Moonlight in San Francisco

Chapter 1

1.1

Ironside was sitting at his desk reading the report that would be turned in on the latest case he and his staff had solved. Ironside marveled at the efficiency of his people. Sgt. Ed Brown and Officer Eve Whitfield had become two of the best detectives in the entire police department. They were both quick studies and Ironside could depend on both of them to think for themselves. Even Mark Sanger, his aide was becoming quite the adept detective. Mark was attending night school at the chief's insistence. Ironside had once told Mark that he had the right to not want ignorant people around him. Mark reluctantly went back to school. The chief was not above using every tool in his arsenal to push people into bettering themselves and to ultimately reach their potential. He did it every day with Ed and Eve. From the day Mark came to work for him Ironside had to push him. It was the chief's hope that Mark would eventually choose to some day become a police detective. Time would tell. In the meantime Ironside would continue to push him.

Mark was at night school. Ed and Eve had gone home for the night. The chief had given his staff a rare night off. They had earned it. With Mark away at school Ironside was spending the evening alone. He thought when Ed and Eve went home he would watch baseball but he could not concentrate on the game. He tried reading but quit when he discovered after reading an entire chapter he could not recall much of what he read. Why was he so restless? They had just solved a difficult case. He should be ready for a bit of relaxation. Yet he could not seem to relax.

Chief Ironside wheeled his chair over to the kitchen. He reached up to a shelf above his head and pulled down a bottle of bourbon. He took a clean glass out of the cupboard. Pushing the bottle of bourbon and glass between his side and the wheelchair, he wheeled his chair over to the television. He set the glass down on the table beside him and poured himself a glass of bourbon. Ironside took a drink of the bourbon and tried to get back into the Giants game. Behind him the phone rang.

He wheeled his chair back to the table. "Ironside," the chief announced into the phone.

"Robert, it's Barbara," the familiar voice nearly whispered in his ear.

Shock registered in Ironside's mind. Barbara Jones had been a nurse's aide at St. Mary's Hospital when he had been shot by a sniper's bullet. She later came to him admitting she was the target of an attempted murder. Ironside discovered she did not know her true identity. She had been beaten and dumped at a trucking company. Barbara Jones had recovered at the same hospital Robert Ironside had been taken after he had been shot. Upon recovering, it was discovered she had amnesia. She went to work at the hospital as a nurse's aide.

Barbara Jones met Robert T. Ironside in St. Mary's where he was recovering. When she showed up in his office he agreed to help her. In order to do that he had to discover who she was to find her would-be killer. Ironside enlisted the help of a reporter who had written an article entitled Barbara Who. The article was intended to attain the attention of a possible husband or family member in order to reveal her identity. It failed. No one came forward.

In working together during the course of the investigation Barbara Jones and Robert Ironside fell in love. The love was not to be though as Ironside found out who Barbara was and discovered she had a husband and two daughters. She returned to Vic even though she did not remember him or the apparent love they had shared. Barbara could not walk away from those girls and Ironside would not have wanted her to.

The emotional healing process was interrupted when Chief Ironside had received a call from Barbara. One of her daughters had been kidnapped. She pleaded with Ironside to come and help. He dropped everything in the office, packed and took his staff with him to help locate Barbara's little girl.

After a struggle over jurisdiction with the local authorities, Barbara decided to take the ransom to the kidnapper herself. She slipped past Ironside and the police to meet the kidnapper. Chief Ironside and Mark Sanger went after her. Barbara tried to coax the kidnapper out of hiding to accept the money after Mark and Ironside showed up on the scene. She slipped off of a cliff and was taken to the hospital.

Ironside found her little girl, captured the kidnapper and raced back to the hospital to check on the woman he loved. When he arrived there the fall had jarred her memory. She regained her memories of her husband Vic and the girls but lost all memory of Robert T. Ironside.

The revelation that Barbara now knew who he was had thrown him into emotional turmoil. "Barbara, I did not expect to hear from you again. I am shocked you remember me. When I left the hospital…," Ironside began.

"Robert, my memory has been completely restored. I remember my life here as well as our time together," Barbara revealed to him.

Painful memories surfaced upon hearing her words. Ironside was speechless. He did not know what to say to this woman who had brought him such joy, yet caused him such pain.

"Robert, are you still there?" Barbara asked him.

"Yes, Barbara. I'm still here," Ironside answered. "Why are you calling?" he asked quietly.

"I need your help Robert," she pleaded.

"What is it, Barbara? Are you in trouble?" Ironside asked her with genuine concern.

"No, Robert. I am not in trouble. I would rather not discuss this on the phone. May I come to your office right now?"

"Now?" Ironside said in disbelief. She was here in San Francisco? Ironside's mind was racing as well as his heart.

"Please, Robert. I must talk to you." She continued pleading with him.

How could he refuse her? As hard as it would be to see her again he knew he had no choice. "Alright, I'll be waiting."

1.2

Ed and Eve sat at a table in a night club. After leaving the chief's office together they decided to go for a drink and relax a bit before going home. "You know, Ed, you could have gone home and called up a lady for a little romance," Eve said with a smile.

"Romance, what's that?" Ed griped. "Who has time for romance when working for Robert T. Ironside? Besides I am with a lady."

Eve laughed. "We get time off, Ed."

"Sure, he allows us to go home after ten o'clock at night and calls us at midnight to come back to the office," Ed grinned and took a sip of his drink.

"Did you ever think when the chief asked for us to be assigned to him that we would solve the number of cases we do?"

Ed toyed with his glass, running his index finger around its rim. "Unlike you, I worked under him when he was Chief of Detectives. I always knew how demanding he could be. He was relentless when investigating a case even then. Now…I don't know why he can't even seem to relax when the case load is lower. Last week when we all went to the Giants baseball game he seemed to be distracted. His attention was not on the game at all."

"Do you suppose something is bothering him?" Eve wondered.

"Who knows? You know the chief; he rarely shares what's bothering him. He just takes it out on us," Ed laughed.

"Maybe we should talk to Mark. He spends far more time with him than we do. Maybe he will know," Eve suggested.

"You know as well as I do even if Mark knew he would never tell us. He guards the chief like a Doberman Pinscher," Ed said. "He is not going to reveal anything the chief says or does."

"I suppose you are right. It's just that if something is bothering us he doesn't leave us alone until he drags it out of us. It seems unfair we can't do the same to him," Eve said.

"You know what the chief would say to that? RHIP!" Ed quipped.

Ed and Eve looked at one another and said together, "Rank has its privileges."

Ed looked up at the television over the bar. He yelled at the bartender, "Hey, Charlie, turn that up, will you?"

Charlie turned up the sound on the television. Breaking news had interrupted the regular broadcast. The news anchor was reporting a murder:

"A body was found by the Golden Gate Bridge. The police described the man as being in his early fifties. He had been stabbed in the chest with a butcher knife. The man is believed to be an out-of-town businessman who was reported missing one week ago. He is the third out-of-towner to be murdered this month. In other news…."

"Commissioner Randall is not going to be happy. He is getting a lot of pressure from the city council on this. I wonder how long it will be before this one ends up in the chief's lap…and ours," Eve said.

"I would not be afraid to bet the commissioner is in the chief's office first thing tomorrow. He was screaming after the last murder. Homicide has not made any headway in the investigation. Randall will want the chief to take it over," Ed predicted.

"I was hoping for a bit of a lull," Eve said.

"I don't like lulls," Ed said as he made a face. "The chief get restless and…."

"Grumpy? Is that what you were going to say?" Eve guessed.

Ed laughed, "You said it, not me!"

"If you are right then I am glad he is home alone. He will be forced to take it easy and relax. We have no real pressing cases and with Mark at night school he can watch the ballgame or read or just take a hot bath. There will be nothing to upset him." Eve did not realize how wrong she was.

1.3

Ironside waited for Barbara Jones to arrive. His heart was racing. Upset with himself for acting like a school boy experiencing his first crush, Ironside began pacing back and forth in his wheelchair. Since her call, Barbara had filled his mind and his heart. He had thought he had gotten past the pain but his reaction was evidence of otherwise. He did not know what to say to her. Would he be able to hold his composure when she arrived? Damn it, he thought, he was San Francisco's most successful detective. He dealt with the most dangerous of criminals and they never were able to break him down. Yet this woman could turn him to putty. What was the matter with him, he wondered.

There was a knock on the door. Ironside turned his chair to face the door. He sat there saying and doing nothing. Again a knock on the door, finally Ironside found his voice. "Come in."

The door opened and there she was. She was every bit as beautiful as he remembered…if not more. She came forward and walked down the ramp into the chief's office. Ironside's emotions bubbled to the surface. He said nothing fearing he would not be able to control his voice.

Barbara came closer to him. She smiled and said, "Hello, Robert. It's been a long time. You are looking well." She stared into the blue eyes of the man she still loved.

Ironside slowly wheeled his chair toward her. "Hello, Barbara. You are still the most beautiful woman I have ever met."

Barbara blushed as she slowly approached Ironside. He reached out for her and she placed her hand in his. His touch was like fire. She wondered if she had the same effect on him.

"Sit down, please," Ironside offered, speaking to her in a soft voice, "Tell me, how have you been?"

Barbara could not avert her eyes from his. "I have been well. The girls are fine. It took a long time healing after that fall from the cliff. Even longer for my memory to heal. Robert, I can't tell you how sorry I am, I hurt you…leaving the way you did." She finally lowered her eyes from him.

It was not lost on Ironside that she had not mentioned Vic. He had not let go of her hand as he protested, "No, no, no. You have nothing to be sorry about. You did nothing wrong. You did not know me any longer and I thought it best I just leave and allow you and your family to heal. You had been through so much. I did not want to be any further source of pain for you."

"You were never a source of pain for me, Robert. You were always a source of comfort. I never did thank you properly for saving my daughter's life. I owe you so much and I have caused you nothing but pain." Tears began to appear in her eyes.

Without releasing her hand Ironside raised his other hand and with his thumb wiped the tears from her cheeks. "No, you gave me much happiness. You owe me nothing and you did thank me for saving your daughter when I came to see you in the hospital. Now tell me, why did you want to see me?"

Barbara allowed a short laugh to escape her lips. "That's a loaded question." She looked away from him to regain her composure. Looking at him would have made that impossible. "Robert, after you left things were pretty good between Vic and I. I had my memory back and my memories of you were gone. But slowly the memory of you began to completely return. He noticed something was wrong. He kept asking and I kept putting him off. It caused such a problem between us I finally had to admit what had happened. Things began to go sour as whenever he perceived I was distant with him he blamed you. I became defensive of you. It made matters worse.

"He started traveling for his business again. He started spending more and more time away from home. I decided if our marriage was going to be bearable we had to face what was going on. I asked him to stay home this last time so we could discuss what was happening between us. He refused. He said he had a major deal in the works and could not but that we would discuss it when he got back. He should have been home last Tuesday. Robert, I have not heard from him. He has not called and he did not come home. My girls are frantic and I don't know what to do."

"Do you know what city his business was in?" Ironside asked.

"Yes, he said San Francisco." Barbara watched for his reaction which was practically non-existent. "Robert, did he attempt to call or see you?"

"No, I have not heard from him," Ironside answered. "You want me to find him?"

"Robert, after all you have done for me I have no right to ask you but I am. You are the only one I trust. I have to find him for the girls' sake," she said without looking at him.

"And for yours?" Ironside asked.

Barbara could not look at him. She said nothing.

Ironside reached up with his right upturned hand, taking her chin between his thumb and index finger. He raised her head so that her eyes met his. He said nothing but his eyes pleaded for an answer.

"I don't believe our marriage can be saved. He cannot forget your part in my life…and neither can I," she said as tears began rolling down her face. "But I must find him for the girls and to try to at least make things as right as possible between us. He deserves to understand he is not the reason for the failure of our marriage. I just cannot get you out of my mind or my heart." Her tears were falling freely.

Ironside again wiped the tears from her eyes. He leaned in slowly and allowed his lips to meet hers in a kiss he had been dreaming of for a long time. When he broke the kiss he said, "We will find him and we will face him together."

1.4

He sat in his room watching the television nightly news. Yes! He made the news. He was the lead story. He listened to the broadcast. The rage began to rise. Why are they not reporting the paper moon that read the Moonlight Killer? The one he stabbed the knife into as it entered the body. What does it take to get the attention of the media? He wanted the city council to pressure Commissioner Randall. He wanted Ironside on this case. He wanted to beat the famous San Francisco detective. He hated the man. He would make him pay for what he had done to him. He took everything from him. A nice panic is just what this city needed. He would give it to them. He would kill Ironside's people right here in his city. He would not be able to stop him. It was the one thing he could do that would hurt the man he detested. When he had hurt him enough he would kill him.