Some Man Versus Robert Phillips

A sequel to the episode: Robert Phillips versus The Man, season 2 episode 5

Officer Eve Whitfield clicked smartly into the office on high heels looking particularly chic from the confection of feather and fabric on top of her carefully controlled golden curls down to the smart white court shoes on her feet.

Between she was clad in a perfectly tailored coat dress in peacock blue tussore silk with severe but stylish white trim. The hat was a perfect match and featured real peacock feathers and had probably been made by the same modiste. It was not a costume she could have bought on a policewoman's salary.

"All right boys, if you have a bet on with Miss Whitfield you may as well pay up" said Ironside. "I noticed the hat. IF you can call that ridiculous fluff of dead canary on her head a hat."

Eve chose to ignore that insult and held out her hand while Ed and Mark passed her bills.

"Even the chief wears a hat for a wedding" she said smugly.

"Don't count on it" said Ironside

He and Ed and Mark were all smartly dressed, though Mark was wearing a scarlet shirt not a white one, with a tie that he liked to describe as exuberant and Ironside had called garish when they had an argument about it.

"You can bet I'm the only one who's going to fit in" said Mark "You can take the black man off the streets but you can't take the street out of the black man."

"But if you dress the white man like a black man that's an insult" said Ironside "All right, I hate the tie; but Mr Phillips' friends at least will probably approve. Are we actually going to this wedding or are you lot going to stand around all day gossiping?" and he wheeled himself towards the ramp as Mark hurried to catch up and give an assist on the handles of the wheelchair. The three had exchanged a half exasperated, half amused look; how like the chief to put them firmly in the wrong!

Eve's eyes lingered in tolerance on Ironside as she and Ed followed him; the thing that rankled for the chief was that they COULD stand about and he could not. He had every excuse for irascibility.

Ed could have told her that he had always been irascible; but he would have agreed that it had always been dissipated in the strenuous activity of an energetic man and that enforced inaction had not made Ironside a sweeter character. But then it had not destroyed a gruff , almost guilty, kindness. They would complain; but they would do anything for the chief.

oOoOo

Robert Phillips, the black rights activist, owed his freedom to the untiring efforts of Ironside and his team. He was getting married and as a mark of respect – and to promote relations with 'The Man' he in general despised – had invited Ironside and his team as 'something of a curiosity for my friends to look at, a bunch of straight cops'.

Ironside had liked Phillips despite the man's initial antagonism and truculence; he had found him to be a straight dealing man.

Phillips had liked Ironside despite himself. And he had respected the way Ironside had helped the youths who had been looting for turning themselves in and being prepared to give back what they had taken; as well as having the courage to risk condemnation from rednecks for arresting the real murderer who had planned to let the rioters take the blame. And now Phillips was marrying a friend of his sister's, who was ready to let herself love a man who would talk to the authorities, coming from a family which disapproved of Phillips' activist activities.

oOoOo

The wedding went just as it should in the little church; the bride was radiant in a simple lace sheath dress and Phillips wore a look of contentment that, as Ed whispered to Eve, helped to dissipate what had been something of a 'lean and hungry look'.

The bride's father had apologised that his son could not be there; a murmur 'had to work' covered some embarrassment; Mark had already picked up that the new Mrs Polly Phillips' brother, Evan Davids, was not happy with her being associated with a man who had been arrested – even if proved innocent – and who was associated with lawless elements.

Phillips' associate, Williams, had been outspoken about Mr Davids' Uncle Tom attitude; and Mark threatened to hit him again if he upset the bridegroom by upsetting the bride.

"Well you'd understand the Uncle Tom thing wouldn't you now, boy" sneered Williams.

"One of these days" said Mark "You and I can find ourselves a nice quiet place to discuss this. But then when I'm a lawyer and you're still nothing, don't expect me to defend you."

Ed moved smartly over to steer Mark back to the chief to go outside for the photographs.

The photo shoot was not the only shooting taking place.

The crack of a bullet as they lined up took them all by surprise.

Phillips went down.

Eve sprang to his side as the bride screamed and clutched at him; Ed whipped his gun out and almost everybody else screamed.

"Well looks like some rednecks don't want him to bring up another generation" said Williams cynically.

"You may be right" said Ironside. "Pretty inefficient rednecks fortunately; didn't look like a fatal wound to me. Eve?"

"Through his shoulder: he'll live" said Eve.

"With a bit of a crimp on his wedding night" said Mark.

"We'll find the bastard that did it and….." began Williams

"And do NOTHING!" said Ironside irritably. Part of his irritation was that he was not able to chase the perpetrator; but Williams was available to take it out on. Williams had not gone out of his way to endear himself to the chief and Ironside sympathised with Mark's desire to smear the man's nose all across his face.

"Chief!" Roberts was half fainting but determined to be heard. "Chief, I caught a glimpse. He wasn't white. It was a black man" and then he passed out.

oOoOo

"He had a motorcycle running nearby and hopped on before I could get close" said Ed when he returned to Ironside. An ambulance had arrived and Phillips and his bride were on their way to hospital "I went to the paddy wagon to put out an APB but I doubt it'll do much good."

"Well in that case we'll have to track him down by other means as you were careless enough to lose him" grumbled Ironside.

"Yes chief" said Ed in resignation.

oOoOo

"This could provoke a riot" The Commissioner said. "Bob, we need to pull in every member of that group that Shavely and Barnard belonged to."

"That won't help, Dennis" said Ironside. "We aren't looking for a redneck."

Commissioner Randall stared.

"Bob I know you have some pretty odd starts sometimes but what's eating you this time?"

"Phillips caught sight of the face behind the rifle" said Ironside "The face was black."

Randall made a gesture of impatience.

"Caught sight of? At a distance? In cover? The man was half crazy with pain; he was mistaken Bob. Maybe the man who shot him was wearing a ski mask. Or had blacked his face."

"Dennis, would you mistake a light coloured ski mask for white skin?" asked Ironside "You know well enough that Robert Phillips is an intelligent man. It goes with the name" he added with a moment's grim humour. "If he says he saw a black face, I'm going to believe him."

"But good grief, Bob!" said Randall "What motive would a black man have to shoot him?"

"Well, Dennis, that's what we have to find out, isn't it?" said Ironside with heavy irony.

oOoOo

Williams and his coterie of black flower power young people had invaded the chief's office again. They constituted the self appointed fan club of Robert Phillips.

"Funny thing" growled Ironside "You complained about me bringing just one of my people to your meeting hall; but you seem to think it's just fine to invade my private residence with a horde. Twice. Your ideas of what's polite seems to vary when it's you being rude."

"Don't give me that crap, Ironside" said Williams "This is your office; we came for a consultation."

"Most civilised people make appointments" said Ironside.

"Civilised? Who you callin' uncivilised? You think 'cos we're black we're animals or sump'n?" said one of the coterie.

"No; I think because you're punks you're uncivilised" said Ironside "And that wouldn't change whether you were black, white, or green-blooded with pointy ears like that fellow in that new Science Fiction series on TV."

"Mr Spock" supplied Mark. "It's called Star Trek, chief."

"I don't care what it's called" snapped Ironside. "You lot are trespassing. Next time you do it, I'll decamp to a hotel until you've either got bored and left or I get bored and have you removed. Now if you have any information about who shot Phillips hand it over quick and I can get on with my job."

"Well we can all guess, can't we?" said Williams "It has to be one of them rednecks"

"Aren't you cats forgetting something?" said Mark. He disliked the coterie.

"What's that, man?" said Williams.

"A little matter of Robert Phillips identifying his assailant as a black man" said Mark "And that makes it apolitical so you agitators are superfluous to requirement – unless he's one of your own who wants the top seat and thinks that Phillips is in the way of his own political aspirations."

"Why you…." The man who had spoken before started forward.

Williams grabbed him.

"He saw a BLACK man?" Williams asked, nonplussed.

"You were there" said Ironside "Were you too busy bellyaching about rednecks to hear him?"

Williams scowled.

"Well I guess that puts a different complexion on it" he said.

"Well why would any BLACK man shoot Phillips? He's for all of us!" said the stunning girl of the group, her dusky skin lighter than that of some of her fellows, but the colour emphasised by a white leatherette mini dress and white knee length boots. Mark eyed her appreciatively but covertly.

"Well, that's what I'm hoping to find out" said Ironside "And if you people can't tell me, then you're wasting my time as well as your own. If you hear anything about anyone disliking him or being jealous maybe, as Mark suggested, then perhaps you might be good enough to contact my office and ask to speak to me."

"Oh we aren't staying where we ain't wanted" said Williams "I expect your boy will want to get on with fawning to you."

"No loser, I want to have a steak dinner and then get on with my schoolwork" said Mark.

oOoOo

"I know boss" said Mark as soon as the coterie had stalked out. "Get myself down to records and find out if there's anything on known associates of Phillips that might have had a grudge against him or ambitions to walk in his shoes."

"Quite right" said Ironside "Eve, Ed, I want you talking to the parents of some of the kids who have been in trouble over Phillips' incitement; see if there's anyone cares enough to put him out of business for the sake of their children."

"Chief" said Eve "There's another possibility."

"Well I don't claim to be infallible" said Ironside "I just usually am."

Eve took that as permission to lay forward her theory.

"Well the fact that he was shot at his wedding might be significant" she said "It might be that Robert Phillips, who is when all is said and done both handsome and charismatic, might have had a, er, liaison with a different girl than Polly Davids and if this other girl ended up with a broken heart or an illegitimate baby, any of her relatives could have had a motive."

"Hmph" said the chief "And that's why we pay for female officers; to think of the more morbidly romantic motives. Well the same group of people who might not like their kids involved are likely to contain those with daughters of an age to find him attractive; you may investigate that angle too."

"You're TOO kind chief" said Eve, the only one of them who dared be sarcastic to the chief when he was in a dour mood.

"I know" said Ironside "I'm going to let you report back here before I send you out checking jealous ex boyfriends of Polly."

Eve rolled her eyes at him.

Whatever his mood, Eve always lightened it; and one might almost imagine the ghost of a smile touched the side of his mouth briefly.

oOoOo

"Do you really think we're going to get anywhere?" asked Ed.

"Well we won't if we stay around the precinct complaining and worrying" said Eve.

"THAT sounded too much like one of the chief's comments" growled Ed.

Eve laughed.

"Well it sounds prettier when I say it than if you had to have HIM say it" she said. "Why don't we start with the parents of those boys the chief helped to get off on a suspended sentence? They're pretty grateful and co-operative. They'll maybe introduce us around."

"The wisdom of the serpent" said Ed "Goes with the name I suppose."

"Watch it wise guy" said Eve amicably.

oOoOo

Robert T. Ironside stared at the desk.

He thought that he had probably sent Mark on a fool's errand; but that angle had to be checked out. It was personal; it had to be personal. Eve was right about it being significant that the shot had taken place at the wedding.

He picked up the telephone and called the hospital; first to find out how Phillips was doing and second to talk to Mrs Polly Phillips.

Phillips was doing fine; the bullet had been removed and he had recovered from sedation and was sleeping naturally. Polly was distraught but willing to do what she could to help; and a couple of calls meant that a police car soon had her in Ironside's office.

"I need to know a few things Polly" said Ironside "This appears to have a personal motive; and I need you to tell me who you were dating before you met Phillips; who might be jealous. Any ex boyfriend who was angry that you were with Phillips."

Polly stared.

"But chief!" she said "I hadn't really dated anyone before Robert! I've been out with a few boys, but you couldn't say I was dating any of them. Not so that I would call them a boyfriend, so not going out with them again doesn't really qualify them as being ex boyfriends. I'm working so my brother can go through college; I don't have much time for a social life. And Robert understands that; he doesn't expect me to give up working now I'm married, I'll just go part time."

"Hmmm" said Ironside "So none of the men you've been out with has expressed any disapproval of Phillips?"

Polly laughed.

"No sir; it would be none of their business to do so. It's the business of my family only. My father wasn't all that happy at first but he heard how Robert had done his best to help you find who killed that nasty man Shavely. But he and Evan were the only ones who disapproved at first and they couldn't disapprove once they'd met Robert. Dad said he was surprised how nicely spoken Robert is. Mom just loves him! He's become a part of the family."

"I see" said Ironside. "And your brother looks on him as gaining another brother too now does he?"

Polly looked uncomfortable.

"Evan has the oddest ideas!" she said. "I – I fear that he's also a bit afraid that I won't go on working so he won't get his college fees paid. Which is absurd! Robert believes in a college education for all, he'd never stop me helping my own brother out! What's also foolish is that because Robert was arrested, Evan is afraid he'll be marked as a troublemaker at college and flunked to get him off the courses."

"That is absurd" said Ironside "Because Phillips was not even charged in the event. Being absurd however does not mean that some racist on the faculty might not use it as an excuse to try to push him to fail. I'd like to say your brother is paranoid but unfortunately he has a point. He should NOT have a point. However, I don't think it would happen even if I concede the possibility. They can't flunk him without his marks dropping to a certain level and that's subject to external review too, so as long as he works hard he should have nothing to fear."

"That was what I said" said Polly. "HE said that the Man is unfair enough without people like Robert giving him excuse. Chief Ironside, you think my brother shot my husband, don't you?"

Ironside gave her a long, considering look.

oOoOo

"Evan" said Polly "You shot Robert, didn't you? I know you joined the rifle club at college. And you have a motorbike. You stole a college rifle to shoot him."

Her brother scowled.

"And what if I did?" he said. "Do you think I want my sister tied to a criminal, to have everyone know that I'm related to a rabble-rouser who's been mixed up in a murder?"

"And the fact that I love him has nothing to do with it?" said Polly.

Evan shrugged.

"You'd get over it; you can't really love a man like that, he's dazzled you, that's all."

"Oh would I?" said Polly "All you're interested in is how you look and whether I can keep earning for you. I don't think you'd care that much if I was turning tricks so long as the money came in."

"Don't be ridiculous" said Evan "How would it look if I let my sister be a hooker?"

"How would it look" said Polly "Well it's not my safety or self respect that stops you pimping me, just your almighty image. And how do you think I feel at the thought that my brother is going to be a gaolbird?"

"What?" he stared. "Poll, you wouldn't turn me in! your own brother!"

"Why not?" said Polly. "You tried to kill the man I love most in all the world."

"Poll…. I'm your brother; he's going to make you unhappy! I did it for you, honey!" wheedled Evan "You and me, we're the only people in the world who know…. You don't need to tell anyone!"

"I don't need to tell anyone" said Polly "Because Ironside already knew. He's waiting outside for you to give yourself up peacefully. If you do that, as it was not a fatal shot he'll do what he can for you."

"You BITCH!" Evan Davids leaped on his sister with his hands about her throat.

Officer Eve Whitfield decided that it was time to step in at this point; and Evan Davids, turning in fury on the slight, blonde policewoman who had entered the room, found himself unaccountably on the ground with the said slight blonde policewoman sitting on him as she cuffed him informing him of his rights.

"I'm sorry Eve" said Polly "I really thought if I explained calmly he would give himself up."

"I'M sorry, Polly, that this is going to be painful" said Eve. "Ah here's Ed."

Ed took Davids down to a waiting police car. Ironside wheeled himself sadly back to the lifting gear of the paddy wagon. The instruction had been that if Davids was willing to come clean he would ride with the chief; otherwise he would go in a car to be booked in the normal fashion.

oOoOo

"Thanks again chief" said Robert Phillips, his arm in a sling. "Evan was one of the things I despise more than an Uncle Tom; a man who resents The Man but will not act on it whether by the peaceful protests or my way; a counterfeit Uncle Tom. I despise a hypocrite."

"Polly will need your support" said Ironside.

"And her parents" agreed Phillips. "Mr Davids is very cut up that his son should do such a thing; if he hadn't confessed to Polly, he'd have paid out every last penny to private investigators and a smart lawyer to see if Evan hadn't been framed. Of course finding the stolen rifle and matching the tire treads of the motorbike confirmed it. There's a knock on effect to the family of any criminal, isn't there?"

"Yes Mr Phillips, there is" said Ironside "As well as to the family of any victim. Violence never solves anything; it just creates more problems."

"Sometimes controlled violence gets a point across" said Phillips.

"Sometimes the point is sharp and ends up in another man's back" said Ironside, recalling the Shavely murder.

"What else am I to do, man?" said Phillips.

"You're well known now" said Ironside "Talk to people as before; but tell them to stick to civil disobedience. Tell them that they need the moral high ground. Get onto TV. Run for office. You won't be elected but run for office anyhow. There are enough supporters out there to put up the money for election campaigns. Become a lawyer and defend black kids. And work with them, helping them realise their potentials not inciting them to do things that end their youth and potential in gaol!"

"You sound like Polly" said Phillips.

"Your wife is a sensible woman" said Ironside. "Now I told the Commissioner I had living proof that you were a clever man; show him I'm right and get yourself out there doing good for your community."

"What proof?" demanded Phillips.

"The best proof" said Ironside. "Your name's Robert."

Ed, Mark and Eve exchanged looks laughing. HOW like the chief to have the last word as a non-sequitor!