LOYAL OPPOSITION
 
 

BY

G M

Rated A for angst
 
 

Always remember to forget

Those friends that prove untrue

But never forget to remember

Those that stood by you

Irish blessing

 



 
 

Feb 1978
 
 

Watching the clock was not a common past-time for the head of Hawaii Five-0, but Steve McGarrett found himself glancing at the numbers more and more often as time slipped toward Six PM. Usually dates didn't make him so preoccupied, but he wanted things to work out smoothly tonight. The last few weeks his life had been in upheaval and for a change he longed for calm.

Life at the police unit was not yet back to normal from the eruption he caused earlier in the month by going, at the urging of the FBI, undercover in Honolulu's dock area. The blunder had cost him the trust of his closest friends and he still felt the need to make up for the mistake. More socializing with his detectives had resulted: a birthday party at Chin's, a cruise with the Lukelas out on the boat, a double-date arranged by Danno's current stewardess girlfriend.

Things were going pretty well until a few days ago, when, through another entanglement with the Feds, a detective on loan from HPD had been killed. The death of Barney Kawala [HEAD TO HEAD] depressed him and the rest of the team, and brought back unpleasant associations with interference and intervention by Federal agents. No one in the office blamed him, but he blamed himself.

In an effort to push him out of the blues, Dan had arranged another social event for him tonight, this time with some other friend of a friend. Steve agreed, and now eagerly anticipated the date. It would get his mind off Frankie -- the hooker he'd befriended on his undercover mission. Her pathetic life and death had faded from the edge of hurt, to an aching memory [A SHORT WALK ON THE LONGSHORE].

Time was slipping away -- he was meeting Dan and girls at Sally's at seven. He tried to keep his mind on the paperwork, the final reports on Barney's death, but thoughts continually wandered into other avenues -- grim alleys of the mind that were a natural course for a cop's thoughts. With time, this hurt, too, would fade. But after a death of one of their own, life was never the same. All too soon another danger, another death. Dangers he thought about more often now as he grew older, as his friends became more cherished.

Never far away lingered his guilt over the undercover job. Not just guilt drove him to amend for his behavior, but his effort to prove everything could return to normal and be as good -- better -- than before. Because in the very darkest recess of his thoughts, he feared his brash actions had damaged the carefully crafted unit he had worked so hard to build. Damaged the friendship between he and his detectives -- between he and Dan.

Knocking on the door, Lani interrupted his thoughts to say she was leaving for the weekend. "Oh, and I just took a strange call. From Alice, Agent Sullivan's secretary over at the FBI office."

Steve cringed automatically, not wanting to deal with the Feds anymore in his entire life. "About what?" No more complications about the undercover debacle, he prayed.

"An appointment for next Tuesday afternoon for a visiting agent. Someone named McNeil."

More details about the case, no doubt, he inwardly grumbled. "Thanks, Lani."

"Okay. Have a good weekend, Steve."

"You too."

On the desk calendar he scribbled in a note about the meeting. Once more he tackled the paperwork, this time succeeding in rushing through the grim statements because it was now an alternative to thinking about the FBI. When the phone rang he absently picked it up.

"Steve, drop whatever you're doing and get over here. I have two gorgeous, impatient blondes ready to dance the night away!"

McGarrett looked at the clock. Seven-sixteen. Rejection was on the tip of his tongue. The effect that would have on his friend, on his own vow at recompense stopped him. "I'm leaving now, Danno. Cover for me."

"Yeah, I get all the tough assignments."

The crack made McGarrett smile as he locked up the office. 'Okay', he wryly admitted, 'some restitutions were worse than others, and tonight's was hardly going to qualify as any kind of hardship.'
 
 

*****

 

The afternoon was quiet for a Tuesday -- for any day around the Five-0 offices. Maybe because Steve McGarrett was indulging in an extra-long lunch at Sally's -- with Sally. The Friday night date with the stews had turned out less than ideal. Both were more interested in expensive dinners and dance clubs -- being seen by the right people -- than anything else. Steve's date disappeared with a club owner sometime before midnight. By one AM Dan's date had decided to go home with a pro-tennis celebrity vacationing in the Islands. When Dan left, Sally and Steve were cornered in a secluded booth enjoying each other's company.

A valuable lesson that he knew before and relearned again -- let Steve pick his own dates. Life was so much easier that way. He'd broken his own dating rule because Steve had, unpresidentedly, suggested the double dates. Williams was only too happy to help his friend.

Following Steve's tough transition after the horrible undercover assignment and Frankie's death, Dan couldn't handle another painful period like last year when Steve withdrew into his grief after Cathi Ryan's murder [MAN IN A STEELE FRAME]. Steve would forget quicker if he had distractions and things to crowd his mind. Dan wanted to shut out the hurt of Barney's death, too. That had been a rough tragedy, one that still stung for all those who had worked with the good HPD officer.

Distracted by a yawn, Dan Williams smiled to himself, wondering if Steve and Sally were going to evolve into an 'item'. Like mixing chili and garlic -- individually they were strong and distinctive -- together they could be way too much to handle. Sally was one of several women McGarrett dated these days. No, date was too assertive a word for his relationship with Sally.

Steve dated Nicole Wylie, the photographer, Constance Kinkaid, the old-money businesswoman, and Kate Holbrook, the plantation owner. All the attractive, strong women were currently off in their on-again-off-again relationships with Hawaii's top cop. Sally, a club owner, was a good addition to the string of ladies McGarrett hooked up with.

Dan liked Sally's local-girl color, whimsical sense of humor and the special treatment she afforded the Five-0 detectives. Mostly, he appreciated the knack she had for helping Steve relax and have some fun. Steve was way too serious after Cathi Ryan's death last year and especially after the debacle with Frankie and the horrendous undercover stint on the docks. Dan didn't see the relationship with Sally lasting very long -- a nightclub owner/informant was not Steve's usual taste, but for a temporary, zesty fling, Dan gave his approval.

Trying to force his mind back to work, he welcomed the distraction of someone in the outer office looking for McGarrett. The voice seemed familiar.
 
 

*****

 

" . . . and I promise you it'll beat this state pay any day."

The voice boomed through the main office area, catching Steve's attention as soon as he walked in from lunch. Not knowing the location or the source, he knew there was someone adamant, loud and confident somewhere in one of the cubicles.

"Dan, you deserve better than this and you know it!"

The lateral insult galvanized McGarrett into action. Now knowing the location and the subject of conversation, he headed for Williams' desk to see who was trying to tempt his top detective from the fold.

"That's the way things should have turned out and you know it."

"I -- " Dan stopped in mid-stutter. "Steve!" he called and rose from the edge of his desk. "Steve," he smiled in amazement, turning the cheery expression to the visitor who dwarfed the smaller, younger detective. "Hey, this is unbelievable. He's your twelve-thirty appointment."

McGarrett looked up, which didn't happen often, to the tall, broad shouldered visitor. In his hand he held a plantation style hat. White hair and sharp blue eyes completed the mark this man made as a memorable presence. Dressed in a sports coat, Aloha shirt, and tropic weight trousers, the man's comportment made him seem more suited to the wide-open range than the beach.

"Mr. McGarrett, a real pleasure."

The strong greeting came with a handshake Steve felt compelled to accept on the grounds of civility and demeanor rather than eagerness. The grip was bruising -- shoot-from-the-hip and straightforward.

"Jack McNeil, FBI. They call me Big Jack." Flashing a dazzling smile toward Dan, he laughed. "I had no idea little Danny was working here. I've lost touch over the years, I'm sorry to say. Haven't been home for about a decade, I guess." He slapped Dan on the arm. "When you were still walking a beat on River Street." Ruffling Williams' hair -- a strangely inappropriate gesture to do to a man in his late-thirties -- Jack was oblivious to the surprise he was creating. "Known Danny since he was a kid. Jim Williams and I were partners. Best cop I knew. Danny always wanted to grow up and be a cop, too." To McGarrett, he assessed, "Hope you're not treating him right, McGarrett, cause I'm trying to lure him away."

Feeling excluded, which Steve would not tolerate in his own office -- with his detective -- he suggested they go into his office. Taking a seat behind his desk Steve felt more at home, more in control of the situation. Dan took a chair next to McNeil.

"I'll get right to the point, Mr. McGarrett. I handle Southeast Asian problems for the Bureau -- spies, contraband, what have you." From his jacket he removed an ID case and offered his FBI credentials. "Just so you know I'm the real article."

"Oh, anybody who sees you knows that, Jack." Dan's unqualified praise beamed from the enthusiastic detective. To Steve, he explained, "Jack was my Uncle Jim's favorite partner. Then Jack got lured away to the big league for the FBI in Washington."

McGarrett's defenses tightened. McNeil was too overpowering and moving fast. Too possessive of Dan -- just taking over like he owned the Islands and Danno, too.

Jack gave Dan's arm a friendly punch. "Jim was the best -- taught me everything I knew, but wasted his time here in the Islands." He winked at Dan. "You've got his style, Danny, always did. Why waste your talents here?" Turning back to McGarrett, he continued about the case. "Anyway, I've come across a kidnapping plot of a Taiwanese defector who's coming to Oahu at the end of the week. I'd like you to work with me on a case -- "

"State usually handles diplomatic cases." McGarrett's rejection was sharp and quicker than manners dictated and Dan gave him a sharp look, but McNeil seemed oblivious.

"I got the scoop on State this time. Kidnapping's Bureau jurisdiction anyway. So I wanted you to be in on the ground floor. Plenty of glory to go around on this one."

"No." The denial was flat and explicit. "I want nothing to do with any federal operations, Mr. McNeil." He came to his feet. "Your ilk come to this state and trample over my police and anyone else who gets in the way."

From the corner of his vision he knew Dan was startled. In himself he recognized the abrupt harshness -- bordering on rude obstinancy -- of the refusal. Too many times, very recently, too, he had been burned by governmental goons and he would not play their game this time. Especially not with someone trying to ingratiate himself with Danno.

"No way." Striding to the door he held his hand on the knob. "Feel free to visit with Detective Williams if you want, but you and I have nothing to discuss."

The adamant speech seemed not to phase the big man. Studying McGarrett for a moment, he turned back in his chair and studied the view out the lanai doors. "I think you're going to change your mind, McGarrett." The pleasant, lilting charm was gone. The gloves were off. His deep voice radiated smug supremacy. "All it's going to take is two words."

Irritated, Steve knew he had to bite. He looked at the back of the man's head, not wanting to look at Dan and see the reaction of his detective. "What two words?"

"Wo Fat."

Exchanging a startled look with Williams, McGarrett came around to confront the agent. "This better be good, McNeil. That is not a name to be used lightly with me."

Smiling, the big man slapped his hand on the arm of the chair. "You're the expert on this spy, McGarrett. The fat Chinese has a file as thick as a phone book, but that means nothing. He's put his pudgy hand into motion again with this kidnapping in the Islands -- probably more dirty deals that we don't know about. The connection is here in Hawaii. That's what brings me here. You'd be cooperating with me and Sullivan, the local agent."

"I don't cooperate with the Feds anymore, McNeil." He refused to spell out the explanation. Feeling Danno's eyes on him, he knew Williams followed the reasoning. Aching just thinking about the chance to catch Wo Fat, he hated the thought of giving in and cooperating with the FBI. Again. "Thanks for the offer. If Wo Fat is back and operating some game here in Hawaii, I'll find him myself without your help." From behind his desk he leaned over to stare at the agent. "And I won't ask for your cooperation, either."

McNeil was clearly miffed and caught off guard by the refusal. He'd played his ace and it hadn't swayed the hard-nosed Five-0 cop. "I thought we were on the same side. We need to protect Wing Ky from the Red Chinese. You want Wo Fat, don't you?"

"Not if I have to work with you."

Jack didn't seem too unhappy about the ultimatum. "Then I'll just work with HPD. Danny'll help me, though." He challenged the boss. "Unless you have a problem with that."

It was like throwing a red blanket in front of a charging bull. McGarrett wouldn't back down from the dare, but he had the final ace in his hand. "Officer Williams can't be spared right now. You'll have to manage with HPD."

Looking to Williams, who's face struggled to disguise the disappointment and surprised confusion, McNeil expected some argument. "Danny?"

Covering his perplexity, Williams stammered, "I -- uh -- sorry, Jack --"

Clearly unhappy, Jack accepted defeat with a shrug. "No problem, kid. If you're too busy, I understand. We'll get together for dinner tonight, though, right?"

"Yeah, of course."

With a salute, Jack bid aloha to the detectives and left. After seeing his friend off at the door, Dan remained there a moment. "Don't you think we have a better chance of catching Wo Fat if we cooperate with the FBI?"

McGarrett snarled. "You should be the first to applaud my decision to stay clear of the Feds."

The unspoken memory of Steve's recent undercover stint reverberated silently between them.

Dan shrugged. "Okay, if that's the way you want to play it." In contemplation, he smiled at some hidden thought. "He's like a hurricane, isn't he? Just kinds of sweeps in and rearranges everyone's life according to his own ideas."

McGarrett's scowl proved him less than impressed with the scene. "Yeah. Like a hurricane."

"So what's our first move?"

"Find out all we can about this Taiwanese defector and how he fits in with Wo Fat."

First McGarrett called Jonathan Kaye in DC. Always a conflict/cooperation relationship with the State Department spy, McGarrett found Kaye to be cooperative this time. McGarrett wouldn't reveal his source of information on Wing Ky, but Kaye knew he had an ally in McGarrett, and freely, for once, gave the intelligence details to the Hawaii cop.

After the conversation, Steve called the other detectives in and explained the situation to them. The defector, Wing Ky, was an escapee from Communist China and made his way to Hong Kong, then to Taiwan, now to Hawaii. US Intelligence wanted information from him and would provide him with sanctuary in Washington during extensive debriefings. Assigning Chin and Duke to check on the defector, Steve decided to check some sources of his own.
 
 

*****

Nestled in the Valley of the Temples, Byodo-In was one of the top scenic spots on the island of Oahu. Placed at the back of a huge, sprawling cemetery, the temple, a copy of a Buddhist temple in Japan, served the strange, duel function as a place of worship and tourist attraction.

Walking around the koi pond in front of the imposing building, Chin and Duke passed a slight, thin monk who gave them a bow and smile. On the man's shoulder was a small bird that ate bits of seed from the monk's hand. Chin asked for another monk and they were directed to a room behind the huge golden Buddha statue.

Removing their shoes, they crossed to a small side room and met an old, wrinkled monk who bowed to them. Exchanging greetings in Chinese with Chin, the man then directed them back to another room where they could sit and talk.

In English, Chin opened with an explanation. "We have come about someone we hope you can help us with. What do you know about Wing Ky?"

With a smile accentuated by occasional missing teeth, the man answered slyly in broken English. "We help Wing Ky from China. No Communist monks here. Wing Ky has relatives here, in Honolulu. They spend big money to free Wing Ky."

Chin asked if they could have the names of his relatives. Even the monk didn't know that. It was all handled anonymously.

Duke was suspicious. "How do you know this isn't some kind of Communist trick to implicate you in Wing Ky's escape? Maybe they'll close in on your whole network once Wing Ky gets here."

The old man laughed in glee. "Young man, you see shadows jump at you under bushes. Mao has no reach in these hui. Too much power here -- big hui." He shrugged his thin shoulders. "No more know."

Bowing, Chin and Duke thanked the monk and retrieved their shoes. Buying some food at the little shop on the side of the temple, they fed the hungry koi as they strolled around the large, picturesque pond.

"A powerful hui with money," Duke ruminated. "You know who he's talking about, Chin?"

The Chinese detective pondered. "One or two I know of with strong anti-Communist leanings. We'll have to check them out." Devilishly he grinned. "I think the FBI won't know about this information. The monk wouldn't speak to a government haole about this. Probably not even Steve could get this out of the local Chinese."

Lukela patted his friend on the back. "That's why they pay you the big money, Detective Kelly."

Watching the koi scurry and leap in the water for morsels of food, Chin tried, and failed, to be casual with his next inquiry. "So, what do you think about this FBI guy?"

Lukela grimaced. "You mean the paniolo from Washington? So, you think he really wants to take Dan back to the FBI with him?"

Kelly glanced at his friend. "He wants to. Will Dan go?"

"Will Steve let him -- let this malihini take Dan?"

"That's my question, too," Chin agreed. "But what will Dan want to do? After what Steve did a few weeks ago the last time the Feds came . . . ."

"Yeah," Lukela sighed. "After that mess with Frankie, maybe Dan wants to leave."

Kelly was noncommittal. "Take a lot to drive Dan away from these Islands. Away from Steve."

Duke shrugged. "Like Steve going undercover on his own? I'm not saying Dan will leave because of that, I'm just wondering."

*****

Driving skills could say a lot about a person's mood. Stev's habits behind a wheel were normally extreme, fast and abrupt -- using the big Mercury to dominate the road at an expeditious pace -- just as he swept through life. Today the trip from the Palace into Waikiki was wild and Dan kept any smart cracks to himself. Not wise to cross Steve when Wo Fat loomed over their lives like a spectral-shadow. The possibility of the Chinese spy returning to Hawaii was bad enough. That the Feds came up with the information, and the operation, badly stung Steve.

There really wasn't much to say where Wo Fat was concerned, but Dan wished he could find a place to start a conversation with his friend. Steve was fuming with anger or frustration or something, and Dan didn't want to say the wrong thing. Of course, just having the FBI in his office giving Steve permission to join the hunt for Wo Fat was enough to steam McGarrett.

Unfortunately, Jack McNeil was the culprit this time. Too bad, because Dan was sure the two similarly dedicated, honest, domineering law enforcement officers would like each other given the chance. But thanks to Wo Fat they were at odds with each other right form the start. Maybe there was a way Dan could mend that and get the two standing on some kind of common ground. Maybe if Steve knew what a great guy Jack was, they could reach a level of cooperation. It would sure be great to work with Jack.

When they pulled to a screeching stop in front of Sally's Place, Dan was not surprised. During the debacle with Frankie and Croft, Sally had played both sides of the street, but ended up on Steve's side. Dan secretly believed that was because of a soft spot she held in her heart for the Five-0 boss. Whatever the reason, that was a time when Steve badly needed allies and Williams was grateful Sally was there to help in the end.

Opened just a few weeks the joint was already a sensation in the local entertainment scene. Sally's was primarily a swinging nightclub and didn't even open until the afternoon for a late lunch crowd. During the day it was more a bar than an eatery, but they served some delicious local fare that brought in a substantial stream of regulars and a few malihini. At night was when the place came alive with jazzy Hawaiian music with a hard, modern-beat twist. Then it became a tourist and local hot spot with practically standing room only. Now, in daylight, as with most nightclubs, it was quiet and uncrowded.

Seeming to know where he was going, Steve made a direct path toward a booth in the back near the bar. The barkeep gave him a nod and stepped behind some beaded curtains. By the time the two detectives were seated, Sally -- bright, effervescent and cheery -- brought them each some iced juice.

"How's my favorite cops this afternoon?" She sat down next to Steve and winked at Dan. "My special recipe mahi mahi must be so good Steve brought you back for seconds."

Dan wasn't going to comment on the loaded question. Sally had a way of flirting in almost everything she said and Dan could have engaged in a saucy word play given other circumstances. From Steve's clouded expression, he knew he better not joke around too much, especially with the lady Steve happened to be not-exactly-dating now.

Sipping the tangy fruit mix, Dan responded. "We're not here for lunch, Sally."

"You gonna bust me?" She nudged McGarrett. "Buddy sellin' blackmarket poi under the counter?"

Not very amused, Steve cleared his throat. "We could use some information, Sally. How are your street sources about the Chinese?"

Catching on to the sober tone, Sally settled down. "You see dis face, Steve. Chinese, haole, Filipino, Hawaiian. I got relatives everywhere in Hawaii, don't need no street sources." Leaning closer, her voice dropped. "You know me. I paid my dues with a tough crowd before I started this place."

"Okay." There was challenge in McGarrett's tone. "This is strictly confidential, Sally, you got that?"

The harsh warning surprised the woman and she looked at Dan, who was equally startled. It seemed a bit heavy-handed for Steve's usual, style. Then, Williams tempered, they were dealing with Wo Fat again. Nothing in the world could set Steve off like that Chinese rocket.

"What do you know about a Chinese dissident named Wing Ky?"

Nearly choking on his drink, Dan cleared his throat, earning a glare from McGarrett. Okay, now Williams knew what kind of mind set his friend was really in. All safeties were off and McGarrett was out to get Wo Fat no matter what it took. Dan just hoped sharing confidential information with Sally did not backfire on the Five-0 chief. Not that Sally wasn't trustworthy, Dan just didn't know HOW trustworthy.

McGarrett ignored the reaction. Sally noted it, but didn't comment. "Don't know his name. Want me to check around?"

"Discretely, Sally, please. But I need this information fast."

Winking, she snuggled closer to McGarrett. "Discrete is my middle name, didn't you know that?"

"I hope so, Sally. Call me later." He patted her hand and gave a nod to Williams, indicating the interview was over. Dan stepped out of the booth. Reluctantly, Sally did the same so McGarrett could exit.

Still flirting, Sally held onto his arm. "I call you fo' sure, Steve."

Smoothly disengaging, Steve smiled and thanked her, then stalked out. When they were in the car, speeding away, Dan brought up his reservations.

"Do you think it was wise to tell Sally Wing Ky's name? This is supposed to be a secret."

"How else are we supposed to find Wing Ky's contacts? If we don't find the people he knows, we won't find the pipeline to Wo Fat."

The blood lust was in the tense muscles, the terse voice, and the hard blue eyes. Nothing was going to keep Steve from catching Wo Fat, and stretching some rules wouldn't phase the boss. Hopefully it wouldn't backfire on them.

"What next?"

"I'm taking you back to the office. Use whatever sources you have to beat the bushes. Find Wing Ky's inner circle. You've got contacts the FBI wouldn't have. Especially the ones you've dated."

That was almost crossing the line for Williams, but he held back a sharp rebuke. Not insulting enough to start an argument over Dan's dating habits, the crack stung. What Steve rather brusquely stated WAS true, Dan had dated girls from nearly every aspect of life in the Islands. Even as he thought about it on the drive back, he could name two who were anti-Maoist activists. Defending against further personal slights, or getting Steve's hopes up too high, Dan didn't reveal his thoughts.

"What about you?"

"I'm going to see if I can get a track on Wo Fat."

Placed all over the world, Steve had spy contacts he'd known from his days in Naval Intelligence. Some were very good. Most cooperated to try and track Wo Fat's movements. Since they were personal friends, they were faster and more reliable than CIA, Pentagon or State Department contacts. The official liaison, Jonathan Kaye, was not to be entirely trusted according to McGarrett -- suspicions proven in Kaye's actions concerning Wo Fat in the past. Typically, Steve had to forge his own path.

"You know, you and Jack are so alike."

On the steering wheel, McGarrett's fists twisted the leather. "Why would you say that?"

"You both want to run things your own way. Be the top boss. You know, if you guys could work together, we might be able to --"

"I am not working for the FBI!"

"Cooperate." Dan tried a new slant, aware he never had control of the conversation so having it unravel now should be no surprise. "Share --"

"No! Not on my rock!" A glare was darted his way. "After all that's happened how can you suggest that?"

Instead of taking Dan's remark as a dumb comment, now Steve saw it as a betrayal. Biting his lip, Dan wondered if they were ever going to be able to put Frankie and that mistrustful case behind them. Obviously Steve wasn't over it. Maybe that's why he was hanging out at Sally's, trying to deal with that miserable episode in their lives. Maybe Steve was the investor that pulled the talented Sally out of the dive on the wrong side of Hotel Street and set her up in Waikiki. That was pure speculation that was none of his business.

Maybe Steve was talking about the last time he saw Wo Fat. From the wrong side of prison bars tortured and brainwashed by the fat Chinaman. How could Steve think or feel rationally after that horrible confrontation with Wo Fat? The nightmares, still, after years, were not that far away.

There was probably nothing Dan could say to get out of the self-made mire, but he had to try. "I don't want the conflict with the FBI to cost us a chance at Wo Fat."

He hoped the clarification helped. Not exactly what he wanted to say, but maybe it would appease his volatile friend's temper for the moment. Later, when Steve cooled, he could tell Steve what a great guy Jack could be and how they could help each other. Sometimes the worst part of his job as second-in-command of Hawaii Five-0 was acting as the buffer between Steve and the rest of the world. That aspect of his work he would gladly give up for a calmer lifestyle.

"Nothing is coming between me and Wo Fat this time. Nothing. No one. Wo Fat is mine this time!"
 
 

*****

Walking the corridor at the University of Hawaii dorm was making Dan Williams feel old. Ancient. Everyone here was so much younger than he felt right now. Usually age didn't bother him much, but this year he would turn forty and that seemed decrepit compared to the young people surrounding him. Generally attracted to younger women, he never let age come between him and a fun girl. Perhaps because he was here on business his attitude changed. Not here to pick up a date, he was here to interview someone about a case. A minor detail, but it made a difference as he stopped at the door at the end of the hall and knocked.

Almost instantly the door opened and Mei Lu, a pert, bouncy, young-twenties Oriental jumped into his arms. "Dan! This is great. It's so good to see you again." She favored him with a very nice, lingering kiss.

Not long ago, an investigation took Dan to the Terrace Grille restaurant at the Hawaiian Regent in Waikiki. The bored detective and the saucy waitress, Mei Lu, quickly acknowledged the mutual attraction. She was earning her way through college and became a part-time informant for him as well as an occasional date. A very affectionate date.

The enthusiastic greeting went a long way to easing his doubts. So friendly, in fact, that he had to remind himself he was here on business. Reluctantly, he advised her this was not a social call as she brought him into the room. He stopped short when he saw another girl sitting on one of the narrow beds in the cramped dorm room.

Mei Lu closed the door. "This is my friend Lien Hua."

On the phone Dan had mentioned he wanted Mei to give him some information about her recent protest activities. The visitor was not expected, but it was a good sign of trust. He shook hands with the young Chinese woman and took the desk chair offered him opposite the girls.

"Wing Ky is who you're worried about, isn't it Mr. Williams?"

The coconut wireless strikes again, he sighed. "Yeah. Is it that obvious?"

"The FBI has been asking questions to my friends."

Mei Lu supplied, "Lien is one of the driving forces of the Maoist protests in Hawaii. She's suspicious of the government."

First assuring her that he had no intentions of disturbing her or her friends, Dan told her his only interest was the safety of the defector while Wing Ky was on Hawaiian soil. Nothing more. He refrained from mentioning any plots or the name of a certain fat Chinese spy. They didn't need to know that. And leading them with speculation might bring back false information.

The slight, wary Lien explained she was from China and had escaped, with her family, a few years before. Trusting others did not come easily to people raised under the rule of Communism. Only Mei Lu's assurances brought the girl here today to speak with Dan.

"Most of my friends will not cooperate with the FBI. But we want to keep Wing Ky safe. I'll ask them if you can come to our meeting tonight. If they give permission, I'll call Mei Lu."

"I'm working tonight," Mei reminded. "Why don't I meet you at sally's?" Smiling, suggestively, she asked the detective, "Or can you come by for me after work? I get off at ten."

Winking, he responded in a matching tone. "I'll be waiting."
 
 

*****

 

Dan's report back to Steve about going to the meeting was not as pleasant as arranging things with Mei Lu. Skeptical, still strained over the situation, Steve was less than optimistic about any leads coming from students.

Chin and Duke came in at the end of the conversation. Joining Lukela on the sofa, Chin reminded them that Wo Fat often preyed on the simple minded, the young idealists who were easily swayed, such as his unfortunate cousin, Tom Wong, who was tricked into helping Wo Fat [THE JINN WHO CLEARS THE WAY].

McGarrett offered his negatives to the gathering. "I contacted several of my old friends in intelligence circles. Napoleon could confirm that Wo Fat left China sometime this week. Oscar had a sighting of him, possibly a double, in Bangkok." Slamming a fist onto the desk, he nearly hit Dan's kneecap -- the younger detective was sitting on the corner of the desk. "He's here, Danno! Wo Fat is here and I want him!"

Williams remained implacable. "We'll get him, Steve."

Struggling to observe something more profound to say, he found himself unable to offer anything better than the shallow words. What could he say? Steve was longing to wrap his hands around the throat of his tormenter, torturer and long-time nemesis. Second best would not make it on this case. For Steve's sake their full efforts were needed to trap the wily secret agent.

Kelly cleared his throat. "Maybe this will help, boss." Chin reported on their findings with the monk. Noting the time, he asked if they were going to break for dinner. Patting his stomach, he reminded them he needed fuel to keep working overtime.

Glancing out the closed lanai doors, McGarrett seemed surprised it was dusk. It had been a long day and would probably be a longer night. By the time Wing Ky arrived tomorrow morning, they needed this island secured and a trap set for Wo Fat. Inside his stomach churned with anticipation at the thought of meeting Wo Fat again. This time they were on home turf for McGarrett, who had the advantage of knowing the spy was coming and why. There would be no excuse for letting Wo Fat through their fingers this time. And there would be no risk of letting the FBI blow it for him.

"Send out for something." Steve was as disinterested in food as he was any other external factor. Completely focused on his goal, he could not spare energy or time thinking about something as mundane as food. "Before we leave here tonight I want Wing Ky's location pegged and I want a plan to trip Wo Fat when he comes to take his prize."

To lighten the mood in the tension-filled room, Lukela opened the lanai doors to let the evening Trades brush fresh air through the office. "Doris says she's gonna have to come down here with picnic baskets if we don't watch what we eat."

Chin laughed a little sadly. "Is that a threat? Nothin' like a good home cooked manapua." Mrs. Kelly, Chin's wife, had lost her battle with cancer a few years before. The big family, with six children still at home, managed to hold together, but it had been a painful time for everyone in Five-0. "You tell Doris we've been eating terrible."

Taking orders, Duke asked what everyone wanted from Uncle Lee's. Steve suggested the usual -- rice, chow mein, sweet and sour pineapple chicken delivered in bulk for all the detectives to share. Dan declined, saying he had plans for dinner.

"Unless you want me to break it? I'm meeting Jack."

On the verge of denying his friend the opportunity of mingling with the obnoxious and overbearing FBI agent, Steve resisted the urge to let his resentful anger at McNeil get the better of him. If Danno wanted to fraternize with the enemy, it was no more than what Steve deserved for the dirty trick earlier in the month of secretly going undercover. If McNeil wanted to deliver recruitment speeches to his top detective, McGarrett was not going to obstruct the dinner. How could he without seeming to be exactly what he was -- a worried friend. Hitting him, and Dan, at a weak point in their relationship, maybe Jack McNeil could coax Williams away from Five-0. The real possibility of losing Dan to a competitor so rankled McGarrett that his ire bubbled out in his harsh words.

"Go ahead. We can handle things without you." Some evil Irish leprechaun got under his skin and made his tone brutal. "If you decide to share any intelligence with your friend, just remember what happened to Barney last time we were involved with the Feds."

Flinching from the attack, Dan was too startled to respond. Anger visibly bubbled on his features, but with effort he swallowed any hot comments going through his mind. Tightly he bid them a quiet good-bye and left.

After exchanging glances with Chin, Duke took a step closer to the boss' desk. "You know, maybe that FBI guy does want to recruit Dan. He won't have a very tough job succeeding if you keep that up." Never one to pull punches, Lukela always spoke what he thought, defying consequences, including clashes with his boss. "Dan is not the enemy! It's not his fault this FBI agent is an old friend."

"Danno is going to make up his own mind! Nothing I have to say will matter considering his opinion of the captivating Agent McNeil! Danno seems to think he can do no wrong. Well, Agent McNeil is going to take a fall on this case, gentlemen." The snapped out words echoed sharply in the quiet room. "We will find Wo Fat! He's on this island and I want him!"

"Whatever you say, Steve." Lukela's tone indicated his disbelief that competition for Wo Fat was all that was going on between Steve and the FBI man. "Just remember Dan's got more than one old friend around here."

Joining them at the desk, Chin's comment was quiet, but committed. "You gonna have to look a lot farther than Dan to find someone who turns their back on you."

Aware of the precarious relations still unsteadily existing in the Five-0 office, McGarrett found no ability within himself to cushion his anger or suspicions. The thought of capturing -- confronting -- Wo Fat blinded him to everything else. Obliquely, in the back of his mind, he knew he was saying and doing things that might destroy 'life-as-normal' for him. The spectre of Wo Fat overshadowed even the looming threat of breaking his team apart -- losing his second-in-command to a rival.

*****

Knowing an old kama'aina like Jack liked local spots over tourist traps, Dan suggested Sally's as the dinner choice.

Jack readily agreed. "Desk clerk at the hotel thought I was a malihini."

"Well, it's good advice, it's the hottest spot in town."

Appreciating the top-down Mustang, Jack reminisced about the old days and Jim Williams' ancient '39 Ford that Dan used to drive. The few blocks into Waikiki weren't enough time for all the memories, and while waiting for a table Jack and Dan were weak with laughter at some of the old stories they shared. Spotting the two Sally came over and took Dan by the arm, then Jack.

"Hey, you got some cute friends, Dan. Mahalo for bringin' dem all here."

Dan made the introductions and Sally gave them a prime location close to the stage. Graciously she ordered a few of her favorite dishes for them and sat down to visit. "So where's my favorite cop tonight?" She winked. "No offense, Dan."

"He's busy," was Dan's easy, casual reply. "Big case going on."

"And only you get a dinner break?"

"Just out to spend time with an old friend. Jack used to live here."

As intended, the conversation shifted from McGarrett and the case to McNeil. If Jack noted the smooth transition he gave no indication. He was having too much fun sharing old stories with Sally, who grew up only a few miles from where he was raised in the old downtown neighborhoods.

Dinner was a hodge-podge of appetizers and local specials that Jack relished. In between the liquor and courses, Dan tried to wheedle information about the case out of his old friend, but Jack was less interested in business and more interested in Williams' future.

"You're spinning your wheels, Dan boy. McGarrett's got you under his thumb and you're gonna stay there. Believe me, I've seen it before. Top dog in a department wants all the glory and there's no room for anyone else."

"Jack, you've got it all wrong about Five-0." Williams wasn't sure where to start first with corrections. "Steve is the boss and I'm happy to not be the boss."

"He's sapping your talent and crushing your future."

Shaking his head, Dan tried again. "You've been out of Hawaiian time too long, Jack. We don't have a fast lane here, remember? We don't change to Daylight Savings Time. We're mellow -- slow -- remember? My life isn't based on being number one or top of the heap or whatever. I want to do my job well and have time left over to surf and enjoy living in the best place in the world."

Jack leaned over and took Dan's shoulder in a tight grip. The alcoholic odor was overwhelming. "Underneath that Island tan is a cop. I could take you back to DC. With your experience, I could fit you right into my operation."

Sally slipped into one of the empty seats at the table. "Hey, you two talkin' business? Better not be any o' that while I'm singing."

Jack pinched her on the cheek. "I'll only have eyes for you, darlin'." He picked up his empty glass. "Now I'm gonna get a drink refill from your pal, Toddy." He winked. "Already on a first name basis with the barkeep. One of the first things I do when I hit town."

As a special treat when Sally got onstage to sing. She belted out five jazzed up old-but-classic traditional ballads requests from Jack. Between dinner and dessert she danced with Jack and both seemed to be having a great time. Maybe introducing them was not a good idea, Dan reflected belatedly. Not only was it robbing him of time with his old friend, it might rob Steve of a girlfriend if he wasn't careful. Already in a bad mood, that would send Steve right into volcanic eruptions.

He couldn't really blame Steve for the short temper. It was a good bet Wo Fat was already here in Oahu. How would it feel to know the monster that tortured you was practically within reach and you couldn't find him? That had to explain Steve's harsh attitude back at the Palace. Dan could forget it, understanding the motivation, but it still stung to remember the tongue-lashing. Normally he would have returned the harsh words with some heated acid of his own, but he'd managed to keep his impulsive temper restrained in deference to McGarrett's obviously erratic emotions. Wo Fat was unbalancing the boss and Dan knew that. Not like the nasty incident with Frankie. All he had to do was wait until this crisis was over and Steve would calm down. Dan kept telling himself that, working to convince himself that was the truth.

Startled when someone grabbed his shoulders, he turned to find Sally and Jack. "Hey, your turn, mistah detective." She yanked him up.

"I'll go freshen my drink," Jack said, grabbing a cocktail glass. Winking at Sally, he warned, "But I'm gonna want a few more dances with you, nani wahine."

The song was a moderately paced old standard with jazz overtones. It could have been danced either in a swinging style or a fast-step close dance. Dan would have chosen the more active version, but Sally held him in the closer position.

"Your friend is quite a character."

"Yeah, he comes on a little strong."

Sally laughed. "You make that a habit hangin' wit' these types? You could be describing McGarrett."

"True." Normally he didn't dance with women taller than he was. Studying Sally, he knew something was up. "So, you going to tell me what's going on?"

With a wink she speculated. "Maybe I just want to make your friend jealous." On his stare, she capitulated. "Okay, Mr. Cop, you got me pegged. I got a message from your friend, Mei Lu."

Dan missed a beat and stepped on Sally's foot. "What? How do you know Mei Lu?"

"Honolulu's a small town, Dan. The Chinese kids they hang out here all the time." She smirked. "I got connections all over, Mr. Cop. All I know is what she tell me. She says the meet is on. Pick her up at ten. I don't know what it means and I don't want to know."

"Thanks, Sally."

"Sure. And now you bettah take your friend Jack home. He's had too much happy."

Jack was at the bar with another drink. The big man's voice carried over the music and the noise and Dan promised he would take care of it. Crossing straight for his friend, Dan disentangled the big man from a stool and started for the door.

"Hey, Danny, we're not done yet."

"You are, Jack. You're going back to your hotel and sleeping this off."

Near the door Jack swerved over to give Sally a hug and sloppy kiss on the cheek. "Sally, girl, I'll be back."

"When you're sober, Jack."

"Sure. We'll say aloha. Did I tell you I'm taking Danny boy back to the mainland with me?"

"And if you leave tonight you can fly without a plane," Sally sloughed off, used to dealing with drunks.

Jack leaned against the Mustang's door and mumbled to himself most of the way back to the Ala Moana Hotel. Jack insisted he would be okay on his own and didn't want Dan to embarrass him by taking him all the way up to his room. At the lobby doors he bid good night and promised to see Dan at the office bright and early in the morning. Jack walked into the lobby, leaned on the door and waved goodbye to his friend. As soon as the Mustang was out of sight, Jack straightened and crisply ordered the valet to bring his car around.
 
 

*****

 

When Chin walked out of the Red Dragon Inn, he checked his watch. Nearly ten o'clock. It had taken a little longer than he'd expected to talk to the staff of the restaurant. The refugees from China were suspicious of police. It had taken him a whole plate of egg rolls before he convinced them. Now that he had their rumored information, he was undecided what to do with it.

A horn honked and a brown LTD pulled up at the curb. "Hey, I thought I was the only one working late on this side of town, bruddah!"

Chin leaned over and smiled in at Duke. "No. Any luck?"

Lukela shrugged. "Maybe. One of my snitches swears that some big shot Chinese guy came in tonight."

Kelly was startled. "Three cooks in the Red Dragon think the same thing."

Duke checked his watch. "Almost ten. Think Steve will still be at the office?" On Chin's look he grinned. "Okay, dumb question." He picked up the mic. "You want to tell him or should I?"

Chin nodded to the instrument. "You got it in your hand, go ahead."

Lukela hesitated. "This is going to keep him running all night."

"He won't get any sleep anyway. Not if he thinks Wo Fat is on the island already."

Duke was still wary. "Where did your informant say Wing Ky might be?"

Chin admitted he had no location or name of a next stop, he only had the suspicions that Wing Ky was already in Oahu and planning something behind the back of the State Department, who expected him in tomorrow. Kelly guessed there was something going on that the US officials didn't know about, or wouldn't like. Ky was playing his own game apparently.

"Some kind of counter strike against the Communists," Kelly guessed.

"Or a strike against the Chinese here," Lukela speculated in dread. "My guy thought something was going down tonight. Something violent." Hesitating, he stared out the windshield in thought. Chin urged him to continue. "He said the contact point was Sally."

Chin gave a low whistle. "You gonna make that call, Duke. I'm not telling Steve a friend of his is involved in this."

With a heavy sigh Duke made the call to be patched through to McGarrett. Explaining almost nothing, Duke requested McGarrett meet them at Sally's in Waikiki. Knowing his men well enough to trust their judgement, McGarrett agreed to drop everything and meet at the nightclub.
 
 

*****

 

With some misgivings, Dan drove away and checked his watch. Ten minutes to ten PM. Plenty of time to make it to mid-Waikiki and pick up Mei Lu. Taking the back route along Kuhio and avoiding the heavy night traffic on Kalakaua, Dan wondered about the strange coincidence of Sally passing on a message from Mei Lu. Yes, Honolulu society was small, but how could those paths have crossed -- Mei Lu, a waitress student and Sally a nightclub owner? And what did it have to do with Chinese politics? As if his boss was whispering over his shoulder, Dan felt the unmistakable presence of McGarrett, whispering suspicions into his ear. Like his mentor, Dan did not really believe in coincidences.

Still a little early before Mei got off shift, Dan used a pay phone in the Hyatt Regency to call the office, but no one was there. He called Steve's condo, but there was no answer there, either. Ling joined him and he remained pleasantly casual until they were driving away.

"What's going on? You used Sally as a contact."

Mei was confused at his surprise. "Hey, Sally can be trusted. She's like a go between for us. Everybody goes to Sally's."

The comment did not help, but managed to increase Dan's sense of foreboding. When Mei told him to drive to the student union house, just off a main street in Chinatown, he complied with a growing sense of discontent. Parking on the street, he asked what was next. She withdrew a scarf from her purse.

"I'm going to blindfold you."

Nervous, the laugh was spontaneous and brittle. "This is getting kinky, Mei."

"There are people here who are paranoid about state cops, Danny. Don't worry, it'll be okay after they get to know you."

Reason and self-preservation whispered he should back out now, yet he reluctantly agreed to trust her. Stepping out of the car, he was blindfolded and she led him down the street. To the right, up twenty-two steps they stopped at a door where she gave a patterned knock. Plumeria heavily scented the lanai. They were admitted after some Chinese phrases were exchanged.

"I'm going to leave you now, Danny, but it's okay. You can trust these people."

Gripping onto her hand, he didn't want to let go. From far back in his subconscious a flash of fear and memory strobed into his thoughts. Blindfolded, kidnapped by terrorists, he had been held as a hostage years before. It had nearly cost his life. If he continued with this another minute, it could result in the same situation. How much did he trust Mei? What would happen if he continued?

And if he backed out? He would feel like a scared fool in front of Mei Lu and her fellow radicals. Worse, he would go back to Steve in the morning and tell him he had been too chicken to find out what he could about Wo Fat. After what McGarrett had endured at the hands of Wo Fat in Hong Kong, Dan couldn't live with himself if he folded now.

He drew a deep breath. "Okay I'll see you later." He squeezed her hand, hoping his voice and hold were steady, not reflecting his apprehension. Then he allowed himself to be lead down some narrow stairs. When a door closed behind him his fists clenched, forcing that to be his only outward reaction to his trepidation.

Dan realized two important flaws in his thinking. One, he was now in the hands of amateurs -- student radicals who were ruled by passion and cause rather than caution and reason. Secondly, he was heading into a situation where he had no back up, no staff car to use to radio for help, and no one knew where he was. Not normally a nervous person, he felt uncommonly ill at ease. He hoped it wasn't some sixth sense telling him he was going head-on into trouble.
 
 

*****

 

As usual, the nightclub was throbbing with lights, music and chatter when McGarrett stepped into the smoky, heady atmosphere. The band was loud, playing a rock version of some Hawaiian tune with twangy steel guitars. Spotting Sally at the bar he coursed through the gyrating crowd. Before he reached her, she caught sight of him and weaved over to hug him.

"Steve, you finally get to come out and play."

"I'm here on business tonight, Sally."

Pouting, she took his arm and led him to a small table in the corner near the end of the bar. "Your friends been here havin' fun time tonight." Pulling a chair over she sat close to him, rubbing his hand in both of hers. Then she traced his lips with one of her long nails. "I think you ought to have some fun, too."

Catching her hand, he frowned. "My friends?"

"Dan and Jack."

"They were here?" His expression hardened and clouded, he released his hold on her. "What did they want?"

She laughed, genuinely amused. "To party, of course. Why does everybody come to Sally's?"

"I hear some come for information."

As suddenly as a summer storm sweeping overland, Sally's bright joviality vanished, replaced by a dark glare. "What do you mean?"

Coursing through the tumultuous feelings already confusing his emotions, disappointment slammed to the forefront. Steve had hoped she would completely pull herself out of the gutter-life from Hotel Street and make a clean break here in Waikiki. Maybe she couldn't let go. Maybe the old life still had some kind of hold on her. Either way, he was disturbed by the realization.

"You're working both sides of the street again, Sally, aren't you?"

"How can you ask that?" Her heartfelt injury made him flinch. "I thought you were my friend. You helped me with all this new life. But you're still just a cop, aren't you?"

She launched out of the seat, but Steve tightly grabbed onto her wrist and kept her from leaving. "I wanted you to get a fresh start, Sally. But talk on the street says I can come here and buy information."

"And you believe coconut talk instead of me?"

Pulling her back into the chair he leaned close, staring at her eye to eye. "You tell me."

Blinking, she released a trembling sigh. "I help out some friends, yeah. But they're good kids, Steve, nothing bad. Not like when I was on the other side of the street. Simple stuff. You can ask Dan."

"Danno? What does he have to do with any of this?"

"His friend Mei Lu left him a message." Glancing around and lowering her voice, she whispered, "but maybe you're right, Steve, about information coming and going out of here. Your friend Jack was really friendly with Toddy the barkeep. Everybody in the joint say Toddy likes to make a little money on the side by arranging things for people." She shrugged. "Don't know if Jack was one of those guys. When Dan took him outta here Jack was stinkin' drunk. Maybe Dan was the only one doin' business here."

The surprising data was coming in fast and Steve had to sort through it all quickly. Resentment and irritation surged instantly -- were Jack and Williams planning something on their own? What were they conspiring about? Then in a moment his reason and cop instincts over rode the suspicion. There was something going on in this town and they were working their way along the periphery of the events, getting closer and closer, but he was starting to worry the pace was way too slow.

Jack's friendliness with the bartender could mean something obvious and simple. In every bar and hotel there was someone who would, for a small finder's fee, connect a malihini with anything under the Hawaiian moon. Girls, drugs, gambling -- any seedy, illegal enterprise could be easily obtained for a price. Steve's instincts told him Jack was not looking for a girl or a poker game. The FBI man, obviously still owning some informants around town, came here for information. The FBI agent -- and Danno -- came here for information. The bitter betrayal brought a sharp stab to his chest. Clearing his throat around the catch that nearly robbed him of air, he shifted back to business, back to facts.

"What about Danno?"

"Didn't know he was leavin'."

"What do you mean?"

"Jack said they gonna go to Washington."

Steve ground his teeth and felt the resurgence of the anger and indignation at Jack McNeil. It could have overwhelmed even the sting of the words, that Danno really was going to leave, but his focus now was too strong. Whatever happened with Dan, that was his personal decision and he'd tell McGarrett after this case was over. Steve forced himself to close out the emotions tangled with friendship and loyalty, and he centered on the case. Steve had a fat Chinese spy to find. Not even Danno's divided loyalties were going to get in his way.

"What was the message?"

"She said the meet was on." On his confused look, she explained. "Some kids from Chinatown, they come here a lot. They ask me to help -- deliver messages -- that kind of thing. Hey, it's not gang stuff, I'm sure. They're university kids. Politics is their scene, not drugs and gangs."

"The anti-Communist radicals?"

Sally shrugged. "Somethin' like that. I don't mess with the politics, just helpin' the kids." Into his eyes she stared with meaningful tenderness. "I know what it's like to be at the bottom and have a friend help you climb up." Her big eyes were watery. "I didn't mess up, did I?"

"No, I don't think you did." His assurance came with a kiss on the nose and she hugged him. "Do you think your bartender will talk to me?"

"I tell him he bettah."

"Mahalo." He pulled away and she held onto his shoulders. "You gonna come back, aren't you?"

A little wistful, a little sad, Steve knew he would not be a stranger around here, but after tonight, after the shaken trust, the burgeoning relationship would never be the same between them. His smile was sentimental. "I'll always be back, Sally."

Toddy was an old, grey-haired man with stooped shoulders, a grizzled face and one eye that squinted. He seemed to be a fixture, probably living behind bars since after the war. Steve pulled his badge and showed it to the man, introducing himself in a crisp, all business manner.

"Sally said you would talk to me. I want to know what Jack McNeil wanted."

Toddy glanced at Sally, who gave him a nod, then back to McGarrett. "Interested in the Chinese boys who come in here."

Steve chose to take that in the vein he knew it to mean, not the lurid connotations the bartender's sarcastic tone implied. "Who are they? Which tong do they belong to?"

Scowling, Toddy glanced at Sally again, who confirmed he must give the information, and sneered at McGarrett. "You didn't hear this from me." Steve nodded. "Your big guy knew the Black Dragons sometimes come in here and he came prepared to pay." He lowered his voice and got closer. "They say they're political now, but I know better. Black Dragons don't care about democracy or Communists, just the Black Dragons."

"What did McNeil want?"

"He thought the radicals from the university were meeting tonight. And they are. Chinatown. Don't know where. You need a special invitation."

"How was McNeil going to find the meeting and get in?"

From under the counter Toddy brought something out and flipped it in the air. McGarrett caught it. A token from a ferry in Hong Kong.

"You find the meet and you present this. They let you in, no questions. Even a big haole. Trick is to find the meeting. Your big guy thought he could do that no problem."

"Where?"

"Don't know, but he also asked me about what goes on at the Dragon Palace. I'll tell you what I told him -- I don't know."

McGarrett didn't know if he believed half of what the garrulous old man said, but this was the only informant he'd talked to who really knew the score Correction -- the only one who seemed to be on the right trail. Right after Jack McNeil. "Was the slighter, younger man going with him?"

"The curly haired kid dancing with Sally?" Toddy shrugged. "Nah. Jack only asked for one coin and that's all I gave him for his price. Whatever he was doing, he's doing it alone."

Moving to the pay phone on the back wall, Steve called Williams' number, but there was no answer. What was the game, he wondered? Jack and Danno working on the case in their own direction? Again, instincts came to the fore and he knew whatever McNeil was playing, Danno was not part of it. So where were Dan and Mei Lu? At the mysterious meeting in Chinatown, too? Steve flipped the token in his palm a few times. There was a sense of things coming together -- the feeling in the pit of his stomach that he usually had when a case coalesced -- pieces fitting in place for the first time. All the pieces in this case were Chinese and belonged to the master player Wo Fat.

Slipping the coin in his pocket he met Duke and Chin outside, explaining the situation. On the drive to Chinatown Chin radioed one of the detectives on the gang squad at HPD. Given the addresses of several tong hangouts, they asked for back up to run a sweep of the area.

On the radio, McGarrett asked to be patched through to Jack McNeil's hotel room, then William's apartment again. No answer at either place. Steve didn't know what to make of that, but he would tuck it away and think about it.
 
 

*****

 

Just as when he had been kidnapped by the Peoples Attack Group, Dan Williams quickly gathered his wits and police training to work to his advantage. Two people, about his height, led him slowly down old, creaky, wooden stairs. Helping him along the way meant they were concerned about his well being -- a nice thing to know in these circumstances.

The walls and musty odor felt close -- a small basement. The shuffling of feet, a cough, a sigh -- there were a number of others in the room. Carefully, he was guided through the crowd -- farther away from the door -- probably the only route of escape. As of yet, he had not been relieved of his weapon -- a positive sign. They stopped him and someone nearby spoke in Chinese. Someone closer stood next to his right arm

Dan backed away, tugging for his arm to be released. Stepping back a bit more Dan removed the blindfold. Slowly. No sudden moves in this crowd, but he was ready to take a bold step to his advantage and take the initiative.

Blinking in the sudden light, his eyes quickly adjusted in the dimly illuminated room. The single, naked bulb in the center of the basement was not bright enough to throw much light around the crowd, but Dan quickly noted about twenty men, mostly young, all Chinese, warily watching him. Several had tattoos etched on their forearms. Black dragons. Some older, bearded men in floppy hats were in the back buried in shadows by the stairs. Maybe they were poised for a quick escape if they thought he had the Marines standing by or something. They made him a little nervous, but his immediate focus was the young man standing next to him with a wry and calm expression.

"Wing Ky, I presume?"

Chuckling, the man nodded. "Mei Lu spoke highly of you, Policeman Williams. Her praise is not misplaced. It was wise to bring you in as a guest rather than have you beating down our doors as an enemy."

"Why would I want to be your enemy?" Used to dealing with the convoluted minds of the Orient, Dan knew from this cryptic greeting that all was not as it seemed from Jack's debriefing. Instinctively, Dan knew something was just not right. This was not the way a grateful defector acted, even if Dan represented the lowly state police instead of the US government. "Unless you're not Wing Ky."

Glancing around the room, he saw no adverse reaction from anyone, including Wing Ky, at that statement. Calm tolerance again from the spokesman. No one else was particularly nervous. He hoped that was a good sign for him.

"No, I am Wing Ky. And these are my friends and relations responsible for helping me escape China."

"Then why did you sneak into the country ahead of schedule? What about the State Department escort?"

"Why are you seeking to find me?"

"We heard rumors there would be an attempt by the Red Chinese to kill you or take you back to China."

The short, slight, thin young man gave a slight bow. "Exactly, Officer Williams."

Checking the crowd, Dan realized these were Wing Ky's hui. Some were members of a tong, yes. Most suspicious of him and the government. If there was a threat, then they had stepped in to protect their celebrated relation.

"So why the dramatics in bringing me here? Why not just come in and get our protection?"

Ky lifted the sleeves of his light shirt. Scars on the wrists were old, but looked like they were the evidence of painful wounds. "Left over from the police in my old country. We have a suspicion of officials. Better to meet on my terms." Partially obscured by the sleeve was a Black Dragon tattoo. The tong was going to protect their own.

"And what are your terms?"

"Someone has leaked information of my arrival to Hawaii. It could not be your police -- you did not know. My hui -- they are not suspect. That means your government. Mei Lu thought you trustworthy, so we ask for your help and protection."

Well, this was a new wrinkle, Dan ruminated. He liked this kid's style -- bypassing government red tape and going straight to the people who could deal in first-hand security. "Okay. We can get you to a safe location tonight." Dan reached to his pocket for a notebook. "There will have to be some ground rules. "
 
 

*****

 

The Five-0 officers split up the top three addresses for possible hideouts. Not waiting for the HPD back up, they started at locations within a few blocks of each other. Chin Ho Kelly took the small mom and pop grocery store, Duke took the student recreation center, Steve chose the Szechwan Palace.

These college associated social centers were open pretty late most nights to accommodate the youth market. Duke was surprised to find the door locked before 11:30PM. Knocking loudly, he was also surprised when a corner of the curtain at the door window was pulled aside and an eye glanced out at him.

Showing his badge, he asked to be let in. The curtain closed. A conversation in Chinese resulted behind the door. The behavior was immediately suspicious to the veteran cop. These people had something to hide. On alert, he was wary and aware as they unlocked the door and let him in.

The room was dark and he could see chairs, bookshelves and a ping-pong table in the big area. Light came from other rooms down the hall, but only one young man was there at the door. Lukela kept his back to the door.

"I understand there's a meeting here tonight."

The young man, not more than twenty, he guessed, started, nervous dark eyes darting back behind him. "Nnno. What meeting?"

"With Wing Ky."

The youth choked. "What? Uh -- I don't know what you're talking about. We're closed."

A longhaired Oriental girl stuck her head out of a nearby doorway, then quickly slipped back again out of sight. She looked familiar, but Duke kept his senses on the surroundings and the not-very-good-liar he was interviewing. With the weak, a strong, commanding presence usually worked.

"Hawaii Five-0 wants to talk to Wing Ky. Go get him, please."

Nearly collapsing, the kid motioned for him to go. "No, uh -- like I said we're -- we're closed. Bye. Come back tomorrow."

Pondering if he should make an issue of it, Duke felt there were others in the shadows, anxiously awaiting the outcome of this encounter. Not knowing the odds or circumstances, he decided to come back with reinforcements. He said good night and let himself out. The long-haired beauty who poked her head out and quickly back in the door of a room -- that looked like Mei Lu, Dan's acquaintance. Having only seen her once or twice in Dan's company, Duke couldn't be sure.

Trotting down the steps of the house he turned and covertly glanced up at the windows as he strolled to his car. Yep, someone was watching him. He drove down the street and at the nearest intersection u-turned to cruise past the house again. Several houses away, he stopped, checking out the top-down, white convertible Mustang at the curb. Dan's car.

Slowly driving back past the rec center, Lukela noted no one observing him. Something was wrong in there. His vibes told him that and it was confirmed by the quick shuffle out the door and the nervousness of Mei Lu. Adding Dan's Mustang to the mix made it all seem sinister. Paging McGarrett on the radio, he got no response. Racing through the old, narrow streets now, he hurried to catch up to the boss at the restaurant.
 
 

*****

 

A shout in Chinese from one of the old men by stairs panicked everyone and Wing Ky's closest guard made a grab to confiscate Williams' revolver. Dan stopped them with his left hand, but did not make a move to draw the weapon himself.

"I wasn't going for my gun!"

The cold steel of a thick blade pressed against his throat. "Is that so, Officer Williams?" The thickly accented Chinese voice belonged to another guard on his right.

Dan didn't loose his grip. "I don't think you brought me here to kill me. I'm here to talk. So let's talk." No change. "I was reaching for a notebook to give you instructions."

"He's a spy!"

More in Chinese from someone in the back. A thin, young, skinny guy on the stairs was pointing at Dan. On the man's inner arm was the tattoo of the Nine Dragons. The room erupted in chatter and shouts. The old man in the hat and beard followed the youth to the exit. Just for a moment the small eyes stared at Dan, then the man spun away, up the stairs and out the door.

"Wo Fat! That was Wo Fat!" He struggled to leave and the knife bit into his throat. "Let me go! That was a Red Chinese agent! He was here to kill you!"

The knife was taken away and Dan followed several of the Chinese up the stairs. Pursuers had come to a dead stop at the top of the badly lit steps. Dan crowded in on the narrow planks and drew in a breath.

One young man held the doorknob in his hand, the door ajar. By the wall hinge was a small device with a blinking red light, attached to a wad of what looked like clay. Whispers trembled through the crowd and men slowly stepped back down the stairs. Suddenly, the chase for Wo Fat was now insignificant since they were staring at a bomb with enough explosive power to take down the whole house.

Very cautiously and slowly, Dan eased the door shut, bolting it from the inside. No reaction from the bomb. Then he gently eased the young man off the knob and told him to carefully walk down to the basement floor. Wing Ky came up behind him with a flashlight. Checking the bomb, Dan saw the opening of the door activated it. Another half-inch or so and it would have pressed the trigger and they would be dust right now.

"A bomb?"

"Wo Fat really doesn't like you," Dan barely breathed, studying the device. It was clicking and he didn't like that. He wasn't about to move it. "Is there another way out of here?"

Ky conversed with his relations and they concluded that there might be a small window behind a bookshelf. Dan told them to move the shelf and try to get out. A knock at the door made both jump. Catching his breath, Williams yelled at them to stop.

"Danny! What's going on!"

"Mei Lu, there's a bomb in here. Get everyone out of the house and call HPD. The neighborhood needs to be evacuated!"

"Okay!"

Scrunching down level with the bomb, Dan studied the mechanism. Professionally packaged, of course -- Wo Fat would not accept less -- it had been built by knowing hands, but expected to go off immediately, not to be discovered. He was guessing there were no hidden booby-traps. Studying the wiring, he had to judge if his guess was good enough for him to try and disarm it. If there were no other routes into or out of the basement, he was stuck with the job. And from the ticking, it meant that he had only a limited time to decide.
 
 

*****



Closing in on midnight, Steve stepped into the restaurant and slowly toured the reception area. No one greeted him. Few diners lingered at this late hour. An elaborate fountain of a little village with water running through the houses was set up near the back curtains. Coins were at the bottom of the fountain, obviously used as a wishing well. As with most Oriental establishments the lighting was subdued, the atmosphere quiet.

An old man in traditional Chinese robes came out and asked how many would be dining. McGarrett presented his credentials and asked for information about Wing Ky. Usually a direct assault worked with suspicious characters, but this thin, bent old man did not crack. He feigned ignorance, bad English, and asked if Steve was dining alone.

"Wing Ky," Steve repeated.

"I tell other haole same thing. No Wing Ky here."

On alert, Steve gave the old man his best razor-sharp glare. "What other haole?"

"Big haole with government."

"The FBI." It wasn't a question. It didn't have to be.

The back curtains swung open and a young girl breathlessly swept in. "How may I help you?" Her English was perfect.

"You can tell me about Wing Ky."

"I don't know -- oh, you mean the Chinese radical?" She shrugged, cool and disinterested, but alert -- no excited -- out of breath. She pulled up the sleeves of her turtleneck shirt and on her forearm McGarrett thought he glimpsed the pattern of a Nine Dragon tattoo. Then she stuck her hands in the back pockets of her jeans, covering up her arms. "I've heard some rumors at the university. What's this about?"

The thought that this beautiful, young girl could be a member of that murderous tong was repulsive to him. A chill coursed his skin, again imagining that Wo Fat was close -- within a few blocks -- a few feet? He may never know. There was something wrong here, but he couldn't put his finger on it. "Would you mind if I looked around?"

She turned to the old man and spoke to him in their native tongue. He replied, and she faced McGarrett. "Grandfather says that's all right. Don't disturb the cooks, they are cleaning up to go home and he doesn't want to pay overtime."

Knowing he would find nothing, Steve took a short tour of the restaurant out of obligation, all the while plying the girl with questions. Her manner was more confident and coldly reserved with each answer and he finally gave up. When he left he was in a foul mood. Weary, disgruntled and bitter, he knew he had botched the interview with the owner and his daughter, but didn't know how to fix the situation. He'd call for back up and take the place apart if necessary.

Maybe he could get Chin over here and help out. Somehow, through the churning emotions of anxiety to catch Wo Fat, astringent resentment of Dan's seeming desertion, and suspicion of McNeil, he managed to still hear that small inner voice that so frequently led him in the right direction. His sixth sense was still working, still pointing him toward the path that he thought to be the way to Wo Fat.

A brown car screeched around the corner and he was surprised it was Duke. Before the car stopped the passenger door flew open. "Steve, come on we've got an emergency!"

Without questioning, McGarrett jumped in and closed the door an instant after the car leaped away.

Lukela hastily explained. "I was at the student rec center and they gave me the run around, wouldn't let me in. Something was wrong there Steve, and I don't know what it is. And Dan's Mustang is parked in front."

The horrific chill tingling Steve's nerves nearly choked him. In the few minutes it took to get to the old neighborhood he knew, without doubt, without fact, that if Duke was spooked after visiting the house, then something was really wrong. As soon as he spotted the Mustang at the curb, just down the street from the rec center, Steve knew in his bones that his theories were right. It was all coming together here. The pieces were all fitting. A dark blur in the back of his mind -- a black mist of dread -- told him he might be too late. Too late to capture Wo Fat? Or too late to help Danno?

Several people were running down the steps of the rec center when Duke slammed to a stop. McGarrett jumped out, grabbing a girl he recognized. "Mei Lu!"

"Oh, Mr. McGarrett! Oh, you're here! How did you hear about the bomb so fast?"

"Bomb? Where?"

"In the house. Danny sent me out -- "

"Where is he?"

"In the house, I can -- "

"No, don't go in."

Duke was already calling for back up and a bomb squad. Steve took the girl aside and asked for specifics; Williams' location, others in the house, placement of the bomb, and Dan's exact words. Filling in all the blanks necessary, he told Duke to see to the evacuation and he jogged up the steps.

Warily he observed the door to the basement. No evidence of any explosives on this side. All he could do was wait for Danno's report. Wanting to slam his fist into something in frustrated anger, he chose instead to kneel down close to the door.

"Danno?"

"Steve! What are you dong here? Get out! There's a bomb here! You shouldn't be this close!"

Swallowing the lump in his throat, McGarrett shook his head. "Neither should you, Danno. Give me the situation."

"Get Josh Simms down here, Steve. There's nothing you can do. You need to go after Wo Fat!"

It was the only thing that could have jolted his attention from this crisis. "Wo Fat is here?"

"He and his minion set the bomb. A Nine Dragon. In an oversized jacket. I mean, the guy with Wo Fat was young and real slight -- thin with a Nine Dragon tattoo on his arm. And Wo Fat had an old rumpled hat and a long grey beard, but it was him. Am I making any sense? He's close, Steve, you can probably still find him in Chinatown."

Automatically, McGarrett came to his feet to leave then hesitated. Yes, he wanted to get Wo Fat's throat between his hands and strangle the life out of the spy. Torn, he also wanted to be here to somehow help Dan through this life and death emergency. There was nothing he could do here, really. Giving in to his passion for revenge, Steve made his choice.

"Okay, Danno, if you can't use me, I'm going after Wo Fat."

"And, Steve, watch your back. Wing Ky here says he was betrayed. Someone knew he was coming in and leaked it to Wo Fat."

Processing the information, he didn't know what it all meant, yet, but the very complex puzzle involving Wo Fat was coming together and they were at ground zero. Literally. "Be careful, Danno. And good luck."

"You too."

McGarrett raced down the steps to the street and grabbed the radio mic in the car. Giving a description of Wo Fat, he ordered the island sealed -- all airports, harbors and boat docks to be frozen until checked and cleared. It was a sweeping command and he wasn't sure he could get away with it. He'd tangled with the FAA over this before, and usually got his way, but this was pretty sudden for buearacratic wheels.

He crossed to the driver's side of the LTD. "I'm going to see if we can close down Chinatown, Duke. Send Chin over to me as soon as possible."

Lukela had organized some patrolmen to evacuate the area. Mei Lu and her fellow students were down the block being questioned. HPD bomb squad was on the way.

"What about the bomb?"

"Danno's got it covered."

"So you're just going to leave him to handle it?" The voice of derision came from behind him and McGarrett spun to face Jack McNeil. "Yeah, take Danny for granted -- he can manage while you go off and catch all the glory." The FBI man was disdainful. "Guess you found Wing Ky? And now you're going after Wo Fat. Well, looks like there's nothing left for me to do but pack up and go home."

McGarrett was in no mood to argue the reasonable, if sarcastic, truth. "That's right, McNeil. Wo Fat is on my rock and I'm going to get him. As for Danno, he's an expert at defusing bombs and a lot of other skills that you don't even know about. He can handle himself."

McGarrett drove away, radioing Kelly and told him the circumstances. Chin suggested they meet at the River Street market. The owner's son fit the description of Wo Fat's assistant.
 
 

*****

 

Surprised, but relived that Steve left, Dan felt he could put a little more concentration into disarming the bomb. Knowing Steve was hanging around made him nervous. How many more of his close colleagues were outside these walls waiting for the explosion? Hopefully he would disappoint their fears and manage to get this disconnected.

Wing Ky's friends managed to pry the shelf free of the wall and loosen the rusty window. It was a small, narrow rectangle of glass with a hatch-style opening. The smallest and thinnest of the group could squeeze through, but Dan and three others could not. Williams told Ky to get out and talk to the Five-0 officers outside -- he would be safe with them.

"Look for a man named Steve McGarrett from Hawaii Five-0. You can trust him with your life."

Wing shook his hand and thanked him, then embraced the other three and scrambled out.

"Hey, Danny, you there?"

He couldn't identify the voice on the other side of the door. "Yeah, who's that?"

"Donny Chow. And I got someone else here to talk to you."

"Steve?"

"No, Danny, Jack. What you doing in there playing with explosives?"

How had Jack heard about the crisis? "Jack, you need to get out of here. This could blow any minute." Chow was a kind of third-string back up for the bomb squad. It didn't instill Dan with confidence. "Where's Josh?"

"Broke his arm Saturday playing soccer."

"Look, Donny, I can probably disarm this, but I need some equipment and fast. It's ticking away. I can't see the timer from this angle, but I have a feeling it's not going to take long."

"How will I get it in?"

"We've got a window out in the back of the house, try that."

"Danny." It was McNeil. "Where's Wing Ky?"

"He already got out, Jack."

"Oh -- great, Danny, good work. Listen, I'll go take care of him. You be careful now."

"Yeah, that's my plan."

With slow, methodical measures, Dan slowly shifted the bomb to a better angle. Leaning up above the device he could now see the timer. Gulping, he blinked his eyes, wiped the sweat from his face, and looked again. The timer was ticking down to the red line. Detonation was in minutes. There was no time to think. Without knowing which wires to pull he was dead if he chose the wrong leads to pull from the plastique. Normally he would use a pen or piece of wood to place in front of the spring lever so it would not strike. There was no time to find anything that would fit.

Chow called from the window. "Hey, Danny, I can't fit through here."

"Yeah, neither can I. Blast through that wall or something and get these people out and you in here!"

"Right," Chow called back, then disappeared. Moments later he said some heavy door rams were on the way to widen the window.

The timer clicked away. It was nearly touching the red line. A long time had elapsed since Wo Fat's exit. The spy wouldn't want the bomb to be left for too long. Just long enough for him to escape. With nothing else available Dan did the only thing he could think of. Putting his finger against the spring he closed his eyes. "Take cover!"

The three students cried out and ran behind furniture or shelves. Donny disappeared from the window. The timer clicked and snapped. The spring popped, squeezing against his fingertip. Gritting his teeth, he called out to Chow. "Donny, hurry! My finger's stopped the spring."

"You pupule haole," he condemned, and ran to get help.
 
 

*****

 

The little market wedged between a dry cleaner's and a dress shop was closed and dark. McGarrett arrived to find Kelly pounding on the door.

"Let's try around back."

They reached the alley in time to see someone climbing down from an upstairs fire escape. The slight figure dropped onto the pavement and into the arms of the law. Chin grabbed one arm and Steve the other.

"Hey!"

McGarrett grabbed the teen's arm and shone a flashlight beam on the skin. There was a tattoo there, all right, of a mermaid. Disgusted, McGarrett dropped the arm.

"Where were you tonight and why are you running from us?"

"Hey, man, what's the hassle? I got my rights! I didn't do nothin'!"

A string of Cantonese words flowed from a nearby window, and a short, greying woman came out, yelling at the boy. Then she yelled at Chin. The officer snapped back in their mutual tongue and she gave a dirty look at McGarrett. Then she chattered some more with the teen and went back inside, slamming the door.

Even through the language barrier Steve knew the kid was in trouble. He also knew this was a domestic dispute, not a spy ring. It would have been funny under less trying circumstances.

"She knew the boy was sneaking out to see a haole girlfriend," Chin explained to McGarrett who leaned on the brick wall, pinching his lip. "What's next?"

"Back to the rec center. I have a few questions for our FBI visitor."
 
 

*****

 

Walking up to the barricades, it took a moment for McGarrett and Kelly to comprehend the commotion. The police around the building heard the shouts from Chow to take cover and men were passing the word along the ranks. McGarrett hesitated only a moment, then dove behind the nearest squad car. When Chow gave the all clear Steve raced back to the house, but was intercepted by Lukela.

Duke jogged along with the boss and filled him in. He quickly explained the tense crisis at the rec center. Only two members of the bomb squad could be located to help Dan. They had blasted a hole in the wall, but couldn't remove the bomb, or Dan. Steve's legs went weak when he learned Dan had stopped the timer by trapping his finger in the mechanism. His first impulse was to go in and personally oversee the operation. Chin and Duke, both close by, could read his thoughts and they exchanged a look between them.

"Nothing you can do in there, Steve. Better let the bomb squad help." Kelly's reasoning was sound and wise. And he knew it didn't convince the head of Five-0. "Maybe the best thing you could do is try to find Wo Fat. Maybe he'll have the guy with him who made the bomb."

"If we go charging in," Lukela added, "Dan'll be distracted, worried about us."

He used the plural, but Steve knew the message was targeted for him. The idea of finding Wo Fat had merit, but where would he start? A search of Chinatown was already in progress. If he raced to the airport, maybe Wo Fat would turn up at the docks. Pacing, having trouble getting past the thought of Danno literally stuck to a bomb, McGarrett couldn't leave.

"Do you have a patch to Danno?"

Lukela handed him a portable communications unit. "In contact with Donny Chow. He can relay the message. Dan's wedged by the door, no room for more than two people near the bomb."

Hand shaking, Steve picked up the mic and asked Donny to relay a question to Williams. Chow said he would hold up the mic so Dan could hear.

"Danno, you there?"

"Yeah, Steve. I'm trying for overtime this month." The tremble in his voice made the joke flat.

Eyes closed, McGarrett leaned his head on his hands atop the roof of the car. "How are you doing?"

"Trying to stay cool." The strain in his voice was obvious. "I don't guess you found Wo Fat, huh?"

"No."

"Too bad. I was hoping his friend could drop by and disarm this for us."

Well aware these were the final words he might have with his friend, he struggled for something to say. Williams, more than anyone, was aware of the precarious -- imminent spectre of death hovering so close to him. One twitch, one sneeze and it would be over. What message to send when both of them knew it might be their last? Apologies? Regrets? Hope?

"I'm coming in -- "

"No, don't come close, Steve. Things are pretty tight here right now. Donny and Sam are helping with the switch, but it's pretty tricky. No more -- no one else needs to be here. We need the guy who built this."

"We're looking for him, Danno."

"Steve --" A sigh could be clearly heard even over the mic. "Just take care --"

The finality brought out Steve's fierce defiance. "We're getting you out of there! Don't think we won't Danno! Believe me!"

The demand brought out a laugh and another sigh from Williams. "Okay, Steve."

"I'm gonna go find you a Chinese bomb maker, Danno. You hang on. That's an order!"

"I'm not going anywhere."

"You better not." Handing the mic back to Lukela, Steve glanced at Jack McNeil a few police cars away. Jack was in intense conversation with a thin Oriental man.

"Keep up the search for Wo Fat, Chin. Duke, keep tabs on the bomb progress. I'm going to have a talk with the FBI man."

Little details had coalesced in the back of his mind all night and with a certainty born of experience and instinct, McGarrett knew some nasty truths about Jack McNeil before he confronted the man. Jack had gone to Sally's and the Szechwan Palace for information -- had faked being drunk to freelance and probably knew a lot more about Wing Ky than he let on. His initial impulse was to slug the guy, but he restrained himself. Talk first, violence second.

"This must be Wing Ky."

"The same," Jack wryly admitted. "I've been trying to convince him to come with me, but Danny boy has claimed his loyalty."

Meaningfully, he glared at the man. "Danno has a talent for that."

Wing Ky introduced himself and McGarrett offered his name and identity. Ky eagerly shook his hand. "Officer Williams a great guy. Saved many lives. He told me to entrust my care to you, Mr. Policeman McGarrett."

"Then I have something to ask you." On second thought, he widened his inquiry. "Both of you. Wo Fat set a bomb in that house. Dan Williams' life could depend on finding the man who made the bomb. Where can I find Wo Fat?"

McNeil was cool. "How would I know?I've been looking for him."

McGarrett laughed harshly. " That's a lie! You've been using us locals. Again." He shook his head, bitterly. "You set up Wing Ky so he would mistrust the State Department and run to you for help, didn't you? You never wanted Wo Fat at all. You wanted my help to find Wing Ky. Wo Fat was just the bait and I fell for it."

"Your version of the truth, McGarrett." Jack paced around the Five-0 leader. "I'm here to protect Ky. Why would I endanger him?"

"For the glory? The fame? Who knows? That's not even the worst part." Standing face to face with the man, McGarrett sneered. "You used Dan Williams. You misrepresented yourself to all of us, but he was your old friend. He looked up to you! And you gave him nothing but betrayals and lies!"

Jack clucked his tongue. "You did the same thing to Dan and your own people a few weeks back -- I heard the whole story from the HPD guys. The FBI used you and you went along with it. How is that different from what I did?"

"I'm not proud of that mistake," Steve admitted acridly. He wanted to believe he was different from the picture Jack painted. "I would never have endangered my people! Danno is in there trapped with a bomb! How can you compare us? What kind of a monster do you take me for? What kind of a monster are you to ask?"

Jack interrupted harshly. "The kind that believes that even two lead dogs can agree on something -- a life of a mutual friend that's more important than either of us."

Regaining control, Steve implored the men to help. "If there is any scrap of information you might have, I need it now. If we find Wo Fat we might find the accomplice who set the bomb."

McNeil ticked off the places he had been told, by informants, were Nine Dragon hangouts, or where he could get information. Sally's, Wong's travel agency and Szechwan Palace. He took out the gold Hong Kong token. "This is supposed to be the key, but I never figured it out."

McGarrett took out his own coin and flipped it in the air. Nine Dragons, coins, bomb. Szechwan Palace. The slight, breathless girl with the tattoo. The wishing well fountain with coins. Without explanation McGarrett raced to his car, shouting to Duke to tell Danno to hold on, he was going for help. Two patrolman and Chin were elected to go with him and they raced away, back to the restaurant.
 
 

*****

 

Considering the various injuries Dan had sustained on duty -- a broken finger was hardly worth mentioning. Right now it hurt like crazy, but the pain had somewhat eased into numbness and was working its way up his hand. Not that he cared. All he wanted was to finish disarming the bomb.

He never expected Steve to come back with the little bomb maker. Hopefully, McGarrett would get Wo Fat this time, but even that seemed unlikely given the past history of the sparing enemies. Further than that Dan did not speculate. Wanting to believe he would get out of this alive -- pessimism not being a good trait when disassembling bombs -- he focused his tired, distracted mind on the business of saving all their lives.

"Danny, I've got it ready."

Sam Kahana was one of the regular bomb squad men and had taken over from Donny Chow, who was happy to let the more experienced officer assist Williams. Kahana and Dan agreed they could not move the bomb or cut the wires -- neither of them had seen anything like this complex tangle of parts surrounding a plastic explosives ball.

Their only hope was to get Dan's finger out of the spring and leave the bomb for more experienced handlers. The Army said they could send someone -- who was on maneuvers on the Big Island. Williams couldn't wait that long. The spring was exerting tremendous pressure and could, conceivably, break through the skin and bone to snap the explosive. No one wanted to wait that long.

Wiping sweat from his face, Dan watched the HPD man place a wooden clothespin next to the spring. "Get ready to move, Danny."

Checking the window, Dan saw Chow had cleared the way. The plan was to get free, race out the window and as far away as possible. Kahana wasn't sure if this was a 'smart' spring and would detect the change in pressure. If it did, they were dead. If the clothespin held, Sam could study it at leisure until the Army came to help.

"On three I'm going to place the pin, Danny. As soon as your finger is out, you take off. I'll be right behind you."

Williams breathed in and out, calming his nerves. "You'll have to tell me when it's loose, Sam, I can't feel anything."

Kahana patted his arm. "On your mark."

In the close, narrow space by the door, Williams could barely see over the explosive ball to see the spring. He had to trust the HPD officer. Glancing at the distance across the basement, it would take a few seconds to cross and vault out of the enlarged window. Already shaking, he hoped he was up to the run.

"Two. Three."

SNAP

Sam pushed his arm. "Go!"

Williams stumbled down the old steps and across the basement, scrambling toward the wall torn out by the HPD men. Right behind him, Kahana grabbed his arm.

"The spring didn't like the switch, Danny, it's gonna blow!"
 
 

*****

 

Chin was waiting outside the Szechwan Palace when McGarrett raced up. Jumping out of the car, the boss explained about the tattoo of the Nine Dragons. Not waiting for more back up, they charged in the back door, guns drawn. The patrolmen fanned out.

The kitchen was empty. Chin took a careful peak through the swinging doors leading to the dining room. Empty. Next to him was another door and Kelly pointed to it. "Supply room?"

McGarrett gave a nod and joined him. Holding up three fingers, he indicated they would crash in on the count of three. He ticked them off and Chin turned the handle while Steve plunged in first. A supply room. On the floor were an old crumpled hat and a fake grey beard.

McGarrett growled and kicked a box off a stack. "He was here! Wo Fat was here and he's escaped again!"

For good measure he smashed down another box. Stalking out, he returned to the entrance, checking on the patrolmen's search. Standing by the tranquil fountain, he remembered the token in his pocket. Turning up the lights, he sorted through the coins at the bottom of the fountain. All normal, American currency. Looking closely, he studied the little village. Nine houses. At the top, a fat, smiling Buddha sat in the largest house on the crest. Atop the house was a slot. Steve slipped his token into the slot. The floor rumbled and the fountain's wall slid aside to reveal a narrow passage.

Whispering for Chin and the others to follow, McGarrett led the way through the tunnel and into a small room. No one was there, but a back door opened onto a side alley leading to a parking lot.

McGarrett slammed the outside door into the wall. "Gone!"

Sirens were clearly heard along a side street. The irony sent another box to the ground. "Great. Just in time." The sirens sped past, the accompanying deep honks identifying them as from a fire engine.

"Another emergency," Chin determined. "What next? You want to check the airport? Wo Fat might be stuck there."

Another engine rumbled past with sirens and horns. Against the dark horizon a dull glow arched over the downtown buildings.

McGarrett could hardly breathe from the clutch of horror gripping his chest. Fire engines. Fire. The bomb. Danno. "Let's go!"

Dashing around the corner he jumped into the Mercury, since he'd left his car there earlier. Inside he felt sick and desperate, afraid it was too late. He had been chasing phantoms -- again -- and his closest friend had been blown to bits. Racing the few blocks to the roadblock cordoning off the area, he noted the barricades were still a block away from the student house. The fire trucks were allowed to pass but police and civilians weren't permitted any closer to the rec center. McGarrett spotted Duke and ran over.

"What's happened, Duke?"

The detective was pale, heartache written all over his face. "The bomb --" He cleared his throat. "Bomb went off. No reports on -- casualties yet."

McGarrett climbed over the barricade, and jogged down the street. Just around the corner the rec center house was ablaze, fire fighters and fire engines clogging the street. He wove his way through the mass of hoses and jacketed fireman, but was stopped by a fire captain.

"Mr. McGarrett, this is restricted --"

"One of my detectives was in that building -- "

"I can't let you go any further. Please step back behind the lines and I'll let you know as soon as we recover the bodies -- or, whatever we find."

Lukela and Kelly steered him over to the side of a fire truck -- out of the way but close enough to see the action. None of them spoke, too tangled with anguish to say or do anything.

"Any word?"

McGarrett barely glanced at McNeil. He wanted to scream at the agent -- beat the agent to a pulp for what he had done. The misdirection had probably killed Danno. Not directly, but Steve would blame McNeil because his deceptions were at fault for entangling them in this web of conspiracy. Because someone needed the blame beside himself. If nothing else, McNeil deserved the infamous credit for causing a disruption -- dissention -- defection -- in the Five-0 ranks. If Danno had -- did -- live through this, he was going to Washington to work with McNeil.

Watching the flames fluttering the old house none of that mattered now. If Danno lived, Steve would pack his bags for him if that's what Williams wanted. As long as he lived.

"No," Duke supplied to the FBI man. "We're waiting."

McNeil stood next to McGarrett. "Got a report from one of my men at the airport." On Steve's glare he explained. "Some of the local FBI guys are helping. Anyway, they think Wo Fat is there, trying to hitch a ride. Want to come with me?"

"No." The response surprised everyone, even himself. Until a few moments ago capturing Wo Fat was the most important thing in his existence. Priorities changed instantly now that he waited for word on Danno's fate. "I'm staying here."

"I've got Wing Ky. We're heading back to DC tonight." McNeil stared at the burning building and shook his head in sadness. "Danny was a good kid, McGarrett. Too bad I never had the chance to work with him. He would have made a great agent."

"He's a good cop." Voice harsh and coarse, McGarrett clamped his fists. "And he's not dead." Steve shook his head, incredulous. "You're not even waiting to see if he's okay? To talk to him?"

"I'll send my regards later."

"Aloha, McNeil."

The big man shrugged. "Guess you get the loyalty award, cause you never give up. You win. Aloha, McGarrett." Big Jack turned and disappeared into the smoke.

Pacing, McGarrett was still tempted to rush in after the firemen, but restrained himself, knowing his actions could not only get himself damaged, but hurt fire fighters trying to do their jobs. If Danno was still alive it could compromise his chances, too. To the side of the house a group of firemen cleared the smoke. Between them were two singed men -- Dan and Sam -- who collapsed at the curb as soon as the firemen let go of them.

'Yeah, Jack, I win.' McGarrett nearly laughed as he ran across the street. "Danno!"

Being fitted with an oxygen mask, Williams waved. A prepared and quick-thinking fireman had wrapped his finger in a handkerchief. McGarrett crouched down beside him hardly believing his friend had made it out of the building. Sitting at the curb he put an arm around Williams. "You all right?"

Dan nodded and waved to Duke and Chin, who joined the crowd and patted the younger detective on the shoulder.

Coughing, Dan removed the mask enough to talk. "Wo Fat."

McGarrett shook his head.

"Sorry."

Steve patted his shoulder. "I'm not. I think we made a fair trade."

Confused, a bout of coughing interrupted Dan's question.

With a relieved sigh, McGarrett promised to resolve all questions. There was plenty of time for explanations now.
 
 

*****

 

It was almost ten the next morning when McGarrett's door opened and Williams walked into the private office. Surprised, Steve wondered what his friend was doing back at work. Dan settled into a chair facing his boss.

"I'm feeling fine," Dan supplied to forestall the obvious questions on Steve's mind. "Wonderful what a good night's sleep will do." After a preliminary exam by an ER doctor, Williams had been determined fit to go home. Given a few stitches and aspirin for his lacerated finger, he had no complications from his ordeal.

"I got a call from Jack this morning," Dan reported. McGarrett grunted. Dan pretended not to hear the negative sound and continued. "Wing Ky is taken care of." Dan smoothed out his tie. "Jack told me about his plot to use you to get Wing Ky." Finally he looked up at McGarrett. "Sorry. About Jack. And about you losing Wo Fat."

"It wasn't your fault." Steve tried to be tolerant of the events, but it was a strain on his patience. "Wo Fat never seems to go away, but he's never close enough to catch. Maybe next time I'll get him. I was sorry Jack betrayed your trust, Danno."

The younger detective shrugged. "Yeah, deception is a rotten trick to play on a friend. But, he was sorry and I forgave him."

"Old loyalties die hard."

Steve thought Dan let the old friend off too easy, although Williams could as well have been talking about Steve's hoax weeks before. Perhaps he should just feel grateful for Dan's generosity and absolution. Williams admitted he should have been less gullible about his old friend, after all, Jack hadn't been in touch, hadnít even come back to the Islands for Uncle Jim's funeral, so McNeil proved to be less of a friend than Dan remembered.

Not able to stand the suspense any longer, Steve asked the question burning in his thoughts for days. "So, what did you decide about DC?"

"What do you mean?"

Steve tapped a pencil on the blotter and stared at the eraser hitting the desk, not at his colleague. "About going to Washington with McNeil?"

Dan laughed then saw it was not a joke, and sobered. "Washington! Of course not! What gave you that idea?"

"I -- uh -- good question." McGarrett cleared his throat. "It just seemed McNeil had you -- well -- he was really serious about your recruitment."

Oblivious to his supposed value to the FBI and Five-0, Dan was amazed they were in competition over him. "It was all empty flattery. He wasn't that serious. I'm a cop in a little pond. What would he want with me?"

McGarrett glanced up and saw Dan was sincerely puzzled. "Not empty. McNeil kept -- " Steve cleared his throat again. Knowing now the veracity of McNeil, was it any wonder the FBI agent duped him into believing Dan would desert Five-0? Shrugging, he waved it off. "Well, it seemed a question of loyalties."

"I guess so," Dan casually agreed. "My only loyalty is here."

Pleased, a smile almost broke through McGarrett's reserve. "He has no real idea what he's lost."

Walking over to the lanai, Dan swung open the doors and stood in the sunshine, holding out his hands and closing his eyes into the warm light. "It snows in Washington. What would I do with all that snow when I have the top down?" Opening his eyes he leaned on the lanai railing and turned to look at McGarrett. "Why would I ever leave Hawaii?"

There was an earnest undertone to the question. McGarrett responded in a matching tone. "For a better job? Maybe with an old friend who appreciates you?"

Dan stated, with finality, that he never needed an incentive -- he would never leave the islands. "I'm a Five-0 cop and I work with a great boss who happens to be a great friend. In Hawaii. What could be better?"

"Nothing," Steve admitted wholeheartedly.

"And sometimes I even get a few days off." Dan reentered the office. "Like next week for that big surf meet at Sandy Beach? The organizers asked me to be a judge."

"We'll see," Steve promised, already knowing he would give in. It was a small price to pay. Even losing Wo Fat, again, was worth the reward of keeping his best detective -- his friend.
 
 

PAU