SEQUEL TO:

CHECK AND CHECKMATE

October 1974

 

 

POISON PAWN

 

BY

GM

and

 BARBARA HUFF

 

 

 

“Come on, Doc, I’m fine!” 

 

Looking across the exam room at his ally, Danny Williams was surprised that Steve McGarrett offered no words of support, but continued in the silent, concerned pacing he had engaged in since Williams arrived at the hospital.  Usually the first to nix any extended, unnecessary or time-wasting medical procedures (notably for himself, although Steve often came to his defense to extricate Dan from the clutches of medical tedium), this time the boss was pensively reticent.  In fact, Steve had been sullenly anxious since their emotional reunion on the beach.

 

Admittedly, Williams was still experiencing his own roller-coaster feelings of narrowly escaping death at Wo Fat’s seaside cabin where he had been nearly executed by fire when his captors left him to burn up in the shack.  Steve’s poignant and tearful greeting was as astounding as Dan’s good fortune to be alive. 

 

During the helo ride to the hospital, Dan had briefly questioned the reticent boss, but found out little about what had happened in his absence.  That someone had been killed in his place (everyone -- including Steve believed the corpse to be Williams), had been confirmed by a shaken McGarrett.  There had been little else said, despite Dan’s curiosity. 

 

Steve’s reluctance to discuss the matter caused Williams further speculation -- that it had been a nasty and emotional misconception McGarrett and others had believed.  Wo Fat was a master at deception and pain.  No surprise he had hit the target when planning to distract Five-0 by making it look like Williams was dead.  As a diversion, it was brilliant.  That it had worked far too well was evident in McGarrett’s grimly sober attitude; his fatigued appearance, his overly protective nature since their reunion.  Most telling of all, the refusal to discuss what had happened since Dan’s disappearance.

 

“Danny, you’ve got a concussion --“

 

“You said it was slight --“

 

“And I’m still the doctor!” Bergman snapped back in a tough bark. 

 

Hiding a smile, Dan knew the gruff nip was worse than his bite.  The physician’s initial reaction at seeing him had been almost as shocking as Steve’s crying.  When he walked into the hospital, Bergman had actually hugged him!  And the tough coroner’s eyes watered with barely-restrained tears.  Danny would have never expected that in a million years.

 

After the exam, Bergman concluded Williams suffered from fatigue, a slight concussion, bruised ribs and a few small, superficial burns on his hands and arms.  Dan was ready to leave, but Bergman insisted on studying the x-rays just to make sure there was no more serious head trauma.  Overcompensation.  He was used to it from Steve but never Bergman.

 

Imploringly, Williams gave an exasperated look to McGarrett.  “Steve --“

 

“He’s the doc,” was the boss’ firm counter comment.

 

It was enough to silence Williams into concerned speculation.  Things must have been really bad if Steve was now agreeing with Bergman!  Up until now all he wanted was to leave and sleep in his own bed.  Thinking tomorrow he could deal with things with a clear head and a little less soreness.  But the attitude worried him.  Again he pondered that it must have been a pretty bad experience if his colleagues were acting like this.

 

A short rap at the door was instantly followed by Chin Ho Kelly and Ben Kokua plunging into the room.  Without invitation and before Bergman could protest, both detectives surged forward and embraced Williams in strangling hugs.  They were talking at once and sniffing back tears and once more Williams was stunned at the reaction.  In the doorway, he spotted Duke Lukela, who hung back, but was smiling, wiping away moisture at the side of his face.

 

He grew a little uncomfortable about sitting on the examination table, shirtless as he realized that his colleagues had all taken distressed glances at the massive dark bruises on his torso that were a clear indication to them that he’d been repeatedly kicked. 

 

They asked questions and commented and teased, but it was all a buzz of activity on a sub-level.  Dazed, Dan accepted it all in a blur of astonishment.  His mind -- maybe due to the concussion -- was whirling with confusion.  The perplexity slowly turned to disturbance.

 

The rest of the room seemed to fade away in a wash of fuzzy vision and sound.  He looked up and watched McGarrett, who had paused in his pacing.  Steve stared at him -- a somber, level, penetrating gaze.  On a deep level that they sometimes seemed to mutually touch, Dan understood what had transpired.  He needed no details or blow-by-blow report.  He needed only to look into those intense blue eyes for a sounding of pain and a measure of the depth of trauma suffered by his friend.

 

His friends -- apparently all of them -- were completely convinced he had died.  Until then, he had no comprehension of the depth of that erroneous misconception.

 

The realization nearly took his breath away and left him chilled and weary with the clutching evil still lingering from Wo Fat’s oh-so-effective machinations.

 

Bergman quickly took command of the deteriorating situation and demanded everyone leave.  Somehow someone -- probably Steve -- had communicated the need for some clothing and Ben handed him a shirt (his had been taken by Wo Fat and company), and whispered something about an escape plan, then was hustled away.  Dan shouldered into the shirt, that must have been Ben’s because it was three sizes too big, then stepped off the table and moved toward the door.  Bergman headed him off.

 

“Danny --“

 

“Doc, please, just let me go home and eat some real food and shower and get some rest,” he implored in his most sincere tone.  “Please.  After living on a floor for days, I just want to sleep in my own bed.”

 

In a show of support, McGarrett moved to Williams’ side.  With a glance, Bergman surrendered.  Issuing orders, promising to drop by a prescription of mild pain-relievers, Bergman allowed the detective to leave.

 

Out in the corridor, Williams noted McGarrett walking tensely beside him.  Although the emotional purge was outwardly over, there was a lingering strain that may not diminish for some time.  Wo Fat, the master player at maneuvering men and events like pawns on a chessboard, had hit the heart of Five-0 this time.  He had removed a key player and while not toppling the king, had effectively wrecked havoc among his opponents.  That he had been that sacrificial pawn was a wounding point in his heart.  He had been used to endanger his friends and truly hurt McGarrett.  Wo Fat had told him as much, but he never understood the level of anguish inflicted until now.

 

McGarrett moved ahead to punch the elevator button.  Unable to contain his distress, he touched McGarrett’s sleeve and motioned him into a nearby corner.  This was probably not the right time or place, but nasty speculations and deep emotions were surfacing and he had to give them some attention.

 

“Steve, Wo Fat made you think I was dead.  He really did a good job I take it?”

 

“Yeah,” McGarrett tightly confirmed. 

 

They had covered as much in the chopper ride here, but Dan now needed to know more.

 

“So there was a body—”

 

Irritated, McGarrett moved back to punch again at the elevator button.  “Yeah.  Look, Danno, it’s over.  You’re back in one piece.  Wo Fat is gone.  The ambassador is safe.  Let’s just leave it at that.”

 

The doors opened and McGarrett stepped in.  Williams followed, unsettled and unsure how to tackle the interrogation.  Steve could be the most stubborn guy around when he did not want to do something.  And an argument would never sway him.  Dan could sometimes persuade him with logic and charm, but he was too tired and Steve too keyed up over the whole affair to be receptive even if Dan could summon the energy to try.

 

‘Okay, round one to you, Steve.  But I’m not going to let this drop.  I can’t.  In a manner of speaking, I died.  You can’t just leave me hanging on something like this.  Not after what it did to you and all my other friends.’

 

*****

 

With a final glance into the apartment, McGarrett stood at the door, reluctant to leave.  On the way back from the hospital, they stopped for food and came right to Danno’s place.  Starved, Williams had eaten in the car -- a precedent Steve allowed only this once -- and by the time they reached his home, he was showing the fatigue shadowing his demeanor since their reunion on the beach.

 

Dan had slumped onto the couch as soon as they entered while McGarrett opened the lanai doors to let in some fresh air.  When he looked back, Williams was already asleep.   For a while, Steve stayed there, studying his friend and trying not to think back to the last few days of horror.  Instead, he strove to focus on the tangible -- the present -- the real. 

 

Danno was alive. 

 

The evil plot was behind them and it was time to move on.  How could he?  As solid as it was to see Dan before him; hear his steady breathing, feel the warm breeze, smell the salt air and odor of French fries, it was hard to trust this was real.  As substantial as it had felt to hold onto Danno on that beach and on the chopper ride back, Steve was still finding it so difficult to believe this was true.  Too good to be true.

 

Shying away from the doubts, he knew they lingered because the death had been so soul-deep agonizing.  It had scarred him so profoundly he was not sure how long it would take for the horrific grief and residual agony to leave.  It had diminished, of course, when he spotted Williams on that beach.  But, it was a wraith in his heart that would not be soon forgotten.

 

Forcing himself out the door, he softly closed it and leaned there, summoning reason to vanquish the phobia -- a fear-based superstition that nearly paralyzed him. This common barrier was a separation from his officer.  It broke the visual certainty he had when in the same room with his friend -- that the past was a terrible nightmare and the present was secure.

 

 

*****

 

Feeling self-indulgent when he finally woke up after nine in the morning, Danny didn’t consider himself physically up to his usual morning swim.  A persistent headache from the concussion, and general lingering aches and pains from his ordeal effortlessly convinced him to follow the doctor’s orders and take life easy.

 

Walking down to a classy beach restaurant at one of the major hotels, he impulsively dipped into the hair salon there and had his hair trimmed short to even out the singed areas.  They charged triple what his usual barber would, but this morning he felt a little extravagant.  He had basically risen from the tomb -- figuratively for his friends and almost literally for himself. 

 

Imprisoned with little food and water and plenty of rough treatment for three days, he didn’t have a problem absorbing the beautiful day or treating himself to a sumptuous breakfast of macadamia nut pancakes while he watched surfers glide on the sun-glistening morning waves of Waikiki.  A rainbow arched over the Sheraton-Waikiki and he could hardly take his eyes off the postcard perfect view. 

 

Simple, ordinary things took on a new importance this morning -- when he brushed his teeth for the first time in four days, showered, wore clean clothes.  Surf, rainbows, palm trees in the morning sun. Mundane, everyday things he took for granted before.

 

Walking back to his condo via the beach, he squished his toes in the sand and waded in the warm surf, watching the tourists and surfers.  He contemplated his options for the day and by the time he returned home, he’d come up with a satisfying plan.  Last night after dropping him at home, Steve promised to come by with lunch at some point.  Before then, Dan needed to have some answers.  The disturbing events surrounding his kidnapping did not seem any less pressing in the warm and glittering sunshine of the tropical morning.  He needed to know what happened, but knew Steve would not be willing to say much more than he did the day before.

 

At the risk of censure, he cruised in his Mustang (convinced his mild concussion was no barrier to driving) to HPD.  Walking through the main squad room, he was overwhelmed by the joyous reaction he received from many of his friends.  It was an emotional reunion and another clear indication that his reported death had affected many.  Touched and a bit disconcerted, he was psychologically off balance as he came to a stop at Sergeant Duke Lukela’s desk.

 

The older Hawaiian officer stared at him evenly, obvious disapproval on his clearly readable face.  He gave the detective a steady glare.

 

“Shouldn’t you be resting?”

 

Once again, Williams was reminded of his unusual role in the universe.  Although he carried incredible responsibility, authority and experience as the second-in-command of Hawaii Five-0, he was frequently treated like the kid brother of the team who sometimes required adult supervision.  With an inward sigh, he reminded himself he would get a lot of this in the next few days.  They had been through a rough time with his kidnapping and supposed death and this was how his protective friends reacted.  It was a good and comforting response for the most part.  He brushed past the mild annoyance at feeling hemmed in and focused on the appreciation at being alive and back in the fold.

 

“I’m doing fine, thanks,” he wryly assured.  “Nothing strenuous in visiting my friends.”  He grabbed a chair from a nearby desk and sat down opposite Lukela.  “I wanted to ask you about what happened while I was gone.”

 

Studying the younger man, Duke seemed to close down and become distant and unreadable at once.  “What did Steve say?”

 

Count on Duke to come right to the point. Now knowing this was going to be a tough session, he responded, “I didn’t ask him.”

 

A grimace of distaste rippled on the strong Polynesian features, and Lukela momentarily seemed to age in an instant.  “Don’t,” was the curt response.  Ever protective of his long-time colleague, McGarrett, Duke‘s purposes rarely conflicted with Williams’ goal of watching out for their mutual friend.  “Steve doesn’t need to be reminded.”

 

Not to be put off from his goal, Danny firmly assured, “I know.  But I need some answers, Duke.”

 

Now annoyed, the Hawaiian shook his head.  “We thought you were dead, Danny.  What more do you need to know?”

Leaning close, intensity colored his tone.  “It was tough for me, too, you know.  Coming back to realize you guys thought I was dead!” On some level, he needed to share that.  On another level, he needed answers for his own satisfaction. 

 

The dark eyes that no longer studied him seemed distant and pained.  There was a murky and deep story here and Dan knew Duke was not going to help.  It was too much to ask and again, he felt conflicted by the shielding attitude that sometimes turned restricting.  Was it Steve, or him, or Duke himself that Lukela was protecting this time? 

 

“Just drop it, Danny.”  Duke refused to look at him.

 

Knowing the interview was over, Dan mumbled some comments of farewell and left.  A little flustered at the scene he sat in his car and soaked up the warm and soothing Hawaiian sunshine.  The questions had disturbed the sergeant and Dan was uncomfortable pressing his friends. Especially since Duke was walking a tightrope of trying to protect all parties involved. 

 

Should he try questioning Chin or Ben?   They were probably at the office and he did not want to confront Steve.  Irked at feeling like a wayward kid about to be caught for some infraction, he powered up the Mustang and drove to talk to someone he could always count on for frank honesty.

 

 

*****

 

Walking in the familiar hospital grounds in his casual wear reminded him this was completely unofficial and he had to ready himself mentally for the next interview.  Standing outside the doors to the morgue, he took a moment to appreciate the liquid sunshine misting on his skin and the warm sun shining through the gentle drizzle blown over the city from off shore clouds.  The moisture and Trades caught the scent of the plumeria surrounding the grounds and he closed his eyes, breathing in the humidity and Island scents.  A world away from the dryness of the Makaha/Kaena coast where he had been held captive. 

 

Over one of the old downtown buildings part of a rainbow arced in the dazzling blue sky.  He hadn’t thought about it much while a prisoner, but now it seemed another small renewal of life that he was back here in the bustling city; amid the rain and rainbows and freedom.

 

Long accustomed to visiting the morgue, Dan sailed through the doors and was nonetheless relieved to find Bergman in his crowded and cluttered office.  Their usual meets were over dead bodies or in hospital rooms and Dan was grateful for this diversion.  Being among dead bodies, or watching autopsies was not a problem for the seasoned cop, but if they didn’t have to have discussion in the same room with a corpse that was fine with him.

 

“Hi, Doc.”

 

Bergman’s looked up, a glare of irritation already on his features.  “Danny, you remind me how grateful I am to be a coroner.  My usual patients never disobey my orders.  Only my Five-0 patients take that prize.  Frequently.”

 

“I’m fine --“

 

“You are supposed to be resting.  And I will be the judge on whether you are fine or not!”

 

Flinching, the younger man tried to regain control of the moment and plunged in with his question before the Doc could sidetrack the conversation.  “Doc, this has been bugging me.  What happened while I was -- gone?  No one wants to talk about it.  There was a body,” he quickly moved ahead, coming to another source of trouble and guilt for him.   “Somebody died in my place.”

 

Bergman stopped scribbling on a form and stabbed the pencil at the detective.  “Don’t go feeling responsible, Danny.”

 

“I need to know what happened, Doc.”

 

“You didn’t pester Steve with --“

 

“No,” Dan assured flatly.  “He won’t say --“

 

“You did!”  That seemed to anger the crusty physician. “Just drop it, Danny!”

 

“That’s what Duke told me.  Can’t you--“

 

“Duke!  You asked Duke?”

 

These harsh reactions were all wrong and Williams was startled at the vociferous passion from the coroner.  As if he had committed some unspeakable sin, Bergman was acting like he was completely out of line.  Not being protective at all, but combative.  What was going on?  Deciding he could no longer read the man, not wanting to be on the defensive any more, he rushed ahead to his primary goal. 

 

“Doc, this concerns me, too.  Don’t push me away.”

 

The crusty face turned hard.  “All right, detective, what do you want to know?  Shall I begin when Duke called me the other morning warning me that you were missing and it was possible your corpse could end up on my slab at some point during the day?”

 

Williams gulped down a knot of distress and anguish, struck hard at the emotional intensity from the Coroner.

 

“Let’s start with finding the body.  Duke went up there to Laie Point to check it out for himself.  The patrolmen who found the shark-attacked, decapitated body thought it was a little unusual that a handcuff was on one mangled wrist.”

 

Shark attack.  Dan’s stomach twisted at the thought.  As the insensitive and severe explanation unfolded, Dan sank into a nearby chair, heedless of the papers and folders he was smashing.  His body felt limp as Bergman callously spoke of Duke finding a Five-0 badge on the victim.

 

As clearly as if he stood there, Dan could feel the warm wind off the North Shore as Lukela must have.  Standing on the black lava rocks, staring into the deep blue of the ocean that gave up the dead and still harbored the ruthless sea monster that had ripped apart a body Duke grieved to find. 

 

Bergman detailed how the torn and piecemeal body had been delivered to the morgue, accompanied by Lukela.  The grief-stricken sergeant had stood by while Bergman made preliminary findings, concluding well after midnight.  Both needing to know, and yet dreading certainty.  Neither wanting to accept the gruesome, tangible, ragged, bloody truth before them.

 

It was Lukela who demanded he be the one to tell McGarrett.  And not long after, Steve showed up at the morgue, already broken and bleeding inside, but insisting he personally go over every article recovered with the body.

 

“That was a black day for Five-0, Danny, and all of us connected with you.  No one who knows you wants to go back to that dark place.  It was like a -- a hole.  A deep, dank cave inside us.  And don’t you dare even think about asking Jenny about any of this!” he was back to shouting.  “She was in tears every time I called over there after you were missing.  It was a blessing she was not there when I delivered the report about the body!”

 

Dan could only shake his head in agreement.  Jenny was the mother hen of the unit -- held them together like glue in every crisis.  Many times, she had been the one there to console and support him when Steve was out of action or when some other dramatic tragedy struck.  He wouldn’t dream of making her hurt anymore, just as he was sorry all his friends -- mostly Steve -- suffered.

 

“Do you want to see the body now?”

 

Dan already felt sick.  “No.”  A new horror gripped him.  “Steve didn’t --“

 

“No, I wouldn’t let him.”  Bergman continued with heartless honesty.  “Imagine, though, when I had to report that the grisly shark attack was pre-mortem.  That the head and hands had been severed while the victim -- you -- were still alive.”

 

The cruelty brought tears to his eyes.  “How could you do that to Steve?”

 

“Because I accepted circumstantial evidence!  Your ID, your build, your blood type.  I had to decide to tell Steve that his best friend had just been murdered and then fed to the sharks!  And I had to do it before the press found out, but before I had time to do an autopsy.  Your captives had this very well planned, Danny.  It was the personal angle that tripped them up.”

 

Still stunned, feeling appalled, Williams just stared at the doctor.

 

“That Duke and I and HPD would take this personally.  We wanted to protect Steve and Chin and Ben.  And ourselves.”  The gruffness dissolved and his voice was thick, his eyes watery.  “We moved quickly and the false victim was discovered quickly.  That’s probably what saved your life, young man,” he nearly accused.  The anger was flaring back.  “You know you had my assistants in tears!  You have quite an impact on this little corner of the world, Officer Williams!”

 

Danny could only shake his head, stunned and hurting from the horrors inflicted on his friends.

 

“You can only imagine what we all felt.  And I don’t know that any of us can really comprehend what Steve felt when he left this office. He was just destroyed,” he whispered. The doctor’s eyes grew sorrowful and distant at the recollection. “I never thought I’d see Steve McGarrett crumble.  It was heartbreaking.”

 

Wiping tears of anguish from his face, Danny could almost imagine the level of horror and mourning McGarrett had reached.  He himself felt shadowed fragments of those dreads whenever Steve was injured, hospitalized and his life threatened.  What kind of devastation was it for Steve to really believe he was dead?  The desolation was unimaginable, yes, but Danny thought he could come close -- had come close -- on too many occasions.

 

Next came the lecture, and Bergman cautioned Williams about future dealings.  When friends and acquaintances approached him with tears of relief and joy, unable to put their feelings into words or describe what happened, that he could go a long way in helping them heal if he just accepted that fact without pressing them to dig any deeper into a painful situation. AND that his very demeanor could help put everyone on the road to healing.

 

Nodding, Dan thanked the coroner -- although he did not quite know WHY he was thanking the man who had made him feel so horrible.  He stumbled out of the room, grateful for the brilliant sunshine and fresh air of his Islands.

 

Head throbbing and feeling ill and depressed, he rounded a hedge of plumeria in the parking lot.  He was rocked to spot Steve McGarrett -- pensive, subdued, grim -- leaning on the Mustang.

 

Astounded, he stopped and stared.  Knowing now what had happened in his absence, for the first time in many years he was uncertain of what to say or how to approach his friend.  Their eyes seemed to read everything under the skin clearly, and McGarrett gave a little nod.  As if he understood everything; every thought, every horror, every guilt. 

 

“Let’s go for a walk.”

 

 

*****

 

 

When Lukela had called him to report Williams’ investigation, McGarrett was naturally irritated.  Typically, his officer refused to recuperate properly and was satisfying his stubborn nature. 

 

Steve couldn’t condemn him for being curious and wanting resolution -- that was what made him a good cop and that was part of being a cop.  They had to finish this, but Steve could not bring himself to be the one to provide that resolution. 

Without realizing their path as they strolled, Steve was a little disconcerted to find he brought them to the Palace bandstand.  Just a few nights ago, he had wept himself empty walking to these steps, believing the man beside him was dead and lost forever.  This was a nearly surreal moment and McGarrett moved to lean a hand on the wooden rail of the old stand.  A firm and tangible placement in the reality of this morning and not a slip into the tragic past.

 

“You want to know what happened,” he started quietly.

 

Dropping heavily onto the steps, Williams held his head in his hands.  “I know enough,” he quietly responded.  “I’m sorry I pressed you yesterday.  I had no idea . . . .” he trailed off to a whisper, the terror clearly imprinted in his shaky voice, and in his strained expression and pale face when he raised his head. 

 

“You didn’t need to know,” Steve shot back.

 

“No, I think I did,” Dan replied shakily.  “I asked for it and -- now I understand.”

 

A little angry at Bergman for spilling details that Williams shouldn’t be burdened with, he was sharper than necessary.  In retrospect, Steve first considered the younger detective got the easy end of things, but then realized it was unfair to even compare the experiences.  Studying the bruises and barely concealed cuts, considering the wan and fatigued pallor of his usually energetic detective, Steve tempered his rash judgment.  It was tough on all of them for varying emotional and physical reasons and no one had come away unscathed.

 

What happened on this side of the abduction was tragically horrific.  Danno, though, had been brutalized, threatened with death and held captive -- the uncertainty of his fate and the fate of others gnawing at him -- for three days.  It was a plan geared for maximum pain and the master spy from China had engineered it to perfection.  That Williams was alive was more luck than skill and Steve was chilled at that near-constant realization.

 

A number of people strolling across the lawns of the Palace recalled McGarrett from his deep reverie and back to reality.  Tourists and locals walked nearby, appreciating the historic building and the calm-within-the-city of the huge, spacious grounds and the peace settled here.  How the bright morning sun streamed through the massive trees and the morning Trades kissed the air with sea-mist and plumeria.  Amazing how unaware he had been of all around him when lost in the deeply emotional past. 

 

Again, Steve was struck with the un-reality of the moment -- the luster of paradise and the normalcy of common lives swirling around him when he was only hours away and geographically at ground-zero from when his world had been destroyed.

 

McGarrett sat down and put an arm around Danno’s shoulders.  “I’m just glad you’re back,” he declared with more emotion in his cracked voice than he wanted to reveal.  “When you were -- missing -- I couldn’t think of much else but getting you back,” he confessed with difficulty, slowly beginning what needed to be revealed.  He didn’t mention how hampered he was by responsibilities to the Governor or the ambassador.  He had diverted manpower and attention away from the search to do his duty.  But his own energies and concerns were always with Williams.  “Now that you’re safe, there is nothing more important than getting Wo Fat.”

 

“I know.  I want him, too.”

 

The two friends sat there for another few minutes, not speaking, and as the silence extended, it calmed their mutually raw nerves.  McGarrett could almost guess what was coming next.  Danno had learned some of the awful truth from Bergman, but it was not enough to stunt the curiosity and the need to act like a cop.

 

“I want to work on this with you, Steve.”

 

Although he expected the request, anticipated it coming at any moment, the denial was instant and without thought.  “There’s nothing to work on.” 

 

Wo Fat.  IDing the dead body that was supposed to be --“

 

“We can do that without you --“

 

“Steve, let me be part of this.  Please.  This is personal and important for you, but it applies for me, too.”

 

He could still feel the emptiness when he had wondered over Williams’ absence.  When the mystery of the abduction robbed him of a valued ally and detective and more than anything he wished Danno back to the banalities of police work. Now he was pushing his officer away.  Why?  To keep him safe?  To help him recover?  To protect him from the brutal anguish suffered during this ordeal?  

 

He had to stop cloistering his friend, but it was not so easy to give in.  The terrible and sharp fears were only a breath away; only a thought distant from the bright and positive reality he lived within now.

 

 

*****

 

 

Almost reaching the front steps of Iolani Palace, Chin Ho Kelly stopped.  “Is that Danny with Steve?”

 

Ben Kokua paused next to him and peered in the direction indicated.  On the steps of the bandstand were their colleagues.  Danny’s bright blue and white aloha shirt was unmistakable and Ben thought of a similar shirt that had been part of the mis-identification of the deceased.  It could be a long time before he looked at those colors on a shirt again and did not think of a shark-attacked body.

 

“Yeah, that’s Danny.”

 

“Good,” Chin sighed with a smile.  “Things are getting back to normal now.”  He started up the stairs.

“You think the boss is going to let Danny come back so soon?”

 

“You think Steve will refuse him?” Kelly laughed at the incongruity of that thought.  “Like I said, back to normal.”

 

 

*****

 

 

“Now, why don’t you go home and take it easy,” Steve suggested as he came to his feet.

 

Williams joined him as they walked toward the Palace and Williams did not divert toward the ME’s office where his car was parked.

 

“Danno --“

 

“Steve --“

 

“You are not back on the payroll yet, Danno.”

 

“I can help, Steve.”

 

Rolling his eyes, Steve surrendered reluctantly and told him he could come up to the office briefly and get an update on the case.  He was to conserve his energy at all times.  And don’t expect to stay all day, either. 

 

Complying without protest, Williams kept up with the boss as they walked -- at a placid, reserved pace for Steve -- up to the Five-0 offices. 

 

The staff here also greeted him like the proverbial Prodigal Son and he was warmly welcomed by secretaries and officers. Jenny was out of the office -- a fact that made Dan secretly grateful.  These emotional reunions were wearing on him and it made him remember how sick he felt at Bergman’s lecture.  Mindful of the harsh words, he asked no questions of anyone and returned their comments with positive assurances that he didn’t completely feel, but managed to convey convincingly.

 

McGarrett observed the reactions with a knot in his throat.  He could not focus on the words, he was only aware that he was again experiencing a cherished, treasured moment that before this week he took for granted.  Several days ago, he was certain these insignificant little scenes were gone for good.  Now, he was learning to appreciate them completely.

 

Dan finally drifted into the big office and closed the door.  Since Danno’s return, he had wondered when there would be an appropriate time for this.  It almost deserved a little ceremony.  Resurrections did not happen every day.  There would be no fanfare, of course, but in his heart, as he opened one of his side drawers, he felt joy exploding like fireworks.  He withdrew an envelope and walked around the desk.  Tipping out the contents, a leather badge case, Dan’s .22 automatic, and a wallet fell out. 

 

“These are yours,” he thickly offered, pushing the items toward the officer.  “Welcome back.”  He patted Dan’s shoulder, hoping the gesture and the symbolic return of these important icons served to cover the full meanings he meant to express without the words that would be cracked with deep emotion.

 

Reclaiming the possessions, Dan nodded, his eyes moist.  “Thanks.  You don’t know how good it is to be back.”

 

“I think I do,” McGarrett breathed out in an unsteady voice.  “I think I do.”

 

Considering how secure it felt to return to near-normal, McGarrett deemed it unfair to exclude Williams from the investigation.  As adequately proven today -- and frequently in the past -- Danno had a mind and will of his own and frequently put it into use with or without McGarrett’s permission. 

 

In Danno’s opinion, banning him from the case was akin to punishment and Steve did not want to give that impression at all.  He was, in fact, too overjoyed at Dan’s return to think of much else and had done little today in the way of progress in the investigation.  It was time to have his balance back and make his team complete again.

 

“Okay, Danno, you’re back on the case,” he announced without preamble.

 

“I am?”

 

Steve surrendered a smile at the way the younger detective’s countenance lit up.  It was like clouds had been swept away and the sun was shining again.  Appreciating the warm brightness after the darkest of days, he nodded.  “Yeah.  But you have to take it easy, Danno.  You’ve got a concussion, don’t forget.”

 

Shade gloomed his expression and snuffed out the buoyancy almost instantly.  “I’ll take it easy, I promise.” Williams sat down in one of the white chairs in front of the desk.  He seemed a bit strained -- it had been an emotionally trying morning already and Steve had to remind himself that Danno was still on the sick list.  “Just don’t tell Bergman I’m back to work.”

 

Wondering what had put the fear of God in him like that, McGarrett felt he better make contact with the Coroner and find out what had transpired with his favored detective and the crusty medico.

 

Steve sat down in the chair next to his friend.  “Deal.  As long as you behave yourself.”

 

“Promise.”

 

It was a solemn pledge and Steve lightly pondered that he might need to use Bergman’s techniques in the future to control his officer.

 

“What have you got so far?”

 

“Not much.  Chin started investigating the -- body -- but handed it over to HPD yesterday.  No one at Five-0 had time to complete the investigation.  Presumably Chin is checking on that, but we’ve been wrapping things with the Governor and the Russians.”

 

“And tracking Wo Fat?”

 

“Not much luck there.”  He shook his head, slipping into the darkness again -- the evil the consummate chess master had perpetrated on them.  “If nothing else, Wo Fat is still as skilled as ever.”   The frustrated irritation was clear.  “Do you know the number one rule in chess, Danno?”

 

“To win?”

 

Smirking, Steve shook his head.  “Before that.  To never play the opponent’s game.  Play your own game.  Don’t let the enemy control the board.”  He shook his head.  “I let Wo Fat play his game.”

 

Grimly, Williams reminded, “He had all the aces.”

 

“Despite mixing metaphors, you’re right,” was the somber agreement. 

 

There was no more effective ploy than what Wo Fat had engineered as a distraction.  Removing Williams from the field had been a cruel and cutting ploy.

 

 “Danno, do you know what a poison pawn is?”

 

“No.”

 

“A chess term.  A poison pawn is a pawn that seems undefended and vulnerable, thus permitting the master of this “bait” pawn to engage in a strong attack on some other front or to win the piece that captured the pawn.  Think of the poison pawn as a fish hook.”

 

“Bait.”  The grimace on his face said it all.  “I’m the poison pawn?”

 

“You were in a manner of speaking.  Wo Fat used you to be the bait.  Hoping not to capture me, but in this case, foil my plans with the ambassador.”

 

“Wicked.”

 

“Yeah.”

 

‘King takes knight,’ Wo Fat told me.  Check and checkmate.  He thought it was checkmate.”

 

McGarrett flexed his fists in angered frustration at what Wo Fat did to them.  It was almost checkmate for good and he had never had control over any part of the game.  Good luck and Danno’s will to survive brought them out of this -- turning the table and upsetting the chessboard the Chinese spy had so carefully constructed.  The anger and hate still inside burned hot for his enemy.

 

A light touch on his arm brought him out of the intent reverie.  Williams’ eyes bore into his.  “You won, Steve.  Wo Fat lost.  Again.”  He was sobered.  “He’s got to be really mad at you.”

 

A chill slithered across his shoulder blades.  “I know.  And that worries me.”

 

“You think he’s got something planned . . . .” it was as if his total concentration just dropped off a cliff and Dan was in another world.

 

“Danno?”

 

“I -- uh -- just remembered something.  Something I overheard at the beach shack.”

 

McGarrett realized how sloppy this emotional roller coast had made him.  Completely forgetting police procedure, he had never debriefed Williams about his side of the traumatizing experience.  Did not want to debrief him, more specifically.  As an emotional friend and not a cop, he wanted them all to move on and forget the pain.  But that was a mistake.  Danno, as he had speculated before, had his own experiences from the captivity and for the first time Steve realized they might be useful -- even vital.

 

“What, Danno?”

 

“That this was part one -- no -- phase one.  Killing the ambassador was phase one.”

 

Despite the warmth of the tropical breeze from the open lanai doors, Steve was chilled.  “That implies there is a phase two.”

 

“Yeah, it does.”

 

Hoping he was not making a mistake -- hoping he was not pushing his friend too much -- McGarrett was now eager to learn more about Dan’s side of the misadventure.  Maybe it would hold the clues they needed to track down Wo Fat.  He would start easy and go for the verbal report.  Williams shined with the one-on-one dialog.

 

Hating the inquiry even as the words left his mouth, McGarrett knew he needed answers from his friend. “You ready to tell me what happened?”

 

Dan’s grimace of extreme distaste was clearly a visceral response to the idea.  “No.”  He ran his fingers through his shortened hair.  “I --" He shook his head.  “There’s been so much pain already . . . .”

 

Touched deeply, Steve knew his friend was protecting him.  Whatever Bergman had told the younger officer had scalded him against talking about the incident at all and that was not good.  They needed to work this out even if there was no need for an official de-briefing at the moment.  But there was need for that, too.  It seemed cruel, but it was probably best for them all.

 

This was territory where Danny did not want to take his friend.  Even before Bergman’s lecture, he was sensitive to what Steve had been through.  Knowing Dan’s pain and humiliation and ill treatment would not help anything he was sure.  It would only further anger and injure McGarrett.  But there was no getting around it, so he accepted it as a necessary evil -- promising himself to gloss over as much as possible.

 

“Danno, it’s okay.  I need to know what happened, just like you needed to know.  What you experienced wasn’t any better than what we felt here, I’ll bet.  But we made it through.  Wo Fat did not win.”  He patted Dan’s shoulder.  “You are living proof that we came out okay.”

 

With a nod, Williams slowly, quietly, reluctantly began.  “When I got home from shopping someone hit me from behind.  I tried to fight . . .” he trailed off. 

 

Not looking at Steve, he shrugged and the boss did not interrupt or interfere with the tough beginnings.  Williams was obviously going to leave out some of the worst, most graphic details, and McGarrett would not press him.  He had the sense of being protected and sheltered and it was a common position for Williams.  One that Steve sometimes did not like, but this time accepted with humble silence. 

 

“I was bound and dumped in a trunk.  I was in and out of consciousness a lot of the time.  They didn’t let me sleep much . . .  At first, I was blindfolded and roughed up by the hired help.  I didn’t get a lot of sleep . . . I didn’t know what they wanted . . .  Then Wo Fat arrived on the scene and that’s when he let me know his plan was to kill the ambassador and get to you by killing me.  He always has a plan, our fat friend.  Good thing you’re still better than him, Steve.”

 

Grinding his teeth to keep out of the flow of information, McGarrett’s anger escalated as he imagined his mortal enemy threatening and intimidating his closest friend.  There was a lot Dan was leaving out and McGarrett did not press him any more.  The younger man was worn out and suffering the physical and emotional feedback of the ordeal.

 

“Yeah.”

 

“I must know more than I’m remembering, Steve,” he snapped out, completely frustrated, rubbing at his temples.”

 

“Take it easy,” McGarrett reassured, gripping onto the back of his neck in a show of support.  “It will come.  Be patient.”  He could advise it, but not practice such counsel -- burning with rage at his enemy and frustration at Dan’s physical limitations.  “This will just take a little time.”

 

Chin Ho and Ben Kokua arrived.  McGarrett urged his officer to continue and reluctantly, a little self-conscious with the growing audience, Williams elucidated. 

 

“There were three thugs with him.  Mostly two of them stayed with me and one went out with Wo Fat.  I remember the two thugs arguing about that.”

 

“Did they converse in English?”

 

“Mostly.”  Slowly, it was coming, he could see the excitement of unraveling mystery glitter in Dan’s eyes. “They knew the islands.  They talked about ordering food.  Maybe they were locals.”

 

While in captivity, Dan overheard numerous conversations, some Chinese, some English.  It was more than McGarrett hoped for actually, and he was anxious to learn it all, but tempered his eagerness.  It had taken him long enough to ask for this debriefing and although the information might be vital, his officer’s health was more important.  Dan was still working with a concussion and supposed to be off duty, but here he was -- only one day post-resurrection -- helping Five-0.

 

“I don’t suppose any of the Chinese conversations stick in your mind.” It wasn’t a question from McGarrett so much as a lamentation.

 

Dan frowned and gazed down for a moment before he glanced up and spoke to Chin.  “More details about phase two? I don’t know.  Nee how shin wa.” The younger man looked down in concentration again and closed his eyes as Steve and Ben looked with a little surprise and bounced glances expectantly from Dan to the Chinese detective, who remained focused on the words he was hearing. “Hai…hai dook na liang—” The frown on Dan’s face deepened for a moment before he looked back up at Chin in frustration and shrugged.

 

Chin was undaunted however. “You heard ‘Nee how shin wa’ or did you hear ‘Nee how shin wa?’”

 

Dan looked blankly at his colleague. “What’s the difference?”

 

“Emphasis. Listen again and tell me – did you hear ‘Nee how shin wa’ or did you hear ‘Nee how shin wa?’”

 

Another several seconds of silence ensued while Dan replayed the scene in his mind’s eye. He looked up suddenly then. “Nee how shin wa! The first one!”

 

“You sure?” Chin asked.

 

Dan smiled. “Yeah – so what does it mean?”

 

The Oriental detective rubbed his chin. “If it’s Cantonese, it means ‘How spicy do you want the dish?’” Everyone was instantly deflated, and McGarrett turned away slowly. 

 

Ben had to chuckle.  “So you remember what kind of carryout they ordered?”

 

Dan shot a mildly annoyed, but sheepish expression at the detective before Chin finished his thought.

 

“BUT if it’s Mandarin, then the question turns into, ‘How big do you wish the explosion to be?’”

 

McGarrett snapped his focus back to Chin. “Wo Fat speaks both, but I’m betting that he didn’t invite guests over to entertain! What about the other phrase?”  McGarrett stepped closer to Williams as he addressed Chin, who shook his head apologetically.

 

“Not sure, boss – Liang is a name.” 

 

Steve turned his focus back to his second-in-command. “Danno, can you remember ANYTHING else?”  He barely paused.  “Think back, Danno.  What were you doing?  Where were you?  What were they doing?  Put yourself back in that place in your mind.”

 

It was an emotional place to which Danny did not want to return -- nor did he think it was a spot McGarrett was going to like hearing about. But seeing the intent expression in his boss’s eyes, he tried to dig deeper into his memory for a few moments before he admitted.  “My head was under Wo Fat’s foot at the time – I think I might’ve blacked out – I don’t remember anything else until somebody kicked me and took my shirt.” 

 

Was his shirt used for the double?  He wasn’t going to ask. The second-in-command could see the effect the report of his mistreatment had on McGarrett as the man’s expression darkened.  Dan knew it would be hard to prevent his friend from going there, but he wanted to do his part to help keep it in perspective. He had after all survived.

 

“Relax, Steve,” he shrugged, striving for a lighter tone and the hint of a grin.  “Wo Fat isn’t half bad at throwing his weight around, but he hits like a girl,” Williams teased with a tip of his head, trying his best to lighten the downward turn of the mood in the room.

 

His friends were all certainly very sensitive about any pain or suffering that had been inflicted upon him right now, he mused (Come to think of it, maybe they were sensitive all the time…). Ben and Chin exchanged wide grins before they looked to their boss to gauge his reaction.

 

Steve, caught off guard by the injection of humor, studied his protégé for a few moments as the young man looked back at him. Leave it to Danno to instantly sense his mood and bring him out of an angry spiral.

 

McGarrett couldn’t help but remember the horrible brainstorming session he’d endured when they thought their kaikaina was dead. The incredible anguish – he could not recall pain like that before. How he’d missed just this – the mind that frequently served as a mirror to his own – someone against which his own thoughts could play and come back to him transformed into something more meaningful -- and then simultaneously put the words into perspective through humor or some other turn of phrase.

 

“I don’t know why that makes me feel better, but it does.” McGarrett had to chuckle.

 

Relieved that the words had helped, Dan smiled, and the other two detectives snickered and then laughed out loud. The Five-0 men had their hands full with a sinister, new scheme from the Chinese master spy, but more felt right with the world. 

 

There was a knock at the door and Duke entered after McGarrett called him in.  “Find out about those Chinese agents?”

 

“Not yet,” Duke greeted them all hurriedly, but was too excited to pause with amenities.  Waving a report file, he triumphantly stated, “We did get a hot lead on who the DB might be that we mistook for Danny.”  He laid a form on Steve’s desk.  “A native of Hong Kong, this guy has been missing for four days. Reported by a professor that he works for in Asian studies. This Matthew Chang is about Danny’s size, he is on HPD’s hot list for student activists.  He’s been arrested several times in altercations involving Maoist organizations.”

 

Steve’s face lit up and looked to the others, notably his second-in-command for confirmation that this was a real possibility.

 

“Wo Fat’s likes local talent,” Danny suggested.

 

“I’ve sent the file to Doc Bergman and his office will follow up on getting confirmation of physical characteristics from medical records.”

 

“Good,” Steve snapped out, catching the excitement of the chase about to begin.  “You have an address on him?”

 

“Sure do.  Out by the university.”

 

“Good work, Duke.  We’ll take three cars.  Silent approach.  We don’t want to alert his friends.”  McGarrett grabbed his coat and was out the door when he realized Williams was right on his heels.  He came to an abrupt stop.  “You’re not coming, Danno.”

 

“Steve --“

 

“This could be dangerous --“

 

“And maybe he has some friends there that I could identify.”

 

The new angle was not a welcome theory.  It was valid and as usual, Williams was hard to argue with.  The detective’s safety and health, though, were more important.  McGarrett shook his head, denying the request.

 

Williams jumped in again.  “Steve, please let me be part of this.  Whoever that poor sucker was, he died in my place.  Let me go with you.”

 

The reasonable argument, the passion of Danno’s desire to stay in touch with what had affected them all so deeply was undeniable.  Again, as usual, he did not like this one bit, but found -- as a cop -- he could not argue with the logic.  One of these days, he was going to choose to do the right thing not as a cop, but as a friend.  It was not today, however. 

 

“Okay.  But you stay in the car until we give you the all clear.  That’s an order,” he finished with unnecessary sharpness.

 

Dan’s raised eyebrows indicated he got the message.  “Check.”

 

 

*****

 

As the group emerged from the Palace, a knot of reporters surged forward.   McGarrett directed Williams away from the crowd and made it to the Mercury before they were barricaded by the zealous rabble. 

 

Student housing by the university consisted of large apartment buildings.  Fraternities had their Greek letters on the front proclaiming their allegiance.  Glancing over at Williams, who had his head back against the seat, McGarrett regretted bringing the younger officer along.  This was really too much for Williams and he was going to push himself into illness or collapse if Steve didn’t put on the brakes over his involvement.  After this he was taking Danno home and making sure he stayed on rest and recovery for the remainder of the week.  As nice as it was to be working side by side with his friend again, he would not allow Williams to be damaged because of his selfishness.

 

McGarrett pulled the Mercury to a stop in front of a complex with various Chinese characters.  Williams perked up. 

 

A quandary momentarily struck the older detective. Was the greater risk to his protégé to bring him into the building into an unknown, possibly dangerous situation OR to leave him unattended in the car? He mentally kicked himself for giving in to Williams’ pressure to bring him. He should have him under lock and key – probably hospitalized – until this was all over.

 

He glanced out his side window and spotted the answer to his problem.  An HPD unit, with two patrolmen he recognized (not by name – that was Williams’ specialty), was sitting just up the street. In a matter of seconds, he decided that it would be easier on the detective to remain tucked away in the vehicle, where he could at least rest for a few minutes. He would have the officers keep an eye on his vehicle while he made the trip inside with his other detectives. Besides, the area was crowded with students making their way to and from classes, not a likely spot for a kidnapping or murder.

 

“You’re staying in the car, Danno.”

 

Grimacing, Williams gave a dejected acknowledgement.  Chin and Ben joined them and Williams asked about the symbols. 

 

Chin looked towards the façade of the building as he spoke. “Zhongyuan yin yun.  It’s the Chinese equivalent of a fraternity, but it has more of a – a political agenda than a social one.”   

 

 “Zhong—zhongyuan… Steve, I know -- something -- it’s familiar.” Dan once again had his eyes closed in concentration.

 

“Okay,” he quietly pondered, wondering if it could be this easy. 

 

Could they really find a connection with Wo Fat just by coming to this place?  The fat spy was not careless.  He would know they would eventually ID the dead body correctly.  They would come here.  Was this part of his plan or was he so confident that he expected to have his plots -- phases one and two -- completed before Five-0 connected all the dots?

 

Finally, Williams shook his head in frustration.  “Sorry.  I just can’t grab onto it.  Maybe if I --“

 

“Forget it. You still stay here.”  He waited until Dan gave a silent, unhappy nod of acquiescence, then he exited the car.

 

 

*****

 

The resident advisor of the building met the detectives at the door, and after insisting on studying each detective’s badge, he identified himself as Wen Shih. Initially objecting to unlocking Matthew Chang’s room, he quickly relented as McGarrett informed him that they would stand there with him and wait for the court order to be processed.

 

“When was the last time you saw Matthew Chang?” McGarrett asked Shih distractedly as he studied the small, cluttered room, which obviously served as a bedroom, study, and kitchen. Ben and Chin methodically and cautiously opened drawers and closets in their search.

 

The young man sniffed, “It’s not my job to keep track of the comings and goings of our student population, but I do recall that Matthew has not been around for the last few days.”

 

“Steve!”

 

The Chinese detective looked up at his boss, the expression on his face made it clear that he’d found something significant. The head of Five-0 joined Chin at the desk where he stood holding a small, weathered spiral notebook.

 

Before any further conversation took place, McGarrett turned to the now-curious resident advisor and dismissed him with a thank-you-we-may-be-in-touch line. Annoyed, he left, eyeing the detectives suspiciously as he closed the door behind him.

 

The second they heard the door latch click, the three pairs of eyes snapped to the page Chin was holding open for his boss, who looked briefly at the page before he looked up at his detective. The page contained several Chinese characters. Under them, scratched in sloppy English, was a downtown Honolulu address that Steve knew was in the Chinatown district.

 

“Zhu Liang Imports, Limited,” Chin offered, waiting for his boss to understand.  McGarrett frowned, but did not see the significance of what the Chinese detective had said. So, Chin continued. “Liang, boss. That’s the name Danny mentioned!”

 

The memory flooded back, and the lead detective was instantly more animated. “That’s right, Chin! He didn’t say Zhu Liang though, did he?”

 

“No – he said, ‘hai dook na Liang’ -- I think it’s a Mandarin – Minnan mix, the kind they speak around Taiwan.”

 

“Hmm, well Chin, you get down to this Zhu Liang Imports, and take some backup with you. The people we’re dealing with are not above decapitating somebody and feeding him to the fish!  Ben, help him out.”

 

Both Ben and Chin acknowledged the order as the three men left the room. Duke was busy questioning students in the hallway outside and the Five-0 men stopped there to assist him for a few minutes as several of the students had observations, some potentially useful, to report.

 

 

*****

 

Worn out, Danny still felt cheated by being excluded from the investigation.  He could be in there helping if he was better.  Or if Steve would stop being so protective. The only thing he could do at this point was use his brain, so he strained to remember more about his captivity.  No details came to mind, but frustration flared when he was reminded how he had been used as a pawn.  A poison pawn.  Bait.

 

He stared at the symbols on the walls of the complex, running the words over and over again in his mind.  Bait.  If only they could turn the tables on Wo Fat.  As usual, that nasty spy knew where all the pieces were in this giant chess game.

 

Hearing a commotion, Dan sat up and opened his eyes, surprised to see a news van pulled up beside the Mercury and one of Honolulu’s dedicated reporters, Ms. Vernor, rushing up to him.  Feeling trapped, he exited the car and made his way toward the building, thinking he could better handle the press while surrounded by his allies.

 

“Detective Williams!” she shouted as she trailed behind with a microphone stabbing in his face.  “You’ve made no comments since your kidnapping.”

 

Dan dodged them, managing to reach the front steps of the building until he was physically blocked by the cameraman.

 

“There are reports the KGB was involved --“

 

Two students emerged from the front doors.  They were speaking in Mandarin and one of the words clicked.  There was no other phrase or imagery for it.  Like opening up a mental floodgate, it brought back a setting and moment in his captivity.

 

“Ichoh,” he repeated, lost in the shadows of an episode already past in his life.

 

“What?” Vernor squawked.  “You’re speaking Chinese, Detective Williams?  Was this a Chinese plot?  Were you kidnapped by the Chinese?”

 

With impeccable timing, McGarrett sailed out of the building and pushed Vernor out of the way.  “No comment,” he barked and grabbed Williams’ arm, forging a path toward the car.

 

McGarrett couldn’t get the door open fast enough and at the Mercury they were effectively pinned by the maneuvering cameraman and the aggressive reporter.

 

Literally on the spot, the idea came to Danny in a near flash of inspiration.  Turn the tables on Wo Fat.  Poison pawn.  If he was going to be used, going to be the bait, then it should be their idea, not their enemy’s.  Bait. In the past he had been used and badgered by the press.  He had been used by Wo Fat against his friend.  This was a chance to throw the whole game off.

 

‘Never play the opponent’s game.  Play your own game.’ 

 

“Zha xiang ichoh!”

 

Shoving the press forcefully out of the way, McGarrett pushed Williams into the car and made a quick escape.  He raced down the street, hands strangling the steering wheel as he tried to get a grip on his livid temper. 

 

“What the hell was that all about?  What were you doing?  What were you thinking?”

 

Wincing, Dan laid back on the head rest.  He shook his head.

 

“Are you all right?”  Concern instantly mitigated the ire.  Then the wrath flared again.  Fury at his officer transferred to himself.  “You shouldn’t even be out here!  You have no business working on this case!  And I have no right letting you!  What the hell were you doing back there?”

 

Flinching, Dan sat up and looked levelly at him.  “Being a poison pawn.”

 

“What?”

 

“Wo Fat used me, Steve.  He set me up as his poison pawn against you,” he heavily sighed.  “Standing there, hearing some familiar phrases, it suddenly came to me that we could pull one over on Wo Fat for once.  So far, you’re the only one who HASN’T used me!  Turn the tables!  YOU could use me as your poison pawn to bait --“

 

Appalled, Steve slammed on the brakes and skidded to the curb.  The car rocked to a stop with a jarring screech.  McGarrett’s full attention was focused on his officer.

 

“You want me to use you?” Hardly able to speak the repugnant thought, his voice grated with livid harshness.  “As bait to draw out Wo Fat?” 

 

Dan looked him straight in the eyes.  “Yeah.”

 

“No!” Steve countered hotly.  “No way!”

 

Sizzling, incensed, outraged, he jerked the wheel and jammed the accelerator, throwing the big vehicle into the lane again.

 

“Not a chance!”

 

“Steve, this is how we can get him --“

 

“You think a shot at capturing Wo Fat is worth risking your life?”

 

“Yes,” came the quiet, but steady reply.

 

His chest tightened with anguish and Steve coughed out a near-sob that shot into his throat at the raw memories of agony that were still far to close to the surface after their recent tragedy.  Emotions were too vulnerably hovering at the surface still to have this kind of conversation.

 

“How can you even suggest that?” he shouted and again stopped the car, throwing his full wrath on his detective.  “What are you thinking?”

 

“Steve, you said it yourself.  There is nothing more important than catching Wo Fat.  He used us.  He’s still out there and he’s dangerous.  There’s something planned and we don’t know what it is.”  His voice was firm, but quiet, filled with anxiety. “You need to get him.”

 

Too many emotions played through his system to even define, but the rare shadow of guilt brushed through past the anger and the flash of humility.  Danno did this in a quest for justice -- that was expected -- that was in his nature.  To bait himself for Steve’s sake -- so McGarrett could get the long-sought prize of Wo Fat -- that was unconscionable.  It brought back pain and fury in nearly equal, confusing proportions. 

 

He had been as responsible as Wo Fat for this pinnacle at the top of the convoluted web of intrigue.  His conflict with Wo Fat was personal -- personalized.  And now it had drawn in his colleague.  He would like to blame Wo Fat for that -- for being the one responsible for forcing Danno into the center of the battle.  But Steve was afraid his attitude -- his passion to capture Wo Fat -- had drawn in his friend a long time ago.  It brought out the full rage and passion and frustration that he held for no other opponent.  The Chinese spy had made it personal in their first encounter -- in the torture chamber.  Steve could never let that go and the emotions escalated every time he had seen Wo Fat walk away from him.  He had allowed this monster to roam free, always hoping the next conflict would be his victory.

 

This time, Wo Fat had leveled him with the most insidiously evil plot ever.  It was a kind of torture almost completely opposite of his encounter in the null chamber.  This time the torment was filled with staggering emotional pain that elevated to a physical level of anguish.  The still visceral memory of that angst rocked him.

 

“Nothing,” he breathed out between clenched teeth, “Nothing is worth the risk of your life.  I will not allow you to do anything to put yourself in jeopardy.  Do you think I would let that happen?”  His voice shook as much as his trembling body.  “I just lost you once and I won’t go through that again!”

 

Color washed away from Dan’s face and his eyes filled with moisture.  “I -- didn’t -- the last thing I wanted was to hurt you . . . .”  He looked away, shaking his head.

 

The contrition bathed Steve with an understanding that washed out the lava-heat of the anger and hurt.  It reminded him they were mutually miserable over the situation and in different ways, had suffered from being on separate ends of this untenable, agonizing ordeal.  His friend’s familiar pattern of guilt served to bring him back to reason. 

 

Still, he found it difficult to separate the rage, helplessness, residual sorrow swirling within.  For what they had both endured and felt, they were yet suffering.  This was far from over.  Even with Danno’s miraculous return, the aftermath was still painful.

 

“You are not expendable,” he sternly lectured.  With difficultly, he forced himself to move on, touched by the stricken, abject remorse of his friend.  “If Wo Fat is still around to execute phase two, then he will know -- he will think -- that you know Mandarin and are onto him in some way.”  Quietly, he sighed, a strain of admiration flickered to life.  “It’s dangerous, but akamai.  A good plan.”

 

Looking back, Dan’s face brightened.  “Then we need to use it to our full advantage, Steve.  Remember the first rule of chess.”

 

He was exasperated that beyond all the deep wounds and emotions, Danno was right about this as he was about so much.  This was, after all, what he had so missed -- the plotting; the think sessions, the quirky flashes of brilliance that distinguished Williams from all the other detectives.  Not to mention flinging his own words back at him with accuracy as sharp as his shooting skills.

 

McGarrett ruefully nodded.  “Yeah.”

 

“Wo Fat controlled the first game, Steve.  This is where we change the game, or make a new one, maybe.  We control the board this time.  He doesn’t play us, we play him.”

 

“Okay,” McGarrett agreed, still not liking the scenario, but determined to be the one calling the shots this time.  “First then, we set you up at a safe location.”  Trepidation filling his heart, he concluded, “Then we let Wo Fat know where you are.”

 

 

*****

 

Driving back to the heart of the city, McGarrett related to Williams what they had learned at Chang’s room.  Excited, Williams struggled to piece together phrases or clues in his mind.

 

McGarrett regretted the strain this was putting on his friend, but was equally energized that they were making progress.

 

”I’m going to drop you off at your place,” he began, casting worried glances at the fatigued officer leaning against the seat, eyes closed. “Then I think I’ll go over to HPD lock up and find out more about those two Chinese that worked with Wo Fat.” 

 

What he really would like was to pay them back a little for their obvious rough treatment of his friend.  That would not happen, of course, but he could imagine it.   

 

“You mean WE are going to interview them.”

 

“You’re going home, Danno, you’re beat.”

 

“Steve, just over to lock up then home.  I could help you.” 

 

McGarrett shook his head.

 

“And they’ll get a nasty shock when they see me alive and well.  It could be just what you need to give you the edge.”

 

Muttering under his breath, McGarrett again shook his head in mock irritation.  “You are on sick leave, officer,” he reminded, the sternness in the tone falling flat when accompanied by the smirk he could not conceal.  “Behave.”

 

Knowing he had won, Williams just smiled.

 

 

*****

 

At HPD, Williams was again greeted by some HPD personnel in a surprisingly warm and sometimes even effusive manner concerning his resurrection.  He even got a few kisses on the cheek from some female officers and that was pleasant, but a bit embarrassing with McGarrett as a witness.

 

“Never lose your touch, do you?” Steve teased as they processed through to the interrogation room. 

 

McGarrett paced while they waited, casting amused glances as his friend, who was slumped in a chair and leaning an elbow on the table and his head in his hand.  It was probably a mistake to be so lenient with Dan’s recovery, but Williams was persistent and Steve admitted only mentally that he relished being back on track again.  This was what he missed most a few days ago -- the everyday interaction with his friend.  Now he had it back and in a strange reversal of roles, he would have to watch his own tendencies to push Dan when the detective should be recuperating.

 

The cell-side door opened and an HPD officer rushed in.  “The prisoners!” he nearly shouted at McGarrett.  “They’re dead!”

 

McGarrett and Williams moved instantly to their door and banged on it.  Explaining as he ran through the corridors, the officers were allowed into the lock up with a few others who were now gathering.  The Chinese agents had been locked up next to each other and each cell door was open.  Both men were on the floor, bodies twisted in a frozen pose of anguish, foam bubbled around their mouths.

 

“Poison,” McGarrett diagnosed instantly.  “Get the Coroner.”  Duke Lukela had emerged at his elbow -- back from the excursion to the university -- and Steve immediately issued more orders.  “Duke, seal this off.  Get every officer that was in contact with these men.  I want them in separate rooms to be interviewed by my staff only.” 

 

“On it.”

 

“Danno, get Chin and Ben down here and get them cracking on interrogations.  That includes meal prep people and janitors and booking officers!”

 

“You mean --“

 

“I mean them!” he nearly barked, his stern order not to be misinterpreted.  “You’ve had enough for one day.  I’ll let you know what happens.”

 

The look in McGarrett’s unswerving expression was enough to convince the detective this was not the time to argue.  “Right,” he agreed reluctantly.

 

Williams followed Lukela to a nearby desk with several phones and each started making calls.  During a pause in the frenzied activity, Dan took the opportunity to move close and sit next to the sergeant.

 

“Duke, I want to apologize for this morning.  I shouldn’t have pressed you about what happened.”

 

Clearly focused on other projects, Duke was a bit startled at the confession.  His face softened quickly.  “No need, Danny.  I shouldn’t have been so harsh --“

 

“I didn’t know --“

 

“I know.  I didn’t think about that either until after you left.  Nobody wanted to relive those hard times, but we were keeping you in the dark.  You couldn’t know what happened to us here unless Wo Fat told you or something.  And who would believe him?”

 

The from-the-heart, homespun candor was soothing to Williams and he smiled his thanks.  “Mahalo.”

 

“So, I guess Steve told you what you needed to know?”

 

“No,” Dan shook his head, still wary of making Steve think about it too much.  “Bergman.”

 

Lukela’s grimace was so dramatic it made Dan laugh. 

 

“Ouch,” the Hawaiian flinched.  “I think you suffered enough.  Why don’t you go home now and when he comes I won’t tell Bergman you were ever here.”

 

“Mahalo,” Dan smiled, glad to be back on track with his friends. 

 

Lingering, Williams couldn’t avoid another lecture from the furious McGarrett, who was in no mood for anyone to cross him at this point.

 

“I thought I sent you home.”

 

“On my way.  As soon as I find someone to take me to my car.”

 

McGarrett tossed him a set of keys.  “Take mine and leave now.  Don’t forget to eat.  I’ll bring yours by later.”

 

The younger officer seemed to consider that for a moment.  “I guess I can trust you with my car,” he admitted as he handed over his keychain.

 

“I trust you with mine,” McGarrett smirked and gave Dan a gentle shove on the shoulder.  “Now get lost.  I’ll come by later.”

 

 

*****

 

Although he would never admit it to Steve, Danny was dragging, really ready to go home and go to bed.  The emotionally packed excursions had been more trying and draining than he had anticipated.  His head throbbed and he felt completely weakened, ready to admit he had done enough for one day.  Pretty productive for the first twenty-four hours after returning from the dead.

 

After parking the big Mercury at the curb, he stopped to check his mail, but realized his mail key was on his key ring, which was with McGarrett.  Sighing tiredly, not really caring, he moved over to the elevators.  Someone rushed around the corner and he glanced up, then his head exploded in black pain.

 

 

*****

 

 

It was well into the late afternoon before McGarrett disentangled himself from HPD. It had been such a long, productive, straining day, and there was no end in sight.  They progressed by inches with the Chinese phrases, but slid back with the murder of two live thugs of Wo Fat’s.  Right inside HPD the fat spy had bested him! 

 

Frustrated that the investigation into the murder of the Chinese agents was stalled, irritated at Internal Affairs for embroiling him in their inquiries, he felt a great deal of his time had been wasted. 

 

Starving, he had already decided he felt like indulging in Ono BBQ for a late lunch/early dinner.  He could swing by the favored eatery on Kuhio and grab something extra for Williams.  That would give him an excuse to check on his detective -- make sure he was resting.  Not that he didn’t trust his friend, but Danno was -- well, Danno.

 

Skipping outside, he momentarily basked in the warm, bright Hawaiian sunlight.  At the curb, he came to an abrupt, frozen halt.

 

“Danno!” he muttered under his breath.

 

Stranded!  He had given the Mercury to Danno and the Mustang was back at the ME’s office!  Annoyance and impatience escalating, he went back inside and rousted Duke, who gave him a ride over to the Coroner’s.  By the time he collected the Mustang it was late.  Too late to indulge in a frivolous trip to Waikiki for BBQ.  He stopped instead at a little Chinese take-away around the corner from the Palace.  While waiting he endured good-natured kidding about the car with exasperation.

 

“Danno,” he again muttered as he quickly exited with food and revved the Ford before screeching into traffic.

 

Driving with the sun baking his skin and the fresh air blowing in his face, he relaxed.  Although he would never admit it to anyone, he secretly enjoyed finishing off the few errands he needed to complete while borrowing his friend’s car.  The secretaries in Manicote’s office teased him about driving the hot sports car.  Several patrolmen stopped to chat and were disconcerted to find McGarrett and not Williams driving.  Two good looking girls on the corner of Richards Street winked and waved at him when he stopped at the red light.  Was this one of Danno’s secrets to his never-ending supply of dates? All in all, it was a diverting and tension-relieving experience.  As he had noted before, Danno really had something here in the convertible de-stress machine.

 

 

*****

 

Dizzy and disoriented with agony even before he opened his eyes, Dan groaned in misery.  Someone was speaking to him.  The blurry voice echoed strangely in his ears.  Filtering through the headache and nausea, he could barely understand the words.  Shifting, he felt restrained. 

 

The first glimmer of fear set in.  Blinking his eyes open, panic rose into his throat when he could not bring anything into focus.  Captured again!  No! Controlling his breathing with effort, he blinked and concentrated.  It was dark.  Slowly, images -- fuzzy forms -- approached.  Swallowing stark alarm, he bit his lip and tried to show no other outward reaction to facing Wo Fat again.

 

“Good afternoon, Mr. Williams.”

 

Not Wo Fat.  Not a voice he knew.  Cultured.  Well phrased, too-perfect English -- possibly as a second-language?  Looking down, he focused on subtly working on his bonds -- ropes tightly tied but sloppy he guessed, because already he was loosening them.  He wouldn’t look at his captor until he conquered the fear that was still rippling through his system.

 

“Mr. Williams, we have some questions to which we must have answers.  Then we will be done.”

 

The man grabbed his chin and forced his face up, increasing his queasiness with disorienting vertigo.  He looked into the hard gaze of a Chinese man of medium height and a long, thin face.  There was a distinctive scar on his cheek and a jade ring on his right hand.  The others -- he felt more people in the room -- stayed in the shadows.  Dan took in the details automatically, trying to absorb as much as he could.  He didn’t know why.  They were not going to let him live, so what did it matter.

 

Mingled with the dread of capture and death was the knowledge that this was so unfair.  Why were they doing this again?  Because Wo Fat needed something.  And after he got what he wanted he would have the added bonus of knowing how much McGarrett was going to suffer.  Because Dan was afraid there would be no double this time.  He was going to be the one killed.  After this interrogation they would have no reason to keep him alive.

 

“Mr. Williams, I just need to know why Wo Fat had my man killed.  I must assume that your law enforcement did not.  Therefore, Wo Fat did.  Why?”

 

Instantly reevaluating, Danny tried to think straight, but it was so hard through the ringing headache and illness.  Not Wo Fat?  Why did Wo Fat have the men killed? 

 

“Who are you?” he finally asked, irritated at the confusing puzzle he was unwillingly thrust into.  “You don’t work for Wo Fat?”

 

“No.  You were recently his guest.  You must know why Wo Fat had my man killed.”

 

Dan shook his head, regretted it, and closed his eyes.  “I don’t have any idea what you are talking about.  If Wo Fat is your enemy then we have a lot in common.”

 

The man grunted.  “It doesn’t work that way, Mr. Williams.  Just tell me what I need to know.”

 

No offer to free him.  No prize at the end.  Just give over information he didn’t know.  The fear of imminent death was still there, but the abject ridiculousness of the whole intolerable situation angered him. 

 

“Look, if you want to get Wo Fat just talk to Steve McGarrett.  He’d be happy –”

 

The man with the jade ring backhanded Dan, taking his breath away and sweeping vertigo through his senses.  Blinking, gasping, he had no time to recover before he was hit two more times.  A deep echo hurt his head and he realized he was moaning.  Blood trickled down his cheek.  His hair was grabbed and he groaned as his head was yanked up.

 

“How did Wo Fat discover my man and why was he killed?  Did he fail in his duty to Wo Fat or did my enemy discover my plant?  Answer me!” he screamed, making Dan’s head throb even more.  “Now!” 

 

Williams wasn’t certain how many slaps, slugs, and questions later it happened, but at last one of the hits sent him into dark oblivion.

 

 

*****

 

 

McGarrett stretched and took in a breath of plumeria scent that danced on the breeze drifting from outside his office lanai. Even the air was sweeter than it had been only two days earlier now that Danno was back safe and sound. It was dusk, but he could still make out the Mustang in the parking lot, where he’d taken great pains to make sure it could not be touched by other car doors or offensive hands.

 

Meticulously neat and orderly with his own property, he was especially careful of Danno’s car.  After the harrowing experience of really believing he had lost Danno, everything was accentuated now -- amplified in proportion to what it used to be.  What he looked on as his colleague’s eccentricity was now a property to be respected.  It was important to Danno and therefore increased in value to McGarrett.  While the sports car was in his charge he would make certain it was well taken care of.  Just as -- when Williams was missing -- he had given strict orders for the police garage to clean up the Mustang and bring it back in mint condition after the investigation.  They had done his bidding exactly, and when Danno came back from the dead and characteristically drove his prized car, Steve was pleased he had seen to that little detail. 

 

In some strangely, deeply psychological manner, the care of the car reflected his desire to take care of Williams. He recalled the respectful, near-reverent attitude of the HPD personnel in the garage towards the sports car that was famous in local law enforcement circles. Danno was well-liked amongst his colleagues and his favored status with the chief law enforcement officer on the islands was no secret. These men knew that McGarrett had to be suffering tremendously and therefore accorded Dan’s car the same respect they would have if it were his body.

 

He had at least another couple of hours worth of things to do before he could break away to return the Mustang to its owner, who was hopefully sleeping off the effects of his concussion.  It was past dinnertime and his original plan was to grab some food and take it out to Diamond Head when he delivered the car.  A little anxiety overcame him for a few moments as he had to work through the intellectual knowledge that his second-in-command was not here with him, but safe – a still lingering, disconcerting psychological side-effect of his recent trauma.  He pushed aside the concern and returned to finishing his work.

 

The ring of McGarrett’s private line broke into the detective’s wandering thoughts and yanked him back into the moment. Was this Danno calling wondering when he was delivering the Ford and dinner? 

 

“McGarrett!” His voice was a little softer than its usual startling quality.

 

The voice on the other end of the line made Steve’s temperature instantly drop a few degrees despite its pleasant, even jovial, tenor. “Ahh, like an old friend, how good to hear your voice, Stephen.”

 

McGarrett could feel the anger welling up, prepared to consume him, if he weren’t careful. Remembering the deadly game of chess in which they were engaged, he did his level best to prevent his voice from relinquishing any secrets as he responded coolly. “You’re no friend, Wo Fat.”

 

The voice chuckled as he answered. “I said LIKE an old friend. So, tell me, how is our mutual friend?”

 

White-hot rage filled McGarrett to hear the cause of all the misery of late speak of Danno, but he WOULD NOT reveal his feelings and give this fiend another weapon to use against him. “Clearly much better than you would have him be.”

 

“A good little soldier – that one – following faithfully in your footsteps – a little lacking in the manners department, but with time—”

 

“Now I know you can’t be calling to gloat,” McGarrett interrupted. He crafted the statement to subtly draw attention to the fact that the spy had not succeeded in his objectives – the ones he knew about anyway. A measure of satisfaction crept into him as he sensed the statement had the desired effect – Wo Fat’s fluid tone tensed ever so slightly.

 

“In polite circles, one would be thought discourteous to mention that, but no matter – I forgive you. The game is not over. You think you have spoiled my plans, but you have only delayed them. Tell me – how did it feel when you thought your knight was vanquished? Do you think it will feel worse when he can’t rise from the ashes – literally in this case – like the proverbial Phoenix?”

 

It was clear to McGarrett that his adversary was trying to regain the upper hand in the conversation by pushing the one button Wo Fat unfortunately KNEW was painful to him. It was now clear that the man was calling because he was angry at being thwarted, something which did not happen frequently to the master spy.

 

“I will get you, Wo Fat – maybe not today – maybe not tomorrow, but it will happen – whatever deadly game you’re playing here on my turf – you will not win!” And with that conviction voiced to the evil being on the other side of the line (Oh to be able to travel through the copper and get his hands around this man’s fat throat!), McGarrett slammed the phone handset back onto its cradle. It was a good feeling to be the one who ended the communication – he felt he’d regained a little control over the situation.

 

Stepping out onto the lanai and taking in a few deep breaths to slow his heart rate and regain the composure he felt on the verge of losing, he decided that – as difficult as it would be to get Danno to cooperate – he would have to have protection until this was over. 

 

 

*****

 

As the sound of the abrupt disconnect snapped in his ear, Wo Fat jumped almost imperceptibly. It was his turn to feel the fury his worthy opponent had felt moments earlier. His eyes narrowed as he looked out across the tropical vista, not seeing the beauty.

 

McGarrett has truly brought destruction upon his own house now.

 

The man could not help but grin at his own joke as he knew he’d selected the perfect target for phase two of his operation.

 

 

*****

 

Panic -- choking -- met his subconscious, then his conscious mind as Dan sputtered to breathe through a mouth full of water.  Gasping for air, he blinked water out of his eyes.  The tormentors were still here with him.  He was in a different location now.  He could feel the wind in his face and the roar in his ears was not his headache, but the close brush of surf.  His knees hurt and as he slowly focused he saw he was crouched on a lip of rough lava rocks.  To the right was a house of some kind.  In the distance the sun was close to dipping to the horizon.  He had been captured for hours!  He was somewhere on the windward coast.  Not far from Makapuu, he was thinking, but it was hard to reason clearly through the pain and disorientation.

 

Soaking wet, he drew in deep breaths of air and tried to figure out what was happening.  Surf rolled in and soaked his legs -- he could hear the water gurgling through crevices and craggy tubes next to him. Then the mighty crashes of heavy surf just beyond him.  He could feel the occasional lap of the tide soaking his deck shoes.  Just a little farther away it sounded like big waves smashing against a cliff or big rocks.  He was close to the cliffs at Makapuu, he was almost certain.

 

Before his vision and other senses could assess the situation, the spokesman leaned into his face.

 

“Mr. Williams, we don’t have much time.  How did Wo Fat learn of my agent?”

 

“Are you nuts?  I keep telling you I don’t know! I wasn’t his guest – I was a prisoner!” Dan choked through precious breaths of air. He could smell his captor’s ginger-tainted breath as he drew even closer to his face and squeezed the back of his neck.

 

“You spent many hours in a two-room shack in the company of Wo Fat and his men. You heard many things. I NEED to know only a few of them!” The man now spoke with a tone of angry desperation, and Dan knew it didn’t matter what he said or didn’t say. His murder was fast approaching.

 

“Okay, you’re right,” the detective spoke slowly to stall for time while he considered his options. “I – I did hear some things, but NOT in a language I understand!”

 

“Come, come, Mr. Williams. Do not play games! You were quoted quite clearly in Mandarin on the television news.”

 

Dan fleetingly wondered how many times he would have to learn the lesson that he usually ended up regretting his impulsive actions. Clearly now, parroting the words of one of his captors had had the desired effect of flushing out another player in this bizarre and deadly game, but it wasn’t anyone he’d known was even on the board. 

 

“Nee hau shee gai jen? Hai!” The ginger-man shouted despite his close proximity to Dan’s face. The nonplussed detective spent a few moments under the impression that the battering he’d just received had affected his ability to grasp the man’s words.

 

“Jen hua shen McGarrett?”

 

Dan reacted visibly to his boss’s name in the jumble of words being spat at him. In that instant, he knew the interrogation had shifted to Chinese.

 

Ginger-man’s face lit up as he saw cognizance sweep across his disheveled prisoner’s face – his prisoner did understand what he was saying!

 

“You ARE withholding information! Sha nee hau shee gai jen?” Another brutal smack fell on Williams’ face before he could muster a response.

 

More questions – epithets followed in the language foreign to the hapless prisoner – Dan tried once to respond with an I-don’t-understand, but the second the words left his lips, his hair was grabbed at the back of his head and his chest smashed to the rocks, his face plunging into water.  Tidal pool, he realized as he coughed out the water that had entered his unprepared lungs.

 

His head was dunked for long periods until it felt like his lungs would burst.  Then he was brought back up to greedily gulp for air.  When he told them he had no idea about Wo Fat and their man, he was pushed down again.  They wanted to drown him -- one of the worst possible ways to die – suffocating and conscious and unable to breathe!  

 

Dan knew it was this fiend’s intention to kill him no matter what he told him. The detective knew too much – possibly more than he realized. The anger – frustration – at being at death’s doorstep again so soon from a situation he did not understand helped to block out his suffering. Somewhere in the back of his mind, he was already anguishing for the pain that would slam into Steve with the force of a tsunami when his death came to light.

 

Numerous times he had wiped out while surfing and swallowed a hunk of the ocean.  Many times he had been smashed by a powerful wave and pounded to the bottom of the sea, scraping the sand and being pushed down by the tremendous force of the waves.  This time, unlike those other experiences, he felt the panic of knowing these people wanted to torture him until he talked.

 

Denial of knowledge was not working – and he knew would never work – these unknown adversaries were going to kill him whether he was cooperative or not. A feeling gnawed at the back of his mind that he would pay for this impulsive action in short order, but if he was going to die, at least he would have the hollow satisfaction of leaving his murderers believing he had died without relinquishing to them what they so desperately wanted to know. He lashed out angrily.

 

“Okay, smart guy! Maybe I do know something, but YOU will never know what it is!”

 

Not surprisingly, the ginger-man’s retribution was instant. He squeezed the back of Dan’s neck until the detective thought he would black out from the pressure alone. He gritted he teeth and twisted his face in a grimace and cried out, “I won’t tell you anything!”

 

His captor’s rage translated into a heightened violence in the dunkings. His mind drifted back to thoughts of what was happening with McGarrett. This was going to kill Steve. To happen again -- no -- he had to stop this. The harsh treatment helped to revive his waning survival instincts. He wanted to live – he didn’t want to be the cause of more pain to his friends.

 

Struggling to make his battered, aching mind work, the next time he came up for air he put his survival skills on automatic.  Breathing was not concentrated on so much as his surroundings.  He did sense there was a cliff close by and familiar ocean below. 

 

The next time he went down he directed concentration to his bound hands, which were slippery, wet and almost loose.  When they pulled him up at last, Dan allowed their momentum to carry him back and he shoved with all his strength into his handler.  Both of them toppled back and Dan kept rolling over the jagged, painfully sharp lava rocks.  Momentarily, he felt the free fall of air space as he plunged away from the land.  Taking a deep breath, he was almost prepared when his body slammed into the violent surf.

 

 

*****

 

The empty rings of the phone echoed in his ear and with each unanswered moment Steve’s anxiety grew.  Danno was undoubtedly asleep.  Wo Fat’s call should mean nothing.  But his instincts were telling him something completely different.  He gave it another minute, then hung up and dialed HPD.  Lukela was still there, bless him, and Steve got him onto assigning a patrol car to Danno’s place until they could arrange something more substantial in the way of security.

 

Closing up his desk, he was not going to wait around here anymore.  Danno would feel hemmed in by the extra guards and the overt concern, but Wo Fat was up to something.  The atypical, unnerving call had set Steve’s alerts at full strength.  Why call?  To taunt.  He could not gloat -- Five-0 had won this round.  Or was that just a false deception?  If they really got to Wo Fat this time -- and the call seemed to indicate a personal vendetta not a strategic move -- then he better keep his guard up.

 

 

*****

 

He had done this before -- knocked nearly senseless by a wave and dragged under by the powerful ocean.  Keeping his wits about him and moving his body in an automatic response of survival Dan sought the saving oxygen of the surface.  Swimming up, he popped above the waves and drew in deep breaths, oriented himself as best he could, then dove back under the surface to swim laterally with the shore, using the current as his propellant and conserving his waning energy.  Too close to the rocky cliffs and he would be pounded to death in a riptide.  Too close to the surface and he would be spotted by his captors. 

 

Losing strength quickly, he angled toward the shore and relied on his senses and knowledge of the surf glide with the current and guide him to the beach.  Fatigued beyond feeling, he crawled up rocks to a stretch of sand.  It was almost dark and hard to see clearly because his vision was so blurred, but the place felt deserted.  No bad guys.  No help, either.

 

He had to get to Steve.  Let Steve know he was okay.  Warn Steve about the other agents.  So tired.  He had to do this.  Had to contact Steve.

 

Not allowing himself to collapse yet, he crawled across a wide beach and peered over an outcropping of rocks.  Not far away he could see beach fires.  He could smell the scent of smoke and grilled fish and heard happy voices drifting on the breeze.  A beach party.  Moving closer, he noted there were a few houses up away from the water.  Staggering toward the welcoming civilization, he called out for aid.

 

Some accommodating people came over and laughingly commented on how drunk he was.  Closer to the fire, they noted his cuts and scrapes and wondered what was wrong.

 

He didn’t have the concentration to explain it all.  He just repeated for them to call the police and get someone out here immediately.  There were Chinese agents on the loose.  No one volunteered to make the call, but someone took him by the arm and led him into the beach house to one of the bedrooms. He did not look or sound coherent enough to be taken seriously.

 

There, left on his own to ‘sober up’, he reached a phone and dialed the operator.  She connected him to HPD and he identified himself, asking for back up to search for the Chinese agents.  Tell McGarrett, he tried to mumble, but he was aware enough to hear his words as a jumbled mess of slurred sounds.  He had slipped to the floor and through unclear eyes watched the receiver dangle, swinging back and forth above him as it swayed and he closed his eyes to sleep.

 

 

*****

 

 

Grabbing his shoulder holster and jacket, he determined to call his other detectives once he reached Danno’s condo.  They would increase their guard for all members of the staff until they could get a handle on the situation.

 

He was walking away from the desk when the phone rang.  Expecting it to be Duke, he was not surprised at Lukela’s voice on the other end.  But the tone set his teeth on edge.

 

“Steve, we just got a wild call through dispatch.  Someone claiming to be Danny.  He didn’t sound too coherent, but said something about Chinese agents and mentioned your name.  The line is still open and they traced it to a house up by Makapuu.  I’ve got a unit rolling now.”

 

Too late!  He was too late!  Wo Fat did not call to torment; it was a warning of what he had already done!

 

Steve pushed past his raw fears and stabbed at the most relevant issues.  “Was he hurt?”

 

“Unknown.  Ah, hold on, Steve.”

 

He heard a muffled voice in the distance and could make out none of the words.  Pacing within the range of the cord, he rapped his knuckles on the desk and nervously bit his lip waiting for more information.  He had just called Danno’s place and there was no answer.  They had sent a patrol car over.  Chinese agents.  Makapuu.  Could it be for real?

 

“Steve, the patrol unit just checked in.  They found Danny and he’s on his way to Castle hospital.  They said he’s not conscious --“

 

No!  This could not be happening again!  “How bad?”

 

“They said he’s alive and seemed banged up and wet, like he was swimming or surfing.”

 

“I’m on my way.”

 

Danno had not been out, far from home, swimming or surfing!  He assured himself as he raced through the Palace at record speed.  Exhausted and heading for his condo at last check, the recovering officer would not have just taken off -- no -- he had been grabbed again by Wo Fat and -- what?  He didn’t know.  All he knew now was that through some divine intervention there was a second miracle occurring in his life.  Danno had escaped again and was still alive.

 

Flying down the front steps he nearly skidded to a halt when he spotted the Mustang, now remembering he didn’t have his own car.  Irritated at the foul-up, he felt isolated without a radio and endured the furious drive through the Honolulu streets with reckless speed.  Once on the freeway, however, he did appreciate the muscle car and utilized its gutsy power to soar through the mountain pass to Kaneohe.  The top down, the wind singing in his blown hair, he angrily raced at excessive speed, agonized he was out of touch for so long and without a police radio.  Errant sheets of mist through the pass dampened his skin and instead of exhilaration brought an edge to his nerves.

 

An abstract part of his brain wondered why he hadn’t been stopped several times already for speeding on the freeway.  Flying through the intersection near the hospital he raced onto the hospital grounds, and it dawned on him that squad cars in Oahu knew the Mustang well and would never pull it over for speeding. 

 

When asking directions at the ER reception, he was surprised to hear Williams was already assigned a room and Bergman was there.  Jogging down the hall, he ignored the calls from the nurses as he punched an elevator button to take him upstairs.

 

Danno was in a room.  Bergman was with him.  He was still alive.  But Bergman was the Coroner . . . His speed increased.

 

Stopping at the nurse’s station only long enough to find out where Williams was, he rushed to the appropriate room and swept inside.  Bergman was standing over a still and unconscious Williams.  At a glance, Steve could see there were various abrasions on the pale face.  Approaching, he noted scrapes and cuts on the arms.  Disturbingly, one wrist was bandaged and the other red and swollen.

 

“Danno?” he called quietly, approaching with a less frantic pace.

 

“He’s out, Steve.”

 

Bergman looked upset and grave.

 

McGarrett stood next to the bed and tentatively took hold of Dan’s wrist, checking for a pulse, which confirmed -- assured him with a steady beat -- that his friend was alive.  Obviously, though, not in good shape.  He swallowed hard.  “How is he?”

 

“Possible skull fracture, most definitely a concussion. Another one.  Some assorted cuts and scrapes and cracked ribs.”  He shook his head.  “I don’t know what’s going on, Steve, but he’s not going to survive this kind of treatment long.”  He gently picked up one of Williams’ arms and McGarrett grimaced when he examined the red burns on the wrist.  “Rope burns. He was bound and fought hard to get free.”

 

A prisoner again.  How did he escape Wo Fat a second time?  It seemed unaccountably sloppy of the fat villain to allow that, but he wasn’t going to question it too deeply now.

 

“He’ll be all right?”

 

“We’ll know more when we get the x-rays, but I think he’s just going to need some rest.  And I mean it this time!” he nearly shouted.  “A head injury -- wait till you see the laceration and knot on the side of his head -- this is not to be trifled with, Steve!”

 

“I agree,” McGarrett complied instantly.  As difficult as it was to hear this, at least this time Danno was alive.  He couldn’t help but think back to that bleak night at the Coroner’s office when he went there to identify remains.  Shivering, he stared at the patient, assured his friend was still here and alive. “What else?”    

 

“Badly scraped knees and ribcage and hands.”  The voice hardened with wrath.  “Some lacerations and bruising on the face consistent with a good pummeling.  They really hurt him.”  Seeing the pain – the mask which usually hid what he called bleeding not present -- of the man standing before him, Bergman took a few deep breaths to calm his own emotions before he patted McGarrett on the shoulder.  “Don’t worry, Steve, he’ll be fine.  Whatever’s going on isn’t very healthy for him. But I know you’ll take care of him.”

 

After Bergman left, McGarrett paced, almost never taking his eyes off the patient. 

 

‘Yeah, I was taking care of him just fine, wasn’t I?’  How could he be so careless after losing Danno once already only days ago?  ‘Not again, Danno, I promise.’

 

How could he have left Danno alone?  He suspected Wo Fat was angry.  That his job here in Hawaii was not done yet.  And McGarrett left the most vulnerable player on the board at risk.  Why was Wo Fat after Danno?  It had to be something more than personal revenge.  Or even killing off loose ends. 

 

Did Wo Fat intend for Williams to die in the fire?  When he didn’t, did that somehow threaten future plans?  Did Danno hear and see more than he should have and now it worried Wo Fat?  Especially after Danno’s bold and risky revelation in front of the TV cameras?  And why kill the two captured Chinese thugs?  They also knew too much?

 

After a time Bergman returned with coffee and x-rays.  To McGarrett’s great relief, no skull fracture had been detected, but the concussion was serious, and the doctor emphasized more than once that the patient would need to be closely watched for signs of any brain hemorrhaging for the next several days. From the determined expression on McGarrett’s face, Bergman knew that this was one time Dan Williams would not be able get around his medical orders. He insisted that the injured young man was to stay here for observation for at least a day.  More if possible, but he growled that that was unlikely considering the history of his Five-0 patients.

 

The coffee was ignored while McGarrett paced.   Every few minutes he would stop and sit on the side of the bed, holding onto to Dan’s wrist, keeping a tangible grounding that his friend was alive.  Then, in agitation, he would pace again.

 

He checked outside and was warmed to find Duke quietly instructing two burley HPD guards.  Chin rounded the corner and McGarrett stepped out to confer with him, assure him Danno was going to be all right, and tell him to make arrangements for securing the hospital.  When Danno was better they would have to find a secure location for him until they could get Wo Fat.

 

When he went back in the room, Williams was groaning and shifting in the bed.  He went to the bed and placed a gentle hand on his arm.

 

It’s okay, Danno, you’re safe.”

 

“Steve.”  Dan blinked his eyes.  “Hi.”

 

His voice was rough and hoarse.  His throat was probably raw from salt water.  How long had he been in the water?  Steve restrained the questions bursting in his thoughts.

 

“Hi,” Steve smiled.  You doing okay?”

 

“Head.”

 

“Yeah, you got another concussion and some nasty scrapes.  What happened?  Wo Fat?”

 

“No.  His enemies.” 

 

Intrigued, McGarrett sat down on the side of the bed.  “His enemies?”

 

Slowly, not quite coherently, Williams started an unlikely tale of capture by Chinese thugs -- one of whom smelled like ginger and wore a jade ring.  They were ready to kill him to find out why Wo Fat killed their implanted double agent.  One of the Chinese thugs in HPD lock-up.

 

McGarrett absorbed it all silently, allowing the confused, disjointed thoughts to tumble out on their own.  While it seemed fantastic, Steve believed it.  The proof was Dan’s condition.  So, they were playing a double game again with the Chinese.  Factions within the government -- or others -- opposed to Wo Fat.  And they had to take it out on Hawaiian soil using his friend!

 

Ready to rush out and start combing the island, he knew that would be useless.  They had yet to find Wo Fat.  How were they going to find Asians -- no description yet -- that might have captured Williams?  And, any personal efforts at solving the case would mean he would have to leave here.  Mentally, he was stuck like glue, afraid to even let go of his friend right now.  He doubted he would leave this room much at all until Williams was released. 

 

There was a shadowy dread that leaving him again would mean the end.  That without his personal protection Williams was marked for death and the plan would succeed unless Steve was here to stop it.  The notion was possibly close to true, fed by paranoia and pain.  He would do anything to avoid what he had gone through with Dan’s faked death.  He had a whole police force to investigate and work a case.  Only he could protect his friend appropriately.

 

While he recognized that view as being paranoid, also, he had no problem acting as personal bodyguard. 

 

“Beach.”

 

“You were held at the beach?  That explains why you were soaked when you were picked up.”

 

“Wo Fat is still here.  Planning something –“ Frustrated, he shook his head, then held onto it with both hands.  “Can’t remember . . . .

 

McGarrett gently touched his arms.  It’s okay, Danno.  It’ll come back to you.  Right now all you have to do is rest and get better.  Got that?”

 

Wo Fat –“

 

“Is not your concern.  I know he’s still here, but he’s not getting near you, don’t worry.”

 

There was a shadow of a smile on Dan’s wan face and it made Steve realize what a bear he must seem.  Overprotective and commanding as usual.  It seemed to set things right with the universe and right now Williams didn’t mind.  That made him feel a little better -- more certain that things really would be fine now. 

 

Wryly, he revealed, “He gave me a call tonight.”

 

The hands went down and Williams stared at him.  “What?”

 

“Yeah.  Wanted to twist the knife a little bit, but I reminded him he wasn’t the one who could gloat this time around.  Then I hung up on him.”

 

“You hung up on Wo Fat?” The young man’s eyes grew larger and he smiled slightly, admiration of his boss too apparent. “I bet he knocked some chairs over after that!” The thought of Steve gaining the upper hand on the man who had hurt and humiliated him so was somehow energizing.

 

“Now rest.  We’ll talk more tomorrow.”

 

Williams closed his eyes and accepted the advice with no resistance.

 

 

*****

 

 

“Steve, you could go home.  You should go home.”

 

Exasperated at the tenacity of his officer, he breathed out a stubborn rebuttal.  “No, I can’t.  You are not leaving my sight,” he firmly added, just to make his point, again, completely clear.

 

Laying in the bed, Williams was waking more than sleeping now and in his conscious periods, he was determined -- too determined -- to get back in the action. Bergman was not ready to release him yet and Dan was pushing at the restrictions, feeling just well enough to be a nuisance to staff and boss.

 

“There are guards outside the door.”  Pausing only briefly, seeing he was not swaying the boss, he continued.  “Steve, I know what it’s like to not sleep in your own bed.  You are giving me a guilt trip.  You don’t need to be here all the time.”

 

“Yes, I do,” McGarrett sternly reiterated.  He put aside the paper he was scribbling on and stared at his colleague.  “You don’t know what it was like.” 

 

When his father died he had learned to sublimate the hurt, to close it away and withdraw the pain from the sight of others.  He had honed that trait.  And until the last few years, had a sterling success rate. He could almost trace the cracks in his armor to when Williams came on board the unit.  Noticeably, the largest tear in his defensive shields had been the raw and emotional night he had opened his heart to his friend and wept over the death of his nephew.

 

After that, it seemed less important to hide things from Danno and more important to include him, no matter how difficult, in what he was thinking and feeling.  It was an ongoing process.  Not something that yet came easily.  But over the years he had learned the truth of the old cliché that shared burdens are lighter to bear.

 

He wasn’t sure what he had intended to say, but with the firm resolve turned to mush a cascade of thinly separated emotions renewed his memory and feelings.  

 

“When you went missing . . . .”  He shook his head, unable to go on.

 

How could he articulate the dread and desperation engulfing him at Dan’s sudden disappearance?  Throughout that terrible, long day, he had constant reminders of the lack of support, input and the knowledge that there was always an ally at his side.  Chin, Ben and Duke were there to help, of course, but it was not the same.

 

Then that horrific moment when Duke entered the office.  In that silent instant, Steve’s world shattered and altered forever.  In that heartbeat of eternity, he knew that Danno was dead and the fear and emptiness turned suddenly, replaced by an unbelievable pain and mourning.  A hurt that would never stop.

 

Then the miracle -- Danno’s return to life -- and Steve’s different world that was glued back together, but the cracks would remain for a long time.

 

“Yesterday,” he quietly started again, ”I made the mistake of thinking now that you were back everything was all right.  Then you were nabbed again.  And again, only your skill and good fortune averted a terrible . . . . “ his voice was so thick he had to stop, clear it, calm his nerves, then after several moments proceed.  “I am not going to let anything -- anything -- happen to you again.  You are not moving out of my sight until this is over.”

 

Obviously moved by the open confession, Williams just nodded, his eyes watery

 

 

*****

 

 

“This would go a lot better at the office.  Shouldn’t we be on our way?”

 

McGarrett glanced up from the report he was reading, spread on a table he had commandeered from the hospital.  Setting up an office while recovering was common for him, but this was the first time he had indulged in the practice with one of his men as the patient.

 

“Doc won’t release you till he checks on you again.”

 

“I can think better at the office.”

 

“And you can rest better here.”

 

The situation was frustrating and McGarrett forced himself not to grind his teeth as an outward show of irritation.  Being hampered by Bergman was expected.  The doctor had been deeply affected by Williams’ “death” and resulting return and his second capture.  The injuries bothered Bergman and Steve felt they shared a common concern there.  Danno was vulnerable.  But how to protect the officer when they didn’t know who threatened him or why he was at risk?  So McGarrett stubbornly remained here as the highest level security guard in the state, and Bergman fussed and demanded, refusing to let Williams go too early.

 

Groaning, Williams closed his eyes and rubbed at his temple.  “I wish I could remember more!”

 

“You will,” Steve assured confidently. 

 

This was tough on Williams, too, knowing there was something locked in his head and being unable to produce the clues.  They were under pressure -- Wo Fat was poised to strike again in some way and Danno might have the key to stopping him.  And never far from his thoughts -- Wo Fat’s promise -- that Williams would die for real this time.  He had not revealed that bit of conversation to his friend.  No need to add more stress to the already distraught officer.  Steve remembered enough for both of them. 

 

Perhaps, the head of Five-0 would be more productive out working the case on the streets like his men.  But he could not move away from Williams yet.  Too soon.  Even with assigned HPD guards, McGarrett could not trust Dan’s safety to anyone else.

 

“You don’t have to stay,” Dan insisted for the third or fourth time that day.  He sat up and made a credible showing of a healthy person.  “You’ve got guards in the hall.”

 

“I’m staying till Doc comes.”

 

“He’s taking his time.”

 

“Gives him the impression he’s in charge,” Steve wryly returned.

 

Williams smirked.  “And we all know who’s really the boss.”

 

“You’re pretty cocky for someone at my mercy and Bergman’s.”

 

The Coroner sailed in at that point and claimed that he had no mercy.  He did, however, have a low tolerance for complaining Five-0 officers and that he was releasing Williams.  He exchanged a glance with McGarrett, and the head of Five-0 understood it was a silent transfer of sober responsibility.  Bergman did not want to see a damaged or dead Williams back under his care. It was Steve’s job to prevent that.  From the physician’s expression, he read Steve’s agreement to the silent pact -- his stern resolve -- easily.

 

As Williams dressed, Bergman motioned for McGarrett to join him in the hall. The two men stepped past the now ever-present HPD security detail that blocked the patient’s door and moved far enough down the hallway to have a private conversation.

 

“Steve, I know you’re going to do whatever it takes to keep that boy safe from the bad guys, but you need to keep him safe from himself as well.” The doctor’s tone was grave, and McGarrett listened with a determined intensity as the physician instructed. “NO running, NO driving, NO surfing. NO rough stuff!  His head cannot afford to be jostled for the next several days. If he tells you he’s feeling fine, take this to the bank – he’s lying. And the fact that he’s in there right now getting dressed, tells me that he wants to keep a stiff upper lip for you.”

 

“I’ll use kid gloves, Doc, and you can take THAT to the bank!” McGarrett promised solemnly.

 

 

*****

 

With more alacrity than Steve expected, Williams was dressed and released in short order.  Wryly eyeing the guards on the way out, Williams did not comment, but rolled his eyes. 

 

Resting on the drive back to the city, Dan sat up when he noted they were traveling down Ala Wai Boulevard.

 

“You’re not going home.”

 

“Steve -- “

 

“Danno, they got to you twice at your condo.  You’re not going back there until this is resolved.”

 

“We know about the double threat now,” he weakly protested.  “I can take care of myself.”

 

“Yeah.  With some help.”

 

When they pulled into the driveway of McGarrett’s apartment, Williams loudly sighed.  Prepared for more arguments, McGarrett was pleased when none came and his officer seemed accepting of his fate.  Short of stowing Dan in a corner at the office, this was psychologically Steve’s first choice.  Again, it gave him the illusion that he was commanding the situation while Wo Fat really held the high ground.  If nothing else, Steve was going to protect Danno.  He might ultimately fail in foiling phase two, or fail to capture Wo Fat.  But he was not going to lose at the most important issue.

 

Once settled in the guest room, Dan ambled back to the living room and lounged on the sofa facing Diamond Head.  The afternoon sun made the crevices and etched cliffs of the mountain seem like an Emerald; starkly cut green facets resting against an azure sky. 

Dan rambled about details that were slowly coming back to him about the second captivity.  Within moments he dozed off and McGarrett sat down to study his detective, occasionally staring out the window in an unfocused gaze at Diamond Head -- thought processes whirling. 

 

Again, he was in a familiar dilemma.  Protect Williams, keep his health and safety first, or call him back to work, pry out the vital information that could save lives and stop Wo Fat.  Danno was right, thinking and working at the office was the most productive and logical step.  It was at the heart of Five-0 where the staff could gather, think, brainstorm and talk out clues until they found a solution.  To demand that of Williams now though was unfair and probably dangerous to his recovery.  Thus his decision was made. 

 

Steve called the office for a conference with Chin and Ben.  Then he spread notes and reports on the dining table.  It was distracting to work here.  His mind was still preoccupied with Dan.  The sun was bright and warm and the toasty Trades blowing through the open lanai doors made him pause to appreciate the splendor. This was a nice place -- a big open apartment with lots of windows, natural lighting, two lanai and two fantastic views; of the mountains, also of Diamond Head and the ocean.  Why didn’t he come here more often?  This was supposed to be his home.  He had the second room set up as a studio in the unlikely event he had time to paint.  And yet, it was the Palace that was his true home.  His center of gravity through the years. 

 

“You could go to the office without me.”

 

Glancing over at the slowly waking officer, McGarrett shrugged.  “I like it here.”

 

“Wo Fat is busy and we’re spinning out wheels, Steve.”  Dan sat up, looking a little more energized.  “Don’t waste time on my account.  What if he has something big and deadly in mind?  You can’t let me drag you down.”

 

However unwell Williams was feeling, it seemed he had not lost his ability to sense his boss’s distraction, no matter how well he felt it was disguised, the older detective considered. Today, this observation pleased him as it was a positive sign that his friend was recovering. 

 

“I won’t,” McGarrett assured seriously.  “I’ll check in at the Palace tomorrow.  Meanwhile, I’m going over your statements and some other HPD reports trying to piece things together.  If you rest and get better, I think you’ll probably remember what we need.”

 

Nodding, the younger officer accepted the advice.  “When I’m feeling up to it you’re going to let me back on this, right?”

 

The little strain of defiant independence was typical and Steve worked hard at not smiling at the predictability of his friend.  “I wouldn’t dream of keeping you away.”

 

 

*****

 

“My, my. McGarrett’s knight has had a very difficult week. Clearly, our suspicions about Wang’s loyalty to me were correct.   And now, I think it is safe to assume that the Xin Hua are very interested in what Mr. Williams knows about the death of their man.  In light of the possibility that he has some remedial understanding of Mandarin – I too am interested in what he may remember from his stay with us. Should the opportunity arise, I shall have to make a point of asking him.”

 

The plate of sliced, fresh pineapple was placed with a bow by Wo Fat’s faithful servant.

 

Wo Fat gave a slight nod and smile. “There is just nothing like the pineapple of Hawaii, don’t you agree, Chang?”

 

The tall man remained silent, but nodded and smiled at his boss.

 

The Chinese spy picked up a slice of the fruit, but paused before it could reach his mouth. “We must take steps to prevent the Xin Hua from spoiling my gift to McGarrett.”

 

 

*****

 

Danny should have been prepared for the emotional purge of what was hopefully the last homecoming.  But clear brain processes were not cooperating much right now.  It was hard to think beyond the aching muscles of his scraped body and the swimming throbs of pain in his battered head.  Not to mention the disgusting vertigo-induced nausea accompanying a concussion.

 

He had hardly made it half-way through the big common room of the main office when Jenny Sherman spotted him.  She was crying by the time her slight form raced around her desk and she was openly sobbing when she hugged him in a numbing embrace far exceeding her stature. The secretary had known Dan was alive and well, but she’d been out of the office when he dropped in a few days before.  Jenny would never mention this to Steve – or anyone for that matter – but she was not certain she would have been able to return to the office if Dan really had been killed. So, she was fortunately spared the worst of the dark hours when the detectives were certain than their younger colleague had been brutally murdered and fed to the sharks. 

 

The attack took his breath away.  Her enthusiasm pounded his ribs that had cracked when the ginger-man repeatedly slammed him into the tidal pool.  Dizzy, unable to respond verbally, he closed his eyes and was too disoriented to pull away from the short woman who now, ironically, kept him on his feet with her support.

 

 

*****

 

Steve saw the emotional entrance from his office and did not disturb the reunion between the secretary and probably her favorite detective.  He felt a little choked up seeing the deep relief Jenny did not bother to hide. The rest of the detectives had been subdued in their reunions with Danno in comparison, but there had been a lot of profound feelings bouncing around here the last week.  Desperation, fear, desolation, grief, joy -- in levels rarely experienced and some at murky places he hoped never to visit again.

 

McGarrett stepped to the door and cast a stern eye out at the main office.  Good, at least the HPD escort had stuck with Danno. He was pleased to see that they were diligently interrogating a man with a hard hat who’d stepped into the office. He wore a work shirt that bore the name and familiar logo of the phone company. As the man nervously handed one of the officers what looked to be a work order, he seemed a little startled at the two very large, suspicious HPD men who scrutinized him very closely.

 

Not Chinese anyway, the head of Five-0 noted.

 

This was McGarrett’s first day back at the office since Danno’s second abduction. It was a difficult decision to leave Dan’s protection in the hands of others, but he had several meetings that could not be cancelled, and work that could only done here.  Why was he not surprised that Williams had failed to remain at the condo and ended up here at the Palace?

 

Moving into the main office, he placed a gentle hand on the secretary.  “All right, Jenny. We don’t want Danno to think we missed him too much.”

 

Williams opened his eyes and thanked his boss with a nod. Steve winked back -- the mutual understanding clear as he smoothly pulled his officer away.

 

“When you get a chance, Jenny, maybe you can bring in some coffee?”

 

With a last sniff, Jenny said she would and moved away as McGarrett took his detective in to join the other officers in his office.

 

“You are not back on the payroll yet, Danno,” he quietly admonished as they stood by the door.

 

“I can help, Steve.” His voice still sounded husky from the thrashing seawater he had swallowed, from the sore throat that was still swollen.  Dan did his best to not sway, to sound normal and confident as he looked up at his boss, but could clearly detect concern in the blue eyes that pierced him. “Please… I’ll take it easy.”

 

Not convinced, McGarrett gently pressed, “What is Dan Williams’ idea of take it easy? Does that mean no more publicly daring our enemies to take a swing at you in ANY language?”

 

Williams shrugged sheepishly and swallowed a grimace (even that hurt!) as he weakly defended himself. “It worked.”

 

“It worked too fast – and with a fish we didn’t even know was in the pond! And curse that Vernor woman for airing that segment as a bulletin instead of waiting till the regularly scheduled news time!” McGarrett replied firmly. 

 

Noticing his friend seemed to be listing a bit, he took him by the elbow and walked with him to one of the white leather chairs angled in front of the big desk.

 

“I’m fine,” Williams responded to his boss’s assistance, but didn’t fight it as he gently lowered himself into the chair, only too conscious of the concerned eyes of Chin, Ben, and Duke. The room was spinning, amplifying the persistent nausea.  Great – that was all he needed – to throw up in front of the guys. Determined to see this through, he inhaled slowly, gently leaned his head back on the chair and closed his eyes as he changed the subject. “So, what’ve we got?”

 

The head of Five-0, recognizing his own words, smiled as he took up Dan’s usual position on the corner of his desk only a few feet from the detective. “Good question, Danno.  At this point, we know that Wo Fat is plotting something that I think we can safely assume dovetails with his failed phase one plot to sabotage US-Soviet relations.”

 

“So we’re still looking for a Russian connection.” Dan mused out loud, eyes still closed.

 

Steve nodded and continued. “Yeah. If Wo Fat intends to make sure the finger points at the Russians, he needs a patsy. We all need to be on the lookout for that.” His brow furled slightly in concern as he studied his second-in-command, and he wondered whether Dan was able to pay attention. Another stab of guilt coursed through him as his friend’s demeanor drove home the fact that he should probably still be at the condo – possibly in the hospital – in bed. He said nothing though. Instead, he nodded at Chin, Ben, and Duke, who were all three standing around the unoccupied white chair.  “And now, thanks to Chin’s cousin—”

 

“Nephew,” Williams injected softly.

 

“Who runs the fish market—what?” McGarrett was almost surprised at the interruption.

 

“Uh, Danny’s right – he’s my nephew – my wife’s sister’s son actually, boss,” Chin corrected, and smiled.

 

Steve paused a moment to smirk – his second-in-command had obviously been more attentive to what McGarrett would secretly call irrelevant details than he had been when the detectives had their status meeting the previous day at Steve’s condo.

 

Correcting the statement, McGarrett plunged on with his train of thought. “Thanks to Chin’s nephew, we were able to get some leads on Zhu Liang Imports and the fact it supplies Anderson Catering with a variety of food stuffs.”

 

It was Ben’s turn to jump in. “And Anderson Catering is the company that has the contract to supply meals to the HPD prisoners. I interviewed the owner the day Wo Fat’s thugs were murdered. He was clean, but it turns out that his assistant, who came with him that day to serve up the chow, also works part-time for Zhu Liang!”

 

Dan spoke slowly, considering the data points. “So, we have a connection between Matthew Chang – my dead ringer – and Zhu Liang – the company which Wo Fat and his thugs mentioned, AND which probably had a hand in killing the Chinese prisoners.”

 

“Yeah,” McGarrett acknowledged. “I suspect we’ll be able to charge that Zhu Liang employee for murder one sooner rather than later. Now, Matthew Chang’s part in this over, so do we know that Zhu Liang is involved in phase two?” A few seconds of silence ensued as the detectives pondered the answer. 

 

“Yes,” Dan responded. He lifted his head from the chair and looked up at his boss, certainty expressed with his eyes. “Wo Fat was discussing phase two in English with somebody, and somebody else in the room said whatever it is they said in whatever language they said it—” The detective paused and looked to the Chin for assistance.

 

“Mandarin – maybe Mandarin-Minnan.” The Chinese detective supplied.

 

Dan nodded gingerly. “Anyway, that was when the guy said the ‘hai dook na liang’ thing.”

 

“Okay then, until we can determine otherwise, we’ll assume Zhu Liang is somehow involved in Wo Fat’s next move.” McGarrett stood and began pacing as he divided up the list of tasks. “I’m going to work on this from an intelligence angle – I’ve got a call in to Jonathon Kaye to see if we can get a bead on what Wo Fat is up to through classified sources. Ben, you stay on the trail of the poisonings – if you need to tap Chin for help from any of his relatives, do it!  Duke, get back over to the university, and finish the work up on Chang’s known friends and associates.”  The head of Five-0 stopped directly in front of his second-in-command and paused in indecision.

 

Williams didn’t move his head, but drew his eyes up slowly to meet those of his boss. He knew what the man was considering and did his best to sound confident as he cleared his throat, then spoke. “Steve, I’m okay – really.”

 

McGarrett sighed as he remembered Bergman’s words. “Danno, you will stay here with Chin, who will do his best to try to help you recall any more Mandarin words or phrases that you heard. That might mean a Chinese language lesson.” Dan and Chin nodded in unison as their boss added, “And Danno – if you don’t behave, I will turn you back over to Bergman.”

 

Dan knew that Steve’s warning was no idle threat. His friend had truly been traumatized and he was determined that he would not be the cause of any more suffering again. “I’ll be good – I promise.” 

 

Steve mentally patted himself on the back. That Chin, in addition to the official dedicated HPD team, would be with Danno most of the time for a reason that was valid from an investigative perspective would insure that his detective did not start to feel smothered. McGarrett knew all too well from experience that Williams was fiercely independent, and tended to balk very quickly at protection no matter how much it was needed.

 

Jenny came in with a tray loaded with cups of coffee and plates of rolls.  Dan smiled at the delicacy -- King’s famous Hawaiian rolls.  A delightful local treat.  He was surprised and pleased when she left a whole plate next to him on the side of the desk near where he was slouched.

 

On her way past, the secretary smiled kindly at him, touched his cheek with her hand, and whispered, “Let me know if you need anything, sweetie.”

 

Sure he was blushing, Dan was grateful the meeting was breaking up, and so his colleagues had begun coordinating logistics with each other. That meant their attention to the coddling scene was probably minimal. But as he glanced in their direction, he saw all four men had paused explicitly to observe what transpired. The teasing grins stamped on their faces told him he would not hear the end of this for quite some time.

 

 

*****

 

 

Fog… he felt like he was swimming in something less substantial than water and so could not make any kind of progress by kicking or paddling. Suddenly, out of the whiteness, the sneering face of the vicious ginger-man rushed at him and a hand slowly balled into a fist to strike him. He could feel the pain before the fist could drop.

 

Dan cried out and tried to sit, but that action snapped him to a fully awakened state as his muscles instantly told him they were injured, and the room tipped sideways and spun for almost a minute before he could take stock of his situation.

 

When he’d grown too tired to respond to Chin’s questions, the older detective insisted that he retreat to the boss’s office for a little while and rest. Discouraged that he had been unable to remember anything else substantive, he was too exhausted to even be embarrassed by the show of frailty, and so Dan lay himself down on the sofa and almost instantly drifted off into a fitful sleep. The result had not been restful as he was barraged by a hodge podge of images, most of them disturbing memories of his captivity – except this time he knew that Steve was enduring a torture far worse than what he was experiencing. His shirt was damp and he could feel his heart rate slowing from racing speed as he recognized that he was safe as the gold in Fort Knox in the office of Steve McGarrett. 

 

Williams stood and stretched carefully, and then made his way out of the office. He obviously had been sleeping longer than he thought. Jenny was gone for the day, and somebody had had enough time to eat all of the King’s rolls that had been left on the secretary’s desk.  Maybe Pono or Keoni ate the rolls, he considered as he unhappily observed the bodyguards in place.

 

“I need a shower,” Dan mumbled hoarsely. And a half dozen aspirin… 

 

“Sorry, Danny, you’re not going ANYWHERE that one of us can’t see you. Mr. McGarrett told us that if anything bad happened to you that the same thing would happen to us.”

 

Dan rolled his eyes in frustration at his boss’s understandable, but paralyzing protective attitude. “He was just joking, Pono!”

 

The burly officer smiled, but did not blink as he responded levelly. “No – I don’t think he was.”

 

Keoni, who was leaning on the wall cleaning under his fingernails with a pocketknife, grumbled, “It didn’t sound to me like he was joking either – and I don’t want to spend the rest of my career walking the fish market beat.”

 

Despite his annoyance, Dan was also touched by Steve’s concern, and he had to muster a smile at the impression his very imposing boss frequently left with the rank-and-file. “Hmm, well, I would say that his bark is worse than his bite, but…”

 

Chin glanced up from the file he was perusing and snickered.

 

“Yeah,” Pono finished the thought. “I heard.”

 

As the officer’s words ran through his head, Dan could hear another phrase – said by someone else… where was he? On a cool floor… Wo Fat had snapped instructions to one of his men and then looked down at him and smiled a toothy grin...

 

“Chin!” Dan turned a little too suddenly, and gasped as the wave of vertigo peaked and washed over him. Chin didn’t reach Williams before the two officers steadied him. “Sit,” he breathed as he tried to recover.

 

“Here, Danny, here’s a chair!” Pono quickly yanked the spare chair from beside Jenny’s desk and situated it behind the detective. All three men physically assisted Dan into the chair.

 

He tried quickly to assure them verbally – he knew his appearance did not instill any measure of confidence is his condition. “It’s okay – just a little dizzy.”

 

“Danny, take it easy,” Chin berated gently.

 

But Dan remembered something and he needed to say it before it was lost to him again.  “Ya hai shee!” He said the phrase carefully, doing his best to repeat it just as he had heard it said, remembering Chin’s lesson about accents and emphasis. With the words flung from his mouth, he desperately looked at the Chinese detective, praying he could make sense of it.

 

Chin considered the words for only a moment before a grin broke across his face.

 

*****

 

 

“It means fireworks in some parts of China!” Chin exclaimed to McGarrett.

 

As the head of Five-0 paced in his office, glancing from Kelly to Williams, he sensed that Chin found significance in the phrase, and he could not keep the excitement from coloring his tone, “And in other parts of China?”

 

“Explosion!” Chin pronounced.

 

“A bombing! That fiend is planning to bomb something!” McGarrett exclaimed, dread gripping him side-by-side with the excitement of a breakthrough on the case. “Chin, he MAY be importing the explosive, but let’s check out the possibility that he’s picked it up locally!”

 

The Chinese detective nodded, and then his attention focused on his colleague on the sofa. With a glance exchanged between he and his boss, Chin responded as he headed out the door. “I’ll get right on it.”

 

He remembered clearly what Wo Fat said to him in that phone call.  The game was not over. He hadn’t spoiled plans, but delayed them. Then -- the strike to the heart.  Wo Fat asked how it felt when he thought Danno was dead.

 

‘Do you think it will feel worse when he can’t rise from the ashes – literally in this case – like the proverbial Phoenix?’

 

Did he intend that Danno was going to be killed in a bombing?  Not a chance, he vowed.

 

As energized as he was to have a clue about Wo Fat’s plan, he was instantly concerned as he saw Williams slouched on the couch, apparently not listening, or at least not reacting to the exchange between his colleagues. McGarrett moved and gently settled on the sofa next to his detective. 

 

This was really taking too much out of the officer, he considered, assessing the worn Williams.  He kept promising himself he would know when he had pushed Danno too far, and now was that time.

 

The slight jostling prompted Dan to speak. “I’m sorry I can’t remember more.”

 

“You did great. Come on, Danno – It’s well after dinnertime. Let’s get outta here.”

 

Helping Williams to his feet, he kept close but did not further aid the detective as they slowly made their way to the outer office.  Only the two HPD officers were left, the rest of the staff had gone home long before.  Steve reminded himself he had to do a better job of keeping an eye on little things like meal times and low-pressure work.  Danno was providing important intelligence, yes, but it would defeat the purpose if he was driven into serious illness from overwork.

 

Again came the little whisper of doubt that this was the right course of action.  But as long as Danno was here, literally in his sight, in his grip, he felt like his friend’s protector.  That he could handle any problems -- bar medical ones -- because he was overseeing this personally.

 

They both shared the impression of being more centered at the office.  Here, Williams was safest.  Taking his big brother role literally, Steve saw that Danno rested and, thanks to Jenny, got enough to eat.  Bergman would NOT approve, but Bergman did not understand what Steve and Dan shared as a higher purpose.   While Danno convalesced, he offered information when he remembered -- and that was valuable to all of them, including Williams.  Their jobs were their lives, and for Steve to prevent Dan from doing his job, would be too painful for both of them now.

 

Steve selfishly – acknowledging the thought in passing -- admitted to himself that HE could concentrate better when Danno was in the office.  When here, Williams was not threatened by mysterious and lethal Chinese, and Steve was not so haunted by the memories of the kidnappings and faked death.

 

Cruising through the office, he was pleased that Pono and Keoni instantly came to their feet.

 

“We’ll use route three tonight, boys.”

 

“Yes, sir,” Keoni snapped and took off to offer lead support. 

 

The routes and times had been selected to make sure Wo Fat detected a pattern.  A subtle one.  Too easy and the old pro would know it was a trap.  But nothing too hard.  They had to bring this nasty game to a conclusion soon.

 

The trip to the condo was made without incident.  The man at the door officially took over the shift for Pono and Keoni.  He also mentioned the neighbor had some kau kau for the detectives whenever they came in.

 

Ellen’s food,” Williams tried to sound enthusiastic, but it was lost as he slumped onto the sofa and yawned.  “Sounds ono.  Does she deliver?”

 

“I’ll go get it.”  He was about to advise Dan to relax, but Dan had already settled and closed his eyes.

 

Steve refrained from commenting about shoes on the sofa and went next door to his kind and culinary-skilled neighbor, Ellen Kenau.  She and her grandchildren were some of the few friends he had made in his building.  He was never here long enough, it seemed, to get to know many.  She loved providing treats for the Five-0 staff at holidays and when one of the detectives was recuperating, she showered them with goodies.

 

When McGarrett returned he put the fresh sashimi and lau lau on the table and turned to find Dan asleep.  For a moment, he just watched the officer, wondering if the price of catching Wo Fat was worth this risk -- to Dan’s health as well as his life.  To Steve’s life as he knew it.  Confident he knew when to put down limits, he decided, for now, they would continue to give this their best shot.  If the risk escalated, though, he was pulling Williams out and throwing him somewhere remote and safe -- like in a cell in Maui PD.  There would not be a repeat of what he went through last week. 

 

 

*****

 

The next day at the office seemed to crawl by.  No progress was made with recovering more from Dan’s memory.  Chin’s Chinese phrases all turned to mush inside his head.  At least Steve and Ben were out doing productive work.  They were out at Pearl questioning some of Steve’s NI contacts.

 

Trying to feel a little useful, he went to his much-neglected office and attempted to sign off some old case files.  Soon he realized he possessed no concentration, and returned to McGarrett’s office to stare at the files they had amassed.

 

This whole case was so frustrating.  There were lives are at stake.  He didn’t know specifics, but anything Wo Fat was planning would probably be deadly for somebody.  It was their job -- his job -- to remember the details.  If only he could put it all together.  The progress was so slow -- but it was progress, he reminded, salvaging a little of his usual optimism.  He was the key player here and had managed to recall vital clues that had inched them forward.  There was a deep need for him to contribute to this -- to catch Wo Fat.  By using him, Wo Fat had damaged Steve and the only way to fix that was to catch the spy master.

 

He heard the office door slam and he slowly moved to the side table to sit down and hoped he made a credible appearance at productivity.  A lot of his energy now was used up in casting the illusion that he was feeling better than he really was -- concealing the vertigo and nausea and fatigue that plagued him daily.  The masquerade was something he had to do as much as he had to work on the case.  To keep further trauma from weighing on Steve.

 

Chin joined him, opening a paper bag filled with egg rolls.  The Five-0 staff was going to put on pounds at this point.  They were catering to him, plying him with plenty of food and they all seemed to love it a lot more than he did.

 

“Got some new files from Interpol.  Want to look at these?”

 

Jenny came in with fresh cups of coffee.

 

Sipping slowly, Dan stared at the files without really taking in their contents. With all of the Five-0 detectives so distracted by recent events, the mundane tasks had slipped by the wayside, even by the boss. McGarrett usually kept a pretty tight watch on the Interpol sweeps. Due to its geographical situation, Hawaii was a jump-off point for many spies and criminals’ comings and goings, and so it frequently paid off to keep an eye on the people Interpol considered noteworthy.

 

Slowly, what Dan’s eyes had scanned three times registered with his brain. Vladimir Hayduk, the Russian terrorist was stopped while attempting to board a flight to Honolulu from Bangkok. He managed to elude authorities there, and had not been sighted since.

 

Vladimir Hayduk…Russian terrorist…Honolulu…Vladimir Hayduk…Honolulu…Hayduk…Honolulu…Hayduk…Hayduk…Hayduk…

 

Dan jumped, knocking over his coffee in the process, and was instantly sorry he’d made the sudden move. Pain from several pulled muscles rocketed through his body. He grimaced and cried out. Chin and Jenny nearly knocked their chairs over getting to him.

 

“What’s wrong, Danny?”

 

Chin wore the expression of a concerned father as he inspected his younger colleague for further trauma. Jenny stood nearby and immediately began soaking up coffee with a handful of nearby napkins. Oblivious to the mess he’d made, he looked triumphant and panicked at the same time.

 

“Chin! Hai dook is a name! It’s Russian – the creep was pronouncing it wrong!! It’s Hayduk – as in Vladimir Hayduk!” Dan excitedly pushed the file in the Chinese detective’s direction, grimacing again as his muscles objected.

 

McGarrett and Kokua entered, immediately taking in the charged atmosphere. 

 

“What’s going on?” Steve snapped out, concerned at the strained and messy appearance of his youngest officer.

 

“Danny’s come up with a good one,” Chin smiled.

 

Dan repeated what he remembered.

 

“Russians, Chinese, how does it all fit?” Ben wondered.

 

Jenny finished her clean up and paused near the door.  “I don’t know about this case, but if you don’t get Danny to rest he’s not going to remember anything else.”

 

“I’m fine,” Williams quickly returned before anyone had a chance to comment.  “First Wo Fat, then the second string of Chinese agents.  Now Vladimir Hayduk.  How are they connected?”

 

Not answering the rhetorical question, silently agreeing with the secretary’s assessment, McGarrett levelly eyed his protégé while the others debated.  It was time to call this quits, but he allowed the talk session to continue briefly.  This was where they were at their best -- the four detectives putting their minds together and solving puzzles from this room.

 

Ben chimed in, “We ALL need Chinese lessons for this case!”

 

Chin chuckled. “Nee hau ma?”

 

The Hawaiian detective responded with a grin. “Yes, but I’ll take poi with mine, bruddah!”

 

Remaining focused on the subject, McGarrett related the newest intelligence. “Let us tell you what we found out at Pearl.  I think we know who was after you the second time, Danno.  Xin Hua is a Chinese shadow group. My sources at NI tell me that they unofficially do the bidding of the official Chinese government. Of course, we know there are internal forces that do not trust Wo Fat, and now it’s clear that they were able to infiltrate his organization.  Intelligences sources have associated one of the dead prisoners with them.”

 

“That confirms why these guys grabbed Danny.”

 

McGarrett nodded. “Yeah – to find out whether Wo Fat had their agent killed because he discovered he had a leak.”

 

“Or because he was just tying up loose ends from phase one.” Dan was back on the couch, where he’d been spending a lot of time lately.

 

The officer was fading -- no -- done in -- the coffee stain on the shirt spoke of some kind of sloppy incident that underscored the shaky health.  McGarrett reminded himself of his promise to be mindful of Dan’s physical condition not just his protection and safety. 

 

“I think you better call it a day, Danno.”

 

Williams instantly straightened.  “I’m fine.  Really.  Besides, Wo Fat expects me here until after supper --“

 

“And we decided he is not controlling this game, remember?” McGarrett firmly countered.

 

Steve had arranged three routes that they take between the condo and the Palace, and they varied those.  Dan was supposed to leave everyday around or just after dinnertime, shifting the exact time every evening so it did not look like a pattern, but was if observed close enough.  Which Steve was sure was what Wo Fat and maybe the other Chinese -- Xin Hua -- were doing.  The most vulnerable spot for Dan was en route to or from the Palace or at the condo.  At his apartment there were police hidden away within the building as well as outside.  The safest spot -- where Steve kept Williams most of the time -- too much apparently -- was the Palace that was nearly barricaded by the police.

 

“But we want to catch him, Steve, and I’m fine.”

 

Kelly called him over to take a call from Interpol regarding Hayduk.  Lukela arrived to add to the manpower.  Before he picked up the phone, McGarrett ordered Kokua to head out as point man to the condo.  Duke came over and sat on the arm of the sofa.  Williams put his head back and closed his eyes.

 

“You don’t have to keep this up, Danny,” Lukela whispered.

 

Dan opened his eyes but did not bother to respond.

 

“You know it’s okay, Danny, we know you’re not in the best of shape.  Those creeps left you hurting.  We’re tough. We’ll get through this together.  Steve can handle it if you need to take some time off.  Don’t kill yourself trying to protect him.”

 

Visibly relaxing, Dan surrendered a little smile.  “Mahalo.  But I’m okay.”

 

“Sure you are.”

 

“I’m fine,” he insisted with a glare.

 

Lukela shook his head.  “You keep up with this you’re going to collapse. Then what is Steve going to do?”

 

A loud curse and the slamming of the phone startled everyone in the room.  Without using the intercom, or moving from his desk, McGarrett yelled, “Jenny, what is the problem with the phone?  That is the second time I’ve been cut off!”

 

“I have a memo from maintenance,” she calmly reported from the doorway, not lowering her standards to yell back at the boss.  “Rats eating the phone lines.  They are working on it.”

 

“Lean on them!” he snapped back. 

 

He remembered the phone company technician that had been in the office off and on for the past couple of days and now the phone company truck outside the Palace when he pulled up.  He had one of the HPD officers checking on it, in fact.  No detail, no random or mundane element would be overlooked in this deadly game.  Danno’s life depended on their speed in solving this investigation and the level of security they could throw around him.  Steve was not going to lose this time.

 

He leveled Williams with a stern glare.  “Time for you to go home.”

 

Dan sat up pretty straight, giving a good impression of normalcy.   “I’m okay,” he gamely argued.

 

In no mood for heroics, insubordination or arguments, McGarrett stepped over to the sofa.  “Home.” To the others, he ordered, “Route two, as discussed this morning.”

 

Williams slowly came to his feet.  In a show of support and emphasis of his point, McGarrett held onto his arm.  “Chin is with you tonight.  When you feel up to it you can learn more Chinese.”

 

“You’re just trying to put me to sleep,” Dan retorted.

 

McGarrett stopped at the door to his office.  It was difficult to watch Williams leave without his personal protection.  Even with the escort of a Five-0 detective and three HPD officers.  Even though the Palace grounds at this time of the evening was packed with plainclothes and uniformed officers.  Every few nights Steve would let someone else be in charge -- just to change the pattern -- and he regretted it even as he hoped this would be the night that something happened.  That Wo Fat made his move and this deadly chess game with his friend’s life in the balance would be over.

 

He crossed to the lanai doors and waited for the entourage to emerge on the old stone steps in front.  The phone truck was still there, blocking the Ewa corner.  He would have them park somewhere else as soon as Williams was away.

 

The five men, Williams in the center, descended the steps.  As they reached the asphalt parking area, a car screeched around the corner.  The quick thinking HPD men grabbed Danny and threw him into the basement walkway alongside the steps.  When gunfire exploded from the car, Lukela and Kelly were crouched on the ground and already returning fire.

 

In a unique position above it all, McGarrett quickly drew his revolver, aimed and fired for the top of the driver’s side of the vehicle.  The car lurched and cruised slowly into a palm tree.  McGarrett raced out of the office, ordering Jenny to get more troops to the front.  Running down the steps, Steve glanced toward the car, assured that situation was under control with the number of officers already there.  His first priority was Williams. 

 

Jumping down to the sub-level, he saw Pono and Keoni were helping Williams up.

 

“You okay, Danno?”

 

“Yeah.”

 

“Let me see,” he demanded, knowing his officer was not all right.

 

Clutching onto his ribs, he leaned against the old building.  McGarrett was worried, assessing new scrapes and distressed at Williams’ pained expression and silent heroics.  Maybe he should call Doc?  Checking to make sure the area was clear, Steve helped Williams out and steered him over to his car.  That Dan was offering no more protests, leaning heavily on him, and moans had escaped his pale lips, McGarrett knew the saving of his life had been painful, possibly even costly.  They were heading for the condo right now.

 

“We got him out of the way as soon as we could,” Pono assured, anxiously trailing behind.

 

“You did very well.”

 

Duke stopped them before they reached the Mercury.  “We got a live guy that Chin is talking to.  Maybe Danny could ID the guy?”

 

It was asked of McGarrett, but Williams jumped in at the question. “Is he talking?”  He started slowly walking toward the wrecked vehicle.

 

Holding onto his arm, McGarrett accompanied him.  “Anyone else?”

 

“One other.  Driver’s dead, the other guy in the front seat is hurting.”

 

Stopping at the side of the car, Steve did not interrupt the stream of Mandarin flowing between Chin and the semi-coherent man.  In the flow of dialog, McGarrett heard Chin mention Wo Fat and his pulse raced. 

 

“Check him for cyanide,” he ordered Duke.  “One of Wo Fat’s tricks with the hired help.”

 

Dan, unaware that he was leaning on McGarrett, focused on the driver. His bony face was now streaked with rivulets of blood from a severe gash on his forehead. A choppy memory struggled to climb to the detective’s conscious. He recalled a series of stinging slaps that made his nose bleed. The vision suddenly became so real that he reached up and wiped his nose with the back of his hand. He remembered another hand reaching down into his pocket – he’d been too weak to struggle as the hand pulled two errant dollar bills out and paused only briefly before pocketing them.

 

“Show me his hands,” Dan suddenly commanded shakily.

 

Chin obliged and McGarrett led Williams closer to get a better look. He gasped slightly as he recognized the man’s distinctive crooked fingers, with the nail on his right pinky being a half inch long.

 

“He’s one of the guys that grabbed me the second time!” Dan’s eyes were large as errant, painful images flooded his mind.

 

Chin’s eyes narrowed and he looked up at McGarrett and confirmed, “He’s Xin Hua all right. I doubt he would’ve admitted it normally, but he’s pretty out of it right now – needs a doc pretty bad.”

 

McGarrett eyed the man angrily and grit his teeth. While McGarrett longed to stay and give this thug a vicious grilling, his priorities were clear. As he guided a shaking Williams away and to the Mercury, he called over his shoulder. “An ambulance is on the way. Stay with him, Chin.” 

 

Once in the car, he hesitated, wondering if he should head right over to the hospital.  Breathing slowly, as if just sitting there hurt, Dan’s eyes were closed and his face crunched from the massive aches that must be radiating throughout his whole body.  At the hospital, though, they could not protect him as well.  Public places were the most vulnerable.  The Palace grounds weren’t so good tonight either, he inwardly growled. 

 

“Anything broken?” he quietly asked.

 

“No.  Still in the same piece,” Dan tried to smile.  “I’ll be okay.”  The silence was thick and Dan opened his eyes to look at the boss without moving his head.  “Steve, it’s all right.  Just some bruises on bruises.”

 

“How’s your head?”

 

“I’m just pretending this was from a bad day at the Pipe.” 

 

McGarrett started the car and backed out, noting a squad car was following close behind.  “I’m taking you to Bergman.”

 

“No,” Dan almost shouted, slowly sitting up.  “Steve, he’ll want you to wrap me away in a cocoon and lock me in a box.  We’ll never find out about Wo Fat’s plan then.  I can’t help you if I’m not part of the case.”

 

McGarrett started to shake his head. 

 

“Steve, he’s going to blow up something.  Kill people.  We have to do everything we can to stop him.”

 

Thoughts pounding in his own brain, warring with cautions that shouted it was too dangerous for Williams to continue.  Too risky here on the front lines.  But this was how they unraveled mysteries, caught bad guys, and solved crimes.

 

At the front gates of the Palace McGarrett stopped for traffic, pondering the right choice for this dilemma.  He turned left when the lane was clear and cruised straight, not turning left at the intersection to go to Queens.

 

Dan audibly sighed and he sensed the officer relax.  “Mahalo.”

 

Vowing he would increase security everywhere and keep an eagle eye on the officer the rest of the night, McGarrett snarled quietly, “You better not get any worse, or Doc will have both our heads.” 

 

 

*****

 

 

“Bumbling oafs!” Wo Fat chuckled. “The Xin Hua is no match for McGarrett. If only they knew how their distractions are helping my cause!”

 

 

*****

 

Before the attempt on Williams’ life, it had been Chin that was on the hook to stay with Dan, but now, to Steve’s secret relief, it made more sense that the Chinese detective follow through with the prisoner. So it gave McGarrett a good excuse to have the duty with Dan for a second consecutive night.

 

Before Williams finished his dinner, he was dozing off in a big, comfortable easy chair and McGarrett stealthily took his plate.  Deeply concerned with Dan’s condition, he evaluated that not finishing the Ono Barbeque was an admission in itself of how much Dan was silently hurting but refused to admit it. He recalled with an involuntary shiver how Officer Pono had literally flung the much smaller detective down the steps during the attempt on his life. Again, McGarrett considered calling in Bergman.

 

The doorbell rang three times in quick succession.  The signal from the man at the door that it was an ally coming.  Cautious, McGarrett stood on the side of the door, hand resting on his revolver.

 

“Yes.”

 

“Ben here, Steve.”

 

McGarrett unlocked the door and cautiously peered out, hand still within reach of his firearm – just in case. The two men exchanged slight nods as the Hawaiian detective entered the room.

 

Ben updated his boss on the latest information from the captured agent. From the injured man’s confused confession, Chin had managed to glean that they had been sent to kill Dan. The man rambled in a dialect, with which Chin was not entirely familiar, but Chin believed he was saying that the Xin Hua had another source within Wo Fat’s organization that was in danger of being found out. Chin had been unable to get the man to reveal much about the phase two plot except that it would be happening very soon – in the next day or so maybe.

 

McGarrett frowned and paced, snapping his fingers in concentration. “So, the Xin Hua put the bag on Danno to try to find out what he knows about what Wo Fat knows. When Danno won’t talk, they try to kill him because they don’t want Wo Fat to be able to grab him AGAIN and make him spill the beans about the Xin Hua plant. Which they have unwittingly told him about – in his organization – just in case he doesn’t already know. Danno thwarts them by escaping--” McGarrett paused and looked up at Ben with an almost proud expression. “They tried to do him in too close to his own briar patch.”

 

Ben frowned as he smiled. “His what?”

 

“The ocean – even injured and confused, Danno did what came naturally to him, and made it through the pounding surf to safety. The Xin Hua creep didn’t last more than a few seconds after he fell into the water – clearly not his briar patch.”

 

“No wonder Danny’s head is spinning!” Ben breathed as he looked in the direction of the completely unconscious detective in the easy chair.

 

McGarrett walked over and gently dropped a blanket on his friend. Then he looked back at Ben, who was always secretly amazed at the uncharacteristic gentle nurturing that could come from his stern, frequently distant boss when it came to his second-in-command.

 

McGarrett continued emphatically. “Ah, Ben, the plot is more twisted than that! The Xin Hua, having failed the first time, tried to kill Danno again this evening. Now you KNOW that Wo Fat is watching this situation very closely and  IF he doesn’t already know – will have to be wondering why the Xin Hua want Danno dead. That fat spy would LOVE to get his hands on Danno again for more than one reason. Now HE wants to know whether Danno revealed anything about his captivity to the Xin Hua.  Remember that he may be concerned that Danno understands Mandarin and overheard more than was intended for his ears.  After all, if Wo Fat had his way, Danno would have been dead by now anyway. Our poison pawn is still poison. I strongly suspect that because there was some uncertainty about what Danno was able to tell us, that Wo Fat kept his phase two plan intact, but changed the target.”

 

The breeze picked up and filled the drape behind the sleeping detective with a cool ocean wind, and as Steve moved to close the sliding door, he added quietly, “We know who – we know what – we know when – all we need now is where.”

  

*****

 

 

The day began with good news from Duke. Customs logs revealed the arrival of a George Malenkov, an importer employed by Zhu LIang Imports. He declared a special shipment of Chinese Herbs and roots that would be sold wholesale to several restaurants in the islands. The shipment had been opened and checked. According to the customs agent whom Duke questioned, there was nothing remotely suspicious about the boxes. He did remember, however, thinking that the roots must be very dense, because they were so heavy. The declaration was memorable to the agent only because the man was obviously not Asian. He had inquired in passing about how he had come to work for the Chinese company, and the man replied that his new wife was the owner’s daughter. The explanation seemed reasonable, and so the packages and the man were cleared for entry.

 

Duke reported excitedly that the agent positively identified a photo of Vladimir Hayduk as George Malenkov. There it was – the Russian patsy, who would do Wo Fat’s bidding and then take the fall for it, had made his way into the country through a company that was clearly in Wo Fat’s pocket!

 

With information, albeit sketchy, that Wo Fat’s phase two would culminate within the next day or so, McGarrett felt forced to allow Williams to return to the Palace. Williams had proved, as usual – even in his less-than-healthy state, to be invaluable – probably crucial – to the investigation.  Well, allowed was too strong of a verb.  Williams showed up in the late morning with his bodyguards in tow and persuasively pointed out that their plan had no chance of succeeding unless he stuck his neck out so Wo Fat could try and nab him.

 

Aggravated that they had captured the second string Xin Hua bad guys, Steve was eager for their ploy to proceed, but now strongly suspected that Wo Fat had somehow mitigated the risk Williams posed to him by doing something – the question was what . . . . 

 

The head of Five-0 made the rules surrounding the care and protection of his second-in-command known to everyone in the office. He was to take it easy, no field trips and stay right in the office until it was time to go home.  Under heavy guard.  Jenny’s pampering was adequate to make Steve feel Williams’ health was seen to well enough.  Dozing on and off, Dan managed to contribute a little to the conference session, but it was mainly Chin and McGarrett who tried to build facts around the theories about possible targets. It was late afternoon when a call came in from Ben.  The line was scratchy and went out twice, fuelling McGarrett’s frustration.

 

“Jenny! The phone line is dead again!” McGarrett shouted as he slammed the dead phone back onto its cradle for the fourth or fifth time that day.

 

The secretary calmly opened the door and pointed behind her. “The phone technician is working on it right now.” McGarrett could see the back of the phone company worker as he hunched over what appeared to be a box of tools almost under Jenny’s desk. The man glanced over his shoulder and nervously eyed the impatient man who obviously ran the show around this office.

 

McGarrett focused on the technician. “I need an estimate – an accurate one – as to when you will have this problem fixed!”

 

The man almost looked frightened. He stood quickly, collected a couple of his tools from the nearby desktop. “Soon, sir, very soon. I have to go to my truck, but I’ll be right back.” Before his angry customer could vent any further on him, he rushed out the door.  

 

Jenny watched as the door closed behind the man, and then she turned to her boss and berated him. “Now if you don’t stop shouting, you’re going to scare that phone technician off for good!”

 

Recognizing his impatience, but still indignant over the thought that rats were causing such an inconvenience to him, he continued to misdirect his ire. “Well, find out what ‘soon’ means to that guy when he gets back!”

 

“I already did! He promised he’d have everything back together within the hour!” She spoke to him with her hands on her hips and eye brows raised.  

 

Recognizing the situation as beyond his control and impatient to get back to his detectives in the field, he switched to the police radio in a direct link to Kokua and Lukela.

 

“I read you fine now, Ben.  Go ahead.”

 

“We were able to track down Hayduk – alias George Malenkov – through the taxi he took from the airport, Steve and we’re at the Palm Tree Motel checking it out.  That’s a little place off of Ala Moana.”

 

“Okay.  Is he there?”

 

“Desk clerk says he’s registered here, but left a few hours ago.  Do you want us to take a look at the room?”

 

“I’m coming over with a warrant as soon as I can get one,” McGarrett snapped back, excitement coursing through his nerves.  At last, a break – maybe a solid one.  “Keep an eye on the place.  If Hayduk shows, don’t nab him.  Wait for me.  Got that?”

 

“Got it.”

 

McGarrett switched off the mic and shouldered into his coat, noting Williams was slowly coming to his feet.

 

“You’re not coming.”

 

“I could –“

 

“You’ll rest better and be more productive here helping Chin.”  Steve slowed only enough to pause at his friend’s side.  “With a little luck this could be over soon.  I’ll be in touch.”

 

Disappointed, Williams nodded and McGarrett rushed out, ordering Jenny to call Manicote’s office and get a search warrant started.  Racing out, he felt the thrill of the chase and the possible end of the dangerous game.  Wo Fat’s main mercenary in their possession!  This could be the beginning of the end of his enemy.

 

 

*****

 

 

The little motel was on as small side street, down the block from the Ala Wai canal where it snaked it’s way under Ala Moana Boulevard and connected to the ocean.  McGarrett cruised past as a call on his radio came in for him. Ben reported that two Asian men had entered the room registered to George Malenkov, the alias believed to be used by Hayduk. They stayed only a few minutes and left, with Duke surreptitiously tailing them.

 

Steve parked his car around the corner, and cautiously joined Ben in his vehicle. The two men didn’t say much as they watched the street and the door to Hayduk’s room. Stakeouts with the boss were never particularly pleasant for any of the detectives, especially Ben, who did not know the man as well as his colleagues.

 

Fortunately, they did not have to wait long. Less than one hour after McGarrett arrived on the scene, a car pulled into the motel’s small parking lot. They did not have a clear view of the man because he parked behind an overgrown hyacinth bush. They could see the man’s head as he stepped to the door, paused for a moment, and then entered the room. 

 

As soon as the door to the room shut, Steve and Ben jumped out of the car and trotted to the room. Weapons drawn, they stood on either side of the door as McGarrett knocked.

 

“Hayduk!  Open up!  Hawaii Five-0!”

 

The door suddenly exploded out, the walls reverberating.  The policemen were knocked to the ground.  It took them several moments to get to their feet.  Shaken, ears ringing, Steve looked to be sure that Ben was all right, and then he shouted to a stunned passerby to call for an ambulance and a fire crew. Both men carefully stepped a few feet into the room.

 

Fires smoldered in a few spots in the room, but the blast seemed localized near a small desk. The devastated body of someone was slumped at a chair near the desk. Ben moved quickly and began to tamp out the small fires with his foot as his boss was already completely focused on the evidence of crime.

 

With growing alarm, it came to him.  As he stared at the grisly evidence he knew. Wo Fat had just murdered his mercenary bomber. That meant that Hayduk had completed his mission – the bomb or bombs were in place. The fall guy was dead, and the evidence here, McGarrett knew, would indicate that Hayduk had inadvertently blown himself up after planting bombs ordered by the Soviet Government!

 

The head of Five-0, in an act his second-in-command called McGarrett clairvoyance, knew that Wo Fat did not hire mercenaries that were anything less than completely efficient.  Hayduk was a pro. He would not make a mistake like this.  Wo Fat had left no one behind to betray him. 

 

McGarrett could feel a panic welling up inside him as he knew it wasn’t just the clock that was ticking somewhere in Oahu. Glancing around the room, he studied every article carefully. The answer was here somewhere. He only hoped it had not been destroyed in the blast.

 

A box on the floor had been protected from the brunt of the blast by the bed. He stepped closer and peered in. Numerous tools – needle nose pliers, a small hammer, wire cutters, tweezers were loose in the bottom, but the item that caught Steve’s eye was a hard hat with the phone company logo stamped on the front.

 

Phone company.  Phone truck!  The Palace!

 

 

*****

 

 

Dozing on the sofa, a noise awoke Williams. He watched with drowsy curiosity as Jenny tried to dial out on Steve’s phone. She hung up with frustration.

 

“What’s up?”

 

“Danny. Sorry. The repairman left and the phones still aren’t working.”

 

Noting with only mild embarrassment that Jenny had covered him with an Afghan blanket she had crocheted, he rubbed his face to instill some circulation and wake up. Williams went through some simple checklists in his head.

 

“Where’s Chin?”

 

“He’s down at the lab.”

 

“My watchdogs?”

 

“Officers Pono and Keoni are in the outside hallway.”

 

“Steve?”

 

“Hasn’t checked in yet.”

 

“I shouldn’t have fallen asleep.”

 

“You shouldn’t even be here,” she sternly reminded.

 

“I’m still on the payroll,” he weakly argued. 

 

Coffee.  He needed a solid shot of caffeine to get him going again.  He walked out to the main office and poured a cup of coffee, spilling a little on the table.  Irritated he was not very steady yet, he leaned against the desk.  While sipping the hot, strong brew, he watched Jenny trying to pull a sturdy wood-slat box out from under her desk, where it had been resting, in the way of only the secretary.

 

“They didn’t even take all their tools!” she complained.

 

When she was unsuccessful pulling it, she tried to give it a shove with her foot, but it was too heavy to move easily.  Without thinking, Dan started to reach down and grab it, but a wave of lightheadedness swept over him with his too-sudden movement.  She scolded him for the chivalrous, but foolhardy action when his ribs were damaged and he was still shaky. 

 

Jenny moved to help steady him and then reassured him as he leaned against her desk, annoyed and frustrated with his condition. As she tugged the lid off the box, she gave a determined grimace. 

 

“Not to worry – I’m going to see if there’s a name in here and report him to his supervisor.  He promised the phones were fixed!”  Her frown deepened as she lifted the strange contraption and stood upright again. “What on earth?”

 

Dan’s heart skipped a couple beats, yet he had the presence of mind to move gently, but quickly to place his hands on the device just below the secretary’s.

 

“Honey, do not move a muscle.”

 

The detective’s voice wavered only slightly as he whispered the command. She did her level best to follow his deadly serious instruction, but her brow furled in fright, and her hands began to shake.  He took in a deep breath as he gently tried to cant his head to see under what his gut told him was a very powerful bomb. That movement as delicate as it was nearly toppled him. Jenny let a small cry escape her lips.

 

“Oh, Danny!”

 

He gave himself a few seconds to re-stabilize himself before he spoke. “It’s okay. I want you to very slowly lift your fingers and then move your hands back – I’ve got it.”

 

She threw a quick glance up at him before she licked her lips and slowly followed his instructions. While she was doing that, Dan took a few moments to focus on what he could see without disturbing his own equilibrium or the bomb’s. Two glass plumb bubbles were clearly visible nestled into the side of the device one that would detect side-to-side motion and one for back-and-forth movement. He tensed slightly as he saw that the both bubbles had traveled almost completely out of their cross-hairs! Williams, a demolitions specialist by training, knew that the plumb bubbles were being used as an anti-tamper mechanism – at the point either bubble left its level position, the bomb would explode.

 

Jenny slowly let out a shaky breath. “Okay. I’m done”

 

“Good girl. Now I need you to tell me something. There are wires leading from this thing back down to the box. There’s probably something that looks like modeling clay still down there, and the wires run right into it.” 

 

She carefully stepped back and tipped her head to examine the bomb from her side.  Nodding, she looked back up at him. “Yes—uh, yes. It’s gray.”

 

The detective bit his lip for a second before he could bring himself to ask the next question. “How much clay is in the box? I mean, has the box got an inch or two stuck to the bottom of it?”

 

Jenny frowned again as she bent over slightly to get a better look. She stood up again after several very long seconds. “There’s much more than an inch or two in the bottom of the box.  I would say the box is more than half full.”

 

A chill slipped down Dan’s spine as he mumbled. “Twenty five pounds of C4 – no wonder it’s so heavy.” He allowed himself only the briefest hesitation before he spoke again to Jenny. “And how many wires are there?”

 

She diligently bent down again. “Well, let’s see.” That fact that the woman could not immediately tell did not bode well, Williams knew.

 

“Jenny, never mind. If there are more than four, then it has tamper decoys.”

 

She righted herself quickly and furled her brow as their eyes met. “There look to be nine or ten.”

 

“Get out,” he quietly ordered.

 

“Danny, set it down and come with me!” She cried, even as she whispered.

 

“I can’t set it down – it has a hair-trigger motion sensor that’s already a little too out of plumb.” And clearly, he couldn’t walk with the bomb – he was on a leash -- the length of the wires which ran into in the explosive-filled box.

 

“Get out!” he demanded sternly. “Pull the fire alarm and get Pono and Keoni to help you! Tell them to get the whole building cleared and call the bomb squad.  Tell them we have a motion-sensitive bomb and it’s live. Go!”

 

Teary, but resolved to fulfill her mission, she backed away from the detective until she was certain she could turn and run without disturbing Williams in his precarious situation. And then she rushed out the door, careful not to slam it on her way out.  The last thing Danny needed was to hear a loud noise. 

 

 

*****

 

 

“Ben! The target is the Palace!” McGarrett’s sudden shout almost made the detective jump out of his skin.

 

Racing from the room it all fell into place in Steve’s mind as he ran to his car.  Frame the Russians for a strike against an important symbol -- the only royal palace on U.S. soil – as well as a devastating strike against local government.  Not to mention the main reason, the core value of such a target – the personal strike against McGarrett.  A treasure Wo Fat would not be able to resist. He silently cursed himself as wondered where the clairvoyance of which Danno occasionally accused him had been on this day. Wo Fat was angry and offended – this was personal now.

 

Reaching the car, he breathlessly called for an emergency patch to his office.  There was no answer. The lines down.  Was he too late?  Had it already happened?  He ordered a bomb squad and emergency units, then jumped in the car and sped away.  He called dispatch to link him to a squad car of someone at the Palace. It was a long time and he was screaming through the signal at Ward Avenue when the response came back that somebody at the Palace had initiated a bomb warning and evacuation was in progress.

 

 

*****

 

 

Within a minute, Dan could hear the bells of the fire alarm sounding in the outer hallway. Grateful there were no such alarms in the Five-0 office to further aggravate the pounding in his head, he concentrated on relaxing his breathing and steadying his hands. Dan had lied to Jenny – he knew he could probably have moved carefully enough to avoid further upsetting the plumb bubbles. He told her to get the bomb squad up here – but HE was a bomb guy. This was HIS specialty – one at which he was pretty good. To have fled the building with his secretary would have been something he could not do. Besides, it was best that Jenny was away safely before he tried anything. He might be able to figure out enough about this device to help the bomb squad deactivate it before it took out this side of the building.

 

He did his best to mentally center himself and will the delicateness he felt to the back of his mind – he focused completely on the device in his hands. The two-way plumb bubble, Dan admitted with a grudging admiration, was very well done. It made him wonder though whether Hayduk’s plan called for some innocent soul to set off the explosion by jostling the box a little too much OR whether the elegant anti-tamper mechanism was just a backup for the intended primary trigger. Somehow, he could not picture Wo Fat leaving the timing of the detonation to chance. That meant that the device either had a timer or a remote control receiver contained somewhere within it.

 

Taking in a slow steady breath and holding it, the detective lowered his whole body by bending his knees. His target resting spot was not the desk, but Jenny’s chair with the wheels. That way, he would be able to sit on the floor to examine it. His damaged ribcage had begun to cause waves of first pressure-like discomfort, and then sharp pain as he sank to the floor. His left wrist, still bandaged from the rope abrasion and mild sprain, began to throb as the pain worked its way up his arm. Controlling the speed of his descent was too important though to let pain get in the way, and so he continued, not breathing as he progressed smoothly downward until his forearms were resting on the chair with the device.

 

Releasing the breath he’d held for almost a minute, he cried out in agony as his knees touched the floor and began to support his weight. The wounds from his adventure on the craggy shoreline with the Xin Hua had caused gashes, scrapes, and deep bruising all along his shins and knees. He’d almost forgotten about those injuries because his ohana had coddled him so much that he’d barely had the need to bend his knees, much less crawl. He leaned his head for a full half minute on the desk before he could push the pain behind the wall of self-control where he knew it had to remain if he were to concentrate on the workings of the bomb.

 

Finally, he moved his hands away and used his right hand to reposition himself to sit flat on the floor. His face was damp and before he focused on the device, which rested on the seat not twelve inches from his face, he wiped his face with his right forearm. He expected the pain that came from his injured shoulder that time and so it did not give him pause.

 

 

*****

 

So caught up in the workings of the bomb was he that Williams did not hear the door to the outer office creak open. It had been almost ten minutes since Jenny had scurried out the door and found Dan’s two body guards just outside. They hesitated about leaving the building without their charge, but the urgency of Dan’s command came through clearly in Jenny’s voice, so they rushed off to get the evacuation under way and call for backup.

 

“Danny?”

 

Chin peered past the ajar door to assess the situation before he stepped in to the office. He could not see the detective upon first glance, but Jenny, as terrified as she had been, was able to accurately report the situation – what had transpired and what Five-0’s second-in-command had told her. So he focused on the area near the secretary’s desk. The Chinese detective had been returning from the lab when he saw the commotion in front of the Palace. Immediately alarmed when he saw Pono and Keoni, along with several other officers cordoning off the area, he had rushed up to learn from them that Williams was still in the office – apparently connected to a large explosive device. It took the detective another two minutes to get the details from Jenny, who’d bolted from the squad where she’d been hastily stuffed by Keoni when she caught sight of Chin.

 

“Chin.” The Chinese detective followed the beacon of Williams’ quiet voice to Jenny’s desk. 

 

Dan did not look up -- the fingers of his right hand were manipulating something within the mechanism on the chair in front of him.  “Is the place completely evacuated?” Dan asked.

 

“Yeah – what do you need?”

 

Chin knew the second-in-command well enough to realize that it was pointless to waste time arguing with him about the wisdom of attempting to do what he was doing. Besides, Danny was well-schooled in bomb technology – He might well be the best person on the islands for this job – if only he weren’t in such weakened physical condition.

 

“Chin, that phone guy—” Dan started. “The last time I remember seeing him, he left in quite a hurry. Did he come back after that?” He looked up slowly into his colleague’s eyes to confess. “I – uh, wasn’t paying much attention.” 

 

A smile flickered across the older detective’s face as he squatted near the desk and frowned. “I don’t remember seeing him after that either.”

 

“Well, he was fixing more than the phones. I think Steve might’ve scared him off before he was done.” Williams smiled, but tension was the predominant emotion visible on his face as he continued. “I think he was trying to get the anti-tamper mechanism rigged, but decided that he’d rather escape and take his chances that nobody would discover it before the primary trigger caused it to go off.”

 

“What’s the primary trigger? A timer?”

 

“I don’t think it’s a timer.”

 

“That means that somebody’s got to be outside somewhere ready to push a button.” 

 

“Chin—” Dan locked his gaze on his colleague. “Think of your family – get out now, bruddah.” The younger man lightened the warning with a slight grin, doing his best to sound confident. “I’ll be okay.”

 

The Chinese detective truly appreciated the depth of concern his friend had for him and the welfare of his family. Thoughts of the days recently passed though, the heart-rending memories when everyone thought the second-in-command was dead, slipped into his mind, renewing the pain that seemed slow to dull. It suddenly seemed so unfair that they were but a push of a button so near tragedy again.

 

“Danny, this old building isn’t worth anybody’s life.” Chin urgently pressed.

 

“You’re right, Chin, and that includes the lives of the bomb squad guys who’re gonna have to come in here if I give up. Now go – and make sure everybody’s out. I think I can disarm it in about two seconds if I’m right about how this is thing is set up.”

 

“And if you’re wrong?”

 

“I’d rather go trying to help than how I almost went a few days ago. Now hurry and get out! I’m gonna wait two minutes before I start tugging this thing apart!” Dan’s voice became more firm as he took on the mantle of command – there was no time left for arguments. 

 

Chin understood, and nodded. With a gentle squeeze on his friend’s shoulder, he trotted out, leaving a very scared, un-mended Dan Williams to do what he had to do.

 

 

*****

 

 

McGarrett nearly stood his LTD on its nose stopping as close to the Palace as he could drive without smashing through the line of squad cars that blocked the approach to the building. Only through years of experience could he see the organized effort that was transpiring amidst the chaos. People were being pushed back further into the park so that fire equipment could move in. The Palace itself looked to be undamaged – so far.

 

A quick scan of the people in the immediate area and he did not see Williams. His anxiety escalated.  Spotting Chin trotting down the front steps as he spoke to four HPD officers in flak jackets, he sprinted to meet the detective.  “What’s happening?”   

 

This was a conversation that Chin Ho Kelly did NOT want to have with Steve McGarrett. He knew that as soon as his boss found out that Williams was still inside, he would rush headlong into the building after him. The intensity of the man’s expression was almost frightening even to the seasoned detective who’d worked for him for many years. There was no choice, but to plunge ahead as quickly as possible with the story.

 

“Steve, they found a bomb – a pretty big one – in the office.” Chin did not have to say more before he was interrupted.

 

“Where’s Danno?” McGarrett demanded. He already knew where he would find his resident bomb expert – certainly not outside milling around – no matter how weak his condition! The Chinese detective’s pained expression confirmed it. “NO!! Danno!” He started to move around Kelly, who grabbed him forcefully.

 

“Steve! Listen to me! Danny thinks he knows how to deactivate it! He’s getting ready to try it right now!”

 

“Let go of me!”

 

His tone was vicious. Terror engulfed him as he realized that his second-in-command was getting ready to play Russian roulette with the bomb. He roughly pushed away from the man clinging to him, and Chin did not give chase. When the HPD officers with them moved to prevent the obviously distraught head of Five-0 from heading into the now off-limits building, Chin waved them back.

 

“Let him go.”

 

Kelly knew before he tried to stop his boss how it would turn out.  He had seen the face wash of color and the terror that filled his eyes.  Nothing was going to stop McGarrett.  Not if Danny was in danger.  And not after what Steve lost, regained, and might lose again.

 

 

*****

 

“Stubborn…pupule...”

 

The words slipped through clenched teeth as abject dread drove McGarrett into the building at a full sprint. He leaped up the Koa wood staircase, taking the steps by three’s. To have Danno be so cruelly ripped from him after the indescribable emotional lows and highs of the week would just be too much. He made it to the outer doorway of the Five-0 suite as fast as he’d ever covered any ground in his adult life. He stopped quickly at the door, which was ajar. He pushed it open gently, taking great care to not startle the Palace’s only other occupant. At least there had been no explosions . . . .

 

“Danno.’ McGarrett spoke softly as he entered and approached Jenny’s desk.

 

Dan did not look up. He sighed and closed his eyes. Somehow, he knew his friend would choose to endanger himself to join him – and that nothing anyone said or did would stop him. Dan’s only hope had been that this would be over before he arrived. 

 

“Steve, go away -- please. I’m almost done.”

 

Williams looked exhausted.  McGarrett squatted slowly next to his detective, who’d apparently managed to dismantle enough of the explosive device to be able to see the inner workings of it.

 

“I’m not going anywhere without you.” The tone was firm and final.

 

“You are pupule! This thing could blow us to kingdom come any second!” Dan looked up at the man, his eyes pleading.

 

There was no time for debate, but there had to be enough time for a brief explanation that he hoped would end the argument.  There was no option for either of them, it seemed, but Danno had to know why before he made the next crucial step for both their fates.  Steve settled onto his knees.  “Danno, I – I can’t go through that again…” The recent trauma was still too close to the surface, and his voice grew thick with emotion.

 

The two men, there together on the floor, did not break eye contact. Dan could only imagine… put himself in his friend’s shoes… but he understood. A tear escaped and rolled down his cheek. “God help me, I don’t want you to . . . .”

 

Steve’s lip quivered as he nodded and replied with determination. “Then if we don’t disarm this thing, we buy the farm together.”

 

Williams nodded. It was better to die together than to survive alone?  Steve uttering such a comment was numbing.  It was an emotional theory of one for all and all for one that he could not think about now.  All he knew was that it was more important than ever that he succeed with this so they could ponder the philosophical complexities in the future.

 

With one last meaningful visual confirmation of their agreement, the two men looked back down into the guts of the deadly device.

 

With a slow, deep breath, McGarrett focused. “So what’s the deal?”

 

Dan studied the bomb and, despite the incongruous tear still on his cheek, responded with a clinical composure. “The primary trigger is a remote control somewhere outside the Palace.” Dan pointed delicately as he spoke. “This assembly here is the remote control receiver – it’s a pretty powerful one too – makes up most of the weight of this thing.”

 

Steve spoke slowly as he absorbed the information. “So, whoever plans to detonate this thing can be pretty far away.”

 

“Pretty far as in a thousand feet.”

 

Dan continued. “Hayduk checked the range by testing it with this little penlight here. To get a bead on the maximum range, somebody had to be here in the office with a partner on the outside, pushing the button every ten feet or so. Each time the button is pressed, the light goes on. That’s the only reason this light’s here at all.” 

 

Wo Fat?  The mastermind could be only yards away from them right now.  There was a flash of a thought that Steve could run outside and possibly even find him.  Then what?  Wo Fat would not hesitate to instantly trigger the bomb if he felt threatened.  Should he alert his officers on the grounds?  Then he would have to leave here.  The superstition overwhelmed him in that moment.  He was too afraid to leave.  Abandoning Danno might be the unlucky stroke that ended in doom for all of them.  As long as he sat here in silent support, he believed they would get out of this alive.  Both of them.

 

Steve was momentarily startled by his friend’s sudden groan. Instantly concerned, he gently grabbed the detective’s shoulders. “Danno? You all right?”

 

“Yeah,” Williams responded shakily. “I – I’m okay. Just a little dizzy.” He swallowed and left the subject of his health behind. “I think all I need to do to put the kibosh on this thing is to clip these two wires -- or these two wires . . . .”

 

Nonplussed, McGarrett looked briefly at his second-in-command, and then sighed. “Okay then, which pair is it?”

 

Dan responded by moving the wire cutters to the pair of wires on the left. “I’m betting it’s this pair – I can tell he connected them after this pair by how the wires are overlapping.”

 

Steve gave Dan’s shoulder a slight squeeze of encouragement. “Good logic.”

 

The wire cutters kissed the wires as Dan squeezed them closed.  The wires both snapped and Dan fell backward against his boss. Releasing nervous tension, Dan laughed and moaned.  McGarrett breathed out a heavy sigh.

 

Both men gasped as the little pen bulb suddenly lit up! They both sat there as the bulb glowed for a few seconds and then stopped, and then lit up again a few seconds later. This time when it turned off, it did not come back on. The head of Five-0 released the air he’d been holding and dropped unceremoniously to the floor to sit immediately behind Dan.

 

“I think somebody just tried to blow us up, Danno.” McGarrett’s eyes narrowed and he looked distant for a few seconds before he smiled at his second-in-command who’d managed to turn enough to look his boss in the eye.

 

“There is nothing so exhilarating as to be fired at without result.” Dan breathed and smiled, settling, exhausted, against McGarrett.

 

The man wrapped his arm around his friend’s chest, and holding him, nodded. “Winston Churchill – he was right.”

 

 

*****

 

 

Dan could not contain the cry as his friend tried as gently as he could to help him to his feet. They’d sat there on the floor for only a minute before agreeing that they’d better get the bomb squad into the office to begin the removal of the dangerous C4 clay explosive, which packed the box still under the desk.

 

Once they were both standing, McGarrett held Dan up with his left arm and leaned slightly to pick up Jenny’s phone receiver – still no dial tone. He wondered idly what Hayduk had done to disable the phones, but didn’t waste too much time. He needed to get his detective out of here. Where Dan had found the reserves he needed to do what he did today Steve did not know, but they were clearly dwindling as much of his weight was now on his boss’s arm. Williams, his head resting on McGarrett’s chest, had his arms close in to his body now, clutching his rib cage.

 

“Danno, let’s get you outta here.” McGarrett was talking more to himself than the man he was supporting.

 

“Uhh, yeah.” Williams was concentrating now on not fainting. He thought he might’ve pushed one of his cracked ribs out of alignment – the pain was worse now than when Bergman had first checked him out at the hospital. Vertigo and exhaustion though were his worst enemies. The memory of Duke’s admonition that he should confess his weakness to his boss hovered in his thoughts for a moment. He let go of his ribs and clutched McGarrett’s sleeve as they started out of the office. “Steve?” He looked up into the concerned eyes, which pierced him in examination.

 

“Yeah, Danno? You doin’ okay?”

 

“I uh… I think I might need to take a few days off.”

 

The drained, fretful look on the face of his second-in-command made a new wave of guilt bubble over Steve as he felt that he’d done a less-than-stellar job of making sure Williams was able to recuperate. While he had not exactly dragged him into the office – Danno was after all incredibly determined to do his part to help on this case with no outside encouragement -- he had not been his usual, forceful self on this issue. He recognized that it was because he himself felt better with his detective safe (Hah!) in the office. That his friend seemed oblivious to this, that he was distressed because he recognized that he was on the brink of physical collapse not because he blamed anyone else, but because he could do no more to help, was a testament to his tolerant and unassuming character. The head of Five-0 knew he was so very fortunate to have a friend that could overlook his flaws. 

 

To Steve McGarrett’s great relief, he would have a chance to make amends on all fronts, and swore to himself that he would not let this opportunity fall on the wayside. Grinning, he responded. “Only a few days? Don’t worry, aikane – you’ll get as much time as you need.”

 

Despite Dan’s condition, it only took the two men a couple minutes to make it outside, where Chin and Ben rushed up to help transport their second-in-command to McGarrett’s car as the head of Five-0 barked instructions at the waiting bomb squad. He paused for a moment to scan the crowd of onlookers in the distance. Somewhere, not more than a thousand feet from where he stood, Wo Fat or one of his minions had attempted to bring the Palace roof down on his office. Wo Fat, he would bet.  The spy would want to personally push the button and destroy McGarrett.  Fulfilling the threat that Wo Fat had leveled in that phone call.  But the villain failed to destroy McGarrett or his center today.  Satisfied though that he’d played out the deadly game and come out on top, he didn’t feel any particular frustration that the Chinese spy would probably be able to escape his purview once again. 

 

He trotted to catch up with his men as he noted they had already managed to get Williams situated in his car.

 

“Chin, as soon as the building is clear, make sure you get the real phone company over here! Ben, find Pono and Keoni and tell them to get over to the condo!” McGarrett spoke across the roof of his vehicle.

 

Chin nodded. “Right, boss!”

 

Kokua grinned, “Right!” He gave Dan, who was already slouched in the passenger seat of Steve’s car, a gentle muss of his hair. Williams didn’t open his eyes, but gave his nose a slight wrinkle in acknowledgement of the farewell.

 

 

*****

 

He prided himself on what many people called an almost supernatural intuition – it had kept him alive where most men would have fallen prey to their enemies. On this day, he did not listen to the little voice deep within him when it warned him that something had gone awry. He could have instructed that fool Hayduk to equip the bomb with a timing device instead of a manual remotely controlled receiver. That, however, would not have given him the flexibility he needed in an operation against an adversary as admittedly worthy as Steve McGarrett. It was a simple, elegant plan. Under normal circumstances, he might have relegated the task to a trusted subordinate, but this time was special. McGarrett had already thrown a wrench into his brilliantly-conceived, two-phase operation, and he’d made it personal in the process. The failure would have repercussions at the highest levels in Peking. He might not live this down – it was even conceivable that he might not live – period.

 

He wanted to be the one to push the button – to destroy the offices and people of Hawaii Five-0.  He knew from careful observation that McGarrett’s prized knight, Williams, would be there. With a little luck, McGarrett himself would not be in attendance for the event. Wo Fat knew that the head of Five-0 was the type of man who would die many times from the death of those close to him. As it turned out, observation had borne out his intuition when he formulated his plan, and the head of Five-0 had revealed a special weakness for his young lieutenant. To vanquish him from the game so violently would serve to re-pay in some small measure the lengths to which he would have to go to re-vest himself with his superiors, such as they were.

 

His man, Win Lo, had been unable to contact him immediately after the trap had been planted in Hayduk’s room. When he did finally call, he warned that he was being followed. That meant that McGarrett had been able to discern who Hayduk was a little sooner than he had planned, but the news offered no reason to change the plan. After all, Vladimir Hayduk was renowned for his ability to devise impenetrable, anti-tamper systems. This meant that because he, Wo Fat, had the foresight to insist on a manual detonator, the fact that he would be a little late to the Palace was of no consequence. Win Lo agreed he would call Wo Fat at the pre-arranged phone booth not far from the Iolani Palace again in exactly one hour.

 

Another sign that something was amiss presented itself to him as he arrived at the Palace. The building had been evacuated!! It was clear that the bomb had been discovered! Hayduk may have been an expert in demolitions, but he was not very good at hide-and-seek. For that reason alone, he deserved to die.

 

Luck had not been with him concerning the presence of his enemy on the scene either. He could see McGarrett’s car parked near the police blockade, and he knew it was likely that the man was inside his office attempting to direct the deactivation of the device. Of course, they would not be able to get around Hayduk’s brilliant anti-tamper mechanism before it was too late. No matter – it would’ve been nice to have had the opportunity – not to gloat, but to point out to McGarrett that the game had ultimately gone to him – Wo Fat. No matter though – in the end, dead is dead.

 

The remote control fit perfectly into the palm of his hand and he had the perfect vantage point amongst the throng of people – well within the active range of the remote control. He savored the moment as he pushed the button.

 

Checkmate!......Nothing happened! Perhaps a slight change of position. He walked few yards closer and pushed the button again. Checkmate!... Nothing again! Hayduk failed! If he weren’t already dead, he would’ve killed him!

 

Wo Fat stood there for a few minutes and watched until he saw McGarrett bring a nearly limp Williams from the building. McGarrett! He did it again! He was too angry now to concede defeat. He let the remote control drop to the ground as he saw the bomb squad trot up the stone steps and into the building. With his foot, he crushed the device as his lip quivered with a feeling that he rarely felt.

 

It was almost time to go to the phone booth to receive Win Lo’s call. Perhaps there would be one more chance to turn the tables and topple his opponent’s king. There was only one thing he could think of that might provide adequate bait to lure the head of Five-0 into a trap – himself. He slipped off quickly and was almost immediately swallowed by the crowd of curious onlookers. There would be no explosion here today, but he knew he needed to take one last stab at the heart of Steve McGarrett before he left these islands, possibly to never return. 

 

 

*****

 

 

McGarrett glanced at his passenger and noted that he didn’t stir when the radio crackled to life with a patch from Duke.  Uncharacteristically, the head of Five-0 had not given a thought to the fact that, when last he’d heard from Lukela, he’d been tailing the two men – Wo Fat’s henchmen – who’d no doubt planted the evidence in Hayduk’s room that would implicate the Soviet government.  Not to mention the booby trap that ultimately killed the terrorist in a fitting twist of fate.

 

After being reassured that everyone and everything was okay at the Palace, Duke relayed that he’d been able to stick with the two men. They’d stopped at a pay phone twice before they drove to a large warehouse at the Mamala Bay docks.

 

“Somebody else just got out of a taxi and went into the same building. Steve, it’s Wo Fat or his twin!” The excitement in the HPD sergeant’s voice would only be apparent to one who knew him and his low-key manner. 

 

Re-energized at the news, McGarrett immediately turned his car around in the middle of the street and headed towards the waterfront as he spoke. Wo Fat.  There was still a chance to catch him!  The master spy had slipped up with his complex plotting, and now was on the run.  And Steve saw this as his golden opportunity -- his last move to close in and turn this game from another frustrating stalemate, to a checkmate from his side.  “When did he arrive, Duke?”

 

“About four minutes ago.”

 

“In a taxi?”

 

“Yeah, I got the cab number when it left. The dispatcher says the cabbie picked up one fat Asian guy at the intersection of Punch Bowl and Queen Streets. They made one stop at Zhu Liang Imports on Nuuanu Avenue before he dropped the guy off at the warehouse.”

 

“Stay there, Duke! Get a hold of Ben and have him join us – and call for HPD backup – silent approach! I’m on my way! McGarrett out!” As he slipped the radio receiver back onto its hook on the dash, he did a double-take and cursed to himself. Danno! His friend had not reacted to the animated exchange and continued to sleep.  He reached over and gently squeezed his arm. “Danno? Are you with me?”

 

“Hmmm,” came the soft groan. The detective did not move except to pull his arm a little closer to him.

 

If that didn’t wake him up, nothing will, McGarrett considered.

 

He decided that he would leave his detective locked in the car while he quickly checked on the possibility that he could actually get his hands on the evil fiend that had put him and his ohana through such torment.  It seemed amazing to him that Wo Fat would be so careless.

 

McGarrett spotted four HPD cruisers strategically positioned one block over as he pulled up behind Duke’s vehicle. Ben, already on the scene with six uniformed officers, stood nearby with Lukela. He took one last look at his napping – no – dead to the world – passenger. He locked the car doors and motioned for Lukela to come with him.

 

 

*****

 

The sound of a wave smashing against the rocks woke him… Wait… It wasn’t a wave. Dan Williams was sitting in a car. He didn’t lift his head right away… so tired. The noise though – he replayed it and realized it had been the car door shutting. Steve was taking him… not home… He was sitting in Steve’s car in front of one of the dock warehouses.

 

“What the?” Dan said out loud.

 

It was painful, but he pulled himself to an upright position, and cleared his throat. Collecting the radio mic, the detective called the dispatcher and learned that McGarrett and a team were now at the scene of one of the bombing suspects. If he could only clear the fog from his thoughts. Something was wrong. The last thing he remembered was Ben helping him into the car. They’d managed to deactivate the bomb and save the Palace – with no good guys lost in the process. Score another one for the guys in the white hats. Or perhaps he should say no checkmate. The only thing that might have stuck in his boss’s craw was the fact that the instigator of this now-over nightmare had gotten away.

 

Dan smiled at the thought of a volcanic Wo Fat as he pushed the remote control button only to watch nothing happen. Slowly, the pleased expression evaporated as he considered what he was doing sitting – locked, he noted – in Steve’s car, at a dock. The Chinese spy had limited moves left in the deadly game that had been played out on Hawaiian soil. He was a man who, if there was a move left to him on the board, he would take it. What move could he possibly have left? The detective pondered the question for a few moments before the answer pushed its way through the irrelevant thoughts of discomfort and dizziness.

 

“My God! Steve!”

 

Panic overrode pain for the third or forth time this day as he struggled to disentangle himself from the seat belt and unlock the car door!  

 

He ran… stumbled and fell… pushed the agony in his knees away… staggered to his feet again… ran through the open chain link gate and around the corner of the warehouse. Vision blurred and the world tipping, he could see the forms wearing HPD uniforms… He could see two men in suits and knew one of them had to be his friend.

 

He screamed hoarsely. “Steve!”

 

The shock of the voice coming from behind the men caused all of them to turn quickly. McGarrett was instantly appalled to see his bedraggled, not-completely-coherent second-in-command endangering all of them by alerting the suspects to their presence. He took a couple of steps towards the detective.

 

“Danno!’ McGarrett’s voice was tense, but not much louder than a whisper. 

 

“Who’s poison now, Steve?”

 

The question was insane on the surface, but McGarrett stared, taken aback, at Williams, who swayed slightly as if the breeze were going to carry him off. The answer to the detective’s question hit him in the face with the force of a rogue wave. Wo Fat!! The wily spy was trying to draw them in!! The prescience that he’d felt he lacked earlier slammed into his mind – something very bad was getting ready to happen!

 

No longer bothering with stealth, he shouted to his officers. “Everybody get back – run – now!” He and Ben ran towards Dan who had not moved when everyone else began to race away from the warehouse. The two men literally carried Williams as they sprinted back with the others away from the warehouse.

 

They were slammed against the chain mail fence as the building behind them exploded. The heat and shock wave passed over the officers as they all covered their faces. McGarrett protected Williams, pressed against the fence, with his body. His ears rang as if he were standing inside Big Ben during a coronation. It was a good ten seconds before the heat died down enough for him to look back at the destruction into which they’d almost entered.

 

Duke, who’d been closest to the gate, was already running for the nearest squad car, no doubt to call the fire department. As far as McGarrett could tell, all of the officers, barring minor scrapes and cuts, were unharmed. Everyone slowly came to their feet and moved back outside the fence to take stock of themselves and their colleagues. The head of Five-0 pulled himself off of his unmoving second-in-command.

 

“Danno!” McGarrett gently turned him, and was relieved to see Dan trying to help move himself away from the fence.

 

He cradled the detective’s face. He needed eye contact with his friend. “Are you okay? Danno, look at me!”

 

Slowly, Dan raised his line of sight to meet his boss’s eyes. His lip twitched upward slightly in a smile, but he didn’t – couldn’t speak out loud. He managed to mouth the word, “Okay.” Anything else that happened to him today, including moving any muscle in his body another inch, would happen at the hands of others.

 

McGarrett leaned in and rested his head against Dan’s. Wo Fat had escaped again, but he’d been unable to topple the king. And McGarrett and his favorite pawn had survived to play another day. That was all he cared about in the world at this moment.

 

 

 *****

 

 

After assessing the men were safe and the scene in good hands with Ben and Duke, McGarrett had Williams carried to his car.  Siren on, flashing light on the dash, he headed straight for the hospital.  Radioing ahead, the ER would be ready for the patient.

 

It was a short drive, but McGarrett felt every minute of it on his wracked nerves.  The past few hours had elapsed with crisis after crisis and he was just now getting the time to assess it all.  Even with the intense concern for his colleague, the introspection was lancing through his thoughts, it was all too much even for his skilled abilities at analysis, and he finally settled on a final thought as he pulled into the hospital driveway.  The week had been rife with high emotion and terror.  He had the vile Wo Fat to thank for the pain, the lapsed judgments and the mistakes.  But the game was over now and Wo Fat had lost.  The proof was the battered man beside him.

 

A gurney was ready and waiting as he pulled up and he jogged along with the speedy nurses as they raced to an ER room.  To his surprise, almost on his heels came Doctor Bergman.

 

“What the hell happened?” he snapped out in a bellow.  “Never mind!”  He tossed a narrowed glare at the Five-0 chief.  “I thought you were going to take care of him.”

 

Steve flinched at the accusation and it opened countless little fissures of guilt that he had refused to acknowledge over the course of the last few days.  Willingly, he had played a dangerous game with his poison pawn.  Against his weak protests, he had agreed to allow Dan to be the bait to maneuver Wo Fat into capture and defeat.  Now left with nothing to do but hover, to watch Bergman examine the unconscious patient, Steve reflected on how he had vowed to protect his friend and yet failed to nearly the ultimate degree. 

 

They had saved the Palace.  They would probably salvage rocky Soviet-American relations.  They had seriously damaged his officer and could have easily lost him.  Adding up the score, the sense of victory rang hollowly in his heart as he stared at this injured, still officer.  He couldn’t take his eyes off the friend who seemed even more duty-driven than himself sometimes.  Every new wound and fresh abrasion was a testament to Danno’s stubborn resolve to succeed, and McGarrett’s indulgence to allow whatever it took -- from any of them on the team -- no matter what -- to achieve their goals.

 

‘You were supposed to protect him.’  But I didn’t.  Not good enough.

 

Bergman concluded his exam by ordering x-rays and for Williams to be admitted to a room.  When he turned to McGarrett, his face was flushed, his eyes angry.  In an instant, his demeanor changed, and Steve felt the heat that was about to be blasted at him diminish.  There was sympathy in the older man’s eyes and that irritated the cop.  He didn’t like sympathy from anyone especially when he didn’t deserve it.  Then it sank in that Bergman’s reaction was due to Danno’s condition and a chill of dread swept through him.

 

“How bad is it?”

 

Sighing, the gray-haired doctor’s face brightened a bit.  “Well, I suppose not as bad as I expected the way he looks.”  Drawing McGarrett away from the patient, who was being prepped to leave, he explained. “Don’t tell me what he’s been getting into, I don’t want to know.  His concussion is the worst of the new injuries.  It’s much worse.  Other than that, no broken bones, but he looks like he displaced a rib or two and has new abrasions that will have to be seen to.” 

 

McGarrett swallowed hard.  Bergman had explicitly warned -- threatened him -- days ago how serious Danno’s two concussions were then.  Now it was worse.

 

“He hasn’t regained consciousness for -- I don’t know how long,” he fumbled, uncharacteristically losing all sense of time beyond this place and this timeless harbor where his sole focus was his wounded detective.

 

Whatever anger had been about to bubble out in Bergman’s usual flashpoint ire, was moderated.  “I think he’ll be fine, Steve. The x-rays will tell us more, but I think it will be all right.”  He cleared his throat and looked away, shaking his head.  “But he is confined to this hospital until I say his sentence is mitigated!  Consider it for parole violation.”

 

Bergman’s comment was meant to lighten the mood, but it fell flat on the head of Five-0.  He sighed and said he would return and for McGarrett to try and stay out of the way of the staff while he took up his usual sentinel post. 

 

Guilt was not something that plagued him often.  Long ago, McGarrett had learned to accept defeat and move on, more determined next time to do things right.  Williams had a harder time with that lesson and guilt settled into him with amazing depth.  After the last several days -- after today -- Steve felt a rising tide of regret that was powerful.  He could have -- should have prevented this.  But his desire to get Wo Fat -- to save the day, do his duty -- overpowered caution and sense and what he felt inside but would not allow to cloud his obligations.

 

Following the gurney along the hall, Steve walked slowly, hoping to see Dan show signs of waking, but he remained still the entire trip to x-ray.  While Bergman attended his officer, McGarrett circled back to the nurse’s station where he found Chin.  He relayed that Danno should be okay, but remained guarded.  More than that he could not discuss.  He felt so raw inside he was still sorting everything through.  It was  tough to weave through the biggest dread and think clearly.

 

“What’s the situation at the warehouse?”

 

Kelly took only a moment to take in what seemed to be a surprising question.  He must have understood Steve needed to work now, to fill his mind with something other than the status here.  “Ben and Duke are clearing up.  No sign of Wo Fat.”

 

“No, I didn’t expect to find him,” he snarled.  “He’s the master gamester.  He was far away when he set that trap.  At least far enough to keep clear of any danger,” he snapped out acidly. 

 

Momentarily, he was caught up in the old, twisted snare of justice.  How he never achieved it with Wo Fat, and how it rankled to consistently fail against his most cunning adversary.  He thought back to the last time he had seen -- actually confronted the fat spy.  Right in his office!  He had arrested Wo Fat in the complex spy caper involving the death of Chin’s relatives and the stealing of a top secret government device.  He had thwarted the plan, out-smarted Wo Fat, and had him in his hands until Jonathon Kaye ruined everything by using Wo Fat in a prisoner exchange.  {episode -- THE JINN WHO CLEARS THE WAY}

 

“We see now your imperfections, Mr. McGarrett.  Had I been in your place, I would not have taken you alive.”

 

“That I can be sure of.”

 

“Given the option, however, you would always preserve my life.”

 

Steve wasn’t so sure about that anymore.  Given the option, he thought right now he would personally strangle the life out of his mortal enemy with his bare hands.  Wo Fat won some of these games, or escaped, even when he lost.  This last escapade -- Steve would not forget the effectiveness of Wo Fat’s power over him.  And the ultimate loss he had almost cost McGarrett. 

 

But this was not a failure, came the clarifying, cleansing notion almost instantly.  In the scheme of things great and small, compared to the haunting grief of earlier this week, he had won this time.  Overwhelmingly, he had won.  Danno had won.

 

The reality brought him full circle and his focus was again centered on the moment.  “Get some HPD men over here, Chin.  I want a guard on Danno until the dust settles on this.” 

 

“Right.” 

 

Kelly moved away and McGarrett went back to pace outside the x-ray room.  It could be a while before the assigned guards were dismissed.  Much longer before Steve could drop the belated sense of protection that now insulated his resolve concerning Williams.   

He had tried to balance Dan’s vital inclusion in the operation with his concern over Dan’s health, and with his anxiety to stop Wo Fat from whatever diabolical plan he had plotted.  It had come so close to complete disaster.

 

Once Williams was settled in his room, McGarrett hovered in serious worry, not liking the unconsciousness lasting this long.  Bergman was not overly concerned, but Steve certainly couldn’t dispel the cloying reminders of how many close escapes Dan had made in the last few days, and how there was always the possibility he might not beat this last trial.  Settling in the silent solitude in his lone watch, Steve’s mind drifted to the most harrowing experience of his life -- when he had walked into the Five-0 office to find his injured friend trying to disarm the bomb. 

 

He had stubbornly remained and that reckless act had offered a strange comfort.  Knowing they could die together held less terror than walking away and letting Dan face death alone.  Or, perhaps it was turning his back and facing life alone without Danno was more terrifying than death?  At that apex in time, they had stepped into a deeper level of indescribable bonding.

 

To Steve, it felt like he had survived some kind of rite of passage in intense emotions.  Starting when Danno had disappeared, hitting a crisis point when he stood in the morgue just a few days ago staring at the few possessions left of his murdered friend.  The levels of feelings shifted and altered when Danno reappeared alive, then faced danger on various levels.  Until the unfathomable in the office when they seemed to share a destiny within a heartbeat and a breath of life or death.  In that moment, he found a strange plane beyond fear or courage.  It was a place he hoped never to revisit, but it left him altered, touched and enriched on the inside.

 

The patient started to stir, and McGarrett stopped his pacing and approached the bed.  “Danno?”  Too anxious to wait for Williams to surface on his own, he needed reassurance now that his friend was really all right.  He gently pushed on Dan’s arm.  “Danno?”

 

The eyes tiredly, slowly, opened.  “Hi.”

 

“You all right?”

 

“Headache.  Can you turn off the bells?”

 

“No,” he smiled, releasing a tense breath.  “They’ll stop in little while.”

 

Dan closed his eyes.  “If you say so.  Did you get him?”

 

“No.”

 

The eyes opened again and squinted.  “Stalemate.  You don’t sound too upset.”

 

“We’ll get another chance at him, I’m sure.  Besides, I think we won.”  His voice thickened and he cleared his throat.  “We didn’t lose anyone on our side of the board.”

 

Assessing him carefully, the younger man taking in the torn suit jacket and ending with an amazingly penetrating gaze considering Dan’s concussion.  “You okay?”

 

It was an inquiry focused on the physical, even psychological well being, but McGarrett took it as an all inclusive statement of what he had survived -- how they had come through everything.  “Never better.”

 

“Good.”  The eyes closed again.  “I’m going to sleep.”

 

Steve patted his arm.  “For as long as you need to.”

 

 

*****

 

As the jet ascended, Wo Fat looked out the window as Diamond Head drew away in the distance.  Not checkmate as he had hoped.  Only stalemate for a temporary time.  But that would change one day, he smugly smiled to himself.  He had time and power and surprise on his side.  McGarrett -- well -- McGarrett was there in the same place any time he wanted to go get him.  And the next time they played this little game, Wo Fat would have all the advantages.  He was now armed with the most telling knowledge possible to an opponent.  He knew his enemy’s greatest vulnerability.

 

PAU