THE END OF THE WORLD AS WE KNOW IT part three

Sequel to --

Talons of the Dragon

and

Ghost of the Dragon

 

Scars of the Dragon

 

thanks Karen for the idea

thanks BB

Written by GM 


May 1980

 

Checking his watch -- again -- Dan Williams sighed and wiped the sweat from his forehead. It was a warm day for May in Honolulu. Impatiently he paced the sidewalk in front of the new and trendy restaurant SURF CITY GRILL. Where could Sonny Kapali be? From the corner of his eye he saw -- what? Feeling the hairs on the back of his neck stand on end, he turned suddenly, sure someone was standing just slightly behind him. No one was there.

An Oriental man gazing at a rack of postcards seemed suspicious . . . . Warily he scanned the crowd, right hand reaching over to his belt --

Freezing, Williams realized that long-conditioned intuition caused him to reach for a revolver that was no longer on his belt. Some indefinable cop-instinct sense had impelled him to go for a weapon that was locked away in a drawer at home -- a .38 he would never touch again. A weapon that had nearly ended his life -- or could have ended Steve McGarrett's life -- last year.

Williams paced away to lean on a tree in the scenic and busy shopping center of the International Marketplace. Comprised of a labyrinth of shops interwoven with trees and shrubs, the walk-through mall offered stalls, shops and carts of nearly every possible merchandise for the tourist trade of Waikiki.

In the midst of this consumer paradise, how could Dan think he was being followed? Shaking his head at his fanciful nerves, he walked with hands in pockets and looked at, but did not see, the glittering baubles and bright clothes displayed around him. His memories of the recent tragedies in his life flooded through his thoughts. Jin Wu last year. Brainwashing. Leaving Five-0. Rebuilding his life. It had been an incredible, turbulent year.

Then, just last month, Wo Fat finally captured and jailed by Steve. Thoughts of Chinese spies were prevalent. Steve and Dan both nearly expected some kind of escape attempt or something dramatic. Wo Fat, after all, had a history of slipping through Steve's fingers. Finally, however, the fat Chinese agent was in jail. And, amazingly, Steve McGarrett was resigning from Five-0. He had quit last month when Wo Fat went to jail, [FANFIC - WOE TO WO FAT] but the head of Five-0 couldn't just impulsively walk away -- leaving took a bit more red tape than Steve had anticipated. Certainly more than he wanted.

Maybe that's why Sonny wanted to talk with Dan. Now that everyone in Hawaii knew Steve was leaving Five-0 -- his last official week ended day after tomorrow -- maybe Sonny wanted to take advantage of the publicity. Which Dan would never know if the slick promoter didn't show.

Usually the businessman was prompt, after all time was money, but today the tourist mogul was late. With a wry twist of a smile Dan admitted he was not unhappy that Sonny was a no-show. The local promoter/celebrity was something of a flashy character and certainly not the type Dan would hang out with voluntarily. Kapali, however, had expressed an interest in hiring Williams -- in the capacity of the new AIKANE SECURITY CONSULTANTS -- and Dan was not in a position to turn away the second client of the new, fledgling business.

Walking along the tree and fern-studded path winding through the International Marketplace, Dan barely avoided being struck down by a short Polynesian woman overloaded with packages. Swinging off the path, he glanced at someone watching him from the corner of his eye. Stumbling into a lamppost, he turned and stared, but the woman was gone. The Oriental woman who -- no, he denied even as his heart seemed to stop and his body grew cold with the dreaded image slamming into his mind. No -- it could not have been Jin Wu. The evil daughter of Wo Fat was dead.

Straightening, he paced back to the entrance of the restaurant and checked his watch again, struggling to get his breathing and nerves under control. Rubbing at his right temple, he willed away the shakes stealing through his limbs. Rubbing hands through his predominantly white hair he forced himself to get a grip. There were countless Asian women in Honolulu and a plethora of them would match the general description of Jin Wu. It disturbed him that he had these reactions just imagining the female dragon-spy was here. After all, she was dead. Steve had shot her. Napoleon Solo and Illya Kuryakin more or less confirmed her death. So why did his skin crawl when he thought he saw similar faces in the crowd?

There was the Oriental postcard man, this time looking at shell wind chimes at a stand. Average build, dark hair, dark business suit -- the man was over-dressed for a tourist shopping plaza, but he could easily be a malihini taking a quick break from commerce to pick up souvenirs for the kids back home.

Breathing deeply, he exhaled slowly leaning in the doorway of a dress shop. Looking at his watch again -- fifteen minutes late -- Sonny was not wasting any more of his time. Dan would wait one more minute and then he was out of here.

"Oh, this is going to be perfect for a retirement party! It's for my boss and I want to look just right!"

Dan looked up from his watch, trying to place the familiar voice. He noted a flash of someone -- from the corner of his eye -- whipping around just inside the dress shop. The blurred woman spinning with the dress suddenly collided into him. Stepping back, he was surprised to see it was an astonished Lori Wilson, Hawaii Five-0 detective.

The blond yelped, "Oh, Danny! Oh!"

"Lori! Are you all right?"

"Oh! Fine!"

The store clerk came over and solicitously asked if everyone was all right. Lori apologized again for getting carried away. The clerk took the dress, pleased to make an easy sale of expensive attire that would go well for the boss' retirement.

Eyeing the loud Hawaiian-print frilly dress, Williams nearly made a face, but restrained himself. Steve wouldn't appreciate the dress any more than he would the party that Lori was obviously planning. Meeting the detective's eyes, he knew exactly what she was thinking. For once he didn't mind having such an openly readable face.

She pulled him over to stand in the corner of the shop selling Aloha wear. The actions seemed melodramatic, but strangely consistent with her personality. Dan didn't know her well -- had known her in passing at HPD before she joined Five-0 -- but thought she was acting more oddly than usual.

"I guess you overheard my plans, Danny. You're not going to give away the secret, are you?" She bit her lip with anxiety. "It would spoil everything for Steve and I would hate that to happen. Steve is so wonderful, he deserves this."

She still called him "Danny", a holdover from their HPD days when he knew both she and her husband Kevin were on the force. Before Kevin was killed. She had certainly worked past the grief of that horrible incident from last year. Perky beyond belief, Wilson was rattling off incessantly about how great Steve was and what a shame he was leaving Five-0. How could Hawaii survive?

It occurred to Dan that Lori had a crush on Steve! He pressed his lips together, containing the laughter that nearly bubbled out. If Steve knew he would be so embarrassed. Not that Lori was a bad person, but not anywhere in the same galaxy of the kind of woman McGarrett fell for. Well, the world was an amazing place, he mused in silent humor. And Lori wouldn't be the first woman to have an unrequited thing for his friend.

"Look, Steve is a great guy," Dan confirmed, interrupting her non-stop expounding of the great McGarrett. "But he's not going to like this." He checked the SURF CITY entrance. Still no Sonny. "Don't you know how he hates public attention?"

"Well, we can't let Steve leave Five-0 without the biggest, most incredible retirement party this state has ever seen. He IS Hawaii Five-0, you know, and it's just not right that he's retiring anyway. But he wanted to leave without any ceremonies or recognition or anything! And I won't let that happen."

Williams audibly groaned and started to walk away. "That's his right, Lori. Leave him alone."

Was she blind? Couldn't she see how McGarrett had been fading for the last year? The aging, the sapped energy, the diminished drive? Ever since -- yes -- he admitted to himself every time he saw McGarrett's worn-out state. Ever since Jin Wu. Since the day Steve McGarrett experienced the horror of Williams trying to kill him, his best friend -- then turning the gun on himself. It had been a horrible year for McGarrett. Five-0 had not been the same since Chin was killed two years before, nor since Dan left.

Lori caught up with him. "Come on, Danny, I need you to promise you won't spoil this by telling him anything!"

He stopped and stared at her, not disguising his irritation. "Steve hates recognition ." He should know, he had engineered countless birthday bashes for his friend over the years. Those were, he justified, vastly different. "He's told me he never wanted any big deal made when he retires. He wants to leave Five-0 quietly." After working closely with Steve for almost a year, didn't she understand him? Couldn't she fathom what a private person he was? Publicity and notoriety were evils he avoided at all costs. With a pang of guilt, Dan knew this public retirement would also, inevitably, bring up the past highs and lows of McGarrett's career. One of the most notable being Dan's expulsion last year. "Please, just let him have some privacy in his life."

"Steve might say he doesn't want any celebration, but he's being modest. He deserves so much more."

Should he attack directly and embarrass her about her obvious affection for Steve? Or should he try, again, to play diplomat? Reasonably, he strove for the patient middle ground. "Lori, I know you think this is good. And I agree Steve has earned a lot of regard for himself and Five-0, but he won't like this."

The perky face altered to display obvious vexation. "You're supposed to be his friend, Danny. I can't believe you would not want to give him -- give him --," she gushed, " -- something -- of what he deserves!"

"I want him to retire and enjoy life," he clarified tightly. "Which will not include embarrassing him!"

Folding her arms across her chest she glared at him. "The Governor and many of his friends are planning some incredible festivities. I thought you would understand." Miffed, she tapped her foot in ire. "If you spoil the surprise a lot of people will be hurt and disappointed. Promise you won't tell Steve about the party."

Dan knew she couldn't possibly understand his motivations. None of the people in Honolulu -- with the exception of Duke Lukela -- knew the truth about this last year. No one knew the reasons behind his exit from Five-0. The secret reasons why McGarrett's health and nerves were strained with subliminal anxiety from spies, brainwashing and death-threats. Few knew or guessed the truth about the supposed suicide by the former second-in-command of Five-0.

To the outside world McGarrett was a magnanimous friend who had taken in Williams after a disgraceful and mysterious resignation from the police unit. Stories of Dan's failure under pressure and theories about a suicide attempt still occasionally circulated the gossips of Honolulu. Dan knew about the rampant speculations because starting this security business had been an uphill battle these few months, laced with subtle and not so subtle comments and questions about his exit from Five-0. Most people he talked to relied on his reputation with Five-0 as their reference. Some, however, obviously still remembered the enigma of his retirement and did not trust him. Perhaps Lori was in the latter group -- convinced Steve was nurturing Williams because Dan was not emotionally strong enough to stand on his own. After all, the last several months Steve had provided a place for Dan to live and had basically invented a business for them to run together. Even from the inside view Dan was turning out to look like a real cad. The rest of the world must think him a bum.

"I thought you were Steve's friend." The accusation hit right to his heart and Dan could offer no defense. She turned, then spun back and glared at him. "After all Steve's done for you I expected better of you, Danny. Just don't spoil this all for Steve. He deserves the tribute!" Then she stalked away, soon lost in the crowd.

Disgusted with himself and life in general, Dan hurried away in the other direction. No longer in the temperament to deal with Sonny Kapali, he simmered as he marched toward Kalakaua Avenue. Everything Lori said had been right -- at least on the surface. Still, she was wrong about the retirement bash. Steve would hate it, he would be miserable, but he did deserve it! That was why Dan had insisted on those birthday parties all those years. Because even though Steve valued the quiet acknowledgements, he deserved public recognition.

So Dan could not blame Lori and the Governor and the others for making a big deal about the retirement of the state's top cop. Dan could just not go along with the festivities. The silent protest, however, was useless. Amused, he realized he had never given her an answer if he would cooperate or not. And Lori had not actually invited him! Laughing at the ridiculousness of life, he reached Kalakaua and stood for a moment in the baking sun.

Crowded with tourists, Waikiki was a busy, hot place, even in May. Hawaii was experiencing an unexpected drought -- yes Hawaii had droughts -- yet visitors were still clogging the city. It would only get worse in the coming summer months. He resigned and reminded himself of the double-edged blessing/curse of tourists for his state. Crossing the street he barely missed running into a slow moving blue Mercedes Benz. He tripped on the curb doing a double take of the driver. Was that the postcard viewing Asian businessman? Sighing, he felt he better go home and call it a day. He was seeing Red Agents behind every palm!

The Mustang had been left in a parking lot just up the street. The kid who ran the place was a former troublemaker whom McGarrett had straightened out a few years back. Whenever Dan was in Waikiki he left his convertible with the young man -- assured the car would be well taken care of in his absence.

Keaka gave him a wave and said the Mustang was untouched, but had attracted a tourist. A petite blond was snapping pictures of the car. Warily, Dan approached the good-looking girl, stopping to observe her technique as well as her. Dark, troubling suspicions had plagued him for weeks and his paranoia momentarily transmitted to this stranger. Why was she taking pictures of his car? His mental state must be pretty damaged if he studied a pretty wahine and read intrigue into something no more sinister than photography. Instinctively, he appreciated her figure -- not well concealed in a beach-shirt covering her bikini. Completely absorbed in her activity she had no idea he was standing behind her. In an instant she stepped back to try another angle and ran into him.

"AAAHH!" she gasped and rotated, knocking into Dan's shoulder with the camera. "AAHH!" The expensive instrument would have tumbled to the ground if not for Williams' quick reflexes. Before it hit the pavement he had it in his hand. "Oh, I'm sorry! Thank you!" She took the camera and held onto it like a prized possession. "I didn't even see you."

Her face was nice, if not remarkably pretty. The pleasant blue eyes were what lit up her face with personality. The vague distrust hovering around him faded and he presented a charming smile.

"But you were taking pictures of my car."

"This is your car?" She gushed, gasping in delight. "Oh, that is so funny! I have one just like it at home!" Sheepishly she hefted her Nikon camera. "That's why I was getting some shots." Her excitement faded as she noted his now neutral expression. "Okay, I'm a crazy tourist. Sorry."

Pouring on the charisma he pushed all dark thoughts and memories away. He was on the world's most famous beach, in the best place in the world, with a pretty girl. And a free afternoon. What could be better?

"You don't really have a car like this --"

"Yes, I do!" she insisted, then smiled when she quickly realized he was challenging her. "I do. And I could prove it if I carried pictures around like it was my baby. Which it is," she laughed self-consciously. "Sixty-eight Mustang convertible with blue cloth seats." She brushed a hand along the driver's headrest. "My covers are custom. Hawaiian print," she winked.

Liking this outrageous young woman -- and she was unfortunately young -- Dan insisted he believed her. The unexpected encounter brightened his morale after the letdown with Sonny and the run-in with Lori. It reminded him of his youth and the fun holiday flings he shared with mainland girls over here for fun in the sun.

Would she like to discuss Mustangs over lunch? He knew a great place just down the street. She hesitated, and Dan was glad she was not a pushover -- was not foolish enough to be picked up by just anybody. He offered a compromise, they could travel the few blocks in a pedicab instead of her getting into a car with a stranger.

Adamantly she shook her head. "And miss the chance of driving in YOUR Mustang? I think I'll take the risk." She pulled at her swimsuit cover. "I'm not dressed for a restaurant."

Waikiki was probably the most casual strip in the world. People went in and out of the eateries, shops and bars wearing beach togs and sandals. Towel wrapped customers were common to the establishments along the ocean side mecca.

"It's okay, it's beachside."

She dashed around to the passenger side. "Great. Oh, but I didn't bring any money!"

"My treat."

Again she hesitated. "I'm used to paying my own way."

Engagingly, he played along. He'd forgotten how fun the sparring and give-and-take of dating could be. He hadn't been out in the social arena much in the last few months. It was time to see if his native charm was still intact for impulsive pick-ups.

"You can pay for dinner."

It took her a moment to decide if he was serious, if he was moving too fast, or if she was ready to play the game. With a smile she confirmed she was in. "Deal."

On the short drive down Kalakaua to the King Kamehameha Club, Dan found out her name was Diane Rusk from LA. In her second year teaching photography at a high school she was taking tons of shots of Hawaii. Always dreaming of coming to paradise, it was her first trip and she was loving it.

When he gave the keys to the parking valet, Lani, Diane warily watched the kid park the Ford. "You trust that kid with your car?"

"Sure."

She shrugged. "I teach high-school, I'm naturally suspicious of teenagers."

They were a bit casual to be dressed for the main part of the club, but Dan steered them through a side hall and out to the beach lanai in the back. He expected to see the manager, Rick Wright, and friends TC, or Thomas Magnum at the usual table near the bar. Today only Magnum and Higgins -- one of the board members -- were in attendance. Upon seeing him, Higgins waved him over.

"Here to see to the details, I expect," the British ex-Army officer exclaimed heartily. "You'll find everything in order so far, I assure you," he smiled.

"First class all the way," Magnum raised his beer bottle. The mustached, tall, beach-bum/PI gave a smile to Diane. "Wouldn't expect anything else."

Rick Wright, a short, tough, self-assured man, and TC, a muscular, affable black man, came up behind Dan. "This is going to be the bash of the decade!" Rick assured enthusiastically.

TC smiled and winked at Diane. "I suppose you're Dan's consultant?"

Confused, Dan nonetheless plowed through the amenities of introducing everyone to Diane. When he stated they had just dropped by for lunch, Higgins gradually lost his enthusiasm. Noting Dan's puzzlement, Higgins questioned if everything was still all right concerning the party.

"What party?"

"The retirement gala," Higgins repeated. "For Mr. McGarrett."

"Mr. McGarrett, isn't he a cop? I was reading about him in the paper this morning," Diane asked no one in particular. She looked at Dan. "You know him?"

Detective skills didn't have to be in top form for Williams put all the pieces together. The retirement party was going to be here. And they thought he was involved. This would be the point where he could deny all culpability for the affair and walk away. Then they would want to know why McGarrett's best friend was turning his back on the festivities -- on Steve -- and glaringly shunning the honor to his friend. Against his better judgement, giving in to ease instead of exactness, he played along.

"You know, I'm not coordinating this, Lori is."

The group from the club seemed to grasp the deeper meanings of his statement. With looks that indicated he would be questioned about it later, they shelved the subject and discussed lunch. After the meal Magnum talked them into a volleyball game and the rest of the afternoon evaporated in the blazing Hawaiian sun. After the game Diane went down the beach to take some shots of the picturesque scenery and Dan sat with his friends.

Magnum was the first to question him about the party, knowing something was not right with the plans. Not close friends, Dan still liked Magnum and his pals and had worked with them on a few important cases. Unwilling to reveal much of his internal contention, Williams went for the obvious reasons for reluctance. Steve was not going to like all the publicity, and he hated surprises. Ignoring his objections, Higgins and Wright left to see to their obligations. Magnum and TC stayed at the table sipping beer with Williams.

"So what's bugging you, Dan?"

Glancing at Magnum, wondering how much the investigator had guessed, Dan shrugged. "Steve was hoping to just walk away. An unrealistic expectation, I suppose."

"He's a famous dude, Dan," TC reminded. "He can't leave and disappear, he's a celebrity around here."

"Infamy," Dan sighed, "is not all it's cracked up to be."

Unsettled again, Dan walked along the sand to catch up with Diane. The months since the first confrontation with Jin Wu, and the subsequent healing after her last visit, had been a series of hills and valleys -- ups and downs in a cycle of slow recovery. Now life seemed to be coming together with the new business and the prospect of a bright future in partnership with Steve again. Then this glitch of the retirement gala comes. Not a big deal in the scheme of things, but a reminder that the ghosts of Jin Wu and Wo Fat could still haunt them.

Displacing his troubles with Diane's fresh perspective, Williams allowed himself to appreciate his Island paradise. He watched her take pictures, posed for some shots around the club, and lost himself in pretending to be a historical guide.

"You haven't been to a luau yet?"

Clicking a picture of some children building a sand castle, she didn't look away. "There's so many and I didn't know which to pick."

"I know a great one. That's where we'll go tonight." He checked his watch. The afternoon had melted away in a pleasant haze. "And if we want to make it we should get you back to your hotel to get ready. Where are you staying?"

"The Outrigger Kuhio."

"Then we better go."

Diane snapped photos all the way out of the club, getting some candids of Magnum, Higgins, TC and Rick. Lani left to get the car when he saw Williams, and seconds later a blue Mercedes pulled up and abruptly stopped in front of the startled Dan. An Asian man emerged -- the postcard man from International Marketplace.

"You are Dan Williams?"

Wary at the surprise arrival and the brusqueness of the stranger, Dan hesitantly answered, "You've been following me."

The man came up and urgently took Dan by the arm. "You have a security company, do you not?"

Williams pulled away. What do you want?"

Lani arrived with the Mustang just as Diane came out the portico clicking away with the Nikon. The Oriental man released Williams and backed away. "I see this is a bad time. I will contact you tonight." As instantly as he had arrived he slipped into the car and the sedan pulled away.

"What was that about?" Lani asked.

"I don't know," the startled ex-detective wondered. The hairs on the back of his neck were on end again and he shivered from a wave of apprehension. "I wish I knew," he breathed quietly, wishing the ghost-wind sinister forebodings breezing through his mind would go away. Couldn't life ever be simple?

 

*****

For the whole week Steve McGarrett had been extremely busy. Just as he had been for the past twenty-odd years, he was overwhelmed with the caseloads and paperwork connected with running a police unit. It was supposed to get easier the last few days -- pushing assignments onto other detectives, going over details with the new boss -- all the things inclusive in closing out this part of his life. And as he should have expected things were not going as planned. There was just too much for him to do. The solution was simple. He had made a deadline and he would have to stick to it. When the week ended so did the police career of Stephen J. McGarrett. Friday, two days, retirement. Period.

Wednesday evening. He was nearly alone in the office. When the regular staff people left they had made a big deal -- as they had all week -- of the swiftly counting-down time he had left. There were a lot of jokes that Steve wasn't really going to leave, but at every opportunity he firmly told everyone who would listen that Friday was absolutely, positively, no-questions-asked his last day in this office. He quietly reiterated the promise as he packed up his briefcase. He was taking very little with him from the desk. Professional movers would be in tomorrow afternoon for his paintings, the model ship, the koa wood bookends and the few other personal possessions that belonged to him. After this week he would be an ordinary citizen and be an officially retired cop. His plane tickets for LA proved that -- he was going to visit his sister and family for a long-vowed holiday on their turf.

A knock on the door preceded the entrance of Jim Carew. Tall, muscular, with an angled, sharp face, the detective ambled in with some papers. "Hey, Steve, you're gonna like this. Here's a new method of murder."

He almost bit back that nothing could be new, he'd seen it all. That would have reflected his fatigue and shown an exaggerated weariness that he felt all the way to his bones. It was well past the time he should have retired, and this was a good example. There were no new murder MOs and he was not going to care about this one after Friday.

"What is it, Kimo?" he asked politely, choosing to conceal his cynicism and lassitude. "What could be new?"

"How about a body found in a Mercedes Benz, at the side of Kalaniana-- anaol -- oh, you know, that street along the beach."

McGarrett didn't bother to correct the cop. Carew would have to acclimate a little better into the Hawaiian culture to get any respect as the new head of Hawaii Five-0. McGarrett wouldn't be around any more to help him out.

"Kalani Highway. Body in a Benz."

"Yeah, but that's not the interesting part. He was killed from a poison dart stuck in his neck!"

Eyebrows raised nearly up to the hair curled down his forehead, McGarrett let out a low gasp. Despite himself he snatched the report and checked the initial crime scene notes. Literally hot off the press, the murder had just occurred that afternoon. The poison dart must have been the detail that had pushed it quickly over to Five-0 instead of HPD.

"Intriguing," Steve ruminated aloud, regaining his breath, studying the photograph of the body and the car. Heart rate returning slowly to normal, he studied the nondescript Asian man. Forcibly he pushed down chills, and memories of Hong Kong and Wo Fat's poison darts in the neck. For two more days he was a cop and he should act like one. Forget the Chinese spy. Wo Fat was in jail. Steve was almost a regular citizen.

"No time for an autopsy yet, and the investigation summary isn't complete yet."

McGarrett cleared his throat, readjusting to reality. "When you have a chance get down to forensics and check out his belongings." He gave the report back and snapped his briefcase closed with a decisive click of the locks.

"So you're really going to do it," Carew questioned skeptically. He followed McGarrett to the door. "I always took you for an old fire horse, Steve. You might get away from the firehouse, but every time the bell rings you're gonna regret being replaced."

McGarrett offered a rueful laugh as he opened the door and walked through to the outer office. "Despite popular opinion, I do have a life outside these walls. And I'm going to enjoy it."

He paused to look into the glass cubicle that belonged to Duke Lukela. It had once been Danno's . . . . He couldn't look at the place and not think of Williams. After the last year it was easier than he had thought possible to anticipate retirement. He had a great deal to live for and he was getting out of the crushing stress of police work before he had no energy to relish all his tropical paradise had to offer.

Lori Wilson joined them and he glared at the two new officers. "And remember, no party. I don't like surprises. I get enough of them from this job."

"No party," Lori repeated. "We hear you, Steve."

Truck Keala and Duke came out to the common room. "Maybe we can go out to dinner or something," Lukela offered.

"That would be fine." McGarrett started for the door. "See you tomorrow."

After Steve left Lori turned to the others and released a giggling sigh. "Whewww! How does he do that?"

"Do what?" Truck asked. A big Hawaiian with an easy attitude, he was a cop who was good at his job but looked deceptively lethargic. "What you talking about?"

Lori clapped her hands together in glee. "He doesn't know about the surprise party!"

Carew was smug. "I told you secrecy was the key." He smiled at the other two detectives. "Lori's got this huge party arranged. The Governor, Manicote and a bunch of the high muckimucks Steve's worked with will be there. I told her not to let you guys know until the last minute."

"It's tomorrow night at the King Kamehameha Club." Lori wagged her fingers at them. "And don't you dare breathe a word or the Governor will be after you, not just me!"

Truck was sober. "You promised Steve you wouldn't --"

"I didn't promise anything," she wickedly giggled. "It's for his own good," Wilson insisted.

Lukela shook his head. "He hates parties. He's dreaded this." An involuntary smile tweaked his lips. "And he's had some pretty good surprise parties." He was thinking of the infamous surprise birthday parties. Now those were fun. This was -- something else, he decided with foreboding. The memories sobered him quickly, because the recollections immediately made him think of Williams and the reasons these new people were here right now instead of Dan. No way Danny would have made the mistake of this kind of overblown retirement bash. "He'll hate a lot of big shots."

"He deserves it with all the big kahunas," Carew insisted. "And we can't back out now, half the state is invited."

"You should invite friends. Have a nice luau with the ohana. He'd like that a lot more," Lukela reasoned.

Lori glanced at her soon-to-be boss. "Speaking of invitations, I ran into Dan Williams today. He -- kind of -- accidentally -- heard about the party. Do you think we should invite him?"

"No," Carew snapped sharply. "He doesn't belong anymore."

Lukela glared at the younger man. "He was part of this team for eleven years --"

"And he bailed," Carew countered condemningly. "He's a washed up loser and doesn't fit in at a party with the important society of Honolulu. And he shouldn't hang around Steve."

Angrily, Lukela retorted, "He's Steve's friend."

"He's not invited." Carew stubbornly insisted. He handed the papers in his hand to Duke. "Here, see if you can find out something about this. Something new for you. Murder by poison dart."

Duke took the report without looking at it. He was still glaring at the younger cop. "You're making a mistake about Dan Williams. If he's not there at the luau Steve is going to wonder why."

"Then Steve can ask me," Carew decided sternly.

Livid, Duke folded the papers and thrust them into his pocket, then stormed out of the room. He was so glad he was going to be retiring at the end of the month. Maybe he should push the date up and go out the door with Steve on Friday. That was an appealing thought just now.

 

*****

 

"Hey, I thought when the boss was away you could take some time off, bruddah. You're in before the secretary. A McGarett habit if I ever saw one!"

Williams removed his reading glasses and smiled at Duke entering the offices of AIKANE SECURITY CONSULTANTS. Dan bounced up and shook hands with his friend, his visitor. "I was just trying to get a ump on the day." He raised his eyebrows suggestively. "I've got plans for the evening, you know. So what brings you out of the city?" He kicked out a chair from beside the desk so Duke could sit next to him. "What's going on?"

Unsure how to approached the subject, Lukela pulled the crime report out of his pocket to stall for time. "I had to come out here on a case anyway. Thought I'd stop by."

Williams started putting away papers into file folders. "Anything interesting?"

"Yeah, a guy was killed by a poison dart!"

Williams stopped, frozen in a sudden cold grip of fear, like a strong easterly storm gale hitting him full in the face. Wo Fat had used darts. Visibly shaking away the absurd anxiety, he refocused himself. Wo Fat was in jail. No more Chinese spies hidden behind every coconut. "Wow, that's different," he admitted conversationally. "Anybody I know?"

"Don't think so. No ID yet. He was wearing a shoulder holster, but the pistol was missing."

Leaning back in his chair, Dan studied his old friend. "Intriguing. But that's not why you stopped by," he deduced, studying the familiar face.

"I think you should go to the retirement party tonight."

Dan turned to busy himself with unrolling a blueprint onto the desk. "So you heard I ran into Lori."

"It was wrong of them not to invite you --"

"Duke, I don't want to go."

"This is for Steve. Not to make him happy, because it sure won't," Lukela frankly offered, "but because he's admired and respected throughout the state." He paused to emphasize his point. "And he'll need his closest friends there to help him through a tough, emotional event."

Dan glared at the Hawaiian. "You really know how to fight dirty."

"You're his closest friend, Dan. You shouldn't be excluded. If you don't go think of how Steve will feel."

"Relief?"

"That's not funny."

Rising, Dan slammed his chair into the desk. "The focus should be on Steve. You're right, he deserves this even though he'll hate it. If I show up it will only cause a sensation, bad publicity --"

"And Steve will know that along with everyone else there, we will be showing our appreciation for all he's meant to us."

Williams shook his head. He shouldered past his friend to stand at the open lanai door.

"You'll be sorry if you don't go. It might not be what Steve wants, but that doesn't mean it isn't important. Besides, when did that ever stop YOU from throwing an embarrassing party?" His smile was devilish. "Just think of the affect it will have on Lori and Carew when they see you've crashed their luau.

Rolling his eyes skyward he sighed, shaking his head. "I think this is a mistake," he shook his head, then smiled at Lukela. "But it's going to be pretty fun torpedoing the plans."

Smiling, Duke patted his friend's arm. "Mahalo. From me. And for Steve. I'll pick you up at your place."

Williams gently pushed his friend toward the door. "Now let me get back to work so I won't be late for the luau."

Duke walked to the door. "So what's her name?"

"Diane. A tourist. And I don't want to hear any comments from you, Duke."

Lukela's face was completely placid. "Wasn't planning on it."

 

*****

Traffic along Kalakaua was a little heavy for a Thursday evening, but Steve McGarrett didn't take much notice of the cars lining the road. It was a beautiful tropical night and life was very good. After twenty-one years he had put Hawaii Five-0 behind him and didn't regret it a bit. Smiling to himself, he admitted this was -- after tomorrow's token showing at the office to tie up all loose ends completely -- only the beginning of a new lifestyle. Retirement. Some doubters thought he could never manage relaxation. Smiling to himself, he knew it was going to be so amusing to prove them all wrong. At least for a little while. He would miss Five-0, of course, but nevertheless, he was happy with his decision. For months Danno had been telling him his heart was no longer in Five-0, and after capturing Wo Fat Steve knew that to be true. Without Wo Fat, without Danno, with the new detectives that he had never quite synced with, Five-0 was a just hard job -- no longer Steve's life. It was time to move on.

Setting up the new company, AIKANE SECURITY, had been a stroke of brilliance, he admitted. Danno had set the groundwork and Steve had overseen the foundation of the new company. Already they had a few clients and were making a name for themselves. Last week Danno hired -- upon his recommendation -- Ellen Kenau as their new receptionist/secretary. Tomorrow they -- Danno, because Steve was still supposed to be the silent partner, (something he had trouble with already!), was scheduled to confer with a prospective client in Haleiwa. IF Williams showed up on time.

With a shake of his head McGarrett managed to be amused at his colleague's predictability. It took a while for Williams to get back to his usual habits, but Dan was starting to date again and that would make things interesting. Like not going home last night. In fact, aside from some brief phone conversations, Danno had made himself scarce all day (McGarrett had called several times). Must be a hot wahine. Work never suffered because of the social animal in Danno, but Steve didn't want any possibility of problems with starting a new business. Yes, he was being over-protective, overly concerned, and over-bearing. That was just the way he worked and Danno knew it.

Stopping his Lincoln in front of the King Kamehameha Club, McGarrett tossed the keys to the parking attendant. The lot was packed. Must be a big do tonight. He wondered why Higgins arranged for him to meet a client here on a Thursday night? Higgins had insisted that regular business hours were not convenient for this prospective client, and Williams was busy tonight. Well, he would have to get used to these unorthodox methods now. Or, maybe not, he mused. Maybe just let Danno handle all the client shmoosing in the future. Since Steve owned the company, he could do whatever he wanted. Well, they were partners, actually, but it was proving nearly impossible for Steve to think of their relationship as anything but what it had always been. He was the boss, Danno was the associate. Steve had tried to turn it around and for the several weeks they had been in business McGarrett had let Williams do most of the front work. Steve realistically, however, knew he already had the urge to give orders and take over some of the operations. And he hadn't even retired from Five-0 yet! Maybe after the brief vacation in LA he could come back and readjust. Then he would settle down in Hawaii; paint, sail, date and leave the working to Danno. Why did he feel skeptical about that scenario?

Entering the foyer he spotted Higgins and Wright speaking with some club members. Higgins joined him and reported that a client was in the private dinning area. When the doors opened and Steve saw the huge crowd of people, the banner proclaiming CONGRATULATIONS STEVE! and a multitude of balloons, McGarrett knew he had been had. Shouts and laughter flooded him as the multitude all seemed to talk at once and surge toward him in a tsunami of well-wishing.

Lori Wilson was the first to reach him with a warm and generous kiss, and a thick flower lei. Duke Lukela, Truck Keala and James Carew crowded around on his right side, but made room for Governor Jameson. The crowd quieted as the Governor took command of the festivities.

"I'm sure some of us never expected this day to come, Steve." A lot of laughter followed that loaded remark. "Personally, I think you gave me most of these grey hairs," he brushed at his silver-topped head and received more laughter. "And I think even your critics will agree with all of your friends gathered here tonight, that Hawaii will never be the same without you at the head of Five-0."

The room burst into loud, generous and boisterous clapping, whistles and hooting. Embarrassed, Steve felt his skin blush. He hated these public spectacles and tried his best to be gracious and grateful. Two HPD men came over carrying a huge box, which they placed on the nearest table.

The Governor waved everyone to silence. "Now before we get to the excellent food and spirits provided by the club, I wanted to present you with a little token of appreciation, Steve." Jameson led him over to the box that was approximately two feet high and two feet wide. "Thank you for organizing and running the best police unit in the country. It will never be the same without you, Steve, but you've left a tremendous legacy for this state. Thank you, on behalf of everyone in Hawaii. And from me personally, Steve, I thank you for all you've done for me, for my administration and my constituents." He gestured to the box. "Please accept this token as a sincere gift of appreciation and fondness."

McGarrett removed the top and the four sides of the box fell over. Displayed on a wood base was an incredible carved koa-wood replica of Iolani Palace. The detail of the near twelve inch sized building was amazing.

Overwhelmed by emotions, McGarrett could only mutter a quiet thanks and shake the Governor's hand. To the friends gathered around him Steve offered a subdued, "Mahalo. To all of you." He took a deep breath. "This is incredible. I don't know what else to say. Thank you."

The pleased audience rippled with muttered approval. Lori took one arm, Jameson the other, and they escorted McGarrett around to greet some of the luminaries. Various state, city and business officials, some local performance celebrities, a variety of DA and HPD officers were crowded into the room. John Manicote, threatening to retire himself, had a mock-eulogy send off for the "top cop of Hawaii." It covered some historic Five-0 moments with wry humor. Steve found it less amusing than the audience. A few tongue-in-cheek testimonials followed. After the speeches Jameson asked McGarrett to say a few words.

Hoping his discomfort didn't show as much as he felt it inside, McGarrett took center stage. "I won't thank you for this surprise," he stated honestly, and received a few laughs. "I will thank you, Governor, for the reason I'm being honored tonight. For the opportunity to establish the most incredible police unit I know of. Taking on the task of forming and running Hawaii Five-0 was a career that I was eager to take on twenty-one years ago. It has been the most incredible experience of my life. Governor, and all or you whom I've worked with, thank you."

Steve was again embarrassed by the enthusiastic applause -- the standing ovation -- he received. The crowd swamped him and he received tokens of fond aloha.

Higgins and Wright appeared at the back of the conference chamber and opened up the doors. Outside, at the exclusive area of beach on the Koko Head side of the club, was the second phase of the celebration, the luau. On the sand, torches burned and more crowds were gathered around tables covered with Hawaiian treats.

Astonished at the people, McGarrett was numb as he greeted many old and familiar faces waiting for him on the beach. Families and friends he had known for years, people he had worked with, those who had come and gone through HPD and Five-0 were there. The Kokua family, Kono Kalakaua and family, the Lukelas, several of the Kelly children, all displaying emotional tidings that overwhelmed him.

Speaking to all of them took a lot of time. Every one wanted to shake his hand, offer a few words of congratulations and/or a kiss, or lei or all of the above. He was drowning in flowers and soon surrendered a handful to Lori. By the time he made it to the head table he felt exhausted. Ben Kokua's wife and family provided the entertainment of excellent fire dances, hulas and rousing native songs.

At the surf line, Duke made his way to someone separated from the festivities. He leaned over and commented with obvious emotion, "See, aren't you glad you didn't miss this?"

"Yeah," Dan agreed in a thick voice, touched by the amazing accolades heaped on his friend. "Steve deserves all of this. Thanks for making sure I was part of it."

Lukela patted his shoulder. "You deserve it, too, Danny. I wish more people understood that." Pointedly, he glanced at Carew and Wilson hovering around McGarrett. "At least they won't forget about you now."

Dan laughed at the memory of the Five-0 detective's expressions when they had seen him. "Yeah, gate crashing can be fun."

Wearing an impossibly overwhelmingly bright aloha shirt, Sonny Kapali, drink in hand, came over and nudged Lukela, and patted Williams on the back. "Hey, Dan, great turn out. Listen, I need to talk about some marketing --"

"Not interested," Williams interrupted, stepping away from the man already soaked in liquor-breath. "You blew your chance yesterday, Sonny."

The Hawaiian shrugged and threw his arm around Dan. "No worries, bruddah. You gonna love what I have in mind for your pal McGarrett. I can connect his security company with this film bunch coming in from Hollywood. I know you been working with Steve and you can get us together -- you know, he'd never answer my calls --"

Duke grabbed the man by the arm and started walking him toward the bar. "Let's get you something to drink, Sonny."

Dan threw him a grateful smile of thanks. While he was moved to have been a part of the historic evening, and glad to witness the wonderful tributes to his friend, Williams was ready to leave. Obviously he was not considered part of the group and Sonny's attitude typified the less savory perception of him, he supposed. Most of his old friends and colleagues were happy to see him, but he had been shunned by most of the officials. Just went to show who his real friends were, he supposed, and he didn't feel slighted one bit. High aspirations had never been something he sought, nor had McGarrett, and being in Five-0 had brought more fame and notoriety than either man desired.

Williams suspected in the perception of most people in Honolulu, he had been pushed to the edge of McGarrett's periphery, no longer an important player in the local scene. Being second in line had never bothered him, but now he was outside the accepted social circle of Hawaii's elite. That, fortunately, was a minor consideration and hardly mattered at all. It probably meant he would never meet many rich woman who wanted to pamper him, he thought wryly, but as far as impact on his life, it meant very little.

 

*****

 

Steve could hardly eat or keep his mind on one thing at a time. People were constantly coming and going, stopping by to say aloha, trade an anecdote, or introduce some member of the family to the famous Steve McGarrett. Even through the constant attention and chatter, he knew there was something missing. Some people missing. These were all friends, yes, but there were some conspicuous no-shows. The evening was grueling in its emotional sentiment. Saying aloha was exactly what he had never wanted, and here he was drowning in the recollections and memories of the past. As the parade of supporters filed past, he started gravitating to the outlying tables searching for some familiar faces. Drifting to the edge of the luau, closer to the surf, he spotted the people he wanted to visit.

Lori, obviously the organizer, had neglected to invite a few lady friends he had been dating lately. He understood the motivation there. Some of his oldest friends -- Napoleon, Oscar, Jonathan -- were scattered across the world and would not have been available probably, even if they had been invited, which he suspected they had not. The people here were known Hawaiian luminaries, people who were popular, important in a newspaper-headlines way. The minority of attendees were ohana from the old days, from the original years of Five-0. And that brought him back to thinking about a glaringly conspicuous absentee.

Lurking back by the ocean, he finally spotted his closest friends, Duke and Dan. Obviously Danno was keeping out of the limelight and Steve understood why. That didn't mean he liked it. The absurdity of the politics struck him -- Dan and Duke were pushed aside in favor of the new colleagues and flashy celebrities. That was never how he lived his life, or his career, why should he be honored like this?

Distracted now, he noted a few of the family members of the old Five-0 group mingled with each other. Duke seemed to be guiding Dan around, shepherding him so he was not alone. Pointedly, the new Five-0 group, the politicians, the people interested in the spotlight, stayed clear of Williams.

For months Steve had insisted Dan could bury the past, that they could step beyond the schism created by Dan's expulsion from Five-0. Perhaps on a personal level that was true, but beyond the cloistered confines of their newly created business, it had not happened. From the attitudes he saw here tonight it probably would never change.

Feeling misplaced even in the midst of the festivities, Steve gradually disengaged from the crowd and headed toward the beach.

Approaching McGarrett from amid the lapping waves, Dan Williams smiled broadly. "Well, I can't think of anything to say that you haven't heard already tonight, Steve." He warmly shook his friend's hand. "But I'll say it anyway. Congratulations. You deserve all of this."

"Mahalo. I'd rather have had a quiet dinner at the Colony or something."

Dan held up his hands in surrender. "Hey, this is one surprise party I didn't engineer."

"I didn't think so," McGarrett admitted ruefully. "You know better."

Both laughed and continued walking along the sand. Dan asked if McGarrett was trying to escape and the former boss put a finger to his lips in pantomime to keep quiet. Stopping to stare out at the dark ocean, McGarrett grew serious.

"Mahalo for being here. I know you probably didn't want to come --"

"I did," Dan corrected instantly, then laughed at the probing stare he received. "Okay," he tempered, "at least to honor you, Steve."

"You didn't need to hide."

"I wasn't hiding," the younger man insisted, but not with any dedication. "I was visiting with some old friends. Can you believe how big Kono's kids are? And Duke's boys are all grown up."

"Yeah, we kind of lost track of time with them." He pinned the former detective with a penetrating look. "And you were hiding."

"This was your night. I needed to be in the background."

"You don't have to do that anymore, Danno. Everyone in the state knows we're friends and --"

"And tonight is in your honor, Steve. Not a time to bring up old, unpleasant memories."

"You were part of Five-0 for a long time. Those years meant more than the circumstances of you leaving."

"Mahalo." Williams wanted to make a joke out of the serious moment, but the words caught in his throat. "Five-0 meant a lot to me," he said hoarsely. "Thanks to you. A lot has happened over the years, but the one constant we have is our friendship."

Steve cleared his throat, obviously touched. "That means more than a party," he finally managed thickly.

The ploy of retreat did not last and soon Lori Wilson jogged over to them. Dan saw her and smiled. He leaned close to McGarrett. "Watch your back, Steve. Someone's got a crush on you."

McGarrett's face reflected confusion, then dawning understanding, then irritation as he assimilated what Dan had meant.

"There you are!" Lori interrupted them. Hooking her arm in Steve's and demanding -- with a perky smile -- that he say good-bye to some of his guests. "It's your party, Steve," she reminded, dragging him away.

With a shrug he surrendered, asking Dan to wait for him.

It seemed late when the Governor finally surrendered and said a final aloha for the evening to a man, he said, was the person he admired and dreaded most. Soon afterward people started drifting away. The band dropped into some standard, quiet songs and the dancers left. Lori asked him to dance and he declined, knowing there were many people he had not talked to and should. If they wanted to have a formal aloha then this was it. Tomorrow Steve McGarrett moved on with his life.

*****

Williams crossed over to the club bar and sat on a beach wall sipping a bottle of beer. Dan wondered if he should drop by Diane's hotel and see if she was still awake. He had invited her to this luau, but she had a ticket for one of the shows in Waikiki. And he got the impression maybe he was pushing her a little too fast, too hard. Spending the night last night and most of the day with her, maybe she wanted some time on her own to enjoy paradise.

Wandering over to the guest of honor, he saw McGarrett was having a good time with some lingering guests, mostly the current members of Five-0. Wanting to avoid mixing the old and the new -- wanting to avoid the unpleasantness a confrontation would bring -- Dan left, telling Higgins to let Steve know he had to take off. As he waited for his car he ruminated that it was only right that Steve have this last night with his colleagues -- his Five-0 team. With the thought came a familiar, lingering thought that had hovered around him all evening: things would have been so much different except for the nasty intervention of Jin Wu in his life. Once again he felt robbed -- cheated -- out of something priceless, and then he forced himself to release the anger and frustration. He was rebuilding a new life for himself and it was going to be a good one.

 

*****

Sipping on his morning coffee, looking out at the placid waves of the bay, McGarrett felt the moment was surreal. The incredible luau of the night before had left him with poignant, sentimental feelings and he had trouble sleeping. Awaking late, he felt a little worn out and at loose ends. There was no urgent crisis, no demanding current case, no absolute necessity to be anywhere since he could be late on this last day and no one would care.

The last few weeks had been so busy he had little time to reflect. This week, however, he ended up recognizing a lot of "lasts". The last time he would visit here or do that as chief of Five-0. Today was his last morning, his last lunch -- etc. , etc.. The day was scheduled with a light load already, and he began to wonder what he was going to do after this? Sleep in? He bet himself that would be impossible.

Of course when he started serious work at AIKANE SECURITY CONSULTANTS, Steve could stay home for hours and not be missed at the new office. WHEN he decided retirement was too boring. With a rueful smile he knew himself well enough to guess that boredom would hit all too soon. Not before his long promised holiday to the mainland to visit his sister. And not before he got his fill of sailing around the islands. For now, however, he felt awash in alien territory: his last day at work. McGarrett took the morning slow and easy, deciding not to rush into anything.

Stepping over to the massive replica of the Palace that Higgins' employees had delivered last night, McGarrett marveled at the incredible present. Magnificent was an understatement. And where was he going to put it?

Touching the smooth, dark wood, he felt a sudden wave of melancholy. This part of his life was over. Instinctively he knew it was right to leave Five-0. He was tired and worn out and needed a new phase -- new spark in his life. In moments like these -- the reflective, sentimental times -- it didn't make change any easier. There was so much history behind him. With a sigh he reminded himself that he was not a person to look back. The past was gone and could never be changed. The future was what mattered. He had wanted this new beginning with AIKANE SECURITY -- with Danno -- and he did not regret that decision.

Thinking of his friend, he glanced out the kitchen window. The Mustang was not in the driveway next door at the small white house adjacent to his own. So Danno had slipped away from the luau and spent the night with whom? The same girl he'd been out with the night before? Well, he wasn't Danno's keeper, but he liked to know where his friend was. Since Jin Wu's little caper, he never felt everything -- Williams -- was safe unless he knew Danno's location. That one terrible night when she had kidnapped and tortured Danno had changed their lives forever. If he had thought then -- well, that was long ago and a past that he could not alter. He could only watch out for the present and guard against an evil future. So where was Danno?

A bit resentfully, he felt now that his time was his own -- almost -- he would be able to spend more time with his friend. He never really had a chance to talk to Williams last night and show his appreciation for showing up at the luau. An experience that had to have been unpleasant at best. Deciding he should not come in late for his last day at the Palace, he took his coffee cup to the sink and prepared to leave for a final day as the head of Five-0.

 

*****

Arriving at the Palace for his final series of "last" experiences was odd. Everyone in the office was acting strangely toward him and he was disconcerted by the way they watched him. A television crew from the local news came in around ten AM and everything was disrupted as interviews with McGarrett and his staff were carried out.

In the midst of the fervor Duke came in and hovered at the edge of the storm, waiting impatiently for McGarrett to have a free moment. That was not going to happen soon, it seemed, so Steve finally managed to duck into his office with Carew and Lukela as the film crew finished talking to the personnel.

"That case with the poison dart!" Duke announced as soon as he closed the door. "We got ID on him. From Hong Kong. He was an MI6 operative!"

McGarrett took the report and Carew read over his shoulder. Scanning, Steve saw the man had been part of the tong task force and had followed a Nine Dragons member to Honolulu.

Carew saw the reaction on McGarrett. "What does that mean?" he wondered.

"Nine Dragons," Steve whispered dryly. "Wo Fat's tong."

Carew glanced at the other two. "You think they're going to try and spring him or something?"

"Wouldn't put anything past them," Lukela assured.

A knock at the door stopped them and Lori Wilson slipped in. "I just got a call from HPD investigating a suicide by a tourist in Waikiki." She hesitated, staring at McGarrett, biting her lip.

"Yes?" he prompted. His day was suddenly disconcerting enough without worrying about tourists. As if there wasn't enough stress in his life today he was preoccupied with anxiety about Wo Fat. "What does that have to do with Five-0? Was she famous?"

"They think she was a teacher from LA." She squirmed. "Well, they wanted us to know -- they thought we might be interested. She was a photography buff and had a lot of pictures around the room. One of the officers on the scene recognized who she's been spending time with and contacted us." She drew in a breath. "She had a lot of pictures with Danny Williams. He thought we should notify Dan."

McGarrett looked at Duke, not sure how to take this overwhelming tide of information. Danno had been out all night. With the girl? Not necessarily. His first priority was to find Williams, maybe help his friend deal with the suicide, then focus back on the MI6 murder.

"Duke, get rolling on this MI6 agent -- trace his movements since he's been in town. Kimo, Lori, find out who he was tailing and what the Nine Dragons want on this rock." He started dialing the phone.

Carew killed the call. "How do you know that Williams isn't involved? Maybe it's not a suicide." The statement sounded reasonable, but the narrowed, cold eyes and the crisp tone made the accusation obvious and sharp.

"Whatever happened he's not involved," McGarrett snapped back.

"Maybe I should take this." It was more than a suggestion.

McGarrett didn't raise his voice, but the command in the tone was unmistakable. "I'll handle the suicide. Where?" He stared down his soon-to-be replacement.

"Outrigger Kuhio," Finally surrendered, removing his hand from the phone.

McGarrett placed the call in fuming silence.

Dan's mobile number was answered almost immediately. "Williams."

Steve released an anxious sigh. "Danno, meet me at the Outrigger Kuhio. We've got a crime scene -- I -- uh -- I think you should be there."

"What is it?"

"Just meet me there." He hung up before he had to give the explanation over the phone. To the others in the room he offered just as little. "I'll handle this. Then I'm coming back here to see what you know about the Nine Dragons."

McGarrett left without another word, too hot with anger to be civil to Carew. The accusations were obvious and petty, and McGarrett wondered again at the enmity between the old and the new Five-0 officers.

 

 

*****

 

McGarrett drove to the heart of tourism in Hawaii - Waikiki,. The Outrigger Kuhio was an average high-rise on a back street of the famous section of Honolulu. A few blocks from the beach, it was an unremarkable hotel that catered to budget vacation packages. The type of holiday a teacher from LA might sign up for. He met Dan in the lobby; Williams grim and anxious to hear what had happened. As kindly as possible McGarrett told him of the supposed suicide as they rode the elevator up to the correct floor.

Shocked, Williams leaned against the wall, muttering confused comments to himself. Shaken, he leaned over to catch his breath. McGarrett didn't know what to say and restrained from asking the instinctive cop questions that were bubbling in his mind. He chose sensitivity instead and supportively patted Dan on the shoulder.

His own nerves were strained over this unpleasant incident. A suicide -- a friend of Danno's, happening at the same time as poison darts, spies and Nine Dragons. Automatically he thought back to Williams' attempted suicide. Why was this happening, he pondered, trying not to leap to conclusions.

The multi story hotel was not big enough to warrant a security presence. HPD detectives already inside, the manager met them at the door to the girl's room. According to him, Diane Rusk had not been seen by the desk personnel since early the day before. McGarrett and Williams exchanged nervous glances, then entered the room. Crumpled on the floor was the body of a blond woman. Dan gasped. McGarrett held onto his arm.

Dead for some time, Steve guessed aloud, then glanced at Dan, worried about his friend. There were no signs of a struggle and the lanai sliding door was slightly open.

"When did you see her last, Danno?"

"This morning. Just after dawn," Williams whispered, his voice tight. His hands combed through his hair. "She was alive." He shook his head. "She was fine."

Crouching beside the body, Steve shook his head, grimacing at the residual affect of a pistol bullet to the head. A black pistol was lying near the body. "Not the kind of weapon you'd expect a tourist to bring over."

"I didn't know she had a gun." Williams stared at her, still dazed. "Why?"

McGarrett studied the pistol. "Walther PPK." He leaned close, double-checking a puffy red splotch on her neck. He asked the nearest detective, "Did the crime scene team take pictures?" He received an affirmative. "You're not going to believe this," he told Danno, pointing to her neck. "A poison dart!"

"What?" Dan asked, still in shock. "What do you mean?" He crouched down and studied the neck with a small toothpick-like object barely protruding from the skin.

"The second victim in two days." A poison dart! He had been a victim of one himself. In Hong Kong. At the hands of Wo Fat.

"That's insane!" Dan backed away, horrified. "A dart in her neck? Then she shoots herself?"

Sending a quick, worried look at Williams, Steve caught a breath in his throat. "Diabolical." He shook his head. "Why? Why would a tourist from LA be murdered in the same MO as a British agent?" He looked at Williams. "And what's her connection with an MI6 agent from Hong Kong?" He leaned close to the pistol. "Walther PPK is British secret agent issue. The agent's Walther is missing. Not anymore, I bet."

Williams joined him. "Another victim?"

Steve showed him the picture on a police bulletin of the MI6 operative and Dan gasped, recognizing the man as his mysterious Oriental shadow from a few days before.

"Something is going on. Something right out of Charlie Chan." He looked at Dan. "Or Wo Fat."

Was this a plot of the master spy? Even behind bars the Chinese agent was undoubtedly trying to wield power. McGarrett's first impulse, of course, was to go down to the prison and throttle the truth out of Wo Fat. And what a sensation it would cause if he did. Soon enough people in the know would piece things together and possibly come up with the reason for his interest in Wo Fat.

Could he never emerge from the scars of Wo Fat and his family? There was always the shadow of evil hanging over him. Had Wo Fat taken a decisive step and tried to reinstitute the brainwashing programming to destroy Williams, and thus McGarrett, from the inside? That latent fear now surfaced and would not be denied.

Williams had collapsed onto a chair. McGarrett paced, snapping his fingers in frustration. He studied the room, the body, the details of the crime scene as he pondered. One of the techs was bagging the snapshots on the table and Steve abruptly ordered him to stop.

"Danno."

Joining him at the table, Dan looked at the photos scattered across the surface. Some were pictures of him at the club. Some of the car. One of an Oriental man. Steve pointed at that photo.

"You met him?"

"Yeah, the day I met Diane he followed me."

"And you didn't tell me?"

"Tell you what? That an Asian guy wanted to talk to me about the security company?"

Dan related his brief encounters with the man. McGarrett ruminated, not liking any of this, knowing none of it was coincidental, but not understanding the full picture yet. Was Diane connected to the dead agent? Was she working with him or following him? Had they been setting up Danno for something? Why were both of them dead?

"Let's go to the office and get to work."

Dan backed away. "To the Palace? I can't go back there --"

"Danno, this is a case and you're right in the middle of it. Forget about the past." He calmed his voice and tempered his apprehension. Dan had been through a lot in a short time and Steve needed to stay calm. "We need to find some answers, Danno, and the resources of Five-0 are going to help us."

Williams nodded, clearly unhappy and still upset. "You're right." He stared at the body of the girl. "She deserves answers."

*****

When McGarrett opened the door a wall of raucous noise hit him. The main office was filled with his staff, lab workers, HPD personnel and some general employees of the State who worked at the Palace. Stunned, Steve fell back, nearly on top of Dan, who was just coming in the door. Truck, who hardly missed a beat, came forward and shook hands with the boss and Dan.

"Hey, some of us thought you needed one more party before leaving, Steve. Come and have some cake."

The office staff greeted McGarrett and his guest with subdued surprise. Everyone was a little confused at the grim McGarrett and Williams. Those who were holdovers from the old days seemed to reflect the discomfort evident on the guest of honor and associate. Lori Wilson clung onto McGarrett's arm and made a show of getting him a slice of cake and commenting on who had come for this last, momentous day.

Williams stayed in the background, wishing Duke was there so they could get on with the investigation of Diane's murder. Although he tried to avoid even exchanging glances with Carew, he could feel the man's eyes bore into him. Finally the heir apparent of Five-0 approached him.

"So you had to drag Steve off on some wild goose chase on his last day, huh?"

"That's not what happened." Dan was about to explain, then stopped. This was Steve's detective and Williams was completely unofficial here. And that was probably how it should stay. Steve did have enough going on today. He did not need Dan complicating things. "Tell Steve I'll catch up with him later."

"Sure," Carew agreed, and smiled as the former detective left the office.

 

*****

All too easily the instinctive investigative techniques of his police years kicked into high gear. He was rushing down to the basement labs before he had fully thought out his actions or had a plan. The lab was still staffed with people he knew and they greeted him warmly. Diane Rusk's belongings were bagged and set aside on a table. Dan watched as the forensic tech dusted for prints on the pictures that had been spread out in the hotel room. For several minutes Dan wondered what was missing from the scene, then remembered Diane had shot a roll of pictures along Kalakaua the last night they were together . . . .

The sweet memories of their brief tryst twisted inside his heart. Why would someone murder her? What kind of threat could she have been? It was beyond belief that it was a random act of violence -- why her out of all the tourists in Waikiki? Not a burglary gone wrong. Her purse and costume jewelry, even her traveler's checks were bagged and clearly untouched. Paranoid, he wondered if the murder was connected to him. The flash of terrible insight almost made him laugh in a sick revulsion at such egotistical imaginings. Then he remembered the times in the past when his job had impacted on innocents around him and he sobered instantly. On the other hand, sometimes those he knew were overwhelmed by violence without any connection to him, and he flinched remembering Jane Michael's murder.

Dan checked the camera and found it empty. So there was at least one missing roll of film. Was that important? The photos had led the investigating officers to call in Five-0. And that had connected -- through Dan -- the MI6 agent and Diane. How that was important remained to be seen, but it was like connecting the dots at this time in the investigation. Everything was important until it could be eliminated.

About to rush out the door, he realized he had no official justification for seizing evidence. Pulling aside the chief lab tech, he explained the situation to Tom Malama, the senior staff member. Williams suggested he phone the store where Diane had the film developed and tell them he was picking up the photos that were now criminal evidence.

Tom smiled weakly. "Dan, you're not with Five-0 anymore. That could corrupt the chain of evidence."

"Send someone with me."

Tom gestured at the empty lab in irritation. "Got two upstairs at Steve's party and I can't spare the time. I hope they remember to bring me back some cake."

Impatient, Dan would not be put off. "I'll have the clerk go through the pictures with me -- as documentation. Then we'll seal them in a bag and I'll bring them back."

"This is so irregular. Are you on a case with Five-0 --"

"Yes, Tom, I knew the victim!"

The civil servant was obviously not used to taking risks or of unorthodox procedures. Dan silently cursed the rigid, technical attitude, knowing it was only fitting for a forensics tech, but it was restrictive for a detective who was used to stretching limits in investigations. Especially under the tutelage of McGarrett, who wrote and rewrote the book according to his needs.

"Why don't you go with Truck or Lori? That way the evidence will be intact."

The thought of working with official Five-0 detectives was completely repulsive to him. Although Steve had dragged him into this, and he had a reasonable excuse for acting on the case, he flinched from the thought of working with Five-0 officially. It gave him the unpleasant image that by the end of the day Carew would have him behind bars for the murder if he wasn't careful.

"It would save time if you would just call the store and authorize me to pick up the film." Dan leashed his impatience and poured on the charm. "Besides, you wouldn't want to have everyone miss Steve's party," he casually suggested. "It would even give you time to slip up and have a slice of cake and wish Steve well."

Tom sighed, clearly tempted. With a little more gentle nudging by the persuasive Williams, the lab chief made the call to a store in Waikiki. The owner expected Williams to pick up the photos in a few minutes. Thanking the tech, Dan raced out, hoping the pictures were worth the trouble.

 

*****

By the time Steve politely greeted the various office workers, HPD liaison officers and lab techs, Lori managed to shove a plate of cake in his hand. Fleetingly he noted Williams was gone and sincerely wished he could make such an easy escape. As much as he disliked the attention he was not so brusquely rude as to abandon his colleagues in their sincere attempt to honor him. He was grateful to be retiring only once.

"You know I do have work to finish," he firmly reminded Wilson the first chance he was free of chatty colleagues.

Lori maneuvered him into her office and for a moment of semi-privacy. "Steve, I wanted you to know -- well, I don't want you to forget about us. We certainly won't forget you."

"Of course." He put the cake on her desk. "Did Duke check in recently about the murder of that agent?"

"Steve!" she admonished in irritation. "By the end of the day you'll be out of here. I just don't want us to lose touch. I want to -- to see you again."

"Sure, Lori." He tried to edge past her but she held onto his arm. For the first time that afternoon he really looked at her and saw in her face, her eyes, emotions that startled him. Danno's teasings had been right on target. No surprise there, Danno was an expert with women. Steve was just glad no one else was seeing what he saw from his female detective. "Lori, I won't be a stranger," he assured gently. "I promise."

She gave him a quick, friendly hug. "I'll hold you to that, Steve."

Tactfully he disengaged. "See if you can contact Duke for me. I still have a few loose ends to finish up on this case."

"I'm going to call you," she threatened with a weak smile, her face shaded with thinly restrained affection.

He made his way through the crowd, enduring the last well wishes of the people he had worked with. He deliberately did not look back to see Wilson or her emotional expression just now. Working with the old guys, he sighed internally, was never this complicated.

 

*****

The camera shop on Kuhio was empty when Dan entered. A young Asian man behind the counter put aside some papers and smiled at him.

"Can I help you?" his accent was thick and he bowed slightly.

Not long from the old world, Dan assessed. "Tom Malama from Five-0 called. I'm here to pick up the pictures from Diane Rusk."

"Back here, Mr. Williams. Please come with me."

The man opened a door leading to the back room. He gave another little bow, gesturing for Williams to precede him. Dan automatically proceeded, wondering why he was feeling an uncommon grip of apprehension suddenly.

"Excuse me, I must get the light." The young man bumped into him as they entered and the door slammed.

*****

After the hubbub died down, McGarrett called Danno's car phone, but there was no answer. Then he tracked the trail of Williams' investigation to the lab. Lukela was already out on the streets and the boss called him to swing by and check the photo shop and see if Williams was still there. A bit later Duke called to say the shop was closed and there was no sign of Williams. Steve checked the time, nearly five o'clock.

"What about the backgrounds?"

Lukela supplied, "I checked Rusk's background. Looks real, Steve. She teaches high school in California, came here for a vacation about four days ago. Went on a few of the package deals with the tour company, then struck off on her own. I guess that's when she met Danny. They hit some night spots Wednesday -- Sally's, just before closing."

The almost-retired head of Five-0 endured another round of alohas as the secretaries prepared to leave. He asked Lukela to hold for a moment. When he returned he asked about details on the life of the MI6 agent.

"Still no cooperation from Hong Kong or anybody official. They just want the body returned. Of course they wouldn't cooperate with us."

Irritated, McGarrett advised him to keep checking. Truck and Wilson came in and chatted, obviously reluctant to see him leave. Irritated that the two recent deaths -- murders he categorized -- were still preying on his mind, he prepared to leave this office, the Palace, for the last time as Five-0's chief. Leaving the official police files and data on the desk, he packed his briefcase and walked out, not bothering to close the door behind him.

When McGarrett pulled up at the beach house he was mystified that Williams was sitting in the drivers seat of the Mustang. Just sitting there, staring at nothing. If Danno had just pulled in why hadn't he answered the car phone in the several times he had been calling? Steve joined him at the sports car.

"Danno?"

Almost dazed, Williams exited the car and a concerned McGarrett followed him into his house. Dan must be reacting to the death, he decided, but felt a distinct chill at the base of his neck.

"Danno?" Williams had suddenly gone pale and unsteady. "What's wrong?" Steve crossed to meet him and helped him sit down on the sofa.

"I guess I'm a little sick or something."

"Where have you been? Why did you leave? We've got some things to talk about."

Williams cradled his head in his hands.

McGarrett moved to the sink for a glass of water. The phone rang and Williams stood to answer it. As if in slow motion, McGarrett watched, suspicions rising automatically, but not fast enough to prevent the horrible, inevitable tragedy. McGarrett shouted a warning, but it was too late. Williams was as still and as pale as a waxen statue. The phone dropped from his hand. Expressionless, blankly, he stared straight ahead, then dropped to the floor.

Throwing the glass down Steve rushed to his side. There was no rise and fall of the chest, no breath coming from the mouth. Before Steve could react Dan coughed and drew in a stuttered, wheezy breath, then coughed again. McGarrett leaned him up and patted his back.

"What happened? Danno?" McGarrett could hardly talk. "You -- you stopped breathing."

He stared at the phone. No, it couldn't be. Glancing at Williams' alarmed expression he knew they were thinking the same dreaded thoughts. This had happened before. Flashbacks. Mind control. His heart had stopped when Jin Wu had come. But Jin Wu was dead.

"What?"

McGarrett felt himself shaking. "What do you mean? Don't you remember?" Williams shook his head. "The phone call -- what was it? Who was it?"

"What call?"

Fear tightened his lungs. "Let's get you to the hospital," Steve demanded, trying to get his friend on his feet.

"No --"

"You just stopped breathing for no reason!"

"No, I'm fine. Just felt sick. I can't go --"

McGarrett ignored the protests and got him to stand. "You're going --"

"No!" Williams was panicked.

The bleeping of the unconnected phone finally registered on McGarrett and he picked it up to listen. Whoever had called had broken the connection. He hung up and stared at it with wary suspicion. He was remembering the insidious evil of two years ago --the courier, and Danno, had received subliminal messages from Jin Wu through the phone. He was remembering the two times he had seen Dan Williams die -- both from subliminal mental commands from Jin Wu.

"I'm taking you to the hospital."

"And what will they do for me there?" Dan pulled away and fell against the couch, tripping onto the floor. "Can you imagine the publicity --"

"Damn the publicity, Danno, we're talking about your life!" McGarrett helped him up again. "We'll let the doctors check you out. Just to be safe." Not waiting for more protests he grabbed Williams and rushed out the door.

 

 

*****

 

Leahi hospital hadn't changed since the last time he had been here. Morosely McGarrett paced the empty hall trying to force away the terrible fears surfacing with every step. All he could think of was the other incidents when Danno had died and Jin Wu had been controlling him. Who was behind it now? What was that phone call about? He should have had it traced, but there were no facilities to do that at the beach.

Jin Wu was dead. But what of her minions? There had been others helping her. Where were they? Or her infamous family? What about her evil father? Was Wo Fat behind this?

The doctor emerged from the examination room and reported Dan was in no danger. His heart was strong, breathing fine. He seemed a little worn out, but not even a temperature to indicate an illness. Rather than believing a virus, the doctor tended to think he'd had too little sleep and too much partying or something -- although he tested negative for alcohol. There was no reason to hold him.

"You tested for -- for drugs?" He didn't want the doctor to get the wrong impression, but he had to be sure.

"Yes. Alcohol was within legal limits. Drug analysis takes more time. What did you expect?"

"I don't know."

How could McGarrett respond? Did you check for subliminal brainwashing commands? He knew Danno when he's drunk and this was not drunk. This was more in keeping with the hallucinogens favored by Wo Fat and clan.

"I want you to keep him here until you know for sure."

The physician admitted he could stretch a point and do that considering the patient's history of the heart stopping. McGarrett pressed him to do whatever it took to keep Williams for observation. Then McGarrett phoned the Palace for Five-0 to set up HPD guards for a security presence. Carew wondered what was going on and McGarrett promised to explain all later. He didn't mention much beyond the suspicion that this was related to the MI6 agent's case. He refrained from saying who was involved. He knew Carew didn't like Danno and Steve didn't have time to deal with in-fighting right now.

Against Williams' predictions there were no reporters, no intruders clamoring for information. That wouldn't last when the media snoops found out about the HPD security. Well, it couldn't be helped. He'd rather have Danno safe than -- than what? The heart stopping instantly brought back memories of what had happened in the past with Danno and the courier. They had been drugged and programmed, then acted completely normal until it was time to carry out their programming. So what did this reversal mean? The long-dreaded subliminal danger of recurring brainwashing? Then who was behind the mysterious phone call?

Knowing the only answers would be with his friend, McGarrett went to Williams' room. The former detective was upset and angry. Not sure what to say, McGarrett reiterated the doctor's findings. Williams nodded, foregoing speculation or comment. The younger man was simmering with -- something close to fear -- something Steve couldn't define and wouldn't be able to until Dan let him know.

Sitting next to the former detective he quietly started an interrogation he dreaded. Before the first words left his mouth he stopped. Was that a red welt on the left side of Danno's neck? McGarrett felt cold inside and out. "How did you get hurt?"

Dan realized Steve was staring at his neck and rubbed the tender skin, wincing. "I don't know. It wasn't there -- this morning -- I don't think."

"When you left the Palace where did you go?"

Dan shook his head. "I don't remember."

McGarrett took a breath to calm his racing nerves. "Okay, we'll piece it together, don't worry. You were going to the camera shop. Do you remember?" Dan shook his head negatively. Trying to conceal the dread, Steve strove for calm. "What do you remember about the call you got at home?"

Staring ahead, not revealing anything through his tightly controlled features, Williams shook his head. "I don't remember what happened." He gulped. "I woke up on the floor. You were holding me." He tried to draw in steady breaths, but he was shaking. "It's happening again."

"We don't know --"

"There WAS something subliminal, Steve! We thought I was over it --"

"We don't know that!"

"We don't know that it's not! And if it's not the latent programming then -- what? I'm a mental case? A suicide drives me crazy? I can't handle the pressure of life without Five-0? Or I can't handle you giving up your life to help me? Or maybe I'll never be normal --"

"Stop!" McGarrett commanded and seized Williams by the shoulders. "We don't have the answers yet, Danno, but panicking isn't going to help." He forced the slighter man relax into the pillows on the bed and he sat back down beside him. "We're going to tackle this a step at a time. Just like we would any other case," he assured with admirable reason and calm. He didn't feel a bit of the confidence he exhibited, but it helped to placate his friend. "We have to keep cool. Maybe I over reacted. Maybe it was nothing. What did you do this morning? Where were you last night? Let's backtrack and see what we can find out." Williams still held the shadow of terror in his eyes. "Okay?"

Dan nodded slowly. "Okay."

Standing, he started pacing the room, snapping his fingers. "You got a phone call," Steve gently reminded.

Dan shook his head. "I don't remember." The panic was rising again. "That's how Jin Wu triggered me before, Steve --"

"She's dead, Danno."

"Can we be sure? Napoleon never found a body --"

"We'll be sure. Let's focus on last night. Anything unusual happen?"

Momentarily Dan's eyes lit with mischief. "Not that I would tell you."

Steve didn't want to remind his friend that everything had been so normal when Jin Wu had kidnapped him. Dan had never remembered any of it until much later under deprogramming. How could they know his memories now were real or not? From the look he received from Williams he knew his friend was thinking the same betraying thoughts.

"I'm a threat to you, Steve. You can't be sure --"

"Danno, don't!" It was a solid order not to be ignored. "We've been over that before. I don't want to hear it again."

Someone knocked on the door and an HPD guard stuck his head in. Steve gave him strict instructions. No visitors for Williams and absolutely no phone calls. When he looked back at Williams he was torn; stay and support his friend, or leave and find whoever was responsible for this. Jin Wu? No, his mind rejected that horror. Then who? There was nothing he could accomplish here, he knew. He needed to be active, to be out there doing something useful.

To Dan he promised to return soon, then left, not knowing what else to say.

 

*****

Driving back to Honolulu was an exercise in frustration for McGarrett. His first stop would be the camera shop, but he already knew it was closed. He called Wilson to bring HPD and meet him there. Getting Truck to do some fast background work, he discovered who owned the shop and something about the history of the place. Only a few minutes of waiting on Kuhio brought two squad cars and Lori. McGarrett had the officers checked in the back while he and his detective --- his former detective -- tried the front door. The lights were all out, but the glass door was open. Drawing their weapons they entered the shop. Behind the curtain leading to the back room, there was the body of an Oriental man. McGarrett was not surprised to find a dart in the man's neck.

"How did you know?" Wilson wondered.

"It's a pattern. Get the lab boys down here now. Check for anything unusual." He started conducting his own search, afraid he would find nothing. Why should he? Wo Fat and friends always knew how to be neat.

*****

Packing had been the last thing on his mind for today, but Jim Carew finished loading his desk items into the box with distracted motions. He was moving into the big office now, an office that seemed empty without McGarrett, although the old boss had taken only some of the items in the large room. It was more of an emotional emptiness, he realized. McGarrett's shoes were big ones to fill and he was feeling inadequate just now. And angry.

A growl rumbled under his breath. Leave it to Williams to ruin this last day for McGarrett. Steve should have been here relaxing, shooting the bull with his Five-0 staff, taking it easy for the last few hours in the Palace. Instead, Williams' girlfriend was dead, Steve was off on some wild chase, and Duke was investigating spies like James Bond was loose on the island or something.

Lori was off helping Steve, who was on some wild goose chase over Williams and a camera shop. The secretaries had already gone home and the old building seemed eerie in the emptiness.. Carew wondered if this was going to be the inauspicious start of his new career as head of Five-0.

The outer door of the offices opened and he called out, thinking it was Lori. A stranger; lean, sharp-featured and about his height entered.

"Can I help you?"

The man pulled an ID case from his suit pocket. "Special Agent Webb, State Department. Is Steve McGarrett around?" The man warily scanned the area even while keeping a close watch on the detective.

Carew was in no mood for Feds. "In case you haven't heard, he's not the boss anymore. Officially ended his Five-0 career today."

A flicker of -- something furtive -- flashed across the man's pale eyes. "An auspicious day," he almost smiled. "Okay, then I guess you're in charge detective --?"

"Carew."

"Okay, Carew, I've worked with McGarrett before. I'm here to let him -- you -- know I'm tracking a killer. We learned that Rick Kwong, an MI6 agent from Hong Kong was murdered yesterday."

"Yeah, but we didn't hear you were coming to -- cooperate."

A thin, humorless smile quirked on his lips. "I think I'm going to like you, Carew. No, I usually don't send out announcements. I also want to know if you've worked out the connection between Kwong's killing and the Rusk killing."

Carew was startled, not sure where this was going. "Rusk? Isn't that the tourist suicide?"

Webb's eyes lit up briefly. "Murder. You locals are a little slow on the uptake. She's a friend of Dan Williams' and she was involved with Kwong, possibly as a double agent. I need to find Dan Williams."

"I knew it!" Carew nearly shouted. "Williams WAS involved with her killing! I told Steve he had to check out Williams."

Webb did smile this time, in a predatory fashion. "Really. I guess you don't much like Williams."

Carew decided he didn't like Webb, but the man seemed an ally. At least officially. "He's a loser. Worse, I guess. What's he into?"

"Espionage," Webb lowered his voice conspiratorially. "So where can I find him?"

"That's easy. In Leahi hospital. He had some kind of attack and Steve put him in under security. Is it drugs?"

Webb's eyes widened. "Yes, could be," he admitted curtly. "Thank you, Carew. I think you'll be seeing me again."

The agent hurried out of the office. Then Carew debated if he should call McGarrett or not, then decided not. He'd only defend Williams. Better let the Feds take this completely out of Five-0's hands.

 

*****

 

McGarrett should have turned the keys of his black Mercury over to Carew that evening before he left the palace. But his transition into civilian life had already hit a snag. His car that he had to buy (he'd never owned one since the state provided for his vehicle needs all these years) was not ready yet so he was keeping the Mercury until Monday. As soon as he was in the car Steve made a call.

"Yes?"

"Napoleon, it's Steve."

"Sounds serious from your tone," the deep voice of the spy remarked dryly. "No, hi, how are you? How's the weather in San Francisco?" He made a noise of distress. "Okay, enough of the pleasantries. What can be so serious? Bored already? I thought you were retired."

"Tomorrow."

There was a smile in the tone. "Okay, tomorrow. So you say. So what is going on that's so serious on your last day as a cop?"

McGarrett tersely explained the mystery of the two dead people with poison darts. And the Nine Dragon connection.

"That's not good," Solo breathed.

McGarrett requested -- demanded -- the old NI colleague to find proof. Was Jin Wu alive or dead?

"I'll do what I can," Solo promised. "And Steve, I know you don't want to admit it, but Dan could be dangerous. Watch your back."

"That's what he's here for, Napoleon. He is not a danger to me!"

"The subliminal --"

"No, that's not what I think."

"Okay." Napoleon responded doubtfully, clearly unsatisfied.

McGarrett broke the connection in wrath. Temper simmering, he figured it was probably the best time to pay a visit to his most dreaded enemy. No one questioned his right -- still the head of Five-0 for today -- to be at Oahu Federal Prison. He paced as he waited behind the glass partition in the interrogation area. When Wo Fat entered on the prisoner's side, McGarrett immediately punched the intercom.

"I want the truth out of you, Wo Fat. Is your daughter Jin Wu alive?"

The smile on the Oriental's face was smug. "Jin Wu? I thought you killed her, McGarrett. In your plan to eliminate my dynasty and --"

McGarrett lunged toward the glass, slamming a fist on the table. "Is she alive?

Wo Fat's eyes glittered. "What do you think? Do you not pride yourself on having all the answers?"

McGarrett growled under his breath. "All right, I'll tell you what I think. You've been in contact with her all along," he insisted. "She's been doing your bidding outside these walls. Maybe she's trying to plan an escape and -- what -- couldn't resist luring Dan Williams into the twisted plot?"

Anger rippled across the usually placid features of the Chinese spy. "Your fantasies overwhelm your reason, McGarrett. How could she survive your murderous bullets?"

Nearly gasping with triumph, Steve stabbed at the adversary on the other side of the glass. "What makes you think that, Wo Fat? I was the only one there that night. I'm the only one who knows what happened. Except for Jin Wu's ally. Or Jin Wu!" The narrow eyes flickered and Steve flushed with excitement at the slip. "How would you know that, unless you knew she was alive. Unless you've been in touch with her?"

"You killed her," Wo Fat hissed.

"If she's not dead now," Steve snarled, "then she will be soon, I promise you. If she's on this rock it will be her last time. Now what did she do to Dan Williams?"

Smirking, Wo Fat came to his feet. "You disregard the mysteries of the Orient, McGarrett. You forgot them in Korea."

Steve shivered, incensed and startled his old enemy knew about his imprisonment in Korea. Why should that surprise him? Wo Fat could have even been there during the war -- could have been in that prison camp for all he knew.

"You forgot my subtle powers in Hong Kong," he smiled.

McGarrett kept tight control on his expression and Wo Fat's lip twitched at irritation that he could no longer read emotions from the cop.

"Now you have overlooked the powers of the dragon. Our talons run deep, McGarrett. You can never heal the scars. Your colleague was destroyed by my daughter. Williams lives, yes, but his mind will never again be his own." He gave a brief smile. "She had talent. She was much more accomplished than I." His eyes narrowed in hatred. "I should have eliminated you when I had the chance."

Steve ignored the memories of Hong Kong and the torture he had endured there. "What has she done with Dan Williams?"

"Scars of the dragon, McGarrett. He will always belong to her. He will never be free of the scars in his mind."

Wo Fat asked to be taken back to his cell. McGarrett returned to the warden's office and warned him to keep a special guard on the spy. Things were happening and they could mean trouble here at the prison.

 

 

*****

When Webb failed to get in touch again, and McGarrett seemed gone for good, Carew decided to resolve things on his own. He drove out to Leahi Hospital and stopped in front of the HPD man outside the Williams' room.

"Anything?"

The big man shrugged. "Nothin' except nightmares." He nodded toward the room. "Danny's got some heavy dreams."

"Anybody drop by to see him?"

The officer shook his head.

Crew nodded, wondering what had happened to Webb. Spy games? Or had the double-oh been here so covertly the guard hadn't noticed? "Why don't you go back to your regular duty, Officer. I'll take care of things here."

The man hesitated just for a moment. "Okay. Things are quiet enough." With a last glance into the room he left.

Carew talked to the nurses at the nearby station and informed them the protection measures for Williams were lifted and the officers were being removed. Then he called the hospital security duty officer to inform him of the change in orders. Still unsure about Webb's movements, he told the nurses to notify him if anyone came looking for him. He would be with Williams

Slowly, Carew opened the door and allowed the light of the hallway to spill into the dark room. Night shift at the hospital was quiet and the corridor empty. Williams stopped the restless tossing and gasped, opening his eyes. He blinked several times when he spotted the detective.

"Carew?"

"Yeah." He pondered if he should mention anything to Williams about Webb. No, let the Fed spring his own trap. He was just going to help a little. "I came to let you know I've pulled the guards from the hall. They're kind of a waste, don't you think?" He stood near the bed and glared down at the patient. "And phone service has been connected, in case you want to get in touch with anyone. You're not really sick, are you? This is just come ploy to get to McGarrett."

Slowly, dazed, Williams shook his head. "Do you think I want this to happen?" His whisper was brittle and sharp. "You have no idea what is going on."

"You're right."

The phone rang and Williams cried out, flinching away from the instrument. On the third ring a disgusted Carew answered it. He handed it to the patient. "For you." Then left.

Williams took a deep, steadying breath. "Steve?"

The phone dropped from his limp hand. The heart monitor machine next to the bed went flat line. Seconds later nurses and doctors rushed into the room with a crash cart.

*****

On the drive back to Honolulu McGarrett pondered the disturbing interview. He was too preoccupied to appreciate the beautiful lights of Honolulu, or the tinge of moonlight coming up over Diamond Head. Wo Fat sounded like he believed Jin Wu was alive. Was that to play mind games, or did he really believe it? Well, he could testify that dragons could leave lasting scars in the psyche, but scars healed. Jin Wu, alive or dead, was not going to control Danno.

While driving, McGarrett received a return call from Napoleon. He and his partner Kuryakin could offer no proof that Jin Wu died in Hawaii the year before. They did discover that Webb, a CIA operative who had possibly captured Jin Wu, was suspected to have a Chinese double agent in his group of spies -- an Asian girl that could, after plastic surgery to the face, match the appearance -- certainly the build and height of Jin Wu.

"And there's another disturbing element, Steve," Solo revealed. "Webb was headed west from California our sources tell us. We think he might be in your neighborhood."

The information was nearly as frightening as the thought of Jin Wu back in the islands. McGarrett thought it over after Solo ended the transmission, still unable to confirm or deny Jin Wu's death with certainty.

McGarrett called the hospital and asked to talk to security. He nearly drove off the rode when informed that the HPD security had been called off and Williams had disappeared. After there had been another emergency with Dan's heart stopping! He had dispatch connect him with the beach house and Dan's house -- no answer. Then he called Five-0. When Carew's gravelly voice answered Steve was livid.

"What happened to security at the hospital and what happened to Dan Williams?"

"A little while ago I left Williams and he was fine," Carew explained quickly. "Then they called and -- well -- he's gone, vanished."

Driving toward downtown, McGarrett made a dangerous turn and gunned the engine to top speed toward Aina Haina. He got the scant details from Carew -- the phone call to Williams, later reports from the doctor that Dan's heart had stopped again -- then the mysterious disappearance of the critical care patient from ICU! And the guards pulled from the hospital! Could things get any worse? He didn't want to speculate.

Skidding to a stop in the gravel, Steve leaped out of the car, then stopped, alarmed to see the front door of Dan's house was open. Drawing his revolver he carefully entered, calling his friend's name. Perhaps Danno had come home? The house was empty. Very little seemed touched. The same as always. Except -- Steve stopped, checking the bedroom. What was out of place? Williams was a very tidy person. Why was the bed stand drawer hanging open? Inside the drawer was the wooden box where Dan kept his revolver. The box was empty.

 

*****

Spooky -- eerily -- this nightmare was a recurring one, McGarrett classified as he drove along Kalani Highway. Just like that horrible time almost two years ago when he had assigned Dan to check out the import/export company run by Marla Kahuana, AKA Jin Wu. The investigation had resulted in capture, torture, brainwashing for Danno, ultimately altering the lives of Williams, McGarrett and all connected with Five-0. Oblivious to what had happened to Williams, Steve had gone about his own business that day. Is that what had happened again? Had he been so wrapped up in the retirement distractions that he missed vital clues with Williams?

After the mysterious phone call and the alarming collapse, Danno was missing again. How was it all connected? As with any investigation Steve had to start at the beginning. He wasn't sure where that might be, so he had to backtrack until he found out.

Magnum and the others at the King Kamehameha Club had not talked to Williams after the luau. They had nothing to add about information on Diane Rusk. Checking in with Lukela, he was disappointed that there was no news from him. Noting the edge and urgency in McGarrett's tone, Lukela volunteered to keep making inquiries.

Ellen had left the AIKANE SECURITIES office, Steve noted when he checked there. He called the secretary at home and was not surprised to hear Williams had been in and out during the day. Building up the security business meant a lot of legwork, meeting with clients and doing field consultations. Steve checked over Dan's log for the day before and had Ellen recall all messages, notes and memos concerning calls, appointments or anything else that happened that day and Thursday.

As casually as possible under the circumstances, Steve questioned the secretary about Dan's behavior or demeanor. In the brief time they had been working together Ellen saw a side of Williams that most old friends considered relatively normal for the once exuberant detective. Yesterday, however, Dan had come in a little late, Ellen commented with a knowing tone.

"You mean because he stayed with someone?"

Steve recollected Danno had not gone to his home Wednesday or Thursday nights. This morning he came in late, went over field notes and left. And that was the last she saw or heard of Williams.

*****

Subduing his basic vengeance desires, McGarrett returned to the beach house to check again for Williams. Just before he turned into the driveway his radio buzzed.

"Steve, we have news of Webb." A stressed Illya Kuryakin. "He's in Honolulu. We have discovered Webb's operation has been counter intelligence work with his own group of double-agents."

"Was Jin Wu was one of them?"

"Still unconfirmed."

McGarrett snarled, "You have to be sure about hits, Illya! Danno is missing and someone is playing mind games with him! How do you know it's not one of her tong?"

"I am completely sympathetic, Steve, believe me. Whether it is her or a member of the Nine Dragons, does it matter?"

"It matters to me, and to Danno."

"If she is there, make sure you take care of Jin Wu. She is a dangerous link in the Nine Dragons chain and must be eliminated."

McGarrett stopped the car well short of his house. Denial leaped foremost into his reason. "Jin Wu is dead."

"I hope so, Steve, but we can't be sure of anything. Webb and his private little troupe have been utilizing plastic surgery and other methods of disguise. It's possible she is alive. Or not. At any rate, Webb has been running double agents and they are part of the Nine Dragons. Thus a danger to all of us."

"But you think she's alive and back in Honolulu?"

"If Webb is there she is probably close by." The explanation was rushed out in a speedy monologue. "I can't say more. I have to go."

The desperation in the tone startled him. "Are you in trouble? Where's Napoleon?"

"As you say, in trouble, as usual. We are trying to close down the Nine Dragon threats on this side of the Pacific. Make sure you deal with Jin Wu. Good luck."

"You, too."

The connection ended and McGarrett stared at the empty beach house. Jin Wu alive? Webb in Honolulu? That could only mean double danger. And where was Danno?

 

*****

The moving crew had done a quick and professional job of packing and hauling away the personal artifacts of the founder and driving force of Hawaii Five-0. As Carew stood in the near barren corner office he again sensed the emptiness, accentuated by the deep shadows surrounding the low light of the desk lamp. The blinds were closed, giving an impression of gloom. There were still plenty of shelves and books, the big desk and comfortable swivel chair, but something almost indefinable was missing. Some essence of -- personality? -- had escaped with the model ship, the awards, trophies and photographs -- and the dominating picture of the sailing ship. Well, he would fill it up soon enough. And was, in fact, staying on tonight to unpack some of his own belongings.

Carew wasn't used to these long hours, but he supposed he would have to grow into them. McGarrett had occasionally been the first one here and the last to leave the Palace, but Carew had not seen a lot of evidence to support that. Gossip around the Capitol whispered that the legendary McGarrett workaholic had tempered recently. It had been a tough year for him. Most people in the law enforcement community felt McGarrett was more than ready to retire.

In Carew's opinion the boss could have waited. The new detective was not certain he was ready to fill the big shoes of such a legend as McGarrett. In fact, Carew wasn't even that impressed with the island paradise of Hawaii. Yet here he was getting ready to take over the top police unit in the state.

And where was McGarrett? Instead of relaxing at home or going out with a few drinks with the crew, he was out chasing phantoms. Chasing Williams, Carew corrected sourly. Williams wanted to ruin Steve's life apparently. The scandal with the suicide attempt, then leeching off the overly tolerant McGarrett hadn't been enough. Now it was this supposed illness and mysterious disappearance. He wouldn't have expected the tough boss of Five-0 to have a soft spot for washed out detectives, but Steve sure had one with Williams. Couldn't Williams even let the poor boss have his last day of glory? No, he had to fake a medical condition and imaginary dangers -- convincing Steve to post a police guard! Well, Carew had seen through that quick enough. At least now McGarrett wouldn't have to handle the head-case anymore. Webb seemed capable of taking care of the former detective. It seemed a bit far-fetched that Williams was involved with espionage, but Carew could buy almost any shady opinion of the former second-in-command. As long as the loser was dealt with. Then McGarrett could move on with his life.

The door opened and shut and Carew moved to the center of the office, expecting McGarrett to come in the partially open door.

"Couldn't keep away, huh?"

Carew pushed the door and Williams stood there in the main office, near Duke's empty cubicle. Williams looked -- bizarre -- was the only word that came to mind. Like a zombie or something, Carew assessed. So surprised was he at the arrival he couldn't even verbalize the anger now bubbling slowly to the surface.

"What are you doing here?"

Williams' arctic expression did not falter. It was then Carew felt the first whisperings of fear, felt the very air around him take on a sinister presence.

 

*****

With all his energy and leads exhausted, McGarrett returned to his center of gravity -- the place where he could think best. The Palace. It was eerily dark and at this hour of the night he was completely alone. Puzzling, since he thought he saw Carew's car in the parking lot. He almost expected the sharp-edged detective -- the new head of Five-0 -- to wait for him here. There was no ceremony scheduled, like the changing of the guard, to hand over the literal keys to the Palace -- to Five-0. Certainly there had been enough parties and celebrations in his honor this week. But Steve had expected the detective here all the same because that's what Five-0 chiefs did -- stay late and come in early.

Occasionally in the past McGarrett had envisioned this day. Two years ago the fantasies were vastly different -- quietly turning over the legacy of Five-0 to Danno. That would not happen now and this reality was a little disappointing.

That Carew was not here annoyed him also. Not like in the old days when Williams could often be found here burning the midnight oil along with the boss. Perhaps that was why Steve came back, like the old fire horse Carew accused him of being. Because he couldn't stay away from the fire station, even though he was past his official final day as the head of Five-0.

If Wo Fat's minions wanted him he was going to make himself an easy target. He would stay here. If Dan needed help, he would be here if his friend returned. Searching the island certainly hadn't turned up anything. If this was all part of a plot by the fat Chinese to get at Steve, then he would accommodate the trap. Either way, he hoped to see Williams again soon.

His office was buried in shadows, steeped in the dark of the tropical night, faint light barely seeping through the slatted blinds. Was it his imagination, or did the shadows seem to move? The ghost of Liliokalani? It was said she haunted this corner suite -- his office -- her former chamber. He would have never noticed in the last twenty-years, because he had always been too busy, too preoccupied. Now, with the distinct possibility of Jin Wu returning to haunt them, he might be persuaded to believe in ghosts.

*****

"What about that fail-safe order to self-destruct?"

Rathman hesitated before he replied. "We could not positively determine the existence, or non-existence, of a self-destruct program."

"After the first torture his heart stopped."

"Sounds like a self-destruct ploy, but there was no evidence of that the second time he encountered Jin Wu."

"Then what do you call the suic -- The shooting. What does that mean?"

"We aren't operating in a perfect science, McGarrett. I can't give you guarantees. I can't be one hundred percent sure he'll ever be normal again. I can only give you my professional opinion. As far as the suicide attempt goes, well, he wanted to discuss that with you himself. Still, I am confident Williams is no longer a danger to himself or to you. I'm not sure Williams is as confident in himself. He remembers everything he did and he's coping with it very well. I think you should be prepared for a different Offi-- Mister Williams than you knew before."

"What is that supposed to mean?"

"Getting around all the psyche mumbo-jumbo, McGarrett, just think about the situation. Someone was playing inside his mind. The games got murderous, then suicidal. Do you think you'd be the same after that?"} (fanfiction -- Ghost of the Dragon)

"He tried to kill you twice, Steve."

{Jameson told him that in the meeting with Webb when they bounced Danno. How did Jameson know? Who told him?}

Illya's voice:

"Steve, but we can't be sure of anything. Webb and his private little troupe have been utilizing plastic surgery and other methods of disguise. It's possible she is alive. Or not. At any rate, Webb has been running double agents and they are part of the Nine Dragons. Thus a danger to all of us."

Webb's face appeared out of nowhere.

"I'm staying over to tie up loose ends, McGarrett. Where can I find some action in this rustic tourist trap?"

"I'm not a tour guide. Just keep your nose clean, Webb."

"I don't like dealing with you rurals anymore than you like me. So bon voyage and aloha to you, McGarrett. Oh, tell your boy he can stop avoiding me and jumping at ghosts. Jin Wu didn't come back to see him -- the romance is off, I guess."

 

Most shattering of all, the nightmare shifted to a surreal, hazy day at the beach.

"They can't make promises, Steve. They can't guarantee I'm deprogrammed anymore than the day I went in there."

"I know, Danno, I got their standard lecture --"

"I'm still a threat to you!"

"You were never a threat to me, Danno!" "Never! Believe me!"

"How do we know what will happen tomorrow or next year? Jin Wu could pop up on your doorstep and I -- I could -- I can't take the risk --"

"You would never harm me, Danno. I KNOW that. You've got to believe it too."

"You should blame me! You should hate me! I tried to --"

"No --"

"-- to kill --"

"You tried to kill yourself,"

"We'll never know if the subliminal programming is still in my head, Steve. I could be a time-bomb to you."

"Or yourself. I'M afraid your self-destruct program is still there. You've proven you're more of a threat to yourself than to me."

"It wasn't the programming. I put the gun to my head, Steve. Jin Wu didn't."

"You don't know that's what happened."

"I know I was programmed to kill."

"There's no way you could ever willingly kill yourself! Not me and not yourself!"

"I could if I had to save you."

"That's behind us, now, Danno. We can't keep wondering what really happened, or if you're totally cured. Until we find Jin Wu's body we'll never know for sure."

 

McGarrett tried to piece the dream fragments lingering in his brain together. Rathman, Jameson. Webb. Illya. Danno.

Were they nightmares, or was his subconscious putting together clues he could not recognize? Rathman telling him there was no way to know if Danno was cured. Illya not certain Jin Wu was dead. Jameson knowing about Jin Wu's orders for Dan to kill McGarrett. How could Jameson know that? Steve didn't tell anyone! Only Jin Wu, Danno and himself had been in the apartment that horrible day. Except the person who helped the wounded Jin Wu escape. Webb -- had to be! He must have removed Jin Wu and later briefed Jameson!

And Webb. The shadow man who liked to frequent sleazy spots in Honolulu. Was Webb back? With Jin Wu? Where would they be?

It was hard to think and Steve realized it was because he was asleep still. Why couldn't he wake up? His mind was slow and lethargic. Forcing his eyes to open he blinked several times to seize awareness. What --? This wasn't his home -- he had fallen asleep on his sofa. No, he hadn't been at home! He had been at the Palace . . . .

 

*****

 

Steve awoke with a gasp. There was a moment of panic when he couldn't move! It was dark and he was -- bound? -- yes! -- bound to his chair in his office! A lean, tall Asian woman leered at him in the dim light of the single desk lamp. The woman's facial structure was the same, the hair similar, but the features different. Alteration surgery no doubt. Even with a slight shift of facial features the build, the shape, the glacial hate-filled eyes screamed out the identity.

"McGarrett." The voice was unmistakable.

"Jin Wu."

"Very good McGarrett."

It was hard to get beyond the shock of her being alive. He had been so certain she was dead. Despite the seeming evidence of her return with Danno's seizures. Despite Illya's warnings, Steve had been desperate to believe she was dead. And it wasn't easy to think past the haze of drugs either, he angrily realized. With the aching at the side of his neck, with the numb, slow thinking processes, he knew he had been drugged. Shot with a dart as soon as he had entered his office, probably.

As if reading his mind she filled in many blanks. She explained Webb had saved her life, stolen her wounded body from Dan's apartment last year and had her healed and her face altered. In return she worked for him in his double-agent network. Until she had enough power to turn the tables. Now she was back. To demand McGarrett release Wo Fat.

"Will you free my father? You put him in prison. While I wouldn't mind him staying there the rest of his miserable life, I find I need him. Our family control of the Nine Dragons is slipping. I need my father to strengthen our hold again. Will you free him?"

He couldn't contain his contempt and nearly spit out, "No power on earth could make me." He stretched the bonds, amazed that a rather loose rope bound his wrists.

Jin Wu smiled. "I was almost hoping that would be your attitude. You are a stubborn lot, you Americans. I wanted my minion Williams to help and he refused."

McGarrett tried not to react. She had Danno. And Danno was not succumbing to her torture and brainwashing this time? Hope leaped into his heart. Then there was no subliminal control? Dread over-shadowed his brief optimism. Then where was Danno?

"My father said he broke you once, McGarrett," she revealed as she glided close to him. "I don't believe him. And I don't have the time to try. MI6 and some pesky spies are on my trail. I must get my father back to Hong Kong immediately or we will lose the Nine Dragons completely. I must use the resources at my disposal."

Slowly, covertly, McGarrett worked at stretching the rope around his wrists. "You killed the MI6 operative."

"Yes. I had the personal pleasure of dispatching him to his ancestors." She moved the desk lamp to illuminate the corner of the room next to the long table. There lay an unconscious, battered and bloody Webb. McGarrett hardly glanced at the spy. "As I will have the pleasure of killing this sorry excuse for an agent!" She spat at him. "He hoped to bind me in his pathetic network of double agents. He was a fool to think he could manipulate me." She turned a vicious, glower toward McGarrett. "As you have tried. But it is I who am the master of manipulation. Not my father -- ME!"

She tilted the lamp to shine on a figure slumped on the floor at the front of the desk. Twisting Steve's arms from behind the desk chair, she pulled him to his feet so he could view the person leaning against of the desk. The glazed, frozen Dan Williams stared back at him with empty eyes.

Forcing his face to remain a mask of control, McGarrett scrutinized his friend. Williams was beaten and scraped, but alive. What concerned Steve were the glassy eyes, the sweaty, flushed face. Drugs, stress, just as he had looked before under Jin Wu's influence. And Steve would never forget what had happened then. Heart stopping the first time -- Williams had shot himself the second time.

Jin Wu clapped her hands and spoke in Chinese. Williams curled in pain, folded to his knees, clutching his head.

"Stop it!"

"There are demons within his mind, McGarrett. I have released the dragons and they are clawing at his brain. How long will you allow it to go on?"

"Leave him alone!"

"Only you have the power to free him, McGarrett. Free my father and I give you back your lackey."

"I can't just walk into a Federal prison and have him released!"

"Then think of something fast!" she snapped in his face, the vicious anger and hatred seeping through her thin fašade. "Or do you need more of a demonstration?" She shoved him back into the swivel chair.

McGarrett's chest tightened. "No!"

"I think you do."

She clapped her hands again and shouted crisp Chinese commands. Williams struggled to rise from the floor, still holding his head, moaning in the agony of the inner torture. Obviously fighting the orders he slowly stumbled away from her. She grabbed his hair and screamed into his face. Tears were streaking down his face and he writhed in anguish as she lashed out her evil commands. Groaning, he sluggishly moved with her as she dragged him to face Webb.

The spy master's hands and arms were tightly bound behind his back. Jin Wu handed a revolver -- in the dim light it looked like a .38 -- to Dan. His trembling hand could barely hold it.

"That tourist was of use to me." Jin Wu released Williams and stepped closer to McGarrett. "She proved I still had power over your friend. He killed her, you know, although it was a clumsy attempt to look like suicide."

"No." McGarrett refused to believe his friend would have killed the girl. "You're lying." She slapped him, leaving his face stinging. Taking a breath, he gritted his teeth to contain his fury and the pain. "He wouldn't do that."

"He nearly killed you!" she reminded viciously. "And he will kill again!" She issued demands in Chinese and Williams pointed the revolver at Webb. "He is my killing machine, McGarrett. How many do you want him to kill? I don't have to destroy Williams at all. He will do it for me and he will be taken in by your own law. How would you like that?"

The idea made him sick, but what was the alternative? Give in? She would never let them live. His only choice was to counter-act her evil influence with his own power over his friend, just as he had before.

"Danno, don't do it! Fight it! She can't control you!"

Jin Wu slapped him again. "Do you agree to free my father?"

"I have no authority to release your father! I'm not even with Five-0 anymore!"

Her wrathful glare indicated what she thought of him and his pathetic excuse. Shouting in Chinese she stepped closer to Williams. Dan raised the gun and pointed it at Webb. McGarrett countered with his own mastery, hoping his authority would win over the mind control.

The gunshot reverberated in the small office and startled McGarrett. He gasped when a red stain spread on Webb's shirt and the spy shifted on the floor.

"Danno!"

Instantly more commands were issued and Dan dropped the gun, sank to the floor, covering his face in his hands. Jin Wu brought the revolver over and pressed the hot barrel onto McGarrett's neck.

"Who shall I choose next time? You? No, I need you, McGarrett. But time is running out!" She drew out a bullet from a pocket of her jacket and reloaded the revolver. "I must have my father now, McGarrett! It seems you care little for the lives of others." She placed the revolver on the desk. "Is there not any life you value?"

More orders spat from her and moaning, Williams struggled to his feet, still fighting against the pain and mind control.

"Your power over my subject proved too strong, McGarrett. Your authority overpowers mine with him. I will not make that mistake again. Too bad. What amusement it would give my father to know I had manipulated your friend to kill you." She shrugged. "Ah well, we will have to use other methods of persuasion."

Jin Wu grabbed Dan by the arm and forced him to his feet. Snapping out more instructions she pressed the revolver into his hand. Then she stepped aside. Williams pressed the to his right temple.

"No!" McGarrett screamed. Not again. He couldn't let this happen again. As she well knew there was a life he valued and he would do anything to save that life. "Danno! No! Fight her! Fight her! You don't want to do this!"

Williams' hand shook. His face distorted from anguish and confusion, he wept and trembled, barely breathing. With his left hand he clicked the hammer back.

"Free my father, McGarrett!"

"Fight, Danno!" Williams was struggling. Would McGarrett's influence win over Jin Wu's again? Or was he gambling with his friend's life at this precarious moment? All he had to do was give in and Danno would -- might -- be spared. But the she-dragon could not be trusted. Steve's way was the only path out for Danno. "You have the power to beat her, Danno!"

Jin Wu barked out another phrase.

"No!" Steve countered.

Williams cried out in utter torment. Suddenly he swung the revolver toward her and fired. Round after round exploded into her as she fell back against McGarrett's chair and rolled to the floor. Dan continued firing -- clicking the discharged gun at the still body -- long after the six chambers had been emptied. McGarrett came out of the chair and pulled the rope off his hands at the edge of his desk. Approaching slowly, he carefully grabbed Williams' hands holding the revolver, and easily took possession of the weapon and man. Leaning against the desk he held onto Williams.

"It's over, Danno. It's over. She's dead. Really dead this time."

"I -- I tried to fight --"

"You did, Danno. You won. You beat her this time."

"I killed --"

"We're not going to worry about that now. Everything's going to be okay."

Dan shook his head.

"It will," McGarrett demanded, gaining defiant certainty with each minute the nerves calmed and a sense of reality returned. "Rathman's treatment worked! You defeated Jin Wu and her programming! Not easily," he admitted with an edgy laugh, "It was a close thing. But you won."

"I killed her --"

"No court in the country would convict, Danno."

"And Webb."

McGarrett growled a muttered curse under his breath as he looked at the counter-intelligence agent. And saw movement! Well, so life wasn't perfect . . . . on the other hand, that's one less crisis for Danno to worry about.

Carew staggered into the room holding his head. "What was all that noise?" He took in the body of the woman, and the wounded agent who was now attempting to sit up, holding his shoulder. "What is this?"

Webb glared at McGarrett. "It's nothing, buster. I'm not here, she's not here and nothing ever happened tonight. You got that?"

Carew shook his head. "What are you talking about, Webb?"

McGarrett glared at the detective and the spy. "You know him?"

"Yeah."

Webb snarled, "You thought she was a dragon? I'm a demon and I will make your life a living Hell if you don't do exactly what I say!" He stared at McGarrett. "I have the power, McGarrett. Don't cross me."

"Jin Wu is dead -- "

"Yeah, and who did that? What will ballistics tell the world if you let this leak?"

"Is this some kind of government cover up?" Carew demanded.

"Don't worry, new-mister-Five-0, we've done it all before," Webb assured. "Now help me stand up," he ordered, cradling his shoulder.

Carew obeyed and Webb grabbed the phone from McGarrett's desk. "You're still not much of a shot, Williams," he declared as he dialed a number. "Thanks. I owe you one."

"Don't do me any favors," Dan snapped back, some of his former fire returning.

"Someday you'll be happy I'm on your side."

 

*****

As McGarrett stepped out the back lanai of his house he was not surprised to see the figure of Dan Williams swimming in the bay. It was late Saturday morning and there had been little sleep in the early hours of this day for anyone. After a hurried meeting with McGarrett, Carew, the Governor and Manicote to manipulate another cover up, Webb and his security team left with the body of Jin Wu. Over McGarrett's objections -- just like last year -- the cover up was set in place.

Unfolding the morning paper Steve sipped his coffee and scanned the headlines. Leafing through the paper there was a small column on page five about a tourist committing suicide in Waikiki. In a back section there was mention of the Hong Kong and San Francisco authorities simultaneously crushing the notorious Nine Dragons tong.

Rubbing his unshaven face he smiled recalling the brief call from Napoleon only a few hours ago. He and Illya were all right. Their mission was a success with only minor casualties. So the good guys had come out ahead last night on all sides. That was a relief.

Walking out to the boat dock, McGarrett joined Williams who was now toweling off. Casualties came in many forms. How long would it take for Dan to recover from this latest battle? How long would the scars of Jin Wu damage their lives? Maybe not that much longer. If last night was any indication, Danno was going to be all right.

"Hey, happy retirement," Williams wished as he draped the towel around his neck. "This is the first day of your leisure life."

"Yeah. I'll have to get used to that."

Dan stared out at the water shimmering in the morning sun. "Thanks. For saving me last night."

There had been little time to think or talk beyond the mechanics of Webb's machinations, the cover up and the emotional and physical exhaustion from the ordeal. The affects of the drugs had slowly subsided, leaving little more than headaches for both of them. Aside from asking Danno, about a hundred times, if he was all right, there seemed to be no other side effects. Every time Steve worriedly asked, Williams had assured he was fine. With the death of the dragon he had no fears of being a threat to anyone.

"It was you. Jin Wu couldn't overpower your will."

Smirking, Dan glanced at his friend. "Or yours."

"Right."

"At least we've seen the last of her. For certain this time."

McGarrett smiled. "Yeah, and any more spies show up on the shores of Hawaii, they won't be my responsibility."

Nodding, Dan found the prospect amusing. "You say that now."

Williams seemed a completely different person from the night before. Killing Jin Wu had been a catharsis, or perhaps the necessary finality to set his life back on course. Psychologically it had to be more meaningful than any other treatment. His personal nightmare was over. And one day the scars would heal. Maybe, from the light, the relief, in Williams' eyes, the healing had already started.

"What, you don't think I can retire?"

"No."

"You're right. That's why I have Aikane Security."

"No spies allowed," Williams insisted, the humor hard to detect behind the sigh.

"Only the simple life."

Williams turned to stare at him, incredulous at the statement, then burst into laughter. McGarrett feigned insult at the amusement at his expense. Inside he felt his own wave of relief, grateful this costly episode had closure this time. And what about Webb? Well, he better not come back into their lives. Ever. Even as a security consultant, McGarrett was not without influence or resources. Even against spies.

 

PAU