A/N: Before you read this story be sure you've read "Two Cases". It will put everything into context. And thank you, in advance, for your review.
Will was stunned and he was raging. As he weaved through traffic like an insane pinball on trajectory, he cursed other drivers and used his car's horn as if it were a bullhorn proclaiming his rage to the world. "After all I did for her! After all I meant to her! How could she do this to me?" he yelled out loud.
Will had just finished the mediation of Brenda Johnson's lawsuit against him, the LAPD, and the City of Los Angeles. He had been forced to sit there and listen to her pompous asshole attorney, Wilson Henegar, spewing forth a collection of lies and convenient half truths in an attempt to completely shred his reputation. And what was worse than listening to Brenda's attorney was seeing that John Bandy, the City Attorney, was believing everything that that snake Henegar had said about him.
And Will knew that if her version of events got out, everyone at the LAPD from the Commissioner to the Meter Maids would believe it too. Even though Bandy had assured him that he could get Brenda and Henegar to agree to a gag order, he was experienced enough to know that sometime, somehow, details would leak out. And if there was one thing the LAPD was good at, it was sniffing out details. She had ruined him. Deliberately ruined him.
Will slowed down, pulled into a parking lot and put his forehead on the steering wheel. His rage was spent for the moment and it had been replaced by the rushing waters of grief. He saw his career being flushed down the toilet and he clung to the steering wheel as though the swirling water was flushing him with it.
A man tapping on his window caused him to snap to and he lowered his window.
"Hey, mister, are you ok? Do you need me to call an ambulance?"
"No, no. I'm fine. Thank you," he replied in embarrassment. Will straightened up, shifted into drive and pulled back out into traffic. He had intended to go back to his office but knew he was in no shape to be seen by anyone at the LAPD. And he certainly couldn't concentrate on work so he headed toward home. But, glancing at the clock, he saw that his kids would be home from school soon and and he didn't want them to see him like this either so he did the best thing he could do. He headed for the bar in the Ciello Hotel. There he knew he could grab a table in the far corner and have the privacy he needed to regain his equilibrium.
"Good afternoon, Chief Pope. The usual?" the waiter asked.
"Good afternoon, Michael. Yes, but make it a double," although he wanted to ask for a bottle.
His first swallow of bourbon was larger than it should have been and it sent a lightning bolt through his empty stomach so he resolved to sip the rest of it much more slowly. As he sat there staring into his drink, the amber fluid became a pool of memory.
"Commander Pope, thank you for coming. Please, have a seat." Andrew Schmidt graciously greeted him at the door. He was dapper, definitely old-school, but Will instinctively knew not to underestimate him.
Also seated at the table, smiling up at him, was a lovely young blonde girl. When Will first entered the room he mistakenly thought he was meeting a girl in her late teens. But, on second look, she appeared to be in her mid to late 20s. He studied her closely, as he did all attractive young women, until she looked at him pointedly. So he shifted his position and moved his gaze back to Schmidt.
"Miss Brenda Leigh Johnson, may I present Commander William Pope. Commander Pope, Miss Johnson."
"I'm pleased to meet you, Commander," Brenda replied smiling. Her honeyed southern accent played on Will's ears reminding him of the scent of magnolia blossoms surfing on a spring breeze.
Will shook her hand and was careful not to hold it too long since she had immediately picked up on his overly long appraisal.
Andrew dug right in. "Commander, as I believe you are already aware, the Company is concerned about security issues surrounding diplomats from Eastern Europe, Russia, and the breakaway republics. Since these diplomats have immunity, the Company will take care of monitoring them and dealing with any security breaches. But lately they have been recruiting American citizens for some of their operations so the Metro PD and the FBI also have a role to play in maintaining our security."
"Yes, Chief Rennick explained this. He said that you two had agreed that a CIA liaison would be appointed to work with Metro on cases where there might be security issues." Will was trying to figure out why Brenda Johnson was a party to this discussion.
"That is correct," Schmidt nodded, "And Miss Johnson is being appointed as that Liaison." Both Andrew and Brenda saw Will's surprise so Andrew continued, "She is fluent in Russian and the Eastern European languages as well as an expert analyst and interrogator so we believe that she is exceptionally well-qualified to work with Metro on international security issues."
Will wondered how Russian with a southern accent could possibly fool a spy. And he found it difficult to believe this diminutive girl could possibly be an expert at anything, let alone issues of national security. "Miss Johnson, do you have experience in police casework?"
"Not police casework, no. But I do have sufficient field experience for this assignment," Brenda replied firmly.
Andrew sought to allay Will's fears. "Don't worry, Commander. Miss Johnson is experienced and highly skilled. She is the perfect Company resource to handle this operation."
Will just smiled when he heard this and asked, "How do you want me to explain her role at Metro to my officers?"
"You can tell them that I work for the Department of State on security issues affectin visitin dignitaries," Brenda interjected." There was no way she was going to allow him to talk about her as if she were not present and Will got the message.
"All right, Miss Johnson. When will you be ready to start?"
"I have just been notified of two interrogations that I need to conduct for the Company so I should be ready to start the first of next month."
"Chief Rennick told me that you will require your own office so we'll shift some personnel around and be ready for you, then."
"Thank you," she smiled again as she rose.
Will didn't think he'd ever seen as perfect a female body before and made the instant decision that her office needed to be as close to his as possible. Lt. Tenley would just have to move.
When he finally left the Ciello bar and went home Mrs. Billings had the children doing their homework at the kitchen table while she was cooking supper. After she left and Will got the children into bed he sat in his recliner staring at the cold, black fireplace. Would his children ever hear the awful stories Brenda and Henegar had cooked up about him? Even though he had managed to safeguard his finances, he knew that his reputation and legacy had become dependent on the vagaries of two ungrateful, scheming and vindictive women.
"It's funny," he thought, "I never thought I had anything to fear from either Estelle or Brenda. Especially Brenda. But everything depends on them doing the honorable thing and keeping quiet about the terms the City Attorney and that bastard Henegar are forcing me to accept."
As he stared into the dead blackness of his fireplace, he remembered another warmer, more inviting one.
Will was thankful that he had never worn a wedding ring and that he had kept his old bachelor pad. His wife Mary didn't know he still had it so he had been free to use it for trysts of the kind that he had planned for Brenda. Once again he had told Mary that he was going out of town to bring back some fugitives that had been arrested in another state. And she was so trusting that this excuse always worked.
Will knew that Brenda was drawn to powerful men and that she admired him so he was feeling pretty sure of himself and his ability to seduce her. He had told her that there were too many interruptions to go over the Kasparachek case in the office and had given her the address. She accepted it without hesitation. So he lit the fireplace and placed the wine he had purchased in the wine rack. He had showered and put on fresh clothes. He was ready.
While he fixed the cheese and cracker plate he chuckled about the fact that Brenda had a boyfriend, a man her age named Ryan or Brian something. He'd even met him at a Metro PD retirement party. But she wasn't wearing his ring. And since Will knew that Brenda already admired him he was confident that he could take her away from him, whatever his name was. Taking her away from a good looking younger man was going to be sweet.
When Brenda was ushered into his condo he asked her if she'd like a glass of wine and showed her the bottle. As he was uncorking it he suggested that she bring in the cheese and crackers from the kitchen. When they were both seated on the couch sipping their wine they chatted for a few minutes but soon Brenda asked about working on their case.
He set his glass down and replied that he wanted to discuss something else first and put his arm around her. He felt her stiffen under his touch but she didn't pull away so he murmured softly, "Brenda, you are the most exciting and beautiful woman I've ever known. Your smile lights up my day and I can't stop thinking about you."
Will felt that she was starting to relax so he continued, "But you're more than beautiful. You have a brilliant mind. I am in awe of you."
Since she continued to relax he kissed her. "Please don't reject me. I couldn't stand it. Your kiss is magic. We're meant to be together. I'm sure of it." When she heard this she completely softened under his touch and he knew that she was going to be his.
Will's reverie was interrupted by the sounds of his kids arguing so he got up and headed upstairs to quell the fight and get them back into bed. Afterwards he trudged wearily back down the stairs and slumped back into his recliner and once again stared at the empty fireplace.
This wasn't supposed to happen. He had worked incredibly hard to balance the difficult personalities at the LAPD and to strike a balance between the demands of police work with the political demands placed upon him by the Mayor and the Police Commission. And he had done a good job, too. No. He had done an excellent job. He had worked hard to rise within the ranks and now everything meant so little. He had been forced to hear his own City Attorney telling him that the new Commissioner did not support him. Obviously loyalty and hard work meant nothing to them. It wasn't his fault.
Brenda was waiting for him in an out-of-the-way restaurant. Her hair caught the overhead light and shimmered as it cascaded down around her shoulders. When she saw Will her smile lit up her face. Will kissed her and slid into the seat beside her.
"I'm sorry I'm late. I just came from the Chief's office. I've got good news and bad news. Which do you want first?"
Immediately her smile faded and she replied, "We'd better start with the good news."
"Chief Rennick is incredibly pleased with the work we've done."
"That's wonderful, Will. Now what's the bad news?"
"The bad news is that there is no promotion available for me right now. I was hoping to at least make Assistant Chief by the end of the year, but it doesn't look like that's going to happen."
Brenda took his hand. "I'm so sorry, Will. You deserve a promotion. I wish there was somethin I could do to help you."
"Actually, there might be. The Chief is concerned that you might get reassigned and that would end our successful work partnership. He doesn't want that to happen. And I don't either. Our continued success is the best route to my promotion.
"What can I do about it? I'm a pretty low-level operative."
"Would you ever consider leaving the CIA and coming to work at Metro? Then nothing could keep us apart. I don't want to lose you, Brenda. I can't lose you."
"You mean you don't want to lose the chance for a promotion," Brenda was teasing now.
"Well, yes, of course. But what's really important is that I love you too much to lose you. If you came to work at Metro we could be together all the time."
"If I were to come to work at Metro how can we be sure that I'd be assigned to your unit?"
"I discussed the possibility with the Chief and because of our success rate, he would make sure that you were assigned to my unit. Of course, you'd have to attend the Police Academy and score high enough on the test but that shouldn't be a problem. You already know what's involved in good police work."
"I don't know, Will. That's an awfully big leap."
"If you were to make that leap it would mean that we'd never have to be separated," he whispered as he nuzzled her ear. "I don't want us to ever be apart."
Brenda was weakening. "I'll think about it."
"I did everything I could to help her," Will said morosely. "I helped her study for the Police Academy exam and she skipped right over rookie to detective because of me. I pulled a lot of strings for her and even had to go up against Civil Service regulations, but was there any gratitude? Where was her gratitude?" he asked the fireplace.
Will looked around the bar and his gaze immediately fell on a redhead seated alone. She looked like she was searching the crowd for a familiar face so he concluded that she was waiting for someone. "God, she's beautiful. I wonder who she is."
Will was relieved that Brenda was working a case so there was no way she could come in here and find him. Not that she would have looked for him. No. Brenda, for all her head-strong ways, understood her role and waited for him to go to her. It was his good fortune that Brenda prized discretion in relationships. Tonight she wouldn't be expecting anything from him.
After another drink the beautiful redhead was still alone. It was time to make his move so he took the bar stool next to her and introduced himself. She smiled and introduced herself as Estelle Forsyth. What a beautiful smile she had. He told her that he had been stood up so he was going to have one more for the road and then go home. As predicted she sympathized with him and they began talking. And, as he had hoped, they soon left the bar together. When they got to her place she invited him in for coffee.
This was working very well. She had clearly been impressed that he was the Commander of a Robbery and Homicide division for the Metro PD so he told her a couple of stories about how he had captured some dangerous criminals. He could tell from her attentiveness that this was going to be an easy conquest, and he was right. He loved having another conquest and there would be more with this beautiful woman but he knew he had to get home to Mary. He kissed her goodnight and promised to call her in a few days.
"I must be crazy trying to juggle three women," he said to himself driving home from work one day. But he said it with a self-satisfied smile. He wondered how many other men his age would have the stamina for that. His smile broadened as he envisioned himself as being in a lovely garden with three beautiful blossoms waiting to be plucked.
Mary was a wonderful woman, sweet and trusting, and she loved him with all her heart. But she was his age and wasn't very exciting. No, for excitement he had Brenda. She was an incredibly complex young woman who was not only talented at her job but was also talented in bed. In fact she was better in bed than the other two combined. Estelle was beautiful but still, her body was not quite as good as Brenda's. And her Catholic upbringing had dampened her creativity. He had to admit that the excitement came from the fact that he'd made another conquest. But she was charming and self-assured. And she understood office politics so she would be a better asset to his career than either Mary or Brenda. But the biggest plus of all was that she wanted children. Mary had suffered several miscarriages and Brenda definitely was not thinking about starting a family. She was so career-driven that he wondered if she ever would.
The more he thought about the three women in his life the more he was torn. His smug smile faded as he realized that he was going to have to choose one of them and hurt the other two. He never wanted anyone to get hurt. But he had promised marriage to Brenda. He had promised to tell Mary that their marriage was over and that he was leaving. He had promised Brenda that he would move in with her and that they would be married as soon as his divorce was final.
But that would hurt not only Mary but Estelle too. And in order to keep the affair with Estelle going he had made similar promises to her. She didn't deserve it. None of them deserved to be hurt. They had all given their best to him. And they deserved his love and loyalty in return. He was suddenly filled with sadness.
"There's nothing I can do to make things right for all three of them." He knew he had to end two of the relationships. He just had to make his choice. "It can't be helped."
Will's thoughts were interrupted by the sounds of footsteps in the hall and more arguing so, once again, he went upstairs and ordered his children back to bed. Then he returned to his only companion, the lifeless fireplace.
Will had noticed the appreciative way that Agent Howard looked at Brenda. But Brenda had never seemed to notice him in any way unrelated to work so Will had never really been concerned. Actually, it was a matter of pride to him that Brenda had preferred him to the handsome Fritz Howard.
But that was while they were having an affair. Now that he had chosen Estelle over Brenda and she was free, could Fritz move in and start up an affair of his own with her? Will had to admit that that was a possibility. How could he prevent that from happening? Fritz Howard was a married man, after all, and Brenda was vulnerable right now. She could be really hurt by him. He wanted to protect her but what could he do? Could he ask the FBI to assign someone else to work with Metro? Could he reassign Brenda so that she would have no contact with Fritz? Could he warn Agent Howard to back off and leave Brenda alone?
As he was mulling over his options, the interdepartmental mail arrived. He absent mindedly opened it and noticed a familiar handwriting. It was a vacation request from Brenda. He sighed in relief and, without checking schedules, immediately approved the request. That would keep Brenda and Agent Howard separated for a few days, anyway, while he figured out how to deal with each of them.
But his relief turned inexplicably to sadness when Brenda tendered her resignation less than three weeks later and informed everyone that she was moving back to Atlanta. True, he had made his choice and was about to move in with Estelle. But he still felt the sadness caused by a sense of loss whenever he thought about Brenda. Of course, her move meant that she would be beyond Agent Howard's reach as well, so there was some small consolation, at least.
Will had watched the last streaks of sunlight disappear. Night's star-studded black velvet blanket was supposed to tuck the city into bed but Los Angeles wasn't going to yield. He watched the defiant lights of the city, then sighed and got up and poured himself a glass of bourbon. "Maybe a drink will help me understand how she could deliberately try to destroy me," he said as he retook his seat. "No, there's no justification for what she did to me." He looked out the window half expecting the city to have submitted to the will of the night but, of course, it had not. "No wonder they describe cities as women," he thought.
To Be Continued...
A/N: And now, please review. Thank you.