On Target

                                                                                                By BH & GM

 

An epilogue to TARGET – A COP

 

 

December 1976

 

Heart still pounding from the adrenalin-rushing moments when the vengeful paraplegic took aim and fired upon him and his boss, Dan Williams still managed a grin as he watched Steve McGarrett toss the rabbit’s foot back to the HPD officer. Feeling mildly light-headed – no doubt from the initial tension of the deadly situation, then the exhilaration of surviving the attempted murder and neutralizing the suspect – he decided movement was the best way to stay on his feet.

 

“Steve—” Williams called. The head of Hawaii Five-0 turned immediately in his direction, and flashed a rare, toothy grin. Obviously, McGarrett was equally relieved and delighted with the outcome of the case. After a brief glance in the direction of Nathan Purdy’s toppled, dead form, from which a thin river of blood meandered, Dan revealed his plan.

 

“I’ll get the cruiser, drop you off at the Palace, and then come back here to wrap it up.”

 

“I guess there’s no need to say be careful!” Steve returned agreeably before he turned to give Captain Sakai – the ranking HPD officer – a synopsis of what had transpired inside the garage.

 

Only minutes before, Five-0’s two top cops were the target of the wheelchair-bound veteran, bent on revenge for his condition – a result of a police officer’s bullet. The detectives, attired in HPD uniforms, had deliberately allowed themselves to be lured into the parking garage, where Purdy had lain in wait for them. Only McGarrett’s last-second realization that the killer they sought was the innocuous man in the wheelchair saved him and his second-in-command from being Purdy’s next victims.

 

“Steve, the entire force owes you and Danny a debt of gratitude,” Sakai intoned while the two men observed from a short distance the HPD patrolmen dropping a blanket over the suspect’s body.

 

“It sounds trite, I know, but we were just doing our jobs.” McGarrett dismissed the notion casually, and focused on the marked police unit maneuvering around the body and sidelong wheelchair. The patrolmen nodded and waved as Williams took his left hand off the wheel long enough to acknowledge his colleagues before pulling out of the garage entrance and stopping a few feet from his boss.

 

The captain, more for reasons of proximity, opened the passenger door of the police vehicle, but then added a dramatic flourish as he bowed slightly. “With all due respect, it was more than that. The two of you went what we in the law enforcement biz call above and beyond the call of duty, and – on behalf of me and my men – I say mahalo nui loa!”

 

Steve’s lip curled slightly as he stepped around the shorter man and took his seat. “Okay, you’re welcome, Seth. Danno will be back shortly.”

 

“We’ll be here,” the grinning HPD captain nodded, closed the cruiser door, but paused as an alert came over the squad car radio.

 

“. . . two. Repeat code ten-two on Kalanianaole Highway at Hawaii Kai. All lanes blocked. HPD chopper and all available units to assist. Traffic to re-route. No through traffic.”

 

“We’re cut off,” Dan commented tiredly.

 

McGarrett agreed, “All lanes blocked. We’re not getting back to Honolulu the easy way.”

 

They listened in grim silence as details of the crash filtered over the radio. A gasoline tanker had jackknifed across the center divider. Several cars were involved, the deadly situation included vehicles on fire. Because of the exact location between the ocean and a mountain, not even emergency responders could cross the tangled wreckage. Every ambulance, helicopter, cop and fire department in the area were on site to assist.

 

Sakai gestured toward the crime scene. “I won’t be getting any lab teams out here for a while.”

 

“Good luck with that, chief.”

 

The HPD man was confused. “Where are you going?”

 

“Danno and I are heading for the Pali Tunnel.” He pointed toward the mountains.

 

“A little outta the way, Steve,” Sakai cocked his head quizzically. It was not like the workaholic head of the state police to take a scenic route anywhere.

 

 “Maybe not – Kalani Highway has gotta be closed for only an hour before we call the Pali a short cut!” McGarrett returned with slight shrug. “We’ll see you later.”

 

Windows down, cruising along the drive of the bay, he reveled in the cool breeze brushing the hair across his forehead, the bright sun on the dazzling water, the perfect blue sky. Time and paradise would dim the stress and blunt the edges of the life-and-death situation.

 

Williams slowed the sedan at the Kalani Highway. The busy, two-lane road connecting the windward curve of Oahu to the southern bustle of Honolulu’s extended suburbs, was jammed. Traffic was backed up already, and courtesy of their marked squad car, they were waved through by an officer on traffic duty. McGarrett craned to view the wreck, but could not see the involved vehicles – only flames, smoke, and the residue of backed up cars for miles.

 

Knowing that tragic event was in the capable hands of others, Steve settled back in the seat and gazed out the window as they passed the scenic bay of Hanauma. The glittery silver-sun on deep blue eased his nerves to another level of contentment. He glanced over at Williams, noting his friend seemed distant. The detour along the striking coastline was just what Danno needed too.

 

Steve’s fists tightened as he recalled the split-second decision he’d made after seeing the twin tracks in the underground garage. His mind assessed and he reacted without conscious thought. Double tracks found at the scene of one of the sniper attacks, then at the trap in Hawaii Kai. He had pushed Danno out of the way, leaped, raised his weapon, and fired before his thoughts could coalesce into a meaningful instruction to his second. Instinct had saved his life and Danno’s, but it had been a close call. The sniper almost claimed them both as victims in their own trap.

 

It was a bitter dread that still tugged at his heart, to know how close they’d come to having his plan be a fatal mistake. Replaying the scene, he wasn’t sure he had been in the gunman’s sights, but Danno had. His hand traced his brow in a subconscious mock wipe of recently-evaporated sweat. The recollection pushed a shiver down his spine. What a tragic irony that would have been if his clever ploy had placed Danno literally in the sights of the killer!

 

Fortunately, that had not happened. He had acted quickly and shoved Danno out of harm’s way. They had shot and killed the cop murderer. Now they were headed home. Relief filled him and he breathed out a long sigh.

 

“Let’s go to lunch in Kaneohe, Danno. I know a great place.” All along the course of this crime spree, McGarrett had worried that one of the Five-0 detectives would be next on the sniper’s list. That Chin, or Duke, or Heaven forbid, Danno, would be targeted. They had all been spared, and now that the shackles of anxiety were cleared, he felt only relief and the need to interact with his friend. “I think we deserve a little celebration.”

 

“I could use something to eat,” Williams agreed distractedly, eyes not leaving the narrow ribbon of highway, which coursed – often precariously – along the side of Koko Head Crater, and flirted with the steep volcanic slope to the ocean below. “My guts are still shaking.”

 

“Adrenalin will do that to you, my friend,” the older cop acknowledged as he marveled at the power of the violent surf assaulting the shoreline. “I have to admit it, Danno.” Steve glanced down at his chest and gave a brief inspection to the blue uniform he wore. “I feel… very… conspicuous.”

 

The lead detective continued his musing out loud. “There was a time when I could not imagine NOT getting up every day, and putting on my Navy tans before heading out the door. A uniform is a two-edged sword…”

 

Most of his life he’d worn a uniform, but McGarrett now felt military service was substantially different than a police patrol officer. Cops in uniform represent authority, a mobile kiosk to whom members of the public know they can go for safety issues. On the reverse side, marked cars and officers were easy to spot. Criminals could avoid them or shoot them without much trouble. It was a disturbing predicament, but his thoughts came full circle from his first reactions when the sniper attacks started. He was thankful to bring the killing spree to an end. While they didn’t wear uniforms in their unit, they were known, visible, and a little too famous for his taste. They were all at risk, but by the grace of God, they had weathered another storm and come out on top.

 

Williams agreed. “Uniforms – a two-edged sword - and hot – don’t know how anyone walks a beat in these things.”

 

McGarrett grinned, and glanced over at his friend. “That’s right, Danno – you and I have that fact in common – neither of us ever walked a beat.”

 

It was true. Dan’s first assignments outside of the Police Academy had been undercover assignments. From there, he went to plainclothes duty as a detective. Steve had been recruited by the Governor – at the recommendation of Attorney General Walter Stuart – from a lengthy Naval career.

 

With a deep sigh, Steve again gave silent thanks for Five-0 coming out of this unscathed.

 

Not only were Dan’s insides still quivering, but a din rose in his ears to a point that his friend’s conversation was audible only sporadically. Had the life-threatening excitement really gotten the best of him? If he had not felt so… so queasy and frail at the moment, Williams would’ve been embarrassed.

 

“Kaneohe… you remember… flight to Singapore…”

 

The Five-0 chief’s words filtered aimlessly through Dan’s brain as the twisting road doubled in width, and then spontaneously shrank. A drop of perspiration drifted into his eye, causing him to start slightly. He lifted his left hand from the suddenly-deformed steering wheel, ran it across his damp face, and let it drop to his dark pant leg.

 

“Che will be… especially… Danno… merrraaathaa… degoooba…”  The meaning of Steve’s words was lost on Williams. A curious, but detached realization struck the younger detective as he attempted to drag his hand back to his rightful place on the steering wheel – it was red… his hand was wet with something… red… well, blood obviously… Blood… the crease of his pant leg and lap were soaked… blood… BLOOD!

 

“Steve… ummm…” Dan wanted the words to come out with the panic he felt, but they did not apparently alert his friend even to the degree that McGarrett looked in his direction. What had happened? The incident… there was only one answer… he’d been hit when they were in the garage…

 

“Yeah?” McGarrett wondered. “Trrrrannickkk…”

 

“I’m… hit…” There it was… The surprise in his voice penetrated the lethargy as his eyes locked with his friend’s and darkness overtook him.

 

“You’re what?” McGarrett heard what Williams said, but could not take in the meaning until his eyes absorbed Dan’s red palm and the pained shock in the officer’s expression as he slumped over the steering column. He was a man accustomed to reacting instantly to deadly situations, but this particular split-second, utterly unexpected emergency took the head of the state police by complete surprise.

 

“Danno!”

 

The Five-0 chief lunged toward the wheel, but it was too late to keep the sedan on the pavement. The car launched itself through the air with a terrifying and rapid trajectory over the volcanic precipice! The jolt of the initial impact to the conscious passenger was nothing short of bone shattering. The ride did not improve as the vehicle careened headlong down the jagged embankment and rolled with no sign of slowing as it approached the breaking surf.

 

McGarrett did his best to brace himself against the dash board within the tumbling projectile. He caught sight of his friend, whose limp form was tossed violently against the safety belt only a couple times, before blacking out himself.

 

Head throbbing… McGarrett’s eyes blinked open as his mind reported pain. Chest, head, arms… Vision took a moment to reacquire and interpret shapes and colors. At first, what he saw didn’t make much sense. Tilted downward, with chest pressing a little too firmly for comfort against his shoulder belt.

 

He groaned, “What the…” His eyes wandered around the vehicle – an HPD cruiser – until Williams came into focus. He was unconscious and slumped against the steering wheel, and blood trickled from his nose and forehead.

 

Blinking again, knowing there was so much that wasn’t correct with what his eyes were telling him, Steve stared, his mind finally catching up to the visual. Danno and he were in uniform. The trap for the sniper... Traffic accident… What had driven them off the road?

 

Steve had to absorb more incongruous facts. Danno had driven off the road… because… blood… on his hand… he was hurt! They had been in a car accident! It had all happened so fast… Danno! He twisted from the confines of the sea belt, but vertigo made his head spin out of control.

 

“Danno…” Bile welled up in McGarrett’s throat, and he closed his eyes for a moment before reaching out with his hand to connect to his friend’s arm. Willing his eyes open again, he focused on Williams.

 

“Danno… Wake up...” He gently shook the arm under his tight grip.

 

There was no further time to ponder events as a terrifying reminder invaded their space. A wall of white water slammed through the shattered glass opening where a windshield had been previously!

 

The only good news to the latest development was that the shock of the cool, violent water brought Dan back to consciousness with a gasp. Steve choked as the sea invaded his mouth and throat. Crash!

 

“Danno!” Steve screamed as he struggled to free himself from the safety belt which had been – until that moment – a life-saving device.

 

Coughing, Dan struggled to overcome his confusion and understand/ remember how he’d landed in this situation. “St… Steve! What….” Another wave – a little less rough than the previous one – spilled into the compartment, and the subsequent churning action lifted the car from its precarious ledge a few feet before letting it settle on the rocks again.

 

“Danno! We’ve gotta get outta here now! Your seat belt—” Before McGarrett could complete the command, the ocean invaded again, causing the vehicle to buck and then nose downward several more degrees from its previous angle on the ledge. Both men choked and spat the briny water from their mouths. The liquid – while portending doom for the two men – did offer the other side of its sword – it brought Dan to alertness.

 

“Steve!” The officers’ precarious position quickly became apparent to the driver of the sinking cruiser. McGarrett responded only marginally as he focused on Williams’ seat belt.

 

“Steve, get your own belt! I got mine!” Dan commanded, albeit with a worn-out tenor. The head of Five-0 glanced at his second’s expression, and in an instant, determined that the man was alert enough and capable of extricating himself. With that, he began to focus on his own safety belt.

 

Another brutal wall of water pushed into their space and raised the cruiser from its resting place, this time sucking it farther into the water. McGarrett’s seat belt suddenly responded to his machinations with the release button, and he turned to see that his friend had freed himself as well.

 

Both men were shoved viciously to the right as a wave angled under the driver’s side and tossed the car like a piece of flotsam. The cruiser settled back hard, and nosed downward steeply. Dan cried out in pain as he was dropped onto the steering wheel. The force of the McGarrett’s weight against what remained of the windshield caused the largest remaining chunk of glass to give way, the ensuing deluge quickly escalating into a fire hose rush of briny water.

 

“Danno—” Steve cried out and waved wildly in a futile attempt to grab some part of his friend as he himself was swept out the passenger side door which had popped open with the contortions of the vehicle’s frame. It was as if large invisible hands were pulling the senior cop upward as the car was sucked down into the churning whirlpool. He clutched the doorframe and was grateful to make eye contact with Dan, who was struggling against gravity and his awkward inverted position atop the steering wheel.

 

“Danno, I’m coming!”

“Get out, Steve, I’ll follow! GO! GO—”

 

Williams used his last moments above water to call out to his boss. The younger cop did not have to implore further as the next volley of waves honored his wish – even if McGarrett had plans to the contrary. The vehicle, front grill facing down, slipped from Steve’s sight as he was lifted up and knocked back against the hard, rocky surface by wave action. The intense pain of punctures and scrapes along his neck and back drove Williams from his thoughts for only a moment before he tried to gain enough footing to head into the ocean in pursuit of the cruiser. This time, it was not water pressure or invisible hands that denied him progress, but strong, human hands!

 

“Hey! Hey, mister – take it easy – we’ve gotta get back off these rocks or those waves are gonna kill somebody!”

 

The shout came from one of two men who appeared to be off-duty military personnel. Not waiting for agreement from the victim of the crash, they retreated – away from the water - with the greatest difficulty up the volcanic incline.

 

“They’re already killing somebody! Let me go! My friend – he’s still in the car!”

 

McGarrett, his face flushed with panic, shouted viciously, but his objections were ignored as a third young man sporting a standard “high-n-tight” Marine haircut reached the trio and helped drag the combative, injured cop up the rocks to safety.

 

“Let me go!” McGarrett pushed back against his captor-rescuers, but managed only to further sap his strength. Clumsily, he heaved against solid muscle until they deposited him on the rock wall of the overlook. Spent, he barely had the breath to mutter, “I need to get Danno! I can’t leave him – Danno’s still in the water,” Steve rasped desperately as he tried a different tactic with the Marines and other sympathetic onlookers.

 

 

“You were the only one in sight, officer,” one of the Marines told him. “Whoever else was with you didn’t make it out of that car.”

 

 

“No,” McGarrett refuted, his voice a hoarse whisper, choking on the brine and the clogging emotion. His stomach rippled from seawater and anguish. “Have – to – save – him.”

 

 

Fuzzy images of cars on the shoulder of the road, an HPD sedan screeching to a stop amid the scrub brush on the hill, bystanders offering hollow comfort, all swam in his vision. Two concerned HPD officers pushed their way through the crowd to his side. At last – someone he could command!!

 

 

“Williams – he’s in the water!” With a measure of renewed energy, McGarrett recognized the two patrolmen, but not by name. He pulled himself upright with their hesitant help. “We need rescue personnel!”

 

 

The officers exchanged looks with the Marines, one of whom pointed down to the last-seen location of the ill-fated squad car. “This officer was the only one that made it out of the car.”

 

 

“No! Danno made it out – he’s in the water and needs help!” McGarrett insisted as he found the strength to forcefully point toward the water.

 

 

By now, a throng of people, most of them tourists, had clambered over the rock wall and edged towards the upper most rock ledge, which provided a good view of the immediate shoreline.

 

 

“Yessir! We’ve got backup en route, but they’ve got to come the long way—”

 

 

The head cop interrupted the explanation, “I know, I know! Just get down there and try to spot Danno!”

 

 

“If you’ll wait here for an ambulance, sir – you’re hurt,” the older officer of the pair negotiated.

 

 

“Okay – just go!” McGarrett’s impatience was beyond the breaking point.

 

 

With a nod, the two men climbed quickly over the wall, and shouted for the civilians to not get too close to the edge of the cliff – the last thing they needed now was another victim.

 

 

Steve grimaced as he started to stand, but thought better of it. Instead, dizzy, he leaned on the wall with a partial view of the search area and scanned the undulating teal/blue/ white-foam for his friend. Eyes blurred from the intense, orange reflection of the sun, the stinging spray, and blood, he squinted to find a head bobbing in the surf, or any sign that Danno was still alive. Floating clumps of dark seaweed, possibly a seal off-shore, bewildered an already tortured mind with confusing possibilities. Was that a bed of coral or a body just under the surface? An outcropping of lava, or Danno’s dark blue HPD shirt?

 

 

A throbbing headache encouraged his despair despite the arrival of other officers and fire trucks. A fireman nodded at an older couple who had been hovering near the detective blotting blood from his face and neck with a towel. McGarrett did not fight the triage process as long as they did not obscure his view of the search – no – rescue – effort.

 

 

The treacherous tide was deadly, but Danno would hang on. He was a top athlete and accomplished swimmer and surfer. Even weakened from a bullet wound, Danno could manage. He had to!

 

 

As the sun touched the meniscus of the water, McGarrett realized he had drifted off, and found himself being lifted onto a stretcher and wheeled toward an ambulance. He tried in vain to resist, but as the back doors of the medical vehicle opened, everything faded to black.

 

 

*****

 

From Dan’s disadvantaged vantage point, the sight of Steve receding into the light above was a relief, and it allowed him to focus on his own precarious plight – namely that he was now submerged in the frame of the battered police cruiser – and – oh yeah, the stabbing pain in the bend of his left leg was almost debilitating. And then there was the air issue – as in, he really needed to breathe sooner rather than later. Dan was an excellent swimmer, and holding his breath came as second nature to him, a fact which had saved his life in this circumstance, but his grace was running out.

 

Clenching his jaw, Williams pushed the discomfort out of his mind, and contorted himself out of the ruptured windshield. Well aware of the deadly character of the surf along this stretch of coast, he used the hood of the car to launch himself horizontally away from the shore and the rocky dangers that awaited anyone who would toy with Fate by attempting to make landfall amidst such spectacular natural violence.

 

Battling against the waves and current, Dan brought his face above the surface long enough to take a gulp of much-needed air. Disoriented and weak, he swirled in the undulating, powerful water until he spotted land again. The tidal action had already pushed him amazingly far from where the cruiser had entered the water. Between splashes of water folding over his head, stinging his eyes, and his trembling limbs giving way to the might of the sea, he watched with disheartened frustration as the people on the shore were not even looking in his direction!

 

 

The only good thing about the situation was that he could make out an animated Steve being lifted over the rock wall separating the overlook and its parking lot from the dangerous tidal rocks. He knew the head of the state police was being disagreeable – an understatement he pondered with detached amusement – because he would not want to abandon one of his men in an underwater vehicle. It would not matter that his own life was at risk by remaining on the scene.

 

 

Dan’s thoughts crashed back to his immediate situation while another wall of ocean buried him. It was going to be a long day… There were sand beaches less than a mile in both directions – he would have to swim for his life. Before he could even pick a direction, his head topped an ocean roll, a superior venue for the view that brought his fear bubbling to a peak. Just ahead was a ledge of lava rock at the mouth of a cave – one he’d seen many times from the safety of land or a helicopter. The injured officer realized then that – in his exhausted condition with unclear injuries – scrapping with the current to get back to a welcoming beachfront was a battle he would not win. He would have to work with the current or die.

 

 

Angling into the waves, he allowed the power of the ocean to sweep him up. Almost atop the ledge, he reached forward and at the last minute realized he was being thrown too fast and low towards the barrier. He was slammed against the lip of the cave entrance, and was harshly dragged back into the water like a rag doll. The wind was knocked from him, but he remained painfully – and gratefully – conscious as another wave launched him toward the ledge again. This time, the surge was stronger and higher, lifting his fatigued body and throwing it into the grotto opening with a bone-shuddering volley. He clutched desperately at the rocky surface as the powerful wave receded, and then he crawled gingerly to slightly higher ground before collapsing.

 

 

The constant sound of waves, the ebb and flow of cool ocean foam trickling around him brought him back to awareness. Exhausted, he lay still to regain strength and breath, trying to organize his thoughts long enough to make a plan. It was bizarre, but as he stared out through the cavern mouth, he could see spectators lined along the cliffs near the Blowhole. A major Windward tourist attraction, the natural and spectacular sprays of sea-tide spewing up through the lava tube took a backseat as the human drama – police and fire rescue personnel searching for him – played out. With the detachment of what he envisioned as an out-of-body experience might be like, Williams watched the scene unfold. He wondered if he would even be visible to anyone who happened to look a couple hundred meters up the coastline into the cave. After all, he had no strength to vie for attention in any way, and what remained of the uniform was dark and in keeping with a shadow on the rocks. All he could manage was to lie there, and pray no rogue wave would encroach upon his resting place and drag him back into the deep.

 

*****

 

In the hazy, disconnected unreality of medicated pain and injury, McGarrett recognized he was being wheeled into a hospital room. His senses detected antiseptic odors, nurse and doctor dialogue, unrestricted access to parts of his person that would normally elicit a defense response. He tried to wake up and focus, but his mind was too tired to obey his desires. An uneasy nightmare blocked his way to consciousness.

 

 

Steve drew back his right hand and gasped, dreading the confirmation of warm blood glistening in his palm. Danno was pushing him away.

 

 

“I’m hit,” the stunned visage of his friend intoned. “You got me.” 

 

In horror, he tried to bolt to a sitting position, but in an instant, his body retaliated with an agonizing dagger to his head. He cried out, and dropped back to his pillow.

 

“Steve! Easy!” The familiar voice centered the patient marginally as he tentatively blinked several times and focused on the image of Doctor Niles Bergman, standing next to the bed. The physician was leaning over him in concern. “Welcome back, Steve.” The tone was mellow and quiet, a fact which the cop’s head appreciated.

 

 

“Doc,” he croaked, his throat sore, his voice cracked and thin.

 

 

“Don’t try to talk right now, Steve. You swallowed half the Pacific out there.” He looked away, blinking, and pressed a gentle hand on the blanket-covered arm. “We can talk later. Just rest now.”

 

 

“No, now,” McGarrett gingerly shook his head. There were questions to be answered! He was hurt, sore, throbbing with subdued pain, feeling dull, and a vague uneasiness was growing in his gut.

 

 

What had happened? He couldn’t remember, but he knew it was bad. He’d been riding in a car.

 

 

“What happened, Doc?”

 

 

Bergman’s forehead creased in worry. “Tell me what you remember, Steve.”

 

 

He gave the question serious consideration. “I was in a car.”

 

 

Bergman nodded.

 

 

“An accident?” The answer came out as a question, but he knew it was true.

 

 

Clearing his throat, Bergman bit his lip, nodding again. “Is that all you remember?” he whispered.

 

 

 

McGarrett shrugged, afraid to move his head again. Distorted recollections of an HPD car, a rocky cliff, and violent surf all swirled in his mind, but he was having trouble anchoring the thoughts together in a coherent, chronological line. All he could do was allow them to play aimlessly through his head. Behind the disjointed images though was a shadow of dread. He could feel it in his chest as a physical ache that had nothing to do with injuries. It was a building spiritual echo of fear and grief that he knew would crescendo when the full recall was revealed. Part of him shied away from what terrible discovery awaited him, but he knew it had to be serious to land him here in the hospital with amnesia and numerous injuries.

 

 

“You might have a little memory gap,” Bergman was saying. “You have a concussion and some cuts and lacerations. All non-threatening, but you need your rest.”

 

 

McGarrett’s eyes roamed the room. Standard hospital room. Something… something was missing though. Something that hung in a shadowy part of his mind, like a wraith of an expectation…

 

 

“Danno,” he spoke with certainty. The anxiety hit him like one of the waves on the cliffs. He jumped as his body and heart remembered what had happened – that a wounded Danno had sent their car into the ocean, and his friend was not standing here next to him. He tried again to sit up. “Danno! Is he okay? He was shot!”

 

 

Pushing the patient back down to the pillow, Bergman dragged a chair over and sat down. He cleared his throat again. “Steve. I – I don’t even know what to say. There are no words. I’m so sorry.”

 

 

Difficult to talk around the lump in his throat, McGarrett flinched when he realized Bergman’s eyes were watery, heavy with grief.

 

“What are you trying to say? They were looking for him in the water. He’s all right.” It was not a question, but a demand.

 

 

“They were unable to save him,” Bergman whispered. Shaking his head, he wiped away a tear that slid down his cheek. “They haven’t found his body.”

 

 

Closing his eyes, McGarrett struggled to piece together his memories of the tragic moments of the accident. Images of the shooting kept intruding, but he forced his sketchy recollections out of the garage and onto the road past Hanauma Bay. The crash, the driving waves, the water, losing sight of Danno. Haven’t found his body. His body? They all thought Danno was dead!

 

 

“No, no,” he sputtered, “There’s been a mistake! Danno is all right. He’s in his element,” he insisted, slowly sitting up to lean on his elbow. He glanced at the window, where no light filtered around the edges. The only illumination came from the candescent tube over the bed. Night. “He was shot. He’s tired. It’s going to take him longer to get to shore than usual.” The harbinger of fear never left his heart, but he was relieved there was no body. Didn’t Bergman get it? “He’s a champion surfer.”

 

 

Only McGarrett’s raw throat stopped his invective.

 

 

Bergman’s funereal tone did not lift. “Steve, be reasonable. I know it’s hard to grasp, but you said Danny was wounded. How badly?”

 

 

McGarrett shrugged, and whispered, “I didn’t see the wound – only the blood.”

 

 

“Caught in the waves there at the eastern tip? There are few beaches along that shelf of lava,” he reminded. “The search and rescue teams never found a trace.” He took a deep breath. “They’re going to try again in the morning, Steve, but even with a minor wound, it’s unlikely he could have stayed above water for long. I’m so sorry.”

 

 

“No, no…”

 

Shaking his head, McGarrett refused to buy into the negativity, but logic was the enemy. Thinking of his own struggle with the mighty breakers, how they pummeled him and ploughed him against the rocks, the surging power of the sea that nearly took his life, he flinched. Danno had been wounded, weak, drifting out of consciousness as he tried to free himself from the wrecked and tilting car. Staring into the dark corner of the room, McGarrett’s resolve slipped, his eyes burning, as his heart began to fear that he was wrong, that his faith was desperate hope instead of reality.

 

 

“There’s still a chance,” he whispered. “He said he could do it.” He’d survived in the water for longer than this on at least one occasion. {fanfic – BONDS –TASK FORCE page}

 

 

It was true – the odds were against them – he and Danno – but they had been there before and triumphed. His friend could’ve made it – somehow – to safety, to a beach, a boat, a drifting object… There had to be a way… hope…

 

 

“Get some sleep Steve,” Bergman advised in a voice shattered with sorrow. “I’ll check in on you tomorrow.” With a final grip on his patient’s shoulder, he trod from the room.

 

 

Two errant tears slid down Steve’s face, and were absorbed into the pillow. Tightly squeezing his eyes, he blinked to clear the moisture before his heavy lids closed at last, surrendering to the fatigue and emotional weight surrounding his recent, trying experiences. Focusing inward, he drifted into a dreamless slumber with the mantra that Danno was still alive.

 

 

*****

 

Over the course of an unclear block of time, the sound of the waves crashing and receding on the rocks became hypnotic to Williams. At one point, he noticed that most of the activity on the other side of the inlet had slowed to a trickle. Now, only a couple of shadowy figures holding flashlights stood on the upper ridge of rock – probably two poor HPD saps who were stuck on some sort of detail. The cruiser he’d crashed so spectacularly was well beyond salvage – of this he was certain.

 

 

How had the day come to this? Shivering slightly, he let his hands slide down, un-buckle the belt, and un-zip the uniform pants. The trousers had been new, and the stainless-steel zipper caught several times on threads and who-knew-what-else from the ocean. Finally, Dan was able to bear the pain enough to tug the pants down. Shaking from the activity, he forced his right hand to continue toward the bend in his left leg, where a persistent burn now throbbed.

 

 

He felt the swim trunks he frequently wore in the hopes of being able to sneak in a spontaneous swim after work. While most days did not hold that treat in store for him, the opportunity did arise on occasion, and when it did, he was prepared. As his fingers zeroed in on the area, Dan could feel moisture that was thicker than water. His nostrils caught the acrid odor of blood, as a small, round hole in his trunks confirmed the cause of the bleeding.

 

 

One of Purdy’s rounds must’ve struck him. He’d been careening down the highway losing blood – what a dope! His inattention had no doubt caused injury to Steve, totaled a squad car, and might even cost him his life if he didn’t find a way out of his predicament. He was grateful to have witnessed Steve’s rescue – at least the concern for his friend’s safety was not looming in his thoughts.

 

 

Confirmation that he was bleeding from a GSW made the officer more acutely aware of the other aches which seemed to be traversing his body with greater frequency. Dehydration, he imagined, was probably taking a toll as well. Why he had thought that resting for awhile would make him feel better at this particular moment escaped him. NOW it was getting dark.

 

 

“That should make it easier for you to make it to shore… idiot…”

 

 

The slap of a cold wave on his feet alerted him to a new danger – the tide was rising. As he scooted backwards, the rough lava on his abraded and tortured skin brought painful clarity to his thoughts. Near tears from the pain, he kicked free of the tattered pants with the delicacy of someone dealing with an explosive device. It was clear that rescue was not at hand, and any chance he had at survival would be by his own doing. The search for him had been aborted – either due to darkness or the obvious futility. And with the incoming tide, drowning in the cave was more likely than drowning in the ocean, where he at least had a fighting chance by catching the current around the point to the silky sand beach of Hanauma Bay.

 

 

Not clear on how much blood he’d already lost – and with the life literally still seeping from him, Dan knew he could wait no longer. Time was running out on all accounts. His condition would only worsen. Taking a few deep breaths, he sat back and studied the wave patterns and current, as he had done so many times in preparation for a surfing set. To catch the channel, he would have to dive clear of the ledge and get around the jutting lava knot at the end of this abutment. Then he would have to swim for his life to Hanauma – a mile, maybe more before he would make landfall.

 

 

A three-quarter moon shed anemic light on the dark lava of the rugged coastline. Now determined to get on with it, Dan tugged the uniform shirt and t-shirt off. Tearing strips off the bottom of the undershirt, he balled one up, and with the other one, bound it to the wound as tightly as his exhausted mind felt prudent. The officer took the rest of the t-shirt, along with the outer garment, and tossed them as far into the water as he could. Pushing past the discomfort the act brought on, he focused on their path in the cyclic action of the waves. It would be easier to time his jump with this data.

 

 

A few deep breaths later, Williams waited until a wave was ready to recede from the ledge, and leaped into the męlée. His experience paid off – he had timed the jump as well as anyone could’ve. The monster roll of water hammered his throbbing body, but sucked him under and away from the danger of the rocks near the cave entrance. The detective kicked as hard as he could bear, knowing in the recesses of his mind that each kick was probably costing him a measure of blood. He would have to worry about that when he was out of blood.

 

 

Struggling to the surface, he thought his lungs would burst before he could take in enough air. Somehow, he did though, despite the numerous briny slaps and punches in the face. The swim itself was less rough about ten feet below the surface, but it meant that Dan had to expend the energy to get down there, and then return to the surface for air frequently, each time breaking the stroking rhythm. He was tossed violently when he surfaced, and felt himself growing less able with each dive. To complicate the situation – if it weren’t bad enough – he had to take care to not drift towards the open sea. The Molokai Express, a strong, below-the-surface current, wandered extremely close to the mouth of Hanauma Bay, and the injured detective knew without reservation that being caught in its grip would seal his fate – his dead FATE the surfer in him had mused…

 

 

After what seemed like hours (and may well have been – Dan had no sense of time), he thrashed towards the surface with the greatest effort he could muster, but was spent by the time he took in the salty air. His legs, especially the one with the bullet in it, would not propel him another foot. The wave action tossed his limp form as he tried to visually gain his bearings. Focusing his sea-stung, bleary eyes was becoming as difficult as taking in precious air. And it seemed that the tropical sea had somehow turned arctic.

 

 

Slowly, his blood-starved brain took in the sight a hundred yards from him. It was the beach front in the bay! He was so close… so close, but he could not muster a stroke. He knew that inaction meant he would lose ground and drift back to the open ocean, but his body worked against him.

 

 

A moment of panic ensued when something brushed painfully hard against his feet. The adrenalin was what he needed to re-animate himself. Kicking with everything he had, it occurred to him that he could ALMOST touch the bottom when the waves were on the outbound leg of their cycle! A few more feet and he would be able to walk to the shore!! Breathing harder, eyes tearing in desperation, Dan pressed through the now-gentler surf until his feet felt the soft firmness of the sand. Despite having welcome earth touchable beneath him, he let the shore-bound water carry him inward.

 

 

“Help…” Dan irrationally rasped. It was well after the park’s closing time, and not a soul was within earshot. Still, he continued as he dragged himself, onto the sand. “Help me…”

 

 

An impenetrable fog descended upon his thinking, but he crawled until his arms gave way, dropping him unceremoniously on the welcome firmness of land. Dejection set in as he realized that – after all his efforts – he could not make it up the hill to the road – the only place anyone would find him until daylight. That meant that he would lie here on the soft, safe sand, and slowly bleed to death.

 

 

*****

 

Sensing someone was in the room, McGarrett opened his eyes, coming to a semi-level of awareness. “Danno?” he wondered, without thinking.

 

 

“No, Steve. Sorry to wake you.”

 

 

Chin. There was someone else. They had been talking? Bergman? It was still dark outside. The light over the bed was off. He gingerly shifted on the mattress, and by the light cast from the hallway through the open door, noted Chin and Duke standing just inside the room.

 

 

His men were atypically tentative. They didn’t want to wake him, but they had come to check on him. Tell him important news? Glancing at the small table, he was irritated there was no clock.

 

 

“Time?”

 

 

Chin looked at his wrist. “Almost eleven.”

 

 

A quick check of the shadows confirmed there was no one else. Danno should have been there. He was always there. His mind twitched with an instant flood of returning memories. Crash. Danno shot. Ocean struggle. Danno missing.

 

 

“Danno! Did you find Danno?” McGarrett’s hoarse voice was draped in desperation.

 

 

Chin shook his head slightly, and reported quietly, “A blue uniform shirt washed up near the wreck site.”

 

 

No, they had not found Danno – just his shirt. The patient worked to order his thoughts, prioritize next steps with but one goal. There was nothing else he cared about except finding Danno.

 

 

Duke stepped closer. “Sorry, Steve.” His voice was thick, as if he had been weeping or overcome with emotion.

 

 

Duke and Chin weren’t afraid to reveal their pain, but at this moment, Steve refused to be drawn in. Danno could not be dead.

 

 

He slowly sat up. His officers gently tried to steady and guide him back down, but, McGarrett shook them off wincing in pain. “Did you bring me clothes?”

 

 

“Steve, you can’t go anywhere,” Chin remonstrated.

 

 

“You have a concussion,” Duke offered.

 

Slowly, McGarrett pushed his legs over the side and gripped onto the bed as his world slowly tipped one direction, then the other, then finally stabilized. “Get me my clothes. We’re going to find Danno.”

 

 

Chin returned his hold on the boss’s arm. “The rescue crews can’t continue until morning.”

 

 

McGarrett pulled away. “Get my clothes.”

 

 

Chin unenthusiastically moved to rummage through the closet, as Duke hovered nearby but did not restrain the patient. Taking a different approach, the Hawaiian officer queried, “Do you remember seeing him in the water, Steve?”

 

 

The question was quiet and reasonable, and brought the lead detective to pause. It brought back the sound of the surf, the bone-jarring assault of the waves, the taste of the briny water mixed with his own blood, and… his desperate attempts to help his friend from the sinking cruiser.

 

 

“Get out, Steve, I’ll follow! GO! GO!”

 

 

Danno’s parting words to him…

 

 

“No,” McGarrett quietly intoned as he tightened his lips in determination. “Clothes.”

 

 

Duke and Chin conversed with only their eyes. They both knew there would be no stopping their boss until he either wore himself out again, or came to the realization that Danny was dead. Any reasonable person would conclude that a wounded man was no match for the pounding surf where the marked unit had met its end. But Steve was not acting on reason. His deep attachment to his second-in-command was no secret anywhere on the islands. Williams was often teased about it by friends and others in law enforcement circles. Recognizing truth in the ribbing – and feeling equal or greater devotion he thought to his mentor and boss – Dan always suffered or acknowledged the jokes with good nature.

 

 

Despite the battles with their own grief, the two un-injured officers knew their younger friend and colleague was dead, but they recognized that the Five-0 chief would have to come to this conclusion of his own accord.

 

 

With a sigh, the Chinese detective handed the patient his clothes. “Bergman is gonna have our heads.”

 

 

“You let me worry about Bergman,” McGarrett growled.

 

 

Dressing in the torn, still-damp HPD uniform was unpleasant, but he would not be detained or deterred over something as trivial as clothing. He could not rest peacefully in a warm bed while Danno was out there – somewhere.

 

 

“Where… where would the current take him?” McGarrett tentatively questioned as he buttoned his shirt.

 

 

Duke pursed his lips for a moment. The Hawaiian officer wanted desperately to ease his boss out of this un-reasonable faith in something so unlikely – something that when proven to be false – would change him forever. He had another resigned visual exchange with Chin, and then responded neutrally with the pessimistic report.

 

 

“Well, IF he managed to make it out of the car, and away from the rocks below the Blow Hole, he might’ve been able to swim the mile, mile and a quarter, to Hanauma Bay – but he would’ve been very lucky to not get sucked out to sea by the Molokai Express – especially given your report that he was bleeding enough to pass out and lose control of the unit.”

 

 

The lead detective faltered momentarily as he listened to his officer, but it was clear that the un-well man was not willing to absorb the logical conclusion to be drawn. Unsteady, but determined, he slowly walked down the corridor. He reached the Five-0 sedan parked under the Castle Hospital portico without falling down.

 

 

As they pulled out of the driveway, he ordered Chin to take them to the crash site. “Then we’ll go to the Palace. He’d call me there.”

 

 

Chin threw a concerned glance at Duke in the back seat of the sedan. Was it the concussion or extreme denial of the unbearable? It was decided – they would stick with their boss at least for a few hours while he adjusted to his new, horrible reality. “No, Steve – it’s nighttime – Danny would call you at your place.”

 

 

McGarrett’s eyes narrowed as he looked suspiciously in the driver’s direction. He hesitated for a few moments before he relented. “You’re right – I’m… not thinking too clearly.”

 

 

*****

 

White froth curled a thin line along an undulating ripple of deceptive beauty. Staring down from the scenic turnout, McGarrett’s heart was in his throat as the crashing waves, the salty scent, the rushing wind, the ache of battered flesh brought back memories of his struggle full-force. He had barely survived the ordeal before being rescued from death by good-hearted Marines.

 

 

The HPD sedan was long gone from sight, but Steve clearly remembered now Danno’s weakened condition, his difficulty staying conscious, his pain, his bleeding wound. How could he have survived the pounding surf? The crushing might of the ocean? The nearby Molokai Express that could have swept him out into the open sea? The blood loss?

 

Danno had been shot during the confrontation in the garage. When Purdy fired at them, he’d hit Danno. Something had gone wrong with the sniper trap – he – McGarrett - had pushed his second-in-command into the path of the deadly round instead of saving him… Danno would be the sniper’s last victim.

 

A sob caught in his throat, and he swallowed it down. In his soul, he knew he could not blame the ocean, or the slug, or the shooter. HE had been the one to place himself and Danno inside a trap. HE had been the one who had pushed Danno into the path of the killing shot. HE had sent them along the Kalani Highway, gloating in his cleverness and triumphant victory, oblivious to his friend’s wound. Tears trickled down his cheeks and he shivered from the cold of mourning. Covering his face with trembling hands, he leaned against the wall and wept as the horrible reality echoed in his head - Danno could not have survived.

 

Duke and Chin, who had remained by the vehicle, looked at each other and silently agreed to let their leader come to grips with his new, bleak reality alone - the only one who would’ve been welcome in such a moment was no longer there. Finally turning, McGarrett trudged back to the sedan and slumped into the passenger seat. Chin asked if they could take him home where he could rest. He nodded, dully slipping into a state of morose grief.

 

*****

 

As the Five-0 men headed in heavy silence back toward Honolulu, Steve spiraled inward mentally to a dark recess in his soul. It was impossible, of course, for one man to fight the ocean. He had believed for a while. Danno had told him he could make it. He had held onto that promise even as the forces of the universe swept him up and away from his friend. While McGarrett was being dragged to safety, the sea claimed its native son. A new concern washed over him in recalling the incident – he wondered if Danno had thought he’d been abandoned in the interest of self-preservation. He sat up a little straighter as he considered the possibility. Acutely aware that there would be no more opportunities to set things straight with his friend, he had to voice his conviction to his slightly startled officers.

 

“I would never have left him there.” The statement came from a hoarse voice that was not his own.

 

“We know that, Steve,” Chin offered calmly with a concerned glance toward his “shotgun” passenger.

 

Ignoring the response, the Five-0 chief continued, “Never. I hope Danno knows that.”

 

It was Duke’s turn to offer comfort he knew would not be accepted. “I’m sure he knows, wherever he is.”

 

“Wherever he is,” McGarrett echoed with preoccupation as he stared at the road sign directing visitors towards the left to the parking lot for Hanauma Bay. That was where he should’ve collected Danno… Every thought was painful. Trying to shut out the incessant flow of implications from the day’s tragic events, he directed a question to the two other men in the car.

 

“What time did you last check Hanauma?” He tried to sound clinical, but his voice was too thick to pull it off.

 

“Pretty late in the day – just after it closed,” Duke offered.

 

“What’s that – five or six?”

 

“Six, I think.”

 

“Six,” McGarrett repeated. Trying to keep his brain engaged in mathematically neutral thoughts, he considered the word problem at hand. Let’s see – he and Danno had headed out for lunch around 2:00. That would place the accident around 2:15… That would mean that we gave Danno three hours and forty five minutes to make it around the point to Hanauma before the park closed. Plenty of time… For an un-injured Danno – even fighting the current… If his friend had made it out of the cruiser, he would certainly have headed for Hanauma, as Duke suggested. The fog in his brain fought him all the way. But he fought back, pressing through his train of thought. Danno had been bleeding to death – that would no doubt have added time – hours – to what would’ve been a near impossible swim… Impossible… Impossible…

 

Grasping at straws perhaps, or maybe just to triumph over the cold-hearted logic which ruled his mind most of the time, the senior officer sat up a little straighter, and set his jaw.

 

“Turn around – we’re going back to Hanauma.” McGarrett spoke with conviction – at least there was still a course of action to be taken.

 

“What?” Chin fired an amazed glance at his boss.

 

“Steve—” Duke started, but was cut off.

 

“It’s the last thing I can do for Danno,” the head officer’s voice cracked. “I need to do this!”

 

The command broke forth as an impatient shout, and Chin wasted no time in making a u-turn on the highway. They were a good half mile past the entrance to the amazing tourist snorkeling venue, but re-traced their route in short order. Chin turned right and slowly drove down the road until sand blocked further progress.

 

The two healthy cops sat rigidly still waiting for their boss, who took a couple deep breaths to clear his head, and climbed slowly out of the car. Even the short spell of inaction had stiffened him. Determined to do a final check of the area, McGarrett walked unsteadily, two officers trailing him, around the gate and down the road past the parking area to where the sand commenced.

 

It was well after midnight as the three men slogged through the sand toward the shoreline. McGarrett scanned the beach desperately through stinging, unfocused eyes. Shadows from the uneven beach surface and tree line abounded and offered deceptive images of bodies and other sea-faring objects.

 

“Danno!” The Five-0 chief shouted suddenly. His voice was gravelly and did not carry as far as it might if his throat were not raw. “Danno!”

Chin and Duke trailed tiredly after their boss taking care not to let a wave lap over their shoes, each performing due diligence during the search more out of habit than the belief they would find their colleague and friend waiting on the beach for them. As McGarrett staggered to a stop, and then dropped onto one knee, the pair leaped to his side.

 

“Steve, it’s time to go – you gotta get some rest,” Chin urged softly as he tracked an approaching wave and then followed it as it began its recession less than a foot from the kneeling, exhausted cop.

 

Duke echoed the Chinese detective’s sentiment quietly. “Steve, you know Danny would not want you to put yourself through this.”

 

Every beat of McGarrett’s heart seemed difficult, and each drawn breath was an effort as he slowly nodded and ignored an over-sized tear wandering down his cheek. He came to his feet more under the power of his colleagues than his own, and agreed.

 

“Let’s get outta here,” he rasped, and did not fight the continued physical assistance from his men as they slowly trudged back towards the car.

 

*****

 

Cotton candy… Dan could smell the sugary confection, and observed that he was lying belly down on what appeared to be several hundred pounds of the fluffy, sticky stuff. His head was turned ninety degrees to the left in such a way that his cheek seemed embedded in a grainy pillow. Initially, his situation didn’t strike him as particularly odd for someone who was probably dead, but slowly, he tuned into his surroundings, and gradually began to take in his extreme discomfort to the point that he whimpered.

 

The sound itself served to alert his other senses. No, he definitely was in too much pain to be dead yet. He seemed to be encased in an unpleasant, crusty dampness – ocean water – familiar even in its current unpleasantness – and something else… blood? The coppery, scabby odor reminded him he was dealing with a serious medical problem. The detective squeezed his eyes tight and then opened them, fervently hoping a measure of clarity would come with this act.

 

Moments passed as he dully analyzed the input. His resting place was sandy – not sugary, and his face was pressed deep into the now-cold silicate. It was dark, but not so dark that he could not see the shadowy figures – three of them – floating in the distance.

 

“Danno!”

 

Steve… one of the visages was Steve calling to him…

 

“Steve…” Not enough air passed his vocal cords to generate more than a faint whisper.

 

“Danno!”

 

Dan feebly lifted his leaden hand a few inches off the ground. His appendage wavered before dropping tiredly back to the sand.

 

“Steve… help me…” Williams tried again – a little better, but with the same non-effect on the man calling to him. The tensing of his torso and legs made him writhe slightly in agony. There was no doubt that he was seriously injured, and that his friend was doing his best to find him.

 

A dull panic grew from within as he realized his rescuers were growing smaller – they were leaving him!

 

“Help… I’m here… Steve…” The injured detective watched in despair as his behest had no effect on the departing men. He cried weakly in frustration as salvation – so close – wandered away.

 

*****

 

His elbows firmly in the grasp of Duke and Chin, Steve paused and looked back toward the dark beach. He pulled gently away from his supporters and called out one last time in agonizing frustration.

 

“Danno! You answer me now, dammit!!”

 

Chin and Duke glanced at each other, and then at their despairing leader, who tensely ignored them as he desperately scanned one last time.

 

A breeze picked up and caused a slight undulation of something not too far from the waterline. What caught his failing vision was the lightness of object relative to its surroundings.

 

“What is that?” McGarrett questioned as he studied the mass in the distance. “There – did it move again?” He took several steps back onto the sand.

 

Duke took a step closer, his own interest now perked. The Chinese detective did likewise. They had missed the anomaly earlier because of a small dune blocking their line of sight. Any number of objects from dead marine life to driftwood to seaweed to man-made, lost-at-sea artifacts routinely washed up on even the most placid of beaches, and so the likelihood that the discontinuity was the target of their search was slim. Still, McGarrett took several more staggering steps closer, and then several more.

 

“It’s Danno,” he whispered loudly, with more steps.

 

“No, Steve,” Duke argued unconvincingly as his pace also picked up.

 

“Somebody might’ve left a blanket…” Chin began – neither detective wanted their boss to be further crushed when they reached what was more likely to be a dead animal.

 

By now, all three men were jogging towards the still form, hope winning over logic or odds. The trio could not confirm that they were closing in on a human being until they were ten feet away, and the injured officer’s shredded swim trunks rippled in the breeze.

 

“Danno!!” Steve screamed hoarsely, unable to contain the raw emotion that he’d been waiting to vent in grief. Diving to the side of the prone form, he stopped short of lifting his friend from the sand and clutching him tightly – there was no doubt that Danno was gravely injured. If he’d been trying to get their attention earlier, it had taken the last of his energy reserves from him, because he was clearly unconscious now. His bare legs and naked back matched the pale tone of the sand – only the dark scrapes and cuts stood out in the muted light. The officer’s pale blue swim trunks were barely clinging to him, with a couple of tears running several inches up the left leg.

 

“I can’t believe it,” Chin whispered as he and Duke knelt at their younger colleague’s side.

 

With McGarrett’s shaking hands hovering inches from Williams’ washed-out face, he held off touching his friend. Instead, it was Duke who gingerly palpated the unconscious man’s neck for a carotid pulse. It took the Hawaiian detective several seconds of immobility before he suddenly acknowledged the sensation.

 

“He’s got pulse – it’s slow, but it’s there!”

 

In tandem, the three men rolled the limp man gently onto his back, and to their relief, he moaned weakly. Drawn features and numerous scrapes were evidence of the officer’s recent tribulations.

 

“Danno! Hang on, aikane! We’ve got you!” Steve’s words of encouragement were measured with equal parts distraction as he studied the obvious hole through the now pink-stained swim suit into his officer’s upper leg. The blood was not gushing from the wound, but it was obvious and consistent – AND it had been ongoing for more than twelve hours!

“Chin, radio in, and alert HPD and Leahi Hospital that we’re en route! Tell them to have Bergman standing by!” The Five-0 chief, energy renewed with joy, made a few futile, ginger attempts to brush the sand from his friend’s face as he barked the commands. Chin grabbed his boss’s shoulder to get his attention, and sternly eyed him.

 

“Steve, YOU should get to the car and radio in – you could use a bed in the hospital too. We’ll bring Danny!”

 

McGarrett glared at his colleagues, who presented a uniform front on this issue. In the interest of expediency – and aware of his own physical limitations at the moment - the senior officer knew it was best to let the two healthy men take charge of the rescue operation. Relinquishing his treasured position at Williams’ side, he rose and began trotting towards the vehicle.

 

“Thank God! Thank God!” McGarrett whispered, knowing full well that his joy might be cut short if his friend did not pull through, but he knew that – either way – the man upstairs had been in his corner on this day.

 

*****

 

The unresponsive officer was frighteningly limp, and apparently oblivious to the flurry of activity taking place on his person as he was lifted from the Five-0 sedan with too much “help” from the senior officer at the scene. Hospital personnel and Doctor Bergman had been standing by for the arrival of the patient.

 

“Steve, Steve,” Bergman gently tried to hustle the Five-0 chief out of the way, but had to nod at two large orderlies for assistance. The burly men in white understood and quickly manhandled their charge into a wheelchair.

 

“Hey, let go!” McGarrett barked, but – on this rare occasion – nobody paid attention except the physician, who took a few moments to lean on the arm rests of the chair and make very close eye contact with the combative man. He whispered harshly.

 

“Steve! You are distracting me from helping Danny! Now, for God’s sake, let the nice men take you inside where you can rest! I’ll update you on Danny’s condition as soon as I know what it is!”

 

It was clear that the medical man would brook no disobedience. With only a moment of grudging hesitation, McGarrett settled back into the seat and allowed himself to be wheeled into the building behind the more quickly-moving gurney carrying his friend.

 

 

As control was ripped from him, McGarrett’s earlier joy at finding Danno alive was overtaken and consumed by dread at his officer’s condition. Twelve plus hours of bleeding, swimming, and fighting the current… It was obvious that Williams had struggled valiantly in the fight for his life. How he had managed to do that would be a story McGarrett would relish hearing – if the officer even wanted to speak to him after he found out the reason for his injury…

 

The head nurse, a buxom, older Polynesian woman, firmly assured the officer that he was on the same floor as the post-operative ward, where his friend would probably end up if he was having a bullet removed. The frustration at his inability to bully his way to remaining at his officer’s side had peaked earlier. Now, he was simply exhausted, and feeling queasy. He didn’t put up a fight as medical personnel stripped him of the still-damp HPD blues, stuffed him back into a hospital gown, and inserted him into a bed. A very warm, soft, comfortable bed…

 

*****

 

Despite his anxiety over the condition of Williams, McGarrett dropped into a black, dreamless sleep as soon as he was forced into the hospital bed. It was only the bright light from a misaligned window blind that made him struggle to consciousness.

 

Slowly pulling himself to a sitting position, he studied his surroundings. A long-dead meal tray, containing cold toast, gelatinous scrambled eggs, a fruit cup, and a mug of cool water with a tea bag propped nearby had been the fare at some distant meal time. A glint of sunlight accosted his eyes, and he suddenly remembered that he’d been waiting for word on Danno’s condition! Had Bergman reported to him after the surgery? His temples throbbed as he struggled to find a memory after being deposited into the bed. It had to be well after dawn. He started to ring the call button, but before he could patrol his bed sheets to locate it, Bergman dragged through the door, clipboard in hand.

 

“Steve, how are you feeling?”

 

Ignoring the physician’s query, McGarrett, despite his as-yet fuzzy grasp on his own situation, verbally pierced the doctor.

 

“The more important question, Doc, is how is DANNO? Why didn’t you report his condition to me as soon as you knew it? Where is he now?”

 

Bergman tiredly defended himself, “Steve, please, I’ve had a long, trying day.”

 

“A long day? It was night when we came in - what time is it?”

 

“It’s almost four,” the doctor responded after a half glance at his watch. McGarrett’s eyes widened in dismay, and he opened his mouth, but Bergman cut him off. “Our boy is damn lucky he stopped moving when he did. By the time I got in there to dig it out, that round was getting ready to transect his external iliac vein. That’s a major vessel in the upper leg – he’d have been dead in minutes.”

 

The fight all but ripped from him, the officer’s brow furled. “He’s okay though now?”

 

“Danny’s in stable condition. He gave me a scare on the operating table – his blood pressure tanked – but somehow he held on until we could get a blood supply circulating.”

 

“Where?” The relief the Five-0 chief felt left him exhausted all over again despite what had obviously been at least fourteen hours of sleep. Bergman understood the abbreviated question.

 

“Just down the hallway – fresh out of the ICU. Do not give the nurses any grief, Steve!”

 

*****

 

In the distance, sirens blared. McGarrett breathed a little easier as he observed the rhythmic pattern of his friend’s heart beat on the oscilloscope. The chair in which he’d been dozing was not as comfortable as the bed he’d been forced to frequent for the past twenty four hours since his visit from Bergman, but it was more reassuring. He’d been allowed to wander into Williams’ room for fifteen minutes here and there the previous day, but was always “guided” back to his own bed down the hall. Annoyed, but acknowledging to himself that his vigor was probably returning more rapidly as a result of the enforced bed rest, the head of Five-0 hoped that Danno was experiencing the same benefits. The only problem was that his officer had not been awake during any of his visits for him to verify this.

 

Now mid-afternoon of Day Two, McGarrett rose and went to stand at the head of the bed. The medical people had reported dramatic improvement in Dan’s condition. His vital signs were stable, and his face had lost the deathly gray undertone, which had dominated his pallor since his arrival at the hospital. The urge to jostle the sleeping patient was over-whelming. The long hours of waiting for his friend to return to consciousness had given the senior officer plenty of time to steep in guilt over the incident which landed the both of them here. He’d replayed the scene over and over, drawing the same conclusion each time – he had pushed Williams into the line of fire…

 

He jumped slightly when the door creaked open. Duke and Chin evaluated the circumstance in the room before stepping in and approaching their colleague’s bedside opposite McGarrett.

 

“How’s he doin’, boss?” The Chinese detective cut to the chase.

 

“Improving,” came the brief response.

 

“And you?” Duke added.

 

 “I’ll be better when this one wakes up.” The Five-0 chief tossed a slight nod in the sleeping patient’s direction, and then quickly looked back.

 

Williams’ eyes were open, albeit not wide, and staring with obvious confusion straight into McGarrett’s surprised face.

 

“Danno!” He exchanged an overjoyed glance with his two vertical officers. Reaching out, he gently draped his hand around the side of his friend’s neck, a favored expression of affection from the lead detective towards his protégé. “How do you feel?”

 

Williams took a slow, pained swallow, and squeezed his eyes shut before opening them again and focusing with effort on the man hovering over him.

 

“Where am I?” His voice was barely audible, and it was clear that the first words were hard on his sea-damaged throat.

 

“You’re in Leahi. We – you and I – were in a car accident – do you remember?” McGarrett recalled his own memory-lapsed awakening.

Frowning delicately, Dan thought for several moments as his eyes panned to the other smiling officers and back to his boss.

“Yeah… I drove the cruiser into the ocean.” Not outwardly emotive, Williams lethargically added a question. “Steve… you’re not hurt?”

 

“I’m fine, aikane,” McGarrett gently squeezed Dan’s neck.

 

A faint smile graced the patient’s lips, but another question hung in his eyes. “I was shot?”

 

While McGarrett did his level best not to react outwardly, he flinched to the core of his soul at his protégé’s confusion at the chain of events which had brought the two of them to this place. Now – with his friend regaining a measure of clarity for the first time since he’d come out of surgery – was probably not the best time for him to hear that he’d been sabotaged by the man he had trusted to have his back in a gunfight.

 

“Yes, but the bullet is out now, and Doc’s got you all sewn up. You’re going to be fine, my friend.” The Five-0 chief’s lower lip quivered and he immediately stiffened his expression to mask his torment.

 

Trusting his mentor even now, McGarrett bitterly noted, Williams nodded ever so slightly before closing his eyes.

 

*****

 

“Where’s, uh, Steve?” Dan eyed Doc Bergman with concern as the medical man frowned at an untouched tray of unpalatably bland fare.

 

“Danny, you’ve got to eat – I’m sorry,” the physician responded, and then met the blue eyes of his patient, who was obviously still waiting for HIS question to be answered.

 

“He was released last night – or should I say he released himself. Five-0 – not a good patient amongst you!” Bergman’s role as the Five-0 staff physician often put him at odds with the men for whom he cared so frequently and deeply.

 

The heads of both patient and doctor turned to the opening door in unison as the head of Five-0 – hair now perfectly coiffed, attired in his typical high-end suit – strode into the room, and greeted the men crisply.

 

“Doc, the food in this place is motivation enough to get well!” All signs that the senior officer had been a patient himself only one night previously were vanquished. Looking dapper, and apparently mentally back on his game, McGarrett’s expression softened dramatically as he stepped close to his second’s bedside and gazed into the still-tired, blue eyes, which seemed to portend a storm – at least to the head of Five-0. Steve wondered whether his friend’s brooding demeanor was merely a product his own imagination. Given Williams’ weakened condition, there had not yet been a conversation about what happened in the garage.

 

“Hey, Danny! Glad to see you haven’t eaten yet! Mai made you some real food!” Chin announced jovially as he and Duke pushed into the room.

 

“Hi,” Dan spoke quietly and smiled at his visitors. “Tell Mai mahalo for me.”

 

Chin deposited a bag next to the tray with an aside sneer at the unwelcome broth and gelatin. “You’ll be eat’n like a king for as long as you want, bruddah – the HPD guys are feelin’ like you and Steve took a bullet for them.”

 

“A bullet for them…” The patient’s expression darkened, but only the senior officer seemed to notice. McGarrett decided at that moment that he and his friend had to talk TODAY. Everyone needed to offer their well wishes and leave the two of them to talk in private!

 

“Count Doris among them, Danny,” Duke chimed in.

 

“Before you head in to the office,” McGarrett cleared his throat – he was intent on feeling out Williams’ real mood, and not what his imagination was growing unchecked. His steel-blue eyes bore into Duke, while addressing the patient. “So, Danno, to summarize - you made it out of the car, swam with a bullet in your leg to the cave below the Blow Hole, and actually managed to clamber onto that giant ledge. THEN you dove BACK, and swam underwater most of the way – past the Molokai Express – over the coral to the sand beach of Hanauma Bay. Do I have it right?”

 

Dan – not particularly impressed with the feat (he recalled it with a less heroic tint…) or interested in discussing it – sighed. “Yeah, that’s it in a nutshell.”

 

“Well, Danny, don’t get me wrong, but I AM amazed.” Duke grinned at Steve. ”You were right.”

 

The patient reacted only with a polite, half-hearted nod. Well, there it was. Something was wrong – and Steve was certain he knew what it was.

 

Bergman also noticed, but came to a different conclusion.

 

“Gentlemen, I know you’ll find this hard to believe, but my patient needs to rest. Now, everyone please go away!”

 

Chin and Duke said their farewells, and promised to return again with more culinary delicacies from the law enforcement community. Bergman trailed behind them, leaving a cautionary glare at McGarrett in his way, but did not bother to admonish the man to depart – it would’ve done no good anyway, he knew.

 

Dan looked up slowly at his boss.

 

“Steve, are you alright? You’ve been acting… wary.”

 

Even in his debilitated state, Danno could read him. Steve tried to form the words of regret that weighed on his heart. He shook his head, unable at that moment to speak of his culpability in sending his officer into the path of the assassin’s bullet.

 

Williams’ expression grew more concerned as McGarrett struggled to pull the right words together. Steve agonized that he had inadvertently brought this on his friend. He had set the ill-fated trap. He had tried to push Danno out of the way, yes, but he’d been hit anyway!

 

“It’s my fault you took that bullet, Danno.” There – he’d gotten it out.

 

“What… I don’t understand.” Dan’s brow furled slightly as confusion graced his features for a few moments.

 

“I – uh – in that split-second when I realized the man in the wheelchair was the sniper, I – uh – I pushed you. I shoved you over, and dove in the other direction.” He blinked away the moisture and cleared his dry throat. “I pushed you into the bullet, Danno. I – I can’t even tell you how sorry I am. I had no idea…”

 

“That’s what you think?” Williams visibly relaxed. “I was already reacting – lowering my profile.”

 

Almost annoyed that his friend seemed to be gearing up for an argument about his confession, the Five-0 chief frowned. “Yeah, but you weren’t moving fast enough!”

 

“No, I wasn’t faster than a speeding bullet,” the patient admitted with a soft smile. “But I WAS setting myself up for a shot to the head or chest.”

 

“What are you talking about?”

 

“Steve, think about it – if I’d just crouched instead of being slammed to the side, that round would more than likely have hit me center mass, or maybe even in the head.”

 

The tall figure straightened slightly as he re-played the scene in his head.

 

“You saved my life,” the younger officer reinforced his assertion as if he grew weary of waiting for his boss to reach the proper conclusion. “I’m the one who nearly got us BOTH killed – we were in a gunfight, and I find a way to nearly drown us.”

 

Relieved and now in provisional agreement with his friend’s garage analysis, McGarrett realized that his officer had – in typical Williams fashion – found a way to blame himself for the sequence of events that had landed them both in the hospital! A huge weight lifted from his being. McGarrett’s lip quaked slightly as he spoke.

 

“Pretty impressive. Guilt through blood loss – I’m not sure a prosecutor could convict you on that. Don’t beat yourself up. Doc was telling me that adrenalin has kept soldiers on the battlefield going for hours before they realize they’re wounded. I’m sorry I wasn’t more attentive.”

 

A chagrinned patient locked eyes with his visitor. “Steve, we both reacted to the assailant with our instincts. It should’ve worked. It’s kinda sobering to realize, despite your brilliant plan, and our best efforts, either one of us could’ve ended up the killer’s victim.”

 

“Kinda sobering is an understatement, Danno.”

 

Too many variables, McGarrett considered as he, yet again, replayed those final, fateful moments in the garage. Unexpected was an understatement! That the sharp-shooting assassin was a criminal in a wheelchair had caught them cold and unprepared. It was the most basic mistake, often made by patrolmen stopping a suspect for a traffic violation – a lethal attack that comes out of nowhere. Danno, he, and the rest of the unit, had faced such situations time and again. What happened in the garage had been a set-up of McGarrett’s making. Maybe they could have acted differently in the split-second of decision when the unpredicted danger became tangible with bullets flying. That it succeeded with a terrible flaw riddled him with guilt all this time. He should have foreseen that Williams might feel the same way about the accident. Typical, they were sharing the same emotions on the flip-side. Their main concern was the safety, the life, of the other officer.

 

“So mahalo for saving my life,” Williams settled back onto his pillow, a soft smile replacing a wince of pain with the movement.

 

There was the inclination to dip back into the guilt by wallowing in the details, but Danno was ready to clear the slates. It was time to move forward. He wasn’t sure it was any easier to accept the tragedy as another incident, reminding them a cop was always a target. Taking the blame onto himself had made it more palatable – placing fault with his decisions instead of with the man who pulled the trigger. Now, they were at the point where they could put it behind them.

 

“I’d say anytime, but I’d rather not have to go through that again,” he agreed, mentally and emotionally stepping away from the blame.

 

“Me, too,” Dan concurred with a heartfelt sigh. “Now, can you accept my apology for driving us off a cliff?”

 

“The thought of blaming you never entered my mind.” He winked. “I have complete confidence in you.”

A subtle nod acknowledged he took the compliment with the all-encompassing message intended.

 

“Mahalo,” was his quiet response.

 

McGarrett squeezed his friend’s arm. With a deep, cleansing breath he sighed, grateful they had arrived at this spot. Alive. Together.

 

 

PAU