Thank You Sealgirl for being the inspiring angel. Trying to imagine an Ironside fic has become a real pleasure.

Since finding a beta reader seems to be much harder than I thought I turned towards two friends at home, Alain and Frie who were kind enough to give me their first impression. A big thank You to both of them.

The Dilemma.

Chapter one

The Look Alike

It was the holiday season and San Francisco was moaning under a blazing sun.

For the seventh day in a row the temperature rose above 105 °F, an unusual situation for this city that was mostly blessed with mild weather.

The city council set out a couple of measures but there wasn't much one could really do against this persisting heatwave.

The situation was reminiscent of the one a couple of years earlier which had unfortunately cost lives. More than 65 people, mostly elderly and homeless hadn't survived.

This ever so busy city looked deserted. Whoever didn't need to go out stayed inside while the more fortunate had fled to one of the fancy beach resorts seeking refreshment in the Pacific.

The criminal and other law disobedient activities seemed to have come to a halt. Apart from some bar fights and the unavoidable traffic accidents San Francisco had probably become, if only apparently and for a short while, one of the safest cities in the US.

It was quite in his office. Even the weak noise from the surrounding streets didn't make it to the upper floor of this robust but aging building.

The heat had invaded every inch of space of his office /living quarter .

He tried not to think about it hoping it would help make the suffocating heat more tolerable.

And even though he sat immobile Ironside felt tiny drops of sweat slowly descending his left temple.

He leaned back in his wheelchair to relax from the nagging ache he sensed emerging in his lower back. Sitting down from morning till night, day after day, again and again, sure wasn't a laugh.

He took a deep breath before continuing reading the latest annotations he had made on the Dawson case. He wanted to get over with these files while there was no one around.

"3 to go" he sighed as he took a squint to the small pile that remained on the table.

Someone was coming up. The humming sound of the elevator distinctively making its way into the office.

He put down the file and turned his chair around to await the unexpected visitor.

Commissioner Randall appeared at the door, visibly surprised by the silence he encountered stepping into the room.

"Good afternoon Dennis."

"... afternoon Bob." Randall retorted .

"All alone? That's quite unusual." uttered an apparently good humored Commissioner.

"They're all gone to the beach." Ironside said dead serious while looking straight at the Commissioner.

He knew Ironside was joking but as always, for a second, had let himself being caught. Of course the Chief's staff was not out to the beach, he rectified himself.

Ironside was amused by the puzzled look Randal gave him.

"Well Dennis I never suspected You had such a failing memory." Ironside continued.

"The heat ? "

"Don't You mention it. The thought of it alone makes me perspire."

"And Yes I recollect. Ed, he's checking the hotel security measures for that meeting next week." Randall added a little nervously.

"But what about Eve and Mark?" he continued while he had settled in the chair opposite Ironside and started observing his friend who resumed reading and was, so it appeared to him, apparently not in the least suffering from the heat.

"Eve's on a well deserved holiday. She'll be back by tomorrow." Ironside answered without looking up.

"And I gave Mark the afternoon while it's his girlfriends birthday. Does that answer all Your questions?"

Randall raised the eyebrows but refrained from any further questioning.

Both man didn't speak for a while.

The Commissioner seemed to appreciate the peaceful atmosphere. He sure was a busy man with a great responsibility and moments like these were scarce.

It was Ironside who broke the silence first .

"Enjoying?" he asked looking up from the paper he was holding.

"Wh … What?" reacted a dreamy Commissioner.

"This is an office and not a place to relax." Ironside said …..

"People are working here."

"If I didn't know You better I'd think You're throwing me out."

Ironside's glaze revealed the answer.

"Good heavens Bob. You'll never change." said Randall wearily pushing himself up and started heading for the door.

"By the way Dennis, what brought You here in the first place?" Ironside finally queried looking over his shoulder.

"Since when does one need a reason to visit a friend." the Commissioner added from a distance, clearly a little upset as he shook his head in disbelief.

Once Randall gone it took less than half an hour to finish reviewing the remaining dossiers and put them into the filing cabinet.

He usually liked to browse through the closed cases and sometimes picked one out at random.

Quite satisfied about the outcome of most of the investigations he ever handled there were however a few that had left a sour taste and of which he today still wasn't sure he got it right.

However it was so hot in the office he felt as if all his energy had deserted him and just for a while he sat there looking at those needly classified files and that was it.

In the end he closed a still open drawer, turned his chair around and slowly wheeled towards the living room. From there he got a clear view over the surrounding area and could only assess that those usually busy city arteries now were nothing more than heat covered deserted streets.

He sighed and tried not to think but the heat got to him.

A swim!

Yeah, he' d love to go for a swim.

The thought of it alone almost had a refreshing effect.

He had always loved to swim and since that snippers bullet cut him down swimming just had that little extra about it . A new dimension had been added to all it's virtues. Now it also meant, at least for him, total freedom of movement. Simply priceless.

Alone in the office, with nothing special to do except wait for Ed to return to brief him on the results of his security inquiry, he got the impression time passed by slower than usual while the pain in his back grew more intense and the longing for a refreshing, relaxing and above all pain soothing swim became even more obsessive.

But with neither Mark or Ed around to drive him he shouldn't even think about it.

Trying desperately to focus on something else, almost in an answer to his prayer, Ed finally arrived.

With a smack he dropped his athletic slender body onto the bench on the landing, looking haggard.

This noisy arrival got Ironside out of this stupor and with a spark of regained vitality he turned his chair towards Ed.

He looked at his sergeant with an unusual calm.

Normally he would already have fired his questions, but he himself was so stunned by the heat that for once he contained himself and let Ed recover a little.

Finally Ed straightened up.

"What a day!" he managed to say.

"It should be prohibited to work in this heat."

"You don't want to hear it Chief. I've been in and out of that place at least a dozen times today. I've checked the premises. It's the safest place in the whole dammed area."

"What on earth are they afraid off. It's only a small scale businessmen gathering I was told by the hotel manager. Even he didn't understand what all this fuss was about."

"You know the Commissioner Ed. He's got his orders from the Mayor who probably got a friend businessman and so on and on..."

"Anyway I'm sure the Commissioner will be delighted with the meticulous account You'll be providing him … tomorrow." the Chief added with a twinkle.

"There is however something else Chief, something that I think You will find interesting."

"You've got all my attention sergeant." Ironside added maneuvering his chair closer towards Ed.

"You remember George Boyden Chief?"

"Sure. It was one of the last cases before I stopped that bullet."

"What about it?" queried Ironside with an obvious growing curiosity.

" might mean nothing, but I remember You always had doubts about Boyden's guilt."

"Yes. And I still do."

"I know that Boyden hung himself in his cell early last year, but still...." Ed continued.

"To the point Ed." snapped Ironside.

"What are You driving at?"

"You won't believe it. But while I was at the hotel I thought I saw George Boyden walk by. Only much younger." Ed said while looking earnestly at his boss.

Ironside stared at his sergeant in disbelief and frowned his eyebrows.

"He's dead sergeant. He hung himself. Remember" he said dryly.

"And... much younger what's that supposed to mean?" Ironside questioned with a touch of irritation in his voice.

"I told You You wouldn't believe me." Ed added with a sigh.

"But that's the whole point Chief." he continued with renewed vigor.

"What if You were right after all when You had that hunch the wrong guy was tried and sentenced?" Ed said looking at Ironside, impatiently awaiting his reaction.

"Don't they say everyone has a double?" Ed added quickly.

Ironside kept on listening, trying to keep calm.

He hated to be wrong about something and the simple thought that someone was death because of an error he had part in made him feel very uneasy, almost guilty.

The tenser he grew the intenser the ache in his back became as it had as usual started to move up his spine.

He shifted nervously in his wheelchair and leaned forward attentively observing his sergeant and hoping this change of position would relieve, be it only slightly, the exciting gnawing ache.

"Tell me all about it. I want to hear everything You could find out, cause You did do Your inquiry, did You?"

Ed gave him a self sufficient smile.

"I had no difficulty checking out the young man. Under the pretext of checking out the residents I got all the information."

"The receptionist was very helpful" Ed added with a little twinkle in his eye.

"I suppose she was beautiful?" Ironside let slip out.

"Now let's hear it sergeant."

He took out his little notebook and gave Ironside the complete story.

"Name: James Perkins."

"Age: 22."

"Nationality: English."

"English!" Ironside reacted, summoning Ed with a gesture of the hand to go on.

"Arrived 3 days ago and is scheduled to stay at least another two /three weeks." Ed read.

"According to the receptionist, he's here looking for real estate. Still according to her..."

"Knew it was a she." Ironside mumbled while continuing to focus his friend.

Ed chuckled: "...according to her he was born here but moved definitely to Europe about 4 years ago."

"Mm. 4 years ago." you say. "That's the time..."

"Yes. That's around the time those 2 teen girls were strangled at that remote see shore cabin." Ed interrupted him.

Ironside felt his tension rising.

"But his age? 22! and English. That doesn't make any sense." Ironside added with obvious disappointment.

"George Boyden was 45 when he was arrested." he went on reasoning.

"He had no children and was married to a younger woman."

"And if he had had a son 22 could just be his age." Ed reacted enthusiastically.

"Chief, if You had seen his face..."

"Girls take after their father, boys seldom do." Ironside cut him short.

"Seldom ! You've said it. But they sometimes do." Ed insisted and looked at his boss awaiting a reaction.

"So what if he does? Ed repeated.

"And what if …?" Ironside's impatience began to built up.

"Ed. It still doesn't proof a dammed thing." he said tapping his fist on the armrest of his chair.

Before while reasoning and arguing he would have paced up and down the room. It was his way to evacuate tension. Now, in situations like this his immobility weighed him. Stuck in that flammin' wheelchair he couldn't easily let of steam.

The heat, the ache, the immobility, these intriguing new facts and above all the increasing uncertainty about Boyden's guilt it really got to him. He just couldn't think clearly anymore, and that he wasn't used to.

He took a couple of deep breaths, while stretching as much as possible his sensitive back.

"Let's not overreact sergeant." Ironside finally said with a sigh of resignation.

"Let me go through the files tonight and I'm sure that we can come up with something."

"Go home Ed. Take a shower. Relax and I'll see You first hour tomorrow." he advised.

Ed looked at him and hesitated. Mark wasn't back yet. He didn't want to let the chief alone again. In Mark's absence he felt responsible for his boss even though he knew Ironside hated it that others thought he needed to be taken care off. But it was stronger than himself.

"Come on. Get out! And that's an order!" Ironside insisted in unmistakable terms.

Ed still wanted to protest but at the same time gasped for that refreshing shower and thus left.

There was absolutely no point in arguing: What the Chief wanted, the Chief got.