The Color of Death (Ironside)

Set between pilot and season 1, summer 1967


You may not be able to save the world. But perhaps a little piece of it.

Disclaimer: I don't own Ironside and his people.

Any allusions to existing persons or companies are unintended.


The little aircraft took a sharp turn and nearly crashed. With one quick movement Bill Frazer took the remote control out of his stepson's hands and brought the model back to a safe course.

"Great reaction!" Ed Brown complimented him.

"Seems as if I'm still the one in charge of all kinds of rescues," Bill laughed, alluding to the beginning of their friendship when he had "saved" little Eddie from some bullies.

Skillfully he landed the model.

"Well, boys," he addressed his stepsons Marc and Jamie, "let's take a break. I'd like to go for a short walk with Ed. That ok with you?"

The boys, being good mannered, didn't object: Their new father and his friend had been playing with them for over three hours now.

Betty, their pretty blonde mother, rose from the blanket where she had been relaxing and sunbathing for much longer than she could have expected. With a quick kiss she showed Bill that it was fine with her too: "Go ahead, enjoy yourselves!"

Ed and Bill exchanged old memories from their childhood while walking. They had known each other since Ed was in first grade and Bill in fifth. Over the years Ed had outgrown his 'big' friend by at least two inches. Ever since the beginning of their friendship, the boys had shared a mutual respect despite the age difference. This mutual respect had only got stronger since their school days. The two men stopped talking and each seemed lost in his own memories.

A few months ago Bill married Betty, a young widow who was two years older than himself, and he had adopted her two sons aged eleven and nine. Bill was the first to break the silence.

"I could envy myself. Having such a family is a gift of God."

Ed smiled. "Thank you for sharing your family with me today. Betty is a wonderful woman and a great cook and you have two fantastic kids. I've enjoyed the picnic very much and this place is so peaceful and quiet…" Ed trailed off, admiring the beauty of the landscape.

When they got back to their picnic area, Bill's and Betty's 'secret place', it was deserted.

"Betty, Marc, Jamie – where are you?" Bill shouted.

Ed followed the track of broken twigs and leaves through the undergrowth, and then he heard Jamie's high-pitched child voice: "We're here!"

The men followed his voice. They saw Marc kneeling on the ground beside the crashed model airplane.

Betty looked sad. "Bill – I'm so sorry. I didn't pay attention. The boys tried to fly the model on their own, and now it's broken."

Bill also let himself down on one knee. He tried to assess the damage. "Perhaps we can fix it... but - why is everything wet here? There's been no rain in weeks, and I can't see a creek..."

Glancing around, he noticed that Ed looked as if he had encountered a ghost: His face had lost its color and his eyes had widened in shock.

This sight didn't match the image of the fearless little boy he had got to know many years ago and even less that of the fine marine and police officer his friend had grown into. "Ed – what's the matter with you?"

Ed knew why the ground was wet. He knew only too well the faint scent in the air, and he knew why the leaves of the bushes were shriveled. Dozens of pictures raced through his mind in quick succession: Shooting – fire – people running and screaming – the burning pain in his back where the shrapnel had hit him, ending his military career... and perhaps worst of all...

"Bill – leave the model. Let's go home immediately. Please." Although Ed uttered the words very calmly, Bill did not fail to hear the urgency in his voice.

"Betty, boys, let's do as Ed says." At that, he picked Jamie up and carried him back to the picnic area. The others followed, Ed bringing up the rear.

While they were quickly stuffing into Bill's Chevy whatever they had needed for the picnic, Jamie took his stepfather's hand and asked: "Daddy, are you mad at us because of the airplane?"

Bill stopped, knelt down and laid his arm around the child's shoulders. "No, Jamie – don't worry. It's something else entirely." Even if he didn't know exactly what 'it' was, he hoped that Ed would tell him soon enough.

When they stopped in front of the Frazers' house, Ed simply got out and said to Bill: "Please, take a long shower, all of you. Change your clothes. Put everything into the washing machine, even the boys' sneakers, and clean your own shoes too."

At that, he turned around in order to leave.

Bill knew that his friend wasn't someone who would make a fuss about nothing, so he was taking his advice seriously. But he still didn't understand him.

"Why, Ed?" he asked.

"That humidity we encountered up there might be dangerous. I think it was an herbicide and defoliant we used in Vietnam: 'Agent Orange'."

Author's note:

There's a timeline problem in the show. Please compare 'Nightmare Trip' (6.7) to 'Tom Dayton'(3.26) and 'Backfire' (4.11). The U.S.A. entered the Vietnam war in 1965. Ed was there as a marine ('Nightmare Trip'). But 'Tom Dayton' makes him a rookie cop in 1963 and 'Backfire' even a Sergeant in 1963/64. I've chosen the timeline of 'Nightmare Trip' and sent him to Vietnam as early as possible. Then he made it to Sergeant quite quickly...