Mark Sanger put a cup of coffee on the table in front of Chief Robert T. Ironside. "Thanks Mark," Ironside said. After a particularly physically and emotionally draining case, Ironside was ready for a long needed vacation and so was his staff. The city council was so relieved to have the Moonlight Killer behind bars one of them had offered their cabin to Ironside and his staff for two weeks of fishing and relaxation. Ironside was looking forward to leaving the office and the caseload that came with it behind.
The door to the office opened. Sgt. Ed Brown and Officer Eve Whitfield walked in and came down the ramp that served as a means for Ironside's wheel chair to navigate the difference in the floor levels.
"Morning chief," they said in unison.
Ironside grunted a greeting. Ever since the conclusion of the case, the chief had been rather quiet especially for him. Barbara's decision to take some time with her daughter and deal with the divorce had come as a surprise to Ironside. She had told him she wanted to be with him but she needed time. She told him she would contact him when she was ready and asked him to wait. Reluctantly Ironside gave in and agreed not to contact her. That was three months ago and he had not even received a phone call from her.
Had he given her enough time? After all, a divorce that involved children took time.
No one brought up the subject not even Mark who occasionally could talk the chief through what was bothering him. Mark figured this was one subject best left alone unless the boss brought it up himself.
"If we are going to leave here on Friday we have reports that have to be on the commissioner's desk," Ironside growled at his staff. "He has been on my back for a week."
Eve was about to point out that the only report not yet completed was the chief's report but then thought better of it. "I'll finish the report, chief but I will need your input."
Ironside grabbed his handwritten notes. His demeanor seemed to change at the sound of Eve's voice.
Ed smiled to himself. Eve just had a way with the chief that the rest of them did not. "If there is anything I can add to it I'll be happy to help," Ed offered.
Ironside listened to his officers. He knew he had not been in the best of moods since Barbara left. He appreciated more than he could ever express to them the understanding and support they provided him.
"Almost forgot," Mark said. "Your Aunt Victoria called. She would like you to call her back."
Aunt Victoria. Ironside loved her dearly but ever since one of her bridge club friends had been murdered, Ironside had to step in and stop the Tuesday Afternoon Bridge club from their amateur investigating of local crimes.
He had scolded his Aunt more times that he could count. Each time he thought he had got through to her he caught her and her bridge player friends at it again. Only last week he had Ed hauled them all into his office for another stern lecture about the dangerous people they were dealing with. He had just yesterday assigned officers in their area to keep an eye on the ladies in an attempt to keep them out of trouble. He would no doubt hear about such a misappropriation of funds if Commissioner Randall ever got wind of it.
"Eve, would you get my aunt on the phone for me please?" Ironside wheeled his chair toward the table.
Eve dialed the now familiar number. After several rings, the voice mail came on. Eve left a message for Aunt Victoria to call her nephew.
Eve informed the chief she was not at home. He could not help but wonder what she was up to now.
Victoria Ironside noticed the police cruiser behind her car. He had been there for several blocks now. She certainly hoped her nephew was not having her tailed. She was proud of the man her nephew had become. He was a household name in the city of San Francisco. He had even become famous the world over in his field. Here in San Francisco the name Ironside sent shivers up the spines of criminals everywhere.
Victoria had followed Robert's career for years. He had solved some of the toughest cases others could not crack. In fact, he solved the murder of one of her dearest friends.
Victoria knew she had upset Robert tremendously lately with her investigations into crimes in San Francisco. She just could not figure out why Robert did not understand why she did it. After all, was she not an Ironside? That alone should help him understand why she did it. But no, her nephew had dragged her and her friends into his office to scold them yet again about behaving as amateur detectives. It was most embarrassing. Now she found herself in yet another investigation.
This one was personal. Not even Robert would be able to get her to back off of her efforts. If only she could go to Robert with what she knew...but she could not. He must never know her secret. She would not risk his love. Robert meant more to her than he could possibility know. She swelled with pride over the man he had become. His very appearance in public was covered by the press. He would be such a valuable asset to her investigation if only she could ask him.
Victoria looked behind her vehicle. That annoying officer was still there. It was time she lost him.
Officer Pete Kelly and Officer Jillian Tomaz were following Chief Ironside's aunt. Of all the rotten assignments, thought Pete. "How am I ever to get a promotion when the chief is assigning me to follow little old ladies around the city?" He said out loud.
"I can assure you of one thing if you lose this little old lady you will end up on traffic detail," Jillian said.
"Why is that? How important can this little old lady be? She is no different than the other ones he has had us following around since yesterday," Pete insisted.
"Guess again, partner. This one is Victoria Ironside," Jillian informed him.
Ironside...with a name like that she must be related to the chief," he said.
"His aunt, so I suggest you do not lose her because if you do you will be the one to tell the chief, not me, Jillian said.
"Why in the hell are we following Ironside's aunt?" Pet asked his partner.
"From what I hear the old lady fancies herself as an amateur detective. The chief is trying to keep her out of trouble. He can't get her to stop." Jillian watched as Ironside's aunt turned the corner slowly. "Hang back a bit. We don't want her to spot us following her."
Officer Pete Kelly slowed the vehicle and asked," If she is not supposed to know she has a tail then why are we doing it in a patrol car?"
"Just keep her in sight," Jillian said.
Pete turned the corner. Victoria Ironside's vehicle was gone. It was nowhere in sight. "Where is she?" Pete was already beginning to panic. No one wanted to face Chief Ironside with bad news.
"She must have been moving faster than we thought. Go to the next intersection. She must have turned one way or the other," she instructed.
Pete sped up the patrol car until he reached the corner. He looked both ways but could not spot Victoria Ironside in either direction. "Now what?"
Jillian was now beginning to panic. "Try one way or the other. We have to find her. Ironside will kill us."
Pete turned to the left. He continued down the road a couple blocks. He turned around and went back the other way. After circling the area for fifteen minutes, he pulled over. "What do we do now?"
Jillian looked down the street and then in the rearview mirror. She reached for the phone and punched speed dial. "Get me Chief Ironside."
Victoria Ironside sat in her car in the garage of her dear friend, Mildred Busha. Mildred was on vacation with her husband, Ernest. They had flown to Florida to visit their daughter and her husband. Victoria had agreed to keep an eye on their home. Last night before Victoria left their home after checking it, she took the remote control to the garage door out of Mildred Chevrolet Impala. It was now on the window visor of her own Ford station wagon.
Victoria reached up, removed the garage door remote control opener, and got out of her car. After slamming the door and locking the car she got in Mildred's Impala and started it up. Pressing the remote control, she opened the garage door. Victoria backed her friend's car out of the garage and drove away. She headed to her new job at the child adoption agency.
The phone in Chief Ironside's office rang. Eve reached for the closest phone and picked up the receiver. "Chief Ironside's office." She listened for a moment or two and said to her boss, "Chief, Officer Jillian Tomaz is on the line. She wants to talk to you about your Aunt Victoria."
He grabbed the receiver and barked into the phone, "Ironside." After listening for a minute, he shouted into the phone, "What the hell do you mean you lost her? How can a two thousand pound car disappear into thin air?" He continued to listen. The frown on his face became more pronounced. "Would you like to explain to me how two trained police officers managed to lose a little old lady driving in a station wagon?" He continued to listen to Jillian Tomaz. "Well find her Officer Tomaz or you and Officer Kelly will be assigned to traffic control," he roared and slammed the phone into the receiver.
"They lost her?" Eve asked
"They lost her," Ironside confirmed. "Eve, call her bridge club members and see if they know where she was going. She ditched her tail. She must have had some place she did not want me to know she was going." This is all I need, Ironside thought. I should be getting ready to go on vacation and I have to track down my Aunt Victoria.
Victoria sat at her desk at her new job at the Coleman adoption agency. She had interviewed for the job a month ago when she heard the agency was part of a black market for buying babies. Two weeks ago, she had received an unsigned letter threatening to expose a fifty-year-old secret from her past if she did not get her nephew to back off his investigation of a missing child. Victoria had been very upset about the letter. She simply could not allow that secret to be exposed. Robert must never know. However, how could she do as the blackmailer asked? Robert would never back off any investigation. He certainly would never give in to blackmail.
She needed Robert right now more than she ever had. She was in trouble and unlike most people; she had a famous detective for a nephew. Yet she could not go to him. No, she had to investigate this on her own. How would she keep Robert from watching her night and day? She knew that patrol car was following her. She was sure Robert had ordered those officers to do so. Victoria smiled to herself thinking about the officers having to call her nephew and tell him that she had slipped their tail. She laughed to herself wondering if he had threatened to put them on traffic detail. That was one of his favorites. He was constantly threatening to demote those who failed him. Of course he never did. He was only venting his frustrations at those officers who were unable to accomplish what he wanted. Victoria was amused by way in which her nephew was able to intimidate those around him. If they only knew behind that rough, gruff exterior was a heart of gold. However, she would not be the one to ruin that image. It was that image that helped him to push his officers to the limits of their talent and beyond.
Victoria sat down at her desk and powered up her computer. She began searching the records of children that had been adopted lately. There were so many she just could not believe they had all been given up for adoption. Wasn't it difficult to adopt a child these days? Victoria had read there were not enough babies to go around for those who wanted to adopt. If that was true, than where could they possibly be getting all of these children? She had to find out. Something was wrong here. It must have something to do with the missing child that Robert was investigating.
"Did you mail the letter to the old lady?" Derek asked Harry.
"Yes. She should have received it about two weeks ago. I thought I would give her a little time to let it sink in. Tomorrow we will contact her. We need to find out if she has contacted Ironside about backing off," Harry said.
Derek took a swig of his beer. "I am not so sure this is the way to go. Have you ever known Ironside to back off anything? He is like a bulldog with a bone. Once he is put on a case, he does not stop until he has it solved. Wouldn't it make more sense to just take Ironside out?"
Harry laughed, "You and whose army? Do you have any idea how many times that has been tried? Every time someone tries that Ironside puts them behind bars. I am not about to mess with the man."
Derek looked at his brother. "Are you scared of Ironside? The man is a cripple. He travels around in a wheel chair for cripes sakes."
Harry felt rising anger. "It is that kind of thinking that causes a person's downfall when dealing with Ironside. Why don't you ask Jimmy Chard if he thinks of Ironside as a cripple? He had the man in his office at gunpoint and with butcher knives on two separate occasions and Ironside outsmarted him both times. Now Chard is in jail for the rest of his life."
Derek shook his head. "He is not in jail. Ironside got him moved to an institution for the criminally insane so he would get help."
"What in the hell is the difference. He's locked up isn't he?" Harry said now irritated with his brother.
"You are scared of Ironside, aren't you?" Derek said with a grin.
"Anyone in their right mind is scared of Ironside. If he has you in his sights, you are in trouble. He is looking for that kid. I am afraid it will eventually lead him to us. We picked that kid up, Derek. Ironside is going to find out," Harry worried.
"Just take it easy. Ironside is not going to find out. We will pressure the old lady to get him to back off. If that doesn't work, we'll grab her and use her against Ironside," Derek said.
"Oh yea, that's a great idea. Enrage Ironside so that he comes at us with both guns blazing. You are crazy you know that. We need to try to avoid an entanglement with him not make him angry enough to come after us, Harry complained. "You've seen what he does when anyone harms a member of his staff. What in the hell do you think he will do if we go after a member of his family?"
Derek tried to calm his brother. "We are going to try this your way. If it works, we are home free but if it does not we do it my way. Relax, bro. I have no intention of tangling with him if we don't have to."
"Alright, Derek. Let's just hope we don't have to butt heads with him," Harry said not believing for one minute that they would not.
"Ed, do you have that Palmateer file handy?" Ironside asked.
"Yes, chief. It's right here," Ed replied. He picked the file up and took it to his boss. "Tracy Palmateer, five years old. She came up missing from the family's back yard. There has been no trace of her since. She has been missing for three months now. Her parents are Jim and Jan Turner. They are wealthy. He owns a company that manufactures computer chips. Apparently, he markets them all over the world. The company also does research in the next up and coming technology in the computer world."
"Isn't this the third child that has come up missing in just the last two month?" Eve asked.
"Yes. In each case the parents had taken their eye off of the child for a moment and then they have vanished into thin air," Ironside said.
"Chief, do we really have time to get into this case before we leave for vacation?" Ed asked.
"Would you like to ask the parents of those missing kids that question, Sgt. Brown?" Ironside answered in a raised voice.
"We have time," Brown conceded.
"Ed, get me files on those other missing kids," Ironside ordered his sergeant.
Eve watched her boss as he went through the Palmateer file. She knew that look in his eye. It would not be long and they would all be immersed in these missing child cases. Eve was now wondering if they would even get away this week for vacation. It would not be the first time vacations were delayed due to a case that got the chief's attention.
"Has there been any news on my aunt?" Ironside asked.
"Not yet chief," Ed said. "She has not returned home."
"Eve did you have any luck with the bridge club members?" Ironside inquired.
"No, chief. None of them seem to know where she is or what she is up to," Eve said.
"Or they aren't talking," Ed offered.
"Keep on it. I want to know where she is," Ironside said. He was worried. It was unlike Aunt Victoria to just disappear without letting anyone know where she was. Ironside had an uneasy feeling and he did not like it when he had uneasy feelings. They usually meant trouble.