1 minus 1 plus 1 equals...?
Mathematics again, a cunning hamster and a frightening female.
Crossover Streets of San Francisco – Ironside, co-written by Briroch and Mounty Swiss, originally as a birthday present for Tanith. Thank you, Tanith, for permitting us to publish it!
March 24th, 1970, top floor of police headquarters, San Francisco
Chief Robert Ironside was a little surprised when he rolled down the ramp into his office. He cocked his head in his unique way, trying to work out the meaning of what he saw. It was a very self-controlled way of expressing his astonishment, or so he thought. The sight in front of his eyes would have justified a much more vehement reaction:
Two legs were sticking out from under his bed. The extreme length of these legs and the fact that they were clad in brown suit trousers led to the strong presumption that they belonged to his assistant Ed Brown. Yet – although Ironside didn't always understand his somewhat clumsy right hand man's actions he still found it disconcerting that he would be working under his bed. And working was what he was supposed to do, wasn't it?
"Sergeant!" he shouted, and the long legs jerked. Yet the loud bang he heard wasn't caused by the brisk movement of these legs, but by a skull colliding with the base of the bed.
The Sergeant wriggled his long frame out of the narrow space and into daylight, looking slightly dusty and bedraggled. Throwing his boss a reproachful look he rubbed the bump on his head. "Since you insisted that Mark oil your wheels yesterday, one can't hear you anymore when you come in!"
"You don't expect me to knock at my own door, do you?! What in flaming blazes were you doing under my bed?"
The detective sighed. "I was looking for Bobby."
The former Chief of detectives was famous for his fast thinking, and rightly so. "The cat's name is Andy, and it is on the stove busy stealing my chili," he informed Brown acerbically.
Ed shot up like a rocket, bumping into the nightstand in his way. The police department's beloved black cat was indeed sitting on the stove and pleasurably licking his mouth. "No. That's not possible," Ed whispered.
"It's not only a possibility, it's the sad truth."
"You don't understand, Sir."
"I don't?! Then stop talking nonsense and tell me what's going on!"
Absentmindedly Ed dusted his pants. "Steve Keller has got a hamster lately. His name is Bobby. Or probably rather was. I'm afraid Andy caught him."
Ironside started to understand why Andy looked like the cat that got the canary... or rather the hamster...
March 19th (5 Days earlier), in Mike Stone's office:
Mike Stone sat in his office and watched the dramatic scene that was unfolding in front of him with amusement. His young partner Steve Keller was on the phone and Mike was willing to bet his bottom dollar that he was talking to a female. When he took the call he had been pleasantly surprised and turned around, away from Mike's prying eyes. But from the body language Mike could tell that the call wasn't going as expected. Although he could only see his friend's back he could tell from the way the muscles tensed up that something was afoot. The free hand was gesticulating wildly; the voice grew louder so that Mike could just about make out a few words like - Not true! No way! Please, don't do this to me! Then he checked himself and continued the conversation in a whisper. He hung up the phone, a picture of utter dejection.
Mike made another bet with himself. The way Buddy boy looked he would come in for coffee and sympathy in less than five - no, three minutes, he corrected himself. Steve staggered in and sank on the chair facing Mike. He hid his face in his hands.
"Oh Mike, this is terrible, this is the worst thing that could have possibly happened…" his voice broke with emotion.
Oh boy, this is worse than I thought… Mike gave Steve's shoulder an encouraging pat and went for coffee and a candy bar from the vending machine in the hall. He put the coffee on the desk in front of his protégé and handed him a chocolate bar. "There now, nothing is as bad as it seems. " When he got no reply he asked: "Did Angela dump you?"
Steve looked up. "Angela? No, why… but come to think of it, I'd better break up with her before it is too late…"
Now Mike was completely stumped. So this hadn't been a breakup with the current girlfriend? Mike was getting a bit worried now. "Steve, will you tell me what's going on or do I have to shake it out of you?"
"Mike, it's my aunt, or rather my grandaunt or rather both of them!" Steve wailed.
Mike took a deep breath. "Did someone die?"
"Oh no, far worse, she's coming to visit!"
Mike was getting impatient now. "Don't be ridiculous now and pull yourself together. What's so bad about a visit?"
Steve looked at him dolefully. "You don't understand, she's not your standard cuddly old dear, she is more like a fiend in human form…"
Bit by bit Mike managed to get the full story.
Steve's grandaunt Mathilde, a sprightly lady in her early eighties from Munich, came to visit the American relatives every two to three years. Normally Steve got away lightly, his Aunt Ruth entertained and housed the old dear and Steve was only expected to appear for the odd visit and be polite.
"And now Aunt Ruth tells me that she can't have her as she is in hospital…" Steve sighed and a cloud of horror spread over his face. "She wants me to put her up! For three weeks! I bet you, Aunt Ruth broke her arm on purpose to escape that visit!"
"You're really getting paranoid there." Mike scolded. "Come on, she can't be that bad! I suppose you've got some downtime coming…"
"Please, Mike, please, don't do this to me, I can't possibly be at home with her all day, meeting her in the evenings will be bad enough, but all day!" he gulped.
Mike was amused. He had always thought that his partner simply liked females, no matter what vintage and that he was popular with ladies of all ages in return. Now, that was a new one!
"Buddy boy - tell me what is so terrifying about this aunt? Does everybody in your family feel the same about her?"
Steve hesitated. "I guess my uncle is quite fond of her and apart from some issues over cooking I think Aunt Ruth likes her, too."
"So what's your beef with her then?" Mike was intrigued. What he experienced here was a completely different side of his young partner.
Steve cringed with embarrassment, but he knew that once Mike was onto something he would never let up. "Well… first of all she treats me like a baby and calls me all kinds of stupid pet names!"
Mike suppressed a laugh and decided to see how far he could wind up his friend today. He made some sympathetic noises and started adjusting Steve's collar and tie. "There, that's a good boy!"
Steve shot him a black look and swatted his hand away. "Oh you! I expected a bit of sympathy and you are making fun of me!"
Mike patted the enraged young man's shoulder affectionately. "I'll do better than just offer sympathy. I'll give you a dig out with the formidable aunt but you have to tell me the real reason why she scares the crap out of you."
Steve's annoyance evaporated instantly at Mike's generous proposal and he offered." Everything she cooks contains cabbage of some description…"
Mike didn't buy this for one moment. "And now the real reason, please!" he insisted. "Think about it, Buddy boy, I'm going to help you entertaining the old ancestor, but I want the truth!"
Steve sighed once more. "Okay, if you must know, when I was four or five she brought me a storybook from Germany, something with a long haired guy on the cover."
"Right up your line, isn't it?" Mike tugged at Steve's hair.
"Will you let me tell the story or do you not want to hear it?" Steve was a bit annoyed. After all, he was at the point of revealing his biggest childhood fear and Mike was making fun of him.
"I'm waiting with bated breath and won't interrupt you again!" Mike promised.
Steve looked at him suspiciously but continued. "All the pictures were gruesome, a little girl burning up, a boy holding an umbrella being blown away in a storm, a kid starving because he wouldn't eat…"
"Anchovies?" Mike couldn't resist the quip.
Steve chose to ignore it, after all Mike's support entertaining the visitor might prove crucial to his own survival. He sincerely hoped that Mike would be able for his aunt.
"When she started translating the stories for me…" he shuddered. "I had nightmares for weeks."
Mike did his best to hide a smile; he knew it wasn't fair to make fun of somebody's childhood trauma, but still…
"Okay, Buddy boy, I get it. She is pretending to be kind and then strikes. I'm forewarned now and I'll guard your back." He deadpanned but then the laughter broke through. "And I make sure she won't read you any bedtime stories!"
Steve's laughter was a bit strained, but he felt slightly more confident about the ordeal ahead of him, knowing that he had the practical Mike on his side.
"Well, Steve my boy, the clock is ticking, what do you have to do to prepare for the onslaught of the aged battle axe?"
"I suppose I'd better find a good reason to break up with Angela, before I am forced into marrying her."
Mike nodded and tried to appear serious. "Yes, that would be a disaster! But what about cleaning your apartment?" he suggested.
"I guess. I'd better hire a cleaning service… and I suppose I should buy a few saucepans and frying pans. She loves cooking!" He shuddered when he thought of many childhood meals provided by his relative. "I may even have to take her shopping…"
Mike tugged at Steve's fashionably long hair again and the young man reacted to the prompt. "Yeah, I suppose getting a haircut would cut out a lot of nagging." The next sigh was so deep, that it really touched Mike's heart. "I'll have to find someone to mind the hamster. Auntie doesn't like anything that resembles a mouse…"