UNDERTOW

 story idea by Barbara Baer

written by G M

 


 December 1972

 

PART ONE

 

One of the advantages of life in paradise was the excellent weather enjoyed nearly all year round. Winter brought the heavy rains and drops in temperatures, but still, for December, the cool morning qualified as so near perfect that no one could quibble with the slight misty rain or the sixty-five degrees at seven-fifteen AM.

Few people were out at this hour and Waikiki was uniquely deserted. At this time few other joggers and walkers strolled the most famous beach in the world. Hotel employees raked the sand and placed surfboards, outriggers and umbrellas out on the strand to prepare for the hoards of tourists who, when the sun rose above the high-rise hotels, would descend to the surf.

The aura of aloha, which surrounded everything in Hawaii, helped to dispel the irritations and tensions of work. Steve McGarrett needed the mental respite to clear away the debilitation from recent cases. Clearing the desks for this next phase of police work which promised to overwhelm the holiday season if he allowed the investigations to dwarf celebrations. Normally he would ignore the seasonal merriment and forge ahead with business, but this year was different and he, and his staff, needed the distraction of the holidays to set things right again in their world.

As he jogged up the beach at the War Memorial and headed toward Kalakaua Avenue, he reflected that 1972 had proven to be a stressful time. The year began with a traumatizing traffic accident in which he was temporarily paralyzed -- in a plot to frame him -- by Wo Fat. This summer Kono Kalakaua left Five-0 to take a job with the police on the Big Island. Steve still felt betrayed by the desertion. Soon after that Duke Lukela was framed for mob pay-offs -- a scandal which shook up Five-0, HPD and the DA's office. Things only got worse when Dan Williams was accused of shooting an unarmed teen, then very publicly resigned from Five-0. Fences had been mended there and Dan was back on the team, but Steve still felt the hurt from that rift in trust and confidence that Danno showed not only about himself, but McGarrett as well.

Then, less than two months ago Danny was injured with a concussion and amnesia. McGarrett experienced new definitions of fear when the initial diagnosis came out. During those few days when Williams' memory was lost the team pulled together in a way that was healing to not only Danno's memory, but to the four detectives as well. With the new detective Ben Kokua the crisis bound them into a tight, caring unit. Just in time, too, since just last month they had to deal with the infamous Vashon family; Steve targeted by assassin, then framed for murder by the Vashons.

And what would the end of the year be without another visit by Wo Fat? Grinding his teeth, the bitterness still rankled that they had captured Wo Fat for murder and espionage and Jonathan Kaye had come and spirited him away for a spy exchange!

Jogging up Kalakaua, past the fountain, McGarrett reflected they had had enough drama in their lives this year. It was time for a break, but no respite seemed likely. One of Williams' snitches informed that a highly placed business man was looking to put a contract out on his wife. Posing as a Vietnam vet sniper, Danny set up a sting operation and nabbed Paul Okoa, society patron and attempted wife-killer. The arrest was still sending shock waves through Honolulu. Five-0 was under the microscope and rifle sights again as the media and politicians scrutinized everything the police unit did.

Veering into the driveway of Danno's condo, Steve wryly reflected that the dangers were not yet over. Ten more days until his birthday and the plots were already swirling around the office with hurricane-force intensity. Accidentally he overheard Jenny telling Chin this birthday had to be extra special -- what with the recent Vashon nastiness and the Wo Fat frame, everyone was anxious to forget the unpleasantness of the past year. Maybe he should throw a monkey wrench into the traditional birthday surprise (a tradition started by the meddling Danno, who, in his first year in Five-0 decided the sober boss needed a surprise birthday to cheer things up. After the initial success the party turned into an annual event). Maybe he would just come out and ask for a paid vacation to Maui for the holidays! That would get him out of the office for once and his staff would stop bugging him about taking a vacation. And the incessant birthday conspiracies would be at an end.

Jogging in place in the garage, he smiled at the deflation he could easily imagine on the face of his closest friend and chief birthday plotter. Williams would be happy to see him leave on a vacation, but would be so disappointed to have the surprise plot ruined. Maybe next year, he sobered. This year had been too much of an emotional strain on all of them. Best to let the staff burn off tension by throwing the 'surprise' party and having some fun.

The stairwell door opened and Dan Williams, dressed for running, jogged to meet him. Taking the lead, McGarrett led them down Kalakaua into the residential area and past the country club, then around to the beach and back up a quiet Kalakaua to the Ala Wai. Walking toward McGarrett's apartment, they had a chance to talk. As usual, Steve was concerned with the upcoming trial and rehearsed Williams on points against Okoa.

In a good mood, Williams brushed off the fretting. "Steve, don't worry, it's a solid case."

McGarrett would not be easily placated. "You are the linchpin in this, Danno. His attorney is a shark and he'll go after you on entrapment and who knows what else. I gave you the day off to get everything organized and relax." He hesitated, clearly uncomfortable bringing up unpleasantness. "They could attack your mental stability after your amnesia."

Steve hated talking about the disturbing incident. It had shaken him deeply that part of Williams' mind, even temporarily, had been damaged, even lost. Still clearly imprinted in his heart was the stark fear of losing Danno, when the young officer had been shot and held hostage a few years ago.

The amnesia incident had been less serious, but still frightening: The race to the hospital, meeting the ambulance as they brought Danno out, unconscious and battered, the initial report of loss of memory. The whole nightmare had rattled McGarrett and it would be some time before he could reconcile all the emotions with the dangers they met on a daily basis.

Impatient and confident, Williams countered quickly, fervently. "I'm fine, Steve. Doc Bergman cleared me for duty last month. No attorney's going to shake Doc if it comes to that. Which I don't think it will."

"All right. Come by the office about noon and we'll go over the final details."

"How about three? I'm going out to Waimea or Makapu for the day -- "

"Surfing?" The thought of the dangerous sport on a recovering concussion victim was too much for McGarrett. "Danno, another hit on the head -- "

Williams adopted his most sincere expression and tone. "Makapu is safe, Steve, I've been going there all my life. No heavy sets like the North Shore. You wanted me to relax before crunching for the trial tomorrow."

The muscles in McGarrett's jaw were flexing, a sure sign of discontent. "Bumps and minor injuries are common even on a good day, Danno. What if you hit your head again?"

Dan pressed his argument. "Hey, I did fine at the Hummel trial. Don't worry." He reminded that the powerful businessman, who tried to assassinate the Chinese ambassador, pulled a few rabbits out of his hat, but was now behind bars along with most of the criminals Five-0 faced. "This is my way of letting out the stress." There was still obvious reservation on McGarrett's stern face. "No Sandy Beach, no Banzai Pipeline today." A crooked grin urged faith. "Come on, trust me. I'll be on my best behavior. No undertow risks, no rocky wipeouts."

McGarrett shook his head, knowing he could not dissuade his friend when the surf was up and a half day's holiday was officially sanctioned. His natural concerns, however, were not to be ignored. Daily life as a Five-0 cop was dangerous enough without Williams courting peril on the beach. "Your concussion was only six weeks ago." On Dan's innocent, imploring expression, he sighed. "All right, but no Waimea. We have enough undertows in our lives without you going after the real version." He patted the back of his friend's neck. "Just be careful, please. No more head injuries. I don't want to get called out of the office again because you're on your way to the hospital."

Dan shivered with remnant apprehension. "Hey, I don't' want to be on the receiving end, either, believe me." Steering the conversation into deliberately lighter tones, he changed the subject. "You're just afraid I'm going to run away and join one of those beach communes, aren't you?" Dan's grin was engaging.

Despite the obviousness of the ploy to detract his concerns, McGarrett smiled at the joke. "Only sometimes, Danno." Staid, he reminded, "I want you safe and in one piece. And in shape for the trial tomorrow."

They stopped as the signal turned against them. Stretching, Dan pointed out, "I have to keep in shape or Yoshi Nakamura will have my spot. I hear he has a hot theft case going on up there."

Groaning, Steve shook his head. Yoshi Nakamura was a hotshot patrolman who obsessively hounded Steve to let him into Five-0. When Ben Kokua was chosen for Five-0 instead of Nakamura, the young patrolman stepped up his campaign to win Steve over. The hard sell only worked to undermine Yoshi's chances, since Steve never tolerated being pushed by anyone -- particularly young upstarts who wanted a favor. Then Nakamura had the bad timing and taste to volunteer for the team after Dan's public resignation. Steve would never consider replacing Danno and was in no mood to entertain eager over-achievers.

"Yoshi won't replace you, bruddah. I need detectives who will work with me, not compete with me."

The thought took him back to the ugly incident of the resignation and Steve's humor took a downturn. Indeed it had been a tough year and he wanted to end it on an upbeat note by putting Okua away for a long time.

"Ooo," Williams took advantage of the praise. "Does that mean I can expect a Christmas bonus?"

Knocked back into a better humor, shaking his head, McGarrett deftly avoided the trap. "How about a turkey dinner instead?"

"That's the least you can do for me since I'm missing a Christmas with Aunt Clara because of this trial."

Williams tried to spend Christmas on the mainland with his widowed aunt whenever possible. Chin and Ben, since they had wives and families, received the priority of having Christmas (sometimes Christmas Eve) off, with McGarrett and Williams on call for the holiday. Generously, Steve tried to give Dan a few days, when the work load permitted, to travel wherever in the world Aunt Clara and her traveling acting troupe were located. This year Danno was anchored to home base until the Hummel and Okua trials were over.

The traffic light turned green and they walked across to Steve's apartment, slowing at the steps leading up to the lobby above the garage. Promising to be back at the Palace by three, Dan waved good-bye. Impulsively McGarrett reached out and stopped him.

"Danno, watch yourself."

"I will," he vowed, and jogged away with a wave. "See you at three."

"One o'clock, Danno." Dan turned back. On the sour expression of his friend, McGarrett adopted his most stern, no nonsense expression. Best not to give the surfing detective too much leniency. "One."

With a smile and a shrug Williams agreed and left.

Walking upstairs to the car park level, Steve watched his friend jog along Ala Wai Boulevard, trying to dispel the tension lingering in his system. It would take more than a good night's rest and a rigorous jog to dissipate the residual anxieties of the last year -- few months -- weeks. That Maui holiday was sounding better and better, he decided as he trudged over to the lobby.

 

 

* * * * *

 

Another prefect day in paradise with the top down on the Mustang served to drive thoughts of Chinese assassinations, businessmen hiring hit men, and even Yoshi Nakamura out of his mind. The sun on his face, the salty wind in his hair, all was right with the world of Dan Williams.

Part of him felt a little guilty at taking advantage of Steve's offer to relax to prepare for the trail. Surfing was not what the boss had in mind, but Dan pushed the limits of the friendship this time because he felt he needed the space. The last few weeks with the Vashons had been murder on everyone in Five-0. The attempts on Steve's life, the frame up and trial of McGarrett, had been unnerving.

Following so closely on the heels of his frightening brush with amnesia, Williams felt the need to get away before this trial on the morrow. He hadn't admitted it to Steve, but the Okua case had him a little nervous. Undercover work was not his favorite thing to do, and the whole case relied on his accounting of his posing as a sniper (which he obviously qualified for otherwise Steve might have volunteered for the assignment), hired by Okua. It was all on audio tape, the whole transaction, the exchange of money, the explicit orders to kill his wife. Normally he'd consider it an air-tight case. But Okua's wealth and social position (benefactor of many foundations, charities, etc -- old money from way back in the missionary days) made Steve nervous and that made Dan nervous.

Cruising along Kamehameha Highway, the pace slowed as tourist busses clogged near a scenic turnout for Chinaman's Hat. Seeing a short break in traffic, Dan punched the gutsy engine, rocketing the Mustang to full-blooded power around two busses and some slow locals. In his rearview mirror he saw a green sedan try the same thing and nearly get clipped by oncoming traffic. Probably an LA driver. Traffic thinned as he snaked up the coast headed for Waimea, intended for there because surf at Makapu wasn't so good. In appeasement he made a silent vow to Steve to be careful of the undertow at the famous surf spot.

Steve had been a little over-protective since the amnesia thing. Just as Dan had been overly concerned about Steve after the frame up with Wo Fat (it must have taken ten years off his life when he thought Steve was paralyzed! -- as bad as when it looked like Steve was blind). It amused him that Steve was so protective and defensive of him -- kind of nice and kind of restricting. The thought made him glad he didn't have a big brother like Steve growing up. Lots of restrictions, he'd guess. Having a big brother in Steve now, though, was great, even when Steve's overbearing guardianship extended to picking surf locations!

Slowing, Dan noticed the green sedan behind him again. He waved the car to pass, but it didn't. Probably tourists hoping to follow him to a secret local swimming location. Parking off the highway at a turn-out, he chose a spot away from the main beach crowd and parking area of Waimea. From here it was a short, but tough hike down little cliffs of jagged rocks to a nice surf area. For a time he surveyed the sets and curls, judging the best spot to start.

Still undecided, he started back the way he'd come, finally deciding on where the waves were best. A good-looking redhead in a small, tight, yellow and blue bikini was running toward him. Being the only other person on the beach, he counted himself lucky. It looked like she needed help. Self-consciously he smoothed down his blue and white Aloha shirt, knowing he looked good in this, one of his favorite shirts. Maybe this would be a better day than he'd planned.

"Hey! Hey!"

With his best smile he placed his board against some rocks and walked to join her. "Hi. Something wrong?"

"Yeah. I just saw a guy with a gun! That's not supposed to happen here in Hawaii!"

All frivolous thoughts of fun swept away as his natural cop responsibilities locked into place. Calmly he asked her for details while he walked her along the rocks toward his car. Best to call in reinforcements rather than handle this himself. At least he would feel better getting back to the Mustang and getting his .22 out of the glove box.

Holding onto her arm for support on the rocks, offering steadiness and calm, he told her he was a police officer and he would go for help. Rapidly, she recounted seeing a man, carrying a rifle, get out of a green car just down the beach. Suddenly she pulled away, clutching at his arm and shirt. The jolt twisted him around, throwing him to the ground near the edge off the cliff. Red blood slowly spread across her chest. A forceful impact jarred him, then another push threw her over the edge. The girl's death-grip on his wrist sent him over, tumbling after her to crash on the rough rocks below.

 

PART TWO

 

Annoying chirps melted into his ears, tickling his mind to awareness. Pain throbbed his back, shoulder, arm and head. The sun on the side of his face was hot and he could sense the brightness even through closed eyelids. Salty sea-spray licked his back, shoulder and face. Logically, his mind told him there was a sense of urgency to wake up, to move in case he was overwhelmed by the waves. The pain tempered him to remain in the cushiony black of unconsciousness. The chirps, the incessant chirps, would not leave him alone. Waving away the intruders, he finally opened his eyes.

Someone's sandaled feet were only inches from his eyes. The chirps refined into voices, into words, and he understood someone was talking to him. The person with the sandals crouched down to peer into his face.

"Hey, bud, you all right? We saw you fightin' with the chick. Had a beef with your old lady, huh?"

Another voice from somewhere behind the haze of sunburst. "Better be getting' outta here, pal. The fuzz gonna be here in a minute. You need some help?"

Without consent the two men -- Long-Stringy Hair and companion, Sandaled Feet (his blurred, matching description) -- pulled him up. The world tilted, spun, then slowly zoomed back into upright position. Leaning against the rocks he still ached all over, some points worse than others.

"You got a place to crash?"

It was like they were speaking a foreign language. Shaking his head -- then holding it to stop the vertigo -- he mouthed a whispered negative.

"We got a pad up past Waimea. We'll take you there."

Again he nodded, again clutching to the rock for support. Assessing himself he was dismayed to see his blue jams, blue deck shoes and blue and white aloha shirt damp with dark stains. It looked like blood. Over the edge of the rocks there was a glimpse of yellow and blue. Leaning over he saw the distorted, blood-covered body of a woman in a yellow and blue bikini. In her hand she clutched a piece of blue and white flowered material. Glancing at his shirt, he saw the right sleeve torn off, his arm and shoulder covered in blood. Fighting down a ripple of nausea he fell back on the rocks. He didn't understand any of this.

Sirens floated on the air over the crash of the surf. Instinctively he felt safe. Help was on the way.

"Hey, man, come on. Let's get outta here. The fuzz are comin'."

Confused, he shook his head. More vertigo. The two long-hairs dragged him away, rushing him down the rocks and along a gully that led to a parking area. Shoving him into the back of a rusted, tan-colored VW bus, they checked to make sure they were clear.

"Hey, you got a name, pal?"

Name? He shook his head. What was his name?

Without waiting for a reply they quickly sped away. From the back window he watched a blue and white police car arrive at the beach -- just before he passed out.

 

* * * * *

Jenny brought in cartons of chow mein and sweet and sour chicken sometime around noon. By the time Steve shuffled through paper work and finished lunch it was two thirty-eight. Clearing away the mess, he started scanning another pile of reports, then stopped. It was well past one o'clock. Where was Danno? Pushing away from the desk he opened the lanai doors and walked out into the bright, December afternoon sun. No blue LTD in the parking lot. Steve shook his head, slightly annoyed and amused, a common swirl of emotions when dealing with his younger friend. Danno was a responsible, sharp detective, but every once in a while his Island blood just couldn't resist the high surf and he was mentally and physically gone to the beach. He was going to have to have a long talk with that boy.

Settling back to work at the desk, he went over the details of the Okua case himself, just to satisfy the subconscious doubts that lingered even in an air-tight investigation. Later, when the intercom buzzed, McGarrett answered it quickly, expecting it to be his recalcitrant second-in-command. Noting the time, he was amazed it was five-twenty-one. He was surprised when Jenny said the call was a patch from Patrolman Nakamura.

"McGarrett here."

"Hi, Mr. McGarrett. We have a situation up here at Waimea I thought you better know about."

The young patrolman was hoping to score points again, McGarrett sighed. Making something dramatic out of his misdemeanor burglary crime wave up by the North Shore. "What's that, Officer Nakamura?"

"We've had a murder up here. Didn't figure it out till we got the body up off the rocks."

Although he knew Dan Williams did not intend to go to Waimea, Steve's heart beat a little faster. His detective was out for a day off -- late, yes -- but certainly not a crisis to warrant panic. Why were internal alarms clanging in his mind? Danno was not going to Waimea . . . .

"What about it?"

"Well, like I said, it took some time to get the body up off the rocks. Some surfers said they saw this girl talking with a guy earlier, then hours later the girl's body was found."

Steve sighed. The kid was going to give him every single detail and make an encyclopedic book report out of this radio call. "Yes?"

"Only the girl was down by the surf. When we got the rescue team out and lifted her up we noticed she was mangled by two huge bullet holes in her."

That snagged the head of Five-0's attention. "The missing boyfriend?"

"Don't think so. They look high caliber -- no powder burns. Listen, Mr. McGarrett, the thing that made me call you -- well, two things. One, the guy last seen with her is described as a sandy-haired surfer." That time Steve's heart skipped a beat. "And," Yoshi continued, "we have an unclaimed car parked here on the side of the road. It's Danny's Mustang."

McGarrett was on his feet. Chill coursed through him as blood drained away. Random pieces of disaster usually meant a complete picture of tragedy just about to be discovered. Instinctively Steve knew this was just the leading edge of the catastrophe and he struggled to grasp onto a sense of routine.

"Get the body to the coroner as fast as you can," he barked, his voice grating and barbed. "Make sure nothing is touched. I'm on my way."

 

PART THREE

 

Waking up was a painful experience. Again. He knew it shouldn't be like this, but couldn't really remember what waking up was supposed to feel like. Beyond the fuzzy memories of pain and fleeing into a VW bus, he had no distinct memories at all.

His eyes flew open, blinking, as the surroundings came into focus. A tent. He was on a cot. The air smelled of ocean and dirt. A campground? How did he know that? Slowly the recollection of the two long-haired men came to mind. They asked him his name and he could not remember it. Searching, he could not remember anything beyond waking up on the rocks, in the bright sun, next to a blood-covered body.

Bolting up, he groaned, pain throbbing in his head and his right arm. Carefully laying down again he took stock of his injuries. A crude bandage covered his upper right arm, patches of blood seeping through the ripped material that looked like part of his Aloha shirt. Why did he know that was amateurish and not very sanitary? Did he have experience with bullet wounds? Was he a doctor? Was he a soldier? Gingerly touching his head he found no bandage, but a very sore knot that seemed the size of a hardball.

"Oh, you're awake."

He glanced up at the girl who entered the tent. She was tall and extremely thin, like someone who didn't get enough to eat. The oversized, tie-died tunic knotted at the waist, the baggy jeans, the bare feet, spoke of adherence to the youth styles now popular on the Islands. A crown of fresh flowers adorned her head and long, brown, fluffy-clean hair fell loosely down to her hips. Outside the tent flap the sky was burnished with the shimmering rays of approaching sunset. Wondering how she kept so neat living rough, he then wondered how he could deduce such details in a glimpse.

"Feeling better? Sunny and Rock said you passed out in the bus. They said you were in trouble and you needed help. That's what we like to do around here is help."

Blinking, he tried to assess the rapid words as they rushed out in a jabbering string. Mentally he could process everything, but his words came out thick and slow. "I -- I don't remember what happened. Except there was a girl. She was hurt."

The flower girl's face brightened. "Oh, you tried to help her?" Crossing the tent she knelt on the floor, gently touching his face. Flinching under the contact, it felt like his face was injured. "Sorry," she brushed at his left temple. "You were hurt when you fell. So you were trying to save the girl from falling?"

This chatter-box had unremarkable brown eyes, but the way they studied him it seemed they were infinite and compelling. As if he was the only thing in her universe, her attention -- her scrutiny seemed to encompass him completely. With fingertips she traced his jawline.

"I hoped you didn't hurt her. Your face is so kind." The bright smile she beamed at him seemed to radiate the whole room. "Now that I see your eyes, I know you didn't hurt anyone. You were trying to help her, weren't you?"

The pause seemed to be an indication that she expected him to answer. "Uh -- I -- uh -- I'm not sure." Rubbing his head he strained to find something beyond the blackness of the wall blocking anything farther back than the cliff and the body. "I don't remember."

Her whole body seemed to deflate, then moments later recover. This time her smile was less luminous and more sympathetic. "Well, you'll figure it out. Maybe when your headache goes away. I put an herb poultice on your head. And your arm." Again the smile. "I'm the healer around here. In my past life I worked at the family drug store, so I know more than anyone else about medicine. Not that we did much with herbs way back in --" she faltered, her stuttering coming to an abrupt halt. "In that other life." Was her uncertain finish.

Behind the headache, his mind clicked on the fact that this girl was hiding something. Something from her past. Is that why she was camping out? Then what was in his past that was so terrible that his mind would not let him remember?

"So, -- uh -- you know, I don't know your name." In a friendly manner she held out her hand. "I'm Sundance." From under her loose-fitting tunic she pulled a home made clay necklace in the shape of a yellow sun. "When we come here we take on a chosen birth name because we are reborn."

He could only nod at the confusing explanation. Disappointed that he was not shaking her hand, she took his in a firm, but fond hold. "So who are you?"

Slowly he shook his head. "I -- I can't remember."

"You can't remember your name?"

"No." Searching, he strained to find a clue, a hint of a name, a past, and there was nothing but darkness on that side of his mind. "No. I don't know."

"How about where you live? Or who the girl was that you tried to save?"

He shook his head again. "I don't know."

Perplexed, she didn't let it bother her. "Well, you are in the perfect place. We all come here to start fresh and forget the old life. We'll give you a name for here. " Taking his face in her hands she stared into his eyes. "Sea-star. Your eyes are as blue as the ocean, and as bright as the stars."

The glittery accolades were a little embarrassing, but he was not in a position to argue. Not yet. "Hoku kai," he quietly translated. "Or Kai-hoku if you want to be literal."

"You speak Hawaiian."

It surprised him as well. "Yeah, I guess I do." Holding his head he wished he could squeeze out the pain and push back the memories lost to him. "I need to find out who I am."

"Oh -- okay, but not yet. Let Rock and Sunny find out what they can when they go to town. The police might think you hurt that girl on the beach."

The obvious answer was more painful than the aches in his body. "What if I did? What if I killed her?"

"No. Rock thinks you did, that's why he let you hide here. He likes to collect strays. No offense. I always help patch them up. You're the nicest stray yet. I don't think you could have killed anyone."

A spark of hope flamed inside him, wanting to believe she was right. Over-shadowing that, however, was the knowledge -- maybe the guilt -- from somewhere in the recesses of his heart, that he HAD killed before.

 

 

PART FOUR

 

By the time he reached Waimea Bay Steve's hands hurt from strangling the steering wheel. Easily spotting the Mustang convertible, now surrounded by yellow police tape, McGarrett pulled over, past the two blue and white squad cars on the shoulder. Beyond a rock-lined wash, in the parking area, a coroner's wagon just pulling away and two more HPD cars were parked near the sand.

On the long drive Steve's imagination had plenty of time to churn over possibilities of what had happened. For every reasonable rationale for Dan to be gone, there were five dire nominees for why a detective would be missing from his vehicle.

Officer Nakamura met him and they walked together to the Mustang. Non-stop, the young officer outlined procedures so far and came up with further information from when they last spoke. The girl's belongs were found down the beach, identified (as was the body) by five young adults who were all staying at the Kuilima. The six of them had taken a hotel shuttle to Waimea Bay that morning and were to be picked up in the afternoon. The dead girl, named Antonia Rice from Medford Oregon, was in Hawaii on a young singles tourist package, as were the other five from the Kuilima. The girl's background would be thoroughly checked, of course, but McGarrett doubted they would find the answers for the killing from her background. His instincts were telling him this was connected to Danno.

First checking the Ford for any outward signs of violence, McGarrett found nothing amiss. Already dusted for prints, no visual evidence existed of unusual scratches, blood stains, bullet holes. No sign of a surfboard. He asked Yoshi about that, and the young officer knew nothing of a board. Dan's was a white board with two broad blue stripes down the middle, McGarrett explained.

Hiking across the rocks to view where the body was found, Nakamura outlined his own theories. Two unoriginal thoughts McGarrett had already thought of and discarded because he didn't want to believe they were true -- would not believe they were facts until proof was in hand. The first, most obvious scenario was that Danny had somehow been involved with the girl and both were shot. One body found near the ocean, the other body missing. Too simple for McGarrett, who never accepted anything simple or at face value without a pretty strong litmus test. Concerning Danno, he'd need hard evidence in hand before he would believe his friend was dead.

Viewing the site where Ms Rice was found, Steve's hopes sank. Right on the edge of rocks now mostly covered in high surf, it was very possible, if not likely, that a second body would have been thrown into the ocean from this angle. He thought he could see blood darkening a few rocks below. Lab technicians hurriedly took samples of blood and made photographs of the scene. Because of high tide soon it would be too late for them to work and they hurried in their grim tasks.

"Sniper."

Nakamura was surprised at the conclusion. "Here?"

Looking around, he could see a number of spots across the street and up into the nearby hills where a sniper could hide. "What else could explain death from a bullet that big? It had to be from at least a cross the street -- someone would have noticed a man carrying a rifle on Waimea beach!" He swallowed hard, praying Danno had not been near the girl when she was hit by the fire.

"What about the bullet wounds? Angles?"

"One high in the chest," Nakamura pointed to his own chest to mark the approximate spot. "The other sliced into her right upper arm," he cringed. "Plowed through at the speed of sound it seems. Both hits through and through."

Gulping, McGarrett stared at the blood-splattered rocks now washed with high tide. High velocity, high caliber -- highly fatal. The sun was setting and soon they would lose the light. A tech called out and McGarrett knelt, peering over the edge, grabbing a plastic evidence bag from the man. A piece of torn Aloha shirt -- a blue and white flower pattern popular throughout the Islands. Similar to a favorite shirt of Williams'. Nothing conclusive, certainly, but things were not looking good. Steve ignored the worst theories and concentrated on action. If he kept moving and working out the problem he would find a solution beyond the easy, obvious choice of murder for his friend.

The techs all had their own theories. Partial observations and guesses drifted up on the wind to McGarrett. Certainly the surfer and the girl were shot, the surfer's body toppling all the way over into the sea. With the nearby undertow a body would never be recovered. Sharks would have had it for lunch. Steve closed his eyes and turned away, trying to close out the burning, vivid images envisioned by the thoughtless words. Opening his eyes he looked at the rugged cliffs facing the ocean. A lot of good places where a sniper could hide. And places where spent bullet casings would be left behind.

Sometimes, however, obvious might be right, he reasoned as he considered Danno's latest cases. Two big ones popped up instantly, two investigations where Williams' testimony was imperative to the conviction of the criminal. One was Hummel, the other Okua. Both powerful, rich and mad about their arrests. Either would be willing to take out their key opposition -- both were in jail because of just such similar acts.

Snapping at Yoshi he ordered that a tech team scour the hillside for tracks and shells.

Trudging back to the Mercury, he told Nakamura he was ordering an APB on Williams. He put Yoshi in charge of investigating the girl -- going to the Kuilima and finding out everything about her in the smallest detail. Nakamura was in charge of sending officers around the area to find anyone who might have seen Williams or the girl -- what time and what they were doing when sighted. He also ordered an HPD unit to remain here in case Dan returned. Barking at the central dispatch operator, he requested a patch to Five-0. Jenny answered, and Steve's steam-roller onslaught came to a grinding halt. What would he tell the staff? Exactly what he thought had happened.

"I'm up at Waimea, Jenny. Are Chin and Ben there?"

"Both here, Steve. You want their lines?"

"No, put them on speaker." He paused until the secretary gave him the go-ahead. "We've got some bad pilikia, gentlemen. There's a girl who's been murdered from what's probably sniper fire. She was last seen with someone matching Danno's description. His car is up here and Danno's missing." He didn't wait for reactions, but pressed on, not wanting to give in to the bubbling emotions under his skin. "Chin, get cracking on Hummel and his attorney, find out if they could have done something to take out Danno. Ben, you do the same with Okua and anyone who's touched him. By the time I get back there I want to know everything there is to know about these creeps."

Climbing into the car, he paused when Nakamura held onto the door. "What about Danny's car?"

'Think like a cop,' McGarrett insisted of himself as his throat knotted, 'not like an anxious friend.' To Yoshi, he sighed, then exited his car, tossing the keys to the young officer. "Have someone follow me to Danno's place." On his second key ring he had keys to his apartment, Williams' apartment, Dan's LTD and the Mustang. Just in case he ever needed them. Now was the time to use them and it didn't seem right to let someone else take the white convertible that meant so much to his friend. He stood at the door, staring into the neat, clean blue interior of the sports car, realizing he had never driven this -- a privilege Danno always reserved for himself. "I'll take Danno's car back to Honolulu." Still he hesitated to get in. Removing it from the beach was an admission that Danno was not coming back for it . . . was not coming back.

Pushing out that black stab of depression he slipped into the low car and gunned it to life, skidding around to head back to town. Driving into the setting sun, the wind streaked through his hair. Over the top of the windshield he watched drifting clouds filter by a rainbow. Inside he felt dead, afraid of what they wouldn't find in this case -- that this was the end -- that there would be no closure to this mysterious disappearance. That he would never see Dan Williams again.

 

 

* * * * *

 

Unsteadily, he made his way around the camp he automatically labeled as a hippie commune. Most were gathered around a main fire in a pit. Some had small fires near tents. It was dinnertime and Sundance escorted him to a central food area where fresh vegetables and fruits were given to him in a clay bowl.

"We make our own pottery," Sundance explained, showing off the two bowls they used. He admitted the colors and patterns were nice and made up for the lack of artistry in the actual molding. Before he could offer a compliment she rambled on. "We trade it for food and seeds. There's a great garden back there -- we can grow anything."

"Like pakalolo?"

Blinking, she was surprised, then a grin slowly spread on her face. "You are a local. Or have been to Hawaii a lot."

There was truth to that statement. Enough to know she pronounced Hawaiian names like a malahini. Without seeing the ocean, he knew they were at a campground close to the North Shore, but he couldn't say how he knew such a thing. Perhaps he had been here before? His knowledge of equipment and methods indicated a familiarity with camping. Borrowing a shirt from Sunny, the light-haired rescuer from the beach, he slowly explored the little community with Sundance as his guide. 'Sea-star', as he was introduced, was greeted civilly, if not warmly. Sundance explained that his aura of violence scared the peace-loving commune.

Their leader was a bearded, tall, thin man in his early twenties who called himself Moonrise. They urged him to meditate for healing and to leave the old, outside world behind and join them in this new paradise. A few others were deserters, too, which is what he thought about Sea-star.

"Some are going fishing," Moonrise explained. "One of the ways we feed our happy band. That might be too dangerous with the fuzz looking for you. You can join the gatherers."

"That's how Rock and Sunny found you," Sundance supplied. "They were fishing and they caught you." Her smile told everyone in the group that she thought he was a prize catch.

Trying to conceal his embarrassed grimace behind a cough, he thanked Moonrise for the offer, but admitted he felt too weak and tired to venture far from camp. Sundance left with the others, asking Rock to keep an eye on the newcomer.

Sitting on a tree log he observed the dispersing twenty-odd people comprising the group. Most of the young people (long haired and dressed baggily like Sundance) seemed wary of the newcomer. Did they all have something to run from like him?

Again using instinctive methods he studied himself as he protectively cradled his injured arm, that continued to throb with heat and pain. His swim trunks were called jams, he knew, and were favored by surfers, as were his blue deck shoes. Hair clean-cut in a military style, along with the obvious violence surrounding him, led Sundance and her friends to believe he was a wounded soldier on R&R from Vietnam. Strangely, he could remember generalities like the war in Southeast Asia, the local styles and customs, the language and lay of the land. Why couldn't he remember his name and own history?

"You seem puzzled, friend." Rock, the short, dark-haired 'hippie' who provided the get-away car earlier, sat next to him. "Still confused?"

"Yeah. I'm blocked out of my life. I can remember everything else, but what is connected to me."

The short man stroked his scraggly beard. "Most of us feel like that when we find this place. This is where we come to find ourselves. So kismet has landed you in the right place, Sea-star."

Cringing, he tried not to be rude, but he hated the nickname Sundance had given him. Maybe he didn't know who he was, but he was certain he wasn't a personality type consistent with a name like Sea-star!

Some people brought out guitars, harmonicas and flutes for a sing along by the fire. Fatigued, sore and running a fever, he slowly trudged back to the tent. Sundance settled him on the cot and gave him noxious tea, promising it would help fight infection. He asked about medical treatment. The idea abhorred her and she insisted she could handle his wound. The local free clinic was the first place the pigs would look for him if he was a fugitive.

Knowing she was referring to the cops, he flinched at the insult. When he had seen the patrol cars, he did not feel threatened, although his new friends assured him he was in trouble over the dead girl. Instincts told him to return and find the truth -- out there where the cops were held the truth. But would that truth land him in jail? Settling down on the cot, the last thing he saw was Sundance's face as she smiled at him. This was probably a better place than jail. He should stay for awhile.

 

* * * * *

 

Usually Steve enjoyed the occasional rides in the Mustang. On the way back tonight, he could only dwell on the despair welling up inside like high tide. Circumstantial evidence pointed to Dan's death, but Steve couldn't bring himself to believe that. What was the alternative? If Dan was wounded along with Ms Rice, then there would have been a body. Perhaps someone had taken him to a hospital or clinic. McGarrett wondered why he didn't think of that before. Maybe a subconscious denial? He pushed away that introspective query. Danno would have seen to it on any other case, that was why it had escaped McGarrett's notice.

The lights of the city came into view as he curved around through Pali tunnel. Dark clouds tinged with orange and pink billowed near the horizon in a last gasp of sun. He took the freeway through the city to the Ala Wai and past his apartment, then on to Dan's. He didn't expect to find Williams at home, but he needed to check. He could have had more wheels in motion if he had kept his car instead of driving the Mustang.

Wandering through Danno's neat apartment he stopped to study the quiet emptiness. No sign of anything amiss. Danno had left this morning to go surfing and never returned. He called Chin at the palace to give more instructions -- put some HPD forces here and alert the hospitals and clinics. Chin had already thought of that.

Ben was coordinating with the Coast Guard and Lifeguard people for rescues or bodies. Promising to be back soon, McGarrett hung up, so weighed down he couldn't move his hand from the phone. Danno was gone and they were spinning their wheels. There had to be something he could do to make a difference!

An officer was downstairs with the Mercury and he drove to the Palace to coordinate search efforts. Negative on all counts. At least no one had found a body. Enough of a realist, he knew there was little chance of finding any body or any sign of Dan once he was lost to the ocean. With the undertow at Waimea and the sharks, it was a vain hope to think the sea would give up the dead in this case. IF Dan was dead. McGarrett stayed there all night in a fight to prove he was right. Exhausted and dispirited, sometime before dawn he laid his head on the desk, closing his eyes just to rest them for a few moments.

 

PART FIVE

 

Fireworks sprayed in circles at the edges of his vision. Filtering in with the lights were popping sounds that echoed, intertwined, with voices. Cries. Images flashed like still photographs captured for an instant in a flood of a strobe. An intense, angry man with dark hair. The dark haired man lying on the beach. The same man in a hospital bed. In his own hand was a gun, firing, the bullets exploding out of the barrel like red lightning. Did he shoot the man on the beach? Did they have an argument and he shot the man -- sending him to the hospital?

Indistinct voices and animal sounds were close. Eyes fluttering open, he saw the sides of the tent bright with sunlight. Noises outside sounded like -- pig snorts? Edging up on his elbow he tried to sit up, only to fall back onto the cot. His whole body ached and sizzled with fever. The world didn't stop spinning when he laid down.

Touching the wound at the back of his head he found no blood, but the knot was hot and extremely sore to the touch. Worried, now, he ripped off the tattered material from his Aloha shirt that served as the arm bandage. The flesh was torn away, the bleeding stanched by a matted wad of moss or some poultice that smelled rotten. Cringing, he realized this was a bullet wound -- not too deep, probably not damaging the bone -- but a high caliber bullet that tore away part of his arm. A hollow tip sniper round. How did he know that? Unless he, as in his dream, was a murderer, or at least someone who fired guns at people.

Rolling over he tried concentrating on this new, frightening knowledge, but the noises outside distracted his focus. People were arguing -- no -- taunting someone outside. With pig sounds?

Near the cot was a small rip in the canvas and he poked his finger through, making the hole bigger. Two uniformed policemen stood at the center of a semi-circle of commune people. The hippies were making pig noises. Revulsion shivered through him, then anger, then sympathy for the young cops. Automatically he wanted to rush out and help defend them against the insults. The pain, and a trickling of apprehension stopped him. And the spokesman-cop, a young Asian/Polynesian, seemed -- untrustworthy? -- no -- something that brought his guard up. What if they were looking for him? Yes, they had a folded sheet of paper they gave to Rock, who tore it up into pieces and threw it in the face of the patrolman doing the talking. The Oriental cop ignored the affront, commenting that the hippies should watch out or he'd bust them for littering. He mistrusted the cop, but he liked the guy's style.

The police left and soon after Sundance entered the tent. "Some pigs were here. They're looking for you, Sea-star."

Which did he resent more, the rude comments about cops or his nickname? There were more important things to focus on than petty irritations. "What did they say?"

"They think you killed that girl on the beach."

Something about the accusation rang false. Was it her interpretation? Was it the manner of the cops -- did they seem tense and poised to make an arrest and bring in a murderer? How would he know that unless he had experienced arrest? A flash -- like a black and white snippet of silent film -- blinked in and out of his mind. Fingerprinting -- he had been fingerprinted and jailed. Then it was true, he realized with a sinking feeling. He was a murderer. Had he murdered the still, bleeding man on the beach? Yesterday, had he murdered the girl on the rocks?

"Sea-star?" The name jarred him out of his funk. "I made this for you." She brought out a clay necklace with blue starfish molds handing from a leather string. She draped it around his neck. "For you," she smiled, and kissed his cheek. "Oh, you're hot." She touched his face with a cool hand. "I need to change your bandage."

"I also need a shower and a shave. Look, Sundance, this is a bad wound. I need to go to a doctor."

Adamantly she denied the request. "You can't risk it. Those cops will be watching the clinic, I told you." Impulsively she hugged him. "I care for you, Sea-star. Nothing can happen to you." From the pocket of her jeans she pulled a rolled up marijuana cigarette. "Smoke some, it will take away the pain."

Irritated, he slapped away her hand. "I need real medicine, not herbs -- not drugs. Those will rot your mind! They're illegal!"

The observation made her laugh. "Like you've never smoked weed in the army. Rock was in the army that's where he started smoking pot. To stay sane in the jungle." The brown eyes pooled in pity. "It's okay, Sea-star."

Combing his hair with his hand he rubbed at his face, feeling grimy, sore and in desperate need of medication and a shower.

After she left he slowly moved around the tent, then outside. Moonrise, Sundance, Rock, Sunny and a few others were gathered near the fire pit. Discussing his situation no doubt. He wandered out of camp toward the sound of the sea, weaving through the trees and tents, the ocean calling him in a siren song. Not liking the awful nickname Sundance pegged him with, he felt there was some acuity in what she saw in him. The sea was part of him, in his blood. Whoever he was, the answers were here on this island surrounded by the sea.

 

* * * * *

 

Go to the source, McGarrett decided after he'd gone home to shower, change, and regroup. In any other case he would have gone straight for the jugular. Okua or Hummel. Instinct told him Okua, a ruthless businessman, would have the means, motive and opportunity (through a cooperative attorney) to put out a contract hit on a Five-0 detective.

Early morning shift at HPD was quiet. McGarrett sailed through the minor check in procedures within minutes. It was a few hours before the trial and no one expected the head of Five-0 to visit the accused this morning. By the time Paul Okua sat across from him in an interrogation room, Steve was worked into a complete theory. Coldly, calmly, he stood at one end of the room and stared at the criminal

Okua was a small, thin man with thinning gray hair and a thin mustache. His eyes were sharp, hazel, searing, razor-edged incisors that seemed to cut right through anyone he stared at. Observing McGarrett, the eyes never backed down from the detective's own cold stare.

"This better not take long, McGarrett, I need my sleep."

The smug tilt of arrogance convinced Steve. It had only been a theory up until this moment, but now he knew beyond a shadow of a doubt that Okua had ordered a hit on Dan Williams. And Okua thought he'd gotten his money's worth.

"This won't take long. Just a few questions. Who did you hire to murder Dan Williams?"

The smile snaked across his dark, thin face like a slithering creature. "I don't know what you're talking about."

"You hired someone to kill Dan Williams so he wouldn't show for the trial." McGarrett remained leaning on the wall, hands pressed behind his back, anchored on the cold concrete blocks of the room. Inside his emotions were bubbling like lava, but outside his hatred washed cold over anything but the hunt for the truth. "You need your money back, Okua." He stepped forward, leaning knuckles on the table, bringing his face within inches of his adversary. "Your shooter hit the wrong person. Now we won't just have you for conspiracy to murder -- we'll have you for murdering an innocent tourist!"

The ice in the eyes cracked. Okua leaned away. "You have no proof."

McGarrett saw the weakness and lunged, literally, for the throat. Unwilling to stay the impulsive anger he grabbed Okua's collar and wrenched the man out of the chair, dragging him halfway across the table. "I don't need proof to know your filthy hands are all over this! Where's the hitman, Okua?"

The man squealed, clawing at McGarrett's hands. "Let go! I'll have your badge for this!"

"I'll have more than -- "

Two officers hauled Steve back, tearing him from the victim. Truly shaken, Okua fled into the arms of the nearest HPD officer and alternately shouted threats to McGarrett and begged the policemen to protect him. Angry at himself, livid at Okua, Steve tore free of the man restraining him and stalked away. He would pay for this later. Probably his impulsiveness would cost him a fine -- maybe worse -- maybe it would be enough to put Okua on the streets again as a free man.

Growling under his breath, Steve cursed his temper as he drove back to the Palace, feeling disassociated as he drove through the early morning streets. Usually he was controlled, cool, able to manipulate criminals. Not, however, when someone got under his skin. Then his rage took over, his judgment lapsed, and he lost control. Times when his family or friends were threatened.

 

PART SIX

 

The situation would have been daunting to someone else: Running on almost no sleep, too much coffee and nerves strained beyond the limit -- evidenced by roughing up a suspect. This morning, however, Steve McGarrett appeared in court looking neat, sharply dressed and ready for a fight.

The bailiff immediately directed him to the judge's chamber. Already gathered in the room were a stern Judge Criskin, an angry John Manicote, along with a pouting Okua, attorney Sam Baxter and shrewd assistant Tonya Tanaka. The atmosphere was grim, but it did not intimidate the head of Five-0. Obviously some thought he was in the wrong after this early morning's confrontation, but McGarrett still sizzled with the apprehension of Williams' disappearance and the certainty that Okua was responsible. It would be, however, in his own best interest, if he could control his temper and manifest a reasonable, logical presentation to the judge.

Criskin, a sixty-ish, paunchy, puffy man with gray hair soberly observed the policeman and did not shake hands or invite him to sit when McGarrett entered. They played golf at the Ala Wai club together on occasion, rubbed elbows at political fetes involving the governor, and served on the same charity committee for Queen's Hospital. At the moment they were not friends because Steve had crossed the boundaries of the law and no outside interests were relevant inside these walls of justice.

Manicote glared at his friend, and Steve ignored the obvious ire of the District Attorney. Being in hot water with Manicote was almost a daily ritual. The men were friends and colleagues working for justice, but they had vastly differing methods that frequently set them at odds with each other.

Adjusting his thick, black glasses, Criskin frowned at McGarrett. "Some serious charges have been brought against you, Steve. Before --"

"He manhandled me!" Okua blurted, coming to his feet. "Hey, look what he did to my neck --"

"Paul, let's not get riled up." The lawyer stopped him from unbuttoning his shirt to reveal the supposed marks of violence. "Let's hear what Mr. McGarrett has to say."

The attorney, Baxter, a tall, trim man who wore western-styled suit, cowboy boots and a stringy tie. Delivery was paced, slow and measured to command attention, which he did successfully for most of the lofty income scum in the state. Baxter earned his excessive fees because his acquittal rate was much too elevated for McGarrett's sense of justice. They had clashed on several occasions, and from the smug expression on Baxter's face, the confidence in his tone, the paniolo thought he held the high ground.

Not about to defend his actions to this group, McGarrett addressed the judge. "Judge Criskin, the prosecution's case is largely based on the testimony of one of my officers, Dan Williams. Since yesterday, Officer Williams is missing. There is some evidence of foul play." Casting a searing glare at Okua, he finished. "This man is responsible."

Baxter, Okua, Manicote and Criskin were speaking at once. The protests were garbled and mostly loud, as he expected. From the corner of his eye Steve noticed, behind Okua, stood a smug Tanaka. Alarm bells blared from Steve's sixth sense. Tanaka, the all-round efficient assistant had police records proving complaints from breaking and entering to beatings. All settled out of court, or charges dropped by the victims.

Okua's money probably paid for the hit, Baxter set up the details, and Tanaka, literally, executed the plan, the girl, and hopefully not Danno. Standing in the same room with the slimes that might have cost the life of his friend, McGarrett seethed with boiling anger. Every bit of control left in his weary and strained body was focused on holding onto his passionate temper. If he lost it here in front of the judge the trial was out the window and Steve's credibility would be shot. Minor compared to the oppressing reality of Williams' disappearance, but McGarrett and Five-0 needed the legal system to work for them in these interconnected cases.

Slamming a hand on the desk Criskin finally achieved order. Glowering at McGarrett, the judge ordered him to offer evidence to back up his accusations.

"I have no evidence at this time, judge. As I said, Okua is my chief suspect for ordering the hit on Dan Williams. For this reason I request the trial be postponed until I've been able to ascertain the -- be certain of the status of Officer Williams."

Beating Baxter to comments, Manicote stepped toward McGarrett in an obvious show of support and sympathy. Still irritated with the blunt and brash McGarrett tactics, John remained a friend of Steve's, of Williams'.

"Judge, obviously this incident is a great loss to Five-0, to many of us personally who work closely with Officer Williams, and for the prosecution's case against Mr. Okua. I realize these are serious charges, but I believe Five-0 has the right to investigate this incident. Since it very possibly has direct bearing on this case, I move for a week's postponement of the trial."

"A week!" McGarrett blurted.

"One week!" Baxter flung out. Moving his tall frame to the front of the desk he leaned with knuckles on the surface, towering over the judge and the much shorter Manicote. "That is ridiculous to ask my client to simmer in jail -- since you've refused to allow bail -- and await a conclusion that may never happen in this event." Throwing a glance at McGarrett, he conceded, "Of course this is most distressing to the police and the good citizens of Hawaii, to loose an officer, but there is no evidence supporting Mr. McGarrett's suspicions of my client."

Shouldering up to the cowboy McGarrett promised, "I'll show you evidence, Baxter, don't worry. We're building a case --"

Criskin again slammed his hand on the desk ordering quiet. Displeased with everyone, mostly McGarrett, he turned to Manicote and asked for an honest assessment of reasonable postponement. John stuck with his request for one week.

Crisply, the judge reviewed the facts as he understood them -- the missing detective, a woman dead from an apparent rifle shot (determined by Che Fong to be a hollow-tipped load -- consistent with professional assassinations), and a tenuous connection between the two incidents. In his opinion no evidence existed to connect Okua with the tragedies. It was possible Williams was missing in a surfing accident since no surfboard or body was yet recovered. Three days was a standard for declaring a missing swimmer presumed dead. Manicote had two more days to find Williams and continue with the case. Next time McGarrett accused someone of a crime in the judges office, there better be more proof than circumstantial suspicions. On the fourth day, Friday, they would meet again and finish the motions.

In the main courtroom Okua and party gathered to conference at the defense table, the bailiff waiting to escort Okua back to jail. Manicote walked out with an irate McGarrett. Nothing John said could appease the bitter feelings of injustice swirling within Steve. In two days Danno would be declared presumed dead. Maybe by the legal system, but not by McGarrett.

"Look, Steve, I know this is hard, but we need something to back up Danny's testimony in case -- " he caught the obvious fury bubbling under Steve's surface control. "In case Danny can't testify in two days," he completed tactfully.

"He'll be here," McGarrett insisted. End of discussion.

Ben entered the courtroom and brushed past the defense council and party. Steve requested updates from his detective and Ben reviewed the efforts of Five-0 and HPD to find the missing detective. All negative so far.

Nodding toward the rivals across the room, ordering Ben to check on Tanaka's whereabouts the day before, and if she owned a rifle. Ben mentioned she was legendary as a female strong arm, fast with martial arts and a wicked tongue as bad as her punches. Few men were her equals and fewer wanted to go up against her to prove something.

McGarrett was unimpressed. "I'll handle the history, Ben. You dig up what she was doing yesterday."

Understanding, Kokua left.

Manicote shook his head. "You're clutching at straws, Steve. If Tanaka's involved -- which is far-fetched -- do you think she's going to be dumb enough to leave a trail?"

Observing the enemy camp across the court, McGarrett sensed tension and concern. Maybe he was guessing, but he thought it was not so much about the case, but the trial with the key witness alive and well. If Tonya Tanaka and Baxter were worried, could it mean the absence of a body was the source of anxiety? A dead Williams meant a weak case for the prosecution. A missing Williams meant a question mark.

Bidding John farewell, McGarrett rushed back to the Palace. Chin was summoned out to receive instructions for tailing Tanaka. Kelly would hurry over and personally take the first leg of the assignment. McGarrett requested stacks of files from the DA's office, HPD and even city hall concerning Baxter, clients and Tanaka.

Later in the day Chin reported following Tanaka out of Honolulu and up to the North Shore, where the assistant lunched at an outdoor cafť and chatted with the locals. Trading off tailing duties with Nakamura and his partner, Chin kept tabs on the woman who searched surf shops, eateries and hang-outs until nearly sunset, when she headed back to Honolulu.

Steve spent the day ignoring usual Five-0 business and finding out everything he could about Tonya Tanaka. By twilight he had a pattern for her MO, convinced she was capable of making a hit on anyone, particularly a cop, for money. Kelly and Nakamura met McGarrett back at the Palace.

"No doubt Tanaka was looking for Danny," Chin assured. "Tanaka's results are as negative as Five-0's, boss. But she's worried, you were right about that." Kelly sighed, rubbing away the fatigue from his eyes.

"Go home, Chin."

"What about you"?

They knew McGarrett wouldn't leave. "I'll just finish up a few things." But he didn't leave or work. Steve sat behind his desk, just staring out the lanai doors.

Nakamura lingered. "Hey, Mr. McGarrett, I know this is probably a bad time, but don't you think I could do a much better job at helping if I was on the team with you? As a Five-0 detective?" He shrugged. "We all hope he's okay, but really, we don't expect to find a body, do we?"

"Get out, Yoshi!"

The young man jumped at the harsh shout. "I didn't mean -- "

Coming to his feet, from the fierce glare, McGarrett could have been Zeus threatening thunderbolts down on mortals. Without another word Nakamura scooted out of the office, closing the door behind him.

With no human target for his wrath, McGarrett slammed open the lanai doors, crashing them against the wall. Over twenty-four hours missing could look bleak to some, but McGarrett hardly considered it condemningly grim. They hadn't even reached the impossible level for a Five-0 case, so he certainly wasn't going to give up now. In the deepest hollows of his heart, though, he knew something was desperately wrong with Williams for him to be missing like this -- no trace, no word.

Despite logic or standard assumptions, McGarrett would not even consider Williams dead. No matter how long it took to find real proof of what happened, he would never give up searching for Dan. Just as the mighty ocean that threatened Dan, hope, of course, had it's own kind of undertow. McGarrett was trapped in his own blind faith, drowning in the hope, beyond all reason, that Danno was still alive.

 

* * * * *

 

Chin, Ben and Che Fong were gathered in the outer office when Yoshi made an abrupt exit. Che and Chin shook their heads in silent disapproval.

"I can't believe that kid!" Ben's snarl echoed in the still room. "He's blind to what's going on and he doesn't even care!"

"Ambitious young men frequently can't see beyond themselves," was Che's observation.

Kelly reached for his pipe, but didn't smoke it, just rubbed the stem in contemplation. "Yoshi doesn't understand he'll never get on this team while Danny is missing. He has no idea the negative impact it has on Steve."

Che again shook his head. "I wanted to give Steve this report. Do you think this is a good time?"

Looking over the ballistics findings, Chin realized it only confirmed their guesses about a weapon and a caliber for the fatal bullets: semi-automatic, mag load, probably 7mm. Nothing that couldn't wait until morning. If Steve read this he would stay even longer than usual, and that will probably be most of the night anyway -- did he really need an excuse? And voted to not pass along the report.

"Steve won't want to go home at all with Danny missing." Kokua's statement was fact -- something they all knew.

"Do you think Danny is still alive?"

Leave it to the lab tech to ask the cold, obvious question that none of the detectives would voice. Chin admitted he didn't want to believe Danny was dead, but couldn't figure out how Williams could be missing and not be dead. He looked to Ben for an opinion.

Ben sighed. "I won't say out loud what I think -- not in this office." But he knew they could guess.

 

* * * * *

By the next day the arm wound was throbbing with such intensity there was no question in his mind he had a serious infection. Sundance was gone when he awoke and for a time he laid on the cot summoning the energy to move. If the commune could not provide real medical treatment he would have to leave, no matter what the consequences in the outside world.

Making slow progress around the tent, he emerged into the sunlight and waved Sundance over from the fire pit. Before she prattled on too long about breakfast, he urged her to go for a doctor. As usual, she was reluctant and asked to continue the conversation inside. She wanted him to lay down again so she could clean the wound, change the bandage and try another poultice. While she worked he explained the gravity of his predicament.

"Don't you understand how serious an infection can be?"

Hurt and intimidated, she backed toward the door. "We're trying to save you. I care for you so much, Sea-star --"

"Please, don't' call me that," he asked impatiently. Moving his stiff, injured arm, he removed the bandage to show her the raw wound. She cringed, proving she was not the seasoned healer she claimed to be. "A real doctor needs to look at this. I must have some experience with -- with wounds . . . ."

Shootings, he was about to say. The recollection of a rifle in his hands -- shooting a rifle at someone -- came like a flash, in and out of his mind. An Army sniper, maybe? A deserter? Why else would he know so much? With certainty he knew he had been seriously wounded before -- and so were others --in Army uniforms -- his friends -- the dark-haired man on the beach.

Yes, he'd worn a uniform -- a suntan uniform. And the man with the dark hair -- he'd been in a uniform, too. Someone was down and the man with the dark hair came to rescue them -- yes, he'd been shot -- in the stomach. The dark-haired man was coming for him, they were friends. How did he end up here in Hawaii with a fresh wound? Did he receive it in combat? What about his friend -- the dark-haired man -- shot and down on the beach? Was he now a killer turned AWOL on the run from the cops and the government? Did he shoot his friend? Were the distorted memories real or something out of a fevered imagination?

All he knew now was that if he didn't receive medical treatment soon it wouldn't matter who he was running from. In a few days he'd die a slow and agonizing death from fever and infection.

Again he tried reasoning with Sundance. "What do you and your friends do when you're sick? Can't you bring a doctor here?"

Sundance shrugged unhappily. "Moonrise says we must heal ourselves." The expression on her face denoted obvious disappointment in him. "You haven't been here long enough to benefit from the meditation. I see now that you need to be well first. Let me see what I can do." Warily she kissed her palm and pressed it to his warm hand. "Be patient. I'll take care of you."

"Thank you." He favored her with a smile and her face turned sympathetic and warm again. "You've helped me a lot and I've been a rude guest. I'm sorry."

She moved closer, no longer cautious of his irritation. Holding him on his good side she snuggled up to his chest and kissed his cheek. "Don't worry, Sea-star, I'll help you." She kissed him again, this time on the mouth.

Feeling decidedly unromantic and gritty, he barely returned the kiss. Taking the hint, she backed off, rubbing the stubble of his two-day's growth. "Let this grow out. Maybe no one will recognize you in a few days. Then we could go to the clinic."

It was too long to wait, but he didn't argue. He'd have to think of a plan without her, he now realized.

* * * * *

McGarrett watched Tanaka as she strolled the beach at Waimea, where the misadventure started three days ago. Tomorrow Danno would be declared legally dead. A gut feeling told Steve that wouldn't happen. Tanaka would led them to Danno, and, hopefully, the good guys would grab him before the hitwoman.

The Five-0 detectives and extra HPD officers on the detail were scattered around the North Shore and windward coast in loose trailing teams. Taking turns, Tanaka would never see the same cars or men and women for very long. Tanaka was registered as the legal owner of a Walther, semi-automatic, high accuracy rifle. She made regular visits to a local shooting range where she was renowned as the best woman sharpshooter -- traditionally using 7mm mag loads. If she hadn't been a lawyer she would have been just Danno's type, McGarrett assessed acidly. Right now that made her their top suspect with motive and means. They could easily fill in the blanks for opportunity, but first, they had to find Dan Williams before she did.

The Five-0 detectives and extra HPD officers on the detail were scattered around the North Shore and windward coast in loose trailing teams. Taking turns, Tanaka would never see the same cars or men and women for very long.

Seated in Yoshi Nakamura's blue convertible Cougar, McGarrett looked like a tourist in his multi-colored, long-sleeve Aloha shirt and white trousers. Dan teased him whenever he wore the colorful, custom shirts, and Steve allowed the jibes because they were never too harsh or personal -- Danno knew McGarrett hated sunburns (thus the long sleeves) and loved vivid, splashy colors (the artist in him).

His heart twinged and he blinked back the moisture stinging his eyes behind the dark glasses. He and Danno had shared so many moments like this -- stake-outs, tails, the quiet pause between intense action -- sitting in the Mustang on business or just a drive up the beach. Danno had to be alive -- there was no other choice. After three days he missed his friend more than he could understand. To lose him forever would be a pain beyond comprehension.

"Chin Ho to McGarrett. She's checking the hot dog stand again, Steve." Chin and Duke Lukela shared a car just down the beach, a better vantage point than McGarrett's.

"We've lost sight of her," Yoshi responded before McGarrett could grab the mic.

The kid's enthusiasm was getting to Steve. Ben crossed the street and joined them. "She's talking to a couple of long-hairs," he reported, leaning against the car.

Yoshi took a quick look through the binoculars. "Hippies from one of the communes up { communes up in the hills. Harmless kids, mostly. Iíve checked them out already."

McGarrett looked to Ben. "Maybe you should check again."

"They wonít talk to us, weíre the fuzz," Yoshi warned.

Ben smiled. "I got a way, bruddah. You want to come along and see how?"

Nakamura declined, remind the detective that he was the driver for the day. "I was kinda hoping youíd give me the job permanently, Mr. McGarrett."

A growl gurgled in his throat. "Thereís no job openings in Five - 0 right now, Yoshi. Drop it."

Hesitating only a moment, Nakamura countered reasonably. "Mr. McGarrett, Dannyís dead. You have to accept that."

"No, I donít!" McGarrett jumped out of the car. "Iím going for a walk." He grabbed a walkie-talkie from the seat. Call me if Tanaka makes a move."

Walking in the beach in the bright sun, Steveís temper cooled. He knew Yoshi was being enthusiastic and eager. Traits he appreciated when he hired Danno years ago. But as a replacement for Danno? No, that would never happen. Even if he never saw Dan again he would find it nearly impossible to put someone new on the team, let alone someone else into the cubicle next to his office. Change came slowly to someone as structured as McGarrett, and if this tragic change were forced upon him, he would resist every aspect of it for a very long time. He just didnít know the meaning of giving up.

                                                                            †† * * * * *

When he woke from an afternoon nap he felt no better. Weak or not, he would have to hike to the road and find the next hospital. Dealing with the police - whom he had no fears about - was better than slowly dying from Sundanceís good intentions. Fashioning a sling out of some braided rope, he was ready to leave when Sundance returned.

"What are you doing? You should be resting."

"Iím leaving." Past the pain and throbbing fever, some innate elements of kindness remained. Gently he took her hand and gave her a smile. "I appreciate all youíve done, Sundance. When Iím better Iíll come back and repay you and your friends in some way. But I need to get to a hospital."

"Oh - no - no, you donít have to go! Iím going to get the medicine now. Iíll go to the clinic. I can trade some pottery for pills. They wonít know itís for you. Promise."

Shaking his head, he knew his wound was beyond the help of a bottle of penicillin.

Throwing herself into his arms, she almost toppled them both. Clutching him tightly, she pressed her face into his shoulder. "I love you, Sea-star. Please stay here. If you leave, Iíll lose you."

He pulled away.

About to embrace him again, she paused deliberating. "I have something of yours." Out of her pocket, she pulled a silver band. "You were wearing this when you came the other day. I took it, to keep it safe. Weíve had some little robberies - probably the locals - they donít like us much. So I wanted to keep it safe." She stretched up and kissed him on the cheek again.

"Why didnít you give this to me before?"

"I told you," she started to cry. "I thought I would lose you if I gave it back."

"This is important! This is a clue to my past - to who I am! Donít you understand?"

Regarding him as if he were incredibly silly, she declared, "You talk like a detective," as she wiped her tears. "There have been some thefts - so I kept it in my pocket to be safe. What could you learn from an old watch?" She kissed him again and said she would return later with the medicine.

Sitting on the cot, he studied the silver watch. It was a beautiful piece of work, water-proof with an outer ring for time settings. A diverís watch. The silver metal band was a thick, solid strap that clasped at the bottom. It was an expensive, useful timepiece. Turning it over he saw it was engraved.

††††††††††††††††††††††† DANNO

                        -Destiny made us brothers-

                        mahalo

††††††††††††††††††††††† Mele Kalikimaka - 1971

††††††††††††††††††††††† STEVE

 

Falling back on the cot his head swam, not with pain or vertigo, but with flashbacks. A vague incident with a suspect, he remembered. A violent wipeout with his watch. And - Steve (the dark-haired man?) replaced the watch for a Christmas present. No memories of the party or the exact setting, but he remembered the gift and the occasion and the regard he held for the giver. Then a voice. A deep, sincere, gruffly affectionate voice spoke to him, called his name.

Danno.†††††††††††

Honestly, he didnít know if the name belonged to him or not, but he hoped it did, along with the friend who spoke it so fondly.

Dan stumbled out of the tent, unsteady from fatigue and fever. He left, intent on completing his goal. He had a place to start - someone named Danno and someone named Steve. On the far edge of the camp he spotted Rock emerging from someone elseís tent. Rock stopped, startled at Danís appearance.

"What?" Iím just borrowing something from Sunny."

On strangely familiar ground, Dan smirked, knowing exactly what was happening and innately feeling the authority to do something about it. "Are you afraid Iíll turn you in because youíve been stealing from everyone?"

He remembered Sundanceís comments about Rock and Sunny fishing and finding him. But the rocky beach by Waimea was a surferís beach, not a fishing beach. Without any effort at all he strung together some easy clues and knew the answer to at least one mystery.

"Because you supplement your subsistence by stealing, by selling pot, not by fishing."

Without any effort Rock shoved him to the ground. Crying out from the pain, Rock pressed his hand on Dan's mouth to muffle the sound.

"You're not gonna tell that to anyone, snoop, or I'll throw you back on the rocks where we found you."

Struggling for air fighting against the dizzying pain, he pushed the hand away. Dan's contempt filled his voice, sneering, gasping for breath, he summed up all the clues. "You're the deserter, not me, isn't that right? Why did you save me?"

Rock laughed. "I didn't, stupid. Sunny's idea. I just took your board and got a good price for it. And you're not gonna do anything about it, are you?"

Grabbing for the smaller, disadvantaged man, Williams rolled aside, stumbled to his feet and dodged around a tree, making a disjointed run for the path. Rock snagged him by the left arm, throwing him off balance, bringing him down in the dirt.

Danny could not do much to even defend himself in his condition, but he could make a few offensive plays and maybe make another break. Scissoring his legs he flipped Rock to the ground, then scrambled to his feet. An ungainly run down the wooded path was slow and clumsy. Within a few moments Rock tackled him again, skidding him into the bushes. A few punches to the kidneys immobilized him. Rock then stood and stomped on Dan's injured arm. Dan heard himself scream just before blackness enveloped him.

* * * * *

Yoshi stopped at the side of the road to pick up the boss. Tanaka was headed back up to the North Shore. Staying behind at Waimea, Chin and Duke interviewed the hippies who talked with Tanaka.

"Seems she asked them about anyone who was hurt recently. One of the kids claimed a girl from a commune was looking for black-market penicillin for an infection. Tanaka's on her way to talk to a free clinic that caters to this crowd."

McGarrett's nerves thrilled at the news. A real, hopeful lead. Someone who needed medication for an infection was someone still alive.

Haleiwa was a surf town first, a tourist trap second. Various little shops lined the streets, adding color and variety to the beach scene. Many of the hippies and freeloaders who came to Hawaii mingled here with the surf bums who lived for waves. The support facilities necessary to accommodate many people were also here, including some free medical clinics. They followed Tanaka as she stopped for an extended discussion with a scraggly haired hippie, then went with the young man into an alley.

"That's Rock," Yoshi identified. "Pawns things to make money, grows a little pakalolo -- been busted a few times. Lives in one of the communes I investigated."

McGarrett fidgeted anxiously. "Maybe he's got some information to sell Tanaka." If he rushed over to intercede Tanaka would be onto them. He'd have to talk with the hippie after Tonya was finished. Tapping his fingers impatiently, Steve debated on whether he should be on the street, ready to grab the hippie as soon as Tonya turned her back. Next time he went on a plain-clothes mission he would pick a little bit plainer shirt, he deiced, feeling like a neon sign now that he wanted to remain inconspicuous from the attorney's assistant.

Yoshi was picking up on the agitation. "I could move in, Steve, maybe break up a drug buy or something on the side."

"We don't want Tanaka on a drug bust! We want her to led us to Danno."

Steve was about to suggest they move in, when Tanaka emerged from the alley alone and walked up the street, into a clinic. Duke and Chin pulled up in Lukela's yellow convertible. McGarrett walked over to talk with the detectives.

"Seems a girl from a commune has come to one of these clinics on the main street," Chin relayed. "A thin brunette in a tie-dyed tunic. Say's she's got a sick boyfriend."

Steve's heart raced. "Okay, okay. Let's beat Tanaka at her own game. Duke and Chin, take the clinic at the far end of town on the makai side. Tanaka's in one across the street right now." Looking up, Steve spotted a good place to conceal himself, next to a shave ice shop. "I'll wait for her to come out, then go in and talk to the people. Tell Yoshi to stay with Tanaka."

Before McGarrett reached the clinic he spotted what had to be the mark. An almost emaciated looking thin girl with very long, dark hair and a tie-dyed shirt. The girl was crossing the street, putting out her thumb to hitchhike south, toward Waimea. Trying to quell his excitement, McGarrett ran across to meet her.

'Don't blow it,' he coached himself. 'Be calm, don't spook her, she could lead you to Danno.'

Joining her, he offered a friendly smile. "Hi. I was hoping you could help me."

Instantly suspicious, she studied him. "Maybe. What do you want."

Holding out his hands in a gesture of peace, he strove for calm. "Just some information. I'm looking for a friend of mine. He had an accident a few days ago. Someone told me you were looking for penicillin and --"

"Who told you that?"

"Just some guys --"

"It's a lie. Now leave me alone." A dented, multi-painted VW bug pulled over. "Hey!" She rushed past Steve. "Here's my ride. I can't help you, mister."

She was lying, Steve would bet anything on it. Barking into the walkie-talkie, he ordered Yoshi to pick him up. Nakamura reported it would be easier for Steve to get to him -- a traffic jam on the two lane highway was blocking him from going anywhere. And worse, he had lost Tanaka.

Cursing under his breath McGarrett jogged back toward the traffic congestion to extricate the car and Nakamura. When he arrived, he was amazed to find Nakamura, Duke and Chin by an alley, surrounding a dead body. Rock, the hippie was dead.

McGarrett raced toward the car. "Let's get to that commune, Yoshi!" to his detectives, he shouted, "Let someone else handle this! Follow us!"

  

PART SEVEN

 

Only minutes behind Tanaka, McGarrett's stomach twisted with tension, aware that minutes could prove fatal in a life and death situation. The stress grew worse as they skidded into the commune campsite with no sign of Tanaka's little MG. Where had she gone? Did Rock point her in another direction?

Spotting the girl in the tie-dyed shirt, McGarrett leaped out of the car before it stopped.

"Where is he?"

"Wha --"

"Danno is here! Where?" Grabbing onto her shoulders her shook her hard. "There's a woman coming to kill him! She already killed your friend Rock! Tell me where Danno is!"

Others gathered around in silent hostility. Chin, Duke and Yoshi kept them clear of McGarrett. Talking to Moonrise, Yoshi explained, briefly, their mission and that any help would probably save the life of the man they were looking for. Moonrise admitted to Dan being harbored in the commune, but had not seen him for a few hours.

McGarrett again demanded answers from the girl, who stuttered out that she had not seen him since her return from town. "He wanted to leave and find out who he was. He was hurting bad. I tried to help -- really . . ."

Ordering his officers to split up, Steve headed toward the ocean through the woods, a short-cut to the highway. They had not seen Danno on the road through the camp ground, instinctively he felt he would find him heading toward the main road -- heading for home.

 

* * * * *

 

Crawling more than walking, Dan made it to a small stream pouring down the mountain toward the nearby sea. The water was cool and he soaked his bleeding, burning arm, washed his face in the fresh water. Sick from the agonizing pain, the disorienting fever, he wondered if he would die here. He should have left days ago, but had not had the motivation or the goal until today. Until the watch. Laying his head against a smooth stone, he tried to dream of the man, tried to sort out the puzzling visions -- did the man from the beach live, or if it was all just a memory? Now that he was fading from life, he wanted nothing more than to find that man with the deep, soothing voice -- the one who called to someone named . . . .

"Danno!"

A movement to McGarrett's right startled him. Reaching for his gun in a belt holster, he already reasoned it was too late. Turning, there was no one there, but he sensed a presence. The sleek, cat-like Tanaka.

"Danno!" He called again, leaning against a tree, keeping some cover at his back. Slowly he turned, checking the area before moving on. He could have sworn someone was watching him. "Danno!"

"Behind you, Steve!"

Without thinking it through McGarrett spun in time to block a lethal kick from Tanaka as she flew into him. Dodging the blow, McGarrett drew a bead on the crouching figure ready to pounce for another attack.

"Back off, Tanaka or I'll shoot. Is your life worth a paycheck from Baxter and Okua?"

She charged and he fired twice. The lithe woman dropped lifelessly at his feet. Quickly checking for a pulse, certain there was none, he cautiously stepped away, then scanned the woods.

"Danno?"

"Here."

The weak, hoarse voice came from the right. McGarrett broke into a run and skidded to a stop almost atop the limp body lying in the stream. Falling to his knees he barely touched Williams' back.

"Danno."

Dan's eyes blinked open. "Hi."

Choked with remnant fear and budding elation, Steve bit his lip, almost afraid to touch his injured friend, chuckling and crying in one. "You'll be okay now, we're here."

"I knew you were -- Steve." He smiled, closing his eyes and resting his head on McGarrett's hand. "You were never far away."

"Danno?"

"Yeah, that's who I wanted to be. I wanted you to be Steve."

"What?" Shaking his head, Steve patted Dan's back, then thought better of it and carefully touched him on the left shoulder, far away from the terrible wound. "Never mind. We're going to get you home now."

"Home." The repeated whisper sounded like a prayer.

Silently, Steve said a few prayers of his own. He could hear Chin and Ben calling for him. Breathing in a moan, McGarrett held onto his friend, knowing the ordeal was nearly over. Somehow they had come out of the undertow alive.

 

EPILOGUE

 

"Steve, help me, please."

From the doorway of the hospital room McGarrett watched with some sympathy as Williams argued with Doc Bergman. The physician wanted the wounded and weak detective to stay in the hospital for another few days. IV tubes had just been removed; the infection under control, the fever now gone. Recovery was still slow with Danny drained and sore from his ordeal.

Bergman frowned at the head of Five-0 and shook his head. "Oh, no, the expert at battling doctors is here." He glared at Williams. "One I can handle. Your reinforcements are unfair, Danny."

Williams brightened. "Uh, does that mean I can go?"

"No!" Bergman insisted. "You are still a very sick young man."

Standing next to the bed, Steve used his most persuasive tone. "Ah, come on, Doc, this is Christmas Eve. You going to keep Danno in the hospital on Christmas?"

Bergman threw up his hands. "Unfair bringing in the big guns, Danny. I won't soon forget this." To Steve he winked. "I'll sign the papers. Take him tomorrow if you want. Less trouble for me when your lot is out of my hair." The gruff doctor left, mumbling all the way out the door.

McGarrett and Williams both laughed at the surly attitude. Steve stood near the bed, relieved at the obvious improvement in Dan's condition.

"You sure you're up to this?"

Pale and worn, Williams grinned with a spark of familiar energy. "You bet. I'd rather recover at home any day." Troubled that his friend might have second thoughts, he rushed on. "Come on, Steve, you wouldn't condemn me to hospital food on Christmas, would you?"

In truth, McGarrett wanted his friend recovered and stable, even if the hospital stay lasted a week. At least he knew where Williams was. Anything was better than the unknown of the last few days. Feeling merciful, and in truth not wanting to abandon Dan to Christmas in the hospital, Steve added his blessing to his detective's release.

"I promised you a turkey dinner, remember?" Williams' face clouded. "Sorry." The amnesia was still a sensitive, scary subject for both of them. Frightening to think he could have had Danno back physically, but not mentally. Pushing aside that dreaded possibility that never came to pass, Steve continued, forcibly brightening the mood. "I promised you a Christmas dinner. Better than hospital food, my word on that."

A little subdued, Williams nodded. "A lot of that whole episode -- the shooting, the rescue, staying in the commune -- so much of it is just -- just gone from my mind." In subdued contemplation he stared out the window. He had related very little of his ordeal because there had been so little to tell. "I could see you in my dreams, but it was all fuzzy. Like I was underwater, caught in an undertow, and I couldn't reach you."

The experience had sounded so frightening to Steve when he'd heard the account. "It was pretty unpleasant on this side of the undertow, too." The agony of not knowing, of never discovering what happened to Danno, had been a torture Steve did not want to repeat. Not really joking, he confessed, "I may never let you go surfing again."

Williams' eyes filled with mischief. "That'd be a tough law to enforce, Steve, since we live on an island."

"Don't tempt me."

"Hey, it wasn't my fault! I never even hit the water!" His face clouded with indignation. "You may get your wish. That rotten Rock sold my board!"

McGarrett suggested they put Yoshi on the case to retrieve it. The eager patrolman still couldn't wait to help Five-0, even though Steve told him there were no openings. Dan found it amusing that Steve had his own little fan club. Steve countered that he wasn't alone.

"Someone else will be getting a good meal tomorrow. Sundance, your young devotee. Remember her, don't you?"

"The wacky girl?" Dan scoffed. "Yeah. I guess I should be grateful for her. She probably saved my life." Shrugging, then wincing from the movement, he held his injured shoulder. "She meant well."

'Or nearly cost you your life,' Steve grumbled to himself. He resented the girl's possessive role in keeping Danno as nothing more than a captive. Another day and they probably wouldn't have pulled Williams back from the brink of death. Danno's legendary 'fatal' charm nearly qualified as literal.

"Anyway, Sundance is really Sally Charteris, from Carson City Nevada. Her misguided bid to help you really jolted her. She realized how little she knew about life and taking care of people. So she went back home to her family." McGarrett grinned. "Sea-star."

Dan covered his face with his hand. "Oh, please. I suppose you're going to blackmail me over that."

"Really, Officer Williams, blackmail is illegal," he deadpanned. "But taunting is a whole different ball game."

"It's going to be a long year," he sighed.

'But a happy one now,' Steve decided with silent relief.

 

 

PAU