TITLE - Backfire (alt ending)
RATING – PG-13
WARNING – CHARACTER DEATH!!
SUMMARY – An old murder case is reopened, and the man sent down for the crime escapes, intent on revenge. Based on the S3 episode "Backfire".
A/N – I reached the end and suddenly discovered that this was a death-fic, so it carries a great big, fat CHARACTER DEATH warning, and it does not have a happy ending. If you don't like that sort of thing, do not read! No, really. I mean it!
Backfire (Alternate Ending)
The story so far…
Mark Sanger, while working on a brief for Law School, inadvertently opens up an old murder case that Ed once worked on.
Gerry Foster was put on trial and convicted of murdering his girlfriend, but still maintains his innocent in the face of overwhelming evidence, insisting that the witnesses were wrong and, much more seriously, that Ed Brown committed perjury at the trial, just to get his sergeants promotion.
Foster's sister gets a copy of Mark's school brief and uses it to get the case reopened, and Ironside is forced to investigate. But as the investigation concludes, and Ironside finds the real culprit, Gerry Foster escapes from prison, intent on making Ed pay for taking away his life…
It had been a bitch of a day and what Ed Brown wanted more than anything else was a little down time. He needed a chance to relax, just for a few minutes, a chance to forget about it and try and get some perspective.
So the moment he got back to his apartment, he threw off his jacket and pulled off his tie, undoing the top button of his shirt and flopped down onto his sofa, his eyes closed and his head tipped back. This was one day he wished would end sooner rather than later; not only had his name been dragged through the mud, but he was starting to get some very odd looks from some of his colleagues downtown as well.
And Gerry Foster was still out there somewhere.
What a mess! The whole sorry case was a mess from start to finish. It was hard to stay angry at Mark, he hadn't known all this was going to blow up in their faces. He wasn't to know that Foster would escape. Mark's words from earlier came back to him: He's out to kill you, Ed.
Ed shook his head at the thought. No, he didn't believe that. Foster was just stir crazy after prison. The man couldn't really believe his own story as the investigation had been done by the book. There had been no mishandling of the gun, no fixing of fingerprints, nothing like that. But, unfortunately, until they showed otherwise, Ed still had a label pasted on his forehead saying crooked cop. And that accusation hurt!
Suddenly, the phone rang, pulling Ed out of his thoughts, and he answered thinking it was his boss and hoping it was good news.
The sound of that voice made him freeze, just for a moment. He hadn't forgotten what Foster had sounded like, his quiet, almost laconic tone that carried utter conviction. But this phone call was the last thing he'd expected.
'F-Fost...' Ed started to say.
'You listen to me, Brown, and you listen good. I'm with someone you know.'
There was a quiet, feminine-sounding voice and though he could make out the words she said, he recognised the woman speaking: Eve. His stomach lurched downwards by about a foot. Foster had Eve. They must be at her apartment!
'You touch her, Foster, and...'
'Well, that depends on you, doesn't it Brown,' Foster said loudly, cutting him off once more. 'You're going to come over to her apartment right now and write a full confession about how you framed me.'
There was another cry, and Ed though he heard Eve say, "no Ed, he'll kill you!" but he wasn't certain.
'If you value your girlfriend's neck, come alone and unarmed, Brown.'
'Foster, if anything happens to her...'
'That's up to you, Brown.'
With that, the line clicked and Ed was left with static. He sat staring at the receiver in his hand for a second then he rammed the phone back into place with impotent anger.
He had no choice.
Suddenly, he stood, heading for the door, taking a furtive glance across to his table and his gun. With Eve's life in the balance, he couldn't take the risk. It was his mess, and his responsibility; he couldn't expect Ironside to bail him out. And he couldn't let Eve suffer for his mistake.
Leaving the gun, he walked out of the door, yanking it shut with a loud thud.
A moment after it closed, the phone rang once more…
In the van, Ironside pressed the handset to his ear, listening to the rings. But no one picked up at the other end.
'Where the flamin' hell is Ed?' demanded Ironside, scowling at Mark, 'and why isn't he answering the phone?'
'Maybe he's got a hot date,' Mark suggested.
Ironside's scowl grew deeper. This was Ed Brown they were talking about, yes, but he wouldn't go out on the town at a time like this. And something was very wrong if Ed wasn't answering his phone.
Mark took a quick glance away from the road to look at his boss.
'What's wrong, Chief?' he asked.
'I'm not sure,' muttered Ironside. 'But whatever it is, I don't like it.'
'So what now?'
'We've got to find Foster. We've got to find him before he makes it worse for himself. We've got to find him and tell him the truth.'
Ironside noticed the slight smirk at the corner of Mark's mouth.
'Do you have something to say, Mark?'
'It's just… he's innocent. He knew it all along but no one believed him.'
'No one but you, you mean.'
Mark hesitated, but nodded eventually.
'Instinct is all very well, but we also work on proof around this department,' said Ironside. 'Ed did his job, as far as it went. So if you're looking for someone to feel superior to, try the DA for pushing for a trial before all the evidence was in!'
'Yeah,' said Mark slowly.
'But that still doesn't explain where Ed has got to,' said the Chief. 'And we'll need Ed to find Foster and bring him in.'
For a few moments, Ironside was silent. Something felt all wrong this evening.
'Mark, get us over to Ed's apartment.'
Ed had driven as fast as he dared, but as inconspicuously as he could.
Now, he stood just outside the door to Eve's apartment, and he doubted his decision to handle this on his own. He hadn't stopped to think this through, he had just reacted and now it was too late to do anything about it. He should have called the Chief, but part of him didn't like going crying to the Chief every time something came up. This mess was his responsibility.
But he didn't dare delay any longer. He knocked twice on the door.
'Come in, Brown,' called Foster. 'The door is unlocked.'
Taking a deep breath, Ed pushed down the handle and let it swing open.
Eve was right in his line of sight, sitting on a chair, her hands behind her back and a gag in her mouth. There was a brief spasm of guilt, it was his own fault this was happening. If he hadn't made a mess of the original investigation, if he hadn't let the loose ends go without more thought, this might not have happened and Eve wouldn't be in this danger. He tried to shrug off the feeling, now was not the time to think about it. He had to get her safely out of there.
Foster's voice called out from the shadows of the adjacent room. Ed could just make out his silhouette.
'Come in. Slowly,' Foster said. 'With your hands up where I can see them.'
Ed did as Foster told him, all the time never looking away from Eve. He sensed the door swing back, and heard it click behind him. He stood still, waiting.
'Take off your jacket, so I can see you're not carrying a gun. Slowly.'
Again, Ed did as Foster told him, slipping his jacket off his shoulders and letting it drop to the ground beside him. Foster nodded.
'Good,' he said.
'Let her go, Foster.'
'Not yet, Brown.' Foster jerked the gun towards the desk in the corner and Ed looked over. There was a piece of paper sitting there and a pen, neatly laid out and waiting for him to use. Ed gulped, the sick, guilty feeling inside him mixing with impotent anger. He glanced back over his shoulder, seeing the figure of Foster more clearly, standing in the shadows and holding the gun. But this time it wasn't pointed at Eve, it was pointed directly at him.
And at that moment, Ed knew Mark had been right. Foster was going to kill him, regardless of what happened.
He looked at Eve, and suddenly the gun swung round, back towards her.
'Sit down, Sergeant,' Foster told him. 'Sit down and start writing!'
'There's no one there,' said Mark, peering up to Ed's window. 'The lights are out.'
Ironside looked up to the building as well, a deep frown on his face. He couldn't put his finger on just what was wrong and what he should do about it.
He had the nagging feeling he was too late this time. Whatever was going to happen had already started.
'Get up there, Mark,' he said sharply. 'Get yourself up there, and if Ed's not answering the door, get yourself inside.'
Mark looked round at him, eyebrows raised in surprise.
'Did you just mean what I think you meant?' he asked.
'Get yourself inside and find Ed, if he's there.'
There was an ominous silence.
'If he's there? You think Foster would… he would…?' It was clear that Mark couldn't finish the thought. It was Mark's doing that had opened this can of worms.
'Get yourself up there and find out.'
Mark gave a short nod and vanished out of the van, running up the steps and into the building.
Ironside waited impatiently in the van for him to return. But in his chair there was not a lot else he could do. Mark had told him Foster's exact words: What's the penalty for perjuring a guys life down the drain? The same as the penalty the accused could pay? Death? That was what Foster wanted.
Ironside tried to anticipate what the man would do. He was on the run, he had a gun and he had a grudge against Ed. There was nothing to stop him pulling the gun in the middle of the street and gunning the sergeant down.
But no. That wasn't all that Gerry Foster wanted. He was convinced Ed had lied on the witness stand. And he would want everyone to know it. He wouldn't just want Ed to pay, he would want a confession of guilt as well.
Still deep in thought, Ironside was taken by surprise when Mark suddenly reappeared at the van door.
'No one there,' he said, clambering inside. 'Locked down and empty. But…'
Ironside looked at Mark's frown with a growing feeling of worry.
'But what?' he demanded.
'Only odd thing I found was his gun.'
'His gun?' Ed Brown never went anywhere without his gun!
Ironside's frown grew deeper once again, and he sank down into his wheelchair. There were very, very few reasons that Ed would leave is gun behind, especially with an escaped convict out looking for him.
'So what now, Chief?'
'Foster wouldn't just want to get revenge on Ed for framing him,' said Ironside slowly. 'He'd also want everyone to know what Ed had done.'
'A confession? But you know what Ed's like, man! That's not going to work.'
'Backed into a corner, he wouldn't except…' Mark looked at him, probably having the exact same thought.
'Gerry would try and force him,' said Mark. 'How?'
'He would get a hostage. An innocent bystander. Someone Ed knows…'
Ironside trailed off, then suddenly picked up the phone and dialled Eve's number. He let it ring and ring, but Eve didn't answer the call either. He could sense Mark watching.
'I think we've found our answer!' Ironside said. 'Get driving!'
Ed sat at the desk, and he could sense Foster pacing back and forth behind him, waiting for the telephone to stop ringing.
He tried to keep calm, but he couldn't help thinking and hoping that maybe it was Ironside at the other end, trying to get hold of Eve. And maybe Ironside was on his way over. If anyone could talk Foster out of this, it was the Chief.
But how was that going to help? Ironside could be half and hour away. But once this document was done and signed, Foster was going to shoot him.
'Come on, start writing!' Foster said. 'Just put down what you did and sign it!'
'What did I do?' Ed asked, trying to hide his fear under the veil of annoyance.
'You put pressure on the witnesses. You brought me the gun to get my fingerprints on it, you twisted the truth to set me up!'
'What do you expect me to write?'
The pacing suddenly stopped and Ed felt the barrel of a gun pressed hard between his shoulder blades.
'Write it all down,' hissed Foster. 'Start from the beginning and write it all down. All the lies, all the fake evidence against me. Write!'
Foster was standing directly behind him, looking over his shoulder.
'Why don't you just tell me what to write,' Ed said. 'Everything about it.'
Foster was silent at the suggestion, Ed could hear him breathing a few inches away.
'Ok, Brown. Ok.' Foster turned away, and started to pace once more. 'Here's what you're going to write: I, Sergeant Edward Brown…'
The van pulled up on the opposite side of the street to Eve's apartment. The lights were on, but the blind was pulled down so there was no way to tell if anyone was inside.
Ironside pursed his lips, looking once again at the telephone. If he was right, and he was dead certain he was, then Foster was there and he was armed and dangerous. Ed was most likely there as well, and of course Eve.
Suddenly, there was a moving shadow against the blind, as if someone was pacing back and forth. It wasn't Eve, it was a man. And it didn't look like Ed either.
'Let's get ourselves up there,' Ironside said. 'We can't do anything stuck down here.'
It was all down on paper, in black and white, how he, Ed Brown had deliberately confused and bullied the witnesses, faked the fingerprints on the gun and tapered with other evidence, just to get a promotion to sergeant. All he had to do was sign it and that would be it.
'Sign it,' Foster told him. 'Sign it!'
Slowly, Ed signed his full name across the bottom. It looked a little shaky, but it was still obviously his signature.
'Give it to me!' ordered Foster.
Slowly, Ed stood up, holding the piece of paper out. But the other man didn't take it, he just stared at it in wonder.
'This is what you wanted, isn't it?' Ed asked.
Foster lifted the gun.
'Shooting me is what you were going to do all along?' Ed asked. Foster nodded.
'What about it?'
'It just seems a little quick…' Ed murmured.
A snarl appeared on Foster's face.
'You destroyed my life! Why shouldn't I destroy yours?'
'And shooting me is the best way to do it?' Ed tried not to sound too sure of himself, and Foster frowned. 'What's the point in having that piece of paper without everyone knowing?'
Ed took a step forward, taking great care not to look at Eve, but concentrating on his opponent. The paper was still in his outstretched hand and slowly, Foster reached out and took it.
Foster looked down at the paper in his hand reading it, and a small, relieved smile on his face. At that moment, he looked truly happy. The gun lowered slightly, away from a direct shot. But that was the moment Ed had been waiting for. He was dead either way, and he couldn't rely on Ironside getting there in time to save his neck. It was his last chance, and the only time Foster had been distracted.
So Ed leaped forward as fast as he could, catching Foster's right hand and tried to force the gun downwards.
They struggled. But for all Ed's speed, Foster fought back with a cold anger conviction that Ed couldn't match. The gun was pressed between them. Ed pushed with all his strength, twisting Foster's hand as far as he could.
Then, suddenly, shockingly, there was the deafening sound of a gunshot and a white-hot pain exploded across his abdomen.
He stood for a moment, pain burning though his torso. Then he felt his legs buckle and someone screamed.
Both Mark and Ironside heard the shot. Without waiting, and ignoring Ironside's cry of protest, Mark bolted along the corridor. His footsteps thudded along then stopped suddenly.
Ironside rolled himself forward, trying to stifled the growing panic.
Ahead he saw Mark frozen in the doorway, his hands half up, his mouth open.
Ironside pushed faster up to Eve's open door.
Ed was lying on the floor with a thick streak of red all along the lower part of his shirt. His blood was seeping onto Eve's plush carpet. Ironside stared for a minute, hearing Eve's gentle sobs, muffled by her gag.
Gerry Foster wasn't looking at Ed, he was staring at Mark and Ironside. The smoking gun was still in his hand.
'Gerry? Man, what have you done?' whispered Mark. He took a half step forward but Foster lifted the gun, pointing it straight at Mark.
'Come on, I've got to help him!'
Ironside took hold of Mark's arm holding him firmly and Mark took a slow step back. The gun never wavered.
'He got what he deserved,' said Foster quietly. 'He perjured my life away, for a lousy promotion! He deserved to die!' Foster's hand tightened around the piece of paper. 'He wrote it all down, what he did. Everyone will know what a lying cop he was.'
Mark said nothing. He was shaking. Ironside could only imagine what Mark was feeling. His point scoring school exercise might have just cost Ed his life.
Ironside glanced down to the man on the floor, looking closely at him. Ed's eyes were half open and he was staring at the ceiling, but his chest rose and fell with shallow breaths. He was still alive! They just had to get to him, and get some help before he bled to death on Eve's floor. But Foster was the key.
'We have to help him,' Ironside said. 'You know we can't just stay here and let him die.'
Foster held up the paper once again.
'He deserved it after what he did. He signed it! Everyone's gonna know!'
'Did you have a gun at his back?' snapped Mark. When Foster didn't reply, Mark gave a short, brittle laugh. 'That's some confession, man!'
'I didn't kill her!' snarled Foster. 'Now everyone one will know it!'
'We already know you didn't kill Marie,' Ironside said.
Foster lifted up his piece of paper.
'This says so!'
Ironside shook his head slowly, never taking his eyes of the other man.
'No, Gerry. We know who did kill her. We know what happened. It was an accident. Like this. An accident.'
'Accident? But you know I wasn't there! You know he lied! And you know I didn't touch that gun!'
'But you did, Gerry,' Ironside said calmly. He kept his eyes fixed on Foster, even though he was far more aware of the prone figure on the floor. He was certain the pool of blood in the carpet was growing bigger.
'I didn't! I wasn't there! I told you. He framed me, and I have proof.'
'But you were there,' insisted Ironside.
'Look at him, Gerry,' said Ironside loudly, issuing a command rather than a request.
For the first time, Foster looked down to the man lying bleeding to death on the floor.
'That's not the first time you've seen someone who's been shot, lying on the floor, is it?' Ironside asked more gently.
Gerry didn't answer, but there was a flicker of confusion across his face.
'You had a terrible shock that night, Gerry,' said Ironside. 'You were waiting for her, but she never came.'
'She never came,' echoed Foster.
'So you went to find her. To find out why she wasn't there. You loved her. And you went to find her.'
Foster's faced creased with a frown.
'You went to find her, but she wasn't answering the door.'
Foster continued to look at Ed as he lay on the floor.
'The door was open and you went inside,' said Ironside.
Foster's eyes blinked rapidly, and a look of lost confusion crept over is face.
'You remember, Gerry. Don't you remember going inside. Don't you remember what you saw?'
'Marie…' he whispered. Inside, Ironside felt like smiling in relief, but not trace of what he was feeling showed on his face. That was just the start. There was still a long, long way to go.
'She was lying there,' Foster said in a whisper. 'She didn't move when I spoke to her. It was a nightmare…'
'You had a gun in your hand,' said Ironside. 'Look at the gun in your hand, Gerry.'
The man looked slowly to the gun. Minutes were passing, and every passing moment made it less likely they could help Ed. But this couldn't be rushed. One wrong move and Foster could snap and kill them all. Kill Eve, kill Mark, kill Ironside himself.
'I couldn't believe it,' Foster said, still looking down at the gun. 'I didn't want to believe it. I told myself I was just dreaming it was a nightmare. I told myself none of this had happened. And when I looked again, and she wasn't there.' He suddenly smiled at the memory. 'She was somewhere else, and this was just part of the nightmare. So I went back to the bar. I waited for her, but she never came.'
Ed was lying stretched out on the floor. Ironside looked down, not seeing the faint movement of breathing any more, and fir the first time real panic filled the Chief. Then Foster looked down at Ed as well, shock etched over his face as he realised what he'd done. The gun in his hand wobbled but didn't fall to the ground.
'It was all just part of the nightmare,' Foster murmured. 'The gun, the fingerprints. It was part of my nightmare. Then he didn't…'
Foster looked at the piece of paper in his other hand for a few moments, all emotion draining from his face as the full implication dawned, there was no doubt he understood what would happen next. At last, he looked at the Chief, directly in his eye. Just a fraction of a second before his hand moved, Ironside realised what he was going to do. The hand tightened round the gun.
'Gerry! No!' Ironside cried.
Even though Mark started forward, he was too late, by a mile. Foster lifted the gun to his head and fired.
The Chief often thought about the events of that day, even months and years later, the regret never went away and the responsibility only grew harder to bear. If only he had called Ed earlier and stopped him from going there without backup. If only Ed hadn't felt compelled to sort it out on his own. If only Foster hadn't been so hard to talk down.
The Chief would never forget the look on Mark's face as he knelt down at Ed's side and felt for a pulse that he would never find; his hands covered in bright blood.
And after that day, nothing was the same. Ed was gone.
Somehow, Ironside has always assumed Ed Brown was going to be there. He was the best cop in the department, Ed was his prize pupil and the Chief had known that Ed would be a cop until his dying day.
But after he was gone, so abruptly and so senselessly, the others left too. Eve couldn't bear to stay either and be reminded of what had happened, she left her job, her family, even the city, trying to get away from the memory. Mark didn't stay either, unable to forgive himself for starting the chain of events that had ended in Ed's death.
Of course, Ironside stayed and he kept on working at the department. He had new staff, a new aide and a new sergeant to help him, and other officers that came and went, year in, year out.
And sometimes when the regret was at it's most acute, he would take the old, bloodstained badge out of safe where he kept it, just to look at it, and remember.
I really never intended to actually kill him at the end, honest! What I really wanted to do was rewrite the end of that episode so that Ed missed Ironside's suspiciously well-timed call and had to confront Gerry Foster on his own. When I started, I thought that Ed would ultimately recover and have to explain himself and his actions to Ironside.
But then when I reached the end, it didn't seem quite right. I didn't want to retread ground that I've already been over. And since part of the prompt was "regret", I wanted to deny them the chance of any closure and make it so much harder for them to move on. Besides, in the series everyone gets shot at or injured at some point, and we have the whole flashback/hospital scenes and then they recover and everyone is happy again. Why not do it just once, and see what happens?