Chapter 1: Mary Mary
Disclaimer: I own nothing.
A/N: I'm back! With a fresh new story, as promised. For more notes on the story, you can always go to my LJ. Did you check out the genres on this story? Both will come into play. So before you start, it might not be a bad idea to repeat this mantra: This will be different, but I will give it a chance. Repeat it a few times, maybe meditate on it. Continue when you're ready. Oh, I should also mention that everything that happened on the show happened. This is a futurefic.
Clearly, then, the city is not a concrete jungle, it is a human zoo. –Desmond Morris [The Human Zoo]
Tristan DuGrey cut the engine of his Camaro and stepped out into the cool October air. From the passenger side, his partner, Mark Stevenson, got out as well. The two men walked a short distance down the sidewalk to the alley, where a dead body was lying on the ground.
"What have we got?" Detective Stevenson asked one of the responding officers.
"The restaurant manager called it in. He was bringing some trash to the dumpster when he was getting ready to open. He found this guy when he got out here. The medical examiner should be here soon," the officer answered. "I could ask some people questions, if you need any help."
"Good one. You're done here," Tristan told him, jerking his head in the direction of the street. As he did so, Mark looked over to the other uniformed officer, who was still in the process of rolling out the yellow crime scene tape. Tristan had made good time when driving them there.
"It appears we're starting to attract a crowd," Mark observed. There were a number of people trying to gawk at the body the two men were next to.
"You'd think New Yorkers wouldn't be fazed by a dead body," Tristan commented.
"Well, at least the media hasn't shown up yet," Mark said, looking down the sidewalk. "Then again, I spoke too soon. I should have known Veronica More would show up. I wouldn't get close to her with a thirty-nine and a half foot pole."
"Isn't she the one who wrote about—"
"Do we want her to leave? I'm pretty persuasive."
The brown haired man suspiciously shifted his eyes to Tristan, which didn't require much of an adjustment, as they were equal in height. "Are you going to get her to leave or get a date?"
"Both, if I'm lucky," Tristan answered with a sly grin. "Just point the way."
"Right there," the other man answered, nodding in the direction of a woman who was walking across the street.
Tristan looked in the direction that was indicated. Suddenly, he felt like Lenny Kravitz's American Woman should be playing in the background as the brunette wearing a skirt suit with a white blouse and red scarf strutted confidently across the street and towards their crime scene.
Inside his chest, Tristan's heart did something weird. "Then again," he reconsidered, "I'm not feeling so lucky."
"Do I hear doubt?"
"Maybe. But, I guess I could still try. What did you say her name was again?"
"I don't think so," Tristan said with a shake of his head as he walked in the direction of the crowd—and the reporter.
Rory Gilmore was looking down at her small pad of paper, writing something, when Detective DuGrey approached the crowd that the other officers were keeping at bay. He showed his badge to the people before he spoke.
"There's nothing to see here, keep moving and give the police some room." For the most part, the crowd dispersed. He stood in front of the remaining woman expectantly, but she didn't move from her spot, or look up. "That means everyone, ma'am."
"Oh come on, I know I covered some cases from a couple other precincts last month, but don't tell me you forgot who I am," she said, still looking down at what she had written. With her left hand, she held out her press credentials that were hanging from her neck.
Tristan looked down at the information on the ID before he spoke again. "Mine still trumps yours," he said, indicating his badge. "And there's no way I'm calling you that, Mary."
She ducked her head around him to take a look at the body before looking back down to write a description. "The last person to call me Mary was—," she started with knit brows before finally looking up. She tilted her head and raised a brow in surprise before finishing her sentence, "you."
He grinned at her before responding. "Rory Gilmore, as I live and breathe."
She gave him a once over before continuing. "I hate to break it to you, but it doesn't look good for you if you were found with a dead body."
He gave a sarcastic nod of his head and held up his gold shield for her to see. She gave a single nod of understanding as he put it back on his belt. She took a step back and sized him up. He was wearing a black suit with a black button up shirt. He probably should have been wearing a tie, as well, but he was not. She assumed there was a gun hidden under his jacket, too.
"You're a cop?"
"It looks that way," he answered.
"I can't say that I've ever pictured you as a cop, Tristan."
"But you have pictured me," he supplied easily.
She grimly shook her head. "I mean that it's a pretty blue collar kind of job."
"Yeah, literally. But it's probably hard for you to imagine me in a position that requires the use of my brain."
"There's that," she agreed with a smile. "When did you join the twenty-first?"
"I got transferred about a month ago," he answered, eyeing her.
Her smile faltered. "Oh."
"Yeah," he drawled, knowingly. "So, what brings you to this fine corner of Manhattan?"
"The dead body. Do they think it's a homicide?"
"They do, which is why I'm here."
"What a coincidence, it's why I'm here, too. So, what can you tell me?"
"Not much, I got here just before you did. But at a glance I can tell you middle-aged, Caucasian male, shot in the chest."
"So, you don't know when it happened or who did it yet?"
"Nope, I have to figure that out."
"Yeah, unless I figure it out first," she commented offhandedly.
She looked up at him. "I'm not bad at this stuff, myself. I might even solve the crime before you," she said with a crafty grin.
"Is that a challenge?"
"Not at all. It's just a fact."
"We'll see," Tristan said skeptically. "I'm pretty good at my job. I doubt you're better at it than I am."
"I guess we will see," Rory answered.
"You know, now that I think about it, I can't say that I've ever pictured you stumbling on dead bodies, Miss Marple."
"I don't stumble on them. I rely on a police scanner to help me find them."
"Ah, I see."
"I'm a crime reporter."
"I gathered as much."
"For the New York Daily News."
"You're not sitting in a fancy newsroom on Eighth Avenue, writing an Op-Ed column for The Times?" he asked in a mockingly surprised tone.
"No, not yet. But maybe some day."
"There's always some day. Well, I'd love to stay and chat, but I have work to do. Maybe I'll see you around, though," he said as he gave her a last look and turned to walk back to his partner and the body.
Mark looked up when Tristan got back. He looked over at Rory, still standing at the crime scene tape. "You didn't fend her off," he observed.
"Nope, I didn't get a date either. Although, I didn't try," Tristan admitted.
"Really? Is that your way of saying that she shot you down?"
"No, I really didn't try. There's no need to when I know the outcome," he explained before getting back to the matter at hand. "Did you find any ID on this guy?"
"Yeah, he's Daniel Steinberg, 53 years old. He lived on Tenth Avenue, here in Manhattan. He must have taken a cab or the subway here. There aren't any car keys on him."
"Can you tell how long he's been dead?" Tristan asked the African American woman who was on one knee, next to the body.
"Rigor mortis has only just set in, so it's been about three hours. I'll be able to tell you more after I get him into the lab."
"The restaurant opened just a few minutes ago, at eleven, so we know he wasn't getting breakfast. Let's go talk to some people in this apartment," Mark said, indicating the tall brick building that shared the alley with the restaurant.
Meanwhile, Rory watched Tristan and the other detective as they finished collecting evidence and talked with the medical examiner. The body was covered up on a gurney and was being loaded into an ambulance as Rory got her cell phone out. She started to walk into the building next door to the restaurant. She pressed one of the numbers down on her phone and waited for someone to answer.
"Hello?" Paris Geller answered.
"Hey, how are you?"
"Good, you will never guess who I just ran in to."
"Tristan DuGrey," Rory answered. "He's here at a crime scene."
"I can't say that I'm surprised, what is he getting busted for?"
"That's close to what I said. But no, he's a detective for the NYPD."
"I know, who'd have guessed he'd grow up to be a cop?"
"No, that wasn't about the cop thing. Or even the growing up thing."
"What was it about, then?"
"I was just thinking that this must be a pretty good day for you."
"Well, you were so in love with him back in high school."
"Paris, I was not! You're getting me mixed up with you."
"If you say so."
"I do. Adamantly."
"Well, tell him hi for me."
"Sure. I need to go. I just wanted to tell you that."
"All right, talk to you later."
"Bye," Rory said before hanging up. She put the phone back into her purse and knocked on the first door on the south side of the hallway.
"Whoever our killer is got lucky with so many people at work already," Mark commented as he and Tristan climbed the steps up to the fifth floor of the apartment building. They rounded the corner and saw a woman with her fist up, about to knock on a door.
"Rory," Tristan said sharply. He startled her and she jumped. Her head turned over to the two men quickly and she put her hand down. "What are you doing?"
"I'm just trying to find some witnesses. You?" she asked as they approached her.
"Same," he answered.
"I told you she's the one who's a step ahead of us," Mark muttered to the blonde.
"Do you know each other?" Tristan asked the other two.
"By sight, it's Detective Stevenson, right?" Rory asked timidly.
"Yeah," Mark answered curtly.
Tristan sensed a slight awkwardness between the two.
"I see you downgraded in partners," Rory said to Mark, hoping to lighten the mood.
The man looked a bit surprised at the comment. "You mean Harvard, here?" he asked. Rory raised a questioning brow at Tristan as Mark continued. "Nah, if we were in school and he was the new kid, I'd be worried about him messing up the curve."
Rory quickly turned to Tristan and he cringed. "What did you tell him?" she demanded with a glare.
"Nothing," he answered as he unbuttoned his black shirt. "He came up with that ironic analogy all on his own."
"What are you doing?" Mark asked.
"Seriously," Rory added. "I have some money if you really need the singles that badly. You don't have to objectify yourself like this."
Tristan gave them both a sarcastic look. "I like proof, I'm just giving you some—otherwise you probably won't believe it," he told her as he pulled the sides of his shirt apart so they could see Harvard University written across the front of a crimson t-shirt.
"Hmm, I hear that's an okay school. It was my second choice, actually," she commented.
"Of course. I should have known you'd be the only girl not to be impressed by it."
"Yeah. And you know, without a big red letter S across the front of your shirt, that was kind of anti-climactic," Rory commented as Tristan started buttoning his shirt back up.
He paused before answering. "I didn't know you wanted a climax, you should have just said so."
"Is that something women usually have to ask you for?" she asked with a smirk.
Mark snickered and Tristan glowered at him fleetingly. "You shouldn't ask the tough questions if you're not willing to familiarize yourself with their answers."
"I'm a reporter. I have to ask the tough questions."
"Yeah, well, if you play with fire you'll get burned."
"I'm not afraid of you," she scoffed.
Mark watched the exchange with a growing sense of confusion, which was starting to overtake his features. "Do you two know each other?" he asked them.
"You could say that. Rory and I were in the same class in high school—for a time."
"Me," she clarified.
"I thought your name was Veronica."
"Is that your porn star name?" Tristan asked hopefully.
"No. I only use it for articles and when I'm talking to people out in the field. It's a pseudonym. My grandparents thought I needed one since I cover crime in the city. I think they're just being silly, but I humor them—my mother came up with it. I even take self-defense classes."
"Are we going to do this? Or are we going to continue with the reunion?" Mark impatiently asked Tristan, indicating the search for witnesses.
"Yeah," the blonde answered. Mark walked a short distance down the hall. Rory put her hand back up, but Tristan snatched her wrist away before she could knock. "What are you doing?"
"I already told you I was looking for witnesses. You need to work on your listening skills, Detective."
"We are going to find witnesses," he told her, moving his index finger back and forth between Mark and himself. The other man was already knocking on the next door.
"Well, I beat you to it, so deal," she said, rapping on the door quickly with her other hand and looking up at Tristan defiantly.
He dropped her wrist and sighed in resignation. A minute later the door swung open and a tired looking man in his forties looked out at them. He must have worked the night shift.
"Hi, I'm a reporter for the Daily News. Did you happen to hear any gun shots?"
"This morning, a few of hours ago, or so," Tristan supplied.
Rory discreetly added to her notes.
"I'm not sure," the man answered as he started to close the door.
Tristan stopped it with his foot. "How about now?" he asked, holding up his badge.
The man grudgingly opened the door back up. "I think I might have heard something when I got home from work."
"What time was that?"
"I got in just after eight. I heard a shot fired a little after that. Eight ten. Eight fifteen, maybe."
"And you didn't call the police?" Rory asked skeptically.
The man shrugged. "It's New York, there's a lot of noise. It could have been a car backfiring. Do you need anything else?"
"Do you know a Daniel Steinberg?" Tristan asked.
The man indicated that he did not. Rory started to write again, but Tristan took the pen from her hand. She indignantly scowled at him—which he ignored.
"Thanks for your help," Tristan answered and the man closed the door.
"That comes in handy," Rory said, indicating his badge.
"Yeah, it usually helps move things along," he answered. "It bodes well with me that authority impresses you."
The three continued up to the seventh floor in a similar fashion. Either no one was home or the gun shot was interpreted as background noise of the city. When they got to the upper floors, anyone who was home couldn't hear much over the construction going on at the top floor of the building. The last set of stairs was blocked off with caution tape, discouraging anyone from going further.
"I guess that's the end of the line," Rory observed.
"You give up easy," Tristan commented as he and Mark continued up the stairs.
"No I don't!" she called out, scampering up the steps behind them.
When they reached the top floor, there were many men wearing hard hats and tool belts who were putting up dry wall and nailing wall frames. In the background, someone was using a power saw. Through the noise, Tristan asked who was in charge. They were directed towards a middle aged man looking over blue prints in the next room. He looked up when they approached.
"NYPD," Mark said, showing his badge. "Are you in charge here?"
"I'm actually number two. The contractor in charge hasn't come into work yet."
"Is he often late?"
"No, never. He isn't answering his phone, either," the man answered.
"What's his name?"
Rory looked at the two detectives, expecting them to exchange bleak glances. However, they went on without skipping a beat.
"Did anyone working here have a problem with him?" Tristan asked.
"Dan? No, he's worked for this company for twenty-five years and hasn't gotten into so much as an argument with anyone. He got along with everybody. Why?"
"He was found dead in the alley this morning," Mark answered.
"Shit, are you serious?" The two men nodded. "I'm sorry I don't know anything that can help you, here's my card if you need anything else, though."
"Thanks," Tristan said as Mark pocketed the business card. All three then started the long walk down the many flights of stairs.
"So," Rory started, glancing at Tristan, who was walking down the stairs to her left. "What have you been up to since military school?"
"This and that," he answered vaguely.
"This sounds fascinating," she commented sardonically.
"Oh, it is. That was only so-so."
"How was Harvard? Did I miss out on anything?"
"You mean other than my presence?" he teased before answering. "It was really good. I got a top notch education. Although, I'll admit, I didn't accomplish the goal I'd set out for when I went there."
"What goal was that?" Rory inquired as they rounded a corner and continued down the stairs.
They had about five more floors to go. Mark was descending the stairs at a quicker pace and had his phone out, ready to make a call.
"Well, I'd heard since kindergarten how generations of Gellers had gone to Harvard. So, I had no choice but to pull a Felicity and follow Paris there, hoping that I might catch her attention and win her heart again," he answered seriously.
"First, I'll ignore the fact that you just referenced Felicity."
"Second, that's a blatant lie and you know it." Tristan smirked in response. "It's ironic that you should lie about looking for Paris, though. Because the truth of the matter is, I was the one to find her—in my dorm room on the first day of Yale orientation."
"A higher power must really not like you."
She looked over at him pointedly. "Clearly."
"What, today? This is a sign. The higher power wants you to reconsider."
"Hmm," she said doubtfully. "Anyway, we're still friends."
"No, I'd call us frenemies," he replied.
"Frenemies? Are you a sixteen year old girl? I meant Paris and me. I'll be her maid of honor next spring at her wedding."
"Well that's a mystery I know I could never solve."
"What, that I'm friends with Paris?"
"There's that, plus the fact that someone is going to marry Paris Geller," he said. "I mean—," he held up his left hand so she could see his empty ring finger. "And—," he grabbed Rory's left hand and looked at her ring finger—which was also vacant. It made him feel . . . something. He chose to ignore the feeling rather than identify it.
"What's your point?" she asked as he let her hand slide though his fingers and fall back to her side.
"My point is that of the three of us, Paris is the first to get married. Guy must be a real nutter."
"No, Doyle can handle her. And he's mostly sane. We all went to college together."
"That's cute," Tristan said with a slight mocking lilt to his voice. They were now at street level and were exiting the building. They both squinted in the sunlight.
"Well, I guess I should get back to the newsroom," Rory said. She started to walk to the curb to hail a taxi and Tristan glanced over at Mark, who was waiting at the corner.
He looked back over to the brunette, feeling an urge to do something. "Hey, Rory," he called. She looked back over. "Do you want a ride?"
"I don't want to you go out of your way."
"It won't be. We're going in that direction anyway."
"Well, as long as you don't mind."
"I don't." Tristan gestured for her to follow him. Mark joined them and gave Tristan an apprehensive look. "We're going to drop Rory off at the Daily News," he explained as they approached his car. He clicked the button on the key remote and the headlights flashed.
"This is your car?" Rory asked, looking from the sleek black Camaro to Tristan.
She made note of his black attire and the black car. "This explains the lack of a red S on your shirt."
"I have to ask—and tell the truth. Are you Batman?"
He grinned, pleased with the comparison. "On the record, no. While we share the title of 'World's Greatest Detective,' Batman drove a Cadillac."
"What about off the record?"
He cocked a brow. "Let me know when you want to swing by the Batcave for a tour and an exclusive interview," he said as he opened the driver's side door of the car and moved the front seat up.
Rory looked dubiously at the small back seat. "There isn't much room back there."
"You're small, you'll fit," he answered.
She flashed him a smile. "Is it weird for you to say that, rather than hear it?"
Mark grinned as he got into the passenger side.
Tristan momentarily looked bewildered before his jaw dropped in offended surprise. "Aren't we feisty for a Monday? How about you get in the car before I change my mind?" he asked, a little annoyed now.
Rory complied and climbed in the backseat.
When they were all in the car and buckled, Mark addressed Tristan as he revved up the engine and pulled away from the curb. "So how long did it take?"
"How long did what take?"
"How long did she let you date her before you wronged her in some way? Because you clearly did."
"I didn't do anything!"
"I never let him date me, actually," Rory answered. "Not that that stopped him from telling people otherwise."
Mark looked out the window and muttered under his breath, "I see." He was not referring to the scenery flying by.
"And besides," Tristan added, "her type is tall, dark, and dim-witted."
"You don't know my type," she argued.
"What, did you switch to girls?" he asked with a grin.
"No," she answered firmly.
"Well, do you only date black guys now? It's a tall order, but I think I can bring you back."
"No. And I don't have a type," Rory insisted. She turned to her right to speak to Mark. "So, Stevenson, where are you from?"
"Kansas," he answered, turning back to his travel companions.
"You're pretty far from home," she commented.
"Yeah, this city really never sleeps."
"He's not in Kansas any more," Tristan added.
"Now you're just being lame," Mark told him.
"I know I didn't wrong you in any way," he said as he slowed down and came to a stop on Thirty-Third Street. "As charming as this devil's threesome is, it's time for us to go our separate ways." He got out of the car and put out a hand for Rory.
She took it and pulled herself out of the back seat. "Can I get police confirmation on what you told me today?" she asked.
He thought a moment. "Yes."
"Great, thank you," she said with a grin. "And thanks for the ride. I'll catch you on the flip side, Harvard."
"Yeah, see you later, Mary," Tristan said with a smile, watching her walk away before getting back into the car.
Mark eyed him somewhat hostilely.
"What?" Tristan asked.
"We're giving rides to blood sucking leeches now?"
"Relax, Mary's harmless," Tristan answered with a dismissive wave of his hand. "And it's my car. I decide who gets to ride in it."
"Do you even read the paper?"
"Sure. And you should know that he had it coming."
"Whatever, it's your funeral. I do have one question, though. Why do you call her Mary if her real name is Rory?" Mark asked.
"You know, because she's naïve and inexperienced, like the Virgin Mary."
"She has to be around thirty years old. You don't still think that, do you?"
"Sure," Tristan said with a shrug. "That's the dream, right?"
Rory was sitting at her desk in the newsroom a couple of hours later. She had just printed off her report and her editor, James West, was leaning against her desk, reading said report.
"This was all confirmed by the police?" he asked.
"The police from the twenty-first precinct?"
"That's a surprise and a relief, if I ever heard one. I didn't think any of them would be willing to talk to you ever again."
"Yeah, I got lucky."
"I'll say. How did you find out where the victim worked?"
"Oh, the construction company he worked for was on the top floor of the apartment building. It was blocked off, but I snuck in with the detectives on the case," she answered nonchalantly.
"Snuck in?" he asked with raised brows. "With the detectives?"
"Yeah. And don't worry, they knew I was there."
"I don't know how you do it," he said, shaking his head in awe.
"Well, see, Jimmy, I'm the best. Did you forget?" she asked slyly.
He shook his head a second time. "I never will again. Send this on over for publishing. Good work, Gilmore."
"Thank you," she said with a smile. When he was gone, she looked over to the brunette woman sitting at the desk next to her. "Have you found anything useful about the victim, Marie?"
"I found some information. I'm not sure how useful it is," the young woman answered.
"Well, sometimes it doesn't seem so at first. What did you find?"
"Steinberg is leaving a widow. They have two children. He has three siblings, and one living parent."
"What about the construction company, GHT?" Rory asked as she rolled her chair next to Marie's so she could see the computer screen.
Meanwhile, Detectives DuGrey and Stevenson were sitting at the kitchen table of Ann Steinberg, Daniel's widow. She had come home from work upon hearing about her husband. The two men had already searched the house for any clues into why someone would kill the man and were now making inquiries.
"Did your husband have any enemies that you can think of?" Mark asked gently.
"No, he got along with everyone he knew."
"There wasn't anyone who was upset with him about anything?" Tristan asked.
She thought about the question a moment. "Well, Frank Williams may hold a grudge," she answered.
Mark scribbled the name down in a notepad. "Who's that?"
"He's the head contractor at Williams, Inc. They were GHT's main competition."
"Can you describe their relationship some more?"
"Well, there are a lot of companies in lower Manhattan that do renovations or put up new buildings. They often take bids from GHT and their main competitor, Williams, Inc.," Ann explained. "Daniel was working on a big project. Williams may have been upset about missing out on that business."
"And you think he'd try to get rid of the competition?"
"I'm not sure. I really just don't know who would do this," she said, starting to cry.
Tristan reached over to a box of tissues and slid them across the table to the distraught woman before he and Mark stood up.
"Thank you, Mrs. Steinberg, we'll look into this. We're going to find the person who did this."
"Thank you," she said as she got up and walked them to the door.
The following day, Rory walked into the twenty-first precinct and looked around at the desks. She found the one she was looking for and sauntered over to it. There were two desks that were pushed together and each had a chair at the end. Rory sat down in the chair next to the occupied desk.
Tristan was eating his lunch. He turned to her with an interested expression. "If you're here to report a crime, I already know what it is. I've heard nothing of you for years on end and now three times in two days. How many years has it been?" he asked.
"Ten?" Rory guessed.
Tristan paused for a beat. "I know you didn't think I was very smart, but I definitely wasn't a nineteen year old junior."
"Okay, how about twelve to thirteen years?"
"That sounds better."
"I think I missed you at the ten year reunion."
"You missed me? That's sweet," he said with a smirk.
"I meant that I didn't see you," she clarified.
"Institutions don't generally invite the people who didn't graduate from their establishment," Tristan reasoned.
"I guess that's why I didn't get to go to Stars Hollow High's reunion," Rory pondered.
"Probably. So, how may I help you today?"
"Do you have time?"
He checked his watch. "I have about fifteen minutes I can give you."
"I'm sure that's what you tell all the girls," she leered.
He leaned in closer to her before he spoke. "Well sure, but if you want to meet up after work, I could spare a few more for you."
She shook her head in response. "Here's the thing, I cover crime for the Daily News—"
"You mentioned that yesterday. Could I interrupt and ask how that came about?"
"I guess—but this doesn't count against my time," she said, Tristan tilted his head to signal for her to go ahead. "After graduating from Yale, I traveled with Obama's campaign for an online magazine. When he was elected, I worked as a White House correspondent."
"Things are making sense so far," he commented.
"So, I reported on politics for a couple of years. Then the midterm election came around and, I don't know, I just got to thinking. I was listening to what politicians said in their campaigns and then seeing what they did once in office," Rory explained. "They'd just say whatever they had to in order to get elected. Then they'd pass legislation to protect the big organizations and special interest groups who financed their campaigns, rather than do anything they said they were going to do. Not many are willing to reach across the aisle, because that would upset their base and affect their chances in future elections. And then they'd all talk about the system being broken. Well, some congressmen have been saying it's been broken for twenty years! Who's going to fix it? I know I only wrote about politics for a few years, but it just seemed so. . ." She sighed in thought.
"Futile?" Tristan suggested.
"Yeah," Rory agreed. "I was kind of disillusioned with Washington. I wasn't sure if I could listen to the same complaints and bickering for years on end. I can go back to politics in the future, if I ever feel like it. But for the time being, I thought a change of pace would be good. New York always seemed like an exciting place to live. So, I got a job at the Daily News. Unfortunately, the only beat available was the crime beat. And let me tell you, it was not my first choice. My mother and grandparents weren't crazy about it either. But I don't know, I kind of like the investigative journalism thing. I try to solve the puzzles at the same time as the police. It's actually kind of. . . "
"Fun?" Tristan supplied with a grin, finishing her sentence again.
"Yeah," she agreed. "Does that make me sick, if I get excited about a dead body?"
"If you're sick, then so am I," he answered.
"Maybe some day they'll find a cure for us. But enough about me. Why are you in this position, Sherlock?"
"Would you like me in another?" he casually asked as he placed his hands behind his head and put his feet up on his desk, crossing them at his ankles. He gave a shrug before answering her question. "The robber thing didn't work out so well for me. So I thought I'd try the cop side of the equation."
Rory pursed her lips, not satisfied with his explanation. "Did you ever figure out why you got into so much trouble way back when?" she asked.
He shrugged again. "Felt like it."
"Felt like it?"
"How often does that theory pan out when you're working on a case? Does the D.A. grant you warrants for arrest when you tell him that a suspect just felt like killing someone?"
"We're not talking about my suspects, we're talking about me."
"Not really. You're being extremely evasive. People do things for reasons, Tristan. I had a reason when I—." She stopped herself midsentence.
He grinned at her again. "When you what?"
"No, don't stop now. Things were about to get good. What did you ever do?"
"Nothing," she said again.
"So if I run your name through the system, I won't find anything?"
"No, you won't. My record has been expunged for four years and I know my rights. I don't have to acknowledge anything," she said matter-of-factly.
Tristan just narrowed his eyes at her in a scrutinizing way. "A word of advice? Don't go into law enforcement. You have to admit to stuff, even if it's no longer on your record."
"Good to know."
"But you are aware that it's just the public that can't see things that have been erased from your record, right? I can see whatever I want."
Her face fell and Tristan grinned wider. "I . . . forgot."
"You forgot the police can still see it, or that that includes me?"
"Hmm," he pondered, "I think looking you up would be too easy. It'll be more fun to guess what you did—if it was anything."
"I'm not that innocent," she insisted.
He raised a brow. "Do you want to do a little dance when you say that, Brittany?"
"No, that's not necessary. I'm not sure how this turned on me, we were talking about you."
"Oh, right. If you really want to know why I was so troubled during those formative years, do some digging."
Tristan nodded his head. "Figure it out on your own, if you're so good at solving mysteries, as you claim."
"You want me to investigate you?" she asked doubtfully.
"You don't have to. It's just the only way to find out about my secrets." Rory knit her brows in thought. "But we've strayed, why are you here?"
"Oh, yeah. I want to help you," she explained.
"Great, but we should go some place private," he said nonchalantly. "Unless you don't mind an audience."
"I want to help you solve the crime," she clarified without batting an eye.
"I actually have someone to help with that already. You met him. We've only been working together for a month, but I can tell that we make a pretty dynamic duo."
"Yes, but I'm another set of eyes and I can help research and think of theories. So you see, I'd be an asset. You'd have to fill me in on what you find, of course. Maybe even let me follow you around some more."
"You're going to follow me around?"
"Yes—for the case."
"Of course. And I suppose you'll use all the information you receive in your reports?"
"I'll write some things, yes."
"Then let's not pretend why you're really here."
Rory's face fell a bit—for the second time. "I just told you why I'm here."
"I know no one else is going to talk to you. You scared them off with your last big article. You're here to cultivate a source. It's okay to admit it. I do the same with informants."
"Well, yes, I do need a new police source. The last one got into some trouble—and I reported it."
"You do know that we're natural born enemies, right?" he asked her.
"You and I? Or law enforcement and the press?"
"Mostly our two separate entities. But I wouldn't rule out the other, as well."
"But that can change," she protested. "We could change that."
"How? I was taught to not divulge too much information. Are you trying to get me into trouble? I can usually manage that on my own, thanks."
"No, and believe me, I respect what you do. I know when I shouldn't write something. I'm not here to compromise your investigation. I'm just here to tell it like it is. We're both serving the public, just in different ways. It'll be beneficial to everyone if we have a positive working relationship. We could all cohabitate peacefully."
"How?" Tristan asked before taking a drink from his bottle of water.
"If we act professional, have empathy for each other, and maintain open lines of communication. Basically, you should just satisfy my needs so I don't have to go elsewhere."
Tristan choked on his water and started to cough. "Sorry, but did you just say that I should satisfy your needs? You should have said that straight away. I know I can help you with that. Just name a time and a place," he said, eagerly grabbing a Post-It note and a pencil.
Rory ignored him again. "Just think about this, DuGrey," she said seriously, "I cover a lot of the homicides from this precinct. You might not want to admit it, but I do have some power. The pen is mightier. How do you want to be portrayed to the public? They're going to believe whatever I write. It's just a fact."
"What are you going to do? Slant things and sensationalize the stories to discredit the department?"
"If I'm force to."
"And how would you be forced to?" he asked, starting to get annoyed.
"If you hide information regarding a case—obviously. Or if you don't give me accurate details in a timely manner. I'm going to get a story, whether you cooperate or not. It's my job. So, are you going to make it easy or hard for me?"
"You can—," he started before she held her hand up to stop him.
"If you finish that sentence the way I think you're going to, then I swear I'll demonstrate my self-defense moves on you."
"I'm sorry, but was that threat supposed to make me not want to finish the sentence?"
"It's not a threat, it's a promise. And will you just answer the question?"
Tristan paused in thought for a moment and glanced around the precinct before looking back at her. He put his feet back down and set his hands down on the desk, lacing his fingers together. He leaned in closer to her, to be sure she was the only one who could hear. "Let me tell you something, Gilmore," he said seriously. "I don't have anything to hide. And, I'm very good at what I do."
"With me, you could be the best," Rory said, leaning closer, as well.
Tristan shook his head, not impressed. "You might be able to wield your pen and intimidate the other guys around here, like some sort of piranha in a bowl of goldfish, but you don't frighten me." Rory raised her brows questioningly. "That's right. I'm about as scared of you as I am of MSG in canned soup." He leaned back in his chair and looked around again for a moment before exhaling heavily in acquiescence. "I'd have to run it by the captain if you're going to be hanging around."
"Oh . . . him. Are you sure you'd have to do that?"
He looked at her with a raised brow. "I'm quite sure. Do you not get on with him?"
"He wasn't overly talkative when I interviewed him about the guy who had your position last," she answered, sheepishly.
"No one likes to know they're working alongside the bad guy. But thanks, by the way. It freed up the spot."
"Hey, I wasn't the dirty cop. I just happened to be the one to report it. I'm really not anti-cop!" she insisted.
"Fair enough. But, you're saying I'll have to talk you up to prove your case?"
"Do you think you'd even be able to?" she asked, now doubtful of her prospects.
"I'm pretty good at arguing, when I need to be," he answered grimly. "If he gives the okay for you to be My Girl Friday—and I make no promises—I have two conditions."
"Don't get in my way."
"And the second?"
"The second one is important. If I say you can't write something—for whatever reason—then you can't write it."
"I told you I know when I shouldn't—," she started before he cut her off.
"If I say you can't write something, then you can't write it," he sternly repeated, looking at her dead in the eye. "Are we clear?"
"Chrystal," she answered, not breaking eye contact.
"Oh, and I meant what I said yesterday— I'm not calling you by that silly made up name you gave yourself," he added.
"Well, you can't use my real name. Not when we're around other people," she said, darting her eyes around, as though he was going to yell her name to the whole precinct.
"Calm down, Mary. I know the perfect compromise."
She glared at him halfheartedly. "Fine."
"Then I guess we have an accord. Do you want to kiss on it?" he asked with a smirk.
"A handshake will suffice," she said, putting her hand out. He took it and they shook. "So, you'll let me know when you get an answer from Captain Meyer?" she asked as she took a slip of paper from her pad and wrote two phone numbers on it.
"Sure thing," he answered as she handed the slip to him. He folded the paper before pocketing it.
"Well, I should get going. I've taken up enough of your time."
"Hey, maybe we could get together after work some time. I'll let you show me your self-defense moves," Tristan leered as Rory stood up.
"But then what will you show me?" she asked.
He gave her a deadpanned look. "My gun," he answered as though she should have known. She rolled her eyes and started to walk away. "I'll show you how to hold it!" he added.
She didn't turn back. She just shook her head with a half smile in response as she continued to walk out the precinct door.
Later that afternoon, Rory exited the taxi cab and stood on a side walk on the fifty-seven hundred block of Tenth Avenue. She looked up at the row house in front of her. It was Daniel and Ann Steinberg's house. The house was brick with a small porch in the front. Rory walked up the stairs and rang the bell. She waited patiently for a couple of minutes before trying the bell again. A minute later the door opened a crack to reveal a young blonde woman. She looked to be around Rory's age, maybe a year or two younger. She was pretty, tall and skinny. Rory assumed this was their daughter.
"Hi, I'm a reporter for the Daily News, and I was wondering if Mrs. Steinberg would be willing to answer some questions about her husband," Rory said politely.
The woman shook her head, though. "Sorry, but Mom isn't ready to talk about it yet," the girl said sadly.
"I'm very sorry for your loss. If she ever feels up to talking, here's my card," Rory said, handing over her card.
The woman glanced at it briefly before pocketing it. "Okay."
"Thank you so much," Rory said before the door closed.
She turned and walked back down the stairs and looked at the other houses. She wondered if any of the neighbors could give a statement about the victim. She noticed that two doors down, the mailbox was labeled Steinberg. Rory pulled out her phone and made a call. When Marie answered, Rory asked, "Could you look up 5743 Tenth Avenue for me?"
"Sure," the other woman said. A minute later, she had an answer. "Roman and Sarah Steinberg."
"Daniel's brother and sister-in-law," Rory stated.
"Thanks, I'll see you when I get back."
Rory hung up and walked down the sidewalk and up the stairs. She knocked and waited, but there was no answer. She knocked again, but no one ever came to the door. So, she went back down to the street to hail a cab. She'd have to go back to the newsroom for the day.
Around five thirty that evening, Rory entered her apartment and flipped on the lights in a hurry. She quickly pulled her cell phone out of her purse, as it had started to ring when she was unlocking the door.
"Hello?" she answered, a little out of breath before tossing her purse down on the dark green couch in her living room.
"Did I catch you in the middle of something?" Tristan asked on the other end. There was only a slight leer to his tone.
"No, I'm just getting home. Who is this?"
"I'm hurt. You don't know the voice of your favorite NYPD detective?"
"Give me a break, this is the first time I've ever heard you over the phone."
"Well, get used to hearing it. You have a new source."
"I do?" she drew out the word with a smile.
"You persuaded the captain? I'm impressed."
"Did you doubt my abilities?" he asked in a scandalized tone.
"No, I guess I just overestimated his displeasure with me."
"Oh no, you didn't. It took me a while, but I prevailed. I can do a thing right when I put my mind to it," he said dryly.
"All right then, did you guys find anything useful today?"
"All business and no pleasure," he lamented. "But yes. Ballistics says Steinberg was shot with a nine millimeter Smith and Wesson at close range. We had a suspect, but his alibi checked out."
"Who was it?" There was a pause. She could tell he was trying to decide how much he should reveal. "Come on, I won't write who it was."
"It was Frank Williams."
"The head contractor from Williams, Inc.?"
He paused again. "How do you know that?"
"Because I'm good. You're going to have to remember that, because I'm not going to keep telling you," she said strictly.
"So, he's off the hook then?"
"Yeah, he was preparing for a meeting in his office yesterday morning. His secretary vouched for him. He let us search his office, just to be on the safe side, but we didn't find a weapon—or anything else incriminating."
"Maybe he had someone else do it."
"He wouldn't have had a motive. Neither company was in any financial trouble. It was basically a friendly competition. They kept each other honest."
"All right, anything else?"
"We're having Steinberg's financials flagged. We should get the results tomorrow. Maybe he had a healthy insurance policy."
"You think his wife did it?"
"We have to consider his family members."
"Yeah, I guess. Well, thanks. I'll let you know if I think of anything plausible."
"All right. Have a good evening, Rory."
"You too. Bye, Tristan."
Rory ended the call and saved Tristan's number to her contact list in her phone before setting it down on the coffee table.