Warning – Do not read without ample supply of confectionary products on hand!

 

SEVENTH SENSE

By BH and GM

 

“A man who’s never afraid – he’s a fool.”

      Marshall Dillon

 

April 1969

 

====================

 

Wednesday Morning

 

 

Pausing briefly to pick up the mail already on the floor of the office, Steve McGarrett strolled through the empty common room of Hawaii Five-0 until he reached the desk of May, the secretary. He sorted through the envelopes and packets, leaving most of the material for her to manage.

 

Turning to head for his own private domain, he paused, and swiveled around to survey the vacant room. It was quiet here now -- before the crush of activity and staff -- one of the nicest moments of every day. Rarely did he take time to savor the precious solitude, but today he did. There was no stressing case pending or immediate crisis, and it felt good to stand here and absorb the silence, the muted sounds of traffic, the fresh smell of cleaners used by the night janitors. So great was the desire to indulge further in the moment, he loaded up the empty coffee machine and allowed the biting aroma of the strong java to mingle with the other senses of the brisk and promising morning.

 

With one last survey of the domain where he was ruler and king, he surrendered a pleased little smile before moving on to his office. The desk was as neat as he had left it the night before, and his first act was to open the blinds to the lanai windows, letting in a sizzling-bright stream of morning sunlight. Then he perused his desk, dropping the envelopes on the neatly uncluttered top, and unlocked the center drawer. Briefly, he scanned his notebook, seeing a mostly empty schedule for the day. There were a few appointments coming in: Walter Stuart with a follow up on the Sandusky case, and Chief Dann from HPD to discuss some overlap cases from both departments. Other than that, it looked like he would be working on mundane reports and files for the morning.

 

He shuffled through his mail, looking closely at the return addresses of a few that were out of the ordinary. One made him stop in mid motion -- in mid-breath. Los Angeles County District Attorney Office. With sharp, abrupt flicks he ripped the seal without using his letter opener. It was just a follow up comment from the prosecutor in the case against Dr. Fremont. Scanning the words, he put it aside for May to later file in his personal box.

 

Opening the lanai doors, he breathed in a deep, fresh, lungful of air, savoring the serenity and the brisk crispness of the sweet fragrances and early morning. It had been a few months since the finish of the Fremont trial -- the prosecution of the quack doctor who scammed his sister into thinking her little son could be saved from Leukemia.

 

The pain of the death of his nephew, and his subsequent rift with his sister over Fremont still made him flinch slightly with the memory of the hurt. It had, however, faded to a sore spot where all savage and traumatizing memories resided. There, that piece of the past would stay with the rest of the debris of his experiences -- good and bad -- and causing only momentary ripples of emotion. With time, the recollections were quicker to diminish and soon it would simply be a sad memory of a regrettable experience. He looked forward to crossing that bridge.

 

Figuring the coffee should be ready by now, he ambled back to the main room and was pouring the first cup of steaming coffee when the outer door opened and his second-in-command entered. Dan Williams’ lithe and athletic bounce was evident of a good mood. The sandy-haired detective offered a cheery smile and Steve felt the flush of discordant thoughts literally dissolve under the brightness of his friend’s greeting.  Stray deliberation flashed in and out -- those corny old catch phrases about smiles and friendship and symbolic sunny dispositions were all true. For the uncounted nth time, McGarrett was pleased and felt justified that he had hired the younger detective who had turned out to be a very good friend.

 

Memories of Williams’ solid support during the Fremont case wavered in the back of his thoughts as he poured a second cup and handed it to his officer. “Morning, Danno. You look pretty chipper this morning.”  He couldn’t hide his own smirk, wondering if he was about to be given ammunition in his ever-prepared slingshot of barbs about Dan’s social life. “Anything I should know about?”

 

Shrugging, his blue eyes twinkling -- getting the none-too-subtle joke -- Williams returned a lopsided grin. “I wish it was as good as you’re thinking, Steve. I just read in this morning’s paper,” he pulled the folded newspaper from under his arm, “about the Sandusky case. Looks like they’ll wrap it up today.”

 

“Yeah, that would be nice. Stuart still worries about it and makes sure I know it.”

 

The side door opened and Chin Ho Kelly entered, giving them a wave and a smile. The Oriental officer scanned the room and seemed disappointed. “Kono not here yet?”  He patted his ample stomach. “His turn to pick up the donuts.”

 

McGarrett exchanged an amused glimpse with his second, and glanced at his watch. “After eight. Wonder where May is.”

 

“Police scanner said there was an accident tying up Nimitz,” Dan provided as he carefully sipped the hot coffee. He looked at Kelly and frowned. “I thought it was sweet bread this morning?”

 

“Tomorrow,” Chin corrected knowingly. “Thursday is her big baking day.”

 

The phone at the desk rang and Williams, who was closer, picked it up immediately. Hawaii Five-0.”  He imperceptibly straightened. “Yes, sir.”

 

McGarrett stepped over to stand at his shoulder, knowing it could only be one person on the phone with that kind of tone from Williams. Dan handed over the receiver, unnecessarily announcing, “The Governor.”

 

Sighing, knowing it could not be good news at eight eleven in the morning, McGarrett cleared his throat and responded. “Yes, sir.”

 

Steve, we’ve got what looks like a kidnapping of a friend of mine. A young man named Mike Fletcher. His parents -- you remember Harold and Megan Fletcher from the Trans-Pacific Board.

 

There was no need to name drop. The Fletchers were among the ultra-rich of Oahu -- a shipping fortune having catapulted Harold Fletcher into the millionaire status after WWII. And, no need to remind the head of Five-0 how important they were, or that they were personal friends and involved on the ground floor of Governor Jameson’s political foundations. He didn’t let any of the background information settle in just yet. What was important was his boss thought a crime had been committed and he needed facts first of all. Switching the phone to the speaker, he motioned for his detectives to listen.

 

“What can you tell me about the crime, governor?  Why do they think it’s a kidnapping?  Is there a note?  Did they call HPD yet?”

 

“No to both questions, Steve. Harold and Meg were supposed to meet Mike for breakfast at the Royal Hawaiian. Mike lives at an apartment at the U of H. When he didn’t show they called him. When he didn’t respond they went up to Manoa and discovered his apartment had been broken into and there was some evidence of a struggle or something. They called me immediately.

 

Steve exchanged disturbed glances with his men. Loved ones at the crime scene -- bad combination. Who knew what vital clues they had ruined unknowingly. As the Governor gave the address, Williams jotted down the details.

 

“We’ll get right on it,” McGarrett promised, hanging up with the vow to keep his boss informed.

 

“What do you think?” Dan asked as the three headed for the door.

 

“Not sure,” McGarrett shrugged. “But the Fletchers are good targets for a kidnapping.”

 

On the way to the door they almost literally plowed into Kono Kalakaua, the bulky Hawaiian detective on the team. He was carrying a flat bakery box and entered into a mighty juggling act to save the goodies inside from slamming to the floor as McGarrett nearly barreled into him. Moving with the forward momentum took the chief out the door and into another near collision with May, who was just arriving also.

 

Williams, close behind the boss, managed to swerve clear of all obstacles, while Chin Ho was mired in the office with the debacle of the bakery box, Kalakaua and May.

 

“We’ll meet you two there,” McGarrett called to Kelly and continued his brisk pace to the stairs, Williams close behind.

 

 

*****

 

During the trip, as per his orders from the boss, Williams coordinated HPD units to meet at the scene and start a neighborhood search. In kidnappings it was important to move fast to collect all the evidence possible while the crime was still fresh. Since there was no warning from the perpetrators to keep the police away, McGarrett was going to cover as much ground as possible as quickly as Five-0 could.

 

One more call from the Governor was fielded, during which Jameson stressed the urgency and importance of finding Mike Fletcher. After the conversation, McGarrett gave a withering look to his second-in-command.

 

“Personal friends of the Governor’s and rich enough to own most of Waikiki. Just what we needed this morning.”

 

“Lucky us.”

 

“We’ll have to keep on our toes with this one, Danno,” he demanded with a sharp tone. Not at his colleague, but at the situation and the pressure he was already feeling.

 

 

*****

 

The scene at the Manoa apartment was initially irritating to the chief of Five-0. Two HPD patrolmen had arrived just ahead of them -- dispatched via radio orders. The officers were standing outside the front door, unhappy expressions on their faces. The senior patrolman, Officer John Ono, stepped down the sidewalk to greet McGarrett and Williams.

 

“What are you doing out here?” McGarrett offered as his preemptive strike, irked the official police were not inside securing the crime scene.

 

“We told Mr. and Mrs. Fletcher not to touch anything,” Ono reported in a voice that matched his distressed expression. Tall, muscular, John Ono was not one easily pushed around, but he seemed uncharacteristically confused and uncertain now. “Said they already did. And when I tried to take a statement, they say they only gonna talk to you, Steve.”

 

Ire escalating at such treatment of the official force, McGarrett swept up the sidewalk with a thanks to Ono and barged into the apartment posed for battle. Inside the still closed-drapery living room, he paused momentarily to blink the bright Oahu morning sun from his eyes and adjust to the darkness. So, the distraught parents hadn’t touched the blinds or put on the lights -- good -- he thought in a flash-aside as he focused on the man and woman sitting on the couch.

 

A bit of his attitude chipped away when he saw the fifty-ish couple in nice, expensive casual clothes truly were distraught. The woman was quietly crying into her husband’s shoulder, and he extricated himself with difficulty, but managed to stand and meet Williams and McGarrett.

 

“Steve, thank you so much for coming,” Harold Fletcher held out his hand in a polite and perfunctory greeting. “I -- uh -- we appreciate your prompt response.”

 

Returning the handshake, McGarrett offered a curt greeting.

 

Moving in government and some political circles, McGarrett, of course, had met Harold Fletcher on several occasions, mostly through Governor Jameson’s functions or official meetings. Mrs. Fletcher he had met at social events once or twice, and remembered her as a typical high society wife, not remarkable in any way. She was average in height and figure and expensive hairstyle and pricey clothes without veering far on any side of the norm. Right now, she was huddled on the sofa crying her eyes out in near hysteria.

 

Noting Williams had moved away quickly to survey the room, and then disappeared into what looked like a bedroom, McGarrett tried to calm the couple and get a statement from them.

 

 

*****

 

After assessing the living room briefly, Dan came to a few instant conclusions. Leaving Steve to handle the grief-stricken parents, he moved into the bedroom to see what he could find. Of course, both he and Steve had caught the broken door when they came in. Forced, violent entrance. The living room had been clean -- nothing out of place, so he expected something obvious in the bedroom to account for the extreme emotions of the parents.

 

Stepping into the room, he saw there was cause for serious concern. The otherwise made bed was rumpled. A tennis shoe was on the carpet and what looked like red stains -- blood -- on the bedspread and carpet. As he drew closer to where the son must have put up a struggle, he saw the reason for the fear. A huge, wicked-looking knife was impaling the shoe to the floor. Checking the dresser, he saw a wallet and keys and a pile of coins in a coin tray. Examining it more closely, he noted the keys had the Porsche symbol -- presumably belonging to the slick green 911 parked in the driveway -- presumably Mike Fletcher’s car.

 

Scanning the room for other clues, he couldn’t help himself, assessing that the rich (as he had known all his life) knew how to live right. This was a choice apartment, furnished with very nice stuff and came with an imported sports car. Everything talked of money -- something he could appreciate because of its hefty absence in his life. Nice shoes in the partially open closet, and expensive clothes. A trophy and some ribbons were for awards from swim meets -- University swim team. There were a few photos with friends in front of some late model sports cars. All looked happy and rich.

 

McGarrett stepped in and Dan went over the clues with him. Steve nodded thoughtfully.

 

“Fletcher admitted he checked the wallet. There’s money still in there,” he reported as he went to see for himself.

 

“The knife is a big message,” Dan offered, checking it as he crouched down on his haunches and was joined by McGarrett. “The kid put up a fight,” he concluded, pointing to the drips of blood. “Not much, fortunately.”

 

“We’ll have Che go over everything,” the boss offered, thoughtfully ruminating on the clues.

 

“Could be just a college prank,” Dan offered, the skepticism clear in his tone. He wanted to cover all the bases, but already knew from a gut instinct that he wasn’t ready to share with the boss, that this was something a lot more sinister than high-jinx with frat boys. “You never know.”

 

McGarrett met his eyes and in the intense blue gaze, Williams knew they shared the same doubts. There was a dark shade to this crime that gave the parents good cause to be upset. Rich people might live a luxurious life, but sometimes they were more preyed upon by predators than the average citizen with street crimes and burglaries. A brutal crime like this required a certain level of viciousness on the part of the criminal. And with an adult victim, kidnapping became potentially lethal.

 

McGarrett shook his head and broke eye contact enough to scan the room. Glancing back, he sighed. “Has a standing breakfast with his parents every Wednesday morning at the Pink Palace. Doesn’t show up, mom and dad come up here to check on him when he doesn’t answer the phone. Signs of a struggle, not of robbery.”  Grimly, he shook his head again. “Mike is an athlete. He put up a fight.”  He stared at the knife. “This is not something a college prankster would have hidden in his pocket.”
The handle was black and brown striped, the blade thick with a notch on the top. Not a knife commonly found locally for fishing or cane or pineapple field work. A hunting knife for big game. Not something generally sold at sporting shops in the Islands, except in the communities in Kauai or the Big Island where hunting wild bore was still in practice. Considering the big money of the Fletcher family, it was not inconceivable that kidnappers came from the mainland or other parts of the world to nab the kid. From what Dan remembered from the society pages, Mike Fletcher was an only child, due to inherit no doubt, and thus, a prime candidate for greedy kidnappers.

 

“There’s been no ransom demand,” McGarrett supplied as he moved slowly around the room.

 

Dan followed him. “He checked his office?”

 

“Yeah, the office manager is in. House staff at home also reports negative -- he’s been checking since they got here. So, if it’s a kidnapping, they’re keeping quiet for now.”

 

Dan paced with him, re-assessing all the items in the room, trying, like his boss, to picture the scene this morning. Mike must have been getting ready -- didn’t have time to put the second shoe on. The door burst in and several men -- big enough to subdue a young and fit college athlete -- overpowered the youth and dragged him away.

 

“I’ve got Ono and some HPD men checking the neighborhood for witnesses and clues. Kono went out to the Fletcher’s in Kahala to get things organized there. I’ve sent Chin home with the Fletchers.”  He pressed his lips into a thin line as he stared at the bedroom, concentrating on the threadlike trail of blood drops. “We’ll hear from them,” he determined with a hard edge to his tone. “They want money -- that’s why they went for a big fish like Fletcher. And they’re not afraid to show they’re in charge. Dangerous.”  His expression darkened. “Looks like Mike is a bright kid,” he gestured to some academic awards and swimming certificates on the wall next to the bed. “Strong young adult who is bright, able to pick up clues and fight back.”  He sighed, shook his head, then lowered his voice. “Not a good prospect.”

 

Well enough, Dan knew the statistics of adult kidnap victims being returned. It was not high. Mike Fletcher’s profile would indicate his odds were slim for coming out of this alive. “No.” 

 

“I want you to start a profile on Mike Fletcher,” he ordered as they started out the door and out to the street. “Get the details on his life, and especially the last twenty-four hours. We need to know everything about this kid. I’ll get Kono to handle the college staff.”

 

“You don’t think it’s an inside job, do you?” Dan asked as they reached the car.

 

“No,” McGarrett denied as they entered and he revved the engine and the car sprang into drive. “Not with that knife. But I want you getting all the details you can on his friends and movements anyway. Anything will help at this early stage.”

 

 

 

Wednesday Afternoon

 

Shirtsleeves rolled up and tie askew, McGarrett felt the heat of the Hawaiian afternoon coming from the outside, and the metaphoric heat of the insidious kidnapping case that seemed to be as stalled as the muggy humidity hovering over the city.

 

Hours of investigation and routine police work had not brought them any closer to finding Mike Fletcher. Interviews with friends, professors, the swim coach and neighbors seemed to gain them nothing. Fletcher was well liked by his crowd and his teachers at the University. The apartment buildings were built on a lush, curved street with large, old trees and plenty of foliage, so no peaking neighbors had witnessed any abduction. No one held a grudge that they could find, and no corporate enemies of the family seemed likely to strike out blindly like this against a son who had nothing to do with his father’s business.

 

Kidnapping was still the top motive that McGarrett theorized, but still no ransom note or claim for attention, so he couldn’t be sure. Working on that assumption, however, they were scouring the sporting good shops for a link to the knife, and checking into Mike’s past for a more detailed background.

 

When May buzzed his intercom and announced a call from the Governor, he was not surprised. It wasn’t exactly Jameson’s style to pressure him with constant phone calls, but he hadn’t talked to the Governor since this morning and figured his boss would like an update about his friend.

 

Trying not to sound tired, he snapped up the phone. “Good afternoon, sir.”

 

Steve, I think -- there might be a break on the case.

 

Outwardly, the news sounded great, but the tentative tone alerted McGarrett that this might not be exactly as stated. Aware he was treading on thin lava here, he responded neutrally. “How is that, Governor?”

 

The Fletchers have received a call from a -- a person who believes she can help them.

 

“A witness?”

 

No -- uh -- Steve -- this woman claims to have had a vision of Mike --

 

“A vision?”  He scoffed in a blurted snort. It may have seemed rude, but the Governor knew him and ever mindful of whom he was talking to, he countered, You’ve got to be kidding!”

 

I am not in the habit of kidding about a kidnapping, Steve.

 

The stern tone brought McGarrett back in line. “Sorry, sir, but you can’t really accept --“

 

Steve, this woman knew things --

 

“A scam artist, Governor!  They fish around and discover tidbits of information—”

 

Steve!” The commanding bark brought him to attention, standing up and clutching onto the phone with a stranglehold. “Please have the courtesy to talk to this woman and the Fletchers.

 

The demand brought a seething resentment to the surface. He had been choked with hatred for a scam artist who had preyed upon his sister and her husband when his little nephew was suffering, and finally, died. He had sent that flim-flam artist to prison and he would be happy to do the same with whatever con man dared cross his path again.

 

“Governor, these con people are no better than carnival slickers. They will get the Fletcher’s hopes up and possibly interfere with our investigation!”

 

Steve, nonetheless, I want you to listen to this woman. She’s arriving tomorrow morning.

 

“Governor—”

 

Steve!  Please!  I don’t believe it and I don’t expect you to, but the Fletchers are convinced she can help. At this point, they need that faith and I want to help them in any way I can. If you find that she is a con artist, then what better place to have her than under your wing?

 

Seething, McGarrett could not argue with the emotional sentiments, and lastly, decided that the Governor was right. Keeping an eye on these people would ensure they would not be underfoot to hamper the investigation. It might divert some of Five-0’s energy, but if they had to be on the islands, it was probably better to have them where he could keep them in his sights.

 

“Very well, Governor,” he reluctantly agreed, still resenting the pull of rank and the forced working relationship -- however temporary -- with scam artists. Well, at least he would ensure that it WOULD be temporary. This was the last game they would ever play -- right here on his turf. Welcome to paradise, suckers.

 

 

Thursday

 

“Oh, man! Don’t tell me – this empty plate is where Mai’s sweet bread was before Kono passed through!” Dan frowned as he slipped off his jacket.

 

May slid a few paces from the cabinet where she’d been filing documents to verify the detective’s hypothesis. She grimaced. “Sorry, Danny – I warned Kono to leave some for you and Steve, but we’ve already had hungry company this morning – Walter Stuart and two of his assistants were here for about thirty minutes.”

 

Williams filled his coffee cup and sighed. “Well, that sure adds insult to injury – I’d rather have Kono eat my breakfast than Stuart.”

 

The secretary emptied her hands of the files she held to make more coffee. “Well, you certainly need to put something in your stomach besides coffee!”

 

Dan grinned and squeezed past her with his cup. “You wanna let Steve know that I slipped out for an omelette?”

 

“With the mood he’s in? No, thanks!” The pair shared a look of commiseration before the detective started towards his office.

 

“Yeah, me either!” Dan agreed. Before May could offer a palatable alternative, the outer door opened and a man and a woman entered the Five-0 anteroom.

 

Williams was slightly taken aback. He quickly abandoned his coffee and jacket on the nearest chair and moved to greet the guests. “Mr. and Mrs. Fletcher, we were expecting to bring the Winfreys to meet you at your residence!”

 

Both Harold and Megan Fletcher were nattily dressed, she in a blue, cotton shift, and he in brown pants and a brown and white luau shirt, but their faces bore the agony of a missing child. It was clear that sleep had not been productive for either of them. Dan could only imagine the level angst they had to be enduring at that moment.

 

Harold responded, mild indictment in his tone, as Megan scanned the room nervously. “Detective Williams, we don’t want to wait any longer than is absolutely necessary to meet them. Mr. Winfrey called us from Los Angeles to let us know that they were to be collected by Five-0 from the airport and detained before they could see us.”

 

Dan expertly masked his annoyance at the Winfreys for the attempted end-run around his boss’s plan. This development was going to make Steve even more suspicious of what he angrily referenced the night before as the psychic circus.

 

Williams diplomatically offered an explanation. “I wouldn’t use the word detained, Mr. Fletcher.  Detective Kelly is en route from the airport with them right now. It’s always better in cases like this if everyone involved can be interviewed in private before perceptions are colored---”

 

The older man interrupted, and it was apparent that he’d made up his mind and was not going to allow new information to cause him to re-think his decision. “Is Steve here?”

 

McGarrett and Kono would be returning from their visit to Che Fong in the lab at any moment, and the presence of the Fletchers was going to make for a tense few moments. But Williams could see the writing on the wall – to give this man any hint that they were trying to railroad anyone who might be able to help them find their son would not go over very well. With that thought in mind, Dan didn’t blink as he responded.

 

“He’ll be back shortly. You can wait in his office.”

 

 

*****

 

As soon as the outer door to the Five-0 offices opened, May could hear the high-pitched, breathy voice of a woman who was speaking enthusiastically of the floral scent that permeated the tropical air. Charles and Darlene Winfrey entered just ahead of Chin, who’d held the door open for the couple, perhaps in their mid-forties. The man was wearing a tropical-weight khaki suit. In his left hand he held a matching Panama hat, and with his right, he gently guided his talkative wife by holding onto her elbow. Darlene Winfrey wore what May would’ve called a Sunday school dress. Calf-length and short-sleeved, with a scalloped neckline, the frock was pale lavender chiffon with large, peach-colored flowers. The small, slender woman’s white belt matched the leather hand bag she had hooked by its strap in the crook of her arm. Her ensemble was further formalized by white, dress gloves, which she delicately tugged off one finger at a time. Her rhetoric died down quickly as she realized they had arrived at their destination.

 

Chin threw a long-suffering, but neutral-to-the-uninitiated-eye, look in the sympathetic secretary’s direction as the trio passed her desk. Darlene, her straight, light brown hair tied with a lavender scarf behind her neck, smiled sweetly at May as the Chinese detective took the lead to open the door to his boss’ office. This time, he preceded the couple to insure that McGarrett was ready to receive the unwanted guests. The secretary returned the woman’s courtesy with a slight nod and smile as she watched the visitor pause long enough to run her hand lightly over her hair and retrieve a small cologne bottle from her purse. The overly feminine (May thought) creature tipped the bottle onto her fingertips and rubbed several strategic locations on her skin.

 

She whispered conspiratorially in the secretary’s direction as she moved to follow her husband, already vanished through the doorway. “I don’t know whah we women even bothah – the male of our species is not that observant.”

 

May didn’t have time to outwardly acknowledge Darlene Winfrey’s observation before the woman sacheted into the office, but she shook her head as she returned to her work. Welcome to Hawaii Five-0, honey – home of the observant male…

 

The head of Five-0 was leaning on the front edge of his desk, with his arms folded across his chest, as Chin’s eyes met his. It was clear to him that Steve, though outwardly restrained, was still fuming about the meeting that was about to take place. Seated in the white chairs in front of McGarrett were Harold and Megan Fletcher. The man looked pensive, and his wife, who was mindlessly worrying a tissue with her restless hands, looked nearly overcome with anxiety. They rose from their seats to meet the woman who might be able to save their son’s life. Dan and Kono were standing between door and the chairs which had just been vacated – each wore a mask of neutrality as they sized up the Winfreys, who slowed their pace, uncertain as to the direction they should now take.

 

Nodding in the direction of the couple, the Chinese detective made the introductions as he approached his boss. “Steve, this is Charles and Darlene Winfrey.”

 

With the overture made, the Winfreys changed their course slightly so as to approach the chief of the state police, who pointedly stood and walked around behind his desk passing Charles’ outstretched hand without offering his own. He barely nodded as he reposed his arms across his chest and made sure that each of them received a full measure of his suspicious eye as he spoke.

 

“Mr. and Mrs. Winfrey.”

 

McGarrett didn’t know their game yet, but there was no doubt in his mind, that the individuals standing before him were out to profit from the tragedy of others, and so could not bring himself to acknowledge them with any further courtesy. He would be forced to allow them to play their hand, but THEY would have to play it under the microscope of his jaundiced eye.

 

The initial anticipatory smiles of the two people both faded to expressions of mild discomfort. They threw each other quick expressions of agreement before they looked back to the Chinese detective, who had been quiet, but not discourteous to them on their trip from the airport. Chin, a little taken aback that his boss did not take charge of the rest of the introductions, looked uncertainly towards Williams, who had been studying McGarrett.

 

Dan knew all too well how the recent death of Steve’s nephew and the man’s subsequent aggressive role in the conviction of the bogus physician had torn at his friend’s heart. After Steve’s return from the trial, Williams had to watch very closely – and very surreptitiously – but he could tell the pain was there, being smothered by work and obligation. While the parallel might not have been obvious to a casual observer, Dan knew his boss now well enough to envision how this case must be touching a no-doubt-still-raw-wound inside his friend. The desperate couple standing here – looking eerily like Tom and MaryAnn Whalen might twenty years hence – were willing to grasp at any thin tendril of hope that might bring their son home to them safely – certainly that is what Steve’s sister and her husband were doing when they were taken in by Doctor Freemont. That the potential lifeline was not traditionally accepted and conventional would not dissuade them from making the attempt – and frankly, Dan could not blame them.

 

His gut told him the Winfreys would be – at best – an annoying distraction. It was possible that they were well-meaning, wanna-be-miracle-workers, and if this was the case, then Williams believed they could best minimize the risk to the victim by not overtly rejecting anything or anyone which might influence the Fletchers’ decisions.

 

As Chin looked in his direction, Dan knew that it was his place, as second-in-command of Five-0, on behalf of his friend, who was not yet healed enough to sublimate his emotions, to give the illusion of diplomatic effort on the part of the police. He flashed a faint grin at the Chinese detective and took a couple of steps forward.

 

“Mr. and Mrs. Winfrey, I’m Detective Dan Williams and this is Detective Kono Kalakaua.”  Dan nodded in the Hawaiian’s direction.

 

Mild relief spread across the faces of Charles and Darlene – they were grateful that somebody in the room had picked up the gauntlet of graciousness. Darlene though, after a glance toward the younger detective, re-focused her attention on the tall man behind his desk.

 

McGarrett met her curious gaze with an unwavering penetrating focus – he felt convinced she was trying to evaluate her chances of winning him over. Knock yourself out, Lady!

 

Her husband had already turned to respond.  He grinned and offered Dan his hand.

 

“Detective Williams – a fine suthun name!”

 

Dan offered the very slight smile for which he felt civility called and grabbed the proffered hand to exchange a brief squeeze.

 

“South Oahu, actually.”  He responded, and without any delay focused on Kono, who, happy to follow Williams’ lead, took a half step in the direction of their guest and shook his hand.

 

“Dahlin’, come meet the policemen,” Charles called to his wife, who slowly turned from her apparent consideration of McGarrett to re-join her husband.

 

With a gentle squeeze of his shoulder, she slipped past him fluidly and moved to face Dan. Her voice was lilting as she smiled sweetly and presented her hand to him palm down, as if she expected him to bow and kiss it.

 

With her hand canted so oddly, all he could do was to grasp her fingers with his hand as he responded.

 

“Mrs. Winfrey…”

 

The detective was almost instantly distracted with the sensation of a hot flash, and so did not finish his sentence. His eyes met hers and gave him an after-the-fact sense that she’d noticed something amiss about him, but chose – for the sake of courtesy? – not to react overtly.

 

She slipped her hand from his grasp and replied. “It’s nice to make your acquaintance.”

 

She stepped over to Kono next and repeated the action while Dan was busy considering the sensation he’d just experienced. It was only palpable for a moment, but he’d grown intensely hot. It passed quickly, but left a residual dizziness that made him wish he were closer to a chair.

 

The sudden injection of the Fletchers into the marginally more cordial size-up exchange diverted everyone’s attention as Harold Fletcher initiated the handshake with the man in the khaki suit. He introduced himself and his wife quickly, and as he did so, Darlene stepped close in to Harold and Megan. She grabbed a hand from each of them and furled her brow with a sympathetic smile as she addressed them in a thick, honey-and-butter southern drawl.

 

“Dear people – dear Mr. and Mrs. Fletcher – I am so sorry that this bad thing is happening, but I want to assure you that I will do everythin’ I can to help. I want no money – and will not accept it even if offered. I have a gift from above, and I have no right to profit from it other than through the joy I receive by giving of myself in this way.”

 

McGarrett shook his head slightly and moved back around his desk to re-take his original position on its front edge to listen to what the pale, slender figure was spouting. Tell me another one…

 

She pressed on with her speech to the couple, who seemed to be hanging on her every word as if their lives – or the life of someone dear – were dependent upon them remembering every detail.

 

“I must tell you that I receive impressions and images, which grow stronger if I am in close proximity to a personal possession of the victim.”

 

Meg Fletcher gasped and freed herself from Winfrey’s grip long enough to quickly grab the purse she’d left in the chair.

 

“Yes, yes – your husband told us you’d be needing something…”

 

Shaking slightly, she retrieved a pearl-handled pocket knife and pressed it into Darlene’s open palm. “This belongs to Michael – he never goes anywhere without it.” The knowledge that her son was without it now obviously struck her, bringing a few more crocodile-sized tears from her eyes.

 

After a tender pat on the teary mother’s cheek, Darlene enveloped the small knife with both of her hands and closed her eyes. She inhaled deeply – and too dramatically McGarrett thought – as she began to pace – first a few feet in one direction and then, with a slow turn, a few feet back. Her voice was distant.

 

“I feel… I feel… “ Winfrey opened her eyes slowly and looked at her husband. “Charles.. there’s another nearby… here in the room… I thought I felt it earlier…”

 

Mr. Winfrey moved the few paces to take his wife’s arm. Frowning, he responded as if he were intensely interested in what she were saying. “Who, my dear, who is it?”

 

Kono and Chin shot each other looks of silent agreement at the strangeness of the scene. Then they each looked in the direction of where Williams had been standing moments before, but found that he’d stepped backward a few paces to a point where Kono had to look behind him to see the detective at all. Both men thought in passing that the young second-in-command looked a little uneasy and perhaps not as interested as they were in the goings on. There was no time for them to muse on this further as their attention was captured by McGarrett, whose voice bore unmasked skepticism as he questioned the Winfreys.

 

“What is going on? Who else is in the room?”

 

Charles did not release his hold on Darlene as he turned his head towards the head of Five-0 to explain. “Another chosen one  --” He paused long enough to be certain that he needed to elucidate further, and McGarrett’s unblinking, I’m-still-waiting expression made it clear that he did.

 

“My wife can feel the presence of others like herself with the gift of psychic vision. She senses another in the room who may be able to help solve this mystery.”

 

The head of Five-0 sighed and canted his head to one side as he watched the show, hoping fervently that the poor, desperate relations of the victim would see through the charade as he did. The obvious response to the patently absurd claim rolled softly from his lips.

 

“I dare say that there are four people – all of us state employees – in this room who will help solve this mystery.”

 

Not reacting to her host’s veiled sarcasm, Darlene wandered a few paces towards Chin, and then slowly veered towards Kono, her hands hovering before her as if she were walking blind. She moved closer and closer to the Hawaiian detective, who seemed to grow a little concerned as she reached up and touched his cheeks with both of her hands. He didn’t move a muscle, but rolled his eyes to catch a glimpse of his boss shaking his head in apparent disgust.

 

Within a few seconds, she backed away and looked beyond the big man in front of her to see Dan watching her uncertainly. She returned her hands to her earlier blind-search position and moved toward the detective.

 

“It’s you… isn’t it?” Her voice was soft and lightly accusatory as she moved closer to him, the palms of her hands facing him, as if she were warming herself at a campfire.

 

Her gaze bore down on him, and he took a single step backward – as the association that man and beast alike can develop between a bout of illness and a particular event, so Dan was peripherally aware that his dizzy spell and mild nausea seemed to have come upon him part and parcel with the woman’s touch. He didn’t take his eyes from her and responded with what he knew to be the correct answer.

 

“I don’t know what you mean.” The words came out more tentatively than he had intended.

 

She ignored his denial. “You felt it too – I know you did. I saw it in your eyes.”

 

Dan was truly a little disconcerted as he began to wonder if she was in fact speaking of his momentary dizzy spell.

 

The brief hint of surprise on the young detective’s face did register with McGarrett, who instantly became more alert to what was taking place. What did that shark say or do that surprised Danno? Perhaps he had noticed something fishy in Mrs. Winfrey’s act.

 

Suddenly the little woman moved quickly to latch firmly onto Williams’ right hand with both of her own. The action startled Dan only slightly. He recovered quickly and started to back away from her, but stopped as she began to speak to him with a soft, but desperate fervency.

 

“Rats – you see the rats too – we see horrible rats – with wretched teeth!” She slid closer to him until her face was no more than five inches from the detective.

 

Steve would not have been more amazed if Dan had sprouted wings and flown out the window. He stood quickly and moved closer to the pair. Chin and Kono followed suit, each approaching from a different angle, in an almost subconscious group effort to spot the hidden “string.”

 

Dan began to breathe like he’d just sprinted a mile, and his expression quickly turned from discomfort to concern to fear. “Yes.. yes.. rats…” Beads of sweat were suddenly visible on the young man’s face, which flushed pink.

 

McGarrett, even as the apprehension welled up in him, was so confounded by what he was witnessing that he was not ready to accept that his detective had no control over the situation.

 

Darlene, now panting as heavily as the man in her grasp, spoke more loudly. “They’re biting – the rats are biting…”

 

Dan suddenly collapsed to his knees taking the woman to her own knees in the process. He cried out. “Get them away!”

 

McGarrett had a thought that his second-in-command might have seen through the trickster’s act and was playing along for the purpose of revealing her as a fake, but that thought retreated and was vanquished from his head. The physical manifestation of Williams’ condition now left no doubt in his mind that his friend was not faking a reaction to Darlene Winfrey. He pushed his bewilderment to the back of his head and moved quickly to kneel beside his detective. He grabbed Dan’s shoulders.

 

“Danno!”

 

Williams sudden cast his eyes upward in what McGarrett could only describe as abject terror. Though less focused on Darlene, it did register in his mind that she too was looking upward toward the ceiling. It looked like they were expecting something to drop from the sky and crush them.

 

“No! No! Rats!” Dan’s screamed.

 

“And water—big crashing waves!” Darlene’s eyes closed as she was apparently sharing Williams’ vision.

 

“Rats.. no, no, no…” Dan moaned as his eyes rolled back in his head.

 

“Danno! Snap out of it!”

 

Fear transplanting the anger he’d been feeling all morning, he started to lean forward on knock Winfrey away from his friend, but she, of her own accord, suddenly let go and dropped from her knees to land unceremoniously on the floor. Charles Winfrey rushed towards his dazed wife, settled beside her, and gently wiped her face with his handkerchief.

 

A soft cry escaped with each outbound breath as Williams let his head drop towards his chest, but the experience no longer seemed to be escalating. McGarrett, his hands still firmly on his detective’s shoulders from behind, leaned to check Dan’s eyes. Dilated…

 

“Danno!”

 

Steve said the name as the young man moaned and tipped sideways. Kono and Chin rushed to their boss’s aid to ensure a soft landing for their friend, who appeared dazed and physically spent. They eased him gently to a sitting position and McGarrett seated himself so that his protégé could use him as a support. The young man rested on his boss’s chest as the other two detectives looked on in concern. Dan’s curly hair now glistened from dampness, and his shirt was moist as well. Steve gently placed his fingers on the side of the young man’s neck and felt his own heart rate leap in response to the racing pulse.

 

“Steve...” Dan breathed, but didn’t look up from the spot he was watching on the floor.

 

“I’m here, Danno – we’re gonna get you to the hospital.”

 

The head of Five-0 assured his friend, and, with a quick jerk of his head at Kono, gave the silent command to call an ambulance. Kono responded immediately as if the order had been issued by shout, and was gone from the office in just a few strides.

 

“Umm… rats... biting…” Williams slowly rolled his head to look upward.

 

“There are no rats, Danno.” McGarrett insisted gently. He pulled the detective to one side, and Chin kneeled to make sure his young colleague didn’t fall over as their boss spoke to him. “Look at me, Danno!”

 

Dan reacted slowly to some internal vision he was still experiencing, and so did not comply with McGarrett’s command.

 

“Biting…” The detective mumbled and closed his eyes.

 

Frustrated at his own helplessness, McGarrett allowed the Chinese detective to take charge of his friend’s full weight, and then he stood and turned back to Charles, who’d carried his wife to the couch from where she now quietly observed the situation through tired eyes.

 

“What happened? What did she do to him?” McGarrett shouted viciously.

 

Charles seemed to be speaking as much to the Fletchers as he was to the enraged owner of the office.

 

Mah dear, sir, I assure you that my wife administered nothing but the power of her hands on your detective. I’ve seen this before, and those who have the gift react this —”

 

McGarrett cut him off, not remotely interested in whatever lie the man was concocting. “I know a drug reaction when I see it! What did she slip him?”

 

Darlene Winfrey seemed to be recovering much more quickly than the detective. Looking the part of a frail martyr, tormented by the path that was laid out before her, she replied gently. “I’m sorry – I can’t control the power God gave me.”

 

Charles added in defense of his wife. “Mr. McGarrett, how do you propose that she did this horrible thing? If she’d had something toxic on her hands, would you – or rather anyone who touched her in this room – not be ill at this very moment?”

 

“That is a mystery to me at the moment, SIR, but the fact that it is a mystery does NOT make it a miracle!” Steve responded with the same exaggerated eloquence the southern couple seemed to use commonly.

 

It was true – how Darlene Winfrey could have possibly administered a dose of anything to Danno was beyond him at the moment. He’d been watching her like a cat awaiting the exodus of a mouse from its hole. There were no cups in the room, and certainly Williams had not had any contact with the suspect – yes, she was now a suspect – outside the confines of his office.

 

Darlene made another attempt to sooth the tense and suspicious chief of the state police. “Sir, please accept that your detective has the gift – he can help you – in fact, his help may be vital to saving the life of poor Michael.”

 

For the first time since the episode began Meg Fletcher moved closer to the woman and the couch and spoke in a shaky, teary voice.

 

“Mrs. Winfrey, what—what happened? What did you see? Did you see Michael?” 

 

“Oh, for God’s sake!” McGarrett muttered under his breath. The anxious tone in Mrs. Fletcher’s voice reminded him of his sister. It was obvious to him that this woman – like Mary Ann – was not going to listen to reason. Disgusted, he returned to kneel at Williams’ side.

 

Not hearing – or ignoring – the hostile figure hovering near the unmoving detective, Darlene spoke weakly and reached her hand out to the woman who came to kneel beside her. “I did, Mrs. Fletcher… I did – and so did the dear young man on the floor over there. Your son has a horrible fear of rats, does he not?”

 

Tears welled up in the woman’s eyes as she nodded vehemently. The words of Darlene Winfrey drew Harold Fletcher to stand behind his wife.

 

“Your son is still alive, and being held someplace dirty. He can see rats scurrying about – and he’s been bitten a few times, I fear. He can hear the ocean and he knows that the waves are very big. I – hailing from Arkansas, which is a landlocked state – do not understand how he knows this. Perhaps Detective Williams will be able to shed some light on this for you.”

 

McGarrett had an angry response ready to be flung at the entire group on the other side of the room, but further consideration of the conversation was momentarily vanquished as a concerned May opened the door and allowed the ambulance attendants to enter, with Kono in the lead. Grateful that they must have been in the area, McGarrett returned to one knee to check on his friend’s condition. He touched his neck, and was relieved that he could no longer feel the panicked beating.

 

The young man’s eyelids fluttered, and then opened slowly. He squeezed his eyes shut hard a couple of times trying to focus his eyes on the face that hovered over him. Finally, when his eyes remained open, he looked around, moving only his eyes, as if he were concerned that any adjustment to his head would shatter the comforting image before him.

 

“Danno, it’s okay.” Steve grinned, but it did not erase the intense concern from his face.

 

“No rats?”” Dan now seemed to be returning from wherever the mystery drug had taken him, but he still moaned slightly with each outward breath.

 

“No, there aren’t any rats. How do you feel?” McGarrett hoped his friend was recovered enough to seriously consider the question – he could see Dan’s pupils were still dilated, but his heart beat and breathing seemed to be slowing.

 

Williams did not answer right away as he took in his surroundings slowly. Appearing relieved, he finally swallowed and looked up into the face of his boss.

 

“Steve… what happened?”

 

“We don’t know yet, but we’re sure gonna find out, my friend.”

 

Steve didn’t know whether to be disturbed or glad that Dan did not argue about being placed on the gurney. Williams weakly reached out to his boss as the attendants began their egress (and his) from the office.

 

“Steve…” Concern was etched on the young detective’s damp face, and McGarrett leaned closer to him so that his friend would be assured that he had his full attention. “I don’t know what happened…”

 

“Just relax,” he admonished his friend with a light squeeze to his shoulder. “I’ll be right with you.”

 

Harold Fletcher stepped forward, concerned and clearly upset at the proceedings.

 

“Mr. McGarrett, I am sorry that this has been so hard on your officer, but – as amazing as it sounds – I believe he can see Mike!  With Mrs. Winfrey’s help -- they found Mike!  Where do you think he is?”

 

Raw with his own jumble of discordant anxiety, Steve couldn’t find any compassion for these people, yet he knew he had to at least pretend to summon some up from his anger-ashen soul. These con artists had done something to Danno!  But that didn’t mean he could ignore the very real anguish of the victims -- the Fletchers -- who were now, he considered, victims on two sides. One from the kidnappers and one from these weasels that had infiltrated his office. As to the idea that Danno had had a vision of the kidnapped son -- well -- that just wasn’t possible!

 

“My detective does not have visions,” he wanted to correct first of all. Seeing the hope in Fletcher’s eyes -- that same terrible, blind hope he had seen in Mary Ann’s before little Tommy died -- it twisted at Steve’s heart. He knew the Governor was expecting him to help these people. Now, he saw, that this included not just an investigation to find their son, but something he could not give. He dealt in reality and cold, hard truth. There was none of that in these false visions – he could not pretend otherwise.

 

“We will proceed with the investigation,” he countered, trying to knock his tone down a notch from that of adamant wrath. “As of now, Dan Williams is off this case. I don’t know what happened to him, but he’s seriously ill.”  His own vision -- the memory of Dan crumpling the floor and the terror on his young friend’s face was a chilling fear that snaked into his skin like icy water. That was a scene he could not erase, and with it came an urgency to get to the hospital.

 

Glancing around his office, he spotted the Winfreys eyeing him cautiously from the sofa. Mrs. Fletcher was inconsolable, and collapsed into a chair.

 

“Your detective might have answers we need to find Mike!” Fletcher shouted back, edging toward hysteria, seeing that his hope was not shared by the person in the room with power to make his wishes materialize into reality. “You have to do something!”

 

Taking a breath, Steve strove to be the voice of reason and calm when he felt neither attribute. “Even if the vision was true, Mr. Fletcher, where do we go to find a place with rats and high waves nearby?”  He shrugged, but did not give the man time to respond to the rhetorical question. “We are proceeding. We are continuing the investigation, please trust me. Officer Kelly will see you out. I’ll be in touch, I promise.”

 

Without waiting for more complications, he ran out the door, anxious to get to the hospital and find out what was happening to his second-in-command. The haunting, pale expression on Williams’ terrified face would not leave his mind as he raced to his car.

 

 

 

Thursday  Afternoon

 

As the two couples entered the large living room, Darlene swooned slightly and fell against Charles, who reacted with concern. “Dahlin’, I’m afraid that, between the travel and the energy you expended today, you need to rest!”

 

Both the Fletchers moved closer, but it was Megan, despite her inner turmoil, who gently grasped the woman’s arm and graciously agreed. “Yes, Darlene, I’m sure the experience today was draining for you. I’ll show you to your room.”

 

Mrs. Winfrey pulled herself away from her husband, and, with the back of her hand on her forehead, she her way to the long, c-shaped sofa. “Yes, yes, rest will be important for me if I am to be of any value to you, but there are things I must tell you now. Please sit with me.” She invited and all three people immediately took seats nearby. Charles collected his wife’s hand in his as he settled next to her to listen.

 

Wearing their discouragement and tension on their faces, Harold and Megan sat in separate seats facing the Winfreys as their guest’s face furled. She spoke slowly as if she were addressing a room full simpletons.

 

“As we made our way to your lovely home, I found mah-self a bit turned around and disoriented. In similar experiences where I have been asked to assist the police, I could usually— feel a physical direction – a point on the compass that drew me to it. But here – on this incredible island, so full of wonderful scents and vegetation – the beacon to which I’m drawn is not your son.” She paused and looked down sadly for a few moments as if he she were struggling to find words.

 

Desperation forced a quaver in Megan’s voice as she leaned forward to rest her elbows on her knees. “But you and Detective Williams – you both saw Michael!”

 

Darlene quickly looked up into the other woman’s searching eyes. “Oh, yes, yes, we saw what we said – as a matter of fact, with the de-ah detective’s energy added to mah own, I saw many details of Michael’s situation that I do not believe I would have seen without the perspective of a local policeman to mentally interpret the image.”

 

Harold spoke up in frustration. “I’m afraid you’ve lost me – are you saying that you need Williams in order to have a more accurate – what do you call it – a reading?”

 

Her eyebrows rose almost touched at a point between and above her eyes as she nodded slowly. “I believe so. Let me offer you an example. Michael is not fully clothed.”

 

“Well, it makes sense that he wouldn’t be dressed – he was snatched right out of his bed!” Mr. Fletcher interrupted, now impatient to understand – to be certain that he wasn’t allowing himself to be taken in, as McGarrett had intimated.

 

“Harold, let her finish!” Megan snapped harshly but did not take her eyes off of Darlene for longer than it took to impale her spouse with a dagger-like glance.

 

Winfrey continued with the outward patience of a parent speaking to an angry two-year-old. “You are correct, Mistah Fletcher, but does it make sense that he’s wearing only one shoe?”

 

Both of the Fletchers gasped slightly – they’d seen their son’s room and the knife that impaled the lone shoe.

 

Winfrey continued quickly, ignoring the couple’s very obvious surprise. “It seems that there are two men with Michael. They inadvertently stumbled upon his almost-pathological aversion to rodents because one crawled across the poor boy’s naked foot.”

 

Unable to hold back a few tears, Megan responded. “That would be enough to drive him right through the roof – he had a horrible experience as a small child – a rat fell onto him from a coconut tree.”

 

The mother of the victim was supported in her memory with the father’s absentminded nod. “I can only imagine Mike’s reaction to being in the same room with any kind of small animal.”

 

“There is no need to imagine – poor Detective Williams – when my hands -- with their gift of psychic focus – touched him – his heretofore buried psychic gift sprang to life with a vengeance and he became Michael – he was seeing what Michael was seeing… feeling what Michael was feeling.” She shook her head and looked at her husband as the Fletchers exchanged horrified expressions.

 

Megan covered her eyes with hands and wept openly as she spoke. “Well, that certainly explains what we witnessed today. And now, Detective Williams is in the hospital – he can’t help us!”

 

Darlene’s poignant concern expression was quickly replaced with a reassuring smile. “Oh, Megan, dahlin’, don’t you worry about that young man – he’s as fit as a fiddle! He is simply inexperienced in how to manage the visions. All he needs is one practiced in the ways of the gift—”

 

“Such as may darlin’ wife!” Charles interrupted as he put his arm around Darlene. She threw her husband a slight cant of her head in modest acknowledgement of the compliment before she continued.

 

“Yes, with all due modesty, I can guide him, and – with his knowledge of your son’s case and police procedure – AND the fact that he’s a local boy, I’m certain that we can have a very productive reading that may lead us to where Michael is being held.”

 

“He looked so dreadful when they took him away, how soon do you think they’ll release him from the hospital?”

 

The memory of the pleasant and very rational young officer who greeted them when they arrived at the Five-0 offices entered Mrs. Fletcher’s thoughts for a few seconds before it was supplanted by the image of the same man brought to his knees, crying in terror, and then passing out only an hour later.

 

“I know Mr. McGarrett is very suspicious of us – and please don’t be too hard on the poor man – it’s in his nature and he can no more help himself than fox can decide to not chase a hen. Plus, as I stood there in his office, I sensed that the chief of your state police has a deep fondness for his young detective. Concern for his well-being is foremost in his mind. So, it would’ve done me no good to tell him that doctors will find absolutely nothing wrong with Detective Williams. They may not even keep him overnight.”

 

Harold stood, the conviction of belief hardening his expression. “Darlene, how soon will you be up to a—a reading with Williams?”

 

Charles spoke before the woman under his arm could answer. “To be effective my wife will need to rest undisturbed for at least twenty four hours.”

 

Darlene grimaced slightly, but then agreed with resignation. “Yes, I’m afraid Charles is correct – the readings take every bit of energy I can muster – and I’m certain that Detective Williams will require that long as well before he would be ready to engage in another attempt to locate Michael.”

 

Mr. Winfrey rose and helped Darlene to her feet as he added. “And it may take that long to convince Mr. McGarrett to allow the officer to participate. He seems quite the stubborn sort – no offense intended.”

 

Harold’s eyes narrowed. “Well I intend to offend! I’m going to see the governor – Steve McGarrett reports directly to him!”

 

 

 

Thursday  Evening

 

“Ouch!”

 

Dan snapped softly with a frown, but did not flinch or otherwise move as Doctor Bergman stuck the needle into the crook of his patient’s arm and fished briefly for his target. The physician’s speedy success was immediately apparent as the small glass vial attached to the needle filled with the dark burgundy fluid.

 

“Leave a little for me, will ya?” The frowning detective mumbled as he leaned his head back on the pillow and closed his eyes.

 

“Be quiet,” Doc muttered distractedly as he focused on filling several of the small laboratory tubes. As he finished his task and slid the needle from Williams’ arm, he glanced back at McGarrett, who’d been leaning by the door, resting one arm on the other. Bergman started to speak, but then thought better of it and motioned for the pensive man to follow him into the hallway.

 

The doctor shook his head and frowned. “Steve, I’m totally stumped.”

 

The detective did not wait for any further explanation. “But it WAS a drug reaction?” The question came out more like a demand.

 

Bergman sighed and made certain he was choosing his words carefully around the very edgy head of the state police. “Based upon what you’ve described and what I observed when he was brought in, I would have to agree, but—“

 

“But what?”

 

Bergman pressed on patiently. “BUT the only thing out-of-whack in the lab work that just came back was his blood sugar – a little low.”

 

“A low blood sugar?”

 

“Yeah – he hadn’t eaten.”

 

 McGarrett prepared to argue. “Doc, I hope you’re not gonna suggest that—“

 

This time, Bergman cut off the detective. “NO, STEVE – I’m not going to suggest that a missed meal caused this – and I don’t think it was the heat! Now just let me finish!” The crusty medico returned severely, knowing it was the only way to stop from being bowled over by the aggressively focused detective.

 

The harsh admonishment did serve to bring McGarrett to the awareness that his impatience was not serving him well. He took in a slow breath, released it, and pointedly closed his mouth.

 

Bergman, satisfied the man’s fuse was temporarily snuffed, re-grouped and continued, still emphatic, but in a much softer voice. “I agree with you – Danny’s physical symptoms would indicate to me that a drug was somehow introduced into his system. However, the lab equipment here in the hospital was not able to detect anything noteworthy in his blood. I think additional tests are in order. Now, to that end, I’ve just drawn more blood samples, which I will hand carry over to Che Fong in the state crime lab. He’s got a mass spectrometer and gas chromatograph that put the standard hospital machines to shame.”

 

McGarrett slowly became mollified as he saw that the medical-examiner-cum-official-Five-0-physician was not ready to shrug off the crime that had been perpetrated against his friend. Bergman’s plan offered a logical course of action that had a good chance of returning positive results quickly.

 

The past few hours had been akin to torture on more than one level for the detective. Solid proof of a kidnapping had yet to surface, leaving McGarrett to manage the Fetchers’ ambiguity and accompanying emotional turmoil. This left the distraught couple, who made him think of Mary Ann and Tom each time he looked at them, more susceptible to being further victimized by the charlatan psychic. He’d been the host – albeit a recalcitrant one – of the meeting-gone-awry, where his second-in-command was poisoned – somehow before his very eyes. And to add insult to injury, the Winfreys had managed to manipulate the victim’s parents into believing that poor Danno had seen a psychic vision that would lead them to their missing son. May had already passed on a message from the governor, requesting a status on his detective’s condition – this told him that Harold Fletcher had already contacted Jameson, no doubt to prevail upon the head of state to intercede with McGarrett on their behalf. That the Fletchers were blinded to reason, he could almost – not quite, but almost – understand. He hoped – but was not hopeful – that the governor, when offered a justifiable and logical explanation, would understand why he – Steve McGarrett – was unwilling to allow Danno to continue work on the case just to cater some irrational fear planted by common criminals.

 

McGarrett agreed with Bergman’s suggestion – it was a feeling akin to relief just to be in the company of someone with a structured and rational perspective. In a marginally better frame of mind, he moved on to the issue foremost in his mind.

 

“So, I’m gathering, Doc, that you’re gonna let Danno go home tonight?”

 

Bergman rubbed his eyes with his fists as he responded. “Well, you’ve seen for yourself that he’s getting more difficult by the minute. Considering his condition when he arrived, he’s shaking it off pretty quickly. That – in conjunction with the fact that his vitals are all back to almost normal – tells me that he’s metabolized whatever it was. Of course, it wouldn’t kill him to spend a night here for observation.” The doctor shrugged and sighed tiredly. “That said, he might be better off if he went home and got a good night’s rest in his own bed.” 

 

McGarrett, relieved at the physician’s assessment, made a conscious effort to un-tense his shoulders and back – with his biggest concern assuaged, he suddenly became aware that his muscles had been too taut probably ever since the Winfreys had strolled into his office. And the hours in the emergency room with his second-in-command had been distinctly unsettling. With some rare, gentle, but persistent, cajoling, Bergman had been able to illicit a report from his inattentive and not-completely-coherent patient that he was dizzy and nauseous. As the hours passed, Williams dozed fitfully, and, in his waking moments, ran the gamut from near-teary agitation to listlessness. Finally, by late afternoon, as Dan’s vital signs returned to normal levels, he grew irritable at the repeated medical examinations and questions. Both the doctor and the lead detective saw the young man’s annoyance as a positive sign that he was recovering.

 

McGarrett gave Bergman a pat on the back and took a quick swipe at his own face. “Thanks, Doc. Please let Che know that I need answers yesterday!”

 

Unsurprised, the physician nodded slowly as plodded down the hallway. “As usual.”

 

 

******

 

 

“I’m sure sorry this happened today, Steve.” Dan looked out the passenger window despondently. His headache was beginning to diminish, but he was still tired, despite the fact that he’d slept on and off – mostly on – in the hospital for the better part of the day. And there something else – he felt slightly – altered. He could not explain it further.

 

The entire incident with Darlene Winfrey was deeply disturbing, not to mention incredibly embarrassing. He could not remember everything that had happened, but he did have several residual images – a few probably real, and several others that were obviously terrifying figments of his imagination.

 

As he pulled his car into the fire lane in front of Dan’s apartment complex, McGarrett spared a brief look in his friend’s direction. “For the last time, it wasn’t your fault.” Even as he said it, he knew it wouldn’t be the last time – if his young detective had a fault, it was his tendency to hold himself responsible for things which were beyond his control. An incident, such as the one that transpired earlier that day, was rife with should-haves and could-haves, any one of which might have changed the course of the day.

 

He braked abruptly as a matter of course rather than to avoid any specific obstacle. Shifting the car into park, the head of Five-0 now gave Williams his full attention as Dan turned to meet his gaze.

 

“I just wish I could understand what made me see those things… say those things.” He looked down at his lap. “The poor Fletchers must’ve been horrified.”

 

Mention of the victim’s family made McGarrett cringe inwardly – he had not brought up the subject of Dan’s removal from the case. There was no doubt in Steve’s mind that if he did not handle the news properly, his second-in-command would twist the reassignment into a punitive act for his imagined misdeed. Not generally prone to skirting assignment issues – even ones that bore the stigma of punishment – the head of Five-0 could not help but feel that his detective had already had a rough break on this case – perhaps due in part to some shortcoming on the part of his boss. One way or another, his second-in-command would have to be told – it was for his own protection after all – but McGarrett would try to do it without distressing his detective any more than was inevitable. Now, he decided was probably not the best time. Instead, he reinforced what he’d told his detective earlier in the hospital as the bewildered patient looked to his mentor for an explanation.

 

“Danno, if you could’ve seen what happened from my shoes, you would be as certain as I am that you were drugged. Get it out of your head right now that you had any control over what happened! One of those weasels slipped you something!”

 

McGarrett’s tone was characteristically confident and emphatic and it did make the young detective feel a little better, but there were so many pieces to the puzzle still missing.

 

Dan frowned. “But how? And what did they give me that the doc can’t find in my blood? And why me? And then let’s talk about motive—”

 

McGarrett grinned for the first time in what felt like days – even in his unwell state, the investigative gears were turning in his friend’s head. Even as the head of Five-0 addressed the questions raised, it occurred to him that his second-in-command had just given himself a new assignment. “All good questions, my friend, and unfortunately, I can’t answer a single one of them yet. I’ve got Che working on the drug angle.” Here goes… “And – as soon as you’re feeling well enough – I want you to start dredging up everything you can find on Charles and Darlene Winfrey. Whatever they’re up to, they’ve done it before, and we need to find out to whom!”

 

Confusion settled in Williams’ expression. “But what about the kidnapping – Mike Fletcher?”

 

Steve answered quickly, hoping his detective would believe this as he did. “The Winfreys are hindering this investigation – and putting Mike Fletcher in mortal peril – through their smoke-and-mirrors shenanigans – wasting valuable resources by throwing up dead-end leads! Scurrilous low-lifes like the Winfreys are hard to catch because they operate across police jurisdictions and they get to choose where they surface. If we play our cards right, we’ll be able to save the Fletcher boy AND get a hook into the Winfreys.”

 

McGarrett’s voice grew more intense and angry as he spoke, and the passion – obsession? – for his goal came through to Dan. What he’d been thinking since this mess began popped unprepared out of his mouth.

 

“Are you sure that you don’t see Dr. Freemont instead of the Winfreys?  Do you see Tom and Mary Ann instead of the Fletchers?“ 

 

Steve’s angry reaction was almost instant – a raw nerve had been struck.

 

“That’s ridiculous! Am I the only one who can see what’s happening here?” His shout within the confines of the car gave the response an even more unpleasant intensity, and Dan found himself unable to halt a flinch.

 

Tired and feeling abnormally irritable himself, Williams bit back at the stinging rebuke. “What do mean, ‘what’s happening here’ – we don’t KNOW what’s happening! We have NO proof that I was drugged – not only that, we don’t even have a theory that works – and therefore -- all we have is evidence that it was ME that was the big road block to progress!” 

 

Frustration compounded McGarrett’s harsh sentiments about quacks and charlatans – now it seemed they could sway even the one person who normally saw things his way. “You’re OFF the case! END of discussion!”

 

Dan was prepared for the emotional intensity of the retort, but was unsuccessful in masking the wound. Both men sat silently for several seconds, their eyes locked on each other, one mulling on how to respond and the other daring the answer to be non-compliant. Williams finally looked toward the door as he opened it – his head was throbbing again, and he knew no battle would be won here tonight.

 

“Well, then I guess that’s the end of the discussion – if that’s what it was.”

 

Even as he quickly slipped from the car and closed the door behind him, he knew he’d let himself overreact to his boss’s predictable behavior, but his own emotions were running too high at the moment for him to swallow his pride and apologize. Besides, Dan knew he was right – Steve was being over-zealous in his attitude towards the Winfreys, and blaming them for something that might not be their fault. The detective hoped the driver of the car still idling behind him did not see him sway as he entered the building – the dizziness had not entirely dissipated -- he stepped into the waiting elevator and idly promised himself a good breakfast in the morning.

 

 

*****

 

The steering wheel reverberated from the slam of McGarrett’s fist as he watched the slightly unsteady young man vanish into the building. The entire day had been a struggle to contain his rage, and this was certainly a corresponding end to it. Still volcanic at Williams’ erroneous – yes… yes.. erroneous  -- observation, he accelerated away from the building and careened into the traffic lanes with little thought for the damage he’d just exacted on his tires.

 

Internally acknowledging that he needed to cool off in order to productively consider the situation, the task was still not easily accomplished. This was the last thing he’d had on his mind when he collected his friend from the hospital. There should have been no talk of the case or assignments (not that it wasn’t weighing heavily on his mind). It had been a rough day for Danno, and McGarrett knew – even if his detective did not – that something of a hallucinogenic nature had been introduced into Williams’ system. That the young detective was not in a frame of mind – mentally or physically – to be reasonable about anything should not have taken his boss off guard.

 

Danno had accused him of suspecting the Winfreys because of his recent personal experience. Steve decided that he MIGHT stipulate that there was a measure of truth in that. But was not the correlation of past experience to present situations the foundation of education? Learn from the mistakes of the past? Why had he not coolly used this logic on his detective a few minutes ago?

 

By the time the head of Five-0 parked in his usual spot in front of the Palace and pulled the key out of the ignition, he was cognizant that he’d overreacted to his friend’s predictable behavior. This brought forth a new momentary surge of annoyance with himself. Each time he dealt with the fallout from his hot temper when he was younger, he’d promised himself that he would strive to stay on an even keel temper-wise, outwardly at least. But as the years passed, he was never able to pat himself on the back for accomplishing that goal. As he established himself and was put in positions of authority, the low flashpoint worked for him as often as against. It gave him an air of command that many of his slightly older contemporaries couldn’t match. And now, while he still paid lip service to the secret promise, Steve McGarrett no longer actively sought to change himself in that regard.

 

Slowly exiting the vehicle, the detective saw Dan’s company car parked where it had been since that morning. He decided he would use that excuse in the morning to check up on his friend, and if he felt well enough, buy him a decent breakfast before they went about the business of being level-headed, practical cops. He was certain Williams then would be feeling better and be more amenable to following orders, if not agreeing with them.

 

 

*****

 

 

“You’ve got to do something, Harold!” Megan was near tears again for the umpteenth time that day as her spouse reported his lack of success in persuading the head of Five-0 to permit his second-in-command to help them.

 

He spun on her suddenly and shouted into her face. “I don’t know what else you expect me to do! I went to Jameson – he tried, but failed. Then I called him – not once, but twice! He finally hung up on me! And now, I’ve just come back from the hospital – I was going to try to talk to McGarrett in person, but Darlene was dead on the money – Williams was released before I got there!”

 

Her husband’s harsh words, which blasted into her face, stung her, and her lip quivered. Harold reacted, immediately sorry for his losing his temper with his distraught wife. He grabbed her and enveloped her in his arms. “Oh, darling, I’m sorry – I’m just so frustrated. We need to get some rest. I’ll try again tomorrow.”

 

Megan wiped tear from her eye and looked up into Harold’s eyes. “I’m sorry too – I know you’re doing everything you can. I’ll be up to bed shortly.”

 

He kissed her forehead and, as he walked away, he called over his shoulder. “Don’t stay up too late.”

 

She nodded, but immediately began to consider whether SHE had done everything she could to bring her son home…

 

 

*****

 

 

How he could feel so tired, and yet so full of nervous energy was completely beyond Dan. He stood in the shower until it cooled to the point of unpleasantness. If asked, he would not have been able to say that he thought about anything more than the physical sensation of the moisture soaking his curls, running over his face, and down his body. He finally dried off and slipped into a pair of cotton drawstring pajama bottoms. He poured a glass of pineapple juice, despite a distinct lack of thirst, and took it with him onto the lanai, where he dropped into the chair.

 

His thoughts meandered from bad memory to bad memory, with sporadic detours to nonsequiter consideration of a sound or a scent on the air. He slouched there for several minutes before he slammed his fist onto the arm rest in frustration.

 

“Focus! Why can’t I focus?”

 

The sound of his own voice startled him in its intensity. The day had been a rollercoaster, physically and emotionally. He wasn’t certain he remembered everything, and – even more disturbing – he wasn’t certain that what he did remember actually happened. And then there was the impromptu “discussion” in the car with his boss. The detective shook his head gently as he absentmindedly took a sip of his drink – he hadn’t intended to be so undiplomatic with Steve. Did he really have any right to be angry because he’d been yanked from this important case?    

 

A knock at the door snapped Dan from his meditation. He glanced down at his watch-less wrist as he rose to greet the unidentified caller. In no mood for company of any sort, he realized when he opened the door that he’d been half expecting it to be Steve.  In fact, the woman standing there was probably the last person he thought he would find. His jaw dropped slightly in surprise – and dismay – as she offered him an uncertain smile.

 

“Detective Williams, I’m so sorry to disturb you this late – if it weren’t a matter of life and death, I would never be so presumptuous.”

 

“Mrs. Fletcher, what are you doing here?”

 

“May I come in?”

 

The detective hesitated only momentarily before he stepped to one side to allow her to step inside. “Umm.. sure, of course…”

 

He directed the woman, her handbag squeezed under one arm, to the sofa and took a seat himself in the neighboring easy chair. She looked down at her hands for a few moments, leaving an awkward silence that Williams felt obliged to fill – he’d wanted to say it anyway.

 

“Mrs. Fletcher, I sure am sorry for what happened today…” It was Dan’s turn to look down even as Megan’s head snapped up to speak.

 

“It certainly wasn’t your fault! Darlene has explained it all to us, and we understand completely.”

 

The detective blinked and looked up to find the woman studying him with a sympathetic smile. Dan blinked again and shook his head slightly in confusion.

 

“Darlene… explained… What did Darlene explain?”

 

Williams could not take his eyes off of his guest as she proceeded to relay the far-fetched psychic vision lesson she’d learned only hours before. Bewildered as to any possible reason the Winfreys would have to sponsor a story such as the one Mrs. Fletcher had just told him, Dan struggled to remember the scene in Steve’s office just before he’d taken ill. Even that was fuzzy, but he did recall Darlene moving towards him, her melodic voice singling him out for some reason. Before he could understand her point, the room filled with an unbearable heat and began to tilt… then dizziness… his heart felt like it was going to pound out of his chest… and then the rats – large, grey, toothy creatures with claws like talons and hideous fleshy tails… they sank their teeth into his bare feet. The vivid image in his mind made him take a quick reflexive glance down at his legs to confirm the absence of wounds, despite the knowledge that his legs were covered.

 

Dan was recalled to the present moment as the victim’s mother suddenly slid from the couch onto her knees before him, and clutched his knees. The pleading expression on her face made Williams’ own twist in pity for her pain. Tears filled her eyes, but none escaped as made her plea.

 

“I’m begging you to help us find Michael. Darlene is certain that if the two of you try a reading together—”

 

Whether the Winfreys were scheming con artists or misguided do-gooders did not matter to Dan at that moment. There was no way he could reveal to the woman kneeled before him Steve’s suspicion that the Winfreys had drugged him – there was nothing to substantiate that assertion. And since he was not willing to believe that he’d had a psychic revelation, all that was left was one embarrassing explanation.

 

Williams gently placed his fingertips over Megan’s lips to hush her so he could speak. Looking into the liquid eyes of this mother who believed she was pleading for her son’s life was agonizing for Dan as he prepared to tell her news that she didn’t want to hear.

 

“Mrs. Fletcher, I know how badly you want an answer that will bring Mike home, but I’m no psychic! I’m a good detective – but Steve’s a better one, and he’s the lead on this case. I don’t know why I got sick in the office this morning, but it was enough for Steve to take me off the case.”

 

Fletcher was not to be easily dissuaded, and she grabbed his hand from her face and squeezed it. “Okay, so you say you’re no psychic – tell me – what would hurt to come to our home and sit with Darlene?”

 

Dan hesitated, knowing an affirmative response would mean another run-in with his boss.

 

Megan pressed him again as tears spilled down her cheeks. “Please.”

 

Dan studied her expression as he tried to divine the best course of action. He agreed with her argument in principle, but he knew what really needed to happen was for him to get some rest and consider the situation in the clear light of day. But he could not bring himself to not make some concession to Megan Fletcher – besides, he was not sure how easily she would leave if he did not.

 

With a sigh, Dan stood, helping the woman to her feet in the process. “I can’t make any promises, but of course, I want to help you – exactly how I’ll be able to do that, I can’t tell you tonight. I’ll talk to Steve again, but I have to be honest with you, Mrs. Fletcher – he was pretty… pretty firm about it the last time we spoke.” An understatement if ever there was one.

 

She clutched the detective’s arm as he escorted her towards the door. “I’m sure – neither Harold nor the governor had any luck with him. It seems he’s very concerned with your safety.”

 

“My safety…” Dan parroted.

 

That issue re-evoked the regret about his argument with Steve. His mentor might well be projecting his sister’s situation onto this one, but there was no doubt in Williams’ mind that his removal from the case was due at least in part to McGarrett’s concern for his health. He didn’t invest any time in active thought on the subject, but found himself a little touched that his boss was willing to stand his ground with the governor on his behalf.

 

The exhausted detective opened the door relieved the draining encounter was drawing to an end, but Megan turned suddenly and looked down only long enough to find what she sought in her purse. She pressed the object into Williams’ palm quickly and made her case one more time.

 

“I know it’s hard for you to believe that you saw Michael, but I was there – I saw you – and you saw the rats! You saw his fear! Please try to focus on my son and where he might be at this very moment!”

 

As Dan’s eyes dropped to see the pocket knife he recognized as Mike Fletcher’s, he could feel his heart start to pound. The detective did not think to hide the sudden wave of fear that washed over him with the almost instant onset of high fever. His eyes snapped up to meet those of Mrs. Fletcher, who seemed intensely interested in his face – until her own nose lengthened and whiskers sprouted. Dan let out a short cry as the big rat bared her teeth.

 

“Are you all right?”

 

“No! Something… something’s wrong – you need to get out now! Please, go away!”

 

In the back of his mind, he knew the talking rat with the handbag he was pushing out the door was Megan Fletcher. The knife tumbled to the floor as he slammed the door shut and managed to bolt it before the knob un-balled itself and crawled up his arm towards his neck. He cried out again and propelled himself backwards several feet completely aghast.

 

“No! Rats! Please… no… no…you’re not real! Not real!”

 

He rubbed his hands quickly along the length of his arms to stop the progress of two more large, grey rodents that had sprung from the credenza onto him. He turned and careened headlong toward the phone on the end table, but the room turned sideways and he fell to the floor. Tears began to trickle down his face and he cried as he tried to maintain a focus on the phone.

 

“Steve! Help me!” He crawled toward the end table, but he could see several ribbed tails carousing under the sofa, and he knew they were plotting an attack.

 

“You’re not real!” He shouted, but his voice softened to a hoarse and terrified whisper as the phone blinked at him and then stood up on the hind legs it had just sprouted. “No! Help me!”

 

Now that the phone had mutinied, he dropped to his stomach and rolled to his side. He wept and curled up into a ball to prepare himself for the attack he knew was coming. The enemy was massing – he could hear claws clicking along the floor and the grotesque belchy squeaks growing louder. A thread of rational thought kept telling him he needed to persist – make the call, furry, biting, scratching phone or not – but the noise was becoming deafening and it was all he could do to breathe the steaming, hot air in the room. He squeezed his eyes shut and tucked his head as far into his chest as his muscles would allow. The protective measure came just in time as he could feel the horrible creatures jumping onto him. Some merely scratched – others seemed to be digging and biting. Knowing that no help was forthcoming, all he could do between sobs as his flesh was torn and nibbled away was to keep chanting the mantra, “Not real… not real… not real…”

 

 

*****

 

 

After the unsettling argument with Williams, McGarrett could hardly call it a night and just go home. He took refuge in his usual spot -- the Palace -- ruminating over the scant information they had on the kidnapping of Michael Fletcher, and making an attempt that failed at catching up on other work.

 

The disturbing, even terrifying, sequence of events in his office was still chilling to him. Convinced the Winfreys had covertly attacked his officer, he gave up on trying to determine the method right now. He would leave details in the hands of Doc and Che for right now. What HE could do was what he did best. Cover the investigative angle.

 

While it was after midnight here in Honolulu, it was late enough on the east coast for people to be at work. He started first by telexing a request for information on the Winfreys from the FBI data base on interstate fraud, and/or kidnapping involving this couple. Remembering references to Arkansas, he telexed a broad request for any police agency in that state that might have been involved with this kind of crime.

 

No one was on duty at the HPD computer at this time, but he sent an MO of conning families of kidnap victims to the FBI in general terms, wanting to cover all bases. Later, he would have Danno do a general search for other law enforcement agencies through the computer.

 

The thought of his young officer brought sober reality back into his mind and he was disturbed all over again with the strange attack. And his own verbal attack on his friend in the car. He had been harsh, yes, but only in reaction to Danno’s ridiculous assertion that he was attacking the Winfreys because of some imagined connection between the Fletchers (as victims) and Mary Ann and Tom as victims. Instead of giving his officer the benefit of the doubt from his weakened and off-balance condition, he had rounded on him with fury.

 

An uncomfortable twinge of guilt struck him as he considered that, during the course of the day, he’d been accosted by the governor, and then twice by Harold Fletcher. They somehow expected him to allow his second-in-command to be exposed again to that viper, Darlene Winfrey. As audacious as that demand was, he’d been able to keep his temper in check. Yes, he’d ended the last phone call with Fletcher rather abruptly, but the man would not listen to reason. And – after he’d stood up to all the bullying to protect his unwell friend, he himself had laid into him like a pit bull.

 

He shook his head with regret as he turned to the stack of papers in his IN box. I’ll make it up to you, Danno…

 

 

 

Friday Too Early

 

Awareness of physical discomfort returned to Dan before any higher order thoughts surfaced. A burning sensation on his left cheek was a particularly persistent irritant, which accelerated his rise from the mental abyss into which he’d plunged earlier to escape his attackers. Before he moved a muscle, he opened his eyes and gave himself a few moments to adjust to his surroundings. The blackness was dense and not even ambient light seemed to be forthcoming. His left hip and shoulder were on a hard surface and the compressed flesh and underlying muscles screamed to be relieved of their burden. And his head… his head felt like it was caught in a vice. He started to twist from his side, but was quickly prevented – a few moments later, the realization struck him that his head WAS in a vice of sorts. He’d somehow managed to lodge himself under the easy chair. With the problem identified, the detective used his arms to scrape himself from the trap.

 

Rolling to his knees, he stood very slowly and tenderly touched his cheek, which stung from a carpet burn that ran from near his eye to his jaw line. Now that a chair sham was not blocking his view, the light from his bathroom revealed a fair measure of disarray. The end table, on which the phone had been resting, was tipped onto its side – the pottery lamp lie in three separate pieces on the floor beside it. Dan’s bleary eyes could not make out the location of the phone at the moment, and idly wondered whether it had run off. In no mood or condition to consider housekeeping chores, he plodded into his bedroom and lowered himself onto the bed. He held very still for a few moments to allow his head to catch up with his movements, and pondered the uncertain duration of the battle he’d survived. The last thing he would recall that night was the sight of the alarm clock as the minute hand ticked onto the twelve… three o’clock…

 

 

*****

 

Glancing at the clock, he sighed, baffled it was three AM. Where had the time gone?  Worn, he rubbed his face in utter fatigue of body and spirit. If he thought Danno was up, he would run over there and -- well -- apologize. Vowing he would make it up to Williams tomorrow -- today -- he closed down the office and went home, in no better frame of mind than when he had arrived.

 

Before he had a chance to close the door to his office, he heard the telex machine chattering. Stepping over, he read the information as it slowly typed out the words. The sending source was from South Carolina, the Sheriff’s office at a place called Riverbend, specifically a Sheriff Conroy. It stated the Winfreys were indeed involved in a kidnapping case in their local town. The wife of a mining millionaire had been kidnapped, then found several days later, with the help of the Winfreys, who did not accept any money for their involvement.

 

Taking the information, he immediately called the Sheriff and found him to be happy to share information -- what little he had. Conroy was not the Sheriff then, but heard about the kidnapping months later. He also heard nothing but good about the Winfreys’ selfless Christian attitude to help find the wife.

 

As much as Steve pressed, there was no wrong-doing uncovered about the Winfreys. While most people who worked the case were gone, Conroy never heard anything bad about the missionary couple.

 

“Missionaries,” he repeated quietly, now remembering more of their introduction. “Just where were they missionaries?”

 

Africa,” Conroy ruminated for a moment. Can’t recall the region. They ran some kind of hospital for the natives. That’s all I know.

 

McGarrett thanked the man, but before he could return to his office to jot a few more notes down about the conversation, the telex began spitting out more information. 

 

This time the message was from a Texas Ranger named Gibbs from Austin. The Winfreys were credited with recovering the kidnapped son of an oil millionaire.

 

Glancing at the clock, pleased it was a decent hour to call, he connected through to Austin Texas. Ranger Gibbs was in the office and proved cordial, detail-oriented, and a font of information about the Winfreys.

 

The kidnap victim, Chad Lowry, a ten year old son of the Lowry Oil Corporation founder, had been missing two days when the Winfreys contacted the family. Against the advice of the Rangers, the Winfreys had several psychic readings with Lowry. To the surprise of the officers, one of the Rangers assigned to the case, Pete Gonzales, was found to be psychic as well and helped find the boy, who was unharmed.

 

It was like he had just struck gold, and Steve’s heart raced at the information. The same MO!  Kidnap victim. A policeman on the case dragged in with a phony drug of some kind that bamboozles everyone into thinking he is psychic!  It all fit!

 

Asked if any money exchanged hands, Gibbs admitted he suspected it had been a scam, but couldn’t find any evidence to prove that Pete Gonzales was being tricked, and no connection to the Winfreys and any monetary consideration ever surfaced.

 

A little disappointed with that, McGarrett thanked the officer and hung up. Now considerably weary, he decided to wait until later in the day to see if more information came though. He needed a good night’s sleep -- or what was left of it -- to tackle this puzzling case with a fresh mind.

 

 

 

Friday Morning

 

Dan wasn’t sure whether the act of moving to turn off the alarm clock would be more uncomfortable than continuing to listen to the incessant beeping. Finally, will overcame his body’s intention to sleep, and he pulled himself to a sitting position and let his hand drop onto the top of the clock. The silence felt so good that he was sorely tempted to fall backward and revel in it for a few minutes, but the harsh, drill-sergeant part of his constitution – the part that wanted to be Steve McGarrett – bade him to rise and get started with the day.

 

The detective remembered his night of hallucinogenic terror in brief snatches as he plodded to the bathroom. His ears still rang with the vestiges of a cacophony of squeaks of varying pitches. He turned on the shower and caught sight of his reflection in the process. The rings under his eyes were darker than they were the night before and his cheeks seemed a little hollow. He filled his mouth with air for a second before he blew out the breath and turned his head to the left. There would be no way to hide the huge, rosy-hued scrape.

 

As the steam began to obscure his image, he grimaced. “Yuck…”

 

Another long shower served to partially rejuvenate him, and he finished cleaning up quickly, pointedly avoiding the mirror, except for a brief pass with his razor. It was interesting, he noted to himself, that he felt a little detached – as if he were watching someone else get ready for work. He wasn’t certain what to make of it, but knew he just had to work through it.  When his stomach grumbled, he decided that he’d take enough time this morning to eat something before stepping into public today.

 

The living room, where he’d defended himself against an imaginary army of rodents of all sizes and colors, looked like the aftermath of a drunken party. The detective was suddenly appalled. What sickness could drive him to single-handedly make such a mess and be unaware that he was doing it? Now more than a little concerned for his health and sanity, Dan continued looking at the battlefield as he moved toward the kitchen. In the process, he almost tripped over the phone, which had somehow managed to make its way several feet from its usual resting place on the still-toppled end table. At that moment, a few frames of a scene covered his field of vision – he was flinging a pudgy, green rat with an enormously long tail across the room.

 

He gasped and stumbled backward until he slammed into the wall not too far from his front door. The disturbing image vanished as quickly as it had appeared, leaving him trembling. With his back against the wall, he let himself slide slowly to the floor.

 

“What’s the matter with me?”

 

He swallowed and had to make a conscious effort to slow his breathing. This was the kind of thing that could get him put on permanent sick leave. For that reason, he dismissed the idea that he could make an appointment with Doc Bergman. Until he got over what was ailing him, he would have to suck it up and stop acting like a girl every time something as harmless as a hundred-pound rat with fangs jumped in his direction. He frowned and steeled his resolve to be less reactive no matter what popped up.

 

Putting his palms flat on the floor beside him in an effort to boost himself upward, the fingers of his left hand found an obstruction. He recoiled quickly even as he cursed himself for ignoring his silent lecture on jumpiness. The object turned out to be the pearl-handled pocket knife which Megan Fletcher had thrust into his hand the previous evening.

 

He sighed and shook his head. “Does she have to be there every time I turn into Renfield?”

 

He scooped up the blade and dropped it into his pants pocket as he stood. His stomach growled again and he looked in the direction of his kitchen for a few moments before he decided he would find someplace else to eat this morning. It had nothing to do with the a-kilter phone which lie there, between him and his fridge, tipped on its side, blinking at him and tugging its leash.

 

“Stupid phone,” he muttered angrily as he straightened his tie and took the few remaining steps to his door. 

 

 

*****

 

 

Steve felt a little raw this morning as he walked up the outside stairs that led to Williams’ second floor apartment. He felt like he needed to walk off some of his fatigue and avoided the elevator, giving himself more time to think. Disagreements between the top two officers were not completely uncommon, and the irate words they exchanged the night before hardly registered on any scale compared to some of their past blow outs. Perhaps weariness or guilt over Dan’s ill and weak condition helped edge McGarrett toward more contrition. This morning, the mild guilt he’d experienced the evening before had grown into extreme displeasure with his lack of control, and so he’d arrived here just after Seven AM to do something about it.

 

When he knocked on the door, he was a bit startled that it was opened immediately. Of all his thoughts and emotions, irritation at himself flooded over the rest, as he took a good look at Williams. Haggard and worn, even though the jacket and tie were crisp and fresh for the new day, the body inside the clothes denoted a night even shorter and ill-rested than Steve’s.

 

“Hi,” he began, unusually taken aback. “You look terrible.”

 

The detective on the other side of the doorway looked a little startled, but his expression seemed to reflect a measure of relief as he gave his boss a one-second assessment. Dan slipped out the door and closed it behind him.

 

“Thanks, I don’t think you look much better,” was the wry comment, familiar humor surfacing to cover the surprise -- the first reaction when Dan saw him. “Guess I’m just following your lead. Sleepless nights. SOP for Five-0, right?”  

 

A growl somewhere between disapproval and a laugh caught in his throat, and McGarrett cleared it, refusing to acknowledge all the truths his cheeky second-in-command was tossing at him at this hour. “Okay,” he admitted with a sigh as he gestured toward the exit door at the end of the hall. “So why don’t I buy you breakfast and we can insult each other over a good meal?”

 

“Sure,” Dan agreed with a lopsided grin.

 

The taller man tipped his head slightly and frowned as the recessed light in the hall suddenly gave him a better view of his friend’s discolored cheek. He reached up as if he intended to touch the offended area, but stopped a foot short. “Pick a fight with a door?”

 

A hint of a grimace brushed across the young man’s face as he remembered that there was visible evidence of the previous night’s ordeal. With no clear way to avoid the point-blank question, Dan responded truthfully. “No – the easy chair. You’d be amazed how dangerous those things can be.”

 

McGarrett gave a slight eye roll and smiled. “Good thing it wasn’t the sofa – you could’ve been seriously injured.” Attributing the scrape to a moment of inattention, the head of Five-0 dismissed the concern.

 

As the pair made their way down the hall, Williams casually turned around carefully to give his door a final wary glance – he thought he’d heard something behind them. Thinking himself subtle, he jumped slightly when his boss glanced back at the door as well and gave him a slight nudge.

 

“Do you think we’re going to be followed?”

 

Dan glanced in Steve’s direction and let out a single quiet laugh. “Uh, no – no opposable thumbs…”

 

McGarrett let a slight frown join his smile. His second’s quirky sense of humor occasionally left him wondering whether he had missed something – this was definitely one of those times, he decided as he pushed the door to the stairwell open and entered.

 

Dan grinned at his boss as the man moved in front of him to head down the stairs, but his expression quickly lost any air of mirth as he took one last look down the hall – he thought he saw a long rat’s tail snap quickly back under his door.

 

Covertly, McGarrett released a slight sigh of relief. He had been tense about their first meeting for this morning -- concerned about the angry parting of yesterday. His flash temper had tilted the conversation to a completely unexpected angle and this was the only way he could ever think of to apologize without really saying so. The offer of a peace-token-meal was the best he could manage sometimes. A flaw, he recognized, in his sometimes rigid personality. In this case, though, he was right, if not totally justified, in his method.

As the pair exited the lobby into the already-warm morning air, Steve became aware that Dan continued to lag behind him a few paces. He threw a glance over his shoulder to see a mildly pensive expression on his detective’s face. With the memory of the brief, but reassuring banter in the hallway a minute before, he wondered what could have so quickly altered the mood. Perhaps Danno was still not feeling well? OR could he be bracing himself for another verbal assault? The head of Five-0 pushed the guilt to the back of his mind, and decided that a little reassurance was in order. He slowed and then stopped until Dan caught up with him and followed suit. A questioning look partially replaced the unease as he waited for his boss to explain the reason for their halt.

 

McGarrett panned the area briefly before he turned a smile back in Williams’ direction. “It’s gonna be a beautiful day – are you sure you wouldn’t rather spend a day recuperating on the beach… a little sun.. a little surf… a little bikini watching?”

 

Williams considered his boss’s words for a few seconds and repeated a few of them. “Sun… surf… bikinis…” The seriousness gradually drained from his countenance as he looked up to meet McGarrett’s gaze. “That’s a nice combination.”

 

“Yeah,” the taller man agreed. He noticed with mild interest that just the thought of a day on the beach visibly relaxed his young colleague, who offered no further indication of his preference.

 

“Well, think about it over breakfast -- how about King’s?”

 

Dan’s eyes lit up at the possibility of a sumptuous breakfast at the famous bakery that invented sweet Hawaiian bread. Steve, with a light pull on his friend’s shoulder, re-initiated their progress towards the car. McGarrett continued to eye his friend. Something did seem slightly amiss – there was an undercurrent of general listlessness. As he slipped the key into the ignition, he decided it was probably due to the lack of sleep.

 

Dan casually eyed the file labeled “Fletcher” lying on the seat between them, but did not pick it up.

 

“What’s going on with the case?” The first conversation initiated by Williams that morning put the detectives’ thoughts back to business.

 

“Still stalled,” McGarrett growled. “No ransom demands. No mysterious and deadly past that we’ve uncovered from the victim. Chin is going over some of Harold Fletcher’s business dealings to see if we might be up against someone with a grudge. Routine and unsuccessful so far,” he griped unhappily.

 

“I’ve started a background check on the Winfreys. I’ll need you to pick it up. I want the book on these people, Danno,” he fervently ordered.. “And this is not putting you on the beach, Danno, so don’t think I’m trying to push you out. You’re my best man and I know you can do the best job on this. While finding Michael Fletcher is still my number one priority, these Winfrey leeches are hindering our efforts to focus a hundred percent on the case.”

 

“Okay,” Dan nodded absently.

 

Steve expected a rebuttal, a spirited argument to his plan, and was surprised at the mild reaction -- or -- non-reaction. As he drove he glanced at Williams several times, deciding that the silence was uncharacteristic, but explainable due to the rough day and night his officer had endured. He wanted to press for details of just how restless his detective had been and how much sleep did he really get, but Dan hated to be overprotected.

 

The popular bakery/restaurant was crowded. They didn’t have to wait for a table, but at this hour it was crushed with a clientele on their way to work in the city.   Steve ordered their special this morning and Williams followed suit, right down to the black coffee. Over the strong brew, McGarrett brought Dan up to speed with what he learned about the Winfreys so far.

 

“I’m counting on you to find something on the Winfreys, Danno,” Steve reiterated, the retelling of his slow progress reinforcing his frustration.

 

“Find something on the Winfreys,” Dan repeated.

 

Steve took a moment to study his friend, deciding the diffident comment meant Williams was still on the fence about the con couple. “I need you to do a complete background check on the Winfreys. They are dangerous, Danno. I don’t know what they did to you, but they did something – and it worries me that Doc wasn’t able to find anything!”  The anger was rising and he took a long gulp of his hot coffee to take a minute to calm down.

 

The waitress placed plates of thick Hawaiian bread French Toast smothered in butter and coconut syrup on the table. Dan seemed to ponder the words of conviction as he began to munch on the succulent, sweet bread.

 

More concerned with the important conversation, Steve hardly appreciated the good meal. His mind was completely focused on this moment. Dan’s acceptance of his view of things was incredibly important. He needed his ally and friend to be on his side with this Winfrey angle of the kidnapping. Always accepting that sooner or later, Danno would side with him, he found it was vital to know that now. He didn’t want indifference from his closest friend. The rest of the world could oppose him or doubt him, but not Danno.

 

“Steve,” slowly sipping his drink, Williams cleared his throat, “we really don’t know what happened. I could’ve gotten sick from missing breakfast or --“

 

McGarrett leaped in to forestall anymore misplaced guilt. “You are a fit and healthy Five-0 officer,” he snapped back, “and you can handle missing a meal and bad food and pressure and hot weather and high humidity! She did something to you, Danno and just because we haven’t found it yet doesn’t mean she isn’t responsible!”

 

Dan blinked from the harsh onslaught. . Steve leaned forward, his voice lower and calmer, determined that the meal would not be a repeat of the scene in the car the previous evening.

 

“Danno, these parasites came from the slime somewhere. They have a history. They probably have fraud records in ten states. They’re here to bleed victims of a terrible crime and I want them stopped.”

 

It was obvious that Williams was considering the words and ate in silence for a time. Finally, he responded with open anxiety. “I want to help find Mike Fletcher, Steve. Regardless of what happened yesterday, I know he’s got to be terrified and in a terrible place.”

 

Sympathetic, Steve reasoned, “I think the Winfreys are inhibiting this investigation. And I want you as far away as possible from that woman.”  At Dan’s frown, he almost smiled, relieved to see a more typical, readable “Danno” reaction. “I am not putting you on the beach. This is important.”

 

“And you’re trying to protect me,” he sighed with chagrin.

 

“Yes,” Steve admitted frankly. “Do you blame me?”

 

Shrugging, Dan could not directly respond to that. “I’m okay now, Steve.”

 

“And I want you to stay that way.”  Mercilessly, Steve masticated the toast as if attacking it with a vengeance.  Some bites were crunchy and he was surprised to find the top sprinkled with macadamia nuts.  Sometimes he wondered why he ate -- he had hardly tasted the fluffy bread or the gooey syrup and was surprised his plate was nearly empty now.

 

“Mahalo for the concern, but what could she have done to me?  I didn’t have a drink, I had no contact with her that everybody else didn’t have. Doc found nothing --“

 

“Okay,” McGarrett broke in, a bit irked that all of that was true and it frustrated him. “We don’t know anything about them except they claim to be psychic. They come in and latch onto you -- someone in the inner circle of the investigation. To distract us, they take you out. Classic confidence scheme, Danno!  Do a fancy song and dance to take attention away from what is really going on!”  

 

“How?”

 

“I don’t know, but we’re going in circles with this conversation. Let’s get to the office, so you can get on the trail of these rats.”

 

Williams jerked slightly and paused before he nodded slowly in agreement. McGarrett noticed the slight reaction, but the reason for it did not register, and his focus on the proper direction for the case was rapidly gaining momentum in his mind. Happily, Dan was on board with the plan – he agreed to launch a full background check on the two people they looked on as scam artists. McGarrett wanted flights checked -- perhaps they had called the Fletchers from Honolulu -- picked up the local gossip about the missing college kid and ran with it. Maybe they had feelers in several states and jumped at misfortune where they found it. Whatever the case, he knew Dan was just the man to figure it all out. The head of Five-0 felt as pleased as he’d felt in days, knowing his best man would be on the trail of blood suckers he detested -- and that his friend was removed from direct harm from these parasites.

 

Without noting his reaction to that last label -- thankfully Dan felt -- McGarrett rose from the table, leaving enough cash for the bill and an ample tip, and waited as his second-in-command pushed himself away from the table and stood to follow him. They moved down the narrow aisle towards the exit, passing several tables of jovial diners. A chill traversed Dan’s spine as they made their way into the sunlight, and he knew he did not dare look back.

 

 

*****

 

 

McGarrett breezed into the Five-0 office with Williams close on his heels. He greeted May, who was taking a phone message, with a nod as he scooped up the contents of his IN box and swept into his office. Dan offered her a crooked grin in greeting as he drew near to her desk on the way to his own. The secretary quickly finished her business with the caller and hung up to turn her attention on young detective, who appeared very sleep-deprived to her.

 

“Danny! When Steve told me you were coming in this morning, I couldn’t believe it! You look awful! You should’ve at least slept in! How are you feeling? And what on earth did you do to your face?” She hugged him as he responded.

 

“Where do I start?” His attention was diverted from the woman to his desktop. There were two covered plates resting on the blotter. “What’s this?”

 

“What happened to your cheek?” May persisted in her line of questioning, and the detective responded as he lifted a corner of the aluminum foil, which covered the plates.

 

“I scraped it… wow… this stuff looks great.” Dan smiled. One was a plate of freshly-cut pineapple, mangoes, and papaya, and the other plate contained several appetizing pastries. His brow furled slightly as he looked back at the perky brunette whose eyes had not left his face. “What’s going on?”

 

She shrugged and defiantly/accusingly maintained eye contact as she explained that she’d checked in with Steve at the hospital the previous evening and learned from him that, so far, the only thing amiss was the detective’s low blood sugar.

 

Of course, May unreasonably viewed this as some sort of failure on her part. She could not help but feel that her unofficial / unacknowledged turf included making sure her detectives – especially her bachelors – were properly fed. That she had shirked her responsibility and allowed Williams to plunge into a stressful meeting with only black coffee on his stomach bothered her. On this day though, May was determined to make amends, so she, along with her good friend, Mai Kelly – Chin’s wife – prepared an assortment of tempting fare for the Five-0 detectives.

 

“Thanks, May, but you know, if I did have a blood sugar problem yesterday, it was my own fault, and nobody else’s.”

 

Dan was embarrassed at the possibility that his entire ohana thought that he couldn’t take care of himself – and further that the secretary blamed herself for the horrible incident. She had not said it in so many words, but the detective was able to make the connection as she spoke of the food preparation effort, which smacked of making amends.

 

May smiled sweetly and condescendingly yet gently touched Dan’s uninjured cheek as she responded as if she were speaking to a small child. “Yes, I know. You and Steve are big, strong detectives and can take care of yourselves.”

 

Williams, his manly sensibilities mildly appeased, agreed with a very slight frown. “Yeah.”

 

“Now, let’s make sure we eat today,” the secretary added as she returned to her desk. She was barely seated before McGarrett appeared in his doorway.

 

“What’s with the buffet on my desk?”

 

Neither person within earshot of the question had time to respond before the creak of the outer door alerted them to an approaching visitor. It was Che Fong with a couple of file folders and a black-and-white-marbled laboratory notebook under one arm, and what appeared to be a small, black-leather briefcase under the other.

 

“Che! I was just thinking about you – come on in!” With a come-on flick of his head at his second-in-command, McGarrett disappeared into his office. The Chinese head of the state’s crime lab and Williams quickly complied with the command.

 

“What’ve ya got?” The head of Five-0 turned and demanded immediately as soon as his office door latched shut.

 

Accustomed to McGarrett’s intense and abrupt manner, Che did not bother to take a seat – in his experience, most meetings in this office took place standing around the big desk. He immediately jumped into his findings, thus far, such as they were. “In a word, Steve – nothing.”

 

“Nothing? What do you mean nothing?” McGarrett was visibly surprised and simultaneously annoyed. Dan, feeling more like a fly on the wall rather than a participant in the conversation quietly slipped around the two men and took a seat – his spot – on the corner of his boss’s desk.

 

Che sighed and responded firmly. “Steve, I checked Danny’s blood for every substance I could think of that would cause the kind of reaction Bergman described. AND I ran it through the mass spectrometer and the gas chromatograph to check for spikes and spots of ANY unidentified compounds – there was just nothing.”

 

“Well, you missed something!” McGarrett spat and emphasized his point by stabbing a finger in the man’s direction.

 

Dan didn’t stand, but felt obliged to defend the Chinese analyst by offering another possibility. “Che, do you think I could’ve had an allergic reaction to something?”

 

Grateful for a voice of reason to join his own, Che glanced at Williams, but directed his answer at the much taller man now glowering at him. “It’s possible, Danny – without having any clue as to the nature of whatever it is we’re dealing with, I can’t be sure though.”

 

Steve began to pace even as he began to issue instructions. “Well, I want you to go back to the drawing board! Start over! Don’t limit yourself to common South Pacific drugs. The suspects are well-traveled – they’ve spent time in Africa and who knows where else. Maybe they’re using a combination of things – I don’t know, but I’m putting YOU on the hot seat to find the answer!” With that pronouncement he spun again and crossed his arms to await the man’s agreement.

 

Being a man of incredible patience and persistence, the diminutive lab chief did not react negatively to McGarrett’s harsh and almost accusatory tone – he’d known the man for several years and knew that he was not being singled out as the sole recipient of unreasonable wrath (Besides, Bergman had warned him the night before to be prepared!). Instead, he frowned and concentrated on the new tidbits of data he’d been tossed.

 

“Africa, huh?” Che set down the folders and the brief case, and then turned to study Williams, who appeared very reticent, tired and even a little under the weather. After several seconds of uninterrupted consideration, Che determined the course of action he needed to take. “Danny, it would help me narrow my search if you could provide me with a little more information.”

 

The detective cocked his head slightly. “Like what?”

 

Che pulled a pencil from his pocket, opened the lab book, and took a few steps closer to the young man. “Let’s talk about mechanisms of transmission. I know you didn’t eat or drink anything—”

 

“I guess everybody knows that…” Dan interrupted sullenly.

 

Ignoring the comment, Che continued. “So you didn’t ingest anything by mouth. That leaves us with something that you inhaled or something that was absorbed through your skin.”

 

McGarrett moved from his more distant vantage point to lean against one of the white high-back chairs in front of his desk. An order of magnitude more relaxed than when he last spoke, he nodded. “Yeah, Che, I like where you’re going, I’m guessing that something that would have to be inhaled would be harder to control than something that was delivered through touch, so I would start with stuff that can be absorbed through the skin.”

 

“Okay,” Che agreed with a nod. “The next issue is time to onset. The symptoms came on quickly I gather, Danny, but can you recall the moments leading up to the —”

 

“The attack.” This time it was McGarrett who interrupted.

 

Not about to disagree, Che rephrased his question. “What do you remember about the moments before and during the attack?”

 

Dan swallowed and lowered his gaze to the floor as he tried to place himself back in the terrifying situation. “I… I think… The room got hot suddenly.”

 

“Hot? Do you mean that you grew warm over the course of a minute or two?”

 

“No – I was instantly hot like I’d just stepped into a furnace – and then I got dizzy.”

 

“What were you doing when that happened?”

“I was shaking Mrs. Winfrey’s hand.”

 

The detective recalling the scene did not seem to grasp the significance of the memory. However, the other two men in the room shot each other glances –  the suspect was touching the victim at the time he began to feel unwell!

 

Encouraged at the possible connection, Che pressed on. “And do you have a sense of how long after that you began to hallucinate?”

 

Williams grew more ill-at-ease with each question – as if discussing it would invite the rats back. Afraid to look into the eyes of his interrogator for fear of seeing a rodent looking back, Dan stood suddenly and turned away, stubbornly refusing to lose control of the situation. He only hoped his voice did not sound panicked.

 

“Umm… it was pretty quick, I think…”

 

“Well, would you say it was like the heat or—”

 

“No, but it was soon.” Enough… Dan wished the phone would ring or something – anything to leave the subject behind.

 

Both of the men listening to the young detective sensed his impatience to move on, and his boss, recalling his own horror as a mere witness, stepped in. “Danno’s right – from the time the introductions occurred to the point I first noticed— symptoms – wasn’t more than a couple of minutes.”

 

The analyst nodded and jotted something down in his notebook. “Okay… and how long would you say the hallucinations lasted?”

 

Dan really didn’t want to reveal to anyone the details of his horrific night, but to withhold facts that could be related to a kidnapping was something he would not do – even if he himself did not truly believe the information had any bearing on the case. “I- I wasn’t wearing a watch, but… but it got better… and then it got worse before it got better again.”

 

“Well, can you give me any idea of when you noticed you were better?”

 

Dan thought back to the moment he’d finally dropped onto his bed, and sighed. “Three o’clock.”

 

“AM?”

 

“Yeah.” Knowing he couldn’t continue speaking to people with his back turned all day, he steeled himself for whatever he would see and turned to make eye contact with whatever was querying him. To Dan’s enormous relief, it was a small Chinese man – with a kind and concerned countenance – in a suit jacket and no tie. The detective confirmed more boldly as he returned to his spot on the corner of the desk. “Three AM.”

 

Mention of the time gripped Steve with his own recollection – he’d been sitting at the same desk on which his friend now sat. It dawned on McGarrett that, after he had angrily blasted his unwell detective out of his car, Dan had retreated to his apartment only to have a relapse of his terrifying hallucinogenic symptoms. No wonder he looked so tired this morning. Regret about the incident again filtered into the forefront of his thoughts. I’m sorry, Danno… 

 

The head of Five-0 was snapped back to the present as Che opened his black case. “Well, Danny, I’m gonna need to take a little more evidence from you.”

 

Dan groaned and rolled his eyes as he saw the needle and small vials appear in Che’s hand.

 

“Roll up your sleeve please.”

 

As Williams unhappily complied with the request, McGarrett walked to his desk and jotted down some other notes he felt could be pertinent for Che’s investigation.

 

Che moved quickly to take the sample. As he finished, he issued instructions to his subject. “I didn’t bring a bandage, so just keep that cotton ball pressed there for a minute.” Williams did not respond verbally, but his annoyed glance told Che that the detective understood.

 

With the two vials carefully secured back in the case, Che accepted the proffered notes from Steve and promised he would get back to the detectives as soon as he had news. Despite the fact that he had not been able to detect a foreign substance in Williams’ blood, Che was filled with a sense – almost a premonition – that he would uncover something. Steve McGarrett was not a man who would cavalierly insist that time and energy be spent on research of this nature without a good reason. The head of Five-0 was renowned for his phenomenal instincts in this regard, and Che Fong was more than willing to do everything he could to find the proof McGarrett knew was there hidden somewhere… somehow…

 

As the door closed behind the small man, whose hands were laden with his files and brief case, Steve had a thought that he would like to confirm his remorse with Dan about what had transpired the previous evening, but the two men were not alone in the office for more than two seconds before May pushed the door open and announced that she had just taken a phone message from Harold Fletcher.

 

“He is requesting the honor of Danny’s presence at Darlene Winfrey’s formal reading this afternoon at three o’clock. He says that you and the other detectives are welcome to attend as well, but he implores you one last time to allow Danny to participate.”

 

The personal mood burst like a soap bubble as uncharitable feelings about the Winfreys flooded his soul. Not only were these vermin playing with the tortured parents of the victim, Danno had suffered terribly at their hands, and continued to feel the aftermath – Steve could sense it in his mood.

 

McGarrett shook his head in disgust as he took a seat at his desk. “I just hope they don’t miss a call from the kidnappers while they’re having their séance!”

 

May looked at Williams to see if she could gauge whether or not she should actually decline the invitation. The detective un-crooked his arm and, after a quick glance at the small, red spot on the cotton ball, looked up at the woman in the doorway. As he rolled down his sleeve, he saw the question in her eyes, and responded with a slight shake of his head. The secretary accepted the unspoken answer – do not decline – with a nod and closed the door behind her. She would leave Five-0’s second-in-command to deal with their boss.

 

When May left, McGarrett turned to his officer to forge ahead with more thoughts on the case, and the words froze on his tongue. Williams was haggard and spent. A rare shaft of guilt penetrated right through to the marrow of Steve’s soul that he had dragged his recovering friend out on this case. Steve had hoped the extravagant treat of breakfast at King’s would have revitalized his officer -- in spirit as well as body -- but that had not happened.

 

Obviously, Danno had spent the night with restless sleep and little rest. Why didn’t he say something?  Steve was in the office until three in the morning. However would anyone have called for help from a superior who barked condemning accusations at him at their last meeting?   If Danno had wanted commiseration, solace or even advice, Steve would not have been the person he would turn to last night. So he had turned to no one. And Steve had only himself to blame for that.

 

Resolving to make a much more valiant attempt at patience and understanding, McGarrett reached out to put a supportive hand on his friend’s shoulder, but the intended action was not completed.

 

 

Dan rose from the desk and walked out onto the lanai to consider how best to broach the very sore subject with the lead detective on the case. Leaning on the railing, he knew whatever ailed him – poison or virus or allergy – was still working on him. He wished he did not feel so distracted and unfocused – that he could trust his own five senses to tell him what was real… that he could feel the same conviction about the cause of his sickness that his mentor had. Steve had relegated him to a background project, and for reasons Williams could not explain, he had agreed -- almost meekly – despite the fact that logic told him that Mike Fletcher would be better served if he stayed actively involved with the case.

 

When Kono rushed into McGarrett’s office without so much as a tap on the door to announce himself, Dan knew something big had broken on the case. He quickly returned into the office to join McGarrett and Kalakaua.

 

“We got a break!” Kono triumphantly proclaimed, waving the box he held in his hand. He placed it on the main desk. “A recording left at KHON radio station. Tim, the sound guy, is a neighbor of mine and called me to pick it up.”

 

McGarrett removed his jacket, slipped off his holster, and anxiously watched the detective carefully remove a small reel of tape from the box. “Get that down to the lab wikiwiki!” he ordered, as he pulled out a machine from his desk drawer and started to set up the tape.

 

Mom, Dad, this is Mike,” came a frightened, clearly agonized voice from the speaker.

 

Dan sucked in a breath as he listened to the squeaks and moans, the gasping breaths between the words. It seemed so real -- as if he was reliving the visions again -- a mind-picture that never really left him for very long. It was so amazingly crisp in his mind -- the rats, the terror, the crashing of the nearby surf, the indescribable peril… He slowly stepped backward, a primal reaction pushing him farther from the source of his fear.

 

“I’m being held for five hundred thousand dollars ransom, to be paid tomorrow morning.  The strained voice broke. “Help me!  Please, Dad, get me out of here!  They—” 

 

There was a muffled voice, and more squeaks, and the boy screamed. “Okay, okay, I’ll just read!” he pleaded. “No tricks, Dad. Tomorrow the money is to be in small, unmarked bills and in a black duffle bag. You’re to take the money with you and wait for instructions at the radio station tomorrow morning at ten o’clock. No tricks or I will be killed.”

 

Dead air. McGarrett rewound the tape. Dan leaned on the chair which had stopped his backward progress, feeling ill and weak from the vicarious experience of the audio.

 

“He was reading from a script for most of that.” Kono commented.

 

“Rats,” Dan whispered, striving for calm, but failing to find it. He felt a flash of heat cross his skin and his mind danced with images of scurrying rats biting at the kid’s unprotected foot. “He is terrified of the rats.”

 

McGarrett looked over his shoulder as the dread in his officer’s tenor came through. Moving quickly, Steve materialized at his friend’s side and gripped onto both of his arms. “It’s all right, Danno, we’re going to get him out of this!”

 

With a nod, Dan believed him. He had to believe – if the kid died, how could he not find himself partially responsible for being unable to explain the visions in his head?  McGarrett retained a one-handed grip, and with the other unspoiled the tape and gave it to Kono with instructions to take it back to the radio station and stay there until there was a copy made. He was to send back the copy and stay on the radio techs until a detailed analysis of all background noises could be completed. And he wanted that immediately!

 

Kono left without a word and McGarrett, observing with concern that his detective was avoiding eye contact with him, kept a hand on Dan’s shoulder. “Danno, look at me!” When Williams hesitantly complied, Steve reassured him firmly. “We ARE GOING to get him back! Don’t worry.”

 

The recording had swept a hazy film over his sense, but Dan was climbing out of that now -- anchored by the solid support of his friend. The terror-stricken voice of the victim brought a firm resolve to him – one that had been sorely lacking in the past twenty four hours. He was not going to sit around and wait for information to trickle in from the mainland – background checks on the Winfreys might yield evidence of criminal mischief, but efforts to save Mike were a matter of life and death. He had to do something to help.

 

“I need to be back on this, Steve,” he said quietly.

 

McGarrett kept his hold, and slightly increased the pressure in the grip while his eyes darkened.

 

“We know that kid is in terrible trouble,” Williams pressed on quickly. “I don’t know why, but I can feel his terror.”

 

“I know—”

 

“You need a full team effort on this, don’t you, Steve?  Don’t hold me back.”

 

Ever so slightly, as if weighing and balancing options in his mind, McGarrett shook his head. “We don’t know what that gypsy-mystic has up her sleeve, Danno.”

 

“You’re right – we don’t know. But aren’t we better off—won’t Mike be better off – if we stay close to the Winfreys to keep them from somehow stacking the cards more against us than they already are?” Dan could see the cracks in his boss’ resolution to keep him sequestered.

 

“Don’t exclude me – if this turns out badly and I wasn’t able to help, I’ll never forgive myself.”

 

McGarrett’s expression lightened to one of irritated long-suffering. “You’re NOT responsible – you are a VICTIM.”

 

Williams remained focused on his objective. “I’m ALSO the BEST man for this job – let me go to the reading at the Fletcher’s.”

 

Exhaling loudly, McGarrett patted him hard on the shoulder and nodded. “Okay – but we’re ALL going – and there are going to be some rules! And if that psycho-psychic does one more mojo-move on you, I’ll have her head!”

 

Dan smiled at the touching sentiment which had been delivered in such an incongruously brusque manner. “Whatever you say, Steve.”

 

 

 

Friday Afternoon

 

“I’m not two years old,” Dan grumbled as McGarrett parked in the front of the Fletcher’s large circular driveway. He’d just learned the conditions under which the head of Five-0 had stipulated to Harold Fletcher he would allow Williams to participate in the reading. Neither husband nor wife of the Winfrey team was to approach or touch his detective. And while McGarrett had not shared the additional restrictions with Fletcher, he’d let his second-in-command know, in no uncertain terms, that he was to not to wander off without one of his colleagues present.

 

The driver ignored his passenger’s complaint, and addressed the two detectives in the back seat. “Chin – keep your eyes on the Winfreys – especially her!”

 

“Right, boss!” Chin acknowledged as the Five-0 men got out of the car.

 

“Kono – you’re like glue to Danno!”

 

“Like glue, boss,” Kono parroted firmly, and responded to Dan’s glare with a narrow-eyed look of resolution. The Hawaiian understood why his friend was annoyed, but that did not matter – Steve was convinced that Williams was in danger, and frankly McGarrett just wasn’t wrong often enough to take a chance.

 

The ornate, carved front door with a black, rod iron window opened before the bell could be rung. It was Megan Fletcher who anxiously greeted them and escorted the detectives into a library that rivaled some of Oahu’s public reading rooms in size. A round wooden dining room table, perhaps four feet in diameter, appeared out of place in the room, and had five matching chairs parked around it. The table top contained several objects, which McGarrett suspected were personal possessions of Mike Fletcher – no doubt for Winfrey to pretend to catch a vibration or something.

 

Harold, who’d been standing by the window on the far wall, set down an iced drink the color of bourbon on a nearby shelf, and nodded his greeting to the Five-0 men. “Thank you for coming.” He studied Williams intently, as did the man’s wife.

 

Charles and Darlene rose from the sofa where they’d been waiting. Now attired in a long, red-hibiscus-adorned white muumuu, the woman greeted each detective with eye contact and a smile – which was returned only with neutral acknowledgement of her presence. Unflustered by the snub, she spoke to Dan. “Detective Williams, I’m glad to see you’ve recovered. Are you ready for another journey?” 

 

“I’m ready if you are,” Dan responded levelly.

 

As he couple moved to the table to take their seats, Kono cautiously stepped between them and Williams, who rolled his eyes slightly at the over-protective measure. McGarrett expected nothing less, and re-positioned himself to stand behind Darlene. She glanced back at him and shook her head slightly in tsk-tsk fashion at Megan Fletcher.

 

“Please be seated. Detective, so as not to violate our promise to Mr. McGarrett, I will ask you to sit between Harold and Megan.”

 

Dan maintained eye contact with his scowling and very suspicious boss as he pulled back the chair to take a seat. He gave a small grin to Megan on his right as he scooted in closer to the table. She lightly touched his arm and leaned towards him. The gratitude was evident on her face, but she had to whisper it as well. “Thank you.”

 

The detective’s lip twitched slightly, but he didn’t speak. He would not have confessed it to anyone, but his anxiety about what was about to happen was rapidly rising— like he was locked into the seat of a roller coaster, and it was slowly clicking to the top of the big drop. He was feeling better it seemed with each passing hour, but the memory of the visions was still very real. If Steve was right though, then somebody was about to try to slip him a drug that would invite the terrifying hallucinations to return, along with several other unpleasant physical side-effects. He swallowed as he told himself one last time that this was for Mike Fletcher, and then he fixed his gaze on the woman across the table from him.

 

Darlene smiled and nodded with dramatic graciousness at the detective before she closed her eyes and spoke softly. “It seems that our dear officer may be in tune with what Michael is feeling. Are you afraid of rats, Danny?”

 

Williams blinked almost imperceptibly, but answered with a hint of his typical gently sarcastic wit. “No, I love rats, like most Hawaiians.”

 

All of the Five-0 men hovering nearby could not refrain from slight outward indications that they appreciated the humor.

 

Darlene slowly and deliberately opened her eyes to stare at him. She smiled with a false cordiality that let Dan know his comment was unappreciated. Her eyes did not waver from him. “Ah think your appreciation of vermin is not shared by the poor boy being tortured with them even as we sit here.”

 

Megan gasped and balled her hands up before her face. Harold reached around Williams’ back to touch his wife’s shoulder in support. Dan wasn’t certain whether it was the message in Darlene Winfrey’s eyes or the fact that she was willing to deliver such a gut punch to the victim’s family that caused the realization to erupt in his soul. For the first time since this mess began, the detective had a sense that this woman was poisonous. What she stood to gain by playing this cruel game was unclear – if she truly would accept no money for her trouble.

 

And now, did she intend to deliver something more venomous than words to him? Did she have a plan whereby she or her accomplice would lay hands upon him? He didn’t think that was too likely with his vigilant sentries hovering nearby. But the confidence was there in her face… She knew she didn’t need to touch him… But something did. He scanned the faces at the table before his gaze rested on the weeping woman next to him. He let his hand settle on her arm out of desire to offer comfort. She responded by lifting her reddened eyes to gaze at him. Megan’s troubled expression harkened him back to the night before as they stood in his doorway.

 

His eyes grew large as the connection jumped at him. Still looking at Mrs. Fletcher, he slipped his hand into his pocket. Even as the puzzle pieces began to slide into place, the heat and dizziness returned with a vengeance. He tried to speak – to compose a coherent sentence out of thoughts that still transcended speech. “I see now— Mike  knife.”

 

Darlene chimed in quickly. “Yes, yes… there’s somebody with a knife… he’s laughing cruelly and dangling a large grey rat by its tale… It’s so close to Michael’s face!”

 

Dan squeezed his eyes shut fighting to stay in touch with reality. “No! Mike’s – the knife!”

 

The scene was unfolding rapidly before his eyes, but with the first outward indication that his second might once again be succumbing to the Winfreys’ influence, McGarrett cursed himself for allowing Danno anywhere  near the proceedings. He’d seen nobody except for Mrs. Fletcher touch his detective. It didn’t matter – as far as he was concerned, the preposterous event was over.

 

“Enough! Danno!” McGarrett shouted. Williams snapped his eyes open and found the voice that was trying to lead him back to sanity, but the stern command seemed to spur Darlene to continue.

 

“Everyone, please join hands quickly – I feel there is somethin’ that must be shared immediately!” Darlene quickly clutched Charles’ hand on her left and Harold’s on her right. Megan and Harold simultaneously reached and grabbed at the detective’s hands while Charles had to lean only slightly to reach Megan’s.

 

“The ransom must be paid or Michael will die—”

 

“No! No! Rats… please—stop—stop— don’t touch!” Dan could hang on no more – panting, he roughly disengaged himself from the claws that had begun to dig into his palms and tucked his chin into his chest.

 

Uncertain how to intervene in a situation where no weapons were visible, Kono and Chin shifted their positions slightly, but could only exchange helpless glances and await the command of their leader. McGarrett  -- to his incredible frustration – didn’t understand himself exactly what had happened and how, but the effect of it on his friend was now obvious – he leapt around the table and grabbed the back of his detective’s chair.

 

“Danno!” he dragged the chair backward. Megan recoiled as the officer’s physical distress materialized.

 

Darlene closed her eyes and rolled her head backward to scream. “Pay the ransom or all that will remain of Michael will be charred bones!”

 

The room grew chaotic as the victim’s mother added to the cacophony by bursting into hysteria. “Oh my God, Harold!” With Dan out of the way, the Fletchers moved to clutch each other as Megan continued to wail.

 

The woman across the table seemed to be in her own world, ignoring the cries and shouts of those around her. “I see him – he’s in a dark shed… vines have overgrown the window…”

 

“Shut her up!” McGarrett snapped viciously at the two detectives still on their feet before turning his focus back on Williams, whose head remained tucked and, with his hands, pulled tightly to his chest.

 

“Not… not… not…” Dan repeated softly, unwilling or unable to open his eyes.

 

Squatting in front of his detective, McGarrett’s own heart pounded as he gently slapped Dan’s cheek. “Danno! Look at me! It’s okay…” He didn’t wait more than a few seconds to confirm that no acknowledgement was forthcoming. Keeping a firm grip on the unresponsive man in the chair, he stood.

 

Kono had dragged Darlene away from the table and now, Charles fanned her face with a section of newspaper as she sat looking dazed. The Fletchers were standing, clutching each other desperately, with Harold’s gaze fixed in the direction of the Winfreys and Megan’s locked onto the detective whose hand she’d been holding only seconds before.

 

“Chin, stay and sort out this mess! Kono – help me get Danno to the hospital!”

 

 

*****

 

 

Kono drove while his boss road in the back seat with Dan, who did not open his eyes for the entire trip to the hospital. Despite Steve’s unrelenting efforts to reassure the man in his arms, his damp, teary friend remained unresponsive to verbal stimulus, but occasionally jerked or repeated his “not” mantra.

 

The detective was quickly settled into the same room he’d coincidentally spent the previous evening, and McGarrett noticed with interest and relief that Bergman appeared immediately and injected Williams with something that relaxed and calmed the patient. The doctor explained that it was only a strong sedative. At least this way, Bergman reasoned, Dan might be able to sleep through the worst of it. He’d been loath to administer a sedative the previous evening since he was not sure what the blood tests would reveal. This time, while he’d taken a blood sample again, he was already confident that the results would be the same.

 

“So how long will he sleep?” McGarrett asked distractedly as he lightly placed his hand on his friend’s curly hair.

 

Bergman sighed as he slipped his stethoscope out of his ears. “Five, maybe six hours unless whatever else he’s got going on in there alters the effectiveness of the sedative. Any news from Che Fong?”

 

The head of Five-0 focused on the physician as he moved to the phone on the wall. “Let’s find out!” He quickly dialed the number and waited impatiently through four rings. He glanced at his watch and saw that it was almost five o’clock. Knowing that many other people on the planet recognized a quitting time every day, he prepared to hang up, but quickly pulled the handset back to his ear as he heard a greeting.

 

“Che! I was beginning to think you’d called it a day!”

 

“Steve! I didn’t think so low of you when I was forwarded to Five-0’s answering service a minute ago!”

 

The tease was just the dose McGarrett needed to feel a little less alone in his quest. He grinned. “Sorry! Tell me you’ve got an answer!”

 

“You’ll have to settle for on-the-way to an answer – I had to recalibrate my mass spectrometer to register an order of magnitude fewer PPMs.”

 

The detective was anxious to learn the facts, but scientists and doctors frequently seemed to throw up information that slowed the process down. PPMs?”

He heard the answer in stereo as Bergman supplied the answer in one ear while Che answered and continued with his information. “Parts per million – I got to thinking about the mass spec at the hospital and decided that – if there was something in Danny’s blood then I was gonna have to look for compounds in much lower concentrations.”

 

The doctor could hear the gist of the explanation and nodded appreciatively. “Brilliant, Che!”

 

“Is that Bergman? Tell him I haven’t gotten to the part where I’m brilliant yet!”

 

Bergman grinned and then pushed a button on the wall phone. “Tell me yourself -- you’re on the speaker, Che!”

 

The detective quickly plopped the handset back onto the switch hook. “Yes – please reveal your genius to us!”

 

“After I recalibrated, I ran four blood samples through. I sacrificed a pipette full of my assistant’s blood to establish a baseline. Then, I ran Danny’s samples. The first one was taken at eleven o’clock yesterday morning. The next one was taken yesterday evening, and the last one is the sample I drew when I was in your office this morning.”

 

“And?” McGarrett felt ready to burst.

 

“And all of Danny’s samples spiked with an unidentified compound.”

 

“Unidentified compound?”

 

“Yeah – I haven’t been able to narrow it down completely yet, but I recalled that you mentioned the suspects had traveled in Africa. So I went to the medical library at the U of H and did a little homework on compounds that produce hallucinogenic effects.”

 

“And you hit pay dirt!” McGarrett predicted impatiently.

 

“Well, I found a family of hallucinogenic drugs in the tryptamine group that signals in the same range as our mystery compound. The really significant thing about these drugs is that most of them are derived from psychoactive plants, which are found in Mexico, Central and South America, AND Africa.”

 

“What’s the next step in zeroing in on the exact compound?” The head of Five-0 was relieved that the curtain was being pulled back to reveal the Winfreys for what they really were, but he was also concerned with the reality that his friend had been subjected to potentially deadly drugs.

 

“I’ve got a friend at Staten Island University Hospital in New York – he’s an MD, but he specializes in clinical botany – the study of plants for medicinal purposes. I’m having my mass spec results along with what’s left of the samples put on the red eye flight to New York. They’ll be waiting for him when he gets to his office in the morning – that’ll be two AM here. He’ll call me as soon as he’s had a chance to take a look our stuff.”

 

“Good thinking, Che!”

 

“I’ve got one more interesting piece of information – I would have expected the concentration of the compound in Danny’s blood to go down over time – kind of like a person’s blood alcohol content after he’s had a drink.”

 

Bergman frowned. “You mean each sample showed an increase in concentration from the previous sample?”

 

“No –BUT your evening sample was lower than the one I took this morning.”

 

“What’s the implication?” McGarrett demanded.

 

Bergman spoke up as he looked back at his soundly sleeping patient. “It means that Danny was exposed to the substance again between the time that I took his blood last night and the time that Che drew his blood again this morning.”

 

This news floored the detective. “But how is that possible? I took him straight home from the hospital last night – and I’m the one who collected him from his place this morning!” McGarrett voiced his amazement out loud, but was speaking mainly to himself.

 

“Now THAT sounds like your department, Steve.”

 

“Yeah – maybe Danno will be able to shed some light on this.” Still puzzled over the probability that his detective had been exposed at some time during the night, he realized that it explained the rough night Williams had glossed over. He returned to thoughts of the man on the other end the phone. “Che, you’re right – you’re brilliant.”

 

A brief laugh could be heard before the Chinese man deflected the praise. “I hope you think so after you see the bill for the biological material shipment to New York!”

 

“I’ll cover it – don’t worry about that, bruddah! Find me as soon as you hear from your friend!”

 

“Right, Steve! Oh, Berg – come on by sometime if you’d like to put my mass spec and gas chromatograph through their paces!”

 

“Yeah, I will – it looks like they might have been worth the dent they put in the Five-0 budget!”

 

With that, the two men moved back to the bed, where Williams lie, un-stirring, his body absorbed in badly-needed regenerative sleep. Before anything further could be said, Kono poked his head into the room tentatively, and then tiptoed to the bedside to look down at his sleeping colleague.

 

His face was serious as he whispered. “Is he okay?”

 

McGarrett gave the man a tired smile, but his expression turned grim as his eyes turned back to Williams. “We think so – but Che found evidence of a hallucinogenic drug in his blood.”

 

“Boss, I was watchin’ like you said – nobody, but nobody touched Danny until the Fletchers grabbed his hands!” Kono was shaking his head the entire time he spoke, obviously frustrated that he’d failed, but not seeing how he could have done a better job.

 

“I was watching too – the problem was we weren’t watching for the right thing. After a quick stop at the Palace, you and I are going back to the Fletchers’ to have a little chat with everyone.” The head of Five-0 spoke through grit teeth as he finally detached his gaze from his friend and threw a determined look at the big Hawaiian.

 

McGarrett’s next question was intended for Bergman, who anticipated the detective’s query. “Don’t get any idea that he’s going home tonight – he’s my guest or my prisoner – his choice. They’ll be moving him to a room in the next few minutes, and I’m leaving word at the nurses’ station that I’m to be called when he wakes up. I’ll evaluate him again then, before I knock him out again for the night.”

 

“If he needs—”

 

“He won’t need anything for at least a few hours, Steve.” The physician’s voice had a tired-of-answering tenor.

 

“Well, if he does—”

 

“I know!”

 

“I’ll be back—”

 

“Soon— I know – now go!” Bergman watched the door drift shut after the two detectives before he stuffed the stethoscope back into his ears for one more check of his patient’s heart.

 

 

 

Friday Early Evening

 

Shuffled in the stack of papers was a memo that Ranger Gibbs had called from Austin, leaving his home number in addition to an office number. Hot to find any new information against the Winfreys, Steve convinced himself quickly that despite the late hour in the Lone Star state, Gibbs would not have left an evening number if it weren’t okay to use, so he dialed the ranger's home number. Disappointed when there was no answer, he suddenly dared to hope that, like cops in Hawaii, the Texas variety also keep late office hours. When the snappy voice with a Texas drawl answered appropriately, Steve almost smiled, confirming that this was a solid representative of his profession.

 

"Ranger Gibbs, this is Steve McGarrett from Hawaii Five-0."

 

"Ah, Mr. McGarrett, very glad you called. I wanted to let you know thanks to your inquiries, I'm re-openin  the Lowry kidnappin’ case. It's been a cold file ‘cause we never caught the kidnappers."

 

"Did you find something new?" he hoped, wanting this to be productive, not just a chit-chat across the miles.

 

"Sure did," came the almost-lazy drawl that couched tough words. "I think we roped in a surprise or two for you. Remember I told you about Pete Gonzales?  The Ranger who supposedly had a psychic spell?"

 

"Yes," McGarrett snapped out, knowing he would never forget his recent regrettable personal experiences at seeing his own officer succumb to whatever black magic the Winfreys subscribed to and perpetrated upon cops. "What did you find out from him?"

 

"That he's dead."

 

That knocked Steve back a few mental notches. "I'm very sorry to hear that. In the line of duty?"

 

"Unfortunately, the official cause of death don’t imply line of duty – it’s listed as suicide." Gibbs returned, anger coloring the words.

 

McGarrett was aghast at the unexpected news. “Suicide? How?”

 

“Took a flyin’ leap off one of the points in a canyon down his way. They said he was screamin’ somethin’ about escapin’ from bats. Knocked the whole town for a loop, let me tell ya, but what I think you might find interestin’ is the fact that this happened not more than a few hours after his last psychic session with Charles and Darlene Winfrey.”

 

McGarrett came to his feet.  Left hand dancing on the blotter of the desk, his agitation increased exponentially. "What?"

 

"Yeah. Like I told you before, I was not directly involved with the case when it was active – I inherited it as a cold case after Pete Gonzales stopped workin’ on it. What nobody bothered to tell me was that he stopped workin’ on it ‘cause he was dead!"

 

So red-tape snafus happened even in the famous Texas Rangers. "Did they do an autopsy to check for the presence of drugs in his system?"

 

"Yeah, blood tests are routine in suicides – nothin’ unusual or illegal was found. I'm gonna be sendin’ you a copy of the autopsy report. I'll also send you copies of the files if it will help. Heard somethin’ in the news ‘bout a kidnappin’ out your way and I'd say you might have a copycat case there. Hope the victim gets found. And I hope you don't have the same problem as poor Pete did."

 

"I hope not either," McGarrett vowed, more determined than ever to safeguard his officer against this con threat. "Thank you very much, Ranger Gibbs. You may just be saving the life of my officer."

 

"My pleasure. Just let me know if you need anythin’ else. And if you

need help catching these vultures."

 

"I certainly will."

 

"And hey, will you let me know when you arrest them?  I'd like to close

this case. For Pete."

 

"Count on it."

 

 

*****

 

 

On the silent drive back to the Fletcher estate, he replayed the incident in the Fletcher library. From the time that witch invited Danno to sit until the time that he had dragged his friend away had not been more than two minutes, probably less. He could picture Williams’ face as he sat at the table. He was certain he’d detected a hint of angst in his friend’s expression, but that was to be expected while seated with people who were trying to poison him. After that though, it seemed to him that Danno had noticed or realized or remembered something key, but had been unable to articulate it before pandemonium broke out. He glanced in the direction of man in the passenger seat. Kono was right – the only skin-to-skin contact had been with the Fletchers.

 

As with so many of his insights, this one struck McGarrett like a bolt of lightening. Of course! The Winfreys did not need to touch Danno directly – all they had to do was apply the drug to something – or someone – who would serve as the vector!

 

“Boss – the road!” Kono warily pointed out that they were drifting toward the shoulder.

 

“Yeah,” McGarrett replied as he amended his course and accelerated, now anxious to review the scene with a fresh perspective.

 

 

*****

 

 

This time it was the maid who opened the door for the two detectives, who wasted no time waiting to be announced before they marched into the library. A quick survey of the room put the Winfreys on one end of the sofa – Charles had his arm wrapped protectively about Darlene’s shoulders as the pair observed – with feigned disinterest McGarrett was certain – the goings on at Harold’s monstrous, wood desk not ten feet from them. Chin stood with the Fletchers at the desk. His expression remained implacable as he saw his two colleagues approaching, but his eyes foretold to McGarrett that he was not going to be pleased.

 

“Mr. Fletcher has just received the ransom money from his bank.”

 

The head of Five-0 was, in fact, NOT pleased, but the decision was not entirely unexpected, especially after Darlene Winfrey’s impassioned pay-the-ransom warning. McGarrett opened his mouth to voice the obligatory objection, but was cut off by Mr. Fletcher as he looked up at the detective with tired defiance.

 

“Save your breath, Steve. I heard your speech about paying ransoms, but my mind is made up. I’m sorry about Williams, and I’m not generally one to buy into a whole lot of mumbo jumbo psychic stuff, but Darlene was able to tell us enough things that nobody else could know about Mike that I’m gonna do what she says.” Megan stepped closer to her husband in quiet support of his decision.

 

McGarrett’s eyes narrowed slightly as he turned his gaze to the rats in human clothing on the couch. “Did Mrs. Winfrey also tell you about the hallucinogenic drug she employs on her hapless ‘psychic’ assistants?”

 

For the first time since they’d darkened Hawaii’s shores, McGarrett saw both Darlene and Charles wince in surprise. Their dismay registered to the detective’s hidden delight, for only a moment before it was replaced with indignation. Charles puffed up.

 

Mistah McGarrett, you’ve treated us less than cordially evah since our arrival despite the fact that we want nuthin’ more than to see this boy returned to his family. If you think that fabricatin’ tales about us—”

 

“When the rest of the data on you two and your shenanigans comes back from the mainland, it’s gonna be pretty clear who’s been doing the FABRICATIN!” The detective announced emphatically as a thin smile crept onto his face.

 

Darlene blinked and grew a little teary. “I can see it as plain as day – you’re blamin’ me for Danny’s condition! I didn’t touch him and still you blame me!”

 

The mention of his friend’s name spurred McGarrett’s anger at the woman, who – the detective had to admit – played the role of martyred heroin very well indeed.

 

“You’re right about that – I DO blame you – you didn’t have to touch him to poison him – you used something or someone else – and as soon as he’s well again, he’s gonna have a few things to say about how it all happened! Then we’re gonna put the pieces together and build a case against you – not only for Danno, but for Pete Gonzales!”

 

The name of the dead Texas Ranger elicited an involuntary shudder from Darlene. Charles did not react outwardly – only his eyes gave a remote indication that he was distressed that McGarrett knew of their exploit in the Lone Star State.

 

“And don’t bother to head for the airport – I didn’t want you to come, but now that you’re here, I think I’d like for you to stick around awhile – ten to twenty years maybe -- give or take a year for good behavior!” Not waiting for a response he quickly turned his attention back to the Fletchers, both properly taken aback by the detective’s revelations about their house guests.

 

“If you insist on proceeding, we’ll meet you at KHON at nine thirty. If any other instructions come before that, I implore you to have trust in someone who has NOT told you any fabrications— contact ME immediately!”

 

Harold nodded uncomfortably as the three detectives strode from the room. The silence was almost loud for several seconds as the two couples eyed each other uncomfortably. At last, Darlene pulled herself together and spoke.

 

“Ah know that Mistah McGarrett is concerned for his detective and that is the reason he is attackin’ us so fiercely, but I can assure you that he can’t possibly have any proof that we have had a hand in Danny’s condition. I’ve had no physical contact with him since our first unfortunate meeting – none of us have.”

 

Megan kept her eyes on the couple as she made the admission. “Well, I did go to his home last night.” Harold’s head snapped to look with surprise at his wife. She glanced up at him before she continued. “I had to try to convince him that he needed to help us.”

 

Darlene and Charles had a quick, silent exchange before Charles casually inquired. “And, uh.. was he receptive?”

 

“It was very clear to me that he desperately wanted to help us, but was not convinced that his illness had anything to do with psychic visions. I left Michael’s knife with him in the hopes that he might concentrate on it, and perhaps be able to see something.” Her lip quivered as she added. “I hope he’s going to be all right.”

 

“You left Michael’s knife with him? The one that you gave me yesterday?” The inquiry sounded a little less than casual, but Megan did not seem to notice as she nodded and buried her head in her husband’s chest.

 

“I wondered what happened to that thing,” Darlene commented idly as she and Charles walked slowly to the window. With not more than a glance shared between them, they looked out across the manicured, tropical landscape towards the setting sun.

 

 

*****

 

 

McGarrett double-checked the room number before he slowly pushed the door open. As promised, Doc Bergman was standing with his stethoscope positioned on his patient’s chest. With a glance up, the physician said nothing until he finished his task.

 

“Better,” was the simple answer to which the detective standing on the opposite side of the bed breathed a sigh of relief.

 

“Thank God.” McGarrett ran his hand over his face and gave his eyes a quick rub. He felt a yawn coming on, but a soft moan from the patient caused him to swallow it and leap into a higher state of alertness.

 

“Danny.” Bergman’s voice was a little above traditional indoor tenor. “Danny, it’s Doctor Bergman. Wake up and talk to me.”

 

A few more moans preceded some deep breaths before Williams turned his head a few inches and swallowed.

 

“Danny!”

 

“Hmm…” Slowly, the young man’s eyes opened half-way, but he didn’t make any active attempt to examine his surroundings.

 

“How do you feel?”

 

“Feel?”

 

“Yes – do you feel okay?”

 

“Hmm, I feel.. okay.” The patient acknowledged in a soft, hoarse voice.

 

“What about your head?”

 

“Head?”

 

“Do you have a headache?”

 

“I have a headache.” With the conflicting confirmation of a headache, the doctor frowned and angled his eyes at the detective across from him.

 

“Let’s try a little experiment.  Danny are you hungry?”

 

“Hungry… yes.”

 

“Okay, but now you’re not hungry, are you?”

 

“No, I’m not… hungry.”

 

Now both men were frowning as the doctor gave his patient one more suggestion. “Danny, I think you must be hungry again, aren’t you?”

 

“Hungry again.”

 

Bergman whispered as he spoke to McGarrett, now completely perplexed at his friend’s responses. “One more symptom to add to the list – periods of suggestibility.”

 

The head of Five-0 almost jumped as another mystery was solved. “THAT would explain why Danno saw what she wanted him to see!”

 

The patient didn’t jump at the sound of another voice in the room, but he did turn his head towards it. “Steve…”

 

Instantly realizing that he’d announced his presence too loudly, he responded in a softer tone. “Danno, I’m here.” He stopped short of asking his protégé how he was feeling, knowing the answer would not necessarily accurately reflect the truth.

 

“Steve.” Even as the young man repeated the comforting mantra he drew up his arms to his chest, and his breathing seemed to become a little more labored.

 

“I’m here, Danno. Everything is okay. You’re safe.”

 

“Safe? No rats?” The mention of the vermin that Darlene Winfrey had planted in Williams’ head made his own pulse pick up with anger, but he responded softly, but firmly.

 

“No rats – you are safe, my friend. I will not let anything hurt you.” McGarrett had questions about what Dan had realized at the Fletchers’ earlier, but he didn’t dare ask.

 

“Don’t leave… Steve… please… don’t…”

 

“I’m right here, and I’m not leaving – everything is going to be okay. You’re safe, my friend.” As he continued to deliver the soothing words, McGarrett watched the physician fill a hypodermic and inject it into his patient. The effect was immediate. The eyes that had never fully opened during the exchange closed.

 

“Steve… Sss…”

 

Both men watched until Dan’s breathing took on the slow rhythm of slumber. Bergman gently patted the unaware patient on the arm as he spoke. “I’d like for him to stay until we get word back from Staten Island about the nature of this drug, but if the course of the drug holds true to form, he’ll be angling to make a break for it before seven.”

 

“Will he be okay to leave that soon?” McGarrett could not shake the disturbing image of his terrified friend, recoiling at all touch, as they sped to the hospital only a few hours earlier. It had seemed to Steve that Danno was trying to cut off all contact with the outside world – there was just too much to fear.

 

“Okay to leave means okay to return to his place and rest – not okay to stop a bank robbery – or go surfing – or hiking – and CERTAINLY NOT OKAY to have any further exposure to this drug! If it’s one with a cumulative effect, the danger to him grows with each dose.”

 

That thought brought back the enigmatic issue of how his second had been exposed in the “safety” of his own apartment. Recalling the moments before the Fletchers had taken hold of Williams’ hands – and THEY had taken hold of him, not the other way around – McGarrett stepped to the closet and searched the pockets of Dan’s suit jacket and pants. He was rewarded as he held up Mike Fletcher’s pearl-handled knife for the doctor to see.

 

“Well, here it is – this is how Danno took another hit of the drug last night!” As if he were wiping the mist from a steamy mirror, it became clear suddenly.

 

“How did it get in his pocket?” Bergman asked as he joined the head of Five-0 at the closet.

 

“I can think of a few possibilities, but what I don’t understand is why does nobody else seem to be affected by this stuff?” McGarrett held the knife by one end at his eye level as both men studied it with expressions of fascination and distaste.

 

“Staten Island may have an answer for us.” The physician’s answer seemed distracted as he focused on the innocuous object hovering inches from his face. “There does seem to be an oily residue of some sort on it.”

 

McGarrett nodded. “Yeah. You got a non-porous container I can drop this in?”

 

Bergman moved to the cupboard and pulled a specimen jar from the shelf. He handed it to the detective as he glanced at his watch. “Well, Steve, I need my beauty rest.”

 

Grinning, but not looking up as he carefully placed the evidence in the jar, the detective responded. “You certainly do.”

 

Bergman made his way to the door as he flung his own barb over his shoulder. “And you could stand to get some sleep yourself – you look as bad as he does.”

 

McGarrett could only nod and grin tiredly at what he knew must be the truth. He’d dropped Kono and Chin off at the Palace to tie up a few loose ends at the office before they knocked off for the night. Violent personal crimes, like murders and kidnappings, always meant long hours for the Five-0 men, and when one of their own was out, it meant a bigger load for everyone, especially the man at the top. This case was no different – McGarrett hadn’t slept more than a few hours at a pop for days, and now it was catching up with him. He stretched before he settled into the chair near his friend’s bed. It would be best, he decided to make sure that Danno was down for the count before slipping out. 

 

 

 

Saturday Too Early

 

With a groan, McGarrett shifted in the chair and came to groggy awareness. Sleeping -- no -- dozing -- in a hospital chair was never a pleasant experience. Blinking his eyes into focus, he canted his wrist to get a view of his watch – three o’clock! The growing wee hour startled him more quickly into alertness. He had a sense that his mind had been buzzing with activity, but clearly, his body must have claimed a few hours of peace before surrendering itself back to the brain that did not want to sleep. He stared at Williams, who was sleeping soundly. Wondering what demons might be playing tag inside the still head, he stretched, approaching the bed slowly and quietly, loath to disturb his friend from much needed rest.

 

Staring down at the innocent-looking face of someone who seemed entirely too young to be the second-in-command of Five-0, Steve released a guarded sigh of disgust. Those fiends had preyed upon his friend and left him ill and damaged and Steve would not forgive or forget the attack.  His friend, he reiterated mentally. Once forged, friendship to him was a loyal and committed bond. Such fealty he did not give easily or freely. To Williams it had come in a natural and even exhilarating new angle -- rich in substance and depth, meaning, with matching ideals that Steve had never known before. Now, his friend was threatened and Steve would not allow any more damage or harm to come to his young officer.

 

Committed to put his thoughts into action, he placed a gentle, light touch on Dan’s arm and whispered a quiet message. “I’ll be back soon,” he vowed. “Just get some rest.”

 

*****

 

 

After the strained events of the last few days and nights slim on sleep, it would have been prudent to go home, but Steve could not bring himself to return to his apartment. He knew he could find no rest this morning. There was still so much left to do at the office.

 

When he settled behind his desk and leafed through the pile of papers in his IN box, he was not surprised to find standard report forms covering the day's (previous day’s actually) activities of his two detectives who were not having psychic attacks courtesy of the Winfreys.

 

Kono and Chin were handling the leads on the knife left behind in the kidnapping. It was a tangible token that reinforced their findings and led McGarrett to stick with his conclusions so far, that these kidnappers were not local. No enemies in the Fletcher organization pointing toward sour employees with a grudge. No mistresses, no malcontent lovers, no old rivals. Chin had uncovered a witness who was walking her dog and noted a green Ford with a rental sticker parked behind Michael Fletcher's apartment. Unfortunately, she had not thought to make a note of the license number, but it was an interesting data point.

 

Leads were trickling in, but at a frustratingly slow pace. Steve knew they were coming to a crucial juncture in the case. A ransom drop was – for all kidnappers – the point of perigee with the authorities – the point in time when they were most vulnerable to capture. With any luck, one or more of the numerous fuzzy leads would crystallize into something solid before the crooks would have no need for a live hostage.

 

As he turned off the lights, which would be turning back on in a few short hours, he mused on the fact that all of the victims in cases where the Winfreys had made an appearance had been returned safely to their families. Significant or not, the pondering of it would have to wait until he had a few more hours of sleep under his belt.

 

Saturday Morning

 

The waking world had become a wavering zone of delusion packed within the cottony muzziness of nightmarish visions for Dan. Waking alone, in the hospital, had been initially routine and passive. A bit disappointed Steve was not here, he nonetheless felt a kind of safe cocoon within the walls of this room. There were no threatening Winfreys or Fletchers and above all, no rats!  The nightmares that were so close to reality -- the line between them thin and the pressing fear of hallucination a continual film over reality.

 

When a nurse came in to check his vital signs all had seemed well until he noted her think rat-like tail switching on the floor and tapping against the bed legs as she took his pulse. He had closed his eyes then, afraid to watch her morph into a creature while she was touching him. It took every bit of willpower he possessed to not scream at the feel of little rat claws playing on his wrist.

 

When it felt like the room was empty again, he had tentatively opened his eyes. The window slats were closed, but a little light came from the other side and that indicated it was barely dawn outside. Where was Steve?  He should call -- no -- he couldn’t wake up Steve after he knew his friend had been here late. And he couldn’t take the risk of touching the phone -- phones had a nasty tendency to mutate into buck-teethed carnivores.

 

With monumental courage, Dan dared to go to the wardrobe and retrieve clothes. A few times he thought various bugs, snakes and rats teased at him from the shadows, but he managed to get dressed and sit cross-legged on his bed -- protected from anything crawling on the floor -- without further attacks.

 

When the door opened and  hit the wall with a slam,  Dan fought the tendency to cower and close his eyes tighter. Instinctively considering only one person would enter his hospital room like that, he dared to open his eyes and was rewarded with the sight of McGarrett striding over toward him with confidence and as a solid, stunningly commanding image of reality. Heartened, confident that Steve would make the skittering demons flee in his presence, he sat up.

 

“Steve!”

 

“Danno,” he smiled, assessing Williams with sharp glances. “How are you?”

 

Williams nodded enthusiastically. “Ready to get out of here.”

 

With the arrival of his friend, he knew salvation was at hand. As long as he was with Steve, it didn’t matter what he saw, he knew he was safe. Steve would protect him not only from real dangers, but from the imaginary ones that he could not lose. He was certain this was his only hope of maintaining sanity through this perilous and mysterious trek through madness.

 

On Steve’s doubtful expression, he hurried to press his case. “Steve, you won’t condemn me to more prods and pokes by the staff, will you?”

 

McGarrett’s lips pursed together in thought. “Doc said he didn’t find anything and you could be released, but I want to make sure you’re okay.”  His face darkened and his eyes were filled with a disturbing sadness. “You were in pretty bad shape yesterday.”

 

“Please,” Dan implored without concealing his desperation. “I can’t stand these walls a minute longer,” he honestly revealed, not including the details about the fears of being alone and unprotected. Not just the cloistering walls -- the floor, the bed, the unseen, unnamed creatures skittering in the wardrobe . . . . “You can put me in the corner of the office and I’ll let May feed me all day. Just -- “ he stopped short of admitting the truth -- the continued fears and visions -- he could just not allow Steve to see all of his weaknesses and faults right now. “I’ll take it easy. Promise.”

 

“Okay,” McGarrett nodded after a moment of thought. “But I think you need to go home --“

 

“No,” he snapped back too quickly, saw the surprise and wariness on Steve’s face, and tempered his harsh spike of fear. “No -- I -- uh -- just let me stay with you.  I know you can find something -- uh -- useful for me to do.  I want to contribute on this, Steve.”

 

After a moment of somber thought, the approval came with a tempered sigh.  “Okay,” McGarrett nodded, his expression still a little suspicious.

 

Feeling pretty confident and in control as long as Steve was at his side, the walk to the car was easy. Once in the vehicle, Steve commented on a few investigative steps and Dan’s mind eased to a level of comfort. This was routine and normal. Steve’s voice soothed away the terrors inside his mind and, while he didn’t really concentrate on what Steve was saying, he felt much better.

 

A radio call interrupted the chief and McGarrett answered it, responding to Kono.

 

“Steve, we got a hit on that tape recording. My friend Tim says the background noise is some cheering and a funny cracking noise.”

 

McGarrett looked at Williams, who shrugged. “Cheering,” he mused. “Like at a night show or a competition?”

 

No, no music or anything like at a luau,” Kono corrected.

 

“Like a ball game?” Steve suggested.

 

“Yeah,” Dan whispered. “I know it. I know where he is!”

 

Wondering if some element of the visions were making instincts answer for him, McGarrett studied his friend. “You know any ball fields up at the North Shore?”

 

“Yeah, Laie park.”

 

“Then we’ve got a possible hiding place!” McGarrett nearly shouted. “I’ll meet you up there,” he said into the mic, “as soon as I drop off Danno.”

 

“Steve, you have to take me—”

 

“NOT a chance!” McGarrett shouted back, alarmed at the thought of leading his friend into more danger. The wan, weak, sick and haggard condition of Williams screamed at him every time he looked at the officer. It reminded him of his harsh treatment and his bad judgment in the last few days.  He was not making that mistake again. The idea of Danno staying at the office under his watchful eye was one thing.  Dragging the recovering officer out on a possibly hazardous quest -- confronting kidnappers -- was a different matter completely.  Nor did he think Williams would stay put in the office if left on his own -- he knew Danno’s penchant for getting into the thick of things all too well. “No way, Danno. You are going home to rest.”

 

“Steve, I’ll go to the office—”

 

“You will not!” Okay, he promised not to yell, bark or otherwise verbally abuse his friend anymore, but this was an emotional issue for both of them and Steve was in no mood -- and did not have the time -- for debate. “You are going home to rest,” he ordered in a softer, kinder tone, hoping the words he could not say, the emotions he could not reveal were clearer in his tone than in his semantics. “Danno, you are not in good shape, my friend. You need rest. I can’t let you come out on this, sorry. But as soon as we find anything, I promise I will let you know.”

 

Williams only nodded and Steve felt no flush of victory in having the last word or winning his point. Still, it was the right thing to do, even if it did not set well with Danno.

 

Impatiently, the chief escorted a reluctant and slow Williams up to his apartment. Danno was sluggish and downcast, lending support to Steve’s belief his actions were the correct ones.  And to the theory that the younger officer needed rest above all else. He was going to enforce that edict with strict orders.

 

“You’re not to go anywhere, Danno, except to bed. Some decent sleep will do you a world of good. As soon as this is over I’ll come right back over here and give you details on the operation.”

 

McGarrett unlocked the apartment door and Dan stood still, not entering his home.

 

“Look, I’m sorry, Danno, but you don’t need to be in the thick of things right now. I promise I will be back soon.”

 

“Right,” Williams accepted reluctantly, not looking at his boss.

 

After another firm assurance, McGarrett locked and closed the door behind Williams, then jogged down the hallway, rushing to make the rendezvous and get to Mike Fletcher.

 

 

*****

 

 

After McGarrett left, Dan leaned on the door of the apartment, not daring to step another foot into the center of the treacherous territory his home had become. Scanning the furniture, he dreaded moving from the easy escape route, but was bolstered that nothing was moving, nothing had grown a tail and whiskers, and best of all, no claws and teeth were coming his way. Breathing a little easier, he started to relax.

 

 

*****

 

 

Once in the car, McGarrett notified Kono that he was on the way and arranged to meet with the other units heading up to the North Shore. Still feeling uneasy about Danno’s behavior and illness, Steve placed a second call to a patrol unit in Waikiki. Officers John Ono and Art Kaimuki were on foot, but Sergeant Duke Lukela was in a patrol car at the Waikiki Shell. He agreed to pass along an assignment to the beat officers. They were to go up to Dan’s apartment and just check on him when they were in the area.

 

 

*****

 

 

While Officer Kaimuki handled ordering some sandwiches and drinks on their break, Officer Ono crossed the street from the open-air café in Waikiki and ambled up to Dan Williams’ apartment. He had heard only rumors about the Five-0 detective’s problems on this case. He knew that the young man had been hospitalized from some mysterious attack and McGarrett was up in arms about the whole thing.

 

The Five-0 men were good guys and all of them always treated HPD men with respect. Ono and his partner were glad to help when the word came down through Duke. Law enforcement in Oahu was a tight brotherhood and he had heard plenty of rumors the last few days. Happy to simply be a beat cop and not a state cop dealing with psychics, spies and weird serial killers -- content to handle drunk tourists and pickpockets -- Ono supported McGarrett’s crew whenever they needed it.

 

Exiting the elevator, Ono ruminated on the strange dangers facing his colleagues, then wrapped firmly on the door to Dan’s apartment. Looking around, he thought it was a pretty nice place. Expensive for a family man like him to live in an apartment right in Waikiki, but must be fun for a surfing bachelor.

 

 

*****

 

 

The knock on the door surprised Dan and he jumped, moving away from the solid wood with a gasp. Turning back quickly, he wedged himself into the corner by the hinges, keeping away from the vermin slithering along the carpet, drawing ever nearer to his position. He wanted to flee, but had promised Steve he would stay right here.  That was before the furnishings in the room altered into living, malicious predators.  But he had promised Steve . . . .

 

Weak with relief, he realized Steve had come back -- had somehow sensed his plight and returned to rescue him! Pacing his breaths again, he smoothed his face and tried to appear as normal as possible. If Steve knew he was in this bad of shape, it would mean a one-way trip back to the hospital. Couldn’t handle that. But with Steve here, he knew he was safe.

 

Opening the door, he almost moaned. John Ono?  “Uh -- hi, John.”

 

“Hey, Danny. Just wanted to see if you were okay. Heard you’ve been in the hospital.”

 

‘Read: McGarrett sent me over the check on you like the kid you are who can’t stay out of trouble. Thanks, Steve, for letting HPD know I’m a basket case!’

 

He cleared his throat, irritation pushing away the worst of his fears. “Yeah, but I’m fine now,” he insisted. The rats were imaginary, he knew. His reputation with colleagues was very real. “Let Steve know I’m just fine.”

 

Ono laughed softly. “Hey, can’t a pal come over and see how you’re doing?”

 

The sarcasm came through with weary exasperation. “Yeah, thanks. I’m fine.”

 

“Okay. You want to come down and have an early lunch with us? We’re down at the Paradise Burger joint. I keep telling my brother we ought to start up our own place around Waikiki. Fix moh bettah food dan dis, bra. Ono food,” he joked, with a laugh, “I keep tellin’ him. Great name for a place to eat. Ono Barbeque!  And at cop prices, too.”

 

“Uh -- thanks -- I’m -- uh -- not hungry.”  He gritted his teeth as he thought he felt something brush against his ankle. It was just the breeze from the open lanai, he told himself. “Mahalo.. Maybe next time.”

 

“Yeah, sure. I could bring you something up, huh?”

 

“Thanks, I -- uh -- just need to rest.”

 

“Okay,” Ono nodded. With a final wave, he left.

 

Williams leaned on the back of the door after it shut with a decisive click. He should have gone with Ono, but felt in no shape to face whatever met him outside on the street. Better to deal with the demons here in a confined space where he could go quietly and privately insane.

 

 

*****

 

 

Obligation to his detective satisfied, McGarrett monitored progress of the units as they reached the North Shore park. Two HPD men arrived first from the Kuilima area, and were waiting when McGarrett pulled in to the dirt lot across the street from the public park fronting the ocean. He was surveying the grounds when Kono and Chin arrived. Using binoculars, Steve confirmed the initial report by the officers, that there were few people in the park today. Late morning, some kids were playing catch at the ball field was the main draw here -- no playground or picnic areas to attract crowds.  Steve sent two patrolmen over to clear the youths out of the area.

 

Through the field glasses, Steve spotted two old tin Quonset huts in the back. Both seemed in disarray, but he noted a small car parked under some banana trees at the back. Reporting the license plate, he had Chin run a check on the vehicle. The rest of the team followed McGarrett as he crossed the street and wove through the trees to come up through the grove of banana trees up close to the huts.

 

There was no movement, and McGarrett waited for Kelly’s return, pondering his options. When Chin came back, he reported the car was a rental, checked out by two guys, at the airport. The renters were named Robert Cray and Thomas Fields from Arkansas.

 

A rueful laugh quietly escaped the chief. “ArkansasSmall world.”

 

A small amber of an idea that had been smoldering in the back of his mind suddenly found fuel and ignited into the realization that Charles and Darlene Winfrey were more than lowlife, opportunistic con artists – they were proactive predators in partnership with the kidnappers! It explained so much – how they were able to provide details that only the victim or a family member would know… how they could shock and terrify even the most skeptical people into fearing they had some sort of extrasensory knowledge about their loved one’s circumstances. And with the debilitating hallucinogenic mystery drug to use as a weapon against the police, their tracks were obscured to all but someone willing to follow their trail across jurisdictions. While all of the evidence was not in McGarrett’s hands just yet, he vowed to himself at that moment that HE WOULD stay on the scent, like a bloodhound, until the case was airtight.

 

The door to the back shed opened and two men walked out. They were carrying knapsacks and both put them on the ground to close the door and set up a chain and padlock. With a nod, Steve urged his men to follow. He drew his revolver and jogged into the open.

 

“Freeze!  Hawaii Five-0!  You’re under arrest!”  One of the men dropped the padlock and leaned toward his bag. “Don’t move!”  He slammed the nearest man up against the tin wall and noted an HPD officer had done the same to the second man. “Where’s Mike Fletcher?”

 

One of the men scoffed, but the other shrugged under his hold. “In there.”

 

“Yeah,” Steve viciously laughed, “The rats squeal to save their skins.”

 

“Shut up!” the second man snarled.

 

“You shut up, Tom!  I ain’t admittin’ to nothin’. We just happened to come over here --“

 

“Save it!” McGarrett snapped, throwing the captive into Kono’s grip.

 

Entering the dark hut, he recoiled from the foil smell of rotting dirt and vegetation and the musty odor of animals. Calling quietly, he peered into the gloomy interior lighted only by a single grimy window at the side of the hut.

 

 “Hello!  Mike Fletcher are you here?”  He thought he heard a sound. “My name is Steve McGarrett from Hawaii Five-0. I’ve come for you. We’ve got your captors under arrest. You’re safe now.”

 

Slowly, he had made his way carefully into the dark interior of the long, narrow shack. He avoided rusty tools and old equipment and concentrated on putting his feet on solid ground. He thought he heard faint skittering toward the back. Thoughts of the dreaded visions -- Dan’s abject horror of the rats and the darkness -- and his skin crawled as he felt he was living through the foretold creepiness.  He was therefore startled when he came upon a huddled figure, whimpering and staring at him. The reminder of Danno’s reactions was alarming and he gulped hard to fight down the moan of sympathy he felt.

 

“Mike, you’re safe now.“

 

“The rats?”

 

So like Dan’s fears, he cringed. “I’m taking you away from them. All of them.”

 

He crouched down and noted Mike’s ankles were bound by chains locked to a pipe on the side of the wall. He shouted for the officers to search the suspects and get any keys they had back here. Then he used his most persuasive tone to pacify the frightened young man. Mike slowly believed he was saved and calmed down with each passing minute. When he was unlocked he held onto McGarrett’s arm as the cop guided him out of the hut and into the bright sun.

 

 

*****

 

 

The first call he wanted to make was to Danno, but Steve was loath to wake him from much needed rest even with this good news. Instead, he had HPD connect him to the Fletchers, and as he drove, McGarrett handed the mic to a shivering young man leaning against the car seat. The comparison again between Mike’s suffering and Danno’s was incisive, and Steve was glad when the senior Fletcher’s voice came clearly over the speaker.

 

“Dad!  It’s me!” the son cried. “I’m safe!  I’m okay!”

 

It was a trembling, but distinct voice that did not remind him of Danno, and thus, the strong comparisons started to fade for McGarrett. He was able to put the personal angle of this horrific case on the sidelines for now.

 

Taking the mic from the distraught victim’s hand, he told the Fletchers to meet their son at the hospital. He seemed fine, but needed to be checked out by a doctor.

 

Replacing the mic, he breathed easier, feeling the worst of this case was over. He knew the tedious job of connecting all the clues to build a court-hardy case, that included proving the insidious roles played by the Winfreys, was now on the horizon, but the next order of business was going to be a pleasure. He was going to personally slap the cuffs on the last of the rats in this case!

 

 

*****

 

 

Harold and Megan left the estate without much more than a wave and a good-bye to the Winfreys. Mindful of the housekeeper who came to tidy up the sitting room, Darlene led her husband out to the back lanai that overlooked an expansive fenced garden leading to a stretch of private, secluded, white sand beach.

 

“Well, dahlin’, this is just peachy that the young man has been found,” Darlene purred in a theatrically loud voice as she strolled her husband along a hedge of Chinese lantern flowers. Lowering her head over the delicate red flora, she whispered, “Time to make our exit ah think, love.”

 

“I think so,” he agreed tightly. “This McGarrett has his own form of sixth sense. I wouldn’t trust him more than a Yankee dollar,” he almost growled. “You get our necessary articles, dear. I think I need to make a call on our last loose end here in sunny Hawaii – it’s bettah to be safe than sorry.”

 

“Yes,” Darlene sniped. “I’m afraid he may know too much, especially after foolish little Megan’s nocturnal visit to his home, but I also would like to leave that hateful, meddling boss of his somethin’ to remember us by.”  She reached into her purse and retrieved her perfume vial, pressing it into her husband’s palm. “Make sure the rats get him, love.”

 

“Ah certainly will.”

 

“I’ll be waiting for you at Pier Nine. Ah believe we’ll be able to board this evening. Don’t make me wait alone.”

 

“I shant, Dahlin’.”

 

 

*****

 

 

The second knock at the door startled Dan worse than the first. He had not moved from his stricken position at the corner by the door. His coffee table had taken on bizarre, rattan-curved legs, a tail and a half-formed snout that shone like polished wood. That claw-footed monster was even more daunting than the white-rattan rat that had lived on his lanai for days now. It was always there, it’s rodent-snout curled to reflect its former life as a curved arm of an outdoor chair.

 

Before the echo of the sound died away, he grasped the knob (not brave enough to look at it actually), praising McGarrett, his foresight, and his over-protective affection that sent him or Ono to rescue him. If it was Ono, he was going down to Waikiki with the officer. A bulky man and just perfect for any security detail, Ono would take care of him until Steve arrived. Not that he could overtly admit to his weakness, but he was leaving this place all the same. Ono and Kaimuki and Lukela could tease him all they wanted after this -- he didn’t care!  If it was Steve -- well -- McGarrett was going to be tired of playing bodyguard by the time Dan felt it would be safe to be alone again -- or come back here to this museum of horrors.

 

Throwing open the door, he gasped. Not Steve!  Winfrey? 

 

“What -- what are you doing here?”

 

The man was rubbing something on his hands and grasped Dan’s arm, wrapping his slippery fingers around the skin to cling as tight as a glove. “Ah’m here to help you, dear boy. I have to save you from the rats. They’re here, you know. I can save you.”

 

“No,” Dan moaned, knowing intellectually it was wrong, but tightly closing his eyes to shut out the images that would spring to life around him. Too late. Giant rats were lurking in the corners of his  mind. Slithering out from the dark recesses of his thoughts and plunging toward him despite his insistence that they were not real.

 

“No,” he gasped weakly, falling against the wall. “They’re not real,” he whispered without conviction. To escape the dripping, sharp teeth within, he opened his eyes. When the coffee table leaped toward him now almost completely formed into something he always imagined the giant rat of Sumatra would be, he inched away. “No!”  He edged toward the door, desperate to flee at any price.

 

Charles had him firmly by the arms now. “You must fly to freedom, boy. You know, rats— they can’t fly. Ah can see they’re waiting to make you their next meal. They’ve been after you all along --“

 

“No—”

 

“Yes, I know those terrible, sharp-teethed vermin. They want your flesh, boy. The only way to save yourself is to run. Fly away!”

 

“Fly away,” he numbly repeated.

 

“You have such a lovely veranda, there. That is your escape, your freedom. They can’t get you if you fly away.”

 

“Fly,” he considered, staring down the giant coffee table rat that was blocking his path. Then, there was the white rat on the lanai that had now acquired a white, shiny gleam to its eyes.

 

Ah’m gonna leave you now—”

 

“No!” Dan refused, hanging onto Winfrey. He didn’t trust the man or his wife, but they were indisputably human and Charles was solidly within his grasp. “You can’t leave me here alone.”

 

“I must.,” came the sharply harsh reply.  “Now you must leave that way, off your veranda.” 

 

“Help,” he echoed, longing for his mentor to show up now in the nick of time and rescue him like all larger-than-life heroes saved their sidekicks. “Where are you, Steve?  Help…” He forlornly whispered as the white rat stared him down, defying him to cry out for assistance.  “I -- I can go with you,” he told Winfrey.

 

“No, you mustn’t.  They’re in the hall, you know.  Your only escape is to fly away.  Go on now, fly,” he admonished with a malicious snap, pushing Dan, but the younger man stubbornly clung to his shirtsleeve.  “No one can help you,” he sneered adamantly.

 

“That’s not true,” he countered in a miserable, weak refusal of his fate.  “Steve will help.”

 

“He’s not here, is he?  You’ll be fine,” Charles assured, unlocking Dan’s grasp and pushing him toward the center of the room. “You must fly. Only you can take that last step to freedom, Officer. Go now! Hurry before they get you!” 

 

Over the beating of his violently pounding heart, Dan fell back against the wall, breathing a huge sigh that he was safe from the coffee table rat. He thought he heard the sound of the door shut, but he could not turn to look. He had to stare down that white rat on the lanai. Fly. Only way out. Freedom. How he longed for peace and an escape from the torment. Fly. Rats couldn’t fly. Cringing inside, he knew he did not contain the fortitude to cross the room. The rats would be on him in a second and he couldn’t defeat both of the monsters. Fly. High ground. Somewhere high so he could fly away far and free . . . . Yes!  High!  Fly away high!  The highest point around!  Diamond Head!  Why didn’t he think of that before!  It was so close. He could run there -- outrun the rats and be free! 

 

Sliding along the door, he grasped the door handle and flung the door open, running into the hall before the rats could catch him. Skipping two and three steps at a time, he raced down the stairs -- too risky to take the small, enclosed elevator -- and headed for freedom.

 

 

*****

 

 

As the LTD sped back toward the Fletcher estate, the police radio crackled with McGarrett’s call sign, alerting the detective to an incoming patched call. The voice on the other end was excited.

 

Steve! It’s Che! I just got off the phone with Rick Chang at Staten Island University, and it looks like my hunch paid off – our compound is no longer unidentified!

 

“Che, that’s great! What is it?” The analyst’s enthusiasm kindled the detective’s as he anxiously listened.

 

Dextrorotatory four-phosphoryloxy-N,N-dimethyltryptamine – common name  D-Tryptapsilocybin!

 

“Che, you’re killing me – I don’t care about its forty-syllable name! Give me the cop’s version of the story!”

 

Okay, okay! It’s affectionately known amongst researchers as DMT. It’s created from a fungus that grows only around certain species of trees in West and Central Africa. People in Mexico and Central America have used its cousin – a certain type of mushroom – to have out-of-body experiences for years.

 

“Like Peyote?” McGarrett had recently read about a resurgence of the use of the illegal substance in avant-garde circles.

 

Yeah, Steve, it’s in the same family, except that DMT is completely harmless—

 

“Harmless? Well, you’ve got the WRONG drug, bruddah!”

 

Harmless to about eighty five percent of the population, that is— to the other fifteen percent – the ones that have a sensitivity to it – DMT is actually much stronger than its American counterpart.

 

McGarrett interrupted again with vigor. “Danno’s allergic to it?”

“It looks that way, Steve – Rick’s in the process of verifying that right now.

 

“And is it absorbed through the skin?”

 

Yep, and as little as a two milligrams can cause a reaction. It’s transferred to the blood stream and binds to certain receptors in the brain with almost instantaneous effects. Symptoms include hot flashes, hallucinations, increased heart rate, nervous system activity, agitation, sweating, and nausea. Interestingly, subjects become very open to suggestion, which has made it very useful to shamans in a couple of tribes in Africa – they use it in a right-of-passage ritual.

 

“Knowledge of a drug that makes select members of the population open to suggestion would be very useful for a pair of scheming ne'er-do-wells like the Winfreys!” McGarrett could now see how the con might work.

 

Well, I hope they also know that DMT becomes more and more toxic with each successive dose as it builds up in the tissue and vital organs.

 

These words were the first part of McGarrett’s education on this drug that caused concern for his second-in-command. “Does it cause any permanent damage?”

 

As I understand it, Steve, the greater the cumulative dosage, the longer it takes for the brain’s receptors to clear.

 

Frustrated with the analyst’s lapse into less-than-useful language, he sighed. “Che, are you saying that the side effects go away and leave no permanent damage?” McGarrett posed the question so that a yes-no answer would be the response, but he was disappointed.

 

The effects could linger for days or weeks, depending upon the dosage – visual and audio hallucinations, flashbacks, exhaustion, irritability, headache, nonspecific muscular pain, disorientation. The bad news, Steve, is that the symptoms may be present consistently OR they may appear intermittently. The good news is that – while he has received multiple doses – Danny’s cumulative dose did not constitute an overdose, which would’ve been bad indeed.

 

McGarrett suspected he knew what ‘bad indeed’ meant as he considered the poor Texas Ranger who jumped to his death. A slight shudder traversed his spine, but he pulled his thoughts back to his friend, now tucked safely in his apartment. He made a note to interrogate his friend about any symptoms – persistent, intermittent, or otherwise. It was clear Danno would need a few days to shake the venom out of his system.

 

“Che, you’re right – you are brilliant!”  

 

 

*****

 

 

When Steve’s car screeched to a halt in the curved driveway of the Fletcher estate, he barely paused to throw it in park and shut off the engine before he was racing up to the front door.

 

Through the open walls of the living room, he spotted Darlene Winfrey just emerging from another wing of the house. The suitcase in her hand said it all. Escape!  She stopped cold when she spotted him and she turned in the other direction, exiting the wide, huge room and skipping into the wrought-iron fenced garden in the back.  He jogged along the fence to stop her.

 

“Winfrey!  Halt!  You are under arrest!”  He pulled his revolver and paused to take a bead on her.

 

Wide eyed and innocent, she dropped her suitcase and raised her hands, facing him, but not approaching closer to the fence. “Why de-ah Mr. McGarrett --“

 

“Don’t try the southern belle routine on me, sister. I have your thugs in custody. Mike Fletcher is safe in the hospital. And we’ve identified the hallucinogen you’ve been using on Officer Williams! The jig’s up!”

 

Now, her eyes narrowed as her petite features reflected triumph -- even superiority -- and he was instantly wary of the response. The cold smile fronting the ruthless eyes explained the chills of foreboding weaving along his neck.

 

“Ah don’t think so,” she delivered coldly. “I’m having a vision, Mr. McGarrett.”

 

“I don’t want to hear it.”

 

“I see you have a great deal of affection for your young officer who has been so beset with trouble.”

 

Knowing he was succumbing to the trap, he was instantly on edge from the comment and snapped back defiantly. “You leave Dan Williams out of this. He’s suffered enough at your hands – and I do mean that literally!”

 

With a satisfied nod, she plunged her final hook into the water. “Ah think his life means something to you. If so, then I suggest you go to him right now, Mr. McGarrett. He’s in terrible danger. Life-threatenin’, I might add.”

 

Undeniably chilled from the blood inside to the skin on his arms, he knew she was not foretelling anything. It was a set up. She and her husband had anticipated an arrest and they had moved ahead with a countermeasure to minimize their trail of evidence.

 

“What have you done?” he rasped.

 

Ah’ve done nothing. My sixth sense is telling me, though, if you don’t leave right now, it will be too late to save your lil’ friend. Is that what you want?” she innocently wondered.

 

There was no choice. His own sixth sense confirmed these slimes had been steps ahead of him the whole time. He had been playing a pseudo-psychic game of poker here -- betting, raising, calling. He thought he’d read them – the experience with Dr. Freemont and his sister had galvanized him, but his own instincts had guided him in this crusade. Drawing on his unfounded certainty -- his seventh sense? -- he played out the game knowing all the time he would win. Danno’s mysterious attacks had been distracting and painful, but he was certain they were all part of the big picture. Well, he’d been right, and confirmation of that rang hollowly in his crushing heart as he recognized that this time, loosing to these people would be lethal for his officer. Without doubt, Danno was a loose end in their scheme and he had to be eliminated.

 

“What did you do to him?”  The revolver in his hand wavered and he wasn’t sure if he was going to shoot her down in cold blood or not. In that single moment, he knew he was capable of such an act. They were going to kill Danno and he would do anything -- even murder -- to stop that. “Where is he?” he shouted.

“Ah think you bettah go look for him. Time is runnin’ short, I am afraid.”

 

Barely two seconds were wasted in hesitation. Thoughts of justice and apprehension and being right flew out of his mind as he spun around and raced for his car. He could radio for back-up units to come and get Darlene. He could radio ahead for units to get to Danno. But he had to be there, personally, to make sure Danno was all right.

 

 

*****

 

 

As McGarrett raced toward Waikiki, he was barely cognizant of laws and peripheral dangers of traffic as he juggled the car mic. There was no answer from the patch through to Danno’s phone. That sent thrills of panic along his spine. After that, he called for officers to get to Williams’ apartment immediately. He barely remembered to add an order for a unit to retrieve Darlene Winfrey from the Fletcher estate. He didn’t expect the slippery snake to sit around waiting for an arrest, but he hoped a nearby unit was close enough to nab her before she fled the area.

 

Only a few minutes passed before he received a response from Lukela.

 

"Yeah, Duke?"

 

"Steve, I'm in Waikiki heading for a burglary report at the Hawaiian Hilton. I just wanted to call in and let you know I spotted Danny heading Diamond Head and he didn't look too well."

 

Concern spiking to active dread, McGarrett first flashed through an instant of anger that his young associate had not obeyed orders and stayed at the apartment. His second response was anxiety that Williams should not be out on his own.

 

"Why didn't you stop him?"

 

The pause said it all. "It was before your emergency call. I was responding to a four fifty nine at the time. Because of your earlier request to check up on him, I did alert Sergeant Ono to follow Danny."

 

Contrite that he had barked at his friend when he should have known better, Steve covered with a sincere, "Mahalo. Get on it yourself, Duke! I’m on my way."

 

 

*****

 

 

The huge rat on his lanai had been bad enough, Dan reasoned as he rushed along the makai sidewalk, heading toward Diamond Head and what he felt would be safety. Anywhere had to be safer than here!  Glancing back over his shoulder continually, he wished he had the energy to run, but his strength was barely holding out for this skip/shuffle that he managed. Bumping into numerous people, he was feeling insanely paranoid with every touch, every comment of rebuke, every word that turned into a snarl from faces that leered with rat noses and rat whiskers and beady little rat eyes behind sunglasses. Logic told him that the entire population of Waikiki was not made up of rodents! But he could not help himself. Tourists did not come here as rats, nor did the creatures smell like coco butter or have Mai Tai breath!

 

A huge monster rat roared down on him with wheels and a flashing sign declaring WAIKIKI BUS #11. He raced ahead and crashed against a red jeep. Teenagers, or young people dressed in surf wear chattered to him. They made jokes that were not quite discernable, but they were laughing loudly and echoing in his ears as if they were screaming. The good news was they were not rats. They said something about a beer party, about Diamond Head, and asked if he was already drunk. 

 

"Beer party," he repeated numbly, staring behind him was BUS #11 approached with huge, glowing eyes, it's fangs for a front grill and the yellow strips on the sides spread with brown fur. "Beer party," he cried out again, panicked that he would be completely eaten by the monster rodent on wheels.

 

When the kids invited him to join their beer party and actually helped him into the back of the jeep, he plunged headfirst in the back, covering his face, trying to hide from the monster. He didn't think he breathed again until they were racing down Kalakaua Avenue in a wild weave of speed.

 

 

*****

 

 

As he sped through the city streets, Steve reviewed the dangers of a mind dipped in the hallucinogenic drugs that must be in play here. Dan had wreaked havoc on his apartment in one of his fits, and Steve's overriding concern for days had been there would be serious damage done to Williams because of this insidious influence. The lingering memory of Ranger Gonzales's death did not help.

 

Patching through to Officer Ono, who was now at the Beachcomber in Waikiki, he learned that Ono had not been able to catch up with Dan on the street, but did see him get into a jeep with some haoles who looked like tourists. Inquiries were ongoing about the young people and their destination. By the time McGarrett pulled up to the Waikiki hotel, Ono joined him at the curb and related the latest news.

 

"The doorman overheard them talking about a beer party at the tip of Diamond Head. Want me to send some units up there?"

 

"No, I'm going," Steve assured and sped away.

 

 

*****

 

 

When the jeep rocked to a stop, Dan was helped out of the jeep by the tourist kids.  He swerved to a standstill while hanging onto the rear of the vehicle. This was familiar territory for him. He had often hiked up the dusty, scrub-brush littered trails of the steep interior slope and ascended the steps, through the old coastal defense tunnels and to the crusty, rim-tip of the extinct volcano. There was a measure of comfort in knowing the memorized territory, but also a thrill of fear running through his veins at the prospect of facing some of the blind corners in the curving tunnel – rats could lurk inside tunnels.

 

The others were screaming and laughing, as they marched up the dusty path. Afraid to be on his own, Dan scrambled after them, oblivious to the damage being done to his ill-protected, sandaled feet, fearful of the skittering menace he thought he heard from the nearby bushes. He hoped if he could make it up the hill quickly, he would be safe from the rodent army pursuing him.

 

Winfrey had said the only freedom was space. The air. A flight into the sky.  Rats could not fly. Yes, he had to reach the high ground – the highest tip on this side of Oahu. The raucous voices were growing farther away and he ran/stumbled/fell to keep up. This time, he DID hear something. Terrified to look behind, he watched in horror as a nearby shrub transformed with ears and a tail. Before it grew the hateful nose and buck teeth of his mortal enemy, he scrambled away, jogging and scrabbling up, his hands, arms and face caked with damp earth as his sweat soaked skin scraped the dirt. He could not give up. He had to run for his life.

 

 

*****

 

 

Certain that his friend was in imminent medical danger from the drugs, if not his dazed reactions to the hallucinogen, McGarrett recklessly raced into the crater of Diamond Head. There was only one place to go inside the crater if you were not here to travel to the National Guard base, or the ultra secret underground government facilities within the solid mountain. Ahead, at the far end of the inner crater, he saw several cars parked at the lean-to that marked the trailhead up to the crest. Yes, there was the suspect rented red jeep – with no Dan Williams in sight.

 

Up the track, he could hear echoes of voices and see the flashes of colorful luau shirts of hikers ascending to see the spectacular view of Eastern Oahu in the morning. The sun, well above the horizon, was already heating the hillside, and, with the tropical breeze kicking up dust on the desert-like trail, McGarrett knew he would need every advantage – and probably a stroke of good luck – to catch up with his unwell friend, so he quickly slipped off his tie and jacket before he started his jog up the trail.

 

 

*****

 

 

Dan knew he had scaled the first fifty steps in record time. He stopped looking behind him, but knew from the scrape of talons on concrete that the rat-king-brush animal was close behind his heels. Panting, stumbling more now than running, he came to the long tunnel and slammed to a halt. Tunnel. Rats love tunnels. Biting his lip to restrain the terrified cry trembling on his breath, he hugged himself to stop the shakes. He could not go in. The scrape behind him seemed close enough to touch. He plunged inside.

 

The ceiling to the tunnel was low and he bent over, running, falling, scrambling on his hands and knees for a time as he raced through. Blurred, glowing eyes advanced toward him. Teeth snapped at his shirt, and his sandal strap was snagged by a clawed foot. Screaming from the tortured gauntlet, he made it far enough inside the curved tunnel to finally be welcomed by the diffuse light filtering in from the bunkered observation post. Throwing himself out the last few feet, he cried out in relieved panic, knowing he had bought himself only a moment's lead from the carnivorous hoard.

 

 

*****

 

 

Steve heard the echo of the scream and looked up the trail, but could not see his officer.

 

"Danno!" 

 

He repeated the call several times and continued to climb as he yelled for his friend. That had been Dan's agonized cry, no doubt. Alarm that his friend was in dire trouble lent speed to his adrenalin-charged system and his speed increased as he raced up the trail.

 

 

*****

 

 

The temperatures of the tunnels and the cement bunker were moderately cooler than areas where the tropical sun could find favor, and one in a reasonable state of mind would have certainly taken pause before proceeding, but Dan was beyond rational consideration of his health. Large rats in luau shirts on the far side of the bunker eyed him, obviously trying to figure out the best way to subdue him. The dread of becoming a rats’ buffet compelled him to ignore his drug-induced fever and drag himself through the large window-slit. He could not die here. Not ripped apart by the menacing beasts. He had to fly, fly to freedom.

 

Hands and knees bleeding from the rough clamber, he ignored the pain, fully aware of it only as a by-thought. Terror fueled his worn limbs. At the edge of his mind, he thought he heard something else besides the scrape of claws. Something was calling his name. Afraid it was the rat king, he furiously crawled up the dusty slope the last ten feet to the summit of Diamond Head.

 

 

*****

 

 

The elongated shape of the blood splatters along the path was evidence of Dan's rough ascent, and it urged Steve on to greater speed. He made it through the last tunnel and burst into the bunker, quickly panning the area as he gulped air to ease the pain in his lungs. The expressions on the faces of a handful of teenagers there told him they’d just witnessed something a little frightening – he could only imagine their thoughts at finding themselves cornered – even momentarily – by a deranged, bloodied man. He realized that he himself must have presented a less-than-reassuring visage in his manic rush to get to his friend. One of the young men in the group pointed at the window, and McGarrett knew that the target of his quest had escaped that way.

 

Not pausing another second, he rushed headlong to the opening, but the sight made him cringe in terror and freeze. He was horrified to see that Dan had inched out to the slightly-downward sloping precipice which protruded six feet directly out from the bunker window. Williams was standing, his gaze upward, unconcerned that two more steps forward – or an overly exuberant gust of wind – would send him on a several-hundred-foot tumble to his death. To McGarrett’s further alarm, it appeared that it was, in fact, his friend’s intention to leap off the top of Diamond Head! Aware that any sudden movement or noise might startle or frighten the younger man and topple him over the edge, he also knew Danno was hallucinating.

 

The bedraggled, torn form edged to the precipice. Not having the luxury of time to formulate a plan, McGarrett vaulted atop the window ledge and, in an energetic cat-like move, angled slightly to the right and pounced forward, locking his hand around one of Williams’ arms. His momentum took them toward the left and off the perch to a five-foot wide ledge four feet below.

 

Their fall, was cushioned partially by natural vegetation, but the landing was still hard. Steve's arm numbed with sharp pain -- from damage to a muscle or nerves or the bone – he wasn't sure. What mattered was the shrieking wild-man in his arms, who was thrashing and wailing in terror. His mumbled protests were lost in the confused shouts of pure agony. Dan’s terrified and shocked reaction was not entirely unexpected, but his friend’s apparent lack of recognition of him and immediate panicked attempts to free himself disturbed Steve to his core.  

 

Gasping onlookers cleared away as the assailant and his burden slid down to the ground with a slam.

 

Fortunately, McGarrett had landed on top of Williams – at least gravity would be on his side for a few moments anyway. Shifting to get face to face with his friend, he talked quietly and reasonably with Dan. Frustrated that his cajoling had no effect, he placed both his hands on each side of Dan's face and stared at him almost nose to nose.

 

"Danno!" he announced firmly. "It's all right. It's over. You are safe," he firmly commanded, ignoring the tremble and fear recognizable in his own voice.

 

“No, no, let me fly away! Get away!” Dan cried out as he continued to thrash.

 

Knowing this was a fight he could not lose, McGarrett continued offering assurances contrary to his feelings. "You are safe!  It's all right now! Believe me!"

 

The blue eyes that reflected total panic slowly melded into a measure of diminished horror. The lids drooped in utter exhaustion, and instead of darting around as if expecting an imminent attack, he gradually focused on McGarrett.

 

Uttering soft, but solidly firm words of control and command, Steve promised all would be well. Apparently believing the promises, Dan's eyelids dropped closed, and his body stopped trembling. He continued to pant like an animal trapped in a snare, but his form grew limp.

 

Physically drained himself, Steve took in several measured deep breaths and shifted slightly to better secure their position on the solid surface. Now that the scuffling seemed to be over, the braver of the shocked onlookers approached and peered over the precipice, at first tentatively, and then with more zest, as they recognized that the situation was a medical emergency and not a crime in its commission. Steve did not have the heart or stamina to carry Dan down the long trail from the tip of the ancient volcano, so he had one of the teenagers rush down to his Mercury and radio for a helicopter evacuation from the mountain top.

 

Dan began to stir not long into the wait, adding to the tension of the man clutching him. For what seemed like too long, McGarrett leaned there in the dirt, baking in the intense morning sun reflecting off the lava, struggling to calm and subdue his frenetic, rambling, restless, confused friend and trying to calm the tremors of fear rippling through his own system. Fortunately, Williams seemed to have drained himself of his strength and adrenalin on his delusion-filled sojourn to the top of Diamond Head, so McGarrett, thankfully, was able to physically dominate his friend with a minimal expenditure of his own dwindling resources.

 

One moment, it would seem as if Danno had succumbed to reason and settled down to calmly await deliverance, and then the next, McGarrett would feel a building awareness in his friend’s body and demeanor of some false danger. Each episode would crescendo to some level of panic, only to recede with the older man’s corresponding increase in reassurances. By the time the sound of the chopper blades graced McGarrett’s grateful ears, Williams seemed just melted with exhaustion, listless, and indifferent as the Coast Guard medics clamored to their position.

 

Only loading the victim into the basket stretcher elicited a reaction as Dan cried out and shied suddenly as other hands grabbed hold of him.

 

“No! Don’t touch! Let me fly away! Let me go!”

 

He wept and found the energy from somewhere to arch his back and try to shake what must have appeared to him to be creatures straight from human nightmares. Initially unprepared for a battle from the rescuee, the Coast Guard medics quickly fell back on their water-rescue training, which included subduing victims out of control with mortal fear for their lives.

 

Steve did not know whether Dan could hear his voice over his own pleas to not touch him, but he persisted in his vehement insistence that everything was going to be fine. Williams finally lost the two-minute struggle with his captors, and was loaded into the chopper with a blanket and nylon safety straps from two stretchers securely cocooning him in place for the ride.

 

With the help of two of the more robust onlookers, the medics were able to maneuver the basket stretcher up to the continuous ledge which extended from the open-air observation station at the very pinnacle of the volcano. From there, it was a short seventy-five foot trek across a stretch of scrub brush to the waiting helicopter. The head of Five-0 trotted alongside the stretcher, taking pains to keep his hand firmly on the side of his friend’s damp face.

 

Trussed like a chicken ready to roast, Dan kept his eyes closed tightly and chanted between short breaths. “No… no… no…” 

 

As they lifted off the ground, Dan’s eyes popped open and he cried out. “Help me… I need to fly away!”

 

McGarrett leaned his head to only inches from his friend’s face, and insisted harshly. “Danno, we’re in a helicopter now! We ARE flying away, my friend!”

 

“Steve?”

 

The mere fact that Williams recognized his voice flooded him with relief. “Yes, I’m right here.” 

 

“You’re flying with me?” Dan clearly hoped against hope that the words were true.

 

“I’m flying away with you,” McGarrett confirmed with confidence. “Now close your eyes, and rest. I’ll be with you every step of the way, and I won’t let anything hurt you.”

 

After only a few moments of hesitation, the prone figure visibly relaxed and slowly closed his eyes.

 

The rest of the flight to the hospital was spent in silent anguish for the conscious detective, who clutched his friend with the fervency of one who’d been to the brink and nearly gone over. Literally. He didn’t want to remember what had almost happened, but could not deny that Danno’s attempt to escape the demons inside had nearly been a repeat of the end of Pete Gonzales.  

 

 

*****

 

 

“I don’t like it!”

 

“It’s necessary, Steve!” It was not a request. Doc Bergman was dead serious in his firm, tough tone, which served a dual purpose of laying down the law for the boss of Five-0, and covering his own distraught emotions after this last vicious and terrifying attack of the hallucinogenic drug on Williams. “Considering his little balancing act on Diamond Head, he can be considered a danger to himself and others, so the restraints STAY until we know more!”

 

“And WHEN will THAT be?” the angry detective spat.

 

Ignoring the unsurprising emotion with which the question was delivered, the physician responded evenly. “As soon as I got word that Danny had received another substantial DMT exposure, I put in a call to Doctor Rick Chang – Che’s buddy. It turns out that he’s THE go-to guy on psycho-dynamic, plant-derived drugs. He volunteered to consult on the case, and is packing a ditty bag right now. He’ll be here before the day is out.”

 

Deciding that the head of Five-0 would not take kindly to the thought, Bergman didn’t mention that, in addition to helping Williams, this was a rare opportunity for the researcher to observe first-hand the effects of the rare drug in a controlled, clinical setting.

 

Visibly appeased by the news, McGarrett toned down his rhetoric a peg. “In the meantime, you’ll just keep him cuffed and knocked out?”

 

Doing his best to set aside the twinge of pity he suddenly felt for the drained figure, who visibly deflated at the thought he’d just verbalized, the doctor rolled his eyes and offered the detective a light pat on the shoulder. “Humor me if I prefer to use the language of my profession and call it restrained and sedated.”

 

“You use your profession – I’ll use mine.” McGarrett grumbled as he stared unhappily at the doctor, and absentmindedly began to rub his bruised arm.

 

Bergman added fuel to his argument. “Think of where you were less than two hours ago, and consider the little drama we had getting him into the bed -- well -- let’s just err on the side of caution, shall we?”

 

Steve hoped the physician did not see him wince at the mention of the chaotic transfer of Williams out of the basket stretcher.

 

Bergman had the Coast Guard medics take his patient directly to a private room (coincidentally, McGarrett hoped) next to the secure psych ward on the second floor of the hospital. Dan seemed disoriented and weak as the doctor checked his pupils and pulse on the ride upstairs. As the elevator doors opened, they were greeted by a nurse and two burley, bouncer-like attendants who joined the party for the last leg of the trip to the patient’s room.

 

Things were proceeding smoothly, and as the nylon straps were unbuckled to release the young man from his cocoon, Steve stepped back to allow the medical people room to work. There was very little conversation or verbal coordination – each actor seemed to know his or her roll in a drama that had obviously played out many times before. The two attendants and two medics stepped onto opposite sides of the stretcher-laden gurney and simultaneously positioned their hands on the patient to lift him to the bed.

 

The tactile sensation apparently re-awakened Dan’s delusion that he was surrounded by inhuman monsters preparing to do him in. Steve, having held his friend through several waves of assaults from tortuous invisible specters, sensed Williams’ rapidly rising fear. He took a step forward, preparing to offer reassurance, but it was too late. Dan opened his eyes to visually confirm his situation, and what he apparently took in so terrified him that he cried out and rolled violently toward the completely unprepared attendants.

 

“Don’t touch! Don’t! Don’t!” They attempted to grab the squirming patient, but in the end he plopped onto the floor by their feet and quickly crawled behind the bed and out again to the other side – he made it to the corner of the room, where he pulled his legs and arms to his chest and began to rock back and forth. “Don’t… please… no… don’t… don’t…”

 

Everyone except Bergman moved to corner the terrified man, but McGarrett shouted for everyone to back off. With the detective’s command still hanging in the air, everyone froze for only a moment before they each took a few steps back. With the fresh silence in the room, Dan’s hyperventilation-speed breathing could be heard between don’ts.

 

Bergman, McGarrett decided, had a twin thought to his own as he handed the detective a hypodermic, and whispered. “Into a muscle!”

 

Nodding slightly, Steve moved smoothly and very slowly to the other side of the bed. “Danno… Danno…” He repeated the affectionate name that he – almost exclusively – used, hoping that his friend would find comfort in the familiar.

 

Uncertain whether his voice was providing the measure of reassurance Dan needed to remain calm OR whether his protégé had retreated inward to some level of catatonia, McGarrett continued his approach with no outward elevation in concern from Dan, who continued his rhythmic effort to comfort himself.

 

Slowly, he squatted, and careful not to touch, repeated a promise. “Everything is going to be okay.” 

 

Remembering Dan’s sudden changes in demeanor, McGarrett wasted no time in sinking the hypo into his friend’s shoulder. Williams reacted as though Steve had branded him with a hot poker. He cried out in agony and pressed himself against the wall to get farther away from the distressed man with the empty syringe. The horror-stricken blue eyes watched the creature who’d assaulted him until he could stay upright no longer. The head of Five-0, possibly no less horrified than his friend, dropped the syringe to catch Williams as he fell over.

 

There was no time for McGarrett to reflect before the attendants took over and got the limp patient quickly into the bed.

 

“Full-court press, Doc?” One of the attendants asked, and Bergman nodded.

 

Steve learned only a few minutes after the fiasco that “full court press” was the hospital code used to refer to a patient who was to be physically secured to the bed, catheterized, and receive medication and hydrating fluids through a central intravenous line SEWN into the base of the neck! He’d been appalled that such punishment had to be meted out to the victim – his friend and colleague – in this sorry situation. Bergman was right though, he knew – the medico had Danno’s best interests at heart, but, to the detective, the measures seemed so—so drastic – like something that would be necessary only if the patient were not likely to recover quickly…

 

With a sigh of frustrated irritation, McGarrett glanced at his watch. It was past noon. It had been a long several days, and the nights and working hours blurred together in his mind. Much of the time had been spent here at the hospital hovering over his officer. Too much time. His thoughts strayed easily, in his weary condition, through the pros and cons of his actions and non-actions and way-too-late reactions on this nightmarish case. Elements of clues came too late to save Danno from repeated exposure to a dangerous hallucinogen. Now came the really hard part -- waiting again. Waiting and wondering and hoping.

 

“Get some rest, Steve. He’ll be out for a while yet. And then I -- uh -- I’m not sure that he’ll -- it may take time for him to communicate coherently.”

 

The uncharacteristically tactful comments only spurred the detective’s trepidation. Bergman was concerned about Danno’s state of mind upon waking. This realization burned in his brain and left gaping doubts of anguish. When would Danno come out of this?  Would he come out?

 

“He’s going to be all right,” Steve reinforced aloud, as if speaking them to a witness would make it so.

 

The physician understood the method of the man, who looked on the verge of becoming a patient himself, and knew better than to disagree. He nodded slightly and repeated his admonishment. “YOU need to sleep.”

 

“You’re right, Doc.” McGarrett admitted with tired resignation. Taking a last look at the sleeping Williams before stepping out of the room, he assured, “I won’t be long.”

 

 

*****

 

 

Unenthusiastic about even a short trip down the stairs, he tiredly leaned on the wall as he waited for the elevator, and planned out his next several hours. Get updates from Chin and Kono… Sleep… No – eat something, then sleep... No – call Ranger Gibbs, then eat, THEN sleep…

 

The detective sighed and looked down at his scuffed shoes. No – sleep. Eating and phone calls and showering would all have to wait. The only thing that could not be put on hold was the search for the Winfreys – they’d blown onto his island like a pestilence, and he vowed they would not escape punishment.

 

A ding signaled the arrival of the elevator, and he was pleased as Chin and Kono started to step out. Instead, McGarrett entered, and they all road back down to the main level together.

 

“How’s Danny?” The Chinese detective inquired immediately.
“Sleeping,” was Steve’s terse response. It circumvented the doubts and struggles of faith in his own mind. It was much easier to concentrate on seeking justice for the animals who had caused all this misery. To avoid any further probing – admittedly justified – on the painful subject, McGarrett quickly jumped onto the last order of business before he himself would rest.  “What’s the word on the Winfreys?”

 

Kono and Chin gave each other quick, satisfied nods before the Hawaiian announced, “They’re booked on a Pan Am flight this evening to Los Angeles, and we’ll be there waiting for them when they check in their bags!”

 

The news did not have the expected effect their boss – he blinked and frowned slightly as he quietly digested the data.

 

The Chinese detective shot one more brief glance at Kono and added, “Oh, and just in case they try for an earlier flight, we’ve got the airport under surveillance now.”

 

McGarrett nodded slowly at the additional information as the trio made their way outside the hospital’s main entrance and stopped under the portico, just short of assault by the mid-day sun. The reality of their boss’s disheveled condition became all the more evident to both Kono and Chin in the natural light, and each wondered whether Steve was not heading the wrong way by leaving the hospital. Forgetting the fatigued demeanor of the human being inside them, the man’s clothes spoke of a terrible experience. The pants were torn and marred with dirt and green plant stains, and the white shirt was now inappropriately named – it was gray with dirt, and marred with a mix of reddish-brown smudges and sweat tide lines. The suit jacket that matched the pants and the tie – wherever they were – could consider themselves fortunate indeed that they had missed the adventure on the volcano.

 

The two rested detectives stood by silently as their lost-in-thought boss fished in his pocket, and retrieved two sets of keys before he re-initiated their progress – with a quick point from Chin as to the direction they should be heading.

 

“My car is in the parking lot at the Diamond Head trailhead.” McGarrett plopped one key chain in Kono’s hand. “Have it brought to the Palace – I’ll drive Danno’s car back to my place – I need to catch a few winks, amongst other things.” He took a lingering glance down at his chest, and knew his men had to be a little concerned that his mental faculties might match the state of his attire.

 

The silence on the drive to the Palace parking lot was cracked only by a brief report from Chin that Mike Fletcher had been sent home from the hospital with a clean bill of health. He was a bit battered, and did, in fact, have two rat bites on one of his feet. McGarrett gave an involuntary shudder at the mention of vermin, and wondered how long it would be before he felt mere distaste for the creatures again.

 

The head of Five-0 could not keep his thoughts from the man he’d just left – with “full-court press” – in the hospital, and he wondered whether his own behavior was not in some part to blame. He had not had his head on straight from the moment the Winfreys entered the picture – Danno knew it all along. On this occasion, he – Steve McGarrett – had been the one unable to set aside his personal, emotional cant on the investigation while his younger and less-experienced officer had taken on the mantle of the mature, responsible professional. While not particularly proud of his own loss of objective perspective, Steve found himself a bit inflated with pride over his protégé’s management of the situation – especially in the face of a stubborn, unreasonable boss.

 

Guilt… he knew it would be his unpleasant companion until Williams was healed. Danno had clearly warned him, and tried even in his inhibited condition, to guide his boss towards a more temperate position. Would things have turned out differently if he had heeded the sage council of his second-in-command at the onset of the kidnapping?

 

He’d made the case a personal crusade against the Winfreys -- comparing them with Mary Ann and Tom and the fight with Dr. Freemont. Had he been willing to let logic and reason prevail – his standard modus operandi – by taking time to objectively think it through, could they have avoided the worst of the flim-flam act and saved Danno a lot of agony? The new thought brought a wry grimace to his face.

 

Danno regularly accused him of utilizing an uncanny sixth-sense -- of being deductively clairvoyant. And, while he had not been the picture of neutrality – McGarrett had been right this time as well. Ironically, Danno’s five senses were impaired by the evil drug, and the Winfrey’s own purported weapon was used against them – Steve’s own intuition –not really a sixth sense, he decided, but the gut instinct of an experienced cop – a seventh sense perhaps…

 

The halt of the engine purr brought McGarrett from his reverie, and he saw that Chin had parked next to the car of their absent colleague. As the three men got out to go their separate ways, the previous topic – both Chin and Kono KNEW it had not been closed to the boss’s satisfaction – of the search for the Winfreys popped up again.

 

“We won’t find the Winfreys at the airport.” The lead detective announced with the certainty of a promise that the sun would rise. “They’re too smart to just sachet into the airport and be arrested.”

 

Surprise registered momentarily on the two detectives’ faces, but what their boss said made sense.

 

“Where do rats go when their island is sinking? A ship perhaps? I don’t want to let them get off this rock, gentlemen!”

 

“We’ve got the airport sealed,” Chin replied. “Ships are harder.”

 

“A lot harder,” Kono agreed.

 

McGarrett unlocked Williams’ car and then spun to face his two detectives. “Are you suggesting that we only look in the easy places?”

 

The chagrinned answer came in tandem and immediately. “No, boss.”

 

“Kono, get HPD to check out the small charters. They might try hiring a boat to Maui or something and catching a freighter out of there, but I think our best bet is going to be a liner direct from here. Chin, get the passenger lists for all ships departing in the next forty eight hours. Cross-check the lists with the Winfreys’ records to see if something jumps out at you.” With that slipped, he into the car.

 

“What if nothing jumps out at us, boss?” Kono had to ask what he believed would be the most likely case.

 

“Then we’ll go back to searching just the easy spots!” Tired and punchy, McGarrett revved the engine and sped off, hoping in retrospect, that the Hawaiian detective knew he was being sarcastic.

 

 

 

Saturday Evening

 

 

McGarrett climbed from the black nowhere into which one’s body plunges the sleep deprived. It took him a full minute to recall his circumstance and realize that the seven fifteen on his alarm clock was closer to the dinner hour than breakfast.

 

With a yawn, he pulled himself up after a much-needed half-dozen hours of sound sleep in his own bed. A hot shower loosened sore muscles and even seemed to make the large purple bruise on his arm feel better. He shaved and dressed as his coffee pot did its job. Feeling momentarily foolish as he caught himself starting for the door to collect the morning paper, he returned to the kitchen and poured a cup of the strong, black brew. He took only a perfunctory glance into his uncharacteristically-empty fridge before deciding he would pick up something palatable before he returned to the hospital.

 

Once on the road, he checked in with Chin to learn that – as McGarrett had predicted – the Winfreys were no-shows for their flight. Further, the Chinese detective reported that they’d spent the rest of their time on this day checking possible escape routes via charter, and reviewing passenger lists for all ships setting sail before mid-morning the next day. No names rang any bells, so they stationed HPD personnel, armed with photos of the suspects, at the gang planks of the only four ships on the list which accepted passengers. The effort had yielded no fruit, but Chin promised they would begin again with the next round of passenger lists early the next morning.

 

By the time he thanked Chin for the long day he’d put in – and the no-doubt long one only a half turn of the Earth away – he was sitting in the parking lot of the medical complex. The growl of his stomach reminded him of the missed stop for breakfast – no, dinner.

 

“Where’s May when I need her?” he mumbled, recalling the delectable snacks that had been on his desk every time he’d turned around lately.

 

He passed through the cafeteria quickly and collected a few hard-boiled eggs before making his way to the ewa wing of the second floor.  He slipped into Williams’ room, knowing the warning posted was NOT meant for him. To his mild annoyance though the two people at the nurses’ station did not question his entrance into the restricted area. He did not recognize either of them, but knew it was distinctly possible that the reciprocal fact might not be true. Just to be sure, he made a mental note to check on the security situation sooner rather than later.

 

He stepped closer to the bed, glad to have the rhythmic beep of the heart monitor masking any sound he might inadvertently make. Dan lie there, sheet-less in a hospital gown, his head turned slightly to one side, eyes closed and mouth half-a-bite open. His shallow-but-consistent breaths told the attentive figure hovering over him that he was asleep. Brown leather restraints, padded with sheepskin, secured the patient’s arms and legs to the bed railing, and made a move of more than a few inches impossible. Somebody had put some effort into wiping Williams’ exposed body parts free of grime, and the side of his right foot was bandaged. The final touch that gave the scene a seriously clinical ambience was the assortment of wires and tubes emanating from under the gown.

 

Steve swallowed his compulsion to reach out and touch the young man, who’d seemed hyper-sensitive to the physical sensation ever since the drug had invaded his system. The faintest creak behind him alerted him to the opening of the door, and he turned quickly, with a vague sense that he’d been caught – doing what he didn’t take time to ponder. The older man in the white medical jacket didn’t step all the way into the room – instead, he gently motioned for the detective to follow him.

 

Bergman looked tired and had obviously not spent his Saturday afternoon in deep repose, but he managed to give the detective a twist of his lips in a token smile as he led them into the room directly across from Williams’. The room was devoid of a patient, but it was not empty. Che Fong greeted McGarrett with his usual warm grin and introduced his friend, Doctor Rick Chang, whom he brought directly to the hospital from the airport. They’d arrived about fifteen minutes earlier and Bergman had already briefed his associates on the latest developments in the case.

 

Chang, a man similar in features to Che, was slightly taller and wore dark blue slacks, with a powder blue button-down shirt. It appeared to the detective that a tie and jacket might have been present earlier in the day, but they were gone now. Both, he suspected, had been abandoned as soon as the warm, tropical air struck his skin.

 

With introductions made and brief courtesies out of the way, Doctor Chang proceeded to explain that, after reviewing Williams’ latest blood work and associated mass spec results, he was certain the dosage Williams had received in his latest exposure was of a potentially-fatal level. The man conveyed the information purposefully and calmly, giving the detective listening a sense that the his world was not about to end with the news.

 

“That said, I can also tell you, Mr. McGarrett, that Danny is not going to die.” The Chinese physician was obviously reading the tensing expression of the much taller man, whose shoulders relaxed marginally with the authoritative statement. With a kind smile, he continued. “If a patient’s heart and liver hold out for the first six hours after an OD exposure to DMT then the only thing that will kill them is their own actions.”

 

“Meaning, a swan dive off a mountain!” Bergman injected quickly.

 

Relief washed over McGarrett like a refreshing rain after a walk in the desert – or a sprint up an old volcano. “So, Danno is going to be fine! How long before he…” Steve could not think of a way to phrase the question without saying what he didn’t want to hear, but asking was the only way he would find out what he needed to know. “How long does he have to stay in restraints?” He shot Bergman a glance as he remembered to use the correct medical terminology.

 

“It varies from person to person, so there’s no way to be one hundred percent certain, but my best guess would be two or three—”

 

“Two or three days? He’ll have to stay cuffed two or three days?” The head of Five-0 interrupted – the thought of his immobilized friend tugged at his heart. Danno had been though enough! He wanted this nightmare to end, and he wanted it to end now!

 

Unaccustomed to the often-abrupt manner of the chief of Hawaii’s state police, the mild-mannered little man looked briefly in the direction of the other two men, who seemed unaffected by the detective’s impatient question that had been delivered like an expletive. Che briefly nodded his reassurance, silently pushing his friend to continue.

 

With a quick, inward breath, the physician plunged ahead. “Not days – weeks, Mr. McGarrett.”

 

The word – weeks! It mixed with the blood rushing near his ear drums and almost made him dizzy. Still reeling, he whispered the word out loud. “Weeks?”

 

Chang shrugged slightly, his face now showing more than a little concern for how McGarrett was taking the news. “Well, I doubt he’ll have to be held in restraints for that long – but it has happened. More than likely, he’ll be well enough to be released within a week or so to the main ward.”

“Ward?” Steve twisted his face in confusion – he felt like he’d stepped into the middle of a conversation, and no doubt the doctor felt like he was speaking to someone who had not been present for the entire conversation.

 

“The psych ward – I can assure you, it WILL be weeks before Detective Williams can be left alone.” Chang’s tone was gentle, but firm. He had experience to support his opinion and knew whereof he spoke.

 

The detective looked into the faces of the other two men for some sign that they thought the new guy was off in his estimate. While he found a measure of comfort in their supportive expressions and body language, neither man made a move to contradict the expert.

 

“Now, if you don’t mind, I’d like to examine the patient at this time.” Chang directed his cordial request at the other physician in the room, who nodded.

 

“He’s in the room directly across the hall.” As the four men started for the door, the medical examiner gently placed his hand on McGarrett’s back. “Steve, just remember that Danny’s going to be fine. This could have been much worse – he could’ve ended up a customer in my other office.”

 

The thought chilled the detective – he knew it was true, and did his level best to take Bergman’s words to heart. With a brief nod and a sigh, he trailed the party as it moved across the hall.

 

 

*****

 

 

Dark… he was floating… he became aware of his body again as his brain began to send complaints from various areas. Cramp reports from his back, legs and arms… throbbing pains from his feet, knees and the palms of his hands… lips and throat parched. He was only marginally perplexed that he seemed unable to do anything to make himself more comfortable.

 

Now a sound report… Danny… a soft beeping… Danny… you hear me…

 

He tried to turn in the direction of the sound, and managed to move his head a few inches. The sensation of movement brought with it the impetus to lick his lips and swallow. He grimaced slightly as his dry esophagus grudgingly pushed a weak peristaltic contraction towards his stomach.

 

Can you hear me? Danny… Open your eyes… Someone was speaking to him…

 

He tried to respond, but only a weak moan made it past his tongue. His eyelids ignored his command to rise, so he tried the opposite action and was rewarded. His eyes squeezed shut tightly, and then he tried again to open them. This time he was rewarded with a blurred vision. Fuzzy blue and gray objects surrounded by shadows were all that he could make out at first.

 

“Danny? My name is Doctor Chang.”

 

Dan blinked again and his focus sharpened dramatically. He hadn’t been dreaming! A rat of monstrous proportions was perched only two feet from his face – its claws clutched a large steak knife and matching fork. Another creature in a white jacket, much wider than the one with the eating utensils, stepped into view with an industrial-size salt shaker!

 

“You’re going to be fine.” The dining rat announced calmly, and his friend nodded.

 

“He just needs a little salt.”

 

“Not too much – I’m watching my blood pressure.”

 

Dan watched the conversation with building horror.

 

“His heart rate is going up!” The rat in white announced, AS IF HE CARED!

 

The rat with the knife and fork suddenly moved closer to him. “Do you mind if I poke your eyes with my fork?”

 

Williams had had enough. He cried out hoarsely. “Get away from me! Get away!” He twisted and writhed and moved every body part he could will into action, but was unsuccessful in putting any distance between himself and the creatures preparing to dine on him.

 

“I told you to cook him!” The wide rat moved around to Dan’s opposite side and pulled a paring knife from its pocket. The skinny one dropped his fork and began to claw at Dan’s chest, finally hopping on him, making it difficult for him to breathe.

 

“Sedate him, and THEN we’ll cook him!”

 

At least Dan’s shouts seemed to be causing dissension in the pack. He continued to cry until the carnivorous vermin in white plunged the blade into his shoulder.

 

His vision blurred again, and he began to weep – they would certainly eat him if he closed his eyes again, but he couldn’t help it. He felt himself sinking into darkness again. “Please… no… get away…rats… don’t…”

 

 

*****

 

 

McGarrett watched Doctor Chang’s examination degenerate into what was obviously a life-and-death struggle in the mind of his friend. Despite the restraints, it took both of the physicians to sedate him again. Unable to stand it another second, he stepped out of the room and quickly ducked to one side of the door. He almost fell against the wall in his haste to gain its support. Angry with himself for his weakness, he clenched his fist and his jaw with as much force as he could muster as he looked back toward the door with the bold NO-VISITORS sign stuck to its surface. What he’d just witnessed had been a brutal, eye-opening lesson – Danno was under the influence of a substance that made him a serious threat to himself. Doctor Chang was right – his detective would have to be protected even if it meant being chained to the bed for weeks.

 

After slowing his breathing down from sprint speed to brisk-walk pace, he managed to comfort himself with Bergman’s reminder that Dan would recover. Danno would return to him…

 

He looked ten feet down the hallway to a pair of solid double doors. He’d read the sign over the doorway with discomfort each time he time he entered Williams’ room. He idly wished that his friend had not been situated in such close proximity to the area the hospital employees called the psych wing.

 

 

 

Sunday Morning

 

It was not often that Kono Kalakaua felt discouraged. Sure, work sometimes raised his stress level to unusual peaks, but normally, he felt himself the calm surf in a sea of churning storms (Steve). Over the years, the Hawaiian had become used to McGarrett’s tirades and mood surges -- mostly into the hot-lava-red category. Standing outside the office door right now, Kono acknowledged his own bubbling anger over this current case and his part in it. Or his lack of participation at the moment. As he stared at the bold letters on the door, proclaiming the offices of Hawaii Five-0, he felt worse than discouraged -- downright depressed.

 

Off on a hot lead this morning, he was returning now empty-handed. It was an intimate failure. Sure, he was motivated by the danger and pain set onto his young colleague Williams. And yes, that had cascaded into extreme stress and anguish from McGarrett. But Kono was feeling a personal responsibility for this big bunch of trouble. HE had been the one assigned to watch over Williams at the Fletcher house. Somehow, those sneaky Winfreys had done something to Danny. He and Chin had been assigned to go find those shifty con men before they skipped the island.

 

It didn’t help his ego any that Danny’s friends on the force had been putting in extra efforts on the case, too. He was just returning from the docks. Nephi Hilton, one of Danny’s pals, had spotted some likely suspects boarding a ship to Hong Kong. When they burst in on the cabin, revolvers in hand, the bulky, huge Hawaiian and Samoan officers nearly scared to death the little couple in their seventies who had been about to embark on a nostalgic cruise like the old days before the war!  Embarrassed and deflated, Kono left Hilton at the docks, sternly going over the descriptions of the Winfreys so they would not mistake every old haole couple for their suspects.

 

Never mentioning his efforts at the Fletcher house might have prevented this pilikia, he hoped that each hour, each report brought them closer to arresting the Winfreys. With a sigh, he bolstered his energy and placed his hand on the doorknob. Well, he just had to keep going. Do this case like he did every other. Work the streets and informants and expend his time and effort in his own methodical and tenacious manner. They would get these guys, he had promised that to Steve. He just hoped that would be before they ended up on a slow boat to China.

 

Entering the office, he was not surprised to see Chin Ho in his office, on the phone, on this sunny and warm Sunday. They exchanged a wave. As he walked by, Kelly cupped his hand over the mouthpiece.

 

“No go?”

 

Kono shook his head. “A haole couple from Hilo going to Hong Kong on the cheap.”

 

Chin grimaced. “Too bad.”

 

Kono pulled some manifest sheets from his jacket pocket and spread them out on Kelly’s desk. “This is the latest stuff. I took a look on the docks, but there ain’t nothin’ obvious here, bruddah. Maybe you can find somethin’ I can’t.”

 

Chin finished his call and the two detectives split up the pages. Scanning down the names on the list, Chin ran his finger by each name where there was a couple. After checking for man and wife combinations, he would peruse the sheets again for singles. He knew they were traveling under an alias -- they had to be -- they had to know the heat was up on this island. But what alias would they use.

 

Frank and Dixie Hafey.

 

His finger stopped as his brain worked on the familiar names. Then it came to him -- a flash of memory -- the exact time and place and circumstance. In the car, on the way from the airport to Steve’s office on that first day they arrived, Chin overheard Charles Winfrey call his wife Dixie. It was thin, but he double-checked the information sheet on the Winfreys. Charles Frank Winfrey!  Hafey  -- that was Darlene’s maiden name!  That detail didn’t matter of course. He was certain he had found them!

 

“Star of Macau!” he cried out, stabbing the names with his index finger. “Leaves tonight for Macau!  Frank and Dixie Hafey!”  He quickly explained this clue-route to his absolute conclusion.

 

“About time we had some good news,” Kono brightened.

 

“Yeah. I’m gonna call Steve.”

 

 

*****

 

 

In the relatively short amount of time in which the Fletcher kidnapping case had transpired,  McGarrett had found ample opportunity to view the varying degrees of perception -- distorted; real, imagined and objectively perceived. Reflecting on such abstract thoughts relieved him from some of the anguish he felt as he stared at the still form in the hospital bed.

 

Steve’s perceptions were certainly distorted when it came to thinking about Danno -- he suffered every time he remembered the horrible crying and thrashing from Williams while trapped in the visions playing in his head. As opposed to Dr. Chang’s perceptions -- he saw Williams as a specimen; a subject, a statistic. He was fighting to keep his view of things positive, even though Danno’s hallucinations showed no signs of improvement. Yet, he had to believe Danno would come out of this better and quicker than diagnosed by the experts. Why?  Because Steve did not want either of them to go through this any more. And in the past when he was dissatisfied with the way things went he changed them to his satisfaction. Most of the time. If only he could do that now. Glumly, he knew it was going to take more than just his force of will this time. But as he sat in the chair contemplating the terrible visions and the medical diagnosis, he could not allow himself to give up on his friend. He felt he could turn this around. He just hadn’t come up with the way to do that. Yet.

 

The door opened and a nurse poked her head int. “There’s a call for you at the desk, Mr. McGarrett,” she whispered.

 

Taking a last look at his still friend, McGarrett slipped out and went to the nearby station to answer the phone. Chin reported their findings -- they thought they had a line on the Winfreys -- and they were on the way to the docks. Feeling his nerves and energy spark to life again, he ordered the detective to wait for him he was on his way. Jogging down the hall, he felt he could take a little time off from watching over Williams to personally nab the slimes who had put his friend here in the first place.

 

*****

 

“Room service,” McGarrett spoke in a gruff voice, deeper and lower than his normal pitch and tone.

 

“Room service?  Just a minute!” came the excited reply.

 

The instant the door was unlatched and started to open inward, McGarrett shoved with a hard push and barreled into the small cabin. Revolver drawn, he aimed it at Charles Winfrey -- at the door. Chin and Kono were right behind him, their weapons covering Darlene Winfrey, who as sitting at the small desk in the tiny ship board cabin of the Star of Macau.

 

“Freeze!” McGarrett barked, shoving the man against the bulkhead. “You’re both under arrest!”

 

The shock was apparent on their white, surprised faces and he reveled in the coup he had pulled off. Any little victory against these two slippery creatures was savory, but grabbing them so off-guard was an added little pleasure.

 

“What, you’re surprised?  Didn’t you see me coming in one of your visions?” he maliciously queried.

 

The taunt served to jolt Darlene back into character and her face transformed into a cool mask of superiority. “Why Mr. McGarrett, we are shocked at this abrupt attack. Such ungentlemanly behavior --“

 

“Oh, you haven’t seen anything yet, honey.”

 

“I don’t understand,” Charles coolly played the innocent while still under Steve’s tight grip. “What do you think you are doing?  Arrest?  We’ve done nothing illegal.”

 

We’ve only helped your poor friends and their son --“

 

“You’ve done nothing?  You helped?” McGarrett growled, grinding the man’s back into the metal. “Nothing?  You are accessories to a vicious crime.”

 

Regaining a little equilibrium, Darlene stood and in a composed, even calmly steeled demeanor, squarely confronted him. “We’ve done nothing illegal or wrong, mah dear sir. And I defy you to prove that we have,” she clipped out with sharp words edged enough to draw blood.

 

“Oh, I have you, make no mistake. You wanted to hedge your bets. Draw in my officer by drugging him!  The kidnapping charge is just the start, chumps. What’s really going to nail you is the attempted murder of a police officer!”

 

The news seemed to surprise them, but like the pros they were, they covered it quickly and smoothly. Fiercely relishing in another little coup, he smiled -- cold and merciless -- just like his heart.

 

He shoved Charles away, afraid his temper was so close to stretching out of control he might do something regrettable. They deserved something brutal and violent and prehistoric -- that was just what he was feeling inside. A raw, dangerous kind of anger and hatred that brought out the primitive in him. It was the scene in the hospital that seared at the back of his eyelids and never seemed to leave him -- the thrashing and helpless terror of his friend. Danno could not see what was real anymore, and it was thanks to these menacing swindlers that he nearly threw himself off Diamond Head because of his imaginary beasts at his back. Well, the Winfreys had him at their back, now and he was going to prove as relentless and damaging as any imaginary rats ever could!

 

“Oh yes, he’s alive. What, did you expect he would be driven to jump off a building just like Ranger Gonzales?” 

 

The name of the Texas Ranger who died barely flickered on their faces. Oh, they were good. Yeah, but they met their match. The made the mistake of landing on his turf and they were nailed now.

 

“You nearly killed Dan Williams and I promise you are going to pay for that!”

 

He shoved Charles against the wall and took a proffered pair of cuffs from Kono. Then he repeated the processes with Darlene.

 

“You will regret this,” she hissed. “You can not prove a thing against us.”

 

“Right. You have the right to remain silent…”

 

The challenge confirmed his level of anger at these two was justified and he had been right all along. They were fancy-flash con artists and they had come to the end of the road. And he was the one cuffing them and throwing them in jail. As they led them down the ship corridor, he knew that he would have traded all his satisfaction at being right, to never have had them darken his shores at all. Being right felt hollow and seeing through them rang as an empty victory considering the price Danno had paid to get here.

 

The sobering recollection of his damaged friend never far from his thoughts, he ground his teeth with determination. For Danno, he was not going to let the slick fiends get away with anything. He was going to book them himself. And personally, he would prove them wrong -- they were as guilty as sin and he would guarantee every piece of evidence was properly tagged, every legal detail covered. There would be no crawl space for these rats to escape through.

 

 

Sunday Afternoon

 

Besides the considerable paperwork residual from the Fletcher case, there were several other investigations in limbo that McGarrett had to address. When he returned to the office after booking the Winfreys, he had also fielded a call from the FBI about the possibility that this was a multi-state criminal investigation. He would meet with the local FBI guys tomorrow and share information, he promised. Then he made a call to a satisfied Ranger Gibbs, who was still at his desk on a Sunday evening in Texas. Good men, Rangers, definitely good men.

 

By the time the shadows lengthened and the tropical sun was dropping closer to the western horizon, McGarrett could no longer concentrate. He had a number of loose ends to tie up, but his thoughts were too focused on the hospital room and not here, so he rose from his desk and stretched. He didn’t have the heart to go back to see Danno yet. Wasn’t there something practical to do?

 

Scanning the messy paperwork atop his desk, he was getting a headache just thinking about all the details of the case. Everything had to be right. His conscience would not allow him to blow this prosecution against these slimes. There were still questions that had never been answered to his satisfaction. How had Mike Fletcher’s knife ended up in Danno’s pocket? Were there other dangerous items floating around that could imperil his friend?  Maybe he should find out. He made quick work of sorting out the papers, placing them in the center drawer and locked the desk before he left.

 

The drive to Danno’s apartment was disturbing -- the sun, surf and carefree crowds were in such counterpoint to his friend’s condition it was depressing. He pushed out the grimness and focused on his past encounters with the Winfreys. How had they pulled off their scheme?  They wouldn’t know for sure until Danno was conscious, but their slight-of-hand act had been a good one and they might have planted other items for Danno to use in their master plan.

 

The apartment was unlocked and that surprised him. Opening the door, he realized no one had been back here since Danno’s wild escape to the top of Diamond Head. Stepping inside, the setting sun cast bright shafts of gold through the open lanai door and into the darker living room. The coffee table and end tables were overturned, so was an easy chair. Some pictures were knocked off the wall and some glasses broken on the carpet. 

 

Taking in a sharp breath of surprise, McGarrett ambled a few paces into the room and stopped, studying everything with a cop’s eye, but unable to block out the emotions of a friend surveying a battlefield where an officer had fallen. He couldn’t believe this! Thinking about the other morning -- picking Danno up for breakfast and the abrasion on Dan’s cheek -- was it all connected? Had Danno’s visions been violent enough to cause all this? He recalled, he had not actually seen INTO the apartment that morning that seemed so long ago! Was this what Danno had been living through? Seeing monsters and jeopardy in his own furniture? Thinking about the Diamond Head scene and the hospital struggles -- yes -- he could believe it.

 

Was there some other force at work here?  Could the Winfreys have caused this -- fighting with Danno?  His anger for them grew, and he clenched his fists tight and loose and tight, trying to expel some of his rage. Better that than kick the furniture, he decided. Carefully piecing his way through, he looked for something obvious that might have been left by the Winfreys, but could spot nothing familiar like the Fletcher knife. Knowing he should consider this a crime scene, he would have to call the lab team over here and check it out. Then -- sometime before Danno came back home (which might be a while, he glumly knew) he would come over here and straighten things out. He wouldn’t let his friend face this when he finally returned.

 

Stepping to the door, he paused, reflecting on the emotions rampaging through him the last few days. Guilt again lanced through his soul. He had blindly missed the clues-- subtle and overt -- with Danno. Could he have prevented any of this? Maybe, maybe not. He SHOULD have been less interested in revenge-in-proxy for Mary Ann and Tom/Fletcher and against Winfrey/Freemont. He should have been looking much closer to home.

 

Closing and locking the door behind him, he shoved past the regrets. For now, he would contact the lab boys, then get some decent food, then take up his post again at the hospital. It was more important to come up with a plan to get Danno’s head on straight again rather than waste his energy on remorse. Then, after Danno was back on track, they could tackle the prosecution of the Winfreys together.

 

 

 

Monday Morning

 

Hands full of breakfast for herself and Steve, May flipped on the office light switch with her elbow as she stepped into the space, still dim despite light from the morning sun diffusing into the area. Steve usually arrived before her, but she suspected that he’d detoured to the hospital – or perhaps he’d detoured home FROM the hospital, she considered. At any rate, there was no way the man would not be arriving in due course. The arrests of the Winfreys had made the front page of the morning paper, and there would be the usual fallout from high-profile arrests in addition to the standard Monday-morning issues.

 

As she started the coffee and prepared the office for the new day, she anxiously pondered Danny’s status this morning. She’d made a trip to the hospital the previous day to check in on Five-0’s second-in-command, and found herself unable to get around the no-visitors edict. A doctor she did not know seemed to be in charge of Danny’s case, and, no matter how much she cajoled, he remained adamant that it would not be in the patient’s best interest to have company. It did not seem to matter to the little Chinese man that she was ohana – this fact immediately raised her ire, and increased her wariness. To further fuel her fear, the detective’s condition was being kept a closely-guarded secret by everyone on the hospital staff. The entire disturbing incident left her concerned, not only for Williams, but for Steve as well.

 

The boss’s fondness for his second-in-command was well known amongst all members of Hawaii’s law enforcement community, but the attachment was acutely obvious to Five-0’s head secretary. She was a comfortable fixture in the office, and as such, her guys frequently let down their guard around her – not so much with their words – but with their body language, expressions, and demeanor. Even McGarrett, who many believed never slipped with a gentle word or a tear, had been caught unawares by the observant woman. She’d watched the unlikely friendship between the chief and his youngest detective blossom into a relationship that was key to both men, but for the senior member of the duo, she perceived another element at play – a previously-unacknowledged – or unrecognized – need fulfilled. Williams had become McGarrett’s trusted confidante. Whether her solitary, private boss was consciously aware that he’d been missing such an important component to a satisfying existence, she wasn’t certain, but she did strongly suspect that its presentation had come as a surprise to him. Shocked or not, when Danny was injured or incapacitated in some way, the entire Five-0 staff felt the repercussions of the loss through the ill humor of the boss (not to mention the added work load).

 

Intent on doing her part to keep the office from becoming too unpleasant in Williams’ absence, May set about making sure the head of Five-0 would have nothing to bark about when he blew into the office (not that he wouldn’t bark anyway). Thirty minutes later, she plopped down into her chair, and gave herself a quiet pat on the back – the mail was sorted, overlooked messages from the previous week were re-prioritized with the messages left with the answering service, and the boss’s cup was sitting clean by the coffee pot to await the appearance of its owner.

 

No sooner had May taken her seat, as if he’d been standing outside waiting for his secretary to complete her task, McGarrett made his usual energetic entrance. She could tell from his expression that her expectation of his mood was on target as he quickly approached her desk.

 

“Morning, boss!” May wanted to inquire about Danny, but was reluctant to start the day by opening a wound.

 

McGarrett did not leave her time to ponder. In a very atypical move, he took the seat facing her to the right of her desk before he broached the subject on his mind. “Love, I need you to do something for me –”

 

“Anything, boss,” she cocked her head and leaned slightly closer. There weren’t many things that Steve McGarrett asked of her that came out sounding like a favor instead of an order, but the man’s tone forewarned her that this was one of those cases.

 

“I need you to—to let some information slip to one of those information sieves over at HPD.” His expression was intense as he paused briefly to gauge her reaction to the request.

 

“You want me to leak something?” Her face contorted slightly in confusion – if there was one thing that would get a staff member fired from Five-0, it would be loose lips. That was something that the former Naval Intelligence officer could not abide.

 

The detective’s lip twitched slightly in a moment of amused approval at his secretary’s appalled expression. “Yeah.”

 

He proceeded to explain the circumstances surrounding Dan’s mysterious illness and associated bizarre behavior. He told her more than he wanted her to spill, but she had a right to know. May’s expression shifted from horror to anger to concern, and then, like a pendulum, back through the gamut as her boss quietly offered her the facts.

 

She touched both her hands on her cheeks and leaned back in her chair. “Why that smarmy little witch! Danny could’ve been killed! I’d love for her to prance past my desk just one more time!”

 

Another gentle grin in appreciation of the sentiment spilled from Steve before he drew her back to the point of issue at hand. “Now, it’s up to us to do a little damage control. If the rumor mill is allowed to churn freely without benefit of the truth in the mix, Danno’s reputation could suffer.”

 

“But when the truth comes out in court—”

 

“The damage will have been done, and I don’t want Danno to suffer any more than he’s already suffered.” And is suffering…  He finished the sentence silently.

 

“Well, why can’t you just hold a press conference and explain…” The thought died as she spoke, and the realization struck her. With a sigh, she nodded. “If YOU were to hold a press conference, people might suspect that you’re just trying to protect Danny!”

 

McGarrett nodded grimly. “Rumors that I was covering for Danno would spread like the—” He paused as thoughts of rats rushed into his head unbidden. “Like the plague.”

 

With a determined gleam in her eye, she looked at her boss. “You don’t mind if I take an early lunch break with the girls in Records, do you?”

 

“Be my guest,” He offered her a warm smile. “It’s good to get out of the office at lunch every now and then.”

 

 

*****

 

 

The intercom buzzed twice before McGarrett stopped scribbling on his notepad and paused long enough to stare at the offending phone. Monday morning had brought the usual raft of post-weekend issues to his IN box, including the expected administrative loose ends to be secured from the Winfrey bust. And then there was the additional burden of Danno’s nontrivial workload to prioritize, including security planning for an upcoming international peace conference that promised to be next month’s big headache for the state police.

 

 “Yes?” He mercilessly stabbed the button.

 

“Boss,” came May’s quiet voice. “The Fletchers are here to see you.”

 

Not people he wanted to necessarily see, but there was no real reason to turn them away. It was not unusual for people connected with an intense case to come by his office, but most made appointments. Most came to come to some kind of closure over the emotional experience of a crime in the family. He did not expect that of the Fletchers. Mildly surprised, he gave the go ahead for his secretary to send them in and he rose from his desk to politely meet them in the middle of the room. With any luck they would not want to stay.

 

Their previous encounters had been stormy, tense and even confrontational. When the middle-aged couple entered, he did not expect the concerned, even contrite demeanors and was surprised when Harold stepped forward and firmly shook his hand.

 

“Steve, how are you? We wanted to thank you again for the tremendous job your unit did for Mike.”

 

“We can’t thank you enough,” Megan confirmed, offering a hand that was not as strong as her husband’s, but firm and secure.

 

“Just doing our jobs. We’re happy Mike’s okay. How’s he doing?”

 

“Improving more every day,” Harold smiled. “Steve, first, I -- we -- wanted to apologize for the obstructive attitude we had at first --“

 

“When we heard you arrested the Winfreys we felt so bad,” Megan jumped in, clutching Steve’s hand in a show of how desperately she wanted to convey her feelings. “You were right all along. We should have listened to you.”

 

Again, the stab of irritation/anger/guilt that he had been right, but it seemed so useless now with the costly casualty of his second-in-command. He would rather be wrong about the whole affair and have Danno back whole and well. Mike had survived with minimal physical and mental scars, so there was at least a partial happy ending. For the victim and his family. That should be enough -- usually was -- but this time it wasn’t.

 

“We tried to drop in on Danny,” Harold was continuing. “They wouldn’t let us see him.”

 

Gratified to hear the security measures were working, Steve balked at the next comment.

 

“He’s seriously ill, isn’t he?” Megan wondered somberly.

 

Not one to parade his grief or pain before others -- certainly not strangers -- Steve hesitated. “He has some recovery ahead of him,” he tactfully opted.

 

He offered them chairs and decided it was best to level with them. They were an intricate part of the whole mess and deserved, after what they went through with Mike, to know the truth. Besides, if he didn’t offer it now, they would probably hear it from the Governor. Jameson would receive a complete report and, considering the Fletchers close friends, he would no doubt feel they were entitled to privileged knowledge.

 

Without dwelling on the horrible specifics, he did brief them on the hallucinations Dan experienced and the reasons behind the continued visions. To reinforce the seriousness of the situation, he shared his suspicion that Ranger Pete Gonzales was likely a previous and more seriously affected victim of the Winfreys. The Fletchers took this harder than he expected, but it gave him the opportunity to emphasize that Dan needed complete rest and isolation to recover from this attack.

 

To drive home how culpable he held the con couple, he told them of his suspicion that Charles had somehow re-exposed Williams to the drug, but he couldn’t prove how -- yet. During the explanation, it occurred to him that perhaps they could shed some light on a remaining mystery -- how Mike’s knife had ended up Dan’s possession.

 

Megan Fletcher gasped and turned pale in the bright light streaming in from the lanai doors. Harold looked ill himself as he grabbed his wife’s hand.

 

Her eyes pooled with tears and she faced McGarrett, but could not meet his gaze. With trembling lips, she barely whispered, “I gave him the knife.”

 

“You?” McGarrett’s eyes widened.

 

After a deep breath she explained her desperate visit to Williams and leaving the knife with him. It was supposed to help him with the visions, as it had Darlene. She rubbed her hands, as if trying to remove the feel of the cursed object, and offered that Darlene’s cloying hand cream had been all over the knife and she had not even bothered to wipe it clean before forcing the detective to keep it.

 

Harold urged his wife to her feet and both apologized several times on their way to the door. Now, Megan was openly weeping and she left without much more than a muttered good-bye. Harold stopped at the door and emphasized that if there was anything -- anything -- they could do to help, McGarrett need only ask. It would take more than money and influence to get Danno back on his feet, and that was the uppermost wish on his mind. But he did give a warning.

 

“The Winfreys have hired a top-notch, pricey lawyer from Texas. They have friends in very high places – one of their rich, former victims who doesn’t know the wool was pulled over their eyes, I suspect. We may have a tough time in court.”

 

Harold gave him a nod and a cool smile. Steve imagined it was usually saved for the most icy business transactions. “You have friends in very high places, too, Steve. And all the money we’ll need.”

 

When Steve closed the door, he felt better for the encounter. The interview alleviated one of his concerns – that there might be any other substance or object left with DMT in Dan’s apartment. It also made him a little less defensive about the Winfreys and their powerful attorney. He also had friends in high places. Yes, this thoroughly rotten experience had brought new and interesting allies to the Five-0 side. His estimation of the Fletchers elevated, and he knew their support would be quietly visible through the Governor and the Attorney General, Stuart.

 

Of course, he mused as he returned to his desk, all the support in the world wouldn’t help him in the near-term. If he couldn’t produce enough court-hardy evidence before the bail hearing on Thursday to keep the Winfreys behind bars, McGarrett knew the crooks would be released on their own recognizance. Translate “released on their own recognizance” – free to skip the country. For people who knew they would eventually be incriminated, THAT was the benefit of an expensive attorney. He was certain Danno would be able to finger Charles as the one who’d delivered the overdose to him. The problem, of course, was that his friend was in no condition to speak intelligently on the subject – or any subject – to anyone, let alone in a courtroom.

 

 

Monday Late Afternoon

 

“What! Now? You can’t do that!” Chin and May exchanged wary glances as their boss’ voice washed like a flash flood through the kilter door.

 

“It’s that Doctor Chang at the hospital on line one.” In a near-whisper, May identified of the target of McGarrett’s wrath.

 

“I’m on my way!” The sound of the phone handset’s harsh landing on the switch hook alerted the two people just outside his door to the fact that they might want to clear the path.

 

It wasn’t four seconds later that a volcanic McGarrett, eyes narrowed and focused on a speedy exodus, breezed past May’s desk, muttering through grit teeth. “Think they know everything…”

 

“Is Danny okay, boss?” The Chinese detective inquired of the chief’s back as it rapidly receded towards the door.

 

“They’re moving him!” Steve spat with disgust over his shoulder as he yanked the door open to leave.

 

 

*****

 

 

McGarrett bound up the steps to the second floor and trotted down the hallway toward Williams’ room. He slowed his gait as he rounded the corner and saw Doctors Chang and Bergman just outside their patient’s door. Knowing a battle was about to ensue, Bergman stepped forward a few paces as soon as he spotted the irate man heading toward them.

 

“Steve! First, hear us out – then you decide!”

 

The doctor hoped the proposal would at least allow them the opportunity to present their case. Explosive anger subsiding marginally with the understanding that the decision would be his, the detective allowed the two men to lead him into the room across the hall, but it was McGarrett who spoke first as soon as the door closed behind them. With a dagger-like glance at the Chinese physician, he launched his quiet, but intense argument into the face of the medical examiner.

 

“Doc, time spent in a psych unit for ANY reason would go into Danno’s permanent record! Some lowlife attorney could bring this out in court and discredit his testimony – he could have trouble maintaining security clearances –and God knows what else would go wrong if anyone in the press got a hold of the information!”

 

Prepared to speak the second there was an opening, Bergman fired back quickly. “I understand what you’re saying, and I think we can work this out so that none of that can happen AND at the same time make Danny more comfortable over the next few weeks. Now, will you hear us out?”

 

McGarrett’s jaw remained clenched as he eyed the two medical men, who both stood before him unmoving as if holding their breath in wait of his reply. After several seconds, he sighed and crossed his arms. “I’m listening.”

 

Doctor Chang relaxed visibly while Bergman, knowing too well the impatience of the head of the state police, did not take the luxury of a reflective pause before he pushed on with his explanation. “The course of recovery from a DMT overdose is cyclical. Symptoms will come and go to varying degrees. This means that Danny might have a hallucinogenic bout one day, and then be merely irritable and headachy the next. There is no way to predict which symptoms will rear their ugly heads at any given moment, so we must be prepared at all times for the worst case – namely, that he tries to hurt himself or someone else. Of course, that means that – in his current situation – Danny will have to remain in restraints, unable to so much as scratch his nose, confined to that bed—” The doctor forcefully stabbed his finger in the direction of the patient’s room. “Until the blood tests reflect diminishing levels of DMT.”

 

As he spoke, the older man’s face grew almost bitter with pity for the young detective, and McGarrett felt his own countenance twisting in kind at the thought of his friend’s misery. But there was hope – the two medical men clearly had a plan to minimize Danno’s suffering over the next few weeks. “Okay, Doc – what do you propose?”

 

A smile flickered across Bergman’s face with the small victory. “We officially leave Danny assigned to his current room, but we move him into one of the—” He steeled himself for a reaction as he continued. “Lock-ups just twenty five yards down the hallway.” Oddly, the word lock-up did not seem to phase the detective – a common police-type word, the physician decided in passing, but McGarrett’s frown did intensify slightly.

 

“Twenty five yards into the psych ward.”

 

Bergman nodded, and Rick Chang, comfortable that his colleague had adequately paved the way for him to safely opine, took a half step towards the much taller figure. “Danny will be much more comfortable there – he’ll have free run of the room unless he’s having an episode. He’ll be able to read, to feed himself, to sleep as he sees fit. And the staff in that unit is much better equipped to manage patient unpredictability.”

 

Both doctors could see that the officer was being swayed. Not wanting to lose the advantage, Bergman added some thoughts. “Something else to consider under the heading of discretion. You know there’s already a no-visitors order in place, but that kind of edict is very difficult to enforce unless there’s an armed guard at the door every moment. The fact that Danny’s a pretty popular guy at HPD is a two-edged sword in this case – what buddy standing outside a brother officer’s room wouldn’t poke his head in to pay his respects? Or perhaps allow another officer to stop in for a few minutes – after all they’re all ohana in blue, no?”

 

McGarrett nodded slowly as he recognized the reality of the older man’s words.

 

The Chinese doctor added, “With Danny secured in the psych unit, there will be no need for his friends to stand guard. It offers an additional advantage in that regard – no patient may have a visitor who is not explicitly named on their visitation sheet.”

 

“In other words – me and thee and he!” Bergman smiled slightly and jerked his head in Chang’s direction.

 

McGarrett slowly dropped his confrontational posture and let his hand slide to the back of his neck for a moment. They were right – on all counts. Danno would be safe from even well-meaning, but prying eyes, and he would be more comfortable. With a sigh, he nodded. “Okay, you’ve convinced me. When do we do it?”

 

The two doctors nodded once at each other in silent applause at the successful team effort in winning over the detective before Bergman snapped briskly. “How ‘bout now?”

 

McGarrett offered no further comment on the subject, and responded by leading the men out of the impromptu conference room, across the hall, and into the room where he’d not been since early that morning.

 

The head of Five-0 had gone home to sleep the night before, with Bergman’s promise that Williams would sleep through the night. He’d returned early in the morning though, hope triumphing over expectation that his friend might awaken to speak with and reassure him before duty dragged him to the office to mind the store. It was a selfish reason to pay a visit – Steve knew it, but somehow didn’t think Danno would mind – not that the head of Five-0 had any intention of ever bringing up the touchy-feely subject with his second.

 

Upon his arrival at the patient’s door, he’d been greeted with the news that Williams had awakened a few minutes earlier and grown agitated – the resident on duty followed the standing order attached to the patient’s chart and quickly administered another round of sedating medication. Furious at himself for not being here when his friend awakened, he’d remained alone in the room, trying to find some comfort in the rhythmic rise and fall of Dan’s chest. Whatever medicine they’d given him made him sleep like the dead, McGarrett mused before he finally rose to implement Operation Loose Lips.

 

Now, he approached his friend’s bedside quietly. The heart monitor had been turned off, so the room was free of all but the occasional ambient sound from the hallway. He did not notice the physicians hanging back as he focused on the young man secured to the bed. Williams’ head was half buried in the pillow, and his eyes were tightly closed. The skin just above and below the restraints on both arms and legs was chafed – the patient had apparently struggled to free himself at least once.

 

“Danno?” He began softly.

 

Dan’s own name startled him and he took in a sharp breath, but did not move or react otherwise, except perhaps to burrow his face a little deeper in the pillow.

 

Fighting the natural inclination to speak gently in the hospital environment, McGarrett decided to use the tone his detective knew so well as he continued.

 

“Danno, there’s no need to be afraid. Do you understand what I’m telling you?” There was hesitation as Williams appeared to digest what he’d just heard. McGarrett asked again.

 

“Danno, answer me – do you understand that there is nothing in this room that will hurt you?

 

This time, McGarrett was rewarded as Dan shook his head, and almost croaked a response. “Rats.. big rats…”

 

With a disturbed glance back at the Bergman and Chang, he shook his head. “There are no rats here. No big rats, no small rats – I’m standing here by your bed, and Doc Bergman and Doctor Chang are standing not too far behind me. Do you understand?”

 

Williams nodded, but kept his eyes closed. When Steve offered a gentle touch on his arm, the younger man recoiled.

 

“They’re not gone!  I can feel their claws,” he rasped.

 

McGarrett removed his hand, aghast – despite the warnings from Chang – that his friend still seemed to be in the throes of the drug’s hallucinogenic influence. “Danno, it’s okay. There are no rats. Have you opened your eyes to look?”

 

The head shook in fervent refusal.

 

“Open your eyes, Danno.” The order came again and was again refused.  With a huff of impatience, Steve stared at his friend and tried to edge off of his persistent and adamant attitude. “Danno, there are NO rats – no creatures of any kind! You wanna know why? Because I made them leave!”

 

Dan, eyes still closed, slowly turned his head toward McGarrett’s voice, but remained silent.

 

A little more forcefully, the head of Five-0 restated, “They are gone! I would not let them stay. You trust me, don’t you?”

 

The curly-haired head nodded. “You made them leave?”

 

“I did.”

 

A hint of a thin smile curved the corner of Williams’ lips. “They wouldn’t dare stay then.”

 

It was a triumph -- just the tone of conviction in Danno’s voice – for McGarrett, and he had to spare a moment to beam at Bergman and Chang. The medical examiner surrendered a wry grin, but the Chinese doctor, while offering a half smile of encouragement, seemed a little surprised and not quite prepared to rejoice in the patient’s progress.

 

“Open your eyes.”

 

The eyes blinked open and Dan immediately winced, but made a valiant effort at keeping eye contact with his boss. Just to reassure his friend, Steve quietly promised he was not a rat, no matter what Dan thought he might be seeing. He gave a quick and easy explanation of the drugs and the recap that the Winfreys had drugged him. Most of it went over the patient’s head, but Danno bravely kept his eyes open, as if daring the creatures to defy McGarrett. Pleased, Steve showed Dan his hand then placed it on Dan’s arm. The recoil was slight, but the tight expression and wide eyes spoke that words alone could not overcome the drug’s effects.

 

“It’s my hand,” Steve insisted.

 

Dan closed his eyes again. “Okay,” he whispered.

 

Steve withdrew his touch, irritated his influence was not enough to completely overcome the visions.

 

After a moment of thought, Williams frowned. “Why can’t I move? Am I in restraints?”

 

“Yes, but only temporarily. You were -- uh --“ Steve didn’t know how to break it to him.

 

“Dangerous?” came the trembling whisper. “I’m surprised you didn’t lock me in a padded cell.”  Another frown, deeper and more disconcerting. “Am I in a padded cell?”

 

“No…” Steve suppressed the urge to vehemently deny that Danno needed to be in a padded cell. He suddenly dreaded breaking the news to his friend that they were moving him to the lock-up. “You’re not crazy. The drug made you feel and see things that weren’t there.”

 

“Isn’t that crazy?”

 

“I explained it, remember?” Steve countered firmly. “It’s the drug. You’re gonna be fine, but it takes time for the drug to get out of your system.”

 

Eyes still closed, Williams twisted his wrists slightly in weak balk at the restraints, and took on an air of dejection. “How long do I have to stay—this way?”

 

His heart went out to Dan, unable to make even minor physical adjustments for the sake of comfort. Fortunately, the unhappy question was the perfect opening for McGarrett to introduce the plan. “Not for another minute – if you can have a little faith in me.”

 

The patient had obviously not been expecting good news – or what appeared to be good news on the surface. After only a few moments of digestion, he reacted with interest. “I have faith.”

 

The older detective leaned onto the railing of the bed and spoke a little more softly. “You say you have faith, Danno. Then when I tell you that I’m going to put my hand on your arm, you have to know, to believe that it’s my hand – no matter what it feels like – no matter what it looks like. Okay?”

 

Dan’s brow furled as he nodded slightly and agreed. “Okay, Steve.”

 

The doctors, both deeply interested in the exchange playing out before them, shuffled a little closer to the scene as McGarrett placed his hand on Williams’ arm and emphatically reinforced the image he wanted his friend to see. “It’s my hand on your arm, and you can take that to the bank!”

 

The young man took in a single, shallow breath, and held it as he considered the sensation. Several seconds later, he spoke with obvious hesitation as he confirmed his belief. “It’s your hand – I know it’s your hand.”

 

Steve, pleased and excited at the progress, lightly squeezed the arm in his grip. “Yes! Now when you open your eyes, doesn’t it make sense that it will be me standing here next to you?”

 

Another nod came from Dan before he squeezed his eyes tightly shut and inhaled deeply. Braced, he slowly lifted his eye lids, and looked into the eyes of man leaning over him. Williams studied the face for a few seconds before he released a long, slow breath.

 

In a very Danno move, the young man briefly sucked in his lower lip before he returned it to the air and spoke. “It must be after lunch – you need a shave.”

 

McGarrett’s delight at the humor that was so typical of his friend was almost not contained. He burst into a gentle chuckle. “Good deduction – it’s almost dinner time!”

 

A wan smile slipped onto the younger detective’s face as he watched his mentor’s pleased reaction.

 

Still smiling, McGarrett held up his other hand. “Do you know what this is?”

 

Dan’s lip twitched at the question. “Your other hand?”

 

The head of Five-0 grinned, and threw a satisfied glance back at the medical people. “Yeah, Danno, yeah.”

 

“Eyes… nose… ear… How am I doing?” The patient asked seriously.

 

McGarrett knew that his friend was poking fun at his remedial approach to the mental checkup, and he grinned broadly. “You forgot mouth!” Now it was the older detective’s turn to slowly fill his lungs with air and breathe out in preparation to go to the next level. “Onward and upward. I’m going to remove your restraints—” The detective could feel some dissension from the shuffling figures behind him, but he ignored it. “BUT I need to explain how this is going to work.”

 

There was no doubt in McGarrett’s mind that he had the complete attention of the young man in the bed. Dan nodded as he whispered. “Okay.”

 

Steve proceeded to carefully outline the plan to move Dan down the hallway, and the very good reasons for it. He did not delve too deeply into the visitor control issue – instead, he chose to focus on the increased comfort and freedom that Williams would be afforded in the lock-up.

 

Dan listened intently, and absentmindedly pulled against the bonds that were obviously growing more uncomfortable. As McGarrett wrapped up the explanation of terms for the patient’s release from bed confinement, Williams reflected for a few moments before he confirmed the deal.

 

“So, I’ll be locked up in the nut wing until the drug is gone from my blood, but I won’t be cuffed to a bed?”

 

Williams’ un-euphemistic description of the scenario didn’t sound quite as— as palatable as the picture his boss had tried to paint, but it was accurate. McGarrett responded candidly without blinking. “Yeah, Danno – that’s the deal. Are you game?”

 

For the first time since he’d regained consciousness, Dan showed a little strategic concern for himself. “I’m gonna be all right, aren’t I, Steve?”

 

The head of Five-0 smiled confidently. “You’re gonna be fine. I even paid for an expert on this drug to fly in from New York to check you out. He’s a friend of Che Fong’s – his name is Doctor Rick Chang – and he’s confident you’ll recover with no long-term effects.”

 

With the encouraging words, Dan smiled slightly, and nodded. “I’m game, Steve.”

 

McGarrett nodded back, and began to focus on the logistics of releasing his friend from the horizontal prison. Immediately realizing that medical assistance would be required to completely disentangle Williams, he prepared the patient.

 

“Good, Danno. Now, you’ve got some tubes and wires dangling here. Doc Bergman is standing right behind me – he’s going to help me get you ready to take a walk.”

 

Dan nodded, and did not seem overly concerned as the physician took his queue and approached the bed. He shot an I-hope-you-know-what-you’re-doing look towards McGarrett, who pointedly ignored the expression and set about unbuckling the restraints.

 

As Bergman came around the foot of the bed, he offered a gentle greeting. “Hi, Danny.”

 

“Doc, how ya doin’?”

 

“Oh, my back’s been bothering me a little, but other than that I can’t complain.” The doctor grinned, a little relieved that his patient did not react in horror to his presence. “I’m gonna pull your lines here, so that Steve can— can walk you down the hall.”

 

“Sure, Doc, thanks,” Dan offered the man half of a crooked grin.

 

Bergman expertly pulled the tubes and removed the EKG contacts from the detective as he casually studied the man’s general appearance. His face was gaunt, cheeks beginning to hollow, and, despite an abundance of sleep, there were dark rings under the blue eyes which calmly observed the two men on either side of the bed disengaging him.

 

The relief at being able to move was immediately obvious in Dan’s face as he groaned slightly, stretched his back, and flexed his hands and feet. McGarrett helped him to a sitting position and Bergman adjusted the bed to support him.

 

“Danny, this is Doctor Chang,” The medical examiner nodded in the direction of the Chinese man, who promptly came to Dan’s bedside and offered his hand.

 

Williams accepted the introduction pleasantly. “Hi, Doc. Mahalo for coming.”

 

“You’re very welcome, Danny. How do feel?”

 

Chang deliberately did not let go of the patient’s hand after the shake. Dan did not comment on it if he noticed – instead he seemed to be mulling over the answer to the doctor’s question. He swallowed and then frowned slightly in concentration before he looked back up to meet the physician’s dark eyes.

 

“A little faint actually, Doc.” Williams responded as leaned his head back on the pillow as closed his eyes.

 

Bergman let a humph escape as moved to the phone. “It’s been at least three days since your last solid meal. Anybody would be faint.” He quickly placed a call to a hospital extension and issued a command. “Doris – bring a patient tray to two three six stat – yes, I said two three six! I’ll meet you at the door!” 

 

Doctor Chang checked Dan’s pupils, pulse, and heart rate while the patient was amenable to being touched. McGarrett stepped back to allow the physician better access, but hovered nearby to make sure his friend had a direct line of sight to him. Within minutes, there was a tap on the door, and Bergman poked his head outside the room and snatched a covered, cafeteria-style tray from a pair of hands.

 

“Danny, before you stand, I think it would be a good idea for you to eat something.”

 

McGarrett retrieved a table rest that had been in disuse by the room’s current guest, and Bergman pulled back the foil as he settled the tray before Williams. “Here we go – it’s not gourmet, but it’ll put a few calories into you.”

 

Dan blinked and took a few breaths before he looked down at the tray which had been placed twelve inches from his chest. He gasped and looked uncertainly at McGarrett.

 

Steve read a mix of fear and disgust on the young man’s face, and could almost sense his friend’s pulse rate rising. He stepped closer to examine the tray which held a moist-looking ham sandwich on snow-white bread, four carrot sticks, an innocuous, if unremarkable cup of fruit cocktail, and a small can of apple juice – probably not the meal a condemned man would select, but nothing frightening.

 

“What’s wrong, Danny?” Bergman demanded to know gently.

 

Williams slowly dropped his eyes from his boss to the tray again and swallowed with distaste. “Get it away from me!” He pulled his hands up to his chest and pushed himself a far back as the bed would allow him to go.

 

“You need to eat! How ‘bout a carrot stick!” The older doctor pushed as he reached onto the tray and started to collect one of the orange vegetables.

 

Without warning, Dan knocked the tray away forcefully, sending it and its contents careening onto the floor. “No! Get it away!”

 

He began to pant again as he closed his eye tightly and press his head backward onto the pillow. Galvanized by the rapid change in the patient’s demeanor, Chang pulled a hypodermic from his pocket and was obviously waiting for an opportunity to use it. McGarrett, desperately wanting to avoid plunging Williams into another several hours of involuntary unconsciousness, stepped forward quickly, and violently motioned for the physicians to back off.

 

To see Williams regress so dramatically was frightening, but this time, Steve had a sense that he could see what was going on in his friend’s head. “Danno! Why won’t you eat?”

 

“Can’t.”
“Danno, are you afraid to eat because of what might be in the food? What you think you see?”

 

Williams emphatically nodded his head.

 

The naissance of an idea rapidly growing in his head, the chief of Five-0 quickly pulled Bergman to the door, emptied his pocket of change, handed it to the doc, and quietly issued orders. The older man balked, but McGarrett was insistent, and nearly pushed the medico from the room before he returned to the bedside.

 

“Danno.”  He placed a hand on Dan’s wrist. Ignoring the tensing of his friend, he softly explained, “Doc is bringing something special for you to eat. I promise it will be safe. Do you trust me?”

 

“Yes,” Williams gulped, his eyes still closed.

 

Bergman returned and, obeying Steve’s silent motions, handed a candy bar to the senior officer, who in turn pushed it into Dan’s hand.

 

“Almond Joy,” he explained. “Still in the wrapper – trust me.”

 

With a nod, Williams sat up and tentatively ripped open the wrapper, then took a bite of one piece of the two-chunks in his hand. While he chewed with slow suspicion, McGarrett narrated what he was tasting -- the rich milk chocolate, the savory coconut, the hard and tasty almond.

 

“Not as good as chocolate covered mac nuts, but it was the best in the machine,” he offered with a smile. “Is it okay?”

 

Mmm, great,” Dan relished.

 

After the candy was finished, McGarrett leaned his hands on the bed, hovering close to allow his presence to be felt. “You want to open your eyes now and maybe take a walk down the hall?”

 

Another nod confirmed his willingness to take the risk.

 

The faith -- the trust he had requested had been blindly (literally) accepted by Williams. It was humbling and thrilling for McGarrett to witness.

 

Cautiously, Dan squinted open his eyes. When he looked at McGarrett, he sighed with relief. He seemed careful not to look around too much, and did not do more than give a side-ways flash-glance in the direction of the two amazed physicians. His eyes held Steve’s.

 

“Doing okay?” Steve smiled, his heart soaring with Dan’s infinitesimal step into jeopardy – to a huge milestone of bravery – raw courage – into previously horrific territory. “I think you’re doing great.”

 

Dan smiled, the pale, colorless face warming from wan fear to a measure of satisfaction. “Okay.”

 

Steve patted him on the shoulder. They really were going to get out of this all right, he inwardly sighed, not sure he believed it completely until now. No, that wasn’t true. He had always believed in Danno. And Danno had believed in him. McGarrett didn’t need a sixth or seventh sense to know that – all he needed was knowing Danno.

 

 

 

Monday Evening

 

“Two steps forward, one step back is still progress, Steve.” Bergman grabbed the detective’s arm gently in support.

 

“Yeah, Doc.” McGarrett tiredly paid lips service to what he knew to be the truth. “But the two steps forward don’t make it any easier to watch the one step back.”

 

The short walk from room two three six to his new accommodations had taken a lot out of Williams. Still battling terrifying hallucinations with his only weapons being shear will power and trust in his mentor to guide him, the young detective was drenched in sweat and shaking by the time he dropped onto the bed.

 

 McGarrett took a quick survey of the windowless room, which was actually insulated with some sort of light, cushy vinyl material. Padded… McGarrett noted. The door was solid except for a small mirror-like square at eye level – the detective knew it was there so staff members could check on patients as they saw fit. There was a shower and toilet not in a separate room, but discretely positioned between two barrier walls. Interestingly, it appeared to the senior detective that the necessary room could be gated off so that it was not available for use. Apparently, not all guests were allowed access to the facilities. There was no phone – only a call button within arm’s reach of the bed, which was bolted to the floor. A table and two chairs were secured equally well to their respective positions. And it appeared that the overhead lights were controlled from someplace outside the room.

 

McGarrett found the room stifling and depressing, and knew his friend would feel the same way. The other little piece of information that made the room less appealing to the detective was that visiting hours were strictly enforced, and so he would not be allowed in the unit between nine o’clock PM and nine o’clock AM. The very thought that anyone could prevent him from offering whatever support his friend might need – whenever he needed it – was frustration beyond comprehension.

 

Dan had been generally listless and dozed on and off since the transfer, and as the witching hour drew nigh, Steve approached his friend and asked if he would like to be brought anything in the morning. Williams opened one eye to his boss and let a smile flicker across his gaunt features. The answer – candy bars. McGarrett promised a selection of pre-wrapped confections would be in his pocket when next the two met.   

 

Now, Chang, Bergman, and McGarrett sat in the doctor’s lounge down the hall from the psych unit. They’d split what was left of the coffee three ways, and spoke as they sipped the bitter brew.

 

“Gentlemen, I’ve worked with drug-induced, hallucinogenic patients for numerous years now, and I can only tell you that NEVER have I seen someone talked out of their hallucinations enough to function. Truly amazing.”

 

“Will Danno remember what happened to him?”

 

The detective was not interested in what would amaze the medical community. The regret at leaving, being forced to leave, his friend in the bleak, windowless lock-up weighed too heavily on his mind. If there were any other option, Danno…

 

Chang stretched and yawned. “Probably – they usually do. That said, we don’t have a wealth of good documentation on DMT-specific overdoses.”

 

“He’s gonna be okay.” McGarrett stood and stretched himself before he looked the expert in the eye. “And if you think the medical community will be amazed now, just wait and see what happens next.”

 

 

 

Tuesday Morning

 

McGarrett pressed the buzzer on the outer door to the psych wing for a second time and impatiently shot a third glance at his watch in as many minutes – nine o’clock on the dot. He’d promised Danno that he would return first thing in the morning, but he was unaccustomed to being forced to wait until regular visiting hours commenced – this little detail put a wrench into the works as he had a nine thirty appointment with the Attorney General and the Winfreys’ attorney. Well acquainted with the absurd games played by jurisprudence professionals, he fully expected the counsel for the defense to, first, demand that the charges be dropped. Then, when the prosecution refused on the grounds of the evidence, the demand would shift to a negotiation for terms of bail. Of course, McGarrett would do everything within his power to keep the Winfreys held without bail.

 

This brought him to the second reason he needed to see his second-in-command before the meeting – he had to be certain that Danno remembered what happened to him on Saturday morning. If he didn’t, then it was distinctly possible that the Winfreys might actually have bail set at the Thursday hearing. The thought infuriated McGarrett – Danno, an innocent victim -- was a prisoner while the vile vermin who harmed him would pay the piper and scurry into the woodwork. No – he would not consider that as a possibility again. Bail was just not an option in this case.

 

To that end, he angrily poked the buzzer again, concurrent with the opening of the door. A thick, surly nurse exchanged a scowl with him as he brushed past her and strode quickly to Williams’ room, noting with mild disappointment the untouched breakfast tray on the floor outside the room.

 

Refusing to use the peep hole on ethical grounds, he tapped on the door and entered cautiously. The lights were on, giving the room a clinical, incandescent glow. His eye was first drawn to the empty bed, but a moment later, he saw the patient sitting, pressed into the corner of the room, and apparently dozing.

 

“Danno?”

 

Instantly disheartened, the detective walked to the corner of the room and squatted a couple of feet in front of his friend. Now wearing green surgical scrubs, Williams was freshly showered, ringlets of hair still damp. McGarrett wondered whether he’d had help, but didn’t see any indications one way or the other anywhere in the room. The head of Five-0 suspected he knew why the man was sitting Indian style, with his back to the wall – it made him regret that he had to hurry their meeting this morning.

 

“Danno?” This time he placed a hand on Williams’ shoulder.

 

Dan stirred and looked up slowly.

 

“Good morning, my friend.” McGarrett grinned.

 

“Steve.” Dan intoned quietly. The young man looked as exhausted as he had yesterday, but at least he was calm.

 

“Am I too late to offer you breakfast?” The head of Five-0 pulled three candy bars from his pocket, and held them up in a fan.

 

“Uh, no. I thought I’d wait around for you.” Williams offered with a half smile. He looked cautiously around the room for a few moments before McGarrett reassured him that they were completely alone.

 

“You’re all showered up – it’s a shame to waste a clean cop on the floor. Why don’t we get you up on the bed to eat?”

 

Dan didn’t argue as his boss rose and pulled him to his feet, and held onto his arm until the detective was situated atop the blanket.

 

“Eat! They’re all three tightly wrapped!”

 

McGarrett placed the candy in his friend’s hand, and noticed with passing interest that Williams slowly and deliberately unwrapped the Almond Joy – the same type of candy bar that he’d eaten the previous day. As his friend slowly chewed, the head of Five-0 mentioned that he could not stay but a couple more minutes and spoke briefly of the upcoming meeting.

 

“Danno, I’m sorry to bring this up so soon, but do you remember what happened on Saturday morning, after I dropped you off at your place?”

 

The younger detective continued chewing as he frowned slightly. “Ono came by…” He swallowed and closed his eyes as memories pushed into the forefront of his thoughts. They… they were there…”

 

Realizing that the memory of the attack might be too fresh, he grew concerned that he should have considered the topic kapu until Williams was free of the drug’s influence.

 

“Danno…”

 

“And then Winfrey knocked…”

 

The name was like an electric shock to McGarrett. “Charles Winfrey came to your apartment?”

 

Dan nodded and looked troubled at the recollection. “He grabbed my arm – he had something cold and greasy on his hands… I… He… He said he wanted to help me… help me escape… from them…” Williams looked up to meet his boss’s concerned gaze. “He told me the only way to be free was to fly away.”

 

McGarrett’s eyes narrowed as he envisioned Winfrey’s assault on his fresh-from-the-hospital detective. The good news was that Danno would ultimately be able to testify. The older detective focused his attention on Williams -- they might be cutting it a little tight if his testimony would be required at the bail hearing – Danno needed some recovery time. He glanced down at his watch – nine fifteen. Gently grasping his friend by the back of his neck, he spoke softly, but emphatically. “I’ve got to meet with Stuart and the Winfrey’s attorney at nine thirty, but I’ll be back after bit.”

 

Dan barely reacted despite the fact that he was looking right at his boss. McGarrett lightly squeezed Williams’ neck. “Do you understand?”

 

This time, Dan offered a tentative smile. “Right… nine thirty meeting.”

 

Satisfied with the answer – rather not satisfied, but having no choice -- McGarrett hurried to the door and pressed the buzzer to be released. He didn’t wait but a second before the door opened – unfortunately, he made the mistake of glancing over his shoulder at his friend as he slipped out. He couldn’t shake the image of his friend sitting there on the bed. His expression and body language reflected fear, and it made Steve question his priorities as he trotted to his car. By the time, he parked his car in front of the HPD facility, he’d convinced himself that Danno would not want him to risk letting the Winfreys jump ship before they could be brought to justice.

 

 

*****

 

 

“Walter, did you hear anything I said in that meeting? Can you grasp the scope of these people’s activities? You do understand that if the Winfreys make bail, there will be no trial?”

 

McGarrett kicked a chair across the Spartan briefing room. Its crash into the wall made the Attorney General jump slightly, but he continued collecting documents from the table and returning them to his brief case.

 

Shaking his head, he didn’t look up from his task. “Steve, what would you have me do? Rayburn’s right – his clients have the legal right to a bail hearing—”

 

“But can’t it wait until the star witness has recovered from the suspects’ attempt on his life? Within the next two weeks, I’ll have evidence of enough Federal offenses to put the Winfreys away for life!”

 

Stuart slammed the brief case shut and spun angrily to face the detective. “I filed a complaint and had a warrant for their arrest issued SOLELY on YOUR word, Steve. I am THAT confident that you’ll have what we need for a trial, BUT I CANNOT press a judge to refuse the defendants a bail hearing ESPECIALLY without the ability to show one piece of evidence that will hold up in court!”

 

“Why is it so difficult to understand that these scum bags are flight risks?” McGarrett hissed through clenched teeth.

 

“All we need is for Danny to get up on the stand and state that Charles Winfrey accosted him with the—the whatever-it-is and tried to get him to jump off his lanai. THAT, in conjunction with the testimony of your medical expert, will be enough for the judge to deny bail!”

 

The Attorney General snatched his case from the table and stormed toward the door, and McGarrett quickly moved around the table to block the man’s exodus.

 

“But WHY can’t you explain the special circumstance to the judge? I’m concerned that Danno won’t be together enough by the day after tomorrow – and it looked to me by the smug expressions on the Winfreys’ faces that they don’t think he will be.”

 

Stuart explained as he placed his hand on the door knob, but did not turn it. “Even IF the judge would hear me out on a request like this, and then actually push back the date for the hearing, Rayburn is an experienced litigator – he’d have a field day with Danny in court over this! Can’t you just hear the innuendo that would leak into the press from the defense camp? Star witness on hallucinogenic drugs! Hawaii Five-0 Second-In-Command Attempts Suicide!”

 

The graphic picture painted by the Attorney General, with his many years of experience with the court system, suddenly appeared as an appalling, but very real possibility to the chief of Five-0. Unable to refute the scenario, McGarrett froze for several seconds, a snapshot of rage personified. Finally, he backed away from the door, and took a few breaths to try to force a façade of calm.

 

The shorter, balding man cautiously eyed the officer for only a couple more seconds before he concluded the meeting with an instruction. “If I don’t hear from you, I’ll assume Williams will be at the hearing on time on Thursday morning. I’m sorry, Steve.”

 

McGarrett watched the door close and then continued to stand there staring at the space the Attorney General had just vacated. So there it was – the choice. If Danno didn’t testify at the hearing, the Winfreys would walk. If he testified, he would convince the judge his story is credible – either because he sounded sane OR because he sounded like a person who’d been drugged. He could not envision a judge who would grant bail after hearing what his detective had to say. 

 

Thursday morning… Forty six hours… He knew Danno remembered what happened – he’d been able to offer a coherent report of the incident just this morning… With a little rehearsal, perhaps his officer would be able to pull it off. He wouldn’t be on the stand more than a few minutes. The more he considered it, the more feasible the idea sounded. And the prospect of watching the expressions on the faces of the defendants as Williams took the stand drew a thin smile onto the detective’s face. As he righted the toppled chair, his smile vanished. It would be a tough couple of days for Williams. Either way, the victim would pay.

 

 

 

Tuesday Early Evening

 

“Mr. McGarrett!”         “Mr. McGarrett!”

“Mr. McGarrett!”

 

“Mr. McGarrett! Can you confirm the rumor that a suspect in one of your active cases slipped Danny a hallucinogenic drug?”

 

The shouts started abruptly as the head of Five-0 emerged from the Palace. He’d intended to get back to the hospital long before now, but without his right-hand man in the office, the work day was even more arduous and complicated than usual. Dan had been working on several cases and handling various administrative issues about which Steve had only peripheral knowledge. Hoping Williams would be up to answering a few questions, he jotted down several questions in his notebook to take with him on his visit to the psych unit.

 

Not normally inclined to stop when spontaneously accosted by a flock of reporters, the detective knew this time would be an exception. He was instantly pleased that May’s innocent, chatty lunch date was bearing fruit, but his outward countenance registered only mild surprise and annoyance – to have revealed anything else at that moment would have been very suspicious to any reporter who’d covered Five-0-related stories before. Now, it was time to execute phase two of Operation Loose Lips. He frowned at the thin man who’d loudly posed the question.

 

“Where did you hear that?”

 

“Just an anonymous source, sir. We know that Danny was hospitalized on Saturday. Are we talking injury in the line of duty?”

 

McGarrett sighed and looked down for a few moments as if pondering what he should reveal. Finally, after what he considered to be the appropriate hesitation, he looked up and made a point of making eye contact with each of the four people standing before him now.

 

“Detective Williams was hospitalized on Saturday as a result of an exposure to an illegal hallucinogenic drug, which played a role in a current case. The exposure was deliberate and pre-meditated and occurred unbeknownst to the victim.” The chief of the state police wanted the press to absorb the fact that Danno had not been a willing participant his fate, and so chose his words carefully.

 

“Which case?”           “What case?”

            “Which case?”

“Which case?”

 

“My office will issue a statement shortly, but I will tell you that charges for this deadly assault have been filed with the Attorney General’s office.”

 

Satisfied that he’d laid the appropriate groundwork, he brushed past the reporters and briskly continued towards his car, ignoring the continued loud behests for more information.

 

 

*****

 

“I strongly recommend against this, Mr. McGarrett! I just picked up today’s report from Che Fong and Danny’s blood levels of DMT are still too high to make his behavior predictable.” Rick Chang was emphatic in his opinion, but the detective standing there was not swayed.

 

“We’ve still got thirty six hours, Doc – let’s just see how it goes.”

 

Both Bergman and Chang, having just been informed of McGarrett’s decision to prepare Dan to testify at the hearing looked at each other. They were in agreement that their patient would need more time to recuperate. Knowing he was better equipped to deal with the force of will with which they found themselves confronted, the medical examiner stepped in to pinch hit for his visiting associate.

 

“Sure, Steve, but you need to have an alternative plan in your back pocket. You might be able to keep him focused enough to make it to court, but your case will be balanced on a house of cards.”

 

“I’ve got to try, not just to make sure the Winfreys are brought to justice, but for Danno’s sake!” The detective countered a little less emphatically as he turned away from the two men.

 

The door to the doctor’s lounge pushed open, and a nurse entered to hand Bergman a clipboard. “He didn’t eat anything from his trays today, Doctor. Perhaps, he just wasn’t hungry.” The woman shot a disapproving glance in the detective’s direction as she poked what appeared to be candy bar wrappers into the physician’s hand.

 

McGarrett stared at her unapologetically, knowing full-well that his friend would’ve eaten nothing at all had the candy bars not been presented to him.

 

The medical examiner grunted as he pulled his glasses from a pocket and perched them on the end of his nose to review the chart. “Other than a lack of appetite, how was he today?”

 

“He was quiet as long as nobody entered his room. The note in his chart says the day-shift charge nurse called you at your office about the incident.”

 

McGarrett interrupted Bergman’s distracted acknowledgement of the call. “What incident?”

 

The doctor responded as the Chinese physician stepped closer to review Williams’ chart. “Apparently, one of the orderlies tried to get Danny to eat some lunch.”  Bergman didn’t lift his head, but he did swing his gaze up to meet the stopped-in-his-tracks expression of the detective.

 

“Didn’t go too well, I take it?” Steve did not need to hear what happened to know how the deal went down.

 

Bergman grimaced and gave a slight shake of his head. “No. Two orderlies had to sit on him while housekeeping cleaned up the mess. I gave the order that he was not to be disturbed after that.”

 

McGarrett was sickened that his friend had been put into such a circumstance. He ran his hand slowly over his face. “Poor Danno.”

 

It always seemed to be a balancing act when the doctor dealt with this particular cop. One moment, he was threatening the man, and the next, he’d find a compulsion to comfort. Bergman, in his most fatherly persona, gently put a hand on the distressed detective’s shoulder. “He’ll be okay. Let’s go see how he’s doing now.”

 

With a slow nod serving as the acknowledgement of the encouraging words, McGarrett started toward the door, but he turned around to address the nurse. “Is there a dinner tray still around?” McGarrett addressed his question to the nurse.

 

She nodded. “I’ll get it for you now. I only hope you don’t end up wearing it.”

 

Ignoring the pessimism in her tone, McGarrett offered the woman a thin smile. “Thank you.”

 

The dread in McGarrett’s gut built with each step toward the padded cell. In what state – mental and physical – would he find his second-in-command? If he’d not been convinced of it before – AND HE HAD – he knew it and felt to his core now – his chosen profession dove-tailed perfectly with his mission in life – to bring to justice those who would harm the innocent. Murderers, thieves, drug dealers, swindlers, and con artists – they all had self-serving goals that could leave a trail of trauma for their victims. Devoted, kind-hearted, outgoing, honest, well-liked, INNOCENT – all of these positive attributes described the friend who was now beset by so much pain and anguish through no fault of his own. As the trio rounded the corner, the nurse trotted up with the promised dinner tray and handed to the detective, who took in a slow breath and steeled himself for whatever might lie just beyond the door with the little window.

 

 

*****

 

 

McGarrett hoped that Dan did not notice the huge sigh of relief that inadvertently escaped his lips. Williams was sitting on the bed, in no outward distress, only mild curiosity about the identity of his visitors evident on his face.

 

“Steve.” Dan offered a smile. The young man looked a little worn, but – McGarrett thought – perhaps a little better than this morning. There was no indication that he’d been doing anything except sitting.

 

“Danno, feeling better?”

 

“Yeah, better.” Dan agreed as his boss approached the bed , sat down on its edge, and tentatively grabbed his leg.

 

The patient did not react adversely to the touch causing another more controlled and subtle sigh from the older detective. Instead, Williams’ attention was diverted to the two physicians as they gingerly approached and offered their greetings to the young man, who smiled pleasantly and reiterated that he was feeling better.

 

“So, you been keeping busy?” Steve quipped.

 

“Yeah, I’ve been busy.” Dan nodded agreeably yet again.

 

Bergman, who’d come around to the opposite side of the bed locked eyes with McGarrett. “You know what THAT means, Steve.”

 

The significance of Dan’s agreement did indeed mean something to the detective who grinned as he brought the tray he’d been holding to his side up to his chest.

 

“Yes, I do, Doc! It means that you must be hungry, Danno!” And with that suggestion duly planted in his friend’s thoughts, he carefully pulled back the foil hiding the fare. The only thing that stood out in McGarrett’s mind as he reviewed yet another unremarkable meal was that it was all finger food – no eating utensils were required – no doubt a safety precaution to accommodate the special circumstances of the patients in the psych unit. The detective did not let his personal disappointment at the not-terribly-palatable plate dampen his outward enthusiasm. He reinforced the suggestion as Williams neutrally studied the tray. “I hope you’re hungry, my friend.” He couldn’t quite bring himself to say that anything looked particular delicious – the only unvoiced comment he contemplated was that nothing looked dangerous.

 

Dan, thankfully, was oblivious to his mentor’s private machinations about the meal as he nodded slightly in approval. “I’m hungry.” Eager to get something into his friend’s mouth before the “mood” shifted, as McGarrett now understood that it would, the head of Five-0 lithely balanced the tray on his own lap and handed Williams a plastic bowl containing finger-size slices of papaya, mango and several cubes of pineapple,.

 

“Fruit.” McGarrett did not take it for granted that the bowl’s contents were obvious.

 

“Okay,” Dan agreed as he retrieved a slice of papaya and put it into his mouth.

 

As soon as he was comfortable that the fruit was going to be consumed without any fanfare, McGarrett relaxed another degree and decided to see if his friend was up to responding to his laundry list of office-related questions. He slipped the notebook from his pocket.

 

“Danno, do you feel up to solving a few mysteries for me while you eat?”

 

Williams canted his head. “Mysteries?”

 

“Does the name Deborah Murphy ring a bell?”

 

“Hmmm…” Dan concentrated for a moment as he chewed, swallowing the bite before he answered. “Yes.”

 

Steve paused expectantly, but saw his friend’s attention seemed to be drawn back to the bowl in his lap

 

“Okay, next question. Why does the name Deborah Murphy ring a bell? Is she involved in a case that did not find its way to my board?” McGarrett tried to keep the accusation out of his tone. Dan was usually fastidious about maintaining the boss’ case board, but if he’d slipped up last week between hallucinogenic episodes, he could hardly be faulted.

 

Dan didn’t look up from his suspicious examination of the pineapple chunk. “Yes, it IS on the board— under Deborah Murphy’s maiden name -- Waiau. The robbery occurred just before she started using her married name, remember?”

 

The older detective did suddenly recall a conversation to that effect. Mild chagrin at his own forgetfulness was quickly supplanted by gratification that his second DID remember.

 

“Okay, Waiau IS on the board,” Steve confirmed as he jotted a note on the page. He didn’t move his head, but he made a point of making eye contact with Doctor Chang, who was clearly impressed at the patient’s clarity of thought. Pleased and impressed himself, McGarrett continued. “Walter Stuart’s secretary called – says he wants to know the status on the Pulelehua file.”

 

Finally deciding that the suspect fruit in his fingers was edible, he put it into his mouth and responded. “The Pulelehua file – it’s floating somewhere around Stuart’s office.” He looked up suddenly to meet Steve’s attentive eyes and asked distantly. “What day is it?”

 

McGarrett recalled his own recuperative days in the hospital and knew how difficult it was to keep track of time, even without sense-distorting medications. “It’s Tuesday. You’ve been here since Saturday morning.”

 

Dan slowly nodded as he digested the information. As suddenly as he left the topic, he picked it up again. “Tell Stuart that Neil signed for it last Friday around lunchtime.”

 

“Neil signed for it? Are you sure it was Friday? That was—” The older detective stopped short. He wished he could avoid treading anywhere near the subject of the Winfreys at the moment, but the past several days were permeated with their presence – like worm holes in an apple.

 

Williams though did not seem to have the same reticence at the moment. “I’m sure – that was the day we went to the Fletchers’. The receipt with Neil’s signature is in my CMB file.”

 

Steve was elated that he would be able to call the Attorney General and deflect his veiled accusation of inefficiency with irrefutable proof to the contrary. He chuckled. “Don’t get me wrong – I’m glad you did it, but why did you make Neil sign for the file, Danno?”

 

Interest fading in the bowl’s contents, he returned the dish to its spot on the tray as he explained. “I can’t be too careful around Stuart, and Neil’s always losing stuff.”

 

“Not everyone can have an efficient second-in-command, Danno.” Steve commended sincerely as he slipped the notebook back into his pocket, and let his eyes slide back toward the tray of food to consider the next course. Carrot sticks… No – he remembered them flying across the room the other day. The only other solid substance that had any nutritious value was the little plate of what looked to be Swiss cheese cubes, but he decided immediately that the connection – in his mind anyway – was too strong between creatures one might try to catch in a trap and the bait that might be used. He smoothly retrieved the small can before he re-covered the tray. “How ‘bout some apple juice with an Almond Joy for dessert?”

 

Dan accepted the suggestion without hesitation, and the doctors took the floor to continue the interrogation session, the line of questioning shifting to things medical. They asked the usual barrage of questions about symptoms and how well he was sleeping. Their patient reflected on each question and responded tolerantly. Yes to intermittent symptoms associated with the drug… Particularly distracting were the hallucinations, which he admitted seemed to happen without warning. No, he wasn’t sleeping very well…

 

McGarrett observed the question-and-answer session, grateful for the respite from tension he’d been feeling before he entered the room. It appeared that Danno was bouncing back sooner than the doctors predicted. Well… a little sooner anyway… 

 

The detective suddenly noticed a change in his friend that would’ve gone unnoticed by the uninitiated eye. Dan gently tensed as his eyes did a double-take in the direction of the physicians. Doctor Chang was making notes furiously in a small notepad, and Bergman was focused on preparing the patient’s arm for a blood draw.

 

Fervently hoping to avoid an unpleasant end to the evening, Steve addressed Williams’ rapidly rising concern. “Danno, look at me!”

 

The physicians snapped their attention to the patient, who was now fearfully studying them. They both froze in wait of a response from Williams. McGarrett repeated his command, this time with result as Dan reluctantly shifted his gaze to the face of his mentor.

 

Dan swallowed and listened as Steve reinforced that Dan was among friends, that he was safe. He began to tremble, but nodded. He looked away as the medical examiner manipulated his arm.

 

“It’s Doctor Bergman… it’s Doctor Bergman… it’s Doctor Bergman…” Dan repeated the words several times through grit teeth, refusing to look in the physician’s direction as he drew the blood.

 

The doctor eyed his patient warily throughout the procedure, and quickly placed a bandage over the resulting mini-wound. “There, all done.” Bergman announced evenly as he stepped away.

 

Williams got up the nerve to glance in the physician’s direction. He quickly looked away and roughly rubbed his eyes. His voice was thick was frustration. “It’s Doctor Bergman, but Doc – you’re so furry!”

 

The man’s anxiety and distress were palpable to the other three men in the room, who silently communicated their compassion for the patient, and further recognized the effort it was taking for him to not try to flee for his life.

 

“Please… no… go away…” Dan squeezed his eyes shut.

 

“Danny, we’re leaving,” Bergman reassured as both men back away.

 

A glance from McGarrett told the physician that HE was not leaving. In no mood to engage in what he knew would be a futile argument – and also not certain that the detective was wrong – Bergman flicked his head at his colleague and they slipped out the door, leaving the two detectives to sort it out together.

 

 

*****

 

 

Bergman and Chang took turns pacing for the better part of an hour outside the door to Dan’s room. Few words were exchanged as both men were trying to keep their ears tuned in to anything that would indicate the chief of the state police might need assistance. They remembered too well that it had taken two large orderlies to subdue Williams earlier. Each man occasionally took a peek through the observation window. McGarrett had his back to the door and was squatted in front of Dan, who was once again sitting in the corner where he apparently found comfort. They couldn’t see either man’s face, but it seemed a conversation was in progress. The same little nurse who’d brought the tray earlier approached and broke the silence.

 

“It’s thirty minutes after visiting hours, Doctors!” She crossed her arms and stared disapprovingly at the men.

 

“What do you want me to do? Call a cop?” Bergman snapped with a dramatic wave of his hand.

 

Miffed at the rebuke, she turned and marched off throwing an angry glare over her shoulder as she rounded the corner.

 

Chang finally spoke. “You know how risky it will be to have Danny testify at the hearing.”

 

“You’re right, Doc.” The voice startled both men as the spun back to see that McGarrett had stepped out of the room. “And Danno agrees.”

 

“What do you intend to do?” Bergman asked softly, a little concerned at the man’s ominous demeanor.

 

“You mentioned a house of cards, Doc.” The detective’s voice was distant for a moment as he stared down the hallway to watch another poor mental patient being brought into the unit. He looked decisively at the medical men and it was clear to both of them that he knew what had to happen. “We’re gonna  stack the deck.”

 

 

 

Thursday Morning

 

By the time McGarrett, with medical expert Doctor Chang in tow, stepped through the double doors of the court room, Charles and Darlene were already seated at a table on opposite sides of their attorney, a stocky, bald man, perhaps in his late forties. Nattily dressed in a black, pin-striped suit, the man looked nonchalant and exuded the confidence that came with experience. In contrast, the man’s clients were attired in the latest in prison fashion made from  durable blue-gray cotton. Charles wore the short-sleeved shirt and drawstring pants, while his wife modeled the non-too-flattering calf-length shift. Both prisoners wore done-to expressions of righteous indignation at their treatment. All three people at the defense table noticed the detective only as he and the small Chinese man with him slipped through the wood gates from the gallery and went to the table where the prosecution staff would sit. The counsel for the defense gave a courteous nod to the officer, who reciprocated a little too pleasantly – he hoped – for the Winfreys’ tastes. He acknowledged their frosty stares with a satisfied, superior glare of his own as he leaned on the table and crossed his arms.

 

Walter Stuart and his inefficient assistant, Neil, emerged from the side door and surveyed the scene. They approached the two men at their table and obligatory pleasantries and handshakes were quickly rendered. While Neil opened a briefcase and began retrieving and organizing papers, the Winfreys watched with feigned disinterest as Stuart, Chang, and McGarrett engaged in jovial banter about a possible golf date before the visitor returned home to New York.

 

“Where’s Danny?” Stuart finally brought up the subject.

 

“He’ll be along in a minute.” McGarrett assured with a grin. With that, the detective excused himself for a moment and approached the defense table. “Counselor.”

 

“Mr. McGarrett. I presume your witness is well enough to testify today?”

 

“I guess you’ll see for yourself shortly,” the officer responded, but his gaze was now directed at Darlene.

 

All eyes turned as the side door opened again. This time, it was Dan Williams who blithely made his way across the room toward the Attorney General who moved forward a few steps and shook Dan’s hand. Stuart’s voice was too soft to be heard from the defense table, but whatever he’d said made Williams laugh. Doctor Chang and Neil approached as well and the four men took up a quiet conversation. Dan looked over his shoulder and made eye contact with Charles, who studied the apparently healthy, chipper young man. Before the detective turned his attention back to the conversation before him, he smiled knowingly and winked at the defendant.

 

Witnessing the silent exchange, and noting that Charles leaned back in his seat, McGarrett turned on an expression of mock concern. “Charles, you don’t look too well.” Winfrey did not reply as he continued to stare in the direction of the witness, who would be stepping onto the stand in a few minutes to offer damaging testimony against him.

 

“What’s the matter, Charles? A rat got your tongue?” McGarrett’s voice was soft as the smile returned to his face.

 

“Mr. McGarrett, my clients—” 

 

“Mr. Rayburn,” the head of Five-0 interrupted. “It is now a foregone conclusion that there will be no bail set for your clients, who’d do well to make a deal right now if they want to do their time here in paradise.”

 

“A deal!” Spat Darlene with disdain. “Why on earth would we wanna make a deal?” She was shaken, McGarrett could tell, but she was a little more adept at hiding it than her spouse.

 

The detective’s eyes narrowed as he responded with satisfaction. “ A little bird – or should I say bat – told me that there might just be some extradition papers in the works for charges pending in Texas if nothing comes of the case here, and you know, murder still rates the death penalty there --- hanging, I think.”

 

Darlene’s eyes grew momentarily large before she recovered. Hate filled her eyes. “You can’t prove—”

 

“Against YOU they can’t,” Charles erupted at his wife, who was obviously taken completely aback. “WE need to talk about a deal here.”

 

The attorney, realizing he was in the middle of a potentially escalating discussion / argument between the couple, stood quickly. “Mr. McGarrett, will you please excuse us!”

 

“Certainly, Mr. Rayburn!” The officer responded cheerfully as he turned away from the defense table to join his second-in-command and the other men.

 

“Nice job, Danno!” McGarrett whispered to his friend as he placed his hand gently on the detective’s shoulder. “Doin’ okay?”

 

“Not really.” Dan responded – his eyes were closed, and McGarrett noted that Doctor Chang, while trying to appear casual about it, was gripping Williams’ arm. Walter and Neil both faced the defense table and maintained grins for the benefit of anyone that might look from that direction.

 

“Hang on, Danno! We’re almost out of the woods. It’s going just like we practiced. Everything is okay.”  Steve reinforced the words with a squeeze of Dan’s shoulder.

 

Williams was starting the familiar anxious breathing that McGarrett was coming to dread, but he swallowed and acknowledged his mentor’s words. “Yeah… okay…” He grimaced slightly as he waged the internal battle for control of his senses.

 

A minute later, as the quiet, hissing battle at the defense table waged on, it was clear that Dan was losing his battle. “Steve…” He rasped softly. Just as McGarrett decided that they were out of time, the chamber door opened and the judge stepped out and proceeded to take his place on the bench.

 

“Mr. Stuart!” It was the first voice in several minutes that was louder than a whisper, and it boomed from Mr. Rayburn. “My clients would like to negotiate an arrangement.”

 

Stuart feigned surprise only briefly as he slipped around the group of men to respond in an equally loud tenor. “Mr. Rayburn, the state of Hawaii would be amenable to a negotiation with your clients – as long as they are willing to stipulate that no bail will be set.”

 

Darlene was obviously far more upset at the prospect than Charles, but neither reacted or looked up from the table as their attorney agreed. “They so stipulate.”

 

With that, the Attorney General turned and officially requested that that the defendants’ no-bail stipulation be entered into the court record.

 

As the proceedings took on an administrative air, McGarrett and Doctor Chang quickly guided Williams to the nearest side door, where Doctor Bergman had been waiting tensely. There was no need to ask how the patient was doing – his distressed expression and closed eyes told the tale.

 

“Don’t touch me!” Dan recoiled at the hands on him, eyes still clenched shut.

 

McGarrett quickly motioned for the doctors to back away. “Give me a minute with him!”

 

Both physicians dropped back and allowed the taller man to forcefully guide his friend to the car. They remained on the side stoop of the courthouse in the shade and watched the head of Five-0 apparently arguing with the man now seated in the front passenger spot of the Mercury. After a minute of discussion, it appeared that Steve buckled the young man’s seat belt for him before he closed the car door.

 

The physicians took that as their queue to approach. “We’ll meet you at the hospital!” Bergman announced jovially, completely relieved that the tense ordeal was drawing to a close.

 

McGarrett dismissed the thought as he headed the pair off and stopped their progress toward the parking lot.

 

“He’s not going back, gentlemen. He’ll be staying at the beach house of Harold and Megan Fletcher while he recuperates. I’ve made arrangements to have a blood sample taken daily and couriered to Che Fong, who will send the report to your office, Doc.”

 

“Steve, Danny needs—”    

 

“Mr. McGarrett, I strongly---”

 

The expected cacophony of objections began, but the detective did not want to listen. He raised his hand and made sure his voice was of the proper intensity and volume to let the medical experts know that the case was closed. “I KNOW what Danno needs, and with all due respect, gentlemen, he’s not gonna get it locked up in the nut ward! I thank both of you for your concern, but I’ve got to go!”

 

With that,  McGarrett strode to his car to join his passenger. As the black vehicle roared by the pair of stunned doctors, Williams’ eyes opened and looked a little dazed. He raised a hand awkwardly to wave uncertainly at the men. Both men reacted out of reflex and lifted their hands in farewell, but Chang’s jaw dropped as they realized the vehicle’s passenger was wearing handcuffs.

 

He gave a round-eyed look at his colleague, who’d allowed a smirk to slip onto his face. “Mr. McGarrett has him in restraints!”

 

Bergman’s lip twitched as he let his hand come to rest on the malihini physician’s shoulder. “Cops prefer to call it cuffed, Rick.”

 

 

*****

 

 

Dan sputtered absentmindedly to rid himself of the sprinkling of saw dust that had somehow invaded his mouth. Despite the small nuisance, he leaned back and smiled with satisfaction. He’d spent almost all of his time in the past few days working on several repair projects on Steve’s old sloop.

 

Initially, he’d thought it would be a mindless task, but as he began to focus on the effort, other thoughts that might have pressed on him were set aside. Dan paid excruciating attention to detail as he was determined to do a good job for Steve, and was surprised at how quickly the hours passed. He admitted to himself that his mentor might have something here in this restoration effort – it was almost a meditative experience.

 

Bergman’s mandate left no doubt in Williams’ mind that he would not be allowed to return to work until the super-mass-spec-whatever machine in Che’s lab could find no trace of DMT in his system. As a matter of fact, had McGarrett not interceded, Dan was completely cognizant that he would have been locked up in the psych unit for the duration – not an entirely unreasonable place to be for a guy who’d been mistaking his fellow humans for rats of late. The good news was that the blood test results from yesterday returned with only trace amounts of the powerful hallucinogen. And he hadn’t seen a twitching nose for day… until now!

 

The young man took in a sharp breath as he stared at the unwelcome guest, who peered out of the companionway at him. Williams studied the haggard creature and noted that it was not carrying anything that would indicate it was a human. It was small, wore standard-issue rat hair and had its teeth concealed as it sniffed in the detective’s direction.

 

“I think you might actually be a rat.” Dan mused out loud as a wave of relief swept over him.

 

“You’re right, Danno!” McGarrett climbed up the ladder and flung his leg over the transom to step onto the deck. “That’s definitely a rat! I’ll get rid of it.” Knowing the details of his friend’s recent battles, Steve did not want to run the risk of some traumatic event precipitating any kind of setback.

 

Williams looked up at his boss and put his hand out. “Wait, Steve!”

 

McGarrett turned to observe the detective staring very seriously and intently at the creature, who oddly had not moved more than a few inches since the older detective had arrived.

 

“All right, all right, I forgive you!” Dan announced loudly with exaggerated exasperation in his voice. When his boss tipped his head sideways, the young man explained as a sly grin slipped onto his face. “He’s apologizing for all the trouble his friends gave me!”

 

McGarrett grinned and chuckled as he squatted down beside Williams. “Well, he doesn’t look very sorry to me! What makes you so sure he’s apologizing?”

 

With a familiar gleam that Steve was delighted to see, Dan looked up into his eyes and winked. “Steve, I’ve got a sixth sense about these things!”

 

McGarrett knew he’d taken the bait and couldn’t contain a laugh as the two friends watched the rodent, his message of contrition delivered, continue on his way into the shadows.  Where all creatures of his ilk, human and otherwise, would be well-advised to keep their peace to avoid the vigilant eyes of Five-0 detectives.

  

 

PAU