DEADLY CONSEQUENCES

 

By GM and Karen S

 

March 1976

 

Briskly crossing the main, first floor conference room of the Ilikai Hotel, McGarrett checked the podium, then the long dais table, then the audience in their chairs.  Everything seemed in order.  Usually a Senior’s In Politics meeting would never concern him, but the Governor was the guest speaker for this breakfast and Steve was doubly mindful of security.  First, because the Governor’s security was one of his main responsibilities as head of Five-0.  Secondly, there had been an assassination attempt on a Governor on the mainland last week and it acutely reminded Steve  of the dangers of public office.  Five-0 stepped up Jameson’s security since then and would for a while.

 

Duke Lukela entered on the far side of the room and gave him a curt nod.  That meant everything at the entrance was clear and ready to go.  HPD officers in plainclothes were scattered among the Honolulu elderly who still had a hand in the politics of the state.  Everything seemed calm.  McGarrett checked his watch.  Almost time for the Governor -- escorted by Chin Ho Kelly -- to arrive.

 

His walkie-talkie cracked to life and McGarrett responded.

 

“We’re coming in the driveway now,” Kelly reported.

 

“On my way.”

 

McGarrett hastily swept out the side of the conference room and over to the front of the lobby.  He keenly observed as Kelly and Jameson exited the car and came through the revolving glass doors of the hotel. 

 

Jameson, looking relaxed and happy, diverted to shake his hand.  “Everything okay, Steve?  You seem a little tense.  Afraid Sam Ookala is going to hit me with his cane?” he joked.

 

“Everything’s fine, Governor,” McGarrett replied without humor. 

 

He trailed along behind the head of state, warily watching the few tourists who paused to take in the dignitaries.  It didn’t help Steve’s nerves that they were one man short this morning.  Danno had called Malia and reported he was sick.  She said he sounded awful.

 

The sudden illness preoccupied Steve’s thoughts as he handled the details of the breakfast security.  Williams promised to show up, but McGarrett hadn’t seen him yet.  Maybe he took a turn for the worse?  Malia had warned all week the Hong Kong flu was going around and some people were hospitalized because it turned quickly into pneumonia.  Danno had seemed fine last night just before he went home.  Of course, Steve HAD been concentrating on several cases and this conference.  Had he missed clues that his top detective was falling ill?

 

As the Governor walked around the long table, Steve was surprised to note Williams enter through the back door not far away.  Steve’s eye for detail and his amazing memory for trivia kicked in automatically and he immediately noted instant oddities about his detective.  The dark brown sports jacket -- a coat he hadn’t seen Dan wear before.  Along with navy trousers.  Certainly not the officer’s usual style.  What was Danno thinking wearing more casual attire to a function with the Governor?  In the early days of Danno’s Five-0 employment, he had pushed the edge of the usual state police “uniform” of a conservative dark suit.  He had shown up with yellow or blue shirts and sports coats.  Like any other unfavorable habit, Steve had soon discouraged the pushing of the limits even in this minor infraction.

 

Steve could see, even at this distance, Williams was shaking, pale and sweating all at the same time.  As Steve moved closer, he noted a reddish welt/rash along Dan’s jaw.  What had happened?  Restraining the urge to attract his friend’s attention -- or to even pull him aside and ask about his health, Steve shifted back to focus on the Governor.  It would only take a few moments for him to get things settled.  Then he would probably have to order his detective to go see a doctor.

 

Unsteadily, Williams made his way toward the Governor.  As he watched Dan’s wobbly gait, Steve grew nervous and moved to intercept from the opposite end of the room.  This was not according to their plan at all.  Had Williams forgotten their briefing from the previous night?  The last thing he needed was one of his officers getting the Governor sick.  He picked up his pace.

 

Several of the elderly men and women crowded around Jameson.  Dan forcibly pushed one man out of the way.  Incredulous, Steve was amazed at this abnormal behavior and stared at his detective, trying to get his attention.  Danno seemed to be purposely ignoring him.  Still a quarter of the room away, Steve noted Dan’s right hand slip under his jacket as if to draw his revolver.

 

The familiar motion jarred Steve’s instincts to an instant red alert.  Danger.  He grabbed for his revolver, keeping it out of the holster, but under his jacket as he quickly scanned the room for the threat that Williams obviously saw.  Steve observed nothing unusual.  Certainly a threatening stranger would stand out in this crowd of old people!  What was Danno alerted at?  Wide-eyed, sweating, jittery, Williams was the only one reacting.  No other officer seemed aware of a threat.  And Williams was not looking at anyone but Jameson!

 

Clumsily, Williams’ .38 came free.  Dan pointed it with a trembling aim at Jameson.  Then, backing away, shaking and pale, he pulled the trigger.

 

The report was muffled by the general conversations in the big room and the bullet hit harmlessly into the wall.  Slowly, a few of the close spectators looked around in confusion.  McGarrett was still frantically scanning the room for the source of danger -- particularly around Jameson.  Then Williams fired again and in the quieting area the shot seemed loud, accentuated by the cry of the Governor as he stumbled into the wall.  Enough spectators around the table realized what was going on the same instant McGarrett witnessed the unbelievable act.  Chin caught Jameson and shielded him as the wounded politician slid to the floor.

 

Williams seemed horrified -- backed to the glass door leading to the lanai -- but raised his arm again to fire once more at his target.  

 

“Danno!”

 

The cry was ignored by Williams, who almost instantly fired again, but the shot was high and ploughed into the wall.  He aimed again.

 

What was he doing?  McGarrett could not even think through the shock and bewilderment.  “No!” McGarrett warned, his revolver unwaveringly aimed at his friend in a warning.  “Don’t!”

 

Again, Williams loosed another shot, this one again missing the Governor and Chin and furrowing into a table.  From the corner of his eye, McGarrett noted other officers arriving.  They were going to kill Danno!  They had no idea what was going on!  Neither did he in these milliseconds of horror. 

 

“What are you doing?”

 

From periphery vision and hearing, Steve was aware of the panic in the room; the elderly guests screaming in confusion and terror.  Many older people and hotel employees were cowering in fright.  Some were shoved to the floor and protected by policemen or other, more cogent spectators – shielding the stunned, disbelieving onlookers in the room.

 

He had to do something to save Jameson AND his wayward officer.  Steve fired a warning shot over Williams’ head, but the action did not phase the gunman.  Williams aimed again at Jameson.

 

McGarrett acted without thinking it all through; aiming his revolver high and to the right on the body, then firing, in one motion.  Without comprehension, without conscious awareness of what had just happened -- what he did in response -- he pulled the trigger.  The Governor was in danger and, doing his job, he reacted the only way possible by shooting the would-be assassin.

 

The bullet struck Williams in the chest and the impact pushed him through the glass door and out onto the lanai.  Staggering to his feet, he left the fallen revolver and made a grab for the railing.

 

Stunned beyond action, McGarrett finally threw a glance at Jameson.  Chin had the Governor on his feet and moving toward the exit.  Duke and several HPD uniformed men were running toward him.  The primary responsibility was taken care of by others. 

 

Still shocked and dazed with disbelief, Steve turned back to watch a wounded, bleeding Williams crawl/stumble to the lanai wall.  His face and hands were dripping red from lacerations caused by the broken glass.  As if with his last bit of strength, he gripped onto the railing.

 

“Danno!” he croaked out in a hoarse scream. ‘What was going on?  He’s going to break his neck!’ And the thought made him wonder what was happening.  Escape?  Flight?  Death before capture?  It was all insane!  He couldn’t comprehend any of it.  “Danno!”

 

Teetering against the wall, Williams stared at him -- the first time in this whole episode they had made eye contact.  The look of utter pain from his friend swept through McGarrett like a ghost-wind.  He had never seen such hopelessness, such anguish in a human being.  It transformed the shooter from the man he knew so well to a wounded, distorted reflection of a terrified victim.

 

Dan struggled to the top of the railing.  The insane action catapulted McGarrett forward to the lanai.  Moving like a zombie, Steve ran outside just as Williams edged himself to the rim.  Unable to logically recognize the theory of what his friend was about to do, McGarrett moved instinctively, lunging across the lanai.  He grabbed onto the pocket of Dan’s brown jacket just as Williams pushed himself over. 

 

Staring down at the pavement on the street one floor below, he audibly gasped as he stared at the still form of his detective.  Dan’s body was twisted in awkward angles like a rag doll that had been carelessly thrown aside.  In Steve’s hand, he gripped the pocket torn from Williams’ coat -- the pathetic physical evidence of his failed attempt to save his friend.

 

Duke came up alongside and groaned, speaking quietly in Hawaiian and English -- disjointed, incoherent thoughts that came out in garbled words.  Steve couldn’t understand it -- as if his brain no longer functioned on the same level as it had before.  Shock nullified everything, insulating him from every emotional, rational thought, every logical connection.

 

Below, several HPD men ran up to the prone body.  Jarred into an automatic response, Steve spun around and jogged over the broken glass on the lanai and dashed inside.  He kept rushing through the shaken crowd of onlookers and was too dazed, too urgently committed to pause, to stop, to explain or ponder the blurred reality that he could not possibly have just lived through.  The walking nightmare that resulted in him shooting down Dan Williams.

 

Black, terrifying horror trickled into his system as he raced down the steps to the street.  Body cold, nerves trembling from the inside out; his mind numb, but starting to shudder at the disgust of what he had done.  The edges of his awareness singed with pain and perplexed anguish.  Steve could still not wholly confront the devastating events of the last several minutes.

 

Slamming onto the asphalt at a run, Steve saw HPD men crouched by the body.  When he approached, they parted.  The astonishment that was hardly a shadow of Steve’s emotions was apparent on their faces.  He ignored them and stared at the victim.  Once they were out of the way, he got his first, clear, close look at the body.  Steve’s feet, brain and heart stopped.  A reflective gasp finally coughed out of his tight lungs, yet he was still frozen in place.

 

Dan looked dead.  The face, pale, the body still, the brown suit splashed with red.  A pool of blood spread from beneath his back and head; seeped from his chest and mouth.  Obliquely, Steve noted then that he was still alive since he was still bleeding.

 

Lukela bumped him on the arm, as if silently urging him to go forward.  Steve could not move.  HE had shot Danno. HE had sent him to death’s door.  HE had no right to claim any part in this moment.  Should he even be here?  It seemed obscene to be standing next to his friend -- the person all of these men knew was his friend -- whom he had shot!

 

One officer crouched next to Williams, holding a hand to the bleeding chest wound.

 

Edging past him, Lukela knelt down and touched Williams’ neck.  His face was grim and he kept his hand there for a moment before slowly coming to his feet.  Duke did not look at McGarrett.

 

Someone in the crowd reported, “Ambulance is on the way.”

 

“He’s still alive?” one of the HPD men asked, amazement clear in his tone. 

 

“What happened?  Did he get shot saving the Governor?”

 

“You’ll hear all about it later,” Duke snapped tersely.  “Just clear the area for the ambulance.”  Still not looking at McGarrett, he quietly spoke to him.  “Steve, let me drive you back to the Palace.”

 

All McGarrett could do was stare at Williams.  He could not respond, could not speak.  He was aware of the looks, the whispers, the comments behind his back.  Steve felt Lukela next to him, heard the quiet urgings of his old friend trying to protect him. 

 

His mind was working turgidly, laboriously going through thinking processes that were mired in surreal detachment.  He was trying to save Danno from others. The bullet was supposed to hit Danno in the arm!  Danno must have moved.  How could this happen?  Why did he ever fire?  Couldn’t there have been another way to stop the shooting?  Suffering with incomprehensible chaos, Steve still didn’t understand any of what had happened.  It should have been a wounding shot to the arm! Not the chest!  Once he pulled the trigger he had no control over the bullet, but how could Fate be so cruel?

 

He just lived through the actions on an instinctive level and now lived through the aftermath on a conscious level, but emotions dulled by alarm insulated him from really being able to think any of it all through to a logical plane.  The world -- his world -- had just tilted and crashed and he was at a complete loss to deal with it.

 

In a more all-inclusive sense he felt the warm Hawaiian sun on his skin, felt the sweat bead on his face while underneath he chilled.  The bright reflection of light off the rippling water of the marina made his eyes ache.  Delicate wisps of breeze ruffled his hair and brought faint traces of the rank odor of blood.  Mesmerized, he continued to stare at Williams.  Barely discernable was shallow movement from the injured chest.  Over the other sounds of the officers, cars, boats, people, planes, he imagined the labored wheeze of air struggling in and out of damaged lungs.

 

Knees too weak to sustain his quivering body, he collapsed to the ground.  Only a few feet away -- he could not reach out to touch his friend.  Again, he felt and desired a separation that was completely alien to his feelings for Danno.  Under other circumstances, he would be trying to save this precious life.  He would be desperately pleading for help and demanding action.  He would be holding onto Danno and begging his friend to not die.  Now, Steve was unable to do any of those instinctive actions.  As if he had no right.  How could he have any rights here?  He had shot his friend.

 

Steve sat on his heels, strangled inside by acute agony.  In the back of his mind, he played back the necessity of his actions.  Danno had shot the Governor.  Had it really happened?  It seemed a distant spectre, a wispy fantasy that could not possibly be true.  It tilted all reason and history to think it possible.  Yet, if that had not happened, then this action -- shooting his friend -- would not have happened.  So all of it was as real as the blazing Hawaiian sun; the ebb and flow of the tide, the dark red blood spilling from the still body.

 

Now painful to breath because of the ache circulating through him, Steve coughed out a moan of uncontainable anguish.  The name he needed to speak choked in his clogged throat.  The name pounding in his head over and over in pleas, in blocked desperation, in an agonized litany as droning as the constant surf.  He could not say the name.  It could not be uttered by the person who pulled the trigger.

 

Someone grabbed onto his shoulders and Steve recognized Duke’s voice urging him to move.  Along with the wail of a siren, reality slowly reasserted itself.  Literally, on the sidelines, Steve watched as they loaded the still bleeding, broken body of his officer into the ambulance.  He pushed inside, sitting on a side seat, watching as the medics did what they could in the quick trip to the hospital.  He thought they might be asking him questions, but it all sounded like mumbled clatter. 

 

At the hospital, he watched the gurney disappear into the emergency ER and he trudged to the nearest wall to lean against it.  This was a familiar post and he felt a strange kind of connection with the routine.  Waiting at the hospital.  Grimly awaiting word whether his friend would live or die.  This time it was so tragically different.  And for the first time he wondered what would happen if his friend did not live?

 

 

*****

 

 

“ . . . . eve?” His shoulder was jolted and McGarrett looked up from his concentrated study of the floor tile to stare at Chin Ho.  “Steve?”

 

McGarrett could only nod. 

 

“The Governor is going to be fine.  Just a graze along his upper shoulder.  Fortunately for him it was a bad shot.”

 

The comment seemed ridiculous when considering the source -- the shooter.  Danno was the best on the team.  If he meant to kill the Governor, he would have.  Why did he wound the Governor?  The quirky thought gave him pause and for the first time in this whacked and tilted-world-gone-mad he felt he had some kind of anchor to grasp in this sea of chaos.  What was Danno trying to do?

 

“Steve, whatever was going on with Danny, you had no choice.”  Chin’s voice was unusually grave. 

 

McGarrett felt light-headed -- dizzy and queasy.  “I shot Danno,” he whispered, voice quaking, barely a breath away from a sob.  “I --“ he shook his head, unable to articulate the pandemonium of his emotions, fears, desperation and memories.

 

Duke came up to join them.  “You saved the Governor’s life.”

 

“Did I?” he whispered hoarsely.  “What did I do?  What did Danno know that we didn’t?”

 

Lukela and Kelly exchanged woefully sad expressions.  Pitiful glances.  It was obvious they thought he was deranged.  That was trivial compared to his new thought.  Danno had to have a reason for his actions.  Then what -- what had Steve done?  Shot his friend when Danno was trying to shoot someone who was after Jameson?   Maybe?  And Jameson suddenly moved and caught Dan’s bullet by mistake.  Then Danno was going to fire again at the threat that only he saw -- and Steve mistook it for an assassination attempt.  The jolting theory made him gasp and his trembling body started to slide down to the floor. 

 

Kelly and Duke helped him to a nearby chair.  Elbows on knees, he dropped his face in his hands.  What had he done?  Had he saved the Governor or shot the Governor’s protector?  The possibilities made him numb with horror.  Not sure he had ever stopped shaking, he leaned back against the wall, gripping his arms to stave off the cold generated from as deep as the marrow.

 

“Maybe you should see a doctor,” Chin quietly suggested.

 

That surged enough irritated indignation into his system that McGarrett stared at him.  Realizing he had completely lost control of his emotions, he reached somewhere within the buried depths of his soul and pulled out enough grit to get through this.  He was not going to fall apart.  How could he?  Danno was going to make it through this and explain everything and justify all his actions.  He did not intend to kill Jameson.  Then why did he flee over the lanai railing?  That was the act of a guilty assassin.  No, there had to be an explanation.  Danno would give it to him.  After he explained how he could possibly shoot Danno . . . .

 

Well, that would be another hurdle.  Right now, he was convinced Williams knew something he did not.  Danno had not betrayed him or his trust or the oath of Five-0.  Everything was going to be okay.

 

“I’m fine,” he tightly, angrily retorted.  The rage helped.  The idea that he needed to be sedated was enough to push him back into a semblance of normalcy.  Centered, now, he focused on more of his responsibilities.  “How’s the Governor?”

 

Duke and Chin exchanged looks again.  What did that mean?  They were acting as if he were mad -- insane!

 

“He’s going to be fine,” Lukela responded slowly.  “He’s under guard.” 

 

He gave another look to Kelly that Steve could not read.  These two were not as easy to read as Danno always was.  He wasn’t going to bother trying to interpret their silent messages now.  He suddenly had a quest.

 

“Find out who was around the Governor.  There must have been someone threatening him.  Danno saw something that we didn’t.”  The idea that there was a reason for all this made it easier to bear.  That he would not include personal betrayal to this day’s events made him carry the illusion that he could get through it all.

 

“Steve, there were only members of the Senior’s committee.  They were the only ones up there.  I cleared them,” Chin reminded.  “Elderly community leaders.  People we know --“

 

“And we don’t know Danno?” he lashed out sharply.  “There had to be a reason!” 

 

He gulped in a ragged breath and leaned back, closing his eyes.  What made him think he could possibly regain control enough to converse or even think?  He had just shot his friend.  What did motivations or justifications mean now?  Slipping into an ever-gripping abyss of despair, he felt the blackness smother him like a pall.  The past, the future, none of it mattered any more in this moment of pain.

 

“I meant to wing him,” he confessed to no one in particular.

 

“I’m sure you did,” Chin quietly responded. 

 

The vivid memory of Danno’s body on the pavement; the blood, the bright sun, were seared inside his eyelids.  He couldn’t escape from the end result of what he had done.  Reaching in his pocket, he fingered the material from Dan’s coat.  The symbol of his defeat.  He opened his eyes and stared at the floor again, grasping for any wild theory he could imagine that would capture his thoughts and spare him from reliving the most horrific actions in his life.

 

As always, he leaned on duty and responsibility to see him through this.  “Duke, you handle the details at the Ilikai.  Chin, you stick to the Governor like poi.  There must be something going on.  Something Danno knew about that we didn’t.  Why didn’t I let him explain?”

 

Lukela crouched down beside him.  “Steve, he shot the Governor --“

 

“I don’t believe that!”

 

“We saw it,” Chin confirmed quietly.

 

“Go,” he breathed out with effort.  “Just -- go.”

 

Obviously, his men were having trouble with this.  So was he.  But they were on different levels this time.  Couldn’t they see beyond the surface?  He couldn’t quite see himself, but he knew there was a reason.  Why did he shoot?  Couldn’t he have stopped Danno?  Run over there?  Why didn’t he think to shield the Governor himself?

 

Miserable, he sunk his head into his hands and ran fingers through his hair.  It was all so insane.  He couldn’t understand it.  Neither would any of Danno’s friends or family.  With a gulp, he realized he would have to explain this to them.  The faceless ohana of Kulanis.  The no longer faceless and anonymous Aunt Clara on the East Coast.  How was he going to tell them what he had done?

 

A nurse caught up with him and gave him an article bag.  Through the transparent container, Steve could see the contents.  Dan’s revolver, of course, had been take in as evidence at the scene of the shootings.  Closing out the rest of the horrific world, McGarrett stared at the items in the bag.   His muddled mind fought to connect with logic -- struggled to free itself of the morass of grief and shock and think like a cop again.  Something was wrong here.   Blood-stained holster for the .38.

 

Blinking, McGarrett stared, more confused than ever.  There had to be more personal affects.  This could not be all.  It was -- nothing.  Where was Danno’s watch?  He owned a very distinctive watch with a wide, silver band.  A watch Steve had given him.  It was gone.  More jarring, there was no wallet or pocket change.  No Five-0 badge/ID.  And no car keys or apartment keys.

 

“Is this all?” he whispered in a daze.

 

“That’s all, sir,” the nurse confirmed, startling him. 

 

He hadn’t realized he had spoken his doubts aloud.  This didn’t make sense.  Another strange element to add to the growing list of inexplicable, terrible mysteries plaguing him with this impossible crime.

 

He tucked the bag into his jacket pocket and returned to staring at the floor, wishing the bland smudge of hospital tile would wash away the painful red ache throbbing through his senses.  Trying valiantly, he could not interest himself in the trivial inconsistencies of the missing personal belongs.  All he could think about was the moment he pulled the trigger and shot Dan Williams.

 

 

*****

 

A form crouched at his knee was a blur of white and flesh-tone.  Blinking, he focused on Doc Bergman.  The craggily lined face was more grave than usual and Steve steeled himself for bad news.

 

“Steve, I’ve talked to Fujikara, the head surgeon here.  He’s been working on the Governor.  Jameson will be fine.  Hardly more than a flesh wound.”

 

McGarrett nodded.  He had barely thought about the Governor at all.

 

“I’ve also checked in on the ER surgery,” he reported in his gravely voice.  “Danny’s in bad shape, Steve.”

 

Too afraid to ask, the Five-0 chief just nodded.

 

“He’s in recovery now.  I doubt if he’ll regain consciousness --“

 

“Save him,” McGarrett desperately ordered, his voice cracking with anguish.  “You have to save him.”

 

Bergman’s face seemed grey in the lighting of the corridor.  “You need to get in there,” he responded somberly. He took a breath, slowly exhaled, then shook his head.  As if he was unable to decide on what to say.

 

As much as he desired it, McGarrett could not look away, or close his eyes, or beg not to hear the dire news the Coroner brought with him.  The Coroner.  He had dreaded this and now the moment was here and Bergman was about to speak to him in the capacity of his job description.  Denial and protest rippled in his brain and he could not make the anguished feelings surface.

 

Bergman cleared his throat and moved to sit in the chair next to the head of Five-0.  “There’s nothing that can be done, Steve.  The bleeding couldn’t be stopped.  The internal injuries were too extensive.  I’m sorry.  So very sorry to tell you this.”

 

McGarrett’s eyes burned.  Dreaded words he hoped never to hear.  A message he always feared, but imagined he could avoid.  Nothing was going to happen to Danno.  He was too good.  Too fast.  Too talented. He was McGarrett’s closest friend.  Nothing could happen to him.  Not like this.  Especially not like this.

 

“No . . . .”

 

Bergman patted McGarrett shoulder and stood, holding onto Steve’s arm.  “The surgeons did everything they could.  It’s too late.  I’m sorry.  I just hope you get the maniac that did this.”

 

McGarrett blurted out a sob, then caught himself and pressed his lips together.  Like a zombie, too stunned to function on anything more than a surface level, he came unsteadily to his feet.  Bergman led him through the hospital to a recovery room, then left him alone.

 

He had been through this before with Danno, but never had he seen his friend so pale and death-like. The glass-cuts on the face made the familiar features seem strangely macabre, accentuating the wan condition and bizarre series of events.  A garish reminder of the inexplicable violence and pain, both inward and outward. 

 

The shock he had been floating through for what seemed like hours now spiked with anger.  This was such a tragic waste!  There was always a cause for the crime -- a reason for the aberrant behavior that pushed a criminal over the edge.  What had it been for Danno?  What could make his best friend betray him?  Yes, this was more than just shooting Jameson, more than an assassination attempt.  This was a stab in the back to Steve McGarrett!  All the theories and excuses fled and only fury remained.  This was as personal as it could get -- both for the shooting and the reasons behind it, and the aftermath through which Steve now barely functioned.

 

Trembling, McGarrett took a tentative step closer.  “How could you?” he hotly asked between clenched teeth.  “This can’t be the end!  It can’t end like this!  I meant to stop you.”  He caught his thready breath.  “I didn’t want to hurt you!”  Voice shaking as much as his body, he shivered with an oncoming flood of devastation.  “You moved -- it was only a shoulder shot!”  Sobs shuddered through his body.  “How could you do this?”  The blame helped shove the guilt away and bring the rage back to the surface.  “Why?”

 

The labored lungs in the wounded body wheezed and it was more of an irritation than a comforting sign of life.  McGarrett shoved a chair out of the way, flinging it against the wall, and stood by the bedside.  Looking down on the wax-like face he knew so well, he felt only a supreme hurt.

 

“How could you make me do this?  Why didn’t you tell me what was going on?  I would have done anything . . . .”  He could no longer speak, the sobs crowding his throat clogged out everything but the shallowest breathing.

 

He did not expect an answer, but when Danno’s eyelids slowly opened, Steve gasped.

 

“No -- choice --“

 

It was a raspy whisper.  The blue eyes weren’t even focused on him.  It didn’t even sound like his friend, but the words iced Steve with confusion.  Nothing made sense.  Especially Danno’s incomprehensible response to his rantings.  There was so much he wanted to say.  Questions needed answering and this great mystery of Danno’s betrayal was at the top of the list. 

 

“Why?” Steve wondered, more of a snuffle than a word.

 

Bergman had indicated Danno was dying.  A fear Steve had relived numerous times in his nightmares.  A near-miss several times in his career.  A possibility he ran from, a dreaded event he hoped never to face.  Not with any of his guys, but especially not Danno.

 

Now here he was, staring down at his friend who might not even be able to see or hear him.  He wanted to reach out and take his friend -- his brother -- in his arms and beg him not to leave.  Whatever had happened they could solve it.  He just needed Dan to live.

 

The semi-opened eyes were filled with a pain as deep as when they had faced off against each other on the lanai.  Unfathomable betrayal and hurt.  As if Steve had personally destroyed him.  Steve didn’t understand. He did know he would take that look to his grave -- the silent condemnation that he was a murderer.  And it utterly devastated him.

 

“Sorry -- didn’t want -- hurt -- him --“

 

Didn’t want to hurt?  The Governor?  You shot him! he mentally screamed.  As with everything else in the inexplicable nightmare, this did not make sense.  It was important.  They both knew these words were the confession of a dying man.  Still, Steve had yet to comprehend that his friend was dying.  He couldn’t accept that this was the end.  He was not ready to let go. How could he even consider that Danno would die like this -- a bullet from Steve’s revolver!!  Shot down by his friend!  This could not be happening!

 

Why did it have to be such a miserable puzzle?  Why couldn’t Danno just tell him why this had happened and what was going on?  In the years of their relationship Williams freely expressed his thoughts and opinions to McGarrett.  The younger detective was known for honesty and blunt reason, never one to conceal his emotions, particularly from his boss. 

 

So these pain-wracked, final words meant something monumental and Steve could not understand their significance.  He couldn’t understand any of this.  Clouded by grief and pain, he fought to break through his own torture to grasp these vital clues laid at his feet at such an agonizing cost.

 

Steve could hardly think, move or breathe, but he managed to trudge out a strangled croak.  “Why?”  This he had to know.  Above all else, this was most important to him.

 

Williams shook his head.  “No -- thing -- to lose -- sorry --“

 

It didn’t help.  What would?  “What do you mean?” he demanded through a hoarse whisper. 

 

Williams’ body jerked with sudden, violent convulsions.  Steve jumped back in horror.  As he watched, the chest stilled and the lungs silenced as the body flopped in the throes of agony, replaced immediately by the harsh shrill of the EKG flatline.

 

Gasping, Steve was frozen with shock.  He reached out to touch Dan’s wrist, but he was shoved aside by a team of doctors and nurses who rushed in and swept him aside.  Leaning against the wall, he watched as they tried to revive the injured man.  He winced when he saw the evidence of the gunshot wound and the subsequent surgery to save him.

 

Bergman materialized again and took him by the arm, but he refused to leave -- anchored to the spot.  Nausea rippled through his stomach and throat as he began to realize the consequences of his actions.  He had drilled a .38 slug into his friend’s chest and killed him.

 

When the doctor ordered the team to stop and they put away the equipment, McGarrett tried again to struggle out of his daze.  He groped for reason amid the lunacy that was now his life.  Bergman was talking to him but again, words blurred in his ears.  All he could see or comprehend was the still, colorless face on the bed.  Then the face was covered with a white sheet.

 

Feeling faint and ill, he stumbled to the sink in the room feeling emptied of everything inside but pain.  Too weak and drained, he could no longer stand.  Then he slid against the wall to the floor.  He buried his head in his arms and wept, unable to even think about control.  Whatever had happened at the Ilikai or the marina; whatever motivations had driven actions and reactions before that -- none of it mattered.  His only reality now was that white sheet.  All that it spoke; all that it ended.

 

*****

 

 

“Steve, you need to go home.”

 

McGarrett raised his head to look up at Bergman, then quickly turned to the bed.  It was empty now.  They had already removed the body.  He didn’t know how long he had wept, but it felt like hours.  Limp, he was so drained and empty and weak he couldn’t move.  Like everything that was important on the inside was washed away.  Leaving behind a terrible pain that throbbed with every thought of what he had done.

 

“Steve, I’ll drive you home.”

 

Home?  That was not a place of sanctuary.  There would be no peace or comfort there.  No where on earth would he find those now.  Where could there be refuge from his guilt? 

 

Another doctor entered and quietly asked Bergman to visit with him outside.  McGarrett stared at the empty space where the body had been.  Listening in the silent, near-empty room, he strained to remember his final moments with his friend.  Not only had he shot Danno, in the final seconds his friend remained in this world he had yelled at him!

 

Mildly surprised there were any tears left, hot steams trickled down his face again and he just let them dampen his skin and slid under his collar.  They itched, but he didn’t bother to disturb them.  Badges of agony he deserved.  He could not even take the next level to blame and remorse.  No longer did he fell the anger at the incomprehensible situation, the rage at his actions and his helplessness.  Gone were the once burning questions that seemed so important when he was badgering the badly wounded officer for answers.  All he felt now was the guilt. 

 

Knowing he could not remain hidden here for long, he started slowly; controlling his breathing, his tears, his shaky limbs.  Next he would try to stand and then make his way out.  He should visit the Governor but that was just not going to happen.  He would go to the office.  No -- yes -- his sanctuary.  But there could be no place where he could hide from the memories. Danno would be there at the Palace.  He would be everywhere -- even here in this room with him now.  No escape.  Because he was in his heart always.  No escape.

 

Bergman’s gruff clearing of his throat made Steve jump.  Disoriented in the solitude of grief, he had again lost track of time in his strange, null world.  Glancing up, he decided this was a good time to test himself.  Maybe he could stand.  Speak.  Go home where he could mourn alone.  Yes, he could make it at least as far as a car, then home.

 

The expression on the grizzled face made him pause.  He couldn’t even label it.  Incredulity and -- joy -- mingled with -- perplexity?  It was all a confusing mass on the usually readable physician/Coroner and McGarrett braced himself for -- what?  He had no idea, but after the devastation of today, it could not get any worse.

 

“What?”  He came to his unsteady, swaying stance, somehow sensing this was better taken standing.  “What’s wrong?”

 

“Steve -- I don’t know quite how to tell you this.”  Again, the mystification that swept everything else off his face.  “You better sit down again.”

 

Not a good sign, Steve complied anyway, still too shaky to think of anything to say.  Too tremulous to face anything without support.  Bergman led him to the nearest chair.

 

“The minute Danny came in they started blood transfusions.  Standard ER procedure is type O.  When they moved him to this room they switched to his specific type -- A -- his blood type.  I’m afraid, Steve that -- well -- the staff triple checked.  There is no doubt the blood they were giving him was type A.  But the Danny Williams that died in here was no longer type A.  He was type B-Negative.  We killed him by giving him A.”

 

McGarrett patiently listened to the explanation, trying to receive it as it was given. It was difficult.  At the mention of someone, saying aloud, that Danno was dead, his eyes burned again.  He blinked away the moisture and bravely tried to focus on the report, hone in on the clinical, objective manner that Bergman now adopted.   They killed Danno with the wrong type of blood.  His heart trembled at the thought -- he forced himself to move on.  Wrong blood type.  But they gave him the right type.  Just another element of the confusion which permeated his day.  Nothing made sense and he resigned that maybe nothing would ever again.

 

“The hospital has started more labs, of course, to check everything again, Steve, but that is a formality.  When I was informed about this, I ran down to the morgue and had a quick look at Da-- at -- the corpse.  That body down there was a recent recipient of plastic surgery.  On the face.  And there are a few other anomalies -- well, I won’t bore you, Steve.  The bottom line here is that the corpse -- the person you saw die in here a while ago is not Danny Williams.”  He smiled; a rare occurrence that made Steve blink in surprise.  “Danny is not dead.  Rather, THIS is not the Danny Williams we know.  I don’t know where the real Danny is, but he’s not in our morgue.”

 

Event after event had left him numb and empty inside, save for the grief that permeated his every cell.  Now, the incredulous sorrow was gradually eased as the words that were too good to be true penetrated his shocked system. 

 

“Not dead?”  He could hardly get the whispered cry out.  “He’s not dead?”

 

“Not your Danny.”

 

“I didn’t kill him?”

 

“I don’t know what happened today, Steve, but whatever it was, it was not with the Williams we know.”

 

As tears coursed down his face, McGarrett laughed.  He clapped Bergman on the arms and leaped up, circling the room with an abrupt energy that made his heart race and his limbs shake.  His head spun from the rush of adrenalin and the dizzying hope that exploded within.  This could not possibly be true, of course.  He had refused to believe Danno was dead, yet had seen him die before his shocked and teary eyes.  Now, Danno was not dead.  He wanted to comprehend that, but aching and singed from the horrific devastation of his friend’s death, how could he?  Yet, Bergman was certain.  He was spouting facts and listing reasons and he was offering McGarrett the most blessed news he could have asked for, yet could not have even wished for in his bruised emotional sorrow.

 

Physically, he backed away, the vivid memories of his shooting and the subsequent deadly consequences slamming into his mind with the breathtaking force of a tsunami.  He had killed Danno.  Not according to Doc.  Danno was not dead.  The Danno he saw die was not Danno?  Not your Danny.

 

He had to get past the horrible memories and focus on reality.  “You just said Danno is not dead.”

 

Bergman took him by the arm.  “I suppose I need to rephrase that.  This person who is dead is not Danny.  I think you need to sit down, Steve –“

 

Pulling away from the grip he wiped his face.  The thought -- even the possibility of the thought -- that Danno was not dead -- that he had not just killed his friend -- was a painful ache of relief knotted in his chest.  A strangled denial twisted in his throat like a cold block of lava.  Trying to read Bergman’s lined face, he sought -- and received -- confirmation that what the doctor reported was true.  Impossible.  Ridiculous.  Contrary to what he had done -- what he had just seen and felt. 

 

Not dead.  True?  True.

 

Then, taking a breath, he dashed out the door, running to the nearest stairwell and racing all the way down to the basement morgue.  A startled assistant jumped in fright as he burst in and demanded to know about the most recently deceased customer.

 

Without waiting for a response he approached a covered corpse yanked off the sheet draping the single body in the main room.  He gasped sharply at the sight.  It looked like Danno, and for a moment, fear overwhelmed everything else.  Was Bergman wrong? Was it all a cruel trick?  Had the entire world gone insane -- it certainly seemed so.  After what he had seen Danno do -- what he had done -- but no, Bergman said this was not Danno.  This looked so like his friend . . . . Was this Danno or not? 

 

Instead of recalling the horrific moments of the day, Steve recollected the things that were wrong -- that he had sensed were “off” this afternoon.  Danno.  Danno was off. 

 

At the Ilikai, Williams wouldn’t make eye contact with Steve.  He was nervous, shaky, sweaty and ill-looking.  He wouldn’t acknowledge him. He shot the Governor.  And whoever shot the Governor -- was not a marksman.  Four shots and only one connected and not fatally.  Not Danno.

 

McGarrett laughed -- not from relief or emotion-ridden nerves, but an evil, harsh, foreboding laugh born of maliciousness.  This was not Danno.  Someone had gone to a lot of trouble to make him and everyone else think this was the real Williams.  But it was not.  Doc Bergman could conduct all the tests and medical research, but Steve already knew in his heart this was not his Danno.

 

“Well, at least you didn’t start the post-mortem without me,” Bergman huffed as he swept into the room.

 

Feeling light headed -- almost hysterical with the head-rush from grief/mourning/shock, to relief/joy, Steve leaned against the nearest wall, still shaky and fragile. He felt so unprotected and defenseless -- as if his inner soul had been exposed.  And he felt vulnerable.  Some unknown evil person had toyed with him -- with his friend -- and left him devastated.

 

“Tell me everything you know about this imposter,” Steve demanded with a grating, deadly edge to his voice.  “I want every detail Doc.”

 

“It’s going to take --“

 

McGarrett grabbed his forearm and gripped it with fingers telegraphing his urgency.  “Whoever did this has Danno.  Or knows what happened to the real Danno.  Time is against us, Doc.  They had this imposter try to kill the Governor.  He failed.  He’s dead.  What happened to Danno?  We have only one clue and it’s this body.  Do you understand how vital your autopsy is going to be now?”

 

“I see your point,” Bergman nodded, but hesitated, his face still set in a grim plane.  “Steve, I don’t -- you shouldn’t have raised expectations -- I mean -- I don’t know what’s going on.  This is not our Danny here, but -- well -- you know Danny might not be alive --“

 

“He’s got to be,” Steve could barely breathe out.  “He’s got to be.  And you’ve got to help me find him,” he demanded, the desperation raw and cracked with emotion.

 

“I’ll get on it right now, Steve.  But I don’t know how much I can tell you.”

 

“Let’s see.” 

 

“Maybe you should leave?”

 

“I want to be here.”

 

As Bergman prepared for the autopsy, Steve moved to the wall phone and connected to the hospital operator.  She was to locate any member of Five-0 who was still in the hospital and send them down to the morgue.  Then he paced as he watched the coroner start his grisly work.

 

Never squeamish, watching autopsies still was not a favored past time.  It was smelly and unpleasant and although Steve had learned long ago to detach himself from death, it was still something he disliked.  When Doc stared the first cut, Steve flinched.  He told himself this was not Danno.  His heart had leaped to accept that even before the logical evidence of his observations of the assassination attempt.  This was not Danno.  But seeing that face -- so well known -- even the hair the right style, texture and color -- it was hard. 

 

Perhaps sensing this dilemma and Steve’s dismay, Bergman clinically narrated as he went along.  One of the first things he did was to show McGarrett the scar on the jaw-line.  Steve had noted it that morning and thought it a rash.  Bergman identified it as a plastic surgery scar not quite healed.

 

With a deep, cleansing breath of relief, Steve felt calmer and from then on observed Bergman with the dispassionate detachment of a professional -- as the head of Five-0.  Now, instead of grief coursing his nerves, an urgency sang through them like the wind.  They were in a desperate race.  How or why he did not know.  But he felt -- sensed -- that Danno’s life was still on the line.  The real Danno.  And Steve had to save him. 

 

That thought surged his emotions from the recently shredded agony to familiar anger.  Someone was manipulating them and might have hurt the real Danno.  They certainly made Steve perform a terrible duty today.  And they were going to pay for their crimes, whoever they were.

 

Bergman announced there were blue-tinted contact lenses on the impostor’s eyes.  Brown eyes.

It was a good thing Bergman was here.  Without a witness, McGarrett thought he might pummel the corpse -- the symbol of what he had gone through, what he had done -- what he still might lose.  Steve felt rage surging to life from the emotional tomb of despair.  The heat and fury slowly built, pushing away the ragged feelings that had torn him apart.  Uniting his thoughts and emotions with passion. 

 

“There’s a couple of items of interest that this corpse should have that does not.  No scars in the right places.  Danny’s gunshot in the abdomen and the shot in the shoulder.  No scars.  No evidence of such injuries.  And I KNOW those were there!”

 

The absence of what they knew should be there lent another morsel of resolve to Steve’s nerves.  Some dark and wicked force had used his friend -- used him -- for a nefarious purpose.  All was unclear and unseen now except for the obvious betrayal.  This corpse then became a glaring insult; the form that was supposed to be Danno and was not, thankfully. 

 

As Bergman cut into the chest cavity, Duke Lukela entered.  His shocked expression at Bergman, then McGarrett, then the body, was comical considering Steve’s new-found knowledge.  Taking Lukela aside, Steve quickly explained the amazing events.  Lukela stared at him as if believing he was pushed to insanity from the stress. 

 

Steve did not have the patience to explain further.  He was only interested in results.  He ordered Lukela to find Chin.  They were to run the prints Bergman would give them.  Then they were to find who this imposter was in life and start a serious investigation.  Next, they were to release nothing -- conceal this completely -- from the press.  They had to keep their powerful discovery a secret.  If the perpetrators of this massive crime knew they had figured it out already, Danno might be jeopardized.

 

Duke seemed uncertain of Steve’s rapid-fire orders, as if he couldn’t believe this Danny was just a look-alike.  But he went along in silent obedience.  Steve also wanted him to start searching for information on Wo Fat.  The evil Chinese spy was an expert with doubles and instantly leaped into the top slot of suspect number one in his caper.

 

“Well,” Bergman sighed.  “As if we had any last doubts, this takes care of them, gentlemen.”  The two detectives joined the ME at the table.  “This man was as good as dead.  He had the  superficial physical characteristics of Danny.  The hair was bleached and some dental work has been done.  But this --“ he gestured to the chest cavity.  “Massive cancer in several organs.  He was on his way out death’s door even as he walked around today.  If you needed any further proof, here it is, Steve.”

 

The new evidence brought with it an unsettling thought that bounced around in the back of his brain.  It was not yet formed enough to even coalesce into a real theory.  But if Steve was right, then he might just have found his motive for this terrible mess.  At least a part of it.

 

“And here’s another strange thing about your corpse, Steve,” Bergman reported, almost amused.  “He gave himself tattoos.  They say something.”

 

“What?”

 

“I don’t know.  Crude, self-inflicted tattoos on the under side of his left arm.”

 

Bergman lifted the limb and Steve tilted his head to read the words upside down.  Malaki and Aukake.  Hawaiian.  They were familiar, but he couldn’t remember what they meant.  He turned, seeing them from the point of view of the man who had done this to himself. 

 

“March and August,” Duke supplied.

 

McGarrett stared at his officer.  “August March.”

 

 

 

*****

 

 

McGarrett had made a short, but necessary visit to Jameson.  The Governor was resting comfortably, would be retiring to recover at his Maui home the next day.  Under extremely tight security and with Chin supervising, the Governor was more protected than ever.  Understandably upset, Jameson’s confusion over the attack was eased when McGarrett informed him of the double angle. 

 

They didn’t know yet the full scope of the attack, so McGarrett ordered a heavy guard on Jameson until he knew more.  This did not have the feel of a political assassination attempt alone.  There was something bigger here.  The double – spoke to him that this was more than just shooting the Governor.  This was a master plan.

 

Normally, he would want to attach himself to Jameson to personally protect his boss, but in this case he needed to be on the front lines of the investigation.  Besides being vitally involved with the assassination plot, it was extremely personal considering who had been the assassin-tool.

 

Utilizing the hospital’s rear loading dock, McGarrett avoided the press and hitched a ride back to the Ilikai where he had left his car. It was not general knowledge yet about the double, so there were mixed rumors bouncing around the city with incredible fervency thanks to the coconut wireless.  A flock of reporters sighted him and started a stampede.  He sped away before they could attack.

 

From there he drove to HPD.  Duke had mentioned Danno’s LTD had been taken to the police garage for investigation.  Although he knew the generalities of the findings, he felt compelled to see this for himself. 

 

Lukela had assigned officers to check Williams’ apartment, and that was declared empty.   He had personally checked with some of Dan’s neighbors to discover if anything unusual happened last night or this morning.  One witness said she heard a loud popping that could have been gunshots or a car backfiring.  Evidence in Danno’s garage disturbingly corroborated her comments on violence.  Where the LTD would normally be parked, traces of blood were found on the concrete.  The investigation at the apartment was ongoing. 

 

 

*****

 

 

The black LTD was parked in the HPD crime lab’s open warehouse.  His first good study of the familiar vehicle chilled him.  The driver’s window was shattered, a few tiny bits of jagged glass protruding from the edges of the doorframe, as if the glass was broken and the person taking the car carelessly, hurriedly, tried to clear away the glass but did not get all of it.  The trace pieces were so small and few -- but someone paying attention would notice.  Someone in their right mind driving the car would notice.  Keys still in the ignition, the tow report said.  Driver not caring, or rushing -- intent on a mission . . . .

 

Okay, Danno’s double was distracted.  He apologized for shooting the Governor.  Now, Steve thought with a cold shiver, that maybe the dying message meant something else.  Was he apologizing for hurting Danno?

 

Checking the interior, he saw bits of glass on the front seat and on the floor -- again -- as if the driver was too distracted, or in too much of a hurry, to notice or care.  Broken glass.  Gunshot.  Someone had plowed a bullet through the window.  Some dark smears on the black interior upholstery looked like they could be dried blood.

 

No one at the Ilikai security net had noticed the damage to the car.  He would have to inquire about that oversight, but it seemed like such an insignificant chink in the chain of tragedy he almost laughed.  Some astute officer might have prevented this whole misplaced drama if he had stopped the fake Williams about the shattered window!

 

Following that disturbing clue, Steve checked inside.  Yellow evidence tags adhered to spots on the seats and dashboards.  Blood smears, he guessed from the splash pattern and the dark color dotting the black vinyl.  Dark blood smears on the outside of the driver’s and rear doors were also unnerving and momentarily teetered his theory -- hope -- that Danno was still alive. 

 

Stomach flipping over and constricting into a nauseating knot, Steve found a quiet space away from the bustling activity and leaned against the wall.  Staring at the car, he imagined what had happened, and as the vision came to him his temperature dropped, his skin dancing with chills. 

 

Danno had been at or in the car.  An assailant had shot or otherwise attacked him and taken the car.  What had happened to Danno?  Was there really any reason to believe Danno was still alive?  The corpse was not his -- not this corpse.  But why keep him alive?  If he was injured . . . .

 

He stopped the flood of torturous doubts.   After what had happened this morning, he could not allow that his friend was dead.  Not until he had absolute proof.  The thought that he might have to go through this again tomorrow or the next day -- finding the real Dan Williams’ body --  STOP!  He took a deep breath and refocused his mind-set.  Work the crime, don’t speculate.  Danno’s life could very well depend on his skills now and he needed to be in top form to pull this off.

 

So what did the evidence tell him?  Danno returned home last night or was leaving this morning.  As he prepared to exit or enter his car he was ambushed -- shot.  Che had yet to determine blood type yet, but stains left on the garage concrete indicated, in Che’s words, ‘a significant amount of blood’.  Steve felt the conclusions obvious.  So Danno, injured, maybe killed, was taken from the scene and his car used by the fake Williams to drive to the Ilikai.  All he needed was the look-alike face and the car and he would pass through any manner of tight security posts.  As the second-in-command of Five-0, Williams would be granted access anywhere with the slightest glance.

 

Light-headed with shredded emotions and twisted dread, Steve pushed away the memories of what had come next – what horrors he experienced at the Ilikai.  He questioned instead who was behind this.  August March?  A malevolent and vicious criminal.  What was the end goal?  The puppet-master had to know the fake Williams might escape, but might not, either.  If the impostor was captured, then the double-ruse was over.  And why kill Jameson?  He would need a few more answers before he went rampaging around the island accusing the arrogant criminal now behind bars.  He would need something more substantial than the tattoos on a dead man.

 

Briskly pushing aside the fears; past and present, he strode to his car and drove toward Waikiki.  On the radio, he contacted Duke to get an update on the investigation status.  Several lines of inquiries were being pursued at once.  One was the obvious, that someone wanted Jameson dead, but that, in his opinion, was remote.  The more likely, he felt now, was that this was a major distraction to keep Five-0 busy while something else was going on elsewhere.  So far, that theory had not proved correct.  The rest of the islands seemed to be running normally, no huge criminal events having transpired during the long and miserable day that he had mostly spent at the hospital.  That left only the clue of August March. 

 

*****

 

Although Danno’s apartment had been checked, McGarrett felt he had to do this personally.  He could observe things here that others would not.  Pulling into the visitor’s parking lot, he first went to the underground garage.  The parking space next to the white Mustang was blocked off with police tape.  Examining the convertible vehicle closely, he spotted a few red spots on the side of the light car.  Blood, he identified; his stomach curled.  Pacing, studying, crouching down to scrutinize the concrete, the walls, he drew uneasy conclusions -- substantiating the guesses he had made while studying the LTD. 

 

McGarrett theorized Danno had been caught at the car, shot, injured, subdued.  The various smears across the ground lead him to guess the violence had  typically -- not defeated Williams and he had gone down with a fight.  Then transported – the smears and blood drops abruptly ended, as if the victim was put into a vehicle to --  where? The LTD then taken and used by the fake Williams.  If this was not Danno dead in the morgue, and it wasn’t -- thankfully – then where was his friend?  

 

The grim, obvious thought that Danno was dead for real had lanced through is heart and seared him with alarm numerous times.  What would these captors need with a real Williams when their double had finished his mission? On his slow walk to the elevators, he sighed heavily, disturbed at the terrifying plot that had nearly ruined his life and left him with no answers.  Yet.

 

Evening sun brought a shimmering field of glittering amber that undulated on the sunset-baked ocean beyond the walkway of Williams’ condo.  He paused for a moment by the end railing, drifting into the tropical perfection of the scenery, absorbed in the lassitude of paradise, calmed by the fresh Trade winds.  He was so tired.  Weary.  Stunned.  He couldn’t afford the suspension of his forward momentum, but his body and mind were having trouble assimilating the tragedy, the hope, then the hovering in confusion of the day’s events.

 

Seeking some kind of foundation under his feet; trying to regain some balance, he entered Williams’ apartment.  As he walked inside, the waves of tawny twilight sparkled into the living room like shiny waves of air-borne gold.  It was empty, as reported, but he had to assure himself that there was nothing to find here.  Checking the fridge, the laundry basket, he evaluated clues only he would know were significant.  No dishes dirty.  Yesterday’s blue suit in the hamper.  So, Williams had successfully reached home from the office last night.

 

It had been late.  As most work days were for Five-0.  Steve had hardly noticed when his friend left, but it was about the time Steve was packing up to go home.  They had been going over the Governor’s security for the next two weeks. He rubbed his face, trying to remember details, specifics, and nothing came to mind.  It was all a blur.  Just another night at the Palace.  Who knew what tragedy awaited them in the morning?

 

Taking a deep breath, he stared at the blue suit in the basket.  Okay, yesterday’s suit was here, he reminded pedantically, vaguely aware of how turgid and lethargic his thinking processes were tonight.  A little alarmed it WAS night.  The whole day had evaporated at the hospital in a mind-shattering smudge of agony.

 

The suit.  He stared at it.  Danno came home last night and changed.  He went back out to the LTD and was attacked.  This morning?  On the way to work?  That made sense.  It also made him feel a modicum of relief that Danno had been in the hands of his abductors for only a short time.  In a kidnapping, the time element was crucial.  Acting quickly was essential to the safety of the victim.

 

Releasing a ragged cough of a near sob, he tried to grip onto this small comfort.  There was a reason for all this.  Danno was taken for a reason.  The cruel double was put in place for a reason.  If only he knew the answers to all the horrible questions haunting him.  He would, he vowed.  He just prayed it would be on time.

 

 

*****

 

 

It was dusk now, and to avoid the press he parked at the walking mall by the Capitol and trotted around the banyan tree, to the back door of the Palace and up to his office.  HPD guards around the area assured security and privacy.  The regular staff had gone home long before. 

 

Once in his refuge, he leaned against the lanai doorframe, for a time watching the sky morph from blue to indigo, to the dusty purple/mauve of a tropical twilight.  Beyond drained, he was wasted, washed out.  He could hardly function.  His mind raced with theories and apprehension.  His heart and soul ached from the terrible pain he had suffered.  His body dragged from the exhausted trauma he had survived.

 

Thinking Danno dead -- believing he had shot Danno -- it was still too much to really comprehend.  His salvation was the amazing evidence that this was all a set-up.  Danno was not really dead.  That he knew about, he cautiously reminded.  There was a hope that this cruel torture would not be exacted again for real.  But he had no way of knowing that.

 

From his jacket, he removed the evidence bag holding the holster retrieved from the dead man.  Just to cover all bases he had Che do the lab work.  Running blood or fingerprint analysis at this point was moot -- they had these from the hospital already.  So what did the items and missing items tell him?  That the impostor adopted nothing of his victim.  Not the watch or ID or wallet.  That seemed to tie in with the odd confession of the impostor.  The reluctant assassin.  It sounded like the title of a Charlie Chan novel, but that was the character assessment McGarrett was forming about the fake detective. 

 

Locking the bag in his desk drawer, he shifted to more pertinent thoughts.  Focusing on the investigation helped already.  That and the motivation that centered him.  There was still time to save Danno.  That faith pushed him forward to the core of this mystery.

 

August March.  A man who hated him for turning a frame-up against him inside out.  Instead of jailing McGarrett, the rich, power-mad smuggler had been put behind bars for life. {episode -- WOODEN MODEL OF A RAT}

 

His first impulse after leaving the hospital was to race out to the prison and nail March to the wall, beat a confession from him if necessary.  That was irrational and proved to Steve how ragged and unstable he was over this.  So he went through the necessary steps of semi-recovery before he even thought about facing his adversary.

 

Feeling strong enough to get to work, McGarrett brewed a fresh pot of coffee and rummaged through a few files out by Malia’s desk.  Research was not something he was used to, he had a staff for that.  He welcomed this mundane task, though, as a stability in black-and-white to settle him.  He could run out to the prison any time and throw out accusations, but he was not ready. 

 

Still, he was weak and shaky with the residual physical effects of his recent shock and emotional trauma.  Anger at being manipulated; fear for Danno’s safety, could not overcome the occasional shakes, his queasy stomach, his soul-deep exhaustion.  He was in no shape to confront anyone, let alone a ruthless and cunning enemy with all the advantages.  No, not all.  March did not know that they knew this was all a fake.

 

In his heart, Steve believed March had mercilessly engineered this Machiavellian plot.  Savagely evil, March had the connections and money he would bet.  March had done this to Danno, set up a double, to strike right at Steve and Five-0.  Arranged this so that the Governor -- Steve’s responsibility -- would be killed -- by his second-in-command.  It would destroy him, destroy Five-0.  The mind capable of such terror was a force to be approached warily and well armed.

 

Why?  He wouldn’t know until he asked March, of course.  Maybe not even then.  As he settled, let the anger work instead of the grief, he would arm himself with facts.  Be ready for the confrontation that, very soon, might spell the life or death of Dan Williams.  Danno had been taken and doubled for a reason.  The assassination attempt.  And what else?  There had to be something else. 

 

The double had tried a last ditch effort to escape.  So the plan was that the assassin would not be discovered so soon.  For good reason.  March would know an autopsy would eventually reveal the double.  But, the reaction to the wrong blood -- he probably didn’t predict that -- or that his fake would be instantly captured and live long enough to offer a statement of sorts.  There was an edge here and Steve would use it.  Build on what he could.  But soon, he would not be able to keep hold of his tenuous control and he would go out the prison for the next level of this strange and painful plot.

 

Fixing strong coffee, he drank two cups with loads of sugar and powdered cream substitute.  It tasted awful, but he knew his body needed the sugar and caffeine to help draw it out of the morass of shock and grief.  When he was finished collecting various files, he poured black coffee and started reviewing information -- gathering ammunition -- on March as he sipped the strong brew. 

 

His mind found it difficult to stick with the facts.  Frequently the words blurred and thoughts slammed back to that horrific moment on the lanai.  The trembling instant when he pulled the trigger . . . .

 

To force out that nightmarish scene, he reminded himself that the fake Danno was trying to escape.  Work that angle.  That desperate fall off the lanai was a bid for freedom.  For all the reluctance, there was an escape plan.  He would get Duke on that as soon as Lukela arrived.

 

 

*****

 

 

The fingerprint report came in later that night.  Everything about this case was priority and he or his staff were calling in officers and lab support to get the work done quickly.  Theodore Paul Simmons was the ID of the dead man.  His physical description was close to Danno, but the mug shots made the two men seem only vaguely similar.  In fact, the black and white police photo made Simmons more reminiscent of Danno’s Uncle Jim, whom Steve had seen in a few old photos as a stocky, blond, curly-haired man. 

 

Steve had trouble still with the double-theory and his mind rationally denied this man could replace -- had temporarily fooled him into thinking he was Danno . . . .

 

He slammed a fist on the black and white picture.  Even now, the trauma still left him shaky and weak inside.  Someone had stolen his friend’s face -- set up a public and messy attempt at murder.  A shadowed enemy still lurking in hidden recesses used Danno -- used Steve!  For what purpose?  Trying to think again like a cop, he focused on the rap sheet.

 

The reason all this information was so easily and quickly obtained was that Simmons had been released from prison just seven months before.  Serving a stint for confidence schemes, he was a small time hood who was in and out of prison all his life.  Almost a year before he had been diagnosed with cancer and soon after paroled. 

 

Lukela arrived and waved a file report.  “Got an update on March, Steve.  Did you read about this guy Simmons?”

 

“Yeah.”

 

“Well, here’s the connection.  March serves as a hospital orderly in the prison ward.  That’s where they had to have met.”

 

Steve’s skin heated with anger.  “March saw the resemblance and offered Simmons a deal?  Money -- blood money for the surviving family -- if the terminally ill con gets a face job and becomes an assassin?  But Simmons was no killer.”

 

“No.  Con man.  Little rackets.  No one in the same league with March.”

 

Steve’s blood boiled.  “No.  But a man desperate to take care of his family.  If he has a family.”  He quickly checked the file.  “Yeah, a wife and two kids.  Live out at Pearl City.  She works as a grocery clerk.  So to leave them with a nest egg he falls in with March’s plan.”  The shooting, the fear on the double’s face starkly slammed into his mind.  “But he didn’t have the stomach for it.” 

 

“Now all we have to do is prove it.” 

 

Distracted now, the ever-present concern in the back of his mind swelling forward, Steve came to his feet and stared out the lanai.  “In time to get to Danno.”

 

 

*****

 

 

It was late when McGarrett skipped up the path from the parking area to the front of the prison.  A familiar visitor here, he still had to go through the usual screenings and the routine made him impatient.  With concerted effort, he calmed his nerves. 

 

Before this monumental task was faced, he had gone home; showered, changed, eaten a few bits of something that he couldn’t remember and loaded up on more coffee.  Such mundane functions were the last things on his mind, but he had come to a place -- a new level -- that gave him an almost detached insight into Human nature.  He had been through Hell today and

everything else was muted, filtered through the aftermath of emotional purging.  So he used those simple physical necessities to stabilize and center himself.  Back in control of his emotions and able to think on a near-normal level, he was as prepared as he was going to get for this grating interview.

 

Stepping into the interrogation visitor’s room, McGarrett breathed deeply, in and out, repeating his mantra that had sustained him for the last few hours.  This was for Danno.  Every small step, every little victory of patience over passion, was an element of control and a sign of progress toward his ultimate goal -- Danno.  He would need all the discipline he could muster.  He was about to come face to face with the monster who had caused him to live through the most unspeakable horrors of his life.  More than at any other moment in time, he needed to be in charge here.  March could not manipulate him further.  Because Danno’s life hinged on what he said or did against this evil.

 

The metal grate opened and the slimmed down but still ample, bald, sharp-eyed master criminal entered.  Even in prison clothes, escorted by a guard, August March exuded power and control and a superior smugness that instantly rankled on Steve. 

 

“Well, it’s past visiting hours, McGarrett.  I didn’t have time to dress for the occasion.”

 

March took a seat at the table and McGarrett paced.  He had thought about this confrontation for hours.  How he would approach this fiend?  What could he say to elicit information?  The smugness almost tipped him off his balanced control, but he took a breath, forcing out the images of what he had done this morning and focusing on the future.  This man held Danno’s life in his hands and Steve was probably his friend’s only hope for survival.

 

“You know why I’m here,” McGarrett began with a deep, level voice, filled with solid, devout conviction.  “You went to a lot of trouble, March.  Used up some hidden reserve of money to buy a terminally ill man who was about the right build.  Plastic surgery. Clothes.  But the training.  You could make the outside of the man look pretty similar.  Close enough to fool people at a distance.  But you couldn’t buy his soul.  He confessed, March.  We know the plot, we have the man.”

 

It was a partial bluff.  March didn’t need to know the “confession” was post-mortem.  He didn’t need to know Five-0 was still piecing this whole mess together like a giant, macabre jigsaw puzzle.  Most of the pieces were still invisible, but Steve had enough.  More than enough to confront this criminal.

 

“Brilliant as always, McGarrett,” March uttered with contemptuous, false praise.  “So why did you even bother to come?  To inform me I will be spending the next ninety-nine years in here for another crime?”  The smile was malevolent.  “I think not.”

 

“I’m not here to play word games, March.”  The edge of danger crept into his tone, into his entire being without volition.  Fists clenched, Steve felt the bonds of his control straining.  The taunting, the semantics --all games.  He did not have time for playing with this monster.  “Where is Danny Williams?”

 

“You know everything else.  The omniscient McGarrett doesn’t know where his little cop is?”

 

“Tell me, March.”

 

“Or what?  You’ll keep me in prison without parole for another hundred years?  If Mr. Simmons has told you so much, maybe he can tell you the rest.”  March had a secret smile playing on his lips.

 

“The rest?”

 

“You mean you’re not curious about my over all, complete plan?  How you fit into the scheme of my Machiavellian plot?  Why there were three targets in my little drama?”

 

“Three?”  Irritated he could do nothing more than parrot March, he snapped out, “Jameson?  Why go after him?”

 

“He refused to help in any way when I was convicted.”

 

The reason was absurd and McGarrett wouldn’t even comment on it.  “I know why you would want me.  Was your double supposed to kill me?”

 

“That was not part of the plan.  Kill Jameson, but not you, McGarrett.”  He laughed.  “You didn’t ask about the third target.  His name is Dan Williams.  He pursued me after you were framed.  In league with you all the way.”

 

Irritated and impatient, McGarrett asked again where Dan Williams was being held.

 

“My pawn can’t tell you everything?  Your most pressing question?  And knowing about the real Dan Williams, that’s important, is it, McGarrett?”  Steve did not reply.  “Tell me how it felt, McGarrett, when you believed you killed your own cop.  Pulled the trigger and personally destroyed him --”

 

McGarrett was on him without thought.  The short, bald man was thrown against the wall with a force that was numbing to Steve, who was just holding onto the fiend at the collar.  He tightened his grip of the shirt until March was having trouble breathing.

 

“You tell me where Dan Williams is.  Now!”

 

He was beyond the letter of the law.  March had pushed him, boxed him in to an irrevocable chain of events starting this morning when the fake Williams walked into the Ilikai conference room.  Since then Steve was pushed into actions, emotions and activity that he could not fathom and the pain was still simmering right under the skin.  It took only the merest nudge to push him into rage.

 

“Tell me!”

 

Two guards came in and tried to separate the two.  Another ran in and managed to pry Steve’s hands loose.  Two held McGarrett back while one stood next to March.  When the little man was breathing easier, he gave McGarrett a narrowed stare that was as cold as ice.

 

“I wanted you to know a few things, McGarrett.  Before you came here, I needed you to understand that you have no power over me.  You thought you did.  When you sent me here, you thought that was the end of me.  But I had more resources -- more intelligence than you, McGarrett.  I chose my victims carefully.  And yes, McGarrett, you ARE one of them.  Now I hold the power and you are at my beck and call.”

 

Straining to get loose, Steve wanted to pummel the man.  “How do you figure that?”

 

March laughed.  “Shall I remind you again?  I heard you pulled the trigger --“

 

Steve lunged again and March actually jumped back.  There was a malicious delight that warmed him when Steve knew he could instill fear in March.  But not enough.  The man was quickly back to his icy, monstrous self.  Knowing it was futile to try another violent attack, Steve calmed and promised the guards he would behave.  They released him, but stood close.

 

“You only make it worse for yourself by keeping Williams hostage,” McGarrett snapped out.

 

“Worse than prison?” March laughed.  “What, are you going to threaten me with torture?  In front of witnesses?”

 

“You think you have the power now?” Steve countered, all his instincts leading him to a subliminal level of thought.  He knew how to get under the skin of criminal minds.  He could out guess them, out think them, trap them.  He had done it successfully for years.  Now, when it was so important, the talent was returning to him -- creeping past the pain and around the terror -- and he felt a sense of relief that he was back on track again.  “This is a prison, March.  The keepers are in charge.  They have the guns, they have control over what you do everyday.  They can make your life miserable in here and it would all be legal.  All I have to do is give the word.  Now tell me where you’re holding Williams and who is helping you.  Let’s get this over with.”

 

The levity was gone, the gloves off.  March reacted with a new level of cold over his expression and tone.  “This is good, McGarrett.  I have your complete attention.  It’s amazing what money and power will accomplish.”

 

Steve felt like he had just stepped into a trap and he couldn’t understand why.  It made his skin crawl.

 

“What better way to let you see who has the control than what happened this afternoon?  True, it did not go exactly as planned.  Good help is hard to buy sometimes.  But, it hurt the Governor.  And you.” 

 

The stare felt like it burned right through to his soul.  This man knew what today had cost him -- or at least imagined a lot of it.  It was no secret Williams was the right-hand man at Five-0.  Easy for anyone to speculate correctly that he was close to his second-in-command.  March probably did not know that Danno was like his brother, but he knew that shooting “Danno” today had been like killing a part of himself.  March knew it had cost him dearly today and the ultimate pain was yet to be experienced.  Today was a trail run.  At any moment, March could still make Williams die for real.

 

“In twenty-four hours I will walk out of this prison with a full pardon.  And immunity for any crimes committed on Hawaiian soil.  When I am safely away from Hawaii, to an undisclosed location where you won’t find me, I will release Williams safe and sound.”  His eyes flickered with delight.  “Yes, he’s still alive, McGarrett.  For --“ he glanced at his watch.  ”It’s almost eleven PM.  I’ll be generous.  You have until midnight tomorrow.  By twelve-oh-one on Thursday, if I am still here, your officer is dead.  And you will not find the body, McGarrett.  All you’ll have is your memories from this morning.  Because you will have killed him as certainly as you killed Simmons today.”

 

McGarrett lunged again, but the guards nabbed him before he could reach March.  The prisoner moved to the door and demanded he be released back to his cell.  Steve refused and told him he was not leaving until he confessed where he was holding Williams.

 

Captain Heller, the warden, entered and ordered March be put in solitary confinement and allowed no visitors.  McGarrett was livid that his orders were countermanded.  When March was gone, Heller dismissed the guards and glared at McGarrett.

 

“I could have you up on charges for this, Steve.  And March’s attorneys still might.”

 

“He knows where Danno is!  And you’re letting him walk out of here!”

 

“As opposed to what, Steve?  Let you beat out a confession?  I can’t allow that and you know it!”

 

It was right and he was fully aware of it.  Disgusted at his lack of control, he still felt justified.  Wasn’t any price worth saving Danno?  Couldn’t he break the rules for that?  To stave off the agony that he felt today?  Because in a few hours he would be feeling it again.  If March could be believed.  And he did believe the man.  It added to his desperation to know the cold-bloodedness of his opponent. 

 

“He’s going to have Danno killed!”

 

“Not if we keep him in solitary, Steve.  Come on, think.  I read the reports of what happened today.  And now you say that was a fake and not really Danny.  And March admits he’s holding Danny in trade for his freedom.  But he’s powerless inside here if he has no contact with anyone.  This is all pretty confusing, Steve, but I can assure you, March is secure.  Go out and find Danny.”

 

There had been no time to speculate on what others thought about today’s events.  The press had been told, but the newspapers would not be out until the morning.  The evening edition of the Bulletin, the TV newscasts, had reported that Danny Williams had shot Jameson.  The truth was slowly filtering through law enforcement and other circles in Honolulu, but it would take time to reverse the thinking.  By the time the true plot hit the news six more hours would have been wasted.

 

It was a lot to ask to give this man the benefit of the doubt.  Danno’s life was on the line and Steve had to gamble that the warden could control March’s contacts.  Instincts told him March was smarter than that.  There was a back up plan.  March was a master thinker, he would have one or more contingencies.  Just as there had been with Simmons the dead man.  An escape.  Simmons had his own back up.  March had to, also.

 

The alternative?  He could not release March.  The warden, the courts, the Governor would never allow it.  And Steve would not.  Even to beg for Danno’s life, he could not break the rules that far.  He did not negotiate with terrorists.  He did not give in to criminals.  Momentarily, he wanted to.  Personally, he would do anything to ward off suffering the way he had today.  He doubted he could survive another blast of the grief and guilt he felt at killing his friend.  If he failed to win against March, he would be responsible for Danno’s death just as certainly as he had killed Simmons.

 

“If anyone tries to contact him, I want to know how and I want to know immediately,” he crisply ordered.  “Put only your most trusted men on March.”  He briskly walked out, the warden beside him.  “Do a search of his cell.  I want to know everyone he corresponds with, who he knows, what he does inside here.  I can’t spare one of my men, you’ll have to do it.”

 

“We will.”

 

At the outer reception area, Steve’s revolver and badge were returned to him.  He glared at the warden.  “What you do could be the key to beating him.  Do you understand?”  Steve was relinquishing some of the responsibility to Heller and his staff.  Danno’s life would be in their hands, too.  Did he even comprehend what that meant?  “This has to be done right and fast.  We have twenty-four hours.”

 

“Count on us, Steve.” 

 

He held out his hand and Steve shook it.  A pact.  They could not fail.

 

 

*****

 

Almost midnight, nearing the official end of the longest day of his life, McGarrett’s tasks were far from over.  Chin had offered to handle the interview with the dead man’s family.  Steve wanted to be there.  Kelly met him outside the Simmons house.  The head of Five-0 barreled into the unkempt front yard, unmindful of the modest house in the run-down neighborhood.  He took in the peeling paint, the old cars parked next door, the faint light shining from behind thin curtains in a front room.

 

Before he reached the front steps, Kelly stopped him.  “Steve, it’s late for this kind of call.  Remember to go easy.  She’s got kids.”

 

Momentarily, a flash of a scene stabbed through from the distant past, surfacing only in an infinitesimal pinpoint -- like a lightning strike – there and gone in a breath.  The vision of standing at the door one night, next to his mother, as a solemn policeman stood on their porch.  Without inviting the man in they knew it was bad news.  Even before the policeman spoke, the young Steve had feared it was dreadful news about his father, and he had been right.

 

Sadly reluctant, McGarrett closed away past nightmares and focused on the cruel present.  “They have to know.  And anything they can tell us will help find Danno.  As hard as this is going to be for them, Chin, we have a missing cop and what they know might help us find him.”

 

Taking the next, purposeful step up to the door, Steve banished uncomfortable memories.  There was no room in his consciousness for the past.  His focus was on the present, on the future.  His time was limited.  Each second that ticked by was another opportunity lost in the hunt for Danno.  This family’s pain was going to scar them no matter what time or what circumstances they delivered the terrible news.  In this case, there was still a chance to save a life despite all the tragedy.  He would do whatever he had to for any long shot to stave off another death.  The one that would really matter to him.

 

When the bell rang the door was almost instantly opened.  A thin, slight, Asian woman starred out at them.  She said nothing and McGarrett impatiently took the first step.  He dug out his ID and showed her his credentials.

 

“My name is McGarrett, this is Officer Kelly.  We’re with Hawaii Five-0.  May we come in?”

 

“Is this about Ted?”

 

“Yes, may we come in?”

 

While Steve had been at the prison, Duke had confirmed the identity of the double.  This was not an ID they could afford to get wrong.  Over the radio Lukela reported he had rechecked and was positive of the ID and volunteered to go out here to notify the family.  McGarrett insisted he do this himself.  Now, as he stepped into the humble living room with old furnishings and the lingering odor of cabbage and soy sauce, he forged ahead.

 

“You are Mrs. Simmons, is that correct?”

 

“Yes,” she timidly acknowledged.  She asked them to sit, but Steve refused.  He, in return, suggested she sit.  “Something has happened to Ted.”  It was a sad statement.

 

“Yes.  How did you know?”

 

“He told me he would call this afternoon about our future.  He said everything was going to change after today.  He’s said that before, but this time he really believed it.”  Her voice and frame trembled as tears coursed her face.  “He never called.”

 

Steve gave a nod to Chin, who sat in a chair next to the widow who, at this moment, did not know her new status. 

 

“I am sorry to inform you your husband was killed today.” 

 

‘I killed him,’ he restrained from detailing. 

 

Did that really matter?  Should he confess it all?  He had just orphaned two children.  Again, the flash of himself and Mary Ann that terrible night his father was killed stabbed into his mind, then was gone.  This woman, like his mother, was now a widow.  He had pulled the trigger.  But he had no idea he was killing Ted Simmons.  He thought he was shooting Dan Williams.  That cold splash of horror swept back some of the pain and indescribable agony he had lived through today.   Guilt and remorse about killing this woman’s husband dissipated.  Simmons was responsible, in part, for the most horrible anguish of his life.  Simmons was a party to whatever happened to Danno.  The compassion suddenly dissolved.

 

Tears slowly rolled down her face, but there was no other outward reaction.  As if she expected it.  And perhaps she had.  Impatient, agitated, keyed-up, he restrained from pacing or snapping his fingers in an outward show of intolerance.  That would be unconscionably rude.  But time was so important! 

 

Steve glanced at a small table near the sofa that faced the TV.  There was a family picture of two adults and two children at the beach.  Near the Royal Hawaiian, with Diamond Head in the background.  Suddenly drawn to the picture, he could see a resemblance between Simmons and Danno.  Or maybe he was just imagining it after the fact.  The built was remarkably similar, and the hair was a little too brown, but the general appearance was so close.  Too close.  The face --- not really much like Danno – but the structure was similar in the shape.  The eyes were brown.  But at a distance, someone could mistake this man for Danno.

 

Yes, he could see how March -- the strategist, the malicious millionaire with hidden cash reserves -- the hated enemy of Five-0 and McGarrett – could see the potential in this con.  Over the months of Simmons’ treatment in prison, March must have hatched his vile plan.  Enlisting help from the outside and inside.  Finding a plastic surgeon.  Using a key person or several key persons to do his dirty work on the outside while he manipulated from the inside of prison.

 

“Did you know about his illness?” he asked.

 

She nodded tightly.

 

“Forgive me, Mrs. Simmons, but you don’t seem surprised about the news of his death.  Why is that?”

 

“Ted – he’s been acting so different since he got out last time.  We’ve known about the cancer for months.  But when he was released this time, he was gone so much.  Like when he was doing his con jobs.  Gone for weeks at a time.  He said he was in an accident and a few months ago, he came home with bandages on his face.  That was the last time I saw him.”

 

Intrigued, Steve asked for details and she gave him exact dates and circumstances.  When Ted returned, he had always came back with lots of cash.  He had spent lavishly on the children, but any money he gave her she had tucked away in a cookie jar.  She had refused to spend it. 

 

“I knew he was up to something.  It made me angry,” she related calmly as more tears streamed down her cheeks.  “Then about two months ago he stopped coming home.  He would phone once a week.  He said he was in a special clinic.  A friend from prison sent him there.”

 

McGarrett exchanged a look with Kelly.  “Did he mention a name?”

 

“Never.  Before he left, though, for that last time, he was acting odd.  He must have known he was not coming back.  He told me he had opened trust funds for our children.  And he said something important would happen in March.  And he wanted to do something special in August.  But we both knew he would not live that long.  I never understood it and he refused to say more.”

 

“When was the last time you spoke with him?”

 

“Last night.  He called.  He was upset, I could tell.  I asked him what was wrong.  He said he had a job to do in Waikiki this morning.”

 

Steve’s heart seemed to stop.  “What kind of job?” he whispered.  Waikiki.  By Danno’s apartment.  The Ilikai.

 

“He wouldn’t say, but I knew it was something bad.  He sounded so horrible.  I asked him not to and he shouted at me.  He never does -- did -- that.  He said it was necessary.  Then said he would call this afternoon and we would never have another worry again,” she sniffed.

 

Grinding his teeth, McGarrett needed to ask this.  He didn’t want confirmation, but he had to know.  “Mrs. Simmons, would your husband kill someone if he had to for a job?”

 

Her shock eased the tightness in his nerves.

 

“No!  Is that what he did?”

 

“No,” Steve wanted to believe.  “No, we don’t think so.”

 

“Ted is -- was -- a non-violent man, Mr. McGarrett.  You can ask any of the officers who have arrested him.  He never put up a fight.  Never wanted to hurt anyone.”

 

The near quote of her husband’s dying words rocked him.  He had been speaking about the Governor, or Danno, or both.  Simmons did not want to hurt, but he had.  For money. To save his family.  Steve wondered, momentarily, if maybe Simmons had purposely missed Jameson.  Probably not. The man was so tight with panic it was probably random chance that he hit the Governor at all.   He’d like to think Danno was not seriously hurt, either, but it was an unlikely hope.  Evidence suggested otherwise.  And obviously, Simmons had treacherous liaisons that did not have any problems with violence and death against Governors or cops.

 

“With your permission, in the morning, we would like to check any safety deposit boxes or other holdings he might have had.”  She nodded.  “May we search your husband’s things now?”  Chin’s pained glance mutely spoke his pain at this necessary evil, but Steve ignored it and waited while she slowly gave a nod.

 

“He kept all his papers in the desk in the back bedroom.  I did all the bills and – well -- Ted was never home enough to take care of those things.”

 

Moving to the back of the house, he found the back bedroom was the master bedroom.  It was as modest as the rest of the house with simple furniture and an old desk with cubbyholes where paperwork was neatly stacked.  He shuffled through a few bills and notices, then stumbled upon a checkbook, which showed only a few hundred dollars in the balance.

 

“We’ll go to the bank tomorrow.”

 

From the expression on Chin’s face, he knew what his detective was thinking.  That this was a horrible intrusion on this poor woman’s grief.  It was.  But it was how they were going to find Danno.  Chin knew that, too, and did his duty.

 

Steve kept his voice low.  “Danno’s life depends on what we find in the next twenty-three-odd hours!” he hissed.  “We don’t have time for the amenities, Chin.  Check the drawers.”

 

Obviously unhappy with the circumstance, Kelly obeyed.  McGarrett continued checking the desk.  After glancing at it numerous times, he finally stopped and stared at the desk calendar.  It covered the whole year on one page.  He noted the months of March and August were underlined.  And different numbers in each month were circled.  He took the calendar into the front room and showed it to Mrs. Simmons.

 

“Did your husband make these marks?”

 

“Yes.”

 

“Do you know what they mean?”

 

“No.”

 

“Do you mind if I take this?”

 

“No.”

 

“Thank you.  Officer Kelly will give you a receipt for this and anything else we might need.”

 

There was a knock at the door and McGarrett saw through the glass on the top half that it was Duke.  He told Mrs. Simmons he would get it.  Lukela and two other officers entered, prepared for a full search.  Kelly must have arranged this, he realized, and was glad for the professionalism of his staff.  He was not thinking too clearly or procedurally right now and needed their help through this ordeal.

 

Chin Ho took the widow into the kitchen and offered to make her tea.  McGarrett introduced the new officers and told them to try to conduct the search quietly, there were sleeping children in the house.  Knowing his methods were harsh, he made an effort at civility.  Kneeling down next to the woman, who was still quietly crying, he gently asked if she wanted to know any details about how her husband died.  She shook her head.  Then he warned the facts would be in all the papers in the morning.  Perhaps there was a place they could stay until the worst of the publicity subsided.  She said no, she had work in the morning.

 

Unable to say more or offer anything else, he stiffly stood and told Duke to get back to the office as soon as he could.  Walking back to his car in the clear, warm, night air, he didn’t think about the glittering lights overlooking nearby Pearl Harbor.  He didn’t notice the stars overhead, visible now that he was in an ill-lit neighborhood out of Honolulu.  He didn’t think about the grieving family and how this would change the lives of the children and woman in that small house.  Already his mind was racing to the next step in the hunt.  And the subliminal clock ticking in the back of his mind – a constant awareness of how little time he had left to save his friend.

 

 

*****

 

 

At the Palace, he found Lukela had left some folders with information on the prison employees.  These were men who would have access to March; doctors, guards, orderlies.  He would concentrate on them first, then fan out to prisoners, like Simmons, recently released, who might be helping the criminal now.

 

He also found a note to call Che.  He did that immediately and braced for more unpleasant news.  He was not disappointed.  The blood found smeared on the inside of the LTD was Type-A.  Thinking not only of splatters on the door, dash and seat, and smears on the driver’s seat, Che tested the fake Danno’s brown sports coat.  Slight smears of blood on the sleeve and back of the shoulder were Type-A.  At a guess, Che hypothesized someone brushed against a person with bleeding Type-A, then immediately sat in the LTD.

 

To Steve, it read that Simmons had been an accessory in Danno’s kidnapping.  Danno was hurt, Simmons helped move the body, some blood brushing onto the jacket.  Too stressed to notice, Simmons went about his business of assassination without changing the jacket.  He had been dressed to impersonate a Five-0 officer and probably had no change of clothes.  Helping move a body -- was that unexpected?  Perhaps the wounding/shooting was not expected.  Had Danno put up a fight and caused them problems?  Again, he was struck that this plan could have been thwarted at various points, but was not. 

 

Replaying those crucial moments of that fateful morning, Steve was appalled that none of them noticed such glaring and now obvious-in-hindsight details.  Danno didn’t even own a brown sports jacket, he was certain now.  He had noted that anomaly but there had been no time to think it through.  No one noticed dark blood smears on the jacket as he walked into the Ilikai?  What was he running, the Keystone Cops? 

 

No, again, the successful deception that no one envisioned made Simmons invisible.  No one thought to look closely at the LTD or the fake Williams.  It was exactly like being undetectable.  He could not fault himself any more than he could blame Chin or Duke or the HPD patrolmen outside who might have even talked with the impostor!  The deadly deception was perfect.  It had tragically fooled them all.

 

Che also had the foresight to take the extra-thorough detail of checking for fingerprints on the holster and Danno’s .38 revolver.  Both had Williams’ prints, and Simmons, and one more Che was running through HPD.  Assimilating the new and puzzling information, Steve thanked the lab chief and hung up, thoughtfully staring out the lanai window. 

 

What did it all mean?  Three different prints on the weapon and holster.  He theorized the items were removed from Williams and handed to Simmons by a third party.  Again, consistent with Simmons’ apparent reluctance to hurt Jameson or Danno.  Maybe that explained the brown jacket, too.  Simmons didn’t want to wear Williams’ clothing -- making the crime more personal.  Grimly, Steve had to admit the more likely possibility was that whatever Danno was wearing had been damaged along with the victim and the jacket was unusable.  The third party probably expected that.  So they went to the apartment to put Danno out of the action any way possible.

 

Refocusing on the present and not berating himself again over the past -- what he could not change -- he concentrated on necessary work.  The files were numerous and he felt overwhelmed.  How could they eliminate or find the right people in time?  Twenty-two hours and assorted minutes.  Removing a small travel clock from his desk drawer he set the alarm for midnight.  Not for the first time that night, he wondered if March would keep to the deadline.  Was Danno already dead? He had to believe the ultimatum was real.  After all, March’s motivation in this whole twisted scenario was to be freed.  That wouldn’t happen if the hostage was dead. 

 

Pushing aside emotions that automatically arose when the disgust and helplessness of the situation surfaced, he concentrated on facts.  March gave him a deadline.  An impromptu deadline, or one already arranged?  How did he know McGarrett would discover the duplicity of Simmons so soon?  Simmons was supposed to get away.  He was escaping.  He told Mrs. Simmons to expect a call from him this afternoon.  So March was acting on a secondary plan by holding Danno hostage.  What was the first plan?  Would knowing that help him now?  Maybe.  Throwing criminals off track meant they had to change their plans and that sometimes left them vulnerable.

 

 

*****

 

The ring of the phone startled him.  Rubbing his eyes, he had to mentally refocus from the intense reading and thinking over the personnel files.  Before the second ring echoed away he picked up the receiver.  “McGarrett.”

 

“Steve, I have some interesting information for you.”

 

The gruff voice startled him.  “Doc?  What are you doing up so late?”  He glanced at the clock, amazed it was after two AM.  He knew it was late – could feel it in his fatigue and slow mental processes.  That his staff was still working was expected.  The ME still on the job was a surprise. 

 

“I wanted to get this autopsy done.  Just in case I found something else that could help.”

 

The team spirit, the willingness to go beyond reasonable limits to help find Danno warmed him and Steve flushed with pride and a new wave of hope.  Maybe together they could get through this and bring his friend – their friend – home.

 

“What I found was something unexpected.  Again.  When I retire I’m going to write a book about the unbelievable things –“

 

“DOC!”

 

“Okay, right.  Anyway, Steve, I got another patient late tonight.  Thought you might be interested in him.  Murder victim.  Gunshot wounds to the back of the head.  Named Doctor Alexander Frye.  He was a plastic surgeon, Steve.”

 

“I’ll be right there.”

 

Reentering the morgue after the harrowing day was momentarily difficult for McGarrett.  So much had happened and it centered around this room.  Around death.

 

“What have you got?” he demanded as he approached the office partitioned away from the slabs.  There were no bodies out now and he was grateful for that.  He wouldn’t be able to come here and see a sheet-draped body again for a long time without thinking of Danno and what he thought was his death.  He joined Berman by the doctor’s desk.

 

“Frye, I didn’t know him, was relatively new to the Islands according to HPD.”

 

“You HAVE been busy,” Steve almost smiled.  There were going to be a lot of people happy when this awful day was over.  The overtime was going to stress the budgets of every department in the county it looked like.  Steve was ordering every effort possible made and people were working all night and all day tomorrow to make it happen.  “Tell me more.”

 

“Killed by a shotgun.  He was found in his car that was pushed over a cliff last night.  You can read the HPD report.  It didn’t slide very far down the cliff and was easily spotted by a bus load of tourists coming back from a luau on the windward coast.  He was not killed in his car.  No sign of restraint or other malicious behavior prior to his death.  No evidence of a struggle on his part.”

 

Bergman handed over a piece of paper indicating that was the man’s home and business address.  He had already advised HPD they better start an investigation.

 

“Moving in on my territory, Doc?” McGarrett questioned, amused at the initiative.

 

“Already knew the drill.”  His face sobered.  “I guess there’s no news?”

 

“We know who’s behind it,” McGarrett admitted, realizing the Doc was not in the loop of the investigation – never was – but this time he was so vital.  “We know why.  March.  An old enemy,” he supplied at Bergman’s puzzled look.  “He’s holding Danno.  If he’s not released from prison, Danno is dead at midnight.  You might just have given us an important link here, Doc.  Mahalo.”

 

“Glad to help.  I’ll let you know if I come up with anything else.”

 

“And make it fast, Doc.  Twenty-one hours and counting.”

 

 

*****

 

 

HPD officers were already at the office of Dr. Frye.  And they were not the first ones.  The reception area was neat: The place was a small establishment, as if the doctor was just getting started in the business; the furniture was new and there were only a few of the standard magazines in the waiting room.  It was evident this was not the scene of the murder.  Located in a quiet commercial center near the Kahala Mall, Frye’s business seemed successful.  In this upscale area, though, appearances were everything and he wondered why the doctor had to do March’s bidding?  Money?  Blackmail?  Such investigation was not necessarily pertinent and would take up valuable time he did not have now.

 

The back room, however, what looked like the doctor’s private office, was a mess.  Files were scattered around the desk and the floor.  Several file cabinets were open.  While the crime team took evidence samples, he moved around the office and started perusing files and calendar appointments.  The clientele was thin.  Then he moved to the desk and found, in a locked drawer, a personal and private journal noting comments about clients.  He searched back a few months and nearly shouted in triumph.  A regular customer named Smith was listed for consultation, surgery and post-op appointments.  Next to the entry was a number -- a code.  He asked one of the HPD women sorting through the files if there were any corresponding with the number and she said the files she was looking at were names, not numbers.

 

Steve had seen this kind of coding before.  When there was a double set of books or records.  Appropriate in this case, he ironically admitted.  A double set of files on clients -- on a double. Would he have to go to another safety deposit box?  If so, he would go wake up some bank managers because he was not waiting around for the banks to open when Danno’s life was in the balance and time meant everything.

 

Then the policewoman called him over to the file cabinet.  There was a false back to the bottom drawer.  He watched her pull out the fake metal back and saw several numbered manila folders.  He sorted through until he found the number he wanted.  Ripping open the seal, he dumped the contents on the desk.  Spread out on the blotter were  8X10 black and white and color photos of Dan Williams. 

 

The various shots were close ups with a telephoto lens.  A few were grainy, some over exposed.  Various photos were very good and practically right in the face of his friend.  How could someone spy on Danno like this and not be noticed?  Then he thought of all the public places they went to, the events, the crime scenes where tourists or anyone else could have a camera and click away to their heart’s content.

 

The evidence made him angry.  For weeks or months someone was trailing Danno and no one in the state police had a clue!  Not even Dan.  How could that happen?  Some of the shots, he was sure, would have included him if they had not been cropped.  He recognized several spots -- at the marina, at the Palace, in the car -- where he would have been right next to his second-in-command.  And he had never noticed the candid photography.  Anger bubbled within.  It could easily over take his emotions right now.  Fatigued, on edge, desperate, without volition he could tip over to unproductive and out-of-control behavior.  So he took a moment to study the pictures, get a focus, and return to thinking like a cop.

 

The scenes were all outdoors.  They were on days predominately off-duty.  Several with Dan in the Mustang.  Several at Steve’s boat.  Okay, that gave him dates.  There were so few days off -- and fewer together -- he could practically name off the specifics right now off the top of his head.  Checking the rest of the envelope, he got a surge of hope when a bill for a photo shop spilled out.  And a hand written note to Dr. Frye to pay the bill!  Not by the photography shop, either!

 

Almost giddy with delight, Steve knew he had in his hands a tangible link to the accomplice who took these pictures and who had them developed.  How dumb could criminals be?  They were involved in a heinous crime of substitution, doubles, assassination of a Governor and murder and they left a bill?  It would have helped if the photographer had left a signature, but Steve knew he could track him down anyway.

 

Digging further into the file, he found complete medical notes on Ted Simmons and the surgical procedures.  Included were also before and after pictures and when he reached the finished likeness of Danno/Simmons, Steve had to sit down.  The image was so perfect it was sickening.  It had fooled him yesterday at the Ilikai.  It was a good close up, but looking carefully he saw some imperfections.  Yeah, given a few minutes and close proximity to Simmons, Steve would have known.  But he never got the chance.  It made him chill to think placement at another door, or a hundred other variables could have altered the terrible events of yesterday and saved him untold grief.

 

Knowing better than to waste time on the past, he scanned through the pictures, the patient records, and found all he could that might be useful.  Getting the HPD woman onto going through the other files in case they were relevant, he called HPD to track down the owner of Kuhio Photo Shop. 

 

It was barely Seven AM when he called the owner of the store and explained this was urgent police business.  Ron Laulu agreed to meet at the shop in twenty minutes.  That was too late for Steve, but he had no choice, it was as fast as the man could get there.

 

Then McGarrett called Lukela and informed him of the progress and to meet at the photo shop.  Chin was unavailable, perhaps still at the Simmons house.   Ten minutes later, McGarrett pulled up at the empty section of Kuhio Avenue behind International Marketplace.  His was the only car on the street, but there were people strolling -- tourists from hotels on their way to a morning walk on the beach.  Or breakfast at a beachside café.  Or workers on their way to one of the many hotels or eateries employing locals in Waikiki.

 

He paced in front of the store, thinking out his next moves.  What would he find here?  A link to the man who spied on Danno?  Then maybe a name?  An address?  Could he be so lucky?  If this was a dead end he would have to go with Simmons’ bank box and more information to be uncovered at Frye’s office.  That would all take up time that he and Danno did not have.

 

A small Datsun pulled up to the curb and a short Polynesian got out and introduced himself as Laulu.   Steve offered his badge and was glad the man did not ask for a search warrant.  Going inside, McGarrett was given sales receipts to look through for the dates Steve could remember.  He had no description of the man who might have come in to have the pictures developed, but he showed a few of the photos he brought and the man did not remember them.  His son and daughter were his assistants and did most of the developing.

 

Steve did find film -- three sets -- brought in on the days he remembered the pictures might have been taken.  Two color and one black and white rolls.  Laulu remembered the black and white -- unusual for Waikiki.  Didn’t see many of those.  Only real photography buffs used that for effect and artistry.  Steve couldn’t read the name scrawled out as a signature, but Laulu transcribed it as Paul Winslow.

 

Thanking the man profusely, he raced out to his car and asked for wants and warrants on Paul Winslow.  Also an address and the make and model of his car through the Motor Vehicle Department.  As soon as he had an address he would get back up and storm the place.  Could it be this simple?  Dealing with March, he thought not.  But March was dependent on others outside the walls of prison.  Who was this Winslow?  He checked his watch.  Seven-thirty.  Sixteen and a half hours and counting.

 

On the way back to the Palace, McGarrett radioed Che Fong and told the lab chief that the third set of prints on Danno’s .38 might belong to a Paul Winslow.  By the time Steve parked in his usual slot, Che returned the call, confirming the identity of the third person.  His prints were on file for employees of the state.  The news was thrilling.  Steve ordered Che to track down the employment details. It was only a matter of time before they knew all about this Winslow character.  Unfortunately time was their enemy and every minute fought against them in their quest to find Williams.

 

 

*****

 

 

Returning to the Palace, the phone was ringing when Steve rushed through the office.  He paused at Malia’s desk to snap up the receiver and answer.  “McGarrett.”

 

“This is Warden Heller at the prison, Steve.  We’ve just had a complication.  March just had a heart attack.”

 

“What?”  Steve’s stomach plummeted.  “How bad?” 

 

He could hardly speak.  His throat was tight with near panic.  March dead or incapacitated?  Then he may never find Danno!  March held the key here and there was no way of knowing what diabolical scheme was in place to kill Williams.  Was there an accomplice?  Or a timer?  A bomb?  Was Danno buried underground with limited air?  The grim possibilities were too many to count and Steve felt cold with fear that none of his desperate, energetic actions would count.  If he couldn’t find his friend -- if March died -- there would be no way to know for sure where his friend was being held.

 

“He can’t be allowed to die!” he shouted, knowing the order was ridiculous.  The doctors would do everything they could without his demands.  “Let me know how bad he is.  And keep me informed,” he snapped and hung up, leaning on the desk. 

 

Exhausted, this piece of bad news was draining.  Going without sleep all night, he felt at the edge of collapse, but closed his eyes and took a deep breath.  Tempted to go out to the prison and get a death-bed confession from March, he knew that might be a waste of precious time.  Better to find Danno.  Find this Winslow.  Then, if March’s condition grew worse, he could go out there and intimidate the man into confessing where Danno was being held.  Aware his desires were pushing him to the very limits of his moral code, he knew if there was a choice between losing Danno and finding him, he would do almost anything to March to get the information.  The moral question scared him – how far was he willing to go?  He didn’t want to find out.

 

 

*****

 

 

Looking as fatigued as he felt, Chin and Duke arrived at almost the same time as Malia.  Already on his second cup of coffee for this term at the office, McGarrett gave them updates of what he had been doing, and they joined him in the tedious paper trail search.  While HPD and Five-0 staff were working on various angles, McGarrett assigned Chin to go to the Simmons’ bank and check out the safety-deposit box. 

 

Kelly returned later with a report – money and bankbooks of trust funds set up for the children with a bank in Switzerland.  Personal notes to each of the surviving family members.  Kelly wondered if they needed to go through Manicote and start legal proceedings on the Simmons angle, but McGarrett was too focused on finding Danno to worry about financial crimes that they would probably not win.  The money in Switzerland was beyond them.  Simmons was beyond the law.  They were missing a detective -- that was the bottom line.

 

Winslow’s address and history were being researched through the HPD computer.  Steve had gone through prison records and discovered who visited March.  He had only two visitors since his prison term; his attorney and a business manager.  Both were being investigated by HPD detectives.  It was slow going.  The attorney was based in LA and the business manager lived and ran the remaining March Foundation holdings from Singapore.

 

Later in the morning, Malia buzzed in and reported Lieutenant Ono was on line two.  Steve answered it.

 

“Found your Winslow man,” the officer reported in a deep voice.  “No wants or warrants, Steve.  Didn’t take us long ‘cause he’s a state employee.”

 

“Yeah?” McGarrett responded, grabbing a pencil and paper.  “Where?”

 

“The state prison.  He’s an orderly at the hospital ward.”

 

His blood dropped to sub-zero and Steve coughed out the breath knotted in his throat.  “Meet us there!”  He threw the phone down.  “Winslow is an orderly at the prison hospital,” he shouted, running out, his detectives following him.  “That’s his connection to March!  Malia, call the warden and tell him to isolate March from everybody including the staff! And arrest Winslow!”

 

On the wild and reckless drive, McGarrett informed his officers that March probably faked the heart attack so he could coordinate with his accomplice, Winslow.  Probably through money or some other bribery, Winslow was in March’s pocket.  They would sort out details later.  Right now they had to keep March from issuing any final instructions.  He glanced at his watch.  Nearly ElevenAM.  Thirteen hours left.

 

While McGarrett, Duke, Ono and two other officers stormed into the prison, Chin stayed in the car coordinating more information on Winslow – addresses, holdings, bank accounts and any thing else that might be useful.

 

Warden Heller met them at the front entrance.  “Steve, bad news.  Winslow checked out earlier this morning.  Said he was sick.”

 

“He’s received instructions from March and he’s gone to Danno!” McGarrett countered savagely.

 

When they entered the hospital, McGarrett zeroed in on March, who was under an oxygen tent.  Ordering the doctor to remove it, Steve made a move to remove it himself and the doctor stopped him.

 

“This man is critically ill –“

 

“He’s faking it!” McGarrett shouted.  “This is all a ploy –“

 

“Steve, we can’t --

 

“March is in a coma –“

 

“You check him, doctor!  I want another physician in here!  There’s a drug used to induce heart attacks!  Winslow is a medical orderly!  He must have had access to the drug!”

 

He couldn’t think of the name.  It had been used by Orwell, the criminal mastermind, in a case years ago.  Danno had handled that part of the investigation.  He would know  . . . .  He needed Danno back – this was just one example of many – and it physically hurt him, cringing against the pain -- that his officer was missing and in peril.

 

“Get him awake!  Do you have any Pentathol?”

 

Tersely, quickly, he explained Winslow was the link to March and the plastic surgeon and Danno.  It was over the heads of the doctor and the warden, but that was irrelevant.  He needed the truth out of March.  Why didn’t he think of using a truth serum before?  Because such a drug was completely illegal and out-of-bounds. 

 

A voice haunted him – Danno’s voice from so long ago.  A quiet and anguished inquiry that was meant to help and assist Steve in a terrible decision.  When his nephew had died, he hurt his sister and himself by going after the doctor.  By prolonging the pain.  ‘Steve, this once, can’t you back off?’ Danno had wondered, trying to save Steve and Mary Ann from more pain.

 

Couldn’t he bend this time?  Couldn’t he give in and release March and save the life closest to him?  He wanted to.  Even if he could, though, or would, there were others who would stop him.  That restraint made him angry.  Mad at himself for being so weak that he would give in if he could.  After yesterday, though, he saw things with a little more grey – less of the sharp contrasts of black and white.  He had killed Danno yesterday.  If he refused to release March he would kill Danno tonight and there would be no hope of a miracle resurrection.

 

Was anything beyond his scope with Danno’s life in the balance?  Yes.  No matter what, no matter how important his goal, he could not compromise his oath, his promise to the people of this state.  He could not compromise his own morals.  If that meant he had to restrain from throttling and drugging this scum, then he had to accept that. 

 

When all of this was over -- good or bad -- if he returned to the ward and saw March again, he wondered if he had the control to walk away.  Idle speculation.  Right now, he needed answers. 

 

“I want another doctor here to evaluate March.  If he is faking, I want him awake to answer questions.  You give Officer Kelly everything you have on Winslow,” he ordered the warden.

 

Control.  A trait he valued and practiced under extreme conditions all his life.  Could he keep it now?  He hadn’t so far.  He had been out of control since yesterday morning when he had pulled the trigger, then drove – the man whom he thought was Danno – over the lanai at the Ilikai.  With only hours left, could he maintain stability long enough to find Danno?

 

To the doctor, he ordered the man to find out the drug used to induce heart attack symptoms.  He also ordered March be isolated from anyone except the head physician. 

 

Thalassine Stearate.”  The hoarse mumble came from the patient who still looked like death – pale, sweating – but his eyes were open.  They bore into McGarrett like twin laser beams stabbing at his soul.  “It is a thyroid derivative.  It simulates heart attacks.  You’re right.  I used it.”

 

“To get to Winslow.”

 

“Yes,” March laughed.  “Good, McGarrett.  You show a wonderful aptitude for connecting dots.  But you’ve only got a few hours left.  Are you going to get me off this island or are you going to let your detective end up like Dr. Frye?”

 

The incredulity at March’s callous admission to murder overwhelmed his rage momentarily.  So he admitted to complicity -- responsibility -- for the doctor’s death!

 

“I understand a shotgun can leave a big mess, McGarrett.”

 

A warning – March and his minion Winslow won't hesitate to do the same to Danno.

 

Livid, McGarrett lunged forward, ripping open the plastic bubble.  The doctor, the warden and his own men stopped him.  Heller, a big man, and Ono, also a fair size, along with Lukela, pushed McGarrett away from the prisoner and into another room.  Breathing hard, Steve wanted to fight them all, but knew the futility of the battle.  Reason would work faster here than physical intimidation, but he didn’t have time for lengthy explanations. 

 

“Steve!” Lukela tried to reason.  “Steve, come on, there’s nothing you can do!”

 

“Leave me alone!”

 

"Take it easy Steve."  

 

“Only a few hours left, McGarrett!” he heard March shout before the door closed to the hospital wing.

 

“You were right, Steve,” Heller offered with chagrin.

 

“Truth serum –“

 

“We can’t drug him to get information.”

 

McGarrett didn’t respond to the obvious.  “Just – just keep him isolated.  No contact with anyone else!”

 

It was difficult to calm down and edge toward the exit.  On the other side of the door was the man who had the answers.  Who had Danno’s life in his hands.  How could Steve walk away and turn his back on this source of vital information – on this murderer?  It was maddening that he was so powerless.

 

 

*****

 

 

At the car, he ordered Chin to stay there and get everything he could about Winslow.  Now possessing the address and information of vehicles on Winslow, McGarrett, Lukela and Ono raced over to Winslow’s apartment in Kaimuki.  It was an old two-story unit with some front apartments claiming a partial view of Diamond Head.  Winslow’s place was in the back where they stopped, ringing the door, weapons drawn, before McGarrett knocked.

 

“Winslow!  This is Five-0!  Open up!”

 

He waited for a few seconds then pounded on the old wood again.  Winslow, an enforcement colleague, could be armed and waiting on the other side of the door, ready to use violence.  He could have Danno tied up in a back room. 

 

The possibilities were varied and Steve had combed through many on the drive over.  Now, the moment upon him, he felt on the brink of destiny.  This was one of the most dangerous moments in a cop’s life – hitting a door and bursting in to the unknown -- confronting armed and dangerous criminals -- confronting death?  This time, it could be finding Danno . . . .

 

Without another warning, he kicked the door at the same time Lukela and Ono slammed it with their feet.  The door splintered and they pushed in.  The sparsely furnished front room was empty, as were the kitchen and bathroom.  Empty.  Livid, he stalked through the rooms looking for any obvious clues.  The place was not neat and that made it hard to know where to start looking.  He ordered the men to begin a search. 

 

He raced down the stairs to the carports below.  In the parking slot assigned to the prison guard, no sign of the red Ford Winslow owned.  Moving to the Mercury, he ordered an APB out on Winslow and the car.  The move might be dangerous – might panic the man and that could lead to danger for Danno.  Steve thought of the evidence they found at the scene of the abduction.  His kidnappers already exhibited violence to their captive.  What would happen if they panicked?  If they felt cornered?  Was Danno even alive?  He had to believe that.

 

Returning to the apartment, he shuffled through some papers and bills shoved under a mug on the kitchen table.  Too impatient to indulge in the tedious task of this type of search, McGarrett paced, walked, searching the rooms. 

 

In the bedroom, he found a pile of dirty clothes.  Stained.  Were the dark smears blood?  Throat choked with disgust, he carefully sorted through the clothing.  As he lifted the reeking suit jacket that smelled and was smeared with what was undoubtedly blood, several items dropped to the floor.  An all too familiar leather badge case; a watch with a wide silver band, a wallet.  Hands trembling, he opened the case, moaning aloud when he saw the Five-0 gold shield and the ID of Dan Williams.  Then he picked up the distinctive silver watch with the wide, solid band.  On the back of the watch were the words he had engraved there when he gave this as a present to his friend a number of Christmases ago.

 

Covering his face with his hand, he fought off the waves of queasiness and grief assailing his weakened emotions.  This had to be Danno’s blood.  It was his wallet, watch, ID, badge -- his tan jacket -- and Steve was sure it was Danno’s -- blood.  Did this mean it was too late? Was Danno injured?  Or had Danno been killed?  Why?  Wouldn’t March and Winslow want their hostage alive?  Staring at the blood, smelling the stale, well-defined odor, knowing it probably belonged to his friend nearly pushed him to the limit.  Waves of nausea rippled through his stomach and his head pounded with a blinding headache.  The gripping emotional terror was affecting him physically, but he resisted surrender to the anguish.   

 

Defenses shattered after the horrific last days, he had to really fight to regain stability and control.  Reaching for logical comfort amid the overwhelming tide of violence, death and subterfuge, he strove for any thread of hope, but found it nearly impossible to cling to any positive theories.

 

It didn’t look like Danno had ever been here, but he was guessing Winslow had been the one who abducted his friend.  Why keep the trophies – Danno’s personal possessions?  Bragging rights that he had abducted – killed? – a cop?  Was Danno all right?  He was hurt, but how badly?  The broken window and blood in the LTD was condemning.  He remembered it vividly, along with Che’s verbal report:  A significant amount of blood’.  Indicating Danno was possibly seriously wounded. He had speculated on that grim reality when he saw the LTD and the evidence at the garage.

 

Moving back to the front room, he used the phone to call Che Fong at the lab.  He ordered him to come out and go over the place fast and thoroughly.  There might be something here that could save him -- save his friend.

 

Where were Danno and his captor?  Did Winslow have any reason to keep Danno alive? Yes – he was supposed to be exchanged at midnight, but what if the bullet wound was fatal?  They could be negotiating for a dead cop.  Was Danno waiting for Steve to rescue him?  Did he know anything of the terrible events that had happened?  Or that he was under a sentence of death? 

 

In the hours since the abduction, Steve had centered on the tragedy and had little time to worry about the abstract questions in this drama.  At first, it was the horrific focus on shooting Danno, then the death -- now, able to step back slightly, he could think things through more thoroughly and theorize, sift through the shock to at least ask the right questions.  Finding the answers -- that was taking too long.

 

Gripping onto the possessions as if they were a tangible link to his friend, McGarrett slipped them into his pocket.  These were not going into an evidence bag yet.  He was keeping these close.  Procedure, after this roller-coaster of days, meant less than sentiment right now.

 

 

*****

 

 

Returning to the Palace in the late afternoon, his first call was to Che for the report on the blood on the tan jacket.  A-positive. Danno’s type, he cringed.  Woodenly thanking the lab chief he hung up and stared at his hand on the phone.  Momentarily, his mind blanked at the horrors rising again in his mind -- the imaginings of what had happened to his friend.  He found himself unable to function.  The energy and adrenalin that had pushed him this far since yesterday was seriously waning.  He stared at the digital clock on his desk as the minutes ticked by.  Methodical, elusive, like Time itself, the moments sped by without McGarrett altering the inevitable advent of midnight.  The big question was; would he be able to change the course of this investigation in time?

 

“Steve?”

 

The voice startled him and McGarrett jumped in his chair, gradually realizing he had dozed off.  How could he?  Every minute was precious and he had fallen asleep!  Glancing at the clock, he scanned it -- Ten-forty-three PM -- as he raked his eyes to stab Lukela, who was standing in front of the desk.  So little time left . . . .

 

“What?”

 

“I just talked to Warden Heller.  March has a message for you.  The deal is still on -- he walks at midnight or Danny is dead.”

 

“I’m going to wring it out of him --  Steve was already on his feet when Duke stopped him with a quiet comment.

 

“I don’t think there’s time, Steve.  Chin got a possible lead.  One of Winslow’s prison buddies says Winslow likes to borrow his cabin out on the Old Pali Road.  It’s a long shot, but it’s all I can think of as a lead.”

 

McGarrett glanced at the clock even as he jogged out of the office.  It was a near hopeless long shot, but more productive than confronting March again.  The prison officials would keep him from intimidating March enough to do any good, he was sure.  As he raced through the quiet streets of downtown Honolulu late at night, he tried to use his instincts to project if this was the right course.  There was so little time left.  If he guessed wrong Danno was dead.

 

“Steve?”

 

Dragging his mind away from the numbing blur of memories and anxieties, he blinked, the streetlights and house lights coming into sharper detail as they sped away from the city.  In the quiet avenues, the town was preparing to sleep amid the warm brush of a Pacific breeze.  In Waikiki, the night life was in full swing.  The huge, tropical moon seemed swollen and bright against the rugged outline of the dark mountains and the blinking glimpses of stars in the midnight sky.

 

Duke’s voice was quiet and McGarrett knew a question of importance loomed on the brink of the moment.  He didn’t want to face anything emotional right now.  He was wrung out of everything but the agony that remained as a shadow from yesterday and as a harbinger of tonight.  There were no feelings left to hide because they were still all in pieces inside him like broken glass.  This was not the time for personal questions.  There were no defenses left.  That was part of the fear.  What was he going to do at midnight if he did not find Danno?  March had warned he would face the memory of what he had done, seen and felt yesterday, because Danno would be dead for real.  And it would be his fault.

 

“Steve, what happens if this doesn’t work out?  If we don’t find Danny before midnight?”

 

McGarrett’s fists tightened on the steering wheel.  As they flew through the night on the dark Pali Highway, he twisted his hands, choking the car with residual intensity.

 

“Are you going to release March?”

 

It was a question that he had faced before.  When Danno was kidnapped by terrorists.  He recommended the prisoners wanted for an exchange should not be released.  Even though it meant Danno’s life -- nearly cost him his life.  Steve would not give in -- could not surrender to the demands. 

 

“I can’t,” he whispered, the agony clear in the trembling tone.  He glanced at the clock on the dash.  Closing in on the Witching Hour.  Time was almost up.

 

“I know,” Duke sighed unsteadily.  “It’s the only thing you can do.”

 

Swallowing down a cry that nearly bubbled out in a frantic exclamation; he just took in a deep breath.  It was not the only thing he could do, but it was what had to be done.  There could have been appeals to Manicote or Jameson.  Steve could have wielded his power as the head of Five-0 and made recommendations and even risky arrangements to have March released and followed.  Or to have him in custody at the Palace so McGarrett could handle this in his own fashion. 

 

None of those scenarios could work.  Not with March in the hospital.  And perhaps Steve was relieved.  He was trapped, as he had been from the start of this insane plot.  Narrow parameters kept him on a thin track of justice and law.  As much as he wanted to have his friend back, he could not bend.  Could not surrender.  Could never give in to the lawless breeds who were his enemies.  Just as, years ago, he could not give up prosecuting the woman who had murdered his nephew through malpractice.  Just as, once, he could not exchange prisoners for Danno.  Now, he could not negotiate and it was killing him inside by little pieces as each condemning moment clicked by.  The only recourse -- finding Williams.  And if he failed -- no -- he could not think of that now.

 

 

*****

 

 

Old Pali Road was narrow and pot-holed in many spots.  The ancient and thinly paved trail ran from one side of the island to the windward coast.  Ares of the old mountain -- many places in the Islands -- were considered sacred ground.  At the freeways and tunnels, offerings were left at certain spots to appease the spirits as travelers invaded the haunted realm.  McGarrett’s only concern tonight was not old ghost stories, but tangible, real evil.

 

There were still a few houses up here nestled in the deep forest and the fluted hills.  At night the breath-taking scenery was invisible behind the cloak of deep darkness.  The stars, however, seemed close and unusually bright away from the glow of city lights.  The glittering sky reflecting an aura of peace not appreciated nor felt by McGarrett. 

 

As they pulled around a curve, they came suddenly to the small cabin that overlooked Kaneohe Bay.  A red Ford compact was parked to the side of the dirt driveway and lights were on in the cabin.  Fully aware Danno could be in there, Steve felt a momentary chill.  Isolated, quiet, this would be a good place to hold a prisoner.  In the deep forest and cavernous cliff sheers, this would also be an excellent place to lose a body.

 

McGarrett shut off the headlights and sat there for a moment studying the setting.  One door visible in the front.  Two sets of windows.  Winslow might have already seen the car’s lights.  Surprise could be lost to them.

 

Duke was ordering back up as McGarrett slipped out of the driver’s side and silently closed his door.  He whispered for Lukela to cover the back.

 

“Shouldn’t we wait for back up?”

 

The dashboard clock had read nine minutes to midnight.  He couldn’t -- wouldn’t -- wait for anyone.

 

“I’m going in.”

 

Lukela gave a tight nod and did as instructed, jogging to the back of the house.

 

McGarrett crept up to the first window and tried to peer inside, but the curtains were too thick and completely covered the glass.  Taking a deep breath, he approached the door and slowly, carefully turned the knob.  Locked.  Backing away, he drew his revolver and took another breath.  Then he kicked in the door and swept in on the momentum of the force.

 

Inside a large front room, he ground instantly to a halt, losing the air in his chest through a gasp of shock.  Dan Williams -- bound and gagged -- was wrapped to a chair.  Behind him, backed against a wall was a tall, thin man holding a shotgun.  The weapon was attached with duct tape to the victim --- the barrel jammed into Danno’s neck, secured tightly.

 

Cold, trembling inside, McGarrett held the revolver aimed at Winslow only out of habit and the protective instinct to remain defended.  Otherwise, his whole body would have collapsed, he felt, from the rush of alarm sweeping through him like an arctic wave. 

 

Battered, bleeding from what looked like a swollen and unhealed gash on his cheek and a wound -- the gunshot? -- on his torso, Williams was alive, but in bad shape.  After believing his friend dead at his hands -- then worrying about finding him in time -- Steve shivered with a modicum of relief.  But Danno was hurt.  Without a jacket, his white shirt showed the stain of a lot of dried blood.  There looked like a towel or some kind off wadded cloth bulging under the shirt.  So there was some attempt to keep Danno alive and from bleeding to death.  Some of the material near the center of the hole looked glistening and darker red.  Was Danno still bleeding?  Over a day and a half and his wound had not been treated except for the most superficial attempt to stay some bleeding?  Swallowing down the revulsion and anger, Steve studied his friend in the few seconds he had to assess everything.  All the blood lost -- Danno had to be near death.  Still breathing, he was unconscious from the trauma.

 

Revulsion boiled inside his shattered emotions and typically the first hot feelings to surface were the anger and insult.  "How could you leave him like this?"

 

“Shut up!”  

 

Shocked -- dazed -- Williams blinked his eyes open.  With Dan’s mouth taped there was no way to get a response, but the head sagged back, bleary blue eyes staring at him from under half-closed lids.  He imagined those familiar eyes reflected the pain and confusion resulting from the violence and kidnapping.  He had been injured yesterday morning during the abduction.  Had he been bleeding since then?  Certainly without decent medical care during all of this. 

 

Although it was difficult to move along past the serious injury to his officer, McGarrett pushed away his affront and focused on the present.  Aware of the extreme danger of the moment, McGarrett forced himself to look at the perpetrator, amazed the revolver in his hand was still rock-steady and aimed at Winslow’s chest. 

 

Winslow seemed to read his silent reactions and in return had to feel the open threat from him.  The criminal grabbed Williams by the hair and straightened his head.  The violent motion jerked Williams and his eyes blinked, scanning the room, then widening as he focused in on McGarrett. 

 

Steve bit his lip to restrain the groan in his throat.  What did he say?  He didn’t want to give Winslow any more advantage than the total one already established.  The thought escalated his livid, hot emotions, which were already barely in check.  Winslow had the high ground .  What mattered was Danno.

 

“It’ll be all right, Danno.  I’m getting you out of here.”

 

Winslow viciously shook the shotgun and Dan’s face scrunched in pain.  “You talk to ME, McGarrett!  Not Him!  He is nothing!  I am the one in charge!  And he is not going to be okay unless I say so!  You got that?”

 

Flicking his eyes to briefly glare at the criminal, he gave a reassuring look again to Williams.  Dan’s eyes blinked twice.  Even through the dazed pain, he knew Dan understood him. 

 

“Then let’s get this over with, Winslow.  We both want the same thing,” he commented soothingly, but the message was for his friend.

 

Dan blinked again, acknowledging they were on the same wavelength.  Steve promised to get him out of here safely and Williams believed him.

 

“You didn’t release March.  So his deal is off, McGarrett.  You deal with me.”

 

They must have had a prearranged signal if March was released.  There was no time to worry about that.  The important factor was that he was standing here in the same room with his friend -- who was still alive -- for now.  He had to maintain that status even under the dire circumstances.

 

The man shook from extreme nervousness.  The barrel of the shotgun jittered against the tape and Danno’s neck.  After assessing the set-up, glancing again at Winslow, McGarrett returned his gaze to his friend. 

 

Danno was alive.  But for how long?  The nervous madman had the shotgun perilously attached to Danno’s neck.  One wrong move and Danno would die a horrible death.  Right in front of his eyes.  A chill of illness and fear rocked him, but he forced himself to remain outwardly steady, stiff and hopefully unaffected by this insanity.  The fear -- inside and out -- was the hardest to subdue.

 

“McGarrett!” Winslow screamed, yanking at Williams’ head.  “Do you understand?”

 

Steve forced away the desperate anguish and allowed the anger to sustain him, to fortify everything inside.  Enough to try and reach the monster holding his friend at the point of the shotgun, at least.  Danno was still bleeding -- maybe internal injuries -- that had been going untreated for hours.  He couldn’t just stand here and do nothing!

 

“Let me help him.”

 

“No!”

 

“He’s hurt!  Bleeding!  I can help --”

 

“No, you’re not getting anywhere near him!  No tricks, cop!  He didn’t come easy!  He needed me to show him who was boss, McGarrett!  Tried to fight my authority!”  The man was barely on the brink of sanity. 

 

Perhaps the same could be said of Steve as he tried to get through to the man who was letting his friend bleed to death.  Dammit he needs --“

 

The man became hysterical.  “I said no! NO! NO! NO!”

Fear had shattered Winslow’s nerves and made him more deranged than the head of Five-0 had originally thought, he assessed dejectedly.  This was a little man with little authority, put in a position to wield that power over those in prison.  Now, over a helpless cop.  Beaten, shot, Williams had been overpowered, and this spineless weasel thought that gave him control and power.  Only temporarily, he vowed dangerously.

 

Steve took a breath, calming himself, but he could not give up on his friend.  “Let him go.”  There was no evidence of the quavering fear inside him.  His voice was as commanding as ever, tinged with a rising anger that was starting to bubble up through the cracked, desolate emotions and fatigue.  “Now!”

 

Dan’s eyes grew wider.  He was conscious of the danger and readable fear crept into his eyes.  He understood all too well what was going on.  The thought almost made Steve faint with sick revulsion.  Danno knew what they were facing.  That he might die in a very painful and messy fashion at any moment.

 

“Release him!” Steve shouted, needing to act -- to be effective before he lost control and did some rash impulsive act he would regret.  Shooting Winslow would only kill Danno, but the choice was almost forced upon him.  With Winslow’s instability, Williams’ life was hanging by the thin thread of whatever sanity was left in the gunman.  “Let him go!”

 

The demanding shout made Winslow jump and Steve held his breath. 

 

“You’re not in charge here, McGarrett!  I give the orders here!  Or your cop is dead!”

 

The man was a wreck.  Steve had to force himself to go easy.  Then he glanced back at his battered, bloody -- still bleeding -- friend.  More than ever grateful for Williams’ readable expressions, he could interpret everything in those stark blue eyes.  The fear for McGarrett, the weary faith, the relief that rescue was at hand.  That absolute trust, the certain conviction that Steve was going to save him, was expected, but daunting at this apex of time and destiny.  Danno believed in him.  Then he could not fail.

 

Swallowing hard, he shivered as he forced the anger aside and capitulated to the agonizing, if temporary, submission.  “What do you want?”

 

“March.  You have to get March here.  Then you let us go free.  We fly out of here.  On a seaplane.  You get that for us, too.  And don’t think one of your sharpshooters can take me down.  My finger will twitch on this trigger if I’m jolted or hit.  I’m giving you one hour, McGarrett.  Then this trigger is pulled and this cop is dead.”

 

Grinding his teeth, Steve gripped tighter to his revolver.  Could he try a head shot?  Exactly between the eyes, if he drilled a bullet just right, Winslow would go down without pulling the trigger.  A nick, a shot anywhere else would not be instantly fatal.  Then the finger-reflex would kick in, pull the trigger and Danno was dead. 

 

Inside, he was shaking.  Barely visible, was the slight tremble of his hand.  No, he could never make such a perilous shot.  There was no chance he could pull it off.  And no way he would/could release March.  To give in to terrorism -- for whatever the high ideal and cost -- he could not allow it. The ultimatum left a crushing, black weight in his chest.  The oppression of guilt.  So close, but he could not save his friend.

 

“If you shoot him you’re a dead man,” he vowed with severe conviction. 

 

“I got no where to go!” he screamed.  “March promised this would be easy –“

 

“He’s a liar, Winslow.  He’s not going to keep you around after he’s used you –“

 

“He’s making me rich!  And getting me out of here!  And you better do what I say or we all lose!”

 

So intent on the drama before him, the criminal did not think about the back door.  Steve didn’t hear anything himself, but noted Lukela now standing as silent as a ghost just inside the kitchen, unable to see, or be seen by, Winslow.  The sound of car doors slamming outside reminded him back up had probably arrived.  So, he was surrounded by allies and it made no difference.  They could not do anything to help in freeing his friend.

 

Looking back at Dan, he saw the faith was still there.  In the pain-filled eyes, past the exhaustion, he still had faith.  Utter confidence that this would turn out all right.  The stalwart trust chilled him with humility and spiked his flagging determination.  He would not surrender to the demands, neither could he give in to depression.  Death here was not inevitable.  He was going to save Danno.

 

Lukela ducked out of sight for a moment, then returned to hover in the kitchen with Officer Ono.  Steve barely glanced at them so he would not alert Winslow to policemen behind him.  That would only make this shaky guy more nervous.

 

“My hand and finger won’t hold out forever!  Go get March!” Winslow shouted.

 

“Okay,” McGarrett agreed instantly. 

 

He noted Williams’ eyebrows shoot up in surprise, then scrunched together in momentary puzzlement.  Then, his eyes cleared and he winked.  He knew Steve had a plan.  In a silent prayer, McGarrett pleaded to not be wrong.  Yesterday, when the fake Danno had looked at him with such sorrow and devastation, he knew he would take that look to his grave.  Now, looking at his real friend, he knew if something went wrong, if he miscalculated, if he failed -- this expression of trust and faith would stay with him until his last breath.  He could not fail.  It would mean the end of his friend, and the end of his sanity if he did.

 

To Winslow, he sternly informed, “I’ll get March here as soon as I can.  Untape his mouth --“

 

“No!”

 

“Loosen the tape on his neck –“

 

“No!”

 

“You’re nervous,” he countered reasonably.  “It will take time to get March over here all the way from the prison --“

 

“Just get him here fast then!”

 

Speaking to Williams, he promised, “I’ll come back for you.  Hang on.” 

 

Williams winked again. 

 

Tearing himself away -- leaving -- was one of the most difficult trials of his life.  He recognized the irony as he unsteadily backed to the door.  This was happening all over again.  A deadly trap of horrible double events.  March’s double of Danno.  Now the second time he was faced with Danno’s death and he was again trapped in a series of consequences he could not alter.  Yet.

 

Could Winslow maintain his cool or would his finger slip?  Afraid of what would happen when he was not there next to Danno, when he could not see what was going on, Steve hesitated.  Knowing he could not waste any more time, he dashed out the door, returning to his Mercury.  Seconds later, he was joined by Lukela and Ono.

 

“You’re not really going to set March free, are you?”  Lukela’s statement held a dreaded knowledge.  There would be no exchange.  Knowing McGarrett was playing a dangerous game, his voice trembled.  “We can’t shoot him, Steve --“

 

“I know,” he snapped back. 

 

Shaking his head, gazing around at the lights below by the bay, at the officers, he struggled to come up with a plan.  Danno thought he had one already.  He was glad to have projected that image -- the invulnerable boss-in-control façade that lead his men to think everything was going to work out. 

 

He recalled the horrors of yesterday when he believed he had shot and killed his friend.  The expression on the fake Danno – the betrayal, the hurt.  It was happening again, but this time with the real Danno.  Only this Danno didn’t sear him with looks of betrayal.  His Danno crushed him with the unwavering faith that Steve could save Williams’ life.   How, he wondered? The threat, the pressing closeness of death -- it was all being repeated.  How could he stop the horrible death from really happening this time?

 

Eyes traveling to Ono, the sight of the HPD Lieutenant gave him an idea.  “Turn about is fair play,” he barely whispered.

 

 

*****

 

 

A few minutes later, he returned to the cabin.  The sight of his friend gave him a chill.  Danno was suffering.  Dan’s treatment at the hands of his captor had been harsh -- physically obviously, but now he suspected emotionally with his unhinged, raving comments.  The man was one of those unbalanced people who thrived on wielding power over others --especially the helpless.  Steve’s skin crawled thinking about his friend at this monster’s mercy.  It made him angry, but he also realized Winslow would not hesitate to kill Danno.  The ultimate power over his victim -- death.  Even if it was suicidal.  And if he didn’t think March was coming, he might welcome death for himself.

 

Outwardly, he allowed none of the anguish to slip through his control.  This whole escapade had been marked by his lack of control over events or emotions.  Now, he had to be in tight command of his expressions, his tone, his movements.  Everything depended on his ability to slam down that well-practiced lid of self-discipline.  All his life he practiced this vital survival tool of rigid self-rule.  During his father’s drunken bouts; his father’s death, his mother’s struggles, his responsibilities at an early age.  All of it taught him the value of staying in command of himself at all times.  The trait seemed abstract after what he had faced for the last two days.  It seemed a ridiculous piece of trivial pride when he acknowledged the reasons he had so often crumbled in these horrible hours since yesterday morning.  His friend’s life -- a friend he valued beyond words --seemingly lost by his own hand, he had been shattered.  That life now on the line for real, he struggled to maintain control while he knew his abilities now could be the hinge of saving the friend he feared to lose.

 

“I’ve made the arrangements,” he reported dryly.  “March is on his way.”

 

Winslow sighed with relief, but Williams’ weary expression edged with guarded doubt.  He knew very well that something was up with the false report.

 

 

*****

 

 

McGarrett paced outside for a time, but could not stand the separation.  Unable to keep from seeing his friend, even under these torturous circumstances, he returned inside the cabin.  After yesterday, he had to stay close.  Williams was aware of his presence, but could do little to acknowledge any comments.  Wounded, fatigued, weak from loss of blood and shock, Dan had his reserves sapped.  There would be no help from him in any rescue plan.  It would be ridiculous to expect it anyway the way Winslow had him taped up.

 

Steve’s gamble was tricky.  After all the desperation and pain, he could very well still lose Danno.  These could be the last, inadequate and agonizing moments with his friend.  Only a few feet away, but separated by the chasm of danger and distress. 

 

Steve tried more dialogue with Winslow, but it only made the man more agitated.  He spoke a few encouraging words to Williams, but his friend was fading fast, his pale skin now grey in the dim light of the two small lamps illuminating the cabin’s main room.

 

A car pulled up outside.

 

“That better be him,” Winslow creaked, his voice trembling.  He held onto the shotgun barrel with his left hand and released his hold on the trigger to glance at his watch for a moment.  Before Steve could act on the slip-up, he had his right index finger back on the trigger.  “You go get him and bring him in.”

 

“Then you take the tape off Officer Williams –“

 

“Not till we’re out of here!”

 

“You’re not leaving with him like that!” Steve snapped back angrily.  “You could stumble on a rock and take his head off!  Get it –“

 

“You do what I say!” Winslow shrieked.  He moved away from the kitchen wall and shook the shotgun, nearly choking Williams.

 

Dan coughed against the tape on his mouth, fighting for air.

 

“Stop!”  McGarrett demanded, afraid he had pushed the mad man too far and Williams was going to be strangled before his eyes!  In Danno’s battered condition, it would not take much to lose him.  “Stop it!”

 

“Bring March!  And when you come back I want you unarmed, McGarrett!  No tricks or this cop is history.”

 

Fists tight with leashed wrath, Steve glanced one more time at Williams.  Dan blinked both eyes, hardly able to keep them open. Then Steve left, hoping he was not turning his back on the last moments of his friend’s life. 

 

At the car, he met Chin and paced impatiently while the final stages of their plan were set in place.  He removed his revolver from his shoulder holster and placed it behind his back.  With a deep breath, he ordered his men to take their places, reminding them once again in a funereal tone denoting his trembling fear, that their actions would save or kill Danno in the next few minutes.  They had to perform this flawlessly or they would be the means of Williams’ death.  Grimly serious, the men all acknowledged they understood what was at stake.

 

Taking his handcuffed prisoner by the arm, McGarrett entered the cabin first, keeping his detainee slightly behind him.  Winslow straightened from the wall and placed both hands on the shotgun, as if expecting a trick. Steve noted the tape securing Williams to the chair had been cut.  The tape bound to the shotgun was still in place.  Winslow was ready to take the hostage out into the open.

 

Steve made a show of opening his jacket to reveal no revolver in his holster.  Steve gave a rich tale of the seaplane waiting in Kanehoe Bay, about extra supplies and clothes that March had requested.  ,Several times he stressed there would be no freedom until he was certain of his officer’s safety.  Aware of Winslow’s highly frantic state, he alternately kept an eye on the gunman and on Williams.  Dan’s eyes were open and keen, knowing this was the moment of Fate for all of them.

 

Head bowed, the prisoner moved over to the left, away from the light.

 

March, did they get us the plane?” Winslow wondered, edging away from the wall.  “Let’s go, cop. Did you see it?  March?”

 

McGarrett tensed.

 

Winslow’s left hand left the shotgun stock and gripped onto Williams’ shoulder, to help him stand.

 

From out of the dark kitchen, Lukela threw himself out of the doorway and tackled Winslow.  The body blow threw them into a corner, the weapon tipped up as his hand shifted on the shotgun.  The weapon discharged then, and became a weight, choking the red-smeared Williams. 

 

Lieutenant Ono, dressed in the prison garb for his impersonation of March, joined Lukela to subdue the prisoner.

 

Mind screaming, anguished their plan had failed, McGarrett raced over to grab the shotgun.  Blood splattered everywhere it seemed.  It was impossible to tell how bad the damage was.  From an initial glance it seemed at least the side of Dan’s head was intact, but the bleeding made it difficult to determine.  The close range of the pellets must have scraped along his scalp.  Steve hoped it looked worse than it really was.

 

Frantically ripping away tape, Steve felt choked himself as he waited to see if Dan was still breathing.  Shallow lung movement proved he still lived while Steve worked at removing the tape with one hand while pressing against the bleeding scalp wounds with the other.  Dan’s eyes blinked open and Williams blearily stared at him.  Confident his friend could breathe, he removed the tape on his mouth.

 

“Are you all right?”  It was a ridiculous question.  Someone removed the tape binding Dan to the chair and he fell forward.  McGarrett caught him, holding onto him as if he would never let go.  “It’s all right now,” he croaked.

 

Dan nodded, not speaking, but relaxing against McGarrett.

 

“Sorry it was so close,” Steve whispered, his voice trembling as much as his body.  Or was that Williams shaking?  Or both of them?  “We couldn’t shoot him, Danno.  Too risky.  Our only chance was to tackle him and knock his finger off the trigger.”  He was rambling now, giving the shock and relief release through the uncharacteristic prattle.  “We couldn’t shoot him, his finger-reflex would have --“ he couldn’t finish the thought.  “We had to do it this way . . . .”

 

Dan nodded slowly.  He tried to whisper, but only a croak came out in a scraped, hoarse sigh.

 

Beside him, Chin tugged at his shoulders.  “Steve, let’s get him into the ambulance.”

McGarrett helped the medics move his friend.  Glancing at Winslow, screeching in the corner, already cuffed and on his knees, McGarrett dismissed the criminal from his mind.   Lukela, Ono and Kelly were handling the aftermath here.  His focus was the future. 

 

Following the stretcher outside, he leaped into the ambulance next to Williams.  As the attendants took vitals and commented on the depleted condition of the patient, Steve held onto Dan’s wrist, satisfying his own concerns that his friend was still alive, a pulse weakly pumping in the veins.  Odd comments drifted through his consciousness: shallow breathing, shallow pulse, shock, blood loss, lacerations, the blackened powder burns along his neck and the side of his head. 

 

Steve’s attention couldn’t keep up with the stream of medical assessment.  His dazed mind kept thinking back to his terror of losing Danno.  That could not happen again, he kept promising himself and his friend. 

 

Then the doubts would plague him:  Shotgun blast to the head.  Brain damage.  Blood loss.   Danno had tried to focus, but he didn’t speak.  Couldn’t speak?  Danno was already hurt, was he strong enough to survive surgery? Danno had to, he was a survivor.  He would fight.  He had to – he knew Steve was here waiting for him, needing him.  Danno would not let him down.  It would destroy him to go through all this torment and ultimately lose.

 

Castle Memorial was the closest hospital.  The hospital where Danno was once held hostage.   Steve jogged beside the stretcher as far as the ER treatment room.  A Doctor Reynolds he had never met before barred him from the room and Steve resisted at first, then complied when the physician sternly told him he was wasting time that could be spent more productively on the patient.

 

Pacing in the waiting room, Steve finally collapsed into a chair, unpleasantly reminded of his ordeal yester – no – two days ago.  It was nearly One AM.  Over a day and a half since this nightmare preyed upon his orderly world.  Closing his eyes, he repeated a mantra that it was going to work out differently this time.   Danno – the real Danno – was going to live.  He had to.  Danno would not let him down.

 

 

*****

 

 

Red-stained hospital corridors and flashes of light against a night view of Kaneohe Bay melded through his dreams.  When he shook and heard his name, he slowly climbed to consciousness, dazed at the rough transition between heavy, exhausted sleep, nightmarish, fear-fueled images, and waking.  When he blinked his eyes open, recognized the hospital, remembered why he was there, he snapped up in the chair, gasping in a breath.  Chin was studying him gravely and Steve felt cold and numb. 

 

No, this could not be a repeat of what had happened before.  He was not going to lose Danno again.  Don’t let this happen! his mind cried.

 

“Thought you would want to know Danny’s been taken to a room.”

 

Nervously laughing past a sob, he came to his feet unsteadily and asked if he was going to be all right.  The doctor hadn’t revealed that, the detective explained, and doubt-shadowed fear clutched at McGarrett’s heart like a vice.

 

Chin led him to the elevators.  Leaning against the wall, he wanted to ask the diagnosis, but couldn’t.  If he was going to lose Danno he didn’t want to know.  After all he had gone through, he had come to know his limits after the shooting of the double.  There were places he could not go, trials he could not overcome, strengths he did not have.  Watching Danno die again was a place he could not return from.  Such a tragedy would leave him alone, in a sea of pain.  It would destroy him to see it all over again.  If that was going to happen he didn’t want to be forewarned, because there was no way to prepare.

 

When they reached the room, Reynolds was there checking the patient chart.  Danno looked near death.  The bandage on the side of his head was barely a contrast to the pale skin.  The doctor rattled off some medical diatribe.  Chin commented.  All Steve could hear was the buzz in his ears.  He felt faint with weakness remembering the scene a few days ago in another hospital.

 

A hand on his arm refocused him.  “I asked if you understand, Mr. McGarrett.”

 

Chin stood close.  “The doc says the pellets just grazed him.  Danny’s going to be all right, Steve.”

 

Nodding, McGarrett stepped closer to the bed, placing a shaky hand on Williams’ neck, feeling the pulse there and assuring himself that the words might be true.  Feeling moisture on his face, he knew he was crying.  Relief?  Release of stress?  Shock, that after all this they were going to come out of this okay, just as he had promised Williams?  Sagging onto the side of the bed, he didn’t care about answering any of those questions.  He was so tired of solving the mysteries and fighting to win.  Content in victory, all he wanted now was to rest and stay right here, visually certain his friend was with him.

 

 

*****

 

 

When a movement jerked his hand, McGarrett popped instantly awake and opened his eyes.  Head resting against the back of the chair, his first sight was Dan Williams staring back at him.

 

“Danno.”

 

The slightest of smiles twitched at his lips.  “Hi.”

 

McGarrett sat up, retaining his grip on Dan’s arm.  “Did you just wake up?”

 

“A minute ago.”  The voice was barely discernable and raspy.

 

A red, puffy, stitched welt along the neck remained as the badge of turmoil from the hostage ordeal.  The largest bandage on the side of the head was removed, but there were still lacerations, abrasions and bruising along the face and neck.  Lucky beyond all reason, the shotgun pellets had scored several furrows along the side of Dan’s skull, but none had penetrated inside.  No brain damage, only excessive bleeding.

 

The first night McGarrett had worried they would lose him, despite the reassurances of the doctor.  The blood loss from his slight side wound had drained him too much, leaving him weak and in shock. 

 

Worn out already, McGarrett had paced and dozed through the night, insistent on staying close.  After the tragic drama of the past few days, he could not tear himself away.  The patient slowly grew stronger, but Steve did not feel true relief until this moment when his friend was conscious, obviously well and able to communicate.

 

“Doing okay?”

 

After a moment, the younger detective gave a very curt nod.  “Think so.  My ears are ringing.”

 

“You were too close to the shotgun blast, but the doctor said no permanent damage.”

 

Williams nodded.  “How are you?”

 

Without knowing how much of the whole story Williams knew, Steve figured he had guessed a lot. Last night at the cabin – the tension, the stressful shouts and desperate pleas – they had said so much without specific explanations.

 

“Doing fine now.”

 

“You look terrible.”

 

Steve wished he could joke away the truth, but he was too raw to deal with any flippancy.  “It’s been a hard couple of days.”  He glanced at the battered face and knew the words were too painfully true for both of them.  “It must have been Hell for you.  I tried to get to you as soon as I could.”

 

Dan nodded.  ”Knew you would.”

 

The absolute faith chilled him.  It had been so close to ending in disaster.  Yet, Williams saw it all in the positive.  He had to as well.  Danno was alive.  “I couldn’t let you down,” he thickly responded.

 

The patient offered a weary smile.  “Never expect anything less,” he whispered.  “Winslow.  He mentioned March.  August March?”

 

“Yeah.”

 

“Winslow -- creep -- caught me cold when I went out to the car.”  His voice and agitation escalated.  “And there was a guy who looked just like me and --“

 

“Danno, we can talk about this later.  Nothing to worry about now.   It’s all over.  Get some rest.”

 

He continued on heedless of the advice.  “I tried to fight back –“

 

“I know.”  Steve nodded toward Dan’s injured side.  “We found the evidence,” he grimly recounted, trying not to remember the blood-stains in the car, on the pavement, on the Mustang.  Nor did he want to evoke his first sight of Williams’ beaten and bound form at the cabin.  Irrelevantly, he thought he should have someone clean up the convertible, and hoped he remembered to see to that little detail before Danno was released.  A trivial thing, insignificant in the scheme of the injury and death he had experienced the past few days.  But suddenly a small benefit that needed to be accomplished.  A chance to perform a slight service for someone he thought, for a while, he would not see or talk to again.   “You know you don’t have to file a report right now,” he gently reprimanded.  “Just take it easy.”

 

“Okay,” the patient reluctantly obeyed, already settling against the pillow in fatigue.  “Winslow said you thought I shot the Governor and you killed me.  He thought it was funny.  It was the double –“

 

“Danno,” he snapped a little harshly, “There’s a lot to tell,” he excused, not looking forward to straightening out the vicious truth.   “I don’t think you’re in good enough shape right now to hear it all.  And there’s no need to go into it this minute.  You need to rest.”

 

Williams gave a short nod.  “Tell me everything.  Later.”

 

“I will.”

 

Watching his friend slip back into much needed, peaceful, non-threatening sleep, Steve couldn’t help but think how close that state was to death.  He kept his hand there on Williams’ arm for a long time until he was settled in his own emotions that Dan was absolutely on the road to firm recovery.

 

 

*****

 

 

The prisoner was brought in with manacles and a guard stood behind him as August March sat down on the other side of the glass barrier.  March’s small eyes bore into McGarrett with sizzling hatred.  The reaction made Steve feel even more superior and triumphant than when he had entered the prison.

 

“I’d rather be in solitary.”

 

“Didn’t they give you a choice, March?” Steve smiled with a viciousness that surprised him.  “You see, there are things that happen in prison that are completely legal, but are not too pleasant.  The consequences of your idiocy, March.”

 

“This was your idea,” he growled.  “Your petty way of getting back at me for being smarter than you!  I had you, McGarrett!  It was a brilliant plan!  I knew how to tear you apart and destroy your world!”

 

No argument there, he silently agreed as he coldly stared at his adversary.

 

”I used whom you trusted to betray you and take you down.”

 

It was easier now to not think about that awful day when he had shot the imposter and thought it was Danno.  He could go for hours at a time without recollecting the utter pit of despair engulfing him when he stared at the dead face of the fake Williams.

 

The distance enabled him to come here now, filled with fortitude and determination – traits easily replacing the fear and devastation when he thought he had killed his friend.  Those nightmarish images had been replaced by the pleasant reality of Danno alive and improving in the hospital, where he left his friend less than an hour ago. 

 

“It didn’t work, did it?” he smiled.  “And do you want to know why, March?  Because you were so busy congratulating yourself on your genius, you didn’t think how motivated I would be to beat you.  At your own game.”

 

He wouldn’t give this monster the satisfaction of knowing how shredded he was inside thinking he had killed Danno.  The plot had been all too effective for a while.  Almost forever.  That shotgun blast had been too close.  Somehow, with luck and miracles, he had won this time.  Danno had won.  He wanted to think it had something to do with his superior intellect over this scum, but he knew it had more to do with desperation to not lose his friend for real.

 

“What do you mean?”

 

“One more double play.”

 

McGarrett stood up and went to the door, knocking on the glass.  A man; balding, a little chunky, about the same build and height as March entered.  March gasped at Officer Ono.

 

“This is how we beat you.  Officer Ono was your double to Winslow.   How does it feel to be beat a second time by the cops, March?”

 

Snarling, the prisoner jumped out of his chair and beat at the glass, yelling incomprehensible words at the officers.  Smirking, McGarrett turned away and left with Ono.

 

 

*****

 

That evening, when McGarrett returned to the hospital room, Williams was pensively sitting up in bed.  Knowing immediately his friend was agitated, McGarrett steeled himself for a confrontation.  As usual, Williams would want the whole story right now.  Knowing it was better to comply rather than have the younger detective fret with anxiety, Steve was prepared.

 

“You look better,” he commented approvingly.  It was not by much -- perhaps just that the periphery of determination edged out some of the pallid greyness in his coloring.  Anything, however, was an improvement and one step closer to final recovery.  “Feeling okay?”

 

“Yeah.  Okay.  Chin came by, but didn’t stay long.”  His blue eyes established a familiar clarity of purpose.  “I want to hear everything, Steve.”

 

“All right,” McGarrett almost smiled.  This was typical and he had expected it.  What made it hard was the subject of the discussion.  How did he reveal that he had shot and killed -- Danno?  He still didn’t know the answer to the disturbing truth that he had worried over all day.  “We have some blanks to fill in on our side, too.  You want to start with what happened to you?  They nabbed you in the garage.  Winslow and Simmons -- your -- uh -- double -- right?”

 

“Yeah.”  With a nod, he confirmed.   Dan’s blue eyes darkened.  “It was tough.  Winslow did a number on me right from the start.”

 

He explained the ambush in his garage.  Someone who looked just like him appeared out of the shadows.  It had shocked him enough to be completely off guard when Winslow confronted him, pistol in hand, to demand Dan turn over his jacket, weapon and keys.  Then Dan’s instincts kicked past the surprise and he tried to grab Winslow’s pistol.  It discharged, hitting Dan in the side. 

 

At that point, he was easily overpowered.  He was cuffed with his own handcuffs, his keys and weapon taken, and then was stuffed into a car trunk.  Soon afterward, he lost consciousness, but he did remember when Winslow and his double pushed him into the trunk, the impostor was highly agitated.

 

“He was a small time con man,” McGarrett interjected after Dan fell into a thoughtful silence. The tale unnerved Steve just hearing about it.  Seeing his own double -- yeah -- Steve had experienced that before and it was a frightening, stunning thing to go through.  Luckily for Danno, the monsters who did this needed him alive.  “Simmons didn’t want to hurt you.  At least, that’s what he tried to tell me when he was dying.”

 

Williams flinched.  “I’m sorry I couldn’t have done more to prevent that.  I should have --”

 

“Danno!”  The almost harsh call snapped the younger man out of his regretful reverie.  "You were shot!” McGarrett adamantly defended.  “How could you do anything but try to survive?”

 

Steve vividly remembered the condition of the car, the bloodstains -- knew his conclusions had to be accurate according to the evidence.  More than that, he knew his detective and knew Danno had done everything possible to stop the assailants.

 

“What happened next?” Steve calmed, hoping a narrative would get Dan out of this guilt mode.

 

“The creep made an attempt to stop my bleeding so I could live long enough to be used as a temporary hostage.”  His face was grim.  “They had no intention of letting me live.”

 

McGarrett chilled at the pronouncement he had already guessed.   

 

“I was in and out of consciousness,” Williams continued quietly.  “Winslow bragged constantly about how they had really destroyed you and you were going to get them all kinds of money.  And they were going to live like kings thanks to you.”  He shrugged with a little chagrin, then his face crinkled with sincerity.  “Steve, it all happened pretty fast.  I tried . . . .   He shook his head.  “When they subdued me I -- I knew I was a dead man.”

 

What could he say to that?  Danno had been a hostage before and knew cops did not get set free.  Their ransoms, usually, did not get paid.  In cases like this, the motive was as much revenge as it was monetary, and there was no reasonable hope of the victim being kept alive after the criminals got what they wanted.

 

“I knew you’d find me, but – well, Winslow was pretty committed.  When I woke up with that shotgun on my neck I figured that was the end.  What made me horrified was that he was going to blow me away when you got there. After you had delivered March and fiven in to their demands, I was history and you would see it.  He made sure I knew that little detail.”

 

“Sick.”

 

McGarrett shivered, nodding, unable to respond more to the mutual fear they had shared in those terrifying moments at the cabin.  He had tried to read the look in Williams’ eyes.  He had seen fear there, but knew it had not been Dan’s fear of death.  It had been fear for him.

 

Williams seemed hesitant, as if he wanted to say more.  Impatiently, Steve waited for the next difficult point of the conversation.

 

“Steve, I feel so rotten about the -- the whole mess.  It seems like this was my fault that --“

 

“What?”  McGarrett couldn’t believe that statement.  “How?  You were the one kidnapped and hurt!”

 

“The guy looked like me!  Was me.  He shot the Governor looking like me.”

 

“This was NOT your fault!  This was March and Winslow!  You were the one who was nearly killed.  Right?” 

 

Dan’s nod was reluctant.  It made Steve even angrier at the criminals who did this to his friend.  Not just the physical pain endured, but knowing now it was mental and emotional torture perpetrated on Williams as well made this even tougher to deal with.  Again, Steve felt he probably should have killed March with his bare hands -- the only possible punishment that would bring justice to all of this.  But he had not done that -- had not taken the final step to sink to the level of the beast who had started the pain.  He knew his course had been the right one, but still, it didn’t stop the feelings of revenge that yet haunted him. 

 

Ironically, he could understand the hate and festering motivation for vengeance.  He felt it now.  March had simmered in prison with those feelings as well.  And acted on them to an insane degree.  Steve could understand the passion of rage that could drive a man to retaliation and murder.  Although he would never follow through on his similar passions, he now understood them.

 

Morosely, Williams wondered, “How am I going to face Jameson --“

 

“It’s all right.  He knows the truth.”

 

Williams face colored with doom.  “He’s going to fire me.”

 

Tightly, McGarrett replied, “He can’t fire you.  Only I have that power.  And it is not going to happen.  I am never going to fire you.”

Dan didn’t easily accept the comment.  “It will never be the same.”

 

It’s okay, Danno.  Believe me.  He understands.  And he doesn’t blame you any more than I do.”

 

Williams nodded unconvincingly.

 

Gruffly, McGarrett insisted, then, that discussion over the case be banned until Williams made more of a recovery.  This intense talk was getting him down.  Tiredly, Williams agreed, proof he still had a lot of strength to regain. 

 

Satisfied some of the worst of the story did not need to be faced tonight, Steve settled back in a chair and diverted the conversation to other business.  He had not even covered one new case by the time Williams dozed off.  For a few moments McGarrett kept talking, but not about any investigations.  He revealed instead, how grateful he was to have the real Dan Williams back.

 

 

*****

 

 

Finding himself almost overbearing in his solicitude, McGarrett had to back off from holding onto Williams’ arm as they slowly made their way to Dan’s apartment.   The morning was crisp, bright, fresh and warm.  A typical spring day in paradise where the weather never turned cold, where the sun was a little brighter, the air cleaner, the water bath-temperature and the view picture perfect.  It was a beautiful day and Steve’s mood reflected the dazzling perfection.

 

A little worried that Williams was being released from the hospital too early, Steve would not comment such a negative attitude to the just-released patient.  He had interrogated the doctor, of course, but to Danno, he was all smiles and support.  There was no choice in that.  It had been a long week in the hospital for Williams, who chafed to be out and at least back at his comfortable apartment, if not on duty again.

 

McGarrett’s reluctance was based on his scaring memories of the fake-Dan’s death.  Steve had experienced enough pain and death to last a long time.  He did not want any relapses or physical stress coming to his friend at all.  Danno had to be healthy and completely well after all this.  On the other hand, it was refreshing and a relief to be away from the hospital.  He had haunted Dan’s room, as usual, until Williams was stable and in no danger.  Then he visited the patient at least twice a day.  If he was not careful, this domineering attitude would force him to camp out on Dan’s couch this week, and he restrained from exhibiting that kind of over-compensation. 

 

As usual, Williams was tolerant of the attitude, and understood where Steve was coming from.  He had “shot” Dan last week and “killed” him.  It was going to take a long time to recover from that, and this was how Steve coped.  He had a hard time saying and showing his true feelings of affection for those he cared about.  Dominating their lives, ordering them to take care and sheltering them – that was his way of showing his love.  Fortunately, his family and closest friends understood that.

 

On the drive home, Williams seemed unusually quiet -- subdued.  Natural.  They had all been through a lot.  So conversation was sparse, mostly about current Five-0 cases and general aftereffects of the assassination attempt.  McGarrett had summed up the case against Winslow, and March’s upcoming hearing that would put him behind bars without parole forever.  No other accomplices were found besides Winslow and the plastic surgeon that they suspected Winslow had murdered. 

 

McGarrett alleged Chin had a hand in the next little conspiracy.  There was no one to give the  money back to from Ted Simmons’ deathbed attempt to provide for his family.  The Simmons family was using the blood money to relocate to an anonymous region in the Islands, change their names, and start a business.  And, the HPD widow’s and orphan’s fund was receiving another huge donation, thanks to Mrs. Simmons.

 

Now at the apartment, McGarrett let his friend settle onto the sofa, watch the ocean, listen to the surf, and appreciate the warm, humid breeze blowing in off the water.  For a rare respite, McGarrett sat there next to Williams and silently lived in the moment.

 

Steve could not help but think about the past week, repressing the worst of the memories, often glancing over at his friend, just studying the man he thought he had killed on that awful day.  The obvious signs of injury were mostly gone; the bandages removed, the bruises and cuts healing, the abrasions fading.  Dan’s slow gait and tendency to protect his side where he was superficially shot were the most apparent physical aftereffects.  Less noticeable was the weakness, the fatigue, the sober lines of stress marking his ordeal.

 

These quiet moments were more frequent than anyone would ever guess.  The times between crises, the times at the end of a long day and night, the comfortable silences shared with a friend who understood where he had been, how he got there, and what might be ahead.

 

Seemingly aware he was being studied, Dan looked over at him.  “You never told me your version.  Really.”

 

The assassination attempt, followed immediately by revelation of the spectacular, convoluted crime of the double and hostage drama had made all the news reports in many parts of the world.  The mainland media had spread it on TV and newspaper and radio.  It was still the talk of Hawaii and Asia.  Even reporters from Japan had come to get an exclusive with McGarrett, Williams or March.  March and Winslow were off limits, of course.  McGarrett refused all interviews for himself and his colleague.  The Palace was still guarded by HPD officers assigned to keep the media at bay.

 

When Dan had regained his strength enough to carry on decent conversations in the hospital, he had wanted the whole story.  Steve gave a diluted version, but could never bring himself to delve into the deeper aspects of the case.  The shooting, the death, the horror of discovering the true plot and worrying his friend would be killed.  The terrifying moment when he had crashed into Winslow’s cabin and seen Danno bound, with a shotgun to his neck.

 

Dan knew the score, had been a hostage before, but how did he tell his friend -- again -- he would not negotiate to save his life?  How did he relate the depths he had traveled in the course of two days?  Life-changing devastation he still felt he had not recovered from completely.

 

But didn’t Danno deserve something more than what he read in the papers?  And Steve’s cursory and shallow comments on the crimes and punishment?  As horrible as Steve’s experiences had been, didn’t Danno suffer through this just as much?  Abducted, beaten, shot.  Then bound and used as a shield, as a target – waiting for imminent and painfully ugly death.

 

McGarrett had put this off for too long.  “What do you want to know?” he quietly asked, a little surprised at his own willingness to open up. 

 

“Whatever you want to talk about.  It must have been pretty horrible.”

 

“Yeah, that’s an understatement.” 

 

He thought about the crushing terror of the devastating seconds on the lanai at the Ilikai.  The death.  The body in the morgue.  The finding of Dan’s possessions among the blood-stained clothes.  The rage directed at March and Simmons and the near-hopelessness opening a black cavern inside his heart when he would not give in and negotiate with the criminals.  Finally, like playing a mental-movie, he flashed onto the scene at the cabin, the shotgun taped to Dan’s neck, the moment of truth he had avoided through the whole mess.  His friend was going to die right before his eyes and there was nothing he would do to prevent it.  He could not negotiate.

 

Never far from the surface, always as a backdrop of the experience, was Steve’s disgust and horror at the events -- thinking he ’killed’  Dan.  Seeing the macabre scene over and over again in his mind --- shooting Danno -- trying to wing him -- killing him!  He never meant to kill him! 

 

Not even realizing what he was doing, at some point the retrospection had become narrative.  As he finished the quiet words, he noted it in Dan’s stricken, pale face.  He had told the revolting story, hitting the high points of killing who he thought was Dan, all the way to facing the shotgun tableau. 

 

“You did everything right, Steve,” Dan assured, his voice deep and shaky with emotional conviction.  “What else could you do?”

 

“Not shoot my friend.”  His head sunk into his hands for a moment.  “Not let March or Winslow kill you.”

 

“And let somebody – anybody – kill the Governor?  Or give criminals whatever they want?  Steve, I understand why you had to take all those actions.  You understand, too.”  He shook his head and sighed.  “This job just never gets any easier.”  He was thoughtful for a moment.  “And if it makes you feel any better, I promise to never do anything that crazy in real life.”

 

The miserable attempt at lightening the conversation actually brought an amused grunt from the boss.  “What about you?”

 

“I’m okay.”

 

From the tone and expression, McGarrett believed it.  His friend had an amazing capacity to rebound under even the most treacherous and painful circumstances.  “Yeah, I think so,” he smiled.

 

Feeling it was probably the right time for a final word on the subject before they put it behind them, Steve pulled out Dan’s holster and revolver, black leather ID/badge case and watch that he found at Winslow’s apartment.  “I’d like you to take these back.  And keep them.  I don’t want them back.  Ever.”

 

When he placed them in Williams’ hands, his expression was as intent as his tone.  The younger man blinked in surprise, then gradual understanding.  He nodded, knowing this was how McGarrett wanted this to end.  The guilt and actions of the past had to be solidly put behind them.

 

Then the expressive face turned melancholy.  “Steve -- there’s something --“ he sighed in frustration.  “One more thing I wanted to --“

 

“You don’t have to say anything,” McGarrett anticipated, forestalling anything resembling more emotional exposure.

 

“I need to.  When it looked like Winslow was going to take me out, I realized, I’d never really let you know that I understand all of this.”  He stared at the gold shield that he had exposed when opening the case.  His eyes misted.  “I do want to keep this.  Forever.   But we both know it’s possible I won’t come back from a case someday.  If I don’t, I hope you know -- well -- I know whatever happens you’ve done your best.  You would never let me down.”

 

The realistic and all-too possible dire predictions chilled and irritated Steve.  The comment was absurd considering all that had happened.  He had shot Danno, killed Danno, left his friend to be executed because he would not release a criminal.  How was that NOT letting down his friend?

 

“How can you say that – believe that – when everything I did contradicts your faith?”

 

“Because it’s the job we have to do.”  He rubbed a finger reverently along the embossed ridges of the gold shield.  “And it’s your nature.  You fight for what is right, no matter what.  And if that duty goes against what you want, you try and find a way to accomplish both.  I know you would never leave me stranded unless there was no other choice.”  His voice deepened.  “Someday, Steve, you might not be able to win.  The worst might happen.  If it does, just remember I understand.”

 

“I won’t let it, McGarrett countered, throwing all his conviction into his stern tone and look.  “You’ve got to trust me on that, Danno.”

 

Slowly, Dan nodded and offered a slight grin.  “Yeah.  I trust you.  With my life.”

 

It was a solemn trust that McGarrett would never take for granted.  And after this awful incident, he would never forget.  “I know.”

 

 

 

PAU