Sweet and Sour Pineapple Chicken
The strange, rhythmic beat was what woke him, he was certain. An annoying, regular tone; loud and intrusive on his sleep. As he struggled to consciousness to combat the sound the pain hit him. A sudden, smack to the nerves and awareness that brought a groan of ache. The familiarity made him realized the noise waking him was his own moans of pain!
Memory flood back; the chase, the shooting. Everything had fallen apart quickly. There had been gunfire and chaos and he remembered going down. Others had been there, too, and he had the impression, though no distinct visual recollection, of more people on the ground. Kiki Chee and the cameraman and Hap had been with him. No, not Hap. The informant had melted away. There had been a chase. Kiki. He had been protecting Kiki!
Muffled, resonant sounds became more distinct to him. Was he groaning again? No, not him this time. Something soft and heart wrenching. Sobbing. A woman sobbing.
The conclusion formulated in his mind before he could think things through, but quickly after hearing his own hoarse, disconnected voice, he took more serious assessment of his dawning reality. He was in a great deal of pain and movement of any kind escalated the degree in intensity and range. He wasn’t sure where he hurt or why, but he knew it was not cushioned in any way. Part of the discomfort was the unpleasant surface beneath him. Hard and cold.
While the ache was impossible to ignore, so was the annoying noise that was pathetically loud. Groaning, he wanted to beg whoever it was to stop – to let him sleep and blissfully ignore his own condition, but he knew curiosity and soreness compelled him to change the situation.
“Kiki?” The sobbing grew louder, and included some kind of muffled response that was indecipherable. “Kiki! Are you all right?”
“No!” she squeaked, the crying increasing in anguish and volume.
Alarmed, Williams made his best effort to open his eyes and assess things visually. Eyes blinking into focus, he saw a stucco wall close to his face and noted the surface he was resting on was a hardwood floor. The sobs were coming from behind him and he knew even before he flinched that movement would be agonizing. Gritting his teeth, he tensed, then pushed himself onto his back, grunting at the searing pain that shot through his chest.
Flopping onto his back, he moaned, searching the room. There was faint light lined across a boarded window and beneath that was the curled form of Kiki Chee, oblivious to all but her own torment. Mental trails of logic slowly connected in his brain. They were not in a hospital or police station. She was anguished, he was wounded and untreated. They were captured. Automatically reaching for the source of his pain, he felt the moisture on his hand when he pressed the left side of his chest. Bleeding. Had he been shot? Had she?
“Kiki are you hurt?”
“No.” She sniffed. “It was so horrible. And you were bleeding and groaning it was horrible. Frankie, they shot Frankie I never saw what happened to Mitch! What if they killed him, too?”
“Where are we?”
“I don’t know.”
He wanted to pressure her but reminded that this was a traumatic crisis for her -- and him – but he was a trained officer. She was a civilian. Calm her down so she could help.
“Can you describe the men who grabbed us?”
“No, it was too fast.”
“Did you see anything about where we are?”
She shook her head, still sobbing, then finally sniffed out, “No, they held me down on the floor of the car.”
“And you’re not hurt?”
“No.” She sniffed again. “What about you?”
“Yeah, I’m hurt. I guess I’ve been bleeding a while.”
“Since the shooting.”
“Yeah. How bad?”
“I don’t know! You were bleeding!”
Groaning, he realized she was not the nursing type. “And you didn’t try to stop it?”
“No. You were – it is sickening.”
He wanted to give her a break, like he had been all day, but it was no longer a game of keeping the innocent actress busy and flirting with her. He was in pain, he was bleeding and without medical help, this situation that had been designed as a diversion could be fatal. Irritated, miserable, confused, he focused on necessities first.
It was tough to think at all, and he had to lean on his instincts as a cop to come up with even the most rudimentary questions. “How many guys are there?” He was not up to thinking or observing or piecing together clues. Yet.
“I -- I only saw two. No, three. Well, I didn’t really see the other man, but I know there were two who grabbed us and one that was driving.”
Three. That was something useful. He slowly edged his way up to lean on the wall. Clutching at his chest, he analyzed his aches and the flow of blood and tried to assess his condition. With his shirt soaked in scarlet and the floor smeared with it, he knew he was losing too much.
They were being detained. Where? The house was old, the stucco and the high wood beams were in a style and condition suggesting a structure built not long after WWII. The sounds coming from outside were not muted well; traffic in the distance, an occasional airplane. No ocean, no waterfalls, no rain. He thought he heard the rustle of trees in the wind, but couldn't be sure. Somewhere on the leeward coast maybe? Not a neighborhood with close houses. Their captors would not want witnesses or anyone too close to hear the prisoners.
Glancing over at Kiki, his irritation grew. She had not helped at all, that was still irking him. That she would do nothing now, when he was awake and questioning her, to free them, was ridiculous. Even if she was scared, which she was, she needed to participate in an escape. He could not do it alone.
The single source of comfort was that even if he could do nothing from this side, there were powerful forces on the outside working in his favor. Without doubt, Steve was out there trying to find him. It was his job to make that easier and quicker so Steve would get to him while he was still alive. Escape. Not easy given the conditions. Boarded windows. Unable to fight or run. A companion who seemed useless. Hard to know where to start with a plan of resistance.
“What do you think they’ll do with us?” she surfaced from her crying jag long enough to sniff out the question.
He pressed his lips together to refrain from voicing the first thought that came to mind, which was, ‘Use us as hostages. Leverage.’ For what? He had no idea. “They didn’t say what they wanted?”
Reviewing his last, cognizant impressions, he could not understand why they had been attacked, then nabbed. Why shoot at a camera crew on a famous TV show? Why grab an actress and a cop? Ransom was the only thing that came to mind, but it was insane. It was so high profile. What experienced kidnapper would try something so ridiculous?
“You didn’t hear anything about ransom?”
“No,” she sniffed miserably. “Oh.”
He squinted to get a better look at her through his dizzy disorientation. “What?”
“I did hear them say something about Sands.”
“Walter Sands?” That made less sense than the kidnapping idea. There was a link, though. Sands’ kidnapping, now they were kidnapped. No, it didn’t add up in his muddled mind. “What about Sands?”
“I don’t know!” she snapped back at him, patting her face with a handkerchief. “It’s all so terrible, and frightening. Can’t you get us out of here?” her voice elevated toward hysteria.
“Yeah, I’d love to,” he shot back. “If only I wasn’t shot and locked in here!”
She squeaked into another crying fit.
Leaning his head back, he closed his eyes and took a breath to control his emotions. He was the cop, the experienced professional here. She was a frightened actress who had been plunged into something beyond her understanding and apparently, her ability to cope. It wouldn’t help to push her farther into distress.
“Okay, just stay calm,” he reasoned. “You know some important things after all. You were able to pick up something that could help us. They talked about Sands. Did they know about his kidnapping? Did they do it?”
“No,” she wailed, then slowly controlled her weeping and managed to blubber out in a shaky voice, “They wanted to know about that annoying man Hap and Sands.”
“That is – is stupid,” he muttered, rubbing at his temple to alleviate the swirling headache. “Hap is a street snitch! The only thing -- he knows about is – is Hotel Street and the bottom of the – the last bottle. Where did – did they get such a – a lolo idea?”
She wailed with an agonized moan. “They must have seen the broadcast!”
“We were filming,” she cried. “I might have, let it slip, that your informant, uh, knew about, about Sands.”
“WHAT!” He flinched from the shout. “You what?”
“ImighthaveintimatedthatyourinformantknewabouttheSandskidnapping!” she shot out in a single breath. His gasp must have been enough to drive out further explanation, “I didn’t mean to do anything wrong! I was just thinking about making the show more interesting! It wasn’t my fault!”
There was no chance to argue the ridiculous denial. Keys jingled outside the single, wooden door, and he tensed. Kiki curled tighter into a ball in the corner. The door flew open, and against the light, Williams squinted, vaguely seeing the rough contours of two men whose forms filled most of the doorway. In one man’s hand, he spotted the outline of a pistol, and he relaxed slightly, giving up any idea of rushing the intruders. In his condition, he would not be able to take out a mongoose, certainly not even two unarmed men, let alone two sizeable thugs with at least one weapon.
“Okay, he’s finally awake.” A muscled, thick-necked haole growled the observation and without further preamble grabbed Williams by the suit jacket. Repulsed by the damp blood that had soaked up the front of the garment, he made a disgusted sound and threw the cop back to the floor.
Senses spiraling into blackness, Williams fought through the pain to clear his head, the piercing screams from across the room shooting into his mind like arrows. When he focused, he blurted out the first slurred words that he could force out to save his companion. The men were crowded around Chee, one of them holding her arm.
“Don’t – hurt – her –”
The taller man spun around to again seize the detective’s jacket. “Then you can talk and tell us what we want to know, hero, so we don’t have to hurt the girl. All we want is to find out where Sands is hiding. Your snitch told you something and we want to know what it is. Simple.”
“Snitch,” he stalled as he tried to clear his head. Hap didn’t know anything about Sands – what was there to say?
The confused remarks earned him a slug to the face, which sent him reeling into the wall. When he returned from blackness again, he was being shaken by the big guy, the stale, beer-breath blowing like rancid wind in his face.
“. . . where he is! I know you know. We can’t find your snitch, so that leaves you to tell us, hero. Or the girl.”
The girl. Kiki. Without turning his head, he knew she was sobbing hysterically somewhere to the side. He didn’t bother looking into the eyes of his tormentor, but kept his wavy vision on the coconut buttons on the man’s yellow and green aloha shirt. They thought Hap gave him information about Sands. They thought Sands was missing – no – hiding. They would use violence against him, and Kiki, to learn the truth. Too bad he didn’t have a clue what they were talking about!
“She -- she -- doesn’t know anything,” he stuttered out in weak defense to stall while he collected his scattered thoughts. Buy time. Maybe they would explain more and he could get a handle on this. “I… I didn’t… didn’t tell her. She has no – no -- idea what’s going on.” He closed his eyes as the buttons turned into brown swirls amid a nauseating background of lemon and lime. All he wanted to do was rest – sleep…
Aching face muscles snapped him back to consciousness and he drew in a sharp breath at the stinging on his jaw bone and skin. The slaps to his face hardly registered for more than a moment, the overwhelming pain from his chest taking the major attention for the agony.
“…so you might as well tell us now! If not, the girl gets our undivided attention.”
“Okayokayokay,” he slurred, furiously fighting to grab onto one decent thought to salvage their lives. How was he going to save them? Where was Steve? Not close enough. Couldn't expect a rescue. Needed to do this on his own. Think . . . . “You win. I’ll talk… make a -- a deal.”
The big man shoved him against the wall. “Like you have anything to deal with, cop?”
Bluff. Lie. Anything necessary to get one of them free. Get help from Steve . . . “Let her go. Let her do her show. I’ll – I’ll see her -- see her on TV and know she’s okay. Then – then I’ll talk.”
The man released him and exited the room, locking the door behind them. Gritting his teeth, he motioned for Kiki to join him. Finally, she crawled over to his side and he drew her close, whispering in her ear.
“If they let you go . . . tell Steve we’re somewhere leeward,” he urgently shot out as fast as he could. “Tell him they want to know about Sands -- they don’t think he’s been kidnapped -- that he’s in hiding. Give him anything you can. . . he’ll be looking – for me.”
The keys jangled again and he pushed her away. Scrambling back to her corner, she cowered in silence as the men swept in, one grabbing her, the big assailant snatching Williams by the hair.
The shorter thug threatened Kiki with nasty, personal violence if she spilled any information to the cops. “Only get in front of your camera and play your role of the lucky escaped girl, sweetheart, or we will come get you.”
The big man in front of him told Williams, “You get your wish, hero. She goes, you stay.” He drew the detective up by the face. Before everything faded to black, he heard the final threat, “And you better have something good . . . .”
Too worked up to run things from the office, McGarrett was with his men on the streets, pressuring informants he had no connection with or interest in, to find his missing man. It was not often the head of Five-0 was called upon to search door to door in an investigation. Keenly he felt the separation here, his displacement from his norm, and the acknowledgement from many of the street people of his remarkable actions.
Alongside Kelly, Kokua, and Lukela, he checked every known rabbit hole where Hap could have found to hide. Standing back while his officers performed their usual, routine interrogations, he paced with irritated, abbreviated strides, staying out of the way for the most part, coming forward to participate only when intimidation of the top cop of Hawaii was necessary to jolt a low life into talking.
The going was slow, and by later afternoon his nerves were raw with tension. Danno had been missing for hours and there was no lead on who took him, where he might be, or what condition he was in right now. Shying away from speculation on that front, McGarrett noted Sergeant Lukela running toward him with a look of excitement.
Jogging to meet the officer, he urgently asked what had happened.
“We found Hap,” the Hawaiian tersely reported with keen satisfaction, turning around and trotting toward the Five-0 sedan at the corner. “Ben and Chin have him in a car and are taking him to wherever you say.”
McGarrett leaped into the Mercury and jolted into traffic while the HPD officer accommodatingly handed him the mic. Within moments, the connection was completed, and he ordered his detectives to take the informant to Safe House Charley. Then he demanded the wino tell all he knew about Williams’ abduction.
“I didn’t see nothin’,” came the scratchy voice. “Danny gave me some money to buy food. And I did, too, cause he’s always good to me, and my stomach was hurtin’. Later, I heard there was a bad shootout and Danny was hit.”
Steve sucked up a lungful of air on that, but remained silent as the nervous man assured that was all he knew. He had gone into hiding after the violence, not sure what it meant, but knowing it was not a good thing to be seen as a friend of the police when the cops were being gunned down.
Chin Ho came on the line and reported, “Boss, we heard from more than one snitch on the street that somebody’s been looking for Hap. We’re wondering if it could be the same ones who got Danny.”
“Why would any violent heavies be after an low-grade informant?” he wondered aloud. Finding coincidences unacceptable, he admitted it was a viable concern. What connection, though, could Hap have to Danno’s escorting Kiki Chee around? Or to the only major case on their books right now, the Sands kidnapping? And how did that connect to Danno being nabbed? Too many questions and not enough data. “We’ll have HPD check out the coconut wireless, you two keep grilling Hap. I need everything he can remember about Danno.”
Dropping Lukela at his car, he swung toward the freeway to go out and talk to Hap himself. Before he reached the onramp, Sergeant Hilton from HPD called and reported Kiki Chee had been dropped off at the TV station. McGarrett switched lanes and headed there, asking what she was saying and what had happened to Williams.
“She says she doesn’t know anything about Danny,” the officer reported, “and she’s really hysterical, so I don’t know if anyone can get anything out of her now.”
“I will,” he muttered in assurance. “Get Doc Bergman over there now to check her out. I’m on my way!” He broke the connection, vowing he would get every morsel of information out of her concerning his friend. He had to.
“I already told you, I don’t know!” she cried into a handkerchief as she fussed with her hair. In the small dressing room of the TV studio, she was focused on primping instead of talking. “Leave me alone,” she sniffed. “If I don’t get on the air they’re going to hurt Danny.”
McGarrett violently pulled away from the cautionary hold on his arm and shot a sizzling glare to the doctor behind him. Usually Bergman understood the importance of a case like this. Why was he coddling the woman? She knew more than she was telling, which was very little at this point. Even if on a subconscious level, she had information about Danno, and the only way to get that out of her was to pry it out with persistent interrogation. In his gut, though, McGarrett knew she was hiding something. And until he knew the condition of his friend and where he was, he was not letting up.
He had called his trusted ME/Five-0 physician in to take care of the traumatized woman quickly and efficiently. He figured a hospital trip would come later, after this initial check up while under interrogation. Nothing was turning out as he had expected, or wanted, and it was adding to his irritation. The lapse of precious time -- every moment ticking y in his mind like a time-bomb of danger for Danno -- increased his anxiety about Danno.
“She knows more, Doc!” he barked back and moved closer to the woman. “Ms Chee, Danno was hurt –“
“I know! I told you that!”
“We need to know details,” he pressed. “His arm? His leg? How much was he bleeding –“
“I don’t know! He had a lot of blood,” she snapped. “All over his jacket.”
She turned away from the officer, and Bergman moved to the other side of her so he could face her in the mirror. “His shoulder maybe?” he gently inquired.
“Maybe,” she agreed in a tiny voice.
“Was he holding his wound?” The older man gestured with a right hand to his shoulder.
“Lower,” she admitted. “And on the other side.”
Bergman's left hand moved to cover his ribs, and McGarrett ground his teeth when she nodded in the affirmative. Chest wound. When she admitted – to Bergman’s patient coaxing – that the blood had soaked his clothes and pooled on the floor, McGarrett felt chilled inside and out. Bleeding heavily. Not much time. They had to find Danno soon.
“So they released you and kept Danny,” Bergman conversationally reviewed the facts as she had sketched them out in a quick and incomplete narrative. “What do they want him for again?”
“Some kind of information,” she shrugged.
She was lying; McGarrett could see it in her face and hear it in her tone. What was he missing? The men had been an obvious threat because Danno had known enough to run from them on the street. They had killed and wounded and kidnapped. This was not random and was vitally important to the criminals.
“You have to remember something about where you were held! How many men! Anything would save his life!” McGarrett persisted.
She shook her head, and then leaned close to the mirror to remove the smeared eyeliner from her cheek. “No.”
She wouldn’t look at him. She was hiding vital information, he knew it. What? Why? Couldn’t she understand Danno’s life was in the balance? Did she really care about his life, or was she going on the air for another reason? Either way, she was not getting what she wanted until he got what he wanted.
Her primping completed, her semi-smudged, partially coiffed appearance proving she had been through a physically harrowing and dangerous ordeal, yet still retained her beautiful looks. It was a ploy for sympathy and probably ratings, and he despised that it was at the expense of his missing friend. She pushed the chair back and rose, turning to leave, but McGarrett’s iron fist on her thin arm held her in check.
“I want the truth and I want it now. You’re not leaving this room until I get it.”
The slightly marred, but still beautiful Ms Chee bit her lip. “I – can’t –” From this distance and the way she flinched at his intimidation, he knew she was frightened. More than he had noted before. And he was not the cause.
“Did they threaten you?”
“We will protect you. No one will get to you, I promise.”
“They already killed Frankie and Mitch --”
“We will keep you safe. What do they want from you?”
“I have to get on the air!”
“Not until I have the truth! Why do you need to get on TV? The truth!”
She flinched at the savage demand, at the pressure he was exerting on her arm. “It’s Danny. They'll hurt him if I don't appear on the air within the hour.”
Satisfied they were getting somewhere, upset that the truth revealed imminent peril to his friend, he demanded she tell all.
“Danny made a deal with them to tell them about where Sands in hiding.”
“Where Sands is hiding?”
“They think Danny and his informant know where Sands is.”
Taken aback at the surprise, he worked at sorting through the puzzle. “Sands was kidnapped. Or so we thought,” he considered thoughtfully. “Danno doesn’t know anything about Sands’ disappearing.” His eyes narrowed at her. No, that wouldn’t matter to Danno, would it. He would see himself as the responsible officer in charge of Chee’s safety. He would do anything to protect the civilian. Including offering himself up as a sacrifice to let the girl escape, he knew, his stomach curling at the certainty of his friend’s heroic instincts. Danno lied, saying anything to win the girl’s freedom – and her out of his hair probably. She was certainly a liability.
“I don’t have much time.”
She tried to slip past him, he tightened his grip. “As soon as you are on the air Danno is dead. They’ll torture him or drug him and when they realize he doesn’t know what they want they’ll kill him!” he accused.
His voice shaking as he recited the inevitable fate of a captured officer detained for information. Wounded, bleeding, how long did Danno have? A much shorter time if he was subjected to cruel treatment. This was because of her stupid blunder on the street, intimating that Hap knew about Sands’ disappearance. That led to Danno being stalked and captured for information on Sands. While he could lay the blame at her feet, it did not help Danno now.
“You can’t go on the air yet.” He would have to allow her in front of the camera soon, but not yet. Danno’s life depended on her and her star moment, but it also depended on perfect timing. As soon as the captors saw her, they would try to get what they wanted – through torture or drugs – and Danno couldn’t give it to them. When they realized that, they would kill him. “You have to wait until the last possible moment. It’s the only way to buy us enough time.”
She shook her head and tried to pull away.
“Just help me get to Danno in time! His life depends on your cooperation! Where are they?”
“Danny – Danny thought we were on the leeward coast. I remember when we were outside of the building I could smell the scent of pine. And I could hear the surf. They kept my head down, but we were walking through sand to and from the car.”
“What kind of car?”
“Dark. And it was a four door sedan because they shoved me in the back.”
Bergman pulled the detective aside. “Steve, my place at Makaha isn’t far from the pine trees that run along the rocks by the point. I know that area.”
“And Danno is going to need you, Doc.”
McGarrett snatched up the nearest phone and called for HPD teams to stand by for a search of the leeward coast. Stepping outside, he ordered the two HPD guards to stand by here and not let Chee on the air until he gave the word. She pouted and protested, but he was already out the door, ordering Bergman to come along. He wanted a doctor and ambulance close by when they found Danno.
Rolling toward the leeward coast, McGarrett traded information with Kelly and Kokua. They were to look into the possibility of Sands staging his kidnapping. Why would the rich and successful businessman fake his disappearance? His officers were going to find out. While they carried on with the nuts and bolts of investigative procedures, he was going after Danno.
The blue waves were placid as they curled to the white sands of the warm, dry coast on the left coast of Oahu. Bergman directed him past the lush Makaha resort, and beyond to secluded beaches edging the base of mountains lined with pine trees. There were small surf communities and isolated cabins dotting this under populated area. They cruised slowly past the winding streets and weathered shacks looking for indefinable clues to the whereabouts of the missing officer.
“What are his chances, Doc?”
Cruising along the leeward coast was painstaking work. They could not rush in with a mob of squad cars and myriad officers blanketing the area. It would alert the kidnappers before they could reach Danno. This required patient, nerve-wracking steps and the chief of Five-0 was ill suited for such methods when his friend’s life was at stake. Until he could find Danno, his heart ached with the anguish that he would not be in time.
“Steve, you know there are a million variables in a situation like this. Don’t ask me to make a guess –“
“Then give me an educated idea, Doc. Come on. You know he’s been shot in the chest and he’s been bleeding all day,” his voice cracked. “I want to know what to expect.”
“Expect that I’m going to do everything I can when we reach him –“
The physician blew out a deep breath. “You should remember that Danny is a healthy, athletic young man with a great purpose and desire to live, Steve. If there’s any possibility that he can survive this, he will.” His glance at the cop was with a wry smile, accompanied by a matching tone. “Given any choice at all, he’s not going to let you down, Steve. So keep the faith.”
Knowing that was all he was going to get out of the medico, he stewed in frustration, hoping for a miracle; that he would somehow reach his friend alive.
The slamming of a door woke Williams from a light slumber. The kick to his shoulder sent enough agony through his aching body to bounce him out of the lull of darkness where he dozed uncomfortably between antagonistic prods.
The big thug pushed him onto his back and pressed a shoe to his chest. Not enough to impeded breathing, but plenty of pressure for inflicting pain to the fiery wound.
“Your girlfriend has only fifteen minutes left, cop. You better not have been conning me. You think you hurt now, just wait till I get mad at you.” He shoved harder with his foot.
Williams slipped into unconsciousness, afraid the next time he awoke it would probably be the last time.
Bergman was helpful with local knowledge of the area and guided him past popular picnic spots and surf coves. Across the street from the beach, nestled in a grove of pine trees, a partially visible cabin was tucked, nearly hidden, from the road. Outside, a man in a suit paced in front of a dark sedan, smoking a cigarette. Target acquired, he was certain.
Heart rate skyrocketing, McGarrett drove past and pulled over on the shoulder of the road behind a knot of lava rock. Contacting dispatch, he reported his find and requested back up. He knew units were cruising nearby, and he requested the HPD personnel, and the ambulance that was supposed to be close, make silent approaches.
“Doc, you stay here until I call for you.”
“Stay here!” he snapped harshly, as he exited the vehicle. “No more casualties today, please, Doc. I need you to take care of Danno.”
Bergman gave him a nod filled with understanding.
Softly closing the door, McGarrett crept over the rocks and through the trees. Soon lost from sight of the road, he crept close to the clearing, crouching down to observe the shack. The man was still pacing by the car, either nervous, killing time, or set outside as a sentry. Should he wait for back up? If there were two men and one was out here, that cut the opposition in half if he could take this guy out now.
When the man spun to face the ocean, McGarrett scrambled down the slope as fast and as quiet as possible. Holding his breath, his revolver in one hand, he sped toward his target, praying the man would not turn around. If he had to shoot the guy it would alert the confederate inside and that might spell the end of his friend.
The thug tossed his smoke down and stamped it out. McGarrett’s weapon was already holstered so he could use two hands. Before the unsuspecting man could turn around, McGarrett had him in a vicious neck lock. Covering the mouth with one hand, he grabbed the guy’s pistol with his other and shoved it in the man’s temple. The big bruiser struggled, but the more he fought the tighter the choke hold. Gasping, sucking in no air, he finally relaxed.
“I’m here to get my officer. If you do anything to alert them inside, I will pull this trigger. You got that? Just nod.”
There was a curt nod of understanding.
“Is there more than one of your pals inside?”
The man growled and McGarrett dug the weapon deeper into the skull. Groaning, the man shook his head negatively.
He thought to ask if Danno was still alive, but he couldn’t handle the blow if there was a negative answer. This creep could be lying, anyway, so it was better to just go in cold and hope for the best. He had avoided speculation the whole time, had believed he could reach his friend in time. He had to hold onto that faith now that he was so close.
HPD men trotted up the road from the main highway. The thug struggled under his grip and McGarrett slammed the side of his head with the pistol. The man went limp and he dropped the guy, pocketing the automatic and drawing his own revolver. HPD support personnel were scrambling down the small slope behind him. He motioned for the officers to fan out around the shack and to be silent. Standing at the door, he took a breath, gripped his revolver, and pushed inside.
A man in shirtsleeves was sitting in front of a TV. He didn’t even look up until Steve was halfway across the room. When he did, the .38 Special was aimed in his face.
“One wrong move and you are dead,” McGarrett spat out. “Where is Officer Williams?”
For a few eternal seconds the man hesitated. His eyes never left McGarrett’s, as if assessing the threat. Then he gave a nod toward a back room, and then raised his hands. Barely breathing out a sigh, McGarrett ordered the officers behind to seize the kidnapper and search the area for any other threats. First, they were to call in the ambulance and Bergman.
At the door to the other room, McGarrett crashed against the wood and burst in, ready for almost anything. Afraid of what he would find for hours, his chest seemed to sink at the sight of the huddled form on the floor. Holstering his weapon, he was on his knees and next to his friend in an instant. The blue coat was soaked and stained dark burgundy. With shaking hands he gently touched the shoulder, turning Williams over.
Groaning, the immense blood residue shocking him, he hoarsely called to his friend in a tremulous voice. There was no response, and a touch to the cool neck with a wavering hand revealed a shallow and slow pulse. Petrified, he whispered encouraging words that made no sense until hands firmly gripped his shoulder from behind.
“Stand aside, Steve, let us get Danny out of here.”
Bergman knelt next to the top detective and checked the wounded man’s pulse, looked at his eyes and gave a tentative look under the jacket and shirt at the chest. Lips pressed firmly together, Bergman released no telltale utterance, nor did his flinty expression reveal anything.
Shoved aside when the ambulance attendants brought in the gurney, McGarrett demanded, “Well?”
“He’s critical,” the doctor responded tersely as he supervised the patient strapped down and rushed out the door.
Jogging after them, McGarrett tried to get more out of the man, but there was no time, and Bergman refused to comment. There was no room for McGarrett in the ambulance, so he ran back to his car to follow the vehicle to the hospital. It was bad. From the cool temperature, the grievous bleeding, the grave doctor, he knew it was bad. Racing behind the ambulance, he shoved out any thoughts more desperate than what he was already thinking. Mentally, he could not step beyond the fear of what he had seen – the narrow gap between life and death. The next step after that, of course, was more crushing than anything he could imagine.
The arrival of Dora Bergman swept over McGarrett with an instinctive wave of depression. The ME had called in reinforcements – his tough wife -- to mediate things out here in the hallway, he silently gruffed. He immediately thought it meant that Danno’s condition was worse than Doc Bergman would admit to him. Then he tempered his anxiety as Mrs. Bergman gave him a solid smile. He wasn’t thinking straight, he knew. Hours of anguish over Danno’s precarious fate had warped him into a mass of anxiety.
“Dora,” he managed in a civil tone devoid of suspicion.
She gripped onto his hand with both of hers and rose on her tip toes to give him a peck on the cheek. “I monitored the ambulance while Niles came in with Danny. I know you’re worried, but Danny is going to be fine, I know it.”
He just nodded, unable to offer any empty words of agreement, mutual support, or faith. Discouragement overshadowed everything on his horizon. Hours without medical attention, ill treatment –
“What? Sorry, Dora, I – uh –“
“You’re preoccupied. I know. I was just saying Danny is going to receive the best possible care. Besides his connection to Niles and me, he’s become an instant hero to the whole country.”
It took a few moments for odd statement to penetrate his sluggish brain. “What are you talking about?” he shook his head, still mentally grounded in anxiety over his friend. He had completely missed whatever Dora had been telling him.
“I said the TV was on in every lounge in the building! We all saw Danny trying to save Kiki’s life.”
“Television,” he sourly spat, a curse on the ridiculous idea of live TV crews following cops! “It’s because of that -- that -- actress -- that Danno is here,” he growled.
“He was so brave,” she sighed. “Kiki has nothing but wonderful things to say about him.”
About to level her with another withering opinion of TV and Ms Chee, he realized she was one of the legion of fans of Kiki and the Live From Hawaii show that had caused so much trouble. And, she was speaking in the present tense.
“What do you mean? She’s not on –”
“Yes, before you arrived. She looked terrible, but she came on and reported that Danny had been rescued, and told us about the terrible kidnapping and how brave Danny was to protect her even while threatened by those awful men.”
Scoffing with bitter rancor, McGarrett reminded her that Chee was responsible for landing Danno in the clutches of the bad guys and getting him shot! Dora was a veteran of WWII, served in the wards here in Honolulu tending soldiers from horrific battles in Guam, Tarawa, Iwo Jima, Midway! How could she be taken in by the empty fluff, the pretty face and wily charms of Chee? Like seemingly everyone else in the world but him?
Grateful to see Chin and Ben walking toward him, he excused himself to attend to police work, glad to be among colleagues who would understand. Issuing a quick report that there was no word yet on Danno, he asked for their findings.
"Those two creeps aren't talking," Kokua scoffed in disgust. "We're letting them cool their heels at HPD. And they haven't asked for a lawyer yet, either."
"Curious," McGarrett shrugged, his attention not on the report with any solidity.
“Walter Sands had some unsavory business friends a few years ago, boss,” Chin began, consulting notes. “Ran into a problem with a mainland cat named Garcetti.”
“According to Justice, he’s been on their list of possible mob connections for years,” Ben chimed in. “Sands started to sue him over a deal. A few months later the suit is dropped and Sands and his sister move here to Hawaii.”
“Maybe the mob guys made it too hot for Sands,” Chin speculated. “We interviewed the houseboy again, and showed him some pictures of the mob boys. Houseboy says one of these thugs has been hanging around the beach near the Sands place for a few weeks. Then Walter disappears.”
Nodding, McGarrett pieced together what must have happened and structured his theory aloud. “The mob wants him back, or thinks he’s gong to make trouble. They have an eye on him. He feels the heat and stages his kidnapping to drop out of sight.” He nodded, knowing it worked well as speculation, but they had nothing to back up the puzzle.
"Maybe the mob doesn't want the attention," Ben added, "So the big bruisers who snatched Danny don't want to send for any lawyers."
"We'll find out soon enough from the fingerprints," Chin afreed.
“Go back and talk to the sister. If her brother is in hiding he has to have a way to be living. He could be right under our noses.”
It was all theory, no way to substantiate it until they found Sands. Along with going back over clues with this new angle, McGarrett also ordered his detectives to check in on Ms Chee. She was broadcasting, and he wanted to know what happened to the guards who were supposed to be keeping her off the air.
When he turned back to hover as pacing sentinel at the ER doors, he paused at the entrance to the waiting room. Dora Bergman and several other enthralled viewers were hanging on every word from a distraught and disheveled Kiki Chee. He realized the smeared make up, mussed hair, soiled clothes marked with bloodstains, were captivating the sympathetic audience and probably sending the skyrocketing ratings into orbit. Everyone here was struck by her tale of horror, peril and bravery. Little inset pictures of Danno and the murdered cameraman and sound man (he couldn’t even remember the poor men’s names!) shared the screen with the petite young woman who was pouring her heart out to her television faithful.
Disgusted, he turned away and caught a breath in his throat as Bergman emerged from the ER. Rushing to meet the grim coroner, he snapped out his standard question on the fate of his friend.
A quasi-smile cracked from the older man’s mouth. “He’s holding his own, Steve. I told you he was tough.”
“Will he be all right?”
“I’m keeping him on the critical list because of his weakened condition, but I expect him to steadily improve tonight.”
Bergman smiled. “I expect nothing less than a slow -- I repeat slow – but full recovery.”
Filing his lungs with a full, deep breath of relief, his smile felt foreign in breaking the tension permeating him for so long. “Thanks, Doc. When –“
“As soon as he’s transferred from Recovery your usual spot is reserved in his room,” the ME shook his head. “I think I know the drill by now.”
“Mahalo,” the head of Five-0 nodded, leaning on the wall to gather his tattered nerves after the doctor left.
What a day it had been! When he arrived at the office this morning and found the TV crew, he had no idea what the day had in store. In hindsight, he spotted critical decisions that seemed innocuous, yet had turned out to be life-threatening, and murderous. He could blame it all on Chee and her ilk, but now, in the aftermath of the crisis, he found he didn’t care. Danno was going to be fine, and his brief and bitter brush with show biz was over.
The sprawling, single-story house at Black Point was everything Chin Ho Kelly expected in this neighborhood. Quietly elegant and denoting plenty of money, it was on a cul-de-sac where almost every room of the house curved toward the ocean, which was visible from the sloping bank of green scrub brush and obsidian lava that dropped all the way to the blue-crystal sea.
Parking in the driveway, Chin led the way, with Ben Kokua a few paces behind, taking in the impressive estate. Manicured gardens and gates hiding secluded residents rounded out the nearest neighbors. Riches, in the terms of real estate, equaled privilege, privacy and beauty here.
“Must be nice to have money,” Kokua whistled as they approached the gated leading to the front doors.
“Yeah. My uncle’s place isn’t far from here. Better view. Nice to visit. On a cop’s salary, I can’t even dream about a place like this.”
Ringing the doorbell, they had only to wait a moment before one of the large, thick doors was opened by the young Asian-Polynesian houseboy. From their previous visits here, they didn’t bother to show their badges again or introduce themselves.
“Kahala, tell Miss Sands we’d like to speak with her.”
The cop realized as he spoke the innate, opening words, that they were inappropriate. The young man was fraught with distress and hardly waited for the introduction to stop.
“I – uh – sorry, no can do, man. Hey, and before you say anything else, this is not my fault!” he practically squeaked.
“What isn’t your fault?” Kokua snapped back, moving to push the youth aside.
“Just makin’ it clear, man. He stood aside and gestured them in. “I went out for some shopping. When I got back the place was cleared.”
The detectives hurried through the entrance way and paused in the living room long enough to confirm no one was there. Kelly noted, as he passed quickly through to the bedrooms, that several personal pictures that had been on the grand piano were now absent.
While Kokua moved to search the back, Kelly stopped at the first office. It was a masculine study with solid, wood furnishing and mainland scenics of hunting prints on the walls. On one of the book shelves, the books had been cleared away and stacked on the desk. Indented in the wall was a safe with the door ajar. The officer checked it out, peering inside, not surprised to find it empty.
“He’s right,” Ben concluded as he entered the room. “Laura Sands’ room is cleared out. Clothes are gone, the closet is almost empty. No personal items like pictures or jewelry.”
“And she left with the cash, bruddah,” the Oriental cop shook his head. “We come too late on this deal.”
Questioning the houseboy gave them no further clues, and Chin wasn’t sure he would talk if he knew anything. Dinah Sands had left him his last week’s wages, and the officer suspected probably a little more to keep the kid happy for losing such a nice job.
The new insight into Sands held merit now considering it looked like the brother and sister fled and were on the run. A tip off maybe. The whole state seemed to be watching Kiki Chee on TV. When word came out about her and Danny’s abduction, it must have spooked the Sands and they took off. Either way, Steve McGarrett would not be happy. This case had inadvertently gotten two men killed and Danny too close to being a third on that list. That was just too personal for the head of Five-0.
“We’ll have the airports and docks covered,” Chin sighed as he walked out to the car. “We’ll get some HPD guys out to help sort through things here, but it don’t look good.”
“They must have been ready to jump if things turned out too hot. Why stage the kidnapping?”
“Sands must have known the mob cats were already in town and after him. Maybe this was all to slow them down long enough for him and his sister to take off.”
Ben leaned on the car and shook his head as he gazed at the magnificent house. “Whatever their reasons, it’s not going to be good enough for Steve. This case nearly got Danny killed.”
“Yeah,” was the grim agreement. “I wouldn’t want to be in the Sands' shoes if Steve ever catches them.”
For a man usually whirling within his own tornado of intensity and energy, it seemed strange to sit so immobile and quiet for this sentry interlude. It was a time when he found it impossible to read reports, to watch television, to think very far beyond the moment, or even engage in very much pacing. It was a time of stillness and reflection, of tightly wound strain within, comprising threads of nervous fear and wrenching anticipation, and deceptive motionlessness on the outside. As he stared at the placid face of his officer, he marveled that there could be, so close at hand, such peaceful serenity, while he was coiled with such unease.
A quiet groan from the injured man alerted him from the deep reverie, and he stood, stepping to the bedside and placing a gentle hand on the patient’s arm.
The eyelids flickered and he exerted a slight bit of pressure on his hold. “Welcome back.” He couldn’t help but smile as the lids struggled to open, and the blue eyes focused on him. “You’re doing fine. In the hospital. Everything’s all right.”
The slow nod gave confirmation that the wounded officer understood. “Ma-ha-lo,” he nodded with a motion as measured as his slurred speech.
“Rescue. Musthavebeen you.”
McGarrett’s smile reflected his pride in the truth of that faith-filled statement. Even in his darkest moments, which must have been profound during the pain-wracked captivity, Danno had to have known he was on the other side of the equation working like a madman to find his friend.
“Yeah. I found you. You’re going to be okay. Doc says rest and no more excitement for a while and you’ll be fine.”
Williams nodded tiredly, quietly slipping into a placid rest. McGarrett remained for a time, finally satisfied that his friend had settled into a healing sleep. With a last look at the patient, he slipped stealthily from the room.
When McGarrett came for a final evening visit before Williams’ release the next day, he was armed with customary Chinese food smuggled in while the nurses looked the other way. After they settled in with the meal, Williams asked for a fuller explanation of events than what McGarrett had offered in previous visits.
“What’s the latest?”
McGarrett pondered the simple question, considering the deeper implications. It was a longer, sadder tale than he wanted to burden his friend with right now. How to explain all the machinations swirling around the misadventure of sending him out to distract a TV crew? Maybe Danno’s curiosity could be blunted with a little bit of information to tide him over until he was stronger.
“We got the guys who nabbed you to talk finally.” The boss shrugged, not wanting to go into all the details yet. “You’re supposed to be resting and taking it easy, so I’ll give you the condensed version. “Turns out Sands might have staged his disappearance to ditch some mob connections. We’re still working on finding him one way or the other. The thick-necks who kidnapped you are connected to a mob out of New Jersey.”
“Nasty.” The brow scrunched together in consternation. “Kiki?”
A derisive scoff shot out of him as he poked his mu-shu pork with his chop sticks. The flighty actress had been a little help to them, but definitely not worth all the trouble she caused. Annoyed, he avoided glancing at the switched off TV in the room. Everywhere he looked for the last few days, Kiki Chee had been front and center as the celebrity of the moment. She was credited with surviving a harrowing ordeal, carrying on with her journalistic integrity throughout the crisis, and even solving the Walter Sands mystery!
“She came out of this fine,” he growled. At the confused look from his friend, he almost laughed. “You get the bullet and she gets the limelight.”
To the boss, this was the bitterest pill of all. The cause of Danno’s injury and the death of the crewmen had to be at her inadvertent hand, but she was being rewarded for it all anyway.
“She’s fine. She leaves for L. A. at the end of the week to start a new job as a big shot anchor on the nightly news.”
At that, Williams’ face held the expression of someone who had just bit into a lemon.
Steve handed his friend a fortune cookie. “Here, maybe this will improve your luck.”
“Couldn’t hurt,” Williams considered. Cracking the confection and munching the cookie, he read the little paper aloud. “Career, not love, should be your focus.”
Steve chuckled more at his friend’s fallen expression than at the appropriate advice. “Too bad you didn’t read that before you met our little fortune cookie reporter.”
“No kidding. I hope she gets everything she deserves,” was his quiet sigh.
“I’m sure she will,” was McGarrett’s subdued wish. “And you will, too, my friend.” All the time he would need to recover, Williams was going to receive, along with a blanket reprieve from anything to do with the press for a very long time.
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