DIARY OF DANGER

Part One

by Hilary Elliott

DIARY OF DANGER – PART ONE

  Murder’s out of time, and sweet revenge goes harsh - Shakespeare

   

 Thursday

  Steve McGarrett strode into the outer office of the Governor of Hawaii.  The secretary, Millie, smiled at him as he approached.

  “Go right in Mr McGarrett, he’s expecting you.”

  Steve knocked at the heavy door and went through to the inner sanctum.

  “Morning Steve.”

  Governor Paul Jameson rose to his feet to greet his visitor.

  “Morning Sir.”

  The two men shook hands and Jameson indicated one of the chairs in front of his desk.  Steve seated himself whilst Jameson sorted through some papers.

  “This came to me in the post this morning. I’ll tell you now, too many people have handled it for it to be of any use to the fingerprint guys.”

  He handed over a sheet of paper and Steve took it, his curiosity well and truly aroused.  The paper was covered in a message made up of letters and words cut from newspapers and stuck onto the page.  Steve read it and looked across at Jameson, bewildered.

  “What’s this all about?  What players?” he demanded.

  Jameson leant back in his chair and clasped his hands across his stomach.

  “It was on the news last night.  The well-known Shakespearean actor Francis Seymour has brought a company to the islands to perform.  I don’t know why that was sent to me, unless it’s because I asked them to come, but their protection is going to be your peculiar responsibility Steve.”

  Steve glared at the Governor.

  “And it’s no good you looking at me like that either.”

  Jameson leant forward.

 “I expect you to prevent a tragedy.  Use as much manpower as you need.”

  Stifling a sigh, Steve stood up.

“I’ll keep you posted sir,” he said.

  Turning on his heel, he left the office to return to the Iolani Palace.

 

                                       

 

Later that morning, the Five-0 team gathered in the big office to catch up on the progress of the current workload.  It was a warm day, with the promise of a hotter afternoon.  The men were in their shirtsleeves, ties loosened as they worked.  Steve threw down his pencil and leant back in his chair.

  “There’s just one more little problem that the Governor has dropped in our laps.”

  He opened the middle drawer in his desk and extracted the letter Jameson had given to him and passed it to Danny who was the nearest.  Danny read it and passed it on to Chin and Duke.  Steve positioned himself by the lanai doors to catch the faint breeze and turned as Chin grunted in annoyance.

  “We’ve got to prevent this I suppose.”

  It was a statement, not a question and Steve grinned.

  “How did you guess?”

  Steve walked back into the room.

  “Chin, I want you to find out all you can about the actors that make up this company.  Duke, take that note to Che, see if he can tell which newspapers were used, when they were printed.”

  “On it Steve,” chorused both men as they gathered up their papers and left the room. 

  Danny joined Steve and they walked onto the lanai together.

  “Steve.”

  “Yeah Danno.”

  “I met a girl last night…”

  “Tell me something I might not know!”

  The two men exchanged grins.

  “Not just any girl Steve.  She works at the theatre where this company will be performing.  She happened to let slip that they need extra stagehands.”

  “No Danno.” Steve’s voice was firm.  “I know what you’re thinking and the answer’s no.”

  “I won’t take no for an answer,” said Danny following Steve back into the office.

  “I bet you say that to all the girls!” replied Steve laughing.

  Danny had the grace to look sheepish.  Steve flopped back into his chair and Danny stood in front of the desk.

  “Okay Danno, what did you have in mind?”

  “I just thought it might be useful if there was a man on the inside, that’s all.”

  Steve got to his feet again and started prowling round the office, flexing his fingers as he moved.  Danny reckoned the weather was making his friend restless.

  “I don’t know Danno, we don’t know what we’re dealing with here.  Vague threats, letters made up of newspaper cuttings.  It’s like something out of the ‘Hound of the Baskervilles’!”

  At that Danny laughed out loud.

  “I know that one Steve.  Holmes sent Watson off to Dartmoor without him.”

  Steve returned to the lanai grinning ruefully at his friend.

  “Rather walked into that didn’t I Danno.  I suppose you’re going to use that to strengthen your case?”

  “Well if it’s good enough for Holmes, it should be good enough for you,” Danny responded, joining Steve again.

  Steve hooked his left thumb into a pocket of his pants and tapped his right fist on the railing.

  “I’m worried about this one.  It could be the proverbial hot potato if anything happens to that company, especially as we’ve received a warning.”

  He stared into the distance, not seeing the view and then turned back to Danny with a sigh.  Placing a hand affectionately on Danny’s shoulder he spoke.

  “Okay Danno, see if you can get work at the theatre.  But please, keep in touch and for Gods sake be careful.”

 Danny nodded sombrely.

  “I will Steve.”

Friday

 Danny spent the next morning and afternoon setting up his alter ego with a room to sleep in, a car to drive and documents.  These latter were courtesy of Che Fong and his lab boys; the car came from the HPD surveillance fleet and the room was in a lodging house owned by a friend of a friend of Chin’s, who was repaying a favour.

  Danny left his shield and gun in his apartment and packed a holdall with a few basic necessities.  Changing into sneakers, denims and a plaid shirt, he left for the theatre, arriving just before six p.m.

  The big doors leading to the scene dock at the rear of the theatre were open and Danny wandered into the darkened interior.  Dust floated gently in the rare beams of sunlight and his eyes gradually grew accustomed to the darkness.  Around him were wicker baskets, piles of fabric, large wooden flats.  He heard voices and followed their sound until he reached the rear of the stage

  “What do you want?”

  Danny turned.

  “A job.”

  The man looked Danny up and down and then handed him the end of a rope.

  “Take that and climb up to the lighting gantry.  Get ready to haul the rig into place.”

  Wordlessly Danny took the proffered rope and walked over to the side of the stage where a metal ladder was fastened to the wall.  Tucking the rope into the back of his belt, he climbed up to the lighting gantry high above the stage.  On the other side of the stage, Danny noticed another man climbing up to join him.  They nodded to each other, then leant over the rail and waved to the man below.  Danny noticed that their ropes were fastened to a lighting rig lying on the stage.  At a signal the two men on the gantry hauled it skywards and when it was level with them, they fastened the ropes securely.  That done, the two men returned to the stage.

  “Well done lad,” said the man who had first spoken to Danny.  “Did you say you were looking for work?”

  Danny shook the outstretched hand and nodded.

  “Then you’re hired.  I’m Jake Evans.”

  “Daniel Watson.”

  “Well Daniel, let me show you around and make some introductions.”

 

                                                                           

 

By the Monday, Danny was exhausted.  He returned to his room, flopped back into a chair and closed his eyes.  A knocking sound woke him with a start and he sat up, trying to get his bearings.  The noise came again and he realised it was from the room next door.  Getting to his feet, Danny glanced at his watch and was surprised to see half an hour had passed.  Deciding that a run might make him feel better, he changed and, putting some money and his keys in a pocket, set off to explore the neighbourhood.

  Danny eventually found a telephone kiosk by the side of the road.  While he regained his breath, he dropped coins in the slot and rang the Five-0 offices.  It was answered on the third ring.

  “McGarrett.”

  “It’s Danny.”

  “How are you Danno?”

  “Exhausted.”

  Danny filled Steve in on all he’d been doing in the past forty-eight hours.

  “Nothing suspicious so far Steve, but the actors don’t move into the theatre for another couple of days.  They’re rehearsing elsewhere at the moment.”

  “Well, look after yourself Danno and keep me posted.”

  “Will do Steve.”

   

Thursday

  The first indication that the Governor’s worst fears were about to be realised came the second day that the actors moved into the theatre, in the late afternoon.  First one person complained of stomach pains, then another until most of the people working in the theatre were in the toilets.  The backstage crew were affected too, though not as badly.  Danny and Jake were in the yard constructing part of the set when one of the lighting engineers staggered out and threw up in the bushes.

  Danny dropped his hammer and ran over to the stricken man.

  “What happened?” asked Jake as he joined them.

  The man lay groaning on the ground, curled up.  He looked up at them.

  “All sick,” he gasped and waved his hand towards the back door.

  “I’ll ring for an ambulance.  Look after him,” said Danny to Jake and ran inside the building.

  And I’ll ring Steve as well.  This is too much of a coincidence.

  The phone calls made, Danny roamed through the theatre to see who was unaffected.  There weren’t many.  By the time he’d been round the building he realised most of the cast and crew had been affected to varying degrees.  The bathrooms were all occupied and people were lying around in various stages of distress.  He went back outside to wait for the medics.

  First to arrive, however, were Chin and Duke.  As they pulled into the parking lot, Danny jogged over to them.  Keeping his back to Jake in case he was watching, Danny outlined what had happened, how most people were sick.

  “It looks like they’ve been poisoned,” Danny added as a fleet of ambulances drove in.

  The three men walked towards the theatre and, keeping up the pretence of not knowing each other, Chin stopped by the door.

  “That’ll be all for now.  Thanks for your help.”

  “Sure.  I’ll be here if you need me.”

Danny turned as Jake approached him.

  “Who are they? Cops?”

  “Yeah, Five-0, state police.”

“This must be serious if they’re involved,” muttered Jake.

They moved away as the first medics started helping out the people well enough to move on their own.  Some on stretchers, too ill to walk, followed these.  HPD units arrived and began to help move the ambulatory patients.  An HPD officer moved over to the two men standing by Jake’s truck and asked them their names and occupation.  Danny was glad that it was a rookie cop, someone he didn’t know.  As the cop moved away, Danny suppressed a grimace of pain as he rubbed his stomach.

 “You feeling ill too?” asked Jake.

  Danny shook his head.

  “Must be auto suggestion,” he replied.

  Jake looked round at the people staggering out, or being carried from the theatre.

  “This’ll put back opening night” he remarked.  “Wonder what caused it?”

  Danny shook his head, but he was thinking hard.  He glanced across the lot as squealing tyres announced the arrival of the head of Five-0.  Exiting the car, Steve strode towards the stage door where Danny could see Duke waiting for him; they disappeared inside.  A few moments later Chin walked over to them.

“I need to ask some questions,” he began.  Pointing to Danny he added, “We split up the questioning.  My boss will talk to you, he’s in the managers’ office.”

  Stifling a grin, Danny just nodded and ambled into the theatre, making his way via the backstage area and through the auditorium to the managers’ office in the foyer.  As he reached it, a shooting pain in his stomach made him gasp and he leant on the doorframe to catch his breath.  As the pain eased, Danny straightened up and knocked on the door.

  “Come in,” called the familiar voice.

  Steve looked up as the door opened and Danny’s figure came into view.  He frowned slightly as he took in the pale complexion and got to his feet.

  “You okay Danno?”

  Danny managed a smile as he sank onto an upright chair.

  “I’m okay Steve.”

  “Right Danno, what can you tell me?”

  Danny frowned in concentration.

  “Well, it seems they became ill about an hour ago.”

  “Did they all have lunch together?”

  “No. I know some of them went out to eat, but others stayed here, like me.”

  Steve started to prowl round the small office, his left thumb hooked into his pants’ pocket.

  “Duke said you thought they’d been poisoned.”

  “What else would make people throw up like that?”

  When the stomach pain hit him again, Danny couldn’t hide it; he groaned and toppled forward off the chair.  Steve was by his side in an instant.

  “Danno!  You are sick!”

  Danny struggled to sit up and Steve knelt on the floor by his side to support him.  Danny’s face was ashen, with beads of perspiration on his brow.

  “Help me up,” gasped Danny.

  Reluctantly Steve did as he was bid.

  “Bathroom!”

Keeping Danny upright in the crook of his right arm Steve edged towards the door.  It opened before he could reach it and Duke strode in but stopped short when he saw his two friends.

  “Steve,” Duke hesitated and stepped out of the way as they moved past him.

  “What is it?”

  Steve’s reply was sharper than usual.  He got Danny to the door-marked kane and helped him inside before turning to Duke.

  “One of the actors is dead Steve.”

  Thursday afternoon

  Steve looked appalled and glanced quickly at the closed door, but the cop instinct took over.

  “Who is it?”

  “Francis Seymour.”

  “Oh my God,” breathed Steve.  “Where’s the body?”

  “In his dressing room.  This way.”

  The two men hurried backstage and pushed their way through the inevitable knot of people, ill though they were, gathering round the door.  Steve called to an HPD officer to clear them away.

  Inside the dressing room, on an overstuffed sofa, lay the body of Francis Seymour.  He was on his back, one arm and one leg dangling over the side.  His eyes were open and his lips were drawn back over his teeth.  He looked terrified.  Steve stood looking down at him and sighed heavily.  Duke appeared at his elbow.

  “I’ve phoned the coroner’s office Steve.  They’re sending a wagon.”

  Steve nodded absentmindedly.

  “Clear everyone out of here Duke then we’ll see what we’ve got while we wait for the lab boys to arrive.”

  Duke did as he was bid and Steve began to look found the room, touching nothing.  The dressing table was littered with make-up, tissues and a cup of coffee, long since cold.  At one end, nearest where Seymour lay, was an open box of chocolates. Inside, the little paper cups were scattered and the few remaining chocolates were out of their nests.  Steve gave a cursory examination to the wardrobe and furniture before moving outside to the corridor to wait.  The HPD officer sketched a salute, which Steve returned.

“Wait here until the Coroner and lab boys arrive.  Let me know when they do; I’ll be in the managers office.”

  The officer nodded and Steve made his way back through the auditorium, meeting up with Duke in the foyer.

  “What’s the state of play Duke?”

  Duke consulted his notebook.

  “So far, one dead, three unaffected by whatever it is and the rest with varying degrees of poisoning.  The serious cases have been taken to hospital, the rest have been given treatment here.  The medics say they can go home when they feel up to it.”

  Steve strode to the office and went in.

  “Who’s in charge here?”

  “The Theatre Manager is in charge of the building and then there’s Aggie Weston.”

  Steve raised an eyebrow and mouthed the word ‘who?’  Duke grinned.

  “Aggie Weston is the Stage Manager, Steve.  She controls the backstage area and at the moment is one of the walking wounded.”

  “Bit of a character eh?”

  “I’d say a strong personality.  You should have heard her cussing at the upset this is causing to her plans.”

  A knock at the door interrupted them and when Steve called enter, the young policeman stuck his head round the door.

  “Mr McGarrett, the Coroner and lab boys are here.”

  “Thank you.  We’ll be right there.”

  He and Duke headed backstage again, but stopped in their tracks when the door to the men’s room opened as they were passing and Danny staggered into view.  Steve moved swiftly to catch Dan before he hit the floor and Duke rushed to help.  Steve looked up.

  “Get the medics in here!”

  Duke didn’t reply, but set off at a run.  Steve eased Danny to the floor, but kept his arms around him.

  “Take it easy Danno, Duke’s gone for help.  The doc will be here in a minute.”

  “Steve,” muttered Danny, eyes still closed.

“I’m here.  Don’t try and talk.  Just take it easy.”

  “Been thinking.  Only thing we all may have had.”  Danny paused to swallow.  “Chocolates.”

  The medics arrived on the run followed by Duke.  Reluctantly Steve allowed them to take over.  Deftly, Danny was placed on a stretcher and carried out through the front doors.

  “Go with him Duke,”

  “Sure thing Steve.”

  “And if you see Chin, ask him to come in would you?”

  Duke nodded an acknowledgement as the doors closed behind him and Steve moved swiftly back to Seymour’s dressing room.  There, amidst the makeup, was the open box of chocolates.  Steve walked over and stared down at them.

  “What is it Steve?”

  Che Fong moved to stand next to Steve and looked up at him.

  “It’s been suggested that the chocolates are to blame for so many people being ill.  Check them out please Che.”

  “Sure.”

  A voice from the doorway made them turn.

  “Coroner’s here Steve,” said Chin.

  Doc Bergman shouldered his way into the cramped room and gave the body a cursory examination. He grunted and turned to Steve.

  “As you’ve guessed, he’s dead.  Time of death?  Very recent.  I’ll let you know more when I’ve had him on the table.”

  Stifling a sigh, Steve clapped him on the back.

  “Soon as you can Doc.”

  Steve left the dressing room to let the coroners’ team in and, followed by Chin, led the way out to the parked cars.  Standing by the open door to his sedan, Steve turned to Chin.

  “Let’s get back to the office.  I don’t think there’s anything else we can do here for now.  I must let the Governor know what’s happened.”

  Chin nodded and headed for his car as Steve slid behind the steering wheel.  In convoy, they drove back to the Palace.

Thursday evening

  Steve was at his desk working on details of another case when Duke returned.  He knocked and entered the big office, Chin close behind him as Steve looked up

  “What’s the news Duke?”

  Duke smiled as he replied.

  “Danny’s fine.  They’re keeping him overnight, but they reckon he’s over the worst.”

  “Thank God,” said Steve, briefly closing his eyes.

  “Amen bruddah,” added Chin.

  Straightening up, Steve indicated his men should sit.

  “Let’s recap what we’ve got gentlemen.  Have you heard from Che yet?” asked Steve of Chin.

  Chin shook his head.

  “Not yet Steve, nor the Coroner.”

  Tapping the desk with his pencil Steve remarked,

  “Before he collapsed, Danny hinted that the chocolates might be to blame.  Duke, I want their history, wiki wiki, how they got there, where they came from.”

  “I’ll get right on it Steve.”

  “Please, I must have something to tell the Governor in the morning.”

  Chin glanced across at the younger man as Steve slumped back in his chair, his face drawn.

  “And Chin, would you start investigating the dead man?”

  “Sure thing Steve.  When you visit Danny, tell him to take care.”

  Steve glanced across at him and smiled faintly; his men knew he’d visit Danny before he went home.  He nodded absent-mindedly and addressed the paperwork strewn across his desk, as Duke and Chin left on their own investigations.

  An hour later, the ringing phone interrupted him.  Steve glanced at his watch as he picked up the receiver - 9:10.

“McGarrett.”

  “Thought I’d find you there.”

  Steve heard the gravely voice of Doc Bergman.

  “I’ve compiled a very interesting preliminary report.  Can I come over?”

  “Sure Doc, I’ll be here.”

  Bergman hung up and Steve did the same.  He pressed the heels of his hands into his eyes and sighed.  It looked like being a long night.

   

Thursday evening, late

  “Come in.”

  Steve responded to the knock on the door and it opened to admit Doc Bergman and another man Steve didn’t know.  Steve rose to his feet and moved from behind the desk, hand outstretched.

  “Steve, I’d like you to meet an ex student of mine,” said Bergman.

  Steve shook hands with both men and gestured for them to sit.  Bergman continued.

  “This is Dr Quincy.  He specialises in forensic medicine.”

  Steve nodded to the visitor and then held his hand out for the manila folder Bergman was carrying.

  “Okay Doc, what’ve we got?”

  “A dead body.”

  Steve sighed with exasperation and looked up from glancing through the report.

  “Poison in the chocolates?”

  Bergman shook his head.

  “Yes and no.”

  Steve’s eyes narrowed and he glared at the two men across his desk.

  “Don’t go all cryptic on me Doc.  What killed him?”

  Bergman settled back into his chair and crossed his legs.

  “My initial investigation diagnosed a strong poison as being the culprit.  However, my young friend here,” Bergman glared at Quincy, who was sitting on the edge of his seat, “disagreed with me.”

  Quincy could contain himself no longer and butted in.  Leaning forward, his elbows on his knees, he used his hands to emphasise his remarks.

  “Mr McGarrett, something just didn’t feel right.”

  “Gut instinct?”

  A smile creased the craggy features.

  “You bet!  I reckoned that something else killed that man.  So I looked for that something else.”

  “And you found what?” asked Steve.

  “I subjected the body to a minute examination, while Doc here examined the organs.  In the creases of the left elbow I found the site of an injection.”

  Quincy paused for breath and sat back.  Steve looked at both men curiously.

  “Well?” he demanded.

  “I found evidence of an embolism in the heart,” replied Bergman.

  “And that means?”

  Getting information out of these two was like getting blood out of a stone thought Steve.

  “It means the deceased didn’t die of poisoning, he was murdered.”

  “How?” Steve rapped back.

  Quincy continued.

  “An embolism is a blockage in a blood vessel.  In this instance an air bubble, injected into the victim, found its way to the heart and stopped it.  He died of heart failure.” Quincy finished triumphantly.

   Steve looked in amazement at the two doctors.  Bergman was grinning.

  “How did an air bubble get into his bloodstream?” demanded Steve.

  “An empty syringe would do it,” replied Bergman.  “That’s why anyone giving an injection always expresses some of the contents, to expel the air, before inserting the needle

  “Do you agree with these findings Doc?” Steve asked him.

  Bergman nodded.

  “I’ve signed the death certificate to that effect.  It’s up to you now.”

  Steve rose to his feet and began pacing as he thought.

  “You’re sure it wasn’t the poison that killed him?”

  “Positive.”

  Steve gave a deep sigh and said quietly,

  “Danno should be okay then.”

  Bergman twisted round in his chair.

  “What’s that young man been up to now?” he asked.

  “Danny was working at the theatre and ate some of the chocolates.  He was taken to the hospital with the others,” answered Steve.  “Well I won’t keep you both any longer.”

  Steve buttoned his jacket and ushered his visitors out of the office.  He shook hands with Quincy.

  “Thanks for your help Doc.”

  “My pleasure Mr McGarrett”

 

                                       

 

Steve gently pushed the door open and slipped into the dimly lit hospital room.  He spotted Danny sitting up in bed and then saw someone sitting on a chair next to the bed.  Before he could speak, Danny turned his head and spoke first.

  “Who are you?”

  Steve frowned slightly, not sure whether Danny was fooling him, but decided to play along.  He pulled out his ID wallet and flipped it open.

  “McGarrett, Five-0, state police,” he said.

  The visitor leapt up and the chair fell backwards with a crash.  Steve stared curiously.  In the dim light he could see it was a thin woman, her hair escaping from a headscarf.

  “I’m sorry, I didn’t mean to startle you,” he said, moving forward.

  The girl picked up the chair and set it back on its feet.  She wouldn’t look Steve in the eye, but addressed her remarks to Danny.

  “Well, I’d better go now.  We’ll see you tomorrow afternoon.  I’m glad you’re alright.”

  Grabbing her purse, she pushed past Steve and dashed out of the door.  Steve watched her go and then turned back to his friend with a smile.

  “Hi Danno, how are you feeling?”

  “Sore, but the doc says I’ll be fine.  I can go home now and back to work tomorrow if I feel up to it.”

  Steve frowned as he placed the chair by the bedside, straddling it and leaning his arms across the back of the chair.

  “Speaking of which,“ he began, but Danny interrupted him.

  “I’m going back to the theatre,” said Danny firmly.

  Steve shook his head, but Danny continued.

  “It’s more important than ever now.  We know that the warning the Governor received was no idle threat.  Someone meant business and succeeded in disabling most of the cast and crew.  Now we have to catch him before someone is killed.”

  Steve stared at Danny, thinking hard.  Danny caught the expression on Steve’s face.

  “What’s happened?” he demanded.

  “It’s too late for that Danno.  Seymour is dead,” replied Steve quietly.

  Danny closed his eyes for a moment.

  “The chocolates?” he asked.

  Steve shook his head.

  “No, murder.  Someone injected air into his veins.”

  Danny jerked upright and gave a low whistle.

  “Who was that visiting you?” asked Steve curiously.  “New girlfriend?”

  Danny swung himself out of bed and moved to the closet where his clothes had been hung.

  “Not likely!” he retorted.

  He glanced round and saw Steve’s broad grin.

  “That was Aggie Weston.  She said she’d been in to see all those who had been taken ill.”

  “Could be she just fancies you Danno,” said Steve with a grin, teasing his young friend.

“God, I hope not.  She’s not my type at all – far too intense.  When I’m dressed, will you give me a lift to the theatre?  My car’s still there.”

  “Sure, I’ll wait for you outside.  We can discuss this further on the way.”

 Friday afternoon

  Danny returned to the theatre the following afternoon, hoping that HPD had finished their initial investigation and had left the premises.  Jake was out in the parking lot when Danny drove up.

  “How are you feeling?” he asked.

  Danny eased himself from the car and managed a shaky grin.

  “Like I’ve been kicked in the stomach,” he replied.

  “Well, it’s good to see you back again.  Come on, until they cancel the performance, we’ve got work to do.”

The two men disappeared into the depths of the building and Jake set Danny to work, splicing ropes.  Danny smiled to himself; the hours on the boat with Steve weren’t wasted after all!  He found the time passing quickly and was grateful to Jake for giving him something quiet to do.

  After half an hour, Danny stopped what he was doing, stretched his fingers and hands and wriggled his shoulders.  He jumped at a noise behind him and turned round quickly.  His sudden movement made Aggie jump too.  She laughed nervously as Danny sheepishly ran a hand through his hair.

  “I didn’t mean to startle you,” said Aggie shyly.  “I thought you might like a cup of coffee.”

  She held out a mug, but Danny shook his head.

  “Doc reckons I should stick to water for the next 24 hours.”  He indicated the mug.  “The caffeine would irritate my stomach.”

  “Oh, I see.”

  Danny was perplexed at the brief flash of irritation that crossed Aggie’s face, but dismissed it as his imagination.  There was an awkward pause before Danny spoke.

  “Are they going on with the play?”

  Aggie moved over to sit on the floor next to him, as Danny carried on with his work.  She shrugged.

  “Nobody’s said yet.  We’re waiting for the theatre manager to get back from Maui.”  Aggie looked up at Danny and grinned.  “They can’t do much without a leading man though, can they?”

  “No, I suppose not.”

  Aggie got to her feet and went to leave the scenery dock.  As she reached the inner door she stopped and turned.

  “Would you like to go for a meal when we’ve finished work?” she asked.

  Danny looked up, startled; he wasn’t used to being propositioned.  Aggie wasn’t his type, so how to let her down gently?

  “Um, sorry Aggie, I’m still feeling a bit rough.  I don’t think I’d be very good company.”

  “Oh, we’ll take a rain check then shall we?”

  Danny nodded and smiled briefly.

  “A rain check it is.”

  Aggie gave a half wave and went back to her duties.  Danny watched her go, a thoughtful look on his face, before returning to his task.  He didn’t see the watcher in the shadows.

  Friday evening

    Steve leant back in his chair with a sigh, pushing away the papers in front of him.  As usual his men had worked hard and gathered a mass on information on the dead man.  His life, his loves, his possible enemies were all displayed on the boards at the side of the office.

  Steve sipped a cooling cup of coffee as he mentally reviewed what they’d learnt about Seymour over the last two days and the circumstances surrounding his death.  Statements had been taken from everyone working at the theatre that day; where they were, what they’d been doing at the time Seymour died.  Most people had alibi’s, had been within sight or sound of another person.  There were a few exceptions and Steve intended to pursue them.

He reached for the top file on his desk and reread the stage doorman’s statement.

  “I don’t know where the chocolates came from; they just appeared in my office.  A great big box tied with purple ribbon and addressed to him, Francis Seymour.  I knew they were rehearsing, so I took them along to the green room.  What time? About 2.30 I suppose.  There was no one there, so I left them and went back to work.  Aggie brought me some later, on a plate.  Said there were plenty and would I like some?  She left them in my office and went back to work.”

  So, mused Steve, the doorman was the first to see the chocolates, but didn’t see where they came from.  The chocolates had been left unattended for nearly an hour before Seymour had offered them around.  Who was unaccounted for during that time, who had no alibi?  Eagerly Steve reached for the files again and began to read.  When the phone rang, he absentmindedly picked up the receiver and spoke his name.  The urgency in his voice made Steve sit upright.

  “I need to see you tonight Steve.  Can you meet me at your beach house?”

  “What’s wrong Danno?  Why can’t you come here to the Palace?”

  “I think I’m being followed.”

  “I’ll get there as soon as I can.”

  Steve dropped the receiver in its cradle and got to his feet.  He checked his gun was loaded, buttoned his jacket and left the office, his feet barely touching the stairs or the steps as he ran to his car.  As he drove, he speculated as to who could be following Danny and, more importantly, why. 

Eventually Steve drew up outside his house and killed the engine.  He stepped out, balancing on his left foot, hand on top of the car as he scanned the area.  At the top of the road, by the path to the beach, he spotted the battered car Danny had been using.  There was another car not far behind it. Steve peered into the gloom, but couldn’t see anybody behind the wheel.  He quietly closed the car door and letting himself into the house, moved quickly to the picture windows overlooking the beach.  Ahead of him down by the shoreline, easily distinguishable in the moonlight was Danny, wandering aimlessly.  Steve rapidly scanned the deserted sands, but realised he couldn’t see into the scrub to his right.

  He went through to the bedroom, closed the drapes and switched the light on as he returned to the lounge.  Danny slowly changed his direction as Steve silently unlocked the lanai door and pushed it back a few inches.  He waited as Danny made his way towards him at a leisurely pace.  The young policeman suddenly stopped and turned to his left.

  Immediately Steve drew his gun but made no other move.  From the scrubland appeared a figure who approached Danny.  In the stillness Steve could hear some of the conversation.

  “What are you doing here?” Danny’s voice was quite sharp.

  “I followed you,” came the smug reply as Aggie came into view.

  Steve grinned and holstered his gun, breathing a sigh of relief.  Lovers tiff, he thought.

  “What the hell for?”

  Aggie approached and stopped a few feet away from Danny, uncertainty spreading across her features.  This wasn’t the greeting she had anticipated.

  “I thought you might like some company.”

  Danny turned to her, managing to sneak a glance up the beach towards the house.  There was a light on; Steve was home.

  “I came out here for some peace and quite and a solitary walk.  I don’t want any company at the moment.”

  He stood with his hands on his hips, glaring at her.  Again, there was a strange expression on her face; just a flash then it was gone.  Aggie turned on her heel and ran back the way she had come.  Danny stared after her for a moment and then made his way up the beach.  He could see the door was partially open and he slipped inside.

  “Steve?”

  “Kitchen.”

  Danny joined Steve and when they were both settled with coffee, Danny filled in the background to the days’ events.

  “When I called you, I didn’t realise it was her following me.  I just thought it best to keep away from the Palace.”

  Steve nodded and grinned.

  “It’s your irresistible charm Danno.”

  Danny glared at his boss.

  “She’s not my type Steve, she’s pushing me.”

  Pausing to sip his coffee, Danny’s face reflected his thoughts.

  “What’s her background?” he asked.  “Has she an alibi?”

  Steve shook his head.

  “Don’t know Danno, I’ll have to look into it.  Are you worried about her?”

  “Yeah, something about her gives me the creeps.”

  “You can always pull out of the job Danno,” said Steve.

  He finished his coffee and put the cups in the sink as Danny shook his head.

  “Okay Danno, let’s go.  I’ll check the coast is clear and then follow you at a discrete distance ‘til you get home.”

  Danny smiled.

  “Thanks Steve.”

  Steve switched off all the lights and locked the lanai door as Danny returned to his car via the beach.  Standing for a moment outside the front door, he looked round the quiet neighbourhood.  He saw Danny jog back to his car, get in and drive off.  Nothing else moved.  Locking the door, Steve moved to his car and followed Danny back to the highway.

  Danny led the way back to his dingy apartment and pulled into a vacant slot at the kerb.  He waved to Steve as he drove past and heaved a sigh of relief.  Exiting and locking the car, he ran up the stairs to his room.

     

Saturday, early morning

  It was a warm morning and Steve had the office doors and windows open to catch the breeze.  The desk was covered in piles of files as he reviewed the poisoning case.  He was worried, but couldn’t put a finger on why, so Duke’s arrival gave him a welcome break.

  The grey haired detective came into the room with a mug of coffee in one hand and a sheet of paper in the other.

  “What’ve you got Duke?”

  “Coffee and some interesting information,” came the smiling reply.

  “I can use both,” was Steve’s heartfelt rejoinder as he took the mug.

  Leaning back in his chair, he sipped the hot Kona and gestured for Duke to take a seat in one of the visitor’s chairs.

  “So what have you come up with Duke?”

  “I’ve been looking into the background of the actors and theatre staff.  Did you know that Seymour had been stationed here during the war?”

  Shaking his head, Steve slowly rose to his feet, eyes afire with anticipation.

  “Go on,” he said as he moved to the lanai doors to look out.

  Duke, not at all put out that Steve now had his back to him, continued.

  “Chin’s following up on that one.  The rest of the cast are all from the mainland and brought together especially for this tour. As far as we can tell, they hadn’t met before this.”

  He consulted his notes then continued.

  “There are two permanent theatre staff, the manager and the doorman, who doubles as a maintenance man when the theatre is closed.  Aggie Weston is the stage manager when there are plays on and deputises for the theatre manager when he’s away.  When the theatre’s closed, she’s on a retainer.  I’ve asked HPD to help check on her and the rest of the staff.”

  “What about a secretary?”

  “Part-time, we’re checking on her too.”

  “Good Duke.”

  Steve returned to his desk as Duke asked,

  “How’s Danny getting on?”

  Steve managed to suppress a grin by pressing his lips together.

  “I think he’s in trouble.”

  Duke was out of his chair in a trice.

  “What’s wrong?”

  “Woman trouble Duke,” replied Steve and let his grin appear.

  Duke grinned too.

  “So what’s new?”

  “This is slightly different.  I don’t think he’s been stalked before.”

  “Stalked?”

  Steve gave Duke a rough outline of what had happened the previous evening.

  “Check her background very carefully Duke.  There maybe nothing in it….”

  But where Danno’s concerned, I’m not taking any chances.  The thought was left unspoken, but Duke sensed the meaning.  He turned to leave the room with a cheery,

  “I’m on it Steve.”

  Steve relaxed for a moment, finishing his coffee and then returned to his paperwork and by lunchtime, he was able to place a pile of filing on his secretary’s desk.  Closing up the office, he decided to spend a couple of hours on his boat.  He hoped by thinking about something trivial, his subconscious would work on the bigger problem, namely what it was that bothered him about Aggie Weston.

  Traffic was heavy and it took him nearly half an hour before he reached the marina.  Parking as close to his boat as he could, he rapidly walked along the dock, his coat over his shoulder.  Once aboard he changed into his denim shirt and jeans that he kept on the boat and slipped his bare feet into his deck shoes.  The afternoon was spent in doing minor repairs and tidying up below decks.

  By the early evening, all was shipshape and Bristol fashion.  Steve smiled to himself as he thought of that strange expression.  He stood, straw hat pushed to the back of his head, hands on hips looking towards Diamond Head and appreciating the view in the waning sunlight.

  “Steve!”

  His heart gave a leap as he turned to find Chin and Duke hurrying along the dock towards him.

  “Come aboard gentlemen.”

  Steve leant down and gave Chin a helping hand, while Duke clambered up by himself.

  “What’s so urgent you had to come and find me?”

  The two detectives quickly exchanged glances but not quickly enough for Steve’s eagle eyes.

  “What aren’t you telling me?” he snapped.

  Duke drew a deep breath.

  “We can’t find Danny.”

  A cold chill ran down Steve’s spine and his voice was harsh as he whispered,

  “What do you mean, you can’t find him?”

  Chin spoke up.

  “Well he’s not at home, so I went and spoke to my relative, who said he saw Danny leaving about an hour ago after receiving a telephone call from a young woman.”

  “I’ve asked HPD to find Danny’s car, but I’ve heard nothing yet.”

  Steve picked up his gun from where it lay by the wheel and clipped the holster onto his belt.

  “Okay fellas, let’s go and find him.”

  Steve led the way along the dock to the parking lot at a brisk walk, even breaking into a run at one point.

  “Where’re we headed Steve?” asked Duke as they reached the cars.

  “Let’s try the theatre first,” replied Steve.

  Ducking into the car, he skimmed his hat onto the back seat and started the engine.  The two cars sped away towards Diamond Head, Steve slapping the steering wheel in frustration as the tourists clogged the roads, slowing their progress.  Glancing in his rear view mirror, he noted that Chin was right behind him.

  They left the outskirts of Waikiki behind as Steve glanced at his watch.  Soon be there, he thought.  The radio crackled into life.

  “McGarrett.”

  “Steve, can you see smoke in the distance?”

  Duke’s voice conveyed his anxiety over the airwaves.  Steve glanced ahead and just made out a thin plume of smoke rising into the sky.

  “Yeah Duke, I see it.”

  He paused, unwilling to give voice to his sudden fears, but Duke spoke instead.

  “Is it the theatre?”

  “Oh God, I hope not,” groaned Steve and accelerated.

   

  Saturday, late afternoon

  Minutes later the two cars swung into the parking lot behind the theatre.  The smoke rising into the sky was much denser now and drifting mau’ka.  Steve, exiting his car, glanced back and saw Chin was already radioing for a fire crew.  He waved and Duke dashed over to join him.  Together they ran towards the stage door, which stood ajar and cautiously pushed it open.  There was no one in the doorman’s office, so they headed backstage where the smell of burning was particularly noticeable.  Steve drew his gun and gestured for Duke to check the auditorium.  Duke slipped through the adjoining door and it closed firmly behind him.

  Slowly Steve edged forward through the gloom and onto the stage.  He stopped and peered through the grey, swirling smoke.  On the other side of the stage lay a body.  He heard Duke running towards him through the auditorium, but couldn’t see him because of the safety curtain and called to him.  The smoke made Steve cough as he dashed across the stage, holstering his gun.  Dropping to his knees, Steve discovered the inert form was that of Aggie.

  “Steve?”

  “Over here Duke.”

  Duke, coughing too, arrived by his side.

  “Danny?”

  “No, it’s Aggie Weston.  Let’s get her out of here.”

  As they lifted her off the floor they heard Chin calling to them.

  “Steve!”

  “Yeah Chin.”

  “Fire crews are on their way, but the back of the theatre is well alight.”

  Steve thought quickly.

  “Duke, you and Chin take Aggie outside.  I’ll carry on checking to see if there’s anyone else here.”

  Not just anyone thought Chin as he took Aggie from Steve.  He held her as Duke jumped off the stage to join him.  He’ll check to see if Danny’s here.  The two men carried the unconscious figure out through the main doors of the theatre and laid her gently on the grass.

  The fresh air revived her slightly and her eyes flickered, but closed again.  In the fading daylight Chin could just make out a large bruise on her forehead.

  “Stay with her Chin.  I’ll go back and help Steve,” asked Duke.

  Chin nodded and clapped Duke on the shoulder.

  “Go,” was all he said.

  Duke ran back through the front doors, through the auditorium again and up the steps to the stage.  The smoke was hanging over the stage like a black cloud.  Coughing, Duke called out for Steve.

  “Back here Duke.”

  Duke make his way behind the safety curtain to find Steve leaning against a pillar, coughing.  His face was sooty, with white streaks where his eyes had watered and tears had run down his face.

  “We’ve got to get out of here Steve.”

  Duke realised he had raised his voice to carry over the sounds of the burning building.  Steve grasped Duke’s shoulder and shouted his reply.

  “Can’t go yet.  Not found Danny.”

  Duke despaired at the stubbornness of the man and wondered if he would have the courage to manhandle Steve out of danger.

  “I’m sure he’s here somewhere Duke.”

  Duke nodded as Steve paused to catch his breath.

  “I’ve checked the dressing rooms on the far side.  Let’s check this side now.”

  Duke nodded again and, eyes smarting from the acrid smoke, he and Steve started towards the side of the stage.  Pieces of burning fabric were dropping from the fly tower and one landed on Duke’s arm.  He slapped it away and glanced up to see what else might fall.  He stopped suddenly and turned to Steve, pointing upwards. 

High above them, dangling from the lighting grid was an unconscious Danny.  Steve stared in horror at his friend.  Danny was suspended over the stage by a rope tied to a chain wrapped around his ankles; his hands were bound and hung down below his head.  All this Steve noticed in an instant.  He also saw the flames racing along the wiring, consuming it rapidly and edging ever nearer to the rope holding Danny aloft.  Light bulbs started to explode in the heat, showering the men on the stage with hot metal. 

“Get a crew in here Duke,” yelled Steve, pushing the detective towards the wings.

  Duke cast an anguished glance at his two friends before dashing away.  Steve remained where he was, staring upwards, his fists balled in frustration that he couldn’t reach Danny.  Using his hands to deflect the burning debris now falling faster, Steve anxiously watched the flames reaching eagerly for fresh material to burn.  It crept along the grid and found the rope keeping Danny in the air.  Through watering eyes Steve watched helplessly as the rope began to burn, slowly at first, then with more vigour as Danny’s body swung gently in the billowing smoke.

  Steve looked round in desperation, but there was no way to get to the lighting rig.  He stepped towards the wings with the idea of fetching Duke, but another glance upward stopped him.

  The scene above him was a nightmare.  The roof space was well alight, seething with black smoke lit by the red and orange flames that were rapidly getting lower; he couldn’t see Danny’s legs at all.  A bout of coughing forced him to his knees, but with an effort Steve crawled back to beneath where Danny hung and got slowly to his feet.

Danny’s hands, arms and then head emerged slowly from the swirling smoke.  It appeared to Steve that the hanging body was closer to him than before.  Suddenly, the body dropped a few inches and he felt his heart leap in alarm.  Steve peered upward through the smoke and flaming debris that fell about him.  He could just see that the rope holding Danny was nearly burnt through.  Even as he watched, the final strands gave way and Danny fell.

         

To be continued.

   

©HElliott 2003

hle@eurobell.co.uk

 

 

 

 

 

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