CHAPTER ELEVEN


13 April 1990

Screams ripped the air. The piercing cries echoed in counter-point to the roar of the racing engine as the car shot over the embankment and plummeted toward the ocean. They fell down and down. The moment stretched away into infinity.

"Steve? Steve!"

At the sound of his name, McGarrett's eyes snapped open. He was drenched with sweat. The bed sheet was glued to his body and tangled about his legs. His heart raced in accompaniment to the final moments of his dream.

"Steve," Amanda said again. "It's okay. You're having a nightmare. The children are safe on Kauai."

He sat up. Running a hand through his sweat soaked hair McGarrett inhaled deeply to slow his pulse. His wife studied him critically. He seldom, if ever, suffered from nightmares though, by rights of his past they should have occurred frequently.

"Steve," she ventured tentatively when he remained unresponsive to her statement.

Reaching out, he squeezed her hand. "I'm fine, Amanda. Go back to sleep."

She was on leave until Tuesday, having taken sufficient time off to straddle the long weekend. She wanted to be with him while he and Jonny worked on locating Danny and Charlene. Amanda lay down. Steve's weight shifted. He felt her eyes following him as he swung his feet clear of the sheets, to the floor, and stood.

Amanda reached out to touch him. "Where are you going?"

Chill damp struck Steve's flesh. Raised goose bumps on his flesh. He snagged his housecoat. Drawing it around him, he tied the belt. He knew without checking that it was dawn. There was a fall of pallid light insinuating a finger through the tiny gap between the bedroom drapes. The quality of light led him to believe some cloud cover was evident in the morning's weather pattern.

"I won't be able to get any more sleep," he informed her. "You might as well try. Jonny will probably call about eight, so get some rest, Amanda."

Knowing better than to argue with him, his wife lay back down and drew the covers up around her shoulders. Steve turned off the ringer on the bedside phone and closed the door behind him as he left. He went into the kitchen and put the coffee on. While it brewed, he stood in the patio door and watched the sun come up.

Light splashed across the garden. It illuminated the plants. Dew beaded the leaves and blossoms, winking at the new day. A bird flitted through the trees and shrubs. As it danced along a ground-hugging branch in search of insects, it left behind a shower of moisture. The bird paused. Poised saucily on the end of a limb, throat pulsing, the warbler burbled a greeting to the morning. Steve turned away. There was far too much grief present in his life for him to genuinely appreciate the beauties of nature. Taking down a mug, he poured himself some coffee. The phone rang.

"The McGarretts'," he responded.

"Steve," said a familiar voice. "It's Jonny. Are you awake?"

"Wide awake. What have you got?" Steve listened intently, his coffee temporarily forgotten.

"There's a squad car on its way over now to pick you up. I'll fill you in when you get here."

A minor surge of irritation rose at that announcement. He hurriedly submerged it. Jonny was the investigating officer. If he chose to await Steve's arrival at HPD before discussing the matter further, that was his prerogative. The knowledge bothered Steve far more than he would admit to anyone, particularly to Jonny Mattheson.

"All right. I'll be ready."

"See you in about half an hour, then."

Steve glanced at the clock as he hung up. Seven thirty-six; the squad car would arrive in approximately ten minutes, if he gauged Jonny's tone correctly. He dashed through his shower, gulped his now almost cold coffee, dressed, and was running the razor over his stubble when the cruiser drew up in the driveway. He waved to the officers, informing them he was on his way out. Amanda appeared in the bedroom door just as he opened the front door.

"Be careful, Steve," she called.

He nodded back, not daring to speak as he closed the door between them. When he climbed into the back seat of the cruiser, Steve noted Jonny had sent two officers who were unfamiliar with him. It was obvious the new HPD Lieutenant was taking pains to permit McGarrett time in which to organize his thoughts without interference from old acquaintances who might wish to catch up on news with a retired colleague.

The Pali was packed with morning rush hour traffic. They looped south instead, electing to circumvent Diamond Head. As they passed the Kahala Hilton, they encountered the back-up traffic in full force. 

"Knew it was too good to be true," grumbled the driver.

"You should know better, Pete." The other officer concurred. "Always is like this about now." He swivelled in his seat. Steve was glancing at his watch. "Sorry, Mister McGarrett. The Lieutenant's just going to have to be patient."

Steve's mouth curved in a slow smile. "I doubt he knows the meaning of the word."

Pete glanced up into the rear view mirror. "Known him long, sir?"

McGarrett affirmed that. "Ever since my department investigated Diedre Streit."

Pete's lips pursed in a silent whistle. "That case is required reading at the Academy," he commented with admiration. "She was one tough old broad."

Steve stared out the window, preferring not to be drawn into any further discussion. The officers honoured his desires. The cruiser slowed to a crawl as they approached Waikiki. Pete edged over into the right hand lane. At the first major intersection, they turned off. The flow of traffic was still relatively thick, but their progress improved. They turned left towards HPD.
"Drop you at the back door, sir," asked Pete respectfully.

"Thanks."

They drew up. Pete's partner hopped out and opened the rear door. McGarrett got out and went straight in. Both officers stared after him.

"So that's the Man," commented Pete's partner with unconcealed awe.

"You ever read any of his case files, Bill?" inquired Pete.

"You know it," said Bill. "That was one hell of a cop."

"I suspect he still is," reflected his partner.

Steve hurried through the back to the squad room. No one stopped him or commented on his somewhat unorthodox entry into the building. Jonny was seated at his desk. He was scanning several sheets fastened to the flyleaf of a plain manila folder.

"Jonny," called McGarrett as he crossed the room, expertly threading a path through the press of milling bodies.

Jonny glanced up. He gestured imperatively. "Take a look at these," he requested as McGarrett approached, "and tell me what you think, Steve."

McGarrett slid onto the neighbouring chair. Accepting the folder, he read the report. The first sheet detailed the discovery of Danny's rental car. There was nothing unusual about the interior. The only fingerprints belonged to Charlene and Danny - their prints still on file with HPD from the Seventies - plus, those of the three children and two Tilden employees.

The second page documented the discovery of the taxicab used in the kidnapping. It had been located on a side road out in one of the least populated areas of the Island parked in concealment amongst some thick brush.
"Stolen?" That question emerged more as a statement.

"Yeah," concurred Jonny. "Keep reading."

The lab had discovered bloodstains on the rear seat cushions, and beach sand on the floor. Several large flecks of rusted metal had been pulled from the carpeting on the driver's side near the clutch and gas pedals. There were, however, no fingerprints anywhere on the vehicle. Witnessing Steve's intense frown, Jonny leaned forward.

"Something catch your interest?"

"These metal flecks," tendered McGarrett.

"Could have originated anywhere," said Jonny.

Steve looked up. Something cringed inside Jonny. He abruptly concluded there had never been a real retirement from the force for Steve McGarrett. Only a temporary shelving of the old instincts and training, until the correct incident surfaced to bring them into full play once more. That time was now.

"You think I should have the lab investigate them further."

"It's your investigation," countered Steve slowly. "But if I were in charge of this case---"

"Maybe I screwed up this time. Is that what you're suggesting?" In the face of his companion's studious expression, Jonny threw up his hands. "Yeah. I screwed up, all right, big time."

Steve shook his head. "You're just too close to this one, Jonny. That's all."

"And you aren't?" Jonny countered. "Danny's your best friend."

Without missing a beat, Steve returned, "And Charley's your sister."

"It's not the same. To me, Charley's been dead almost twelve years, Steve. It's hard thinking in terms of having a sister again." Jonny laughed bitterly. "Given half the chance, Steve, I'd turn this mess over to someone else."

"Too hard for you?" McGarrett viciously demanded.

Jonny's face went white, then red. Steve's barb shot home like a knife, driving deep and twisting in the younger man's guts. He sensed what McGarrett was doing, but it did not make him any less furious at the accusations. He shook his head dumbly, afraid to reply verbally with hot anger so close to the surface.

"Then quit feeling sorry for yourself," ordered McGarrett. "Get angry."

"They taught us at the Academy never to lose your temper," argued Jonny.

"I didn't suggest you stay angry," replied Steve. "I said get angry. Get the adrenaline flowing. Then, when you can think clearly, detach yourself from it."

"Just like that."

McGarrett shook his head. "It's never 'just like that'."

He held Jonny's gaze for several seconds before the other tore himself away from the scrutiny. The detrimental emotions had fled. In the wake of grief and rage, a cool head prevailed. Jonny reached for the phone and called the lab. His mind automatically filled in the gaps from experience as Jonny responded to the inaudible remarks from the other end of the connection.

"Kyle? Jonny Mattheson. Yeah. You know those metal flecks you found in that cab? Right, those are them. You still got them handy? Good. I want you to see if you can get a match on where they might have originated. Yeah. I know it's gonna be like hunting for a needle in a haystack. So, get out the minesweeper and go to work, will you? Yeah. I know. That makes three cases this week. Thanks."

As he hung up, Jonny reached out and casually flipped a page in front of McGarrett. Steve glanced down. His attention was diverted back to the last pages of the police report.

"Took a gamble and checked out both the cab company and the airport employee list," said Jonny.

Steve scanned the list. Antonio Nicholaidis was listed as an employee at Honolulu International, as a Skycap. That explained how he had spotted Charlene. The Italian was also one of the part-time mechanics for the cab company. 

"Good work," praised Steve. 

"Goes with the territory," deflected Jonny. Catching McGarrett's eye as he glanced up, Jonny forced a sour smile. "Most of the time, that is."

"You're a good cop, Jonny," advised McGarrett. "Don't let anyone tell you differently."

"I've had some excellent examples to follow," said Jonny.

It was Steve's turn to hide his embarrassment. A number of the older police officers at HPD frequently made that declaration to anyone who would listen. They had learned at McGarrett's knee, so to speak, watching The Man work, studying his case files and listening to the old 'war stories' from other veterans of the force. But it never made it any easier to accept. To Steve, he had merely done his job the best way he knew how throughout his career. Serving justice and striving to make life easier for the ordinary person on the street had been the most important thing he had ever done. He was justifiably proud of his record, but with quiet, self-effacing pride kept close to his chest.

"Steve?"

Jonny caught his attention. McGarrett looked up. "Say again?"

Jonny repeated his last statement. "I said I'm going over to the employment agency where Tonio's registered. Would you like to come?"

McGarrett concurred. He had spent better part of Thursday morning in a clinic being examined from head to toe by a physician. During the afternoon of the same day, he had vented his rage at having failed to predict Tonio's move to kill the children by up-grading his skill on the firing range. Steve knew he needed something to preoccupy himself. Accompanying Jonny on this investigation would provide an excellent remedy.

"You've got yourself a partner," he declared firmly.

"Let's go, then."

CHAPTER TWELVE


Caroline Magdelene Kitchener had grown up in the corn belt of the mid-west. Raised by her maternal grandmother, she had developed into something of a soured spinster, the variety depicted in many an old western. She was as stubborn as an old army mule, with a sharp tongue that would have done a Marine drill sergeant proud and the single-mindedness that had lost Hitler World War Two.

No one ever dared refer to her as anything but Caroline within hearing. If one dared to address her as Carol, rather than Caroline or Miss Kitchener, they were rewarded with the severest of scowls and a cold shoulder. At forty-seven, she had clawed her way up the rungs of success through the worst of the feminist period. She wore dove grey or dark blue suits to work, skirts rather than slacks, and pumps or oxfords. She seldom socialised and never attended cocktail parties.

Yet, surprisingly, apart from her severity of dress Caroline was quite pretty. Her physical attributes belied her bitter, spinster attitude. She wore shoulder-length, honey blonde hair in a loose fall. Its soft, natural waves enhanced her heart-shaped face. She never admitted to dyeing her hair, but several of her employees laid odds on the probability factor. A pert nose emphasized the fullness of her lips. She might permit herself a smile at her superiors' jokes but laughter never quite reached her hazel eyes.

She performed her job with unerring accuracy. This was how she had achieved supervisor status at the employment agency. Through some quirk of nature, Caroline had been blessed with an infallible ability to match clients with openings on the job market. Although she had suffered a few setbacks and failures, these had proven to be few and far between. Parolees being rehabilitated into society frequently caused her headaches. More often than not, they proved to be backsliders. Of the firm's present clientele, only a couple troubled her.

One of these was Antonio Nicholaidis. To her unmitigated disappointment, it seemed Tonio occupied this particular classification of unreliability. Two of his employers had already called today to report he had failed to appear for work in three days. Caroline rather suspected she would hear from the third employer before the day was through. The outside door to the offices opened. She glanced up.

The moment she spotted the two men in business suits entering the waiting area Caroline's heart sank. It took no great effort to assess them for plain clothed police officers. Nor did it require any mental gymnastics to equate their appearance on the scene with the absentee Mister Nicholaidis. True to her evaluation, there was a knock at her cubical door. Her secretary stuck her head in.

"Miz Kitchener?"

"Yes, Leanne. What is it?" Caroline went through the routine formula of question and answer, expecting what came next.

"There's a Lieutenant Mattheson here from the Honolulu Police Department. He and his companion would like to speak to you."

Caroline settled back in her chair. "Of course. Send them in, Leanne."

Leanne withdrew. Caroline was pleased with her secretary's ability to consistently employ the correct format for passing along formal requests for interviews. It was something few others had achieved with any degree of success in the past. Caroline heard Leanne politely extend the confirmation.

"Miss Kitchener will see you now, Lieutenant."

As the two men entered the office, Caroline remained seated. She gestured to the chairs directly across from her. She studied them as they accepted her offer. The older of the pair appeared to be past retirement age. Further confusing her assessment was his apparent deference to the younger man's decision to carry the interview.

"Miss Kitchener," said the younger man, "I'm Lieutenant Mattheson, Honolulu Police Department. This is my associate, Steve McGarrett."

Caroline's eyebrows shot up. "Steve McGarrett of Five-O?" she inquired. McGarrett inclined his head. "Didn't you retire several years ago?"

"Mister McGarrett is assisting me on a particularly difficult investigation, Miss Kitchener," the Lieutenant cut in sharply.

Caroline blinked. Clearly the younger man's companion was not merely an assistant. Not only that, the Lieutenant appeared to be protecting him from unwelcome attention.

"Very well, Lieutenant," she responded, letting him know in no uncertain terms she did not appreciate what she felt was his rude behaviour in cutting her off. "What exactly is it you wish to know?"

"My department requires access to the files on one of your clients," said the Lieutenant.

"I'm not certain I can permit that, Lieutenant," Caroline replied firmly.

"I will request a search warrant, if I must, Miss Kitchener," declared the Lieutenant, an edge invading his voice. "However, we're rather short on time."

McGarrett leaned forward slightly. The intense light in his eyes both frightened Caroline Kitchener, and pushed her mentally off-balance. She had never before encountered anyone quite so determined or aware of his ability to command a situation.

"Miss Kitchener," said McGarrett with deceptive mildness, "what Lieutenant Mattheson is trying to say is we're running a race against time. The lives of two people are in serious jeopardy and your records could well assist us in locating where they are being held."

"I wasn't aware any kidnapping had taken place on the Islands," countered Caroline bluntly. "I watch the news---"

"It's been purposefully kept out of the papers, and off the networks," said the Lieutenant shortly.

"I still don't see how anyone with my firm could possibly be involved in---"

McGarrett's expression pierced her self-assurance. Caroline felt an icy shiver race up her spine. It was as though someone had doused her with sea water. She clenched her hands together in her lap beneath the cover of her desk. Steve McGarrett was well aware she was fudging. She read it in his face. Her eyes slid away from his gaze.

"Miss Kitchener," the Lieutenant pleaded now, "please. The man we're after has already kidnapped two people, and attempted to murder my associate and three children belonging to the victims."

A gasp escaped Caroline's lips. Her eyes widened appreciably. She might not believe marriage was correct for herself. Nor did she possess any notions of becoming a parent, single or otherwise. Motherhood was not, in her estimates, the be-all and end-all to being a fulfilled woman. But that someone should have tried to kill three helpless children horrified her.

"This information is strictly confidential, of course," added the Lieutenant. 

"Of course," she concurred, inquiring immediately afterwards. "Whose file did you wish to peruse?"

"Antonio Nicholaidis," said the Lieutenant.

Caroline considered herself a lady. She refused to stoop to swearing like a London fishwife as her grandmother would have described it. But she did permit herself to mentally attribute all sorts of foul punishments and maledictions upon the ex-convict who was in the process of rattling her establishmentarianism. She took a deep breath to steady her nerves before speaking.

"I'm afraid that may take some time, Lieutenant," Caroline apologised with genuine remorse. "We only keep our active files upstairs. I'll have to assign someone especially for the job, to go through the dormant and dead files in the basement. At present, things are a bit chaotic. We're in the process of transferring that information to hard disk, with the aid of some temporary help, in an effort to ease the crowding in our storage areas."

The Lieutenant stiffened. Caroline was positive he believed she was stonewalling him. McGarrett, on the other hand, evidently believed her. With the barest hint of a finger lift, he stilled his companion's protest.

"If you would, please, Miss Kitchener. Time is of the essence."

She nodded, hastening to reassure them of the depth of her generosity and concern. "As soon as I can pull someone away to hunt down the information, I'll do so."

"Thank you," said McGarrett.

"Would you please have it hand-carried to HPD, and delivered to my office," added the Lieutenant tightly.

That request caused Caroline to throw on the brakes. A protest concerning the misuse and waste of employee time, better put to assisting the unemployed in finding satisfactory work, rose to her lips. It died in the light of McGarrett's determination. She nodded mutely.

"Thank you again, Miss Kitchener," said the Lieutenant. The barest hint of sarcasm coloured his words. "For all your help."

"Good day, Lieutenant," she declared firmly, regaining her composure. The two men rose as one. "Mister McGarrett."

"Miss Kitchener," he acknowledged pleasantly.

The two men departed quietly. When the outside door had closed behind them, Caroline slumped at her desk. Her secretary entered with a pile of mail. Caroline waved her away.

"Later, Leanne. And, hold all my calls."

Startled, Leanne blinked. She reined in her inquisitive nature. "Of course, Miss Kitchener."

The young secretary closed the door behind her. She could not recall having seen her employer so rattled. Upon reflection, recalling the older of the two officers, Leanne reflected her boss had every right to need time to pull herself together again. Two lines buzzed on the desk phone. Leanne adeptly intercepted the callers, taking a message from one, and referring the other to a junior supervisor at the rear of the employment centre.

Jonny broke into a hoarse chuckle the instant he and Steve returned to his car. McGarrett stared at him curiously, but Jonny refused to enlighten him immediately as to the source of his amusement. Only when they were several blocks from the employment centre did he attempt to explain, and then only after some prompting.

"Okay, Jonny," demanded McGarrett. "What's so amusing?"

"I think you definitely put the run on old Prune Face," Jonny managed at length.

"Prune Face?" McGarrett discovered it difficult to equate the slanderous nickname with the somewhat attractive, if cold, Miss Kitchener.

"Old Kitch," said Jonny. "She obviously doesn't remember me, but I've never forgotten her. She found me my first job right after I was placed on probation."

McGarrett found the thought mildly amusing. Obviously, the notion of the sour Miss Kitchener discovering a one-time juvenile delinquent such as Jonny Mattheson in the position of police detective had tickled his companion's funny bone.

"If nothing else, you sure put a dent in her day."

"She's certainly formidable," McGarrett agreed.

"Formidable isn't the word, Steve." Jonny slowed, braked for a red light. "That old witch had a real hate-on for me from the moment I stepped through their front door in Seventy-seven. Didn't matter that I had a good word from Terry, Danny and you. She just doesn't like ex-cons, or juvenile offenders."

"Understandable, given her position," commented Steve.

"Maybe," countered Jonny. The light changed. They drew away. "But everyone deserves a chance. She used to ensure I got the worst shit-jobs you ever saw."

"Is that the real reason you couldn't wait to head for the mainland and LAPD?"

"You know it," breathed Jonny earnestly, failing to rise to Steve McGarrett leg pulling.

They passed the Ala Moana centre. McGarrett found himself staring across his companion in the direction of the marina where a number of his cases had either become bogged down, or been wrapped up. In the middle distance towered the Ilikai Hotel and the Hilton's rainbow enhanced tower. The helicopter pad on the top curve of the manmade lagoon was scheduled to be ripped out, and a series of cottages raised by the owners of the "I". Although curious as to their ultimate destination, McGarrett opted for permitting Jonny to decide upon when it was time to brief him.

"By the way," continued Jonny, "I thought you'd like to know I contacted the FBI yesterday." Steve glanced at him inquisitively. "You called it right. Danny and Charley returned because all contracts were called off when Larouche died. We haven't located the Lincoln yet, despite the All Points."

On the heels of that information McGarrett disappeared into his own thoughts. He barely noted when they took the exit ramp to the International Airport. At that point, there was no need to inquire into their direction. He knew they would be questioning the Skycap employer next concerning Tonio's shift on April tenth.

Inquiries revealed Tonio had indeed worked the final shift the evening prior to the kidnapping. He had failed to show up for work the following afternoon. Nor had he bothered to collect his wages for his final pay period. Leaving the business offices, Jonny paused to watch an incoming Air Force flight at the neighbouring field.

"He didn't miss a trick," muttered Jonny bitterly.

McGarrett disagreed. "He missed something, Jonny. We just haven't found it, yet."

"Those bits of metal?" Jonny glanced at his companion as they returned to the car.

"They could well prove to be the break your department needs."

"I hope you're right," Jonny declared unhappily, "cause right now, this case is practically dead in the water."

"Lunch," asked McGarrett, determined to get Jonny's mind off the case temporarily.

"Chinese," shot back his companion.

"You're on."

They found a small, fast food place that served take-out and ordered four items. Driving to the waterfront near Fort Derussey, they settled on the seawall to share the food. Steve could not count the number of times he had done much the same thing with members of his department over the years. Jonny broke into his thoughts just as Danny's face tugged at him.

"So it appears," said Jonny around a mouthful of sweet and sour chicken balls, "Tonio's been holding down more than one job to make ends meet." He gestured expressively with his chopsticks. "What do you want to bet there are a couple more loose ends out there just waiting for us to trip over them?"

Steve remained silent. It pleased him to hear his companion beginning to sort through the data they had been rapidly assembling. He briefly wondered what Victoria Stanton had been like. If her offspring's intelligence was any measure, it was small wonder she had managed to penetrate Diedre Streit's Toronto based organization and crack it wide open.

He only wished life had taken a better slant for Charlene and Jonny in the wake of their mother's success. To lose both parents and a sibling, then very nearly have their own lives destroyed eight years later by a new branch of the same organization, had not proved easy for either of the surviving Matthesons.

Plainly the past twelve years had taken an upswing for both of them. Unfortunately, 'had' appeared to be the operative word in this case. Once again, the past had caught up with them, adversely disrupting their lives.

Steve's ruminations drew up short. He stared morosely out across the breakers. Tourists, resembling beached white whales, lounged along the sand. In their determination to return home tanned, they were heedless of the dangers inherent in the mid-day tropical rays.

McGarrett swore to himself. He was damned and determined they would find Danny and Charley. If anything happened to them---He slid a look at his companion. Discovered Jonny staring off into mid-distance. Jonny shook himself.

"Maybe," he mumbled, almost to himself, "just maybe one of those jobs is the lead we need to where he's holding them. We sure aren't having any luck locating a permanent residence for that slippery bastard."

Steve continued to say nothing. Nor did Jonny seek feedback. In the one glance they exchanged McGarrett could almost see the wheels grinding away. Staring back down into his container of rice, Jonny stabbed viciously with his chopsticks, several times, before taking another mouthful.

They concluded their meal, disposed of the trash, and returned to the car. Both were silent through the return journey to Police Headquarters. Much to Jonny's gratification, there was news from Caroline Kitchener. She felt she would be able to assign someone to a file search by mid-afternoon. Hopefully, she would have something concrete for them by the end of the day. However, Caroline's message added she was making no promises to that end.

CHAPTER THIRTEEN


Rooting up the inevitable, invading trailing liana vine from beneath the sheltering branches of a massive, flowering rhododendron bush, Katrina muttered rebelliously. There seemed to be more and more garden into which she daily poured her labours. But her fiancée was adamant. He refused to permit her to turn the entire back plot over to grass. She rocked back on her heels and stared over the rim of the low lava stonewall.

At one time unoccupied plots marginally larger than the one on which the bungalow stood had flanked the property. Seven years ago a mainland family had purchased the ground immediately south of them and built a rambling, L-shaped rancher. The house was squat, ugly, starkly plain, and failed to blend with the surroundings. In despair that the same thing would ensue to the north, Jonny had collaborated with his neighbour on that side. They had split the difference on the remaining lot. By mutual agreement it was left in its original state. From time to time, Jonny and his neighbour would scour the underbrush, clearing out weeds and maintaining the public access. Now the neighbours were moving. Their land was up for sale, but Jonny lacked the finances to purchase the remaining half lot.

Katrina shrugged. She failed to understand, or sympathise with her fiancée's fixation over the bungalow. The building was too tiny to comfortably start a family in. There was no dining room. Nor, in her estimates, was there a proper kitchen; just an annex of sorts with a sliding door that gave onto the patio and back garden. Fine for retired folks. But nowhere up to the standards her family maintained on Kauai.

Reaching out, Katrina gave the tough vine a last, great yank. It tore out so rapidly she sat down hard, scraping her elbow against the rough brick exterior of the barbecue. Several small clods of earth showered her head and shoulders.

"Damn!"

That brickwork was another thing she would have replaced or renovated, given Jonny's permission. Katrina rubbed the abrasion ruefully. Several times she had attempted to broach the possibility of having the exterior covered with something to prevent just such accidents from occurring. Jonny had merely stared at her in a manner that had made her extremely uncomfortable, while at the same time, silently informing her she had stepped over some invisible line of propriety. Unconsciously, Katrina reached out to trace a weathered gouge in the brickwork. This was something else he had pointedly refused to explain despite all her wheedling.

"Trina."

She leapt to her feet. "Out back, Jonny."

He appeared at the door looking utterly deflated. A flash of unreadable emotion flared and died in his face at the sight of the dangling liana in her hand.

"Jonny," she reprimanded him, "either tell me what's bothering you, or stop looking at me like that."

"I'm sorry, Trina," he apologized. "You reminded me of something that's all."

She gritted her teeth against flaring up in anger. "That's exactly what I'm talking about. Something I do, or say, is forever reminding you of the past. But you never tell me anything. And your friends are just as bad."

Defeated, Jonny sagged against the doorframe. He sighed heavily. This week's events were proving to be a panacea for clearing out personal problems. 

"Must be a Mattheson trait," he commented.

"Yeah?" Katrina dropped the vine and the trowel, and resolutely headed for the kitchen. "Well, I, for one, wish it wasn't."

Jonny stepped adroitly out of her way. He turned as she passed him, following her to the sink. While she washed her hands, he got down a glass and poured himself some juice. He took a swallow, using the time to build up sufficient courage to broach the problem. 

"My sister used to do it a lot," he told Katrina quietly.

Her hands froze beneath the stream of water. Slowly Katrina turned. Jonny almost never mentioned his family, let alone his sister, even though pictures of the entire family hung on one wall in the spare bedroom cum den.

"Come sit down, Trina," he requested. "I've got something to tell you."

The gravity of his request encouraged her to hurry through washing and drying her hands. Jonny drifted into the living room to wait for her. They generally shared the couch, leaving the swivel-rocker for guests. This afternoon Jonny isolated himself in the chair. As she sat down, Katrina felt a surge of misgiving. She sensed the discussion would inevitably lead back to his work.

"What's wrong?" she asked cautiously. The complexity of emotions shifting across his features made her stomach lurch. "Does it involve those three kids Mom and Dad are looking after for you and the department?"

Jonny nodded. "Trina," he paused. Started again, "This is damned hard, and really confusing."

"I promise not to say a word until you've finished," she swore solemnly.

"Good," he declared, "because I'm still confused, and I only found out about this on Wednesday."

"You're procrastinating," she prodded.

"You're right," he admitted. Taking a deep breath, Jonny plunged. "When Steve brought those kids to the office, I saw a photo in their mother's purse which stopped me cold. I made a discovery concerning something I was never suppose to know. If a certain FBI case hadn't been closed five years ago, I might never have stumbled onto the truth."

He paused and stared down into his half-empty glass. Katrina waited patiently, determined to keep her promise. Anything involving the past had to be serious, for it was the past Jonny always refused to discuss. He continued.

"Twelve years ago this coming August, I was told my sister had died in an explosion in Seattle. Only, it now appears she somehow managed to escape."

Trina's breath left her in a rush. She opened her mouth to object, snapped it shut immediately. This was definitely news. The death of Charlene Mattheson, a long time resident of Oahu, at the hands of a Canadian Mafia affiliate had been on all the networks in Seventy-eight. To hear she had survived was a considerable revelation. Small wonder Jonny had been operating in something of a daze since mid-week. Or that Jonny was so hesitant in his recitation.

"I know what you're thinking," said Jonny without looking up. "I was pretty shocked, too. Steve explained it was by sheer accident that he discovered she had escaped the apartment. Not only that. But Steve's partner, Dan Williams, is still alive, too."

Unable to stop herself, Trina blurted, "You're talking about Steve McGarrett of Five-O?"

"Yes."

"The same Steve who visits from time to time?"

Jonny nodded, but otherwise ignored her outburst. "The DA placed Danny on the Witness Protection Program to protect him until after Andre Larouche's trial date, but elected not to inform Steve. I can only imagine how Steve must have reacted at the time of his discovery. Larouche had already tried to kill Danny once.

"Danny was on his way back to the Islands for the trial when Larouche made his attempt on Charley. His way of trying to get Steve to back off and let the case die, I guess. Anyway, fate played a weird twist on all of them. Danny's watchdog, so to speak, for his return to the Islands was ordered to pick up Charley and convey her back, as well. She recognized Danny. Then Steve somehow wound up taking the back-up car out to the safe house. And, well, events sort of escalated from there."

"I'll just bet they did," whispered Katrina. Her mind leapt through every possible array of events and information. Her eyes widened. "Those kids---no! They aren't."

"They're Charley and Danny's," affirmed Jonny. "And my teen years' nemesis, Antonio Nicholaidis, spotted Charley at the airport Tuesday night."
"Why would he risk kidnapping her and Danny?" Katrina puzzled over that, her mind making the logical leap. "Particularly after all these years?"

"We aren't sure, Trina. Charley always hated him, but back when I knew Tonio he decided he wanted her. And when Tonio set his mind on something, he generally got it. He was right pissed off when she refused to have anything to do with him. Charley always was pretty straight-laced."

"It couldn't have helped that he was blackmailing and intimidating you," she retorted. 

"No, it didn't," he concurred. "But I doubt Charley would have considered him as a possible date under any circumstances. He just wasn't her type."

"God, Jonny," explained Katrina. "I am sorry. I wish I'd known. I've been such a bitch lately."

"You have, too," he enforced with a faint smile.

"Thanks," she returned with mock disgust. "You didn't have to agree."

Jonny finally looked up. A dried bit of leaf clung to the side of Katrina's head, and the end of her French braid had worked its way in beneath the neckline of her off-white sun top. Dirt dusted the front of her blue jeans. There was a smudge of something down one cheek.

"Actually," he told her, "I'm the one who ought to apologize." Katrina stared at him in amazement. Jonny sounded genuinely contrite and more than a touch embarrassed. "It's just, every time I see you out there working in the garden I remember Charley."

"You were pretty close, weren't you?" she said.

"Charley was my mother and my sister," he admitted. "Sometimes I honestly hated her. Particularly when she laid down the law." He shook his head. "Except towards those last days in Seventy-eight." Jonny struggled to explain in the light of Katrina's confusion. "I never knew she was carrying Danny's baby. Actually, it turns out, none of us did."

"Not even Steve?" inquired Katrina.

"Not even Danny," put in Jonny. He managed a snort of mirth at Katrina's expression. "Charley was so naive, sometimes." His face fell again. "After the funeral in March that year, it was as though she had died and not realized it. She wandered around, going through the motions, completely lost. Even Steve couldn't get her to snap out of it."

"I guess Danny must have been her whole life," commented Katrina, sympathetic.

"More than that," put in Jonny. "He saved her life twice. And she saved his once." He stared toward the patio door. A mosquito hummed past his head. He made a grab for it and missed. "Damn! Should have closed the screen. The sun's setting."

As one they stood the conversation apparently at an end. They went outside to put away the gardening tools and furniture. Katrina closed the shed door and turned, discovering Jonny standing alongside the barbecue pit. There was a far-away look in his eyes as he traced the scar on the bricks with his fingertips.

"Jonny," she probed, "what is that? You've never explained."

Jonny swallowed his irritation. Their whole conversation was developing into an easing of past pain. Rather like his sister's visit to Canada had accomplished for her years earlier.

"Remember I told you Charley had saved Danny's life once?" Katrina nodded, not wanting to say anything for fear he would balk at explaining. What he said next took her breath away. "It's a bullet scar."

"What!"

Staring up past the edge of the roof, Jonny repeated, "It's a bullet scar. A sniper shot Danny from those bluffs the day Danny meant to propose to Charley. While I went to call the police and an ambulance, she managed to stem the bleeding. She saved Danny's life. Wilkes came down to finish the job, but Charley knocked the rifle aside, deflecting the bullet. As a result, she got herself kidnapped. The bullet left that mark." He laughed sourly. "There's one thing that can definitely be said about my sister. With her around, there's never a dull moment."

"I never knew, said Katrina. He continued to stare at the hilltop. She slid an arm around him in an effort to attract his attention. "Jonny, I was sort of hoping we'd be able to visit Mom and Dad over the weekend."

"I can't get away, Katrina," began Jonny defensively, surprised by her apparent lack of concern toward everything he had just said.

"I realize that," she soothed.

Comprehension dawned. "That doesn't mean you shouldn't go. In fact, the kids would probably enjoy your company. Maybe you could help take their minds off what's happening over here."

Katrina was of half a mind to refuse his gracious offer. Something inside, though, told her it would be a serious mistake not to accept his advice. And the children were family after all. If HPD failed to rescue their parents, she and Jonny could well end up with a ready-to-order family.

"You and Steve find them, you hear me, Jonny?"

"We're doing our damnedest," he responded forcefully to her order with more than a trace of bitterness.

* * *

When Amanda returned home from grocery shopping Friday, she discovered the house silent. The odour of fresh brewed coffee permeated the interior, however, greeting her as she entered and informing her Steve was somewhere in the vicinity. She placed her purse on the bedroom chair before going in search. He was seated at the foot of the garden, half a mug of coffee in hand, brooding. He broke off staring at the ocean as she approached.

"Steve?"

She read his pensive mood for what it was. When he turned back to the sea, she stood behind him. Hands resting on his shoulders, she stared over his head in the same direction.

"The investigation isn't going well, is it?"

"No," he replied shortly.

"Any good news at all?"

"We won't know until tomorrow," he informed her. "Damn it, Amanda. I'm positive we're staring the clue to their whereabouts right in the face, and aren't reading it for what it is."

"Too close to the wood to see the trees," she commented. She massaged his shoulders, striving to ease some of the tension she felt beneath her fingers. "I'm positive Jonny's people are doing everything humanly possible."

Steve shrugged his shoulders irritably. Amanda removed her hands. When her husband slipped into one of these moods, it was best to remain silent and be company, no more. Long shadows faded into obscurity as the sun vanished entirely behind the mountains. Amanda found herself thinking back to the times when, as a new arrival to the Islands, she had watched for the fabled green flash at sunset. More often than not, all she had seen was molten red pouring across the rolling waves. At other times, sky and ocean had blended into a sea of gold, fading into purple obscurity with predictable tropical splendour.

Yanking her thoughts back to the present, she rose and went indoors to prepare supper. She knew Steve would follow soon enough. Dusk purpled into evening. The stars came out, one by one, spangling the sky with pinpoints of light. Mosquitoes appeared driving a reluctant Steve McGarrett back indoors.

He was silent most of the evening. Amanda recalled only once in the past having seen him trapped in this mood. That had been shortly prior to his retirement. This pensive quality deeply disturbed her. Yet, she knew better than to broach it with him. As she switched off the television at the end of the evening, preparatory to go to bed, she caught Steve's gaze resting on her. Now he appeared more thoughtful.

"Steve," she asked quietly. "What's wrong?"

He got to his feet. Put his arms around her. Steve McGarrett was not a particularly demonstrative person. Even as a husband. Such actions on his part were indicative of difficulties facing a particular problem.

"Amanda," he announced, "I want you to fly to Kauai tomorrow morning."

"Kauai?" Amanda was startled. "Tomorrow? Whatever for?"

He held her at arms' length. "I honestly believe it would be safer."

It was her turn to be reflectively serious. "You're afraid Tonio's going to come after you again, aren't you?"

"It's entirely possible."

"Then I'd rather be here," she objected.

"No, Amanda. Please." McGarrett, the cop, surged to the surface. His eyes gleamed expressively. His tone brooked absolutely no disobedience or questioning on her part. "I want you somewhere safe. Out of the way."

"Like the children," she declared peevishly.

"Yes," he admitted.

Holding his gaze for several minutes, Amanda searched his face. Then she slid into his grasp. All the old fears rose to the fore. She clung to him, feeling his arms tighten around her. Finally, she nodded.

"Alright, Steve." She looked up. "How long do you think this is going to drag on?"

"Not much longer, I hope," he informed her.

He released her. Without another word, he headed for the bedroom. Amanda turned out the lights and followed him to bed.

CHAPTER FOURTEEN


14 April 1990


Every breath she drew produced an accompanying stab of pain from the band of abused muscles around her ribcage. Charlene had to force herself to breathe. Danny felt her tense against the agony she was experiencing. A tremor accompanied each exhalation. He had done his best throughout the heat of the day to gently massage away the worst of the bruising as it formed. But, despite his best efforts, she continued to bite her upper lip and wince.

Whenever Charlene shifted her position in an effort to combat the stiffness settling into her frame, the movement was accomplished with considerable deliberation, and accompanied by a muffled half-grunt, half-whine. Danny had never experienced hatred to the degree now enflaming him. Not even after the discovery for the real reason behind his first fiancée's murder. The extremes to which Tonio's sadism had been carried the previous night had come close to over-riding every ounce of self-control Danny still possessed.

"It's the day before Easter," said Charlene. The words emerged at carefully space intervals, an indication it hurt even to speak. "Holy Saturday."

"What were you doing twelve years ago," he asked, determined to divert her attention from their incarceration.

Charlene gazed up at him. Her features settled thoughtfully, mouth curved downward. "Trying to come to terms with your death. And doing a pretty shitty job of it, too, I might add."

"And?"

"Isn't that enough?"

"Didn't Steve help?"

She stared across the bow space, concealing her emotions. "He tried. As a matter of fact, so did Jonny."

Danny sensed she was going to continue, despite the pause. He waited patiently. This was a time in their relationship that they had avoided discussing after being placed on the Witness Protection Program.

"I wonder whatever happened to him?"

"He made Rookie," said Danny with a touch of admiration.

"Yeah. He did, didn't he?" Charlene shifted. She smiled up at him wistfully. Pride for her brother's achievements was evident in her eyes.

"I'll bet he's a damned good cop, too," commented Danny. He gave her right hand a little squeeze.

"I hope so," declared Charlene fiercely.

"If he isn't," Danny teased, "it's not because he was lacking in determination."

"Or stubborness," she added. "Or for lack of good examples to follow." She wrapped the fingers of her left hand around her right, cradling his hand between her breasts. "You and Steve set him a pretty tough goal to shoot for, you know."

Before Danny could respond, a watertight door clattered. Hinges squealed. Charlene started, inadvertently pulling her side. She gasped. Danny attempted to hold her still, but she drew from his grasp with a determination that astounded him. Her face was pale with pain as she stood. He rose to his feet as well. They waited, presenting a united front to the enemy. The door to their prison swung open. Tonio stepped in. His nose wrinkled at the over-powering stench, unprepared for this result of his refusal to provide them with adequate sanitation in his efforts to increase their level of degredation. Charlene experienced a measure of grim satisfaction upon witnessing his reaction.

"Well, well, well," he commented with grudging appreciation. 

He was clearly surprised to see Charlene on her feet, and prepared for another round. Wary, he moved along the far wall, keeping out of reach. Reaching a point halfway between them, he paused to study the effects of his beating.

Bruises had purpled during the day, and were now turning a sickly yellow. They stood out starkly against Charlene's flesh. He noted how she took care not to inhale sharply or too deeply. A crooked smile of pleasure warped his face.

"I don't believe it," he crooned. "All spunky and ready to go again."

"Why don't you just crawl back under whatever rock spawned you," bit out Charlene.

"Charley," whispered Danny. "Easy."

Tonio moved towards her. He paused and reached into his jacket, withdrawing a palm-sized case. Charlene instantly recognized it as the same one he had used at the beach. She felt Danny stiffen as also identified it from past experience.

"Know what this is?" Tonio thrust it in Danny's direction.

Danny refused to rise to the taunt. He watched the race of emotions in the pusher's eyes. Tonio hated him because Charlene had married him. He also feared Danny because he was an unknown quantity in his schemes.

Tonio snapped open the lid, revealing two vials and two syringes. These lay side by side, nestled in forms cut into the styro-foam lining. He ran a finger along the plump line of the larger bottle.

"No," he crooned, looking up suddenly to catch and hold Charlene's horrified gaze. "I ain't gonna use this on you. This one's for him. Later, much later." He picked up the smaller vial. "Right now, you're gonna get that treat Miz Streit promised you way back in Seventy-six."

Charlene took an involuntary step back. Her foot caught against the short length of chain. Danny grabbed her as she over-balanced, steadying her until she regained her equilibrium. Danny began to shake with rage.

Tonio asked, "Remember that time?"

"Damn you, Nicholaidis," Danny's fingers unwittingly pinched the flesh of her arms, but Charlene held perfectly still.

Tonio leered at them. A raucous laugh burst from his lips. He replaced the vial and closed the case. To their amazement, he replaced the container in his pocket.

"Some brave," he commented sarcastically.

He moved forward, taking hold of Charlene's nearest arm. Locking gazes with Danny, Tonio pulled. Danny's mouth settled into a hard line of pure rage as he was forced to release his grip. When they were out of reach, Tonio released Charlene.

"Turn around," he ordered. Charlene shivered, but refused to budge. "I said, turn around."

Taking a deep breath to steel herself, Charlene slowly inched around until she was facing Danny. Their eyes met and held. Danny's nerves jangled. The light in Charlene's eyes had frozen with terror. No other expression touched her face at all.

Behind her, Tonio slowly withdrew a switchblade from his pants' pocket and opened it. He squatted. Taking hold of the bottom of Charlene's right pant leg, he slowly slit the seam up to the crotch, dragging out the agonizing moment. The blade nicked her leg twice, but Charlene failed to flinch. Disappointed, the Italian repeated the procedure with the left pant leg, leaving the remnants of the fabric hanging like a crude, ankle length skirt, split front and back. The only reaction he succeeded in drawing from Charlene was the clenching of her fists as her sides.

Tonio inched back to admire his handiwork. He closed up the blade and put it away. Danny understood. The performance had been primarily for his benefit, although it had served to thoroughly terrorize Charlene. When Tonio ran a hand up the inside of Charlene's bare leg to her thigh, Danny felt something snap inside.

"You always were a cheap bastard," he informed Tonio. "You never picked on anyone who wasn't helpless."

"You got it all wrong, man," retorted Tonio, pausing in the midst of tormenting Charlene. "She always did run a good line. 'Specially at the trial."

"Charley told only the truth."

Taken aback by that retort, Tonio demanded, "How would you know?"

"I was there!"

Tonio jerked back. He stared around Charlene's still form, puzzled and worried by Danny's attack. After a minute's consideration, he stood and stepped past her. Fearful, Charlene waited, forced to remain perfectly still. This time she dared not interrupt. Tonio moved another step nearer.

"You couldn't have been there," argued the Italian angrily. "I remember everyone who testified."

Although his cop instincts warned him against pushing Tonio to the brink, Danny was beyond caring. He gathered himself to deliver the blow. His gaze locked with Tonio's, Danny slid his shot home.

"I should have shot you when I took out Gene."

"Danny."

The protest burst, unbidden, from Charlene's lips, mortified by the vindictiveness in her husband's voice. Danny had meant every word he had just uttered. Tonio shot her a look at that name. The muscles between his shoulder blades bunched. He did not want to admit the truth to himself.

"I don't know you," he declared.

"You should," countered Dan Williams.

Intent upon solving this mystery, Tonio studied his prisoner. Slowly, mentally he stripped away the beard. His eyes widened at the revelation. Past and present over-lapped. He stared hard at Danny, struggling to reconcile this product of a comfortably married man, his prisoner, with the member of Five-O who had been Steve McGarrett's partner. With a snap past and present merged. He drew several short breaths as recognition forced its way through the maze of false paths laid down years earlier. Charlene's reactions to his earlier threats became clear.

"You're dead," said Tonio. "Maroon killed you."

"To paraphrase," said Danny bluntly, "the rumours of my death have been greatly exaggerated."

The ferocity of Danny's verbal attack caused Tonio to back up again. That admittance caused the pusher to step to the far wall of the chamber. He leaned against the plates, studying Danny as though he were a zoologist who had discovered a hither to unknown sub-species of wildlife.

Already frightened, Charlene watched both men. Her fears intensified to monumental proportions, disliking what she read in Tonio's eyes. Eventually the Italian thrust away from the wall. Without a word, Tonio took five long strides. Crossing the room, he planted a vicious blow solidly in Danny's unprotected midriff.

"That's for my boss," announced the ex-pusher angrily.

The punch was delivered from the shoulder. Unable to adequately prepare for its delivery, Danny doubled up. He choked, unable to breathe. Charlene cried out. She grabbed at Tonio. He backhanded her into the near wall. Losing her footing, Charlene skittered to the floor. Her husband sagged against the bow plates for support. As he slowly recovered, he looked up, thoroughly contemptuous.

But Tonio's attention had returned to Charlene. Removing the small case from his jacket pocket, Tonio opened it and removed the larger of the two vials. He half-filled the reservoir. With Danny looking on, unable to protest, Tonio grabbed Charlene's nearest leg and flipped her onto her stomach.

He knelt astride her. Pinning her legs to the floor to prevent her thrashing about, Tonio carefully inserted the needle and depressed the plunger. He jerked the needle from her flesh and stowed it in its case.

"There. That ought to hold you for now," he announced.

Danny clawed back to his feet and took a step forward. Tonio hurriedly replaced the case and removed his switchblade. He gestured to Charlene.

"Not another step, Williams." The Italian slid back to Charlene's feet. Shifting the switchblade in his left hand, he picked a key from his jacket pocket. "That is your name isn't it? Danny Williams, McGarrett's buddy."

Danny refrained from replying. Tonio went silent. He unlocked the manacles from Charlene's ankles and threw the chain aside. Then he stood.

"Tell me something, Williams." Tonio straddled Charlene, watching her as the sedative took effect, wholly unconcerned by Danny's proximity. "How did they manage to hide you so well?"

"I don't suppose any of you thought to ask why Larouche was shipped to the East Coast to serve his time, did you?" Danny blandly countered.

He fought against revealing his concern as Charlene's head sagged to the floor. Her eyelids closed despite her attempt to fight off the drug. Danny's heart went out to her.

"Some of us thought it kind of weird," Tonio slowly admitted. "Even a couple of the bulls commented on it."

The Italian barked a laugh then, as though some thought amused him. With one foot, he rolled Charlene onto her back. Reaching down, he swivelled her around and grabbed her beneath the armpits. He dragged her across the room and hefted her over the doorsill. Danny waited anxiously as Tonio disappeared. Only the slithering of Charlene's body on the floor, and the clatter of the remaining chains, echoed back to him from the darkness beyond the opening. The noises ceased. Tonio reappeared.

"Must really bug you knowing your buddy ain't gonna know about this," commented Tonio.

"Oh?" 

Danny struggled to remain impassive. Tonio laughed again. The harsh sound filled the forward compartment. He was not fooled. 

"Your kids played it right smart, Williams," Tonio apprised him. "Wouldn't have thought they'd think to go back to your buddy's. But they did."

Danny felt his heart skip several beats. His sight blurred momentarily. Daniel had learnt his lessons well, and had taken care of his brother and sister in the bargain. There was a rustling. He refocused on his jailor. Tonio stepped over the doorsill. In his hands was a newspaper.

"Take a good look at that while I'm gone, Williams." Tonio threw it as his feet. The pages fluttered down half-open, landing in a tumbled mess. "I'll be gone for about fifteen minutes." He stepped out and paused. "Oh. Don't get your hopes up. The little lady's gonna sleep for a good twenty, thirty minutes. After that, I'll give her the second dose."

Chortling to himself, Tonio callously kicked over the bucket, spilling the remaining water. Then he disappeared, leaving the compartment door ajar. Danny waited until he was positive the Italian had indeed departed. Unable to resist, he bent to shuffle the newspaper back together.

The date at the top of the page was April thirteenth. He picked it up. The front headline fairly leapt off the page at him. His hand shook as he read the large print.

'Ex-Chief of Five-O Survives Plunge! Three Dead in Coast Highway Accident!'

Sickened, Danny's stomach lurched. He forced himself to read the entire contents of the story line. Struggled to digest the grisly information.

'Shortly after seven ten yesterday, a car driven by Steve McGarrett was forced off the coast highway on the east shore. Thrown clear at the last moment, McGarrett was unable to rescue the three, as yet unidentified, children who were riding with him in the vehicle. McGarrett, one-time, long-standing head of Hawaii Five-O---"

The article ran on, but Danny's attention was inexorably drawn back to the first two sentences. The longer he stared at them, the more he re-read them, the more something struck him as being oddly amiss.

"What happened, Steve?"

Without meaning to, Danny spoke out loud. The paper trickled from his hands to the floor. He stared at the far wall, thoughts tumbling over and over. Steve always wore his seatbelt. The car would probably have been brand new. It seemed impossible that his friend would have escaped, but the children had died. Stung by the possibility, Danny grabbed up the paper and turned to the fourth page.

As he has suspected, there were three photos: one was of Steve McGarrett, two were of the car. Danny studied the remains of the vehicle. An Eighty-nine coupe, it had definitely sustained extensive damage in the crash. In fact, there was very little left, even for the wreckers. The roof was crushed almost flush with the hood. All the glass was gone from the windows. What he could see of the front seats indicated they had been smashed down by the impact of the falling car.

"Think, Williams," he ordered himself as he had done often in the past as a member of Five-O. Talking out loud seemed to help jar his thoughts into action. "There's something wrong with those pictures."

Footsteps outside distracted him. He replaced the paper on the floor just as Tonio reappeared, the Italian's form lit by a bobbing circle of light. He was carrying a large flashlight, a small acetylene tank set and welding tools.

"Watcha think, Williams? You like boats like your buddy does," asked Tonio cheerfully.

A wave of horror washed over Danny. Tonio was intent upon sealing him into the forward compartment of the ship. The Italian stepped inside. Reaching up, he unhooked the industrial light from its makeshift bracket and removed it from the chamber.

"Gotta have plenty of light to work, you know," Tonio casually informed his prisoner. He closed the door. "But I promise you I'll leave the inspection hatch open. How's that?"

Left in almost total darkness, Danny listened to the sound of the striker, followed by the roar of ignited acetylene gas. Blue and white sparks flew past the inspection portal in sporadic fountains. He sat down in the darkness, watching the opening and the ghastly play of light that spilled through onto the floor immediately inside the hatch.

* * *

A grumbling hiss assailed Charlene's hearing. She stirred fitfully. As the effects of the drug gradually waned she forced her eyes open and abruptly winced away from the flare of brilliant blue and white light. Groggy, she shook her head and struggled to sit up. Someone was welding. The thought seemed incongruous with the time and place. The torch cut out. A dull red glow continued to light the scene. The welder pushed back his protective hood. Hearing her stir, he turned to her.

"Not a bad job," he began. The words choked off in his throat when he realised she was awake, though not completely wholly aware of her surroundings. "Son of a bitch. Thought I gave you more than enough to keep you under 'till I was finished. Gonna have to remember that. Your tolerance is better than I thought."

Charlene heard him without being conscious of his words. She stared at the sealed hatch, swallowing repeatedly to bury tears and terror. Now she was completely and utterly alone. Cut off from her husband, and at Tonio's mercy. Reading her expression, he tossed aside the welding torch and crawled to her side. He ran a finger down the curve of her shoulder to the hollow of her throat. She remained wholly unresponsive.

"Don't worry," he informed her. "Lover boy's not dead, not yet. In fact," Tonio raised his voice with every intention that Danny should hear his words, "he should live another two, maybe three days in there. You hear me, Williams?"

"I'll live to see you back behind bars, you bastard," declared Danny angrily.

"Maybe."

Tonio appeared unconcerned by that threat. He stood and removed the box from his pocket once more. Charlene watched while he filled the hypodermic and flicked the air bubbles from it. As he bent over her, he smiled coldly.

"In the meantime, you and I are gonna have some fun. Aren't we, you little bitch?"

He studied her face. It was a frozen mask of hatred and loathing. Tonio set the needle aside. Taking her left hand in his, he stared at the rings.

"Nice. Real nice." Tonio grasped the dainty engagement solitaire on Charlene's finger. She protested weakly.

"No!"

That particular ring held far more meaning for her than Tonio could imagine. Charlene writhed in his grasp, but he succeeded in removing it. In taking the ring, he unwittingly struck at Charlene's inner core of resistance, unconsciously delivering her a fatal blow.

"Give that back, you slimy little creep," she demanded in growing desperation. For her it was a continuous link to Danny, no matter what happened to either of them.

"No way, lady. I got me a woman who likes sparklies. This'll do just fine. 'Sides," he casually announced, "you ain't gonna need it no more."

Retrieving the hypodermic, he ran it into her vein on her left arm. The only indication Charlene gave that she had felt it enter her flesh was the slight flaring of her nostrils. Otherwise, she remained silent and still.

There was no further evidence of Charlene's presence outside his prison. Danny shouted, demanding to know what was happening. But Charlene bit her tongue and remained staunchly silent as she felt herself slipping away. Tonio watched and waited. Charlene's name echoed through the ship, down into the very bowels of the abandoned vessel. It was the final thing of which she was conscious as the drug took effect.

"Charley!"

CHAPTER FIFTEEN


"Charley!"

The echo of Danny's shout died away as Tonio stepped back from his unconscious victim. He tossed the used needle into the corner. The vial shattered as it struck the floor, glass fragments mingling with those of the others he had disposed of in the same manner on previous occasions. Tonio's experiences in the penitentiary made him acutely sensitive to the disposal of used hypodermics.

"You bastard," shouted Danny. He added several other colourful metaphors.

Tonio returned to the inspection portal. He called back through the opening, "How does it feel, Williams? Does it look like the walls are closing in on you? How long do you think you'll last in total darkness before the old mind snaps? Eh?"

"Fuck you,' Danny responded, using language he knew Charlene would have been shocked to hear him utter. He stared at the tiny opening. Then, "They'll find you."

His voice cracked and he was forced to forego the remainder of what he wanted to say. A dry coughing fit racked him. He slithered weakly down the wall to sit, head bowed over his knees, until the spasm ceased.

"Gettin' thirsty? It's only just begun."

Danny took his time. He waited until he could swallow once more before raising his head. A red glow still emanated from beyond the sealed hatch. As he watched, he could just make out Tonio as the other passed across the oval of light. Chains rattled against the outside bulkhead. The sound raised Danny's hackles. All too quickly, the noise stopped. Tonio returned to the opening.

"Thought you'd like to know what I'm planning for your little lady, Williams."

Taking a slow, deep breath to avoid irritating the dry tissues in his throat, Danny straightened. He refused to favour his captor with a response.

Furious that his prisoner remained silent, Tonio shouted, "You hear me, Williams?"

When Danny still failed to reply, Tonio muttered something foul in his native tongue. Danny heard his captor fumbling around beyond the hatch. Something blocked out the light. An all too familiar click alerted every nerve in his body. Instinctively flinging himself down alongside the nearest projection, Danny made himself as small as possible.

An explosion reverberated around the interior of the sealed compartment. The compression was so magnified it almost drowned out the wicked whine of a ricocheting bullet. The round altered its trajectory several times before losing impetus. Tonio giggled insanely.

"How's it feel now, Williams? Scared yet?"

Danny's lips formed silent obscenities. He held perfectly motionless. Another calculated click followed the noise of the weapon's dying concussion. Another bullet racketed about the interior of the compartment. Something impacted Danny's side, striking him with bruising force but failing to pierce the skin. Energy spent, the bullet trickled to the floor with a soft 'ping'.

"Just like shootin' fish in a barrel," exclaimed Tonio gleefully. "You still there, Williams?"

"I'm still here, Nicholaidis," Danny shouted back.

He remained firmly pressed up against the ship rib. The last shot had come too close. His continued silence was provoking Tonio to unnecessary extremes. Danny elected to respond to his captor's inquiry. It would avail neither him nor Charlene any hope of survival if one of them was killed simply because they drove Tonio beyond the marginal limits of sanity within which he was operating.

"Found your voice, eh?" Tonio sounded exceptionally pleased with himself.

"What do you want?" Danny demanded.

"Gettin' right feisty," remarked Tonio thoughtfully. He sounded genuinely surprised that there was so much fight left in his prisoner. "Must be from hangin' around Charley too much."

"You'd be surprised what rubs off over fourteen years," Danny countered.

"Gonna lecture me, Williams?"

"Just reminding you," Danny quietly advised him. "It rubs both ways."

"Yeah. Guess it does," reflected the other. A lengthy pause ensued. Danny strained but there was no sound of retreating footfalls. Suddenly, Tonio laughed. The sound was humourless. "I'm makin' you a promise, Williams."

Wary, Danny returned, "Why?"

"'Cause it's your lady I'm really interested in," said Tonio. "You were just a bonus."

"That's why you murdered our kids, I suppose," Danny snarled back.

"Them and you are part of the plan, Williams. That's all. Just your tough luck. If you hadn't married the bitch---" Tonio paused meaningfully, but Danny held his tongue. "You still listening?"

"I'm listening," Danny grimly acknowledged.

"Just to make your dying a little easier, I thought you'd like to know I ain't plannin' to kill your lady," Tonio announced. Something about the concept apparently amused him, for sadistic pleasure oozed through his tone. "When I'm done, she goes free."

"Just like that," exploded Danny in disbelief. His stomach knotted. The Italian had sounded as though he were telling the truth. And that did not ring true. There had to be more to it than that. "What's your game, Tonio?"

The other laughed dryly then appeared to choke. His head dropped away from the inspection portal. Light spilled back into the compartment. A throat-tearing cough resounded from beyond the opening. It was several seconds before Tonio spoke again.

"No game, Williams," he managed at last.

"What's the catch?" Danny demanded again.

Tonio parried, "You want to die easy, or not?"

"I want to know what the hell you intend to do with Charley," shouted Danny angrily.

"You really love that bitch, don't you?"

"She's my wife!"

Danny's voice cracked again. His throat felt as though it was coated with dust. He dropped his head back to his knees. Swallow followed swallow until he could breath again without coughing.

"Guess you got that right," called back his captor. Tonio paused, listening to the sound of hacking within the compartment. It died away. "You still with me, Williams?"

"Yeah," replied Danny hoarsely.

Tonio stirred as though deciding exactly what to say. Danny waited. The dripping condensation impinged upon his heightened hearing with excruciatingly loud reverberations. He winced and licked his lips. They were dried and cracking. A split had formed at one corner. He tasted blood.

"I'm taking her out of here, Williams. I've got somewhere else special to stash her, somewhere nice and cosy. Then, when I'm good and ready, I'm gonna share all my most intimate moments from the pen with her," Tonio announced. "You understand what I'm saying, Williams?"

Danny squeezed his eyes shut. The Italian need not elaborate. As a one-time member of HPD, Dan Williams was well aware of what Tonio was inferring. Teeth gritting, he choked down the flood of bile those thoughts evoked.

"I'm gonna share it all with her," crooned Tonio with anticipation. "And when I'm done, I'm gonna let her go."

"Don't bullshit me, Nicholaidis," Danny shouted back. "Charley can identify you. You aren't going to run the chance of turning her loose with that information. They'd send you up for life."

Tonio laughed again at that. There was an underlying viciousness to the sound that stabbed at Danny. He peered through the darkness at the inspection portal, his nerves jangling a warning he failed to translate.

"You know what, Williams? That's the kicker. It won't matter," retorted Tonio. There was an added edge to his words. "And you want to know why? I ain't gonna last more'n two more years."

Still chortling, he turned away. Danny heard the other grunt as he shouldered Charlene's limp form. Footsteps scuffed across metal. Keys jangled faintly. Tonio passed out of hearing.

"Oh, God," whispered Danny desperately, "No. Charley."

Rolling onto his back, he squeezed his eyes shut and silently wept. He knew now what Tonio had planned as clearly as if the other had outlined every gruesome detail in black and white. Knew, too, what Charlene would be subjected to. The hell which Tonio's words conjured was a promise of a living nightmare which would drag on, day after day, year after year, test after test, until the end finally arrived.

Danny paid no heed when Tonio returned to remove the construction light, caught in the foul trap of his captor's devising. He realised why Tonio had gone to such elaborate extremes in carrying through his vendetta. The culmination of seeing his cosy niche in the criminal society sundered, and being forced, by his desire to survive to submit to fellow inmates, had reduced Tonio to the same role he had once foisted upon his female companions. It had pushed him over the edge. The final blow had been the infection, and the manner in which it had been transmitted.

Danny slammed his fist against the metal rib beside him. The skin over his knuckles split and bled but the pain felt good. It snapped him back to reality, out of the hell of misery and despair into which he had been sinking. Not since Jane's murder could he recall having felt as though his entire life had been so utterly destroyed.

He dragged himself upright, forcing himself to review the events since Wednesday morning, as he knew them, carrying the suppositions through analytically as he had done as a cop. He strove to bring himself abreast of what was more than likely transpiring outside.

The children had gone to Steve. That meant HPD was aware that he and Charlene had been kidnapped. Daniel might have managed to get a good enough look at Tonio before he and the others had fled to make a positive ID. Given that possibility, HPD probably knew who was responsible. They would be directing the search with that in mind, Danny reasoned. With luck, the investigating team was sufficiently broad-minded that they might have involved McGarrett in the case. And the retired head of Five-O knew more about Antonio Nicholaidis than anyone presently on the force.

Having itemised the probable, logical progression of events beyond his prison walls Danny wormed his way backwards until he found the wall. He leaned against it, stretching out his legs. Something rustled loudly in the darkness: the newspaper. That reminder sent his thoughts off at a tangent.

Because it was impossible to study the pictures in the darkness, he struggled to recall what he had seen of the car in the two photos before Tonio's return. The first had shown the upside-down vehicle at the bottom of the cliff. The other had been of the wreck waiting to be towed from the scene. A light went on inside Danny's head. He thumped a fist hard against one thigh.

"Yes," he said fiercely into the darkness. "Yes."

In both photos the car doors had been shut. The photographer's second shot afforded the readers a clear view of the interior beneath the squashed roof. There was no glass in the back. That suggested the rear-windows had been wound down at the time of the final impact. With the vehicle in such a state, the paramedics would have been forced to remove the entire top to get at any bodies inside.

"They're alive," he declared, forcing himself to believe those words. To believe he and his wife had won by so tiny a victory no matter what the ultimate results of this hellish nightmare might be for them. "You missed them, you dumb bastard. They're alive."

He clung to his belief. That knowledge, and his faith in HPD bolstered Danny as the hold grew progressively colder. As time crept by he started to shiver. Cold and damp ate at him and Danny's grip on reality began to slide. Already weak from lack of food and water, he slipped into a delirium as night advanced. His spine tightened and locked. His jaw clenched until he could feel the ache from the top of his head to the base of his spine. Arms wrapped around him in a futile effort to beat back the next stages of hypothermia that were rapidly creeping up on him, Danny stared at the sealed door through the darkness. If it was the last thing he did, he was determined to survive long enough to make Tonio pay for what he was subjecting his wife and children to.

CHAPTER SIXTEEN


McGarrett rattled around the house for several hours before belatedly arriving at the conclusion he might have been wiser in allowing Amanda to remain home. Plainly he had over-reacted to the situation, exerting time worn masculine protectiveness for the 'weaker sex'.

With a snort he ridiculed himself for his absurd behaviour. Amanda had been a senior sergeant with the military, and still worked out three times a week immediately prior to leaving work. Outward appearances were deceptive. She was fully as capable as he to deal with most incidents which might arise. As a direct consequence of what he was beginning to consider an attack of over-reacting to a situation that would probably never arise, he was alone in an empty house. Nor could he think of anything of immediate consequence with which to occupy himself until Jonny's next call. He dared not retire to the beach for fear he would miss that call, although he could move to the patio with the kitchen extension.

After considerable deliberation, Steve dug out a pad of foolscap and a pen, and began jotting down everything he could recall concerning the habits and behaviour patterns of Antonio Nicholaidis. He added to that the sketchy information Jonny's team had put together thus far on Tonio's haunts and probably street contacts since his release from the penitentiary. He was well on his way into his third sheet of notations when the telephone finally rang.

"McGarrett," he responded eagerly.

"Just like the old days, eh, Steve," said Jonny.

Not about to resort to idle conversation McGarrett demanded, "What have you got, Jonny?"

"Whoa, there, Steve. Easy." Jonny unsuccessfully tried to suppress a wry chuckle at the other's over-assertiveness. "I'll be over around lunchtime. Until then, I'd like you to know we've managed to track down Tonio's last known place of residence."

"Empty?"

"Naturally."

"What else?"

"We may have a line on a contact."

"When you find him," tendered Steve more cautiously, "I'd like to accompany you when you pick him up for questioning."

"I rather suspected you'd ask. I'll have to call it as I see it when the time comes," Jonny responded bluntly.

"All right," Steve McGarrett conceded.

"By the way," said Jonny, "he's a she."

Steve McGarrett discovered his thoughts momentarily thrown back across twenty-two years. He shook the image away, returning to the present just in time to hear Jonny continue.

"She keeps a low profile. No home phone. And she appears to move frequently."

"Unusual," commented McGarrett. "Any particular reason for that?"

"Yeah. Previous employment brought her a lot of unwelcome attention. Her latest job's at one of the bars. She doesn't start until late, and her shifts vary."

"Waitress or dancer?" McGarrett wanted to know.

"Back off, Steve." Jonny cautioned him, his tone dry.

McGarrett mentally took two giant steps back. It was difficult to bury old habits, despite the years separating him and his job. He was finding it increasingly difficult to come to terms with Jonny Mattheson calling the shots.

"Now," continued Jonny, "about Tonio's job prospects' file. Kitch kept her promise. The file's just arrived on my desk. She must have had someone working overtime to dig it out, 'cause they're normally closed weekends. And this is the long weekend."

"Perhaps she did you a favour and looked it up herself," McGarrett suggested, dredging up a more congenial tone.

"Maybe." Jonny sounded doubtful. "I'd like you to go through it with me, Steve. You may pick up something I miss."

"Alright. What else?"

"The lab thinks they have a line on those pieces of metal. We'll know by this evening."

"Things appear to be looking up."

"Could be. What about your end?" Jonny inquired, "You wouldn't have come up with something that might help?"

McGarrett discovered he had continued to jot down notes in the midst of his conversation. He laid his pen aside. "I've been making a list of everything I can recall from Five-O's investigation prior to taking down Diedre Streit."

There was a peculiar noise in the background. Steve McGarrett strained to determine with it was but failed to identify it.

"Damn," muttered Jonny in an aside. "Should have thought of that. Thanks, Steve, I owe you one."

"For what?" McGarrett demanded even as he determined what he had heard was the snapping of Jonny's fingers on the other end of the connection.

"For jogging the old grey matter," replied Jonny. "You were right about being too close to this one to actually see what's going on. There's more than one file on Tonio's activities over the years. He was one busy boy before you put him away. I've gotta get someone moving, hunting up everything we have on him. See you sometime around twelve, Steve."

"Jonny!" McGarrett called loudly before the younger man could hang up. "Pick me up at the penitentiary."

Silence greeted his request for almost a minute. When Jonny finally replied, he spoke with caution. "Say that again?"

"You heard me."

"What the hell are you---" Jonny broke off. A chair squeaked loudly over the line. "You weren't planning to have a chat with an old mutual acquaintance, by any chance?"

"It might prove worth the time," replied McGarrett. "And she may prove more amenable to me interrogating her than someone who's still active on the force."

Jonny appeared to consider the alternatives and possible ramifications of permitting an ex-cop such extensive free rein. Steve could hear a repetitive tapping in the background as he patiently waited.

"Okay. Give it a shot. But no strong arm tactics," requested Jonny. He sounded tight-lipped as McGarrett continued pushing of the limits.

There was an abrupt click. The line went dead without formality. McGarrett stared at the receiver for a long second before hanging up as well. Mention of Diedre Streit and her people never failed to grate on Jonny Mattheson's nerves, even after all this time. Nor was Steve entirely surprised by his young friend's response. It had been Diedre Streit who had ordered the death of Victoria Stanton-Mattheson. The contract had resulted in the deaths of both parents, plus a third offspring.

Diedre had also intimidated Jonny into direct involvement with her drug organisation, and had attempted to manipulate Charlene. Failing with Jonny's surviving relative, Diedre had concluded two additional corpses were preferable to an uncertain truce. Her efforts to out-manoeuvre Five-O and Charlene Mattheson had resulted in the break necessary for McGarrett's department to arrest Diedre Streit and most of her people. And begin what had amounted to a gradual dissolution of her organisation. Consequently Diedre had received life without parole.

There was definitely no love lost between the surviving Mattesons and Diedre Streit. Yet Diedre Streit had summarily withdrawn her support for Andre Larouche when the French Canadian Mafia-type had attempted to kill both Danny and Charlene two years after her own incarceration. His Hawaiian contract eliminated, The Rose had proved easy meat for Five-O.

McGarrett broke off his ruminations of the past. It was almost ten thirty. He called a taxi. While waiting for it to arrive, he changed and grabbed himself a final cup of coffee. By the time the cab tooted its horn outside, he was tearing off the pages of notes and folding them into his pocket.

The penitentiary gate guard let him in without question. Jonny had called ahead. It was arranged for McGarrett to speak with the Head Warden. The discussion was little more than a formality, after which Steve was guided downstairs, through the familiar routine search and ushered into a small room.

Unlike previous visits in the capacity of an investigating officer, however, the atmosphere was considerably more relaxed. There was coffee in an urn at the side of the room, as well as the proverbial ashtray on the table in the centre.

Diedre Streit appeared mildly intrigued when she stepped into the room. She paused significantly to survey her old opponent. McGarrett noted the one-time head of Streit Enterprises had thinned with age. The years behind bars had bleached her hair to an iron grey, and deeply entrenched harsh lines at the corners of her nose and mouth.

"Well, McGarrett," said Diedre, terminating her intense study, "What brings you to my happy little home?"

"I'm assisting in an investigation," he informed her bluntly.

"Really?" Diedre moved to the coffee urn. "Do you mind?" He shook his head. She gestured for him to join her. He declined. "I heard you were retired."

"In a manner of speaking," he deferred.

"Quit fencing, McGarrett." There was no animosity in her voice. He had out-manoeuvred her too adeptly in the past for Diedre to consider attempting a rematch. "Tell me what's going on."

"Antonio Nicholaidis," said McGarrett simply.

"Good old Tony." Diedre sipped her coffee thoughtfully. "What has my obnoxious little pusher been up to lately to rock the establishment's boat?"

"He's kidnapped a couple of good friends of mine, and attempted to murder their children."

He told her no more than was absolutely necessary. There was no doubting his bluntness took her completely by surprise. Coffee slopped over the rim of her mug. Diedre bit back a colourful curse mid-stream. Setting the cup aside, she sucked at her hand and stared at him over her knuckles.

"Son of a bitch," she expounded finally.

McGarrett raised both eyebrows. He could never recall having heard Diedre Streit employ foul language in the past. She had always been too much of a lady. Time in prison did much to alter a person, though. He was only mildly surprised. She stared past his shoulder at the blank, whitewashed wall of the room. Removing a pack of cigarettes from her tunic pocket, she lit one and put the rest away.

"Filthy habit," she declared conversationally after taking a couple of deep drags. Her eyes never left their gaze into middle-distance.

When she failed to add anything to her comments, Steve pushed gently. "A friend of mine needs your help in tracking down Tonio."

"Why should I help the cops, McGarrett?" She casually parried his demand. "They've done little enough for me over the years."

He knew she had him. Even more annoying, Diedre knew he knew. She was serving life imprisonment for past misdemeanours. Nothing he could say would ruffle her. He could only wait and hope. Diedre's gaze drifted back to rest on him.

"I really can't help you, I'm afraid."

"Somehow I find that difficult to believe," responded McGarrett sharply.

"God's truth, McGarrett." Diedre's gaze fell to her mug. She swirled the liquid around a couple of times, watching as it slowly settled. "The organisation passed out of my control. I've been out of contact for more than seven years. Five-O did a good number on us, all right. Cut me right out of it and there wasn't a thing I could say to fight the decision."

"You must have heard something in here concerning Tonio's activities," McGarrett urged, struggling to keep desperation from becoming evident in his voice.

Diedre idly stirred the coffee with her stir stick. Growing bored with that, she reflectively munched on one end of the bit of plastic. Steve could almost see her brain working as she sorted through the news she must have accumulated over the years.

"I did hear he made parole two, two and a half years ago," she commented. "Nothing else, though." She looked up. McGarrett read the truth of her statement in her expression.

"What does he know about administering sedatives?"

"Tranquillisers?"

"No."

"Ahhh." Diedre took another puff of her cigarette and allowed the smoke to trickle lazily from her nostrils. "Now that would depend entirely upon how much he remembers from when I employed him."

McGarrett filed that. He shifted his weight. They had covered almost everything he had come to interview her about. He would get nothing more from Diedre Streit until she had had the opportunity to pursue the local pipeline. It was time to leave.

"If you hear anything, call HPD and ask for me."

"Still the cop," she mused. "You have no idea how many people breathed a sigh of relief the day you retired." Her eyes narrowed marginally as she considered the ramifications of his presence. "But I suspect things weren't quite that simple, were they?"

McGarrett shrugged noncommittally. "Are they ever?"

Diedre stubbed out the butt and pushed her empty mug aside. "Who's he snatched, McGarrett?"

His expression hardened so quickly and so forcefully that Diedre Streit experienced the sensation of sitting naked in the full blast of a glacial wind. She conceded defeat without a word, her eyes dropping rapidly away from his. McGarrett knocked on the door. He left without looking back.

Jonny was sitting in his unmarked car immediately outside the gates when Steve left the institute. He made no move to greet McGarrett even when Steve slid into the front seat beside him. Putting the car into gear, he drove off down the road. When they had placed sufficient distance between them and the prison facility, Jonny's hand loosened their death-grip on the steering wheel.
After a time he ventured, "Anything?"

"Not enough," replied McGarrett.

"Think she's telling the truth?"

"Absolutely."

Several vehicles flashed past. Make, colour and licence numbers registered briefly in McGarrett's mind until he shunted them aside. Old habits, he reflected, and wished he could escape the past.

"She has no reason to lie," he continued after a moment.

"Then it's right back in our laps." Jonny sounded exceedingly bitter with the apparent lack of results.

"So it appears," commented McGarrett.

Automatically glancing over his shoulder to check the blind spot on the right side of the car, Jonny turned onto the end of the boulevard. He tapped the steering wheel absently with one hand as though keeping time to a piece of music that only he could hear. They drew up in the HPD parking lot.

From the corner of his eye, McGarrett caught Jonny's hesitation. Then his companion got out with a perfunctory gesture. Steve followed him indoors. A lot of work lay ahead, putting the pieces of the jigsaw together, and time was trickling away from them like the sands in an hourglass. It was far from a good position in which they found themselves. McGarrett prayed Diedre Streit would succumb to the innate level of curiosity which she had developed since her incarceration, and that her subsequent prying would bear fruit for the department.


CHAPTER SEVENTEEN


Seated at the back of the room, at the far end of the bar, Lacy sipped her virgin Piña Colada. The simulated thatch roof overhang provided additional cover. From this vantage she could watch the entire room without being see. The bass pumped and throbbed. Dancers bumped and gyrated on a raised platform, slowly undressing in time to the music with exaggerated overtures hinting at seduction. Several of the all-day patrons called out lewd suggestions to a couple of the jiggling, bare-breasted females. Lacy looked away, mildly disgusted by the display and ribald remarks.

She had done the dance circuit for almost two years. Two years of being pursued by lecherous, over-sexed, drunk males had caused her to reach several conclusions. As a result she now moved almost every second month, never had a personal phone line, and took extreme pains to ensure she was not followed home at night. Her final attempts at severing ties with an unsavoury past seeking to make ends meet, while pursuing a college degree had been to change occupations. The college degree had fallen by the wayside.

"Hi, babe."

Lacy glanced up. Tonio leaned against the counter. He took several strands of hair between his fingers and caressed them. Lacy waited expectantly. Tonio was still good looking. He always dressed well, never appeared to have problems making ends meet, and never drank in her presence. He also protected her from the unwelcome attentions of over-ambitious drunks. The manner in which he always remained clean and sober interested her. It had been a long time since she had found anyone she could have considered a prospective boyfriend.

"Gonna be workin' late, Lacy?" He wanted to know.

"Got about twenty minutes before I start my shift, Tony." She shrugged an affirmative, blinking in surprise at his taped and swollen nose. "What happened to your face?"

"Nothin', babe. Slipped with a wrench at work," he lied.

He bent and kissed her. As she accepted the kiss, Lacy felt as though she had just been branded. She recalled something she had overheard from a couple of patrons several weeks earlier, and hastily shied away from the rumour. If her man stayed straight, kept off the booze and away from the drugs, and never hit her, she could live with the knowledge that he was an ex-con.

"Brought you something special," he told her.

Lacy snapped to complete attention. He was holding out a small ring box. A cold knot clutched at her stomach. She was far from ready to make any permanent commitments. As Tonio offered it to her, she experienced an inexplicable thrill of fear.

"I---" she began nervously unsure exactly how to tell him what she was thinking.

"What's the matter, babe?" Tonio withdrew the box, then thrust it forward again. "Don't you at least want to see what's inside?"

Temptation got the better of her. She conceded and accepted it, opening it with shaking fingers. An engagement ring nestled in the velvet covered cardboard box.

"I don't know, Tony," she told him, uncertain of making any commitments so early into their relationship.

Tonio removed the ring and placed it firmly on her left ring finger. "You don't have to say anything right now. Just wear it a while. Get used to it. Then let me know how you feel. Okay?"

The request sounded reasonable enough. Lacy hesitantly nodded. Her uncertainty was amplified by just how reasonable Tonio was being, given the moment. Grasping a handful of her hair at the back of her head, he pulled her forward to plant a proprietary kiss on her lips with bruising force.

"There," he informed her, releasing his hold. "So you don't forget me."

Lacy blinked hard, struggling to recover. "You're going?"

"Gotta work, babe. See you Tuesday?"

"Yeah," she managed. "Sure."

"Same time, same place," he tossed back jauntily. As he walked along the length of the bar, heading for the front door, Tonio banged the wood countertop. "See ya 'round, Vance."

The barkeeper glanced up. "Yeah. Sure, Tonio."

The outside door opened readily at the Italian's push. It snapped shut behind him after allowing only a glimmer of the street light inside. Vance moved up the counter. He halted several feet from Lacy and made a show of drying an already clean, dry beer stein.

"What do you see in that bum, Lacy?"

"He's not a bum," she retorted.

"He's an ex-con," said Vance. "An ex-pusher."

"Ex-con, maybe," countered Lacy angrily. "But never a pusher. He never touches the stuff."

"The smart ones seldom do," Vance reflected, more to himself. He put the glass down. Someone new entered the bar, pausing just inside the door.

"Besides," Lacy continued. "Did you ever see a pusher buy anything for anyone except himself?"

Something dug warning claws into Vance's spine. He moved nearer. "Like what?"

"Like this."

Lacy held out her hand and spread her fingers. Prominently displayed, the solitaire winked bravely in the diffused lighting. Vance studied the ring objectively.

"Real nice," he commented, not particularly liking the turn his thoughts were taking as he considered how Tonio had likely made the money to purchase the expensive looking piece of merchandise.

"Very nice," agreed someone else.

Vance pivoted, recognising the voice. "McGarrett." He leaned across the counter, forcing himself to keep his words pitched low. "What the hell brings you back to this neighbourhood?"

Steve spoke to Vance but his eyes never quite left Lacy's ring. "Looking for a Miss Lacy MacRoy."

"McGarrett," Vance hissed. "You're a fool. Do you think there's no one around this joint who ain't gonna recognise you for The Man? There are enough of 'em in and out of here with grudges---"

McGarrett raised his hand. The gesture effectively silenced Vance. "Keep an eye on my back for me, then." He slid onto the stool two down from Lacy. "You are Lacy MacRoy, aren't you?"

"Who wants to know?" Unwilling to acknowledge her identity Lacy pretended to be intrigued by the play of bar light sparkling along the diamond facets.

"My name's Steve McGarrett." He caught the slight bunching of muscles, the twitch of facial features, in the pool of shadow. "My name means something to you, doesn't it?"

"Should it?" Attempting to appear undaunted, she parried his inquiry.

Steve suspected she had lived in the Islands long enough to remember his name; he had been a frequent, big-name news item at one time. She looked up at him, belligerent and wary.

"What do you want, Mister McGarrett? I have to work in five minutes."

"I'm looking for Antonio Nicholaidis."

"Sorry," she quipped, turning away. "Can't help you."

As she began to slip from the stool, McGarrett's hand came down over her left where it rested on the bar top. She halted. Vance saw several figures at a far table stir. Heads came together. Members of the group shot furtive glances in the direction of the bar.

"Trouble, McGarrett."

Lacy misinterpreted that statement. "Yeah. You better leave me alone, Mister McGarrett. The patrons don't like to see me being hassled."

Steve shook his head. "Don't flatter yourself, Miss MacRoy. It's not you they're interested in," he informed her. "Now," he tightened his grasp on her hand ever so slightly, "what can you tell me about Tonio?"

"Nothing," she declared sharply.

"Lacy," hissed her boss angrily. "Tell the Man what he wants to know." He glanced at McGarrett. "You just missed him."

"Damn." Steve muttered an additional expletive under his breath. He stared urgently at Lacy.

The revelation that Vance supported this pushy ex-cop shook Lacy's determination. She attempted to stare McGarrett down, and discovered her choice of action to be a serious error in judgement. He pinned her like a specimen on a collector's board. She shook her head dumbly.

"What about this, Miss MacRoy?" McGarrett held up her left hand now, displaying the ring. "What would you say if I told you I know Tonio gave you this?"

"Safe bet," she snorted, suddenly uneasy.

"If I definitely knew he was your boyfriend," concurred McGarrett. "But suppose I told you I know he couldn't have given it to you prior to the evening of April eleventh?"

Lacy felt as though someone had dashed cold water in her face. She licked her lips. "What are you getting at?"

"Take off the ring, Miss MacRoy," McGarrett advised, his voice hard. "Tell me if there's an inscription inside the band." 

Lacy felt his grasp loosen. Withdrawing her hand, she stared at him. At the edge of her eyesight she saw Vance stir. The barkeeper was growing increasingly edgy as tension built in the room.

"For God's sake, McGarrett." Lacy's employer whispered urgently. "Leave it. Get the hell out of here while the going's good."

"In a moment, Vance." McGarrett held Lacy's gaze unerringly, knowing he was on the verge of a breakthrough. "Well, Miss MacRoy?"

The dare in his eyes flogged Lacy into action. Defiantly yanking the ring from her finger, she held it to the light. The instant she saw the engraving, her heart sank. The edges of the inscription had blurred slightly with wear, but the words were legible.

"Shall I tell you what it says?" Unrelenting, McGarrett pinned Lacy where she sat.

Unable to evade him, Lacy's gaze fell on him once more. She knew he could not possibly see into the curve of the band. Nor did he make the slightest effort to shift his position to do so. She felt trapped in a bad dream, watching him with growing horror.

"It says, 'Charley - Always - Danny', doesn't it?"

Lacy's eyes flicked back to the ring. She nodded. "How did you know?"

He held out his hand, palm up. She released the ring into his care. Without looking away, McGarrett thrust the band deep into his slacks' pocket.

"A very good friend and partner of mine gave that to his fiancée over twelve years ago," Steve informed her, not unkindly. "Last Wednesday they disappeared, and someone tried to murder their children."

"Tonio?" Where she summoned the courage to ask that, Lacy did not know.

McGarrett nodded briefly. Lacy felt ill. A minuscule part of her denied the possibility, but the more logical aspect of her nature coldly informed her anything was possible. Vance leaned across the counter.

"You better leave, McGarrett," Vance insisted. "Now!"

Steve stood. He paused. "Where is he hiding, Miss MacRoy?" 

Lacy shook her head. "I don't know," she replied truthfully. "He always meets me here and leaves from here. Sometimes we go for coffee. That's all."

"McGarrett!"

Vance's insistence bordered on desperation. Steve McGarrett headed for the door, conscious of the four figures detaching themselves from a table halfway down the room. He sensed them shadowing him as he left the bar and stretched his stride along the sidewalk. Jonny was waiting for him nearly a block away.

His pursuers broke into a jog, overtaking him before he could react. A hand caught his arm, throwing him off-stride. He stopped and turned. There was no avoiding the issue. Weight on the balls of his feet, he studied his prospective antagonists.

"I was right, boys." One of the four slowly raked Steve from head to toe. "It's The Man. The great McGarrett."

Steve McGarrett refrained from voicing what lay on the tip of his tongue. He recognised three of the four as old adversaries. Each had served time either as a direct or indirect result of Five-O's investigations. Somewhere in the near distance a car engine revved.

"What're you doing in this neighbourhood, McGarrett?" The group's spokesman demanded. "A little out of your league, aren't you, old man?"

The dig was almost too much to let slip by. Steve forced himself to roll with the mild slur. Headlights augmented the streetlight illumination. Pedestrians had grown conspicuous by their absence. No one wanted to be witness to what might well develop into the beating of an ex-cop.

No visible instructions passed between the men, but two grabbed McGarrett's arms before he could evade them. He sensed, rather than saw, the blow before it landed and barely succeeded in tensing his stomach muscles in time. Despite his efforts, pain exploded through his body. His head snapped forward as his breath rushed from him in a single gulp. A second, swift blow followed the first. He grunted. Red blurred his vision.

"Not so great now, are you, McGarrett? No one to hide behind any more," snarled his assailant. "How's it feel to be all alone?"

Sensing another punch coming, Steve tensed. It never landed. Tires squealed in the night. Red slashed urgently across the scene. The men imprisoning McGarrett released him. He swayed. It took every effort to keep his feet.

"Hold it right there," shouted an authoritative voice.

Someone yelled, "Split!"

As rapidly as smoke dissipated before the wind, his assailants vanished into the night. Jonny came up onto the sidewalk, holstering his weapon. Steve remained where his attackers had abandoned him. He drew one long, slow breath then another. Jonny waited, respecting his desire to be allowed to recover without assistance. Gradually McGarrett's strength returned.

"I never should have let you go in there alone," commented Jonny as Steve finally straightened.

"I'm okay," grunted McGarrett.

"Sure you are," Jonny replied sarcastically. Voice gruff, he ordered, "Get in the car."

McGarrett eased himself into the front seat. He hurt. Jonny climbed in and flipped off the flasher. He removed it from the roof of the car, tossed it onto the floor behind his seat and slid in. They pulled away from the curb.

"Find out anything useful?" Jonny finally inquired. "Besides the fact there are some people who still want to get even with you, that is?"

"Very funny," remarked McGarrett. His muscles hurt. It was in effort just to breathe, let alone speak. He wormed a hand into his slacks' pocket and withdrew the ring. "Just this."

Catching the wink of light on the solitaire, Jonny served abruptly. They pulled off to the side of the road, braking to a halt in a welter of gravel. With shaking hands he accepted the ring from McGarrett.

"That's Charley's," he declared. His voice quavered with emotion. "Jesus Christ, Steve. It's Charley's engagement ring."

"Easy Jonny." Steve reached out to rest a consoling hand on the Jonny Mattheson's shoulder. "It doesn't mean anything."

Jonny wrapped his fingers protectively around the band. "She wouldn't let anyone remove it---"

"Stop it Jonny." Steve's command cracked like a whip. It cut through Jonny's fear like a hot knife through butter. "She probably wasn't in a position to prevent Tonio's taking it. But it doesn't automatically infer she and Danny are dead, either."

"That's not true, and you know it."

Jonny shrugged off McGarrett's hand. Steve attempted to grasp his arm. Jonny fiercely knocked his hand aside. The instinctive act of rebellion and attempted counter inadvertently sent a wave of agony lancing across McGarrett's torso. Anger fled as Jonny saw his companion's features pale and pinch with pain. He regained control of himself.

"Sorry, Steve. I'd better get you to the hospital."

"I'm all right," Steve argued.

"We'll let the doctor decide that," countered Jonny sharply. "Damn fool. You're an old man, Steve. You don't have the same resilience you did when you were on active duty. Can't you get that through your head? Or are you suffering memory loss, too?"

"Watch it," warned McGarrett at Jonny's curt rejoinder. But he knew there had been no real sting to Jonny's words. Simply a reminder that age was indeed catching up with his friend. Time was indiscriminate in her methods. She dealt out gradual physical debilitation with equal impartiality to all: cop, civilian or crook.

McGarrett drew another long, slow breath, felt something grate as his diaphragm expanded. He prayed he had not suffered a fractured rib in the bargain.

CHAPTER EIGHTEEN


15 April 1990

Constructed from sheets of corrugated, galvanised metal, and lined with scrap ply-board, the shack had been thrown together in the early Sixties for the specific purpose of storing road construction materials. Although primarily forgotten by the owners amongst the weeds and vines, the structure still housed several abandoned rolls of tarpaper, a tub of rusted road spikes, and a number of empty wine bottles.

Aside from being a repository for the forgotten, rotting remnants of a bygone road crew's supplies the structure had also served as a foul weather flop for a number of Oahu's wino population. Having made this unsavoury discovery, the owners of the neighbouring gravel pit had taken the offensive. They had secured the door with a hasp and padlock. Dispossessed, the more disreputable element of Hawaii's residents had eventually sought shelter from inclement weather elsewhere.

For Tonio, the discovery made shortly after his release from prison had proven a windfall. No one could link him with the shack. Nor was it visited by anyone, except for an occasional guard who rapidly tramped the perimeter on rare occasions to ensure the lock remained secure.

Tonio took exceptional pains to re-lock the building when he concluded his chore that night. No one realised the lock was not the same one originally installed by the company, but an identical replacement to which Tonio had the key. A final benefit was the shack's proximity to a sparsely populated back road. This afforded him direct access to a beach hut little more than a mile away. As he drove to his new place of residence, he congratulated himself on what was proving to be a highly successful operation.

* * *

Clawing her way back to consciousness, Charlene struggled to assess her condition. Huge boulders seemed to press painfully into every bruise on her anatomy along her left side. She was freezing cold. Upon due consideration, she discovered that, apart from her panties she was naked from the waist down. The remnants of her summer blouse still clad her upper torso.

The smell of earth and tar and the rank effluvia of ancient urine and alcohol poured into her heightened olfactory senses. She felt as though she was drowning beneath the onslaught of returning sensations. Her sinuses were clogged, making it suddenly difficult to breathe. There was a scratchy quality to her eyeballs when she struggled to examine her new prison.

She opened her eyes and promptly squeezed them shut again as the world spun around her. She had seen enough to know it was pitch dark inside wherever Tonio had left her this time. Her stomach heaved, settled. Time passed.

Ever so gradually, Charlene reopened her eyes. The floor tilted and dipped. Darkness diminished to tones of grey. She was aware of a peculiar sensation of floating. In the darkness, the ceiling seemed irrevocably beyond reach. The walls appeared to curve outward from floor and ceiling, taking on a curious ballooning quality whenever she attempted to study the effect too closely. Drawing up her knees, Charlene managed to sit up.

Getting comfortable proved difficult due to the position of her hands. Tonio had fastened them tightly behind her. IT was small consolation that the chains had been removed, or that her feet had been left free. Legs curled beneath her, Charlene squirmed into a kneeling position.

The world swayed violently. On instinct she closed her eyes. But that act only served to compound the condition through lack of tactile perception. Her eyes snapped open and she forced herself to wait until things subsided. Subconsciously she knew her thought patterns had been impaired. Deep down she sensed the condition was drug-induced.

Anger burned deep inside. As soon as she had regained some control over her faculties, Charlene cautiously worked her way across the dirt floor to one wall. Back pressed against the solid surface, she levered herself to her feet. The experience brought back a flood of memories that, accompanied by the effects of the drug, momentarily over-rode reality with mind-numbing clarity. Once again she was gagged, bound and blindfolded. Abandoned in a dilapidated building in downtown Honolulu.

"No," she muttered, forcefully thrusting the nightmare aside. "No. That's past. It's past."

With a monumental effort, she thrust the memory back into the recesses of her mind. Having accomplished this minor victory, Charlene slid along the wall, inch by inch, shuffling her feet. Splinters from the weather-warped boarding dug into her arm. She encountered, and almost fell over three rolls of brittle tarpaper. Next she kicked a large bucket, bruising the toes on her right foot. Something rattled inside the container.

Turning around, Charlene squatted and felt inside. Her fingers encountered nails. Most of them appeared to be glued together with rust and sifting earth. She stood and continued her inspection. As she struggled onward, warmth returned. Moment by moment the heat built until she felt as though she was burning up.

A breath of air brushed her cheek. It lifted a tendril of hair, causing it to dance soothingly about her cheek. Halting, Charlene pressed her face against the wall. She revelled in the delicious sensation. Gradually she was able to make out the shape of a door. Two more steps brought her to it. She leaned against it, but it held firm. In desperation she flung her weight against it. But the drug had so drastically debilitated her strength that all she accomplished was another bruise on her shoulder. Sagging against the wall in defeat, Charlene waited while her stomach heaved like a storm tossed sea.

"Think, Charley," she commanded herself. "Think. You've been through this before. And survived."

Only that time, she reminded herself sourly, she had been blindfolded and abandoned on the third floor of a partially demolished building. She jigged her left leg against the wall thoughtfully. Her knee encountered something wholly at odds with the woodwork. She lowered herself to her knees to study the anomaly at close quarters.

Whoever had built the shack had used large strips cut from old tires to fashion the door hinges. Hope surged anew. Fumbling her way back around the sides of the shack in search of the bucket, Charlene tripped over it and sprawled on her stomach. She barely succeeded in turning her head aside in time to prevent slamming her face into the dirt and rubble.

"Idiot," she remonstrated herself when she recovered her senses.

Back on her feet she felt around the floor until she encountered the up-ended bucket. Her fingers separated one large spike from the spilled contents. Returning to the door, Charlene backed up to the hinge. She sat down and set to work with renewed determination.

To concentrate on the simple task proved no easy matter. The spike felt unaccountably large and weighty in her fingers. It was awkward enough to manipulate under normal circumstances, but the narcotics in her system compounded the problem. She persevered. Stroke after tedious stroke, Charlene dragged the tip of the spike down the rubber. The stripping was weathered, brittle and old. It held with a tenacity that tried Charlene's patience and determination to their utmost. Eventually, however, it snapped.

Excited by her success she got to her feet. Unable to use her hands to check the results, she carefully rubbed her nose back and forth across the join of door and frame, from her waist to as far as she could reach on tiptoe.

'Nothing.'

When she failed to find the second hinge, Charlene reasoned it had to be out of reach above head level. Even supposing she managed to find something to stand so she could reach it, she would be incapable of putting sufficient force behind the spike to snap that hinge.

Defeated, Charlene sagged. She bowed her head and closed her eyes in misery. The narcotic coursed through her blood. In her momentary resignation, she unwittingly allowed it to take control. The slump in her energy level caused her to hallucinate. An artificially induced aberration flickered through her mind like an old black and white silent film. From one of those images, however, she formed a wild plan for escape.

No conscious effort surfaced. She merely turned her body sideways, dug her heels into the ground, and lunged. Charlene's shoulder connected with the door at the point where the lower hinge had been. The panel shifted. A crack appeared. It was barely large enough for her to force a hand through, but the sight heartened her. Encouraged, Charlene lunged again.

The corner caught. Then, suddenly, it snapped out and up. Propelled forward by the remaining impetus of her attack, she sprawled onto her side, two-thirds through the opening. The sight of the descending panel, outlined against a starlit sky, momentarily failed to register. Charlene belatedly realised what was happening. Just in time, she snapped her feet and legs out of the way. The bottom of the door slammed past her, catching her left hip in passing and gouged a deep score across one buttock.

Sharp pain sent adrenaline surging, temporarily thrusting aside the effects of the hallucinogenic. In the few clear-minded moments available to her, Charlene crawled to her feet and stared about her. She stood in the midst of a small glade which the hut occupied almost dead centre. All around her grew waist high grass. Lianas and other ground hugging plants formed natural intrusions into the field with thick brush enclosed three-quarters of it.

Charlene moved forward, determined to hide, to find help. She pushed into the underbrush. The ground was exceptionally rough. Stones cut into the arches of her bare feet. Branches snapped against her unprotected face and arms as she shouldered her way through the impeding rhododendrons.

Blood seeped from innumerable cuts and scrapes about her body. Drawn by the scent, insects buzzed incessantly around her face. Charlene shook her head repeatedly in a vain attempt to shake off the mosquitoes tormenting her. She paused to rub her face against one shoulder then took two steps forward.

One second she was pushing between two shrubs. The next the ground dropped from beneath her feet. As support vanished she pitched, head over heels, tumbling down a gravel incline. The world revolved past her sight. Her roll stalled in the loose gravel, ending in a face down slide toward the floor of the pit. Charlene lost her grasp on the world. Unconscious, she came to rest at the bottom of the slope, sprawled in an ungainly heap, face turned toward the ground. Gravel continued to slither down in the wake of her uncontrolled descent. Lower torso elevated above her head, Charlene lay covered to her chest in rubble.

* * *

Steve eased himself back in the ancient, wood-backed desk swivel chair. His ribs hurt. Several hours had passed and his stomach muscles had stiffened since his encounter downtown. Tight bandages strapping his ribcage made it even more difficult to move. The creaking of the seat brought Jonny instantly back to earth. It was well after one in the morning. They were both exhausted. Neither, however, felt they dared leave off their search through the files scattered across the desktop.

The depth of Jonny's intensity had elevated several notches after their return to the office from the hospital. An urgent message from the penitentiary, directed to McGarrett, had demanded their immediate attention. Steve rubbed his eyes wearily as he considered the enormity of the information passed by Diedre Streit.

"Damn," Jonny swore. He slammed his fist down on top of the open folder in front of him. "If that perverted little bastard infects my sister---"

"You'll what?" McGarrett instantly snapped back.

Jonny glanced up. There was an underlying deadly quality in the delivery of the simple inquiry. He unwittingly found himself trapped by his companion's piercing stare. That gaze had so frequently disturbed hardened criminals, undermining their confidence and causing them to commit themselves where they might otherwise have let matters lie, and thereby escaped justice. Now it pinned Jonny to his seat. Not a particularly comfortable position to be in. This encounter was as unnerving as his first in Seventy-six. At that time, he had been treading the narrow line between solid ground and disaster.

Then, as now, he found it difficult to jerk free. He stared down at the file, burning with an unremitting anger. Steve was correct. 

"Nothing," he muttered rebelliously.

"That's right," pointed out McGarrett remorselessly. "If you deal fairly, you'll let justice take its course, Jonny."

"Where's the justice in sitting back, watching my sister get infected with AIDS?"

"You aren't sitting back watching," McGarrett countered sharply. "You're doing everything in your power to find Charley and Danny."

"And if Tonio's ultimate aim is what Diedre believes, what then, Steve?" Jonny swept the file off the desk into his lap. Swivelling his chair, he placed his back to his companion to prevent McGarrett's reading his thoughts. Hands pressed to his forehead, she demanded, "Where's the justice in that?"

McGarrett could only bow his head in silence. He rubbed his eyes again. Jonny was right. The injustice of this case was impossible to swallow. If there had been any justice at all Danny and Charlene would never have wound up in this predicament. They would have remained on Oahu in Seventy-eight, married, and raised their children among old friends. Jonny did not appear to be expecting an answer. He redirected himself to the file in his lap.

Sliding the top file aside, Steve snagged another which he had already perused once. He sensed they were both overlooking the obvious. He opened the folder. There lay the lab report on the cab. The metal filings had proved to be oxidised sheet metal flakes. Salt particles and grey paint still adhered to one sample.

"Grey," murmured Steve to himself. "Gun metal grey." Jonny's head shot up. He turned back to study his companion. Waited, sensing McGarrett was on to something. "Gun metal grey." Steve repeated the words. Something snapped into place. "That's it."

"What is?"

McGarrett flipped through the neighbouring report that was Tonio's work dossier. "See if you can find something, anything in Tonio's job history linking him to dockyards or marinas, or ships in general."

Jonny grabbed up a folder and hurriedly panned the contents. "Here they are." He ran a finger rapidly down the list. "Nine addresses that I can see."

"We'll need a carte blanche Search Warrant," said Steve flatly. "If you can get one it'll save us a lot of time."

"I'll see what I can do," replied Jonny. He pushed his chair back slightly. McGarrett hastily withdrew a foot, barely avoiding having it run over by one caster. "God, I'm tired, Steve."

"You and I both. We ought to grab some sleep," suggested McGarrett wearily.

"Your place or mine," Jonny sleepily inquired.

Out of habit, Steve's attention drifted to the Department Chief's office. There was an over-stuffed vinyl couch and large lounging chair at one side of the spacious room. Jonny's grin split his face from ear to ear.

"Be my guest," he tendered magnanimously. "I'm going home to my comfortable bed."

Getting to his feet, Jonny headed for the door, and promptly lost his equilibrium. He caught at the edge of his desk and stood, swaying with fatigue. Amused, Steve McGarrett watched as the young detective slowly turned back.

"On second thoughts," Jonny sheepishly amended, "I think I'll join you."

CHAPTER NINETEEN


'There is nothing worse than being at the end of a shift when that duty period encompassed midnight to eight in the morning,' reflected the patrolman.

This was the peak hour for crime. Drunks being evicted from bars frequently attempted to break up the place in reprisal for being disturbed. It was the hour when teenagers and petty thieves attempted heists, and murderers elected to dump the bodies of their victims. This morning had been quieter than usual.

Jerry Offutt had never risen beyond patrolman because he loved the beat. Of course, it had not helped that he tended to get carried away with the joy of enforcing the law, sometimes being put on report for resorting to unnecessary use of force in dealing with violence. Jerry seldom saw it that way. But the Investigating Teams did, and he had been busted back down the ranks three times for being overly heavy-handed taking down suspects. The sharp increase in human rights violations meant he took extreme care nowadays not to be seen roughing up suspects.

His most recent collar was a junkie. The fifteen-year old had tripped out on a batch of cocaine cut with something particularly nasty. It had been Jerry's misfortune to discover the boy unconscious in a back alley. Department rules dictated he accompany the teenager to the hospital. Now at six-twelve, he stood in the waiting room just outside the emergency treatment area, awaiting the doctor's report on whether or not the junkie would last the day.

An ambulance wailed into the Emergency Parking lot. The siren cut out. Two paramedics hustled a stretcher through the doors. An intern and two nurses met them. Jerry listened, intrigued. The patient was lashed to the ambulance stretcher. The medics had attempted to stabilise her condition with an intravenous drip, but with only marginal success. One medic distastefully informed the duty nurse they had an unconscious hooker, doped to the eyeballs.

Jerry winced as the nurse drew the woman's left arm from beneath the stretcher blanket. Livid purple and green bruises mottled the woman's flesh, and wood splinters added bright red slashes throughout the grotesque melange.

"What happened?" Making conversation with the medics as they turned over their patient to the hospital staff, Jerry stared at what they had brought in, thoroughly intrigued.

The senior medic glanced up. Seeing Jerry's uniform, he relaxed slightly. The nurses hustled the woman away. Relieved of the greater portion of responsibility in the survival of their 'Jane Doe', the medic unwound sufficiently to pass along information. Jerry logged it in his notebook.

"Some hooker. No ID. Looks like either her john or her pimp tied her up and beat her up pretty badly, then pumped her full of drugs. Couple of kids out walking their dog first thing this morning discovered her half-buried in a gravel pit up the north end of the Island. Hell of an Easter present."

"Here you go, Wayne." The junior medic brought his partner a Styrofoam cup of coffee from one of the dispenser machines nearby.

"Thanks, Bill."

Bill glanced at Jerry. "Hi, Jerry. How's it shakin'?"

"Same as usual." Jerry recognised the paramedic from a First Aid Course HPD had recently run. "Anything else on this Jane Doe?"

"Just the usual. Don't recognise her, though. Bill and I are fairly familiar with most of the locals," Wayne shrugged. "She's probably new to the Islands."

"You know how it is with these broads, Jerry," put in Bill.

"Yeah. Where the business goes---" Jerry allowed his comment to lie unfinished. Something about the woman's appearance troubled him. He slapped the notebook shut. "Thanks."

Drifting along the hall, he paused outside the ward into which the woman had been wheeled. Taking possession of a chair immediately across the hall, he waited. Eventually, the emergency team emerged. Spotting Jerry, the doctor came across. Jerry got to his feet.

"So how is she, Doc?"

"Not good. She's going into withdrawal," commented the physician sourly. He shook his head. "All that damned literature out there about how drugs mess you up. You'd think people would learn."

"What about the bruises?"

The doctor frowned uneasily. "She didn't get all of those in the fall."

"She was beaten?"

"Most definitely. A lot of those marks were delivered over twenty-four hours ago, and with considerable forethought given to their location, too."

"In what way?"

The doctor's jaw muscles tightened. "If I didn't know better, Jerry, I'd say she had just come from the pen. She looks like she was given the rubber hose treatment."

Jerry opened his notebook and made more notes. "Interesting." He closed it up and stuck it back in his breast pocket. "Think I could talk to her?"

"I doubt it'll do much good. She's not very lucid at present."

"I'd like to try," Jerry insisted.

The doctor glanced at the door. He nodded hesitantly. "All right. But don't tire her, and try not to excite her. She's seriously dehydrated, and not strong enough to stand much stress."

Acknowledging the instructions, Jerry slipped into the room. The only illumination came from the pale strip light above the bed. Even so, he could see the depth of bruising along the woman's arms and across the top of her shoulder. The orderlies had tied her hands and feet to the railings to prevent her thrashing around and injuring herself with the intravenous. The restrictions seemed to be amplifying her awareness of helplessness. Her head tossed and turned restlessly as she fought the rising pain of drug withdrawal. Jerry leaned on the nearest metal railing.

"Miss," he called softly. "Can you hear me?"

Her eyes slowly opened. She shook her head. The action leant the impression of her being trapped in a slow motion replay. Her tongue poked out. She tried to lick her lips but the tip of her tongue stuck to her lips. After a moment's struggle, she slowly retracted it.

"Miss," Jerry continued softly, "can you tell me your name?"

"Danny," she mumbled incoherently. "Ship. Out. Please."

The level of desperation and terror in her voice caused Jerry's heart to leap and race. He bent over to examine the pale features framed by the white pillowcase. Short brown hair was matted with sweat and dirt.

"Please," she repeated as she drifted into delirium. "Help Danny."

The words faded away to a whisper as she lost her battle against the narcotics. Jerry was positive she was only partially aware of anyone nearby. As he inspected the needle tracks on her arms the hairs on the nape of his neck crawled. Something was decidedly out of place with the initial report on this woman. He decided it could well be worth his while to hang around after hours and speak further with the attending physician. 

The woman moaned softly. Her head tossed feverishly. Jerry forced himself to leave. He slid out the door and quickly made his way down the hall to locate his partner, finding him at the nearby nursing station, chatting up the duty nurse.

"Hey, Ken." 

His partner looked up. Witnessing Jerry's expression, Ken joined him in the privacy of an alcove. "What's up, Jer?"

"Look," Jerry asked, "do you mind writing up our report on your own this morning?"

"Hey, whoa, there, bradda," exclaimed Ken. He raised one hand expressively. "What's got you all riled up?"

"There's this patient they just brought in---"

"The hooker?"

Jerry shook his head. "I'm not so sure, Ken. Something doesn't quite add up on this one."

"Let me get this straight," said Ken. "You want to stick around the hospital until this Jane Doe's ready to talk?"

"Right."

Ken's mouth twisted up at one corner, down at the other. He weighed the request. This was not the first time something of this nature had occurred. Nor did he doubt it would be the last. Jerry was tough as nails on crooks, but was a genuine soft touch for hard luck cases. 

'Puppy dogs and kittens,' Ken silently observed. He heaved an aggrieved sigh and acquiesced. 

"Okay," he conceded. Jerry opened his mouth to thank him, but Ken shook his head. "Don't thank me, bud. You owe me."

"No prob, Ken. Just say the word."

"You can bet I will." Ken glanced at his watch. It was just after seven. "How're you planning to get back to the station?"

"I'll bus it," said Jerry. "Or take a cab. See you around."

"You got it." Ken started to leave. As he reached the doors he called back over his shoulder. "And don't go getting too involved this time, okay?"

Jerry flashed him a grin. He returned to the woman's room and took a seat outside the ward. There were several tattered magazines in plastic covers lying on a neighbouring seat. He pawed through them for reading material. Twenty minutes later an intern arrived. Jerry cornered him.

"Hey, Doc."

The intern paused, momentarily startled by the sight of the blue uniform. "What can I do for you, Officer?"

Glancing at the nametag, Jerry made a note of the intern's name. "What can you tell me about this Jane Doe?"

The other shrugged. "Not much. At the moment she's higher than a kite. Some form of hallucinogenic, I suspect. The lab's screening a blood sample now. She's dehydrated, and doesn't appear to have eaten for the past three, maybe four days. That's not unusual for a junkie. Her stomach's shrunk enough that we're putting her on a diet of soup broth, juice, and plenty of water."

"You think she's a junkie?" Jerry probed with a tenacity that came with the job.

"Needle marks on her arms indicate a high probability factor," replied the intern.

Jerry thrust the door open. "I want you to come with me, Doc, and take a good look at those marks. Then review your assessment."

The intern looked put out that someone was questioning his judgement. But the stubborn set of Jerry's jaw forced him to humour the cop. Jerry followed him to the woman's bedside. He watched closely while the intern examined the needle marks, gently angling her arms for a better view. Something the intern saw caused him to frown. He turned his attention to the backs of her knees. Examined the single puncture wound behind her left knee. When he looked up at long last, he appeared both confused and highly concerned.

"You're right," he informed Jerry. "Only two of those marks were made in the previous twenty-four hours. The others are nearly healed."

"About three days old?"

"Could be as much as four," deferred the intern. "And there sure aren't enough to account for her being an addict."

Jerry could almost read the other man's thoughts. Although most of the public tended to disbelieve the notion, there was still white slave traffic operating throughout much of the world. Prostitution was not confined to the willing, either. There was a fairly brisk business in young, runaway, teenage girls and, in some instances, older, naive women. Dope the victim into a semi-comatose state, tuck her away somewhere convenient until the right moment, and you had a money making proposition for just the right mark. Of course such instances were generally confined to the mainland and Asia.

"I'll make the report on this, Doc."

"Thanks." The intern was deeply troubled by his discovery. "Look, are you busy right now?"

Jerry shook his head. "No. What can I do for you?"

"What this woman needs right now is someone to sit with her," the intern told him. "We haven't sufficient staff to leave someone in attendance at all times, as we should."

"No problem, Doc. Just tell me what to do," said Jerry.

"Sit with her. Try to keep her calm," instructed the young doctor. "She's starting to run a fever. It'll go up as the drug runs its course, so you might try cold compresses to ease it. Keep her covered. She's going to sweat a lot. Her constitution's pretty low right now so don't let her catch a chill. If you need to change the bedding, use the call-button."

Jerry nodded. He had seen more than his fair share of junkies coming down off a trip when their supply had dried up. "Sure, Doc."

"I'll ensure you're kept supplied with plenty of juice, fresh water and soup. See what you can get into her, the more, the better. She'll probably bring some of it back up at first," the intern advised him sagely.

"Yeah. Been there, seen it." Jerry refrained from adding where the bulk of his experience had been gained, but he suspected the intern already knew.

As the intern departed, Jerry removed his jacket and settled down to wait out the woman's recovery. He could not fault the hospital staff for having overlooked what to him was obvious. They were over-worked and short-staffed. As it was there was barely enough of them to go around when it came to dealing with the arriving Emergencies.

Sweat was already beading the woman's brow. Her head rolled incessantly from side to side, lips moving soundlessly. He poured half a glass of room temperature water. Supporting her shoulders, he tipped up the glass gradually until the moisture touched her lips. Several seconds passed before she became aware of the presence of the fluid. Then she swallowed. Jerry waited patiently. After three more swallows, she sighed and muttered. Easing her back down, he replaced the glass on the nightstand and resettled himself. It was going to be a long day. 

By nine o'clock his patient had endured two sheet changes. Each time Jerry was summarily chased from the room while two highly efficient nurses performed the task. Fortunately they were also sympathetic and appreciative of his efforts to assist them. Before they left the second time, they removed the intravenous needle. Jerry understood. The worst was yet to come.

The woman's eyes were no longer glazed. Instead, an incalculable degree of suffering radiated from their depths. The intern dropped by with the attending physician to inspect their patient. Declaring they were satisfied with her progress and Jerry's ministering, they gave him strict instructions to advise them the minute she could speak coherently. Then they departed.

As the drug faded from her system, the woman began to shake. She fought the restraints now in a manner that troubled Jerry. As her awareness of her surroundings increased, she jerked frantically at the ties holding her down.

"No!" She whimpered in desperation and terror. "Free! Got to get away!"

Realising she was caught on the fringes of reality and believed herself still in the clutches of her tormentor, Jerry went to her side. He gently pressed her flat when she attempted to sit up. 

"It's all right, miss. You're in the hospital. Take it easy. Don't fight it."

"Free," she demanded. "Please. Have to get free."

She yanked and jerked at the restraints with such frenzy he knew he had to do something to prevent her injuring herself. Given her experience and the condition in which she had been discovered Jerry sympathised with her panic. After due consideration, he took matters into his own hands and released her. Tears of relief trickled down her cheeks. She immediately relaxed. He took one of her hands in his.

"Better?"

"It hurts," she told him between controlled whimpers.

"I know," he said. "I'm sorry. I wish I could help."

He dropped one metal railing and sat on the edge of the bed. Pulling her upright, he drew her against him. There were two reactions he always received from addicts undergoing withdrawal. One lot beat at those responsible for putting them through hell, and demanded to be allowed another dose of their preference. The others clung to their guardians.

He expected the woman to cling to him. Strangely, her hands remained limply at her sides. She shivered and shook, whimpering in pain as nerve endings rediscovered their tasks. When she failed to react to his solicitous behaviour, he resettled her in the bed.

As morning progressed through midday Jerry continued to encourage her to take fluids. Twice she was violently ill. A third attempt at retching proved a dry run. But dry vomiting was far worse, and dangerous. Jerry insisted she drink some water to give her stomach something to bring up as it continued to rebel. This, he knew, was the crisis. Once past, the worst would be over. 

By noon she was weak and pale, but entirely cognisant of her surroundings. Jerry helped her sit up once more. She placed her hands against his chest and pushed free with gentle determination, silently informing him that she felt he was being a bit too familiar. When she stared up at him Jerry discovered he was looking into the most incredibly expressive pair of blue-grey eyes he had ever seen.

"How do you feel?" He managed through the shock that ran through him.

"Better," she managed, voice hoarse. But there was considerable strength behind that reply.

"Here."

She accepted the glass of juice he proffered, insisting upon holding it without his assistance. He watched with unconcealed admiration while she steadied her trembling hands and sipped slowly at the contents.

Eventually she asked, "How long have I been here?"

"Since just after six this morning," he told her. "A couple of kids found you."

Her head rolled away from him. Eyes screwed shut she conveyed an image of abject misery. Jerry suspected it had no relation to the agony she had experienced under the effects of the drugs.

"Danny," she whispered.

Jerry leapt at the name. "Is that the guy who did this to you."
"No," she responded. Her eyes flicked open. She stared at him. "He's my husband." 

"Where is he?"

To his horror two tears trickled down her cheeks. Desperation coloured her expression. She shook her head.

"That's just it. I don't know," she moaned. "Oh, God! Danny!"

"Miss!" Jerry forcibly removed the glass from her hands as it tilted dangerously. Her grip tightened on the fingers of his free hand. "What's you name, Miss?"

"Shar---" She stopped mid-word. Her brow furrowed. When next she spoke, it was with conviction. "My name's Charlene Williams."

He could see it had taken considerable courage to form that declaration after obviously having made a false start. Suspicions aroused, he studied her more intently, seeking some clue to her identity. The name, in itself, meant nothing to him.

"Have you been using an alias," he queried.

A peculiar smile touched her lips as she sensed his suspicions. "No." She took a deep breath. Her voice quivered. "You've got to call HPD. You've got to find my husband."

"What's his name, Missus Williams?"

She watched as he took out his note pad and pen, and released her grasp on his left wrist. "It's Danny. Dan Williams. We used to live here. A long time ago."

Jerry's head snapped up. Charlene's expression had drifted away from him. He sensed her thoughts had momentarily left all contact with her surroundings. But his memories were being yanked in a painful direction.

"Did you say Dan Williams?"

At his astonished inquiry she stared back at him. Then she nodded. Jerry irritably snapped his notebook shut. His disbelief was evident. He had been with HPD long enough to remember many of the Five-O departmental staff. 

"Lady. You don't know what you're saying. Danny Williams died twelve years ago."

"You're wrong," she countered firmly. "He wasn't killed in Seventy-eight. He was sent away."

"Where?" Jerry grilled her doubtfully, struggling to make sense of her statement. "Why?"

"We've been living in Spokane under the Witness Protection. Last year the situation changed. Since it was safe to return we decided to come back. We've always loved the Islands. We wanted our children to grow up here," she concluded, her voice growing distant.

Another tear trickled down her cheek. Her awareness of her surroundings faded momentarily once more. When it returned, panic coloured her eyes.
"He said he was going to kill our children." The words were nearly inaudible. Jerry almost failed to catch them.

"Your husband said that?"

Now Jerry was completely at sea. He vaguely recalled Dan Williams as a highly competent, sensitive, but definitely emotionally stable officer. Nothing in his character had ever hinted at him being psychotic. Charlene's head rolled back and forth in denial and desperation as she fought to make herself understood.

"No! Tonio! Tonio's going to kill them! And Danny! You've got to stop him! Please!"

"Holy Mother of God!" Jerry leapt to his feet, comprehension dawning in a flash at the mention of Tonio. "Take it easy, Missus Williams," he ordered. "I'll be right back."

As he raced from the ward, Jerry berated himself for not having made the connection sooner. But the level of probability that she was in any way a part of the current investigation had been so minuscule when Charlene had been wheeled in at six that he felt like a complete fool for not having considered that option. That she might actually be the Lieutenant's missing sister.

Now he was harbinger of mixed news. He was far from certain how to impart the information, nor how it would be received. In truth, he could not think how he himself would take such a report. While dialling the office number, he mustered the best words possible. But when it came time to break the news to Jonny Mattheson, every preparation in the world failed Jerry.


           

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