Sequel to

The Christmas of Second Chances

And

Blood Summons

 

BLOOD TRAIL

            By gm & bh

 

Great souls by instinct to each other turn,

Demand alliance,

And in friendship burn.

Joseph Addison (1672 - 1719)

 

 

Late January 1979

 

Closing the folder, Steve McGarrett leaned back from his desk and pushed the manila file with his finger, as if distance would ease the irritation and distress rippling through him. The Danworth report. A final summary of the case that never was really. It read, in black and white, as an investigation into illegal prescription medicine being hustled on the street -- Five-0’s modest bust of a pusher.

 

Between the lines, and etched deeply in his conscience, it was an ugly drama of revenge, guilt and passion completely out of control. Tom Riordan, his old friend, accountable for all three extreme emotions when trying to kill Danworth because he thought Danworth killed Tom Junior. McGarrett, guilty of all three, misplacing his loyalty to an old friend and forgetting his responsibilities, duties and obligations to everyone else.

 

Bitterly he shoved the folder farther away. It could just as easily read the Pete Shay report. Blinded by his desire to help an old friend, he never saw that Shay, his old NI buddy, was a criminal, a liar, a traitor. Not until it was almost too late and cost the life of Danno. {fanfic – THE CHRISTMAS OF SECOND CHANCES}  Then Pete came back into his life just last month {fanfic- BLOOD SUMMONS} and Danno paid the price – nearly with his life – again.

 

Opening his desk drawer, he pulled out the picture post card of Iolani Palace that he kept there, just at his left elbow, so he could refer to it often. The little missive Pete had sent promising to come back and finish his job – killing Danno.

 

Not more than a few days had passed after Shay escaped the island that Steve was working on a plan to find his old friend and assure there was no opportunity to return to Hawaii and endanger Williams. A preemptive strike – eliminate an old colleague while saving another. Dan had hardly been out of the hospital when McGarrett contacted his old NI friend Napoleon Solo. With the help of Solo and his partner Illya Kuryakin, Shay’s location was narrowed down to an operation in Asia. Too broad a target. It had to be tapered again, pinpointed to at least a city.

 

The old irritations too distressing to ignore, McGarrett yanked up his phone and dialed a mobile number on his scrambled line. He was not willing to wait for news -- it was too important to him in ways few would understand. Solo was a good friend who was not going to betray him, but this quest was not a priority to the free-lance-former-U.N.C.L.E. spy.

 

“Yes?”

 

In the single word, it was clear the voice on the other end belonged to the cryptic and mysterious Russian.

 

“Hello, Illya, this is McGarrett.”

 

“Hello, Steve. Should I venture a guess why you are calling?”

 

“You already know.” He was not in the mood to play games – spy, word or otherwise. “What is the latest on Shay?”

 

The smile in the tone was obvious and further rankled his nerves. “Steve, we have very little. We are still in San Francisco. Next month we are scheduled for a job in Taiwan – ah, here is Napoleon -- he can fill you in. I much prefer you to vent your anger on my partner.”

 

“No sign of Pete,” Solo crisply began without preamble. “Now, Steve, it’s only been a few weeks—”

 

“Napoleon, I need to find him. The longer he has –“

 

“I know, the better plan he will have for an attack,” the smooth, former-agent replied without changing his unruffled tone. “I want him, too. Half the brotherhood would if they knew what he’s been up to.”

 

Solo and McGarrett, along with a few other old friends, first met in Korea. Their service for Naval Intelligence had been harrowing and bonding. Ties to never be betrayed or forgotten. Not like Shay. Pete had been a new officer, his first tour of duty as a spy in Japan. Napoleon only knew him vaguely, but Steve and Pete had been partners. The betrayal of Shay was personal. A former friend stabbing him in the back – literally shooting Danno in the back! – trying to kill him twice!  It ended on Steve’s terms now.

 

“I don’t care what the others might want, Napoleon. I want him!”

 

Spies betraying spies was a tricky double-cross in the international camaraderie of operatives. Traitors to countries or organizations were common place, but always looked at with anger and retribution in mind by their peers. Only when their side was betrayed of course. Their careers were based on hoping they could turn an enemy against his allies. In this case, Shay had betrayed more than the US. He had gone against McGarrett, who would never forget. That meant Steve’s friends were also now Pete’s foes.

 

“I wish I could help you more –”

 

“Tell me where he was last spotted.”

 

“You know it’s not that easy –”

 

“Napoleon!”

 

A sigh at the other end told of the spy’s displeasure. “We have him spotted outside of Kuala Lumpur three days ago. A little mud spot called Kuala Terennganu.”

 

“Why didn’t you tell me!”

 

“Because he disappeared again. He has a base there – a dive known as the Fortune Cookie Saloon. A notorious refuge for expatriates of all sorts. Run by an AWOL Army sergeant named Solter. Apparently a pal of Shay’s. They have some kind of operation going on. There are some indications it kicks off on Saturday.”

 

“That’s a start,” McGarrett shot back enthusiastically.

 

“Steve, you’re not thinking of going in there on your own, are you?”

 

It had not been a premeditated plan, no, but once he knew a location, he felt he had to act. Danno had been pestering him to take the weekend off and he would take over the reins of Five-0. The younger detective was feeling a little guilty that he had been off work due to injuries and illness and everyone else was carrying extra loads because of his down time.

 

“I don’t want to wait for you and Illya.”

 

“We can be there at the end of the week.”

 

Location, Kuala Lumpur. A seedy bar as a home base. Wait for back up? Lose this opportunity to get Pete? Could he really slip away for a week? Secretly? He certainly would not mention any of this to Danno. While his friend would be the first man he would pick for back up under any other circumstance, he was the last one he wanted coming close to Shay. All too well Pete had their measure. He knew what Danno meant to him – thus Pete’s vengeance-quest to kill Williams to get back at McGarrett among other reasons. So it was out of the question that he could tell Danno about his plans.

 

Wait for Napoleon and Illya? By the end of the week he would run out of a perfectly good excuse – the weekend-plus off. Pete could slip through his fingers and be off to who-knew-where, but if he was there before Saturday, before Pete started another operation . . . .

 

“Wait a few days –”

 

“I’ll be in touch. Thanks, Napoleon.”

 

Hanging up, he felt energized with the possibilities. To be there by Saturday, it gave him only a few hours before he would have to leave – maybe take an early holiday? Leave tomorrow – Friday -- or perhaps sooner if travel arrangements could be sorted out. Danno wouldn’t be suspicious, would he? No – he would be pleased. He wouldn’t be expecting any deception.

 

A stab of guilt thrust into his heart at that. Thinking of Pete and Tom Riordan, he had his own evidence of betrayal to Danno. The last time he had crept away to do an undercover job it had turned out horribly. The last time, he had blatantly lied to his friend and concealed his true, dangerous plans. {episode – A SHORT WALK ON THE LONG SHORE} 

 

After that horrible debacle where he had been forced to punch Danno to keep his cover intact, he had promised not to pull any more stunts like that. Hating the Lone Ranger exploits, as he called them, Danno had been so hurt and angered he had nearly resigned. {fanfic – LONG WALK ON A SHORT PIER}

 

Could Steve risk that again? Not to mention, could he/should he gamble on a clandestine mission to a foreign country to pursue a criminal? Should he work within the system and go for a diplomatic exchange? To fight a career spy, should he slink back into his former profession and take Shay on his own? Once in custody, he could argue the legalities with local authorities for extradition.

 

Tapping the Palace post card on the desk top, he stared at the dire forecast written on the back in blood red.

 

--see you soon to finish the job –

 

At any time, any place, Pete Shay could come back here and fulfill his promise to kill Danno. No, Steve could not let that happen. Cringing, knowing he was risking his friendship to go back on his word and carry out another lone, covert mission – and lie to do it! he resolutely determined a course of action that should bring an end to threats against his friend. On the other hand, he hoped it would not alienate that same friend with good intentions gone wrong.

 

Setting in motion his vague plan, which was now a committed mission, took him some time. Five-0 matters had to be handled. Travel arrangements had to be made, and little details, like making sure he had enough cash for his expedition – some of which would need to be exchanged for local currency – had to be completed. Standing, nerves twitching with anticipation, dread and numerous other emotions skimming across the acts of infidelity, loyalty and trust, he tidied his desk, then walked to the outer area .

 

The office door slammed and he jumped, not expecting, but not surprised at Williams’ arrival. It was dark, well after work hours, but that never deterred the second-in-command of the unit. Working late together had become part of the method of their relationship. A subtle, but profoundly powerful display of dedication and devotion which had been one of the many elements responsible for their solid friendship.

 

After all they had been through, how could he lie to his friend? He had done it before, even when he felt a bond so tight it was beyond the ties of blood relations. A commitment forged in the blood and sacrifice of their profession and personal loyalty to each other. Now, when they had been through even more, how could he justify his act of treachery? This would be so much easier with a phone call. No, he would not stoop to such cowardice. Not with his closest friend.

 

Dipping into his cubicle, Williams returned with some papers in hand. “Need to look over my notes for the Stoner prelim.”

 

The case where Williams had been captured by a neo-Nazi fanatic. Stoner was a real sleaze and McGarrett had wanted to be in on the court proceedings for this one {episode – Distant Thunder}. First hand, he wanted to see Danno put the maniac away for a long time. Well, he would make it for the trial instead of the preliminary hearing. The reminder of danger to his friend brought a renewed commitment to his mission. The end justified the means.

 

“Unless you’d rather have me there, I have another option,” he persevered with his intent to go along with the madcap plan he’d formed.

 

“No, you don’t really need to be there,” Williams denied with a yawn and covered his mouth to attempt to minimize the obvious show of fatigue.

 

The gesture gave Steve second thoughts. Danno was just recovering from pneumonia and the violent encounter with Shay. Was his second up to running Five-0 now? Knowing Williams would push himself beyond reasonable limits while he was away, McGarrett still felt he had no choice in this. Bringing down Pete was the most important thing he could do to safeguard his friend. A week of stress back here in Honolulu and Pete would no longer be a problem. Danno would live through it.

 

“What’s up?”

 

“Danno, you know how you’ve been bugging me to take some time off?”

 

The smirk implied long-suffering. “Yeah. And no matter what you say I’m going to keep bugging you, Steve. You need the vacation.”

 

“Yeah. I know. So I’m going to follow your advice.”

 

Williams’ amazement showed on his face. “You are?”

 

“Yeah. For a week. Think you’ll be able to handle things?”

 

“For a whole week?”

 

“Yeah. Thinking of taking up a new hobby,” he commented flippantly, then wondered why he had surrendered such inane information.

 

“Steve, that’s great!”

 

The surprise and delight were salt to his inner wounds, but McGarrett pressed on, ignoring his conscience and repeating to himself that the cause was just.

 

“Yeah, thought I might leave tomorrow.”

 

The monumental bombshell took Williams off-guard again. “Tomorrow? Uh --great,” Dan smiled, at first uncertainly, then with delight. “Sure, Steve. Taking the boat to Kauai?” Almost instantly he held up a hand. “No, wait – you sure you want to tell me where you’re going? If there’s an emergency, I’ll feel honor bound to call you back,” he warned. “And you always blame me when that happens.”

 

“Yeah,” McGarrett barely whispered.

 

“No, I’d rather have you take a few days off at an unknown location and clear my conscience.”

 

Biting his lip, Steve managed to conceal the flinch at that condemning, unknowingly cutting barb. Danno was making this too easy, asking not to know. Turning around, he was sure his expression would give it all up in a minute if he didn’t get out of here.

 

“I’ll be back next Friday for the Governor’s breakfast meeting,” McGarrett assured.

 

“Sure --”

 

The ringing phone in Williams’ office interrupted at that propitious moment. Steve lingered, watching his friend through the glass, too many thoughts and emotions tumbling across his mind as he speculated on when he might see Danno again and under what circumstances. Would he have Pete Shay in tow and a difficult explanation ahead of him to clear the air with Williams? Could he possibly pull off the caper without Danno ever knowing what he was doing? For someone who prided himself on strategy and tactics, he was undertaking a dangerous (in many ways) mission without much of a plan.

 

“That was one of my snitches. Need to check this out, Steve. Can we get together later?”

 

“Uh, maybe not, Danno, I’ve got a lot of things to organize before I leave.”

 

Paused at the office door, Williams seemed disappointed. “Okay. Well, if I don’t see you before you leave, then have a nice vacation – and try to relax.”

 

“Mahalo,” Steve muttered, turning away so there was no visible evidence of his stress at this deceptive farewell.

 

“Aloha,” Dan called as he rushed out the door.

 

After the echo of the slamming wood against wood, McGarrett leaned on the door frame and closed his eyes. That might, if things did not work out in his favor, be the last conversation he ever had with his friend He couldn’t kid himself. Chasing Shay into a no-man’s-land, where he would be dead if anyone knew his true identity or purpose, was not going to be easy or safe. Anything could happen. Ending on a lie.  It left a bitter taste in his mouth, but again he assured the ends would justify the means.

 

Confucius said when you start on the path of revenge first dig two graves. Did he really know what he was doing? Was this right? It was just, yes, but was it the correct decision? How could he deceive Danno like this? What if he didn’t come back? Ending such a powerful relationship with such a deception was a staggering blow of disgrace to his sense of honor. It had to be done, he savagely repeated. He was, after all, doing this to save Danno’s life. Surely a much higher goal than – than what – personal integrity, honesty, or friendship?

 

Angry at the whispering morality that would not allow him to get off easily with his own values, he roughly cleared his desk, locked away important papers and closed up the office for what might be the last time.

 

 

*****

 

 

With a distracted slap at the air to repel a monstrous flying insect, McGarrett tossed his duffel bag to the baggage handler-mechanic-steward-pilot of the two-prop-engine, six-passenger De Havilland airplane. West across the International Dateline, Malaysia was eighteen hours ahead of Honolulu time.

 

Only four hours after his uncomfortable (for him) conversation with his second-in-command, Steve managed to collect what he needed for his journey and book himself the last seat on a Singapore Airlines flight. With a change of aircraft in Manila, the fourteen-hour trip put him in the bustling concourse of the busy Kuala Lumpur airport by eight o’clock AM Saturday.

 

His thoughts couldn’t help but wander to the Palace, where it was Friday,  where he knew Danno would be returning from the preliminary hearing on the Stoner case. Williams – the Five-0 chief knew all too well – would have his hands full juggling administrative tasks with the too-heavy caseload. The image of his trusting and trusted friend going about the business of keeping the investigative unit running smoothly brought another discordant twang of discomfort from his conscience. With a slight grimace, he banished further consideration of what he’d done to get to the Malaysian peninsula, where his unaware prey awaited capture.

 

With the help of his badge, he’d been afforded a hasty trip through Customs, and made his way through the almost market-like atmosphere of the capital city’s airport. The non-Hawaiian tropical smells and jet-fuel-hot-tar tang mingled with the scents / odors of the throng of humanity which buzzed around him. The upbeat morning energy of the potpourri of faces renewed him after his tiring trip. Not able to sleep soundly when flying, Steve could not will his light dozing to evolve into a more restful slumber, despite the fact that he’d been in the air through the Hawaiian night and well into the Five-0 workday. Bent on quickly reaching Shay’s last known position, he purchased yet another ticket for a much shorter plane ride to the airport closest to the South China Sea port town of Kuala Terennganu.

 

Despite the early hour, the tarmac was already warm beyond generally-accepted human comfort. Dan had once glibly accused Steve of being incapable of stepping out looking physically un-put-together. The head of Five-0 admitted that his military attention to the details of his uniform – civilian or otherwise – happened without too much conscious consideration of the fact anymore. Not a crime, he defended to his friend, ‘Outward appearance reflects inward state.’

 

On this morning, McGarrett – if he’d given it any thought – would not have been sure that was the case. Prepared for the climate, he wore khaki-toned cotton twill pants, with his long-sleeved, vintage poplin shirt being slightly darker. Well-broken-in hiking boots, a weathered, light brown canvas fedora with a leather draw string, and Navy aviator sunglasses completed the striking figure’s ensemble. He presented a catalog-perfect image – the glances tossed his direction by airport workers and regional travelers alike made it apparent the “look” was respected.

 

When the small, chocolate-skinned pilot gave a grinning nod to the American detective – the single passenger on the flight northward – McGarrett was only too happy to board the small aircraft. The final weeks of the northeast monsoon season brought typical cloudbursts, where entire lakes tumbled from the sky in the space of a few minutes. Another advantage of reaching his destination before noon was that he would avoid an inclement-weather flight, the friendly pilot explained in broken English as the aircraft buzzed through the building cloud cover. In tour guide fashion, he introduced himself as Najib Muntari, and proceeded to offer commentary about his native country as it passed below them. Thirty minutes into the flight he navigated his aircraft so that his passenger could make out the dense green blanket below.

 

“Taman Negara – world’s oldest rain forest. Very big in hectares… covers many kilometers square… many thousands species of plants and animals live there.” With a toothy grin and a nudge of the American who seemed very interested in what he had to say, he added, “Many danger there… animals… plants… bugs – dangerous to human… Leopard… tiger… crocodile… boar… Macaque… Caution advised, sir… Caution advised!”

 

With a slow swallow, McGarrett looked into the eyes of the Batek Tribe native and nodded his acknowledgement of the warning as he queried, “What is a ma… ma-kak?”

 

“Mean… very mean…In the trees… mangrove…”

 

With a slight nod, the detective returned his gaze to the ground below with regret that he had not paid more attention to his National Geographic subscription. He didn’t press his lack of clarity though as it was obvious the native did not have the English vocabulary to articulate an accurate description of the mean, mangrove-inhabiting creature.

 

The pilot grew quiet for the remainder of the one hour and fifteen minute journey as he focused on maneuvering his craft through the building turbulence to the runway just outside Kuala Terennganu. Bringing the little De Havilland to an abrupt stop, Muntari climbed from the plane with the Five-0 chief on his heels.

 

“More caution, sir,” Najib’s voice grew softer as he handed the attentive detective his bag. “Animal, plant danger -- yes -- but men are danger here too.”

 

The former NI officer was already aware from the briefing Napoleon had proffered that the area was rife with an undercurrent of the criminal element. The remote location of the port and lack of police presence made the fishing town and its surroundings a perfect hideaway, where people on the run could cool their heels, and illegal deals could be negotiated without fear of interruption by those tasked with upholding the law. That Pete Shay had entrenched himself here in this backwater of civilization was no surprise. With grim delight McGarrett knew that his former colleague would not be expecting him.

 

The head of Five-0 offered his hand and a meaningful smile to the little man, who’d offered honest warnings, and assured the pilot, “Mr. Muntari, thank you – I will use due caution.”

 

 

*****

 

 

A bumpy, fifteen minute jeep ride landed McGarrett in front of an old two-story hotel on the outskirts of the Kuala Terennganu’s China Town. The buildings appeared to date from at least World War One, and they were all in varied degrees of disrepair. The name of the establishment, like that of most of the surrounding stores, was presented in Chinese Characters. An errant emotional pain at the loss of Chin Ho Kelly stabbed at him as he suspiciously eyed passers by – who eyed him back with equal suspicion. The population looked to be a mix of native residents, earning their livings and going about their business, and hot, bored transients, awaiting who knew what.

 

Inside the hotel he removed his canvas hat to wipe the sweat from his brow, then walked past an overweight man in a linen suit who seemed unnaturally interested in a worn newspaper. Unsurprised that check-in required minimal verbal exchange with the unshaven desk clerk, the detective signed the name William Henley as he casually scanned the register -- simply as part of the typical investigative scan of his surroundings – not because he expected to see Shay’s name. Apparently, this was the place for Western guests to hang their hats – all of the names were scrawled in English. Three Smiths… two Jones… one ‘X’… The only name which stood out for its uniqueness was that of a Goof Brooks.

 

McGarrett offered a tired glare to the disinterested clerk; a weathered haole in a dirty green tank top, more to psychologically stake out his territory than to express anger. He paid the man, who accepted the US dollars without any questions or complaints, and asked for directions to the Fortune Cookie Saloon.

 

“Head toward the waterfront,” was all the clerk volunteered.

 

“What’s the name of this place anyway?” McGarrett plied as he surveyed the worn rattan furniture in the dark lobby and the paunchy figure of the fat, snoring man, whose face was now hidden under the newspaper.

 

The slightly paunchy clerk gave a long-suffering sigh as he dangled a key in the air. “The Bin Gwan… means friendly guest house.”

 

McGarrett pondered how friendly he would find Kuala Terennganu as he snatched the key and strode toward the narrow flight of stairs.

 

 

*****

 

 

Swiveling back in his chair to lean against the wall, Dan suppressed a yawn, trying to focus on his phone conversation. Physically, he was not up to putting in so much overtime, but he would never have told that to Steve. He wouldn’t have done anything to keep the Five-0 chief from taking a much deserved rest.

 

Shay’s latest antics had caused McGarrett a lot of stress. Duke had been compensated for his hard work by getting a few days off, but McGarrett just kept working, as usual. This was Dan’s chance to balance things out and he was not going to let matters at the office suffer while Steve was out. He never did. His abilities to run Five-0 efficiently gave his friend peace of mind when he left.

 

"Listen, Joey, it sounds like it might be a hot lead, but I can't promise I can make it," he told the young informant in complete candor. "I've got a meeting in less than an hour and I don't know how long that will last."

 

Shaking off his fatigue, he shuffled some papers, confirming a memo denoting Senator Watanabe's briefing slated for five o’clock. No telling how long that would last. Rolling up the sleeves on his light blue shirt, he sighed, thinking over the list of duties. After the discussion with the senator, he needed to come back here and finish the report on the huge drug bust in Hawaii Kai. Duke was over at HPD interrogating the two pushers, and Lieutenant Nephi Hilton was filling in for Five-0 in the field -- taking the lead with HPD questioning neighbors around the drug-manufacturing house.

 

No replacement for Chin, and McGarrett gone on vacation, made for a hectic period here at the office. Not that he begrudged his friend the chance to take time off. Rather, he was thrilled Steve took his advice to get away. In McGarrett's absence, Williams seconded several reliable officers from HPD to help Five-0. Hilton was one, Kevin Wilson, Truck Kealoha and Sandi Wells were some others.

 

"Yeah," he responded sleepily to Joey Lee, an enthusiastic young Asian who loved working with Five-0. If Joey didn't have a criminal record he might have joined HPD, but his bad decisions as a youth ended his chances of a career on the force. Still, he was doing his part to pay back McGarrett -- who had arranged to have him pardoned for his cooperation in breaking up some tongs {episode - PAGODA FACTOR}. Now Joey called frequently with tips. They usually were solid leads, but Dan was just not sure this one was worth it. "Lots of people talk big in Waikiki. How do you know he's organizing gambling clubs?"

 

Closing his eyes, Dan forced himself to focus on the details. It was tough. Still not completely recovered from the pneumonia from last month {fanfic - BLOOD SUMMONS}, he secretly knew he was not up to this rigorous schedule of working all day and most of the night; short staffed, not totally healthy. With Steve out of town, Dan was in his usual in-charge mode of pressuring himself to do more than Steve expected. It was a level of achievement not requested, but one that Williams insisted he deliver. It had always been so, since that first time Steve had been shot {episode -- YESTERDAY DIED AND TOMORROW WON'T BE BORN} and Dan had been thrust into control of Five-0. From that point on, whenever he held the reins of the organization, he made sure he was as good as Steve was in his performance. Hours, effort, and sacrifice were optimum. That first substitution was many years ago, and he still felt that way. If only his body would cooperate.

 

"Yeah, okay, Joey, you've convinced me," he half-heartedly stated around a yawn. "I'll be there. Sally's at nine. Bye."

 

He let the receiver hang in his hand without bothering to replace it. How was he going to make it until nine and beyond? Opening an eye, he searched the desk for a coffee cup and wondered how many cups it took to OD on caffeine. Many, if Five-0 officers were any indication.

 

"Danny”, Luana called, a little short in the tone. "Call!"

 

Glancing at her, he saw she was giving him a stern look for not hanging up the phone and thus making her yell.

 

"Line two. It's someone for Steve."

 

Plopping forward, he snapped the appropriate button and announced, "This is Williams. McGarrett isn't here right now, can I help you?"

 

"Hey, Danny, this is Klein down at the harbor."

 

Captain Klein, Steve's slip neighbor at the marina.

 

"Hi, what's up?"

 

"You better let Steve know the SEA CHALLENGER is taking on water!  Had the boat people come over before it got worse, but he better get down here wikiwiki."

 

SEA CHALLENGER. Steve's boat. Steve was on holiday ON his boat!  This didn't make sense. Hating to ask the inane, he nonetheless wanted to get his facts straight while his mind reeled from confusion. "Are you sure it's Steve's boat?"

 

"Of course I am!  Why else would I call him?"

 

"Yeah -- uh -- I -- just thought he was -- uh -- using it."

 

"Nah, he hasn’t been out here for a fortnight or more. Doesn’t get out here enough. We’re always telling him that. You know Steve"

 

"Uh -- yeah," he admitted, the obvious thought adding to his perplexity. He DID know Steve had gone on vacation, but not with his boat? Shaking his head as if that would help, he tried to get a handle on the perplexities. Deal with the crisis first and ask questions later, he knew. "Okay, just tell them to proceed. I'll be down later and take care of everything. Mahalo."

 

"Sure, Danny. See you then."

 

Hanging up the phone, Dan stared at his hand, unmoving, in such deep thought he was completely still as his mind worked the mystery. Steve was not on his boat. His boat was in trouble. Steve had left for vacation without his boat. Did he leave? There had been no word from McGarrett for four days. If Steve had gone away -- without the SEA CHALLENGER (and a very good thing he had not since it was taking on water!) then where had he gone?

 

First concern filled him. Could something sinister have happened to his friend? Maybe. Maybe not, he reasserted, trying not to be an alarmist. Perhaps Steve did exactly what he had kidded about in the office last week. That he was going to leave and not give Dan any information on his whereabouts so Dan could not interrupt his time off. Too often, work matters called Steve back from a day off and he then threatened to keep his whereabouts secret. Dan had simply assumed Steve was heading over to his house in Kauai for a quiet week away from Honolulu. Then where did he go? A tiny prick of hurt filtered into the confusion and surprise. Steve DIDN'T confide in him!  Steve lied about -- no -- Dan assumed things and Steve silently did not correct him  In fact, Dan had insisted Steve not tell him!   Steve didn't have to tell him everything!  There was no rule about that, but still they were the best of friends . . . . What if something happened to Steve?

 

Cringing, he dialed the number before he gave it a second thought. No answer from Steve's apartment. Okay, that could mean that he was gone. Or that he was deliberately not answering. Blast!  How much did he pursue this mystery without intruding on his friend's privacy? After numerous rings, he hung up and pondered his next step.

 

"Dan," Luana called to him.

 

He saw she was standing in the doorway, purse in hand.

 

"It's five. You're going to be late for your meeting with Senator Watanabe. And it's time to close up."

 

"Right. Is Duke back yet?"

 

"Not yet.” Okay, no easy way to pawn off the meeting with the Senator. "All right, mahalo. See you tomorrow."

 

Taking another moment to ponder the situation, he knew his choices were limited. For two days, Watanabe had been insisting on a meeting and Dan could not put it off without a solidly good reason. Was there a viable rationale? No, there was not. Okay, so the meeting was on. Afterward, though, he would deal with the SEA CHALLENGER. In addition, just to cover all bases, he would drop by Steve's just in case.

 

To settle his conscience, he called both the Aina Haina and Kauai houses belonging to McGarrett. He wasn't sure if he was glad or not that there was no answer at either residence.

 

 

*****

 

 

By the time Williams left the meeting it was eight-thirty. Burning to solve a more personally important mystery, he stopped at the harbor. The boat repair foreman was gone for the day, the shop closed -- not surprisingly considering the hour. He cruised over to Steve's slip and dropped in on Captain Klein and his wife.

 

As he walked out on the quay, the natural beauty surrounding him seeped through the anxieties and inscrutability concerning McGarrett. Just for a moment, Dan could stroll the wooden planks and ponder the colorful charms of Waikiki.

 

Often denigrated as a mere tourist trap, the solid strip of hotels, clubs, restaurants and shopping malls had it’s own kind of magic. Nostalgically, this had been where Dan had pretty much grown up. He lived in a house in Kahala most of his life. He went to schools far from here, but this was where he hung out with his friends, surfed, picked up odd jobs as a surf instructor/beach boy and came to value the entertaining diversities of humanity. The world literally came to his doorstep through the myriad visitors to his enchanted tropical isle. Perhaps his affection for the area was why he had gravitated here and bought a condo at the other end of Waikiki.

 

Lacking an artist’s heart like Steve, he learned from this narrow ribbon of real estate to appreciate that he lived in a rarified piece of the world. Vicariously, through the tourists hailing from far away, from homelands with strange names where it snowed so hard their cars froze shut(!) he learned to never take for granted the amazing gifts of his native land:  The blue on blue of surf and sky. The painted heavens and indigo shades of a dying sun over a midnight-glittering ocean. The rolling surf singing the magic on the wind and waves. The burnished gold and purple of a fresh dawn. At sunset, the lights coming up in the hotels, the illuminated sails and masts of the dinner cruise ships out at sea -- dotting the cobalt horizon with sparkling, undulating starlight.

 

Twilight in Honolulu was to be savored – so different from the day. Under the bright Hawaiian daytime the beaches were dotted with sun worshipers, surfers, and swimmers. Now that light dipped to the west  a new kind of enchantment drifted in on the tropical twilight. Romance enveloped the atmosphere in this glowing median between the heat of the day and the dazzling nightlife of the dance clubs. This was the time for couples to stroll hand in hand, shoes off, melting their toes in the golden sand and listening to the sweet Hawaiian music melding with the warm, breeze laced air.

 

With a deep sigh he felt a flashing pang of regret that he couldn’t quite reach the post-card promises of the paradise in which he lived. He was not part of the beach crowd on most days, and the romance angle was fleeting at best – not that he was complaining. Considering his chosen profession, he felt the sacrifices were worth it. While he might not live up to the full potential of living in Eden, he would not trade his job as second-in-command of Five-0, nor his ohana there, for any other life style in the world.

 

Reaching the SEA CHALLENGER, he was gratified to see it still afloat, obviously repaired. Scrutinizing it momentarily, he moved on to Klein’s boat. As usual for this hour, the retired couple was sipping drinks and basking in the glow of the recent sunset, watching the crowds at the harbor, the dinner cruise ships out at sea, and the lights slowly emerging from the myriad hotels on the Waikiki strip. Live bands played on the beach side terraces and open bars facing the water in the hotels. Happy hour was in full swing and the sand was alive with activity.

 

"Danny, good to see you!" Klein shouted.

 

"Permission to come aboard?"

 

"Always," the gray-haired man admitted him.

 

Beth Klein stood. "I'll get you a martini --"

 

"Oh, no thanks."

 

"You're not still on duty, are you, Danny?" she asked with healthy disapproval.

 

"They're always on duty, Beth,” The captain explained to his wife before he turned to Dan. "I’m surprised Steve wasn't down here first thing the way he dotes on that old boat."

 

Loath to comment too specifically on details, Dan took a seat on the edge of the rear deck. Asking about McGarrett, Dan vaguely explained Steve was busy and he was here to check out the problem with the boat. Klein gave an account of his spotting a listing of the boat and calling the harbor steward. Having permission to act in any emergency concerning Steve’s boat -- since Steve was often not always immediately available -- Klein took care of everything.

 

"So you haven't seen Steve for a while," Dan confirmed.

 

"No, not for over a week."

 

Thanking the couple, he returned to his car. Stomach grumbling  -- starving -- he couldn't remember if he had eaten lunch. It was past nine and he knew Joey would be waiting for him. Should he go to the club? Joey was an impulsive kid and left on his own his exuberance for playing cops and robbers could get him into trouble. Reluctant to keep up with his rigorous schedule, he knew there was no choice. Dan stopped for the fastest take out order in history at the ONO BBQ, and then intended to head over to Sally's, where he did not plan to stay longer than necessary. He still had paperwork to finish! he realized with a sigh of misery. However, that was not his priority. Niggling at the back of his mind for hours -- pushing out the other events taking up his time -- was the worry over his missing friend. Where was Steve?

 

Without a second thought, he raced just up the street to Steve's Ala Wai apartment. Knocking first, he waited impatiently, tapping his foot as he rang the bell three times. Promising this was justified -- a mental incantation recited just in the unlikely event he was about to shatter a romantic moment -- he unlocked the door, stepped in and paused. Empty. Closing the door behind him, he checked the various rooms, moving finally to the master bedroom. Turning on the light, he gazed over the neatly made bed with the plaid bedspread, the closed curtains. Not sure what he hoped for, he checked the nightstand drawer and was startled to see there was no .38 resting there; no holster, no badge. Steve might take his back-up piece on holiday -- a light .22 -- but it was not his habit when day-off traveling -- not even for a week around the islands -- to take the police special. Checking one more drawer down, he saw Steve's passport was also gone.

 

On the surface, there was nothing sinister in this. Steve had told him he was going on holiday for a week. Recollecting their last discussion in the office -- the last time Dan had seen him -- Steve had said he was going on a trip . . . . Searching his memory, Dan could not pinpoint any specific comment that Steve was taking out the SEA CHALLENGER. Okay, that was implied, though, and assumed by Williams. Obviously, he did not take the boat, but he did take his passport.

 

"Steve, what is going on?" he wondered with anxiety. "Where did you go?"

 

Wanting to believe his friend had just skipped out to a secret location so he would not be disturbed, in his heart Dan knew that was not like McGarrett at all. Too duty-bound to forsake Five-0 like that. An uncomfortable memory of a little over a year ago flitted through his mind. When Steve left town for a few days. On a secret mission for the Feds. {episode – A SHORT WALK ON A LONG SHORE}

 

No, Steve would not do that again. He had promised never to go off on his own on a secret mission without setting up safeguards and letting Dan know  While he trusted hi friend would never try the Lone Ranger stunt again, he scanned his memory for any mysterious calls from Feds or anyone else Steve was likely to sneak away to work with.  None came to mind.  That restored his confidence again and he reiterated that his boss was entitled to a holiday and was under no obligation to report anything to him.  That should end his curiosity.

 

Realizing it was past nine-thirty now, he gave a last look around, then left, anxious despite his insistence that Steve was just on holiday.

 

As expected, Waikiki was a madhouse, traffic a mess. Even coming in the back way along Kuhio to Sally's, it was still a jumble. Exhausted by the time he got inside the crowded hot spot, he looked around, hoping to get this over with quickly.

 

Interviewing Joey during the blasting music was not a highlight of his day. Checking out the two men Joey was sure were drug pushers, Dan could not recall seeing them as players in any Five-0 case, but agreed they looked suspicious in the way they were meeting various affluent guests at a table -- as if they were holding court. A bit audacious for drug dealers, but not that far out of line for high rollers. Promising he would get some plain clothes guys down here from HPD, Dan slipped into the back room.

 

Someone grabbing his arm startled him -- not a safe move to do to a policeman -- but when gripped lightly by two hands in an almost intimate stroking motion, he knew the person was female.

 

"Aloha, Danny."

 

Turning, he pasted on a smile to cover his fatigue for Sally, the owner of the club. "Hi, Sally."

 

"Hey, Steve not here with you? Gonna sing later. I always save a special song for him.” She looked around him and was obviously disappointed he was alone.

 

Aware Sally, like many other women, had fallen under the spell of the dynamic McGarrett; he smiled that a nightclub singer/owner would have a crush on the head of Five-0.

 

"No, he's not.” Using the opportunity to interrogate, he asked, "Have you seen him lately?"

 

"Not for a while," she frowned. "He works too much. You too. Not seen him for about three weeks. You tell him to come down here and see me, yeah?"

 

"Sure," he promised around a yawn.

 

Driving slowly back to the Palace, the streets thinned and finally emptied by the time he got to the downtown business area of Honolulu, far from the pupule crowds of Waikiki. Walking through the empty Palace, his gait was slow, his mind even more turgid as he mentally listed the things he needed to accomplish.  Just a few more items before he went home, but an undeniable concern now at the forefront of his mind was the pressing apprehension about McGarrett. Where was Steve and why had he concealed his plans?

The paperwork was as boring as usual, making it nearly impossible to get through. Utterly weary, Dan pushed away from his desk and looked through the window at the outer office. Where his last conversation with Steve took place. Recalling the scene in his mind, amazing clarity returned to him. Steve DID NOT mention taking the boat. What was mentioned?

 

Without volition, his eyes closed and he turned and laid his head on the desk, too fatigued to stay awake. The worries would not leave his mind, though. Vacation. The jokes about not keeping in touch. The disquieting puzzle plagued him as he drifted to a much needed sleep  . . . .

 

 

*****

 

 

As he wandered through the mean streets of the city, it didn't take Steve long to reach his goal  The Fortune Cookie, a bar proclaimed with a dilapidated sign as faded as the peeling paint barely clinging to the old wood and plaster consistent with this part of town. It was a concerted effort for McGarrett to amble, as though he had not a care in the world, when inside his nerves twitched with adrenalin and anxiety, constantly aware of his mission -- to find Shay -- in this alien-encrusted no-man's land of forgotten humanity, on the edge of civilization.

 

Like so many other similar establishments from Seoul,  Hotel Street; Tokyo, Manila, Singapore and all parts in between, this was a seedy dive without an effort to be anything else. Like many of the old businesses in downtown Honolulu, and myriad other Pacific seaport towns, there were apartments above the store fronts. A tried and true set up similar to many buildings in China Towns all over the western and eastern world. At a glance he noted this pub was on a corner, the back leading onto an alley that snaked down to the harbor.

 

Today, like the other five days in a row he had been here, was hot and sultry and he found a modicum of comfort as he stepped through the beaded curtain stretched across the doorway, and into the bar. Everyday he came to THE FORTUNE COOKIE in search of his prey. Each afternoon and evening he lurked in the shadows listening to Solter the barkeep / owner, watching the crowd, waiting for word or sight of Shay.  He was running out of time.  His week was nearly used up and no Shay.  How could he return to Honolulu without accomplishing his mission?

 

The heat from the tropical, equatorial-sun outside was transferred to the stifling humidity of sweat, smoke and high temperatures in an enclosed space. Trying not to flinch, his nose twitched as he ambled along the back, far wall, skulking in the semi-shadows as he took measure of his surroundings. Too many smells assaulted his olfactory nerves as he passed various groups of knotted outcasts. Cigar smoke, hard liquor, sweat, marijuana, cheap perfume, cigarettes -- it was all here mushed together with the desperation and evil that fairly reeked through the ragged clothes and designing machinations interacting on all levels.

 

The main room was about as large as his outer office at the Palace and the comparison, while automatic, sent a shiver of regret through his soul. He was here on a justified, but treacherous -- traitorous -- mission. To bring a fiend back to justice. By being misleading and furtive to his friend. Twitching that guilt out of his mind, he moved forward.

 

The main attraction of the place was a long, solid bar made from thick wood and accommodating a number of bar stools that were mostly filled even at this early hour of the day. The communal area of the room that was in an L shape, was where he kept to the sidelines. Fortunately, he went unnoticed in an establishment filled with tables, chairs and odd assortments of men and women drinking, singing while they listened to an ancient jukebox, or conversing in boisterous, coarse voices. At the end of the room, around the corner of the L, was a curtained space with three tables set up for gambling.

 

Edging to the end of the building, McGarrett tipped his hat farther over his face and stopped, his heart rate quickening and his nerves drawing taut. There, at the second table, sat Pete Shay. Shivering with restrained anger and hatred, McGarrett's fists balled as he watched his old friend shuffle and deal a deck of worn cards. Three other men sat at that table and it looked like the game was poker. The other pair of tables had games of chance going on also. He noted a few muscled Asian men with wickedly scared faces -- a forbidding aspect -- who kept an eye on Shay and the other table. Bodyguards? He wouldn't put it past Pete to protect himself with inexpensive thugs to act as a buffer between him and any threat. Survival came first with Pete; always did, always would. Steve had to remember that.

 

The warning brought a reflection of happier days. Japan. Just after Korea, after his brief, but bitter experiences as a POW. The exhilaration of a rebuilt and tantalizing Orient, the glitter and intrigue of Tokyo, the perilous times living on the edge of intellect, cunning and death. He had gone through all that with Pete and it stabbed him like a blade to the heart that they were now enemies. Regret was what he felt, no sadness. Pete had saved his life once, yes, but they had parted ways when Steve was transferred to Pearl. From there, McGarrett had been offered to organize and run Five-0. Pete had traveled a darker, muddier path into bitterness and crime. Last Christmas, there had been a hope for redemption. That was before Pete shot Danno in the back and left him for dead. Then he tried to kill him again only weeks ago. There was no room for forgiveness anymore.

 

Now that he was in the lion's den, McGarrett better not forget the lethal abilities of his opponent for the sake of his own survival. The first step of superiority was to keep his cool. This was hastily planned as far as the travel and location went, but the plot had been active since Pete escaped Hawaii. This was not some fly-by-the-seat-of-his-pants operation. No covert operative used the impulsive methods unless circumstances forced him into such a common and deadly corner. No, he had thought about this, plotted, schemed and arranged -- at least mentally -- since Shay sent that threatening post card. Laying the ground work, far ahead of his propitious exit, he knew airlines, stops, and a little bit about some of the government and local officials (probably not to be trusted) presiding over Kuala Terennganu and the surrounding jurisdictions. Such knowledge was operational necessity. As was a solid escape plan. While Steve could not predict Shay's allies and strength of organization, he knew a great deal before he ever left the home soil of Hawaii.

 

The train of thought brought him automatically to his sharply painful memory of his last night at the Palace. His misleading conversation with Danno. The pervasive guilt traveling with him over his departure now eased. With Shay literally in sight and nearly under his hand, he felt vindicated in his less than ethical treatment of his friend. Sinning by omission could be excused, he decided, because their enemy was literally within reach. Yes, Danno would be hurt and angry over his methods, but could not argue with the results. If everything went according to his plan, Steve's accomplices would bring Shay back to Hawaii to stand trial. McGarrett could not legally bring Pete back to face justice, but Napoleon and Illya could – and as prearranged with him – would. Danno would have his day in court to put Shay behind bars for life.

 

One of the Asians at the table next to Pete threw down his cards in disgust. Launching to his feet, he toppled over his chair and uttered a string of slurred words at his fellow players. Stalking from the back room he grabbed one of the bar girls by the hand and disappeared up a flight of stairs at the other side of the room. The rest of the gamesters folded and merged over to have drinks at the bar. One of the player's at Pete's table threw in his cards. For another round the game continued, but the ousted man wanted his friends to join him and in a few more minutes the game was finished.

 

McGarrett tensed and stood with his back against the stucco as Shay gathered his winnings and ambled through the room. He stopped to talk to the bartender, then walked out the back door. Noting if anyone was watching, Steve tried not to make it look like he was hurrying, but made a quick exit, speeding up through the dirty and crowded kitchen / store room. The old wooden door was just closing when he reached it. A rapid glance down either direction of the alley revealed Shay was alone and walking toward the harbor. Checking at his back and the other end of the narrow, filthy corridor, he dashed out, quietly approaching his target.

 

The culmination of weeks of planning, months of tormented, blistering, suppressed wrath erupted at that moment when he delivered a numbing karate chop to Shay's neck. Staggered, the spy fell against the wall. Before he could recover, Steve grabbed him by the collar and slammed him into the plaster.

 

"Aloha, Pete."

 

"Steve!"

 

Face ground into the peeling paint, he said no more. Eyes warily darting over his shoulder frequently, McGarrett frisked him hastily until he was confident the .45 pistol from a back holster, the knife in a trouser cuff and the extra .22 strapped to an ankle were secured in his possession along with a seriously lethal-looking machete-like weapon.

 

Too livid to triumphantly voice the perfection of his plan, or this easy and quick capture, McGarrett loosed the anxiety-filled passion suppressed for too long. Flinging Shay around swiftly, he belted the former partner with a punch that sent shock waves all the way to his shoulder and left his knuckles throbbing. Shay lost his balance and slid part way to the ground before he stopped the momentum with his hands on the wall. Shaking his head, he warily stared at McGarrett and he righted himself.

 

"Well," he sourly snapped, "guess you haven't lost the old touch, huh, Steve? Slick," he derisively laughed. "Never expected you to sneak up behind me for real and show up on my doorstep."

 

McGarrett smiled viciously. "I bet you didn't."

 

Before the man could completely recover, he flung him back to face literally into the wall and he efficiently, quickly performing a well-schooled drill by cuffing him. "One of the beauties of your home territory, Pete, is that I don't even have to read you your rights.” He snapped one cuff –(fortunately possessing the foresight to bring his official set of handcuffs)-- onto one wrist. "And I don't have to follow any rules but my own," he growled, snapping the other cuff so tightly Shay flinched.

 

Throwing Shay back around to face him, he wasn't surprised to see the old ego was surfacing for the spy. A glint in the dark eyes matched the cocky quirk in his lip. Same old confidant, arrogant Pete.

 

"Okay, Steve, you got me. Points for your initiative and clever tracking skills, old pal. But I'm surprised at how stupid you are. Letting your emotions rule your sense."

 

This was a position McGarrett had found himself in many times in his careers -- NI and Five-0. The criminal who could not give up or give in to reality. The mastermind who refused to acknowledge the game was up and the good guys had won.

 

"Oh, yeah, Pete? Then why are YOU the one wearing the cuffs?"

 

"Steve," he patronizingly shook his head. "This is my turf. My territory. I have men --"

 

"Who work for you because of your benevolence?" he countered acidly. "You pay them well. And if that stops they move along to the next slug on the riverbank.” Bounding off the wall he came at McGarrett, but Steve just shoved him back with bruising force. "Your career is over, Pete. You're going back to Honolulu with me to stand trial. Many trials. The first one -- well -- I'll let you figure that out."

 

The spy smirked. "Oh, let me guess. Something to do with your pal, Danny? Yeah," he laughed heartily, "I knew you'd be pretty burned about my little interrogation sessions with your shadow. Just sorry I didn't kill him when I had the chance --"

 

The flippant remark earned him another punch to the mouth. Rubbing his hand, Steve stepped back, trying to distance himself from the tormentor who knew all the right buttons to push to get a volcanic response. Reminding himself he was in control here, that Shay did not have power -- nor did he have access to Steve's greatest vulnerability -- Danno (he would never have a chance to get at Williams again thankfully). He did not need to react to Pete’s taunts.

 

Taking the man by the collar, he dragged him along. "You can tell it to a judge in Honolulu," he snapped back, never having so much pleasure at the cliche'.

 

Turning to hike toward the harbor, Steve stopped, tensed when he saw the end of the alley blocked by one of the Asian men who had been playing next to Pete at the gaming tables. Muttering snide, triumphant comments, Shay laughed, taunting that this misadventure was over.

 

"The end of your glorious little attempt at a quest for justice? You were never the Quixote type, Steve --"

 

"Shut up!" he ordered and stopped, shoving Pete into the wall again.

 

The grunt of pain from his former partner told him the abusive treatment was taking a toll and while that was gratifying, it also served to keep Shay at physical disadvantage. Not that the cuffs weren't enough, but he had fought beside this man, seen him pull nasty tricks and amazing stunts to save his life. Nothing should be taken for granted. Including allies in this alien territory.

 

"You one of his men?" he asked the man -- noting it was the one with the worst scaring on his face. Disfigured, as if an animal had mauled him.

 

Mumbling, he agreed that he was and pulled a long knife from his belt.

 

McGarrett pulled his .38, comforted to have his familiar piece with him in this tight spot. "Your employment with Shay is finished," he curtly announced. "If you want in on this just say the word. If not, move aside, then keep out of my way. And tell your friends the same thing."

 

The disfigured man looked to Shay. Before Pete could utter a sound, the Police Special was under his chin.

 

"Don’t say anything or give him any kind of signal," McGarrett whispered. "You know I know how to use this and I won't hesitate. Not after what you did to Danno."

 

Pete's eyes widened slightly and there seemed a new sense of sobriety there. Gone was the glint of superiority and cocky ego. Replaced by a deference that was grudging, and an icy hatred that did not sway to respect, but understanding. Silently, a livid acknowledgment that Steve had bested him and he wouldn't forget it.

 

"Now get out of the way!" he commanded.

 

The man stepped aside, but as they were about to pass, Steve saw the guy's hand slip toward the hilt of his weapon. Instantly, Steve spun, jamming an elbow into the man's arm, then hitting his jaw with the barrel of his Colt. Throwing Pete against the wall, Steve grabbed the long knife from the man's belt and held onto the hilt while he smashed down on the blade with his heel. After a few whacks the blade cracked from the handle and he kicked both pieces down the alley.

 

"Stay out of my way," he warned again.

 

Keeping senses attuned and occasionally glancing back, he dragged Shay out of the alley and down to the harbor. Few in the overcrowded ghetto paid attention to them. Knowing he was not home free yet, McGarrett was relieved he had gotten this far without killing anyone or being harmed himself. Going into this dicey operation, he had been cognizant of the perils, but felt them acceptable risks. Now, phase one of his plan was almost over.

 

"So, it all came back pretty easy, didn't it, Steve? The violence? The lust for revenge and power --"

 

"That's not what this is about, Pete."

 

"No? Looked like you were running an operation like the old days in Tokyo."

 

"Shut up," he told him, irritated at how accurate the statement was -- that he fell into the spy games all too easily. Second nature. In many ways he had never left the intrigue behind him. Even after years with Five-0, he was thrust into situations where the old covert talents were required. This time it was for a personal goal: Getting this low life to justice and safeguarding his friend.

 

"You always were good," Shay admitted with a smile. "This hang-up with justice always got in the way, though."

 

"Yeah, some hang up."

 

At a boat dock, Shay stopped. "Okay, Steve, you're king of the hill. You got me. You get the trophy for sneaking in on my territory and nabbing me while I was sleeping. Now let's get serious."

 

Aware he was vulnerable, McGarrett glanced around the area constantly to make sure none of Pete's shifty pals were gathering for an ambush. It was too dangerous to go back to the hotel, so he would find a place nearby to grab a taxi to the airport. If only he had Danno with him -- he could certainly use a solid and trusted ally at his back right now. It didn't take a second thought to be thankful his friend was not here to face Shay and the inherent dangers here.

 

"Don't try to stall --

 

"This isn't a stall. This is a proposition. You have something I want and I can give you something you want."

 

McGarrett scoffed while searching for a cab. "You have nothing I could possibly want, Pete. Not above what I already have with you in hand!"

 

Shay looked into his eyes. "Yeah? How about the whereabouts of Commander Shepard O'Neill?"

 

It took a moment for the name, lost in the mists of time and experience, far from this moment and harkening back almost five years. The closing days of the Vietnam war. Shep O'Neill, a Naval Commander stationed out of Pearl. An old handball pal. Shot down over North Vietnam and never heard from again -- believed a KIA instead of an MIA. Pete and Shep had met on one of Shay's stays in Honolulu . . . . What was this slimy snake up to with pulling that name out of the past?

 

"I don't know your game, Pete --"

 

"Survival, Steve, same as always," he flung back harshly.

 

"This stinking rat hole has seeped in to rot your brain, Pete, if you think I'll buy any of your lies!"

 

"I want to live and not decay in one of your paradise prisons. And to do that comfortably I need my key chain back."

 

The laugh was a spontaneous reaction to the absurdity. Shay in cuffs making demands and bringing up a name out of nowhere that was sure to incite Steve's wrath. Before he could form his anger into words, Shay was unfolding a ridiculous story so extreme all McGarrett could do was listen.

 

Apparently, in Shay's dealings with trafficking of slaves {fanfic - BLOOD SUMMONS}, he claimed to come across a gang of American POWs left over from the Vietnam War. Shuffled from North Vietnam, through Thailand, to the Kuala peninsula, he knew where these Americans were being used as slave labor. He would show Steve and help him rescue the men if he was rewarded with the return of his key chain.

 

Just absurd enough to be true, Steve was silent, stunned at the varied and sobering implications. POWs. He knew first hand what horrors that meant for soldiers. To a friend. Chances were good Pete was just using this lie to get to him, but could he take the chance it was just a story? Could he turn his back on this eyewitness account and an opportunity to rescue these men from a living hell? An inner voice cautioned he needed to take this carefully and slowly, that Pete knew his weaknesses and strengths all too well, but this was too much for him to ignore.

 

Needing time to formulate this new data, he turned the tables. "You must want that key chain pretty bad, Pete," he zeroed in on his opponent, neatly falling back on police procedure of keeping the pressure on the suspect. "What does it open?"

 

Laughing, Shay shook his head in grudging respect. "Should have known you would figure it out, Steve. It's the key to my retirement."

 

"A safety deposit box with money, or gold, or gems?" he speculated. "And dirt on your enemies and friends to be used for protection or blackmail or both?"

 

The sarcastic accusations earned another laugh. "You got it in one, Steve. And I want it back," he assured with deadly intent. Stepping into Steve's indecision, he pushed. "I have proof. Dog tags."

 

"That doesn't prove anything."

 

"Okay. I can take you to them – it would mean a little journey -- through the rain forest.”

 

‘Animal, plant danger – yes… but men are danger here too… ‘The cautionary words of Najib Muntari came back to haunt him. It seemed as if Shay’s proposal rolled every danger the pilot had mentioned into a single event.

 

"No, Pete – won’t work – your word would have to be worth something first!"

 

"If you take me back to Honolulu I won't spill a word, Steve. Your chance to save dozens of POWs will be lost. They’re leading miserable existences at this very moment. Think about what they're going through --"

 

"I know what they're going through!" he snarled, aware Pete knew this about his past and was using it like a hot poker in his conscience.

 

If there was any element of truth how could he ignore a rescue of helpless Americans? Possibly a friend – O’Neill. How could he trust Shay? He could not, but an idea glimmered and took form in his mind; a solution to the dilemma. He could call for re-enforcements to back him up and even out the odds. Friends he could trust and believe. They were probably already on the way, though, and no longer in San Francisco. Besides, even if they were still on the West Coast, he couldn't call them from here. The whole seedy place was a hive of betrayers and mercenaries, some in Shay's pay, others just out to make a buck no matter who they crossed or killed. How to contact Napoleon and Illya covertly?

 

The most obvious choice was the one he did not want to consider. Contacting the person whom he needed to stay completely out of this. There must be a way to get Danno to send the key ring with Napoleon, who would bring it here. Only if he revealed that he was involved in a secret mission. Was it worth the risk? Could he explain all this to Danno and make him understand? He had to because the lives of Americans might depend on his ability to get the key ring here from Honolulu... He would have to keep Danno from finding out too much of what he was doing…  And stash Shay until Solo could arrive...

 

 

*****

 

 

“See if you can move Steve’s – I mean MY appointment with the AG to right after the Governor’s breakfast meeting tomorrow.” He yawned and shook his head to clear it and try to stay awake. “If you can’t, then leave it where it is, and re-schedule my interview with Doyle until next week.” Williams, leaning back in his boss’s chair behind the desk, stared at the ceiling for several seconds contemplating the difficult week almost behind him, fighting to keep his eyes open.

 

McGarrett had been gone on his little junket since the previous Thursday. Dan had heard nothing from the boss in the interim. Irritated, but not completely certain the emotion was within his rights, he was also concerned. Steve had left no indication of his destination… no way to reach him even to check up... If something had gone awry, Dan would not hear of it until it was too late. Of course, it was also distinctly possible (but not likely, Dan felt) that he was wrong – that Steve was just fine and he might’ve just gotten a wild desire to hop a plane to… Tokyo? Europe? South America? Right – a rocket ship to Mars was just as likely!  His gut was telling him this was a serious matter and the fact that McGarrett took his weapon, badge and passport with him underscored his suspicions. Just what the possibilities were he had no idea, but would love to find out.

 

“Danny!”

 

Williams started at the sound of his name and realized that he’d let his mind wander away from the meeting which he had called. He straightened up and looked sheepishly at the secretary. “Sorry… what did you say?”

 

Luana, seated in one McGarrett’s white guest chairs, gave a reproving eye to the detective before she returned her focus to the notepad in her lap. “I said you need a rest,” she muttered darkly, “Like I’ve been telling you for days. You’re probably not completely recovered from your pneumonia. ”

 

Duke nodded. “Got that right, bruddah. Why don’t you take off early?”

 

“Good idea,” the secretary agreed. “I thought Steve was supposed to be back by tomorrow.”

 

Dan sighed and stretched as he rose from the big leather chair. “He might, but I’m not counting on it.” If he did make it back home today or tonight, Dan reasoned that he would probably have a monumental case of jet lag from whatever far-flung destination he had enjoyed on holiday.  He had not returned yet – or specifically – he did not answer his phone, so the schedule adjustment accommodated his continued absence.

 

Duke, in the chair next to the secretary, looked up from his own notebook. “Have you heard from Steve? He usually checks in.”

 

Williams slipped around the desk and took a seat on the front edge, closer to Luana and Duke. “No,” he finally responded tersely as he shot a glance into Lukela’s neutral expression. It was a sore subject with Dan – one he did not want to discuss with anyone EXCEPT the source of the tenderness. The fact that he was tired was not helping his attitude, he knew.

 

Dan was grateful when the phone – Steve’s private line – rang. The last thing Five-0’s second-in-command wanted to do at that moment was to field questions concerning the whereabouts of his MIA boss – Duke was far too discerning, so even evasive truths would be suspicious. Dan leaned slightly and pushed the speaker button rather than moving from his perch on the desk.

 

“Five-0,” he announced unenthusiastically.

 

“Dan the man! That you?”

 

The addressed detective instantly recognized the voice, but the incongruous greeting stopped him from responding immediately. With a perplexed glance at the equally puzzled Duke, he stood and moved around  to positioned himself in front of the speaker. “Steve?”

 

“Yeah, look I’m gonna be a couple days longer than I thought. My fishing trip has been a little more interesting than I expected.”

 

“Your fishing trip,” Dan echoed neutrally. Did Steve expect him to believe he’d gone fishing? OR was someone listening to the conversation? The connection was scratchy, probably a function of the poor quality telecom equipment on McGarrett’s end. ‘Definitely outside the country.’

 

“Danny, there’s something I need for you to do for me.”

 

Danny. Steve never called him that – someone was listening.

 

“Yeah? Well, it would help if I knew what was going on!” Recovered from the surprise, Williams felt his ire rising now that he’d heard his friend’s voice and he sounded okay.

 

“I don’t have much time, so just listen – it turns out that I don’t have the right kind of bait with me.”

 

“Right kind of bait?

 

“Danno, listen – I want you to pull out the jade-colored lure – you know where I left it. And then I need you to send it to me.”

 

Williams grimaced for only a moment before he cracked the code of the veiled message. He accused through clenched teeth. “The JADE lure!”

 

Shay!  McGarrett had gone after Shay!  A bombardment of clues flooded into his mind, but he had no time to assess the fragments of hints that should have led him down this path. The Lone Ranger was on another crusade and Pete Shay was the object of his quest.

 

“Yeah, Danno, the jade lure. I need it.”

 

“Maybe it was a just BAD idea to go fishing!” Dan growled.

 

Luana and Duke exchanged sideways glances – Dan was taking issue with the boss’s choice of vacation?

 

McGarrett’s voice took on a slightly strained tenor. “Danno, PLEASE – maybe it was a bad idea, but I’ve got my eyes on a big catch.”

 

“I’ve got a feeling the catch is YOU!” He tried to assimilate the stunning realization that his worst fear for McGarrett’s adventure – that he WAS in terrible danger – was true. Plus, Steve had deceived him! AND he was trying to net Shay on his own!  “Steve, we’ve already seen what kind of slimy bottom feeder that lure attracts! You’re not fishing ALONE, are you?”

 

The two unwitting eavesdroppers shifted uncomfortably in their seats – the conversation between their boss and his atypically surly second-in-command grew stranger by the moment.

 

The voice on the speaker ignored Dan’s incensed tone. “I’m fishing solo – yes, but sometimes you need to take the lure and go SOLO to achieve the necessary result. Do you understand?”

 

Dan paused for a few seconds digesting the message as Duke and Luana sat there paralyzed. Go Solo… the jade lure… Solo… Solo! Steve wanted him to contact his old spy buddy Napoleon Solo and follow the man’s instructions! Williams was NOT happy. It appeared that his mentor had, in fact, set out on yet another solitary mission – an incredibly dangerous one – thus the cryptic, coded message. Dan ran his hand slowly over his hair and took in a deep breath, trying to subjugate his anger… and wounded feelings. Whatever offense Steve had committed against him did not matter at the moment – his friend was in a precarious situation and needed his help.

 

In a marginally calmer tone, Williams acknowledged that he’d understood the message. “Solo, yeah, okay, Steve.”

 

“Good – and Danno – mahalo.”

 

The connection ended abruptly and Dan blinked. The call had given him no satisfaction. He stood there for several seconds staring at the speaker until finally it began to complain with a your-phone-is-off-the-hook beep. The noise made him jump slightly and he quickly closed the connection and turned to look into the wary expressions of Luana and Duke. He’d forgotten they were there.

 

He swallowed and looked away. “Will you please excuse me? I need to take care of a few things for Steve.”

 

The secretary and the Hawaiian detective rose quietly. Luana shook her head slightly, and made her way quickly back to her desk, but Duke paused long enough to give a gentle slap to Williams’ shoulder before he strode toward the door of the big office. He’d heard the conversation, but knew he had not heard the message Five-0’s second-in-command had received. Whatever it was, it had angered and hurt the younger detective.

 

 

*****

 

 

"It didn't sound like he got the message, Steve."

 

At the back of the hotel, McGarrett had Shay pinned against he wall, his revolver stuck into his former partner’s side. Aware of the precarious advantage he held now, he could not afford to remain out in the open with Shay for long. The phone call, though, was vital. As usual, Pete had thrown him a curve, but his plan was still going forward. Field operations required being able to land on your feet and he had a contingency for this. Calling Danno – that was a nasty surprise that he had not wanted, expected, or liked, but all things considered it went – well – it went.

 

“That kid better get it. I better get my key ring –“

 

"Shut up, Pete. He got it."

 

Danno got way too many messages, Steve breathed a long sigh of frustration through his teeth. Bad luck that he had to call Danno to turn over the key ring to Napoleon. In hindsight, after the jolting call – the connection with the surprisingly hostile Williams that rocked his eyes open with a startling dose of reality – he maybe should have handled things differently. He should have had Solo just sneak into his desk --- burglary of his own office? And if Danno had caught Solo – no – too much even for Danno to handle. Keeping more secrets from his second would have been too much. Already feeling guilty -- although the worst of that had dissipated -- but was now back in full force.

 

Danno's anger was apparent and he knew he’d committed a tactical error in not including his colleague more on this operation. Still, he was coming home with the prize -- that would ease a lot of  the sting. The younger officer would just have to be patient. Then all would be revealed.

 

Steve had not come out here merely on a whim -- he had a plan and Solo and Kuryakin were his accomplices. The plan all along was for them to be here to grab Shay and for the two spies to bring Shay back to American soil for McGarrett to officially arrest him. That little twist on the plot would have to wait now until he determined the fate of the POWs , but McGarrett would make sure it did come to pass.

 

Yeah, he misled Danno and he still felt like a heel for that. He had not come clean and his lie by omission was hurting his friend. That was a bitter stab to McGarrett, but he was confident he could repair the damage. He would have to rely on Dan's forgiving and reasonable nature to absolve him. After all, Danno deserved this -- it was for him that this whole operation had unfolded and Steve would not go home without the ex-spy/partner in the bag – the prize for Williams.

 

 

*****

 

The clues were all there, he knew as his irritation, surprise and anxiety built. Hands shaking, he paced, running fingers through his hair and shaking his head in numb disbelief.

 

“How could you?” he muttered over and over again, working through the deception, the hurt and heating anger. “How could you do this, Steve?”

 

It was so – so – stupid!  For someone who was intelligent, cunning and often brilliant, McGarrett had amazing blind spots that were not just flawed, but sometimes seemed ridiculously dumb. Going off on his own into dangerous situations where no one could protect him – that was the worst!

 

Warring with his growing trepidation for Steve’s safety, was his also escalating hurt. McGarrett slipping back into his spy games with his old friends was a sign that Five-0 was not enough for Steve any more. There had to be that covert ops intrigue spice in his life evidently. That did not include the simple-cop-second-in-command apparently.

 

The last time they had talked – in the office – Steve had talked about taking up a new hobby. It reminded him of a conversation exchanged after Williams returned to full duty after his last, disastrous brush with Pete Shay . . . .

 

“What are you doing?” Williams entered the office at the end of his first day back on the job after ending his medical leave. McGarrett was so intent on his study of a telex, he had not heard the detective enter. Glancing at the upside-down paper, he noted it was from Napoleon Solo.

“Helping Napoleon with something?” The displeasure was impossible to hide.

 

McGarrett folded the paper. ‘My new hobby, Danno. Shay-hunting.'

 

'A new hobby,' he had said that last time they had conversed.

 

Passport gone. Revolver gone. Shay-hunting!  He growled in his throat. How could you! he demanded, punching the desk, and instantly regretting the impulsive violence as he shook his hand. How could you do this again!  Running his hands through his hair, he muttered angry curses. Glancing around the desk he had largely ignored for days, he scanned the top -- too clean.

 

Tearing through the papers like an avenging hurricane, scattering them in fluttering, flying missiles around the top and off the edge, he searched. Allowing his anger full vent, he erupted like one of Kilauea’s lava flows – like Steve often did – in pure wrath.

 

Where had he gone? There must be a clue here. What is he thinking? Shay can't be legally brought back so Steve has something else up his sleeve. And what does the jade key ring have to do with it? Is he giving this evidence – this bait – back? Why? Is Steve trading his life for the key chain? Of course McGarrett couldn’t tell him!  No, he’s just a cop who can't be trusted to be included in the loop!  Need to know!

 

Unlocking the middle drawer, he roughly searched it, but found nothing save Five-0 files and notes. Nothing to give him a clue to where Steve might have gone. Then in the left, top drawer, he spotted a small box containing the handful of gems Dan had taken from Shay’s boat last December.  The loot could never be used as evidence against Pete because it was obtained in an illegal search, and there had never been a case against him.  There also was a tiger shaped key ring with a jade inset jewel along the top of the back and Chinese characters etched on the green jade that was inlaid in black.

 

Included in this Shay-memento collection was a post card of Iolani Palace – a strange souvenir for the head of Five-0 to keep in his drawer. Flipping it over, the back was scribbled with a message in red ink.

 

--see you soon to finish the job –

 

Shay!  It had to be from Shay!  Steve had been holding this since -- he checked the postmark -- since Shay’s last visit here. A threat that Steve would not ,could not, ignore. Obviously did not. Steve had gone off to who knows where to find Shay. Secretly, ALONE. So angry, Dan paced, straining to think where Steve had gone. How to protect him -- and punch him out for this!

 

How could you, Steve? Shay was a threat, Dan knew all too clearly, but WHY did his friend have to do it like this?!?!  He couldn’t resist playing Lone Ranger again!  Why the secrecy, the sneaking around -- the risk to himself? How could Steve go off like this without letting him know? Five-0’s second-in-command felt an internal battle with his own self-confidence massing on the border of his consciousness. Was there nothing he could ever do to win his boss’s trust?  That’s really what the Lone Ranger tactics meant – that McGarrett could not completely trust him as much as he trusted his old spy friends.

 

Yanking open the right side, top drawer, he fumbled quickly. This was where the  Five-0 leader kept personal information and a small, dark blue notebook within was his target. Rummaging through with a violence manifesting his wrath at his friend, he fumed. The enigmatic call confirmed his worst suspicions. The enigmatic code was a red flag that Steve was in trouble. How could he do this!!

 

Scanning down the cryptic initials and private coding used by Steve, Dan found the number he was looking for. Several listings were scribbled under the bold and underlined initials:

NS

 

Choosing the one with a Northern California area code, Dan immediately dialed. A familiar voice responded on the second ring.

 

“Yes?”

 

“Napoleon, this is Dan Williams.”

 

There was only a slight pause. “Hi, Dan, nice to hear from you.”

 

Had he expected anything but smooth-as-silk, urbane commentary from the spy? No, but it rankled him. Everything about this caper grated on his nerves. McGarrett breaking his word and flying off on a lone mission of revenge. Falling back into his old NI roots and conspiring with his pal Solo to go after Shay. He had so many angry reactions it was impossible to sort them within the frame work of moments, so he chose the most pressing first.

 

“Steve’s gone after Shay. He’s in trouble, but didn’t say where he was. Where is he?” The cleared throat was probably a stalling measure and it further irritated him. “I want some answers, Napoleon!”

 

“All right,” came the calm reply. “Just what did Steve say?”

 

Rather than engage in accusations and counter productive remarks, Dan felt anxious to be as direct as possible. Steve was in trouble and time could be critical. Repeating the gist of the conversation, Williams asked for an analysis from the spy.

 

“Well, it does sound like Steve needs some help. Do you know what this jade bait is?”

 

“Yes.”

 

There was amusement in the tone. “Cryptic enough to suit your boss, Dan. Good. Then when I fly over there I’ll get it --”

 

“No, you’re going to tell me where Steve is and I’m going to take it to him.”

 

“Hmm,” came the dissatisfied sigh. “That’s not a good idea.”

 

“Why? Where is he? What’s going on? AND I want the truth!”

 

“Dan, you know what he’s doing and who he is after. You’re smart enough to know there are good reasons that Steve did not include you on this hunt. Respecting his wishes, I can’t include you, either.”

 

“He’s in danger!”

 

“I appreciate your devotion, trust me, I understand the bond between partners. A double-edged sword,” he lightly chuckled. “Illya has taught me that. Difficult to live with their irritating quirks, but impossible to live without them.”

 

”Napoleon –“

 

“Okay, I’ll stay on track here. I specialize in rescues, Dan, so I’ll handle it. Don’t worry. I’ll leave here immediately.”

 

These spy alliances had been a source of irritation to Dan for a long while. It always meant trouble when Wo Fat or some secret agency or an old NI friend dropped in on McGarrett. No good ever came of these cloak and dagger types. As much as it angered him that Steve was throwing himself back into the intrigue again, he was determined to help his friend.

 

“I’m going.”

 

“Sorry, you’re not, Dan. I sympathize, really, but this is a dangerous game. Steve’s trouble, whatever it is, proves that.” Tempering from a stern rebuke to empathy, he softened. “Look, he’s in a jam, but don’t worry too much. He was free to call you with the message and ask for me. That means he’s not in any immediate, life-threatening peril. I’ll have time to reach him.”

 

Being part of the old NI group of Steve’s first spy ventures, Solo was not going to betray his fidelity to Steve. The thought of betrayed loyalties sent another wave of frustration along his nerves. Maybe there was a way to get his information by an appeal to that exact ethical code – as variable and interpretive as it was with these covert ops guys -- in his opinion.

 

Considering that Solo’s arguments made sense, his anger, aggravation and sense of hurt – and his loyalty -- would not allow him to back down. Even if Steve did not trust him – no matter how he was treated – his devotion, love and worry for his boss was not diminished. Even without Steve’s complete faith in him, he was still his closest friend, in trouble, and Dan literally held the key – key ring – to help.

 

“Napoleon,” he sharply countered, “You feel an old allegiance to Steve. I appreciate that. Don’t you think I feel the same way? If this was Illya, would you go? Would you let anything stop you from helping him? No, you wouldn’t!”

 

“Hmm. You know how to fight dirty. So let me turn the tables on you, Dan. Why do you think Steve went off on his own to get Shay?”

 

“Why?” It was obvious wasn’t it?  “To get him!  Even if he can’t arrest him!”

 

“Why? Why now? Why go far a field and way outside his home turf and his resources to go on this chase?”

 

Slightly taken aback, not sure where Solo was leading, Dan thought about it. He asked if Solo knew about the post card that Shay sent and the spy admitted that he did. Dan already knew that had to be the impetus of Steve’s mission. Was there more?

 

“Dan, the answer is just the argument you’ve flung so adroitly at me. Steve was afraid – convinced – that Shay was coming after you to finish his threats. Don’t you see, that is the only thing that would take Steve out of his center of power? You’re the only motivation to send him off on a quest so dangerous. You. To protect you.”

 

Yes, of course. Why else would Steve be so anxious to go after Shay instead of waiting for Pete to come to them?

 

“We know Shay,” Solo continued grimly. “We know what he is capable of doing. His hate for what Steve has done to him is enough to push him to go back there to Hawaii and finish his job. He intended to take you out. Now, think about that little scenario. So, hypothetically, your partner knows your life is in imminent danger. He has the chance to be the first and settle the score once and for all -- finish any more danger to you. Is he going to pass up that opportunity?”

 

The silence at the other end was eloquently clear. The answer was the same for any of them involved in the close-knit alliance of relationships bonded through stress, menace and living on the edge with a trusted and true friend. Traveling through the refiner’s fire of peril —be it spy or cop – netted the same  camaraderie and loyalty.

 

It chilled him to know exactly why – all the layered motivations – behind Steve’s mission to chase down Shay. It was for him. Knowing so clearly and absolutely made him more alarmed than ever before. When pushed to complete a single-minded mission, McGarrett could be dangerously – to himself – focused. Nothing else would matter but completing his task. Dan was not going to let Steve do this on his own.

 

“Where is he? I’m going.”

 

“Dan, I just –“

 

“This is because of me, you’re right!  I have to help.”

 

The edge to the hard tone was cutting. “This is not your game. I won’t endanger you.”

 

“It IS my game – it’s all about me!  I need to help Steve. You understand that, Napoleon.”

 

“I understand,” came the reluctant sigh. “But I can’t let you go. If something happened to you Steve would never forgive me. I promise you I’ll—”

 

“No, Napoleon!” Dan shouted. “There is more going on here than you understand. I won’t burden you with the details. I’m just telling you nothing is going to stop me from getting to Steve. And I CAN take care of myself and Steve.”

 

“Famous last words.”

 

“If this was about Illya would you let anything stop you?”

 

A noise like buzzed lips came over the phone. “Well, point taken,” he breathed out and then sighed,  I wish you would stop using that analogy.”

 

“It works, doesn’t it?” Dan knowingly shot back.

 

“Too well.” The words seemed to have a wry amused lilt to them. “May neither of us live to regret this.”

 

Tersely, he revealed that McGarrett had tracked Shay to Kuala Lumpur. Surprised to say the least, Williams took notes as Solo gave him the names of places and possible contacts if the two detectives got into more trouble. He assured the officer that his partner and he would be flying out for the South China Sea the next day, as soon as they finished up some pressing business in San Francisco. He felt compelled to help since it would be the only thing to assuage McGarrett once he learned that Solo had confessed all to Williams.

 

“Remember, place your trust in no one. Dan, you better promise not to get hurt. Steve will never forgive me if anything happens to you. And try and keep our mutual friend out of any more trouble.”

 

Feeling a unity with Solo within the camaraderie of those who had been blistered by the heated anger of McGarrett, he promised he would keep both of them safe. Hanging up, he simmered for a moment in the wavering emotions of livid anger and sentimentality. It was no surprise that Steve felt such a commitment to him that he would go to even these lengths to track down the man who had marked Dan for murder.

 

Humbled, irritated, knowing he could have never stopped Steve once McGarrett had made up his mind, he found the anger only fueled by McGarrett’s noble intentions. Steve really thought he was doing what was right, but with all the wrong methods. Steve had promised to never go off again on one of these Lone Ranger stints. This time, motivated by such concern for him, it made it better – and worse.

 

Cringing, he hated to have his friend endangered because of him. Alternately, that intense loyalty to personal friendship was one of the great strengths of McGarrett. He couldn’t fault his friend for that, but he did fault him for breaking his solemn promise. That hurt worse than knowing this was caused by him. The old NI roots were so deep and strong. The spying, the undercover jobs – evidenced in Steve since Dan’s earliest years with Five-0 all the way up to and including this last year – it was in his blood. Could he ever really stop it?

 

When they saw each other again he was going to blast his friend for sure for this unforgivable betrayal!  Unforgivable? Maybe in a literal sense, he thought with a sinking heart. He had exonerated his friend before – but never had Steve so blatantly, purposely, deceived him. What was he going to do? Was he going to forgive his own vow to walk way if Steve ever engaged in the lone tactics again? Didn’t this latest saga show that deep down, Steve just did not trust him with some things? Not just Five-0 matters, but with any dangerous aspect in his life? What could he do, if anything, to change it? Or should he even try?

 

Such deep questions could not be answered now. His immediate goal was clear -- complete his task, first, then worry about consequences later.

 

Now, taking a breath, determined to move on, he went to work. Find the jade key ring. He knew exactly where Steve kept it. Sitting in Steve’s chair, he went back to the right hand drawer with the personal material. In the back was a false end of the drawer. Removing the wood, Dan pulled out the jade tiger key ring. Placing it in his pocket, he locked up the drawer again and went to the outer office.

 

Stepping into Lukela’s cubicle, he sat on the edge of the desk next to his fellow detective. “Duke, I’m feeling a little relapse coming on I’m afraid. All this hard work, I’m not getting enough rest.”

 

For a moment Duke stared at him, pondering the message. Obviously thinking back to the elusive conversation with McGarrett, Duke gave a slow nod. “Sorry to hear that,” he phrased carefully.

 

“Yeah.” Nearly biting his tongue, he realized he was doing the exact same thing Steve had done to him!  Lying to his colleague and friend. Deceiving – for a good cause – his fellow detective so he could sneak away and complete an unsavory and possibly illegal mission. Did that make him any better than Steve? Following all too closely in his mentor’s footsteps, he concluded, “I’ll be out sick for a few days.”

 

“Hope you get better soon, Danny,” he responded evenly.

 

Williams hesitated before he added, “Duke… I… I wouldn’t do this to you under any other circumstances.”

 

The understanding in the Hawaiian cop’s expression came through in his soft voice as well. “I know.”

 

 

*****

 

 

“Well, the optimal route would be via Manila, but I’m afraid the midnight flight is over-booked.” The fresh-faced Asian woman behind the Singapore Airlines counter looked up apologetically into the blue eyes of the passenger studying her.

 

Dan leaned onto the counter with both elbows and gave the perfectly-coiffed and lipstick-ed ticketing agent his best pleading expression. With a quick glance at her name tag, he made his case. “Miss Angara, I suspect that if there’s anybody in this airport that can help me get to Kuala Lumpur, it’s you. Help me find a way… please.”

 

She froze for several seconds scrutinizing the attractive man, who’d identified himself as a police officer. Looking more military than civilian in his high-polish, black jump boots, Dan was attired in olive drab military cargo pants, a tan tee shirt over worn by an unbuttoned olive drab pocket coat with the sleeves rolled up. A few wooly curls poked out from beneath the Army baseball cap he wore. Finally, she sighed – he appeared to be sincere and desperate – in an almost panicky sort of way – to get to Malaysia as quickly as possible.

 

Tearing her gaze from the beseeching countenance and very charming, very blue eyes of the detective, Miss Angara turned her attention to the computer monitor. Her slender fingers would type a handful of keystrokes and then stop for a few moments as she studied the result which appeared before her.

 

Dan ignored the passengers immediately behind him in line – it was obvious that they all believed they’d had the misfortune to be in line behind a malcontent who would not be persuaded that his demand was impossible. The detective was gratified to see that the petite agent also disregarded the grumbling travelers as she focused on her efforts on his behalf. More than a minute of typing, frowning, and then typing again passed before she glanced up from the screen.

 

“You’ll have to run, but I can get a seat on Continental through Johnston Island to Brunei. Then I can put you onto a Singapore Airlines flight to Kuala Lumpur with one stop in Singapore. That would put you into Kuala Lumpur at two ten PM Sunday – about twenty five hours from now.” She looked back up at the detective, who smiled with relief as he slid his hand across the counter to lightly squeeze the soft hand, which rested several inches in front of his own.

 

“Miss Angara, I knew you could do it! Mahalo!”

 

 

*****

 

 

What had Steve said? Outward appearance reflects inward state. Dan’s own appearance made his lip curl slightly with distaste as he peered at his exhausted, unraveled self in the mirror of a restroom in the Kuala Lumpur airport.

 

“Steve was right,” he mumbled as he pulled his razor from his shaving kit.

 

Quickly clearing the light stubble from his face, he brushed his teeth, and, with his hand, gave his hair the standard futile attempt to dominate it. It had been a long time since he’d immersed himself in a grueling hunt at the far reaches of the world. It was not a place he wanted to revisit. 

 

Mechanical problems at Johnston Island caused him to miss his connection in Brunei. Since there were no other convenient commercial flights out that day, Dan ended up striking a bargain with a private shipping company, which had a cargo plane scheduled to end its run in Kuala Lumpur. With no options that would get him to the Malaysian peninsula more quickly, Williams persuaded the manager of operations for the firm to consider him cargo. If concern for his friend’s situation had not been at the forefront of his thoughts, he might’ve actually enjoyed the flight, which took him across Borneo and over the Java Sea. The best he could, he napped on the bumpy DC-9 as it made stops in Palembang, Bukittinggi, and Dumai – all on the long island of Sumatra – before finally rolling to a stop on the tarmac at Kuala Lumpur around three o’clock in the afternoon – barely an hour after his original flight plan would have put him there.

 

Customs officials were a bit perplexed at how to handle the detective, who stepped off the cargo plane with his bill of lading. Fortunately, with the help of his badge, he was able to convince them of the unlikely scenario which landed him at their doorstep. A rule might have been broken somewhere along the line, but none of the agents on duty that day wanted to go to the trouble of tracking down the source, so Williams was released to find his way to Kuala Terennganu.

 

Realizing that it would probably be easier to persuade someone to help him get to his final destination if he looked (and smelled) like a law-abiding citizen, he made his way to an airport restroom to make himself presentable. Unfortunately, a cloudburst had struck with the spontaneity of a starling taking flight, and drenched him in twenty seconds.

 

Now, Dan stood and inspected himself one last time, and hoped he could make his inward state do better than reflect his outward appearance. Shaking his head, he made his way to the end of the terminal, where he was directed to find a charter aircraft for the final leg of his arduous trip. His just-above-the-water-line luck persisted though and he had the misfortune to hit that time of day when the big rain storms played havoc with small aircraft.

 

When Dan inquired about the most expeditious way to get to Kuala Terennganu, the man at the counter, a friendly fellow with a big smile, introduced himself as Najib Muntari. “My plane cannot go today – come early tomorrow – before the rain. For now, have tea with me.”

 

Williams reciprocated with his own identity and gratefully accepted the warm invitation while he pondered his next step. The Malaysian native brought out cups of the cinnamon-scented warm beverage and a bowl of what appeared to be primarily rice. “Nasi dagang – rice with coconut milk – very good!”

 

Realizing he had eaten very little since he’d left Honolulu, Dan thanked Muntari and sat down on an almost floor-level cushion and pulled the bowl to himself. A few minutes of cordial social banter ensued – Williams knew full well that etiquette called for such an exchange, and no matter how antsy he was to be on his way, it would not serve him well to turn his back on the courtesies of his host. Finally, though, the subject at the top of his thoughts merged with protocol as Najib mentioned that his cousin had a jeep for hire.

 

“Does this mean that your cousin might be able to drive me to Kuala Terennganu today?”

 

Williams’ host eyed him for a moment before he attempted to explain the situation to his guest. “It is the rainy season – the roads are not good… many bumps and big mud would see you on your journey, Dan.”

 

The detective sighed. Steve had certainly picked a heck of time to get rural on him. Dan had cajoled his mentor on a few occasions into roughing it for the day on a hike or exploring some of the wonders of their island home. He always seemed to enjoy the experience, but McGarrett was not naturally inclined to choose a campfire over a grill on his lanai. Williams suddenly understood the importance of making this generous man understand the urgency of his request.

 

“Najib, I have a friend who may be in trouble. He came to Kuala Terennganu a few days ago. I need to get there as soon as possible.” Dan maintained eye contact throughout the brief explanation, and then watched as Muntari mentally translated what he was saying and digested the information.

 

After several interminable seconds, Najib nodded slowly. “Your friend… a tall American… Steve?”

 

Williams felt his pulse quicken with the realization that he was on his boss’s trail. “Yes! That’s him!”

 

The pilot nodded. “I warn him of the dangers… I must warn you too.”

 

“Najib, believe me when I tell you that I would heed your warning, but I must help my friend. Can you help me get to him?”

 

“You are a good friend, Dan. I will call my cousin – Jon – he has many maps and can tell you many things.”

 

 

*****

 

 

The air was hot, cloyingly humid and, for lack of a better word, dirty. It seemed the downpour had done little to cool or cleanse the air. Unlike the tropical climate of Hawaii, Kuala Terennganu was, in every particle and fiber, gritty.

 

Only paying partial attention, Dan half-listened to Jon's narration of the old Chinatown area infamous for lowlife haunts. Touring the streets, the driver-guide pointed out some abandoned buildings, bars and a boat harbor that should return to full activity after the monsoons. Like the slums of Honolulu, this Chinatown had its seedy joints and lurking thugs. At home, he would not be intimidated – there he had a badge, a revolver, and the law on his side. Here, he was the foreigner – a blue-eyed, haole who stuck out like a sore thumb – and knew such treacherous areas should be avoided if possible. He had no choice now.

 

When Jon stopped the jeep and pronounced they were at their destination, it took Williams a moment to accept that the vehicle had at last come to a standstill. Dull from utter fatigue (no chance to nap in the jeep) and general weakness from taut nerves and his rundown condition, he took a moment to gather his flagging reserves. Then, with effort, he moved to release his seemingly permanent death grip on the passenger side handle on the dash. Next, he stiffly unfolded his legs and stood, muscles aching from disuse. Making sure the map Jon had given him was securely in his travel bag, he thanked his driver and turned to study his objective.

 

The narrow, mud-crusty streets looked like a bad movie set for a cheap remake of a wet Casablanca. According to Jon, his best chances of finding Steve was the Bin Gwan hotel, where all foreigners seemed to congregate. The hotel, stucco and wood in sun-baked, age-peeling disrepute, stood before him uninvitingly. Taking a deep breath for courage, he accepted his fate and entered the old building.

 

The interior reeked of humidity, mold and dirt settled into the old, frayed rattan furniture. The wobbly overhead fan squeaking out in painful cycles, losing the battle to provide anything but stifling, yet slightly moving air within the hot lobby. The small room had several exits including a rickety staircase.

 

Dressed in a dingy linen suit, an overweight man with a thin mustache sat on a stained, thinly cushioned sofa. The resident Sydney Greenstreet, Dan acidly assessed. Barely glancing above the newspaper in his hand, the man gave him little notice. The only other person present was a thin Malaysian type sitting next to a door to what looked like a kitchen. The native gave him a nod and slowly ambled over to the desk.

 

Before saying anything, Dan perused the guest book and scanned the names and dates. One entry leaped out at him in Steve's very familiar, assertive print:

 

William Henley

 

"Bloody but unbowed," he snidely scoffed.

 

Henley, the author of INVICTUS. Steve's sense of irony was amazing and completely unappreciated by his friend at the moment.

 

"What'dya say?"

 

"Nothing," he growled back to the desk clerk.

 

The man shrugged, not interested in irrelevant information and that was fine with Williams. Aware his outward appearance made him look like a desperado instead of civilized cop, he was suddenly grateful for the layers of filth and the bad attitude exuding from him. Probably the best disguise he could hope for in an end-of-the-earth dive like this. He shoved the guest book away, deciding not to sign in. After all, Steve had already taken the best alias, and Herman Melville  and Captain Ahab, secondary choices for such a dismal quest, were a little too obvious even for this dump.

 

"I just want a room for a night."

 

"Pay in advance. "American money. Ten dollars. Any room dis side, top floor," were his instructions.

 

Ten bucks for this pigsty!  He wasn’t even going to be here more than it took to find Steve! but, this guy wouldn’t know that. Top floor. Good. Forking over the money he accepted that it would buy him an excuse to go upstairs to room 211 -- Steve's room.

 

"Why not? I’m the master of my fate," he muttered as he grabbed his bag.

 

Before he reached the first step the front door crashed open and three muscled/fat Malaysians stalked over to the desk, two of them with nasty facial scars that served to make them sinister and frightening. The man with the newspaper glanced up, stared at the men, looked at Dan, looked back at the intruders in wary suspicion. Dan zipped up the stairs and stopped, pressing against the wall on the landing -- out of sight but within earshot of the men.

 

Shay -- trouble -- search --

 

Words that Dan understood and knew spelled big pilikia. Had his arrival alerted Shay? Had they come here and captured Steve and now were going to grab him? Silently jogging up to the next landing he heard the three men lumbering up behind him. Grabbing an overflowing trash can at the end of the hallway, he waited until he saw the first face around the corner. Smashing the can into the thug's head, he pushed hard, knocking the men off balance with the trio tumbling down the staircase in an imitation of the three Stooges. Racing down the hall, he was dismayed to see there were no room numbers on the doors!  How was he going to find Steve?

 

Footfalls from behind alerted him and he was startled to see the short, overweight man in the off-white linen suit coming his way, gripping onto a black umbrella. "Impulsive of you, Mister Invictus," he clucked his tongue. "Now unless YOU want to be bloody but unbowed," he warned in an upper-crust, clipped, British accent, “then we’d best hurry along."

 

"Who are you? What are you doing?" Dan asked when the shorter man grabbed onto his arm and pulled him down the corridor. "I'm looking for someone."

 

"Aren't we all," he agreed amiably, unruffled, but adamant in keeping his hold of the detective.

 

 

*****

 

 

Danno!

 

McGarrett was certain he’d just heard his friend’s voice!

 

Vigilant for any danger, the clanging commotion in the hall alerted the head of Five-0. Grabbing a dozing Shay from the bed where he rested handcuffed and gagged, Steve stood, poised at the thin wall of the room. Suspicious of the enemies surrounding him, he had been holed up here for two days since his call for help to Dan, to pass on to Napoleon. Certain his friend had understood his coded message, Steve knew reinforcements he trusted could not get here soon enough. As a precaution, he had carved out a few feet of stucco wall to provide an escape hatch to the corner room next door (that room located in a corridor at a right angle from his) just in case things got dicey. It sounded like they were indeed hazardous.

 

Danno!  Why -- he didn’t have to ask. Instead of passing along the message and/or key ring to Napoleon, Danno had come himself!  Angry and worried, his first instinct was to rush out and grab Dan. Then he heard feet retreating -- Danno leaving.

 

What a mess!  All right, he would try to meet up with Danno somehow, but now he and Shay had to get out of here. The spy opposed him, but at a disadvantage could not prevail against the highly motivated cop. McGarrett shoved him through the wall and into the next, seedy room. From there he peeked out the door, saw the next corridor was clear, with sounds of a fight around the corner of the adjoining hall (and  Williams was not among them). He scurried along the hall to the door at the end. Having scoped this all out during his stay, McGarrett knew this lead to one of two staircases heading down to the back.

 

All senses alert for any threats, his emotions overcrowded his wariness for preservation. Fear for his friend eclipsed concern for his own safety. Danno here!  Yeah, he should have seen it coming, known that his stubborn aikane would not stand by if he was in danger. However, this was exactly what he was trying to avoid!  The irony was a bitter one, worthy of some Greek tragedy instead of real life. This entire fool’s errand to find Shay had been motivated to keep Danno safe!  To make sure Shay never had the chance to kill Danno. What does Williams do, but fall right into the lap of Shay, he concluded angrily!  At least Steve was, however tenuously, in control of Pete. This was, not, however, Honolulu. This was a lawless frontier where McGarrett had little authority and no safety net except for Williams. Anything could happen. What if his precipitous action of coming here for Shay backfired and ended up endangering Danno? He would never forgive himself it something happened to Williams now.

 

Breaking out of the hotel he automatically turned toward the harbor.

 

 

*****

 

 

Thundering steps halted Dan and the Brit, both turning to face the three enraged thugs running toward them. The fat man stepped in front of Williams and stabbed at one man, sending him to the floor, bleeding. Open-mouthed at seeing a knife blade at the end of the umbrella's ferrule, Dan was aware enough to smash a fist into another thug's face and sent him down. The third, the man already injured in the trash can attack, made a grab for the little man, snarling something about "Goof.”

 

The Brit used his umbrella as a club, smashing the man across the nose. When the big guy went down in wails of pain, the man hit him over the head with a blow that should have broken the umbrella. Instead, it cracked the thug's head and he folded to the floor. Without missing a beat, he grabbed Dan's arm and they ran toward the end of the corridor.

 

Suddenly, within a breath's strike, he had been thrust into a life and death situation he did not understand. A mysterious fat man with a spy-issue killing umbrella, thugs crawling out of the woodwork. What mattered, though, was finding Steve and high-tailing it out of town. How he was going to manage that with a gang of thugs after him? He had no idea.

 

"Go down this back stairwell," The Brit ordered on the run. "It leads to an alley. You will find what you seek there. Then go to the mouth of the alley on the harbor side. Three buildings down turn at the Chinese market into another alley. A few blocks and you'll find an abandoned fish net repair shop. Go in -- the door is unlocked -- hide in the basement until dark. Then make your way out of the city."

 

“Remember place your trust in no one,” Napoleon had told him.

 

At the top of the stairs Dan stopped. "I don't know you --"

 

"Trust in the Invictus. You ARE the Captain of your soul, are you not, dear boy?" He pushed Dan. "Go. Believe me, I know what I'm doing.”

 

Dan glanced back at the pile of thugs, one of whom was stirring.

 

"Not to worry, I'll take care of him," the man winked and saluted with his umbrella.

 

Disturbed that he had not found Steve, but knowing he could not fight the thugs and search every room in the hotel, he skipped down the stairs. There was no time to decipher the cryptic warnings, but instinctively knowing safety was in following the advice of his helper, he raced out of the hotel.

 

Exploding into the alley, he searched for a second, gaining his bearings, and spotting the harbor at the end. Feeling like leaning on the wall for support, exhausted and almost dizzy from the exertion, he stood there to catch his breath. Before he could move, another door flew open and McGarrett and Shay rushed out.

 

Sucking in a deep breath of surprise, Dan was stunned to immobility. McGarrett turned and stared at him, precious moments passing as he shook his head incredulously. Just like a year ago in another alley – in the mean streets of Honolulu – when he had unawares confronted a thug – who turned out to be Steve in disguise. Another moment-on-the-brink where they were in a life- threatening apex and one mishap, one factor different, and they could have ended up shooting each other!

 

“Danno!”

 

The shock-delight-dismay-wonder on Steve's face was priceless, and in other circumstances, Dan would have been elated at the coup of so auspiciously reuniting with his friend.  These were dire conditions and now there was no time – no room -- to forgive.

 

Taking precious moments to catch his breath, he stared at his friend with fear abating, replaced by incredulous relief. Knowing his own expressions were mirroring Steve’s, he recognized the emotions echoed in his heart. Above all, he was grateful Steve was safe and that washed away all other considerations. The anger dissipated somewhat -- the joy, though, was tempered. A grim mission brought him here and his satisfaction quickly vanished.

 

“Steve—” he breathed out in exasperation.

 

The fat guy had told him to come to the alley and he would find what he was seeking. He was right about that in some wild miracle. Maybe he was right about where to hide. All he knew now was that he’d found his friend and they were in deep peril. Skipping forward, he grabbed onto Steve's sleeve.

 

"Come on, follow me!"

 

Delighted at having his friend at his side when he most needed him, Steve was diametrically agitated, appalled, that Danno was now in the thick of exactly what he had feared most.

 

“See you got Shay.”

 

The opening, tight comment jolted Steve’s own questions to the surface. "How on earth did you get here so fast?” Inane questions covering his incredulity.

 

"A Mister Muntari saw fit to give me a lift to the hotel!"

 

“Najib Muntari?” McGarrett eye brows arched at the possible coincidence.

 

“No – Jon – he’s Najib’s cousin,” Williams breathed as he peered around the corner cautiously.

 

"HOW did you come to know Najib?"

 

"I make friends easily--" Dan started, but the sound of a bullet splintering the wood barely above his head diverted his attention. He spun and roughly yanked Shay by the arm as Steve did the same with the prisoner's other arm. With a fast glance at his boss, Williams couldn't resist the dig. "Which is more than I can say for you!"

 

Dipping down yet another muddy, puddled alley, Dan led the others along the edges of the decrepit neighborhood, ditching their pursuers, whom he could only guess were the survivors of the hotel brawl. Hoping the fat man was okay after their encounter, Dan dashed and weaved until they came finally to a building that had faded signs proclaiming fish net repairs.

 

Once inside the shop, they bolted what was a new and well-oiled lock, then raced through to an inner room that was surprisingly well kept. Dan wondered if this was a hide out for the ‘Invictus’ Goof man and momentarily questioned if this was a trap. Again he pondered Solo’s paranoid – and fitting in this case – advice to trust no one. Well, if he had made a big mistake, then he would have three veteran spies down his neck. Worse, he would have endangered all of them.

 

Leaning against the wall, catching his breath, Williams was pleased Shay was trussed and captive. Looking at McGarrett; scruffy, dirty, unshaven – alive, and for the moment – safe – the ever-hovering resentment bubbled to the surface.

 

The emotion must have clearly registered on his expression, because McGarrett’s wondering stare tempered his anger. This was not the time nor place to air their grievances; lives in danger, Shay glaring daggers at both of them. Present a united front now, but later, he was going to have it out with his friend.

 

“You okay?” he asked, wanting to make sure the foremost worries were unfounded.

 

“Yeah,” McGarrett quietly assured and drudged up slight grin. “Lot’s better now.” His face bore somber concern. “You look pretty – worn out. How are you doing?”

 

“Worn out,” he shrugged. He would never admit how totally dead he felt. Not in front of Shay, certainly, and not to Steve either right now. His sense of camaraderie was ambivalent. Solo certainly nailed it when he defined partners – can’t live with them, can’t live without them.

 

Tiredly, Steve chuckled. “Should I ask how this all came about? Not like Napoleon to slough off his promises.”

 

Both noted Shay flinch at the name of their mutual colleague.

 

“No, I guess not,” Dan crisply, coldly responded, his temper flaring again at the mention of keeping oaths. “Not like some people.” Steve’s flinch indicated that the barb had struck accurately and deeply, and for this Dan was gratified. Before his friend could respond he asked, “So, do you have a plan to get off this rock and back to our own?”

McGarrett’s expression was as grave as his tone. “We’re not getting out, Danno. I – uh – this was not a mission intended for you. Things are complicated.”

 

Hating this spy stuff more than ever, tersely he asked for an explanation. When Steve began the story of the POWs and Shay’s plan to free them, Dan simmered in revived rage. A whole scheme was already set in place by McGarrett – go into the rainforest, check out the POWs, rescue them. Instead of Napoleon and Illya coming to provide back up, Williams had come. It was hard to tell who was more dismayed by the sour surprises.

 

“You brought the key ring?”

 

Dan stared at Shay. “Are you going to give it to him?”

 

“If he fulfills his part of the bargain –“

 

“He’s a murderer!” Dan shouted, then self-consciously flinched and listened, hoping he had not alerted anyone who might be searching for them. “What kind of deal did you make with the devil?”

 

About to blurt out more condemnations, he was struck by Steve’s contrite and regretful expression. He didn’t need to say anything about Shay’s crimes against him – Steve was feeling it. As much as he thought Steve deserved the guilt, he was sorry and did not rub it in further.

 

“I’m gonna go check on the bad guys out there.”

 

He stepped out, breathing deeply in irritation and hurt. It was all coming back so clearly. The sense of betrayal he had harbored last year when Steve went undercover and they had collided in that alley in Honolulu. The offense days ago, when he had discovered his friend’s duplicity, was still stinging. Napoleon’s heart-to-heart had assuaged the distress slightly, intellectually, but the wrath was back now in full force since Steve was physically okay, not injured or captured, and still playing spy games to the hilt.

 

A quick check of the area showed no signs of the thugs, but Dan wondered if they should stick around here. For one thing, the fat man, Goof, knew they were here. If this was a trap they should not stay. For another, the thugs might start searching, then they were cornered. Where could they go?

 

Flinging his backpack off his shoulder, Dan grabbed onto the map Jon had given him. Checking the streets again he felt the oncoming twilight would work in their favor. Best to get out of town while they could and worry about their differences when they were in safer circumstances. Just when that might be was doubtful considering they had a viper for a traveling companion.

 

Tersely telling McGarrett of his idea, Steve agreed and they waited until it was darker before venturing out. McGarrett managed to obtain a vehicle and brought it back to the waiting Williams and Shay. With the prisoner stuffed down on the floor of the back seat they left the city.

 

Steve outlined the general direction they would travel – Shay had given no specific location yet – that was to be revealed when they were farther into the jungle. Another aspect about the adventure that Dan did not like. Map in hand, Dan directed his boss to several roads that were bumpy, unpaved and worse than the route taken to come into the town, but, Jon had mentioned them as sparsely traveled and they were exactly what Dan had been looking for – escape trails.

 

Slowly traversing inland, they came to a small village on the bank of the Sekayu River. This speck on the map called Jara served as a launch point for boat excursions upstream to the Kenyir River, a major waterway which meandered through the Taman Negara Rain Forest.

 

 

*****

 

 

Ditching the car, they walked part of a kilometer into the village. Giant, mangled trees with huge, grotesque root systems loomed like monsters out of the creepy night. Dan had hiked rain forests in Hawaii many times, and was vaguely reminded of tramping through similar terrain, but never with the sense that he was in a giant alien frontier.

 

“Walking trees,” Dan muttered with a nod. “A lot of those on the Big Island.”

 

“Mangrove,” Steve observed, “but I’ve never seen them this – wild. Najib told me about some dangerous creatures that live in those, so watch it.”

 

Something rustled to the side and out of the mangrove slithered a horrendous looking lizard-like beast. Dan whispered for them to stand completely still while the creature ambled past. After a moment Dan motioned for them to continue.

 

Meeting up with a man who chartered boats, Steve negotiated a deal that was barely confirmed in the businessman’s  broken English. Hiding in the shadows of the encroaching jungle with Shay, Dan didn’t catch a lot of the terms or details, but in the illumination of the naked bulb of the shop light, he saw Steve fan out several bills from an impressive wad of cash.

 

When McGarrett returned, he confirmed he’d bought a boat for the trip up river and suggested they strike off as soon as possible, although the man advised they wait until morning. Uneasy about staying here for too long, Williams still agreed with the native advice. It was unwise to travel an unknown and hostile jungle at night. It would be dangerous enough in the daylight.

 

Warily studying his friend, McGarrett finally agreed and they took the man’s offer of spending the night in the boat house. The Five-0 chief went back to the house, purchasing dinner; simple fruit and bread.

 

Shay was cuffed to a boat rack and allowed the freedom of one hand and no gag.

 

“If you say anything I don’t like, though,” Steve warned, “the gag and cuffs are back on for good.”

 

“Whatever,” Pete agreed too easily.

 

His attitude made Dan’s skin crawl and he refused to look at the man. Food was consumed in silence, but Williams’ anger and resentment simmered with every moment. The hot emotions actually served to push out his bone-weary fatigue, and he felt somewhat revitalized by the food and silent plots of revenge. After the meager meal, the detective stepped over to the prisoner.

 

“One more thing, Shay.”

 

He could not resist. Before Steve could intervene, Dan grabbed the prisoner and belted him on the jaw. Pete staggered back, knocking over a  stack of oars. Shaking his sore fist, Dan flexed it, grimacing. Not deterred from the pain, he grabbed Shay by the collar and was about to punch him again, but Steve took an iron hold of Dan’s arm.

 

Pete shook his head, licking the blood trickling down from his split lip. “Pretty tough, cop. Want to try that again with my hands free?”

 

“Danno!”

 

The shorter man pushed against McGarrett’s restraining grip, but his angry gaze remained fixed on the prisoner. “Give you an even shot? Like you gave me at the harbor? A shot in the back? Or how about pounded, chained in the hold of a stench-filled boat and left to drown? Don’t like this set-up, Pete? Why don’t you call a cop? Oh, yeah, wouldn’t do you any good, would it? You have two cops right here -- too bad we’re out of our jurisdiction!”

 

McGarrett had to really restrain him now. The list of the crimes only broadened Pete’s insolent grin.

 

“You need me,” Shay smirked smugly. Then he stared at McGarrett. “Maybe Steve should remind you that I’m really good at payback. That’s why he’s here. Hoping to get me first before I came back to get you, Danny boy.”

 

"You know what?" McGarrett speculated in a still and quiet tone. “I think I’ll second Danno’s sentiment.” Without warning he threw a numbing rounder that hurled the spy back to the ground. "Ouch," he breathed, "but it felt good."

 

"Yeah," Dan agreed.

 

Steve nodded for Dan to exit and joined him outside. Taking the lead, he made the way down to the river bank. Although their safety was still precarious, he could not stand the underlying tension between him and his friend. Now that Pete was out of the way, he decided they needed to talk.

 

"You can't trust him," Williams warned in a low voice filled with intensity. “What if he’s leading us into a trap?”

 

"I DON’T trust him," he promised, coming to a stop at the bank and turning to study his friend. “But he’s had no chance to talk to anyone to organize a trap. And from the talk I heard in the bar, there IS a dam project out here in this jungle.”

 

Facing McGarrett, Dan's countenance was a grim mask. "Don't say I didn't warn you, because I did.” Before the lead detective could react, Dan punched him.

 

The blow unbalanced him slightly, but it was not a hit that was anywhere near as violent or power-packed as what Pete received. Smarting, but not begrudging the blow, Steve gingerly rubbed his face.

 

"Yeah, I guess you did promise me that.” With painful clarity he recollected their similar encounter a year ago when Steve had finished a secret undercover assignment for the Feds. Deceiving his unit, he had been caught by his colleagues and punched Dan to try and retain his cover. Dan swore if he ever went in for another undercover exploit again, he would mete out just this  physical punishment. "Feel better?"

 

"Not really," Williams flung back tartly, "but I promised. And I try to keep my promises."

 

Shaking his head, McGarrett wished he could defend himself against the justified rancor, but he couldn't. Worn and desperate, he needed his friend to understand. More than that, he needed his friend firmly in his corner.

 

"I told you last year I would always try to keep you in the loop, Danno, but this time I couldn't. Pete was going to come after you. He’s right, I remember all too well his tendency for payback. He wasn't going to let the collapse of his empire go unpunished. I know he repays his vengeance debts, and I couldn’t let him come back to get you. I came to bring him to justice before he could show up – on his terms – in Hawaii."

 

"The post card, yeah, I know."

 

Almost amused, he shook his head in rueful appreciation. "Is there anything you don't know?"

 

"Why you didn't trust me."

 

Like a blade to the heart, the condemnation hit him as hard as any physical wound. Just as with last year, he had betrayed Danno's trust, and he hoped this was not the axe falling on the ultimatum vowed by the younger detective at that time – the threat that he would resign if Steve left him out in the cold again. He hoped Williams hadn't come this far just to turn in his resignation.

 

"I trust you with my life," McGarrett countered sincerely. "I didn't tell you about Shay and my plans because I didn't think you would agree. I had hoped to be back in Honolulu by now.” From the faint glow of the indistinct moonlight, he knew that was the wrong thing to say. "Yeah," he forestalled another eruption with the truth. "I was deceiving you, but think about it, Danno. You did exactly what I was afraid you’d do!  Knowing about Shay, knowing I might be in trouble, you came here right into the heart of the danger!"

 

Napoleon’s words came back to Williams – the honest assessment of McGarrett’s frame of mind over this latest Lone Ranger action. He’d done it to save Dan. Recalling the mixture of relief, affection and concern on Steve’s face when they had met in the alley in Kuala Terennganu, he completely understood the crazy reasons behind both their motives. Understood, but still did not like them. And still did not accept them as a pardon.

 

‘I thank whatever gods may be, for Steve’s unconquerable soul.’ It was a tough soul to live with sometimes, but he would not want to be allied with anyone else. Was he, though really part of Steve’s life? Not as deeply as he felt attached to Steve. This Lone Ranger stunt just underscored how addicted Steve was to the spy life. And how little he needed Dan’s talent. Or really deep-down trusted him? That was a chilling thought but one he could not ignore. Why else would an honorable man such as  McGarrett break his promise, except that the covenant was made with one he did not completely trust?  Because he was a cop, not a spy?

 

Dan sighed, "Did you think I would let you do this alone?"

 

"No. That's why I couldn't tell you."

 

Williams stared nonplussed at the man. In his head, anger battled with relief --   love with betrayal – understanding with  bewilderment – fatigue with frustration. Several pregnant moments passed before practicality pushed the emotions aside. They were preparing to step headlong into what could well be a trap in a remote corner of the universe, with only each other for support – now was probably not the best time to have it out. That would have to wait. If they were still alive at the end of this little “fishing trip,” the two detectives could deal with the issue that separated them now. Angry words would only further distract and endanger them.

 

It was with effort that the shorter man shook his head and ran a hand through his hair as he slowly surrendered a rueful grimace. "We're quite a pair, aren't we, Mr. Henley?"

 

"Yeah," McGarrett offered a cautious half-smile. He knew / sensed that his friend had not succumbed to the argument, but realized that the younger officer saw the need for a unified front. Relieved at the stay, he briefly studied Williams’ still-tense, but exhausted countenance. With a tentative hand on Dan’s shoulder, he proposed, "Let's get some shut eye. I have a feeling we're going to need it for tomorrow.”

 

While he did not pull away, Williams did tense slightly under his mentor’s light touch, but his acknowledgement grudgingly belied his body language. "Yeah, okay."

 

McGarrett followed behind as the pair made their way back to the boat shack. At least Danno was here with him where he could keep an eye on him. And – after considering Williams’ cavalry act back in Kuala Terennganu, perhaps he would have to admit that his colleague’s talents would come in handy in the hours and days ahead. While it ate at him that his friend – whose safety was the reason for his quest to get to Shay first – was now in danger along with him – it was comforting to know his closest and most trusted ally was at his side when he needed him most.

 

 

*****

 

 

Uncertain what woke him, McGarrett blinked his eyes open, instantly wary on an instinctive level. Seconds melded together as he lay still; assessing, thinking, remembering. Rainforest. Kuala Lumpur. Shay. Danno. The strangeness of the jungle noises, the oppressive tropical heat and humidity far exceeding his acclimated norms in Hawaii, the grimy filth and gritty dirt clogging every pore, the subliminal sense of immediate peril clicked in to his conscious mind. Within moments he recollected clearly where he was, and what he was doing leaning against a tree in the jungle.

 

Dawn’s light filtered through the heavy foliage and cast diffracted, orange light onto his skin, casting sepia tones on the murky water just beyond the muddy riverbank. Glancing around, he spotted Williams close to the boat shack, sitting on the dirt with his back against the bamboo of the hut.

 

Grimacing at Williams’ condition, McGarrett felt a stab of guilt lance through him again. The guard duty had taken a greater toll on the younger detective. They’d spelled each other on watch throughout the night, determined to not be caught off guard by Shay’s confederates. When sleep should’ve come, it did not – the un-Hawaiian noises of wildlife encroached on the rickety shack hovered all around them until new noises – those of the daylight creatures – broke in and took over. Dan was barely recovered from his bout with pneumonia, and Steve knew the further stress of this journey was taxing his health to a serious degree.

 

While it had been a dangerous thing that Williams had fallen asleep during his sentry duty, McGarrett was not going to mention it – his friend had been through enough without griping about an infraction that would only upset and demoralize the officer. Their relationship was on rocky ground as it was and he could not blame the exhausted, recovering detective for a temporary weakness.

 

Wishing in vain for a different course of action as he crossed the clearing and knelt down, gently shook his friend’s shoulder with a firm grip. “Danno, time to go,” he whispered.

 

Williams droned a deep noise and shook his head, groggily coming to awareness as the Five-0 leader continued to jostle him.

 

“Danno.”

 

The blue eyes were overly alert as the lids snapped open and Dan took in a sharp gasp. Darting a look at Steve, then his surroundings, he quickly came to terms with the same disorientation his boss had experienced moments before.

 

The already pale face lost nearly all color. “I fell asleep—”

 

“It’s all right,” McGarrett whispered, not really certain of that. He had not checked on their prisoner yet. Instead, his concern had been for his friend.

 

“It won’t happen again,” Williams promised and struggled to his feet.

 

Holding on with a tight grip to the shoulder for support, Williams quickly shied away from the helping hand.

 

“I’m fine,” he curtly assured and stepped away to enter the hut. “Let’s just get on with this.”

 

Grimacing as an outward reaction to the inner pain, McGarrett felt renewed regret at his actions which had brought them to this moment and place. Danno had not miraculously forgiven him – he had not awakened with the bad feelings between them instantly cured by a rotten night’s sleep. There was no magical pardon for his misguided mission. His insistence on following his own course and excluding his friend had created a terrible rift between them. Not just a bruised ego, but a fundamental insecurity had sprung forth from his friend – the old doubts and misgivings coming full force to haunt them anew. Dan felt Steve had lost confidence and trust in him. Could he have delivered a more crushing message to Williams?

 

A startled McGarrett reached for his gun as a shocking peach and blue bird descended from the sky and landed only a few feet from him. The winged creature was no more than a foot tall, but it stood its ground imperiously inspecting him. With mild chagrin, he realized he’d slipped away from the urgency of the moment and had been caught off guard. Re-holstering his weapon, he mused that Danno was right – they needed to get this behind them, and the only way to do that was to focus on the task at hand.

 

 

*****

 

 

“Get up!” Dan snapped at his still-reclining prisoner, who returned a tired, pained expression as he came to a sitting position.

 

Shay blinked and looked around for a few seconds before his cocky, superior demeanor reappeared as he cleared his throat. “What no good morning kiss, Danny?”

 

The snide remark was rewarded almost instantly with a rough back-hand to the mouth from the surly detective. “Good morning, sweetheart!” Williams snapped almost cheerfully as he unlocked the handcuff on one wrist so that he could secure Pete’s hands in front of him.

 

McGarrett stepped inside the boat house just as his second-in-command was pulling their prisoner to his feet. Noting Shay’s narrowed eyes and the small trickle of red leaving his lower lip, he knew he’d missed a confrontation of some sort, but Williams’ expression bore only innocence. The two detectives made eye contact long enough for them to silently confirm their pact against a common enemy. The visual exchange bolstered the Five-0 chief with the knowledge that no matter how angry his detective was with him, and no matter how frustrated Steve was with the situation which landed them here in this danger-fraught backwater, the two men would move towards a resolution under the same yoke.

 

McGarrett took charge of the hand-cuffed man while Williams set about preparing the small motor boat for its trip up the meandering river. The dingy, with its four-horsepower outboard motor, was no more than eight feet long from stem to stern and three feet wide. Dan filled the small engine with fuel and set the can on the small dock before he retrieved the map from his pocket and wandered back over to the splintering wood table around which his travel companions sat. He folded the map so that the relevant portion of it was visible in a ten-inch by ten-inch square, and let the paper drop in the center of the table.

 

Collecting a slice of some nearly fluorescent orange fruit, which his boss had placed rind down on the table, Williams spoke through a few chews before he swallowed. “So, Pete, you say you wanna get to the Rantau Trailhead – that we should take the boat… about four miles to this bend here…” The detective touched the map with his index finger before he continued. “And then get out and tramp five miles down the Rantau Trail to the trailhead. Is that right?”

 

Shay, with hands secured together, had to raise both arms to wipe his mouth with the back of his now-dingy sleeve. With a small frown of concentration, he studied the map for only a moment before he looked up at the detective. “Yeah, that’s what I’m telling you – where we go from there, I’ll let you know, Danno.”

 

McGarrett, just completing the re-lacing of his boots, wouldn’t have certain been in retrospect whether it had been himself or his friend whom he felt bristling at the use of his second’s nickname – a familiar moniker used almost exclusively by Steve. He looked up and hoped that their adversary did not notice how it had annoyed both of the detectives. Williams’ only outward reaction was a burning glance at his boss before he pressed his point, directing his comments more in his friend’s direction.

 

“Well, if the objective is to reach Rantau, then I have to think that we’d be better served if we stuck to the waterway as long as we can. According to the map, the river winds through the Taman Negara to within a mile of Rantau.” The extended stay on the water meant that they would have to go deeper into the rainforest before they wound up at the river’s perigee to their destination.

 

Both McGarrett and Shay followed the younger detective’s finger as he traced his proposed route before Pete snapped his focus to Dan. “Five miles on a TRAIL beats one mile of jungle trekking!”

 

His expression steely, Williams responded evenly. “A one-mile nature walk beats an indefensible, five-mile push down an open trail.”

 

McGarrett knew that it was distinctly possible that the former NI operative had – as he himself had done – been able to get a message to his allies during the course of their thirty-hour wait for the key chain to arrive. Williams’ paranoia was not unfounded, he knew.

 

Steve nodded slowly. “Yeah, Danno – I like the idea of the unadvertised nature walk.”

 

Shay’s eyes grew large as he spat angrily, “Do you boys realize the kinds of – of – things – animals, bugs, plants that we could run into out there?” The man tossed his head in the direction of the forest.

 

A thin smile slipped onto Dan’s face. “What’s the matter, Pete? Afraid of lions and tigers and leeches?”

 

“The giant rat of Sumatra?” Steve wryly chimed into the chiding.

 

“Look, cop, unless jungle survival is taught at your little police academy, you might just find yourself a little surprised at what can kill you in that kind of wilderness!”

 

“It beats a gunshot in the back!”

 

“You’re nuts, Williams! We’ll probably be eaten or poisoned by something before we get anywhere near Rantau!”

 

“I guess you’d better hope I got my merit badge in rain forest flora and fauna!”

 

Enjoying Shay’s agitation, McGarrett found that it still fed the concerns in the back of his head about Najib Muntari’s admonition, but he also knew something that neither Pete nor Najib knew. Danno did in fact have jungle survival experience – not only had he been through extensive military training, but he was an avid hiker and nature lover. Exactly how familiar his second-in-command could be with the peculiarities and intricacies unique to this remote, exotic rain forest McGarrett was uncertain, but it was obvious to him that his protégé felt completely confident in his plan… OR was his friend just enjoying the squirming of their prisoner too much to show his wariness about the dangers which awaited them in the rainforest? Whatever the truth, he knew that he wanted to present a united front to their mutually-hated prisoner.

 

With a slight grin, he placed a supportive hand on Williams’ back. “Is the boat ready?”

 

Dan tore his focus from the fuming man still seated and met his boss’s eyes. “Yeah,” he returned with a crooked smile, and then added, “You think you can take some of that wad of cash in your pocket and buy us a couple machetes before we hit the road – so to speak?”

 

His second’s self-assurance for the jungle trek ahead shored up his own confidence. “I’ll take care of it if you can get our passenger situated in his berth.”

 

 

*****

 

 

“A little port, Steve,” Dan, seated in the bow, called over his shoulder. “We’ve got Mangrove roots up here on the starboard.”

 

With Shay handcuffed and seated securely in the middle, the lead detective sat at the rear of the small craft and steered the small Evinrude motor as his second-in-command negotiated their way through the murky water of the shrinking tributary. Out of the corner of his eyes, McGarrett could see and feel the jungle crawling with life. The canopy of trees gave the illusion of dusk at the water level, and the recently passed mid-day downpour did not help. All three men were drenched with little hope of drying off anytime soon in the liquid air.

 

Four hours into their journey, they were within a mile of the place where Dan indicated they would need to abandon the water craft and make their own trail through the dense foliage to the Rantau Trailhead. While it had been miserably warm and wet, and numerous noises and rustling plants kept them alert for predators, the younger detective had been able to help his boss navigate through the plethora of watery traps and false detours.

 

“Oh, this is just peachy, Williams! Look over there!” Pete stood suddenly and shouted, with disgust barely edging out his anxiety. The small boat teetered wildly from side to side with its raised center of gravity, forcing both detectives to clutch the wooden sides of the craft.

 

“Sit down, Pete!” McGarrett berated viciously, but the man remained standing as he wobbled his weight frantically from leg to leg.

 

Dan was unavoidably aware of their prisoner’s panic, but was relying on his boss to bring the boat’s passenger under control -- it was the source of Shay’s fear on which Williams was focused. Swimming toward them was a large, dark gray head. The wake the creature was creating hinted at the huge mass invisible below the water. On the marshy bank forty feet away, three of the three-quarter-ton creatures stood with their quarter-ton babies, eyeing the interlopers as the larger male moved to intercept them.

 

“It’s a Sumatran Rhinoceros! “ Five-0’s second-in-command announced excitedly.

 

“More important than its name is the fact that it’s swimming out here to kill us!” Shay screamed.

 

McGarrett dove towards the hand-cuffed man, but the action came too late as Shay over-corrected his position, sending too much weight to the starboard side of the craft, the resulting tilt of the boat toppling the lead detective to the right as well.

 

“Yikes!” Dan was the only of the three men who had an opportunity to make any kind of noise as he quickly moved to the left to try to counterbalance the weight of the two men further back in the craft. The action was not enough though and the little boat capsized, tossing its three occupants into the greenish water.

 

McGarrett stayed attached to his prisoner as the two men surfaced and struggled to get away from the pressure wave generated by the oncoming rhinoceros, who tore into the boat lividly, oblivious to the fact that the targets of his wrath were no longer in it. The two men stumbled quickly backward through the four-foot deep water, away from the commotion, trying to make it to the relative safety of the big trees some twenty feet away, but the slippery Mangrove roots prevented the men from securing a stable foothold, so progress was punctuated by numerous falls.

 

As they dragged themselves onto the marshy ground, McGarrett began panning the area for Williams, but did not dare shout for fear of alerting the snorting beast, who had by now completely dismantled their ride. Shay choked and bent over, but the action turned out to be a ploy as he spun suddenly and took a swing at the still-off-balance detective. Anticipating the attack, the Five-0 chief dodged the punch and slammed his prisoner against the trunk of the nearest tree. Shay was not to be subdued so easily though and he slammed his head backward into McGarrett’s face, causing the detective to release his hold as he dropped backward into the shallow water. Wasting no time, Shay jumped onto the dazed Five-0 chief and dragged him to his feet in preparation for delivering another blow.

 

“Hold it right there, Shay!”

 

The former spy froze and looked over his shoulder to see a dripping Williams staggering through the swampy water towards him, his gun drawn.

 

Pointedly cocking the trigger, Dan cautiously stepped over a large, slimy root at his feet and moved toward the two men. McGarrett quickly took advantage of the opportunity to shove Pete back towards the marginally higher ground.

 

“You all right, Steve?” Dan diverted his tense focus from Pete and scrutinized his boss.

 

McGarrett angrily manhandled Shay back up to the tree as he nodded to his second-in-command. Taking a surreptitious glance in his friend’s direction, he could see that the detective seemed none the worse for the wear. Cursing silently at the turn of events, he realized that his gun, which had been resting on his lap, was now on the bottom of the river.

 

With a final startling growl at the trespassers, the rhino seemed to feel like he’d made his point as he turned and swam back in the direction from whence he’d come.

 

“Well, there goes our gear!” McGarrett breathed with disdained disgust as Dan looked over at Pete with a similar expression.

 

Handing his boss his handgun, which the Five-0 chief was grateful his detective had somehow kept safe during the watery upheaval, Williams leaned his back against the tree and looked away to spit. Then, wiping his forehead with the back of his hand, he took in a deep breath of air before his eyes narrowed and head cocked in the direction of the still heavily breathing Shay.

 

“Never seen a rhinoceros before, Pete?” Williams’ tone was venomous, but it was matched by the older man’s angry retort.

 

“Not without a large barrier of some sort between me and it!” Shay retorted angrily.

 

Anger still hovering in his blue eyes, McGarrett looked over as shoulder at the splintered remnants of the dingy floated gently away from them. “I don’t suppose there’s any chance of recovering… anything.” He was thinking of his gun – now, it appeared that all they had to keep Shay in check was Williams’ .22 and their fists. He grimaced as a dagger of pain ricocheted through his head, an aftereffect of his prisoner’s assault on him.

 

Dan pulled the machete from the canvas loop on his pants, and then gave the taller detective a closer visual examination.

 

“Are you sure you’re okay?” Williams’ countenance bore wary concern, which registered with the head of Five-0.

 

Steve let his lips curve upward slightly as he wiped a trickle of blood from his nose with the back of his hand. He insisted, “I’m okay – you?”

 

“Me too,” Dan assured.

 

“What do you think?” Steve’s thoughts turned back to their immediate situation.

 

“Well, instead of hiking a mile through the rain forest, it looks like we’ll be wading a mile through swamp BEFORE we hike a mile through the rain forest… Pete!” Dan’s voice was soft, but accusing as he eyed Shay. “Not very cool thinking for a spy type,” Dan growled, but pulled himself away from the tree and moved away.

 

McGarrett could only nod in agreement as he shoved Shay to follow. “Let’s go!”

 

 

“C’mon, Steve, how’s about un-cuffing me? If I fall—” The prisoner was interrupted by Dan’s almost gleeful declaration.

 

“If you fall, Pete, you drown!” 

 

“You gonna let him do that to me, Steve?”

 

“Shut up,” Williams snapped at him.

 

“You owe me, Steve!  Don’t forget that!”

 

 

*****

 

 

The three men dragged themselves through the swampy conditions, which developed from the water way, with Williams, machete in hand, in the lead. McGarrett brought up the rear, keeping a close watch on his wily captive.   The tension of the trek was almost enough to keep Steve’s mind from the wretched conditions – almost.  Never had he felt so disgusted with his physical being.  In excellent condition; tone, health and stamina, this was wearing him out.  The constant stress, the filthy, stinking conditions, the heat  which was oppressive and never relenting, was keeping him fatigued and strained. Slogging through the swamp -- the bugs, the leeches, the difficulty walking through the water because of the sticky mud, the grit in everything from between his toes to his eyelids and tongue – every bit of him felt slimy.  

 

Then there were the subliminal elements that frayed his already taut nerves.  The geography was not similar, but the atmosphere pervading the jungle was all too familiar. This was not Korea, he knew, yet the latent aura of danger, the tropical heat sinking in through the pores all extricated the deeply buried memories of bitterness, anguish and horrible experiences he would rather have kept locked away in the far-distant past.

 

Time and again, when his mind drifted from tight vigilance, he thought of the insanity of the scheme, knowing he could -- should -- turn away from the heroic quest or foolhardy suicide mission -- an errand with elements of both. Could there really be American POWs out here in the wilderness? And if there were, what were the chances they could get these men –  probably injured, sick, malnourished -- out of the jungle and to safety? How would they succeed considering Shay had more twists in his plots than Tantalus Drive had curves?

 

Why did he go on, endangering his life and Danno's, knowing at any time Pete could stab them in the backs? Because Steve could not bring himself to turn away from men suffering under the most inhumane conditions. He could not forget his despair, anger, and grief as a POW. When captured by the North Koreans he would have given anything to be rescued, to have his American compatriots escape the torture, fear, and desperation of internment. He admitted that he might be chasing ghosts from his past, but he could not risk the distinct possibility that they were out here – hope fading,  feeling abandoned, believing that their country thought them lost forever. It was important enough to risk his own life.

 

Since Danno had entered the picture, Steve had had serious misgivings about the wisdom of continuing with the mission, but each time he considered aborting, he would mentally maneuver his way back to the belief that the cause was for the greater good and worth the risk. Still, a nagging question which needed no answer remained present throughout his machinations – would he feel it had been worth the risk if something happened to his friend? He would just have to take extra care to see that it did not.

 

Shay’s tread slowed and Williams gave him a hard shove.  The spy belligerently spun around.  “Steve, get your boy off me!  I’m the one who’s going to lead you to those POWs!  Any more of this shoddy treatment and you don’t get to be super hero!”

 

“Shut up, Pete,” Williams growled. “We can just call this whole thing off and ship you back to Honolulu with no deal.”

 

McGarrett pondered if he even trusted Shay that the POWs existed. Pete could be lying – had been a career-liar and professional spy the entire time Steve had known him. Did he trust Shay now? 

 

“Some friend you turned out to be, Steve.”  The spy backed away from Dan, who reached for his shoulder. “ ‘Loyal to a fault’ – that’s how Steve described you to me, Danno.  Fat lot he knows about loyalty to old friends!  Why doesn’t your pal Steve tell you about our old days in Japan. We were friends then. Did he ever tell you how I saved his life?”  

 

There had been a time when Steve trusted him with his life. Not the kind of solid, soul-deep faith he placed in Danno or his other detectives – but enough to save his life many years ago. 

 

You owe me, Steve.

 

Yeah, he owed Pete all right. For his life…

 

The memory was so powerful McGarrett flinched from the emotional stab of inner pain. The tepid jungle evaporated around him as the misty, cool fog of a Tokyo night chilled his bones…

 

Japan. Cold War… Communist threat… Memories of WWII still fresh everywhere they looked – within the very fabric of the struggling society around them. The little man and his radiation-deformed wife. Defecting scientists, they said. All McGarrett’s research supported their claim to be secret refugees of Japan’s secret chemical experiments. If the wrong people in the government found them, they would be killed. They trusted Steve. Trust. McGarrett trusted Pete – his partner with the task of helping get the couple to the right people in the US forces.

 

The clandestine meet with a State Department official in a dank, drizzle-soaked alley. The shadows played tag in the pale street lights. The edge of danger and intrigue tasted bitter, salted with fear. The Japanese couple came forward. Too late McGarrett saw the machine gun whipped out from under the raincoat of the little man. Before McGarrett’s hand even touched his .45, shots rang out, echoing in the brick canyon of the damp alley. The Japanese couple fell.

 

Pete Shay emerged from the shadows – the personification of symbolism – spy/partner/hero. Saving the State Department man… Saving McGarrett’s career, his life… 

 

 

Williams violently slashed a thick vine which meandered from the stagnant water before him, but seemed to ignore Shay as the man continued to taunt the head of Five-0. “Yeah, once upon a time Steve knew the meaning of friendship. Knew to keep me close cause I saved his hide and reputation and a big shot from Washington – his blood woulda been on Steve’s hands – and we BOTH know, Danny boy, that Steve here would rather die than be responsible for a mistake like THAT!”

 

With the suddenness of a small bird taking flight, Williams spun on the handcuffed man behind him. "Doesn't even the MEMORY of friendship mean ANYTHING to you, Shay? Doesn't it?" With that, Williams dove onto the man and dropped himself and his shocked and terrified prisoner under the murky water.

 

"Danno!" Steve shouted as he tried to get enough of a grip on either of his traveling companions to pull them back toward the air. Williams and Shay resurfaced of their own accord, as McGarrett continued to tug at shirts and limbs. "Danno! Stop! BACK OFF!"

 

Finally, Dan, trembling with anger, released his hold on Shay, who fell back into Steve's arms. With his gaze still fixed on Pete, Williams stood paralyzed for several seconds, ignoring the rivulets of water dripping onto his face from his hair. The younger detective steadied himself as he took conscious steps to slow his breathing and cool his rage before he spun away and resumed his trek through the swamp.

 

McGarrett took in a couple of deep breaths before he loudly hissed in Shay's ear, "If I were you, Pete, I wouldn’t rile a man with a machete.”

 

“Right,” Shay spat back. “This is the thanks I get for saving your miserable life?  So you can pay me back like this?”

 

McGarrett shoved him away. “I owe you NOTHING, Pete! All debts are off!  It’s what you deserve after betraying my trust. After trying to kill someone who really IS a friend!”

 

Shay glared at McGarrett eye-to-eye for long moments. Both dripping mud and water, sweat and grit as they stood in the baking tropical sun. Geographically touching, but now on opposites sides of life, justice and morality. Far from the chill night in Japan. No longer connected by anything but a shared animosity; of what had been, of what could never be regained, of what might have been had Shay’s path differed.

 

Turning away, Shay started down the trail again. McGarrett watched him go, aware of the metaphor of the distance between them – the symbolism of who now stood at his side in so many more ways than just a physical presence.

 

As they tramped the trail, McGarrett watched Williams more closely. If he’d been paying more attention to his friend rather than his own condition, he would have realized how… how on the edge Danno was about this whole nasty sojourn. Not the physical strain, but the emotional impact that had caused the usually even-tempered and easy-going second-in-command to throttle Shay. He realized that his friend had attacked Pete because of the pain Shay was inflicting on McGarrett!  The misery of the heat, slime and discomfort – not to mention the threat to their lives – was all tolerable to the younger detective. When Shay attacked McGarrett – who had not defended himself – then Danno lost control!

 

McGarrett stumbled and came to a stop in the murky water. The difference between a priceless friend and a back-stabbing scum bag was never clearer. Danno would – and had – done everything / anything for him. Showing up in this hell-hole was evidence enough, but the sacrifices and loyalties went so far beyond that as to be immeasurable and uncountable. Right down to the act of attacking Shay for verbally abusing McGarrett. Was there ever such a complete contrast?  The yin-yang represented in the two men who pressed on ahead of him… One who betrayed; to the point of wanting him dead… The other willing to die for him…

 

Unsteadily, he started walking again, following Shay who was trailing behind Williams. The humid, sloshy conditions receded, his mind wrapped around the amazing elements of friendship in his life.

 

 

*****

 

Twilight loomed as Dan sighed and swiftly mumbly-pegged the big knife into the mud at his feet. Without delay, he turned to face the criminal slowing to a stop behind him. “Okay, Shay – here we are – at the Rantau Trailhead! The only prisoner I see doesn’t deserve to be rescued!” Williams tone was rife with skepticism.

 

McGarrett came to a halt and tossed his second-in-command the canteen – their only one since they’d lost everything that wasn’t attached to their bodies when their boat was overturned. As Dan removed the cap and let a swallow of water pour into his mouth, the lead detective turned to the prisoner. “If you’ve led us out here on a wild goose chase, Pete, I’m gonna feed you and your key chain to a rhinoceros!”

 

Shay laughed tiredly and accepted the canteen in both hands from the younger detective. “Steve, I’m not stupid enough to lie to you like that. A half mile down the trail, you’ll see for yourself.” He pointed out the direction with the canteen before he took a gulp.

 

The head of Five-0 allowed the man a couple swallows before he yanked the container away and took a drink of the hot and unsatisfying liquid himself. Never in life had Steve experienced such tactile revulsion for everything around him, on him and -- him. His lungs felt the sandy quality of grime. His skin felt caked with miles and miles of mud, filth, and plant residue. What he was not wearing in his skin, clothes, ears and mouth he was breathing.

 

On the other hand, Danno seemed as if he was born for this environment. A natural athlete, his years as a cop had not dulled his former training in special ops and extreme survival tactics. {fanfic - ROMEO FOXTROT NINER NINER}-

 

Shay had no idea the younger detective was more skilled out here in the jungle than either veteran spy. By mutual, silent consent, neither Five-0 officer had chosen to enlighten their captive on their secret weapon – Danno’s hidden past. It was a source of gratitude, comfort and confidence to McGarrett, but he was still desperately worried for Danno’s health and safety. It was all right for McGarrett to engage in this mad quest for justice, but his second should have never been exposed to these dangers.

 

Williams, his face flushed and shiny with perspiration, collected the machete protruding from the ground and wiped the blade across his damp pant leg before slipping it back into its holster. Reaching into his pocket, he pulled out the key chain and studied it for a few seconds before meeting Shay’s eyes. The deadly serious expression on the younger detective’s face spoke to his extreme distaste for the bargain his boss had made. “Well let’s go take a look and see what this key chain bought us before it gets any darker.”

 

Dan stuffed the chain back into his pocket and started down the trail. Shay grinned as McGarrett pushed him down the path after Williams. They trekked along the edge of the rain forest, clear of the dense foliage,  on a small trail winding ever closer to their goal.

 

Crossing a stream and hiking through the knotted roots of a row of Mangrove trees, Williams paused and then turned around to look at McGarrett. Sounds… Manmade metal-on-metal noises alien to the jungle. The lead detective motioned for Shay to sit down where he stood, and then hurried him along with a push. He quickly handcuffed the man to an errant Mangrove root before nodding to Dan. The younger detective acknowledged with a slight nod of his own, and the two men cautiously edged fifty feet to the crest of a hill. Dropping to their knees, and then to their stomachs, they peered over, looking down on a small valley.

 

Tall light towers held huge spotlights that sprayed illumination over a clearing in the jungle. Heavy equipment was parked to the far side. Wooden buildings marked the encroachment of civilization into the dense forest surrounding the tiny hub of technology. In the distance, the naissance of a monster dam stood in the earliest phase of its construction. The sobering factor was the serious presence of armed guards strategically placed around the perimeter of the camp. On the side closest to them, four long, shanty-like barracks stood. Looking hastily erected, the buildings had no windows, and the palm frond sides barely prevented the weather from entering. Outside the one farthest from them, a large, armed man sat on a tree stump and leaned on the stock of his rifle.

 

“I think Shay might be telling the truth,” Dan reflected seriously as he slid back down the hill.

 

McGarrett dropped down to sit next to his friend, and mused, “Well, that guard is definitely protecting something – or someone.”

 

After several seconds of silent cogitation on their options, the two detectives turned back onto their stomachs in tandem and elbowed themselves  up to where they had a view of the valley below. They observed as relaxed, jovial locals, carrying a bunch of bananas and what appeared to be flat bread, enter the “secured” housing unit. They remained inside only seconds before they reappeared and exchanged a greeting with the bored sentry as they headed back toward what looked to be a covered cooking area in a few hundred yards in the distance.

 

“Look!” Steve whispered.

 

In the doorway – or the tar-covered opened which served as such – a tall, skeleton of a man, with no shirt and ragged, gray shorts, appeared for a few seconds. It was abundantly clear to both men that the man was a sun-burned haole. The man glanced around the area furtively. The guard issued some command inaudible to the men on the hill, but it appeared that whatever was said caused the man to vanish behind the tarp. McGarrett and Williams exchanged a pregnant glance before returning their focus to the scene below.

 

After a few more minutes of taking in the layout of the compound, and watching workers make their way freely to and from all of the barracks – except the fourth guarded one –  the voyeurs re-seated themselves. From their vantage point, they could see their own cocky prisoner lounging on his side, propped up on his elbow, giving at least the appearance of relaxed confidence.

 

Both men stared at Shay as McGarrett intoned quietly, “Whoever the men are in that building, they’re prisoners.”

 

Williams nodded. “And at least one of them looks American.”

 

“Yeah.”

 

McGarrett pondered the logistical issues of their discovery as the pair silently made their way back down the hill. This shouldn’t have surprised him -- using slave labor of course there would be a healthy presence of guards and prison-like conditions. There was no fence – apparently, if a POW escaped he was left to survive on his own in the rain forest. How to get the POWs out and back to safety? They were going to need help.

 

They came to a stop near where Shay lay watching them with a smirk  plastered on his filthy face.

 

Williams broke the silence and asked his friend, “"Have you given any thought to calling in the cavalry?"

 

McGarrett looked at Dan and nodded – unsurprisingly, they were contemplating along the same lines. "Yeah – if we can get to a phone, Napoleon should be in Kuala Lumpur by now, so he’ll be able to get here in short order. From the map, if I recall, Jara – where we procured our now-defunct boat – is the closest place."

 

Dan scowled at Shay. "That means another trek through the jungle with him."

 

Shay laughed with an easy air of superiority. "It means more than that, Danny boy. Means that it's time to give me my key chain."

 

"Not until we get the POWs out of here," McGarrett snapped back.

 

Shay shook his head. "No, wrong, Steve. You are giving me the key chain and letting me go now. See, it'll be midnight in four hours or so. I've been gone from here for five days. Two days longer than expected. The project foreman and I have an arrangement cause this business is a little dicey. You know what I mean," he winked. “I always have a back-up means for survival, remember, Steve?”

 

Steve flinched, ready to slug the arrogant spy, but he ground his teeth, clenched his hand into a fist, and opted for strained patience. "What did you do?"

 

"You know already that it isn't exactly legal to use slave labor -- especially POWs in little efforts such as this. If my foreman doesn’t hear from me by midnight on the fifth day, he takes the laborers out into the rain forest and kills them – kind of a safety valve, you see?"

 

Williams drew in a sharp breath and McGarrett felt and heard the growl of hatred and rage bubble in his throat.

 

Shay laughed. "Yeah, I'm a snake of the first order, old pal. Survival first – remember. Leave no evidence or witnesses behind.” He cast a meaningful look at the younger detective. "A mistake I rarely make.” Glaring coldly back at McGarrett he continued. "You know me well enough to know I have back ups of my back up plans, Steve. In a few hours, time's up and those poor servicemen that have been abandoned and forgotten will be dead. You give me the key chain and I walk back into camp. Then I release the POWs and it's up to you to get them back to safety while me and my men hightail it out of here."

 

McGarrett’s glance exchanged with Williams was brief, yet conveyed the shared thoughts. So close, they frequently did not need verbalization of impressions, ideas or attitudes. This was such a communiqué, and Danno clearly relayed that he was on board with Steve's revulsion and mistrust of Shay and his plans. There was no way they could comply with the ultimatum. Shay would be freed only to turn on them and send his armed guards into the jungle to kill them. He would never release the prisoners or let Dan or Steve go back with the knowledge they possessed. Plus, Pete was filled with rancor, and his grudges against the detectives were multiplied tenfold since they first collapsed his empire last Christmas. The criminal would do everything in his power to make sure they never left the jungle alive.

 

Since their strained reunion, there had been a subtle tension between them. Danno was hurt and dismayed at Steve's actions and the punch at the riverbank had not assuaged his disturbance. In the silence, in the looks, Steve knew there was going to be hell to pay for this excursion and a lot he would need to do for recompense. Now, though, when the unity between them needed to be strong against a common foe, Danno, as always, was at his side with unquestioned loyalty.

 

With exaggerated courtesy, McGarrett addressed the snake at his feet as he guided Williams away with his hand . “Excuse us for a moment, will you, Pete?”

 

Instantly suspicious, but unable to act upon it, Shay reacted in the same overly polite manner. “Certainly, Steve – take your time – four hours, if you’d like!”

 

Dan shot visual dagger over his shoulder as he followed the taller detective to where their conversation would not be overheard.

 

Williams’ gaze fixed on his boss. "So how do we get them out?"

 

"Let's take another look," McGarrett suggested, and then led the way back up the crest.

 

Dan pointed out that, in the midst of what appeared to be equipment sheds, stood a hut with red signs and the international symbols for explosives. In quiet tones, the officers agreed their best chance – which was a slim one – was to create a diversion with explosives. Then extract the prisoners and make a run for it into the jungle. With one last look at the camp, the two men returned to the base of the hill.

 

Before they made it all the way back to their prisoner’s position, Dan gently grabbed Steve’s arm. “You know that a simple diversion is not gonna cut it.”

 

“You got a better idea?” The Five-0 chief instantly regretted the phrase. The last time he’d said it to his second-in-command was in one of the HPD lock-up interrogation rooms, in the wake of his own “arrest” after the now-much-regretted undercover debacle {episode – A SHORT WALK ON THE LONG SHORE}.

 

The shorter detective flinched slightly – that “interrogation” was burned into his memory as well – but he continued softly. “I don’t know if it’s better, but it will increase the odds that those POWs will make it out of here alive.”

 

Williams’ determined expression told McGarrett that he wasn’t going to like the plan – his detective was already steeling himself for an argument. The senior detective did likewise. With folded arms and head cocked, he whispered, “Okay, Danno, shoot!”

 

“With the sentries placed the way they are – and the guy at the front, and maybe another one at the back of that barracks, nobody will be going in or out without something to take their minds off of their jobs. One of us – me – will create the diversion.”

 

McGarrett was listening intently, but his eyes narrowed as he questioned, “The loud one whereof we spoke?”

 

A smile flickered across Dan’s face as he nodded slightly. “Yeah – I’ll snake my way into where they keep the explosives and rig a blast.”

 

It made sense so far, and Steve had been thinking along these lines as well, but he knew he hadn’t heard the crux of the plan yet. “Go on,” he commanded warily.

 

“That will give you the opportunity to slip into the camp and take care of two things. First – the call for help. I didn’t see any phone lines, but I did spot a ham radio antenna – I could barely make it out, but it’s there.”

 

The Five-0 chief straightened suddenly. “Yeah, Danno… yeah – about a hundred yards east of the POW barracks!”

 

Williams nodded. “Right – I’m betting that everyone will abandon their posts long enough to see what the heck is going on at the other end of the camp. Do you know how to reach Napoleon in Kuala Lumpur?”

 

“He’ll be waiting at the Bin Gwan,” McGarrett confirmed.

 

Dan glanced over his shoulder at Shay before he continued. “As soon as you drop the dime to Kuala Lumpur, you’ll have to beat feet to that barracks. You won’t have very long to assess the situation and get everyone out of there before somebody figures out that the prisoners have been left unguarded. THEN, you’ll high tail it to the trees and wait until you know it’s clear to move.” The younger detective paused and his blue eyes bore into his friend’s before he continued. “If that’s all that happens, the escape will be discovered within the hour, and we’ll have a flock of angry armed thugs after us and our band of walking wounded.”

 

Reluctantly recognizing the truth of what he was hearing, the Five-0 chief’s expression tightened, but did not break eye contact with his second-in-command, who continued with his argument.

 

“You’ll need time, Steve – all night at least.”

 

“What do you mean I’LL need time? Exactly where do you think YOU’LL be?”

 

Williams continued with his train of thought as though he had not heard his boss’s probing question. “There’s a trail that leads south – it intersects with the Rantau about a thousand feet from here. Tell Napoleon you’ll need a welcoming committee to meet you at Sakayu Flats – that’s where the trail ends – it shouldn’t be more than  eight hours by foot. A chopper should be able to find someplace to land in that area.”

 

“You didn’t answer my question – what will YOU be doing?” Steve pressed despite the fact that he already knew.

 

It was a spooky reenactment of their disturbing exchange after Steve had slugged him last year. When Dan had been the defensive opponent objecting to more Lone Ranger antics by his boss. Williams took no satisfaction in being the one with the unsavory plan of lone action. Nor did he feel guilty about his projected ploy – the only plan he thought would succeed.

 

“I’ll make sure they follow me in the opposite direction – toward Jara. I’ll stick to the perimeter of the Rantau Trail as best I can. In the light of day, it would only take me seven or eight hours – it might take me ten or twelve by moonlight. You and the rescue team can meet me there.”

 

McGarrett was already shaking his head before Williams finished speaking. "I don't want us to split up," he definitively countered. This was dangerous enough already. Afraid of what might happen if Williams was not under his personal protection, he could not allow his friend to be alone. The irony of keeping Dan from a solo excursion was not lost on him. "I'll come with you—”

 

"Look at the lay out of the camp! We'll waste too much valuable time running back and forth. I've got to get to the ammo shed and blow it -- the whole bowl of poi. When I do, you've got to be ready to move, Steve!”

 

"Okay! Point taken, but you're gonna set some diversions and get out of there," he cracked harshly.

 

"I WILL get out – as fast as I can, but I can’t lead them back to you!” Williams countered. “The more of them that follow me the better – they’ll be easier to spot.”

 

“Do you hear what you’re saying, Danno?” The lead detective nearly shouted, but realized his volume was too loud when Williams glanced in Shay’s direction. He continued more quietly. “A gang of well-fed, well-rested armed thugs – who knows how many – is going be hot on your trail!”

 

Dan whispered viciously. “We’re here because you thought saving these guys was worth the risk – and I agree! Now this is their best shot – probably their only shot! They’ll never be able to outrun or out-maneuver your well-fed thugs! I at least have a chance!”

 

The head of Five-0 stood there, fists balled up and jaw clenched. Hating the ridiculously risky plan, but unable to come up with a viable alternative, he tried to slow his breathing as he agreed. The two men slowly turned and headed back to where their prisoner – now sitting Indian style – awaited their decision.

 

McGarrett muttered under his breath. “Twelve hours back to Jara – in the dark – I don’t like it!”

 

“I guess you’ll just have to TRUST me this time, Steve!” Williams’ eyes flashed.

 

The older detective could not hide the wound which his friend’s pained barb had widened, but before he could react, Shay laughed. “I wouldn’t trust him either, Steve! Who knows what an amateur like—”

 

The punch was so fast Shay never saw it coming and Steve's outrage sent numbing power through his arm and fist. Seconds later, Williams had the dazed captive gagged again.

 

Prepping for the upcoming endurance hike, Williams quickly re-laced his boots while he snacked on some now-sticky dried apples he’d been carrying in a bag in his pocket. Within minutes, the press of time was upon them and Dan was ready to spring away. Steve held onto his shoulder in a tight, brief grip -- of luck, of affection, of regret that he’d brought about such events to yet again imperil his friend. There was too much to say, not enough time and no way to express what he felt. Throat tight, he nodded, giving a strong pat on the shoulder and hoping he was understood, as he always was by his closest friend.

 

"Be careful, Danno. I’ll see you at Jara."

 

"I'll be there.” His expression was grimly anxious. "Steve – if you can't get them out, promise me that you'll get yourself out."

 

Oaths had been a touchy subject between them lately, and for Danno to ask for one again was a somber concession; still willing to believe his word. McGarrett had no choice. No matter what he could or couldn't do in this jungle with the POWs, he could not break this vow.

 

"I will. And YOU make sure you take care of yourself as well."

 

"Right," Dan agreed, and launched away into the jungle.

 

In a heartbeat, he was gone and McGarrett paused there for a moment, looking into the blackness, staring at the spot where his officer had disappeared, hoping they could both keep their word. Standing, he stared at Shay for a moment – with a look of disgust, he turned away and hurried off in the opposite direction from his friend.

 

 

*****

 

 

While the camp was well lit, there were plenty of shadows and encroaching trees near enough to use for cover. Williams jogged along the walls of the buildings, stopping at each break to watch for guards. At one point, he came to a skidding halt with nothing to conceal him, but the shadow of a tree as two armed sentries strolled by within a few feet of him. The pair spoke conversationally in some language Dan did not recognize. With a laugh, one of them flicked a lit cigarette to the ground at Williams’ feet. Fortunately, neither man looked in his direction, and he stood paralyzed, holding his breath, until they were well past before he made a run for the next pocket of cover. Keeping a wary watch but a fleet pace, he covered a lot of ground in a short time.

 

In the back of his mind, he had to push away the anxiety for Steve, who would have to deal with at least one – probably more – guards to make it to the radio and then to the POW barracks. Could he get the prisoners and get out without attracting attention and gunfire? Was he going to have the strength to leave behind some who could not travel, or who were too slow? Was his sense of survival stronger than his altruistic sense of honor to free POWs? That was why Dan had made him vow, and he hoped Steve would remember and keep his word.

 

A single lock secured the explosive shack and it was easy to break the flimsy hinge rather than tackle the strong padlock. Inside, he had to scan the boxes with his flashlight and quickly assess and open a crate marked TNT. The material was simple and familiar, and fortunately it took him little time to rig an elementary wire and fuse. He made sure the line was long enough for him to make an escape, and then he checked outside to assure it was clear. Guessing… hoping Steve was in place and ready to move, he took a deep breath, struck a match, and lit the fuse. He started to make a run for it, but noticed an errant stick of dynamite – the last one in the bottom of a box – within easy reach. Instantly recognizing the possibilities of the explosive, he snatched it, and ran headlong out the akimbo door.

 

He was almost to the forest edge when the world seemed to shake and shatter around him. The shock wave blew him over a line of bushes and into the trunk of a tree. Ears ringing, he took cover under a huge fern as dirt and splinters of wood rained atop his shelter. Dashing to his feet, he staggered, dazed from the physical and auditory rock and roll.

 

Righting himself against a tree, he peered at the camp to assess his success. Smiling and exhilarated at the commotion, he could make out the barracks guard in the distance leaving his post and heading towards the epicenter of the blast. Other men were staggering slowly out of another main building shouting. One of them gestured toward the POW quarters and Dan realized that – OF COURSE – the prime suspect in the attack would be an escaped prisoner!

 

With no time to choreograph his distraction, he impulsively burst from his hiding place and raced headlong towards a prone figure thirty feet away. His heart leapt as he saw the AK-47 rifle protruding from beneath the unconscious man. He made a homerun-style slide for the weapon and unceremoniously yanked it free. Popping the safety off, he fired two shots in the air, and sprang to his feet. The noise produced the desired result – every man within Dan’s sight turned towards him – and to the detective’s specific relief, the thugs heading toward the barracks diverted as well. His joy was short-lived though as he became cognizant of his own immediate peril. Several shots zinged close to him – a couple whizzed by his head within inches.

 

Firing a spray of bullets back in the direction of the men closest to his position, he saw three men drop as he spun and fled towards the tree line. Williams turned once during his sprint for cover, and pulled the trigger on the rifle only to find the weapon was out of ammunition. With rounds flying all around him he dropped the AK-47, fumbled his hand into his pocket, to grab the cigarette lighter. Igniting the stick of TNT in his hand, the detective flung it backwards over his head, within a second the percussion wave pushed him forward, but did not knock him down. Just before he dove into the green foliage, he looked over his shoulder, and horror pierced him like a bullet – Pete Shay – his hands still cuffed in front of him – was rushing toward him with a tall, balding haole clinging to one of his elbows! There was no doubt in Williams’ mind that the man attached to his former prisoner was in charge – he was pointing in the detective’s direction and shouting, “Get them!”

 

With no time to analyze the implication of Shay’s appearance at that moment, Dan slipped into the darkness, and rushed as quickly as the plant matter would allow toward the trail. Flashlights behind him gave him the unlikely advantage of knowing from whence his pursuers were coming. As he wove his way toward the trail, which he intended to cross and parallel toward Jara, his thoughts snaked along in similar fashion. Shay had somehow managed to free himself… Or perhaps a sentry on patrol had stumbled across him? With satisfaction, he recalled that the former NI operative believed that all of them – Steve and the rescued prisoners included – would be trying to make their way to Jara! Had the viper remained secured to the Mangrove root, he would’ve been surprised when Steve returned to collect him for the trip to Sekayu Flats, but now – to Dan’s way of thinking – it was better this had not happened -- Steve would have his hands full enough without having to deal with his former friend-turned-low-life-scum.

 

 

*****

 

 

The explosion was frightening and it took a moment for McGarrett to recover from the shocking jar blasting across the compound. On an emotional level, it was even more staggering, knowing his friend was over there too close to ground zero. True, Danno was an explosives expert and knew what he was doing. Still, it was unnerving that the plan was so effective, and in such a spectacular way. Knowing survival meant sticking to the plot; as soon as he saw the sentries bolting towards the source of the blast, he sprinted directly to the radio shack. To his relief, the single-room hut was empty, and the older ham radio was already warmed up. It only took the head of Five-0 a minute to make contact with an operator and make the scratchy connection to the Bin Gwan Hotel. To his surprise, an unfamiliar voice with a British accent answered the phone.

 

“Bin Gwan Hotel.”

 

“I’m looking for a guest there – a Mister Holmes,” McGarrett enunciated as he peered through the only window in the hut and watched the chaos around the fire in the distance.

 

“Mister Holmes, you say? Is this Mister Henley?”

 

The Five-0 chief felt a measure of relief welling up in his gut as he replied. “Yes, yes, it is!”

 

“And do you have a message for Mister Holmes, old boy?”

 

“Yes – please tell him my party would like to make a reservation for dawn at Sakayu Flats.”

 

The detective closed his eyes gunfire cracked in the distance. Opposition for Danno. He flinched, hearing closer shots coming from what had to be the guards shooting back at his friend. 'Don't make yourself a target, aikane.'  Summoning the faith to believe Danno was able to take care of himself even against staggering odds, he pushed his mind back to his own mission.

 

“I’d be delighted to pencil you in if you’ll just tell me how many are in your party, sir.”

 

“I’m not sure, but it could be up to two dozen.”

 

“Two dozen, you say? I believe Mister Holmes was expecting a more – intimate group.” The voice expertly masked any surprise he might have felt.

 

Before McGarrett could explain, another explosion in the distance caught him off guard as the lights flickered and the power went off, instantly breaking the radio connection. With no small amount of relief, he knew the message had been received.

 

“Onward and upward,” the detective muttered as he made sure the coast was clear before bolting back to the barracks. He glanced around the exterior before he removed the crude barricade from the door and entered.

 

Revolver in hand, he scanned the long room with a flashlight. No guards. Men on cots. Most of them were sitting up in groggy wonder. Around twenty-five men that wore ragged, faded, denim fatigues shielded their eyes from the roaming light. From what he saw at first glance -- as bad as he expected physically – nobody was completely incapacitated. A few even sat on the edge of the cots ready to spring -- the mark of a trained serviceman ready for action. He scrutinized the faces, momentarily disappointed that O’Neill was not among them, but then looked closer. Amazing!! That looked like Shep, his former handball mate!  Or was it? The thin, bearded, scarred man could not be – maybe -- this was no time for a reunion, though.

 

"This is a rescue, gentlemen," he announced crisply. "My name is McGarrett. We're getting out of here now."

 

Shouts in the distance renewed the Five-0 chief’s sense of urgency – he could not waste his friend’s excellent distraction. "Come on! My associate is engaged in a diversionary action. We've got to leave now!" he ordered. "Everybody who can walk make your way to the forest. Anyone who can't, get help and move out!"

 

His vow to his friend clearly etched in his mind, he was the first one out the door, watching for guards, ready in case they appeared, but none came. He urged the men to run and get clear. Skipping, watching behind, trying to spot the action on Danno's end of the compound, he made it to he trees and urged the limping, tottering men to hurry.

 

Expecting horrible physical limitations of the prisoners, Steve was emotionally staggered at the sight of the men. Almost grateful it was too dark to see clearly, he nearly wept at the scrawny, emaciated beings who shuffled past him. Bearded, gaunt cheeked, hollow eyed, they looked like ragged, skinny caricatures of children playing soldiers as they saluted him and folded in behind him in the shelter of the foliage.

 

Too choked to speak, he motioned them along to a trail and did not stop to take a head count, ask for a commanding officer, or inquire if anyone needed help. If he slowed down or allowed this to get any more personal, he would not make it out with any of these men. Tears in his eyes for them, for the wretched memories dredged up within from his own horrid experiences as a POW, he forged the way to the trail.

 

Issuing a terse, but confident instruction to the escapees, he explained that he would return momentarily. There was no way Steve would leave Pete to be discovered and freed. Leaving the men in the bushes on the ridge, he slid and jogged down the slope to the Mangrove stream,  appalled to find nobody attached to the roots! The spy had managed to free himself, or had help. The frightening summation was that the monster was unleashed! 

 

A new terror entered his thoughts – Shay knew that Danno carried the coveted key chain. If Pete had anything to do with it – and Steve knew that he did – every miscreant with a gun would be tracking Five-0’s second-in-command – and Shay KNEW where his friend was heading!

 

His feet turned to race back to the compound and get Danno, but he stopped, as he remembered the faces of the weak and practically defenseless men on the ridge. Their empty eyes and wan expressions still bore the imprint of captivity, subjugation, and pain. They could not make it out of the jungle on their own. He could not make them turn around and go back to their pit of agony. In one of the most anguished decisions of his life, he ascended the hill and led his group away -- marking steps away from their prison and away from any aid he might render to keep his friend alive.

 

 

*****

 

 

“Look at this, Shay! You know what this means? DO YOU? Well lemme tell you what it means! It means that we been tracking ONE – do you here me – ONE FAST, SLIPPERY BUGGER – NOT TWENTY FIVE holey-shoed misfits!”  McDowell, Shay’s long-time accomplice who now served as the dam project foreman, hissed as he scanned the moist ground with the flashlight beam. A dozen other armed locals milled around in the darkness near to where  McDowell and Pete Shay were having their argument.

 

Shay and his confederates had been on the Rantau trail for nearly four hours and kept finding signs that their quarry was just ahead. But now, they’d reached a river crossing – the most accessible one for a nighttime crossing – and found only one set of human foot prints. That fact, in conjunction with the foreman’s knowledge of his laborers’ physical conditions, pushed the man to dismiss his associate’s insistence that all of the escapees were heading toward Jara.

 

McDowell pressed his issue angrily as Shay ran a hand across his face. “ONE of your pals came this way to throw us off – the other one probably headed off in the opposite direction with my convict labor!”

 

“They’re not my PALS!” Pete responded with a strained long-suffering patience. “They’re our tickets outta here. Williams has got something with him that will enable us to live like kings for the rest of our lives."

 

“Yeah, you said that already! I’m sayin’ that we’re gonna turn around and go after the escapees!” McDowell turned to walk away, but Shay grabbed his arm.

 

“Listen to me – we’re on Williams’ trail – I can see it now! Steve headed off one way with the prisoners and his mad bomber took off this way to throw us off!”

 

"But what if that bloke gets away with those men, Pete?"

 

“Alright, send your men back after Steve and his gang of feeble leg irons – they’ve got to be leaving a trail a mile wide! BUT you and I go on after Williams!” Shay’s voice grew more conciliatory. "Mac, trust me - even if Steve were to make good with an escape, it won't matter if we catch up with Danny boy!"

 

McDowell eyed Shay suspiciously for several seconds before he breathed a pained sigh. “Okay – YOU and I go on after Williams with the treasure chest in his pocket, BUT we’re gonna hafta wait here until daybreak – it’s too dangerous to go into the Taman Negara in the black of night.”

 

Pete started to object, but his associate cut him off. “Look – if Williams is crazy enough to keep moving, we won’t find him before something makes a midnight snack of him!”

 

Shay frowned, staring into the dark jungle just beyond the reach of their flashlight beams. Without much reluctance, he relented. “Here’s to hoping that Danny is as smart as Steve says.”

 

 

*****

 

 

With each pace down the trailhead, he found less and less attention to the possible dangers around him from the jungle, less awareness of the shuffling gaits, the moans or pain, the stifled and nobly muffled groans of aches and suffering from the barefoot, injured, weak, years-tethered prisoners. Hardly a word passed between the commanding rescuer and his charges. They knew the vital urgency of escape. They understood what lay behind them to flee from and what waited ahead if they were recaptured. He wagered most of the men would welcome death rather than a return to captivity after breathing the rarified and deliciously intoxicating hope of unfettered freedom. Rather than suffer anew, rather than be crushed under the heel of oppressors, they would die fighting again.

 

And how would he feel if he freed these men he did not know and lost his closest ally and friend? He could not fathom that agony. Yet it was a real hazard lurking, ever present, in the shadows of his mind. Shay did not know the plan, but what the former spy believed their plan to be was – to Steve’s great distraction – a great danger to Williams. Danno was to return to Jara via the Rantau Trail. Pete had obviously not escaped in time to prevent his officer from proceeding with his diversionary measures, but it must have been close. It was apparent that nobody was tracking Steve and his charges – yet. The implication? That Danno had successfully led Shay and his men towards Jara. But how long could his friend, who had to be bone weary, stay ahead of harm? Danno had a map and had familiarized himself with the lay of the land very well on the trek inward. Danno knew hiking and survival, and he loved the outdoors, stretching his athletic abilities, and was invigorated by the one-on-one challenge. Would that be enough to best Shay and a group of angry native mercenaries?

 

Feeling the pace slacken with each meter, the shuffling, limping, slow gaits deteriorate to heavy staggering; Steve restrained the urge to rush ahead. He had to stay with these men and protect them. So he slowed, distressed that, here on this tropical trail in the dark of night, his destiny – and that of his friend’s – seemed beyond his control. He was not the master of his fate…

 

 

*****

 

 

Light from the moon illuminated the uneven, muddy trail as Williams moved along the rain forest’s edge as quickly as conditions would allow. Noises, which could only be classified as scary, filled the humid air, and Dan wondered what eyes in tune with the lack of light studied him with thoughts of a tasty meal in mind.

 

Pushing recognition of his helplessness to the back of his thoughts, he pressed on, knowing that he needed to get to the rendezvous point before Steve got there and assumed he needed help. Thoughts of his mentor brought new concerns – how was Steve doing with his new charges? Dan hoped the men would be able to keep up on the trek to the extraction point. Had they done the right thing? The potentially fool-hardy operation had seemed the only viable alternative at the time, but now, as the detective struggled northward, in the opposite direction from McGarrett and his party, he debated whether they could have intervened in some other way – one that did not involve being tracked through the rain forest like a wild animal.

 

More than once, he thought he heard a man-made sound, and each time, he detoured into the jungle flora for several hundred feet before emerging onto the easier-to-traverse path.

 

Williams’ break-neck-paced walk deteriorated farther towards a rushed stroll with each stumble and misstep. Finally, a loud crack behind him – something heavy dropping onto a downed tree branch he thought – heightened his senses for the umpteenth time that night. With only a glance over his shoulder, he jogged into the dense foliage and stopped when he reached a tree, the smooth trunk of which was wider than Dan was tall. There he leaned to catch his breath and take a tug of water from his nearly empty canteen. Somewhere not too far from his position, something screamed – it wasn’t human, but Dan recognized it as a terrified warning cry. He cautiously let himself drop to the ground between two monster roots. A short rest until daylight was in order. Getting killed by some predator, he reasoned, would certainly lose him his role as a decoy. In a flash of typical graveyard humor, a smirk crossed his face as he considered how angry Shay would be if the key chain ended up in the belly of a tiger or crocodile. With the pleasant fantasy of his nemesis exploding – literally – in rage, Williams’ eyes closed.

 

 

*****

 

 

Fingers of orange had begun to push their way upward from the trees hiding the eastern horizon by the time McGarrett and his weary band of refugees had reached Sekayu Flats. Steve allowed the men to collapse and rest. He had pushed them as far as he could – fortunately it had been enough.

 

At the first opportunity -- the man he thought might be Shep – wordlessly hugged him, sobbing, finally whispering his name. Hardly touching his old acquaintance, he gently patted him on the shoulder, fighting not to weep. Most of the other men still on their feet joined in to touch or embrace him, or give him a weak handshake. Keeping an eye on the trails in both directions, he tried to speak with the men, but found no words were adequate and he – they – nodded or whispered heartfelt thanks. A few spoke names, ranks, but mostly gratitude pouring out at him. Humbled and upset, he rejected any personal thanks and insisted it was a team effort. His partner was as responsible as he was for the escape.

 

The familiar drone of a chopper alerted all of them. Some of the soldiers cowered; some took refuge in the nearby forest. Some came to their feet and determined to meet their fate standing, proud and free men. Clearing the dirt for the helicopter, Steve kept his revolver in his hand and lurked in the tree line until he saw familiar faces -- Napoleon Solo and Illya Kuryakin, leaning out of the wide door of the military Huey. The spies waved and McGarrett waved back.

 

The POWs shouted for joy at the recognizable US military craft. Many saluted, tears streaming down their grimy faces. The craft was not marked with Army insignias, but it was a GIs symbol of aid, reinforcements, and hope. As soon as it touched down, McGarrett stepped forward and shook hands with Solo and Kuryakin.

 

Moving away from the rotors, Solo took a moment to survey the crowd, then addressed the detective. "Goof was right. I'm sure you have an explanation for all these -- uh -- refugees?"

 

"POWs, Napoleon," Steve crisply corrected, stopping to watch a rotund man in a linen suit and Panama hat exit the chopper. The man tipped his hat to the soldiers, saluting with the umbrella he incongruously carried. "Some scum-of-the-earth types connected with Shay have been using them as slave labor."

 

"Since Vietnam?" Illya wondered, nodding to the men who were crowding around. “That is horrible indeed.”

 

"Yes, and I’m glad you called ahead and made arrangements with Goof," Solo agreed.

 

McGarrett glanced in the direction of the small helicopter – it would hold no more than six people, the detective was certain as he frowned. “I don’t know who this Goof is, but from the size of the chopper, it looks to me like he made a huge mistake.”

 

With a relaxed grin, Napoleon placed his hand on the Five-0 chief’s back as he pointed to the sky. “Goof rarely goofs, Steve – a cargo chopper is thirty seconds from our position.”

 

Before the dapper spy finished his sentence, the chokka chokka of chopper blades could be heard. McGarrett and the others backed up to avoid flying debris as the large helicopter settled onto the blown-horizontal grass. The rotors had not stopped turning when the long door on the side of the copter slid open and a heavy-set man in a slightly-dingy white seersucker suit dropped to the ground, and surveyed the flock of eyes looking in his direction. Steve immediately recognized the familiar figure as the loitering guest at the Bin Gwan. With a nod to Napoleon and Illya, the man bounded with surprising alacrity toward them.

 

“Gentlemen, my apologies for my tardiness – it took me fifteen seconds longer than anticipated to acquire the appropriate type of transportation for your group.”

 

Illya glanced at his watch and coolly rejoined, “Actually, Goof, you are thirty seconds late.”

 

The Russian turned and trotted to the cargo chopper door, where he began issuing instructions to the pilot and co-pilot – his gestures indicated they pertained to the newly freed men.

 

With a short harrumph, the newcomer with the proper British accent scanned the faces and stopped on McGarrett’s as he muttered, “Blasted humidity has probably tampered with my watch.”

 

Feeling the pressure of time, the head of Five-0 felt his jaw tense. There was no time for banter, and he opened his mouth to express the thought, but the Brit stepped forward and grasped Steve’s hand. “Gottfried Brooks, sir – Goof to my friends – and enemies. I bumped into your man – Williams, is it – at the Bin Gwan the other day. Speaking of Williams – I anticipated a formal introduction here.”

 

A pall of heartfelt dread came over Napoleon’s normally unflappable expression. “Steve… Danny wasn’t…”

 

“No!  No, he wasn’t – but he’s in terrible danger.” McGarrett tersely supplied, praying to himself that he was correct. “It’s a long story – I’ve got to get to Jara now!”

 

The spies exchanged glances and Steve, at the side of his mind, had an image of what he and Danno must look like when they exchanged a mental-telepathy-type silent message, as was natural to them… as commonplace as it was for Solo and Kuryakin.

 

Expression smooth, Solo released a slight smile. "Our friends will take charge of your entourage, and you can regale Illya and me with your fascinating tale while we’re en route to Jara in the Huey.”

 

Mentally calculating the speed at which these spies must have traveled half the globe to get here, he was amazed that, as usual, Solo was as natty as if he had just walked out of an outfitters showroom in London. The creases in his bush jacket and matching trousers were still visible and the shine on his brown boots seemed military quality. Kuryakin, practically attired in khaki pants and t-shirt, wore a functional bush vest, the pockets overloaded and bulging with materials about which he could only silently speculate. From what he knew of the slightly built, wiry Russian, whatever he brought would be cunning and deadly.

 

Given the desperate plight in which he suspected he would find his friend, McGarrett was suddenly grateful for the calming influence he found in the presence of the two very capable spies and their resourceful British confederate. Nodding his agreement, he started for the Huey. As the craft lifted off the ground, he offered a tentative wave to his fellow former POWs, who were being beckoned to the cargo chopper by its co-pilot.

 

With curt words, upon pressing questions, he brought them up to date on the situation and the urgency to find Williams. Neither spy asked for elaboration, and Steve was grateful for the laconic need-to-know attitude for once. These two were veteran covert operatives and had the advantage of knowing him and Danno. No need to go into detail about his oppressive urgency to find his friend. No need to second-guess the spies’ skills either. He was certain that , if needed, he had the best at his disposal today. Now all they had to do was find Danno in time to utilize the talent.

 

 

*****

 

 

A smell… a gamey, unpleasant animal smell slowly registered in Dan’s consciousness and he opened his eyes. The dawn light added an almost surreal shadow to the alien faces examining him. Adrenalin flooded into his blood stream as he instinctively tensed and scrambled to a more upright position. The sudden movement caused a flurry of action and startled screams from the primates, which seemed to be all around him. The detective caught his breath and forced himself to control his fight-or-flight response as he evaluated the band of curious creatures, which he recognized as Macaques of some sort. Another wave of gratitude to the National Geographic Society washed over him – he knew better than to make too much direct eye contact with the head honcho – the only one who hadn’t backed off when he’d moved. He knew he was being evaluated at this very moment. Trouble maker… not trouble maker?

 

Despite the urge to keep his focus trained on the obviously unafraid male now three feet in front of him, Dan scanned the rest of the troupe. With grayish brown tufts of fur protruding from the sides of their angry countenances (or so it seemed to the disadvantaged detective), some were as large as thirty five to forty pounds, while the smaller ones were no more than a few pounds. Mothers clutched their infants protectively as they suspiciously eyed the interloper. A braver soul slowly wandered up to stand next to the head honcho. Not sure what else he could do to reassure them that he wanted nothing more than to be on his way, Dan slowly pulled a handful of dried fruit from his pocket and gingerly tossed it at the feet of the Macaque chieftain.

 

To Williams’ relief, the move did not startle the creature, whose eyes looked down to study the offering before collecting a dried apple and sniffing it. The young buck – slightly less cautious than the dominant male stepped forward and collected his own treat from the ground. It was, to Dan’s dismay, this move that caused the head honcho to erupt in rage. He screamed and smacked the young fool who had the impudence to make such a move without permission. The smaller creature reacted with the appropriate fright as he himself screamed suddenly jumped into the unprepared detective’s arms. Wide-eyed with surprise, Dan could do nothing but clutch back as he realized that both of them were in the same leaky boat at this moment. The head honcho opened his mouth to show his teeth as he continued to shout and shake his fists at the pair. Williams was shocked as his partner in fear buried his face in Dan’s shirt and shook.

 

Deciding that it was now up to him to get them out of this mess, Dan rose quickly and, taking care to step over the large root behind him, turned and jogged off towards the clearing, his new “friend” clinging to him like a leech.

 

“What an alarm clock!” Williams muttered as he tried to get his own shaking under control. The threatening screams continued, but none of the creatures seemed interested in following him. He trotted at least half a mile before he took stock of himself and his surroundings. Grateful that no rain seemed imminent he leaned on a rock and gently tried to pry the twenty-something-pound, clingy Macaque from his torso.

 

“Come on, guy – what kind of coward are you anyway?” He complained softly, but the creature would not be convinced. Instead, it sidled closer and tightened its hold with a slight whimper.

 

Sighing, Dan pulled the last handful of dried apples from his pocket and popped one into his mouth. He surveyed the scene and looked up the trail. If his trajectory through the night had been on the money, then the meeting point was only another mile or so up the trail. Reminding himself that he had something Pete Shay would kill to have, he decided to re-enter the rain forest for the last leg of his journey. It would take a little longer – and he would probably end up soaked again – but the risk that he would be caught off guard was diminished dramatically.

 

His attention returned to his companion. “How ‘bout some breakfast, friend?” He gently pushed an apple slice towards the creature’s nose, which was hidden against the detective’s chest. “Let’s have a bite to eat – then you can take the leftovers home and make up with the king.”

 

The Macaque took one sniff, and then another less hesitantly. Finally, he released his hold on Dan with one hand, at least, and accepted the fruit. He seemed to relax a bit as he chewed, glancing furtively at Dan and then at the surrounding landscape. In this part of the world, there was no such thing as a relaxing meal. As the pair continued to dine on the sticky treats, the primate left the safety of his protector’s chest and moved to sit on the rock next to him. After a couple more minutes, the detective bent over and re-tied his shoes.

 

“Ya know, you sort of remind me of Bill Harris in the DA’s office – any relation?” When the gnashing of teeth was the only response, Dan added, “A cousin maybe? Well, I’ll be sure and give him your regards.”

 

The detective stretched and then studied the last few pieces of apple for a few moments before tossing them onto the rock. “As promised. It was nice to make your acquaintance, but I’ve got places to go and crooks to catch.”

 

The primate eyed the man and continued to chew as Williams retreated toward the protective foliage. It only took Dan a couple of minutes to realize that he was no longer traveling alone. Stopping to dawn his gloves, he looked back to see his breakfast companion five feet behind him. With a grimace, Williams shook his head. “Ah, c’mon, cousin! Go back to your family! They’ll take you back – you might have to grovel a bit, but it beats the heck out of stalking a cop through the jungle!”

 

The Macaque ignored the command and defensively scanned the area for predators while his traveling companion did the odd human thing with his hands – grooming probably.

 

With a shake of his head at the stubborn creature, Dan climbed over a large tree root and slapped away some overgrown leaves which blocked his view. “Suit yourself, buddy! I don’t want hear any whining though!”

 

Sniffing the familiar air, the primate scratched the side of his head before he scampered after his leader. Humans make too much noise…

 

Already knowing that the trip around the swampy area before him would take too long, Dan waded into water and began to weave his way through the tangled Mangrove roots. His little cousin kept dry by taking to the tree branches, but offered occasional encouragement with a gentle whimper.

 

The mile-long trip was miserably slow, but after his journey the other direction with Steve and Shay the day before, he better knew how to maneuver through the environs. Where possible, he went over roots instead of under them even if the under would have been quicker – the less exposure to the rank, teaming-with-life water, the better. Exhausted, he forced himself to fall into a rhythm as he climbed and slipped and pushed his way through the water, always careful to feel the ground beneath him before trusting that it was there. His weary mind wandered again to his friend. He hoped Steve had been able to get those poor guys to safety – and manage to stay safe himself.

 

His distracted, fatigued, zone-out musings ended abruptly as his Macaque sentry sounded a soft alarm. He quickly scanned the water for signs of a crocodile or large snake, but saw nothing ominous. With an annoyed glance upward, the damp detective leaned his foot sideways to release the suction holding his boot in place. “Hurry up? You just keep your eyes open for anything that might eat us!”

 

Grabbing the smooth root directly in front of him, he prepared to throw his leg over it and move on, but a sharp pain stabbed at his left wrist. Pulling back quickly he clutched the offended area and looked up to see the top sixteen inches of what he might have – under other circumstances – considered to be a beautiful yellow and green snake. Projecting anger into the creature’s visage, Dan gasped as it opened its mouth and hissed at him – apparently, he’d inadvertently disturbed it as it relaxed in the Mangrove root hollow. It appeared to stand there, indignant at the intrusion, for several seconds before it turned abruptly and retreated into the water.

 

“Or bite us,” Dan groaned as he tugged his handkerchief from his shirt pocket and wrapped it tightly around his wrist. Grimacing, he looked up at the Macaque clinging to a tree branch overhead as a current of dizziness swept him backward. Momentarily forgetting the burning sensation on his arm, and suddenly dizzy, he reached out and grabbed a leafy branch to steady himself.

 

“I tried to warn you, human!” The primate chastised with a wag of his finger.

 

Williams slowed his breathing down and continued to clutch the dangling branch until he reached the more stable Mangrove root. “Too little too late,” he snapped. He leaned on the tree and pushed on the wound – it didn’t seem to be bleeding much. “I wonder what kind of snake that was.”

 

“Don’t you subscribe to National Geographic?”

 

Defensiveness edged into Williams’ tone. “I read my boss’s, but I can’t remember what it said about snakes in the Taman Negara.”

 

The creature lowered himself to Dan’s level and sniffed, “Well, you’re lucky you’re not dead already – they’re all poisonous to varying degrees.”

 

The detective closed his eyes and listened to the strangely amplified sound of his heart pounding in his chest. His mouth was suddenly dry, but he licked his lips to speak. “What did you say your name was?”

 

“My name is Dan, but my friends call me Danny.”

 

Williams slowly opened his eyes and looked over at the furry creature which hovered by his head. “Whoa! What a coincidence – that’s my name too!” Dan flexed the fingers of his left hand, resulting in a blade of pain shooting up his arm to his shoulder, and – it seemed – into his heart. His face twisted in pain and he cried out.

 

“You need to get to a doctor, Danny,” the Macaque advised. “Dry ground is right there only thirty feet away. It’s not safe here.”

 

“Yeah,” the detective agreed as he inhaled and cautiously continued his arduous, sluggish trek through the swamp. Less than a minute later he crawled onto the ground, which was firm enough to support his weight, but still spongy. He lay there for several minutes and let his primate advisor pat him on the back. Mumbling, Dan struggled to recall a pneumonic. “Let’s see… mmm… what’s that poem about poisonous snakes? Red before yellow, dangerous fellow, yellow before red, pat ‘em on the head…. Hmmm.” Williams frowned as he slowly rolled over and dropped onto his back. “What about yellow before green?”

 

Dan’s eyes snapped open as a human voice called out loudly from a distance.

 

“Anything?”

 

It came from the clearing and the detective knew instantly it was Pete Shay!

 

“No, but he must be close by – he’ll have to come out of the jungle at one of the trail heads, and this is the closest one to Jara!” Another voice shouted back.

 

Willing the dizziness to the background, he rolled over again and crawled on his belly under a blanket of vines. Now disguised as a plant, he gently lifted his head and gazed toward the area devoid of the large rain forest trees. A bedraggled Pete Shay, a rifle of some sort in one hand, and one other armed man – a tall, red-haired man who was all too familiar -- McDowell  Shay’s accomplice from Honolulu.  The man who tried to kill him last December.  The old enemies were trudging twenty feet apart, the pair no more than a hundred feet from the camouflaged detective.

 

“We can hide here until they pass,” the furry Dan whispered.

 

Dan shook his head slightly. “No, Dan, we can’t. Steve won’t rest until this guy is in custody, and frankly, at this point, neither will I. We’ve got to capture him.”

 

The primate gave an exasperated sigh. “And exactly how do we do that? You might be dying from a poisonous snake bite – and me – well, I’m a ferocious fighter when cornered, but I am only two feet tall and unarmed.”

 

Williams turned his vine-covered head towards his associate. “I have something he wants.” Dan leaned on one side enough to extract the key chain from his pocket. His thin smile slowly vanished as he mused. “Fishing, this is a fishing trip, you know. All I need is a way to subdue him after I lure him in. I wish Steve were here – I could use a friend… no offense, Dan.”

 

“None taken, Danny,” the Macaque winked and grinned. “You should remember though that while the jungle is full of enemies, it’s also full of friends if you recognize them.”

 

The detective considered the primate’s words for several seconds before he smiled and nodded. “You’re one smart Macaque, Dan!”

 

 

*****

 

 

Muffled because of the thick trees and flora of the jungle, the rushing water of the stream, they did not hear the voices until nearly upon the clearing. Steve exchanged a silent glance with Solo – both recognizing the voice of Pete Shay.

 

Kuryakin nodded ahead to a thinning of some bushes and the trio crept forward, dropping to their stomachs to edge through the underbrush. Through a separation in the large leaves, he spotted the bizarre tableau and sucked in a covert gasp at the sight.

 

McGarrett rushed forward, but Solo seized onto his arm with a formidable grip. “Don’t leap in,” he warned with barely a whisper. “It could prove fatal for Dan and us, Steve. Let’s observe first.”

 

Not liking the advice, he knew it was prudent. Hard to tell what was happening with Danno, and jumping suddenly into a precarious situation could  incite hazard for all of them. Okay, he would assess the situation first, then help Danno.

 

 

*****

 

 

Flying insects dotted the air over the swamp, which extended backward into the darkness of the jungle. Shay and his man both almost jumped simultaneously at the sight on an island in the middle of the murky, stagnant water. Detective Dan Williams stood there, hands boldly on his hips – with a long-tailed Macaque on his right shoulder. His baseball cap, pushed back on his head, no longer hid the ringlets of hair which sparkled with moisture. A large crocodile, possibly seven feet in length, rested the bulk of its weight on the small island twenty feet behind the detective, who did not seem to have any qualms about the predator’s close proximity.

 

 

*****

 

 

Steve was dumbfounded -- what was going on? Danno – and a monkey -- on a rock with a crocodile!  Shay and his man, both armed with rifles, trotted forward and canted them in the direction of his friend, who seemed completely un-phased by the deadly threats surrounding him. Rising to his knees in preparation for launching toward the clearing, he felt the grip of hands as Solo and Kuryakin both stopped him.

 

“You’re going to start a lot of shooting,” Napoleon hissed. “Let your detective handle this –“

 

“Pete is going to shoot him –“

 

“Not yet,” Solo cautioned. “Give him a chance.” He hefted the Walther P38 in his hand. “We’re ready to assist,” he vowed. “It’s our specialty; coming to the rescue, remember?”

 

It was a slight comfort that the Russian was already aiming his automatic at Shay. As hard as it was to lie in wait and watch Danno in the center of extreme danger, he knew the spies were correct – wait and watch and don’t tip the precarious balance his friend was managing.

 

 

*****

 

 

“Hello, Pete! McDowell!  Only two of you? You really should’ve called if so many of your party were going to cancel!” Dan greeted with a thin smile.

 

With a glance towards his colleague and then a quick survey of the area, Shay recovered from the surprise quickly. Removing his own hat and wiping his brow with the back of his arm, he grinned cordially. “Danny! I’m sorry ‘bout that, but when we figured out that only one pair of foot prints was heading in this direction, my other associates turned around to catch up with Steve and his old-home-week gang! I would’ve loved to have caught up with you AND Steve today, but to be honest, the only thing I care about at this moment is my key chain. I hope you haven’t lost it.” The former NI operative’s voice turned steely cold despite the smile. “Because if you did…”

 

“Oh no, Pete! I’ve got the darned thing right here!” The detective seemed to pull the object from nowhere and let it dangle from his right index finger.

 

Shay, anticipation registering on his face, took a few steps forward to the edge of the swamp and McDowell followed suit.

 

“The truth is that I want you to have this key chain, Pete. All I want is for my friend and I to walk out of here in one piece.”

 

“Your friend?” Shay and McDowell both quickly shot suspicious glances around the area. Their full attention was recaptured by the scene on the island when the Macaque screamed at them.

 

Dan frowned slightly and looked toward the creature by his head. “No, Danny – it’s NOT worth an introduction.”

 

“What?” Shay snapped impatiently.

 

Suddenly, the previously immobile crocodile groaned loudly and lethargically shifted his position before he came to a halt again.

 

Williams calmly glanced over his shoulder. “Maybe later, Steve!”

 

“You been smokin’ somethin’, Danny boy?”

 

“Never mind! All you have to do is remove the ammo from your weapons – all of them. Then I’ll toss the key chain over to you! That way, if I decide I want to leave, I’ll have plenty of time to make it back into the jungle before you can lock and load again.” Williams let a smile slip onto his face again. “How ‘bout it, Pete? I don’t have all day!”

 

Still suspicious, Shay looked over at his thug and shrugged. “Empty your weapon!”

 

“Remove the rounds from the magazines, boys!” Williams commanded cheerfully.

 

Dozens of individual bullets dropped to the muddy ground in short order, and within thirty seconds, Shay looked up and nodded his concession to the detective.

 

 

*****

 

 

Alarmed at the crazy dialog Danno was having with himself, Steve again poised to spring out of hiding, especially now that Danno had tricked the spy into disarming, but was again restrained. That his friend acting like he had jungle fever  heightened Steve’s concern. Danno was not himself!

 

“He’s -- I don’t know what – but something’s wrong!  He’s standing there with a crocodile at his back!  And that thing – that monkey is a Macaque! Pete is unarmed – now let me go!”

 

Kuryakin placed a strong arm across McGarrett’s shoulders, inhibiting the possibility of a quick sprint into the fray.

 

“I submit,” the Russian whispered, “Dan’s insecure associations are another reason for us to be patient. A sudden movement, as us springing from the bushes, or starting a firefight, might well annoy either OR both of the creatures. That would not be good for the person standing on the croc’s island, or someone with a wild, and unpredictably dangerous primate on his shoulder.”

 

Irritated at the objective, yet tersely delivered lecture, Steve knew it was right. Both jungle animals could be fatal to a human and, short of that, hazardously maiming. Napoleon and Illya had considerably more experience in the jungles than he did, and from a sheer tactical point of view, it was an accurate assessment. It didn’t make it any easier to sit on the sidelines and watch his friend – literally in the midst of peril -- endure a tense showdown alone.

 

“Besides,” Solo half-smiled. “I kind of like the kid’s style, Steve. Let him play it out. He’s obviously got a cunning plan. Give him the chance to finish it.” He smiled at Illya. “Maybe we missed a prime opportunity at recruitment here.”

 

Bristling at the typical bantering humor, Steve kept a close eye on Shay. It would be so like the old spy to have a last literal or figurative trick up his sleeve.

 

 

*****

 

 

“Okay, Danny! We honored our part of the bargain – now toss me the key chain!” Pete smiled and held his rifle with a single hand out from his body.

 

Dan nodded and, in the tradition of a trebuchet fulcrum, flung the chain – not to Shay, but to McDowell, who held his hands up and caught the flying object before it could smack him in the face. He barely had a second to examine the object, which had been the focus of such an intense search, before Shay dove in his direction and grabbed the object from the surprised project manager. Pete studied the key chain for a few seconds before he turned his attention back on Williams, who – to Pete’s mild surprise – had made no move to make a getaway.

 

“You didn’t go to any great pains to keep it clean, but it seems to be undamaged!”

“Now that you have it back, do you want to share with me what it opens?” Dan asked casually.

 

“You’re a strange one, Williams – you KNOW I’m getting ready to collect my bullets and fill you full of lead – and you COULD be running for your life. Instead, you stand around with that monkey on your back in an alligator pit and ask me about the key to my safety deposit box at the Bank of Singapore!”

 

Dan shook his head in tsk-tsk fashion before he announced confidently, “First, Pete – this is a long-tailed Macaque – NOT a monkey. Second – that’s a crocodile – NOT an alligator. The croc’s got no interest in me at the moment – he’s digesting something pretty big – probably a mouse deer. Third – and most importantly – both of you have just exposed yourselves to the slime of the red dart frog. I carefully coated the fake jade part of the chain with the poisonous substance before tossing it to you!”

 

McDowell, a panic-stricken expression filling his face, was already swaying as he tried to wipe his hands on his pants. “No!”

 

Dan continued matter-of-factly. “I see that your man knows that the slime from these amphibious beauties is quite deadly. You both have – by my reckoning – about thirty seconds of consciousness left – less if you’re allergic.” With that checkmate piece of news delivered, the detective calmly and cautiously removed his leather gloves and tossed them into the swamp.

 

“NOOO!!” Pete screamed as he dropped to the ground and began to rub his hands in the mud. “I’ll get you, Williams!!”

 

Dead serious, Dan shook his head. “No, Pete, you’re not going to get me, and you’re definitely never going to be a threat to Steve again. Ever.”

 

The Macaque jumped from Dan’s shoulder screamed a curse back at the shouting man while the detective watched placidly.

 

Chaos was the cue and McGarrett sprang to his feet, Solo and Kuryakin at his heels, all aiming their weapons at Shay and McDowell. There was little need for the armory; the two men were on the ground and seemed helpless. While the spies frisked them, McGarrett called to Williams across the swampy expanse.

 

“Danno, are you all right?”

 

“Steve… hey, great timing.” Five-0’s second-in-command seemed pleased, but unsurprised that reinforcements had arrived. He turned to the Macaque and muttered something about McGarrett possessing a talent for such rescues. “Been hoping you were okay.”

 

“I’m fine,” he gulped, edging to the water’s rippling tide line. “How are you going to get out of there?”

 

“Walk,” he shrugged. As if the small primate understood, it quickly scampered back up Williams’ leg.

 

Groaning, McGarrett watched the younger detective casually stroll into the thigh-deep water, sludge and debris -strewn river and cross it with the inimitable balance of an experienced surfer. The creature on his shoulder hardly swayed at the treacherous trek. Steve did not want to think about what was swimming/lurking in the depths. Heedless of that thought, he waded in to his shins to meet Dan and take hold of his elbow to escort him back the last few meters to dry ground, careful to stay well away from the Macaque.

 

Covered in mud and sludge; pieces of leaves, roots and branches clinging to his soggy, slimy clothes, Williams seemed oblivious to his condition. He offered a smile. “Hey, that worked out pretty well, didn’t it?”

 

He walked over to join the others and Steve overheard Illya’s wry comment.

 

“Dying in the slime seems a fitting end, Shay,” he condemned darkly.

 

Dazed, Shay shook his head, glaring at his accusers, but lacking the energy to offer any countering epithets.

 

“Actually, the slime from the red dart frog isn’t generally deadly, right, Danny?” Williams looked in the direction of the Macaque, who slipped to the ground and hovered uncertainly by his leg.

 

Alarmed that Dan still was conversing with the Macaque, McGarrett was speechless. Unable to come up with any other reason for the inexplicable exchanges previously, he had thought Danno’s attitude with the animal was some kind of ploy to throw Shay off balance. That it was continuing now, in earnest from Williams, edged the Five-0 chief to subdued panic. From the corner of his eye, he noted Napoleon and Illya exchange silent expressions of surprise and concern.

 

Before McGarrett could find a way to couch his apprehension, Williams turned to him. “Steve, I want you to meet my friend, Danny,” With an impressed expression, he explained how the Macaque reminded him about the poisonous properties of the various species of frogs in the jungle. “You know, I think Dan has a cousin in Honolulu – Bill Harris – you know him, Steve – in the DA’s office.”

 

“Uh – Danno –” he shook his head, unable to respond. It was like his friend was hallucinating. Could he have been infected by the frog venom? His symptoms weren’t the same as Shay’s. “Are – uh – you – feeling all right?”

 

“Yeah, fine,” the younger detective shrugged. He removed his ball cap and rubbed his filthy hair with a grimy hand. The familiar motion came more out of habit than any benefit it could have had for his hair. “I kinda wish Danny woulda been a mongoose – you know the mongoose always wins against a snake.” He glared at the writhing Shay. “And Shay is a snake.”

 

“Right, Danno,” the Five-0 chief agreed with distraction as the primate still sitting by Williams’ shoe chattered softly and looked up at the other Dan. “You know, Najib told me about how dangerous and mean Macaques are.”

 

“Hmm… they can be quite aggressive,” Illya offered neutrally.

 

McGarrett returned cautiously, “Why does this one seem so… friendly?”

 

With a knowing wink, Dan supplied his answer. “I told you I make friends easily! Their king was another story altogether though!” To the primate, he apologized for the narrow-minded thinking of his associates, concluding that everything turned out all right in the end. “I didn’t have a chance to introduce you to my other friend,” Williams waved to the river and the now empty rise of mud. “That big, old crocodile. His name was Steve. Funny, huh? He didn’t look like you, Steve, but he had this kind of predatory menace that was pretty intimidating. Like – you,” he shrugged.

 

Alarmed at the delirious monolog, Steve shook his head, unable to respond. He noted the cloth tied around his wrist. “Danno, what happened? You’re hurt?”

 

“Oh, yeah, Danny tried to warn me, but I got bit anyway.”

 

Illya crowded closer. “Bit… By what?” he calmly wondered, studying the wrapping, lightly touching Dan’s arm. His brow wrinkled slightly. “You are running a fever, Dan.”

 

“What bit you?” Steve demanded.

 

Williams continued, oblivious to his friend’s dismay. “We weren’t introduced, so I can’t tell you who it was, but boy was he mad!”

 

Tossing a concerned glance at the other men, Steve asked, “A frog? A snake?”

 

Noting Williams reaction to the last option, the Russian asked, “What kind of snake?”

 

Solo joined his partner in looking at the injured arm. “I think we need to know about that snake, Dan,” he conversationally commented, but his brown eyes reflected deep apprehension.

 

“Yellow before green… I just don’t know that stanza of the poem. I can’t think of what might rhyme with green... except mean.”

 

The detached calm was in counterpoint to Steve’s dread at the immediate diagnosis. Bit by a snake, fever, hallucinations…

 

Dan, the Macaque, reacted to the cries and screams of other Macaques in the jungle. Bounding away from Williams’ leg, the creature ran up the nearest tree and sprang from vines and branches. Dan (the detective) called after him, and thanked him for all the help.

 

Waving his arm, Williams swayed and Steve and Napoleon simultaneously moved to steady him. Illya, in very clinical fashion, stepped forward and peered into Williams’ eyes. It only took a moment for him to report, “Dilated – definitely a venom of some sort. He needs treatment immediately.”

 

Crashing sounds erupted from the jungle and the spies aimed their pistols, prepared for Shay’s friends. Instead, Goof Brooks, driving a beat-up old jeep, rolled to a halt the clearing.

 

“Ah, see I’ve arrived too late,” he stated with a salute with his umbrella as he hopped from the vehicle. “For everything but the clean-up, that is. In my defense, acquiring ground transportation in these parts takes time – fortunately -- the chaps at Jara just up the trail were most accommodating.”

 

Dan, who was slowly listing into his taller friend’s shoulder, greeted the portly Brit. “For a fat guy, you sure get around – what are you doing out here?”

 

The head of Five-0 felt his gut tighten, not so much at the blunt observation, but at the fact that his detective seemed to have lost any semblance of social inhibition.

 

The “fat guy” seemed un-offended and replied cordially. “Merely lending assistance to friends, Mr. Williams.” Brooks’ focus dropped to the two men lying on the ground nearby – apparently paralyzed – lethargically observing the conversation.

 

“We need to get Danno to a hospital,” McGarrett returned them to the most vital focus.

 

Solo nodded as he gently grabbed Dan’s arm. To Goof, he ordered, “We’ll need to trade your transportation for ours since the Huey dropped us off about two kilometers south. While you handle Shay and McDowell, we’ll tend to Dan’s snake bite.”

 

The Brit studied Williams with wary concern for a few moments at the mention of his wound, giving the Five-0 chief the ominous feeling that people who were bitten by snakes in these parts did not generally fair well.

 

“Certainly,” he responded evenly before turning his attention to the men lying at his feet, his expression losing all pleasantness.

 

McGarrett stopped, looking at Shay, then to Solo. “We’re extraditing him back to Hawaii.”

 

Napoleon’s expression was tight. “There is no extradition treaty with the US, Steve. Let Goof handle it.”

 

Dan let his eyes drop to the prone forms in the mud before they rose to meet those of the dark-eyed spy on his right. “Is that a euphemism, Napoleon? Are you going to kill him?”

 

Ignoring the detective’s probing question, Solo led Dan and Steve in the other direction. “Let’s get you to the hospital, shall we?”

 

Williams did not argue as he leaned on his boss and explained, “I forgot to place them under arrest, Steve, and now, I think Napoleon is gonna kill them.”

 

McGarrett tried to convey reassurance in his expression as he made sure Williams did not stumble climbing into the back of the muddy four-wheel drive, but could not offer a denial of Shay’s fate. Before he joined his friend, he pulled Solo aside. “You can’t –“

 

“It’s out of your hands, my friend!” Napoleon’s gaze was piercing.

 

Whispering, harsh and curt, McGarrett took Solo farther away from the vehicle. “That is murder!”

 

“If I were you, I’d think of it as self defense! He’s not going to come back and haunt you or Dan again, is he?” He shot a look to the officer in the jeep. “Your worries will be over.” Then he looked at Pete. “There are a lot of people out for his blood, Steve. Goof is here to fulfill a contract. We were helping out for personal reasons.” He angled the detective back toward the others. “Justice will be served.”

 

“An old cyanide capsule?” Dan asked curiously. “Do you spies keep them sewn into the lining of your jackets?”

 

“We aren’t wearing jackets,” Illya dryly responded as he climbed into the driver’s seat and started the engine.

 

Holding onto Dan, who was leaning over the side, Steve cast a last look at Shay. Huddled in the slime, the immobile, friend-turned-enemy was nothing of the man he had been before. The look Pete returned was of pain, of resignation, of knowing he was unable to alter the finish he had carved for himself. He had played the game and lost and understood the end result of that costly failure. He too had been the master of his own fate.

 

Accepting the end of one who lived and now died by the sword, Steve turned, not guilty that he felt a sense of justification. As he climbed into the jeep, he felt no remorse. His trial of conflicted loyalties had been brief – won and lost in an instant; in December, when Pete had tried to kill Danno. That had ended any alliance or sentimentality with his former partner.

 

Holding onto the sagging Williams, Steve felt for a pulse, disturbed at the condition of the officer. A torrential wave of rain suddenly hit them and McGarrett tired to shield his friend as they raced through the whipping rain ineffectively interrupted by the overhanging foliage of the forest. Walls of mud splashed up and bathed him as the vehicle slid and pounced along the dirt/mud/slime track barely cut out of the wilderness.

 

Watching from the rearview mirror, noting his concern, Illya tried to reassure him. Considering Dan was able to carry on a relatively normal conversation, he might have experienced a dry bite -- a half-hearted, defensive strike – usually executed in surprise. Symptoms would include LSD-like hallucinations off and on for a few days in addition to heart palpitations, and bouts of very low blood pressure as the agent metabolized.

 

The clinical recitation did not offer much comfort, but it did not sound like the wound was fatal. And they were on their way to a hospital, so Steve would have to believe all was being done now to care for his friend.

 

The speeding jeep sloshing through the mud hit a bump and it jolted Dan’s eyes open. “Hey, I thought spies knew how to drive!” he accused.

 

From the front seat, Solo shot him a sour grimace. “Like cops?”

 

“Yeah. Except Steve.”

 

The joke brought smiles to all of them. Sharing the humor, Solo wryly complimented, “Dan, you did great work there with Shay. You’d make a pretty good operative.”

 

“No thanks!  Not even if you gave me a secret decoder ring!  Not that I needed it cause I did just fine before you hot shots even got there --without being a spy -- didn’t I Steve?”

 

“Great,” he agreed, proud of his friend’s handling of a deadly situation with cunning and guts despite being handicapped by the debilitating bite.

 

Dan continued his complaining rant. “You guys work in the dark too much. Lurking around behind bushes – well – we do that, too. But I don’t like that whole cyanide thing.”

 

“Bad publicity,” Kuryakin insisted.

 

Williams poked the Russian’s shoulder. “And you guys aren’t very nice. You’re going to have Pete killed. Not that he doesn’t deserve it, but that’s murder you know. If you were in Hawaii we’d book you for that. I’d have to book you for that. Book, em, Danno.”

 

Worried by the behavior that made it look like Danno was drunk, but clearly defined that he was really ill, Steve patted his arm. “Why don’t you relax, Danno?”

 

“Relax?” Dan’s conversational mood instantly turned hostile. “You know, I’d like to be relaxed, back at my apartment sitting on the lanai. But I’m not. I’m out here playing Tarzan because of you!”

 

Startled into speechlessness, McGarrett could not respond.

 

Williams leaned forward and shook Solo’s shoulder. “Hey, did you know Steve came out here on his own without telling me?”

 

“Mmm, yes,” Napoleon admitted, shooting a glance at McGarrett. “I think we’ve had this conversation before, actually.”

 

“He broke his promise, did he tell you that?”

 

Solo evenly stared at McGarrett. “I’m sure there were extenuating circumstances.”

 

“Ha!  Another euphemism!” Dan accused. “You mean he doesn’t trust me!” Dan turned to narrow his gaze at his boss. “You don’t trust me, do you?” he shouted. “You still want to go out on your own without help, without telling me so you can keep a secret. You like playing spy with all your old spy pals and leaving me out of it all!”

 

McGarrett flinched and started to defend his actions, but Williams blurted out more accusations.

 

“You don’t want me to help you or protect you. You’re too independent. I can’t protect you anymore, Steve. Not from yourself. That’s worse than the lie,” he shook his head, holding his temples with both hands.

 

Then Dan turned back to Steve, his blue eyes heightened in intensity and color from the fever. The accusation  -- the hurt -- was naked and clear on the expression that was more readable than ever. No inhibitions, no social fetters from long-learned lessons of amenities shackled his feelings. The wounded spirit within shone through with a brightness staggering to the target of his allegations.

 

“Why did you do that, Steve? You promised you would never go off on your own and not tell me. It’s too dangerous. You know that and you did it anyway.”

 

The indictment was crueler than a searing blade to the heart. In innocence, his friend condemned him with the worst possible charges. And he was right. The truth cut him right to the soul and he knew no defense.

 

Shaking his head, he could not utter a word.

 

“Partners aren’t supposed to do that. Ask Napoleon. Bet he doesn’t do that.”

 

“Well,” Illya drawled out slowly.

 

“Uh – wait a minute,” Solo stuttered defensively.

 

“That time in Istanbul.”

 

Dan shook his head. “You leave me no choice, Steve, I’ll have to resign.” He yawned. “I told you I would. One of us has to keep our promises you know.”

 

Saved from the necessity to respond, Steve was grateful that Dan’s eyes closed and he plopped his head onto his shoulder in unconsciousness. The truths were too damning and he could not offer any counter comments for the indictments. The last threat –warning – left him sick with fear.

 

“That was justified,” Solo defended, still bantering with his partner.

 

Illya’s blond mop, now a soppy brown, shook adamantly. “In your opinion.”

 

Desolate over Danno’s heartfelt confession -- irritated at the barbed-banter that hit him too close to his conscience -- Steve turned some of his wrath at his old spy friend.

 

“Napoleon, I’m never going to forgive you for letting Danno come here.”

 

Sputtering, Solo turned, unhappy with both conscious traveling companions and aggravated with the instigator who was now asleep. “I couldn’t stop him if I tried, Steve. He was going to find you with my help or not. You know the stubborn type,” he glared at the cops and his partner. “Besides, you have to admit the kid saved the day. Pretty clever, too.”

 

“You led him right into the middle of where I did not want him!”

 

Solo’s face bore his obvious reflective thoughts. “Maybe you should consider that next time you’re tempted to slip back into your old NI habits and play on our side of the street.”

 

Disgruntled at the whole situation, McGarrett sighed, scrutinizing his friend with silent concern.

 

 

*****

 

Before they reached the trailhead through the bumpy, muddy back route, McGarrett was growing more alarmed by the minute. Williams' infected arm was swelling, his skin clammy, the fever around the infection much hotter than the rest of his heated skin. He loosened the filthy handkerchief and flinched at the mud-caked, ugly, torn skin, jagged and discolored from the venomous bite. Urging Kuryakin to hurry was unnecessary -- Solo had noticed the detective's condition and quietly admonished his friend to get them through the jungle with all haste.

 

Once at the extraction point, McGarrett was relieved to see a helicopter waiting. They loaded up the injured officer and with alacrity made it through the skies over the rainforest. Illya found a general antidote for snake bite in the first aid kit and administered it. There was little change in Williams during the trip, but at least he did not grow worse.

 

Speeding over the lush green foliage regarded Steve ample time to contemplate the unexpected foolishness of the last few days. It seemed like so long ago he had crossed the demarcation line of decision and left Honolulu for this evil wilderness. Long days ago when he had chosen to forsake his oath, to secretly set out on a quest of revenge couched in the moral, ethical and righteous disguise of justice. How could he have foreseen it would end with barely escaping with his life, with Danno desperately ill. At so many turns either one of them easily could have  been killed. As it was, even the hoped for justice fell short and Shay was, by now, executed. Termination with extreme prejudice.

 

If he had the gift of second sight he would have never stepped onto the crooked and perilous path. Confucius was right -- when you begin the journey of revenge, first dig two graves. If you come back alive, you return forever changed. He did not count on that for himself or for Danno. Cringing, he could not push from his mind his friend's condemning words while in the grips of the venom's hallucinogenic effects. Danno felt betrayed by him -- justifiably so – and his own toxic attitude over the affair was stingingly lucid. Steve had promised never to strike out on his own again. Now was his relationship with Danno -- the person he was striving to protect -- irretrievably altered? Had he finally pushed his friend too far for forgiveness? He hoped not, but the guileless words of a mind unshackled by inhibitions was clear. His actions had deeply hurt his friend, and a blanket of regret settled over him.

 

“ ‘For of all sad words of tongue or pen, the saddest are these: “It might have been!’ “ he whispered to himself.

 

Crouching beside him, Illya gestured out the open door of the Huey. "We are approaching the hospital.” He scrutinized Williams. "He will be fine. Once he receives an antidote, it will be just a matter of time for recovery."

 

"I hope so," he bleakly sighed, knowing Dan’s physical recovery was a huge part of his anguish. The rest would have to wait until they could talk in a mutually coherent fashion.

 

 

*****

 

 

The hospital was a white, sprawling building set at a clearing within site of a pristine beach. Attendants raced out with a gurney and immediately took charge of the patient. All three men accompanied the officer into the small hallway, from where he was taken to the first room. Illya took care of explanations to the doctor. A summary as quick and technically accurate as a physician, he practically pushed the doctor into instant action in administering an anti-venom.

 

Soon, the  physician confirmed Kuryakin's previous diagnosis had been correct, that the snake had delivered a glancing blow, not a full strike of poison to the officer. Williams would recover within a few days. Visibly relieved,  Steve still paced and watched for positive signs of change in his friend, and was disappointed when they were not immediate.

 

Conferring quietly, Solo encouraged him, assuring that it would work, it would just take a little time and the detective needed to exercise the elusive, uncharacteristic trait of patience. "Trust me, we've had experience with this type of thing."

 

McGarrett nodded, knowing his old pal was trying to help – distract as well as comfort. "I never thanked you for coming to help."

 

With a wry grin, Napoleon tilted his head in a slight nod. "Welcome. Glad we could make the trip.” He speculatively scrutinized the taller man with a glint in his brown eyes. “I suppose this means we’re back on speaking terms?”

 

“Yes,” he ruefully agreed. Danno coming out here was not Solo’s fault, but his own. Also knowing Solo had been correct in his assessment of Williams’ stubborn streak of loyal commitment, his temper was mollified. He gestured toward the blond Russian. "He's pretty handy to have around. Smart, too."

 

"I never leave home without him," was the spy's quip, but his tone was fond. "It's hard to argue with a wily Russian with a PHD in quantum physics and fluency in seven languages. Besides, he still puts up with all my idiosyncrasies.”

 

There was probably very little the former agent and his partner had not lived through. Still displeased with his old friend for abetting Williams' crazy journey to this jungle, he had begrudgingly forgiven his NI pal already. Solo had argued articulately and correctly -- nothing would have kept Danno away from trying to help him. If Steve had anyone to blame for this trip to the hospital, it was himself.

 

It was late afternoon when there was a significant change in Danno's condition. He was pronounced stable, the antidote working without question. The doctor diagnosed Williams would be sleeping until the next morning.

 

Unlike Honolulu, there was no available place for McGarrett to lurk around the small hospital. At the urgings of Solo and Kuryakin, he took a room at a nearby hotel to nap and clean up and vowed to return early the next day.

 

Keyed up, he did not feel like joining his friends in the hotel bar for a pub meal, but he was famished, he realized. Exhausted, he was not sure he could fall asleep because of his edgy anxiety still resonating over Danno's condition. The spies prevailed on him to clean up, relax, eat and try to catch a few hours sleep.

"And if we don't all shower and change they will not let us back into the hospital," Solo warned, tugging at his jacket with disgust.

 

Illya made a sour face at the typical ultra-neat sartorial attitude of Solo's.

 

Knowing he could benefit from a shower at the least, he nodded.  "I can only agree," Steve added, thinking he had never looked or smelled worse, and he considered his state pretty normal compared to Danno's disgraceful condition.

 

Grateful a hotel store carried casual clothes in stock, he bought new apparel for himself and had a set sent over to the hospital for Williams when he awoke. Not that Danno would need new duds for a few days, but he would be cheered to know there was something waiting for him that was not caked in mud.

 

 

*****

 

 

Opening his eyes was a struggle, but Steve knew he had slept a long time and while tossing and turning for some moments, he could not fall back to sleep. Blinking vision in, he peered at the clock. Seven-thirty-eight. That made no sense. He could see faint light around the edges of the bamboo blinds on the window. Sitting up, he checked his watch resting on the nightstand. Yeah, the time was right -- morning? he questioned incredulously. Had he slept all night? He remembered tossing over a few times, always hearing the steady, pelting rain outside.

 

Leaping up, he moved the slats and confirmed that yes, it was morning!  Hurrying through dressing, he was passing the room next to his when the door opened and Solo invited him in. He diverted momentarily. Dressed in clean, pressed and even fashionable khaki trousers, shirt, cream-colored shirt and multi-pocketed jacket, the spy looked so clean it further annoyed him.

 

The detective scowled. "Why didn't you wake me?"

 

"Thought we could all use the sleep. Dan isn't going anywhere. Join us for breakfast. Something light to take the edge off."

 

"We have very black coffee," was Illya's enticement.

 

The lure was enough and the cop stepped into the room and helped himself to a cup, filling it with black, rich scented java. The doors to the balcony were open and McGarrett saw the tropical monsoons had drenched the furniture and slated wood. Even as he sipped on the coffee more rain pelted outside in a sudden, torrential downpour typical of the tropics.

 

"We're heading out later this morning. I suppose you'll want to stay here with Dan?" Solo commented as he bit into a piece of bread.

 

“His stay in the hospital should take only a few days,” Kuryakin assessed.

 

Napoleon pushed the plate piled with buttered toast toward the officer. "Help yourself."

 

Feeling anxious to check on Williams, he stepped to the door. "Danno will be awake any time.” Stopping, he turned, finally remembering to ask about something that had been bothering him. "By the way, what did you do with Pete's key chain?"

 

Solo smirked and nodded toward his partner. "It's going to be put to good use. We'll let you know."

 

Nodding, not wanting details of their illegalities, he bid them aloha. "I'll catch up with you two later. Have a good flight."

 

The hospital was clearing away plates of simple breakfasts when he arrived. Stepping into the room, anticipating a pleasant reunion and a recovering officer, he came to an unstable stop. Danno was not in the bed. Instead of a patient, the sloppily made bed held only a piece of paper on the cover. Stepping over, his hand trembling, he picked up the folded note, opened it, and read.

 

Steve,

So tired of Kualllla this place --

Decided  I            want to

couldn't wait        need

After while crocodile --

Dan

and Danny (who is with me in spirit)

 

Checking the room as his mind sifted through the horrible conclusions, he found what he expected -- no sign of where Danno might have gone or when he left. Danno's belongings were not there -- the new clothes, his passport, money, watch, and other personal effects left over from his emptied pockets.

 

Rushing out of the room, he accosted the first doctor and demanded answers from the bewildered man who didn't know what hit him. Angry, defensive, sick with worry, McGarrett interrogated nurses, staff and doctors. No one had noticed Williams leave. –The doctor cautioned that it could take days for his obviously delusional friend to lose the effects of the potent venom – the officer was a danger to himself in this condition.

 

Calling the local authorities, he next called the hotel. Crisply, he informed Solo of Dan's disappearance. The spies promised to start a search and would begin at the airport. Steve went next to the cab stand outside and talked to the only driver. He had not picked up Williams this rainy morning, but would ask the driver on duty last night. While he waited, Steve crossed the street to a cafe and found no one who remembered seeing Williams. Why would they? Dressed in common clothes of the area, he would be unremarkable. Maybe a bit unusual to see a sandy-haired, blue-eyed haole in these parts, but not so unique as to turn heads with wonder -- not enough to necessarily remember.

 

Meeting up with the local police, he did all he could to push along the investigation and was frustrated at his enforced positions as spectator. Despite his impressive credentials, the locals assured him, with a distinct lack of enthusiasm but firm territorial propriety, that his cooperation/interference was unwanted.

 

The message of the note burning in his mind, he felt a search of this area would be non productive. Danno’s note made little sense, but it indicated a desperate urge to leave this island. Next stop -- airport.

 

Solo and Kuryakin were putting in energy at legwork, but had found nothing. They felt it a bit unusual that no one remembered Williams.

 

"He's better than I thought at this game," Napoleon commented with a dry aside. "Maybe we should recruit him."

 

"That's not funny."

 

"Okay," Napoleon seriously countered. "Then let's get down to brass tacks. He somehow slipped through our dragnet here and caught a plane home. Even in his condition, I doubt he would try a cruise ship. Let's get back to Honolulu and wait for him."

 

Pacing in the concourse, McGarrett snapped his fingers, reluctant to leave. The suggestion made sense. Danno could have gone hours ago and Steve did not like the idea of his unbalanced, ill friend landing alone and unexpected even in the known environs of home. Reluctantly, he agreed.

 

Expecting to leave that morning anyway, Solo's private jet was already fueled and set to fly. Hardly taking notice of the luxurious custom accommodations, McGarrett strapped in and stared out at the bleak, overcast, drippy airport of Kuala Lumpur. Relieved to be leaving this pit of dissatisfaction and misery, he tried to look ahead with hope. It did not come easy. So far, this entire misadventure had been fraught with unexpected anguish and irritation. When was it going to end? When he found Danno safe and knew his friend was well.

 

 

*****

 

 

“I’m sorry the place is sort of falling apart, Steve – it’s been a little tough with both you AND Danny out.” As he spoke, Duke collected a file which had slipped from McGarrett’s over-filled IN box and gingerly balanced it back on the top of the stack.

 

“It’s my fault, bruddah – mahalo for all the overtime,” McGarrett offered as he moved to retrieve the contents of the basket.

 

McGarrett paused to take the stack of memos, reports and files from the IN box. As he lingered at Luana’s desk, he noted today’s Advertiser. Front page headline – the spectacular, sensational story of American POWs recovered from the jungles of Asia. Snippets of news reports had caught his attention on the flight back to Hawaii, but neither Solo, Kuryakin nor he had been too interested in media coverage of their operation. None of their names were connected with the mission and that was how it had to stay, to their pleasure. The pride and satisfaction at rescuing prisoners was reward itself. Tempered by the high personal cost of Danno’s health and loyalty – well –he couldn’t weigh the two in any balanced judgment – he had to accept what had happened and try to salvage what he could of his relationship with his friend. After he found his friend.

 

Happily, none of the former prisoners, not even his pal, Shep, had leaked his name or his friends’ and he wondered if they had the mysterious Goof to thank for the blanket of conspiratorial silence. Certainly methods consistent with special ops/spies and Solo’s colleagues.

 

Moving into the McGarrett’s office, the Hawaiian detective hesitated at the desk and studied his boss, who’d arrived in the office in the late afternoon, just as most of the staff were leaving for the day. Despite the fresh shave and neatly pressed suit, the head of Five-0 was not looking his usual dapper self. He was gaunt and obviously exhausted. Another atypical characteristic exhibited by the man was his quiet, nearly sorrowful bearing.

 

He’d softly accepted the welcome homes and short reports on breaking cases, but it had not been with the interest or fervor Duke would have expected. Even more disturbing was McGarrett’s tense inquiry to Luana as to whether Williams had checked in.

 

Hypothesizing that the Five-0 chief’s demeanor might be related to the perplexing absence of his second-in-command, Lukela decided a gentle probe was in order. “I was sort of expecting Danny to come back with you.”

 

McGarrett’s slight flinch was enough to confirm Duke’s suspicions. Something had gone wrong on his boss’s “fishing trip.”

 

The head of Five-0 cleared his throat and glanced up from the files into the piercing expression of his officer. “It’s a long story…” It was the lead detective’s turn to hesitate. He hadn’t bothered to ponder it, but of course there would be questions about Danno’s whereabouts. How much to say… how to say it…

 

He’d raced straight from the airport to Williams’ condo, but found it just as his friend had left it days earlier. McGarrett wandered through the rooms, which were not in their usual tidy order. It was clear that his second-in-command had been in a hurry the last time he was here. It seemed that in each room, there was some heart-rending reminder of the trouble to which Steve had put his friend. Two tickets to a missed concert… An appointment book open to the previous week with three lined-through appointments – to McGarrett’s dismay, one of them was a check-up with the physician who’d cared for him during his bout with pneumonia the previous month. Was Danno still having medical problems he hadn’t mentioned? The item which sent a particularly painful stab into his being was the crumpled post card from Shay – it had been tossed on the kitchen table.

 

Finding no satisfaction at Danno’s home, he’d called the office to make sure Williams had not left a message for him there, and then, he placed phone calls to all of the airlines he thought could be carrying the delusional passenger to Hawaiian shores. His friend was not listed on any inbound flights, a fact which further tightened the knot in his chest.

 

With all of his bases as covered as he could make them – without putting out an international BOLO – the lead detective had returned to his own place, cleaned up, and wasted no time in getting to the Palace. It was there he felt the need to wait for word on his missing friend.

 

Now, he looked up and met his officer’s questioning gaze. With an abbreviated sigh, he confessed. “Duke… Danno did come after me – I got a lead on where Pete Shay was holed up.”

 

The Hawaiian detective’s implacable mask cracked for a few seconds. He too had lived through his boss’s “Lone Ranger” stunt the previous year, and the memory of how it had wounded and angered Williams was still fresh in his mind. Duke was not privy to the details, but he suspected that the incident had almost cost the head of Five-0 his right-hand man, and he didn’t know exactly what McGarrett had done to smooth things over with his second, but it made sense to Duke that a pledge to not repeat the behavior was part of the fence-mending package {episode – A SHORT WALK ON A LONG SHORE}. The Hawaiian had surreptitiously observed the interaction between Five-0’s two top cops in the days and weeks following the incident, and was convinced that Danny, renowned for his forgiving nature with the boss, had put it behind him.

 

Duke, now feeling his own muscles begin to tense, understood the reason for the Five-0 chief’s grave expression. It was suddenly clear that McGarrett had re-opened the wound, and – from all indications – he’d managed to do it in some dramatic fashion which had gotten him into an untenably-tight situation far from his home turf.

 

Duke sighed as he dropped into the nearest white leather chair. “Exactly where IS Danny, Steve?”

 

The head of Five-0 reset the file in his hand on his desktop and meandered his way around to sit in the chair next to Lukela, whose eyes did not waver from McGarrett. “I don’t know – I can’t even narrow it down to a hemisphere at the moment.”

 

Steve summarized the misadventure with the highest level of granularity he could, careful not to mention Solo or Kuryakin by name. As he drew near the end of his confessionary tale, he went into more depth about Williams’ snake bite, the resulting hallucinations, and subsequent vanishing act from the hospital in Kuala Lumpur. All the while, the Hawaiian detective sat immobile, his neutral expression wavering only periodically.

 

McGarrett shook his head and lightly massaged his temples with one hand. “So you see, Duke, the whole purpose of keeping Danno -- in the dark – to protect him – fell by the wayside. My exploits have endangered him further, with the worst of it being that I have no way of helping him.”

 

Both men sat there quietly for a minute, each pondering the ramifications of the events. Finally, the Hawaiian officer reached up and ran his hand over his face. “Has it ever occurred to you, Steve, that Danny does not need protecting? That it might just be YOU that needs a guardian angel? That you could do us all a favor if you’d let Danny do what he does best – keep you in check!”

 

At the uncharacteristically sharp admonition, McGarrett looked up into the dark eyes, but he held his tongue. He’d known Duke for many years. They’d lived through the Korean POW experience together, and if there was one person who knew him almost as well as Danno did, it was Lukela. The criticism burned, but the Five-0 chief knew it was true.

 

The young officer, who was once his wet-behind-the-ears, impulsive second-in-command, had matured – blossomed – into a brilliant, detail-oriented lieutenant, who could run Five-0 every bit as well as McGarrett himself. Steve trusted Williams with all decisions concerning Five-0 – and himself. He’d long ago given his friend a durable power of attorney to make decisions on his behalf in the event he could not make them for himself. Knowing full well he was usurping the presumed privilege of his only sibling, Mary Ann, he’d written a letter to her and left it with his attorney. It explained that Danno would be better able to determine what he would want.

 

So WHY did he act as though he did not have that level of trust? Couldn’t he have sat down with his friend and been truthful? Argued it out and then laid out a plan together which would have minimized the risk to both men? In hindsight, it seemed so obvious and reasonable. McGarrett swallowed and looked away.

 

Duke, his expression softened marginally, continued. “The truth hurts, Steve, and I don’t wanna run the shiv into you any deeper, but something’s gotta change before it’s too late!”

 

“If it’s not too late already,” the head of Five-0 nodded his agreement as he whispered.

 

“Do you want me to check the incoming flights?”

 

With gratitude at the constructive attitude, Steve let a smile flicker across his face as he shook his head. “I’ve already done that. I’ve got feelers out from here to Sumatra. For the moment, the ball is in Danno’s court.”

 

 

*****

 

 

Rubbing the back of his neck, McGarrett stood on his office lanai as he’d done so many times in the past, trying to ignite a new idea about what else he could do to locate his second-in-command. It was now almost midnight, and there was still no indication of what had happened to Williams after he set foot outside the hospital in Kuala Lumpur nearly two days ago. The note had given an ominous clue as to his friend’s mental and physical states, and no clear indication of intention – if intention meant anything to someone under the influence of a potent snake venom – except to leave the jungle environs where too much had distorted his reality, health and mental and physical well-being. It was almost unfortunate, Steve mused, that Danno could probably have passed for a healthy, but weary traveler. Unless the officer had done something to alert airline employees or airport officials, there would have been no reason for any authority along the way to detain him.

 

Just as he began to consider whether he should send out a security alert wire to airports on all possible routes between Kuala Lumpur and Honolulu, a tap on his office door notified him of Lukela’s return. Stepping back inside from his unproductive meditation, the Five-0 chief greeted his detective. “I thought I told you to call it a night.”

 

The Hawaiian detective shrugged and dropped a small, aluminum-foil-wrapped package on the desk. “I went home for dinner, but decided it couldn’t hurt to make an appearance at the airport. That’s from Doris – home-made spring rolls.”

 

“Make sure you tell her mahalo for me,” McGarrett thanked. He despondently collected the food gift more out of courtesy than hunger. “Anything new from the airport?”

 

Duke frowned slightly and shook his head. “Nothing. I hit every passenger list on every airline that has connections to anywhere in the South Pacific, Indonesia, AND the Orient. Steve, I think it’s time to put out an SAW.”

 

“Hmm, I was just thinking that, bruddah.”

 

The head of Five-0 had no more turned away from his desk than the phone on his private line rang. McGarrett jumped, his heart skipping a beat. Shooting a tense glance in Lukela’s direction, he snatched up the phone, before the ring finished, his mouth dry in anticipation that this was the call he had been hoping to receive – that Danno was checking in finally.

 

“McGarrett!”

 

“Steve.”

 

He coughed out a held breath. “Where are you?” He confirmed the identity of the caller with a nod to the Hawaiian detective, whose shoulders slumped slightly in relief.

 

“Hmm… Do you mean that figuratively?”

 

“I mean WHERE are you?” Emotionally drained, but unable to extinguish his tension or anxiety about Williams’ missing days, Steve struggled to maintain his façade of calmness.

 

The scream in the background Steve recognized with mild dejection was that of some creature in the primate family – probably a Macaque. He’d been wrong – Danno had not left Malaysia.

 

“Don’t you guys ever shut up?” Williams called out, obviously addressing the noisy eavesdroppers.

 

Location, he decided, did not matter so much as status. “Are you all right?” His friend’s voice sounded slow and measured, not his usual pace or tone and Steve’s rampant apprehension about his snakebite and hallucinogenic reactions leaped into full gear. “Are you all right? Do I need to come get you?”

 

“I don’t know if I’m all right.”

 

The very serious response sent chills through Steve’s system. Trying to breakdown the somber words and tone, Steve asked, “What does that mean?” Afraid of the connotation that could lay in wait behind such a couched message. “Can you get home?”

 

“I don’t know. That’s why I’m calling. I might need help with that.”

 

Throat knotted, McGarrett stood, fingertips playing in nervous release on the desk top. “How can I help you?” he swallowed.

 

“I have a moral dilemma,” came the emotionless reply. “I don’t know if I should come home. You see, not long ago I asked you to make a promise.”

 

Steve’s heart seemed to stop. He knew the promise he had made. To never go off on his own operation without telling Williams.

 

“You gave me your word.”

 

He closed his eyes against the bland voice that hardly betrayed the deep hurt of the explanation.

 

“And I gave my word what I would do if you broke your oath.”

 

No – no – not resign. Not separate himself from Five-0 – from him! It had been a pact and Steve had broken it, but he could not accept the punishment. How many times had he faced criminals with little compassion and no mercy because the law was strict. Break the law and do the time. He had broken his word. Not a law, but a vow to a friend – an oath that should have been more binding than any legal document, but there had been extenuating circumstances. He had been trying to save Danno’s life!  Couldn’t his friend see that? Did he have to split it down into these simple terms that might destroy the very core of their friendship? Or did he do that already by breaching his pledge, even for a worthy cause?

 

“Come home,” he barely whispered. “I know what I said and what I did, believe me, I know very well. Just – just -- come back. We can sort it all out. I   I promise, he was about to say.  The words chocked in his throat.  “Just, tell me where you are.  This can be worked out, aikane.” The silence was condemning and painful. “Please come home.”

 

More chattering from the primate peanut gallery occupied what seemed to McGarrett to be an interminable silence.

 

At last, Dan acknowledged the plea. “I’m so tired.”

 

“Where are you, Danno? I’ll send somebody to get you right now,” Steve calmly pressed.

 

A loud sigh preceded the slow response. “The zoo… I think I’m locked inside… it closed quite awhile ago.”

 

“The zoo? What zoo?” The Five-0 chief interrogated impatiently. How many zoos were there between Kuala Lumpur and Hawaii?

 

“Is there more than one zoo in Honolulu, Steve?” The question was not delivered with any sarcasm – rather the tone was one of perplexity.

 

Nonplussed, McGarrett snapped his focus to Lukela, who’d been hanging on every word on his side of the conversation. With delighted amazement, the lead detective confirmed what he thought he heard. “You’re at the HONOLULU ZOO?”

 

“Yeah.”

 

“How on earth—never mind – stay right where you are! I’m on my way!” McGarrett barked. “You promise you’ll stay right there?”

 

“I promise… I would never break a promise to you, Steve.” Williams’ quiet condemnation struck home with the head of Five-0, but he didn’t bother to dwell on it. He dropped the phone back onto its cradle and started towards the door at a run.

 

“At the zoo? How did he get here if he wasn’t listed as a passenger on any incoming flight?” Duke wondered as he fell in beside his boss.

 

Steve didn’t care how his friend had found his way home at that moment – that he was someplace he could be reached was all that mattered. Not breaking his pace or his focus on the door, he breathed, “I guess we’ll have to ask him!”

 

 

*****

 

 

When McGarrett’s dark Ford approached, two puzzled Honolulu Zoo security guards were waiting at the service gate to allow the head of the state police passage into the park. The pair had been given no information by the HPD dispatcher who’d contacted them. They were merely to open the gate and wait there to lock up as soon as the police had completed their business – whatever that might be at a zoo anytime -- let alone the middle of the night. With envious nods to their more-highly-esteemed brethren, both of the men, when prompted by the passenger, pointed in the direction of the primate sanctuaries.

 

Both detectives rolled down their windows and kept their ears attuned for anything which would indicate Williams’ position. Wild animal noises – growls, hoots, barks, whimpers, chirps – all periodically interrupted the sound of the free-roaming cricket population. McGarrett brought his car to a gentle stop at a fork in the wide trail. Two wooden signs adorned a post there. The right-pointing sign directed visitors to the Ape House, and the other one pointed leftward towards the Chimpanzee and Macaque Quarters. Certain his friend would have gravitated towards the Macaques, Steve headed to the left with Duke on his heels.

 

“Danno!” McGarrett called out, and a dozen Macaques screamed what the detective took to be shut-the-heck-up shouts. As his eyes grew accustomed to the minimal light, he spotted a phone booth in the shadow of a large Banyan tree.

 

It was there the detectives spied the object of their search -- sitting on the ground, with his back resting against the outside of the booth   Both men sprang forward and quickly reached their colleague’s side.

 

“Danno!” The Five-0 chief breathed as he kneeled to cup the younger man’s cheek in his large hand.

 

It seemed to be the touch more than the sound of his name which moved Dan, who had been staring blankly at the small satchel by his leg, to slowly lift his eyes and look up into the tear-filled eyes of his mentor. A crooked smile washed over the tired face to welcome the arrival of the detectives. “Steve…” He whispered as his own eyes pooled.

 

“How are you feeling, aikane?” McGarrett questioned as he quickly made a panicked visual assessment of his friend, whose gaunt features and hollow eyes spoke of little or no sleep. The pants and shirt were the ones which the head of Five-0 had purchased for him – they looked like they’d been worn for days.

 

Dan, a few tears escaping his tired blue eyes, ignored the question and maintained his focus on the tall man bending over him as he proffered his own. “Can we really sort it out, Steve, like you said?”

 

The scared desperation in his friend’s tone widened the fracture in the lead detective’s own emotional bearing, and his eyes stung all the more as he slowly nodded. “As God is my witness, Danno, we will sort this out together. Everything will be fine.”

 

Williams continued to stare at his mentor. “What if we can’t?”

 

The head of Five-0 took pains to not say the phrase, ’I promise,’ as he insisted, “We will! Don’t even think that way!”

 

Duke, squatting on Williams’ other side, placed his hand on his friend’s forehead. Alarm washed over the Hawaiian’s countenance as he quietly announced, “He’s pretty feverish.”

 

McGarrett made a concerted effort to regain control of his emotions as he nodded, but did not take his eyes from his friend. “The doctors in Kuala Lumpur said he would run a fever until the venom works its way out of his system. They already administered the anti-venom – he just needs to rest now.”

 

“So, no hospital?” Lukela dubiously confirmed.

 

The Five-0 chief shook his head. “No – let’s get him home.” His next comment was directed at his second. “We need to get you out of here. Can you stand?”

 

Dan nodded and wiped the tears from his face with his sleeve. Despite the younger detective’s affirmation of his mobility, Steve moved to bring Williams to his feet and received little help from Dan in the process. Once on his feet though, with his colleagues clutching both arms, Five-0’s second-in-command was able to amble toward the Ford some forty feet away.

 

“When… when did you get back in town, Danny?” Duke inquired gently as he shifted Williams’ bag to his shoulder. The Hawaiian detective had spent most of the evening scouring passenger lists, and he, for one, was burning with curiosity as to how Five-0’s second-in-command had managed to slip back into the country.

 

Dan frowned in concentration for a few moments before he confirmed, “It was morning… this morning.”

 

“On WHAT airline? You weren’t on ANY passenger list!”

 

Dan kept his eyes trained on his immediate foot falls as he offered his explanation with distraction. “I wasn’t a passenger, Duke… I was cargo... I flew space A on Bengal Shipping.”

 

Lukela looked up from the path and fixated for several seconds on his younger colleague as he digested the words. Bengal Shipping – an air freight company which serviced the South Pacific and Indonesia. Duke looked over at his smirking boss and admitted sheepishly, “I didn’t check the air freight lines.”

 

McGarrett shook his head and confessed as well. “Neither did I – a shipment of Danno – not a passenger.”

 

“Is that legal?” Duke pondered in a near whisper.

 

Lukela was not really expecting an answer, but Williams responded seriously in a slow, measured meter nonetheless. “As long as US Customs Form thirty four sixty one is properly completed and accompanies the bill of lading, it is technically legal. If I were on Fish and Wildlife’s Endangered Species List, there would’ve been complications though.”

 

McGarrett and Lukela looked at each other and couldn’t help but grin – not just at the absurd notion that some odd loophole in a bureaucratic process would allow a human being to import himself into the country – but also because the recitation of federal, state, and municipal regulations – often verbatim – was a Williams trademark.

 

With a modicum of relief at the so typical, casually-delivered statement, the lead detective’s lip twitched. “Danno, I hope you’re not on any endangered list, but you’re definitely a rare animal.”

 

 

*****

 

 

The sensation of a wave lapping at his toes roused Dan from his light dose. He pulled himself to a more upright position and took stock of his surroundings. Still not anywhere near his usual energy level, he’d spent the afternoon relaxing on the private beach of the King Kamehameha Club just down the street from his apartment. The snake bite wound on his wrist was rapidly healing, and he’d awakened on this morning with a greatly diminished fever – an indicator that the deadly venom was metabolizing its way out of his system. Until this day, he’d remained sequestered at home, in a cycle of sleeping, waking up long enough to eat and perhaps read a piece of mail or two, before retiring to his bed again. There were signs that someone – Steve – had passed through a few times – a plate of deli meats and a bowl of fresh, sliced tropical fruit in the fridge, his mail collected from the lobby – but Dan been unaware of his presence.

 

It had been three days since his salvage from the Honolulu Zoo, and outward signs of his traumatic journey were fading, but an almost painful nervous tension hovered in his gut for most of his waking moments.

 

As Dan absorbed the warmth from the tropical sun, the comforting sounds of the surf transported him inward. He remembered the emotional reunion by the phone booth. Steve’s assurance that they would sort everything out still resonated in his heart. He desperately wanted his friend to step forward with an explanation for the broken promise and the lack of faith which the action reflected.

 

Dan’s life revolved around Five-0 and the man at the top. The incredible good he’d been able to accomplish in his role as second-in-command of the prestigious unit made him feel fulfilled. While others rushed home to their wives and children, McGarrett and Williams had remained at the Palace, on the job, wading through clues which – when put together properly – would incriminate the guilty and vindicate the innocent. Lives were saved. Wrongdoers were stopped from further transgressions. Their work – their lives – mattered.

 

Dan and Steve were as different as desert and ocean, but their mutual respect and shared passion for justice had brought them together in what had grown into a deep friendship. It was based – Williams had always believed – on knowledge of and confidence in the other’s abilities. Trust… Honesty… Dedication… All of these concepts played into the mix to forge a relationship, which Williams used as a bedrock for everything else in his life.

 

After the long shore undercover debacle the previous year, McGarrett had come to him, hat in hand, and promised that it would not happen again. Now here they were in the aftermath of yet another incident where his boss had snuck off on a dangerous adventure with no backup. Hurt and frustrated that Steve’s behavior pointed to a fundamental lack of confidence in him, Dan was at a loss as to what else he could do to alter the kernel of apparently-innate mistrust at McGarrett’s core.

 

Dan had reacted angrily the last time, and solemnly promised he would resign if an incident such as that were ever repeated. In the end, Steve admitted that he’d made a mistake – and that things would be different {fanfic – LONG WALK ON A SHORT PIER}. It had been what Dan had wanted to hear, and had gone a long way toward making amends.

 

But here they were again. Steve had accused him before of forgiving too easily – was this a mistake? Did his desire to forgive quickly and move on devalue the act? Forgive in haste – repent in leisure?

 

What could Steve say that would change what Dan had to do? Was McGarrett under the impression that another apology to his sucker second-in-command would do the trick? Could Dan just pretend that the Kuala Lumpur incident had not happened and continue in his capacity as McGarrett’s right-hand man, knowing that his boss and friend did not trust him enough to be consistently forthcoming? To stay (and remain sane), he would have to stop caring about his friend. Did he have that in him? His lip quivered as he knew in his heart he did not.

 

Dan’s head began to throb with the realization that either a major career change – or a relocation from his island home – was in the offing. He could feel the bile churning in his stomach – anyway he sliced it, changes were on the horizon for Hawaii Five-0.

 

With distracted annoyance, he became aware that a cloud had blocked the late afternoon sun. Barely a moment to ponder a move passed when another beach chair dropped to his right.

 

“I was beginning to think I’d never see you awake again.” McGarrett slipped into the chair and scanned the area before making eye contact with his friend.

 

“Steve,” Dan acknowledged the man, whom he was simultaneously pleased and poignantly sad to see.

 

“Feeling better?”

 

“Yeah – fever’s down – and I actually stayed conscious long enough to do my laundry this morning.” Small talk… good. Dan he was certain he was not mentally together enough at the moment to deal with the issues tearing at his soul.

 

“Well, it’s good to see you feel like getting out,” McGarrett acknowledged.

 

“I’m even considering a trip to the airport,” Dan revealed idly. Not noticing the apprehensive expression the comment had elicited from his mentor, he elaborated. “There’s a real cute ticketing agent – she works for Singapore Air.”

 

McGarrett released a barely perceptible sigh of relief as he responded. “Miss Susan Angara.”

 

Williams looked over at his boss in mild surprise. “How did you know that?”

 

The head of Five-0 rolled his eyes slightly and pulled a while-you-were-out memo from his pocket. “I noticed this when I was sorting through our phone messages. She remembers you too – she called the office and would be interested in receiving a call from you… for what reason I can’t fathom.”

 

A satisfied smile slipped onto Dan’s face as he accepted the message. “Simple – she caught me at the charming beginning of my trip instead of its ignominious end – locked up in the zoo.”

 

McGarrett’s lips turned upward at the younger detective’s typical self-deprecating humor, but his intestines twisted as he knew this was an opening for the conversation he’d been pondering… fearing. He only hoped that his second-in-command was in a receptive frame of mind.

 

Inhaling deeply to steel himself, he plunged into the cold, icy subject. “Hmm, Danno… I think I mentioned sorting some things out the other night – do you remember that?”

 

McGarrett sensed his friend draw up as he nodded despondently and did not offer any verbal confirmation.

 

“There is nothing I can say that will change what happened… what I did, and it’s clear that I’m guilty as charged. But I’m hoping that you’ll give me a few minutes to offer additional information before you pass sentence.”

 

“I’m listening,” Dan responded slowly as he let his eyes wander to the ocean horizon.

 

“You know I’m not one to split hairs – wrongdoing is wrong regardless of the reason, and the wrongdoer should pay a penalty. But I want to make sure that you understand that I view what happened… what I did for the undercover operation with the Feds last year on the docks in a completely different light than what I did to track down Shay. Everything about the undercover op was wrong – it should never have happened.”

 

The head of Five-0, who’d been observing his friend’s reaction – or lack of it – as he spoke, finally turned his eyes to the horizon as well. Now that he’d begun, he knew he had to make his case – complete and utter honesty would be the only hope he had of changing his trajectory towards a future without Williams as part of Five-0 – and probably as part of his life.

 

“With Shay though, it was a no-win situation for me. If I’d ignored the opportunity to go after him, he would’ve come back – and mark my words, it would’ve been when we were least prepared – and he would’ve exacted his revenge in some dramatic fashion designed to tear my heart out. You, and possibly others, would have ended up dead.” McGarrett looked down towards the sand for a few moments to bring a pained grimace under control before he continued.

 

“It was within my power to make sure that did not happen. You – your life – mean far too much to me to not have taken action. I didn’t tell you – not because I didn’t trust you – but because I was trying to protect you from the monster whom I had a hand in creating. Right or wrong, my aikane, I believed you’d been through too much recently to be burdened with the truth.”

 

Dan’s brow furled and he looked down towards the legs of his boss’s chair as the man continued presenting his case.

 

“From the time you became my second, I worked to impart the benefit of my experience to you, in the hope that one day, you would be capable of replacing me. Well that day came years sooner than I ever imagined, but I failed to realize it. I failed to see that my student had come to match me. As Duke rather bluntly pointed out to me, you don’t need me to protect you.” McGarrett paused with the admission and pulled an envelope from his pocket before he continued.

 

“I, on the other hand, am a convicted Lone Ranger, who desperately needs someone who can keep me in check – not always easy, I know. You’ve been a good keeper for me on many an occasion though. Do I regret breaking my promise and lying to you? With every fiber of my being. If I had it to do over again, I would’ve still gone after Shay, but I would’ve included you in the plan. If you believe me, then grant me one more chance to prove that I can reform… mend my ways. We can move ahead together and continue the mission of Five-0.”            

 

The head of Five-0 pushed the envelope into Williams’ lap. “But if I haven’t made my case to your satisfaction… If one of us must go as a result of my actions, my friend, it’s me – not you.”

 

Williams became slack jawed at the announcement and looked up at his boss as a sad smile slipped onto McGarrett’s visage. “Are you ready for a long overdue promotion?”

 

“Steve…” Dan breathed as he shook his head, still trying to absorb his boss’s shocking presentation.

 

McGarrett pressed on quietly. “That is your copy of my letter of resignation, which I will deliver to the Governor. It also contains my recommendation that you be promoted to Lead Detective of the unit. In a nutshell, Judge Williams – I need to know if I still have a job.”

 

Williams looked away for a full minute, and the sound of the surf and an occasional sea bird filled the conversational void. At last, Dan turned back to face the pensive expression of the man watching him. His voice was thick with emotion, his eyes moist, but his face revealed a pleased relief. “I… I believe you, and if you do ever feel like being the Lone Ranger again, at least give me a shot at the Tonto slot.”

 

With his sentence deferred, the head of Five-0 slumped visibly in his seat as he smiled and reached for Williams’ outstretched hand. “The position is yours, Danno.”

 

“And you’ll let me start actively recruiting for… the vacancy?” The younger detective cautiously eyed his boss.

 

McGarrett swallowed and looked away for a few moments before he nodded. “Yeah… it’s time for a few changes at the Palace.” He stood and took in the azure waves rolling in towards the shore as Williams rose more slowly. Finally, he turned, and with a twinkle in his eye, looked at his friend… his faithful, trusted second-in-command. “You may have to keep an extra close eye on me though.”

 

Detective Dan Williams couldn’t have stopped his smile at gunpoint as he tore the envelope in half and promised, “Don’t worry, Steve – I’m on the case.”

 

 

 

PAU