A/N – I'm a bit nervous with this fic because it is my first one outside the Buffyverse. I always thought that Early Edition had a lot more potential than the writers gave it credit for. There were never any extended story arcs, and they seemed to limit the truly interesting characters (Crumb and Brigatti spring to mind). Ah well, I do wish I owned em, but such is life. The characters belong to Tri-Star and a bunch of idiotic suits that can't even figure out that they should put the series out on DVD. They own em, but they don't deserve em. Before we get started, I want to thank Banadar and Mooselodge for their criticism and superior Beta reading. Needless to say, all screw ups are their fault and all the brilliance is mine. LOL This is your basic Gary/Toni romance, with some action thrown in to spice things up. The prologue and the first paragraph of chapters 2 thru the end are from the point of view of detective Armstrong. He's not really a villain here so much as he's just a putz. I always wondered how far he would go to find out Gary's secret. Let's find out together.
ANSWERS AND QUESTIONS
I've got a study at home; we call it 'the nursery' but until we have another kid, it's my study. Sure, Meredith has a corner of it staked out for her sewing; but by and large, it's my study. The stuff in there has grown over the past few years. Filled with the things that I bring home from work. Yeah, I hear ya, you need to leave work at work, and take time to have a life. But there's not a cop in the world that doesn't have a case or two that they just hang on to. Whatever the reason, an unsolved crime, you think the wrong guy got sent up, you think there was someone else involved; it doesn't matter, there are crimes that stay with you. Now any shrink worth his salt will tell you that hanging on to stuff like this is asking for a quick trip off the deep end, and they'd be right; but cops just can't let go. Yeah, I've got a few cases as well, crimes that got a hook in my mind and won't let go, but for me, that stuff is window dressing. It's justification for the real purpose of this room. It masks what's in the boxes and on the computer. If the real purpose of this room ever got around to my fellow officers, I'd be on psych leave before the ink was dry on the paperwork. I keep it quiet because I believe I've stumbled onto or into something that is so huge; I can't be sure of anyone, even my wife. I believe I've found someone who is so dirty; that nearly every crime in this town is tied to him in one way or another. Now, the idea of a master criminal is no great stretch. We've got the history of Capone, not to mention the Mafia families and drug rings; but this guy is so removed, so nebulously tied to crimes that most people would laugh in my face if I told them what I really thought. The problem is that he always comes up; dig into a situation, and sooner or later, there he is, all the damn time. The reason I'd be laughed off the force though, is because the public face of this guy is pure Boy Scout and Wonder bread. Even for me, it's tough to picture him swearing, yelling, attacking anyone or anything. But, he keeps popping up, all the time. Every mention of him in a newspaper story or a police report is in this room. Every statement of every witness that has uttered his name is in this room. Of course I'm obsessed; I realize this. And yeah, I know obsession leads to madness; you'd probably be right in saying I've flirted with that line. But I know the answer is somewhere in this room. That there is some scrap, some consistency, some clue that opens the lock. And I'll find it; come hell or high water, I'll find it; and when I do, then we'll see what Hobson has to say for himself.
CHAPTER – 1
Meow . . . . . THUMP
'Good morning Chi. . .' was all that got out before the alarm was cut off. 'The same thing, every day' Gary thought to himself; he opened the door to his loft and looked down at Cat "you know a little variety would be nice for a change, think you could show up at nine one morning, just to see if you like it."
Cat just gave him a bit of a glare and then darted into the loft, looking around for his breakfast. Gary just sighed and picked up the paper, wondering what the day would bring. He was glancing through the paper, picking out the things that would need his help, but mostly he was thinking about the night before. He had gone to dinner and a concert with Brigatti. He couldn't help but smile as he thought of the fiery detective, despite the fact that every mistake he made with her was punctuated with some sort of bruise, either to his body or his ego.
Well, that's what makes life exciting. He realized that on occasion the paper gave him more excitement than he really needed, but in the six years he had been receiving his 'early edition' he had found a rhythm to his saves. He was finally feeling comfortable with the paper part of his life, now he needed to work on the life part of his life. The dates that he had with Brigatti were part of that. A part of him had realized a while back that if their relationship was to go anywhere he would have to come clean with her; to let her into the group of people that knew about the paper. That scared him. After all, the only two women (other than his mom and Marissa) who knew about the paper had run faster than greased lightning. So he had been looking for the right story at the right time to convince her in one swoop that he wasn't insane and that he was really doing what he said he was doing. It was not an easy story to find, and the paper almost seemed to be taking some perverse pleasure in stretching out the time he had between deciding to tell her and actually telling her. He was beginning to think that his opportunity would never come, when there it was. A hit and run; injured but not seriously, after her shift and close to the precinct. He picked up the phone.
'Chicago PD, how can I help?'
'Detective Brigatti, please'
Winslow recognized the voice, but decided to have some fun. 'Who may I say is calling?'
'Is she expecting your call?'
'No Logan, now put me through or I'll tell everyone at the precinct how you shot that raccoon during a stakeout.'
Realizing that he had been trumped, Winslow put the call through.
"Toni, its Gary"
"What can I do for you Hobson?"
"A favor, kind of a big one; you have a light day today?"
"Yeah, pretty light; what do you need?"
"I need you to pick up a copy of the Sun-Times and meet me at the corner of Van Buren and Jefferson at 4:45 this afternoon."
"What the hell for?"
"I'll answer everything when you get there, I promise."
Brigatti knew that Hobson was a bit of a flake, but he was as honest as anyone she had ever met, and she had never known him to break a promise. "OK Hobson, I'll be there; but if you're wastin' my time, I'll bust your chops."
"I know, see ya there Toni."
Gary hung up the phone with a smile; for better or worse, he was gonna tell Brigatti the truth, and she deserved to know. But before that, he had to prevent a kid from being attacked by a guard dog that had gotten loose. Picking up a package of hot dogs he headed out.
In the six years since she had left Chicago, Meredith Carson had made quite a name for herself. In the DC area, she was simply known as 'The Source'. She already had one 'Pulitzer' that was all her own, and had helped two different colleagues win one as well. She could supply information on just about anything happening inside the Beltway. She did it by ignoring the important people in the town, and getting to know the folks who just lived and worked here all the time. She knew when Afghanistan was going down from talking to the pizza guys that delivered to the Pentagon. It was a rule that was as old as bureaucracy, 'the secretaries know everything'; and she knew the secretaries, and the janitors, and the librarians and the pizza guys. She had a computer, but it was filled with crap. She didn't trust some of her co-workers, and certainly didn't trust some of the people she wrote about. So the computer was a trompe l'oeil. All her sources, and resources were in a series of notebooks that were scattered here and there, but in a code that she had learned from studying the Revolutionary War; simple but effective. Like Hawkes had said, she was definitely old school.
Right now she was worried. A small but effective part of her network had just fallen off the edge of the world, and she didn't know why. People came and went, she knew that, but to have this many people she knew just stop communicating with her maxxed out her 'Weird-Shitometer'. She was shutting everything down for lunch when her phone rang.
'Meredith, you're in trouble'
'Who is this?' She wasn't really worried; if you didn't get the occasional threat then you were a second tier reporter.
'It's Gary, Gary Hobson'
That name changed everything. She had spent her time in Washington trying to forget that name and everything that went with it. She had cared for him, and if she was having a moment of honesty, she had been in love with him. But then she betrayed him on such a fundamental level, that she had left rather than have to deal with the wounded look in his beautiful green eyes. If she was having a huge moment of self – honesty; she knew that she was still in love with him; but could never be with him. The temptation to use his secret would dig into her mind, and never let go. She could never stand to betray him again, so she could never see him again. Simple, right.
'Gary, it's been a long time, you OK.'
'Yeah, I'm fine, but if you go home you're gonna get shot.'
'How the heck should I know; I imagine because you're just as charming as ever.'
'Well, you know me. Do I even have to ask how you know this?'
'You know how I know; now you get somewhere safe, then call and leave me a number. If anything else shows up I can call you that way.'
'No chance that this is a prank or something.'
'No, you know me better than that.'
'You're right, I do. Thanks Gary.'
'You're welcome, now be careful; and don't forget to call.'
As she was walking down to her car, she was wondering where she could go that would be safe. She tried and rejected several possibilities in her mind before she hit on the obvious solution. She just hoped she wasn't making a mistake.
Gary was scanning the crowd at the intersection, hoping he would find the lady before things got critical.
"OK Hobson, what's going on?"
He turned and smiled down at the petite detective. "Brigatti, there's something I need to tell you. You know all the things I get into, and how I say I'm just in the right place at the right time, and when you press I just say I know what's gonna happen."
"Yeah, it's annoying as hell."
"Well, you deserve to know how all that works. Two things; please keep an open mind and even if you don't believe it, you can't tell anyone."
"Just promise me."
"OK, I promise."
"OK, you know I always have that newspaper with me. Well, it's not an ordinary newspaper. It's tomorrow's newspaper."
"What the hell does that mean 'tomorrow's newspaper'?"
"Here, show me your copy of the Sun-Times. Look at the date and the front page, then look at mine."
"The dates are wrong and the headline is different; even the pictures are different."
"Yeah, they are. I get this paper at 6:30 every morning; it comes along with that cat you love so much, then I have twenty four hours to change things."
"Change things, what kind of things."
"Like this, look at the bottom of A-15."
"OK, I've got an add for a liquor store."
"Yeah, but my paper says there's gonna be a hit and run right here in about two minutes; see."
"OK so someone's gonna get hurt, what can you do?"
"I change it so they don't get hurt."
"Really, just like that."
"Sometimes. Sometimes it's more complicated."
Just then he saw her, a young mother with a baby in a front papoose and a toddler by her side. As she approached the intersection, Gary walked up to her.
"Excuse me ma'am, do you send your son to day care?"
"Who the hell are you and why do you want to know?"
"My name is Gary" he pointed towards Brigatti, "my wife and I are new to the area and we're looking for a good day care for our three year old."
The woman's expression changed to something a little less harsh; Brigatti had her face behind the paper, but Gary knew he was gonna catch hell for saying that they were married. "No, I'm a stay at home mom, sorry."
"That's OK ma'am, thank you for your time." Gary had to speak up due to a car with a bad muffler that was roaring through the intersection at the time.
She proceeded through the intersection without being hit, or even having a close call.
Gary walked back over to where Brigatti was standing; she had an incredulous look on her face. "It changed, right when I was reading it, it changed. You stopped her from being hit."
"Yeah, that's what I do."
"For how long, and why you?"
"Listen Brigatti, I'll do my best to answer all your questions, but how about we do it over dinner; I happen to own a little place near here, the food's pretty good."
"You're pushing it Hobson" was all Brigatti said, but she hooked her arm into his and together they headed for McGinty's. "Hey what's up with telling her we're married?"
Gary just sighed and was thankful she hadn't belted him.