Chapter Twenty Two: Don of a New Day
"I'm the guy who does his job. You must be the other guy." – Detective Sergeant Dignam from The Departed
After the game, Lauren took Bo and Bryce back to their place. They had been staying at Lauren's quite a bit, but she knew tonight would have to be spent apart. She knew there would be a long night ahead of her, and she didn't want Bryce around to hear what was happening. He didn't need to know that his father was hurt in a back alley fight, and he definitely didn't need to know that it was Hale who hurt him. Hale and Avery were both injured, but Lauren knew they were alive and would be okay so she made the decision to stay calm and enjoy her family time, even though she could tell Bo was still worried.
Once they put Bryce to bed, Lauren made sure to kiss Bo and pull her into a hug before sitting her down to tell what had happened. Lauren didn't know all of the details, but she had called a private meeting with Trick and Dyson to discuss details later that night after she went to see Hale in the hospital. She hated leaving Bo and Bryce but knew they had extra detail outside. If Avery had attacked Hale, then she needed to know the details. She needed to have a better strategy. She needed to decide if retaliation was necessary.
All Hale could tell her was that he was going to pick up Kenzi to finally register at a few places and that he was cold clocked when he was getting in his car. He said the area was clear, so he wasn't expecting it. Lauren knew that Hale was smart enough to constantly check his perimeters, so Avery must have more stealth than she read about in his file. He was supposed to be an average soldier who only made it where he is because of his affiliation with Bo. Lauren sensed a bigger conspiracy because there was no way Avery could've gotten the drop on Hale like that. Either Hale wasn't telling the entire story, or something else happened. Lauren wanted to believe Hale, but she was in the position where even her oldest and closest friend could lie to her. Her senses told her it was something else, though.
It made sense that Hale didn't know the complete details since he claimed to be attacked from behind. He didn't even know it was Avery until he fell to the ground and saw him standing over him with a knife. That's when Hale pulled out his gun and shot on instinct. His vision was too blurry to get a clear shot, and he said he was upset he didn't kill the bastard but that he was glad he didn't kill him because he didn't want to be the one who killed Bryce's father. He didn't want that hanging over his head, and Lauren could understand that. When she was leaving his room, she called for extra detail on him and noticed the Gangleri detail at the end of the hall, which meant Avery was nearby.
Lauren Lewis felt her forehead start to perspire as her heart started to pound. She scanned the area to count three people on Avery's room. It wasn't hard to pinpoint which one he was in; the Gangleri soldiers weren't hiding their body language very well. They leaned a little too much toward one particular room. Avery may have been Bryce's father, but he had just harmed her best friend. She steeled her jaw and had to force herself to walk past the room without going inside. At this point, she didn't know what she would've done if she had even managed to get in there. She liked to think she would've just talked, but she wasn't so sure at that moment as she walked past and made eye contact with the Gangleris.
When she made it to her house, she wasn't surprised to find Trick had come alone. Even though her house was just down the road, Lauren had to say something to Trick for not having detail on him.
"I didn't want to be compromised." Trick walked into her living room and smiled in appreciation when she handed him a glass of scotch.
"What makes you think you would be compromised?" Dyson lifted his chin and narrowed his eyes as he walked further into the room. Lauren would make sure that Dyson took Trick home later.
"I've been in this business long enough to recognize the signs." Trick had been quiet in meetings and let her take the reins. If they had a mole of some sort, then that would make a bit of sense why he was silent. If Lauren was making the calls, then whoever the mole was would report that back to their people. She wasn't sure the endgame with that plan, but it would explain some of his inaction. "I'm getting old. I don't need the money. I already have the power. I just do this to keep my name and my family safe. In all honesty, I do this because I love to do it. But you? You're a natural, Lauren. You are everything I dreamed you would be. Your father would be proud."
"Thank you, Trick, but I can't imagine my father would be proud of me sentencing people to death." She wasn't proud of herself for that, but she knew it was part of the job.
"I want you two to look into who the rat could be. I want them eliminated. Let me know your plan to flush them out." Trick placed his glass on the table, and Lauren realized he hadn't drank it. Actually, he hadn't been drinking much at all lately. He was keeping a level head, which meant he was definitely up to something. "I'll be at the compound. Continue what you've been doing. You both make me proud. I know that this family will live on long after I'm gone."
"Thanks, Don." Dyson gave Lauren a look that she read that he actually suspected something, too. He didn't even need to be told to follow Trick home; they had become so in tune working together these past few months that Lauren didn't even need to command him. He already seemed to know just by a simple look or head nod. The less words they shared, the easier it would be to plead ignorance, too. Maybe that was what Trick was doing.
Lauren knew she couldn't sleep that night. It was rare that she spent nights away from Bo, so it made sense why she couldn't sleep. Without Bo there to distract her, Lauren was left alone with her very busy mind. She laid in bed trying to think of possible candidates for the mole. She tried to think of possible ways to flush them out. Maybe that's what Trick was already doing.
Hale went home the next day and called to make sure Lauren knew. That's when she decided to stop lying in her bed and pretending she could get any rest. She was up and at her office well before it opened. She pulled out her files and browsed through them. It had to be an Elder because nobody outside of that room knew what Hale was planning. In fact, several of their in-room plans had been compromised. They had been minor, so Lauren had put the pattern aside. She couldn't believe she had missed it, but maybe that was the point. Maybe that's what Trick was trying to do.
"Tamsin." Lauren looked up from the files she had spread across her desk. She was trying to find a pattern so she had the files open wide on her desk, and she knew if she tried to put up everything that she would only bring more attention to them. Lauren didn't expect anyone for another hour, and she was honestly surprised to see her friend here so early. Tamsin was usually not a morning person.
"You know, I'm beginning to think you're ignoring me. A girl could get a complex." Tamsin walked further into the room and leaned against the wall, looking casually at the seeming disarray on Lauren's desk.
"I'm not ignoring you. I'm sorry I haven't called." Lauren stood and realized how long she had been sitting. She was tired but knew if she stopped moving she would pass out. There wasn't enough time to pass out. She walked over to Tamsin and hugged her briefly for emphasis. Had it really been two weeks since she had seen her friend or even been able to call her back?
"I worried you were mad about what I said the other day." Tamsin arched an eyebrow and didn't even give any indication that she'd been difficult. Lauren had to recall what was even said and chuckled a bit when she remembered. She needed that laugh, but Tamsin didn't seem amused. It was serious, after all. "I didn't mean to offend."
"No, I was flattered. It just…threw me. I mean, I knew you flirted with me in the beginning. I just didn't expect it anymore." Lauren let out a breath to calm herself. Had she really not genuinely laughed like that in a while? She hoped Tamsin didn't think she laughed because she had propositioned her to relieve some tension. It really was flattering, and if Lauren wasn't already thoroughly satiated and sore, she may have considered going home to Bo after that to relieve that tension. Surprisingly, Lauren didn't feel awkward, and Tamsin didn't really say anything else about being rejected. "I'm with Bo."
"I know. That's why I thought you were mad at me." Tamsin cleared her throat and pushed off of the wall. She walked over to the desk and fingered a file before moving to sit down. Lauren steeled her jaw and stayed as calm as possible; she should've been safe without interruption. How did Tamsin get in anyways? Had Lauren forgotten to lock the door? That seemed unlikely.
"No. I'm not mad. Like I said, I'm flattered." Lauren glanced at her clock and realized the office manager must have gotten here a few minutes early. She cocked her head to the side and listened for sounds and instead recognized the familiar and tantalizing aroma of fresh coffee being brewed down the hall. "You're beautiful, Tamsin. If I wasn't in love with Bo, I can't say I wouldn't have returned the compliment. I can't say I wouldn't have said yes under different circumstances. You were right; I was tense."
"You're still tense." She cleared her throat and smirked a bit through her sigh. "But you're with Bo."
"I'm with Bo." Lauren smiled again as she moved to sit down next to her friend, trying to be subtle about pulling all attention away from her desk.
"Then, that's settled. Again. Sorry. I just…I'm not good at this whole having friends who don't want to fuck me and run thing. I'm still getting used to it."
"I'm not going to run, Tamsin. I'm sorry I haven't called. I'm not mad; I'm just overly busy." Lauren felt herself relax for a second. It was a second too much because she felt her exhaustion. It felt good to see her friend. In the past, she would've felt guilty for not keeping in contact, but Lauren was a bit preoccupied and knew Tamsin would forgive her.
"No prob, Doc. I've been busy myself. Old habits die hard, and I still listen to the radio. Seems like the violence in this city keeps on escalating; reminds me of being on the battlefield and getting calls in. I have to remind myself that I'm not on duty anymore. It's been a long time since I've seen this much action, and I admit I want to be out there helping." Tamsin had told Lauren stories about being in the field, and Lauren could relate. They had seen a lot of the same things, and it was good to have someone to talk to about that time in her life. Lauren didn't make many friends when she was overseas; not even when she was doing research in the Congo. Tamsin appeared when she needed a friend the most, and they surprisingly had a lot in common; Bo had subsided with her cautionary tale, but Lauren could tell she was still concerned about the civilian friendship.
"Why don't you go back, then?" It was one thing Lauren didn't push. Tamsin was a somewhat private person, and she always had this look of pain on her face when she thought nobody was looking. It was like she was trying to hide behind a mask and be brave on the outside but was screaming on the inside. Lauren understand that, which is why she wouldn't heed any of the warnings. She could make her own mind up about making friends; that didn't mean she was stupid about it, though she could admit her own blinders.
"That honorable discharge I mentioned that was more hush hush than actually honorable?" Tamsin cleared her throat and wouldn't look Lauren in the eye. She glanced at the desk again but didn't stay her eyes long. "I guess you can take the girl out of the fight but you can't take the fight out of the girl."
"Guess not." Lauren wanted to stand up and put the files away. Tamsin would understand; she could pull it off as HIPAA. After all, the majority of the people in those files were already patients or would be in the future.
"So, I thought I'd get out and see what my favorite doctor was doing. Figured you could probably use a break; I can see you're getting the brunt of this local war, too." Tamsin nodded to the files spread across her desk. "Trying to find a pattern? Police call you as an expert witness?"
"Something like that." Lauren looked over at her files and could see pictures and details of all of the Elders out. If Tamsin looked closely, she would probably recognize some of them from the Dal. Tamsin was a smart woman and probably already suspected something about the business and Lauren's role in it. Lauren couldn't believe she was so sloppy; she should've paid attention to the time. The strain was starting to get to her.
"Look at locations and pattern out. Perps usually don't stray far from home." Tamsin wasn't wrong. A lot of the attacks happened in particular territories. How would she know that, though? Lauren narrowed her eyes and finally accepted she was wearing a few blinders when it came to Tamsin. She was clean, but maybe she was too clean. Still, she wasn't a threat at the moment and Lauren had other things to worry about. Tamsin didn't ping her radar; sure, she had a whole lot more going on than what she claimed, but Lauren didn't suspect it was bad. They already had Beth giving them information from the inside, so they knew when an undercover was sent their way and knew to be extra cautious of anyone new.
"How about breakfast around the corner? I still have an hour before my first patient, and I could use a break." Lauren stood up and began putting her files away. "I'll meet you in the front? I just need to lock up."
"You got it, Doc." Tamsin winked at her, and Lauren rolled her eyes in amusement. Of course she would go right back to her flirtatious nature. No wonder she drove Bo crazy sometimes.
Lauren locked up all of her files and thought about what Tamsin said: "Look at the locations and pattern out." It was actually a great idea, and she wanted to stay and delve into that further. Her physician's assistant was taking most of the cases lately anyways unless an emergency or a doctor was required. Most of the patients from the family understood that Lauren was busy, so they weren't demanding like usual. The few patients she had who weren't family, she made sure to see them directly. That was a decision she made when she started, since there were so few of them. Everyone on her staff was part of the family, so they knew to do screening of patients before accepting new ones.
Looking back into her office, where she locked her files, Lauren desperately wanted to cancel with Tamsin and start working on it. Oddly, she felt like pulling Tamsin into the fold and getting her to show exactly what she had in mind. She must've seen something in her brief glancings that caught her attention. Lauren knew it was dangerous, but Trick did say she needed to be brought in if they were going to continue being friends. Maybe this could be a test to see if that would be possible. After all, Tamsin did mention wanting to get back into the business; it was just a matter of whether she would be down for the underbelly portion of helping save lives. Lauren still wasn't sure, but the thought actually excited her. She actually wanted to find a way to bring Tamsin in; was it strange that the consigliere needed an advisor? Maybe if she wasn't working as the acting don at the moment, she would be able think about it more.
Instead of lingering any longer, Lauren turned off her lights and locked her office door. Even though she didn't have much time for it, she both needed and wanted to spend time with Tamsin. It gave her a sense of normalcy somehow. If she brought her in, then Lauren knew she would lose that. She wasn't entirely ready to give it up just yet, but she knew she would have to do something about Tamsin soon. For now, she just wanted to enjoy a nice cup of coffee and maybe a veggie omelet with her friend.
Bo hadn't seen Lauren in three days, and that concerned her. It wasn't radio silence; they still talked daily and Lauren even called at Bryce's bedtime to tell him good night, but she had been working so late that they hadn't stayed together. Okay, so she hadn't seen Lauren in private. They didn't even have a chance after the meetings to say hello. They were always planning attacks, and if he wasn't the father of her son, Bo had a feeling she would've been going after Avery herself for hurting Hale like that.
Honestly, she wanted to go after her father for giving the order, but she knew he was just doing his job. They both were doing their jobs, and this was the first time Bo really and truly understand that they were on opposite sides. Just because Bo and Bryce had immunity with her father's family didn't mean that her father wouldn't attack the family as a unit.
With Lauren not there, Bo actually found herself unable to sleep at night. The past two nights, she crawled into bed with Bryce, just so she could get some rest without having to worry about him. Bo actually wondered if she had broken the truce by killing Lachlan, but that didn't make sense considering Lachlan was the head of a different family. The only truce made was between her father and Trick; Bo and Bryce were fair game to the other families, and they were the perfect targets. Trick was older and the don, but Bo was next in line; there was nobody after her. If a family wanted to take control of them, then they would hit Bo, and if they wanted to hit Bo where it would hurt the most, they would go after Bryce. She hated not having Lauren there; somehow, Bo felt safer when she was. Maybe it was the extra detail on the house whenever she was over. She wasn't incapable, and she was definitely more alert and in better shape than she'd been since she found out she was pregnant, but there was just something extra about knowing she was protected should she miss something. Bo knew it was more than that, though; they were better when they were together. She just loved having Lauren there because she actually felt stronger and more in tune with her inner strength.
The meeting had ended and Bo desperately wanted a few moments alone with her girlfriend. Even if it was just a moment to grab a quick hug or kiss or hello, she craved the contact. Just when she met Lauren's eyes, Bo had to close them again when she realized today wouldn't be the day, either. She didn't mean to huff or feel neglected. After all, Lauren had made it a point to be a family and now she couldn't find time to even be together for a minute. Hell, Tamsin and Kenzi had seen her girlfriend more than she had the past few days. It was confusing and disheartening. Bo huffed again and felt guilty for being so needy.
"Bo, if you have a minute?" Trick seemed to come out of nowhere, though she knew he was still in the room, too. She had been so focused on getting Lauren's attention that she didn't care about anyone else in the room.
"Of course, Trick." She cleared her throat and caught one last glance at Lauren before giving up hope for now. She would text her immediately after her talk with her grandfather. They would be finding time today; she wouldn't let there be any excuses. When Trick shut the door and urged her to sit down, she knew he would take more than a minute of her time. Internally, she dreaded what he had to say because he was so unpredictable lately. Bo could tell he was nervous; she had spent enough time growing up with him that she could see the hidden signs. She felt herself swallow at the same time she felt her insides start to twist.
"I'm going to retire early. You're ready." Trick usually eased into big news, and this was definitely following that unpredictable pattern. Bo felt a sharp sting when her ass hit the front of a chair on her way down. "Lauren will be able to transition you, and I'm going to retire early. It's time. If your mother had stayed to take over, I would've been retired years ago, but we've all known for some time that this is on you. The fate of the family is yours, Bo."
"Are you sure about this? I mean, in the middle of the war?" She cleared her throat and tried to tell her mind to calm down. It's as though every scenario that could possibly happen with this was suddenly running through her head, and the only ones she could remember were the unpleasant ones.
"Not right this second. Once things are settled, once we have won this war, then I will announce my intentions to the Elders." He came to sit in the chair next to her. Bo looked up at her grandfather and truly realized how old and tired her looked. She was scared of this man. Even seeing him now, even feeling the power she had the past month, Bo was still scared of this man.
"Does Lauren know?" Bo wondered if this was why Lauren wasn't able to spend time with her. Was she afraid she would give it away? That didn't make sense, though. Bo was quite aware that if Lauren didn't want her to know something that she wouldn't know it.
"I think she suspects something is happening, but I haven't told her." Trick was supposed to the leader and call on Lauren for advice. Lately, he had stepped aside and she had taken over.
"So you are testing her. I knew it." Bo honestly wondered if he was actually training Lauren to be his successor instead. It would make sense, and she would make one hell of a Don.
"You knew it?" He arched an eyebrow, but he didn't give himself away. She couldn't tell if he was asking her about their relationship or if she was reading into it, which was more likely. It was a great opportunity to just come out to him. It would make it easier, but she realized they had put off their own private agenda because of the war. They hadn't told Trick or found out why he only killed or exiled some of her past lovers. Even though they hadn't exactly hidden their relationship, they hadn't directly told him.
"We're close; we talk. She mentioned it; I agreed something was up with you." Bo looked at her grandfather and could tell he knew. She still couldn't read his expression, though, so she didn't want to say the words out loud just yet. It wasn't exactly fair to Lauren, especially if he was testing her. Bo went back to the unpredictability pattern he exhibited lately. She couldn't be completely positive he wouldn't have Lauren killed as some sort of power move to both the other families and to them for disobeying his order. Bo decided to attempt to change the subject. "I knew you wouldn't just back down for no reason. That's not you. You're…Trick. You love this life. Why would you retire early?"
"It's not so much a want as a need. You need to take control; it'll be easier with me in the background than for another reason." Trick looked every bit the man in control right now, and she wondered where he had been. She had to blink to make sure they were really having this conversation.
"You're not going to die on me. Not now."
"Of course not."
"Then, stop being so gloom and doomy. It's not helping." Bo smiled and placed a hand on her grandfather's aging one. When did his hands become so dry and cold?
"Sorry, my dear. I've been at this a long time; I took over when I was much younger than you when my father and brother died. I planned on doing this for much longer, but it's time for you to take power." He obviously had thought about this or he wouldn't have mentioned it. Even though she knew it was coming, she honestly thought he would adhere to what they agreed upon when Bryce was born. She wasn't to take control until Bryce was older.
"Several months ago, I would've questioned this, but somehow, I understand." Yet, she did understand. In terms of tactics, there was no better time to transition her. The Elders and soldiers respected her again because she had eliminated the head of another family, even if they didn't know the complete details. She was also partnered with Lauren, and the others already viewed them as a power couple and treated them like they were the heads of the family, so it would be an easy transition.
"Good. Then, it's settled." He didn't give her a chance to add any "but" before he stood up from the couch. That's when he did something Bo hadn't seen him do in a long time: Trick rolled up his sleeves to his biceps and showed off his muscles. For his age, he was definitely still in shape. Bo laughed a bit to imagine Stella enjoying that before she realized that thought actually disgusted her more than amused her. She still had a hard time imagining her grandfather doing it with anyone.
"I'm guessing the next thing you tell me is that I can't tell anyone." Why else would he tell her in private? If Lauren didn't know, then nobody knew but them.
"Nobody can know about this, Bo. Not yet anyways." He moved to the door but didn't open it. She finally took a deep breath to let everything settle in her mind before getting ready to leave. "There are things happening right now that you can't know about. You can't be a part of it; just know that you'll be stronger when we finish this war. You will have a stronger family to rule, and you will make us all proud."
"I hate keeping secrets from the people I love, especially Lauren." It was why she really hoped Lauren knew this, so they could go back to being together more often.
"She will understand. For now, she can't know. She needs to prove herself to everyone right now." Trick looked up at Bo and cracked his knuckles. He was acting like he did when she was younger, and this actually gave Bo some solace that he was honestly okay and was doing this for the reasons he mentioned. So much for Lauren's "Trick is sick" theory.
"She's doing a hell of a job."
"Did you expect anything less?"
"Of course not. She's amazing. I've always known that." Bo had gotten used to them being comfortable in public and not hiding anything. She looked down at Trick again and could tell they would be having another conversation soon.
"That's a discussion for another day. For now, I'll let some things slide because of the war. Just know that we will be discussing these things very soon." If he was still against them being together, how were they going to convince him they were better together? How could they keep everyone safe?
"Okay." Bo felt a renewed passion to find answers. She knew it would be easy to just ask Trick, but she had learned a few things from Lauren about having a plan and being prepared. She wasn't prepared for any of this, and she was already overwhelmed from knowing she would be taking control of the family soon. They now had a time limit for those answers, and she honestly didn't see how they would find them before Trick approached them. Bo knew she wasn't projecting this time; Trick was not pleased.
The war didn't show any solution any time soon, but that would take up most of their time. Plus, Bo would feel like she was lying to Lauren and didn't know how long she would be able to hold out on this new information. She couldn't avoid Lauren, though; that wasn't an option. She was already craving her and pulled out her phone, typing a message to her girlfriend that they had to see each other today. Bo needed to process everything, so she was going to do it one step at a time, starting with the most important to her: Getting to keep Lauren.