Hacker – Chapter Thirty-Four

NOT EDITED

Chapter Thirty-Four

Sunday: May 27, 2029
12:30 PM; CLINSTONE HIGH SCHOOL, AUDITORIUM, HALLWAY

Katie peered into the auditorium before leaning back, shaking her head. “I’m so nervous,” she whispered.

“You’re okay,” Bo assured, hands tucked neatly behind his back. “Just remember to breathe, stand tall, and don’t let your partner trip of her feet.”

Katie snorted. “Okay.” She tucked her hair back behind her ear, fiddling with the graduation cap in her hand. “Dad looked like he was gonna pass out on the way here.”

“He still might.”

She laughed, nodding. “Might,” she agreed. “Take care of him for me?”

“Of course. I’ll make sure he remains seated.”

“Good.”

Bo let out a breath. “I have to be on a plane immediately after this, so I won’t see you again until tomorrow. That being said, I’ll give you your graduation present a little early. With your father’s permission, this is from Jensen and me.” He held out a hand, a pair of keys dangling between his fingers.

Katie let out a nearly inhuman squeal. “You got me a car?”

“Of course. I mean… you’ll need it for college.” Another excited squeal before she threw her arms around him. “I hope that means you like it?”

“Oh, my God, Uncle Bo. Thank you, thank you, thank you.”

Bo chuckled. “My pleasure, Katie.” He dropped the keys into her hand as soon as she pulled back. He laid his hands on her shoulders. “You’ll be great.”

“Thank you,” she whispered.

“No problem, sweetheart.” He pressed a kiss to her forehead. “I’m going to head to the gym. Keep your chin up, baby girl. You’ve got this.” She nodded once more disappearing into the auditorium. Bo let out a sigh and turned, heading down the hall and toward the competition gym. He hurried up the bleachers, sitting down between Jacob and Jensen. He leaned forward, wrapping his arms around his father’s shoulders. “Are you and Mom still hanging out at the graduation party after this?”

“Planning on it.” Denzel look back at Bo over his shoulder. “Why?”

“Can you make sure to water my plants? Jens always forgets, and it’s hot out today, so…”

“Sure, kiddo.” Denzel reached up and squeezed Bo’s forearm. He leaned back in his seat to be closer to Bo as he said, “It looks like you’ve gained back some of the weight you’ve been losing. It’s good to see you healthy, son.”

Bo smiled. “Feels good to be healthy, too, Dad.” He patted Denzel’s chest before pulling his hands back to himself. “Where have all of the tikes gone?” he asked, turning toward Jensen.

“Bathroom. Kayla offered to be their chaperone.”

Bo snorted. “Of course.” He leaned to the side, wrapping his arms around one of Jacob’s. “Still panicking?”

“God, always,” Jacob mumbled. “My little girl’s graduating, Blondie. I don’t know what the hell I’m gonna do.”

Bo shook his head. “It’ll be okay. She’ll be okay, and then you’re still stuck with her until August.”

“Yeah,” Jacob whispered. He looked over at Bo. “Did you give her the keys?”

“Yes, I wasn’t aware your daughter could squeal like that.”

Jacob smiled. “Yeah… you’d be surprised. It’s almost impressive, you know. Almost.” He patted Bo’s thigh. “Talk about you. How’re you?”

“I’m okay. Getting a little better every day. Today’s better than, say, three days ago, but that’s to be expected. Bad days, good days, and neutral days.” Bo lifted his shoulders. “But I’m better.”

“Good.” Jacob lifted a hand, briefly patting Bo’s cheek. He lifted his head as Alice sat down beside him. “Christ, I was worried you weren’t gonna make it.”

“Wouldn’t miss it for the world, honey.” Alice pressed a kiss to his cheek before smiling at Bo. “Afternoon, Bo. You look well.”

“Afternoon. And thank you.” Bo heard Castor giggle off to his right. He turned his head toward the doors, smiling. “There’s Cas and the rest of the gaggle.”

“Did you just call our children a gaggle?”

“Technically, I called our children and the Mason kids a gaggle,” Bo said. “And we know which one is actually the noisy one.”

“Hey, you leave Char alone. I’ve gotta spoil her with riches before she leaves me for college, too,” Jacob said.

Bo snorted. “Hi, buddy.” He scooped up Castor, holding him on his lap. Pollux climbed onto Jensen’s lap, leaning back against his father’s chest as Amber and Kayla sat down behind them. “This starts at one, right?” Jensen nodded. “I have to be out of here by two. Think it’ll be close to done by then?”

“Should be. If not, I’ll record the rest of it for you,” Jensen said.

“Thank you.” Bo checked his watch one last time before reaching out and grabbing Jensen’s hand, intertwining their fingers.

“We doing okay?” Jensen asked.

Bo nodded. “Just a lot of people,” he said quietly.

“No bueno, huh?”

Bo chuckled. “Never bueno,” he mumbled. He rested his head on Jensen’s shoulder, combing the fingers of his free hand through Castor’s hair. “You’ll have to pick me up at the tomorrow morning. I should be back before eight.”

“Okay, baby.” Jensen squeezed Bo’s hand. “Don’t think about all the people here. Just focus on me and… and focus on Katie. Okay?”

“Okay.”

1:58 PM; CLINSTONE HIGH SCHOOL, COMPETITION GYM

Bo checked his watched. “I have to get out of here,” he said quietly. He pressed a kiss to Jensen’s temple. “I’ll see you tomorrow, okay?”

Jensen nodded. “Stay safe, Eli.”

Bo smiled. “Stay sane.” He stood up, setting Castor down in his seat. He patted Jensen’s cheek before slipping past Jacob and Alice and heading down the bleachers. Outside, he tucked his hands behind his back and headed for the black car parked there. “Frank,” he greeted. “I assumed you’d be with Jamal.”

Frank snorted. “I am,” he said simply, pulling open the back door.

Bo ducked down to look into the car. “Aww, you missed me.”

Jamal rolled his eyes. “Guilty as charged. Now get in here, you little shit. We’ve got places to be.”

Bo thanked Frank before sliding into the car. “Good to see you up and about.”

“Mm. All healed,” Jamal said. “How are you holding up?”

“I’m okay,” Bo said with a nod.

“Good. I need you on focus today. It’s just a meeting, but these are things you’ll be in charge of next year.”

Bo nodded again. “I know. I’m focused,” he assured.

“Good.” Jamal patted Bo’s knee. “We’ll get to the house a little after six and Venetia and Carmine will arrive just before seven. Now, for transparency purposes, Ventia has stated many times that she believes you won’t be able to fill my shoes. That being said, you’re in charge of okaying her plans today. Veto whatever you want to. Prove that you’re in charge.”

“Reall?”

“Really. Got it?” Jamal asked. Bo nodded. “That’s my boy,” the older man murmured, squeezing Bo’s knee.

7:01 PM; SAN DIEGO, THE PITMAN ESTATE, OFFICE

Bo sat behind Jamal’s desk, the older man looming over his shoulder. “I don’t like this one,” Bo said, closing the folder.

Venetia rolled her eyes, crossing her arms over her chest. “Why?” she asked. She caught sight of the dark glare Jamal threw her way. Clearing her throat, she straightened herself out. “What don’t you like about it?”

“You’re planning on bringing in a drug shipment straight through the Freeway. We can’t pull patrol off of there, not even for the ten minutes you need to get clear of the area. Patrol needs to be there, or else people die,” Bo said.

“Then what the hell do you suggest?”

“Tia,” Carmine murmured. His eyes lifted to Bo’s face. “What do you suggest, Miser Austen?”

“You come out of LAX on World Way, crossover to West Century, over to Cienega, West Slauson, Sepulveda, out on Ohio, and then keep going wherever you need to go. It’s cleaner, it doesn’t put the city in danger, and it doesn’t put my officers in danger,” Bo said.

“Your officers,” Venetia muttered. “They’re still Jamal’s.”

“They still respect enough that they’d arrest you if I gave them the evidence they needed in order to do so,” Bo said. Jamal smiled, patting the blonde on the shoulder. “I don’t know what you want from me, Mrs. Lucchese. I already won a fight against one of your men. I’ve been nothing but polite and respectful whenever we’ve met. I’m the reason the Cassata family didn’t get torn to shreds during the ABK case in Clinstone. I’ve done nothing but protect you and your allies, but you sit here and act like I’m some piece of trash or gum stuck to the bottom of your shoe.

“I’m admittedly rather intelligent, I understand the workings of this more than most would, I know this city and the routes like the back of my hand. I know how to handle a gun, I know every weakness on the human body. I know a hell of a lot of things, Mrs. Lucchese, and if we are going to work together to secure the safety and financial status of your family, I suggest you climb off of whatever high horse you’re sitting on and speak to me with the respect I deserve.”

Venetia leaned back in the chair, a smile slow working its way onto her face. “You know what? I was wrong. Maybe he’ll make it a little longer than I thought. Car? Hand him the tablet. He might as well highlight the path he wants us to take.”


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