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Fandom – Ironside

Characters – Chief Robert Ironside, Sergeant Ed Brown

Prompt – Written for the Small Fandom Flash Fiction Challenge - #2 Jaded. (#14 Green ff100)

Rating – G

Summary – Everyone has a moment when they have second thoughts.

A Moment of Doubt

Phone clicked into place. That was that. The case was officially closed. The jury was back, and the decision was in.

Ironside glanced at the man sitting in the opposite chair, staring at three-fingers of bourbon in a glass on the desk. He wasn't even looking at the Chief. He didn't have to ask the question. He already knew the answer.

'Miller got off,' Ed Brown murmured.

'Yes, Miller got off,' replied Ironside. 'Cleared of all charges.'

'I knew it. I knew it the moment I saw him in that courtroom. I knew it wasn't gonna stick.'

'A premonition?'

'A sure-thing,' Ed replied. 'The look on his face this morning told me all I needed to know.'

It was just one man and one case, and one small drop in the vast ocean of drug trafficking that flooded the city. But it was a case that meant a great deal to the Department, and to Sergeant Brown personally. He was the one who had started it, he was the one whos hard work and nerve had got them their opening and their evidence.

Ed reached for the glass of bourbon and took a long, deliberate drink.

'Eight months work. Three departments. Hundreds of man-hours and God alone knows how much money. And for what?' Ed took another mouthful of alcohol. 'It doesn't really seem worth it.'

The sergeant glanced to his boss, looking Ironside straight in the eye and leaned forward.

'Hundreds of thousands of dollars worth of drugs pass through this city every year. Maybe even more. Maybe a lot more. We stop a fraction of that amount if we're lucky. We work overtime, on a lousy salary. Miller gets off on a technicality, and goes back to his expensive house, his beautiful wife, and making easy money.'

There was an edge of bitterness in his tone that Ironside hadn't expected.

'Not regretting your choice of profession, are you Ed?'

The other man gave a mirthless laugh.

'Don't you ever wonder, Chief? Don't you ever wonder if it's worth it?'

'We all get bad days, Sergeant. Believe me.'

Ed didn't even glance down, but Ironside knew what the other man was thinking. Ed was thinking about the sniper that had shot at the Chief… And the bullet that took away the lower half of Ironside's body.

'You did your job, Ed. The courts did theirs.'

'And that's the end of it?'

'And that's the end of it,' Ironside replied firmly. 'Until next time.'

Ed made no answer for a few moments.

'What if… what if there isn't a next time. Not for me, anyway.'

Robert Ironside had always prided himself on being a good judge of other men, their motivations and needs and impulses, and it had made him such a good cop. But of all people, he had never expected to hear that sort of sentiment from his sergeant. Ed Brown was a good cop, one of the best (though Ironside would never tell him that to his face). He was a good man, and a good friend. Surprised, he waited for Ed to speak.

'I know what you're thinking, Chief, but tonight I've just about had it with the whole damn thing.' Ed lifted the glass and drained it, then helped himself to another measure from the bottle on the table.

Ironside watched his friend finish the second drink without speaking. The Chief was a realistic man. He knew the situation was never going to change. And he knew as well that it was going to get worse, as Policemen got smarter, so did the criminals they tried to catch. It was an endless game that neither side could never win.

'I know you want easy answers,' said Ironside at last. 'But there aren't any easy answers to give. You know the score in San Francisco, like all the other cities across the United States, and across the world. Drugs are flowing into this City. Drugs will always be flowing into this city. It's a fact of life. What's going to happen if we just give up? How many more drugs? How much worse would it be?'

Ed didn't answer, but his gaze shifted from Ironside's face to his legs and his wheelchair. Finally, after a number of moments, Ed looked away.

'Well, it's your job, Sergeant Brown, and you wanted it. You could walk away from it any time. Find a nice desk job where life wouldn't end up being so difficult.'

Ironside got a scowl from the other man, but underneath the hostility was the first glimmer of a smile.

'Can't I even wallow in self-pity for one evening?' asked Ed.

'My drinks cabinet can't stand too much of your wallowing!' Ironside replied. 'Go home, Ed. Go home, get a good nights sleep. Tomorrow is another day.'

The two men looked at each other, then Ed smiled at his boss. He pushed himself sluggishly out of the chair and started towards the door, taking care not to bump into anything on his way. Ironside watched him leave with a mild air of amusement.

'Goodnight, Chief,' the Sergeant said.

'I'll see you in the morning,' Ironside called after him.

Ed's footsteps slowed, and he turned to give Ironside a rueful smile.

'Yes, Chief. You'll see me in the morning.'