CLOSE TO YOU

by

G M

 


April 1973

 

"Morning, Jenny."

The greeting was crisp, but pleasant, in McGarrett's usual brisk manner. He stopped at the secretary's desk for his mail and memos. Jenny and another girl were bent over the typewriter. A little surprised, he noted the new secretary with Miss Sherman, and abstractly realized they were both there earlier than him. He raised his eyebrows at the young and pretty girl with dark, long hair and exotic Island eyes. At least she wasn't what he would call stunning and thus provide too much of a distraction for his second-in-command.

"Morning. I'm Steve McGarrett." He held out his hand and she returned it with a solid shake.

"Suzette Apali. Good Morning, Mr. McGarrett. I'm helping out while Jenny's assistant is out sick."

Steve turned to Sherman for an explanation. Jenny finally turned around, her fingers black with ink from the typewriter ribbon. "The darn thing is stuck. Lani is out with the Asian flu, so Suzette is filling in from Manicote's office."

"Welcome," McGarrett smiled. Taking pity on his secretary, he nodded for her to move. "Here, let me see what I can do."

"Boss, you'll get dirty."

Someone behind them volunteered. "Better let me handle that."

McGarrett didn't even glance at Ben Kokua after the detective's offer. "It takes a light touch, Ben, I can handle it."

Jenny moved out of the way. "Well, I'll get the coffee going."

"And I brought some donuts," came a voice from the door. "Chang Li's donut shop was having a special this morning. Bought two dozen for the price of one." Chin crowded around the amazing sight of the head of Five-0 tackling a typewriter ribbon. "You're not going to break that, are you, Steve?"

Introductions were made all around between Ben Kokua, Chin Ho Kelly, and Suzette, and she helped distribute the morning java and treats. McGarrett asked after Chin Ho's progress on a stake out and the Chinese detective muttered something around a mouthful of donut.

McGarrett stopped work on the machine and glared at the officer, then at Kokua. Visibly getting control of his temper, he sighed. "We'll take it up in my office, gentlemen." He stood aside and gestured to the typewriter. "There, try it now."

"Thank you," Apali nodded, handing him a paper towel.

"Hey, Steve, taking up a sideline?" Dan smiled as he came up to the crowd. Eyeing Jenny's feet, he winked at her. "I like the casual look." Everyone followed his gaze to her nyloned feet.

"My new shoes hurt."

"Darn, I was hoping we were all going to get to relax." He focused on the new girl and introduced himself.

McGarrett interrupted a little too quickly. "Let's get started on the Mano case, shall we?"

"Sure." Williams offered a last smile to the girl, grabbed two coffees and two donuts and disappeared into McGarrett's office. Somehow he managed to close the door gently with a kick of his foot.

Suzette stood still, staring at the closed door, then sighed. Jenny smiled. "Don't get any ideas, Suzette. Danny is a deadly flirt, but he never dates any of the office girls."

"Oh, that's okay." A smile spread on her face. "I don't think I'd be interested in him."

 

*****

 

"How could you lose a three hundred pound Hawaiian?"

Amused, Danny gurgled into his coffee cup, but Chin and Ben were not amused at Steve's annoyance. They were as irritated with themselves -- probably more so -- than the boss.

"International Marketplace was jammed with tourists," Ben finally supplied when it was clear Chin was not about to say anything. "It won't happen again."

"I don't think we'll get another chance, gentlemen. Mano Kalawa was our best shot at nailing the money laundering operation! That's a whole month's worth of work wasted!"

Williams was licking jam off his finger and trying to contain an exploding donut while eating it. "Look at the bright side." He paused to chew the mouthful of food and the other detectives halted with him, strangely fascinated at what mysterious and profound comment the second-in-command was about to disclose from his jam-rimmed mouth. His tongue swept up the strawberry goo around his lips. "If we keep this case against the Japanese cartel open, we can keep up the stake-outs at that new Tokyo Buffet. It's got the best sushi in town."

That earned a scowl from McGarrett and a groan from Kelly.

"We could get another shot at it tonight." All looked at Ben for an explanation of the hopeful optimism. "The luau out at Paradise Harbor. Mano shows up there every few nights."

"All right, we might have one more chance," McGarrett sighed. "Danno, you handle things out there in plainclothes. Take the Mustang --"

"But it's our case," Chin countered.

McGarrett shook his head. "Mano must have made you guys after last night. Let Danno handle it this time." Pointedly he stared at his second-in-command. "Make sure you have some back up." To the others he ordered, "You two go back over Mano's contacts and see who else you can find to hassle. Mano's sleazy friends can't all be loyal."

 

*****

When Ben and Chin left McGarrett's office, the Oriental detective stopped to refresh his coffee. "We should be following Mano. Steve didn't have to give it to Danny."

"I know." Ben was more irritated than the senior cop. "Steve should have more faith in us."

The conversation trailed away as they disappeared into Ben's cubicle.

"What did they do?" Suzette wondered, shifting her gaze to study the closed door of the boss' office. .

Jenny shook her head. "Don't ask. Just do the paperwork and the phone calls," she sagely advised. "There's plenty of that to keep you busy. Never get involved."

Suzette sighed. "That would be very hard."

*****

"I think I've seen better luau food at Woolworth's."

Startled, Dan jolted away from his concentration of a line of hula dancers and stared as the head of Five-0 sank down on the beach mat next to Williams. Steve's aloha shirt was typically glaring in a bold pattern of green, black and teal flowers. He fit right in with the other loud shirts donned by the malihini.

The Paradise Harbor luau was a standard tourist affair with long low tables filled with stereotypical Hawaiian dishes such as kalua pig, poi, lomi-lomi, haupia and coconut cake. The entertainment was pretty mundane, too, including plenty of hula girls. Every few dances they would throw in an old standard like Lovely Hula Hands and arbitrarily pluck some farmer from Iowa out of the audience to dance. Then a few snappy numbers like flashy fire dances to liven things up, followed by another old favorite or two that the tourists could sing along with.

Word on the coconut wireless said Mano had a girlfriend in the review, but Dan had not seen Mano. He hoped none of the beautiful dancers had the bad taste to be dating the behemoth Hawaiian.

"Yeah, but the food and entertainment's not so bad for free."

McGarrett gave his colleague a disconcerted glare. "We're not supposed to accept favors, even from dependents of cops. I didn't know Ben's wife was working here."

"Yeah, she refused my money." Dan smiled. "Yours, too, huh?" Steve nodded. "I guess things are a little tight for a cop with three kids. Her family is half the band, she said, so she fills in sometimes." He dipped two fingers into a bowl of poi and ate for a moment.

"With such good connections you'd think Ben could have nabbed Mano by now."

Shaking his head, Dan let out a sigh. "Steve, it's been a tough case is all. We'll get the organization, don't worry." He pushed some of his meal toward the boss while he grabbed a plate with a generous square of coconut cake. "Here, it's not too bad."

In keeping with the "native authenticity" of the luau, McGarrett ate with his fingers. The dancers when through another routine with Sarah Kokua as the featured singer. A small, slight woman of charming beauty, her voice was stunning. The officers listened attentively as she went through some captivating Hawaiian music in her native language. The boss commented that she could probably be a local recording star if she chose to devote the time away from her family. That was, however, unlikely, since Ben's time was so consumed with his Five-0 life.

Steve scanned the crowd and the background workers. No sign of Mano -- and Mano would be easily spotted if he were here. McGarrett hated wasting valuable time and manpower, but was realistic enough to know that every day could not bring progress in every case. It was a tough bit of reality he never liked to admit.

At the end of the program they lingered by the beach, waiting to see if Mano would show up after the show. The band was breaking down the instruments and Sarah joined them at the back of the grassy area.

"I suppose you two are working," she guessed in a quiet voice, but her eyes twinkled. "Pretty good stake out, huh?"

McGarrett gave her a quick hug. "You were wonderful tonight, Sarah. It's always a joy to hear you sing."  She really did amaze him -- she had given birth to the third Kokua child only five weeks ago and already she was taking up part time work.

Dan suggested they have a Five-0 luau some time and book her as the main entertainment. Liking the idea, she said she'd bring along her family band and coax Ben into doing a fire dance.

"No, you're not serious," Dan scoffed as she walked them toward their cars.

"Just set the date and I'll prove it to you."

She bid them good night at the entrance to the grounds and Dan strolled with McGarrett through the parking lot. The younger officer suggested they stop at the mall on the way back. Ed & Dons had chocolate macadamia nut ice cream on special and he didn't want to pass up the sale. McGarrett declined, reminding the officer he didn't indulge too much in junk food, and the luau had exceeded his daily limit already.

Both stopped cold when they saw the front end of Steve's Mercury was smashed, the left front tire crunched by a curled bumper. Incensed, Steve got on the radio and muttered curses in between comments to HPD dispatch. Pacing and fuming while they waited for an officer and a tow truck, Dan let the boss vent his anger.

"Mano's crossed the line this time, Danno, and there's no going back now! No mercy! I'm going to nail him but good after this! This is a personal attack!"

They agreed there could be only one answer to this -- Mano had spotted them and in revenge creamed the police car. Dan's comment that he was glad Mano didn't know about the Mustang was met with a cold glare from his friend.

After a statement was given to a patrolman, Dan offered his boss a ride home. More determined than ever to get Mano and the mob, McGarrett dictated strategy on the short drive to his apartment on the Ala Wai. Settled down a bit, he invited Williams up for a cup of coffee and to refine their tactics.

As they paused for Steve to unlock the apartment door, a woman emerged from across the hall, nearly colliding with McGarrett.

"Oh, I'm sorry."

"No problem," he smiled.

Taller than Dan, the woman with shoulder length auburn hair swept off her face studied them -- Steve -- with glittering -- alluring -- hazel eyes. "I was hoping to make a better impression on my new neighbors. Hi, I'm Shelby Trent." In casual jeans and t-shirt she was very attractive. She shook hands.

"Steve McGarrett. This is my friend, Danny Williams. You've just moved in, I guess."

"Tonight after work I brought over the first boxes. I'm going down to get some more out of my car."

McGarrett smoothly pocketed the keys. "Please allow us to help." Without waiting for a reply he took her by the elbow and steered her toward the elevators. Dan sighed.

Steve leaned close to him. "Home field advantage, Danno. Forget it."

There was just no chance at all he could get anywhere with the stunning reddish haired woman now. McGarrett had already claimed his territory. To test the waters, and to be a good guy, Dan helped with two loads of boxes. By the time they stacked them in her small but nice ocean-view apartment, Dan felt like a third wheel. Shelby had eyes only for Steve and he returned the attraction. When Danno said aloha, that he'd pick up Steve in the morning, he doubted the boss heard him.

 

*****

When Dan knocked on McGarrett's door in the morning he half-expected to see Shelby Trent. When she emerged dressed in a natty business suit (way too formal and dark colored for Honolulu!) -- with a coffee cup in her hand, his suspicious mind was wryly triumphant. Steve moved fast. As fast as Dan would have.

"Morning, Shelby."

"Hi, Danny. Thanks again for the help last night." She threw a winning smile at her benefactor, who was shouldering into his jacket. "Steve was nice enough to fix me a cup of coffee since I can't find my coffee machine in that mess over there."

"Yeah, Steve's a very considerate guy," Dan winked at his boss.

McGarrett scowled.

"See you tonight maybe?" Ms Trent asked Steve. "I'd like to return the hospitality."

Dan almost teased about HIS reward, but thought better of it. Steve's mood hadn't been too good lately, and intruding on his friend's territory would insure a black mood for a while longer. Not willing to risk the Irish wrath focused in his direction, Williams just let the opportunity evaporate. There were a lot of other girls in Honolulu; he had no need to risk his health over this one. Besides, she was taller than him.

The morning sun, breeze and crisp air attested to another perfect day in paradise as they sailed through the early-morning, scant traffic. The younger detective wanted to know the details of breakfast -- and more? -- with the new neighbor, but Steve was too focused on the case. Williams pulled around the Palace to park in his usual space. On the Diamond Head side of the lot was a shiny red Shelby GT Mustang.

The second-in-command whistled. "Man, what a cherry set of wheels. Wonder who belongs to that?"

"You've already got a Mustang," Steve commented in an absent aside.

"Yeah, and I wouldn't trade it for a hard top any day of the week. But I can look, can't I?"

Shaking his head, McGarrett led the way up the steps.

Everything was in full swing already, or at least that was the impression received by the two men as they strode into the office. The big room smelled of coffee, cinnamon and something sweet. A huge bouquet of plumeria blossoms filled a vase on Jenny's desk. Suzette was there working on some files. She brightly greeted them with a warm smile.

"Good morning, Steve, Dan."

"Where's Jenny?" McGarrett wondered as he leafed through the memos first, then the mail. He gestured for Dan to grab some coffee.

"She's come down with that terrible Asian flu. I'm afraid you're stuck with me," she smiled again.

"I'm sure you'll do just fine." Steve managed a slight smile. "If you have any questions, be sure and ask. We can help you out."

"Thank you so much, Mr. McGarrett."

"Call me Steve, please, we all work together here."

McGarrett picked up the memos on the corner of the desk. Suzette moved to his side and explained a few of them, apologizing for her handwriting. Steve assured her it was neat, if a little small, but perfectly acceptable. A few of the messages were for Williams and he placed those aside on the desk and noticed a Pentax camera near the phone.

"A photographer, huh?"

"I thought I'd take some shots around the Palace during lunch, if you don't mind."

"Sounds great." He gestured to his associate. "Danno." Then strode into his office.

Williams grabbed two mugs of coffee and halted at the sight of the enormous cinnamon rolls in a pan on the coffee stand. Noting his interest, Suzette dished up two on some plates. "My tutu's recipe. I hope you like themA loud grumble from Dan's stomach concurred with his mental assessment. "If they're as good as they smell I may steal this whole pan. Thanks, Suzette, this is great." He gave her a wink and lowered his voice. "You're going to spoil us."

"I'll try."

He started into the office, then paused and turned around. "Hey, that's not your car in front, is it? The red Mustang?"

"It is. My pampered baby."

"What a hot car."

"Groovy, huh? My brother and I rebuilt it."

"No, really?"

"I love working on cars. My brother and I were quite a team. Till he moved to the mainland." She sighed and glanced toward McGarrett's office. "Steve reminds me a lot of Tim."

"What, a bear in the morning?" Dan joked. "Well, I know who to turn to if I need some advise on cars."

"Anytime. Is it okay where I parked? Did I take someone's spot?"

"No, it's fine." Darting a quick glance at McGarrett, Williams returned his attention to the girl. "I can see why you love that car. I own a Mustang convertible --"

"Danno!"

"Duty calls," he sighed. "Maybe we can talk cars later," he whispered with a wink.

Chin came in at that point and stopped Williams. "Is it true Steve's car was wrecked by Mano?"

The door closed behind the Chinese detective and Ms. Apali returned to her desk with a soft smile lingering on her lips.

 

*****

Hours later, after sending Kelly and Kokua back onto the streets, McGarrett was still upset. "And if we don't find Mano this case is over!"

Seated at the long table at the side of the room, Dan scanned rap sheets of known associates of Mano's, hoping to find a tidbit of information previously overlooked. "We'll get him, Steve."

The conversation between Five-0's top two officers stopped when a knock sounded at the door. Steve ordered the person to enter. Suzette came in with a basket of native fruits and macadamia nut candies.

"You have an admirer," she assessed and handed them to McGarrett.

Thanking the secretary, Steve read the note and smiled.

When his friend did not offer to volunteer the answers that Williams was yearning to know he took the note.

-- from Shelby

-- thanks for making the move a wonderful welcome --

 

Dan felt deflated.

Steve was triumphant. "I told you I had home field advantage."

"Yeah, I know, I was just hoping."

"Danno, you have no sympathy from me. You have more girls hanging off of you than you know what to do with. I prefer quality to quantity."

"Ouch."

"All right, now lets get back to work."

Chin, Ben and Duke came in at that moment. From their expressions McGarrett matched their scowls. "What's the bad news this time?"

"He gave us the slip again," Kelly admitted.

"This is the third time you've lost Mano, gentlemen! What is the problem?"

"Bad luck, Steve." Ben's excuse sounded as weak as his voice.

McGarrett paced, snapping his fingers, growling under his breath. "That's it! From here on out I'm taking over."

"Throwing us off the case?" Chin was insulted. "We can do this, boss."

"We can't afford it anymore, Chin. Mano has your patterns, your rhythms down; he's outfoxing you. I'm going to handle it."

Chin was muttering when he and Ben left the office. "We could have done it."

"Steve should have trusted us." Ben's tone was bitter.

 

*****

Williams emerged from the private office, closing the door behind him. He stopped at Kelly's office where the two other detectives were standing. "Hey, guys, I know it's tough but Steve is right." Trying to mediate and help both sides, it was not an easy spot to be in, but one Dan had occupied before. "He does have a point."

"Sure," Kelly admitted, but didn't sound convinced, and went immediately to his cubicle.

Duke Lukela from HPD was standing near the telex machine and wisely stayed out of the conflict. Kokua was a little more vocal, but finally retreated to his office. Dan shook his head and slipped into his own cubicle.

 

*****

 

It was nearly dark when McGarrett returned to his apartment from an excursion to one of Mano's favorite hangouts. Another worthless stakeout. Where could Mano be? How easy was it for a three hundred-pound gangster to hide on an island? Unlocking the door he paused, looking across the hall at Shelby's door. He was surprised when it opened and the stunning redhead emerged.

"Oh, Steve, hi! I was just running out to grab something to eat. Want to come?" She stepped closer. "We can order it to go and bring it back here."

The phone rang in his apartment. He was really tempted to take her up on the invitation. Her alluring eyes promised more than take out food. His conscience compelled him to respond to the still ringing phone.

"Hold on a minute, let me check this call." He answered the phone. "McGarrett."

"Steve, this is Duke. We've got a problem. Chin and Ben have been in an accident."

McGarrett drew in a breath and gripped tightly to the receiver. "How bad?"

"They're alive. At Leahi ER right now."

"I'm on my way. Call Danno."

"Will do."

McGarrett threw down the phone. "Sorry, honey, I'll have to take a rain check." He kissed her lightly on the cheek. "I'll be in touch."

When McGarrett arrived at the hospital Lukela was there to offer an update. The two injured Five-0 detectives were stable; both recovering from various injuries that would keep them hospitalized for a few days and off duty for the rest of week. Nothing too serious and nothing permanent. Both were under sedation, but Lukela had talked to a semi-conscious Kokua briefly.

"Something went wrong with the car," Duke reported. "Ben said Chin couldn't brake coming down the hill from Hawaii Kai. They couldn't slow down and went over the edge."

"HPD garage have the car?"

"Yeah."

McGarrett clobbered a fist into the nearest wall. "Mano. They were getting too close and he took them out." He hit the wall again. "When we find that fat Hawaiian he is going down for this. Not just money laundering now, this time attempted murder of police officers!"

 

*****

Steve was in and out of the office all the next day. Visiting his detectives in the hospital had been harrowing. Their injuries were not severe but would keep them out of action for a while. Since his last meeting with Kelly and Kokua had not been a happy one the boss felt guilty at how hard he had been on them. Compounding his culpability was the obvious fact that he and Danno were doing no better at finding Mano than the others had.

In the evening McGarrett slammed through the outer office at a march, his simmering expression reflecting his wrath. With barely a nod to Ms. Apali, he stopped at her desk. "Did Duke check in yet?"

"Yes, he's on his way." She was obviously just clearing up. "Do you want me to stay?"

"No, go on home, honey, you've stayed late enough." McGarrett turned to Williams' cubicle. The younger detective was on the phone and waved to his boss.

"Anything?"

Williams shook his head.

"That's not good enough, Danno!"

The office door slammed and Duke rushed in. "Steve, Mano surfaced."

McGarrett spun around. "Where?"

"Up at the North Shore. Little local hole in the wall called the Longboard Grill."

McGarrett was on his way to the door. "Who's on him now?"

Lukela exchanged a glance with Williams who had rushed out of his office. Then the Hawaiian turned back to the boss. "No one, Steve. The patrolmen lost him."

"What? How could you let that happen, Duke?"

The silence following the shout was broken when the office door opened and Shelby entered with an armload of food. She took in the frozen, livid faces and gave a smile. "Looks like I've interrupted something. Good." She walked over and took McGarrett's arm. "Time for a dinner break, Steve."

He disengaged. "Sorry, Shelby, I'm busy."

She gripped onto his arm again and tugged him toward his office. "This is yours, I can see by the sign on the door. And you're going to take a break and have a decent meal and good conversation. Everybody's got to eat, Steve."

Dan gave him a nod. "Go ahead, Steve, take a break. Duke and I'll run up to the North Shore."

Reluctantly McGarrett politely refused dinner with the woman. He issued another command for the officers to find Mano, and then he stalked into his office and slammed the door. Irritated, Shelby left without a word. The detectives quietly said goodnight to Suzette as she headed for the door.

"I blew it," Lukela sighed to Dan.

"Hey, Mano's a regular magician, Duke. The patrolmen weren't on the ball that's all. Can I hope that Yoshi was the one to screw up?"

Lukela laughed at the joke. Yoshi Nakamura was still hoping to take on a detective position at Five-0 and he was hoping for Williams' spot. "Nah. Yoshi's starting to look better than the rest of us."

Williams patted the older policeman on the shoulder. "Look, we're going to get Mano. He can't hide forever."

"That's not what Steve thinks."

In the parking lot Williams crossed to his Mustang. He was driving his own car to work and generously letting McGarrett use his LDT until the Mercury was fixed. Duke was already heading out the front drive in a patrol car. Dan was about to start the Ford's engine when a metal-crunching crash startled him. He looked up, appalled to see the HPD car had smashed into one of the stone pylons at the gate on King Street. Leaping over the door Williams ran toward the accident scene.

McGarrett heard the crunch from the open lanai doors in his office and was on his feet instantly. Hardly an instant passed before he assessed the events and raced out of the Palace.

Williams had pulled the dazed Lukela from the smashed blue and white and was holding onto the injured officer. McGarrett raced up to the scene, breathless and speechless. First he knelt by the Lukela.

"Duke, what happened?"

"No brakes." Holding his bleeding head he winced. "No brakes."

Williams stared at McGarrett. "Another hit."

"Mano," McGarrett snapped through clenched teeth.

 

*****

Accustomed to grueling endurance tests of long days and short nights, by two AM McGarrett, this time, was worn out. His eyes no longer focused on the print on the paper and he could hardly keep his head up. Sometime before he had checked on his officers, relieved Chin, Ben and Duke were all home from the hospital, all recovering. It would be a while before Chin and Duke, the least injured, could return to work. At least they were well enough to return.

Glancing across the room at the dozing Williams, he smirked at the sight of his detective's head propped on a hand. Stretching, McGarrett crossed the room and placed his hands on Dan's shoulders.

"Time to call it quits, Danno. It's been a helluva day."

"Yeah, okay." His voice dull and slurred with fatigue, he blinked to wake himself up. "Ready to go?"

"You want to get a cup of coffee so you can keep your eyes open long enough to make it home"?

Rubbing his face, Dan was more alert. He stared at his boss. "No. I'm driving you home." Before there could be a protest he charged on. "Look, Steve, Mano is out to get us. You're a big target, Steve, the boss man, and you could be next. I want you protected --"

"I do not need a bodyguard!"

The shout rang in the office. Williams came to his feet. "I'm driving you home. And I'm picking you up in the morning. Ten little indians. We're the only two left. Strength in numbers, Steve. We can protect each other."

McGarrett pushed aside the frustration and anger long enough to recognize the logic in the prudent suggestion. "All right. But we can't keep this up, Danno."

"Only till we get Mano."

"Okay," he reluctantly agreed.

 

*****

Restless nights were not uncommon for the head of Five-0. It was worse when the danger surrounded his friends. As usual, Steve wondered what he could have done to foresee, to prevent, the attack on Chin, Duke and Ben. In truth he had no idea Mano was so dangerous, so committed to taking out the cops chasing him. And wasn't that error his fault as well? He was the detective, the top dog of Five-0 -- he should have somehow stopped all this. If not avert than at least anticipate.

The doorbell rang and he finished knotting his tie. Danno was early. Throwing open the door, he was surprised to see Shelby standing there.

Her smile was bright. "Morning."

"Morning. You're up early," he noted, taking in her meticulous appearance. Office workers didn't have to be in till nine AM in her building. He tried, and failed, to manage a sincere smile. "Still need some coffee?" He was beyond pleasant civilities today.

"I -- uh -- well, I was going to return the favor. I found my coffee maker. But I see you're about to leave."

"Sorry, I don't have time. Again." Taking a breath he plunged in to make amends with his neighbor. "I'm sorry about the brush off --"

"You're forgiven," she insisted and leaned over to give him a sweet kiss on the cheek. "After I had my little pout I remembered what you told me about your work." She offered a sly smile. "And reading your name plastered on the front of every newspaper. You're a big shot around here, Mr. McGarrett. If I want to get to know my neighbor a little better I guess I'll just have to be patient." To emphasize her commitment she gave him a more affectionate kiss.

"That invitation for coffee still good?"

"Yeah, but expect to be interrupted. Danno'll be here any minute to get me."

"Your car isn't fixed yet?"

"Not yet."

Sirens blared outside. Automatically he tensed, wondering what was happening so close to his home. They sounded right outside. Grabbing his jacket, he paced out to the lanai. A blue and white was parked in the driveway of the apartment garage. He closed and locked the glass door, hurrying to the door.

"Sorry, honey, duty calls."

When he emerged from the lobby the commotion at parking level was in full swing. Two police cars and an ambulance were angled in the driveway. Rounding the steps to the street level, he stopped cold when he saw Dan Williams sitting on the curb, holding an ice pack to his head. The officer was the center of attention of the emergency personnel and McGarrett jogged over, sure his heart had missed a few beats.

"Danno!"

Williams looked up, winced and waved. "Hi, Steve." The greeting casual, belying the crisis. "Just a little traffic mishap, nothing serious."

Chilled, Steve crouched down by his officer. "How bad is it?"

"Nothing, really."

The ambulance attendant corrected the statement. The downed officer possibly sustained a light concussion, some scrapes and a lot of soreness. They had to get to the hospital to be sure there was nothing more serious.

"I'm fine," Williams insisted adamantly.

A bulky officer leaned over and addressed the injured detective. "Witnesses say da car you argued wit won, bruddah. You best be takin' a trip to da hospital."

Steve recognized the patrolman as Sergeant Puna, a cousin of Kono's. "What happened?" he asked, standing up and surveying the scene.

"Hit and run. When Danny got outta his car," he nodded across the side street where the Five-0 LTD was parked. "Den dis car came outta nowhere and clipped Danny, throw him onto the sidewalk. Lady in your apartment building seen it all and called us wikiwiki."

"Good thing." Steve knelt back down to be at eye level with his officer. Placing a gentle hand on Dan's shoulder, he was insistent. "You're going to the hospital, Danno. I'll check into this and come and get you in a little while." His face clouded as dark as his tone, his words. "Unless there's something more seriously wrong than a bump on the head."

The younger man seemed about to protest, met glares with McGarrett, and then gave a nod and a sigh. "Okay, but you better not forget me."

"Never," Steve promised. He helped Dan stand, shakily, and settle onto the stretcher the attendants insisted he stay on for the trip. "See you soon," McGarrett assured. As soon as the ambulance doors closed he turned on Puna. "I want a description of that car and every detail -- no, just give me the name of the lady, I'll go talk to her myself."

In his haste to leave he barreled into Shelby.

"Is there anything I can do, Steve?"

"Nothing, honey, just go to work. I'll talk to you later. Promise."

 

*****

By mid-afternoon McGarrett retrieved his second-in-command. They picked over a late lunch of Chinese food and sparred over the case.

"Something is going on, Steve."

"I agree. Besides the obvious hits on Five-0 officers, you mean?"

After Dan's release from the ER they went straight to the office after McGarrett was reluctantly assured Dan was feeling up to working.

"I think someone is out to get you, and they are taking out anyone who is close to you."

They kept saying Mano was responsible for the violence against the police unit, but Mano had never been more than a nuisance in the past. Why the personal attacks? He voiced his doubts and concerns to Steve.

With Steve's nerves frayed, he didn't think much of the theory and said so in blunt, caustic terms. "Someone else besides Mano? When he's our main target? You think it's someone from our past? We can check that out, but it will take manpower we don't have now and frankly I don't think that's what's happening."

Dan impatiently sighed. "Come on, Steve, what else could it be?" He leaned on the desk with both hands. "Someone is after you and is eliminating everyone around you one at a time. What happens at the end? You'll be last!"

Steve scoffed. "Why, what's the motive? No, Danno, this is plain old anti-cop sentiment from -- "

"Then why the attacks on everyone in Five-0? Someone with a grudge against the whole unit? Why not take you out first?"

"The first attack was against my car --"

"Your car! Not you personally. Why? Because someone is after you! They're stalking you!"

"I don't agree and I see no pattern here, Danno. I just see all my officers going down --"

"All I'm saying is that you need protection --"

"What I don't need is someone in my way while I work on this case!"

"Fine!" Dan spun around and slammed the door on his way out.

Williams fumed in his office for a few minutes, finally noticing Suzette staring at him, obviously upset. With a sigh he moved aching muscles and bones to join her in the main office.

"Look, you've happened to fall into a very stressful week, Suzette, but it's all going to work out fine. I'm sorry if all this strife upsets you."

"I realize you're doing important work. I'm just trying to stay out of the way."

'Good plan around here,' was his wry thought, but aloud he was more comforting. "We're all under stress. In a few days it will blow over. Don't blame Steve."

Suzette was trying to focus on her work. "No, I don't," she smiled.

"Good." Dan glanced at the closed door. "I think I'll finish my paperwork and let Steve cool down a little before I try talking to him again."

 

*****

Pushing the paper around with the eraser of his pencil, Dan stared at the objects unseeingly, envisioning only the taut scene recently played out in Steve's office. Tension permeated the Five-0 offices on a regular basis. Debates were common and arguments weren't rare, but were never too intense. Whenever McGarrett and Williams did heatedly clash it was like a solar flare -- short busts of fire -- then back to normal. One of them would contritely apologize, then the other, and they would go about solving the problem in a rational manner.

Dan was waiting for the normal now. With a sigh he knew there was no point in sitting passively and waiting for the mountain to come to Mohamed. Time to go back to Steve's office, calm the waters and -- diplomatically/tactfully -- stress that he was still passionately convinced Steve needed to protect himself from this unknown menace stalking him. If this were some trivial criminal matter it would be different -- Dan would back down and try other means to discuss the case with his friend. This time, however, Dan felt the danger was so personal to Steve, that he wasn't going to risk a precious life on the infamous McGarrett's Irish pride.

Pushing back from the desk Dan went to McGarrett's door and knocked. When he heard the cue to enter he went inside. Leaning against the lanai doorframe, McGarrett didn't look like he had been getting much work done either. Dan took up a position on the opposite wall of the lanai doorway.

"Ready for round two?"

Taken in the light vein intended, Steve flicked a ghost-smile at his friend. "No. Truce. We have enough to do without fighting each other, Danno. It seems ridiculous to battle a friend who's trying to save my life. Here, this is for you."

Stepping over to the long side table, McGarrett opened a rectangular box and pulled out a bulletproof vest.

"All right. You're finally taking this seriously."

Grave, subdued, McGarrett brought the heavy protective gear out and handed it to Williams. "For you, Danno. Your theory is probably right. Everyone around me is being hit, taken out of the action." His voice tightened. "You're the closest person to me and you might be next on someone's hit list."

Clearing his throat, Steve couldn't ease the tension knotting his chest. Unable to voice his fears aloud, he stopped short of relating the dread that coursed through his nerves. When his men were injured it cut him to pieces like nothing else in this dangerous profession.

Being methodically stalked and injured was gruesome and terrifying. It nearly unnerved him -- now accepting that he was some twisted maniac's target in some strange and dire game. What was unacceptable and more frightening was that the attacks on his friends and co-workers had been escalating in severity. No one had died. Yet. With Danno next on the list Steve couldn't contain the rampant foreboding coursing his system. He was determined to protect his friend, just as his friend was so determined to protect him.

"Me? Come on, Steve, you're --"

"No, you were right, Danno. The people surrounding me are going down like target practice figures. You were almost taken out earlier in front of my place. If this crazy is true to form, you will still be the next on his list."

The sandy eyebrows rose nearly to Dan's curly hair. "Ah -- I -- uh -- see what you mean." Face souring, he cleared his throat. "Yeah, doesn't look good to be your friend these days, does it?" The tone was forcibly light, but there was a cutting-edge resolve in the voice. "Guess I'll have to be on my guard."

An edge of impatience colored McGarrett's response. "Don't take this wrong, Danno, but this is not the time to be sticking close to me. I want you out of here. Go to the Big Island and visit Kono or something, but I want you to stay away --"

"Whoa." Williams straightened. "You're not kicking me out --"

"I am trying to save you from serious injury -- maybe worse!"

"No!" The denial was flat and resolute. "I'm not running away! If I'm gone then the field is wide open to take you out, Steve! I am not leaving --"

"I gave you an order --"

"An order?" Now their voices and tones had risen to intense shouting. "You want to make it an order - go ahead. I'm staying. After this is all over you can fire me if you want to --"

"Then I'll fire you now!"

The shout rang like a reverberating cannon shot through the room. Dan drew in a sharp breath. McGarrett shook with anger and intense determination.

Williams backed away, unable to find words to counter the abrupt closure. Expectantly he waited, obviously hoping for a contrite retraction of the rash, angry ultimatum. McGarrett did not say anything. Finally setting his expression into a tight mask, Dan turned and mutely left.

McGarrett leaned on his desk, trembling with emotions coursing from rage at the situation to guilt, to regret. Glancing up he noted the bulletproof vest sitting on the far table. Ripples of fear coursed across his spine so intently he sank into his chair and covered his face in his hands.

 

*****

Accomplishing nothing, Steve wondered why he stayed. Since Danno left he had not done anything of value and had mostly stared out the lanai, wondering what to do. Should he call Danno's apartment? Should he just go over there? His suggestion for his friend to leave had been pupule, born out of anxiety not reason. The Irish-temper created words of dismissal that were unforgivable. Then he let Danno leave without ever calling back the ridiculous order or the scathing, damaging banishment. Even worse than the emotional damage he had inflicted tonight, was the danger he had sent his friend into. The unseen attacker could be anywhere and Dan was a prime target. At least here at the Palace Steve could have felt Williams was under protection.

A knock at the door brought him to his feet. "Danno!"

The door opened and Suzette peered in. "Hi, Steve. Are you all right?"

The disappointment deepened and sharpened his tone. "Yes. Fine. Is Danno back?"

"No, he never came back." She sniffed with disdain. "Ms. Trent is here to see you."

The door opened wider and Shelby came in with two Styrofoam boxes. "Hi, I brought some dinner. Is it always this dark in here? How can you read?"

The secretary came in and deposited a mug of steaming coffee on the desk. "I'll be leaving now, Steve." She glanced at Shelby, then back at McGarrett. "Anything else I need to do?"

"No, thank you, Suzette, good-night."

"Good night."

Shelby moved some papers and placed the boxes on his desk. "Since you weren't coming back at a sane hour, I thought I'd bring dinner to you."

McGarrett picked up the boxes and handed them back. "Shelby, I'm sorry, but you can't stay. You've caught me at a very bad time and --"

"Well even important cops have to eat, don't they?"

Unfortunately, he wasn't in the mood for the company or the food or the girl. His life -- Five-0 -- was embroiled in a critical crisis and he could not, would not, take the time out for socializing.

"Sorry, I can't now. How about a rain check?" The tone was hardly encouraging.

"This is a rejection, isn't it? I'm coming on too strong?"

"No. I like your strong personality, Shelby, but --"

"But I'll get in the way of your macho cop games?"

His teeth ground together. "These are not games. My officers are getting hurt. I can't focus on anything else right now. Sorry."

"Me, too." Anger resonated in her voice, in her bearing. She put the boxes back on the desk. When she reached the door she hesitated, but did not turn, did not speak. Then she was gone.

McGarrett sank into his chair and swiveled back and forth, muttering, finally slamming his fist on the desk. The action jolted the coffee mug and a bit of java spilled onto the desk. Hurriedly he cleaned up before any papers were ruined. Sipping the black drink he slammed open the lanai doors and stared out at the tropical night with intense irritation.

 

*****

 

Pop. Pop. Pop.

The noises startled McGarrett. Instantly, instinctively, he reacted, pushing away from his desk and momentarily weaving unsteadily. Holding onto the desk for support, he shook his head to clear the fatigue that must have set in from long hours at the desk. He drew his revolver as he ran from the office. Three gun shots. Inside the Palace, he was certain. Racing through the office Dan's words of warning -- of speculation, of peril -- threaded through his memory. By the time he reached the door to the hall he stopped short.

The large upper landing of the old building was empty. From the outside lamps rippled yellow light filtered through the etched windows, shimmering on the shiny wood floor. The doorways and corners were pitch black. The staircase angled in shadow.

Had someone stumbled upon an intruder? Had an enemy ambushed someone? To his knowledge, he was the only one in the building. Who else could be here at this hour? The most obvious person came instantly to mind and with the reasonable identification came dread of what might have happened. Just what Steve had feared -- the last person in his circle of associates -- the closest person to him -- was now the most recent victim of the unknown assailant stalking McGarrett.

Nearly choked with dire anxiety, his voice strangled out a cry. "Danno?" He hoped there was no response. Or, perhaps, he hoped there was a clear, strong voice answering back, telling him all was well. "Danno?"

A grunt or groan -- faint and indistinct -- drifted up from the ground floor.

Cautiously, quietly, he crossed to the banister. Yellow street light cast eerie waves of illumination on the macabre scene. Looking down he stood motionless, transfixed by the horrific sight so far below. At the bottom of the staircase, Dan Williams' prone body -- head on the floor, legs on the steps -- covered the first few steps of the stairs. A pool of dark liquid spread onto the floor from his head and also covered the front of his shirt and open jacket.

"Danno!"

Heedless of any lurking danger, McGarrett ran down the steps several at a time, skidding to the side and falling next to the body at the ground floor. Precariously Dan's body lay on the steps, angled almost upside down, his head on the floor.

Dan was still. If he had been conscious at all he would have moved from the awkward and painful position, came McGarrett's ridiculously inane thought. Shaking off the shock, Steve called his friend's name several times, afraid to touch or move Williams. From the angle of the fall, Danno's back or neck could be seriously injured.

The thought of such damage sickened him. Paralyzed temporarily years before, it revolted him to think it might happen for real to his friend. If Danno was even alive. The chest didn't seem to be moving . . .

Hesitantly pressing his finger on the cool neck, Steve felt a pulse. Breathing a little easier, careful not to shift the unstable body, Steve delicately touched the upper chest and shoulder, the center of the heaviest bleeding. Blood spread from the light blue jacket to the floor soddening the sandy hair on the wooden slats. He didn't dare check for the extent of head injuries. Best to let the ambulance attendants put Williams on a backboard first.

Racing across the lobby he picked up the nearest phone and dialed the operator, demanding an ambulance and HPD units to the Palace. All the while he watched his friend, uncertain the chest was moving at all. Absently he noted Danno's .38 special lay on the floor a few feet away from the injured man.

Completing the call he slammed the phone down and raced back. Kneeling next to the body he checked the wound, gently pressing a handkerchief onto the shoulder -- which seemed to be the larger wound -- an exit wound. That made no sense. Unless the shooter stood on the steps, shooting down? What did that mean? That the gunman was someone Danno knew? Or someone still in the Palace? Should he investigate? Reluctant to leave the injured man alone, McGarrett felt he should stay with his friend until help arrived. Still, he warily watched the deep shadows of the main floor as he tended to Williams.

Pressing the shoulder elicited a moan from the victim. Dan's eyes flickered. Steve tentatively touched his shoulder.

"Don't move, Danno. You've been shot. Don't move."

Opening his eyes, Dan took a moment to focus on his friend. He licked his lips. "Brown -- eyed -- girl -- took -- gun --."

"A girl shot you? With your gun?

"The -- brown -- Shelby."

Steve couldn't believe it. "Shelby shot you?"

Slowly, Dan shook his head. Then his eyes closed and he drifted into unconsciousness again. The wail of sirens drew closer. McGarrett kept a hand on the wound as he pondered the delirious mutterings of his friend. Had Shelby been the attacker? Using Danno's own gun to shoot him down? How could a girl surprise a seasoned cop? But the girl was known as a friend. She could have come up behind him and hit him, or shoved him down the stairs. Then taken Danno's own revolver and shot him?

A noise at the back of the Palace alerted him. Drawing his gun he jumped to his feet and sank instantly to his knees again, overcome by dizziness. Confused at the strange reaction -- which he judged to be from the extreme emotional stress of the shooting, of the sustained menace to his people -- he took a moment to steady himself against the staircase. Feeling less than optimum, he ignored the muzziness in his head and focused on the immediate danger.

He rushed into the shelter of the staircase's shadows, inching his way toward the back doors. They were ajar. Cautiously he approached, scanning for an intruder. No sign of anyone. Stepping into the open of the clear floor space that spread from the back of the steps to the back doors, Steve held his breath. He reached the knob of the carved wood door with the etched-glass window. Flinging it open, the back steps of the Palace were empty. Suddenly he fell forward; realizing as his shoulder hit the concrete steps that someone had pushed him from behind.

 

*****

 

The headache throbbing in his head blanketed all thought for a few moments. Filtering into awareness other senses recorded a cold, rough surface under his cheek, the air was cold, musty, humid with smell of something burning. The sound of surf was a muffled yet nearby sound.

McGarrett blinked his eyes open until the room came into focus. A small room was dimly lit with subdued light from a tiny window high above his head. Slowly sitting up he rubbed his aching head, tenderly touching around the swollen knot. At least it wasn't bleeding, but it sure hurt. His vision now stabilized, he was guessing he had only a headache and not a concussion. No -- not just a headache -- a sickeningly familiar disorientation from drugs. He had been drugged!

His last conscious memories returned and with them the panic of knowing he had left his friend bleeding on the Palace floor. Staggering to his feet Steve went to the nearby metal door and grabbed the bar-handle. Locked, of course. He pounded a fist against the cold barrier.

"Open up! Let me out!"

A thin voice came from the other side. "I can't do that, Steve."

The unusual, high tone made him stop. He knew that voice. "Suzette?"

"Yes, Steve. You're safe now. Those evil men surrounding you can't hurt you now."

"Are you mad?" He rubbed his head. "Let me out! What is wrong with you?"

"I know you're upset now, but soon you'll sees I can protect you from the pain and hurt out there. Then you'll stay -- you'll never want to leave. I'll stay close to you. Take care of you."

Incredulous, amazed, he tried to sort out the strange facts through the headache and the sense of astonishment. "Suzette, just let me out."

Silence. How could that girl abduct him? He was heavier, taller -- then he thought about the well-toned muscles he'd noticed. He remembered the conversations she had with Danno about rebuilding cars and mechanics. And the drugs. She had drugged -- how -- his coffee of course. Just before she left the office she had given him a cup of coffee.

Obviously she was deceptively strong enough, and clever enough, to knock him out and bring him here. Maybe she had help? "Suzette, talk to me. Why are you doing this? What did I do to you?" No, she said she was protecting him. What did that mean? It was still hard to think clearly, but he knew there were even more pressing concerns than his imprisonment. What? "Suzette, I don't need protection, I need out of here!" So demands were not well taken by his insane captor. Frustrated, he fought to think clearly beyond the haze and pain, to something vital. "Suzette, what happened to Danno? Did you shoot him?"

"He made you angry. He was no longer your friend. After he betrayed you I had to get him out of the way."

McGarrett covered his face with his hands. "You hurt all of them? To protect me?" The realization made him sick. "What about Danno? How is he?"

"I shot him. I hope he's dead. He was just like all the others, Steve. At first I thought he was your only friend. Besides me, of course. But he turned on you, just like I was afraid he would. I had to kill him. You deserve the best, Steve. That's why I'm going to keep you here. I'll be the only one close to you. I promise I'll treat you better than anyone has in your whole life."

The pronouncement made him ill and he leaned back against the cool concrete wall and closed his eyes to hide the pain. For all he knew Danno could be dead. Williams had figured out who had shot him. The brown eyed girl with the Shelby Mustang. If Danno survived he would have told Chin, alerted them about Suzette. If not -- McGarrett didn't want to think about that. Even if Danno survived, and Chin knew who was responsible for the attacks, how would they find him? From the solid walls surrounding him he was obviously in some kind of a bunker. How would they ever trace him?

"Suzette, we have to talk."

"Not now, Steve, you're upset. I'll be back when you've calmed down."

Calm? He slammed his fist into the wall, wincing at the foolish display of frustration. Pacing, he struggled through the surprise and throbbing hurt, trying to get a handle on the incredulous situation. Unable to think clearly, he shifted to physical activity.

Steve could taste the salty brine of the sea in his mouth. He had to have been near the ocean for hours. The prison was one of three rooms he noted as he explored his new world. A bathroom, a narrow bedroom and a tiny alcove designed as a half-kitchen with a sink and hotplate and a few cupboards. This was like some kind of survival bunker, probably left over from WWII, when a few private residences and some businesses installed personal sized bomb shelters. He knew of very few, most were not common knowledge. What HE knew wasn't going to do a bit of good, however, since an ally on the other side needed to have that knowledge to gain his freedom.

Pacing, he snapped his fingers, nerves crawling with the anger and frustration of the confinement. Even if this was different from his months as a prisoner in Korea, he was still a prisoner and it was driving him crazy. Several times he shouted at his captor but received no more answers. He pounded on the concrete walls until his hands were raw.

Sliding down onto the cold floor he stared up at the window too high above him to see anything but a patch of blue sky. There had to be a way out. He couldn't rely on anyone from his office finding him. A knot caught in his throat. What he didn't want to think was that the one person who could figure it out hadn't lived long enough to tell anyone else. No, he wasn't going to believe that. Danno had to have survived.

*****

The minute Dan Williams opened his eyes he knew something more terrible than his shooting had occurred. Ben Kokua looked haunted. Had Steve been killed? Williams remembered being shot -- no -- hit -- he was hit in the back of the head, Dan remembered now. Someone had grabbed his gun from his holster! Then he remembered the punch of a bullet in his shoulder . . . .

"Where's Steve?" His stomach twisted with the thought of something fatal happening to his mentor. Of course it had. Dan was supposed to be the last of the defensive line, the one to stop the hazards to his friend. But he had failed and now Steve was dead. His hoarse voice grated out a choked misery. "Dead. He's dead."

"He's gone, not dead."

The unexpected news startled the grief out of him and Williams blinked. "What?"

"He called an ambulance for you last night, Danny. When the attendants and some HPD officers arrived you were the only one at the Palace."

The momentary confusion was swept away by devastation. "Then whoever was after him got him --" he sucked in a breath. "The Shelby!" he remembered.

Something -- someone -- had hit him in the back of the head -- then he was shot -- and he'd lost his balance, tumbling down the main stairs of the Palace. His last vision was the view through the open doors of the Palace. The red Shelby parked at the curb. When he was losing consciousness, down on the floor, a face had come into sight -- a pair of large brown eyes. Suzette's! The Shelby Mustang had been parked at the back steps of the Palace. Suzette -- with the big brown eyes -- had been leaning over him while he fought for consciousness.

Moving slightly, he winced at the familiar pain that came from injury. Gingerly touching his shoulder, he was thankful the medication numbed the brunt of the pain. At least he was alive. That might be more than he could say about Steve.

"Suzette has him," he said with finality. "Never mind how or why -- I'll explain it all later. Right now find out all you can about Suzette Apali. Put out an APB on her -- and her car. The cool Shelby Mustang. Find out where she lives. Maybe Jenny can help, they talked. Hustle, Ben. We may not have much time."

After the officer left, Dan slowly, carefully slipped out of bed, holding onto his bandaged left shoulder and slinged arm. Several times he faded in and out of consciousness until he was able to reach the closet. A hospital robe was the only thing there. His clothes had probably been thrown out -- too bloody and damaged to save. Damn, and he had really liked that light blue suit. There went another chunk of his income to replace more messed up clothes.

Dire emotions in check, Dan tried to think like a cop instead of a friend afraid for Steve's life. McGarrett was in serious danger and he was not sitting around to wait for others to find his friend. Williams was getting out of here and returning to the Palace.

Shuffling to the door, he was gratified to see Duke Lukela dutifully stationed outside. "Duke, you're taking me home so I can change, then you're going to be my driver for the day."

"Danny -- "

Grimly determined to see this through, Dan refused to give in to the pressing pain and faintness clouding his senses. "No arguments. Steve is in trouble and I'm not going to sit around here doing nothing!"

Lukela made a sour face. "It won't do him any good if you hurt yourself even more, Danny. From what I hear you took a real hard fall. Not to mention the bullet --"

"Then we won't mention it." His tone softened and he leaned against the wall. "We have to find him, Duke."

Lukela gave a reluctant nod and held onto Dan's right arm. "All right, then I'll keep an eye on you. But I'll warn you ahead of time, Steve is not going to be happy when he hears about this."

"Let's just hope he's in good enough condition to yell at me."

This gave Lukela pause. "You think it's that bad?"

Williams tried not to think the worst, but he was sure it played out on his face because Lukela's expression darkened. "I hope not," he whispered, "but we need to make sure we find him fast. No telling what she'll do to him."

 

*****

Just going through the ordeal of leaving the hospital and getting to his apartment was exhausting. Williams didn't know how McGarrett managed to bounce out of the hospital all the time. This hurt!

Dressing nearly sapped the little energy he had left, but Williams persisted. Steve was out there somewhere. With others checking for McGarrett, Williams did not feel like going back to the office. Maybe he should start with basics.

Chin found Suzette's apartment and was searching it now. Williams decided to go to McGarrett's. No one had thought to check there yet. If they did they hadn't informed him. Maybe this was a big mistake, his muddled mind pondered. Maybe Steve had gone -- gone somewhere? He rubbed his head, frustrated that he couldn't think through the painkillers. That was the bad part -- the good part being the painkillers were keeping him on his feet, kind of, so he could participate in the search for McGarrett. Williams knew if Steve was gone then it was bad. Mano had been after the Five-0 leader --

The thought froze in his tired head. Mano? They kept blaming Mano for this string of attacks, but the over-weight Hawaiian had never been anything more than a thug in the past. Where was this malevolence against Five-0 coming from? This was a personal attack. Had he said these things before? Was this old news? It seemed like a revelation to him, and he pushed it aside, hoping for more clarity as he meditated on the complexities. It was better than dwelling on what might have happened to Steve.

 

*****

Metal scraped on the other side of the door and Steve jumped to his feet. The door didn't open, but he sensed someone on the other side. Taking a breath to control his temper, he promised himself to try and remain reasonably calm. That seemed a better approach than aggression.

"Suzette?"

"Hi, Steve. Are you hungry yet?"

Good, she was talking, interested in his welfare. That was the whole point, wasn't it? Okay, time to put into practice some of his hostage negotiation techniques. He never would have guessed he would have to use them for himself. 

"No I'm fine. But I'd like it if you could stay and talk. Can you do that?"

"Oh. Of course, Steve."

"Tell me about yourself, Suzette."

"Oh, that would be too boring."

"I'd like to hear it."

Slowly, shyly, she talked about an unremarkable like growing up on the leeward coast of Oahu in a poor family. Her older brother seemed her protector, guardian and caretaker in lieu of parents too busy with work to spend much time with the two children. Obviously her brother had meant everything to her and when he joined the Navy and left she was devastated.

Reading between the lines, he understood that her dependence and affections had warped into an obsession. At a low point in her life he had stepped in, reminding her of her brother and showing her common courtesy that must have been lacking in her life. Such simple, unexpected actions on his part had set this whole horrible chain of events into motion. He compassionately tried to understand her, but it was hard to look beyond the fact that she had injured his detectives -- possibly killed Danno. And he had to sit here chatting with her like they were friends. How long did he have to maintain this ruse to gain her trust?

Grinding his teeth, he tried to appreciate how lucky he was that she hadn't killed off his entire staff. At least Jenny -- he gasped, realizing the secretary could have been the first victim.

"Did Jenny really have the flu, Suzette?"

"No. I gave her something to make her sick. How did you know?"

"I'm a detective, remember?"

"You're so smart, Steve. You deserve so much better than those people who fought with you."

He stifled the groaned in his throat. Those people she had injured because of him. And he was making friends with their assailant. Knowing patience was the only key he bit his lip and continued to play the game.

"Do you think you could do me a favor, Suzette?"

"Sure, Steve."

"There's no window in here and it's pretty stuffy and hot. Could you open this door?"

"No, I'm sorry, I can't." The tone was abruptly sharp and disturbed. "I have to go now."

"No wait!"

He heard the echoing of metal -- like someone climbing metal steps, then nothing. Pounding a fist against the concrete he cursed himself for his impatience. That was a dumb mistake, but he let his anxiety get the better of him and now he had lost a little of the trust he had gained. How long would he have to keep this up? Pacing, snapping his fingers, he plotted his next round of questions and strategies, vowing that this time he would hold onto his impulsive tongue and regain ground. She was vulnerable and he could use that, if only he took things slow and easy. Patience was all that was required and he could win her over. Too bad forbearance was not one of his best talents.

 

*****

 

"Why don't you wait here, Danny?"

Lukela indicated a set of rattan chairs by the elevator. Williams forced himself away from the support of the wall and steadied himself. "I'm fine, Duke, let's go."

They went to the end of the hall and Williams unlocked the door of McGarrett's apartment. Duke went in first and Dan followed, realizing in his condition he would not be able to handle any threat whatsoever. Something was wrong, though, he decided as he studied the apartment. He sat on a dining room chair while Duke searched. Nothing unusual, out of place or significant. What they had expected, but Dan had wanted to make sure.

On the way out he leaned against the wall while Lukela locked up. It took Williams a moment, but he realized he had noted something wrong. Not in Steve's apartment, but out here. The door to Shelby's apartment was slightly ajar. Straightening, he fought down the chills coursing his spine and with incredible, painful effort, he drew his revolver.

"Duke, this is where Shelby Trent lives. Steve's new neighbor." He leaned on the wall next to the door, motioning Lukela to knock.

The sergeant drew his gun and stood to the side, knocking firmly on the door and announcing himself as a police officer. Glancing at Dan during the silent pause, he knocked again. The motion pushed the door open wider. Cautiously he entered, Williams just behind. They stopped cold when they saw the sprawled body of a woman on the kitchen floor.

"Shelby," Dan whispered hoarsely, afraid of what they might find in another room. "Keep going."

He nearly held his breath as they searched the other rooms, finally sighing with relief when they did not find what they had both feared -- McGarrett's body. Williams leaned against the nearest wall while Duke checked the woman for a pulse.

"She's been dead a while."

"Phone it in."

"How do you think this figures in with Steve's disappearance?"

"Suzette. She's pushing out everyone surrounding Steve." He rubbed at his tired, sore head. "We've got to find him fast, Duke, before she decides she doesn't want him around either."

 

*****

The warrant impressed the landlord of Apali's apartment building. He hovered in the background as Chin and Ben searched the small, one-bedroom place in Pearl City. There were few scant belongings -- almost nothing to personalize the rooms. Until they reached the bedroom. Chin glanced behind the door and stopped.

"This is one crazy we got here."

Ben peered around and his eyes widened. "Wow."

Candid pictures of McGarrett were plastered all over the back of the door and the wall behind it. Chin studied them silently, assessing the deeper meaning while putting together the puzzling pieces of a bizarre case.

"She's obsessed with him. She followed him since she came to work for us. Maybe before."

"What do you think she did to Steve?"

"Don't know. Don't want to guess. I just think we need to find him wikiwiki." He glanced around the room. "Let's start checking for safe deposit boxes, cancelled checks, deeds, property -- anything that would give us a clue of where she might be."

 

*****

In a painkiller haze Dan observed the proceedings with detachment. He was propped up on the sofa in McGarrett's big office. The others were gathered around him in chairs, the lanai doors open to let in the morning breeze.

Chin took over the summation and addressed himself mostly to Ben and Duke. Williams was too far out of focus to contribute anything, but none of the others pressed their case for him to go home. He was following in McGarrett's footsteps in doggedly staying on the job when the mind and body no longer functioned properly. Kelly and Kokua were not in fighting condition themselves, but they were well enough to consider themselves fit for duty.

Jenny had insisted on coming in after the detectives had informed her of the emergency. She knew very little about Suzette, beyond the fact that she did her job well and didn't talk much about herself. She had, however, been very interested in Steve. That was no surprise, since McGarrett was the center of the universe in this office.

Ben covered the preliminary reports from the pathologist on Shelby Trent. Poison was probably the cause of death. Ingested, more than likely, from a cup of coffee. Chin suggested they check Jenny's blood-work from her doctor's office and see if she might have been poisoned, too. They all looked at Jenny, obviously relieved her illness had been a limited poison attack. It could have been so much worse -- as bad as Ms Trent's experience.

With a chagrined expression, Jenny waved a memo she had brought in with her. "I just took a message from Kono over on the Big Island. It's Mano. He ended up being arrested for Drunk and Disorderly."

All the detectives groaned in misery. The criminal who had led them on a wild goose chase, who had been blamed for the mayhem and taken their focus away from the true criminal, was sitting in Kono's jail! Danny muttered a few ripe comments, then offered a slurred apology to Jenny, and then seemed to drift into another world as his head dropped against the arm of the sofa.

"Do you think Steve is okay?" Jenny wondered anxiously, darting a glance at Williams, who now appeared to be unconscious. "She's crazy!" she whispered.

"There's method in her madness," Dan muttered tiredly. "She wants Steve to herself or something." He opened his eyes and squinted at the others. "Car. Check on the car. She can't handle it all herself."

Obviously sympathetic, the others exchanged glances when Dan closed his eyes again.

"I'll check on car places," Ben volunteered.

"What do we know about her personal life?" Duke asked.

Jenny responded with a few tidbits about Apali's brother, who was in the service somewhere on the mainland. The souped-up car and McGarrett had been her principal interests.

Chin waved a sheet of paper. "I have a safety deposit box to check. Duke, you can come with me." He glanced at the slumbering Williams, then to the secretary. "Are you staying?"

Jenny nodded she would, promising to handle things at the office and look after Danny.

 

*****

Various personal items were in the safety deposit box and Chin sorted through a small box of jewelry, some documents. Duke found the deed to a piece of property in her brother's name.

"Out by Diamond Head," Chin commented. "Isolated. Good place to work on cars."

"Or keep the head of Five-0?" Lukela wondered.

"Let's go check," Kelly suggested. "And let's take back-up."

 

*****

During captivity in Korea there had been a lot of mental and physical control that he had to master over his emotions and disposition. Always a take-control personality, he had gone through a lot of pain learning how to live under the grueling imprisonment.

This could hardly compare to the torture and mind-games inflicted upon him by the Communist North Koreans, but he was a prisoner all the same. Here, there was chance of manipulation of his captor, if only he could play her right. Unfortunately, earning her trust was painstaking and time-consuming. Two elements he didn't feel he had in his favor.

Two days elapsed in a routine of irritating sameness. Suzette visited him several times during the day -- bringing food supplies and water. Each time she lingered a bit longer than the last, allowed more personal details to slip out. The girl was hopelessly infatuated with him and he didn't take it well. He responded by striving to be sympathetic (while grinding his teeth), a good listener, and by yielding a few scant items of his own personal life.

Frequent requests to go outside and exercise had been refused. By the third morning McGarrett felt she was ready to be tested. He offered to make her some Navy-style coffee for breakfast, and she sat outside the cell door chatting, waiting for the brew to percolate. McGarrett went to the hot plate and poured out the steaming liquid into two mugs. Keeping his actions out of her view, he dropped one of the mugs onto the counter and yelped.

"AHH! My hand!" He quickly ran it under the cold tap water. "Ice! I need ice!"

"Oh no! Steve, I'll go get it!"

She dashed off and within a few minutes she returned with ice cubes held in her hands. As she reached him he turned around and grabbed her wrists in his unbreakable grasp. It took a few minutes for her to realize the elementary mistake and she looked at him as if he were the lowest form of creature on the planet.

"You tricked me, Steve."

It was not a look that could kill, rather, the suffering eyes of a being tormented, in unimaginable inner anguish. Despite his anger and frustration at her, he flinched with regret. He had been the target of hate, of vile plots, of degrading threats. Never had he been the recipient of such wounded betrayal.

Closing out his emotions he looked away and put his arm around her to lead her out of the cell. As if her inner structure was spineless and collapsed, she visibly shrank, her strength dissipated. He supported her, one strong fist still gripping her wrists, and they slowly walked up the stairs. He was surprised to find the upper house normal, clean, and sparse -- nothing of what he expected from a crazy.

The familiar and comforting sound of sirens echoed outside and Steve's mouth twitched with the hint of a smile as Chin, Duke and Ben raced out of their cars -- followed by three HPD men, and crashed in the front door. For a frozen moment all parties stood there, staring at each other. Then the law enforcement men put away their guns and gathered around the boss.

"How's Danno?" was his first question as he handed off custody of Suzette to Ben.

Chin smiled. "He's waiting at the office for word."

"At the office? He was shot!"

"He wouldn't stay in the hospital with you gone."

"We'll see about that." McGarrett crossed to the nearest patrol car and had dispatch contact the Palace. When Jenny answered he smiled, assured her he was fine and asked to talk to his second-in-command. "Danno?"

"Steve, are you okay?"

"Alive and kicking. I guess you can say the same?"

"Yeah, I'll be okay. What happened with Suzette?"

"She's going to need a lot of help." McGarrett watched the disoriented girl being led away by Chin and Duke. "Get some rest, Danno. I'll see you soon."

McGarrett replaced the mic.

"Hey, Steve, did you hear about Mano?"

In the crisis the all-important case had lost significance. He turned to Kelly. "No, what?"

"He was hiding out with a cousin on the Big Island. Landed in jail for Drunk and Disorderly. Some officers are escorting him back tonight."

McGarrett laughed. It was a half-hearted, confused chuckle encompassing the irony, the fatigue, and the sorrow he'd gone through for the last few days. "At least something good has happened for us." He watched the squad car drive away, Suzette's forlorn eyes staring at him until the car turned the corner. He fought down a shiver.

 

*****

He wasn't sure what compelled him to come here, but as he watched through the one-way glass, he felt it had been a mistake. Suzette was in a bare room being interviewed by a psychiatrist and being observed by several medical professionals. She seemed small despite her physical tone and fitness. Curled in the plain, wooden chair she looked vacant and vulnerable.

A person leaning toward self-doubt -- like Danno -- might feel guilty about taking the foundation out of her life. McGarrett felt relief, regret, and a little bit of sympathy now that it was all over. When he thought of the pain she had inflicted on his staff -- or about how close some of his closest friends came to dying -- he gritted his teeth and saw her in a completely different aspect. She was a killer. Demons had twisted her mental faculties into distorted fantasies with him in the center. And she had taken an innocent life through a deviant affection for him.

Shaking his head, he turned away, slowly walking out of the mental health wing of Queen's Hospital. More than her had sent a few of the patients here to these padded rooms. Suzette was the one he regretted most. He would probably never know what turned her from a normal person to one fixated within madness. And he would never know what he could have done to turn her obsession with him into something rational.

With a sigh he took the stairs up two flights to the regular wards. The next hospital patient would provide a much more pleasant visit. He smiled, knowing the first words out of Williams' mouth would be to ask if Steve was here to free him. Williams had been readmitted to the hospital when McGarrett returned -- the boss insisting his detective was not fit for duty. Who did Danno think he was checking himself out of the hospital and running around on duty when he was so injured?

Momentarily, he ruefully recognized some parallels he didn't like -- reminders of responsibilities in his capacity of leadership. More than one staff member had commented that Dan was "pulling-a-Steve" by working when he should be under medical care. One of several bad habits Williams had picked up from McGarrett.

How many other people watched him, copied him, and emulated him because of his reputation or personal dynamism? Until this week he thought that leading by example was a good trait. Pausing outside Danno's room, Steve made a mental note to watch his step a little more. He never knew who was keeping track of his life.

 

PAU