NO BRASS, NO AMMO, NO PEACE

An epilogue to AND I WANT SOME CANDY AND A GUN THAT SHOOTS

                                                                                    By B Huff With Editing by GM

 

 

“Measure twice, cut once – sometimes you still end up with one sleeve longer than the other, but at least you can be indignant about it.”

Annette Wrobleski

 

October 1971 – Day One

 

MOM – That was the last message, written and outlined in bullets in a heart shape, from the poor, demented sniper that had begun his shooting spree on the side of the hill that day. As Steve McGarrett stood in the bunker over the still form of William Shem, sadness for the pitiable creature that had needed help in life came over him. Not generally one to take much stock in the ways of psychiatry, the detective recognized the deadly shooting spree as an act of desperation – one that would end this man’s pained existence, but – based upon the number of rounds he’d brought with him – not before he killed many people.

 

Had his second-in-command not been able to down Shem from a precarious perch almost four hundred yards up the hillside, many more lives stood to be lost before the shooter was stopped. Three HPD officers were dead and Danno had been wounded before he was able to kill the shooter, but all told, the casualty list was small compared to what it could have been.

 

“Kelly to McGarrett!” The voice crackled over the walkie talkie and jolted the head of Hawaii Five-0 out of his brief reverie about the man who had created such chaos.

 

“Chin, I’m here.”

 

“We got trouble, boss! The storm is moving in faster than they expected. We need to get everybody off this hill before the rain hits!”

 

McGarrett’s thoughts snapped instantly to Dan Williams, whom he’d left resting up the hill where the sniper’s bullet had toppled him. He’d taken a moment to assess his injured detective before he rushed down the hill to the bunker to confirm the status of Shem. Danno assured him that he would live, and while in obvious pain, it appeared to McGarrett that the bullet had lodged somewhere in a non-life-threatening part of his upper right chest, just below his collar bone. A wave of panic passed over the detective as he realized that maneuvering back up the hill to Williams under the damp conditions that were fast approaching would become very difficult.

 

Knowing the radios were all on the same frequency, he barked his response to his second-in-command. “Danno! Do you read me?” He started back up the hill as quickly as the terrain would allow while he waited for a response. “Danno! Come in!” Another interminable ten seconds passed before he spoke again. “Has any officer reached Williams’ location?”

 

A voice responded. “Lukela here. I’ve just arrived – I think. Stand by.

 

More anxiety pushed McGarrett to move faster as large drops of rain began to slap his face. The wind picked up suddenly with the first sprinkles of rain and almost bowled the detective over. What is taking so long?  He wondered whether he had misdiagnosed the severity of Williams’ condition. Images of arterial bleeding flooded his mind unbidden. In the absence of information, he began to chastise himself for leaving his friend. He should’ve directed one of the other officers to check on the sniper. He pulled the radio to his mouth again. “Duke! What’s happening?”

 

After an interminable delay, a crackled response was forthcoming. “Steve, I’m here with Danny – we need to get down from here.”

 

McGarrett understood instantly – Danno had somehow taken a turn for the worse, but Duke did not want to announce the fact in front of the downed officer! Fear tightened his chest as he shoved the radio into his pocket and concentrated on climbing with everything he had.

 

 

*****

 

I’ll be right back…I’ll be right back…I’ll be right back…  Dan Williams could hear his boss’s voice echoing in his head. The dull ache in his chest was accented by sharp bursts of fiery pain from the occasional errant muscle spasm, which would tug at his wound. Shem’s round had torn into his body just below his collar bone near his right shoulder, nearly immobilizing his arm in the process. The side of the hill no longer seemed angled toward the sky. Instead, it now hovered uncertainly, making the grass and trees sway. Battling nausea, he closed his eyes and allowed himself to list to the left. Despite his impossible-to-ignore need for medical attention, his physical condition did not have precedence in his mind at the moment.

 

I missed, the detective thought dejectedly. True, he’d managed to down the shooter, but not before more lives were put at risk – this time rescuing him! That he’d been able – by shear force of will – to re-load his own rifle, drag himself back up to the vantage point on the rock, sight and hit his moving target was a remarkable feat. But for an experienced sniper – one who’d never missed before – the all-consuming fact was the first miss.

 

Peripheral awareness that the weather was taking a bad turn seeped into his consciousness. It suddenly seemed very dark… darker than he would have expected even through the curtain of his eyelids… almost as if a blanket had been draped over his head. That thought compelled him to expend the effort to try to lift his left hand towards his face.

 

Before he could will his eyes open to attempt to focus on his situation, a dagger of agonizing pressure made him cry out. The burn leaped through his body, down his right arm to the tips of his fingers, and – mimicking a fireworks display – fanned out from the wound to all parts of his torso. Up to that point, his suffering had been bearable, but now, his torment rose to a height he did not think he’d ever felt before. He lost track of time as his brain self-defensively withdrew his awareness of the outside world.

 

A wave of dread slowly crept in and gripped him – What if he hadn’t killed the guy?? What if Steve was heading down the hillside into the sights of the mentally-ill sniper? He’d barely taken a moment to aim the second time. “Steve…Steve,” he called weakly.

 

Danno! Do you read me?” The voice came from Williams’ radio, which lay in the brush two feet away, but the words did not spur immediate action from the not-completely-coherent detective. “Danno! Come in!” Desperation intensified McGarrett’s tone, and the significance slowly penetrated the officer’s foggy haze of excruciating pain.

 

Steve was speaking… what he was saying did not matter at that moment. The head of Five-0… his friend and mentor was alive. Dan took in a slow, ragged breath, and relaxed marginally as he released it. Thank God… 

 

Ramifications of the missed shot leaked back into his head. Steve’s safe…no thanks to me…

 

 

*****

 

Sergeant Duke Lukela grabbed handful of grassy brush to pull himself up the last steep embankment before the rocky outcropping, where he hoped he would find a not-too-injured Five-0 detective. After all, Danny’s often-hyper-protective (a nature that seemed to be brought forth by only his youngest detective) boss had already assessed the injured officer’s condition and deemed him fit enough to leave unattended for a few minutes. Lukela knew Steve McGarrett well enough to be certain that the man would never abandon to circumstance any seriously-injured person – let alone his second-in-command and closest friend. Duke panned the scene as he paused to suck the moist air deep into his lungs, which felt ready to burst from his rushed ascent up the steep hillside. Williams’ position was not immediately obvious.

 

“Danny!” He called out loudly as large rain drops began to strike his face with a harshness he didn’t think rain could have.

 

Has any officer reached Williams’ location?” The sound of McGarrett’s tense voice reverberated in stereo from his radio – and from an unseen radio near the base of the rocky mound. Danny’s radio, the Hawaiian police sergeant knew without dwelling upon the news as he spoke

 

 “Lukela here. I’ve just arrived – I think. Stand by.” Duke breathed into his walkie talkie as he trudged toward the sound of the orphaned radio. Within a few seconds, the object of his search was visible. “Danny!”

 

The sergeant shouted as he rushed to the rock and dropped to his knees by the crumpled form. Lukela was dismayed to find Williams apparently only semi-conscious as he delicately tugged at the flak jacket in order to visually inspect the sight of the injury. Softly mumbling distracted assurances, he stopped in mid-sentence, aghast to see Dan’s shirt wringing wet and glistening with crimson. Only the collar and top couple of buttons of the detective’s dress shirt spoke of its original whiteness.

 

“Hmmm…” Dan moaned softly and his eyes fluttered as heavy drops of rain struck his checks.

 

“Danny, take it easy!” Duke spoke intensely, but softly as he touched his colleague’s pale cheek. Cool and clammy… The wind swept around the pair suddenly, bringing with it the scent of moisture and an unpleasant barrage of horizontal drops. The older man instantly realized they would soon be dealing with a torrent of rain. The deep washes carved into the side of the rocky hill lay testament to the potentially dangerous flow of water as rivulets of rain joined forces and plunged along the paths of least resistance toward sea level.

 

Williams turned his head from its ground-directed angle and opened his eyes. Momentary confusion left his expression as he lethargically looked in the sergeant’s direction, but could only bring himself to whisper. “Duke.”

 

Before Lukela could offer anything more than a concerned grin, both radios sprang to life again with the almost savage tone of McGarrett’s demand for information. “Duke! What’s happening?

 

The sergeant collected his radio from the ground beside his knee, but before he could update Five-0’s lead detective, a monster draft whipped across the rock, simultaneously pushing and pulling the sergeant away from the smooth igneous formation. The wind pressed against Williams as well, but his reclining profile did not present sufficient resistance to move him.

 

Lukela could hear a voice from behind him calling Dan’s name. “Over here!” He shouted loudly, knowing the gusts of wind would muffle a more timid voice. Then, he directed his voice into the radio. “Steve, I’m here with Danny – we need to get down from here.”

 

Five-0 Detective Kono Kalakaua and a uniformed man behind him, scrambled up from the same direction from whence the HPD sergeant had come only a minute earlier. Before the men could exchange any information, another uniformed officer appeared out of the shrubbery at the base of the large rock to Dan’s back.

 

“How is he?” Kono puffed as he brought his large hand to rest on Lukela’s shoulder.

 

The sergeant tried to convey the real message visually because he knew his words were belying the gravity of the situation. His eyes locked onto the barrel-chested Hawaiian hovering over him. “He’s bleeding a little more than I expected.” The two men shared a pained expression before they turned their thoughts to the problem at hand.

 

“How we gonna get him down? The chopper’s been ordered away from the hillside until the storm passes – something about downdrafts.” Kono pondered out loud.

 

The injured detective had apparently been listening as he responded to the question before anyone else offered an idea. “I think… I think I can… I can make it down.” His breathing was shallow and his pain apparent on his face. Dan cried out as he attempted to pull himself up to a sitting position.

 

“Easy, bruddah,” Duke cautioned as he did what he could to help Williams pull himself upright.

 

“Yeah,” Dan agreed with a grimace as he sat for a few moments and struggled to think through the pain.

 

“I’m not sure it’s a good idea if you move a whole lot right now,” Kono leaned on the boulder to get a better look at his friend.

 

As if in rebuttal to the statement, the rain picked up in intensity, and Williams, not feeling up to mincing words, snapped harshly. “We don’t have a lot of options right now!” He tensed his jaw and shot a glance up at his concerned colleague. The weather was going to make it tough, but Dan felt some measure of irrational relief that the rain would hide his tears from the guys. The nerves in his right shoulder and arm were on fire, and he knew it was going to get worse before it got better.

 

The other officers shared apprehensive glances before they all silently agreed with Williams’ assessment of the situation.

 

Through clenched teeth, Dan’s voice cracked as he spoke. “Let’s get out of here!”

 

“Duke, back off, bruddah, and let me help!” Kono commanded as he pulled the sergeant to his feet and bent over Williams.

 

“There ain’t no way around this, bruddah – this is gonna hurt.” Kono’s tone was apologetic, but resolute.

 

“Too late,” Dan grimaced and nodded.

 

He steeled himself as his much larger friend collected him by his flak jacket and pulled him to his feet. He cried out, and Kono cringed, but pulled him all the way to his feet until he could get his arms all the way around his friend. For a few moments, the pair rested against the boulder, Dan’s head buried in Kono’s chest as he tried to recover from the agonizing movement.

 

“Danno!” Everyone was startled to hear McGarrett’s voice boom from above them on the rock. He’d taken the same path he’d taken earlier to get to his injured detective, and so ended up perched about five feet directly above them.

 

Kono looked near tears himself as he canted his head upward to make eye contact with his boss, who was being buffeted by the wind and rain in his higher profile position.

 

“Danno!” McGarrett shouted again, desperately wanting Williams to acknowledge him.

 

Dan took in a deep breath and lifted his head to try and reassure his friend. “Steve—” He couldn’t look up far enough to make eye contact and let his head drop back down onto the big Hawaiian’s chest as he whispered, “Tell him to be careful. He’s gonna fall…”

 

Kono gave Williams a slight squeeze of acknowledgement as he shouted upward. “Boss! Danny wants you to be careful!”

 

The words tore at McGarrett’s heart.  He’d left his wounded friend to suffer alone on the hillside, and still the man was concerned for his safety more than for his own. The head of Five-0 moved agilely over the rock and slid down to the wide area where he’d left Williams what seemed like hours ago.

 

“Danno! How’s it?”  Leaning on the rock next to his two detectives, desperate concern colored the man’s tone.

 

The Hawaiian detective shot an anxious look at his boss as Dan collected himself enough to turn his head to look at his mentor. There was no hiding his suffering from this man.

 

“Steve… we need to go now.” Williams breathed.

 

McGarrett quickly evaluated his detective and determined that he’d definitely taken a turn for the worse in the minutes since his departure. He wondered how he could have so terribly misjudged the severity of his friend’s injury as he quietly kicked himself again. He drew his thoughts back to the current situation. “Yeah, all right, let’s take it slow and steady.” He glanced at Kono confirming the suggestion as a command.

 

The big Hawaiian nodded as he initiated the trek.

 

“My Browning…” A weak panic encroached into Dan’s tone as he ineffectively tried to turn his head backward.

 

“Got it, Danny! Don’t worry!” One of the uniformed men quickly collected the weapon and put it on safety on before he caught up with the group.

 

Dan did his best to stifle his groans as he opened his eyes and tried to help propel himself in the direction he was being maneuvered. His weight shifted between Steve and Kono as they moved in almost leap-frog fashion down the hill. They decided that Officer Roy Yamamoto would serve as the scout by moving ahead and determining the optimum route down the now-treacherous hillside. Duke hung close on the heels of the Five-0 men just in case he was needed to head off a stumble. Dave Bentley, the officer with Williams’ weapon brought up the rear.

 

Miserable and leaning on the other two Five-0 detectives, Dan’s right side burned and throbbed, leaving him filled with vertigo and nausea. His ears began to ring as if he were standing inside a church bell tower on Sunday morning. His friends were obviously speaking to him, encouraging, cajoling, commiserating as they made their way, but he couldn’t hear the words. Instead, his mind wandered to incongruous thoughts and the occasional dejected realization that they were not down the hillside yet.

 

At one point, the rain began to come down so hard that it was like being under a faucet. Dan found himself gasping for breath. The water at their feet tumbled in such volume that it looked like they were climbing down a waterfall. Dan caught Steve’s concerned eyes monitoring him several times, and he made out the occasional “Danno” in the cacophony, but after a time, he knew that he was no longer the target of the words. His colleagues were too busy communicating vital instructions back and forth to each other to worry about addressing him. They were all engaged in an energy-draining fight to not only get him down the hill, but to prevent themselves from tumbling headlong downward as well.

 

It took nearly thirty minutes to make it to back down to the road as they had to zig zag their way down. By that time, the rain had played itself out and a mere drizzle hung in the air. Helping hands and concerned faces were everywhere, and Dan felt like he was floating as he stopped struggling to keep his eyes open.

 

 

*****

 

The taste of mud that hung in Steve’s mouth as the ambulance careened down the highway was almost a welcome distraction. Helpless to do anything for his semi-conscious detective as the two ambulance attendants performed what first-aide activities they could, the head of Five-0 sat on the side bench at the back of the vehicle and tried to will his friend’s discomfort away. Dan moaned softly and maintained a pained grimace as the flak jacket was unzipped. When the attendant in charge applied a pressure dressing to the wound, it seemed to McGarrett that Williams’ reaction might have been no different if a hot poker had been laid on his bare skin. He arched his back and cried out, shocking the medical personnel into backing off of their treatment for several moments. Steve moved off the bench for a few moments to help resettle Dan on the stretcher.

 

“Danno, my friend, hang on! We’ll be at the hospital soon!”

 

McGarrett’s voice had an air of harsh command to it that made the attendants’ eye brows raise, but to their further amazement, the severely-toned words had a calming effect on their patient.

 

“S…Steve,” Dan called softly, trying to slow his hyperventilation-speed breathing.

 

“I’m here, Danno.” McGarrett confirmed as he placed his hand on Dan’s leg.

 

The two attendants exchanged perplexed looks – the man had the bedside manner of a caged animal, but the injured man responded.

 

“It’s.. It’s burning,” Dan was near tears and had no thought of keeping a stiff upper lip at that moment – the pain was just too great.

 

This time, the empathy and compassion were apparent in the man’s softer response. “I know it hurts – I’d give anything to be able to do something about it. All we can do is get you to the hospital as quickly as possible. Now, Bergman’s waiting for us, so stay with me.”

 

The truth – even in his deteriorating state – the injured detective knew that his boss was giving him the unvarnished truth. He did his best to accept the unpalatable answer with dignity. “Uhh, yeah… no problem.” Williams swallowed and gratefully succumbed to the blackness again.

 

 

*****

 

The lights in the parking lot of the hospital gave the drizzle an almost incandescent glow as McGarrett got out of his LTD. He’d waited like a caged tiger, pacing, occupying the nursing station phone with police business – to the great annoyance of the staff – for nearly three hours until Doctor Bergman appeared and reported that Williams had made it through the surgery and was secure in a room. With the promise of a full report by the next day and the assurance that his detective would not be awakening any time soon, the head of Five-0 went home long enough to shower off the hillside dirt before he went back to work that night to tie up the loose ends which the Five-0 men had left in their haste to get to the scene. With his second-in-command out of commission, the chief knew he would have more on his plate than he could handle in the course of the day.

 

The day had been a harrowing one. HPD had lost three officers and he nearly lost – well, he couldn’t bring himself to consider what he’d almost lost. And then to top it off, he himself had brought further pain and suffering upon Williams by leaving him, as it turned out, far more injured than he’d thought.

 

As he made his way to the patient’s room, he mentally berated himself for an additional misstep – he’d buckled when his protégé had balked at properly securing his flak jacket. From the entry point of the bullet, McGarrett had the sense that, if the vest had been worn as the manufacturer recommended, the round might not have penetrated in such an unprotected area.

 

As expected, Dan was deep in the arms of a post-surgical slumber. His face was pale and bore a scrape the detective standing over him hadn’t noticed before. The standard assortment of tubes and wires protruded from under the bed sheets, giving McGarrett an uneasy sense that his friend was knocking on death’s door. The patient didn’t stir when Steve placed his hand to rest on Williams’ head for a few moments. He needed the physical connection – the reassurance that the young detective was still among the living.

 

“Danno, I… I don’t deserve a friend like you.” He spoke softly as he sank into a nearby chair, his voice barely audible over the rhythmic beep of the heart monitor. He recalled the cautionary words the injured man had pushed Kono to relay to him. Dan’s pain had been great, but not so unbearable that he forgot his concern for a friend – as he, Steve McGarrett, had done.

 

The head of Five-0 sat there musing over his shortcomings in the friendship department, replaying the scene differently in his mind. This time, he remained there with Danno, reassuring him as he applied a pressure bandage to the young man’s wounded shoulder. Duke and Kono arrived, and they made it almost all the way down the mountain before the torrential rain turned the hillside into a fluid nightmare.

 

Taking it back a step farther, he decided that he should’ve sent Danno up the hill earlier – in a by-the-book-secured flak – before two more officers had been shot. Perhaps whatever condition had caused Williams to miss his target would no doubt have not been present – Shem would have gone down before he could squeeze off the round into his second-in-command.

 

“Why did you leave me, Steve? Did you really trust me to diagnose my own gunshot wound?”

 

“I’m sorry, Danno – I don’t know why it didn’t jump out as the mistake that it obviously was.”

 

A light touch on his back jolted the exhausted head of Five-0 from the inadvertent doze into which he’d drifted. Defensively assessing his situation, he realized quickly that Doctor Bergman was the source of the outside stimulus. He sighed and ran his hand over his face as he rose from the chair to stretch. “Doc…” He murmured.

 

“I thought I got rid of you hours ago, Steve. It’s late – go home. Danny’s holding his own,” The older man commanded softly with a glance at the vital signs being reported on the monitor, which blipped reassuringly.

 

“Yeah, well, I thought I’d check on him before I catch a few winks.” McGarrett mumbled and let his eyes follow the track of the physician’s to the screens of information over the patient’s head. The heart monitor still blipped its comforting message. “So… your prognosis for a complete recovery is…” He stopped to allow Bergman to complete the sentence.

 

“Barring any complications, Danny’s prospects are excellent. We can’t be certain about nerve damage until he regains consciousness though.” The medical man reported as he pulled back the covers to expose the bandage on his patient’s shoulder, but a slight frown of concentration slipped onto his face as he delicately loosened the tape over the wound. “But I am a bit perplexed about what could have caused this.”

 

McGarrett was not anxious to see the actual wound again, but did not hesitate in stepping forward with a mildly distasteful grimace to get a look at whatever the medical examiner found so mysterious. Somehow the sliced and stitched area looked more unappealing to the detective than the neat round, raw wound he’d quickly inspected hours ago. His own expression mimicked the physician’s though as he took in the swollen, bruised area which enveloped the traumatized part of his friend’s chest.

 

“Most of this bruising is not a result of the gunshot wound – nor was it caused by the surgery. In my report, I’ve described it as secondary injury due to unknown blunt force trauma.” As he explained, Bergman did not touch the area, but ran his hand in the air over the sight to indicate to the detective whereof he spoke. “What I find particularly, interesting is this right here.”

 

Just beneath the Saturn-like silhouette of Bergman’s repair job, a deep purple, almost black, u-shaped mark, which cupped the wound above it. Three inches wide from side to side, it appeared to be the region which took the brunt of the force… but what force?

 

“You mentioned that he fell several feet after he was hit. I’m wondering whether he could have fallen on the butt of his rifle.” Bergman looked up at McGarrett to gauge his response.

 

The detective shook his head. “No… no part of his Browning would leave a mark like that…”

 

“It looks too—too symmetrical to be from the strike of a rock, but I guess it’s possible.” The physician’s gaze returned to Dan’s bare shoulder.

 

McGarrett nodded slowly. “You’re right, Doc – it looks like it came from a man-made object.”

 

“Well, whatever it was, I suspect it exacerbated Danny’s injury ten-fold by ramming the bullet deeper into the subclavian vein.”

 

The head of Five-0 felt his stomach roil at the thought, but his voice remained clinical. “Thus, the tremendous bleeding… I wonder… could he have sustained this second injury after I…” After I left him alone, he silently reflected, but out loud pondered. “After I checked him out?”

 

“But how?”

 

“Duke was the first one there… after me…” His brow furled in annoyance as he silently demanded that his brain lose the guilt and focus and the issue at hand. “By the time I made it back up the hill, Kono and a couple of HPD officers were there. Nobody mentioned any incidents.” He looked away from the damage which had been inflicted on his protégé’s body as he mused. “And it’s not like the area was swarming with thugs.”

 

Bergman nodded slightly as he re-secured the patient’s dressing. “For that reason, I wouldn’t apply any sinister motives to the injury, Steve. That a crime was committed is very unlikely indeed. I’m bringing this to your attention just in case there’s some police SOP that needs to be changed to keep officers from hurting themselves in situations such as this. Hopefully, our young friend here will be able to shed some light on this when he comes around.”

 

McGarrett grunted his agreement absentmindedly as he formed the shape of the dark bruise by making a u shape with his thumb and index finger. “A very man-made shape.”

 

 

Day Two

 

“No, I don’t think it will hurt him any – I just think you’re wasting your time!” The slender man snapped as he jammed his hands forcefully into the pockets of his white clinic jacket.

 

“Thank you, Doctor Hansen!” McGarrett smiled thinly at the physician in charge of Williams’ care for the day shift. With that, the head of Five-0 spun and made his way across the hall to his friend’s room.

 

Shaking his head in exasperation, the bushy-eye-browed medical man followed the stubborn detective into his patient’s room.

 

Refreshed from a few hours of sleep, McGarrett had taken a brief run along the beach before he showered and dressed for work. Deciding to eat on the run today, he collected a hard-boiled egg from his fridge and left for the office. He felt the need to tackle a brief question-and-answer session with his second-in-command, despite the fact that he knew Williams would probably not be completely coherent, if he was conscious at all (Patience was never a strong suit for the head of Five-0!). It had only been the previous night Doctor Bergman had shown him the bizarre bruising around his friend’s wound, and since then, the investigative gears had not stopped turning in the detective’s head. However his protégé had sustained the secondary injury, the medical examiner claimed that it could not have been a crime – but there was something about the incident which gave the head of Five-0 pause – he couldn’t put his finger on it YET. At any rate, it was not in Steve McGarrett’s nature to let such a mystery lie. The fact that the how-done-it involved a near-deadly injury to his best friend made a fact-finding mission too compelling to just shelve.

 

As he gently pushed through the door, it seemed to Steve that the windowless room was exactly as he’d left it a few hours earlier. Same hospital noises, same medicinal smell, same subdued lighting – except for the now-lit fluorescent tube over the patient’s bed. To McGarrett’s mild distress was the fact that Dan had barely moved since he’d last lain eyes upon him – it was possible that he hadn’t moved at all. The detective shook off dread with the knowledge that the medical experts believed that his friend was going to be okay.

 

Doctor Hansen hung back a few feet with his arms crossed skeptically as McGarrett gently rubbed the patient’s bare arm.

 

“Danno… Danno… can you open your eyes and talk to me?”

 

The head of Five-0 frowned slightly when he received no reaction. He waited only a few seconds before he took the back of his fingers and gently rubbed Williams’ un-scraped cheek. “Danno! Wake up! I wanna talk to you!”

 

This time, McGarrett detected signs that his friend was coming around. The young man swallowed and wrinkled his nose slightly. He took in a few deeper breaths, but still did not open his eyes.

 

“Danno! Open your eyes!” The head of Five-0 commanded firmly, but softly.

 

After several seconds, Williams turned his head and groaned quietly. A few more breaths later, he slowly opened his eyes and lethargically panned the immediate area. Finally, his eyes came to rest on the smiling man hovering over him. Swallowing and blinking again, he croaked. “Steve.” The hoarse voice held no surprise – if any emotion were present, it was confusion.

 

“Danno, Doc removed the bullet, and you’re looking good for a complete recovery.” McGarrett offered the most important news first.

 

“Bullet?” Dan echoed. It was obvious that the patient was making a concerted effort to grasp what he was being told.

 

“Yes. You remember climbing the hill and downing William Shem?”

 

As if he were hearing on a five-second delay, Williams paused for a few seconds longer than one would in the course of a normal conversation before he spoke softly. “Yeah… I missed…”

 

“Yes, yes, but you got him with your second shot,” McGarrett agreed gently, trying to keep the impatience from his tone. “Now, listen to me, after I checked on you, did anything else happen before Duke got there?”

 

Dan blinked slowly as he digested the question. Finally, he closed his eyes as he replied. “It hurt… and then it hurt more.”

 

A little disheartened, the head of Five-0 knew that it was too soon to get answers from his recuperating friend. It had barely been sixteen hours since he’d been wheeled from the operating room. McGarrett sighed and regretted charging into the hospital as he gazed on the youthful features and the incongruous death-like pallor which blanketed them. “It’s okay, my friend. Everything is going to be fine. Get some rest.”

 

Steve turned away slowly and, with mild annoyance, noted Hansen standing there in an I-told-you-so posture. The detective started to make a mild concession to the physician that it might be a few hours too soon, but before he could speak, Dan’s weak voice broke the silence.

 

“He covered my head and kicked me…”

 

McGarrett spun in surprise and immediately stepped close to the bed. His second’s eyes were not open as Steve gently placed his hand back on the man’s arm, but he could not keep the intensity from his question. “Danno! Do you mean that someone kicked you while you were waiting for help on the hill? Who was it?”

 

“Who...yeah...” Williams mumbled softly.

 

“Danno!” Steve squeezed the arm beneath his hand slightly. It was frustrating to be within a hair’s breadth of an answer – and YES, the answer was sinister one – and still not be able to reach it! This time, McGarrett’s behest was acknowledged with a soft snore.

 

He stepped back again after one last pat of his friend’s arm, and commented as he strode past the physician. “You’re wrong, Doc – it wasn’t a waste of time.”

 

 

*****

 

Ignoring the pastry and coffee which Jenny had strategically placed on the corner of his desk, McGarrett paced. Kono, Chin Ho Kelly, and Duke Lukela sat in chairs and watched silently.

 

Finally, his thoughts congealed enough to share them. “So, Danno takes a hit and falls off that rock… He somehow manages to get back up and draw a bead on that poor whack job… He fires and hits his mark… Then he lets himself drop back to the ground… I find him and check him out… The wound isn’t bleeding too much at the moment – and Danno seems… not happy and not comfortable, but not in agony, so I call Chin…”

 

The Chinese detective nodded. “And I get on the horn to see about getting a chopper up there to get Danny down.”

 

McGarrett stepped in again. “And I leave to check on Shem’s status.” Should’ve sent someone else…

 

Duke picked up. “About three minutes later, I arrive at Danny’s location, and find him in pretty bad shape.”

 

“Then not too long after that, me and Ray Yamamoto get there.” Kono supplied.

 

“And Dave Bentley arrived about then too,” Lukela added.

 

“We’ve already got their statements?” McGarrett mused.

 

The Hawaiian detective confirmed, “Yeah – the guys were here earlier this morning.”

 

The head of Five-0 stopped pacing and made eye contact with each of the three men. “I know the weather was getting a little dicey, but do any of you remember seeing any signs that anybody else had been there before you?”

 

The seated officers looked quizzically at each other before they shook their heads. Unsurprised, McGarrett nodded. “Okay, well, check with Yamamoto and Bentley.”

 

Kono was silently elected as the spokesperson, so he rose from his seat. “Boss, what are we lookin’ for? We know who shot Danny.”

 

Steve’s head snapped in the direction of the Hawaiian detective as he realized that the questions did sound odd considering the case had been brought to a resolution. So he took a few minutes and related his conversation with Doctor Bergman and the subsequent interview with his second-in-command earlier that morning. Kono casually collected the Danish intended for his boss and munched as he listened, exchanging neutral, but loaded expressions with the two seated officers.

 

As McGarrett ended his narrative, Duke rose and spoke slowly. “Steve, you’re saying that Danny has an unexplained bruise, and because he managed to babble something to you about being kicked, you suspect that he was assaulted sometime between when you left him and we showed up?”

 

Kono swallowed quickly stepped forward. “Boss, Danny fell quite a ways. I bet dat boy’s got ten mystery bruises!”

 

The lead detective sighed and started to respond about the shape of the bruise, but Chin stood and took a position by the HPD sergeant. “And you can’t take anything Danny says right now too seriously – I bet he don’t know who the president is right now!”

 

“Nick Somebody, right?” Kono chimed in, forcing the other detectives to turn in his direction to see if he was joking.

 

McGarrett’s lip twitched as he turned away to collect his coffee cup. “Okay, I grant you that neither Danno nor Kono can name the sitting US President at this moment, AND I know the theory is impossible based upon what know right now, but my gut tells me that we just don’t have all the facts yet.”

 

The other three men in the room with Five-0’s chief all knew the man’s instincts were rarely off, but this time, none of them could see how he could possibly be on target. That un-said, none of them was willing to argue the subject further. When it came to issues about his favored detective’s well being, it was common knowledge that Steve McGarrett was not always reasonable.

 

 

*****

 

 

White…everything was so white. There were sounds in the distance, but they weren’t pressing in on him. And the air… the ocean was not nearby. Dan slowly focused and realized he was gazing at a ceiling. His eyes gingerly refocused on the IV bottle hanging in his field of vision. Slowly, he collected his thoughts and remembered his circumstance. The horrific afternoon on the side of the hill and the subsequent agonizing journey down to the ambulance. He had some spotty images… the flurry of hands and blue uniforms… the emergency room… Bergman’s mouth moving, noise but no intelligible sounds coming forth…two nurses with scissors cutting off his clothes…Steve by the door, his concerned gaze not wavering from him…

 

With the image of his friend now fixed in his mind, guilt erupted and pushed into the forefront of his thoughts. He’d missed!

 

The wind had picked up, but he’d accounted for that when he took aim. He remembered squeezing off the round, but within a second, he was tumbling head over heels from the rock, fiery agony detracting from the pain of the fall. He never even heard the report of the sniper’s rifle. And then worse than the pain was the fact that he had to collect his radio and report to Steve that he had missed. Those two words – “I missed” – rang in his head as he knew the effect they’d had on his boss. McGarrett, knowing he was down, had led an incredibly dangerous headlong charge up the hill to get to him.  Because he – Dan Williams – had been unable to fulfill his mission, the lives of numerous HPD officers AND the life of his friend and mentor had been put at risk.

 

And to make matters worse, his own injury – to the best of his admittedly fuzzy recollection – might have been less extensive if he had not unzipped his flak before he sighted. Every sniper did it with the BRJ-50, nicknamed the Bridgie. The bullet-resistant vests were renowned in sharpshooter circles for the cumbersome and restrictive manner in which they protected the torso. When worn in a prone position, the jacket would invariably rise on the shooter, like an over-sized life jacket, thereby impeding the shooter’s efforts to acquire a consistent bead on the target. To avoid this situation, sharpshooters everywhere – despite warnings that to do so would make the vest less effective – unzipped the jacket and folded or stuffed the corner down. The rationale here in the minds of these confident – and sometimes cocky – immortal men was that in order for this to be a problem, one would have to miss. Dan was – or had been – no different.

 

Five-0’s second-in-command did struggle with occasional self-confidence issues, but in his marksmanship skills he always found the conviction that he could accomplish his assignment. Renowned throughout the law enforcement community as an expert sharpshooter, Williams had taken first place in the Bi-annual Pacific Rim Shooting Competition for the past three consecutive meets. Unfortunately, the contest was in less than two weeks – there was no way Dan would be in shape to shoot.

 

Thoughts of the competition, which had irreverently wandered through his consciousness, were now forced to take a back seat to the more important issues consuming the very weak young man’s energy. He could feel bile gurgling in his esophagus as he recalled his boss’s last instructions before he began his ascent up the hill – and the quickly-and-casually-delivered command to secure his vest properly. Williams had offered a brief objection / explanation about his inability to aim in the BRJ-50, and his boss had not pushed the issue – there had been no time.

 

Nothing had gone right. Even the weather had departed from its seasonal norm to lash out at the men on the hillside. Each of his colleagues had endured quite a day of misery because he’d managed to get himself shot. He closed his eyes and dozed off again, not certain how to deal with such a dramatic failure on his part.

 

“Danny, how are you feeling?”

 

Dan did not open his eyes despite the realization that he had a visitor. The gruff voice was familiar and within a few seconds, he recognized it as that of Doctor Bergman.

 

“Danny, open your eyes,” The physician commanded gently.

 

The patient could not bring himself to face anyone just yet. Normally, he struggled to shake off the effects of whatever sedative medicine he’d been administered, but this time, he wasn’t up to the battle. Did Bergman know that he’d missed? If he opened his eyes, would he see pity in the man’s eyes? Or perhaps even anger at all the trouble he’d caused? Dan knew he couldn’t avoid the answer forever, but it was too soon right now. He felt the physician’s hand press against his forehead for a few moments.

 

“Hmmph,” came the noise of perplexity from older man. Within a few seconds, Dan heard the man’s footsteps move away from the bed and leave the room

 

In the hallway, Bergman instructed the resident who approached him, “He’s still a little too unresponsive for my taste. I want another round of x-rays – full head and neck series. I want to make sure we didn’t miss anything.” 

 

The younger physician nodded. “Yes, Doctor.”

 

As he moved away to follow his instructions, Bergman called to him. “And make it sooner rather than later – I want to have the results back before McGarrett’s back over here breathing down my neck!”

 

 

Day Three

 

The head of Five-0 stood at the foot of Williams’ bed and quietly perused the medical chart as if it were his own. Neither the patient nor the doctor gave the act much thought as they both knew the man too well to deny him access to the information. It had been three days since Dan’s surgery, and McGarrett had successfully avoided any more interrogation sessions with incoherent patients. But on this morning, to Steve’s delight, his friend was awake despite the fact that he seemed still very tired and a bit muzzy. His mood was subdued and perhaps a little surly, but the lead detective decided that his second still had to be in a fair degree of pain. Besides that, the thought that he would be in the hospital for several more days was enough to make anyone cranky. The good news was that all the tests had come back with no contraindications. With a couple of weeks of convalescent leave, Williams would be as good as new, Bergman promised.

 

“Is that better, Danny?” Doctor Bergman asked before he removed his hand from the button which raised and lowered the position of the top half of the bed.

 

Williams nodded sullenly. “Yeah, thanks, Doc.” He took in his surroundings from his new sitting position before he added, “So, when do I get a room with a view?”

 

Bergman sat down on the foot of the bed. “Today, if you’re up to the move.”

 

“Do I have to scale the exterior of the building or something to get there?”

 

The physician chuckled as he shook and head. “I think we’ll go with a gurney as the mode of transportation this time.”

 

“Danno, are you feeling up to a few questions?” The head of Five-0 inquired gently as he re-hooked the chart in its spot on the foot of the bed.

 

“What don’t you already know, Steve?” Williams’ returned quietly.

 

McGarrett studied the blue eyes, which were clearly still fighting sedation. For several seconds, the lead detective debated whether it was in his friend’s best interest to think about anything except healing. The hesitation registered with the patient, who made a concerted effort to bring his head upright to better focus on his mentor.

 

Just then, a tap at the door foretold by only half a second the entrance of Kono and Chin. In their wake, they left an angry nurse, who complained loudly that this patient was having too many visitors. Bergman called out for her to arrange for the patient’s move from the step-down unit to a regular floor bed.

 

Dan offered a tired smile and greeted his two boisterous visitors.

 

“You gonna be okay, kaikaina?” Kono patted his friend on his blanketed leg.

 

“Yeah – just need a couple days of sick leave,” the patient almost whispered.

 

The doctor corrected, “You mean a couple WEEKS of sick leave.”

 

The patient looked away and reclined his head back onto the pillow, a combination of tiredness and disappointment, McGarrett decided silently.

 

“Steve, you had… questions for me?” Williams changed the subject, but did not return his gaze to his visitors.

 

McGarrett sighed. We should all leave and let him get some rest. Guilt blocked him like a centurion, but his desire to find answers was consuming him. It was his own judgment which was under investigation here. His decision to leave his wounded detective on the hill was probably not an advisable move from a supportive friend angle – and he swore to himself that he would make it up to Danno at his earliest opportunity. But another issue nagged at the chief of Five-0. His spontaneous evaluation of the factors in the situation – Danno’s physical condition, the approaching storm front, the status of the downed sniper – had he taken them all in and weighted their importance incorrectly? He had certainly not considered the possibility that there was anyone left on the hillside who would want to harm Danno. If he’d properly prioritized the known issues, this fourth ugly possibility would not be on the table now. This thought disturbed him deeply, and made him vanquish the centurion as he rationalized his next steps.

 

Just a question or two… it could shed some light on the mystery. Wasn’t it prudent – from an investigative perspective anyway – to interview witnesses as soon as possible after a crime? The lead detective knew the answer, and was certain that his protégé, who was equally passionate about the execution of justice, would understand and want the truth uncovered as well.

 

McGarrett stepped around to the side of the bed where Dan’s eyes were resting. “Danno, do you remember telling me that someone kicked you after… well, before Duke and Kono arrived at your location?”

 

The question elicited a perplexed frown from the patient as he looked up into his boss’s eyes. “Kicked me? I… no, I don’t remember that.” He paused for a few moments and took in the neutral expressions of the other three men in the room. When it was apparent that nobody else was going to offer any explanation, he turned back to the tall detective standing at his bedside. “Who would wanna hurt me, Steve?”

 

McGarrett admitted that he didn’t know, and then, he proceeded to outline the events which led him to suspect foul play. Williams listened, his expression intent and fixed on his boss, who carefully avoided the cross he was bearing as a result of this horrible event. When he stopped speaking to gauge his friend’s reaction, he was greeted with several seconds of silence as Dan slowly looked into the eyes of each of his colleagues and then to the expression of his physician, still sitting at the end of his bed.

 

Finally, the detective re-focused on his boss and spoke. “I only saw friends who were trying to help me.” From Williams’ tone, it was clear that he was dismayed. “Even after…”  The patient’s voice trailed off to nothing as he closed his eyes and let his head fall back on the pillow.

 

All of the other men paused for a few seconds to see if Williams would finish his sentence, but when they saw that Dan’s chest had fallen into the rhythmic pattern of sleep breathing, they knew the thought would remain unvoiced.

 

Chin and Kono blinked at each other before their attention turned to judge the reaction of their boss. Danny had no recollection of being attacked – a very likely reflection of reality as far as both officers were concerned. McGarrett stood there like a statue, his face an intense mask, staring at Williams as the young detective lost his struggle to stay awake.

 

Several more seconds passed before the head of Five-0 growled softly. “Even after what?” Expecting no answer from the only one who could answer that question, he sighed and stepped away from his exhausted friend’s bedside. The four well men in the room quietly slipped out into the hallway to gather under the stern gaze of the charge nurse.

 

“Well, Steve,” the physician broke the silence as he stuffed his hands into the pockets of his white coat. “You heard it – Danny said he didn’t see anybody.”

 

McGarrett’s brow furled momentarily before he looked up from the floor with confidence into the physician’s eyes. “No, Doc, that’s NOT what he said.” He saw only friends…

 

The head of Five-0 decided at that moment that there was no point in arguing the issue with so little evidence to support his position. Instead, he took the prerogative of command. With a penetrating glance in the direction of his two detectives, he issued instructions as he turned to leave. “I want you two to get back to the office and wrap up the report. I’m heading to HPD to thank Chief Dann and his men for their efforts during this incident.”

 

 

Day Four

 

“Yeah, uh, hi – I’m here to drop off Danny’s rifle.”

 

McGarrett, who’d been standing in Williams’ office perusing the detective’s IN box, snapped his attention to the uniformed man standing by Jenny’s desk. The officer, with his back to the Five-0 chief, casually held a rifle at his side. The seated secretary opened her mouth to speak, but McGarrett stepped forward and addressed the slender HPD man, who had a distinctive shock of short, red hair parted down the middle of his head.

 

“Officer Bentley?” Steve didn’t recognize this individual by sight, but suspected it had to be the guy who’d carried Williams’ weapon down the hillside that day.

 

The man’s attention quickly turned to the approaching detective, and with a smile, he confirmed his identity. “Yessir, Mr. McGarrett.”

 

The head of Five-0 accepted the weapon and gave a distracted shake to the officer’s hand as he made a perfunctory inspection of his second’s prized Browning. He grimaced slightly as he noticed what appeared to be a fresh chip in the wood stock. It wasn’t surprising really, considering that the rifle had taken a tumble down the rock with his friend.

 

He tore his eyes away from the weapon and turned his attention on the man, who was a couple inches taller than Williams and looked to be in his early to mid-thirties. His uneven tan and big freckles spoke to his love of the sun, but the feature which captured Steve’s attention was the expression on Bentley’s face. It spoke of a defiant cockiness, which grated on McGarrett’s sense of military properness, and harkened him back to a conversation he’d absorbed more than he’d overheard the day before.

 

What the head of Five-0 had intended to be a fifteen minute diplomatic expression of gratitude dragged into an hour and fifteen minute meeting on a laundry list of administrative issues. Finally, McGarrett let Chief Dann know that he had another appointment and would have to be going, so the chief escorted the head of the state police unit out of his office. Standing in the large foyer, Steve listened as Dann used his final moments of audience in an explanation of his change in the overtime policy for patrol units. Over the chief’s shoulder, a group of several uniformed officers stood, in preparation for the upcoming shift change.

 

A tall, burly Hawaiian shook his head as he tightened the buckle on his gun belt. “Man, that was some shootout on the mountain the other day! That Danny – he’s one sharp-shootin’ haole!”

 

A smaller red-headed officer scoffed loudly. “Not sharp-shootin’ enough to keep from getting socked with a round from that nut case!” The mockery in his tone registered on McGarrett’s ears, and umbrage swept over him at the thought that any fellow officer would make such an outrageous statement about a fallen colleague – especially one who’d risked his own life to save others, but the fool was put in his place promptly.

 

“What you talkin’ ‘bout, Dave – he got da guy after he was hit!”

 

“Yeah, bruddah! Danny saved a bunch of uniforms from needin’ repair jobs!”

 

The head of Five-0 wished he could turn the volume down on the chief so as to better hear the more interesting conversation in the distance, but the group drifted away from where he was anchored and then fragmented in short order. Steve knew the chatter about the dramatic stand-off with the deranged sniper was still running through the ranks like wildfire, and so had not given the snippet of banter any more thought after he parted company with Chief Dann – until the moment he realized that Dave Bentley was the same officer who’d besmirched Danno’s sharp-shooting acumen at HPD.

 

“Bentley, I’d like to have a word with you.” He commanded with a cool smile.

 

“Yeah, sure, sir, but Kono already took my statement the other day.”

 

“What I want to discuss was not covered in your statement.”

 

That it had been this impudent rooster who’d delivered the uncalled-for and childish to insult to his friend now resonated through McGarrett’s head. He chose not to retreat into his own office to have the conversation – he couldn’t have explained why at that moment, but in retrospect, he would’ve realized that it was because he did not want to welcome the officer into his own domain, where Danno moved as comfortably as if it were his own home. Instead, he led the HPD man into Williams’ small area, which looked as if the occupant had just stepped out to fill his coffee cup. Of course, that’s virtually what had happened five days ago. Five-0’s second-in-command had been catching up on paperwork in his office when he received the call from his boss to grab his rifle and join him. Upon learning the distressing news that Dan would be hospitalized for at least a week, Jenny had cycled through and collected his coffee cup and a sandwich with only one bite missing. Other than the missing food items, the cubicle was just as Williams had left it.

 

The lead detective turned and, did not sit, nor did he offer a seat to the visitor. Instead, he looked into the eyes of the officer, who met his with that same disrespectful arrogance Steve had noticed before. McGarrett maintained his coolest visage. “So, you’re a friend of Detective Williams?”

 

“We graduated from the Academy together,” came the reply, which side-stepped the answer.

 

“But you’re not friends?”

 

“Who wouldn’t want a hero for a friend… sir?” Bentley added the title as an afterthought.

 

The chief of Five-0 remained fixed on the officer, who showed no signs of nervousness that he was being interrogated by the state’s top-ranking member of his profession. It was clear to Steve that the man resented Williams – for what reason, he was now intent on discovering. “You don’t like Danny, do you, Bentley?”

 

If the pointed question surprised the man, it didn’t show in his expression or demeanor. He responded evenly and without hesitation. “Everybody likes Danny, Mr. McGarrett.”

 

Once again, the question was not answered, but the answer had been given. Steve smiled thinly. “I see. I don’t suppose there’s anything you left out of your statement that you’d care to share with me right now – as a FRIEND of Danny’s?”

 

Still un-phased, a smile slipped onto Bentley’s face. “My statement stands as is.”

 

“Let’s see how long it stands as the facts unfold.”

 

The red-haired man’s eyes narrowed ever so slightly at the veiled threat, but he kept his tone pleasant. “If you’re accusing me of something, I’d like to know exactly what it is and see what proof you have.”

 

The head of Five-0 took a half step closer to the shorter man – close enough to take in the breath-mintish trace, as he spoke softly. “Oh, when I have proof, Bentley, I’m gonna show it to you all right, and then I’m gonna mop up the floor with you.”

 

The officer’s complexion flushed as his expression momentarily reflected uncertainty, but the defiant face reappeared. He took a step backward and turned to leave. “Until then, Mr. McGarrett.”

 

Steve watched the officer vanish out the door, and pondered the significance of the conversation. The thrill of a break in his case mixed with revulsion and anger at the harm which had been inflicted on his helpless detective that day by someone he trusted. Exactly what had happened and how was yet to be revealed, but there was no doubt in the Five-0 chief’s mind that Officer Dave Bentley was at the root of his friend’s mysterious injury.

 

The re-opening of the outer door jolted McGarrett from his thoughts. Kono and Chin strolled in, and were immediately greeted with an abbreviated command. “Gentlemen! In my office!” The two detectives trailed after the long-stridden head of the operation without argument. As they passed the secretary’s desk, Chin asked an unspoken question with his eyes. Jenny understood his query, but could only offer an apologetic shrug – she’d heard none of the quiet conversation between the recently departed visitor and Steve.

 

Knowing the news would be welcome, the Chinese detective grinned as he closed the Koa wood door behind him. “Just stopped by the hospital to see Danny! Tubes are all gone!”

 

McGarrett took up a leaning position on the front edge of his desk and perked with interest. “Did you tell him I’d stop by later?”

 

“Yeah – he said he’d check his social calendar and get back to you!” Chin offered as he followed the Hawaiian detective’s suit by taking a seat in one of the white leather chairs near the big desk.

 

“He’s feeling better,” Steve’s lip twitched.

 

“Good enough that Bergman might release him by the end of the week.” Kono supplied.

 

McGarrett nodded slightly, but he’d already spoken with the medical man earlier that day on that very topic. Believing that his friend would recuperate more quickly outside the confines of a hospital room, the lead detective promised that Williams would remain under “house arrest” for several days if Bergman saw fit to discharge the officer as soon as he could get around under his own power. Thoughts of his mending detective brought him full circle back to the focus of his investigation into the incident. With no thought of a segway, McGarrett began without ceremony. “What do you know about Officer Dave Bentley?”

 

Kono shrugged. “Seems like an okay guy.” Then he frowned slightly and directed his question at the Chinese detective seated next to him. “He graduated from the Academy with Danny, didn’t he?”

 

Chin looked at the head of Five-0 and nodded. “Yeah. Bentley’s a real decent sharpshooter. He just got selected to join the new SWAT unit.”

 

“He’s a sharpshooter? So his path must cross Danno’s on occasion.”

 

“Yeah, boss. They’re friends,” Kono offered, and then exchanged a perplexed look with Chin before he continued. “What’s up, boss?”

 

The lead detective came to his feet and paced around his desk as he recounted the facts of the red-haired officer’s visit to the office a few minutes earlier. McGarrett’s eyes narrowed slightly as he returned to his original position against the front of his desk. “Bentley’s got a bone to pick with Danno, and I wanna know what it is. I want some casual, on-the-sly inquiries made around HPD – Kono, that’s your department. Chin, you’re on the hook to check into Bentley’s background a little more deeply.”  Steve rubbed his chin and frowned. “The SWAT unit, hmmm…” It only took a slight tilt of his body to reach the intercom. “Jenny, I need you to set up a meeting with Charlie Hakai – call Dispatch and find out if he’s on today – and if he’s not, get him on!”

 

Ten four, boss,” the secretary’s voice crackled. “And you need to leave one minute ago for your meeting with the governor!

 

McGarrett nudged the clock on his desk to get a better view of the dial. With an exasperated sigh, he acknowledged the reminder. “I’m leaving now – just find Charlie Hakai for me!”

 

 

*****

 

“Danny!”

 

Williams jumped slightly at the greeting, which came from behind him. He was sitting in a wheelchair on the lanai just off the visitor’s lounge down the hall from his room. The patient didn’t have to turn his head more than a few degrees though before his guest came into his line of sight.

 

Dan offered a wan smile. “Dave, how’s it goin’?”

 

The uniformed officer dragged over a nearby chair with his foot and dropped onto it energetically. After he gently slapped Williams’ robed leg, he leaned forward and placed his elbows on his knees. “Decent enough, man. What’s the verdict with the war wound there?”

 

Dan glanced down in the direction of his right shoulder as he responded. “No permanent damage… I might actually get outta here in a few days.”

 

Bentley reacted with subdued enthusiasm. “That’s great. Hey, um… I dropped your Browning off at your office.”

 

The uniformed officer looked away from Dan for a few seconds as if he were debated whether he should speak. Just as Williams cocked his head and was considering pressing the issue, Bentley snapped his gaze back to the patient. “Danny… we’re friends, right?”

“Well, yeah, of course, Dave… what… what’s up?”

 

“I just don’t want you to think that I blame you for what happened.”

 

Confusion clouded Williams’ expression. “What do you mean… what happened?”

 

“On Diamond Head.” Bentley sighed with mild exasperation as if Dan wasn’t understanding something obvious. “You picked some day to miss your mark.”

 

Realization penetrated the patient and he looked out towards a blue patch of sky and took in a slow breath before he spoke. “Yeah… I know. I’m not sure exactly what happened. It was almost like the guy saw me before I fired.”

 

“I don’t know how that would’ve been possible,” came the doubtful response.

 

Williams looked away. “Me neither.”

 

It would’ve been apparent, even to the most casual observer that the topic was a painful one for the patient, but the red-haired man offered the words with the cheerfulness and congeniality of someone who was passing along praise instead of drawing attention to an error. “Well, if anybody gets on your case about it, you tell ‘em to take it up with me!”

 

Without meeting the officer’s eyes, Dan released a half-hearted single scoff. “Thanks, but if anybody gets on my case, they wouldn’t exactly be wrong.”

 

Bentley shrugged. “Well, the main thing is that your boss is cool with it.” The mention of Five-0’s lead detective spurred Williams to re-direct his gaze to his visitor as the man clarified his remark. “When I stopped by earlier, McGarrett totally hinted that he thought you were too perfect to miss an important shot.”

 

Dan’s expression clouded. His recollection was that the head of Five-0 had acknowledged – and dismissed – the miss as unimportant, especially in the wake of the second round finding its target. Admittedly, Williams realized that he had not been the height of mental acuity when the conversation had taken place, but it seemed like his boss had been more interested in what happened after the suspect was dead. Perhaps that was just McGarrett’s way of playing down his second’s error? In any event – and whatever Dave’s perceptions about Hawaii’s top cop – it was clear to Dan that his boss was taking up for him now.

 

“Steve is a little… a little…”

 

“Over-protective?” Bentley’s eyes narrowed slightly with the query.

 

Williams sighed with chagrin. “I guess that sort of describes him… sort of, I guess.”

 

“Well, he’s looking for suspects in some sort of bizarre crime that he thinks musta happened up there! He practically accused me of pushing you down the hill!”

 

Dan’s blue eyes sharpened and pierced the man sitting before him. “He accused you…” Still uncertain that his colleague was not just mis-reading the aloof and stern façade which McGarrett presented, Williams frowned as he dredged up a memory of their conversation the day before (or was it the day before that?). Steve had voiced a suspicion that someone had somehow harmed him. The components of a conclusion began to fall into place. With an apologetic cant of his head, the wheel-chair bound detective explained. “Dave, I think it might be my fault. I don’t remember it, but I guess I was babbling about getting punched or kicked or something. Steve is just ruling out that possibility.”

 

Bentley brought his elbows from their resting position on his knees and came to a more upright position. “I hope you call him off soon – he’s not exactly a guy I’d want to have dogging me because you had a bad dream.”

 

“I’m sure sorry, Dave. I’ll set him straight.”

 

A broad grin spread across the uniformed officer’s face as he rose from his seat and adjusted his utility belt. “I’d better get movin’ – Charlie Hakai is a by-the-clock boss!”

 

Dan pulled himself away from thoughts of his own frustratingly tenacious boss, and looked up at his friend. “Oh, I meant to congratulate you on your new SWAT gig.”

 

“Mahalo, man – I’m lucky you weren’t in the running though, or you’d have edged me out of the slot for sure!” Bentley winked and turned to leave, but stopped abruptly. “So you think you’ll at least be able to make it as a spectator to the PR Shoot next week?”

 

Williams gave his wounded shoulder an unconscious glance before he responded. “I don’t see why I won’t be there.” It was not without effort that Dan pushed a smile onto his face. “I wouldn’t wanna miss you gettin’ a mug shot with that trophy.”

 

Bentley laughed as he strode away. “I’m glad you’ll be there to see it, Danny!”

 

 

*****

 

The head of Five-0 snapped a quick look at his wrist watch. He had about an hour before he was to meet with Charlie Hakai, the head of HPD’s new SWAT unit, so he decided now was a convenient time to drop in on his second-in-command at Leahi Hospital. As was his habit, instead of taking the elevator, he jogged up the stairwell, catching a nurse and an attendant in a tryst. As McGarrett fired an askance glance at them, the surprised couple quickly separated and slipped down the steps and into the lobby.

 

Shaking his head in mild amusement, the detective made his way to Williams’ room and slowed down to gently push the door open, just in case his friend was not awake. The patient appeared to be sleeping at first blush, but turned his head slowly and opened his eyes as McGarrett approached.

 

The head of Five-0 grinned. “You didn’t get back to me about your schedule today, so I thought I’d take a chance and just pop in.”

 

Williams, who had in fact stirred from a light doze, swallowed and looked around the room before he offered a rejoinder. “I can fit you in, Steve – I had a cancellation.” As Dan made a move to become more upright, a surfing magazine, which had been resting on the patient’s legs glided off the bed and dropped to the floor.

 

“It’s my lucky day, then,” McGarrett quipped as he collected the publication and helped his friend raise the head of the bed. “How are you feeling, Danno?”

 

“Better… still a little… I guess drained is the right word,” Williams offered with a slight grimace as he adjusted his position. After allowing a few moments for the discomfort to subside, he focused on the penetrating visage of his boss.

 

Anybody else would not have read anything more than mild concern into the expression, but Dan saw/sensed something else – a dark tenor which hovered over the man’s posture and in his eyes. All was not well beneath the mask McGarrett wore. Was Steve defending him to the outside world, but secretly resentful of the trouble he’d caused? Was he misdirecting anger at innocent bystanders like Dave Bentley, who’d merely been at the wrong place at the wrong time? If that was the case, Williams knew he would have to do everything within his power to put an end to it. As much as Dan dreaded the thought of hearing Steve McGarrett admit that he was disappointed in him, he knew nothing could be the same between them if the truth – however horrible – was not acknowledged. Honesty and trust were the foundation upon which the two friends had built their relationship and bonded as closely as brothers. 

 

With a swallow, Dan broached the subject, hoping the quaver in his voice would be discounted as a result of his still-weak condition. “I need to talk to you about what happened on the hill.”

 

From McGarrett’s suddenly-heightened attention, it was clear to Dan that he’d struck a nerve. The head of Five-0 started to retrieve the chair, which sat near the door, but instead, after the briefest of hesitations, opted to take a seat on the end of the bed. “Only if you feel up to it.”

 

Williams nodded slightly and proceeded neutrally. “Dave Bentley came to see me today.”

 

 The angry reaction this news evoked in the older detective momentarily startled Dan as the bed jerked from McGarrett’s sudden spring to tension. He verbally kicked himself. “I should’ve been prepared for that! What happened?”

 

The patient could not keep a slight edge from entering his own tone as he answered without removing his eyes from the stressed figure at the foot of his bed. “That’s what I’d like to ask you, Steve. Dave is under the impression that you’re accusing him of some sort of wrongdoing. As the alleged victim here, I’d like to know what you think he did and exactly how you think he did it without me knowing about it!”

 

Exasperation overrode McGarrett’s infuriated expression momentarily. “Danno, there was a point in time where you DID remember! I know it’s tough, but you’ve got to think! Think back to those minutes on the hill when you were alone… before Duke came… before Kono…” In Steve’s face, there was a desperation which made Dan wax in his own irritation at his friend. He closed his eyes and tried to bring forth the memory of those minutes, which seemed like hours.

 

When the head of Five-0 saw that his second was attempting to recollect what happened, he pressed. “You said, ‘It hurt, and then it hurt more.’ Do you remember feeling that way?”

 

Dan faltered for a few seconds before he breathed a confirmation. “Yes, I… I, uh… I remember that. After you left, I started to get dizzy… Pain started hitting me in waves. It was like my shoulder was on fire.”

 

Culpability for his friend’s lonely trial of agony renewed itself with a vengeance, causing McGarrett to wince visibly at the horrific description. With eyes tightly shut, Williams was oblivious to the reaction he was causing as he continued. “I’m pretty sure I blacked out. It got dark… hard to breathe.” Dan paused, started to speak, but stopped before he uttered a sound. He shook his head slightly and opened his eyes suddenly to look at his acutely attentive boss. “For a few seconds, I did have the sensation that something… a blanket… a towel…”

 

“A jacket?” McGarrett offered.

 

“Something… was covering my head.” The patient looked down as he continued to struggle with the memory. “I tried to reach up to grab it, but when I did that, I must’ve fallen over… or backward. It felt like somebody stabbed me in the chest with a hot poker.” Williams’ brow furled and he admitted as he looked up, “Everything’s a blur after that.” He let his head drop backward onto the pillow before he sighed tiredly. “Duke and Kono and the other guys got there sometime after that.”

 

The older detective’s voice was marginally less intense, but he continued to push gently. “You said that somebody – HE – covered your head and kicked you.”

 

Dan looked up slowly into the eyes of his mentor as he admitted, “It felt that way… but that’s not what happened. I was alone.”  When the man studying him did not react, Williams closed his eyes again. “Okay, Steve, you tell ME what happened.” 

 

McGarrett realized the muscles in his back were almost in spasm from the tension of listening to his second reveal the events from his perspective, so he straightened and subtly arched his back for a moment as he began to share the sequence of events with which he’d been toying for the past couple of days.

 

“You’ve got it right, Danno, up to the point where you think you blacked out. You were in tremendous pain… dizzy… filled with vertigo perhaps. So you close your eyes. Somebody does arrive on the scene – in advance of Duke. He sees that you’re alone and only semi-conscious… lying there helpless and unaware that anyone else on that hillside has it in for you.”

 

Dan slowly opened his eyes to watch his boss’s fixed countenance as the man continued with his theory. “He sees an opportunity to put you out of commission. So, just to make sure that you don’t open your eyes and spot him, he drops his jacket over your head. You’re out of it, but not so much that you don’t sense that something’s wrong. When you try to make a grab for whatever’s blocking the air and light, he moves in and strikes you with something.” McGarrett almost shouted the next words for emphasis. “HARD, Danno! Right in the heart of that fresh bullet wound! The pain does you in, and you’re down for the count. With that little chore complete, the suspect drops back into the bushes and waits for others to arrive before he turns up on the scene in front of witnesses.”

 

The two men stared at each other for several seconds before Williams finally sliced through the thick silence. “And you think Dave Bentley is the perpetrator.”

 

“He had opportunity,” McGarrett submitted as he consciously forced himself to slow his breathing and heart rate after the mental reenactment of the events on Diamond Head.

 

Dan countered, “What about motive, Steve? Dave is a friend – I’ve known him for years! WHY would he do that to me?”

 

“I don’t have the answer to that question – yet! But I will – mark my words, Danno, I will!” His voice held ominous venom. “He resents you in a big way.”

 

His own ire flaring, Williams fired back, “That’s NOT true, Steve! We’ve always had a friendly rivalry going about our sharp shooting skills, but it never got too heavy! We’d always laugh and go out for a beer afterward!”

 

“Danno, if you could’ve been there… heard what I heard in Bentley’s voice… saw what I saw in his face when I spoke with him at the Palace, I know you’d feel differently!”

 

The agitated patient ignored the explanation. “You’re creating a crime where one doesn’t exist, Steve! If any cop did anything they shouldn’t have up there, it was ME! I’m the one that missed my mark! I’m the one that caused the post-sniper fiasco!  Nobody else! Is that what’s eating at you, Steve? Is it?”

 

Williams’ heated outburst surprised McGarrett not because his friend was objecting, but because Danno was attributing an absurd motive to HIM! Steve rose from the bed, dumbfounded at the accusation he was hearing. It struck him that his detective had no interest in what happened subsequent to the sniper’s death – he was too consumed with what happened just before that.

 

Rarely at a loss for words, McGarrett struggled on this occasion to find a way to refute the very notion that anyone would blame his friend for missing a difficult shot on the first try. “Danno… What you’re saying is patently—” The lead detective stopped in mid-sentence, and noted with alarm that Williams’s face had twisted in pain.

 

“Oww, Steve…” Dan groaned and squeezed his eyes shut as he clutched the wounded area.

 

McGarrett raced to the door and shouted down the hall for help before he returned to his friend’s side. “Hang on, Danno! The doctor’s on his way!”

 

Within seconds, Doctor Hansen appeared with a nurse in tow. He quickly examined his near-tears patient before he threw a command over his shoulder to the nurse. “Muscle spasm – we need a little intramuscular cocktail here!”

The nurse understood the command and slipped from the room after a firm yes-doctor. The wait seemed interminable to McGarrett, who watched as his friend unsuccessfully tried to obey the doctor’s order to relax. It was probably less than a minute before the nurse returned with a hypodermic and cotton ball and quickly handed both items to the physician. Hansen wasted no time in swabbing a spot on his patient’s left shoulder and plunging the contents of the syringe into Dan’s arm.  Within seconds, Williams’ breathing began to slow. Without opening his eyes, he licked his lips once and rolled his head in obvious relief as the doctor pulled out his stethoscope and listened to the patient’s heart and breathing.

 

Finally Hansen softly addressed Williams. “Danny… Can you hear me?”

 

When it was clear that Dan was once again sleeping, Hansen gently pulled back his patient’s gown and undid the dressing, which covered his wound as he absentmindedly addressed the detective who hovered behind him. “It was just a muscle spasm, Steve – nothing to worry about.”

 

McGarrett stepped closer as the surgeon gently tugged back the last layer of red-spotted, white gauze. The lead detective’s expression twisted into one of distaste as his eyes locked onto the swollen purple and blue bruise, which covered all of the visible area of his friend’s upper, right chest area. The black suspect U shape barely stood out against the dark background. A rosy corona, where the miracle of healing was already taking place, encircled the offended zone. A two-inch line of stitches, which marked the entry and subsequent retrieval of the sniper’s round from Dan’s chest, was – to Steve – barely contributing to the gory picture.

 

An honest observation, rife with dismay, slipped from McGarrett’s lips. “It looks worse than it did a few days ago!”

 

“Bruises tend to percolate to the surface over a period of days, so that day three or four is usually when the most damage is visible.” Hansen offered with only the slightest of shrugs. Comfortable that no major damage had occurred during the muscle spasm, he quickly re-bandaged the area. As soon as he was done, he turned to face the head of Five-0. “Steve, did I mention that Danny will recuperate more quickly if he doesn’t engage in fisticuffs with his visitors?”

 

The accusatory tone made McGarrett realize that the two detectives’ voices had grown louder with each passing salvo. The noise had probably been heard at the nurses’ station. Steve tried to hide his chagrin as he promised that Williams would be protected from any further stressful discussions for the balance of his stay at Leahi.

 

As he trotted down the vacant stairwell, McGarrett silently berated himself. What he’d intended to be a simple (and brief) question-and-answer session, had somehow gotten out of hand too quickly to stop it.

 

Why Danno seemed so disturbed that he’d missed his target the first time was beyond him. It seemed to Steve that his friend’s pain-filled climb back to the top of the rocky perch to take the second shot – and subsequent success – supplanted the miss. Who would care why the first bullet did not find its mark? Why couldn’t his second-in-command see that? An involuntary growl of frustration escaped his lips at the fact that he couldn’t simply march back up the stairs and clear the air with his friend at that very moment. Even if his appointment time with Dave Bentley’s supervisor was not fast approaching, Danno was clearly in no condition to have the subject broached again.

 

 

*****

 

 

The Japanese man, dressed in new US military leaf pattern camouflage pants and a light brown tee shirt, sat at a six-foot table, upon which a rifle lay broken down into its individual components. As the head of Five-0 approached the table, situated on one end of the warehouse-cum-SWAT-classroom, the officer smiled. “One of our new M-16’s,” he explained.

 

McGarrett settled onto a tall stool across the short width of the table and nodded as he surveyed the parts. “Very nice, Charlie. A new unit with new weaponry and a hand-picked group of HPD’s finest.”

 

The head of the SWAT unit grinned. “Yeah, it’s comin’ together, Steve. Care for a tour of our cheesy equipment room?”

 

The Five-0 detective wasted no time in getting to the point. “Another time – I’ve got a couple of questions. How many of your men were at the Diamond Head incident the other day?”

 

“Are you kidding, Steve? All ten of them.”

 

“Including Dave Bentley.” McGarrett murmured. “How long have you known him?”

 

Charlie Hakai frowned slightly as his brain did the math, but his expression cleared in short order. “About seven years. He’s a good guy – HPD’s top sharp shooter.”

“Any issues or problems on the job?” Steve tried to make the question sound innocent, but knew that the Japanese American sitting before him was not stupid.

 

“I wouldn’t have tapped problems to join this unit, but if I had to pick the guy with the biggest ego, it would probably be Dave. Hard to find a good sharp shooter without one though.” A mix of wariness and concern filtered into the HPD officer’s tone. “Is there something I need to know?”

 

Not comfortable revealing a yet-to-be-supported hand, the head of Five-0 shrugged slightly as he offered his not-untrue cover story. “I’m trying to complete a detailed after-action report, which includes not only the stand-off with Shem, but events subsequent to that.”

 

Hakai’s expression lightened marginally. “Ahh, and Dave was a party to Danny’s rescue.”

 

McGarrett nodded and responded with a truthful lie. “He was a party to whatever transpired all right.”

 

“That was one heck of a trip down the hill! How IS Danny?” The man slowly re-folded the polishing cloth in his hands.

 

“Doc says he should make a complete recovery.” McGarrett revealed neutrally.

 

Hakai shook his head. “I’m amazed he was able to re-load and get a bead on that guy after taking a hit from a high-powered rifle. But I tell you, Steve, Danny shoots like he’s… what’s the word… clairvoyant… like he can see two seconds into the future. It’s a gift – I wish he could teach it.”

 

“Why do you think his first shot missed?” The head of Five-0 picked up the loose firing pin and inspected it absentmindedly.

 

The Oriental man shrugged dismissively. “Eh, who knows? Could’ve been any number of factors. The wind mighta picked up. Suspect mighta moved. Or maybe his Bridgie slipped up on him suddenly. I’ve ordered the new flaks – the BRJ-90’s – for my men. They don’t spontaneously impede a shot!”

 

When McGarrett remained quiet, Charlie put down his polishing cloth and studied the man.  Apparently divining the Five-0 chief’s dilemma, Hakai leveled a question at the man across the table. “Is Danny taking the miss to heart?”

 

McGarrett turned his focus on the HPD officer and admitted the truth. “Yeah, and the fact that his second shot saved the day doesn’t seem to matter.”

 

No sign of surprise registered on the SWAT officer’s face as he nodded and spoke quietly. “There’s a poem that sharp shooters mumble to each other – a challenge of sorts. One shot… one dot… Where red… one dead… Two shots… one dot… Where red… two dead.”  Hakai grinned as he watched the Five-0 detective try to mentally work through the poem.

 

McGarrett set down the firing pin and, frowning in concentration, spoke slowly. “One shot…”

 

“One dot – that’s slang for an on-target round impact. In a nutshell, the poem means that if you hit your mark the first time, you’ve accomplished your mission and everyone goes home.”

 

Steve looked up from the table into the eyes of the man. “But if it takes two shots to hit your target…”

 

“Then maybe the price of that miss was another life.” Hakai finished the explanation.

 

“Kind of an unforgiving credo,” pondered McGarrett in dismay.

 

“Yeah,” Charlie agreed. “And it conflicts heavily with the physics of a fired shot, which every man who passes through any sharp shooter’s training should know, but that doesn’t stop the young bucks from holding each other’s feet to the fire in competitions.”

 

The head of Five-0 sighed and shook his head. “Well, Danno is taking the first miss harder than his own injury.”

 

“It’s his first miss, Steve.” Hakai, an excellent sharp shooter in his own right, offered. “That’s gotta sting.” [See episode: KING OF THE HILL]

 

What the SWAT team leader was saying resonated with McGarrett. Williams’ self-confidence flagged occasionally in a number of areas, but marksmanship was not among them. As Charlie Hakai had pointed out, Danno had a gift, and fortunately, that package came wrapped in the recognition of his abilities. To miss a shot would be a devastating blow to one who allowed diffidence to sleep at his door on other fronts. The combination of the sharp shooter’s impossible yardstick and Danno’s own inaccurate image of himself would make a powerful mental concoction for his second-in-command to digest, especially while under the influence of the very potent drugs which now coursed through his system.

 

“I think you might’ve hit the nail on the head, Charlie,” McGarrett grinned as he replaced the firing pin on the table and rose. “Or maybe I should say you’re on target.”

 

Hakai let out a laugh. “Why do you think they used to call me One Dot?”

 

 

Day Five

 

Pausing by his car in the parking lot of Leahi Hospital, Steve looked at the late morning sky. After taking care of the first round of fires to appear on his desk, he’d sped to the hospital in the hopes of catching Williams in a more alert state – not to stir the pot again – but to reassure his friend. The blue overhead was striking and presented an almost unreal background for the blinding ochre orb well off the horizon. The warm, moist air was rich with tropical fragrances, and it made the detective think of his old sailboat. It wasn’t exactly ready to be called sea worthy again – a fact which Danno pointed out to him frequently – but it did occasionally get him out of the office and focused on something besides work. Thoughts of the Pu`uhonua – Hawaiian for Refuge – summoned a commitment to see to it that Williams had several days of undisturbed recuperation.

 

The head of Five-0 had returned to his friend’s bedside the previous evening, but Williams, under an order of sedation to prevent more muscles spasms, was deep in the throes of dead-to-the-world slumber. A light, jostling touch would not awaken him or even cause him to stir (not that Steve was so impatient to reconcile with Dan that he would’ve done that!). Wearing the regret for his confrontation with his unwell detective, McGarrett desperately wanted to get a few things off his chest sooner rather than later.

 

His conversation with Charlie Hakai had not yielded much in the way of incriminating information on Officer Dave Bentley, but it had been educational. The SWAT team leader’s window into sharp shooter psychology had shed some light on Danno’s irrational guilt about missing a single, lousy shot (Note, McGarrett – Do NOT say lousy shot in front of Danno!). With that perspective in mind, Steve realized that he would be ill served to dismiss the missed shot. The round could not be called back to Dan’s rifle. They could not relive the incident – any mistakes made would not be undone. BUT perhaps a little investigation into why Williams missed would help his detective exile the one-shot daemon to his past. Of course, discussion of that investigation – like the one driven by his own ghost of guilt for leaving his friend unattended – would have to wait until Danno was clear headed.

 

A horn honking in the distance returned him to the present, and he quickly strode into the building. He could make out the NO VISITORS sign on his friend’s door as soon as he stepped onto the floor. Glad to see it there, a flash of consternation with himself crossed his mind – knowing that the likes of Dave Bentley had been there before, McGarrett considered that he should have probably arranged for a guard on the door. Giving his head a slight, disapproving shake, he maintained his usual purposeful gait until he gently pushed open the door and slipped into the room.

 

The bed was fully reclined on this morning, an observation which alerted McGarrett to the fact that the patient might still be asleep. In fact, as the detective approached, it initially seemed that Williams was not awake. But that possibility was put to rest in short order. Dan opened his eyes slowly, looked around, and closed them again for several seconds before he finally inhaled a little more deeply and re-opened his eyes. He stared dully at the man standing over him.

 

When no reaction was forthcoming, McGarrett gently place his hand on the top of his friend’s head, and offered a soft greeting. “Good morning, Danno.”

 

This was the first time he’d seen Williams with his eyes open since their argument had ended with Dan’s sedation the day before. Unfortunately, it was abundantly clear to the head of Five-0 that his second was conscious, but still in a fog of sedation.

 

“Steve…” The patient smiled tiredly as the blue eyes finally delivered the message to his brain that his mentor had spoken to him. “Is it morning?”

 

“Yeah.” McGarrett puckered his brow, but kept the smile on his lips. “I know you need to rest, my friend, so I won’t stay long.”

 

“Steve… You’re blurry… What is…  Are you wearing a halo?” Dan queried distantly through a crooked grin.

 

The over-relaxed, removed-from-reality state in which he found his friend was almost a relief after the tense moments they’d shared the day before. The Five-0 chief smirked. “I wear a halo every day, Danno – it doesn’t usually show through my hair though.”

 

Williams nodded his acceptance of the response. “Explains… a lot,” he breathed as the smile faded and his eye lids drooped shut.

 

McGarrett’s smile turned into an expression of poignant affection. How ironic...

He turned and plopped into the chair. With one elbow on the lightly padded metal arm, he stroked his chin and stared at the snoozing detective. The urge to speak to his friend continued to gnaw at him.

 

“Danno.” He called softly. When no response came, he decided to go ahead and try out his confession, if for no other reason than to hear it for himself. “Nothing that happened on that hill was your fault. I failed… as the one officially responsible for your safety, and as a friend. I left you alone, ill-prepared to defend yourself, without the comfort of another human being.” The head of Five-0 let his hand travel up to wipe across his entire face before he shook his head. “And on the Bentley issue, I know I haven’t offered enough evidence to satisfy your reasonable skepticism… YET… but I will. I promise you that.” 

 

He sat there for a few more minutes, listening to the clinical background noises and the distant din of traffic. Feeling a measure better, he rose and, with a gentle tap on the bed railing, he started toward the door. Before his hand could extend to the handle, Doctor Bergman, a mug of coffee in one hand and a medical chart in the other, shouldered the door open and stepped in.

 

“Steve, I’m glad you’re here – we’ve GOT to talk.” The medical examiner’s cranky demeanor hinted at something other than concern for the health of his current Five-0 patient – McGarrett suspected he’d been ratted out by Hansen about agitating Danno the day before, so he moved to defuse the chastisement.

 

“Doc, if it’s about yesterday—” The detective began, but the medical man shook his head and growled.

 

“We have a traffic problem! Despite the fact that we’ve posted a no-trespassing sign, there’s been a non-stop flow of police officers stomping through the ward to pay their respects and express their gratitude to Danny – and of course, NO COP thinks that sign applies to him!”

 

The physician’s accusatory glare was lost on the atypically unperceptive cop, who frowned. “I can put a stop to that! I’ll have an edict issued at shift changes that this facility is off limits.”

 

“That might work, Steve, but I have another idea that might serve our friend even better.” Bergman nodded in the direction of the snoozing detective.

 

“I’m all ears, Doc,” McGarrett folded his arms as he focused on the medical examiner.

 

“I’d like to release him,” came the simple response.

 

Steve’s eye brows climbed towards his hairline as he took two strides to the bedside and pointed at the patient. “We are talking about THIS patient, right, Doc?”

 

As if to add emphasis to his boss’s incredulity, Dan groaned softly and mumbled a few unintelligible syllables.

 

Bergman twisted his face slightly and shrugged. “What we’re witnessing here is the effect of a strong sedative, which – in addition to keeping him mostly unconscious – is preventing muscle spasms. I’m proposing… offering up my beach house in Makaha as a place where Danny can convalesce in peace.”

 

McGarrett’s expression softened at the generous and very interesting invitation. “And he won’t require the sedation?”

 

“Well, spasms such as the one he had yesterday could still be a problem for a few days – at least until the wound is a little more healed, so I’d put him on a  muscle relaxant – a lower dose pill, which should do the trick.”

 

In addition to the belief that Danno would be more comfortable near the ocean, which he loved dearly, the idea of secreting his friend while he continued with his investigation into the assault was very appealing to the Five-0 chief. Of course, McGarrett knew that there could be no mention of the plurality of purpose, but he doubted Williams would balk regardless if it meant escaping the confines of the hospital. After only a few seconds of plotting, the detective agreed that both patient and hospital would be better off if Williams were discharged sooner rather than later.

 

 

Day Six

 

 

“Kono… are… you carrying me?” Surprise was evident even through Dan’s confused demeanor.

 

“Yeah, bruddah – just up the steps here. You ain’t walkin’ so good.”

 

“I can walk. Put me down.” The command was invoked without conviction or struggle.

 

“No, kaikaina,” The sturdy Hawaiian mumbled as he focused on a cautious ascent up the half-dozen steps.

 

“Put me down or else.” Williams’ tone was no more threatening than it had been previously, and Kono responded with distraction.

 

“What you gonna do if I don’t? Call a cop?”

 

Dan was silent for a few seconds before he snickered softly. “That’s funny.”

 

McGarrett and Chin preceded Kono with his cargo up the wood steps of the raised cottage. Bringing up the rear was Doc Bergman, who sniped a warning, “Be careful of his arm!”

 

“Doc, I thought you said there’d be no more nuclear-powered sedatives.” The head of Five-0 opened the front door as he called back to the doctor.

 

“A little misunderstanding with the morning shift on the instructions,” the physician grumbled distractedly. “We’ll get him on track by dinner time.”

 

“And how many can I expect for dinner?” The all-business voice chimed from the end of the lanai, which ran the length of the house, and wrapped around the corner.

 

A petite woman with delicate features was approaching with a broom in hand. In her fifties, the graying brunette wore her hair in a banged bob and was sporting Navy blue pedal pushers and a matching cotton tank top. With a warm smile at the detectives, she had to go to her tip toes to leave a peck of a kiss on the physician’s cheek.

 

“Dora, it’s nice to see you,” McGarrett greeted the woman as he bent to reciprocate her hug.

 

“Steve, I missed you at Niles’ birthday party last month!”

 

“I’m sorry – I had—”

 

She gave the Five-0 chief a playful shame-on-you wink and squeezed his arm. “I know—you had to work!”

 

Dora Bergman moved on to welcome the other two Five-0 men as her attention turned to Kono’s burden, who was dozing, as he had been off and on since he’d been surreptitiously spirited out of the hospital and into McGarrett’s car.

 

Lightly touching Dan’s arm, she issued a soft command to the Hawaiian detective. “Let’s put our patient in the front bedroom.”

 

With a nod, Kono followed the woman into a bedroom, which was adjacent to the kitchen, and gingerly settled Dan into a sitting position on the bed. The jostling roused the groggy officer and he blinked for a few moments before his gaze settled on the welcoming expression of the little woman.

 

Mrs. Bergman spoke first as she touched Williams’ cheek. “Hi, sweetie! How are you feeling?”

 

“Hi… Dora.” A few more blinks before he offered a slight smile. “You smell good.”

 

She agreed. “It’s Lysol.”

 

“I’ve doled out God knows how much money on Channel Number Five, and you’re getting compliments on the scent of our toilet bowl cleaner.”  The doctor gave a long-suffering sigh and pulled a bottle from his pocket and handed it to his wife, who pointedly ignored the curmudgeonly comment as the man continued with instructions.

 

“A little red pill with breakfast. A little red pill with dinner. No driving, no swimming, no surfing. Walking or sitting on the sand is okay. Sleep all you want. Read all you can. That’s it. In a few days, the muscles in your chest will be healed enough that you won’t need to take any more medicine.” Bergman directed his instructions at his wife and the three alert Five-0 detectives more than his patient.

 

All three men listening nodded their understanding, but it was Dora who commented, chastisement edging into her tone. “Niles Bergman, I was an intensive care nurse for twenty five years – I think I can manage one patient – especially one as darling as Danny!”

 

“Let’s see if you feel that way after the sedative wears off!”

 

McGarrett and his two standing detectives could not keep the grins from their faces as they listened to the husband-wife repartee.

 

It was unclear whether Dan had been listening, but before Bergman could reply, Dan nodded in a tipsy fashion before he managed to focus on the crusty medico. “I love you, Doc.”

 

Bergman dropped his head to look over the top of his reading glasses at his patient.  “Lie down and take a nap. When you wake up, you won’t love me as much.”

 

The detective lowered himself into a reclining position with the help of Steve behind him. After his head came to rest on the cushion, he whispered. “You promise?”

 

“Yes! Go to sleep!”

 

It wasn’t more than a minute later that Williams’ limp posture and breathing pattern let the three detectives and the physician know that Dan had left the realm of the conscious. Exchanging satisfied glances and brief pats on backs from their mission accomplished, everyone silently vacated the room and didn’t speak again until they were all standing on the lanai onto which the front door opened.

 

McGarrett brought his hand to rest on the woman’s back, and addressed her with a perplexed expression. “Dora, am I to understand that you’ll be staying here with Danno?”

 

The former nurse shrugged dismissively. “He may need some help during the day, so I thought I’d just bring a couple sewing projects out and stay with him. Niles says you or one of the boys will be here during the evening, so I think it will work out just fine!”

 

Steve did not think to hide his reaction. He was deeply touched that the Bergmans thought enough of him and his men to go so far out of their way to help them. “Dora… that’s very generous of you. I… It would remove a logistical problem from the mix for us.”

 

With another warm smile, her hazel eyes met those of the man who was almost a foot taller than her. “It’s my pleasure, Steve – really!”

 

Bergman – with a brief, but affectionate squeeze of his wife’s hand, grabbed the stair railing to begin the trek towards his car and called over his shoulder. “Page me if there’s a problem!”

 

“Hey, Doc!” McGarrett loudly addressed the retreating physician, who paused to look back. With an atypically broad grin, the head of Five-0 placed one hand on Kono’s shoulder and the other on Chin’s. “We love you TOO, man!”

 

“You all need to take a little red pill!” Bergman grinned as he turned away.

 

 

Day Ten

 

 

“Am I gonna have trouble getting you to come back to work, Danno?” McGarrett ascended the steps of the beach house two at time with the over-powered ease of deer.

 

A barefoot Williams was sitting on the lanai on a floral-cushioned rattan deck chair aimed in the direction of the water. A closed book was resting on the lap of the detective, who was comfortably dressed in khaki shorts and a pale green tee shirt. “It’s a great spot to recuperate – thanks for setting it up, Steve.” Dan smiled as his boss neared his position and turned to take in the same view. The house, buried in tall, lush foliage, was no more than two hundred yards from the beach. The pale sand seemed to almost fluoresce under the mid-day sun, offering a visually-pleasing contrast to the teal water beyond.

 

“You wanna go for a walk?” The Five-0 chief challenged as he turned to face his seated friend.

 

“Sure,” Dan, his right arm no longer in a sling, slowly rose from the chair with only token assistance from his friend.

 

A scraping sound alerted the men to the opening of the sliding screen door behind Williams. Dora poked her head and smiled. “Steve, you’re not checking up on us, are you?”

 

“No, no – I just happened to be in the area,” the Five-0 chief responded as he took the book from Dan’s hand and set it on the small table beside the chair.

 

The physician’s wife slid the screen door closed with an askance glance at the tall figure in the incongruous pale tan business suit. “Yeah... just passing by.”

 

Dan cut off a smile as he began his cautious descent down the steps. All three people within earshot of the conversation were aware that Makaha not a crossroads of any sort. At the western end of the island, there was little to bring a state police detective in that direction more than occasionally.

 

“Those little red pills seem to be doing the trick,” McGarrett commented idly as he noticed his friend now walked without the appearance that he’d had too much to drink.

 

“Actually, I didn’t take one this morning – my shoulder’s not that tight anymore.”

Williams shot a glance up to boss’s skeptical, scrutinizing eyes as he quickly headed off the objection he knew was coming. “Kono squealed to Dora when she got here, and she’s cool with it.”

 

Steve continued to eye his friend dubiously for a few moments before he looked away to survey the path ahead. Dan was taking them on a trajectory towards the waves, which broke and rolled a couple hundred feet on the flat beach. The pair walked along for a full minute in atypically uncomfortable silence. Williams was alert and completely un-medicated for the first time since he’d been shot, and now, his senses were fully in tune with the mood of the man strolling beside him.

 

McGarrett, still not over his impatient misstep in the hospital which seemed to have triggered his protégé’s muscle spasm bout, was reticent to bring up the subject at the top of his mind. Now, as he took care to not let the dying waves overrun his dress shoes, he realized that Williams was sensing his hesitance to speak. The down side of an alert Danno – the mind reading has returned… 

 

Finally, Dan cracked. “Nice weather…”

 

“No argument there…”

 

Several more seconds of silence…

 

“Okay, ya don’t wanna discuss the weather. You pick a subject, Steve.”

 

The Five-0 chief smiled and glanced at his friend. “Hmm, how ‘bout poetry?”

 

Williams’ brow furled in perplexity and he answered with a slight shrug. “As in, there was a young woman from Perth?”

 

McGarrett’s smile momentarily broadened into a grin. “How ‘bout, ‘One shot, one dot.”

 

The shorter man, ignoring the ocean on his bare feet, finished the stanza with a pained sigh. “One dead… Now where did you hear THAT little ditty?”

 

“From a friend of mine – a sharp shooter.”

 

“Yeah, well you’ve been running with the wrong crowd while I’ve been out.” Dan mumbled as he looked down at the sand. “Did you bring it up, because you want me to explain why… why I missed Shem the first time?”

 

Knowing now how seriously his friend took the miss, he felt a pang of empathy as he placed his hand on Williams’ back to gently guide the suddenly distracted detective a little farther back from the wave action. “No, Danno… not because I want you to explain the miss.  With all the things that could’ve affected the round’s trajectory, and the confusion that ensued afterwards, I don’t know that we’ll ever be certain about what happened on that count. I do know you can’t re-live it.”

 

Dan’s voice was rife with dejection. “I just wish I could understand how it happened. I had him… I thought.”

 

“Danno, do you understand that this two-shot-two-dead deal is just a mind game mnemonic meant to instill the importance of caution in young guys with itchy trigger fingers?” The head of Five-0 stopped walking and turned to face his second-in-command, who stopped but did not turn to look at his boss.

 

Williams spoke distantly. “Two shots… one dot… where red… two dead.” He nodded slowly. “Yeah… I know that… I just don’t like the idea…”

 

“You don’t like the idea of making a mistake! Neither do I, but we’re NOT perfect. The only way for a human being to never fail is to never take a risk!” McGarrett realized the tension in his voice was rising, and stopped long enough to take in a cleansing breath before he continued in a gentler tone. “Danno – you risked it all that day to put an end to that poor demented soul’s rampage, and when it was all said and done, you’d accomplished your mission! PAU! End of story!”

 

Dan, vacillating, studied his mentor’s intense blue eyes. “I didn’t let the guys down.” The questioning statement drove McGarrett to be more emphatic.

 

“Danno, you know you’re here because we couldn’t stop the flow of grateful cops from disrupting operations at the hospital?” Amongst other things…

 

Williams’ expression flushed slightly with emotion, but he still looked – to McGarrett’s annoyance – unconvinced. How his friend could be so stubborn in the face of logic was beyond him. It was only with sincere effort that the lead detective kept his tone even. “Danno, just think about it.”

 

Dan nodded, but still looked uncommitted to Steve’s assertion.

 

The taller man shook his head almost imperceptibly trying to swallow his frustration as the pair continued their stroll.

 

Another thirty seconds passed before Dan stopped in his tracks. This time, it was he who turned to study the man next to him. “So, Steve, if you’re not bothered about me missing that shot, what was going on at the hospital? I’m a little fuzzy on why we were… arguing.”

 

Determined to not show the regret he felt that the subject was being broached, McGarrett chose his words carefully. “I voiced some concern about how you sustained some of your injuries.”

 

“How I sustained…” The younger man frowned and looked down as he struggled to replay the scene. “Yeah… you ah… thought that… somebody…” His head snapped back up to meet the gaze of his boss. “You suspected that Dave Bentley assaulted me!”

 

Steve nodded. “Yeah, that’s right, Danno.”

 

“You’re not pursuing that, are you?” Williams’ eyes were large with dismay. Dan knew his boss well enough to know that the man – once a suspicion was planted – would not let go easily.

 

The head of Five-0 had not mentioned his investigation into the SWAT officer, but his friend’s point blank question made an answer hard to avoid. So, McGarrett took a page from his protégé’s book and kept an even keel while he methodically laid out the facts which led to his suspicion.

 

The clandestine investigation into Dave Bentley’s background had yielded nothing more incriminating than the occasional hint that the officer was a bad sport about losing. The picture, which Kono and Chin brought to their boss in dribs and drabs over the past few days, portrayed a man who always found a way to blame an outside force for a shortcoming or failure. Bentley was the antithesis of Dan Williams. He was boastful and struggled at social gatherings to be the center of attention. All of this information – while not proof – lent credence to a motive for the assault.

 

Dan listened silently, but when his boss finished his explanation, he could hold back no more. How his friend could be so stubborn in the face of logic was beyond him! “Steve, I wish you could hear yourself – you’ve got NOTHING! There is NO case against Dave! An unexplained bruise? I got a bigger one than this” – he touched his right shoulder as he continued – “on my backside – looks like a grapefruit from Hell! I don’t remember how it happened, but I do know that Dave Bentley DID NOT put it there! Ouch!”

McGarrett’s wariness skyrocketed as his friend cried out in pain. “Danno!”

 

Williams held up his hand and then quickly grabbed his mentor’s arm for support. “It’s okay… stepped on a seashell.” He wheezed, and stood still for only a few seconds before he released his hold on McGarrett’s steadying arm. With a sigh, he looked up to see the man’s intense blue eyes boring into him.

 

The Five-0 chief looked back up the beach and realized they’d walked a good half mile. “Danno, you shouldn’t overdo it – let’s head back.”

 

Williams looked out across the expanse of water as he assured his boss he was okay. “I think I’d like to just sit out here for awhile – I’ll be fine.” When the head of Five-0 hesitated, his second added, “Really. Dora won’t let me get away.”

 

McGarrett reluctantly agreed and, with a brief pat on his friend’s back, turned and started to make a beeline for the beach house. He stopped suddenly fifty yards up the beach, and surveyed the sandy strip in both directions for signs of other people, but there were none to be found. His eyes settled on Williams, whose movements left no doubt that he was drained from the exertion of the walk – and probably from the argument. The mending detective gingerly lowered himself to the sand, and brought his head to rest on his knees, apparently unaware that he was being watched.

 

I’ll be right back… Steve swallowed as the memory of his own words rocked him. Retracing his steps back to Williams’ position, he muttered loudly. “Can’t I be taught? Danno!”

 

The young man jumped slightly when he heard his mentor’s voice. He snapped his head upward to find McGarrett lowering himself to one knee. “Steve…” Dan didn’t have time to formulate a question before the answer sprang forth from his boss.

 

“I’m sorry – I can’t leave you out here on the beach… alone. Now, c’mon – let me help you up.” The Five-0 chief’s tone left no doubt that he was pulling rank, and would not tolerate any disagreement.

 

Williams still wanted some sort of explanation though, even as he was being lifted to his feet again. “Why? What…”

 

“You need to be within earshot of help!”

 

Dan had neither the energy nor the inclination to offer a physical battle, but he did try to reason with his boss again. “Steve—”

 

“I do not want to discuss this!” McGarrett interrupted harshly, even as his hands clutched Williams arm and guided him back toward the beach house.

 

Stinging and mildly surprised at the almost-angry delivery of the words, Dan was silent for the remainder of the trek. Ten minutes later, Steve deposited his second-in-command on the lanai, and left hastily, pleading an appointment with the governor.

 

The familiar sound of the sliding door shushed behind Dan’s chair, and the sound of Mrs. Bergman’s footfall preceded her appearance with two tall, thin glasses of a pale yellow beverage. Mild confusion momentarily clouded her features as she pulled the other rattan chair closer to Dan’s position. “Steve’s gone?”

 

Dan nodded despondently. “Appointment with the governor,” he offered quietly.

 

The little woman lit on edge of the chair and studied her patient’s downcast expression as she pressed one of the glasses into his hand. “Drink up, sweetie.”

 

Williams responded unenthusiastically to the affectionate command by taking a sip, and then a tug of the cool, sweet concoction. For almost a minute, the two people sat there, the sound of the breaking waves in the distance dominating the airwaves. Finally, Dan, apparently realizing that etiquette called for some sort of pleasantry, remarked softly with a glance in his nurse-hostess’ direction. “It’s good, Dora, thank you.”

 

“You’re welcome.” She sat back in her chair and continued her examination of the detective with periodic sideways glances. After several more seconds of silence, Dora inquired, “How was your walk?”

 

Dan glanced in the nurse’s direction, but moved his focus to closely inspect his glass. “It was…”

 

When no adjectives followed, Dora suggested a few. “Pleasant? Invigorating? Tiring?”

 

“Tiring… it was tiring,” Williams agreed.

 

“And upsetting.” The woman’s final adjective was not a question. She could see her charge had returned from his brief sojourn, not only fatigued, but in emotional distress.

 

Dora Bergman had listened to her husband for years express frequent annoyance with the Five-0 detectives, but often in the same conversation, a deep fondness for the officers came through in her curmudgeonly spouse. She knew that, despite how he grumbled about his difficult live patients, the physician held a profound respect and appreciation for their dedication. The medical examiner had called McGarrett religiously fanatic in his devotion to duty. The occasional clash between her husband and the head of the state police she knew came when McGarrett’s steadfast focus on his job blinded him to his own safety and welfare.

 

Dora remembered well when Danny Williams joined McGarrett’s Five-0 ohana. It wasn’t the fire storm of publicity about the young detective’s controversial appointment which made the timeframe stick in her head. It was Niles Bergman’s frequent comments – over dinner or breakfast or as he settled into bed next to her.

 

That kid is following in McGarrett’s footsteps.... He’s trouble – just like McGarrett... Williams ‘bout got himself killed – he’s foolhardy, Dora, foolhardy… I hope he lives long enough to realize he’s not immortal… I’ve never seen Steve McGarrett so obviously attached to one of his men – matter ‘o fact, I’ve never seen him so attached to anybody – Heh! I guess the kid is pretty likable… Did I mention that Danny helped with an autopsy today – I did? Well, did I mention that the kid fainted on me – I did? That kid worships McGarrett… I hope Steve understands the power he wields…

 

Mrs. Bergman occasionally teased her spouse about his own obvious attachments, but he brushed them off, completely aware that his wife’s pointed observations were accurate. Not much needed to be explained between the faithful couple who knew each other too well. Dora’s path crossed the Five-0 men’s only occasionally, but she herself grew – with a feminine lens on her husband’s manly observations – fond of all the officers (She strongly suspected that she knew the men better in many ways than the physician who saw them routinely in the work place.).

 

When she finally met Williams in person, she understood immediately his underlying appeal. His self-deprecating manner, his charm and boyish features somehow put forth a vulnerability, which could disarm men and women alike. The petite nurse found herself drawn – like her husband and the head of Five-0 – to the youngest Five-0 detective. He seemed to her to cry out for nurturing (She knew he’d be appalled if he were aware of this fact!), and she – not being handicapped with masculine sensibilities and societal mores – had no problem acting on the urge.

 

Now, she sat here studying Williams’ troubled features, and felt compelled to help in some way.

 

The detective hesitated for a few moments before he acknowledged the accuracy of her observation. “Steve and I are in disagreement about what happened on Diamond Head… when I was wounded.”

 

“I don’t understand. You don’t agree on how you were shot?”

 

“Oh, no – I don’t think there’s any doubt about that. But after that… after I was shot, there’s some… confusion about happened. Steve suspects that I sustained additional injuries after I was down from the round.”

 

Dora pressed the issue, now completely perplexed. “I still don’t understand. He suspects? You were BOTH there, weren’t you?”

 

Dan was reluctant to lay out the facts for a civilian – even one as wonderful and ohana-like as Dora Bergman – to see. Whether he believed it or not, it seemed as though McGarrett had made a case out of the suspicion, and this made the facts part of an ongoing investigation. He hedged. “Well, no. He wasn’t there.”

 

“You were shot, and Steve was not there?”

“Well, yes… I mean no. He climbed up the hill and checked on me. It hurt, but I really didn’t think it was that bad, and I told Steve as much.” Williams absentmindedly rubbed his shoulder as the memory resurfaced. “So, he went down to make sure I’d really hit the guy.”

 

“Steve left you with THIS injury?” Skepticism and surprise intertwined in her tone as nodded at the detective’s chest.

 

“It didn’t seem that bad at the time,” Dan defended his boss’s action. “I didn’t mind that he was leaving me alone.”

 

Alone… alone! Suddenly, the detective recalled his mentor’s words on the beach. Can’t I be taught? Williams had not considered until this moment what Steve meant when he spoke. He’d turned to leave, but something stopped him… brought him back and made him virtually drag his second-in-command back to his nurse.

 

Dan slowly looked into Dora’s warm and concerned face. “He said he wasn’t angry about the miss, and he’s not. He’s angry with himself.”

 

That Williams’ injury had turned out to be worse than either of them initially assessed had to be the fuel that fired the Five-0 chief’s suspicions about subsequent foul play! It made Steve question his own judgment.

 

Dora could see the mental gears turning in her patient’s head, and so she waited patiently until he offered more information.

 

“Steve and I have been talking at cross purposes. We thought we were talking about the same thing, but we weren’t.”

 

The woman smiled. “I’m no detective, but it sounds like you were talking about the same thing – just from different perspectives.”

 

“You’re a smart woman, Dora Bergman, and just maybe, you’re a better detective than you think.”

 

 

Day Eleven

 

 

“Dora, where’s your car?” Steve greeted the woman with a peck on the cheek as he stepped inside the open living room, which was comfortably full of Victorian-style rattan furnishings. Dan, sitting in a chair with his feet propped up comfortably on the matching ottoman, smiled warmly in his mentor’s direction.

 

“In the shop – Niles should be here any second. We’re having dinner with friends in Walanae.” She chirped as she folded a piece of material and stuffed it into the over-sized canvas bag in which she used to transport her sewing projects.

 

“Hi, Steve,” Dan raised his hand off the arm rest from the elbow up to present a wave.

 

“Danno, how’s it today?” The Five-0 chief, his tie and jacket vanquished and his sleeves rolled up, still sported in his suit pants as he slipped around the sofa and took a seat a few feet from his detective, who seemed relaxed and comfortable.

 

As McGarrett took in the state in which he found his protégé on this early tropical evening, Dora reported as she collected her scissors from the coffee table. “We had a great day – even went for a short swim! Don’t worry – no surfing – only breast stroke!”

 

“I think I’m about ready to come back to work, Steve,” Williams intoned agreeably.

 

Steve nodded as if he were about to concur. “Really? I think you’re about ready to eat dinner.”

 

“My thoughts exactly,” The nurse agreed as she vanished down the hallway.

 

Dan returned a small mock grimace as the front door creaked.

 

“How’s my least favorite patient today?” Doctor Bergman inquired as he stepped through the front door, and then held up his hand as he glanced in McGarrett’s direction. “Correction – how’s my second least favorite patient?”

 

Dan spoke with a slight drawl and teased, “Doc, you’re just mad ‘cause Dora wants to adopt me!”

 

The medical man released a loud scoff. “Danny, nothin’ would make me happier than to see you out in my front yard mowing the lawn!”

 

“You’re late!” The woman accused as she re-appeared and approached her husband.

 

“Sorry, dear – had a late delivery I had to check in and refrigerate.” The medical man apologized an apology which McGarrett suspected he proffered often. The pair brushed hands as she slipped past him towards Williams.

 

“Don’t overdo! Get some rest!” Dora touched Dan’s cheek and he reached up and squeezed her hand.

 

“G’night, Dora. You’re the bomb.”

 

The doctor threw up a tired wave as he pulled the door closed behind them.

 

Still smiling, McGarrett turned his attention back to his friend. Before he could make a dinner suggestion, Dan gave a crooked smile.

 

“I don’t wanna argue tonight, Steve, but I do wanna talk. I let you pick the topic yesterday, so I get to pick today.”

 

The head of Five-0, determined to not start the evening out at odds with the convalescing detective, agreed. “Okay, Danno – pick whatever subject floats your boat. The weather perhaps?”

 

Dan smirked for a moment, but then focused on the serious subject. “You said something yesterday, and you were right on the money. Whatever happened on that hill… whatever mistake I made that caused that shot to go south, I can’t re-live it and do it differently.”

 

Relief that his second had taken the harshly-delivered (and regrettably so) lecture to heart, McGarrett gently released the breath he didn’t realize he was holding. His stubborn diffident friend was coming around. “That’s right, Danno – there will be no re-living of that day.”

 

Dan seemed ready to laugh with relief. “Then we agree. I can’t go back and change things.”

 

The head of Five-0 – sensing he was walking into an ambush -- didn’t move as he replied cautiously. “We agree.”

 

“And neither can you.”

 

McGarrett’s eyes narrowed slightly as the trap door snapped shut. He studied the Williams’ pleased expression. Steve burned inside from the mistake he’d made. Danno could have been killed…

 

Pausing only long enough to let the thought solidify in his mentor’s mind, Dan drove his point home. “You HAD to leave me there, Steve. What if I hadn’t killed Shem? What if he’d been lying there in that bunker waiting for the first poor cop to poke his head over that barrier? You evaluated my condition and made a decision – it seemed good at the time, I think. You can’t change your mind any more than I can re-aim and fire again.”

 

The focus had shifted almost seamlessly from his friend’s encumbrance to his own amazingly parallel burden. Realizing that to deny the truth of the words was to recant – before Williams – the missed-shot line of reasoning. He looked down to study his hands for a few moments as he digested the new perspective on an incident he thought he’d considered from every angle.

 

After several seconds of thick silence, the older detective looked into the anticipating expression of the young man three feet from him. Danno had taken the argument, which he – Steve McGarrett – had carefully crafted, and turned it back on him. It was with no small amount of admiration that the Five-0 chief had to acknowledge that which he already knew – his protégé was a worthy match to his own wit and mental wherewithal.

 

It was unproductive for either of them to allow past mistakes to consume the present. He’d confessed his feeling of culpability for the seriousness of Williams’ injury to nobody (nobody conscious, that is), but somehow Danno had accurately put the pieces together and divined the truth at the core (Of his behavior? Of his actions?).

 

The Five-0 chief started softly, but his volume rose. “You’re right – we can’t relive the day, my friend.”

 

Dan grinned and rubbed his shoulder, “And now that I think about it, I wouldn’t want to!”

 

Both detectives chuckled as they each considered the ridiculousness of wanting to return to such a painful and exhausting day.

 

Finally, Williams mentioned the related controversial topic. “That leaves us with only the case of the invisible assailant to discuss.”

 

McGarrett shook his head slowly and smiled. “Danno, if it walks like a duck and quacks like a duck…”

 

Williams sighed, “I know, I know, Steve – it’s just that as far as I can tell, Dave Bentley is NOT quacking.”

 

The lead detective returned with a thin smile, “Let’s let the feathers stop flying before we decide that. Agree?” He offered his hand to seal the pact.

 

The two friends locked eyes as Dan leaned from his chair to grasp Steve’s hand. With a curt nod and smile, Five-0’s second-in-command concurred. “Agree!”

 

 

Day Thirteen

 

 

Dan poured out into his hand the contents of the medicine bottle, which still contained at least two dozen of the little red pills. Their appearance reminded him of Red Hots, the smooth, spicy cinnamon-flavored candies he recalled from the occasional trip to the movie theatre. He shook his head as he turned his hand towards the waste basket and summarily dumped the medicine into the waste basket in his bathroom. “Enough.”

 

The following day would be the two-week anniversary of the incident on the hill, and Williams was determined that life needed to get back to normal. He rotated his right arm and, while the move still caused a hint of discomfort, at least he could perform the act without a muscle spasm incapacitating him. Knowing Bergman would not declare him fit for duty for at least another week, he smiled with the belief that he could probably convince Steve to let him return to the office on a desk-bound basis by Monday. With that happy thought circulating through his head, he wandered back into the living room and settled onto the end of the sofa closest to the hospital supply box, which contained several personal effects he’d had in his possession when he was admitted to the hospital.

 

His wallet, hand guns (both the one he kept on his belt holster and the one in his ankle holster), keys, and notebook had taken by Steve for safekeeping as soon as they’d been removed from Dan’s person, so all that remained were items of lesser consequence. The detective noted with only mild interest that the only items in the box were his shoes and Bridgie. The medical staff must’ve considered his clothes unsalvageable. With a vague recollection of his appearance from the neck down – red and muddy – he knew the conclusion was no doubt a reasonable one. Amazed that they’d bothered with his shoes, he grimaced with queasiness as he pulled them out. Darkened from their moist experience on the hill, the original color did not hide the fact that the leather was infused with blood.

 

“Yuck!” He spat the epithet as he set the crusty shoes on the coffee table.

 

Anxious to put them out of his thoughts, he immediately retrieved the only other item left in the box. The first thing that struck him about his flak jacket was not its appearance, but its smell— no, odor. A combination of blood, sour dish rag, and mildew assaulted his olfactory sense. The detective’s face twisted in repulsion as he noted that the interior of the protective garment had suffered a fate similar to that of the shoes – there was no area spared from the crimson – now brown – onslaught. The exterior, on the other hand, was still damp in places – a result of poor air circulation in the box and the high humidity of the climate, but the original color of the material was still detectable in places. Streaks of mud and the capillary action of blood seeping from the inside gave the Bridgie a distinctive “crime-scene” appearance to Williams, who finally set the now-useless jacket down next to the shoes.

 

“Ow!”

 

Dan pulled his left hand back and examined the small bubble of blood growing on his index finger. Quickly, stuffing the wounded finger into his mouth, he sucked the blood off and then placed his thumb over the area for pressure. Carefully, he inspected the jacket to find the offending object, and saw almost immediately the business end of a pin protruding through one of the left flap pockets. Forgetting the injury, he frowned in concentration as he turned the flap over with his fingers and retrieved the painted enamel lapel pin. It was familiar to him immediately, but it took several seconds for its significance to come to him.

 

The strokes of an ‘X’ were represented by a lightening bolt and a bayoneted rifle. The stylized letter rested on a black-painted circle ringed by the polished 14-karat gold from which the entire pin was made.

 

“Now HOW did this get here?”

 

He looked back and forth between the pin and the jacket a few times before he rose and strode to the chest of drawers in his bedroom. He opened the lid of the dark wood jewelry box, which rested there at the back of the chest, and quickly saw what he sought. A twin to the pin he held in his hand rested on the gray velvet lining. He stood there staring at the two pins, slack jawed and confused, for several seconds, but slowly, as a large wave builds under the surface of the surf, a scenario pushed towards him with building pressure. As the realization broke over him, he backed away from the chest and found himself dropping to sit on the bed.

 

Nausea consumed him as the cold, hard facts struck him. The only people who had those pins were law enforcement personnel who’d graduated from the U.S. Marine Marksmanship course. The intensive two-week course was open to civilian law enforcement personnel, who’d achieved sharpshooter ratings during their range qualifications. Dan only knew a half dozen HPD officers who’d made the cut and, and then actually went on to make it through the training to get their certificates and pins. He and Dave Bentley were two of them…

 

The massive U-shaped bruise around the wound suddenly took on a new meaning, and he turned and almost ran to his closet. He flung the door open, stepped into the small area, and dropped to his knees. Ignoring the bolt of pain that reverberated in his body from the over-jostling of still-sore body parts, he collected one of his now-rarely-worn military jump boots and turned it over to examine the bottom. The shape of the heel fit the bruise like a glove.

 

He slumped and let himself sit on the floor of the closet. Near tears with emotion, he replayed Steve’s scenario and filled in the blanks with what he now knew. Dave did arrive before Duke got to him. He covered Dan’s head with his jacket – the one with his prized sharpshooter lapel pin on the collar. Williams had correctly sensed the change in airflow and light, and when he reached up to grab whatever was blocking those all-important elements, his hand must’ve inadvertently dragged the backing from the pin, allowing the article to drop onto Dan and become lodged on his Bridgie. Before his victim could react further, Bentley delivered a single, devastatingly painful stomp directly onto the wound with the heel of his boot. With Williams properly incapacitated, he wasted no time in hiding until witnesses arrived to place him there after them.

 

“Steve was right…” Williams whispered. “Dave… why?” The hurt feelings and astonishment at the incredible deceit and malevolence were overwhelming to Dan – one who would die before he would betray a friend.

 

He didn’t remember wandering there, but somehow ended up in the chair on his lanai. It was there that he sat until stars were visible. The phone rang in the distance, but he ignored it. Over the course of the two hours he sat there, the tenor of his contemplation moved from hurt and betrayed to anger and indignation. He’d defended Dave against Steve’s accusations, and all the while, Dave was taking advantage of the position of trust into which Williams had placed him.

 

Dan had aggressively refuted his boss’s assertions, and failed to have any faith in the man’s intuitive nature into such things. Steve… a real friend… one who was willing to fight –even with Williams himself – to protect him…

 

“You know you could do a guy a favor and answer your phone by the fiftieth ring or so!”

 

Dan jumped at the sound of the voice behind him. He turned quickly to see his boss pulling a key from the lock and closing the door. He rose slowly as relief from the momentary scare realigned him with reality. “Sorry… I was thinking…”

 

“So deep in thought about what?” McGarrett countered as he absentmindedly inspected the shoes and flak jacket on the coffee table. When Williams did not respond right away, Steve’s eyes flashed in warning. “Oh, now wait a minute! We’re NOT gonna go around about that damn missed shot again!”

 

“No, we’re not.”

 

Dan disappeared into the bedroom for thirty seconds, and returned to find his boss seated on the couch examining the Bridgie. The Five-0 chief overrode the distasteful expression with one of curiosity as soon his second reappeared carrying a single, black military boot. Williams handed the boot to McGarrett, and then took a seat in the easy chair a couple feet away.

 

Dan watched silently as his mentor took in the article from the top, and then tipped it upside down to examine the sole. A few seconds of analysis was all it took for the significance of the boot heel shape to register with the lead detective.

 

He looked up slowly into the very serious expression of his protégé to see the young man holding the index finger and thumb of his left hand forming a U shape. 

 

McGarrett’s expression transformed from one epiphanic realization to anger. “He stomped on you! With his boot!” It made sense – and now that he saw the shape, he wondered in passing why he hadn’t considered it before.

 

“You were right… all along, Steve.” Dan’s quiet voice did not hold the volcanic outrage of his boss, but an undercurrent of anger was there.

 

“I’d give the Pu`uhonua to have a single piece of evidence that would tie Bentley – and nobody else – to this crime!”

 

“No need,” Dan intoned as he dropped the sharpshooter lapel pin into the hand of his boss, who focused on it for only a second before Williams neutrally explained where he’d found it and the likely scenario which put it there. McGarrett nodded and listened quietly, but his body language told Dan that his friend was fuming.

 

For half a minute after Williams finished with his explanation, both men sat there silently staring at the evidence, which implicated Officer Dave Bentley in the assault on the Five-0 detective. Finally, McGarrett ran his hand over his face and looked up at his friend. He realized suddenly that, not only was his detective angry, he was devastated. Of course, he was devastated! A man, whom he had mistaken for a friend, had perpetrated an atrocity against him!

 

The Five-0 chief sighed and lightly touched his second-in-command on the knee. “You all right?”

 

Dan didn’t look up, but nodded unenthusiastically. “Yeah.”  Several more seconds of stillness ensued before Williams, reading his boss’s mind, looked up into the still-angry eyes of his friend. “I don’t want you to arrest him, Steve – not today.”

 

Surprise brushed across McGarrett’s face momentarily, but he recovered quickly and jumped to his feet. “Danno, I swear I’ve never known anybody with a more forgiving nature than you, but I WILL NOT forgive this heinous act! He could’ve killed you – and for what!?!”

 

Williams interrupted as he sat up a little straighter and rubbed the front of his healing shoulder. “Exactly, Steve! For what? I’ll tell you for what!  To be first! He wants to take the trophy in the Pacific Rim Match tomorrow so badly that he was willing to do whatever he had to do to make sure I wouldn’t be there!”

 

“That makes sense,” McGarrett growled through clenched teeth as Dan rose from the easy chair. “My gut tells me he’s been building up to this for a long time.”

 

The shorter detective nodded and pressed on confidently. “Yeah, but here’s our problem. Only you and I KNOW what happened. A good lawyer could turn each little piece of incriminating evidence into innocent coincidences.” Dan walked around the coffee table as resentment at unidentified defense attorneys swelled the volume of his voice. “A lot of people have boots like that! The pin simply dropped onto the injured party as my client was participating in the rescue operation!” He spun suddenly. “Steve, we don’t have a case that will stick – YET!”

 

McGarrett, whose eyes were tracking his second’s movements, shook the boot at his colleague and shouted back. “And just WHAT do you propose we do, Danno?”

 

Williams stopped pacing and met the angry eyes of his mentor. He swallowed and replied quietly. “That I shoot tomorrow.”

 

Dan expected a scoffing response and was not disappointed. His boss almost seemed to grow larger as he snapped, “YOU shoot tomorrow? Danno, you are in NO condition to fire your rifle ONCE, let alone over and over under different conditions!”

 

“I can do it, Steve! Listen to me! I may not have to fire all day. You said Dave made it abundantly clear to you that he didn’t care if you knew – because you couldn’t prove it.” Encouraged that his friend did not cut him off immediately, Dan continued quickly. “There are a couple of ways this could play out. He won’t be expecting me to show up. He might actually be off balance enough to try to take me out again, but I don’t think so – he’s too cocky!”

 

“That he is, but I’m not willing—”

 

“Steve! Please let me finish!  He’s played me for a sucker for a long time. I’ve naively believed what he’s fed me for long enough that if I come to him and let him know that I know the truth – and that I’m going to you with proof, he may just think he can talk his way out of it. If I can get anything incriminating on tape, the case will be locked up tight!”

 

McGarrett moved around the coffee table to stand closer to his detective. “NO, Danno, I can’t let you do this.” He lowered his voice. “Bentley hates you – I’m sorry, but he does! He hates you not just because you’re a better shot, but because you’re so many good things that he’s not! The risk to you is too great!”

 

Torn between being touched at his friend’s concern and frustration at the man’s reluctance to see the logic in his proposal (yet), Dan held his temper and delivered his final carefully considered argument. “If we arrest Bentley, and he gets off, then where will I be? If you think he’s got a grudge against me now, wait until I’ve put him through the embarrassment of a court trial! If he stays with the SWAT unit, where will his colleagues be when he’s the one they have to trust with THEIR lives?”

 

McGarrett’s blue eyes grew large and he was immobile for several seconds before they narrowed. He slammed the boot to the floor.

 

Recognizing the expression of anger as a sign of surrender, Dan wasted no time in elucidating what needed to happen. “I’ve got to get my Browning from the office and get it cleaned up.”

Steve looked up at his protégé and their eyes met. “I cleaned it – I’ll collect it in the morning before I collect you.” He put his hand on Williams’ shoulder. “Get some rest, my friend – you’re gonna need every second of it.”

 

 

Day Fourteen

 

 

“No brass, no ammo, Sergeant!” Dan called out the standard firing range safety declaration as the range monitor rodded his Browning.

 

“You’re clear, Danny! It’s great to see ya here! Didn’t think you’d make it this time around!” The tall Samoan man grinned.

 

With his right shoulder still too tender to bear the weight of his weapon, Williams was careful to slip the shoulder strap over his healthy arm as he returned a broad smile. “Thanks, Ulani – I’m doing great!”

 

The detective started to continue his egress from the range area, where he’d zeroed his weapon and made sure it was functioning properly, but Ulani reached out and gently touched his forearm. “Hey, bruddah.”

 

Williams, attired in his green and khaki camouflage ERDL flight suit, stopped and studied the friendly, but almost embarrassed expression, on the wide face. After a brief hesitation, the off-duty HPD patrolman said what was on his mind. “I… I uh just wanna say that what you did up on Diamond Head… My cousin was up dere… He say that lolo guy woulda done worse than he did if you hadn’t a…  That was… well, you one okay haole boy. That’s all.”

 

Dan’s smile diminished slightly and he felt his face flush from the heart-felt expression of gratitude. Steve was right on the money on all counts – not only were his HPD colleagues dismissive of THE MISS, they were appreciative of his efforts. He couldn’t bring himself to do more than whisper his thanks as he made his way through the growing crowd, returning the various waves and greetings from other contestants and spectators, to where McGarrett, Kono, and Chin stood. All three detectives were sporting aloha shirts (The lead detective’s – as always – was a custom-stitched, long-sleeved garment.).

 

The head of Five-0 laid his hand lightly on his second’s back as he gauged the physical and mental status of his friend. “Okay?”

 

“Yeah,” the shorter detective confirmed with a confident grin as he pulled the rifle from his arm and rotated his healing shoulder.

 

“Does our FRIEND know you’re shootin’?” The Hawaiian detective put out the under-his-breath inquiry as he casually glanced around.

 

“He hasn’t checked in yet,” Dan replied softly.

 

“You wired?” McGarrett fired quickly.

 

“Like a stereo.”

 

“And I just did the sound check,” Chin added.

 

The head of Five-0 gave a slight nod to the Chinese detective and then smiled grimly at Williams. “Okay, Danno, Chin’s gonna be in the front of his cousin’s catering van in the parking lot. I’ll be there with him until the shooting starts – then, I’m gonna go keep a bead on Bentley. Kono’s gonna remain at a discrete distance, but within eye shot of you.”

 

“Looks like we’ve got all the bases covered.” Dan nodded, but his volume dropped off as his attention was captured by something behind his boss.

 

McGarrett, despite the urge to spin around and take a look, waited until Williams neutrally offered an explanation. “He’s here… in a pretty cheerful mood too.”

 

The Five-0 chief’s lip curled into a dangerous smile. “I guess he hasn’t heard that he didn’t knock out the competition like he thought.”

 

“I think it’s time to burst his bubble,” Dan smiled thinly.

 

“Yeah,” McGarrett’s expression, perhaps invisible to the other two detectives there – perhaps not – turned to open concern as he made eye contact with his protégé. “Danno…”

 

“I’ll be careful, Steve – I promise.”

 

The head of Five-0 sighed and nodded as Williams re-shouldered his weapon and turned away from his colleagues.

 

Dan wandered up to the range area and watched quietly while Dave Bentley finished checking in. The HPD officer, attired in tiger-stripe dessert “BDU” military pants and matching jacket, turned away from the table and was focusing on folding the match’s disclaimer paperwork when he glanced up. The man’s jovial countenance momentarily vanished and was displaced – Dan was not astonished to note – by dismay.

 

“Surprise.” Williams smiled coolly. The anger he felt towards the officer was channeled into pleasure at the man’s obvious shock and subsequent veiled lack of enthusiasm at the sight of his opponent.

 

“Danny! Whoa, man! I REALLY didn’t expect to see you here!”

 

“I bet you didn’t… man.” The Five-0 detective didn’t waver in his focus from Bentley. “You gonna zero your weapon? I’ll walk with you,” Dan nodded at the range.

 

Williams’ atypically distant demeanor seemed to put the man walking next to him ill at ease.

 

“Uhh, yeah… okay.”

 

The two men trudged up the gentle slope, in an awkward silence, onto one of the vacant firing ranges. Dan could feel the eyes of the slightly taller man brushing over him casually, attempting to surreptitiously assess his physical condition.

 

As Bentley un-shouldered his rifle and kneeled to begin checking its sights, he made a weak attempt at a friendly grin. “I see you’ve got your rifle with you… You don’t actually intend to shoot today, do you?”

 

“I’m gonna do more than that, Dave.” Dan’s eyes flashed. “I’m gonna out-shoot you in front of everybody, and then, I’m gonna go tell Steve that he was right.”

 

Bentley’s head popped upward. “STEVE was right about what?” The venom with which the HPD officer spat McGarrett’s name suddenly drove home to Williams the fact that this man was jealous and angry about more than just Dan’s superior marksmanship ability.

 

“Steve was convinced that you helped that sniper’s bullet find its way a little deeper into my shoulder. I said no – Dave’s my friend.” Williams released a single, soft laugh. “I sang that tune until I stumbled onto the evidence that turned you into a lying snake!”

 

Suddenly focused exclusively on the Five-0 detective, the red-haired man rose and stood almost nose to nose with Dan. “What evidence?”

 

Unblinking, Dan responded levelly. “Your one-dot pin.”

 

Bentley’s eyes grew large momentarily before they narrowed again as he answered through nearly gritting teeth. “My… I lost it – I’m not sure where exactly. I get around quite a bit.”

 

“Yeah, I bet you do. We’ll see if the Attorney General can figure out how you managed to lose it where I found it! AND – just like Cinderella – we’ll see how well your glass slipper fits the boot-heel-shaped bruise that rose around my GSW!”

 

The emotions roiled just beneath the surface of both men as they stood there staring hatefully at each other. Suspicion further clouded the SWAT officer’s expression. Something – Dan was certain it was nervousness – danced behind the man’s eyes.

 

“Your little story doesn’t hold water, Danny! You expect me to believe that you haven’t told anyone yet? Not even your good buddy, the King of Five-0?” Bentley flung the words mockingly.

 

“You think we’d be standing here if I’d told Steve about this? After what you did to me, he wouldn’t have waited long enough to let me smoke you one last time!” Dan returned.

 

Both men jumped slightly as the announcement for the contestants to take their places for the prone supported round reverberated over the loud speaker. Bentley turned his attention back to Williams, who, with one last surly glance, spoke as he turned away.

 

“Pardon me if I don’t say good luck!” As Dan made his way off the range to await the commencement of his assigned first round heat, he muttered just loudly enough for Chin and Steve to pick up through the microphone under his flight suit, “Well, he didn’t deny it.”

 

In the van, McGarrett and Kelly had heard the entire exchange between the two men. After Williams’ under-his-breath remark came through loud and clear, the Five-0 chief moved to extricate himself from the vehicle and, despite the fact that his second-in-command could not hear him, responded. “He didn’t confess either, my friend.”

 

McGarrett stopped mid-way through the operation, partially out of the van, as he heard Williams voice again. “I know, I know, Steve – he didn’t come clean… but he will.”

 

The Chinese detective looked over at his boss and grinned as he plugged in the earphones and put them on. “Danny’s got your number, boss.”

 

*****

 

“Detective Williams, we’ve learned that you’re fresh out of the hospital from a duty-related gunshot wound, which you sustained a mere two weeks ago. Do you anticipate that you’ll be able to stand up to the rigors of this very competitive match today?”

 

The reporter was a tan man, perhaps in his fifties, wearing a wide-brimmed Panama hat. He held a microphone attached to a pouch-contained portable tape recorder. Another journalist, a younger Asian man who was dressed like a tourist on his way to a luau, listened to the conversation with a pen and pad poised and prepared to take notes.

 

Dan sat on a canvas bar-height stool just off the range, from whence the pops of first heat gunfire emanated and echoed across the valley. As much as he did not feel up to a lot of friendly banter and reporters’ questions, the detective knew that public interest was part of the package. In his position as second-in-command of the state police, he had a further obligation to put forth a positive image for the good of his unit. Behind the reporters, Williams noted the vigilant eyes of Kono, unwavering in their focus on him. Only a little farther away and off to one side stood Dave Bentley, a resentful expression visible even from Dan’s vantage point.

 

With an almost demure smile, he shrugged gently. “I expect to be here all day, Mr. Haskell.”

 

“Now, if my sources are correct, your injury was to the upper, right side of your chest. Will that be a factor for you today?”

 

“I hope it won’t be a problem, but if it is, then I’ll overcome it or fail. If somebody else takes home the trophy today, it won’t be because I was injured – it’ll be because he out-shot me.”

 

“Ladies and gentlemen, you’ve heard it from the marksman’s mouth. That’s the kind of grace and confidence that’s carried this young man to three consecutive Pacific Rim championships. I’ve been speaking with police Detective Danny Williams – reigning sharpshooter champ and second-in-command of Hawaii Five-0. Thank you for your time – I know you’ve got to get ready for your heat.”

 

“Thank you, Mr. Haskell.” Williams gingerly removed himself from the seat and made his way toward the range staging area on a path which took him tangential to Bentley’s position. As the Five-0 detective passed, the HPD officer called to him.

 

“Danny!”

 

Williams stopped, but did not look in the man’s direction as he approached. Bentley spoke in a whisper. “Look… there are some things I didn’t mention in my statement… because they look bad.”

 

Dan slowly turned his head to make eye contact with the officer. His expression was angry and skeptical as he responded in a slightly louder whisper. “Yeah, well I can see how stomping on an injured colleague might put one in a bad light!” 

 

With a quick, frustrated glance around, the man ran a hand through his red hair before his focus came to rest on the Five-0 detective. “It’s not like you think – give me a chance to explain… please…” Bentley sensed that Williams was vacillating, and he took a half step closer. “Danny, what’s the harm? Let’s shoot, and then all I need is ten minutes of your time… ten minutes.”

 

Still wearing the cynical air, Dan looked at the man and was silent for several seconds before he reacted with measured words. “Okay, Dave. Ten minutes – but this had better be good!”

 

The HPD man released a tense breath and nodded solemnly. “You’ll see, Danny – thanks.”

 

Williams hoped his opponent did not see him wince in pain as he turned away too quickly to suit his still-sore chest. Quickly subjugating his discomfort, he silently reveled in his clandestine victory over the suspect, who had taken the bait. The match would take place – with a little luck and due caution, Dan would be able to hold up for the duration. Then, Dave Bentley would further incriminate himself on tape, thereby sealing his fate. It was a good plan.

 

“All contestants assigned to heat three, report to your lanes. The results from heats one and two are being tallied at this time.”

 

The announcement reverberated through the public address system, alerting Dan to the need to focus his thoughts on the immediate horizon. With a few slow, deep breaths, he mentally centered himself and stepped onto the range. Bleachers were situated along the front length of the range lanes – a familiar configuration which harkened Williams to a bowling alley arrangement. A bowling alley in paradise… The Kawananakoa Shooting Range was nestled above the residential community of Maunalani Heights on the windward side of the Koolau Mountains less than thirty minutes from Waikiki. The lush vegetation and surrounding gentle hills gave the illusion of isolation to the largest shooting range in the Pacific, and made for an unrivaled scenic back drop to the Pacific Rim Shooting Match.

 

The sound of applause slowly filtered through Dan’s shell of concentration and he pulled up from his thoughts of nice weather and bowling alleys to see people – lots of them – rising from their seats and clapping. He shot a careful glance over his shoulder as he considered that he might be hampering the passage of a VIP. Oddly, Ulani, the range monitor, was the only one behind him – and he was clapping as well. The PA system suddenly came alive again.

 

“For the few spectators who are still in the dark about the local celebrity we’re greeting, it’s Detective Danny Williams – yeah, it’s you we clappin’ for, bruddah! Danny pulled some pupule stunt up on Diamond Head a couple weeks ago. The boy got himself shot while he was busy saving the hides of a bunch our HPD bruddahs, me among them. Mahalo nui loa – we’re glad you’re here today!”

 

The Five-0 detective knew the warmth he felt on his face and neck was not from the sun as he offered a self-conscious wave and a shy smile to the bleachers of well wishers. He caught sight of Steve, who flashed him an I-told-you-so nod and a wink. Dan shook his head slightly, and, still grinning, kept his eyes on the ground in front of him as he took his position in his assigned lane. The need to concentrate was crucial now.

 

The PRSM was divided into four rounds, each more technically difficult than the set before it. Unlike many shooting competitions, the rules of this meet required that only the top ten finishers of the first round – taking place in the prone supported firing position -- would advance to the second round – the prone unsupported position round. Marksmen who scored in the top five would then proceed to round three – the skeet round. The top two scorers from that round would advance to the championship handgun round.

 

Most marksmen found the prone supported position the easiest, but Dan – while very adept at hitting his target in this posture, far preferred the freedom of the unsupported stances. They enabled him to make hair-trigger adjustments in the last fractions of a second before he released a round to its destiny. Lying on his stomach and making use of a sand bag to hold the barrel of his rifle still, Dan spent the final moments before the judges opened the heat to live fire transporting himself to the mental plane where he would become one with his weapon. The feeling was simultaneously peaceful and exhilarating -- Williams wondered on occasion why he couldn’t exist there all the time. As it was though, he was grateful that he could go there while he shot.

 

The live-fire call rang out in the background, and the pops of gunfire began immediately across the twenty lanes. As Dan aimed and fired at the black silhouette targets – most distant to least distant (three hundred yards to fifty yards), he knew as each round left the muzzle of his Browning that it would hit the mark he intended. It was almost as if he were astride each bullet for a time. The smell of gunpowder was a pleasant one to Williams, and served to further ensconce the detective into his sense of belonging with the rifle. By the time the cease-fire command came, Dan had already stopped firing. He knew he’d done well and would probably advance to the next round.

 

 

*****

 

“Danno.” When his friend did not stir, McGarrett grimaced and looked back at Chin. His friend was exhausted. It was early afternoon and only the handgun round was left. The day had been treacherously difficult for the still-weak detective, but his focused tenacity had somehow kept him on track, and more importantly, on target – Dan was one of the two finalists. He would be competing against an Australian police officer for the championship.

 

To McGarrett’s delight, Dave Bentley had not made the cut in the clay pigeon round. Definitely a bitter pill for a marksman, who had managed to make it to the final round two years earlier, the SWAT officer barely managed to control his emotions as he made his way off the range. It seemed to Steve that the man was actually twitching.

 

When the announcer called for the two finalists to return to the range, the Five-0 chief placed his hand on his friend’s arm. “Danno.”

 

The combination of his name and the touch brought the detective to dazed alertness. “I’m good.” He announced quickly and then looked around to see that he was in still sitting in the chaise lounge, which Kono pulled from the trunk of his car. The Hawaiian detective always carried the fold-up aluminum and nylon furniture with him on the grounds that one never knew when one would need to relax. Dan could not argue with that philosophy on this particular day as he’d dropped into the seat fifteen minutes earlier and taken a few bites of an egg roll before he nodded off.

 

“It’s time, my friend – the handgun round.” McGarrett offered the final tidbit of information to facilitate Williams’ memory of his circumstance.

 

Confusion left the blue eyes in a few moments, and he squeezed his eyes shut tightly for a moment, rolled his head, and gave his tired and sore shoulder a rub. “Yeah, okay. I’m ready.”

 

With his boss’s help, Dan was able to come to a standing position. Steve kept a steadying hand on his friend’s arm as Williams accepted the stainless steel Hawks .357 magnum handgun, which Chin proffered to him. It was a prized possession, which Dan used primarily for competition. After a brief examination of the weapon, Five-0’s second-in-command collected the ammunition pouch from the hood of his Ford. He paused and sighed tiredly before he looked up into the eyes of his mentor. “Kono keepin’ an eye on Dave for me?”

 

“Yeah. I’m gonna go spell him, but I first I wanna watch you lock up that trophy again.” McGarrett grinned and took the heavy ammo pouch from his friend’s arm. “I’ll walk you up to your lane.”

 

Not bothering to hide his weariness, Dan managed a grateful smile. As the two friends turned toward the range, the Five-0 chief called over his shoulder to the

Chinese detective, “And you—”

 

“I know – back to the van!”

 

 

*****

 

 

 

The final round to determine the winner of the competition pitted two contestants against clay pigeons fired in rapid succession into the air by a scatter gun. Of all the events, this one required the most focus and balance. One did not aim through a sight on the weapon – there was no time. Instead, the shooter had to know his weapon and himself well enough to be able spot the moving target, point the gun, and pull the trigger, like a Wild West gunslinger of days gone by.

 

On any other day, this would’ve been Dan’s favorite part of the competition. He had a keen eye and could consistently hit a succession of fast-moving targets in quick-draw style without any difficulty. In past Pacific Rim matches, he knew that – as he loaded his Hawks – the championship was his. But today was different. Dan was exhausted and his shoulder tight from the burden he’d placed upon the unhealed area and surrounding muscles. He was in and out of focus, but only partially due to his physical condition. He was also “on duty.” Wired and attenuated to the fact that he had to draw an admission of guilt out of a suspect, it was difficult for Williams to not let the event – which was only a game – slip in its importance to him.

 

Steve walked with him to the range gate. Dan could feel his mentor assessing him as he turned to accept the ammo box. McGarrett frowned slightly in concern as he saw Williams wince.

 

“Danno, you know you don’t have to do this,” Steve offered quietly.

 

“Danny, mite! Let us give ya a hand there!” Jack Towers, the officer from Darwin in the Northern Territory, stepped forward and re-routed the weighty ammo box from its trip to Williams’ good shoulder to his own.

 

The Five-0 detectives exchanged meaningful glances with the law man from down under before they had their own silent visual communication. Towers was aware that Dan was not at his peak.

 

“Thanks, Jackie.” Williams gave a nod and a conciliatory smile to the tall, very-healthy-looking figure.

 

 With his brown, leather bush hat resting by a drawstring on his back, the man wore khaki pants and a shirt. His receding hairline was played down by the number-one buzz cut of his brown hair. A scar ran from below his left eye to just above his jaw line, and made him appear older than the thirty something Dan knew he was.

 

“No worries!” Towers returned jovially.

 

McGarrett gave a grateful nod to Dan’s opponent before he looked squarely into his second’s eyes. “Remember what Dora said!” Steve didn’t want to voice the mother-hen-ish, don’t-overdo admonition in front of anyone else.

 

Williams got the message and winked.  “Yeah, Steve – See ya in bit!”

 

The two competitors walked slowly, primarily in deference to the shorter man’s fading energy, to the center range lane and set up. The scatter gun had been rearranged to accommodate the more “intimate” stage on which the final round of the contest was to take place. No more than five minutes later, everything was in place, and three judges joined the two finalists in the lane.

 

“Whew, it’s a hot one that’s for sure,” Towers boomed as he ran the back of his hand across his forehead. “Robert, would ya mind there if we took a smoko.”

 

The head judge, Bob Peterson, was the Chief of Police in Denver and the President of the National Practical Shooting Association. Middle aged in appearance, the man, dressed in a blue jeans and a green luau shirt, agreed, and watched as the Australian cop pulled a bag of sunflower seeds from his ammo box. No argument came from Williams as he eased himself onto the bench behind him while the other men found seats for themselves. Towers and the retired Marine judge from Kaneohe took a knee facing the Five-0 detective while Peterson and Roy Slater, an Army major on active duty, took seats on the bench on either side of Dan.

 

Anyone observing the crowd would know that speculation about what was transpiring in the huddle was rippling through the audience. The five men could be seen passing a bag of something – apparently edible – around. This wasn’t what traditionally happened on the lane in the championship round. As a matter of fact, the scene playing out on the range had never happened before. There was no doubt that something was afoot – exactly what it was the people in the bleachers were more than willing to quietly wait to find out.

 

Meanwhile, back at the impromptu conference, the men bantered casually about different things that had happened during the day – somebody had a new rifle which misfired… word was circulating about a new competition in Europe… this event was somebody’s last competition. Dan did his best to keep his frailty to himself, but he could tell that his contemporaries, through their subtle looks and deferments to him, were seeing through his front. In typical keep-it-superficial masculine behavior, nobody commented or inquired point blank on how he was feeling. It was a dramatic contrast from his recent time with Dora Bergman, who openly coddled and babied him all day. He found himself wishing the nurse were here to hand him a tall, cool drink and make him take a nap.

 

His ears were ringing, and he wondered if he looked as pale as he felt as he slowly cracked open one of the small seeds and fished out the miniscule reward with his tongue. Towers burst out laughing and Williams realized that he’d missed a punch line. He smiled and made a half-hearted attempt to laugh, but the chuckle died.

 

“Hey, uh, Jackie…” Dan spit an errant sunflower seed from his mouth before he continued. “Would you feel cheated if I asked for a single round instead of best two out of three?”

 

The judges stopped shuffling and grew quiet to wait for Jack’s reaction. Towers gazed off into the valley and tossed several seeds into his mouth as he seemed to be pondering the question. With a smile and a glance toward the crowd, he finally looked at the unwell detective. “If I had me druthers, I’d see ya when ya weren’t so crook, but as it t’is, we’ll do it as it suits you, mite.”

 

“Thanks, Jackie. I’m sorry to abbreviate this.”

 

“Ehh, she'll be apples, Danny!” The Aussie cop lightly bumped Williams’ leg, and when nobody moved, he translated quickly. “Okay – it’ll be okay, mite!”

 

“If she’s gonna be apples, then let’s get the show on the road,” Dan chuckled even as a grimace invaded his expression. Towers helped the Five-0 man to his feet and handed him his gun while the judges moved to their positions.

 

Colonel White, the Marine judge, called out, “Towers, you’re up!”

 

The voice from the PA system filled the valley with the news that the championship would be decided in a single round by agreement of the contestants. If any person in the crowd did not know that Danny Williams was struggling against collapse, he or she was promptly clued in to the fact by a neighbor on one side or the other.

 

“Pull!” shouted the Aussie, and the scatter gun almost immediately released a volley of clay disks into the air in an arc pattern. BLAM-Kshh-BLAM-Kshh-BLAM-kshh-BLAM-kshh-BLAM---BLAM-kshh!

 

Dan didn’t need to look up to know from the sound that five out of six shots were hits. Jack touched Williams’ arm to confirm he was stepping out of the firing box – the chalk-drawn square on the ground which marked the lateral movement limits for the contestants  -- and the Five-0 detective stepped forward, determined to give his opponent a run for his money.

 

“Pull!” Dan called out. BLAM---BLAM-Kshh-BLAM-kshh-BLAM-kshh-BLAM-Kshh-BLAM-kshh! The echo of the crowd’s applause hit Dan’s ears in delay, and somewhere father away it seemed, the announcer’s voice explained the situation.

 

“We have a tie! Since this was to be a single round determination, we’re gonna have to wait and see what the contestants agree to do!”

 

Unable to remain standing, Dan dropped to one knee as Towers and

Peterson came inside the firing box and took a knee themselves.

 

“Danny!”

 

“Okay… I’m okay,” Williams breathed. Knowing he wasn’t the picture of convincing, he slowly looked up from the ground into Jack’s dark eyes and smiled weakly. “Or should I say she’s apples?”

 

Towers studied the detective suspiciously for a few moments before he exchanged pregnant looks with the judge, whose hand rested on Dan’s back. After a few more seconds of silence, Jack leaned down into Williams’ line of sight. “Okay, mite, we got us a draw here – are we done?”

 

Dan inhaled slowly and swallowed before he responded. “No, Jackie… We go by the rules… which call for sudden death.”

 

Towers frowned uncertainly. “Danny, I’m afraid you’re not far off now!”

 

“Let’s do it now… this time, try to hit the broad side of a barn, will ya?” Dan muttered the tease. Five-0’s second-in-command could not help but feel it was not fair to Jack to not play out the hand in accordance with the official rules of the match, and, no matter how he felt, he was going to give it his best shot – even if it meant being carried off the range afterward.

 

Towers hesitated before he took Dan’s gun. “Let me at least reload for you.”

 

Peterson stood slowly and called to his two associates. “Sudden death.”

 

It was only a matter of seconds before the news filtered to announcer, who passed it along to the crowd.

 

Jack gently pulled Dan to his feet, allowing the detective a few seconds to remove himself from the firing box. When he was certain his opponent was clear, he shouted. “Pull!” BLAM-Kshh-BLAM-Kshh-BLAM-kshh-BLAM-kshh-BLAM-Kshh-BLAM! Five out of six.

 

Dan inhaled, took his position, and promptly dropped to his knee. The crowd gasped, but before a judge or his opponent could decide to intervene, he called out. “Pull!” Whoever was on the scatter gun release obeyed the command and the clay pigeons began to fly. BLAM-Kshh-BLAM-Kshh-BLAM-kshh-BLAM---BLAM---BLAM!”

 

It was over… Jack Towers was now the official champion.

 

Towers and all three of the judges raced to help Dan, who was slowly coming to his feet of his own accord.

 

“Good match, Jack,” Dan smiled and shook the man’s hand even as the cop from Darwin helped him to the bench. “Congratulations, man.”

 

“Heckuva final round, Danny,” Towers squeezed the detective’s hand. “Thanks.”

 

Williams pushed the applause and shouts and sound of the announcer to the back of his thoughts as he sat there and slowly wrapped his Hawks and put it away. Two medics were allowed onto the range, and Kono pushed himself onto the range with them – there was apparently nobody willing to challenge the determined Hawaiian.

 

Dan insisted to the medical personnel that he was fine – just very tired. Kono collected his friend’s gear and the two Five-0 detectives made their way off the range at a leisurely pace. The applause of the people in the bleachers as Williams passed by gave him a sense that he hadn’t lost at all.

 

 

*****

 

 

“Drink… something with sugar.” Dan breathed his request to Kono as they arrived back at Kono’s LTD. Williams ungracefully staggered into the chaise lounge closed his eyes. “I’m supposed to meet Bentley,” Dan spoke quietly to Kono. “And where’s Steve anyway?”

 

“He was hangin’ out by the bleachers watchin’ Bentley watch you.” Kono placed his half-finished, near-liquid pineapple shave ice into the Five-0 second’s hand. “I’ll go find him.”

 

“Yeah… okay…” Dan mumbled as he let the remainder of the slushy drink tip sideways and evacuate onto the grass below.

 

 

*****

 

 

DannyDannyWake up, bruddah…

 

“Danny!”

 

The sound of a voice somewhere in the background grew to an annoying crescendo before Williams realized he needed to respond. His eyes snapped open to see both Chin and Kono bending over him. His heart was pounding from the sudden influx of adrenalin, a part-and-parcel part of being ripped from a deep sleep. He wasn’t sure where he was just yet or why his colleagues were studying him with such deep concern, but he tried to fake it while he figured it out. “Yeah, I’m here – what’s wrong?”

 

Chin threw a glance at the Hawaiian detective, who popped the top off of a sweating bottle of Coca Cola, and handed it to the confused detective on the lounge. Dan brought the bottle to his lips and took a couple of swallows of the cool beverage as the Chinese detective reported neutrally.

 

“Danny, we can’t find Steve.”

 

Williams yanked the bottle away from his face and looked up into the expressions of the two officers as events of the past few hours crashed back into his consciousness. He came to a fully upright position too quickly, leaving his head spinning as he demanded answers. “Steve… He was… What about Bentley? Where’s Bentley?”

 

“He’s missing too,” Kono responded.

 

The dread, which had been hovering in the background for the past several seconds, continued to build in Dan’s gut. He swung his feet to the ground and stood – had it not been for the two men on either side of him, he would have fallen backward from the vertigo. 

 

“Easy, bruddah!” Chin warned as he continued to clutch the arm of the younger detective.

 

Dan ignored the good advice as his mind raced through the possibilities. “Car! What about Steve’s car?”

 

“It’s right where he left it,” The Chinese detective tossed his head, indicating a location by the gesture. “And Bentley’s car is still here too.”

 

“If they didn’t leave…” The Hawaiian frowned.

 

Dan, knowing that he could figure this out if only the muzziness would go away, took another drink of the sugar-rich liquid and said the words as the thought built itself in his head. “Their cars are here, but that doesn’t mean they didn’t leave.”

“Maybe they’re not together,” Chin pondered out loud.

 

Feeling a measure more energized, Dan’s voice sounded confident. “They’re together – Steve was too all over Dave for anything else to be possible.”

 

An odd commotion suddenly seemed to be building and growing nearer to the Five-0 men, but it was hard to pinpoint a location as people – no, cops – HPD personnel – were rushing at them from several directions. The three detectives exchanged confused glances to confirm that they were all in the same state of ignorance.

 

Within seconds though, Charlie Hakai and three of his men came trotting up. The expression on the Japanese officer’s face foreshadowed news that was obviously catastrophic to him. “Danny! You’ve gotta get to a radio!”

 

“Charlie! Why? What’s going on?” Dan was already moving around the lounge and heading toward the police radio in Kono’s car before the SWAT team leader responded.

 

“It’s Dave Bentley – he’s gone nuts! He wants to talk to you!”

 

From the expressions on the faces of the other HPD officers, whom Williams surveyed quickly as he climbed into the front of the Five-0 vehicle and turned on the radio, it was apparent that Bentley was broadcasting over an official police channel. Quelling the rise of bile in his esophagus, Dan could hear the female dispatcher explaining that they were trying to find him. The mocking, loud, and over-dramatic voice of Dave Bentley snapped a response to the poor woman.

 

“Dispatch – Five-oh-one – you know, Frieda, I think it’s okay for me to use McGarrett’s call sign! After all, he’s right here with me! Now WHERE is Danny – or would it make you happy if I said Five-oh-two, Frieda?”

 

Fear mingled with illness as Williams knew that the man on the other end of the radio had truly snapped. Dan swallowed and jumped onto the frequency. “Okay, Dave, I’m here! I thought we were gonna meet after the match.”

 

“Bout time, Danny! Change of plans – you—you know – I REALLY thought I had a shot this year – no pun intended – at the championship, but you couldn’t stay down, could ya? Just THIS ONCE, you and your Browning couldn’t stay out of the picture and let somebody else have a chance!”

 

“Dave, I had nothing to do with your bad pigeon shots – and in case you didn’t notice, I didn’t win the championship! You said Steve is there with you?”

 

“Oh, my good friend, Steve is here all right. What’s that, Steve? I’M not your friend? Oh, that’s right – I FORGOT! All of your friends get SPECIAL TREATMENT and I’ve NEVER gotten SPECIAL TREATMENT, have I!”

 

Dan shot a terrified glance through the windshield at Chin, Kono, and the other HPD men who were listening with masks of revulsion frozen on their faces. The SWAT sharp shooter had come completely unhinged.

 

“Where are you, Dave? Let’s meet – you pick the spot.”

 

“Oh, I’ll pick the spot, Danny! Ya see – I’m running the show now – NOT YOU! It’s funny – I can feel it right through the air waves! You’re asking yourself – now how on earth did a slug like Dave Bentley get the drop on a hotshot cop like Steve McGarrett? Aren’t you? Aren’t you asking that, Danny boy?”

 

Dan hesitated for a few seconds as he considered whether he could say anything to the volatile man to make the situation better. It struck him as he let the microphone rest on his cheek for a few seconds that perhaps he needed to make the situation worse…

 

He pushed the talk button on the radio. “Yeah, Dave – I AM asking myself that actually! How did a lying, lowlife SLUG like you get the drop on McGarrett?”

 

Dan could sense the dismay in the officers who surrounded the vehicle – becoming argumentative with a mentally off-balance individual who held a hostage went against negotiation protocol – and common sense.

 

“Danny!” Chin whispered loudly!

 

Williams explained quickly. “NOTHING will defuse him! He’s passed the point of return! I’ve gotta make it so that Bentley – if he does nothing else on this planet before he dies – will want to get his hands around my neck!”

 

“Thank yourself, Super Cop! I KNEW you would NEVER keep a secret from the boss man – that meant that Stevie boy had to be watching me. I sat there trying to figure out how I was going to distract him, but you took care of that for me! As soon as the announcer started in with his play-by-play between you and that Aussie cop, Stevie lost his focus – only for a few seconds, long enough for me to duck out and wait for His Highness to come find me!”

 

“If you’ve hurt him in any way, Dave, there’ll be no going back! It’s not too late yet.” Dan knew it WAS too late, but he had to try.

 

“Not too late? Danny, Danny – do you take me for some kind of idiot? Of course, it’s TOO LATE – for me – and it will be too late for McGarrett unless you do exactly what I tell you to do!”

 

“What do want from me, Dave?”

 

“That’s better! Not perfect – and we all KNOW how perfect you can be, Danny! We’re gonna go back to where it all started!”

 

“Where it all started? What does that mean?”

 

“Diamond Head, man! Our spot! I want you – and your Browning – to get back up to the rock – ALONE! If you don’t come all by your lonesome, I will put a BULLET right through Stevie’s head! Do we understand each other?”

 

The thought of climbing that hill at this moment made Williams weak. He’d had trouble rising from the chaise lounge only minutes earlier. “Dave…”

 

“Oh! Oh! I can almost hear the violins playing – you’re not well enough to climb this hill! You’re tired! Well, just say the word now, Danny, and you don’t have to do another thing! I’ll kill the king here, and Charlie and my buddies can do the dirty work for you!”

 

Anger vanquished the feeble thoughts from Dan’s head, and he replied, in a very teeth-grinding, McGarrett-like manner. “I’m on my way, Bentley! Don’t start without me!”

 

*****

 

 

Dan leaned on the hood of the police cruiser as he looked up at the bunker – neither McGarrett nor Bentley was visible at that moment, but he KNEW that’s where they had to be. The scene on the ground was nearly identical to the one two weeks earlier in that exact same spot. Charlie Hakai came trotting up with Kono and Chin, who handed Dan his Browning.

 

“Danny, you’re gonna need this,” Hakai spoke quickly as he tried to push a bullet-proof vest into Williams’ arms.

 

The Five-0 detective shook his head. “No, thanks, Charlie – I’ve worn my last Bridgie Fifty. If Dave gets me, it’ll be a head shot anyway.”

 

The Chinese detective grimaced with disapproval. “Danny, you know Steve be real unhappy ‘bout dat!”

 

“Chin, angry, sad, or glad – I’ll take him however I can get him down from there!”

 

“Ohhh, Danneeee boy! You are takin’ entirely toooo long! Am I gonna have to put a round into the boss man to get you to shake a leg?” Bentley’s mocking tone crackled through the speaker of the radio. Dan could hear the voice in stereo, and he knew that every HPD radio was tuned in to that frequency.

 

Williams collected the walkie talkie from the hood of the car. “Dave, if you do that, you will never get that crack at me that you’re burning to take!”

 

“You got ten minutes, Lil’ Dan and you’d better be in position!”

 

“It’s gonna take me at least fifteen, and you know it!” Dan spat angrily. When he received no response, Williams pushed the talk button again. “Dave, it occurs to me that maybe you don’t actually have McGarrett up there! Maybe you’re lying!”

 

There was a short delay, but Bentley finally answered. “Oh you’re gonna find out if I’m lying, Danny – maybe the hard way! Now hurry up!”

 

Kono and several of HPD men jogged with Dan across the closed street and accompanied him the first few hundred feet up the hill to the place where they could be spotted from the bunker. As Williams dropped to his stomach, the Hawaiian detective landed next to him. It was clear that Five-0’s second in command was traveling on shear nerve at this point. Ringlets of his curly hair were saturated with moisture, which dripped onto his ashen features. He sucked in the warm air in gulps as he tried to expedite the replenishment of oxygen to his body. 

 

Kono spoke softly as he tossed an angry glance up the hillside toward the bunker, just out of sight over the ridge. “Be careful, kaikaina. Dave is lolo and you on his short list of people to bump off!”

 

Dan laid his head sideways on his arm and searched the dark eyes of his friend. “I just don’t understand why…”

 

Kono offered a matter-of-fact grin, as if the answer were obvious. “He’s a thief who wants what he can’t steal.”

 

“What he can’t steal?” Williams wondered in passing whether his exhaustion was making him dense.

 

“Your life, bruddah! He wants to live your life!”

 

Dan loved his life in paradise… His job was more like a calling… He didn’t think about it often, but his entire existence might be considered enviable to one on the outside of his skin. The Hawaiian detective’s observation was almost too simple, but it resonated with truth. Unfortunately, despite the fact that he was still not ready to climb again, Williams knew he could not waste any more time pondering the reasons for the situation.

 

“Thanks, man,” Dan breathed. “Have a chopper standing by in case Steve is hurt!”

 

“You got it, Danny!” Kono pushed himself backward and slid downward until he could turn around make his way back down the hillside face forward.

 

With one final deep cleansing breath, Williams steeled himself and continued his ascent up the hill, taking almost the exact same path he’d taken before.

 

 

*****

 

Dan dropped at the base of the rock where he’d lain in such agony before. Today, he was miserable, exhausted, and his shoulder was throbbing and threatening to cramp up. But unlike the other day, he was not slowly bleeding to death.

 

PATOOOo!

 

Dan jumped at the sound of a rifle ricochet in the distance. Adrenalin filled him again, and he moaned as he dragged himself to the top of the rock.

 

“Danny! Because I felt sorry for you, I gave you an extra five minutes! Don’t push your luck!”

 

Williams pulled his rifle up and got into the prone supported position, just as he’d done to sight on William Shem. Peering through the scope, he quickly pulled his head back in frustration and ran his sleeve across his face and backward over his hair to rid himself of the sweat, which was making the weapon slippery. Trying again, he found success. This time, the magnified picture revealed – to Dan’s enormous relief – a very much alive, and very angry Steve McGarrett. Williams could see no obvious signs of massive blood loss from his friend, but he could only see the man from the chest upward, and his friend’s loud aloha shirt made it difficult to be certain what red was supposed to be there.

 

Strategically hidden behind McGarrett was Dave Bentley. There was no way to have a clean shot at the man with his mentor being restrained, as he seemed to be, in that position.

 

Williams bit his lip as he struggled to pull the walkie talkie from his utility pocket on the chest of his jump suit. Then he quickly raised the antenna and responded. “Keep your shirt on, Dave! I’m here! Now what?”

 

“Movin’ kinda slow, aren’t we, hot shot! That wound still botherin’ ya?”

 

“You would know how much it might be bothering me, wouldn’t you, Dave!” Dan growled into the radio.

 

“Yeah, I guess I would! But ya know, Danny, you had that comin’—really you did!”

 

“And how do you figure that, Dave?”

 

“You almost killed me the other day! That round you earmarked for that nutcase – it whizzed right by my head!”

 

That there had been any other officer on the hill above the bunker position besides himself was news to Dan. It could’ve been a lie, but a scenario began to take shape in Williams’ head.

 

“YOU’RE the reason Shem turned just as I squeezed off the shot! What were you DOING up there against orders?” Dan was aghast at the thought that he might’ve inadvertently killed a SWAT unit officer – even one that had been where he was not supposed to be.

 

“I was close enough to jump him myself – I woulda been the big hero – you woulda been out in the cold lookin’ at MY MUG in paper for once! But – my luck bein’ what it is – a branch cracked under my boot!”

Dan could feel his face flushing from the intense anger. “MY bullet almost hit YOU? Because of YOU, that guy turned and fired on me!”

 

“Yeah, and if he’d been a halfway decent marksman, he woulda killed you – and my problems would’ve been OVER! I’d probably be standing there with the PR trophy this very minute! Of course, I would’ve INSISTED on a minute of silence in your memory!”

 

The Five-0 sharp shooter clenched his teeth – Bentley’s dream scenario could’ve easily come to pass. Dan pushed away the chill and hurt he felt, and welcomed the anger he knew he needed to be able to get done what would have to be done on this day.

 

“I hear a lot of wouldas and couldas from you, Dave! The bottom line here is that you wanna take a shot at me and I wanna take a shot at you! Let Steve go – he’s got nothing to do with this!”

 

“Oh, no – he’s got everything to do with it! He’s the reason you’re gonna let me take my shot first! Here’s the deal – all you have to do is lock your hands and hold them up where I can see them! I’ll take a shot – that’s a small target from all the way down here. You’d be pretty impressed if I hit it, wouldn’t you! If I miss, then you get a turn! Heck, I’m a good sport – even if I do hit ya, you can have a turn – IF you can find your trigger finger!”

 

There it was. A sharp shooter’s dual – Williams half expected it. He bit the inside of his mouth as he re-acquired a view of the men in the bunker through his scope. It wasn’t an easy shot under the best of circumstances. The memory of Shem dancing into his line of sight pressed on his mind unbidden – he had him! He’d known it – and when he realized he’d missed, it had rocked him to his core. He shook his head in frustration that he’d let his thoughts drift off to something that was now irrelevant. Steve’s life was on the line! A plan spontaneously erupted into the forefront of his mind. There was no choice – it would work because it HAD to work.

 

“I’ve only got one word for you in the bunker!” Dan locked the push-to-talk switch open so that he didn’t need to keep his finger on the button to be heard. Then, he quickly set the radio on the rock beside the barrel of his Browning and tensed his jaw as he sighted on Steve’s head.

 

He inhaled quickly and blew out a final breath as he called into the walkie talkie, “Quack!”

 

McGarrett hesitated for no more than a half second before he snapped his head downward, leaving his second-in-command a clear six-inch window of visibility to the rogue cop. Dan squeezed the trigger and saw Bentley jerk and drop out of sight as the report of the rifle rang out across the valley.

 

“I got him,” Dan whispered as his head dropped to the rock in relief. He lay there for another several seconds before he found enough energy to get a grip on the radio and release the lock so he could hear what was going on. He laughed quietly as the energetic voice of his boss immediately came alive in his hand.

 

“—read me? You got him! Are you all right? Danno!”

 

Williams brought the radio to his mouth, but the movement caused him to lose his already tenuous footing on the more-vertical-than-horizontal rock face. He dropped the radio to protect his Browning as he slipped back down to the base of the rock and came to an abrupt and painful stop. Crying out at the jarring his shoulder received, he fell over on top of his rifle, and decided there was no reason to move again. The walkie talkie was somewhere in the brush nearby – the frequency was alive with the chatter of after-action activities. He heard his name a few times, but knew there was no need for concern -- Steve knew where he was.

 

 

*****

 

“Danno! Danno!” McGarrett came scampering over the rock – just as he’d done twice before – and quickly jumped to the patch of ground by Williams, who lay crumpled on his left side, his face buried in the dirt. 

 

Coming to a seated position as he leaned his back against the familiar rock, the head of Five-0 quickly twisted his friend onto his back, and gently slapped a cheek. “Open your eyes, Danno!”

 

The command elicited a moan from Williams as he stirred. Swallows and grimaces preceded the fluttering of the younger detective’s eyelids. At last, McGarrett saw the cool blue eyes return his apprehensive gaze.

 

“Steve…” Dan slowly reached up to touch his boss’s chest and struggled to focus. “Is any of this blood?”

 

The Five-0 chief glanced down at his orange, red, and green patterned shirt with a short grin. “None of MY blood where it’s not supposed to be, Danno.” He decided not to mention the damp crimson, belonging to Bentley, on his back. “Are you okay?”

 

“Just tired… as in I’m spending the night here.” Dan returned as he let his eyes close.

 

Steve looked up into the late afternoon sky. No freak rainstorms were in the offing today. “You won’t be spending the night up here, aikane. A chopper’s on the way -- and I’m gonna wait right here with you.” Just saying it warmed the lead detective.

 

“Mahalo, Steve… Is Dave… pau?”

 

McGarrett looked down at his spent protégé, his face streaked with dirt. The day had been not only physically grueling for him, but emotionally challenging as well. Dan had exhausted himself during the competition to the point that he could barely stand. Then he’d somehow managed to draw on hidden inner reserves to make the punishing ascent up the hillside to fight it out with a madman holding a hostage. The mettle his friend had shown to bring the crisis to a conclusion with only the death of the instigator was truly remarkable.

 

The head of Five-0 had recognized these facts immediately, but what he had not considered too deeply was the fact that the perpetrator was one who came to Williams wearing the veneer of a friend. Danno, the head of Five-0 knew too well, was not one to take a bond of friendship lightly.

 

“Danno, I’m sorry you had to shoot him.”

 

Williams shook his head almost imperceptibly to dismiss the notion. “He was dangerous, Steve. If I had it to do over again, I would do the same thing.”

 

If he had it to do over… It was an interesting concept – one which both he and his friend had recently had plenty of experience. They had agreed that there was no going back, but here they were. The parallels to that day two weeks earlier were striking… The same place… The same situation… The same decisions to be made by the same people… It was almost like they’d re-lived events and changed the outcomes. McGarrett was just relieved that he’d been able to see a better path… Or maybe Danno had been right? Given the same facts with which he was presented the last time, would he make the same decision? Perhaps… Steve would never know, and was just grateful that the choice on this tropical afternoon had been crystal clear.

 

There was one more issue McGarrett wanted to broach.

 

“Danno, I’m sorry for all the trouble today – I shouldn’t have let myself get distracted when you went down on the lane.” The Five-0 chief intoned idly, not certain his friend was even awake to hear the apology.

 

Dan did not open his eye, but smiled tiredly. “Yeah, Steve, that was definitely a mistake on your part, but PLEASE, for both our sakes, forget it and don’t call DO OVERS!”

 

 

PAU