Sequel to:

ONCE UPON A TIME

 

DEEP IMPACT

Inspired by Karen Soderholm

and the

Saturday Five-0 fans of Wisconsin
 
 

Written by GM

 

Rated: AA for aangst


 

March 1972

 

Making a valiant effort to plow through the ever-present paper work associated with police procedures, Steve McGarrett plunged into the summary of an arrest made by Chin Ho Kelly. It was a clever piece of deductive reasoning by the veteran detective and an informant at the airport. All too quickly Steve became absorbed in the engaging and impressive tactics used by Kelly. When a knock resounded on the door, he was startled, aware his concentration was so complete time had become meaningless.

Jenny Sherman swept into the room. "Did you forget to look at the clock, boss?" she asked knowingly, crossing over to his desk.

"Just finishing this report," McGarrett side-stepped, refusing to give in to the urge to glance at the clock. Instinctively he knew time had slipped away from his grasp. "Any word from Kono on that robbery suspect?"

"Nothing yet," she replied shortly, taking file folders from the edge of the desk. "It's fifteen after."

This time he did check and confirmed that report. He still had a few more minutes. It hardly took any time at all to drive across the street to the courthouse. Then, hopefully, court would convene precisely on time at ten-thirty. His testimony should go smoothly, with only minor interrogation by the defense attorney, then he should be out of there by eleven-thirty. No problem.

It was not unusual for the head of Five-0 to have an incredibly demanding schedule that relied on precise appointments going like -- like clockwork, he grimaced. Time was frequently his enemy and today was no exception. Normally, he wouldn't be so worried, but today was special. It wasn't often his little sister flew over to visit him on short notice.

Mary Ann insisted the impulsive holiday was because of a sudden special with the airlines. He knew his sister well enough to know it was something more important than that. He was afraid there were problems in her marriage with Tom. Such personal confessions were not discussed over the phone. It would take some time and cajoling to coax the information out of her. Steve, however, had had a lifetime of experience in such interrogations with his younger sibling and felt confident he could handle this deftly.

With a grimace he knew it would be difficult, personally heart-wrenching. Mary Ann had not been the same since the death of her baby several years before. The strain had been obvious on the happily married couple, and he couldn't blame Tom or Mary Ann. Such divisions from stress were common, unfortunately, in families experiencing tragedy. It hurt to think it was happening in his.
 
 

*****

It was time to leave for the airport, McGarrett growled under his breath as he glanced at the clock on the wall of the courtroom and sighed. How was he going to pull this off? There was a contingency plan, of course, but he had been reluctant to implement it. Feeling like a heel for deserting his sister like this, he slipped from the courtroom and quickly dialed the number for his office. Cursing bad luck and slow judges he waited impatiently for an answer. Jenny quickly put him through to Williams.

"Danno, I'm not going to make it out of here."

The amusement at the other end of the phone was clear. "Told you Judge Palau was wordy."

"No comment. Anyway, if you can pinch hit for me I'd really appreciate it."

"Sure," he agreed readily, his tone ironic. "Let me be the fall guy and break the bad news when Mary Ann is expecting big brother."

"Just get her settled at my place. Look, Danno," he bit his lip, finding it difficult to go through this over the phone. While he believed his friend could read between the lines well enough, he wanted to issue specific instructions. This was a very special -- delicate -- assignment. Maybe serendipity was playing a part in this whole scenario after all. Danno was the perfect man for this job. Steve's approach to his kid sister was always forthright and head on. Sometimes women -- and he had trouble thinking of her as a mature woman as opposed to the little kid who used to tag along behind him all the time -- needed a subtle and scrupulous diplomacy. "Why don't you take her out to lunch or something. Take the rest of the day off and show her around."

Williams cleared his throat. "Steve, you're not going be in court forev --"

"Look, you know the situation, Danno. She needs to relax. Maybe a little Dan Williams charm and a kamaaina tour of the island will help her out. She'll be tense and upset and confronting her right off may not be the best idea."

While McGarrett never spilled much about his personal life to anyone, he knew Williams was clued in to the basics about Mary Ann. It didn't take a genius to know three years after her baby's death, when Mary Ann suddenly announced she was coming over to vacation with her big brother at a day's notice, that something was wrong. Calling his brother-in-law at Tom's business, Steve learned that things between the couple were rocky. Mary Ann had never been the same after the loss of her baby. Two miscarriages and some emotional set backs had culminated in Mary Ann deciding to leave for an indefinite stay in Hawaii.

Being her big brother, Steve felt responsible for her even though they lived an ocean apart. He had not been there for her when her baby died. He had been here working while she and Tom suffered through the aftermath of coping with the death of their only child. And while she tried to piece her life together again Steve remained in Hawaii bound to his work.

This was the life he had chosen for himself and rarely did he regret the total commitment he sacrificed for his job. Since yesterday he had done a lot of soul searching. What he saw inside didn't impress him. What kind of brother was he to stay away for so long? The last time he had been in LA was for the prosecution of his nephew's murderer, Doctor Fremont. [episode -- ONCE UPON A TIME]. Three years was a long time. Well, he and Mary Ann were going to do a lot of reconnecting this week. Danno could handle things at the office for a while. And big brother was going to try and help his sis get her life in order again.

"So just take care of her for the afternoon, Danno. I owe you one."

"Besides the day off?" he quipped, then seriously ended with, "Don't worry, Steve, I'll give her the star treatment."
 
 

*****

 

Honolulu airport was not too crowded. It was a weekday and after noon, so he had missed the usual package-tourist arrivals from the morning. Over the last few years Steve had shared odd bits of information about Mary Ann and Tom. Mostly venting frustration and sadness when something happened to his little sister and he was unable to fly over to LA to comfort her in person.

Dabbling in psychology at UC Berkley, Williams could formulate a few theories about stress in a marriage caused by the death of a child. More from his police background, Dan had seen the face of anguish damaging many families when a catastrophe occurred. It had been three years since Steve's nephew died and the scars were still tearing the parents apart.

From Auntie Dora's lei stand Danny bought a colorful -- and expensive -- orchid lei. The traditional greeting would help facilitate the transition from the mainland troubles to paradise vacation. As passengers from the LA flight disembarked he searched the crowd. When he spotted the tense brunette with the feminine, but still strong characteristics of McGarrett-esque features, he beamed his most charming smile. There was an underlying resilience reflected in the demeanor and the staunch family trait would help get her through this latest trial. Along with the help of her very caring brother.

"Aloha, Mary Ann." He placed the lei around her neck and gave her a quick kiss on the cheek.

"Danny! What a wonderful surprise!" She pressed the flowers to her face and absorbed the incredible scent. "How lovely." She glanced around him, obviously searching for some one else.

"Sorry, I'm the escort I'm afraid. Steve really wanted to be here but just couldn't get out of court. You're stuck with second string."

Momentarily she seemed disappointed, then irked, then visibly pushed those feelings behind her. Perhaps, in her distress, she was more vulnerable than usual. Or he was so used to the similar features when her brother closed out any personal revelations of his inner emotions. Anyway, she quickly cleared away the disappointment and turned to him with a smile.

"I think I got the better end of the deal," she assured as she looped an arm around his. "You're not going to be barking orders like my big brother."

"Absolutely not. Let's get your luggage. Then I'm taking you to Steve's place."

"I'm excited to see his new condo."

She seemed to be settling into the groove of happy visiting relative and Dan would play along with the scheme. Any personal problems she had would -- in McGarrett-like fashion -- be handled within the privacy of the family.

At baggage claim Dan seized the two heavy, matching bags and waited in line to be cleared. He noted a man in a flight attendant's uniform staring at Mary Ann. Covertly Dan glanced at her finger. She was wearing her wedding ring. A good sign. Perhaps the attendant didn't mind picking up married women. Because the look the tall, dark-haired man was giving her was definitely predatory -- Dan would know. Naturally suspicious thanks to his profession, he studied the man from the corner of his eye. When they reached the sidewalk he was surprised when the man approached them.

"Excuse me, Mrs. Whalen"

Mary Ann stopped and smiled. "Oh, Doug."

"You forgot your carry-on."

Mary Ann didn't accept the brown, strapped bag. "Oh, that's not mine."

The solicitous man was now checking out Williams, clearly sizing up the competition. "You're sure?"

Dan placed a gentle hand on her elbow. "It doesn't match her luggage. It's not hers." The retort was firm, and definite that the overly-helpful Doug should get lost.

The attendant narrowed his eyes -- some elusive emotion that seemed nasty quickly flitted in the glare -- then it was gone behind a mask of a plastered-on smile. "My mistake, Mr. Whalen."

Williams allowed the misconception that they were married. Mary Ann didn't seem the type to be flirting with strange men -- even experienced teases -- on the day she temporarily left her husband. So he was confident the come on was all on the side of the flight attendant.

Steering her toward his sedan, he kept a wary eye on the attendant, who quickly faded away into the crowd. Good. The brusque rejection worked. Couldn't be too careful with Steve's sister, he reminded himself.

"What was that all about?" she asked once they merged with the traffic heading toward the freeway.

Chuckling, Dan glanced at her with amusement. "He was trying to pick you up."

"What?" She seemed horrified. "I never -- I mean -- why would he do that?"

"Don't worry," he calmly reassured. "Speaking from a guy's perspective, he probably flirts with a lot of women every flight, but he zeros in on a few . . . " his voice trailed away. How was he going to explain this tactfully? He cleared his throat. "I -- uh . . . " he trailed off helplessly.

"Steve probably exaggerates about your -- uh -- exploits -- but he says you're single and -- you enjoy being single . . . . . "

Their eyes met and they both burst into laughter at the ridiculously awkward scene of trying to discreetly communicate. Now that the ice was broken, Dan decided it was best to completely clear the air. Being a basically honest and forthright person -- and knowing Mary Ann couldn't be too sensitive growing up with Steve as her big brother -- he went for a candid approach.

Without going into detail he admitted Steve had told him a little bit about her situation and that he was here to help her, just as Steve was. Instead of being self-conscious or irritated at the shared confidence, she settled down and relaxed for the first time.

"Thanks for letting me know. Steve relies on you a great deal. I wouldn't expect him to keep many secrets from you." She gave him a light punch on the arm. "He treats you a lot like he used to treat me -- the kid. Welcome to the family little brother." Williams blushed and she laughed. "It's kind of nice. It makes me a little more comfortable knowing I don't have to explain myself. Having another brother to watch out for me."

There was nothing Dan could say to such incredible praise, so he waited until his face was no longer hot with flushed discomfiture. On the drive into Honolulu they settled into a cursory discussion of how the city had grown and changed since her last visit several years before. Then she grew silent until they turned off to head toward Waikiki.

"I was just thinking of the last time I was here with Tom. It was wonderful." She cleared her throat. "Before Tommy was born."

"Yeah," he agreed, not knowing what else to say. "That's natural. That's your last vivid memory of Honolulu." Struggling to get over the awkwardness of her moodiness, he also felt a little guilty about being a surrogate brother. He was not Steve. And being a taxi driver and tour guide wasn't really replacing Steve, but maybe he could help prepare the mood for when Steve could come and take over. He didn't know what else to do but talk to her. "We have mental reference points that stick in our heads. You probably had a great time. They'll be strong memories." He sighed, sharing personal poignancy with understanding loss and overcoming tragedy. "Especially the happy ones."

She gave him a cockeyed smile. "If Steve doesn't know already, I'm going to tell him how smart you are. And he better appreciate you."

Struggling to overcome another blush, Dan turned the praise into a joke. "Just remind him when it's time for a pay raise."

It was a picture perfect day in Waikiki with the dark, afternoon rain clouds gradually drifting toward the beach from the ocean. The sky over the mountains was a crisp, clear blue. Diamond Head was green and lush with foliage, lending a sensational backdrop to the gleaming buildings crowding the prized real estate.

Pulling up along the Ala Wai canal, Mary Ann was suitably impressed with the excellent location of Steve's new apartment. Slipping from his role of psychologist to tour guide, Danny explained that this was a prime condo with an incredible view. When they entered the corner apartment she gasped with pleasure at the magnificent interior.

Deciding first impressions were important, Dan set down the luggage and led her over to the sliding glass doors on the Diamond Head side. Pushing aside the drapes he opened the door and stepped out onto the lanai with her. The dominating presence of Diamond Head, then the hotels and Waikiki beach to the right, was breathtaking. After she had a chance to take it all in he led her to the mauka lanai and they stood in the fresh air appreciating a view of the canal below and the fluted mountains backed by the blue, blue sky.

"No wonder Steve moved. This is perfect for painting. Look at all this light and the incredible views."

"Do you paint, too?" He knew Steve dabbled in weekend art, but didn't think it was a serious pursuit. More like a form of talented relaxation. Maybe it ran in the family.

"No. My artistry is in the garden." She brushed the orchids near her face again and closed her eyes, as if capturing the moment in her memory. Then she walked back into the apartment with a sigh. "One of the reasons I love coming to Hawaii." Regretfully, her mood now melancholy, she turned to him. "Thank you so much, Danny. It's been a wonderful beginning to my -- my -- stay."

She was giving him the brush off. Politeness or did she really want to be alone? He knew what it was like to suffer in solitude -- self-enforced solitude when he had pushed everyone away after Jane was murdered. It was breaking his heart to think of her sitting here by herself. Who knew how long Steve would be tied up in court? But if she really wanted to have some solitude, should he intrude on her privacy? He settled for a diplomatic compromise.

"Why don't I call Steve and let him know we're here."

She didn't seem to be too happy about that. Was she still worried about confronting her big brother?

"Okay, I'll get unpacked."

After taking her bags into the spare room he returned to the front room to call the office. When Jenny told him there was, as yet, no sign of Steve, he was not really surprised. Judge Palau could take days to get through this trial.

When Mary Ann returned she looked freshened up but still glum. News of Steve's delay seemed to disappoint her, though she quickly covered it up with a comment about how important his job was.

So there was a little undercurrent of resentment there that big brother was so focused on the work at Five-0. Sadly, a condemnation Steve got from a lot of females in his life. But coming from Mary Ann it was going to really hurt his friend. Sensing future explosions on the horizon, he was guessing that there would be a lot of things aired between them when Steve showed up. Maybe he could let off a little steam first.

She again thanked him. It was a clear dismissal.

"Hey, Steve asked me to make sure you were taken care of until he could get here."

"I can't dominate your whole afternoon!" she was shocked at the thought.

Amused, Dan wondered what she thought about her brother as a taskmaster and could pretty well guess accurately, he thought. She'd spent a lifetime knowing what her brother expected from those around him.

Dan approached the situation with humor. "Steve gave me the whole afternoon off. You don't want to force me to go back to work, do you?" She smiled. "Or to go back to Steve and tell him I abandoned you?" She laughed at the outrageous comments. Pleased, he suggested, "Why don't I take you to lunch. There's this great place I know that makes ono sandwiches. And getting there is half the fun."

"I bet ono means something wonderful."

"Yeah. Good food. Good company. You get the idea. So, are you game?"

Grinning, she looped her arm with his. "I think you missed a true vocation as a tour guide. I'm telling my brother that whatever he's paying you, it's not nearly enough, Officer Williams." Sobering quickly, she studied him for a moment. "You know just the right things to say to help a girl with a lot on her mind."

"Just trying to help," he countered sincerely. "Steve -- and you -- are too good to disappoint."

She squeezed his arm. "Let's go have an unforgettable lunch."

The grand tour started with a hurried stop at Dan's apartment, not far from Steve's and also in Waikiki. He had just moved from the downtown area to the beach at the very tip of Diamond Head. The view was spectacular and he walked down to a private beach nearly every morning for a fast swim.

The place was still stuffed with unpacked boxes, but Mary Ann ignored the mess and stood out on the lanai studying the incredible view. Quickly Dan changed into casual clothes. As he buttoned his aloha shirt he pondered if he should go out armed. Deciding his belt holster was fine under his loose shirt (he felt uncomfortable if he went anywhere unarmed), he ditched the ankle holster with his small .22 that he normally carried on and off duty. That small pistol was good when he expected to be snuggling close to someone, but for today the usual belt holster was fine.

They went back to the underground garage and he put the top down on his recently purchased Mustang convertible. Mary Ann knew how to treat guys, he realized, when she ooohed and ahhed about the cool car. Appreciating her class, he hoped things worked out for her and Tom. They were too nice to let tragedy tear them apart.

The drive up the windward coast -- the scenic route up to the North Shore -- was everything he hoped it would be. Perfect top-down weather; warm, sunny, peppered with picturesque clouds and multiple rainbows. She spotted several beaches she wanted to stop at, but he insisted they eat first, then take their time driving back.

Lunch at his favorite sandwich shop at Haleiwa was a hit. She avoided the healthy sprout-overrun fare her brother usually ordered here, and took Dan's suggestion that the pineapple/teriyaki burgers were the way to go. With a side of seasoned fries. They finished off with a shave ice dessert at a little surf shop on the main drag. A few doors down was the famous Matsumoto's tourist trap shave ice shop, but their fame was misdirected, Williams insisted. The surf shop had the smoothest, most flavorful shave ice in Haleiwa and he was going to make sure she knew the best kamaaina haunts during her stay.

Relaxed, happy, she chatted easily about a number of things as they started back toward Honolulu. They stopped at Waimea Falls Park to enjoy the botanical wonders. She took her time appreciating the myriad flowers and flora. Heading back down the coast she started to compare life in LA to the paradise of Hawaii. They stopped at several beaches and Mary Ann walked in the warm surf, mostly consumed by her own thoughts, but still appreciating the natural beauty surrounding her. Her home and this island were nothing alike, of course, except slightly in their temperate weather cycle. Everything else was different.

"But I would never leave California," she decided after a short silence. "I don't want to leave."

He pulled off the road not far from Makapuu Point. "Here's a great spot I love." He parked the Mustang at the end of a precarious dirt path when it became too narrow for a car. He walked her down to a small cove where the dark lava rocks formed mysterious formations near a small sand beach. "Not many people know about this little secret."

After strolling through the surf Mary Ann settled on some rocks, rolled up her pant legs and let the temperate azure ocean swirl around her feet. Already barefoot, Dan sat down beside her. She made vague comments about the beach, the day, the beauty, but obviously her thoughts were miles away.

"This is a wonderful get-away." She glanced at him for an instant, then turned away. "I came on holiday to flee my problems. Three years --" her voice trembled. She took a breath, then continued with a steadier tone. "I still have such trouble coping. The loss was nearly unbearable." With watery eyes she looked at him. "Steve mentioned a little bit about your girlfriend being murdered. I don't mean that he gossips . . . . " she struggled uncomfortably.

"It's okay," he assured her easily, surprised at how the sharp pain that usually accompanied recollections of Jane's murder were now diminished. Almost a year and a half had given him distance and time for the anguish to fade, the sorrow to settle into regret. "Steve was there for me. I couldn't have gotten through it without him."

"Yeah," she smiled fondly. "He's a rock. I couldn't have survived this long without Tom and Steve to help me through it." She shook her head and studied the horizon. "And now I'm falling apart again."

"Maybe you've just hit a valley. One thing about valleys, there's always a hill on the other side. You can only go up."

A gentle laugh bubbled out involuntarily and she gave him a scrutinizing stare. "You're a great guy to have around, Detective Williams." Her smile firmed. "I guess that's what families are for." Tears seeped from the corners of her eyes. "Steve would be disappointed that I was running away from my problems. That's one of the reasons it was so easy to escape with you this afternoon. I wasn't ready to face him."

"He loves you. He would never condemn you for coming here to sort things through." He mutely gauged if he should step in and play psychologist again. "Don't worry about what your big brother thinks," he plunged ahead, boldly certain this was the right thing to say, encouraging her in a way that Steve might not think about. " What do YOU think. What do you want?"

Sniffling, she brokenly admitted, "My husband. Children. I don't want to leave Tom." She sighed, brushing away the dampness on her cheeks. "I needed to get some distance, I guess. But I don't want to give up on my marriage." She wiped her face. "I feel like such a fool."

He countered firmly, "You're not. You needed some distance from the familiar. I bet Steve and Tom have no problem with that. They just want you to be happy."

She offered a brave smile. "I'm going to call Tom and tell him that as soon as we get back."

Nodding, grinning, Williams felt his job here was just about finished. "Invite him over. There's no more romantic place than Hawaii."

"Especially in a convertible. Maybe we could borrow your car?" At his pained expression she laughed. "Just joking. I know all about men and their toys."

For a time they sat with their feet washed in the surf. She discussed a few ideas and he said very little. This was her time to get her head back together, to formulate a plan before she talked to the two men closest to her. Dan didn't mind being a sounding board -- he did it often with McGarrett, it seemed natural to continue with her. As the sun was hovering low on the horizon he felt it had been an extremely productive day for her. And a very satisfying one for him. In some measure he had helped his friend's sister, and in turn relieved Steve of some unneeded worries. And a perfect day spent cruising in his convertible wasn't so bad, either.

Now filled with resolve she decided it was time to leave. Readily agreeing, he mentally pictured an impatient, irritated McGarrett waiting for them and wondering what had happened. Knowing Steve there were dinner reservations at some nice restaurant for the two of them. He hoped Steve was all pau with work by now. Glancing at his watch he was surprised that it was approaching four o'clock.

Walking up the path he was surprised to see the outline of a man standing near the Mustang. This was a rather isolated spot, and while you could barely see the convertible from the highway, most people had no reason to stop. A tourist hoping for a private piece of paradise? Well, Danny wasn't going to share his secret hideaway with anyone. Then he saw the guy raise a tire iron.

"Had a flat," the man announced. The figure was tall and that was about all Dan could make out because the sun was directly behind the man and right in Danny's eyes. "Can you help? The lug nuts are too tight for me."

The voice seemed oddly familiar. A mainland voice. Instinctively alert, he picked up his pace to get ahead of Mary Ann. The man kind of skipped downhill to meet them. In a blur of motion the tire iron came up. Automatically his right hand went for his gun as he placed himself between the woman and --

"Mr. and Mrs. Whalen! I have something for you! Payback!"

His head exploded and washed black. He felt the sensation of falling and was too disoriented with numbing pain and spiraling senses to know if the ground was gone beneath his feet or he was just losing consciousness. Another blow struck, he thought, wondering if it was the ground or the tire iron . . . .

Screaming. There was screaming . . . .

So confused, surfacing briefly from the black pit, he couldn't focus on anything. Someone -- the man with the tire iron? -- was dragging him in the dirt. He couldn't see Mary Ann. Fumbling clumsily he reached for his revolver. Holster empty. Silence. Blackness . . . .
 
 

*****

 

The clock ticked ever closer to Six PM and Steve picked up the phone and called his apartment again. Where could they be? Giving free reign to Danno had been a mistake, he sighed ruefully. Offer his sister a nice day. She's on holiday. She needs to get her mind off her troubles. Well, Danno was just too good at his job, McGarrett decided tartly. Sure he wanted Mary Ann to relax. But he had reservations at Chez Michel's for seven. Then he would take her for a nice walk along Waikiki and they could talk, and visit, and talk and he could straighten her out. Leaving Tom was just not the right thing to do, but he was going to remind her of that in a patient, loving, brotherly fashion. Only if he had the opportunity to complete his grand plan. And Danno's tardiness was ruining that scheme.

Giving up on trying to concentrate on paperwork he packed things away and locked up the office. Everyone else had left. He would go to the apartment. Maybe they left a note. He should have gone earlier, he supposed, but there was so much work to catch up on after wasting almost all day in court! At least his testimony was out of the way now and he could focus on Mary Ann for a few days. By the end of the week he would have spent some quality time with her, set her priorities straight, and sent her back to Tom.

The apartment was as neat as he had left it this morning. The curtains had been drawn to allow in the light. Mary Ann had probably been checking out the view. No note. In the guest room he found her empty luggage and her clothes hanging up. It was a little early to cancel reservations, but his annoyance was quickly melding into irritation at the uncharacteristic irresponsibility of his youngest staff member.

When the phone rang he started, then breathed a sigh of relief. Yanking it off the hook he barked, "McGarrett."

"Steve, this is Duke. I'm duty sergeant tonight." Steve nearly growled. He didn't need a crisis tonight. Mary Ann already thought he lived solely for the job and if things interfered too much with her visit she would never forgive him. She never said so to him, but he knew she felt resentment in the way his career crowded out time to spend with her on the mainland. Or even time here when she visited.

"Go ahead, Duke," he reluctantly agreed. There was nothing else he could do, and in truth, he would be unsettled all night if he shuffled something off on Chin when he really didn't need to. He addressed Officer Lukela. "What is it?"

"I've got a report of Danny's Mustang being stripped. Found some kids in the act of taking the wheels off. It was on a remote beach access road up by Makapuu."

McGarrett's body chilled to a deep freeze. The Mustang abandoned and stripped? Where were Danno and Mary Ann? He was hardly aware of issuing orders or speaking coherently as he rushed out of the apartment. With reckless speed he raced up to the windward coast where a small knot of patrol cars had cordoned off an area of beach. Two officers, Patrolmen Ky Puna and Koni Osaka came forward to introduce themselves. They were young and not known to the head of Five-0, but apparently they knew Williams well enough to ID his car when they saw it. They had suggested, and Lukela had agreed, the discovery should be relayed immediately to McGarrett. They gave a brief report and nervously exchanged glances. Puna seemed the senior man and took the lead.

"Something we just discovered before you came," he reluctantly reported in a gravelly voice. They paced past the white Ford convertible. In the light of the dying sun McGarrett spotted smears of red along the bumper and trunk of the immaculate car. There were dark stains in the reddish dust of the volcanic soil. "Looks like blood to us."

Heart filled with dread, Steve knelt down in the red dirt and breathed out to ease the tight tension in his chest. Feeling like his world was about to end, he peered over the edge of the slope.

Sick inside, trembling, he forced himself not to react -- not to think -- not to move as he stared at the body twisted lifelessly on the rocks below. Rain was spilling on his face and a vague part of his mind identified it as tears splashing down from his eyes. Another part of his locked-down brain controlled the grief pushing to explode from his emotions.

He couldn't let go of the rigidly disciplined command, couldn't surrender to the anguish. He had to be strong. When their father died he had demanded total control of his heartache and never surrendered. Always he remained strong for the women in the family. When Tommy died he had been tightly controlled except to Danno, and hidden the terrible sorrow. Now, he couldn't show any crack in the iron will to be strong. Mary Ann needed him to be strong, to be controlled, to take care of everything, he recited to himself. She needed him to be the big brother and handle everything, he promised, the vows slipping out in whispered cries, in murmured gulps that only she could hear as he dazedly stared at Mary Ann's dead body.
 
 

*****

 

As he sat in the pale light of the desk lamp Steve felt drained and numb as he gazed at the ceiling. There was no question where he would go after the devastating and necessary steps of surrendering his little sister to the coroner. He had come here, to his center, to the office in the Palace that was his real home. It was here that he had listened as Chin Ho Kelly read off the coroner's report. She had been killed yesterday afternoon by a blow to the back of the head when she fell and struck a rock. Detectives had found the rock and filed it away as evidence. A hard, blunt instrument -- maybe a tire iron -- had struck her on the jaw and it had broken her facial bones before she fell. She was probably unconscious by the time her body hit the ground. Wouldn't have felt much at all. That was supposed to be comforting, he guessed, but it wasn't.

Chin had left after that, promising to follow up on any other leads. McGarrett had allowed him to leave without comment. The usual procedure didn't matter to him now. His detectives and HPD were veterans, they knew what to do. He had no heart to discover more about the monster who had perpetrated this outrage. There was no energy within to overpower the numbing shock insulating him from everything else but grief.

The call to Tom last night had been another level of agony he had no idea he could descend to. There were no answers or reasons and they would have offered no comfort to either of them. What could console a man who had lost his baby, then his wife? The only thing Steve could offer was that he would be traveling tomorrow to LA with the body of his little sister. They would lay her to rest in Los Angeles. And her big, bad cop brother had failed to protect her while she had come here for solace, for relief, for a holiday.

He remained alone in his citadel of seclusion and suffered for untold hours. The pain was so deep, the impact so severe he could not weep, could not release the pain, could not function. He knew other people were investigating, shuffling in and out of the outer office; analyzing data, interviewing suspects. How remote all of that busywork seemed now. Before -- in another crime -- it would have been him out there doing the legwork and deciphering the clues. Now he was the one removed and inaccessible, hiding in the shadows with his sorrow.

Characteristically the questions rose unbidden in his mind. It was his nature, he could not ignore the curiosity, the cop ‘need to know’. What had happened? Why had paradise been scarred by this violent attack? And what had happened to Danno? Blood stains (Danno's type) had been found in the dirt. There had been a struggle, an injury, and a disappearance.

Logic told him it was unthinkable, but a part of his mind -- the part that cried out in futile anger for retribution and revenge and justice -- also screamed out in anger. Why had this happened? Why hadn't his top officer done something to protect Mary Ann? How could Danno allow this to happen? The blood traces told him that there had been an attempt to do something. Not enough, obviously.

Usually, when Williams or the other detectives were in danger, McGarrett couldn't be controlled or restrained in his pursuit of his colleague, or the quest for justice if one of his men had been hurt. This time the burning quest for his closest friend had been relegated to others, pushed back from the forefront of his mind. His focus now was Mary Ann. While he was sick with anxiety over the fate of his officer, there was something else more important right now. Taking care of Mary Ann. He had done little else for her the last few years. He owed her his complete attention now.
 
 

*****

 

After a second sleepless night McGarrett made his way to the airport with the body of his sister. To his disgust there were a few reporters there. One of them was the hateful Thomas Boyd, an old enemy of Five-0's. The headlines roared about the unfortunate killing of Mary Ann. Boyd shouted out questions, insinuating that Williams had something to do with the death. Why else had he fled the scene?

"Come on, McGarrett, don't you have a comment about your detective being out with your sister at a lonely beach?"

The idea enraged McGarrett, but he valiantly controlled himself from physical violence on the wretched reporter. Trembling inside, he stood there at the departure gate and stared at the creature with cold disdain, restraining all emotion from his expression or voice.

"Whatever happened, Dan Williams is a victim, not a suspect," he clarified tightly.

As quickly as possible he left, boarding the plane that already held the coffin of his sister. As he settled into a seat he stared out the window at the perfect blue sky and sighed. Another perfect day in paradise. An Eden that would never be the same because of this tragedy. For the millionth time he wondered what had happened out there on the beach? And why had Danno failed to protect Mary Ann?
 
 

*****

The crowds of people coursing through the busy terminal at LAX registered only at the farthest periphery level for Steve McGarrett. For the first time in three days he was just barely emerging from what was pretty much an altered existence. Some alien reality, which he found completely foreign and disturbing. Grief and tragedy were known to him. There had been terrible moments in his past and he had coped with them head on, rooted in stubborn defiance to last out the agony: the sudden death of his father, imprisonment as a POW, and the death of friends in Korea and afterwards. The death of little Tommy. Through all the trials he had been able to rise above the pain and deal with the hurt while still remaining grounded within life. Since Mary Ann's murder he had been unable to maintain that connection to normal reality.

The moment he had seen her lifeless body he had drifted into a netherworld where he felt isolated from everything, everyone around him. Only his grief touched him. The flight from Honolulu, the necessities of funeral arrangements, the funeral this morning -- all of it was an altered state. Existing in a haze and not functioning on any coherent level.

Now, as he sat in a busy airport, he began to sense emergence from the imprisonment of mourning. He was going home. Whenever he left his island state he was anxious to return. Now, home was where he would go for comfort. But there would be no solace there. Only more anguish. While he had buried one heartache here on the mainland, he would be confronting another back in Honolulu. Mary Ann was gone. What had happened to Danno? Fully expecting another funeral in his immediate future, he tried to steel himself for that inevitable event and he found himself unable to comprehend that notion. How could he possibly handle the loss of his closest friend?

When he thought of home he thought of the refuge of his work, the haven of his office. With that life automatically went his second-in-command. Without that aide, how was he going to get through the murder investigation of his sister? Or the long weeks and months after that when he must return to normal and deal with this in some kind of real-time perspective.

As the time approached for his flight to leave, he grew more and more anxious to be home. That was where he belonged. Where he should be to head the search for his missing -- and he had to believe it was only missing, not dead -- friend.

"Mr. McGarrett?"

Startled that someone would know him here in LA, he glanced up in surprise. The man addressing him was tall, dark-haired, with sharp facial features. He seemed familiar.

"Yes?"

"There's a message for you in the airline lounge. If you'll follow me, please."

Steve grabbed his bag and walked beside the man, still puzzling over the cognition. "We've met before."

"Yes, sorry. Fremont. I was one of the flight attendants when you came over from Honolulu the other day."

He remembered the man as being very concerned and solicitous on the flight from Hawaii. Odd to meet the man again as he was returning. "So you're returning on this flight, also?"

"Yes, I will." Fremont opened the door to a restricted access area and motioned for Steve to precede him.

McGarrett stepped into the corridor and felt the hairs on his neck prickle with a sixth sense of danger. In a split second he realized that something was wrong; too many coincidences with the attendant, the area too isolated. Automatically on guard he swung his bag around in time to deflect a knife thrust. Knocking Fremont slightly off balance, Steve hit him again with the bag. Unarmed, it was his years of training pitted against the aggressive, armed assailant.

Instead of discouraging the attack, the blow enraged Fremont and he plunged into the fray with enough power to slam the cop back against a wall. The bag/shield was knocked away and Steve closed in to wrestle for the weapon at close quarters. Violently wrenching the blade with a twist of his hand, Fremont pressed in for the kill. Steve let his weight go to one side and unbalanced Fremont. They tumbled to the ground.

Gasping, Fremont cried out in pain. Under his hand McGarrett felt the wet viscidity of blood. The hilt came up with his hand, an edge of the broken blade snagging on the airline uniform. Cringing, he realized the weapon had snapped apart with the blade remaining inside the attacker. Fremont rolled over, staring at him in shock, the blood freely flowing from his chest.

"Two -- out of -- three," he gulped in air and winced from the painful scrape on his lungs. "I got -- got -- two -- of -- you . . . . "

Torn between trying to save the man's life and going for help, McGarrett pressed his hands to the wound. This man was going to die and there was nothing he could do to stop the inevitable.

"What?" McGarrett shook his head, completely confused, still numb with grief, stunned by the inexplicable and unexpected assault. "Why did you do this?"

"McGarrett." He drew in more breath. "Killed -- sis -- prison -- had to -- destroy you --yours -- sister and husband -- only you left -- two out -- out -- of three -- got you -- got you back . . . . ." His eyes rolled back in the vacant blindness of the dead.

It made no sense. The rambling words of a dying man. Yet, police instinct gradually faded into his thoughts and logic slowly overcame the paralyzed daze he had been living in for too long.

Destroyed my sister. Two out of three. Sister and husband. Got you back. The horrifying confession started to piece together in his mind and with each clicking thought materialized a more terrifying picture of the overall puzzle.

Who was the sister? Someone out to get Mary Ann? And Tom? And him? But Tom was safe, wasn't he? He'd just left his poor brother-in-law in Studio City.

Scrambling to his shaky feet he raced out of the access door and rushed to the nearest security guard. Showing his ID he explained there was a dead man and said he would stand by to talk to the police. Next he stepped to the nearest phone and called Tom Whalen. Tom answered after a few rings and Steve asked several times if he was all right. Assured all was fine with his brother-in-law he returned to the scene of the crime.

As other security men, and finally an LAPD detective arrived, McGarrett was piecing things together. A theory -- a wild, incredible possibility -- was forming in his mind. A theory he did not quite understand yet. Only one criminal case connected him to his sister and her husband. Sickened at the possibility, he started pushing the detective to find out what flights this man had worked on this week. And who was his sister?
 
 

*****

 

Being on the other side of a police interrogation was not a prospect McGarrett would have tolerated under the best of circumstances. Now, anxious and concerned with what was happening in Honolulu, Steve rushed through the explanations. Then he had to catch another flight since he had missed his original plane. While he was winging toward Hawaii, he had asked the LAPD officer to answer some questions and call Five-0 with the results.

For five hours he could tangibly feel the growing distance from the turmoil of Mary Ann's funeral and the sadness he left behind in LA. As he approached Hawaii the distress increased. He felt sick with grief over what seemed to be a double murder. His sister and his closest friend killed. But what happened to Dan's body? What had happened to Danno? Normally, in a crisis involving his youngest detective, McGarrett was a fireball of frustration and rage to get his officer back safely. This time, his friend's disappearance and probable death had taken a far second place to his sister's murder. While there was still palpable bereavement within over Mary Ann's demise, he was now completely focused on the pressing challenge of finding Williams.

Disembarking from the plane was a measured, familiar return to normalcy. Every time he left the islands a piece of his heart stayed here. Whenever he came home it was like a renewal -- the husky, humid, floral scented air, the skin-penetrating warm sunshine, the sea-kissed, salty atmosphere. It was all embracing him back to the islands he loved, as always; but this time the mourning weighing down his soul marred the native homecoming.

Kono met him at the airport, his expression grave, his manner more taciturn than usual. The information from LAPD had been illuminating and disturbing. The man McGarrett killed in self -defense was a Palmer Fremont. Brother of Doctor CL Fremont, the woman who had tricked Tom and Mary Ann and caused little Tommy's death [episode -- Once Upon A Time].

As a stunned McGarrett ruminated on the connection Kono continued. "Fremont worked on the flight that your sister came in on the other day. He rented a car. That night he was on his normally scheduled route back to the mainland. Never turned the car in. Said he had an accident."

McGarrett gulped down the knot in his throat. "Any trail on the car?"

The officer was grim. "HPD thinks they might have found it. Wrecked at the bottom of a cliff on the windward coast." Again he cleared his throat. "Not far from where -- your sister . . . ." He cleared his throat again. "No sign of Danny."

"I want to see for myself." He wiped a hand over his eyes and urged his famous sixth sense to do him some good now. Where were his instincts for finding his missing officer? And he had to consider Danno missing -- couldn't classify him as dead -- not yet. "No leads at all?" he vainly implored.

The big Hawaiian shrugged. "The usual stuff. Danny's been sighted on every island in the chain by tourists and kamaaina. He’s a beach boy teaching surfing on Waikiki.  Some lady out by Waimanalo calls HPD every day and says Danny's living with her and she wants pay for his keep. One old man over at Kona say he saw Danny up on Mauna Kea and taken up in the clouds by a space ship." He offered a crooked smile, but sobered at his boss's stern glare. "You know this type of thing brings out the kooks.

"Yeah," McGarrett sighed, staring out the open window at a picture perfect day in Honolulu.

As they raced past the familiar landmarks he felt relieved to be home. If only it was under better circumstances. With every high profile crime publicity was a mixed advantage. There was always the chance that something useful, some solid eyewitness would come forward, but mostly it was the fringe weirdoes and cop-haters that filled in the gaps and wasted their time with crank reports. What was really irksome was that any one of these accounts could be true -- except for the UFO over Kona -- and they had to be checked out by HPD. Taking valuable time and effort away from the real trail to Williams.

On the drive, Detective Kalakaua outlined the steps they had taken in the boss's absence. Since there had been no suspect they had concentrated on the obvious avenues for a missing cop: old enemies, hospitals, morgue. Finding the car might give them some vital item, but both experienced officers knew that it just as easily might not be fruitful. The Pacific was a big place to hide a dead body. Three days ago Fremont could have thrown Williams' corpse into the sea and they would never know.

Chin Ho Kelly was there to meet them at the spot where the rental car went over the edge of the highway. Experienced recovery personnel had set up search and rescue equipment. Instead of repelling down the cliff face to the wreck, the Five-0 officers scrambled down a narrow dirt path cut into a slope a few meters away from the steep rock. Crime scene techs already at the location were snapping pictures and dusting for prints.

"Nothing obvious yet, Steve," Kelly explained as they approached the car. He indicated the rear of the car, the trunk lid popped open. "Blood inside the trunk could mean there was someone injured inside."

"And removed," McGarrett finished harshly.

Too late. He was too late to do any good here. Three days ago he had been too wrapped up in Mary Ann's murder and too isolated to prevent another. What if Danno had been alive after the attack? What if there had been a chance to save him before the damaged, possibly unconscious body was tossed into the ocean? With his usual obsessive nature he had blinded himself to everything around him but his tightly focused anger and mourning. He had stopped acting like a cop -- no -- stopped acting like a friend. Just as he had failed to act like a brother when Mary Ann really needed him.

Steve stood at the edge of the rocks splashed with briny surf and stared into the deep blue waters. What had he done? Allowed grief to block his judgment? So he could deal with his sister's remains and abandon his friend who might have been alive after the initial attack? He shook his head, wrathful at his failings and strove to now, finally, act like the cop he was supposed to be.

"What time did Fremont leave the islands?" he growled out to his nearest officer.

Kono, who was standing close by, was startled by the seemingly irrelevant question. He checked his notes. "Eight-thirty flight. Why?"

Steve's voice was hoarse from the tightness choking his nerves with tension. "A long time to dispose of a body." Chin came up to the leader and studied him for a moment until Steve acknowledged him. "Find something?" The tone held more elements of dread than hope.

"Clear blood trail leading into the brush here, Steve." Kelly pointed to the dirt and scrub weeds dotting the sloping hill to the side of the cliff. McGarrett and Kalakaua followed as the Oriental detective walked along the path. The trail ended in rough lava slabs of rock that jutted into the raging ocean. "Fremont must have been injured in the wreck."

"Wonder how he got back to the city?" Kono asked aloud in rhetorical curiosity. "Long way from the nearest house. Some tourists catching the sunset mighta picked up a bloody guy off the side of the road. But we been checkin' the hospitals and nobody reported an accident victim up here."

The conversation gradually clicked together in McGarrett's mind like a set of gears meshing into smooth working order. Involuntarily his fingers snapped as the mental wheels spun with inspired theories.

"Fremont wasn't injured." Amazed at the possibilities, he turned to his colleagues, somehow certain of his theory. For the first time in days hope began to flare again. "When he confronted me in LA, Fremont nearly killed me. He was perfectly healthy." Exhilarated, he rapidly revealed, "If someone was injured here it was Danno. He got away!" He started jogging ahead, through the brush, keeping a close eye on the smears of blood irregularly splotched in the dirt. "Get some HPD men to scour the area. Order a K-9 unit over here." Without turning or pausing, as rapidly as he could follow the slight smears and spots of dried blood, he jogged along the trail.

HPD search experts and canine tracking teams arrived on the windward stretch of rocky shore late in the afternoon. To McGarrett's frustration he had lost the blood trail in the ocean. Big Pacific. Where a lot of prematurely deceased bodies found their final resting place. He couldn't give up now. He couldn't believe Danno had survived attempted murder, survived a car crash, only to stagger along the rocks and fall in to the ocean! It just couldn't end that way! That was one of the reasons he had called up the bloodhounds. If Danno had hiked anywhere, if he had managed to survive anyplace and was not now in that big, deep ocean, the dogs could find him.

Two alert, excited hound-mix dogs were straining at the leashes after their handler partners gave them the scent of the blood to track. The big floppy eared hound dog named Pono was particularly excited to start the chase. The smaller, beagle-type named Pepper, was more thoughtful, sniffing the ground still and wrinkling his brow, then staring off in the direction Pono wanted to run.

For the next hour McGarrett followed the energetic and exhausting trek as the dogs raced along rocks, then down to the sea, then picked up the trail again farther along another shelf of lava. Apparently Danno had wandered away from the wreck and tried to find a path to take him back to the highway. Any one of a dozen different angles would have taken an athletic man like Danno up to the top. But he had been injured. Maybe he was disoriented?

On the outskirts of the small beach town of Waimanalo, McGarrett was thankful of a breather as the dogs circled. The handlers explained that they had lost the trail. McGarrett asked the HPD officers who regularly patrolled this area -- Patrolmen Puna and Osaka, to start blanketing the town in a standard search pattern.

"Somebody would have reported him if he came to Waimanalo," Chin offered logically. "There's a clinic in town. We already checked there. Same with Castle Hospital."

McGarrett mutely nodded in concurrence. Of course Danno's injured appearance would have been noted and reported in this small town that was intersected by one of the main highways on Oahu. Unless Fremont had somehow tracked Danno here and then killed him? He kept trying to invent different, creative alternatives to that final ending, but what else could have happened? Danno missing for three days. No body. Death seemed the only alternative.

"Unless there's somethin' else goin' on," Kono offered blandly.

Fatigued in mind, body and spirit, McGarrett hardly glanced at his cryptic officer.

Chin had to be the one to ask. "What does that mean?"

"Remember the crazy lady that calls every day at HPD? Says she got Danny staying with her here in Waimanalo."

Officer Osaka overheard the comment and laughed. "You talking about old Lia who lives in the rocks?"

McGarrett spun sharply to nail the young policeman with a sharp glare. "You know her?"

At Steve's perked interest he explained, "Everybody know her, Mr. McGarrett. An old tutu who lives off the land, sleeps on the beach, hustles tourists for small change by selling them shells. She have a cave or something around here. Everybody know her."

A crazy beach derelict who calls in a crank police report every day for kicks. Just what this case needed, Steve sighed. He gave his permission for Kalakaua to find her and get her story. It was part of the routine. He walked across the street to an old grocery store and asked for some cold water. Since he was there, since it had to be done, he questioned the owner and his daughter, but received the expected negative answers about seeing someone matching Williams' description.

Splitting up, the Five-0 officers and HPD men went door-to-door questioning the residents. The canine unit went with some other uniformed policemen and continued tracking the beach area. McGarrett focused on houses near the shore instead of on the surf. He still didn't want to believe Williams had ended up in the Pacific. Nearing sunset, he knew they were running out of time for today. They could canvas the houses at night, but the search at the seashore would have to wait until they had more light. And pretty soon the dogs would need a break.

A nerve-wracking howl pierced the late afternoon stillness of the quiet seaside community. McGarrett stepped out of the grocery store, amazed at the scene across the street. By the side of the gas station, Pepper, the little beagle-mix, squared off against a thin woman with white hair. Pono came bounding around the corner, his big hound body not as lithe or fast as his smaller, agile companion, but his reaction just the same. The big tawny canine immediately anchored himself a few feet from the woman and bayed to the sky. Breathless police handlers were only a few seconds behind. The woman glared at the beasts and started howling in an ear-shattering wail! The handlers quietly rewarded the dogs and backed the four-legged officers away while their hands went to their pistols.

Alerted to the tension of the moment, but not quite understanding it, McGarrett drew his weapon and jogged across the street, ready to back up the search unit.

"What's going on?"

"This reaction means they've reached their prey, Mr. McGarrett," Pepper's partner reported. "I don't understand it, but they think she's got Officer Williams' scent."

McGarrett replaced his revolver in the shoulder holster and cautiously stepped forward, hands visible to the unstable, bellowing little woman with a ragged backpack slung over one shoulder. She was small, slight and leered at him with not-quite-sane eyes. What stopped him in his tracks was her footgear. In the rays of the dying, tropical-twilight sun, he noted the red stained blue deck shoes on her feet.

"Where did you get those shoes?" The urgent command frightened her and she squealed again. "Where did you get them?" Steve shouted over the din.

She jumped away, back and hands flat against the wall of the station. "Mine!" she wailed. At least the howling stopped, replaced by her squeaky shrill. "Mine! Mine!"

He tried to keep his voice calm, his demeanor patient, but he could feel the tension straining from his sharp tone, from his abrupt motions as he closed on her. "They belong to a friend of mine."

"You got to pay da kine rent!" She dropped to the dirt, slipped off the shoes and clutched them in her arms. "De mine! You gotta pay rent on da haole. 'Bout time you got here." Bravely she inched forward, her grimy right hand shooting out from behind the tattered pack. "You gonna pay."

Gritting his teeth, McGarrett forced himself to calm down. "Where is he? You know where Dan Williams is! Where is he?"

She skittered away, cowering, but still brave enough to demand her ransom. "Money," she countered, holding out her hand again, but this time it was trembling. While she had lost some of her bravado, she was not giving up on her prize.

His own hand shaking from anger and frustration, his heart pounding from equal parts anticipation and dread, he drew out his billfold and fanned out three ten-dollar bills. "Take me there." She made a grab for the cash but the Five-0 cop was faster and snatched the money back. "Take me to him!"

One of the locals tried to interfere and help, supposedly come to the woman's aid, but McGarrett rounded on him, savagely ordering him to back away. Forcibly calming himself, he waved the bills in the air and composed his expression, pacified his tone.

"This can all be yours if you take me to Dan Williams. Is he still alive? Are you really holding him?"

She stared at the money. "I tell you every day come get da boy. You owe me thirty cents for da phone calls, too, mistah."

The shaking was now replaced with rock solid determination. Steve fished in his pocket and removed all the coins there, spilling them out into the woman's greedily upheld, grimy palms.

"You can have it all. Just take me to Officer Williams."

Now it was simple. She smiled, revealing dirty teeth.

"Is he alive?"

She just motioned toward the beach, as if playing a game and not wanting to spoil the ending by giving in to everything he wanted. Taking the woman by the arm he beseeched her again to take him to where she was holding Williams. Afraid of what he might find, he followed her past the beach park to a narrow strip of rocks that spilled onto the sandy shore, all the while desperately hoping she had taken good care of his friend.

It was also possible that the deranged old woman was absolutely crazy and Danno was dead, or not even there at all. Perhaps she had seen him before his body was thrown into the ocean. . . .  He stopped the horrific imaginings and focused on following the rough dirt trail in the ebbing light. The officers behind him had flashlights, but Steve had been too impatient to let them catch up, or to wait for them to provide equipment for him. He was on the heels of the old lady and nothing was going to separate him from the only lead he had to Danno.

The hovel was a hand-made cave of fitted rocks, dried palm fronds and packed sand. She boldly blocked the small hole in the front.

"You pay first, cop. Den you go in."

Steve handed her the wad of bills and grabbed Chin's flashlight. The dogs, which had followed the group, were now howling, acknowledging they had run their prey to ground. With a chill flowing through his veins Steve crouched down and shone the light into the little grotto. Wedged against the back of the curved wall was the slumped form of Dan Williams.

While the young officer was obviously injured; numerous cuts and scrapes on his exposed skin, his left arm strapped to pieces of wood, he was breathing with little moaning sounds, as if he were in pain. Relief flooded over the anxious misgivings McGarrett had harbored for days. A measure of contentment spread like a balm over the emotional wounds festering under the surface of his emotions. Danno was here and was really alive. While others called for an ambulance and Chin pulled the woman aside to question her, McGarrett crawled to the back and attempted to wake his officer. Trepidation returned full-force when he was unable to draw his friend from unconsciousness.

"Danno? Danno!"

The younger man stirred, wincing as awareness brought a renewed cognizance of affliction.

McGarrett held onto a shoulder that was shaking and emanating heat. "Danno, it's okay. We're taking you out of here now. Everything's going to be okay."

Williams' eyes blinked open. "Steve?"

"Yeah. It's okay." He started to breathe a little easier. The tension he had lived with for days was abated. "Everything will be all right."

Moving to touch his head, itching at some dried blood caked on his scalp, Dan winced. "What --?" Carefully, slowly, he leaned up on one elbow. "Strange . . . ." Obviously confused, he looked around in disorientation. "Have I been sick?"

Alarm instantly surged, but McGarrett stemmed the frightening thoughts racing through his mind. "You were -- attacked," he stated simply. "Do you remember?"

Light from the entrance of the little shack faded. Twilight swept the beach and Williams squinted, staring at the boss for a moment. Suddenly his eyes widened and an expression of panic crossed his face. "Attacked. The man hit me. Mary Ann -- okay? Screaming. She was screaming . . . . " His face wrinkled in abject horror. "All right? She all right?"

Flinching, McGarrett couldn't speak, could only shake his head and try to control the grief that must have played across his expression before he could disguise it. The reflection of the pain mirrored clearly on his colleague's face as Dan interpreted raw emotions Steve usually kept deeply buried, but now all too easily surfaced.

"No . . . . " Williams gasped weakly. "No -- thought -- nightmare --" He shook his head, internally denying what he imagined as the truth. He covered his face with his hand. "No -- didn't help -- sorry -- sorry -- noooo . . . . ."

Williams slumped away, shaking his head, his body trembling. McGarrett nearly reached out, but decided this was not the right time, unable to say or do anything to comfort his friend. What was there to say?

As the ambulance attendants arrived McGarrett took the opportunity to exit the confining little hovel. Outside, he drew in huge gulps of fresh air, but it did not relieve the stress of grief crushing in on him. His sister was dead. His friend was alive. Now they would begin the long journey of trying to cope with the awful reality ahead of them both.
 
 

*****

For the first time in days McGarrett awoke feeling human again. The night had been spent in a deep, dreamless sleep; the kind of slumber experienced in the aftermath of physical and/or emotional shock. He had certainly lived through plenty of trauma in the past several days. Feeling closer to normal today he took the time to jog and even eat some breakfast along with his strong coffee.

Some of the night had been spent at the hospital. When assured Williams would not regain consciousness until some time today, he conceded there was little else he could do but go home. At his apartment there was nothing to do but allow his exhausted body and mind to sleep. So he had surrendered to the inevitable and was surprised when he had woken up early, feeling like he could face life again.

Walking through the hospital corridor he had settled into a functioning level of calm acceptance. The sharp, raw pain of the loss of his sister was behind him, replaced by the ache of grief. Past were the coarse emotions of dread and fear for his colleague's safety. Now he felt ready to tackle the next level of necessary recovery: learning the details of what had happened to Mary Ann and Dan on that fateful afternoon that had altered their lives.

In the last three days his nerves had calmed and he had emerged beyond the worst depths of mourning. Danno's fever and concussion had kept the younger detective mostly unconscious during that time and Steve felt it was just as well. It gave them both time to settle into the tragedy and face it with a degree of composure. Slowing at the nurse's station, he was road blocked by the head nurse who bodily halted his brisk pace.

"I don't know what kind of police force you're running, Mr. McGarrett, but I've already notified the insurance company. This hospital will not be held responsible for your officer's actions! He's got a broken arm, broken ribs and a concussion! His fever was hardly at an acceptable temperature. Policemen should obey the rules!"

Stunned at the confrontation by the short, stocky, commanding nurse, he was alarmed at the context of the message. "What are you talking about?"

"Mr. Williams! He left early this morning --"

McGarrett pushed her aside and rushed to the room where he had last seen his friend. The bed was rumpled, with no occupant. The nurse was assaulting him with a barrage of details about willful policemen, contemptuous patients and lack of respect for regulations. He considered questioning her, but it would prove futile in their respective moods. She was irate and he was too, he decided. Angry that his friend had escaped a haven of safety and care. For what?

Not even bothering to respond to the nurse he rushed away. The first stop was Williams' apartment. Already in the elevator, he realized he should have checked to see if both cars were in their parking slots. Letting himself into the apartment he saw the rooms were messier than usual. As if someone in a hurry had come and gone quickly. McGarrett swept through the rooms like a rampaging tiger, each empty space adding more anger and anxiety to his nerves. On the breakfast bar was a badge case, a .38 in a belt holster, and an envelope addressed to:

Steve

He stopped cold, breathing hard, dreading what might be inside. With impatient swipes he tore open the cover and read the handwritten letter scratched out in an uneven, messy scrawl.

__________________________

Steve,

Words can't express

Please consider this a

I'm sorry, so

This is my official resignation from Five-0. I can't ask you to forgive me. Just --

Sorry,

Danny
  ___________________________


 

Hands shaking, McGarrett folded the paper away into a coat pocket. For a moment he handled the badge case, then thrust it away from his reach. The anger returned again, pushing out the unpleasant amazement and vexation that his young officer would choose this alienation. Why was Danno driving him away? How could he strike out and wound him like this after what had happened with Mary Ann? What was he thinking?

Slamming his fist on the counter he struggled to find a brilliant solution. Where would Danno go in this state of mind? The younger man had numerous friends and colleagues he could go to, but Steve felt there would be no refuge for him with other people. Yes, admittedly Williams was suffering. He would do that alone. He reread the letter and studied the text with thoughtfulness instead of wounded pride and ire. Where did Danno go when he needed to be alone?

Stuffing the letter back in his pocket he raced downstairs to the underground garage. Confirming his theory, he checked and found the Mustang was gone. How was Danno driving the stick-shift with a broken arm?  With difficulty. But in Williams' distraught mood no other car would do for therapy.

So Danno went driving. He might circle the island all day, but eventually he would stop at a beach, Steve was certain of that, it was Williams' pattern. In Danno's depleted condition the young officer would not be on the road for long. Had to be at a close beach. Which one? There were several favorites of the surfer detective. Which one was the most secluded?

As he headed toward the windward coast, home of the best beaches in Oahu, he automatically flinched when he thought of the remote cove where Danno had taken Mary Ann. Could he have gone back there? Why? Pushing aside the emotions raging through his thoughts he gradually analyzed the letter and the escape from the hospital.

Not only was he worried about Williams' well-being, but he knew the younger man was suffering emotionally -- probably far worse than physically. How would Danno feel after the murder? Ravaged with guilt and grief, of course. He might be able to escape the hospital, or the apartment, or Five-0, but he couldn't outrun the memories. They would play on his guilt and knowing the sensitive young man they would eat at him terribly. Danno would go to the scene of the crime. The place where he had, in his mind, failed.

Only in his mind? McGarrett studied that perspective. How much culpability did Steve place on his second-in-command? How forgiving had he been last night in the desperate moments when he had found his friend sick and injured? How forgiving was he in his heart?  Probing questions he could not answer with any degree of honesty.

For a weekday morning the windward coast highway was not crowded. When he pulled onto the dirt and down the narrow road that was now familiar he winced with recollected mourning. Only a few days ago he had come here to find his sister's body. Now he was here to reclaim someone as close as family.

The white Mustang was parked at the end of the road. McGarrett hurried from his car and scrambled down the rocks. There was only one person sitting on the jagged outcropping of dark lava. One oblivious, huddled figure allowing the mighty waves to crash near enough to his position that water splashed him knee-high up to his soaked jeans.

Carefully picking his way over the crags, Steve stopped a few feet from the still form and took a deep breath. Danno still showed clear signs of his ordeal. His left arm was in a cast and there were healing scrapes, cuts and bandages on the side of his face. Staring out to sea, he was transfixed on a point on the horizon.

Now that he was here Steve had no idea what to say, how to approach a friend who was suddenly alienated, suddenly a stranger to him. Or was he?

He crouched just behind the young man. "Danno."

Williams gasped and turned, the color draining from his face. "Steve."

"You think it's a good idea for you to be out of the hospital?"

Dan stumbled to his feet. "Don't -- didn't you get my letter?" Unsteadily, off balance, he backed away, oblivious to the perilous, mighty waves crashing around his legs.

McGarrett reached out to grab his arm and the younger man skittered farther away, coming to the very edge of the precarious crag barely jutting over the raging sea. "Danno!"

"Why did you come here?" Williams cried out, the anguished accusation tearing out from his very soul. "Why?"

Before McGarrett could respond Dan slipped and plunged down the side of the rocks, sliding between some cracks of lava to land with a jolt on a thin strip of sand ringing the picturesque cove below. He seemed to collapse into a jumble amid the bubbly foam. Immediately in pursuit, Steve clambered down and leaped onto the wet beach next to his friend.

"What are you doing? Why are you running from me?" He grabbed Dan under the arms and dragged him back away from the surf. "What is wrong?"

Williams came to his knees, shaking his head, feebly trying to push McGarrett away. "Leave me alone."

"I came here to talk to you." Steve stated firmly. "I'm not leaving until I know you're all right."

He tried to keep the anger and terror from his voice, but he couldn't. Why was Danno running away? Obviously he could not literally or figuratively face McGarrett after Mary Ann's murder. Just as apparent, he knew Dan blamed himself for the crime. That all should have been obvious to a seasoned cop. But for the last several days blinders had obscured his emotional vision and he had not been perceptive enough, aware enough, to look at much beyond his personal anguish.

Calmer, Steve took a breath and allowed his emotions to settle. Yes, there was anger still at the useless death of his sister. There was grief beyond understanding. And now, atop that, he could discern the fear he had experienced right here on this beach when he thought his friend had been killed along with his sibling. A resurgence of terror, moments ago, when Danno had acted with reckless abandon. A wrath returned, when he thought Danno was going to throw himself into the sea rather than face him.

Life's tragedies always seemed more difficult than he could predict. How was he going to deal with this? Danno was shattered to pieces about this. Somehow, Steve had to gather his own tattered mettle and do what he could to reach out to Williams. He had already lost his sister. He determined that he would not now lose his friend, too.

McGarrett sat down on a flat piece of rock next to the younger man. "We don't have to talk right now," he began slowly, softly. This was no time for a confrontation. This was a time for healing. "I just wanted to make sure you were okay."

Williams groaned and turned toward the ocean. "Then you know -- what are you doing here? Why are you talking to me? I resigned. So you wouldn't ever have to see me again."

He kept his voice reasonable. "Why would I want that?"

"It's my fault. I killed her," he whispered hoarsely.

McGarrett gritted his teeth. He had hardly spoken of this to anyone. Saying it out loud would make his thoughts, his heart, exposed and obvious. Even to his closest friend he didn't want that. But the truth was the only way off the figurative ledge they were on and back on the right path.

"A guy named Fremont killed her, Danno," he corrected gruffly.

Williams shook his head. "I should have protected her." Muffled sobs were swallowed. "I was responsible. You trusted me."

"I still do."

"No," he cried, now unable to stem the sobs that shook him. "You can't." He gulped for air, still turned away from his friend. "I can't go back. I can't forgive myself. My fault. How can you even talk to me?" His body shuddered. "I'm not worthy enough to be part of Five-0. Can't be part of your life. . . ."

McGarrett placed an arm around his friend's shaking shoulders. Too choked to speak, he allowed the warm tears to flow, knowing he had barricaded his own grief for far too long. He had avoided the sorrow, denied the bereavement while Danno was missing. There was no turning back now. After several moments he patted Dan's back and felt he could speak again.

"I lost a sister this week. I can't lose my friend, too." His voice cracked and he tried again. "You're not going to do that to me, are you?"

For the first time Dan turned to look at him. "How can we go on after this?"

He wiped his face dry. "One day at a time." His tone commanding now, his voice firm, he admonished, "I know you, Danno. You didn't fail. You've never failed me. Don't start now."

"You should let me resign, Steve."

He removed the letter from his pocket. "There was never a resignation, Danno." He started tearing the paper into pieces. "This was a note from a friend of mine asking for help, for healing." He tucked the paper back into a pocket. "What my friend doesn't understand is that I can't heal without him."

Williams shook his head, overcome with emotion again. McGarrett put his arm around him and allowed the silence to compensate for inadequate words.
 
 

Epilogue

 

"There is one thing I'd like to know."

McGarrett rested his coffee cup on the railing of the lanai of his office. It was a quiet evening with the cool April breeze kissed by errant raindrops. Williams stood beside him, flexing the fingers of his left arm just beyond the cast. The shorter man glanced at his boss and offered a slight nod. He seemed to know what McGarrett was talking about even though the comment was completely unrelated to their silent contemplation of the tropical twilight.

"Go ahead."

"I'd like to know about Mary Ann's last day."

He could speak her name now without the stab of pain through his chest that signaled terrible grief. A few weeks had given internal and external wounds some time to heal. It had not been difficult to return to a working relationship. After their catharsis at the beach there had been little else to say. McGarrett never blamed his friend for Mary Ann's murder or for any failure. He only needed Danno back on the team and to get on with the process of grieving and living life again.

Dan nodded and sighed. "It was a beautiful day." His voice fractured, but he cleared his throat and started again, this time with more confidence. "Perfect." He surrendered a slight grin. "She loved the wind in her hair. We saw a triple rainbow driving up to Haleiwa." He gave a questioning glance at his friend. McGarrett offered a nod of reassurance, a prompting to continue with an aching, poignant, bittersweet story.

Dan continued, relating the day up and down the coast. He told of Mary Ann's resolve to go back to Tom. She felt better after the short holiday and happy about her decision to continue with the marriage. His face twisted with bereavement. "It's painful to think of that happiness. And the waste of revenge."

Steve patted him on the shoulder. Amazingly, McGarrett was calm and peaceful. Mary Ann had been happy that last day, and somehow that tempered the sorrow. After three years of torment she had been able to redirect her mourning over losing Tommy and was going in a new direction, ready to tackle life again. "Don't think of that as a waste or a bad thing, Danno," he reassured softly, thoughtfully. "She was happy. That gives me solace and comfort. It will help Tom as well."

Nodding, Dan sighed again, looking out over the grounds of the Palace now bathed in the sepia-toned golden rays of sunset. McGarrett studied his friend for a moment. Life would never truly be the same without his sister. Full recovery from that deep of a wound could never happen. But he was very close. At least he still had Danno. He didn't think he could have ever recovered without his friend at his side. So there was solace in that thought, too, that a double tragedy had been avoided, and at least one of the very important people in his life was still here with him.

PAU
 
 

*****

This story is kind of an Alternate Universe story. In other stories on my site I have already established that Mary Ann has other children and is living happily in LA. And occasionally comes for a pleasant vacation with McGarrett. When I received this idea from Karen I couldn't resist the opportunity to write it. Sorry, Steve, but gut-wrenching stories like this plot don't come along often.