CHECK AND CHECKMATE

 

by

GM


October 1974

 

Just before seven am Steve McGarrett pulled his sedan into his parking slot at the Iolani Palace. A warm, forceful wind blew in from the nearby ocean. He shivered slightly as a low, dark cloud drifted by and rain sprinkled onto his unprotected skin and down his collar. He jogged up the steps of the Palace and into the cooler, but still humid shelter of the old building.

Of course he arrived first this morning. The usual MO. Danny Williams beat him occasionally, but not habitually; Dan was not a morning personality. More often than not McGarrett was the one to wake up Williams for an early jog or a six am cup of coffee before they came to the office.

This morning McGarrett had come in ahead of his usual time because they had a lot on the plate today. Five-0 was in charge of security for the visiting Russian ambassador. It was a courtesy visit which was supposed to be nonpolitical, but that was merely semantics to the head of Five-0. The ambassador was a high risk and McGarrett was taking the security precautions seriously. He had issued specific assignments to each member of the staff. They were meeting early to coordinate last minute details. Then McGarrett would be off to join the Governor and pick up the ambassador at the airport at eleven o'clock.

Engrossed in a study of the motorcade route, he was startled by the entrance of Ben Kokua and Chin Ho Kelly. Automatically, Steve checked his watch. It was almost eight- twenty. A glance through the open doorway into the main office showed Jenny Sherman had arrived sometime during the hour and a half he had been here.

"I got the latest information on those protest leaders, Steve," Ben said as he presented McGarrett with a hot cup of coffee. "HPD has extra men on stake out covering the leaders we could locate. Crowd control officers have descriptions of the protest members still at large."

McGarrett accepted the report with a nod. He shook his head, declining a danish offered by Kelly.

"Any recent threats to the ambassador?"

"Nothing new," Kelly said around a bite of pastry. "He's a pretty low-key dude for a Russian. His interest in the islands dates back to when he met the Governor during the war. Other than that the ambassador has no ties with Hawaii or anyone here that we know about."

McGarrett carefully sipped his hot coffee and assimilated the data. It was all old news, details they had covered before, but items he insisted they cover again. Details could make the difference in a life and death situation. He checked his watch again. Eight- thirty.

"Danno in yet?"

"Haven't seen him," Chin responded.

Ben shook his head.

Sergeant Duke Lukela of HPD sailed through the door and added his negative to the overheard question.

"He was supposed to meet with hotel security this morning," Chin reminded.

Absently McGarrett nodded. He hadn't forgotten, it was just that he had not expected the appointment to take so long. Williams should be here to contribute that updated information for this meeting. They were on a tight time schedule.

"Then we'll begin without him," he stated. He brought the well marked street map over to the large side table and spread out the paper so all could see clearly. "We have three available routes from the airport to the Royal Hawaiian."

He went on to detail the options for each route. The session took longer than expected and when he thought about the time again it was almost nine thirty. Mildly annoyed he wondered what was keeping Danny. The second in command was scheduled to be at the airport with him to man the lead car in the motorcade.

The intercom buzzed and he crossed to his desk to answer it. "Yes, Jenny."

"Ken Lopaka on line two, boss."

The manager of the Royal Hawaiian. Instantly thoughts of complications filled his mind. No wonder Danno was late; something had gone wrong at the hotel . . . .

"Yes, Ken." He snatched up the phone and he snapped out the words in irritation.

"Has there been a change of plans, Steve?"

"No, Ken. What's wrong?"

"I have Tim Garry here. We've been waiting for Danny for that final security conference. What happened?"

At once he felt his body temperature drop and a chill snake across his shoulder blades. At the same time his stomach tightened into a twisted knot. Instinct registered the sense of foreboding before he asked his obvious but scary question.

"He didn't show up this morning?"

"No. We were scheduled to meet at eight. Anything wrong?"

Steve licked his suddenly dry lips. "No," he responded quietly, knowing it was a lie. "Just -- just go ahead as planned, Ken. I'll be in touch."

He slammed down the phone. For a brief second he leaned on the instrument and gathered thoughts and nerves frazzled by the dreadful surprise. Part of his mind was already planning several moves to be taken. Another part was inventing excuses to counter glaring possibilities of the worst nature.

"Did anyone hear from Danno this morning?" he asked briskly. The tone of his voice carried a gravity -- a warning that this was no idle survey.

The other three men all responded in the negative as he knew they would. Danno did not neglect to show up for important meetings. If delayed unexpectedly, he would have called.  If he could.  Something had happened to prevent that.

"Ben, get on dispatch and see if you can locate him in his car. Then get over to the Royal Hawaiian and take care of the security arrangements. Duke, get a patrol car over to Danno's place -- three thousand three Kalakaua. Check the garage for his car and have them check his apartment. I'll be on my way over there."

"On it," Lukela said and was gone.

"Chin, hold the fort and if you hear from Danno call me immediately."

"There's probably a simple explanation," Chin offered tentatively. He did not sound convinced.

Neither was McGarrett when he responded. "Let's hope so, Chin. Let's hope so."

*****

On the drive to Diamond Head McGarrett put on the siren and sped there in record time. He tried not to speculate too wildly on the worst possibilities. Anything could have happened. Why did he expect something violent or fatal? Perhaps because he had learned from experience when something went wrong it usually went very wrong.

For Dan Williams not to fulfill a vital assignment, to not show up for an important meeting, was completely incongruous. The aberration led to all kinds of horrific speculations, yet nothing specific -- nothing solid -- all based on fear. There was no evidence at this point to direct him to any theory.  Meanwhile his imagination refused to be suppressed in it's wild and anxious flights of supposition.

He screeched into the driveway and then the underground garage located below street level of the apartment building. Two patrol cars were parked at the far wall. The Five-0 sedan reserved to Danno, and Williams' white Mustang, were both in the parking slots assigned to the detective's apartment. Lukela, as good as his word, was already on the scene.

"What have you got, Duke?"

"I haven't been up to Danny's apartment yet."  He slowed his stride then halted and McGarrett came to a stop with him. "Officer Kaneho and I just arrived ahead of you. We spotted these right off."

He indicated smears in an oil spot on the concrete floor. McGarrett crouched down and studied them. "Shoe scuffs?"

"I think so," Duke concurred.

"A struggle?" he pondered, his throat dry.

"Could be." Lukela moved on to stand by the Mustang. The top was down and there was a torn bag of groceries on the front passenger seat. "The Popsicles are melted," he pointed out. "The milk carton broke and the milk looks curdled."

McGarrett's heart sank a little further into a pit of fear. Danno would never leave the top down overnight. And he was sure it had been like this all night. It was Williams' habit to pick up supplies, if needed, after work, since he was sometimes called out in the middle of the night, or early morning, to respond to some emergency.  Steve teased him that it was just an excuse to drive the Mustang -- enjoy the freedom of the convertible -- after the staid image of the company LTD.

Adamantly protective of his classy sports car, Williams meticulously cared for the Mustang, keeping it spotlessly clean, and always locking the top down at night. The melted Popsicle syrup was dried to the seat and floor, so it had been hours since the treats had melted and hardened. Steve bit his lip in apprehension. There were some dark smears on the driver's side door and the concrete on that side of the car. Steve hoped he was wrong, but the stains looked like dried blood.

"Let's get up to the apartment. I have a key," McGarrett crisply ordered.

He trotted to the elevators at the side of the garage. It was a long ride to the ninth floor. As they approached the door McGarrett and Lukela automatically drew their weapons. They didn't know what to expect, but were not taking chances. They stood on either side of the door and McGarrett firmly knocked several times. After a few moments he carefully inserted the key, unlocked the knob, and pushed open the door. He quickly poked his head around the corner and out again. The initial glance showed him a neat but empty apartment. Warily he stepped around the doorway and inside.

Steve circled the living room and kitchen areas while Duke checked the bedroom. There was no evidence of violence. No body. He unconsciously released a sigh of relief without realizing he had expected the worst right here.

Duke returned with a shake of his head. "No sign of Danny or anything wrong. Bed is made. The suit he wore yesterday is in the laundry basket. His .38 and holster are on his nightstand. No sign of his twenty-two or his ID. Toothbrush is dry." Duke paused then concluded, "Looks like he came home last night, changed, and went out shopping."

McGarrett nodded, silently assimilating the facts. He cruised through the kitchen. No dishes or left over food to indicate the last meal here. Not unusual. They had worked late the last few nights in preparation for the ambassador. Nearly all of their meals had been at the office this week. He holstered his revolver and stepped across to the lanai doors. After checking for signs of forced entry, which there were none, he opened the doors and stepped onto the small lanai overlooking the ocean. His eyes stared at the horizon, missing the spectacular view. His mind was too consumed with worry and confusion to ponder anything but the fate of Williams: where was Danno and what had happened to him last night? Was Danno still alive?

"We have to assume Danno's been snatched. Get all the HPD manpower you need, Duke," he ordered, his voice shaky enough for the anxiety to carry over the sound of the surf. "I want this building blanketed for witnesses. Anybody who might have seen Danno, or his car or anyone hanging around last night." The words were rapid-fire bullets of intensity, shot out with fervency fired from anguish. "I want this place and both his cars dusted and gone over by the lab. Get Che down here personally. I don't want one inch overlooked! And keep a lid on this. No press leaks!"

"On it," Duke promised crisply. He was almost out the door when he stopped and called back. "I'll check the hospitals myself," he added quietly.

McGarrett nodded. "Thanks." That grim task had not occurred to him.

"Do you want me to pull the extra men off the security patrol at the Royal Hawaiian?"

Steve spun around. The ambassador. He checked his watch. Ten-twenty-three. He had forgotten anything existed beyond this personal crisis of his abducted friend. At the moment he didn't give a damn about the Russian or the Governor or anyone else except his second in command. Maybe he could get Chin to take over -- no, that would alert the press that something was wrong. That was a problem with being such a visible public figure -- he was instantly recognizable in his presence and conspicuously noticeable in his absence. He would have to go along with the diplomatic group as if nothing was wrong. It would be one of the most difficult trials of his life. Because he wanted nothing more than to drop everything to search for Danno.

"No," he whispered, hating himself as he gave the order. He gritted his teeth and slammed a fist on the lanai railing as he swept back inside. HPD was already stretched thin with the security detail. They could not afford a full scale search for a missing cop right now. No matter how important that cop was to him personally, he had a duty to the ambassador first. "No, dammit!" he surrendered bitterly. "Spare whoever you can. I'll assign Ben to head the investigation." He glanced again at his watch. Ten-thirty. He was going to be late to meet the Governor. For once he didn't care. At a loss for adequate words he simply said, "Keep me updated," and stalked from the room.

*****

McGarrett charged through the office door at top speed. As soon as possible he had slipped away from his official duties with the Governor and rushed back to the Palace. He came to an abrupt stop in front of Jenny's desk.

"Any word?"

She shook her head, refusing to meet his eyes.  A handkerchief in her hand attested to the fact she had probably been crying.  The open vulnerability of the usually stalwart secretary slammed into him like a blunt force.  She was upset.  Naturally.  Danno was missing.  All their fears were heightened.  He could ignore it or offer compassion.  Right now he didn't have the words -- couldn't stop to think about the sorrow they might be facing soon.  He had to keep up the fight and not surrender to their worst fears.

"Jenny?"

"Nothing good," she sniffed sadly. "I've gotten three calls from the press wanting --"

"Damn! How did they get onto this?" he snapped.

Jenny Sherman shrugged her shoulders, used to the rhetorical questions from McGarrett which she could never answer.

"No comment to the press," he categorically ordered.

Ben came up to the desk. The sober look on his face told a story Steve did not want to hear. "No prints on the cars except Danny's. Blood stains match his type. No sign of a struggle or intruder in the apartment," he listed. A wry grin quirked on his lips. "No signs of a lady being there last night, either. So we can eliminate that angle."

The reference to Dan's notorious love life brought a shadow of a grin to McGarrett's mouth, but it quickly died.

"So far no witnesses," Ben continued. "Some people weren't home so I'm going back with some officers this evening." He took a breath. "Did you hear from Duke?"

"Yeah, I saw him at the Royal Hawaiian," McGarrett snapped out as he strode into his office. "Nothing at the hospitals or the morgue, thank God," he sighed. He snapped his fingers in cadence with his stalking footfalls. "For the moment Chin and Duke are covering the ambassador. I'll work on this with you until four, then I have to be back at the hotel." He paced out more mileage, thinking, straining to find an answer to why Williams had been abducted.

Ben continued his report. "No claims by terrorists or protesters yet. No obvious parolees out for revenge have popped up, but people out for revenge make a long list, Steve."

"I know," he sighed. He stopped at the lanai doors and slammed them open. "Why, Ben?" he asked rhetorically, shaking his fist in the air. "Why take Danno? Why now?" He sighed, releasing an unsteady breath. "He put up a fight, so he didn't go willingly. What else do you want a cop for except revenge?"

His greatest fear was that at any moment he would get a call that Williams' body had been found in a cane field or mountain ravine, or washed up on a beach somewhere. This was the kind of mindless, clueless incident which pointed to some personal motive. To Steve McGarrett, there could be nothing more personal than danger to his closest friend.

He conveyed his theory to Ben. The stalwart Samoan/Hawaiian shrugged his broad shoulders in solemn agreement. "A cop makes a lot of enemies, Steve."

The phone rang and McGarrett flinched at the sound. By the second ring he had pushed back his darkest expectations and snatched up the receiver. "McGarrett."

It was a relief to hear the voice of Chin talking business. There was a huge anti-Soviet protest rally at the Royal Hawaiian. Things were becoming tense. It was better news than what he half expected. He promised he would get down to the Waikiki hotel instantly. He slammed down the phone, frustrated that his attention was demanded somewhere else.

"Do the best you can, Ben. You know where to reach me in case -- you need to," he faltered. "I'll get whatever extra help I can for you," he promised as the rushed out the door.

Whatever men he could spare would not be enough, he thought to himself. No measures would be enough until Dan was safely back, alive and unharmed. With each passing minute he was depressed to find that spark of hope was becoming fainter and fainter inside his heart.

*****

When he arrived in Waikiki he was stopped by heavy traffic several blocks from the Royal Hawaiian. Irritated to be caught in something as mundane as a traffic tie-up he put on the car siren, drove onto the sidewalk and zipped down Lewers to Kalia, a small lane running parallel to the beach and to the front of the Royal Hawaiian. Traffic was blocked there, too, but he was able to park the car and make his way to the front of the hotel on foot. This route was quicker than going around to the beach entrance.

The protesters were loud, rowdy and belligerent. Ironically their espoused cause was human rights but they practiced little of that as they shoved against the line of patrolmen. He spotted Chin near the front steps and weaved through the police line to join his detective.

"They knew right when to get here, Steve. We were just about to leave for the ambassador's trip to the Capitol."

McGarrett's sixth sense for danger prickled an alarm in his brain. He probably would have heard the warning sooner if he had not been so preoccupied with Dan's disappearance. Glancing around the crowd he spotted several pushy, loud protesters who seemed a bit more confident and assertive than the others. 'Plants,' he immediately thought. These were professional inciters out to whip up fervor in the crowd. Possibly to start a riot, or worse, to cover an assassination attempt. There were many who thought the ambassador was here for secret talks with State Department people. There were many who would like to stop those talks at any cost.

He saw that Duke was directing a few key officers with cameras to shoot pictures of the crowd. McGarrett told Chin to make sure the line was kept tight and to call in more manpower if needed.

That last order he wanted to snatch back the instant he spoke it. More men tied up here would mean almost no one out there looking for Danno. He felt sick at his betrayal to his friend. Would Danno understand duty to some foreign official took priority over his life? Perhaps Dan would grasp that altruistic concept, but McGarrett couldn't. All he could do was issue the orders and try to come up with a solution almost literally on his own. So far, today, he had not been able to accomplish any progress toward finding Dan.

To the right side a skirmish broke out between a protester and an HPD man. Several officers rushed over to assist. Unconsciously, McGarrett must have been prepared for the distraction because he turned to opposite end of the line. From the periphery of his vision he spotted an Oriental tourist with a huge shopping bag slipping through the line on the far left.

"Stop!" he commanded.

The man froze for a moment, then dashed past, into the lobby of the hotel. McGarrett, Chin and several other officers gave chase. Over his shoulder Steve shouted for the lobby to be closed down, while he dodged and vaulted various obstacles in the lobby and out the back pool area.

The suspect was agile and quick; McGarrett was skeptical of his ability to catch the man. They reached the sandy beach of Waikiki and the Oriental sped down toward the water. McGarrett had visions of the man plunging into the sea and swimming to safety. He drew his pistol as he leaped onto the beach. He was about to call for the man to halt when a surfer with a board came up out of the waves. The Oriental ran smack into the board and bounced to the sand. Dazed, but still functional, the man fumbled in his shopping bag and pulled out a gun.

"Drop it!" McGarrett commanded.

The man aimed and fired as McGarrett, Chin and the other officers dove into the ground. The Five-0 officers returned fire and the Asian's body jerked and fell back into the surf.

Cautiously, Steve and Chin approached the body. Chin took the fallen pistol while McGarrett checked for signs of life. He shook his head at his colleague, who was turning the pistol around in his hand.

"Foreign job, looks like," Kelly assessed. "With a silencer."

Steve studied the weapon. "Something you'd use for an assassination."

Several HPD men arrived and McGarrett issued instructions for the body to be removed immediately. A crowd had gathered. Not unexpected. He had just shot a possible assassin on the most populous beach in the world. He could just see the headlines now!

*****

"McGarrett!"

It was a curse sputtered in anger, disgust and hatred. The evening news footage of McGarrett leaving the scene of the shooting was playing on a small TV. It was the only light generated in the dark room.

"McGarrett!" the portly Chinese man cursed and came to his feet with surprising speed for one of his bulk. "Chong!" he called out.

Instantly a tall, thin Chinaman, the antithesis of his superior, entered.

"McGarrett has foiled the killing! Our distraction ploy has failed."

"Perhaps we need a better distraction," Chong suggested in a quiet, cultured voice. "There are only two more days before the ambassador leaves."

The large Chinaman nodded in agreement. A smile of evil tidings snaked across his puffy features. "McGarrett has brought destruction upon his own house." He laughed; a deep, satisfying, spine-chilling laugh. "Summon the prisoner."

*****

To the best of his ability to guess, Dan Williams figured it was probably afternoon.  His small, stuffy room accommodated a narrow window covered with slats of wood.  He had tried to loosen the old boards, but was caught before he could make any headway.  The resulting beating and continued torment by the two Asian thugs guarding him deterred his further efforts. 

Since his abduction the night before he had been feeling woozy and a little sick.  The dizziness and slight nausea spoke of a concussion from the blow to the head, he speculated.  Little scraps of food and little water, plus more rough treatment by his captors didn't help.   They regularly harassed him, making it impossible to sleep or get more than snatched moments of rest.  Their constant slipping between Chinese and English made his aching head even more confused.

The door opened and he instinctively came to his feet.  Without a plan or preparation, he impulsively made a try to slip past them to the door.  Both heftier than him, they easily repulsed his escape attempt and slammed him roughly against the wall, punching him until he sank to his knees.  When they yanked his arms back and snapped what had to be his own handcuffs on his wrists, he sucked in a yelp of pain and distress.  When they tied a cloth around his eyes he nearly panicked.  Blindfolded!  He almost expected a pistol at the back of his head, and was not calmed when they dragged him to his feet and pushed him out of the room.

They stopped and Dan caught his breath, trying to read the aura around him.  He sensed the presence of more people in the room and slowed his breathing to hear every detail possible.

"You mean I finally get an interview with the big cheese?" Williams sarcastically, belligerently inquired, hoping to instill courage in his own system and continued defiance in his demeanor.

"Yes, you do," was the silky reply.

The detective drew in a sharp breath, then immediately tried to disguise the fear swamping him at the identity of his kidnapper. "Wo Fat!"

The Chinaman laughed with childish delight. "Very good, Mr. Williams. So good to know I am not forgotten by the minions of law in Hawaii."

Anger at the abduction, the helplessness pushed to the top of his emotions.  "Why did you kidnap me? To get to McGarrett? It won't work!" he assured with threatening force. "Your plans usually don't when you're up against McGarrett.

Wo Fat slapped Williams across the face. The blow had enough impact to knock the detective off balance. The strike, delivered to an already injured face, caused Williams to pause for a few moments to regain his balance and composure.  His head throbbed from the jarring impact.

Wo Fat snarled at his prisoner. "I am playing a game, Mr. Williams, a very deadly game. For years a stalemate has existed between McGarrett and myself. Finally I have changed the balance of power. King takes Knight."

Chills snaked along Williams' spine at the ominous declaration.

"This time I will destroy McGarrett, and you will help me, Mr. Williams. King takes Knight. Check."

"Never!" Spitting out the blood in his mouth, Dan shot back in harsh defiance. "Never! You can't make me do anything against McGarrett!"

Wo Fat shouted something in Chinese.

The thugs acted immediately, wrenching him to his knees despite his protests and struggles.  This was it, he thought, his execution was imminent.  Then he was surprised when one hand was uncuffed.  Shoving into one of the men, his blindfold came loose and momentarily he was free.  Wo Fat smashed a hand straight into his face and Dan blacked out momentarily, dropping to the floor.  When he woke up his shirt was being torn off and his face was smashed to the ground under Wo Fat's shoe. 

The spy leaned down and came within his field of vision.  A slow smile crept across the Oriental face. "You are wrong, Mr. Williams. You will help me destroy McGarrett and you won't have to do a thing. Because you will be dead. Your death will serve my purposes in my defeat of the arrogant and immovable McGarrett.  Check and checkmate!"

*****

When Dan returned to the small room of imprisonment his hands were freed and he sank into the nearest corner. His whole body ached; from the beating he had received when he had resisted his abductors the night before, from the cramped imprisonment of the day, from the rough handling of Wo Fat's henchmen today.

The physical pain was nothing compared to the emotional anguish in his heart. That he was going to be killed was something he was really unimpressed with, but he was not panicked. He had been threatened, held hostage like this before. He might yet find a way out of this.

What if there was no hope this time? A pawn -- a knight, he wryly corrected -- against his friend, his death would be used against Steve and that was intolerable. That he was helpless to stop Wo Fat was the most agonizing frustration of all.

He flinched thinking about McGarrett. Williams did not want to die -- he loved life, loved his island paradise. To be killed as a dupe to get to his friend was infuriating. Steve was probably worried sick over his disappearance. With his death -- he could hardly imagine the impact that would have on his friend. For the first time in years he would not be there to help Steve through a personal crisis. McGarrett would be alone.

Pushing aside the grim thoughts he tried to reestablish some form of investigative mentality. Maybe there was a way out of this. It didn't look good. He was stripped of any useful articles -- spare gun, keys, change, wallet, even his shirt.  What was Wo Fat planning?  Grateful, he wondered why he was not dead already. 

Well, he had to do something to turn this around.  That he was going to die to serve as a pawn -- no -- knight -- against his friend, was unacceptable.  He would have to rely on his wit and flagging strength to overcome an international spy and party.  And he would have to lean on the image of Steve -- what he would be doing right now.  And how he had beaten Wo Fat before.  Steve would just have to do the impossible and beat the master spy again.

'All in a day's work at Five-0,' he thought wryly.

*****

" . . . so the dental records definitely indicate Chinese workmanship."

McGarrett felt his head jerk and realized he had dozed off. Leaning his chin on his hand he had hoped just to rest his eyes for a moment. Obviously he was more worn out than he had thought.

It had been a long day followed by a long night.  Now it was past one AM.   Many hours ago he had sent Jenny home.  With her absence and Danno's it made the office seem a little empty, and that was an emotional substance, not just a physical one he was missing.

He had taken what few HPD men he could siphon from the ranks to work on Dan's disappearance, but too few.  Security arrangements had been reorganized after the attempt on the ambassador, and there were no officers left to help find Williams. There were still no leads and not enough men to uncover any. It was incredibly frustrating to come to the untenable understanding that he alone could not find Dan, no matter how determined and resolute were his desires. Despite efforts and anxieties he could not find a trace of his second in command.

As usual the staff had rallied with extra hours and energy, but he felt as if they were climbing a shale-covered mountain. When they made a few steps of progress up, they would slide down three or four. Ben had brought in an evening newspaper, which had the whole story. There was no lead as to the source of the leak.

How he missed Danno's input now. This was just the type of think session where Williams excelled. He would play devil's advocate; Steve would bounce theories around, Dan would bat them back. Between them and the rest of the team they would weave together a case. And in those long nights when McGarrett would stay at an investigation with relentless determination, Dan would be there, too, sometimes just offering a listening ear.

This brainstorming session was subdued. Whether the others recognized the absence or not, McGarrett felt the whole proceeding was incomplete without Williams' input, without his unusual theories, without his quirky wit when he got too tired.

Chin had taken over the assassin investigation. Not much progress there, either, with the identity of the Oriental. With effort he pulled his attention back to Kelly.

"According to one of my cousins, he thinks the dental work is from Shanghai. He thinks he can prove that. He's gonna let me know."

A brief, tired grin appeared then vanished on McGarrett's face. "I don't know what we'd do without all your relatives, Chin," he commented dryly. Back to business he said, "So we've got a Chinese from Shanghai. What does that do for us?"

"The Communist Chinese?" Ben asked from the couch where he was stretched. It had been a long night for him as well. "Are they crazy enough to send one of their own for a hit on a Russian?"

It was exactly McGarrett's puzzled thought. The Chinese after the Russian. No evidence to back the theory, but his gut instinct McGarrett told him they were onto something. Something more than just a Chinese grudge against the Russians and Americans. There had to be a reason the Russian was being hit here in Hawaii and now.

With the thought of Chinese agents came the automatic codicil of the most dreaded Red Chinese operative of all: Wo Fat. McGarrett fought down a chill at the thought of the slimy Oriental nemesis. No evidence connected Wo Fat with this intrigue, but nothing discounted his involvement, either. Too early to tell either way, he silently concluded. How he wished Danno was here to help sort it all out.

"Passport of the hit man?" he asked.

"Phony," Chin replied.

Imbued with renewed energy, McGarrett stood and paced the floor, his fingers snapping crisply. "A Russian visiting American soil is hit by a Chinese agent," he said, more or less just stating his maturing theory aloud. "On the face of it it's a dumb idea." He spun around and looked at Ben. "Find out all you can about this Russian ambassador, Ben. Dig deep. Chin, you keep investigating this assassin. When you find out --"

There were two firm taps on the door and Duke Lukela entered. He stood in the open doorway and glanced briefly at Chin and Ben, then stared at McGarrett.

Inside Steve's chest it felt like his heart had just imploded. All too easily he could read the expression on the Hawaiian: gray face, red eyes, grave demeanor. He already knew what Duke had come to say. For the first time in his life McGarrett thought he would not have the courage to face this fear -- his ultimate fear he realized with crashing abruptness. The dread of death, never far away in his life, came most profoundly when it involved his closest friends -- friend.

Several frozen moments seemed to pass with agonizing slowness. McGarrett could not utter a word to ask for the information. Duke would have to initiate the awful news.

"A body washed up on Laie Point last evening," Duke explained. His voice cracked with grief. To his credit his stalwart brown eyes never deviated from McGarrett's gaze. "Sharks got to it -- but there was identification and --" his voice broke. He inhaled deeply and cleared his throat. " -- -- and a .22 --" Catching his breath, the words nearly caught in a sob. " -- and a badge . .  . ."  He couldn't go on.

McGarrett placed a hand on the desk and relied on the solid structure to support his trembling body. He forced himself not to react. This was what he had expected since yesterday, wasn't it? Shouldn't he have braced himself for this? No, nothing could prepare him for this stunning anguish which was smothering him so tight he felt dizzy and faint. Groping for any reference to pull him out of the blackness before he collapsed within the whirlpool of grief which would drown him. He could not give in to that now. He had to push it off until later. Now there were questions he had to know the answers to. Shoving aside the grief burning at the back of his eyes and throat and strangling his stomach, he struggled to speak.

"How --" His voice was so thick the word came out like a croak. He cleared his throat and tried again. Focusing on the desk, on his trembling fingers -- anything but what he had to hear. "How bad --" the tremors from his tone rippled through his body and he felt unwanted tears burning his eyes. Determined he would not break down in front of his guys he cleared his throat again and hit the question with harshness. "How bad was the shark attack?"

"Bad. Most of the body." Duke hesitated, as if trying to judge McGarrett's condition.

Chin stepped forward. "Steve, let us go down and check -- "

"NO!"

Stubbornly McGarrett shook his head. Danno was -- WAS -- his closest friend. He had to have the fortitude to get through an ID of the body.

"I'm going," he stated flatly and started for the door.

Lukela didn't budge. "Steve, I didn't finish," he blurted in an effort to stop the steam-rolling boss. "It's gonna be rough. Maybe you should let us handle this," he tempered, indicating the other detectives who gathered beside him in a formidable line of defense. It was a vain effort to save their leader from the duty sure to tear him apart.  "Please."

For the first time McGarrett glanced at his colleagues. Chin had tears in his eyes. Ben was more stoic, but his expression indicated he felt ill, angry and devastated all at once. It was too painful to see their reactions so he focused back on the sergeant.

"Give it to me," Steve raspily demanded with a tone which would accept no more hedging.

Sighing, reluctant, the words were delivered with grieving sadness.  "There's not much left of the corpse," Lukela explained, striving to regain his best police manner. It helped steady his voice. "The ID and gun are -- are -- there's no doubt." He hesitated again. When McGarrett said nothing he continued. "What's left of one of -- of the hand," he gulped, "it had police cuffs on the wrist."

McGarrett's stomach lurched and his entire body felt sick. He closed his eyes in a silent battle against the revulsion which was so powerful he literally reeled. Someone placed a steadying hand on his shoulder. It took all the inner power he had to push back the disgusted, agonized emotions from an explosive eruption. Instead, he took a breath and hung onto his only thread of false security.

The conclusion was obvious and revolting.  He tried not to think about the details, but they played in his mind like a film.  Someone had subdued Danno.  While bound with his own cuffs? -- completely helpless, possibly alive, they threw him to the sharks?

To erase the images he opened his eyes and stared at the unblinking Hawaiian. Duke's calm helped steady McGarrett's rampant nerves. Chin's hand clenched to his arm gave him a physical support desperately needed. It helped remind him not all was lost -- just the single most balanced, important element in his life.

"Can Doc give us a positive ID yet?"

The question seemed to surprise Lukela. "No. He and I -- we -- this is all preliminary.  I don't think he even started --"

"Then he better start now!" Steve ordered, his voice trembling. It was his only refuge to fall back on until there was nothing -- no doubt, no element of question -- left to fight. "I'll be at the morgue," he said, his tone now firm with resolve. He pushed past Lukela and rushed from the office.

*****

As he gazed over the meager, pathetic remnants on the table McGarrett felt his temporary resolve falter and nearly collapse. The leather case with the badge and card were Dan's. That was the item that he had checked first and it rocked him to the point of immobility.  Agonizing moments later he studied the .22 and could identify it as Dan's off-duty piece which he carried in a belt or ankle strap depending on his activities. The tattered patches of the white/blue flowered aloha material could belong to a shirt of Dan's -- it looked like his. These were achingly condemning artifacts. Still, for his own piece of mind, he could not admit -- absolutely -- that the mauled victim was Danno until Bergman gave him a positive ID. Then he would probably frazzle away into a basket case. He was trying to forestall that collapse as long as possible.

Doc Bergman performed the preliminary autopsy, such as it was, alone. Unable to stomach that gruesome act, McGarrett waited in the corridor. Taking Lukela and Bergman's advice he did not view the fragmentary remains of body parts. When he had discovered only partial limbs and other parts existed, he had passed on an inspection. Instead he paced, or pondered over the belongings, or leaned against the wall and mentally grasped for theories on why this had all happened and where it would end.

He had to keep his mind going or it would be mired in the morass of depression and grief, which he knew were perilously close. When he gave in to the emotions he did not know when he would come out again. He had never had a friend as close as Dan before. He had not lost anyone he loved this much since his mother died years ago. It was a terrifyingly lonely and shattering chasm he did not want to face. So mentally he tried to escape it by means of any route.

The door swung open and a somber Coroner stepped into the hall to join him. Bergman had been through a lot of miles with the Five-0 team. He was one of the extended members of the unit, like Che or Duke. The doctor's lined face reflected a fatigue and age Steve had not noted before.

Steve glanced at his own face reflected in the glass window of the door. He looked haggard, washed out, defeated. Like a man who had just lost his best friend.

Berman's eyes were red.  McGarrett clenched his fists to keep them from flying to his face -- to hide from what was coming next.  No!  He could not hear this!

The doctor slowly shook his head. "I don't know what to say," Steve," he admitted with a sad kindness familiar to mortuary attendants, coroners and cops. It wasn't a phrase or tone McGarrett was used to receiving, and it wrenched his heart with unexpected pain. "I just don't know."

McGarrett felt tears welling in his eyes. "Just tell --" the words caught in his swollen throat and he cleared it and forced himself to go on. " -- tell me the findings."

"Just preliminary, Steve, but I knew you'd want to know right away." Bergman hesitated. McGarrett gestured for the Coroner to continue. Sympathetically, Bergman said, "The body has been in the water too long to rely much on visual identification of skin tone, etc.. Blood type of the body is A -positive. Same as Danny's." His voice dropped and became even more gravelly than usual. "Considering  the articles found and the general initial findings . . . . "  He took another deep breath.  His voice was shaky and thick.  "I'm sorry, Steve.  Preliminary identification, I have to say, the victim was Danny."

The tears uncontrollably spilled out onto Steve's face. He allowed them to stream down without bothering to wipe them away. A mumbled word served as his grated thanks. He patted Bergman on the shoulder and staggered down the hall, a blind escape to anywhere as long as it was away from this place of devastation.

*****

By the time McGarrett walked back to the Palace grounds he had established a tenuous thread of control over his anguish. His face was hot, his eyes stung with the residue of tears, but he was no longer weeping. Inside he was shaky and weak, but felt he could maintain a show of strength at least long enough to face the guys.

The thought of seeing the detectives filled him with trepidation. He collapsed on the steps of the old bandstand on the lawn in front and to the side of the Palace. He sat there in the warm, early morning air for a time, striving to knit together the frayed nerves and emotions running through his system.

Ben and Chin would expect a report. They would expect to help. There was no doubt they were still in the office willing to offer their support to the leader who had just lost his right hand. And they were there because they needed the support as well. When a cop died the rest of the force banded together as one unit, forged solid through a common bond of need of comfort and need of justice, or vengeance. The attitude in the Palace would be a little more obsessive, fervent and sorrowful. They were a small, close group. They had not had anyone killed from their unit in a very long time; before Ben or Dan were part of the team. This was going to be hard on them all.

Taking a deep breath he was irritated at himself because he was still so unstable. The tears started again and he wiped them away with impatient swipes, anger at himself building.  He tried to think of others, think in the abstract -- doing anything he could to not even touch on the finality of this murder and how it would affect him long term. He was afraid to face the full impact, so he strove to avoid the brunt of the grief. It would work for now. There were other matters crowding his mind and he would thrust them all to the forefront ahead of this death.

One day, too soon, it would catch up to him. The ambassador would be gone, the murderers would be apprehended somehow, or not. And there would be nothing left for Steve McGarrett to face except the lonely pain of loss and a future full of anguish. Then it would slam into him like an tsunami and it would bury him.

Slowly he came to his feet and unsteadily walked the short distance to the Palace. When he entered the main office Chin, Ben and Duke stood frozen like a tragic tableau. No one knew what to do or how to react to his arrival. The naked pity in their faces, mingled with their own obvious grief was overwhelming. He felt himself washed in a wave of weakness. Gritting his teeth he walked through the office.

"I'm okay," he said to reassure them.

It was a raspy, total lie. They knew it but accepted it as truth because they all wanted to believe it. No one more than himself. Leading the way into his own office, he forced the grief and pain away with a familiar defense that could wash away -- at least temporarily -- the marrow-deep anguish. Anger. The hot rage bubbling inside could scald the agony for now. Steve would focus the wrath, twist the hate for the faceless murderers into detection and observance. He would find these animals and he would make them pay!

"We're going after -- them," he scraped, his words raw and grating. Pounding a fist on the desk as he walked by, he kept going, slamming open the lanai doors. Voice catching, he drew in a breath and hit his fist again, focusing on the physical violence and sharp pain in his hand. Anything but the ripped holes in his heart. "I will get them I promise you!"

Shaking, he turned around and leaned both arms onto the desk. "Ben, any updates on -- this -- case?"

"Duke's got something," Kokua reported hoarsely.

Steve turned his attention to the HPD sergeant. "What, Duke?"

The Hawaiian seemed more in control.  He had more time than the rest of them to accept the unacceptable.  He calmly reported, "Found a lady who was walking her dog the other night. Said she saw two men, both Oriental, in a white car parked across the street from Danny's condo. When she came back around ten-thirty the car was gone."

McGarrett paced the space alongside his desk. "Did she notice if the -- the Mustang was there?"

Duke shook his head. "She went to the elevators in the lobby."

Steve bit his lip to keep it from trembling. He wanted to run down there and question every resident of the condos -- do anything to find the savages who murdered his friend. He still could not understand why. Why snatch Dan out of the blue? Why take no credit for the kidnapping of a cop? Why -- kill -- him in such a violent and senseless manner? As if someone wanted to utterly destroy, obliterate Dan Williams and never let McGarrett understand the motives.

Again, the temptation to put all his energy and attention -- bitterly too late -- into finding Danno's killers. Once more, duty compelled him to see to the priorities of his office -- see to the living -- because now the best he could do for his friend was an empty show of vengeance instead of rescue. His choice. A regret he would live with the rest of his life.

Steve gulped down the sob, so close to the surface, now threatening to bubble over into uncontrollable grief. Not yet! he demanded of his shredded soul. He couldn't weaken -- not yet! First the cursed assignment. Then the justice of finding the murderers. Then the desolate mourning.

The others waited in strained silence. Aware they looked to him for leadership, for strength, he forced down the pain and self-pity. Concentrating on some reserve of inner resolve, he asked for updates on the ambassador's security.

"The ambassador?" Ben was incredulous. "Danny's been murdered!" Tears rolled down his cheeks and his words choked. "How can you ask about the Russian when --"

"Because it's our job!"

To emphasize the raw torment McGarrett swept files and books off his desk and onto the floor. His right hand smacked the wood with a resounding echo of finality. "Because it doesn't matter how much we hurt -- " a sob cracked his voice and he sharply inhaled, catching the grief from spilling out.

Closing his eyes he kept his head down, tightly fighting the burning in his eyes. Not yet! He couldn't break down yet! Get through these investigations. Catch the killers. Keep the ambassador safe. Do his duty because it was all he had left to inadequately fill a dismal future. Finish this case because it had been so important. Important enough to keep all the king's horses and all the king's men protecting a political enemy while his closest friend was kidnapped and murdered!

Clenching his teeth he forced back the audible moan that nearly escaped. He could deal with this. The state police were not going to fold up and collapse because of -- of -- this. He couldn't afford to even think -- to label the crime anymore. Not until he could get a grip on his emotions.

"What is the itinerary for the ambassador tomorrow?" he growled out slowly, enunciating every word.

"Today," Kelly quietly corrected. 

McGarrett didn't bother to glance at the clock.  Time meant nothing anymore.  It had been crucial for the vitally important schedule for the ambassador!  Time had been critical, obviously, hours ago when he was under an unknown deadline to find his friend.  And it had all been meaningless, he agonized.  Sometime last night, when he had been finishing up here at the office, or driving home, or even sleeping, his friend had been murdered and fed to --

"The ambassador is touring the university today," Kelly related, breaking his morbid train of thought.  "The Governor will not be with them. The Russians are still leaving on time tomorrow afternoon." Chin reported evenly. He paused, gauging his boss' reaction. McGarrett gave him a nod to continue and he did. "HPD has plainclothes men and snipers covering the route and the campus."

"I've been checking on our assassin," Ben said much slower than normal, as if forcing out the words. "No leads on the fingerprints, but the dental work and evidence of an operation all point to mainland China. His picture was circulated and we found his room at the Reef. He checked in the day before the ambassador arrived. His fingerprints are all over the place, but no belongings."

"Interesting," McGarrett commented huskily. He cleared his throat and put his mind on analysis, giving the outward appearance of acting like a cop. Keeping up the façade seemed to stabilize his emotions. "Somebody cleaned it out?"

"Yeah," Ben concurred. "We found a luggage tag under the bed. Must have been torn off a suitcase. United flight from Hong Kong the day before yesterday."

"It all fits," Steve agreed softly.

"Sure a lot of Orientals involved in this case," Chin commented to no one.

"You would notice," Ben returned with forced lightness. "You think Chinese were after Danny? What would they want to kill him for?"

Kelly shrugged. "Just wish it meant something. Like that call from the embassy."

McGarrett spun around and pinned Chin with a stare. "What call?"

"While you were at the morgue," the detective responded uncomfortably. "Just a crank call. We all had other things on our minds."

"What did they say?" McGarrett demanded.

Chin related that an anonymous call came and warned Five-0 to guard the ambassador well at the airport. The call was traced to the Chinese embassy. When Chin had called back he recognized the voice at the other end and tricked the man into identifying himself as an aide named Cheng.

Steve shook his head in silent confusion. He moved to the lanai doors and shoved them open. He leaned against the frame and stared out at the early morning traffic on King Street.  A faint tinge of a glow lightened the eastern sky. 

There were alarm bells blaring in the back of his brain. He knew his mind was too fatigued, too insulated with grief to function properly. He knew he could weave together the answer to this puzzle if only he could think.

If Dan were here he would bounce questions off McGarrett; wild, sometimes absurd inquiries that would spark fireworks inside McGarrett's head and the solution would pop out. Of course, if Dan were here he would not be so confused or preoccupied. Trying to get back to basics he asked himself what Dan would say if he were here.

"Why do the Chinese want to kill the Russian?" he asked aloud and in his mind he could hear the echo of Williams' voice. It was such a poignant image he drifted in renewed anguish momentarily and did not hear Duke's response.

"What?" he muttered, looking at the sergeant.

"Why kill the ambassador? To start world war three?"

"Or to embarrass the U.S.?" Ben suggested.

"Or kill Danno?" Steve finished with a dry, tight voice.

The other three detectives shook their heads showing they had no answers.

"Steve?" Doc Bergman edged into the office, knocking on the open door.

At the call McGarrett turned around. He steeled himself for the Coroner's report. He did not have to hear it now, knew he didn't have to do this personally, but he would. It was his duty to Dan. In his mind he knew once the Coroner's verdicts were in there was a sense of finality. Sometimes even more so than a funeral or a viewing of the body.

"What do you want, Doc?" he barely whispered, and in that instant knew he was not ready for this. No, he could not handle this now. It was too soon. This last, final piece of evidence would force him to face the cold reality of Danno's death and Steve could not take that step right now. "We're busy, Doc. I'm sure your -- you can wait." McGarrett stared at the desk, refusing to look at the ME. At the silence, McGarrett broke down and glanced up at the examiner.

A perplexed expression rippled across the experience-lined face of the doctor. "I think you should hear this, Steve."

"No!" he insisted around a clenched jaw.

Bergman blundered on, ignoring the directive. "My findings are weird, Steve. And I am going to leave you to draw the conclusions."

Suitably intrigued Steve tentatively invited him to continue.

"Because of the mangled condition of the body, fingerprints were very difficult," he began. "So were other identifying characteristics on the rest of the corpse."

McGarrett felt his blood drain away and as normally as he could make it appear he slipped into the chair behind his desk.

Bergman outlined that general build, skin tone, blood type and general appearance corresponded with Williams' physical make up. Parts of the limbs, head and parts of the torso were missing, thus making identification impossible for fingerprints. In the case of the head and lacerated hands, they were not severed by a shark bite, which was the case with the other injuries.  These body parts were removed pre-mortem -- before the victim died . . . .

Steve didn't hear the rest.  His entire concentration worked on keeping the revulsion and agony from exploding into bitter weeping.  Bergman was droning on about the partial hand without fingers . . . . Steve couldn't hear it, his head was spinning with dizzying pain.  Countless times he had seen the results of violence and hatred that humans could inflict on others.  It had never hit him so hard and so mercilessly.  He could not take this! This was his friend they were discussing!

" . . . a huge scar on the right forearm, and fractures of the right thigh and knee were not consistent with Dan's medical history."  A pause from the doctor.  "Steve?"

Sickening loathing rippled through his system as he listened to the report. He could not muse on the facts or the inconsistencies. All McGarrett could hear were the horrific details of how his friend had been torn to pieces until there was not enough left to identify as Williams. Burning tears haunted the back of his eyes and he willed them not to spill in an outward show of grief and shock. Control. He fought for control to stay the pressing anguish surrounding his heart. He could not surrender to emotions yet.

"Steve?" Someone was shaking his shoulder. Dazed, he looked at Chin for a very long time before it registered that the detective was calling his name.

"What?" he said with torpid lethargy.

"Steve did you hear my conclusion?"

McGarrett shook his head and slowly turned to look at the Coroner.

"With the evidence as it is I cannot certify an identification," Bergman announced.

"What-- what are you saying, Doc?"

"I can't be absolutely sure that corpse is Danny."

Steve shot back a derisive snort. He ticked off, sarcastically; "He has Danno's badge, gun, blood-type, clothing, build and handcuffs and you don't know if it's Danno?"

There was a ripple of hysteria in his voice. Even he recognized it. With a wave of dismissal he sped from the room and out onto the lanai. This was his refuge. The warm air and comforting mantle of fresh salty breeze would cloak him from the panic in his heart. He was losing control again, had already lost reason and logic. Before he completely unwound he had to step back and deductively evaluate Bergman's report through the clogged emotions of grief and rage.

What served as his lifeline was the realization that Bergman could not certify an ID. If there was that much doubt, then was the body really Danno's? The spark of irrational hope flared to blazing heat. He leaped on the thought with the passion of a desperate man. If there was any possibility Danno was still alive --

He returned to the office and had Bergman repeat the evidence. Dan had no such injuries to his arm, knee or leg. All the other evidence was circumstantial, except for the blood-type, which could be found in many other people.

"A ringer?" he unsteadily threw it out to the others.  "A substitute body for Danno, so they would think Danno was dead? Why?"  He would have to add that to the questions of why were Chinese men staked out by the condo? "Why was Danno taken? Why now?" 

"The only thing Danny's death has accomplished is making you miserable," Duke stated. "If somebody wanted to distract you they sure had an effective, unbelievable method, bruddah."

"They sure did," McGarrett agreed with resentment and regret. "There is a common thread in all those questions, gentlemen. The Chinese."  He paused to think. 

For the first time in two days he felt alive again. He felt like his mind was in motion and thinking. And for the first time in hours he felt there was some meaning to life again. As if a black curtain had been slit open and traces of light were filtering through. If Danno was alive then he would be able to tear that curtain down.

"Wo Fat." The name materialized in his mind like a genie out of thin air. "Who else could engineer such an elaborate plan to distract Five-0 so the ambassador could be assassinated on U.S. soil?" His voice became shaky. "What other cunning enemy would know Danno's disappearance or death would rattle me like nothing else would?"

"And the call from the embassy?"

"The Red Chinese working against Wo Fat. He's always had someone in his own country countering his actions." He could tell the guys were skeptical. If Dan were here there would have been instant acceptance by him and that would be all that mattered. Now, Steve ignored the skepticism. He clapped his hands together with excitement, thrilled with the resurgence of new hope, which electrified his system. "Then Danno has to be alive." It was more a hope than a reasonably theory, yet he pounced on it with an unbelievable passion. "Wo Fat wouldn't risk killing him until the ambassador is dead and that fat spy is off the island. Either way, Danno is dead tomorrow whatever happens to the ambassador."

Only scant hours until the ambassador left. In that time he had to find Dan and at the same time save the ambassador from another assassination attempt. Not impossible. Nothing was impossible now that he believed Danno was alive. The mental resurrection gave him his own kind of rebirth of faith and life.

*****

The muted sounds of traffic slowly filtered through his mind until he reached consciousness. He brought his head up off the desk and realized he had nodded off to sleep sometime in the pre-dawn hours of the morning. With a start McGarrett glanced at the clock. Eight-eighteen. Late by normal standards, but only a short time after he dozed off.

He stretched and moved to the doorframe. A patrol car was parked in front, an HPD officer strolled the back lanai, part of the upgraded security after Dan's abduction. McGarrett didn't like wasting the manpower, but the Governor insisted on the increased protection until the Wo Fat/Williams/Russian matter was behind them.  He had left the lanai doors open to bring in the fresh wind in an effort to stay awake. Obviously his fatigue had overridden the coffee and clean air and surrendered to the exhausted body's need for rest. He had relentlessly pushed himself for three days and had finally reached the endurance end of bad eating habits, little sleep, too much coffee and too much anxiety.

As he gazed out over the Palace grounds he felt as angry and frustrated as he had the day and night before.  Guarding the ambassador and Governor had been tedious but necessary.  they could not, completely, trust the anonymous informer and believe a hit would be attempted at the airport.  The call could have been wrong -- or misleading to take them off guard. Thinking Danno might still be alive had energized him.  Personally he had tracked down informants and slim leads until nearly midnight. Then he had returned to the office to reassess his strategy. Chin and Ben had filtered in just before one am. Steve had ordered the exhausted men to rest for a few hours, then they would go over last minute details of the motorcade to the airport.

An eerie reenactment of the plan of three days ago,' he thought bitterly. 'A different motorcade and different circumstances.'

For the hundredth time McGarrett reviewed the theory he had formed; questioned it's validity, questioned his options.

Convinced more on instinct and sixth sense than evidence and clues, McGarrett was sure Dan Williams had been kidnapped by Wo Fat. The abduction was a ploy to throw off the Five-0 team, and McGarrett personally, to allow the assassination of the ambassador.

Whether the tip from the embassy about a hit at the airport was true, McGarrett still felt there would be another attempt on the ambassador's life. During the night he had been in touch with his friends in intelligence circles. The ambassador and Wo Fat had apparently tangled before in the beginnings of the Berlin Wall event. Wo Fat had made this a personal vendetta -- in more ways than one. By bringing the conflict to Hawaii, by kidnapping Danno, Wo Fat was literally planning on killing two birds at once; striking at the Russian and McGarrett -- Wo Fat's long time adversaries -- in one ruthless move.

As usual, the Chinaman's convoluted plan was brilliant and evil in it's cold, efficient violence. There was nothing else which would distract or strike at the heart of McGarrett like kidnapping and killing Dan. It was far more effective than anything Wo Fat could do to McGarrett, or anyone else, personally. It was the only thing which would be enough of a distraction to keep McGarrett from holding the ambassador's safety uppermost in his mind.

Into the small hours of the morning he had mentally debated the issue. It was his duty to protect the ambassador and party, which would contain innocent people, including the Governor. So he had dutifully thrown his best men and support facilities into the security of the VIP's. Against his own desires, and probably Wo Fat's plan, he had spent very little manpower on the search for Williams. In contrast, Steve's mental energies had been nearly entirely devoted to finding Dan and held very little attention for the ambassador. Again, Wo Fat had won a checkmate there, frustrating McGarrett at every turn.

Finally, in his depressing moments, Steve had come to the bitter conclusion that there was almost nothing he could do to save Dan. There was no ransom demand or offer for a trade. Wo Fat knew better than to make such an offer. Even if McGarrett wanted to, they both knew he would never knowingly trade one life for another, even if the life he needed to save was Dan's. His choices were really nonexistent. Since he did not know where Dan was being held, or if Dan was still alive, he could not save his friend.

So he focused on doing his duty and saving the ambassador. However, what would be the ultimate price he would pay? If the ambassador lived, Dan would die, no question. If he slacked up, tried to find Dan and left holes in the security, the ambassador would die and they may never find Dan, who would die anyway. It was the greatest dilemma of McGarrett's life and there was nothing he could do to avert disaster. Helpless, he could only carry on with the plan and allow fate to take its course. The surrender, the senseless sacrifice made him sick, but there was nothing he could do now. Later, there would be a lifetime to regret and grieve.

*****

Against McGarrett's advise the Russian diplomats and the Governor had arranged for a closing ceremony of their visit at the airport. Security was unbelievably tight, but never airtight enough for McGarrett.

His walkie talkie cracked to life and he acknowledged the call from Chin.

"Got a hot one, Steve," the detective said with excitement. "I've spotted Mr. Chong."

McGarrett's heart raced. Chong. Wo Fat's henchman. Then his suspicions had been correct; Wo Fat was behind the assassination plot. It offered no satisfaction to know he was right. It meant the ambassador's life was in extreme peril even with all the security measures. Did it mean Chong was the key assassin, or was that too simple for the master spy Wo Fat?

"Dog him, Chin," was McGarrett's terse order. "But don't let him spot you. Where are you now?"

Chin gave his location at the entrance of the airport. McGarrett alerted other spotters laced throughout the complex. Duke reported he had an officer getting the description and plates of the car which had dropped off Chong.

From the VIP lounge McGarrett monitored the progress of the Chinese henchman as he slowly made his way closer to the terminal where McGarrett was watching over the ambassador.

Even now Steve wondered at his role here. Was it really vital HE be the one to guard the ambassador? He could be out there looking for Danno! Maybe he wouldn't make a difference, but at least he would be doing his best to save the life of his friend.

When all this was over he tried to project a bit of what he would think and feel. Of course it was abstract speculation. What could he feel but unforgivable guilt knowing he had done his duty, been the perfect cop, and allowed his closest friend to die?  He had somehow survived the other night when they all believed Danno's body was the one in the morgue.  What would he do when it was for real?  When he had not taken adequate steps to save his friend?

Ben called from the security x-ray machines and metal detectors. Chong was in line to come through the detectors and to the departure gates. Ben said he thought he spotted a suspicious bulge on Chong's hip. A moment passed and a confused Ben said Chong had come through the detector without setting off a warning.

"I'll call you right back, Steve," was the Samoan's comment. After a few tense moments, which McGarrett spent chewing his lip and pacing, Ben called back. "Did a little pickpocket trick, Steve," Kokua reported.

'I'll have to ask him about where he learned that,' was a fleeting thought before he asked, "What did you find out, Ben?"

"He's carrying a piece, Steve, with a silencer. An up close hit it looks like. And the weapon is plastic! That's how he got past the detectors! Do we nab him?"

Crowded thoughts raced through his brain. He had to both admire and detest the brilliance of his adversary. A plastic weapon! He was convinced Chong was the hit man. After all, Wo Fat did not know Steve knew about Chong. The tall, thin antithesis henchman of the short, stout Wo Fat, had been spotted on a few of Wo Fat's last visits, when Wo Fat did not know he had been targeted by McGarrett. So it looked like Chong was the front man. Was he to make the hit and somehow melt into the crowd? The details did not really matter. The important thing was they had their man and they could stop the assassination. A black weight crushed down on his soul. They could save the ambassador and kill Dan. What a great day's work!

Desperately McGarrett's mind flew through options -- anything to save him from an inevitable tragedy, which he had to avoid, but seemingly could not.

"No, Ben, not yet. The ambassador's safe as long as he's here in the lounge. Stay close to Chong. Stop him if he makes any moves."

Duke's voice broke in. "Steve, I've got an ID for you on the car Chong was driving."

Without interest McGarrett raised the talkie to his mouth. "Go ahead, Duke."

"It's rented. Address given is a beach house out at Kaena Point. Want me to take some men and check it out? It's a long shot, but maybe Danny's there."

Kaena Point. Where the Hawaiian's believe the souls of the dead departed this earth. Was it where Danno's soul would soon depart as well? No! He could not, would not, accept Dan's death! There had to be another answer. Even if it was an impossible long shot, he had to go for it. They had pulled off long shots before. For Dan's sake, for his own, he had to at least try for the one slim chance they had.

"Long shot hardly describes it, Duke," he said acidly. "We'll never have time --" He stopped in mid sentence. He had just thought of a plan so outrageous it would be more than a long shot. "Duke, get your men together and stand by."

He had taken long shots before, but never with the stakes so high on two sides. At one end the life of an international figure and his professional reputation was at stake. At the other end, far more personally important, was the life of his friend. IF Dan was at that beach house and IF he was still alive there was still a chance to bring this case to a happy close.

With a huge dose of luck and some good cop skills, maybe he could pull two rabbits out of two magic hats. Either way, he had a plan and he was going with it. And there was no hesitation which end of the spectrum would receive his personal attention.

He crossed the room to the Governor and made a few urgent explanations. Then he patched through to the Coast Guard and asked for and received a helicopter and personnel at his disposal. Barber's Point, the Coast Guard station, was close by and could provide the manpower and equipment needed on such short notice. He might need the air/sea support once they got to Kaena Point. To several of the plainclothes detectives in the room he detailed his plan. Then he radioed his staff, and Duke, and gave them the details. Within minutes he was racing out a side exit of the lounge. For the first time in days he was charged with the positive energy of excitement. No matter the outcome, he was committed to his goal; he was on his way to rescue Dan Williams!

*****

The low-flying Coast Guard chopper swung past the old abandoned sugar mill and curved toward the isolated area where the beach house was supposed to be located. The pilot called back that he spotted a plume of black smoke ahead.

Tensed, McGarrett looked out the huge bay door and located the small spot of fire, a house in flames, along the beach. With a dry mouth he made contact with Chin at the airport. No attempt yet on the ambassador. With a sinking heart McGarrett realized he had been wrong; Wo Fat had not needed Dan Williams alive until the ambassador was killed.

"Small craft just leaving the beach area," the pilot reported.

Through binoculars Duke, sitting next to McGarrett, tracked the boat and reported two Oriental men speeding away from the burning house.

"Shall we pursue?" the pilot asked.

"Yes," Steve ordered through a clenched jaw. "But drop me off here."

The pilot acknowledged with a salute.

"Maybe they've got Danny in the boat," Duke suggested.

McGarrett shook his head, dismissing the idea. What would be the point of keeping a prisoner who had outlived his usefulness?

"I'll come, too," Duke volunteered.

McGarrett gave a tight shake of his head in response. He did not want or need anyone with him now. He had to face this alone and let the terrible agony of the tragedy sink in. "Stay with the boat," he curtly ordered. It was all he could manage through the numb shock of his grief already seeping into his being.

The helicopter dropped him on the beach, then it veered away in chase of the boat. McGarrett trotted toward the house and came to a stop in the sand, close enough to feel the heat of the flames on his face.

He wasn't sure why he had come, but McGarrett knew he had to be here. There was nothing to do but watch the place burn down to the last ash. He had arrived too late to do any good. As he watched the fire he felt his whole frame tremble, the prelude of mourning sweeping across his consciousness.

A flash of movement blurred against the beige of the sand and the deeper blue of the sea. It was a familiar image; shimmery and intangible behind the heat waves of the fire. For a moment McGarrett truly believed it was a ghost. Instantly reason -- disbelieving, incredulous reason -- reasserted itself. He allowed himself to believe what he saw: a shirtless Dan Williams was alive and staggering toward him.

"Danno." It was an uncertain whisper. He wasn't even aware he had spoken aloud. He was even more surprised when a laugh gurgled in his throat; hysterical relief at seeing his friend alive. "Danno!" he yelled. In the next instant he was racing across the sand.

Williams offered a feeble wave. Black smudges of soot covered his face and hair.  The bruises and abrasions on his torso were starkly apparent in the bright sun. A streak of blood dribbled down the side of his neck, maybe from a cut on the head. Yet the weary but wry expression attested that the missing detective was well. He took several steps forward, then collapsed to his knees.

Only seconds later McGarrett reached Dan, knelt in the sand, wrapping arms around him before Williams fell face first into the sand. Apparently too worn to offer any verbal comment Williams simply patted McGarrett's shoulder. Too relieved and overcome with emotions to speak, McGarrett held onto his friend with a tight hug.

*****

The Coast Guard pilot radioed and reported the two fugitives in the boat were apprehended. The chopper was circling around to hold them until a boat could pick them up. After a long interval Steve acknowledged the message, then dropped the radio to the ground.

Some time passed before he asked, "Feel like getting back to civilization?" McGarrett's voice was shaky, in reaction to the emotions of the ordeal.

Williams, who leaned against the chief of Five-0, nodded. "How did you find me?"

"Long story," was the curt reply.

Right now he did not want to think of the last days through hell. McGarrett was too delighted and surprised with the present to veer into the past or the future. Dan's injuries attested to bad treatment while in captivity, and Steve did not want to think about that that right now, either.  It just washed him with livid helplessness.  He would much rather dwell on the tangible proof that his friend was here with him right now.  Dan was alive and back in one piece and that was more important than anything else at that moment.

*****

Not long after lift off the pilot passed back a head set for McGarrett. He listened to the message and had no more reaction than clenching his jaw several times.

"All right, Chin. Good work. The ambassador's safe, that was our objective." The tone indicated that was not entirely true. His expression lightened as he glanced at Dan and the flicker of a smile actually appeared. "Alive and well. Sure. See you at the office."

Dan didn't need a scorecard to interpret the one-sided conversation. "Wo Fat?" Dan asked in a loud voice, above the drone of the chopper blades. He was seated on the floor of the chopper bay, leaning against McGarrett. The detective was worn out but coming through the daze which had slowed his thoughts and actions since the explosion.

McGarrett shook his head. "He slipped away at the airport." He shifted slightly, checking the sterile wrapping he had pressed against a cut at the back of Williams' head. "How're you feeling?"

"A whopper of a headache," he responded. He motioned at the churning blades. "Doesn't help. So tell me the long story," he requested. For a moment he thought McGarrett would refuse, then the boss gave a slight nod.

McGarrett related the ambassador was safely off the island. Mr. Chong had attempted an assassination of the ambassador and it had failed. Chong escaped with the aid of a chunky, bald airport security man. An exchanged grimace confirmed Steve and he knew the identity of that phony security man.

"So Wo Fat escaped. Stalemate again," Dan said regretfully. "You're taking this well."

McGarrett shook his head in disagreement. "We'll get another crack at him. Besides," his eyes softened, "We beat him this time."

Dan just nodded, understanding the assessment.

"So, tell me your long story," McGarrett requested.

"Not much to tell," Dan began.

With some embarrassment he glossed over how he was unloading his car and was hit on the head and overpowered by several men. When he awoke he found he was imprisoned in a beach house. There had been threatening interviews with Wo Fat, and after each one he was surprised to still be alive.  At that comment, McGarrett's eyes crinkled in regret and pain and Dan backed off from the specifics.  This was not making things any easier on his friend.

"They even took all of my stuff," he changed the subject to lighten things up.  "Including one of my favorite shirts."

McGarrett's lip twitched and his expression was stormy.  "Wo Fat supplied a body we were supposed to think was you."  His tone was hoarse and low.

"Were you fooled?"

McGarrett paled and his voice was a bit shaky when he responded, "Close enough."

Dan sensed another story there, but would save his questions for a more appropriate time. He continued, relating he had overheard his captors planning on blowing the house to destroy the evidence and him! While they were busy clearing out, he pried loose the old wood on the window frame of his prison and leaped out the window. Just in time.

"Yeah," Steve agreed with a heartfelt sigh, "Just in time." He patted Dan on the shoulder. "Good to have you back in one piece, Danno."

Williams nodded. "Yeah. Check, but thankfully, no checkmate."

"What?"

"Wo Fat and his game of chess." At McGarrett's puzzled expression, Williams shook his head. "Later."

There had been some scary moments when he was sure he would never see another sunset. It had been a close brush with death. And it had never felt so good to be welcomed home again. He leaned his head back against McGarrett's arm, pushing thoughts of the trauma behind him and content to rest in the comfort of the present.

 


PAU

 

The deadly game between Wo Fat and McGarrett is not over…

Check out the SEQUEL to Check and Checkmate – POISON PAWN- on

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