Romeo Foxtrot Niner Niner

                                                                                                     By Barbara Huff

                                                                                           With Editing By GM

 

All truths are easy to understand once they are discovered; the point is to discover them.

Galileo Galilei (1564 - 1642)

 

 

March 1968

 

“So, you see, Steve, from the information I’ve shared with you today, that we need an investigator – with high level law enforcement resources at his fingertips – WITH a T-S-S-I Cobalt clearance. You’re the perfect – AND ONLY -- viable choice for this critical operation,” Carter Brinks announced to the small group of men sitting at the conference table.

 

Steve McGarrett, the chief and lead detective of Five-0, Hawaii’s elite police investigative unit, leaned back in his chair considering the argument and words of the speaker. Under normal circumstances, when McGarrett had dealings with the Intelligence community as a civilian, it was through Jonathan Kaye, the Chief of Intelligence, reporting directly to the President of the United States. Brinks was here in Honolulu on this occasion because Kaye had taken a fall down a flight of steps a few days earlier and was now in traction at the Naval Hospital in Bethesda, Maryland.

 

McGarrett had been summoned from his usual busy routine to attend the emergency clandestine meeting at Fort Crawford, a small adjunct Army post near Pearl Harbor. The subject of the gathering was the necessity for a classified police investigation. 

 

McGarrett knew many of the details surrounding the Summit of the Americas as his office was charged with providing security for all of the diplomats and politicians that would be attending the conference, since Hawaii was to be the hosting location. It was now only one week before the gathering, which was planned as a four-day event open to representatives from all nations in North, South and Central America. The conference agenda was to address a range of economic and political issues.

 

Brinks explained to McGarrett that U.S. intelligence sources had uncovered a complex plot to assassinate, not one, but several of the leaders of the involved countries. The goal of key communist influences, trying to take hold in some of the emerging nations in South America, was to destabilize some of the more powerful regimes in the region. The emergency meeting was called when it came to light that the entire ugly plot would probably unfold on Hawaiian soil.

 

This effort was adding to the normally overburdened workload of McGarrett’s detectives, so he considered his options carefully before he spoke.

 

His newly promoted second-in-command, Dan Williams, was in charge overseeing the operation, from the planning and scheduling phase right through to the execution phase. It was his officer’s first real foray into the art and science of dealing with the diplomatic issues and political intrigues associated with an international security operation. Having already done his homework on all of the issues and personalities, his help on a project of this nature would be invaluable, Steve decided.

 

 “Okay, Brinks, I’ll do it under one condition. I’m going to have to bring my second in on this. There’s no way I can do all of the leg work and research without another cop who knows the islands to help.”

 

“Impossible!” Brinks and the senior Army officer present, Colonel Bennett, announced together.

 

The State Department official continued his objection. “Steve, please, be reasonable! There’s no way we can clear your man for sensitive work of this nature in a timely fashion. You know how long in-depth background investigations take!”

 

“Danny Williams already has a top secret – he must be cleared to that level in order to be assigned to Five-0,” McGarrett countered.

 

Brinks shook his head, “I’m sorry, Steve – no can do!”

 

The detective smiled pleasantly and stood up. “Well, gentlemen, it’s been interesting. Now, if you’ll excuse me…” He didn’t bothering finishing the sentence before he strode quickly to the door and left the room.

 

The Army Lieutenant, adjutant to the Colonel, spoke. “Sir, if I might make a suggestion.” The other three men, all clearly frustrated with the recalcitrant detective, looked at the military man as he continued. “Williams could be cleared with the help of Colonel Devine. He’s on post today.”

 

Bennett’s eyes widened as he considered the thought.  “I’ll get Williams over here!”

 

The detective made it to the main lobby of the building before Brinks caught up with him, “Steve! Steve! Wait!” He called breathlessly as McGarrett turned to observe the man.

 

“We’ve figured out a way to get your man cleared to help you, but we need to get him over here right away!”

 

McGarrett skeptically considered the man’s words for a few seconds. “How?”

 

“We’re arranging for Colonel Devine, a security specialist, to come ask Williams a few questions.”

 

“About his background?”

 

“Colonel Devine is a clinical psychiatrist by training. His questions will delve more into tendencies and motivations. He’ll give Williams a preliminary okay, based upon his psychological profile. Then, he can help you in whatever way you see fit while a standard Cobalt background investigation is underway. How does that sound?” Brinks shrugged and added, “Of course, he’ll have to sign an authorization for the formal background check.”

 

McGarrett pondered for a moment before he responded, “Where there’s a will, there’s a way, huh, Brinks.”

 

*****

 

“Danny, the boss is on line two for you!” May poked her head into McGarrett’s office, where the Five-0 detectives coordinated the plan of attack on a particularly involved and complex fraud investigation.

 

The second-in-command glanced her way and moved to pick up the phone. “Thanks, May!” Pushing the appropriate line button, he collected the phone handset from the receiver. “Steve!” It was all he needed to say.

 

“Danno, I need you to join me here immediately,” the disembodied voice snapped.

 

Both Kono and Chin, who were sitting patiently waiting to get back to the issue of the investigation, noticed the young detective cant his head and pause. They had learned that this was generally an unconscious signal that the newest detective on the team gave out when he was surprised or disagreed with the boss.

 

“Uh, you want me to stop what I’m doing?” The detective was indeed surprised, as McGarrett had drilled into him how critical it was that he make progress on this case rapidly. There were also numerous other issues to be dealt with on this typically busy day.

 

“Divide up the work between Kono and Chin, and get over here as soon as possible. I’ll explain when you arrive.”

 

Dan, now accustomed to re-organizing his day tactically as the need arose, responded, “Sure, Steve, whatever you say.”

 

He remained frozen in position for several seconds after the connection was broken. Not only was there the case, he also had a meeting scheduled with the general manager at the Royal Hawaiian to review security concerns for the upcoming summit. Steve was aware of that as well.

 

The other two detectives in the room exchanged glances before Kono prompted the detective, “Danny? What’s shakin’ with the boss?”

 

The words caused Dan to start, and he hung up the phone and turned to face his associates and frowned slightly, “I’m not sure.” The young man sighed and shook his head. “Must be important though. You guys are going to have to divide the effort between yourselves. I’ll be back as soon as I can.” With that, the detective moved briskly out the door to collect his suit jacket.

 

As he passed by May’s desk, he called out to her, “Could you please call Roger Johnson at the Royal Hawaiian and let him know that something came up and I probably won’t be able to make it to our meeting?”

 

“Did you want to go with excuse number one, two, or three this time?” the secretary smiled.

 

Dan turned around and winked, but kept moving away from her. “Uh, let’s go with three – I think a summons from Steve rates an unexpected emergency!”

 

May nodded at the detective and picked up the phone as he trotted out the door.

 

 

*****

 

Dan was escorted onto the secure post and into the Delta Building within thirty minutes of his phone conversation with his boss. Steve introduced the detective to Colonel Bennett, Lieutenant Mullin, and Brinks. Lieutenant Mullin then proceeded to introduce Colonel Devine from the Operations Security Group to the two detectives. The group of five proceeded down the hallway into a fairly small room with a round, mahogany table and six chairs. There was projection equipment and two desk lamps sitting on a small cart off to one side.

 

Brinks pulled the head of Five-0 aside requesting information about another security issue that McGarrett had dealt with the previous year.  With Kaye out, Brinks told McGarrett that it was very convenient that he could get the information “straight from the horse’s mouth.”

 

While his boss was having the private conversation with Brinks, Dan made a point of examining his surroundings. With the exception of the incongruous quality of the furniture, the windowless conference room was typical of the secure meeting rooms Dan had been in before at the naval station on several occasions. Despite the pre-World War II age of the facility, the detective was certain that the entire building had been renovated for security purposes. It was, no doubt, copper-shielded to prevent electromagnetic emissions from coming in or out without the knowledge of the security operations in the group.

 

“Can I take your jacket, Williams?” Devine inquired with the cordiality of a butler, Dan thought. He casually noted that none of the other men in the room had removed their jackets. 

 

“No, thanks, I’m good,” the detective responded with a slight nod and grin.  

 

Mullin appeared in the doorway, a cup of coffee in hand. He brought the cup and handed it to Devine, as the pair exchanged a glance.

 

“Take sugar or cream?” Devine asked as he handed the detective the unsolicited mug of steaming beverage.

 

Dan, while not actually interested in the beverage, accepted it, thinking it a bit odd that the man had offered items which were not in sight. What if I said, ‘yes, both please?’ The colonel seemed a little antsy to the detective, whose profession trained him to observe the demeanor of those around him. 

 

“No, thanks,” Dan instead responded, and threw a glance in Steve’s direction. He knew he’d find out soon enough why his boss had mysteriously summoned him, but the odd, overly polite behavior of Colonel Devine was disconcerting – he’d never met a man of such senior rank with such a patronizing demeanor.

 

“How is it? The coffee, I mean?” Devine inquired.

 

Another unusual inquiry from a military man, Dan thought. Since when does the Army care about how the coffee tastes? The detective took a couple of sips, and responded, “Umm, it’s good – thank you.” Nobody else had coffee. Curioser and curioser, considered Williams. He would’ve been amused, but his hosts seemed on edge.

 

There was an uncomfortably long pause before Dan shifted to face his boss. His expression was neutral to one who did not know him, but to Steve, it said, ’What the heck is going on?’

 

McGarrett shot a glance at his second-in-command, but before he could respond to the expression that he knew was requesting an explanation, Brinks broke away suddenly from his conversation with him, and spoke.

 

“Colonel Devine, are we ready to begin?”

 

The head of Five-0 did not know Brinks very well. He’d only met him one other time in Washington, D.C. But the premature end to the man’s questions struck him as very strange, and Steve felt a sense of wariness rising in his gut as the pair rejoined the others.

 

Colonel Briggs spoke quickly in the stead of Devine, “Ahh, yes of course. Why don’t we all have a seat?” The soldier motioned to the chairs, and everyone sat down.

 

“You’re a doctor?” Dan inquired of Devine, noticing the medical insignia on his uniform.

 

McGarrett took a moment to be proud of the observant nature of his detective.

 

The other three men were mildly surprised that the detective had noticed, but Devine found his voice quickly and smiled, “Uh, yes, yes, I am, but I’m detached to the 943rd Military Intelligence Battalion.”

 

Dan acknowledged the answer as he took another sip of the coffee. The grin on the doctor’s face was nothing short of cartoon-like, Dan thought.

 

“Why do I feel like a guest at the Mad Hatter’s tea party?” Dan asked. His social defenses seemed to be slipping from him as he mumbled the question.

 

McGarrett, immediately concerned that Williams would make such a strange comment, leaned towards his detective. “Danno, are you okay?”

 

Dan started to look in the direction of his boss, but his eyes stopped at the cup before him as he noticed it was turning into two cups. From some remote perspective in his brain, he realized that he should be alarmed, but in reality, could not bring himself to react that way. He squeezed his eyes shut for a moment and blinked. The cups were still there. He looked to his boss, and saw that it wasn’t just the cups that were multiplying. Everything must be okay. The Steves are here. Dan closed his eyes, no longer able to keep them open, as his head drooped gently down towards his chest.

 

Alarmed at Williams’ sudden loss of consciousness, McGarrett grabbed his hand first and then touched the man’s neck to check for a carotid pulse. His skin seemed cool, but McGarrett wasn’t certain that it wasn’t a case of he, himself, being too hot.

 

“Danno! What is it? What’s wrong?” He implored the young man to awaken, and for his trouble got a moan of acknowledgement.

 

“Steve,” Brinks began. “He’s okay.”

 

McGarrett was starting to consider an ambulance when Brink’s words registered. In one horrible moment, Steve realized that his friend had been drugged. His shock and rage were not to be contained. He came around the table at the doctor, who barely managed to stand before being slammed into the wall behind him.

 

“What did you do to him?” The detective’s tone was vicious as he jabbed Devine in the chest. “Tell me now before I run your head through this wall!”

 

The other two Army men grabbed McGarrett and did their best to keep him at bay from the frightened doctor, who glanced at Brinks.  “Didn’t you explain how this works to the man?”

 

Brinks, evading the physician’s question, approached the volcanic detective cautiously. “Steve, please, it’s not an uncommon technique that we use when we need to give someone access to classified information in a hurry. Let Doctor Devine explain.”

 

The words did little to mollify Steve, but he shook off the two men on his arms, and, after an angry glance at Brinks spat, “Okay, Doctor, talk fast!”

 

The man was McGarrett’s size, but perhaps a decade older. He straightened up from his defensive position against the wall.   After a couple of deep breaths to regain his composure, the man began to explain.  “Acetyl narconal is a fast-acting somnambulistic drug. When ingested in the proper setting, an unsuspecting subject can be rapidly developed into a state of deep hypnosis.”

 

McGarrett, his sharp blue eyes piercing the doctor, interrupted. “Proper setting? What does that mean?” He took a moment to glance back at his friend, who had not moved since dropping off.

 

“By proper setting, I merely meant that the hypnotic state would be achieved more rapidly under conditions of trust – such as we have here,” Devine explained as he rubbed his neck.

 

“I wouldn’t be so sure about that at this point,” the detective snapped.

 

Devine sighed and continued a little nervously. “Mr. McGarrett, I’m sorry that you were not made aware of the technique to be employed here, but I can assure you that I’m well-versed in my profession. Your man is in no danger. At this point, I would simply like to ask him some questions pertaining to his loyalty to his country and, more specifically to you. We’ve found that, in these quick-and-dirty situations, personal loyalties often carry more weight than the loftier concept of loyalty to governments.”

 

Brinks jumped in, seeing that the detective was considering what the doctor had said.  “Steve, let Devine ask the questions, so we can get Williams on board to help you. You know, if he’s the kind of man I suspect he is, that he would want to answer the questions.”

 

McGarrett shot a sharp glance at Brinks, and after a few seconds of internal debate, looked back at Devine, “You will slip him nothing else! Do I make myself clear, Doctor?” The damage was done, and Steve had to admit to himself at least that Brinks was right – Danno would want to help him in whatever way he could.

 

“No, no, of course not,” the man insisted softly and then glanced at his subject. “He’s primed and ready right now.”

 

Relenting, Steve shot a warning look at Devine as he growled, “Okay… let’s get this over with.”

 

A small voice in the back of the detective’s head told him something felt wrong. Perhaps, he decided, it was just his own guilt playing tricks on him for his decision to allow the very personal intrusion on his friend to continue.

 

The men all returned to the table quietly as if they somehow thought they would be disturbing the subject of the earlier commotion. Steve moved around to re-take his seat next to his friend. Now he regretted his insistence that Williams be brought into the situation. His reasons were purely selfish he decided as he knew that he had become reliant on Dan’s organizational talent.

 

Until he had promoted Williams, the head of Five-0, not one to delegate, sentenced himself to being at the head of the charge on all such high profile situations. Releasing control on this had not been easy for him, but he was determined to expand his young lieutenant’s depth and breath of experience in all areas of leadership. Steve knew that one of Williams’ weaknesses was going to be in the area of bureaucratic process, but the boss was determined to bring him up to speed on the intricacies, analities, and drudgery from which Steve wanted / needed occasional relief. The learning process was not pleasant for Williams, whose primary duties up to that point involved interesting physical activities and quick thinking. But now, Dan was proving that he could step up to the plate in an organizational and planning capacity, and accomplish the mundane aspects of the job that fell on those in positions of leadership.

 

Selfish… Steve brooded one last time before his attention focused on the scene unfolding before him.

 

Devine studied his subject for a few seconds, and then spoke. “Danny?” When no response was forthcoming, he spoke more emphatically. “Danny!”

 

The second time his name was called, Dan gave a soft moan, but did not open his eyes or raise his head from his chest.

 

“Danny, can you count backward by sevens from a hundred for me?”

 

The young man grimaced very slightly in acknowledgement of the request and then began counting slowly, “One hundred…ninety-three…eighty-six…seventy-nine…seventy-two…six…sixty…” His voice grew soft and then completely inaudible. Finally, he stopped counting.

 

“Danny, can you hear me?” The doctor’s voice was soft and even as he spoke.

 

“Yes.” Dan did not open his eyes or move otherwise.

 

“I’m going to ask you a few questions. First, do you understand that you’re safe and among friends?”

 

“Yes.”

 

McGarrett cringed internally, and felt a bout of nausea coming on as he saw the complete trust his detective had in him to watch his back.

 

“Good…good…Let’s start with a question about your country. Have you ever betrayed your country?”

 

“No.”

 

“Could you ever, under any circumstance, be persuaded to betray your country?”

 

“No.”

 

“For money?”

 

“No.”

 

“Under threat of death?”

 

“No.”

 

Devine exchanged raised-eyebrow glances and nods with Brinks and Bennett. Under this particular type of hypnosis, the likelihood of a subject telling a lie was extremely small, so most individuals would at this point admit that they would have to consider betrayal to save their lives.

 

Of course, Steve already knew that his man was faithful to the death, and so felt vindicated as his friend bore out his assertions.

 

Loyalty to country established, Devine addressed his colleagues. “Next comes the issue of loyalty to the chain-of-command.” His attention turned back to the young man before him, “Danny, who do you work for?”

 

“Steve McGarrett.”

 

“Do you do everything he instructs you to do?”

 

“Yes.”

 

“Do you ever disagree with him?”

 

“Yes.”

 

Does he ever! Steve mused.

 

“Do you always try to do as your boss instructs you even if you disagree?”

 

“Yes.”

 

“Why?”

 

“I respect his authority…I don’t want him to be disappointed in me.”

 

Bennett nodded and grunted with approval at the philosophy.

 

“Would you ever disobey a direct order from Steve McGarrett?”

 

“Yes.”

 

McGarrett didn’t react outwardly except with a slightly raised eyebrow, but felt his stomach tense at the admission.

 

Devine, wondering if he’d found a chink in his subject’s thus far “perfect” response set, glanced at McGarrett.

 

“What would be the nature of an order you would disobey?”

 

“I would disregard instructions if I believed that by following those instructions, I would endanger him.”

 

Devine nodded at the response.

 

Steve, while annoyed at the thought that Danno would ever consider disobeying a direct order, was simultaneously touched by his friend’s protective attitude and concern for his welfare. The question was how would he ever be able to bring this problem up to correct it?

 

Devine continued, “I see. Then, let me describe a situation to you, and I want you to tell me what you would do. Someone is preparing to do harm – murder Steve McGarrett. You have the ability to stop this by pressing a button right in front of you. Now IF you press this button, you will die, BUT Steve McGarrett will live. What do you do?” The physician obviously expected some hesitation, and was surprised when Dan answered immediately.

 

“Push the button.”

 

All eyes looked at the leader who instilled such dedication in his man. Steve, although he already knew that his friend was willing to risk death for him, and had more than once put himself in harm’s way to protect McGarrett, realized the depth of loyalty and friendship Williams harbored was truly deep. The doctor, along with Bennett and Brinks, sat there in disbelief for a few moments before Devine pressed the issue.

 

“If you push the button, you will die.”

 

“Steve will live.”

 

Devine had had enough. He shook his head and mouthed the word, “Wow!”

 

For the first time since the clandestine session began, Brinks spoke softly. “Well, gentlemen, I think we’ve got ourselves a loyal patriot here – one who’ll take orders from his boss without question.”

 

The Colonel nodded at the apparently sleeping Williams and whistled, “Daah-yam!” And then, only half-joking, asked his adjutant, “Frank, are you that loyal?” 

 

Mullin responded uncomfortably, not taking his eyes off Williams, “I would hope so, sir.”

 

McGarrett was now more concerned with his detective’s current condition. “If you’re finished with this nonsense, wake him up!”

 

“Easy, McGarrett – he needs to sleep off the effects of the somnambulistic drug. When a hypnotic state is induced with this particular drug, the post-hypnotic side-effect is extreme drowsiness. I’ve found that if we don’t allow enough time for the drug to metabolize, subjects frequently awaken disoriented and agitated.”

 

McGarrett frowned, “What you’re saying in medical-doublespeak, Doc, is that we have to let the drug wear off before we wake him, or else he’ll wake up with a hangover of sorts? You didn’t say anything about this when we started!”

 

“It shouldn’t take more than an hour,” Devine stated authoritatively. “I’ll give him the instruction now.” Devine turned his attention back to Williams, who had not moved throughout the exchange. “Danny, I want you to relax completely. Ignore any and all conversation that may go on around you until I give you the signal to wake up. You will remember none of the questions I’ve asked. You will remember nothing that has transpired while you have been asleep. The signal I will give is-” the doctor paused for a moment, clearly trying to think of an obscure phrase. He glanced down at the radio intercept file that Colonel Bennett had carried with him into the meeting.

 

The note scrawled on the top read, “RF Unit – Antenna Yagi Linear Vertical..

 

He’d decided. “The signal is Romeo Foxtrot.” Those words were the standard military phonetic for the letters ‘R’ and ‘F.’

 

Later the imagery of Pandora’s Box would spring into McGarrett’s mind at what happened next. Dan opened his eyes and looked up suddenly at the startled doctor.

 

Even McGarrett gasped as his friend spoke, not in the soft-spoken voice he’d used throughout the questioning session – not like he’d been asleep or drugged.

 

“Romeo Foxtrot.” His words were crisp and his stare at the physician penetrating.

 

Devine was clearly uncertain how to respond. He stuttered, “Dan -- Danny, I want you to close your eyes and do as you’ve been instructed.”

 

He tried to keep his voice on an even keel, but Steve could tell the man did not anticipate a response like this.

 

“Romeo Foxtrot one-zero-one-eight-niner,” Dan recited calmly without blinking or breaking eye contact with the doctor.

 

Devine tried again. “Danny, close your eyes and sleep!”

 

Dan pushed away from the table and stood.  “You’ve attempted activation to change instructions. Supply the response!”

 

“What?” the colonel asked.

 

Dan’s head snapped in his direction as if he’d been unaware there was anyone else in the room. He then panned to each face, looking almost scared and uncertain, Steve thought. Disturbingly, Dan did not react to Steve any differently than he had the other men in the room. He did not respond to Bennett’s question. Instead, his attention re-focused on the doctor.

 

“The response please.” Dan’s voice now sounded determined and less afraid. His resolve apparently steeled for something, the young man knew what he expected. Unfortunately, nobody else in the room did.

 

“Danno!” McGarrett’s voice had a ring of desperation to it as he was fighting back the horrible fear that he should have taken steps to stop this madness before it had begun. But now, it was too late.  Williams backed away quickly around the table as his friend took a few steps towards him. There was no hint of recognition, but Steve continued. “Danno, it’s me – it’s Steve! You’ll be okay. I won’t let anyone hurt you.” He almost choked on the words as he said them. I just allowed them to pry open his brain, and I’m asking him to trust me!

 

Williams’ head tilted as he gave the friend who was now unfamiliar to him a mistrustful stare. Devine was now moving towards him from the other side of the table. Seeing this, Dan suddenly kicked one chair over in front of the doctor and pushed another in front of his boss. He turned and dashed for a door that was a mere five feet away. Mullin moved quickly to head him off and dove onto the fleeing detective. Both men tumbled recklessly to the floor, knocking another chair over. The lieutenant ended up on top of Dan, and made an attempt to pin the detective, but before he could use his advantage, Dan popped the soldier in the face with his fist, an act which was enough to cause Mullin to reel backward in shock and pain, blood from his nose slinging a trail. The advantage now his, Dan rolled and tossed the lieutenant to the side, where he landed almost under the table.

 

Steve, originally loathe to restrain his friend, somehow feeling that he should be able to get through this drugged cloud of misunderstanding with words, now moved in with Bennett to prevent Williams from getting to his feet again. But the young man seemed to be too filled with adrenalin to remain down for more than a second. He sprang to his feet, and studied his two approaching adversaries.

 

“Danno, please, listen to me!” The head of Five-0 had to try again. He refused to believe that he could not get through to this man, who only moments before was willing to die for him. He motioned for Bennett to stand still, and he, himself, his palms turned upward, took only a couple more paces towards Williams. “Danno, you know I would never hurt you. I want you to calm down.”

 

The young man stared intently at the new focus of his attention. He blinked a couple of times as if he didn’t trust his eyes. The uncertainty – and fear -- was clear. He trembled as he studied McGarrett’s face.

 

“Let’s work this out together. I’m on your side, Danno,” Steve reinforced softly, sensing he might be getting through.

 

Dan turned his head sideways as if he thought that all would become clear if he looked at the man before him from a different angle. All at once, he took in a slow breath, and in almost a whisper, spoke, “S—Steve?” The confusion was all too apparent.

 

McGarrett smiled encouragingly, “Yeah, Danno, yeah.” He edged slightly closer to his friend.

 

Wha—what?” Williams’ eyes moved around the room slowly, observing the very different scene from the one he’d unexpectedly left less than thirty minutes earlier.

 

“It’s okay – everything is going to be okay, my friend,” Steve moved yet again a step closer.

 

Dan spoke but no sound came out as he looked one last time in his boss’s direction. His eyes rolled back in his head, and he took one step and fell forward. McGarrett plunged and caught his detective, and gently lowered him to the cool tile. Devine appeared on the floor and immediately checked his patient‘s pupils and pulse.

 

“Well?” McGarrett snapped impatiently.

 

The doctor leaned back on his haunches and frowned. “His heart rate is a little fast, his pupils are dilated and sluggish, but reactive, and his skin is a little clammy.”

 

“Is he going to be alright?” McGarrett pressed. The physician did not know that this detective wanted to hear the bottom line first.

 

“His symptoms tell me he’s shocky, I’ll be honest with you, McGarrett. I’ve never seen a reaction like that to acetyl narconal, but I believe that, if we allow the drug to wear off naturally – which should take less than an hour --  he should recover from this incident with no ill effects.”

 

“Let’s get him over to Delta Three. That’s the conference room across the hall – it’s got a sofa he can rest on,” Bennett contributed as he helped Mullin, now holding a handkerchief over his nose, to his feet.

 

 

*****

 

Within minutes, the group reconvened across the hall. Dan sprawled on the couch and slept soundly for the better part of an hour. After a very brief meeting, it was agreed that Williams had earned his interim TSSI Cobalt clearance in the most dramatic of fashions.

 

McGarrett paced like a caged tiger. “Why, Brinks? Why didn’t you tell me the whole deal?”

 

“Because we need you!” he said forcefully. “And I was afraid you’d walk if I said more until it was too late.” 

 

The man, dark hair flecked with gray, was sitting at the table nervously letting the ashes from his cigarette drop into a mangled Styrofoam cup. The detective spun to study this high-ranking intelligence official. He really didn’t know the man, except by reputation. Kaye clearly thought highly of him or he wouldn’t be here.

 

“Well you were right! When he wakes up, he’d better be okay or foreign assassins are going to be the least of your problems!” McGarrett threatened, his anger over the under-handed plot had still not subsided.

 

Just then, a soft moan came from the man on the couch as he moved his head slightly. Steve’s attention was immediately focused on his friend, and he dragged a chair over to sit nearby as Williams came around.

 

Devine also moved closer – he was privately concerned about the officer’s reaction to what had transpired. Before he had time to worry further, he saw that Dan had opened his eyes. He scanned the room slowly as if moving too rapidly would shatter the scene, his blue eyes not entirely devoid of a drugged appearance.

 

McGarrett spoke first. “Danno.”

 

Just saying his name forced a floodgate to open as guilt rushed into his soul. How could he have stood by and allowed these – these spooks such personal access to his friend?

 

Confusion and awareness of confusion darkened the young man’s face. Williams could feel both of his temples throbbing with a headache that he did not have earlier in the day, did he? Steve was here, concern stamped on his face, Dan noted. He could explain what happened. Had he become ill? He had the strange sense that he had, but where was he now?

 

“What— what happened?” Dan’s question was simple and he looked into his friend’s eyes, seeking the answer.

 

The trust. It was nothing short of agony for McGarrett to see the trust in those eyes. He avoided the question for the moment, delaying the confession until he could ascertain Dan’s physical condition. “I’ll explain everything, but first, tell me how you feel.”

 

Dan blinked and squeezed his eyes shut for a moment, assessing himself, before he responded, “I -- I’m okay, I think. My head hurts. What happened? Where are we?” The detective could not let go of the thoughts uppermost in his mind.

 

McGarrett turned his head to Brinks, “Will you excuse us?”

 

The request for privacy was clearly not a request, and the other men in the room filed out quietly, each aware that to stay would be an intrusion.

 

Devine, the last one out, stopped at the door, “If you need anything—”

 

“Get out!”

 

Steve did not feel a need to hear any more from the physician, and with that, he waited until the door closed. The detective had the horrible sensation that this blunder on his part could very well be the end of the beginning of a beautiful friendship, There was nothing else for him to do, but plunge ahead with the entire, unvarnished truth.

 

Dan listened intently, barely moving and frowning in concentration as if it was taking effort to understand the words. As McGarrett spoke, he was secretly concerned that the drug had not worn off enough for his friend to completely comprehend what he was saying. But he wasn’t about to stop until he’d said everything he had to get out, even if he had to repeat himself later. He decided there was no need to discuss the things the detective had revealed – after all he already knew those things about himself.

The only other detail he left out were the cryptic words Dan spoke as he demanded a response from the doctor – a nagging concern hovered in the back of his mind that saying the words out loud – what were they? Romeo Foxtrot – would send his friend back towards the edge of whatever mental abyss he’d almost plunged earlier.

 

McGarrett, a longtime veteran in the intelligence game, had also mused on the fact that the words came out of his friend’s mouth as if they were a secret code with a corresponding secret response. But Dan had never been exposed to the shadow world of espionage and state secrets. From Berkeley to the Coast Guard to HPD… No, Steve decided, Danno is an innocent to the ways of these spooks... or was. The self-admitted indictment about his role in this mess made him push the cryptic phrase out of his head with another possible answer. Probably surf lingo for get the Hell out of my head…

 

As he finished his explanation, Steve noticed that Dan’s usually readable expression was not readable. Taking this to be a bad sign, he couldn’t blame the man. He’d come to a meeting at the behest of his boss, and awakened someplace else with a splitting headache.

 

But the first softly spoken words from Dan’s mouth though were not rage-filled. Rather they had a tone of quiet amazement. He was still putting the unbelievable pieces of the story together. “So, Colonel Devine slipped me a Mickey so that he could interrogate me about my loyalty.”

 

McGarrett, who was leaning forward in his chair, his elbows resting on his knees, looked down at his hands and nodded, unable to think of anything to say that could make the truth sound less appalling than it was.

 

“I knew there was something up with that guy,” Williams said as he brought his hand up to his throbbing temple, and gently pulled himself to a more upright position. He now recalled the almost surreal last minute at the conference room table.

 

“Danno, I’m sorry this happened. I’m the one that should’ve known something was up.,” Steve’s expression bore the weight of physical pain as he spoke.

 

“How could you know they’d pull something sneaky like this?”

 

Dan’s question, which was not really a question, caused Steve to look up to meet his friend’s gaze. Forgiveness, Steve began to realize, was not on Dan’s agenda because he simply felt there was nothing to forgive. In Williams’ mind, McGarrett had been tricked into allowing the deed. No offense intended, none taken. Dan’s remarkable attitude further impressed the head of Five-0 with the incredible value of this trusted friend.

 

Steve’s amazed, momentary reverie was interrupted with a knock at the conference room door. Before the detective responded, he asked Dan, “You’re sure you’re okay?”

 

“Yeah – just a little woozy,” Dan frowned slightly as he slipped his feet to the floor.

 

McGarrett gave Williams’ leg a gentle squeeze and did a quick check to see that his eyes, while still somewhat dilated, were returning to normal. He felt enormously relieved that a personal catastrophe had been averted.

 

There was another small tap at the door before it opened. Both detectives looked up, the same mask of coolness on both faces, to see the co-conspirators rejoin them.

 

“How are you feeling?” Doctor Devine inquired as he approached the patient. “Can I get you anything?”

 

“You mean like coffee or something?” Dan replied coolly.

 

Devine canted his head and spoke, “I’m very sorry, but it was a necessary evil.”

 

“Okay,” Williams shrugged, and with a hint of defiance in his voice, asked, “And what did you learn?”

 

“You know what they learned,” McGarrett spoke up as he turned to glare at Brinks. “What I already knew.”

 

The huge compliment was met with a momentary flash of appreciation from Dan, who did indeed know that he would never betray his country.

 

Brinks didn’t maintain eye contact with McGarrett, who seemed to him to be far angrier about the incident than Williams. Instead, he addressed Dan. “So, what do you remember?”

 

“I remember…” Dan spoke slowly concentrating. “I remember sitting down at a table, and waking up here.”

 

“That’s it?” Brinks pressed.

 

“That’s it,” Dan responded with finality.

 

“What about—” Brinks started, but the head of Five-0 cut him off.

 

“That’s enough. Interview over!” This man was too interested in Williams’ memory for McGarrett’s taste at this point. And with that, he stood helping his not-completely-steady second-in-command to his feet.

 

“Care to remember leaving this joint?” Steve inquired politely of Dan, who managed a slight smile.

 

“I’d love to remember something about this visit – it might as well be leaving,” the detective responded.

 

As the pair moved toward the door, Bennett spoke up, “I’ll see you out.”

 

McGarrett nodded at him, “Thank you, Colonel. I hope your man’s okay.” And then, shot over his shoulder to Brinks, “I’ll let you know if I need anything.”

 

Devine moved over to stand next to Brinks as Colonel Bennett closed the door behind the trio.

 

“Serendipity,” Brinks mused out loud. “It never fails to amaze me.”

 

 

April

 

As the two men, each with a coffee cup and a pastry in hand, entered the office, one of the French doors to Steve McGarrett’s office lanai slammed shut as a burst of overly exuberant tropical wind caught it. Kono set his snack down on the corner of his boss’s desk and moved to re-open and lock the errant door back into place. Just as the Hawaiian detective recovered his breakfast from the desk, McGarrett entered his office at his usual breakneck pace, leaving his second-in-command struggling to keep up, fumbling with a stack of papers and two cups of coffee, which he had just replenished before the staff meeting.

 

Preparations were in full swing for the rapidly approaching influx of VIPs for the upcoming summit.

 

“… But I can tell you right now that keeping track of all these diplomats and politicians is going to be like herding cats!”

 

Kono, and the other already present detective, Chin Ho Kelly heard only the last half of Steve’s remark.

 

“I have a cousin who’s a cat herder on the Big Island,” Kono stated so matter-of-factly that they all had to smile.

 

The big Hawaiian seemed fully prepared to launch into a tale of cat herding adventures, but Steve held up his hand as he moved around his desk to take his seat. “Bruddah, there’s nobody here who’d rather hear about your cat-herding cousin, but we’ve got our own cats to worry about right here on this rock!”

 

He accepted his coffee cup and the stack of papers from a harried Dan Williams, who jumped into the conversation. “It’s not the cats I’m worried about. It’s the other four cases we’ve got to juggle WITH the cats.”

      

As Steve quickly reviewed the document, which overlaid the security considerations with the summit’s agenda, he was pleased with his protégé’s work.

 

“Yeah, Danno, I think we’re going to have our hands full this week,” McGarrett replied. “Are we prepared to divide up the cats and cases right now?”

      

“We are,” Dan said crisply.

 

He noticed with silent appreciation that Kono and Chin were nodding their heads at him as their way of showing support for whatever plan the second-in-command was forced to make in order to successfully cover the summit. The younger officer remained standing a few feet from his boss’ desk as he prepared to explain. Although much of the information he was to impart was said for the benefit of the other two officers in the room, his recitation was now directed at Steve, who continued reviewing the papers as he listened.

 

Chile is the co-sponsoring country with the United States for this first round of discussions with all of the countries of the Americas. The designated U.S. chair is the governor from Texas, and our own Governor Jameson is the host of the event. Because of their organizational roles, the president of Chile, the Texas governor, and the U.S. Ambassador to Chile have already arrived in order to review the logistics of the events with the governor’s office, the Secret Service, and Five-0. I’ve been working with HPD to make sure that all of these individuals have been assigned the appropriate level of security.”

 

Steve glanced away from the document to make eye contact with his officer. “Who’s in charge of security around the Chilean president – what’s his name?”

 

Dan responded quickly, “Duke Lukela is currently in charge of security for President Eduardo Salazar. I’ve already briefed him on the specifics.”

 

Satisfied with the answer, McGarrett nodded, and Dan continued.

 

Summit activities, both official and social, are scheduled until midnight every night for four nights, starting the day after tomorrow. Now, the Governor contacted me about your schedule, Steve, and he has requested that you be available to circulate and socialize at his whim during the various evening functions, so I couldn’t plan on you for anything other than backup.”

 

Not surprised, Steve wryly commented, “Plotting behind my back to keep me occupied with diplomats and politicians, Danno?” 

 

Smiling, the officer quickly responded, “Only with my boss’s boss!” He continued, “As a result of that situation, I’ll have to be in the float spot every evening. So, Kono and Chin, anything that comes up, I’ll be wired, and you shout for me. The vice president arrives tomorrow evening, and does not fly out until late Wednesday. Kono, you already know that I’ve listed you as the point man for the Secret Service, and I’m afraid you’re gonna have your hands full until he leaves.”

 

Steve interrupted, “Okay, so that’s why I don’t see Kono on the schedule again until Thursday morning. That’s realistic.”

 

Dan, satisfied that his boss and mentor was reacting positively to his hours of effort over the complicated schedule, continued, “Chin, that means that you’re the officer-in-charge for the evening events Wednesday and Friday. Kono, you’ll have the duty Thursday and Saturday. The one Wednesday is in the grand ballroom at the Royal Hawaiian, and the host is Senator – I mean Governor Douglas, of Texas.”

 

Noting that the slip of tongue had caused a break in Dan’s concentration, Steve glanced up from the pages before him and smiled. “Danno, it’s okay to call a prince a king, but not the other way around.”

 

The young man cocked his head and smiled an almost-embarrassed smile. He spoke with unusual hesitance. “Actually, I think it’s probably a good idea to mention it at this point, hmm, but I’ve had occasion to spend some time with GOVERNOR Douglas back when he was a senator.” A brief silence ensued as the other three detectives waited for a story to follow. As the pause grew longer, Dan finally sighed and said, “Okay, I know what you’re going to say when I tell you this, but I dated his daughter for quite awhile in college.”

 

Kono hooted and Chin chuckled. Steve took a deep breath, and began the torture. “Okay, Danno, let’s have it. Did you and the daughter part on friendly terms or do I need to re-assign you to another island for a few days?”

      

“Oh, I’d say we parted on friendly terms.” He hesitated. “But – well, oh never mind.” He gave a small wave of his hand, as if to push the entire subject away from himself.

 

“But – oh well – never mind??” Steve pressed, mildly enjoying his officer’s discomfort.

 

“Well, the last time I saw Doug, everything was cool.”

 

This time Kono interrupted, “The governor’s daughter is named Doug?”

 

“Well, actually, her name’s Loretta, but we all called her Doug in school.”

 

Dan started to fidget as he tried to formulate a simple explanation for a complicated situation. Wait – maybe a little complication is what this situation needs, the officer decided suddenly, knowing his boss’ impatience for long-winded stories that had no bearing on a topic at hand.

 

He started began speaking very rapidly, “Okay, here’s the deal. Doug – that’s Loretta Douglas – and I dated my junior and senior years at Berkeley. I took a few trips with her to her father’s ranch in Texas – he has a HUGE spread north of San Antonio. And I spent one Spring Break with the family on his yacht in the Caribbean. I really liked Senator Douglas – and I think he really liked me as well.”

 

“Anyway, she was a lot of fun to run around with, but she was in the market for a husband sooner rather than later. She actually went so far as to propose to me, but I was already making plans for my Coast Guard tour of duty, and they are a pretty overwhelming lot, the Douglases, I mean. Not that they’re not great people – it’s just that they have this overpowering –” There was a hesitation in the young man’s diatribe as he struggled to find the right word.  “Presence, I guess is the word. “

 

“So, you turned down the Governor’s daughter when she proposed to you??” Steve was fascinated and amused.

 

“Well, Steve, Doug was a hard woman to turn down. I mean, I said no, in no uncertain terms, I mean – but Doug, well, she still called me her fiancée until we graduated. And Buck – that’s Senator Douglas – well, he pretty much had the attitude that whatever Doug set her sights on, Doug was gonna get. Anyway, I left, and we sort of lost touch. And I guess she got over it, because I saw in the paper a few years ago that she married John Scott – you remember the guy that broke the world record for the fastest Mount Everest ascent?”

 

Steve snapped his fingers as that story came back to him. “Oh, yeah – he’s the heir to some textile fortune, right?”

 

Dan nodded, “Yeah, that’s the guy.” Dan decided that seemed like a fitting place to end the uncomfortable story.

 

 “He’s phenomenally wealthy, if I recall,” Steve added and then shook his head as he made eye contact with Dan, “Okay, it’s good to mention little things like this – you know I hate surprises.” The head of Five-0 did secretly relish teasing his friend over incidents that backed up the officer’s reputation for an active social life.

 

Just then, the intercom buzzed, and Steve pushed the talk button, “Yes, May?”

 

“Steve, someone from the Secret Service on the line to speak with Kono.”

 

Kono got up. “I’ll take it in my office.” Chuckling, he pushed Dan with his arm as he walked by in one of those manly oh-you-devil shoves.

 

His friend shook his head and called to the big Hawaiian as he opened the office door, “I’ll leave a copy of the schedule on your desk.” And with that segway, Dan returned to explaining the rest of the plan.

 

By the end of the meeting, Steve was convinced that Dan had done an excellent job on the logistical plan, but he had expected no less, so his praise was limited to a simple nod of approval and an “it-looks-like-we’ve-got-all-the-bases-covered” remark. Knowing how rare explicit praise was from McGarrett, Dan took the remark in stride and mentally translated it into a “Pretty-good-job-Danno!”

 

As Chin left to actually track down some leads on a case, May popped her head in the door of the office, “Boss, you and Danny need to be in the Governor’s conference room in ten minutes!”

 

Steve glanced at his watch. “I hope the rest of the week goes as fast as this morning is going. Let’s go, Danno.”

 

As the pair walked to their next meeting, the physical differences between the two men were made all the more dramatic. McGarrett was a tall, slender, but imposing figure with a dark bouffant of hair, striking blue eyes, sharp, angular features, and a smooth, graceful stride – attractive in a classical sense.

 

With his 30th birthday still several months away, Dan Williams was shorter by several inches, with a slight, but muscular build, short curly beach-colored hair, blue eyes, and a smooth, youthful face. The energetic spring in his step was reminiscent of a teenage tough, out looking for trouble.

 

The taller man stopped suddenly, and turned to face his companion. “Danno –” The young man turned, concerned that something was wrong. Steve wanted to finish the thought. “Danno, I just want to say how pleased – how proud I am of the work you’ve done with the summit preparations. I know it must have cost you some sleep, but it helped me tremendously to see that I could give it to you and you would take care of it just like I would.” 

 

The surprise words of praise made the young man feel almost faint with pride.

 

The smile that came across his face made him look all the younger, and McGarrett was instantly glad he thought to say what he was thinking, a habit in which he did not often indulge.

 

“Thanks, Steve!” Dan replied modestly. “I’m glad I could help!”

 

Steve started to walk again, and had to gently grab his young officer by the arm to get him started again.

 

As they entered the anteroom of the Governor’s suite, the two officers noticed that two uniformed HPD personnel were present, and prepared to scrutinize people as they entered the conference room.  As the pair passed through the double doors, both nodded to the “gate-keeping” officers.

 

Dan said, “Hi, Charlie, Sang!” Charlie Hall and Sang Win returned the greeting with grins.

 

The Governor was already present, along with John Manicote, the general counsel for the Governor’s office, and three others whom McGarrett did not recognize.

 

A thin, black gentleman with wire-frame glasses in a tan tropical weight suit and floral tie turned out to be Ambassador Patrick Hernandez. He had his hand on Governor Jameson’s arm as the Governor seemed to be listening intently to what the man was saying. The president of Chile, Eduardo Salazar, was a dark, swarthy man in his mid- to late-fifties, with a patient and pleasant demeanor. With a full dark mustache, he was only slightly taller than Dan, but appeared to weigh perhaps forty pounds more than the officer.

 

From the cowboy boots and cowboy hat, which lie on a nearby table, he suspected that the tall – a couple inches taller than McGarrett – barrel-chested man was Governor Robert “Buck” Douglas. In his late fifties, with slightly receding salt-and-pepper hair, the man cut a ruggedly handsome figure in his stylized western-style attire. All of the men were gathered together, and had been attentive to the words of Ambassador Hernandez until the two detectives stepped into the room.

 

Manicote nodded his greeting.

 

Governor Jameson called out, “Steve, Danny – I’m glad you’re here!”

 

As the pair moved closer to the group, the governor from Texas turned to stare at Williams, and as he became certain that he recognized the officer, his mouth dropped open.

 

“WELL, I’LL BE DAMNED AND HOGTIED!!” The governor blurted out loudly, causing the others in the room to pause.

 

I’m glad we had that little talk before we left the office today, Steve thought to himself as he would’ve hated to have this little reunion be a surprise to him.

 

As the huge Texan moved toward Dan smiling, the young man responded formally, “Governor Douglas, how are you?” He grabbed Dan up in his arms and lifted him off the ground in a Texas-size bear hug.

 

“Buck!” Dan laughed, happy at the reaction, but a little embarrassed because of the time and place. “Put me down!”

 

The older man ignored Dan’s plea, and responded to Dan’s initial greeting. “Governor Douglas? Last time I saw you, boy, I thought we were almost at the Dad stage of our relationship!” Truly happy, but shocked, to see the young man, he continued, “What in the Hell happened to you? Doug and I thought you musta been swallowed up by the ocean. I couldn’t get squat outta the Coast Guard on your whereabouts, EVEN with mah connections!”

 

“Maybe we could talk after the meeting.” Dan motioned with his eyes to the group of men that were staring at them. Buck Douglas cleared his throat and set down the detective, who quickly straightened his suit jacket.

 

The governor couldn’t resist reaching over and mussing William’s virtually un-mussable hair as he responded, “Ahh, yeah, let’s do that, son.” The governor suddenly turned to the group, and said in what was apparently his normal, but loud, voice, “I apologize for my outburst, gentlemen! It’s just that this boy was once mash future son-in-law!” Steve noticed the back of his friend’s neck was red, and knew that his unassuming officer was mortified at the attention being cast in his direction. Not remotely willing to correct the governor about his former “future-son-in-law” status, the young man swallowed and threw an uncomfortable smile in the direction of small congregation.

 

Trying to re-establish some sense of decorum, Dan turned towards Steve, who had been standing nearby watching the scene in amusement, and said, “Buck, I’d like for you to meet Steve McGarrett, the head of Hawaii Five-0, and my boss.”

 

“A pleasure, Governor –” Before Steve could finish, he was interrupted.

 

“Buck – Call me Buck! The pleasure is mahn, sir!”

 

“And please call me Steve, Buck.”  As the exuberant handshake continued for a few seconds longer than Steve would have called traditional, the two men studied each other. Overwhelming is an understatement, Steve thought, agreeing with Dan’s earlier description of the man.

 

With the first round of introductions over, the trio joined the group, who had said nothing since the scene began. More introductions followed, and as Dan was presented to President Salazar, he nodded and extended his hand. The man accepted his hand.  Instead, he stared hard into Dan’s eyes as if he were searching for something.

 

Uncomfortable with the lingering contact, the young man said, “Sir?”

 

Realizing that he had not relinquished Dan’s hand, he quickly let go, and replied, “I apologize, Detective Williams. It’s just that you look very familiar to me.”

 

Dan smiled, and responded, “I have a pretty common face.”

 

As everyone began to take their seats around the conference room table, under his breath and in his lowest voice, Steve hissed in Dan’s ear, “The president doesn’t have a daughter I need to know about, does he?” The officer shot his boss a tight-lipped smile, but did not reply to the dig.

      

Finally, the group settled down at the table to finalize the logistics for the week. Buck continued to periodically look in Dan’s direction, stare for a few moments, and then shake his head or scratch his chin. His reaction made Steve wonder what steps the then-senator had taken to locate Danno after he joined the Coast Guard. It shouldn’t have been difficult for a man in his position to locate a sailor that had been assigned to a cutter in the South Pacific.

 

Steve couldn’t help but notice that President Salazar was also staring at his second-in-command, who was now concentrating on the plans and schedule, and seemed completely oblivious to the penetrating stares he was receiving. Despite the undercurrent of interest on the part of the two men in Williams, the rest of the meeting proceeded successfully, if uneventfully, a fact which made Steve and Dan grateful.

 

Refreshments were brought in as they all rose from the table. Dan turned to his boss and said, “Steve, now that the cats are in the air, I need to get back to the office.”

 

Steve recollected the cat-and-case juggling operation that was in progress. “Yeah, Danno, go – I’ll fill you in when I get back.”

 

Dan nodded at his boss, and attempted to slip out of the room before anyone noticed that he was departing, but before he could make it all the way out the door, he was intercepted by the Eduardo Salazar. Dan nodded cordially, but the man suddenly reached out and grasped the officer’s hand. Then he looked down at the hand he still held from the shake. Mesmerized by the man’s almost emotional reaction, Dan did not react before the president had turned his hand palm up, and stared at it as if he were studying a map. Clearly uncomfortable, Dan gently pulled his hand away from the firm grip of Salazar. But Salazar had apparently already learned what he needed to know.

 

He addressed Dan in Spanish, at which point the detective cordially responded, “Sir, I’m sorry – I don’t speak Spanish.” The Chilean president paused in obvious puzzlement for a moment before proceeding in English.

 

“It IS you! Our paths crossed in 1962, do you not remember me??”

 

The man actually seemed to have tears in his eyes, Steve observed with fascination.

 

Dan stared at the man’s face, and he had to admit that the man looked familiar, but he couldn’t quite place the face. Salazar pressed on, “My daughter and I were certain you had died in our stead.”

 

With those words, the key to a long-buried memory was released for the officer, but he revealed only the briefest flash of recognition.

 

“Sir, I’m completely confident that you have me confused with somebody else. I was on active duty in the Coast Guard in 1962,” Dan responded gently.

 

The smile momentarily left the president’s face, but quickly returned. He nodded slightly, and said, “Yes, of course, a case of mistaken identity.” He paused and then grabbed Dan’s hand in another slow handshake. “It’s just that for so long, my daughter and I wondered whether the young man who saved us made it out of the jungle alive. And, of course, if he WERE alive, I would want to have the opportunity to express my undying gratitude for what he did.” The emphasis on gratitude made Dan swallow.

 

Aware that the entire room was quietly observing this personal exchange, Dan said, “I’m sure he already knows.” The officer responded uncomfortably as he gently rescued his hand again, and continued, “Sir, it was an honor to meet you. Now, if you’ll excuse me, I have duties that require my attention.” With a self-conscious smile, he slipped from a room that seemed to be getting hotter by the second. He felt eyes on his back as he maneuvered his way out of the room. Dampness crept into his shirt.

 

He forwent the normal banter that he usually exchanged with the two secretaries from the office of the Governor, and made a hasty retreat to the restroom. There he rinsed his face, and stared into the mirror.

 

“Okay, okay, it was a case of mistaken identity, and you’ve got work to do.”

 

Willing his heartbeat to slow, he also forced himself to breathe more casually. He strolled out the door with as much confidence as he could muster after such an incident. He maintained a quiet self-banter as he returned to the Five-0 offices. Okay, so Steve saw the whole thing, didn’t he? He probably didn’t think a thing of it. The young man paused. LIKE HELL, HE DIDN’T! He’ll be all over me with questions the second he gets back to the office! If I give him the party line, he’ll KNOW that I’m lying!! He can always tell! Dan felt unbelievably uncomfortable telling even an officially-sanctioned lie to Steve. He knew that Steve held many security clearances both during his Navy days and presently. Maybe it would be okay to just tell him. Alright, I can’t lie to Steve. As he reached the door to the office, he continued the tortuous line of thought. But wait – Am I violating the law by revealing federal secrets? He knew that more than one would probably slip out if he opened the flood gate to share his amazing tale. Would they throw me in jail or worse?

 

He strolled into the office preoccupied. May observed him quietly before handing him two stacks of messages, one for him and one for Steve. Shaken from his reverie, he smiled at May.

 

“You looked so lost in thought that I thought I was going to have to send out a rescue party! What’s up?” She took his arm and walked with him into Steve’s office.

 

“I’m afraid this summit is going to be a little crazier than I thought,” he replied.

 

“Well,” she said doubtfully, “You look like a kid who’s got to tell his dad that he just wrecked the car.” 

 

Dan reddened, cursing his transparency. He insisted that nothing was up, but found he didn’t have the energy to muster up any conviction to the statement.

 

May sensed that something was amiss. Danny was not his usual, relaxed self. She let it go, knowing that he knew she knew. If he didn’t feel up to discussing whatever it was with her, then he was no doubt building up for a discussion with the boss.

 

Danny sat down in Steve’s desk chair, an act which made him recognize how comfortable he was with his life at Five-0. He was the most trusted confidante of one of the world’s most important law enforcement officials. Given his phenomenal bouts with self-doubt and confidence, it took the unassuming detective longer than it might have a more self-assured man to realize that his opinions took second place to no other in the eyes of Steve McGarrett. The incredible pride he had in that fact made him more fiercely dedicated to this man than to any other he had known in his life. Pleasing his boss – his mentor – his friend – was a priority in his life. 

 

 

*****

 

Steve had watched his second-in-command in quiet amazement, probably being the only person in the room that caught Danno’s flash of recognition, and realizing that Mr. Salazar had probably somehow correctly identified his rescuer and that of his daughter. Danno’s official record of exemplary, but mundane Coast Guard service was apparently not totally accurate.

 

As he mulled over this incredible, but somehow not surprising piece of information, Governor Jameson approached Steve, who was now shuffling the documents in his hand, and asked, “What on earth was that about?”

 

Steve could only parrot what Danno had said a few moments ago. He was very reluctant to say what he suspected. If Williams had been involved in some top secret operation, it could be dangerous to him, or others, for that fact to be revealed. After all, IF that’s what happened, then it was obviously secret enough for the government to falsify the man’s service record. He determined that he would learn the truth, but carefully so as to not risk the revelation of something that could well best be left as a shadow of the past.

 

“I’m sure it’s a case of mistaken identity, Governor. Danno was in the Coast Guard during that time frame, and unless they’ve taken to conducting clandestine operations on foreign soil, the president must be mistaken.”

 

“Hmm,” mulled the Governor. “That WAS quite awhile ago.”

 

John Manicote joined the governor and Steve at that point, “Now, THAT was interesting! Steve, you should bring Danny to these things more often!”

 

The detective smirked, “John, I have a feeling that the only way I’ll ever get Danno back to one of these meetings is at gunpoint.”

 

 

*****

 

 

 “How’s your car, Steve??” May directed her loud comment to her boss in Danny’s direction. Dan winced, and crinkled his nose in her direction.

 

She smiled, and Steve stopped his brisk pace into his office to pause at her desk. “My car?” The question was just nonsequiter enough to make him pause momentarily to hear the answer.

 

“Never mind,” she smiled, and then immediately changed the subject to tasks at hand. “Danny already sorted the wheat from the chafe on your messages. He said this pile is taken care of, and these two you’ll want to see.” 

 

The head of Five-0 glanced into Dan’s small office space, which abutted his.

 

He was on the phone with a bureaucrat from somewhere. “No, ma’am, I really don’t want to be on hold for another second.” An exasperated, but patient Dan sighed loudly. “Yes, ma’am...That door will have to be blocked for reasons of security during the event – I HAVE verified with the fire marshal that it’s acceptable. You should already be in receipt of the authorization – Ma’am, I tell you what! I’ll be over there within the hour with my copy of the authorization, and we’ll get this ironed out right then – Very good – Thank you.”

 

As Dan slammed the phone down and looked up at his boss as casually as he could muster. Steve allowed himself a moment of pride in how Danno was blossoming into an efficient desk warrior, able to manage most of the paper duties and phone calls that used to fall solely on his shoulders. He wondered what secrets his protégé would reveal to him today.

 

“I’ve got to run over to the convention center for a few minutes!” The annoyance in Dan’s voice was clear.

 

Steve regarded him for a moment, and then replied, “As soon as you get back, we need to have a little chat – preferably before dinner.”

 

“Right, Steve,” the young man acknowledged, already knowing the subject of the discussion, and then stopped. “Dinner?” He flipped open his notebook to see what he’d forgotten.

 

His boss held up his hand. “It’s not on your calendar – we have an interesting individual who needs to be checked out.”

 

“From Brinks’ list?” Dan cocked his head, knowing his boss was speaking of leads on the would-be assassin.

 

“Yeah, I have it on good authority that he has a reservation for a sunset dinner cruise, so get back here as soon as you can!”

 

Dan agreed. “Right,” and then glanced at May as he passed her desk, and said, “If that guy from the FBI calls back again, have him patched through to me. We’ve missed each other a couple times.”

 

“Check – Patch the FBI through to you if they call!” the secretary responded.

 

*****

 

Dan’s drive allowed him to consider how he was going to say to his boss what he needed to say. He had already decided that Steve was the person he trusted most on the planet. That being the case, then he needed to spill his guts, and let his more experienced friend and mentor advise and guide him through this situation. Dan decided that it was the presentation of the information he needed to consider.

 

 

*****

 

“Jonathan, we have a potential situation here that involves President Eduardo Salazar of Chile,” Steve now sat at his desk, and was speaking with Jonathan Kaye.

 

The impatient head of Five-0 decided to find out what he could about Danno’s falsified service record on his own before his officer returned. After all, he thought, Danno himself might not – probably doesn’t – have the whole picture. Steve proceeded to outline the events of the afternoon, including Buck Douglas’s attempts to located Dan. The intelligence officer promised to look into the issue immediately, and get back to him.

 

*****

      

Dan was now seated on one end of the white sofa in Steve’s office, and his boss was seated at the opposite end, his arm draped over the back. Steve had instructed May to hold ALL calls. He wanted to give his friend his undivided attention.

 

“Steve, I’m not sure where to start,” Dan said as he began, “But I think you’re the only person I can tell.” The young man looked down. “I guess you have to know at this point that some aspects of my past aren’t what they seem but,” he continued in a quick panicky voice, “BUT I REALLY need for you to know that I NEVER did anything that would –” He stopped abruptly. He couldn’t bring himself to say it, that he never did anything that would have disappointed the person he respected most in the world. He truly feared the thought that Steve was thinking he was hiding a less-than-savory past.

 

Steve recognized the situation for what it was, and stepped up to help his detective. “Danno, I may not be clear on all of the aspects of your history, YET, but I do know that you are a person of the highest caliber.  I do not doubt for a second that whatever happened, you conducted yourself with honor.”

 

Those words were enough to make Dan let out a deep breath he’d somehow been managing to hold.

 

The older man leaned forward slightly and continued. “BUT I don’t think you’re giving me enough credit.” His friend looked up into his eyes, confusion and concern clearly there. “I spent many years in Military Intelligence, and I think you’ll find that I’m prepared to accept a more far-fetched tale than, say your average cop.”

 

Dan smiled and raised his eyebrows. “Steve, you are definitely NOT an average cop!”

 

McGarrett canted his head in acceptance of the compliment, and said, “Sooo, you worked for the CIA when you were supposed to be schlepping around the high seas with the Coast Guard?”

 

“I worked for the guys I thought were wearing the white hats. As it turned out – well   I’m– I’m getting ahead of myself. My freshman year of college, I spent at the University of Hawaii. I was doing okay, and life was pretty good for the first time in years. I was just starting to believe that maybe I could – and should – find a reason for being on the planet – a purpose.” Dan paused momentarily reflecting on the emotional turmoil he internalized as a teenager.

 

Orphaned for a second time, he somehow never felt like he had a right to express his devastation to those who had the decency to take him in. The only person who had a clue about the depth of his despair was his Aunt Clara. She tried her best to help him talk about the loss of her brothers-in-law, but the teenager was unwilling to share his true feelings, and either made light of her attempts or became belligerent. Dan was enrolled in the police academy before he recognized and felt remorseful over his less-than-grateful behavior towards her. Since then, he had worked hard to make it up to her with frequent phone calls and the occasional letter.

 

With the recognition of his friend’s tragedy, Steve studied the young man and spoke, “That was a tough time to lose your uncle.”

 

Dan looked up to make eye contact with the man who was already gazing at him, and shrugged, “No tougher than when you lost your dad.”

 

McGarrett immediately recollected that his second-in-command had subtly and casually probed him about his past very early in their association. Not one to open up to lines of personal questioning, McGarrett felt at ease with his new detective and opted to share a good volume of personal details. One of those was the fact that his father, a beat cop, had been killed attempting to stop a holdup when he was thirteen.

 

It was McGarrett’s turn to shrug, but he didn’t lose focus on his subject. “I still had my mother and sister.”

 

“I’m not complaining. I had a roof over my head most of the time, which is more than some people had.”

 

Steve, while not particularly surprised, was impressed at his friend’s apparent acceptance of the events that left him with an elderly aunt as his only family.

      

“Well, I’d just finished my freshman year at U of H in May of 1957, when I mysteriously received an offer of a full scholarship to the University of California at Berkeley from the Arc Foundation. I was told that they doled out college money to orphans.” He laughed, “I wondered how they’d stumbled onto me. I mean, I never advertised that my parents were dead. And to this day, I don’t know why they picked me, but it was a great opportunity, so I didn’t scrutinize it too closely. What I came to know is that the foundation is a front that serves the needs of the CIA. Anyway, it didn’t matter at the time. In addition to paying for all of my courses and books, they set me up with a great apartment, and a clothing and food allowance. Geez – I’d never had it so good!”

 

“Of course, in exchange for this little arrangement, they wanted to select some of the courses in my curriculum. Now, I had already decided that I was changing my major from psych to police science, and the Arc was okay with that – all– all they asked of me was that I also study German and Spanish. Pretty innocent, and one foreign language was part of the graduation requirement anyway. It’s funny – it was never clear to me why they insisted on the languages. I never had occasion to use either of them – and I certainly don’t remember anything I learned now.“

 

“Anyway, with the Arc’s help, I was able to take a pretty heavy course load. I even had what I would now call a handler. At the time, they called him my mentor. Joe seemed terribly old and knowledgeable, and he was there whenever I needed him. I had explicit instructions to call if I needed anything or got into any kind of trouble.”

 

Steve spoke up, “Okay, so the Arc Foundation is courting and grooming you…” The senior detective considered what an excellent candidate a young Williams would have been for recruitment. He was smart, physically fit, idealistic, guileless, and no doubt gullible.

 

“Yeah, I guess they were,” Dan nodded. “I remember the day that Joe broached the subject of working for my country. He filled my head with the idea that I could work with a special tactical unit that was deployed to rescue people from life-threatening situations. Of course, the operations had to be carried out clandestinely because of delicate political situations.” The young man paused again. “It sounded so humanitarian and lofty. I know that I was naďve to think there weren’t other agendas being served.”

 

 “Danno, how old were you?? Eighteen? Nineteen? You were VERY young! It would’ve been a crime if you didn’t have faith in the good intentions of your fellow man. You had a perfect right to be naive!”

 

The thought of an organization as sophisticated as the CIA taking advantage of his friend, especially at such a tender age, infuriated Steve, but he was realistic enough to know that the practice happened. From the younger detective’s eased expression, it was clear that Dan truly appreciated Steve’s supportive words.

 

Dan smiled, “Well, I was definitely innocent in that regard, and I took full advantage of that right – I bought into the plan, and they started my indoctrination. Eventually, they had me convinced that it was in my best interest and the best interest of the country that I take all of my training under a different name. And of course, it made sense that I would need specialized training. After all, I was being groomed for a tactical, deep-cover field position, and I had to be prepared for anything. I took Army Basic Training at Fort Jackson, South Carolina, the summer of 1958. Of course, it wasn’t Dan Williams that took the training. It was David Wilkins. This Wilkins guy also took marksmanship, demolitions concepts, cartography, and wilderness survival. So, by early 1960, I was a fully-trained deep-cover agent, and I graduated from Berkeley with a B.S. in police science and a minor in psych that May.

 

“The Arc set up a social history and enlisted me in the Coast Guard as part of my cover. Between missions, I spent time aboard a Coast Guard cutter to support the false history that I would eventually have to accept as my past. Uh, Steve?” The young man shifted his position, and rubbed the back of his neck.

 

Steve, whose head was spinning with the facts of this completely engrossing tale unfolding before him, didn’t speak, but cocked his head to acknowledge he had heard his name.

 

Dan then wryly addressed the man. “You know – I could go to jail for telling you this…”

 

His friend chuckled softly and reached across the back of the sofa to place his hand on top of Dan’s, which rested there.

 

“Telling me what?” Steve asked with mock confusion on his face.

 

That was what Dan needed to hear -- he knew that his trust was well-placed in this man.

 

“So in January of 1960, you graduated…” He started, and Dan picked up the thread.

 

“And according to my cover history, I left for boot camp. Aunt Clara received a few pre-written letters from me every so often – I described ship life, places I was supposed to be… My real life though – that was a whole ‘nother ball of wax. My mission statement was to provide assistance in the surreptitious collection of information, which could be important to the security of the United States, and to assist in the evacuation of persons, U.S. citizens and foreign nationals, who are friendly to U.S. interests, from dangerous situations.,” Dan was clearly parroting a euphemistic, memorized statement.

 

“Generally, I just did what I was told.”  At that point, Dan stopped and slid into a slouching position on the couch. He just sat there as memories surfaced like sea weed after a storm, some of it on top, and some of it dragging below. “Each of us in the unit had a code name, which changed with each mission. The root of each name stayed the same while the number at the end of the name was bumped up. The highest number -- or final mission number -- was always ninety-nine.” The detective paused again, clearly in a different time. “So a guy would know as he was getting closer to the end of his tour – kind of like the B-17 bomber crews in World War II.”

 

Steve rubbed his face with his hands, and took a few deep breaths. “Wow!” He said, almost whispering. “Do you mind my asking – what was your code name?”

 

Dan smiled and looked down, “I hadn’t thought about this for a few years – it was Romeo Foxtrot.”

 

The two words galvanized Steve. “Really.” He hoped the amazement was not obvious in his voice, and was relieved to see that his friend was lost in his own ponderance of the memory, and so did not notice his boss’s reaction to the revelation. Steve was reluctant to admit to his friend that, in his narco-hypnotic state weeks earlier, the secret code name had slipped from his lips.

 

He had wondered why the Romeo Foxtrot phrase had elicited such a paranoid reaction from the younger cop, but now it seemed obvious that the phrase brought back some powerful, gut-wrenching memories. It was actually a relief to have pinned down a viable explanation for the shocking and disconcerting incident.

 

Thirty seconds of silence passed as the two men sat lost in their own thoughts before Dan chose to break the silence. “Steve, I spent more than two years of my life scared to death, doing whatever they told me to do because I believed it was the right thing to do.

 

I did whatever they asked of me… until my eight niner mission to Chile in early ‘62. There was a rightist regime that had a fairly tenuous hold on power at the time and, as I later came to understand, there were elements within that regime that wanted the competition to go away. As you might have guessed, the big threat to the status quo was head of the Christian Egalitarian Party. That man – I now remember – was Eduardo Salazar. So, when U.S. intelligence sources reported that he was being detained at a location near the confluence of the Rio Beni and the Rio Mamore in Bolivia – that’s near the border of Brazil – I was inserted as part of a small unit with the order to get Salazar out. I was told to wait a few hundred yards away while our commandos went in to extricate Salazar from the building where he was being detained.” 

 

Dan paused and shifted in his seat. Then, as if trying to prevent his hands from fidgeting, he folded them together, and pressed them into his lap.

 

“I was never the muscle OR the brains in these operations – I usually had a very simple job, which I never completely understood. I was to hang back – not too far from the action, but far enough that I probably wouldn’t be seen. Occasionally though, I was the little guy they shoved into an air duct. I crawled where they told me to crawl – I ran when they told me to run – and I hid when they told me to hide.” He looked up at Steve with a perplexed expression, “I’m not even certain why my presence was required. There were missions where I wasn’t allowed to do anything except sit with the emergency gear. And when I asked the team leader what the deal was, he’d just tell me that I was their insurance policy.”

 

“Insurance policy, eh?” McGarrett frowned at the unusual revelation and rubbed his chin. “That would imply that you had some role to play in the event that something went wrong. You have no clue as to what that role could’ve been?”

 

 Williams shook his head. “No.”

 

“You weren’t carrying any mission-critical information?”

 

“No more than any of the other guys in my unit. I tried to figure out what value I added by just being there, but no good reason ever came to mind.”

 

At Williams’ remark, McGarrett found himself disturbed that the explanation for his friend’s presence in these missions was not only unobvious, but it was to this day hidden from the detective himself. The people who planned such missions would’ve prepared for every contingency – somehow Williams most certainly filled a need. But what?  

 

Dan continued, “Anyway, after about twenty minutes, I was starting to get a little concerned that something had gone wrong, and of course, it had. The team returned, and they had Salazar with them, BUT he was fighting them! They finally slugged  and gagged him, and dragged him out the window. There was no time to ask what that was about. Escape from the situation was all about getting the Hell out of there fast.” His expression darkened, and he looked down.

 

“While we succeeded in the liberation aspect of the mission, somebody stumbled over a tripwire on the edge of the compound. The other guys in my unit were wiped out in a chain reaction of explosions, which by the way, also alerted the enemy gorillas that we were there.”

 

He rubbed his face with both hands and took a deep breath. The memory was clearly an unpleasant one, and Steve found himself regretting that it had to be brought to the surface.

 

“Salazar and I were the only ones left. I didn’t know why they’d gagged and tied him, but I sure as heck knew I couldn’t get him out without his cooperation. When I took the gag out of his mouth, he told me that they had left his 15-year-old daughter behind. Our orders did not explicitly include anyone else in the plan. And, well, who were they to deviate from orders?” Dan’s voice had grown thick with emotion and venom. “It was right then – at that moment when I learned about the girl – that a light bulb came on in my head. I knew that I needed to think for myself, and do the right thing, and to heck with the orders if they conflicted with my moral imperative. So, with enemy gorillas crawling all over the place, Salazar and I managed to find our way BACK into the building.” Dan, who had been staring at his lap, looked up at Steve.

 

“Nobody thought to look for the escapee back in his prison. It took a little while, but we found her, and then we hid in a shed inside the compound walls until the next nightfall. By that time, the search for us had died down enough for us to escape into the jungle to the rendezvous location, where we had tucked a radio, along with a few supplies. I was able to make contact long enough to let the mission lead know that I was the only one left to escort Salazar to the pickup location. I had to make it 30 miles through some pretty unfriendly jungle conditions, dragging Salazar and his daughter, who was already ill with some horrible fever. We had to carry her the last ten miles or so. Just to add to the pressure, the gorillas had managed to pick up our trail, and they stayed pretty close on our heels the entire way. It was regular nightmare of bugs and snakes and mud and – did you know there are colorful little frogs that can kill you if you touch their skin?” Dan shook his head, recollecting his dismay when he’d been warned about this.

 

“I’ve heard that,” Steve frowned and nodded. The amazing tale was disconcerting at best to him, but there were clearly pieces to this puzzle that Williams could not supply. Code words… clandestine missions… insurance policy… McGarrett realized he let his mind wander because Dan had grown quiet.    

 

Momentarily taken off-track by the memory of the horrible conditions and situation in which he’d found himself those years ago, Steve’s light touch on his arm brought him back to the present, and the young man nodded and plunged ahead with his story. 

 

“At any rate, if the pickup spot had been another half mile away, we wouldn’t have made it. The gorillas had spotted us, and started shooting. Plus, we were nearing the end of our window of extraction – that was the point at which the chopper pilot was to assume that the mission had failed and then leave. We made it to the chopper, and I managed to get Eduardo and Esperanza on board, but I knew that if somebody didn’t stay behind to delay the gorillas, the chopper would be blown out of the sky by one of the anti-aircraft weapons they were setting up in the clearing. So, I stayed behind to do what I could to throw a monkey wrench into the works. The last I saw of the Salazars was when I closed the chopper door. I didn’t know who the Salazars were, and I’m not sure I ever would’ve recognized him if he hadn’t recognized me, especially in such a different context. It’s not a part of my life that I feel comfortable even thinking about.”

 

Dan turned his right hand palm up, “It’s pretty amazing really. He remembered that I gouged my hand royally when we were escaping the compound.”

 

“So, to confirm your identity, he looked for – and found – the scar,” McGarrett nodded, but the same question that Eduardo Salazar had wondered all these years burned in his mind, “How did you escape then?”

 

Dan ran his hand over the small mark on his hand and explained, “I was able to get a good bead on an ammo box and cause a pretty good diversionary explosion that allowed the chopper to leave the area. The only small problem I had left was how to get away.” The young man looked a little chagrinned as he admitted, “I learned a very interesting thing about myself that day – I’m very good at hide-and-seek – mostly the hide part. It’s sort of a long story, but in a nutshell it was MUCH easier without the Salazars, It was a pretty arduous trek after I shook the gorillas. I was tired and kind of beat up, but I was ultimately able to make my way down the Rio Madeira to a little town called Porto Velho, where I contacted an extraction team.”

 

Dan’s voice took on an air of amazement, “And when I made it back and got debriefed, my CO actually had the nerve to read me the riot act for risking the success of the mission by not following my orders to the letter. I finally convinced him that there was no way I could leave the daughter AND get her father to go with me – not that I would have left the girl regardless…” The expression on Dan’s face was now one of defiance.

 

“That whole incident is what burst my bubble with regard to what I was doing. I think they misread my new, more cynical attitude as being ready for what my handler called a status upgrade. After a few weeks off – that is onboard the USS Banta – they tried to line me up for my next assignment. They started pressing me with a whole lot of hypothetical situations about how far I was willing to go for my country.” Williams looked down and frowned as he tried to dredge up a memory that eluded him. “It’s strange – I can’t seem to remember…” After several seconds, he shook his head and admitted, “I can’t recall what made me so uncomfortable about the mission – it would have been the easiest job I’d ever done for them. They wanted to send me to Cuba for a couple months – disguised as a civilian!”

 

McGarrett’s eyebrows arched at the perplexing revelation. “And do what?”

 

Dan shrugged and shook his head. “All I was supposed to do was make contact with a couple of people a few times. Then, they told me I could hang out on the beach and relax – do whatever I want to do – as long as I kept a low profile. How’s that for weird?”

 

“Pretty weird,” Steve agreed with distraction. His struggled to imagine what the point of that mission was. To keep tabs on someone in Cuba? To relay information to a mole? It seemed to McGarrett that there were a dozen more efficient ways to communicate to an agent on assignment. “Were you supposed to obtain or pass information?”

 

“Neither – all I had to do was to meet these guys – agree with whatever they said, and get this – take some pictures of all of us together with a Brownie! Like I said – weird!”

 

With that, the hair on the back of the former NIC officer’s neck stood up. Pictures placing Williams in Cuba? Pictures placing his contacts in Cuba? It smacked of a setup, but a setup of whom and for what reason?

 

“Okay, I think you were smart to be uncomfortable with orders like that.”

 

Gratitude for the validation from his mentor flickered across Williams’ face as he continued. “Easy or not, I told them I didn’t think I wanted to go through with the mission. I’d come onboard to do good for humanity – and something just didn’t feel right anymore. At that point, I knew I wanted out, and after a fairly short round of pretty scary, high-pressure retention discussions, they debriefed me. I was told in no uncertain terms that the service I had performed for my country was to remain secret AND to reveal that any part of my officially sanctioned history was false could be construed as an illegal revelation of national secrets. Well, they didn’t have to tell me twice – I memorized my cover story – places I was to have gone, assignments, and so on. And that was that – my real life became like a shadow, and the fiction that had been invented took on an air of complete reality.”

 

Even now, I can comfortably tell you about events during my tour with the Coast Guard that never happened, and the scary part is that it feels true to me. I was finally turned over to the Coast Guard in April of 62, where I was actually able to get in on a great drug running investigation and bust. I didn’t stay long though. It had finally come to me that I wanted to follow in Pop’s footsteps and go into law enforcement, and I knew that I wanted to come home to Hawaii, so in June of 62, I left the service and applied to the academy.” With a twisted smile, he looked up at Steve, “And the rest of my life you probably know from my HPD service record, ALL of which actually happened!”

 

Steve took in a breath and blew it out. “Well, this certainly explains why Buck Douglas couldn’t track you down – even with HIS connections.” He started to say more, but the intercom beeped.

 

Both men knew that the secretary would not be interrupting a hold-all-calls meeting unless it was important. Steve rose and moved to his desk to press the talk button, “Yes, Love?”

 

“Steve – the world’s coming down around my ears out here!” The strain in May’s voice came through the speaker. 

 

McGarrett sighed. The two men had had all the time they would be allowed for the moment. “We’ll be right out,” he turned to face his second-in-command. “Stick with the I’m-not-the-guy-you’re-looking-for story. It seems that your cover is pretty solid.” 

 

Dan nodded as he stood, “Right.”

 

“I’ve got Jonathan Kaye running a check on the Salazar incident. We need to make sure that he won’t present a threat to your cover.”

 

“He seemed willing to play along,” Dan shrugged. “What kind of threat could he be?”

 

“I doubt that he personally would do anything to deliberately jeopardize you, but I envision him telling his daughter about you sooner rather than later. And Heaven knows who’ll overhear that conversation, and who, in turn she will tell,” McGarrett said quietly as the two men reached the door.

 

Dan placed his hand on the knob, but paused to look up at his boss, “Steve, I just want to say how grateful I am that you – you –”

 

Steve interrupted when he saw his friend struggling for words that he really didn’t need to say. “Believe in you and, for that reason, support you completely and utterly? You’re welcome.”

 

The older man slapped Dan on the back of the neck, and Dan, grateful to have the right words put into his mouth, responded, “Yeah, thanks for believing.” It felt good to have a man like Steve McGarrett in his corner.

 

May shoved a stack of messages into her boss’s hand as soon as the two detectives stepped out of the office, “The top three are emergencies. The next half-dozen will be emergencies before the day’s out.” She then whipped around to Danny. “You need to get back over to the convention center right now before the security manager leaves for the day. And your FBI call came in – twice. The next one is from Kono. He has a short list of things that need to be clarified. The next one is from the DA’s office…”

 

As May continued her litany, Dan’s thoughts traveled back to that jungle in Brazil. Could I have – should I have – done anything differently then that would have made this situation never materialize? Not save Salazar – not bring his daughter? He pondered for a moment while staring through the messages in his hand before he said aloud, “No.”

 

“And I think this one is non-issue by now – what?” May was clearly harried, having spent the past thirty minutes deflecting calls for the two men.

 

Dan turned his attention back to her and, kissing her on the forehead, he gently responded, “Thanks, May.”

 

Marginally appeased, but still confused as to what was going on, she returned to her desk shaking her head.

 

“Danno!,” McGarrett called from the door of his office, and the detective turned to look at his boss. “Let’s get our story straight before we – uh – share anything with Buck.”

 

“Right, Steve!” Williams acknowledged with a meaningful smile. He had definitely chosen well a man to trust. And with that the three went about their separate tasks.

 

 

*****

 

“Steve, as far as I can tell, Williams’ service record was not falsified,” Kaye’s voice sounded perplexed.

 

“What if I told you that a CIA front that called itself the Arc Foundation might be behind this?” McGarrett pressed, knowing that the record was false. The silence on the other end of the line was palpable. “Well?”

 

“That puts a totally different light on the situation. I’ll have to get back to you. Oh- and Steve?”

 

“Yeah?”

 

“Don’t say that name within ear shot of anybody.” With the cryptic admonition, the connection was broken. The ominous tone in man’s voice still ringing in Steve’s ear sounded ominous.

 

 

*****

 

“Danno, hold down the fort! I’ll be at Pearl at NIC for awhile!” McGarrett flew past the desks of his staff at an even faster clip than his large strides typically carried him. Both Williams and May looked up from the file folder they were perusing at May’s desk. Neither thought they’d have time to say anything to the man before he made it out the door, but he stopped abruptly with his hand on the door knob.

 

“Danno—” He paused briefly as he composed the thought. “Be careful!” 

 

Williams smiled, relieved that his boss remembered that he would be taking the afternoon off. Chin and Kono had the day before off, and Dan had been the one on call since Steve had to attend the ribbon-cutting on the new police station in Lihue. All of the Five-0 men had worked every day for the past couple of weeks because of the additional workload generated by the summit. An afternoon of surfing on the North Shore was Dan’s reward, and he was looking forward to it with as much relish as if it were a two-week vacation.

 

“I’m always careful, Steve!” Dan responded.

 

“Yeah, right!” McGarrett was already out the door as Kono and Chin stepped from their cubicles.

 

“You better be outta here before da boss get back, bruddah, or you nevah gonna see da waves today!” Kono challenged Williams in the pigeon English that frequently peppered his speech.

 

Dan laughed, recognizing that he ran the risk of having an additional duty dropped into his lap. “Don’t worry, man! He said he’d be out a couple of hours. I think I can finish this report with minutes to spare!”

 

“He was in one big hurry,” Chin mused as he lit his pipe.

 

 

*****

 

 

Steve WAS in a hurry. He’d just received a call from Jonathan Kaye, who informed him that he had just been ferried by a military jet to Pearl Harbor and was en route to the Naval Intelligence Command Headquarters. He urgently requested the detective’s presence. Two facts about this set McGarrett on edge. The first one was that the last time he spoke with Kaye was over Williams’ falsified service record and his suspicions about the Arc Foundation’s involvement. An urgent meeting on this topic was disconcerting at best to the detective, whose imagination was running wild with frightening theories. The second disturbing aspect of the call was the fact that Kaye insisted that the meeting take place at a very secure location. Nothing on the islands was more secure than the NIC. He’d almost brought his second-in-command along because he suspected the subject to be discussed pertained to him. But in the end, he decided that his friend needed a little R&R.

 

I’ll fill him in tomorrow, Steve said silently as he trotted down the stone steps towards his car.

 

The Summit of the Americas had proceeded and was successful not only from the perspective of the participants, but also from a security point of view. An attempt to plant a bomb at the largest of the social events on Friday was thwarted by Five-0 after the detectives successfully tracked down the lead suspect. Between the intelligence reports that placed this individual in the company of the insurgent group in Chile and the detectives’ ability to ferret out his plan and intended method through good police detection methods, the day was saved, without any of the guests ever being aware they might have been in danger.

 

Now, one week later, Kaye had apparently uncovered important news, and McGarrett was not about to wait another hour to learn the details. Using his reserve military ID, he was allowed onto the base with a crisp salute from the MP at the gate. He restrained himself from speeding on the facility because the risk of a delay that could be caused by a young MP training in traffic law was substantial on a Monday morning.

 

He arrived within minutes of Kaye’s arrival in the conference room. The greetings were brief and Jonathan’s uncomfortable demeanor made Steve all the more anxious to get to the point of the meeting as the two men took seats at one end of the long table.

 

“So, what could you have possibly uncovered that warrants you hopping on a military taxi to tell me in person?” The detective’s humor was thinly veiling his tension.

 

“I hope you’re ready for this. You ever catch wind of a black project called Sweet Nothing?” Kaye didn’t waste any time with the detective, knowing only too well that the man was one to cut to the chase.

 

“Sweet Nothing? No.” McGarrett was certain he would’ve remembered a project thus named, even if he’d only heard it in passing.

 

“I’m not surprised. It was a deeply buried very expensive experiment that never had a line item on a budget. The CIA front group called the Arc Foundation came into existence to identify, recruit, and train deep-cover intelligence operatives for a variety of special operations worldwide,” Kaye explained.

 

“Yeah, so what made their effort worth a super secret price tag?” McGarrett folded his arms as he waited for the answer. The existence of secret agents was no real secret even to the general public.

 

“Elements of this group had more to hide than the price tag. Bear with me for a few minutes and I’ll get to my point. The Arc was looking for individuals that met very specific criteria. First, a candidate had to be an orphan – an individual who, for all intents and purposes – would not be likely to be missed if he were to – say drop off the planet. Statistically, persons without nuclear families present a lower risk of a hue and cry being raised over an unfortunate accident while on a mission. It also means that there are fewer people that hold influence over the individual’s decisions.

 

Next, evidence of trainability would have to be present. Good grades in school or good scores on military aptitude tests would provide that. Then, of course – because of the nature of the work, the person would have to be an exceptional athlete.

 

The last measurement of acceptability came from a psychological profile, which was derived over the course of several weeks of observation and interviews.”

 

McGarrett couldn’t help but mutter, “All unbeknownst to the profilee, I suspect.”

 

Kaye shrugged and nodded, “Of course. The psychological metric used was a very complex one, but in the interest of brevity, let me tell you that the ideal candidates were naďve and idealistic young men, many with deep-seated self-esteem issues, possessing a strong desire to please a father figure.”  Kaye stopped, but then thought to add, “Oh, and also very important for the obvious reasons was the fact that each of the candidates had to be able to live with secrets. Each man had to be able to return from a mission and not have the need to spill his guts about his exploits to a buddy in a bar.”

 

The head of Five-0 wrinkled his nose in concentration, suspecting and fearing that the man had not begun to tell him the bad news he sensed was on the horizon of this conversation. From Kaye’s profile, he realized that Williams was almost a perfect recruit by the twisted metric. He strongly suspected that his friend’s bouts with self-doubt were rooted in the loss of his parents, and later his guardian uncle. A skilled manipulator could easily mold that grief into something less pure and simple.

 

“So, the Arc recruited and trained Danno,” McGarrett pushed.

 

“Yes, and while limited documentation now exists on his Arc-specific training, there are notes on the training of one U.S. Army soldier – a David Wilkins – phenomenal sharp shooting scores, good agility, a keen sense of depth perception, and a special note about his exceptional sprint times.“

 

McGarrett nodded, recognizing not only the description, but the pseudonym that Dan had mentioned to him. “Sounds familiar. Go on.”

 

Kaye complied with the request. 

 

“The Arc paid for Williams’ schooling and welcomed him into the fold. He became one of a handful of valuable, but expendable, experts trained for clandestine missions in which the U.S. could not publicly confirm complicity or knowledge. It’s true, some of the missions were humanitarian in nature, but many served the hidden agendas of the Arc.”

 

While the recognized secret mission was as Dan described, Kaye went on to describe the less-than-scrupulous elements within the sub-organization that wanted to funnel U.S. policy in certain directions by eliminating or discrediting key political and social figures. By the time there were indications from other intelligence sources of the activities being funded by the Arc, all evidence of wrongdoing was destroyed, and those who could point fingers met with untimely ends.

 

“The reason there is no written documentation on many of the missions is because, quite frankly, Steve, the activities they supported and sanctioned were about as illegal as it can get.”

 

“Did any witnesses ever come forward to speak out against the Arc’s activities?” McGarrett probed despite the fact that he knew in his gut what Kaye’s answer would be.

 

Kaye shook his head. “Almost all of the field operatives were completely isolated from the decision-makers within the organization, so there were no witnesses to question that would lead to the culpable figures at the top.”

 

“We believe that Danny participated in numerous legitimate missions for about two years before he was re-assigned to the Coast Guard in the summer of sixty two. We suspect that, at some point, the Arc began to cross the line ethically for him. There are some clear indications that Williams wanted out, and apparently, the operation controllers also determined that perhaps he was not the right material for any future missions. We’re not sure, but he may have begun to balk and question orders – not a good thing for an organization that didn’t like to explain itself. So, they allowed him to be debriefed.”

 

Jonathan had been studying the notes in his file until that moment when he suddenly looked up to meet Steve’s penetrating gaze. “Until you called, Steve, we didn’t think any key operatives had survived, and we were unable to link an actual person with the documentation we have on the Wilkins identity. We suspect Danny was released because of his unexpected engagement to Governor Douglas’s daughter.”

 

McGarrett allowed the grimace of concentration to slide into a brief, thin smile, recalling Dan’s tale of his former fiancée status with Loretta Douglas. He didn’t bother explaining that the couple was never engaged as Kaye continued.

 

Douglas began making inquiries after Williams vanished, and didn’t stop until the month before Arc operatives evaporated into the espionage woodwork. A powerful political figure such as Douglas had the potential to focus a pretty strong light on the operations that they wanted to remain in the shadows.”

 

”So, they were concerned that Danno’s close association with Douglas’ daughter could jeopardize the secrecy of their missions.” McGarrett rubbed his furled brow in an attempt to thwart a tension headache as he spoke.

 

Kaye smiled grimly, “And who of them – having complete faith in their very expensive psychological profiling methods – could have dreamed that Williams – their wannabe-surf-bum – would do anything more than finish his Coast Guard tour of duty, and then select a low-profile, innocuous career?”

 

“Who indeed,” McGarrett growled. “Sweet Nothing, huh? So, they used these soldiers as disposable pawns in their secret political machinations.”  It was clear to the head of Five-0 that the code name of the project was a demented private joke that told him how little the masterminds behind this valued their victims. The very idea galled and outraged him.

 

His thoughts jumped back to Kaye’s words a few moments earlier, “You said you didn’t think that any of the key operatives had survived. That implies that you have reason to believe that Danno was more than just a team member, and why wouldn’t key operatives have survived – if they weren’t killed in the course of a mission, that is?”

 

The older man took in a deep breath, and returned the detective’s steely gaze, “That’s a pretty naďve question coming from you, Steve.”

 

McGarrett’s expression hardened in concentration and then, as the implication sank in, his eyes grew large with amazement. “Key operatives were murdered to insure their silence?” The detective could feel nausea intensifying in his gut.

 

“Well, there’s no evidence of murder – just a series of bizarre and unfortunate accidents. But frankly, I haven’t come to the bad part yet.” Kaye decided it was best to reveal all of his cards sooner rather than later.

 

Those words caused McGarrett to lean back in his chair, and take a few slow breaths of air before he carefully chose his words. “Perhaps, Jonathan, you’d better get on with your story.” The man’s tone was soft, but ominous to anyone who knew him.

 

“After your incident with Doctor Devine a few weeks ago, I know you’re familiar with the concept of narco-hypnosis.”

 

The knot that had lived in McGarrett’s stomach for days after Dan’s disconcerting under-the-influence interview returned with a vengeance. He’d taken extra care to observe his second-in-command in the days after the event, watching closely for any signs of abnormal behavior. None was forthcoming however. Williams, oblivious to his boss’s surreptitious monitoring, was over-loaded with summit duties and the assassination plot case, and he performed as well or better than McGarrett had ever seen.

 

Now, he grit his teeth and nodded as Kaye continued.

 

“Well, the Arc – without the knowledge or consent of the recognized authorities – took full advantage of what they called a keystone operative’s potential through the use of a special narco-hypnotic protocol.”

 

Steve knew that his young friend had been victimized by those he had been forced to trust. He didn’t have words to describe the shock he was feeling at that moment, so he sat quietly and listened as the rest of the tale unfolded before him.

 

The missions were frequently of such a secret nature that personnel were not allowed to carry any documentation – no mission info, no identification, no maps, etc. With that restriction, the structure of the tactical units was such that the team leader had to memorize a lot of data. The keystone operative was the one person in the unit who would’ve had contact with the operation controllers and other members in the chain of command. These keystones were viewed as harmless because they would have no conscious memory of the contact, because the information was, for all intents and purposes, coded into their brains without their knowledge.

 

“Do you remember reading about faithful servants whose tongues were cut out so that they could be trusted by the masters?” Kaye asked.

 

McGarrett leaned forward, put his elbows on the table, and rested his head upon his hands as he nodded.

 

“That’s how the keystones were viewed,” Kaye explained, and then continued his report. “No captured team member would ever be able to reveal more than a small amount of information to the enemy, because each individually knew very little. If a keystone were captured and tortured, he too would’ve been unable to reveal anything of value. But an individual who knew the right combination of letters and numbers – the activation key trigger -- could cause a keystone to cough up a wealth of information – including more detailed information about targets, contact data on in-country informants and agents, escape routes, and pertinent order of battle information. It was therefore in the team leader’s best interest to keep the keystone safe because, embedded in his head, could be the salvation of a mission or perhaps even the entire team.”

 

Kaye’s tale brought clarity to the puzzles from Dan’s recounting of events as he remembered them.

 

McGarrett sat up straight suddenly. “So, that explains why Danno was kept away from the action when possible. He was truly an insurance policy in the event of a mission failure.”

 

“Exactly! The team leader could elicit critical information from his keystone operative by verbally providing a certain alpha-numeric code. Upon hearing the code, the keystone would counter-respond, and expect the proper response back before any information would be provided.” The technical details appeared to fascinate Jonathan as much as they appalled Steve.

 

“What if the team leader were injured or killed?” The detective now needed to understand as much as he could about what had happened – or could have happened – to Williams.

 

“Upon the death of the team leader, the keystone was instructed to do whatever he could to insure the success of the mission. This could’ve involved completing the mission, or it might’ve involved merely leading the rest of the team to a safe extraction point. He would have access to that information in his brain that would provide the optimum chance for the success of the mission. He would be aware of no other information, and might not even be conscious of the fact that he now had information that he did not have at his fingertips moments before. The human brain is truly amazing,” Kaye remarked.

 

“Okay what if the team leader was unable to provide the correct counter-response after initiating the request for information?” Not satisfied, McGarrett continued with his questions. His thoughts traveled back to the conference room those weeks ago. Supply the response! Danno, in his altered state, had demanded the proper code response. It all made sense.  

 

“It would then be upon the keystone to assume that an un-authorized individual was attempting to obtain the information. He would’ve attempted to escape by whatever means he could, and if escape was not possible, he was instructed to—avoid providing information of any sort.” For the first time since the meeting began, Kaye’s answer seemed evasive to the detective.

 

“How? By committing suicide?” McGarrett was horrified, but knew too well the methods and weapons of the espionage game.

 

“Actually, it’s very difficult to get an individual without suicidal tendencies to kill themselves. And, as I understand it, for this special group of men, that would not have been necessary. Their instruction would have been to essentially turn off access from outside stimulus to their brains.” Kaye grimaced and shrugged as if that was all the explanation that anyone would need.

 

“What? What does that mean?” McGarrett understood the words, but could only begin to fathom the implication.

 

“Not suicide, but with the same result. The subject would become catatonic to the outside world, and no amount of torture or threats would bring him out of it. Eventually, if the subject was not killed by his captors, he would die of thirst or starvation.”

 

A chill shot down the detective’s spine as he considered how close his friend may have come a few weeks ago to entering a state of permanent catatonia. The devastation that he’d innocently almost brought down upon Williams – and himself – was staggering to McGarrett. He almost would not have believed what Kaye had told him had he not seen for himself the cautious, unfamiliar expression on Dan’s face that day.

 

“Steve, if I’m correct, then Danny holds in his head, enough evidence to get to the bottom of some of the illegal activities that have been hidden from the intelligence community and the American people under the pretext of national security,” Kaye’s voice intensified at the prospect of bringing to justice those who would abuse their power within the system. “I can’t impress upon you the potential importance of what the last surviving Arc keystone operative may be able to tell us.”

 

“The last surviving keystone operative – that sounds like a pretty dangerous label.” McGarrett responded as his friend’s precarious situation crystallized in his mind. With Kaye’s agenda and rationale now clear to the detective, his own objective – to protect Williams – blended into the mix.  “What I’m more concerned about, Jonathan,” Steve said softly, “is the fact that those who would be exposed may find out – or already know – that Danno can reveal them to the light of day.”

 

He slammed his fist on the table with such force that Kaye jumped.

 

McGarrett spat, “What can we do here? Can we get Danno to let the cat out of the bag so that it would be a waste of time to target him? Can we get him to reveal what he knows without sending him off the deep end? If I’m reading you right, one wrong move on our part would be the same as putting a bullet in his head!”

 

“I’ve got Doctor Richard Bellagio en route from the airport right now. He’s the acknowledged creator of the Arc hypnotic protocol.”  Not convinced that the assurance had sounded sufficiently reassuring, the man stood and held his hand out in a calm-down gesture. “Steve, take it easy. Doctor Bellagio will be here soon. We’ll get Danny in here, explain the situation—“ Kaye was cut off by the volcanically frustrated detective.

 

“Get him in here to explain that his government – the same one who’s secrets he would die to protect – has tampered with his mind in a potentially lethal way? That he has knowledge locked away – even from himself -- that the same government really needs? That if, for some reason, he doesn’t trust this government to fish around in his brain, he could be murdered?” The horrible words spilled from McGarrett’s mouth, and echoed against the far wall of the large room. The silence was almost worse than listening to himself shout, Steve decided without actually composing the thought.

 

Kaye was determined – and actually saw no other choice but to try – to calm the upset detective. He pressed on in a composed, but insistent way. “Steve, you know we try to police ourselves, but the very nature of the business makes it difficult. Once someone is on the inside of the wall of trust, there is very little that a determined person could not do over the course of time. You know I’m right. Now, help us! And if you don’t want to do it to help purge the community of these blights on our honor, then do it to help Danny! He could go on forever and never have a clue about any of this. On the other hand—”

 

“Yes, Jonathan, on the other hand…” McGarrett rubbed his eyes, his head now ready to crack open from a tension headache. “We have no choice.” What had he done to his to-the-death friend when he asked for his help those weeks ago?

 

 

*****

 

 

“Danny.” The expression on May’s face was almost apologetic, and it gave Williams pause. “The boss is on line two for you. Sorry.” She whispered the apology, knowing that their leader had probably found something that would delay the detective’s departure for the North Shore.

 

“Told ja,” Kono muttered as Williams stepped past him to pick up the phone on his desk.

 

“Steve?” Dan grimaced ever so slightly, having the feeling that his associate was right. He listened for about ten seconds as the Five-0 staff stopped what they were doing to hear at least one side of the conversation. “Right now? Okay…Okay…Sure…You’re the boss. Uh, Steve?” He hesitated for just a moment, and then had to ask. “Are you – okay?” The detective was silent for several seconds, and then responded. “That’s okay…right.”

 

Williams re-cradled the phone gently, thinking that his boss sounded strained. And then he noticed how quiet the office was. He turned to see the other two detectives and May standing in wait to offer support, if only verbally. When nobody moved, he finally offered an explanation with a shrug.

 

“I’ll be at the NIC with Steve. He says it’s important.” The young man’s words did not have their usual tinge of enthusiasm.

 

The trio gathered around him as he pulled his suit jacket from the rack to offer pats and shoves. By the time the detective strolled from the office, he had already decided that he’d rather help Steve with whatever he needed than to goof off the rest of the day. That’s what he said to himself anyway, putting thoughts of the warm water and big waves out of his mind for the time being.

 

 

*****

 

 

The headquarters building of the NIC was a familiar place to Dan. He’d been here numerous times for meetings. When Steve was on active duty earlier in the year, he’d come here almost every day for one reason or another. As soon as he caught sight of his boss coming to collect him in the lobby, he sensed that something was wrong. Williams was rapidly becoming an expert in interpreting his boss’s subtle gestures and body language. 

 

McGarrett had spent years perfecting what he was confident were un-readable postures and expressions, but discovered in fairly short order that the newest detective on his staff seemed to be able to break his code.

 

Now, as Dan watched Steve approach him, the man’s whole demeanor screamed tension to him. As he greeted his second-in-command, Dan had a sense that he was also anxious and possibly concerned. He could feel his boss assessing him, as if Steve thought he were injured in some way. A very disconcerting sensation, Williams decided.

 

McGarrett rushed him up the stairs and down a hallway to a skiff. To enter the secure room within the already-secure facility, Steve had to stick his fingers into a cipher lock box and enter a four-digit code. Already in the room were Jonathan Kaye, whom Dan recognized, and three other civilians whom he did not know.

 

From the expression on Kaye’s face, when he saw him, Dan had the very strange sense that he was to be the focus of the meeting. The three strangers exchanged quick glances and sized him up as well. Similarities between this scene and the one at Fort Crawford a few weeks ago popped into his head. He did his best to vanquish them, but found himself a little edgy.

 

Kaye shook the detective’s hand. “Danny, thank you for coming. I’d like for you to meet Troy Lane, my associate from the CIA, and Doctor Richard Bellagio, who consults with us from time to time, and Trevor Johnson, Doctor Bellagio’s assistant.” 

 

Dan exchanged courtesies with the three men, but managed to throw an almost alarmed glance in his boss’s direction. He wondered if he should jokingly inquire as to whether he needed another type of security clearance, but thought better of it, and the expression on Steve’s face did nothing to allay his concerns.

 

They all took seats at a small round table, and Steve took in a deep breath and exhaled before he spoke in a soft tone, “Danno, I know you recall that Jonathan was checking out some issues relating to your falsified service record.”

 

Dan nodded slightly, listening intently as Steve continued.

 

“I have to tell you that what he’s unearthed as a result is a horrible story, one that involves everything up to and including murder. I didn’t think it was relevant at the time, but I need to tell you what happened while you were under the effects of Doctor Devine’s drug.”

 

Dan, concern furling his brow, countered, “You said that I answered the questions, and then ended up struggling with that Lieutenant.”

 

“Yeah, that’s right, but you said a couple of things that were very cryptic. Devine told you that your signal to wake up was the phrase Romeo Foxtrot.”

 

Dan’s startled reaction was dramatic. “What made him pick that?”

 

Steve shrugged and shook his head. “It was actually just chance.”

 

Visibly shaken, Dan leaned back in his chair. “Okay— so lay it on me.”

 

Kaye took the floor at that time and traversed his way through the story that he related to McGarrett earlier. This time, the intelligence official found it more difficult to face his audience, as the young man’s penetrating gaze vacillated from skepticism to uncertainty to anger.

 

McGarrett sat near his friend, who occasionally shot a validating glance in his direction, and sensed the horror and disbelief that Williams was feeling. Exposure to the seamy underbelly of humanity was enough to invite cynicism into any cop’s soul. One of the things that Steve found so refreshing about Dan was the fact that he seemed able to blend a skeptical shell – vital to being a good investigator – with an idealistic perspective. The thought that this revelation of events might somehow soil his friend’s mind-set was almost sickening to McGarrett as he recognized this as a disturbing possibility. 

 

When Kaye finally stopped speaking, nobody could bring themselves to say anything for a good thirty seconds. They all sat there, allowing the detective time to absorb the dramatic information.

 

Just before the silence became painful, Williams, who’d been sitting like a statue for the final fifteen minutes of Kaye’s report, swallowed and slowly turned to McGarrett.

 

“Is—is this true? I mean, do you believe this story?” He sought – prayed for – in his friend’s eyes a hint that the man didn’t really believe this horrible story.

 

Steve looked down for a few moments before he looked back up to lock his gaze on his detective. “Yes, Danno, I’m afraid I do.”

 

Dan looked away suddenly and ran his hand over his face, leaving his hand to cover his mouth for a few seconds, not certain what to say or what to do. It was too unbelievable – that his government – would betray his trust.

 

Kaye leaned on the table towards Williams. “Danny, let us help you. Doctor Bellagio is well-versed in the techniques employed by the Arc.”

 

Dan’s eyes flashed with anger. “You don’t want to help me. You want me to help you – any benefit to me in this deal is incidental!” The pain that accompanied the words was not lost on Steve.

 

“That’s NOT true! You may be in danger!” Kaye’s voice turned more forceful. “We need to—”

 

Dan cut him off and stood. “In danger? It seems to me I might be in more danger of off-ing myself if I let you touch me! I think I need to wait until my head stops spinning before I make any decisions.” His words were forceful and rife with determination. He turned suddenly to scrutinize Doctor Bellagio. “Or are you here to make me comply? Should we have a little chat over coffee?” Dan took a couple of steps backward.  “Oh wait – you’re not a Mickey Finn kind of guy, are you? – You’re a needle man,” Dan accused softly.

 

The physician saw there was no answer that would satisfy the upset man, and so did not reply except to look down at the table.

 

McGarrett stood along with his friend, but made no move to calm the man. He deserves to be mad as Hell, was the thought that persisted in the back of his head. Steve also knew Dan well enough to know that if pushed too hard on something he was reluctant to do, he would stand his ground obstinately, even in the face of logic. The detective had a stubborn streak, McGarrett had to admit, that was normally overshadowed by his own.

 

Now that Williams was his second-in-command, McGarrett had to admit a grudging respect for the fact that the detective was willing to stand up to him when he disagreed. The confrontations they’d had thus far in their association were rare, but loud, causing the rest of the team to stay clear until the dust settled. The entire Five-0 staff took a measure of pleasure in the fact that their novice second-in-command was willing to step up to the plate and serve as a buffer between them and the man at the top. 

 

McGarrett was not overly harsh or insensitive deliberately, but he’d matured in the disciplined world of the military, and so was not one to mince words or be delicate – even where delicacy with his civilian employees would have served him better.

Williams took his responsibility towards the staff very seriously, and was willing to serve as an advocate for any one of them if he thought the cause was just, but he was also very protective and defensive about the staff’s attitude toward McGarrett. There were times when McGarrett’s actions or orders seemed unreasonable or callous, and Dan often went the extra mile to explain the man’s logic or perspective. This served everyone in the small group well as they were more willing to not be resentful when their boss was terse or gave orders that seemed unfair. Williams was the acknowledged perfect fulcrum between not only the team, but the world, and the brilliant, frequently-distracted top detective.

 

Usually, it was Williams attempting to maneuver his boss into a more reasonable position, and now the table was turned. McGarrett knew that Kaye was right – that Danno must allow the purging in the end. The risk to Williams personally was just too great to not go through with it.

 

The head of Five-0 had the impulse to push the issue with his second-in-command and just tell him the way that it had to be. Under more normal circumstances, he would’ve immediately exerted pressure on Williams – in no uncertain terms – to do the thing that he – Steve McGarrett – knew was best for him. To his frustration, this was a circumstance where he recognized that the young man needed time to come around, to think things through, and re-establish a measure of control over his life that had suddenly been ripped from him. To rush him in the decision, as much as McGarrett would will it so, would only serve to delay the process.

 

“Danny, please—” Kaye implored.

 

“I’m telling you that I need time to think about this,” Williams reiterated a little more softly. “It’s my day off.” His eyes turned to his silent boss. “Isn’t it?”

 

The thought ran through the detective’s mind that Steve might just order him to stay here and do whatever Kaye commanded. If that happened, he didn’t know what he’d do. His world seemed to be falling apart right before his eyes, and he was powerless to stop it.  He looked to McGarrett for much needed stability in his shifting universe.

 

To Dan’s huge relief, McGarrett took a step closer to him, but directed his words to the men across the table. “Yes, it’s your day off. And it’s your decision as to what happens.” With a sharp, punctuating jab of his finger towards Kaye, he finished the thought with a violence to his tone that made everyone in the room – except the already shell-shocked Williams – jump slightly. “And NOBODY is going to take that from you!”

 

The support from his mentor restored a measure of organized thought to Dan, whose gratitude registered with only a glance at his boss.

 

Kaye, dismay and frustration clear in his demeanor, recovered quickly and tried one more time to persuade the detective to stay. “Danny, we’re the good guys here!”

 

“Well my score card’s a little fuzzy right now if you don’t mind my saying so!” He responded vehemently. And with that he strode to the door and left.

 

“Steve, you’ve got to convince him to submit to the—the treatment!” Kaye took several steps toward the door through which the obstinate detective just departed.

 

“He needs a little time, and I’ve got to give him that,” McGarrett returned firmly. His thoughts turned to something that Williams had brought up a few moments earlier. He addressed Bellagio. “What needs to happen to remove Danno’s programming?”

 

“Actually, Danny was right. I am a needle man,” the doctor replied without humor. He explained. “The process is a little more involved than the one to which your man was subjected last month. I’ll have to use a stronger drug than Acetyl Narconal. As a result, I’ll need to monitor his heart rate and respirations. After he’s under, it will be a matter of peeling back the layers of conscious knowledge under which the target subject matter is buried. Depending upon what triggers we find, it could take hours or even days.”

 

McGarrett was appalled and could not hide that fact. He shook his head. “And the risk to him?”

 

The doctor, a gray-haired man in his fifties sporting an expensive Italian suit, shrugged, “Well, the drug itself can cause stress on the heart, but he’s young and healthy, so the greater unknown in this situation is which specific techniques and triggers were used to condition him – and I won’t know about them until I’ve had a chance to examine him – under the influence, if you will.”

 

The grim smile on Bellagio’s face chilled McGarrett, whose expression turned hard to hide his sudden distaste for the man, whom his friend would desperately need in the hours or days to come.

 

 

*****

 

As soon as Dan stepped from the double doors of the NIC, he broke into a run, and sprinted as fast as he could to his car. He wanted to escape – to run to the ocean and swim away and never look back. Once in his car, he sat there for a few moments, and lit a cigarette with trembling hands. Still reeling from the fact that he had no memory of what had been done to him, he was at a loss as to what he should do – not just strategically, but what he should do that very instant.

 

Maybe the story isn’t true…but Steve believes it is…Maybe it doesn’t matter whether it’s true… but the look on Steve’s face – he thinks it matters… Maybe I shouldn’t… Maybe I…  He closed his eyes for a few seconds and slowed expelled every bit of air from his lungs. Suddenly and violently, he slammed his fist on the steering wheel. Maybe worrying about it is a waste of valuable time!  

 

He decided that, since swimming away was not the answer, the next best thing was to follow through with his plan to hit the North Shore for some hard-core surfing action. Steve had recently begun a campaign to get him to give up what McGarrett viewed as an overly dangerous hobby. But as much as the boss railed on him for continuing the pursuit, Dan felt he had a right to decide for himself how to allocate his limited free time, and so steadfastly refused to discuss it. Today, in his resentment over his newly-discovered impotence over some aspects of his life, he determined that he would hit the big waves today. And who knew? Maybe he would just jump off his board and swim away.

 

 

*****

 

McGarrett tried to catch his friend in the parking lot at the NIC, but the upset detective’s car had just screeched around the corner and disappeared from sight by the time he’d made it outside. So, the head of Five-0 returned to the office, and while he did not expect his officer to return soon, each time his door opened and it wasn’t Danno, he felt a tinge of disappointment. May and the other detectives noticed that he was distracted and a little agitated, but couldn’t fathom the cause. May gently inquired whether everything was okay, and he insisted it was.

 

May was preparing to leave for the day when her boss stepped out of his office. Kono and Chin were returning from somewhere. The two men were engaged in animated conversation about the suspects they’d just interrogated.

 

Knowing the answer, but still needing to ask, McGarrett inquired, “Has anyone heard from Danno?” He thought his question sounded casual enough, but the three people who’d heard him suddenly realized that the status of their youngest team member was the source of the boss’s anxiety on this day.

 

The trio exchanged glances, and Kono was silently elected to respond. “Boss, he’s shootin’ the curls today.”

 

Knowing that McGarrett was not pleased with his second-in-command’s hobby, he decided not to mention that he and Chin had heard through police radio chatter that Williams had chosen to partake of the waves on a day with unusually rough surf. The HPD ranks were rife with surfing fans and so kept close track of any of their own that competed in the sport. For this reason, it was, to Dan’s annoyance and dismay, easy for his boss to track his surfing-related activities, as they were frequently broadcast like news announcements over the police band radio waves.

 

“I know he’s at Sunset, and I know the sets are breaking out at the fifth reef,” McGarrett informed them.

 

The head of Five-0 wasn’t certain of all the surfing lingo, but knew that when waves began to break that far out, they tended to be big and violent as they moved into the more shallow water along the shore.

 

The Pipe was one of the most treacherous surf spots in the world. In the winter, the giant waves, frequently over twenty-feet high, curled into green tubes of water for the ride of a lifetime. Sunset Beach, just down the coast from the world-famous Banzai Pipeline, where only serious surfers dared to challenge the ocean, offered waves that were not to be trifled with either. Normally, the sets were more predictable though, and a fall here was less likely to cause serious injury as there were fewer rocks under the surface of the water. The monster waves were gone now that spring had arrived, but there were occasions, such as this day, that a rare tropical storm in the northern Pacific could kick up some extraordinary surf turbulence, pushing the waves on Sunset to heights that could surpass the Pipeline’s. Those who thought they were up to the task came out to the North Shore to test their prowess against nature’s ferocity. Conditions like these usually necessitated a beach closure later in the day, but for a few hours, a skilled – and hopefully prepared – surfer could take his chances with nature.

 

“I listen to the radio too,” he reminded the Hawaiian detective, who shot a sheepish nod in Steve’s direction.

 

May gasped. “Why would he be out there today when it’s that –” she started to say dangerous, but thought better of it. “That active?”

 

“He’s making a point,” McGarrett replied mindlessly.

 

“To whom?”

 

“The world – me.” With that, he retreated back into his sanctuary and closed the door.

 

Seconds later the trio standing near the secretary’s desk heard a crash from inside their boss’s office. They all three cringed slightly, knowing the man was aggravated with his inability to control his young second-in-command, a rare situation for one whose every word was taken to heart by Williams.

 

“Coffee cup?” Kono suggested.

 

Chin nodded.

 

“Yep,” May said agreed softly.

.

 

*****

 

Even behind the closed door of his office, the head of Five-0 was annoyed with himself for the loss of self-control. The shards of ceramic that littered the floor were a testament to the level of his frustration and concern. His second-in-command was risking his life – as if it weren’t already at-risk enough – in what McGarrett knew was a pure and simple act of defiance. It was aggravating to be so angry at Williams and yet simultaneously so terrified for his safety.

 

A storm of emotions had kept Steve unable to focus ever since he’d returned from the NIC. He was as angry as Danno at the nameless individuals of the Arc that had used his friend. He vacillated between the options available to them. For awhile, he would mull over the risks associated with the de-programming process. If Doctor Bellagio pushed the wrong button, would his detective actually shut down? Was Danno’s conscious knowledge of this trigger enough to keep it from happening? Bellagio had explained earlier, after Williams stormed out, that any subject that had been successfully treated with this programming would be hard-pressed to avoid following the instructions. McGarrett replayed the conversation, as he struggled to see the solution.

 

“Mr. McGarrett, we are talking about levels of awareness here. The fact that Danny is now completely aware at level one -- the conscious state of the current moment – that he has been programmed will have no bearing on what he knows at other levels of awareness.”

 

Steve had the urge to wretch at the revelation, but stifled all physical reactions in the interest of seeking more answers. “If the mission leaders could elicit information from their keystones without narco-hypnotic whatever, why can’t you access the  information in the same way?” McGarrett demanded, desperate to find another option.

 

“I can answer that, Steve,” Kaye volunteered. “As part of the debriefing process, all verbal access codes would have been removed so that nobody could inadvertently say something and stumble upon a trigger—“

 

McGarrett interrupted, “Like what happened a few weeks ago.”

 

“Yes,” the doctor responded in Kaye’s stead. “Except that Danny was not at level one consciousness. I infer from this that whoever debriefed and de-programmed him was slip-shod and did not spend enough time burying what needed to be buried. Whether this works for or against us remains to be seen.”  

 

 

McGarrett rubbed the area between his eyebrows as he pondered the best course of action. Earlier, his gut reaction had been that the de-programming should take place immediately to free Danno of the risk from potential assassins. But now, after reviewing the frightening risks of the process, he wasn’t so sure. If it were him, would he rather risk being murdered? What would be the ramifications if Danno decided to refuse the de-programming?

 

He stepped out onto his lanai and pushed on the ornate railing as he pondered. Someone who shouldn’t know could find out – if they hadn’t already – and have Williams silenced. A cop can make unsavory enemies in the course of the regular business day, so it would be no shock for the world to read that a detective had been gunned down by someone seeking revenge. And the attack would come at a time of the perpetrator’s choosing, so there would be no way to protect Danno for any length of time. And if the first attack failed, there could always be another, and another…

 

On the other hand, perhaps the secret would remain hidden from those who would harm his friend. What then? Would everything be okay? Would all be as it had been before his own selfish behavior had drawn Danno out of his cover into the spotlight? Possibly. But then Doctor Bellagio said that whoever had “hidden” Danno’s level one triggers did a “slip-shod” job. Did this mean that somewhere along the line, somebody would inadvertently say something in passing that would set the detective off on the path to self-destruction? With the memory of the Fort Crawford incident still emblazoned in his mind, this seemed like a very real possibility.

 

As the breeze cooled his face, Steve decided that the risk to Dan to not allow the de-programming was the same as the risk to allow it, BUT with the added danger of being a target of the unscrupulous forces that had set this series of events in motion. If he cooperated with Kaye, then at least he would not be a target from outside forces. Of course, that was a big IF.

 

The anger and helplessness that had driven Williams out into the very dangerous surfing conditions – more dangerous than he would’ve considered in a cooler state of mind, McGarrett knew – was the next hurdle to be overcome. No good would come from trying to force the young man into something he didn’t want to do. His very act on this day – aimed squarely at those who would try – was an attempt to break free of control.

 

McGarrett was a man who expected his employees to snap-to just as his subordinates had in the Navy. Unlike the military however, what personnel did in their off-hours was none of his business. Until Williams came on board, this had not been a problem. The man brought so much to the table – a fresh, eager-to-please attitude and perspective, dedication to duty, and an endless supply of energy. McGarrett accepted that it would be his lot to deal with his youngest detective’s immaturity and an impetuous nature. He felt confident that he could guide (and command) and advise (and command) his protégé in such a way that would be to his betterment and that of Five-0.

 

Perhaps it mattered a little more to McGarrett because he had let Williams get under his skin. He had not intended for it to happen, but somehow over the course of time, Detective Danny Williams had become a friend and confidante. Not that Steve would have changed it even if he could. The surprising personal benefit of having someone who understood the pressures of his job, his passion for justice, and the roots of his private nature was a gift that McGarrett had not anticipated. Many of his heretofore private burdens were now shared, and the load was indeed lighter.

 

So, now McGarrett paced his office, wondering what he could do to exert influence on his friend that would not be viewed as control. The police radio banter about the unusually treacherous surf conditions and his wayward detective’s exploits at Sunset further raised his tension, but he couldn’t bring himself to turn the radio off. With each announcement, images of Williams on his board in the violent surf pressed in on him unbidden. Suddenly, the speaker crackled with a call for an ambulance to collect an injured surfer, and McGarrett considered closing the beach himself right there and then to put an end to the insanity. He stopped just short of making the call because he knew it would probably compound his problem.

 

If he had another coffee cup, he would’ve smashed it too.

 

*****

 

Perhaps it was the fact that he didn’t care at the time, but Dan miraculously managed to surf the monster sets without any wipeouts. Only the most daring were in the water on this day, and ambulances had been called twice to collect less fortunate surfers after their spills. Dan, frustration and excess energy spent on riding out each wave, finally decided the waves were getting too rough and called it a day. On any normal day, he would’ve never challenged Kanaloa, the Hawaiian God of the South Pacific, as he had just done.

 

Dragging his board onto the beach, several well-wishers and surf aficionados came over to congratulate him on his incredible rides. In no mood for praise or company, he politely begged out of a party invitation, and headed to his pickup.

 

“Danny, bruddah!” Paul Nakamura, the HPD officer on patrol this late afternoon, strolled up to the detective and collected the back half of the surf board to lend a hand.

 

“Hi, Paul,” Dan tried to respond enthusiastically, but found himself too physically drained at the moment to be convincing.

 

The detective didn’t complain when the patrolman lent a hand with his board either. He’d had some of the most intense rides he’d ever experienced, and his muscles felt depleted. Plus, since he’d become Steve’s second, he’d had little time for surfing, and definitely had a sense that he needed more practice if he were to maintain any level of skill at this sport. Perhaps it was time to consider retiring from the big sets.

 

“That was some hangin’ ten out there, man!” Nakamura was exuberant that he’d been here to witness the scene.

 

Dan smiled as they lifted the board into the back of Dan’s old red Dodge. “Thanks, man. So you’re HPD’s man-on-the-scene today?” Williams was referring to the HPD surfing reports that he knew peppered the airwaves.

 

“You know it, bruddah, and I’m one lucky kanaka today. I never saw any cop surf like you did today!”

 

Even as Dan heard the words, he realized he’d been incredibly fool-hardy and was lucky that Kanaloa had seen fit to spare him. “Thanks, Paul, but don’t count on seeing me do anything that stupid again in the near future.”

 

The patrolman didn’t seem to hear the detective’s words, “Everybody’s talkin’ about it!”

 

Williams couldn’t help but wonder what his boss was thinking, knowing that his second had taken such a risk. He thanked Nakamura for the kinds words and made his getaway as soon quickly as he could.

 

He took the long way back to Honolulu along the coast, and pulled off at the Kealohi Point lookout to enjoy the breath-taking vista of Kaneohe Bay. Not more than half a mile from the shore was Mokolii Island, or what the tour guides called Chinaman's Hat. Nicknamed for its conical shape, it presented a pleasant scene indeed to the detective who was in serious need of a place to ponder his immediate future.

 

He’d been reckless today, something about which his boss had warned him as when he accepted the position of second-in-command. It is distinctly possible, Williams, that you don’t have a job anymore. He knew that Steve was going to be tremendously disappointed in him – and angry if/when he learned about this stunt --  but wondered if it was a moot point.

 

He considered the distinct possibility that the Feds would move in on him, drug him, and take what they wanted from his head whether he consented or not. It seemed they were not above that sort of thing. Twenty four months of his life had been completely dedicated to serving what he thought had been officially-sanctioned, humanitarian purposes. To find out that he might’ve had a role in untoward agendas that resulted in the death of innocent people was almost more than he could comprehend – more than he could believe. Didn’t he know everything that was in his head? Or perhaps – he knew what he knew, but didn’t recognize it for what it was? He thought back to some of the psychology classes he’d taken in college. In fact, the books said that people can hide entire worlds from themselves. He’d recently read a case about a woman with several distinct personalities that did not know about each other. What was he hiding – being forced to hide from himself? Was he a murderer? Was it better that he never know his own horrible secrets? It was all so confusing. The disillusionment he was feeling was nothing short of life-changing. The world was not as he knew it to be.

 

He leaned on a rough lava rock and felt the sun drop below the meniscus of the ocean. Across the spectrum of humanity, there were good, ethical people and, on the other end of the bell curve, there were the not-so-moral individuals. The givers on one side and the takers on the other. They could be found in all walks of life, in all professions from bankers to cops to cooks to doctors. Now, he realized that the intelligence community was no different than any other population of human beings. The trick was to find the good and reveal the bad for what it was.

 

Sometimes, the good is harder to find than you would think, Dan mused, but that thought made him jump immediately to consideration of Steve McGarrett. Knowing this nightmare wasn’t Steve’s fault, he felt a little guilty at the concern he suspected he’d aroused during his exploits today. He knew full well that the HPD coconut wireless had been active today – there was no way his boss didn’t know where he was. This was the man who had stood up to the State Department for him, and he’d repaid him by lashing out at him in a rebellious display of irreverence for his own life.

 

The people he’d really like to get his hands on were lost to him, probably forever. Justice would not be served here, not today, Dan realized bitterly. It came to him that he needed to return and find Steve if for no other reason than to apologize. The man that was the bedrock of his life now was still there, probably volcanically angry at him, but standing by to guide and advise him through this mess with the Feds, and at the end of the day, Dan prayed he would find himself to be a giver.

 

 

*****

 

It was well after dark when Dan’s pickup rolled past the front of his apartment building to see his boss’s car parked imperiously in the fire lane at the front of his building. The vehicle’s owner leaned on the hood with his arms crossed. Not certain he was prepared for a confrontation, he realized that the diesel engine in his old bomb had given him away before he could decide to turn around.

 

Angry or concerned? The young man found himself feeling a little anxious – more anxious than he’d felt in hours – at the prospect of being berated by McGarrett. Steve’s opinion/reaction to his escapade was strangely more important to him than the uncertain future he was facing with de-programming.  He rolled to a stop in the street in front of the man whose penetrating gaze was now piercing him.

 

“You’re not playing Truth or Dare with the fire marshal again are you, Steve?” Dan’s expression was contrite as he tried and managed a weak smile.

 

McGarrett took a moment to study his friend, and could see no outward signs of trauma from his by-all-accounts harrowing afternoon in the surf. However dangerous it had been, Steve had to admit to himself that the intense physical activity had apparently had a positive effect on his detective’s frame of mind.

 

“You gonna park that rattle trap?” was Steve’s response. The familiar look was a mix of impatience and relief.

 

Dan smiled, and nodded. Steve walked around the front of the vehicle and slid into the passenger side to accompany his detective to the garage. Whew! Concerned – and maybe only a little angry!  

 

Dan did not know it, but he was the lesser of the relieved individuals in the truck. Steve could feel the knot that had been pressing against his diaphragm all day dissipating even as Williams maneuvered the vehicle into his assigned parking space in the garage. Dan turned the ignition off, but neither man moved to open a door. The driver was fully expecting his passenger to open up on him with both barrels, so he held his breath and waited. He had it coming, and he’d decided during his drive that whatever his boss said or did would have to be all right with him.

 

Finally, after an agonizing thirty seconds of silence, McGarrett did speak, but the tone was not harsh or loud. “You scared me today.” 

 

The very personal admission made Dan feel all the worse for what he’d done. The words were almost physically painful to him, and he wondered in passing whether an enraged McGarrett would’ve been easier to handle.

 

Dan studied the steering wheel and swallowed to clear the lump in his throat. “I don’t suppose that saying I’m sorry and that I’ll never do anything so stupid again would help.”  The detective did not feel up to offering excuses – he knew Steve hated them. There was no place in the world of Five-0 for somebody who used excuses.

 

His officer’s regret and calm carriage went a long way this evening toward healing the pain he did admit that he felt, and easing the difficulty of making such an open, personal admission. Not normally one to quickly forgive and forget, McGarrett couldn’t help on this particular occasion feeling that there were extenuating circumstances which contributed to Williams’ behavior (It secretly pleased him that the detective had offered up none of those circumstances in his defense.). After all, his protégé had learned only hours earlier that he was a victim of those in positions of trust – possibly a victim whose life as he knew it would be laid on the alter of some hidden, less-than-noble agenda.

 

Torn between anger at the trauma he’d endured today as he was compelled to listen to the terrifying surf banter on the police radio and the release from his torment of concern, Steve opted for the gentler of the emotions on this evening. He was just grateful that his friend had returned, apparently uninjured and now reasonable enough to discuss what needed to be done to purge themselves of the Romeo Foxtrot problem. 

 

“Are you all right?” McGarrett sighed as he asked.

 

Dan slowly exhaled. His mentor was still in his corner – he expected it – but it felt good to actually hear it in Steve’s voice. “Yeah, I’m fine – just hungry and tired.” He looked up from the steering wheel and met the man’s gaze.

 

“Okay, then. Why don’t you go up and change, and I’ll buy you dinner.”

 

Apology accepted! Williams knew the invitation was not a request, but he was only too happy to comply.  “That’s the best offer I’ve had today!”

 

Both men climbed out of the truck and moved up the ramp of the garage. Dan had his surfboard in tow, and knew that the elevator from the garage would not accommodate it. They would have to take the stairs.

 

As the pair stepped away from the protection of the truck, they both heard the screeching of tires – not the noise all tires make when they turn on the cement floors of garages – but the kind that leaves a lot of rubber as a vehicle speeds up faster than traction will allow. Dan, encumbered by his board, couldn’t turn quickly enough to see the oncoming sedan.

 

“Danno!” Steve screamed as he dove towards the detective. He managed to knock Dan roughly to the floor, sliding them partially under the bed of the pickup. The surf board was struck with a loud crack, one half flying up onto the trunk of Dan’s Five-0 vehicle and the other chunk landing loudly in the back of the pickup.

 

Gasping, Dan quickly assessed himself and, feeling no pain, looked to his friend who was draped across his chest. “Steve!” He couldn’t sit up until he slid the two of them out from under the exhaust pipe.

 

McGarrett cried out in pain but the words were not to say he was injured. “Danno, you hurt?”

 

Williams started to reply, but heard the offending vehicle backing up, and feared that gunplay would be involved next. Not armed himself, he reached into Steve’s suit and retrieved his service revolver. “Stay down!” Dan ordered, and sprung to his feet in a crouch.

 

He’d barely made it into a defensible stance when he saw the flash from the passenger side of the car and heard the pop of a silencer. He began firing into the vehicle as its driver reversed direction again and sped off out of the garage and around the corner out of sight. Dan emptied McGarrett’s clip into the tires of the fleeing vehicle and was certain that he’d hit his mark, but blown tires did not stop the car’s exodus.

 

With the immediate threat gone, Williams turned back to see that McGarrett had pulled himself to a sitting position and was clutching his chest. The grimace on the man’s face told his second-in-command that he needed medical attention. He rushed back to his boss and dropped to his knees to evaluate the situation.

 

“Steve, where are you hurt?” He did a quick visual inspection of the area McGarrett seemed to be protecting. “I’ll call an ambulance,” the concerned detective assured.

 

“Wait, Danno, no!” McGarrett snapped through clenched teeth. “It’s just my ribs! Don’t bother with an ambulance!”

 

Williams hesitated at the order. “You might be hurt worse than you think,” he offered doubtfully, debating whether he should disregard his boss’s order, and call an ambulance anyway.

 

“I know what you’re thinking, Danno, and don’t do it! Just help me get up!” McGarrett looked up into his friend’s eyes and still saw doubt. Trying to add a measure of calm to his voice, he spoke more slowly. “Really. I think I just bruised my ribs.”

 

“The car didn’t hit you?” Dan placed his hand on the man’s shoulder.

 

“No! Now help me up!” McGarrett barked snapped a little more forcefully. Dan relented, and with his keys, he opened the passenger door to his sedan and eased his boss into the seat. Ever in charge, McGarrett, slipped his keys into Dan’s hand, and barked the next set of commands. “Get my car while I put out an APB!”

 

Williams nodded. “Right.” And with that he sprinted up the ramp and around the corner, slowly only to make sure nobody was lying in wait to ambush him.

 

 

*****

 

Dan, despite Steve’s protestations, had contacted Doctor Bergman and requested a house call at Steve’s place. The physician made good time and agreed with the patient’s self-diagnosis – bruised – possibly cracked -- ribs.

 

“I’ve wrapped him up, and offered pain killers – which he refused,” Bergman grumbled as Dan escorted him to the door. “No strenuous activity for a few days. Remind him of that!”

 

“Thanks, Doc. I will,” the officer responded gratefully.

 

Bergman stopped with his hand on the door knob, regarded Williams. “And are you okay, Danny?”

 

“Oh yeah,” he responded confidently. “The car missed me by a mile!”

 

“I didn’t mean the car. I heard you were out at Sunset today.”

 

Dan grimaced and then lamented, “Boy, Paul Nakamura should go into broadcasting. I’m fine – not a scratch, but thanks.” Williams knew he was not always an easy patient, but he did appreciate Bergman’s persistent and stubborn concern for his welfare and that of the other members of his team.

 

“Danno!”

 

The bark emanating from the master bedroom startled both men and they smiled as they said their good nights. Dan locked the door behind the doctor, and trotted into the bedroom where Steve lay on his bed, shirtless, his chest wrapped snugly with an ace bandage.

 

“How are you feeling?” Dan asked, anguish obvious in his voice, as he sat down in the stool that sat by the head of the bed.

 

“You’re the one taking the killers sets, and I’m the one that ends up immobilized – go figure. Maybe I should just take up surfing,” Steve joked trying to lighten his friend’s distressed disposition. It didn’t work.

 

“Steve, this is all my fault. You could’ve been killed trying to save my hide.” Saying the words made his lips tremble. “Somebody was gunning for me – not you.” It wasn’t until after the gunplay in the garage that Dan had considered that not only was he at risk, but that anyone around him could be part of the target. “You were almost killed,” the detective said softly, making no attempt to hide the emotion.

 

“Well, we both lived to do something about it, haven’t we?” Steve spoke with assurance, and tried to guide his friend toward a more productive train of thought. “Did we catch anybody?”

 

Dan shook his head. “We found the car, about eight blocks away, abandoned. It was reported stolen a few hours ago. It looks like I hit somebody on the inside. There was quite a bit of blood, but no bodies.”

 

Steve nodded and continued. “Off the top of my head, I can think of a dozen or more hoods who’d like to see you -- us --  pushing up daisies.” It was an opening that the lead detective hoped that his protégé would take.

 

Williams ran his hand over his curls and looked down. The excitement of the evening and his concern for his friend had pushed thoughts of Romeo Foxtrot out of his mind. Now, the obvious paranoid answer to Steve’s non-question question was that one or more of the Arc takers had learned that he was might be about to start coughing up incriminating information.

 

“You, uh, you think it’s just a coincidence?” Dan asked.

 

Bait being examined. Steve shrugged. “What do you think?”  He was determined to make his detective arrive at the answer on his own.

 

“You sound like a psychiatrist,” Dan mumbled.

 

“No need to get offensive,” Steve smiled.

 

Dan looked at him, a flicker of humor crossing his face, but he quickly became solemn again. “You’re toying with me.”

 

Steve cocked his head and folded his arms. “Now, why would I do that?”

 

“I was a jerk earlier, and you’re afraid that if you don’t let me decide for myself how it is on this, I might just decide to be a jerk again.” With chagrin and regret consuming him, Dan looked up at his boss, who was smiling at his officer’s self-punishing explanation.

 

“Danno, my friend, you are absolutely correct – not about being a jerk – there are some things that only you have a right to decide. One of them is whether to trust Jonathan Kaye.”

 

“I was kind of rough on him today too,” the detective mused. What a day of regret!

 

“He’ll get over it,” Steve assured.

 

“Not everybody is like you, Steve,” Dan smiled.

 

“Are you thinking, ‘Thank God’?”

 

Dan laughed for the first time since he didn’t know when. “On the contrary.” And then had to look away as he admitted, “I’m just grateful you—you understand.” 

 

Steve couldn’t resist a quick squeeze of his friend’s knee. He always struggled to not feel such affection for his detectives – he’d always believed that to get too close was to lose the ability to effectively command. But his young associate just made it too tough sometimes.

 

As it came to pass, he’d decided to stop being concerned about that which he could not control, namely the opinions and idle gossip of others. After all, he would have been a fool to deny that the entire Five-0 staff as well as the rest of the law enforcement community could see that Williams held his favor above all others. He argued with himself that Danno was so very worthy of his esteem – and friendship. The man’s dedication to the mission of Five-0 was beginning to rival his own he thought. And he knew his devotion to him as a leader – and friend – was like nothing he’d ever experienced before – in his entire life. As different as two personalities could be, they obviously were that different. But their common ideals, goals, integrity, mutual respect – and their work bound them together. To not feel affection for Danny Williams would have made Steve McGarrett less than human, and so he now indulged in the occasional acknowledgement of this sentiment. And to Hell with anybody who thought this was a problem!

 

Dan leaned his elbows on his knees. “Steve, I need your help on this. I value your opinion.” There was a quiet desperation to his voice. “Do you trust Kaye?”

 

Bait taken and swallowed! McGarrett maintained eye contact as he answered the question. “Yes, Danno, I do.”

 

There it was. Steve trusted Jonathan Kaye. Williams sat up straight again, and inhaled before he replied. “Okay, then so do I.”

 

“So we trust Kaye.”

 

“Do you think that I’m taking a big risk if don’t let them – purge me?”

 

“I think – I fear – that you are at risk.” He was frank. “Especially after this evening.”

 

“And clearly so is everybody around me.” Dan’s gaze met Steve’s. “I guess I have to let Kaye’s doc do a little housekeeping for me. I just wish I could understand how something like this could happen without me noticing.”

 

McGarrett understood his friend’s puzzlement as he himself did not entirely understand the medical basis for the mind games that were played in the twilight world of espionage. “Danno, I can only tell you that whatever happens, I’ll be there watching your back. We’ll get through this together, and get back to the business of being cops.”

 

Dan, no longer facing the unknown inside himself alone, felt an order of magnitude better, but he had the need to share his concern with his mentor. “I have to admit that—that I’m a little—worried – that I’ll wake up and find out that I’m a mass murderer or something – OR that I just won’t wake up at all. Am I really capable of doing that to myself? That really scares me.”

 

Steve considered the best way to respond to his friend’s admissions. “Danno, you trust me.” He paused as Williams acknowledged the statement.

 

“With my life,” came the soft, but definitive answer.

 

Steve smiled and continued. “Then mark my words -- whatever they uncover locked away in that stubborn head of yours, I guarantee it won’t be any criminal act or evil deed on your part. They couldn’t get you to do the evil they bade you to do, so let’s put that thought to bed.”

 

That Steve McGarrett knew – not thought – that he would never voluntarily take part in something sinister injected Williams with a measure of confidence that he would not have felt if he’d heard the statement from anyone else.

 

McGarrett leaned back and shifted slightly to get a little more comfortable, unable to completely stifle a grimace in the process. Dan leaned forward and readjusted the pillows behind him as Steve proceeded. “As for the not waking up – I don’t know how yet, but we’re just gonna have to make sure that doesn’t happen.”

 

Dan understood that there was no way Steve could promise that the session with Doctor Bellagio would not turn sour, but, however irrational, it felt good to hear McGarrett order that everything go well. So, often, it seemed to Williams that whatever his boss commanded, however impossible or unlikely, happened.

 

Williams nodded, and rose from the stool. He opened the door to the lanai and let the tropical night air waft into the room. Steve McGarrett – his trusted mentor and friend – wanted him to cooperate with Kaye. And so it would be. He would do his part to help unmask the wrongdoers, and hopefully be cleansed himself in the process.

 

*****

 

The next morning, the head of Five-0 and his second-in-command were already locked away in the big office before anyone else arrived. Dan had stayed in the guest room at Steve’s place since they agreed there was a distinct possibility that whoever had made the attempt on Dan’s life earlier would try it again.

 

Arrangements made with Jonathan Kaye, the pair discussed the cover story for Dan’s potential multi-day absence. Both men hated to lie to their fellow team members, but Steve was experienced enough with cloak-and-dagger work to know that it was best to have a consistent story across the board, and keep the rest of the staff on a need-to-know basis for their own protection.  No telling how far this Arc Foundation was willing to go to reach Williams.

 

Dan stepped out of his boss’s office to allow Steve to take a phone call from the Governor. The other two detectives and the secretary greeted him. All were happy that their errant detective was back in the fold, but chastised him for his reckless behavior the day before.

 

“Danny, do you know what you put the boss through yesterday?” May scolded Williams even as she gave him a quick hug.

 

“Yeah. Steve already let me know last night.” The detective responded apologetically.

 

His audience exchanged nods, imagining the scene when their irate and worried boss got his hands on his second-in-command.

 

“I’m sorry if I caused any trouble in the office yesterday.” Now, it was Williams’ turn to imagine how unpleasant the office must have been with the McGarrett tiger prowling the halls of the Palace.

 

Somewhat mollified, but not completely over her ire, she continued, “You could’ve been killed!”

 

Dan sighed. All he could do was agree.

 

Before any more words could be exchanged, Steve stepped out of his office, slipping his suit jacket on as he moved. Having caught May’s rebuke, he touched her shoulder gently in passing – a quiet thank you, and spoke quickly.

 

“Don’t be too hard on him, Love. He’ll be doing his penance for me today, tomorrow, and possibly the next day, at the NIC. The State Department has some classified files on Pacific Rim issues that Danno is officially cleared to organize and evaluate for relevance to our area of influence – namely Hawaii.”

 

The “punishment” secretly sounded worse than death to Kono and Chin, but both men suspected that their second-in-command must have been on the hook to do it before he’d aggravated the boss. This little suspicion made them wonder how the detective had gotten around McGarrett’s wrath in such short order, as clearly today, the man was in a much better frame of mind, and not outwardly upset with Williams.

 

McGarrett continued moving, just a little slower and stiffer than usual, but no one commented or seemed to notice. He gave Williams a pat. “Let’s go Danno!”

 

The younger detective gave everyone an honestly unhappy nod as he followed his boss out the door. No need for acting – Dan was truly not anxious to reconvene with the team of spooks – even if they were the good guys.

 

*****

 

“Yes, in answer to the question you’re preparing to ask,” Doctor Bellagio said as he offered Dan a small glass of what looked like orange juice. “It IS spiked -- with a milder version of what you were served up before.”

 

Dan glanced uncertainly towards Steve, who stood next to him in the basement of the building next door to the NIC Headquarters. The room looked like a hospital employee break area, with walls of pale yellow ceramic tiles devoid of any adornments, a brown, naughahyde sofa and a couple of matching chairs, and a small refrigerator. Also present were Jonathan Kaye, Troy Lane, and Trevor Johnson – the same men who were there the previous morning when Williams was briefed. 

 

Bellagio addressed his explanation to the young detective, “This merely serves to relax and prepare you for a much more potent drug, which I will administer through an IV.”

 

When Dan made no immediate move to take the cocktail, the doctor encouraged Williams jokingly, “It’s better than a few martinis – I promise.”

 

Dan sighed and accepted the glass. He raised it as if in toast to Steve, and swallowed the concoction in a few gulps. “And better than Army coffee.”

 

The doctor smiled briefly at his patient, and then turned to the other men. “We’ll begin with Danny’s conscious memory of events. That will be the foundation from which we begin our exploration.

 

As I must have complete silence throughout this part of the procedure, you gentlemen may observe the proceedings from an observation room which is adjacent to the room in which Danny and I will conduct our business.”

 

Kaye nodded, but asked, “Will we be able to ask questions or get clarifications?”

 

“Only by passing me a note – and I can’t guarantee that I can get an answer for you, but I’ll try.”

 

“I want to remember, Doc,” Dan spoke up. He further clarified, “I don’t want what’s in my head hidden from me.”

 

Bellagio exchanged glances with Kaye, who nodded and spoke. “I think that’s the least we can do, Danny.”

 

McGarrett patted Williams on the shoulder as a subtle show of support, and he could see the orange solution was taking effect. His friend was clearly feeling much more relaxed than when they’d entered the facility.

 

“I think we’d better begin,” Bellagio announced noting the change in his patient. “Danny, please go with Trevor. He’ll prepare you for our journey, and he’ll be monitoring your vital signs as we proceed.” Bellagio’s demeanor was gentle, and gave the mildly wary McGarrett a little better sense that his detective was in good hands.

 

Trevor grabbed Dan’s arm to guide him to the door, and Dan looked at the man for a moment before he spoke. “You’re a nurse? How disappointing.”

 

Trevor let out a small guffaw, and responded, “You don’t exactly ring my bell either.”

 

Dan mumbled, “Good.”

 

As they reached the door, Dan turned suddenly to look back at Steve. “Uh, Steve?”

 

McGarrett joined his detective at the door and squeezed his shoulder, “Yeah, Danno?”

 

“Thanks.”

 

Steve, knowing that the word held more than gratitude, nodded in response. “I won’t be far, my friend.”

 

Dan smiled. “I know.” And with that, he and Trevor slipped out the door and disappeared down the hallway.

 

 

*****

 

 

A few minutes later, McGarrett, Kaye, and Lane were seated in the observation room with a clear view through the two-way mirror into a room that reminded McGarrett of a dentist’s office, Dan was seated in a medical recliner, shirtless, looking a bit glassy-eyed, Steve thought. EKG and EEG lead wires ran from the detective’s chest and face and disappeared behind the recliner. An IV bottle filled with clear fluid dangled from a metal hook nearby, and the tube that ran from it meandered its way to the back of Williams’ left hand, where it disappeared under white medical tape. Trevor was seated on a stool at Dan’s right with a stethoscope in his ears and the pump attached to the blood pressure cuff which was secured around Dan’s right bicep.

 

Two monitors suspended behind the recliner displayed the patient’s heart and brain functions. Small, fluorescent green blips rhythmically traced lines across the screens, providing Steve with a measure of comfort that everything was progressing as it should with his friend. Despite the positive indications, McGarrett could feel the anxiety causing a tightness in his own chest.

 

Maybe I need one of those OJ cocktails, he mused silently.

 

When Doctor Bellagio entered the room, the patient lethargically turned his head to look at the physician, who gave him a reassuring nod as he turned on the tape recorder and flipped open a spiral notebook. Bellagio took a seat on a stool next to the IV bottle and before speaking took a moment to study the monitors and get a nod of approval from his assistant.

 

“So, Doc,” Dan’s voice was fluid and relaxed. “Why did you create this…this narco-hypnotic protocol?”

 

“A good question, Danny,” Bellagio responded slowly. “I can assure you, it was never intended to do what the Arc did with it. The idea was that we could reduce the risk of sensitive information falling into the wrong hands by expanding a man’s capacity to memorize important mission data.”

 

“Did you ever…ever program anybody for the Arc?” Williams questioned.

 

 “Yes, yes, I did, in the beginning, but I left the program to pursue clinical studies in nineteen-sixty-one.” The doctor responded as he jotted down a short note. “We’re going to start with what you remember and work our way back.”

 

Dan nodded slightly, a resigned expression clouding his face.

 

The process was similar to what Steve had witnessed weeks earlier at Fort Crawford. After Bellagio injected something into the IV line, he had Dan count backwards until he descended into the appropriate state.

 

The doctor began by asking Dan about his school, his military training, and the Arc-specific indoctrination to which he was subjected. The patient revealed a more in-depth picture of what he’d already shared with his boss the previous week. The doctor asked the questions and Williams responded softly with no hesitance until Bellagio began raising mission-specific issues

 

“Danny, how many missions did you run for the Arc?” 

 

When no answer was forthcoming, Bellagio repeated the question with the same result. With a glance at his assistant, he scratched something on the notepad, and tried a different question. “Were your special orders the same for each mission?” Once again, there was no reaction. “Danny, can you hear me?”

 

“Hmm, yes,” came the soft response.

 

“Why don’t you answer my questions about your special orders?”

 

“Can’t.”

 

“Why can’t you?”

 

“Can’t.”

 

Bellagio frowned and stood. He paced back and forth in front of his subject for a good half minute, rubbing his chin, before he spoke again. “Danny, do you know that you are safe and among friends now?”

 

Once again, no response was forthcoming.

 

The doctor took a few more paces, stopped to study the patient. For a few seconds, he stood as if frozen in position, and then turned suddenly to stare through the two-way mirror. A glimmer of realization brushed across his face as he turned back towards Trevor and put up his hand in a hold-tight signal. He quietly stepped out of the room and appeared moments later in the observation room.

 

“What’s going on?” McGarrett didn’t try to conceal his concern.

 

Bellagio smiled and folded his arms. “We have a little trust problem.”

 

Kaye spoke up, “You mean he doesn’t trust us?”

 

“Well, nobody turns trust on and off like a water spigot. It’s not voluntary.” The doctor shrugged. “He decided consciously to trust, but that trust has not been translated into the conviction that I can be trusted. Therefore, he’s holding back.”

 

“Well, can’t you just tell him to trust you?” Kaye was frustrated and not sure that he understood.

 

“Jonathan, haven’t you heard what I just said?” Bellagio’s voice sounded amused and a little patronizing. “Nobody can force someone to trust.”

 

Lane spoke, “Well, what can we do?”

 

Bellagio smiled and looked at McGarrett. “He needs a guide – someone he trusts.” All eyes in the room quickly snapped to the head of Five-0, who stared intently at the doctor.

 

“A guide?”

 

“Someone to lead him from the subconscious world – with his cache of now-buried information – into the conscious light of day.”

 

The detective stood immobile staring at the doctor as if he were speaking a foreign language. Damn psychiatrists! Never a straight answer!

 

When nobody else in the room spoke, Bellagio elaborated. “You need to be there with him, and reassure him as we proceed. My assurances don’t mean anything to him. Are you willing?”

 

“My presence won’t—rock the boat?”

 

“I submit that your presence will keep the boat floating.” Bellagio explained his plan. “You and I together must help Danny consciously acknowledge the information that has been heretofore hidden. You see, we don’t know what verbal keys will force him to open up, and frankly, I’m not willing to risk trying to pry them out of him. I can see from the time I’ve spent with him thus far that he has the capacity to shut down if he perceives a threat.”

 

The thing that Dan had feared the most  about this situation – here it was looking Steve McGarrett in the face. He could feel himself becoming warm as he saw that it was going to be up to him to deal with his own rare lack of confidence and help his friend traverse the mental land mines that had been planted in his brain.

 

The doctor glanced at his wrist watch before he interjected, “Two hours – my God, it’s been two hours already. My goal is not to make Danny regurgitate all of the information stored in his head. That could take days. Rather, I want you, Mr. McGarrett, to help me show him that he doesn’t need a key to share the information with his conscious level.”

 

McGarrett was beginning to understand. “And Danno can then share the information with whomever he so chooses when he wakes up!”

 

“Exactly!” The doctor nodded, and then added, “And it will minimize the number of doses of acetyl pentothal I must administer to him.”

 

Kaye spoke up, frowning slightly, “So, Doc, you’re telling us that Danny will consciously remember everything the Arc stuffed into his head?”

 

Bellagio held his hand up, “I can’t guarantee that he’ll remember everything – as a matter of fact, I can’t promise he’ll be willing – or able   to remember any of it. But I think it’s the safest thing to do for him at this point.”

 

“Then that’s what we do,” McGarrett said with conviction, making eye contact with each man in the room before fixing his gaze on Kaye. “And then, Jonathan, you’ll be able to debrief him yourself.”

 

“Okay, it makes sense,” Kaye agreed, and Troy Lane nodded as well.     

 

The doctor invited the detective with his arm extended toward the door. McGarrett threw one last glance at Kaye before leaving with Bellagio.

 

Trevor, upon seeing the detective return with his boss, slid an empty stool that had been behind him towards the end of the recliner. McGarrett gave the slightest acknowledgement and took a seat.

 

The doctor began speaking before he was completely situated on his stool. “Danny, I want you to know that someone else is here with us.” He gave a nod of encouragement to Steve.

 

Say the right thing…say the right thing, He silently recited his mantra before he spoke. “Danno…Danno…I’m right here with you, and I’m going to be with you every step of the way. Is that okay with you?”

 

“Steve.” One word came out, nothing else. Dan’s eyes were closed and his head rested in the special indentation meant for that on the recliner.

 

“Do you want me to stay with you?”

 

“Steve…yes…stay…” A hint of relief seemed present in the young man’s voice.

 

“Good – then I’ll stay. Doctor Bellagio is here too, and everything is fine.” McGarrett did his best to sound calm despite the pressure in his gut telling him that he was playing with fire.

 

The doctor nodded with approval. “Danny, we’re going to talk about a door. It’s not a real door – rather, it’s a door in your mind. Now this door is closed right now, and we need to open it so that you may know what’s behind the door. We don’t have a key, but that’s okay – you can open the door anyway. You don’t need a key, because the door is not locked. Do you understand?”

 

“What door?” A frown flickered momentarily on the young man’s face.

 

“I’m going to show you the door in just a moment by telling you where to look. When I tell you, you must not demand a key, because you do not need a key. Do you trust Steve?”

 

“Yes.”

 

“Then when he tells you that you do not need a key to reveal the information to yourself and to him, will you know that this is true?”

 

“Yes.”

 

Bellagio nodded at McGarrett and motioned for him to speak.

 

“Danno, whatever you were told about the information behind the door doesn’t matter now. I’m telling you that you do not need a key.” Steve spoke softly, but emphatically, hoping that he was taking the doctor’s lead appropriately. “Do you understand?”

 

“I don’t need a key,” Dan replied.

 

The physician gave a brief nod of encouragement to Steve, who was feeling as insecure about his role in this as he had felt about anything for many years. Not generally one to take stock in the words of a psychiatric professional, it was disconcerting for the detective to feel so dependent on the man’s expertise in this shadow world of the subconscious.

 

Bellagio removed a syringe from his bag, filled it from a small glass bottle, and deftly injected it into Dan’s IV line. As he did this, Trevor pulled out two wrist restraints, and secured Williams’ hands to the arm rests. No reaction came from the subject as the medical aide performed this duty. Steve was horrified that the doctor saw the necessity to restrain his friend, but held his tongue as he harkened almost instantly to the struggle at Fort Crawford.

 

Bellagio flipped a page on his notebook and peered through the glasses perched on the end of his nose. “Very well, Danny. Then I will tell you now that the signal is Romeo Foxtrot.”  The words were so simple. The doctor paused to study his patient.

 

McGarrett tensed visibly, waiting for, fearing some explosive reaction.

 

Dan frowned, but said nothing and did not so much as tug at the restraints.

 

Bellagio waited about thirty seconds, and then cocked his head in such a way that Trevor knew he was expecting a report.

 

Trevor complied in a soft voice. “Heart rate’s up from 68 to 85. Respirations are up a little, and he’s still in normal sinus rhythm.”

 

Bellagio acknowledged the information without speaking with a simple nod of his head before he spoke again to his patient. “Danny, behind the Romeo Foxtrot door, there is information. Open the door and reveal it to yourself. Can you do that?”

 

Dan began to fidget a little and twist his wrists against the restraints, not violently, but enough to cause the doctor to nod at the head of Five-0.

 

Taking his queue, the detective spoke. “Danno, remember that you do not need a key to share this information with yourself. Do you understand?”

 

The young man continued squirming and moaned softly. His breathing had become shallow, and had a panicky sound to it Steve thought as he asked again a little more emphatically, “Danno, do you understand?”

 

“No key?”

 

“No key,” Steve confirmed emphatically. “You may know this information, and share it with those you trust. Do you understand?”

 

“Ye—yes.” Williams was almost panting at this point, and McGarrett looked at Bellagio to gauge his reaction to his friend’s condition.

 

Trevor injected, “Heart rate’s up to 110, respirations – 80.”

 

The doctor pressed on. “Danny, is the door open?”

 

“I— I said yes, sir. I said yes, sir, but I didn’t do it,” the young man breathed the words, fear evident in his out-of-breath words.

 

“Danny, there’s nothing to fear now. You’re looking at what was – not what is.” The doctor’s voice was calm and soothing. He gave a quick nod to McGarrett, who picked up the thread.

 

“Danno, stay here with me. You’re okay.”

 

“Steve…Steve…so much…so…” Dan still panted, but fidgeted less.

 

“Danny, you must remember this information when you wake up.” Bellagio started to say something else, but Trevor jumped in suddenly.

 

“Doctor, he’s throwing PVC’s!”

 

Bellagio’s head snapped up to the heart monitor to observe the erratic blips that invaded the rhythmic beating of the patient’s heart. “Time’s up,” he said quickly under his breath, but before he could say anything else, Dan gasped softly and went limp.

 

McGarrett stood helplessly as he watched the little green blip take on a different character than had been displayed previously. His own heart felt crushed in his chest as he knew realized something was drastically wrong.

 

Trevor shouted now, “He’s in V-Fib!”

 

“Get him on the floor!” Bellagio commanded as he moved to un-strap Dan’s wrists.

 

All three men moved quickly and lifted the unconscious man from the recliner to tile. As Trevor turned on a portable cardiac defibrillator and squirted conducting lubricant on the cardiac paddles, Bellagio popped Dan in the chest with his fist – a precordial thump that made McGarrett jump slightly.

 

“Charge to 400 watt-seconds!” Bellagio barked as Lane and Kaye rushed into the room, no longer willing to observe from the beyond the mirror. Trevor handed the doctor the paddles and leaned back.

 

“Clear!” came the doctor’s warning. A second later he placed the paddles on Williams’ chest and pressed the button under his right thumb. Dan’s body arced as the volts coursed through. Everyone in the room followed the leads of the medical personnel as their eyes jumped to the heart monitor.

 

Almost at once, a rhythm re-appeared on the monitor.

 

“Sinus rhythm,” Trevor breathed, and Bellagio blew out a breath and shook his head.

 

Beads of sweat were now visible on the physician’s head. He was a psychiatrist and did not normally find himself dealing with life and death situations. The man was well versed in the rudiments of dealing with cardiac problems, but that did not make him any less tense when the situation arose. He made eye contact with the one person in the room more tense than him.

 

McGarrett spoke first.  “What happened? Is he all right now?” Steve moved to kneel close to his friend as he stared at the doctor, whose expression did nothing to alleviate the abject terror that had built up in the detective. Accustomed to being able to take action to change the course of events, he found his lack of knowledge about what had just happened and what should be done to help his friend all the more gut-wrenching.

 

Bellagio took Dan’s carotid pulse before he responded, “The last dose of acetyl pentothal must have been too much for him. His vitals are stabilizing now.”

 

Troy Lane stepped a little closer. “How soon will he wake up?”

 

McGarrett’s temper flared. “You mean how soon will he be able to tell you what he knows! Let me answer that – whenever he’s good and ready – and NOT before!”

 

“I’m sorry, I didn’t mean—” Lane started, but McGarrett cut him off.

 

“Forget it,” the detective snapped – he didn’t want his attention diverted from his friend for another second.

 

As if on queue, Dan let out a soft groan and turned his head. Relief flooded McGarrett, and he touched Williams’ head gently.

 

“Danno…Danno.. .Can you hear me?”

 

The young man moaned again and slowly took in a breath. Ten agonizing seconds later, Dan slowly opened his eyes and panned about the room.

 

“Danno, speak to me,” McGarrett commanded gently.

 

Williams tried to focus on the man, but couldn’t make the image sharp.  He knew who it was anyway. “Steve.”

 

“How are you?” It might’ve be a stupid question, but McGarrett didn’t know what else to ask.

 

“Tired… so tired…can I rest?” Dan could barely keep his eyes open and had no thought to ask what had happened.

 

“Of course, rest, my friend,” Steve replied gently, and Dan’s eyes closed.

 

“He’ll probably need at least an hour to shake off the immediate effects of the drug, and then I dare say he’ll need to sleep another twelve hours after he eats something.”

 

“Does he need to be monitored medically?” McGarrett could not shake the memory of the erratic blip on the heart monitor.

 

“He’s out of immediate danger now, but I’d like to keep an eye on him for a couple hours.” Bellagio pulled a handkerchief from his pocket and wiped his face.

 

“Doctor, do you have a sense that you were successful?” Kaye inquired, careful to not seem overly anxious. He didn’t want the very defensive cop kneeling nearby to over-react to his question.

 

Jonathan Kaye had known Steve McGarrett for numerous years, and in all that time, he had never seen the man acknowledge an emotional attachment for anyone. To the contrary, the military commander with whom he began his association was renowned not only for his incredible investigative successes, but also for his aloof mystique and the solitary existence he seemed to lead. Now, it was amazing indeed to Kaye to see this pillar of discipline and self-control behave so protectively over his man. Clearly, McGarrett still ruled with an iron fist, but he had somehow let down his defenses and allowed this young man inside the protective shell that surrounded him. 

 

Bellagio rubbed his neck. “I would’ve preferred to have had the opportunity to reinforce the instruction, but there was only so much I could do with the time that we had. We’re just fortunate that he trusts Mr. McGarrett like he does. Otherwise, I’m convinced that we would never extricate any information from him without the appropriate key codes.”

 

 

*****

 

 

“The one that got away…”

 

“Correction—the one that you released!” The voice hissed.

 

“How could anyone have seen this coming?” responded the defensive voice. “Anyway, it doesn’t matter. He’ll be handled in short order now.”

 

“We have a different problem now that your first team blew it, George. Kaye’s had his hooks into him all day. With the nature of the programming, they may or may not have learned anything damaging. We need to know what he’s revealed before he goes away. I’ll handle this myself.”

 

 

*****

 

 

“The tremor is a common side effect of the drugs. It’ll dissipate over the course of the next twenty four hours or so,” Bellagio reassured his patient, who’d slept in the recliner for almost three hours before he began to stir. The doctor, with McGarrett hovering nearby, now explained Dan’s shaking hands to him as he evaluated the young man. “Any headache or chest pain?”

 

Dan rubbed the center of his chest lightly with his knuckles. “My chest – it feels like someone pitched a baseball at me.”

 

The doctor knew that was from his own fist and was not heavily concerned.

 

Dan continued, “And my guts are shaking right along with my hands.”

 

“Another regrettable side effect that will go away soon. Your blood pressure is slightly elevated, but your respirations have slowed dramatically. You should be feeling much better by tomorrow.”

 

The doctor had been spelled briefly by Trevor, but remained at Dan’s side with McGarrett for the duration of his sleep. Kaye and Lane left and returned just as Bellagio completed his examination with Carter Brinks in tow.

 

The sight of the man annoyed McGarrett. He was feeling about fed up with everything and everybody associated with this situation. The detective had a sense that everyone involved had an agenda that did not necessarily involve his friend’s best interests.

 

Heart still heavy with guilt, he had to include himself in the group – it was after all he who had initiated the whole affair. Regret was an emotion far more familiar to Williams than to McGarrett. Dan second-guessed himself with regularity – a practice that his boss worked constantly to cast out of his detective’s repertoire of habits. The head of Five-0 did not regularly look back at a situation and decide that he’d made the wrong choice. He knew that his path was not always the popular route, but in his heart, he usually knew the right thing to do – easy or difficult – right off the bat. The Fort Crawford incident, however, had him replaying the scene over and over, wondering what he’d been thinking. 

 

“Danny, how are you feeling?” Brinks asked. His concern sounded genuine enough, but both detectives had been left with a sour taste in their mouths from their previous encounter with the agent, and so were more suspicious as a result.

 

“I’ve been better, thanks,” Dan responded softly, pushing away a tray with coffee and a flaccid, white bread sandwich with an ambiguous slice of lunch meat snuggled next to a wilted lettuce leaf.

 

“What brings you back to paradise, Brinks?” McGarrett asked, an artificial smile playing on his lips.

 

“Just tying up the last of the loose ends on the attempted bombing. You two did a bang-up job on this thing if you don’t mind my saying so.” Brinks nodded towards the two detectives, and then added, “Really saved the day!”

 

The head of Five-0 gave a slight nod of acknowledgement, but said nothing before turning his attention back to his detective.

 

“So, what happens next?” Dan asked softly. He wanted nothing more than to put this business behind him now and get on with just being a cop.

 

Bellagio leaned forward far enough to take Dan’s pulse, and then responded. “Well, I have to insist that you take a day or so to recover physically. And you need this time to assimilate any new information that may be available to you now.”

 

Kaye spoke up, “What do mean by assimilate new information, Doc? Doesn’t Danny know what he knows now?”

 

The doctor shrugged and folded his arms. “Not necessarily. There is a difference between having data available and being aware that you have it. We will have to prepare questions, and as our friend is presented with these questions, he will hopefully be able to flesh out the details on his own.”

 

“So, for example,” Brinks announced looking at Williams, “I could ask you, Danny, whether you have any recollection of the identities of your South American undercover contacts.” He glanced at the doctor before re-fixing his gaze on the detective, who was watching him through weary eyes. “And you would mull it over for a moment and respond…” He gestured with his hand in a rolling motion, indicating that he wanted Dan to finish the sentence.

 

McGarrett stood, and started to let the agent know that there would be no answers today, but Williams gently touched his arm.

 

“Mr. Brinks, I hate to be the bearer of bad news, but I’m not sure I remember anything more than I did yesterday.”

 

“Nothing? You remember nothing?” Brinks sounded appalled.

 

Bellagio offered, “As I said earlier – he may begin to remember things in the coming hours, or he may remember nothing – ever. We didn’t have the time while he was under to reinforce the instruction to remember.”

 

Brinks pushed, “So you might have to put him under again to—”

 

With that last phrase still hanging in the air, McGarrett exploded, “Nobody’s doing anything else to him! Whatever he remembers on his own is what you’ve got!”

 

Brinks remembered only too well the angry detective’s assault on Doctor Devine, and he stepped back several paces. Dan glanced gratefully at his boss, and didn’t feel the need to respond to Brinks – his protector was there and on the job.

 

McGarrett’s words were reinforced by Bellagio. “I must agree with Mr. McGarrett. It’s all too clear that even a single additional dose of acetyl pentothal could kill him. I wouldn’t risk it.” The man re-inserted his stethoscope into his ears and placed the pad on his patient’s chest to assure himself that everything was back to normal.

 

“Carter, Steve’s absolutely right,” Kaye intervened. “We’ve put Danny through enough. Can I suggest that the best we can do at this point is to convene tomorrow for a few hours to formulate some questions.” He turned to Williams. “I don’t think you need to be here for that part of our little effort. And then, the next day, we can reconvene and see if our questions yield any fruit. Does that sound acceptable to everyone?” He was looking at Dan, as was everyone else in the room.

 

Before the young man could answer, Steve spoke softly to him. “You don’t have to do anything else if you don’t want to. We can call it quits here and now, and be done with it.”  The words were just a supportive reminder that McGarrett would see to it that Williams called the shots on this.

 

Dan couldn’t help but let a flicker of a smile cross his lips as he sighed. “I think Mr. Kaye has a reasonable plan. I want to help if I can.” It would be a shame to let evildoers go unpunished if he could do something to prevent it – not that he was certain at this point what that something was.

 

 

*****

 

 

Dan sat propped up in the bed in Steve’s guestroom, sipping a cup of coffee, mindlessly rubbing his very sore chest with his other hand. Despite ten hours of uninterrupted sleep, he still looked and sounded drained to his boss, who sat astraddle a kitchen chair at the foot of the bed, arms resting on its back.

 

Noticing that Williams was observing the coffee jiggling in the cup because of the slight tremor in his hand, he assured, “You remember the doc said that’ll go away in the next day or so.”

 

Dan grimaced slightly, but didn’t say anything. It was very disturbing for the sharpshooter to have trembling hands – the previous day had been traumatic enough without having to deal with residual physical effects.

 

In the hours after the session with the doctor, Steve opted to return Dan to his place and let him sleep off the effects of the drugs. He himself dozed off and on throughout the night, too keyed up and concerned about the possibility of another attempt on Williams’ life to succumb to slumber. The aftermath of long-duration, deep, drug-induced hypnotic sessions, Bellagio assured the group the night before, was usually an unlikely combination of exhaustion and frayed nerves. Steve wondered as his friend slept whose nerves the doctor had been discussing.

 

McGarrett decided that he would sit in on the question-building session, and Williams, balking at staying in bed all day, insisted that he would be fine at the Palace.

 

“Steve, you know I’ve got enough paperwork to keep me chained to my desk for days. I feel okay – really.” Dan implored his boss. Steve eyed his friend for a moment. He probably would be safer there than anywhere else.

 

McGarrett relented. “Yeah, okay, but ONLY if you get an HPD escort into the office.  Remember, we’re not out of the woods yet. And I’ll let Kono and Chin know to keep their eyes open.”

 

Williams sighed in exasperation, but agreed. He knew that he wouldn’t win this argument. At least his boss was not going to sentence him to house arrest all day.  

 

*****

 

 

Not only did Hawaii’s top detective put his office on notice that Williams was the target of threats from unidentified sources, he put the word out to all HPD shifts – he made it known that one of their own was under fire. He knew there was very little the law enforcement community could do to catch the insidious culprits, who could blend into the population of respectable humanity as needed, but perhaps they could provide his detective with a nominal layer of additional protection. After all, there was no cop that didn’t know Williams. His position as second-in-command made him a high-profile figure in law enforcement circles, not to mention the fact that McGarrett recruited him from HPD.

 

Dan was well-liked amongst the rank-and-file despite the fact that he’d been promoted over many more seasoned veterans on the force. The second-in-command slot was a coveted position, and there had been much controversy when McGarrett offered it to his newest and youngest detective. But it became obvious fairly quickly that the job – while prestigious – was difficult, time-consuming, and required more sacrifices than most cops would’ve been willing to make. So, most cops on the force wished Williams well. Now, any extra eyes that McGarrett could train on the situation could be advantageous in some as-yet unknown capacity.

 

McGarrett accompanied Williams to his apartment so that he could shower and get dressed for work. The pair carefully did a quick search of the premises to insure that the detective had had no unwelcome visitors in his absence. As soon as the head of Five-0 was comfortable that his detective was relatively safe, he left and made a quick stop at the office to brief his staff and check his IN box before rushing off for the NIC.

 

 

*****

 

 

“Hi, Danny! What’s shakin’?” The HPD officer was sitting in his cruiser outside Williams’ garage as he pulled out in his LTD

 

Steve thought of everything, Dan mused as he waved at the officer. While he knew his boss was acting out of concern for him, it was still bothersome that he was to be tailed to the office. A whole force full of babysitters at his disposal. There was no getting around Steve on this one. He shook his head and pulled into traffic.

 

 

*****

 

 

Just being back in his office wading through the mundane paperwork that had stacked up in his absence made Dan feel more relaxed than he’d felt in days. He had the urge to leave with Kono and Chin to track down some leads on a couple of cases being worked, but remembered his promise to Steve that he would not leave the office until the okay came from the lead detective’s mouth. His hands were shaking a little less with each passing hour, and the tremors in his stomach were all but gone. There were new memories that would occasionally pop into his head or pass through his thoughts – a very disrupting sensation, -- but he did his best to keep them on the back burner in his mind as he traversed his way through various police reports and requisition forms.

 

At one point, however, he had to stop and stand in amazement. Hablo espańolOtra respuesta!” He had to laugh. How could he have forgotten that he spoke Spanish? The memory of the President Salazar addressing him in Spanish before the summit sprang to mind. He’d communicated with the man almost exclusively in Spanish during their escape and arduous trek to freedom. What made him forget that?

 

May snapped her head in his direction. “What?” The detective had been more quiet than usual, so his sudden outburst caught the secretary off guard.

 

Mildly embarrassed that he’d forgotten where he was for a moment, he explained, “I’m sorry. I – uh studied Spanish in school, and I thought I’d forgotten most of it.”  

 

“I studied German in high school, but the only thing I can remember is Guten Tag!” May’s recollection made Dan step towards her, unabashed shock registering on his face.

 

Ich kann Deutsch! Ich kann auch Deutsch! Überraschen!”

 

“You speak German too?” May was surprised at the revelation, but even more surprised that the detective seemed so amazed.

 

Dan smiled again, and shook his head. “It’s incredible…” His voice tapered to a whisper.

 

Before May could inquire further, the phone rang. “Five-0,” she chirped. A few seconds of listening ensued before she handed the phone to Williams. “Message from Steve,” she said softly to his unasked question.

 

“This is Williams.”

 

“Detective Williams, this is Lieutenant Ridley at the NIC. I’m to convey a message to you from Mr. McGarrett.”

 

The unfamiliar voice played a bit to Dan’s increased paranoia about out-of-the-ordinary situations. “Why didn’t he call me directly?”

 

“Sir, he’s in a meeting with Mr. Kaye.”

 

“Okay, so what’s the message?”

 

“Mr. McGarrett would like for you to meet his group at the back entrance to Wahiawa Station as soon as possible.”

 

Dan was instantly suspicious. “There’s no back entrance to Wahiawa Station.”

 

“With all due respect, sir, there is. It’s fairly new, and not open for general traffic. You’ll proceed up 803 past Schofield Barracks about three miles. The new gate isn’t marked yet, but there will be an MP on duty.”

 

Not ready to yield to the request, Dan pressed the voice. “This doesn’t sound like something Steve would want me to do, so with all due respect to YOU, sir, why should I follow these instructions?”

 

Dan could hear some shuffling in the background, and then he heard the voice repeat his question to someone else.  A moment later, the Lieutenant returned to the line. “Did you hear that, sir?”

 

Dan sighed. “No, I did not.”

 

“If I may, sir, Mr. McGarrett says that you should follow these instructions, quote,  because I’m the boss, Danno.”

 

For the first time since the conversation began, Williams had a sense that he was receiving a message from Steve. “Okay,” Dan admitted with a shrug, “THAT sounds like him. Tell him I’m on my way.” With that, he handed the phone back to May.

 

“What’s up?” She asked as she reset the phone back on its cradle, sensing the young man’s tension.

 

Dan grabbed his jacket from the rack in his office as he answered, “I don’t know.” The detective could feel the tremor in his stomach again.  

 

May tried again. “Should you leave? Steve said—”  

 

Dan spoke before she finished her thought. “Steve said to stay here until I heard from him. Well, I just heard from him, and the last thing I want to do today is disobey an order!” He flashed a smile back at the secretary as he reached the outer office door. “Auf wieder sehen, Liebchen!”

 

The confident gesture made May feel better, but it did little to soothe Dan’s nerves. This was the third time in recent weeks that his boss had cryptically summoned him to a meeting at one of the military facilities in the area. Each time before, something horrible had come to light. He wondered as he trotted to his car how much more bad news he could take.

 

 

*****

 

 

“May, put Danno on.” McGarrett’s voice sounded like an angry command to the uninitiated, but May knew that it was just her boss’s way. This time though the request was confusing. It had been more than thirty minutes since the head of Five-0 had sent for his second-in-command.

 

“What? I thought he’d be with you by now,” May’s voice sounded perplexed.

 

“What do you mean? With me?”

 

The secretary, utterly confused, explained the phone call that she’d overheard, and how the second-in-command, puzzled at what he clearly thought were instructions strange enough to question, headed out the door to obey his boss.

 

“Where was he supposed to go?”

 

“I’m not sure, boss – I just know that Danny was confused.”

 

With that news, McGarrett did not have a thought of courtesy as a fist had grabbed his heart and begun to squeeze. He pressed the switch hook, and dialed direct to HPD dispatch.

 

“This is McGarrett. I need a patch to Williams now!”

 

The urgency in his voice was not lost on the dispatcher, “Yessir!”

 

 

*****

 

 

“I don’t understand this at all.” Dan folded his arms as he leaned on his sedan.

 

The MP, a man with whom Dan was not familiar, responded, “I apologize for the inconvenience. Someone will be here to unlock the gate shortly. I’m just following orders.”

 

“You and me both,” the detective responded as he regarded the barrel-chested man with him.

 

The espionage-related events of the past weeks were disconcerting to him, and, he had to admit, might be making him feel a little un-necessarily paranoid. After all, how many times had his boss given him what seemed to be strange instructions only to have them revealed to be part of a brilliant plan? As annoyed as he felt, he was confident that Steve would have a good explanation for the mysterious instructions. Before his thoughts could turn elsewhere, his police radio crackled.

 

“Five-Oh-Two- Dispatch. I have a patch from McGarrett!”

 

Williams started to reach into his car to grab the microphone, “Good! Maybe we’ll have an answer as to why we’re standing here in the middle of nowhere!” 

 

His comment to the MP was met with a short-lived, but sharp pain in the back of his neck. Gasping, he tried to put his hand on the offended area, but lost all sensation and vision before he could take another step. There was no time to consider what was happening. An almost instant, black sleep enveloped him and took him away from the concerns of the moment.

 

The “MP” managed to catch the collapsing officer as he retrieved the syringe which he had calmly and forcefully plunged into the man’s neck. A vanilla-colored, hearse-style ambulance tore into the pull-off, and before it stopped completely, two men in white medical jackets jumped out, collected Williams’ limp form, and strapped him onto a gurney in the back of their vehicle.

 

“You’re late!” the military imposter hissed at the passenger in the vehicle as the window rolled down.

 

A voice from inside ignored the complaint and barked, “Hide the car! Roll it down that embankment if you have to – just get it out of sight now!”

 

The soldier nodded, and with that, he set about following his orders as the van sped off, leaving a billowing cloud of dust in its wake until it hit the pavement again.

 

“McGarrett to Williams! Danno! Come in!” The man trotted off to a vehicle hidden in the brush and drove off, leaving the desperate voice echoing over the speaker of the now-invisible car. 

 

 

*****

 

“He seemed so—so puzzled over your— I mean— the instructions,” May’s lower lip quivered as she re-told the story to her boss and Kono.

 

“It’ll be okay, Love.” McGarrett made a half-hearted attempt to assuage her fears, but could do nothing to calm his insides.

 

He knew the element that had his friend probably wanted him dead. Why they went to such lengths to lure him so far from the office to do him in was the question that burned in the detective’s mind. A sharpshooter could have downed him in the parking lot and that would have been the end of it – or so they would believe until they found an avenging detective hot on their trail. McGarrett swore that whoever did this would pay. They would pay if it took him the rest of his life.

 

Chin approached, his normally un-readable expression revealing that he had bad news. “They found Danny’s car, Steve – off of 803 a few miles past Schofield Barracks, in some bushes. It looks like it was pushed off the road – not driven. Somebody on a bike heard the police radio squawking. No signs of a struggle.”

 

McGarrett rubbed his eyes. Little sleep the night before was definitely taking a toll on his analytical abilities. “Why make him drive out there if all they wanted to do was kill him?”

 

Kono shrugged. “Maybe they needed something from him?” It was hard for the other two detectives to assist their boss on this since they were not privy to all of the clues in the case.

 

“But what?” Chin asked.

 

The Oriental detective’s question helped McGarrett break through to the answer. He spoke a little more loudly and with certainty. “What everyone in this sordid mess wants from Danno – information!” The lead detective began pacing and snapping his fingers, a habit the man had when he was concentrating. “But they tried to run him down before. What changed? What changed?”  He spun suddenly to look at his detectives. “That’s it! Before the—the meeting at the NIC with Kaye, they knew who knew their secret. It was only Danno. After the meeting, they didn’t know that Danno was still the only one who knew – IF he knew.”

 

Chin, Kono, and May exchanged looks with each other. Their boss was not making complete sense. Oblivious to his staff’s confusion, McGarrett pressed on with his train of thought.

 

“So now, they have to grab Danno to try to find out what he knows and whom he told.”

 

“What does Danny know that they don’t want him to know?” Kono asked.

 

Still distracted McGarrett answered quickly, “I don’t know – and Danno may not know either.” With that, their boss strode towards the door, “Keep on the car, any witnesses – you know the drill! I’ll be at the NIC!”

 

The detective was gone before anyone could formulate a question.

 

 

*****

 

 

Carter Brinks crumpled the empty cigarette pack and stuffed it in his pocket, mindful of leaving evidence that could implicate him in a kidnapping. He paced at the foot of the gurney to which his victim was strapped.

 

Wrists and ankles buckled to the bed with worn leather, hospital restraints, Dan Williams writhed weakly to free himself, not coherent enough to realize the battle was in vain. Staring blankly at the ceiling and taking in rhythmic shallow breaths, he whispered continuously, “No…no…no…no…”

 

A very short, stocky man with a shock of bushy, dark brown hair and matching eye brows pulled a small medical flashlight from his white doctor’s coat and flicked it across Dan’s eyes a few times. He looked up at the man at the foot of the bed.

 

“He’s had enough, Brinks. I can’t tell if he’s not talking because he doesn’t know or because he’s just not willing to cooperate. Either way, administering anything else without his cooperation will buy you nothing, but a catatonic – or dead – subject!”

 

Brinks kicked a chair violently across the room. “Cooperation, eh?” He rushed to the head of the bed and spoke to his oblivious victim. “You will cooperate, Williams! I really wanted to do this the easy way – you tell me what I need to know – I release you, albeit a little dazed and confused, a little amnesia perhaps after a car accident – I would’ve come up with something! But now, I’m going to have to up the ante in this deal!”      

 

 

*****

 

 

McGarrett sat in the conference room at the NIC with Jonathan Kaye and Doctor Bellagio and laid out his theory.

 

“It makes sense, Steve, but whoever has Danny will have to have access to a doctor who knows the Arc protocol.” Kaye twirled the swizzle stick in his coffee as he mused.

 

Bellagio nodded. “Any reputable physician – knowledgeable in the protocol – would take a blood level for acetyl pentothal before proceeding, and he would see that additional doses could be fatal.”

 

Through grinding teeth, the detective spoke. “We’re not talking about reputable people here, Doc. We’re dealing with kidnappers and murderers.”

 

Kaye spoke up. “Well, I’ve got everything we have on the Arc being flown in from D.C. Unfortunately, there’s not much. They covered their tracks extremely well. That’s why it was such a surprise to learn that they’d allowed Danny to—to move on.”

 

McGarrett leaned back in his chair and rubbed his temple. “Yeah. I guess his high-profile engagement made it risky to get rid of him, and apparent lack of ambition made him a low risk to release.”  

 

The three men heard the cipher lock clicking, and looked to the door to see who was joining them. Brinks opened the door a few inches and peeked in before entering the room and taking a seat at the table.

 

“The Arc files should be here later on tonight. Jonathan, do you need me to stay and work on this? I imagine there’ll be quite a bit of information on the South American targets.” Brinks asked.

 

The fact that this man was interested in the files primarily to retrieve data for his area of responsibility and not to search for clues that would return Williams to him made Steve bristle, but he said nothing.

 

“Steve, what do you think?” Kaye turned to Steve.

 

“I think I need to be here to go through those files for clues. By the way, Brinks, where were you earlier?” McGarrett, anger tightly controlled, but thinly veiled, wanted Brinks to know that nobody would be above suspicion in his investigation.

 

Brinks gave an inaudible gasp, but recovered before anyone noticed his dismay. This cop was definitely an intimidating character, but the time was fast approaching where he wouldn’t have to take the disrespect from him anymore. Hold your tongue just a little while longer

 

The agent’s reply was smooth and unruffled.  “Leave no stone unturned, eh, McGarrett?” He threw a glance at Kaye, but the man seemed to be allowing the detective to run the show. “I was doing what I returned to Hawaii to accomplish – namely tying up loose ends on the summit case. I did take some time last night to formulate my questions for Williams, which I gave to Jonathan this morning.”

 

Jonathan agreed. “And I in turn added them to the master list of questions which we compiled earlier today.”

 

“Look, McGarrett, I’m sorry about your man – really, I am.” Brinks offered, and then turned to Kaye quickly. “Jonathan, without Williams here to answer my questions, it’s pretty fruitless for me to remain much longer, so if you don’t need me here, I’ll probably head back to D.C. sometime tomorrow.”

 

The implication of Brinks’ words in McGarrett’s mind were that the agent did not expect Dan to return. That the man dare to even think such an appalling thought made McGarrett’s blood pressure rise.

 

“I’m not sure what you can do at this point, Carter, so you might as well head back.” Jonathan spoke quietly.

 

Brinks rose and left without so much as a glance McGarrett, whose eyes pierced him as he moved away from the table.

 

As soon as Brinks was out of earshot, McGarrett spoke up. “Jonathan, I want carte blanche with those Arc files, and I won’t have any interference from him!” He motioned with his eyes towards the door from which Brinks had just made his exodus.

 

Kaye knew the determined detective well enough to know that when he was on a mission, nothing short of his own death would stop him. “You’ll have it, and don’t worry about Brinks.”

 

 

*****

 

 

McGarrett sped from the NIC towards the place where Danno’s car had been found. Until the Arc files arrived or his detectives turned up some new lead he could follow, there was very little he could do to bring his missing officer home. For reasons he didn’t understand, he was drawn to the last place he knew his friend had been.

 

Brinks, he mused, was not the straight shooter he professed to be. The detective could feel it more than he had evidence to prove it. He momentarily played with the possibility that he was suspicious of the man because of his part in the Fort Crawford fiasco, but dismissed it. But why would he have tried to kill Williams before the session with Doctor Bellagio? Kaye said with certainty that Brinks had not been part of any of the Arc operations, so nothing Danno could have revealed would have implicated Brinks. There were definitely large pieces to this deadly puzzle still missing – one piece in particular tore at his heart.

 

The crackle of the police radio snapped back to the moment.

 

“Dispatch to Five-0 One. I have a patch for you.”

 

“Dispatch, this is Five-0-One. Put it through,” McGarrett snapped. Please let it be good news.

 

“McGarrett, this is Carter Brinks. It turns out that I’ll be leaving this evening, and I’ve turned up a couple of items that may prove very helpful to you in your search.”

 

Steve eyed the microphone for a moment suspiciously, wondering whether the man could possibly have any useful information, but decided it was best not to overlook any tidbit no matter what the source. “Where are you?”

 

“I’m in Wahiawa – I’m supposed to meet a contact there within the hour.”

 

“Conveniently enough, I’m in the vicinity. I’ll come to you. Exactly where are you?”

 

Brinks described a payphone near the side of the road off of the main drag through the town, and McGarrett told him to wait there.

 

Within five minutes, the detective pulled his LTD up beside a beige sedan. A man in an MP’s uniform sat behind the wheel of the vehicle, and he recognized Brinks, sitting incongruously in the back seat of the sedan.

 

He stepped out of his car and undid the snap on his holster in one movement. All of his cop instincts screamed “suspicious situation,” so he moved cautiously around his car and, as he did so, the MP got out of the car and opened the back driver’s seat door.

 

“Sir,” the soldier snapped the greeting.

 

McGarrett glanced at the man, but was more interested in his passenger. He bent over and started to ask Brinks what the Hell was going on, but was suddenly overcome with an agonizing pain in the back of his neck. He knew he was falling towards Brinks’ smiling face as he blacked out, but could do nothing to stop his tumble.

 

 

*****

 

 

McGarrett tried to bring his hand up to touch the back of his pained neck, but something blocked his progress. As he struggled to open his eyes, a trepidation built up in him. He felt almost strangled with a cloth gag stuffed deep into the back of his mouth, but he forced himself to remain calm. He slowly opened his eyes and lifted his spinning head from his chest. He could feel that his legs were bound to the chair with something inflexible and un-giving.

 

The room definitely appeared to be in a medical facility. Various pieces of medical equipment were situated nearby. He was instantly more alert as he observed the gurney not more than five feet in front of him, Dan, strapped to the bed was the focus of the other two men in the room. Their backs were to Steve, but he recognized Brinks. The other man, in a doctor’s white coat and brown suit pants, he’d never seen before. He wished fervently that he could make eye contact with Williams, but the two men would have had to step aside and Dan would’ve had to look to his right.

 

Relief was the predominant emotion. The sight of Williams – at least alive and now in his presence – returned a measure of power and control – real or imagined – over the situation to the detective. Now, all he had to do was find a way to free himself, overpower the two men in the room, and rescue his friend. He didn’t know how he would do it just yet, but he had a clear and specific objective, which was more than he had a few hours earlier.

 

The man McGarrett presumed to be a physician was taking his Williams’ carotid pulse, his fingers resting on the side of the patient’s neck as he marked time on his wrist watch. Brinks turned and paced to the foot of the gurney, enabling McGarrett to get a better look at his detective.

 

Dan was conscious, but appeared confused, weak, and agitated. His wrists were raw enough to be oozing blood. McGarrett could see the detective’s hands trembling, and knew he had to be back under the influence of the acetyl whatever, enduring the discomfort of over-medication. The sight made the detective give a single violent tug at his restraints. He knew it was futile, but the desire to vent his rage at his friend’s treatment was overwhelming.

 

The medical man spoke up, apparently at a loss for what to do. “It would’ve been very helpful to know his previous dosages.”

 

“Well, the sooner we welcome him back into reality, the better.” He looked to his left to check on McGarrett, who met his gaze with a hateful stare. The sight of the angry detective visibly cheered the agent. No longer intimidated by the man who could not lift a finger to do him physical harm – as much as he obviously wanted to – Brinks finished his thought as he moved closer to McGarrett. “Because I have it on very good authority that our boy will do whatever he has to in order to preserve the life of this one here, won’t he – Steve?”

 

Acknowledging to himself alone the cruel twist of fate that he – Steve McGarrett – had given this man the knowledge to manipulate Williams, the detective did his level best to keep a lid on the rage and frustration that burned in him. The only way out of this mess would be to keep a cool head and be alert for any opportunity to gain an advantage. So, Steve willed himself to not react to any goading that came his way.

 

“Oh, I know what you’re thinking, but you’re wrong! I never wanted to hurt him – I don’t know who tried to terminate him the other day. All I want – need – are the names of the Arc informants in South America. Do you know how many years it takes to cultivate contacts like the ones the Arc grew – and then abandoned to cover their own tracks?” Brinks walked behind the detective and bent to whisper in his ear. “Years and years.”

 

McGarrett could feel his skin crawl at the man’s moist breath blew into his ear.

 

Brinks came around and moved to stand next to Williams, who thrashed only occasionally now as he hovered in the zone of semi-consciousness, unmindful of his boss’s presence.

 

“He may be one of the last of the innocents to hold this information. If I can get him to reveal even a few of the moles, it could further U.S. interests dramatically. And yes, yes, unfortunately, it will probably cost him his life, but rest assured, I will make sure that his death – and yours – will not be in vain.”   

 

Brinks walked around to lean his back on the foot of the gurney, arms folded arrogantly. So enjoying his dominance over this detective who scared him and obviously didn’t think much of him, the man did not notice the door from the hallway push open a few inches.

 

He smiled and addressed the McGarrett again. “Despite what you think --- and not that it matters -- I’m not a bad guy.”

 

McGarrett would’ve been interested in what warped logic this twisted agent used to justify the murder of innocent people in the name of any purportedly noble cause, but the opportunity was suddenly taken from Brinks as the door from the hallway swung back. The tall figure in the doorway leveled a .44 Magnum at the two surprised captors-turned-captives. For a fraction of a second, Steve had a fleeting thought that they might be rescued, but that hope disintegrated almost instantly. The doctor, clearly frightened, backed away from Williams. Brinks tensed, but stood his ground.

 

“Whether or not you’re a ‘bad’ guy is superseded by the fact that you’re an idiot.” The distinguished voice was slightly muffled by the startling, if not frightening, skeleton mask the man wore. There was a nasal refinement in his speech that harkened McGarrett to the northeastern U.S., Boston perhaps.

 

“How did you—Where—” Brinks sputtered, apparently undecided over whether to be outraged at the intrusion or afraid for his life. 

 

As the skeleton man stepped into the room, three other armed men, faces also hidden behind cheap, plastic children’s masks brushed past him to provide further cover and security for their leader, who cut off Brinks.

 

“Where are your men? Obviously, when you use inferior help, you get an inferior result.”

 

The man, attired in a high-end dark business suit, surveyed the scene. As he eyed McGarrett, the detective had the distinct sensation that their situation had just gone from frying pan to fire.

 

“Who are you? How do you know—” Brinks started again, now less indignation came through in his voice.

 

Once again, the skeleton man cut him off, this time a little more curtly. “Shut up! I will ask the questions!”

 

He didn’t stop studying McGarrett until he completed his command to Brinks, at which point he spun quickly to look at the other captive strapped to the gurney. He moved to stand by Dan’s head, and reached over, placed his hand on the young man’s forehead and  pulled back one of his half-open eyelids with his thumb – a very practiced movement, McGarrett noted as he tensed in concern for what the man intended to do to his protégé. It took the man only a second to learn what he wanted to know from the dazed Williams, who objected lethargically by turning his head after the offending hand was no longer present.

 

“Exactly what did you give him, Mr. Brinks? An overdose of acetyl narconal perhaps?”

 

“I think it was a combination of two drugs. We followed the Arc protocol—” Brinks defended himself nervously. The interloper had to be an Arc refugee, the agent realized, and knew that his circumstance was no less serious than the two detectives’.

 

“Oh, you followed the protocol? Did you know that this happy little family of drugs can build up to toxic levels in the bloodstream over a very short course of time?”

 

“Uh, no, I, uh—I’m no doctor.” Beads of sweat became visible below the man’s upper lip and on his forehead, and he glanced in the direction of his medical cohort, consciously re-directing any blame.

 

The furtive peek had the desired effect as the skeleton’s attention was drawn to Brinks’ medical man. “Are you even a licensed physician?”

 

The man recoiled slightly at the attention and stammered, “I- I am—”

 

Swiftly, the skeleton pulled the .44 which he’d been holding casually with little caution to the deadly potential of the object, and fired almost point blank at the frightened doctor, who stumbled backward, a look of shock frozen on his face. A hole appeared between his bushy eyebrows and a trickle of red began to course down his nose before he could fall backward to the floor.

 

McGarrett, who fancied himself hardened to most crimes, cringed at the brutality of the man now in charge of the situation. Brinks gasped, and irrationally feeling safer near his former prisoner, shuffled a few feet to stand next to Dan, who had reacted only mildly to the gunshot.

 

“I can’t abide incompetence,” the murderer said, anger apparent even with the mask still seated.

 

Without so much as another glance at he man whose life he’d just taken, he turned his attention back to Dan. He leaned over him again, no more than eight inches from the detective’s face. For the first time since McGarrett had been conscious, he saw his friend slowly become aware of his situation – that a very frightening image was hovering over him. Dan gave a sluggish gasp and tried in vain to push himself away from the face.

 

“Don’t be afraid,” the skeleton man intoned soothingly, as if he were speaking to a small child, and he stroked Dan’s hair gently. “I’m here to help you.” Although fear was apparent on the young man’s face, the words and their tone seemed to calm him and more fully capture his attention.

 

He shifted slightly so that Dan had a better line of sight to Steve to his right, and then threw a nod towards him. “Is this man your friend?”

 

Williams, still gripped with trepidation, slowly absorbed the creature’s words and then turned his head cautiously to the right. Dilated pupils made everything blurry for him, but he squeezed his eyes shut for a moment, and then struggled to focus on the form in the chair. The realization that it was Steve came over the course of thirty seconds. Steve could see the trauma in his eyes as the young man reacted with emotion.

 

“Steve!” Williams’ voice was thin and hoarse. “What have they done to you?” McGarrett flinched as Dan began to struggle against his restraints again. He seemed unaware of the damage he was doing to wrists. “Steve,” he cried again, but the skeleton pressed him back down onto the bed.

 

Shhhhh, it’s okay. Let me help you go to Steve.” The man confidently reassured. “Would you like that?” His tone was patronizing, but McGarrett was certain that Williams did not notice.

 

Dan nodded, “Help me, please, help me.”

 

He stopped fighting his bonds as skeleton man undid the wrist restraints. The thug in a Dracula mask stepped up and freed the detective’s legs. The detective maintained eye contact with the masked man, and as soon as he was freed, he stayed pressed flat against the gurney as he slid towards the edge, never taking his eyes off of the imposing figure suspended over him.

 

“Here, let me help you,” the man said as he grabbed Dan’s arm to prevent him from tumbling head first to the floor.

 

Legs too wobbly to support him, the young man sank to the floor. He crawled to Steve and pulled himself up to his knees using the arm rest on the chair for support.

 

Steve watched as Dan reached up and struggled to untie the gag. Williams though was too dizzy and his hands were shaking too violently to accomplish his goal. The torment in his teary eyes was almost more than Steve could take, but there was nothing he could do to help his friend.

 

Exhausted and beyond frustration, he sank to the floor at McGarrett’s feet. “Steve…Steve…I can’t…I can’t do it.”

 

At that moment, McGarrett would have given anything to have been able to comfort his distraught friend, but restrained as he was, he could do little more than return the pained look.

 

The skeleton man shook his head at the scene and then turned and spoke harshly to the now-terrified Brinks. “Between what Bellagio administered and what you and your inept quack gave him, he may be useless to me! Look at him! He’s barely coherent!”

 

Brinks threw an uncomfortable glance at the young man, who was crumpled on McGarrett’s shins mumbling softly to himself.

 

Dan seemed now to be focused on something that happened in the past. “I didn’t want to… I counted three times… Then I woke up.” 

 

“We were just trying to free up some information about his South American contacts that is currently lost to us—” Brinks back away from the livid figure who stepped towards him as he spoke. “We would’ve killed him after we got what we needed. You know there’s no way we could’ve released him after this! You obviously want him dead! What’s the harm if take what we need before he’s neutralized?”

 

The conversation McGarrett was hearing was enraging and horrifying. The inhuman animals that were fighting over his friend seemed indifferent to their savagery, as if they were arguing over a point of order in a meeting instead of the wanton murder of an innocent victim. He pulled at the handcuffs despite the knowledge that they would not break.   

 

“You know, that might have been the answer before we had such a dirty little situation!” the skeleton flung the indictment with venom.

 

The signal was unseen, but noticed by the man in the ghost mask as he nodded slightly, and with no hesitance, suddenly fired his revolver in to the back of Brink’s head twice. The pained look on the man’s face was quickly replaced with the glassy stare of the dead. He fell unceremoniously to the floor, his skull making a nauseating crack as it hit the tile. A red river began to flow from Brinks’ body.

 

The gunshots re-oriented Williams, who tried to concentrate on what was happening in the room. He’d been Brinks’ prisoner, but the skeleton man rescued him. Now, he and Steve were still prisoners of somebody, but who? He focused on the skeleton man who began speaking.

 

“You WERE a bad man, Brinks, but you weren’t a good bad man.” The skeleton man’s wrath instantly sated, he turned to study McGarrett. “One loose end left. Steve, I apologize for what I must now do.”

 

The man’s familiar tone and words might’ve been the same if he were apologizing for a dinner cancellation instead of the probable violence he intended. Williams watched in horror as the skeleton man raised his weapon towards his boss.

 

“Don’t hurt him!” Dan cried as he mustered the strength to rise, using Steve’s legs to support himself, and block the gunman’s view of his friend. Wobbling, he stood his ground as he desperately pleaded, “Please, don’t—don’t hurt him!” His gaze fixed on the skeleton. “I’ll help you – you’ll never get what you’re after without my help.”

 

The skeleton man held his hand out to the three gunmen as he regarded Dan. Williams had his attention, McGarrett knew, and there seemed to be nothing he could do to prevent his friend from making this deal to save him. He could hear his heart beat pounding in his ears.

 

“I know how to NOT cooperate,” Dan said with a quivering voice. “If you let him go, I’ll do whatever you tell me to do.”

 

The man cocked his head and approached the detective, who was struggling to stay upright. In a sudden, brutal movement, he reached out, grabbed Dan by his hair, and pulled him to within inches of his face. The young man did not put up any form of fight to defend himself as the chilling words slipped from around the edges of the mask.

 

“Romeo Foxtrot – the little assassin who couldn’t – or wouldn’t. You would have gone down in history – very down.”

 

The words felt like an electric shock to McGarrett – Assassin! They had tried to groom Danno to assassinate somebody!

 

The man slipped his gun into his belt and lifted his mask. It was clear to Steve that Dan recognized the man as he gasped and tried to put a little space between them. As it was, the fiend’s tight grip on the weak detective prevented anything more than an inch of play.

 

“It’s you!” Dan whispered, shrinking in terror.

 

Steve could now see that the face the mask had covered was that of a man, perhaps in his mid-to-late forties. He had a distinguished countenance, but what made him so memorable was the man’s malevolent expression. He smiled as his gaze pierced Dan with what seemed to be pleasure in the young man’s fear.

 

“I’m touched that you remember me. I hope this convinces you that I don’t need your playmate to make you cooperate.” He paused only for effect before continuing. “That said, things would go more quickly if we all work together on this.” The man’s voice, no longer muffled, seemed all the more sinister. “You were my only failure – and I dare say that if they’d given me a little more time with you, things would have turned out differently – but I’m going to correct that today.” His grin spread into a large smile as he threw a nod at Steve. “Clearly, I would be a fool to release him while I want your cooperation. But I can promise you that if you do not yield to my wishes, I will make sure that he dies a most horrible and slow death. Do we understand each other?”

 

Dan nodded as best he could with the man’s hand gripping his head so tightly. “Yes”

 

In the back of his mind, Williams knew that there was no way his boss would be released after what he had witnessed, but at least the agreement had forestalled the unthinkable. If only the fog would lift from his thoughts. If only he didn’t feel almost too weak to stand. If only he could stop trembling!

 

“Good!”

 

With that the skeleton man maneuvered Dan a few feet to Brinks’ body and suddenly shoved him towards the floor. Williams landed on the still-warm corpse, and immediately tried to push himself away, revulsion at the proximity of the gore filling him. But the man bent over, grabbed Dan again and re-directed him into the pool of tepid blood at the head of  the body. Williams caught himself with his hands, but the floor was slippery with red, and so he ended up on his chest. He was sickened, but he didn’t have the energy to move.

 

Satisfied that his purpose had been served, the skeleton man put on a mock frown. “Tsk, tsk! Look at this mess, Romeo! It looks to me like you might’ve been the one that killed Agent Brinks and his quack! Perhaps you weren’t really kidnapped. Maybe you wanted to disappear? The authorities are going to have a time sorting this mess out, aren’t they?” Then he snapped his head in the direction of the nearest shooter.  “Take him!” The ghost man moved in, roughly collected the blood-stained detective, and dragged him out the door.

 

Dread filled McGarrett at the complete, very uncharacteristic lack of fight in his friend. In addition to the new influx of drugs into his system, the head of Five-0 was concerned that his second-in-command was not recovered from the heart-stopping incident the day before.

 

Frankenstein and Dracula moved in, un-attached McGarrett from his chair, and re-cuffed his hands behind his back. As the pair of monsters strong-armed the detective towards the door, their leader brought up the rear.

 

“It looks like we’ll have the pleasure of your company for a bit longer.”

 

The fiend’s friendly voice belied the evil McGarrett knew the man intended to commit. At least Danno had bought them a little time. He prayed it would be enough.

 

 

*****

 

 

The ride to the old Quonset hut up the unimproved dirt road to Kolekole Peak  took less than twenty minutes. since Brinks’ clinic hideout was only minutes from Wahiawa, which was just down the road from the turnoff for the road to the mountain top. Williams and McGarrett had been pushed into the back of a black stretch limousine with Dracula and Frankenstein sitting across from them on the back-facing seats. Once in the vehicle, the three thugs wasted no time in ridding themselves of what were no doubt uncomfortable masks. Steve did not recognize any of the young men. They all had a military appearance about them, and Steve suspected that they were on the government payroll in some fashion or other. Dan slept the short journey with his head resting on Steve’s shoulder. Steve could feel his friend’s fitfulness and, twitching as he listened to the mumbling that peppered his rest.

 

Hold on, Danno…hold on.

 

Until recently, the World War II steel-ribbed structure had been in use by the National Park Service as an auxiliary ranger station. McGarrett was handcuffed to an 8x8 metal beam that stood free in the middle of the office and pierced the ceiling at its apogee. He was able to surreptitiously lean into the pole and reach his head to extricate the gag that had become horrifically uncomfortable.  Williams stirred as he was carried into the building dumped unceremoniously in an oversized, leather desk chair that had seen better days. The detective opened his eyes, but did not move from the position into which the tumble into the chair had landed him.

 

McGarrett had the sense that the skeleton man liked to have an audience while he worked, possibly another reason he was alive. The man’s contempt for Brinks’ physician told the detective that he was probably a doctor himself. More evidence to this effect presented itself as the man pulled out a standard, black leather medical bag and began filling a syringe.

 

“Doctor Bellagio’s protocol was the foundation, but my work elevated the practice to a truly functional tool.” The man’s ego shown through in his words and cocky posture as he spoke. “I only hope that too many cooks haven’t spoiled the broth in this case.”

 

McGarrett was more interested in the fact that the doctor was preparing a hypodermic. “I thought you said that he was already overdosed.” His voice was hoarse, but he had the idea that the man was so confident that he would be willing to share the answers to any number of questions, if the proper homage was paid to his genius.

 

Not distressed that his prisoner was able to speak, he responded as he worked. “He is, but unfortunately, I don’t have the time to allow him to metabolize what’s already in his system. I’m a busy man, Steve. So, I’m going to have to use a slightly different preparation – one which will temporarily work against what’s already there.”

 

“Why do have to give him anything else? He told you he’d cooperate!”

 

The doctor stopped momentarily and looked with amusement at the detective. “Oh, and I’m certain that he would NEVER lie to me – but just in case, I’ll validate his story while he’s under my spell.”

 

McGarrett knew that he and his friend were under a certain sentence of death. As soon as Dan revealed that he’d not yet shared anything that would incriminate anybody, they would be killed. Whether Williams knew anything or not at this point, it didn’t really matter. They’d witnessed two murders.

 

“Before you die, you’ll have the privilege of watching a master at work.” The doctor vainly proclaimed before he addressed the only thug in the room – the murderous ghost, McGarrett thought. “I’ll need silence while I work, so take care of him,” he threw his head in the cop’s direction as he continued. “And then wait outside with your compatriots.”

 

The muscular young man nodded and pulled a role of hemp twine from nowhere, and further secured McGarrett’s cuffed hands below chest level on the beam. He then quickly re-gagged the detective. With a threatening glance at the detective, the bruiser marched out of the office and closed the door.

 

The doctor re-positioned the unresisting Dan and injected him with what he’d just prepared. Almost as an afterthought, the man grabbed the pair of handcuffs on the nearby table and secured Dan’s already-bloody left wrist to the arm rest.

 

Steve searched his friend’s expression for signs that he understood what was happening, but there was no outward indication that he’d heard anything that alarmed him. His eyes closed probably, McGarrett realized, a result of yet another drug being introduced into his bloodstream.

 

With another glance back at his sickened audience, the doctor placed the heel of his hand on Williams’ forehead and said, “This is called contact hypnosis.” The doctor turned his attention back to his subject and spoke again. “Danny, it’s time to take a trip. Feel my hand on your head. It’s growing warmer and warmer. Can you feel it?”

 

Dan groaned and frowned, but did not answer or open his eyes.

 

“Danny, my hand. Can you feel it?”

 

“Yes,” came the slow, soft response.

 

No, Danno! Don’t let him take you where you don’t want to go!

 

The only noise the frustrated McGarrett could make was to slightly rattle the metal cuffs against the beam, but the noise did not carry far enough to disturb the scene in the corner of the room.

 

“Good. Your heart is beating too fast. You must slow it down. Do that now.” The doctor’s authoritative voice was compelling, and McGarrett was amazed at what he was requesting of his friend. With the hand not on Dan’s forehead, he reached over and touched the detective’s neck to find his carotid pulse. After about thirty seconds, the man pulled both his hands away, and sat on a stool a couple feet in front of Dan. “Very good. It’s time to take a trip. Open your eyes and look at me.”

 

Very slowly, Dan lifted his head from his chest and opened his fogged-over blue eyes.

 

“The signal is Romeo Foxtrot two-niner-five-eight-two,” The doctor intoned firmly.

 

Dan’s expression was not completely blank, as McGarrett had remembered from before. Today, remembrance and a little concern seemed present, but he responded. “Romeo Foxtrot two-niner-five-eight-two—Romeo Foxtrot one-niner-five-two-eight. Supply the response.”

 

The doctor nodded and smiled. “The response is Romeo Foxtrot two-niner-four-niner-one.”

 

The young man’s blank expression changed nominally at first, and then he looked slowly around the room. His eyes rested for a moment on McGarrett, standing ten feet away secured to the metal beam. There was no shock at the sight – just a neutral awareness. His attention turned to the skeleton man.

 

“Doctor Raintree.” That was all Dan announced softly in a cool, clinical tone.

 

The man acknowledged his name with a command. “I have questions that you will answer.”

 

Dan did not react one way or the other, but seemed to be attentive to the conversation, and Raintree pressed on. “Has anybody since your release from the Arc attempted activation to change your instructions?”

 

“Yes.”

 

“Who?”

 

“Carter Brinks, with Colonel Devine, and Jonathan Kaye, with Doctor Bellagio.”

 

“I know that Doctor Devine was not successful, but what did you reveal to Doctor Bellagio?”

 

“Only what Williams remembered.”

 

McGarrett was instantly struck with the detached, third person reference that Dan made to himself.

 

“Was Doctor Bellagio successful in removing the mission keys?” The doctor asked, not phased by his subject’s demeanor.

 

“Yes.”

 

“But Williams did not share the Romeo Foxtrot information?”

 

“No.”

 

Danno! No! McGarrett felt ready to burst in aggravation at his muted condition.

 

“Why didn’t he reveal the Romeo Foxtrot information?”

 

“Williams was to be debriefed on Friday.”

 

“Does Williams know the mission information?”

 

“Yes.”

 

“Does Williams also remember the operations information?”

 

On this question, McGarrett thought he noticed a flicker of uncertainty before the answer came. Also interesting to the detective was the fact that his friend, who had until that point, maintained continuous eye contact with the doctor, looked slightly to one side.

 

Don’t say yes, Danno!

 

“He can know it, if he wants.”

 

Raintree leaned back in the chair, puzzled and obviously dismayed at the response, but recovered quickly. “You say he can know the information. He does not know it now?”

 

“No.”

 

“Why does he NOT know the information?” The doctor was perplexed and a little annoyed.

 

A definite hesitation this time. “Williams is afraid.”

 

Ahhh.” The light bulb came on for Raintree. “The root of all of Williams’ problems from the beginning. Well, Williams need fear no longer. Romeo Foxtrot has no more missions.”

 

“Correction – Romeo Foxtrot has one more mission.” Dan cocked his head slightly as he slowly looked up again to find the eyes of his interrogator.

 

The response completely surprised the doctor, who started at Dan’s statement.

 

As far as McGarrett was concerned, this was yet another case of the psychiatric establishment being inadequately able to predict the thoughts and actions of the human mind. It gave him some small measure of pleasure to see the over-confident doctor taken down a peg.

 

“You have no mission!” Raintree spoke more forcefully.

 

“I have a mission.” Dan responded never breaking eye contact with the doctor, who was not pleased. There seemed to be an order of magnitude greater clarity in Williams’ eyes.

 

“Exactly WHAT is your mission?” Raintree folded his arms.

 

“I am going to kill you.” At Williams’s even-toned response, Raintree almost slipped off of his stool, but managed to recover.

 

A smug, superior expression fixed on the doctor’s face. “You’re going to be hard put to do that shackled to that chair.”

 

The detective looked down at his left hand, and without any hesitation, turned his hand on its side. With his right hand balled into a fist, he gave a single, hard pop to the exposed side of his left thumb. The detective didn’t flinch as the bone in his hand broke, nor as he pushed the bone out of place, closer into the palm of his hand. The end result was a narrowing of his hand, enabling him to slip free of the handcuff.

 

Not generally one to have a weak stomach, McGarrett felt a little queasy as he observed, torn between horror and cheering, as he watched Dan rise, apparently devoid of any emotional or physical reaction to what he just done to himself.

 

Raintree’s reaction was however one of blatant shock. He jumped up from his perch and began backing away. The man tried to take the offensive by awakening his subject-turned-aggressor.

 

“You will not kill me. At my signal—”

 

He stopped talking as he saw that Williams was disregarding the commands and moving towards him. More slight in build and at least four inches shorter, the bedraggled detective did not look the part of an assassin by any stretch of the imagination, but Raintree was aware that the man had at his fingertips this very moment the know-how to kill efficiently and quickly. Loathe to get into a physical struggle with the young man, he backed away quickly trying to scan the room to find the gun he knew he’d carelessly laid down somewhere.

 

“Romeo Foxtrot! The signal is Romeo Foxtrot zero-zero-three-zero-five-niner! You have the key – you know what to do!” Raintree barked viciously.

 

Dan paused momentarily, absorbing the meaning of the secret signal, but some internal force now drove him to continue closing on the uneasy physician. “I don’t need a key. I won’t let you hurt Steve.”

 

McGarrett was too absorbed in the life-and-death scene unfolding before him to muse on the statement, but realized that it was his safety that had driven his second-in-command to break his own hand to defend him. Raintree had sealed his own fate when he had threatened Dan with Steve’s tortured death earlier.

 

“My three men are just outside. You cannot escape!”

 

Raintree stalled as he moved to stand behind McGarrett, who struggled to grasp his detective’s mental status. Was Danno really under the influence? How could he not be? He wasn’t sure what it all meant as he struggled to divine Danno’s condition. Was he capable of killing his aggressor? He prayed that Danno wasn’t actually going to murder the fiend, no matter how much he deserved to die.

 

Of course, there would be no way that Raintree’s death would not be construed as self-defense. After all, the doctor had already murdered at least two people that day, and announced his intention to kill again. Steve was more concerned with Williams’ own reaction to such an act. He was certain that his colleague had never killed anyone, at least not anyone in a non-combat situation. The young man’s scruples, McGarrett knew, were a harsh metric against which Dan measured his own behavior, and certainly killing a suspect, even a vicious, murderer like Raintree would probably have emotional repercussions for Williams.   

 

“It is not my intention to escape. It is my intention to break your neck.” The young man’s words and steely gaze left no doubt in the mind of the physician that he meant to do just that.

 

Raintree turned suddenly and rocketed for the door. Williams almost instantly tracked with his target’s movements and chased him to the door. Raintree managed to make it out the door and close it before Dan got there.

 

Another twist unfolded immediately before McGarrett. He expected his second-in-command to chase the fleeing doctor out the door. Instead, he spun quickly as soon as the door closed, grabbed a nearby chair, and wedged it under the door knob to prevent anyone from entering the room. He scanned the room quickly and found what he sought – a fire extinguisher and small axe enclosed in a case on the wall. He broke the glass covering and tugged the axe out of its resting place. He didn’t speak, but made eye contact with Steve. Dan was definitely not himself, having almost an “otherworld-ness” McGarrett thought, but at least this was progress in the right direction. The detective put his rapidly swelling left hand over his boss’s right hand, protecting it as he slammed the axe blade down on the hemp-handcuff restraint. The insulted cuff links flew apart, and as soon as McGarrett’s hands were free, he un-gagged himself.

 

He couldn’t help but squeeze Dan’s shoulder at the brilliant ploy that caused Raintree to evacuate the room so quickly. He was uncertain whether to be relieved or concerned that his friend did not react to the touch. Of course, the pair were still trapped by four murderous thugs.

 

“What now?” McGarrett said under his breath not expecting an answer, but he got one.

 

Dan’s reply was soft and calm. “Hide-and-seek.”

 

He moved quickly to the only other door in the room, which led to the room that comprised the other half of the hut. Steve followed suit, stopping momentarily to collect Raintree’s misplaced .44 which he noticed sticking out of the medical bag on the floor. They closed the door behind them, and McGarrett quickly shoved another chair under the door knob. As he caught up to Dan at the door at the far end of the room, the sound of the metal door buckling in the other room could be heard. The pair looked at each other, and Steve pushed the door to the outside open.

 

He glanced furtively outside, knowing they were seconds away from a confrontation with armed gunmen, and almost immediately, one of the heavies rushed at him, firing his weapon. McGarrett shoved Dan back behind the door and opened fire. The man’s momentum carried him into the detective, but he was hit, and so slid to the floor leaving a trail of red down McGarrett’s shirt and pants.

 

After a momentary inspection of the dead man at his feet, Steve looked over at his second-in-command, who was recovering from the hard push on the other side of the doorway, and breathed, “Hide-and-seek, huh?”

 

Dan didn’t speak, but McGarrett thought / hoped he saw a flicker of a smile crossed his face.

 

 

*****

 

 

It took Raintree a full minute to round up his security squad as the three men had strolled off to smoke and enjoy the tropical air. Once back at the blocked entrance to the hut, the ghost man circled around to the back of the hut. It didn’t take the other three men thirty seconds to break down the door and re-take the area. Now infuriated that he’d been threatened and tricked by his prisoners, the doctor scanned the area quickly, but heard shots ring out from the back room.

 

Raintree kicked a chair out of the way in his haste to get to the other door, but he allowed the Dracula thug to try the door. It was blocked, so two of the men put their shoulders to the door and pushed until the blockage moved. Raintree plunged past. It was immediately obvious that the two detectives were not in the room, with the door to the outside swinging in the breeze, and the body of the ghost man prone in the doorway.

 

“Damn it!” Raintree shouted as he ran headlong towards the open door. The two men followed him until the doctor threw the command back at one of them. “Turk, make sure the car is secure!”

 

The thug at the back of the pack stopped suddenly at the command and started to trot back in the other direction. Before he could turn completely around, he was smacked square in the face with the handle of the axe that Dan was wielding. He fell backward and hit the raised floor hard, instantly unconscious. The other two spun to see Williams diving for the downed man’s weapon as McGarrett, broken handcuffs still attached to his wrists, drew up Raintree’s own revolver on him and his last standing monster. The two detectives had doubled back, re-entered the hut, and come up behind their former captors.

 

“Hold it right there!” McGarrett shouted, energized with the realization that the good guys now had a fighting chance. The detective continued as he sensed the monster having a quick internal debate about the best course of action. “If you so much as twitch, it’ll be the last thing you do.” Steve threw a lightening fast glance at Dan, who was crouching next to the horizontal man on the floor. He had collected the weapon that had killed Brinks, but held it pointed at the floor.

 

Raintree shook with rage, but he didn’t move. The thug dove suddenly for the floor as he aimed his gun to fire. McGarrett, prepared for the attempt, reacted almost instantly and fired the gun into the moving target before he or Dan could come into the man’s line of fire. The man cried out in pain as his body slammed into the floor. With the diversion on the part of his henchman, Raintree ducked out the door.

 

Dan slowly stood, the gun hanging in his right hand, but didn’t make any further move as Raintree disappeared from view. Steve rushed for the doorway, certain the doctor was racing for the car, but before he could get all the way out the door, the hand of the ghost man grabbed his ankle, and he fell into the outdoors. From his new position on the ground, McGarrett rolled to take aim again, but it was too late – the man had managed to grab his fallen associate’s gun which had practically dropped into his hand.

 

It seemed to happen in slow motion. The detective saw the gunman taking aim at him, and McGarrett flinched as the report of a gunshot rang in his ears. He looked down at his chest, and when he saw no sign of injury, he looked back up at his attacker in time to see the man dropping back to the floor. His line of sight now clear to Dan, he saw Williams, vacant-eyed, still aiming the weapon he’d just fired. His expression remained a mask as he let the gun drop to his side.

 

The sound of a car’s tires kicking up gravel snapped the head of Five-0 back to thoughts of the fugitive. McGarrett was, to some degree, relieved that the fiend had managed to escape. Danno needed his full attention and he didn’t need the distraction of dealing with the cunning Raintree until he could get help.

 

He staggered to his feet and stepped over the bodies littering the path back to Williams. Steve approached him and gently took the revolver from his hand. Dan relinquished the weapon, and numbly looked up at his boss. McGarrett took him by the arm and guided him back into the room where they’d been detained. He sat his protégé down in the first chair they reached and gently wrapped his left hand and fashioned a sling for him. Dan seemed to have settled back into a dazed, inattentive state. Still unmindful of his broken hand, he sat there, eyes tired and distant. The top priority in the mind of Steve McGarrett at this point was to get his friend back to Doctor Bellagio, whom he had come to trust over the past twenty- four hours. No words were exchanged until McGarrett spoke as he finished with his first aid activity.

 

“You feel up to a walk?” Steve gave an encouraging smile as he asked the question. He could leave the young man here to rest, but something in his gut made him feel very uncomfortable leaving Dan alone in this state.

 

It took Dan a few moments to mentally return to the present. He knew Steve had spoken to him, but he couldn’t remember what he’d said.

 

As soon as Dan made eye contact with him, Steve clarified, “We need to walk down to the main road.”

 

Dan swallowed and nodded. He responded softly. “Where are we?”

 

Up Kolekole Road.” Steve responded as he rose from the chair. Dan followed suit slowly, but swayed a little and had to be steadied by his boss. “You okay?” Concern was stamped on the older man’s face as he questioned the appropriateness of forcing his unwell friend into what would be at least a two-mile walk.

 

“Little dizzy,” Dan mumbled, keeping his words at a premium.

 

“Do you need to rest?”

 

Dan ignored the question, and typical to him, had a different concern. “Are you okay, Steve?”  He took in his boss’s condition as best he could through his still-dilated, blurry vision.

 

Steve affectionately squeezed the back of Dan’s neck. “I’m fine, my friend. It’s you I’m worried about.”

 

“I can make it,” Dan said without conviction.

 

McGarrett nodded and, with a supportive hand on his detective’s arm, the pair walked slowly down the hill towards the main road.

 

 

*****

 

 

A trip that would’ve normally taken less than twenty minutes, took almost forty five. McGarrett guided the unsteady Williams down the road with the care of a man carrying a box of nitro glycerin. At one point, Dan’s head drooped onto Steve’s shoulder and they had to stop for a few minutes while Dan regrouped.

 

Fortuitously, an HPD cruiser was passing when the pair made it to the main road, and so McGarrett was able to direct the patrolman to take them to the NIC, where Doctor Bellagio was waiting. The younger detective slept in the back of the car the entire way. On the drive, in addition to initiating the securing of the crime scenes and learning from the HPD sergeant that all available personnel had been called out to aid in the search for the missing Five-0 detectives, Steve put out an APB on the man he knew only as Doctor Raintree. He doubted that the man would be found before he escaped the islands, but knew there was no way he could hide indefinitely. Obviously, the man was living under the guise of respectability somewhere, and McGarrett vowed to himself that he would find him and do his part to bring him to justice.

 

 

*****

 

 

Dusty rays of sun shown through the bars of the open window as Dan Williams stirred for the first time in many hours. He swallowed and grimaced before he opened his eyes. The unfamiliar room looked and smelled of a hospital, and he had an IV running into his right hand. His right wrist was wrapped in a bandage of some sort, and even more strange was the fact that his left hand was snug in a cast. He panned the room until his eyes rested on the figure that was leaning on the bedside. It took only a moment for him to focus, and he smiled.

 

Dan’s visitor spoke first. “It’s about time you woke up.”

 

“Steve.” Dan said softly. It felt good to awaken and find his boss watching over him. For some reason, he had a sense that he’d been asleep for days, maybe even weeks.

 

“How are you feeling?”

 

McGarrett asked as he gently grabbed the young man’s arm. It had been nearly twenty- four hours since their rescue and subsequent transport to the Naval Hospital at Pearl, where Doctor Bellagio had made arrangements to care for Williams. They were in the psychiatric wing, which was the only part of the facility that could offer the security the patient required.

 

Dan took a few moments to assess himself before he answered. “Okay, I think. A little groggy. Where are we?” Then he frowned and looked at the cast on his hand. “How did I hurt my hand?”

 

Steve had been prepared by Doctor Bellagio for the probability that Williams would not remember much from his ordeal as a result of the drugs, but it was still mildly disturbing that his friend did not instantly recall the harrowing incident. He tried to put that aside as he responded. “We’re at Pearl. You broke a couple of bones in your hand while we were trying to escape.”

 

“Escape?” Dan searched his memory to find the mental hook that would bring the past hours back to him.

 

Steve did not respond immediately. He wanted to give the detective time to find what memories he could on his own. He could tell Williams was struggling to come up with the pieces to this puzzle. Impatient to help his friend, he supplied the beginning of the story.

 

“Carter Brinks abducted you right out of your car, we think.”

 

“Carter Brinks…abducted…” Dan closed his eyes as he parroted a few of Steve’s words. After several moments of contemplation, the young man inhaled sharply and looked up at McGarrett. “Brinks! He – somebody called the office with a message from you.” He stopped and cocked his head as he corrected himself. “But it wasn’t from you.”

 

Steve let a sad smile slip onto his face. “No, it wasn’t.” He could tell by his friend’s expression that recollections were filling his thoughts.

 

“I don’t think I told him what he wanted to know.” It was all so hazy. He remembered being strapped to a table, and he remembered Brinks angrily backhanding him and flicking cigarette ashes onto him – somebody calling him Romeo Foxtrot --  you will cooperate, Williams -- up the ante in this deal – the sinister, skeleton face hovering over him.

 

“Steve!” Panic filled Dan’s being as he tried to sit up. Steve gently, but persistently, kept the detective from rising more than six inches from his reclined position. “You were there! He was going to—” The young man flinched violently. “Gunshots! He killed someone! The blood! Don’t hurt him!” Dan stared at the foot of the bed as he replayed the sketchy scenes

 

“Danno, it’s okay. We’re okay now.”

 

McGarrett’s tone was firm to capture his friend’s attention, but he himself remembered all too well the terrifying episode when Brinks and his doctor were brutally gunned down. To remember the incident from a drugged haze would throw confusion into the mix of macabre.

 

The lock on the door clicked. Moments later Doctor Bellagio and Jonathan Kaye stepped into the room. An armed guard pulled the door closed behind the pair. McGarrett glanced in their direction with a slight frown. He’d hoped for some privacy with Dan before they had an audience. Realizing that they had entered at a delicate moment, the pair discretely stepped back against the wall to observe.

 

Dan did not notice his new visitors as Steve’s body prevented him from seeing the door. The reassuring words from his trusted mentor helped to calm the shock and horror welling up in his gut as the checkerboard of images leaped from somewhere in the recesses of his mind. He stopped pressing against McGarrett’s hands and let himself drop back onto the bed, but he continued speaking.

 

“Who? It was—it was Brinks! He killed Brinks!”

 

Steve nodded. “Yes, he killed Brinks.”

 

“The skeleton man killed Brinks…who…who was it? What did he want?” His voice shrank slightly as he began searching his memory again. The little assassin who couldn’t – he dies a most horrible and slow death – watching a master at work…As some measure of clarity returned, Dan gasped. “Doctor Raintree! He was going to kill you!” His voice started in a whisper but came to a crescendo as the pieces came together. The patient had begun to rise from the bed again, but his boss pressed him gently back.

 

“But he didn’t, did he?” McGarrett’s tone was forceful and confident.

 

Dan studied the man for several seconds, trying to get the panicky sensation under control, before he answered a little more calmly. “No…no, he didn’t.” He looked away slowly to stare at the bars on window. “Raintree,” he said dejectedly.

 

McGarrett glanced back as he heard the approaching footsteps of Bellagio and Kaye. The doctor gave McGarrett a reassuring nod as he moved around to the other side of the bed right into the patient’s line of sight. Dan changed his focus slowly to look up at the man.

 

“You remember Raintree?” Bellagio asked softly.

 

Dan nodded slightly but his expression did not change.

 

“Was he the one that conditioned you for the Arc?”

 

Another slight nod came from Williams, and after ten seconds of thick silence in the room, he closed his eyes. McGarrett looked up from the patient to the physician to gauge whether he should be concerned.

 

Bellagio frowned slightly, but maintained an even tone. “Do you remember that you were a keystone operative for the Arc?”

 

Dan looked troubled, but did not respond. He seemed to be concentrating on a bad memory. McGarrett could sense his friend’s increased anxiety, and apparently so could Bellagio as he addressed Williams.

 

“Danny, it’s okay to tell what you know.”

 

Dan’s took in several slow, deep breaths, before his eyes popped open. The three men standing around the bed started at the sudden change in the patient. His expression quickly moved from one of shock to horror.

 

“Danno – whatever it is, we’ll get through it together.” Steve had to make sure his friend knew he was here for him.

 

Tears began to spill from Dan’s eyes. He squeezed them shut tightly. “I- I need to throw up.” He moved to sit as Bellagio and McGarrett assisted him. He came out of the bed on the doctor’s side and so it was the physician that maintained a steady hold on Williams all the way to the small bathroom ten feet away. Dan pushed the door closed behind him with an almost violent intensity.

  

Bellagio and McGarrett moved to stand just outside the door as Williams wretched – there was nothing to bring up as he hadn’t eaten since early the previous morning. Kaye, a little more reluctant to become involved in what seemed to him to be personal medical issues, hung back several feet. After a few minutes of listening through the door, one noise subsided, but another one seemed to be growing.

 

The detective leaned his head on the door. “Danno?” He strained his ears until the noise grew loud enough to be recognized as sobs. His friend was crying inconsolably. “Danno, it’s going to be okay.”

 

“No, it won’t!” The sound of Dan’s tormented voice boomed through the door. “It’s too late! Oh my God! It’s too late!” More sobs echoed from the stark bathroom.

 

“Danno, it’s not too late! What happened is over – it wasn’t your fault!” McGarrett could feel his own eyes burning at the sound of Williams anguish. “You were a victim!”

 

“A victim?” He screamed through the door. More sobs followed before he continued. “A victim like President Kennedy was a victim? ”

 

McGarrett felt as if he’d been standing on a precipice preparing to fall for the past few minutes – it suddenly felt as if he been shoved hard over the edge. His heart seemed to skip a beat as several isolated tidbits of information came crashing into focus as a single picture.

 

They wanted to send me to Cuba for a couple months – disguised as a civilian... The little assassin who couldn’t…You would have gone down in history – very down…

 

His young friend had been groomed as the one who would assassinate the now late President Kennedy – OR more likely (since they eventually figured out that their chosen assassin would not assassinate) – the one who would be accused and convicted! There would have been evidence that Williams was a communist sympathizer – pictures of him in Cuba fraternizing with communist radicals would have proved his political bent. And no doubt there would have been reams of other incriminating “facts” that would’ve come to light after the president was laid to rest. An involuntary shudder traversed McGarrett’s spine -- if Dan had not had the prescience to extricate himself from the clutches of the Arc, he could well have been set up as the fall guy for what was evidently one of the most fiendish conspiracies of their time! McGarrett didn’t think he could feel any more revulsion than he already felt for the cold-blooded criminals that controlled the Arc until that moment.

 

Hating to intrude, but not satisfied with just standing outside the door, Steve McGarrett made a decision – not as a cop or a spook – but as a friend. He gently opened the door, and was met with only weak resistance as Williams pushed back half-heartedly. “Go away, Steve! How can you even stand to look at me?”

 

Dan’s head rested on his cast left arm, which was draped across the toilet seat. The head of Five-0 kneeled next to his friend and placed his hand on the back of his neck. His tone was typically loud and firm. “Danno, you didn’t know – you couldn’t have stopped it – they would’ve killed you! They tried their damndest to set you up as their patsy, but they couldn’t!” Dan slowly looked up into his boss’s face — he desperately needed to believe and it showed in his tear-streaked face.

 

Steve’s voice was confident as he added softly, “You were just too good for them.”

 

Williams’ lower lip quivered and more tears spilled down his cheeks, but this time, they were tears of gratitude for the tremendous gift of unwavering support from Steve McGarrett. Dan nodded slightly and gave his boss a very welcome but brief and tentative smile. McGarrett helped Dan slowly come to his feet and held his arm until Williams was settled back in the bed.

 

“Well, there it is!” Jonathan spoke for the first time through clenched teeth. “A witness that links the Arc to the assassination of JFK.” Neither McGarrett nor Bellagio reacted to the statement as they were concentrating on the condition of Kaye’s witness

 

Doctor Bellagio handed his patient a glass of orange juice, which Dan eyed suspiciously.

 

“It’s one hundred percent pure orange juice – with no additives!” The doctor smiled encouragingly. Williams glanced over at McGarrett for reassurance before he took a sip. “Danny, I want you to tell Steve these answers. Did Doctor Raintree use drugs and hypnosis to try to force you to do things that you knew were illegal?”

 

The silence in the room seemed deafening to Dan as he looked up into Steve’s eyes. The strength was there for him and he responded, albeit shakily. “Yes… Raintree tried, and when I wouldn’t…he wouldn’t let me sleep or eat …he kept telling me that I was an ungrateful, little nothing…nobody cared whether I lived or died…” Dan’s recollection of the pain was mirrored in Steve’s eyes as the young man swallowed and pressed on. “I—uh…I still wouldn’t do it, and I thought he might kill me, but after a week maybe, he made me forget what he’d done to me, and then he just let me go.  Lieutenant Colonel Hazleton worked with me on my cover story for a week before I was turned over to the Coast Guard.” 

 

It was Kaye’s turn to gasp. “Warren Hazleton?”

 

Dan nodded and looked down at the cast on his arm.

 

Kaye looked at Steve to explain. “He’s now the assistant to the Director of the CIA. That he had connections to the Arc has some very serious implications.” The man put his hands over his eyes for a few moments, absorbing the news before he looked back at Williams. “Danny, we need to know sooner rather than later anything else you can tell us about this.”

 

Dan nodded again, but continued studying his cast.

 

Bellagio spoke again. “Danny are you prepared to provide a recorded statement?”

 

Another slow, unenthusiastic nod came from Williams as he asked the question that burned in his mind. “Did – did Raintree escape?” He looked up once again into the eyes of his boss, needing to gauge the man’s reaction to his query.

 

Well-schooled in the art of non-reaction, McGarrett offered his answer as neutrally as he could muster. “He hasn’t been captured yet, but he will be eventually. He’s apparently a world-renowned psychiatrist.”

 

“He runs the Raintree Clinic for Psychiatric Studies in Boston,” Bellagio chimed in.

 

“I’m locked in a psych ward?” Dan asked feeling the need to change the subject.

 

“Only for your own protection.” McGarrett’s supplied.

 

“I bet that’s what they tell all the guests here.”

 

Steve chuckled. “Yeah, Danno, I bet you’re right.” It was good to see some of Dan’s sense of humor returning after such a traumatic couple of days.

 

Guiding the conversation back to the issue at hand, the doctor planned. “We can conduct the debriefing right here after we get our witness something to eat.”

 

“And some cigarettes,” Dan added.

 

“You need to quit smoking.”

 

Steve let the admonishment slip out about the habit he hated. He hadn’t made too many waves about it because it wasn’t something that affected his job performance, but the more time he spent with Williams the more he found the vice disturbing.

 

Dan gave his boss a pleading-no-lectures-now look. He didn’t feel up to arguing about something he viewed as a personal comfort at that moment.

 

McGarrett recognized the expression and relented. “Okay, okay, not today maybe.” But soon, he decided.  

 

 

*****

 

 

“Hey, open this door! Why am I still locked in?” Dan pounded and called through the door to the guard he knew was on the other side.

 

“That’s how the doors work in this wing, sir,” came the muffled reply. “You should be sleeping. It’s three o’clock in the morning.”

 

“Open the door, man. I’m not a patient—well, I’m not a mental patient.” Dan implored. At least I don’t think I am....

 

“Sir, if I open this door, then I will have to wake Mr. McGarrett in the next room, and quite frankly, sir, he dropped on that bed in there only a couple hours ago. Do you really want me to wake him up?”

 

Dan was silent for a few seconds, touched that his boss had not left him locked up in the psychiatric ward without any recourse. He knew Steve would have been carrying an enormous workload at the office in his absence. He envisioned that the detective worked late and then came here to sleep, knowing that he might awaken sometime during the night after the final exhausting question-and-answer session the previous evening. Williams had reluctantly agreed to be sequestered in the secure facility truly for his own protection until he had been completely debriefed. Now, knowing that the debriefing was complete, and that he was free to leave as soon as he could be signed out by somebody, he awakened very early and felt, well – caged.

 

“No…no, don’t wake him,” Williams responded slowly.

 

Then he leaned on the wall next to the door. He slid to the floor and sat there. He couldn’t bring himself to awaken Steve just because he himself felt a world better with five hours of natural, non-drug-induced rest. As super human as the man sometimes seemed, Dan knew all too well that his mentor would drive himself until he literally dropped.

 

It had been a difficult couple of days for Williams as the marathon recording sessions captured almost thirty two hours of statement from the detective, who was emotionally drained after responding to hundreds of questions and recounting numerous incidents, most of which he did not remember prior to the hypnosis session with Bellagio. Dan paced and smoked for awhile as he spoke. Other times he sat at the table where the tape recorder was set up, and for awhile, he sat on the bed to speak. Facts which were meaningless to the young man offering them were obviously significant to Jonathan Kaye and Troy Lane, both of whom sat in on all of the sessions. Kaye would ask a question, and sometimes Williams would know the answer – or know that he did not know the answer – immediately, and other times, he had to think about it before an answer came to him.

 

Williams implicated Doctor Raintree, along with several other individuals known to Kaye, in numerous illegal activities, but he had almost no memory of the events surrounding his abduction and imprisonment. It was McGarrett’s testimony that would provide a record of the evil deeds that had come to pass in those horrifying hours. Kaye promised that heads would be rolling, possibly out of the public eye, but rolling nonetheless, for months to come. He said both Williams and McGarrett would be called to testify in more than one classified tribunal. McGarrett was insistent that Raintree would be found and tried in a court of law for the crimes he’d committed on Hawaiian soil, and Kaye knew he would end up compromising in some capacity in order to make sure both Hawaiian detectives cooperated with his agenda.

 

McGarrett was in attendance for some of Dan’s debriefing sessions, but had an ocean of police duties that required his attention as well. The backlog of work, with the two top detectives out of the office, had become voluminous, and there was no way for Steve to ignore the fires that had sprung up in their absence.

 

This was just another case in point in the mind of McGarrett. Since he’d appointed Williams his second-in-command, he’d been able to attend to previously neglected duties on the other islands, and be out of the office for a day or two here and there for other reasons. While things were frequently accomplished in what he thought were less-than-orthodox, definitely untraditional  manners, nothing fell apart. His young second-in-command always seemed to be able to keep the ship on course. Steve had even been able to take a spontaneous flight to Los Angeles to visit his sister after the somewhat difficult delivery of her first child. Admittedly, he’d only been gone two days, but his absence had not de-railed any of Five-0’s ongoing efforts, as an impromptu absence would have done in the past.  It further proved to the head of Five-0 the excellence of his widely-debated and disputed decision to make Danno his second.

 

Dan tapped on the door again without getting up. “Hey, friend?” When no answer was immediately forthcoming, Williams cursed himself for allowing Doctor Bellagio to talk him into laying down for a few hours to wait for his boss to return and collect him. Now, he was effectively imprisoned until McGarrett woke up. He sighed, but then turned his head to the door as a shuffling sound filtered under the door. “Hey, you got a smoke I could have?”

 

“You need to quit,” came the terse response.

 

Williams turned his shoulders to the door as he recognized his boss’s voice. He smiled as the door’s lock tumblers clicked and McGarrett stepped into his room. The man looked weary. Still in his suit pants and white shirt, he’d abandoned his tie and jacket in favor of a blue cardigan sweater. Stuffed under his arm, was a nondescript, brown paper bag.

 

“I don’t know how you can have a two-week growth of beard when you shave every day,” Dan teased as he accepted Steve’s outstretched hand to rise from the floor.

 

“Your two weeks is my two hours, Danno, what can I say?” McGarrett smiled and studied his friend as he spoke. “You alright?” The young man looked a little gaunt and tired yet, the remnant of a black eye adding to the image. His right wrist was bandaged  and his left hand was still in the cast, and would remain that way for the next few weeks he’d been told. Dan could still not remember how he’d done it, but had been uncharacteristically disinterested in the details of their time as Raintree’s prisoners.

 

“Yeah, I’m okay. Did I wake you?” Dan wrinkled his nose slightly at the thought.

 

Steve shrugged. “That’s okay. I didn’t think you’d want to be here any longer than absolutely necessary. So, I thought I’d just hang around until you woke up, and we could get out of Dodge together.”

 

“Thanks, Steve,” Dan smiled with appreciation. “You look wiped out though. Maybe I’d better drive YOU home.”

 

McGarrett, as tired as he felt, was almost exuberant with relief that Williams seemed more like himself than he had in days. He nodded and handed Dan the bag. “I’ll drive, but only if you’ll put on some street clothes.”

 

 

*****

 

 

Dan rolled down the window down on his boss’s LTD as the sedan progressed towards his place. The moist, fragrant air filled his lungs. It felt good to be free. He’d learned, as Steve promised, that he’d followed the orders of his superiors up to the point where those order began to cross the line into the unethical. Even under the influence of hypnotic cocktails, Doctor Raintree had been unable to convince the young soldier to commit acts that went against his nature.

 

The story that went out to the general public before Dan was released from the hospital was that Carter Brinks, a government agent with some undisclosed personal problems had kidnapped McGarrett and Williams in an effort to prevent them from being witnesses in a classified federal case. Many elements in the official tale which Jonathan Kaye sculpted and had leaked did not make sense, but it didn’t matter. Kaye knew that the only thing that needed to be in the public eye was the hint of a reasonable explanation for the kidnappings and murders that had darkened Hawaii’s media. The detectives’ official line on the incident, as they anticipated, was, “No comment.”

 

“I want you take a few days off, and I mean it.” Steve threw a glance at his passenger, who seemed relaxed but a little melancholy. 

 

“I’d rather not.” Dan’s cheerless tone confirmed what McGarrett suspected. “I just like to get back to — to normal.”

 

“You mean to being an overworked, underpaid civil servant instead of an uncooperative, has-been assassin,” McGarrett offered.

 

Dan smirked and looked over at his boss, who kept his eyes on the road. “I’ll remember you said that at review time.” He looked out the window again and grew serious quickly. He decided he needed to admit what was bothering him. “The Arc picked me because I was alone in the world. I was a nobody that could be set up as a patsy for a heinous crime, or I could vanish forever without so much as a peep from anybody. I didn’t think about it much at the time – that I was the last one standing in my family – but I guess it kind of got to me that Raintree was right – what he said I mean.”

 

“I disagree, Danno. That may be what the Arc thought they were getting, but, as far as Kaye can tell, you are the only Arc keystone to escape with your life. And the reason is because you had a very highly placed family who was prepared to make a rather large public fuss about your disappearance.” The older detective reminded his protégé.

 

Dan looked down and shook his head. “Steve, that might be the reason I’m alive, but in the end, Doug let go pretty quickly. If the Arc HAD murdered me, nothing would’ve come of it. Aunt Clara would’ve received a letter about a tragic car accident or something months after I was worm food.”

 

“Hmm, I think, as usual, you’re underestimating yourself, and maybe your aunt too.” McGarrett turned the sedan into his usual fire lane parking spot in from of Dan’s apartment and put the car into park.

 

Dan shrugged. “It doesn’t really matter now, I guess.”

 

“Times change, Danno. You had multiple shifts of HPD personnel out beating the bushes for you after Brinks grabbed you, and you’re disappearance warranted television coverage and made the front page of all the newspapers the next day.”

 

Dan had to smile as he offered a mildly sarcastic reply. “And that had nothing to do with the fact that I had you in my corner.”

 

The pair looked up to lock gazes as the driver reached over and squeezed his passenger’s shoulder. “And in your corner, I’ll stay, my friend. Never forget who you are.”

 

“Who’s that?” Dan teased, trying to pull back a bit from the emotion he felt right then.

 

“You are a talented and honest cop and – and a devoted friend.” McGarrett confided.     

 

With praise like that, there was no way Dan could leave the car feeling alone in the world.

 

 

*****

 

 

In a rare move, Steve held the door open for his second-in-command. Dan acknowledged the unexpected courtesy with an uncertain glance as he stepped through the Five-0 outer doorway for the first time since he’d left on that fateful day to meet his boss. Chin, Kono, and May were all standing together in front of Steve’s door. The smiles on their faces told him something was up before he could see what that something was. The detective studied the trio suspiciously as he and his boss moved in their direction.

 

“Isn’t anyone gonna say aloha?” Williams asked loudly, and looked behind him for a moment at a smiling McGarrett.

 

By way of answer, the trio parted and opened the door to their boss’s office. Perplexed, he stepped past his co-workers and had a clear line of sight to Steve’s desk. Propped and centered against the front of the big wood desk was a brand new surf board. It was sky blue, with thin swirls of winter white dancing across the smooth surface. The expression on the youngest detective’s face revealed his surprise and pleasure at the sight. He approached almost tentatively, a shy smile persistent on his face, and ran his hand down the front of the board admiringly. His beloved long board had been destroyed that night in the parking garage, and he’d known there would be no telling when he’d be able to afford a decent replacement.  Perfect

 

It took a full thirty seconds before the detective remembered the other people in the room. Not one to let silence sit for too long, Kono spoke. “It’s a new eight-six.”

 

“Yeah,” the detective responded as he looked at his friends, all pleased at his reaction.

 

McGarrett now stood behind the others with his arms folded. He smiled tolerantly, and Dan knew that his boss’s wallet had figured heavily in this very extravagant gift.

 

“I don’t know what to say.”

 

Dan had not expected to have one of the new fiberglass boards for a long time. He was compelled to take a look at the back side of the board before he continued, and something caught his eye. It was on the side of the white fin – something written in sky blue. He squatted to get a closer look. Painted and sealed onto fin were the words:

 

Detective Dan Williams

Hawaii Five-0

 

“In case you forget who you are,” Kono offered. “It was Steve’s idea.”

 

Now, completely choked up, Dan just shook his head and whispered. “She’s a beauty. Thank you.”

 

May moved towards him and wrapped her arms around his neck. “We’re glad to have you back in one piece – again!”

 

“I’m not sure this gift smacks of keeping you that way.” McGarrett supplied with a grin, reveling in the much-deserved delight he’d just given his detective.

 

Dan shook each detective’s hand. Kono yanked him over and gave him a bear hug, and Chin gave him the manly hair muss as he shook Steve’s hand.

 

“Steve…” Dan just looked at his boss. What could he say to a man who’d saved his life and bought him a new surf board to boot? Their eyes met as he hesitated.

 

Steve understood his protégé’s difficulty and shrugged. “I already know, Danno.”

 

A piece of fiberglass hardly seemed enough to thank somebody who’d shown him such incredible loyalty and dedication. The young man had been willing to die for him, and had saved his life by breaking his own hand. 

 

As for Romeo Foxtrot, he stood there with the people that did care whether he lived or died, knowing that his niner niner mission had come at last, and it had been successful.

 

PAU