NOTHING TO LOSE
by GM


As the Five-0 sedan screeched around the corner at Ala Moana Boulevard, Dan Williams gripped onto the armrest with one hand while holding the car mic with the other. After years as an officer of the state police force, Williams had adjusted to traveling with Hawaii's worst driver. Being a passenger in the boss' car was a kind of acid test --you either acclimated to the danger immediately or you acquired an ulcer. Whiplash became the most likely early injury sustained in the line of duty. Williams was convinced only Irish luck and guardian angels were responsible for Steve McGarrett claiming a flawless driving record.
"I can't believe Makai and Evans managed to escape," McGarrett muttered almost to himself. He swerved around an overloaded pineapple truck and soared back into the lane again. Williams and he had more on their minds than the traffic.
"At least HPD has them cornered." Williams tried to find something positive in the day. With Makai and Evans on the loose there was very little to be optimistic about.
The two criminals were vicious half-brothers whom Five-0 put away for murder years before. As his final HPD case before joining the state unit, Dan had been the arresting officer. Makai and Evans had no consciences. The brothers were sentenced to life terms -- the maximum penalty in Hawaii. Williams fought down a chill. No matter how many more killings they racked up, they had nothing to lose now.
"The apartment should be up here," Dan gestured. McGarrett braked as they came around the corner. Two HPD patrol cars diagonally blocked a parking lot for a two-story apartment complex. McGarrett drove around to an 'L' shaped office building behind the apartments. He slammed the black sedan to a halt in the corner, next to one of the squad cars. Two HPD officers were there conferring over a map spread across the hood of a blue and white.
"Better get your rifle, Danno," Steve advised as they leaped from the car. McGarrett's drew his .38.
Williams went to the trunk as McGarrett joined the HPD officers. The patrolmen explained Evans and Makai were inside one of the apartments. The front and rear of the building were covered by HPD. An unknown number of civilians were also in the complex, so at the moment they were at a standoff.
Automatically, Williams checked the sharpshooter rifle to make sure it was loaded. He packed a box of shells into his pocket and reached into the trunk for two bulletproof vests.
Metal abruptly exploded and splintered around him as gunshots tore into the trunk hood. Diving to the ground, he strained to stay behind cover while he trying to spot the direction of the sniper.
"Danno?"
"Okay, Steve!" he replied.
Concern was clear in his friend's voice. He couldn't see McGarrett or the officers, but he thought they were protected by the angle of the building while he was more in the open. A quick mental calculation of the direction of the bullets convinced him Evans and Makai were on the rooftop not inside the apartment.
'"Steve, watch the roof!" Dan yelled.
Just as the words left his mouth a barrage of gunfire strafed the car and pavement near him. He ducked his head, protecting his eyes from the flying shrapnel. At the first abeyance in the firing, he instantly aimed over the top of the trunk, he scanned the rooftop for the sniper. The figure of a man with a rifle popped up, then dropped out of sight simultaneously as Dan aimed and fired. He riddled the rooftop with bullets, then paused. From the corner of his eye he saw the bright reflection of sunlight on metal to his left.
Only a split second passed as his surprised mind tried to take in the facts as he turned to aim and fire at this new target. He had miscalculated and somehow missed the shooter! Or were both Makai AND Evans armed with rifles? The new position was far more dangerous than the last, he knew, firing toward the new location. Bullets mowed into the car from somewhere on his right. Leaping clear, he barely had time to think which direction to run to avoid the deadly path. Offered no choice, he scrambled to the side of the car, scanning the roof for another shooter.
Revolver fire answered back from the other end of the lot. Dan noted Duke Lukela and two other uniformed men at the corner of the apartment building. Duke motioned for him to make a dash for their safe position. He waited for a pause in the firing, then ran for the corner.
Lead pocked around the asphalt near his feet as he raced for shelter. Then came the ominous sound of lead-on-metal again, but from a different location. Bullets were now pelting the two squad cars. Snipers from two directions again. Evans and Makai had them pinned. Dan skidded around the corner and joined Duke along the wall. The other two officers were gone, hopefully up to the roof to find the shooters. Dan glanced back to the parking lot to check on McGarrett.
Every nerve in Williams' body seemed to freeze in that instant. McGarrett's still form was sprawled face down on the pavement. Both patrolmen were lying near him, just as motionless.
'"Steve!"
There was a moment of instant panic when fear flooded over reason and survival. He automatically started back to help McGarrett, but Duke grabbed his arm.
"It's suicide, Danny," Duke warned tersely. "He could be dead. It won't do any good if you join him!"
Williams groaned as he leaned his head against the wall, accepting the logic but hating to obey it.
Raising his head he stared at McGarrett's form for a long time, not focused on the body at all. "He can't be dead, Duke. We have to get him out of there. He could be bleeding to death!"
"Danny, there's an ambulance and more backup units --"
Gunshots rang out again. Dan started, but realized the bullets were not directed at their position. The echo of shouts came from the other side of the apartment building. Duke barked into his radio mic and demanded a report from his officers.
"Tom is down," came the static laced reply. The voice on the other end was breathless and filled with fear. "We can't get on the roo -- " The connect ion was broken.
Duke balled up a fist and pounded the wall. "Butchers!" He had just lost four HPD men and one Five-0 boss.
"They'll pay for this," Dan promised in a raspy threat.
Lukela looked at Dan, almost daring the young man to make a foolish move. He was not about to lose another friend. "Don't you dare run out and get yourself killed, too, Danny!"
Dan patted his shoulder. "Go see if you can help them." He urged with heartfelt compassion, "Be careful. And no heroics!"
With a tone matching his level gaze Lukela responded, "I think I need to give you the same advice."
Williams stared at the still form of McGarrett. "We've got to get those animals off the roof. But I promise not to do anything stupid."
With a terse nod Duke disappeared.
The shooting started again, this time into the courtyard, at the cars in the lot. In sickening surrealism Dan watched as one of the officers jerked as bullets impacted with the inert figure.
"Come on out and join your pig friends, Williams!" came a taunting voice.
Evans, Dan identified. The nastier, more vicious and deranged of the two brothers. Dan would never forget that deep voice. It had haunted him for many nights after the trial. After sentencing Evans had shouted explicit threats to all officers responsible for putting the brothers in jail. Dan did not consider replying to the taunts. His mind was racing through possible ploys to get McGarrett out of the line of fire and get Evans and Makai off the roof.
"Don't even think about it" came the tight warning from Lukela, who had just returned. "You' d never have a chance, Danny."
The firing resumed. This time with a frenzied zeal which elevated Dan's fear to a near panic level. The cars in the lot were being chopped to shreds by the mad barrage of lead. The criminals were crazy, of course, destroying everything and everyone in their path until someone could stop them.
Suddenly the far patrol car exploded in a blinding wall of flame and raining metal. Dan watched as, in a kind of slow motion, trickles of gasoline ran down the asphalt toward the second HPD car and the Five-0 sedan. The fuel was draining near, too near, where McGarrett was prone. Without a second thought Dan dropped his rifle and ran full tilt toward the Mercury. He dove head first and rolled on the far side of the car. Bullets pummeled into the sedan. He knew it would be only seconds before the Five-0 car also exploded from the deadly rain of lead.
He reached McGarrett and pulled the body along the sheltered side of the sedan. As he paused to get a better grip on his friend he drew his revolver from the holster. It was a ridiculously inadequate hand weapon against an automatic rifle, or two, but he might need it to force Evans' and Makai's heads down long enough for him to get around the far, street-side corner with his burden. Hoisting Steve over his shoulder he scurried toward the corner. Hearing gunfire, he only vaguely noted pellets of asphalt kicking up around his ankles as the shots turned in his direction. Racing around the corner he nearly slipped down a sloping landscape leading down to the sidewalk and street. He came to rest in the shade of a large mover's van parked at the side of the building.
Spent and out of breath he placed McGarrett on the ground then collapsed against the wall. He put down his weapon and checked his friend for a sign of life. Steve was bleeding from a wound along the back of the head; face neck and clothes were awash with blood. Dan started to breath again as he pressed his fingers against a steady pulse along Steve's neck. Steve was alive! The relief was so overwhelming it almost physically hurt his chest with overpowering emotion. To ease the ache and his stressed lungs, he leaned back to allow the power of released stress to subside. Then he took his handkerchief and held it to Steve's wound to stay the blood. Head wounds were always excessively bloody and difficult to diagnose, so he was content to simply appreciate that Steve was alive.
From a distance he could hear the approach of sirens as more backup units came to the scene. Amazingly, only a matter of minutes had passed since they had arrived and the world started to explode on them. With the crisis of Steve's life momentarily settled Dan's thoughts traveled to less critical puzzles.
Why the violent shoot out? What were Evans and Makai after? They must know they could never get off the rock. Desultorily he kicked the tire of the van, frustrated he could not grasp the answer which was just beyond the conscious reach of his thoughts. The van, he reasoned as he kicked the tire again. Similar to the van used years ago when the criminals were pulling their armed robberies.
Without knowing exactly how the instinctive mental connection clicked, he knew he had just solved the puzzle. The elaborate violence had been a smoke screen to make them think Evans and Makai were holed up in the apartment building. The angles of the barrage of bullets indicated shifting positions, ending on the right. Somehow, without being seen, one or both of the criminals switched locations from the apartment building to the office building. Where they could easily make their way to this van to use as an escape vehicle.
The shadow which fell on the sidewalk near the corner was the final domino falling into place. Dan reached for his revolver as Fred Makai rounded the corner, a hand casually draped in a hip pocket and no weapon in the free hand. Makai stopped cold, completely surprised at the sight of Dan. Makai moved. Williams aimed and fired without hesitation.
Makai was thrown back and rolled down the landscaped incline to sprawl across the curb on the street below. Dan scrambled through the brush after the killer, revolver trained on the unmoving form partially slumped in the gutter. An HPD car skidded to a stop a few feet away. Weapons drawn on the suspect, two officers leaped from the vehicle and ran across the street in support of Williams. One of the patrolmen knelt by the body and felt for a pulse. A subtle shake of the head said it all.
'"Pau," said the other officer. "We'll take care of this scum, Danny," he promised and kicked the lifeless body. All of HPD must have heard of the massacre. There was no sympathy here for cop killers. "What about the other one?"
"Still at large," Williams assumed. "Watch your backs. Evans is on a rampage."
"We heard there were officers down," commented the patrolman by Makai's body.
Dan glanced up the hill at his friend. "Yeah. Where's the ambulance?"
"It was right behind us."
Williams nodded, then started back toward McGarrett. The post-shooting details could be left in other hands now. His foremost concern was to get Steve to a hospital.
*****
Williams stayed with his friend until the nurses literally pushed him from the emergency room. It was only then, when an aggressive RN had fits about the drips of blood trailing in his wake, did he notice the slight wounds on the back of his calf. Nor had he been aware of the minor burns along his arm where his jacket sleeve was singed from the explosion.
As Dan sat in the waiting room he had time to take account of his own pains and reactions to the afternoon. Fatigued, sore and in desperate need of a bath, he ran shaky hands through his sweaty, sand-colored hair. For a second wished he had not given up smoking. He had abandoned the nasty habit years before because of Steve's intense disapproval of smoking. At least a cigarette would have given his hands some kind of busy work. He fished in his pocket for a stick of gum and realized he left his pack back at the office.
Little annoyances, insignificant minutia, helped keep his mind off Steve. His superior had not looked good on the ride in. 'Head wounds . . . they can be tricky,' he forced himself to finish lamely, not wanting to think the worst.
The gauze on his leg itched and he resisted the urge to scratch. Instead he stalked to the nurses' station and commandeered the phone. Again. The head nurse gave him yet another dirty look, but remained stubbornly silent.
"Any word on Evans, yet, Duke?" he asked when finally patched through to the HPD sergeant.
There was clear hesitation on the other end. "Nothing, bruddah." No news was bad news this time. Unspoken was the sentiment that every cop in the department wanted Evans so badly they could scream. "How's Steve?"
"No news," Williams replied tersely. "Let me know if anything breaks."
"You know it," Duke promised. Again.
It was like life had entered some kind of distorted time warp, Dan imagined. Another hospital; Steve hurt again, another killer on the loose. If only he had hit Evans that first shot none of this would have happened. Steve and Tom Greer wounded, three others dead. He could have prevented it all if he had just killed Evans! With a curse he slammed down the phone and walked back to the waiting room.
"Don't you have work to do somewhere else, officer?" the head nurse forcefully suggested.
From somewhere he drugged up the patience to deal with the testy woman. "My job is going to be here for awhile, he responded evenly. "You better get used to it."
Clearly unhappy with the answer the nurse turned away and attended to her duties. Without really wanting to listen, the nurse's question kept echoing in his thoughts. 'No, I do not have work elsewhere. My job is here till I know Steve's going to be all right!' he asserted.
As usual during these interludes where Steve was wounded and Dan in command of some desperate situation, he wondered about his priorities. Should he be out in the field overseeing the investigation? Should he be here at the hospital where he accomplished nothing, but where his heart and mind remained until he knew McGarrett's condition? As usual, his heart, not his reason, won the debate and here he would remain.
He had already set the wheels in motion by putting Chin on the manhunt for Evans. There were guards placed in the hospital to protect Steve. He had given Duke a sketchy report on the shooting of Makai and his actions during the fire fight. Ben had gotten the really tough job of accompanying Chief Dann to notify three households where the HPD officer in the family was KIA. Officer Tom Greer barely clung to life in ICU. Better off than his partner who was one of the patrolmen killed in action.
A welcome break in the waiting came in the form of John Manicote. Sitting down next to Dan, he asked after Steve. Subdued and sympathetic about McGarrett, he went on to ask for an unofficial statement on the whole mess. Officers on the scene filled in most of the details, he assured. Then he asked Dan to describe Makai's shooting.
"Did he fire first?" he asked after Dan's report.
"No. I fired as soon as I saw him."
John slowly nodded his head. "Self defense?"
Dan gave a nod, the clear memory of Makai reaching behind his back confirming his actions. "Yeah. He had a weapon behind his back."
"Then you saw a weapon?"
The line of questioning finally filtering through his preoccupied thoughts, Dan stared at the DA. "Saw a weapon? John, he was a murderer! He came around the corner, about the draw a weapon! Steve was lying in my arms bleeding to death and -- "
"Danny! Hold on! I'm not doubting what happened, okay! Just -- I have to know some facts, Danny. Officer Lewis, the first patrolman on the scene after the shooting."
"Yeah, he was the one to check Makai and pronounced him dead."
"Danny, Officer Lewis reported Makai had no weapon in his hand and they couldn't find one on the body. Any idea what happened to it?"
Surprise made Dan blink and his mind seemed to pause. No weapon. The facts, recalled with clarity, reviewed again in his mind. Stunned at the realization, Williams couldn't believe what he had done.
"John, I never saw a gun," he slowly admitted. "But he was reaching back -- I thought he -- " Dan gulped down the knot in his dry throat. Leaning his head against the wall he mentally replayed the scene again and again behind closed eyes. It never changed. There was no visible weapon. "I thought he was going for a gun," he finished in a whisper.
"Hey, it's all right," Manicote assured. Williams stared at the lawyer. There was an odd, conspiratorial look in the DA's eyes. "You were defending your life, Danny. Five other officers were down, including Steve. Don't sweat it."
"Makai -- was unarmed," Dan whispered to himself.
Manicote didn't even blink. After all, he had been stung, too. Evans and Makai could not be given any more harsh sentences than what they were already serving. They would literally be getting away with murder. Maybe Steve's. One more injustice than the DA could take.
"He was a murderer, Danny. He almost killed Steve. Don't worry about it," he said meaningfully. "Enough said. I'm labeling it justified homicide in the line of duty. No need for an inquiry." It would be pushed under the rug. Manicote, HPD, even Five-0 would enter into the minor conspiracy of silence and protection. John patted his shoulder. "I have things to do. Say hi to Steve when he's awake. I'm sure he'll be okay."
Manicote left and any question of guilt was over as far as official departments were concerned. If Steve were here the DA would never sweep the incident under the rug. With McGarrett wounded and the assailants ineligible for further punishment, things were different.
Dan thought back to the encounter, a long time ago, of his first killing. The victim had possessed a gun but it could not be found when the investigation team arrived. Later he was cleared when the gun was returned. Just a year ago he had shot a kid who was an accessory to robbery, but had been armed only with a soldering-iron. It had been just after a good friend, a cop, had been murdered. The press had demanded Dan's badge, labeling him a hot head out for revenge. If public opinion thought him vengeful last year, there would be no mercy for him over today's shooting.
This time there had been no pistol, only cold-blooded murder with hate and vengeance on the trigger. Hatred of Evans and Makai for hurting Steve and the others. That's the way the press would see it; the way any jury would judge it. That's how Dan saw it. Most cutting of all; that's what Steve would know.
That first killing, Steve had been hard on Dan, who'd been hard on himself.
'It better hurt everytime,' Steve had said. 'You learn to live with it but don't get used to it.'
It didn't hurt at all this time. Williams reached far into himself and tried to define the emotions that swirled and tore through his system. His hands shook from overtaxed nerves now in repose. His fatigued mind burdened with concern for Steve and regret for the men who had died. There was a thread of hatred running through his emotions, too, hatred toward Evans, who had caused all the misery he was experiencing.
Significantly, there was no regret, no remorse, no guilt over the killing of Makai. Beyond the mild satisfaction of removing a blight from the Island, he was amazingly calm over the whole incident. He had shot down an unarmed man in cold blood and felt nothing over ending that life. That he did not question this null reaction was the thing that worried him most.
'As long as Steve doesn't find out.' The thought whipped through his mind like a rapier, leaving an aching wound behind. It seemed an odd comment on his life when he cared more about the opinions of one man than he did about killing a person. When that man was McGarrett it was no surprise. Steve was his mentor, his closest friend. He would do anything for McGarrett. Anything.
For the first time in their association, he found he had something to hide from Steve. It made him feel sick inside. Steve was the most noble man he'd ever known. Steve/Five-0/integrity were synonymous. Any member of the unit had to be above reproach. Anyone earning Steve's respect and friendship had to equal Steve's own code of ethics.
Somehow, at sometime, through the crime and danger he lived with every day, his naive humanity had been stripped away and he no longer felt anything at killing another human being. The only emotions burning in his chest were feelings of regret that he had broken Steve's rules of conduct and he no longer belonged within the elite, honorable unit of Hawaii Five-0.
He should confess as soon as Steve recovered. Yet if Steve found out Dan would lose everything; his job, most importantly Steve's respect and friendship -- everything he held dear. Better to join in Manicote's conspiracy of silence than destroy his life and Steve's precious Five-0. Because any disgrace to himself would reflect directly back to the organization and to Steve. That was why he had turned in his badge last year after shooting the kid. He wanted to take the heat alone, not drag Steve down with him. Steve, loyal, stubborn and rebellious to a fault, had disagreed and fought, successfully, to clear Dan.
When the emergency doctor swept through the doors Williams sprang to his feet. Only concerns for McGarrett filled his mind. "How is he?"
"He'll live."
It was a casual, throw-away cliché' that meant very little to the young doctor. Dan nearly sagged with relief at the simple phrase. The majority of his fear was now assuaged by the positive report.
"How serious is the head wound?"
The physician had been unfortunate enough to have run-ins with Five-0 before. His responses displayed his lack of respect for the beleaguered detectives. "You know McGarrett's hard head," he quipped. "Probably the best place for him to get hit." At Dan's scowl of anger the physician amended, "He's got a concussion and a hairline skull fracture. The bullet more or less creased the back of his head. Enough damage to keep him underfoot here for awhile, but nothing too serious."
It sounded serious to the over-protective Williams, but not enough to cloud his initial elation at the news that Steve would be all right. Alive. That was the most important thing.
The doctor insisted Dan leave and stop cluttering the hospital. He promised to call Five-0 as soon as McGarrett could receive visitors. Dan lingered until he saw Steve wheeled away. The boss didn't look good, and the bandages swathing his head were rather ominous, but McGarrett's wounds were once again repairable.
*****
Wakefulness was elusive and disorienting in the initial attempts he made. McGarrett felt fuzzy and sore and very tired. His memory faded in and out and caused him a great deal of confusion. It was sunny and bright when he awoke this time with a good sense of clear awareness. Morning, he could tell, from the shadows on the wall; the sun on the high rises outside his window, the sound of traffic.
"Good morning, Steve," was a softly spoken greeting.
McGarrett glanced over to see Sergeant Lukela sitting near the window. Duke had been there before, he remembered vaguely. Duke, Chin, Ben, nurses, and HPD officers. Lots of nurses. And Danno. Danno had been there many times, when the room had been in darkness and when it had been bathed in light.
"How long have I been here?"
"Three days. Do you remember what happened?"
He strained to recall why he was in the hospital this time. Gun battle. Makai and Evans. Duke did not volunteer many details, save to report Evans still on the loose and Dan had killed Makai. There was a strange note of unholy satisfaction in that last detail. Some alarm in his mind sounded at the tone used in connection with Makai. He didn't like the instinctive suspicions rising in his thoughts.
"Where' s Danno?"
"Checking out a lead about Evans in Makaha. I better call him. I promised to let him know when you were back to your old self."
An officer came in to spell Duke. Through careful and subtle interrogation McGarrett discovered he had round the clock protection in and out of the room. He discovered law enforcement in Oahu virtually come to a standstill except for the pursuit of Evans. Steve didn't like the sound of that. Again, the tone in the voice of this officer was like Duke's tone. There was an underlying vendetta mentality at work here. HPD and Five-0 had been hurt. The officers had taken it personally. At the end of the fatiguing conversation his bodyguard concluded the manhunt was a personal chase for revenge spearheaded by Dan Williams.
In the next few hours several officers came in to rotate guard duty inside the room. McGarrett found them more than willing to discuss the case, Evans and Williams. Particularly those officers who did not know McGarrett well, he found to be rather garrulous on their praise of Williams' handling of the situation. The more he heard the more worried he became; about the case, about Dan.
*****
Late afternoon brought different shadows to the room and McGarrett dozed in and out of consciousness. The quiet murmur of voices lulled him from sleep and he opened his eyes to see Dan dismissing the HPD watchdog.
"You think Evans will come after me, obviously." McGarrett said dryly, nodding toward the departed officer. The movement made his head ache and he groaned, closed his eyes, and waited for the pain to subside.
"Yeah," Dan whispered in reply. "Just trying to be careful."
Steve opened his eyes. He warned Evans would be after Williams, too. After all Dan had pulled the trigger on Makai. Dan flinched at the warning, but brushed it aside. McGarrett studied his young friend. Dan had been through a lot and it showed in every line etched on the tired face. There was so much he wanted to say to Dan. As usual, when it came to expressing feelings, appropriate words elusively skittered away.
"Thanks, Danno," McGarrett finally, quietly stumbled out. "Duke told me how you saved my hide." Dan's face clouded with embarrassment. He tried to keep it light, the way they always did, but there was no matching acknowledgment in Dan's face. His clear, Pacific-blue eyes were haunted by something Steve did not recognize, nor like there.
"If I wouldn't have missed Evans in the first place . . ." he trailed off.
'That explains this guilt you're carrying around,' McGarrett realized.
"Nevermind," Williams continued. "You need your rest. Your head isn't as hard as we all think." He attempted a grin with the quip but the humor did not reflect in his eyes.
Too tired to debate, Steve offered a nod of agreement. There was something different in Dan's demeanor, beyond the initial guilt of missing Evans. Steve couldn't place it. He found complex thought impossible because of his concussion-fuzzed mind. What he did know was that there was a distance between them he didn't understand. Frustratingly, he did not feel up to investigating the problem.
It wasn't until after Dan left and he dozed off again that his subconscious ferreted out the answer. Snatched phrases from the HPD officers; comments from Ben, opinions from Chin. Most telling of all, Dan's attitude, his edginess on the subject of Makai.
'Danny killed Makai,' Duke had said in that tone which all at once spoke of payment rendered and blood washed clean. 'Danny killed Makai.' In cold blood was the unspoken codicil. Even in his dreamy, unconscious state, McGarrett's heart sank at the consequences of the shooting match.
Sometime in the dark hours before dawn Steve came to full and coherent wakefulness. He felt disappointment mingled with a cautionary warning of impending danger. Not for himself, but for Dan. Evans would be after Dan. Because Evans was a man of twisted, but powerful passion. He had, in his own fashion, loved Makai. He would be after those responsible for killing his half brother. Love, in any form, could drive a man to do incredible things. Motivated from the love of friendship Dan had bravely risked his life by snatching Steve from the fiery flames of death. It would not be beyond Dan, or himself he guessed, to be driven to other impulsive, insane acts in the name of love. Or revenge.
Dan was everything Evans was not and could never be. Dan had everything bright and just and true ahead of him in life. Evans was already a blackened and scarred spirit who wanted to take down as many good people as he could before he went down himself. He was a loser with nothing left to lose.
Dan had everything to lose. If he didn't come to term with the shooting, he could very well lose it all through self-condemnation. Once a good cop lost his self esteem he could no longer live with himself and no longer function as an officer.
McGarrett wondered about his own role in this mss. Any other cop would be up on charges for killing an unarmed man -- no matter how heinous that criminal was. The fact that Dan was the killer changed everything and Steve was the first to admit it. Not just because of favoritism and the desire to protect his friend. There were deeper waters here. He trusted Dan so implicitly he would never, never question him. If Dan, in that microcosm of time, felt he had to kill Makai, then Steve would support that decision, with or without supporting physical evidence.
Whether it was legal or moral or right, he would back Dan to the wall on this one. His reasons were purely emotional. At that critical moment Dan had felt, emotionally, the action was justified and that was all the justice McGarrett needed. Steve would not question his own ethics too closely because he refused to lose Dan no matter what the circumstances.
*****
Several days passed without a visit from Williams. In that time McGarrett continued to improve. He pestered the doctor for a release. Until then he used his time to gather information on the shooting. Every cop who knew of Evans and Makai wanted to kill them. McGarrett couldn't believe, or couldn't accept, that Dan would shoot down anyone in cold blood. The Five-0 staff, the officers, even Manicote, never came out and admitted Dan had killed Makai in cold blood. They all believed it, he felt. Judging from the silence from Dan, he, too believed it. Did McGarrett? Did it matter? His high opinion of Dan was unchanged despite this incident.
The doctor finally wore down and on Doc Bergman's recommendation agreed to release Steve. The physician could no longer endure McGarrett's cranky obstreperous attitude anyway and gladly signed McGarrett out with a warning to watch for double vision or bad headaches. Steve had requested Dan to be the one to come for him.
A light knock sounded at the door. Williams poked his head around the door and Steve motioned for him to enter. Steve was moving slowly around the room collecting the gear. Several minutes went by before he noted the acute silence.
His mind was moving like it was underwater. Ceasing the packing he faced his second-in-command. Williams' fair face showed the haggard fatigue of sleepless nights and unhappy days. McGarrett's first instinct was about Five-0. What had gone wrong while he was out of touch? He stopped and really looked at his friend. The trouble wasn't about the police unit. It was something wrong inside Danno. He had seen this type of reaction last year over the shooting of kid and everyone cried vengeance shooting. Guilt. Dan believed he'd killed Makai in cold blood.
McGarrett took a seat on the edge of the bed. "Want to tell me about it?"
Dan exhaled in a long, shaky breath. "No," he admitted half-heartedly. He shook his head. "I don't know where to start."
"How about at the shooting?" was Steve's gentle suggestion.
Dan swallowed hard. "You know."
"I don't know anything," he firmly refuted. "Not until you tell me what happened."
Dan looked down at his feet. His voice was quiet and unsteady. "I was afraid to tell you.
The confession confused Steve. "Why?"
"This time the truth hurts like never before. I've failed you."
"Danno --"
Williams looked up. "Makai didn't have a weapon, Steve!" he blurted, as if rushing through the confession would be easier.
"You didn't know that."
"I could have waited!"
"You used cop judgment --"
"I shot first!"
"No, not you, Danno --"
"Steve, there was no gun!"
The words were flung back and forth, hot and sharp between them like traded shards of shrapnel. McGarrett pressing, Dan confessing. At the last phrase Williams sharply turned his back on his boss and leaned against the nearest wall.
"We've been through this before, Danno," he reminded softly. He had not given up on his friend last year, or now. "You don' t respond that way, Danno. Not for revenge or malice or --"
With a hand waved in surrender Dan said, "When Makai came around that corner I didn't wait I just pulled the trigger. I wanted him dead."
"You thought he had a gun. No cop could think differently after what we went through."
Dan shook his head, unconvinced. "I wanted to kill him and Evans after what happened to you. When I thought you were dead --something died inside of me, too. I'm just sorry I've failed you."
McGarrett stepped over and placed his hands on Dan's shoulders. For several minutes he didn't speak. He wanted to control the unsteadiness hovering with his own high emotions. He needed to sort through his own feelings. How could Dan get things so twisted? How had he failed? Risking his life for a friend? Allowing the life of that friend to be more important than the life of a criminal? Shooting a killer before Dan himself was killed? Somewhere in the muddle of feelings and motivations the importance of Makai and Evans disappeared. This was not about murder at all. This was about life and death and friendship intermingled until they were too complex to separate or understand.
Steve cleared away the lump in his throat. "You're not a killer, Danno. I know you," he began.
The words were inadequate but a place to start. What could he say? He had heard about Dan's foolish rescue under fire; a manifestation of a loyalty, devotion so intense it frightened Steve. He had trouble talking about and handling feelings. How could he respond now when emotions were flooding into the open? Dan had been pushed to the edge because of him, and he was incapable of even a proper thanks.
"You have not failed me," he continued. McGarrett was determined to force at least a few of his true feelings into words. An instinctive extension of his anger and frustration, he made a fist with his right hand and lightly pounded Dan's shoulder. "Your confidence is shaken. You' re under the screws now. Trust me, will you? We'll work it out together. Give us some time."
Dan turned to face him. Surprise replaced the disconsolation on his expressive face, yet dread shaded his eyes. "You haven't been listening to the news this morning?"
Mutely Steve shook his head, then regretted it. He returned to sit on the bed. Dan took a folded newspaper from his jacket pocket and after an instant of hesitation placed it in McGarrett's hand.
"Evans sent a letter to the paper and TV stations," he began. His forced-calm voice cracked under the strain. "He accuses me of murdering Makai."
Even with a pounding headache McGarrett snapped out, "He's a criminal!"
"He's a murderous lunatic!" Dan shouted back. At McGarrett's wince he whispered, "Sorry, Steve. It's just all so damn maddening" he replied with a sigh of hopelessness. "A few days ago life was so normal. Now it's I'm living a nightmare."
Dan took some deep breaths and leaned against the nearest wall, reclaiming his nerves from the edge of desperation. Strain and fatigue were pushing the younger man to the panic point. The physical distance between them denoted more bad news and McGarrett braced himself.
In a low voice Dan continued acidly. "Evans wants me to pay for my crime. At a press conference at noon today I'm supposed to confess." His tone sobered. "If I don't comply he's going to start a blood bath."
Steve's first instinct was to scoff, to mock the idea. The thought of this insane criminal holding his friend ransom was ludicrous. A glance at Dan's guilt-ridden face stopped him from any rash comments.
Dan was really suffering on this one and no amount of blustering McGarrett offered would help. Dan had never lost that extreme sensitivity he had possessed when he started with Five-0. It was part of the reason he was such a good cop. It also caused a lot of unnecessary guilt, Steve thought.
"You can't do it." It was a quiet, flat, absolute final statement.
"Steve --"
"Danno, if you do his bidding every public figure in the world will be blackmailed. And your credibility is shot!"
"What does it matter?" he replied darkly. "I'm finished anyway. There are already rumors --"
"Damn the rumors! You're not finished until I fire you!" Steve snapped.
"Then why don't you?" It was the tortured question of the condemned man wondering when the blade was going to fall. "I murdered a man in cold blood! Then I lied to you about it! Why don't you fire me!"
They were cutting through the guilt to some deep insecurities. Steve wanted to tread very carefully here. His friend was exposed and vulnerable. A wrong word now would seal shut the honesty opening up new levels to their relationship.
"Because you shot someone who might have been unarmed?" he countered in a calm, reasonable tone. "Or because you killed someone you really wanted to kill and now you want to be punished because the vengeance is so satisfying?"
Surprise and disturbance swirled in Williams' azure eyes. He bit his lip and ruminated for several minutes. "I don't know."
"I do, McGarrett returned forcefully. "I know you don't kill for vengeance. Until we can investigate further that's all I need to know!" The outburst brought on another wave of pain and McGarrett held his head for a moment. With his head throbbing like this it was hard to be involved with anything beyond flipping TV channels! He felt like an invalid and the thought made him more angry and more anxious to get directly involved with the case.
Williams exhaled slowly. "Steve, -- calm down, please." He helped ease McGarrett into a comfortable position leaning on the bed.
For once the head of Five-0 saw an advantage to being on the injured list. He was not above using sympathy to manipulate his friend. "Then don't even think about this public confession idea. I won't let you do it!"
"All right, all right," Dan promised instantly. He slumped into the only chair in the room. "Talk about blackmail," he muttered in mock reproval, just loud enough for McGarrett to hear. The amusement brought slight grins to them both. "Then what do we do, Steve? If he kills anyone else it will be on my head."
"We can't control a madman, Danno. But I do have a plan."
For the first time since the bad business began, Dan's face brightened.
It wasn't a very good plan, Steve thought. Still, it was worth it just for the hope it returned to his young colleague's face. "More of a notion than a plan. Have Chin and Ben meet us at the apartment building."
"What good that will do?"
McGarrett checked his watch. "We've got to start somewhere, Danno. And with only about two hours until the deadline, I think the scene of the crime is a good place to begin."
Before Dan made a move he looked levelly at Steve. "Mahalo."
McGarrett waved aside the thanks. There was a lot more to be said over this, but it would have to wait until later. The first priority was to get a clear picture of the crime.
*****
The sedans parked on the street at the back of the office building. Rain clouds were low, sealing in the humidity and giving the day a gray, dusky quality. The fresh smell of rain blew in on the moisture-laden, briny edge of the light Trades. It had been hot and sunny the day of the shooting. Strange the things one remembered, McGarrett thought. Memories were hazy bits and pieces of that eventful day.
There was a morbid temptation to go around to the courtyard where he had been shot. He resisted the urge. His flashbacks were unclear and disjointed. A return would not help him sort out the memories, nor would it help Dan. Five-0's second in command was standing near the corner of the building. Dark stains on the concrete remained -- McGarrett's blood. Unsettled, Dan finally tore his gaze away from the evidence and the memory.
"I had just run around the corner and put you on the ground," he explained.
As McGarrett had requested, Dan narrated the details of the shooting. Step by step he went through the motions. Ben was an obliging double for Makai. Steve and Chin stood back and watched. Ben came around the corner at a run. Dan went for his revolver, pretended to fire and froze; his face pale and sweaty, his gun hand shaking. For him it was too exact of a reenactment.
McGarrett joined him and lowered the gun. "Danno?"
Shaken, Dan remained on his knees.
McGarrett realized it had been a mistake to play out such a wounding moment for Williams. Instead of clearing away questions it had solidified Dan's own guilt.
"You saw it Steve."
Glancing at the others, he realized there was regret and embarrassment on their faces. He had misjudged the impact this would have on everyone. The secret was out now; a tangible reenactment -- a killing this time more or less witnessed by them all. Dan was no longer sheltered by their protective silence. Their judgments of justifiable homicide were based on Dan's actions, not his perception of the incident. Replaying the scene gave it a sense of reality lacking in their imaginations. They all wanted to believe Dan was being too hard on himself and somehow got the facts wrong about the shooting. Now, there seemed no doubt. Makai rounded the corner and Williams fired without waiting for any threatening behavior from the criminal.
Still not accepting the obvious, McGarrett urged Dan to his feet. "Let's try something else."
This time Chin acted as the shooter and Ben again as the victim. McGarrett and Dan stood near Ben. This perspective was much better. It got Dan's mind off the trigger angle and pulled out standard police facts. Where did the body fall? Which way did it roll? Instinct returned automatically and Dan snapped into an investigative mode.
Ben came around the corner, hand behind his back. Suddenly Steve knew! He nearly shouted out his excitement, but let Dan walk through the motions of the falling body. Makai had been hit in the chest. He had been flung over a bush and rolled down the landscaped hill through some low shrubs.
Steve studied the scene, more certain of his facts as each detail clicked in his mind. Too impatient to wait for Dan's conclusions, he could no longer contain his elation. "Makai and Evans had an MO for their robberies. Where did they keep their weapons, Danno?"
Like a student hit with an on-the-spot quiz, Dan took a moment to think. "Automatics tucked --" his eyebrows shot up - "in the back of their waistbands!"
"Exactly!" Steve barked. "You KNEW that Danno! That was the key to arresting them when you were with HPD! You remembered -- you KNEW their MO and it saved your life back then! Three days ago you remembered it then, too, when you pulled the trigger! When Makai rolled down the hill the pistol had to have fallen out and under the brush."
He ordered his men to check under the big bush and around the nearby shrubs. The three of them scurried in the dirt on their stomachs and knees while McGarrett leaned against the wall.
"Got it!" Ben shouted. He removed a pencil from his jacket and used it to pick up an automatic pistol.
"All right!" McGarrett shouted and clapped his hands together. Dan was still on the ground. As McGarrett went by he slapped his friend on the shoulder. "There it is, Danno."
Williams scrambled to his feet and joined the others. Chin placed the weapon in an evidence bag and handed it to Dan.
"How did we miss it?" Chin wondered.
"I think we were all caught up in other things," Steve answered.
His own excuse was the continued muzziness from his head wound. The HPD and Five-0 officers had simply believed the initial eyewitness reports without question. Dan had been too wrapped up in his boss' life and death struggle to think about lost evidence.
"You might want this for your press conference," Chin said, then smiled broadly.
"Run it over to Che," McGarrett ordered. "I want a fingerprint check and ballistics report -- and the gun at the press conference in front of the judicial building in," he consulted the time, "forty-two minutes."
Chin and Ben raced for their car.
Williams lightly touched Steve's arm. "Mahalo again, Steve," was his heartfelt thanks.
"You're welcome, Danno," he replied sincerely.
Still shaky, Dan ran a hand through his curly hair. A long, unsteady breath was released. "Good thing for me you're so stubborn. I thought I'd lost -- well, everything."
McGarrett was adamant. "Never my trust, Danno. Never that. You did lose your self-confidence, which you shouldn't have," he almost lectured. "Your instincts were right on target. Subconsciously you knew Makai was going for a gun. In all the excitement you forgot to trust yourself." Sobering, he reminded, "I know you, Danno. You would never kill in cold blood, not for revenge or any other reason." 'Not even for me,' he refrained from mentioning. "You have too much conscience, bruddah."
He gave his friend an affectionate shake of the shoulders. "Now, drive me home." He tugged at the collar of the Aloha shirt he was wearing. "I'm dressed too informally for a press conference."
"Do you think you're well enough?" Dan started, then stopped as he looked at the set resolve in Steve's face. The younger cop smiled. "Nevermind. You're too stubborn to argue with."
*****
The weapon, appropriately filed and tagged as evidence, was brought across the street by Chin and Ben to the old judicial building. In the shadow of King Kamehameha's statue reporters and interested observers were already gathered on the lawn circling the statue.
Strictly as a background spectator McGarrett stood in the entrance porch of the old stone archway at the front of the building. He was here to show his silent, staunch support of Williams. This was Dan's show and Steve did not want to be part of it. Dealing with the press could be his colleague's headache this time.
While at McGarrett's apartment, Dan had admitted the media had not been kind to him for Makai's shooting. Somehow rumors had leaked out. There was a sense of satisfaction for both of them now that Dan could set the record straight. John Manicote slipped in beside Steve and listened as Dan expertly fielded some sticky questions.
"Good work, Steve. I hate to admit it, but I never believed there was a gun."
The comment nettled the Five-0 chief. It was the DA's job to question the integrity of Five-0 personnel, but Steve saw it as an affront on his own honesty when one of his staff was doubted.
"You know Danno better than that," was his terse reply.
John shrugged easily. "Don't get hot under the collar, Steve. Everything worked out."
McGarrett restrained the caustic comments bursting in his thoughts. Manicote had entirely missed the point. It was not about happy endings and keeping a secret safely within the brotherhood of Five-0 and HPD. It was about a basic, honest goodness inside one cop -- how circumstances could be twisted to condemn that cop. It was about not losing trust in a friend or in yourself. Ultimately it had been honed down to the basic comparison of good and evil with everything at stake.
Evans was the perfect example of a worthless scum with nothing to lose. Dan opposed the criminal in every respect.
In this case Dan wouldn't have been the only loser. McGarrett didn't want to think about his own stakes in this treacherous encounter. HE would have lost too much if Dan had gone down for the shooting.
Steve pulled himself from introspection and focused his attention on the conference. Dan was displaying Makai's gun and explaining the brothers' habit of tucking the weapons behind their backs. Prints on the automatic belonged to Makai. Ballistics tests proved the weapon was used to kill the two HPD officers.
Instinctively, as part of his suspicious nature, McGarrett scanned the crowd of reporters. A tall man with dark hair wove through the crowd, ever closer to Williams, with a little too much speed. Head down, the man was unidentifiable. Steve's sixth sense gave him the identification without clear visual confirmation. Evans!
For that frozen second his brain cleared, as if rising above a cloud bank. McGarrett was not the target -- that was why there was no hit attempt at the hospital! The vengeance Evans wanted at this press gathering was not to publicly embarrass Dan, it was a set up for murder! How many times had they said Evans had nothing to lose? Driven by hate and revenge, he would sacrifice himself to kill Danno!
Steve's hand automatically reached for his revolver, which was not with him since he was off duty. In the next second he was racing toward the crowd. Evans was just a few feet from Williams.
"Danno! Evans!"
Honed by years of training, Williams did not need to think to respond. Now clear of the reporters, Evans was only a few feet away. A hand emerging from behind his back. Without hesitation Dan drew and fired point blank as Evans fired, then jerked backward to the pavement. Dan fell back against the Kamehameha statue.
Head pounding, McGarrett still managed to stay on his feet, tearing through the frenzied reporters. Sparing only a brief look at Evans -- all pau, he categorized. When he reached Dan he collapsed to the ground, dizziness disorienting the world. His vision was clear enough to see Dan was all right. A slight tear and small spot of blood on Williams' upper left sleeve indicated Evan's aim was almost too good. Yet, Dan was a good cop and he knew how to handle himself in a tight situation. Steve didn't have to worry about might-have-beens for now.
"You okay, Danno?"
Dan nodded a response. A little breathless, Williams sat up next to his boss. They were strangely calm and solitary amid the mad panic surrounding them. They ignored the people crushing them for statements; the cameras and microphones shoved into their faces. A few HPD officers came to the rescue and cleared the area. After a moment Steve glanced at his friend.
Williams was intently looking back. "You don't look so good, Steve.
"I've felt better," he admitted vaguely.
"I'll bet," Dan laughed at the understatement. "I think I'll close the press conference now. Someone can drive you home, where you're going to stay put for a while."
Steve was too tired and queasy to argue. "I think I might like some peace and quiet. For a little while."
For the first time Williams realized he had been nicked. He touched the blood on his jacket. With a sigh he watched as Five-0 and HPD officers controlled the crowd and covered the body. "I should have seen it was a trap," he chided himself in a quiet, tired voice.
"I should have, too," Steve flung back.
Williams' face creased with sympathy. "You were hurt."
"So were you. In a way."
"I'm a lot better now thanks to a very wise friend I know." McGarrett accepted the compliment with the slightest of nods. Ben came over and told them a way had been cleared for a quick exit. Dan wasted no time in getting his friend into a company sedan and having Chin drive McGarrett home.
Dan watched the car drive away then turned and looked at the mob of reporters. They were still surging against the police line, vying for pictures or statements. With a long sigh, Dan realized there was still much work to be done. He looked at the covered body of Evans. The case was over. And, thanks to Steve, so were a lot of the nagging doubts he had about his performance as a cop, about himself.
Glancing back at the reporters he found one more reason he wished Steve a speedy recovery. He hated it when he had to deal with the press.

PAU