AN: Hey there. AHelm here. This little fic is something MPants and I have been considering for months (literally), and we're pretty excited about it. She had the idea of a noir-ish fic, and we both loved it and ran with it. So, here we are. Expect eventual canon pairings and a little mystery thrown in. Enjoy!
P.S. Not our characters. Oh, how we wish.
The night I met her, it was dark and stormy. Fitting, really. The dame walked into my office looking like something from a movie—all big eyes and perfect hair, dolled up in the latest style.
But I'm getting ahead of myself here.
I was born in 1901 during one of the hottest summers Chicago had ever seen. Every day was a scorcher. My parents, Elizabeth and Edward, were doting. They supported me, their only son, in whatever I did. My childhood was a piece of cake. When I told my Pop I wanted to be a beat cop, he merely nodded and asked what we needed to do to get me into the Academy.
At nearly nineteen, I joined the force. I was assigned a partner, a precinct and a gun—it sat on my hip, cold and unused. I passed the range requirement at the Academy, but I'd never had a reason to use it on the job. The streets of Chicago were rough and tough and dangerous, but I thought I could handle them.
I was wrong.
One painfully slow day, about four years into my time with the Chicago PD, Garrett and I were sitting around the precinct headquarters playing rummy. We were caught up on all our paperwork and had no pressing business to attend to, so we were wiling the afternoon away as best we could.
A call came in. Domestic violence at a house about twenty minutes from HQ. "Masen, Wilder, can you take this one?" the chief called out.
"Sure thing, boss," Garrett replied as he beat me in the final hand of our game.
We stood up and gathered our things—I slipped my belt and holster around my waist and clipped my badge onto my shirt—and headed out to our squad car. We kept it immaculate, unlike a lot of our fellow Precinct 23 officers, and it was a beauty. Ran smoothly, looked good … we'd really lucked out when they assigned us our car.
"Where was the call?" I asked Garrett as I slid into the driver's seat.
"45th and Samson," he replied.
We rode in silence for a while before he said, "Violence at home is a real shame. I can't understand it."
"I can't either. No reason to hit a woman, ever." Garrett nodded and a grin formed on his face. I looked over at him briefly before returning my eyes to the road. "What?"
"No reason to hit a woman. But you, on the other hand …" He punched me in the shoulder.
"Thanks, Pal," I muttered with a laugh.
Garrett was my best friend. We'd been assigned as partners on the force after we'd both graduated from the Academy, and quickly, we'd become inseparable. We spent all week together, driving around the city, filling out paperwork and dealing with the crime that ran rampant in our hometown. On the weekends, we would play cards or have a drink. I met his girlfriends when he had them and he met mine. I knew his parents and my mother thought of him as a second son, the brother I never had.
I was eternally grateful for his presence in my life. It was like he and my parents—my family—were my rock, and without them, I felt I might go a little mad.
"Let's just hope this goes well," I said. "Last thing we need is some crazy guy waving a gun around."
Garrett chuckled. "Well, you never know. Here's hoping."
We drove the remainder of the short drive in quiet, listening to the various calls that came through the radio. When we arrived on the street, I slowed the car down to a crawl, trying to find the correct house long before we parked. I cracked my window and listened for yelling. I didn't have to listen long.
"Get away from me!" a female voice screeched. I heard something slam, like a door, as we pulled up to the front of a home that looked so much like my parents' house, I had to take a breath to steady myself.
Garrett and I watched from the car as a man stormed around from his side yard and headed back up the stairs that let to the door. Visible through the window was a woman, looking terrified and angry all at once. The man slammed his fists on the door and she flinched from her place in the frame of the window. "Should we go in?" I asked aloud.
"Give it a second. Let's see what he's going to do," Garrett said.
We watched as the man took several steps back, until he was nearly at the top of the stairs. He steadied himself, then took a powerful kick at the door. I watched it come off one of its hinges. A second kick sent it careening backward, and the woman screamed. "You thought you could keep me out of my own house?" he bellowed.
He disappeared into the darkness. When he reappeared, he was dragging the woman behind him, his hand knotted in her hair. "Did you bring him here, Victoria? Did you?" He threw her to her knees there on the porch. I looked at Garrett, his eyes dark. He nodded. As we stepped out of our vehicle, the man delivered a smack to Victoria's face that sent her flying into the floor boards with a sickening crack.
She didn't move for the remainder of the time we were there.
"Chicago PD! Sir, please step away from her," Garrett called out.
The madman stared at us as we approached the white picket fence that bordered his lawn. In silence, he watched us enter his yard. Instinctively, I held my right hand over my gun, ready to pull it out at a moment's notice.
Garrett continued. "Nothing she could have done would warrant this behavior."
"Get off my property," he leered.
"Sir, we've been called to check on you and your … is this your wife?" I gestured to the crumpled woman I hoped was still breathing near him on the porch. My Academy training flashed before my eyes. Tactic number one: Calm the assailant down.
"Yeah, she was my wife. I'm filing for divorce. She can go be with the slimeball she cheated on me with."
"What's your name, sir?" Garrett asked.
"James." His eyes unfocused for a second as he looked back at the lump that was his wife. As he kicked her in the stomach and we heard her groan, relief mixed with anger swelled in me. At least she was still alive.
As soon as James' leg moved, Garrett had drawn his gun from his holster. "Sir, step away from her. Now," he commanded.
James laughed maniacally. Garrett called out to the woman, Victoria, trying to keep her conscious. I knew he didn't notice when James reached behind his back, going for what I assumed was a gun hidden beneath the shirt he was wearing and shoved into the waistband of his pants.
Garrett's weapon was still pointed at James as he tried to get a response from Victoria. James pulled out his gun, aiming it directly at my partner.
What happened next was a bit of a blur.
I grabbed my gun. It was heavier than I remembered, and I was instantly anxious over actually having to use it. My hands were trembling as I lifted it and shouted, "James, put the gun down!"
He glanced at me and yelled, "Not going to happen, pig," and fired.
A second later, I fired as well, for the first and last time.
I hit my target, but unfortunately, so did he. Garrett shouted out and crumpled to the ground next a few feet from me. I saw that James was down too before I ran back to the car to call for back up. "Officer down! Repeat, officer down!"
My voice broke, and I was shaking like a leaf. When the others arrived, I was standing there, frozen in some sort of mix of fear, anger and paranoia. They rushed by me and I dropped my gun to the ground there at my feet. "Masen," the chief said gruffly. "Masen, get a move on. Sit in the car."
I opened the door and sat on the passenger seat. I didn't notice who was asking, but I answered a plethora of questions about what happened, who fired first and what we'd seen, as if I was on auto-pilot. They asked me what Garrett was doing when James shot him and I could only respond, "Being a hero."
Victoria was placed in protective custody, even though there was no immediate danger of James getting to her. The officers in charge took her to the hospital to have her injuries checked out. She ended up having a slight concussion and a few of her teeth had also been knocked loose; they'd have to be replaced. All in all, she'd fared well from the ordeal.
James was placed in the hospital as well, where they cared for his gunshot wound. During the entirety of his stay, he was silent, refusing to speak to anyone but his lawyer. Someone let the cat out of the bag that he was advised to plead guilty on all counts—assault and battery and manslaughter, since there was no way he could have planned his murder of Garrett. Eventually, he ended up in prison.
That didn't make me feel better in the slightest.
I was a pall bearer. They asked me to speak at the funeral. I couldn't do it.
For months, I walked around in pain. A shell of a person. I almost hoped I'd get shot. I harbored guilt over Garrett's death. I'd always been so anxious about carrying a gun, and he was an expert with the things. He was the one who used his weapon; I simply carried mine. But when it came time to use it—when I could have saved Garrett, when it really mattered—I had failed.
And then it happened.
My mother and father got sick. A round of Spanish influenza had made its rounds through the city a few years prior and a newer, stronger version of the virus attacked my parents. They were quarantined in the city hospital, and the I couldn't get in their room to see them. My final days with my parents were spent with a wall between us. I watched as they grew weaker and weaker until finally, within mere hours of one another, they were gone. Shortly after their deaths, I was contacted by a lawyer who gave me the information for a trust fund that had been established for me at birth. I would never want for money.
That was the final straw. I'd lost my parents and my best friend, but had all the money in the world, which did nothing to fill the void in my chest. I was done for. Broken. Ruined. In pain.
So, when I received word that my grandfather, whom I'd seen a grand total of three times in my life, was in need of a permanent roommate who could watch out for him, my decision was made.
I moved to New York to get a fresh start, to take care of Grandpa Alistair—who made for interesting company if you could get past his generally foul mood—and to start a private investigation practice. I wanted to be off the streets and have no need to carry a gun. Mostly, I dealt with small cases—missing animals, possibly cheating spouses, things like that.
I quickly tired of being both P.I. and secretary. I realized that I needed at least someone else to work the front office—to be the smiling reassurance everyone needs to see when they show up at a P.I.'s office. I needed a little sunshine around.
Exactly that appeared out of thin air one day.
The tiny spitfire stood in front of me, in her fitted skirt and shirt and perfectly done up hair, with a hand on her hip like she owned the joint. She pursed her lips at me. "I'm here about the job." I detected a hint of a Brooklyn accent. A local girl. I snorted. Daddy obviously wasn't paying the rent any longer.
"So, am I hired or what?"
"You got any credentials?" I asked, leaning back in my desk chair.
The pixie grinned and took a seat on my desk. "I'm cute, the owners of most of the speakeasies in the area love me, and if you need a source—someone who can get in there and find you the most recent information on almost any subject—I'm your girl. Besides, I have a sense about things. I just know the way things are going to work out sometimes."
She stuck out a hand. "I'm Mary Alice Cullen, but if you call me that, I'll give you a swift kick in the shin. I go by Alice. No last name. That my desk in the front?" She motioned toward the front office with a jut of her thumb.
I crossed my arms. I had no way to know what I was getting myself in to "Well, OK, Alice No Last Name, I'll hire you on a temporary basis. If you work out, then swell."
Despite my reservations, it turned out that hiring Alice was the best decision I'd made in a long time. She was upbeat and smart, and she really did know how to get information out of people. Still, I only let her work a case as a last resort. She quickly became like a little sister, and there was no way I wanted another family member getting hurt.
Turns out, Alice was the daughter of a coroner who worked closely with NYPD. Her morbid curiosity about her father's job led her to discover an interest in detective work. She was a flapper, to the core, but she'd never let her father know she frequented various night clubs in the evenings. "It's just to dance. I love to dance," she'd explained one day over a quick lunch.
She was a firecracker. I'd seen proof of that on multiple occasions—I had no real worries about whether Alice could take care of herself, in most situations.
Alice was the bright spot in my day, and over time, I learned to listen to her advice. So, when she came into my office one day, about a year after I'd opened shop, it was with open ears and mind that I heard her. "There's a girl here, and I think she's important. Somebody's missing." She stepped closer to my desk and leaned toward me. "She's just your type, if you know what I mean."
I stared at her blankly. I had enough on my plate without having to worry about some broad. I had Gramps and the job. That was enough for now. "Send her in then," I replied as I leaned back against my chair.
The thunder cracked outside my window, the lightning that followed lit my office better than fireworks on the Fourth of July.
It also lit up her figure as she stepped into my office. I nearly toppled over in my already leaning back chair.
She wore a wide brimmed white hat and her head was angled toward the floor. I couldn't see her face at first. But the gray skirt that hit just below her knees and the long-sleeved black shirt that clung tightly to her curves left nothing to the imagination. She tilted her head up to look at me, and the lightning flashed again.
When she looked at me, I thought perhaps the world had stopped spinning.
Depthless and brown.
I swallowed hard. "Hello, I'm Edward Masen."
She extended a hand. "I'm Bella Swan."
AN: Random fact: We decided we wanted the story to be set a few years before the Stock Market Crash of 1929. We wanted Edward to be 25ish. It wasn't until after the fact that we realized we set it up to make his birth year 1901. Freudian mind slip? We think so!