A/N: A little shout-out to Noela Cullen before we get down to business. 12/22 is her birthday, and it just so happens to be that day, only quite a few years earlier, in our story. Hold on to your hats now, lovies, we promised you action …
Pete and I left the apartment before the sun was even up.
We met Edward and Alice at a coffee shop near the NYU campus and grabbed some joe before we headed down to HQ.
"Good morning Alice, Edward," I said, before wrapping my arm around Alice's shoulders and placing a kiss on her waiting lips. It was light, but the gesture sent shivers down my spine.
"Morning Jazz," she'd replied with a grin.
Pete and Edward both looked away, to give us a little privacy or because they were surprised at the gesture, I wasn't sure. Edward rubbed the back of his neck and grimaced, just a little. I frowned when Alice had turned her attention toward the waiter behind the diner's counter. As much as I liked Edward, there were a few details about him I needed to fill in to satisfy my curiosity. Going through the police academy had instilled in me a good sense of observation, and there was evidence I'd been collecting on Edward since we met, that was leading me to draw conclusions. I made a mental note to ask him a few questions before things got started today.
When Alice handed me my cup, I took a deep breath of the strong aroma. Neither Pete nor I'd slept very well the night before. And from the looks of it, neither had Edward. Alice was her usual fiery self, but even she looked a little worse for wear. Not that I'd mention that to her face, mind you. She was nearly bouncing with anticipation, and I was glad she wouldn't be heading to the warehouse today. Even if things went down without a hitch, having her safely with Bella meant I didn't need to worry about her.
We'd all been up late last night, holding a last-minute planning session. The bulls that checked the warehouse yesterday said things looked ripe for the picking. Very little security, lots of boxes full of contraband sitting around. The chief was pleased as punch that we'd get to take the Russians down. I was happy we'd be able to get Emmett back where he belonged in the process.
The bulls hadn't been able to penetrate too far into the depths of the warehouse, so we still weren't sure where Emmett was being held, but the building was big enough that it was probable he was there. I'd said as much to Alice at our meeting last night.
"I'm sure he's in the building, Ali."
"Of course he is, Jazz. I just know it." She'd smiled after she said it, but the gesture was tight.
The stress of this case was taking its toll on us all. Short fuses, nightmares, loss of appetite. It was strange; even though I didn't know the guy, he was already a huge part of my life. I only hoped that he'd be as good as Bella had made him out to be. It never hurt to make new friends, especially in a city this large. And I had a feeling he was good for Rose, even though she'd never admit it. I'd called her Monday night and let her know the plans.
"Rose, promise me you didn't have a choice in opening Lilly's Back Door. Things might get messy when all the details come out about who the Russians are supplying."
"I didn't, Jazz. I swear. I never wanted any of this." She'd struggled to choke back the tears. "I just want everything to be OK. Please don't get hurt. And," she'd continued in a small voice, "please get Emmett home safely."
The four of us were quiet as we made our way down the few blocks to NYPD. Alice took my arm as we headed into the precinct building. I could feel the warmth of her contact, even through the layers of our clothes. The love I had for her in my heart grew with each passing moment. I didn't think it was possible to love one person so much it made everything else, all other emotions, pale in comparison, but Alice was on the forefront of my mind every minute of every day.
We nodded to Quil as we passed by the front desk, and Alice gave a little wave. The desk sergeant smiled broadly and tipped his hat in her direction. My grip on her arm got tighter, and Alice looked at me, quizzically, before she laughed. She stood on tiptoes and kissed me on the cheek. I relaxed instantly.
"Good luck today Whitlock, Le Nord," Quil yelled after us as we rounded the corner to the main corridor. "Give 'em hell!"
Pete and I headed to the locker room and put on our uniforms while Alice and Edward waited in the hall. When we exited, we made our way further inside.
The chief was waiting in his office. The rest of the officers taking part in the sting were milling around the desks. The tension in the air was palpable. For some, this would be their first chance at real action. For others, the ones sitting calmly in their seats with stern expressions, it was just another in a long line of assignments.
I pulled to a stop near my desk. Pete sat and offered Edward a chair, which he took. He didn't take off his fedora or jacket, and he perched on the edge of the seat, his hands tightly clasped together. His face was pale and sort of drawn. I wondered if there wasn't something more going on in his head than just the day's events.
Alice detached her arm from mine and went to talk to Edward. I turned away, giving them a moment, and sipped on my now lukewarm coffee. Pete had his hat tipped down low and was leaning back in his seat. Obviously trying to prepare for the day with a few more winks.
I didn't mean to eavesdrop, but because Alice and Edward were so close, I could easily hear what she said to him.
"Don't worry Eddie. Things are going to be OK."
"I know, Alice …" he began.
"But you're worried," she finished for him. "You have every right to be. Working as a P.I. has meant you haven't had to see much in the way of action. This is a reminder of the past you thought you left behind, am I right?"
They were silent for a second. Edward spoke, his voice thick. "I haven't told you everything about me, Alice. There are … events from Chicago that I wish I could erase from my memory."
"I know more than you think, Eddie. I'm a smart dame," Alice countered. I could hear the smile in her voice; she was attempting to reassure him. My Alice, ever the optimist.
"Let's make a deal," she continued. "When all this is over and Emmett's back safe and sound where he belongs, we'll have us a long talk." She paused for a moment. "About the past and about the future. I've been meaning to ask if we can't get a different office, one with two desks in the inner room."
Edward laughed and I could tell Alice had made an impact on his mood. I turned just in time to see Alice kiss Edward on the cheek and then make her way toward me. I held out a hand and she took it. I led her back toward the front of the precinct; it was time for us to get on with the day, and for her to get to Bella. At the door that led to the corridor, Alice stopped. She turned around and shouted to the crowd.
"Hit it on all sixes today, boys!" The officers gave a small cheer. I hid my grin in the collar of my uniform jacket.
We walked to the front of the building and I raised my hand for a cab. The taxi pulled to the curb and I opened the door for Alice.
"Have fun with Bella today, Ali."
"Oh, we will," she giggled. "We're going out for some last minute Christmas gifts. I had all mine ready ages ago, but then some new people entered my life and screwed up all my careful planning." There was a smile on her face, but her eyes were serious. I knew she wanted to be in on the action today, but I'd made it clear, as nicely as possible, that she'd be more of a hindrance than a help. The bulls I worked with weren't ready for a woman to be part of the team, and as much as I knew Alice could handle herself, I wasn't either.
"I love you, Alice." I leaned across the door frame and placed a kiss on her lips. The touch of our mouths was cold at first, but they soon warmed to each other. Alice leaned into the kiss and I would have been content to let it go on forever, if the cab driver hadn't discreetly cleared his throat.
I reluctantly pulled away and was heartened to notice the color in Alice's cheeks.
"I love you too, Jasper." She poked me in the chest before settling into the backseat. "You don't get into any trouble today, or I will be very mad."
I grinned and tipped my hat. "Yes ma'am."
I watched as the car drove away, and then went back into the building. Quil whistled at me as I walked past, but I let it slide.
Chief Charles had come out from his office and was giving a "rally the troops" pep talk. I slipped into the back of the crowd without him noticing I'd entered near the end of his speech.
"—and let's not tarnish the reputation of the great institution that is the NYPD. Good luck today, men."
Everyone began grabbing their coats and hats and heading toward the parking lot where the police vehicles were kept, around back. The chief eyed the crowd and when he caught my eye, he motioned me toward him.
"You've got lead on this operation today. Do me, and the NYPD, proud."
"Will do sir. Thank you."
Proudly, I walked to my desk and met up with Edward and Pete. "Let's head out."
As Edward stood, I noticed a new addition to his outfit peeking out from under his coat. A holster was strung around his waist, the butt of a gun clearly visible. He carried it without effort, as though it was something he was used to.
I raised an eyebrow at him, but he didn't notice. Another bit of evidence to add to my list.
We drove up to the warehouse in a caravan of dark police sedans and parked a few streets away from the docks. Half of the group made their way toward the front of the building, the part that faced the water. The other half, including Pete, Edward and myself, made our way to the loading bay. The plan was to make our way inside, as peacefully as possible. The chief had expressly asked us to try to avoid a firefight. It would look better after the dust settled if the NYPD had talked their way out of a tough situation, rather than shot first, asked questions later.
As we were walking toward the warehouse, I grabbed Edward's arm and pulled him back to the back of the crowd. "Edward, there's something I gotta ask you." The evidence my brain had been collecting since we'd met had let me to a pretty convincing conclusion.
He looked at me, his eyes peering out from under the brim of his fedora. There was a fierceness emanating from his bright green eyes. He seemed hesitant, but he responded. "Yes?"
"You've had training." The question came out as more of a statement than I meant. "I mean--"
"You're asking if I've been a cop." He turned his eyes away.
"I was attempting to ask, yeah. I'm sorry, it came out wrong."
Edward waved his hand to brush off the slight. "I was, yes. In Chicago. I was young and I was green. And I lost someone important."
A little voice in the back of my head, one that sounded an awful lot like my mother, urged me to stop pressing him. But I kept on. "A fellow officer?"
Edward turned his face away. "Yes. My partner, Garrett."
Suddenly my sense of self-preservation took over. "How, Edward?"
He stopped and turned to me. I knew I wasn't exactly going about this the right way, but I deserved to know. I needed to know if I could trust him with my life.
Edward seemed to understand this. And after a moment's internal battle, he told me an abbreviated version of his story.
"Garett and I met in the academy. We were partners from the start. Our beat was easy; we rarely ran into any sort of action. When we did, it was always pretty easy to diffuse the situation. Garrett was able to talk his way out of almost anything.
"About four years in, the precinct got a domestic violence call. The chief sent Garrett and me out to check it out.
"A man—James—was beating his wife on the front porch of their house. He thought she'd cheated on him, and he was exacting revenge.
"James was on a rampage, and nothing Garrett or I said seemed to calm him. We both had our guns on him, but the guy was quick. Garrett took his eyes off James for a split-second, trying to get the woman's attention. In that moment, James drew a gun and fired. I also fired, for the first and last time since training."
Edward paused to catch his breath. I knew this story was hard for him to tell. But I appreciated him opening up to me.
"Neither of them made it?" I asked.
"James is in prison, last I knew. Garrett's …"
I put a hand on his shoulder. "Thank you Edward. I'm sorry it had to come out like this, but I feel better about the situation we're headed into today knowing your story."
He shot me a look. "You feel better knowing I know how to use a weapon? Or you feel better knowing that my partner died?"
I shook my head. "No, Masen. None of that was your fault. It was a terrible accident in the line of duty. 'Sides, I've got my own skeletons in the closet," I reminded myself to tell him my own story after this was over. I owed him. "I feel better knowing that the instinct I had to trust you with my life was accurate."
Edward parted his mouth as if he was going to speak, but closed his lips before words came out. He looked at me, and his eyes didn't seem as haunted. I nodded.
We made it to the warehouse. The rest of our group was waiting, guns at the ready, near the entrance in the loading bay. Two black delivery trucks and a dark sedan were parked in the bay. I recognized the sedan from my weekly visits to Lilly's.
"Demetri's here," I whispered in Edward's direction.
"Let's hope Tanya is too," he replied.
As we entered the warehouse, we met resistance in the form of two brutes waiting in the main storeroom. I waved my gun at them and put a finger to my lips. It was a good thing the Russians hired for power, rather than brilliance. The two men laid their weapons on the ground before raising their hands behind their heads and dropping to the ground on their knees. Two officers went to take their guns and handcuff them. One remained to guard them.
We made our way toward what looked like an office at the back corner of the large room. We passed another guard on the way there, but he was taken care of as quickly and quietly as the first two. When we got to the office, I motioned for officers to surround the room, covering all exits and windows.
When everyone was safely crouched behind crates, I shouted. "NYPD! We've got you surrounded. Come out with your hands raised."
I heard a shout from inside the office and the blinds rustled. I waited for a moment before deciding to move a bit closer to see what we were up against. There was plenty of cover surrounding the small room.
I motioned for Edward to stay put in his position behind a crate near me. I moved toward the office at a slow pace, trying to get a look inside one of the windows.
"NYPD!" I yelled again, as I moved even closer. "This is the police. Come out now, and no one will get hurt."
"You might want to alter that statement," a slimy voice next to my ear whispered.
I shot up, but Demetri was too quick. He had an arm around my shoulders and I felt the barrel of a gun pressed into my back before I could get a word out.
"Drop your gun," he commanded.
I dropped the gun to the floor, cursing myself for not being more observant. I raised my hands to the sky and looked the way he'd come from, noticing two officers down. I couldn't tell if they were seriously hurt or not, but I wouldn't put it past Demetri to do anything to get himself out of this mess.
"Walk." Demetri's Russian accent made the word sound more like "valk," which at any other time would have been amusing. But I wasn't in the mood to laugh.
He pushed me out in the open, in front of the door to the inner office. "I've got the upper hand now, officers," he announced. "Please come out in the open and place your weapons where I can see them."
No one made a move. My brain was working a mile a minute, trying to figure out how I could get out of this situation.
Demetri snarled. He was too used to getting his own way. "I'm going to count to ten, gentlemen. And then I'm going to shoot this bastard where he stands. One."
I heard the click of the gun as Demetri cocked it. He shifted slightly away from me, opening up room between myself and him as he pointed the gun at the space between my shoulder blade and spine. He was aiming for the heart.
Edward stood from behind his cover, his gun pointed directly at Demetri. "No, you'll put your weapon down and step away from the officer. There are quite a few more of us than there are of you. We have the upper hand. Even if you get a shot off, you'll be dead before Officer Whitlock hits the ground."
Demetri laughed. "Will I? Let's see about that. Nine … 10."
Gunshots rang out. Time slowed. I could see Edward yelling, but I couldn't hear the words. I could see some of the other guys diving for cover, out from behind crates suddenly riddled with holes and leaking some sort of liquid—I guessed it was liquor for Lilly's and the other juice joints Tanya and Demetri had control of. I looked around and I could see movement pushing the blinds of the office.
I felt a warm sensation on my right shoulder. Looking down, I noticed a dark stain blossoming on my uniform.
A/N: Dun, dun, DUUUN!
Just a reminder, we love happy endings. So don't fret your pretty heads. Read the conclusion next week, same Bat time, same Bat channel.
bull—a police officer
hit it on all sixes—give 100%
joe—a cup of coffee
juice joint—a speakeasy, an underground, illegal bar