited to,” he muttered.

    Most days, Bo wished he hadn’t been invited to the ‘shitfest’ either. He cleared his throat as Jacob turned back around. “What’s this scene we’re heading to?”

    “Dead gal,” Jacob said, briefly meeting his gaze in the rearview mirror.

    Carter nodded. “We don’t know much yet. A woman was found dead in a dumpster outside of the ER downtown. I don’t know much more than that.”

    “Her throat was slit,” Jacob added.

    “Where the hell did you hear that?” Carter asked.

    “I dunno. They just tell me more than they tell you.”

    Carter snorted. “Bullshit.”

    “Nah, I’ve been here longer, so they like me more than you. Example, I get told way more than you do.” Bo caught the end of Jacob’s eye roll in the mirror. “Al told me to apologize.”

    “Thank you.”

    “Didn’t say I had to mean it, though.”

    Carter backhanded Jacob’s arm. “Dick.”

    Blue eyes smiled his response.

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Surgeon – Prologue

A/N: I wanted to post this earlier, but between client edits, formats, and sanctuary animals, I’ve got my hands quite full! Anyway, Sunday was Bo’s birthday, and even though I’m not yet done with the rewrite, I can’t help myself. For the first time in a long time, I feel connected to Bo again, and I’m so excited to finally share him with you all once more. thank you so



Wednesday: January 1, 2020

    He had been studying her for weeks. She had been a backup, just in case something went wrong with the other girl. She was a spare. Like waiting for a tire to blow out, she had been there as a fallback.

    Well, the tire had blown the hell out, and he needed her. Now. Tonight.

    Drink in hand, he walked over to her. His steps faltered the closer he got, and, as her attention shifted to him, it felt as though the air had been knocked from his lungs. God, she was beautiful, almost perfect.

    “Can I buy you a drink?” he asked.

    She smiled faintly, but it didn’t hide the sadness in her green eyes. “I’d like that,” she said.

    “Bartender, another of what she’s having, please,” he said softly.

    “Coming up.”

    The man shifted his gaze back to the woman’s face, a soft smile lifting either corner of his mouth. It softened his features, defined his strong jawline. He was well aware of the effect his smile usually had on women. It made them trust him, for better or for worse. And tonight, he needed that. “Tell me, who was foolish enough to leave you all by your lonesome?”

    She looked up at the bartender, thanking him as he set her drink in front of her. She shook her head, scoffing. “Some guy I met on the Internet. I let my friends talk me into the online dating shit.” She rolled her eyes. “That was a mistake.”

    “Ah. Prefer meeting someone the old fashioned way, huh?”

    She nodded, reaching up to tuck her blonde hair behind her ear. “Yeah, usually. It wasn’t working well enough for my friends, though. They want another option for double dates.” She took a small sip of her drink. “Can’t really trust most people you meet on the Internet, though. Learning that pretty quickly.”

    It was good she felt so betrayed by the man who had stood her up. He had made sure the man from the Internet would be staying away, but he had feared it wouldn’t bother her much. But, oh, it had. And that was damn good. “I could show you a good time, if you wanted. Couple drinks, little dancing… The night’s yours.”

    She laughed, soft and delicate. It was like music to his ears. Her laugh was absolutely perfect. “You know, it could be the margaritas talking, but I think I’m all for that. But I’d like to get the hell outta here instead.”

    He smiled and held up his drink. “To twenty-twenty, then. Let you finally find your true love.”

    She snorted, clinking her glass against his. “To twenty-twenty,” she echoed. He downed his drink, and she quickly followed suit. The man paid for both of their drinks and held out an arm. She slid off her barstool, smoothed out her dress, and linked arms with him.

    Outside the bar, the soberingly cold air of a Minnesotan winter hit them in the face. She wrapped her free hand around his arm, stepping a little closer for the illusion of warmth. He couldn’t help but smile.

    He unlocked his car and pulled open the passenger side door. She thanked him and slid into the seat. He smiled down at her and closed the door. He smoothed both hands over his suit jacket as he walked around the front of the car. Letting out a breath, he pulled open the driver’s side door and slid into the car. He pulled his seatbelt into place, fingers lingering even after it clicked. Safety first. Always. He had learned that lesson the hard way. “Buckle up, darling,” he said as he started the car.

    They had places to be, and through a windshield sure as hell wasn’t one of them.


    She didn’t fight him on the way down the basement stairs. She didn’t fight him as he led her into a bedroom in the far corner of the basement. It wasn’t until he shut the cell-like door that she realized it wasn’t exactly a bedroom, per say. While the door looked like it belonged in a prison, the interior of the room was decorated like that of an actual bedroom. A king-sized bed, a vanity, a dresser, bedside tables, art hanging on the walls, an area rug on the floor.

    “What the hell’s going on?” she asked, each word louder than the last.

    The man wrapped his hands around the bars of the cell door. “I’m making my new year’s resolutions come true a lot sooner than they usually do.” He titled his head to one side, eyes scanning over the woman. It was the first time he could stare for as long as he wanted. It didn’t matter if she caught him now. She was thin and tall. An inch more and she’d be six-foot. She was a runner, athletic, and boy, did it show. “You’re almost perfect. Almost. You need to put on a little extra weight here.” He poked her just above her hip bone. “Not much. Just a little. I say we get started with a rather early breakfast.”

    “Somebody help me!”

    His shoulders lifted as he drew in a breath for a sigh. “Darling, nobody can hear you. It’s just you and me here.” He reached through the door and touched her cheek. She jerked away from him before he even had the chance to feel the warmth of her face. “That’s all right. You’ll get used to me eventually.” He smiled. “I’ll go make you some breakfast, darling. I won’t be long.”

    As soon as he was up the stairs and out of her sight, she grabbed the cell bars and rattled the door, screaming for help. Off to her left, someone sighed. “I-is somebody there?”

    “Yes.” A pause. “He’s right. Nobody can hear you scream down here. I’ve tried,” a girl’s voice said.

    “Who… are you?” the woman questioned, turning toward the voice. The room was empty, a wall separating her and whoever the voice belonged to.

    “The girl he kidnapped before you.”

    “H-how long have you been here?”

    “What’s today?” the voice asked after a moment.

    “January first.”

    “Oh. Then… about eight days, I think.”

    The woman pulled her bottom lip into her mouth, closing her eyes. “What’s your name?”

    “Natalie. But when he’s around, you have to call me Brooke,” the voice said quietly. “What’s your name?”

    “Cleo. I-I’m Cleo.”

    “Welcome to the party, Cleo. Here, though? Here, your name is Lauren. If he calls you Lauren, you answer him. When he tells you to do something, do it. Don’t complain. Don’t resist. Don’t try to starve yourself out. Just do what he says.”


    “Because about an hour ago, there was another woman who was supposed to be you. Supposed to be Lauren, I mean. But she refused to eat, said she’d rather starve. Well… now she’s dead.”

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An Update

So, it’s been a while. Again. But it’s not because of writing this time.

On the 13th, about a week ago now, our ten-year-old Boxer lost her battle with suspected cancer. I still don’t have the words to even begin to express the pain of losing her or the hole it’s left in my heart.

Roxie could be a pain in the butt sometimes, but she was a pain I loved with every damn fiber of my being, and I’m still figuring out how to live my daily life without her.

For the last five years, I’ve spent every waking moment with Roxie. Once I graduated high school, my waking moments were at home instead of behind a school desk, and that meant I was home with the dogs. With Roxie.

I’ve spent the last five years being her comfort human until Mom came home from work. I spent the last five years awkwardly standing in the kitchen in silence so she could eat without worrying that, for some reason, I was going to disappear forever. I’ve spent the last five years doing all of my writing with a grumpy brindle boxer snoring beside me or behind me, creepily staring at me until I acknowledged her looking at me, wining at me the moment I started writing because she decided she actually did have to go outside, even though I’d asked sixty seconds before.

I don’t know how to write without her beside me. I don’t know how I’m supposed to fill in the silence between the clicking of my keyboard’s keys if not with her snores, grunts, and groans.

I just don’t… know.

Am I going to get back on the horse? Eventually, of course. But I don’t know when eventually will be. And I don’t know how fast the words will come once I bring myself to sit down and try to write them.

I’m mostly typing this up to let you know where I’m at right now, and emotionally, it’s a horrible place. But when I’m ready, you’ll know, and I thank you for your patience until then, and for your patience between updates from there forward.