A/N: We all have times when we want to play the victim card while licking our wounds, and Will Pope is no exception. But we all know that doesn't work.

Chapter 2

Will was sitting in Chief Thompson's office getting his ass chewed out. His brain child, the LAPD's Priority Murder Squad, had been a huge disappointment. Will had jumped at the opportunity to move to Los Angeles and had worked to become Assistant Chief of Operations at the second largest police department in the nation. And his idea of the Priority Murder Squad was not only supposed to solve a lot of the painful problems that the LAPD had gotten itself into, it was supposed to cement his career. Besides netting him his promotion, it was supposed to impress the big brass. But, according to Chief Thompson, it had been a "Class A Fuck Up". And that was a direct quote.

"I'm sorry, sir. I realize that we haven't seen the results I had hoped for but the Priority Murder Squad is still new. I'm sure that with time it will continue to improve."

"Time? How did time cause Lt. Ferris to lie under oath? How did time allow John Delbin to go on Larry King Live and give an interview making the LAPD look like fools? Worse than fools. We looked like the felons here!" Will saw the veins in Chief Thompson's neck popping out and his face turning red.

"Chief, I can fix this. I will fix this."

"How can you fix this mess? This is OJ and Rampart all over again."

"I can reconfigure the unit. I'm going to work on this. I promise I'll fix it."

"You've got 48 hours to present a plan to address these problems or I'm going to dismantle the Priority Murder Squad and arrange for better supervision of all of Operations, including Robbery Homicide."

"You don't mean me!" Will was incredulous.

Chief Thompson just glowered at him and said, "You've got 48 hours, Will. Now get out of here."

Will went back to his desk and pulled out his newly revised organization chart. His eyes locked on Captain Russell Taylor. Taylor was a good guy. His men really liked him. He was a career cop whose father had been a much decorated career cop, as well. And he had assembled a pretty impressive team. With the exception of Ferris, they were all solid cops who worked well together. No, the weak link there was Taylor himself. He was more of a buddy to this squad and less of a leader. He also had encouraged a culture of taking the easy route to closing cases in order to make a good impression and garner favorable press.

Will didn't want to remove Taylor from supervising the squad but if it was a choice between removing Taylor or getting removed himself the choice would not be difficult. But who could take over the reins of the Priority Murder Squad and solve the growing problems? Will looked at the names of all of his Captains and Commanders and honestly didn't think any of them had the Robbery Homicide experience necessary to solve the most difficult cases.

He then pulled out his directory of the Sheriff's Department and studied those names. He didn't know much about them but had met the top three names. They were all ass kissers too. They wouldn't be an improvement over Taylor, and at least one of those names could be serious competition for his own ambitions.

His thoughts then turned to going outside Los Angeles. One name breached the surface of his mind: Brenda Leigh Johnson. There wasn't anyone who did a better job solving difficult cases and she did not have one political bone in her body. She would not be concerned about stroking political feathers. As a matter of fact, Will figured he would probably have to work hard to prevent her from ruffling them. Additionally she had always been focused on doing her job, not seeking promotional opportunites. She would not be competition.

Besides, there would be another advantage. He was bored with Estelle. She was an asset politically and socially but never developed into anything remotely exciting in bed. And any experimentation was, in her mind, a perversion. She had also developed her own life apart from his and often was not home when he was.

Since Will had maintained his contacts in law enforcement all over the east, it had been easy for him to follow Brenda's career. He had heard about her marriage and recent divorce. He also knew of the ethics inquiry which had been investigated by Internal Affairs. Knowing how painful a charge of sexual misconduct would have been to Brenda, he began to have some hope. Maybe she would be open to a move to LA. And if he could get her to LA, maybe she would be open to renewing their affair. But first he would have to sell her name to Chief Thompson and then he would have to tell Taylor that his supervisory responsibilities would be limited to Robbery Homicide.

He excitedly began working up a proposal for the Chief which would emphasize her success rate while in Atlanta as well as at Metro and would stress that she is a CIA-trained interrogator. He knew both of those would fascinate the Chief. But he knew he'd have to soft-pedal her hard headedness as well as her disdain for budget constraints. "He'll certainly learn about those things. And I'm betting it won't take long. But if she can solve a few high profile cases with no bad publicity first, I'm sure I can handle the fallout."

Will looked at the clock. It was after eleven and he needed to be at work before 9:00 tomorrow but he knew he wouldn't be able to sleep. He got up and poured himself another bourbon and once again took his seat in front of the fireplace.

"After everything I did for her. How could she do this to me?" he asked out loud. "But it wasn't just her. It was Fritz Howard's fault too. If he hadn't entered her life, everything would have been perfect."

Will stood at Tiffany's jewelry counter looking at the array of gems, gold, and platinum. "I don't want to overdo it," he explained to the sales clerk, "But I do want to impress her."

"Ahh, A new girlfriend, then." The clerk thought he was beginning to understand the situation.

"Well, not exactly. An old girlfriend who is now free again. I want to let her know that I'm still interested."

"In that case, what about a pair of platinum earrings? They are exquisitely crafted but avoid ostentation. Let me pull out several pairs for your consideration."

Will examined the earrings closely. He didn't want them to be too small but Brenda never wore large, gaudy jewelry. As a matter of fact earrings were usually the only jewelry she wore. And a lot was riding on his selecting the perfect pair for her. He didn't want anything too large and he certainly didn't want anything too small, either. No, for Brenda, the middle ground was best so he selected a mid-size pair of studs. Simple. Just what Brenda would wear. But he swallowed hard when the sales clerk presented him with the charge. Damn, Tiffany's was expensive! But he handed the clerk his American Express card, signed the receipt and stuck the little blue box with the tiny blue ribbon in his pocket. "Thank goodness Estelle never pays attention to our credit card statements," he thought as he exited the store.

"But things didn't go as planned, thanks to that miserable Fritz Howard," he mused bitterly as he took another swallow of bourbon. "I didn't realize that I'd picked a night when she already had plans with him. As soon as I heard the wariness in her voice when she asked if Estelle knew about the earrings I knew I was overplaying my hand. But it was too late. Even though I was able to come up with something witty that made her smile it was obvious that the evening was a huge fail. Clearly, she wasn't ready for my seduction scene yet." But then Fritz Howard had appeared and she had picked up the earrings and had run off with him, instead. "God! That woman could be such an ingrate!"

"Of course it was all her fault. Ok, she had been hurt at least twice, and one time was by me. That's true. But I tried my best to convince her that it was unintentional." He was muttering into his glass. "And that slimy Fritz Howard just oozed his way into her life as soon as he knew that she was in town. This was his fault. If only he hadn't come on to her, I could have made things right with Brenda."

It got worse. Brenda actually let that creep move in with her. But when Estelle left, Brenda's sympathy had touched him and had given him a glimmer of hope. It had all been ruined when Estelle confronted Brenda in her Murder Room. "Damn, Estelle and Fritz Howard! Which one did more to ruin my life?" The answer was that they both had, and they both had left him powerless.

Will knew that he had to keep trying. He tried to figure out a way to let Brenda know that he was still interested in her. And he took every available opportunity, including buying her an outrageously expensive platinum picture frame for her birthday and buying her a wonderful takeout southern dinner. He was confident that the smell of Mama's Kitchen's best fried okra would have melted Brenda's resistance. He knew that she would recognize that he had gone out of his way to please her. But she had ignored his wishes and had left him with Taylor as his dinner companion while she, once again, had slipped away from him and had gone home with Fritz Howard.

And since it was her birthday, he knew what they did when they got home. Just the thought of another man removing Brenda's clothes and caressing every inch of her responsive body made him crazy. He didn't even have Estelle any more.

Unresponsive Estelle. It had been like trying to make love to a lump of bread dough. He had always been able to do what he wanted. Provided that what he wanted didn't require much input from her.

"I probably could have gotten just as much satisfaction from an inflatable rubber doll. Certainly as much response as I ever got from Estelle," he muttered bitterly. "I can't even remember the last time she had had an orgasm. Did she ever let herself have one? Yes, he had to admit that she had in the past. But still, to be left with no one..."

Will also had to admit that he had never experienced regret like the regret he felt after he broke up with Brenda. And it lasted for years. When he finally had Brenda working for him again, he had wanted to tell her about the ache she'd created in his soul but she wouldn't listen. He'd barely had time to tell her about the bad karma Estelle had visited upon him when she whirled out of her office and left him with Taylor. "She isn't interested in my feelings. She has a new lover and that's all she cares about. She's so self-centered that she doesn't care about me at all. God! Why couldn't I just have let go of her?"

But he couldn't let go of her. The memory of her silky hair moving over his chest as she hovered above him still drove him insane.

Will swallowed the last of his bourbon and looked at the clock. It was after midnight. "I've got to go to bed," he sighed as he got up, turned off the lights and trudged upstairs. He checked on the kids. All was quiet so he went to bed. But he couldn't sleep.

"I guess we'll be seeing you at Brenda's wedding." Those were the words that drove a stake right through his heart. And that damned Fritz Howard had been sitting right behind Brenda looking oh so smug. Will froze but he didn't want anyone to see that he was devastated. So he had forced a smile and simply said the only word that would come out of his mouth, "Congratulations," before turning and walking away as quickly as he could.

"I've lost her," he had thought as he went back to his office and slumped into his chair. "She can't be marrying him. There's no ring on her finger. Is that Howard too cheap to buy her a ring? Has he ever given her anything? Anything at all?

"But I did see her ring the next day," he told the fireplace, "And I have to admit that it was beautiful. Of course, if I had given her a diamond it would have been bigger and more expensive. But she didn't care. No, it was too late. I lost her. And I thought I'd lost everything."

He grabbed the latest Operations budgetary figures and started up to Fiscal Operations. Normally he would have emailed the figures to Jim Hanson but this time, since he hadn't yet completed all the required forms, he needed to explain why the LAPD chose Civil Audio to purchase new communications equipment. "I don't know what's so important that I have to stop what I'm doing and go right to his office. What am I? The LAPD's Procurement Director?" Will pouted.

When he got on the elevator he found himself alone with an attractive blonde wearing a DHS badge. She was the best looking thing that Homeland Security had ever sent his way so he was determined not to waste this opportunity. He wished he had been wearing his uniform. Women were impressed with its impressive three stars. But he introduced himself and asked which floor she wanted. He realized this was his lucky day when she replied that she was going to Fiscal Operations also.

Maggie Scott. She was so like Brenda. She was lovely, relentless when it came to her job, and convinced that she was right. And, when it came to her investigations, she had excellent instincts. Will was almost euphoric. He had actually found another Brenda. She was married, but Brenda had been in a relationship when he'd first seduced her so he didn't see that the husband would be a problem.

The husband wasn't the problem. Will's body was. As much as he tried he couldn't function. He was sure that was the problem. He tried Viagra but the side effects were terrible. The headaches and changes in his vision made his life impossible. Even a lower dose and changing brands hadn't helped. So, although he flew Maggie out to LA every two weeks, there was very little sex. "I'm a failure," he thought bitterly after taking Maggie to the airport after one particularly disappointing visit. Her sympathetic understanding just made it worse and, inevitably, she finally ended their affair.

Then Maggie had been murdered and he had hoped that confessing his affair to Brenda would win back the sympathy that Estelle's outburst had cost him. He had wanted to discuss the affair with her in detail so that she would understand that Maggie was just a substitute for her. But Brenda had just sat there with that diamond on her finger willfully ignoring the fact that she had driven him to having the affair. And then she had conveniently blamed him for seducing a married woman.

Will stared at himself in the mirror as he brushed his teeth. "You're an old man now. And you're alone, thanks to those women, Brenda and Estelle. Both of them. What did I do to deserve their betrayal? I tried to find happiness again but nothing worked. Maggie is gone too. And now it's too late. I'm too old."

After climbing into bed Will stared at the ceiling. Sleeping was impossible. He kept tossing and turning, seeking to vanquish the pain, but nothing alleviated that. He wadded his sheets up in his grip and closed his eyes but he saw Brenda dressed in a beautiful wedding gown. It was an old, familiar image which had once caused him a great deal of pain, although Will had thought he had long ago put it behind him. But tonight it was back.

"I thought by the time they got married that I would be over her," he thought. But he knew that he wasn't over her at all. The emptiness and loneliness he felt at Brenda's and Fritz's wedding reception was almost unbearable. Since it was a very small reception he was comfortable going alone. Everyone was cordial to him, he couldn't deny that. And he was thankful that he didn't have to sit in a church and watch the only woman he had ever truly loved pledge her love and loyalty to another man. No, he had been spared that pain. But just seeing the happiness on her face and the love in her eyes when she looked at Fritz had been more than he could stand. "Did anyone noticed how phony my toast was on that stupid video that Buzz made?" he wondered.

"She's out of control. First her fixation on Stroh and now Turell Baylor. If I don't get control of this situation soon I'll never keep this job." Will knew that the Mayor would appoint someone else as Chief. And he had already faced the specter of demotion to Commander of Traffic, Valley Division, and he was determined not to face it again. No, if he didn't get control of Brenda quickly his career was finished. Gavin had saved him once but Goldman was no dummy and he wouldn't make the same mistake again. Will knew that there's nothing like a successful lawsuit against the LAPD to sink a career.

"But I can't alienate Brenda. Her success with Major Crimes is exactly why I'm in the job to begin with." Will got up and put on his jacket. Gavin and Goldman were here for a settlement conference. Fortunately Brenda was out in the field so he had time to work out something with them before he had to figure out how to handle her. Gavin and Goldman entered his conference room so he put his Brenda problem on his mental back burner and joined them.

"Good afternoon, Chief Pope," Goldman said, "I hope you're both ready to consider a settlement offer because this one is as good as it's going to get."

"Let's see it," Gavin replied as Goldman handed both men copies. They read it and then Gavin said, "I see that you are seeking $1,000,000 from my client." He tossed the paper onto the table and said, "Unacceptable."

"I have subpoenaed Chief Johnson's financial records, as well as her husband's and I know how much money they have as well as their earning potential," Goldman responded.

"I'm well aware of that. But you do realize that you'll never collect a dime from either one of them. Once I let the Bar Association know that you've withheld valuable information in a murder investigation as well as exculpatory evidence from me, you will be disbarred and the subject of lawsuits yourself."

"But the suit won't die. I'll add someone to my team so that it will go forward," Goldman bluffed.

"Fine," Gavin said. "Add whomever you please. But you have no evidence that my client caused Turell Baylor's death. As a matter of fact, I understand that she is making considerable headway in solving that murder, in spite of your withholding evidence."

"Maybe not, but these cases establish a pattern. And I'm sure that the jury will see that, as well."

"What will it take for a settlement your clients can accept," Will asked Goldman, interrupting the attorneys' verbal dual.

"My clients want to see the LAPD and Chief Johnson take responsibility for their actions. They want to see her punished and the mistakes of the past corrected."

"And what 'correction' are your clients recommending," Will asked, eager to jump on any solution which would offer him a way out of this mess with his four stars intact.

"We propose that the LAPD adopt a rule that says no suspect will be released into an environment which they know to be unsafe." When he saw Chief Pope nodding he continued, "And we want that rule to be named The Johnson Rule. That way, Chief Johnson will be constantly reminded of the consequences of her actions. And since I have expended a lot of money in preparing this lawsuit, I think a settlement of $1,000,000 would be in order. That would cover my expenses as well as compensate my clients for their loss."

Will started to object to this proposed settlement but then he realized that this settlement would place the blame on someone else and get him off the hook with the Mayor and the Police Commissioner. He would figure out how to deal with Brenda later.

But Gavin seemed to take care of this when he said, "The only way we could even remotely consider anything like that would be if Chief Johnson were to be dropped from the lawsuit."

"If you think I'm going to drop..." Goldman started to object but Gavin interrupted him.

"Have you forgotten that I represent Chief Johnson? And I know she will never, under any circumstances, agree to this. So if you want to settle with the city you simply must drop her from your lawsuit. Otherwise this settlement proposal goes nowhere and you get disbarred. How do you want to proceed?"

"If I agree to drop Chief Johnson I think my clients will have to have $1,500,000."

"No," Gavin replied. "You don't get anything unless you agree to drop Chief Johnson. Chief Pope, what do you think?" he turned to Will.

Will was relieved that the proposed settlement placed no responsibility on him. "I would agree to a $1,000,000 settlement and The Johnson Rule. But I also know that Chief Johnson will never agree to it. So if that settlement is agreeable to you, then the only way to get it is to drop her from your lawsuit. That way the city and the LAPD can settle. Of course, any settlement is dependent on the City Attorney's approval." He knew he was betraying Brenda but he had to limit the damage to his career. After the explosion which he knew would come, he would come up with something he could tell her to make her understand his predicament.

Will wasn't the only one who was counting on this settlement offer to let him off the hook. "All right, gentlemen, if you agree to drop any proposed action against me and if the City Attorney signs off on the settlement then we have a deal. I'll do the paperwork and send it over to you by messenger," Goldman said.

The next morning Will thought about the irony of settling Goldman's lawsuit in order to save his career and then dealing with another one which had been caused by the previous settlement. Brenda's damned lawsuit was another betrayal of him which was now placing his career in another precarious situation.

His thoughts were interrupted when his secretary knocked on the door while he gulped lukewarm coffee and aspirin. "Come in."

"This envelope from the City Attorney's office just arrived. It's marked 'Urgent and Confidential'."

"Thank you, Betty," he said as he motioned for her to put the envelope in his top tray. He knew it was the noxious proposed settlement to Brenda's lawsuit. He still didn't understand why she had turned on him. Will initialed the agreement without reading it and then looked around his office. It was impressive, fitting for the Chief of the nation's second largest police force. The huge corner office with the exterior walls made of glass gave him a spectacular view of the city. His city. And he had literally thousands of boys in blue to do his bidding. He finally had what he'd worked so hard and sacrificed so much for. He should have been happy.

But Will couldn't be happy. The events of the past fourteen years still played out in his mind. He had never considered that any of the actions he had taken could have led to this point. "Could it be that I was wrong?" He knew that his affair with Brenda had hurt her. But she had been willing to forgive him so how badly could she have been hurt?

She was really angry that he'd had an affair with Maggie. Was she jealous of Maggie? No, she was in love with Fritz Howard so that wasn't it. It was because he had picked a married woman. "Who I picked was none of her business," he thought belligerently.

But she had really been furious about the Johnson Rule. As a matter of fact he'd never seen her so angry. And that anger had not gone away. The settlement proposal sitting in front of him was proof that she was still angry. Should he have done things differently? Maybe. "But what else could I have done? I couldn't let everything I've worked for go down the drain, could I?"

When she had handed in her resignation she said that Fritz Howard always put her needs first. "But he hadn't achieved the same level of responsibility that I had. He never really even tried very hard to rise in the ranks of the FBI. No, he wasn't tough enough to seize the reins and rise to any real power."

Brenda didn't see it that way, though. "She just didn't understand my position. Why couldn't she understand what I went through? What she put me through? She ruined my life. Everything is her fault."