8 October 1995
Arms flashed and spray flew as three swimmers headed for the beach. The youngest of the trio hung back, allowing the older men their friendly rivalry. On the beach the sole spectator shaded her eyes. However much she wanted to see her husband win the race Charlene felt certain Steve McGarrett would make the beach first. From the rising offshore breeze Charlene knew her choice of the dark blue sundress with long sleeves had been a good choice. After sunset she would feel the chill.
The two men waded ashore, laughing and joking, Danny only two strokes behind Steve. Late afternoon sunlight caught their torsos, glittering as water slithered down their chest. Thicker in the waist and chest than Steve, Dan Williams was the epitome of a man comfortable with his life. Water slicked back his grey-white hair. Ex-cop, one-time private investigator, family man, he was everything Charlene wanted in a husband and lover. It was also true that it had taken her almost a year after their first meeting to realise it. To accept her feelings for something other than hero worship of the man who had saved her life, or mere infatuation directed toward a mature man who saw her as something other than a sex object.
Both men sported scars from their careers with HPD, but Charlene's eyes caught on the one high on the left side of Danny's chest. She held up a towel for her husband as he sprinted up the sand. Steve caught his towel off the beach and draped it around his shoulders as Daniel waded ashore in their wake. It was evident from his movements that Steve's latest injuries were well healed.
"Not bad for an old man," commented Daniel to his father as he joined them.Danny laughed at his son while Charlene wrapped the towel around his shoulders. Her fingers lingered over that one scar before he caught her hand in his. Their fingers interlaced, they sauntered up to Steve's house. Daniel passed them, entering the house ahead of them. Charlene and Danny paused just outside the kitchen, waiting for their host to catch up with them.
Amanda and Sera were in the kitchen putting together a salad for supper. Only a half-head shorter than her husband, Amanda McGarrett, like Charlene, was aging gracefully. Her grey, shoulder-length hair was caught back in a coif suitable for a woman in her late Sixties. Whip-thin with age, the weight that had originally settled to her thighs and waist had burned off. Dressed in a lightweight day-dress liberally sprinkled with a green sprig pattern, she was not what any man might call beautiful: handsome was a more appropriate description. Green eyes, deeply lined about the corners, looked out of vital features.
There was no immediate sign of Chris, but Charlene was unconcerned. She rather suspected her second son was in the McGarretts' den glued to the television. With a patrol car cruising the area and two officers patrolling the perimeter of the grounds she forced herself to relax and trust in HPD's ability to protect them.
'If the threat still exists.'
"So, nothing yet," commented Danny, putting her thoughts into words.
"No." Steve towelled himself off, caught up his housecoat and drew it on. Evening came fast in the tropics and as fall drew down over this tropical paradise it could get cool in the evening.
'Then again, even summer nights can be cool, depending upon the weather,' thought Charlene.
Daniel padded indoors, still dripping, and disappeared in the direction of the McGarrett's main bathroom, clothes in hand. Lips compressed in disapproval, Charlene shook her head. Amanda merely grinned and shook her head when she caught Charlene's annoyance over her son's behaviour.
"It's only water, Charley."
"He knows better," countered Charlene, refusing to be placated. "And salt water stains."
Water droplets sprinkled the back of her neck. Squealing, she ducked and dodged. Whirling, she discovered her husband holding an ice cube at shoulder height. His lips were damp where he had sucked the fruit juice off the ice before allowing it to drip down her neck. He made no attempt to conceal the fact that he was responsible. Guilty by association, Steve watched them with unconcealed amusement.
"You," she glared at him, blue-grey eyes snapping with mock anger, "can be so bad at times."
"Only some times?"
Inside, the phone rang. They all turned as Amanda answered it. Although they failed to catch what she said, the meaningful look she shot in the direction of her husband as she hung up spoke volumes. Steve slipped on his sandals and entered the house. Danny and Charlene followed.
"Look, Mommy." Sera gestured to the tray display of sliced cold turkey breast, cherry tomatoes, cheese, celery sticks and broccoli around two bowls of dip. "See what I did?"
"Yes, Sera. That's looks delicious," Charlene told her, distracted and wanting to apply all her attention to what was being said across the other side of the kitchen.
"That was Ben," Amanda told them. "He'll be over this evening."
"Well, looks like we may finally have something," remarked Danny.
Charlene's stomach performed a tiny dance. She took a quick breath to settle it. Danny caught her eye. His quiet inner strength and confidence always bolstered her when they were caught up in events beyond their control. Determined not to allow the day to disintegrate, Amanda gestured to Sera.
"Come on, Sera. Let's put everything on the table. Steve."
"I'll get changed," Steve said, and headed for the bedroom. Danny followed.
Daniel emerged from the bathroom, his wet trunks in hand, dripping salt water down the passage. Looking up he caught his mother's eye on him and froze.
"Daniel Williams, clean up that mess before someone slips and falls. And take those trunks back in the bathroom, rinse them out and hang them up."
Blushing, Daniel hastily retreated. By the time Steve emerged last from the bedroom the trail of water had been dutifully dried and Daniel's trunks hung from the bathroom showerhead. The rest of Steve's guests were grouped in the living room with Amanda. At his appearance they all headed for the dining room, settling themselves about the heavy mahogany table.
Two hours later the doorbell announced Ben's arrival. Much as Charlene and Danny would have preferred their children to be home in bed, both felt it wiser to keep the family together rather than split HPD's resources between two households. Steve agreed. While the women ensured they were kept amused in the den with the television, Danny and Steve greeted Ben and ushered him into the living room. Tucked beneath Ben Kokua's arm was a thin manila envelope.
Sight of the envelope pricked Charlene's curiosity. Torn between remaining with the children and hearing Ben's news, she hovered in the entrance to the den. Amanda got to her feet after a couple of minutes and joined her.
"It's no good," she informed Charlene. "The way this house was constructed it literally eats sound. Sometimes I think that's part of the reason Steve purchased it."
Charlene jumped slightly when Amanda spoke. Cheeks burning, she cast a hasty look in the direction of her children. Seated at the far side of the room, book in hand, Daniel looked at her over the top edge. He grinned at his mother and made a show of returning his attention to the novel. Chris was keeping Sera preoccupied with something on the floor between the chairs and the television. No one was making the least pretence about watching the TV.
Scrubbing her hands down her arms, Charlene turned her attention back to the men in the living room. Amanda touched her arm. "Let's get everyone something to drink."
* * *
From the corner of his eye Danny kept a close watch on his wife, aware he would have to bring her up to speed once the children were safely in bed. As they settled themselves on the couch, Ben opened the envelope and pulled out a file folder. Steve and Danny's interest intensified as they recognised a police file.
"Here's what Hilo CSU has managed to put together for us." Ben flipped open the folder. "That thing in the water that distracted Rob had been deliberately tethered to a rock."
"What was it?" Danny wanted to know.
"An extremely life-like mannequin properly weighted to provide the perfect illusion of a body in the water."
"Slick," commented Steve.
"Why Rob stepped over the railing is going to remain mostly conjecture, but I'd hazard he was trying to get a better look at it," continued Ben.
"And someone pushed him."
Ben nodded to Steve's summation. "At my request they sent down a rock climbing team to investigate the spot from which Rob fell. It looks like he managed to stop himself at the edge." Now Ben flipped two pictures onto the coffee table. "See what you make of these."
Hunched over the stills, Steve and Danny inspected the images. One showed a series of scrabble marks, the sort made by an individual struggling to find purchase where there was none. The other was a close-up of a bush. Or rather what remained of a bush. The trunk was splintered.
"Son of a bitch," exploded Danny. "They shot away his one good hold."
"That's exactly the conclusion CSU reached," Ben confirmed.
For a minute Steve sat silently staring at the photo. Then, "Ben, what about the radio? Did they find anything?"
"You mean besides a mechanic caught trying to remove it from the squad car without a work order?"
Heads turned toward Ben, Steve and Danny sat frozen in place. Steve recovered almost instantly. "Is he talking?"
Ben shook his head. "I suspect he's not only been well paid, but thoroughly intimidated. Even the lawyer assigned to him has failed to get him to say anything."
"And the radio?"
Glancing across Steve to Danny, Ben turned another page in the file. "There are marks that indicate there was tampering of some sort. Unfortunately there's no way of knowing exactly what that was. The electronics boys are going over it now. They might be able to shed some light on it, but I suspect it'll be primarily conjecture."
"Some sort of jamming device that kept the radio tuned to a frequency other than those monitor by Hilo PD," mused Danny.
"That would definitely explain the intermittent problems," Ben agreed.
"Tests to ensure their interference worked," said Steve.
"That still doesn't explain how they knew Rob would take out that particular car," countered Danny.
"On that," said Ben grimly, "they obviously had inside help and knew Rob's worth ethics well enough to bank on him doing exactly what he did following the long weekend."
The doorbell rang again. Danny glanced in the direction of the door. "You expecting anyone else, Steve?"
Shaking his head, Steve rose and went to answer the door. From the corner of his eye Danny caught sight of Charlene and Amanda watching them from the kitchen. Steve peered through the security port in the front door. Illuminated on the lit porch step was a familiar figure. He unlocked the front door and swung it open.
"Steve." As McGarrett moved aside, Jonny stepped inside.
"What brings you out here?"
Looking past Steve to the living room, Jonny caught Ben's eye. Ben Kokua rose in unison with Danny. "What is it, Jonny?"
"Something came in over the fax earlier this afternoon. It wasn't until twenty minutes ago that they thought to tell me. Given the content I thought you'd want to see it. Someone said you were here."
Hand held out, Ben took the thin sheath of papers from Jonny. As he glanced through them his expression went blank, then turned positively murderous. When he looked up, Steve caught and held his gaze.
"What is it, Ben?"
"Fernandez?" Danny glanced from one to the other. Behind them Amanda had entered the room, Charlene at her heels. Charlene joined her husband while Amanda remained on the upper perimeter of the living room. "Who's that?"
"Ricardo Fernandez, son-in-law to drug cartel baron Niko Montanino," Ben quickly explained. "He's the one that set up the hits that killed The District Attorney and two of Steve's people back in Nineteen Ninety."
"And very nearly killed Steve," added Jonny bluntly.
"Nearly is right," said Amanda quietly. "It was over two months before Steve was able to function normally."
"After they brought him back from Molokai," said Jonny. "He was there for almost a week, with everyone here thinking he was dead."
'Except Ben,' Steve McGarrett silently recalled.
His eyes met Ben's briefly before gesturing Jonny to join their impromptu conference. This time the women also settled in the living room. Nor did any of the men consider the option of requesting privacy. This was territory that involved them as much as their husbands, family and friends.
Footsteps announced Daniel's departure from the den. Charlene looked up quickly. Across from her Danny glanced over his shoulder. He stood and turned as their oldest son approached.
"Daniel, I'd like you to stay in the den, please."
"No 'buts', Daniel," said Charlene, her voice uncommonly level and direct. "Please go back in the den and stay there until your father or I come to get you."
"Sera's thirsty," said Daniel.
"I'll get you something," said Amanda. "Steve, Ben, will you please wait until I come back?"
"Of course, Amanda," said Ben.
Once certain the children were settled, the door to the den firmly shut to prevent any eavesdropping, the adults huddled together around the coffee table. Ben carefully spread out the fax sheets for everyone to see.
The three sheets dealt with two newspaper articles. Both were dated 14 August 1995. A glance at the top indicated they were from a New Mexico newspaper. On the top of the first sheet a headline screamed "BREAK-OUT ON CHAIN GANG DETAIL". The sub-heading read: "TWO ESCAPEES CAPTURED. ONE STILL AT LARGE". Across the third blared the caption: "DRUG LORD FOUND DEAD IN PASTURE".
"Montanino's dead?" Steve pulled the third article closer before turning to the other one. "And Fernandez is free. That's not good."
"No," said Ben firmly, "it isn't. The only control on Fernandez's impulsiveness was Montanino. With him dead, Ricki's in charge of the business."
"Are you thinking what I'm thinking?"
To Jonny's question Steve nodded. "Yeah, Jonny. That hit on Rob and the attempt on me have Fernandez written all over them."
"But it's not like him to back off after a miss," observed Ben.
"No. It isn't."
'Unless that's his intent: to give us time to relax or grow overly edgy. Either way, it'll interfere with our ability to second-guess him.' Steve frowned at the articles, his gaze unfocused while he considered the possible scenarios.
Jonny leaned forward. "There's one positive note to this mess, though."
Ben stared at his subordinate. "Oh? And what's that?"
"We can pull the detail off Danny."
Astonished, Charlene demanded, "What makes you say that?"
Before anyone else could respond Ben explained, "Fernandez's vendetta would be aimed at the three of us, Charley. He has no reason to go after you or Danny."
Caught on the moment Jonny asked, "What about Kimo and Sharon?"
Ben nodded. "Yes. They'll have to be warned, too."
"Briefing first thing?"
"As soon as they come in, Jonny."
"You got it." Jonny Mattheson stood. "Gotta go. Catch you later, Charley. Danny."
Everyone stood. Steve walked Jonny to the door and saw him out. Behind them Danny turned to his wife. "Well, that's a relief."
But the look in Charlene's eyes belied any sense of relief. Experience had taught her that when one or two of these men were targeted, the entire group did well to look over their shoulders until the problem was settled. Reading her as an open book, Danny stepped out from behind the coffee table and put an arm around her.
"Hey. It'll be all right," he insisted.
"Maybe," she muttered under her breath. Before Danny could say anything she added, "I think we should get the children home, Danny. It's late."
Drawing free of his grasp Charlene headed for the den. Behind her Steve watched her carefully. "Heading out, Danno?"
"The boss has spoken," Danny told him.
"Curious about Montanino," said Ben, staring down at the copies of the fax sheets.
"In what way?"
"Well, according to this it looks like he fell from a substantial height."
Both eyebrows shooting up, Steve considered the information. "Sounds like Ricki was eager to move up in the organisation."
"And unwilling to wait," added Danny. "Nice way of saying, 'thank you for springing me from jail'."
At that moment Charlene appeared, ushering Sera ahead of her, Chris and Daniel brought up the rear. Daniel thoughtfully turned off the den light behind them. While Charlene and Amanda found their windbreakers, Danny, Steve and Ben made their farewells.
"Leaving too, Ben?"
To Steve's inquiry Ben nodded. "I've got to find out why this information wasn't forwarded to me back in August. It might have explained a lot and possibly prevented the death of a good cop."
"Maybe," said Steve. "Knowing Fernandez he would have found another way of getting at us."
Over the heads of the two youngest children Steve caught his wife's knowing gaze. This matter was far from laid to rest. They were merely trapped in an interlude, the length of which would be determined by the enemy. In a group they walked down the driveway to where the cars sat. One of the patrolman on grounds detail appeared from out of the shrubs lining the driveway.
"'Evening, Mister McGarrett. Chief."
Steve returned the greet, "'Evening, Landers. All quiet?"
"'Bout what you'd expect." Officer Landers glanced at them. "Heading home, Mister Williams?"
Danny nodded. "Yes."
"If you'll wait a couple of minutes I'll call in the squad car to escort you home."
Ben glanced around. "Where's your partner?"
"Greg's around back, sir," Landers told him.
They reached Ben's car and stopped. Chris pointed out a gecko to Sera, and they promptly edged out of the group to watch it. Daniel surreptitiously followed them, keeping track of his brother and sister, aware his mother expected it of him. He had gathered enough from the mood gripping his parents and their friends that something serious was going on. Of course having their Uncle Jon transport them to and from school the past three weeks made it even more obvious. Six years ago there had been an incident that had nearly orphaned him and his sister and brother. The tension radiating from the adults was sufficient to warn him the present situation boarded on that one.
Everyone winced at the aroma that escaped from the interior of Ben's car as he opened the door. "Break something?" Danny asked.
"Kids," replied Ben. "I made the mistake of leaving the window down when I was at the beach yesterday evening. Someone lobbed a half-empty can of beer inside. I haven't had the chance to get the upholstery cleaned."
"Whew." Charlene waved a hand back and forth in front of her nose. "Smells like a distillery, Ben. How do you stand it?"
"I drive with the window rolled down."
Ben climbed in and slammed the door. They backed clear when he started the engine, automatically checking for the presence of the children and the guards. Turning the wheel he pulled out. When he braked at the end of the driveway something rolled forward from under his seat and came gently to rest against the back of his right foot. With his left hand he fished for the item. What his fingers encountered shocked him into putting the safety brake on.
Steve appeared at the driver's door. "Something wrong, Ben?"
"Yeah." He held up an empty whiskey bottle. "Found this. It rolled out from under my seat." When McGarrett stared at him Ben went on the defensive. "Steve, I haven't touched a drop of alcohol in over fourteen years."
Years of close association with Ben Kokua leant Steve McGarrett an insight into HPD's present Chief of Police few others possessed, aside from perhaps Dan Williams. He had never known Ben to lie outright. And in this instance the circumstances, combined with Ben had told him minutes earlier about the beer can incident set his old instincts on edge.
"You might want to get it dusted for prints," suggested Steve.
"Yeah," said Ben thoughtfully, carefully setting the empty in the passenger side foot well. "I'll do that."
The squad car arrived, effectively breaking up their conversation. Ben nodded once to Steve, put the car in gear and headed off down the highway. No longer tired, Steve walked back up the driveway, the squad car following close behind lighting his way.
Danny studied his expression. "Something wrong, Steve?"
"Possibly." Steve avoided Charlene's tense figure. "Look, Danno. Ben just found an empty whiskey bottle in his car."
"Ben doesn't drink."
"You and I both know that," Steve readily concurred. "But he went through a bad spell right after he left Five-0. Took him a few months to dry out and get back on track."
Thoughtful, Danny watched Charlene usher the children into their vehicle. "That's something someone could use against him if they wanted."
"Laying suspicion. Yes."
"Do you want me to call Jonny?"
Steve considered the offer and shook his head. "It'll go over better coming from me."
"First hand information."
With a nod, Steve said, "Drive safe, Danno."
* * *
On the drive home Dan Williams reflected that, if someone wanted to start a smear campaign against Ben and his department they would not have far to look. Given Steve's abbreviated revelation about Ben's life during the years since he and Charlene had gone onto the Witness Protection Program a drinking problem would be fairly simple to play on.
'And then there's Jonny's juvenile record,' he thought.
They drew up in the driveway, still silent. Sera had fallen asleep. Danny got out, went round and lifted his youngest out of the back. Their escort slowed to a halt at the end of the driveway, waiting until they had entered the house and turned off the outside light before moving on. Only when the children were in their rooms and they were getting ready for bed did Charlene broach the subject.
"Danny, what happened back there? What were you and Steve talking about?"
Prepared for her question Danny told her, "It looks like someone is about to start a smear campaign against Ben." Speechless, she waited for him to explain. "When Steve went to speak to Ben as the end of the driveway, Ben showed him an empty whiskey bottle he had found under his seat."
"Ben doesn't drink," said Charlene, echoing his earlier statement to Steve.
"I know," said Danny, folding down the covers. "But Steve told me there was a time when he did."
"That must have been a long time ago, surely?"
"Some time after we left the Islands. Steve didn't elaborate."
Charlene nodded. "What are you going to do?"
"Me? Nothing. Steve said he'd call Jonny and bring him up to speed. Hopefully Ben will mention the incident to The District Attorney tomorrow." Danny dropped onto the bed, swung his feet up and pulled the sheet up to his waist.
"I don't like this at all, Danny."
"Neither do I, but there isn't much either of us can do. At least they won't have to worry about us anymore."
"Maybe," said Charlene as she slid between the sheets and pressed up against him.
Danny folded one arm over his head, making room for her to tuck herself beneath his armpit. One of her fingers traced his chest, pausing briefly over the scar on the left side. He curled his other hand over hers, holding it there, remembering just how close he had come to death. Charlene had stemmed the bleeding and protected him from Wilkes at the cost of her own safety.
"I love you, Danny Williams," she told him.
"Always," he whispered into the darkness.
Charlene nuzzled him. Her lips touched the bare flesh over his ribs. Then she settled further into the bed, composing herself to sleep. But for Danny sleep remained elusive. He lay awake until almost two before finally dropping into a fitful doze.
Steve McGarrett gave Jonny Mattheson a good thirty-five minutes to get home before attempting to reach him at the house. No one answered the phone, which was somewhat strange since Jonny shared the bungalow he had inherited from his sister with a young woman. Drawing a blank, Steve took a chance and tried the office.
"Special Investigations, Lieutenant Mattheson speaking."
"Jonny, it's Steve."
"Steve." A quick pause and Jonny jumped, "What's wrong?"
"Ben asked me to give you a call and pass on some additional information."
'Bad choice of words,' thought Steve. Out loud he asked, "Did Ben tell you about the incident with his car the other day?"
"The beer? Yeah. All the guys thought it was pretty funny."
"Hold that thought," cautioned Steve. "On his way out of here this evening Ben discovered an empty whiskey bottle under the front seat."
"What!" For a minute Jonny appeared at a complete loss for words. Then, "But---Ben doesn't drink! At least, not since I came back to the Islands."
"I know," said Steve.
"Jesus, Steve." Again Jonny paused briefly. "Steve, you didn't let him drive off with that thing still in the car did you?"
A wave of horror washed over Steve McGarrett. "Too damned old to think straight," he swore at himself softly.
"What was that?"
"Sorry, Jonny. Yes. I did."
"When did he leave your place?"
"A little over half an hour ago."
"All right. I'll stay here and keep an ear out for anything unusual." The manner in which Jonny carefully worded that stabbed at McGarrett. Again he cursed himself for a fool.
"All right, Jonny. I'll see you first thing in the morning to make a statement, just in case."
Hanging up, Steve turned. And discovered Amanda standing across the kitchen.
"What's wrong, Steve?"
"That doesn't sound like the cop I married," she told him flatly.
"I'm not a cop anymore," he argued.
"You'll always be a cop," she countered. Crossing the kitchen, Amanda took hold of her husband's arms. "Tell me what's wrong, Steve."
Her insistence nibbled at his resistance. They had married for better or for worse. Until now there had only been one bad spot in their entire marriage: the time when Danny and Charlene had returned to Hawaii with their children and had been kidnapped and tortured by Antonio Nicholaidis.
"I think Fernandez is working to set up Ben to take a fall."
"It's possible the spilled beer was not the result of some kids at the beach the other day."
"What's led you to that conclusion?"
"An empty whiskey bottle Ben discovered under his front seat just before he left."
"Good God! So that's why you called Jonny."
"Yes. I'm going to have to leave early in the morning."
He got no further. All business, Amanda declared, "Of course you will. We all know Ben doesn't drink alcohol anymore. Now, come to bed. You're going to have to be able to think straight tomorrow, and you certainly won't be able to if you don't get some sleep."
* * *
Much as he wanted to return home, Ben knew it would be prudent to head for HPD to drop off the empty bottle at the lab and write up a report on its discovery and the incident of the previous day with the beer. He began mentally working on his report, detailing the initial incident as best as he could recall, down to the time when he had parked his car and when he had returned to find it fouled with beer. A vehicle closed on his rear bumper, riding far too close. Easing up on the gas, Ben slowed slightly to let the impatient driver pass him as soon as they reached a straightaway. The vehicle pulled out and went by. Ben caught a brief impression of two thickset men in the front of the SUV.
He took a corner and abruptly realised there was a vehicle with a dark paint scheme directly in front of him running without lights. Tapping the brakes, he avoided running up on its bumper. The vehicle, an SUV drew away from him into the night.
Nerves tingling, on edge, Ben studied the road intently. Somehow he suspected this was the same vehicle that had run up to his bumper earlier. Suddenly the SUV was right in front of him. Again Ben hit the brakes. This time tires squealed. And again he successfully avoided an encounter with the phantom vehicle.
Once more the SUV drew away from him. They passed a small shopping centre. A squad car pulled out of the parking lot onto the highway behind them. Another curve and Ben found himself closing once more on the unlit vehicle. Again he was forced to slam on the brakes. Twice more the SUV taunted him. Had he been driving one of HPD's unmarked sedans he would have called in the incident and hit the lights and siren. As it was he was trapped in a nightmarish game of tag along the weaving coastal highway into Honolulu.
Behind him the police car suddenly hit its siren, twice. It took a minute before Ben realised the officers were signalling him to pull over. Swearing under his breath, Ben slowed and drew off onto the verge. To those behind who could not see the blacked out, dark SUV now vanishing into the night, he must have resembled some drunk trying to weave his way home after a night of carousing. His eyes went to the bottle in the passenger foot well just as one of the patrolmen came alongside his car.
"Sir, licence and registration, please."
Ben carefully slid his wallet from his hip pocket and passed it over. The officer shone his flashlight on it. From his wrinkled nose it was evident he could smell the pervading odour of the day old beer. He was clearly uncomfortable with encountering his superior in what he considered a compromising situation.
"I'm sorry, Chief but I have to ask." Ben nodded as the officer continued, "How much have you had to drink this evening?"
"Nothing," Ben responded truthfully.
Taken aback, the officer stared at him, unprepared for what he saw as a blatant lie.
"I haven't had anything to drink except coffee," said Ben levelly. "I've just come from the home of Steven McGarrett. I'm on my way home."
"Sir." The officer took a deep breath. "Would you please wait here?"
Nodding, Ben watched in the rear view mirror as the patrolman returned to the squad car and saw the young officer place a call to HPD. Then, looking decidedly uncomfortable, he returned to Ben's car.
"Would you please step out of the car, sir?"
"You want me to take a sobriety test."
To Ben's statement the patrolman nodded. Ben unclipped his seat belt, carefully opened the door and got out. After going through the tests, touching his finger to his nose and walking a straight line, Ben submitted to a breathalyser test. He blew into it as he instructed. His eyes on the young officer throughout, he memorised the man's name from the tag over his breast pocket. If he did nothing else this evening, he would definitely write up a commendation for a young officer who performed his duty in the face of the most difficult of circumstances. When the patrolman scanned the reading he appeared startled by the results.
"This says you've blown a zero, sir."
"As I said," Ben reiterated, "I haven't had anything to drink this evening."
Now the officer shone a flashlight into the car as though seeking some other reason for Ben's erratic behaviour. While the officer continued the performance of his duty Ben explained.
"There was a dark SUV in front of me running without lights. It tried to run me off the road several times."
"Yes, sir." Clearly the patrolman did not entirely believe him. Suddenly he peered into the car, and Ben knew he had spotted the empty whiskey bottle. "You know it's illegal to drive with an open container of alcohol in your vehicle, don't you sir?"
"Yes. I was on my way to HPD to deliver that bottle to the lab and fill out a report."
"I see, sir. Well, maybe I should do that."
About to argue the point, Ben realised the logic of acquiescing and nodded. "That would be fine. Would you please drop it off as soon as possible? Ask them to dust it for prints and get the results over to me first thing in the morning?"
The young officer gingerly picked the bottle out of the passenger side of the vehicle, taking care to hold it close to the mouth so as not to unnecessarily contaminate what might be important evidence. He emerged from Ben's vehicle and walked back to the squad car where he dropped the bottle into a bag his partner produced from the trunk of their car. Then the officer returned.
"Will you be all right, sir?"
"Yes. Thank you."
"Perhaps we should follow you in, sir."
On due consideration, Ben thought that an excellent idea. "Thank you."
Back at HPD Ben headed straight for his office. To his surprise he discovered a bleary-eyed Jonny Mattheson waiting for him. Without a word, Ben went to his desk and switched on his computer. Jonny drifted up to the doorway and leaned one shoulder against the frame.
"You might say that," replied Ben, waiting for the computer to boot.
"Steve called me about the bottle."
"It's over at the lab."
"You took a little longer than usual getting here," commented Jonny.
Aware his second-in-command was fishing, Ben settled back in his chair. "Jonny, give me about twenty minutes to compose my report and make a call. Then I'll tell you what happened."
"Okay." Jonny continued to hover. "That call wouldn't be to the DA would it?"
The look Ben Kokua rested on him effectively chased Jonny from the office. Deeply concerned, Jonny hurried to put down what he knew of the evening's events up to the point when he had left. Then he added his conversation with Steve McGarrett for good measure. By the time he was finished, the report massaged to where he was happy with it and ready to print, Ben had emerged from his office and was standing beside his desk.
"You ready to hear what happened?"
"Yeah." Something told Jonny to hold off printing up his report. He swivelled his chair to face Ben while his superior perched on the edge of a neighbouring desk.
Briefly and succinctly, Ben Kokua outlined everything that had transpired; from the moment he had discovered the empty whiskey bottle to the point where he had been pulled over by the squad car. When Ben told him about the breathalyser, Jonny cringed.
"Which officer was that?"
Ben raised a hand. "He did the right thing, Jonny. In fact, I'm writing up a commendation for his actions."
"That's going to be something to see." Amusement warred with concern as Jonny visualised the moment on the highway. "So where do we go with this now?"
"The DA's coming over first thing."
"Great. Full house," reflected Jonny.
"Well, Steve'll be here bright and early---"
'Seven o'clock,' reflected Ben silently.
"---and my guess is Danny will be close behind," said Jonny.
'Which means the Governor will be alerted,' Ben's thoughts raced on.Jonny concluded, "And we still have to talk to Kimo and Sharon about our theory.""Theories," Ben corrected out loud. "I think Steve and Danny are right. Fernandez is probably behind this."
"Do you think he's left off trying to get to Steve?"
"I don't know why, but---yes. I think he's turned his attention on me."
"And Kimo and Sharon."
"And possibly even you."
"Ah, hell, Ben. I was only in on the take-down at the end."
"But you were there," Ben insisted.
Over Jonny's shoulder Ben caught sight of the office clock. To his surprise it was just after midnight: earlier than he had thought. Jonny tapped the computer mouse, brought up the screen and hit the print function. Across the office the printer hummed into life.
"So where do we go from here?"
Ben responded, "Bed."
"Did you just say bed?" When Ben nodded, Jonny shook his head. "Okay, boss. Whatever you say. But personally I doubt I'm going to sleep a wink."
* * *
Beneath Dan Williams the bed gave a violent jerk. He started awake, staring at the digital clock on the bedside table next to his wife: five-fourteen. Taking a deep breath, Danny slowly released it, trying to ease back into sleep for another forty-five minutes. The mattress trembled slightly. Trembled again. Suddenly aware Charlene was wide-awake on the other side of the bed and shaking, Danny reached out. Hooking his arm around her waist, he gently drew her back against him. Beneath his arm he could feel the rapid thumping of her heart. A breath shuddered out of her.
In the darkness he felt her head move in a nod. One of her hands drew his arm up beneath her breasts and clutched it against her for support. He pressed his lips against the back of her head then rested his cheek against it. Before he could say anything more, Charlene stirred slightly.
"We were in that boat again, Danny. Only this time we were chained on opposite sides of the hold. I couldn't reach you. Tonio had sealed the door and taken away the light. And no one knew we were there."
"Shh, Charley. It was just a dream."
"It was so real, Danny."
They had both suffered recurring, violent nightmares for almost a year after their run-in with Antonio Nicholaidis. Only when Ben had informed them that Tonio was confined to the Prison Infirmary in the final stages of HIV symptoms did Charlene's fears and nightmares finally ease. It was another three months before they disappeared entirely. Now, after five and a half years they were back.
"It's over, Charley."
"Yes," he insisted.
"I am so afraid something bad is going to happen again."
"Shh. I'm here. And we have friends we can rely upon to protect us and the children." "But can they?" To that Danny had no confident answer. His years as a cop had taught him otherwise. There was always the element of the unknown about any case. This one would be no different. Lying awake in the approaching dawn he knew neither of them would get any more sleep. Together they watched the early morning light creep between the curtains and spill across the floor.
9 October 1995
Upon entering HPD at ten to seven Monday morning Ben Kokua was pleased to see Jonny emerging from the locker room. He was, however startled to find Steve McGarrett waiting for him outside his office. Surprise turned to concern when he realised Steve was in deep discussion with the District Attorney, Ted
O'Halloran. Beyond them stood Sharon and Kimo. Sharon appeared uncomfortable in present company, even though she was now a veteran of the force. She had never quite gotten over Steve McGarrett's notoriety.
Steve spotted Ben and gave him a brief nod. Warned by Steve's drifting attention, the District Attorney turned. His gaze fell on Ben then went past him as Jonny Mattheson caught up with Honolulu's Chief of Police. Ben and Jonny glanced over their shoulders at the sound of brisk footsteps.
"Looks like we're all here," Dan Williams observed. "Ben, I'm here to make my report on last night."
Thoughts racing to catch up, Ben made a quick decision. "I think we should use one of the briefing rooms."
"Fine," said Ted.
There had never been any love-lost between Ben and Ted. From the moment the previous Police Commissioner and Governor Philip N'gai had brought Ben in to investigate the incidents, which had, not coincidentally hurried the demise of Five-0 as a separate entity from HPD, Ted O'Halloran had remained aloof towards Ben Kokua. There was no obvious reason for that apparent enmity. They managed to agree to differ, working together in spite of that rift.
'Personality conflicts,' reflected Ben as he directed the group into the uninhabited room.
But he could have wished for the sort of working relationship Steve McGarrett had shared with John Manicote. Once they were all inside Ben doubled back up the hall to inform the duty clerk that he was taking over the room for the next hour or so.
"All right, sir," the officer responded and noted it in the logbook.
"I'd rather we not be disturbed unless it's an emergency," Ben instructed. "I'm in with the DA and the Governor's Chief of Staff."
Inside the briefing room the group were disposed about the room. Kimo perched on the corner of one of the tables, while Sharon occupied a chair next to him. Steve, Danny and Jonny were standing off near the front of the room and the District Attorney remained to one side. Ben entered the room and closed the door behind him.
"Well, we should be able to proceed without interruption."
"For a bit, anyway," amended Danny with a hint of a smile touching his eyes.
Ted moved forward. "Why are we all here?"
However much Steve McGarrett appreciated forthrightness, he read the tension between Ben and Ted and considered what stumbling blocks such a relationship would have on the problem facing them. To his credit, Ben Kokua went directly to the front of the room and, using a white board marker, quickly set out a list of incidents.
"One," he said, glancing at Ted, "Rob Rydell was killed on Hilo earlier this month.
"Killed? I thought they determined that an accident?"
Without responding to The District Attorney's question Ben continued. "At the funeral someone tried to kill Steve."
Ted O'Halloran's eyes flicked to McGarrett. Anything that was aimed at the ex-head of Five-0 would definitely impact, directly or indirectly on everyone in the room. Not to mention several others outside. Now Ben Kokua had his undivided attention and Ted decided it might be best to remain silent throughout the rest of the briefing unless a response was required.
"Two days ago someone tossed a half-empty beer can into my car. In retrospect, given the extent of the spillage on the front seats I'm betting they poured some of it directly on the upholstery."
Unable to draw a connection between the previous two points on the board to Ben's statement, Ted frowned. When he glanced around the room, however he discovered two things. McGarrett, Mattheson and Williams were greeting this list with the unaffected attitude of persons already apprised of the situation. Parsons and Royce, on the other hand, were staring intently at the list as Ben sketched it out on the board and exchanging looks that indicated they were seriously concerned about the direction the briefing was taking.
"Last night I discovered an empty whiskey bottle under my driver's seat just as I was leaving Steve's house."
"You don't drink," stated Ted, his frown intensifying. Unaware that he was corroborating everything the others had already said the District Attorney began to feel exceedingly uneasy.
"Thank you," said Ben. From the corner of his eye he saw Steve's head dip a fraction, indicating his old boss approved. Ted looked surprised but ventured nothing further, except to indicate Ben should continue.
"On my way in to the office to drop off the bottle at the lab a dark SUV passed me. I didn't think anything of it until I nearly ran into it."
"What?" Danny took a half step and halted. "Sorry, Ben. Go on."
"It was running without lights. Suffice to say I had several near-close encounters with it. A squad car pulled me over after seeing me brake and swerve several times."
"They thought you were under the influence," stated Steve.
"It certainly would have looked that way to me, too," Ben said. "Young Keoke was quite embarrassed over the incident. Incidentally, I've written him a commendation in insisting upon carrying out his duties regardless of it being the Chief of Police he was questioning."
At the table Kimo suppressed a grin. He knew Keoke and could well understand the young officer's discomfort. For that matter there were a lot of policemen who would find it difficult not to succumb to the temptation of turning a blind eye to discovering a superior driving drunk.
"It didn't help that my car still reeks of the spilled beer. But that whiskey bottle was pretty damning," said Ben. "Anyway, I let Keoke drop it off at the lab for me and came on in to write up my report."
"I've read it," said Ted. "And yours, Jon."
Jonny Mattheson acknowledged that with a short nod. Like his boss he was not entirely comfortable in the District Attorney's presence. But unlike Ben he found it a simple matter to remain civil and persevere through the constraints it put on the work environment. Consequently he had the District Attorney's respect and a smoother working relationship.
"I suspect, however, that the only fingerprints the lab'll lift from that bottle will be mine and Keoke's," Ben concluded.
"Which will only serve to reinforce the picture being formed," said Danny.
"But not altogether surprising," reflected Steve.
Eyes narrowed, Ted studied the points on the board. "So what's the connecting link?"
"I'm getting to that," Ben told him. "Last night Jonny brought a copy of a fax out to Steve's for me to see." Ted glanced at Jonny, who met his gaze levelly. "The fax was of two newspaper articles out of New Mexico."
"New Mexico?" Emotion whirled across Ted's face as he rapidly thought back over the years of cases with which he, Ben and Jonny had been associated. "Fernandez," said Jonny simply.
Ben confirmed that. "He broke out. Looks like his father-in-law helped him escape."
"Worse," Jonny added, "Montanino is dead."
"Killed in the break-out?" "No. His body was found embedded in a pasture."
"Embedded---pushed out of a plane?"
"Yeah. Looks like," Jonny concluded. "Incidentally Ben, it was a buddy of mind from the LAPD Academy who stumbled across those articles and forwarded them to me."
Ben nodded. For the first time in their association he saw Ted O'Halloran loosen up a fraction. Their eyes met across the room and Ben read Ted's awareness that he could well be on Fernandez's hit list, should the Colombian drug lord choose to pursue that course of action. Something flickered in the depths of Ted's eyes as he abruptly understood the reason for the briefing.
"You think they're setting you up for a fall."
"Too many coincidences for it to be something else," said Danny.
Now Sharon and Kimo joined them at the front of the room.
"So, boss," said Kimo, "do you think they'll come after us?"
"It's a safe bet Ricki won't forgive the role you played in taking him down," Ben reflected.
Sharon added, "Especially as you killed his best hit man."
"Hey," Kimo held up his hands, "I didn't shoot the bastard. All I did was play target so the boss could take him out."
Black humour was something Ted O'Halloran failed to approve amongst HPD personnel, but he could well comprehend the need for it at times like this. That Kimo had literally been flat on his stomach, staring at the business end of a revolver when Ben Kokua had intervened was something Ted knew he never wanted to experience.
"And that places you right in the thick of this mess," Steve reminded Ted.
Upon reflection Ted knew McGarrett was right.
"So how do you want to play this?"
The phone in the podium rang. Ben answered it. "Kokua. Yeah, Chris, what have you got? Okay. 'Bout what we thought. Thanks. No. Start an evidence file for me, would you? And send someone from the lab out to go over my car. Whatever you can find, although I suspect it's going to be slim pickings. Sure, Chris. You too."
As Ben hung up the phone Jonny asked, "Nada?"
"Yes. As we thought."
"So what's next?"
Ben took a deep breath. He looked to his friends and felt certain they were thinking the same thing he was. "We play it straight. If this is Fernandez, he'll accelerate his attacks against me and SI. And there's still an off-side chance he'll strike at Danny."
"You want to take this to the logical conclusion if he manages to put you in a position where I'll have to suspend you?"
To Ted's question Ben nodded. Steve said simply, "We've played this game before. Haven't we, Danno?"
Danny Williams nodded. "But in that instance we didn't know who we were contending with, nor how far they would go to discredit Five-0."
"And we do here?" Kimo shook his head.
"It could get nasty," reflected Ted.
"Which is why I asked Danny to stay for the briefing," said Ben. "I've asked him to personally brief the Governor. We need to maintain damage control."
"Then this stays within this group."
"Exactly," said Dan Williams firmly. "Aside from the Governor, no one outside this room is to know what's happening until it becomes necessary."
Ted's decision was accepted so readily he knew he had been adeptly out-manoeuvred. 'Or rather, manoeuvred into a mutually agreed upon position,' he considered.His appreciation for their solidarity in the face of adversity escalated. Particularly when taken in conjunction with their ongoing ability to form a cohesive team almost on the spur of the moment. He envied them that, wishing he could as readily form alliances. But that was not in his nature.
"Are we done here?"
"I believe so," said Ben. "Sharon, I need you to play secretary again, in and around your usual duties."
Eyes rolling, Sharon grinned back at him. "Sure, boss."
Initially Ted was surprised that she made no outwardly visible complaint at being relegated to so innocuous a role. Until he remembered this was precisely what she had done when his predecessor had summoned Ben back from Hilo to take up the reins at Five-0.
"I'll get my notes typed up, along with your list."
"Have you got it?" Ben asked. When she nodded, he carefully and meticulously erased every trace of what he had written on the white board.
"Then I think we can get back to work," said Ted.
Back in the main office area Ben stopped to let the duty clerk know the briefing room was free. Around them was the usual business of the day; patrolmen reporting in off the night shift, while the day shift prepared to depart. Computer keyboards clicked at varying speeds. Steve found it strangely gratifying to note there were still officers who used the timeworn 'hunt and peck' method of typing up a report. He stopped by the coffee machine and poured himself a cup. Sharon headed for her desk, intent upon consolidating her notes and Kimo's into something the team could use.
Confident the newly formed team was set to deal as best they could with the embryonic case being thrust upon them by an enemy that might or might not be the person they suspected, Ted took his leave. No sooner had he departed than Danny's beeper went off. He paused and pulled it from his belt, checking the short message. Steve watched his face.
"The Governor," Danny explained unnecessarily. He glanced around the room. "Kimo, is there a phone I can use?"
"Sure, sir." Kimo led him across the office to his desk. "You can use mine."
"Steve?" McGarrett turned as Ben approached. "I think we've gone about as far as we can today. Once we've got the initial notes I'll send Kimo over with a copy."
Ben held out his hand. "It's good to have you on board."
"Even if it is as a consultant," said Steve. He ensured his comment was heard, lifting his voice just a fraction. The nearest office staff exchanged looks and quickly ducked their heads in an effort to cover their curiosity. The word would spread quickly; HPD, specifically the Chief of Police were requesting Steve McGarrett's observations on a case once again. Such instances were few and far between, and as such were noteworthy.
Cued, Ben also spoke a bit louder. "Even so, it's always good to get your insight."
"Any time, Ben."
Accepting that as a polite dismissal, Steve headed for the exit. Danny caught up with him at the front door. Their eyes met. Side by side they left the building. Old-timers on the force saw them and were reminded of earlier times; better times, a few would avow to anyone who asked.
13 October 1995
Satisfied with the lashings on the new sail, Steve ran his hands along the new spar. That one unexpected summer squall had played havoc with the RESTLESS SPIRIT TOO, and he had missed his sailboat while it was laid up. Although the job itself took little more than a day, his was not the only vessel in for repairs.
With the inboard engine set on idle, he cast off the bowline and went aft to release the stern. Out of the corner of his eye he spotted another yacht entering the marina. It was larger than his vessel, and clearly rigged and fitted out for a transoceanic trip. The name on its stern was sufficiently different to intrigue Steve, drawing his thoughts further away from the morning briefing.
He straightened and stepped aboard the SPIRIT TOO his attention returning to his own vessel until he set his speed at slow ahead and eased out of the slip. Only then did he look around at the new arrival. A man and a woman had emerged onto the deck. The woman turned slowly, taking in the scenery. At her side the man stared steadfastly at their destination.
Gaunt, with trimmed sideburns, shaggy locks and a goatee, there was little of a Spanish lover left in the aging owner of the SPANISH INDIAN. Still, something about his profile teased Steve's memory. He was certain he should know the man. As though sensing McGarrett's intense scrutiny, the man began to turn. Rather than risk losing an advantage, whatever that might be, Steve quickly redirected his attention and tugged the brim of his Panama hat lower as though adjusting it against the glare. Headed for open water, he put the helm over as he entered the channel between the double line of slips.
It was all he could do not to succumb to the urge to shoot a last quick glance over his shoulder. Instinct told him the other man was, in all likelihood waiting for him to do just that. Ahead of Steve a small power launch cut across his bow. Attention now completely on manoeuvring his sailboat to avoid a near collision, McGarrett left the matter of the SPANISH INDIAN and its passengers and crew for a later time when he could apply his undivided attention to the puzzle.
The ocean beckoned him. A stiff onshore breeze provided him with a challenge, but Steve was an old hand with the sheets and rudder. Once in deep water he cut the engine, tossed his hat onto the stern bench and ran up the sails. Catching the breeze, the sails bellied full. Rigging snapped against the spars. Wood creaked. RESTLESS SPIRIT TOO heeled sharply over to starboard, tacking down the coast, heading home. Steve replaced his hat, settling it comfortably on his head.
Despite the fine sailing weather, however, McGarrett could not shake the sense of foreboding that had plagued him since leaving the marina. The feeling was compounded, he knew, by the lack of movement in the case. It was bad enough that he could only advise and watch from the sidelines. Worse was the sensation that the bottom was about to fall out. And none of them knew exactly what to expect when it did.
With a shrug of his shoulders, Steve turned his attention back to sailing. There were enough 'Sunday sailors' tacking about the north shore of the Island to present him with a serious challenge. Complicating matters were the power launches. Many of the owners or renters blithely ignored the rules of the high seas. Throw in freighters, tankers and a couple of military vessels, and there was a recipe made to order for disaster if he did not keep close watch on his fellow sailors.
Two hours to home, if he took his time but did not deviate from his course. Tempted to head further out, Steve suppressed the desire. Amanda expected him home. They had guests coming later in the evening from one of the charities for which she worked, and he was expected to put in an appearance. Never one to shirk his duties, Steve concentrated on tacking inshore and then out, catching the fickle trade winds which were determined to send him anywhere but where he wanted to go were he to let his attention wander. It was a challenge he enjoyed and he conscientiously applied himself to the task.
* * *
Eyes shaded against the tropical glare on the water, Ricardo stared after the trim yacht. Capable of comfortably accommodating no more than seven people, it was nonetheless a neat vessel. And he suspected the hand on the rudder definitely belonged to someone who was not a part-time sailor. When the vessel's captain adeptly avoided a near collision with a power launch, Richardo nodded.
"That one knows his vessel," he remarked to his wife.
Her wandering thoughts caught back to the present Amelia glanced at him. "Did you say something, Ricki?"
Ricardo pointed in the direction of the RESTLESS SPIRIT TOO now leaving the marina water. "That one knows how to handle a sailboat."
Because it was expected of her, Amelia glanced toward the sailboat. Something about the man at the tiller caused her to shade her eyes. But he was already too far away, and short of running to fetch the binoculars from the cabin---which would only serve to draw unnecessary attention from her husband---she knew she could not be certain about the sailor's identity. Still---
"What is it?"
With a hitch of her shoulders, Amelia turned back to her husband. "It is nothing."
"It must have been something to catch your attention so completely."
Concerned that he was annoyed with her reaction Amelia quickly shook her head and prevaricated, "It is a nice boat, that's all."
For a long minute Ricardo studied his wife. She seldom expressed interest in any vessel. Beneath their feet the deck unexpectedly dipped and shuddered as the SPANISH INDIAN encountered the bollards. Caught off-guard Amelia grabbed for the nearest rigging. Distracted, Ricardo took two quick steps along the decking before recovering his balance. He glanced toward the cockpit.
"Sorry, senior," their captain apologised for the rough berthing. "Wave wash."
Stern wake from the power launch at the marina entrance continued to send combers against the pilings. SPANISH INDIAN rose and fell with the waves. Bollards squeaked repeatedly as the yacht's hull jostled against them. Two crewmen hurried to tie up the yacht and run out the gangplank.
Amelia went into the cabin to collect her purse and windbreaker. Behind her a crewman gathered up their suitcases and carried them up on deck. She followed him back into the open air. A limousine had arrived while she was below and now stood waiting for them, its doors and trunk open. The driver stood respectfully to one side.
She trailed Ricardo down the gangplank, up the dock and through the security gate into the parking lot. He handed her into the limo and she slipped across the seat. Her husband remained outside, speaking with his bodyguards at the foot of the gangplank. The limo driver glanced inside.
"Are you all right, ma'am?"
"Yes, thank you," Amelia told him.
"If you're thirsty there's juice, pop and champagne in the bar fridge."
"I'm fine. Thank you," she insisted.
"So." Ricardo appeared, climbing into the back of the limo. "I think this trip will prove to be most profitable."
His declaration pricked Amelia's interest but she refrained from letting it show. Since the death of her father Ricardo had taught her the foolishness of expressing herself in matters of the business. It did not matter that her father had trusted her, even to using her in certain aspects of his transactions whenever he found it prudent to utilise all of his assets. Not Ricardo. To him she was property: someone to produce his heirs. A pretty thing to hang on his arm until she lost her looks to age, at which time she would be abandoned at home in exchange for something more attractive.
Trapped by the very nature of her blood and upbringing, Amelia considered she would have been better off refusing her father's advice, looking elsewhere for a husband, to someone outside of the cartel. But the very business her father had conducted had constrained the circles in which she was permitted to tread. And even in those social circles into which she was invited her father had ensured she was always escorted. Her marriage to Ricardo had been nothing less than a union of convenience. Until his incarceration he had been amenable enough. Good in bed, company at a party, someone to show off to. Now, with his true colours showing, she regretted her decision to accede to her father's wishes. Her sole consolation lay in that it appeared her husband was infertile. Not that he was aware of it.
Anger was a smouldering ember just below the surface, carefully banked and nurtured. For now there was little she could do about the situation. Yet she sensed her husband was heading for disaster with his insistence that he exact revenge upon those responsible for sending him to prison.
Josť joined the driver in the front of the limousine and they set off out of the marina, heading toward Honolulu. Only Josť spoke throughout the entire ride, and then only to give the driver directions to their accommodations.
Ricardo had rented a time-share condo in the Kahala District; close enough to the water that Amelia could walk to the beach. But she knew her husband would never permit that. Where once she might have gone where she wished, summoning a taxi to convey her on her shopping or sightseeing trips Ricardo had tightened his grip since her father's death. If she went anywhere it was only with his permission, and with one of his men as constant company.
'Almost as though he fears me.'
That thought gave Amelia pause. She slipped a side look in the direction of her husband. Not for the first time did she wonder about the circumstances surrounding her father's death. If he could get away with it she knew Ricardo would have taken the quick route to the top. Yet there was no one to whom she could turn that would give her a truthful answer. Everyone left in the organisation since her father's death was staunchly loyal to Ricardo.
Something else about her husband troubled Amelia. In all of their time together she had never known him to lease anything less that a summerhouse when they went on a trip. Yet this time he had selected a condominium.
"You are quiet."
Without turning her head Amelia responded, "What is there to say?"
"Usually you find the sights of interest.
"I have been here before. My father had a villa here. We spent three years in the Islands."
To that Ricardo had no rebuttal. Fortunately it was only ten minutes before they drew up in front of the condominium complex. They stepped from the vehicle. Without waiting for Josť to pick up the bags, Ricardo led Amelia to the front door. In the foyer waited Juan Alonso. Along with Anders Rosteck he had been sent ahead to begin the scheme against the man Ricardo considered his nemesis. Anders greeted Ricardo with typical Germanic reserve and handed him a set of keys.
Silent, they headed for the elevators. There they paused to let Josť catch up with them. The condo Ricardo had leased was a corner suite. With three bedrooms and a den, two full bathrooms, a spacious living room, dining room nook and a kitchen, it more than fitted Ricardo's lifestyle. There was also a balcony that ran the full length of the condo from living room to master bedroom.
"What do you think?"
Rather than answer her husband, Amelia walked across the living room, released the security lock and door catch, and slid the balcony door open. Unlike her previous home away from home on Oahu, this one had a view of the Tantalus Mountains instead of the ocean. The late morning breeze coming off the mountains brought the heady perfume of the flowers in the grounds surrounding the complex. Amelia noted the high security fence, the cameras that constantly swept the grounds. Ricardo appeared at her shoulder.
"It is nice."
"Nice? That is all you can say? Nice?"
Turning, Amelia retorted, "What else do you expect me to say? It is nice. Okay?"
Before her husband could stop her she stepped passed him and headed for the master bedroom. A lift of her hand ordered Josť to convey their luggage into the room so she could unpack. She did not miss the manner in which he looked to Ricardo for confirmation that he should follow her direction. Ricardo must have agreed for Josť brought the bags into the bedroom.
"Where do you wish them, senora?
Indicating the king-size bed, she waited while he carefully set them on the bed, side by side around the perimeter. With a flip of her hand she dismissed him and set about unpacking. The men withdrew across the living room, disappearing into the den and closing the door.