BORDERLINE

 

Story idea by Barbara B and Katie B

Written by gm

 

Mahalo BB for the great editing

 

 

May  1973

 

Checking his watch as he briefly paused at the arrival gate, Steve McGarrett compared his time with the scheduled arrival of Flight 703 from LAX.   ARRIVED flashed next to #703.  Five minutes early.  He congratulated himself on his exacting timing and briskly continued toward the appropriate gate.  Once at Gate 12, he stared out of the big windows, watching the UNITED jet come to a complete stop and the post-flight scurry of activity surround the plane. 

 

McGarrett smiled in anticipation.  It would be good to see Danno again.  Williams had been a little unhappy to receive this assignment to escort a prisoner from San Diego.  It had interfered with some kind of surf meet and while the youngest member of Five-0 never complained about such demands from his job, it was clear he had been disappointed.  Well, Steve was not too contrite about the whole affair.  Danno didn’t need to go breaking his neck at those surf meets anymore anyway.  And collaring Domingo Lopez was much more important than recreation.  But, Steve was not without compassion for his friend, and decided to be here as the welcoming committee to greet Danno on the final leg of his journey.

 

Williams was escorting a murder suspect from San Diego – one who managed to escape all the way to California and tried to make it to Mexico.  He was caught at the border and held by SDPD.  Domingo Lopez was brother to one of Mexico’s most notorious crime bosses. The elder Lopez, Raul, sent his brother last year to Hawaii to buy up some hotels in order to launder money into the US.  In the complicated efforts at bribery and graft, Lopez killed a state legislator who was crusading against big monopolies by sponsoring popular legislation to limit the amount of hotels owned by single individuals.

 

Too busy to make the trip to the mainland himself, the duty fell to the second-in-command.  Just too bad Williams had to cancel the surf meet.  Steve smiled a little wickedly.  Danno had forgotten to cancel a date with Sarah somebody, too.  According to Jenny, the scathing message she left for Williams assured there would be no second chance with her.   He didn’t know why he got such a kick out of teasing him about his love life.  Maybe because Williams was such an easy target.  There was never a shortage of ammunition.  And maybe, just a little bit of regret that his own social life was no where near as exciting or busy as Danno’s.

 

The mobile stairs were up at the door to the main cabin and passengers started to emerge.  Locals, families, businessmen, tourists with cameras and carry-ons.  He had expected Williams and the prisoner Lopez to debark first.  Well, maybe they were waiting for everyone else.  It would cause more trouble than it was worth, probably, to get the handcuffed criminal off amid all the bustle of the anxious passengers breathlessly awaiting their coveted vacations in paradise, or returning home on the long flight from the mainland.

 

Impatient, Steve walked out into the bright, warm Hawaiian sunshine and waited until the passengers seemed to have all left the plane.  Two stewardesses from the jet emerged carrying their bags.  He stopped at the bottom of the steps.  Where was Danno?  When the girls reached the ground, he held out his badge and identified himself.

 

“A policeman,” the one with auburn hair flirted. 

 

Under other circumstances, he would have been happy to oblige the attention, but now he was wondering if Lopez had given his detective trouble.  

 

“McGarrett.  I have one of my officers aboard your flight escorting a prisoner.  Is there some trouble?  Where are they?”

 

The girls exchanged confused looks.  Both denied knowing about any policeman or prisoner.  The flirty one assured she would have noticed someone in handcuffs.  She moved a little closer to him.  Yeah, she would have absolutely noticed Danno and he would have responded to this type of open invitation.

 

A male flight steward, and the pilot or co-pilot came down the stairs and joined them.  Again, Steve explained his quest and was confused and a bit anxious when all denied they had seen Williams or a prisoner.

 

“We were notified of a prisoner transport,” the co-pilot confirmed after he introduced himself.  “But your policeman and criminal never showed at the LA terminal.”

 

The flight steward agreed, reporting they never checked in and their seats were given to standbys. 

 

Did they get another flight?  The thought somewhat irritated Steve.  Danno should have called if there was a hang up on the mainland.  Another cancellation in Williams’ life -- just not his day.

 

McGarrett returned to the terminal and had the nearest United Airlines rep call San Diego and find out which flight Williams would be on.  It was getting late in the day already and he didn’t relish driving back and forth to the airport all evening, he had better things to do.  When the personnel on the mainland reported no Williams checked in for a flight that afternoon to Honolulu, nor did he cancel or re-book a flight, Steve grew concerned.  He asked them for all flights for the whole day and the person on the other end of the phone repeated no one named Dan Williams from Hawaii Five-0 left LAX on a United flight that day. 

 

Strained, Steve asked them to check other airlines to Hawaii for the day.  It was a fast check, since Untied flew more than anyone else to Honolulu.  Still negative.  And after paging Williams over the PA system, no one responded in LA.

 

Worried now, Steve used the phone to call his office.  Jenny reported she had not heard from Williams.  Then McGarrett asked to be patched through to LAPD.  They were supposed to meet Danno at the airport.  After a lengthy and tedious wait to get through channels in LA, Lieutenant Sanderson reported Williams never showed that afternoon and he figured things were delayed in San Diego.

 

Miffed, McGarrett barked, “Didn’t you think to check?  My man is transporting a dangerous criminal!”

 

“I have a lot of other things to do besides baby-sit a Gilligan’s Island cop at the airport.”

 

Not even bothering to dignify that insult with a reply, McGarrett just hung up.  Next, he had Jenny call the SDPD and talk to their liaison, Sergeant Balboa. Balboa was confused and amazed at Williams’ failure to return home.  Lopez and Williams had left San Diego earlier that day with plenty of time to make the several-hours trip to LAX.   He had no idea what could have happened. 

 

“You didn’t escort him to LA?”

 

“We have a dock strike going on here, McGarrett, and every one of my men are needed out here to keep the peace.  It was piece of luck Border Patrol spotted your Lopez guy, otherwise, he’d be in Baja sipping margaritas now.”

 

Mightily displeased, McGarrett asked him to conduct a thorough investigation.  He would want answers when he arrived on the earliest possible flight -- and that wasn’t until tomorrow!  The decision was impulsive, but undeniable.  His officer was in trouble.  It might be nothing more sinister than a flat tire, a minor traffic accident, or getting stuck in the horrendous and notorious traffic of Southern California.  He didn’t think so.  Not with Lopez.  Danno would have called.  He was Steve’s second-in-command; he knew how to handle himself and tough situations.  What if he came across something in California that he could not handle on his own? 

 

The criminal had slit the throat of a government official!  What would such a merciless, amoral creep do to a cop to escape?  He didn’t want to think about that.  Switching back to Jenny’s line, he informed her of his plans to take the first available flight the next morning.  And Kono, too.  They were both heading for the mainland.

 

 

*****

 

 

Even with a hefty tailwind, the over five-hour flight to LA went fast, but was spent in anxious contemplation for McGarrett.  Still no word from Williams.  There were any number of possibilities of what had happened.  The more gruesome and violent preying most frequently in Steve’s mind.  He kept hoping when they hit the smog-filled air of LA they would find an embarrassed Williams waiting with Lopez in the terminal.  There would be a contrite explanation and many apologies.  They would all have a strained reunion.  He would send the contrite Williams home with the prisoner and spend an unexpected afternoon with his sister and her family.

 

The skeptic inside told him that was not going to happen. The reality would prove much more disturbing, he feared.  When discovered, Lopez was arrested with three other family members at the border.  So the gang knew he had been recaptured, they knew he was being extradited back to Hawaii.  If they cared about their brother gangster, they would try to free him.  Once away from the safety net of the SDPD, Danno’s car could have been run off the road.  They could have been ambushed, the bullet-riddled car and cop discarded over a cliff.

 

He sighed, opening his eyes, anxious and irritated.  It didn’t help that Kono continually chattered.  It was Detective Kalakaua’s first ride on a big jet.  It was his first trip away from Hawaii.  Raised on the small Dole owned island of Lanai, then relocated to the Big Island, then Honolulu, Kono didn’t know the first thing about life outside his little paradise.  He had spent the trip staring out the window almost exclusively.  Between the snacks, meal and movie, he questioned McGarrett about LA, California and details that could have been asked by a curious ten-year-old.  How high up were they?  How long did the flight take?  Why couldn’t they see the ocean anymore?  What was it like on the mainland?  Did they talk funny in California?  Were they going anywhere near Disneyland?

 

Steve’s terse, monosyllable replies did not deter the officer’s questions and finally McGarrett tried to nap to stave off the verbal assault.  He did not want to converse.  He wanted to think, to speculate, to try and look ahead and see/sense what had happened -- what was happening -- to Williams.

 

Coming in for a landing at LAX, Kono was appalled at the brown layer of smut hovering over the city.  The HUGE city that did not have an end and seemed a gigantic slab of concrete and numerous high-rises.  Honolulu had smog and vog occasionally from the volcano -- and he thought Honolulu was big -- but nothing like this!  Nor in Hawaii did they have a seemingly continuous city from the ocean to the mountains and beyond.  The big, simple Hawaiian was amazed at the urban sprawl of Southern California.

 

There was almost an hour between their flight and the connecting plane to San Diego.  In a hurry, McGarrett decided it would be more efficient to fly on a small commuter jet than to rent a car and drive the several hours to San Diego as his missing detective had done.  In his mood, he was interested in saving time more than money.  And he was certainly not going to put up with LA traffic.  He would explain it all to the budget people later.

 

Entering the terminal, a balding, thin man in a sports jacket and no tie approached.  He flashed his LAPD badge.  “McGarrett?”

 

“Yeah,” Steve acknowledged, guarded, wondering if Jenny had alerted the local officers.  After the cold reception he received on the phone, he was not interested in asking for their cooperation.  “You are?”

 

“Lieutenant Sanderson,” he introduced.  “We spoke on the phone.”

 

“I remember.”

 

The detective, who seemed pale for someone living in sunny California, made a chagrined face.  “Sorry about that.  You caught me at a bad time.  I called back, found out you were heading this way and wanted to give you an update.”

 

“Go ahead,” McGarrett coolly invited.  Curtly introducing Kono, he almost held his breath.  A personal greeting by an ambivalent LAPD cop.  This could be bad news and he braced himself for the worst.  Overnight, he had speculated about Danno’s body left in a ditch, thrown over a cliff, dumped in an alley  . . . .  “What have you found out?”

 

“I’ve alerted airport security, they’re asking some questions.  This is like a big city here, you know, so don’t expect much.  A guy escorting a prisoner -- unusual, but this is LA, you know?”

 

“What does that mean?” Kono asked, bewildered at the comments.

 

“Means weird is a way of life around here.”

 

To take matters into his own hands -- unsatisfied with the conduct of the local contingent, Steve split with Kono and started questioning United personnel.  Sanderson helped, but Steve didn’t wait around for the man.  Eventually, Steve gravitated toward baggage claim and interrogated employees along the way, as well at the main ticket counter.  If Danno made it here, he would have checked in.  No one remembered Dan or Lopez or saw them waiting for a flight.

 

Short tempered and angry, McGarrett glanced at his watch, mindful they needed to proceed to San Diego.  More than likely, Danno had never left the area.  Lopez’s men had ambushed them and run to the border.  Who knew what they did with Danno?

 

A sky-cap waved Kono over and the Hawaiian complied. 

 

“Alquien me pago diez dolares buscar un official con pelo ribio y crespo, iajando cen un hombre con sus mianes tirados.”  The man rattled off the explanation in Spanish and Kono shook his head in confusion.

 

“Hey, bruddah, don’t speak your language.”

 

The man, a bit confused, said in heavily accented English, “Amigo, someone paid me ten dollars yesterday to keep a lookout for a blond cop with curly hair, with a handcuffed dude.  But I never saw them.”

 

Steve overheard the comment and requested the sky-cap to help them ask around and discovered many others were paid to watch for the cop and the prisoner.  Finally, one man admitted he spotted Williams and that he alerted two men to Dan’s whereabouts.   The men paid the sky-cap an extra ten dollars when he helped them get a rental car.

 

Stomach tight with anxiety, Steve demanded more information.  Wanting to shake the man for his complicity in his detective’s abduction, or worse, he demanded every detail of the men, anything they might have mentioned about where they were going.  What did the curly-haired cop look like?  Was he hurt?  Forced to go with them?  Nervous?

 

“The curly-haired cat, he was mad, man.  One big Mexican thug had him by the arm and the shorter cop was mad.  The Mexican guy he was handcuffed to, he was smiling like he just won at Hollywood Park.  They all got in a big white Cadillac.  The short blond guy in the back between the Mexicans.  Then another Mexican dude came out of nowhere.  I saw him slip a gun into his back pocket.”

 

“And you did nothing?” Sanderson asked snidely.

 

“Ain’t my business to do nothing, man.”

 

“What happened?” Steve growled.  “Did they say where they were going?  Anything?  Did you get a license number?  Anything at all?”

 

“The big dude in the back, he shoved the curly guy pretty hard.  Didn’t treat the kid right.  Told him he was gonna like Mexico.”

 

From the description, there was no doubt in Steve’s mind the Mexican men with money were likely Lopez’s mobsters.  They would have been across last night if not stopped by the border patrol.  So much time had been wasted!  Such appalling carelessness perpetrated on the part of the mainland police.  Wanting to scream at the ineffective LAPD officer, McGarrett instead ground his teeth and admitted mistakes had been made, his officer was paying the price, and it seemed no one was able to do anything about it all but him.

 

It was time to catch their flight, and McGarrett reluctantly left the detail work to Sanderson.  Getting sketches of the suspects, description of the car -- tedious legwork.  The detective should check if Lopez’s friends had rented a car and intended to go across the border, but without clear descriptions that was a hopeless angle.  With the few minutes remaining, McGarrett called SDPD and alerted Balboa of the developments.  No one answering Dan’s description had been noted crossing the border, but that didn’t mean much.  With harsh realism, the detective reminded the Five-0 boss there was a lot of ocean between LA and Mexico.  If they didn’t want to bring a body across with them, they could have dumped it anywhere.  If they wanted to have a threat of holding a cop prisoner, then all they had to do was put him in the trunk of the car.  Border Patrol didn’t check cars going into Mexico, just coming out.

 

As he settled into the small commuter jet, McGarrett stared out at the busy airport and tried to see back to might have occurred.  He tried to think what Danno might do, trapped and captured by hostile mobsters.  Confined overnight with enemies bent on killing him.  Noting his hands were shaking, Steve folded his arms, closed his eyes, and tried to think of anything but the terror that his friend had gone through so far in this miserable misadventure.  What he might still be going through now.  But the vibrant thoughts and imaginative ways to kill a cop plagued him all the way to San Diego.

 

 

*****

 

 

Sergeant Balboa was a short, muscled man with brown eyes, dark skin and thick, black hair.  A thin, black mustache gave him an exotic appearance.  He wore a tan jacket and a polo shirt beneath and loafers that matched his jacket.  His manner was professional and courteous, but cool.  Steve didn’t blame him.  He always treated visiting cops the same way until he knew where they stood.  This time he was the encroaching officer barreling in here demanding action and he wondered how much cooperation he was going to get.

 

“I’ve checked into the car and talked to the border agents on duty yesterday,” he explained as they walked to baggage claim.  “One officer thinks at least three white Cadillacs crossed through.  All of them looked like tourists.  No one fitting the description of your officer caught their eye.  But, he’s not likely to have been in the car, is he?”

 

“What about the Mexican Authorities?”

 

Balboa scoffed.  “We have an agreement, Mr. McGarrett.  They leave us alone and we leave them alone.  They turn a blind eye to the drunk college kids crossing down there from UCSD, and we ignore the transients that wander across and take up space here in our parks.  Border Patrol handles the illegals and everybody tries to get along.”

 

Growing more livid with each comment, McGarrett growled under his breath.  “That is not good enough, Sergeant!  My detective’s life is on the line here!  He was abducted by Mexican criminals.  How long do you think he’s going to last with those vicious animals?  His life is worth nothing to them!  I want him found and I want you to do everything you can to make that happen!”

 

Balboa shook his head, sympathy hardly a distant shadow in his demeanor.  “I am a homicide detective, McGarrett.   This is beyond my jurisdiction.  Anything of a high level gets kicked up to supervisors and captains and commanders.”

 

“I’ll do better than that,” Steve vowed.  “I’m going to make waves all the way to Washington if I have to!”

 

When they reached baggage claim, Steve allowed Kono to get the bags as he paced, Balboa watching him with veiled eyes and a masked expression.   When Kono returned, McGarrett asked if the police would provide them with a car and assistance or were they on their own?

 

Balboa’s voice and manner remained cool.  “Your reputation is well known, Mr. McGarrett, but this is not Hawaii.  California is just another state to you.  I am sorry for the loss of your man, but if he made it into LAPD jurisdiction it is out of our hands --“

 

“You are on the border with Mexico --“

 

“And I explained we have ways of doing things here.  You are not in charge.”

 

Seething, McGarrett barely controlled his anger.  “Then what level of cooperation are you willing to give me, Sergeant?”

 

“We’ll put out our feelers, try and get a handle on Lopez’s gang on this side of the border.  We’ll try to trace the car.  I’ll do the usual checks --“ he hesitated, eyeing McGarrett with trepidation  “-- at the hospitals and morgues, any DB’s that have come in both today and yesterday from here to LA.  That could be a long list.  We’ll put out a notice to get the public’s help, but that’s usually more trouble than it’s worth.”  Flinching, for good reason, at the reaction this was getting from the livid chief of Five-0, he hastily added, “You go home and let us handle this.  We’ll let you know as soon as we find something useful.”

 

Barely able to speak beyond the fury sizzling through his system, McGarrett jabbed his finger at the short officer, enunciating every word with clipped rage.  “I am not going anywhere until I find my officer.  You do whatever you can, Sergeant.  I’m going to the source and take care of this myself.”

 

“Yourself?  I’m going to cover things for you here in San Diego --“

 

“Chances are he is not here anymore, don’t you think?” he snapped, voice dripping with enraged vitriol.  “Why would they stay in San Diego?”

 

Mexico?”  He shook his head.  “You can’t be thinking . . . .  You have no jurisdiction --”

 

“We’ll see.  I’ll be in touch.”

 

Stalking away, McGarrett went to the nearest car rental agency and asked for whatever they had available now.  Noting Balboa had left, he felt that was probably a positive event.  ‘Cooperate or get out of my way,’ was his thought.  If he had to mount a two-man crusade south of the border -- or anywhere else on this earth to find Danno -- he would. 

 

“So what’s the plan, boss?”

 

“We’re going to find Danno.”

 

Stalwart and used to McGarrett’s tirades, the Hawaiian cop just nodded.  “How we gonna do that?”

 

“Drive down to Mexico.” 

 

McGarrett signed the papers and was given the keys to a Camaro.  Not caring, he realized in a small corner of his mind that there would be an accounting for all of these expenses.  Travel and such was covered in the yearly budget for Five-0, but his impulsive escapade was running up bills.  Two UNITED airline tickets, two commuter flight tickets, car rental, and special insurance for entering Mexico.  They would have meals and need a place to stay tonight or however long they were here.  It was a bureaucratic detail he thought of automatically and dismissed.  He would just have Jenny juggle things around and pay for all of this.  What was important was their objective.  They were here to find his detective and take him home.  That was all that mattered.

 

“Where do we start?”

 

“At the border,” McGarrett sighed as he opened the trunk and allowed Kono to place the bags inside.  He paused to think how easy it was to stuff a body in a trunk, then viciously slammed down the lid. 

 

“Maybe we can stop for lunch somewhere?” Kono suggested as the got in the car.

 

Obviously uncomfortable as his tall, well-built frame squeezed into the small confines of the low sports car, Steve handed him a map given him at the counter.  “We ate lunch on the plane, didn’t we?”  He couldn’t remember.  They usually did that, but he was too preoccupied with worry to remember eating.

 

“That wasn’t what I would call lunch.  It’s getting late already.”

 

McGarrett glanced at his watch.  “We’re still on Hawaiian time.  It’s almost dinner time here.”

 

“Hey, that’s not fair if I have to skip a meal.”  They raced onto a freeway on-ramp and Kono juggled the map while trying to hold onto the door with one hand.  “What do you think will happen at the border, Steve?”

 

“They’re going to cooperate.  Hopefully with a higher level than we’ve experienced so far in the Golden State.”

 

Kalakaua’s face was grave.  “He could be dead, Steve.  You know that.”

 

“I can’t believe that.”

 

McGarrett ground his teeth together to keep from snapping out an enraged yell.  It was the truth he was running from -- running as fast as his mind would let him.  He was crowding his senses with the details of police work and red tape and most of all anger.  Anything that would chase away the reality that haunted his every thought.  There was no reason for the thugs to allow Danno to live.  If they did keep him as a bargaining chip or hostage of some kind, then that could be just as bad.  Worse.  There would be no hope of rescuing him from a foreign country.  They would have to accede to whatever demands Lopez had, or Danno would be killed.  And if he was still alive what was his fate while he awaited a ransom or an execution?  It sickened Steve to think of how these Mexican mobsters would treat a cop.  These animals would know no limits. 

 

Steve knew no limits now in his desire to succeed in this quest.  Geographical boundaries meant nothing to him.  It was an imaginary borderline on a map to cross into Mexico.  Mentally, emotionally, he had already crossed a different kind of borderline.  Dedicated and desperate, he would do anything he had to when it came to finding his missing officer.

 

Was his determination enough this time?  Already, he could be too late.  What would he do then?  Frighteningly, his opinion, his actions, might mean nothing.  This was turning into an international crime and could easily be out of his hands.  He would not admit that yet, but it was a possibility he dreaded.  Here he had no control or authority.  No one else cared about the life of Danny Williams -- not like he did.  If he couldn’t get results today, what was going to happen to his friend?  If Danno was even alive.

 

“I’m not leaving here until we get him back.”

 

Kono nodded, his tone and expression more serious than Steve could remember seeing in the affable Hawaiian.  “Just want you to remember what might be up ahead.”

 

Steve’s throat was dry.  “I know.  Believe me, I know.”

 

 

*****

 

 

Instead of pulling into the long line of cars waiting to cross the border, McGarrett drove the rental car up to the Border Patrol office, arduously crawled out of the low car, and flickered on a flash of amusement to see that the large and bulky Kono was having a worse time exiting the sporty vehicle than he had experienced.  They went into the small office and stopped at the desk.  He presented his credentials and asked to speak to the ranking officer.  They were directed to go back to a small office in the rear.

 

Lieutenant Carlton was a red-headed, freckle-faced officer whose fair skin was burned from many hours in the hot California sun.  He met them at the door and shook their hands cordially, if somewhat reservedly.  Offering them a seat and something cool to drink, he closed the door.

 

McGarrett remained standing and Kono followed his lead.

 

“I’m sure you know why I’m here.”

 

“Yeah, Balboa filled me in.  Sorry about your officer --“

 

“I’d like any information you have.  Video tapes of cars going through yesterday afternoon or evening, witnesses, anyone who might have spotted Lopez.  I’d like to interview the officers on duty at the approximate time the white Cad might have come through.  Then --“

 

“Whoa, Mr. McGarrett.  Look, there’s a few things we can do to help, but it’s not going to do you any good.  Domingo Lopez slipped back into Mexico.  Right now there’s a big party going on down there in their home base compound in Baja with him and Raul Lopez, the big daddy of godfathers in Northern Mexico.  He’s out of your jurisdiction.”

 

McGarrett’s lips twitched tightly.  “So I’ve been told.  Still, I’d like your cooperation.  Please.”  The tone was still more demand than request -- McGarrett felt he could only bend so far.  Didn’t they understand how important this was?  ”I have an officer who’s been kidnapped.  Any information you can provide could help.”

 

“All right,” Carlton agreed reluctantly.  “Let’s see what the cameras can give us.”

 

Kono was assigned the tedious task of reviewing video surveillance tapes with an officer in another building.  McGarrett talked to officers that were previous day.  One woman thought the white Cad had gone through her line.  When shown a picture of Lopez, she confirmed he had been one of two men in the back seat.  All looked like Mexicans.  Certainly no one with light, curly hair and blue eyes had been in the car.

 

Thanking her, disturbed at the information, McGarrett joined Kono.  Kalakaua had found four different white Cadillacs that had passed through that day and according to a guess by the border officer, they only had an approximate time in the evening when Lopez had crossed the border.  The more important question -- they still didn’t know what had happened to Williams.

 

Carlton invited them into his office for coffee and talk.  He suggested the visitors go back to Honolulu.  If Lopez dumped Williams’ body between LA and San Diego it might turn up in some ravine or wash up on a beach somewhere in a few days.  If the body was in the trunk, then the Hawaiian officer had been kidnapped for ransom and McGarrett would be hearing from the Lopez brothers for money.  Or, Williams could be taken to the Lopez compound in Baja, tortured, slowly killed, and the body dumped on the wrong side of the Pacific for the Hawaiian detective.  Any way, it seemed the logical thing for McGarrett to go back home.

 

After politely hearing out the officer, McGarrett came to his feet.  “Thank you.  I appreciate your cooperation today.  Now, I’d like you to notify your counterparts in Tijuana that I’m coming over and I’d appreciate their cooperation, as well.”

 

Carlton also came to his feet, his stare narrowed and cool.  “You’re not going to get anything but a headache over there, McGarrett.  They don’t know the meaning of the word ‘cooperate’.  Lopez is just one of a dozen thugs that operate freely over there.  The most powerful, yes, but still a dime a dozen.  They pay off the cops and government officials and they own that country.  If they want to ransom off an American cop, they will.  If they want to kill him and feed him to the sharks in Baja, they will.  Their government is not going to lift a finger to help you.”

 

“About like the officials in California so far,” McGarrett snapped.  “Thank you for your advice.  Do you have the address of the police station in Baja or wherever it is Lopez is based?”

 

Carlton again advised they not get involved but McGarrett would not even comment on the attitude.  Miffed, the officer scribbled out some information.

 

“Here’s the name of a decent enough guy.  Officer Guercio in Tijuana.  And here’s directions to the station.  He can tell you more about Lopez’s gang.  They circulate all over the northern area of Mexico and Baja.”

 

“Thank you.”  McGarrett moved to the door.

 

“If you’re going south of the border, I’ll need your weapons.”

 

“We’re police officers.  They come with us.” McGarrett answered sternly, not interested in tedious red tape that would prevent him and his officer from entering a dangerous situation unarmed.

 

Carlton argued briefly, but soon seemed to recognize there was no swaying the Hawaiian cop.  When Steve brought in comments about the State Department and making calls to Washington, Carlton surrendered.

 

Tersely thanking him again, McGarrett turned and swept out the door, Kono shuffling to catch up.  When they reached the car McGarrett barely waited for his officer to wrangle himself in before revving it up and screeching away.  They were waved through by the guards and quickly entered the dusty streets of Tijuana.

 

The city was the worst Kono had ever experienced.  Used to poverty in the slums of Hawaii, and the far reaches of the outer islands, he was not prepared for the cardboard shacks, the begging children, the dirty peasants.  Walking next to this poverty were well-dressed tourists, from across the border, who shopped for trinkets and bartered for deals while grubby ragamuffin kids panhandled for hand outs and thin dogs scurried and sniffed for scraps.

 

“I can’t believe people can come here like this.  They come and do their shopping while these kids are starving,” he commented, appalled.  “Worse than anything I’ve ever seen on Hotel Street.  I never knew how good we had it back home.”

 

McGarrett barely acknowledged the surrounding environment.  “Yeah, Kono, we really do live in paradise.  In many aspects.”

 

After several false turns and some confusing alleys, they finally found what they took -- in their weak attempt to read and understand Spanish – to be the police station.  Entering the muggy stucco building, McGarrett swatted flies from his face as he offered his credentials and asked to see Officer Guercio.

 

The desk clerk did not speak English, and addressed Kono in a fluent, speedy run of native language.  “Bienvenido, como puedo ayudarte?”

 

Kono shrugged.  “Hey, bruddah, ain’t no speak that tongue.  Too bad you don’t understand pidgin.”

 

Irked, McGarrett repeated his request, saying the name several times.  Chattering away in Spanish, the clerk disappeared into a back room.  He came back with a lean Latino man just slightly shorter than McGarrett.  The officer looked Steve straight in the eye and introduced himself as Guercio.

 

“Please,” he continued in excellent English, “join me.”

 

He led them to a back office that was a stylish contrast to the dirty police station.  The room was decorated with nice photos of boats and ocean-scapes.  Aromatic coffee brewed in a new coffeemaker.  From a small fridge he pulled out a sack and placed on a plate several small loaf-type food forms he called Mexican Sweetbread.  Kono took a seat and helped himself to the snacks while McGarrett paced behind him.

 

“Lieutenant Carlton phoned and informed me of your quest,” Guercio began smoothly, sitting in the chair behind his desk.  He urged McGarrett to sit.

 

The Five-0 chief refused, bleakly recognizing the irony of the reversed positions.  How many times he had been the one in power, the one behind the desk in the center of his universe, his influence able to reach out and affect lives with little more effort than touching a button with a fingertip or issuing instructions to his staff.  Completely cognizant that his considerable authority meant nothing in this foreign land – when it was so vital that he did have control and clout – made it all the more aggravating.

 

“Yes,” Steve plunged in aggressively.  “We need as many armed men as you can spare to search the Lopez compound.”

 

Momentarily, Guercio seemed to have trouble controlling either his laughter or anger or both.  His lips twitched along with his eyebrows and finally his face smoothed out to an aloof mask.  “That is not possible, Mr. McGarrett.”

 

“They have kidnapped an American police officer –“

 

“And you have no proof of that,” he replied in a hard tone.

 

“I can give you enough to get a warrant –“

 

“That is not how things are done here –“

 

“Then you’re going to help us change that –“

 

“No!”

 

The refusal echoed loudly in the small room.  Frozen for a moment, the two verbal combatants stared at each other, silently seething -- one with indignation, one with rage.  Kono, watching the pair with a horrific fascination, had conjured up some of the scary stories he had heard from other cops about never getting caught on the wrong side of the law in a foreign country.  Many were the tales of Americans getting nabbed, jailed and forgotten on the wrong side of the Mexican border.  Feeling uncomfortably that their lives were in Guercio’s hands, his loyalties, of course, were overwhelmingly with Steve.

 

While McGarrett sometimes – especially now – lacked tactful people skills, he was righteously aligned with justice.  In this case, particularly important, because the missing cop was Danny.  Kono was not prepared to give up his young friend without a fight, although if forced to take sides on the issue, he was not sure he could say with finality that he believed Danny was still alive.  Or that they had a hope of retrieving him from this hostile land. 

 

Coming to his feet, Kono stared at the officer.  “One way or the other, we got to know if Danny Williams is in your country or not.  Seems to me it would be a whole lot easier just to help us and get us on our way.”

 

Fuming, Guercio barely glanced at him.  “It is not simple.”

 

“It is for us,” the Hawaiian countered easily.  “Back home we got a tradition.  We never let ohana down.  That’s family.  Maybe you can understand that.”

 

The simple words cut through the heat of the atmosphere.  Guercio finally gave the big man his full attention.  “I appreciate the problem, believe me.  My friends have been killed as well by this Lopez gang.  It is never easy to accept.”

 

McGarrett quietly, intently, pressed his advantage in the lull of confrontation.  “Then help us,” he urged, wrapping his knuckles on the desk for emphasis.  “My man’s chances for survival diminish with every hour that goes by.  Help us save him.”

 

The policeman stared at McGarrett for a long moment.  Astute at reading people, Steve’s heart sank when he saw what was in the brown eyes now.  Defeat.  A resignation to accept the way

Fate had determined lives would be lived here in Tijuana for a long time.  It nearly crushed his heart to pieces when he understood this man lived without hope of change.  And he was consigning McGarrett to the same destiny.

 

“I am sorry.  There is nothing I can do.  Save to warn you to leave.  Only grief will come if you press your cause here.  I will tell you this.  Leave some American dollars.  I will use it to pay the right people.  In a few days I might be able to discover where the body can be found.”  He shrugged, his face sadden with true sorrow.  “I am sorry, but it is the way things are done here.”

 

“Not any more.”  McGarrett gave the man a cool nod.  “Thank you for your candor.”

 

Before they left, Guercio wished them luck.  Steve thought he meant it, but did not believe it would help.

 

Outside, McGarrett breathed in the smoggy air and grimaced.  He felt tight and empty inside at the same time.  His head and stomach twisted with nerves and irritation.  The outlook for their mission seemed as bleak as the barrio neighborhood he gazed out at just down the hill.  He followed Kono over to the car and stared across the dismal city as he tried to grasp onto a decent plan of action.

 

“What now, boss?” Kono asked quietly.

 

“I don’t know, Kono.  We don’t exactly know our way around.”  Sighing, flushing out the worst of his negative nerves, he offered a thankful pat on the shoulder to his officer.  “Mahalo, for what you said back there.”  He wondered if it was meant for him as much as Guercio.  A statement of hope?  A commitment to the loyalty of their unit?  Ohana.  Like the US Navy Seals – Five-0 would not leave a man behind. They never had yet, and Steve was going to make certain they did not start with Danno.  “I don‘t think it helped Guercio, but it was something I needed to hear.”

 

“Just sayin’ it like it is,” the big Hawaiian modestly replied.  “We ain’t gonna leave till we know about Danny.  I just wish we could find out something soon.”

 

The murk-filtered golden sun was sinking low on the horizon of the Pacific.  McGarrett longed for their paradise home on the other side of that big ocean.  Where they should be.  Where they had to return their missing brother.

 

A battered green taxi pulled up at the driveway of the parking lot.  The driver, a bearded/mustached man removed his sunglasses and gave them a wave.

 

“Hey, amigos.  Where do you want to go?  My name is Garcia,” he introduced in broken English.  “For a good price in American dollars I will be your driver.”

 

“Thanks, we already have a car,” McGarrett dismissed.

 

“Ah, you don’t want to travel in that nice car in Tijuana.  My friends here will let you park it.  You are policemen from San Diego, yes?”

 

“What makes you think that?” Kono wondered.

 

“My amigo Juan, the desk sergeant, he told me.”  The man laughed.  “He calls when I can help Americans.  Especially policemen.  You will get no better help than Garcia.”

 

“You know where there’s some good food?” was Kono’s first concern.

 

“Ah, the best, amigo.”  He muttered off several long sentences in Spanish.  “Conozco ia comida mas Buena en la ciudad.“  At the end he seemed to ask a question and was confused when they did not respond.  “I’ll take you now if you want.”  He directed his inquiry at Kono.  “Habla usted espańol?”

 

Kalakaua just shrugged. 

 

“I think you’re asking if we speak Spanish,” McGarrett translated.  “The answer is no.”

 

Garcia was puzzled.  “You’re not from Mexico?” he asked the Hawaiian.

 

Lanai.  Originally,” Kono responded proudly.  At the continued perplexity, he explained, “Hawaii.”

 

Hawaii!”  Garcia was gleeful.  “I am honored.  Police from Hawaii!”  He leaped out of the cab.  “Please, I take you to my wife’s cousin’s café.  Then you tell me your business and I take you where you need to be.  Juan will make sure your car is fine.  For a small fee, of course.  I will just add that little price to your taxi expenses.”

 

A little skeptical, McGarrett decided to comply and the got into the taxi.  It wouldn’t hurt to have something to eat.  At least a cup of coffee.  He hadn’t had any food or caffeine since -- breakfast, maybe?  He wasn’t even sure.  He could use some of the latter now.  And a local contact wouldn’t hurt either.  The likes of Garcia were a better chance at information than Guercio.  If he was in Honolulu and the positions were reversed, he would want to find a good local with his ear to the coconut wireless.  He wondered, irrelevantly, what the native label for the Tijuana grapevine was called.

 

The short taxi ride took them out of the main city.  At first, the excursion made Steve nervous, wondering if they were being driven into a trap.  About to ask, the taxi slowed as they approached another village, what he would term a relatively nice suburb or neighboring town.  They pulled up to the outside of a slightly run down row of businesses and were asked to pay the high fee of ten American dollars for the trip.  Reluctantly, the Five-0 boss complied, knowing when he was being ripped off and not liking it, even if it was inching him toward his ultimate goal of finding Danno.  Even for the best of purposes, he hated being used.

 

 

Steve and Kono were escorted into a nice restaurant called Casa Bonita.  Situated near an area with hotels and businesses, this was several steps up on an economic level from the border.  Inside the eatery, the detectives were introduced to a waitress and the owner, all family members of Garcia. 

 

Knowing a little about California/Mexican cuisine, McGarrett suggested a few items to his colleague.  He thought of Mary Ann and Tom in Encino and wished he could have stopped in or at least called to say hi.  The crisis though, had hit him full force upon his arrival at LAX and he had not even thought of his own family.  He was much too concerned with his brother officer.

 

Chips, salsa, flautas and quesadillas arrived in overwhelming proportions.  Warning his colleague not to drink the water, Steve ordered bottles of coca-cola to drink.  Kono was perplexed about the caution and Steve again reminded himself that Kono was not a world traveler.  Not even a big traveler within Hawaii.  He had no idea about the cultural rifts on the mainland.

 

“Montezuma’s revenge.  American digestive systems are not compatible with Mexican water.  Just drink bottled beverages.”

 

Kono shrugged, taking his boss’s word for the warning.

 

While not particularly hungry, Steve appreciated having something to fill his churning and tense stomach.  He also needed the lift from the coke since he had been coffee starved most of the day.  Always alert for an opening, he chatted with Garcia, Rosa, and the owner - Ramos - who looked like an older brother to the taxi driver. 

 

A seasoned sojourner, McGarrett knew as easy marks they were going to be charged exorbitant prices for everything -- like the taxi ride.  And there would probably be a whopping fee -- extortion -- for keeping the rental car safe at the police lot, too. It was to be expected.  Aware that American money went a long way in this country, he was prepared to use it to his advantage.

 

Nearly gritting his teeth at the enforced pause in the investigation, Steve recognized this was valuable time spent reading the people here.  Garcia seemed useful, but not to be completely trusted.  No one could be in this unfriendly environment.  The warnings they received about corruption were true, Steve knew.  Somehow, he had to circumvent the system to find out what happened to Danno.

 

Kono was still finishing up on the meal when Garcia and Ramos joined them in friendly conversation over coffee.  The native coconut wireless had already pegged the Five-0 officers as American cops here on a mission.  They probably seemed easy prey to the locals.  Subtly interrogated, these men wanted details Steve was not ready to give them.  He verbally danced around, never opening up too much.

 

Moderately crowded here now, Ramos diverted his attention to other customers occasionally, but it was clear the cops were his special guests.  When two well dressed, hard-expressioned men entered, both Garcia and Ramos stiffened, moving immediately away from the table.  Nervously, they greeted the new arrivals, profusely and obsequiously spoke to them and offered them food immediately.  The two men went to the back, one of them making lewd advances to Rosa, who obviously detested the treatment.  So did Garcia and Ramos, but they did nothing to stop the men. Ramos went in the back and returned with a small package, which he handed to one of the men.

 

“Payoff,” Kono commented quietly.

 

“Yeah.  And the owners aren’t too happy about it.”

 

When the strangers left, McGarrett observed the family disappeared into the back of the restaurant.  Soon, Garcia emerged, tense, but putting on a brave front.  He returned to join them and discussed the best desserts in the eatery.  When the exotic treat of fried ice cream was delivered, Garcia joined them again.  The bill -- fifteen dollars for each meal!  Kono nearly choked. 

 

Steve accepted the inevitable.  “I may have to borrow some money at this rate,” was his aside.

 

McGarrett explained it was the way things were done here.  Again, he thought of the whopping expense receipts he was going to turn in for this trip.  All of it was worth it if they could find Danno.

 

Casually, McGarrett asked their native contact about the two men.  Garcia’s face darkened and he refused to discuss it, changing the subject to where the detectives were staying that night.  After some negotiations, it was agreed they would stay in rentable rooms upstairs.  Ramos seemed to have a side business in guest quarters as well as food.

 

Shown up to their rooms, Steve pressed his questions again now that he had Garcia and Ramos cornered.

 

“Tell me about the men who are extorting you.  Local gang?”  The men exchanged looks.  Steve remained firm, but compassionate.  “I know a shake down when I see one.  Don’t you think I know what’s going on?”

 

“It is necessary,” Ramos insisted reluctantly.  “Protection money.”

 

“Who is behind it?”

 

Ramos spoke something in Spanish to Garcia.  Obviously, the restaurant owner was afraid.  Garcia shook his head at McGarrett.

 

“They have you scared.  And you won’t go to the police.  It must be a powerful gang.”


Garcia studied him carefully.  “You are familiar with our gangs in Mexico?”

 

“Yes.  Who is behind this?”

 

“A very nasty bunch, sir.  They are controlled by two ruthless brothers.”

 

“Lopez,” Steve breathed out tightly.

 

Ramos made the sign of the cross and Garcia frowned.  “Your business here, is it about them?”

 

“It is.”  Trusting his instincts, hoping he could recruit allies here, McGarrett leveled with them.  He explained Lopez’ arrest; the failed extradition attempt and the missing Five-0 detective.  “The Lopez brothers kidnapped one of my officers.  I think they’ve brought him down here across the border.  We’re here to get him back.”

 

Ramon crossed his chest again and Garcia’s face tightened with sorrow. “You are safe here as long as you do not tell others why you are here.  They will come for you and murder you in your sleep.”

 

“The Lopez gang, they collect money from everyone from Tijuana to Baja who wants to have a business.  Police -- they are kept only if they are helpful to Raul and Domingo Lopez.  If they find you are here to give them trouble, you will be killed without question.”

 

“I’m not leaving until I find my officer.”

 

Ramos shook his head and handed McGarrett a key to the room.  His hand lingered on Steve’s arm and he patted the cop in sympathy.  “If your officer was in the hands of Lopez I pray his death was a quick one.  If he was a personal enemy to Lopez, then I pray you never find out how he died.”

 

The older man left and Steve forced himself not to react to the dire warnings.  Aware, all along, they were dealing with ruthless mobsters who knew no borders for vicious retaliation, Steve kept at bay the worst imaginings about Danno’s fate.  To carry on he had to believe he would find Danno alive at the end of all this.  Entrenched in enemy territory, though, feeling the grit of the air, the filth of the streets, the visceral fear of the locals, he struggled to keep the faith.  He could not give up.  Would not surrender.  But it was almost impossible not to think the worst about what he might find when he caught up with Williams.

 

Noting Garcia was lingering, Kono asked, “You like living like this?”  Garcia shrugged.  “Take a chance, man.  Fight against these thugs.  We see this all the time, you know.  It takes some brave men to stand up to the bad guys, but it can be done.”

 

“And have the same thing happen to my family as has happened to your officer?”

 

“If you help us, we will help you,” McGarrett promised, the intensity of his conviction carrying to make his voice as hard as his expression.  “We are going to find our friend.  If I have to take down the Lopez empire, I’ll do it.  If you want to help we could use it.”

 

For several minutes, Garcia stared from one to the other as if gauging their sincerity and abilities.  Finally, he gave a slight nod.  Closing the door of the room, he huddled with the Americans and whispered a suggestion.  McGarrett liked it and embellished on it, forming a confident plan. 

 

After Garcia left, Kono shook his head in concern.  “Can we trust him boss?” he quietly asked, obviously anxious over the arrangements.

 

“I think we can,” McGarrett replied with confidence.  He knew he was risking Kono’s life and his own.  It was worth the danger.  “We need local help here.  We’ve crossed more than just a geographical border, Kono.  It’s a culture and a mind-set here that we’re fighting against.  A criminal stranglehold.  I think this is the only way we’re going to find Danno.”

 

Kono shifted nervously.  “Do you really think -- well, you heard what they said -- what the Lopez brothers think of cops –  He cleared his throat.  “Maybe we’re not going to want to find out what happened to Danny.”

 

The thoughts swirling in Steve’s sickened imagination twisted his stomach.  Danno had been the one taking Domingo back to Hawaii.  What would these vicious brothers do to a cop who had so demeaned them?  He could not dwell on that.  He had to keep focused that Danno was alive and he would find his friend.

 

“We are going to find Danno,” he emphasized sternly.  There could be no doubt of his determination.  This was going to be a successful mission.  It could have no other outcome.  “We’re not going home without him, remember?”

 

 

*****

 

 

The call of sea birds and the soothing ebb and flow of a gentle tide came first to his thickly slumbering senses.  Seagulls?  There were no seagulls in Hawaii!  He was sure, though, that he heard the clear call of those annoying beach bums who scavenged along the coasts of the mainland. 

 

As he slowly rose to consciousness, Danny Williams became immediately aware of other sensory input.  There were aches and pains slicing into his consciousness and his skin was hot.  Blinking open his eyes, the sun was so bright it hurt, and he reached out to cover them with his arm.  Jarring pain lanced through him instantly and he groaned, his voice hoarse and almost inaudible even to his own ears. 

 

Moving very slowly, he turned on his back, wincing as his tender body hit jagged rocks.  Using his left hand this time, it didn’t hurt as much, he shielded his eyes.  Again, he opened them slightly, squinting against the brightness of sun off water and sand.  As his swimming head settled a little, he saw he was just above the tide-line on the rocks jumbled onto a beach. 

 

Assessing his condition, he noted with the shift in his position came the reason for his aches.  His shirt was pink with washed-out blood.  Part of the shirt was stuck to a wound where the material had dried with the blood.  Carefully lying back on the rocks, he tried not to move too much.

 

 

The physical reactions brought back nasty memories and he had complete recall of the reasons for his condition:

 

He had been abducted at the LA airport, forced into a car with Lopez and his rescuers.  He had spent uncomfortable freeway hours in the back seat, a pistol poking into his ribs. Conversation was even worse, being forced to hear the four men’s expectations of how they were going to slowly, painfully and torturously, kill him an inch at a time.  Then send his body parts to Honolulu and the San Diego police. 

 

Certain of his dire fate, his dread grew when they exited at a deserted off ramp.  Instead of being murdered, he was hit on the head.  He had no idea how long he had been out, but he thought perhaps it had been overnight. When he awoke he found that he had been bound and gagged and stuck in the trunk of the car.  It was a roomy trunk, but he soon became nauseated from the exhaust fumes.  After the hit on the head, he felt dizzy and queasy, too.  He was trussed in such a manner to leave him unable to move much at all, so muscles were sizzling with pain for the whole trip. 

 

When he was dragged out of the trunk, he was weak with illness and sore muscles.  His circulation was horrible.  Fortunately, he was untied and actually grateful to be returned to the back seat of the car.  They traveled south, the midday sun sparkling off a foreign coastline.  He guessed they were in Mexico and headed for a reunion with the other Lopez brother as his captors had promised.

 

Years ago, he and some college pals had driven from Berkley to Mexico for a wild week of drinking and disappointing surfing.  The waves here just could not compare with the world-class curls at home.  Little did he know one day he would return to Mexico to be murdered.

 

Expecting a painful, but short future, Williams pensively dreamed of escape plans, knowing all were hopeless compared to his odds.  Then his mind drifted to the imminent end of his life.  He had few regrets (except that his good life was going to be so short), his affairs were necessarily in order, and he knew he would leave this earth with many who would miss him.  What strangely stood out suddenly was that he would have failed to be smarter than the bad guys and unable to continue with obligations.  Failed his friends, his duty -- mostly, the trust put in him by Steve McGarrett. 

 

It actually hurt to think about how much this would grieve McGarrett.  They were close.  Steve was over-protective and always worried about him.  Dan just had to think back to that crisis a few years back when he had been held hostage.  He only heard the stories second-hand, but was amazed when his colleagues reported McGarrett’s unhinged and even violent efforts to free Dan.  What was he going to be like now?  Take on the Mexican mob?  It wouldn’t surprise him, but he hoped not.  Vengeance was a waste for the dead and a torment for the living.  He just wanted Steve to know how important he had been in his life.  It was too late to say that now.  Hopefully his actions of the past had been more eloquent.

 

When the Cadillac turned off at a beach road, Dan couldn’t help but compare the placid, flat waves to what he knew back home.  The brown, scrub-brush hills of what he thought must be Mexico were tropical, but completely opposite to their counterpart shores across the Pacific.  Lacking Hawaii’s beauty and spiritual aina, Mexico was just another coastline.  What a dreary place to die.

 

A limo was parked at the edge of a cliff.  As soon as the Cadillac stopped, Lopez jumped out of the front seat and a similar looking man emerged from the limo to enthusiastically greet him.  After hugging and talking, both men approached the Cad.  Dan was pushed out and the pistol pressed painfully against his side.

 

Domingo and Raul Lopez treated him as if he was not even there, discussing ways of painful torture for a cop. They were speaking intermingled English and Spanish -- probably to scare him -- since their details of his demise were both gruesome and graphic.  Then Raul pulled a large knife out of an ankle sheath and sliced through Dan’s tie and shirt, then slid the blade shallowly, but painfully, across Dan’s exposed throat.  Dan felt the blood trickle warm against his skin.

 

The thugs moved back and only one was left to loosely pin back his arms as Raul slid the knife down Williams’ chest and stomach.  When the henchman behind him loosed his grip to get a better view of the sport, Dan yanked out of his grasp and gave Raul a head-butt to the nose.  The impulsive movement, though, caused the blade to cut into Dan’s side as he shoved past Lopez and dashed down the cliff.

 

Gunfire zinged off the rocks around him.  Navigating the crags as he flew down the sharply angled mountain, Dan quickly lost his footing and slid, falling down until he toppled into the ocean.  The water was shockingly cold for a moment, but he was already in motion, scrambling/swimming off the shore to reach deep water.  Bullets pinged around him and he felt the sand kick at his legs, the water plop as lead rained around him.  Diving deeper as soon as the shallows dropped off from a short shelf, his urgency lent speed and numbness to the stinging wounds.  The knife cuts were aching and so were the numerous abrasions from the fall.  His side throbbed, muscles hurt, but he kept swimming until his lungs felt like they would burst.

 

In the few seconds he had to get the lay of the land, he had seen the beach was cluttered with rocks and beyond a little curve he would have temporary shelter if he could stay deep enough to remain undetected by his captors.  Turning to the north as soon as possible, he swam back to shore, watching under the surface.  When he spotted the cluster of rocks that spilled into the sea, he had to take a chance.  He was out of breath anyway.

 

Carefully surfacing, he used all his discipline to not loudly gasp hungrily for air, but to breathe in quiet, shallow breaths.  He had come up behind big boulders and hugged himself into a little grotto only accessible to the sea side.  He heard a few shouts, but there was no indication that they were onto his ploy.  Amid the incomprehensible Spanish, he heard the word ‘morte’ and figured they thought he was dead.  He stayed in his spot until he heard the cars drive away.  Then he stayed longer, making sure. 

 

Only when he was too weak to keep clinging to the rocks did he cautiously emerge.  There was no one in sight.  As he crawled up to the beach, he made a few steps, and then collapsed, unable to keep going.  Removing his jacket, he wadded it up and pressed it to his side, then turned over, hoping the pressure would stay the blood until he was strong enough to make it up the cliff.  Closing his eyes at the descending sun, he thought how different it was on this side of the Pacific.  It was so flat and boring.  If only he was spending this sunset at home.

 

 

Sitting up on the rocks he wondered what happened to his jacket during the night.  He was queasy and worn out.  He hadn’t eaten for more than a day and the wounds drained him of too much blood.  Glancing up the mountain, he knew he could not climb up there to the highway.  And if he did, what then?  Captured by Lopez?  In a hostile land where anyone could be his enemy, where he did not speak the language, wounded, adrift and friendless, he had few options. 

 

He wondered what Steve was doing.  Mounting a search?  If this was home, yes.  With warm fondness, he smiled at the thought of how Steve would be tearing up the Islands, ripping through every low life and hideout he could think of to find a missing officer.  When it came to loyalty, no one could compare with the tenacious and dedicated McGarrett. 

 

Here in this alien territory?  Probably butting heads with officials in two countries.  Grinning at the all-too-familiar and dynamic image, he quickly sobered.  Steve was going through hell right now.  And in a different, but similar way, so was he.  Well, he was going to have to find a solution to end the suffering for everyone.

 

Out of necessity he chose the path of least resistance -- the seashore.  He walked along the sand and rocks heading north.  From the car ride he remembered the cliffs had gradually risen as they drove south, and he had noted several small farms and houses near the ocean.   For too long he trudged forward, the cool water -- much, much cooler than his side of the ocean (he had been away too long and forgotten how cold California/Mexican water could be).  Cool water.  So he had not been taken too far south of the border.  Still close.  That gave him an irrational hope that he could still get out of this.  Sure, he snidely assessed -- far from home, in hostile, alien territory where he didn’t speak the language, wanted by murderous mobsters.  Yeah, just find a telephone and call for help.  Why did he think it was not going to be that easy?

 

 

*****

 

The next morning Garcia returned them to Tijuana and to the Camaro that was untouched in the police parking lot.  McGarrett met with Guercio and bitterly expressed his sour impression of Mexico’s cooperation.  Driving back to San Diego, McGarrett turned in the rental car and called Sergeant Balboa to inform him they were leaving San Diego.

 

At a nearby mall, McGarrett and Kalakaua bought casual clothes.  Then he stopped at a nearby bank, called Jenny, and had her transfer money to him.  He also explained they were going to be here for another few days.  She reminded him of several important matters in Honolulu -- some that only McGarrett could handle.  And in another three days he needed to be back to testify at a trial.  Personally, Steve would rather let the criminal walk than give up his quest, but he was realistic enough to know he could not keep this up indefinitely.  Promising he would reevaluate everything in two days, he told her they would keep in touch the best they could.

 

Emerging from the mall, they were picked up by Garcia in his taxi and like hundreds of other tourists that day, drove across the border to Tijuana.  Adrift in alien territory, they were re-entering hostile soil where almost no one was their friend.

 

In Kalakaua’s own way, the usually implacable Hawaiian had trepidations.  Kono had never done anything resembling undercover work before.  He had never been to a foreign and hostile country. Steve, however, was anxious for a different reason.  Wound tight with control and apprehension, he was determined to find his missing friend.  Realistically, however, he knew he was crossing the border into a place where he had no authority or influence, against overwhelming odds.  The chances of his succeeding in his goal were slight.  Accustomed to beating the odds regularly and achieving the impossible occasionally, he was undaunted.  He was, still, though, highly unsettled about the fate of Williams.  Despite all his determination and desire, Steve knew it was possible Danno was already dead.

 

 

*****

 

 

The abrasions, cuts and scrapes from the sand and rocks were no worse than a thousand wipe outs he had chalked up on the North Shore.  The nasty slices left by Lopez’s blade stung, but had thankfully stopped bleeding.  The stab wound was what worried Dan.  It ached like crazy.  When he climbed over rocks and exerted himself he could feel the dried blood plug split open and his bleeding resumed.  His torn shirt was an inadequate bandage that had also dried to the wound.  Already he had lost considerable blood – he felt that by his extreme weakness and dizziness.  Light headed, dehydrated and hot, he knew he was not going to last long.  Wading in the surf as much as possible, it only slightly alleviated the heat on his skin, and achingly reminded him how thirsty he was.  The dreaded seagulls followed him and he was thankful they were merely annoying and not predatory.  He wasn’t sure he was a match for a dedicated flock of scavenger/ carnivores at this point.

 

A bluff sloped down up ahead at a curve in the beach, descending to meet the sand.  Stumbling forward, he reached the end of the dunes and couldn’t believe his eyes. Was it a mirage, or was that a person fishing in the tide?  A man in shorts, shirt and a straw hat waded in the water.  A black and tan dog sat watching.  As Dan stumbled forward, the dog looked his way and started barking.  The man turned toward him.

 

Feeling wobbly and melting under the hot sun, Dan continued toward them.  It was a risk to approach the stranger.  He had no idea if he was still in Lopez territory and how many informants the gangsters owned.  There was little choice, however, since he desperately needed help.

 

He gave a wave.  “Hello.  Can you help me?  Do you speak English?”

 

“Si,” the man nodded as he approached.  “Gringo.  Le puedo ayudar q usted,” he muttered, alarmed at Dan’s bloody appearance. 

 

“Help,” was all Dan could plea before he weakly dropped to his knees.

 

More incomprehensible words.  The man was trying to get him to stand.  The dog was barking at his heels.  More than walking, he stumbled, then fell into a donkey cart.  Bumping along, he closed his eyes and surrendered to the unconsciousness, his only defense against the pain and fever.

 

 

*****

 

 

Baja was an interesting mix of simple peasants and tourist haciendas.  There were not so subtle signs of the Lopez influence, also.  Fancy, big cars, armed men, flashy clubs that Steve didn’t even want to guess at beyond the obvious thief businesses. 

 

Garcia took them to yet another restaurant owned by more cousins.  Seemed the taxi driver could rival Chin and Kono in abundant relatives with connections.  Garcia assured him his family had no love for the Lopez extortion that was even worse here than in Tijuana.  At least the poverty level here was decreased and Steve noticed more industry like fishing and farming.

 

Inside the cozy restaurant at supper time, Kono was approached by a flirting waitress who rattled off food items.  McGarrett picked up ‘taco’ and ‘burrito’, something about lengua and fish, but little else in the monolog.  Disinterested in food, he felt it was a good idea to eat while they waited for Garcia’s contact to show.  Frustrated and impatient, McGarrett wanted to get on with the mission -- find Danno!  Waiting for others was something he was never good at and certainly not what he came here for.  In the back of his mind was also the ever-present shadow of threat to Kono and him.  If the Lopez brothers got word of their insurgence into enemy territory, they could be killed or captured.  He could not allow that to happen.

 

Frustrated, Kono again explained to Garcia that he did not speak the language.  Then he smiled at the waitress and patted his stomach.  Steve had to smile.  Kono was getting the hang of breaking the language barrier with a commonality: food. 

 

Poignantly, he was reminded of how different it was traveling with Kono.  He had taken a few business trips with Williams, mostly just to outer islands.  Certainly, Danno got his share of flirting women, but he was also someone easy to travel with.  Probably because in work-related matters they thought so much alike -- on the same track.  Steve could never really guess what Kono was thinking and could not anticipate his actions or words.  Not like he could with Williams.  As much as he appreciated his bulky Hawaiian detective, he felt a stab of regret that Danno was not with him now.  Again, for the hundredth time, he wondered what had happened to his friend and if they would find him alive.

 

 

*****

 

 

Waking up feeling numb and disoriented was not common to Danny Williams.  As he slowly assessed his situation, he felt slightly comforted to recognize he was lying on a bed, not as soft as his own, but nice.  He could smell a fresh, salty breeze moving around him.  And no baking sun on his skin, no seagulls flying overhead.  He was inside a building or something and felt a little detached.  Pain killer.  But it didn’t smell like a hospital.  Nor did it sound like it, either.  It was quiet.  If he strained he could hear faint voices and the even fainter lull of a gentle surf.

 

Assessing all he could with his eyes closed, he blinked them open.  The room was light stucco and an open window revealed greenery near the house, then sand and the ocean beyond.  Inside the room it was elegantly furnished.  Little details about the luxury lent him to believe he was in a place of wealth.  A table of exquisite woodwork held his ID/badge case.  Next to it were some sliced fruits and a glass and pitcher of water.  He eagerly drank, relieving his dry throat, sipping with restraint.  The water was cool and fresh, rich and clean, almost like well water he had once tasted.  He allowed the cool water to float in his mouth and gradually ease the dehydrated feeling. 

 

While his skin was sunburned, it hardly stung and he wondered what kind of oil had been applied.  His side wound and the knife slice on his chest were patched -- crude stitching for the knife wound on his side, but at least he wasn’t bleeding anymore.  Feeling a little too weak to rise and explore his surroundings, he did not feel threatened.  Possibly a false sense of security, but he wanted nothing more than to lay here for a while.

 

A quiet knock at the door surprised him and he turned to watch a slight, thin man enter.  Dressed in casual, but nice clothes and no shoes, his gray hair and gray, neatly trimmed beard was distinctive.  The glittering, dark eyes seemed pleased.

 

“Good morning.  We do not receive many visitors here at my humble hacienda.  Welcome.”

 

Dan nodded, appreciating the good English with only a mild accent.  “Thank you.”  He nearly, automatically, responded with ‘mahalo’.  That was all he needed, to complicate things with adding Hawaiian to the mix!  “Where am I?”

 

“Generally, you must know you are on the Pacific coast of Baja.  Ah, your expression tells me you are relieved to hear that.  Specifically, you are at the Casa Del Mar.  Ocean House.  One of my farm hands brought you here.  My name is Arturo De Silva.”

 

Thankful he was rescued by an educated and seemingly benevolent man, he still did not want to reveal too much.  “Danny Williams.  Thank you for your hospitality.  I -- I don’t know how to repay you.  Not everyone would take in a -- uh -- injured -- stranger.”

 

De Silva’s expression darkened.  He pulled a chair closer to the bed.  “I have seen these kinds of wounds before, Senior Williams.  You have had an encounter with a Lopez.”  Dan did not respond.  “Ah, do not fear.  They are well known here.  We pay them tribute and for that they make many enemies.”  De Silva picked up the badge and patted it.  “And thus, although it is painful for you, you now are among many friends.  This is a farm, we have the means to give you medical aid.  You will soon be healed enough to be on your way.  Considering you are in trouble with a Lopez, it would be a risk to call in the local doctor.”

 

Relieved, Dan still didn’t want to reveal too much.  He did ask to use a phone.  De Silva was clearly agitated at the thought. 

 

“We have no phone.  We are too far away from the village.  And it would do no good.”

 

He explained the local government and police force were notoriously corrupt.  The local police would not be helpful at all. The concept was so opposite of what he was used to, it muddled Dan for a moment.  HE was the police on the other side of the Pacific.  Five-0 was everything that was comforting and solid to law-abiding citizens.  Caught in a trap where he was the fugitive this time and could find no official help was unnerving.

 

“You are too weak and ill to travel to the city.”

 

“I must get word to my friends, Senior De Silva.  Please, there must be a way.  A telegram?”

 

The man was thoughtful.  “Perhaps.  Where must you send this?”

 

Honolulu.  Hawaii.”

 

De Silva smiled.  “Ah, you truly are far from home my young amigo.   This telegram must be  carefully worded.  I can help you with this. For now, you will rest.  I will make arrangements.  My cook will bring in breakfast and you will regain your strength.  When your friends come for you then you will be ready to travel.”

 

“Thank you.” 

 

Closing his eyes, he settled comfortably into the pillow and felt relaxed for the first time in days.  He was still in danger as long as he was on the wrong side of the border, but there was real hope now.  He was alive.  And Steve McGarrett was only a telegram and maybe even a plane trip away.  All he had to do was stay safe until Steve came for him.  Those were pleasant and secure thoughts as he drifted back to sleep.

 

 

*****

 

 

The covert investigation, of necessity, went slowly.  Since their presence there had to remain a secret, McGarrett and Kalakaua stayed primarily in the background and allowed Garcia to be the front man in most cases.  Sometimes, the Hawaiian officers did not even show themselves as Garcia spoke with contacts.

 

The complete trust in a stranger, in these alien surroundings, was unnerving for McGarrett.  Especially considering the vital importance of the mission.   He was basically placing them -- he and his officers – in the hands of someone he did not know.  He had to rely on his sixth sense of character assessment, and his bankroll, that this was the right course of action.  In truth, this was the only option besides returning to Hawaii without Danno, and that he did not even consider.  In the back of his mind, was the ever-present threat that if this did not work by the end of the day, he had to make a tough decision -- stay or return home empty handed.  Until the time when he actually had to make that decision, he avoided thinking about it much.  The main focus now was finding Danno.

 

The Baja area held many tourist traps, small farms, large plantations and fishing villages.  While Kono was acquiring an obsession for fish tacos, Steve found this little area oddly similar to home, but at the same time completely different.  Ever mindful of his status here, he knew his perceptions were colored by the suspicion that every person could be a betrayer, every mouth a weapon against them. 

 

At an old dock Garcia and the Five-0 officer met with a man who did not give his name, and stayed in the shadows of a small shack.  He spoke only Spanish and after several minutes of dialog, Garcia asked McGarrett for more money. 

 

Kono frowned at the idea.  “You’ve given him --“

 

“It might be worth it.”  Steve stared hard at their guide and the man who was difficult to see in the dark recesses of the shack.  “This better be good.  No more money.”

 

Garcia flinched at the tough tone.  “Yes, sir.”  He cleared his throat, hesitant to reveal what was pressing in his mind.  “I think this will work.” 

 

Turning to the other man Garcia gravely, harshly, issued an obvious warning and the man hesitantly -- fearfully -- took the money, then chattered quickly.  Just as fast, he left the shack.

 

“What did he say?”

 

Garcia stepped back from McGarrett’s tight impatience.  “His brother was on the coast launching a fishing boat.  The Lopez brothers, they met.  One from the north, one from the south.  There was a gringo with them.”

 

McGarrett’s heart leaped.  “Description?”

 

“The fisherman was too far away for anything except to notice the man was dressed in a suit -- a blue suit -- and he had short light hair.  There was no gunshot, but the man looked hurt and was pushed over a cliff.”

 

McGarrett gripped his arms.  “What happened to him?  Where is he?”

 

Garcia was startled at the question.  “He is dead, senior.  Lopez brothers, they like to use knives.  The fisherman would not have heard --“

 

“Didn’t he check on the body?” Steve shook the messenger.  “Didn’t he help?”

 

“Be seen by the Lopez brothers?  No.  He left.  The body, it would be with the sharks by now anyway, senior.  I am most sorry to tell you this.”

 

Steve backed away until he bumped into some equipment.  Glaring at Kono, he silently demanded to know where his officer stood.  If he would believe the report.  Steve could not.  He did not go through all this to get the report of Danno’s death.  It was the only logical result, of course.  Repeatedly he had been forewarned of the ruthlessness of the Lopez brothers, of the precarious position of a kidnapped American cop, and how there could be no happy end for any of them from this incident.  He had never accepted it and could not now.

 

Kono shook his head, his face wrinkled in grief. 

 

McGarrett looked away.  “I want to go there,” he almost whispered, his voice as unsteady as his nerves.  “Get us there.  Now!”

 

Garcia glanced at Kono, who gave a shrug.  Too afraid to voice an objection, the Mexican nodded and they walked silently to the car.  As they traveled south, McGarrett felt shaky all the way down to his bones.  He had pushed this possibility away for days, refusing to accept that his friend was dead and beyond his help.  That he would never see Danno again in this life was just unthinkable.  That he had failed to save someone so important to him was impossible to accept.  

 

Anger sizzled inside: for Mexican authorities who road-blocked them, for the criminal gangsters who murdered without conscience, for his helplessness in doing anything useful in this frustrating search.

 

He held onto the anger.  It would push out the grief and hurt for now.  And until he found a body, he wouldn’t need to believe anything except that there was still a chance Danno was alive.  Ignore the eyewitness, refute the fears of what would happen to a cop in the hands of thugs.  Just concentrate on the need to have his friend back alive.

 

 

*****

 

 

Life at Hawaii Five-0 was a little more hectic than usual for Jenny Sherman.  Juggling the always busy office obligations was hard when one detective was out.  With three gone it was the worst she could remember.  Steve being out of the office for days was difficult, but always tempered by the efficiency of the over-eager Williams who ran Five-0 as much as possible like his mentor.  With both of them gone and not even Kono to help Chin Ho, temporary HPD help was assigned, but it was never the same as the regular staff.

 

Always in the back of her mind, also, was the crisis they faced this time.  Williams’ absence was because he was most likely dead.  A sob rumbled in her chest just thinking that awful thought, but it was what all the officers around here were speculating.  As much as they liked Danny, they were holding out no hope.  Captured by ruthless Mexican gangsters, what chance did the young detective have of being alive?

 

Steve never mentioned any such pragmatic and depressing conclusion.  He was determined to remain in Mexico -- without official authorization and running out of money -- to search for his second-in-command.  If he could he would stay there until there was conclusive proof of what happened, but in this case she wondered if there would ever be closure to his tragedy. 

 

Steve had promised to call tonight and give final details of his travel plans home on the morrow.  She wondered if he would come, even though he was scheduled to testify the next day.  Never one to shirk duties, he had a higher priority now.

 

A Western Union courier came up to the desk and handed her a telegram.  She signed for it and opened it. 

 

======

To: Jenny Sherman

 

Having wonderful time in Baja at Hale Moana STOP

Send boss my regards STOP

Hope to see him soon STOP

Expect Oahu here wikiwiki STOP

 

From: Kana

======

 

Her Hawaiian was not what it should be, but she was able to decipher the simple and well known common Hawaiian words used. The mention of Baja alerted her and she knew it had to be some kind of code.  From Steve?  No.  Kana?  Kana.  The Hawaiian name for Daniel.

 

“Chin!” she shouted, flying up to meet him near his cubicle.

 

“What --“


“I think this is from Danny!  It’s some kind of code!  But I don’t understand it!”

 

Glancing over it quickly, he nodded his head.  He made a list on a piece of paper -- the Hawaiian words, and next to them the English definitions.

 

Hale -- house

Moana -- ocean

Oahu -- gathering place

Wikiwiki -- fast

 

“It says, having wonderful time in Baja at ocean house.  Send boss my regards.  That means Steve.  Hope to see him soon.  That has to mean a rescue.  Expect gathering fast.”

 

“He’s in trouble,” Jenny concluded.  “And this is the only way he can get through to us.” 

 

He read the message again, then looked at Jenny with urgency.  “When is Steve calling?”

 

“This morning some time.”

 

“He’ll know what to do.”

 

 

*****

 

 

Still weak and hurting from his injuries, Williams tried to walk around as much as possible and stretch, anxious to be healthy and strong enough to leave.  While he appreciated the kindness of De Silva and his employees, he wanted to deliverance as soon as that could be achieved.

 

A constant concern for De Silva and all of them, was the threat of the Lopez gang.  Anyone picking up gossip about the farm, who wanted a little money, could inform the thugs that Dan was there.  The benevolent plantation owner and his employees could be killed for their help.  Another reason Dan was anxious to leave.

 

Mostly, he was impatient to make certain contact with McGarrett.  He knew Steve and his other friends had to be beside themselves with worry.  In fact, he was a little afraid of what McGarrett might do.  For all Steve knew, Dan was dead -- kidnapped and murdered by the Lopez brothers.  That dire fate had nearly come true.  Too close. 

 

Having heard reports about Steve’s behavior when Dan was wounded and held hostage at Castle Hospital, Williams was afraid of what Steve might be driven to now.  Storm into Mexico City and threaten the government?  No, not that extreme, but he knew Steve was right now pressing whatever measures he thought he had to do to find Dan.  And that worried him.  If Steve went up against the Lopez gang he could get hurt or killed.  He hoped Steve got his telegram by now and knew he was alive and was going to arrange his export from Mexico.

 

Sitting in the sun on the front porch, Dan felt grateful to be alive.  Not like his aina hanau here -- his home -- but the ocean, the warmth, the fresh breeze off the sea helped calm his anxieties.  Up the sandy road along the beach, he could see Roura, the farm hand who found him on the beach, running toward the palatial, elegant house.

 

Roura, like many of the employees here, had a very Polynesian look about him.  There was a commonality of appearance for the Mayan/Samoan/Hawaiian/Tongan Pacific Islanders.  Peoples very similar in looks and customs and sometimes language -- although that had not helped him here.  It gave credence to the theory that they were all related from common stock.

 

De Silva, who was out in the front, met Roura and the two talked intently, both looking in his direction.  Instincts told him something was up and it didn’t look good.  Coming slowly and carefully to his feet, he made his agonizing and slow way out to the yard.  It still hurt to move too much in any direction with any part of his body, and he longed for the safe haven of his apartment to lounge out a recovery.

 

De Silva issued hurried, curt instructions to Roura, then he turned to Dan.  “The local police are on their way.  They are suspicious of the telegram sent in the town.  We must get you away.”

 

Already Roura was running out of the house with Dan’s possessions.  The bloody, torn, ruined blue suit had been burned, but Dan’s badge and ID were handed over to him.  He shoved them in the pockets of the borrowed jeans he was wearing.

 

De Silva bypassed a nice Mercedes sedan and led him to the old work truck in the yard.  “Roura will take care of things here.  You, I am sorry to say, must ride in the back.”

 

“I don’t want to put you in danger --“

 

“There is a back way out of the plantation.  We will be on an old road north before they know we are gone.” 

 

Carefully, Dan climbed into the back of the truck.  He was covered with dusty sacks, then vegetables were piled around.  Soon the truck was moving and he winced from the pain of the bumping and jostling.  While it was uncomfortable, he knew these brave people were risking their lives for him and he endured the discomfort in silent concern.

 

 

*****

 

 

The eeriness of the scene was almost dizzying for McGarrett as he stood on the cliff overlooking the calm, green colored Pacific that lacked the deep and serene blue tone of Hawaiian waters.  It had taken them a while of walking along the rocky bluff to find the bloodstains.  They had followed the trail to the water’s edge and he had stood in the surf, straining to see into the waves, wishing he could see his friend miraculously emerge from the ocean he loved. 

 

At home, he would look on this as circumstantial evidence of the murder that had been reported.  By an eye-witness.  How reliable was the fisherman?  How close was he to the action?  There could have been someone nearby to help the wounded officer.  Danno, an expert swimmer, could have managed to reach shore and find help.

 

Back in Hawaii, something like this would not have happened.  He somehow could have controlled it or stopped it.  Since the first report of Williams missing, he had had no control or element of authority in any part of this miserable event. 

 

Staring out at the ocean, he blinked back the tears burning in his eyes.  It was all wrong.  The flip side of the ocean, the jade sea, the squat little palm trees, the course and bloodstained sand.  It was not supposed to be the end of the journey for his friend.  Danno should be home and safe and never in danger from foreign thugs.  Not that it could be any more agonizing, but it did seem to add a notch of insult to the anguish -- Danno had died far from the islands that were so much a part of him.

 

How could he accept this?  He could not give up.  Where was the hope now to sustain him?  He had vowed to stay on this until he found the body.  But he never would.  Danno was gone completely and there would never be any justice or even retribution for the crime.  Trying to think of the future, he failed to find any solace in promises of getting the Lopez brothers behind bars.  Or even revenge.  None of it was possible and he could not accept that any more than he could Danno’s death.

 

Fighting to blockade the tears and sobs that threatened to spill out, he tightly closed his eyes and lips and took in a few deep breaths.  He could not loose his emotions now.  Wrecked and broken in side, he had to keep the anguish at bay.  This was neither the time nor place to surrender to the failure and utter devastation of the loss.  He would hold it all within -- tightly controlled and denied -- until he was back home. 

 

 

*****

 

Dan awoke to dust in his lungs and pain emanating through his insides.  The stitches mostly held, but blood was slightly seeping through the knife wound and he worried he might be bleeding internally.  Too sick to move, he barely registered what De Silva was telling him.  They were headed for the border, but he was afraid they would be stopped before that by the police.  They should probably change cars, or walk.  Dan cringed at the thought of even moving.  He just could not do it.

 

 

*****

 

It was afternoon when McGarrett stopped at a small town north of Baja and called Honolulu.  He did not want to talk to his staff and admit defeat.  He couldn’t in fact, even admit that to himself yet.  Realistically, he knew there was nothing left to do here.  He had obligations back home and there was no excuse to ignore them any more.  Danno was dead. 

 

Trembling as he listened to the ring, he almost held his breath as Jenny’s familiar voice answered.  Hoarsely, woodenly, he responded, “Hi, Jenny.  This is Steve.”

 

“Oh, Steve, finally!  We’ve been waiting for you to call!  Danny sent a telegram and --“

 

“What?” he shouted.

 

“He’s there, Steve, and he sent a coded message.  He’s someplace called ‘the house by the ocean’.  Somewhere in Baja.”

 

“When did you get this?”

 

“This morning --“

 

“Read it to me!”

 

She complied, but he lost most of the words in a haze of numb exhilaration.  Yes, a code.  Yes, from Danno.  Steve barely released a sound, but was shaking with joy.  A sob coughed out and he cleared his throat, then managed a mumbled, “Thanks, Jenny.  We’re going to get him right now.” 

 

He felt dampness on his cheeks and he wiped it away as he hung up and raced over to the far end of the small cantina to join Kono and Garcia.  “Danno’s alive!  We’re going to a place called ‘the ocean house’ back down in Baja.  You know it?”

 

“No,” the little Mexican shook his head.   “But we will find out.”

 

McGarrett paced as Garcia bought beers for a few men and talked.  When he came back he had directions to a hacienda outside of the little town. 

 

McGarrett tapped his fingers on the car door as they traveled through the country to the large plantation.  A roughly dressed farm hand met them and he eyed them suspiciously.  He curtly answered Garcia’s questions with one word negative replies.  There was something in his eyes, though, that made Steve believe he knew a lot more than he was telling.

 

Working on pure instinct and desperation, Steve made a dangerous decision and pulled out his badge and identified himself as a detective with Hawaii Five-0.  The worker’s eyes widened and he seized onto the badge, looking carefully at McGarrett.

 

“You’ve seen another badge like this,” Steve’s voice cracked with emotion and certainty.

 

“Si.  Your man hurt,” the man replied in broken English.  He explained Danno made an escape in an old truck.  In Spanish he gave Garcia instructions.  Wishing them luck, he warned, “Careful.  Police know he runs.”

 

In the car, Steve mulled over the information and warning.  Danno was being taken to the border.  But, the local police were probably in the pay of the Lopezes.  Danno could be stopped at any point while he was in Mexico.  They just had to find Danno first.

 

 

*****

 

 

De Silva assured they were close to the border, but it didn’t matter.  Dan could no longer even move, the pain inside was so intense.  The plantation owner insisted they could not take the truck any closer to the checkpoint.  They were in Tijuana now.  It was night.  This was the best chance to make it to the Border Patrol and get help.

 

Dan was unable to walk more than a few steps so De Silva helped him into a café around the corner.  This was owned by people sympathetic to De Silva’s political views -- opposing the corruption of their government and the gangs.  He insisted it would be safe there.

 

 

*****

 

 

Not trusting the Tijuana police, Steve had Garcia drive them right up to the Border Patrol office.  Lieutenant Carlton was not on duty tonight, but Steve explained his position and information to the duty officer, a Sergeant Tripp, and he seemed sympathetic, but disbelieving.  Incredulous was more the term.  He thought McGarrett was not only without authority, but dreaming to think his wounded and wanted officer would show up here alive.

 

Angered, McGarrett felt he had no choice.  This was his borderline.  Crossing it was his own Rubicon.  By remaining in Mexico he was openly defying the Border Patrol and maybe his law abiding limits.  He wasn’t sure what he would do if he had to make tough decisions down here to save Danno.  What the locals might push him to do to save his friend.  At this point, he wasn’t sure if he had limits. 

 

Leaving Kono here at the border just in case Danno made it, Steve gave him instructions to call Garcia’s family restaurant in Tijuana if Williams showed.  Meanwhile, he and Garcia were going to search the town in case Danno made it this far.

 

Garcia stopped at one of the family cantinas and spread the word among his family and friends.  Steve was a little nervous about the distribution of information, but it could not be helped.  Garcia returned, grimly reporting the Lopezes were headed this way.  They discovered Dan was alive and were after him and anyone who helped him escape.

 

Normally, in Honolulu, where Five-0 had an iron grip on law enforcement, McGarrett would recommend bravely defying the thugs and trusting the police.  This was a different and corrupt system and these people could not rely on official help.  He could not push them to get themselves killed for his cause.  So, they just had to find Danno first.

 

“We will go to Casa Bonita,” Garcia was certain.  “My family will know what is going on around the town.”

 

At the un-crowded restaurant, Ramos the owner greeted them instantly.  “Come back,” he urged, grabbing onto Garcia and pulling him toward the curtained rooms by the kitchen.  “Come.”

 

In the back, they hurried up a narrow staircase.  McGarrett almost thought it might be a trap, but there was nothing he could do now.  He had put his trust in these people and this was his best chance of using them to find Danno.  He hated depending so heavily on others, but he was the stranger here and needed the help.

 

They reached a landing and Ramos stopped, shouting in Spanish and pointing out the window.  A big car had stopped in the middle of the street and Domingo Lopez jumped out, indiscriminately shooting into the restaurant with an automatic rifle.  Then Lopez and five other men rushed in through the front doors.

 

Appalled at the slaughter, McGarrett drew his revolver and returned meager fire, but it was of little use against the heavily armed attack.  Ramos, however, took charge and pushed them downstairs to the kitchen.  Already, the cooks and waiters and waitresses were armed with pistols, knives and heavy pots and pans.

 

The Lopez gang didn’t know what hit them when they came through the back doors.  Three thugs went down instantly under a sweep of bullets.  Two cooks and a waiter were wounded or killed, Steve noted in a glance.  A figure came around the corner and when identified as one of the criminals, McGarrett fired and killed Domingo Lopez.  Just beyond Domingo, was the body of his brother Raul.  For a moment, Steve stood over the body, amazed he had just taken down the thug -- thugs -- responsible for this whole mess, hoping it was not in vain.  Down the hall, the last of the criminals was wounded, crawling away, lifting his pistol at Ramos, and was taken out by someone on the landing of the back stairs.

 

Cautiously, Steve joined the others checking the bodies, shaking from the pumping adrenalin still racing through his system at the sudden and deadly attack and defense.  The man on the landing -- a thin man with a gray beard -- spoke quietly to Ramos.  Then the stranger came down to join him.

 

“Senior, I have something to show you.  It is urgent.”  He trotted up the stairs and Steve followed.

 

Leaning over in a chair, a pale and worn Dan Williams stared at him.  In the low light, the detective looked deathly ill, but Steve’s heart leaped with sheer joy.

 

“Danno.”

 

He rushed over and knelt, holding onto his friend -- supporting him and hugging him in relief.

 

“Steve . . . .”  He tiredly leaned his head on McGarrett’s shoulder.

 

“We’re getting out of here right now, Danno.”  Voice trembling, hands shaking, he momentarily froze and allowed reality to sink in.  What he had hoped for was a tangible actuality and he used the initial seconds of the reunion to ease the doubts and fears he had harbored; to reassure his obviously damaged friend.  “Everything’s okay now.”

 

The thin, gray-haired man leaned over.  “I am De Silva.  Your young friend is gravely wounded.  I did what I could at my farm.  You must get him to a doctor.  Get to San Diego as soon as you can.  It will be safe there.”

 

The advice was his most fervent mission, yet he couldn’t help but worry over the practical dangers.  They were still far too entrenched within enemy territory.  “What about the rest of the Lopez gang?” he questioned, thinking about retaliations and their escape.  “We’ll need to get to the border.  And they will be after you.”

 

“I think not,” he smiled.

 

Ramos joined them.  “We have been waiting for a chance like this for a long time, Senior McGarrett.  A chance to fight back.  There are some in the police and many businessmen who will take a stand now.  We will be fine.  But you must go.  It is still not safe here yet.”

 

He could do little more than briefly thank Ramos and De Silva.  He didn’t have time to waste.  His priority was Williams, who was now unconscious and oblivious to his strong hold. 

 

 

*****

 

Kalakaua mostly carried their youngest officer down the stairs.  When the all clear was given by a look out, the detectives scurried from the safety of the restaurant to the alley where the taxi was waiting.  Bundling Williams onto the floor, McGarrett cringed, hoping he was not escalating the damage to his friend, but there was little choice.  They had to escape Mexico without the Lopez gang’s knowledge or they were all dead.

 

McGarrett scrunched down on the seat, staying close to Williams, supporting him the best he could as they careened through the dusty roads and narrow streets.  He could see little from this vantage, but he guessed they were taking back roads wherever possible.  Slouched in the front seat with an old hat tilted on his head, the Hawaiian detective offered observations and a few comments as they wound their way through the country and cities, slowly heading North.

 

“Steve?”

 

McGarrett opened his eyes, surprised he had dozed off.  He had managed little sleep in the last few days, and now that his friend was literally under his hand, his subconscious must have felt it was acceptable to catch a little sleep.  Patting the warm arm under his palm, he smiled at the face very close to his.  Danno was dirty, sweaty, his cheeks pale, his skin tacky with grime and illness.

 

“I know this is rough, aikane, but it will be over soon.”

 

The nod was accepting.  “That’s what I’ve been afraid of.  The soon part isn’t soon enough.”

 

“There’s nothing to fear anymore.”  It was a solemn threat to anyone who might think they could stop him in his quest to take his friend to safety.  Nothing, no one, would come between him and the border.

 

A ghost of a smile flickered on the wan lips.  “I thought I dreamed you were here, but you’re here.”  The quiet words were confused and measured from disorientation and probably pain. 

 

“No dream,” he smiled.  “And this is where I’ll stay till we get to the States.”

 

The heavy eyelids closed and he nodded his head.  “No dream,” he repeated in a whisper of trust.

 

McGarrett patted his arm again in reassurance that everything was under control.  It wasn’t, of course, but he would never let his suffering friend know there was any chance of failure.  He nearly drifted back to sleep again when the car took a sharp right turn.

 

“What is it?”

 

“We’re in Tijuana,” Kono replied tersely.  “We got a sedan following us.”

 

“Lose them,” he barked at the driver.

 

“I am trying, Senior.”

 

Frustrated that this was not home, that he could not call down legions of HPD units and officers to assist, he resisted the urge to look up over the seat.  If he was spotted the game would be up for sure, so he had to allow Kono to be his eyes and Garcia to drive.  The vehicle suddenly lurched forward in a surge of speed, the next two left corners taken on what felt like two wheels.  Before he could ask, shots rang out.  Nothing seemed to hit the car, but he could tell the guns were too close.

 

Pulling the revolver, he darted a quick glance behind him.  Tempted to return fire, he hesitated.  They were in a close, narrow-street slum.  A stray shot could hit an innocent bystander.  He could not risk the moral recklessness, the legal implications, if he wounded or killed someone while illegally engaged in a firefight down here in Mexico.

 

“Can’t get a clear shot,” Kono told him, leaning out the passenger window.

 

“Aim for the tires,” he ordered.  Checking through the windshield, he knew when Garcia straightened from this tight turn, there was a short straightaway and no houses.  “When they come around the corner, blast them!”  Leaning out his window, he waited one . . . two . . . three . . . seconds . . .  . 

 

When the sedan careened after them, he opened up with a steady volley of shots and so did his officer.  The sedan swerved, skidded sideways, and smashed into a tree.  Kono released a yell, and McGarrett leaned back in the seat and breathed a sigh of relief. 

 

“Who do you think they were?” Kalakaua asked their driver.

 

“Lopez’s amigos maybe.  Don’t know.  We not stay to find out.”

 

Checking on Williams, his heart skipped a beat when he saw his friend awkwardly wedged against the door.  Maneuvering the wounded man up onto the seat, he held him in his arms until they reached the border and came to a screeching halt at US Customs.

 

He remained where he was, making sure his friend was still all right.  Kono ran inside and ordered an ambulance.  From the gesticulating and angry countenance of the Hawaiian, he could tell the story was not going well.  There were new officers on duty and irritated, he hoped he did not have to go in there and take this into official channels.  That would be time consuming. 

 

Checking Danno again under the bright lights coming from the station, his anxiety increased.  His friend was running a high fever, and was delirious and not responding to verbal summons.  There was no time to waste. 

 

A frustrated Hawaiian finally returned and through the open back window reported, “They having all kinds of fits, Steve, but I think they’re convinced.” 

 

“Did they call the ambulance or not?”

 

 “They did.”

 

“If it’s not here in five minutes I’m going in there.”

 

Just under his deadline, the ambulance arrived.  Danny was carefully removed from the taxi, then placed into the ambulance.  Steve gave Kono a handful of cash and the car keys with instructions to pay Garcia and get the rental back.  He would go in the ambulance.  Wedging in beside medical equipment, he noted with envy the state of the art vehicle, filled with the latest life-saving instruments.  A sure sign that California was doing something right in how they treated patients, and he wished Hawaii had this new breed of paramedics on staff. What he waited for, though, was the techs to give him a pronouncement.

 

“Stab wound.  Pretty crude sewing there,” one of the young men observed Williams’ wound.  “Infected.  Torn stitches.”  Vital signs were taken and an IV started, far more advanced than anything Hawaii had to offer in emergency medical aid.  During the drive, on the phone with a doctor at a hospital, the tech administered the suggested doses of medication. 

 

The routine gave the top cop confidence.  “Well?”

 

“He’s going to be okay, I think.  Once we get him to ER they can tell the extent of any internal damage.”

 

He had thought of that, of course, but had not addressed the possibility with any degree of seriousness.  It seemed more important that his friend was alive.  Then they had to reach safety.  Infection.  Internal injury.  They were not safe yet, were they, he considered.

 

*****

 

The ER was similar in looks and feel of the hospitals in Hawaii.  What was markedly and irritatingly different here was that he did not have any kind of authority or leverage over anyone on staff.  The nurses and doctors were adamant and threatening about him staying out of the exam room.  Pacing, he longed to give Bergman a call to get some solace, some friendly, if gruffly delivered advice, to hear the assurance from a doctor he knew and trusted that Danno was going to be fine. 

 

Kono arrived before the attending physician, and that further irked the Five-0 chief.  It was late night, now, and his Hawaiian detective walked along the row of vending machines in the waiting area, fingering through his change.  Valiantly, the big guy was probably starving, but not complaining.  McGarrett couldn’t remember when they arrived, did not note the time, actually, but knew it had been a while.  The grueling end of a miserable and stressful, fearful, day.  He had no idea the last time he ate, and did not care.  There was no room in his mind, though, for his own comfort, and his stomach was tied in knots anyway, until he knew about Danno.

 

Several other people were there in the busy, big city emergency area.  A number of them stood nervously as doctors came to deliver good or bad news.  Each time a green-gowned medic arrived, he warily watched, waiting for a sign that the man wanted to talk to him, containing his tension internally and covering it with an iron lid of icy detachment.  This time, when a tall, balding surgeon made eye contact, he hurried over.

 

“Williams?”

 

“Doing fine,” the man nodded firmly.  “Doctor Harper,” he introduced.  Kono joined them and he included the Hawaiian in his explanation.  “The knife snagged on a rib, fortunately for the young man, and did minimal damage.  There is considerable torn tissue, but we’ve got him stitched and stabilized and on a heavy duty antibiotic.”

 

“He’ll be all right?”

 

“Yes, just fine.  He’ll be here a few days to make sure the infection is taken care of, and give him a chance to heal a little more.”

 

“Thank you, doctor,” McGarrett breathed out a tense, deep breath.  “When can I see him?”

 

“Maybe tomorrow –“

 

The cop closed in to meet the man eye to eye.  “Doctor, this man is my officer.  He was kidnapped, held hostage and nearly killed.”  Intensity and heat escalated as the words shot out like flying shards of lava from an exploding volcano.  “I don’t know how you do things in San Diego, but in Hawaii, when something this traumatic happens, colleagues are allowed to see for themselves that their friend is going to be all right.”

 

Hawaii, huh?” he almost smiled.  “And the doctors let you bend the rules over there, is that what you’re saying?”

 

Kono sputtered.  McGarrett maintained the intense visual contact with the physician.  “Yes.”

 

Narrowing his eyes with mirth, a slight grin appeared on his face.  “”You’re with the State Police over there, is that right?”

 

“Yes.”

 

Nodding, he smiled.  “I serve my Navy reserve duty over at Tripler every year.  I do believe I’ve heard rumors about you.”

 

That probably did not bode well, Steve considered, and prepared to do serious battle with the man.

 

The doctor continued.  “So I guess we shouldn’t let Hawaiian tradition be ruined here on the mainland.”

 

Sighing with relief, certain he had heard a long breath released from Kono at his shoulder, McGarrett allowed a slight smile.  “I guess not.”

 

“Very well,” he nodded.  “I’ll put it in his chart that he’s allowed you two as visitors.  And I’ll let you know when he’s ready to go back to your paradise.”

 

Feeling overwhelmed with the triumph of Danno’s near-miss at death, his hope of recovery, Steve leaned against the nearest wall and allowed the tight knot of tension to mutate into the thrill of joy.  When he felt he could communicate normally, he ordered Kono to go find himself some decent food and call the office to let them know everything was all right.

 

*****

 

The hospital views were nearly the same; patches of Pacific-blue ocean and azure skies interrupted by gray high rises and bustling cars.  The staffs were remarkably similar, too.  Varying personalities of nurses coming in to hassle, commiserate or ignore the gruff detective who had made himself a fixture in the chair next to the bed.  Unfortunately, the reasons for being here were disappointingly the same.  Williams came in and out of sleep, the periods between dreamland drawing shorter, the waking moments longer and more coherent, the energy returning in slow but steady increments.

 

Kalakaua had booked him a room in a nearby hotel, then left to go back home.  McGarrett used the hotel very little, spending most of his time here.  He could have returned to his duties – should have probably – but he did not feel he could close out this affair without accompanying his officer home.  It was superstitious, and he would never admit it aloud, but he expected more misadventures if he turned his back.  Reprisals, complications – he wasn’t sure and couldn’t specify – but he would not risk it.  As the head of Five-0 there was a great deal of latitude with his schedule, though he could never confess that to anyone.  He felt his place was here and here he would stay.

 

Leaving Hawaii had been an impulse that was not a popular choice in the opinion of the governor and the Attorney General.  Both were now fielding red tape issues about his excursion south of the border.  The DA was angry he had missed his court date and created more paperwork and anxiety there, but it had all worked out.  The only visible scars of this adventure, it seemed, would be Williams’ injury.  Many times over the last few days, McGarrett had pondered the alarming incident in Mexico and the various twists and turns of Fate, which could have ended in a much graver tragedy.  A literal grave for his friend.  It had not, though, ended in sorrow, but in triumph, he had to remind himself as he stared out at an aircraft carrier slipping out of the harbor toward the open ocean.  Everything had turned out just fine.

 

“Steve?”

 

He turned with a smile, and crossed the room in long, quick strides to help his officer sit up in bed.  “How you doing?” he asked as he curbed his instinct to give more assistance than necessary.

 

“Like I‘m ready to get out of here.”

 

A typical reaction from a Five-0 officer stuck in the hospital.  “Yeah, Danno, I hear you, but when you leave here it won’t be a quick hop over to your apartment.  We’ll have airport hassles and almost six hours of flight time ahead of us.”

 

“Better than cooling my heels here,” the younger man complained earnestly.  “Sure you can’t pull some strings?”

 

Aside from the cooperation of Doctor Harper, there had been little in the way of friendly functions between the staff and McGarrett.  Spurred on by Williams’ perky condition, though, he promised to do his best to oust his detective from California shores and get him home.

 

 

*****

 

 

Standing near the open lanai doors, McGarrett turned to the next page of notes and read off several points not yet discussed.  Williams, sitting on the edge of the desk, read over his own file.  Loud voices, and laughter, from the outer office alerted him and he glanced over his papers at his officer.

 

“What is going on?”

 

Dan smiled and cocked an eyebrow.  “I don’t know, but they’re having more fun out there than we are here.”

 

McGarrett grinned and offered a suspicious nod.  “Then I better put a stop to it.” 

 

Crossing to the door, Williams on his heels, McGarrett opened it and took a moment to read the incongruous situation.  Kono and Jenny were standing near the secretary’s desk.  On their heads were gigantic sombreros and draped around their shoulders were colorful serapes. 

 

“What --?”

 

Someone just slipping a blanket around Chin emerged from behind Kono.  It was the last person Steve expected to see in Honolulu -- Arturo De Silva.  The older gentleman smiled as he spotted Steve and Dan.

 

“Ah, my amigos.  Alooohaaa!” he shouted with fervor.  He came over and gave them both warm hugs, which surprised the officers and the rest of the staff.  “I learned that on the plane trip over.  It is a long flight to your paradise, but it is worth it I think.”

 

“Senior --“

 

“Ah, Arturo, please, Mr. McGarrett.  After all we have been through, you must consider me your amigo.”

 

Steve invited him into the private office.  After settling that they were on a first name basis, De Silva studied the younger detective with pride.  “It is good to see you looking very much better.  How is your health now?”

 

“Good,” Danny smiled with a touch of relief.  “I’m all better, thanks to you.”

 

It had been six months since their misadventure in Mexico, but Steve’s recollections of the grim ordeal remained vivid.  Knowing his friend had been kidnapped and held in a foreign country by murderous criminals was bad enough.  To receive the report Danno had been murdered -- it was still a haunting memory.  Then, finding him alive, but badly wounded he had gone through more anguish before Danno was safely recovering in a San Diego hospital.  It took a few weeks after that for Danno to come home. 

 

“We can’t thank you enough, Senior,” Steve added his heartfelt thanks.

 

Arturo bowed slightly.  “My pleasure to perform an act like the famous Samaritan.  But it is I who have come to thank you both.”  He reached into a pocket of his suit and handed them several pictures.  “Souvenirs.  To outward appearances, it seems I performed the good deed and saved young Danny.  In truth, amigos, you saved us.”

 

Steve felt warmed all over when he looked at the clean streets and playing children in front of the Casa Bonita.  The buildings were repainted.  A band played on the corner.  There were pińatas hanging from several doorways.

 

“You have returned life and joy to a small corner of Mexico again, gentlemen.  With the Lopez brothers and many of their top lieutenants dead, fear left our community.  A few others tried to reform the band of thugs, but we would have none of it.  After tasting freedom, my fellows could not go back to the oppression.”

 

Steve couldn’t describe the feeling that washed over him.  Pride -- no.  Humility and awe, that was more appropriate.  A little too choked up to say much, he simply thanked the man.

 

“Now, I have other trinkets in the other room for you both,” Arturo smiled and clapped their shoulders.  “But nothing can ever adequately pay you for your heroic deeds.  Gracias amigos.”

 

Beaming, Dan caught Steve’s glance and seemed even more embarrassed than McGarrett.  At Arturo’s insistence, they joined the group in the outer office.  It was a boisterous celebration and Arturo related some tall tales of the adventures in Mexico.  Everyone wanted to volunteer to take the gentleman on a custom tour of the island.  Jenny easily won him over with her charm.  Agreeing to a good local dinner later that night, Arturo made his exit.

 

“All right, let’s not forget we have an office to run,” McGarrett wryly reminded as he drifted back into his office.

 

Picking up the report again, he found it hard to focus on the details of police work.  Dark memories had intruded and the corresponding deep emotions that went with them.   This incident proved that some good could come out of bad, but he would never want to experience those bad days over again. 

 

“Wow,” Dan quietly commented as he sat on the arm of a chair.  “How does it feel to save a whole community, Steve?”

 

“They saved themselves,” he modestly returned.  Silently he thought it was almost overwhelming.  But it did not feel nearly as good as the knowledge and relief that he had saved his officer. 

 

 

PAU