Ironside, WHN to "The Monster of Comus Towers"
Wrapping her arms around her body, Officer Eve Whitfield stared out the window over the small airfield of Rona, a little village in the Rocky Mountains. The sight of the heavy, unexpected snowfall made her shiver although the office was overheated. Would they have to spend the night in this godforsaken place?
She turned her head when the telephone rang.
"For you again," the clerk said, handing the handset to Sgt. Brown who was leaning against the edge of the desk, his long legs crossed, a thoughtful look on his face.
Ed listened intently and nodded several times, looking somewhat embarrassed.
"Yes Sir," he answered finally. "Except for the weather everything is fine, don't worry..."
And a little later: "No Sir, I promise that I will ensure that she is safe and warm..." Obviously he was interrupted again before he could go on: "Bye Ch..."
Sighing he put the handset down. "The Chief wishes you a pleasant stay," he reported. Eve eyed her colleague suspiciously. This phone call had been far too long just to say this. There must have been another message from the Chief.
At that moment the door opened and Charley Adams entered. He was broad-shouldered and stocky with a weathered face. He was wearing a thick pilot jacket.
"The snowfall is subsiding slightly. We can take off now, but hurry, I want to be in Missoula before nightfall!"
Surprised Ed looked at him. He had already given up hope that they would be able to take the prisoner to Missoula tonight and then to San Francisco tomorrow. He nodded and moved over to Roger Stark who was sitting lazily on a chair, a smirk on his face. The small-time criminal was forty-one, about six feet tall and overweight. Ed took the handcuffs off his belt and closed one ring around Stark's right wrist – hardly was he able to close it like he was supposed to - and the other around his own left wrist.
Adams, who at fifty-five had seen too much of the world to be as naïve as 'those young cops', looked skeptically at the two totally different men and wondered what the heavyweight prisoner would do with the slender Sergeant if it would just cross his mind. But he left without any comment. Eve, Ed and Stark followed.
Meanwhile Chief Ironside was looking out of his favorite window into the rainy November afternoon. He was glad that Ed and Eve had finally been able to track down Roger Stark, the dealer who had sold the stolen painting 'Lady in Blue' for Vincent Longo. Ironside and his team were 'cleaning up' Vincent Longo's business. Longo, art thief and dealer, had been shot during the investigation of the art theft at Comus Towers. Since then they had found most of the stolen paintings Longo had dealt with, except the last and most valuable one: 'Lady in Blue'. Then Edgar Lestrade, a wealthy retired businessman, had heard of the investigation. He had declared that he had bought 'Lady in Blue', not knowing that it had been stolen. Since Lestrade lived on a farm in Montana, Ironside had sent Ed and Eve to investigate. They had done some fine detective work and arrested Roger Stark. Now they just had to take him to San Francisco and the case would be closed. At least he hoped so.
The Chief should have been pleased ... but somehow he had an uneasy feeling when he heard that they would have to pass the night in the tiny village in the mountains. Overnight, too much could happen to two young, rather inexperienced police officers. Brown was a smart Sergeant, but too naïve and often incredibly clumsy. Eve was still new to the business. And there sure was no suitable hotel for her. Ed loved her like a sister, and he had promised to watch over her... but would he be able to do it appropriately? Ironside wanted her to be protected so badly, knowing all too well that he would never be in a position to do it the way he would like to. His thoughts wandered back to the time before the shooting, and he grieved about what could have been between him and Eve, but for that bullet... It should have been himself out there with Eve, not Ed...
Mark, who had got to know his boss quite well over the last couple of months, felt that he was unsettled. The easiest way he could think of to cheer him up was... "Chief, care for an early chili dinner?"
Ironside had to smile. How young his friends and co-workers were. They seemed to be unable to imagine that someone could experience pain or sorrow that would need more than a little cheering-up to go away. But he had to show Mark that he appreciated his bold but friendly attempt to do so. "That would be perfect for such an uncomfortable evening, since..."
"Yessir, I know: since chili is containing every food element needed to support life!"
"Exactly. I can't understand why your colleagues keep forgetting that!"
Actually the old chili joke made him feel better instantly. Like the wheelchair the joke belonged to the new life he had built around his handicap. And it was not a bad life. His team were his family. They needed familiar structures like family jokes. And so did he, Robert T. Ironside.
Thanks to the experienced pilot the small aircraft had taken off without any problems in spite of the horrendous weather. It had been about ten minutes ago, and the three passengers had gotten used to the shaking of the 'Piper' and relaxed slightly.
A sharp bang startled all of them. "What the heck..." shouted Adams, but he didn't get any further. If this was what he feared it was – a broken fuel pipe – they were in terrible danger.
For a minute Adams fought against the elements, but he was fighting a losing battle. "Hang on!" he finally shouted. "We're gonna crash!"