YOU CANíT JUDGE A BESTSELLER BY ITíS COVER

by

gm
 
 





On the first ring Dan Williams came to abrupt wakefulness. It was habit born of years with the special task force that frequently demanded his presence at all hours of the night and early morning. Automatically he blearily focused on the clock. 5:39 AM.
 
 

Ring.
 
 

He glanced toward the window. The faint blue/purple/pink glow of early, pre-dawn was just painting the world outside. Williams' eyes widened as sudden understanding hit him.
 
 

"Today's Friday," he groaned.
 
 

Ring.
 
 

He grabbed the phone and dragged it to his ear.
 
 

"Hello."
 
 

"Danno! Just wanted to make sure you were awake."
 
 

The voice was bright, chipper and insufferably happy. It was criminal the way some people woke up and attacked dawns as if they were something impressive. Morning people were so hard to appreciate.
 
 

"Hi, Steve," he groaned. "Ah, listen, I think I'll skip the jog this morning."
 
 

"A late night, huh, Danno?"
 
 

The voice said it knowingly, smugly. Dan detected a clear smile from the tone. He did not know why he was the unhappy target of his boss's gibes and jokes about his love life. It was not as if Steve McGarrett did not have a social calendar of his own. Perhaps it was because Dan's was so much more obvious and flamboyant that Steve found it irresistible to tease him about his habits as often as possible. That was a lot. Usually, however, Steve did not sink so low as to disturb him when he had made it clear he had a hot date. Dates frequently stayed the night and by unspoken agreement mornings-after were respected as kapu -- off limits.

 

Occasionally McGarrett indicated kapu mornings himself and Dan had never dared violate that trust. Perhaps Steve was in a bad mood today. That was certainly not a happy thought.  No, McGarrett sounded too happy on the phone. Perhaps this was a form of retaliation. Dan's mind raced as he tried to think what he might have done to be on the receiving end of one of Steve's rare practical jokes.
 
 

Dan finally said dryly, "Remember, Robin is in town?"
 
 

"Oh, right," the voice said in mock sincerity. "You know reporters and cops make strange bedfellows, Danno."  That time there was an actual laugh.
 
 

"See you at eight," Dan said decisively and none too gently tossed the receiver back on the cradle. Then he let his head collapse into the pillow.
 
 

Robin Kimura was a local girl he had known for years. Now a successful book reviewer in San Francisco, she renewed her relationship with the detective whenever she returned home. This week she happened to be in Honolulu for a book convention.
 
 

Dan rolled over, disappointed to find only a note on the other pillow. He sighed as he read:

'Mahalo, Wili Wai Kula.'

Dan blushed at the intimate nickname of 'Goldilocks', favored by Robin. Good thing Steve didn't know THAT little tidbit!  Now he was fully awake and knew he would never get back to sleep. With a sigh he launched from bed and headed for the shower. It was going to be one of those days, he could tell already.
 
 

*****


Just to make it look like Steve's phone call HAD NOT disturbed his morning, Dan indulged in a long shower and lingered over coffee and the paper. Then he drove to work by way of the crowded beach-side streets to the Territorial Building, the temporary offices of Five-0 while the Palace was being renovated. It was fashionably after eight when he arrived -- just so McGarrett would not get too cocky about those AM calls. Unfortunately, McGarrett's sedan was not in the parking area when Williams pulled into his slot at the curb.
 
 

When he entered the office he noted the daily activities were in full swing. Duke was on the phone, Chin was hovering over the coffee machine. Jenny Sherman Kamekona was at the desk. It was good to have their old secretary back. She had left Five-0 the year before to get married to an HPD detective. Now she was temporarily filling in for Malia, who was on her honeymoon. Dan predicted they would have to find another secretary soon. Working for Five-0 required more sacrifice than any other government group in Honolulu. The office staff put up with a lot of overtime and with unusual demands. Staff members with families soon looked for alternate employment.
 
 

"Morning, Jenny," he greeted with a smile. "Where's Steve?"
 
 

"Had an early meeting with Manicote about a half hour ago," she responded. A sly smile appeared on her face. "He said you'd be late."
 
 

Williams rolled his eyes. He had to find out what Steve was up to. Whatever plot was being hatched it did not bode well for Williams. He asked Jenny if she knew what was going on, but she denied any knowledge of any subterfuge. She handed over the mail and messages, seemingly completely innocent of any collusion with the boss. Thumbing through the letters, Dan went to his desk and started his assigned work. He sorely missed having a private cubicle. The temporary offices were short on space so the three detectives and two secretaries had to jam their desks into a common work space. It made office time even more hectic than usual.
 
 

So absorbed was he in his tasks he did not notice the excessive phone calls besieging the office. Only abstractly did he hear the activity since he was on and off the phone himself. When he spotted Chin and Duke gathered at Jenny's desk, and Jenny waving him to join them, he realized something was up. He ended his call and crossed the short space to the secretary.
 
 

"Did you see this?" Chin asked, pointing to the open newspaper on the desk.
 
 

Dan glanced at the entertainment section of the Advertiser. Fairly leaping from the page was a picture of a man holding a book with a picture of Steve McGarrett on the cover!
 
 

"Author Avery Frost is in Honolulu at the book convention," Dan read aloud the article under the photo. "Frost will be signing autographs for his surprise exposeí on local top cop Steve McGarrett. Frost claims 'The King of Five-0' -- the Unauthorized Biography of Steve McGarrett', promises to be a run-away bestseller. The book premiers here this week before Frost starts a nation wide tour promoting the controversial work. So far McGarrett and Five-0 staff, labeled, 'The Boy's Club,' by Mr. Avery, has closed ranks. There is no official comment in reaction to the book."
 
 

Williams crumpled the paper and looked at his colleagues. All were as stunned and unpleasantly surprised as he was. For some time he was speechless, unable to remember when they had been caught so embarrassingly flatfooted.
 
 

The phones were still ringing and Williams asked Lani, another secretary, to field all calls.
 
 

"This says we have 'no comment', " Dan said caustically, "so that's what we'll give the press."
 
 

"Doesn't look good when the state police are taken off guard like this," Duke said. "Some detectives we are."
 
 

Chin slowly shook his head. "The press is going to love this," he commented sadly. "They already have us down for no comments. They didn't even ask us!"
 
 

A courier arrived with a package marked for McGarrett. Jenny signed for it and pointed out the return address. Avery Frost.
 
 

"Pearl Harbor all over again," Duke sighed.
 
 

With a scowl Dan took the weighty package and opened it. Not surprisingly it was a copy of the infamous 'bestseller' along with a note from the author offering his compliments to McGarrett. Dan opened the book to the flyleaf and read:
 
 

'To Steve; thank you for being a true inspiration and model of drama and bestseller material. Your friend, Avery.'
 
 

Dan shook his head sadly. "What are we going to do with this?" His lip curled with distaste.
 
 

"You're gonna have to give it to Steve before he sees the paper," Chin answered simply. "And here he comes."
 
 

He gestured out the window and the others looked, seeing McGarrett's sedan pull up to the curb across the front lawn of the building.
 
 

Chin and Duke slinked back to their desks and Jenny made herself busy with sudden paperwork.
 
 

"Thanks, guys," Dan muttered. Literally, he was left holding the bag. As he had noted earlier, this was going to be one of THOSE days!
 
 

*****


A particularly pleased McGarrett breezed through the office, offering 'good mornings' to the staff. He came to a halt at the desk and favored Williams with a speculative, amused glance.
 
 

"Good Morning, Danno."
 
 

From the tone the younger detective realized this morning's call had not been malicious or part of an elaborate plot. Just one of McGarrett's little teases. It seemed Steve grinned humor at Dan's expense and Dan was used to it. Now Steve was about to receive the nastiest payback practical joke of all. Dan felt he could be generous about losing a little sleep and was unrepentant of the evil delight he suddenly derived from the bombshell book.
 
 

"Morning, Steve," he responded, slipping the book behind his back. Lightly he said, "Thanks for the wake up call."
 
 

McGarrett gave a slight nod accompanied by the trace of a grin. Joke noted, served, returned and counter-returned.
 
 

The phones had only lightly diminished in their constant ringing. For the first time Steve was scanning the room, wondering what was happening. He led the way into his office and Dan followed.
 
 

"What's up this morning?"
 
 

Dan waited until Steve was settled behind the desk. "Do you want the good news or the bad news first?" he began. It was a standard way to introduce McGarrett to some facts he would not like. Dan found the ploy worked as a good preparation so McGarrett's reaction would not rival Kilauea's eruptions.
 
 

"Good news, please," McGarrett requested.
 
 

Williams searched -- really reaching -- for something positive in the nasty thunderbolt about to strike. "You take a good candid," he said flippantly.
 
 

"What?"
 
 

With a deep breath Dan added, "The bad news is, you won't like what comes after the picture." Without further preamble he slipped the book from behind his back and placed it on the desk.
 
 

Several minutes went by while McGarrett studied the book. There was no visible change in the frozen expression, but Dan observed the habitual clenching of the jaw muscles. Not a good sign.
 
 

"What the hell is this supposed to be? A joke?"
 
 

"A book."
 
 

The sarcasm earned Dan a blazing glare.
 
 

"I don't think it's a joke, Steve. It's your unauthorized biography," was the simple response. He presented the infamous article, placing it on the desk and smoothing the paper. "The price of fame, I guess."
 
 

"How the hell could this happen?" The anger and volume levels were rising. Williams knew it would probably earn him the book in the face, but he could not resist.

 

"Good detective work?"
 
 

McGarrett's glare sizzled lethal danger. "How could something like this happen without us knowing?" Not waiting for an answer he snatched the book and thumbed through it without even seeing the print. Then he slammed it shut and threw it onto the desk. "Why didn't you know about this?"
 
 

Dan was honestly taken aback by the question, but he did not have a chance to answer. Steve steamrolled ahead.
 
 

"You date a reviewer." The glower suddenly turned to accusation. "YOU date a reviewer." It sounded like an indictment of a crime.
 
 

Williams was incredulous. "Steve -- I haven't seen her, except last night, in months! You don't think I leaked information!" he sputtered, too stunned to finish.
 
 

McGarrett shook his head and waved away the thought. "No, of course not," he agreed repentantly between clenched teeth.
 
 

Williams did not take the accusation personally. Steve was mad and in search of a scapegoat/informant. It was Steve's way of coping; investigating, pursuing a criminal in this personal crime. Dan thought there was probably no ONE informant. Steve was a public, forceful, larger than life personality and cut a big swath in Honolulu. He was watched and noticed all the time whether it was at a crime scene or at the grocery store. Every minute of his life was under scrutiny. No wonder he so jealously guarded his private, almost secretive private time.
 
 

McGarrett turned to the window and automatically reached out to open the French doors that would have been there if they had been at the Palace. His hand met the solid flatness of glass. Frustrated that he did not have the solace of his lanai, McGarrett slammed his fist into the window pane. The glass and wood splintered under the attack.
 
 

Dan sighed. It was one of THOSE days for everyone!
 
 

*****


"We're going to find out EVERYTHING about this Avery Frost."
 
 

It was the first step of the official investigation, i.e. offensive. They were handling this like a felony case. To McGarrett, it WAS criminal, Williams reflected. Chin, Duke and Dan ringed the desk area while an agitated McGarrett paced.
 
 

"Chin, I want the -- book -- on this guy. Duke, find out where he got that photo!"
 
 

Lukela picked up the bio from the floor where it had landed during one of Steve's tirades. Duke studied the slightly damaged jacket cover photo. It was a shot of McGarrett, in a blue suit and tie, thumbs hooked in hip pockets while he surveyed some scene of investigation. It was not a lot to go on. Duke removed the cover then gingerly placed the book back on the desk.
 
 

"Well?" McGarrett barked.
 
 

"On it wikiwiki," Chin said.
 
 

Duke simply nodded.
 
 

Both detectives filed out of the room just as Jenny entered.
 
 

"Boss, my friend at the Surfrider says Frost has never stayed there before. According to the desk clerk, this is his first trip to Hawaii."
 
 

"Good work, Jenny. At least someone in this office is acting like a detective!"
 
 

Even though the comment was not specifically directed at him, Dan winced at the razor's edge sarcasm. It was the first comment even approaching praise from the boss. The positive step seemed to brighten McGarrett's attitude and he requested the secretary bring in some coffee. He settled into his chair.
 
 

"What about your friend Robin?" he asked as he swiveled toward the second in command.
 
 

Defensively Dan blurted, "Really, Steve I never revealed anything --" he stopped, catching the contrite, even amusedly apologetic expression on his friend's face.
 
 

"I know, Danno," Steve assured. "What can she tell us about this -- guy -- and this -- book?"
 
 

Williams shrugged and admitted he didn't know. Robin did not discuss her work much when she was in town.
 
 

"I'll bet," was McGarrett's caustic comment.
 
 

Dan let it ride. "Anyway, what does it matter, Steve? The book is published. The damage is done."
 
 

Jenny brought in the coffee and left. During the process McGarrett rocked gently in the chair as he eyed Dan. Several times he slowly nodded his head, a manifestation of the mental ruminations in his brain.
 
 

"Good point, Danno," he admitted after some time. "We're churning up a lot of dust but it doesn't really matter, does it?" He fingered the book, sliding it around the desk a bit. "I guess I should read it and find out what I've done with my life." There was a broad stroke of acid ruefulness in his tone. With a deep, decisive sigh, he refocused on Williams. "We've got a state to serve and protect. I guess you can get back to work while I," he nodded toward the book, "do my homework."
 
 

"Sure," Dan agreed and gratefully left, closing the door behind him.
 
 

Some time later Dan was involved in the bane of police work, i.e., reports. He jumped when McGarrett's door suddenly smashed open. The boss, his Irish up and flaring, stormed over to Williams' desk.
 
 

"Can you believe this!" Steve shouted, waving the book in the air. "He says I bullied my way in as the head of Five-0! He practically accuses me of blackmailing Walter Stuart into persuading the Governor to hire me!" He threw the book against the door of his office. "There's an entire chapter on my 'tragic' love life! I'd like to find this Frost --"
 
 

Before he worked himself into making good the unspecified threat, Williams grabbed his boss by the arm and veered them into the big office. On the way he scooped up the book in a show of courage or madness, he wasn't sure which. Just before he closed the door he asked Jenny to send out for some lunch.
 
 

For a while McGarrett paced behind the desk. Once or twice he paused at the window, raised a fist and barely restrained himself from pounding on the already cracked glass. When Jenny brought in lunch Williams whispered for her to call the glass repair company for an afternoon job.
 
 

Ignoring the Chinese food, McGarrett snatched the book from Williams' lap and began thumbing through the pages.
 
 

"Have you seen these chapters!" he asked rhetorically. "Misappropriation of Pig Banks!" That's Hunter R. Hickey when he forged a check with my signature.(1) And the time those con men hired look-alikes and duplicated our office to run a protection racket!"(2)
 
 

Dan nodded, remembering the embarrassing incidents. Before he could comment, around a mouthful of egg roll, McGarrett charged on.
 
 

There was a section on "The King of Hawaii," where he was accused of allowing his men to solve a lot of the cases and never giving the credit to them. That one hurt, Dan could see, and he muttered some defensive comments that he wasn't sure helped.
 
 

"Keystone Cop Blues is covering our little run-ins with criminals who supposedly have more brains than we do! Like Filer(3) and that rat, Connors(4), guys who made us look like fools. Until we outsmarted them. But Frost doesn't seem to want to cover the real facts!" He slammed the book down with enough force for it to slide off the edge of the desk.
 
 

At least there was no damage this time, Dan sighed with relief.
 
 

"In the chapter titled, 'Who's got the jail key,' McGarrett continued, "he highlights my 'doing time' in jail. When I was framed by Honore Vashon,(5)  -- and for that fiasco on the Big Island!"
 
 

Dan put a hand over his mouth to hide a smile at the last reference. A few years back Steve had hopped over to a remote little town on the Big Island to get some isolated time off. He had been involved in a minor traffic snafu with a young deputy. One thing led to another and McGarrett's pig-headedness landed him in the local lock up. By the time he was cooled down enough to identify himself as Steve McGarrett, the locals didn't believe him. The legendary allotted phone call had been to Williams, who had to fly to the Big Island and personally straighten out the mess. Not for the first time Dan marveled at Frost's informants and wished his own were as good at digging up dirt.
 
 

McGarrett, now worked into another rage, snatched up the phone and jabbed the intercom button for the secretary's desk. "Jenny," he barked, "get me Manicote!" A moment later the phone buzzed. McGarrett jabbed the appropriate button hard enough for the plastic to break off.
 
 

'Call the phone company to send a repairman,' Dan mentally added to his list of fix-it jobs for the day.
 
 

*****


"What can I do for you, Steve?" the District Attorney asked as he put a bookmark in place then closed the biography.
 
 

"I want to take this Frost character to court and get this book off the shelves, John!"
 
 

Manicote pressed his lips against his teeth to keep from laughing. He smoothed the cover of his copy of the infamous book as he tried to infuse neutrality into his voice.
 
 

"Steve, as a public figure your life is part of public domain."
 
 

"These are distorted incidents -- some are downright lies! What he says about my private life --!" The voice stammered to a halt.
 
 

In the silence Manicote quickly thumbed to the chapter on McGarrett's love life.
 
 

"There must be something I can do!"
 
 

Manicote cleared his throat to push away the amusement in his tone. "No, Steve, there isn't. I know you don't like it, but I'm surprised no one has targeted you before this. You are a high profile public figure."
 
 

"Thanks, John," was the savage retort.
 
 

Manicote moved the receiver from his ear just before the crashing click of an abruptly severed connection. He went back to reading. He wanted to finish this before the end of the day so he could compare notes with the Governor.
 
 

*****


Perhaps living on the edge of a volcano for so many years had acclimated Williams to danger. Whatever the reason, Dan could not subvert his curiosity over the most titillating tidbit of the day.
 
 

"Frost exposes your love life?" he asked, straining to fill his voice with accusation instead of anticipation.
 
 

"Yes!" Steve pounced on the bait. He grabbed the book, now rather frayed around the edges, from the floor. "In a chapter called 'Wild Wahine Nights' -- can you believe that? Frost should have done the biography on you if he wanted this kind of slant."
 
 

The comment was not a kind one but Dan let the dig slide. He was simply thankful the book was NOT about his love life.
 
 

Without pausing for Williams' reaction McGarrett continued. "Frost claims I've had affairs with women I've hardly even spoken to! How can that be when he also accuses me of being as reclusive as a sphinx?"
 
 

Before Williams could reply, McGarrett charged onward. "Then Frost says I've turned down twenty-five marriage proposals from admirers!"
 
 

"What exaggeration," said Williams with tongue firmly in cheek. "Last count I thought it was only eight."
 
 

McGarrett tossed a glare toward his companion. "Whose side are you on?" he asked rhetorically. "How can I have such wild social habits if I'm a recluse?" His eyes narrowed as he studied Dan. There was an actual twinkle of humor momentarily replacing the anger. "He makes my love life sound like yours."
 
 

Dan smiled. "Makes yours sound better than mine."
 
 

That elicited a brief smile from the boss. McGarrett shook his head, as if not sure what to make of it all as he slumped down into his chair.
 
 

The rest of the afternoon was spent in skimming through the infamous expose'. Most of the information was speculation gleaned from sources as vague as newspaper articles. It was all innuendo and fiction built on grains of truth and fact. Yellow journalism legitimized, Steve accused.
 
 

"What gives him the right to splash my picture and life across every supermarket checkout and paperback rack in the country?" Steve asked rhetorically at one point.

 

Dan could only reply, "It's one of the more unpleasant prices of fame, Steve. At least it's not fatal. Not even to a reputation. Your character speaks for itself."
 
 

For that Dan was rewarded with a quiet, sincere, even humble word of thanks.

 

Through the course of the day Dan and Steve both found themselves alternately incensed and amused by the collection of incidents which supposedly made up the life of the very visible McGarrett. Reading through it together diluted the edge of injury. Before too long anger gave way to insult, to caustic defense, to jokes, to possible retaliations.
 
 

By the time the sun was setting behind the buildings crowded between them and the sea, Duke and Chin had returned with their reports.
 
 

Frost was known for his sizzling society expose'. He was an avaricious writer who was very good at research and fiction. Through various sources in Honolulu he had patched together stories and pictures which could be twisted into almost any puzzle. It was frustrating, but the First Amendment protected Frost and whatever he chose to print. Frost had left the island already, so there was no chance to bring him in. And any informants used were staying under very big rocks.
 
 

McGarrett thanked his staff and urged them to go home. He had wasted enough taxpayer's money for the day investigating a personal target. Monday it would be back to business as usual.
 
 

Williams lingered, still slouched on the sofa, still thumbing through the book. McGarrett slumped down to join him.
 
 

"It probably will be a bestseller," Steve sighed ruefully.
 
 

Dan nodded in agreement. "Steve McGarrett, bestselling crime fighter," he said wryly. "I'll have to get you to sign an autographed copy," he kidded. Seriously, he said, "You want me to cover your tracks so you can slip out to the beach house for the weekend?"
 
 

"Nah," Steve said, shaking his head. "What's the use? I already feel like I have a target on my back --" He stopped abruptly.
 
 

Williams knew the look very well. McGarrett had come up with a plot of his own. Dan prompted his boss to give over the details.
 
 

"Slinking out of town would be just what the press would love," Steve said thoughtfully. "Their speculations would run rampant."
 
 

"So?"
 
 

"So what if we foil their plan?" McGarrett smiled. It was a sly, crafty smile that did not bode good tidings for those, like Frost, or the press, who would cross the powerful and long remembering Irish cop. He targeted Dan with blue eyes sparkling with mischief. "How'd you like to join me for a wild wahine night on the town, Danno? You know the local hot spots and I'll pick up the tab. It's the last thing they would expect and the worst thing for Frost's image of -- what did he call me -- the 'reclusive, emotionless, unapproachable citadel.' Didn't you say your friend Robin has a sister?"
 
 

"Uh -- yeah," Dan stammered, mentally racing to keep up with his friend's surprising scheme.
 
 

Double-dating with Steve could prove to be dangerous, but Dan was willing to try anything once. Already his mind was working on the possibilities this bestseller might have on his life.
 
 

"Sure," Dan agreed, rapidly warming to this idea.
 
 

"Then start dialing, Wili Wai Kula," McGarrett said with too-sweet sarcasm.
 
 

Dan froze, a blush sizzling up from his neck to the roots of his hair. "How did you learn about that?" he asked after the initial shock had worn away.
 
 

"Avery Frost isn't the only one around with sources," Steve enigmatically replied.
 
 

Williams thought better of the idea to ask more questions. He made a quick call to Robin and secured dates for the night, while McGarrett was on another line making reservations at a very ritzy nightclub. Dan was impressed, especially since it was all Steve's treat.
 
 

When they strode through the outer office McGarrett issued last minute instructions to Jenny. Dan noticed Duke and Chin had hurriedly covered up suspiciously familiar books. Dan noted a copy on his desk. Surreptitiously he covered it with police reports just before McGarrett gave him the nod that they were on their way. As Dan closed the office door behind him he imagined the lights would be burning late at Five-0 tonight and not because of the work load. Maybe he had been wrong. Maybe this WAS NOT one of those days after all. He smiled, pleased with the way things had turned out after all
 
 

PAU



 
 

1 - Last of the Great Paperhangers

2 - Welcome to our Branch Office

3 - Over 50? Steal/Odd Man Out

4 - Which Way Did They Go?

5 - V For Vashon - The Father