"Good morning!" greeted Eve Whitfield, walking down the ramp in Ironside's office/apartment with her easy step, but maybe a little more determinedly than usual, "Chief, you won't believe this!"
"No, I don't believe that this is a holiday!" grumbled Ironside.
Eve glanced at her watch. "Am I late?" Only now she became aware of the two young men who were sitting at the octagonal table: her colleague Ed Brown and Steve Keller, a rookie from homicide.
The latter smiled up to her. "No, you aren't, Eve. We're early." Her heart took a little flip. She wasn't used to being treated so charmingly. Sure, Ed was always polite and very chivalrous, but he was so clumsy and shy; Mark behaved like a teenager towards her most of the time and the Chief... that was a different matter. She loved him with all her heart, but since he was paralyzed he apparently didn't want a close relationship with any woman.
But she didn't get any time to savor the sun ray of this Thursday morning.
"Lt. Stone didn't send his assistant up here to make small talk. He needs our help in what will probably be a murder case soon." He showed her the gun Steve had brought up, a Walter PPK. "Query: Who used this gun? Our colleagues found it in Eddy Street near a little boy who apparently had witnessed a shooting. The victim is an old bum who is now in critical condition in General Hospital."
"What else do we have?" asked Eve, all business.
"They're smudged. Nothing usable. Find out who the victim was, who shot him and why."
"Why us, Chief?" It was what Ed had been wondering as well.
"Because this is Howard Cunningham's gun."
"The Howard Cunningham's?"
"Are there two of them?"
Since he didn't seem to be willing to give away more Steve stepped in, "He says that his gun was stolen some time ago. He can't be the shooter since he is with his wife's family in England right now at some Royal's birthday; about 500 witnesses. But he is afraid of a possible scandal of course, and that's where your team comes in."
The trio left together to do the basic research: archives, crime reports, looking for possible witnesses.
"What was it the Chief would not believe, Eve?" asked Steve in the elevator. It proved to Eve that he was genuinely interested in what troubled her.
"Oh, nothing too important. We had a little family reunion last night. It turned out that my mother, my cousin and my aunt were all victims of thefts last Saturday."
"I do believe you, Eve," said Steve ingenuously.
Eve's relatives were all well-off. Did he want to say that it was no wonder that somebody wanted a bit of their wealth? There had been no irony in his voice, but still Eve glanced warily at him. "It's not funny!"
Steve hurried to make his point clearer, "I meant, it's a strange coincidence, but such things happen."
"Ironside would say that he doesn't believe in coincidences," Ed threw in.
"There's even more coincidence. All the thefts happened in stores – three different stores though. Each of my relatives was doing Christmas shopping."
"Did they report the thefts to the police?" asked Steve.
"No, they felt too embarrassed. And then – it's not that they could not afford the financial loss."
"But it is still annoying when you bought presents for your loved ones and they get stolen," said Steve sympathetically.
The Cunninghams and the Whitfields were members of the same clubs, they had graduated from the same schools and they even shared their hairdressers and tailors. Therefore it was obviously Eve who had to question the part of Cunningham's family who had stayed in the USA.
They were very helpful but there was not much to know. The gun had been stolen Saturday two weeks ago, they said.
Reliable Ed Brown read the police report of the incident. He learned that when the police arrived, the ambulance was just rushing off, as the victim was in peril of death. The officers had found a little boy named Bernie kneeling where the old man had been lying, a gun next to him. He had told the police that there had been a shot. He had found the old man lying on the ground. The boy had run to the telephone booth and called the operator for an ambulance, which fortunately had arrived quickly. Sadly enough children in the 60s had a better relationship with the operator than their parents.
But Bernie didn't seem to know anything about the shooter. Ed called the hospital. He was told that the victim was still unconscious.
Steve drove to Eddy Street and questioned residents and homeless persons of the area. Some had heard the shot, but a shot was nothing unusual in the Tenderloin, and for sure not something to go near. Nobody had seen a shooter, but they knew that the victim was old Amos. Why somebody should want to kill old Amos? Nobody would want to kill old Amos. Why should they?
The three young detectives shared the results of their work.
"Eve, when, did you say, was that gun stolen?" asked Ed, who had to take the lead.
"Saturday, two weeks ago."
"Ah, another one of these coincidences!" exclaimed Steve.
Ed frowned. "You mean the thefts in the stores?" He didn't like coincidences any more than the Chief, but then – "We have roughly 100 reported crimes per day, on Saturdays even a bit more. So four thefts committed on a Saturday, three of them not even reported, can't be considered a 'coincidence'. Looking for connections between all of them would keep us occupied until Christmas; and it wasn't even the same Saturday."
"There's another 'coincidence'. In all the cases the victims are well off," Steve pointed out.
"The victim of the shooting wasn't," objected Ed. "He was – is – a homeless person."
Steve had to agree. "Yeah, right. Only the victims of the thefts were."
Eve didn't like the topic too much. There was no fundamental difference between rich and poor people, was there? Who would rob people just because they were rich?
Ed didn't say what he thought: that it was probably more profitable.
Steve felt the need to help Eve's relatives – or was it the desire to impress her? "Let me talk to Mike Stone. I could investigate the thefts under the reference that there could be a connection to the Cunningham case."
Ed always wanted to please everybody, and particularly Eve, whom he... well..., but he had to be realistic. "We have an important case on our hands and the Chief's due at a conference. He won't let me chase a phantom, as he'd call it. But keep me informed, will you?"
Eve on the other hand would accompany the Chief to the session, leaving Ed alone with all the work in the office. Yet she gave her colleagues a description of the stolen items – although nobody could seriously believe that they would ever show up again.
Steve and Mike left together for a beer on their way home to catch up, as Mike would also be attending the conference with Rudy, too. "I'm glad that you don't make me work overtime quite as much as Ironside does his sergeant," noted Steve.
Mike eyed him somewhat suspiciously. "Huh? What's the matter? You wouldn't schmooze me if you didn't want something from me."
Steve looked hurt. "I don't schmooze you and I don't want anything. I just wanted to tell you that I appreciate an early finishing time every once in a while."
"Yeah, sure. And what is it you want? The day off tomorrow?"
"Err, no, not exactly."
Steve reported his mentor the thefts.
"Aww, face it, buddy boy, this is a cold trail. You know that the clearance rate for simple thefts goes towards zero. And I can't see a connection between these thefts. Otherwise you would have to join all the thefts happening on a Saturday."
That was more or less what Ed Brown had said.
"Your job is the shooting in Eddy Street, and there is no reason to suppose that it has anything to do with the thefts in the warehouses."
"Ok, then, Mike. Would you give me the day off tomorrow, or at least a few hours? You know that I have enough overtime!"
"Miss Whitfield is an awfully pretty woman, isn't she?" teased Mike. "Ok, since Ed is alone to hold the fort in Ironside's office and since the old bum is not responsive yet I don't expect much of a progress tomorrow anyway. You can take a few hours off. But keep track of the man in the hospital and ask Ed whether he needs you, will you?"
"Thanks, Mike! I have a hunch that this will pay off!"
Mike grinned. "Oh, I'm sure it will... Eve won't miss your efforts, buddy boy!"
This story was written as a Christmas present for Briroch.
She was kind enough to correct it.