Montana, somewhere in the Rocky Mountains
Adams laid his arm over Ed's shoulders, and Ed supported him around his waist. That way he hopped along on the uneven terrain. Sometimes Ed had to pull him up over an obstacle or ease him down from a rock. They were making very slow progress, and both men were breathing heavily after just a few minutes. It was obvious that they would have to rest after a short stage.
They went on as long as they possibly could, then Ed helped the pilot sit down and looked back to Eve to see how she was doing with Stark. In the falling twilight he saw her stumbling in the snow. Immediately he stomped back to his colleague. How could he have been so mindless? He had totally forgotten that she was wearing pumps – not very high-heeled ones, since she knew that they would go out on a farm in the mountains, but still no shoes to climb over rocks and walk through snow.
Stark was grinning sassily. "Now you have a problem, kid, don't you?"
Looking into Eve's face Ed saw that she could not go on. He would have to carry her too.
"You walk in front of us!" he ordered Stark, and the man obeyed.
Ed carried Eve while she held the prisoner at gunpoint.
When they reached Adams, Ed let Eve sit down and made her wrap his knee-long coat around her legs and she took off her shoes. Her feet were cold, wet and already covered with sores and blisters. She started to massage them.
"Can you do that with one hand and guard Stark at the same time?" Ed asked her, his voice full of concern.
She nodded and smiled reassuringly. It hurt, but Ed needed her to be brave. She would do everything in her power to support him. She was slim, but still quite a burden to carry.
Ed knew what she was thinking. He tried to cheer her up. "Next time, officer Whitfield," he joked between two heavy breaths, "next time you offer me the rest of your hot dog, I will take it!"
Eve, appreciating his attempt at humor, teased: "When did you ever not, Sergeant Brown?"
Ed helped Adams stand up and together they covered the next few hundred yards. While Adams rested, Ed went back to get Eve and Stark, and so on. They advanced at a frustratingly slow pace, but they could not have stayed in one place because of the dropping temperature and the sharp winds.
Mark was surprised to see Ironside drumming his fingers on the table. He had to be very worried.
"Mark, right now the only lead we have – except our own investigation about his business - is the murder investigation on Vincent Longo. That was Lieutenant Fitch's job. The case was open and shut but let's ask him if he has stumbled across any helpful information. Let's go, Mark!"
Lieutenant Fitch was shocked when he heard about the possible crash of the aircraft with Eve and Ed on board.
"Is there anything I can do to help you?" he asked.
"We don't know if we are dealing with an accident or with a crime. How far are you with the murder investigation on Vincent Longo? Ed and Eve are in Montana because they have tracked down the last of the stolen paintings from Longo's gallery. I thought that you might know something about Longo's background which could help us find out who could have wanted Stark out of the way."
"Not that I know of. The investigation is closed, was last week already. Would you like to read the report?"
Fitch instructed the officer who had assisted him in this case to get the report.
Detective Bloch re-entered soon afterwards and handed the report over to Ironside.
"If there's anything else – just call me," Fitch told the Chief. "I hope to God that Ed and Eve come back safe and sound."
Mark pushed the wheelchair out of Fitch's office. In the corridor Ironside lifted his hand to signal Mark to stop.
Focused he sat in his wheelchair. He felt that he had gotten a very important piece of information just seconds before. What was it?
He saw a picture in front of his inner eye: Comus Towers – Comus' secretary, Amanda Stillman – Ed saying that there was something strange about her ... keen-witted, perceptive Ed, who sometimes noticed more or other details than Ironside himself... under Ironside's guidance he would become an excellent police officer, once he would have a better self-conscience - if he lived long enough, that was ... What had Ed said? Just that something was strange about her. Ironside had finished his sentence: That she still looked perfectly fresh after a full day's work... And Ed hadn't said anything further. But there had been something else: The smell of a peculiar perfume. Now the Chief was sure of it: He had just smelled a hint of the same perfume as that day at Comus Towers; Amanda Stillman's perfume. Detective Bloch had smelled that way. Of course it was possible that Bloch's girlfriend or wife or whoever used the same perfume as Amanda Stillman. At the very least it still was a surprising coincidence!
What connection could possibly exist between Amanda Stillman and Detective Bloch? Amanda had been Vince Longo's girlfriend. Bloch might have questioned her during the murder investigation. But Fitch had said that the investigation had been closed several days ago. It was impossible that the scent could still be smelled after such a long time.
What if Detective Bloch and Amanda Stillman had something going between them? It had seemed to the Chief that Amanda was the kind of woman who needs a lot of attention. Was it possible that she needed more than one man to get enough of that?
At the moment he needed another angle.
"Mark – let's go home," he ordered briskly.
Back to the office he had Mark phone the airfield in Rona, Montana, to see if there was any news. There was none.
Ironside was convinced that there was a link between the people around Longo and somebody in Rona, Montana, because if the crash of the airplane had not been an accident, somebody in Rona had to be behind it. The problem was to find that link in time... or the person might hit again in case their business was unfinished.
Ironside called headquarters and asked for two officers to help him.
"Chief, do you know how late it is? There's just the nightshift present..."
"Why does everybody doubt that I can read the clock?! Of course I know how late it is! Don't you have a phone? Call the two brightest of your men who are off duty. They can sleep tomorrow, when I have the information I need!"
The officer in charge thought that Ironside had already chosen the two brightest officers for his team. Why didn't he appoint them? Had they fallen into disgrace with the Chief? You didn't object to Chief Robert T. Ironside though.
"Yessir, I will do that..."
"... and tell them that I need them immediately!"
The officer sighed audibly – but only after hanging up the receiver.