A VERY PERSONAL MATTER
An old Navy friend of Steve’s asks for help when his son dies of an overdose. Tom, the friend, thinks the doctor negligible. McGarrett goes after the doctor with serious consequences all around.
The rest of the staff had evacuated long ago. Dan Williams told himself he stayed to finish up on the paperwork since he had been gone most of the afternoon. Silently confessing to the old Palace wall, in truth, he remained because in good conscience he could not go home. Not before knew what happened with Steve and Dr. Danworth.
It had been a cursed, personal case from the beginning. It was so like Steve to stick loyally with old Chief Petty Officer Riordan, believing in his pal, trying to fulfill his duty as a good friend.
Tom Riordan sought to destroy Dr. Danworth -- whom he blamed for his son’s death by overdose of pills -- and hoped Steve would be the instrument of destruction. A private agony pushed from justice to revenge. Out of almost blind loyalty, Steve had pursued -- persecuted -- Danworth beyond reason and suspicion. Only after it was nearly too late did he realize he was taking the wrong path and apologized to the doctor.
Just too personal in the extreme for Steve. Fiercely steadfast to the small number of people who qualified as his friend, he couldn’t be faulted for devotion -- after all, it was one of Steve’s strongest, outstanding traits. Williams had been the recipient of that tremendous McGarrett allegiance too many times to count. His career and his life had been saved because of Steve’s tenacious belief in him. He could not condemn his friend for turning those qualities to another, although in this case the extremes became so disturbing.
In a flash of uncertainty, Dan wondered if he in some way resented Tom for pushing Steve into this. After the coroner’s inquest Tom had unjustly, woundingly, accused Steve of doing nothing to the man he thought murdered his son. After Steve spent some of the night there with Tom and his comatose son, Williams felt resentment toward the old Navy buddy. He had no right to accuse Steve of not helping, when Steve hovered at the hospital, then had pushed for a Five-0 investigation. Steve stuck by the guy even through the unfounded accusations and emotions running rampant from grief, and Tom repaid him with unreasonable condemnation.
Was he being a little too hard on Tom, who had just lost his son? Maybe Dan was a little jealous of the way Steve’s Navy pal muscled in and disrupted Five-0, pushing Steve into difficult, almost illegal harassment of Danworth, with no evidence against him? No question, even through the sympathy, Dan had been angry at Tom for being so irrational. Mad at Steve, for succumbing to the pleas of the past friend. Annoyed at himself for not stopping the events that might have hurt Steve’s career if they continued.
The incident with Tom’s son brought about a McGarrett crusade against pill pushers and he set up an undercover, civilian girl (a real cutie Dan thought Steve might be dating), to run a sting for them. It had ended in an arrest that Dan had literally run down in the surf. That seemed to be the end of the case.
When he went to book the guy and of course get some dry clothes, Steve had gone off to confront Danworth. Since then he couldn’t reach McGarrett and now waited to find out what had happened.
Tom, and then Steve, had been wrong about Danworth all along. McGarrett had pressed himself -- had allowed Tom to push him -- into a destructive cause. For what? A suicide of a druggy. It was sad, sure, that a kid Steve had known as a boy turned out that way, but it happened. And it wasn’t worth damaging Steve’s career.
No word from Steve for hours. He wondered if he should call over at Tom’s. Maybe Steve went over to tell Tom personally that Danworth was innocent. That wouldn’t be a pretty scene. Perhaps it would take all night to calm down the distraught father.
The front door slammed with a loud bang and Dan released a sigh of relief. He leaped to his feet, expecting to confront the persona he had seen for days. The steam-roller cop consumed -- possessed -- by frustration and anger.
When McGarrett leaned on the door to the cubicle Dan was amazed to see the fury and bitterness washed away. They were replaced by exhaustion and depletion. Steve seemed aged and washed out.
McGarrett gave a nod toward his office and slipped out, Dan quickly following. Once inside the private domain Steve immediately crossed to the lanai doors, opened them, and leaned against the wall.
Concerned and wary, Dan took a seat on the edge of the desk; not too close, not far away. There was nothing for him to say and he waited for his friend to find the words in his own time and manner.
“Tom tried to kill Danworth.”
While the news was not completely surprising after the way Tom acted, it was startling. More personally, disturbing for both of them for differing reasons. This was so intimate; painful and horrible for Steve, to see his old friend turn into a criminal. Unbalanced by fatherly guilt, Tom had been driven to the edge. He had nearly dragged Steve along with him -- suffering for it. And that was what distressed Dan.
“Fortunately, I was able to stop him.” He released a deep, anguished sigh. “Danworth’s daughter also OD’d. Just like Tom Junior. Danworth, after all we put him through, was forgiving. He didn’t want to press charges against Tom. They’ve both lost so much.”
There was a lot left between the lines -- details that didn’t really matter. His worry was for McGarrett, who seemed emptied out by the betrayal of his old friend. By the rocky, obsessed path he had taken.
“How are you doing?” Dan wondered quietly, hoping he would get an answer.
They were past recriminations and should-have-beens over this. He could have warned Steve that Tom was on a self-destruct course, but it would not have helped. Steve had been too blinded by loyalty to see anything but Danworth as a target. Tom’s passion had swept them on a winding course to unbalanced revenge. Somehow, Steve had saved them all from terrible tragedy. All Dan worried about now was what affect this would have on McGarrett.
Staring out at the familiar, dark lawn of the Palace, Steve shook his head, for a time lost in the thoughts clogging his mind. It was difficult to sort everything out; the confusion, the residual grief, the gnawing particles of guilt that he had lost control and careened a dangerous course. Almost to the point of abusing his authority -- using his office, reputation and mandate for personal vengeance. And revenge was exactly the path he had been swept up on with Tom.
In the subdued quiet of the room, his voice was hoarse with strain, and he recognized the fatigue that personified his exhaustion in mind, body and spirit. “How am I? Not well, I’m afraid. How should I feel, Danno?”
Steve didn’t continue, but mentally he itemized the route he had taken. He felt ashamed that he allowed personal prejudices to confound judgment. Annoyed that a friend pushed him into actions that he knew were unjustified and extreme, but he continued because he felt obligated to Tom. A father seeking justice -- what could be more righteous? That night at the hospital, when he watched -- helplessly -- as Tom suffered over the comatose form of his son, Steve’s heart broke. He forgot that grief could twist and damage inside; distort a person like nothing else. Tom had been irrationally distraught -- seeking vengeance to appease his own guilt and hurt. And Steve had leaped onto the bandwagon with him, thinking it was the action of a concerned, supportive friend. Perhaps he was going through his own guilt and grief. After all, where had he been the last few years for Tom and his son? He hadn’t seen them since the funeral of Tom’s wife.
Turning, he glanced at Williams. “I was wrong. About Danworth. About Tom and his son.” For a moment he stared back out the door. “I lost it.”
Out of control. That didn’t happen
often, but when it did it was like
“I really blew it,” he concluded with a sigh.
“Nothing that can’t be mended.” The voice was quiet, but certain.
McGarrett turned and offered a contrite smile. “And my first step should be to apologize to you, Danno. You were right all along about Danworth. You tried to temper me and keep me in check. I pushed away all your logic and reason.” He stopped, his voice shaky. “And your concern. I apologize.” He released a breath of relief when Dan’s face brightened. He knew all would be forgiven, as usual.
Dan couldn’t help but offer a smile of relief. For days he had fought Steve to come to his senses. Now that the rare, but sincere apology was delivered, there was no glow of triumph, but the warm security that everything was back on track, that the sad incident and resulting conflict of the old friend had not damaged anything between he and Steve.
“Mahalo, Danno. For sticking by me. For not saying I told you so.” Steve seemed a little shaky. “You never do.”
“You’re not wrong that often,” Williams assured wryly.
“This time I deserved it, aikane. You were right all along and I ignored your instincts, your advice and, I’m sorry to say, your loyalty.”
“You’ve done the same for me,” he shrugged, a little embarrassed at the profound and eloquent apology. Steve didn’t wax verbose often, and certainly didn’t like to admit when he was wrong, but this time had been really tough. Perhaps the pitting of the old and the new? Although Dan thought only he had considered that angle. “Just because you were doing it for Tom I can’t fault you, Steve. You’ve been out on a limb for me too many times. I’m just sorry it turned out the way it did.”
McGarrett walked out onto the lanai and Dan followed. The evening breeze washing against their faces, the twilight an amber glow beyond the downtown buildings.
“I learned something through all this.”
Surprised at the admission, Williams eagerly asked, “What?”
“To listen to you a little better. And that you are a true friend, Danno, in every sense of the word. I am very grateful for that.”
Touched, Dan could find little else to say. They had covered it all. McGarrett turned to stare out at the grounds. Dan leaned against the railing, absorbing the peace between them. The companionable silence said it all. Everything was back to normal.