Epilogue to TARGET: A COP

WARNING -- SPOILERS  --

 

 

Night Music

                                                                      by gm & dm

 

 

 

December 1976

 

           

Uncertain of the source of moisture, Steve McGarrett’s sub-conscience mind wondered at the sensation, instinctively aware his cheek should not be wet.  The cloying, sickly sweet scent of lingering pesticide filled his nostrils and tickled his inner nerves until he nearly sneezed.  Pushing from the nether-land of sleep, knowing this was more real than a strange dream, he now noted an odd rattling sound. 

 

Emerging to wakefulness, he groaned, shifting the snores from his throat.  Automatically he wiped the crusty drool from his face.  The movement stirred painful sensations at the side of his head; his shoulders, back and hip.  The shift moved a weight from his chest, the clatter of his guitar snapping his eyes open.

 

Chagrined at his unflattering position, he was embarrassed he had fallen asleep on the floor, woken by his snoring and drooling!  Hardly in keeping with the image of the head of Five-0.  That thought brought out a rueful sigh.  Many outside his unit thought he was hardly human.  This morning’s undignified state would prove that abundantly false.  Rubbing his face to stimulate some circulation, he scratched his itchy cheek, feeling the imprint of the carpet on his skin.

 

Concerned mostly for his Ramirez guitar, one of his few indulgent luxuries, he slowly shifted up, protectively holding his instrument so as  not to sustain further damage.  It looked fine, he assessed, studying the glossy finish, noting a few smudged fingerprints on the fine-grained wood.

 

Last night he had fallen asleep, lying on the floor, fingering the last piece, Prelude in A Minor.  Not one to give in to depression, he had sought out the solace of his music -- translated through the richly toned classical guitar, to settle his emotions and nerves.  He had played the tune over and over, slower and slower.  He allowed the last note on a large open string to resonate as long as it could while getting lost in the tone.  With his left hand limp on the floor, he brushed the last single note with the side of his right thumb again and again, each time listening to the change of tone as the sound decayed as if into the distance.  He envisioned matching the timing of the note with the far-away sound of surf in his mind.  The imaginary waves rolled over his consciousness and allowed him the escape to sleep.

 

Still remembering the tune from last night, he played the short piece through once quickly with his eyes shut, as though to make it a proper finish from the night before, even though the strings were out of tune.  He cut the last note a little short, now realizing he needed to mobilize. 

 

Carefully leaning the guitar against the couch, he gradually worked his way to a sitting position.  Leaning his head back on the arm of the sofa, he noted both the glass lanai doors were open -- the one overlooking the Ala Wai, and the one facing Diamond Head.

 

The breeze blowing in off the ocean filled the room with fresh, sea-misted air, edged with floral fragrances.  It helped clear his muddled mind.  That same on-shore wind drifted the morning clouds shrouding the mountains.  From here, he could see to his left, those clouds were still dark, spraying their rain on the shadowed, green fluted Koolaus behind the city.  Through the open door he heard light traffic coursing along the not yet busy boulevard.

 

Determined not to sit here all morning, he methodically came to his feet and slowly trudged over to the Diamond Head lanai.  Leaning on the rail, he studied the dark form of the dormant volcano, backlit by the muted gold of upcoming dawn.  The painter in him loved this spot, loved to study the intricate, yet simple hues as the day began in a rainbow of shades;  the graduated altering of the dark indigo sky to azure, the glowing, burnished rays exploding behind the mountain, soon to burst full blown into a brilliant tropical sunrise.

 

This spot was the highest selling point of the place when he bought this condo.  The view, the lanai, the sense of freedom and freshness.  Not for the first time, he wondered why he didn’t spend more time here.  It was a seclusion amid the bustle of Waikiki.  At the back of the hustle and noise of the tourist center, he had here a haven of serenity.  Sitting here he could draw away from the stress of the day and relax.  A pity he didn’t make more of an effort to pamper himself with the gifts at hand.

 

Ignoring his desires to indulge in the comfort of the moment, he turned back into the apartment.  Pausing at the kitchen, he first smelled, then viewed the stale coffee and old meatloaf he had left on the counter last night.  The sour taste of morning-mouth reminded him of his night on the floor and he poured some water from a refrigerated pitcher.  The liquid was refreshing and cold, re-hydrating his tongue and throat.  Like a dry, firm sponge, the inner cells inflated to normal.

 

So atypical to leave a mess.  A certain sign of his dismay last night.  Leaning on the counter, McGarrett stretched, thinking of his distress yesterday.  The frustrated disturbance escalated through the evening, and as usual, he had stayed late at the office.  The habitual drive had pushed aside his thought of the shooting, but the reactions had been buried, not resolved.

 

By the time he came home his nerves still resonated the taut unrest of the last few days.  Of the culminating climax of the cop serial killer whom he had fatally shot yesterday (Episode - Target: A Cop).

 

For days, every cop in Oahu had suffered from the senseless murders of their fellow policemen.  Nerves on edge, every law enforcement officer wondered who would be next . . . a friend?  Himself ?   Not soon enough, Five-0 had set a trap and the murderer took the bait.  When Danno and he had gone in, wearing HPD uniforms, he had felt the strain, the fear, in every fiber.  Surviving had been a close call.  Either one, or both of them, could have been killed acting as targets.

 

In the end the killer was dead.  No more danger from that psycho.  In the aftermath of the peril, the risk seemed worthy.  Emotionally, it left him cognizant of the foolhardy jeopardy he had created for his friend and himself.

 

Shaking off the residual dismay, he moved back to the living room.  With self-irritation, he viewed the unusual display of untidiness reflecting the inner trauma from the night before.  His unlaced shoes underneath, the coffee table was cluttered with his pocket contents; change, wallet, badge, shoulder holster, gun, belt, jacket, tie.  All shed before he sat on the floor.  Later sinking to lie down.

 

Pacing to the mauka lanai, he watched the ever-undulating clouds drift against the misted cliffs, felt the tactile moisture in the air, the brush of thick humidity on his skin.  The traffic below was busier now, the groaning of engines wafting up on the wings of the breeze.  Breathing deeply, he allowed the natural elements to enter his lungs and senses; absorbing, cleansing and at one with the ethereal particles of paradise.

 

The dangers and decisions of yesterday faded into a settled perspective.  He would leave the deep philosophy for another time.  Today he was alive.  Danno was alive.  Both had survived to enjoy another perfect day in Hawaii.

 

Stretching on the rail, he groaned, every muscle and many bones reminding him he was too old for the late nights.  Far too old for the disconcerting slumber on the floor.  He needed to jog out the kinks before he tackled the day.

 

Heedless of the early hour, he crossed to the phone.  The receiver was cold against his ear, knocking him into a fuller level of wakefulness.  He dialed the familiar number, the first ring loud to his sluggish senses.  But with each succeeding ring his mood lightened and his smile grew.  For some twisted reason  -- probably his control-freak nature -- he delighted in rousting his friend at obscene hours.  Today, he sought companionship in affirmation that with this new day came renewed appreciation of life.  A gratitude that the danger of yesterday was over.

 

“Uh- -- Hello -- Williams.   Finally, the bleary greeting.

 

“Danno.  We’re going jogging.  I’ll be there in twenty minutes.”

 

“What?!  What day is this?”

 

“A day to enjoy paradise.  Rise and shine.” He hung up, chuckling.  He felt better already.

 

On the way to the bedroom, he picked up his guitar and strummed a few bars, adjusting the tuning this time.  The strings resonating comfort through his fingertips.  The smooth wood projecting solace and familiarity with the touch.  He played a few bars of his own personal bright and lively version of Malaguena.  Last night, the instrument had reflected his moody anxieties.  As music always did, it connected to his spirituality -- to emotions he could not vocalize or define.  Leaving him enriched, relaxed, and ready to face whatever the day might bring.

 

 

*****

 

 

The first blare from the phone startled Dan Williams to instant wakefulness.  Catching his breath, the echo of the loud and abrupt ring had not yet died when the persistent intrusion continued with a second buzz.

 

Suffering from grogginess due to a restless night, Williams blinked his eyes open, dismayed there was only faint light beyond his open window.  The air was warm and the Trade winds clean, carrying the faint scent of ocean and Pikake.  Distantly, waves crashed against the nearby reef.  Aside from the background rhythm, all was quiet in the pre-dawn morning.

 

Ring.

 

Except for that, he winced.  Reaching over, he grabbed for the phone, fumbling the instrument with a crash onto the table.  Already braced for an emergency, he felt unprepared for whatever bad news always accompanied an early wake up call.

 

Voice horse, throat dry from the short hours of slumbering inactivity, he croaked out a greeting.  No surprise, the person on the other end was of course his boss.  Jogging in twenty minutes?  Before he could respond yea or nay, the connection broke.  Jogging!  Well, it beat a few games of tennis.  Ever since Dan pushed Steve into learning to play tennis, Steve was a maniac about the game -- two mornings a week!  Maybe Dan should give in and go golfing with Steve!  Golfing had to be easier to face at this hour.

 

Tossing the receiver back on the cradle, he plopped onto an elbow, leaning close to the edge of the bed with a huge sigh of a groan, immediately followed by a wide yawn.  Longingly, he weakly punched the fluffy, soft pillow, the comfortably padded mattress, and nearly succumbed to the temptation of falling back to steal a few more precious moments of sleep . . . .

 

Gradually, the conversation with his boss repeated through his mental lethargy and his eyes blinked open with a little more cognizance both visually and mentally.  First, the longing to stay in the comfort of the bed predominated his thoughts, then the strident commends of McGarrett grew louder in his brain until the inevitability of it drove out the lingering vestiges of sleep and personal priorities.  Lastly, came the resigned acknowledgement that he was on a deadline and he surrendered to the injustice.

 

With a moan of physical discomfort; a body and mind lacking proper rest, he angled up to sit on the side of the bed.  Toes, then feet touched the Oriental rug as he yawned deeply, groaning aloud.  Rubbing his face with his hands, he paused there for a moment, preparing for the finale of relaxation for probably a long time.   Hitting the deck running was not an idle phrase with McGarrett around -- it was a way of life.

 

Rotating his shoulders, he considered maybe after work calling up Kiko, his Japanese masseuse . . . . After work.  That might not be until midnight considering the typical Five-0 schedule.  He would probably have to settle for a hot shower after the jog.

 

The jog -- what he anticipated as punishment for his unprepared body, was dreaded for more than one reason.  A call this early from Steve, demanding an unscheduled and gruelingly early run, meant McGarrett was distressed about yesterday.  That made two of them.

 

Dan had hoped this morning would bring with the bright new day a fresh perspective of the dangerous game played out yesterday afternoon.  Considering his restless night and the heaviness he still felt inside this morning -- and Steve’s obvious anxiety -- that was not to be achieved so easily.  They were not going to be able to ignore what they went through the last few days.  The near miss from death and danger was not going to easily go away for either of them.

 

Attitude and retrospection now altering, his kinks and aches dissolved, replaced by resolute purpose.  They were going to have to deal with the sniper and the shooting.  Easier said than done, he knew from bitter experience.  Committed to a cause, now, though, he crossed to his dresser and grabbed his jogging clothes, already working on an approach for the difficult discussion ahead.

 

 

*****

 

 

McGarrett barely paused to turn around in the driveway of the apartment building when Dan ran out to meet him.  With a wave and amused grin, he greeted his colleague, then set the pace for a brisk jog.  They coursed along Kalakaua Avenue and, to Steve’s surprise, his stride was matched by Williams, seemingly without effort.  Again, he reminded himself that Williams’ appearance was frequently misleadingly deceptive and misjudged by others, just usually not him.  It was not often he was taken off guard by his friend.  Despite his tired appearance, Dan was full of energy and competitive vigor.

 

“I guess I didn’t wake you too early after all,” he quipped.

 

“No,” Dan smiled, belaying the red rimmed eyes and the faint trace of dark circles.

 

McGarrett just smiled, reveling in the power of his feet pounding on the pavement, the scent of ginger, plumeria and hibiscus mingled with the salty air.  “Come on then,” he challenged as he set a steady rhythm, turning toward the sea.’’

 

As beads of sweat slid from his forehead, down the side of his face, along his neck to drench his t-shirt collar, he let each breath cleanse him.  He imagined the fresh morning as a combination cocktail of elements; crashing waves, sea mist, clean wind, tactile aromas of flowers in his lungs.  The heady concoction of sense and imagery coalesced into a metaphor of his time and place and space in this paradise island world.  

 

When they hit the beach, the texture beneath his tennis shoes changed to the cushioning sand.  His joints eased from the hard pounding on concrete, and his traction increased while his muscles worked harder pumping on the mushy sand.  Then they hit the hard-packed beach where wet surf made a line along Waikiki and the pace evened out on the soft-firm floor of the beach.  Granules of wet grains kicked up behind him and he felt some of them annoyingly trickle back into the space between his shoes and socks.  A disagreeable side effect of this route, but it was insignificant compared to the freshness of running right at the border-edge of the sea-foam and the land.

 

To Steve’s amused delight, Williams proved -- as he usually did -- that he was up to the early morning challenge.  Barely light -- the sun still captured behind the looming hulk of Diamond Head, with few tourists out this morning walking or jogging Waikiki -- they were nearly on their own as they raced into the grey horizon, the dusky sand at their right and the grey-blue ocean at their left. 

 

As they coursed around the few, slower kamaaina and malihini, they dodged the lapping waves and hotel workers preparing the famous beach for the rigorous influx expected later in the day.    Not only did Dan keep pace, but actually edged ahead several times, energy excelling his own.

 

Reaching the breakwater at the boundary of Fort DeRussey, they slowed, shifting to a less demanding pace as they turned up Kalia.  Dodging tour busses and garbage trucks, by the time they hit Lewers they slowed to a walk, coughing and making faces at the diesel fumes choking the narrow street-canyon towered by hotels.  In a comfortable stride, they passed closed shops and restaurants, reaching Kalakaua, then cutting their pace to an easy walk.

 

A few places were open for early breakfast, and the scent of fresh fruits and bacon, toast and baking breads assaulted them as they passed various doorways.  More Malihini gathered now as the day advanced.  Strolling or stopping to read menus, the newcomers wafted of coco butter -- lathered up to cook in the tropic Hawaiian sun so they could show off their stunning tourist-tan from paradise when they went back at the end of their week in Eden.  Smirking, Dan knew most of them would be as red as Pele’s hair, completely misjudging the intensity of the rays closer to the equator than they were accustomed to, and ignoring all warnings from locals to watch their time in the sun.  What a miserable plane trip most of them experienced -- a sad, final memory to take home form his islands.

 

Workers were sweeping the sidewalks in front of International Marketplace, brushing away the leaves and debris from the overnight showers.  Dan’s stomach growled as they passed Duke’s where the scent of fresh-baked homemade macadamia nut muffins assaulted them on a sensory level. 

 

“We’ll have to come back this way for breakfast,” he decided, hoping an innocuous line like that would open up the silently pensive McGarrett.

 

“Yeah, sounds good,” Steve replied, obviously preoccupied.

 

The sun was still not visible beyond the high rises, but the reflected rays cast an ever-brightening glow into the cobalt, cloud-draped sky visible overhead.  Little arcs of rainbows appeared and disappeared as the clouds shifted and the tone of the heavens altered with the angle of the sunlight and the breeze-altered wisps of sky-traveling white and grey.  The sidewalks and streets were damp from the recent misty rains during the night and their sneakers splashed in puddles, accentuating the freshness of the day with the sound of the water. 

 

At an intersection, they paused as a bus turned into a driveway.  Dan yawned, then coughed from the strong fumes clogging the air.

 

“I DID wake you up too early,” Steve smirked, not repentant in the least.

 

“I just didn’t sleep well.”  Aside from being the truth, it was an opening to their unspoken preoccupation.  “Kind of unsettled after yesterday.”

 

He cast a sideways glance at his tall friend and almost held his breath, hoping Steve would take the bait.  What could he add to the incredible understatement?  Unsettling.  Yeah, to have Steve and him don patrol uniforms and act as targets for a cop killer.  Insane was a more apt description of the stunt.  That the top two officers of Five-0 would literally put their lives on the front line as bait -- it was nuts! 

 

Characteristic of McGarrett to offer himself -- and Williams -- as the marks -- to be expected of the all-too-courageous boss to offer himself up on the tip of the sword.  That he knew Dan would go with him was not even discussed.  Nor did Dan offer any arguments -- well, he wouldn’t in front of Chief Charles of HPD.  He would never disagree with McGarrett in front of others. 

 

In the locker room, when they changed into HPD uniforms, it had hit home to Williams how vulnerable they would be as open targets.  As a beat cop, he had never felt so alone and under the gun.  Years later, donning the uniform again, he was all too aware of the cross hairs that could be trained on his back, or Steve’s, without them ever knowing.  Steve had never been a cop before Five-0 and had never worn a uniform as a cop.  This was so different from Five-0.  It was a crazy stunt!  And he let Steve know his objections:

 

‘There’s no reason we need to do this, Steve.  We can set up a trap --‘

 

‘I meant what I said to the chief, Danno.  We came up with the trap, we’re going to be the bait.’

 

‘You don’t know what it’s like out there, Steve --‘

 

‘This is our chance to end the killing, Danno, and I’m not going to pass it by.’

 

‘Then we should wear vests.’

 

‘Our sniper would spot them.  He’s smart.  No, we go in like a normal HPD patrol team.’  He smiled at the apprehension.  ‘I know it’s dangerous.  I’m not worried.  You’re watching my back.’

 

‘I hope that’s enough.’

 

To make it even worse, Steve wanted them to split up when they reached the apartment building.  Countering, Williams thought the plan too risky, but as usual, his objections were ignored.  Dan had gone in the back with his shotgun ready.  Steve had gone in alone to the underground parking area.  In hindsight, after they discovered who the sniper was, Dan realized -- in the sleepless hours of last night -- that he had barely -- terrifyingly close -- saved Steve’s life by coming in the back door when he did.

 

Timing, and Steve’s Irish luck, was with McGarrett.  Dan saved his life when he came in the back and surprised the killer.  Then, Steve saved Dan’s life by pushing him out of the way when the killer was discovered and turned on them.  Whether it was his bullet or Steve’s that took the wheelchair-assassin down they did not know.  They had come out of it alive, saving each other, watching each other’s back as Steve had predicted.

 

So where did they sort it all out today?  Obviously, they were still both upset about the events.  Did he thank Steve again?  Criticize him for the blatant heroism that McGarrett continually seemed to seek out?  Just keep silent and let it blow over?  No, he couldn’t do that this time as he did so often when cases were concluded in an unsatisfactory manner.  The cop killer was dead, yeah, but at what price?

 

“Steve, yesterday . . . . it was a close call,” was all he could come up with.  The image was hardly a breath away -- them staring at the wheelchair bound killer, who in that microcosm of frozen time had turned on them with a gun.  They recognized his threat as he realized their vulnerability.  It was a frozen moment of destiny where they narrowly averted tragedy.   “We just about ended up as dead bait.”

 

Stopping, McGarrett stared at him and it seemed he could see all the way through him with those acute blue eyes.  They pierced through, targeting his soul.  “We got our man.”

 

“Yeah, but not before he took out too many good cops,” Dan quietly countered.  “Not before he nearly took us out.”

 

McGarrett grew introspectively silent for a moment.  “Yeah.  And your timing was great.  I think you saved me from a shot in the back when you showed up.”

 

“And you pushed me out of the way.  You rolled the opposite way of protection because you were getting me out of the way.  I should be thanking you --“

 

“You did.”

 

“And I’m grateful.  But, it was all a crazy stunt -- showing up in uniforms as bait --“

 

“It worked.”

 

A bit irritated about the whole perilous affair, he shook his head.  “This time the bottom line is not what’s so important, Steve,” he adamantly rejected.  “Okay, we got the bad guy.  We stopped him from killing more cops,” he built up, warming to an old and sore point between them.  “You took -- you take -- too many risks with your life, Steve.  You’re the head of Five-0!”

 

The responding expression and tone were tough.  “Part of the job.”  The taller man sped up, a motion-move that indicated his side of the discussion was finished.

 

Williams shook his head, knowing it was futile to get McGarrett to see the danger he placed himself in all too often.  And he knew, unfortunately, all too soon they would have this same argument again.  He hoped someday he could win, before Steve’s risks made it a moot point.

 

 

*****

 

 

It was late and well past dark when McGarrett entered the quiet sanctuary of his apartment and flipped on the light.  Wearily, he crossed the comfortably furnished living room.  The soft carpet felt good on his tired feet.  Tempted to pause here on one of the rarely used plush sofas (unlike last night, he ruefully snickered) edged by tasteful end tables of native wood, decorated with a few artistic and elegant sculptures, he nevertheless forged on to the lanai doors.  He opened the mauka side first, then the Diamond Head glass doors.  The curtains flew against him, powered by the breeze flowing through the room.  Loosening his tie, he leaned on the lanai rail with both hands as he breathed in the crisp night air and closed his eyes to the stars, the lights.  He concentrated on the muted sound of traffic and the brush of wind in his ears, pushing his mind away from the stresses of the day -- days -- and allowing the natural wonders surrounding him to float away all cares.  At least temporarily. 

 

The thoughts pounded against the refuge of his tactile senses and he opened his eyes, searching for a plane in the sky or a speck of interest in Waikiki to draw his thoughts away from memories that would not be vanquished easily.  Demanding thoughts that would not be soothed away by the natural elements around him.

 

Danno had been right -- as he usually was.  It had been a foolish, reckless risk to offer up himself and his colleague as bait for a cop killer.  It had seemed only fair and right when he suggested it.  Justified because it WAS a Five-0 case.  Their responsibility.  The shortest, quickest path to the shooter.  And the most dangerous.

 

The peril seemed insignificant to him at the time.  When he expanded it to automatically include the friend whom he knew would volunteer with him, it HAD given him a few seconds of pause.  But weighed against the chance to catch their killer it was right.  More than right, it was necessary for him to do it.  They had to get the madman off the streets.  Who knew how many more cops could be killed if he was left at large.  Maybe Five-0 cops. 

 

As expected, privately, Danno had objected and Steve overrode his anxieties.  Danno was always his most staunch supporter, his most valued ally and adamant protector.  And, always the first and strongest to go against him if he felt the reasoning justified.

 

Returning to his living room, he removed his jacket, shoes and tie, then rewarded himself by plopping down on a sofa.  Picking up his guitar, he plucked out a lethargic rendition of his own little composition that he never seemed to play for more than a few bars. Never seemed to finish.  It seemed an apt metaphor to his own situation.  Plaintive notes resonating on the wind.  The product of an unsettled mind.

 

Why did he drive himself so relentlessly into danger?  He did not have a death wish.  It was his need to succeed at any cost, he supposed.  Certain in his skill, determination and drive that he would win the day.  So far, he had.  His conscience, however, could not escape Danno’s comments.  As always, his cautionary points were as accurate as his shooting skills and had perfectly targeted Steve’s motivations and flaws.  As he often was, Danno was right.  It had been a perilous stunt.

 

Flicking the strings with desultory indifference, leaning his head back on the sofa, he closed his eyes, wondered if he would ever change . . . .

 

 

PAU