By Cary Anne Conder

PROLOGUE

  5 October 1977

                 Creaking slightly for want of oil in its hinges, the door set into the huge gates of the maximum-security prison on Oahu swung open.  Francisco Wilkes, known as Willy to his associates, stepped through into the open air and freedom.  He spared the guards no more than a parting glance.  They watched him studiously, their faces blank of all expression.  He knew if they had their way he would never leave the world behind the walls.  Pausing, Willy looked around.  No one waited to give him a lift into downtown Honolulu.  But he had not expected a ride.  He had refused the Warden's offer of a taxi into the city.  Nor did he plan to take the bus.

 

                 Wilkes stood five foot eleven.  Work had hardened muscle to iron on a lean frame.  Black hair had turned to salt and pepper with years and hard labour.  Beneath it, his features held a saturnine quality.  Watery blue eyes took on an unnerving, piercing look when he was on a job.  It had been his eyes which had eventually resulted in his conviction in Sixty-two.

 

                Willy Wilkes was, by nature, a loner. Like the lone wolf, he was wholly unpredictable and a menace to society.  However, that same society that made the rules had recently decreed Wilkes had served sufficient time for previous offences.  He was now being permitted to return to the very life-style that had spawned him.  Jacket slung over his shoulder, Willy stretched out into a long, pavement-eating stride.  Several hours would be required to return him to his old haunts, but he was far from troubled.  A nasty smile flickered briefly.  Throughout his years in prison, he had had more than adequate time in which to prepare his surprise for those responsible for putting him away.  Willy planned to eradicate every witness who had talked.  A few more hours, even a few more days, meant nothing to Wilkes.  They would all pay, even the cops, and one in particular.

 

 

 

CHAPTER ONE

 

 

8 November 1977

 

                Dan Williams straightened his paperwork.  It was almost twelve ten, and he had promised to meet Charlene for lunch at twelve thirty.  He scrubbed his hair, unconsciously organising it, although the tight sandy curls scarcely needed it.  He got to his feet.  As he passed Mary's desk on the way to Steve McGarrett's office, she glanced up.  Danny smiled back, his blue eyes twinkling.  He walked into his boss' office.  McGarrett look up.

 

                "What's up, Danno?"

 

                "Going to lunch, Steve."

 

                McGarrett grinned almost impishly.  "Charley?"

 

                When Danny blushed to the roots of his hair, McGarrett leaned forward and studied his partner thoughtfully.  In the years he had known Dan Williams he had developed a keen ability to read his reactions clearly.  Now there were much the same indications as had existed several years earlier when Danny had been dating Jane.  Ironically, Charlene had wound up in a perilous situation as well.  Unlike Jane, however, Charlene Mattheson had survived.  Throughout both incidents Dan Williams had proved himself under fire.  Even with his heart wholly entangled in the case, Danny had kept his cool.  He was a good cop.  A partner Steve McGarrett knew he could always rely upon.

 

                In McGarrett's estimates, taken from what he knew of both Charlene and her brother, Jonny, Danny could to a lot worse.  Charlene's mother had been a police officer, albeit on a Canadian police force and Charlene had openly admitted she had once considered joining, too.  But when her parents died, Charlene had been left to raise her brother alone, and she had had to shelve the idea.  McGarrett often suspected she would have made an excellent officer.

 

                "Decided where you're eating?"

 

                "There's a new Japanese place about four blocks away," said Danny, "Charley's never tried sushi.  I thought I'd give it a shot."

 

                "That might be a mistake," suggested McGarrett with a touch of humour.

 

                "Maybe."   Danny's faced split with a grin.  "But you know Charley.  She's game.  She'll try anything once."

 

                Steve nodded.  There was considerable truth to that statement.  Charlene was a daring and, thankfully, not altogether foolish young woman.  There were times when he knew he might have been interested in her as well, were he a few years younger.

 

                "Okay, Danno.  How long do you figure you'll be?"

 

                Danny glanced at his watch out of habit.  "I've got those files on the Streit Case almost wrapped up.  I should be able to get them to Mary this afternoon for filing.  One-thirty okay?"

 

                "Sure."  McGarrett reached for the folder on the desk in front of him.  "Tell Charley I said hi."

 

                "Will do."

 

                Danny turned and hurried through the outer office.  Mary noted his departure with a faint smile.  Catching Danny's passing from the corner of his eye, Duke raised a hand.  Not wanting to be side tracked, Danny kept moving.  He reached the top of the stairs to the main foyer just as a busload of tourists began filtering into the building.  Conscious of the curious stares and flashing cameras, Danny descended the steps.

 

                "If you'll look this way---" began the guide.

 

                Outside echoed the sharp crack of rifle fire.  Danny's hair stood on end at the nape of his neck.  He hesitated only a second upon registering the identity of the noise, before pushing through the tourists, shouting at them.

 

                "Get inside!  Get down!"

 

* * *

 

                Trees flashed past the bus as it wound laboriously along the coastal route.  Commuter traffic and housewives frequently employed the system that tied out-lying communities to the city.  Charlene sighed and stretched out her legs.  Watched as the sun broke through a bank of clouds in the late fall sky.  Shadows played tag across the passengers.  She was still tired from the previous evening's stocktaking.

 

                'There were times,' she reflected, 'when working as Assistant Manager at the grocers half a mile from our new home is far more taxing than accommodating for the vagaries of the little corner store where I worked earlier this year.'

 

                However, experience had taught her never to look a gift-horse in the mouth. When Mama Lawry had sold the Wyllie Corner Store to a developer in January, Charlene had found herself out of work.  Mama had not let her down.  She had put in a good word with the manager at the new store.  The job was around the Eastside of the island, so the ever-vigilant Mama had elected, across her grown children's protestations, to sell the small bungalow she had owned there to Charlene.  The Realtor had disgustedly informed Charlene that she had purchased it for a song.  Not that Charlene had haggled.  The move had removed Jonny from the bad influences that had so drastically affected their lives the previous year.

 

                Thought of Diedre Streit put Charlene momentarily on edge.  After a second she firmly thrust the incident aside.  Bad enough that Jonny was on probation.  He reported every second week without fail.  Danny Williams was partially responsible for over-seeing his parole and had encouraged her brother to join several local Youth Groups.  This served to alleviate most of Charlene's worries.  She now knew where he was while she was at work.

 

                Her transport braked to a half with a hiss of in the downtown core, effectively interrupting her train of thought.  Along with a large percentage of the other passengers, Charlene got to her feet and disembarked.  On the sidewalk she paused to get her bearings.  Given the option she could have hopped another bus with a transfer.  But she had fifteen minutes in which to make her way to the Iolani Palace.  The walk would do her good.  A soft smile played about her lips as she started to walk.

 

* * *

 

                Willy stepped through the rooftop door and softly slid it shut behind him.  Before bellying down, he checked to ensure his escape route was set.  Then he crawled cautiously to the low coping.  Setting down the case he carried, he carefully raised himself to peer over the edge at his objective.  Everything appeared normal.  Leo had been correct.  The cops were going about their usual routine as though it was any other day.

 

                "Ain't gonna be like no other day they've ever known," Willy murmured to himself.

 

                Satisfied, he unsnapped the case lid, removed the tripod and meticulously set the legs to support the weapon. He removed the rifle parts and carefully fitted them together.  While he worked he caressed each piece of metal. Before slipping the scope in place, Willy used it to scan the building front across the boulevard.  There was no use attempting to hit anything inside the offices.  What he wanted would, Willy knew, come to him.  All he had to do was wait for the appropriate moment.  He settled himself comfortably in place.

 

                His target appeared.  Drove into the parking lot at the side of the building and parked.  As he stepped out and closed the car door a uniform cop called out.  The plain- clothes officer turned to walk across the lot to meet the new arrival.

 

                "Perfect," muttered Willy with a satisfied smile, "Smile for the birdie."

 

* * *

 

                Charlene's thoughts rambled as she walked along the street in the direction of the Palace.  On days such as this she often recalled how she and Danny had met.  If someone had told her as little as two years ago that she would have been dating Dan Williams, she would have told them they were crazy.  Circumstances and Diedre Streit had thrown them together, an occurrence neither of them complained about.  The street opened out into the boulevard fronting the Iolani Palace.  Charlene paused at the corner to study traffic.  Two officers, one in plain clothes, the other in blues, spotted her.

 

                "Charley!"

 

                Ben Kokua and Terry Melanni waved to her.  She hovered on the sidewalk, waiting for the appropriate break in traffic.  As soon as a comfortable gap appeared, she sprinted across the street.  Terry limped slightly as he and Ben sauntered up to meet her.

 

                "Jay-walker," Ben accused her.

 

                "You didn't see that," she retorted mischievously as she slowed to a halt in front of them.

 

                "Didn't see what?" Terry wanted to know.  He feigned credible innocence.

 

                Ben shot him a disgusted look that set Charlene laughing.  When Ben glanced over his shoulder in the direction of the Palace, she tried not to look self-conscious.

 

                "Meeting someone for lunch?" he probed with a gleam in his eye.

 

                "Maybe," she countered evasively.

 

                "It wouldn't happen to be a certain Dan Williams, would it?" teased the tall Hawaiian.  He raised a knowing eyebrow.

 

                "You're as nosy as my brother," blurted Charlene.  "He's always asking me where I'm going and with whom."

 

                "Yeah?"  Ben grinned broadly and took a poke at her ribs.

 

                "Yeah!"  She responded, easily avoiding him.

 

                "So, are you?"  He tried another poke at her ribs.

 

                "What's it to you?"

 

                Terry stepped back to referee the amenable altercation. All too often the members of Five-O, barring the boss, wound up in sparring matches with Charlene.  Ben and Duke appeared to have adopted both Charlene and her brother as family.  Consequently, situations such as this sprang up with unfailing regularity.  There were all sorts of speculation concerning Dan Williams' relationship with Charlene.  In fact, there were bets being secretly laid around the Department on how soon it would be before McGarrett's number one colleague became engaged.  Terry found himself laughing at his companions' antics.  They reminded him of his own family.

 

                Ben bobbed in and out, hands extended as he attempted to tickle Charlene.  She, in turn, ducked and wove in an effort to escape the threat.

'There are times,' she reflected, 'when certain members of the police department seem to be little short of over-grown boys.'

 

Not that she objected.  It was fun having friends.  Still, she was exceedingly ticklish, as Ben had accidentally discovered.  He tended to employ her 'Achilles heel' whenever the opportunity presented itself.  This time, Charlene was determined to get the upper hand.  She measured the moment, waiting, poised.  Ben leaned forward when he should have ducked, and Charlene smacked out and up at the side of his head with her left hand.  Ben reacted in the instant she moved, leaping back out of range with a laugh.

 

                Before Charlene's blow could land, something viciously slapped her arm across her front.  She staggered, thrown off-balance.  Ben's eyes reflected shock as a loud report racketed across the square.  He reached out and yanked Charlene down behind a vehicle.  Dazed, she stared at him.  Ben ignored her.  Crouched up against the trunk of the nearest vehicle, weapon drawn, he scanned the buildings across the street.  For a fleeting moment he thought he caught the impression of a fleeing shadow, thrown by the sporadic sunlight, as it flitted across the pavement.  Then it was gone.  Charlene was suddenly aware that everyone else in the lot had also taken cover.

 

                "What happened?"

 

                "Stay down."  Ben sharply ordered her.  "Someone's shooting at us."

 

                Charlene realised where she had previously heard the noise that still rang in her ears.  It resembled the report of Danny's weapon when he had shot Diedre Streit's guard the year before.  She looked quickly around for Terry.  The young officer was grotesquely sprawled on the asphalt.  A slowly widening pool of blood framed his head.  Sight of the body left her numb.  There were no tears, no screams.  Only a sensation of being caught up in a world wholly unreal.

 

                Several police from the nearby headquarters appeared.  Two rapidly scaled the exterior fire escape of the suspect building.  Ben waited expectantly as first one man then the other slipped over the coping to the tarred surface beyond. One stood.  He waved vigorously before turning back to speak to his companion.

 

                "All clear," announced Ben with considerable relief.

 

                He turned.  Unnoticed, Charlene had moved out to kneel beside Terry.  There was no doubting he was dead.  Half the side of his head was missing.  Without thinking, Charlene removed her sweater and covered the dead officer's face.

 

 

 

CHAPTER TWO

 

 

                As terrified tourists threw themselves out of the way, Danny slid up against one of the exterior pillars.  He peered cautiously around it.  Police and civilians in the parking lot at the side of the building had taken cover.  A single body lay contorted on the ground.  Danny's stomach lurched at the sight.  He forced himself to concentrate on the action across the street, in the direction the other officers were looking.  Steve McGarrett slid up alongside him.

 

                "Where is he, Danno?"

 

                "Up there."  Danny directed McGarrett's attention toward several office buildings on the opposite side of the boulevard from the Palace's front entrance.

 

                "Anyone hurt?"

 

                "Someone's down in the parking lot."

 

                "Damn," cursed Steve.  "Cover me, Danno."

 

                Revolver ready, for all the good it would do over that distance, Danny watched the rooftops as his boss ducked down the steps and pressed himself up against the side of the tour bus.  When McGarrett nodded, Danny joined him.  As they peered around the rear of the bus, they saw two member of HPD secure the rooftop.  One of the officers moved back into view and waved an 'all clear'.

 

                "Looks like our sniper's bolted," observed McGarrett sourly.

 

                But Danny was no longer listening.  Weapon holstered, he dashed across the parking lot to where a woman was kneeling, head bowed.

 

                "Charley?"

 

                At the sound of his voice she looked up slowly, face pale and drawn, eyes large and dark with grief.  Danny drew her to her feet and held her against his left side.  Ben joined them.  He stared at the body.  The sparring match with Charlene seemed an age ago.  In the distance a siren wailed.

 

                "We were just clowning around," Charlene explained thickly, "There was a shot.  Ben pulled me behind the car.  I didn't realise anything was wrong."

 

                Danny's gaze ran up the side of the building upon which the other officers were standing.  Steve McGarrett was on his way over to join them.

 

                "Only one shot?" the head of Five-O asked Ben.  Danny listened attentively.

 

                "Just the one," acknowledged Ben soberly.

 

                McGarrett steeled himself as he asked, "Who is it?"

 

                "Terry Melanni."

 

                A lead weight settled in the pit of Danny's stomach.  "Damn!"

 

                Ben caught sight of a red smear on Danny's jacket.  "Danny.  There's blood on your front."

 

                Looking down, Danny gently pushed Charlene back to inspect her.  "Are you all right, Charley?"

 

                Still unsteady with the rapid movements of events, she had to consider the question and faintly admitted, "My arm stings a bit."

 

                All three men inspected the injury.  An ambulance drew up nearby.  While Danny steadied Charlene, Ben hastily tied his handkerchief around her arm.

 

                "She'll be alright, Danno," McGarrett assured him.  "Looks like a flesh wound."

 

                Nodding, Danny led Charlene to where his vehicle was parked in the 'Restricted' area.  Charlene was gripping her wrist, the makeshift bandage rapidly turning red.  She elevated her arm in an effort to staunch the flow of blood.  Her expression was set and determined.

 

                Once more McGarrett inspected the scene.  Terry Melanni had been on the force little more than three years.  Until he had assisted Five-O in busting Diedre Streit's organisation, he had worked with moving violations.  It was during the bust at the warehouse that he had received the injury to his leg.

                At that moment the lab boys arrived.  One hastily chalked an outline on the ground as the ambulance attendants prepared to remove the body.  The police photographer reached them.  Apologetic, he silently requested Ben and Steve to move aside so he had a clear field from every possible angle.

 

                "I want a look at our sniper's location," announced McGarrett.

 

                With Ben in tow, he crossed the street and entered the building.  Several officers were questioning office workers. There was numerous shaking of heads indicating there would be no simple solution to Terry's murder.  McGarrett elected to take the stairwell.  Nine flights later they emerged onto the tarpaper roof.  An officer heard them and came across from inspecting the coping.

 

                "What have you got, Paul?"  Steve McGarrett wanted to know.

 

                "High powered rifle, probably mounted with a scope, and set on a stand for maximum stability."  The officer gestured.  "There are scrape marks where the sniper set it up.  There was a fair amount of recoil.  The legs left distinct marks in the pebbling."

 

                "Casings?"

 

                "No, sir.  None that we've managed to locate, anyway."

 

                McGarrett stepped to the parapet and stared across the boulevard to the parking lot.  He crouched to inspect the angle of trajectory.  The ambulance attendants wheeled the gurney and body bag to the ambulance and loaded it.  Seeing McGarrett on the rooftop, an officer still in the lot obligingly moved into position to give the head of Five-O the correct sighting line.  Ben waited patiently for his boss to conclude his personal inspection of the crime scene. Together they inspected the marks on the parapet at the rear of the building, as well.  Two officers on the neighbouring building held up two stout planks.

 

                "So that's how he escaped."  Ben swore.  "I thought I saw someone running off."

 

                Head whipping around, McGarrett stared at his subordinate.  "You saw the sniper?"

 

                "Sorry, Steve, just a shadow.  The sun was almost overhead.  I couldn't see well enough to be certain."

 

                Steve McGarrett nodded acceptance of the statement.  It was a silent head of Five-O that passed the other officers and descended the stairs to ground level.  Only when they had returned to his office did he speak again.

 

                "Contact Danny.  Tell him I want him to bring Charley back here when they're done at the hospital.  There's something about this scenario that doesn't add up."

 

                "Sure, Steve."  Ben turned to leave.

 

                "And, Ben?"

 

                "Boss?"

 

                "Don't go anywhere in a hurry."

 

                Ben Kokua blinked twice before realising what McGarrett was intimating.  Mortality reared its ugly head in his mind. He thought about his family and friends.  If his boss was correct, it should have been him, not Terry Melanni, lying in the ambulance on the way to the morgue.  The thought was far from comforting.

 

* * *

 

                Perched on the edge of the surgery table, Charlene watched the physician's deft movements as he swabbed her wound.  Strips of surgical tape closed the lips before it was bandaged.  For moral support, Danny remained at her side throughout the procedure.  From time to time she looked up at him, struggling to smile.  But the incident had definitely shaken her.

 

                "There."  The doctor fastened the end of the gauze.  "That ought to do it.  Give me a call if there's any sign of infection.  You can remove the wrapping tomorrow evening.  Clean away any seepage, but no showers, young lady.  I don't want it getting wet.  Understand?"

 

                "Yes, doctor," said Charlene, exhibiting meekness wholly at odds with her character.

 

                "You're to take these pills three times a day for the next five days," he ordered, "Follow the instructions precisely."

 

                Charlene stared down at the prescription pad, but failed to decipher his handwriting.  "What are they?"

 

                "Antibiotics."  He scribbled a second prescription.  "And I'm going to give you a supply of painkillers."

 

                "I'm fine," she objected more strongly.  The doctor scowled at her, but she was undaunted.  "Really," she insisted.

 

                "Are you sure," queried Danny.

 

                Charlene's smile was somewhat twisted out of true, but he could see the shock was beginning to fade.  There were no tremors in her left hand, and her eyes were clear.  She nodded firmly.  The doctor watched the exchange with disapproval.

 

                "Is there anyone at home who can help out for the next few days?" he asked.

 

                "Just my brother," said Charlene.

 

                Danny smothered a laugh.  The manner in which Charlene had phrased her reply left even the doctor with little doubt that Charlene seldom relied upon her brother for assistance with the housework.

 

                "Have someone come in, then," was the official admonishment, "Or leave the chores until this has formed a good scab.  I want to see you at the middle of next week, young lady."

 

                Impatience surfacing, Charlene requested, "Can I go now?"

 

                The physician rested a look on her as he addressed Danny.  "Are you seeing this young lady home, Danny?"

 

                "I think Steve's going to want to speak with us first, Doc."

 

                "Tell him I said he wasn't to grill her too long.  She needs rest."

 

 

                Taking that as a dismissal, Danny held out his hand.  "Sure, Doc."

 

                With Danny's hand securely beneath her elbow for support, Charlene slipped from the table.  She waited a couple of seconds before trying to walk, wary of her balance.  Then Danny escorted her from the hospital.

 

* * *

 

                Steve McGarrett was reviewing the initial reports on the shooting when they reached his office.  He nodded to them as they entered and indicated Danny should seat Charlene.  While Charlene got comfortable he depressed the intercom button to page his secretary.  Danny positioned himself directly behind her chair.  He noted how the line of McGarrett's square jaw had set like a chunk of immovable granite.

 

                "Mary?"

 

                "Yes, boss?"

 

                 "Send in Ben."

 

                "Right away, boss."

 

                Danny looked at McGarrett expectantly.  "Where's Duke?"

 

                "Over-seeing the interrogation of office workers in the building our sniped used to make his hit from."

 

                As he replied, McGarrett's face remained expressionless.  Charlene looked from him to Danny.  Dan Williams squeezed her shoulders in reassurance just as Ben entered the office.

 

                "You wanted me, Steve?"

 

                "C

 

                Four blocks from the Iolani Palace stood a somewhat run-down tenement.  Directly across the street and down two blocks was a building that backed onto an office complex.  These offices, in turn, sided, kitty-corner, onto the building from which Wilkes had launched his private vendetta on Five-O.

 

lose the door, Ben."

 

                Once the door was shut Ben joined them at McGarrett's desk.  Strangely, the head of Five-O rested a rueful look on Charlene before beginning.

 

                "Are you up to this, Charley?"

 

                Beneath his piercing stare, Charlene grew hesitant.  "What do you want, Steve?"

 

                McGarrett took a deep breath.  When next he addressed her, he watched his partner rather than Charlene.  "I want you and Ben to take up approximately the same positions you were in when Terry was shot."

 

                At his direction, Charlene went pale.  She licked her lips nervously and met Ben's eyes.  He waited patiently for her to adjust to the situation.  Slowly, she stood.  After due consideration of the office floor space, the pair positioned themselves near the windows.

 

                "We were like this," said Ben.

 

                "I think there was a bit more room between us," commented Charlene reflectively.

 

                Ben obligingly moved back half a pace.  She nodded her satisfaction.  Once certain they had found their marks, McGarrett moved nearer to study their respective positions and stances.  A frown marred his brow.

 

                "Where was Terry?"  Steve wanted to know.

 

                "About there."  Ben indicated a spot to his left.

 

                Steve pivoted.  "Danno.  Would you stand there?"

 

                As Danny moved into position, Charlene's stomach somersaulted.  Seeing how white she had turned, Danny looked concerned.  She shook her head marginally, indicating she would be all right.  Once again McGarrett walked around.  His eyes fastened on her bandaged arm.

 

                "How exactly were you positioned, Charley?"

 

                "I think---here."  Charlene demonstrated her actions.

 

                "We were clowning around," explained Ben, "and I ducked."

 

                As Ben spoke, Charlene swung her arm to mimic for them what had happened.  In mid-act she froze.  Her eyes went large and dark.  For a second she stared at Ben, horrified, before whipping around to focus on McGarrett.

 

                "That shot was meant for Ben!"

 

                "I was fairly certain of it," acknowledged Steve flatly.  A knock on the door interrupted them.  "Get that, Danno."

 

                While Danny went to the door, Charlene returned to the chair, where she slumped in silence.  Mary passed a slip of paper to Danny and exchanged a few quiet words with him before closing the door again.  Danny returned to the desk.  As he passed the piece of paper to his boss, Charlene caught the set jaw line, the deadly light in Danny's eyes.  Once before such an expression had frightened her.  It was a look that boded ill for those who transgressed the boundaries of the low.

 

                Steve McGarrett silently read the slip of paper.  His face turned bleak.  'Hello, McGarrett.  I hear you're well, and that you've got a new partner.  You won't remember me, and Williams doesn't know me, but I've never forgotten you. In memory of my years of free room and board, I'm sending you some presents: three to share with your buddy, Williams, and one specially for you.'

 

                Steve passed the piece of paper to Ben.  The Hawaiian read it.  Then reread it.  Both eyebrows rose at the inferred message in the contents.

 

                "He's a lousy poet," remarked Ben, trying to keep his voice from betraying anything.

 

                Charlene stared from one man to the next, more than a little curious, and a touch concerned.  Steve's gaze returned to her.  He pushed back his cowlick, which had fallen over his forehead, and redirected his attention to Danny.

 

                "Take Charley home, and get back here, wikki wikki."

 

                "Right, Steve."

 

                At the rather abrupt dismissal, Charlene stood.  "Don't you want a statement, or something?"

 

                A bleak smile touched Steve McGarrett's lips.  "We've more than enough witnesses, Charley, professional ones.  But thanks for the thought.  You just see that arm heals up."

 

                Danny gently but firmly escorted Charlene from the office.  There were several reasons beyond the one his boss had voice for getting Charlene out of the way.  And she knew it.  Certainly she needed to get home and rest after the shock of the killing.  But her curiosity had been pricked.  Both Danny and Steve knew it.  That was the primary reason for getting her out from underfoot in short order.

 

                "That note had something to do with the shooting, didn't it?"   When Danny refused to even look at her, she pressured him, undeterred.  "Was it from the sniper?"

 

                "Leave it alone, Charley," Danny softly ordered as they reached the car.

 

 

 

CHAPTER THREE

 

 

                Charlene silently watched the scenery flash by once more.  Beside her, Danny's face was grim.  He dared not make small talk for fear of letting something slip.  The tone of the note the department had received led him to believe they could expect several more incidents like the one involving Terry Melanni.  Who the sniper would select as his next target deeply concerned him.  He glanced at Charlene, worried by her suspicions over the content of the note.  She kept chewing her lower lip; a sure sign she was disturbed beyond the parameters induced by the shooting.  As they drew up at the front door, Jonny met them.

 

                "Hi, Danny."  Jonny hung over the sill of the driver's open window.  "Charley.  Did you have a good lunch?"

 

                Danny adeptly sidestepped the inquiry.  "Hi, Jonny.  How are you making out in school?"

 

                "Not bad."  Jonny grimaced back at him.  "Gettin' there, anyway.  I'm a bit behind in a couple of subjects."  He glanced at his sister.  "Say, I heard there was a shooting at the Palace."

 

                Danny smothered a sigh of irritation.  Even Jonny appeared to have a nose for information when Five-O least wanted inquisitive acquaintances.  Charlene slipped from the car and closed the door with a trifle more force than was necessary.

 

                "Yes."  Danny watched Charlene as he spoke to her brother.  "Was it on the news already?"

 

                "Yep.  They were saying someone got killed," continued Jonny, unaware of his sister's unusual behaviour.

 

                "Jonny," Charlene exploded, "shut up."

 

                Voice sharp, almost strident, she glared at her brother.  Suddenly Danny realised she was fighting down a flood of tears that had failed to materialise at the time of the shooting.  He grabbed for the door handle.  Startled, Jonny leapt clear.  Danny was out of the car in a single fluid motion and at Charlene's side before Jonny could quite comprehend what was happening.  Distressed beyond words, Charlene wrapped her arms around Danny and strove desperately to stem the hot tears streaming down her cheeks.

 

                "Shhh."  Danny stroked her hair soothingly.  "It's all right, Charley.  It's over."

 

                "It's not over," she sobbed, her face pressed against his jacket.  "Terry's dead.  And that---lunatic's out there somewhere, just waiting to go after one of you."

 

                "What the hell's wrong?" demanded Jonny.  Only when he came around the car did catch sight of the bandage on his sister's arm.  He halted.  "Charley got shot?"

 

                Danny shook his head.  "Just a graze from a passing bullet."

 

                "But they said someone was killed," repeated Jonny.

 

                "It was Terry," said Danny, ignoring the stiffening of the body in his arms.   

 

                "Terry?"  Jonny blanched.  "Not Terry Melanni!"

 

                "Yes," Danny confirmed bluntly.  Charlene's shuddering gradually subsided as the tears slowed and died.  "Come on, Charley.  Let's get you indoors.  You need some bed rest.  Jonny.  Make your sister some hot, sweet tea."

 

                "Sure."  Jonny dashed in doors ahead of them.

 

                "Yech," commented Charlene.  She struggled to regain her flippancy.  As she pulled free of Danny's grasp, her eyes lit on his jacket.  "Now you've got mascara stains all down your front."

 

                "It's okay, Charley.  It'll wash out.  I'm sure Steve won't care.  You needed a good cry," he admonished mildly.  "It's the best thing for shock."

 

                It was a relief to hear her recovering her composure.  If there was little else particularly outstanding about Charlene, there was her ability her to bounce back after a serious incident.

 

                "And sweet tea's good for the nerves."

 

                "It still tastes awful," she informed him flatly as he ushered her into the living room and made her sit down.

 

                Danny glanced at his watch.  "Will you be okay?"

 

                "Yes.  I'll be fine," she assured him.  "You're going to be late.  Steve'll be upset."  Danny looked doubtful.  He did not feel quite right leaving so soon.  "Go on," she urged, enforcing it with a little push.

 

                "I'll drop by later this evening to check on you, okay?"

 

                "Sure."

 

                Behind them in the kitchen nook they heard Jonny clank the kettle onto the hot plate with a solid thump in an effort to catch their attention.  Charlene looked over her shoulder in his direction.  Her brother was pantomiming playing a violin with considerable soulful exuberance.  She grabbed up a nearby cushion and flung it.  Its flat trajectory missed the intended target entirely.  Danny found he was laughing despite himself as he left the house.

 

* * *

 

                Ben and Duke were seated in McGarrett's office when Danny walked in.  Having caught the seriousness of Mary's expression in passing, Danny expected the worst.

 

                "Is she all right, Danno?"

 

                "She'll be okay," he told his boss, "She just needed a good cry."

 

                McGarrett smiled as he caught sight of Danny's jacket. "I see."

 

                With adeptness acquired over years of associating with Steve McGarrett, Danny refused to rise to the bait.  He seated himself next to his peers.  Refused to acknowledge the raised eyebrows from Ben and Duke.

 

                "Anything new on the sniper?"

 

                "Yeah, Danno."  McGarrett picked up a folded slip of paper.  "This arrived right after you left."

 

                Danny took the piece of paper.  "How was this one delivered?"

 

                "A boy handed it to one of the off-duty officers in an envelope addressed to me.  Forensics has gone over both notes already, and the envelope in which this last one arrived."

 

                "No prints?"

 

                "Nothing."

 

                As he scanned the contents, Danny felt his abdominal muscles tighten.  'Next time I won't miss the target, McGarrett.  But it won't be who you think, and it'll happen when you least expect it'.

 

                Danny replaced the note on the desk. "So we can definitely expect three more hits."

 

                "You caught that, too."  Steve McGarrett swivelled his chair until he was staring out the office window.  "And the last one's for me."  He fell silent for a minute.  "I want this bastard caught.  But not at the expense of our people."

 

                "Sounds like he plans to go after each of us in turn, Steve," commented Ben soberly.

 

                "That means I'm next," remarked Duke.

 

                "Or me," added Danny.

 

                "No, Danno.  Duke's probably right.  It'll have to be him or someone close to the staff," declared McGarrett.  He turned back to face them.  "The first note said you and I would share three 'gifts'."

 

                Danny slid his companions a look.  "So what do we do?"

 

                "I'm going to draw a special task force to provide around the clock surveillance for each of us."

 

                "I'll arrange for my family to visit relations on Maui for the duration, Steve," said Duke calmly.  "I can't have them underfoot with this going down."

 

                "Good plan, Duke.  I'll give you a couple of patrolmen in plain clothes until they're off the Island.  Get them on the plane tonight," ordered Steve, "And I want you to move into an apartment until this is over."

 

                "Right, boss."

 

                "That's it."  McGarrett looked at each man in turn.  "Watch yourselves.  I don't need to remind you that our man's unpredictable and smart.  Our only information thus far is that he's someone I put away approximately fifteen years ago, and he's carrying a grudge.  We're going to have to cover all bases."

 

                They rose to leave.  Ben and Duke departed immediately, Duke hurrying out to arrange for his family's departure.  Danny trailed in their wake.  He paused at the office door and turned.  McGarrett was staring once more at the skyline beyond his office window.

 

                "Are you going to be at Charley's for her house-warming Saturday, Steve?"

 

                The head of Five-O glanced over his shoulder and smiled.  "Yeah, Danno.  Tell Charley I wouldn't miss it."  Danny was about to turn away when Steve caught his attention.  "After Saturday you're going to have to curtail your visits, Danno."

 

                Danny straightened away from the doorframe.  His boss' counsel lay open all sorts of ramifications. He could be thankful for small favours.  With a mother who was a police officer, Charlene was exceptionally understanding with regards to his work and the long hours he frequently put in.

 

 

CHAPTER IV

 

 

9 November 1977

   

                 In the ageing apartment complex, in a third floor area flat, Leo Parker sat twirling his spoon around and around in a mug of coffee.  Across from him slouched Willy.  Wilkes was reflectively occupying the sole comfortable lounging chair Leo possessed.  The petty thief was positive Willy had selected the chair with an eye to annoying him.  Leo shifted uncomfortably on the wooden kitchen chair and tried unsuccessfully to relax.

 

                "Damn bitch," muttered Wilkes.  "Ruined my hit."

 

                Strangely, Willy was not entirely displeased with the results.  He had achieved his initial aim of striking at someone relatively close to the head of Five-O.  He had also discovered, in that instant immediately prior to the hit, an unknown quantity that he realised might well turn to his advantage.  He scowled for a second.  It galled him that McGarrett had actually made department head.  As a street cop, he had been dangerous enough.  As the head of Five-O, he was a threat too real to be overlooked.

 

                "Shooting a cop's dumb, Willy," Leo dared voice his observation at length.  He slid a glance at Wilkes in the wake of his comment.  Met his guest's belligerent stare and returned his attention to his coffee.  He picked up the mug. Took a quick noisy, nervous slurp.

 

                "Gettin' cold feet?"  Wilkes taunted him, his gaze piercing, calculating.  Leo felt chill hands rest on his neck.

 

                "You're just damned lucky they didn't bother checking those offices right away," retorted Leo.  This time he did not look up.  He desperately wanted out of the situation but could not find a logical or safe out.

 

                "Thinkin' of squealin', Leo?"

 

                "No way, Willy."  Frightened by the suggestion, Leo's hands shook.  He cupped them tightly around his mug to stop their shaking.  The tenor in Wilkes' voice shook him.

 

                "Good.  'Cause I'd really hate to think I couldn't trust you, Leo."

 

                Willy closed his eyes and returned to planning his next series of moves.  At the table Leo waited.  With the base of his mug he drew damp rings on the tabletop, struggling to suppress his fear with a frown.

 

                When Wilkes had initially approached him for somewhere to stay while they were both incarcerated he had not realised what sharing his accommodations would entail.  Like Wilkes, he had an axe to grind with Five-O, McGarrett in particular.  But killing cops was not part of that desire for revenge.  Cops never forgot, and never forgave.  That, coupled with their association as enforcers of the law, made them highly dangerous subjects to target.

 

                Leo was a thief, sometime pickpocket and shyster, who had once made a lucrative business off the tourist trade.  That had lasted for all of a year and a half before someone had complained rather stridently to Five-O.  Leo had thought he had managed to out-manoeuvre McGarrett.  Then he had made one small error in judgement.  On what was to have been his final hit before retirement, his mark had gone sour.  How could he possibly have known that the baby-faced tycoon on the Hilton's patio had actually been McGarrett's newest department member, Dan Williams?  Leo had received a ten-year sentence less three years for good behaviour.  That was when he had met Wilkes.

 

                Wilkes was in a league all by himself.  Convicted of theft, assault, assault with a weapon, and attempted escape from police custody, Willy had spent much of his jail time planning how to get even with Honolulu's finest.  Rumours had filtered through the prison grapevine that a star witness against Wilkes early in the investigation had vanished.  There was considerable suspicion, amongst the felons and the police, of foul play.  But to date no solid evidence had surface to corroborate that suspicion.

 

                Instead of life imprisonment, which the prosecution had sought, Wilkes had got off with fifteen to twenty.  Surreptitiously studying Wilkes, Leo concluded that, given the right opportunity, Willy would kill anyone if he had sufficient proof that they posed a threat to his continued freedom and existence.  That knowledge did little to comfort him.

 

                Willy's feet dropped from the ottoman with a soft clump.  He leaned forward to retrieve a thin sheaf of papers he had left on the kitchen table.  As Willy leafed through them, Leo continued to wait.  In the close humidity of the apartment he sweated profusely.

 

                "Got a job for you, Leo," said Wilkes finally.

 

                "I don't know, Willy," said Leo uneasily, "The cops are pretty nervous right now.  It ain't such a good time to go snoopin'---"

 

                "No need to ask questions, Leo," said Willy forcefully, "Just check out an address for me."

                Leo watched as Wilkes wrote something on a slip of paper he tore from the bottom of yesterday's newspaper.  Wary, Leo accepted it.  Willy shook the sheaf of papers he held and grinned viciously as Leo stared at the address.

 

                "What do you want me to do exactly," asked Leo.

 

                "Just take a look around the neighbourhood.  See what's goin' down.  I wanna know if I'm gonna have to change my game plan," replied Willy smoothly.

 

                Leo felt as though his fingers were burning.  "Who is this, Willy?"

 

                "Just a family, Leo."

 

                "A cop's family?  One of Five-O's?"  Leo gaped.  "For God's sake, Willy!  They're gonna be watchin' their places like hawks.  If I go snoopin' around there, the cops are gonna know I'm casing the joint."

 

                "All you gotta do is drive past."

 

                "Yeah.  Sure.  What's that gonna tell you?" demanded Leo.  "They could be out.  The kids could be at school.  The old lady could be workin'.  The cops could have the place staked out just waitin' for me."

 

                "Play the dumb tourist, Leo.  Take a camera.  Act like you're lost.  Ask the neighbours for directions or somethin'.  Use your imagination.  You were good at this kinda thing once," Willy calmly countered.  The wicked gleam in his eyes unnerved Leo completely.  "Or have you lost your touch?"

 

                "No," blurted Leo angrily.  "I can do it."

 

                Wilkes reached out to pat the other man's cheek.  "Sure you can, Leo.  I'm countin' on you."

 

                "What do I do if I'm caught?"  Irritated and worried in the same breath by that condescending act, Leo asked, "What about you?"

 

                "I won't be here, Leo, so don't even think about squealin'.  I'm movin' into a new place this afternoon.  You won't have to worry about me bein' a burden on you any longer."

 

                Leo glanced toward the ancient cooker clock.  "Three-thirty.  Guess I better get goin'."

 

                "Might be a good idea.  The kids oughta be home soon, if there are any."

Grateful for the little respite, Leo grabbed up his windbreaker and drew it on.  Camera slung it over his shoulder he escaped the oppressive atmosphere of the apartment.  Fled down the rickety back stairs to the confined parking lot.  He clambered into his car and tossed the camera onto the seat beside him.  His hands still shook. Before starting the engine, Leo took out a cigarette and lit it.

 

                From the kitchen window Willy watched Leo's vehicle disappear down the alley.  He turned back to the apartment interior.  With almost surgical care, he packed up his meagre belongings and placed his tote behind the entrance.  Working meticulously from room to room, he removed all traces of his presence, even going as far as to scrub down the bathroom.  He washed the dishes and dried them.  After some consideration, he emptied the coffeepot and set it aside.  As a final measure, he carefully wiped every outcropping of furniture, every doorjamb, and every doorknob in the apartment.  Then, wearing a pair of gloves, he sat at the table in the darkening apartment and watched the incoming storm clouds.  Minutes ticked by on the clock.

 

                No rain accompanied the storm in the last hours of the afternoon.  Once the clouds had rolled in to blanket the Island, the winds died.  The air grew oppressively heavy with expectation.  Willy grew successively more edgy and bad tempered as he waited for Leo's return.  The thief wheeled back into the parking lot at such a credible pace over the lot's speed bump that he came close to removing his muffler.

 

                As soon as he saw the car, Wilkes gathered up his things and left the apartment.  He tucked his tote bag behind the door to the front exit.  Flattened alongside the wall at the top of the stairs out of sight, he listened attentively.  Leo was muttering under his breath as he let himself into his apartment.  There was an exclamation and a substantial pause before Willy heard the door shut.  Wilkes hurried back down the passage and knocked.

 

                "Leo," he called hoarsely, "It's me."

 

                There was a single, mumbled word.  Leo opened the door.  "Thought you were on your way to your new place?"

 

                "Was just leaving when I heard you coming back," Wilkes casually deflected the demand, "so I thought I might as well get the info now.  Then we can call it quits.  You'd like that, wouldn't you, Leo?"

 

                Leo eyed Willy cautiously.  "Now, Willy, it ain't that I don't like you.  It's just that after years in the pen I like a little room to spread out in.  Know what I mean?"

 

                "Yeah.  Sure do."

 

                Leo turned and walked back across the room into the kitchen nook.  He filled the Pyrex coffeepot, added the drip-elator with fresh grounds, and set it on the stove.

 

                "'Bout that run I made for you, Willy," said Leo, looking over one shoulder as he worked, "there weren't nobody there.  Place is all closed up.  Kids down the street said the family went away for a short vacation, and the father's moved into someone else's apartment to look after it."

 

                Wilkes swore to himself.  He forced a smile as he moved softly across the room towards Leo.  "Well, can't expect McGarrett and his boys to roll over and fall into my lap."

 

                "Guess not."  Leo turned on the flame under the pot.  "Want some coffee?  Be ready in 'bout five."

 

                "Sure, Leo."  Willy picked up the heavy glass ashtray. "That'd be great."

 

                Leo started to turn.  Wilkes swung hard, all of his weight behind the blow.  The ashtray took the thief behind the ear, sending him crashing to the floor, unconscious.  Wilkes stood, his arm sagging at his side, still clutching the blood-encrusted ashtray.  He breathed heavily, more savouring the moment than troubled by his act.  Finally he wiped off the ashtray and set it back on the coffee table.  After placing a lit cigarette in the ashtray, he arranged Leo's body so it would appear the man had been overcome with gas and fallen to the floor, striking his head on the wood arm of the couch.  Blowing out the gas-stove flame under the coffeepot, Wilkes casually left the apartment.  He double-checked the door was securely locked behind him.  Sauntering down the hallway, he collected his bag.  In his efforts to appear guilt-free, Willy nearly cut the margin for error too fine.

 

 

 

CHAPTER FIVE

 

 

                McGarrett thumbed slowly through the various case files on criminals recently released from prison.  It was a laborious task, made only marginally easier in that they had managed to eliminate everyone whose files had not directly pertained to Five-O, or to him.  Each of his associates was preoccupied in much the same fashion, despite the lateness of the hour.  The sky was darkening toward dusk.  A late storm that had been building off the coast now started moving in over Oahu.  The accompanying wind tossed palm trees with the fury of a cat shaking a rat.  Every so often a dead palm frond sailed down the street outside.  McGarrett ignored the weather as he continued to pour over the records.

 

                Amongst his other case files was the report on how the sniper had eluded capture.  The entire incident had been well planned and executed: a series of reinforced plank walks fashioned and stored on neighbouring roof tops, had granted the killer ready access to the other buildings across which he had fled the crime scene.  Their man had been sufficiently daring that he had paused long enough after each crossing to remove the planks and stash them out of sight of a cursory inspection.  Only an in-depth search, building by building, had brought them to light.  Outside, the wind died down a fraction.

 

                Eyes narrowed, McGarrett stared out across the street in the direction of the building the killer had used.  On most days he would have gone out onto the balcony for a breath of fresh air over lunch.  He could not help wondering whether or not the sniper would have dispensed with his attempt on Ben Kokua and gone straight for him had he presented the target.  The thought disturbed the head of Five-O far more than he let anyone know.  He never enjoyed looking death that closely in the face, though he had done so frequently throughout his years of military and police service.

 

                A blast shook the Palace windows.  Steve McGarrett leapt to his feet, grabbing his jacket as he went.  His associates met him in the outer office.  Mary was gripping the edge of her desk, eyes wide.

 

                Danny met him in the outside office.  "What was that?"

 

                "Sounded like an explosion," commented Duke.

 

                They fell in behind McGarrett, hurrying down the stairs in unison.  Wind whipped McGarrett's hair roughly about the crown of his head as he stepped into the open.  His cowlick fell over his eyes.  He pushed it back impatiently as they turned to locate the source of the blast.  Even from four blocks away thick black smoke could be seen roiling skyward. Responding fire trucks warbled a counterpoint.  By the time they reached the scene, tenants and idlers alike were gathered on the sidewalk outside the apartment block.  Ben and Duke began ushering bystanders across the street to safety, away from possible falling debris.  The fire trucks drew up.  While the fire crews scrambled, Danny went over to an elderly woman who was standing, forlorn and distraught, her cat cradled protectively in her arms.

 

                "What happened?"

 

                Bewildered, the old woman stared up at him.  "I was just making Leon some supper when I smelt gas."

 

                "Leon?"  Danny blinked in surprise.

 

                "My cat."  Danny nodded, encouraging the woman to continue.  "Then there was a big explosion down the hall.  I grabbed Leon and ran out."

 

                "I didn't smell nothin', man," commented a young man nearby.  He shook soot from his shoulder length, dirty-brown hair and grimaced.  "But that blast sure threw me outta my chair."

 

                Steve McGarrett was receiving much the same responses to his inquiries.  Members of HPD began arriving and took over from Five-O.  Within minutes the blaze was contained and extinguished.  Sight of Steve speaking with the Fire Chief drew Danny back to his boss' side.  As soon as the area was cleared for entry, the Fire Chief took them inside.  Halfway up the stairwell, McGarrett paused to stare thoughtfully out a window that overlooked the rear parking lot.  He eyed the distance between the two buildings, then studied the neighbouring buildings.  Whatever he saw made him frown.  Danny shot a quick look out as well and mentally filed the information for future reference.  Steve McGarrett never did anything without good cause.

 

                "We've got a body up here, Chief," announced one of the firemen.

 

                Danny looked at his boss.  "What do you think, Steve?"

 

                "It'll depend.  We won't know until forensics gets onto it," replied McGarrett elusively.  After a moment's pause, he nodded.  "But I agree with you.  Given the location and the name of the occupant, I'd say it looks suspicious."

 

                "You knew who the guy was, Steve?"  The Fire Chief waited expectantly.

 

                "The other tenants said his name was Leo Parker," McGarrett informed him.

 

                "Parker?"

 

                Danny's eyes narrowed speculatively.  McGarrett nodded again, confirming the name.  Two firemen brought out the bagged corpse.  They paused long enough for the Five-O team to partially unzip the bag and examine the charred figure inside.

 

                'Not a sight conducive to encouraging an appetite,' considered Dan Williams.

 

                "Let's get back to the office, Danno," said McGarrett.

 

                He hunched his shoulders slightly as they stepped outside into the rising wind.  Ben and Duke joined them.  They walked briskly back to the Palace, using the back alleys.  McGarrett continually cast upward glances at the parapets and overhangs.  Danny found himself copying his boss, to the bewilderment of their companions.  They gathered in McGarrett's office, waiting while their boss ordered an in-depth autopsy by the coroner on Leo's remains.  His attention swung back to his colleagues as he hung up.

 

                "What did you get from the tenants?"  He asked as he seated himself.

 

                "Several reported smelling gas right before the explosion, Steve.  Others didn't.  But they were further along the hall or downstairs," said Duke.  "The guy smoked heavily, and the gas stoves in that place are pretty old."

 

                "I got about the same from those I talked to, Steve," Ben concurred.  "The guy was pretty quiet.  He didn't mix much.  Spent a lot of time home, but went out at night."

 

                "I'll bet he did," commented Danny with a sour grin.  His experience with Leo surfaced vividly.  Ben glanced at him, curious.

 

                "So Leo returned home, walked into his apartment, turned on the gas without checking to see the flame was lit, and sat down to have a cigarette," commented McGarrett flatly, "Is that what you're telling me?"

 

                None of his associates said a word.  Ben and Duke sat stiffly in their chairs, waiting.  Danny's nose twitched slightly in thought.  He smelt something bad, and it was not the residue of smoke, gas and burnt human flesh that was adversely affecting him.  When McGarrett employed that particular tone, they knew he was dissatisfied with the findings.  He was not about to accept the obvious.  He was forcing his men to think out the problem beyond the surface facts.

 

                "The apartment's only four blocks from here," tendered Danny finally.

 

                McGarrett leaned forward, pleased that Danny was making connections.  "What else?"

 

                "Leo got out about seven months ago," continued Danny, feeling he was on a roll, "Could he had been helping our sniper, and was removed?"

 

                "Would he have been the sniper?"  Ben asked.

 

                "No."  McGarrett shook his head. "Leo was small time.  He was a pickpocket, con artist, one of the best.  But was never involved in anything violent.  He may not have liked us, but he wouldn't have gone out of his way to kill anyone in retaliation."

 

                "Then it has to have been someone he did time with," said Duke with conviction.

 

                "Right," said McGarrett.  He was satisfied now that he had them all on his wavelength.

 

                "The rooftops were a made-to-order escape route, given the proper equipment, and the time our man had in which to make his escape," filled in Danny, "It wouldn't have taken much work.  We already know that.  I'll bet he hid out in an empty office or a cleaner's closet in another building along the way to throw us off the scent.  Then, when things had cooled down, he simply walked back to Leo's."

 

                "Good, Danno!"  McGarrett approved.  "I want that angle covered.  Duke.  Ben, get on it right away!"

 

                As Duke and Ben left the office to comply with instructions, Danny grinned at his boss.  He knew what to expect. "I'll keep at the files, Steve.  I might find something to connect Leo with our sniper."

 

                "Thanks, Danno."  Steve sighed.  "I want the lab reports on Leo and that apartment as soon as they come available."

 

                "I'll phone Che about the apartment and give him the word," said Danny.

 

                He turned and left, leaving McGarrett tapping the top case file.  There were several possibilities amongst the folders on the desk, but something about the recent development troubled McGarrett.  He came to the conclusion that, unless he was deeply mistaken, their suspect had drastically altered his MO since their incarceration.  That could very well leave Five-O out in the cold, at least until the killer hit his next victim.

 

                Mary came into the office. "Couple more case files, boss."

 

                Accepting the folders, Steve thanked her.  He was in the process of setting them aside when the top name caught his eye.  He depressed the call button to Danny's office.

 

                "Danno?"

 

                "Yeah, Steve?"

 

                "Come in here a moment."

 

                Danny quickly appeared.  McGarrett pushed the top file across the desk.  "Name ring a bell?"

 

                "Hollis."  Danny frowned.  "Not Gerald Hollis?"

 

                "Yes.  Victim of a hit-and-run."  His superior scanned the contents rapidly, reading them out loud for his partner's benefit.  "Struck by a car that was stolen the same night and then abandoned at the south tip of the Island.  No fingerprints.  Car was taken from a family who were on holidays on the mainland."

 

                "Sounds like an execution," commented Danny.  His blues eyes hardened until they resembled ice.

 

                "Probably."  McGarrett set the folder aside.  "I'm passing this one over to the boys on the other side," he said by way of a dismissal, "We're already over-loaded with this sniping."

 

                Danny nodded uneasily and left.  Gerald Hollis had been a reliable snitch on more than one case.  It was not particularly unusual for someone to kill an informant, only that the incident should have occurred at this particular time.  He could not shake the feeling that Terry Melanni's death and that of Gerald Hollis were inexplicably connected.

 

 

CHAPTER FOUR

 

 

10 November 1977

 

                Willy climbed into his car and drove back down the hill towards town.  Three days of casing his prospective target had brought him to several annoying conclusions.

 

                First, his target suspected he would be next, having removed his family from Oahu to protect.  Secondly, the cop had changed his lodgings, leaving a neighbour house sitting in the family's absence.  His target's new, temporary residence was an apartment complex filled with cops and civil servants.  There was no possibility of casing the joint for a hit, let alone considering striking at him there.  Third, and last, his target's movements were now erratic.  He no longer followed a set pattern that Willy could discern.  The only place the ex-convict could be positive of catching the officer daily was at the Palace.  Even then, the other's hours of arrival and departure were indiscriminate.  Willy did not plan to attempt a repeat performance of his initial act.  McGarrett's boys had all the bases covered in the locale.  Parking his car at the shopping complex near Wikiki, Wilkes sauntered down to the waterfront.

 

                Despite the intermittent drizzle and unpredictable wind shifts there were the inevitable 'baby surfers' trying their wings in the ripples off the beach.  Willy hunched his shoulders against the wind and rain, and leaned against a Banyan tree for support.  If he had been sufficiently daring he could always have followed the funeral entourage to the cemetery this afternoon when HPD laid to rest one of their own.  Willy's mouth quirked sardonically.  It had been plain bad luck that Kokua had moved out of range just as he had pulled the trigger.  Bad luck and that damned dame!

 

                Wilkes suspected he might have committed a serious error in judgement in arranging Leo's demise so soon.  But the pickpocket had been growing too nervous to control.  Wilkes never left loose ends if he could avoid it.  Never.  Three witnesses and a cop headed the roster since his release from the penitentiary.  Only four to go, and he would be away where the cops would never catch him.  Wilkes pulled at his lower lip in thought.

 

                "Gonna have ta change tracks, Willy-boy.  Change tracks," he told himself.

 

                He considered the options, not wanting to hit Williams just yet.  There was something special he had lined up for McGarrett's partner.  Something that would make the head of Five-O suffer just that much more.  Willy's lip tore.  He cursed and turned his attention to shredding the tree bark.  There were other possibilities.

 

                "Could still take out Kokua," he thought out loud.  "No.  The man's too elusive.  Worse than the other."

 

                An image flashed through his brain.  Wilkes' lips gradually curved in a wicked smile.  Maliciousness gleamed in his eyes, compounded by expectation.  He slapped the flat of his palm repeatedly against the tree trunk in his excitement.

 

                "Yeah!  Yeah!  It'll work!  It will!"

 

                Now Wilkes knew what his next move would be.  He would, of course, have to check out a few things before commencing his stalk.  Returning to his car, he drove into the red light district and parked.  Street by street, he perused the area, ignoring pimps, pushers and hookers.  Finally, he discovered exactly what he sought.  It crouched between a blank lot and a seedy bar; dilapidated, undergoing a thorough gutting by a real estate contractor.  According to a posted notice, there was a sizeable lien presently existing against the owners.  Work was temporarily at a standstill.  Ignoring the dregs of society huddled in doorways to escape the elements, Wilkes slipped down the alley.  A drunk watched him through an alcoholic stupor.  There was a loose board over the rear entrance to the building, even as he suspected there would be.  Willy slipped inside to inspect the interior.  It was perfect.  All he had to do was gather the appropriate gear and eliminate the derelict outside, and he was all set to go.

 

* * *

 

                Charlene swallowed heavily against the large lump in her throat.  She struggled not to appear as though she was cold, tired and miserable.  Unlike the sunny afternoon on which her parents and sister had been laid to rest, today's weather fit the mood.  Precipitation drizzled from a brooding sky: slate grey clouds matched the sheet metal hue of the fitful ocean pounding the beach near her home.

 

                She slid a look at her brother from the corner of her eye.  Jonny stood next to McGarrett, bareheaded like Five-O's chief in the chill rain.  Through the drips that slid off the edge of the umbrella Danny held over her, Charlene read every line of misery etched into her brother's frame.  She was certain he was remembering the day Terry had been wounded in the raid on Streit Enterprises.  Not that Jonny could have prevented the incident.  He felt he owed Terry for a number of things.  It had been Terry who had introduced him to members from two clubs whose names Danny had supplied. And it had been Terry who had taken Jonny out snorkelling on more than one occasion to help take his mind off the Streit trial.  Both Charlene and her brother felt they owed Five-O and the rest of the police department a debt they were certain they would never be able to adequately repay.

 

                "You okay?"  Danny asked softly over the pastor's eulogy.

 

                Charlene opened her mouth to speak.  Danny's concern was rife.  Feeling the lump swell, she opted for discretion being the better half of valour and nodded instead.  He drew her against his side.  The pressure of his hand at her waist, the touch of his body against hers, was comforting beyond words.  Charlene slid her arm beneath his overcoat and hooked it around his waist in turn.

 

                Allowing her eyes to drift across the gathering, she considered the family.  Terry's fiancée was seated beside his parents and youngest sister.  Gathered on the opposite side of the grave were two brothers and two more sisters.  Both brothers and the second eldest sister were also members of the force.  The eldest sister worked in the secretarial pool at the Governor's office.  The father was a retired security guard.  There were no tears from the family.  Only stiffly correct faces watched the coffin as it was slowly lowered into the ground.  A volley of shots echoed out across the cemetery.  Charlene started despite herself.  Her heart beat rapidly then settled.  Danny's hand tightened, easing her tension.  Cameras clicked behind them as reporters made note of the occasion.  Feeling her stiffen and duck her head away from the press, Danny shifted his weight.

 

                "Let's go, Jonny," he said.

 

                He drew Charlene and Jonny away from the Melanni family and the reporters, down the slippery grass slope, in the direction of his car.  Behind them they could hear members of the police force extending condolences to the family, heard reporters asking the various officers questions concerning the case.  Someone managed to buttonhole Steve McGarrett before he could likewise slip away.  As they moved between the headstones, Charlene and Jonny glanced in unison in the direction of another grave several hundred yards away.  Danny paused.

 

                "Did you want to visit them?"  He quietly asked.

 

                Jonny shook his head negatively.  Charlene concurred with her brother's decision.  They wanted to get away before the press caught up with them.  Neither Jonny nor Charlene was a likely candidate, which left Danny who was as high profile as his boss.

 

                "I don't think so, Danny.  It---the time isn't right.  I just want to get home."

 

                "Okay."

 

                Danny fully understood.  In the previous year, Charlene and her brother had had their fill, and more, of reporters and cameras.  When they reached the car, he opened the rear door for Jonny. Closing it behind the teenager, he opened the front door for Charlene, keeping the umbrella in protective position until she was safely inside.  She slid in gracefully.  He shut the door and walked around to the driver's side, closing up the umbrella as he went.  His gallantry cost him several cold raindrops inside his collar.  He shivered and twisted his head back and forth as the icy water slithered down to soak into his shirt.

 

                "Danno."

 

                Hand on the latch he paused.  McGarrett caught up with him.  His boss glanced briefly at the occupants.  "Taking them home?"

                "Yes."

 

                "All right.  We've found something new.  Drop back to the office when you're done."

 

                "Sure, Steve."  Danny's eyes caught the figures of three reporters hurrying down the slope towards them.  McGarrett saw them, too.

 

                "I'll run interference," said Steve, adding, "Watch yourself."

 

                "Always," replied Danny harshly.

 

                When McGarrett stepped back, Danny slid behind the wheel and started the engine.  The black sedan purred into life.  Without waiting to see what the press wanted, Danny put the vehicle in gear.  They passed down the switchback service road and out through the cemetery gates.  Numerous other vehicles and an assortment of civilian cars and police motorcycles drew away after them.  The press caught up with McGarrett as he got into his car.

 

                "Mister McGarrett," said a woman eagerly, "can you give us anything on the killer?"

 

                The head of Five-O shook his head.  He released the brake.  Several reporters hurried alongside the car, throwing questions after him, while two cameramen trotted behind the sedan.  He ignored them.

 

* * *

 

                Upon his return to the office, Danny discovered Steve alone.  There was no sign of either Ben or Duke.  Their boss was reviewing a series of black and white enlargements.  As Danny entered the office, McGarrett slid the photos across the desk.  Danny slipped onto the chair across from him.

 

                "Have a look, Danno."

 

                Danny carefully examined each enlargement.  The first showed the body as it had been discovered, slumped on the floor.  Leo's head lay near the couch, tilted at an oblique angle.

 

                "Could be the gas overcame him and he fell, striking his head," Danny observed without conviction.

 

                "Maybe.  Keep looking," instructed McGarrett levelly.  He studied his partner's face as Danny continued to examine the photos.

 

                The second black and white focused on a broken ashtray.  Danny looked up briefly.  He knew he was missing something that only the lab boys could have found.  Che and his people were exceedingly thorough in their work.  McGarrett elaborated.

 

                "Residue indicated a lit cigarette was in the ashtray."  When Steve paused significantly, Danny scowled.  He stared intently at the image.  "The cigarette had burnt down almost half its length, prior to the explosion, while resting in the ashtray."

 

                "It wasn't smoked."  Danny did not require his boss' affirmation to complete the picture.  One eyebrow raised, he pushed on to the third photo.  This one displayed an ancient, and now scorched, stove.  The shattered remains of a Pyrex coffee pot were scattered across the top.  There was no need for McGarrett to explain.  Grounds thrown by the explosion across the nearby counter top and the stove itself were coarse ashes rather than the smouldering soggy mess they ought to have been.

 

                "Leo was unconscious before the pilot light went out," commented Danny with conviction.  He re-stacked the pictures.

 

                "Yes," concurred McGarrett coldly.

 

                Looking beyond his boss' shoulder to the now driving rain and tossing palms outside the window, Danny mulled over the facts.  Murdering Leo had been bad enough, even though the man had been a repeat offender.  But the thought of his being left helpless, with a smouldering cigarette in a room that was slowly filling with gas, was almost too much to stomach.  Danny felt ill.  He ran a hand through his hair.

 

                "Any indications yet that Terry and Leo's deaths were connected?"

 

                McGarrett shook his head.  'No.  Our man was very thorough.  There wasn't a print anywhere in that apartment that didn't belong to Leo.  In fact, the lab boys say the place was too clean."

 

                "Where does that leave us?"  Danny wanted to know.

 

                "Anything on your end on Leo's cell mates during his sentence?"

 

                "Due in Monday, Steve."

 

                McGarrett set aside the stills along with the lab report. "I want you and Ben to question everyone living in that complex, Danno.  Get me anything.  I don't care how insignificant it seems.  Someone must have seen or heard something.  They probably don't realize it's important.  Leo had a visitor.  I want a name or a description."

 

                "A visitor who possibly stayed more than a day or two?"

 

                "Yeah, Danno.  Get on it, will you?"  Danny stood.  McGarrett's gaze momentarily pinned him to the spot.  "And, Danno."

 

                "Yeah, Steve?"

 

                "You're going to have to curtail your time with Charley."

 

                The sinking feeling returned to settle in the pit of Danny's stomach.  He nodded reluctantly and left the office.  Charlene needed someone to talk to, but not over the phone.  Still, Danny understood his boss' point.  With a psychotic killer on the loose, he dared not lead the man to Charlene and Jonny's door.  He picked up the phone and dialled her home number.  There was an answer on the second ring.

 

                "Hello?"

 

                "Jonny?  It's Danny."

 

                "Oh, hi, Danny."  Jonny sounded puzzled.

 

                "Is Charley around?"

 

                "Nope. She had to go over to the store to finish up some paperwork.  What's up?"

 

                Danny considered what to say and how to deliver it.  He settled for the easy way out.  "Tell her to call me, either at the office or at home, just as soon as she gets in.  Alright?"

 

                "I don't know how late she's gonna be, Danny."

 

                "Call her at work, then.  I need to speak to her this evening.  It's important."

 

                "Okay."  From his tone, Jonny was growing increasingly inquisitive.  "Is there anything I can do?"

 

                "Yes.  Watch your back.  If you see or hear anything suspicious, call me or Steve right away."

 

                Jonny was silent for a long moment.  Then, "Okay, Danny.  Any particular reason?"

 

                "Yes."  Danny began wishing he could get off the phone.  "There's a psycho out there looking for someone to kill.  I just don't want either of you to be the next victim."

 

                "You want me to tell Charley that?"  Jonny sounded concerned and frightened.

 

                "No!"   Danny's voice was suddenly sharper than Jonny had ever heard in the past.  "No."  He managed to rein back his concern.  "Just tell her it's important she call me tonight.  Got that?"

 

                "Yeah, Danny.  I will."

 

                "Thanks, Jonny."  Danny experienced a small surge of relief.  "See you Saturday."

 

                "Right!  'Bye."

 

                "'Bye."

 

                Hanging up, Danny sighed heavily.  There were times it seemed there was nothing more inquisitive and capable of getting into trouble than a dead cop's offspring.  He rubbed his eyes wearily.  It was time to quit for the day.  Something, possibly a subtle change in air pressure caused him to glance up.  Steve was standing in the doorway.

 

                "What are you going to tell her?" asked McGarrett.

 

                "How long have you been standing there?"  Danny countered.

 

                "Long enough," replied his boss.  He waited expectantly, then prodded again.  "How much are you going to tell Charley?"

 

                "Enough.  The truth," said Danny flatly.

 

                "How do you think she'll take it?"

 

                Danny shook his head.  "Probably the way she's taken everything else over the past year and a half.  She's tougher than she looks, Steve."

 

                McGarrett was inclined to agree.  "You're probably right.  That was a good call, Danno."  He shrugged into his raincoat.  "I'm on my way out.  Don't leave it too late."

 

                "Hang on.  I'll join you.  Just let me lock up."

 

                Tossing his In basket into the top drawer of his filing cabinet, Danny locked it.  As he drew on his overcoat, he call-forwarded his office phone to his home number.  If Charlene called, she would reach him without having to redial.  He and McGarrett walked down the wood staircase of the Iolani Palace.  Their footsteps rang loudly through the nearly empty building.  The security guard glanced up as they passed his desk.

 

                "'Night, Mister McGarrett.  'Night Mister Williams," he called congenially.

 

                "'Night, Fred," the pair responded in unison.

 

                The guard followed them to the door.  A gale of wind and rain blasted in the front entrance as Danny opened it.  He and Steve stepped out, collars drawn up against the elements, heads ducked low.  The guard closed and secured the door behind them before returning to his desk.  He shook his head.  Some folks did not seem to know when to call it a day, he reflected.  Those two always appeared to take work home with them.  They should learn to relax, he thought.  He put his feet up on the desk and studied the nickel and dime paperback detective novel.

 

 

 

CHAPTER VII

 

 

12 November 1977

 

                Dawn was just breaking.  Thursday's storm had blown itself out in the middle of Friday night.  In its wake it left a sizeable trail of debris on docks, streets, parks and yards.  It sufficiently interfered with the Veterans' Day Parade, too.  Beaches were littered with a wrack of thick weed and smashed shells.  A chorus of birds in a nearby tree exchanged gossip over a breakfast of grubs.  Water slapped against the hulls of yachts in a nearby marina.  Several fishermen were casting off, preparing to do some trawling before the day advanced too far.

 

                Wilkes ignored it all as he went down his list of supplies, carefully checking off each in turn as he placed them in the trunk of his car.  Satisfied he had everything he needed, Willy drove downtown to the abandoned building he had selected days before and parked his vehicle well back in the alley.  He carried the sacks inside and arranged everything preparatory to his next move.  Then, returning to his car, he drove out towards the Pali.

 

                He fell asleep, parked half a block from the apartments, and dreamed about the old derelict to whom he had handed the cheap wine laced with rat poison.  He had disposed of the body, burying it in the basement well inside the dilapidated building.  Several hours passed.  He woke with a start just as his quarry emerged from the building.  Willy waited patiently until the other's car was turning the corner at the foot of the hill before releasing the brake and cruising after it.  The ancient Valiant groaned as it trundled back towards the city.  When his prey turned onto the main thoroughfare toward the city core, Willy scowled.  It was possible his target was going to work.  The sedan turned left, smoothly taking the feeder onto the Pali.  Willy relaxed.

 

                The flow of traffic was picking up.  It was the first long weekend in November, and many of the locals were making their way out to sights generally frequented only by the haoles.  As the number of vehicles increased, so it grew increasingly easier to remain unnoticed.  They passed the summit of the Nuuanu Pali mountain range, through the tunnels, and out onto the east face.  Willy's target turned north, then turned onto a two-lane service road which ran along the front of several small homes.  These dwellings were surrounded by comfortable yards and backed onto a stretch of white sand beach.

 

                This was an older development, from a time prior to the large influxes of tourists.  Little bands of undeveloped land still lay between each property, granting the general public access to the waterfront.  Willy kept driving, passing the end of the side street.  He made note of where his quarry halted.  From the corner of his left eye he saw an outcropping.  The lava promontory poked an exploratory finger at the highway, providing an excellent vantage. Immediately north of it was a dirt road.  Past that was a mall: a largish grocery store, alongside a furniture store, a gas station and the usual tourist-trap store which sold all manner of 'made in Hawaii' handicrafts.

 

                Willy slowed, waiting for a sizeable gap in traffic when he could burn a U-turn and drove through the mall parking lot, out and back onto the highway.  Upon reaching the dirt road, he turned up it.  The track was rough, barely a car and a half wide.  But it appeared to be fairly well used.  At the upper end it split.  One track led off to the rear of the grocers.  Here there was a parking area for employee vehicles.  Willy turned around and drove back to inspect the left-hand track.  This dead-ended in the brush right at the foot of the outcropping.

 

                "Perfect," Wilkes purred.

 

                With his car parked well back in the undergrowth against accidental discovery, he got out.  A pair of binoculars in hand, he scanned the rock face.  There were several scramble paths more than likely left by the neighbourhood children.  He collected the rifle case and slung it over his back.  Finding an easily scalable route, he took it to the top.  The access afforded him an excellent overview of the houses and the beach.

 

                Willy carefully fitted a hood over the tops of the lenses before taking a good look at the beachfront.  There was a small reef approximately twenty feet offshore.  Beyond that, the ocean floor shelved steeply; the water turned almost instantly from light emerald green to deep bottle green, then dark blue.  He swept the binoculars along the sand.  Most of the houses appeared to be vacant.  Presumably they were summer retreats for wealthy mainlanders.  Five or six appeared to be occupied.  But only one of the lived-in dwellings lay next to the property holding his interest.

 

                This final subject of study was surrounded on two sides by a thick band of palms and undergrowth.  A thin swath of palms and sand screened the house from the beach.  The building itself was constructed on a raised foundation of lava that brought it up to the same level as the street.  The grounds had, in turn, been filled with earth to provide a small garden.  Large shade trees of mixed Norfolk pine and a rare Monkey Puzzle tree, interspersed with coconut and ornamental palms, had been planted along both sides, effectively shading the house from the full force of the sun.  There was even a lone kukui nut tree near the front door.

 

                Massive rhododendrons abounded.  Several flowerbeds lined the circular driveway out front.  In the back stretched a flat rectangle of lawn.  More flowerbeds outlined two sides from house to wall, and wrapped around two-thirds of the beach end of the grounds.  Tall shrubs hid the low lava stonewalls.  Willy was just able to make out the leading edge of a patio.  A barbecue occupied the left side.  He returned his attention to the beach wall.  A break in it almost dead centre indicated there was a set of stairs leading down to the sand.

 

                "Perfect," murmured Willy with extreme satisfaction.

 

                After checking for signs of hikers, he reassured himself that no one had witnessed his covert scrutiny of the sub-division.  He made himself comfortable beneath some ground hugging shrubs.  Pulling the long flat case close beside him, he removed the pieces of his sniper rifle.  From this point on he was making things up as he went along, with no definite plan beyond his next act.  At the moment, he was primarily concerned with just how well he could target anyone out on the lawn.  The neighbouring houses might well prove more adequate for the job.

 

 

 

CHAPTER VIII

 

 

                Having slept poorly, Charlene found herself wide-awake at the crack of dawn, fighting to return to sleep.  In consideration of her conversation the previous evening, she was far from surprised to have spent a restless night.  Thought of someone lurking somewhere on Oahu, just waiting to kill one of Five-O's members, or a member of their families, did nothing to ease the tension.  She was unable to do more than ineffectually bury her head beneath the covers and fight the constant tumble of thoughts.  The longer she remained in bed, the more her back muscles stiffened.  Outside birds flitted from tree to tree.  Their usually pleasant songs grated on her senses.  After half an hour of tossing and turning, she gave up.  Flinging back the covers, Charlene went into the bathroom.  She bathed carefully, conscientiously keeping the bandage dry as per the doctor's instructions.  Dressed, hair combed, she stared at herself in the mirror over the sink. She would have preferred to wash it, but knew it would be wiser to leave it until the last possible day.

 

                'A good thing,' she reflected, 'that I usually wash it every five days, instead of every day like most of my friends.'

 

                On the plus side she kept it short enough that an hour saw it set and dried on its own.  Next door, Jonny snored on in his room.  There was far too much to do, and too little time in which to accomplish it before her guests began to arrive, so Charlene stripped her bed and sorted the laundry. Her household chores had to be done before mid-afternoon.  If everyone came who had been invited, she and her brother would be receiving a particularly large crowd.

                Quite suddenly Charlene experienced a heavy attack of nerves.  She had never entertained more than three people at any given time in the past.  Dashing into the kitchen, she ran over the list of things in the fridge for the party.

 

                "Cheese, three kinds, crackers, celery, lettuce, carrots, tomatoes, hamburger meat, hot dogs," she tallied without looking inside.  She drew a blank and opened the door to double-check.  Danny and Steve had promised to supply steaks as an addition.  "Juice, coffee, tea, milk, pop, sugar, beer---" she opened the vegetable keepers.  Yes. Her brother had remembered to decant the contents of one case of beer into the bottom of the fridge to chill.   "Where was I?"

 

                Next she turned to the cupboards.  The makings of the salad dressing were accounted for.  She scanned the seasonings, certain she had everything she needed for the dip.

 

                "Dip!  Damn!"

 

                Frustrated, Charlene slapped her forehead.  "Potato chips!  I knew there was something."

 

                Throwing on her windbreaker and grabbing up her purse, she slipped quietly out the door.  Charlene grabbed her bike from where she kept it parked under the overhang.  She ran with it, performed a flying mount and pedalled off up the road.  There was almost no traffic as yet.  Crossing the road without pausing, she beetled up the track to the store. Her boss was just opening up as she arrived.

 

                "Hi, Mark."   

 

                "Charlene!  What are you doing here?  I thought you got everything finished up last night?"

 

                "I did.  But I forgot chips for my house-warming today."

 

                "Oh.  Is that all?"  He opened the door and let her in. "Grab what you need and leave the money with me.  I'll ring it through."

 

                "Thanks, Mark."  Charlene grinned and blew out her cheeks expressively.  "There's always something.  You're a life-saver."

 

                He waved at her as she hurried away down the dimly lit aisles in search of what she needed.  On her return trip, she paused just long enough to drop the money on his desk.  By the time Charlene had negotiated the dirt road back to the highway, the traffic was picking up.  She waited impatiently for a sufficient gap through which to cross, then pedalled furiously back to the house.  Jonny was still asleep when she parked her bike and dumped the bags on the counter.

 

                The morning flew while she did the laundry and began dusting.  When Jonny finally emerged, he picked up a bowl of cereal and a mug of tea, and promptly ensconced himself in front of the television with an eye to watching a football game.  Charlene pottered around from one chore to the next without really taking note, making beds and washing dishes.  Then she interrupted her brother's comfort with the vacuum's snarling.  With adolescent penchant for the obtuse, Jonny turned up the sound on the set so he could hear more clearly.  It was almost noon by the time Charlene was done.  She put away the vacuum and took a short breather outside before starting in on the food.  When she turned on the blender to mix the chip dip, however, Jonny looked over his shoulder impatiently.

 

                "Can you keep the noise down, Charley?  I'm watching the game."

 

                Shutting off the blender, Charlene stared at him in disbelief.  Then she blew up.  "Why don't you get off your duff and help me?"

 

                Jonny froze.  His eyes slid to the television, then returned to his infuriated sister.  She was in no mood to brook evasion on his part, even if the game was more than half over.  Resigned, he got to his feet and switched off the set.

 

                With an aggrieved sigh, he asked, "What do you want me to do?"

 

                "Try getting dressed first," she ordered, "Then go out and dry off the patio furniture and set it up.  The barbecue needs preparing, too.  Danny said he and Steve were bringing steaks."

 

                "Steaks?"  Jonny's attention was now riveted on his sister.  His face took on a cagey look.  "Say, Charley.  Mind if I invite a couple of the guys over?"

 

                Charlene's finger halted in the midst of depressing the switch on the blender.  She considered the request.  It was not unreasonable.  Jonny's newest batch of acquaintances was, on the whole, an acceptable group of youngsters.  And the occasion was a housewarming.

 

                "I suppose," she conceded, "Who were you thinking of asking?"

 

                "I dunno.  Maybe Rick and Sandy," he said, "and Nick."

 

                Charlene rolled her eyes, eloquently expressing her reaction to the three names.  The infamous Nick and Rick, whom she silently referred to as the terrible twins, even though they were not related.  It was a safe bet Jonny would invite them.  Along with Sandy, the foursome was known at school as the Three Musketeers, plus one.  The plus was Jonny, the late arrival at the senior high.

 

                "Charley," her brother pleaded.

 

                She relented.  "Oh, all right.  Are you sure they're going to want to come to a party consisting primarily of police?"

 

                "Sure," he assured her, "'Sides, I won't tell them.  They'll never know the difference.  I gotta call them right now, though, just in case they're planning to go somewhere else."

 

                "Okay," she relented, "But be quick about it."

 

                The high-pitched whine of the blender effectively drowned out her brother's whoop of pleasure.  He dashed for the living room extension before beginning his chores, and called each of his three friends in turn.  His conversations ran on, and on, and on, until Charlene had not only finished making the dips and salad dressing, but was starting on the finger food.  Conscious her brother's call with his last friend was taking on epic proportions, she leaned on the cutting board and glared at him meaningfully.

 

                "Jonny," she growled a warning, and waved the paring knife in his direction.

 

                Her brother looked up.  "Uh, oh!  Gotta go, Nick!  Don't forget, eh?  Four o'clock.  Yeah.  Supper's included.  Steaks!  Great!  'Bye!"

 

                He slammed down the receiver.  As he passed Charlene he grabbed a roll of paper towel and shot out the open sliding doors.  Charlene's shoulders slumped in defeat.

 

                "Kids," she muttered.

 

                She washed and trimmed the celery sticks and arranged them neatly on the tray along with the carrots and pickles. The doorbell rang just as she finished.  She answered it.  To her relief it was Danny.  He grinned down at her, his arms full.

 

                "Hi."

 

                "Hi."

 

                Upon seeing her harassed expression, he laughed.  "Heard there was someone here who needed help."

 

                "Danny, you're a miracle."

 

                Charlene kissed him warmly and relieved him of one bag. Stepping inside, Danny removed his shoes and carried them through the house to the back door.  He glanced around the living room en route.

 

                "Where's Jonny?"

 

                "Outside.  Hopefully cleaning up after last night," she told him, returning to the cutting board, "and getting the barbecue started."

 

                "Where do you want these?"

 

                "In the fridge.  If you can find room."

 

                Danny peered into the fridge.  After wriggling a few things around, he made space for two stacks of steaks.  Charlene looked over her shoulder as she sliced cheese and put it on the platter.

 

                "Would you mind checking the beer, Danny?  Tell me if you think there's enough to start."

 

                "Sure."  He looked back into the fridge.  "Where did you hide it?"

 

                "In the vegetable keepers," she replied.

 

                "Good thought."  He opened the drawers.  "Only the one case?"

 

                "Yes."

 

                "Could do with another."

 

                "I leave you in charge of that," she said smoothly.

 

                "Is she delegating already?" asked Jonny from the patio door.  His hands were full of dirty paper towel.

 

                "Naturally," said Danny.

 

                Charlene turned casually around and leaned against the counter.  "What else am I supposed to do?  I've only got two hands.  And who was it slept until almost noon before showing his face, and then decided to watch television?"

 

                "Geeze!  Now I know why the guys use that old saying about women," commented Jonny.  He squeezed between his sister and Danny to put the used paper towel in the garbage under the sink.

 

                Face a study in caution, Charlene prodded, "What saying is that?"

 

                Danny winced.  He had caught the wicked gleam in Charlene's eyes.  Jonny's expression was one of mock innocence.  Wise enough to sense what would probably happen next, Danny eased aside, clearing a path.  Behind him Jonny prepared to beat a hasty retreat in short order.

 

                "The guys say women should be kept barefoot and pregnant," retorted Jonny.

 

                "You!"

 

                Charlene sprang at her brother and began belabouring him about the head with a limp carrot.  Jonny yelped.  Arms flung over his head to protect his ears, he fled out into the relative safety of the back yard, his sister in hot pursuit.  She chased him around the lawn several times until her stocking feet were soaking wet.

 

                "Jonny Mattheson," she ordered, halting on the cold stones of the patio.  "You take that back this minute!"

 

                "Why?"  He taunted his sister.

 

                "Because if you don't," she replied sharply, "you won't eat!"

 

                "Oh, yeah?"  Jonny turned to Danny for support.  "Danny wouldn't let me starve."

 

                Danny opened his mouth.  Charlene's glare silenced him. He raised his hands in defeat and gracefully bowed out of the sibling altercation.  There were times over the years when he had wished for brothers or sisters with whom to share moments and experiences.  Then again, watching Charlene and Jonny, he was occasionally grateful he had not experienced that particular chapter in his personal history.

 

                "If Danny's smart," Charlene reinforced, "he'll keep out of this."

 

                Jonny stared mournfully at Danny.  "Don't tell me you're going to wimp out?"

 

                "You said it," replied Danny.  Wry amusement twisted his mouth.  "You ought to capitulate before you get yourself in too deep to back out."

 

                "Why?"  Jonny playfully repeated his double-dare.

 

                "A wise man knows when to recognise defeat," advised Danny.

 

                "Besides," snorted Charlene, "your quotation's about half a century stale."

 

                "I don't know," her brother led her on, "They have a point---"

 

                "Jonny!"

 

                The fight was over almost before Danny caught the silent signals passed between them.  Jonny laughed as Charlene flipped him once more over the head with the dead carrot.  They returned to the house to finish party preparations.

 

                By three in the afternoon guests had begun arriving.  Danny made introductions when several officers arrived with girlfriends or wives in tow.  Steve turned up in the middle of it all with the rest of the steaks.  Right on his heels, as though the odour of cooking had summoned them, appeared Jonny's friends.  They traipsed in the door like three lost sheep and stood, staring around the living room.

 

                The vision filling their eyes quite startled them.  People filled the couch.  A strange woman occupied Charlene's favourite chair with a man half-perched on the arm talking to her.  Several more people over-flowed onto the kitchen chairs that had been strategically placed about the room.  Four more people were grouped beside the television, chatting quietly.  Charlene was bustling around the kitchen, opening more bags of chips.  Most of the crowd had spilled into the back yard.  Danny stared at the three teenagers, not quite certain what to make of them.

 

                "Hi, guys!"

 

                Jonny arrived and rescued them, leading them off to the food.  Rick glanced around at the beer and glasses of hard liquor, but Jonny handed them cans of pop instead.  As they made themselves at home, the three considered the situation carefully, and made sizeable inroads into the finger food.  Before long Charlene chased them off, reminding them they were not the only people present.  Finally, Rick cornered Jonny to one side of the patio doors where there was an empty spot.

 

                "Say, Jonny," he coached softly, "think you can slip us some beers, bradda?"

 

                Jonny stared at him, then glanced nervously over his shoulder in his sister's direction.  Charlene and Danny were talking to Steve.  The head of Five-O had offered his services as head chef at the barbecue, and Charlene had instantly accepted.  Jonny reflected Steve McGarrett had been twisting a rubber arm with that suggestion.

 

                "Come on, Jonny," Rick egged him on.

 

                Nick moved closer conspiratorially.  Jonny looked around for Sandy.  The third member of the group was more level headed than either Rick or Nick, and tended to side with Jonny on most occasions.  Sandy was across the other side of the lawn, however, making calves' eyes at one of the single women in the gathering.  If Jonny was not mistaken, the woman was a good ten years too old for Sandy, and a Sergeant with HPD.

 

                "I don't think so, Rick," said Jonny evasively, not wanting to upset his friends.  "My sister's pretty strict about that."

 

                After handing the flipper to Danny, McGarrett began working his way through the knots of bodies grouped about the patio.  He headed for the kitchen, an empty barbecue sauce bottle in his hand. 

 

Spotting the head of Five-O bearing down on them, Jonny's desperation grew.  He hissed, "I can't, guys."

 

                "She'll never know," urged Nick smoothly,  "We'll take the bottles down to the beach and ditch 'em when we're finished."

 

                "Guys!"  Jonny ducked his head slightly in an effort to avoid eye contact with either them or Steve.  McGarrett was now directly behind Rick.  Instantly aware of the confrontation, McGarrett halted, intrigued.  Rick and Nick may have sensed the eavesdropper, but elected to ignore his presence.

 

                "You don't know what you're asking," Jonny told them.

 

                "Sure we do," responded Nick, dropping his voice still further.  "All we want is a bottle of beer each.  Not this sissy stuff."  He held up his pop can.  "What's the big deal?  Everyone else is drinking."

 

                "Aren't you a little young to be drinking alcohol, son?"

 

                Rick and Nick looked up, startled by the deep voice as much as they were by the intrusion.  In a gallant effort to appear nonchalant, Jonny shrugged.  "I was just explaining, Steve."

 

                "I heard you," responded McGarrett.  Sandy wandered over to join them, all agog at seeing the head of Five-O.  Steve smiled at Jonny before turning his scrutiny on Rick and Nick.  The pair cringed.

 

                "What's happening?" Sandy wanted to know, noticing the tenseness in his companions.

 

                "Nothing serious," commented McGarrett, "Yet."

 

                He waited for the duo to capitulate.  Beneath his penetrating stare the teenagers grinned sheepishly, each giving him a quick nod.  He smiled back.

 

                "Holy shit," breathed Rick.

 

                His eyes widened appreciably as he identified McGarrett.  He managed to flash the head of Five-O a weak smile.  Shoulders slumping, he looked quickly around the gathering speculating who was who.  Satisfied, McGarrett accepted the reaction as a strategic retreat.  He went indoors.  Rick rounded on Jonny.

 

                "Hey, bradda.  You never told us you guys were invitin' the cops," he blurted fiercely at what he saw as a major failing on his friend's part.

 

                "So?"  Jonny spread his hands.  "My sister's got a right to invite her boyfriend's friends over."

 

                "Friends?"  Nick stared at him.  "Since when were you guys friends with the Man?"

 

                "Yeah," put in Sandy, "I thought your sister worked at a grocery store?  How come she's dating a cop?"

 

                "She just does," replied Jonny, growing defensive.  "Look, guys, last year was pretty rough for both Charley and me.  Danny helped us out."

 

                "Danny?"  Sandy's gaze settled on the pair at the barbecue.  "Not Dan Williams?"

 

                "Yeah."  Once started, Jonny discovered he had to continue.  "There was this guy---made me run drugs."

 

                "What!"  Sandy stared at him.  "You!  How?"

 

                "I know, Jonny, the original square.  Keep it down, will ya?  Charley's still pretty touchy about it.  Anyway, this guy threatened my sister," Jonny explained quietly, "That's how he got me to work for him.  Charley found out and went to Danny, 'cause he happened to live near where she was workin' at the time."

 

                "This guy you were actin' as a mule for," prodded Nick cautiously, "Did they bust him?"

 

                "Sure did!  Him and everyone he worked for.  I got into a lot of deep shit over it, too.  I'm still on probation," he admitted, shame faced.

 

                "That's why you never told us where you were goin' all those times you wouldn't party with us," blurted Rick.

 

                "Yeah.  I couldn't."  Jonny glanced to where Danny was parcelling out burgers.  "Danny works with Steve, so he got him involved.  And that's how come we know the Man."

 

                "Jesus," said Nick, fighting to keep his voice low.  "Listen to you.  You talk about the biggest cop on the Islands like he was your buddy, or something."

                Several people nearby glanced their way in amusement.  Aware he had been overheard Nick blushed deep red and turned his back on the crowd to cover his embarrassment.

 

                Determined to support his sister, Jonny countered, "Look, guys.  Steve is a friend.  He got Charley and me out of a lot of hot water.  We almost got killed by those dudes who were runnin' the drugs 'cause I was so dumb."

 

                "Say, Jonny," Sandy stared at him, "that wasn't that big bust last August, was it?  The one that was in all the headlines?"

 

                Jonny nodded cautiously.  Nick whistled silent appreciation.  Sandy shook his head respectfully, while Rick rested a hand on their friend's shoulder.

 

                "Sorry, bradda.  We never knew."

 

                "Well, I'd appreciate it if you wouldn't go spreading it around at school.  It's not something I want everyone to know, guys," Jonny advised them uneasily.

 

                "Hey.  We're cool, man."  Rick instantly eased off.  "My pop's empty.  How about another?"

 

                "Yeah.  I'm hungry," added Sandy.  "Let's eat.  Looks like they're throwing the steaks on now."

 

                Relieved they had stopped quizzing him, Jonny led his friends to the line-up at the barbecue.  There was some jostling and joking from the other police in the group.  Jonny took some ribbing and dished out some of his own, to his friends' astonishment.  They reached the grill in time to discover McGarrett back at the job.  Ben Kokua was immediately in front of them.

 

                "How are the steaks, Steve?"

 

                Steve McGarrett countered, "How do you want it?"

 

                "Medium."

 

                "One medium," said Danny.  He pointed to the appropriate sizzling portion.

                The boys waited until Ben slipped away before gathering around McGarrett.  Four plates simultaneously appeared as the ravenous teenagers hovered expectantly.  Charlene frowned but remained silent.  Witnessing her displeasure, Danny slid an arm around her waist and diplomatically removed her from the area, thereby winning Jonny's undying gratitude.

 

                "What'll it be, Jonny," Steve inquired from amid the blue smoke of the grill.

 

                "Medium, Steve."

 

                "Charred, Mister McGarrett," ventured Rick.

 

                "Medium to rare, please, sir," said Nick.

 

                "Whatever," Sandy finished.

 

                Over-awed, Sandy stared at the head of Five-O.  Although he would never admit it to his companions, he highly admired Steve McGarrett and his staff.  As his friends moved away with their steaks, he remained standing alongside the barbecue.  McGarrett studied the teenager who picked at the top of his steak with the tines of his plastic fork.

 

                "Something wrong, son?"

 

                Sandy looked up nervously.  "Uh, no, sir, Mister McGarrett."

 

                McGarrett waited expectantly.  There was obviously something the young man was trying to broach.  Pangs of confusion were interfering with Sandy's ability to organise his thoughts sufficiently to speak his mind.

 

                "That is, well," Sandy plunged, "What do I have to do to get accepted into the Academy?"

 

                With that, McGarrett promptly relaxed.  He never found it easy talking to young people, but the force was a subject he knew well.  He replied honestly to the flow of questions that ran on for almost an hour.  Sandy visibly relaxed.  The sun was beginning to set as Sandy finally rejoined his friends.

 

                Charlene kept a close eye on her brother and his companions as she walked across the lawn.  Seated on the top of the garden wall at the stairs leading down to the beach, she leaned against Danny.  He stared off into middle distance, deep in thought while she munched hungrily on her burger.  The silence continued to stretch away.  Conscious of Danny's distraction, Charlene abruptly set her plate aside.

 

                "What's wrong, Danny?"

 

                He glanced at her through the gathering gloom.  "Nothing."

 

                "Danny," Charlene gently chided, "don't lie to me.  It's that sniper again, isn't it?"

 

                Dan Williams shrugged.  Charlene took his empty plate and utensils from him and hooked her arm through his.  "Let's go inside and talk.  I have to turn on the patio lights, anyway."

 

                They rose and went indoors.  On the way in she dropped their plates and plastic utensils in the large garbage bin and flipped on the outside light switch.  Before they could find a quiet corner to talk, several people approached to thank her for the party, and to inform her they were on their way home.  She saw them to the door.  By the time she returned to where she had left Danny, he had disappeared.  After a brief search she caught sight of him outside.

 

                From the manner in which he and the other members of Five-O were speaking, heads together, she knew they were talking shop.  Sighing heavily, Charlene began clearing up the leftovers.  Jonny and his friends were laughing loudly sharing an amusing anecdote with a couple of young officers and a female whom Charlene supposed was also an officer, or possibly the girlfriend of an officer.  When Jonny spotted his sister rounding up the abandoned plates and cutlery, he excused himself and leant a hand.  The day had fled all too quickly for Charlene's liking. She wished it had gone on longer.  More than ever, she wished there were nothing to preoccupy Danny.

 

                Her distraction was so intense her brother dared ask, "What's wrong, Charley?"

                She glanced towards the three members of Five-O, then back at the garbage bag her brother held.  "Nothing," she said quietly.  "Let's try to get as much of this mess cleared up as possible before we go to bed."

 

                Charlene failed in her one attempt to corner Danny again and draw him away from the others to speak with him privately.  By the time everyone had left, she was extremely dissatisfied.  It was painfully obvious that Danny would leave with Steve McGarrett, clearly in an effort to prevent her from worming any sort of admittance out of him.  Jonny made himself scarce, disappearing into his bedroom the moment she went to turn out the patio light.  Once again, Charlene found it difficult to fall asleep.

 

 

CHAPTER IX

 

 

17 November 1977

 

                Jonny discovered there was much more to organising a party than merely enjoying oneself.  His sister commandeered him the following morning, mopping the kitchen floor, spraying down the patio, and wiping off the outdoor furniture.  Dishes washed, she packaged the leftovers into tidy meals and called a friend from work to help her dispose of the bags of garbage.  Jonny wound down his portion of the chores scrubbing out the barbecue.  On Charlene's advise, he carefully spread the still warm ashes around the base of the plants in the flowerbeds.  Then he made himself scarce while she was out with her companion.

 

                By the time she returned home Jonny had departed.  In a rare display of forethought, her brother left a note informing her he had gone surf fishing with the terrible trio, and that his friends sent their thanks for the free meal.  A bubble of amusement emerged in a snort.  She still recalled the amazement and horror imprinted on the boys' faces when they had discovered the party peopled with Honolulu's finest.  Both Steve and Jonny had, at different times, mentioned the incident with Rick.

 

                "That must have really upset his apple cart," she mused out loud.

 

                There was little left to occupy her, other than turning in the ashes and searching out overlooked empties.  She found two.  As she took them out to dispose of them, a flicker of sunlight winked off something on the ridge beyond the highway.  Charlene winced as it momentarily blinded her.

"Doggone kids," she muttered.  "So much for paradise."

 

                On several occasions she had climbed the cliff to watch the sun set, and had been dismayed by the amount of broken glass and aluminium cans littering the landscape.  A Joni Mitchell song filtered through her mind.  As she checked the fridge for supper, she hummed the words.  There were far more leftovers than she honestly knew what to do with.  Danny's prolonged absence would compound the problem of finishing them off without wasting them.  She grunted with disgust.

 

                The afternoon rolled into a murky evening.  Another storm gathered itself, preparing to assault Oahu.  Charlene settled to watch television.  A nature show came on which she wanted to catch.  Since her brother would undoubtedly prefer to see The Streets of San Francisco when he got in, Charlene decided to ensure she had prior dibs.  Jonny stomped in the door at a quarter to the hour, carrying a mess of fish in a bucket.

 

                "Mahe mahe," he happily announced.

 

                "Great," responded Charlene, sounded anything but thrilled, "You clean them."

 

                "Already done," he airily informed her.  "Where do you want them?"

 

                "In the freezing compartment."

 

                "You want me to freeze fresh fish!"  Jonny was mortified.

 

                Eyes rolling expressively, Charlene retorted, "Have you seen what's left from yesterday?"

 

                "Oh."

 

                "Yes.  Oh."  She turned back to the show.  "They go before we touch those fish.  You know how much I hate wasting food---"

 

                "---with all the starving millions in the world," her brother concluded, "Yeah, yeah.  I get the picture."

 

                He took his catch into the kitchen and set about packaging them in freezer bags partially filled with water. It took some stuffing to fit them all into the freezer.

 

                "There."  He performed a flourish.  "All done, madam."

 

                "Very funny.  Go wash up."

 

                "What are you watching?"

 

                "Audubon."

 

                "Aw, Charley.  Streets is on."

 

                "You've been out all afternoon," she retaliated.  "If you had wanted to watch is so badly, you should have stayed home and helped me finished up here instead of bugging off at the first available opportunity."

 

                Jonny capitulated, feeling too good to start a fight over who watched what.  Besides which, he would have lost simply because it was his sister who earned the money that paid the bills.  Until he had a job and was contributing on a full time basis to the housekeeping he could not expect to have much voice in what went on around the place.

 

* * *

 

                Danny spent much of Sunday walking the sand at Sunset Beach, watching the more foolhardy surfers bucking the late fall surf and reminisced.  The wind was cold.  When he looked into it, it brought tears to his eyes.  Clouds whipped in from the ocean.  It did not feel like a year since he had begun seeing Charlene on a steady basis.  Last August he had been concerned for her safety due to Jonny's involvement with Diedre Streit's drug ring.  She was part of a case, and little more.

 

                Now Charlene was back in much the same peril because of her association with him.  He knew she would be the first to refuse to break it off simply because of his job, but Danny suffered doubts.  With the loss of several friends and his fiancée haunting his thoughts at times like these, he found himself committed to much soul-searching.

 

                As he returned to his car, Danny reflected he had been foolish to come out to the beach alone.  The place was so exposed.  Here the killer could easily stalk him and pick him off at any time.  Much good he would do Steve if he was dead.  He climbed into his car and drove to the office.  He was not surprised to discover the light on in his boss' office.  Danny stuck his head around the corner of the open door.

 

                "Hi, Steve.  Burning the late night oil again?"

 

                Startled by the unexpected intrusion, McGarrett stared at him.  "What are you doing here, Danno?"

 

                "Trying to find something to keep me occupied," replied Danny truthfully.

 

                "Personal problems?"

 

                Danny shook his head.  Trust Steve to sense something was bothering his partner and go right to the seat of the matter.  His boss gestured for him to sit down.  After a second's consideration, Danny acquiesced.

 

                "What's wrong, Danno?"  McGarrett studied him keenly.  "Is it the case?  Or Charley?"

 

                A tiny smile crept to the surface.  "A bit of both, I guess."

 

                "So?"  Steve leaned back in his chair, attention centred on his partner.

 

                "I don't know, Steve."  Danny drew a deep breath and slowly exhaled.  It took considerable daring to reveal even a portion of the problem to his superior.  He attacked it obliquely.  "Am I rushing into this?"

 

                "With Charley?"  Steve was not fooled.  "I'd say the two of your are taking it easy compared to a lot of other people we know."

 

                "You think I'm moving too slowly."

 

                "I didn't say that," countered McGarrett, ever diplomatic.  "I believe the two of you are working it out at a pace which is mutually agreeable."  He folded his hands behind his head, his gaze piercing Danny's shield.  "You're afraid she'll be targeted by the killer as the next victim, aren't you?"

 

                Danny nodded relieved to have it out in the open.  "It's not an unreasonable belief.  We've tried to keep things circumspect, Steve.  I haven't been over there, other than to drop them off after the funeral, and for the party."

 

                "I'm sure Charley understands, Danno."

 

                "Yeah.  She knows," he admitted sourly.

 

                "Then there's nothing else you can do except continue with things the way they are.  Avoid going over there, but call and explain.  And let the rest take care of itself, Danno," counselled McGarrett.

 

                "I guess."

 

                His boss smiled.  "Go home.  Get some rest.  We've got a busy week coming up, and I want to catch this bastard."

 

                Danny nodded.  Still deep in thought, he left the office.  The security guard smiled at him as he passed, his shoes echoing down the staircase and across the foyer of the Iolani Palace.  The wind whistled up the stairwell in his wake.

 

                Still at his desk, McGarrett considered what his partner was going through, and fully sympathised.  He had been there himself; not once, but several times.  He wished he could be of more help.  For once it was difficult to concentrate on his paperwork.

 

                Nerves tingling, Danny drove home, constantly watching his rear view mirror.  It was a habit learned over years of walking the edge with the criminal element.  Now, more than ever, he was cognisant of danger.  On two occasions since Terry's death he had been certain he was being tailed, but was unable to make the licence.  Both times the car was a Nineteen Sixty-seven or Sixty-eight white Valiant station wagon.  Its rusting paint job exposed gaps over various portions of the exterior.  Today there was no sign of the car.

 

                Still mulling over his personal problems, he arrived home.  He had to work out this problem soon.  Once the case was wrapped up he would have to broach his thoughts to Charlene.  But that was some time off yet.  There were a couple of stores downtown he would browse through when time permitted.  In the midst of his mental rambling in the elevator, Danny realised he had reached the only logical conclusion to the problem.  He grinned at himself, feeling foolish for ever having worried about it at all.

 

 

CHAPTER X

 

 

15 November 1977

 

                With a groan, Charlene rolled out of bed Monday morning.  The damp had invaded her left wrist and was making it ache.  She checked the scab on her forearm.  Found it was healing nicely.  In fact, it was beginning to itch terribly. Danny had promised to take her to the doctor Wednesday for the check-up, but Charlene was certain it would prove to be a routine check-up.  As far as she could see there appeared to be no problems.  She dressed and grabbed herself a quick bite to eat.

 

                Jonny had left ahead of her.  His school hours off-set her work ones by a good forty minutes each way, so he was usually gone before she got up, and home before she returned.  Unlike the previous year, though, Charlene no longer worried unduly about what he did during her absence.  Jonny was now a model teenager.

 

                "One good scare," she told herself.

 

                Not the sort of scare she would have wished on anyone, though.  It had very nearly been the death of both of them. She still suffered shivers whenever she recalled her night at Diedre Streit's mansion.  Charlene resolutely thrust the memories aside as she pedalled off to work through the rain.

 

                Despite the storm the store was fairly busy.  Invoices preoccupied Charlene all-day; collating, marking them off against orders and assorted cheques, she annotated items which had either not been received or had arrived in poor condition.  Then she made note of foodstuffs that did not appear to be moving quickly and drafted a memorandum to her superior suggesting a sale or minor reduction in shelf pricing.  Over lunch she pulled out the ledger and began making out the employees' cheques.  She was still hard at work when the store closed up.

 

                "Quitting time," called someone from the door.  "You're working over-time again, Charlene."

 

                "Thanks for the reminder, Linda."

 

                Ledger returned to the safe, she locked up.  With the paperwork filed for the following morning, Charlene checked the cashiers' drawers and the front doors.  The last of the box-boys hurried by.  Charlene turned out all but the security lighting and closed up her office.  She pulled on her coat and stepped outside.

 

                The wind promptly blew her hair into a tangled mess.  Rain gusted in ragged curtains and the footing was a quagmire.  Head ducked against the storm; Charlene rounded the building and cut across the parking lot, pushing her bike.  The dirt road would be impossible to negotiate on a day like this.  As she paused to wait for a gap in traffic, she remembered there was a holiday coming up in the middle of the next week.  She grimaced.  Most of the full-time employees would want Saturday off.  That meant she would have to fill a position at a till for a portion of the day. Coupled with that was the sure bet that half those same employees would attempt to take two days leave to run the weekend into the holiday.  There was a lull in traffic.  Charlene crossed the street, slithered down the bank to the side street fighting her bicycle's tendency to skitter sideways in the mud, and walked the short stretch home.  The phone rang as she stepped in the door.

 

                "Hello?"

 

                "Hi, Charley," said a familiar voice.

 

                "Oh, hi, Danny."  She thought she detected a peculiar choked quality to his voice.  "Is something wrong?"

 

                "No.  I just called to talk," he replied lamely.

 

                "You're checking up on me," she accused, instantly serious.  "Are things really that serious, Danny?"

 

                Danny adeptly dissembled.  "How late do you think you'll be working tomorrow?"

 

                "I don't know.  Probably the same as today.  Why?"

 

                "No reason in particular."

 

                "Danny," Charlene felt a tide of emotion block up her throat, "please don't worry.  I'm fine.  I'm not going to wander around alone where that lunatic can get me."

 

                "I know," he said, trying to ease back on his concern, "It's just---we still aren't certain whom we're dealing with yet."

 

                "Are you managing to narrow the field at all?"

 

                "Somewhat."

 

                "Doesn't sound too hopeful," she teased, trying to lighten the mood.

 

                "It isn't," he replied bluntly.  There was a pause.  She thought she heard Steve's voice in the background.  Danny came back on the line.  "I've got to go, Charley."

 

                "Alright.  Thanks for calling, Danny."  Charlene thought for a moment.  "I'll phone tomorrow, as soon as I get in from work.  Okay?"

 

                "Okay.  'Bye."

 

                "'Bye," she said softly.

 

                She hung up the phone slowly.  She was touched by Danny's genuine concern for her safety.  For more than a year she had appreciated his level of concern about not only her welfare, but Jonny's as well.  Now there was definitely something else.  Something that went beyond the threat posed by the sniper.  For the life of her, she could not imagine what it might be.  Unable to read between the lines, she shrugged out of her coat and put her outdoor things away.