My knee was killing me, but there was no way I was giving up using Steve as a human cane, slow dancing with him to a bunch of romantic music, even if the damn thing gave out altogether. Besides, we had to be high visibility if we were going to make this work. As appealing as locking ourselves in the swanky room and screwing our brains out until we were too sore and exhausted to do it anymore sounded like a nice plan, it wouldn’t draw the attention of the killer if he couldn’t find us.
“See anybody suspicious?” I whispered in his ear.
“Anybody watching us?”
“Yeah, but I’m not sure why. We’re the only male couple here right now, so they could be staring for that reason.”
“I noticed a few stares like that. Nothing else. This has gotta suck for Chin and Kono. Going undercover as a couple with your cousin? That’s just painful,” I concluded, chuckling.
“At least we’re enjoying it,” Steve agreed, then he inhaled.
“Are you sniffing me?”
“Yeah,” he said, and his voice was all husky.
“Shit, you’re giving me a hard-on.”
“You started it. You smell too fucking good. That’s new cologne, and it’s good stuff.”
“I never would have pegged you for a cologne snob,” I replied, though I was incredibly turned on by the thought of him literally sniffing me. I should have pegged him that way, though, because Steve only has a couple bottles of cologne on the dresser, and they’re both classy and smell great on him. Not the stuff that announces your arrival fifty feet before you get there or reminds everyone of your presence for a good two hours after you leave. This was the subtle stuff that just makes you want to rip the wearer’s clothes off and do them wherever you might land. Of course, Steve’s worthy of that reaction with or without the cologne.
“You could probably rub a little motor oil behind your ears and it would have the same effect on me, but the cologne is really nice.”
“I’ll keep that in mind when I run out next time.”
“Can’t wait to see what it smells like when we get upstairs and I get you all overheated.”
“How much longer do we have to stay down here?”
“It’s only nine. A little longer.”
“We’re newlyweds. If this were our actual honeymoon--” I began to object.
“We’d have spent the whole day naked in our room ordering room service and only putting clothes on long enough for housekeeping to change the bed when it got too gamey.”
“There’s a sexy thought,” I replied, laughing.
“You can only use one set of sheets for so long.”
Apparently Steve has a rule about that, because during a night of marathon sex, he actually changed the bed while I went to the bathroom. Old sheets rolled up and on the floor in a ball, pristine clean ones back in place with military precision.
“Mark Fredericks is here.”
“Really?” Steve turned us a bit so he could get a look at the side of the room I’d been watching.
“Did I move too fast?”
“I twisted it. Not your fault.” Actually, he did kind of forget I was leaning on him when he moved, but I didn’t blame him.
“We’ll sit down for a while,” he said, and he helped me limp back to the table. He pulled a small packet of two ibuprofen pills out of his pocket and handed it to me. That’s love. Having pain pills in your pocket when your partner is too stupid to bring them downstairs. I put my hand on the back of his neck and pulled him toward me for a kiss. I made it a good one. If you folks are gonna stare at us, let me give you something to stare at.
“Thank you,” I said, taking the pills with a couple gulps of ice water.
“Remind me to always be packing ibuprofen. I didn’t know it wan an aphrodisiac.”
“You need to fuck me so my endorphins kick in.”
“I would only allow myself to be so distracted from the job to ease your pain.”
“Fredericks is an odd duck,” I said, watching the other man as he downed a large amount of his cocktail in one gulp.
“Max said he should be able to release the body to him tomorrow, so he’ll probably head home.”
“If something like that happened to you, I don’t think I’d be out drinking and watching other couples dancing.”
“Might beat sitting alone in their room staring at his dead husband’s personal effects.”
“I s’pose. I asked Kono to give them her special brand of a background check. I know the HPD did a cursory once-over, but I don’t think they turned ‘em upside down and shook ‘em.”
“Even if Fredericks had a reason to kill D’Angelo, he wouldn’t have had a reason to kill the first victim.”
“With serial killer cases, people, including investigators, can get swept up in all the gore and the drama, and sometimes they miss those little clues that tie victims together or point right at the perp.”
“That’s pretty insightful. Did you learn that on that case you and your partner, Grace, worked on?”
“Yeah, more or less. We solved it. That was kind of cool, since we were the youngest detectives on the task force.”
“You never told me that story.”
“The killer was a guy who worked for a pest control company that serviced all the victims’ homes before and during the time span of the murders. Thing is, he didn’t work on the crew that went into the homes. He was a dispatcher, customer service-type guy who did the scheduling, talked to the customers over the phone. Come to find out, he was asking all sorts of unnecessary questions and pretending it was part of the pest control ‘evaluation’. Like how many people in the house, how many children, whether or not they left doors or windows open - and that would often trigger someone saying they had an alarm system. He never hit those houses. There were a lot of older detectives who liked to pull rank on us and make us do all the boring research and uninteresting legwork, but it was there that we found the link. After that, we could pretty much write our own ticket.”
“Pretty impressive for the new kids on the block.”
“Yeah.” I sighed.
It was still hard to talk about Grace. She didn’t get long to enjoy her job, and she fought so hard for the status and the credibility in a mostly male shop. Even I was disappointed when she was first assigned to me. I was a typical chauvinist jerk. I grew up around guys who had a lot of traditional attitudes about women. Not bad, necessarily, but not all that enlightened. My mom was a homemaker most of her life, Dad was the breadwinner. I never heard him talk about female fire fighters. I’m glad I ran into women like Grace and Kono in my life. I see how smart and capable and strong my daughter is, and I know she can do anything she puts her mind to, and God help any guy, myself included, who thinks otherwise.
“You don’t have to talk about it if you don’t want to,” Steve said, and I realized I’d zoned out on him.
“We were hot shots, all right.” I took a drink of water to push down the lump in my throat. “I had seniority. I should have been the voice of reason.”
“You couldn’t have had seniority over another detective by much in 2001.”
“No, not by much, but I had it, and I should have known better. We were on a roll, and we wanted another big collar without some other team swooping in and getting the credit and shoving us aside to do the paperwork.”
“How often did Grace let you flex your seniority?” he asked, and I laughed.
“Never. She drove most of the time, too,” I said, and it was his turn to laugh. “I learned real fast that a male partner wouldn’t have busted my balls as effectively as she did.”
“I wish I could have met her.”
“If you two were partnered, I’m not sure I’d want to be on the streets. She wouldn’t have been any kind of check on you. She’d have egged you on in the rare moments you don’t blow something up or throw somebody off a roof.”
“I’ve never thrown anyone off a roof, exactly, and you make it sound like I’m tossing grenades all over Honolulu on a daily basis.”
“If the shoe fits, babe,” I teased, but he just gave me a look and then smiled. He knew I was yanking his chain.
“How’s your knee?” he asked, touching it lightly under the table.
“Okay, but my dick’s bothering me. You should touch it.”
“Pervert.” He laughed and took one more sip of wine. “We might as well head upstairs if we’re not gonna dance any more.”
“Sorry about that. It should be better after I rest it.”
"Your dick or your knee?"
"The knee. My dick needs exercise. Probably should work out most of the night."
“Don’t forget the endorphins - for your knee, of course.”
“Can’t forget those. Chin and Kono will be glad to call it a night, I’m sure. We should have let her hang out here with Adam instead.”
“Adam’s not Five-0.”
“Yeah, but he knows how to take care of himself, and it beats being on a fake honeymoon with your cousin.”
“They’ll get breaks tomorrow. They don’t fit the profile of what our killer is looking for, so it’s not like they have to be as constantly visible as we are. I understand there’s something of a line of cops from HPD who want to help out with this tough undercover gig.”
“It’s a dirty job,” I agreed, standing, positive that a small contingent of demons were dancing around my knee, stabbing it with pitchforks. I used my spiffy black cane, but my favorite support was linking my arm through Steve’s while we made the long walk to the elevators.
We kept our eyes open to see who got on and off the elevator we rode. There were a few familiar faces from the hotel dining room and the dance floor, a couple people I thought I’d seen at the pool earlier, and even Mark Fredericks, though he did just as we asked and ignored us. He was still on the elevator when we got off on our floor.
The fucking hall looked ten miles long as I limped along next to Steve, who blessedly slowed down his usual long-legged gait so I didn’t kill myself trying to keep up. By that point, he’d have just had to drag me to the room if he wanted to go that fast.
“I could carry you,” he offered.
“No, you couldn’t,” I insisted, though it sounded so good I almost gave in.
“Stubborn SOB right to the end, aren’t you?”
“I’d have to be to survive working with you,” I shot back, wishing I wasn’t so worried about my macho image. My knee was killing me.
“Oh, shut up,” he said, and before I knew it, he had picked me up and was carrying me down the hall. If I’d fought him, I’d have looked more ridiculous, like a male Scarlett O’Hara pounding on Rhett Butler’s shoulders as he hauled her up the staircase.
“I’m going to kill you.”
“You can try, gimpy, but you have to catch me first.”
“You gave me the weapon yourself,” I said of the cane, that was hanging, useless, from my hand.
“You kill me now, no endorphins for your knee.”
“You’ve got a point. Besides the one on top of your head,” I added.
“I should drop your annoying ass right here and leave you to fend for yourself.”
“Go ahead. No endorphins for you, either, if I’m out in the hall.”
“We’re almost to the room, Danno, and no one’s watching us, so just relax.”
I finally did relax against him, glad for the relief even though I pretended to be offended by the whole thing. I unlocked the door and gave it a shove open while he completed his mission and safely set me on the foot of the bed.
“Was that so terrible?”
“A little embarrassing but I’ll survive.”
“You’re welcome,” he said, taking off the dressy watch he was wearing and laying it on the desk. It’s weird how they make the dresser the TV stand, too, so you either have to put your stuff next to the TV or on the desk.
“Think I could get some help getting undressed?” I asked.
“Sure, anything you need.” I felt like a dick then, because his response was so sweet and genuine and not lascivious. He looked all kind and sympathetic to me, even though I’d been a thorny pain in the ass a couple minutes earlier.
“My dick is getting hard and I may need help safely removing my pants.”
“Fuck you,” he said, laughing.
“Gotta get me naked, first, babe.”
He took off his suit coat and threw it in the general direction of a chair. It missed by a few feet, and he ignored it, yanking off his tie and kicking off his shoes. I started getting rid of the clothes I didn’t need, which included all of them, tossing them somewhere near where Steve’s stuff landed. When all we had left on were pants, he knelt in front of me and undid my belt and unzipped me. I was hard; I hadn’t been joking about that. I happily lifted my butt off the mattress so he could get rid of my pants and underwear in one swift move. I was really hoping he was getting ready to do what I thought he was gonna do, and then he did.
His hot mouth was on me, licking me that way he does that drives me insane, then sucking me, encouraging me to lie back so he could start teasing me with his fingers. When I thought I couldn’t get any harder, he released me and then licked me there. His wet tongue went right over my hole and across the skin above it until he hit my balls.
“Holy shit, Steven,” I gasped, grabbing the bedspread. He chuckled a little wickedly at that and did it again. Then again. “Where’s the stuff?” I asked, and he just looked up at me from between my legs and grinned.
“Wouldn’t you like to know?” Then he dipped down and did it again. I squeezed that bedspread hard enough to leave permanent wrinkles and if anyone heard my scream, they probably thought the killer struck again. He started pumping me with his hand while I came, saying things like, “Come on, baby, that’s it, give it to me.” I didn’t even realize both my legs were up in the air, even the bad one, and I didn’t care.
Always the quick thinker, and probably the best lover on earth, Steve thought to support my bad leg so I didn’t jerk my knee when I let both legs just sort of drop down like I’d been shot. I was sprawled there, naked, my dick down for the count, come on my belly, breathing like a tractor. Steve was calmly unzipping his pants, now, taking them off, then his underwear. He was going to have to do me a long time to get me to come a second time. The fact he was calmly and methodically getting ready to do just that was almost hotter than what I’d just been through. But that wasn’t humanly possible.
“I hope you don’t have any other plans for tonight,” he said, leaning over me, kissing me.
“Not a one,” I replied, glad my brain had momentarily reconnected with my capacity for speech.
“Good,” he said, kissing me again. “Because you’re gonna come for me again, while I’m inside you, and that’s gonna take a while.”
“Fuck,” I eloquently responded, and he laughed.
“That’s the plan. You wanna scoot up on the bed, or do I have to drag you?”
“Drag me? Shit, you’ve gotta resuscitate me first.”
“Mouth to mouth? I can do that.” He kissed me again, and this time I was thinking clearly enough to get my arms around him and hold on, giving as good as I was getting. I got my foot on the edge of the mattress and started pushing myself up, and he gladly gave me a boost without breaking our kisses that got me up where I was supposed to be. “What’s the best position for your knee, sweetheart?” The gentleness in his voice and the way he looked at me almost got me choked up.
“Probably my side,” I said, turning on my side, and before I could mention needing something to support that leg, he had a pillow there to go between my knees. “Thanks, babe,” I said, leaning into his embrace as he spooned up behind me. He released me long enough to move forward and kiss my bad knee. I’m not sure why that moved me like it did, but I couldn’t help thinking, again, that nobody ever treated me the way Steve does.
“Should I put something on it? It’s pretty swollen,” he said.
“I can think of something else that’s gotta be swollen by now.” That made him laugh. “If we’re still alive when we’re done, you can ice it for me.”
“It’s a deal,” he said, touching my leg, kissing my knee again.
“Or you can keep doing that and screw the ice bag.”
“I’d rather screw you.”
“I asked for that, didn’t I?”
“Not yet, but making you ask for it sounds really hot.”
“It’s all yours, babe. Anything you want,” I said as he kissed his way up my thigh to my hip and up my side to my shoulder.
“Just want you, Danno. Always,” he whispered in my ear.
“You got me, Sexy Eyes. You’ve had me for a long time.”
He hugged me close, fitting himself around me, nuzzling me and kissing me, caressing me. I didn’t know where he got his self-control, but I was a little in awe of it. I finally stopped worrying about that and just let myself drown in the sensation of being loved like that, of someone wanting me that much.
By the time he started stretching me, I was getting hard again, and I wanted it. When he slid inside me, it felt great, better than ever before, which was saying a lot because it always felt pretty damn good. I was somewhere between relaxed and excited, and I loved him so much at that moment that all of it came together so making love with him was so good it was almost surreal.
He took his time, kept the pace gentle but firm enough to get us where we needed to go. He stroked my chest and belly, tweaked my nipples, kissed my neck and then sucked it enough to leave a few nice red marks. He wasn’t touching my dick, and when I reached for it, he took my hand and held on, making it clear he was running the show and I was gonna come from him moving in me. That was okay with me. I didn’t want to end this, and anybody who loved me like he did could write his own ticket.
When I came, it was amazing, even better for the length of time it took, and I heard him gasp and felt him shudder and the pace of his strokes change as he came inside me. We lay there for a while, just breathing together like one person, still joined. I felt a sense of loss when he did ease out of me, but he stayed spooned around me, kissing me and nuzzling my hair, mumbling love words in my ear.
I felt myself dozing, but I didn’t want to nod off and leave him.
“Go to sleep, mea aloha,” he whispered. “I’m not going anywhere.”
“Better not,” I muttered, yawning. “Not without me.”
After the night we’d shared, the last thing I wanted to do was get up early and spend part of the day ditching Danny so we could start setting ourselves up as bait. But this was a job, and not a real honeymoon, so we had a pricey brunch in the hotel dining room - Danny talked me into a couple more hours in bed because he said gay men like brunch. If they spend their extra hours in bed the way we did, they’re definitely onto something.
As we sat on the beach this time, sipping mimosas, I noticed Danny did have a couple of scandalous passion marks on his neck. I had some, too, but my trunks covered them.
“You look like somebody who got some last night,” I said, teasing him. "And again this morning."
“I was mauled by a neanderthal animal.”
“Is that a complaint?”
“Only if it doesn’t happen again tonight,” he said, clinking his glass against mine. “So when are you gonna ditch me and go frolic in the water?”
“Fredericks is out here.”
“Yeah, I see him.”
“Don’t you think it’s weird that he’s hanging out on the beach?”
“You thought it was weird he was in the dining room, too. Everybody grieves differently.”
“I guess.” Danny was quiet a while. He was relaxing in a beach chair, sunglasses on, blond hair glowing gold.
“You should have more sun screen on.”
“I’m fine, Mom.”
“Can’t wait for our real honeymoon.”
“Me, neither,” he said, grinning. He held out his hand toward me, palm up, and I covered it with mine, lacing our fingers.
“I won’t change into somebody else. I just hope you know that.”
“You said once that people should never get married because they always change and then they’re not the person they were before and relationships never last forever.” It had bothered me since we decided to get married. Or, maybe longer than that. Maybe back when we were stuck under that building and Danny told me how he always saw the end of things. He’d told me he didn’t feel that way about us, but I wondered if he feared I’d change the way he said married people did. Something told me that Danny would always be just like he was then, only maybe a little older and crabbier as the years went by.
“Guess I hadn’t hooked up with the right person back then,” he said, squeezing my hand. “I love you, Steven. I suppose everybody changes with time, but I’m gonna love whoever you become, so it doesn’t matter.”
His answer caught me off guard, and I took another drink of my mimosa because I couldn’t answer him right then. You can’t get a much better, truer declaration of a love that will stand the test of time, than what he’d just said.
“Whoever I become, is always gonna be in love with whoever you become,” I finally replied. I leaned over and kissed his shoulder.
“Whoever those guys are, I guess they’ll have a nice life then, won’t they?” he quipped, grinning at me.
“Yeah, I bet they will.”
“You better start deserting me for a while.”
“You’ve got your phone, right?”
“Chin and Kono are down the beach a ways.”
“I saw them.” I could tell he was tired of my fretting. “Babe, he’s not gonna whip out a knife and chop my balls off while I’m sitting in the middle of a crowded beach. I’ll be fine.”
“I’m hovering, right?”
“Shit, like the UFO in Close Encounters. Just go already.”
“Okay,” I replied, laughing. I leaned over and kissed him, and he kissed back, enthusiastically. “Just don’t take up with anybody. I’m the jealous type.”
“I’ll try to control myself.”
I went out to the edge of the water and then headed into it for a swim. It was kind of crowded and hectic, and I missed the serenity of taking a swim at home. I knew it wouldn’t be too convincing or inviting for our killer if I was floating around in the water staring at Danny, so I did my best to really get into the spirit of swimming like I meant it, not looking back. Danny was right; nothing was going to happen out in the midst of all those people, not to mention Chin and Kono within view of him. I smiled when I realized I was getting too much in the spirit of being on my honeymoon. I couldn't wait to make it official and go on the real one.
I leaned back in the beach chair and yawned. We hadn't gotten much sleep the night before, a thought that made me smile. I didn't dwell on it, because I didn't want my trunks tenting when I didn't have any way to take care of such a dilemma in the middle of a public beach without my partner. I couldn't really see Steve anymore out there among the dozens of heads bobbing around above the surface of the water. We were pretty lucky to have Steve's little stretch of private beach at home. The joy of a crowded beach wears very thin, very quickly.
My phone rang, and I was immediately on alert when I saw the phone number for Grace's school.
"This is Vice Principal Dwyer. Is this Mr. Williams, Grace's father?"
"Yes, is she all right?"
"Please remain calm, but the ambulance is here--"
"Ambulance? What happened?"
"There was a mishap on the playground and Grace fell from the top of one of the slides."
"I'm on my way."
"You should go right to Queen's Medical Center. They're getting ready to leave now. Her mother has been notified and is en route there as well."
"Is she awake? How was she hurt?"
"She must have bumped her head in the fall. She's not conscious right now."
"Oh my God. I'm heading for the hospital now."
My hands were shaking so hard I could barely hold the phone, but I managed to text Kono: Emergency-Grace hurt. At Queen's.
The reply was almost instant: We've got visual on Steve. Chin can go with you.
Leaving now. Will call later. Stay w Steve.
When I came out of the water, there was no sign of Danny. My phone was ringing and I grabbed it as soon as I got to the abandoned beach chairs.
"Danny had to leave," Kono said. "There was some emergency - he said Grace was hurt and he was heading over to Queen's Medical Center."
"Did he say how serious it was?"
"He just texted me that much and then he was gone. I told him Chin could go with him, but he said to stay with you."
"I'm going there. You guys hang out here a while and then wrap it up for today. I'll call you if Danny and I come back here later."
"Okay. Let us know how Grace is."
I rushed back up to the hotel room to throw on some clothes. I figured Danny had taken the car, so I called down to the front desk and asked them to call me a taxi, that it was an emergency. By the time I got downstairs, there was a hotel shuttle waiting for me instead. As we drove toward the hospital, I called Danny. After three attempts and not getting an answer, I figured he was already at the hospital and possibly somewhere he couldn't use his phone. I called Rachel, and she answered on the second ring.
"Rachel, how is Grace?" I asked.
"I just got to the hospital. I'm heading into the emergency entrance right now. Where's Danny?"
"He's already on the way. I'm right behind him."
"Good. I have to go." She broke the connection.
When I arrived at the hospital, I rushed into the emergency area and looked for Rachel. I had my badge out so I could cut through the usual rules and restrictions and poke my head in whatever exam room or cubicle necessary to find Grace. I found her, and Rachel, after just a few tries. Grace was lying on a gurney, but she was awake and talking to her mother. The doctor was just finishing telling Rachel that they were going to do a CT scan just to be sure everything was okay.
"Uncle Steve!" she greeted the moment I walked in.
"Hey, Gracie. How are you feeling, sweetheart?" I approached her and took her hand, giving her a quick kiss on her forehead.
"My ankle hurts," she said. "Where's Danno?"
I flashed a look at Rachel, and she shrugged.
"We're working undercover on a case, and it might take him a little longer to get here, but he's on his way." I knew I was lying, but I didn't want to upset her. "I'm gonna come back and see you later, after you're done with your X-rays, okay?"
"Okay," she agreed, smiling.
"I love you, Gracie. You rest and feel better and we'll get Danno in to see you real soon."
"You're worried about Danno, aren't you? Something's wrong."
"Nothing's wrong. I just haven't been able to get him on the phone yet, but he's probably just focusing on driving to get here as soon as he can."
"Go find Daddy. I'm okay."
I was stunned, though I shouldn't have been. Grace is smart beyond her years, and she knows Danny and me very well.
"I will. You rest and don't worry. I'm on it."
"Okay, Uncle Steve," she said, smiling at me. I headed out of the room, but Rachel followed me.
"What's going on, Steve? Danny would never miss being here for Grace."
"I don't know yet, but I'm gonna find out. Just take care of Grace and I'll let you know when I find him."
I'd had nightmares about being in enclosed places and not being able to get out, but even the worst one didn't compare to this. I couldn't straighten my legs all the way out, or sit all the way straight. The metal grid of the cage was pressing into my skin because I was naked. My knee throbbed like crazy, and so did the area around my neck and shoulder where the taser hit me. I remembered now that call about Grace. Could it have been a trick to get me alone? I hoped so. That was the one thing I held onto, that it wasn't true. Because if it was, my little girl was hurt and I couldn't get to her, be there for her. That was unbearable.
I did my best to control my breathing and not freak out. A cage is less enclosed than solid barriers, but thinking about the marks on Tony D'Angelo's body from the cage being wired didn't exactly calm me down. The spot where I'd been tased still hurt like a bitch. I couldn't imagine being repeatedly shocked by a metal grid you couldn't get away from.
The room itself wasn't really all that open and comfortable if you're not fond of tight spaces. Cement block walls, cement floors, high, grimy windows. It was a garage, that much was obvious from the one large door that made up most of the opposite wall. It was solid, probably aluminum or vinyl, without windows. There was another regular door that looked like solid wood or metal, with a knob and a deadbolt. The floor had a variety of stains on it, but the one that caught my attention was the large reddish brown one beneath a hook that hung from the rafters.
It didn't take a forensic expert to figure out what that was from. I could almost picture Tony D'Angelo hanging there, bleeding out.
There was a large workbench along one wall with a bunch of tools on it. I didn't want to think too much about what they all were, or how they might be used other than for their intended purpose. Then I saw them. The jars. Lined up with absolute evenness. Three mason jars with weird, fleshy-looking things preserved in some kind of liquid. I looked away and swallowed several times to keep from puking. When the horror of what they were waned a little, and I made myself think like a cop again, I wondered who the third set belonged to.
God, I needed to move. That fucking cage was bad enough without being wired. I was sweating like crazy, but it was a sick, cold sweat; I know I was shaking. The last thing I wanted to do was arm someone who wanted to torture me with the knowledge I was claustrophobic. Of course, between that and someone cutting my junk off, I suppose the claustrophobia was the lesser of the evils.
I didn't want to think about Steve, or how it felt making love with him the night before. The soft touch of his lips on my shoulder moments before he left me there on the beach to go out swimming. He'd never forgive himself for this, and he'd never get over it. He'd obsess about it as one more failed mission. I just wanted to be able to tell him that it was okay, it wasn't his fault. We both agreed to this, went into it with eyes wide open. And I took off without backup because I couldn't stand the thought of him being put in this kind of situation again where he'd be tortured and injured - if one of us had to fly solo, I preferred it was me. Besides, what could happen in the few minutes I'd be on my own, in the middle of the day?
I had no fucking clue where the fancy cane with the blade in it even was. Not too likely this fruitcake was gonna let me keep it. After all, I wouldn't be going very far if he had his way. Asshole had even taken my watch off. I suppose disorienting your victim by denying them any sense of time is part of the fun if you're a twisted psycho nutcase.
I had to get out of that cage. I started rattling it, checking for where the opening was, examining it for any weakness I could exploit, scanning the room for anything that might be on the floor I could use to pick the padlocks that hung on it. I pushed my foot against it, not quite able to straighten my leg all the way out. The bars didn't budge.
I leaned back against the cold, hard metal that felt like it was biting into my skin and closed my eyes. Maybe thinking about Steve would keep me from freaking out. I could feel his arms around me, the way his body felt against mine, the way he sounds, the way he smells, the way he tastes under my lips when I'm kissing some weird part of him like his elbow or his armpit or something, and he laughs. He's so beautiful when he laughs and his face lights up. God, don't let this maniac kill me and send me back to him in pieces, or he'll never really laugh that beautiful laugh again. Don't make my daughter confront the awfulness and evil of this, to know I died like an animal in a cage, or hanging from a hook, mutilated, bleeding. Please...maybe I don't deserve a miracle, but they do...
HPD picked me up at the hospital and we traveled with lights and sirens back to the hotel. I felt sick when we pulled into the parking lot and found Chin, Kono, and lab techs gathered around the Camaro. Wherever Danny was, he hadn't made it back to the car or left the hotel under his own power.
The car was untouched, no sign of a struggle, nothing amiss. I ordered the hotel locked down, a floor-to-floor, room-to-room search, questioning of all staff and guests. I had cops swarming that place from top to bottom, out on the beach, surrounding it. I realized most of that was to make myself feel better, like I was doing something. We were too late, and Danny wasn't there anymore. My only hope was that someone saw something.
I gathered the hotel security staff and briefed them on our undercover operation, made sure they all saw a photo of Danny, and got Duke started on supervising the screening of all the hotel security camera footage.
As I was walking down the hotel corridor toward the exit, planning to touch base with the cops interviewing people on the beach, my phone rang. It was Duke.
"That was quick,” I said. “What’s up?”
"We found something on the security footage. You need to see this."
"Okay, I’m on my way back."
I rushed back to the security office and huddled around the monitor with Duke and Al Portman, the hotel's chief of security, as one of our crime scene techs queued up the footage to the spot they wanted me to see. Danny was hurrying down the hall toward our room, as well as he could with his bad knee, more or less dragging his cane along like a useless accessory. He disappeared into our room. A few seconds later he came back out, dressed, carrying something in his hand that looked like his car keys.
"Watch who gets on the elevator a couple floors down," Duke said.
"There isn't a camera in the elevator?"
"Not in that one. It wasn't working," Portman spoke up. He was an older guy and I would have bet my house he was ex-military. Even so, he seemed flustered by the security breach and what it could have cost us. "We noticed the issue late last night and the company is due to send a service tech out today."
"Well, that's great. Those are the kind of details we need to know about when we're doing an undercover operation to bait a serial killer." Duke looked a bit nervous at my reaction. It was an oversight, and while ordinarily it wouldn't be a big one, it was a potentially deadly one the way things had played out. If that oversight cost Danny his life, I wouldn't rest until I found out who was responsible for it.
Then I watched a very familiar figure get on the elevator, dragging a large travel trunk behind him.
"Wait, that's Mark Fredericks, the second victim's husband," I said. "Did he have that trunk when he checked in?"
"The front desk staff might know," Portman suggested, shrugging. "We don't see many trunks that size, or that style."
"There's another guy getting on. That's on the fifth floor," the crime scene tech said.
“He’s wearing one of our maintenance uniforms,” Portman said. “Damn hat’s pulled down so far I can’t see his face. All I can see is that he’s got dark hair.”
"See if you can isolate and enhance that image so we can get a decent look at his face. Do we see him get off the elevator?"
"Right here," he paused the video. The guy in the maintenance uniform came into view partway down the hall on the second floor, pushing a laundry cart.
"Wait, where’s the part where he gets out of the elevator?” I asked.
"On the second floor, that elevator opens right across from one of our most popular conference rooms,” Portman explained. “We recently built an enclosure that obscures the elevator to reduce noise and distraction. It also creates a minor blind spot there. We're planning to correct that, but it isn't considered a high risk situation."
"Yeah, well, guess what?" I snapped. The next significant event was Mark Fredericks exiting the elevator in the lobby, dragging his rolling trunk behind him.
“We don’t see Danny get off anywhere. This guy somehow acquires a laundry cart in that blind spot, and Mark Fredericks is wheeling a trunk out through the lobby.” I took a deep breath and tried to steady my nerves. I had to think like a cop, not like a guy who's fiancé was missing. Not like a guy who couldn't face what that could mean if the killer had him. "Danny was trying to leave, to get to his daughter in response to an emergency call from her school. There's no reason he'd get off the elevator voluntarily anywhere but the lobby."
"I just got off the line with the front desk manager," Portman said. "Mr. Fredericks checked out and took a shuttle to the airport."
I called Chin and told him to intercept Fredericks at the airport, preferably en route. If the trunk contained anything relevant to the case, it wasn't likely he'd check it on the plane. He'd probably dump it before that. I had Fredericks’ cell number and thought of just calling him, but that could spook him. Portman mobilized his security staff to account for every maintenance employee presently on duty, and I had him send a staff roster to Kono so she could search for any legit employee who fit the description of our suspect. We also got HPD searching every nook and cranny of the hotel for laundry carts and comparing them to the inventory for that particular piece of equipment to determine if any of them were missing, and to search every one that was found.
"Here's the enlargement of the screen cap of the other guy in the elevator," Dave, our crime scene tech, said as he pulled it off the printer. The man in the picture looked to be a bit younger than Danny and me, with dark hair and a light beard growth.
"Pretty grainy, but somebody may recognize this. Get this photo to the front desk staff, and if you don't have any luck there, canvass all the guests. This is potentially the last guy we can identify who saw Danny, and he was wheeling a laundry cart after Danny disappeared," I told Duke, handing him the photo. "I'm heading to the airport."
I was driving the Camaro toward the airport, which only brought it into sharper focus that Danny was missing, not in the passenger seat, critiquing the way I was weaving in and out of traffic. There was no particular reason to suspect Mark Fredericks of anything. Maybe he and his husband just over-packed and he was cleaning out their room and getting ready to head home. I’d had to make a choice, like some horrific version of “Let’s Make A Deal” - join the cops searching laundry carts or chase the trunk to the airport. I figured the trunk was the most likely to slip through my fingers, and the laundry cart was not a likely place to find Danny, even if it had been used to transport him somewhere.
I called Max to find out the status of Tony D'Angelo's body, if Fredericks had made arrangements for it yet.
"Yes, actually, Mr. D'Angelo's body is already en route to the airport. I believe Mr. Fredericks is taking the same flight home."
"Any idea what time that flight leaves?"
"No, just that it's leaving this afternoon for New York." He paused. "You don't think the victim's husband had anything to do with it, do you? What about the other victim?"
"I don't know, Max. Something doesn't add up here. Fredericks left here shortly after Danny went missing. He was wheeling a very large travel trunk with him."
"Large enough for a bod - I mean, to hide someone inside?"
"He made a creepy remark at Danny when we met with him. Something about the killer having a thing for short blonds."
"That is a bit bizarre for a grieving spouse whose blond husband was just killed. Of course, shortness is a matter of perspective."
"I suppose it is," I replied, grateful that Max had actually managed to make me smile. "I'll keep you posted, Max."
"Please do. Even if he's guilty, why would he risk targeting Danny? Doesn't that seem like an unnecessary risk?"
"Yeah, it does, but whoever committed those murders isn't exactly playing with a full deck."
"I wouldn't argue with that assessment."
As soon as I broke the connection, my phone rang. I was stunned to see Mark Fredericks' number on the display.
"Mr. Fredericks," I said. "Are you at the airport?"
"Yes, how did you know?"
"I'm en route there now."
"Why did you call?" I asked.
"I thought of something you should know. I rode in the elevator with your partner and another man earlier, and I've been trying to think of where I saw him before."
"Did they get off the elevator together?"
"Yes, on the second floor. He said something to Detective Williams, I couldn't hear what, and they stepped off the elevator together on the second floor. It bothered me, but I was in a hurry to make it downstairs to catch the hotel shuttle to the airport. I knew that guy looked familiar. He talked to Tony at the luau. He's not the last person I saw him with, or anything like that, but I remember not liking how long he spent with him. His hair was slicked back and he was clean shaven at the luau, but it was the same guy."
“Did the other man in the elevator have a laundry cart?”
“Not in the elevator, but I noticed there was one by the elevator when it opened on the second floor...there was a sort of alcove around the elevator.”
"Police are on their way to the airport. We need to look in the trunk, and we're going to need you to come back to headquarters and work with a sketch artist to get us a composite, something to work from."
"It's probably on the plane by now. I checked it. Wait - did you think I had your partner in my travel trunk?"
"It crossed my mind."
"My God. We bought the trunk when it became obvious we weren't going to get all the souvenirs in the suitcases. My flight doesn't leave for an hour. If you can get the trunk back off the plane, you're welcome to look through our collection of trinkets." He paused. "This makes me sick. I loved Tony...he was everything to me. How could anyone think I would do this?"
"I'm sorry. Look, if this psycho has my partner, we don't have much time before he goes to work on him. Lieutenant Kelly will take you back to headquarters."
"I hope Detective Williams is all right. I should have gotten off with them, looking back, but I didn't think it was anything threatening. I just knew I recognized him. You think that's the man who killed Tony?"
"I can't prove that, but it sounds like it to me."
"When you find him, hope he resists arrest."
I had to bite my tongue not to reply that if he'd laid a hand on Danny, it would be the last thing he ever did, whether he resisted or not.
I hadn't had a full-blown panic attack from my claustrophobia since I was a kid. I knew what my limitations were and I usually managed to operate within those limits. The one time I'd come close to losing it in recent memory, I was with Steve, and he knew I was claustrophobic and did his best to keep me calm. Focusing on him kept me in my tree, and for all our jabbing at each other, he’s always gentle with me when he knows I need it.
I knew when I lost it and started screaming and rattling the cage uselessly that it was over. I was out of control. The hours of confinement, and what I knew that metal was gonna do to my body when some sicko flipped a switch, I couldn't stand it. I was banging on it, rattling it, screaming at the walls of the empty room to let me out. I was gouging my own skin bloody in places by grinding it against the grid of the cage.
"Wow, now that's a racket," a taunting voice said. The asshole who'd held a gun on me and then tasered me was standing there now, sneering down at me. I didn't even know how the fuck he got in there. It was like he appeared. I wasn't thinking straight. I was in panic mode, terrified. I hated giving him that show but I couldn't stop myself.
"Let me out of this thing, you motherfucker!" I shouted.
"Oh, my God," he said, then he laughed. "You're claustrophobic, aren't you?"
"No, I'm afraid of heights, you stupid shit!" I screamed at him. It was a mistake, and I knew it. I wasn't even using any kind of strategy to psych him out or help myself. I was losing it and I couldn't help it. It shouldn't have surprised me he flipped a switch and pain coursed through my body from the shock, but it still did.
"Control yourself," he said flatly. "Or I'll keep flipping this switch back and forth until you learn some manners."
I wished I could. I was working hard not to hyperventilate, but the combination of the pain of the shock and the panic of the enclosure was making that a challenge. The more I panicked and rattled the cage and yelled at him, the more he flipped his fucking switch. The more he tormented me, the more I panicked. It was like being trapped in this awful cycle of hell I couldn't stop, and yet it felt like I was making it happen. I don't really know how long it went on, or why it finally did stop. At some point, everything went blessedly dark and silent and, for a little while, it was over.
"The other guy in the elevator with Danny is our perp. I just got off the phone with Mark Fredericks. He's waiting a the airport for you," I told Chin. "Get him down to headquarters for a composite. It'll be better than that grainy picture we've got."
"We might not need it. Kono has a possible ID. I have units going there now. His name is Ethan Harper, and he works as a server at both hotels, so he must have stolen the maintenance uniform. His driver's license photo and employee ID photo looks like a match to the image from the security camera."
"No lights or sirens and nobody moves until I get there. If he's got Danny, we don't want to spook him." Chin gave me the address and I made a U-turn and floored it in that direction.
It was a small, white house in the middle of a crowded block. As soon as I rolled up on it, I knew it wasn't the place. What this guy did took some space, and some distance between houses. There was no way he could torture and murder people in this setting without being seen or heard. Still, it was our only lead and there was no way in hell I wasn't going to follow up on it with every precaution.
I ordered the house surrounded, and we turned infrared cameras on it. We only detected one heat signature.
"I'm going to the door," I said. "Be ready to move on all the exits, including windows." I directed the uniforms exactly where I wanted them all positioned.
I approached the front door and knocked. A moment later, an elderly woman came to the door. The sun was setting outdoors, and I could smell food cooking. I supposed it was dinner time. Danny had been with that psycho for hours; God alone knew what he was doing to Danny...
"Can I help you?" she asked, looking nervously at my vest and the uniformed officers gathering on the lawn. I realized then I hadn't said anything since knocking on her door.
"Is Ethan Harper here?"
"No, he's at work."
"Your name, ma'am?" I asked, showing her my badge.
"Kamea Dakujaku," she replied. "This is my house. Ethan rents a room from me. What did he do?"
"He's a potential witness in a very urgent case that may be a matter of life and death. Do you have any idea where else, besides one of the hotels, he might be?"
"No, I don't really know him that well. He works with my grandson and he was looking to rent a room. He's lived here about a year. He seems like such a nice young man."
"I'll need to see his room."
"You can look wherever you like, just don't make a mess of my house," she said, shaking a gnarled finger at me.
"Thank you. We'll do our best not to disrupt things more than we have to," I told her.
The room Harper rented was small and tidy, with a single bed, a dresser, a well-worn easy chair, and a shelf unit with some books and other personal effects. As we were going over every inch of the room, my phone rang. It was Kono.
"I think I might have found something."
I jerked awake to ice cold and wet. Water was beating against me and when it stopped, I was soaked and shivering. Then I remembered the cage, and I was still in it. Lying on my side, it didn't seem as confining, since I was curled up in a fetal position. As soon as I stretched my legs, or reached out, I knew I'd feel the confinement again.
"You're awake. Good."
"Fuck you," I replied, in no mood to play that asshole's game. I knew he'd kept his other victims alive most of the time they were missing. I also knew he spent a good amount of that time torturing them. I didn't plan to give him the satisfaction of begging and pleading for mercy. He was gonna do to me what he was gonna do, and all cozying up to him would do is give him the satisfaction of making me lose what was left of my dignity while we were at it.
He flipped the switch on the cage, and I couldn't help the scream that dragged out of me. The pain was off the charts and it felt like I had no control over my body. I felt like I pissed myself but I was so wet from the hose I couldn't tell. I lay there after it was over, praying he wouldn't do it again. I kept my eyes closed and my head turned away from him. I was doing everything I could to not give him a fucking show to enjoy.
"You know, all my father ever wanted out of life was to marry the man he loved." He was close now, I knew he was crouched there by the cage. I don't know why he thought I cared about his father or anything else about him. My body felt like the shocks were still going through it, and I was thinking about the cage again, since whenever I moved, I hit some part of it. I jerked in surprise when something hit the cage. When I looked over my shoulder at him, he was standing, and he kicked it again. "Look at me when I'm talking to you."
"Why are you doing this to me? What have I got to do with your father?"
"You're just like Greg. You're even claustrophobic like he was."
"Who's Greg?" I asked. I didn't really care who the fucker was, but if keeping him talking meant he'd lay off the shock treatment for a while, I was okay with that. I tried to focus on the moment when Steve would somehow bust in and save me, but I was having trouble on focusing on much of anything. Between the cold, the wet, and the pain, I had a hard time making myself talk coherently at all.
"Well, if same sex marriage had been legal at the time, he would have been my stepfather."
"I guess it's safe to say you didn't like this guy too much."
"You think you're funny, don't you?"
I just looked at him. I was shivering, in pain, my head was pounding, and it was all I could do not to scream at the top of my lungs because it felt like the bars were closing in on me. I didn't think I was funny. I was terrified and desperate and I was expected to converse with the maniac torturing me.
"Greg thought he was funny, too. Life of the party. He was always showing off, flirting with other guys. The way you were flirting with that waiter last night."
"What waiter?" I couldn't remember doing anything that could pass for flirting with anybody. I remembered slow dancing with Steve, wishing we weren't on the job.
"The one you were flirting with when your husband left the dining room!" he shouted, holding the hose up where I could see it as he crouched again by the cage. "You want some more of this?"
"No," I replied weakly, my hands going up in front of my face in a reflex to try to shield myself. I hated the meek sound of my own voice, like a fucking whipped dog.
"You were flirting with that waiter, the one who was barely legal. Admit it."
"I called him over to order another bottle of wine while Steve was in the bathroom." I'd no sooner said it than I realized what I'd done. Shit, fuck, damn.
"Steve? I thought your husband's name was Brian."
I didn't say anything. Anything I did say would sound like a phony explanation. I was fucked. I'd blown it with a rookie mistake. A worse than a rookie mistake. I wasn't even surprised when he shocked me again. I just lay there and shook.
"I said, I thought your husband's name was Brian."
"No, it's Steve, and you really fucking blew it this time, psycho. I'm a cop, and my fiancé is the head of the Five-0 task force. You walked right into this."
"Oh, I did, huh? And he's just letting me spend some time torturing you before he shows up to rescue you?"
"It's a matter of time for you now. Trust me, if you had a brain in your twisted fucking head, you'd get out of here now while you still can."
"Something tells me it'll take him a while to track you down. By the time he does, I'll be done with you. I can speed things up, though I gotta admit, I was really looking forward to spending a lot of time on you."
"God, you're just like Greg. Smart ass, think you're such hot shit. Thought that twink in the restaurant was gonna take up with you." He stood up and started pacing.
"I wasn't interested in any twink in the restaurant. I'm only interested in Steve. We're getting married for real. I don't know why you're so pissed off at this Greg character, but I'm not him."
"Because my father committed suicide because of him! Because of an asshole like you!" he shouted, turning the hose on me again. I tried to get away from the icy spray but there was nowhere to go and I heard myself screaming as I grabbed onto the grid of the cage and then let go of them when the current shot through them into me again. But that just meant I fell on my back and got hit with it from that angle instead.
I didn't realize it was audible to anyone but me at first, but as I lay there shivering and my muscles were attacking me from the pain of the shocks, I found myself mumbling Steve's name.
It gnawed at my soul that every minute it took us to follow up leads; Danny was with a sadist who tortured and mutilated his victims. I tried to hold onto the idea that he'd kept the other two victims alive quite a while before the final mutilation, but thinking of Danny locked in a cage, with his claustrophobia, made me even crazier. He'd suffer in a way the other victims didn't, and for that, this monster was going to pay.
"Ethan Harper moved to Hawaii last year and got a job at the Hilton. Shortly after that, he got a second job at the Sheraton," Kono explained as we stood around the computer. An enlargement of Harper's driver's license was up on the monitor. "He inherited $250,000 from a life insurance policy on his father just before his move out here from New York. His father committed suicide." She put a photo of two men up on the screen. One was tall with dark hair, and the other was shorter with a solid build, and blond. "The dark-haired man is Paul Harper, Ethan's father. The other man is his partner, Gregory Rogers. Rogers has been missing since shortly after Harper’s suicide."
"Both couples have somewhat mirrored them," Chin observed. "The most striking resemblance is to Rogers, but both couples have had a taller, darker-haired partner and a shorter blond partner. He's obviously got a grudge against his father's partner."
“Is Ethan a suspect in Rogers’ disappearance?” I asked.
“He was, but the NYPD couldn’t build a solid case against him, and then he moved out here,” Kono said. “The lead detective on the case is sending me his case files, but it’s just a missing person for them - no body has been found.”
"My guess would be he blames him somehow for his father's suicide which would explain why he has it in for guys who remind him of Rogers," I said.
“If he killed his father’s partner, killing these men is probably like repeating that over and over, reliving it,” Kono replied. “Paul Harper and Greg Rogers took a trip out here about a year before the suicide. According to the NYPD, some of the friends they interviewed in connection with Rogers’ disappearance said the marriage seemed to fall apart after that.”
"This is all interesting but we don't have time to stand around playing profiler on this psycho. He has Danny. We've got to get something tangible we can use."
"I was thinking about what you said - that Ethan Harper needs space and privacy, which he's not going to get in a rented room. Since he inherited some money, I did a search on property records in the area and Ethan Harper owns what looks like a vacant lot right here," she said. "It's off Piilani Highway 31. When you zoom in, there is a small building on the property that looks like an old garage or some other type of outbuilding."
"Let's go," I said.