The writer of this Fanfic has in no way meant to break any laws or step on anyone's proverbial toes, and if that has happened is extremely sorry. This was just written for enjoyment and as a way to creatively waste time.Spoiler alert! I don't think there are any. This thing pretty much is taking place in the middle of season two for both Early Edition and The Pretender. Everybody knows that Gary runs Mcginty's, right? oh and Chuck is right there in Chicago with him, - ah-hem- where he *belongs*.
The zebra was munching hapily on an orange cat's tail when Gary walked into the room. He ran in slow motion and threw the cat out the front door. Gary gave the striped horse a blanket and it lay down to fall asleep. Gary blinked and the animal was gone. There was a polite knocking on the front door. He opened it to see the zebra sitting on its haunches in the hall with the orange striped kitty flopped like a bad hair-piece on its head. The doorman walked down the hall with a microphone in his hand draging a concert- quality amplifier on squeaky wheels behind him. He looked at Gary and said loudly into the mike,
"Good Morning Chicago, It's six thirty AM on another rainy, summer day..."
Gary Hobson rolled off his bed when the radio came on. It was an unusual start for him. A wary hand reached up from the floor and pounded a few times on the 'sleep' button. He shook his head to clear the memory of the zebra at his door. That would be the last time he ever helped out at the zoo for a long time! And how on earth did his mind conjure up the Blackstone ? Then he heard the familiar 'thud' of a newspaper and the soft meowing of the little orange tabby.
It was six thirty already? Gary pulled himself up off of the floor and dragged his feet all the way to the door.
Snow's cat trotted casually between Gary's feet and went straight for the bedroom. His human compatriot tiredly watched him from above. At least it wasn't a zebra.
"Make yourself at home," he offered sarcastically. Slowly, Gary bent over and picked up tomorrow's Sun-Times. He stood in the doorway for a moment and scanned the headlines. An article in the lower corner caught his attention. "Four Injured, One Dead After Early Morning Collisions"
There was going to be a seven car pile up in an hour over on LaSalle.
Just enough time to grab a bite to eat after his shower.
Gary bounced hurriedly into the kitchen. Marissa was the only one there, doing bookwork of course. Gary hadn't really expected her there until eight. McGinty's doors didn't open until eleven.
"Good morning, Gary! Sleep well?" Marissa inquired without looking up.
It always amazed Gary how she could tell who it was that walked in to a room. But then, at this hour, who else could it be? There were still many things about her that amazed him, but Marissa Clark always dismissed them as a "blind person's intuition".
"Like a rock," Gary answered in his distracted way. He poured himself a cup of coffee before sitting down at the table next to her. His nose was soon buried in the paper.
"I don't suppose...oh, well, never mind," he began to ask if she would come along. It would probably better if she stayed away this time. So far Gary couldn't come up with a way to prevent the accidents.
Marissa was always full of ideas when it came to the paper, even though half the time she didn't always know it. Gary slurped at the coffee.
"No- what? Is it about the paper?" Marissa insisted curiously. Her hands stopped working at the Braille typewriter and she turned unseeing eyes to Gary. Gary looked up for a moment, but quickly returned to the paper.
"Yeah. Listen, 'An unidentified man is dead after being hit by a busy commuter yesterday morning, resulting in yet another incident of traffic pile-up. Authorities say that at approximately seven fifteen AM , the man was crossing at the corner of La Selle and Ohio streets and was not seen by an oncoming Sedan. The driver of the car, Colby Foraker of Chicago, admitted that he had been 'distracted' and hadn't seen the pedestrian soon enough. By the time Foraker stopped, the unidentified man had been thrown in front of another vehicle.
Foraker's immediate stop caused a chain reaction. Several cars collided with each other, while others narrowly avoided more tragic accidents. This is the tenth such occurrence in this district-'" Gary let his voice trail off as he skimmed the article for more information regarding the pedestrian. A brief description of the man was provided in a shaded box beside the article. From there on all it talked about was the community's complaints.
"Now how on earth do I stop something like that?" Gary complained closing the paper in disgust. Marissa calmly folded her hands on the bar in front of her.
"Gary, are you okay? You've done these things more times then I can count. Why bother to ask someone for help? All you have to do is keep this guy from walking across the street. It's not like it's brain surgery or anything," she replied in her usually humored voice.
"Yeah, I know. But it just... it...well things usually get more complicated afterwards, ya' know? I always get dragged in to something different somehow." Gary added reluctantly. "Sometimes I wish that - whoever it is that writes this thing - would give me a day off every once in awhile." Gary tapped the folded newspaper before putting it in his back pocket.
Marissa just nodded placatingly. She had heard this spiel before.
"Do you know how stressful this can get? I was up half the night over that zoo mishap yesterday...n' the night before I was stuck riding the El for four hours straight-just to stop a mugging. Sleep is something I happen to value, too!" Gary added. Marissa's nodding hadn't escaped his comprehension.
"You'll live, Gary. However, if you don't hurry, that man might not. Now shoo!" Marissa waved her hands at him and then returned to her typewriter. She could understand where he was coming from, but now wasn't the right time to get into it. If she just got him to concentrate on the matter at hand, he'd forget about it until later- when a man's life wasn't at risk. Gary absently turned away to leave, but a second later looked back as if he wanted to say something.
Instead he fixed his jaw, annoyed, and stomped out of the restuarant.
Chuck was just stepping out of his car when Gary walked through the resturant doors. He spotted Chuck immediatly. Chuck Fishman saw the dejected look on his friend's face and instantly wanted to get back in his car and drive away. Every time Gary even looked at his car with such a look on his face, Chuck would have to either buy a new car or get his old one detailed by the time the sun went down.
Despite his fears, Chuck smiled happily and walked toward his buddy.
"How's it going, Gare?" he greeted. Gary smiled back with half the conviction Chuck showed.
"Great so far. You wanna' take a walk?" Gary answered, grabbing Chuck's arm as he trudged by him. Chuck was relieved that Gary didn't want to use the car, but was now worried that he had done something wrong. But he couldn't come up with anything that he might have screwed up in the past few weeks. Gary must have just woken up on the wrong side of the bed. Maybe a little cheery companionship was all he needed.
"Sure thing, buddy ol' pal. You mind telling me where we're walking to?"
Gary handed him the paper, with simple insructions to read the bottom article. Chuck read quietly and quickly. Another easily avoided car accident, no big deal. They could handle it.
"No problem! We'll be back in no time!" Chuck said confidently. He gave the clairvoyant newspaper back and rubbed his hands with glee. He was having a good day. After all, not every man got to be a hero before eight o'clock in the morning.
They arrived at the specified corner at precisely 7:13. It didn't please Gary to find that the number of passers-by on LaSalle was the same as everywhere else in Chicago. He couldn't tell who was going to cross paths with the sedan. There were just too many people.
"I don't see anything suspicious, Gare. God, it's cold!" Chuck said casually. So much for getting to be a hero. At least it wasn't raining. Gary and Chuck were standing on the corner and watching the cross walks for any stragglers or pedestrians who crossed against a light. It was already 7:14. So far no one matching the man's description had come close to entering the intersection. Another minute ticked by, then another. Nothing unusual happened. The crowds continued to fill the side walks and make their way safely across the busy intersection.
"Well, where is he?" Gary complained. He opened up the paper again. The article hadn't changed. He double checked the man's description, then read it aloud to Chuck to be sure they were both looking for the same person.
"According to this, he's supposed to have been wearing a black jacket, dark slacks and back pack. Witnesses also say he was carrying a suit case of some sort, but it supposedly disappears by the time the ambulance arrives. Now how much sense does that make?" Gary thought out loud, looking up from the paper and scanning the crowds again.
"None. Dark clothes and a disappearing suitcase- hmmm. There's no one out there like that, Gare. Are you sure we're at the right corner?"
Chuck was beginning to feel a little self conscious. All these beautiful women walking by on the way to the ice rink, paying him absolutely no attention. It was all very sad in his opinion. He wanted to leave now. He was about to suggest the idea when Gary shoved the paper in his chest. The startled Chuck quickly blinked and caught the paper as it fell from Gary's hand.
"What was that for?" Chuck demanded of his friend.
"There he is!" he said as he walked hurriedly away. Chuck looked in the direction Gary had pointed. Sure enough, the darkly dressed man with the silver briefcase was just getting off of a bus further up Ohio. Chuck stood there for a moment to let the situation sink in, mentally catching up with Gary. When it did, he ran up to Gary and tried to keep his pace.
"So what do we do?" he wondered out loud.
"That's easy. You distract him, keep him from crossing the street.
Like you said, no problem, right?" Gary answered swiftly. He punched the button at the signal and they waited for their turn to cross. Chuck started panicking.
"Me! Why me? You're used to doing this stuff, besides, I just came along to keep you company. You do know there's a reason why I'm not the poor schmuck who gets tomorrow's newspaper, right? I'm not a people person like you. Why can't you do it?" he whined.
"Because -well- it's a long story. I didn't know I was a 'poor schmuck' either," Gary commented, distractedly watching the dark man walk toward the stop light across the street. He punched the button again and the little 'walk' person appeared in their signal. He started walking.
"Okay, so I used the wrong word, that doesn't change the fact that I-"
Chuck stopped his ranting when he noticed that he was being ignored.
Gary was too busy watching the man with the briefcase. His light was
just changing to allow him across. Gary raised a hand and began to jog
toward the man, trying to get his attention. Chuck smiled as he realized
that his complaining had done him some good for once.
"Hey!" Gary yelled. The man stopped momentarily to look behind him. Gary nodded and kept running to him.
"Yeah, you. Stop!"
Gary stopped beside him in time to see the Sedan screech to a stop with its nose sticking out into the intersection.
"Hey, thanks! I would have been under that car if you hadn't called me back," the man smiled. He hadn't missed the fact that the car's fender had barely missed another pedestrian who had been walking in front of him. He stuck out a hand and introduced himself.
"My name's Jarod. What can I do for you?" he offered congenially.
Gary shook his hand and returned the smile.
"Name's Gar... Gary Hobson. I didn't think that driver was gonna' see you. I mean, his head was under the dash and everything," Gary panted.
Chuck walked up then. He had the paper in his hand and was reading the bottom corner article with a puzzled look on his face.
"Well, I thank you for being so observant Mr. Hobson. You probably
just saved my life." Jarod looked very appreciative.
"Call me Gary," he replied, his mind working like it always was. Gary found it odd that he didn't seem shaken in any way like other people had been when in the same situation.
"Hey, Gare," Chuck interrupted, quietly, "You wanna take a look at this?" He had just crossed the street and was now standing next to Gary on the sidewalk.
Gary turned to look at Chuck, then quickly turned back to Jarod.
"Uh, this is my friend and co-worker, Chuck Fishman. Chuck, this is Jarod-uh... I'm sorry, but what was your last name again?"
"Jarod White, but 'Jarod' is just fine," the man supplied. He and Chuck shook hands while Gary took the paper. He was shocked that the headline hadn't changed. Jarod was even going to be hit by the same car, just at a different time. He could already see where this was going. Gary looked up at the sky as if someone up there was watching him and laughing at the stress they were sending his way.
"Uh, Jarod- we own a restaurant only a few blocks away. Could we interest you in some free breakfast?" Chuck offered. He noticed Gary's displeasure with the headlines. It probably wouldn't hurt to step in with an idea right about now. Chuck inched his way back to the stop light and pushed the button.
Jarod, meanwhile, was completely oblivious as to the nature of Gary's skyward curses.
"I'll never turn down a free meal. If you're sure I wouldn't be imposing - I mean, you've done more than enough already," Jarod replied, doubtful, but still cheery.
"Oh no, you wouldn't be imposing at all. We were about to go have breakfast there ourselves. Right, Gare?" Chuck encouraged. Gary heard his name mentioned and his gaze fell back to earth.
"Right. You're welcome to come with us if you've got the time." Gary recovered quickly from the disappointment that came with the statement.
So much for not getting involved.
"Lead the way!" Jarod cheered. Chuck smiled his patented 'business-settled' smile and turned Jarod toward the cross walk, which was now clear for them to cross. The two of them started across the street, but Gary lingered at the corner to check the paper.
What time was Jarod supposed to be hit by that Sedan? he wondered. Out of the corner of his eye, he saw the gold colored Lumina pull into traffic again on a collision course with Jarod.
Gary wadded up the paper as he ran forward to warn Jarod. The sedan pulled in front of him suddenly, not giving Gary enough time to stop. He tumbled over onto the hood.
Jarod was sprawled out on the ground unconscious. He had pitched forward after the car ran into his leg and he hit his head on the fender of an idling car in the next lane.
The driver got out quickly, apologizing left and right. He helped Gary off the hood of his car. Appearently he had no idea that Jarod was even involved. Gary managed to assure him that he was fine and pointed at Jarod. The man was hovering over him a second later.
"I didn't even see him," the driver said, concern written all over his face. He checked for Jarod's pulse.
"He's at least breathing. Hey Gare, you okay?" Chuck offered, standing up as the driver bent down by Jarod. Gary gave a half hearted nod.
"He'll be okay. Help me get him into the car," he ordered quickly.
Cars were already beginning to honk and shout about the tie up. Gary and the driver each picked up an arm and then pulled Jarod up enough where they could carry him to the car. Chuck opened the back door for them and they slid Jarod onto the seat. The suitcase and backpack were set in the car as a sort of pillow for Jarod.
The driver got back behind the wheel and Gary got in on the passenger side of the front seat. Chuck couldn't ride with them, there wasn't enough room. He poked his head in the driver's window, wondering what he was supposed to do.
"We'll meet you at McGinty's," Gary told him. Chuck nodded and turned away. The other driver who Jarod had encountered was standing behind him. She had pulled out of traffic and had come back wanting to know what had happened, only to find the guy packed into a car. As traffic resumed its flow around them, Chuck led the beautiful, younger woman back to the sidewalk. He explained that she hadn't really hit Jarod, Jarod had actually hit her and that she had nothing to worry about.
Everything was going just fine until he tried to ask her on a date, then she laughed and walked away. Chuck walked back toward McGinty's.
"She wants me, I know it!" he thought with a smile.
Gary sat at the bar and peeled the label off of a water bottle. Marissa was up in his apartment with Jarod and the driver, Colby Foraker. It just so happened that Mr. Foraker was a first-year med student. He had diagnosed Jarod with a concussion. Jarod had woken up in the car and was able to walk and talk just fine, but the kid was up there fussing and making sure there wasn't anything more serious. He didn't see a need to get him to a hospital, but still wanted to watch him and be sure.
The cat jumped on to the end of the bar and nosily padded over to Gary. He purred and meowed loudly at him. Gary stared reproachfully at the animal for a moment before scratching it between its ears.
"Do you know how tiring you can be?" he asked the cat. The cat meowed loudly again in response. Gary sighed. Just then, Chuck paced into the bar. He apparently hadn't been in a hurry. Knowing Chuck, he probably tried to seduce that blonde in the Mercedes.
"So how is our un-lucky friend?" Chuck asked as he approached Gary. Gary didn't turn around. He was still stroking the cat.
"The kid says he's got a concusion. Get this; it's not neccesary to take him a hospital, so him and Foraker are up in my apartment," Gary complained. Chuck nodded.
"I see nothing wrong with this. At least the guy's alive, you know," he replied. When he put a hand out to pet the cat, the animal uncurled and jumped off the bar.
"And I thought I was slow, " Gary mused. Snow's cat had always had a problem with Chuck.
Chuck scoffed at this latest rejection as he walked around to the opposite side of the bar. It was too early for a drink, though so far, he felt it was warrented. Instead, he grabbed a diet soda from the ice chest as he waited for Gary's explanation. Gary sighed.
"What's wrong is that this always happens, and I'm getting tired of it. Something that seems so simple on the printed page, gets more -and more- complicated as I get into it. That's why I wanted you to handle the thing back there, I-I-I wanted to stay out of it... for once," Gary spoke softly and quickly, but it still seemed as though he were spitting out the words like they were a mouthful of old spinach.
Part of him regretted saying it, thinking that letting his disgust
be known would actually drive the paper away, but another part really
wished it would.
Chuck just scoffed and waved his hands, as if the action would simply wipe away Gare's problems.
"You don't mean that, you're just tired... as in - lack - of - sleep... why don't you just go up stairs and crash somewhere quiet and dark. We'll wake you in time for the next crisis," Chuck urged. The thought of tonight's Bulls game- more importantly, the winning score- crossed his mind as he scuttled out from behind the bar and started to guide Gary up to his apartment above the resaurant.
"Now, how am I supposed to sleep with Foraker fussing over Jarod?"
Gary asked, reluctantly standing as Chuck pulled on his shoulders. "There is no place quiet. You know, it's not that big of an apartment,"
Chuck shrugged, the Bulls game now consumed his thoughts.
"Oh, com' on, Gare! At least try, it'll make us all feel better. Trust me," Chuck flashed a conniving smile, one that Gary couldn't see as he was being bodily pushed toward the stairs from behind. Gary stopped and turned around just in front of the first step.
"I know how to walk. You don't have to help," he told his friend.
Chuck looked momentarily stupified, but, regaining his composure, he nodded and confidently stuck out his hand.
"What?" Gary questioned, not knowing what Chuck wanted. He looked
from Chuck to his hand. Chuck cleared his throat nervously and wiggled
his fingers expectantly.
"The paper. I know you- the second you're up there and finally start to relax, you'll start thinking about the paper and 'who needs saving now?' and you won't get any sleep. I don't want to have to talk to you again until you get some rest. You're crabby. Believe it or not, there are limits to our friendship," Chuck pulled as close to a parental tone as he could, when his mind wandered into the world of basketball.
Then he lost the stern attitude and Gary noticed the light hearted greed flash briefly across Chuck's face.
Gary squinted suspiciously, but quickly smiled - his hazel eyes lifting from their half-asleep postitions. He pulled the Chicago Sun-Times out of his back pocket and opened it up carefully and slowly, smiling at Chuck all the while. To Chuck's dispair, he pulled out the sports section and the business section before handing it over.
"You're despicable," Chuck grumbled as he took the paper. Gary's smile brightened.
"No," he corrected, "I'm a schmuck, remember?"
Still holding the rumpled sections of the paper in plain sight, Gary turned to trot up the stairs. The thought of his bed did relax him, and he secretly wanted nothing more then to dive under the blankets and into a coma.
Jarod stood in his way- literally. Gary stopped. The man smiled down at him as he pounced down the last few steps. His doctor was right behind him. He saw the Sports section in Gary's hand and instantly plucked at it.
"Is that today's?" Colby asked, quickly scanning over the page.
Chuck took advantage of the moment, and grabbed the section, beating Gary by about two seconds.
"Actually, it's yesterdays," Gary lied weakly, glaring Chuck out of the room.
There was no way he could get it back with Jarod and Colby right there. Jarod looked like the type who would question why they were fighting over what he thought to be yesterdays news. Gary looked back to Colby and apologized, then asked how the patient was doing.
Jarod smiled and did a full turn to show Gary that he was back to normal. Colby countered that he still had to be careful about the bump on the head. Jarod touched a hand to the bandage on the right side of his forehead.
"I had forgoten about that," he said sheepishly. Colby looked at him in shock.
"You're kidding right? 'Cause I don't think I know how to treat amnesia-" he rambled.
Jarod smiled a radiant smile and put reassusing hands on the med student's shoulders to keep him from hurting himself as he fidgeted with frustration.
"Trust me, I'm fine. It was just a joke. Don't worry, okay?"
Colby Foraker nodded, seeming only slightly relieved. Gary smiled. Jarod, feeling sure the young man meant it, turned back to Gary.
"Marissa mentioned an opening on staff - you need a cook?" he asked, not quite in a business tone. His smile didn't flinch. Gary nodded.
"I've had a few jobs as a cook in the past. I'd like to apply for the job. I don't live in Chicago, in fact I'm just passing through. It would only be temporary, you know, just until I have to get going again or until you find a permanent replacement," Jarod offered hopefully.
Gary nodded slowly. Sounded good to him. Maybe ol' Lucius Snow knew what he was doing after all. It was true, McGinty's last cook got a job offer from some up-town hotel a few blocks away and, per Gary's advice, took it. Gary hadn't put much thought into finding a replacement, after all, he still had one more, and Chuck filled in every once in awhile. Now, someone was asking for the job. It was the easiest filling of a position Gary had ever even imagined.
"You want the job, it's yours," Gary replied. Besides, finding anyone else was something that he probably wouldn't get around to for awhile.
Chuck walked back in then. He had stashed the paper safely away in his jacket's inner most pocket and hung the jacket on the coat rack in the office. Gary wouldn't think to look there, it was too obvious, he reasoned.
"What job?" Chuck asked, looking around at everyone with casual curiosity. Gary slapped Jarod lightly on the shoulder.
"Meet the new Chief cook of McGinty's Restaruant," he said warmly.
Jarod looked at Chuck with the same radiant smile as he had had for the past few minutes.
"Thank you so much!" Chuck gasped, clasping his hands together and bowing over and over.
"I'm so sick of being stuck in front of that stove! Now, the question is; can you cook?" Chuck asked suspiciously.
Gary pushed Chuck playfully.
"You? A stove? Besides, all he has to do is make sandwiches," he complained good naturedly. He turned back to Jarod, all business again.
"Remember that breakfast we were telling you about?"
Jarod nodded, "You mean the free one?" He smiled along with Gary and Chuck. Colby had no idea what they were talking about now. Why hadn't he heard anything about a free breakfast?
"Well, how 'bout making that your resume?" Gary added.
Jarod's smile broadened.
"What's on the breakfast menu?"
It didn't take Chuck to come up with a hankering for a full-course meal consisting of a greek salad, lime-marinated steak tenderloin, mashed potatoes, and stir-fried veggies. When Gary heard the critic's selections, he was almost shocked. The selection wasn't found on any McGinty's menu. He'd be surprised if they even had the ingredients.
The man was rubbing his hands together as he scurried around and pointed out what ingredients were where. "Yeah, Gare?"
"You gonna' eat all that for breakfast?"
Chuck shrugged indifferently as he watched Jarod prepare to make the meal.
"Why not? Breakfast is supposed to be the biggest meal of the day... Now, Jarod, you know you're being timed, right?"
Gary led Colby out of the kitchen; he couldn't watch Chuck destroy Jarod's will to work for them. The man was recovering from a concussion, and should by all rights be in a hospital, and Chuck was testing and ordering him around.
"You know, I'll take some of that if your friend can't eat it all," Colby suggested hopefully. Gary laughed as he offered a beer to Colby. Colby declined, so it was traded for two sodas.
"I have a feeling that won't be a problem!" Gary replied as he sat down at the bar.
Jarod churned out the entire meal in a record time. He even set a perfect table- all utensils in the correct places and the napkins folded into little origami animals.
"It smells extrememly good, Jarod!" Marissa marveled. Spike was pulling anxiously at the harness to get close enough to steal a mouthfull off of someone's plate. While Jarod put the food on the table in one of the restaurant's booths, Chuck admitted that he was impressed.
"But that doesn't mean you have the job yet," he added quickly- he had to keep up his reputation as one of the toughest food critics in the Windy City, "You haven't passed the taste test."
Jarod just nodded confidently, and motioned for Chuck and his new friends to take a seat.
"I think you'll find that part the most enjoyable," he replied easily. Chuck eyed him suspiciously as he slid into the booth.
"We'll just see about that!" he muttered. Anything that met his plate within such an amazingly short time couldn't be that good.
Gary shook his head, amused, as he sat down next to Marissa . Jarod had made more then enough for all five of them, but he wasn't hungry. Colby was practically drooling over the food, though he waited to dive into it until after Chuck had tasted it. He didn't want to offend anyone by breaking a regime.
Chuck carefully scrutinized the neatly presented plate before finally trying the steak. He chewed thoughtfully before moving on to the next item. Once he had sampled everything on his plate, he looked at Jarod with a praising smile on his astonished, round face.
"So, when do you think you can start?"
Gary and Marissa could barely keep themselves from laughing.
Jarod shrugged. He was definitely pleased with the results. He told them he wasn't sure. He didn't even have a place to stay yet. Chuck piped up quickly, "Hey, you could stay with me or Gary, that way we would be sure you weren't late for work or anything,"
Gary choked down a cough. There was always an ulterior motive for Chuck, wasn't there?
Jarod looked from Chuck to Gary, completely flabergasted. He had no idea people in Chicago were so friendly.
"No, really, I don't want to impose or anything. I'll just get a hotel -"
Gary interupted him.
"With what? You haven't even started yet. And let me clue 'ya, the prices 'round here aren't exactly cheep. Heck, I used to live in one, I oughta know!" Gary wasn't sure why he was supporting Chuck's idea, but despite his earlier complaints about the situation, Jarod was beginng to grow on him. So far, Gary had yelled at him, Chuck had gotten him hit by a car, Jarod was bruised and battered at scarcely past nine in the morning on a Wednesay - Gary had faith that with him and Chuck around, Jarod would end up being injured further by the time the day was over- and still the man wanted to work for them. And he was eager to boot!
That was about as far from the norm as Gary had ever come across. Anyone else probably would have sued them by now, he decided.
Gary didn't complain when Chuck talked about the spare apartment above the bar, even though it was his. Jarod could have the couch for awhile.
Once the plates had been emptied, Jarod played the bus boy again and cleared off the table. Gary's mood toward the paper was quickly lightening. Jarod could be a cook or a waiter, probably both if he had to be.
This is a good deal! Gary mused as he yawned.
"You know, Colby, as bad as it sounds, I'm glad you nearly killed this guy," Gary joked, getting out of the booth. His eyes were getting uncontrolably heavy. Gary finally had the chance to steal back up to his room if left now. He said goodbye to Colby, knowing that the kid wouldn't stick around much longer. It was almost afternoon and he had to have something to do on a Wednsday. It ldn't have been right for a first year med student to have a free Wednsay to spend in a bar.
As Gary walked through the kitchen to the stairs, he noticed that Robin and some other staff members had shown up. They were on time as usual. But what caught his attention was that Jarod had already introduced himself and was being given a more detailed tour of the kitchen by the other employees. The bartender was standing by the stairs, tying her apron on.
"Is he for real?" she asked her boss, using her head to gesture at Jarod. "It's not that I'm complaining or anything..." Robin added quickly. McGinty's could certainly use a good looking face besides the boss , she thought with a careful smile.
Gary nodded distractedly. For some reason, he had expected more friction from the rest of the staff- he certainly wasn't expecting them to help him get right to work.
"Um, yeah, Chuck approved him already. He's a great cook," Gary finally answered. "Uh, look...uh, Robin - keep an eye on things down here for me, okay?"
Robin finished tying the apron and looked up at Gary.
"That's my job isn't it?" she asked cheerfully. She was planning on doing just that anyway. Gary smiled back at her before continuing up the stairs. He was so tired that he hadn't even thought to go look for the sports section Chuck had managed to lift off of him earlier. He opened the door to his apartment, threw what was left of the paper-the business section- on the coffee table, and made a bee-line for his bedroom. He was so tired.
Jarod's shift ended at three when the regular chef showed up. There was
some confusion as to who should stay and work. Jarod didn't want to
put the guy out, besides, he had pointed out with a smile, "Too many cooks
spoil the broth".
Chuck told him he could go ahead and crash up stairs if he wanted. Chuck stopped him only long enough to give him a copy of the Chicago Sun-Times .
"If Gare wakes up, would you tell him that nothin's going on for a few hours?"
Jarod was puzzled, but he took the paper anyway.
"Just - don't wake him up !" he added. He hadn't been able to check the Bulls' score yet. Jarod nodded. It wasn't a good idea for him to sleep yet, but a little relaxation wouldn't hurt.
"Sure thing," he replied as he marched up the stairs. He knocked softly on the apartment door. When no answer came, Jarod let himself in. Gary's brown bomber jacket was laying haphazardly on the back of the couch, and aside from the paper on the end table, was the only thing different about the place. That's not to say it was clean though. Jarod thought briefly about straightening it up a little.
He tossed the paper Chuck had given him on to the coffee table and sat
down on the couch. In no time at all, he felt himself drifting off
He hadn't been asleep very long when he was awakened by the appearence of a large bundle of fur dropping into his lap.
"Where did you come from, kitty?" Jarod asked, picking up the orange cat. The cat stared at him for a moment, purring contentedly. Jarod started slightly when the cat let out a loud 'meeaowr'. He put a finger to his smiling lips.
"Shh!" he scolded softly, "We're supposed to let Gary sleep." Jarod put the cat down on the seat next to him. The cat stopped purring, but curled up on its feet and watched Jarod carefully. Jarod noticed the cat staring at him. The cat's expression reminded him of the rabbit Miss Parker had gotten from her father when they were young. Big curious eyes that could see right into your soul. Jarod shook the memories away.
"What?" he questioned. The cat's glare moved to the silver Halliburton case by the door. Jarod saw where he looked. It was as if the cat wanted him to go get it. Jarod cast a glance over his shoulder at Gary's 'room'. Jarod saw a socked foot sticking off the edge of a bed and a bunched up pile of covers sprawled across it.
"Forget it," he said, turning back to the cat. The cat curled up into a ball and looked as though it would fall asleep. Jarod picked up the paper and thumbed through it. Gary had said it was yesterday's paper, but it would keep him occupied and relaxed. The article he stopped on, though, was one he hadn't read.
"Investigator Receives Top Honor"
Jarod read the story quickly. One of Chicago's Finest was slated to receive an award for bravery after he thwarted an assassination attempt.
He stepped in front of a bullet that was apparently destined for the mayor as he was arriving at a city council meeting. The officer, Louis Falco, was in stable condition at Cook County Hospital with a bullet wound through the left torso. On the agenda for that day's meeting had been a plan to cut down on urban crimes by cutting back on the amount of money the city used to support the low income families. This was one of the Mayor's very own plans. His theory was that the "trouble-makers and criminals would have to go out and find real jobs" in order to support their families. Jarod commended the man's ideals, but he had to laugh at the strategy. He could understand how that would anger those on the program. The paper said that the city council meeting was re-scheduled for today at five.
Jarod tipped his head to the side. That could be an intersting meeting.
He glanced briefly at his watch. Two hours to go. Jarod
closed the paper and stood up. Maybe he would walk to the city
meeting. After going from bus to bus for the past few days, a walk would
do some good.
Jarod retrived his black jacket off of the pile of stuff belonging to him and, slipping it on, trotted down the stairs.
The cat stared after him. Not long after Jarod had left, the cat jumped down from the couch. He padded softly into Gary's room, purring noisily, and jumped onto the bed. He pawed and cuddled at Gary's face.
"Okay, okay, I'm awake," Gary grumbled, swatting the cat away. He turned over, away from the cat, to fall asleep again. The cat persisted until Gary finally sat up.
"That's twice - " Gary began as he shook a disapproving finger at the cat. The cat interrupted him with a loud, " Meoawrrr" then he plopped to the ground. The feline's vocalizing continued until Gary followed him to the coffee table. The paper was now open and an orange paw rested on an article that took up nearly half the page. Gary rubbed his eyes as he tried to concentrate on the headline.
Mayor Safe, Savior Missing After Attempted Murder
"The mayor narrowly escaped death yesterday with the help of a stranger. Unfortunately, that stranger hasn't received his due thanks..." Gary's voice trailed off as he skimmed through for more substantial information. "A man, described as tall, with dark hair and clothing and in his early-thirties, knocked Mayor Bradley out of the path of a sniper's bullet. The bullet hit the man in the left shoulder. Police experts claim that it would have been Mayor Bradley's heart if the unidentified man hadn't been there. An ambulence arrived shortly, but it never arrived at the Cook County Memorial Hospital. A patrolman noticed a parked ambulence in an empty suburb street. Upon investigating, he found the EMS team unconsous inside... Their patient was gone ..."
Gary skipped to the end of the article. The man was never found. Gary looked at the cat, some-what distressed.
"Don't tell me... this is Jarod, right?"
The cat pawed once more at the paper before becoming distracted by a moth
by the window. He dashed to the sill and swatted at the bug.
Gary quickly found his shoes and put them on, along with his jacket and a
baseball cap. Then he scooped up the paper and headed downstairs.
He had no idea just where Jarod was, or if it was actually him the paper
was referring to, but Gary had to at least find him. Maybe he was still
working. Robin would be a good place to start the search.
"Ha!..Did I call this or what? I told you something would happen," Gary grumbled. He walked into the managment office shaking the paper accusingly. Marissa continued to pour dog food into a bowl for the starving Spike. Chuck's eyebrows arched slightly in feigned interest, but he never looked up from the newspaper he was reading- the one he had stolen from Gary earlier.
"What is it, Gary?" Marissa finally questioned as she put the small bag of dog food under her desk. Gary scoffed a little at the reaction time.
What happened to the 'Sure, Gare, we'll help with the paper!' he used to get?
"Anybody know where Jarod is? I can't find him. It... It's important," Gary replied hurridly. Marissa shook her head. Chuck actually looked up from the sports section in front of him. Neither one of them knew where he was.
"Last time I saw him, I gave him a little R&R time, and he took off up stairs. Why?" Chuck was gaining some concern for his new cook. Gary grumbled a little, then read them the article.
"Has the kitchen staff seen him?" Marissa asked urgently. Gary shook his head.
"I already checked with 'em. Nobody saw him leave."
Marissa nearly stood up in her seat.
"Well, go see if he shows up early for that meeting. Maybe you'll run into him along the way," she suggested. Gary nodded.
"That was my next plan. Um, I, uh... I'll be back in awhile." Gary turned to leave. Chuck stood up and grabbed his jacket off the coat rack.
"I'll go with you, you might need some backup on this one,"
Gary disagreed and told him to stay. When Chuck started to protest, Gary replied, "IF he comes back, then you put him to work in the kitchen... or...or bussing tables- I don't care, just don't let him leave."
Chuck opened his mouth to argue some more, but Gary held out a hand and he shut up. Gary turned back to the door. Chuck tried again.
"But what if..."
"I'll call ya'!" Gary answered over his shoulder, slamming the door behind him. Chuck sat down behind his desk again and stared at the door for a moment before turning back to his paper. Marissa fiddled anxiously with a desk pen.
"Chuck?" she eventually asked.
"Today's Wednsday, right?"
"So that means we have to get our 'wish lists' to the distributors by tommorow morning, right?"
"So go check the inventory. I have to type those out or we don't stay in business for very much longer."
"Eh...I'm busy right now,"
"The game doesn't start for four hours, Chuck. You have plenty of time to make bets later,"
Chuck looked up in surprise.
"How'd you... I mean," he cleared his throat quickly, "What game?"
Gary moved quickly down the street. He had seen no sign of Jarod anywhere. He stopped to check his bearings at a stoplight. There was a welcoming bench there and he dropped down square in the middle of it. Gary puled out the paper, hoping that the article had changed. He was only two blocks from City Hall and had less than thirty minutes to find Jarod along the way. Taking the El had actually slowed him down, big surprise there. The article remained the same, and Gary realized that it would permanently if he didn't get his butt off the bench.
Jarod had taken a leisurely stroll through the streets of Chicago and found that the courtesy Gary Hobson and his friends displayed wasn't as popular of an ideal among other residents as he had thought. People brushed rudely by him on the sidewalk or nearly crushed him in the crosswalk. He had even chased down a purse thief for an elderly woman, who hadn't seemed too grateful, but at least she had said 'thank you'.
Jarod rounded a corner and was met by the sight of the huge City Hall. Men and women in suits rushed in and out with leather portfolio cases in hand. Through the windows of the lobby, Jarod could see newscameras and photographers. This proposal of the mayor's had certainly caught a lot of media attention.
"This must be due to the attempted assasination," Jarod reasoned. He walked into the building and to the conference room. The Press occupied most of the limited seats, and video cameras threatened to take up all of the standing room. Jarod left to avoid getting caught up in the traffic jam.
Outside, Mayor Bradley was just stepping out of his car. He was met by a newscrew seeking pre-conference commentary. Jarod noticed that the Mayor's security escort consisted of only one cop. It surprised Jarod, considering the previous day's shooting. Jarod was close enough to read the clearance badge on the man's jacket. Lieutenant Louis Falco. Jarod instanly recognized him as the cop who had saved the mayor's life. What was he doing out of the hospital already?
A sudden tiny red ball of light started bouncing all over the mayor as he chatted with the young newscaster. Jarod had just barelly seen it. It was a laser sight. No one else seemed to notice. A quick scan of the buildings across the street allowed Jarod the shooter's location on a roof top across the street.
"Gun! Everybody get down!" Jarod shouted seconds before the report of the rifle shot. He lunged at the mayor and the officer and all three of them tumbled to the ground. The plain-clothed Lieutenant Falco stood up instantly and looked out at the surrounding area. Jarod quickly told him where he could find the gunman and he was off like a bat out of Hell. Jarod helped Bradley sit up and asked if he was all right. The older man nodded appreciatively.
"I'm fine, but it looks like you need some help. Call the Paramedics!" he barked at a member of the news crew. As the adrenaline wore off, Jarod realized painfully that the bullet had penetrated his left shoulder.
Lieutenant Falco heard the shooter clamber down a stairwell as he was on his way up. The man was ahead of him, ignoring his demands to "Freeze!". Falco slid into a wall as he tried to turn a corner on the building's newly polished linoleum as the chase ensued down the hallways. The man ranted quickly into a hand held radio. Most of itwas unintelligible due to the men's running feet. "Target down!... Move in... Ready!" was all the lieutenant was able to hear.
"Hey! Stop!" Falco shouted. He was ignored. The chase went on until the shooter rounded a corner in the hallway and found a wall. Falco smiled and pulled out his gun.
"Drop the gun... hands on your head... now!" the officer commanded between breaths. I'm getting too damn old for this stuff, he thought as he watched the gun lower slowly to the ground. He heard a door sqweak open from somewhere behind him.
"It's alright, you can get back to your work, sir," he offered with a quick glance backwards at the suited man in the doorway. His attention returned to the grinning culprit in front of him. Wait, he wasn't smiling before, something's up, Falco reasoned. He quickly turned back to the other guy and was hit full in the face with the butt of a handgun. He was hit in the back of the head with another hard object and fell to the ground as he lost consciousness.
The officer's unexpected assailant kicked the gun out of his hand, and it hit the wall with a soft 'clunk'.
"Change clothes and let's get going. We're supposed to be at the van by now." He took the rifle from his partner and pieced it into a briefcase.
"Well it's not my fault this guy decided to go after me, that was your problem," the gunman replied once the janitorial uniform was off, revealing grey slacks and a white shirt with an equally boring tie. A matching jacket was tossed at him. The janitor outfit was then folded on top of the gun in the briefcase. The two men walked calmly down the hall, looking to all the world like they belonged in the city offices they were moving away from.
Gary heard the shot and his feet moved faster. He shoved his way through the growing crowd of on-lookers and press.
"Jarod!" Gary called. Jarod turned his head slightly in Gary's direction, but the house doctor made him look back.
"Let me through, damnit!" Gary demanded of an officer who was trying to act as a human barricade. The officer refused.
"Would ya' let me through, please? He's my friend," Gary tried again, more calm. He figured that it would make more of an impression than saying he was Jarod's boss. The guard reluctantly let him through.
"You okay?" Gary asked as he walked up behind Jarod and the doctor.
"I've lived through worse, if that's what you mean," Jarod grumbled.
He was on his feet and pressing on the gunshot wound. The paper towels he had been using to stop the blood from flowing out of his shoulder were soaked through.
"When's the ambulance gonna' get here?" Gary asked the doctor after a quick introduction. The man had happened to be in the crowd inside, but really couldn't do much to help Jarod at the moment.
"They said they'd be here already, so..." the man was interrupted by the 'whoop' of an ambulance. The crowd parted and a medic team moved through. A moment later, after seeing Jarod on his feet and able to walk, they allowed him to put himself into the back of the ambulance.
Gary insisted on coming. The vehicle made more whooping noises as it left the curb and then crescendoed into a very loud, very annoying siren. Gary put himself as far out of the way as possible, crouching in a corner by the doors. He watched as a medic asked Jarod distracting questions like what his blood type was.
Another cleaned his shoulder and announced that the bullet had gone straight through. It was something Jarod obviously already knew, but some other medics hadn't. Jarod's leather jacket had hidden the blood well. Gary opened the paper. The article hadn't changed.
Suddenly the ambulance screeched to a stop, throwing Gary out into the aisle. He hit his head on the metal bars of the stretcher Jarod was sitting on. Gary gingerly rubbed his head as he sat up. The back doors were pulled open and in an instant Gary could see the silhouette of a man against the glaring sunlight. As his eyes adjusted, he saw the gun in the man's hand. A short skirted woman stood menacingly behind him.
The EMS personel who had been in the cab had guns to their heads a few feet behind the black haired woman.
A medic stood up and started towards them from the front.
"Just what in hell do you think you're doing?" he demanded. The menacing lady, seemingly in charge of the whole operation, raised her own shiny, silver pistol. Gary put an arm out and grabbed the man's pant leg. It's common sense; don't challenge someone with a gun in their hands. The man stopped, but persisted with the attitude.
"Uh, I wouldn't do that if-" Gary defensivly drew his arms in front
of his face as the gun shot interrupted him. She fired it less then two feet from Gary's face. The medic fell to the ground in pain. He had been shot in the knee cap.
"No!" Jarod shouted at her. Gary had barely heard him; his ears were still ringing from the sound of the gun.
"Oh shut up, Jarod," the woman sneered, "I didn't kill him." She gestured to the injured medic and two more armed suits appeared to help him out of the way. Gary slid away from them as they grabbed the other guy.
"There was still no reason to do that!" Jarod returned quickly, angrily.
"I said, shut your mouth Jarod!"
Gary, confused, looked from the woman back to Jarod. His hearing was returning, but so far it hadn't helped his comprehension any.
"Uh, excuse me but um...would anybody mind telling us what's going on?" Gary ventured, turning his head to look at Jarod and being careful not to make any sudden movements. Out of the corner of his eye, he saw the gun level at his forehead and he snapped his head back to face the lady.
"I...um... I guess not."
The woman smiled sardonically. "Good answer, gumshoe."
Her gaze, and the gun, moved upward to include all occupants of the ambulance.
"Okay, 'nough chitchat. Everybody out, make room for Wonder Boy back there. Move, NOW!" She reinforced her words with a wave of her gun.
Gary crept out slowly, follwed by the remaining medical team. One of the suited men, this one older and seemingly more friendly, had the group line up along side a brown van that was parked behind the ambulance. There was a gunman beside him to make sure they obeyed.
His feminine partner-in-crime had Jarod dragged out.
Meanwhile, Gary examined the paper. A fidgity man in a pink windbreaker tried to read the paper over Gary's shoulder. He was the only other normally-dressed guy there. Gary noticed him and turned away protectivly. Nothing had changed, well, except for the part that now claimed there was an unidentified casualty in the incident. Gary immediatly thought of the injured medic as the victim, but he thought that would have been specified in some way. Gary started absently searching pockets for his wallet. It was in his back pocket, so he wasn't the one, unless they just withheld his name... His attention returned to the paper. I must have read it wrong, he hoped.
Gary's rumaging caught the woman's attention. But what held it was his purusing of a newspaper. Not many people were daring enough to read the morning news in her presence. Especially those in this guy's current position. She took a step and was standing in front him.
"I'm sorry, am I boring you?" she asked hotly. Gary slowly looked up with the look of a deer caught in a Mac Truck's headlights. He folded the paper and held it in his hands behind his back. The fidgity guy stole it away from him to get a better look. Gary turned to grab it back, but the woman grabbed him by the chin and turned him to face her again.
"Uh, no ma'am. I just...wanted to... check... somethin'," Gary replied, his face squished. A look of mock understanding crossed the woman's face. Her long fingers released Gary chin.
"I see... and what is it that you had to check that was so important?"
Gary shrugged innocently.
"Then you don't mind if we take a look," the woman snarled as she took the proffered paper from the other man. Gary tried to take it back but the second his hand moved toward it, the woman's gun was back into play.
"Tsk, tsk...I don't think so," she snapped. "So what is it, Brootsie?"
The man shrunk. "It's a news paper Miss Parker, the Chicago Sun-Times, to be exact." The lady rolled her eyes in disgust.
"I didn't know that Broots! Now, what's so interesting about it?" she demanded. She crossed her arms impatiently. The man Parker had called Broots pointed to a section of the page for her to read.
"Parker, we have other things to deal with right now," the older man intoned somewhere over Gary's shoulder. Gary detected a slight accent.
The woman, Parker, ignored him. Gary had left it folded to the article he was now living. Parker was reading it.
"Y-You don't think that The Centre would let this kind of information leak out, do you? I mean, wha-what if they...can you imagine what kind of trouble...?" Broots rambled tensely.
"Where did you get this?" Miss Parker demanded of Gary. Gary just blinked, acting as guileless as possible.
"It's the news. It's delivered to my doorstep every morning," he admitted. Gary shot a nervous glance around at the others. Wether he lived through this or not, he still didn't want anyone else to know about the paper. The fewer people who thought he was crazy, the better.
The Parker woman seemed to comprehend the glance.
"Get those people back inside! Syd, come take a look at this," she ordered, still eyeing Gary suspiciously. Men in suits jumped to life at the sound of her voice and a moment later, everyone except Gary and Jarod was back inside the ambulance they had come from. The man Parker had requested stepped from behind Gary. He sighed irritably, taking the paper.
Miss Parker looked at Syd.
"So' what? I see a news story," the man replied. Miss Parker tapped the corner of the page.
"The date, Sydney, the day! And did you even look at the story? Details and desciptions are flawless. A blind man could recognize us," she hissed. Sydney waited patiently. It was obvious by the look on his face that the gentleman wasn't following. Miss Parker turned to Gary.
"How did you get a newspaper with tommorow's date and today's events? And don't tell me the paper boy's psychic,"
Gary stuttered, "Well, I, uh... it must be a misprint. Everybody messes up once in awhile." He stood slightly straighter as he gained courage in his lie.
"A misprint?" Miss Parker questioned, bittingly incredulous.
"Yeah, that's what I said, a mis -print," Gary replied evenly. He began to reach for his paper again. "Now if you don't mind, I'd like..."
Miss Parker swung a fist into Gary's stomach and stepped back to let him retch.
"As a matter of fact, I do mind!" She shoved the bill of his baseball cap down to the bridge of his nose. The woman turned away and stated that this guy was coming along for the ride as well.
"Leave him alone! You got what you came for," Jarod grumbled as one of the suited minions dragged him up to the small group. His shoulder hurt too much to offer much resistance. Miss Parker smiled evily.
"Don't flatter yourself! I think I may have stumbled onto a bigger fish then you, Jarod."
"Won't Daddy be proud." Jarod deadpanned, more to himself then to Miss Parker.
"Stow it, Freak!" she growled back at him. She snapped her fingers and Gary found himself being towed into the van, Jarod a few steps behind him. Just before the doors slammed shut, Sydney jumped in with a pile of towels and gauze from the ambulance.
Jarod and Sydney sat by the wall beside Gary. Broots and two men in suits sat across from them, with another gaurding the back doors.
Miss Parker got in the front seat with the driver and the van roared to life.
Gary noticed that four other men in suits remained by the ambulance.
"What's gonna happen to the others?" he asked to anybody who would listen. Without turning around, Miss Parker answered, "I think that's the least of your concerns right now,"
Gary leaned foreward and buried his face in his hands. He sat back up when he was tapped lightly on the shoulder. Sydney handed Gary some gauze and quietly asked him to help Jarod. Between the instruction he received from the old man and Jarod, Gary hesitantly helped bandage the wounded shoulder.
"Just who are these people, Jarod? Why are they after you... an- and more importantly, what're they gonna' do to me?" Gary whispered harshly as he worked. He bit his tongue for being so selfish, but he figured that Jarod was so calm because he knew what they were going to do to *him*, his fate wasn't left to his imagination. Gary's mind wasn't painting him a very bright picture.
"I guess you could say I used to work for them and they weren't too pleased when I left," Jarod whispered back. He sounded just as angry.
Gary noticed that he was tolerant to the pain, because Jarod seemed surprisingly together. His only reactions to Gary's novice mending job was a few sharp breaths whenever the van hit a break in the pavement and someone was knocked into him.
"What was so imprtant about that newspaper?" Jarod parlayed.
"It, well...it...That's a long story," Gary replied defensivly, "But you might'a included the fact that you were being hunted before I decided to hire you!" Gary groused, a little louder then he had meant to. Miss Parker turned around. Gary wondered, Does anything get by her?
"Hired?" she questioned. "So you two know each other, that's nice."
Jarod glared at Miss Parker through half-closed eyes. He leaned back against the side of the van.
"What the hell!" came a curse from the other side of the van. Broots was staring at the paper with a look of shock. The paper must have changed! Gary realized. He reached across and took the paper. It reported that the entire paramedic team was murdered, the two other passengers now missing.
"Damn!" Gary cursed softly. There was a complete listing of who had been in the ambulance when it left City Hall, Gary's name included.
Miss Parker demanded to see the paper. Reluctantly, he handed it over.
"You're Gary Hobson?" she guessed. Gary nodded, his head dropping to his chest.
"Well, Hobson, just what in Hell is this?"
"To tell ya' the truth, I've been wondering the same thing!" he snapped back. "I have no clue who any of you are, why should I tell you anything? It's just a damn newspaper!"
"It's tommorow's damn newspaper!" Miss Parker replied angrily. She ignored the look she got from Sydney. Yeah, it didn't make sense, but she wouldn't have believed it if she hadn't seen it herself.
"Tha-that, that article- it changed. It was your newspaper... you have to know why..." Broots broke in timidly. Gary looked at him.
"Maybe I do, maybe I don't. Whaddya care for? " he answered quietly. The earlier resentment toward the paper had returned.
Jarod sat up quickly, wincing at the painful reaction from his shoulder. This conversation was beginning to bother him. Had everyone gone insane?
"That's crazy, not to mention impossible," he supplied loudly. Gary tipped his head.
"That would be my life," Gary whispered to him. Since the cat started bringing the paper, those two words fit it so perfectly; crazy and impossible.
Jarod stared at him, slack-jawed. That explained how Gary kept showing
up everywhere; he read about it in the paper. It hadn't been luck, which
made even less sense.
"You get tommorow's news... today?" Jarod stammered in disbelief, his eyes narrowing as he tried to comprehend the idea of such a thing.
"For about a year now. It even follows me on vacations,"
"Do you have any idea how- how many people you could help..." Jarod began, his mind wandering through the possibilities. Gary broke in with a sober 'yes'.
"And you have no idea how many times I've been shot at and missed trying my darndest to help 'em out," Gary added with an exaggerated look at his surroundings. Miss Parker was glaring irritatingly at him.
"That's real sad, Hobson, heart-breaking in fact... I want to know who you get this information from," she spat at him. Gary shrugged. He didn't think anyone would believe him if he told them that a dead guy sent it to his doorstep everyday with a little orange cat. Miss Parker didn't believe that he didn't know, and told him so in no uncertain terms. Gary continued to claim ignorance.
From behind the van there suddenly came a crushing sound and the van jolted forward. The two suits who had been leaning against the van doors tumbled to the front. Gary and Jarod collided into Sydney, knocking him off the bench and into the back of Miss Parker's seat. Various grunts and groans were heard as Broots and the other men did the same and fell against the driver.
"What the hell was that!" Miss Parker yelled, pushing herself away from the van's dashboard. Another jolt sent her forward again, twice as hard.
Gary saw his chance and dived at the doors as the second jolt hit. He pushed them open quickly to see Colby Foraker's Chevy ramming the back of the van. The kid saw him and smiled. Gary grinned back. He turned to get Jarod and saw the thugs regaining their senses behind him. Gary frantically offered a hand to Jarod, who was trying to stand up as the ramming continued.
"Jarod!" Miss Parker yelled gruffly, Sydney providing a quieter echo. Behind them, Miss Parker had found her gun and was training it on Gary. The right shot and both men would fall back into the van. She aimed and fired a preliminary warning. Gary let go for a moment as the bullet ricocheted into the door jam he was using to steady himself. He shook his hand quickly and latched on to the van again.
"Ready?" he shouted at Jarod. Jarod nodded. Gary shoved Jarod out and onto Colby's car. He jumped a second later, his arms flailing in the air, and then landed next to Jarod.
Realizing that he made a better door than a window for the driver, Gary shimmied on to the roof and held on with his hands and feet. He had to reach down and grab Jarod's belt to keep him from sliding off the hood as Colby twisted and turned the vehicle out of traffic, but Gary figured they were both doing pretty good considering they could each only use one arm to hang on. With a shaky look up at the van as it got further and further ahead, Gary saw the two men in the darks suits stare ruefully out at them before closing the van's back doors. Other cars had filed in behind the van as Colby dropped back, trapping it in traffic. There was no way they would be coming back for them. Jarod had looked too, and he could almost hear Miss Parker's rage-filled obscenities echo in the vehicle. He exchanged a triumphant, however pained, smile with Gary.
Colby finally managed to turn off at an alley way. The second the car stopped, Gary slid from the roof onto the hood. Colby got out when he could.
"Well, that was fun!" Jarod's wry commentary was met with shocked faces.
Gary nodded slowly, his disbelief growing.
"So I take it this happens to you all the time?" he questioned.
Jarod thought a moment, then tilted his head and replied reflectively, "I guess you could say that,"
Gary let out an exasperated groan as he jumped off the car.
"Hey Colby! Excellent timing. But, uh, how'd you know we were in there?" Gary asked. He bent down and examined the fender, which had been the first thing to catch Colby's attention. It was scratched beyond belief and everything within three feet of the license plate was crunched and mangled right up to the hood. Gary gave a low whistle.
"I, uh, have...or had- I don't think I'll do it ever again- made a habit of following ambulances. It's illegal and everything, but I figure witnessing the field work could come in handy. Anyway, I happened to recognize you two back there and figured things weren't kosher, you know? Like I said, I don't think I'll do that anymore... I mean, would you look at my car!" Colby seemed near tears.
Jarod and Gary both studied their shoes.
"I'd say you two are even... if it makes you feel any better," Gary offered sheepishly. Jarod crouched behind them.
"You know... I can fix this," he mused. Gary stood up. He stared down at Jarod.
"Now, why does that not surprise me?"
Jarod looked back innocently."Well... I can."
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