DEATH FOR BREAKFAST

By

GM



   

August 1978
  
 
 

Hoping to get an early jump on the day, Dan Williams cruised through the Palace, up toward the offices of Hawaii Five-0, before eight AM on a fine -- potentially fine -- Thursday morning. It would be very fine later -- now it was just an --anticipation-of-being very-very-fine morning -- he mentally corrected. The optimistic glow encompassing his aura was the thrilling possibilities of which he might meet later that day. A TV shoot out on the windward coast was going all day. HPD was covering security and Dan was planning on running up there later to make sure that everything was going smoothly. Normally he wasn't star struck, but last night at the King Kamehameha Club he had shared some bar space with a stunning actress from some adventure show. Before last night he'd never even known who she was, but things were different now.

After picking up the mail at Five-0's front door -- two boxes that would not fit through the slot -- Williams stooped to pick up the letters inside the door. As per usual when he was the first one in he stopped to peruse the post, taking what was his and leaving the rest on Lani's desk. The smallest package was for Lani and the largest one was for Steve, care/of Hawaii Five-0. The label said it was from the Big Island Coffee Factory.

Even through the box Dan could smell the lingering, enticing aftereffects of the rich Kona coffee brew. Technically the box was addressed to Five-0 and he took that as liberal license. Unable to wait, he opened the box. Inside was a card saying the present was a thank you gift from Legislator Ralph Palani for a little incident last week involving some protesters and the politician. Well, Dan and Duke had been instrumental in saving the man from bodily harm, so he wasn't going to wait for Steve to come and confiscate the prized coffee. Quickly he put the special brew in the coffee maker and was already thinking about the reports he had to finish before sneaking up to the windward coast. Belatedly he went back to sort through the envelopes, pausing at a strangely scrawled letter addressed to McGarrett. The flap was nearly opened and the writing was -- odd.

The hair on the back of his neck prickled and he decided more invasion of Steve's privacy would not hurt. All levity aside, this time in the interest of security, he cautiously opened the missive. Careful to touch only the corners of the single sheet of notepaper, his numb fingers dropped the scribbled note and it fell on Lani's desk.

McGarrett is dead.
 
The words leaped out at him and his racing heart suddenly slammed to a halt. Worried, he took a deep breath and recovered his nerves from the brink of panic. Threats were nothing new around this office. Still . . . . He quickly called Steveís home, no answer. Then he called for a patch through to the car, no answer. Upset now, he still refused to succumb to blind alarm, but dread was roiling in his stomach and he rushed into McGarrett's office to check the calendar and find out if Steve had something going on this morning. Maybe there was a perfectly logical reason why Steve was late and couldn't be reached. As he skipped into the big office he was only mildly annoyed at himself that he had instinctively crossed his fingers.

*****

Steve McGarrett was slowly dying. He never should have eaten the pineapple quiche. Knowing it was mistake, he had indulged anyway, the breakfast plate enticing him beyond common sense. His culpability was deeper than that, he inwardly groaned -- he had not planned on being here at this campaign breakfast at all. Last night at dinner, however, when he had been out with Constance Kincaid at The Colony, she had reminded him of his duty to attend the breakfast. Steve had been at a loss to offer an excuse so he had ended up here. Hungry and irritated. Surrendering to temptation -- taking the risk -- to taste the deadly quiche. McGarrett tried to make up for the soggy, mass-produced fare by downing his stomach with coffee, then toast and more coffee.

"Did you know I've been supporting Governor Jameson since I moved to Hawaii?" Dolly Taylor leaned over and lightly touched his knee. "Phillip and I belong to the same club." The elegant, thin, perfectly coifed professor of chemistry edged a little closer and winked through her heavy make-up. "Why don't you belong to our club, Steve?"

"Because he doesn't have time to waste on that," Carol Chang, across the table, interrupted with a sharp edge to her voice. "He's got more important things to do." Carol leaned over; showing off the scooped neckline on her thin aloha patterned blouse, and smiled at Steve. As the most visually stunning anchorwoman in Honolulu, Carol was hard to miss. Her obvious effort to keep herself in his line of sight was tiresome to put it kindly. "Here, let me refresh your coffee."

Plastering a smile on his face, Steve promised to get Constance and the Governor back for this. Seated at a table with three single women and one old businessman, Steve was counting the minutes when this miserable breakfast would be over. Walking out now would cause unnecessary friction between him and the Governor. There was also a professional concern; the problem of protesters and malcontents who had been stirring up the political scene lately. Steve wanted to personally protect Jameson from anything that might occur at the highly publicized fundraiser, so he would suffer through the last of this miserable breakfast and be back to the office within the hour. Soon, but just not soon enough.

"Pipe down, Chang," ordered the older gentleman. Few could get away with bossing around the city's most influential newswoman, but Sean O'Brien could and did. Owner of the biggest tourist agency in the Islands, O'Brien owned hotels, buildings and fat chunks of priceless beach realty that fueled his tourist empire. "Steve ain't interested in your flirting. Man's got a real job."

"You mean as a state storm trooper?" It was the first comment from the most subdued person at the table. Leila Waikane was a thirtyish, thin, silken-haired Polynesian beauty with dark eyes that stabbed McGarrett with ire every time she glanced his way. A leading singer-entertainer in the Islands, she was an oddball supporter of Jameson and apparently an old antagonist of the police. A disgruntled protester from the Sixties? No, more likely just an extremist liberal who didn't like cops but quixotically backed Jameson. McGarrett's stomach grumbled, and he took another bite of toast, unable to retort when she finished her assessment by accusing, "Killing people makes him macho or something."

"More respectable than singing for your supper little lady." O'Brien countered with a sneer. He stabbed a finger at McGarrett. "Steve's going to find out who stashed that money from the Bank of Hawaii. The embezzler's dead." He turned his adamant Irish eyes to stab at the policeman. "I lost a bundle on that, Steve, I expect you to find Yokimura's killer and my money!" He coughed and took a drink of some kind of liquor. It was considered socially early for the hard stuff, but O'Brien didn't seem to care. "I was there with Yokimura that afternoon before he closed the office. He wasn't nervous at all. Wouldn't surprise me if he didn't know a thing about the embezzlement."
 

Dolly's hand was back on Steve's knee. Forcefully he placed it back on her lap. Irritatingly, she gripped onto his fingers. "Oh, Sean, let's not bore Steve with talking shop."

Carol glared at the loud, older man. "So you're implying the rest of us don't have real jobs?" she sneered at the overweight mogul. "Dolly and Leila are brilliant in their fields." She sniffed and straightened her hair. "And my ratings speak for themselves."

Dolly's nails dug into Steve's trousers at the thigh. He moved quickly to remove the hand. "I have three degrees and a fellowship at the University." A fingernail dug into McGarrett's palm. "Besides, I haven't seen that Steve has any big cases to take his attention right now."

Sighing, Steve promised himself, no matter what, Danno was coming to the next fundraiser!

"The Bank of Hawaii embezzlement conspiracy." Carol was quick to remind them all of the scandal that had filled her newscasts since last week. "Care to comment, Steve?"

Accustomed to the current-events interrogation, McGarrett pried his hand loose from Dolly and focused on the conversation while he sipped more coffee. He knew how to dine with sharks and avoid being the breakfast special. "No scoops, Carol, sorry. We're investigating. We know the fraud involves more than just President Yokimura. How much we don't know." He looked to Sean. "Have you been interviewed yet by one of my officers?"

Dolly clucked. "Carol's program implied he committed suicide before you could question him. Too bad you didn't find out anything from his office staff."

McGarrett cagily glanced at Carol. "I'm, sure if Carol had any vital information she would willingly share it with the authorities."

Chang scooted closer. "How about an exclusive, Steve?"

McGarrett plastered a polite, yet cold smile across his face and swallowed a long-suffering sigh.

The Governor had finished his after breakfast comments and was now working the crowd, making the rounds, shaking hands and visiting with the most influential contributors. No protesters had crashed the fun raiser. He felt this was his cue to get back to the real world. It was a good time to make an exit and Steve deftly avoided more man handling -- literally -- by Dolly. He offered his farewells and intended to check with the HPD security forces. After only a few steps of freedom he ran into Constance Kincaid.

Constance was a forceful widow, about his age, who had all the spunk, grit and class that he liked in his dates. They had sparked immediately when he had investigated a death at her estate last year {episode --THE BIG ALOHA}. Mutually drawn to strength, bluntness and integrity, they had been dating tentatively, occasionally, for a few months.

"Good morning, Constance."

"Hello, Steve." The responding smile warm, the voice silky. McGarrett could feel the chemistry between them flair, then smolder. The stunning redhead was tall and forthright, a source of strength or irritation, depending on if you were on her good side or bad side. She took his arm and steered him toward Jameson. "I haven't seen much of you lately."

"I've been a little busy. And so have you. Getting the Governor re-elected seems to be your full time job."

"It could be for you next time, Steve."

Shaking his head, he grinned at her lack of subtlety. "I have more than enough of politics from where I'm at now, Constance. I don't want it as a career."

Jameson spotted them and he approached. Steve sighed inwardly. It would be noon before he was out of here!
 

*****

While not yet in panic mode, Williams was quickly creeping up to that level of urgency. No word from Steve, no contact and a death threat on the desk! McGarrett's engagement calendar revealed no appointments for the morning and Lani was not in yet to help with clues. Duke had arrived but contributed no new possibilities of Steve's whereabouts. Williams was about to put out an APB on Steve when the man in question sauntered into the room.

"Steve!" Williams rushed over and patted him on the arm, an overt display of emotion from the usually controlled, if friendly, detective.

McGarrett was baffled. "Whatís up, Danno? You look like youíve seen a ghost!"

Laughing nervously, Williams cleared his throat. "Thatís because I expected you to be one. And Iím glad youíre not. A ghost."

At this hour of the morning, with his stomach and head doing flip-flops thanks to the banquet-breakfast food, the statement did not make much sense. Steve was perplexed to say the least. "Come in," he invited, gesturing toward the inner sanctum. Dan followed closely, as if shepherding the boss, who was amused. "Have a rough night or something?"

"No, but I thought you did."

In a rush of words Dan explained the cryptically dire note. The lab reported no prints on the envelope or page. Now in an evidence bag, Steve read the bold print. Sitting behind his desk he loosened his tie. Duke brought in the ubiquitous coffee and Steve sipped the refreshing brew, complimenting the staff on the excellent java -- far better than what he had been drowning in at the fundraiser. This was the best thing he had put in his stomach all morning. Courtesy of Legislator Ralph Palani, Duke explained.

Tolerantly smiling at the over protectiveness of his second-in-command, Steve explained he just happened to be in between phones or radios, this morning, that was all. Nothing sinister. Except the banquet and Dolly Taylor's unwanted advances. At this Dan giggled.

"And as for the Governor's breakfast, well, I donít think it was a deliberate attempt to poison all of us. No reason to panic."

Rattled from the unpleasant threat, Williams was still cautious. "I'd like to assign someone to be with you all day -- "

"No --"

"Steve, this could be for real!" Dan volunteered to take on the extra duty of tracking who sent the note -- a completely thankless task since there were no prints or clues apparent so far.

It would be tedious, but if he could manage it on his own time he had McGarrett's blessing. As for protective guards, no way, and that was final. Williams knew better than to continue to argue against his boss when Steve's heels were dug in. Reluctantly he surrendered, but made a final protest that he thought it was a bad idea to ignore the threat.

Stung by the persistence and the hint of challenge thrown down by Dan, McGarrett acquiesced and agreed that Dan could look into the threatening prank.
 
 

*****

By the afternoon McGarrett was dragging; energy sapped, feeling sluggish and miserable, embarrassed that he might have contracted the flu! Dan was still overprotective and used every possible excuse to continually check on Steve. The lanai windows were constantly closed as a precaution, and the various out-of-office packages and mail scrutinized. In a snippety mood, Steve curtly delivered an "I told-you-so" lecture. Tenaciously, Dan was still cautious, insisting he follow McGarrett home when they left later that night.

"I donít need a watchdog, Danno."

Still, Williams made sure he was never too far away from McGarrett. The custodial shielding grated on Steveís already strained nerves. Finally the boss banished the younger detective from underfoot, demanding he not return until he was ready to leave.

As soon as the door closed, McGarrett sunk his head in his hands and staggered to the sofa. Why couldn't he admit his stomach was roiling and he was feeling awful? Couldn't Five-0 cops have a sick day? Stretching out on the couch he stifled his moans of pain. Dozing in and out of sleep, when he opened his eyes again long shadows extended across the office. A knock at the door was sharp and loud.

Not wanting to appear sick, he gingerly sat up and shakily came to his feet.

"Steve?" Williams didn't wait for a reply, but opened the door. He blinked, surprised to see McGarrett's obviously wobbly stance. "Steve, what's wrong?"

The disorientation, the illness, overwhelmed him abruptly and he tried to shake his head. Instead, he lost his balance and felt blackness crowd around him, watched as the floor came up to meet him.

*****

Williams was there in a heartbeat, saving his friend from toppling to the floor. Dan eased him down to lay on his back. When McGarrett wouldn't answer his few panicked questions, he gave up and spared only seconds to review options. Deciding not to wait for an ambulance he mostly carried McGarrett, stumbling through the Palace and down to his car.

On the way to the nearby hospital he made a fast assessment. There were no obvious wounds or anything on McGarrett, so he was guessing at an illness, but it was so frighteningly sudden and intense. Within a few minutes he was giving Steve over to the ER attendants at Queens, quickly relating the symptoms and scant facts as they wheeled McGarrett into examination.

Pacing in the all too familiar waiting room, Dan railed at himself for allowing Steve to get so sick. With a threat against his life, McGarrett should have been monitored. Did someone sneak into the Palace from the lanai doors? Was Steve shot? No wounds -- then what? Could the head of Five-0 -- the seemingly indestructible McGarrett -- be felled by a common, if serious and sudden illness? Williams' suspicious nature denied such a possibility.

When the ER doc emerged she wore a grave expression that sent chills along Dan's spine. Forestalling her opening lines, he approached her and immediately barraged her with questions.

"How is he? Can I see him?"

The older woman, who was shorter than the detective shook her head, gray hair spilling out of a pony-tail. Pushing glasses up farther on the bridge of her nose, she studied the cop. "This is a very unusual case," she sighed solemnly. "I will need a detailed account of where this man --"

"Steve McGarrett --"

"Mr. McGarrett has been in the last twenty-four hours."

"Why?"

"Your friend has been poisoned."

Sucking in a gasp, Dan shook his head, slowly exhaling. "Poison? How?"

"You are the detective, correct?" She didn't give him a chance to answer, but offered information in a clinical, even an anticipatory tone. "This is something I have never seen before. A slow poison. It could have been administered, recently, possibly hours ago."

Dan was stunned and slowly fought to work through the mist of incredulous shock. "How? Do you know how it was administered?"

"Ingested," the doctor responded certainly. "With food. Maybe today or late last night. It's taking its time. We've got to flush his system, see if we reached him fast enough to save his organs."

"What about an antidote?"

"We have to know what we're dealing with first." She shook her head in perplexity. "Poisons are not my specialty, but this is very slow acting, but potent. The lab is analyzing his blood and tissue samples now."

"Guess," Williams urged.

The doctor's face crinkled into a frown. "The medical field is not about guessing --"

"Neither is detection, doctor, but sometimes it helps to know what direction to go in."

Sighing, she acquiesced. "All right, but this is only speculation. I would say it could be something organic. A derivative of a deadly organic compound."

Clearing away the dryness in his throat, he surrendered a nod of appreciation, "Mahalo. Can I see him?"

"He's resting. I don't think --"

"Just for a minute."

With a dramatic sigh she surrendered. "All right."

Consumed with guilt at his failure to protect his friend, rippling with anxiety, Williams quietly entered the hospital room and stayed near the door. McGarrett appeared asleep, but his coloring was sallow and he looked strained and very sick. How could Dan have missed this? So focused on protecting McGarrett from some overt and dangerous external threat, he had failed miserably by completely missing a subtle peril already attacking Steve literally from the inside. When Steve arrived at the office this morning he was probably already dying!

Unable to contain the anguish, he groaned. The noise alerted Steve and he glanced over, waving a hand. "Danno."

Williams approached slowly, too upset to say anything.

"Now we know what the note meant, Danno. You were right. I must have been dying as I read it."

"Youíre not dying," Dan insisted, the only thing he could think to say. "You'll be all right."

"What did the doc think?"

"That you need your rest and that I should handle the case." Grimly rueful of the obvious stonewall,

McGarrett tiredly shook his head. "I'm the one on the line."

"And you can help, Steve. The doc thinks the poison was ingested. What have you eaten today?"

"Breakfast. Fund raiser. Wouldn't surprise me if it was poison."

Almost grinning, Williams nodded. "Yeah, aren't they all?" Sobering, he studied his friend's pale, sweaty face. "Any new or unusual food? Anything taste funny?" Steve shook his head. "Midnight snacks?"

"Nothing after dinner last night. Colony."

"I'll cover that."

"Constance was fine at breakfast."

Dan's grin was wicked. "I bet."

McGarrett had enough energy left to scowl. "Fund raiser. We were both there."

Dan patted his friend's shoulder. "Don't worry, I'll figure it out."

"You're trying to push me out of the action, Danno?"

"Just watching out for you." McGarrett closed his eyes and Dan worriedly felt his pulse, disturbed it was slow and faint.

Apparently too sedated, or too fatigued, to question the optimism -- to even fight against his inactivity -- McGarrett nestled into the pillow. "Take care of everything." His eyes closed.

"I will," Williams vowed with a dangerous edge to his voice. "Everything and everybody. I promise."
 
 

*****

When he arrived at the Palace, Williams was pleased at the level of efficiency that had turned his familiar office into a crime scene. Carefully he shadowed the techs as they examined everything and turned the police rooms into a crowded, bustling arena of activity.

The new, and now questionable Kona coffee, and all the detective's mugs, were already docketed into evidence bags and at the lab. Dan paled at the thought of Legislator Palani being a suspect, but stranger things had happened in his experiences with Five-0. No one was safe from his revenge. And with a cold wash of fear and rage he knew that's what he was feeling. This was beyond an investigation. Someone had poisoned his closest friend, his mentor, and he didn't even know if Steve would live through it. Whoever did this was going to be brought to justice.

Next he started retracing Steve's movements for the last twenty-four hours. Dinner at The Colony with Constance, he remembered. Duke received the assignment of checking on the waiters, then supervising a lab team over at Steve's apartment.

This morning Steve had been at the Governor's fund raising breakfast. Checking that list was going to be a big job so he assigned himself to run that task, along with questioning Constance about the dinner. Heading out for the Kincaid estate would be the most diplomatic way to question a highly influential society widow and personal friend of Steve McGarrett and the Governor. Dan, however, did not have the luxury of time on his side. He called her on the phone and could immediately feel -- hear -- the reserved and cool side of her personality as they conversed.

"Hello, Dan, what can I do for you?"

"I'm afraid I have some --" his throat went dry "-- some unfortunate news. I wanted you to hear it from me instead of from the press." There was no way to cushion this. And at the last second before the words left his lips, he acknowledged to himself that he was also, as a cop, looking for the shock value of the moment. As far as he was concerned even the Governor was a suspect until they cleared this up. Them against the world. He was feeling extremely upset and vulnerable and no one was safe from his investigation. "Steve's been poisoned."

"What? Poisoned? Are you certain?

"Yes."

There was a pause, and the next words were more controlled. "How is he? How bad is it?"

The deep, sultry voice was appropriately shocked and concerned and Dan tentatively dismissed her as a suspect. Briefly he explained McGarrett was in the hospital and they didn't know how bad he was yet. Then he asked for her help.

"I need to know about the other people at the breakfast with Steve. How were the tables set up? Did you sit together? Any detail would help, Constance."

Readily she agreed to help and gave him the names of the other four people at the table. Dan knew all of them by reputation -- veteran professionals well known in Honolulu. With a sinking heart knew all would be tough to crack if one of them was a would-be murderer.

"What about your dinner last night?"

Dan took notes on what they ate and who their waiter was and anyone who talked to them or approached the table.

"Which hospital is he in? I'd like to see him."

"He's in ICU at Queens, but they're not allowing visitors now." Heart softening, he let the compassion filter into his tone. "I'll keep you posted. When he's feeling better I'll tell him to call you."

"Then he'll recover." Guarded optimism. She had lost a husband, he reminded himself. She and Steve didn't seem to be too close, but then he couldn't be sure about her feelings. "He'll be all right."

Dan sighed again, believing in the optimism that was keeping him going. "Yeah, he's going to pull out of this." The tone was as nearly flat, but he could not admit defeat. "You know Steve. He wouldn't let something like this take him down."

"Of course not," Kincaid countered with buoyed certainty.

After hanging up he reviewed the notes trying to decide on a course of action. Start with the most promising suspects, mentally reviewed basic investigative technique. Legislator Palani? He put a call in to the lab and received the preliminary report on the coffee and McGarrett's mug. No trace of any poison.

"What about the lab work from the hospital?"

The lab at Queen's had just called in. While Dan was irritated he had not been directly and immediately informed by the doctor, he was grateful they were making some progress. The poison was an organic substance as the physician had guessed. Charlie, the HPD/Five-0 head lab tech, said they were having trouble identifying the specific nature. They'd sent a sample over to the university lab to analyze.

"Keep me posted," Williams snarled, frustrated at the slow progress.

Leaning back in his chair he studied the list of people at the breakfast, instinctively narrowing down as the main suspects the four who shared a the table with Steve. It could have been a waiter or anybody just walking by and dropping something in his coffee, but Dan didn't think so. Poison was a personal signature. And if he believed the old stories of Agatha Christie and Conan Doyle, it was the weapon of a woman. Which didn't compress his suspect list much.

Glancing up, he was amazed to see McGarrett shuffling through the main office. Leaping up, Dan quickly joined his hunched, weak friend.

"Steve, what are you doing here?"

"I'm not doing any good in the hospital." His steps slow, his face ashen, McGarrett's voice still held a timbre of command.

Williams hovered close, aching to help Steve into the private office, but restraining himself. After Dan closed the door behind them he hovered even closer, placing a guiding hand on McGarrett's arm until the boss collapsed into his chair behind the desk.

Irritation warred with concern over his friend's condition. McGarrett was certainly no better. The doctor should have phoned -- unless the doctor didn't approve of the release. Dan should have been there when Steve woke up! Why hadn't he been called? The doctor promised updates. There was a real communications break-down here. Unless . . .

Cold fear gripped his chest and Dan clenched his fists, warding off the trembling that snaked along his body. Afraid he knew exactly why McGarrett was here, he couldn't ask. The words choked in his throat.

Steve leaned back, closing his eyes. "What have you got, Danno?"

"The doctor didn't release you, did she?"

A smirk fleetingly played on his lips. "No." He wiped his face, rubbing at his forehead.

Pacing in front of the desk, Williams barely took his eyes off his boss. Finally he stopped in front of McGarrett, tapping nervous fingers on the desk. His voice was hoarse. "It's not good, is it?"

"Whatever it is, something exotic and rare," Steve admitted dully, "which they haven't specifically figured out yet." Leaning forward he momentarily met gazes with Williams, finally staring at his hands folded on the desk. "It's already coursed through my system. Unless they find an antidote before tomorrow it won't matter."

"We'll find it," Dan vowed, raw fear scraping every word. "I promise you, Steve, we'll find the antidote."

Tiredly, McGarrett nodded, but there was a slight smile amid the weariness. "I'm counting on that, Danno. Why don't you bring me up to date?"

Pacing, fidgety energy rattling his nerves, Williams recapped the list of possible offenders and the steps taken so far by the detectives. As investigations went it was thin, but McGarrett didn't comment on the negatives. He assumed, like Dan, that the prime suspects were at the breakfast.

"What about motive?" Dan wondered. "Who hates you enough to poison you?"

"You really want to know? It's a long list, Danno, you know that. But the doc narrowed it down to recent ingestion. I'm putting my money on that lousy fun raiser."

It was agonizing to see McGarrett in such pain. Despairing to know his friend was basically already dead and there might not be anything they could do about it. Sure, they would fight bitterly to the very end, but were all the king's horses and all the king's men going to make a difference for Steve this time? He had to keep believing that they could pull off another miracle and save McGarrett.

"Okay, at breakfast," he reiterated, leaning on the side of the desk, close to Steve. "Or someone you've run into in the last day."

McGarrett massaged his temples. "I don't know."

After a moment of tormenting indecision, Dan crouched down next to the chair and quietly admonished, "Steve, why don't you let me take you home? You're in not in any shape --"

"I have to do something, Danno. I can't lay around and wait to die --"

"You're not going to die!" Williams paced away, angry and defensive. "I won't let you die! Why can't you trust me?"

For a moment McGarrett just stared at him, then shook his head. "I can't sit back and do nothing, Danno. Even if I accomplish nothing useful, if I'm here --" He sighed. "You know what I mean. I have to." At Dan's silence he smiled. "And I do trust you, Danno. With my life."

With grim resolve he accepted the compliment and understood. McGarrett was a doer and could not be relegated to the sidelines when it came to saving his own life. Dan would feel the same way. They had to be involved with the personal cases -- and things didn't get any more personal than this. "I won't let you down."

McGarrett accepted the certainty with a confident nod, again leaning back to rest on the chair. "I know."

A knock at the door interrupted and Dan ushered Duke in. Lukela glanced at McGarrett, then to Dan, reading Williams' strained expression.

"Hi, Steve."

"Duke. What have you got?"

"Your apartment is clear. No foreign botanical substances."

"The lab?" Dan asked hopefully.

"Preliminary findings say nothing poisonous in the coffee or on any of the mugs." He took a breath. "But we have another development. Sean O'Brien is in the hospital. Poisoning."

The shocking news motivated the sluggish McGarrett, who launched to his feet with a trace of his old vigor. "Let's go find out what happened, Danno. Duke, you get onto every move that Sean made in the last day."
 

*****


The ER doctor was peeved at the escapee McGarrett, but nonetheless answered questions concerning the second poisoning victim.

"He died just a few minutes ago, gentlemen. His heart was old, he wasn't in very good shape, the toxin overwhelmed him." She eyed McGarrett. "Your conditioning won't keep you going for long."

"Just long enough to catch a killer, doctor. What can you tell us about the poison?"

"Same substance as your toxic infection as far as we know. We've sent it to the university lab for specifics, just like we did with yours. At last report the lab thought it was something of an Asian variety of the koli plant. There are variations not consistent with your symptoms, Mr. McGarrett, so analysis is going to have to be more specific. There's some additive that we're not understanding. But since it's organic also, we are hoping it can be countered with an organic antidote." The younger woman eyed her former patient. "How are you feeling?"

"Rotten," the stubborn cop admitted. "But well enough to keep working."

The physician shrugged. "Whatever. There's nothing I can do for you here." To Dan she advised, "In the next few hours the medication we gave your boss to counter the symptoms will probably cease its effectiveness. He's going to suffer increased disorientation, nausea and eventually collapse. When he does you won't have much time to get him back here."

Dan paled at the warning.

"There's nothing you'll be able to do for me here," McGarrett maintained belligerently.

Glancing from one detective to the other, the young doctor finally settled her gaze on the afflicted man. "Not unless the lab finds an antidote. It will just make your final hours a little more comfortable."

"We'll find an antidote," Williams asserted sharply.

The doctor shrugged and walked away, obviously not believing the young officer.

Reaching the car, Dan resisted being too solicitous to his sick friend and restrained from opening doors or helping the boss unless Steve indicated he was in need of help. Rigorously independent, Steve's headstrong attitude was exacerbated during times of vulnerability.

McGarrett leaned his head back against the seat rest. "Well, this changes things. Was everyone at the table a target? Or just the men?"

"A black widow killer?" Dan nearly scoffed, then caught himself. "Poison is traditionally a woman's weapon." His tone lightened. "Scorn any of the women at the table this morning, Steve?"

The older detective opened one eye and glared at Williams. "Yes, as a matter of fact. But you're not going to hear the sordid details. Let's go check on the women."

"Normally I would look forward to that assignment," Dan quipped as he pulled away from the hospital. It earned him a light slap on the arm.
 
 

*****

Carol Chang's office was filled with papers, stacks of files and the usual debris associated with workaholic attributes. The middle-aged Oriental newswoman was surprised to see the two detectives.

"You don't look so well, Steve. Have a seat. Want some coffee?"

"No thanks." McGarrett leaned on the wall.

Solicitously Carol came around and put an arm through his. "What can I do for you?"

Dan cleared his throat. "We're here to give you a scoop."

At this surprise she sat on the corner of her desk, but stayed close to McGarrett. "Oh yeah, like what?"

"Sean O'Brien was murdered this morning."

The shock effect was startling. Carol gasped for breath. "This morning. But we just saw him --" she gestured between her and McGarrett. "He was at our table! How was he murdered?"

"Poison." McGarrett's grave tone and unrelenting glare caught her attention. Slowly the implications sank in and she shook her head. "What -- wait a minute, Mr. Cop. Is that an implication? I'm going to distrust you like Leila does if you keep this up. Poison! You think one of us at the table poisoned him? Why?"

"Because they also poisoned me."

The funereal words took a moment to penetrate. Leaning away, she shook her head, offering a nervous smile. "You?" Glancing from one detective to the other, her expression revealed her incredulity. The somber tone of the conversation seemed to hit her finally and her eyes softened and she tentatively touched his arm. "Oh, Steve, that's terrible. But why -- sorry, this sounds bad, but why are you alive?"

"Slow poison," Williams supplied sharply, just on the conservative side of civility and accusation.

"Sean wasn't so lucky. I'm in better shape. It's not going to be so quick."

She glanced at Dan, then back at Steve. "You're poisoned? Why are you still walking around?"

"Too stubborn to give in," he assured adamantly.

Her eyes filled with tears and momentarily the hard-edged reporter image cracked, overcome with a mixture of affection and regret. Snuffing, she gruffly wiped at her eyes and said, "You're one tough cookie, McGarrett." Admiringly, with a grudging grin, she gave him a wink, then embraced him in a mighty hug. "You should ask Dolly for help. She was always the top of her class in high school. Those three degrees aren't wasted. Besides the two in chemistry she has one in botany, too. I bet she'd be happy to help." She released one arm and looked up into his face. "We have a little friendly competition going over you, Steve." She brushed his jaw with a fond kiss. "We both want to --" she smiled, glanced at Dan, then looked back at McGarrett. "Well, never mind, but our future plans involve you in very good health."

McGarrett actually blushed.

Williams smirked. "I guess."

Before they left Dan noted one of the pictures behind the desk. It was Carol with her family -- parents and siblings -- in front of the old family business. A Chinese herb store downtown.
 
 

*****

When they returned to the car the radio was beeping. Dan crossed to the driver's side and answered the summons as he silently agonized over McGarrett's slow steps and painful movements just getting into the car.

"Williams here."

"Danny, we might have something." Duke's voice sounded excited. "The lab at the university says they think they can get the antidote."

Sliding into the car Dan exchanged optimistic glances with McGarrett. "We're on our way up there, Duke. Hey, check into Carol Chang's family, will you? Her parents own a Chinese herb store. See if she might have some hidden grudge against Steve or O'Brien."

"Will do."

Cruising into the hills to the university, Dan cast subtle side-glances at his friend. McGarrett rested with his eyes closed, his fists clenched in obvious reaction to the pain coursing through his body. Silently Dan debated on if he should offer some cautionary advice, then refrained, knowing it would only be met by resistance and pride. They had to get that antidote soon and he hoped the lab would have some positive news.

"O'Brien could be a decoy."

Dan looked at his friend while he absorbed the cryptic comment. "You mean the killer wanted you out of the way and O'Brien's death was to throw us off?" Dan shrugged. "Could be the other way around, too." He groaned. "That wouldn't be very flattering, would it."

McGarrett opened an eye and managed a scathing look even in his diminished state. "I'm not flattered by being the single target, believe me."

"Yeah. Or maybe something was going on at the breakfast? Did you see anything unusual? You and O'Brien talk about anything special?"

"I was mostly occupied with keeping Dolly Taylor from a body search."

A sputtered laugh exploded out of Williams and he struggled to subdue it under McGarrett's evil glare. "The Governor's favorite scientist? Sorry. You do seem to attract some really aggressive sharks, Steve. Sometimes its -- uh -- amusing." Clearing his throat he bit his lip to keep from smiling. "It's -- of course -- not very funny."

McGarrett was considered Hawaii's top prize as eligible bachelor -- a slot Dan never wanted to attain -- too much publicity from the gossip columnists. So McGarrett was often pushing away the unwanted attention of Honolulu's high profile female population.

"No. Carol Chang and Dolly were talking about the embezzlement case. Carol wanted an exclusive."

Williams could not resist another jibe at his friend's plight of romantic aggressors. Steve teased him so much about his liaisons, it was only fair to turn the tables. Even if it was hitting the guy when he was down, Dan sly suggested, "So did Dolly, but not anything suitable to print."

Steve grimaced. "Even in the most serious situation, Danno, I can count on your awful jokes."

"Thanks, I think."

*****

After walking a beat for HPD in his early years as a cop, then on patrol as a sergeant for many years, Duke Lukela knew the streets of Honolulu very well. Finding Chang's herb store, nestled at the end of an alley in one of the oldest parts of Chinatown, was easy.

Normally this task would have gone to Chin Ho Kelly. Lukela felt a ripple of grief at the thought. Dead only a few months, he sorely missed the wise and good Chinese detective who had been brutally murdered in the line of duty. {episode -- DEATH IN THE FAMILY} Chin could have easily coaxed some information out of most of the merchants here in the old Canton shops. Now Duke would have to rely on some of his street savvy to pry any useful tidbit from the Changs.

Opening the weather-worn door, Duke was instantly assaulted but the pungent odor of hundreds of dried plants mingled together. Many of the herbs and potions he knew about, others he did not even want to guess at their medicinal function. An elderly man and woman were stocking shelves behind the counter and both turned with pleasant smiles and asked, in faintly accented tones, how they could be of assistance.

As often happened in police work, Lukela thought quickly, instinctively grasping for an angle as he assessed the environment. He decided against going for the official cop routine and instead chose a more casual tactic.

"I believe your daughter is Carol? She recommended I come down here and look for some herb that might help my -- my back pain."

The man gave a slight nod. "You know Carol. Very nice to meet you. We have several teas that might benefit you."

The woman started listing various ingredients and made suggestions of a few combinations. Duke casually mentioned someone had mentioned to him that the koli plant was a good relaxant.

Mrs. Chang assured that was not the case. The koli bean could be deadly. They carried nothing like that in their shop. The officer stepped over to pay for his bag of dried herbs and paused to admire the photos on the wall. One showed the Changs in front of the shop with Sean O'Brien. The little girl, Carol, must have only been about ten years old.

"I see Mr. O'Brien is also a mutual friend."

"He is one of our favorite customers," Mrs. Chang assured. "First started coming here years ago."

Leaving the shop, Duke briskly walked to his car and radioed the office. After Dan gave him the go ahead, he headed for Carol Chang's office. He was interested in her connection with O'Brien.

*****

Once at the university they took a slow gait into the science building and Dan kept careful pace with his friend. Steve's tread was slow and strained and it was all the younger detective could do to keep from offering assistance.

Both had been here before, working with university technicians on specialized projects. In this case they were headed for the botany department. As they approached, McGarrett stopped, then abruptly hurried on. Dan grinned. The door next to the botany department was the chemistry department -- with Dr. Dolly Taylor's name on the door. He could almost imagine Steve tiptoeing past the dreaded territory.

Dr. Sally Koa was the resident botanist working on the Five-0 case. After introductions she offered them a place in her office. Rather gratefully Steve sank into one of the chairs. Dan took the lead.

"What have you found out, Doctor?"

"The basis of the poison is the koli bean, but it's got an additive that has been elusive to identify. I thought I had it in a rare root from the Yang Si valley in China, but in the second test the antidote failed. Right now I'm at a loss."

That was not good, Williams inwardly growled. Glancing at Steve, he was depressed to see his friend was wasted, worn out and sinking fast. He tried to focus on the cure.

"What else can you try?"

"There are some other herbs --"

A knock sounded at the door and Dolly Taylor poked her head in. "Sally -- oh you have -- oh Steve!"

Dan moved closer to his boss in an instinctively defensive measure. Steve managed a slight nod, but did not stand.

"Steve, you don't look very well, are you all right?"

"He's been sick since this morning," Dan explained sharply. "Since the breakfast." His eyes narrowed. "Didn't an officer come to interview you?"

"No, what's going on?"

Dan briefly explained that O'Brien had died and McGarrett was ill, both victims of poisoning. Keeping a scrutinizing eye on her reactions, he further informed that the lab was working on the antidote.

There was considerable doting on Dolly's part over the stricken policeman, and Dan had to finally tactfully remove her from Steve's side. He suggested Dr. Koa continue her work. Quietly he whispered that Steve should stay there while he escorted Taylor back to her office.

"Did anything unusual happen at the breakfast this morning?"

"Not that I know of. Like what?"

"It seems remarkable that two out of five people at your table are infected with a poison. There must be a connection."

Her eyes narrowed. "They were both men."

Dan's eyebrows raised. "Yes?"

"Sometimes women don't need more of an excuse than that, you know."

The flippant, feminist remark was repulsive considering the circumstances. "Are you saying someone wants them dead because they're men?"

She sneered. "No, of course not, that's stupid. If you're looking for motive, though, that little singer Leila was throwing some nasty comments at Steve." She glanced over her shoulder. "You think Steve will be okay."

He spoke out of hope rather than of fact. "Yeah. He's in better shape than O'Brien was."

"You can say that again." She offered a thin smile. "When he's feeling better have him call me."

"I'll do that." As soon as she disappeared into her office he shook his head. "Yeah, right," he whispered.

Returning to the other lab he supervised Dr. Koa's work, not understanding much but encouraging her to hurry. Returning to the office he swallowed the lump in his throat. Steve was looking grayer now, his face pasty, and his limbs twitching. He couldn't let his friend die, but he was powerless to stop the inevitable. It was all up to the lab now and that wasn't looking very good.

Kneeling down he gently nudged Steve's shoulder. "Steve? Let me take you home so you an get some rest."

"Have to interview singer." He didn't bother opening his eyes.

"I can do that." He tried to force some humor into the idea. "You know I like entertainers like Leila Waikane. They're my specialty." Dishearteningly, this received no response.

Pushing back the desperate fear rising within, Williams took McGarrett by the shoulders and eased him up. Holding onto the taller man, Steve allowed his young colleague to take most of his weight. It was not a good sign -- the surrender -- the acquiescence -- and Williams stoically fought down the despair bubbling up into his chest, tightening his lungs and throat.

When they finally reached the car McGarrett fell into the seat. Dan rushed to jump in the driver's seat and tore the car out of the parking lot. "I'm taking you to the hospital, Steve. They can take care of you there."

McGarrett stubbornly shook his head. "Interview --"

"I'll handle it, Steve. You need to rest."

"No." It was a mix of a groan and a whisper. "Too long I'll be resting soon enough."

Dan's eyes stung at the thought. No, they couldn't accept that, couldnít believe that Steve would die. There had to be a way to save him. "We're going to beat this, Steve." It didn't come out as anything stronger than a moan.

McGarrett drew in a wobbly breath. "Check out Leila -- Dolly. Interested in Sean's embezzlement conversation."

"I will."

On the way up the steps of the hospital McGarrett collapsed like a limp skeleton. Dan caught him, sinking to the ground, trembling too much to even move. Quickly there were attendants surrounding them, placing McGarrett on a stretcher. Williams scrambled after the gurney, forcing his way into the ER room over the objections of the staff.

The same young doctor (Dan never even got her name) examined the unconscious patient and Dan found himself snapping his fingers with impatience. Shoving his hands in his pockets he paced just out of the way of the medical personnel. The doctor finally glanced over to Williams and ushered him out to the corridor. Dan stubbornly stayed in the doorway where he could keep an eye on his unconscious friend.

"He's in the last stages," the younger woman intoned quietly. "This coma will be followed by the gradual shut down of his vital systems. No more than a few more hours."

For a time he stared at his recumbent boss, praying this was not the last time he would see Steve alive. Numbly, Williams retreated, automatically heading for the car, but mentally wreathed in anguish. He had to keep going -- had to find who had done this and find the antidote before it was too late.
 

*****

When Lukela called in about the Carol Chang and O'Brien connection -- or lack thereof -- Dan felt a bit deflated. It had sounded like a promising lead, but went no where. Chang and O'Brien simply interacted on political committees involved with the governor. O'Brien knew many people in Honolulu, and the society of movers and shakers in the capitol was essentially a small club.

Keeping Duke on the investigation of Sean's activities for the last day, Williams targeted his priority as saving McGarrett. The only option there was finding an antidote. Having learned intimidation from a master, Williams returned to the university to lean on the lab people until they found something. With only a few hours left they needed some kind of miracle and he was determined to scare one up, whatever that took.

The botany lab was quiet and Dan coursed his way into the main lab without meeting anyone. In a secondary lab, at one of the long chemical tables he was surprised to find Dolly Taylor hunched over a microscope.

"Dr. Taylor."

"Oh. Detective Williams."

"Where's Dr. Koa?"

"Oh, she was called up to administration for a moment. I'm filling in."

Utilizing a cop instinct, also honed by a master mentor, Williams froze. Something in her tone. Perhaps it was her cold look. Maybe just too many coincidences in a row all involving Dolly Taylor made his skin crawl with intuitive suspicion. As certain as he was that the sun would rise every day to grace their tropical paradise, he knew she was the murderer. With no shed of evidence he lashed out with blind accusation as he had seen McGarrett do so many times to rattle a suspect.

"You poisoned them."

Slowly she turned and her glare was icy rage. "Why would I do that? I'm helping --"

"You're helping Steve into a grave! Dr. Koa almost had the antidote earlier today, but you helped --"

He went for his gun as she grabbed a tube off the table and threw the liquid at his face. Shielding his eyes with his sleeved arm, precious seconds were lost. While the gun remained in his hand he had lost his bead on her. Glass broke. Backing away, he looked up in time to see her on top of him wielding a broken beaker. Blocking with his left hand he tried to keep from being slashed in the face as she pushed him against a table. The jagged glass cut through his jacket. The pistol discharged and she jolted, falling against him, then collapsed to the floor. Her chest was covered with blood.

Sick with revulsion and with the antithesis -- the satisfaction of justice being issued to Steve's attacker and shooting a person -- he quelled the conflicting, overwhelming emotions and knelt beside her. It was a bad wound and all he could think of was that he had just killed the one person who could save his friend.

"What's the antidote, Dolly?"

She writhed in pain. "Help! Get me help!" she screamed.

Somewhere inside him a cold slab of mercilessness crashed down to shield his heart, his conscience. Taught to save lives even when someone didn't seem deserving, Dan gripped her by the shoulders and resisted every instinct but one. Justice.

"You give me the antidote or I won't call the hospital." He swallowed hard. "I'll let you lay here and bleed to death." His voice became brittle and hard and foreign to his own ears. "You'll probably die before Steve. But you can save both your lives now."

Weeping with agony she gulped in air. "Sally -- had -- it -- right. First antidote -- right."

"How do I know?" He shook her shoulders. "Prove you're telling the truth!"

"Sally knows."

Her words choked on the blood in her lungs, in her throat. Then her eyes rolled back and she stopped breathing. He started CPR, but all it accomplished was to splash blood everywhere. She was dead.

"What happened!" Dr. Koa screamed behind him.

Dan didn't waste time on much of an explanation. "Where's the first antidote? Dr. Taylor deliberately messed it up. The first one she said would work."

Koa was too stunned to move. "You killed her?"

"Where's the antidote!" he shouted. "Get it right now! I'm taking you to the hospital!"

The harsh demands galvanized her and she rushed to the table. "I kept it intact --"

"Just get it!"

She grabbed several vials and placed them in her lab coat pocket. Mesmerized by the body on her lab floor she couldn't move past the dead colleague and Dan grabbed onto her arm and jogged her through the corridors and out to his car.. It was a reckless drive down to the hospital. He radioed ahead to have the medical staff standing by.

"You know I'm not sure how much I should administer. He could get very sick --"

"Steve McGarrett is dying. Just give him the antidote. Your job is to save his life!"

A part of his mind knew he was acting out of panic, completely out of control and without reason. Only a part of his conscience cared. The only thing that really mattered was saving Steve. Consequences would come later and he would face them, but saving McGarrett took precedence over his career. If they couldn't keep Steve alive, then he wasn't sure how much he cared about everything else.

The staff was prepared when they ran into the hospital. Koa explained things as they ran to the elevator, then to McGarrett's room. Dan held his breath as he watched Koa put the injection in the IV tube. Steve looked like death and was hardly breathing. Even if the antidote was right, would it have enough time to course through his system and counteract the poison? What if Dolly, in a last moment of spurned vengeance, had lied? He couldn't think that, he decided, because it would drive him insane. He just needed to believe . . . .

*****


Leaning against the wall, staring out at the nightlights of Honolulu, Dan wondered if he should go home. He reeked with the odor of dried blood. The gashes in his arm had been stitched and they itched. His stomach growled from emptiness but he was too keyed up to eat. Five hours since the antidote was administered and still no change; McGarrett was still cocooned in his coma.

Duke had brought by the evening paper. Carol Chang was claiming Williams murdered Dr. Taylor in retaliation for the suspected poisoning of McGarrett. HPD, DA and IA had taken statements. Their findings were still confidential, but all investigating officers had been to the scene and tentatively agreed that physical evidence supported Williams' story about Taylor attacking him and the gun discharging accidentally. Koa's statement that he was trying to save Taylor when she arrived helped his side of the story. Only Dan knew what went on before.

Strangely, his conscience was not as torn up about the breech of conduct as he expected. That was probably a bad thing, but there was little room in his heart for philosophizing. He had taken drastic, even unethical measures. It had saved Steve's life -- he hoped. So was it right or not? He kept telling himself that if Steve pulled through none of it would matter -- no questions of morality or scruples would be important. IF Steve recovered. The dismal possibility that he wouldn't hurt like nothing else could, and he sighed, resting his head on the cool wall, staring out at the blur of lights.

"You look tired."

Dan jumped and spun around.

McGarrett was watching him with an amused, even wry expression. Some of the color -- some spark of mirth was back in the blue eyes.

"Steve!"

"Danno." The smile faded and the face creased into familiar lines of concern. "What happened? Blood -- are you all right?"

"Yeah, fine." A laugh, a near sob of relief escaped and he cleared his throat. "Yeah. How are you?"

"Tired."

Dan nodded, trying not to grin too much. He held onto the back of a chair, suddenly feeling washed out. Now that the tension and adrenaline was gone he probably had no other energy reserves left. That didn't matter. The sudden relief was intoxicating and he felt light-headed. "Yeah."

McGarrett nodded toward Dan's stained clothes. "What happened?"

"Dolly Taylor gave you the poison. Duke found out that she had been involved with the embezzlement with Yokimura. It's a longer story, so I'll save the rest till you're a little better."

With a listless hand Steve gestured toward Dan again. "I meant you."

Self-consciously brushing at the dried blood, Dan grimaced. "Dolly put up a fight. She lost." He wasn't proud of his actions, but he didn't feel much regret, either. That might come in the future, but not now that he was talking with a live McGarrett. "She gave up the antidote before she died."

For a disconcerting moment Steve stared into his eyes. Even with diminished energy the astute sixth sense was still there within the Irish cop and Williams looked away. Maybe Steve would guess what happened. When he was up to it, he'd hear the details because Dan could never keep a secret of this magnitude from his friend. Maybe McGarrett would ask for his resignation. That would be a hard blow to survive, but he would accept it. At the beginning of this awful incident he had vowed that he would save McGarrett's life no matter what. He had kept his side of the bargain and to him there was nothing of greater value.

"Do I detect a bigger story there, too?"

Shrugging, Dan glanced back and met the eyes steadily this time. "Not much of one. That'll keep, too."

"Mahalo."

"For what?"

"I know whatever you did you saved my life."

Williams just nodded. There were a lot of things they never needed to say between them. McGarrett knew him well enough to read almost everything from expressions. He probably deciphered the whole story already. McGarrett closed his eyes and gave a nod.

"Can't stay awake. Talk later. It'll be all right." Almost instantly he was asleep.

Patting his friend's arm, he brought the chair over and sat down to study McGarrett's still, but relaxed face. "You don't have to stay awake, I'm here to watch your back." After a moment he put his face in his hands and sighed, his body shaking with relief. "Yeah, it'll be all right, Steve."
 
 

PAU


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