CHAPTER XI

 

                 Danny replaced the receiver and went into McGarrett's office.  From the tone of his voice, his boss was frustrated.  Ben and Duke were already standing in front of the desk, waiting expectantly.

 

                "Close the door, Danno," ordered Steve.

 

                Danny complied and joined the others.  Steve McGarrett handed each of them two case files.  They leafed through their respective folders quickly while he waited. Amongst the mug shots were the faces of two of Diedre Streit's men. Sight of them once more unsettled Dan Williams.  These two had not been caught up in the bust.  Having received minor sentences several months prior to the occasion, they were now out.  Danny reined in his agitation with a heavy hand.

 

                "I want each of these suspects investigated with a fine tooth comb," said McGarrett.  "Their MOs most closely match what we're presently dealing with."

 

                Danny considered the slim folders in his hands.  Eight cases, eight suspects, including the two remaining on McGarrett's desk.

 

                "What about the rest, Steve?"

 

                "They all have air tight alibis," replied McGarrett.  He tapped one finger on his folders.  "These don't appear to.  Each of them has a substantial score to settle with us."

 

                In what an unfamiliar person might consider an off-handed remark, Ben asked, "Anyone spotted a tail yet?"

 

                "No," responded Duke.

 

                "Yes," countered Danny without thinking.  At the sharp look their boss rest on him he blushed.  Duke and Ben stared at him.  "At least, I think I've had one.  Late model Valiant station wagon.  White, rusty.  Sixty-seven or Sixty-eight, I think.  Couldn't make the licence."

 

                McGarrett leaned forward.  "When?"

 

                "Twice last week, before the funeral.  Since then, nothing," said Danny uncomfortably.

 

                "Someone reported a late model white station wagon near Leo's apartment last week," said Ben apologetically.

 

                "Damn," muttered Danny to himself.  He was slipping.  It was past due time he took control of his mental and emotional rambling, and put his full attention back on the job at hand.  He met McGarrett's gaze, guilty.  "Sorry, Steve.  I screwed up."

 

                His boss' eyes pinned Danny to the spot.  "Why are you so distracted, Danno?  It isn't like you to miss something like this."

 

                When Danny shot his companions a sidelong glance, neither said a word.  Nor did they smile at his discomfiture.  Without thinking, he slid his hand into his jacket pocket and rubbed the smooth lump tucked inside.

 

                "I'm sorry, Steve.  I guess I'm more concerned about Charley and Jonny's vulnerability than I realised."

 

                "So am I."  McGarrett considered the problem.  "Would it do any good getting them off the Island?"

 

                Danny shook his head hard.  "Charley would lose her job.  Work's not that easy to come by.  And I doubt she'd go."

 

                "Life's more precious than a job, Danny," commented Ben for the first time, his delivery quiet.

 

                "I know," Danny unaccountably snapped back.  Then, "I know.  Sorry Ben.  I'm worried, that's all."

 

                "We all are," responded Duke, sympathetic.

 

                "Charley wouldn't leave unless we physically dragged her off this rock," concluded Danny, returning his attention to his superior.

 

                Steve McGarrett understood.  Charlene was determined and stubborn.  If her feelings ran half as deep for Danny as Steve suspected his partner's were for her, Charlene Mattheson would remain, through thick and thin, to support him.  Even at the cost of her life.  Her tenacity for survival had kept her alive in the past.  Steve's major concern was that it could well prove her downfall at some time in the future.

 

                "Speak to her about it, Danno.  It can't hurt."

 

                After some soul-searching, Danny slowly nodded.  "Alright, Steve.  But I can't promise anything."

 

                "I know.  Just---see what you can do."  He turned back to Ben and Duke.  "That's it.  Dig into these parolees until they squeal.  Then dig some more.  Somewhere out there a killer's running loose.  And right now he's holding all of the cards."

 

                Returning to his office, Danny called Charlene but even after several rings there was no reply.  He swore and hung up.  One eye to the clock, he reviewed the first of the two files.  Half an hour later he had a list of points to cover, contacts to call to assist him in locating both men, and a severe case of nerves.  He redialled Charlene's number.  Jonny answered.

 

                "Hello?"

 

                "Jonny?  It's Danny."

 

                "Hi, Danny.  If you wanted Charley, she's out back."

 

                Momentarily thrown off base by Jonny's information, Danny demanded, "What's she doing outside in weather like this?"

 

                "She's putting away the lawn furniture," said Jonny sheepishly.  "When I cleaned up the other day, I forgot we wouldn't be using any of it for a while."

 

                "How long has she been out there," Danny wanted to know.

 

                His concern penetrated Jonny's banter.  "Not long.  What's wrong, Danny?"

 

                "Check on her for me, then come straight back to the phone, Jonny."

 

                "But---" Jonny thought better of arguing.  "Okay."

 

                As Jonny set down the receiver, it 'clunked' against wood.  Danny heard the young man's footsteps fade away, presumably in the direction of the kitchen patio doors.  There followed a moment's silence before Jonny returned.

 

                "She's almost finished, Danny.  Now, tell me what's going on."

 

                "Charley's hasn't told you?"

 

                "Told me what?  What the hell's going on with you two?"

 

                Taking a deep breath, Danny slowly released it. "Listen carefully, Jonny.  There's a sniper loose on the Island who has a personal contract out on Five-O, and possibly anyone associated with the department."

 

                "Oh shit!"

 

                "Terry's death was an accident.  Steve believes the shot was meant for Ben instead."

 

                "And the guy missed."

 

                "Only because your sister and Ben were fooling around.  Ben ducked at the right moment."  Danny realised he was clenching the receiver.  The tendons in his hand hurt.  He forced himself to ease up.  "Steve wants you two off Oahu."

 

                "No can do, Danny," responded Jonny slowly.  "I got mid-terms coming up for this semester.  If I miss those, I'll fail the year.  And Charley'll probably lose her job.  Which means we'd lose the house.  She's got about ten years' worth of payments owing on this place, you know."

 

                "I realise that.  I told Steve that's what you'd say."  Danny paused, thinking.

 

                "Is that why you haven't been over like you used to?"

 

                Danny's voice went flat.  "Yes."

 

                "Look," Jonny sounded uneasy, "I'll tell Charley you called, and explain what Steve wants.  But I can tell you what she's gonna say."

 

                "So do I," replied Danny, "I think Steve's half-expecting it, too.  Take care, Jonny.  And watch yourself."

 

                "You bet.  'Bye."

 

* * *

 

                Within seconds of Jonny hanging up, Charlene stepped in the back door.  She closed the screen and glass doors tightly behind her.  Her hair was plastered to her scalp. Rain dripped down her face in streams from the saturated ends.  She pulled off her boots and carried them carefully through to the front door boot tray.  As she removed her coat, she looked up at her brother.

 

                "Who was that on the phone?"

 

                "Danny," said Jonny.  He chewed the inside of his mouth and shifted his weight from one foot to the other.

 

                "Danny?"  Charlene hung up her coat. "That's twice today.  What did he want?"

 

                Jonny realised he had the unenviable position of passing along what Danny had said.  Phrasing it properly was another matter entirely.  Charlene stared at him.

                "Wait a minute," she requested, "I'll be right back.  I need a towel."

 

                When she went into the bathroom, she unwittingly provided Jonny with the time he needed to organise his thoughts.  He went into the kitchen and put the kettle on.  His sister returned, rubbing her hair dry with a hand towel. She watched him silently.

 

                Jonny glanced up.  "Hot chocolate?"

 

                "Sure."  Abruptly aware he was procrastinating; Charlene's hand froze.  "Jonny, give.  What did Danny want?"

 

                Her brother stared out the window over the kitchen sink.  He had never been good at lying.  Or at prevaricating.  More often than not his sister second-guessed him by simply reading his expression.

 

                Still evasive, he asked, "Charley, is there any way we could take a short holiday?  Maybe visit Mama Lawry on the Big Island for a week or so?  You know how she's forever writing to invite us down there."

 

                Charlene snorted.  "With what money, Jonny?  And what about your mid-terms?"

 

                His shoulders gave a little hitch.  "I don't know."

 

                "Whatever made you ask that?"  She walked into the kitchen, running her fingers through her damp hair to organise it and remove the tangles.

 

                "I just thought maybe we could use a break," he suggested lamely.  But he could not meet her gaze.

 

                "Well, it was a bad idea."

 

                From the corner of his eye he watched her, but kept on preparing the mugs for when the kettle boiled.  As Charlene rubbed at her scalp, Jonny could have sworn a light clicked on over her head.  He marvelled at how clearly he envisioned the cartoon image as her head shot up.

 

                "It's that bad?"

 

                "Steve thinks so," Jonny said, grateful his sister had elected the easier track to her questioning, "Danny asked, but---"

 

                "No," she exploded.  "Absolutely not.  Dammit, why us?  All I ever wanted---all Mom and Dad ever wanted for all of us was to see us kids settled somewhere nice and quiet.  Somewhere for us to grow up and get jobs, and not have to worry---"

 

                She trailed off, leaning against the counter, clenched fists resting on the top.  Her face screwed up with frustration and anger.  Head tilted slightly down and away, her eyes squeezed shut.  She swallowed hard in an effort to regain control of her emotions.

 

                "Charley," Jonny stared at her helplessly, "Charley, it's okay."

 

                "No, it isn't, damn it.  And it won't be as long as there are nuts like this running around loose."  She rounded on her brother.  "Just how much did Danny tell you?"

 

                "Enough."

 

                The kettle whistled.  He picked it off the stove and carefully poured the hot water into the mugs, stirring each to blend the contents.  The spoon clinked pleasantly against porcelain.

 

                "I'll ask the guys to keep their eyes peeled for anyone hangin' around that shouldn't be in the neighbourhood," he said and offered her a mug.  Eyes fixed on him she accepted it.

 

                "I don't know if that's a particularly good idea," she cautioned over the rim of her mug.

 

                Jonny shrugged.  "It couldn't hurt."

 

                "It could," she countered.  She blew on the cocoa.  "This guy's a killer, Jonny.  He's got absolutely no scruples."

 

                "I'll tell the guys to be careful."

 

                "You tell them not to try any heroics.  The minute they see anything suspicious, anything at all," she reinforced sharply, "you tell them to call the police.  No trying to case the person out.  No seeing if they can catch this jerk. Okay?"

 

                "Okay."  The word exploded from Jonny with relief.  "So what's for supper?"

 

                "Leftovers," she retorted, "What else?"

 

 

 

CHAPTER XII

 

 

16 November 1977

 

                Willy sauntered along the Keeia-Kea Marina dock, studying the moored vessels with an expert eye.  Little over a month had transpired since he had been released.  Ironically, the only people who even considered employing him at this time of year had been the marinas.  There were few students with sufficient time out from studies to keep an eye on the winterised boats.  Even fewer employees with the spare time to wander along the docks, inspecting the vessels in the slips and racks to ensure nothing had broken loose after a storm.  Ideal work for an ex-convict, but his employer made it patently clear he was on probation, and would only be permitted to work part-time days.  That suited Willy just fine.

 

                The water was still rough.  Sizeable waves were infiltrating the slips.  Boats bobbed up and down rhythmically.  From time to time, they thumped protective floats against the docks, rubbing and squeaking as cork and foam guards slid up and down against the wood.  Lines rattled against masts.  Dinghies lay upside down on racks, along with an assortment of out-riggers and other pleasure craft belonging to the club's racing society.  Willy paused to tug on a bollard.  He was glancing at his wristwatch when footfalls rumbled along the dock behind him.

 

                "Good morning, Willy."

 

                Harrison Fredericks the Third sauntered up the dock, carrying a heavy toolbox.  Willy raised an eyebrow.

 

                "Trouble with your boat, Mister Fredericks?"

 

                "I think it's just a plugged fuel line," replied the owner.  He stepped across the distance onto the gunwale of his twenty-foot pleasure craft.  "Know anything about engines?"

 

                "Some."  Willy watched as the other man set down the box alongside the engine hatch.

 

                "Could use a hand, if you've got the time, Willy."

 

                Willy shrugged.  It was expected of him.  "Sure, Mister Fredericks."

 

                "It's Harry, Willy.  Come on aboard."

 

                Willy spanned the distance carefully.  The Little Miss was a neat ship, and expensive, as they went.  There were auto pilot capabilities, compass, the latest in navigational devices including radar and two radios, plus a distress beacon.  The small boat lay upside down on the dock beside the yacht, and Willy was well aware that the Fredericks kept a good supply of emergency rations on board.  Harrison Fredericks the Third was not a man who took sailing lightly.  A retired Naval Officer, married with no children, he generally went out alone.  Every so often his wife accompanied him.  Occasionally they took friends.  As Sunday sailors went, Missus Fredericks was nothing to sneeze at either.  She was a solid sailor and a classy woman.

 

                "Here," offered Harry, interrupting Willy's train of thought, "See what you think."

 

                Slipping down the hatch, Willy was closely followed by the owner.  Harry flipped the light switch, illuminating the engine well.  They spent most of the morning dismantling the engine, cleaning parts, and reassembling it.  When they started it, the engine ran smoothly.  But there was a peculiar noise from the prop when they attempted to engage the screws.

 

                "Sounds like you might have a warped shaft or blade, Harry," commented Willy.

 

                "You sure?"  The observation troubled Harry.

 

                "Don't know," Willy admitted.  He glanced upward.  "I could check over the stern.  Might just be something fouling it."

 

                "If you would."

 

                As Willy scaled the ladder, Harry switched off the engine.  In leaning over the stern, Willy discovered a batch of seaweed had floated in during the storm and tangled itself around the external prop shaft.  He reached into his pocket and pulled out a small Swiss Army knife.  Minutes later, he had cleared the obstruction.

 

                "Try her again," he yelled.  He put away his knife.

 

                Below deck, Harry thumbed the switch.  The engine purred into life.  As the prop blades churned the water to froth, the Little Miss strained against her mooring lines.  Harry switched it off.

 

                "Okay!"  He emerged from the hole, shoved the toolbox up over the lip, and sprang up the ladder with adeptness completely at odds with his seventy years.  "Now, let's see how she does off the main controls."

 

                The engine turned over smoothly.   Willy nodded.  Harry smiled with satisfaction.  Setting the engine on idle, he disengaged the prop.  Willy closed and dogged the hatch.

 

                "Excellent.  Now," Harry gestured to Willy, "could you lend me a hand checking the running lights and aids, Willy? It shouldn't take more than an hour with the two of us working on it."

 

                "Sure."  Willy moved forward.  "Where do you want me?"

 

                "Down the end of the dock, first.  I'll run the lights and you can let me know if any of them are burnt out."

 

                "No problem."  Willy swung back onto the dock. "Where's the missus today?"

 

                "Shopping."

 

                "Just like a woman," commented Willy.

 

                Harry laughed.  "No, not that kind of shopping.  We're planning to sail up to Kauai for Thanksgiving, if the weather holds."

 

                Willy forced a smile and turned away.  He sauntered casually down the dock until he was far enough away to see the lights in the rigging.  From there he flashed Harry a signal.  The older man threw the toggle.  Willy gave him a 'thumbs up'.  He returned to the boat.

 

                "Would be nice having a little boat like this," he remarked as he stepped on board again.

 

                "Yeah.  It is."

 

                They ran the navigational aids next.  After they were done, Harry went below to fix them some coffee with a 'little something' in it to fortify them against the cold wind knifing through the marina off the water.  While Willy waited, his eye caught on something metallic glinting off the side of the cupboard in the cabin kitchen nook.  He measured the indentations expertly.  It appeared to be just the thing.  He slipped down the stairs and leaned casually against the narrow counter as Harry prepared instant coffee for them with a dash of run.  While Harry's back was turned, Willy slid his hand smoothly up and liberated the spare key.

 

                "There," said Harry as Willy pocketed the key.  "See how that warms you."

 

                "Thanks."

 

After they had finished their coffee, Willy bowed out, pleading the necessity of returning to work.  He made his way along the dock, tugging lines and ensuring floats were in place.  When he returned, Harry had gone.  The Little Miss was locked and once more secured against foul weather.  Willy kept walking, his mind preoccupied with other things.

 

                His biggest stumbling block remained the unpredictable nature of his targets.  Instead of sticking to one routine, they altered them almost constantly.  Almost, he thought, as though they suspected they were being watched.  They kept to well-lit areas, remained in places with heavy pedestrian traffic, and never went anywhere alone.  Willy seriously doubted his ability to carry through with his scheme.  It infuriated him no end to be stymied.

 

                "One more week," he promised himself.  "Then we'll see."

 

                He concluded his rounds and returned to the clubhouse. Wayne, his employer looked up as he walked into the office. Willy wrote his observations into the log and secured the gate key in the key press.

 

                As he finished his duties, Wayne asked, "Everything all right?"

 

                "Yeah.  No loose boats. Bit of debris in the water, though.  Mister Fredericks was in.  He had weed tangled around the prop.  Could have caused a burnt-out engine."

 

                "Okay.  I'll send the skimmers out to clean the slips as soon as the weather settles."  Wayne slid the meteorological forecast across the desk for Willy to view. "It's going to clear for the next weekend, so we can expect a fair bit of traffic."

 

                Willy froze.  Then managed casually, "I'm off, aren't I?"

 

                "Yeah.  I think you are, but I might need you."  Still as rock, Willy waited.  "I doubt it, though.  I'll call if there's a problem."

 

                Satisfied, Willy nodded.  "Okay.  See you around."

 

                Without waiting for a reply, Willy left the marina.  As he slipped behind the Valiant's wheel, he glanced at his watch again.  There was lots of time to make another check of his primary target.  Perhaps the time between hits would work for the best.  McGarrett was probably wracking his brains trying to figure out who was responsible.

 

                'By the time he does,' reflected Willy, 'it'll be too late.'

 

                Satisfaction paramount, he stared into the rear view mirror, pretending his reflection was McGarrett and his forefinger was a revolver.  His features contorted in a warped grin.

 

                "Bang," he said.

 

                With that, he started the car and drove up the access.  It was rush hour by the time he hit the Pali, but Willy did not care.  The delay was well spent deciding how best to incorporate his latest coup, if at all, into his plans.

 

* * *

 

                Perched on the edge of the examination table, Charlene watched the doctor remove the bandage that Jonny had carefully wrapped around her arm the previous evening.  The gauze came away cleanly, revealing a puckered red scar, but no scab.  The doctor raised an appreciative eyebrow.

 

                "Well, Miss Mattheson," he remarked, "You certainly heal like a baby."

 

                "Thanks.  I think," responded Charlene.

 

                "No.  That is a compliment," he told her.  "Very few people heal this cleanly or quickly after a gunshot wound.  You've obviously taken good care of it."

 

                Charlene shrugged. "All I did was keep it clean and bandage it like you said."

 

                "Well, you've apparently done all the right things."  He probed the wound. "Does that hurt?"

 

                She winced.  "A bit."

 

                "Still tender.  That's to be expected.  Any stiffness in the arm itself?"  She shook her head.  "Any problems using it?"

 

                "No."

 

                "Did you finish the series of pills I prescribed?"

 

                "Yes," she replied obediently, now on a roll.

 

                "Still doing the housework," he smoothly inserted.

 

                "Yes."  Charlene instantly reddened as he walked her expertly into the trap.

 

                 The physician rested a thoroughly exasperated look on her.  "I thought I specifically told you to give it a rest?"

 

                "If I left my brother to look after the house," she retorted bluntly, "my place would resemble a disaster area."

 

                "And that's saying something," added Danny with a grin.

 

                "Still, you should do as you're told."

 

                "Give it a rest, Doc," requested Danny.  His grin broadened.  "The wound's healing up and there aren't any complications."

 

                "You stay out of this, Danny," parried the doctor shortly.

 

                Charlene flashed Danny an 'oops' look.  He shook his head, remaining silent.  Removing his note pad and pen from his smock pocket, the doctor began scribbling on it.  When he was done, he tore off the sheet and handed it to Charlene.

 

                "This ointment should help the scar tissue to heal with a minimum amount of pulling.  It ought to minimise the remaining scarring, too."

 

                "Thanks."

 

                Slipping from the table, Charlene picked up her coat from a nearby chair.  The doctor watched as she buttoned it up and collected her purse.  He looked at Danny meaningfully.  Dan Williams was trying very hard not to laugh.

 

                "Are you keeping an eye on this young woman, Danny?"

 

                Danny lost his battle with his smile.  "After a manner of speaking."

 

                The doctor appeared momentarily nonplussed.  "Make certain she does as she's told."

 

                Charlene slid an arm through one of Danny's.  He looked at her, then back at the physician.  "Doc, I've tried doing that.  It hasn't worked in over a year, so I doubt it's going to work now."

 

                With a shake of his head, the doctor wagged a finger at Charlene.  "You are to be more careful in the future."

 

                A snappy rejoined surfaced, but Danny wheeled Charlene adroitly out of the examination room before she could voice it.

 

                Far more attuned to her emotions and witticisms than any other woman he had dated over the years, Danny gently enjoined, "Don't say it."

 

                She took a breath and swallowed her words.  The doctor watched them depart, clearly unconcerned.  Charlene Mattheson was indeed healing well.  By Monday she would have only a fading scar to remind her of the incident.  He frowned at that thought and moved on with his rounds.

 

                Danny ushered Charlene into his private vehicle.  He had met her in town at a restaurant at mid-day to enjoy a rain check their aborted luncheon of the previous week.  She had assured him she had taken a roundabout route, keeping to well-populated areas.  Her pace had been brisk, raising appreciative male interest in the restaurant.  Now he found himself wondering, not for the first time, what her mother had been like.

 

                Conscious of his reticence, Charlene gently asked, "Is something wrong, Danny?"

 

                "Apart from the obvious," he countered, "No.  Just thinking."

 

                "Any leads?"

 

                "Charlene," he admonished.

 

                "Sorry," she said.  She fell silent as they drove back to the main bus loop.  They waited together until they saw her connection approaching before she left the car.

 

                "I'll call," he said.

 

                "Okay."  Charlene hesitated.  "Danny, it's the holiday next week," she began.

 

                "Charley---" Danny trailed off.  Regretfully shook his head.

 

                "I just wanted to do something," she pleaded.  "Anything.  We could drive up to the Pali look-out---"

 

                Unprepared to argue, Danny looked away.  She sighed heavily, knowing better than to push, and slipped from the car without another word.  He was not unsympathetic to her. Knew she was disheartened and annoyed.  But her emotions were not directed at him.  They were aimed at the situation in general that was interfering with their private lives.  He cursed as she boarded the bus and watched it out of sight before driving home.  The box in his jacket felt as though it was burning a hole in the fabric.  He still had not found the appropriate moment to broach the topic.

 

                "Damn," he cursed himself sharply, "Williams, get a hold of yourself.  This isn't going to work if you don't."

 

                Collecting the black sedan from the underground parking lot beneath his apartment, he drew out into the street.  Once in the open, he picked up the mike and checked in.

 

                "Central.  This is Williams."

 

                "Central.  Go head."

 

                "Patch me through to McGarrett."

 

 

 

CHAPTER XIII

 

 

18 November 1977

 

                Jaw set in a stubborn line McGarrett went over his associates' reports.  Danny's two suspects were presently on the mainland, on different coasts.  Both were working at fairly respectable jobs; one as a chauffeur, the other enlisted in the Marines.  Neither could have been anywhere remotely near Oahu when Terry had been shot.  Duke's two were also easily eliminated.  One had signed onto a tramp freighter that had put to sea early.  The other was in the lock-up downtown for drunk and disorderly conduct an hour prior to the shooting.  Ben's suspects proved to be more likely.  The first worked at a pineapple growers' plant and could well have found the time to slip away and carry out the hit.  The other had informed Ben he had been job hunting and visiting a friend.  Neither man could bring forward reliable witnesses to vouch for their whereabouts.  The pair McGarrett spoke to had produced alibis along a par with those of Ben's suspects.  The first had sworn he was visiting friends on the Big Island.  But those friends had subsequently gone on holidays.  The second had been in a strip joint watching the girls.

 

                McGarrett leaned back wearily.  Half the Palace staff was on their way out the door, though the afternoon was barely half gone.  Most had plans for the weekend that dealt with relaxing.  He smiled grimly.  He and his staff would continue digging at the ever-dwindling stack of information throughout the ensuring few days, trying to piece together something substantial.  He felt they were over-looking something vitally important, but could not nail it down.

 

                More unnerving was their man's smooth disappearing act.  And his ability to wait out Five-O's investigation until the right moment presented itself for him to strike again.  Mary stuck her head in.

 

                "On my way, boss.  See you Monday."

 

                "Take care, Mary."

 

                "Sure, boss."  She smiled.  "Don't work too hard."

 

                "Where are you off to for the weekend?"  He ignored the gentle dig.

 

                "Maui."

 

                "Have fun."

 

                "We will," she concluded, cheeks dimpling slightly.

 

                Two plain clothed officers accompanied Mary as she left the office.  It had been like this ever since the shooting.  Everywhere that Mary went---Steve felt the start of a nonsense rhyme and pushed it firmly aside.  His only genuine concern now was the Matthesons.  And his partner, he wryly admitted.

 

                He realised Danny was chafing at the restrictions imposed by the case.  Just beginning to break out of the shell created by Jane's death, this had intervened and thrown an almost insurmountable stumbling block in the path of his prospective happiness.  An oath exploded from Steve McGarrett.

 

                Resolutely gathering up the files, he stuffed them into his filing cabinet.  He was over-tired to the point where his brain was refusing to function properly.  He needed a short break.  Getting up, he closed the office door, removed his jacket, and hung it and his shoulder holster on the coat rack.  Taking down his well-worn, dark blue sweater, he pulled it on.  A few hours worth of shut-eye should solve the problem.  He stretched out on the couch with one arm folded back beneath his head, and closed his eyes.

 

* * *

 

                Willy turned his car up the dirt road and parked it well back in the brush at the Y-junction.  From there he could watch the other branch, as well as the feeder to the highway, without being seen.  Getting out, he walked down the road.  Having judged the distance, he removed a box from his pocket and began sprinkling liberal quantities of large tacks across the road and long both sides until he had covered a distance approximately two hundred yards long in either direction.  Then he returned to his car.

 

                He settled himself comfortably in the seat.  Tree branches scraped against the passenger door in the wind.  He ignored the high-pitched screeching as one particularly sharp limb scraped back and forth.  If successful, he would have to ditch the car after this job.  The day was drawing to a close.  There was no guarantee his quarry would come this way, even though the route had dried out.

 

                Willy was far from relaxed.  Ben Kokua had grilled him repeatedly throughout the morning questioning and re-questioning him about the events of the day he had blown away the cop.  Kokua had slyly thrown in a few questions about the day Leo had died too, which had thoroughly unsettled Willy.  That Five-O suspected the two incidents were connected meant he had overlooked something at the apartment before leaving.  The more he struggled to figure it out, the worse his nervousness grew.  The only thing possibly disturbing the cops would be the cleanliness of the apartment.  Everyone knew Leo had been a slob.  If all McGarrett had to go on was a lack of sufficient fingerprints, there would be no way he could hang the rap on Willy.  Chuckling, Wilkes shook out a newspaper.

 

* * *

 

                Thoughts in a state of chaos, distracted by a day of shuffling shifts and part-time workers for the following week, Charlene hurried home.  When she got in Jonny was missing, although school had let out early.  A note on the counter informed her he would not be home all weekend.  Sandy's parents had invited him to spend both the weekend and the three subsequent days, including Thanksgiving, with them on Maui.  Charlene balled up the note, furious that her brother had elected to skip school without requesting her permission.  His keys lay on the counter.  Shaking her head, she picked up the phone and called Sandy's.  There was no answer.  Disgusted, she hung up.

 

                As she changed into a pair of jeans and a pullover, her stomach growled.  She went back into the kitchen and picked up the phone again, studiously ignoring the rumblings in her middle.  This time she tried Danny's apartment.  The answering machine clicked in.  She hung up and called his office.  On the third ring she got a response.

 

                "McGarrett.  Five-O."

 

                "Oh.  Hi, Steve.  It's Charley."

 

                "Hi, Charley.  What can I do for you?"

 

                Heart racing, she explained, "I promised Danny I'd call him every afternoon when I got home from work."

 

                "I see."  Charlene could picture McGarrett's face on the other end of the line.  "I'll pass on that you called."

 

                "Thanks."  She paused.  "Oh.  And tell him he needn't worry about Jonny this weekend.  He's off with a friend and his family to Maui, until Wednesday."

 

                "All right."  The voice on the other end of the line altered marginally with concern.  "Are you going to be okay on your own?"

 

                "Sure, Steve.  I'll double-check all the windows and doors before I go to bed," she assured him.  "And I'll keep the phone by my bed, just in case.  I'm a pretty light sleeper when Jonny's not home."

 

                "Are you positive you don't want me to send someone over to keep you company?"

 

                "Positive.  The phone lines run underground to the house, Steve," she insisted.  "Mama was always paranoid about being cut off without communications during a storm."

 

                "As long as you're certain."

 

                "'Bye, Steve," said Charlene firmly.

 

                She hung up before he could say anything more.  Her stomach muttered loudly.  Unable to deny it further, she opened the fridge.  A glass of milk would tie her over until she could make some soup and a sandwich.  She picked up the carton.  Except for a token teaspoonful, it was empty.

 

                "Doggone it, Jonny," she groused to herself as she thumped the empty container onto the countertop, "Why don't you tell me these things?"

 

                Storming across the living room, she pulled down her windbreaker.  The hanger fell to the floor.  She ignored it. Grabbing up her purse and jamming her feet into her slip-on sandals, she dashed out the door.  She pedalled madly up the road and across the intersection on her bike.  The store was still open, full of late shoppers.  Charlene found her milk and joined a cue.  She shifted her weight from one foot to the other, impatiently waiting in the Express Line.

 

                "It never fails," she commented to the man behind her, "The line you're in always moves the slowest."

 

                "Naturally," said a woman further back.  "And if you change lines, that one moves the slowest."

 

                "Murphy's Law," agreed the man between them.

 

                It took Charlene fifteen minutes to make it through the checkout.  The parking lot was a hazard of pre-holiday crowd, all jostling madly for space with vehicles and shopping carts.  Bike unlocked from the stand, Charlene cut sharp right along the sidewalk across the front of the mall. There was no way she was going to brave that sort of madhouse traffic.  She ducked through the belt of trees onto the dirt service road, pushing her bike until she was out onto the surface.  No sooner had she hopped onto the saddle and begun pedalling, than her front tire went flat.

 

                "Oh, no!"

Slamming on the brakes, Charlene hopped off to inspect the damage.  The milk offset her bike, tilting it towards her.  She held it away while studying the tire.  Several large tacks were embedded in the tread.  Muttering under her breath, furious, she began pushing the bike along the side of the track.  She passed the Y-junction, more concerned with picking out dry footing on the mucky track, than watching her surroundings.  The sound of a car behind her startled her, but she obligingly moved over to allow room for it to pass.  Instead, it slowed.

 

                A gravely male voice called, "Got a problem?"

 

                "Just a flat," she said without looking back, "It's okay.  I haven't far to go."

 

                "Can I give you a lift?"

 

                "No.  Thanks.  I'm fine," she insisted, impatiently wishing he would leave her alone.

 

                "Are you sure?"

 

                She had not heard the car stop.  Nor had she heard the door open, but the man's voice sounded incredibly close.  The hairs on the back of her neck crawled and she instinctively glanced back.  He was almost at her shoulder. One look in his eyes sent a stab of terror through her.  As he reached for her, Charlene literally threw her bicycle from her and bolted, all in one move.  She barely covered five paces when his arms settled around her, pinning her arms securely to her sides.  She squired in a vain effort to escape.

 

                "None of that," he ordered sharply.  His breath reeked of alcohol.

 

                Charlene opened her mouth to scream.  A hand covered it with a cloth.  Holding her breath, Charlene allowed herself to go limp.  The suddenness of her full weight bowed her captor forward.  He straightened her, hesitating several seconds with uncertainty.  Then he laughed hoarsely in appreciation of her ruse.

 

                "Nice try."

 

                With a backward jerk he yanked her completely off her feet, and squeezed hard.  Her breath rushed from her in a whoosh.  Before Charlene could control the reflex, she had inhaled.  There was no time to curse her stupidity as the world slithered away from her in an obnoxious, pungent tang of chloroform.

 

 

 

CHAPTER XIV

 

 

                Steve rolled over and sat up in the darkened office.  Light filtered in from outside.  Below stairs he heard the security guard making the rounds.  Getting up, McGarrett crossed the room and turned on the lights.  He pulled the stack of paperwork from his filing cabinet and placed it on the desk.  Then he went into the outer office to check the coffee machine.  His ever-faithful secretary had made certain there was a full pot on warm prior to her departure. Now several hours old, it gave him the kick-start he required before returning to work.  He had just arrived at a conclusion on how best to tackle the three remaining suspects whose alibis were inadequate to cover their movements during the sniping when someone tapped on his office door.  It was the security guard.

 

                "Mister McGarrett?"

 

                "Yes, Fred.  Something wrong?"

 

                "I don't know."  The guard entered the office hesitantly.  He was turning a slim envelope over and over in his hands.  "Found this pushed under the side door downstairs."

 

                McGarrett's stomach lurched.  He forced himself to reach out casually and accept it.  "Thanks, Fred."

 

                The security guard smiled.  "No problem, sir."

 

                As Fred left, Steve heard the hollow echo of the front door closing.  Footsteps clattered up the stairs.  Fred called a greeting as the person passed him on the stairs.  Forewarned, McGarrett looked up to find Danny slumped wearily against the doorframe.

 

                "How's it going, Danno?"

 

                Danny shrugged noncommittally.  "Not so good, Steve.  I can't seem to shake Norm.  I think he's telling the truth about being out in the fields."

 

                "Okay.  That leaves two."

 

                "Ben and Duke are on them."  Danny noticed the envelope for the first time.  "Another one?"

 

                "I think so."

 

                Finally, McGarrett examined the front.  His name and Danny's were clearly inscribed in block letters across the pristine white envelope.  After glancing at his associate once more, Steve slit open the flap.

 

                'Now's the time for all good men to come to the aid of the party.  I'm watching you, but you can't see me.  Your next gift'll be delivered sometime tomorrow.  Catch me, catch me, if you can.'

 

                Danny studied his boss' face closely.  McGarrett's fist had clenched.  "Damn, I should know this guy.   His MO stinks like last week's fish, it's so ancient."

 

                "Want me to go over those files again, Steve?"

 

                "Yeah.  Take them, Danno.  See if you can find what I'm missing."  McGarrett picked up his coffee mug but did not immediately take a sip.  "Charley called.  She's home, safe and sound.  You're keeping pretty close tabs on her, aren't you?"

 

                Danny immediately countered, "Shouldn't I?"

 

                McGarrett shook his head, but not disparaging his partner's concern.  "Under the circumstances, no."

 

                Danny picked up the files and went into his own office.  With them spread out across his desk, he compiled a list on a note pad, tabulating questions and answers for each subject.  Like his boss, the longer the list got, the more he knew he was missing the obvious.  Baffled, he tore up the sheet and started again, wracking his brains for the killer's identity.  The man was taunting them with the knowledge that they ought to know who he was.  The phone rang.  As Danny picked it up, he experienced a peculiar sensation akin to butterflies in the pit of his stomach.

 

                "Williams.  Five-O."

 

                "Danny?"  It was Jonny.  The teenager's voice reflected frantic distress.

 

                "What's up, Jonny?"  Danny's stomach executed a violent somersault.

 

                "It's Charley!  She's isn't here!"

 

                "Take it easy, Jonny.  Steve told me she got home from work," said Danny, striving to calm the younger man.

 

                "I know.  I found my note scrunched up on the counter, so she must have come home and read it."

 

                "What are you talking about?  What note?  Where were you," demanded Danny, anxious and fearful.

 

                "I went over to Sandy's."  Jonny sounded guilt-ridden. "I was gonna take a couple of days off school and sail to Maui with Sandy's folks.  My probation officer said it was okay, but their boat engine wouldn't start.  I came home and found the house all dark, and no sign of Charley.  The door was locked, too, Danny!"

 

                "Any sign of a break-in?"

 

                Frantic, Jonny babbled back, "No.  That's just it.  I had to force my bedroom window 'cause I forgot my keys.  Everything's fine, except---" Jonny's voice trailed off.

 

                Caught by that, Danny snapped back, "Except what, Jonny?"

 

                "Her purse and bike are missing."

 

                Dan Williams struggled against rising panic.  He grappled with control.  Aware he needed to remain calm.  "Did you check with the store?"

 

                "Yeah.  I called.  They said she came in about six and picked up a carton of milk.  The cashier remembers 'cause it was busy, and he was surprised to see her back so soon after leaving work."  Jonny's voice rose in pitch.  "What do I do?"

                "Stay right there," ordered Danny.  "I'm on my way."

 

                Slamming down the phone, he grabbed his coat.  On his way out, he leaned around the door to McGarrett's office.  "Steve.  I'm heading over to Charley's.  Jonny just phoned.  She's missing."

 

                "What!"  McGarrett fumed.  "Damn, damn.  I should have known.  When she said her brother was off with a friend---You said Jonny called?"

 

                "Yeah.  His friend's boat died so he returned home.  The placed was locked up and there was no sign of Charley.  She was at the store to buy milk around six."  Danny's voice cracked.  He could not meet McGarrett's eyes.

 

                "That's over three hours---" McGarrett slammed the palm of his hand down on the envelope on his desk.  "Alright, Danno.  Get over there on the double.  Take a squad car with you.  See what you can find.  Report back here as soon as you have anything."

 

                As his partner raced downstairs, Steve McGarrett repeatedly cursed himself.  It had been all too plain a case of their killer stalking his prey with precision.  Discovering the department members too well screened against attack he must have cased out the Matthesons as well.  Undoubtedly he had waited to catch Charlene between home and work, alone, and made his move.  They might be too late to help Charlene.  But Steve McGarrett was determined to prevent a third hit by their note writer. He picked up the phone to contact Ben and Duke.  It would be their task to trace the movements of all three suspects over the previous four hours.  Meanwhile, Danny would attempt to discover what exactly had happened to Charlene.

 

* * *

 

                She woke to total darkness: not to the natural dark of night or that of an unlit room.  Rather, it was complete and absolute darkness.  Charlene held absolutely still straining for any sound that might identify her surroundings.  At the same time she sought frantically to understand what had happened.  And all the while she cursed herself for being an idiot.  Her irresponsible actions had literally walked her into the arms of Five-O's killer.

 

                There was no denying she had been chloroformed.  The vile stench had impregnated her pullover and still clung to it, assailing her olfactory senses.  Pervading that was the over-powering odour of damp and decaying wood.  Somewhere in the distance the muted rumble of traffic, augmented by an occasional outburst of high-pitched laughter and drunken guffaws impinged upon the oppressive silence.  Drunks labelled the section of town in which she was imprisoned.  It took no great stretch of reasoning to determine the building in which she was imprisoned was probably a condemned structure awaiting demolition.  Once she arrived at those conclusions, she took stock of her own position.

 

                Pain in her wrists and ankles informed her she was bound.  There was a peculiar constriction at her waist as well.  The lack of sight thoroughly frightened her, nearly over-powering her sanity.  Disoriented, she wrestled with fear for several minutes before she got a grip on herself.  At length she realised her abductor had taped cotton gauze over her eyelids.  Whenever she wrinkled her face she felt the tug of the tape.  Her feeling of helplessness was compounded by sensations of a gag in her mouth and an uncustomary restriction around her neck.  Her face rested against a coarse cloth that shifted when she twitched slightly.  She also sensed her coat and shoes were missing.

 

                Cold struck at her through the open knit of her pullover.  Her bare feet were freezing.  Charlene was caught between the desire to curl up and attempt to warm herself before exploring the extent of her bonds, and the fear that her captor might be in the vicinity.  Not far away she caught the sound of fabric rubbing against fabric.  She strained for a better understanding, when something pressed against the inside of her thigh.  The unexpected touch caused her to stiffen involuntarily.

 

                "Thought you was awake," commented that frighteningly familiar voice.

 

                Charlene held still.  This was a game akin to the one she had played the previous year.  In that single night of hell she had learned how to wait.  Had learned what it meant to feel uncompromising fear, and push through it.  Now it was starting all over again.

 

                "Did some research on you while I was in the pen, when I heard you was seein' Williams," continued her captor.  "They say you're one tough lady."

 

                A finger stroked slowly down her arm.   Charlene swallowed a surge of bile as the hand caressed her body.  Strong fingers massaged the flesh of her right leg through the jean fabric.  A shudder of revulsion rippled the length of her spine.  The man chuckled.

 

                "Yeah.  Real tough."  He shifted his hand.  "Is it true your mother was a cop?"

 

                Somewhere in her imposed darkness the maniac loomed over her.  Fighting fear, Charlene controlled the urge to squirm away and waited.  More than anything she needed to know what he was planning to do with her.  With Jonny gone to Maui for an extended trip, Danny would probably fail to realize she was missing until Saturday evening.  By then, not having received a call from her all day, and being unable to reach her, he would drive out to the house.  Only then would Five-O know she had been selected as the next victim.  By that time the killer would have a twenty-four hour jump on them.

 

                 "You can scream all you want," continued her captor.  "Ain't no one gonna hear ya.  I like screamers.  How about Williams?  Do you scream for him?"

 

                A sickening wave of disgust welled up at what he was implying.  Something 'snicked' in the darkness.  Cold sweat started out across her body.  A slim metal edge worked beneath the hem of her pant leg.  Fabric split.  Inch by inch, the blade worked its way up.  Tremors gripped her muscles as the knife reached her thigh.  There was a slimy feeling when his hand touched her flesh.

 

                'He's going to rape me!'

 

                Terrified, Charlene lost the fight.  Without conscious thought, she reacted.  Her bound legs caught her assailant, knocking him away.  He grunted under the impact, stumbled clear.  Dry retches almost set her off in sympathetic response.

 

                "Yeah," he gasped after several seconds.  "They were right.  You're one tough little bitch."

 

                There was a length pause.  She heard him panting for breath and realised she must have connected with his groin. Suddenly, hands grabbed her.  He tore roughly at her pullover, but the knit fabric refused to give.  Charlene twisted and writhed in a vain effort to escape as the knife hacked at her sweater, shredding the neckline to tatters and scoring the flesh over her collarbone in the process.  A whine of anguish escaped her lips as he hooked his fingers beneath her bra strap.  For no apparent reason, he released her.

 

                A coarse laugh assaulted her ears.  "Not so tough after all."

 

                At last Charlene understood his intent: to terrify her, feel his captive's fear.  From it he received an incalculable thrill.  From her terror he experienced a degree of power over her.  That she was wholly powerless and knew it pleased him.  He revelled in the knowledge.  Furious with herself for giving in, Charlene struggled to recover her composure.  To fight him in whatever way was open to her.  A peculiar rustling, followed by a click, chilled her. On the heels of the noise came a mechanical, ominously sibilant hissing note that reminded her of a snake preparing to strike.  The noise was repeated.  Charlene struggled to place the sound.

 

                "Make yourself comfortable, sweetheart," crooned her captor, "You're gonna be here a long time."

 

                Footfalls moved away.  A door opened.  His footsteps halted.  Charlene waited expectantly, trying desperately to settle her racing heart.  Her chest heaved with the exertion of the one-sided struggle.

 

                "Yeah, a real long time.  Maybe someone'll find you," the man taunted.  "Then again, maybe they won't."  He knocked on wood.  "Your brother did me a real favour decidin' to spend the weekend with his buddy.  Heard them talkin' at school."

 

                That he had tailed Jonny to school both frightened and infuriated Charlene.  The resulting adrenaline surge overcame terror and shoved it aside.  In her impotent rage she bit down hard on the gag, wishing she could see.  She would have liked nothing more than to tear out this man's eyes for invading and interfering with their lives.  She was furious that, given different circumstances, her bother might well have been the victim instead.  Cool determination to escape settled in, eradicating all other emotions.

 

                "This place is abandoned, little lady.  There's a lien against the property.  Ain't nobody gonna visit it for a long time.  And even if your friends catch me, I ain't tellin' them where you are, sweetheart.  Then again, maybe they won't catch me.  Maybe I'll come back for you when I'm finished with your lover and McGarrett."

 

                There was a long paused.  The door closed and was locked behind him.  The only sound Charlene heard was the thundering of her own pulse.  He was gone.  She lay absolutely still, listening to his fading footfalls as they descended a flight of stairs.  There came a dull thud.  She assumed he had dropped to a floor of packed earth.  A board creaked faintly far off on the periphery of her hearing, and she was alone.

 

                Charlene knew she had to escape.  She was terrified for her brother's safety.  Heels gathered to her rump, she pushed herself across the linoleum until her head bumped a wall.  Then she rolled onto her side and sat up.  A quick fumbling inspection informed her a length of rope was securely tied around her waist.  This extended to an eyelet set into the wall at approximately her waist level.  The end was professionally fastened in a manner that even her most determined efforts would not budge.  However, the rope at her ankles proved less stubborn.  After tracing the knot repeatedly with her fingertips to imprint a picture of it in her mind, she set to work.  Minutes later, she was free.   The ease with which the rope fell away caused her to speculate that her captor did not care if she did manage to unravel it.

 

                She tackled the problem of the bag over her head next, but it proved to be an entirely different story.  Fashioned of industrial strength fabric, it had a wire threaded through the neck.  This, in turn, was padlocked.  Foiled in her efforts to rid herself of the all-encompassing darkness, Charlene whined at the futility of her actions.  She slid back to the floor, thumping her fists against her thighs in a desperate effort to still the rising panic before it overwhelmed all reason.

 

                Several minutes passed before she regained control.  Charlene got slowly to her feet.  Tracing the length of rope at her waist, she shuffled back up to the eyelet.  Her hands were bound in front of her.  But in his determination to prevent her freeing her wrists, her captor had wound several turns of rope around the length binding them together, thereby forming a crude set of handcuffs.  By dint of much wriggling and twisting, accompanied by considerable pain, Charlene managed to readjust the angle of her hands so she could grip the eyelet properly.

 

                Even with her full weight thrown against it, she failed to exert sufficient force to budge the eyelet.  Charlene reconsidered her angle of attack.  She took four turns of the rope around the eyelet, pausing after each turn to ensure the loop was properly seated.  Feet set against the flooring she threw her entire weight against the rope. Still nothing happened.  Charlene jerked at the rope several times in anger, then threw herself backwards again.  For several seconds, nothing appeared to happen.  Then, quite suddenly, the eyelet gave.  Not much, but just enough to give her new hope.

 

 

 

CHAPTER XV

 

 

                Danny forced himself to concentrate on his driving.  It was a physical and mental struggle to control the all-encompassing urge to drive like a maniac over the Pali to the East coast of the Island.  The weather was deteriorating again.  Low cloud was scudding in, obscuring vision and slowing traffic to a crawl through the tunnels. Behind him the red and white police cruiser lights slashed into the darkness, a direct counter-point to the strident blue of his dashboard light which reflected back at him from the surrounding fog.  The moment he drew into the driveway, Jonny dashed out the door.

 

                "I called Rick and Nick and Sandy," he informed Danny, "They're coming over to help."

 

                Danny took tight rein on his annoyance.  "The last thing we need, Jonny, is a lot of unnecessary, untrained people tramping around the brush, possibly obscuring evidence."

 

                "I just want to find Charley."

 

                "I know you do," Danny replied patiently, "So do I."

 

                The police cruiser halted behind his sedan.  The officer on the passenger side rolled down his window.  "Where do we start?"

 

                Danny looked to Jonny for suggestions.  Jonny was visibly wracking his brains for an answer.  It dawned in a flash.  "The back road!  There's a dirt road that runs from behind the store to the highway.  If Charley was in a hurry, she would've used it.  Come on.  I'll show you.  Everyone at the store uses it to get to the rear parking lot."

 

                Danny grabbed Jonny's arm just as the teenager turned to sprint down the drive.  "Get in the car."  He turned to the officers.  "Follow me."

 

                Jonny directed them back to the highway.  They turned right and drove a short distance down the paved surface until he pointed out an opening in the sparse foliage lining the road.  Danny expertly spun the wheel.  The cruiser followed closely.  They drove cautiously along the track, the rear end of the cruiser sloughing slightly when it encountered a mud puddle.  They reached the rear of the grocers and turned around.

 

                Anxious, Jonny stared about him.  "Now what?"

 

                "We walk," said Danny.

 

                He reached into the glove compartment and drew out a flashlight.  Climbing from the car, he signalled for the officers to accompany him.  They parked their vehicle and got out.

 

                "What have you got, Danny?"   The Sergeant glanced once at Jonny, concerned with the teenager's presence.

 

                "We're going to have to walk back down the road.  Charley used her bike coming up to the store.  It's possible we'll find it in the brush somewhere along here."

 

                It took every ounce of control for Danny to speak professionally without his voice shaking or cracking.  His greatest fear was they would discover Charlene's body in the bushes as well.

 

                "Okay."

 

                The officers moved off.  Flashlights swinging back and forth they scanned the underbrush on either side of the road for any evidence.  Jonny finally climbed from the car.  Danny paused.

 

                "Stay put," he commanded.

 

                "I want to help," objected Jonny.

 

                Not about to brook arguments, Danny repeated firmly, "Stay put!"

 

                "But---"

 

                "Dammit, Jonny.  Do as I say."

 

                Reluctantly Jonny returned to the car.  He sat on the car seat, feet outside the vehicle, sulking.  His friends arrived minutes later, out of breath, eyes bright with expectation.  Sandy was white and shaken.

 

                "Have they found her yet," Rick wanted to know.

 

                "No."  Jonny shook his head then delivered the rest of the bad news.  "Danny told me we're to stay here."

 

                "What?"  Rick blurted, indignant.

 

                "If we go down there," said Jonny, "we might end up destroying evidence."

 

                "Shit!  Just when I wanted to see if I could do investigative work," muttered Sandy.

 

                "Get in," said Jonny.

 

                He opened the rear door and his friends slid in.  The rain started in earnest as he closed his own door, a gentle, intermittent pattering on the roof and bonnet of the sedan. Jonny shivered with more than the damp.  He wrapped his arms around himself.  The episode was taking on the same nightmarish qualities of the by-gone year.

 

                Out of sight down the road, Danny studied his surroundings intently.  At the fork he discovered a set of fresh tire tracks.  He gestured imperatively.  The junior officer backtracked the marks.  Meanwhile Danny and the sergeant waited.

 

                "He parked up here, watching the road," came the report from the darkness, "He was waiting for her, all right."

 

                "Damn," Danny swore under his breath, his fears realised.

 

                The sergeant beamed his torch into the night in the direction of the rock face.  "He must have used that outcropping to case her home, Danny.  I'll bet he had a great view of the whole area from up there."

 

                They pressed on.  Neither officer made allusion to Danny's out-burst.  Both men had known Jane, and the Sergeant had met Charlene in passing.  There was no way either man wanted to be in Dan Williams' shoes at present.  Something white caught their eyes.  Danny plunged into the bushes.  It was Charlene's purse.

 

                "Oh, God, no!  No!"

 

                He stood, staring at the purse as though it was an anchor in a storm.  He dared not touch it and risk disturbing the crime scene.  The Sergeant hurriedly signalled his partner on to check out the rest of the area.  Within minutes they discovered the bike and the abandoned carton of milk, still in its now soggy bag.

 

                "Front tire's punctured," remarked the younger officer, sliding a look in Danny's direction, uncomfortable at the sight of a fellow officer in pain.

 

                "Tacks," said the Sergeant as he pulled on from the front tire.

 

                Danny gathered himself with difficulty.  "Get the lab boys out here.  And cover up those tracks.  Fast!  Before the rain washes them away."

 

                "Right!"

 

                The younger officer sprinted back up the road to comply.  The Sergeant watched Danny, concerned by the how still he was.  Even in the dim light of the flashlights he could see how haggard the detective was.  Raindrops slithered through the leafy canopy overhead and dripped cold spatters onto the officer's hat and Danny's bare head.  It was several minutes before Danny managed to turn his steps back to his car.  Jonny looked up expectantly as Danny opened the driver's door.  Seeing Danny's grim expression, Jonny's face crumpled.

 

                "Danny?"

 

                Dan Williams forced himself to ignore the pale, pleading face as he climbed into the car and started the engine.  After making his report to his boss, he drove Jonny and his three friends back to the house.  When they were dropped off, Jonny hovered on the doorstep.  The others wisely disappeared inside.

 

                "She's gonna be alright, isn't she, Danny?"

 

                Danny found he could not quite meet Jonny's eyes.  "I don't know, Jonny.  I honestly don't know."

 

                "Find her."

 

                "We will," he said tightly, "You can bet we will!"

 

                "I wish I were a cop!"  Jonny blurted through gritted teeth.  "I'd kill that son on of a bitch!"

 

                "No," countered Danny forcefully, "You wouldn't."

 

                He drove away, leaving Jonny staring after him in complete confusion.  Danny returned to the scene to over-see the work.  Someone had laid out the tapes.  The police photographer had arrived during his absence.  Now his camera strobe flashed bursts beneath the trees.  Che Fong was there, down on one knee in the rain and mud, meticulously pouring plaster into a tread mark.  Two officers held a tarp over the forensic doctor's head.

 

                "It's a good print, Danny," he remarked as the other approached, "A perfect impression.  Very distinct wear marks."

 

                "We can match it to a vehicle with no problem?"

 

                "None whatsoever," smiled Che.  "Find me the car, and I'll match the tread, even if the original tire's missing."

 

                Danny turned to the sergeant.  "I'm heading back to the office.  Anything new?"

 

                "Nope."  The Sergeant gave it to him straight.  "No sign of a body."

 

                Danny nodded.  "Okay, Bill.  Take over."

 

                "Sure, Danny.  You got it."  The Sergeant touched his arm as Danny moved past.  "For what it's worth, Danny, we'll catch this bastard for you."

 

                Danny nodded, not trusting himself to speak.  He walked slowly up the winding track, ignoring the rain soaking through his coat.

 

                "Charley," he whispered.  His fingers wrapped around the box in his jacket pocket.

 

* * *

 

                McGarrett rubbed his eyes wearily.  His sight kept blurring with the strain and long hours.  The lab had failed to lift any prints from either envelope or the paper on the latest note, other than those belonging to the night watchman and him.  He worried about Charlene.  Worse, he troubled over how Danny was taking this latest turn of events.  He suspected he should have gone out to the site with his partner, but something kept him at his desk.   There was a tap at his office door.

 

                "Mister McGarrett?"  The security guard was back, waiting respectfully in the doorway.  A troubled frown creased his brow.

 

                "What is it, Fred?"

 

                "A drunk dropped this off at the front door a few minutes ago.  He was really insistent you get it," the guard told him.  "I thought in light of what's been happening this evening you'd want it brought up right away."

 

                McGarrett came swiftly out from behind his desk as Fred crossed the office and held out a large envelope.  Taking it from him, the head of Five-O examined the exterior.  Printed across the front in the now familiar, stilted lettering were his and Danny's name.  This, then, was why his instincts had kept him at the office rather than accompanying Danny.  Picking up his letter opener, he carefully slit the flap open.  Inside were two snapshots.

 

                "Thanks, Fred," said McGarrett, dismissing the guard.

 

                "Sure thing, Mister McGarrett."

 

                Seated again at his desk, Steve tilted his reading light to examine the photos in detail.  He forced himself to concentrate first on the background.  The walls had been freshly painted.  They gleamed, a direct contrast to the ancient, discoloured and cracked linoleum on the floor with its fine patina of dust.  The subject of the photo lay curled in a tight ball on her side.  A bag fashioned from dark blue canvass concealed her head, but McGarrett knew without being told that it was Charlene.  Her hands were bound in front, and her ankles were also tied.  A line ran from her waist towards the wall above her head, disappearing out of the picture.  What he could see of the end of the rope about her waist had been fastened with an industrial staple.  She would never be able to fight her way free of that without a sharp knife.

 

                Charlene's condition caused McGarrett's nostrils to flare with restrained rage.  His eyes narrowed, speculating at the obvious signs of a struggle.  One pant leg had been slit to the thigh, and the shredded remains of her pullover hung from one shoulder, revealing her bra and the bare flesh above her right breast.  Even stranger, her feet were bare. Now Steve was positive Charlene was still alive, abandoned somewhere.  Furious, he snatched up the accompanying note and read it.

'You're supposed to be good at guessing games, McGarrett.  What kind of a square isn't a square?  Where's the building?  If you catch me, I won't tell.  Is she alive, or is she dead?  Time's running out.  One more gift to share with Danny-boy, then it's your turn.'

 

                "Damn him!"  The oath exploded from Steve.  He felt incredibly helpless.

                McGarrett fought the temptation to scrunch up the note.  Instead he rose and went to the coffee machine, wracking his brains for a clue.  What did the killer mean?  If his taunt was a genuine clue, it left a lot to be desired.  By its very nature, it was one of the most oblique clues he had ever encountered.  He sipped the stewed brew and grimaced.  His stomach grumbled but he silenced it from force of habit.

 

                There were any number of abandoned tenements, office blocks and warehouses in which their man could have secreted Charlene.  The police could investigate all known ones and still fail to come up with anything.  She could be in a shed, or even tucked away in the basement of a run-down home anywhere on Oahu.  Yet, Steve McGarrett knew he could not stand idle.  Returning to his office, he checked the time.  It would be impossible to start any paperwork on a carte-blanche search warrant at this time of night: ten to twelve. Another eight hours before he could get anything moving.  He was concerned for Danny.  Apart from what Dan Williams had already called in, McGarrett wondered what the investigating team had discovered.  In the same breath, he contemplated how long it would be before his partner returned to the office.  Steve comforted himself in that he had some relatively good news to proffer.

 

                Wandering to the top of the stairs, he started down. Fred looked up expectantly at the sound of his footfalls.  McGarrett paused on the landing halfway down and leaned against the railing.

 

                "Fred," he tendered casually, "maybe you can help me with something."

 

                "Sure, Mister McGarrett," responded the guard.  "You name it."

 

                "What sort of square isn't a square?"

 

                Fred squinted, then grinned broadly.  "Say, that's easy.   My kid just took that in Math.  A parallelogram has four sides, but they're kind of squished sideways so the square leans."

 

                "A lien."  McGarrett pushed himself upright, unaware of the coffee his sudden movement had slopped onto the woodwork.  "Thanks, Fred."

 

                "Anytime, sir."

 

                McGarrett headed back up the stairs determined to call HPD immediately.  By the time he had the carte blanche search warrant in the works in the morning, he would also have every available squad car and foot patrol out inspecting all known derelict buildings under lien.

 

 

 

CHAPTER XVI

 

 

                Despite her desire to escape immediately, Charlene forced herself to take things slowly, one step at a time.  Inch by agonising inch she worked the eyelet loose.  Several times the rope slipped off the rounded surface and she was forced to halt and rewrap it.  Three times, she paused to try working it loose with her bare hands.  Each time she encountered defeat and returned to applying leverage.  Twice she rested, even though panic was a lash laid across her nerves.

 

                After her second breather, upon fumbling down the invisible length of the metal thread, she discovered more than six inches had been worked out of the wall.  Her discovery heartened her.  She ignored the muted street noises outside.  Her captor had taken care to place her at the rear of the building, well away from any sensitive ears. And it was a sure bet there was substantial dead air space between her location and the front of the building to muffle any shouts she might otherwise have attempted even if she had not been gagged.

 

                Wood tore.  Ragged slivers spattered her hands.  The eyelet dropped from the wall with a dull thud, barely missing her bare toes.  Wood splinters showered her feet.  Charlene sank to her knees, breathing heavily, head bowed.  Slowly strength returned.  As energy seeped back into her chilled body, she knew she had to continue her bid for freedom.  The last thing she wanted was to risk the killer's return.

 

                On her feet once more she turned carefully around and around, feeding the length of rope about her waist until the eyelet was at thigh level.  She tucked the pointed end through the loops at her waist, along her right side.  The eye of the huge screw rested immediately beneath her armpit, but did not unduly impede her movements.  Then, concerned by what other pitfalls she might encounter, she slid her feet across the floor.  She inched along the wall to her left in the direction of the door she had heard her captor use.  There was no knob on the inside.

 

                Thwarted, Charlene attempted to break the panel down by slamming her shoulder against it several times.  She finally accepted defeat only after she had succeeded in bruising her arm.  Once more she moved on.  Her toes encountered and brushed aside various large nails, screws and bits of wood.  Something suddenly clattered over an invisible precipice.  Charlene froze.  Frightened, she inched a foot cautiously forward until she discovered where the floor disappeared.  She got down on her hands and knees to trace the extent of the break.  After following it for approximately half her body length it became evident she was in serious trouble.  Nothing lay beyond.  The floor ended six feet from the wall to which she had been leashed.  Shoulders slumping, she gave in and wept for several minutes.

 

                Anger returned.  Rage spurred her on.  She worked her way along the break on all fours until her knuckles rapped against something loose.  As the new item slipped, she lunged for it blindly, instinctively catching it before it escaped.

 

                'A ladder!  That bastard.  The door was a ruse.'

 

                Heart pounding with excitement, Charlene righted it.  She wriggled it experimentally to settle the base, then sat considering her alternatives.  It required more courage than she thought she possessed to ease out and around in that awful nothingness of her imposed blindness.  But the killer had unwittingly down her a favour.  In removing her shoes and socks, he had given her additional tactile sensations and gripping advantage.

 

                The ladder trembled but remained upright.  By the time she reached a solid flat surface again, however, Charlene's legs were shaking with reaction.  She leaned against the ladder, face pressed to the rungs, until she felt sufficiently competent to continue her exploration.

 

                The discovery of the extent of demolition that the building had undergone filled her with trepidation.  She was acutely conscious that there would be all forms of unseen obstacles.  Bits of wood and wire, and bent nails littered the floor underfoot.  She slithered through a nauseating, cool layer of dust until she had formed a mental image of her new location.  Once again she stood on a platform surrounded by three walls.

 

                Grasping the ladder, Charlene tugged it free.  The top swung around.  Over-balanced, the weight flipped it.  She lost her grasp as it tilted heavily.  Before it could drag her over the edge, Charlene released it.  She listened as it rattled off support beams beneath her and disappeared into the unknown.  Her ears rang with its clattering as it skittered and banged its way out of reach.  Trapped, she sat down to examine her predicament.

 

                'That was just great, Charley,' she mentally berated herself.  'You couldn't have done better if you had planned it.'

 

                There were two alternatives left.  She could sit and wait for someone to discover her location; probably the killer or whoever found her body after she starved to death.  Or she could attempt to discover how far the ground lay beneath her present location.  Feeling around the floor, she found several large screws.  Thoughts on idle she tossed one over the lip of the drop.   There was a sharp 'ping' as it bounced off a rock.  Charlene stiffened.

 

                'That didn't sound all that deep.'  She tried another toss.  The time factor's definitely short.  But is it short enough?'

 

                One of her mother's old axioms surfaced.  'Nothing ventured, nothing gained, dear.'

 

                Pulse racing, Charlene slipped slowly forward until her legs hung over the drop.  She halted.  Lay there, envisioning all sorts of things that might well happen next.  There was always the chance she would be killed outright, or worse.  Be so seriously injured by this course of action that she would fail to escape, regardless.  The police might find her if she waited long enough.

 

                'And Santa comes down the chimney every Christmas,' she taunted herself.

 

                She rotated herself onto her stomach and inched backwards until the wood bit into her thighs.  There she paused again, struggling to work up her courage.  Time went against her.  The drag of her lower torso pulled her inexorably back and down.  Losing her tenuous grip, she slithered towards the drop.  Despite herself, Charlene grabbed wildly at the floorboards.  Several large splinters dug into the palms and fingers of her hands.  With an involuntary, muffled yelp, she released her hold and dropped.  The bottom came up swiftly.  Her feet connected with the ground without warning.  Her knees were driven up, one slamming into the underside of her left arm.  The other glanced off her chin.  Stunned, she toppled flat.  As her head bounced off a rock, Charlene's brain exploded in a flare burst.

 

* * *

 

                Rod Learner stepped from the Little Saigon bar and checked out the street.  Half a block away three hookers stood on the corner, plying their age-old trade.  One was part oriental and appeared almost too young to be working the streets.  Rod knew from experience that appearances were deceiving.  He sauntered along to speak to them, not because he wanted to get laid, but because he knew them.  And he just wanted to chat up the girls.  As he reached them, a movement in the alley caught his attention.

 

                Emerging from the darkness was a strange apparition.  A sack concealed the person's features, but torn clothing left little to the imagination.  A large mooring rope was wound around her waist and a huge industrial eyelet of the variety used in warehouses to secure large items to walls and ceilings, was thrust through the wraps of hemp.  Bound, lacerated hands left bloody smears along the sooty bricks as the woman patted blindly toward the open.  His intense interest and blank expression drew the hookers' attention.  Their laughter died.

                "Holy shit!  Will you look at that," gasped the blond.

 

                Hesitant, the brunette moved forward.  Hey, girl.  What happened to you?"

 

                At the sound of their voices, the blindfolded woman halted.  Her shoulders started to shake.  Tremors rapidly spread until her entire body was shuddering.  Like a sail with the wind taken out of it, she collapsed in a heap not two feet from Rod and the hookers.  He darted forward.

 

                "Hey.  Are you alright?" he asked, and bent over her.  "What happened?"

 

                The instant his hands touched her bare shoulder, the woman lashed out.  Feet and hands flailing, she wriggled frantically away from him until her back collided with the bar's exterior wall.

 

                "Whoa." The oriental hooker exclaimed, "It's okay.  No one's gonna hurt you."

 

                "Easy, honey," soothed the blond.  She and her companions squatted beside the bound woman.  "We're just trying to help.  Rod's okay.  You can trust him."

 

                Huge shudders racked the woman.  Rod eased back to her side.  He examined the ropes around her wrists then studied the fastening on the sack over her head.

 

                "What's going on here?"

 

                The bouncer had emerged from the bar.  Seeing the woman on the ground, he gaped.  Rod waved a hand urgently.  "See if someone inside's got a sharp knife and a large set of wire cutters.  If not, a hacksaw will probably work."

 

                "Right!"

 

                "I'll get something to wash those cuts," said the brunette.  She rose and disappeared into Little Saigon.

 

                Rod returned his attention to the woman.  "Easy, now, miss.  Everything's going to be okay."

 

                "Sure, honey."  The blond hooker put an arm around the unidentified woman and gently hugged her.  "We're gonna get you loose.  Who did this to you, anyway?  Your john?"

 

                The tremors were gradually fading.  The woman sat in a stiff huddle, her head resting against the hooker's breasts. Rod suspected the trauma of her experience had completely numbed her.  She was running on nerve alone, now.   He studied her clothing while they waited.  Looking at the hookers grouped around him, he shook his head.

 

                "She's no hooker."

 

                "Yeah," concurred the oriental girl, "Her clothes are all wrong.  She's upper establishment."

 

                The brunette returned with a basin of warm soapy water.  "This is gonna hurt a little, honey, but those hands need tending.  You got some nasty splinters in them."

 

                "Who would want to hurt someone like this," the blond wanted to know.

 

                "Guess we'll find out when we're freed her," commented Rod sourly.

 

                The bouncer returned with a razor sharp knife.  With him was a patron who was a truck driver by trade.  The newcomer had both wire cutters and a small hacksaw.  He stared in astonishment at the woman.

 

                "Holy Mother of God!"

 

                "Gimme that," exploded Rod, angry that the situation was rapidly becoming a circus, "and make sure we don't get any more spectators."

 

                Uneasy, the trucker nodded and moved off to keep an eye on the bar door.  Wire cutters in hand, Rod carefully inserted one jaw beneath the wire at the seam.  One of the hookers drew the fabric away from flesh.  Rod eased the cutters into place.  The woman produced a muffled gasp of fear as cold metal touched her.

 

                "It's okay," said the blond hooker.  "Rod's gonna cut the wire so we can take this bag off your head.  Relax.  Don't move.  We don't want to hurt you."

 

                The wire snapped cleanly.  Rod yanked the bag away.  Revealed, the woman's face was smeared with mud.  Her flesh was pasty, head questing her imposed blind state due to gauze pads taped over her eyes.  He wondered how much longer she would have been able to hold out before cracking.  The oriental hooker carefully peeled away the tape holding the gauze pads over her eyes.  The blond failed in her efforts to tug the gag free.  Rod used the knife to cut it off.

 

                As light struck her eyes, the woman winced.  Ever so slowly she eased her eyelids open.  Rod gazed down into sea-grey pools.  They stared back at him, the terror in their depths jolting him as they reminded him of Vietnam.  He had returned from Nam hoping never again to see anyone pushed to that degree of fear and rage.  Yet here it was, right in front of him, in downtown Honolulu.

 

                "Relax," he said quietly, "I'm gonna get these ropes off you."

 

                She watched his every move like a hawk.  As the ropes fell away, her hands began to shake.  The hookers helped her to stand.  Rod and truck driver removed the rope from her waist.  As the eyelet clanked to the pavement, the woman wavered.  Her relief was evident.

 

                "Throw those damn things away," ordered the infuriated bouncer.

 

                The trucker picked up everything, handling them with revulsion curiously out of place with the red light district where almost everything could be had for a price.  There were hookers who catered to bondage.  But women of this one's class should never, in their estimates, be subjected to that form of treatment.  All three men felt as though something exceedingly slimy and noxious had crawled through their midst.

 

                "No!"  The woman's hoarse voice jolted them.  She held out a hand to halt them.  "Don't throw them away."

 

                "You want to keep 'em?"  The trucker stared at her.  He was no less astonished than the hookers and Rod.  Each wondered if they had severely misjudged this woman.

 

                "Five-O," she stammered, clutching at Rod's front.  "Please take me to Five-O."

 

                "Lady," Rod gripped her wrists, attempting to free himself and push her away, "you gotta be kiddin'.  McGarrett's been on my ass ever since I moved here.  You want me to waltz into his office with you lookin' like this?  What's he gonna think?"

 

                "Please, you must," she whispered hoarsely.  And again, "Please."

 

                All three hookers glared at Rod.  The brunette moved between him and the streetlight.  "What's wrong with you?  You aren't responsible for this.  McGarrett's a righteous cop.  Everyone knows that.  She needs to see him, so take her."

 

                Trapped Rod ground his teeth.  The hookers were right. This woman needed help and had specifically asked for McGarrett.  The head of Five-O was probably the most discerning cop Rod had ever run afoul of.  Certainly he would know Rod was innocent of any foul dealings with relation to this woman.  By involving himself in releasing her, Rod realised he had committed himself to finishing the job.  Nor, in what good conscience he still possessed, could he simply call a cop and abandon the woman to HPD's mercies.

 

                "All right," he half-snarled, directing himself to the trucker, "Throw those things in the back of my car, Chuck.  And someone find a blanket.  She's going into shock."

 

                The truck driver tossed the ropes and bag onto the rear seat of Rod's car as instructed, while the bouncer disappeared back inside.  When he returned, the woman's teeth were chattering with the cold and reaction.  Rod glanced quickly around at his companions.  They were who and what they were.  Treading the fine line between right and wrong as the law defined it.  But in each of them there was a large enough shred of decency and humanity that they cared.  Even he, whose very survival depended upon fencing stolen goods, could not accept what this woman had been subjected to.  Wrapping her in the blanket, Rod put her in the passenger seat.  The hookers traipsed up to the door.

 

                "You'll be okay, honey," said the blond.  She rested a comforting hand on the blanket-covered shoulder.

 

                With incredible fortitude, the woman managed to produce a wan smile.  "Thank you," she whispered back.

                  

CHAPTER XVII

 

                 Running both hands through his hair, McGarrett wearily eased back in his chair in an effort to loosen stiff back muscles.  He had set the wheels in motion, doing everything to locate Charlene.  Now all they could do was wait.  He rotated his shoulders and sipped his coffee.  It was cold and tasted terrible.  Somewhere outside a car with a rough running engine drew up.  Steve listened with half an ear.  With everything that had happened in the previous six hours, the arrival of any vehicle or person could well herald additional information.  Whoever it was banged on the downstairs door.  McGarrett heard the security guard cross the hall to answer it.  Fred said something.  A sharp voice snapped a reply.  Fred made another comment.  Strangely uneasy, Steve McGarrett rose.

 

                "Hey," blurted Fred loudly, "You can't come in here."

 

                "I don't give a damn what you think," shouted back an angry voice.  "Hey, McGarrett.  I know you're up there.  I need to talk to you."

 

                "Sir," objected Fred more forcefully, "you can't come barging in here at this hour---"

 

                "McGarrett," shouted the imperious voice.  "It's Rod Learner."

 

                Steve was already moving.  He reached the top of the stairs to discover Fred attempting to prevent the intruder from pushing his way into the building.  Rod Learner had managed to get his head and shoulders inside.  He glared up the stairs.

 

                "Tell this jerk to let us in, McGarrett."

 

                "Us?"  Now McGarrett was thoroughly intrigued.  Knowing Learner, he was shrewd enough to realize it was something of import that had brought the fence to the Palace at midnight.  He came quickly down the flight, signalling the guard to step back.  "What's up, Rod?"

 

                "I've got a woman out here, McGarrett," explained Rod, stepping inside, "She's in pretty rough shape.  She asked me to bring her here."

 

                As Rod reached behind him to draw his companion inside, McGarrett halted on the landing.  The security guard stared in astonishment.  McGarrett felt his breath leave him.

 

                "Charley!"

 

                Learner stared nervously at the level of familiarity in McGarrett's voice.  "You know her?"

 

                Charlene's head tilted up.  "Steve."

 

                His name was barely audible.  She drew from Learner's grasp and tottered unsteadily across the floor.  McGarrett fairly leapt down the intervening steps just as Charlene sank onto the third thread.  He squatted beside her.

 

                "Charley!"

 

                McGarrett tipped her head from side to side to better examine it.  Streaks of mud and the beginnings of bruising marred her features.  She was dishevelled, her hair matted with sweat and filth.  About her shoulders she clutched an old army blanket.  Several shudders shook her.  Steve rested a piercing look on Rod.

 

                "Where did you find her?"

 

                "I didn't do nothin', McGarrett.  She came staggering out of the alley near Little Saigon wearin' these."  Defensive, Rod held out the things he had taken from the back seat of his car.  His face was twisted with distaste.

 

                "Fred," McGarrett ordered sharply, "take those, would you?"

 

                The security guard moved forward.  Rod handed the items over.

 The minute Fred relieved him of the things, the fence wiped his hands down his jeans to rid himself of the feeling they left imprinted in his mind.  The rear door of the Palace clicked loudly.  Footsteps rang on the wood floors.

 

                Instinct told McGarrett who was on their way in and he rose to his feet, prepared to interpose himself between the intruder and Charlene.  Danny appeared.  He looked pale and drawn, and spoke before he was entirely aware of the scene at the foot of the stairwell.

 

                "Steve, we couldn't find anything new.  Che's taking an impression of---" Danny froze.  His eyes widened appreciably with disbelief and joy.  All weariness vanished.  "Charley!"

 

                Before his superior could stop him, he was past Steve McGarrett.  Charlene flung herself up into his arms.  The blanket fell from her shoulders, revealing the condition of her clothing.

 

                "Charley."  Danny cradled her close, rocking her back and forth, ignoring her state of her clothing and those present.  "Charley."

 

                "Guess I'll be goin'," muttered Rod apprehensively.

 

                He was exceedingly uncomfortable with the knowledge that this was Williams' girl.  Whoever had kidnapped and tormented her had made a serious error in judgement, and they had better be on their way off the Island.  If Five-O caught up with them, life would be hell.  For his part, Rod wanted out.  McGarrett stopped him.

 

                "Rod, I want you to take me back to where you found her."

 

                Learner stared.  "What for, McGarrett?  I already told you everything."

 

                "I want to see where you found her for myself," said McGarrett coldly, "and talk to any other witnesses."

 

                "Right," snorted Learner, "A bunch of hookers and some drunks.  Try again, McGarrett."

 

                Steve McGarrett loomed over Learner.  The small-time crook felt his breath catch in his throat as he tried to meet McGarrett's gaze.  The light in those cold grey eyes was sufficient to put a lid on any further objections.

 

                "Okay," he acquiesced, "Anything you say, McGarrett."

 

                "Wait here."  Steve turned to Danny.  "Take her to the hospital, Danno.  Get her checked out.  When she's able to talk, I want a full statement."

 

                "Sure, Steve."

 

                Danny did not look up.  Charlene stood with her face buried in his shoulder.  Every so often her body jerked with a violent shudder.  McGarrett's expression was remorseless.

 

                "Call HPD and tell them she's been found.  They can call off the hunt."

                Danny nodded.  McGarrett gestured to Rod Learner.  They left the Palace.  Charlene took a slow, deep, shuddering breath then another.  The guard watched them uncomfortably.  After a few minutes, he tucked the ropes and things that he had been given into one of his desk drawers for safe keeping until McGarrett requested them.

 

                "Danny," managed Charlene softly, almost apologetic.

 

                "What, Charley?"

 

                "I've got to use the washroom."

 

                Sliding his arms beneath her legs, Danny picked her up.  Fred watched as they disappeared up the stairs to the second floor.  He shook his head and seated himself at his duty desk, one eye on front door.

 

                Outside the door to the Ladies' Room, Danny set Charlene on her feet and stared down at her.  "Will you be okay?"

 

                With a hesitant nod she slid away from him into the cubical.  He remained just outside, listening.  There was a lengthy silence.  A toilet flushed.  Seconds later, he heard Charlene being violently ill.   Not waiting to be summoned he thrust open the door and hurried in.

 

                "Charley?"

 

                She was bent over the toilet, dry retches heaving through her body.  Danny grabbed a handful of paper towel and wet it.  As he came to her side to wipe her face, she started to sob.

 

                "It's okay, Charley.  Easy."

 

                When the spasms passed, he carried her into Steve's office and gently seated her on the couch.  The mechanical movements were fading, although her arms still reacted with little energy to his presence.  Danny left her to pour a cup of coffee.  He filled the cup only half way, adding two heaping teaspoons of sugar to counter-act the shock.  Her hands shook too much to successfully grip the mug, so he held it to her lips.  She sipped experimentally twice.  Finally, she took it from him.  He pushed the hair back off her pale face.

 

                "Are you okay, now?" he asked again, wishing he could find something more to say.  She nodded.  "Charley," Danny licked his lips nervously before continuing, "did he assault you?"

 

                She shook her head.  "No.  He just---touched me."

 

                She started shaking again.  Danny rubbed her shoulders in an effort to ease the tremors.  "Easy.  You're safe, now."

 

                "I was an idiot!"  She exploded so suddenly that her dissembling took him completely by surprise.  "If I had used half my brain I'd have stuck to the main road."

 

                "You're alive and free," he countered fiercely, "If it hadn't been at that time, it would have been at another.  Did you see his face at all?"

 

                "I---" Charlene shook her head.  "I only remember his eyes, Danny.  And---his touch.  He felt---greasy."

 

                "All right.  Take your time.  Drink the coffee.  We'll talk after the hospital's checked you out."

 

                "I want to talk about it now," she insisted.

 

                Dumbfounded, Danny stared at her.  It never failed.  At the moment when he thought he knew how to handle the situation they were in, Charlene would do an abrupt about-face and yank the rug out from under him.  She was enough her mother's daughter to know that time faded certain memories.  The longer they waited for her to tell her story, the more likely it was she would forget important details.  With a resigned sigh he left her to locate the office tape recorder.

 

                While Charlene talked, Danny paced the office.  From time to time he asked a question, prompting her.  His actions were slow and controlled, belying the fury roiling beneath the surface.  He wandered to the windows then into the outer office.  Charlene watched him over the rim of her mug, acutely aware of his rage.  At length, she ran down.  Her coffee was finished.

 

                "This is terrible stuff," she remarked as Danny returned to her side.

 

                "Always is this time of night," he told her.

 

                Charlene slid the mug onto the corner of McGarrett's desk, and in so doing drew Danny's eyes to two Polaroid snapshots lying there.  His heart seemed to skip a beat.  His jaw set in a hard line.  Briefly his hand hovered above the photos, not quite touching them as he stared at their contents.  The images burned into his brain.  Charlene heard his teeth grit.  A deadly light flickered in his eyes as black rage flashed across his features.  Danny saw red.  As quickly as the emotion appeared, he had it under control again.

 

                "Danny?"

 

                Charlene sought to divert his attention, unaware what it was that had caused the change in him.  Whatever it was, she wanted him to forget it.  She wanted them both to be able to forget what had happened to her in the past twenty-four hours.  He looked back up at her.

 

                "This is my fault, Charley---what happened to you.  If we hadn't been seeing one another, you'd be all right.  You'd have been better off never having met me."

 

                "Don't ever say that, Danny.  Never."  She stood and put her arms around his waist, the blanket falling to the floor, forgotten.  "Think.  If I hadn't met you, Jonny and I would probably be dead today.  Or drug addicts."

 

                Doubt looked back at him when she tipped her head to meet his gaze.  She kissed him tenderly.  Danny hugged her fiercely.  Despite everything she had been subjected to, Charlene could still thrust it aside in her concern for his welfare.  He felt the tiny tremors still rippling through her.

 

                "Come on," he ordered.  "I promise Steve I'd get you to the hospital."

 

 

 

CHAPTER XVIII

 

 

19 November 1977

 

                Jonny stuck his head around Charlene's bedroom door.  Despite the intensity of the daylight working its way into the room around the drapes, his sister still slept.  Jonny was far from surprised.  When Danny had brought her home from the hospital it had been two in the morning.  With Jonny supervising, Danny made Charlene undress down to her underwear and gave her a strip wash.  In light of the strength of the injection the doctor had given her, Charlene had been far too groggy to be sufficiently cognisant to help.  Upon seeing the extent of the bruises and cuts about Charlene's body, Danny had chased Jonny from the room and shut the door.  The pile of clothing on the chair this morning included her nightdress.  Jonny was acutely and wickedly aware that his sister was wearing only her panties beneath the sheets, if that.

 

                Grinning at the possibilities which Danny had unintentionally laid open to him, Jonny began backing from the room.  He had been ordered to call the store and advise them that Charlene would not be in to work.  This he had already done.  He was also under strict instructions not to disturb his sister under pain of dire repercussions.  Danny had been adamant.  Charlene was to remain home and rest, and he would be over later to check on her.  Before Jonny could close the door, the bedclothes rustled.  He paused.  His sister rolled onto her back and stared at him.  If he had not known better, he would have believed from her bloodshot eyes that she had not slept a wink.

 

                "Tea?" he quietly tendered.  Wordless, Charlene nodded slowly.  "Danny's coming over to see you later today."

 

                "I've got to get to work," she mumbled somewhat incoherently, still fuzzy from the tranquilliser.  "What time is it?"

"Oh, no," Jonny told her firmly.  "Danny said the doctor ordered you to stay home today.  I've already called the store and told them you won't be in."

 

                "You what!"  Charlene sat bolt upright in bed.  The dregs of the drug vanished.  As the cold air hit bare flesh, she grabbed the covers and pulled them up to her chin.  "What else did you say?"

 

                "Just that you were sick and the doc gave orders you were to stay home and rest," replied Jonny, all innocence.

 

                He left the room and went into the kitchen to pour her some tea.  Behind him, he heard her crawl from bed.  He was amused by her embarrassment, while at the same time appreciating her discomfiture.  He had never known his sister to sleep in the buff.

 

                Charlene emerged, clad in housecoat and slippers.  Her movements were slow and calculated.  There was an exceedingly wary light in her eyes that dared Jonny to be flippant.  He took a tight rein on his desire to achieve his first 'one-up'.

 

                "Who put me to bed?" she wanted to know.

 

                Jonny turned, holding out her cup.  He could no longer resist the temptation.  "Guess."

 

                Charlene cautiously accepted her cup.  "Jonny, I'm in no mood for guessing games.  Now, who---" Sight of the gleam in his eyes made her jaw dropped.  Wide-eyed, she shook her head at him.  "No, you didn't let---"

 

                Hands spread defensively, Jonny shrugged.  "Hey, Charley, I just did as the man ordered.  He wouldn't even let me help, so you can leave me out of this."

 

                "What about my night dress?" she demanded fiercely.

 

                "He still had to strip you to put it on," countered her brother mischievously.  "You were pretty dirty, you know, and about as cooperative as an over-cooked string of spaghetti."

 

                When Jonny pantomimed a rag doll, Charlene turned beat red and beat a hasty retreat.  He watched the bedroom door close behind her.  For the first time in his life, Jonny realised he had out-manoeuvred his sister.  And not over something he considered particularly distressing.  The sensation was pleasing.  He grinned and reached for the teapot to help himself.  The doorbell rang.

 

                "Coming," he called.

 

* * *

 

                Willy listened intently to the sound of feet moving back and forth on the yacht deck.  Scrunched beneath the small boat that was stored along the starboard bow section, he could see nothing.  The rush of wind and wave made it difficult to make out what was being said, but eventually he caught the inference that the two-man crew had finally reached a secluded cove and were about to drop anchor, preparatory to having late breakfast.

 

                Wilkes congratulated himself on having set back the Fredericks' departure time from the marina long enough to stow away after kidnapping Williams' girlfriend.  The delay had been accomplished by ensnaring the prop shaft with a combination of fishing line and weed.   This had taken several hours to free, and another three hours to check everything was once more in running order.  Consequently, dusk had been little more than half an hour away by the time everything was once more put to right.

 

                Due to the lateness of their departure, both husband and wife had elected to wait until early Saturday morning to set sail, rather than leave late Friday afternoon as previously planned.  It had been a simple matter for Willy to slip on board after seeing his most recent note delivered to Five-O.  He smiled smugly as the anchor chain rattled through the housing and splashed over-board.

 

                As soon as their voices passed out of earshot, Willy reached carefully beneath the small boat's gunwale and tilted it up.  He slid out into the open.  The sound of the couple's voices carried to him clearly, now.  He heard the banging of a pot.  Drawing the handgun from his waistband, Wilkes trod softly down the deck and inched up to the cabin entrance.

 

                Missus Fredericks asked, "Tomatoes, dear?"

 

                "That would be nice," replied her husband.  Willy's shadow blocked the sunlight, causing them both to glance up.  Harry stiffened and frowned.  "Willy!  What the---"

 

                "Shut up, Harry," Wilkes ordered.

 

                He swung down into the cabin and gestured with his weapon, forcing them back against the outside wall.  Missus Fredericks stared at him coolly.  The elderly woman was fearless with the bravery of someone who had lived a full life.  Her fortitude dashed some of Willy's smugness.

 

                Authority from his service years edging his words, Harry demanded, "What do you want, Willy?"

 

                "I have what I need," Wilkes replied levelly.  "And your little ship's going to help me wrap up my job and escape."

 

                "Job?"  The wife sated at him.  "What are you?  A drug runner?"

                "Lady," laughed Wilkes, "I ain't nothin' so simple."  He met Harry's gaze fiercely.  "I'm plannin' to kill your pal, McGarrett, Harry.  What do you think about that?"

 

                "Kill Steve?"  Harry stiffened.  "Why would you want to kill Steve McGarrett?"

 

                "He owes me, man!"  Willy snarled back.  "And I ain't got no time to fool around."

 

                Before Harry could protest or move Wilkes fired.  A single round took Harrison Fredericks the Third between the eyes, driving him back against the far wall and spattering the wall with crimson.  His wife stared in horror as her husband's body collapsed in a welter of blood.

 

                "What about you, missus?"  Willy waved his weapon.  "You prepared to behave nice?"

 

                "You bastard," she exploded.  She took a step forward. Willy sighed regretfully and pulled the trigger.  Her movements spoiled his aim.  A sharp cry emerged from her lips as his first bullet hit her high in the left shoulder. She staggered, knees bent with the shock and pain.  As she looked up at him in disbelief, Willy fired again.  This time he aimed true.

 

                Willy moved to examine the bodies.  There was money in Harry's bloodstained hip pocket.  Willy helped himself.  He rolled Missus Fredericks onto her back to examine her.  There was nothing but her jewellery.  This he left.  Jewellery was too easy to trace.  So were credit cards.  The kettle whistled behind him.  Standing, he removed it from the stove and set it aside.  Then he dug beneath the counters until he found several large green garbage bags into which he stuffed the bodies.  He dragged them up on deck one at a time, laying them out alongside the gate in the railing.  Moving forward, he rummaged through the small lockers.  There were two spare sea anchors.  Lifting one out, he took it back and lashed the anchor line around the two bodies.  Several quick stabs of his pocket knife punctured the bags to prevent air pockets.  Then he tipped the bodies into the sea.  The bags bobbed on the surface for a minute, air bubbles escaping in rapid pops.  Between one wave crest and the next, they were gone.

 

                Willy raised anchor and tacked out of the cove, heading back towards the north shore of Oahu.  He still had one more person to take care of before seeing to Williams.  Total elapse time to accomplish the killings and the disposal of the bodies had been twenty minutes.  Wilkes was excessively pleased with himself.

 

* * *

 

                With an expansive yawn, Steve stretched.  He and the lab boys had gone over the building where Charlene had been held captive, working until five in the morning for clues.  There were no prints to be found, apart from Charlene's.  Fresh paint, as he has suspected, indicated their man had planned everything well in advance.  After studying Charlene's escape route, McGarrett's respect for her fortitude rose.  To have managed the feat, blind and bound, down both levels was nothing short of a miracle.  Having temporarily lost his own sight in the past, he appreciated the courage the task had entailed.  He had paused at the lip of the fifteen-foot pit into which the ladder had tumbled.  There had been a foul odour wafting up from below, as though something long dead resided in the depths.

 

                With considerable thought to their killer's developing profile, McGarrett ordered one of the officers on detail to investigate.  Prior to leaving, he had turned to stare up at the top floor again.  At any stage in her bid for freedom, Charlene could easily have been killed, or severely injured.  That knowledge angered McGarrett.

 

                His questioning of the hookers and bouncer at the bar had done little to broaden the scope of the picture Rod had painted for him.  Just as he had been about to leave for his office, one of the officers had informed him of the discovery of a days' old corpse, half-buried in the basement well.  Steve had expected the report.  Someone had been in the wrong place at the wrong time.

 

                Back at the office, he had discovered the tap recorder on his desk.  Curious, he had played it back.  Charlene's taped report, in conjunction with the photos, left nothing to the imagination.  She had been terrorised, humiliated and infuriated by her ordeal.  He pushed the tape machine aside and, in so doing, revealed the photos.  McGarrett shuffled the Polaroid's.  Leaving them on his desk had been a serious error.  He was only too certain his partner had seen them.  The second cup of coffee resting on the desk when he had walked in half an hour ago was proof that both Danny and Charlene had been there.

 

                "Steve?"

 

                As though his ruminations had summoned him, Danny entered the office.  McGarrett set the photos aside.

 

                "How is she, Danno?"

 

                "She's a survivor, Steve."

 

                McGarrett's jaw settled into its familiar granite line.  "That's not what I asked."

 

                Danny slipped wearily onto one of the chairs.  "She's bruised, scraped, shaken up, frightened, and mad clear through.  But she wasn't sexually assaulted."

 

                The unspoken inference hung heavily in the air between them.  Danny's eyes slid away from his superior's.  This was a major fear which, thankfully had failed to materialise.  Their man was a killer, but not a rapist.  McGarrett found himself puzzled by the apparent incongruity.

 

                "What else did she tell you?"

 

                "She never got a clear look at the kidnapper before he chloroformed her.  She does remember his eyes and his voice, though."

 

                McGarrett caught on that.  One finger tapped against the two files lying beneath the photos on his desktop.  "Eyes," he mused thoughtfully, "Eyes."

 

                Danny stared at him.  "Have you got something?"

 

                "Maybe.  If I can just---" The elusive tail of the memory evaded his grasp.  McGarrett emitted an oath.  "Damn! Go on.  What else?"

 

                "He told her he was going to leave her there."  Danny's voice hardened at the implication.  Death by starvation was slow.  "He scared her badly, Steve."

 

                Recalling the interior of the building, McGarrett nodded.  "Yeah.  He would have.  That's how he gets his kicks."  He picked up the photos and slid them back into their envelope.  "I shouldn't have left these out last night."

 

                Danny shook his head.  "Charley was pretty descriptive, Steve.  All those did was put it in focus."

 

                "In a manner of speaking."  McGarrett rested his elbows on the desk and studied his partner.  "You're right, though."

 

                "You've listened to the recording?"

 

                Steve nodded.  "She's very astute."

 

                "I wouldn't have her any other way," said Danny.  "I'm going over there this afternoon to check on her.  She may remember something more."

 

                "I want you to come over to the lab with me, Danno."  McGarrett got to his feet.  "I know it's going to be painful, but I want your opinion on the stuff Rod found on Charley."

 

                Danny rose slowly.  He was reluctant to accompany his boss, but his position demanded it.  The short walk and cool air helped blow away a lot of his anger.  Still, he kept seeing Charlene's battered body lying in bed as he had covered her up.  Che Fong was waiting for them when they arrived at the lab.  He looked as worn out as they were.

 

                "Hi, Steve.  Danny."

 

                "What have we got, Che?"  Steve got right down to business.

 

                "Tire marks from a light station wagon.  Maybe your Valiant."

 

                Danny's attention centred abruptly.  "The one that followed me earlier this week?"

 

                "Could be."  Che went to the table on which were spread ropes, hood and eyelet brought in that morning.  Danny went stiff.  His face was wholly devoid of emotion.

 

                "This will interest you, Steve.  These ropes show signs of sea salt and significant wearing.  Could be they were used to moor a boat.  Something fairly large, probably a twenty or thirty foot sloop."

 

                "That would explain the eyelet, too," commented Danny with difficulty.

 

                "Right.  Salt corrosion on the threads indicates it was stored near the ocean for some time.  And these staples," Che pointed to the figure-eight metal bands securing the ends.  "These are common in construction yards and marinas."

 

                McGarrett nodded knowingly.  "So our boy's working the dockyards."

 

                "Or the marinas," added Danny.

 

                "Good, Danno."  Steve held up a finger at that thought.  "I want you to take Ben and Duke out, and follow up on this."

 

                "What about Charley?"

 

                "See her this afternoon, by all means.  Make sure she's okay.  And see if she can recall anything else about this guy.  Voice, height---" Steve fell silent for a moment.  "If he touched her, maybe she can remember something about his hands.  Were they rough?  How strong?  Anything."

 

                "Right."  Danny stared down at the ropes once more.  His eyes narrowed when he saw the hood.  He forced himself to pick it up and examine it more closely.

 

                "What sort of fabric is this, Che?"  McGarrett wanted to know.  Something in his voice caused Danny to glance at him.  He suspected his boss already knew the answer.

 

                "Standard sailcloth, Steve."  Che took the hood from Danny's hands and turned it over.  "Tough, durable.  Used to come in white only.  Now the firms who fashion it cater to the jet set."

 

                McGarrett fingered the material, but did not remove it from Che's hands.  The heavy canvass was sufficiently dark that it cut down a sizeable quantity of light passing through the weave.  Nearby lay two gauze pads with tape still attached, and a knotted strip of cloth.

 

                "He was thorough," remarked Steve bluntly.  "I'll say that much for him."

 

* * *

 

                Charlene tossed and turned.  Danny had come and gone shortly after lunch, returning to the business of attempting to piece together the ever-growing mound of clues that formed the jigsaw puzzle the killer was leaving in the wake of his strikes.  The bruises on Charlene's side were a stiffening mass.  No matter which way she lay she was uncomfortable. Her jaw ached where her knee had struck it.  When she closed her eyes she was assailed by the feeling of claustrophobia that the hood and gauze had inflicted upon her.  She beat down the rising panic and forced herself to relax.  Gradually she slipped into sleep.

 

                Choking down a scream, she woke with a start.  The muffled sound brought her brother dashing into the room.  She flung off the covers and sat on the edge of the bed, heart racing.  The images flitted in a mad kaleidoscope behind her eyelids.

 

                "Geeze, Charley," exclaimed Jonny, wide-eyed, "Are you okay?  What's wrong?"

 

                "Nothing.  Just a nightmare," she panted.  "Go back to bed."

 

                "It's just turned ten.  I was watching TV."  Her brother came to the foot of her bed and stared at her.  "You're sure you're okay?"

 

                "I'm fine, Jonny," she assured him.

 

                Reluctantly Jonny left.  Charlene waited until she heard him turn off the set and disappear into his bedroom.  Standing, she wrapped her housecoat around her and slid her feet into her slippers.  Taking the blanket from her bed, she crossed the kitchen and softly opened the sliding door.

 

                The night was warm.  A clear sky winked a multitude of stars down at her.  Collecting a chaise-longe from the patio shed, Charlene laid out her blanket and sat down.  As she tucked herself in, she was acutely aware of her sensitivity to her surroundings.  Beyond the trees at the foot of the garden the ocean hushed in and out, washing the strand as the tide ebbed.  Branches rustled in the breeze.  Night animals scurried around the garden, and somewhere overhead a bird called plaintively.  A bat flitted by.  Charlene sat, wide awake, watching the night slide past.  Eventually she dozed fitfully.  Awoke repeatedly to find she was drenched with sweat.  Dawn crept in, finding her wide-awake once more, eyes gritty with sleeplessness.

 

 

 

CHAPTER XIX

 

 

21 November 1977

 

                Jonny managed to ignore his sister's nightmares for two days.  Then when it was patently evident his sister was not going to seek help he took matters into his own hands and called Five-O.

 

                The familiar response replied, "Williams.  Five-O."

 

                "Danny, it's Jonny."

 

                "Hi, Jonny."  Danny sounded distracted, and somewhat annoyed at having been diverted from his work.  "How is everything?"

 

                "I'm fine," said Jonny, "But I really think you better come out and talk to Charley."

 

                "What's wrong?"  Danny's voice echoed his concern.

 

                "I don't know.  She won't talk to me about it," Jonny replied truthfully.  His distress was evident.

 

                Danny pushed his work aside. They had covered all the dockyards, and most of the marinas, on Oahu.  But no one had yet confirmed suspicions that one of the two remaining suspects was employed by them.  It was time to take a short breathing space and allow the grey matter time to coordinate its facts.

 

                "All right, Jonny.  Take it easy.  I'll talk to Steve, and drop by this evening," Danny advised him.  "Don't tell Charley I'm coming."

 

                "Okay."  Jonny's voice was expressive.  "Thanks, Danny."

 

                "Any time, Jonny."

 

                As he hung up, Danny saw Ben walk purposefully past his door on the way to their boss' office.  Getting to his feet, Danny followed him.  He paused outside, waiting until Steve signed him on in.  Seconds later, Duke entered also.

 

                "Tell us what you've got, Ben," ordered McGarrett.

 

                "I questioned the owner at Keeia-Kea Marina, Steve.  He confirmed that Wilkes had been working there for the past month.  He failed to show up for work yesterday, though."  Ben's eyes met Danny's briefly.  "We found a bolt of canvass with a large square cut out of it.  And there's a lock missing from their supplies."

 

                "Wilkes."  McGarrett stiffened.  "Eyes.  One of the last cases I worked on as a street cop involved him."

 

                Recalling the incident, Danny nodded.  He had been fairly new to the force at the time and had heard about the case.

 

                "I remember that one.  You caught him red-handed after he pulled off a jewel heist."

 

                "Right.  It was pure dumb luck that I was in the vicinity when it happened," said McGarrett thoughtfully.  "But he swore he'd get even with me for it."

 

                Memories of the trial surfaced.  Danny remembered, "Didn't the witnesses at the store finger him because they remembered his eyes?"

 

                "Yeah.  And Charley said the same thing," McGarrett brought the flat of his palm down on the desktop.  "And Wilkes used to drive a white Valiant station wagon."

 

                "Leo shared a cell with Wilkes last year," observed Duke quietly.

 

                "We've got our man.  Now let's find him," ordered Steve.  He pinned Danny to the spot as Duke and Ben left.  "Anything new on Charley's end?"

 

                "Jonny just called.  He sounded pretty upset.  I told him I'd drop by today and talk to her."

 

                "Okay.  Stick with it, Danno."

 

                "Steve."  Danny moved a step closer to the desk.   "Wasn't Gerald Hollis one of the informants who put the department on to Wilkes when he was hiding out between heists?"

 

                McGarrett flipped open the dossier on his desk and rapidly scanned the information.  His finger halted at a significant line in the trial transcript.

 

                "You're right, Danno.  Hollis fingered him for selling stolen gems."  McGarrett scowled.  Something smelled rotten. "Leave this one with me."

 

* * *

 

                The sun had been down no more than half an hour, but the day was cooling rapidly.  Clouds were moving in, but no storm watch had been posted by the weather service.  Jonny cleared the dishes.  He had never known Charlene to neglect the housework as she was at present.  Danny had not yet arrived, but Jonny expect him momentarily.  His sister sat on the patio.  She was wrapped in a blanket against the evening chill.  From time to time she sipped a mug of tea.  The only attempt Jonny had made at conversation had been met with stony silence.  She was adamant about her desire for solitude.  He greeted the doorbell chime with considerable relief.

 

                "I'll get it," he called.

 

                Charlene made no visible effort to stir.  She even failed to glance over her shoulder.  Jonny hurried to the front door, paused to check the peephole before turning the dead bolt.  Danny stood on the stoop.  He raised a questioning eyebrow as the door opened to reveal Jonny on the other side.  Silently Jonny pointed to the rear of the house.  With a nod Danny stepped past him.  He quickly crossed the living room and kitchen.  As he stepped onto the patio, he silently closed the sliding door behind him.  Sensing his presence, Charlene looked up.

 

                "Hi," he said, forcing the cheerfulness.  "Got another chair?"

 

                Charlene glanced at the shed, not trusting herself to speak.  Danny helped himself and joined her.  She stared down into her mug for several minutes while he watched the play of emotions cross her face in the diffused light from the kitchen.

 

                "Kind of chilly out here tonight," he observed after several minutes.

                "A bit," she murmured.

 

                "How are you holding up," he dared ask.

 

                "I'm okay," she deferred restlessly.

 

                Danny reached out to tilt her head.  He studied her face.  "No, you're not.  What do you call those shadows under your eyes?  They look like caves to me."  Charlene's eyes fell away from his.  "Are you getting any sleep, Charley?"

 

                "A bit," she admitted softly.

 

                "A bit?"  Danny slid off his chair onto the side of hers.  "What sort of answer is that, Charley?"  She refused to respond.  "If it's bothering you this much, disturbing your sleep, see the doctor.  Get some medication.  Talk to someone professional.  You can't go through a traumatic experience like that and not expect to suffer for it."

 

                "I don't need drugs to make me sleep," she retaliated.  "And I don't need to see a shrink, either."

 

                On the heels of that denial, belying her brave show, her lower lip quivered.  Danny resigned himself.  Firmly removing the mug from her grasp, he set it on the ground beside her chair.

 

                "Come here."

 

                He pulled her forward until she rested against him.  With one finger, he gently traced the line of her profile down to her jaw, repeating the act over and over in an effort to soothe away the tension.  He heard her blink rapidly.  Finally, the tears came in profusion.  Her body shook as sobs racked her.  Fists clenched on his jacket lapels, she tugged at them until he was certain they would tear off.  All he could do was wait out the storm.  Gradually the spasms eased.

 

                "Feeling better," he asked at length.

 

                "A bit."  Charlene sniffed.  "Damn," she muttered.

 

                "What's wrong?"

 

                "No Kleenex."  She snuffled, trying hard not to blot her nose against his jacket front.

 

                "Hang on."

 

                Danny went into the kitchen.  When he returned with the tissue, her colour had returned.  "Here."

 

                "Thanks."  The corners of her mouth twitched up.  "I guess I needed that."

                "I still wish you'd see a professional," he said quietly.

 

                Charlene stiffened rebelliously.  "No."

 

                Danny returned to his chair.  "All right, Charley," he acquiesced, "But if this keeps up, I'll take you to see one myself."

 

                "You wouldn't dare."

 

                "Oh, yes, I would.  And you know it."

 

                Charlene considered the vehemence of his statement.  She knew Danny well enough to realize he was being truthful.  If he felt the circumstances warranted it, he would take her to psychiatric counselling to overcome the terror, even if it meant literally dragging her, kicking and screaming, into the doctor's office.  Nor would he be averse to pulling his superior into the matter.  Or feel his forcefulness required an apology afterwards.

 

                "I've got to leave," he said, getting to his feet.  "Call me if you need to talk."

 

                "Okay," she mumbled, looking away.

 

                "Charley," said Danny, only half-believing her.

 

                She looked up.  "I will.  I promise."

 

                Danny paused, obviously considering his next words.  "We think we've found him."

 

                All movement stilled.  For a moment Danny doubted whether or not she had heard him.  Then he caught sight of the frozen look in her eyes.  Her chest was moving in time to short, rapid breaths.

 

                "Is he in custody?"

 

                "No," he admitted, "But we know who he is.  It's only a matter of time, now."

 

                Charlene inhaled deeply to steady her nerves.  Her breath shuddered out of her.  "Does he know I'm free?"

 

                "I honestly don't know, Charley," confessed Danny.  "I doubt it, though.  Steve's managed to keep this out of the papers.  We have the building staked out just in case, but I don't believe he'll return to check on things."

 

                "He said he would," she whispered, half to herself. "Maybe he suspects something."

 

                "Maybe."  Danny conceded the point, not prepared to be evasive.  "Wilkes had a nasty habit of second-guessing the police before he was sent up.  He's not going to be easy to track down."  He glanced at his watch.  "I've got to go, Charley."

 

                "Be careful, Danny," she said fearfully.  "I think he's going after you next."

 

                "I know he is," admitted Danny.  To deny the fact would only serve to alienate Charley.  "He warned us he would."  Charlene bit her lower lip and swallowed her fear. Danny kissed her up-turned forehead.  "I'll be watching my back."

 

                When he stepped into the kitchen, Jonny was watching television.  He looked up expectantly as Danny crossed the room, heading for the front door.

 

                "Well," he asked.

 

                "Call me if it happens again," said Danny quietly.  He cast a look over his shoulder in the direction of the patio. Charlene had not moved.  "It doesn't matter what hour.  Just call me."

 

                "Okay."

 

                Returning to his apartment, Danny attempted to catch some sleep.  There were several areas that he and the other members of the department would be checking in the morning, and he wanted to be well rested.  No sooner had he fallen asleep, however, than his phone rang.

 

                "Williams," he mumbled sleepily into the receiver.

 

                "Danny, it's Jonny.  You gotta come back over.  Charley's been screamin' in her sleep again.  And now she's back out on the patio, wrapped up in a blanket.  She won't come inside."

 

                "On my way."

 

* * *

 

                Jonny hovered in the living room.  When Danny arrived, he found the younger man dressed only in boxer shorts, dancing from one cold bare foot to the other, his arms wrapped around him in a vain effort to keep warm.

 

                "Go to bed," Danny ordered.

 

                Jonny reluctantly complied.  But Danny did not wait to see if Jonny would disappear into his room.  He walked purposefully out onto the patio.  Charlene looked up, startled by his appearance.  Then she cast a long, thoughtful stare in the direction of her brother's room.

 

                "He's worried, Charley," explained Danny simply.

 

                "I wish he'd butt out."  Charlene gnawed at her lower lip.  "It's my life."

 

                "Not when it concerns the rest of us, too," countered Danny firmly.  She had nothing to say in argument as she stared out into the darkness beyond the end of the garden.  "Come on, Charley.  You've got to get some rest."  He saw her stiffen.  "I'll sit with you."

 

                "No."

 

                The word exploded from her, every ounce of fear trapped inside of her flooding over Danny.  She flung up her arms as though to ward him off.  Her face was a pale blot against the night.

 

                "Charley."  He squatted beside her and put his arms around her and held her against him.

 

                "I can't sleep, Danny," she finally admitted.  "I'm scared.  He comes when I'm sleeping."

 

                He had partially expected that response.  "He can't come if I'm there to protect you."  Fear etched her face.  "Come on," he gently urged.  "Try."

 

                After a brief pause, Charlene nodded.  She rose reluctantly and walked unsteadily back indoors, waiting while he checked the doors and windows to ensure they were locked.  Danny put his arm around her shoulders and ushered her into her bedroom.  She slipped beneath the covers and lay, eyes wide and staring, watching him.  He slid onto the edge of the bed.  She scooted over slightly to make room.  Rolled on her side, Charlene put her arm across his legs and buried her face in his hip.  Danny rested one hand against her back for support.

 

                Somewhere around three o'clock, she slipped into an undisturbed sleep.  Danny eased off the bed and quietly tiptoed out to find himself some bedding.  He massaged his stiff neck as he made up a bed on the couch.  Stripped to his shorts, he rolled up in the sheet and blanket to grab some sleep.

 

CHAPTER XX

 

 

23 November 1977

 

                Steve McGarrett stared at his partner with astonishment as Danny slumped into the chair across from him.  Dan Williams definitely looked ragged around the edges; an unusual occurrence under most conditions.

 

                "What's up, Danno?"

 

                "It's Charley, Steve."  Danno felt the frontal approach was his safest angle of attack.  "I want to move out there until we've got this case wrapped up."

 

                "Nightmares."  McGarrett ruthlessly stabbed with knowledge drawn from personal experience.  Danny nodded.  "Okay, Danno.  I don't like it, although I understand why you're doing this.  I don't suppose it would do any good suggesting she see a psychiatrist?"

 

                "No," snorted Danny with disgust and futility. "I've already tried that route.  Charley can be so damned stubborn, sometimes."

 

                Silently, McGarrett agreed.  It had been Charlene's stubbornness that had prolonged a murder case for eight years.  Her bull-headed attitude had very nearly killed her the previous summer.

 

                "Give Ben and Duke the phone number."

 

                "Sure, Steve."  Danny rose to leave.

 

                "Danno," McGarrett's brow was heavily furrowed, a sure sigh something was stirring him up inside, "I want you to stick by the phones today.  I'm going to drive out and check on a couple of witnesses from the Wilkes' case."

 

                "Sure, Steve."

 

* * *

 

                Taking the long way around, Steve McGarrett stopped at Diamond Head just long enough to watch a busload of tourists disembark and begin shooting the impressive, world famous volcanic escarpment before he moved on up the east shore.  Beyond Koko Head he drew in to the gas station where Del Torrian used to work.  A teenager dressed in oily dungarees came out of the repair bay wiping his hands on a rag.

 

                "Yes, sir.  What can I do for you?"

 

                "McGarrett.  Five-O."  Steve flashed his shield.  "Is Del Torrian around?"

 

                The teenager fixed a peculiar look on McGarrett then cocked his head.  "Geeze, Mister.  Don't you cops ever talk to one another?"

 

                It was McGarrett's turn to look inquisitive.  "What is it, son?"

 

                "Del shot up some bad dope three weeks ago," said the teenager obligingly.  "DOA.  Know what I mean?"

 

                McGarrett nodded.  "Thanks, son."

 

                "No prob.  That all you wanted?"

 

                Nodding once more, McGarrett put the sedan in gear and pulled back out onto the highway.  Torrian and Hollis.  As he pushed the black car to the speed limit, he knew in his gut that Del Torrian had never administered that lethal dose himself.  Wilkes was settling the score quickly.

 

                At the northern tip of Oahu was a line of fishing shacks.  Several had full-time residents, primarily rummies.  Wiltsure was a reformed alcoholic who spent his time here trying to help his one-time drinking buddies over-come their addictions.  In several instances, he had been successful. From time to time, he would look up McGarrett at the marina where the head of Five-O kept an ancient fishing smack which he was refurbishing.  Steve parked his car near Greg Wiltsure's shack and got out.

 

                "Greg," he bellowed over the sound of the sea.  There was no response.

 

                A test of the shack door confirmed it was locked.  Walking around to the lean-to where Greg habitually stored his Fifty-six Ford pick-up, McGarrett discovered the vehicle missing.  From habit, he studied the ground.  The only tire tracks in the sand had been partially obscured by the prevailing winds.  As he turned away, Steve's eyes were caught by a flock of frigate birds scavenging down near the coastal rocks.  He broke into a run.

 

                Greg Wiltsure lay, face down, in a tidal pool.  From the pallid grey flesh, McGarrett surmised he had been dead over twenty-four hours.  An empty vodka bottle rolled around the bottom of the pool.  Steve's jaw tightened.  Bending down, he lifted the bottle from the water.  Greg seldom drank hard liquor when on a binge, preferring red wine.  To the best of McGarrett's knowledge, Greg had not touched a drop of alcohol in over five years.  As he walked back to his car to call in the incident, the head of Five-O knew with a certainty that Willy Wilkes had struck again.  Not one of the three witnesses from his trial had survived his rampage.  McGarrett's greatest fear was, when and where Wilkes would strike next.

 

                The coroner's examination of the body, made on short order from Five-O, confirmed their suspicions.  Wiltsure had a tiny amount of alcohol in his stomach; sufficient quantity to prove it had been forced down his throat.  Then he had been knocked unconscious.  Or vice versa.  He had been dragged to the water's edge and left to drown in the tidal pool.

 

                "Ben," said McGarrett as soon as he hung up the phone after receiving the initial report, "I want an APB put out on Greg Wiltsure's pick-up.  It's a Nineteen Fifty-six, dark blue Ford."

 

                "That should be easy to spot," commented Kokua.

 

                "Get on it."

 

                "On my way, Steve."

 

                McGarrett rubbed his eyes.  They were tired and stung. Deep down, a fire fuelled by anger and helplessness had leapt beyond the smouldering embers created by Terry Melanni's murder.  Each successive death tallied by Wilkes only served to reinforce McGarrett's determination to find him and put him away for good.  He had recommended that twenty years earlier in his report.

 

                Somehow Wilkes had out-manoeuvred the prison psychiatrists and the parole board, despite his permanent deviant behaviour.  Now the death toll was mounting.  Steve silently prayed it would not go any higher.

 

* * *

 

                Danny made a short side trip to his apartment at the end of the day.  He collected his toiletries, a change of suit, and a couple sets of civvies, including his windbreaker.  After a cursory check to ensure everything was shut off and the answering machine was operating, he locked the door and went back down to the parking garage.  While putting his things in the back seat of the sedan, he scanned the garage and what he could see of the street outside. There was no sign of the Valiant.  Nor was there any sign of a blue pick-up.  He paused with his hand on the car door, wondering if his boss was correct in suspecting Wilkes had taken the missing truck.  It was a logical assumption.  After a moment's deliberation, Danny got behind the wheel and pulled out of the complex.  Jonny was home when Danny arrived.  But there was no obvious sign of Charlene.

 

                "Where is she?" he demanded sharply, ignoring Jonny's curiosity

 

                "She went to the store.  They've had a couple of false alarms lately with the system," said Jonny, staring at the over-night bag.

 

                Danny set his things inside the door, hung his suits in the front closet, and returned to his car.  He drove up to the mall, meeting Charlene just as she rounded the corner of the building.  She was pushing her bike.  Upon seeing him, she drew up short.

 

                "Danny!"

 

                "Charley," he berated her, "Won't you ever learn?  Get in."

 

                "What about my bike?"

 

                Leaving the car running, Danny went to open the trunk and lift her bicycle in.  Embarrassed at having been caught out in her misdemeanour, Charlene obediently climbed into the front seat.  There was no arguing with Danny when he looked like that.  Nor did he make any allusions to the incident as he drove her home.  If Jonny had been curious at the sight of Danny's over-nighter, Charlene was downright shocked by the implications.

 

                "What's all this?" she demanded.

 

                "Exactly what it looks like," he countered.  "I'm staying here until the case is wrapped up.  Steve's orders."

 

                Confronted with his business side, Charlene shook her head.  "And just where do you suppose you're going to sleep?"

 

                "The same place I slept last year," he intimated firmly.

 

                "Last year?"  Jonny gazed from one to the other, delighted by the possible ramifications.  "Do you mean that night Charley didn't come home?"

 

                "Jonny."  Charlene rounded on him, her voice turning shrill.  "Butt out."

 

                "Don't yell at him," ordered Danny, fighting to keep his voice down.

 

                "Yeah," put in her brother.  "'Sides, if Danny thinks it's a good idea to stay and look after us until the killer's caught, he can use my room."

 

                "Oh, no, you don't," bit out Charlene.

 

                "Charley, shut up," ordered Danny.  Then he glared at Jonny.  "You, too."

 

                Brother and sister gaped at his commanding tone.  Charlene opened her mouth.  Danny raised a finger, and she snapped it shut.  "Now.  First of all, Jonny, I won't commandeer your room.  I'm using the couch.  No arguments."

 

                "The couch," whooped Jonny, unable to keep from casting a gleeful expression at his sister.  "You mean she used your bed---"

 

                "Jonny," shouted Charlene exasperated.

 

                "Settle down.  Both of you."  Danny waited until they subsided.  Jonny's eyes continued to dance with amusement and mischief, but he bit his tongue and remained silent.  "Yes. I'm using the couch.  That way I'll be handy should someone break in.  And I can answer the phone before it wakes you, should someone call me in the middle of the night.  Got that?"

 

                Quelled, they both nodded.  Matters settled to his satisfaction, Danny gathered up his bag and went into the bathroom.  Jonny smothered a laugh at his sister's outrage. She glared at him, before stalking into the kitchen to prepare supper.

 

                "Oh.  By the way, Jonny," Danny called from the bathroom, "You can go out and get your sister's bike out of the trunk of my car and lock it up."