Danny strode happily through Newark International's secure area carrying a letter. Not just any letter, though. This particular letter came from the President of National United and confirms his captaincy of the Boeing 777. It'd been a long road to this achievement, and he'd sacrificed time with his (then) wife and their young daughter to follow it, but now all the effort has paid off. Flying the triple seven will let him travel the world but more importantly, he'll have longer breaks between assignments. With a maximum of 100 flying hours per month, and the Middle Eastern route he's almost guaranteed (since most senior pilots prefer the European or Asia Pacific runs), he'll be able to swing up to a week off at a go. He's already planning to spend as much time with Grace as Rachel will allow.
The redeye flight he'd agreed to pilot tonight - at short notice, for premium pay - will be worth the lost sleep. Grace's still at summer camp and the excitement of the promotion would keep him up anyway, so the overnight flight from Newark to San Francisco will do him (and his bank account) some good. He entered the pilots' lounge to be met by a wave of congratulations. Everyone seemed eager to show their approval of his promotion with backslaps and high-fives.
After shaking numerous hands on his way across the lounge, Danny found an envelope sticking out of his locker vent. He put down the notification letter long enough to open the unlabeled one, releasing a whiff of familiar perfume. Rachel. It seems she's sticking with the delivery method they developed for their often non-coordinated schedules. Taking a deep breath of the scent, he sat down to read the handwritten note.
The thwack of a fist denting the thin metal locker door obliterated the quiet hum of the half-full room. All heads swiveled to see Danny punch the locker again and then follow it up with a kick. The crumpled paper, now flecked with blood, slid to the floor as Danny stalked out, glowering.
Nobody moved for a long moment. Finally, the senior pilot present picked up the discarded paper to slide it into Danny's locker. Careful of the blood and his coworker's privacy, he wasn’t trying to read it, but the phrases "getting remarried" and "moving to Hawaii" jumped off the page. As a divorced man with kids of his own, he tucked the letter away from prying eyes while saying a quick prayer of thanks that his ex only moved as far as Trenton.
Three months later Danny sits in a cramped and messy office, staring at the door that obviously leads to the CEO’s inner sanctum. In response to an ad on Craigslist (this is what his life has come to), he caught an early morning flight to miniscule Kalaupapa Airport in northern Molokai where he was told by a big guy in a garish Hawaiian shirt to have a seat in this reception area, painted in equally eye-searing tropical colors. Island Hopper Air is a truly tiny operation, especially when compared to National United, the conglomerate that was his previous employer.
Fifteen minutes later the man reappears, his bald pate gleaming with sweat. "What can I do for you, brah?" He pulls a bottle of water out of a refrigerator and tosses it to Danny, grabbing another for himself.
Danny catches the bottle in midair and nods his thanks. "I'm here to see Mr. Kamekona about a job."
"You a ramper?" Sweaty Dude asks, sighing at Danny’s headshake. "Shame. I need a ramper here in Kalaupapa. Not that I mind takin' the planes out myself," waving at the orange glow sticks he’d left on the desk. "It keeps me movin."
Danny shifts in his chair, anxious to discuss the job that will have him home nearly every night. "I'm a commercial pilot," he states to clear up any other possible misunderstandings, "and I'd really like to talk to Mr. Kamekona," he gestures to the dark brown door beyond the desk, "about the opening he has for a pilot."
"I'm Kamekona." He glances around, wondering if one of the nieces decorated with Silly String again.
Danny sighs and grimaces, a tension headache popping into existence behind his left eye. "So should we," he points at the door, "go inside and talk about the job?"
Kamekona laughs, getting up and opening the door to reveal bland black and gaudy orange and purple bags piled in a closet. "This is the Lost Luggage, brah." Already halfway out of his chair, Danny sags back down, sighs, and straightens his tie to cover his dismay.
After studying the resume Danny hands him, Kamekona asks, "National United pilot, huh? So what brings you out to our little island paradise?"
Danny explains about his ex-wife moving halfway around the globe to get married, and how he gave up the left seat of the Boeing triple seven to be near his daughter. He refrains from saying ‘desolate chain of rocks’, not wanting to offend the CEO of a company he's applying to, no matter that said CEO is sweating through his hula-girl themed shirt in the 68 degree office.
Kamekona looks at Danny suspiciously. "You're not stalking your ex-wife, are you? Last guy I hired turned out to be a creep and I don’t hold with that sort of thing."
Shaking his head, Danny replies, "No, no, no. Rachel and I are..." He searches for a word and settles on, "civil. I'm just out here for my kid."
Going back to the resume, which lists mostly medium to long-range aircraft, Kamekona asks, “You ever fly a Dash 8? It's a big difference dan da big boys.”
"I can fly anything as long as it keeps me near my little girl."
"Come on." Kamekona grabs a set of manuals and a packet of paperwork. He leads Danny out into the heat toward a dual prop plane with a Polynesian female emblazoned upon the tail. "How about we take Kapo out?" (Danny later finds out that each Island Hopper plane is named for a god or goddess of Hawaiian legend; Kapo, the goddess of the South Pacific, is Kamekona's favorite plane for doing interviews.) "She'll help me decide."
The 45-minute flight to Oahu is smooth, both the island air and Danny's plane handling. They touch down at Honolulu International without incident, though Danny's a bit unnerved by his potential employer's casual attitude. He was more nervous - especially after three full days of interviews - moving up from his puddlejumper days at SkyNational Express to National United's mainline service, but such a laidback boss (which should be less stressful) somehow sets his teeth on edge.
"Hopper 4457, taxi two seven and hold," orders the disembodied voice from Honolulu Tower.
"Hopper 4457. Taxi two seven and hold. Roger," replies Kamekona. "So what you think?"
Danny nods, holding his position as an Airbus A330, probably bound for mainland China or Japan, takes to the air in front of them. When they get clearance to taxi to Island Hopper's gates, Kamekona finishes his acknowledgement with "Mahalo, brah," making Danny smile despite his tension.
They're directed into Gate 72, between two other Island Hopper craft, by a heavily tattooed man. When as the batons cross, Danny kills the engines and goes through the shutdown procedures he's done a thousand times before. A humid breeze fills the cabin when he opens the door to descend the air-stairs, nodding to the ramper and waiting in the afternoon heat for Kamekona.
"Hey! I didn't know you were interviewing," the guy calls as Kamekona maneuvers his large frame through the passenger doorway.
"Steve," Kamekona booms as he steps down, pulling Tattoo Guy into a one-armed hug. "Good to see you. This is Danny," he says, remonstrating while Danny shakes Steve's hand, "and I wouldn't be hiring if you'd come back." Danny stands out in this crowd - everyone working for Island Hopper Air is in flowing white or Polynesian-styled attire under their reflective orange vests, while he's in dress slacks, white shirt and tie.
"More time for surfing, boss," comes Steve's lighthearted response, though Danny catches a glimpse of something darker hiding beneath his smiling surface. Indicating the tie, Steve asks, "Where're you coming from?"
"Jersey." He loosens his tie before asking, "It always so hot in this tropical hellhole?" He takes in Kamekona’s eye roll and figures he hasn't crossed the line. Or at least, not by much.
"This is paradise, brah," Steve says with a sparkle in his eyes. His walkie-talkie sputters and he responds with an affirmative; there's another flight to bring in. He nods to his boss and winks at Danny. "Good luck, Jersey," he says, grabbing the lighted batons out of a deep pocket in his cargo shorts and giving them a friendly nod before jogging off to slip 76 to handle an Island Hopper commuter flight from Maui.
Kamekona jerks a thumb after him. "I keep trying, but he don't wanna come back. C'mon, let's go to my office so we can talk details," he says, pulling Danny away from his study of Steve's departing form.
Once in the air conditioning, Kamekona sits behind a dark wooden desk more befitting an airline CEO, while Danny settles into a comfortable leather chair and wonders what's with the machine prominently displayed on a sideboard (it looks like an ancient meat-grinder), a colorful Wailoa Shave Ice sign above it. Danny vaguely remembers reading that Kamekona made his fortune in the shave ice kiosks that dot the island like Starbucks in Seattle. "So, Steve's a pilot?"
"Yeah. He's who you'd be replacing. " Kamekona shakes his head. "I gave him six months, but he don't wanna come back. Says he's happier being a ramper." He pulls a sheaf of papers from the desk drawer and pushes it over, along with a pen. "So, when you want to start?"
"Wait a minute. He's got a commercial pilot license, but he's happier being a ramper?" Danny pinches the bridge of his nose. "What kind of guy does that?"
Kamekona looks thoughtful before explaining. "He lost his dad about six months ago. Wanted some time to sit back, gather his thoughts. He still flies, but only ferrying planes. Pretty useful sometimes since the Q400 isn't always the most reliable."
"At least they're not convertible," Danny says, thinking about the Aloha Airlines flight that lost part of the cabin fuselage in 1988.
"Oh, no," Kamekona dismisses. "Max takes care of 'dem good. They're just...picky."
After hammering out the details of compensation and scheduling, the interview ends with a discussion of exactly how many shave ice booths litter the island, working conditions at the airline, and war stories of flying with the public. "So," Danny asks, looking around the well-appointed space, "why is Island Hopper headquartered over in that dinky little office? I mean Honolulu is your biggest base. And this is much nicer."
"Yeah, here's good for investors and stuff. But," Kamekona confesses, "Kalaupapa's where I can get shit done. It takes a lot to run an airline, even one 'dis small."
Danny nods as he gets up and shakes his new boss's hand. "All right, then. See you next Monday?"
"Yeah," Kamekona starts, before stopping suddenly. "Oh, wait, uniform." He grabs a card from the desk. "Go visit my friend Anna. She'll get you set up with everything you need."
Danny heads out, passing Steve the tattooed ramper along the way. They exchange nods as he leaves the secure area and walks back towards his car.
There's a quiet knock on the heavy wooden door. It opens a second later, and Steve leans into the room. "You got a minute, boss?"
Kamekona motions for Steve to sit down and wait while he finishes his call. Cradling the receiver, he asks, "What's up?"
"So... The new guy?"
The big man smiles. "Yeah... Wound up a lil' too tight, but I think he'll do okay." His face turns somber as he asks, "You find out anything new?"
Steve's father, John, was a Navy pilot during the Vietnam War. After retiring from a large commercial airline, he'd been flying cargo planes between Hawai'i and several Asian markets for eighteen months before dying on a solo flight six months ago.
"Nothing yet. I wanna talk to Chin Ho when he gets back in town. You know when he's coming back?"
"Poly Air flight from Oakland tonight, I think. What you got?"
"I'm not sure... I remember this one guy who did a lot of trips back and forth to Moloka'i when I was flying. Saw him every week. Now there's not a lot going on business-wise on Moloka'i, so I thought maybe Chin could use his resources in the TSA to get some information on the guy." Steve fidgets in the chair, itching to get back out in the sunlight. "There's gotta be something."
"Don't blow Chin's cover, man," Kamekona warns, knowing he doesn't really need to. Outing an Air Marshal is the worst thing an airline employee can do, though it does happen accidentally from time to time. He offers, "Why don't you take the rest of the day 'til Chin's back?"
Steve shakes his head. "Naw. Still gotta bring in the evening Kona and Lihu'e flights. Then we'll see."
Steve ends up hovering around the main terminal waiting for Chin Ho's flight to arrive. He commandeers one of the computers and does some digging on the FAA website to see if there's anything new on his father's accident. He continues when the flight's arrival is announced, keeping an eye out on the deplaning group of tourists. Sure enough, Chin Ho shows up after all the other passengers, talking to the flight crew.
"Hey, bruddah," Steve says as he falls in step, matching Chin’s brisk pace. The Air Marshal smells like ozone, liquor, and baby vomit. "Good flight?"
"Next time I hear someone say flying is fun, I'm gonna shoot them," Chin says, unconsciously checking the sidearm holstered under his jacket. He explains about the drunk who got belligerent and managed to splash most of his drink on Chin, and the baby who threw up on his pants. "What's up?"
Steve checks to make sure no one is near enough to hear. "I was wondering if you could go through some old TSA records for me."
"You got a lead?"
"Not sure," Steve replies. "There was this guy. Always on my Wednesday flights to Moloka'i. Always returning Thursday morning. Never heard his name and it's probably a long shot, but worth a look."
"So," Chin responds. "Repeat customer, always Wednesdays to Moloka'i, always when you were flying. Let me see what I can dig up."
"Thanks, brah," he says, patting Chin on the shoulder gratefully. "Whew... Hey, maybe you should get a shower," he adds as he angles back towards the Island Hopper offices. Chin silently flips McGarrett the bird as he makes his way to the garage.
On Monday morning, Steve's working the early commuter flights to Maui and the Big Island. Just after guiding a plane into its gate, he spots Jersey cradling a phone to his ear and pacing so fervently he's in danger of leaving a rut in the tarmac. He jogs over and stops short when he sees the shirt neatly tucked into tailored black pants, accented with a shiny black belt. Because of the way the shirt hangs on Danny, Kamekona's face (which adorns the back of the Island Hopper crew shirt) is cut off below the nose, leaving Steve staring at Danny's backside. He smiles, raising an eyebrow at the rounded curve of a sculpted ass beneath the cloth, thinking, 'This guy's too much!' His grin gets bigger when he hears the pilot sign off with, "Danno loves you, Monkey."
Danny hangs up and turns to find Steve beaming at him, though it's is cut short when he spots the tie around Danny's neck.
"What's that?" Steve asks, disbelievingly. He gives it a tug.
"It's a tie, you Neanderthal animal," Danny replies, batting Steve's hand away. "Or have you not been a professional pilot for so long that you've forgotten what one is?"
"You're wearing a tie with an Aloha shirt...Danno." Danny glares at him and the shirt in turn, prompting Steve to announce, "We used to wear the hula girl shirts." After a moment for Danny to appreciate how much worse it could be, he asks, "What's with that, anyway? That your wife's pet name for you?"
Danny attempts to wipe the frustration from his face. "That's what my daughter calls me. When she was little, she couldn't say Danny, she called me Danno. It just kinda stuck."
"I like it - it's cute. But, seriously - lose the tie."
"Whatever." Danny waves off the advice. He scans the tarmac. "Where's my copilot?"
"Who're you flying with?" Steve asks, taking the paper from Danny's hand. "Aah, Kono. She's good."
"She's green," Danny growls. "Barely outta ground school. Leave it to me to have to break in somebody new."
"You better watch yourself," Steve warns jovially.
"Why? You her boyfriend?" Danny eyes Steve up and down, taking in the whole package. Steve sees Danny’s eyes catch on the sliver of tattoo revealed by his short sleeve and hopes he’ll get to show him the whole thing one day.
"Oh, no," Steve laughs. "Don't cross her or she'll kick your ass."
"Whatever. Where is she?"
They turn to see a slim figure wheeling her luggage towards them. She arches an eyebrow and asks Steve, "Is this the haole I have to train?"
"Kono!" Steve pulls her into a hug. "Sorry I didn't make it to your graduation."
"No worries, brah," she replies while offering Danny her hand. "Kono Kalakaua."
"Kono? The copilot?" Danny asks, as Steve takes half a step backward. "So you're my Kono-pilo-"
Kono assumes an offensive stance, eyes narrowed behind her sunglasses as she points to Danny's crotch. "You wanna keep 'em, boss?"
It's Danny's turn to step back (and reflexively cover his boys). "Jeez, touchy much?"
Without moving her hand, Kono says, icily, "The last bozo Kamekona hired called me his 'Kono-pilot' and kept hitting on me." Smirking, she turns to Steve. "He lasted what - a week?"
"Nine days," Steve clarifies.
"You gonna give me any trouble, Jersey?"
Danny puts on a serious expression and bows to his copilot. "Absolutely not, Miss Kalakaua." (Steve and Kono smile as he slowly pronounces the syllables, taking care to enunciate each one perfectly.)
Steve digs his batons out of an oversized pocket. "Welcome aboard, Danny. Congrats again, Kono," he says, saluting the pair with the batons. "See you tonight?"
"What's tonight?" Danny asks.
"You're on 2074 to Hilo tonight, right?" After consulting the schedules they wear on lanyards around their necks, they both nod. "I'm deadheading with you guys to bring the plane back." He leans over and pats the skin of the Q400 they're standing next to. "Kanaloa's due for overnight maintenance."
Indicating the plane's tail, Danny asks, "Which one is this?"
"Kanaloa," Kono says. "Polynesian god of the ocean."
"Ah," Danny says, obviously not impressed. "Great. My first day, and I get the ocean plane." He points at his copilot. "Let's try not to make a stop there, shall we?" Turning back to Steve, he asks, "So what? You gonna desert us on Hilo for the day?"
"Don't worry," Steve says with a wink as he clasps Danny's shoulder. "I'll be back to drop him off before your first flight tomorrow."
Danny's first week goes pretty well. He slips up a couple of times, announcing, "National Uni- I mean Island Hopper Air flight…” He relies on his coworkers’ suggestions on where to eat and shop - he's not ready to ask Rachel for advice (no matter how civilized they’re trying to be), Grace is obviously too young, and Step-Stan is a rich asshole. (He buys Grace everything under the sun and spoils her, while Danny isn't able to do the same on his commuter pilot salary.) He meets up with Steve on a couple of occasions, eating incredible island cuisine at holes-in-the-wall, though he has absolutely no interest in the spam burgers Steve keeps trying to foist off on him.
The camaraderie he’s found with Steve is welcome, and something Danny didn’t expect to find after following Rachel and Grace halfway around the world. Their conversations are lighthearted, with Steve making fun of pilots, air travel, and especially, New Jersey as often as he can. During a massive rant over Longboards about the weather in Hawai'i, Danny rails about the heat and humidity in Honolulu, and how he misses summer in Newark. "Seriously?" Steve asks. "You do realize that it's fifteen degrees warmer in Newark on average than it is in Honolulu? And almost twice as humid."
"What are you? Willard Scott?" Danny taking a pull from his beer as cover for running his eyes over Steve's lean form, confirming that he is just about the furthest thing from in the universe Willard Scott.
"Whatever, buddy," Steve retorts, "I Googled it. You ready?"
Danny drains the last of his bottle and stands up. He woozes, a little, so Steve puts one arm around his shoulders and the other across his chest to stabilize him. He’s suddenly hit with the overwhelmingly delicious combination of Danny's aftershave and the smell of a solid day's work. "You okay, Danno?" Danny smiles, making Steve think that Danny doesn't really mind him using the nickname. Sure, he put up a fuss when they first met, but they soon eased into a rhythm, like two planets in a mutual orbit.
"Guess I should have eaten a little more," Danny says, going for his keys.
"Guess I should drive, then," Steve responds, snatching them off the table.
"Fuck you," Danny says jovially. "You just want an excuse to drive my car."
(Later, Danny thinks of that as the day he surrendered - he's rarely driven his own car since.)
Two weeks later, armed with a name and address supplied by Chin Ho, Steve passes his batons to another ramper, loads the last bags onto the plane, and shuts the door behind him. "Cabin secure," a flight attendant reports as Steve ducks into the cockpit of the Q400. Kono catches his eye as she calls through the preflight checklist, leaning back to bump fists with him. "Steve."
Danny turns as Steve flips down the jump seat used by deadheading crew. "You coming with us tonight?"
"Yeah," Steve says, patting the wall. "I'm taking Kuka'ilimoku here in so Max can go over her tonight."
"Kukaili-whatever. God of war?" Danny asks, earning pleased nods from Kono and Steve. He's obviously been studying the history of both Hawai'i and Island Hopper Air, since he asks, "Why would he name a plane after a god of war?"
"Better than Kapohoikahiola," Steve says. Spotting Danny's frown of confusion, he explains, "Spirit of explosions," while pantomiming a plane falling out of the sky.
"Wow, that's just...disturbing." After he and Kono finish the preflight checklist, he asks Steve. "So, back to Honolulu tonight?"
"Yeah," Steve says. "Why? You wanna come with?"
Danny looks Steve over, and they share a smile (Kono needs to take that bet on whether the guys are sleeping together, because. Well. That look.) before Danny replies, "Well, you do owe me a beer."
Steve concedes that Danny bought the last two rounds, but, "I've got a, uh... Thing... To do. Beforehand."
"That's fine," Danny says. "I'm not due to fly back out of Maui until the last flight tomorrow."
Kono interjects, "So, it's a date." Faced with Steve and Danny's obvious discomfort, she backpedals, "You know. Buddy buddy..." while thinking that maybe she shouldn't make that bet after all.
Tourists unloaded and Kono ambling off to her hotel, Steve and Danny share the exterior pre-flight and board to fly back to Honolulu. Danny steps into the cockpit first, taking the right seat before Steve can object. Steve waves him toward the left seat with no effect.
Motioning again, Steve says, "I thought you'd take pilot on this flight."
"May I remind you," Danny says, careful not to disturb any settings with his gesturing, "that you haven't let me drive my own car in over a month?" Steve doesn't move until Danny says, "'S all yours, babe." Steve gives the broadest smile Danny's seen yet as he settles in and puts on his headset. Danny can feel himself grinning like a loon when he lays his hand over Steve's to throttle the plane into high revs. He’s done this hundreds of times - it’s a standard takeoff procedure. The blushes aren’t usual, though, nor is the hesitation before their hands separate.
They taxi the Q400 off the active runway and park it just outside the Island Hopper maintenance hangar, where they find an Asian man staring at the adjacent building. He breaks off to focus on Danny offering his hand while Steve makes introductions. "Max? This is Danny, the new guy. Danny? This is Max." Danny ignores the fact that the hand he's shaking is clad in blue latex. "Max is our chief mechanic."
Formalities over, Max resumes staring. "Not much of a people-person, is he?" Danny asks Steve in a quiet voice as they walk towards the terminal.
Steve chuckles. "Not really. He's the best, though." With a hand to Danny's shoulder, he guides them to the employee garage. "You sure you wanna come along?"
"Yeah, why not? You're not trying to get out of that beer you owe me, are you?" Danny asks, earning a grin. After dodging tourists and reaching the Camaro, Danny tosses his keys to Steve. "Where're we going, anyway?"
"I gotta ask a guy some questions," Steve responds. He turns the engine over and, with a sly grin, guns the V8 engine.
"Wait, wait, wait," Danny says, "let me buckle up, you maniac!" Once he gets his belt on he gestures, which Steve interprets as, 'You may now drive like an idiot,' revving the engine again before throwing the car in gear and peeling out of the garage.
Twenty minutes later, the car pulls up to a beautiful, well-lit home featuring an expansive lawn and meticulous exterior, with a Lamborghini and BMW SUV in the driveway. Even in late afternoon, the temperature is still stifling, especially when Steve cuts the engine, killing the air conditioner. "You gonna tell me what's going on?" Danny asks.
"Wait here," Steve commands. He gets out and jogs up to the front door, which is hidden from the street by several tall trees. Danny strolls up as Steve rings the doorbell and smiles at Steve’s complaint of, "Didn't I say to stay in the car, Danny?"
Danny gives him a flat look. "What? Don't you remember that old PSA? Don't leave your pets - or in this case, your new pilot friend - in a hot car."
"You could’ve rolled down a window."
Danny frowns, following it up with hand gestures that Steve thinks of as 'Danno going full-on Jersey'. "It's a hundred and seventeen degrees out here, Steven. And you want me to roll down a window?"
"Okay, okay," Steve says, making calming motions. "Just let me do the talking."
It's a good thirty seconds before the door opens, revealing a geeky-looking man in his forties carrying a laptop. He focuses on Steve, not acknowledging Danny's presence. "St-St-Steve!" he exclaims, blushing furiously.
"Yeah," Steve replies, not surprised that the guy knows his name. "Winslow Skipwell?" At the uncertain nod, he continues, "I need to ask you a few questions, if you don't mind."
Winslow looks stunned for a long moment, finally blinking himself back to reality. "Y-y-y-you, um... Wanna come-come-come-come in?"
"I won't take too much of your time," Steve announces, barging past him. As Steve's shoulder brushes Winslow's, he gasps and fumbles his laptop. Danny sighs as he follows them into the well-appointed house.
"Um, what, um, can I do? For you?" Winslow asks, nervously. "Can I get you something? Beer? Cheese toast? Candied apple?" Danny and Steve shoot each other a look. "Sorry. I rarely have people over. And Chef is used to odd requests."
"No, thank you," Danny says, wondering what the hell is going on.
"Mr. Skipwell," Steve starts, taking an interrogator's stance (arms crossed and face screwed up like a character on NYPD Blue, though he's not like any cop Danny's ever seen). "Can you tell me how you came to be on every Wednesday flight I piloted to Moloka'i for three straight months? And every Thursday return? And why you weren't on those runs when I wasn't in the cockpit?"
Danny throws a high-eyebrowed look at Steve, but it's ignored.
"I, um... Uh... Are you sure you don't, um, don't want anything?" Skipwell reaches for a black box on the coffee table, stopping short when Steve takes a step toward him. "It's just a pager system I built," he says, picking up the device and holding it out so the men can see. They glance at it, noting the labeled buttons: 'Butler', 'Chef', 'Gardener', and so on.
"Sir," Steve demands. "The flights?" Another pause, and now Skipwell is so red in the face Danny's afraid he might stroke out. Taking no notice, Steve presses on, "I know there's not that much business on Moloka'I, especially for someone in medical software like you. Or," he corrects himself, "like you used to be, before you sold out for millions." Steve takes an aggressive step toward him. “Besides my flights, the only places you've been seen lately are high priced charity galas and the monthly computer swap meet at the Aloha Bowl."
"What I really want to know," Steve growls, "if you had anything to do with my father's death." Skipwell and Danny both gape at Steve.
Before Danny can sputter a question (his hands engage before his voice does), Skipwell stammers, "WHAT?! Oh, no, no, no, no, no, no, no. Your father? I didn't know he--" Winslow groans and plants his face in his hands. After a tense silence, he finally looks up and glances at Steve and Danny, before his gaze settles on the mirror behind Steve and the spectacular view it affords of his ass. Danny hides a smile behind his hand, hoping Steve gets it so the poor guy doesn't have to say it straight out. So to speak. "Really," Skipwell says, not taking his eyes off the mirror, "it's nothing like that at all."
"So explain it to me."
Winslow sighs, finally meeting Steve's eyes. "I, uh... It's just..." As he thrusts his face back into his hands, he admits, "You're so pretty."
Danny guffaws at Steve's stunned expression.
"Pretty?" Steve clips Danny on the ear for his continued laughter. "Are you saying you bribed an airline official-"
"Bribed?" Skipwell exclaims. "Oh, no. Oh, no, no, no, no, no. I just paid someone to get a little information."
"So you bribed them," Steve says slowly, as the blush takes up permanent residence on the billionaire's face, "to get my schedule." Danny finally stops laughing as he asks. "Why would you do that?"
Skipwell's seems to deflate and his shoulders sag defeatedly. "It's just... You see, Wednesdays are traditionally really light travel days." He stops, like that's explanation enough. After matching 'Yeah, so?' looks from Steve and Danny, he stammers on, "So... If someone travels on Wednesdays, they're more likely to... More likely to be able to spend time with the crew."
"So you chose my Wednesday Moloka'i flights because you ... wanted to spend some time with me? Why?"
Winslow's eyes are once again drawn to the reflection. "You're so pretty."
"Will you please stop saying that?" Steve demands, if only to keep Danny from laughing again. "So you wanted to get to know me? Why didn't you just ask?"
Skipwell's eyes get big, and Danny swears he can see veins bulging in his neck and forehead. "I couldn't just...just ask you out," he blurts. "What if you'd said no?"
Steve sighs in frustration. "I'm sorry for wasting your time, Mr. Skipwell," he says, starting to turn away.
"Are you sure I can't get you anything? Anything at all?" Skipwell asks, running his eyes up and down Steve's body. A tiny snort escapes despite Danny's best efforts.
"No." Steve grabs his hand and shakes it forcefully. (Danny notes the I'll never wash my hand again face; recognizes it from the time his teenage sisters met their heartthrob.) "Thank you for your time," he says, wheeling for the door.
Danny goes to shake hands, but the poor guy's obviously in a state, so he pats him on the shoulder and follows Steve out, pulling the door shut behind him. Danny sinks into the Camaro's seat, wincing at how hot it's gotten in the ten minutes they were inside. "You wanna tell me what that was all about?"
"You want a beer?" Steve asks, like that’s any kind of answer.
"Sure," Danny replies, and the two ride in silence towards their next destination.
Steve drives them to an out-of-the-way bar, seemingly on autopilot. After grabbing two Longboards, they sit at a table near the back. Steve's expression says he's deep in thought, so Danny silently sips his beer and waits.
Several minutes later, Steve drops a bombshell. "I think my father was murdered."
"Murdered?" Danny exclaims. "I thought he died in a plane crash." At Steve's pained expression, he realizes, "You think someone fucked with his plane?"
Steve glances around to confirm that nobody reacted to the outburst. "Yeah. I can't prove it, though. I've got a bunch of stuff my dad left me, starting with a voicemail."
Danny holds his hand out expectantly, so Steve queues up the message and hands over the phone. The nervous voice of an older man says, "Hey, champ. Just my usual pre-flight call. Wanted to say hi, and that... That I'm proud of you. I don't think I've said that enough. I know we had some rough times; you and your sister and me... But that's behind us." He clears his throat and continues. "Hey, you remember when your sister used to always try and steal your stuff? Man, that was annoying... I'm glad she got over that phase. Anyway... Just. You know. Call me tonight. I'm taking the Cessna over to Hilo for a couple of days." The call disconnects and Danny pulls the phone from his ear.
"That's not my dad," Steve says. At Danny's cynical look, he corrects himself. "I mean it is my dad, but it's nothing he'd normally say."
Danny nods in acknowledgement. "Okay. You care to explain?"
"Okay," Steve says. He takes another pull from his beer before he starts the long explanation
Eight Months Ago
After Steve retired from the Navy and graduated commercial pilot ground school, he took a position with Kamekona's new airline, doing easy runs between islands. The job was a source of tension between Steve and his dad, since John was a senior pilot for Amerilines, the world's biggest airline. "You shouldn't be doing these piddly little milk-runs, Steve," he insisted. "I can get you in at Amerilines. You can even pretty much skip the puddlejumpers and start on the Boeing Seven-Three."
"I'm happy with what I've got going, Dad," Steve always replied. "Besides, Kamekona's a friend and you taught me to help my friends. His business is just getting off the ground and he's under some pretty intense pressure from Poly Air and Interisland Express." More to please his dad than from any actual intention, he often ended the discussion with, "Maybe one day."
"Well, one day is never gonna get here, Steven," John said after one of their more intense arguments. "Don't let your life run by and leave you behind, okay?"
The pressure on Steve eased when the elder McGarrett hit 60, mandatory retirement age for commercial pilots at the time. Steve figured his father would relax and take it easy, but within six weeks he was flying between Asia and Hawai'i for Far East Cargo, the largest shipper in the Asia-Pacific region. "Just like Dad, always going big," Steve said when he heard the news.
After bringing in a load of laptops from Taiwan, John McGarrett stood on the tarmac in the warm tropical night, already yearning to get back into the air. As he talked to his flight engineer about their next trip, he saw a maintenance guy approach a rear panel off the landing gear. "We got maintenance tonight?" he asked the engineer, noting his flinch with unease.
"Yeah... I asked Kanoa to, umm... check some stuff for me," came the reply.
"Don't forget to log it," John reminded him in a friendly tone. John McGarrett had been a stickler for the regulations at Amerilines and brought that attitude with him when he joined Far East Cargo.
Over the next few weeks, John saw several incidents of unlogged maintenance. He was pretty sure that something was being stowed behind the panels even if he couldn't verify it. He did, however, manage to get manifests for all those flights, which only strengthened his suspicions.
John overnighted in the pilots' break room after one late night flight, saying that his house was overrun with guests and he wouldn't be getting a decent night's sleep anyway. He hoped to catch an extra flight and, sure enough, first thing the next morning the front office for put out a call for someone to do an extra run for premium pay. As he was on site and met the mandatory rest requirements, it was easy to get the assignment.
Since he wasn't working with his usual crew, John insisted on doing some of the items on the checklist himself rather than delegate as he usually would. During the pre-flight walk-around, he checked the rear panel that always seemed to need unscheduled maintenance. He ran his fingers over the panel, making sure it was tightly secured. Pulling back his hand, he noticed a trace of powder on his fingertips. "Drugs," he said to himself. "Ten to one, it's drugs."
John got a latex glove from his pocket and rubbed the panel, hoping to get real proof to back up his theories. He knew he was right, but he had to have something to take to the authorities. John pulled the glove off inside out to preserve the residue he'd collected. He tucked it in a pocket, planning to stash it somewhere safe when the crew took their break after takeoff.
Unbeknownst to McGarrett, his insistence on doing the walk-around raised some concerns in the cockpit. The flight engineer texted a fueler on the ground crew, who watched the entire procedure from start to finish, including the lengthy examination of the landing gear panel. McGarrett seemed to be on to them, meaning he'd just become a liability.
Later that afternoon, the airport worker went downtown to report to the head of the operation. "How much does he know?" Wo Fat demanded.
"I think he knows pretty much all of it. What do you want me to do, boss?"
Wo Fat sat back in his chair, fingers steepled as he considered all the angles. After some thought, he asked, "Can he be bought?"
"I don't think so."
The ruthless businessman gave the order for McGarrett's elimination with a casual word to the associate waiting on a sofa. The fueler gasped in shock, but tried to cover it by asking, "Is there, umm ... Anything else, sir?"
"No," Wo Fat said dismissively as he reaching into his desk drawer. In one swift motion, he aimed and fired, sending a bullet through his former employee's brain.
John McGarrett kept an eye out for other evidence on the drug smuggling ring. Since it had to include employees at Far East Cargo, in Customs, and at least one in the Drug Enforcement Agency, there were precious few people he could trust. Hawai'i was one of the most secure ports in the world, especially after a Taiwanese drug ring was busted half a dozen years prior. Security had been tightened, but John knew that there were always those willing to take the risk for the (huge) illicit reward.
John kept a log of his flights, and noted when the unscheduled maintenance occurred. He obtained the manifests of every one of those flights; their point of origin, contents, destination, and shipper information. He pored over them in his free time, knowing that there had to be a connection.
During a call to check the weather along his route, John heard clicking and worried that his home phone was tapped. From then on, he used his cellphone for anything involving the investigation. Routine calls still went across his landline, lest anyone who was listening become suspicious.
"You're looking tired, old man," his 34-year-old copilot said as they finished their post-flight checklist after a long haul from Taiwan. "You should take some time and enjoy the island."
John studied the young man curiously, wondering if he was one of the bad guys. "Yeah," he said, unbuckling his seatbelt. "I just need a vacation."
"You now, I got a friend with a nice little spread on the big island. I could hook you up if you want."
"Naah," John declined. "I think I'll head over to the mainland. Check up on my daughter."
Three days later, John couldn't shake the feeling that he was under surveillance. Break-ins of his car and work locker on the same day convinced him that he needed to get out of town and lay low for a while. He was tempted to take the evidence with him, but at the last moment stashed it in his toolbox instead. He debated leaving it in his garage, but that didn't feel secure enough, so he came up with another spot.
With the evidence as safe as he could make it, John drove out to the small airport where he hangared his Cessna. He was fairly certain no one knew of the plane since he'd told nobody at Far East Cargo about it. Still, he couldn't shake the niggling feeling of danger, so he grabbed his cellphone and dialed Steve.
"Hey, champ. Just my usual pre-flight call. Wanted to say hi, and that... That I'm proud of you. I don't think I've said that enough. I know we had some rough times; you, me, and your sister... But that's behind us. Hey, you remember when your sister used to always try and steal your stuff? Man, that was annoying... I'm glad she got over that phase. Anyway... Just. You know. Call me tonight. I'm taking the Cessna over to Hilo for a couple of days."
John dropped the phone on the front seat and started his pre-flight. After doing the walk-around, he reviewed his flight plan; a simple 65-minute trip to Hilo.
John didn't find the tiny tear in one of the internal hydraulic lines, designed to bleed out the fluid after he reached altitude. Twenty minutes into the flight - somewhere over the Pacific - his controls stopped responding. His radio was out, too - undoubtedly sabotaged to stop him reporting his suspicions.
He spent the last seven minutes of his life knowing that's exactly what they were.
"My dad's funeral was..." Steve struggles, finally settling on, "...a fitting tribute." He takes a long draw of his beer. "The place was packed. There were people from all over. Buddies from Vietnam. The top brass from Ameriline. Most of his coworkers from Far East Cargo. My dad... He was a giant in the industry." He takes another swig of beer and runs a thumb across his top lip. "But here's the thing. During the funeral, someone broke into the house and trashed it."
"What makes you think it wasn't just some crackhead looking for stuff to steal?"
"No," Steve says emphatically. "They searched the place like they were looking for something specific - but they didn't take a thing. My dad's spare keys were on the counter and his '74 Marquis was sitting in the driveway. Nothing was taken." Steve leans in, and Danny nearly loses focus at the sight of his lips. "They were there for something specific."
"Do you know what that is?"
"Yeah, I do now. That part about my sister taking my stuff when we were kids? I couldn't figure out why he brought that up at first. But I found his toolbox under the back stairs – where I hid stuff I wanted to keep away from Mary."
"His toolbox? Why would he hide a toolbox?"
"Not just any toolbox. His Champion toolbox, the one he used to work on the Marquis. He spilled paint over part of the name, so now it says, 'Champ'. My dad never called me 'Champ', Danny; he was leaving me a clue when he left that message."
More confused than ever, Danny asks, "Okay, so it was his toolbox. What's in it? And why was it so important that he hid it-"
"Under the back stairs," Steve finishes. "I know. It's a bunch of stuff. Mostly flight details - cargo lists, personnel who flew with him, where and when. There are also a couple of latex gloves, bagged with the results from a drug test."
"A drug test? He thought someone at Far East is smuggling drugs?"
"Yes. And so do I."
"Steve, you need to turn this over to the police. You may have the badass attitude, but you are not a cop. You should turn it over to the proper authorities."
"No, listen," Steve says, "I talked it over with Chin Ho-"
"Chin Ho? Wait - Who's Chin Ho? Wait – do you mean Air Marshal Chin Ho Kelly?"
Steve nods, distractedly rolling his empty bottle between his hands.
"Why didn't he want you to turn it over?"
"He says if a smuggling ring's gotten inside Far East Cargo, it could be pretty big."
Steve shrugs. "They'd have to have people on the inside - both in Hawai'i and the point of origin. Maintenance workers, probably. And some back-office people, too, because Cargo takes their weights pretty damned seriously. It's not like commercial flights; a couple pounds difference in what the plane should weigh and what it does weigh, and some bean counter is coming down on the crew's asses. Then you got your TSA and Border Patrol, who're supposed to be monitoring this stuff." He sets his empty to one side and watches Danny process the implications. "This could be big, Danny."
"So who's seen the stuff? The toolbox."
"Just me and Chin. But Kamekona knows something's going on."
Abandoning his beer, Danny stands up with a gesture at Steve. "Let's go, then."
"What? You wanna see the stuff?"
Danny shrugs. "Sure. My brother Matty's a cop. We might be able to ask him some questions."
"But it's mostly financial records and shipping logs."
"So we'll look through it." As the two get underway, he adds, "Besides. Rachel was a forensic accountant back in Jersey before she got hired at the airline. She's still got contacts who can help if we need them."
Steve gets up to follow Danny out, appreciating the view of tight white t-shirt and dress pants. His work shirt is out in the car, since the traveling public isn't filled with confidence by seeing pilots in the bar.
The drive to Steve's house is enlivened by a discussion of Hawaiian beer. Danny insists that no beer produced west of the Mississippi - with the exception of a very few Pacific Northwest beers - is worth drinking, while Steve waxes poetic about the multitude of offerings from Maui Brewing. They make plans to taste test every variety at the brewery the next time they're both on Maui. (Steve's already planning to make a special trip the next time Danny overnights there.) They park and go inside, where Steve is briefly distracted by having Danny alone.
After an awkward moment, Danny asks, "So? Where's the stuff?"
"Oh, yeah. Wait over here," Steve answers, doing his best not to blush. He guides Danny to the couch with a hand on his lower back, being careful not to let it linger too long. He retrieves the toolbox from its hiding spot and sets it on the coffee table. "It's all yours, babe," he says, making Danny smile.
Danny starts going through the records, noting that they're sorted by record type, then by date. "Anal much?" Danny asks. Steve doesn't deny it, just grins as he pulls his handwritten notes out of the toolbox tray.
"Yakunawa Holdings appears most often on that list. But there are a couple others. Zuckerberg, Flash, & Cowley and W F Partners, LLC."
"You find anything out about them?"
"Yakunawa and Zuckerburg, Flash, & Cowley are pretty straightforward. They import for IBM, HP, Apple. The usual high-tech crowd. But W F Partners-"
"Let me guess," Danny asks. "Shell company?"
"You got it. I tried to find information on them, but only came up with a post office box in Honolulu. And look at what they import," Steve says, leaning in to show a particular stack of paper. Steve's body heat, and the fact that he's now plastered against Danny from shoulder to hip, cause an instant reaction in Danny's groin. He tries to subtly adjust himself without Steve noticing.
Dutifully turning his attention to the paperwork, Danny flips through it. "Lampshades? Tourist tee-shirts? Kitty litter? Garlic? How is this shit related?"
"It's not, I don't think," Steve replies. "Here are the personnel lists. A lot harder, since we don't know who's on the inside, so they wouldn't be on these." He grabs the bagged glove and a dot-matrix printout, pointing to the bolded entry. "Ecstasy," he says, tossing them on the coffee table. "There's one more thing," Steve says, pulling a folded piece of paper out of the toolbox. Danny pulls it open, and sees, ‘STOP OR YOU’RE NEXT’ in a generic font.
"Shit, babe. What does this mean?"
"I’d been not-so-subtly asking questions around my dad's work after I found this stuff. A few days later, I had a routine flight to Kona. We developed mechanical problems over the ocean, and I nearly had to ditch."
"Ditch? Jesus... You think it was sabotage?"
"I know it was. We were lucky to make it to Kihei and land in an abandoned sugarcane field. Max came out and examined the plane. He thinks somebody tampered with the hydraulic lines but can't prove it-"
"But combine that with this," Danny runs with the thought, shaking the threatening note, "and it's a slam-dunk."
"That's why I stopped flying for Kamekona," Steve reveals. "We barely made it, Danny. I just couldn't take the chance. With my life, maybe, but not with my passengers."
Danny nods in complete understanding. Steve fights a yawn, but Danny catches it anyway. "You want another beer?" Steve asks, standing up.
"No. And neither do you. Not if you're taking me back to Maui in the morning," Danny says, turning his wrist to show Steve how close it is to the alcohol cutoff time. He starts putting the papers back in the toolbox. "I should head out anyway."
"You, uhh... You should just stay over. Your apartment's all the way up in Wahi'awa. And we both gotta go to the airport in the morning anyway... Besides," he says slyly, "I've sat on that lumpy bed in your crack-infested apartment building-"
"Hey!" Danny protests, not without humor. "That building only looks crack-infested. There hasn't been a bust there in - I dunno... at least a month."
"Either way, the guest room is made up. It's quiet out here, and your bag’s in the car."
"Yeah... I guess I could sleep here."
Danny grabs his overnight bag from the Camaro and totes it back to the living room. "Where do you want me?" he asks as Steve comes back from the kitchen, tossing in a wink to fluster him.
Steve smiles, unflustered, and makes for the stairs. He shows Danny into a casually decorated room where a massive bed takes up most of the floor space. "You're in here. It has its own bathroom," he says, pointing. "TV, radio, ceiling fan..."
"Thanks," Danny says. He would toss his bag on the bed, but it's hiding the erection that hasn't gone away since Steve leaned against him on the couch.
"Thank you for the fresh eyes." After a slightly awkward pause, Steve says, "If you need anything, I'm right across the hall," hiking a thumb in that direction.
"Yeah," Danny says, trying not to rake his eyes over Steve's torso.
With a wink of his own, Steve strips off his shirt as he turns to leave. He pokes his head back around the doorjamb, watching Danny clutch the bag in front of himself. "Sleep well," he says with a knowing grin, before retreating to his own room.
Neither falls asleep right away, though not for lack of comfort. Their attraction keeps them both awake, minds racing with possibilities. After much tossing and turning, Steve finally dozes off to the rhythmic heavy breathing (nearly snoring) coming from Danny's room.
Danny is pushed into full awareness by his throbbing erection. Half-remembered dreams and a bed where the sheets and comforter smell like Steve make a lethal combination. After a cold shower, he dresses and goes downstairs to find a silent and empty house. A post-it note on the coffeemaker says, 'Out for a run. Press start if you want some good Kona.' He's on his second cup when Steve bounds into the house, tight shirt and skimpy running shorts hiding almost nothing of his muscled frame.
"What's with all the ink?" Danny asks, as an excuse to thoroughly examine Steve's sweat-sheened muscles.
"They all mean something," Steve says. He peels off his sweat-soaked shirt, glancing at the lizard just above his right nipple. "Well, most of 'em do." He grabs a bottle of water from the refrigerator, revealing the tattoo covering his lower back.
"You like that one?" Steve asks, coming over and turning to give Danny a closer look. He tugs his shorts down, exposing the top of his crack, making Danny's breath hitch. "It's a tribal design," he explains, leaning back, as if urging Danny to touch it.
With a deep, shaky breath, Danny examines the design. He keeps his hands hovering above the skin because he doesn't quite trust himself while Steve's wearing so little.
Steve takes a swig of water, using the action to lean back into Danny's touch. He smiles as Danny tries to plaster on a clinical face and observes, "It doesn't feel bumpy or anything." At Steve's quizzical expression, Danny adds, "The tattoo. I've uhh... Never actually felt one."
Steve guides Danny's hand higher to stroke his unadorned back. "See? Just like any other skin."
Danny can feel himself flushing and shoots a glance at Steve. He’s looking down with a soft smile that makes him even more stupidly beautiful. Danny desperately wants to lean in and lick over the lines of the tattoo, and startles back when Steve says, "I guess I'd better...,” and hikes his thumb towards the stairs and the shower.
"Yeah," Danny replies. He sees the heft of Steve's cock pressed against the thin material of the running shorts as he leaves and finds his mouth is suddenly as dry as the desert.
Once in the air on their way to Maui, Danny finally breaks the silence that's been sitting between them. He keys his microphone and asks, "So, uhh... How do you want to go about this?"
"Go about what, Danny?" Steve asks as he makes a course correction.
"This whole investigation thing. Which, I'm sure I don't have to remind you that you're not a cop, Steven."
"I was thinking surveillance," Steve says, earning a nod. "I learned a lot of useful techniques as a SEAL-"
"Wait, wait," Danny interrupts. "You were a SEAL? No wonder you've got that badass thing down." Danny grins to himself, the images of Steve's ass still fresh in his mind. "So you think we should hang out and watch the cargo flights come in?"
"Too risky," Steve returns, with a shake of his head. "But I have contacts who have access to some pretty good satellite equipment."
"What, in the Navy?"
"You could say that."
"So we hang out-"
"Whoa, whoa, whoa..." Steve cuts him off. "You've got a job to do, Danno-"
Danny talks right over Steve's objection, "Like you don't?"
"Yeah, but you got a kid. I can't ask you to do that."
"Like flying an aluminum tube through the sky at a four hundred miles an hour isn't dangerous?"
They’re having fun, overriding each other's transmissions. "Good point," Steve concedes. "But I can..." At Danny's near growl, he rephrases, "We can hang back and let Catherine do the heavy lifting."
"Catherine?" Danny squints at Steve.
"Yeah, Catherine," Steve says sheepishly.
"Let me guess. Your Navy contact?" He manages to keep his voice steady but can't help if a vein pops up on his forehead, and has to hope Steve doesn't notice.
Steve obviously does notice, judging by the look he gives Danny.
"And what does Catherine get in return for these favors?" Danny asks, confused by the jealousy bubbling to the surface. "Wait, wait," he says before Steve can respond. "None of my business."
"Don't worry about it," Steve replies. His tone is more impersonal as he reiterates, "Anyway, she'll keep an eye on them, and tell us when there's something to know.
Danny returns his attention to flying. "Yeah, cool, whatever."
They spend the rest of the flight in silence, save for a few communications with Maui approach. After landing, they pull up to an Island Hopper gate and cut the engines, with Steve trying to get Danny to talk. Finally, he goads, "You know, we could hit the Maui Brewing Company for those drinks you owe me."
"I owe you?" Danny exclaims, making Steve grin at his gesticulations. "May I remind you that you said you were gonna prove to me there were good beers out there. Your treat," he says, removing his headset and pointing it at Steve. He glances at his watch. "Besides, some of us still have to work tonight."
They finish the shutdown and deplane, going to the pilots’ lounge so Danny can change. Steve tries to avert his eyes from the perky nipples buried under the furry chest in front of him, but it doesn't work. He fidgets with his phone and jumps when it suddenly rings. "McGarrett," he barks. Without the phone as a distraction, his attention drifts back to a partially dressed Danny, who tosses him a cautious smile as he shimmies out of his chinos, never breaking his gaze.
"Hey Steve. It's Chin."
"Hey, Chin Ho," Steve replies, to let Danny know who it is. "How's it going? Got anything?"
"Yeah. Your father's original crew is flying in tonight, and one of the maintenance guys who always worked on your father's plane is scheduled, too. I think there's a good chance that there's a shipment coming in."
"Cool. Tonight?" He reaches in his pocket for paper and a pen. "What time?"
"Touchdown at Honolulu International at 3:24am. You up for some surveillance?"
"Yeah, brah. Hold up a sec." Steve cups the phone and focuses on Danny's face. "What're you flying tomorrow?"
Danny consults his schedule. "Let's see... 7:30am flight to Lihue with a 9:45 return, then a couple trips to the big island in the afternoon. Overnighting at home. Why?"
"Chin Ho's got a lead. He thinks a shipment's coming in tonight. 3am."
Danny's face falls; that's well into his mandatory rest period. "Shit..."
"I know," Steve says sympathetically. "Chin and I can handle it, Danny,"
Chin Ho's voice comes through the phone's speaker. "You gotta call Catherine."
"Shit, Catherine," he says, noting Danny's tiny flinch. "Yeah, I'll call her." Not quite knowing how to respond to Danny's - what - jealousy? - Steve tries a slight smile and puppy-dog eyes, to see how far that gets him. Not very far, judging by the look he gets in return. "I'll meet you at the maintenance hangar at 3am, okay?"
"Cool, brah," is all the response he gets before the line goes dead.
Steve points to his phone and says, "I gotta..." standing up to leave.
As he turns away, Danny blurts out, "Wait! What can I do?"
Steve turns back, resting his hands on his hips while he considers. "You said Rachel was an accountant?" At Danny's nod he digs his keys out of his pocket and offers them. "How 'bout you take her the toolbox; it's under the stairs at the back of the house. See if she or one of her contacts can find a lead for W F Partners or something."
The tips of Steve's fingers graze Danny's palm as he accepts the keys, reducing his ability to speak. He barely manages a, "Cool," and a nod.
The setting sun paints luscious golden tones across the cockpit, fostering an air of tranquility. The flight to Honolulu is routine, with Steve in the jump seat making mental notes about the overnight stakeout. Kono watches curiously as the guys occasionally lean in and confer without using their headsets. The drone of the propellers makes it impossible for her to overhear.
Kono heads out, saying that there's still time for surfing before it's too dark. The two men part ways in the terminal; Danny heading to Steve's with keys in hand, Steve off to kill time before he meets up with Chin.
Steve reaches the Island Hopper offices, where Kamekona's door is ajar. He checks though the slit and sees Chin Ho so he enters, greeting the pair while shutting the door.
"You sure about dis?" Kamekona asks. Obviously Chin has caught Kamekona up with their overnight plan.
Chin shrugs. "It's just a hunch-"
"But it's all we've got," Steve adds.
Kamekona nods and leans back in his chair. "You talk to Max?"
Chin and Steve exchange confused looks. "Max?" "Why?"
Kamekona reaches for his walkie-talkie with a knowing smile. "Base to maintenance, over."
After a few seconds, a curt, "Maintenance, over," comes back.
"Max, I need you to come into the office for a few minutes."
The walkie-talkie crackles back to life, and they can hear Max striding briskly from the maintenance hangar, huffing as he protests, "I'm not sure why you need me in your office today, sir, since I had my annual review four months ago. I've been quite happy with my work and I know you've been happy with my work, too. You've said so yourself on more than one occasion. Yes, I did move a piano into the maintenance hanger a few months ago, but I believe that you signed a letter of approval and-"
Kamekona tries fruitlessly to break in, "Relax, Max, I just need some information."
"-the piano helps me relax. It doesn't interfere with my duties, just as I told you it wouldn't. Rather the reverse actually, as it helps me focus. Remember the landing gear fiasco at SAS when we were grounded for two days, and you had me inspect every single plane's gear, to make sure they were safe? I'm sure you do. I was using the piano at home to help gather my-"
"It's okay, Max."
"-thoughts. Anyway, I came up with a better design for the landing gear, which Bombardier has acknowledged and actually started using on their new planes, and they were so impressed that they retrofitted our fleet first. It's lead not only to safer landings, but more efficient use of the brakes. I'm sure I sent you a spreadsheet with all the relevant data. Our brake pad consumption has actually decreased 9.7% over the same period before the enhancements, and I think that's pretty good, given that I that I came up with the design while-"
The door opens and Max enters, still rattling into his walkie-talkie, "-playing the piano." He stops short when he realizes Kamekona isn't alone, keying his microphone one final time to say, "Over." Chin and Steve exchange grins and Kamekona shakes his head. "You wanted to see me, sir?"
Before Kamekona can start, Steve leans in with a curious look. "How did you get here so fast, Max? You didn't cut across the runway again, did you?"
Max looks from one man to the next, before settling back on Steve. "It is possible, I suppose," he admits, not looking the least bit sheepish.
Trying to get back on track, Kamekona says, "Max, I know you see pretty much everything around here. Have you noticed any...illicit activity going on?" After a moment's thought, he clarifies, "Around the airport, I mean."
"Which activity are you referring to?" Max responds. Ticking them off on his fingers, he enumerates, "There's the prostitution ring. The gambling ring. The stolen luggage ring. The drug smuggling-"
"That one," Steve interjects, at the same time Kamekona objects, "What the hell, Max?"
"They don't involve Island Hopper," Max says defensively.
"We'll talk about the others later," Chin says reasonably, "but for now, tell us what you know about the drug smuggling ring."
Max pushes up his glasses, reciting the facts he's gleaned. "Far East Cargo. Usually it's the Taipei flights that come in around 3:30am, although lately I've suspected some Shanghai flights as well. Those come in around 2:30am. Two guys from their ten person maintenance crew always 'inspect' the starboard landing gear and remove some sort of baggies. I assume it's drugs. They have people watching them, and I've recently seen people watching those people."
"Really?" Steve asks, glancing at Chin.
"Yes. The interval between deliveries is three to five days. As the last delivery was four days ago and I haven't seen anything since then, I believe that there will be one tonight, or tomorrow at the latest, though I will be off."
Steve asks Max. "Can you set us up in a good spot to watch them?"
Max consults his watch. "Yes. But you have another four to five hours before the first flight touches down. Also, I must finish my overnight on Lakakane tonight, so you can't be in my way. But," he looks at Kamekona for permission, "sure."
"Great," Chin says, grabbing a notepad and pen from Kamekona's desk. "And since we got time, why don't you tell me about everything else you've seen."
When Danny gets to his car, he has to readjust his seat and mirrors before he can head out. He grumbles even while he smiles at the smell of Steve permeating the car. He pulls out of the lot, setting a brisk pace so he can get to Steve's and then Rachel's before it's too late in the evening.
He parks and lets himself in, dismissing the alarm as he breezes through. As he opens the back door he looks around, trying to ascertain whether he's being watched. When he's reasonably certain it's safe, he heads under the stairs and finds a recessed door handle that gives him little resistance. He flashes his mini Maglite and spots the toolbox perched on a stack of cinderblocks. He grabs it and makes his way back through the house. With one more cautious look around, he sets the alarm and settles the toolbox in the trunk of the Camaro before driving off.
Ten minutes later, he punches in the gate code he'd insisted on having since Gracie was often asleep when he brought her back (and calling to be let in sometimes led to cellphone fights that woke her). He pulls up and kills the engine, watching as Rachel slips out of the house before he can even open his door.
Rachel stands on her doorstep, unconsciously tightening the drawstring on her silken robe to counteract the slight evening wind. They smile at one another for a second until Rachel waves Danny over, breaking him out of his reverie. He gets out and pulls the toolbox from the trunk. When he gets close, Rachel pulls him into a chaste, friendly hug and asks, "What is that?"
"I need to ask a favor. I'm hoping you know someone back East we can talk to about this stuff," he says, shaking the toolbox. He gestures toward the door with it. "Can I come in?"
"You are not tracking oil on my carpets, Daniel," she chastises. "Stan would absolutely have your head. Besides, I'm not the best person to look at a ball bearing or altimeter or whatever airplane part you have in there."
"It's just paperwork, Rach," he protests.
"Fine," she concedes. "Take it into the mudroom," she says, pointing at the garage. "I have a desk in there." She goes to the door and Danny follows until she stops him with an outstretched arm. "I'm serious, Daniel," she says. "Garage."
Danny turns back, considering the proximity of the garage door to his daughter's room. "Wait. Won't the noise wake up Grace?" he objects, giving her the pout that worked when they were married.
With a sigh, she lets him follow her into the house, directing him to the mudroom and cautioning him to be quiet since Grace has just gone to bed.
Sitting at the desk in the middle of the room (which contains - among other things - two washers, two dryers, a steamer unit, a giant folding table, and two portable closets), Danny suppresses thoughts about her laundry room being bigger than his entire apartment and focuses on the task at hand. He opens the toolbox and pulls out documentation, arranging it in front of Rachel.
"What is all this?"
"This," he says, finishing up the last neat stack, "is what I need help with." As Rachel starts leafing through the paperwork, he tells her the part of Steve's story that she needs to know; about the cargo company, possible improprieties (though he doesn't explicitly mention drug smuggling), and the need for absolute secrecy. He points to one particular pile and says, "We need to find out who's behind W F Partners. They're a-"
"Shell company, yes?" she guesses as she reads over the logs.
"Yes," he replies, relieved that it's so clear to her. "Do you have any contacts that you can run this by?"
"Contacts? Daniel, let me do this."
He frowns at her almost pleading tone. "Rachel, I don’t want to put you out. You've got Grace to deal with. You've got plenty of stuff to-"
Rachel puts a hand on Danny's shoulder, cutting off his objections. "Daniel, I'm at home doing nothing. All day!" Danny's frown deepens as she continues. "Stan is away on a business trip, and I've seriously got nothing to do." With a sigh, she quietly adds, "It's like all he wants is for me to be a housewife." She drops her hand to his, squeezing it gently. "Let me do this, before I go mad in my own home? Please."
Danny looks into her eyes, seeing the honest appeal there. "Yeah, okay," he concedes. She immediately starts going through documentation, pulling out a pad and pen for notes. As he stands to leave, he asks, "You need anything from me?" She gives a quick smile and a shake of her head before she disappears back into the data. "Yeah, okay," he says again, turning to leave.
"Daniel," she calls, pen gripped tightly. When he turns back, she says, "Thanks." They both ignore her blush as she applies herself to the task once again.
As he walks to the car, Danny thinks about how his life has changed in the last few months. He's almost thrown by the combination of smells once he gets in; Rachel's lingering perfume from the hug, even as he's surrounded by the scent of Steve, who's been in the car almost as much as Danny. One from the past, forever tied to his future through Grace - the other connected by friendship and the possibility of more.
Danny dials Steve almost as a distraction from his thoughts, and he answers on the second ring. "McGarrett."
"Hey. I got the stuff to Rachel."
"Thanks, babe." Danny smiles at the familiarity. "She know someone who can help us?"
"Yeah. She's looking at it herself. Seems like Step-Stan's been keeping her cooped up and she's feeling antsy. And before you ask - yes, she knows to keep it on the down low. How's the surveillance prep going?"
"Good, good," Steve responds distractedly. "Listen, Danny. Sorry-"
Danny interrupts him. "Hey, don't worry 'bout it. Next time," he says with a smile. "Good luck tonight." He hangs up, resigned to spending another night in his lonely apartment.
The wait for the Far East Cargo flight from Taipei drags on, with Steve exiled to a darkened upstairs office after getting in Max's way once too often. Chin Ho disappears for a while to talk to his friend Jenna, a trusted Homeland Security Agent. She agrees to print out documentation from Far East Cargo; specifically records for the prior and upcoming two weeks. Chin picks out tonight's manifest and trots back to the hangar where Max is still muttering about interfering 'helpers'. Finally, the Far East Cargo 747 taxis to its unloading spot, and Chin Ho joins Steve, who's on the phone to Catherine, up in the office.
"Okay, Cat. Plane's in place. The mechanic should be out soon." Steve's job is to focus on the mechanic, while Chin searches for the watcher. The workers start unloading the aircraft slowly, with no sign of the mechanic as time ticks on.
"Man on the field," Steve reports, Catherine's acknowledgement following a second later. He trains his night vision binoculars on the man as he circles the aircraft, but is distracted by a ruckus coming from the port side unloading area. It appears that the first truck in line awaiting cargo seems to be stalled or disabled in some way.
"Got the watcher," Chin says, training his binoculars towards the boundary fence.
"We have the package, gentlemen," Catherine announces, making Steve jerk his attention back to the mechanic. 'Diversion?' Steve wonders, getting a nod from Chin confirming that they're thinking the same thing. They turn their attention back the mechanic and the watcher, and wait.
After completing his walk-around, the mechanic strides into the cargo loading area, ignoring the gathered group. He pats the foreman, currently yelling at the truck driver, calmingly on the arm, though Steve sees the handoff of the illicit goods. "The drop's been made. Drugs are with the foreman now." He watches the foreman tuck the package under his clipboard and walk over to the disabled truck. He makes a large circle with one arm before climbing on the running board to talk to the driver. "Cat, you getting this?" he asks without taking his eyes off the foreman.
"Clear as day."
Seconds later, Steve watches another handoff, foreman to truck driver. "Handoff-" he starts, but hears Catherine announcing, "Driver is now in possession of the goods." They watch the driver pull the truck around to the back of the line.
"Okay, if that's W F Partner's cargo," Chin says, "he's got..." Chin scans the manifest until he hits the right section. "Looks like lampshades, pet supplies, and kitty litter to haul off." He counts the trucks in front of their target. "Looks like we'll be here a while."
Nearly three long hours later, the sun is rising as the truck in question pulls up to the cargo bay. Steve calls Catherine back and glances downfield, knowing he's too far away to see Danny readying his first flight of the day. He pulls his attention back as the last pallet is loaded. "Driver's on the move. You got him?"
"Got him," comes the tired-sounding reply.
Cat reports the truck's movements as he heads northeast. "Can you tell if he's stopping anywhere or meeting anyone?"
"Steve, I can tell you what brand cigarettes he's smoking. Seriously, I've got this." He smiles as he ponders how to make it up to her, until thoughts of a jealous Danny intrude and he stops thinking about it.
After half an hour of driving, the truck pulls into a strip mall in North Kāne'ohe, a small city across O'ahu. He stops at the east end of the mall, where he removes one pallet and disappears through the store's loading dock for twenty minutes. The driver then pulls to the west end and unloads the second and third pallets, taking much longer than the first stop. Catherine relays the strip mall and store names, before reporting, "He's packing up."
"He only had the three pallets, right?" Steve asks Chin, to be sure. "Okay, he must be done for the day." Turning back to the phone, he asks, "Can you follow him to see if he stops anywhere else?"
They wait until the driver parks the truck at a distribution center in Kāne'ohe proper. "Doesn't look like he's got anything on him," Catherine says as she watches him walk from the truck to his car. Before Steve can ask, she continues, "but I'll follow him home, just to be safe."
"Naah. Just get me his address. And, Cat? Thanks."
"Oh, you owe me, McGarrett," she says with a seductive chuckle, and for the thousandth time that day Steve is glad Danny isn't there to hear it.
"How'd it go?" Danny asks, nearly drowned out by boisterous deplaning tourists. He'd asked Kono to say goodbye to the passengers while he made a call, and he can see her leaning back in an effort to hear his conversation.
"Good, good," Steve says, obviously suppressing a yawn. He gives Danny the name of the strip mall and stores to pass on to Rachel. "You up for a road trip when you get back?"
"Babe, you sound like hell. We have tomorrow off, so why don't we do it then?"
Steve sounds ready to argue, but is prevented by a massive yawn. "Yeah, I am kinda tired. Not as young as I used to be, I guess."
He acquiesces with another yawn, and Danny can swear he hears sheets rustling as he hangs up the phone. His mental image of McGarrett abed is dispelled as Kono ducks back into the cockpit.
His tone must've made it obvious who he’d called.
"Good. He's good," Danny says, smiling. He declines to comment on Kono’s smug grin as she dons her headset and grabs the pre-flight checklist for their return flight to Honolulu.
Danny parks and gets out, carrying a paper sack. He walks in calling, "You in?" while biting into a malasada, trailing a few bits down his tie and shirt before they scatter to the floor.
"Seriously?" Steve asks when he sees the traveling mess, grabbing Danny's wrist and dragging him to the kitchen, commanding him to at least try to confine the mess to a smaller area.
"Hey, whoa," Danny says through a mouthful of fried dough before he plops down in a chair. He holds the bag out as he swallows. "Want one?"
Danny can’t help seeing how intently Steve is watching him, following the motion of his tongue as he licks his upper lip. Finally, he says, "Lose the tie," and heads towards the stairs, calling, "I'll be right back."
It takes Steve a few minutes to finish getting ready, and he sighs when he sees Danny still wearing the tie. "What've you got against my tie?"
Steve leans in and grabs it, removing it swiftly and dangling it over the trash before finally handing it over. Urging Danny to his feet and hustling him to the door, he explains 'the island way'. "You're in Hawai'i now," he says while setting the security system. "If we're going out to check these stores, we need to look like locals, not..."
"Not what? Not from New Jersey? Because I am," Danny shoots back as he tosses the keys to Steve and climbs in.
Steve gives Danny a look as he adjusts the seat, steering wheel, and mirrors. "What? What's that look?"
"What look, Danno?"
"You, my friend, have a look," Danny declares.
Steve ignores that, saying only, "It's nothing."
Steve heads for the highway, and the strip mall. "I just-" He breaks off, seemingly realizing how ridiculous it will sound. As Danny rolls a hand in anticipation, Steve smiles and shakes his head. "It's stupid," he finally confesses. Sheepishly, he admits, "I had my seat just right, and you moved it."
"Oh, I moved it? I moved the drivers seat in my car, and-"
"Danny," Steve cuts him off. He rolls his eyes to acknowledge how silly that was. They both grin and the matter is closed.
They don't discuss the case on the way, distracted by another energetic discussion, this one about suitable driving music. When they pull into the strip mall Danny asks, "So which ones are they?"
"Big Kahuna Furniture Gallery and Backyard Pets."
The parking lot is surprisingly full for a Wednesday afternoon, but Steve finds a space closer to the furniture store, making it a natural first stop. "We're just looking around. Just a couple of guys out shopping," he reminds Danny, who shakes his head at this dozenth repetition. "Looking for anything out of the ordinary."
"C'mon," Danny says, pulling him into the store, anxious to get out of the sun and into the air conditioning. While waiting for their eyes to adjust to the relative darkness, they're greeted by a large Samoan woman who reminds Danny powerfully of Kamekona (other than her wealth of hair). "Aloha. What can I do for you two handsome gentlemen today? Furnishing your first home together? Remodeling? Or perhaps you just need a few tasteful accent pieces?" She points to a faux coconut palm that holds wine bottles in its hollow trunk.
'Definitely related to Kamekona,' Danny thinks as he smiles at her. "No, no. We're just looking," he says, trailing Steve toward the living room furniture.
They wander, Danny keeping an eye Steve, ready to follow his lead. Halfway through the store Steve calls, "Hey, babe, come look at this. I think this'd look good in the dining room," he says, seemingly oblivious to everything but the sideboard in front of him. Danny studies it intently (though the beam the saleslady is bestowing on them since hearing Steve call him 'babe' is nearly blinding).
Steve ponders the piece for a few minutes, before asking the price. "Thanks," he says sincerely. "We'll think about it," he offers, heading for the exit with Danny two steps behind.
"Mahalo," she replies. Just as Danny reaches the doors, she calls, "Don't forget; Civil Unions started January 1st." She winks and adds, "And don't worry - we're all set up for double groom wedding registries!" leaving Danny blushing deeply as he steps out into the midday sun.
"You okay, Danno?" Steve asks, having missed her advice. "You look a little flushed."
Danny sighs, clearly put upon. "I'm fine, Mrs. McGarrett," he says. Steve doesn't bat an eyelash, just takes his arm as they make their way to the pet store at the other end of the mall.
As they near the pet store, Danny sees a group of puppies roughhousing in the window. Looking past them at the store's interior, he sees a twitchy-looking man who doesn't seem interested in any of the animals. As Steve reaches for the door, Danny calls out, "Hey, wait," hitching a thumb at the window.
"Yeah?" Steve asks, smiling as one of the puppies gets pinned on his back with a sibling attacking his tail and another wrestling with a paw.
"Okay, so, out of the ordinary, right, babe?" Danny asks, smiling at the pups' antics as cover. "That guy at 11 o'clock look like an animal lover to you?"
Steve glances over, seeing a nervous guy standing at the counter, and gives Danny a barely perceptible nod. They watch the puppies for a little longer before entering, Steve holding the door for a man with a plastic bag of goldfish. "I'll be with you in just a minute," the clerk apologizes as he crosses to the nervous-looking man.
Steve goes to the accessory aisle and scans the leashes while keeping an eye on the customer and clerk. Danny is nearby, surreptitiously watching the rest of the store. "Can I help you, sir?" they hear the clerk ask.
"Yeah, um... Adoptable newborn kittens?" the guy asks, stumbling over the phrase.
The salesman brightens a bit. "Oh yes," he says as he leads the customer to a wire play area. "Look at these little guys. Just eight weeks old. Had all their shots, and are ready to be adopted. Here," he says, and grabs a shaggy grey one, who protests with high-pitched mewling. He hands the kitten off to the guy, who holds it awkwardly and protests, "I don't, uh-"
"Is that the... Steve?" Danny asks. "Is that the one Gracie wanted?"
Not sure where Danny's going with this, Steve squints and says, "I think so. Did you check the-"
"Mittens," Danny finishes, pointing to the dangling kitten's paws. "I'm pretty sure that's the one." He turns to the customer and clerk, both of whom look completely stunned. "I'm sorry," he explains. "My little girl was in here yesterday and she called me last night, asking if I would come and get her the 'little grey kitten with mittens'. This one has four white paws; it must be the one she wants."
While clerk checks the enclosure for any other cat with the same markings, Danny pulls out his phone. He waggles it and asks, "Would it be okay if I..." He snaps a photo of the cat before anyone can protest, hitting the button again to grab one of the customer and clerk. He'll forward it to Chin Ho to run through facial recognition. "Thanks so much," Danny says as he joins Steve by the water bowls.
The customer fumbles in his jacket before passing the cat and what looks like a wad of cash to the clerk. "Yeah, maybe not this one, I guess," he says. The clerk pockets the cash, shooting a look at Steve and Danny to see if they're watching. Noting their seeming involvement in deciding between plastic and metal bowls, he removes a packet of pills from his apron and passes it to the customer in a handshake. "Sorry we couldn't help you out today." The nervous-looking man wavers for a second, before hurrying out.
"So, is this one the one your daughter wanted?" the clerk asks Danny while putting the still unhappy kitten back in the enclosure.
"Just waiting for a text," Danny says, glancing at Steve. He looks at his blank phone, letting his face light up and flashing the phone at Steve and the clerk quickly. "Yep, that's the one! We'll take it."
Steve gives Danny a bewildered look, forcing a smile. "Cool."
The clerk happily sells Danny food, treats, a litter box, kitty litter, and a few toys, handing the kitten (in its newly purchased pet carrier) to Steve. Danny puts it all on a credit card, considering it money well spent to see that gobsmacked look. He slips his wallet back in his pocket and puts a hand on Steve's back, startling him out of the staring contest he's been having with the crated kitten. "Thanks," Danny waves as they exit.
Steve gets all the way to the Camaro before he stops short, scowling. "Whyever did you buy a cat, Danny?"
"You said we were 'just a couple of guys out shopping'," Danny says as he stacks purchases in the trunk. "So. We shopped." He slams the trunk and gets in, leaving Steve standing dumbfounded in a parking lot.
"You didn't have to say it was the one, Danny," Steve protests, opening his door and handing the crate over.
"Hey, he's cute," Danny replies, putting a finger through the plastic grid to play with the animal.
"Yeah, well... At least Grace will like him."
"Whoa, whoa, whoa, there. Step-Stan's allergic. And Rachel's already yelled at me once about her carpets." Danny looks at Steve, whose eyes have suddenly narrowed to slits. "What?"
"I am seriously going to kill you."
"What? It's not like I can keep it at my 'crack-infested apartment'," Danny quotes with a straight face.
"I swear to god, Danny," Steve growls, throwing the car in gear and racing out of the parking lot. "With my bare hands."
Danny drops off Steve, who begs off dinner in order to set up for his surprise house pet, and then heads home, calling an order for General Tso's Chicken into the Chinese take-out near his apartment on the way.
The next couple of days, Danny looks smug every time he asks about the cat. Steve takes it in stride, patiently awaiting an opportunity for revenge.
Friday at noon, Danny and Kono land at Molokai and go to an airport café for lunch. Danny listens to a voicemail from Rachel while they wait for their sandwiches. "Daniel, I think I've got everything you need. Call me back when you get this."
Danny hits the speed dial for McGarrett. Steve picks up with a, "Hey, Danno."
"Rachel's got the stuff. When do you want to meet her?"
"What time's your last flight tonight?"
Since his jacket (and schedule) are still on the plane, Danny grabs Kono's lanyard and pulls it over to see their itinerary, getting a startled look from her. "Looks like we're coming in at 7:20pm, flight 2041 from Kahului."
"Okay. Come to Kamekona's office when you guys get settled. He's been bugging me about this, so he'll probably want to hear it, too."
"Cool. See you then."
Before Kono can question him, he dials Rachel, who picks up on the first ring. "Hello, Daniel."
"Hey, Rach. I just talked to McGarrett. He wants to meet at the Island Hopper offices inside Honolulu International around 7:45 tonight? Can you do that?"
"That will be fine."
"Okay. I'll have Kamekona leave a pass to get you through security. Bring the stuff, but try and-"
"I know, Daniel. I'll be discreet."
"Thanks, Rach," he says, hanging up.
Danny starts on his just delivered lunch, but there's no escaping Kono's interrogation now. "So..." she prompts. When he doesn't respond, she continues, "what's going on tonight in Kamekona's office?" After another long moment of silent chewing, she adds, "Is this about McGarrett's dad and the surveillance he and Chin did the other night?"
Danny studies her intently before looking around to make sure they aren't within earshot of anyone. Lowering his voice, he asks, "How do you know about that?"
"Come on, Danny," she replies. "Chin Ho's my cousin. We're pretty close."
"Yeah, okay. Well, Rachel's got some stuff for McGarrett, so we're gonna go over it tonight with Kamekona."
"Cool. I'll be there, too," she states.
Danny thinks about how much the others trust her and nods in acceptance. "Come on, eat up. We've got three more flights to do."
The day seems to drag on forever as they carry passengers back and forth. It doesn't help that their last planeload consists of geriatric passengers switching cruise ships - the enplaning and deplaning takes an extra fifteen minutes on each end. Danny and Kono finally get the stragglers taken care of and hurry into the office just before 8pm to find Kamekona, Rachel, and Steve waiting for them.
"Hey, Rachel." Danny accepts a friendly hug and kiss on the cheek from his ex-wife, not seeing Steve's hurt expression. "Thanks for coming." Gesturing to his boss and Steve, he asks, "You've already met, I take it? This is Kono Kalakaua, my copilot."
"Very nice to meet you," Rachel says, before turning to Danny. "Daniel... Please tell me you don't call her your Kono-pilot." She's taken aback at Steve's guffaw and Danny and Kono's grins. "It's disturbing to find out that even though I've remarried, I still know how this one's mind works."
"Yeah, well," Danny sputters, hands flailing, "why don't you tell us what you found instead of, you know – digging around in my psyche." He walks over and leans on the sideboard next to Steve.
Rachel starts to lay her notes out on the desk. "Are any of you familiar with a man named Wo Fat?"
Steve and Kamekona nod, but Kono is the first to speak up. "He's a bigwig in Hawaiian society. Started as a macadamia nut farmer and made a lot of money. He owns WoDamia Farms. He's been very generous, supports a bunch of charities."
"Yeah," Kamekona adds. "Matter of fact, there's a gala Sunday night. Pretty big stuff; even Governor Jameson will be there. Wo Fat is doing the ribbon cutting on a halfway house that he practically built himself, so it's a benefit to cover the cost of running it."
Rachel chuckles at the mention of the halfway house. "Wo Fat is the primary person behind W F Partners, LLC. He's who's been importing the disparate items - furniture and pet supplies and whatnot - and providing them to the stores you had me research."
"Okay," Steve says, "but that doesn't tie him to the drugs. It's just circumstantial."
"Yes, but," Rachel says, pulling out another piece of paper, "Wo Fat is also the principal investor in Kumukani Malls, LLC, which owns a dozen strip malls around Oahu and Maui, including the one you two visited. He also financed the woman who owns the pet store where you believe the drugs are being sold." She gives them a moment to digest that before resuming. "This afternoon, I did some digging in the public safety records. Did you know that drug arrests rates are higher near a Kumukani operated mall than anywhere else on the island?"
Steve shares a triumphant smile with Danny. "That's it. He's bringing in the drugs and distributing them through the strip malls. Great work, Rachel. Thanks."
"Tell 'em about Chin Ho," Kamekona prompts Steve.
"Oh, right," he says, pulling out his phone. "Chin texted me earlier. Jenna ran the guys at the pet store through facial recognition. The buyer has a couple of arrests for petty larceny and possession. But the clerk's been picked up over a dozen times for possession and trafficking. Always manages to get off on a technicality."
"Not this time, babe," Danny says, bumping Steve's shoulder. "So how're we gonna take down Wo Fat?"
"First," Steve says, "we should have someone pick up the truck driver. Quietly. Then lean on him until he names names, so there's absolutely no doubt that Wo Fat's pulling the strings."
"How 'bout we let Chin do that," Danny suggests. "Have the Marshals pick him up, put him in protective custody, and make him sing."
"Yeah, but we get to grab Wo Fat," Kono says, "not the police."
"We?" The men say in unison.
"Yeah!" Steve studies Kono while Danny shakes his head. "Come on!" she protests. "Even Max got to get in on the action."
Steve considers it, while Danny's unconvinced. "What can you bring?"
Kono cuts her eyes at him in exasperation, saying, "Max!" Seeing he's still unmoved, she adds, "Come on, seriously? Max has the upper body strength of a seven-year-old poodle! I've been taking martial arts since I was ten years old. Besides," she adds to sweeten the pot, "I know how we can take him down."
Everyone leans in expectantly. She addresses Kamekona, "So, this gala on Sunday night? I've got a cousin working security, but I'm not sure he can get all of us in discreetly. If not, how do we get in?"
Kamekona sighs as he realizes where she's going. "You need a ticket. They're $500 apiece."
"Okay, so you can get us in-"
"Wait," Kamekona protests. "You want me to plop down $1,500-"
Danny cuts in. "Actually, it'd be $2,000, boss. We really need Chin Ho, too," Steve and Kono nod in agreement before he finishes.
Kamekona gives in to their pleading eyes with another, deeper, sigh. "Fine. It's tax deductible, anyway..."
Rachel pipes up, "You know, if you were to pay for it out of Island Hopper's operational budget you could get a tax write off for the company, and then extend that to your personal tax return through a special investment deduction loophole."
Kamekona's face lights up and he leans towards her, waggling his eyebrows flirtatiously. "How 'bout I make it $2,500 and you go as my date?"
"Please tell me that you are not hitting on my married ex-wife right in front of me," Danny says as Rachel blushes. "Rachel? Married, remember?" Rachel pats Kamekona's hand, smiling appreciatively at the offer.
"These are gonna be a bunch of high rollers," Kamekona says. "You'll need to clean up a bit." Though the statement is directed at no one in particular, Danny turns to Steve, eyeing him up and down.
"You got a pair of formal cargo shorts you can wear?"
"Hey, I clean up nice!" Steve retorts.
"I bet you do, babe," Danny replies, a smile crinkling his eyes as he bumps their shoulders together. "What about you, Kono?"
"Don't worry about me," she says confidently. "I've got just the dress."
Saturday, the core four meet at Chin Ho's to plan their strategy for the next night, leaving Kamekona out of it for plausible deniability. They break apart after a couple of hours, happy with their chances.
Sunday afternoon finds Danny restless, so he drives to Steve's house hours before it's time to pick him up. He steps in after a quick knock on the door, calling, "Steve? You here?"
"Shhh," comes the reply. He closes the door and finds Steve on the couch with the kitten curled in a tiny ball on his chest. "He just went to sleep," Steve whispers. By the cat toys scattered around the room (including some Danny knows they didn't buy at Backyard Pets), he can tell Steve's taking his pet ownership seriously.
Danny smiles, triggering an equally bright grin from Steve. He reaches down to gently pet the kitten, slightly jealous that it isn't him curled up on the couch with Steve. "You wanna beer?"
Danny hangs his jacket over the back of a kitchen chair and grabs two bottles from the frig. He plops down in the overstuffed chair next to the sofa, setting Steve's open beer just within his reach. The pair sits in thoughtful silence for a while before Danny picks up the remote with a questioning look. Though the initial volume makes the fuzzball stir slightly, they manage to enjoy a college football game, keeping it nearly muted lest they disturb him.
After the game, Steve carefully shifts the kitten to a pillow, where he protests for about three seconds before succumbing to slumber again. Steve goes upstairs and Danny flips channels and listens to him getting ready in near record time. Danny stands up to clear away the empties and looks up to see Steve coming down in a perfectly tailored suit: dark charcoal with a white shirt and deep blue tie that plays off his hazel eyes. He has to laugh at the shoes and socks he's carrying.
"What?" Steve asks, like it's natural to stay barefoot as long as possible, even in his current outfit.
"Nothin', babe," Danny assures him as he sits on the bottom step to put on his shoes and socks. Though he'd much rather take Steve back upstairs and relieve him of his suit, he checks his watch and says, "We'd better get going." Steve stands and gestures at Danny, who hands over his keys.
Steve and Danny drive to the gala in silence, sharing furtive glances along the way. They park in the garage across the street from the event, pulling in next to Chin and watching him walk around to hand Kono out.
'She was right about the dress' they each think as she demurely steps out, smoothing the fabric. "What?" she demands, at their stunned looks.
The foursome makes small talk as they cross the street to the hotel where the gala is being held. Danny instinctively goes for a glass of champagne from a passing tray, only to have his hand batted away by Steve, who shoots him a look that says, 'focus'. They mingle with the crowd, never straying too far away from each other.
After meeting a dozen interchangeable bigwigs, Danny spots someone familiar and grabs Steve's arm. "C'mon," he says, pulling him over to Winslow Skipwell.
"St- St- Steve!" Skipwell stutters, blushing furiously when he realizes he's leering at the pilot's GQ outfit. Danny appreciatively drinks in the sight of the two flustered men. After a second, Skipwell says, "Let me get you a drink," and turns quickly, promptly running into a wall and stumbling to his knees.
Almost automatically, Steve and Danny rush to his side, each taking an arm to guide him to a nearby couch. "You okay, sir?"
Skipwell takes the opportunity to lean into Steve until they get him settled into the overstuffed cushions. "I think I'll just sit here for a little bit."
Steve and Danny nod and turn back to the party, passing a buff cater-waiter complete with plastic, public-serving smile and a tray of hors d' oeuvres. Pulling a bill out of his wallet, Danny says, "Hey, keep an eye on that guy for me," indicating Skipwell, tucking the $20 into the waiter's jacket. "Thanks."
Twenty minutes later, the four discreetly meet up with Kamekona so he can give them the scoop and point out Wo Fat, with Steve flinching at the sight of the man who killed his father. Danny gently pulls him back after he takes an involuntary step towards Wo Fat, redirecting his attention by whispering in his ear, "Time and place, remember?" Steve blinks slowly and nods.
After watching for a few minutes, they determine that Wo Fat has only a two-person security detail. Governor Jameson has the same, although plenty of additional event security is posted both inside and out. They resume mingling, with Danny keeping an eye on Steve, who seethes whenever Wo Fat nears.
They make their move when he heads to the dais to give a speech dedicating the halfway house, droning on about the battle that its residents face everyday to stay clean and sober. Just after he starts, Danny takes his position beside the bodyguard on one side, while Steve and Chin take the other, separating Wo Fat from his detail. Kono sticks close to the governor, to shield her in case things don't go to plan.
Wo Fat gives a good speech, and Danny can see why he's made it this far. He compares him to certain New Jersey legislators who proscribe one lifestyle, only to later be discovered as the hypocrites they are. Not only can the man speak a load of bullcrap, he's long-winded, as well. Danny rolls his eyes at Steve, who motions for him to be patient.
Speech finally over, applause fills the room - perfect timing for the takedown, just as the team decided. As Wo Fat bows and starts to step into the crowd to shake hands, Chin produces a pair of handcuffs and slaps one around Wo Fat's wrist. The crowd goes suddenly silent, and the only sound is the click of the second cuff.
That's when the melee starts.
Before Chin can read Wo Fat his rights, the two bodyguards leap at him. Danny takes one down with a punch to the throat. He flips him over, deftly catching the backup handcuffs Chin tosses to him. Steve blocks a high kick from the other bodyguard, his SEAL skills easily answering every move thrown at him. Meanwhile, Kono has started toward the governor, yelling at the security detail. "Get her back! Get back!"
Wo Fat struggles, but Chin has his wrists cuffed behind him, and signals to Kamekona to come over for backup. Steve slashes a kick across the bodyguard's shin and he stumbles back, going down after Danny kicks his good leg out from under him.
Chin only brought two pair of handcuffs, so Kono demands one from the security detail. "Cuffs! Come on!" pitching the pair they give her to Steve.
The look on Wo Fat's face is one of active defiance. "What are you doing?" demands Governor Jameson as she shakes off her bodyguards' restraining hands. "Do you know who this is?"
"I'm sorry, ma'am," Chin says, holding Wo Fat firmly as Steve and Danny pull the two bodyguards to their feet.
"Governor," Kamekona says, approaching and nodding to Kono. "I think there's some information you should see." Kono hands over the documentation from her impossibly small purse, and watches while it's read.
Though the politician appears disbelieving at first, the more she reads, the paler she becomes. She thrusts the paper at Wo Fat. "Is this true?" she asks, voice shaking.
Wo Fat doesn't seem fazed. Though he's standing in front of his supporters with his hands cuffed, his expression is nonchalant. He glances down at the evidence of his drug smuggling operation. "And what if it is?"
"How could you?"
Wo Fat coolly replies, "I'm a businessman, Governor. It makes a profit, and that's what I do." He smiles at the lawmaker, his soulless expression giving Danny a chill. "And, I might add, it was very easy to do. Do you know how simple it was to run this operation right under your nose?"
Danny sees her hand twitch and wonders if she's fighting the urge to slap Wo Fat. (Danny would love to slug him stupid before leaving him alone in a room with Steve for some well-deserved retribution.) "I trusted you," Governor Jameson says.
"Which only made it that much easier."
Disgusted, she turns to her security chief. "Get him out of my sight," she says, her voice flat with anger.
Wo Fat laughs as her detail takes custody of him. "I'll be out in an hour. Maybe I'll come back and finish my evening here." Looking at her with menace, he adds, "With you."
"Not if I can help it," Governor Jameson replies. She indicates for her bodyguards to wait and pulls a cellphone out of her bag, dialing from memory. "Good evening, Judge Walker. I'm sorry to disturb you so late on a Sunday evening, but we have a situation that could use your assistance."
Danny notes how pale Steve has become. "You okay, babe?"
Steve nods, lips curving in a hint of a smile as he hears the governor say, "Bail denied until trial, that's right. Thank you, Robert."
Danny can plainly read the toll of the last few months on Steve's face as he says, "Thanks, Danny." Danny just bumps his shoulder, smiling up at him.
Governor Jameson puts her phone away and squeezes Kamekona's arm as Wo Fat and his men are led away. "Thank you so much," she says, sincerely. "For everything."
"Hey, I only hire the best," Kamekona says.
"All these people work for you?"
"Well, most of them do," he says, after hearing a cough. "Chin Ho Kelly, United States Air Marshall, ma'am." He introduces the rest in turn. "These three are mine. Steve McGarrett, Kono Kalakaua, and Danny Williams." Each team member shakes the lawmaker's hand, though her gaze goes back to Steve.
"Steve McGarrett? You're John McGarrett's son?"
Steve takes a deep breath and nods. "Yes, ma'am."
"Your father was a great man," she states. Governor Jameson smiles at Steve's incredulous expression. "We met about a year ago at the Western Governors' Association meeting in Las Vegas, after his retirement. Our regular pilot was out with the flu and he recommended John. Couldn't speak highly enough of him. Your father and I got to talking on our way to Olympia to pick up Governor McKenzie, and he let me fly in the jump seat."
Steve smiles even as he shakes his head. "You got to fly in the jump seat? I was his son, and he never let me take the jump seat," he protests lightheartedly.
The governor reaches for Steve's arm, petting him consolingly. "I'm so sorry for your loss."
Steve says quietly, "Thank you, ma'am."
Governor seems to shake off the adrenaline high of the takedown with practiced ease. "Well, then," she says, "it's still a party." As if on cue, the band resumes playing.
Steve extends his hand and says, "Thank you, ma'am, but I think we've caused enough of a ruckus. Maybe next time we can stay longer," he half-heartedly offers. "I was thinking," he says to his team, "that we should have a celebration of our own. Next Saturday at my place." Looking at Danny specifically, he adds, "To commemorate my return to piloting."
He tells Kamekona, "You need to convince Max to come. And, Danny, you can invite Rachel and Grace. Of course, you're welcome, too, Governor."
The foursome tries to make a quiet exit (Kamekona having already declared his intention to stay by Jameson's side), but the Governor quashes that by leading the party in a round of applause. Steve almost walks into the doorframe, having spotted the waiter and Skipwell making out on the couch, and hopes beyond hope that Danny didn't see - he'll never hear the end of it.
Steve appreciates the closure the evening has brought, and is grateful that Danny is here to share it. Steve parks in his driveway and removes the keys, though neither man moves to get out.
"Danny..." Steve says, struggling for the right words. Finally, he simply says, "Thanks." He looks over to find that the moonlight flooding into the car accentuates Danny's smile, so he covers his hand and squeezes gently. Danny turns his palm up and tangles their fingers together.
Steve leans over, licking his lips and kissing Danny tentatively. It's chaste at first, before their tongues start exploring, sending bolts of electricity through Steve. He pulls Danny closer and loses himself in Danny’s moans.
Danny and Kono land at Honolulu International the following Saturday at 10am after overnighting in Maui, Kamekona having arranged their schedule to make sure they were free for the party. They drive to Steve's together and make their way to the backyard, passing the new sideboard in the dining room.
Once outside, they find Steve and Kamekona tussling over the grill (Kamekona keeps applying sauce to the pork ribs, and they can't reach a consensus on how much longer before the spamburgers are done). Max, Rachel, and Chin Ho are talking about the airline industry, while Grace energetically digs in the sand nearby. "Monkey!" Danny calls and is rewarded with an armful of Gracie. Still holding her, he leans in for a kiss on the cheek from Rachel, before going to give Steve a shoulder bump that, in their private language, means Danny’s missed him. Steve's eyes tell Danny just how much he was missed in turn, and which methods Steve would prefer to make up for lost time.
"Glad you're finally here," Steve says as Danny puts Grace down. "I wanted to show you this." He puts his lips together, whistling three times in quick succession. "C'mere, Mutt Mutt!"
The tiny kitten appears at the door, and he mewls so quietly it's nearly lost under the sound of the grilling meat. "Tell me you didn't," Danny says.
"C'mere, boy! C'mere, Mutt Mutt!" Steve calls again as he claps his hands together. Grace squeals in delight as the three pound kitten stops at the top of the stairs, then moves to the side where Steve has put down extra bricks, making it possible for him to climb down on his own. With another whistle, Mutt Mutt runs to Steve, standing up on his hind legs to be picked up.
"Why are you training him like a dog, Steven?" Danny asks. Steve ignores him, beaming down at his kitten.
"Can I..." Grace starts.
Steve bends down, pointing at the little girl. "Go on, Mutt Mutt. Go get Gracie!" sending the cat bounding over to her.
Kono’s the first to break into laughter, but it's so contagious that everyone soon joins in. Steve beams at Danny, having figured out exactly how to get him back.
When the laughter dies down, the group gathers around the table to dig into the feast. The only time voices are raised is when Danny refuses to try a Spamburger, until the combined pressure of pouts from Grace and Steve make him give in.
Just after Danny finishes wiping his tongue on a napkin to tremendous laughter, they hear a "Woohoo..." from the house. Steve, Danny, Kono, and Chin share puzzled looks, until they glance at Kamekona, who has absolutely no poker face at all. Rachel sees the woman standing at the back door and exclaims, "Is that the Governor?"
Governor Jameson smiles and walks over, waving back to the security detail that she ditched in the house. "Sorry. I rang the bell but nobody answered. I hope you don't mind I let myself in." She turns to Kamekona, who automatically stands to offer her his seat, saying, "No, no. Sit! Eat!"
Steve gets up, readying to make her a plate. "Can I get you something, Governor?"
Jameson looks around before smiling at Steve. "You got a beer? I have never known a Navy man who couldn't find a lady a beer."
This is Mutt Mutt.