Never was much attention given to the evolving relationship between the Chief and his aide Mark Sanger.
If Mark was more or less hostile at first soon it became obvious that he was very protective towards his boss.
Sometimes hints were given, revealing how the Chief felt about his handicap, so I imagined this scene between him and Mark.
To be set in the first season somewhere around " Memory of an ice cream stick".
" goodnight chief ", Mark almost whispered as he headed for his bedroom
".....night ", mumbled a weary Ironside.
Tonights therapy session had been hard on the Chief. The physical exercises were always strenuous and he still tired rather easily.
After all not even 5 months had gone by since he had been released from the hospital. The verdict had been inexorable: paraplegic for life.
On the way home Mark had noticed something just wasn't right. The Chief was usually a man of few words but this time his silence during the trip was a telling measure.
Maybe it was one of those rare moments when he simply resembled any other human being.
While driving the paddy wagon through the still busy streets of San Francisco, Mark thought about his boss in the back and reasoned that no one, not even Robert Ironside, could possibly accept his condition without being depressed once in a while.
" Don't let yourself be fooled by appearance ", he remembered sister Agatha's words, during one of her frequent visits to the rehabilitation facility.
Mark soon discovered that this nun had grown a special liking for the Chief. Maybe because she was made of the same stuff. A tough lady, hard on her staff but with a heart of gold for those who suffered
" Frustration, anger, denial, revolt, depression,... There's no way escaping it, he'll go through it all. And he won't make it all alone " she had further insisted while at the same time warning him that he would be the first in the line of fire when the chief had a bad day.
Once back at the office Ironside had wheeled his chair over to one of the remote windows and would remain there for quite a while. It was the spot he usually chose when he wanted to be left alone.
After the shooting he had elected this large, unattractive space to set up not only his office but also his living quarters. It was spacious and that was all he needed, space, so he could easily move about in his wheelchair.
Having served the Chief a large bourbon, his favorite drink and obviously too often the only friend he turned to Mark withdrew to the kitchen where he had left some schoolbooks waiting for him.
He read a few lines then took a glance at Ironside, read again a little and finally just found himself starring at his boss, his friend at the other side of the room. His head was buzzing with questions.
" What are You thinking Chief? " , " What's puzzling You? " , " Did something, Did someone hurt You? " ,
There was a time when he could have cared less about someone else's suffering but that was before the Chief intervened, offering him a job, sending him to school, making in the end life worthwhile for him, a young black fellow from a dislocated family.
Sure he could have refused but then he saw it as a challenge. He was determined to stand up to the white man. However he would soon discover that Ironside truly respected him and wasn't pretending. His self esteem got a serious boost and new perspectives were outlined. For the first time a brighter future was beckoning.
After a while he realized it was only the wheelchair he was staring at and again he relived that very first day. How he went up to the chiefs quarters: in his heart only hate. The moment he entered the office was the first time he actually saw the crippled policeman.
The more he now thought about it the more convinced he got. The wheelchair. That's it. That's what did it. Even if deep inside of him there was a lot of resentment, what he felt the moment he set eyes upon the wheelchair bound Ironside was no longer hate. It was a very different feeling, more ambiguous, much complexer, but hate, no, no ... certainly not hate.
At that particular dark period of his young life he was convinced that there was nothing worse than being black. Today it was crystal clear in his mind that he would no longer put it that way. Those few months spent at the chief's side had taught him a somewhat different truth.
Mark kept on observing his friend who seemed hypnotized by his glass of bourbon. He finally put it down and turned his chair around: slowly wheeling himself towards his bed.
It was not the energetic push Mark was accustomed to and he concluded that tonight Robert Ironside was emotionally down and out.
' I'll make it an early night, if You don't mind." Ironside finally said looking Mark's way while unbuttoning his shirt.
" That's alright with me " Mark replied already approaching to help.
" I still have some schoolwork left to keep me occupied anyway."
Initially it took time and effort to get the Chief ready for bed, but quite rapidly they both got the hang of it, as they discovered little tricks. Still in the end it remained a tiring effort for the Chief.
Mark made sure the Chief had everything he needed within reach of hand, and only after he was completely sure there was nothing more he could do did he retire to his room and settled down behind the books he had grabbed from the kitchen table.
It was only a little over eleven. He had missed classes tonight, but with the night still young it left him plenty of time to catch up for school the next evening.
Mark knew the chief didn't like it that he skipped evening school, yet on this one Mark was uncompromising. He, and he alone accompanied the chief to therapy.
If someone had told him not longer than six months ago, one day he would appreciate school, he'd had laughed his head of. Mark and school. " No way! Man "
He smiled as he remembered the chief asking him " School 's for suckers too? " Now here he sat behind these manuals, strangely enough feeling lucky.
Someone in school had asked they start a discussion about human rights. In this troubled time were most cities had to face race riots historical documents like the "Constitution" and the "Declaration of Human Rights" had their place and were great stuff for often highfalutin discussions. In order to prepare he started reading one of his favorite articles: "No State shall make or enforce any law which shall abridge the privileges or immunities of citizens of the United States; nor shall any State........"but his attention already drifted away again;
It was odd how here in this office, working for this particular man he seemed to come to peace with himself. Slowly but surely. The angry young man, always ready to use his fists, at war with everything and everyone, especially the white man and whom the chief had put away more than once, that... that was another Mark.
To think he once toasted with his friends to the news that the feared San Francisco Chief of detectives Robert T. Ironside had fallen victim to a snippers bullets, and wasn't likely to survive. Just the simple thought of it and he already felt that unpleasant nagging pain in his stomach arise.
No! That wasn't him. That couldn't have been him. That was definitely the other Mark.
Some days he still had trouble realizing how fast his life had changed for the better since Ironside took him under his wings. So often had he been stabbed in the back by those he considered his friends. Result: a deep rooted mistrust towards everyone.
And then came Robert T. Ironside who reached out for him at a time when he himself had to confront an awful reality, being that he would never ever walk again.
Now the only thing Mark wanted, more than anything else, was for his friend to lead a life as normal and as happy as possible, and he was determined to do everything in his power to make that work.
Again he cast his eyes upon the lines before him and continued "nor shall any State deprive any person of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law; nor deny to any person within its jurisdiction the equal protection of the laws."
Yet all kind of thoughts and images kept on flashing through his mind, and he soon realized he wouldn't study much that night.
"…. mmmmmmm", "mmm......mmm...", Mark raised his head and listened more carefully. There it was again "...mmmm......"
Mark already stood by the door and initially heard nothing more than a heavy breathing. Yeah, there it was again that kind of moaning.
" Chief " he whispered
" Everything alright? "
He had come closer to Ironside's sleeping corner.
Nothing. The big man was soundly asleep.
" Dreaming Chief? " he queried silently, as if he expected an answer.
For a while he remained there. Watching, observing the breathing of his boss, once relaxed than again more agitated, interrupted with that kind of moaning.
" Yeah,... definitely dreaming " Mark mumbled as he shuffled back to his waiting books.
He tried to pick up where he left off but realized he was still starring at the same page as roughly half an hour ago. No matter how he tried to stay focused, time and again his thoughts drifted back to the Chief.
- Amendment IV
" The right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against...."
He looked the words but just couldn't stay focussed.
" Why? Why was the Chief all at once so depressed tonight? " it kept obsessing him, and suddenly that destructive feeling of helplessness, he knew so well when he was that rebellious young fellow, surfaced. All too often he had lived situations he couldn't alter no matter how intensely he desired it.
At the very moment he cast a glance at the Chief and understood better than even Ed or Eve what Ironside lived through.
Maybe it was this mutual experience of being different that had stimulated the growth of a profound bond
between the two man. It was something very private. In public they acted as if they merely supported each other, running each other down, time and again.
" I'm looking for legs and you've got them " that's how the chief had put it bluntly. Yet Mark was well aware that today he had become more than a simple substitute for the chief's useless legs.
Unlike Ed and Eve he lived with the chief 24 hours a day, seven days a week. So, no one knew better than him that the visible part of Ironside's handicap was only the top of the iceberg. It involved so much more: physically and psychologically.
The Chief, however, was an extremely proud man. He mastered the art of hiding his real suffering behind what had always been his trademark. Never would he accept for anyone, not even his closest entourage, to witness how intensely he really was aching. He just kept on bullying around his staff. For the outside world he still was that tough talking, hard-nosed cop. Often too critical for his people, his friends.
But... that's how he had always done it and that was the act he still put on. Except that this time it was just the perfect camouflage. Mark on the other hand he no longer fooled.
Occasionally the Chief would let down his guard when there was just the two of them, allowing Mark to be very briefly part of his distress. Yet Mark had discovered that when he played along the Chief would instantly recant and retract from any expression of self pity.
The question kept on hammering in his head. "What on earth happened this evening?"
He just couldn't figure out and for that end, knowing his boss, he would probably never discover.
Going to St. Mary's for the weekly therapy was not a pleasure trip, but they had been over there so many times before. Anyway Mark became more and more convinced that it was over there that the problem had occurred. But what exactly?
Maybe it was that one particular nurse with her rash, insolent way off lashing out at a patient, he reasoned. More than once he had heard it for himself and he knew how chocked he had been, leave alone someone who was trying desperately to rebuild his life, or what was left of it.
He wouldn't be surprised if she had again succeeded in pulling someone to pieces with her stinging remarks.
" Maybe the Chief heard it or worse maybe it was directed at him " he muttered and a shiver ran down his spine.
But not knowing for sure all he could do was suppose and curse her for the mental tormentor she really was.
He made himself more comfortable and leaned back in his chair, hands folded in his neck, feet on the table. He closed his eyes trying, although vainly, to relive the events of the evening and maybe find the missing answer.
It took him back to St. Mary's but strangely enough much further back in time than he'd expected. Back to the very first physical therapy session.
Apprehending what he might have to watch he had told the Chief he would wait for him in the cafeteria upon which Ironside hadn't insisted Mark stay with him.
It was the omnipresent sister Agatha who had spotted him sipping a coffee and had started a conversation before finally dragging him with her back to where she knew his presence would be invaluable: the rehabilitation facility. While explaining the utility of the rehab program she had led him to the spot where the chief was undergoing therapy .
" Stay with him " she had insisted with a soft, almost inaudible, voice. " He can use every bit of support and encouragement."
There he had stood, a bit clumsy, watching the Chief struggle to walk the parallel bars. He remembered how much that scene had made him feel ill at ease but he had tried to hide it to the best of his ability. Just as he'd wanted to turn around and walk away, thinking the Chief hadn't noticed his presence, a familiar voice had asked him to take a seat, adding "It won't be long".
" Mark!.... Mark!....." he vaguely heard someone call his name.
" Maaaarrrrkk !" it became louder and more insistent.
He finally opened his eyes and before he realized he had dozed off his name was again being called out!
" Mark! "
The Chief was calling. He jumped to his feet in his hurry and half asleep turning over the chair.
" What are You doing? " Ironside's voice thundered through the dark of the big room.
" Mark, You're alright? " He insisted trying to straighten up in bed .
" Yeah, yeah, everything alright " came the answer.
" What's up Chief? You're out of ice again? "
It wasn't the first time Ironside would wake him up because the bottle of bourbon was empty or he was out of ice.
" No,not that. Know what time it is? " Ironside yawned.
" I saw your light's were still on. You're sure everything is alright? " he fired his questions.
" Think it must be around 2 o'clock " it finally came from a distance.
One glance at the Chief made Mark head for the man's bed with a quick pace, ready to help his boss into a more comfortable position. Gently but firmly Mark braced Ironside's back permitting the Chief, one arm around Mark's neck to lift himself slightly up with lesser effort.
Followed a deep sigh of relief.
" Better? " Mark queried.
Ironside nodded affirmatively, visibly relieved and gave Mark that " Thank You " look worth a thousand words.
Simply by watching the therapists at St. Mary's Mark had learned a lot.
It were small things like that, insignificant for an outsider, that gave Mark an indescribable satisfaction. It was the only thing he could do: assist Robert Ironside to the best of his ability, trying to lessen or soothe almost unnoticeable the heavy burdens of the life of the handicapped man.
" Want to talk Chief? " he tried; secretly hoping the chief might confide in him about tonight.
" Mmmmm, no " it came.
" Better go back to sleep Mark."
" Tomorrow's a working day. Ed should be there around eight" Ironside said yawningly while massaging his aching right side.
" Too long in the same position" he added quickly, avoiding hereby any further questioning by Mark.
" Sure, You don't need me anymore? " Mark insisted looking a little worried at his boss.
" Night Mark" was the only answer.
" … Liiiiiggghts ! "
" Goodnight Chief" replied Mark. A last glance at his boss before reentering his bedroom and turning out the light.
Back in his quarters Mark managed a broad smile. That sounded more familiar. Good ol' grumpy Chief was back. The real tough guy, too proud to allow anyone or ever give anyone the slightest reason to pity him.
" Goodnight tough guy " Mark still mumbled low as he hopped into his bed and turned out the light.