EMERGENCE

 

The Epilog to COCOON & the Prologue AND Epilogue to FULL FATHOM FIVE!

By B Huff & GM

 

"That is the truest sign of insanity--insane people are always sure they are fine. It is only the sane people that are willing to admit that they are crazy."
-- Nora Ephron

 

 

The clang of heavy metal against heavy metal echoed distantly. Steve McGarrett had no rational reason to be certain the noise was the sound of the cavalry flooding below deck to rescue him, but that did not stop him from gravitating towards the sound. He staggered forward as quickly as his shaking legs would transport him, clutching the ship’s rust-laced walls hand over hand. Despite the support, he stumbled down the passageway and fell twice before he made it to the hatch, beyond which he could make out stairs.

 

“Steve! Steve!”

 

The shout came from a familiar voice, and despite its panicked tenor, drained the tension from his body. He managed to lift his legs high enough to make it to the other side of the raised lip of the hatch, but with the knowledge that nothing more was required of him to put him back in the fold of the good guys, he let himself lean backward and slide down the wall to the deck.

 

“Steve!”

 

This time, McGarrett lethargically looked up to see the young man careening roughly down the steps, his momentum carrying him in a controlled fall into the wall opposite the stair landing. With a revolver in his right hand, he quickly took in the situation ten feet down the corridor and, eyes wide with dread, spotted the object of his search.

 

“Danno...” The man on the floor whispered hoarsely. No attention-getting cry was necessary. Detective Dan Williams plunged towards him and kneeled before he could take another breath.

 

“Steve! Are you…” The young man did not finish the thought as he visually assessed his boss, whom he grabbed with a force rivaling a punch.

 

The contact jarred McGarrett into grabbing Williams’ arm. “I’m okay… okay,” He made eye contact with his detective, whose concerned countenance penetrated him. Sounds of more footfalls plunging down the narrow steps reverberated in his head, but he couldn’t tear himself away from Dan’s face.

 

“You’re safe now, Steve! Are you hurt?”

 

The head of Hawaii Five-0 shook his head hesitantly and wished the high-tech ship disguised as an old rust-bucket cargo ship would stop rolling so violently. The nonsequiter thought passed through his head that Williams seemed to be having no difficulty managing the ship’s instability. As a matter of fact, the young detective seemed oblivious to his near sideways balancing act as he looked away and snapped commands over his shoulder.

 

“Chin – ambulance! Kono – help me get him topside!” As the shadow of Detective Kono Kalakaua came to hover behind Five-0’s second-in-command, Dan re-focused on his boss. His gun still pointed upwards, he ran his hand gently down the length of McGarrett’s right arm before he reached his wrist and squeezed. “Steve, do you feel up to being moved?”

 

It sounded like Danno was addressing him from across a canyon. An echo followed his every word. It was as if his thoughts were tumbling head-over-heels. Safe…Topside… Being moved… Being… Steve… Ambu…Feel… Worry… Thing… 

 

He remembered that he’d been subjected to a torture like nothing he’d ever experienced or expected. What did the voice call it? The cocoon? It HAD been like a cocoon. The sensory deprivation chamber was initially not painful, but as his brain began to seek input from outside sources, he slowly grew desperate to feed it. Mental exercises, such as recalling speeches and poems, were effective for a period of time – he had no clue how long. Eventually though, his mind began to take journeys of its own accord. There seemed to be no controlling it after a time. Images from events in his life swept through his head like an out-of-control slide projector. A crisp salute from a baby-faced ensign in dress whites… A fight on a school play ground… An old metal lunch pail – his father’s – as his mother placed it into his young hands… His secretary, May, tossing him a hard-boiled egg with a grin… His little sister skipping merrily along side him down the sidewalk… Chin Ho Kelly – his most senior detective – lighting his pipe…  A view through cage bars to the sun setting over rice paddies…

 

“Steve, whatever they’ve done to you, trust me – you’re safe now.”

 

The inward assessment stopped for a few moments as Danno’s desperate voice penetrated his thoughts.

 

Trust?… Did he say safe?

 

Had the trap worked? Had he broken and spilled the information that Jonathan Kaye’s Doctor Doyle had hypnotically buried in his subconscious only hours before the Red Chinese agent had taken the bait and kidnapped him? He struggled to focus on any recent memory that would give him a clue. He was peripherally aware that hands were lifting him from the deck, but he did not want to miss a possibly-crucial image in the head-spinning slide show back in progress in his mind’s eye.

 

The girl… Rosemary… Her angry protester persona evaporated quickly into that of a curious and alluring co-ed – Kaye still wasn’t convinced she knew nothing… Hennesy… a dear friend betrayed by one in their own fold – Miller… a flush of pleasure rose in his gut at the memory of the blows he’d had the privilege of personally delivering to the traitor… Hadn’t he? As his brain sucked him back into the mental vortex, he considered the possibility that he’d only fantasized about pummeling the scum bag. There was, in Steve McGarrett’s world, no lower form of life than a traitor…

 

Traitor… Trust… Safe…I am control…

 

He suddenly felt smothered and nauseous. His skin screamed to be caressed by cool air or water or… or anything that would offer him a sensory differential. He focused on the fluctuating pressure on his wrist, which was clad in the thick wet suit that minimized – and nearly prevented altogether – tactile stimulation. The pressure was reassuring and it enabled McGarrett to keep himself from screaming to be freed from the rubbery prison. He filled his lungs with the cool breeze as he struggled to return to the present moment. Almost startled when he opened his eyes and realized that he was on a gurney being hauled down a gang plank, his eyes darted around to find familiar faces. Two of the men – he did not know them by name – were HPD patrolmen to whom he’d had occasion to nod once or twice. At his feet, taking the brunt of his weight down the slanted walkway was Kono. If he was struggling with his burden, his implacable face did not show it. He backed downward throwing glances over his shoulder every few seconds. To his left was his second-in-command, who was attached to the hand gripping his wrist. Williams, his face now tense and angry, glanced down only a couple of times that McGarrett detected.

 

“Danno…” He croaked softly as a realization infiltrated his environmental evaluation. He – Steve McGarrett – was the only one who knew that Miller was a double agent!

 

Williams responded instantly. “I’m right here, Steve—”

 

The prone form wrenched free of Dan’s hand and immediately grabbed the detective’s sleeve and tried to return an unwavering, certain stare to the attentive blue eyes. “Miller… Miller…”

 

Laughter – not his own – exploded in his head suddenly. The voice was lilting… Mr. McGarrett… He squeezed his eyes shut and tried to concentrate as he was rolled to the waiting ambulance… Four score and seven years ago, our fathers brought forth to this continent a new nation, conceived in liberty and dedicated to the proposition that all men are created equal… We are now engaged in a great conflict to test whether this nation or any nation so conceived and so dedicated can long endure… A great conflict… A great conflict… Yes… Conflict…

 

 

*****

 

 

“Williams, you’re to secure the Arcturus until I can get the properly-cleared military personnel here to take over!” Jonathan Kaye, whose official title, Dan learned recently, was Chief of Pacific Operations for U.S. Counter Intelligence, barked harshly at the detective as the older man lithely hopped into the ambulance to accompany McGarrett to the hospital. “Nobody – and I DO mean nobody – is to set foot on that vessel until I return! Is that crystal clear?”

 

Dan’s eyes narrowed almost imperceptibly at the edicts being spat at him by the agent. That Kaye felt free to come roaring up in his unremarkable, military-pool sedan just in time to stick his nose into the investigation of the goings on aboard the ship offended the detective’s sensibilities. Clearly though, the man addressing him was confident in his authority over Williams and the team of HPD officers, who’d stormed the ship as soon as they’d received the green light. As much as the orders rubbed Dan the wrong way, it rapidly became apparent to him that Kaye was willing to hold up the departure of the ambulance to hear confirmation that his instructions would be followed.

 

“I’ll secure the ship.” The detective nodded seriously and ran his hand through his tight, sandy curls.

 

Kaye hesitated for a second before the patient mumbled loudly, “Brave men who died here…”

 

The outburst prompted Dan to bark his own order at Kaye. “Get him to the hospital now! I’ll handle the scene here!”

 

The older man gave a curt nod and allowed the ambulance attendant to close the door. Chin and Kono joined Dan as he watched the tail lights of the medical station wagon disappear around the corner of the warehouse. Dan turned away slowly, lost in thought, and looked up to the brilliant pinkish orange clouds, which preceded the sun’s appearance by only minutes. His two colleagues glanced at each other and then the sky before Chin spoke.

 

“So, Danny, you want me to have the guys take up positions on the dock until the feds come back?”

 

The question solidified Williams’ planned course of action, and his jaw tensed with determination before he spun suddenly and headed for the gang plank. Momentarily caught off guard, the other two detectives had to trot to catch up to their colleague.

 

As soon as they were at his side again, Dan responded firmly. “Yeah, Chin – I want Charley Boyd’s team out here on the dock and Matsumoto’s guys on the deck – safeties off! Oh, and have Cool’s unit keep the Arcturus crew detained out of sight in the warehouse!” The detective stopped abruptly at the base of the gang plank and turned to make eye contact with the two men, who narrowly avoided colliding with him. Williams continued with confidence. “But here’s the deal – you are not to let anybody take over these posts until I give the word. NOBODY! Got it?”

 

Kono looked uncertainly at Chin, who maintained eye contact with Williams as he clarified. “So when Mr. Kaye’s troops arrive—”

 

Dan fired back with an angry frown. “As far as I’m concerned, the Arcturus is a crime scene, and I will NOT release a crime scene to anybody – not the Navy – not the CIA – not Satan!” He emphasized with an arch of his eye brows before moving on. “At least not until I’m satisfied that any evidence needed to solve the crime has been collected. To that end, I’m going below to investigate. I want both of you to stand by top side. I’ll take a walkie talkie – radio me if Kaye returns before I’m done!”

 

“You shouldn’t go alone, bruddah,” The Hawaiian detective admonished seriously. From Chin’s body language, it was clear that he agreed with the statement.

 

Williams sighed and looked earnestly at the two men as he admitted softly. “Look, you heard Kaye. I’m acting contrary to the orders of an authorized representative of the United States Government. I think I can make a case that my interpretation of state law gives Five-0 purview here, but if not, I want it clear that I acted alone and that you guys were following orders. Best case scenario here – in about thirty minutes, maybe less, we’re gonna be in stand-off with the Shore Patrol.” His voice firmed up again. “Now, I’ve got to hurry!”

 

With slight nods, the detectives acknowledged the orders in tandem. “Right!”

 

Satisfied, Williams turned quickly and bounded up the ramp. A new level of respect for their novice second-in-command was written on the faces of both men as they watched the detective recede from view.

 

“I feel one big bunch of pilikia headed dis way, bruddah.” Kono breathed softly and then added. “Armed pilikia.”

 

The Chinese detective grinned and bumped his associate in the shoulder with his hand. “Maybe so, but I got the feelin’ that Steve would approve.”

 

Kono considered his friend’s comment for only a moment before he agreed with a conciliatory smile and a shrug. That fact would be all-important to Williams, they both knew, so, with a final shared a look of resolve, they set about the performance of their duties.

 

 

*****

 

Ears attenuated to any noise that an old ship like the Arcturus might not make of her own accord, Dan moved stealthily down the steps and through the passageway. The crew, after a brief initial resistance, surrendered to the police, but the detective knew that there could still be the rogue defender of the ship within its bowels. He’d collected a rifle and walkie talkie from one of the HPD guys on the deck before he retraced his steps to the position he’d found Steve. Cautiously, he stepped through the hatch and made his way aft, warily pushing doors open with his foot. Within a minute, he reached the access at the end of the corridor. Before he entered he could see from the airy space that it was a large room – odd, he realized for a ship of the Arcturus’ registered configuration. He was still too far forward to be at the engine room... He stepped onto the small, metal-grated balcony and was dumb struck at the sight.

 

A single flight of steel steps led down to the deck of the two-story space. A large, round, lighted pool of water was the focal point. The strange, bluish glow emanating from the pool gave the entire space an eerie aura. A small, crane wench, no more than eight feet tall, was bolted to the desk on the side of the pool. As Dan reached the last step and drew closer, he could make out a bundle of wires secured to the crane. He circled cautiously around to the base of the crane and could now tell that the wiring, which ran the length of the crane’s arm and dangled a foot below a metal claw over the water, was not of the typical industrial variety. Rather, they appeared to be of the kind that he’d seen used in hospitals to connect patients to heart and brain wave monitors… Brain wave monitors… Brain wave monitors! Williams’ horror came to a crescendo as it hit him that he was standing in some sort of bizarre, Buck Rogers torture chamber.

 

“My God,” he murmured, and about fell into the pool as a loud groan alerted him to the presence of another human. He turned his M-16 rifle on the prone form almost behind him. Another groan and the man started to roll himself over.

 

“Don’t move another muscle!” He commanded, hoping his pounding heart wasn’t obvious in his voice. With small satisfaction, he noted that the figure heard him and stopped. He slid forward and saw that the face-down man was a Caucasian, and wearing a soaking wet business suit. “Turn over VERY slowly,” Dan warned, and the man complied.

 

“You’re… you’re Miller!” Dan remembered a single visit the man had made to the office several months earlier. As the man’s identity was revealed, the detective replayed Steve’s words on the gang plank. He’d mentioned Miller before he’d lapsed back into the disturbing inner turmoil from which he seemed unable to rise.

 

“Williams, right?”

 

The man, signs of a lost fight obvious on his person, winced in pain as he slowly came to a sitting position. Dan observed guardedly and made no move to lower his weapon as he silently mused on what possible circumstances would leave a US counter-intelligence agent unconscious on the deck of a Chinese spy ship. Steve had come from this horrible place. He knew Miller was here… What would compel him to leave a friendly agent in such a vulnerable position? The answer came to the detective immediately – Steve would never – even in the disoriented state in which Williams found him – leave a friend behind. The truth chilled the detective as he knew with certainty that he was looking into the eyes of a traitor, probably one that had helped set up Steve for his ordeal here this past night!

 

“Where’s McGarrett?” Miller looked around. “What did they do with him?” If Dan had not been aware of the man’s treachery, perhaps the concern on his face would’ve appeared more genuine.

 

Dan’s eyes narrowed with anger. “Drop the act, Miller. Steve fingered you!” He tensed his grip on the trigger of his weapon in anticipation of a possible charge by his prisoner.

 

The older man hesitated as he eyed Dan. “What do mean, he fingered me? Fingered me for what? I came here to try to save his life!”

 

“Yeah, when I want to save a friend’s life, I usually make a reservation at the local torture chamber for him and a few of his closest enemies!” Dan spat sarcastically.

 

“Williams—” Miller made a move to stand, but Dan stopped him.

 

“Don’t!” The detective made a point of leveling the weapon at the man’s head before he promised. “I WILL put a bullet into you!”

 

Miller froze for a second to gauge the officer’s determination, and apparently deciding that the young man might follow through with his threat, plopped back to the floor angrily. “You obviously don’t have a clue what’s going on or we wouldn’t be wasting valuable time arguing!”

 

Dan smiled thinly and quickly slid his left hand behind him and retrieved his hand cuffs. “What’s valuable about it, Miller?”

 

The agent squinted and bared his teeth as he spoke. “Oh, nothing really! I guess you’ll learn in due course whether Steve is a human time bomb! On second thought, you work with him day in and day out – I think you might be the first one to find out!”

 

For the first time since the exchange began, the man’s comment gave Dan pause. Despite that, he let out a single, unconvincing scoff. “I think you’ll say anything you think will get you out of this jam! Now slide yourself to that pole right there and then put your hands above your head! Do it NOW!” Forcing the frightening warning out of his thoughts, he roughly secured the enraged Miller to the metal girder.

 

With his prisoner adequately restrained, Williams slowly walked back around the edge of the pool. This time, his focus was directed at the glass-enclosed booth behind the pool. He would never have admitted it to Miller, but the time-bomb warning put an apprehension in his gut that was making his insides shake with dread at what he would find in this room. He grit his teeth and moved past the a kilter door to take in the scene. It reminded him of a power plant control room… with the dials and lights. Dan already knew that the equipment had been used to monitor his friend during whatever tribulation he’d survived. His attention was drawn to the vertical gurney. It didn’t take a whole lot of imagination for Williams to see that somebody had been strapped there. For several seconds, bile danced in his esophagus as his thoughts dragged him to dark spots in the corners of his mind.

 

The chirp of the walkie talkie made Dan jump. “Chin to Danny, come in, bruddah!

 

With a deep breath, he slowly stepped out of the booth and pulled himself together to respond. “Chin, I read you.”

 

It’s startin’ to look like the OK Corral up here!

 

He was out of time – Kaye’s security team had arrived more quickly than he’d expected. No matter – he’d seen enough. “Is Kaye back?”

 

No, but the head black hat’s on the horn with somebody right now.”

 

With one last angry glance at Miller, he trotted toward the metal steps. “Hold ‘em off, Chin! I’m on my way!”

 

“Hey, Williams, what kind of shenanigans are you pulling? Who are you working for? It’s sure as heck not Jonathan!”

 

Dan took the steps two at a time, but stopped at the first landing long enough to call down to the hand-cuffed man. “There’s only one low-life, back-stabbing traitor in this room, Miller!” With the epithet flung, he continued his journey upward to daylight.

 

 

*****

 

During Williams’ thirty-minute sojourn into the bowels of the Arcturus, the world had gone from pre-dawn to day. The shadows were long, but bright sunshine filled in the blanks wherever it could. That Steve’s intelligence handlers would suggest or even go along with any plan that would leave the head of the state police so vulnerable to attack boggled Dan’s mind. Burning with indignation, he was determined to channel his ire into the chutzpah he would need in the next few minutes if he was going to find out what happened to Steve.

 

“Poker face, Williams,” Dan breathed to himself as he trotted up the last flight of steps onto the deck and strode purposefully to the railing by the gang plank to join Chin and Kono, who shot him tense acknowledgements before they turned their attention back to the dozen armed men milling fifty feet from the bow of the Arcturus. Two HPD men had taken defensive stances directly in front of the gang plank, effectively blocking passage onto the ship. The other members of the HPD unit assigned to the dock hovered nearby, their weapons un-shouldered and at the ready.

 

“What happened?” Williams queried quietly, nudging the Chinese detective’s shoulder with his own.

 

“We argued —you know – the lieutenant says they got orders, and I say, well, we got orders too. He says their orders are better than our orders, and I say sez who, and he says sez him, and I say that don’t cut it.” The Chinese detective tore his eyes from the scene below long enough to look at Dan with a grin. “That’s when he drops a dime to somebody – Kaye, I bet – and I called you.”

 

The screech of tires could be heard before Williams could react to Chin’s report. The tan sedan fishtailed around the corner of the warehouse closest to the aft end of the ship and screeched to a halt, leaving a five-foot trail of black on the pavement below. Dan, knowing the path he’d chosen was the same as one who’d opted to head over Niagara Falls in a barrel, steeled himself for the impending onslaught of outrage. Jonathan Kaye practically vaulted from the car and did not bother to close the door behind him. Another man, attired in slacks and a sport jacket, slipped from the passenger side of the vehicle almost unnoticed in the volcanic shadow of the intelligence chief.

 

With an annoyed glance at the HPD personnel who would impede his progress, he stopped five feet in front of them and slammed his hands onto his hips. “What on EARTH do you think you’re doing, Danny?”

 

“I want IN, Jonathan!” Dan announced, his voice holding a clear ring of self-assurance.

 

“IN…IN? WHAT does that mean?” The man enunciated in a loud voice as if he were speaking to someone in the wake of a jet engine.

 

“I want to know what happened on this operation, and you know I’m cleared!” Dan’s gaze remained steady on his interrogator, but he did register the approach of the military police, who moved to stand behind Kaye.

 

“You know better than that! Mission information is released on a strict need-to-know basis! Now you will immediately relinquish control of this vessel to me, and just maybe I won’t have you boiled in oil for this!” The man’s tone was savage.

 

Crossing his arms over his chest, Dan calmly and slowly shook his head. “No can do, Jonathan. This vessel is a crime scene, and I’m bound by the charter of Hawaii Five-0 and section 256 of the Hawaii Revised Statutes to make sure that evidence is properly collected and logged.”

 

“Section Two-Fifty… The charter of…” Kaye sputtered and then stabbed his finger upward at the defiant detective. “You’re telling me that Hawaiian law allows you to obstruct the federal justice system? I don’t think so, Williams! You have no authority to mandate anything with regard—”

 

“Jonathan!” Dan interrupted forcefully. “YOU say I don’t! My interpretation of state law and Five-0’s charter says I do! The actual fact of it may take a day or two to sort out! In the meantime, look around you! You’re out-gunned!” As if on queue, the HPD men all seemed to stand a little straighter and move their weapons to a more ready position closer to their chests.

 

Nearly apoplectic with frustration, Kaye shouted. “You know good and well federal law—”

 

“We can stand here arguing over the holes in your education on Hawaii state law OR you can come aboard my ship and I’ll give you a tour.” Dan, with an exaggerated cockiness, put one of his feet up on the bottom rung of the railing and smiled. “She’s not much to look at, but under the hood, she’s state-of-the-art!”

 

Williams was pleased as he could see from Kaye’s expression that the man had correctly read his meaning – the rust-bucket appearance was a clever disguise. “You’ve gone below! Against my orders!”

 

Dan gave a quick, angry retort. “Jonathan, it is YOU who have no authority over my very interesting crime scene and therefore no authority over my actions!”

 

The two men stared at each other for several seconds as if the first one to look away would lose. Finally, Kaye took in a deep breath, turned and paced several steps before he returned to his original position. He slowly ran his hand over his mouth, and when his lips were visible again, they were turned upward pleasant, but patronizing, smile. His tone was still a little exasperated and long suffering, but he now seemed more amenable to negotiation. “You know, Danny, you’re getting more like your boss every day.”

 

The unexpected compliment made Williams flush slightly, but he did not let the flattery distract him. He offered a thin smile. “So, where do we go from here?”

 

“Permission to come aboard, Captain.” Kaye called stiffly.

 

Williams’ smile broadened and he pulled his foot from the railing. “Permission granted!”

 

He turned away from the railing and the other two Five-0 detectives turned with him. Kono whispered, “Auwe! That was a close one!”

 

“I’m not out of the woods yet,” Williams breathed as he adjusted the rifle strap on his shoulder and straightened his tie. “I’ve got Kaye’s man, Miller, hand cuffed to a beam below.”

 

Chin and Kono snapped their heads up to look at Dan and made soft sounds of amazement. The Chinese detective tossed a glance over his shoulder to see that Jonathan and another man were making their way onto the ship before he murmured, “What? Why? What—”

 

“There’s no time to explain,” The young detective interrupted with quiet intensity. “Steve was betrayed, and I intend to find out what happened!”

 

 

*****

 

 

“Before we go any farther, I wanna know what I wasn’t told before this deal went down!” The three men had barely disappeared down the first flight of steps before Williams spun to face his two, momentarily startled companions.

 

Kaye rolled his eyes and impatiently spat, “Now? Danny, I understand why you want to know the details of this operation – really, I do – but can’t it wait? We’re wasting valuable time right now!”

 

“That’s odd – that’s exactly what Miller said to me not ten minutes ago!” Dan’s expression was deadly serious. He didn’t outwardly react, but the utter shock on the faces of the two men standing before him told him that Miller’s treachery was news to them.

 

“You SPOKE with Miller? He’s been missing since yesterday afternoon!” Jonathan’s eyes grew large and the sudden intensity of his voice turned it into a near shout.

 

“Lost to some is found to others,” the detective replied simply. “Tell me the plan now!”

 

Kaye, for the first time since he’d arrived on the scene, suddenly looked defeated and resigned to his lost battle of wits with the young police detective. He looked down for a moment to compose himself before he began speaking as if it had been his plan to share the information with Dan all along. “This is Doctor Doyle – he’s a clinical psychiatrist in the employ of the CIA.”

 

The intel chief went on to explain that the “involuntary” meeting into which McGarrett had knowingly walked was far more than a mere eight hours of tense negotiations, as the Five-0 team had been briefed. As Kaye laid out the fact that the head of Five-0 been the red herring in a daring covert operation against certain Red Chinese intelligence concerns, Williams slowly let his poker face slip, revealing a rollercoaster of emotions from surprise to anger to fear and back to anger again. The most appalling aspect to Dan was that Doctor Doyle had hypnotically planted in Steve’s head a wealth of bogus information that could only be revealed under the most extreme sort of duress.

 

“He was tortured – and when you see this thing, the term Chinese water torture is gonna take on a whole new meaning – AND he was very nearly killed! How could YOU allow him to walk into that kind of trap?” It was Dan’s turn to be utterly outraged.

 

Kaye held the palms of his hands toward the angry detective, who’d taken a step closer to him for emphasis. “Danny, listen to me – you know Steve! He volunteered for this operation with eyes open – he believed the incredible gain was worth the risk – and YES, it was a risk to him personally, but that’s who he is. I know how fond he is of you, but even YOU are never gonna get him to change!”

 

“Jonathan, I KNOW he’s prone to putting himself in harm’s way! That’s why it’s up to the people around him to try to rein him in – make him see that he’s far more valuable behind the front lines than ON them!” Dan’s voice reverberated against the metal and the two men, each realizing that the volume of the argument had grown loud enough for other, unwelcome ears, backed off a pace and re-composed themselves silently for several moments.

 

Finally, Kaye offered an olive branch. “You’re right – on all counts, Danny… I should’ve put the brakes on the operation. In retrospect, it was a fool-hardy plan.”

 

The words offered a modicum of balm to the young officer as he made a visible effort to slow his breathing and reapply the calm façade which he’d been – up to that moment – wearing so successfully. “Okay…” Just for something to do with his hands, he pulled the rifle from his shoulder and – in an act of self-comfort to the sharpshooter – checked to see that a round was properly chambered. A few seconds later, he looked up at the two men, and in a much softer tone admitted. “Steve can be pretty formidable when he gets set on something.”

 

A bit of tension drained from Kaye’s face and allowed his lips to take a slight upward turn. With a conciliatory pat on Williams’ shoulder, he diverted the conversation in the direction he wanted to go. “Yeah, so now you’re in – that means we stop the bickering and work together to tie up the loose ends on this operation.”

 

The detective re-shouldered his weapon and nodded slightly as he met the eyes of the older man. “Yeah, that’s a very good idea.”

 

The thin smile did not leave Kaye’s lips, but his eyes narrowed. “Now tell me what you know about Miller.”

 

“Not very much, I’m afraid, but I CAN tell you that he’s a double agent working for the Red Chinese.” The detective delivered the news softly, and perceived that the chief was hearing something that he’d thought was completely and utterly outside the realm of possibility. Still, the man kept his voice un-ruffled and pressed for more information.

 

Williams proceeded to reveal the events that had unfolded in the secret chamber one deck below them less than fifteen minutes earlier. He did his best to offer an unemotional and neutral report of the facts, but was not certain he was successful as he shared the gist of his exchange with Miller. Both Doctor Doyle and Kaye listened intently to the detective’s story, and then Doyle and Williams stood there silently as the third man paced and seemed to lose himself for nearly a minute in deep thought.

 

At last, he moved quickly to stand directly in front of Williams. There was now desperation to his tone. “Danny, did he actually admit to you that he was… working for the Chinese?”

 

“Well, no – like I said, he denied it to the end, but I KNOW he was lying!” Dan defended. The detective began to grow a little uncomfortable with the possibility that he was accusing a man of a federal offense without a shred of evidence that would convict him. “Steve knows – he’ll be able to verify what I’m telling you!”

 

Doyle and Kaye exchanged almost-pained expressions before the doctor spoke. “We can hope that Steve will remember what happened, but there’s no guarantee he won’t wake up with some degree of amnesia about part or ALL of the entire incident.”

 

Dan started to press the doctor for more information, but Kaye jumped in. “Which leaves us with nothing, but your intuition upon which you’re asking me to hang a man’s life – a man whom I’ve known for fifteen years, AND has passed numerous routine security checks and background investigations. I hope you’ll forgive me if I say, Danny, that I NEED to have a little proof before I’ll make a move like that.”

 

Williams listened and did not take his eyes off the man until he was finished. Finally, he looked down briefly and, with mild dejection, acquiesced to the logic of Kaye’s explanation. “I can respect that, Jonathan – you’re telling me that, not only have I not given you enough information to convict, I haven’t given you enough to make an arrest.”

 

“Unlike the above-board world of police investigations, where you must capture and document evidence that will hold up through the rigors of the legal system, I don’t need that. All I want is to KNOW – in my gut like you – that it’s so. What can you do to help me do that, Danny?” The man’s tone was soft, but challenging.

 

Williams frowned slightly in concentration for a few moments, but in short order, looked up confidently with an answer. “Simple – you need to hear him incriminate himself.”

 

 

*****

 

Dan kicked the hatch open with his foot, causing the loud clang to echo into the chamber below. As he stepped onto the top landing, he took a measure of delight in the fact that the noise had obviously startled the man sitting on the floor with his hands secured around the beam behind him. With a quick scan of the area, he pulled the rifle from his shoulder and clutched it in one hand as he trotted down the steps to the lowest level of the room. The two men exchanged hateful glares as he purposefully maneuvered his way around the pool.

 

Danny!

 

As soon as the walkie talking crackled his name, Williams turned away from the suspicious eyes watching him. “Chin!”

 

“Okay, I did what you said.”

 

“And?” Dan queried impatiently.

 

And Kaye left, but I don’t understand what’s going on.”

 

“No time to explain now. I’ll be back topside in about twenty minutes.” With that, Dan snapped the walkie talkie off, hooked it back onto his belt, and continued his journey.

 

“All by your lonesome again, Williams?” Miller cracked sarcastically as his eyes tracked the detective’s path toward the control room. The detective offered his response in the form of a mildly amused glance in the traitor’s direction as he passed his position, but he didn’t bother to speak. Instead, he pulled from his suit jacket something small and silver, and popped the lid open on what appeared to be a cigarette lighter. Aiming the device toward the small crane, he held it up to his eye and ran his finger over the knob on the side.

 

“Is that a camera?” Miller strained against the cuffs to get a better look at what the detective was doing. “It is! The Russians must be paying a pretty penny to keep McGarrett’s trusted aide de camp in their pocket!”

 

Not looking away from his project, Dan, with no apparent offense taken at the accusation, offered a distracted response. “Not a bad guess, Miller.”

 

The agent’s eyes narrowed as he continued studying the unruffled young man. “Ya know, I have to wonder what Steve will think when he finds out his boy is on the take.”

 

“What makes you think you’ll be around to tell anybody, Miller?”

 

A measure of wary concern brushed across the older man’s face. “While you muse on where you’re gonna hide my body, let me remind you that Steve knows about me!”

 

The detective turned and smiled thinly. “Yeah – and you’ve got the black eye and fat lip to prove it! But – thanks to you and whatever you helped your Chinese handlers do to him, he’s totally out of it. When he wakes up, it won’t be too hard to convince him that he dreamed he saw you committing treason.” Williams took a couple of paces closer and leveled a steely gaze at the man. “I’m doing you a favor by not turning you over to Kaye – your reputation will be saved – post-mortem, of course.”

 

Dan turned to continue his picture-taking effort, but before he could take a step, Miller, his tenor growing more intense, called out. “Danny, use your head! I know a lot about the null chamber – valuable information, which YOUR handlers would pay dearly to have!”

 

Williams froze in his tracks for a few seconds before he turned and, with suspicious interest, eyed the double agent. “I’m listening.”

 

“Get me off the ship and I’ll tell you how it works.” The man sounded desperate to make a deal.

 

The detective bent down and propped himself on one knee to interrogate the older man. “Now exactly WHY would YOU know how it works?”

 

Miller almost spat the answer. “Until last night, I wasn’t sure, but I was here when Wo Fat hooked up McGarrett!” The man’s near enthusiasm and suddenly-animated demeanor filled Dan with revulsion, but he managed to maintain a cool, wary mask while Miller went on to sketch the principles of the null chamber, and how the head of Five-0 had been subjected to the sensory deprivation torture for the better part of the night before he’d come across with the key control information the Chinese spy had sought.

 

“I have to hand it to Steve – nobody could believe how long he lasted before he cracked – a new world record, I guess.” Miller’s grin at the mention of his friend’s suffering pushed Williams to the brink of his self control. He took in a deep breath slowly before he spoke.

 

“And you just stood there and watched it happen.” The detective rose from his knee and looked down at the man, who fidgeted a bit against his restraints as he watched Dan. It was obvious Miller detected a change in the mood of his captor.

 

No longer certain he could – or wanted to – control his rage against the man on the floor. He turned away from him and looked up to the landing at the top of the steps. As if on queue, Jonathan Kaye and Doctor Doyle stepped onto the platform and began the trip down the steps to the bottom deck. As the pair made their way to join Williams, Miller’s eyes grew large. First, confusion at the situation appeared on his face, but it turned quickly to anger as he realized he’d been had. He shouted at Dan. “Williams, I don’t know how yet, but you’ll pay!”

 

The detective didn’t bother to look in his cursor’s direction. Instead, determined to keep his cool, he maintained eye contact with the two approaching Feds, and tried to focus on the small measure of satisfaction he felt that the sting had worked so well.

 

Kaye stepped up to Williams and squeezed his shoulder supportively as he spoke. “Okay – I feel it – like a kick in the stomach.” The serious, but appreciative expression dropped from the Intel chief’s face quickly as he re-focused on his treacherous subordinate. His voice took on a steely coolness. “Danny was right, Miller – you would’ve been a lot better off if we could’ve remembered you fondly – post-mortem, of course.”

 

Williams glanced hatefully in Miller’s direction as he pulled the walkie talkie from his belt. “Chin!”

 

“Danny, I’m here!”

 

“Release the ship to Kaye’s boys, and thank the HPD guys for me. I’m heading to the hospital to check on Steve as soon as I’m done here.”

 

“Ten-four, bruddah!”

 

Dan tapped Doyle on the shoulder and pulled him aside. Not wanting Miller to overhear anything else, he whispered. “Doc, did you have a chance to give Steve the once-over?”

 

The physician nodded and replied in an equally soft volume. “I drew blood before I left – won’t have the results for a couple of hours. What he needs right now, any other treatment aside, are several hours of deep, uninterrupted sleep. I’ll check on him in a bit, and give him a serious physical evaluation tomorrow when he’s had some rest.” Doyle smiled reassuringly and then furled his brow slightly as he studied the young man’s concerned expression. “You look like you could stand a few hours sleep yourself.”

 

The detective nodded and admitted, “Yeah, well, I spent the night pacing on the roof of the warehouse. Hardly seems worth mentioning now that I know how Steve spent his evening.”

 

*****

 

Dan found himself wandering aimlessly around a huge ship. Tense to the point that an excruciating headache seemed to be blurring his vision, he kept his service revolver drawn while he searched cabin after cabin. The corridors were twisted like a trail through a thick forest, and the walls were dark. The detective felt that unseen eyes were watching him from secret vantage points. Panic and a sense of foreboding invaded his senses as it occurred to him that he wasn’t certain what he was seeking so desperately. Suddenly, a warning shout alerted him to the fact that he was getting ready to fall into a dark hold that had not been there seconds before. The warning came too late and he fell forward into the darkness.

 

He almost cried out as he caught himself just before he tumbled off the chair onto the tile floor of his boss’s private room at the naval hospital. Gasping, he clutched the railing of the bed as he re-oriented himself to the real world and worked to slow his pounding heart. The scene he took in was downright peaceful. Steve, fortunately oblivious to his second’s near-miss with the floor, was sleeping soundly. His breathing was slow and rhythmic, and offered Williams a measure of comfort as he let his eyes peruse the rest of the room for any signs of trouble or change since he’d last looked around. It was night and the only light streamed in from the hallway through the large crack under the door.

 

He’d had to battle his way into the room through a cranky head nurse who insisted that her patient needed undisturbed rest. It was only after a few minutes of pleading and promising that he would be the picture of quiet that the very portly woman relented and allowed Dan to slip past the armed guard. Williams was happy to see that his friend was tucked away securely, but couldn’t help but feel a little incensed that he was being treated as an outsider – and not the ohana he felt himself to be.

 

Earlier that day, he’d stopped by, but had been unable to stay for more than a few minutes as the typical Five-0 emergencies began to invade and take over his plans. He was certain that Steve would want him on the job, taking care of business, instead of milling about a hospital waiting room. So, as exhausted as he was, he aggressively flung himself into the numerous duties as they arose. By early evening, it was all he could do to drive himself back to the hospital where the run-in with the duty nurse about did him in. After a brief, gentle grab of McGarrett’s arm, Williams collapsed into the chair, and almost immediately drifted off into a fitful slumber.

 

Now, he stood by the bed, afraid that taking a seat again would sentence him to yet another nightmarish search of the ghost ship in his dreams. As Dan studied the sleeping form, he thought he could detect an internal battle. Steve’s eyes darted about under his lids and only the paralysis that is normal in REM sleep prevented the patient from thrashing wildly in the bed. Suddenly, McGarrett’s eyes popped open, causing Williams to jump back slightly. Having a sense that he’d somehow intruded, Dan wished he could back away unseen, but it was too late. The now wide-open eyes burned into him and there was no escape.

 

“Steve, it’s okay to rest. You’re safe here.” Dan could only think to reassure his boss, but the expression returned by the prone figure scared the young detective. It seemed to Dan that the eyes gazing at him held some obscene terror.

 

“No… no… Danno… tell me it’s not true… not you… no…” McGarrett’s voice was weak and rich with tears. Williams gently grasped his mentor’s arm and tried to assuage whatever fear he was imagining.

 

“Steve, please… go back to sleep. Everything will seem better after you’ve had a little more rest.” His friend’s tone chilled him to the bone, and he wished he could think of something to say that would put the man at ease, but only the promise of a bright new day in paradise came to mind.

 

“No… no…” A tear escaped and rolled down Steve’s face as he closed his eyes and retracted his arms under the thin blanket. His breathing slowed, and within seconds, the man appeared to be sleeping as soundly as he’d been a few minutes earlier.

 

Dan, sickened all over again for what his friend had been through, took a step backward, determined that he would not do anything else to disturb Steve’s sleep. He glanced down at his watch and saw the baby hand tick onto the ten. It was time to go home and get some shut-eye in his own bed. He opened the door to the thinnest sliver he could manage and still slip out as he tried unsuccessfully to reassure himself that, with the dawn, all would be well in paradise once again.

 

 

*****

 

“No dizziness?”

 

“No.”

 

“No flashbacks?”

 

“No.”

 

“No headaches?”

 

“No.”

 

“No—”

 

“NO!” McGarrett had been patient long enough with the physician, who’d been riddling him with a battery of questions after he’d finished with a physical examination. “You’ve poked, prodded and pried enough! If I am dizzy, it’s from blood loss due to medical testing. I’ve answered every question at least three times. I’m obviously fine! Now, if you don’t mind…” He hopped from the side of the bed and moved to the closet. “I’d like to be wearing something that’s not air-conditioned while Jonathan debriefs me.”

 

Doctor Doyle exchanged a look of resigned commiseration with Jonathan Kaye, who’d insisted on being present for the examination, which revealed no obvious side effects from the terrifying sensory-deprivation experience the head of Five-0 had endured for several hours two evenings previous. Beginning on the morning of his rescue, he’d slept all day and through the next night, with only brief periods of foggy, confused consciousness. On the morning of this day, McGarrett awakened and was instantly alert and behaving in his typical I’m-fine-now-let-me-go manner.

 

The psychiatrist took a few steps toward the detective, who was inspecting, unsurprised, but with passing satisfaction, that casual sailing regalia and deck shoes had been retrieved – no doubt by Danno – from his closet at home and placed with near military, dress-right-dress perfection in the locker before him.

 

“Steve, you’re correct – we’ve found nothing to indicate that you’re anything but fit for duty – it’s just that we have limited knowledge when it comes to dealing with a live victim of the— the unique type of torture to which you were subjected. I’m just trying to gauge the impact--“

 

The patient spun to meet the physician’s penetrating stare. “Doc, the experience was unsettling – I’ll grant you that, but I wasn’t drugged or physically injured in any way!”

The doctor fired back. “I CONCEDE that point, but I have to tell you that I find it amazing – and more than a little frightening – that the Chinese have come up with a mechanism for making even the strongest personality crack open like an egg in the space of a few hours – with no residual psychological trauma!”

 

“Brought to us from the makers of the infamous bamboo-under-the-fingernails torture.” The impatience on Steve’s face lessened as a thin, confident smile slipped onto his face. “If you’re trying to get me to admit that I’m suffering from some lingering psychological malady, you’re gonna be waiting quite awhile – I just don’t remember enough of the incident itself to have any side-effects.”

 

Jonathan leaned on the bed and crossed his arms as he finally chimed in. “Okay, Steve, UNCLE! You came through a dangerous operation miraculously unscathed, and while I do have a degree of regret that I actually allowed you to go through with it, the outcome was very beneficial to U.S. interests on more than one level.” The Intel chief’s face hardened as he continued. “Not only were we able to feed Wo Fat false information, but – with Danny’s help – we ferreted out Miller as a traitor of monumental proportions.”

 

McGarrett froze for several seconds before he slowly returned to the task of retrieving his clothes from the locker as he pondered out loud. “Danno…” Kaye did not interrupt the ensuing silence as he could see the man was organizing a thought. Finally, the detective returned to the present moment. “I don’t remember speaking with Danno about anything, let alone Miller, since before I was… grabbed.”

 

“Well, you didn’t give him much to go on, but he figured it out in pretty short order.” Kaye stood and threw a confirmation glance at the doctor. “Get dressed, and if you’re sure you’re up to it, we can talk about what happened and what you remember about what happened!”

 

Steve nodded slowly, his expression revealing that he was still trying to dredge up memories of past few days. “When we’re done, I want to talk to that low-life Miller!”

 

“To extract information OR convey sentiment?” Jonathan queried warily.

 

The head of Five-0 looked up confidently into Kaye’s eyes. “Yes.”

 

 

*****

 

 

“Where is Danno?” McGarrett looked up from the half-eaten plate of pineapple chunks and mango slices.

 

“The log shows he was here about five thirty this morning just long enough to drop off your clothes. I guess he’s got an investigative unit to run.”

 

Kaye offered the comment distractedly as he studied his notebook and fingered his coffee cup. The two men sat in the doctor’s lounge in a wing of the hospital that was currently closed for renovation. Doyle had breakfast sent up before he signed his patient’s discharge papers and left. The one-hour conversation had been pretty one-sided from Kaye’s perspective, as the detective remembered only sporadic images and phrases of his captivity and the events of his escape / rescue.

 

“So, Danno knew about Miller…” McGarrett mused more to himself, it seemed to Kaye, than to anyone else.

 

The chief chuckled. “Yeah… you would’ve been proud of the kid, Steve. He really stuck to his guns on this one. I shudder to think what would’ve happened – especially given your amnesia about the events – if he hadn’t flushed out Miller.”

 

McGarrett leaned back in his chair as he pulled his coffee cup to his lips, but spoke before he sipped. “There’s something… something just under the surface…” He paused for a few seconds before he finally plopped the cup back onto the table roughly in frustration. “It’s like I’m looking at the facts through a murky curtain! I have an impression that I was faced with incredible treachery!”

 

Kaye leaned toward him and rested his elbow on the table. “And you were! Miller helped Wo Fat trap you, but in the end, the trap caught the hunters! Relax, Steve. The bottom line here – even if it never comes back to you – is that the operation was a success.”

 

“I wish I felt the closure that you do with this, Jonathan,” McGarrett sighed.

 

“Give it a little time,” Kaye encouraged, and the detective looked up from his plate into the man’s eyes.

 

“Maybe a visit with Miller will help.”

 

“Yeah, okay – I guess you have that coming. He’s in isolation in the 2056th’s brig.”

 

 

*****

 

With a curt nod at the guard who opened the steel door, the head of Five-0 stepped into the baron landscape of the gray-walled cell. The windowless room, no more than eight feet wide by ten feet deep, was cramped with the sparse furnishings it contained. A cot, a table with a top the size of a cafeteria tray, an armless, unpadded office chair, and a toilet and sink in the corner took up most of the floor space. Miller looked up from his seated position on the cot to warily eye his visitor as the officer turned the chair and straddled it so that he could lean his arms on its metal back.

 

There were several seconds of silence as the prisoner studied his folded hands. Finally, he looked up at the hate-filled eyes penetrating him, and snapped harshly, “Okay, I betrayed my country for money, and I’ll probably spend the rest of my life behind bars for it! What more do you want, McGarrett? An apology? Well, it’s not gonna happen! I gave and I gave, and you know what it got me?”

 

“Honor?” McGarrett replied coolly, unflustered by the angry words being flung at him.

 

Miller let out a single sarcastic laugh. “Yeah! Honor, but NO recognition and NO compensation for a lifetime of quiet dedication! I had three years left before I would’ve retired with a pension that would pay a mortgage payment on a small place in Chicago with enough left over for an occasional ticket to a Cubs game. All those years I put in, and it seemed like everyone around me – including YOU – were somehow managing to do just a little better! So – I admit it -- when the opportunity came up to pad my meager nest egg by dropping a few names I knew the Chinese already knew – I figured what’s the harm?”

 

“But it grew into a little more than that, didn’t it, Miller?” The detective’s quiet tone belied the anger of which his body language spoke.

 

The prisoner sighed and looked away as he shrugged. “More money meant more information, and not all of it could be stuff they already knew. It’s a slippery slope.”

 

McGarrett did not respond immediately, and Miller finally got up the nerve to look up into the detective’s eyes. “You can just stop lookin’ at me like I’m the only one on this side of the game board to realize I was being short-changed!” The words caused Steve to flinch slightly, and Miller, noting the reaction, slowly let a seedy smile slip onto his face. “But then you don’t know about the other traitor in your midst yet, do you?”

 

A contemptuous smirk came across the officer’s face. “You know less about my MIDST than you think, Miller!”

 

The prisoner’s smile grew into a broad, hateful grin. “OR just maybe, McGarrett, YOU know less about your midst than you think!”

 

Steve stood suddenly and kicked the chair towards the table. “Rot in peace, Miller – you deserve every minute of it!” He spun and stepped out the open door past the guard, who snapped to attention and sealed the prisoner back in his cell. With the clang of the door still reverberating in his ears, he strode down the hallway briskly, with only his eyes revealing a clue to the level of his distress at that moment.

 

 

*****

 

Dan started home right after the disturbing exchange with Steve, but was diverted for more than two hours on an armed robbery case which Five-0 was working. The incident this evening was the fourth hold-up in one of the Waikiki strip hotels in as many weeks. After interviewing the distraught, but unharmed, couple, he opted to ask a few questions of witnesses while events were still fresh in their minds. He knew Steve would expect it, no matter how tired he was. By the time he pushed his key into the lock on his front door, it was nearly one in the morning. The detective dropped without ceremony into bed, but, despite his exhaustion, slept fitfully. More than once, he started awake from a nightmare that he couldn’t remember long enough to consider – with the light on – why it frightened him so.

 

At four o’clock, he climbed from the bed and started a pot of coffee before he hopped into the shower. If sleep would not come, then there was certainly no shortage of work to be done with the boss out of the office. The official line was that the head of Five-0 was honoring a military reserve obligation. There was a chance that he would be released from the hospital today, so Dan knew that it fell upon him to go by Steve’s place and collect street clothes for him. His friend had still been sleeping soundly when he deposited the clothes into the locker.

 

Williams had hoped, but not expected, that McGarrett would be awake when he came by, but the young detective decided that it was for the best since there was so much to be accomplished that day. Now, he sat at the desk in the big office, trying to deal with any paperwork in his boss’s IN box that could not wait a day or two for Steve to return. Still not completely at ease with his decision-making authority in McGarrett’s absence, he agonized over each document, taking care to do what he thought Steve would do.

 

Danny, Jonathan Kaye on line two for you!” May’s cheerful voice interrupted his machinations.

 

“Got it, May – thanks.” In a single motion, Dan released the button on the intercom on his boss’s desk and collected the phone headset. “Jonathan,” He greeted simply, trying not to sound anxious – it seemed every time this man called, trouble on some large scale was afoot.

 

Danny, I just called to let you know that Frank released Steve around lunchtime – clean bill of health! The man is amazing!” The voice bubbled quickly.

 

“Frank – Doctor Doyle,” Dan translated out loud for himself as he realized that he had not previously known the psychiatrist’s first name. “He released Steve – that was hours ago! I haven’t heard word one from him!” Williams rose from the chair as a small measure alarm crept into his chest.

 

I wouldn’t worry about it – he seemed like his old self when I debriefed him – you know – impatient to get back to work.

 

Dan argued, “But I’m at work! Getting back to work means communicating with the office!” Me, the detective corrected silently.

 

Kaye was unconcerned and his tone was matter-of-fact as he offered an explanation. “He was burning to pay a visit to our friend, Miller. After his recent experience, it wouldn’t surprise me if THAT was the work that was on the top of his thoughts.

 

“Why hasn’t he radioed?” Of course Williams knew that there was no way for the intel chief to know the answer, but Dan felt the need to have the man either recognize that there was cause to be concerned OR to at least put forth a satisfactory theory.

 

Danny, he took a pool vehicle – they don’t have radios – relax! He’s been through a lot in the past few days – give him a little space. You KNOW he’ll check in eventually!” Kaye’s immediate response and complete confidence pushed the detective to – reluctantly – accept the likelihood of the explanation.

 

“Okay, maybe it’s not time to release the hounds—yet.” Dan conceded, and, with the immediate thought of his boss’s whereabouts put to rest, the next matter bubbled to the surface. “You say he seems fine?”

 

Yes, yes, he’s fine! Danny, you sound like a mother hen! ” The chuckle that accompanied the tease brought a momentary flush of embarrassment to the detective, but he quickly channeled the emotion to annoyance at the very idea that anyone would accuse HIM of being overprotective of McGarrett. Protective – yes… overprotective – not a chance! He didn’t try too hard to keep the indignation from his quick retort.

 

“Part of my job description is keeping tabs on the boss!”

 

Kaye laughed again and made a conciliatory gesture. “Not an easy task with McGarrett either!” The roar of a jet engine stopped Williams from expressing his agreement, and as soon as the noise died down, Jonathan changed the subject. “Danny, thanks for all your help on this one! I’ve got a plane to catch – keep up the good work with Steve – you don’t know how much he leans on you!

 

Dan did not react to the completely unexpected praise before he mumbled a farewell and hung up the phone. The only way Jonathan Kaye could have such an impression of Williams’ worth to his boss was directly from the mouth of McGarrett himself. He plopped back into the big leather seat feeling a little giddy at the knowledge that Steve spoke so highly of him to others. Now more than ever, he was anxious to see for himself that his mentor was completely recovered. He smiled to himself and realized that Jonathan had to be right – Steve would blow into the office shortly and want to know why Dan had let the paperwork get away from him. The thought of being called on the carpet for not “minding the store” immediately turned Williams’ focus back to the document on the desk.

 

 

*****

 

Dan twitched his nose to make the fly perched there take flight – the action worked, but only for a moment. It landed again. He twitched again with the same result. The next time he felt the airborne pest it was on his cheek. Annoyance won out over the inertia of comfort and he brought his hand up to free his face from the escalating bother. His eyes snapped open when his hand connected with an object much larger than a fly – it was the hand of Kono, who was leaning precariously over him with a pencil delicately perched between his index finger and thumb. Chin, with devilish mirth on his face, was hovering a little to the side.

 

Dan slapped the pencil from the Hawaiian detective’s hand roughly and pulled himself upright quickly. As his two colleagues hooted with laughter and made jibes about Sleeping Beauty, Five-0’s second-in-command oriented himself to the fact that he’d spent the entire night on the couch in his boss’s office. Certain that McGarrett would stop by the office at some point before the evening was over, Dan refused to be coaxed from the office even for dinner. May scolded him, but returned long enough to drop off an order of sweet and sour pork from a nearby restaurant. With a hug and a one more rebuke for over-working himself, the secretary left him to wait alone. At ten thirty, the detective discovered that, in his beleaguered state, he’d inadvertently used the wrong form on one of the state-mandated accounting reports. Exasperated with himself, but realizing that he’d been running full bore for the past few days on very little sleep, he went over and dropped on the couch for a few minutes.

 

He rubbed his eyes and focused on his watch – EIGHT FIFTEEN! He leaped to his feet! “Oh, man! What day is it? Never mind – I know what day it is! I’ve got a meeting about that darned Polynesian Heritage Foundation Ball at nine!” He grabbed his jacket from the chair and almost made it to the door before he skidded to an abrupt halt and turned to survey the big office. Ignoring the cheerful and still-amused expressions of the other two detectives, he frowned in confusion. “Steve… he didn’t come in?”

 

Chin was still grinning, but he responded. “Not yet.”

 

“But…” Not wanting to elaborate that he’d meant that his boss had not shown up the evening before, Dan didn’t finish the thought out loud. He was completely nonplussed at the realization that Steve had not bothered to check in with him AT ALL yesterday. He sighed and noted with mild dejection that a headache was blossoming. With no time to dwell further on his “missing” boss, he turned to continue his exodus. “When Steve gets here, tell him I’ll be back around eleven!”

 

He grabbed a notebook from his desk as he fumbled in his pants pocket for his keys. Not feeling up to a lecture from May on the maladies that would befall him for working too much, he slipped past her desk, grateful that she seemed absorbed in an argument with someone at HPD records. Still, she did not let him escape without a consterned glare and tsk-tsk shake of her head as he disappeared out the door.

 

Chin and Kono appeared in the doorway of their boss’s office just as the outer door to the office wafted shut from Williams’ hasty departure.

 

Dat boy is wound up tight!” Chin intoned.

 

The Hawaiian detective nodded seriously, and muttered, “I don’t think he got enough beauty rest.” With that, the two men looked at each other and snickered all the way back to their desks.

 

 

*****

 

Dan removed the key from the ignition and sat in the parking lot in front of the Palace. He looked around, and noted with disappointment that McGarrett’s sedan was nowhere to be found. With a glance at his watch, he recalled that Steve was by now en route to an appointment with the mayor at the city hall. With any luck, his mentor would be able to wrap up the meeting and make it back to the office so the two of them could spend some long-overdue time catching up both professionally and personally. As he trotted up the steps, it occurred to Dan that the void he’d been feeling in recent days was a result of the missed connections with his mentor. In the past months, McGarrett had become a tremendous source of support and structure for Williams as he learned the ropes of his new high-profile position as second-in-command. His job was a responsibility that weighed heavily on the young man, who was still months shy of his thirtieth birthday, but with Steve’s guidance, he was growing more comfortable in the role every day. His boss’s absence left him with a sense that he was functioning without a safety net. Ironically, he mused, the entire purpose of the second-in-command position was to serve as a safety net for the chief of the unit and not the other way around. As much as he fought any appearance of being “wet behind the ears,” this experience conjured an image in his head of a pup made bold only by the backing of the big dog behind him. The thought made him see that he was not yet ready to fly solo at the helm of Five-0 for any extended duration.

 

His unintentional, overnight “nap” had left him off balance and short on time, but he was determined to get himself and the day back on track by the time he caught up with the big dog. He reached the top of the big staircase and approached the door to the Five-0 office space. Now was his chance – before Steve returned – to correct the quarterly report on which he’d erred in his fatigue the previous evening. Already feeling more relaxed, he pushed through the door, but before he could offer an aloha, May, her ear to the phone, caught his attention with a wave. "Danny, the mayor’s on line one."

 

With only a momentary grimace at the slight setback in his plan, he nodded at the secretary and stepped to his desk. He was more than a little surprised to be receiving a call from City Hall since the head of Five-0 was in attendance at a meeting there at that very moment. "Thanks, May," he breathed as he pushed the line button and picked up the phone.

 

It was apparent from the second Williams courteously greeted Mayor Leialoha that the man was not happy, and the reason for his displeasure alarmed the detective as well.

 

“No, sir – as far as I know—” Dan looked up at May with an expression laden with confusion as he tried to calm the man on the other end of the phone. “In all honesty, sir, I thought he was AT City Hall. I apologize, but something very important must’ve come up… No, sir – Five-0 is taking security for Aloha Week very seriously! If you’ll give me ten minutes, I’ll be right over, and we can resolve all of your issues today.” Williams’ countenance relaxed slightly as the official’s anger dissipated, and with a slight twitch of his lip he responded to one last question. “Yes, sir, I can speak with the full authority of the head of Five-0. I’m on my way, Your Honor.” The detective re-cradled the phone and paused briefly to consider the disconcerting fact that his boss had not shown up at the mayor’s meeting.

 

May stepped towards him, curiosity coloring her own face now. He responded to her unspoken query as Chin stepped around the corner to hear an explanation for the snippet of the one-sided conversation he’d overheard. “Steve didn’t make the meeting at City Hall.”

 

Chin frowned, but shrugged as he pulled out his pipe. “He’s probably still tying up loose ends at Pearl.”

 

Dan didn’t address the Chinese detective’s explanation. That McGarrett had missed a meeting concerning security plans for an event with the scope of Aloha Week was disturbing, but it did probably have something to do with the recent spy fiasco. He grimaced. “And I suppose Steve has the Aloha Week file with him, so I’ll have to wing it!”

 

“Uh, no, Danny – it’s right here!” May turned and collected the file from her boss’s IN box.

 

“He didn’t take it with him?”

 

“I haven’t seen him today.” She quickly pushed the file into Williams’ hand and turned to answer the phone.

 

Dan’s jaw dropped. “He hasn’t come in?”

 

The Chinese detective gave the younger detective a pat on the shoulder before he turned away. “She didn’t say that – she said she hadn’t seen him. You know Steve – he probably passed through when nobody was here.”

 

“I don’t when THAT would’ve been!” Dan muttered as the memory of his night on the couch and subsequent awakening pushed into his thoughts. Despite the reassurances from everyone around him, he couldn’t shake the renewed sense that something was wrong with McGarrett. He glanced at his watch and frowned as he realized he had nine minutes to be in the mayor’s office. So much for getting back on track, he thought unhappily as he trotted for the door.

 

 

*****

 

It was after Two PM when Williams returned to the Palace, and noted that McGarrett's Mercury was STILL not in its usual slot. The thought came to him that maybe Steve had still not checked in at the office -- a lance of concern born of his continued failure to connect with the boss pierced him. No – he surely would have heard from somebody on the team if the boss was still AWOL. The focus might’ve been on evil spy plots in days past, but the Five-0 detectives still had work to do – they were cops responsible for the safety of Hawaii. Business as usual was the credo around here, with Steve being the main example, he considered as he made his way back to the police unit's wing of the old building. Steve had gone through a lot in this latest caper, but – by all accounts – had bounced back immediately… apparently.

 

Swinging into the office, Dan knew instantly something was going on that was not business-as-usual. All the staff -- detectives and secretaries -- glanced up from several small knots of caucus/conversation groups to look at him with -- what -- relief? And then something else. Guilt? His first thought was that if Steve was here he would bark at them about wasting work time -- that must be the source of their relief. But what was the cause of the guilt?

 

"I guess you haven't seen this yet," May commented, pointing to a folded newspaper in the hands of one of the clerks.

 

Easily recognizable as the society page of the afternoon paper, Dan's jaw tightened when he saw a black and white photo of McGarrett with his arm around a young and beautiful Asian girl. Only glancing at the caption -- a snide comment about the swinging head of Five-0 cutting up the dance floor at the Lava Lounge -- a new hot spot (pun part of the advertising scheme) on the Waikiki strip.

 

That had been before his abduction by Wo Fat and company. Part of the ploy for his cover. He bushed it off and reminded the staff that it was all part of the game Steve had been playing for the spy escapade.

 

The others exchanged loaded glances with each other. May was the one to speak up and inquire, "Jenny, Manicote's secretary, saw Steve and this girl Rosemary having lunch at Nick's a little while ago."

 

Okay, Steve was out with a girl for a lunch date. Without checking in at the office. Without coming to work at all. There had to be a good explanation. Williams reached for the most obvious choice. "He was tying up loose ends with the case," he replied easily, stung that McGarrett was off doing his own thing with the intelligence circles again and leaving Five-0 out of the picture.

 

"I figured," May said, shaking her head.

 

Despite his smooth and unhesitant explanation to the staff, myriad questions sifted through his mind, but Williams keyed in on the most important one first. Almost hating to know the answer, and relieved he had not been here for McGarrett’s inevitable volcanic explosion, he was compelled to casually inquire, “What did Steve have to say about this?"

 

May's expression was unreadable. "He didn't. He hasn't shown up yet."

 

Dan barely controlled his gasp. "What? Not at all? Where is he?"

 

"Still at lunch – tying up the loose ends, I guess."

 

Now worried that this was beyond the usual Lone Ranger tactics McGarrett was wont to employ, Williams tried to add up all the clues: The socializing with Rosemary at lunch today, the absence at work – the only possibilities he could conjure up scared him. The whole convoluted ploy of having Steve captured to reveal false information might have backfired. Did the Chinese spy find out? Did NI have some other covert and clandestine job for Steve and the boss had neglected to inform them (also a nasty predilection of his friend's)? Was he blowing this out of proportion? Maybe Steve was attracted to this girl – this very young college girl -- and he wanted to spend time with her… during work hours…

 

Now seriously concerned, Williams moved to his desk and dialed Steve's apartment. When he received no response he was prepared to drive over there. Instead, he called HPD and had the dispatcher page the boss. No answer from the car radio. Hanging up the phone, he considered a call to Jonathan Kaye, but the front door opened and McGarrett sauntered in, a sardonic kind of smirk on his face and a bright expression rarely seen before.

 

"Hello, Love, any messages?" he greeted May.

 

The secretary took in the boss's demeanor with little more than a narrowed glance and a barely perceptible shake of her head. Then she rattled off the urgent messages, ending with a comment that anything with an ‘X’ beside it had already been handled by his second-in-command.

 

Chin was in his office, and poked his head out to glance at Steve, but quickly returned to his own business with no change of expression that might have indicated – to Dan – any dismay about the boss’s tardiness. Miffed that he was the only one so concerned about Steve's health and confusing behavior, Dan followed him into the office, tempering his judgment with the silent self-advisory that HE was the only one on the staff who had toured the terrifying null chamber and had learned the ghastly details of the intelligence operation. HE alone within Five-0 knew how desperate and very dangerous McGarrett's mission had been, and how close they came to losing Steve.

 

Approaching the desk, with a variety of shifting emotions, he wasn't sure what to address first. Bringing up the gossip column seemed bad form, especially considering the fact that they hadn’t spoken of anything substantive for days.

 

"You know you missed the mayor's meeting. That's not like you," Dan only half joked. "At least not without a good excuse. We were kind of concerned when you didn't show up this morning." He said WE because it sounded better than saying, ’I was the only one concerned’.

 

McGarrett's eyebrow twitched and he continued to shuffle through the mail and memos for a moment. "I'm fine," he snapped, an edge to his tone. "And what I did or did not do today is none of your business."

 

The confusing comment stopped him in his mental tracks. Maybe the boss was thinking of the date with the girl and the paper's report? And the rough tone -- what did that mean? For a change, they were definitely not on the same frequency.

 

"Steve, I meant that I was worried because -- well --" There was no way to sugar-coat this. "You were just released from the hospital yesterday after a terrible experience—"

 

The letters were slapped down on the desk with a stroke of anger and for the first time in the conversation he looked at Dan. Eyes blazing, he sharply volleyed, "You think Rosemary's too young for me? That's more your department? I said it's none of your business. Now back off!"

 

The content of the attack was more shocking than the verbal assault, but just barely. Williams was so stunned he took a step backward and stared wide-eyed at his mentor and friend for a moment, trying to comprehend the abusive tone. A knock at the door diverted any response he might’ve had -- any comments he might have formulated after the shock wore off. Saved from those options, Dan just stared at Steve, trying to see what was going on behind the blazing countenance. The emotions -- aside from harsh anger -- were closed to him. The man on the other side of the desk was suddenly a stranger. The closeness they shared only days earlier seemed distant and un-real.

 

By the time Chin entered the room and handed a report to Steve, the boss seemed relatively calm on the surface, but Dan could detect an undercurrent of hostility. Glancing uncertainly at the Chinese detective, Williams was all the more disturbed to see that Chin did not seem to notice that something was amiss. Not looking at Dan at all, McGarrett glanced at the paper, muttered a few comments and dismissed them both. Dan was tempted to stay and delve into the extreme behavior, but was too hurt and perplexed to make any attempt at civility or compassion. Lingering only momentarily after Kelly, he decided he was not ready for another blistering conversation just now. Instead, he slipped from the room and then went to his own desk. There he brooded on his mentor’s aberrant behavior as he tried to give the illusion that he was focused on a document on his desk.

 

Uncomfortable reminders of Wo Fat's insidious torture and Steve's health surfaced, but Williams kept the concern to himself. He’d taken umbrage at Kaye’s 'mother-hen' jibe, but the REAL mother hen of the staff, May, was not worried. He shouldn't be either, he argued silently. After several seconds of letting that decision stand, he jumped back to the other side of the case as he considered that SHE had not been into the bowels of the Arcturus. She hadn’t been there that night as they waited those interminable hours for the intelligence sting to go down… And then there was the race to board the ship and find Steve. She had not been there to see how drained, pale, and disoriented McGarrett had been. Vulnerable and weak -- it was terrifying to see and something Dan would not forget for a long time. No, he decided – his concern was justified. Exactly what he could do about it he couldn’t fathom at that moment.

 

 

*****

 

After Kelly, and a subdued Williams left, McGarrett strode to the big door and leaned his back against it as if his strength had been sapped. What had possessed him to snap at Danno like that? He had no idea – at least not one that he could put into words. The head of Five-0 closed his eyes and tried to place a rational frame around the incident. Danno had commented about his behavior -- the missed meeting. It had been an important one too – how he’d let it slip from his thoughts concerned him. Why had he taken Williams’ words as a personal attack against his private activities? Wasn’t it part of Danno’s job to be aware of his boss’s agenda? Even his personal schedule? Yes, he decided, it was within his detective’s purview to inquire about his schedule. But the tone… it had been… well, in retrospect, it had been respectful and certainly not angry. As a matter of fact, the primary emotion McGarrett detected was concern. Didn't Steve normally accept that as a caring and compassionate side of his favored officer?

 

He wandered slowly back to his desk and sat down heavily in the chair. Staring at the paperwork awaiting his attention, instead, he dully viewed the folders, papers and notes -- the images blurred in his eyes and head as he continued to sort through the puzzlement in his distracted mind. Despite the logic of his own arguments to himself, he felt a fury at his second-in-command smoldering someplace deep inside… someplace he couldn’t reach to quench with cold, hard facts.

 

 

*****

 

The afternoon was long and miserable as far as Dan was concerned. Since the incident in his boss’s office, the two men had not spoken. Steve did seem somewhat subdued, but interacted with the rest of the staff with his typical curt directness. Nobody commented if they noticed anything out of the ordinary about McGarrett, who made no attempt even to speak to him. That, in itself was extremely unusual, but again, no one seemed to notice. Williams did his best to keep his attention on the tedious transcripts he was reviewing, but found himself re-reading sections of the material several times. Finally, he gave up and decided that he could be more productive away from the office on a couple of witness interviews.

 

The solitary drive time helped as he mentally sorted through what had happened. He finally reached the conclusion that – despite Kaye’s reassurances – it was likely that his boss was still not entirely recovered from his experience in the null chamber. Knowing Steve, he’d probably failed to share any symptoms that would’ve led Doctor Doyle to believe his patient was not fit for duty. That HAD to be it.

 

As the end of the official work day drew near, Dan returned to the Palace from his last duty call. He gathered his courage and determined he could not put off the inevitable any longer. He could not go home without squaring things with McGarrett. They had always been honest and blunt in their conflicts, and this must not be any different. Something was bothering Steve and they had to settle it now. In the back of his mind, of course, doubts arose about what he might have done wrong, or what oversight of his might have caused this, but then logic would reassert itself and he could pretty much convince himself this was not his fault. Was it? he questioned again as he touched the knob on McGarrett's door.

 

After a curt knock, as was his custom, Dan entered the room. McGarrett was standing by the lanai door, gazing out at the afternoon sun streaming on the meticulously groomed lawns in front of the Palace. Dan cleared his throat and approached, reading the pose and distance to mean the boss was in deep introspection.

 

"Steve?"

 

It was a tentative call and he recognized in his voice a lack of confidence. He had to do better than that, he knew. Whatever was wrong between them, he could not show weakness -- Steve hated that -- so he would push forward with a resolve he did not feel within.

 

"Steve, are you doing all right?"

 

The comment startled the chief and he spun around abruptly, glaring at Dan as if facing an interloper. "What do you mean? Of course I'm all right!" he shouted.

 

The harsh tone, the confrontational demeanor, the sharply cutting words shocked Williams. He blinked and mentally stumbled to find an appropriate response, but McGarrett rounded on him before he could pull together a coherent thought. The taller man came toe-to-toe with him.

 

“Instead of blowing in here with distracting questions, maybe you should explain what was going through your head when you did the quarterly?”

 

This time, the accusation resonated with the younger detective as he recalled that, in his haste to make it to his meeting that morning, he’d forgotten to collect the flawed accounting report from McGarrett’s desk. Williams grimaced slightly as he started to explain. “I’m sorry about that – I meant to—”

 

McGarrett interrupted viciously. “I don’t want to hear any excuses! Re-do it, and this time, put a little thought into it!” He turned away from Dan long enough to snatch a document from his desktop. He took the page and pushed it roughly into the younger detective’s hands. “And get it done before you leave tonight!” The head of Five-0 made it abundantly clear that the audience was over as he turned away and strode back onto the lanai.

 

Dan began his retreat with a few slow steps backward before he spun and rushed from the room. He pulled the big door closed behind him and did not stop until he reached the men’s room outside the Five-0 offices. He splashed some water onto his face and looked into the mirror at his visibly shaken expression. His heart was pounding and he had to make a conscious effort to slow his breathing. Steve had chastised, corrected, and criticized him numerous times for everything from investigative missteps to bureaucratic mistakes to his smoking and eating habits, but the corrections – even when delivered angrily – had never been delivered so loaded with… with what? Hate? Williams was at a complete loss as to how to react. The fact was that – however inappropriately the rebuke had been delivered – the mistake was Dan’s. He dismissed the thought of going against his boss’s command and re-doing the form the next day – the thought of McGarrett erupting on him again was too unpleasant to consider. It took him another minute to pull himself together before he returned to the office to correct his mistake of the previous evening. He worked quickly and took extra care to make sure the form was neat and accurate in content before he dropped it into the lead detective’s IN box on May’s desk. Grateful that Steve didn’t appear from his office before he could finish, he quietly collected his jacket and, for the first time since he’d worked for Five-0, left with a dread that he would have to return the next day.

 

*****

 

May looked up as Kono, and then Chin, joined her in the doorway of Williams’ small office. She visually communicated concern to the two detectives, who turned their attention on their younger colleague. He sat with his back to them, apparently so absorbed in his own thoughts that he was unaware he was being observed. Chin cleared his throat with no effect.

 

After one more round of perplexed looks, Kono broke the silence. “Danny?”

 

Williams jumped slightly and spun his chair a quarter turn to look at the three faces studying him. He responded almost cautiously. “What is it?”

 

The trio in the doorway looked at each other again. Five-0’s second-in-command looked uncharacteristically nervous and weary. May spoke up. “You look awful! Are you getting enough rest?”

 

Kono added his own observation to the secretary’s. “And you been quiet like a little mouse lately – not that we ain’t enjoyin’ the peace.” The Hawaiian detective offered the humor to make the underlying concern seem a little more manly.

 

The subject of the attention hesitated as he considered his answer. It had – until this moment – seemed to the detective that he’d been living in a nightmare where he was the only one who noticed anything beyond their own noses. It had been three days since a new, distant, angry McGarrett had returned to the office, and the boss’s demeanor towards his second had only grown harsher. The day before, he’d actually called Dan into his office to interrogate him about why Dan had rifled through his desk. What was he looking for? Williams tried to explain that the ONLY times he ever opened drawers on the big desk were when it was in accordance with McGarrett’s orders, but the head of Five-0 did not seem to believe him. He’d dismissed him angrily with the warning that he was not to touch anything in the desk again. The tongue lashing left Williams so dejected that he’d left and spent the rest of the daylight hours surfing on the North Shore. He paid for the angry rebellion though – as soon as he arrived in the office on this morning, he learned that Steve had removed him as the lead on the Waikiki strip armed robbery case and left instructions for him to complete the case file reorganization effort. He’d expected some form of punishment to be meted out, but to be assigned to what Williams considered secretarial work was downright demoralizing.

 

Was he okay? Dan sighed and did not respond to the concerns voiced by his team members. Instead, he brought up the subject that would not leave the top of his thoughts. “So, as far as all you are concerned, Steve’s fine. Nothing he’s done in the past few days strikes anybody here as… say, out of character?”

 

The trio once again eyed each other before Chin looked back at him with a sympathetic expression. “Danny, if you’re upset because Steve yanked you from the strip robberies, give him a little time. He’ll cool down.”

 

Kono nodded his encouragement. “Yeah, bruddah – you’re lucky he didn’t break your neck for bugging out yesterday!”

 

Williams stared at the two detectives. They just weren’t seeing it. It had been a long time since Dan had felt so… so alone in his perceptions. He nodded slowly, and turned his chair back to face the wall again. “Yeah, I’m sure lucky.”

 

 

*****

 

Dan slightly loosened his tie and plopped his suit jacket on the nearest chair as he steeled himself for the pungent and unpleasant odors he knew were about to accost his senses. He filled his lungs with the clinically-scented air of the anteroom one last time before pushing open the large door into the morgue autopsy room, where the barrel-chested figure of Doctor Bergman was hovering over a prone form on the metal tray table before him. The intense, illuminating spotlight that drew focus to the scene made the rest of the room seem dim. Strains of incongruous Hawaiian music rolled softly from a nearby radio, making the scene all the more macabre to the detective as he slowly approached the doctor.

 

It was obvious that Bergman heard the creak of the door announce that he was no longer alone, but he took time to complete an incision on his patient before looking up to acknowledge the visitor.

 

The detective was unable to stop his eyes from drifting to the nude body of the dead man on the table. The torso, from the sternum to just above the pubic bone, was expertly splayed open, revealing a grotesque buffet of organs, heaped with red-lined, yellowish globs and bubbles. Dan took in his first full breath of air since he’d entered the room, and – as he’d anticipated – the experience was less than pleasant. The stench of decomposing tissue invaded his sinus cavities and mouth almost immediately, but he stifled the urge to gag. Doing his best to appear clinically detached, he visually tracked with Bergman’s hands as the man deftly sliced through the pale rubbery tissue in the cavity.

 

Seeing where Williams’ eyes were fixed and the ill-disguised grimace, the medical examiner smiled grimly and observed, “Kind of makes your problems seem not quite so serious doesn’t it?”

 

“Yeah, Doc,” Williams agreed, diverting his gaze to the older man’s face. A modicum of guilt pushed through his thoughts as he realized that his own concerns were still at the forefront of his priorities at that moment. Dan hesitated for a moment and wondered whether he would regret bringing up the delicate matter of Steve’s behavior of late, but the medical examiner didn’t wait before he prompted the detective.

 

“And what criminal crisis du jour brings you to my humble establishment this afternoon?” Bergman glanced up at the detective as he set down his scalpel and used both hands to lift the patient’s stomach from its resting place.

 

The act brought with it a new wave of malodorous assault on Dan’s olfactory senses, and he suddenly knew that he needed to have this conversation and get out of there. “Doc, I need your help—”

 

“Danny,” Bergman, having completed a quick visual pan of his immediate surroundings, injected suddenly. “You wanna hand me that bowl right there?” The medico nodded at a nearby metal tray on a stand. Dozens of what could well have been medieval instruments of torture lay spread out there. On the far side of the tray, sat a stainless steel bowl large enough to contain a whole pineapple. Williams, his concentration cut off at the knees, paused only for a moment before he took the three steps to reach the tray, but before he could comply with the request, the doctor spoke up suddenly. “Uh, wait! Maybe you’d better glove up --- let’s avoid any possibility of contamination!”

 

Bergman, standing immobile with his gastric treasure dripping into the area from whence he’d just collected it, met Dan’s eyes – the detective’s brief surprise was quickly subjugated to an expression of suspicious concern.

 

“Over there.” the older man encouraged as he aimed his chin towards the metal shelf and underlying drawers along the wall. Marginally bolstered by Bergman’s business-as-usual nonchalance, Dan slowly made his way to a short pile of white envelopes stacked on the shelf. With an unhappy glance back in the doctor’s direction, he pulled an envelope off the stack.

 

“Tear open the end with the red arrow!” Bergman snapped. “And don’t touch the exterior surface of the gloves with your bare hands!”

 

Williams followed the instructions and slipped on the gloves as he silently realized that the medical examiner was concerned that the detective – a member of the living, bearing trace evidence of his movements through the environment – might corrupt the scene of the poor soul being dissected. Bergman clearly viewed him – not the putrefying corpse – as the contaminating element in the room.

 

“Shake a leg, Danny! This isn’t a snifter of cognac I’m holding here!”

 

With the impatient admonition, the young man hastened his movements and returned to the tray, grabbing the bowl with impunity this time. He stepped to the opposite side of the table and held out the basin for Bergman to accept (hopefully quickly). Instead, the doctor swiftly, but gently deposited the bloated stomach into the container. Dan wanted to gasp, but didn’t for fear of taking in any more of the noxious air than was absolutely necessary. Instead, he grimaced and whispered, “Ah, Doc!”

 

Ignoring his unwilling assistant’s displeasure, the physician quickly tugged at the fingertips of his now-empty hands and peeled off the glistening rubber gloves. Dropping them unceremoniously into a steel bucket on the floor and moving around to Dan’s side of the table, he continued. “Take it over to the scale.”

 

Williams, holding his breath again, did not hesitate in moving the five feet to the scale. His expression was pained. “Where the heck is Erol?”

 

Bergman reached into the large, kangaroo pocket on the front of his white apron, and retrieved a fresh pair of gloves, which he donned as he intermingled a distracted response with his next command. “Dentist appointment. Set the basin carefully onto the scale. Root canal, as a matter of fact.” The doctor pulled a clipboard and grease pencil from his apron pocket as Dan tentatively balanced the bowl where he was told. The older man quickly documented the readings, and nodded for Dan to bring his disagreeable cargo to a table near its owner.

 

“So you were saying something about needing my help, Danny?” Bergman, stepping over to the instrument tray,  picked up the conversation as if no time had elapsed since the officer had announced the reason for his visit.

 

Williams edged backwards, putting a little distance between himself and the smelly, bulbous mass in the bowl before he tenderly released a breath in anticipation of relief and inhaled again. “Uh, yeah, Doc, it’s about Steve.”

 

“DO NOT remove your gloves just yet, Detective!” The physician commanded suddenly when he noticed Dan making a move to extricate his hands from the rubber sheaths.

 

Williams caught his breath in dismay. “Oh please, Doc, I don’t—”

 

“What? You don’t think you can handle it?” Bergman challenged harshly. “If it’s too tough for ya, kid, go wait outside for me!”

 

The detective glared at the older man, who met his angry gaze with a defiant scowl of his own. The physician, privy to HPD scuttlebutt and further being Five-0’s official doctor, knew full well that Williams had a small chip on his shoulder about being considered too young for the mantle of responsibility he wore as second-in-command of the state police. Not above using this intelligence to expedite his efforts, Bergman did not blink as he awaited the officer’s reaction.

 

After only a few seconds of indecision, Dan, leaving his gloves in place, clenched his jaw and re-approached the table to stand opposite Bergman at the head of the patient. “Okay, what’s the deal?”

 

Triumph over his hasty, impromptu conscription job barely flickered across the crusty medico’s expression as he responded. “I need you to hold his head still.”

 

Dan blinked and wished he felt comfortable breathing as he muttered sarcastically, “Like he’s gonna struggle?” His angry expression shifted marginally towards the distasteful countenance he’d been sporting ever since he’d donned the gloves as he acceded to the command. “What would you have done if no innocent bug wandered into your web?”

 

The miffed barb drew a slight smile from Bergman as he reached up to an electrical outlet that was dangling a foot above his head from the ceiling, and plugged in a cord that ran to a tool on the tray. “I’ve only done five thousand of these by myself, so I’d manage – it just goes a little quicker if I luck into a juicy visitor.”

 

Williams might have smiled, but the chill of the victim’s head sank into his hands, and filled him with an anxiety about the act to which he was about to become a party. During the course of his duties, he’d observed autopsies from an uncomfortable distance numerous times, and now he routinely inspected dead victims before and after the medical examiner had his way with them. From his earliest exposure to death on the job, Dan had struggled to maintain a detached perspective when it came to grizzly crime scenes and done-to human remains. Every supervisor he’d had – during his military service as well as his law enforcement career – bade him to toughen up in that regard, and his current boss was no exception. While it hadn’t gotten much easier on the inside, Dan had taken a lesson from Steve, and had grown better at masking his feelings. In his tenure at HPD and now, under McGarrett’s expert tutelage, Williams had  built a reputation, not only in Hawaii, but in national and international law enforcement circles, as a brilliant crime scene investigator. This fact, interestingly more so outside the island paradise, where Dan’s boyish face was well known, made the young man seem a logical choice as Steve McGarrett’s right-hand man and heir apparent.

 

Remembering Steve’s recent admonition to focus on life in dealing with the dead, Dan solidified his resolve and found a spot on the floor to fix his eyes. “How long is this gonna take?”

 

Once again completely relaxed as he stood over the corpse-laden table, Bergman proceeded briskly with what was clearly a mundane routine for him. “Just a few minutes—my new bone saw will make short work of this!” The detective did not look up to see the man’s satisfied expression. “A top-of-the-line Medica Two-Fifty -- she’s a beauty!”

 

The revelry in the new, prized instrument went unacknowledged as Williams struggled to think about something – anything – else. What is that spot on the floor? Too dark for wax…

 

Dan’s focus was broken briefly as Bergman leaned over and slipped a pair of lab safety glasses onto the detective’s face. The move made Williams glance up to see the doctor’s already-goggled, grinning face. The scene took on an almost “B” horror movie aura in the younger man’s mind as the mad scientist – with the flick of a switch on the tool – started the miniature hand saw blade to spinning. The little instrument’s size did not match the horrific noise it put out. With the same don’t-go-look-for-your-friends-alone dread that one might watch a scary movie, Dan snapped his attention back to the floor. He felt himself growing hotter as the medical examiner leaned in close to the body and pressed the saw blade into the skull just above the left eye brow. Until that moment, Dan thought there was nothing worse than the odor of rotting flesh, but as the bone dust struck his face and attacked his senses, it took all of the discipline he had not to reel backward. Now, dizzy and nauseous, Dan began doing mathematical computations in his head to keep his mind away from the graphic nature of what was transpiring two feet from his face. Two…four…sixteen…hmmm...let’s see… two hundred… fifty six… carry the three…carry the three again…

 

As Bergman had promised, the removal of the top of the patient’s skull took less than three minutes, but by the time the doctor turned off the saw, Dan’s ears were ringing and the room was spinning.

 

“Okay, Danny, you’re all done! Erol couldn’t have done a better job himself!” The doctor’s praise did not elicit any reaction. Bergman set the saw down and emphasized. “You can let go now!”

 

Williams slowly released his hold on the head, the brain contained inside now visible, and took a step backward. He lethargically tugged at his gloves as he stared at the head. In testament to his determination, his hand prints were visible on the yielding tissue.

 

The delayed reaction made the doctor stop to visually assess the young man. The blood was drained from his face and there was a glow to his skin that told Bergman he was too warm.

 

“Ya, okay?” The doctor quizzed with mild concern.

 

Williams looked up slowly into the doctor’s eyes and spoke distantly. “Uh, yeah, sure, except… I think… I forgot to bring down a zero somewhere.” With the cryptic comment aired, Dan’s eyes rolled back and his knees gave way, toppling him to the floor.

 

“Danny!” Bergman snapped his gloves off and dropped them on the floor as he hastily moved around the table to kneel beside his fallen assistant. The prone form stirred and his eyes fluttered open as the doctor touched his cheek with the back of his hand. “Son, you’re as clammy as our vic over there!” Dan began to take in deeper breaths as he re-oriented himself to his surroundings and started to push himself to a sitting position. Bergman placed a hand on his shoulder. “Don’t get up – let me get you something to drink!” The older man trotted out the door and returned in less than thirty seconds, opening a small can of pineapple juice as he returned to the side of his living patient, who was now sitting upright.

 

He still looked dazed and unwell, but he accepted the can as it was proffered. “Thanks.”

 

Bergman took the detective’s wrist in his hand and checked his pulse before he responded. “Better?”

 

The color was slowly returning to Dan’s cheeks as he nodded slightly. An expression of chagrin swept over him. “Yeah.” His answer came out in a whisper as he took a sip of the juice and rubbed a spot a couple inches above his right ear. Taking that gesture as a possible indication of injury, the doctor reached up and touched Williams’ head. Dan shied slightly and grimaced. “Ow!”

 

Bergman pulled his hand back and wrinkled his nose. “That knot’s gonna be there a few days.”

 

After reassuring the physician that he was feeling better, Dan got to his feet shakily and, with Bergman clutching his arm the entire journey, made his way to the anteroom. The doctor guided him to the small, naughahyde sofa not far from the chair which held his abandoned suit jacket. After a couple minutes of sipping the juice each time Bergman nudged the can, Dan finally spoke, almost to himself.

 

“How embarrassing.” There was no escape from the fact that he’d fainted out of sheer queasiness. When word got out about this, he would never hear the end of it.

 

“Relax, Danny – only three of us were in the room, and I promise you that at least two of us aren’t talking.” Bergman grinned and patted him on the knee.

 

Williams’ lip twitched slightly. “Which two is the question?”

 

“I’m one of ‘em – you held up great. You made it farther than I did my first time.” The doctor reassured.

 

Dan looked up from his can of juice to meet the man’s gaze. “Really?”

 

“Oh, yeah— and I hope you don’t think you’re the first cop to take a dive in my chamber. You’d be surprised at the secrets I’m keeping.”

 

The words had the desired effect and Dan relaxed visibly. “Thanks, Doc.”

 

Bergman brushed off the gratitude and changed the subject. “So, you’ve earned whatever help I can give you today. You still feel up to talking about it?”

 

Dan looked down the hallway cautiously, not wanting what he was about to reveal to be heard by anyone else. He nodded and looked back at the man whose complete attention was now fixed on him. “I’m not sure it can wait. It’s Steve, Doc. I’m afraid something’s very wrong.”

 

Bergman cocked his head in puzzlement. “Wrong? You mean as in sick?”

 

Williams sighed and ran his hand over his head until he swiped too roughly across his newly-acquired knot. He winced, but continued. “Sick… yes, maybe… I’m not sure what else would cause him to do some of the things he’s been doing lately.”

 

“Like what?”

 

The revelations he was about to share brought his despair and uneasiness about his chosen course of action back to the forefront of his thoughts, but he pushed down the guilt even as it rose in his gut. If there was something physically wrong with his boss, then the sooner he got help the better – even if it meant that Steve would believe that he’d been betrayed by his second-in-command. Dan did not dwell long on the last, hard-to-bear thought. He knew what he had to do, and so he plunged ahead with the facts, trying his best to hide the pain that some of the incidents had caused him. He spoke of his boss’s unreasonable anger sometimes over inconsequential things, and sometimes over something that Steve refused to share. Williams recounted a few of the more traumatic (to Dan) incidents, and expressed a sense that Steve seemed to be growing more suspicious that his orders were not being obeyed.

 

Bergman listened intently to the detective as he quickly outlined the situation and his concerns. He concluded with the dejected admission that he had no idea what to do beyond turning to the doctor for help.

 

The older man leaned back in the seat for several moments as he carefully considered his words before he spoke. “Danny, I’ve known Steve a long time, and I have to tell you that I’ve seen him blow his stack more than once. He’s not renowned for his Irish tranquility.”

 

Williams was ready for the response. “Doc, I know it sounds like just another day at the office on the surface, but it’s not! Ever since he was released from the Naval hospital, he’s been acting… differently.”

 

“Have either of the boys or May been witness to any of this behavior?”

 

The detective let his eyes drop as he reluctantly admitted, “Well, not to the degree that I have, and when I did bring it up, they agreed with your assessment – that Steve’s a perfectionist and a harsh task master.” His eyes rejoined those of the physician’s. “And they’re right. He is tough – nobody knows that better than I do! But until recently, there was a counterpoint to the tough.” Dan looked away again fearing he could not hide the emotion that was churning inside him. “Now, it’s like the balance is gone, and all he’s left with is unfounded rage… at me.”

 

Both men were silent and unmoving for several seconds. Finally, the older man ran his hand over his face and spoke. “So, you want me to use my medical authority over him to mandate a full physical and psychological evaluation?”

 

The detective leaped to his feet in near panic. “Oh NO, Doc! Something like that could go into his permanent record! You can’t do that!”

 

The physician recovered quickly from his surprise at Williams’ sudden animation, and rose from his chair. “Okay, okay! Take it easy, Danny! I won’t do anything unless we agree.” Dan continued to look at Bergman uncertainly until he added an additional reassurance. “Besides, I don’t have the authority to force a medical evaluation of the head of Five-0 without the signature of his second-in-command or the governor.” He squeezed the detective’s shoulder in confirmation.

 

Williams let out a long breath of relief and maintained eye contact with the doctor as he mandated what had to happen. “It has to be unofficial – and better yet – on the sly.”

 

“I was afraid you were going to say that,” Bergman groaned. “Ya know, Steve’s a naturally suspicious kind of guy – I can find an excuse to talk with him for awhile, but there’s no way I’ll be able to sneak a needle into him to draw blood.”

 

“Just talk with him, Doc,” Dan implored. “Maybe he’ll open up for you – you’re his doctor after all.”

 

Bergman snorted. “Since when did that matter?”

 

“If he’s got a clue that he’s acting out of character, we can only hope that at some point, he’ll try to reach out for help.” Dan’s expression spoke of a tense desperation as his eyes pierced the medical examiner, who regarded him for a few moments.

 

The doctor was struck suddenly by the angst emanating from the detective. He looked tired – exhausted as a matter of fact. Of course, if Dan’s concerns about McGarrett were founded, then life for Five-0’s second-in-command would have to be nothing short of torture. Despite the tough time he’d given the kid, Bergman recognized that it had taken guts for Williams to come to him. Yes, he decided, a visit to the head of the state police was not only in order, but his duty as the official physician of Hawaii Five-0.

 

“All right,” Bergman sighed tiredly as he looked at the clock on the wall behind Dan. “I’ve got to finish up with Mr. Waters first, but I’ll find a reason to stop by the office as soon as I’m done.”

 

Williams smiled genuinely for the first time since he’d arrived. “Mahalo nui loa, Doc – you just don’t know how much I appreciate it.”

 

“Enough to…” The medical examiner smiled slyly and nodded at the door to the autopsy room.

 

Dan collected his jacket and responded to the unfinished question with a thin smile. “No, not that much.”

 

 

*****

 

 

“Is the coffee gone?”

 

May, who’d just collected her purse from under her desk, looked up to see the medical examiner ambling through the door sporting a manila file folder under his arm. She smiled. “Now you know full well I always brew a fresh pot for the boss before I leave, so you’re timing is impeccable, Doctor!”

 

She started toward the coffee pot, but Bergman held his hand up. “I’ll get it, May – you go on ahead home.”

 

In a single, smooth motion, the woman reversed direction and headed back towards her desk. Not bothering to sit, she leaned over and pressed a button on the intercom. “Boss, Doctor Bergman’s sugaring a cup of java!”

 

After a short pause, the big office door swung open, but nobody stepped out.

 

The secretary, satisfied that her final duty for the day had been successfully executed, strolled briskly through the office space towards the outer door. She called over her shoulder. “Night, Doc!”

 

“G’night, May!” The medical examiner echoed the sentiment even as his thoughts turned to the unseen man in the office fifteen feet down the aisle. He took a quick sip of the coffee as he plodded forward, noting that nothing seemed amiss with McGarrett’s secretary, and closed the door behind him.

 

McGarrett sat on the front edge of his desk and glanced up from a document he held in his hand, but turned his eyes back to the page as he greeted his guest. “Doc, to what do I owe the pleasure?”

 

“Just dropping off the Lee file for Chin.” Bergman explained casually as he settled into the white chair nearest to the detective’s position.

 

The doctor thought his answer seemed reasonable enough, but McGarrett paused suddenly to study him. He put his coffee cup to his lips as he met the officer’s fixed gaze. The head of Five-0, in a very deliberate move, placed the paper on his desk and crossed his arms, a signal that the doctor had his undivided attention. Bergman wanted the man’s attention, but had an uncomfortable sense that McGarrett had already perceived that the complete motive was not on the table.

 

“Really. The Lee file.” Steve intoned softly.

 

Now, it was Bergman who suddenly felt like a bug trying to maneuver around the spider’s web as he nodded uncomfortably. “Hmm, yeah – I do on occasion have information to contribute to a case. What’s so unusual about that?”

 

“Not a thing, Doc – I’m delighted that you’ve got nothing better to do than to personally courier a report to my office.”

 

The older man blinked as he debated whether this was a display of the paranoia Dan had mentioned or whether his cover story was too flimsy for the likes of the chief of the state’s police investigative unit. He shifted in his seat slightly as he decided the evidence so far pointed to the flimsy explanation. “Okay, as much as I look forward to the coffee, I do have another official duty with this organization. You were sequestered in the Naval Hospital at Pearl for a day and a half early last week.”

 

McGarrett’s jaw tightened slightly as he nodded his agreement. “And I checked in with you after that, did I not?”

 

“Oh, yes – I cleared you for duty after a mere phone conversation with you.”

 

“And, no doubt a consultation with the Navy physician.” McGarrett, who knew the drill too well, added.

 

A wave of annoyance passed over the man in the chair, which was beginning to feel like a hot seat. He was not used to feeling defensive. “Yes, with a consultation with Doctor Doyle! But I also have an ethical obligation to see for myself that my patient is doing well, so just consider this a follow-up!”

 

The detective’s eyes narrowed briefly, and he uncrossed his arms just long enough to hold his hands up in a mildly sarcastic conciliatory gesture. “Fine, Doc! Consider me the picture of cooperation! What do you need from me to be satisfy your medical morality?”

 

“Just the answers to a few questions.” Bergman snapped firmly. He was one of the few people who refused to be intimidated by the strong-willed detective, but that did not make butting heads with the man any less challenging.

 

“Shoot!” McGarrett ordered, his tone holding a thinly veiled impatience.

 

The doctor wasted no time in firing off questions. “Are you feeling okay?”

 

“Yes.”

 

“Completely back to normal?”

 

“Yes.”

 

“Headaches?”

 

“None that an occasional aspirin doesn’t knock out.”

 

“Are you sleeping well?”

 

“Yes.”

 

“Are you just telling me what I want to hear so that I’ll leave?”

 

McGarrett hesitated for a second before he let a thin smile slide onto his lips. “Maybe.”

 

Bergman sighed – for McGarrett, maybe or yes was the expected response. The medical examiner knew that – were he well versed in the black art of human psychology – he would be better equipped to architect the next round of questions, but he would have to make do with the foundation of his own experience. He plunged ahead not wanting the detective to suddenly decide the audience was over.

 

“Have you been feeling any extra stress or perhaps frustration?”

 

Steve paused as he rose from desk perch and walked around to stand by the French doors of his lanai. “Stress, you say? Why would I be under any stress? The upcoming annual budget melee is just a few weeks away. I’ve got twelve active investigations on the board and four cases in the prosecution phase. In addition to that, Five-0 is on the hook to provide security for three events – two political and one charity – within the next month. So, Doc, I’d say it’s business as usual around here.”

 

“Okay.” It was Bergman’s turn to pause. It did seem to the physician that the man, whom he’d known ever since he’d been appointed the head of Five-0, was wound a few degrees tighter than normal. Despite McGarrett’s business-as-usual description of Five-0’s current workload, it sounded to Bergman like there were at least a couple of extra labor-intensive duties that were keeping all of the Five-0 men busier than usual. Clearly, if Steve was feeling the weight of extra, unmoving deadlines, he would pass it on to his men. Danny, in particular, as his novice second-in-command, would likely receive the brunt of the pressure. Could it be that Steve, in his he’ll-learn-to-swim-if-I-throw-him-into-the-deep-end approach to instructing, had over-burdened his protégé to the point that the young man now perceived something wrong with McGarrett? It was obvious to Bergman that Williams took everything his boss said to heart. Perhaps Steve, in distracted oblivion to the effect he was having on his more-tender-skinned detective, was driving Danny towards the brink of some psychological breakdown. This suddenly seemed like an all-too-real possibility.

 

Bergman slowly rose from his seat to stand in front of the desk, shoving his hands in his pockets. “With all that going on, how are the boys doing?”

 

McGarrett scowled. “Chin and Kono? They’re fine.”

 

The physician’s ears instantly attenuated to the fact that the man standing on the other side of the desk made no mention of the third key player on his team. His brow furled as he pressed on.

 

“I mean you’re not pushing them too hard?” Sensing an impending what-does-this-have-to-do-with-my-follow-up-exam question, Bergman snapped quickly, “Your men are my patients too!”

 

“I’m not privy to complaints about the workload.” McGarrett replied evenly.

 

“Ah, I’ll wager that’s Danny’s department.”

 

Steve sent a long suffering glance upward, but he didn’t bother with a verbal response.

 

Bergman took special care to observe the detective’s reaction to the next question. “What about Danny?”

 

“Danno? What about him?”

 

“You said Chin and Kono were fine, but you didn’t mention your second-in-command. I imagine you’re pushing him pretty hard right now.” It wasn’t a question – the physician knew it was true. After Dan’s cry for help that afternoon, there was no doubt that the young man was under tremendous work-related stress. Whether that pressure was a result of a problem with Steve or Dan, Bergman was determined to find out.

 

McGarrett turned away from the physician to look out onto the lanai. “Danno… Danno’s got a lot to learn.”

 

“Yes, most people his age have a lot to learn whether they know it or not. He’s sharp and talented – and he certainly wants to please you – but too much pressure is not good for anybody. I notice you didn’t say he was fine.”

 

The detective spun to face the man who was obviously making a veiled accusation. His blue eyes flashed in anger, but he kept his temper in check. “You sound like you’re speaking from first-hand knowledge.” McGarrett stepped closer to his desk. “Has Danno paid you a professional visit? Is that why you’re here?”

 

Bergman silently cursed himself and hoped that Williams would understand that he hadn’t let the cat out of the bag intentionally. He’d worry about the possibility that he’d inadvertently violated doctor-patient confidentiality later after he’d given it his best shot to make the detective before him understand the situation. “Steve, it seems to me that Danny’s under a lot of pressure right now – maybe more than you realize. Have you noticed anything out of the ordinary with him?”

 

McGarrett, maintaining his angry countenance, regarded the doctor for several seconds as he considered his response. Finally, his expression softened marginally. “He has been a little… tense lately.” The detective looked as though the pieces to a mental puzzle had suddenly fallen into place as he added. “Yes, very wound up and nervous as a matter of fact.”

 

“Well, it could be that he needs a little time off. I think I’ll have him stop by Queens tomorrow – do a full physical just to make sure everything’s okay.”

 

The detective, anger dissipated, now looked concerned as he nodded. “That’s probably a very good idea, Doc.”

 

“In the meantime, take it easy on the boy, huh!” The doctor admonished as he collected his coffee cup and plodded tiredly from the room.

 

Steve watched the doctor open the door and slip from the room. He heard the distant slam of the outer door before he spoke softly to his absent second-in-command. “So, you’re taking your case to outside authorities.” The detective’s eyes narrowed as he slammed his fist down on his desk, causing his own nearby coffee cup to jump. Turning away from his desk he stepped out onto his lanai and took in the thick, warm air. Eyes still narrow with anger, a thin smile slipped onto his lips. “The game is afoot and already your own weapon has been turned against you. Danno. You DO have a lot to learn.”

 

*****

 

“Eleven o’clock… Queens Hospital.” Dan frowned as he read the message out loud as if May didn’t know what it said. He looked at her in baffled concern. “Me? Are you sure Bergman wants ME to meet him at Queens?”

 

The secretary, busy checking a newly arrived order of office supplies, offered a patient, but distracted answer. “Danny, an important part of being a good secretary is making sure the right person gets the message.”

 

“Hmm, yeah… sorry,” Dan mumbled and stuffed the paper in his pocket, and then mindlessly slipped off his jacket and tossed it onto the chair in his office. The detective tried to envision scenarios related to Bergman’s conversation with Steve the previous evening that would result in the medical examiner wanting to meet with him at the hospital. Did Bergman suspect a serious medical problem with his boss? Or had the meeting not produced any productive information and now Bergman want to strategize with Dan about the next steps? But why meet at the hospital and not at the ME’s office? It was a little after nine o’clock now and the detective had just arrived – he’d diverted an hour and a half earlier en route to the office in response to a call from an informant. He hadn’t seen Steve yet, but knew he was in his office. Dan wondered with apprehension in what mood he would find his boss cloaked this morning.

 

“Danny!” Williams’ attention was yanked into the present moment by the call from Chin, who was leaning out of Kono’s office. “Do you want me or Kono to head to Kailua on the Robertson case?”

 

It took Dan a few seconds to re-acquire his train of thought, but the answer ultimately sounded confident. “I’ll roll to Kailua – that’ll keep you guys here in town to tie up the loose ends on the Lee case.”

 

“Right.” The Chinese detective nodded and quickly retracted back into the office.

 

Williams detected the opening of McGarrett’s door by the gentle rush of plumeria-blossom air that wafted from his lanai. He turned as his boss spoke to him.

 

“Danno.” The head of Five-0 stood in his doorway sans suit jacket and beckoned with the slightest movement of his head for his detective to enter. “Productive meeting with your snitch?”

 

Williams immediately followed the taller man into the office and closed the door behind him as he responded. “If he’s telling the truth, it will have been worth the cash I had to cough up.” The young man relaxed slightly as his mentor seemed to be of a calm disposition at the moment.

 

“Hmm, it’s interesting that you bring up the subject of truth.” McGarrett had stopped several feet in front of his desk and stood with his back to his detective.

 

Confused, Dan stopped walking as soon as his boss stopped. Staring at the back of the man three feet in front of him, Dan parroted. “The subject of truth? I don’t understand.”

 

McGarrett kept his voice on an even keel, but spoke in an ominously quiet tone. “You knew Bergman was going to pay me a visit last night.”

 

Dan could feel his heart beating a little faster as he sensed his boss’s anger. Not certain how much Steve knew of his complicity in the doctor’s visit, the only thing he could see to do was to answer each question truthfully. He knew that if Steve ever caught him in a lie that it could well be, not only the end of his career with Five-0, but the end of what Dan considered a cherished friendship. So, he would answer and let the chips fall where they would. He swallowed. “Yes, I knew.”

 

“Well, just so you know, despite what you tried to do, Bergman and I are on the same sheet of music.” The lead detective’s face was still not visible, but it was clear to Dan that the man now spoke through clenched teeth.

 

Now completely baffled, Williams took a single step closer. “Steve, I don’t under—” Before Dan could complete the thought, McGarrett turned and, with his face twisted in rage, back-handed the unprepared officer, causing him to tumble backward and roughly slam into the credenza and slide to the floor. With the wind knocked out of him and his head spinning from the blow, the young man made no move to rise from his disadvantaged, nearly-prone position on the floor before his attacker bent over and harshly yanked him to his feet by grabbing a fistful of his shirt and tie.

 

Still reeling with disbelief, Dan observed with unclear vision that McGarrett was raising his hand to strike him again. To defend himself would been paramount to accepting that it was actually happening to him, and so, partially supported by Steve’s firm hold on his shirt, the detective stared into his friend’s angry eyes completely overwhelmed by the violence -- the incongruous insanity – to await another blow.

 

Instead, the taller man shoved him backward, this time into the wall. The back of Dan’s head knocked roughly into an oil painting, jarring it loose from its hook on the wall. Had the credenza not been there, the stunned, stinging, and dizzy officer would have dropped to the floor again. Instead, he leaned on the piece of furniture, noting a large, single drop of blood smacking its surface, as his instinct for self-preservation caught up with reality. Even as certain as he was – in the recesses of his mind – that the livid man before him was unwell -- his thoughts turned to preventing further injury to himself.

 

Before either officer could make another move, a knock alerted them that the door would be opened momentarily. For no reason he could explain at that moment, Dan gathered himself together enough to stand upright and turn away from his two colleagues. Surreptitiously wiping away the small trickle of blood meandering from his nose with the back of his hand, he clumsily made an attempt to smooth his shirt and tie with the other. He heard the fall of footsteps as the door swung open and at least two people entered. Dan heard only a blurred comment from Chin, something about a noise. A brief silence ensued before he cautiously turned to take in the scene. Dismayed to see that it was he who still held the unwanted attention of his boss whose tense expression seemed to be relaxing slightly.

 

“Steve, is everything okay? What happened?” This time it was Kono who inquired on the state of affairs in the big office. Neither of Dan’s two in-the-dark colleagues appeared overly concerned at the scene --- just mildly perplexed.

 

When McGarrett did not respond immediately, his second-in-command did what was beginning to come naturally for him – he answered on behalf of his chief.

 

"Nothing," he heard himself saying, as if in a trace. "Nothing - uh -- happened. A -- uh -- picture fell off the wall."

 

While their attention was directed to the toppled painting face down on the floor, Williams slipped quickly past the officers and out to his office. Grabbing his jacket off the chair, he hurried out of the Palace and to his car. Sitting there in the baking Hawaiian sun, he leaned his head against the steering wheel, wanting to cry and scream and hit something himself with the frustration of it all.

 

What was happening? Why couldn’t he awaken from this nightmare? Why had he covered for Steve? Wouldn’t this unbelievable display of violence towards him support his assertion that Steve needed help? Searching deep within himself, he could reluctantly see the reason -- because his heart told him that – irrational or not – things would never be all right again if anyone else learned of McGarrett’s behavior. Taking a few slow deep breaths to clear his head, he leaned back and slipped the key into the ignition. With only passing chagrin, he realized that his face was damp with tears. He fired up the ignition before he pulled a handkerchief from his pocket and wiped his face. He nudged his rear-view mirror and noted the beginnings of a black eye, but at least his face was clear of emotional debris and blood. He didn’t bother to palpate the knot that he knew was rising on the back of his head.

 

What next? Where was he racing at break neck pace?

 

“Kailua,” he announced suddenly out loud, startling himself at the volume of his voice. Until he could get his head screwed back on straight, he NEEDED his life to have some semblance of normalcy.

 

 

*****

 

“Boys! Wait up!” Chin and Kono turned to see Doctor Bergman picking up his pace to catch up with them as they made their way toward the Palace steps from the parking lot. They both slowed their progress so that their path would intersect the physician’s without any further expedition on his part.

 

“Aloha, Doc!” Kono greeted with a wave of his arm.

 

Once together, the three men stopped and Bergman pulled out a handkerchief and wiped the beads of sweat from his face as he spoke. “How’s every little thing anyway?”

 

The two detectives shared a glance, electing Chin as the spokesman in the process. The Chinese detective grinned and shrugged. “We hangin’ loose here, Doc!”

 

“Good good,” Bergman smiled pleasantly, but got to his point quickly. “You wouldn’t happen to know the whereabouts of your young lieutenant, would you? He missed a meeting with me earlier today.”

 

“Danny?” Kono didn’t blink. “He left this morning for Kailua. He mighta checked in with Steve after that, but he’s da boss in training, so he don’t hafta tell us nuttin’.”

 

Chin snickered at his associate’s explanation, but his eyes became serious. “Everything okay with Danny, Doc?”

 

“You tell me. Has he been himself lately?” The physician did not want to taint their impressions with one of his own.

 

“Well, he has been actinkinda…” The big Hawaiian struggled to think of an accurate description. “Up tight, I guess.”

 

Chin agreed. “Yeah, up tight… and antsy… kinda like he might be expectin’…”

 

As Chin’s voice trailed off, Kono’s picked up. “Pilikua nui.”

 

The Chinese detective found his voice again and agreed. “Yeah – a monster – to rush in and stomp him!”

 

Bergman rubbed his chin and closed on eye in concentration. “Any special reason you can see for him to be feeling that way? Is a big monster roaming the halls of Five-0 these days?” He offered his questions with an air of humor, but he hoped the detectives would give their answers serious consideration. He noticed some uncomfortable shifting as Chin and Kono each silently considered responses that would not breach the shell of the Five-0 ohana’s privacy. After all, some things were matters that did not need to leave the family.

 

Finally, Chin found a middle ground. “Doc, we don’t need to play games here. You know how Steve is, and if anyone gonna take extra heat from him, it’s gonna be Danny.”

 

“Speak of the devil,” Bergman announced. Facing the big doors of the Palace, he was the first to notice that McGarrett had stepped out into the warm afternoon air and jogged down the steps to join them.

 

“Speaking figuratively, I hope, Doc,” the head of Five-0 responded as he joined the three men.

 

“Maybe.” The medical man hoped McGarrett gathered his meaning – if he did, he didn’t bother to acknowledge the fact. Instead, the detective addressed the topic on his mind.

 

“Has anybody heard from Danno? He’s not responding on the radio.”

 

Everybody in the circle indicated that they had not, and the doctor mentioned again that Dan had not shown up for his appointment. Bergman decided to stop beating around the bush. He didn’t know the details yet, but until he could zero in on the problem, it couldn’t hurt to put a little distance between his patient and the suspected cause of his stress.

 

“Speaking of Danny, Steve, I think he might need to take a breather for a few days. I know you’ll be short-handed, but—”

 

McGarrett cut him off. “I agree with you, Doc.”

 

It looked like he had more to say, but his attention was captured by something in the parking lot. All the men turned around to see the subject of their conversation close the door of his car and head in their direction.

 

 

*****

 

As Dan maneuvered his car into the parking spot along side Kelly’s car, he could see the congregation of Five-0 detectives and the medical examiner on the landing at the foot of the Palace steps. Perhaps Steve had done something else that had prompted the guys to call Bergman? Torn between wishing it were so and hoping fervently that it hadn’t happened, Dan quickly left his car and headed toward the meeting. He could see that his approach had already been noticed as he crossed the street and hopped onto the curb. The attention caused him to slow imperceptibly as his anxiety about the goings on rose. At least, there was no evidence that a brawl had just broken up OR was about to start. But it did suddenly seem to Dan that all of the eyes were studying him with an intensity normally reserved for dangerous suspects.

 

“What’s… what’s going on?” Williams asked cautiously as soon as he was in ear shot. He made eye contact with each man in the group, reserving a quick, angry glance at Steve for last.

 

Williams’ question went unanswered as something more pressing was on the minds of at least three of the four men standing there. Kono whistled and then blurted out. “What happened to you, bruddah?”

 

Dan had not given his appearance much thought in the hours since his assault. He’d continued with his plan to interview ten bank employees in Kailua. Williams’ line if anyone asked – and several did – about his black eye, was that he’d been involved in a scuffle with a suspect. A cop with a black eye was an easily explainable situation, so the detective was not deterred from the performance of his duties as a result.

 

Then, after quickly consuming a hot dog and soda, he kept his appointment with the Polynesian Heritage Foundation Ball planning committee. Five-0 would be in charge of security for the upcoming high-profile, big money event, and it would be Dan’s job to make sure all the details were handled properly.

 

Not certain what he would say to Steve when he saw him next, he could not bring himself to respond to the two radio calls that came in from his boss only a few minutes before he arrived at the Palace. While the mundane duties he’d performed this day had helped steady him emotionally, he had no clear thought on what his next move should be, so he returned to the Palace. Like Steve, the Five-0 offices were a sort of emotional sanctuary for him. That the source of his despair might be there as well did not stop him. It didn’t make sense, but he was just not in the mood to analyze his actions at the moment.

The tussle-with-a-suspect line was not going to work with this crowd, and Dan was in no mood to concoct a different story. He offered a terse half-truth instead. “I fell and I don’t want to talk about it.” He couldn’t bring himself to look Steve in the eye again.

 

Ever one to highlight the unspoken obvious, Kono didn’t let go. “You fell into a fist?”

 

There was no time for Dan to offer a retort to the Hawaiian detective’s question as McGarrett turned to Kono and Chin with an ireful eye.

 

“Are you two at a loss for something to do?”

 

The reaction from the two detectives was immediate. With only the briefest of farewell glances in the doctor’s direction and hasty no-boss replies still on their lips, both men stepped back and continued their interrupted journey up the Palace steps back to the Five-0 office.

 

Bergman didn’t wait for Williams to respond either as the other two detectives beat swift retreats from the scene. He addressed the shiner with only a grimace though. “Danny, I stopped by because you missed your appointment with me.”

 

Remembrance of the forgotten appointment stuck him, and with a momentarily contrite expression, sighed. “Sorry, Doc – the time got away from me. I should’ve called.”

 

The detective could not stop his eyes from drifting towards his boss, whose expression seemed to be one of exaggerated concern – not completely out of the realm of possibility, Williams decided – after all -- the man had pummeled him to the floor only a few hours earlier. Dan burned to understand what was going on in Steve’s head, but he had no time to consider further as Bergman continued firmly in a lecturing tone.

 

“Your health is important, and I have a responsibility to see that you stay fit for duty. With that in mind, in addition to the appointment – which you WILL keep – with me first thing in the morning, I’ve taken the liberty of making another appointment for you – it’s unofficial of course. You’ll be meeting Larry Tratoro over lunch on Saturday.” He pushed a business card into Williams’ hand, which the detective studied briefly before he looked up, outrage suddenly blazing in his blue eyes.

 

“This guy is a shrink! You’re sending ME to a shrink?” Dan couldn’t help but glance in horrified amazement in the direction of his boss, whose expression was a mask of neutrality, but his eyes seemed now to be filled with what? Overt satisfaction? Awareness that Dan was being erroneously targeted as a basket case?

 

“Danny, please – the meeting with Larry will be strictly unofficial – just a casual conversation over lunch. You can take a little time off and---” Bergman reached out and touched the angry officer’s arm, but Dan quickly jerked out of the man’s reach.

 

Williams’ lower lip quivered as the implication sank in, and his expression hardened. “Time off… Well, I need something… It might as well be time off.”

 

For the first time since the incident in his boss’s office, Dan looked with an incensed expression directly into McGarrett’s eyes. Under other circumstances, Five-0’s second-in-command might have voiced confusion over the clarity of intent that he read, but he was too hurt and angry to care about anything at that moment but his own pain. “And it would appear, Mr. McGarrett, that you concur in this regard?”

 

Steve hesitated for only a moment, but when he spoke, the words rolled from his lips in a slow, measured tone. “Danno… I think you could use some time off.”

 

The rational part of Dan’s brain was expecting the answer –  that his friend and mentor was going to allow him to be put on the beach – but the sound of them felt like a spear in the young man’s heart. His frustration and flaring emotion at the thought would not be contained. He nearly shouted as he turned on his heels to return to his car, “Well, I guess we all agree!”

 

“Danny—” Bergman called desperately, but his behest was truncated by the louder, more intense voice of McGarrett, who stepped off the curb into the driveway.

 

“Danno!”

 

The air of command – despite Williams’ anger – brought him almost involuntarily to a halt. He spun angrily to face the man who was now making a beeline for him. Panic unexpectedly rushed into his being as he saw the open-air tour bus bearing down on his boss, whose complete attention was focused on him.

 

Accidents arise from the confluence of a series of isolated, and usually innocuous, missteps, and so was the case here. The driver’s eyes were momentarily directed at his exuberant tour guide as the pedestrian stepped into his path. Only the terrified scream from someone outside his vehicle alerted him to the impending collision.

 

“Steve!”

 

Williams suddenly bounded into the trajectory of the calamity and made an adrenaline-powered leap into McGarrett’s startled form, knocking him backward toward the safety of the sidewalk. The screeching of tires further incited Dan to get his own body out of harm’s way, the effort coming as a smooth follow-through of the momentum he’d acquired, but it was not quite enough to make way for the girth of the bus as the corner smacked the back of his shoulder and knocked him to the street. The rough slam into the pavement dazed the detective and knocked the wind out of him.

 

There were a few seconds of unawareness of anything outside his own skin before Dan slowly opened his eyes. People were talking and touching him before it dawned on him that he was actually looking at the undercarriage of the bus.

 

“Danny! Say something!”

 

            “Danno!”                      “Hey, bruddah, you okay?”

 

Williams heard voices, but did not respond. Instead, he slowly turned his head to the right and focused on the tread of the tire that was only inches from his face. The fact that the bus had come to a stop a mere half-second before it rolled over his head did not sink in for several minutes. He tentatively began to turn in the direction of the human voices. and pull himself out from under the vehicle. Hands came from everywhere to help him and he did not resist.

 

“Careful! Get him onto the sidewalk! Somebody call an ambulance!”

 

Dan found himself staring into Bergman’s face. It took a few seconds before the detective realized that the pain on his cheeks was because the doctor had cupped his already-bruised face tightly in his big hands to keep him from moving too much.

 

“I— I’m okay.” Williams would not have recognized his own voice it sounded so shaken and raspy. He made a clumsy and ineffective grab for one of the doctor’s arms in an effort to free his head.

 

“Look at me, Danny!” Bergman commanded harshly. Dan did, but for only a moment as his eyes wandered to what had suddenly grown into a chaotic scene. The curious, concerned faces of a dozen people seemed to be looking at him as if he were a rare animal in the zoo. His attention was at last captured by the one familiar face behind the physician. Steve was hovering there, his visage clouded with anguish and concern – it was a dramatic change from the belligerent expressions to which he’d been privy of late.

 

“It’s okay -- really,” Dan insisted, this time with a higher degree of confidence as he realized how he’d ended up where he was.

 

There was definitely new pain coming from his left shoulder, and the headache that had been present since Steve had… well, since he’d hit his head earlier was now making the world spin. But other than that, it seemed that he wasn’t much worse for the wear. He gave the bus an introspective gander as he saw how close he’d come to having his head squashed by a busload of tourists.

 

McGarrett’s hand came to rest for a moment on Williams’ shoulder to get his attention. “Danno… ” The head of Five-0 paused until his second managed to look up into his face before he continued. “What were you thinking? You could’ve been killed!”

 

Dan was fascinated at the sudden change – to Williams’ eyes anyway -- in the man’s demeanor. The old Steve was looking down at him with a distressed disapproval that Williams had grown accustomed to seeing on occasions when his mentor felt he’d put himself at risk unnecessarily. The paradox of McGarrett’s two faces drove Williams to silence. Without protest, he silently allowed himself to be stuffed into an ambulance and rushed off to the emergency room. An uneasy feeling began to set in that perhaps he did need to have a medical professional or two take a look at him…

 

 

*****

 

 

Light on… light off… light on… light off… Bergman glanced back to make sure the rolling stool was there to catch him before he dropped onto it. He’d been leaning over Dan, prone on the emergency room gurney, checking pupil response with his medical penlight. The doctor rubbed the back of his neck as he studied his uncharacteristically quiet and cooperative patient, who’d turned his head to one side and closed his eyes as soon as he was free from the most recent round of medically-necessary manipulations.

 

They’d rushed the detective into the ER on the assumption that he could have internal injuries – he been struck by a bus after all. A full battery of x-rays, blood work, and physical manipulation of all of Williams’ joints confirmed what Dan insisted – that he was free of serious injury. He was scraped up and bruised, and a new knot on the back of his head was slightly larger than the one he’d acquired in the autopsy room the previous afternoon. But all told, Bergman was amazed that the detective had managed to come away from the terrifying situation with no need for a lengthy hospital stay. Through the examination and evaluation process, Williams had been mute except when pushed for information.

 

After a full minute of quiet pondering, he cleared his throat before he spoke. “Danny, you with me?” The young man did not open his eyes, but nodded slightly. Bergman draped his stethoscope over his neck and sighed. “Look at me… please.”

 

There were a few seconds of indecision before the request was honored and the blue eyes looked into the face of the doctor. The stoic mask that had been present was slipping. Dan looked drained, emotionally and physically. The swollen and bruised area around his right eye, which could not fully open as a result, accented the young man’s depleted condition. He said nothing, but the message he had for his physician was conveyed in the hurt stare, which confirmed to Bergman that the detective felt betrayed. A stab of guilt pierced the older man as he did in fact feel that his miscalculations with regard to McGarrett had – on some level he did not yet (and perhaps never would) understand – carried a cost for Williams.

 

This whole mess made him remember why he’d chosen post-mortem studies as his specialty. In that field, when patients gave him grief, he could simply refrigerate them and walk away for a few hours. While emotional attachment to a case did happen on rare occasions, he was generally able to prevent his feelings from wrapping him around the axle of cases. If ever there was trouble in paradise for him, it was with a Five-0 detective. Williams, the newest of the lot, was an especially tough one to manage. Despite years of police experience, his young face, youthful mannerisms, and frequently naďve and overly idealistic attitudes gave the impression that the officer needed fatherly oversight on occasion. Bergman knew that Williams was a self-sufficient man and an excellent officer who was proving himself completely capable of filling the role of Five-0 second-in-command, but sometimes, there was just no shaking the urge to protect him. The best he could hope for now was to force him to take some time off and make him speak with Doctor Tratoro.

 

Unable to think of the perfect place to begin, he just jumped in. “I’m keeping you here overnight for observation, but I can’t see any reason you won’t be able to go home in the morning.” Bergman paused for a few moments as Williams’ done-to expression bore into him. “Stop looking at me like that! I’m sorry about what happened with Steve, but it all turned out okay.”

 

The expression on Dan’s face momentarily showed amazement before it settled back into hurt. “Okay?”

 

“Didn’t it?” Bergman pressed.

 

Williams dropped eye contact. “I don’t know.” He turned his head away from the doctor and studied the wall. “How long am I on the beach?”

 

Bergman shrugged. “Take a few days, keep your appointment with Doctor Tratoro, and we’ll see how you feel after that.” The doctor sensed a slight resurgence of tension in his patient’s body as he mentioned the psychiatrist, so he added. “Remember, it’s all off the books. I think you’ll like Larry… not much of a golfer, but I hear he was quite the surfer in his day.”

 

The reference to Williams’ beloved hobby issued only a twitch in physical response as he quickly, but quietly fired back. “Doc, I’ll follow your instructions, but don’t ask me to like anything about this.”

 

Bergman’s expression turned pained as he accepted his patient’s response with resignation. “I know you’re upset, but please believe me when I tell you that I’m acting with your best interests at heart.”

 

The doctor noted the flash of anger that quickly crossed Dan’s face, but he could think of nothing else to say that might make the circumstance better. SO, he rose from the stool, and with a gentle pat Dan’s arm, he turned away.

.

“Steve’s waiting outside in the hallway… getting crankier by the minute, so I’ve got to get out there and let him know what’s going on.” The doctor did not have to see the young man’s face to recognize that anxiety had suddenly replaced resolute anger.

 

“Steve’s here? Waiting?”

 

Bergman spun to confirm the concern on Williams’ face. In responding, he could not keep the deep concern from his tone. “Yes, Danny… He’s very concerned about you.”

 

Just then a tap on the door preceded McGarrett’s cautious entrance into the room. Dan looked in his boss’s direction long enough to confirm his purported state, but turned his focus back to the wall almost immediately without a word.

 

Bergman shot Steve a glance, and decided to give his report here in the room in the patient’s presence. With eyes fixed on the patient, he offered the news that he’d shared with Williams a few moments earlier. McGarrett listened intently and nodded. Apparently satisfied with the explanation, he gave Bergman a perfunctory thanks and approached the bed. The doctor hung back by the door with interest as he could see that Dan was suddenly battling agitation.

 

“Danno, I don’t want you to worry about a thing. Follow Doc’s orders and take a few days off. We’ll re-group next week, okay?”

 

The man’s tone was gentle and seemed laden with concern to Bergman.

 

Dan nodded his head, but made no effort to look at his visitor or speak.

 

McGarrett seemed a little hesitant as he stood there quietly for several seconds. Finally, he gave his second a light tap on the shoulder – the doctor wasn’t certain from his vantage point, but it seemed like his patient had recoiled slightly under the man’s touch. “I’ll have Kono or Chin collect you in the morning and take you home – I’ll be at a budget meeting from seven to God-knows-when.” This time Williams acknowledged with a brief tip of his head… still no words and no eye contact. With that, McGarrett turned, his face now an impenetrable mask, and strode quickly from the room, lightly smacking the doctor in his shoulder in mute farewell.

 

The doctor stood in the doorway for several more seconds staring at his patient. Yes, he decided, too much pressure…

 

 

*****

 

“So, Doc says you used to surf?”

 

“Still do – just not the Pipe anymore. Berg tells me that you STILL hang ten with the best of ‘em, Danny.”

 

Dan’s lip twitched and he looked up at the tall, slender man strolling down the path next to him. As ordered, two days after he’d been released from the hospital, Williams, attired in dark blue hiking shorts and a green luau shirt, kept his appointment with Larry Tratoro at a small delicatessen across from the Botanical Gardens. Dan confessed that he would rather walk than eat, and the psychiatrist was only too happy to oblige. The pair made their way to the lush gardens and wandered for more than two hours amidst the fragrant island flora.

 

The conversation had not gone as the detective had expected it would at all. Larry, as he preferred to be called, did not immediately jump in and start interrogating Dan about life at Five-0. Instead, it began in much the same way that one would get to better know an acquaintance. The doctor shared as much about himself – his likes and dislikes, hobbies, and habits – as he asked Dan to share about himself. Despite his initial reticence to cooperate, Williams acquiesced to the situation as he began to realize that he felt comfortable in the man’s presence. In his late-fifties, the bald man sported a red and green luau shirt and khaki pants, and comported himself with a lanky, relaxed gait.

 

“I didn’t know Doc followed the amateur surfing circuit – and for the record, I DON’T surf with the best of them.” The detective finally let a smile slip onto his face as he added, “Anymore.”

 

The psychiatrist shrugged. “And what passion is taking its place?”

 

Dan was confused. “Taking its place?”

 

“Yes. You’re surfing less. If you’re as good as I hear – and I HAVE heard,” Larry made a point of making eye contact with the officer to emphasize the point. “Then surfing must be one of your passions. Only another passion may displace a passion.” The psychiatrist offered a sly grin and nudged the man next to him. “It’s a little-considered and underrated rule of human nature, but mark my words, it’s true, Danny.”

 

“What about earning a living? Honoring responsibilities?” Dan sparred as errant recollections of the shifting trend in his decision-making trod unbidden through his mind. More and more often since Steve had taken him under his wing, Williams was choosing to spend the extra hour or two on a case rather than timing waves or waxing his board.

 

The psychiatrist came to a stop and pulled a pair of reading glasses from his shirt pocket and propped them on the ball of his nose. “There’s certainly something to be said for both – don’t get me wrong, but life’s too short to forego what you truly enjoy.”

 

“Are you telling me that I should turn in my badge, go hang out at the Pipe and focus on perfecting my ride?” The officer queried with amazed amusement.

 

“Well, let’s explore that idea.” Larry intoned softly as he leaned forward and distractedly examined an informative plaque situated before an unusual variety of Anthurium.

 

Dan could feel a shade of umbrage wash over him at the thought that anyone could think his life would be better spent on the beach. “My work is important! Do you realize how many lives we’ve probably saved? Since Five-0’s inception, do you know the felony conviction rate has sky rocketed? We’re talking murderers, thieves, kidnappers that are off the streets as a direct result of Steve’s investigative prowess and determination! Hawaii—no, not just Hawaii – the world is a safer place because I choose to put some extra effort into my job!”

 

The intensity in the young man’s voice brought the doctor’s line of sight to Dan’s flushed face. He let out a single chuckle and shook his head.

 

“What?” Dan pushed.

 

“Oh, it’s nothing really – it’s just that you sound so… so… what’s the word?” Larry frowned in mock concentration for a moment before his head snapped up in mild excitement. “So passionate!”

 

Nonplussed, Williams studied the man’s animated expression. “Forget passion! Shouldn’t things that are important edge out things that aren’t?”

 

Both men stopped their dialog for several seconds as an older couple, with friendly nods and smiles, meandered past them. Dan and Larry each gave a polite nod and the doctor offered a soft aloha as they slipped past. Once they were alone again, Larry turned his attention back to Williams. “Don’t you think you’re better at things when you’re passionate about them?”

 

The detective blinked… started to say something, but paused… and then blinked again. Finally, the wind of indignation removed from his sails, he conceded with a slight smile. “Umm, yeah, I guess I am.”

 

“It’s not my job to tell you how to spend your time. You’re an adult – you can decide that for yourself.” Larry declared with an expressive rise of his eye brows. “BUT, let me offer an observation, young detective! You’re fortunate in that you’ve found a passion in your work.”

 

“But despite my passion – if you want to call it that – Steve has been unhappy with the quality of my work to the point that I’m wondering whether he wants to keep me on.” Dan looked down at the Anthurium sign. “It’s a lot of pressure…”

 

“Pressure goes part in parcel with passion. Think about it – if you didn’t care, there’d be no reason to feel stress.”

 

“So, you think I’m raising the pressure on myself in the office because work is edging out other passions?”

 

“What do YOU think?”

 

“I KNEW you were going to ask that!”

 

“Okay, okay – I think that this is a distinct possibility, which would seem to be supported by outside observers.”

 

“Like Bergman and the rest of the Five-0 staff, none of whom have seemed to notice that Steve is being unreasonable and impossible to please?”

 

Larry shrugged. “I’ve never met him, but – from everything I’ve heard – your boss – like you – is a man of passion. This means that he cares as much as you do – more maybe – about your work. Is it possible that he’s – consciously OR subconsciously – conveying additional pressure to you for reasons you don’t yet see?”

 

Days removed from the traumatic event, the idea that he’d over-reacted to Steve’s wrath – admittedly volcanic and unnecessary – was more palatable to Dan than any alternative he could bring to mind. Until this moment, the detective would not have thought that he could ever be convinced of this as he absentmindedly let his hand touch the still-tender, but fading shiner.

 

With a mildly chagrinned sigh, Williams met the studious gaze of the psychiatrist. “Yes, it’s… possible… likely even, I guess.”

 

“And does your recognition of this possibility offer any insight that will help you – and help you help Steve deal with the pressures of your mutual passion?”

 

The thought HAD crossed his mind once or twice that Steve was experiencing pressure invisible to him – and he THOUGHT he’d done his best to help his mentor deal with it. But now, standing there, looking into the mirror of rationality which Doctor Tratoro presented to him, Dan was suddenly open to the idea that he could do more… be a little more patient with Steve… take better care to handle the details that shouldn’t sully the thoughts of the head of the operation. Williams wasn’t certain exactly how to improve, but he found himself filling with a renewed vigor in his commitment to help Steve handle the pressures of their jobs—their passion.

 

A smile preceded Williams’ answer. “Yeah, Larry, it does!” The pair started walking again, but Dan brought them up short to look into the doctor’s eyes. “So, what’s the verdict -- am I insane?”

 

The doctor eyed Dan with an amused smirk. “Sanity is over-rated, my friend. You’re healthy and you’ve got passion in your life. Why waste time worrying about what you can’t control?”

 

“So… I’m insane?” Williams smiled quizzically.

 

“Let me put it into cop terminology – if it was a crime, I wouldn’t have enough evidence to arrest you.”

 

Dan let out a breath of air slowly and felt some measure of satisfaction permeating his being at the medical professional’s pronouncement, but before Williams could respond, Larry added, “Yet.”

 

The detective’s head snapped in the older man’s direction with gentle alarm.

 

The psychiatrist glanced in Dan’s direction to see the uncertain expression looking back at him. Larry smiled and shook his head. “Joking! I was joking.”

 

As Dan breathed his second sigh of relief, a grinning Larry muttered, “I thought cops had senses of humor.”

 

It was Dan’s turn to smile. “Only when we’re writing parking tickets for wise-acre shrinks.”

 

**************************************************************************************

AND NOW, the curtain on our tale comes down for an intermission, during which the episode FULL FATHOM FIVE takes place.

 

We recommend you pause in the story to watch this episode.

 

INSERT EPISODE  HERE.

 

Now you can return to EMERGENCE.

**************************************************************************************

 

As he walked down the corridor of the swaying ship, Wo Fat paced himself to roll with the toss and pitch of the stormy Pacific waves rocking the Chinese spy ship disguised as a cargo vessel. Although the craft was of a moderate sea-going size, it was small in comparison to the huge commercial ships that were really in the business of shipping goods across the globe. Since this was only disguised for such work, it accrued less suspicion by taking on the semblance of a privately owned, old, rusting boat run by Malaysian roughnecks.

 

Making his way slowly to the radio room, Wo Fat did not condemn his latest necessity of travel. His career took him all over the world in a variety of transports. This was just one of many methods used for his purposes. In fact, he rather enjoyed being aboard the SUMATRA TIGER. It appealed to his quirky sense of intrigue and irony.

 

A deceptive exterior concealing a cunning interior. Outside the ship seemed on its last voyage and a threat to no one. Inside, the hulls were crammed with state-of-the-art electronics and weaponry. It was utilized by the Mao-ist government to stealthily spy on its enemies, or transport useful operatives around the Pacific.

 

He could be described in much the same way as the vessel. His somewhat overweight, short, slightly rotund appearance made him seem a benign Buddha-ish figure. Non-threatening. He covertly traveled the world, mostly the Pacific rim, scouting for weaknesses in his adversaries and exploiting those for his own – his government’s – ends.

 

Stepping into the communications room, he gave a nod to his tall, lanky aid, Chang. Some upstart, disrespectful, insolent youths in Peking jestingly had called them a somber, Oriental version of Laurel and Hardy, the famous American comedians. Wo Fat suffered the ridicule only because he was obliged to endure the whispered jibes of relations of those in power. He simply smiled. And waited. Patience was a virtue. Others could jest. In the end, as the Americans would say, he was certain of revenge and would have the last laugh.

 

The thoughts brought his mind to reprisal of a different kind. Not one to be unnecessarily cruel, he understood the need to teach lessons to those who opposed him. He had thought often of his last operation in Hawaii, and in fact looked forward to more assignments there. He had been tested and challenged there in Honolulu. His mission threatened by the stubborn resolve of an unexpected player in his masterful game. He had not counted on the interference, then the strength of will, of McGarrett. It had been futile, of course, but the policeman-cum-spy had put up a spirited fight before he succumbed to the inevitable torture of the null chamber and Wo Fat’s complex ploys …

 

Chang leaned his head down and gave a shake in a show of negative.

 

“You are certain you have monitored the Honolulu frequency?” the leader asked the radio man.

 

The man indicated he had been doing exactly as instructed.

 

Cruising off the coast of Guam to pick up any little tidbits from the American base there, Wo Fat had learned the ship’s communications systems could receive radio stations from Honolulu. Much as the Japanese had been able to pick up the melodic Hawaiian music on December 7th, the Chinese could home in on the signals. It was valuable to listen in on the social climate in the United States. Often the zealous reporters stretched their First Amendment rights and revealed more than the politicians would like. Wo Fat appreciated the Constitution more than most Americans, he thought.

 

What was coming over the radio speakers now was not anything that Wo Fat considered Hawaiian. It seemed like screeching strings and yelling, not music. The young radio man was tapping his foot to the beat and explained it was called rock and roll.

 

Snapping out a reprimand, Wo Fat reminded he was interested in a news report, not the music. Properly chastised, the man shoved a pad of paper over. Filled with scribbled characters, the veteran spy scanned the letters, puzzled as he read of reports on Vietnam, a scandal with a Honolulu banker and his wife, a burglary of some famous artifacts from a museum, an armed robbery in a popular Waikiki hotel, and traffic congestion due to an annual parade.

 

“The American intelligence system has concealed the operation,” he muttered mostly to himself. “Curious.”

 

The news about the police raid of the Arcturus and McGarrett’s death should have been mentioned – if McGarrett had really been just a Hawaiian policeman. Since he was really Control of Pacific Intelligence for the US, news of the fiasco was under a blanket of secrecy.

 

What of Miller? Captured or killed? There had been no ripple of such happenings. As for the head of the state police disappearing  – that should be front page news. The distinct possibility that McGarrett had somehow survived after the Chinese spy had departed made Wo Fat smile in subtle, triumph as he reveled in his own propensity to install back-up plans on top on of back-up plans.  The American policeman-cum-spy could well have been restored to his fold. Unknowingly broken… now returned to the CIA. And to further play into his hands, the US Intelligence machine had successfully concealed everything about the operation.

 

“Keep monitoring the news,” he instructed, exiting the small room as another rock and roll song blared from the speakers.

 

“There is the possibility something did not go according to the primary plan,” the leader told Chang as they walked down the corridor.

 

“Shall I inquire through our usual sources?” The taller man inquired quietly.

 

“Only our most trusted associates,” Wo Fat considered.

 

Working with contract labor in Hawaii was a chancy and difficult task. Immigration/infiltration was not easy for Red agents. And even with dedicated Maoists with vulnerable relatives in China, after a time the seditious American way of life had an insidious way of degrading quality and dedication in operatives. Not something he would confess to his superiors, but a reality in the field nonetheless.

 

“Find out why we have heard nothing about McGarrett. Miller I would not expect to hear about, but McGarrett is a public figure.”

 

Wo Fat considered the possibility of failure – that some unexpected element had been introduced into the equation. Yes, there were always variables in this business that made failure too common. Failure – something he did not tolerate. That was why he always had contingency plans and various options at his disposal. That was why he was China’s top covert operative.

 

“Let us trust that the magic chamber succeeded at instilling programming as well as extracting, remember.”

 

“Yes, but remember the experiments. Not entirely reliable.” Chang countered.

 

Wo Fat’s mood soured at the deflating commentary on a tried-and-true torture method that had accrued enormous success in his experience. Gone were the days of old-fashioned physical messiness and ugly, overt pain. Chemicals and subtle mind-altering disorientation was the new frontier of attitude adjustment and brainwashing. He was hurt his associate did not share his vision.

 

“We shall see,” he countered sharply. “McGarrett.” The thought of McGarrett reintegrating himself back into his position as a key control operative for US intelligence operations slowly brought a toothy grin to his face. “As a matter of fact, my friend, I believe all will work out even better than I had originally hoped.”

 

 

*****

 

 

Focusing on the arrest report of Nora Reese, and the related shooting death of her co-suspect husband, Victor, was increasingly difficult for Williams, who was utterly miserable. Sitting at his desk, he could look out the windows of his cubicle and watch the usual procession of staff, officers and detectives strolling past. What was unusual in this parade was the absence of his boss. On any given day when he was not out on an investigation or in a meeting, McGarrett was forced to tackle problems at his desk until some urgent matter drove him from office. Today was atypical in that the boss had come past his door only a few times. Each incident because he was called out for some reason – not by Dan. Every emergence from the private office brought a man who seemed at odds with everything. His manner was surly, short and tight. And Dan, in particular, did not want to cross his path. It seemed that he was, more often than not, the target of his boss’s ire.

 

Ambivalent about the emotional roller coaster of McGarrett, Dan was torn between loyalty and hurt. The investigation into the Reese’s evil murder-wealthy-widows plot had been a rather bumpy one. It was his first foray back into a team effort with McGarrett after his compulsory “beach” time. Despite his new-found resolve to put himself in the shoes of his boss, he found himself forced into several confrontations with Steve about how to proceed with the investigation. Dan felt very strongly that the undercover officer, Joyce, whom McGarrett used as bait to lure the murderous con artists into the trap, was in placed in too much peril to follow the sting through to the end. The lead detective harshly dismissed Williams’ concerns. Dan had disagreed before with his boss, but this time, it felt different. Steve seemed somehow closed to the possibility that his detective’s arguments had merit.

 

After his very productive conversation with Larry Tratoro, the surfer-psychiatrist, he’d begun to wonder how much of Steve’s problems he had imagined and how much had been real. Away from the office, he examined his problems under the warm, tropical sun, and it had seemed reasonable that he had somehow blown Steve’s reactions out of proportion. But now, back at his desk, with a few fresh rounds abusive treatment by McGarrett under his belt, he realized that everything was NOT his imagination. He absentmindedly brought his fingers to his cheek and flinched under his own touch – the underlying tissue, where Steve’s blow had landed, was still tender. THAT was real.

 

Thoughts of the traumatic assault dredged up another disturbing fact. He’d covered up for McGarrett, and Steve never said anything about it – no thanks, no anger, not a word. That worried Williams more than another angry tirade. Oddly, rage was somehow easier to deal with than the emotional wall that had built up around his friend. The loss of that close connection was an open wound. Over the last few years he had come to admire, sometimes revere McGarrett. For the hundredth time, he questioned his own complicity in the situation. Could the fault really lie at his own door? What could he have done to alienate such a close ally? He still did not have an answer to that devastating puzzle.

 

Why did he continue to protect a man who had turned against him emotionally and even physically? Dan slowly looked up at the ceiling and took a deep breath. There were so many answers he did not have, but this one he did know. If he pushed his self-doubt and hurt aside, he was convinced this was all somehow connected to what happened that night on the Arcturus. Through the pain, the crushed feelings, he had to fight back with his only weapon – his belief that the real Steve McGarrett was still buried beneath the wrathful façade now presented to him! And until he could prove his theory, he was placed in the ironic and delicate position of protecting McGarrett from himself, while Dan also protected his own well-being.

 

Dan again tried to focus on possibilities. There just HAD to be a way to figure this out. It would’ve been great to have someone else in his corner on this, but he was on his own – his colleagues and even Doc Bergman believed HE was the one with a mental problem. It didn’t matter, he had to do this. On the other side of this fiasco he intended for them to come out of this -- and Steve’s reputation HAD to be intact. The trick might be making sure they both came out of this alive.

 

 

*****

 

 

Standing just inside his slightly opened door, McGarrett watched the routine proceedings of his office. No one noticed him, and it gave him a chance to observe undetected. Kono and Chin had met several times by the Hawaiian’s cubicle – and there they stood again. They were in a whispered conference that seemed mysteriously intriguing. When May left her desk to join the two, he became suspicious. Yes, they seemed furtive in their manners, in their body language. Ah, Williams exited his desk area and became a fourth conspirator. So, the others were now in league with Williams.

 

Silently closing the door, Steve leaned against the wall and ignored the faint trace of sweat trickling down his neck to press into the skin at his tight collar. The realization suddenly stepped from behind the veil covering his mind’s eye. They were all against him. As Miller had betrayed him, so were all his old friends. As Miller had taunted on the Arcturus. People he thought he could trust. The sharpest talon of betrayal, of course, was Danno. He had been the last one Steve would have suspected, but the opposition, the arguments, the open rebellion all pointed to Williams as the next traitor poised to stab him in the back.

 

Errant memories of fond experiences with his protégé quickly disintegrated and were replaced by visions, through a red-filtered haze of anger, of Williams doing --what? Working at his desk… working on what? Police matters? No… He could hear the warning Miller had whispered into his head. Behind that innocent, too-young face of Danno’s, a plot – an act of incredible treachery – was brewing.

 

The heat in the big office was suddenly overwhelming. His heart pounded in his chest and bile bubbled in his esophagus as he rushed out onto the lanai. Even as he took in gulps of air, the detective felt a pressure from somewhere behind his eyes. Williams had to be stopped… But stopped from doing what? Clearly, an investigation was in order…

 

 

*****

 

The laughter continued around the water cooler, and so nobody heard the big door to McGarrett’s office open. Williams let a shy smile slip through his grimace as he acknowledged a tease from Chin. “Okay, so what if my mood IS like old poi?”

 

Kono gently shoved Dan and laughed. “Bruddah, admittin’ your problem is da first step to a cure!”

 

The comment served to further vanquish Williams frown as May giggled and grabbed Dan’s arm. “The next step is stopping work long enough to have lunch!”

 

Five-0’s second-in-command looked into the discerning eyes of the perky brunette. Behind the mirth, he read a concern that – no matter what he said – did not seem to dissipate. Touched that his co-workers had, with a cheer-raising motive, way-laid him on his way to the coffee pot, the young detective reluctantly declined. “Lunch sounds great, but I’m waiting for a call from Quentin, and besides, I’ve got to get the paperwork on the Crenshaw case done before I can call it a day.” The regret in his tone was palpable.

 

May started to argue, but the voice from behind her interrupted.

 

“Danno.” The head of Five-0 waited until Williams turned hesitantly to look him in the eyes. “I need you to fill in for me at the City Counsel meeting.” His tone was commanding, but not angry, a fact for which Dan was secretly grateful, but the instruction itself was a little surprising.

 

Eye brows raised slightly in surprise, Dan glanced at his watch before he pressed for clarification. “The City Counsel meeting that starts in ten minutes?”

 

“Yes – do you have a problem with that?” The lead detective leveled the question as he returned to his office, making it obvious to his staff that he already knew the answer.

 

McGarrett’s door latched shut before Williams reacted quietly. “Uh, no… no problem.” He sighed and, with a gentle squeeze of the hand May had resting on his arm, he extricated himself from the center of the group, and returned to his office only long enough to grab his jacket and a notebook. As he picked up his pace towards the door, he flashed a reassuring smile at the trio still in position by the water cooler, “I guess I’ll have to make do with coffee and a candy bar.”

 

 

*****

 

Go… yes… yes… go to lunch…  McGarrett had stood by May’s desk and listened to his second-in-command bow out of the staff’s lunch plans. Clearly, Danno did not want to leave his desk unguarded. Fortunately, the head of Five-0 realized what was happening quickly enough to circumvent Williams’ intention to hover around the office the rest of the day. In the back of his mind, Steve had a nagging thought that he – McGarrett – should be the one to attend the somewhat important meeting, but in the end, wasn’t national security more important than calming the nerves of a few bureaucrats? Besides, the meeting ruse meant that Danno’s whereabouts would be a known element, making McGarrett’s plan all the easier to execute without interference.

 

Lunchtime meant that most of the staff – anybody who would pay any attention to the boss searching one of the offices – was out. Slipping into Williams’ cubicle, McGarrett stood there for a moment, pausing to put his mind into Williams’ methods. Where would Danno hide information vital to a covert operation against him? Somewhere clever, because Williams was smart and shrewd – that was how he had attained his coveted position at such a young age. The acknowledgement brought a twinge of unexpected and intense emotion into his thoughts momentarily. How could someone he had treated like a brother betray him – like a stab in the back!

 

The regret and insult faded as the strident, persistent voice in his head reminded he had an important task to complete. Williams was a threat, a betrayer. Evidence. Find evidence of that and Steve could remove him from underfoot. He was a danger to Steve now – he had to be removed.

 

Williams’ desk was tidy but not crisply neat as McGarrett liked to keep his own business space. There were file folders here, papers stacked, but unevenly around the desktop. The owner here would know where everything was but seemed to shuffle to find things. Various notes were scribbled on notebook papers – probably ideas from the field that needed to be transcribed to an official document.

 

Quickly, Steve shuffled through several stacks. Increased frustration gnawed at him as he sorted into numerous heaps, finding average police data, but not any proof of – of what? A plot? Plotting against him? Yes, Dan’s plot. He did not even know what he was looking for, really, but knew Williams was conspiring against him! Inducing others in the office to join in the mutiny. A personal revolution against him, as well as the government. Would he recognize it if he found whatever vital information there might be against Williams? Yes, he would.

 

A door opening from the far end of the room alerted him to the approach of someone. Thinking quickly, he grabbed a folder from the top of Dan’s stack and marched out with it in hand. Kono was just closing the door from the side corridor and was entering his own cubicle. He gave Steve a wave and McGarrett waved in return, and then hastily stepped into his own office. Immediately slamming the door, he sighed with relief, leaning against the wood, limp with relief he had not been discovered in his covert mission.

 

Wiping sweat from his brow, he ignored the churning and roiling fluttering within -- the strangely warring emotions inside confused him. This was HIS office. He was the ruler here and had every right to wander into any of his staff’s offices. Why did he feel so guilty? Why was he skulking around like a thief? Because he had to find the traitor – Danno – Danno was the betrayer. Not only to his country, but to Steve. Danno had betrayed more than just an ideal or a government – he had turned traitor to Steve – to all Steve had done for him. He had turned against a friendship that Steve had handed out as a prized piece of his heart and emotions.

 

Inside, along with the relief warring with guilt at this underhanded sneaking around, he also found a strain of incredulity. It was overpowered by the whisperings inside his head – the certain condemnations that those he most trusted had betrayed him and could no longer be trusted. But how could that be? An older, more rational thought wanted attention – that Danno was above reproach – above suspicion. Yes, he had thought that once, but another warning cry was overpowering that now. A red flashing light inside his brain, just behind his eyes, kept glowing and pulsing like an angry volcano. Danno had betrayed him.

 

Dropping the file on the floor, he knew he had to find proof now! The enraged voice inside told him he could waste no time. How? Where was the proof? If not here, then at Dan’s apartment? Or car? Danno was at the City Counsel meeting now – he would not go to his apartment for hours.

 

Rushing to the desk, he hastily grabbed a set of keys – the duplicates to Dan’s car and apartment that Steve kept there. Jogging to the door, he stopped, took a breath, then opened it with a powerful swing. Briskly rushing through the office, he saw heads turn but no one stopped his progress.

 

 

*****

 

Parking around the corner from Dan’s Waikiki apartment, McGarrett walked through an alley to the side entrance and climbed the stairs to avoid running into anyone who might know him. Opening the door, he closed it quickly once he was inside, and then surveyed the neat front room. The lanai doors were open and allowed in a nice breeze from the ocean across the street. Stepping slowly to the center of the room, conflicting emotions again assailed him.

 

He had been a welcome guest here, a frequent visitor to this humble abode. Often he had shared meals with his friend out on that lanai. Late into the night he had discussed cases, philosophy and the problems of the world right here on this sofa with Danno. Although it all seemed twisted and crazy now, he moved on with his original intent to search out the proof he needed to condemn his friend.

 

The much-valued title of personal, trusted associate angered him. Danno was plotting against him! He was going to find out the details, find out about all the others banding against him too, and make sure they paid for their deceit.

 

At first, he was meticulously careful as he searched the bookshelf, the drawers, the end tables. Impatient and frustrated with each negative moment, he moved into the kitchen, pushing around utensils and tools inside drawers, leaving towels askew by the stove.

 

Slipping into the bedroom, he was now sweating; enraged and nervous,  confused and driven. The pleasant ocean breeze was not enough to cool the fires within – the churning confusion, passion and conflicting emotions. Again, guilt and obsession drove him to a conclusion he did not understand, but knew it was a mission he had to complete.

 

Where was proof against Danno? He had to find it, but a miniscule particle of affection within his heart still spoke that this was insane, that Danno would never betray him – not Danno.

 

Heedless of caution now, no longer caring if his reckless actions were revealed, he sorted through the file compartments on the hutch of the small desk. Unopened mail, bills, advertisements flew around, scattered across the top, with some falling haphazardly to the floor. Nothing! These were useless! Where was the proof?

 

Moving to the nightstand, he nearly gasped as he spotted a scrawled note under the phone. In his clumsy rush he knocked over a glass containing a little water, and quickly whipped up the note to save it from the liquid.

 

Here it was! He knew it! Dan’s handwriting was unmistakable. He had slipped up and left a vital clue to his betrayal and to the identity of his confederates:

 

Quentin –

remember map!

 

Quentin… The name of a prized informant out of whom Danno had been nursing valuable information on a murderous drug ring. Or so Danno claimed! No wonder Quentin would deal with nobody else on the staff! What were they planning? Maps… Danno had an extensive collection of US Geological Survey maps of all of the islands – he purportedly used them to chart out hiking trails. In the back of McGarrett’s mind, he recalled a couple of occasions where the maps had been useful in locating fugitive suspects. Clearly an ancillary purpose for his treacherous detective…

 

Pocketing the note, he quickly strode to the storage room in the corner of the bedroom. The room was no bigger than a large closet, and it was clear the resident of the apartment treated it that way. A vacuum cleaner blocked the detective’s entrance before he yanked it roughly from its resting spot and set it aside. Rolls of maps protruded like fence pickets from four boxes, which sat in front of a half dozen much older, sealed boxes. Steve gave the containers in the back only a perfunctory glance before dismissing them as too old to be of interest at the moment. With passing satisfaction, he noted the maps were organized by island. A small slip of paper secured by a rubber band to each map further denoted the area covered.

 

Suddenly, his mind raced to the sight he’d taken in right after he’d entered Dan’s apartment. A roll just like the ones in these boxes rested in the corner by the door, ready for its owner to collect it on the way out the door. He turned and ran headlong into the living room and snatched up the map. He moved to the kitchen table, snapped the rubber band off, and rolled the document out flat on the table. It took only a few seconds of examination for the detective to spot the faint pencil tracks of one who did not want to obscure any of the map’s native markings. The area of interest seemed to be the Makaha Sugar Mill. The abandoned factory, now in total disrepair on the leeward coast, was situated in a remote little valley, and, along with a good measure of collateral acreage, was fenced off and kapu. A perfect place to plot insurrections…

 

He looked at the clock on the wall as he re-rolled the map absentmindedly. Danno had been waiting for Quentin to call… probably to arrange their next meeting… He strode to the phone on the end table and called the office. He went through the motion of collecting his own messages from the secretary before he inquired whether Danno had returned from the meeting – McGarrett already knew he had not – those meetings never took less than three tedious hours… And then he inquired about the phone call for which his second had been waiting.

 

Yes, Steve, Quentin did call at one thirty – so nervous too! Was a little reluctant to leave the message,” May chirped.

 

“And what was the message?”

 

It was short and sweet – six o’clock.”

 

“That’s it?” McGarrett pressed, a little disheartened that the location had not been confirmed.

 

That’s it! What time will you be back?

 

The secretary changed the subject, but her boss hung up with only an abbreviated reassurance that he’d be back later. McGarrett stared at the kitchen wall clock visible from his living room vantage point. After Two PM now. That gave him a few hours…

 

 

*****

 

Dan returned to the Palace to find most of the staff gone. He paused by the coffee machine, noting Steve’s closed office door. A bit relieved he could avoid a confrontation with his mentor, he stepped into his cubicle and plopped down behind the desk. It took a minute for him to assess that something was different—wrong. What? Papers and files on the desk were not where he normally left them. And the Crenshaw case – it had been right on top!

 

For a few minutes he spent time searching for it, all the while knowing he had left it right where it was supposed to be… where it was no longer sitting. Convinced he was not losing his mind, but wanting to prove it, he strolled out to the common room.

 

“May, did you need my Crenshaw file?”

 

“No,” she commented, not looking up from her typing. “Maybe Steve has it.”

 

Dan glanced at the closed door and gulped in a breath. He didn’t really need the file, right? Why did Steve want the report that was incomplete? Checking his watch, he confirmed it was late in the day. He did not want to have this report lingering in his box for tomorrow. On the other hand, he did not want to talk to Steve. Discipline forced him to take the tough path, knowing it was better to get it over with now rather than spend the evening dreading a confrontation tomorrow.

 

Wrapping gently on the door, he waited briefly, then entered without an invitation. He was initially relieved that McGarrett was not there. Calling to his friend, he glanced to the lanai, but the doors were closed. Only then he remembered the Mercury had not been out in the parking lot. Taking a step, he heard the crunch of papers underfoot, then noted the Crenshaw file on the floor. Picking it up, he wondered why it had been flung to the ground. As if Steve was in a big hurry. Very weird. Moving to place the folder on the desk, he noted the center drawer was uncharacteristically open.

 

Skin chilling with an inner certainty that something was really wrong, without knowing what or why, he studied the contents of the drawer. In his capacity of second-in-command, he knew Steve’s business as well as McGarrett did, and knew when items might be missing from here. On the other hand, he well remembered the stinging verbal abuse incurred from Steve not so long ago about intruding on privacy and snooping in Steve’s personal territory.

 

No papers seemed out of place… Keys… Keys to his car and apartment. He stepped closer and examined the open drawer carefully. Duplicate keys for his car and apartment were missing? What was going on here? Considering Steve’s strange behavior lately, the questions left him feeling cold and deeply worried.

 

Closing the drawer, taking the file, he tossed the report into his office and skipped out. His steps increased as he paced through the Palace, down the stairs and he was jogging by the time he reached his car. Speeding away from downtown and arriving in Waikiki, he impatiently waited in the elevator and ran down the corridor to his apartment.

 

The instant he entered and saw the disarray, he felt a strange element of satisfaction that he had deduced correctly. Simultaneously, he was appalled that his friend had come here and – what? Searched his pad? That’s exactly what it looked like! The place was in a mild shambles from a clumsy search.

 

Taking a quick assessment of the amazing violation of his property, he came to a dead stop at his nightstand. The overturned water glass registered only in passing. Instead, his mind raced to remember what had been there when he left that morning. A note… Scribbled from the phone call he’d taken late last night… a short conversation with one of his informants – one of the few important enough for Dan to give his home number. Why would Steve take the note? What insanity was going on inside McGarrett’s head?

 

Cleaning up the spill, he took the glass into the kitchen and stood there surveying his messy living room. Starting with the most obvious disarray, he went to the bookshelf and picked up the mail, sorting it now into stacks of opened and unopened, the latter being the bigger pile. A not-uncommon occurrence with his job. There were periods when things as mundane as opening mail, paying bills, and domestic chores took a back seat to getting a little shut eye and getting back to work.

 

As he placed the unopened envelopes on the shelf he paused at one. The return address was from Sandy Toshimoto – Steve’s attorney? Chilled at what this might mean, he opened it quickly, reading a short cover letter with increased trepidation. Steve had left a letter with Sandy, to send to Dan in case something happened? It was dated the day of Steve’s undercover operation when he’d been captured.

 

Throat tight with foreboding, Dan read the letter:

 

 

Dear Danno,

        I’m writing this on the eve of an intelligence operation which has the potential to leave me missing or dead. If you’re reading this, then something has gone wrong as I do not intend for you to see it otherwise.

While we have not known each other a lifetime (yet), I am by now cognizant of the effect my unexplained departure would have upon you. It occurs to me that it would leave you somehow believing that I did not trust you with information that would have enabled you to prevent whatever happened. Know this when I tell you that my decision to share only what was absolutely necessary with you had nothing to do with trust and everything to do with protecting you. I can feel your indignation rising at the thought, but I trust that you will forgive me, as I know you frequently do without the benefit of my explicit requests.

DO NOT go to any remarkable extent to uncover the details of my demise as it could leave you open to retribution on levels you cannot imagine. Consider this a final order, if it makes the pill less bitter to swallow.

        I have come to prize your friendship and support, and perhaps one day, if my Irish luck holds out, I’ll get up the nerve to speak contrary to my general nature, and tell you this in person. There is no one I trust more to keep Five-0 on the course, which I have set for it. It won’t be easy, my friend, but I have faith in you.

 

Mahalo and Aloha,

Steve

 

Tears in his eyes, Dan leaned against the bookshelf and sniffed back overwhelming emotions. Steve had poured his heart out in this letter. Everything Dan had hoped for between them – attitudes he longed to believe his mentor and friend might feel were all here! Tender, yet commanding feelings so like McGarrett, yet things the great leader could not bring himself to say, were all revealed.

 

Laughing with relief and affection, overcome with daunting realization, Dan felt vindicated and triumphant. He had not been wrong about their relationship. And he had not been the only one to realize there was a  great bond between them.

 

Reading the letter again, he grew numb with the tide of helplessness, anger and fear that gripped him after his initial relief. This is how Steve felt before that lolo spy mission. When he came back he was not the same Steve. That devilish spook operation! Something had gone wrong. Maybe not with the ploy – because Steve came back alive. But he was NOT the same! Changed, altered, strange and wrathful and wickedly different. Poor Steve… Alive, but mentally wounded. Injuries beneath the skin that the doctors had not detected.

 

Sick with the images of what his friend had to be suffering, he forced his emotions to settle. What could he do now? The whole squad, and Bergman, thought HE was the one on the brink, not Steve. Who would believe him? Damn those Intel goons. The Intel goons… THEY were the only ones who MIGHT be able to recognize the truth in his story. Kaye and his gang made this mess in the first place. They would HAVE to fix it – and make Steve right again.

 

 

*****

 

 

“What kind of doctor are you?” Dan shouted as he stormed into Doyle’s office.

 

Striving to keep his temper and mood reasonable, Williams succeeded for most of the drive out to Pearl Harbor. He tried to excuse Dr. Doyle the incredible oversight of not catching at least a clue to McGarrett’s internal disconnect, but every mile closer he drew to the Naval base, his anger and indignation grew – on behalf of McGarrett – for the trauma inflicted by a foreign spy at the behest of the US Government – and WITH McGarrett for his willing cooperation!

 

As he swept through the medical building and plunged into Doyle’s office without invitation or consent from the cute Ensign at the reception desk, Dan had reached the boundary of his patience. His own suffering in recent days under the cruel and harsh hand of his boss put him at the limits of his own self-control. That it could have possibly been prevented by this civil servant was almost too much for him.

 

The startled doctor stared at him, bemused and irritated. The Ensign was calling the Shore Patrol. Dan leaned his knuckles on the desk and faced the man who had claimed that Steve was fit for duty.

 

“Wo Fat – or whatever his name is – brainwashed McGarrett!” he started out dramatically, knowing he had limited time to make his case. “He’s been acting abnormally for days and no one could see it. But I’ve figured it out, Doyle, and you’d better do something about it before he explodes, or does something to hurt himself or someone else.” He did not itemize that those things had already happened – to him! He’d been paying the price for this man’s oversight for days, but that was over now. “You NEVER should’ve released him until you knew more about that chamber of horrors!”

 

A commotion in the anteroom distracted the physician. He glanced out the door, as did Williams, to see two armed SPs arrive. The doctor assured them everything was all right and, to Dan’s relief, asked them to close the door to his office. After a brief hesitation and suspicious stares at the intruder, the two sailors removed themselves from the office, leaving the two men alone. Before the door latched shut, Doyle re-focused an interested expression on the detective again.

 

“I gave him every test –“

 

“That’s the point! How can you test what you know nothing about?” Dan emphasized by hitting his fist on the desk and flinching at the mental image of Steve doing just that kind of action so often. The old Steve. Not the new and dangerous replacement that had been living in McGarrett’s skin since the abominable spy operation. “Has anyone ever dealt with a survivor of that chamber? Do you know what kind of games they played inside Steve’s head? No? Well, let me tell you it wasn’t checkers! His behavior lately had me questioning my own sanity until I finally put two and two together!” The detective pressed ahead quickly describing his boss’s suddenly-suspicious disposition,  secretive conduct, and inconsistent moods. For reasons he himself did not understand, Williams could not bring himself to do anything more than gloss over his own unduly severe treatment at the hands of his mentor.

 

Dan paused to gauge the doctor’s reception of the information being dumped on him. Unless pressed for more details, he decided to avoid mentioning the ransacking of his apartment and the existence of McGarrett’s letter – the wonderful, horrible letter. The detective had plenty more to say, if need be, but Doyle showed no signs of indignation at the questioning of his skills or authority. Instead, the doctor gave a gentle nod of his head and thoughtfully repeated a few of Dan’s comments about Steve’s behavior.

 

With clinical, yet open objectivity, he pondered the report. Encouraged – energized even -- by the sense that he was not being patronized or considered a lunatic, Dan continued with a few more details of what had transpired in the past weeks. Once again, he veered from incidents too incriminating to Steve (like the assault or the search of his apartment), but enough, he hoped, for the doctor to take the matter very seriously.

 

Dan’s minor in psych did not cover this kind of wild experience, but he knew that science had made many advancements in the last decade. In what they knew, and more importantly, what they didn’t know, about the human mind.

 

Doyle made a few comments on this very subject. “Regrettably, I’ve seen Wo Fat’s handiwork before,” the older man sighed. “It is possible he left – for lack of a better term -- a time bomb in McGarrett’s brain.”

 

“A time bomb?”

 

“A conditioned response that could be triggered with a delay of time. It could be anything. Wo Fat could have programmed McGarrett to jump off Aloha Tower at noon on Friday the thirteenth, for example.”

 

Growing cold, at the same time sweating from the suddenly-intense apprehension bubbling inside, Dan bit his lip as the doctor’s theory evoked horrific possibilities from the depths of his own imagination.

 

Doyle continued to expound. “Such programming is counter to what McGarrett would do under normal circumstances. The mind accepts input, but the new programming forces a different interpretation of the facts.”

 

Dan, trying to comprehend the implication of the explanation, sank into the chair in front of the doctor’s desk. “So, when I pulled Steve’s notes from his desk, instead of recognizing that I needed them to fill in for him at a meeting, he might’ve construed that as…” Williams’ voice died down as he tried to imagine what could’ve been going on in his boss’s head.

 

Doyle continued the thought. “An invasion of privacy, perhaps… theft… it all depends on the nature of the seed that was planted.”

 

Williams followed the doctor’s train of thought to its logical conclusion. “That means he could be turning the most innocuous acts around the office into horrible crimes!”

 

Doyle nodded. “And unfortunately, there’s no way to know the exact nature of Steve’s interpretation until I can get him to submit to a peri-hypnotic interview.”

 

“A what?” The furl in Dan’s brow deepened.

 

“I believe I can get him to consciously recall any subconscious programming through drug-induced hypnosis – I already know he’s receptive because this is how I planted the red herring control information for Wo Fat to uncover.” Doyle looked almost pleased with himself, but the expression withered quickly to serious concentration under the angry glare of his guest. He continued with his train of thought. “If it’s as bad as you describe—”

 

“It IS!” Dan interrupted.

 

“Then we’ve got to get McGarrett out of circulation and into my care as quickly as possible. Can you bring him to me without risking an overt confrontation?”

 

Williams shook his head uncertainly. “I’m not sure he’d go anywhere with me right now under ANY pretext. But that’s not the biggest problem – I can’t find him.”

 

“What?” For the first time since the detective had rushed into the office unannounced, Doyle now looked moderately concerned.

 

“I tried to raise him on the radio, and I called his place on the way over here – nothing.”

 

“As you so expertly demonstrated that morning on the Arcturus, you’ve got a lot of manpower at your disposal – can’t you bring some of that to bear on this problem?”

 

Dan stood to respond as the doctor followed suit. “If I have to, I will – it’s just that I’ve got to have a feasible explanation when I put an APB out on the head of the state police.”

 

“Hmm, yes,” the psychiatrist pondered. “Perhaps you’re trying to locate your boss at the urgent request of Chief of Naval Intelligence.”

 

Williams’ eyes brightened slightly. “Yeah, that’s believable!”

 

Doyle nodded as the detective turned to leave. “I’ll contact Jonathan Kaye and let him know what’s happening. And Danny!” The detective stopped in the doorway and turned to look at the doctor. “Use caution! We have no idea who might be watching McGarrett or how the time bomb might alter him if he feels threatened. In other words, a subtle approach would be advised.”

 

 

*****

 

Returning to his car, Dan noted a jeep full of SPs observing him warily. Too focused on his concern for McGarrett, he gave them no more than a second’s thought. He picked up the mic and requested a patch to the office. It wouldn’t do to issue an all-points bulletin for his boss if he’d returned to the office.

 

May greeted him urgently. “Danny, I’m glad you checked in – you’re about to miss an appointment! Quentin called and said six o’clock! I presume you already know where.

 

“Yeah, but I’ve got plenty of time – he meant six o’clock on Saturday morning,” Williams explained quickly. He was more interested at the moment in meeting with McGarrett. “Say did Steve ever come back to the office?”

 

No, but he did call a few hours ago.

 

“A few hours ago… Did he leave any word about where he’d be?” Dan tried to keep the tension from his voice, but wasn’t certain he succeeded.

 

No – he asked if you’d come back, and then he asked about the message from Quentin.

 

“Steve asked—” Dan stopped in mid-sentence as a chill rippled down his spine for a reason he couldn’t quantify yet. He mentally regrouped and requested a clarification. “You mean he specifically asked if you’d taken a message from Quentin?”

 

Yep, and I gave him the exact message. Is everything okay?”

 

Concern edged into her tone, but the detective, contrary to the feeling in the pit of his stomach, promised her that everything was fine. He quickly ended the call and sat there in his car as he digested the possible implications of the information.

 

The name of his paranoid informant had come up one time too many in the past few hours. Quentin was a forgettable little man who worked as a mechanic for Leonid Chavez, a rapidly burgeoning leader in the state’s underworld. After weeks of discreet phone conversations, Quentin had agreed to help Five-0 locate the bodies of several missing persons associated with the Chavez operation. Dan hoped that the very scared and nervous informant would be able to pin down the location of the purported graves on his USGS map.

 

Finally, patience and gentle persuasion won out, and the informant consented to a meeting, but only if he picked the time and place. Williams happily acceded to the demand, knowing that the payoff could be tremendous. Quentin called the detective at home late the night before – he’d settled on Saturday morning at the defunct sugar mill. When Dan left for the City Counsel meeting earlier that day, all that was to be decided was the exact time.

 

What was bothering him so much? Suddenly, his thoughts slammed back to the note missing from his bedside. What EXACTLY had he written? It had been significant enough to McGarrett that he’d seen fit to swipe it! He leaned his head onto the steering wheel for a few moments before he sat upright again. Quentin… map… That’s it… nothing else – he knew what map he meant. As a matter of fact, he’d gone to the storage closet and retrieved it immediately. So Steve knew that he was using a map in his meeting with the informant. Did the head of Five-0 know the meeting was happening at the sugar mill? Dan had not had time (or the inclination) to mention the fact to his boss yet. The map… Williams mentally traversed his apartment, struggling to pull up an image of the area around his door – he’d propped up the rolled map somewhere close to the front door. His heart beat a little faster as the image of the cluttered area came into focus. The map was missing… or was it? He’d been so shocked as he wandered around his apartment, it was possible the document had merely been knocked over or tossed aside.

 

Dread began to percolate up through Williams’ being. However Steve McGarrett was filtering reality, he’d made it personal. Taken offense at him – Dan Williams – for something… anything… everything… It seemed so unimaginable, but the facts fit, the detective decided with dejection. The rendezvous message from Quentin… Instinct told him that Steve was somehow interpreting the planned meeting as a sinister, punishable offense. Dan slowly looked at the clock on the dashboard, and knew that Steve, like May, assumed that six o’clock meant six PM today. What next step was his mentor intending to take in his plummet toward Wo Fat’s obscene objective? Was Steve lying in wait for him at Makaha? How could he just walk into a trap, aware of Steve’s recent behavior? How could he not? He sighed and pushed the key into the ignition. He decided that he would not call for back up. There was no proof that this was a trap. A trap for him… And if Steve continued with his irrational behavior, Dan did not want any one else witnessing the spectacle. Williams was armed with knowledge, and at this point, he believed that nothing else would be more effective in battling what ailed his friend.

 

Before he set his vehicle in motion, he pulled McGarrett’s letter from his pocket and read it again. The words renewed his commitment to figure it all out on the drive to the leeward side of the island.

 

 

*****

 

On the way to Makaha, McGarrett reviewed the fragments in his mind and tried to piece them together. Doubts were like whispering winds through the grates of evidence building within his condemning thoughts. Doubts flamed by the fierce memories of what had been – his friendship with Danno – to what was now – the betrayal of Williams. A part of him wanted to disavow the evidence, but it was there, denouncing the young detective with every snatch of deviant conversation, with every whispered, conspiratorial conference with others – with every act that was like a blade in the back to McGarrett.

 

Pulling up to the abandoned sugar mill, Steve drove the car to the side, out of sight from the highway and the entrance to the dilapidated old factory. He pulled his .38 from its holster and slipped into the a-kilter door. Noisy skittering alerted him to the presence of a mongoose or two as he carefully searched the wrecked building. At last confident that he was the only human under the roof, he climbed a flight of rickety, rusted steps, and selected a perch that was advantageous for sight, sound and apprehension… as soon as Williams showed to – to – do – to complete whatever act of betrayal it was…

 

It wasn’t more five minutes before the sound of a vehicle pulling directly outside the main door set him on edge. The certainty of his convictions wavered. What was it Danno was accused of in his mind? He had trouble remembering anything specific. The red haze that was a vacillating hazy curtain just behind his eyelids filtered past his vision again. When confused or uncertain, that filmy residue contorted his thoughts and sight and left him light headed and disoriented – dizzy from the confusion and a searing memory of something beyond pain. Sweat surfaced from the pores of his exposed skin and his breathing became shallow. Physical reactions to mental disturbance that he could not easily categorize.

 

A voice echoed in his brain... From another time, an echo-chamber effect/lilting dialect tone. Inviting, compelling, entreating, ordering… echoing – from the chamber where he was like a floating piece of thin air…

 

“What am I doing here?”

 

The head of Five-0 whispered as he shook his head. He was so confused. Danno was coming. A trap. Because Danno betrayed him. No, that still didn’t sound right no matter how many times the voices in his head told him that. He was waiting for Danno out here. Why? Eliminate… Why would he do that to Danno? Betrayal… To his country… Hennesy had been murdered because of people like Danno… Others would die… Others in the service of their country…

 

Danno a threat? A betrayer? No – yes…

 

 

*****

 

Dan pulled up right to the door in front of the dilapidated structure and made a point of revving the engine once before turning it off, knowing the conspicuous act would alert McGarrett to his presence. He decided that it was best to not come off as if he were hiding anything. He was determined to make it very difficult for even a twisted thought process to misinterpret his actions. Doctor Doyle – the expert on the subject -- advised him to be subtle, but the young detective decided that there was no such thing as an expert in this realm – his own gut was as much of an expert as the psychiatrist.

 

The detective stepped out of his car and slipped off his suit jacket and tie, and then tossed them onto the front seat. A warm breeze danced across his face as he took the time to roll up his sleeves and place the neatly-folded, but somewhat-bent letter in his shirt pocket.

 

Without a pause, he removed both of his revolvers – the one on his belt and the back-up weapon in his ankle holster – and slipped them onto the floor board in the back seat. No matter what happened inside, he would never shoot Steve. In the back of his mind, there was a disconcerting awareness that the move could cost him his life. After all, Dan had no clue as to the depth or power of the mental stress being applied to the man inside. Before he stepped into meet whatever version of McGarrett awaited him, he took in a slow, deep breath, and steadied himself. He was counting completely on some vestige of the real Steve lurking within to protect him from the stranger that seemed to be in control.

 

He moved slowly and deliberately several feet into the room before he stopped, and, careful to keep his hands in plain sight, scanned for signs of human life. Dan studied the area, searching for a likely hiding place / vantage point. Finally, he directed his thoughts to the array of metal catwalks above. If it were him, that’s where he would go.

 

“Steve!” He called out loudly and then strained his ears listening for any sign of movement. He heard it, but it sounded more like he’d startled something with four legs. He moved toward the steps and began his ascent. “Steve, we have to talk… You need to hear the truth about what’s going on inside your head.” His voice echoed against the walls as he made his way to a large landing. Prepared to continue his explanation, he jumped almost imperceptibly when he heard the human voice so close to him.

 

“The truth, Danno? What is the truth?” McGarrett’s tone indicated that he didn’t believe that the detective had anything believable to say.

 

Williams spun and looked up – on the catwalk one tier higher than his position, his boss moved to the staircase and glided cautiously downward. The momentary relief he’d felt with the knowledge that he’d predicted McGarrett’s intention dropped away instantly as he saw the weapon – aimed in HIS direction.

 

Dan dropped his hands to his sides. The Five-0 staff frequently teased him about being the only one who could get around the boss, and now, he fervently hoped they were right.

 

“The truth is, Steve, that we’re standing here – with you apparently ready to shoot me in cold blood – because that Chinese spy left a twisted plot buried in your subconscious.”

 

With his revolver still leveled at Dan, the head of Five-0 stopped three feet from his detective, and narrowed his eyes suspiciously. “I trusted you, and you betrayed me! You stabbed me in the back!”

 

Williams’ eyes grew a little larger at the accusation so angrily delivered, but he didn’t waver in his argument. “That’s what the voice in your head is telling you, but it’s NOT true, Steve! I would NEVER betray you!”

 

“You’re a LIAR AND a traitor!” The taller man shouted as he shook his weapon at the man.

 

Dan delivered his retort with equal force. “I have a letter, written in your own hand, warning me that Steve McGarrett might not come back, but when you wrote it, you thought you’d be dead. You didn’t know that a stranger would return in your skin!” Williams could feel the emotion, which had been pent up in the past weeks, threatening to erupt uncontrollably. “Accuse me to my face! What do you think I’ve done… or am doing… or WILL do?”

 

McGarrett swayed slightly and his skin took the pallor of one ill as he twisted his face in an effort to find the right answer. “What have you done… what you’ve done…”

 

The younger detective, now angry with himself for not being able to control the appearance of tears welling up in his eyes, pressed on. “What I’ve done is my JOB! Just like you want me to do it! I’ve never tried so hard to please ANYONE in my life! Can you dredge up ONE fact to support what that fiend, Wo Fat, planted in your head?”

 

The perspiration began to drip from McGarrett’s face as he focused on an answer. “A fact… a fact… I can’t… Why can’t I…”

 

“Steve, you can’t because what you’re believing at this moment does NOT match with reality! Let me help you… please!” Dan almost shouted desperately as he edged a half step forward.

 

Confusion and fear flooded Steve’s expression. “You don’t want to help me! Get back!” He suddenly lunged forward and shoved the young man in the chest.

 

The assault caught Dan off balance and he fell backward down the metal steps from whence he’d just come, not stopping his tumble until he roughly smacked the floor below.

 

His still form lie in a heap as the head of Five-0 stood frozen at the top of the steps. Horror engulfed him as stared down at the crumpled, unmoving form.

 

“Danno!” He plunged down the steps, his feet hitting no more than every third step as he rushed to reach the obviously injured man.

 

“My God, what have I done?” He cried hoarsely. He returned his gun to the holster and gingerly rolled Williams over onto his back. Blood was oozing from a cut buried somewhere beneath the thick curls on Dan’s head, but his eyes fluttered open, and he looked up into the face of the terrified man touching his cheek. “Danno! Are you with me?”

 

Williams’ voice was soft but distinct. “Steve… I’m with you... no matter what.”

 

McGarrett studied the dirt-smudged face, which returned his gaze with a confidence that somehow bolstered his own. A confusing mix of panic and peace of mind swept over him, but he did not take any time to ponder it. Danno needed a doctor.

 

“We’ve gotta get you some help,” McGarrett lightly squeezed Dan’s shoulder.

 

The injured detective nodded and winced in pain as he moved to sit. “I want you to take me to Doctor Doyle – he’ll know what to do.”

 

McGarrett helped Williams to his feet and supported him to his car, where he carefully stuffed him into the passenger side before he ran and took his place behind the wheel. Gravel and dirt filled the air as the vehicle backed up and moved to pull onto the road.

 

Steve threw a concerned glance in the direction of his passenger, who leaned on the head rest tiredly. “Don’t worry about a thing, Danno! Trust me – everything’s going to be fine.”

 

Dan let his eyes fall shut as he answered. “Yes… everything’s gonna be fine.”

 

 

*****

 

“Nobody looks at me until Doctor Doyle looks at you!” Williams was resolute even as his boss puffed up angrily.

 

“Danno, don’t be ridiculous – you might have a serious head injury!”

 

The pair had been joined in the parking lot of Queens Hospital by Doctors Bergman and Doyle at the behest of the head of Five-0, who radioed ahead when they were en route.

 

“The same to you, Steve!” His own loud voice apparently disturbed him enough to force him to lean his head back onto the rest again. He squeezed his eyes shut and maintained the stubborn frown he’d applied ever since they’d arrived at the hospital. He continued with his demand in a softer tone. “I’ll let Bergman give me the once over AFTER you let Doyle examine you in whatever way he sees fit.”

 

Bergman frowned and kneeled in the open car doorway to get a better look at his recalcitrant patient. “Danny, you could be bleeding into your brain! Let me—”

 

“Steve,” Doyle interrupted softly, but with a sense of urgency. “Let me examine you. We’re wasting valuable time out here!” The psychiatrist gave a meaningful look to the head of Five-0 as he nodded with concern in the direction of the detective slouched down in the car.

 

Anxiety now etched on his face, McGarrett nodded. “Okay, Danno, you win – let’s go inside.”

 

A faint smile slipped onto Dan’s face as he nodded slightly. McGarrett pulled Bergman to his feet and then leaned into the car to help his second stand. Doyle appeared from nowhere it seemed, a wheelchair in tow. With his boss’s help, Dan sank gently into the chair and was pushed inside.

 

Bergman, having been briefed by the psychiatrist, had arranged for Doyle to make use of an examination room on one of the corners of the second floor. Dan insisted on accompanying them there and waited until McGarrett grudgingly removed his suit jacket, rolled up his sleeve, and submitted to Doyle’s first hypodermic. The head of Five-0 almost immediately lost the tension he’d been carrying in his shoulders and face, while the psychiatrist guided his suddenly-acquiescent patient to the bed, the head of which was already raised to an optimal sitting position. Doyle explained that, as with the first time McGarrett submitted to the treatment, it would take a just few minutes to take the detective to the appropriate hypnotic state.

 

“Okay, Danno, your turn,” the head of Five-0 intoned softly.

 

“Sure, Steve,” Williams, still sitting in the wheel chair, responded distantly in a gentle tone that matched his boss’s.

 

“Danny, the boss man is under – now you keep up your end of the bargain.” Bergman whispered into Williams’ ear as he pointed the wheel chair towards the door and pushed the detective into the hallway.

 

As the door wafted shut behind them, Dan placed his hand on one of the wheels to stop their progress. Before any objections could be raised, Williams turned his head to look up at the older man. “I’m fine, Doc – really.”

 

Frustration bubbling into his tone, the medical examiner wagged his finger at the officer. “Head injuries are nothing to be trifled with, young man!”

 

“I bumped my head, but I promise you I didn’t lose consciousness.” A guilty expression slipped onto Williams’ face as he made the confession. “A serious injury was the only way I could think of to get Steve to the hospital.”

 

“You faked an injury?” Bergman’s eyes grew large, and marginally skeptical.

 

“Faked – no, exaggerated – yes,” Dan smiled softly at the success of his impromptu plan. “I remembered how Steve acted when that bus almost squashed my head. I’m just lucky he reacted the same way this time.”

 

“Danny Williams, I oughtta…I oughtta” Bergman stammered as he struggled to find the words. Finally, he offered a silent curse with a violent snap of his fingers. “Well, I was gonna say I should have your head examined, but I did that last week.”

 

Dan’s lip twitched. “If it makes you feel any better, I have a horrible headache.”

 

The physician sighed and gently patted the young man on the shoulder. “Are you SURE you’re okay?”

 

“I’ve had worse tumbles at the Pipeline on my days off, Doc, so if you don’t mind, I want to be present while Doyle… treats Steve.”

 

Williams moved to rise from the wheelchair. The slight grimace of pain as he stood upright caused Bergman to squint one eye suspiciously as he grabbed the detective’s arm to steady him.

 

“Just aspirin,” Williams reassured gently with a squeeze of the doctor’s forearm as he re-focused his attention on the door from whence they’d emerged less than a minute earlier.

 

Before the two men could make any headway, Jonathan Kaye briskly rounded the corner, his wallet with still-exposed government credentials in hand.

 

Dan was a little surprised. “That was some fast trip from Washington!”

 

The agent looked tired, but his voice did not offer any sign of exhaustion. “When Frank called me, it just happened that I was at the airport in San Diego. It was no effort to commandeer the use of a Navy jet and its pilot.” Even before he finished his explanation, it was clear from his distraction that his thoughts had moved on to his own questions. He studied Williams’ ruffled visage. “What happened to you and why aren’t we at a secure facility?”

 

“Long story,” Dan returned before he changed the subject. “Jonathan Kaye, this is Doctor Niles Bergman – Steve’s personal physician and the official doctor of Five-0.” The two men shook hands as Williams added what almost seemed to be a threat directed at Kaye, “And yes, he’s going to join us without the benefit of any tortuous clearance procedures.”

 

Jonathan opened his mouth as if he were going to object, but thought better of it in short order, and instead nodded. “Of course.”

 

It was obvious to Kaye that Five-0’s second-in-command had been through something today that had put him in no mood for arguments, and the government agent did not feel up to tangling with the detective, whom he’d come to realize was a match for McGarrett in determination.

 

With the back of his hand, Dan wiped a thin trickle of blood that had emerged from his hairline and was starting down his temple as he started towards the door. “You’re here just in time.”

 

Bergman and Kaye exchanged glances of concurrence and trailed the young man as he leaned into the door with his shoulder and vanished into the room.

 

 

*****

 

Doyle put his index finger to his lips to command silence as the three men joined him in the room with his patient, who now appeared to be asleep. He made a gesture with his head at the portable tape recorder sitting on the hospital tray nearby. The signal caused Bergman and Kaye to sidle around to the two chairs on the other side of the room and quietly seat themselves.

 

Despite the fact that there was a vacant stool conveniently situated within arm’s reach of his boss’s foot, Williams took up a position on the countertop ten feet from the bed. He was exhausted, physically and emotionally, and spikes of pain occasionally accented a continuous pulsating headache.

 

The plan to take advantage of the unanticipated tumble spontaneously erupted as he tried to control his descent down the metal steps. His years of experience in negotiating the rough surf on the North Shore helped him minimize his injuries, but there was no way to completely avoid them. Knowing his own scrapes and bruises would heal of their own accord, Dan was bent on seeing his friend through this ordeal.

 

Something, though, in the recesses of his mind wouldn’t let him sit too close to the action at that moment. Not willing to consciously acknowledge an irrational sense of vulnerability consuming him, the detective needed to observe from a “safe” distance. And so he leaned back delicately onto a small section of wall that was not occupied by medical paraphernalia. This left him sandwiched snugly between two cupboards to look on as Doctor Doyle took his mentor into a deep state of hypnosis.

 

“Steve, by now the tension has drained from your body.” Doyle’s commands were delivered with a pleasant, almost tranquil, tenor. “You’re now in a position to observe what happened to you after you were subjected to the treatment in the null chamber. Remember that you’re reporting on a specter of what was, so there is no need to fear or react in any way. Do you understand?”

 

The voice was confident and calm, but did not annul the sensation of foreboding that engulfed Steve McGarrett. He did understand though that he was merely bearing witness to the scene which he was to describe. “Yes,” he returned softly.

 

The voice – Doyle’s – one of the good guys – reinforced, “You will – you MUST remember every moment – every detail – when you awaken. Do you understand, Steve? Every detail.”

 

The null chamber. The torture chamber of unimaginable horror. No person could understand the diabolical implications unless they were unfortunate enough to be a subject of Chinese captivity and torment. Hennesy had known its pain. Others – unknown and countless in their regrettable anonymity knew. McGarrett would never forget. Robbed of all sensation – it seemed absurd, but to the mind – agony.

 

The cloudy gray washed behind his eyelids and into his mind. A dreaded/familiar numbness in all his senses. His body relaxed to a plane where he felt disconnected from everything -- Momentary panic. No, almost devoid of feeling but not like in the chamber. There were still sensations – the feel of the bedrail beneath his palms, the sound of a clock ticking, the slight moisture of sweat on his neck, the breathing in his ears as his heart rate and adrenalin increased. No, he was not robbed of his mind or feelings, but the void of the drug insulated him as he slipped back in time, back to a terrible place he did not want to revisit…

 

‘Four score and seven years ago, our fathers brought forth to this continent a new nation….’

 

No, he did not need the artificial crutch. He was an onlooker now – inside the null-chamber. A form in a red wet suit was suspended above the water. Wo Fat was there. Without pausing to think of how he could be watching this scene unfold from outside his body, McGarrett floated close, easily hovering, but not-quite-merging-with the figure in red.

 

Who is Control?

 

The Chinese agent’s melodic tone echoed in the eerily glistening chamber. Crimson water rippling against the reflective walls made the room seem fluid, constantly in motion even as the human fixtures seemed frozen in time.

 

I am Control.

 

The voice – familiar – not his own – belonging to someone else – yet, his lips had moved and he had spoken those words. The planted information in his head had spilled forth as fact. The line between what he knew to be true and what was false no longer mattered.

 

Wo Fat drew closer, his face a hideous mask of baldness transformed into a Chinese dragon complete with horns. Wondering only in passing where this imagery was coming from, McGarrett nonetheless focused on the spy, whose look now complied with a normal figure.

 

In your mind’s hunger for input, Mr. McGarrett, I’m going to tell you a secret that you will not be able to escape. No matter how hard you try to stop it, you will come to know that I speak the truth.

 

What truth? Tell me… what truth? As the round face pressed close to his own, Miller emerged from the shadows in the background. Just seeing the man, Steve felt a surge of hatred. He was aware he was visiting, that this was not reality, nor even a tactile repeat of history, so the emotions took only a moment to wash away as he stepped quickly towards the next emotional shadow. It was desperation – desperation to hear the truth… Wo Fat’s truth? No—truth is truth. The truth… WHAT TRUTH? TELL ME! His mind cried out.

 

Those closest to you are suspect. You cannot trust them. The one closest to you is plotting against you… against your cause.

 

WHAT? NO!

 

It is true, and you will come to believe it. The evidence is all around you. Look for it and you will see it – signs of betrayal from once-trusted sources. In the end, you must of course eradicate the source of the treachery. Your cause is pure, but it will fall to the wayside if someone does not stop the traitor. You’re the only one who knows the truth. Do you understand?

 

He tried to respond – to refuse the order – but the man in the red suit blurted out a dull and displaced affirmative. The horrific simplicity of the programming alarmed Steve, and his mind drew back. Instead of the comfort of the gray clouds, he seemed to be walking backwards through the memories and events of the following days after this scene in the null chamber.

 

Rescue by Danno; hospital, Palace, investigations – they were all sliding past with the blur of film that had been unspooled from a projector. With the bits of scenes playing back despite the elements that made him cringe. In a sliding soundtrack he could hear his voice in distorted warbling as he shouted – struck out -- at Danno!

 

Appalled, the rearward memories did not wait for his recoiled horror, nor his agonized guilt as he witnessed himself in reenactments of actions and words and thoughts that were not him… but were. Finally, the memories slowed, faded, and regressed into the mist.

 

Aware of the soft ticking of a clock, a hint of cigarette smoke, and the attendance of people around him, McGarrett knew he was back. Awake, aware, completely returned to the present. Without a conscious memory of it, he realized in passing that Doyle had snapped him back to the real world. But that was only one stray thought amid a tsunami of others assaulting him.

 

Eyes blinking, he finally focused on Doyle. The psychiatrist gave a slight nod, accompanied by a subtle smile of reassurance or completion, maybe.

 

“How are you feeling, Steve?”

 

The momentary internal serenity and relief at the scene tipped into chaos at the prompt. The cacophony of mental images roared back into his brain along with real-world emotions that matched the impressions so recently revived in his sleepwalk through events. An inward gasp was his first initial reaction to the onslaught of input from the past.

 

“I – I remember,” he whispered, as if an audible admission would somehow solidify the imprints on his mind. They were, of course, already a reality. “The – uh – the truth – I mean what Wo Fat implanted.”

 

He heard/felt movement from the side and from the corner of his eye saw Jonathan Kaye and Doc Bergman stepping closer to his side. He strove for clinical objectivity, but failed to formulate another comment. The issue of relevance for the spy mission and Chinese agents now seemed insignificant as he scanned the room and found his second-in-command perched on the edge of a distant countertop… tense… like a bird ready to take flight at the first hint of predatory movement. It was instantly clear to the head of Five-0 that his protégé was edgy with anticipation. Danno’s battered condition attested to the last round of punishment he’d received at Steve’s hands.

 

Williams studied McGarrett in an obvious effort to discern the state the hypnotic session had rendered his boss. His troubled expression searched for an explanation for the initial comments. Flinching, Steve knew that Dan was expecting something extreme and hated that he was the cause of such anxiety—that his actions had caused such trauma.

 

“Danno,” he barely whispered. The full recognition of his horrible dealings to his friend was as powerful as if he had just committed them moments ago. In a manner of speaking he had – the bitter events revitalized with fresh cognizance through hypnosis left him absorbed with the full realization of his guilt. Unconscionable – and patently untrue – words had been flung at Williams. Deeds had been perpetrated – misdirected – against the young detective. Wo Fat had expertly twisted McGarrett’s own natural tendency to mistrust and used it to target his closest friend as an enemy. “Danno –“ he shook his head, unable to finish the thought and put his regret and anguish into words.

 

Spurred into movement at his mentor’s distress, Dan slid from the countertop and hesitantly stepped near the bed. “Are you okay?” Williams’ eyes were alive with concern, but more than just worry played in his tone and expression. There was a disconcerting reticence that manifested itself physically in the young detective’s failure to move any closer.

 

Suddenly aware that he was being scrutinized by the two physicians who stood on either side of him, McGarrett self-consciously decided this was not the time for further analysis of his friend’s body language. In his current state of mind, he realized he could be imagining things that weren’t there.

 

He gave a slow nod. “I’ll be all right,” he assured, hoping that Danno saw the phrase encompassed his remorse, penitence, and a promise for a future apology.

 

Kaye moved into his field of vision. “What happened to you, Steve?”

 

As much as he wanted to do so, he did not minimize the extent of his “treatment” from the Chinese master spy. The four men listened in gripped silence as he revealed the information about Miller and the chamber where he’d nearly lost his life and soul. He recounted Wo Fat’s instructions that he should mistrust those closest to him… that he was surrounded by betrayal. With steel determination, he kept the sentiment from his voice as he reported on the planted nonspecific plot, supposedly transpiring in his midst, that he was to ferret out and stop.

 

His voice breaking, he stopped short of delivering an itemized account of all that had transpired between him and his second-in-command. The things he’d done in anger at his protégé, the acts he’d committed in the course of his misshapen ’investigation’ to find the proof of wrongdoing. No longer able to face Danno, he looked down at his hands as they gripped into fists and into clenched knots. After all was revealed, the words faded away, guilt drawing a curtain of silence across any elucidation. What more could be said? He’d been tricked – brainwashed – into thinking his closest associate had turned against him and all along, the betrayal had been his. Not just against his country, but almost worse, against a cherished friend.

 

Kaye, with a measure of professional admiration for his Chinese opponent showing through, breathed his comments. “Wo Fat is a master at the psychology of deception. Clearly this time though, he swallowed the bait – hook, line, and sinker – and mistook you for our Pacific Theatre Control, merely masquerading as a cop.” Confirmation of this made the Intel chief almost gleeful, but the psychiatrist looked past the success of the operation to the controlled, but distraught, victor on the bed.

 

“There was nothing you could do,” Doyle reassured McGarrett. “If you did not possess such great will, and formidable personality, there could have been some terrible repercussions from this.” The psychiatrist then shot a quick glance at Williams, whose eyes had not left his boss since he’d stood. “It’s also apparent, Jonathan, that the time bomb which Wo Fat intended to be delivered to the Intelligence community actually landed squarely in the office of Five-0. We’re very fortunate indeed that Danny noticed something was amiss.”

 

Still distracted on another plane of consideration, Kaye nodded his agreement. “The ramifications of which would have certainly been heard by Chinese Intelligence.” He snapped his head in Dan’s direction and, with a smile, moved to shake the detective’s hand. “Danny, for the second time this month, let me thank you for your assistance, however unorthodox it was. You kept us from ending up with egg on our faces on this one!”

 

“Yeah, I’m sure Peking would’ve had a good laugh over it all.” Dan spoke softly and offered no disagreement, but felt that mere embarrassment was the least horrific outcome from the past weeks of trauma.

 

The gently-delivered sarcasm was lost on the otherwise-absorbed agent. Kaye chuckled. “That’s an understatement if ever I heard one!” He slapped Williams on the back and, not noticing the recipient’s slight wince of pain, changed the subject. “Steve, I hate to put you through this, but I’ve got to take you back to Pearl for a couple hours to document this session – Frank, I’ll need you as well.”

 

McGarrett frowned and, with a slow shake of his head, objected. “Jonathan, I have a vague recollection that I left some serious loose ends untied at the office today, and frankly those are more important to me right now than your lose ends.”

 

“It’s okay, Steve,” Dan offered a crooked grin after he glanced at his watch. “Go ahead with Jonathan – I’ve got to go back to the office anyway and finish a couple of things before the clock strikes nine tomorrow morning. I’ll make sure nothing on your desk is on fire.”

 

For the first time, McGarrett carefully studied his friend. “You’re hurt.”

 

“Nothing serious,” Williams shrugged with a slight flinch. “Really.”

 

“Danny,” Bergman interrupted with annoyance. “You need to get some rest!”

 

Williams dismissed the advice with a gentle wave of his hand. “I will, Doc – I promise. Like Steve said, just tying up a few loose ends on the Crenshaw case.”

 

Another wave of guilt erupted in McGarrett’s soul as he remembered pulling Williams from that case to get him out of the office. Now, ever the good soldier, Danno, tired and in some measure of physical discomfort, was determined to complete his work in the face of whatever adversity had been thrown up to block him.

 

As he slowly swung his legs to the floor and stood, Steve looked gratefully at his second. It was almost more than Steve could bear – the concern and relief so evident in Danno’s face. Everything that was sincere and heartfelt from friend to friend. And how little he deserved that now. The two medicos started a quiet conversation to the side, and Kaye slipped from the room to make a phone call as Williams’ blue eyes studied him. McGarrett knew, for once, that he was more readable than his second. Sympathetic and worried, Dan understood McGarrett was reliving the terrible sequence of events as he had mentally unraveled the last few weeks.

 

With a barely perceptible nod, Dan offered a soft smile. “It’s okay now,” he assured quietly.

 

Gulping down the knot in his throat, McGarrett shrugged, too overwhelmed with emotion at Dan’s generosity – his valued and constant capacity to forgive – to vocalize anything. Too profoundly touched to open up, he just shook his head.

 

“Are you sure you’re all right?” he finally managed, reaching toward the scrapes on Dan’s forehead.

 

Williams feinted back with a flinch and McGarrett quickly withdrew his arm, but the damage was done. Danno had reacted as if Steve was going to hit him. Wincing at the memory, he knew the fear was justified, if heartbreaking.

 

“I’m fine, really,” the younger officer insisted a little anxiously.

 

Jonathan returned and glanced at McGarrett, but then turned to Williams. “There are some reporters out here who have sniffed around and think they have a story about a Five-0 cop being injured. You’d better take care of it.” He glanced at Doyle. “I told you we should have handled this at Tripler.”

 

The psychiatrist just frowned. “It’s already done, Jonathan.”

 

Dan glanced at McGarrett and offered in assurance, “I’ll take care of the press, and see you in the morning.”

 

Bergman answered for the head cop. “AFTER a good night’s sleep!”

 

Williams’ offered a slight wink to the medical examiner as he slipped from the room. “There’s no way I can avoid it at this point, Doc.”

 

Bergman turned immediately and asked to speak with McGarrett privately for a few moments before he departed with the other two men. Doyle shook his colleague’s hand and tugged Kaye’s suit sleeve to indicate that they should wait outside. The Intel chief’s brow furled slightly at the delay, but he quickly acquiesced to the demand and followed the psychiatrist from the room.

 

The medical examiner, now alone with his patient, spent a minute going over medical orders to get extra rest and take special note of any out-of-the-ordinary physical or emotional symptoms, but the detective was not focused on the instructions. Danno’s reaction to him was startling and disturbing. Of course it was justified, but still, it hurt to know how badly he had damaged a prized friendship – and a friend.

 

The physician perceived that he did not have McGarrett’s full attention, and, knowing what he knew of recent events, surmised what was going through the detective’s head. “This might seem tough to absorb right now, Steve, but it’s going to be all right,” he offered with quietly.

 

“I wish I shared your confidence.”

 

“I can’t lie to you – this has been a trying few weeks for Danny. There’s no doubt that he was hurt deeply, but he loves you, Steve, and his loyalty is resilient enough to withstand this unfortunate incident.”

 

“Unfortunate incident. What an understatement!” The detective’s eyes grew large. “How do I even begin to win him back?”

 

“I don’t think you have much more to say.” He handed Steve a crumpled piece of paper. “He already knows how you feel. He spent nearly the entire time you were under reading over this letter. He left it on the counter over there with his cigarettes.”

 

With a squeeze to the detective’s arm, Bergman left McGarrett alone in the room as he unfolded the sheet. Tears burned his eyes as he read the words he’d written weeks ago – the emotions burning within him then and now. How much Danno meant to him – everything he felt was here and it was a relief that Danno knew.

 

*****

 

Pacing just inside the open lanai doors, McGarrett cast frequent glances outside at the ever-brightening new day. Too distraught to sit or even lean, he wore a path behind his desk, consumed with anxiety at the near future.

 

There had been no opportunity to speak with Danno yet that day because the detective had a meeting with the prosecutor’s office before the Crenshaw case court hearing at nine that morning. It was after noon now, and it concerned him that Williams had not yet returned to the Palace.

 

Entering his office, he was struck with the strange sensation of readjustment here at home base. For weeks he had not been himself really, and coming back to the center of his world had jolted him. The staff looked at him as if nothing was strange, yet he needed an inner alignment with what was normal.

 

Breezing through the outer room he did not react, but allowed others to keep with the routine as they gave him subdued greetings, offered reports or updates on cases, and in general stayed out of his way. Within his private sanctuary, he analyzed the occurrence and was struck at how aloof and detached he must seem to others. For many days he had been crumbling on the inside, unraveling on the outside – mentally hijacked by a Chinese spy!! -- and his staff carried on as usual! It was both condemning and irritating that such a monumental event could happen and his closest associates were unaware of the crisis.

 

All but one, of course. The one that really mattered had figured it out, thankfully, before Steve went through a complete meltdown and did something tragic. As it was, his actions were unacceptable, and against Danno, they were unforgivable.

 

Yet, Bergman’s wisdom came back to him and he pulled the crumpled letter from his pocket. Danno knew how he felt and would forgive him. The physician thought that pardon had already taken place for the young detective. Steve hoped so, but could not be sure. In anger and unbalance, he had accused, shouted at, and even struck Williams. No normal subordinate would forgive such treatment.

 

Ah, but this was NOT a normal subordinate, nor was it a normal relationship of one superior officer to another. Danno looked on him as a great mentor and friend. At each injustice, Williams covered for him, made excuses for him and gave him room – even when Steve had hit him. Why? Any officer in their right mind would have had McGarrett up on charges and held a press conference to announce the insanity of the head of Five-0. Danno had covered it all up, invented justifications for him and saved him – yes – saved his life. His professional career, which was the same as his life.

 

Even the previous evening, Danno had manufactured a cover story about the hospital trip and his injuries to give Steve space to escape the attention of the media. Williams insisted before two newspaper reporters and someone from one of the local television stations that he’d merely taken a fall at a crime scene, and that the head of Five-0 insisted he go to the hospital to be checked. He pointed to the small scrape on his head and complained that the press needed to go find real news. Of course, any evidence that a more persistent reporter would ever turn up would back Dan’s very plausible explanation. And McGarrett knew, as did Williams, that by this afternoon, some new hint of sensational crime or social upheaval would capture the very short attention span of the press and public, and this would be forgotten. So again, Williams covered for him and smoothed everything over as if the brainwashing had never happened. But it had, and the aftermath was the next trial for him to confront.

 

The thought of facing Danno was slightly daunting. McGarrett had so much to atone for and he had no idea where to start. And he was not going to allow Williams to characteristically just sweep this away and pretend it never happened. A thrill of fear coursed along his inner spine and iced his nerves at the thought that maybe the opposite would happen. That Danno had experienced enough traumas from this incident to quit Five-0. Steve agonized that such a reaction was justified, and more than possible. Danno would be completely within his rights. He had done so much to save Steve’s skin this time. Was it enough to push him out for good?

 

Danno had come into his sphere years ago loaded with abundant talent and personality, and occasionally weak self-esteem. McGarrett had worked to tutor him in police skills and bolster his confidence. To be the one to attack and mercilessly wound him – physically and emotionally – had to be a tough blow. Somehow, Danno had managed to come through it without quitting or publicly denouncing McGarrett, but from the things he remembered, Steve knew it was at a great price. Danno had suffered through this and he was probably only guessing at a small measure of how damaging this had all been.

 

McGarrett’s reverie was interrupted as he saw the black LTD pull into a space next to the Mercury. Williams spun out of the car and hurried into the Palace. So there was the explanation for his detective’s delayed return. He’d gone to retrieve his car from the leeward coast. Taking in a deep breath, McGarrett prepared himself for a scene that would tell if his actions had irrevocably ruined a brilliant team and a cherished friendship.

 

Knowing it would happen soon, he was not surprised when there was a gentle knock at the door. He waited for the door to open, then realized, when it did not, that the person standing outside was waiting for an invitation. A telling point. Danno never waited, he simply knocked out of courtesy and entered this domain where he was always welcome. Where he did not feel accepted or safe anymore. One of the many things Steve had to face and mend.

 

Was there really a way to repair the damage he had – inadvertently, but devastatingly – inflicted on his friend? He clearly remembered the traumatized, wounded, expression on Dan’s face when Steve had assaulted him. When Steve had held a gun on him -- he flinched at that sore memory. And even after Doyle’s hypnosis sorted out his brain, Steve had reached toward Dan, who winced in instinctive fear of a physical offensive. How could he make all that right again? Trust and respect was something he constantly felt others had to earn in his eyes. Now, the places were reversed and he had to make up ground covered long ago. How, he wondered, feeling inadequate and at a loss.

 

“Come,” he responded.

 

The door opened and as expected, Dan peaked his head in, expression clearly one of testing the waters before he plunged inside. McGarrett gave him a nod, took a covert deep breath, and stepped forward.

 

“Danno.”

 

“I – uh – just wanted to see how you were doing.” He still stood defensively in the open doorway, ready to make a quick escape if necessary.

 

“Come in.”

 

He straightened, as if to not reveal his trepidation, and stepped in, closing the door behind him. He did not stray far from the door though, Steve noted, and to not pressure his friend, he leaned against the front of the desk to appear less formidable.

 

“There’s a lot I need to say, Danno,” he began quietly. “A lot I have to make up for.”

 

“Steve, you don’t have to –“

 

Careful to not raise his voice, he interrupted gently. “I do. You’ve been covering for me. You thought of my reputation and image and my neck over your own.” Feeling his voice quaver slightly, he took a breath, steadying himself to get through the baring of his soul. At this critical moment, he had to mend this fence or they might never retrieve what they had before this debacle. “I gave you no good reason to stick by me when I was unhinged, but you did. All I can say is thank you. I – I just don’t know how much plainer to tell you that, Danno.”

 

From the relieved expression in the blue eyes and the brighter look on the face, his words had a positive effect, and evoked a shy acknowledgement. “You’re welcome, Steve.”

 

He felt bolstered enough to continue. “Is there anything I can do to make this up to you? Just name it and it’s yours, Danno. I want you to have faith that you can trust me now… again.”

 

Smiling, Dan stepped closer. ”I’m all right with what happened.. now, really. I just wanted you back – well – to your old self. And I’m just so—so relieved that you are.”

 

Clearing his throat to get past the lump of emotion, he wanted it to be harder than this. The offended detective was too easy on him. Danno should give him a task, a request – anything – as a marker of atonement. Releasing a deep sigh, he thought perhaps the trial had to come from within him. A chore not normally considered, but necessary now.

 

“Well, if you ever have any doubt about the real me, Danno, just glance at this.” From his jacket pocket he withdrew the now neatly-folded letter. With a hand, he squeezed Dan’s shoulder – and to Steve’s utter relief, the shorter man did not flinch or shy away. He assured, “Everything I said in here I meant. Please don’t ever forget that.”

 

Hand shaking slightly, Dan accepted the letter – the missive he knew so well – and had practically memorized as a solemn trust and confession. Words from McGarrett’s heart that he would probably never hear in voice, but were revealed in a time of distress, anxiety and need. Steve felt he might not come back from the covert mission, and he had left the care of Five-0 in Dan’s hands. More, he had spilled out his deepest feelings and even acknowledged weaknesses – declarations no one else would ever know.

 

The past few weeks had been torturous, but Dan could forgive Steve’s misguided attitudes and actions. He was really not himself. And in moments of crisis – his life being in danger from the bus or from the injury at the sugar mill – Steve had come through. The true care and affection he felt was exposed. Under these conditions, it was easy to forgive. And anxiously, he was eager to move on, past this turmoil to a return of what his life was like before all the spy nonsense.

 

Dan tried, but could not maintain eye contact with his mentor as he felt a tear threatening to escape down his cheek. Averting his gaze to the floor as he quickly brushed the tear away with the back of his index finger, he managed a soft response. “I won’t forget.”

 

Steve’s overwhelming relief at the ease with which the bond with his friend had been repaired – re-established --  told him immediately that Bergman had been right. Danno had never allowed the break to occur, no matter how difficult McGarrett had made it for him. It suddenly dawned on him that he had more air to clear.

 

The Five-0 staff... in no small measure due to McGarrett’s own ’deliberate’ actions, were all under the impression that Five-0’s second-in-command was on the verge of a mental breakdown. Williams had not been himself as he struggled with his boss’s bizarre behavior – behavior more often than not hidden to the eyes of everyone but Dan. Replaying a few more scenes in his head, McGarrett could see that Williams’ efforts to make excuses for what WAS visible and potentially damaging to Steve – unannounced absences… brooding silences – in the end served to paint a tense and on-the-edge picture of Dan himself. The young detective had been forced by Bergman to take time off, and despite the fact that his ’beach’ time had been unofficial, Chin, Kono, and May were all aware that his recuperation from the bus incident concealed what they viewed as a much-needed break from his high-stress position as McGarrett’s right-hand man.

 

Williams was ready to move on and changed the subject accordingly. “Well, if you don’t need me for anything, I should stop by Stuart’s office again for a little while.”

 

“Yeah, and while you do that, I’ll take care of briefing the team on what’s been going on around here the past few weeks.” McGarrett gently patted his second on the back.

 

Dan frowned in confusion. “What do mean what’s been going on?”

 

The head of Five-0 grinned. “What do YOU mean what do I mean? I mean I don’t want the staff thinking my second needs to be fitted for a straight jacket. That means they need to know what I put you through.”

 

To McGarrett’s surprise, Williams reacted with dismay and a hint of outrage. “Steve, you can’t do that! You’re the head of the state police! You can’t risk your reputation on something as minor as clarifying my behavior.”

 

“Danno, YOUR reputation and status with the team is in jeopardy through no fault of your own. I cannot let that stand, my friend. I can’t lift the rug and show the dirt on the classified aspects of this incident, but I fully intend to explain that your behavior was a function of my own!” McGarrett knew his volume was rising, but also recognized that only a forceful explanation would put his detective back into his place.

 

“Steve, I’m still in the zone of forgiveness. I can get away with a slip-up here and the occasional social blunder there. Everybody will shake their heads and chalk it up to immaturity or inexperience. With all due respect, you’re beyond that! Let’s cash in on my he’s-too-young-for-the-job ticket!”

 

McGarrett paused for only a second to look at his protégé as he guided him towards the door. He pushed aside his affection for his friend and the intense concern the detective had for his well-being – it was not in Danno’s best interest at that moment to cater to the absurd notion that Williams should take the fall in the eyes of the staff just to keep himself on some imaginary pedestal.

 

“Danno, while I recognize the practical reality of your argument, I WILL NOT keep up this charade! Now get out of here and take care of your business with Walter!”

 

Under his breath, Dan intoned as his boss followed him as far as May’s desk. “You’re making a big mistake, Steve.”

 

“Go!” McGarrett responded roughly before he addressed others in the room. “Chin, Kono, May! We need to chat!”

 

The three each hurriedly grabbed notebooks and, with questioning looks at the younger detective slowly heading in the direction of the outer door, migrated into their boss’s office. McGarrett brought up the rear and closed the door behind him.

 

Steve took up a leaning position on the visitor side of his desk and folded his arms while his three subordinates took seats before him. There was no easy way to confess, but the record had to be set straight. So he plunged ahead.

 

"I’m sure you all noticed that Danno has been acting – for lack of a better term – strangely in the past couple of weeks.”

 

The trio nodded in unison and Kono spoke up. “We’ve been worried about him, boss.”

 

The head of Five-0 nodded and glanced down before he re-established eye contact with each person before him. “Well, I'm afraid what you didn't notice – or rather could not see – were the very good reasons he was acting that way."

 

With mouth open poised to expose himself as the culpable party in his second’s behavior, he instead gasped slightly in surprise as the door to his office flung wide open and Williams stormed in.

 

"Steve, I'm sorry, I can't let you cover for me."

 

McGarrett jumped to his feet annoyance blanketing his expression. “What on earth are you talking about? What do mean, cover for you? I'm to blame--"

 

Dan turned to face Chin, Kono, and May, all three of whom wore nonplussed expressions at the interruption. "Steve's worried that you'll think I can't hack the pressure!"

 

"That's RIDICULOUS!"

 

The lead detective virtually exploded, but his second-in-command ignored him and pressed on quickly.

 

“I think you all can understand that there were a lot of things going that I'd never dealt with before, but I promise you that I’m up to the job—”

 

"Danno! I owe it to YOU to tell them the truth!"

 

The three seated team members watched silently, their heads bouncing from combatant to combatant as if they were watching a tennis match being played across the desk in front of them.

 

Dan pushed the words out hastily, “The TRUTH is that I understand now that I’m not in this alone – that I’ll do the best job I can, and when that’s not enough, then somebody I trust will be there to pick up the slack.”

 

The touching significance and almost philosophical nature of the statement stopped McGarrett from flinging back his next volley of argument. The two men stood there staring at each other as the silence grew thick in the room.

 

As he stood there and considered how best to react, Steve made a conscious effort to slow his breathing. It struck him that his reputation was as important to Williams as it was to him. That his second-in-command took the protection, physical and otherwise, of Five-0 and its chief with dead seriousness. And to not succeed here was to fail at his job. Atop all those realizations, came the absurdity of them arguing – yelling at each other – over who was going to take a fall for the other! The most evident and tangible example yet that what they shared was a friendship more solid than Diamond Head.

 

Touched, moved at the offering, Steve sighed and swallowed the lump in his throat. "Danno, you ARE nuts!"

 

The young detective cautiously released his defensive posture as he breathed a sigh of relief and grinned. “I thought that was part of my charm.”

 

Steve smiled and then couldn’t refrain from a brief chuckle. “All right, everybody back to work!”

 

The three detectives and his secretary evacuated the big office and Williams, energized from his victory, flew from the office to carry on with his day’s plan.

 

“So, we all agree that Danny’s pupule, but that’s okay.” Kono grinned and Chin slapped him and retrieved the pipe from his suit jacket.

 

“Both Danny and Steve pupule, bruddah – pupule like foxes!”

 

 

*****

 

 

“Discourteous, Chang. That’s the only way to describe the individuals who informed me of Mr. McGarrett’s continued presence in his position as the head of Hawaiian law enforcement.”

 

There was no hint of anger in Wo Fat’s demeanor or voice. If anything was audible, it was offense. The Chinese spy considered polite behavior of supreme importance in dealing with friend and enemy alike. This was a man who would brutally murder, but not without affording his victim any respect or courtesy due to his (or her) position.

 

The only clue to his boss’s rage Chang found in the form of a tea cup smashed on the floor by the entrance to the garden. The taller man silently moved to clean up the mess as Wo Fat stepped out into the peace of the garden and proceeded to share the information he’d had the misfortune to receive as he stood before his angry superiors (or so they thought).

 

“Apparently, there are indications that the information which McGarrett provided us may have some… how do I put this delicately? Inaccuracies.”

 

This piece of very bad news caused the Laurel-man to leave the shards of delicate porcelain where he’d found them and join the Hardy-man. “We were tricked.”

 

Wo Fat flinched slightly at the blunt and devastating assessment, but continued to stroll with his hands clasped tightly behind his back. He smiled thinly. “I can always count on you, Chang, to speak the truth.”

 

The two men stopped at a tall bush, laced with large pink flowers, and watched silently as a butterfly with translucent orange wings, striped in white and black in a near-tiger pattern, hesitated in the air before it lit.

 

“We must not let the behavior of cretins and fools dishearten or distract us from our goals. The answer is of course – as always – patience.” A toothy smile slipped onto the round face as he raised his hand, compelled to lightly touch the winged creature on the blossom before him. “Perhaps I need a new interest. Some like to paint or write poetry. I’m finding American policemen – one in particular – of greater interest these days.” The Chinese spy’s eyes narrowed only momentarily before the placid mask returned. “Everyone needs a hobby, don’t you think, my faithful friend?” He looked up into the nodding expression of his servant, and the pair looked back in tandem to the bloom in time to see the butterfly gracefully take to the air and dance away on the warm autumn breeze.

 

 

PAU