BEYOND THE LAW

by

G M


  ___________________________

March 1978
  
 

While Steve McGarrett waited for someone to answer his phone call, he closed his eyes and basked in the warm, gentle Maui sun. It had been a while since he'd been to the Valley Isle on anything but hectic business. Breathing deeply in the clear air he opened his eyes and watched the boats bob and sway in the gentle tide of the docks at Lahaina. A perfect winter day. Why wasn't the phone being answered? This was the fourth ring --

"Hawaii Five-0."

"Luana, what's going on?"

"Oh, hi, Steve. Nothing. I was just at the other end of the office at the telex machine. Everyone else is out to lunch."

Steve checked his watch. Almost one PM. Okay, most of the staff was at lunch -- staggered breaks -- so the office would not be empty at any point. At least a few of his detectives should be there.

"So, how's Maui?"

"Fine. Warm and sunny. Danno there?"

From across the miles he could here the exasperation in her sigh. "Yes. Have a nice week, Steve. Try to relax."

A click, then, "Hi, Steve. So, Maui no ka 'oi?"

"Yeah, Danno. How's everything there?"

"Well, you know, about the same."

"Danno --"

"Steve," another clear sigh, "you're on vacation. If I tell you about the eight bank robberies, the three kidnappings and the mongoose who wreaked havoc in the Royal Hawaiian lobby just this morning, well, then, you'd be distracted. And since I'm such a nice guy I'm not going to do that."

Steve could have seen the deflection as deliberate taunting. The kind tone altered the rebuke to gentle, but firm resolve. Heaven save him from well-meaning keepers. Unspoken was the assessment that he needed this time off, that the strain at Five-0, lately, had been horrendous, and his staff wanted him to relax, rebuild his defenses.

"Very funny, Danno. What's really going on?"

"Nothing, and that's all you're going to get out of me."

How could he argue? Only a few weeks had passed since his botched undercover mission and the death of his friend Frankie  [*episode -- A SHORT WALK ON THE LONG SHORE], then Barney Kawala's death  [*episode -- HEAD TO HEAD].

When Constance Kinkaid, the aristocratic --bossy -- over-bearing, old-money plantation owner. [*episode -- THE BIG ALOHA] invited him to a Celebrity/Pro golf tournament in Maui, he was tempted. When she pressured him -- attacking his conscience that it was for charity -- he accepted. Dan kidded that he also agreed because while Constance could be obnoxious, she was also attractive, intelligent and interesting to be around -- traits (Williams insisted) Steve found appealing in his women.

Warning his friend that he was treading on thin lava if he tried matchmaking, Steve nonetheless appreciated the effort. Dan was watching out for him, helping him through a tough time. As much out of gratitude, as well as the intriguing thought of a weekend in close proximity with Constance, Steve had agreed. Besides, it gave him the chance to sail his boat to Maui for a long weekend holiday.

"So, I'm out of the office and already there's a coup at the Palace." The retort was a little sharp, but tempered by a dry humor. He knew exactly what Dan was doing -- taking advantage of Steve being out of the office and wielding power over the absent boss.

"Yeah, I'm even going to put my feet up on your desk."

Laughing, Steve surrendered. "All right, Danno, I get the message loud and clear. But please, if anything happens -- "

"You'll have to hear it on the six o'clock news, Steve, ‘cause you're not going to hear it from me. Now go have fun and pretend you're on holiday. If you don't, then next time a rich widow invites you for a week in Maui, I'm going to take your place."

"Understood."

"Now, go make some holes-in-one and remember, Luana wants you to bring back some Maui chips; she can't get enough of those greasy snacks."

Even over the phone McGarrett heard the protest on that one. Dan was teasing the poor secretary, something that would probably be a merciless habit while Steve was away. He'd have to get a report when he returned. From Chin -- the only one who would give him a straight answer.

"Behave yourself, Danno. I don't want to have to replace the secretaries. I'll check in later."

"Steve," Williams' tone sobered, "don't worry about things here, everything's under control. Go have some fun."

"I will. Bye."

"Aloha."

When Williams hung up he noted Chin and Duke were standing outside his cubicle, holding food cartons boxes. He remembered that one of their errands was to bring back lunch. His stomach growled at the reminder and he eagerly cleared a space on the top of his desk.

"Steve having trouble relaxing?"

"Of course." Dan scraped off his chop sticks and dug into the chow mein. "But he sailed to Maui so there's no quick way back." The smile indicated this was a good thing.

"Did you suggest him taking the boat because it'd be harder for him to get back?" Duke wondered.

Williams winked. "I'll never tell. And don't let Steve in on how quiet things have been this morning. He might lay us off."

Chin scoffed. "That's bad luck, Danny. Now you gonna get truckloads of trouble."

The phone rang and all three laughed. Swallowing his food quickly, Williams answered. His expression clouded and Chin and Duke exchanged concerned glances. "Okay, yeah, we'll be right there." Hanging up, he gulped down more food. "That was HPD. Devlin's been found murdered in his Kahala estate. Let's finish lunch, the body's not going anywhere." The terse comment was contradicted by his hurried pace. The others matched his speed.

Duke asked why HPD had fielded the investigation to them.

Around an eggroll, Dan responded. "Probably because he's on bail from one of our cases. Or maybe they just didn't feel like handling the political football."

Kelly grumbled, "Devlin had plenty of angry investors when he got arrested. Lots of heat."

Duke reminded, "Five-0 got a lot of that heat."

Pushing aside his fortune cookie unopened, Dan observed, "Chin, next time I'm about to bring down some bad luck, warn me before I open my mouth."
 
 

*****

The first round of golf went well; celebrities, amateurs and pros all giving a good showing. At the end of the day Arnold Palmer and his local partner, Lieutenant Claybourne from HPD, were the lowest score under par. Constance Kincaid and Gerald Ford were in second. McGarrett, teamed with a doctor from Kahala, placed fourth, just behind Governor Paul Jameson and Johnny Carson.

After a round of drinks and interviews with the press, of which Steve observed more than participated, the players retired to their rooms at the resort to prepare for the evening dinner dance for the tournament. Constance cornered McGarrett and asked if he would like to relax on the beach before the later festivities. He countered with an offer to go sailing, which she accepted.

The pleasant afternoon skirting the coast of Maui was delightful. Constance was a fun companion with saucy comments about the celebrities, astute observations about the participants, and some great ideas for the use of the money they were going to be donating to Honolulu Children's charities.

Beneath the chatter was an undertone of purpose, however, and it didn't take much detective work for Steve to deduce she wanted something from him. The company was pleasant enough that he played along for a while. They were heading back to Lahaina when he asked her what she was up to.

Sitting close to him her eyes danced. Her deep voice rumbled with an amused but wary chuckle. "Ah, I think I'll wait until a later time to spring my trap, Mr. McGarrett. Are you still game?"

The challenge was enticing and made him smile. "I'm pretty good at playing games."

"I'm counting on that," she laughed alluringly.
 
 

*****

The HPD crime lab team, which jointly worked with Five-0, were already examining the area, taking plaster casts of footprints near the bushes lining the pool of the extensive Kahala mansion. With Dan's permission the first officers on the scene -- HPD detectives -- had just fished Devlin out of the pool.

Strolling through the incredible house, which was full of expensive furnishings, Williams pondered that he'd seen a lot of riff-raff able to indulge in pricey tastes. Most of them ended up like Devlin. The developer/swindler/murderer. [*SHAKE HANDS WITH THE MAN IN THE MOON]

had a lot of enemies. Williams had left Duke behind at the Palace to start sorting through the ones on the top of the list. When he and Kelly emerged from the house and observed the body beside the pool, Dan started reevaluating his suspects.

Near the deep end of the pool dirty smears on the concrete seemed to be blood in an unusual spray pattern. Guessing, Williams assessed that the victim was forced, probably, to kneel at the edge -- then shot -- then the body neatly tumbled into the pool. Not much clean up needed.

The body was soaked of course; but the Aloha patterned shirt was clean now that the water had washed away the blood. The pool was tinged with dirt and cloudiness, which Dan suspected was blood and brain-matter from the victim. Before the body was rotated to face in his direction, Dan knew the murder had been committed execution style. And in a manner unique to his experience as a cop -- which was saying a lot considering his extensive experience with murder -- handcuffed hands behind Devlin's back were interlinked with cuffs on ankles so the body was bent backward.

Leaning over, Dan crouched next to the body on the cement. Devlin had been shot in the front of the head. Dan flinched. Not a pretty sight. Medium to large calibre with probably a soft-tip since the extreme damage to the head was where one bullet entered the brain -- no exit wounds.

Instant death -- right between the eyes. Either the killer was sadistic and taunted the victim with a face to face threat, or the killer was merciful to make the death quick and painless. Shots to the back of the head were effective, but not quick. The victim had seconds, sometimes minutes to suffer and know the terror of an agonizing descent into death.

Due to the damage it was hard to see any obvious powder burns, but he thought he detected some tattooing -- gunpowder particles that blasted into the skin with bullet wounds at a range of approximately less than a foot. The tattooing would not come off in the water since it was blasted into the skin. Blood and tissue residue would have exploded onto the shooter, however.

Dan glanced at the nearby ocean, just on the other side of a row of bushes. Easy escape route. The narrow beach and shallow water of the Kahala area lent itself well to a competent swimmer making it to the nearby park or a beach access down the road.

After the photographers snapped several angles of the head wounds, and the hands and feet, Dan moved to examine the wrists and ankles of the victim. Kelly crouched down beside him and pointed out that there was very little abrasion on the skin -- not even on the ankles, where it would be expected that the round cuffs would chafe against the oval shape of the ankle.

"So he didn't have much chance to struggle." Dan's interpretation was thoughtful. "The end came quick; not much time to fight free of the cuffs."

"But nobody reported hearing cries for help." Chin had already been talking to the officer inside who interviewed the housekeeper that had found the body. "Maybe they hit him on the head or something."

"No way to tell until we get the post mortem. No one heard a shot it seems. Silencer?" He studied the bushes near the deep end. "Have the team check carefully around here for spent shells."

Exhaling deeply, Williams toured the pool area and stopped next to Donny Chow, one of two investigating officers first on the scene.

"Quite a hog-tie, huh, Danny?"

"Yeah, never seen anything like it."

This got Chow's attention. The stocky Oriental raised his eyebrows and looked up from taking notes. His gold rings glittered in the bright afternoon sun. Chow was famous for his flashy jewelry, fancy clothes and showy cars. Dan always felt bargain-basement next to the neat and extroverted cop.

"Hey, that's saying something when Five-0 finds an original method of murder."

"Maybe not original somewhere else." Kelly's curt suggestion came as he studied the younger, extravagant cop. "Maybe someone from the mainland."

"A pro hit?" Danny wondered aloud. "We have no evidence Devlin was connected to mob money or anything else from the mainland. But it's worth looking into. Why don't you handle that, Chin. I'll go talk to the maid -- Charlie mentioned she's the one who found the body, right?"

"Yeah." Chow thumbed toward the house. "My partner's in there checking out her alibi and stuff. In the pool table room. Hey, check it out, musta cost a couple-a-thou to furnish just that room."

Williams shook his head at the dollar signs always clicking behind Donny's eyelids. "Mahalo." With Chin, he turned and walked back toward the large mansion, avoiding the men at the sliding glass door who were dusting for prints. "You don't like Chow much, do you, Chin?" The observation was amused.

"Too flashy for a cop."

Laughing, Dan fingered the lapel of his conservative, charcoal, off-the-rack jacket. "Yeah, only Five-0 standard cop issue suits for us."

Patrolwoman Sandi Welles and her partner Nate Price met them in the house. Their patrol route started just one block over and they stopped by to lend a hand. As Sandi rapidly brought them up to speed, Dan nearly smiled at the interesting combination of Welles and Price. Welles was bubbly, enthusiastic, effervescent and a non-stop talker. Price hardly exchanged more than a few words with anyone though he had a solid record.

"So are you putting this down to a mob hit, Danny?" Sandi's enthusiasm couldn't be contained. "Want us to run down the beach and check on Pahoa and Alika?"

"Not yet, Sandi." Dan exchanged an amused glance with Price. "Too early even to jump to wild conclusions."
 
 

"Sorry."

"That's okay. Enthusiasm for your work never hurts."

The maid was being shepherded by Charlie Kiule, Donny's partner. The woman had calmed considerably since her initial hysterics at finding the body of her employer in the pool. No visitors since she'd served Devlin breakfast on the lanai, she recounted. No noises. No phone calls. No cars driving up into the driveway. Pressed for anything else she remembered, she admitted the dog next door barked about a half-hour before she went out to ask Devlin when he wanted lunch. Adding very little information to his database of knowledge, Dan did think the bit with the dog might be valuable.

Standing at the edge of the lanai, Williams studied the beautiful blue ocean just a few feet away. The dog next door started barking.

"So the killer probably came and went along the beach."

Dan nodded at Chin's assessment. "And that will be hard to trace. Maybe came along here as he left -- that's when the dog barked." He smirked. "Sherlock one-oh-one. The dog in the night. Or in this case, the dog in the day." On Chin's obviously confused look, Williams grinned. "One of the famous Sherlock Holmes stories -- he solves the case because the dog didn't bark. In this case, the dog DID bark."

The Chinese cop paused. "Did you notice the cuffs?"

Sighing, Dan nodded. "Standard police issue handcuffs. So is that a message? Or a challenge?"

Chin shrugged his shoulders and Williams watched the surf, sensing this was the beginning of a very complex case.
 
 

*****


 
 

Far from considering himself a celebrity, Steve was realistic enough to know he was one of the most infamous personalities in the islands. He regularly conferred with the governor of the state, the attorney general and mingled with various entertainers. As for socializing with people with money and power, he knew Constance Kinkaid and a number of others of influence. If they wanted to color the tournament with local personalities -- especially in making the malihini golf games look better -- he was a natural choice.

Not easily impressed by fame, wealth or power, Steve McGarrett found himself awed in the formal dining room of the Kaanapali hotel. This afternoon he had shared the links with Arnold Palmer, Bob Hope, Gerald Ford, and Johnny Carson. Also on the course were old friends Governor Jameson and John Manicote. HPD was represented by police chief Charles and Lieutenant Claybourne, HPD's second in command. Steve was excited, but admitted it only to himself when Constance took his arm and steered him around to meet with legendary luminaries such as Hope and former President Ford. Never one to be impressed by Hollywood glitter or politics, Steve respected these men and was honored to converse with them.

When President Ford cornered him to talk about Five-0 exploits, he chatted easily but a little nervously. It was unsettling to know the once Chief Executive of the country knew about him and his police unit.

"Some people would like to see you run for governor when Jameson retires at the end of the decade."

Too polite to openly contradict the former president of the United States, McGarrett cleared his throat. Steve was stunned at the thought and wanted to shout out -- 'no thanks' in no uncertain terms. He strove for tact. "That's not a job I'd like, sir. I'm a cop."

Mr. Ford leaned closer. "And a very strong proponent of law and order. Governors have had less to start with for a platform."

Bob Hope joined them, shouldering in next to his golf buddy Ford. Considerably shorter than most of the people gathered in the circle, the comedian managed, in a humorous way, to divert attention to himself rather than the luminaries around him.

"Not talking politics, are you?" Before anyone could answer he focused on McGarrett. "I've heard the steak here is as tough as Bing Crosby's jokes. What can you recommend, Steve?"

"The mahimahi." It was a safe guess -- local specialties were always best at Hawaiian resorts. And he wasn't about to fall flat in front of so many people he admired. "Few fancy chefs in the world could really ruin a good filet of mahimahi or opakapaka."

They all laughed, even Bob Hope! Then they all headed toward the tables for dinner

"Hey, do you mind if I steal that -- no -- borrow that from you sometime, Steve? I should know better than to try and steal anything around Hawaii's top cop."

Constance looped her arm through McGarrett's, beaming at him with pride. "Oh, his bark is worse than his bite, Bob."

Constance steered them to a table with the doctor who had been McGarrett's golfing team mate, the top HPD men, and the governor's press secretary, Syd Samuels. Normally Steve didn't like dealing with Syd -- preferring to deal directly with Jameson -- but Syd was one of the movers and shakers in local politics and McGarrett got the feeling Kincaid had set him up. In fact, this whole weekend invitation seemed like an event orchestrated to introduce him to specific, important people in and out of Hawaii.

Danno would have been more comfortable rubbing elbows with the rich and famous. Steve would rather be out on his boat. Danno wouldn't have appreciated the great day at golf, however, since the younger detective didn't play. Accepting Constance's invitation to dance, Steve was glad he'd come and wouldn't trade this engaging moment for anything! Steve could get used to this life all too easily. Danno was just out of luck this time.

Thinking about his friend automatically made him wonder about things back at the office, but only for a minute. Danno was competent -- he could handle anything that would come up in the next few days.

"I'm losing you." Mrs. Kincaid snuggled closer to his chest.

He tightened his hold on her. "What could possibly make me think of anything else while I have such a pretty lady in my arms?"

"Oh, a touch of the blarney, McGarrett. You had a faraway look. Are all these political people boring you?"

"No, it's been a wonderful day." He surveyed the room full of celebrities. "And your acquaintances are hardly boring. They are famous and clever and better than I am on the greens."

Boldly, she looked squarely into his eyes. "There's more than one game being played here this weekend, Steve."

His suspicions confirmed, Steve stared back at her, accepting the innuendo, the challenge. "I know."
 
 

*****

The phone rang, jolting Williams awake instantly. On the second ring his eyes were focused enough to glance at the clock -- four twenty-three AM -- and noted it was still dark outside. Before the third ring he answered.

"Williams."

"Hey, Danny, this is Officer Puna."

Williams rubbed his eyes. Business, of course. He was on call for Five-0. After staying at the office until about one AM he didn't feel very spry. Around a yawn he asked the obvious. "What have you got, Ky?"

"Got another murder for you guys. Just like the one yesterday."

Dan sat up. "Execution?"

"Yeah. Hands and feet cuffed together so he's like a pretzel. That's what Officer Nuuanu says. He's down at the Sand Island docks now."

"Okay, listen, Ky, send the lab boys down there."

Dan hung up and called Duke, who had gone home at a reasonable hour. He'd let Chin sleep in. Filling Lukela in on the situation, Williams rushed to get ready. This might be developing into a minor serial killing spree and so far Dan hadn't really figured out much of anything. He wanted to have some solid facts in hand before many more hours passed, before any more murders. Especially because when McGarrett returned he would want answers. Dan wanted to prove he was not sitting around soaking up sun while the boss was away.

Sand Island was already crowded with dock workers preparing to start their day at dawn. Some arrived early to breakfast from the rolling catering 'garbage truck' van that supplied cheap food in the dock area. Several HPD men were interviewing workers, but so far no one had been here to see anything but the body. No cars, no people, no sound. The night watchman was equally negative.

Dan and Duke needed no more than a glance at the body to identify the victim as Richard Sutcliff, a drug dealer and wealthy low life who was out on bail pending his trial for murder. Five-0 had directly linked Sutcliff to the drugs and the party where a well known socialite died of an overdose. Going through the routine again, Dan instructed everyone to look carefully for spent bullet casings, witnesses, anything. HPD officers Nuuanu, Koni and Puna were there to help.

Duke herded Danny away from the others, toward the Five-0 sedan. "Same as Devlin, Danny. Very little struggling, if any. Soft tips. Powder tattooing."

Searching the area with a flashlight Lukela found one shell casing in the bushes. Williams ordered the area closed off so the lab could do a thorough search. They carefully stepped away from the sandy area to preserve whatever footprints might be there.

Duke studied the metal jacket through the evidence bag. "Not enough light to find this. He couldn't afford to waste much time looking." Lukela pointed to the nearby ocean. "Another convenient place for escape. But the crews get here early, so there probably wasn't a lot of time to waste."

"Let's remind the HPD guys to question the draw bridge operator, but if our theory is correct, the killer came by sea."

*****
 

Danishes, coffee and reports covered the long side table in McGarrett's office. Williams, Lukela and Kelly studied the papers and assessed the facts at hand. Two victims -- wealthy, on bail, both Five-0 arrests. Three soft tip bullets, delivered execution style. Weapon: .38 calibre pistol with silencer. Victims bound by police handcuffs. They speculated that Sutcliff might have struggled since he had two bullets in his head, only one directly between the eyes. Post mortems indicated the first victim was not hit or subdued forcibly (except for handcuffs) before death, but Sutcliff HAD struggled, his wrists and ankles showing lacerations from the cuffs. Someone therefore coerced and intimidated the victims into the handcuffs without undue physical force at first. Victims were not dead more than a few hours before discovery. Scenes of crime were in very close proximity to ocean access. Not a big clue on an island, but something that they couldn't dismiss.

Duke delivered the Post Mortem report. "It indicated bruising on the upper arms. Someone held onto Sutcliff very tightly just before death. Makes sense. It's an awkward position and someone would have to hold onto the victim to make sure he didn't fall back into the water or squirm away."

So the first killing -- Devlin -- was brazen -- daylight, in his own back yard. The second killing necessitated moving the victim to a remote location, at night, and killing him at the crime scene -- not killing the victim first and just dumping the body.

Yawning, Dan knew his brain was fading from lack of sleep. So far they had deduced a lot, but had few solid clues or hard evidence. The investigation was air -- lacking substance. There was method in this; Dan could see it, but he didn't understand it. Yet. When Steve got back McGarrett's intuitive detection could probably fathom it -- put fresh perspective on the case. Dan wondered if he should call Steve, then decided not to ruin his poor friend's rare holiday.

So at least two people whom Devlin knew (no fuss, no shouts for help) approached him in his back yard, cuffed him, then killed him. The second victim, Sutcliff, apparently gave little or no struggle at first, but seemed to fight for his life once he knew what was going on. Again indicating he knew or trusted his killers.

"Opinions?" Dan asked.

"Another vigilante like mother's deadly helper ?" [*episode -- MOTHER'S DEADLY HELPER] Chin questioned.

Duke shook his head. "Smith is still in prison. I checked. Who else wants to help us out?"

"Sounds like a hit someone wants noticed," Chin offered. "And he's not helping us out, bruddah, he's giving us more work."

Duke broke up the donut on his napkin. "Sounds almost like a rogue cop." He glanced around, seeing his idea brought the same distaste to his friends as he felt for offering it. Duke continued with the hard truth. "The handcuffs, the weapon -- lots of cops use unregistered .38s as second pieces. And the victims -- out on bail for murders that are pretty obvious -- that also fits a pattern of some kind of grudge against the criminals."

"The criminals are also rich," Dan reminded. "Like maybe they can buy their freedom?" The path obviously made Danny unhappy. "I'd hate to think it was cops behind this. I'd rather deal with some nut case like Lester Smith. Maybe the killers are trying to throw suspicion onto the cops."

It was a weak supposition he threw out as a hopeful angle to counter the idea that cops could be behind this. In the back of his mind he added up the evidence: people the victims trusted, would allow to handcuff them, the standard issue handcuffs and pistol. Circumstantial, but building a convincing foundation against the police.
 
 

*****

By Monday afternoon, Williams and Kelly had persuaded themselves that they had looked under every rock on Oahu for possible suspects to the Devlin and Sutcliff killings. Case notes and lists were spread out on the long table in McGarrett's office, but after four days they felt that the case was cold. With Duke focused on the high-rise burglar crime wave plaguing Waikiki, Williams was ready to move on. After all, Devlin was a criminal, so his murder should not take precedence over other crime in Hawaii.

"Since when do we select cases by the victim's merit?"

The voice, the comment, surprised the detectives. Spinning around, they were amazed to see McGarrett striding over to join them.

"Did you hear who got iced?"

Steve's smile was tight, but not malicious. "Someone bottled up the information coming out of this office for the past few days. No leaks."

Dan played along. "Last I heard, they still had newspapers in Maui."

Chin grinned. "Maybe Steve was too busy to read the papers."

Not wanting the kidding to get out of hand, McGarrett surrendered, admitting he had read of the Devlin killing in the paper. Along with the mis-quotes and speculations that he knew did not originate from this office. He asked for an update, so Chin volunteered to go get the files left in Williams' office.

As Kelly left, McGarrett didn't miss the exchange of money passing from Kelly to Williams. So, who else had lost the bet that he'd come home early? The staff should know better than to bet against Williams, who always, correctly, predicted Steve's early return from any retreat.

Dan was more interested in vacation information and sat on the corner of the desk. "So, do I detect a less than absorbing stay in Lahaina?"

Amused, Steve strung him along. "You're trying to scent out clues in my personal life."

Shrugging, Dan admitted, "Okay, I'm too obvious. So, tell all."

McGarrett promised a full revelation over dinner at his apartment. He was tired of eating the rich foods from the resort and he had supplies from the boat's stores that had not been used.

"So, didn't spend much time on the boat, huh?"

McGarrett shook his head. "You are way too curious for your own good."

"Makes me a good detective."

Chin came in, followed by Duke. Starting the recap, Kelly gave the details on Devlin's murder and the summation of no suspects. Duke also announced the curious tidbit that according to the coconut wireless Five-0's reputation had been enhanced this last week.

"Last night the third criminal we've taken down in the last few months ended up dead."

"Three?" Williams was incredulous. "We just have Devlin and Sutcliff."

Shaking his head, Lukela updated them. "Last night Kelly Trahune was murdered -- found in his garage at his apartment building."

Kelly Trahune, the former son-in-law of Constance Kincaid. Kelly -- currently out on bail -- was awaiting trial for murder. Arrested by McGarrett himself.

"On bail?" McGarrett couldn't see how it was possible given the overwhelming evidence in the case that convicted him. "Trahune murdered!"

"Out on bail since last week," Duke confirmed.

"Nothing about the courts should surprise you, Steve." Dan looked around the room. "So, who's doing Five-0 a favor?" It was a joke, but didn't elicit many smiles. "Same MO? Someone who uses police equipment."

"Or someone who wants it to look like a cop?" Steve wondered. "That's our job to find out, Danno."
 
 

***** 
 

The Kincaid estate on the windward coast of Oahu was beyond impressive. As owners of a working ranch and other diverse holdings, the Kincaids kept a hold on their piece of paradise with an iron fist. When Mr. Kincaid died Constance had taken the reins and wielded her power with firm authority.

Mrs. Julie Trahune, the young widow of the recently executed criminal, was on the front lanai of the big house when McGarrett and Williams pulled up. Warily she watched as the officers joined her.

"My condolences on your loss, Mrs. Trahune."

The tall, cool blond, so much like her mother now that she was in charge in her mother's absence (Constance was still in Maui), gave a regal nod of acknowledgement. There had been no love left in her marriage with Kelly. Julie, in fact, seemed to still be in love with the young native doctor who was the father of her illegitimate son from a teen pregnancy.

"Thank you, Mr. McGarrett. You're here to talk about Kelly, but there's nothing I can tell you. I didn't even know he was out on bail." A slight, satisfied smile. "He knew better than to come near us."

Constance Kincaid was a formidable woman. To cross her was to invite peril, and Kelly had disgraced and murdered within her family. Kelly would not have risked his skin to come here. What if he had? Of course, McGarrett had pondered the thought. Now, standing on Kincaid soil, he made a mental note to have his staff check out Constance's alibi, as well as those of Julie and Dr. Palahana.

"You think this is some retaliation from the thugs he worked with?"

Trahune was into shady dealings with some sharks in Hong Kong. McGarrett flicked a glance to Williams, who had investigated that angle.

"Doesn't look like it," Dan vaguely replied. It seemed like part of the serial executions they were investigating, but they hadn't ruled out anything yet. Too early in the investigations to be confident with just one theory. "We don't believe you or your family are in any kind of danger."

"Does your mother know about his murder?"

Julie nodded to McGarrett. "I called her. I don't think I have to repeat her comments."

A ghost of a grin flickered on his lips. "No."

Raising her eyebrows speculatively, she wondered how the weekend in Maui went. Guardedly, Steve admitted he and her mother had an enjoyable tournament. Julie exchanged a quick glance with an amused Williams.

"Oh yeah," she smiled, "you went there to play golf with my mother."

With a neutral expression Steve handed her a card. "If there are any developments connected with Trahune, please notify me."

She waved the card. "Sure."

Driving away, Dan couldn't entirely hide his smile. "Yeah, how was the golfing?"

"An amateur's excuse to walk in the sun." It was all the information he was going to give and the finality ended the personal inquisition. "My instincts say they have nothing to do with Trahune's murder, but we'll have to check on everybody's alibis."

Williams easily agreed, but it was certainly not a priority. "They have no motive that I can see now. All their skeletons were dumped out of the closet when we arrested Trahune."

"Yeah, but we have to be thorough."

McGarrett didn't usually state the obvious so -- so obviously. It made Dan understand that the minor personal angle with Steve and Constance was already complicating the investigation. Or was the investigation complicating the relationship? Either way, Dan volunteered to cover the Trahune/Kincaid angle, keeping Steve out of that personal side of the case. With quiet thanks McGarrett acknowledged the favor and then moved on.

"I think we're dealing with some kind of serial retribution, Danno. But not like some of the other criminals we've confronted, where they taunt us, or boast about their triumphs. These killers have nothing to prove -- they're out to accomplish something -- on a mission or a cause."

"That could make them very dangerous."

"Yeah. Nothing like committed professionals as adversaries."

Left unspoken was the codicil that there was nothing like a committed cop. No matter how clever these killers were, McGarrett was betting he and his team were better.
 

*****

When they returned to the office Luana reported there was news from the lab. Steve and Dan changed direction and went to see the lab chief, Charlie, who had taken over when Che retired. Charlie -- Charlene Ookala -- was petite, short and a sharp scientist in the lab.

Captain Charles and his second-in-command at HPD, Lieutenant Claybourne, were both there. They were happy and relaxed from their extended weekend in Maui. Claybourne, a fair, thin-haired, tall, slender man, looked sunburned. After initial greetings, including the HPD men kidding McGarrett on how well they did on the links and how not-so-well he had done, they got down to business.

"What have you got, Charlie?"

Knowing better than to impress them with forensic details just to show how meticulous she was, she started with the bottom line, which was what McGarrett really wanted.

"Your second and third victims were murdered somewhere other than where the bodies were found."

Claybourne stepped forward. "The ME gave us this info -- which is why we're here."

Charles took the report from Claybourne's hand and read while the officer encapsulated. "There have been four murders, Steve, not three."

Claybourne pointed out a Medical Examiner's file, showing the dead body of Kiki Matsua , who had been killed two weeks before, right after he was released from jail on bail. Same MO as the other three. Sutcliff, Trahune and Matsua were killed somewhere else and dumped to be discovered -- maybe at symbolic? -- obvious places.

"Somebody's really cleaning the streets of the scum."

McGarrett scowled at his colleague. "Danno."

"I'm just saying we can't argue with results, he's doing what we want -- what the courts can't or won't do."

"That's enough!" The sharp rebuke was snapped out with impatience. Obviously McGarrett's forbearance was wearing thin. "Whoever is doing this is as guilty as the criminals he's killing. He's a murderer."

Slightly subdued, Williams agreed. The HPD brass exchanged looks. They probably didn't appreciate Dan's cracks any more than Steve did, but Williams couldn't find much sympathy for the victims in this case. They were all garbage.

Charles put the focus back on the case. "We're having the ME check for more, but I don't think we'll find any. Kiki Matsua's hands were cuffed, but not the feet."

Captain Charles suggested, "Maybe the first crime the murderer didn't have his style down."

"Or was in too much of a hurry," Steve suggested. He gathered up the file on the newest, but first, victim. "We'll keep in touch, Captain. Thank you."
 
 

*****

McGarrett was just pouring the cheese sauce over a bowl of ravioli when there was a knock at the door, followed by Dan calling his name.

"Hey, sorry I'm late." Dan entered the kitchen in time to make himself useful and put the dishes on the table. "Looks good, too. The HPD computer is on tilt with all the work we've been putting it through."

"Come up with anything promising?" McGarrett put the salad and bread on the table.

"Not so far." As they started in on the food, which Williams complimented was excellent, he briefly outlined his research with cross checking the victims. So far none seemed to have any known connection with the others. "Which keeps in line with the theory that this might be someone out for some kind of whacked out justice."

Taking a moment to study his weary, harried friend, Steve allowed his latent guilt to surface. "Danno, about this afternoon in the lab -- biting your head off --"

With a tired nod, Dan smiled with chagrin. "My comments weren't very professional, were they?"

Pointing at his friend with a crust of bread, Steve defended the impulsive words. "They were nothing that the rest of us weren't thinking, Danno. And I should never have said anything in front of guests. That was unprofessional of me."

"Well, aren't we getting proper." The lopsided grin was easy. "I think we'll behave much better after this great meal." He grabbed another piece of garlic bread. "So, you going to give me any juicy details about Maui?"

"I suppose I'll get no peace until I do." After Dan assured him that was true, Steve confessed. "Constance wants me to run for governor next election."

Dan whistled around a laugh. "Wow, Steve, that's -- uh -- I'm overwhelmed." Again he laughed, shaking his head. "I was wondering more about -- you know -- something a little more -- uh -- personal. Your dates are pretty unforgettable. That's hard to top."

"Yeah, well there probably won't be many more dates with her. I can't play their games, Danno. I don't have the temperament for politics."

"That's for sure. We have enough just juggling things at Five-0. Maybe Claybourne, HPD's second will run. I heard he's got aspirations beyond HPD."

"Funny you should say that. Did you know Lieutenant Claybourne pressured to join the Five-0 team in '68?"

"No, really?" Williams confessed he was flattered. "As I recall, there were a lot of guys who wanted that spot."

McGarrett's gaze was momentarily distant, then he glanced at his friend and offered a grin. "Yeah, but I had the good instincts to choose you instead, Danno. I think Claybourne always resented that."

The news surprised Williams, who admitted Claybourne was never anything but professional and cordial to him. It didn't come as a surprise that an older, more experienced officer had wanted the coveted open spot in Five-0 several years back. Many officers in HPD had wanted onto the elite team. Dan, longing for it but never expecting it, had won the prized position. Most HPD officers took it in stride, but some carried the resentment against both Williams and McGarrett for some time. Nearly a decade had passed since then, but in the slow moving world of civil service some memories could stay fresh for a long time.

As Dan rummaged through the kitchen for some kind of dessert, Steve sipped his coffee and wondered what it would have been like with Lieutenant Claybourne as his second instead of Williams. Different was an inadequate understatement. He was closer to Dan than he'd allowed himself to become to any other colleague. That was not by chance, he felt. It was because -- aside from obvious differences in their lives -- they were very much alike in values, ideals, and goals. Trust, commitment and dependence had forged a strong bond that was partially, but not completely, shared by the other members of Five-0. He and Danno were a great team and it wouldn't have worked so well with anyone else as his trusted right hand man.
   

*****

 When the intercom buzzed, McGarrett reached over to respond without looking up from the case file he was reading. Before he could ask the secretary about the call, his door opened and Constance Kincaid strode in.

"You're a very difficult man to reach, Steve. Not avoiding me, are you?"

Consistant with her nature, the greeting was a mild challenge mixed with rebuke. Whenever the tall redhead entered a room she commanded attention with her bearing, her attractive beauty and her confident control. A smile diminished the impact of the accusation. "I'm not that easy to evade, you know." The voice was sexy, husky, adding to the appeal and force of the personality.

Steve had never met the late Mr. Kincaid. He must have been quite a formidable man to be married to Constance for many years and not be subdued or lost by the gale-strength personality of the forthright woman. When Steve received the invitation to golf with her on Maui -- while investigating the death on her estate a few weeks ago -- he was disconcerted by her obvious attraction to him. In a murder inquiry everyone was a suspect and she had been no exception. Knowing better than to mix personal attraction with an investigation, Steve had kept his distance from the rich, compelling widow.

Maui had altered their relationship. They were in the early stages of romance -- both attracted to the other but both wary and careful. She was taking most of the bold initiative, and he was slowly matching her advances. Normally he was bold and candid in his flirtations, but this time he let the woman take the lead.

Often he had been labeled as a strong personality. Few women met his match and those who did were the ones he fell for. Older and wiser now, through painful experience he knew the heartache that came with attraction and break up with resolute characters.

Perhaps because he was still suspicious of her motives he was holding back in the relationship. She wanted something from him beyond the obvious companionship. So far nothing physical had transpired between them -- another clue that she was setting him up. Business first, then pleasure?

She sat on the corner of his desk as if she belonged there. An act to command his attention and announce she was going to dominate the conversation. "And don't tell me you haven't had time to call me back because you're too busy," she warned playfully, with an edge of conviction.

Playing along, keeping things light, he responded easily. "Okay, how about this excuse -- I didn't know you'd come back from Maui."

Laughing, she threw her head back, her thick red hair falling back from her shoulders. She really was captivating and stunning. In this moment, as many times in Maui, also off guard. "You're excused then." The soft folds of her Hawaiian print dress covered the papers on the desk and she pushed the files aside. "I know you're busy. Remember, I have a personal interest in this serial killer."

Unable to keep the press from the execution-style killings, Five-0 and HPD had still managed to keep a few details from the media. General knowledge included the facts that the victims were all criminals on bail, all Five-0 cases. Tight guard had been kept over the most important clues: the handcuffs, the method of binding the victims, and the calibre and make-up of bullets in the heads of those murdered. Normally the press caught on to the peculiar aspects of a case quickly. This time the commonality linking the criminals was not discovered by the media until the third victim. By then law enforcement had sealed up important facts and McGarrett planned to keep it that way.

"You don't seem surprised about Kelly Trahune's murder." Even to him it sounded like an interrogation. Well, the cop inside him was never really off duty. And she was here on his turf -- not as if he was intruding on private time.

With some starch she corrected him. "You mean I don't seem upset." Raising her eyebrows, she received a silent nod of agreement from him. "Kelly murdered an old and dear friend. He betrayed my trust and my daughter. After discovering his true nature I was shocked and hurt."

He acknowledged that. "I know. In those trying days during the murder investigation, you displayed incredible stubbornness." Reassuringly, he took her hand. "And amazing courage. I admire that very much."

She held his hand in both of hers. "And a certain tough cop showed wonderful compassion and a heart for justice during those horrible days. And I will never forget that." Patting his hand, she smiled. "That is why I wanted to talk to you about these killings."

Always an unpredictable person, she surprised him with the comment. "Why?" Instinctive suspicions brought defensive barriers up immediately.

"I know you told me you weren't interested in running for governor, Steve, but have you seen the letters to the paper, the editorials? The public is glad these criminals are being swept aside. They don't come out and say they approve of vigilante tactics but they are happy that these people who are murderers are being given a quick and just reward." Her eyes danced with twinkling excitement. "Don't you see what this means, Steve?"

Admitting he did not read the editorials, or letters to the editor, neither did he follow her logic. "What's your point, Constance?"

"You can use these as a pro-law platform, Steve. What better person to run in support of law and order than the respected head of Five-0? Everyone needs a hook to launch a campaign, and this can be yours."

The mercenary attitude was slightly nauseating to him. "Constance, your former son-in-law was a victim! Okay, he was a murder and a criminal, but he deserved due process. He did not deserve to suffer and die the way he did."

Her demeanor chilled instantly. Rising from the desk, she stepped a few paces back. "Kelly made his bed and now he's buried in it, Steve. Do not waste pity on Kelly. As for the other victims, I doubt they deserved much remorse either." Assessing him with hard eyes, she moved to the door. Turning, hand on the knob, she concluded. "Of course I would prefer my family's name out of the papers, but Kelly ruined that. I would be happy to see this adverse publicity help you, Steve. I'll be in touch."

A little shell-shocked at the interview, McGarrett stared at the closed door, the presence of Constance still lingering even though she had left the room. The woman was a dominating influence in Hawaiian culture, politics, and now she wanted to extend her sphere of influence to include his life. He didn't think he was ready for that, or for her to dictate how he spent his future.
 
 

*****

Dan and Duke cruised through the halls of HPD to Patrolman Ky Puna's desk. The muscled and trim Puna, and his short, hefty partner Koni Osaka, were the officers on the scene who found the body of Kiki Matsua. Knowing the officers only fleetingly, Dan let Duke handle the gathering of information since Lukela knew the officers well. A veteran of HPD for many years -- all of those as a uniformed patrolman -- Duke knew most of the men in the department.

Officer Ted Nuuanu, Sandi Welles and her partner Nate Price were at nearby desks and came over to join the gathering.

Going over the reports of the crime scene, Dan felt the paperwork was a little sparse on details, but seemed to cover the facts. Crime photos filled in the blanks and the detective reports were attached. Homicide officers Chance and Kuuana -- handling the Matsua murder -- were out on a case, so the Five-0 detectives interviewed the patrolmen.

Little background information was known about Matsua. Mostly known as a hotel owner on the Big Island, he had recently bought land in Oahu. Rich and connected to the old Hawaiian royalists on the Islands, he had been arrested for drug trafficking and the murder of a rival dealer. The arrest, by HPD, had been controversial, as was his bail two weeks before. The details of his murder: the bound hands with handcuffs, the execution bullets to the head, had been kept secret even from Five-0. If the other similar murders had not occurred, however, Five-0 would still not be involved with Matsua.

"Why didn't you mention Matsua's death after the other killings?"

The comment came out a little sharper than Williams intended. He and Steve had flown to the Big Island to arrest Matsua. The rich drug dealer, who had laundered his dirty money into a respectable hotel in Hilo, had resisted. Quite a scuffle with Matsua and a bodyguard ensued. Since then Five-0 -- Williams and McGarrett -- had been under a considerable amount of heat in the media. Nothing new, but Dan still resented the drug dealer's nastiness and the police brutality charges. While it was moot point now, no doubt the media would bring it all up again.

Osaka and Puna looked at Dan in surprise. "We did." Puna glanced to his partner for confirmation and Osaki silently nodded. "After the second killing we mentioned it to Chance. Gave him the usual paperwork."

"They real busy." Osaka shrugged forgivingly. "Maybe it got lost." He stepped closer to Williams and lowered his voice. "Heard you stirred up a little heat thinkin' dis no big thing, bruddah."

"What?" Dan was confused.

"Coconut wireless say you think these scum gettin' what they deserve."

"News travels fast," Dan sighed. "I meant it as a joke."

Osaka and Puna nodded knowingly. "We understand, bruddah."

On the way out of the building, Dan received a few more waves and handshakes than was normal for a routine visit to HPD. Duke was slightly amused, but Williams wasn't.

"I think this is getting out of hand. Next thing you know I'll be suspected as a vigilante or something."
 
 

*****

By that evening McGarrett's office at the Palace resembled a headquarters prepared for a siege. Coffee, sandwiches and donuts were available on trays at the long table. Stacked near the food were reports from the ME, HPD and forensic lab. Photos of the victims bodies, as found by police, were tacked up on the chalkboard. Lists of crime scene details were printed below each victim. Each list had some common denominators. Three victims had not been killed where they were found. All were bound the same. All killed by the same pistol.

What they knew: All victims were rich murderers with money and high priced lawyers. All were killed in similar fashion -- .38 bullets to the front of the brains, Trahune and Devlin being killed instantaneously. Sutcliff and Matsua's deaths were nearly instant. All victims had gunpowder tattooing on their faces, indicating the shots came from only a few feet away. Enough to splash residual blood and tissue matter on the shooter and the accomplice.

No doubt there was at least one accessory. In all the murders, the victim's upper left arm was bruised, showing finger marks from a right hand, indicating a strong grip was used to keep the man in place. Presumably this made the accomplice left handed, since he would theoretically also hold a weapon on the victim. All criminals were bound hand and foot (except the first victim -- only his hands had been cuffed) with standard issue police handcuffs. All casualties on bail from capitol crimes.

"Did you check the cuffs out, Chin?"

"Yeah, no difference between the cuffs we use and the ones on the victims. Same make and model."

"I checked availability, Steve," Duke volunteered around a bite of a sandwich. "The manufacturer has had no undue orders for cuffs from around here. As you know, these cuffs can only be ordered through police departments or other authorized agencies."

McGarrett, pacing in front of the chalkboard, stopped. "Stolen?"

"HPD has none listed as missing. Cops lose or damage cuffs all the time and need replacements. All are accounted for."

Resuming the pacing, Steve tossed the chalk in his hand as he walked. "Okay. Obvious answers, gentlemen?"

Dan almost obliged with his quip about someone doing them a favor, but bit that one back. Steve was in no mood for vigilante jokes right now. "Well, I'm sure it's not the lawyers. They just lost some fat paychecks."

The others smiled and McGarrett gave a nod of appreciation at breaking the tension. "Did anyone check on the law firms?" He was suspicious of everything.

Lukela grabbed a case file near him on the desk. "Trahune and Matsua were represented by the same firm, Tahashi, Sing and Kaaloa, but not the same lawyer."

Chin checked two more files. "Nope, no connection there with Devlin, who had a firm from the mainland, and Sutcliff had a lawyer from Kahala."

Snapping his fingers, thinking, Steve threw out questions from the top of his head. "Is it the Kincaids killing to take out Trahune? And the others are just to mask the true crime -- make it look like a serial murderer?"

Williams boldly reminded that Constance Kincaid was the one who would have the most motive to get rid of her embarrassment of a former son-in-law. She had an iron-clad alibi -- spending the weekend with McGarrett in Maui.

Chin smiled. "You know what Charlie Chan says about alibis? Bad alibi like dead fish -- cannot stand the test of time."

Chuckling, Steve shook his head. "Okay, in this case I think her alibi is better than old fish, Chin, but she could have hired someone. What about the daughter?"

No one had anything suspicious on Julie. He was reaching and he knew it. Neither were serious suspects, but maybe that was why he was throwing them out first. He wanted them to be completely cleared because they had a personal attachment to him, or visa versa.

"Well, I have a little something to add to what we already have." Steve picked up a file marked FIVE-0 LAB. "Charlie sent this over just before she went home. Raw sugar cane fibre was found on the clothing of both Trahune and Matsua -- two of the victims killed and dumped away from the murder scene."

"Plenty of sugar production on the island." Duke was unimpressed with the lead. "Even the supermarkets sell raw cane."

"Charlie says it's unprocessed in any way. So we need to check the mills still in production."

"And delivery trucks," Dan reminded.

Chin chimed in. "Don't forget the cane fields."

McGarrett held up his hands in surrender. "All right, I know, it will be a lot of work. And we'll tackle it tomorrow. "Duke, you check the contractors hauling the sugar. Danno, you take the mills. Chin, you always say you're a morning person -- you check out some of the workers and the fields."

With a few grumbles, the detectives accepted the assignments. Williams pointed out that they were narrowing the investigative field, but seemed to be progressing very slowly. Still no motive, few common denominators, except for the actual method of murder. What was the connection to Five-0? Coincidence or clue?

For those important and complex questions, Steve had no answers.
 
 

*****

Over morning coffee and fruit, McGarrett read the paper and the latest theories -- according to crime reporter Tom Boyd -- on the serial murders. Somehow he had learned of the execution style method and calibre of the bullets, but not the details of the cuffs or placement of bullets.

Boyd wondered what else Five-0 was hiding, and if it was really a cover up to protect some law enforcement pals who had turned vigilante. The article came within a sliver of accusations against Five-0, flavoring the slant of the story to cast suspicion on cops and district attorneys. Supposedly, some anonymous enforcement representatives had talked with Boyd about their dislike of the victims, so Boyd theorized that some again anonymous enforcement representatives were supposedly fed up with seeing their hard work thrown away when accused murderers were given bail and often acquitted.

It was a lot to swallow before eight in the morning, and Steve muttered invectives at the vituperous reporter. The vigilante angle was of course obvious, and something no one on his staff wanted to believe. It was a nasty possibility they did not want to discuss. Occasionally cops went sour and Five-0 had been involved in bringing some of them down. It was a disgusting task that no one wanted to face now. Better to eliminate all the other angles first.

The doorbell rang as he was slipping on his jacket. Opening the door, he was surprised when Constance sailed into the room.

"Have you seen the morning newspaper?" Spotting it on the table she turned to him with a smile, her tone predatory. "Yes, you no doubt saw Boyd's piece on the killings. For all his obnoxious rhetoric, he sways the opinion of many in Hawaii. Many of the simple minded find him clever."

It was too early for her very strong opinions. "Constance, I was just going to the office."

"I won't keep you." Her assurance came with her clutching onto his arm. "Boyd has actually done us a service. Remember you needed a hook for your campaign? What better platform than to take your very natural stance of defending Hawaii from the lawless vigilantes? Use the killings as a springboard, assure everyone how wrong they are and you are here to protect them from --"

"I can't believe you!" His disgust at her politicking made him sneer. "I thought you were honest -- that you wanted to help Hawaii --"

"Oh, I do, Steve, really. Why do you think I keep pressuring you to run? Because you could be such a great governor. But to get there and help Hawaii, you have to play politics."

Irritated, he curtly led her to the door. "No thanks, Constance. I can't play the games, not even to ultimately help my state. Sorry."

The elevator ride to the parking level was endured in strained, chilled silence. In the bright morning sunshine, she walked with him to his car.

"I don't give up on causes easily, Steve. And you are my cause. You're right for this, even if you can't see that now. I will change your mind."

With a sharp turn she walked away. Leaning against his car, Steve watched her descend the steps to Ala Wai Boulevard. She was strong, blunt and quickly losing the tremendous appeal she had for him. Her manipulation was quickly turning her from an engaging and interesting date to an annoyance. Too bad. After Cathi Ryan's death he had hoped for another companion. For a while he had dated Kate Holbrook, the widow left with the Holbrook sugar plantation. She was a fellow member of the Pacific Club, a rather exclusive golf haven. Soon it became apparent Kate was more suitable as a friend than a romantic interest and their relationship cooled. In Constance he thought he had found a woman of strength, integrity and common ideals. Apparently she was that, and much more that he did not want.
 
 

*****

Cruising through the main office, McGarrett was not surprised to see an already tired out Williams the only one at his desk this morning. Knocking on the glass, he waved for his friend to join him. Noting coffee was already brewing, he poured two mugs. At his desk he tossed the paper down and handed a mug to Williams.

"Least I can do is buy you a cup."

Williams slumped into a chair. "Yeah, at dawn I was at Kahuku. Then the Haleiwa mill, then the one in Wahiawa. I took samples from all three plants and dropped them off at the lab."

Sitting on the desk, nodding silent approval, McGarrett sipped his coffee, only partially listening to Dan's review of questioning the plant mangers and workers. No one remembered anything unusual and the night watchman at Kahuku even remembered seeing a patrol car cruising nearby the night of Trahune's death. Anything suspicious would have been reported.

Steve glanced at his bemused detective. Dan had noticed the silence and said, "Am I boring you?"

"Sorry, Danno. I heard you. Even between the lines."

The worn detective covered a yawn. "What did I say between the lines?"

"That you think this is busy work. We're not hitting the ten ring on this case. You said it last night. What's the motivation and cause behind these killings? We're missing it."

"Or we're afraid of it." McGarrett stabbed him with a sharp glare, but he continued anyway. "We've been dancing around it for days, Steve. We're afraid this killer is someone on our side. Maybe someone we know. An Assistant DA or cop trying to clean up the streets."

McGarrett waved the paper. "That's what Boyd said this morning."

"As much as I hate to agree with Boyd, I think it's time we take a serious look at the possibility that this is a person connected with law enforcement."

Stepping to the board, McGarrett outlined the method, location and details of each murder. Devlin, for instance, wouldn't have been alarmed at the arrival of a cop or two. Opportunity and method fit for the .38 calibre weapon (standard police issue -- short barrel for detectives, long-barrel for patrolmen), police handcuffs, marksmanship-level accuracy for two uniform hits in the ten ring of the head. The profile fit cops more than military, for instance, whose personnel were also trained in shaprshooting and dealt with law enforcement within the services. This pointed to a more personal grudge against Honolulu criminals, not military targets.

"If they're trying to do us a favor they don't know how wrong they are."

"So now that we've got it narrowed down to a few hundred people," Steve acidly snapped, "we have to find our suspects."

The thought that they were looking for cops was unpalatable to McGarrett. He couldn't fathom what it would take to push a law enforcement officer over the line to murder -- serial murder. No one on his staff could ever do something so heinous even though they had had opportunity and motivation for such vigilante actions. He needed to look no farther than his colleague. Dan didn't kill Walter for killing Jane. [*episode -- BEAUTIFUL SCREAMER]

McGarrett hadn't killed the monster who had murdered his girlfriend; [*episode -- MAN IN A STEEL FRAME] as much as he'd wanted to he had not pulled that trigger. And that temptation was far different from premeditated serial killings. Steve couldn't even kill Wo Fat in cold blood. What would it take for a good cop to turn bad?

"We could always set a trap." The suggestion was off-hand, but Dan kept his eyes on his boss, alert for any sign of approval of the risky plan. "We know what the killers are looking for generally. Set someone up on bail and see what happens."

McGarrett slowly shook his head. "If we're dealing with DAs or cops they'll be on the inside and catch the trap."

From the door, Duke muttered his incredulity. "Did I hear you right?" Stepping into the room he stared at McGarrett, then Dan. "You think this might be cops?"

"It's a possibility we've been avoiding," McGarrett reminded.

Steve was hoping Lukela would see the logic on his own. Closer than any of the others to HPD, Duke had been a patrol sergeant for years before coming to Five-0. His closest friends were still on the regular force.

Lukela shook his head. "I don't want to believe it." He glanced at the chalk board, the facts fell into place, and the shock wore off. "I'd hate to think it's true. But you're right, setting a trap with a prisoner would be impossible. The lawyers and cops would figure it out and no prisoner would cooperate with a trap unless the payment was high."

Chin arrived then with a box of donuts. Setting them on the table he caught up on the conversation, as disturbed as the others with the idea. "Maybe it's not such a wild idea," he accepted slowly. "Still don't like it."

Lukela added that he might have corroboration. "One of the truckers noticed some police activity up by Kahuku the night of Trahune's death, but I didn't notice any reports when I went over the HPD log the next morning." Out of habit, and to keep current with the police department, the Five-0 detectives often did a quick scan of HPD activities.

Williams gave his information from the night watchman, summing up that this was not looking good for the forces of law and order.

In quiet acceptance, Steve commented, "When you create a society of people who are virtually untouchable, it would not be unusual to find corruption. Who on the force would be an obvious choice for a vigilante?" All were reluctant to answer that. "Just a guess."

"Besides Danny?" Duke offered a weak jest. "More than a few of the guys have commented on your cracks about the killings."

Dan shook his head in embarrassment. "Can't anybody take a joke?"

"Maybe they're serious about it," Chin observed. "Anyone in particular like the things you were saying?"

"Not really."

Again Steve asked for suspects and Lieutenant Claybourne's name came up from both Lukela and Kelly. Claybourne was practically a fascist in his politics. He wanted to control everything – but mostly guns. He was not just an advocate of gun control, but also of the police seizing the arms of citizens and putting strict laws onto tourists, plus extreme taxation to support a heavy law enforcement and a tightly controlled city.

Aside from his far leftist politics, Claybourne had no known history of problems with suspects.

"How are we quietly going to investigate cops?" Dan wondered. "Looking into records we can do on the computer, but only with the help of HPD officers. Someone is bound to figure it out."

McGarrett started pacing, snapping his fingers as his brain churned through the mystery. Normally his method was direct frontal assault of suspects. In this case a blunt approach could send the murderers underground. Forensic evidence alone was not going to solve these crimes. They needed the criminals to slip up, hopefully before another killing.

"Danno, you check with the courts and see if anyone else is making bail in the next few days. If so, we'll have someone to follow if he fits our profile. Chin, you take the DA’s office, start looking into backgrounds, politics, that kind of thing." Stopping at Lukela, he put an arm on the detective's shoulder. "Duke, this is going to be the toughest on you, but you're the one best qualified to investigate HPD officers."

"Sure, Steve." The agreement was automatic, if distasteful. "But I'll be looking to clear our colleagues, not convict them."

Nodding affirmation of that sentiment, Steve quietly admitted, "I can't stand it when cops turn into perpetrators. We might -- I repeat -- might -- be dealing with that. In case we are, all of us will have to use a special frequency when we have something important to say. Let's use tac three, code Delta. Also, be careful what you say to anyone outside these walls. We really don't know who we can trust."

"Until we eliminate suspicion or prove it." Lukela's hope was not a question.

"I hope I'm wrong, gentlemen, but I have a gut instinct that I'm not."

Swiveling around McGarrett gazed up at the several gold trophies set on a shelf behind his desk. Pistol sharpshooting awards for competitions he had won in his Navy years. Proficient with numerous pistol makes and models, he knew how to pop bullets into the ten rings of the chest and head. As a spy, soldier and a cop, he knew how to kill someone with a single shot. Whoever was killing these criminals had enough knowledge and skill to make them very dangerous.

*****

After scanning the records of the last few days, Williams thought their idea of a trap was not going to work. No capital crimes this week. The serial murders of murderers seemed a significant deterrent. Today's scheduled cases included nothing more violent than a mugging.

Trotting down the steps of the courthouse Williams was nearly run over by Officer Koni Osaka.

"Hey, Danny, you got court today, too?"

"Nah, just doing some homework. What about you?"

"Testifying." Leading Dan over to a corner of the steps, Koni lowered his voice. "I heard around the department that you wanting to pat the serial killers on the backs for takin' out the creeps on this rock."

Dan shrugged, almost inured to the misquotes. "There's a simple explanation--"

"Hey, McGarrett might not understand, but I do. You want to find out how you can help?"

Holding his breath, Williams tried not to show the chill of mingled fear and anticipation that snaked along his skin and tightened his throat. "How could I do that?"

Koni glanced around to make sure they were not being overheard. "You meet me tonight, dock twenty-seven, at midnight. I fill you in then. Okay?"

"Okay."

Osaka continued into the building and Dan sauntered over to the crosswalk where he could cross the street back to the Palace. After a long and busy day searching for clues, to have an offer dumped in his lap was almost comical. But there was nothing funny about Koni's serious invitation, or the four murder victims. Dan decided he was not very flattered at the request to join the group. He had never thought of himself as vigilante material.
 

*****

"It makes me sick to think these guys might be cops."

Patrolmen were notoriously bad shots. This one would have to be very good -- even though at close range, the shots had been within millimeters of each other and right in the instant kill zone.

Swivelling in his chair, McGarrett studied his adamant detective. Lukela was doggedly loyal, but crossing him meant you had not only lost a friend, you had made an enemy. The veteran detective still saw the world in black and white. The bad guys were still wearing black hats. Good guys did not cross over to join the foe.

"I know, Duke."

Chin's rebuttal was reasonable. "It might not be cops. Lots of officers been saying how much they like cleaning up the streets. But how serious are they? The killers could be the DA's people. And we haven't even touched the Navy or Marines on the island."

Lukela shrugged his doubt. "Could be. But it feels like cops to me."

McGarrett tapped a pencil on his desk. "Yeah, that's what I'm afraid of, too."

"We should check the pistol range scores for patrolmen -- especially the short range scores." Spoken in a near growl, Duke's bold statement underscored his convictions. "I want to go in and find out who these guys are. This crime spree is deteriorating good, moral cops into thinking murder is okay. It's got to stop." With an exhalation, he stared at Steve. "Let me go undercover and find these creeps."

McGarrett glanced away from Lukela to give a nod to Williams, who had just entered the room, staying toward the back, by the door. Steve redirected his attention to Duke. The veteran was hurt by the killings, afraid the murderers were vigilantes -- bad cops who had turned criminal. No matter what their motives, they were still beyond the law. It took a lot for Duke to volunteer to spy on his own friends, but his moral code of right and justice was a higher priority than loyalties to men who had gone sour. Steve had never admired the detective so much.

"I can't let you do that, Duke." Automatically he glanced at Danno. Without effort he could read the message in his friend's blue eyes. Undercover assignments for Steve were forbidden after his mess up on the docks a nearly a month ago. Going up against other cops would be miserable and tainting for any of them. He did not want to give the distasteful and too dangerous job to any of his friends. "No undercover work."

Williams stepped up to the desk. "You might want to change your mind, Steve. Considering the invitation I just got to join their group." His quiet, sober statement got the attention of everyone. The other detectives glanced at Steve, who was staring at Dan with a level, unreadably masked expression. "Koni Osaka thinks my smart remarks are sincere. He's asked me to meet with him tonight and find out more about applying my feelings into action."

"No." McGarrett's response was curt, sharp and final.

Dan's voice remained steady and reasonable. "That tells us that our worst fears were right, Steve. But we can't prove it."

"We can put a tail on Osaka --"

"When he's on patrol? When he meets with other cops?" Dan leaned on the desk, earnest and sincere. "What if he's only part of a big group? How many more murders will occur while we watch Koni? He may not be part of the group that actually does the killing, either, you know.   Why turn down an invitation --"

"Because it's dangerous!"

"Undercover work is okay for you and not me?"

"No!" For emphasis Steve slammed his fist on the desk and leaped up, glaring at Dan. "It could be a trap! You're Five-0! Do you think they'll trust you? It sounds more like an invitation to a bullet in the back of your head, Danno! No, I will not sanction it!"

The intercom buzzed in near perfect punctuation to his resounding refusal. It buzzed two more times before he slammed a fist onto the machine and barked a response.

The timid voice of Luana responded. "Steve, uh -- Captain Charles and Lieutenant Claybourne are here to see Chin."

"Thank you." He shut off the connection. "Go ahead," he nodded to Kelly and Lukela in dismissal.

Steve moved to the door and opened it. Addressing Chin and Duke, he wore his sternest expression and crisply requested they leave him alone with Williams. Before they completely left the room, McGarrett's sharp rebuke echoed through the offices.

"I have had it with your renegade attitude about this case!"

Williams was stunned. "What attitude?"

McGarrett slammed the door. Approaching his stunned friend, he put an arm around Dan's shoulder. Then his face relaxed and he offered a lopsided grin. "Sorry, that was all show -- for the benefit of our guests out there." For a moment he didn't know if the amends registered on his friend. Wincing, he was afraid he'd gone too far. After his undercover debacle with Frankie and the dock workers, relations at Five-0 were still a little too tender to be trampling on people -- on Danno. Reluctantly, he admitted with a deep sigh, "I apologize for being so harsh, but I wanted a good effect." Dan's expression changed from clouded hurt to dawning enlightenment. "Sorry."

With a quirky smile, Williams accepted the story. "You want the HPD guys to think we're having more problems?"
 
The HPD men would believe almost anything coming out of these offices! Considering the huge set-up Steve had provided just a few weeks before -- going undercover on his own in Honolulu's slums. Going so far as to pick a fight with the unwitting Dan when Five-0 closed in on his renegade operation.

"I don't WANT you to go undercover, Danno, but the opportunity is almost too good to pass up."

"You think Charles or Claybourne are involved as vigilantes?"

"I hope not, but they were here when you've made some cracks about the case. How else would Officer Osaka know your feelings about the killer unless one of these men told him?" Steve sighed, shaking his head. "I don't want to believe that either, or both, of the top two officers in HPD are killers -- or accessories to murder -- but we can't discount the facts. Either they are directly involved, or through usual station gossip with the coconut wireless, they let it slip about your comments."

"But I was joking!"

Lightly, Steve assured, "I guess your humor is a little obscure." Seriously, still holding onto Dan, he squeezed his shoulder. "I don't like the idea of you going undercover on this, Danno. For obvious reasons -- my own foul up --"

"Steve, that's history."

Reluctantly, McGarrett accepted the absolution. "Part of me wants to protect you, Danno, because we're dealing with ruthless, competent killers here. The cop part of my nature wants to take advantage of the opportunity and take the fast track to the killers." He shook his head, studying his friend. "I'm afraid that the cop instincts are going to win. I just don't want it to cost you your life."

"I'll watch myself."

"You bet you will." His tone was deadly serious. "If they discover your duplicity they will not hesitate to kill you, Danno. Take no unnecessary risks. Find out who they are and let us move in to make an arrest."

Moving to his desk, McGarrett withdrew a small microphone and transceiver -- equipment specifically used in undercover operations -- out of his desk. He ordered his friend to keep this broadcasting during the meet. Steve would be somewhere in the dock area, but well concealed. They were dealing with professional cops here, cops who could spot a setup easily. Dan was to call before he left his apartment, and keep in sparse contact on tac three. No specifics about the operation. If he ran into trouble, the code word was volcano.

An airy grin played on Dan's face. "Oh, no, you're slipping back into your covert ops, James Bond mode, Steve. Like Napoleon and Illya -- open channel D?"

"Don't get smart, Danno. That killer's drilled eight soft-tips into the ten ring. His victims knew what was coming, but most never felt the bullet before they died."

"I know." Qualified as a top marksman with a rifle, Dan appreciated the equivalent skills in a pistol shot. Glancing up at the impressive trophies behind Steve's desk, he knew exactly what McGarrett was worried about. "I won't forget."

Patting him on the arm, Steve took a deep breath. "All right, then, let's make this good for our audience. Remember, call me tonight --"

"Before I leave and when I return to my apartment. I won't forget."
 
 

*****

" . . . and it won't be the last time we disagree!" Dan slammed the door of McGarrett's office.

Williams stalked past Chin's cubicle, where Captain Charles and Lieutenant Claybourne sat and watched the younger detective depart in a fit of anger. The outer office door slammed behind Williams with an echoing crash. The HPD men exchanged surprised looks with Chin. Lukela joined them in the small office.

"Another tough day for Five-0."

Claybourne shook his head. "Things haven't been the same since McGarrett pulled that undercover stunt, have they?"

"Something like that," Chin obscurely observed.

Charles nudged his second-in-command. "Five-0 has its own headaches and so do we." To the Five-0 men he bid farewell. "Keep us informed of developments, Chin."

Kelly agreed and watched the HPD men leave. Once they were out of the office Duke and Kelly both turned and marched into McGarrett's office for an explanation of the drama they'd just witnessed.
 
 

*****

The ivory crescent moon peeked through shimmery wisps of clouds floating across the night sky. Waves lapped against the concrete moorings, evening birds called out echoing cries, traffic was muted and distant. From the loading ramp of the dock the stars seemed close, the city far away as Dan Williams silently studied the sights around him. Refusing to look at his watch again, he analyzed the landscape, alert for any change in shape or in the pattern of nocturnal sounds.

Shoving hands in the pockets of his jeans, he strolled along the edge of the dock in easy sight to anyone nearby. His instincts were on alert, but not alarmed with the impression of imminent danger, nor did he have the sense he was being watched. Instead, there was a sinking feeling that the meet was a bust. What had gone wrong? Was the whole thing just a big test to see if Dan would show? Did Koni get cold feet? Did the cops suspect a trap?

"Twelve-fifteen, Danno. You think he's a no show?"

"Mmmhuh."

The response could only be supplied with noises, not words, since he might be watched. McGarrett and Lukela were across Ala Moana Boulevard at a shopping center parking lot. Close enough to the docks for a quick back up maneuver, but not close enough to be spotted in the deserted dock area. Warehouse number Thirty-three was owned by C&H Sugar, but at night was as deserted as a tomb. The Five-0 detectives constantly had to remind themselves that their opponents in this life and death game were probably cops -- the prey as skilled as the hunters. There was no margin for error, McGarrett continually emphasized, with Dan's life on the line.

The voice in his ear had been nearly hopeful, and Dan almost smiled at the relief from his boss. McGarrett had been nervous about this meet -- had called him at the apartment this evening to try one last time to allay all the fears inherent with an undercover job. Williams had clearly expressed his wish to proceed with the trap and see if they could nab the bad guys -- the bad cops, he reminded himself. It was a difficult notion to accept. Trapping colleagues -- friends -- was not something he relished. Quickly he corrected himself. When cops crossed the line they were no longer colleagues, or friends, they were renegades.

"Call it a night, Danno. Osaka isn't showing."

Williams slowly walked back to the warehouse, where he had parked his car in the lot. No one jumped out of the deep shadows, no one was hiding in his back seat. Only when he had pulled out onto Ala Moana Boulevard did he take the chance of talking to McGarrett.

"What do you think went wrong, Steve?"

"Any number of things, Danno. Maybe nothing. Maybe it was all a test." The sigh was audible. "I can't say I'm sorry. This was a pretty risky situation."

"Yeah. So, you think I should contact Koni tomorrow?"

"Mmm." The boss obviously had doubts about that bold an action. "Maybe. Let's see if he contacts you. We're crossing Monsarat now. Where are you?"

"Just pulling into the driveway of my apartment."

"Okay. We'll park at the Diamond Head Hotel for a few minutes -- till you give us the all clear. Watch yourself, Danno. I'll call you when I get home."

"Okay."

All the way up to his apartment Dan was amused at the cloak and dagger routine Steve insisted on, but was secretly touched at the incredible concern McGarrett felt over the dangerous situation. Nice to know he was appreciated. More than that, it was great to realize Steve had actually learned something from that rough patch they went through after the dock workers’ bust a few weeks ago.

When Dan entered his apartment he turned on the lights. Strolling through the empty rooms he silently admitted it was nice to know Steve and Duke were only a cry-for-help away in case someone was waiting to ambush him. Circulating through the whole place, Dan sighed with relief. Plopping down on the sofa he rested his eyes. Before long the phone rang.

"Hello."

"You okay, Danno?" The prearranged phrase to vaguely ask if the coast was clear and he was safe.

"Okay." The code word to assure all was well.

"See you in the morning."

"Good night, Steve."

After hanging up the phone, Dan sat there for a time, thinking. Before he came to a solution to the night's puzzle, he thought he heard the muted sound of someone snoring and subconsciously knew it was himself.
 
 

*****

Like a fire house dog -- alert for an alarm -- Steve was wide-eyed and alert before the echo of the phone died and the second ring started. Fear and adrenaline kicked in subconsciously as he answered, instantly thinking about the night's meet and wondering if something had happened he had not planned for.

"McGarrett." The time was five-twenty-six AM.

"Mr. McGarrett, this is Sergeant Nephi Hilton. I'm duty officer at HPD tonight."

"Yes, Nephi." Steve wiped sleep from his eyes.

"Just got a call from Yoshi Nakamura and Tim Westin. Their patrol area is up at the North Shore."

Steve didn't remember Hilton as being so meticulously in details. Perhaps Steve was just on a short fuse considering the few hours of sleep and the tautness of his nerves.

"Anyway, they got a report of a body and went to check it out. Kahuku Sugar Mill. Some guy was shot in the head, his hands and feet handcuffed."

Steve was sitting up now. "We'll be up there right away. Don't let them touch anything until Five-0 detectives give the okay."

"Yes sir."
 

*****

A bright, huge, shimmering pink sun floated over the watery, multi-hued horizon of the ocean. McGarrett's car sped up to the entrance of the old mill and screeched to a halt next to two patrol cars, a coroner's wagon, three trucks overflowing with sugar cane and smaller vehicles belonging to the throng of workers waiting to get through the gates.

An irate manager or supervisor tried to harangue the officers when they exited the Mercury, but McGarrett, trailed by Williams, barreled past, with Officer Welles and Price making a nice protective wedge to spare the top detectives from dealing with trifles.

The coroner was there, as were Nakamura, Westin, HPD lab teams, and Officers Puna and Osaka. Dan didn't take any notice of Koni, but followed McGarrett right to the body.

This was the first crime scene McGarrett had been to on this series of murders. Seeing the victim trussed up in such an awkward position was more unnerving than the two bullet holes in the forehead.

The photographer had already taken his shots and Steve okayed the men to move the body. Puna stepped forward and wondered if they should unlock the cuffs first. The coroner gave a nod, mentioning it would make transport a lot simpler. Williams unlocked the cuffs and gave the go ahead to move the body.

Under the inert form was a long-barreled .38 revolver. McGarrett knelt down to join his friend. Before the boss could touch it, Dan covered it with a handkerchief.

"I'll take care of it." A fractional blink came with the assurance. The tone, the look, was enough to telegraph the message. He was onto something and with the slightest of nods Steve gave him the silent permission to go with his idea. Dan scooped up the revolver and put it in his jacket pocket. "I'll get this to the lab right away."

When he came to his feet and turned away, he noted several of the officers observing him. Only Osaka was looking ill with anxiety. Casually, Williams approached Nakamura and Westin to get their statement. McGarrett joined the group and learned that an anonymous caller had said there was a body here. Being the closest unit, they investigated a little after five AM. The nightwatchman was just making his last rounds before first shift when the patrol car came up to the gates. The three men searched the area and found the body in a corner of a warehouse section on the makai side of the mill.

"Danno, check with the nightwatchman, see if he's still sticking to his story."

Dan strolled over to the watchman, who was telling his story to anyone who would listen, in this case Patrolmen Ky Puna and Koni Osaka. Listening to the story, Dan didn't have to look at Koni to feel the man's nervous tension. While taking notes, Dan covertly glanced at Osaka, and at the revolver he wore on his left hip. The gun in the holster was new, lacking the distinctive HPD badge that was pressed into the stock of all standard-issue HPD revolvers. No surprise. A .38 long barrel with a patrolman's badge was weighing down his jacket pocket right now -- how could it be on Koni's hip?

Finished with the watchman, Dan dismissed the excited fellow. Officer Puna left with him. Casually, Dan replaced his notebook in his jacket.

"That's your revolver I found under the body." It was no question. "I spotted the badge." With no time to study the fine print and discern the actual badge number on the handle of the weapon, Dan was connecting some dots and making an intuitive leap. "What's going on, Koni? Where were you last night?"

The patrolman glanced around to be sure they were alone. "I got in trouble for inviting you -- on my own. The others -- they were burned. They don't trust you."

Dan indicated they should walk, and they slowly approached McGarrett at the crime scene. So, there were more than two perpetrators. "So they framed you? Great guys."

"We have to be careful."

Dan stopped, pretending to look at the beautiful view of the windward coastline. "So do I. But I believe in what you guys are doing. McGarrett didn't see the badge on the revolver. I'll make sure this gets buried. You let your friends know that and see if they're ready to trust me." He slipped off his sunglasses and cleaned them on his blue suit jacket. "We're closing in, Koni. You're going to need a highly placed friend wikiwiki."

Without looking back Dan walked away to join McGarrett. He'd pushed Koni as far and as hard as he could. Now it was up to the vigilante gang to accept or reject his offer. If they rejected it, then more hard police work, and maybe a few murders later, they would lay their hands on the killers. Dan was hoping for the fast track on this one, even though it meant he was walking straight into danger.
 
 

*****

While waiting for the ballistics report, Williams went to the office coffee table and refilled his mug. Not that his nerves needed the agitation of more caffeine, but his senses sure needed the punch to stay awake. After very little sleep and an early wake up call he was starting to fade.

With a slam of the front door McGarrett hiked into the office. Dan didn't know how the boss managed to look crisp, alert, and filled with energy after as little sleep as they both had had. When McGarrett paused to ask after the lab report, Dan admitted reluctantly he had information. Because of the sensitive undercover work involved, McGarrett had asked lab chief Charlie to personally handle the ballistics and keep it to herself. Williams had himself researched the ID of the badge number on the revolver's stock.

"It's Koni's, all right."

Steve shook his head in regret. "I was hoping we were wrong on this, Danno."

The phone in Dan's office rang and he slipped into the cubicle to answer it.

"Danny, it's Koni." Dan motioned for McGarrett to listen in. After Dan's silent message of who the caller was, Steve ordered Luana to run a trace on the call , then joined his friend to overhear the conversation. "We need to talk."

"We tried that last night." Dan's tone was tough.

"My friends thought about what you said. And about what you did -- I mean for me -- keeping the revolver out of the picture. Word around HPD is the revolver was misplaced and didn't make it into the evidence locker."

A fleeting grin dashed across McGarrett's lips. That's because the incriminating weapon had been taken, in his own hands, from the lab to his locked desk drawer.

"Yeah, Koni, I told you I was on your side," Williams assured. "I'll give you guys one more chance. When do you want to meet?"

"Tonight. This time out of the city." A muffled sound came from the other end. "Okay, tonight, midnight, at Kahuku Sugar Mill."

Steve shook his head in denial.

Dan's tone was mocking. "Are you pupule? Look what happened to one of your guests there last night. No, somewhere a lot more civilized, Koni. Don't you think I know who I'm dealing with?" Hesitation. More muffled noises. Steve motioned to keep the officer talking. "I'm trying to help you, Koni, but you're not making this easy."

"Okay, Danny. Ala Moana Mall, makai, upper level railing above the courtyard. Overlooking the park. Nine PM."

The confusion showed on Dan's face as well as McGarrett's. With a nod, Steve gave the order for him to accept, and Dan agreed. Koni broke the connection. Williams hung up, leaning on the phone.

"I don't like this, Danno. Something is off."

Studying his friend's anxious face, he agreed. "Yeah, first an isolated place at midnight, then the most crowded spot on the island."

Pacing the small office, McGarrett snapped his fingers. "I don't want you to go." He stopped and stared at his friend. "I'm getting bad vibes about this. They're methodical, even meticulous, killers. I don't believe they would make a mistake like this. It would be too easy for us to nab them -- to set up a trap at the mall."

Automatically countering with an alternate angle, Dan talked out a few options. "Maybe they're not good with impulsive decisions. Or maybe they think they know us well enough that they won't be trapped." McGarrett still wore a skeptical, worried expression. Gesturing around the office, Williams shrugged. "Chin, Duke, you, me -- we're all well known to everyone in HPD. Maybe they're over confident that they can't be trapped."

Pinching his lip, McGarrett stared at his younger friend for a moment. "We can't cover you there, Danno. You can wear a wire. You can even wear a vest. You're right, we'll be spotted if we're anywhere near the mall." He shook his head. "We can't risk it, Danno." His eyes were dark with apprehension. "A vest won't protect you from soft-tips between the eyes."

Frustrated, as he always was when Steve was over-protective, Dan implored, "This is our chance to get on the inside track. Let me give it a try. I'll wear the wire. We could be close to ending this if we follow through tonight."

"And all we have to do is risk your life."

Quiet and distant, Steve's eyes, his voice, reflected the trepidation, the memory of the last undercover job a few weeks before. His bad judgment had put himself and his men at risk –and against each other. Reluctant to repeat bad mistakes, he was more loath than ever to place Danno in an isolated, dangerous situation. As so many times before, his duties as the head of Five-0 conflicted with his personal judgment and wishes. As usual, he would side with duty over private goals.

"All right," he sighed. "We'll work out the best plan possible and go with it. And I wasn't kidding about the vest."

A little anxious, a little jazzed with the exhilaration of the case coming to a close, Dan managed a quip. "It would clash with what I'm wearing tonight, Steve. Sorry."

McGarrett shook his head and confiscated the coffee mug. "You've been drinking too much, Officer Williams. Let's get the others and do some brain work. We're going to need all our wits about us tonight."
 
 

*****

Steve threw down his binoculars with frustration. Nine-forty-one. Koni had ditched Danno again. Starting up the car, he told Chin they would swing around to the entrance of the park and keep an eye out for Williams' car.

"Something just doesn't feel right about this whole set up, Chin. I can't put my finger on it."

"Yeah, I know what you mean."

Over the microphone attached to Williams, Steve could tell the younger officer was making his way through the crowds of the mall to the parking garage. He radioed Lukela on tac three.

"McGarrett to Lukela."

"Yeah, here, Steve. I heard."

"Right, Duke. I want you to stay there until Danno passes by you. Then we'll call it a night."

"Okay."

Chin watched the traffic, still occasionally using his binoculars to scan the crowds on the upper level of the mall. "Maybe they suspect a trap and are putting Danny through the paces -- seeing if he does anything suspicious."

Shrugging, Steve theorized, "Danno suborned evidence! Isn't that proof enough that he wants to help them?" His tight fists twisted around the steering wheel. The case was making him nervous -- beyond the usual tension he felt when one of his men -- when Danno -- went undercover. Something deeper, more insidious, more deadly was lurking just out of reach and more than anything he wanted to close down the operation and yank his friend out of the line of fire.
 
 

*****

 

Williams walked back to the parking structure of Ala Moana Mall. Reaching his black LTD (Steve had insisted he drive the company car tonight -- feeling there was more protection with the big, hard-topped Ford, including police radio -- than the sporty Mustang), he pulled out to Kona Street behind the mall, safely away from spying eyes, and switched to tac three on the radio.

"Williams to McGarrett."

"Yeah, Danno, I saw. No meet again." McGarrett and Kelly had been across the street at Ala Moana Park, observing Williams from a concealed position through high powered binoculars. If something had gone wrong they would not have been able to aid very quickly, but Steve was confident they had not been spotted. Duke had been placed closer, on Piikoi Street, but not within sight of Williams. "I'm still getting bad vibes about this."

"Yeah, me too. What do you want me to do?"

"Go home. Same procedures as last time. We'll follow at a discrete distance, make sure you're all right, then I'll call you when I get home."

Stopped at the red light at Piikoi, Dan pondered the puzzle of the trap that had not been sprung. The Five-0 officers sensed rather than knew this was some kind of trap, but they could not see it with any clarity. Pulling up beside him was an HPD blue and white. He waved to the officer -- Ted Nuuanu.

"Okay, talk to you then." He replaced the mic. "How's your night going?" he shouted to the HPD man.

"Slow. You out doing some shopping for a hot date, Danny?" Nuuanu asked through the open window.

"Yeah, I wish. Just pricing some new shirts."

The driver leaned over. "You guys expecting more action tonight? The betting pool for third shift says the big money is on another killing tonight between eleven and midnight. You want in on the action? We're up to fifty-five bucks in the pool."

Dan's stomach curled at the thought of betting on anticipated murders. "No thanks."

The light turned green and Dan cruised to the left, headed for home. The patrol car turned on Ewa and was soon lost from sight. Disturbed by the conversation with Nuuanu, Williams clicked onto tac three. A small light on the radio would let McGarrett know there were transmissions on the covert channel.

"McGarrett."

Relating the macabre betting, Dan vented his unease. "Steve, we need a plan. We can't let the killing continue. When do the vigilantes stop murdering suspected murderers and start on people they just don't like?"

Silence on the other end was echoed with a sigh from the equally disturbed leader. "All right, Danno. Check in at your place, be cool. Meet me at my apartment at eleven and we'll work on a plan."

"Okay. See you then."

"Lukela to McGarrett." The call was urgent and tight. "Steve, I got Officer Puna in his little green Pinto. He's just pulled out of the mall a few cars behind Danny."

"Okay, Duke, keep a loose tail, but stay on him. We'll close in behind you and do some trade-off observing him. Danno, you get that?"

"Yeah, Steve, what do you want me to do?"

"Stick with your plan. Go to the apartment. I'll let you know if we need you."

"All right." The tone was flatly disappointed. "Watch your back, Steve."

"Will do."

Night made tailing much easier. The shape of the car and tail lights of the Pinto were simple to follow. Duke's blue LTD kept pace well behind the little green car. Switching off with McGarrett every few blocks, the two Five-0 sedans were able to stay in constant sight of the prey as they crept through the traffic heading Diamond Head, through the heart of Waikiki on Kalakaua, toward Danno's apartment.

Lukela was in the lead when Puna's car turned onto a side street. The LTD drove past and the Mercury followed the Pinto to Kuhio, where Puna pulled into a public parking garage at the back of International Marketplace. Steve pulled over and let Chin follow on foot, then stopped at a curb and radioed Duke. They were without walkie talkies or any other communications gear for keeping in touch outside the cars. Should he follow Chin in or stay here ready to make a quick getaway should Puna give Kelly the slip?

"McGarrett to Lukela."

"Lukela."

"Stay at the entrance to the garage, Duke. Keep an eye out for any other off duty officers."

"Will do."

"Williams to McGarrett. I'm in my parking garage. Sure there's nothing else I can do, Steve? Sounds like you could use some more help."

"I'm, sure, Danno. Stay put. I'll keep you informed. Don't move till you hear from me."

McGarrett chose to leave the car and go to the back of the garage on foot. He caught up with Kelly and they coursed through the labyrinth of small vendor's carts, shops and restaurants that made up the unique outdoor/tree-covered walking mall of the marketplace. Puna stopped at several shops, finally going inside an Oriental jewelry store. From discrete vantage points the Five-0 men kept a covert surveillance on the off-duty officer.

Both detectives were surprised when Officer Sandi Welles went into the Oriental shop. Exchanging silent surprise with Chin, Steve watched as Welles and Puna talked. Though too far away to hear anything, McGarrett thought the meet was nothing more than two colleagues running into each other while away from work. No sinister glances or whispered words passed between the HPD officers. Still, the coincidence seemed too incredible. And if they were suspicious (the two cancelled meets with Williams proved their wariness), then wouldn't conspirators want to meet -- seemingly by chance -- in a public place?
 
 

*****

Too keyed up to relax on his lanai as he usually did after work, Williams paced his living room and waited for the phone to ring. It was after ten-thirty and still no call from McGarrett. The instructions from Steve had been clear, so Dan stayed home, but it wasn't easy. What was happening with Puna? Was he leading the rest of the Five-0 team into a trap? Or into a position to arrest the whole vigilante gang? Whatever was happening, Dan was out of the picture and unhappy about it.

A bold knock at the door startled him. Had Steve dropped by instead of calling? Rushing to answer it, Dan was surprised to see the hefty form of Koni Osaka standing on his lanai.

"Danny, sorry about the way I ditched you again, but we had to be sure you weren't setting a trap for us."

"Uh, sure, Koni. I just don't like it." Thinking fast, he stalled. "So, you want to come in or something?"

"No. I'm here to take you to meet the others."

"Now?"

"Yeah. Come on."

Dan glanced to the end table by the sofa. The transceiver was sitting there -- now useless. How could he grab it without suspicion?

"Uh, okay, let me get my keys and everything." He turned into the room and Koni came with him, staying right next to his shoulder. The car keys were on top of the kitchen counter. No chance to go for the wire. He'd try one more option and started for the bedroom. "Let me pick up my gun --"

"No, you come unarmed. And we'll take your Mustang, not the Five-0 car."

Okay, no gun, no wire and no way to inform McGarrett of the surprising development. Only negatives with this, because he could think of nothing else to do but go along with Koni. If he backed out now the gang would never let him have another chance. Weighing the enormous danger of going in alone against the opportunity to close down the vigilantes, Dan knew what path he had to take.

Nervous, but staying cool, he agreed. "Okay. We can take my Mustang."
 
 

*****

Sandi Welles was leaving and Steve chose to follow her, assigning Chin Ho to stick with Puna, who was purchasing something in the shop. McGarrett took a course on a parallel path to Welles, keeping her in sight. His trailing skills were a little rusty and the mall tricky since paths frequently converged, crowds thinned and compressed. When Sandi stopped at an upper level shave ice store, McGarrett chose a spot at the bottom of a staircase. A group of Japanese tourists swarmed down the stairs just as Sandi was exiting. Caught in the tide of bodies, Steve could only frown in dismay as he was spotted by the officer and she quickly skipped down the stairs to greet him.

"Mr. McGarrett -- I mean, Steve! What a nice surprise! I didn't know you liked to shop here. My apartment is just across the canal, and the prices here are wonderful, don't you think?"

Steve took a breath since she didn't seem to require any, being miraculously able to chatter non-stop without coming up for air. Incredibly, the rush of information was flowing in between bites of the huge, rainbow flavored shave ice that was quickly disappearing.

"I'm looking for a birthday present for my niece, on the mainland. She's turning ten next month."

Steve's momentary anxiety over coming up with a cover story quickly vanished. She was singularly non-curious about his placement in the walking mall and would probably never even pause long enough for him to say anything.

"Shopping makes me famished. I think I'll get her some jewelry -- something Hawaiian or Asian since she thinks it's exotic to have an aunt living in Hawaii. Isn't it funny, I ran into Ky Puna tonight, too. He was shopping for a relative on the mainland, too. An aunt. Isn't that a funny coincidence?"

"Quite a coincidence," he agreed tightly.

Quietly, with haunting certainty, he repeated the mystic, treacherous word. How could he ever believe she was anything but the honest, blunt, garrulous, forth-right cop she appeared to be? Was Puna's appearance at Ala Moana and his meet with Sandi really just a matter of chance? Random coincidence mingled with incredibly bad timing and judgment on his part? Had he fallen for the suspiciously obvious? With a sinking certainty, Welles all but confirmed his disappointment with her continued conversation.

"I thought I'd grab a bite." Tentatively she smiled. "Do you like Trader Vic's? The food is ono." For the first time she paused in her steamroller monologue. She actually seemed -- uncertain -- nervous? -- so uncharacteristic for her usual confident self. "I guess, what I'm wondering -- Steve -- is if you'd like to have dinner with me?"

Would a member of a vigilante gang -- intent on business -- ask him out for a spontaneous date? Mistrusting colleagues was easy once he started down that trail of doubt. Somewhere the trust had to start and his instincts told him that would have to be here with Sandi.

Careful to watch for her reaction, he gave her a leading reply. "Dinner? Won't that spoil your shopping plans?"

"Oh, well, maybe you could help. You have a niece, don't you?" The confidence faltered. "Oh, that would probably be so boring for you. But you'll join me for dinner, won't you? I had some theories I thought I'd run by you about this serial murderer." Frowning, she stopped. "Unless you don't want to talk shop."

Hardly the reply or attitude of a conspirator. With every moment his disappointment grew, and he reluctantly decided he had made a terrible blunder. This was nothing but a wild goose chase. Not a clever ploy by their opponents -- not even a blunder on the part of the gang -- just a trip up of plain old dumb luck.

"How about a rain check, Sandi? I have some other plans."

Clearly disappointed, she recovered quickly. "Oh, sure."

Now anxious, Steve jogged through the crowds, knowing that while Five-0's forces were concentrating on these suspects, they -- he -- had left his undercover man alone. Quickly he connected with Chin near the entrance on Kalakaua. Puna was still shopping. McGarrett told Chin to stay with the officer just in case. He was going to contact Danno. His pace turned into a run when he glanced at a shop clock that read ten-fifty-three.

At Duke's car he discovered what he'd already guessed -- no other HPD personnel had been spotted. At the Mercury he requested a patch through to Williams' home. No answer. Then the LTD. No response. Traveling the distance to Dan's apartment in just a few minutes, his heart froze when he saw the LTD in the garage and the Mustang missing. He pounded on the door with his fist for only a few tries. Then he used his key to let himself in. Swiftly he assessed the clues: transponder on table, gun on nightstand in bedroom, no Dan, no sign of struggle, no note.

Leaping to instant conclusions, he postulated the trap had closed. Instead of meeting at Ala Moana the gang had come here and convinced or compelled Dan to go with them -- without weapons or communications. Like a fist tightening around his chest, Steve felt fear clutching out his reason. Just as he had been trapped weeks ago when he was undercover. He had barely escaped with his life. He hoped Danno would be as lucky. And just as Williams had found him, now he had to accomplish the seemingly impossible task of finding his friend.
 
 

*****

When Koni directed Dan to turn off Ala Moana onto the docks it did not surprise the detective. Again the crescent moon shadowed him as he drove along the eerily empty, quiet docks. Looking up at the sky he saw no clouds tonight, just faint stars and the moon. Stopping at number thirty-three he shut off the engine. The quiet played on his nerves and in a voice louder than intended, he asked Osaka what was next.

"They're waiting inside."

Koni opened a small side door that faded paint proclaimed as the main office. The interior of the room was dark and Koni used a pocket flashlight to navigate them from the narrow, vacant rooms to a huge warehouse area. Moonlight sprayed warped shafts of light into the dusty, abandoned building. Against the far wall three darker shapes moved toward them, indistinct and spooky in the fractured glow.

"So, you wanted to come check out our little group, huh, Danny?"

When he was close enough to distinguish faces, Dan stopped. The speaker was Nate Price. His companions were Ted Nuuanu and another officer Dan didn't know. All were in civilian clothes. Not the people he expected to find here. None looked happy to see him. Inwardly steeling himself, he took the hard, assertive approach.

"I told Koni you're playing a dangerous game."

Coldly, Price smiled. "I think that should be my line."

He nodded to the two other officers, who quickly rushed forward and grabbed Dan's arms tightly, painfully twisting them back behind his back. Before he could stop them he was pushed down on his knees, his hands cuffed behind him.

Clutching Dan's hair, Price stared into his face from only inches away. "You thought you could outsmart us -- trap us!"

Dan ground his teeth in an effort not to gasp from the ache.

"Well, the clever Five-0 was stupid enough not to remember that any officer can tune into tac three. When Ted overheard you and McGarrett talking on the radio, all he had to do was alert the rest of us. We knew then to stick with tac three to track everything you and your team was doing."

Fighting against the cold knot of fear in his stomach, Dan tried to believe there was hope of a rescue, because there was certainly no way he could fight or talk his way out of this. But how could Steve find him? And if the Five-0 detectives coordinated on tac three, Price would know the plans and move to thwart them -- trap them? -- kill them? -- before Five-0 knew what hit them. Price could evolve from the lawlessness of killing criminals to way beyond the law of killing colleagues. Right now that didn't seem like much of a moral distance for the renegade cop.

"Give it up, Price."

The officer shoved Williams to the floor. "And what, surrender to Five-0? So I can go to prison? Don't be stupid, Danny, you know what would happen to us if we surrendered. That is not an option."

Grimacing from the scrapes and bruising, Dan edged up on an elbow. "You're cornered, Nate."

The responding cold, brittle laugh echoed harshly in the cavernous room. Price stepped on Dan's face, pressing it to the concrete floor. "I think that's another confusion, Danny. You've gone too far to live."

"Murdering a cop? Is it that easy for you now? Killing me is against everything you've believed in --"

"We believe in survival, Danny."

"The evidence --"

"We'll take care of Koni -- he can disappear to another island. But you won't disappear, Danny and you won't give up and you won't keep our secret. So there's no other choice for you."

Williams implored the others that they did not have to go along with murdering a cop -- a Five-0 cop. They were brothers. Nate countered harshly that Williams was too dangerous to let live. Dan assured them that if he never showed up again, McGarrett would never rest until he found out what happened.

Price grabbed Williams by the collar and yanked him up on his knees. "This is obtuse of you, Danny, you're usually brighter than this. We're not going to have you disappear." He dangled a pair of cuffs in front of the prisoner. With quick, powerful, damaging moves, Price looped the chains around the wrist cuffs and clicked the shackles painfully onto Dan's ankles. "We're making an example of you, Danny. McGarrett will go to work in the morning and find your body on the steps of the Palace. Think he'll get the message not to mess with us?"

Shivering from dread, from aching wrists and ankles, Dan tried to keep the desperation out of his thready voice. "You're cops! You took an oath -- just like I did -- to serve the people of Hawaii! This killing's got to stop!"

From under his shirt, Price removed a long-barreled .38. "If you remain still I'll give you a break, Danny, and make this fast and painless. Better than feeling the soft-tipped bullet bouncing around in your brain."

The others stepped away.

"No!" Dan scrambled back and was grabbed on each side, held motionless between the accomplices. Just as the other victims had been trapped. "Don't step over the line to murdering one of your own!"

The barrel touched Dan's forehead. "You are not one of us, Danny. You never were. You're Five-0. Not HPD. You guys are beyond the law, too, just in a different way. You're nothing like us."

"Price, it's not too late --"

"I need to read you your rights."

"You're nuts! Koni! Don't let him do this!"

Silently the others backed away. Price demanded they hold onto Williams. Shaking, Koni turned and ran, followed by the other officer.

Price's tone, the expression, the eyes, were chilling and dark when he turned back to Williams. No emotion, no compassion, no morality left. "You have the right to remain silent -- because nothing you say is gonna save your life. You have no right to an attorney because you have no rights at all! By breaking our trust you have forfeited your right to live."

Dan rolled and crawled away. Price kicked him over on his side and pressed a foot against his chest, pointing the pistol at his head.
 
 

*****

Used to following hunches and taking risks, McGarrett was all too aware that he was betting his most valued treasure on one toss of the dice. If he was wrong in his guess Danno would be dead. Maybe he was murdered already, but Steve couldn't believe that.

A consensus of the Five-0 officers concluded that Kahuku Sugar Mill, dock thirty-three, or the Sand Island scene of crime would be where they would take Dan. Only a hunch, but Steve needed to play it since it was all he had. Lukela took the Kahuku Mill, Chin Ho the Sand Island location and McGarrett chose the docks. If he was wrong he could quickly be off to another location in short time.

Racing up to the side of warehouse number thirty-three, Steve's blood chilled when he spotted the Mustang. He radioed for Five-0 and HPD back-up; it was too late to worry about who might be involved in the conspiracy. Fear, anger, helplessness roiled inside to an eruption point. He didn't hesitate or try to keep quiet, just slammed on the brakes and leaped out of the car, running to the nearest door.

The small office door opened and three HPD men walked out. Steve drew his gun. "Halt!"

The others seemed uncertain, but Koni raised his hands in surrender. "Don't shoot."

Roughly grabbing Osaka by the collar, Steve's gun held his gun only inches from the man's face. "If you did anything to Danno I'll kill you."

Koni's tone and expression were flat -- beyond emotion. "That makes you one of us, doesn't it?"

Steve wanted to slap the man -- no -- he wouldn't, but he desperately desired to do so. The fear and pain nearly blinded him, both to reason and to a lifetime of seeking justice in an unjust world. If they had killed Danno then they deserved no protections, did not deserve rights or laws.

Koni covered his face with his hands. "You'll be too late."

Dashing through the door, past the small offices, McGarrett instantly assessed the scene. Vaguely lit from the patchy moonlight through the big, smudged windows, a tall, thin man, arm extended, aimed a pistol at a still, huddled shadow on the floor.

Steve ran toward the action, shouting wordlessly. The shooter jumped as he pulled the trigger twice. The man on the floor flinched in reaction.

He didn't hesitate at all in his actions; nothing slowed Steve in his run toward the scene. The MO, the man's known, murderous skill replayed in fractional seconds in Steve's brain as background noise. Flashing in his brain was the continuous message that the man with the gun had just executed his closest friend.

Still on the run, McGarrett aimed, pointed and fired. Price, he immediately identified as he drew closer, had moved to fire on him, but it was too late for the killer, who had stumbled back from the first bullet hit. Steve pumped two more shots into the falling body to make sure the murderer was dead. Anguish and hate pushed him to empty the pistol into the man, but some semblance of reason remained and Steve's shaking finger hesitated. Checking the body, he saw Price was wheezing out labored death-breaths. Confiscating the fallen .38, Steve moved to the second form.

Wincing at the painfully bound, motionless, bloodied body of his friend, Steve swallowed down a sob, a groan. No, the groan was not from his own strangled throat -- it was from the body. Falling to his knees, he checked for a pulse on the blood-wet neck. The beat under quivering fingers confirmed that Dan was still alive. Wiping away some of the blood on the face and head, McGarrett saw a furrowed wound along the side of the head, and another along the neck, both of which were bleeding profusely.

With sigh caught in a sob, Steve talked to his friend as he pressed hands against the wounds. "Danno? Can you hear me? It's okay. You'll be okay."
 
 

*****

Rushing through the morning routines of Five-0, Steve kept a close eye on the clock. The remainder of last night and most of this morning had been spent at the hospital. Dan's injuries were non-life threatening, but he'd lost a lot of blood and was not expected to surface to consciousness until near noon. McGarrett planned on being there for that. Telling himself Dan would need the support after the harrowing experience, he knew the truth -- he needed the support -- the absolution -- from what he had done and his cold-blooded motivations in doing it.

Moving the shooting report aside, he rose from the desk, straightened his tie, and headed for the door. Before he reached it someone knocked and entered without permission. Constance Kincaid.

"Steve --"

"I was just leaving for the hospital. You can walk me to the car."

Not used to being treated in such a perfunctory manner, Constance was startled and silently complied, probably through surprise. By the time they were outside she caught up with his brisk pace and stopped him on the steps.

"How is Dan?"

"He's going to be fine."

"I wanted a private conversation." Obviously that would not happen, so she continued. "After your brilliant solution of the case I know how we can use this -"

Taking her by the elbow, he led her to her car. "We don't need a private place, Constance. I can tell you everything you need to know right now."

Resolute in expression and tone, Steve vented his impatient conclusions. "I won't use this unfortunate crime spree as a political launch pad. I'm not interested in politics. I won't play the games, Constance, I never will." His jaw tightened, and his eyes and voice were hard. "Last night I nearly lost Danno. It was a very near thing. It was not a game, it was life and death. I face danger every day, Constance. Compared to that reality, playing percentages and opinion polls and cocktail parties is so artificial and superficial it's ludicrous. I can't be part of that world. Please don't ask me again. I like you, and I'd like to see you again, but not if your motivations are to further your civic aspirations."

A tough, flinty woman, Constance stared back at him with unblinking resolve. "You're quite a man of integrity and character, Steve. You would make a brilliant governor. Unfortunately, you are also a stubborn, opinionated man of integrity and character." Her eyes sparkled with wry acceptance. "And that makes you a terrible candidate for political office."

Relaxing, he nearly gave her a grin. "Mahalo."

Quickly she planted a soft, brushing kiss on his cheek. "I'll call you sometime."

"If you don't I'll call you."

She slipped into her car. "I'll hold you to that."

Driving to the hospital took only a few moments. Consumed with his deep introspection, Steve automatically made the trip without realizing he was there until he pulled up to the curb and shut off the engine.

After one of his men was injured, Steve rarely spent a restful night. This morning he had done little more than doze for the few hours he had been at home. So many horrific snapshots of memory stuck in his mind after last night: Danno's bloody, motionless, bound body. The shadows and subdued moonlight silhouetting the killer. Steve shooting and killing Price without warning, without hesitation, without remorse.

Since he joined the navy and first held a weapon in his hand Steve knew the thin line between justice and murder. In Korea -- in Hawaii -- there were opportunities to cross that line. Some did, as Price and his gang had. Steve had never been as tempted to break down the barrier between right and wrong as he had a few hours before. Last night he had crossed over the line. It was all justified, of course. Danno was still alive -- the most important factor. Price undoubtedly had been going to finish the job of murdering Danno so McGarrett's actions were necessary. At least that's what the DA would say. That's what any cop would say. Only McGarrett knew better.

When he reached the room a doctor and nurse were just leaving. Steve hovered by the door for a few moments, assessing the weary, worn patient. Dan gave him a slight wave and slowly McGarrett approached his friend.

"Danno. You're lucky to be alive."

"That's what I hear." His brow wrinkled. "You okay?"

McGarrett stared at his folded hands. "I should be asking you that."

"I heard you got the guys." A pause. "I thought that would be good news."

McGarrett paced to the window and stared out at the skyline of Honolulu. "I killed Price, Danno. He was standing over your body. I thought you were dead. I didn't warn him, I didn't hesitate, I killed him." A ragged sigh escaped. "How does that make me different from them?"
 
"I'd like to think because you did save my life."

Shaking his head, Steve turned to gaze at his friend. "What really scares me is that there have been times when I didn't know what my limits would be when faced with -- with the worst. Now I know. Maybe I have no limits."

Only days ago they had hypothetically discussed what it would take to cross the line from good cop to murderer. Not only did Steve understand what it meant to WANT to commit cold-blooded murder -- he had accomplished it. In those few seconds it took for him to see Price, see Dan's body, Steve had known -- in his mind -- he was too late to save Danno. Without regret he had pulled the trigger, never giving Price his constitutional chance to surrender, never even wanting to arrest the murderer, but only desiring to kill the renegade who had robbed him of his friend.

Hypothetically, he had saved Dan's life, although he didn't know it at the time. Under the same circumstances, given the same choices, Steve admitted to himself he would repeat the actions. Yes, there were some things that could drive a man to cold-blooded murder. He had been there and returned and hoped never to be there again.

"You know better," Williams remarked with quiet assurance. "Every time you pull that gun and shoot someone you regret it, Steve. Even though you saved me last night, you regret having to kill to do it. That's what makes you different. Your conscience. It will always make you different, Steve."

McGarrett offered a slight nod of thanks. It was a very thin margin of safety, but he felt his secure anchor on this side of the law would always keep him from edging over the line.
 
 

PAU


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