His first day back home, Steve ignored the flashing light on his answering machine, the stack of letters piled up inside the front door, the festering carton of milk in the fridge. He couldn't put them off forever, he knew that, but there was an itching sensation just under his skin that said he needed a beer first, some time spent out on the lanai contemplating the sun moving over the water. Two weeks in Halawa had given Steve a lot of time to stare at a wall and think things over, but then, with Jameson dead and his task force discredited and disbanded, there'd been a lot to think about.
"Given the conflicting forensic evidence, all charges will be dropped, Commander McGarrett," his lawyer had said that morning, putting the last of the paperwork away in his briefcase. When your own lawyer clearly suspected you were guilty but walking on a technicality, and you no longer had official resources to call on, thinking of a way forward was difficult. Steve dropped his head into his hands, trying to massage out the growing ache in his temples—but all thoughts of strategizing were quickly forgotten when he heard a rustling in the greenery that crowded around the edges of the lanai. He was on his feet in an instant, gun in his hand, and Steve was working out if he could get some covering shots off before retreating into the house when Jenna pushed her way through the undergrowth and out onto the lawn.
"The hell?" he said, lowering his sidearm. "Jenna? What are you doing here?"
"I heard you got out," she said, "just thought I'd stop by." Her nonchalant words sat uneasily with the look on her face: wide-eyed, scared.
Steve holstered his gun as Jenna walked up the low steps onto the lanai proper. Her hands were shaking, he noticed, fine tremors which would have hardly been perceptible if not for the fact that she was holding a thick manila folder in a white-knuckled grip. "Jenna," he asked again, "what's going on?"
"I'm sorry," she blurted out, her agitation seeming to increase, to feed on itself, "but I've been thinking and thinking about this and I don't know what's right anymore and I didn't know where to go except for you and—"
"Hey," Steve said, holding out both hands slowly, palms toward her, like he'd approach a spooked horse that was threatening to bolt. "It's okay," he said, "Jenna, whatever it is—" And then she was in his arms, sobbing, the file folder crushed between them while she shook. Steve held her carefully, made soft shushing sounds and patted her gingerly on the back; looked over the top of her head to the rolling sea behind her and let her have her grief.
When Jenna calmed—scrubbing at her eyes with sheepish apologies—they went inside, and spread the contents of her file out over the dining room table. Some of the paper-trail Jenna showed him, Steve had seen before: lists of Wo Fat's known associates, reports of possible sightings of him in Russia and Venezuela by Interpol agents, networks of shell companies and dummy corporations. Others were new to him and Steve went over them carefully, beer swapped out for strong black coffee. Jenna drank her own mug at the steady pace of someone accustomed to all-nighters, kept her gaze focused on the table in front of them rather than meeting Steve's eyes. Steve couldn't judge her for that; he'd also felt the urge to shy away from others too much lately.
She told him where and when she'd been approached by Wo Fat, her recall admirably detailed. Steve took scrawled notes—he knew there was little chance of finding any trace of Wo Fat at the diner that Jenna had named, but Steve wasn't going to ignore even the faintest of leads—but he put the pen down when Jenna started to recall their conversation itself.
"When he told me," Jenna said, her hands white-knuckled around her coffee mug, "I wanted to believe him, I really did. He had a video on his phone of Josh—beat up and, and there was duct tape… But it was him, and Wo Fat said if I could get him close to you and Five-0’s files…"
Steve set his jaw, fought the urge to close his hands into fists. Jenna was already tense enough that the mug was near to shattering in her hands; no point in letting her see how on edge he was. "And?"
Jenna's breath hiccupped out of her in an odd half-laugh. "As soon as Wo Fat said he could get Josh back to me if I co-operated, I knew that he had to be dead. I've been gathering intel on Wo Fat and his organization for months; I know that he likes to… play with people. It's his version of a game. So I said I would do anything to get Josh back, and I think he believed me because it wasn't a lie. I would have, if there was any hope." Silent tears ran down her cheeks, dripped unheeded from the line of her jaw. "But then he wanted me to help him do something that I'd never… and if Josh is gone anyway… I got out of there, drove back to my hotel room, gathered everything together, and came straight here. I need your help, Steve."
Steve scrubbed a hand through his hair. It was nearly midnight, and he was sitting in the kitchen of his dead father's house, hearing another heart break because of things he couldn't control. "Yes," he said, because there was nothing else he could say, no other choice he could make; "Yeah, of course," reaching out and taking her hand, gripping as tightly as he could to make her believe him.
After all the hurry-up-and-wait of the past few weeks, Steve got out and Kono got her badge back on the same day. There was still an investigation pending, IA wanting to know more than she would ever tell them, but for now she was reinstated. It was such a shock that Kono almost asked the desk officer if he was sure when he handed over the paperwork for her to sign. She'd spent most of the past two weeks out on her board, letting the saltwater wash her clean, and to be back in henley and jeans and boots, her badge a weight at her hip, felt as strange as it did reassuring. Office Nguyen was a gossip, always had been, so Kono had little trouble worming the real reasons behind her reinstatement out of him: no evidence to pin anything on her, not with the inventory for the storage locker in mysterious disarray and no forensic evidence to be found; not with the only witness discredited.
"Why?" Kono frowned. The old woman who'd ID'ed her as behaving suspiciously had been adamant about the fact that Kono had been up to something—not surprising, given that it was the truth.
"Hernandez gave her some mug shots to look at. She couldn't decide between you and three, four others. She's very nearsighted and wasn't wearing her glasses that day." Nguyen shrugged. "Too circumstantial for them to go any further with it."
"Huh," Kono said, smiling at him, trying to balance her reaction between the relief of the innocent and the natural curiosity of a police officer faced with a puzzle. "Well, it's just a relief to have it all behind me, brah."
"Sure thing!" Nguyen said, smiling back. "Speaking of relief, bet your bossman will be glad to have that Hesse guy out of the way."
"I thought his trial wasn't going to be for another three or four months at least," Kono said as she checked back over the forms, making sure that she'd signed and initialed each page fully—HR could be really picky about stuff like that.
"Ohhh," Nguyen said, taking the completed pages from her. "You haven't heard?" He leaned in across the desk, looking first to the left and then to the right, melodramatic as he always was when he had some particularly interesting tidbit to share. "Hesse was found a few hours ago in his cell—garotted and laid out under a bed sheet, real neat-looking job. He was in isolation so someone had to have turned a blind eye to let the killer in. They're going nuts over at Halawa trying to figure out what happened—not the first time something like this has gone down, but this is the most high profile for sure."
Kono felt her eyebrows shoot up to meet her hairline. "He was murdered?"
Nguyen shrugged. "Never met anyone who could commit suicide like that."
It was a struggle to wait until she was out of the building and back in her car before calling Chin. Kono drummed her fingertips against the steering wheel until he picked up.
"Cuz," he said, "how'd it go?"
"Got my badge back," Kono said, hearing Chin's soft sigh of relief with a smile. She knew he'd been beating himself up inside, thinking that just because he'd been the one to introduce her to Steve, he'd helped to ruin her career just as thoroughly as his own had once been—as if Kono ever knowingly walked into something without both eyes open. "There's still going to be an internal review, but no one thinks charges will be filed, and I should get a new assignment once HR's done with the paperwork."
She'd been expecting that. "Viktor Hesse is dead. Murdered."
There was silence on the other end of the phone line long enough that Kono felt an additional twist of worry in her stomach—irrational but unmistakable. "Chin?"
"You think it was Wo Fat?"
"All Nguyen said is that he was found in his cell a few hours ago, strangled, but it's too much of a coincidence. I don't think it can be anyone else."
"This isn't his usual style," Chin said. "Too public. It's sloppy."
Outside, the afternoon sky darkened; fat raindrops began to thrum down on the hood of her car, turning Kono's view through the windshield into an abstract blur of color. "Somehow the thought of Wo Fat being spooked into doing anything isn't reassuring."
Chin made a soft sound of agreement. "Maybe you should spend the night at Auntie Yun-Seo's, huh?"
"Maybe," Kono admitted reluctantly. Normally she'd want to ride stuff like this out at her own house, curled up on her couch with a mug of green tea, but the thought of a killer as vicious as Viktor Hesse being taken out with such apparent ease made her wary. "Time for some kimchi and QVC with Mom."
"Sounds good," Chin said, voice lilting upwards at the end as if he were fully reassured by the fact that she'd be with her mother—and if Kono hadn't known him all her life, she'd have bought it. "Just please, stop her from ordering more Precious Moments figurines for me. Those things watch you. It's creepy."
"I can make no promises, cuz," Kono said solemnly.
Mid-morning, Steve heard the familiar noise of the Camaro rumbling to a stop in the driveway. He walked outside in time to see Danny gently kick one of the passenger doors closed, his arms full of grocery bags. Danny looked less haggard than he had the one time he'd been allowed to visit Steve in Halawa—he'd been sleep-deprived then from a heady combination of watching his career crumble while his ex-wife refused to consider leaving another man for him; had yelled at Steve non-stop during their five-minute visitation for being so goddamned bull-headed. There were faint circles under his eyes and his hair wasn't quite so neatly coiffed as normal, but there was a little more strut in his step. Steve arched an eyebrow at him as he approached.
"What?" Danny asked, breezing past him towards the kitchen. "Man cannot live on reconstituted spinach shakes alone, Steven."
Steve made a face. "First, I've never had a spinach shake. Second, I was planning on going this afternoon, so while I appreciate—"
"Uh huh, yeah," Danny said, cutting him off, "yeah, you appreciate Lean Cuisine microwave meals, my friend, but I'm here to bring you actual food, bacon"—chatting about insignificant things as if Steve hadn't just spent time in prison on suspicion of two women's murders; like Danny's life hadn't fallen apart all over again when Rachel had chosen Stan.
"Bacon," Steve said, "is not a—"
"Shut your mouth," Danny said, cutting him off, "do not even finish that sentence, I swear."
Danny started opening and shutting cupboards, putting away more food than Steve could possibly eat in a month—though he spotted the Peppermint Patties that were stashed in the freezer and understood that not everything was intended for him; that kind of candy had only made an appearance in Steve's kitchen after he'd met Danny. Danny clanged pots around as he tried to make room for bags of rice and pasta, passing loud judgment as he did so on the perfectly normal way Steve chose to arrange his silverware drawer, and only then decided to inform Steve that Viktor Hesse had been murdered.
The ensuing conversation could best be described as 'loud', and the only surprise was really that they took as long as they did to wake up Jenna. She came quietly down the stairs and stood blinking in the kitchen doorway, no doubt partly from the bright morning sunshine and partly from the fact that she'd only gone to bed at four. Steve had given her some old sweats and a t-shirt of Mary's to sleep in, but there was no hiding the fact that the clothes she was wearing had also been worn the day before.
Steve didn't know which was funnier—the way Danny did a double-take, looking from him to Jenna and back again, or the way that Jenna's eyes grew wide and she said, "Oh, oh, God, no." If Steve had been a man of lesser self-confidence, he would have been hurt.
"Jenna's got some intel she wanted to pass on to us," Steve said.
"Intel," Danny said, eyebrows rising even higher, hand waggling in a manner that Steve was sure must mean something filthy in Jersey. "Some late night, sleep-over type intel?"
"It was about Josh," Jenna blurted out and then stopped, clamping her mouth tightly shut.
The change that came over Danny was instantaneous—all teasing vanished from his expression and was replaced with something Steve had only seen on his face in unguarded moments watching Gracie, or when breaking the news of a victim's death to their family. "Hey, hey," he said softly and hugged Jenna, arms wrapping tight around her as he offered the kind of unhesitating, generous comfort that Steve always thought of as one of Danny's best strengths. Then he urged her to sit down, kept an eye on her while he bustled around, getting coffee brewing and breakfast cooking.
"You," he said when he passed Steve, poking him in the bicep, "you get Chin and Kono on the phone, huh?"
"What?" Steve said, rubbing at the spot on his arm. "Why?"
"Why?" Danny said, snagging some mugs from the cupboard. "Because one, this is going to take hours and we're going to need all the 100-proof coffee Kono can make; second, because I don't want to have to repeat this all over again for them later on; and last but so very much not least, Chin Ho Kelly is a good moderating influence on whatever lame-brained plan you're percolating right now in that head of yours, you hear me?"
Steve squinted at him. "I liked you better when you were ranting about bacon."
"Uh huh," Danny said, "Stop stalling, call."
Kono was in the middle of brokering the seventeenth round of the pizza topping dispute between Chin and Danny when Steve's phone rang. It was well into the afternoon by that point, and they were all a little wired on too much caffeine and not enough to eat, all a little jittery from the possible implications of Viktor Hesse's death and of what Jenna was telling them, so at first none of them noticed the expression on Steve's face. It was only when the phone kept ringing, Steve staring down at it in his hand, that Kono realized something was wrong. "Boss?" she said. "You okay?"
Steve didn't answer immediately, and that had Danny looking up from the delivery menu, frowning. "Steve?"
Steve started to speak, cleared his throat, tried again. "It's the governor's office."
Kono looked at Chin, who arched an eyebrow in an expression which said eloquently, silently: Just because you guys treat me like a professional therapist doesn't mean I actually am one. She shrugged. Chin rolled his eyes at her and then said, voice admirably level, "You want me to answer that for you?"
Steve visibly shook himself, said, "No, I'm good." When he answered with a crisp, "McGarrett," his tone was even enough that you would never have guessed he was freaking out at getting a call from a dead woman's number; only the steady, unblinking way that Steve stared at the kitchen cabinets opposite him while he spoke gave him away. Kono was faintly impressed that he hadn't just gone over to them and started rummaging through each one in search of all the liquor they contained, to be honest. She'd spent the evening after they arrested Carlton Bass for Ian's murder at a dive bar with Ben, the two of them totally focused on working their way through a large bottle of cheap rum. They'd ended up drunk enough that going back to Ben's place had seemed a great idea—at least until he'd passed out in the middle of going down on her and Kono's hangover had started before she even stopped being drunk. It hadn't been her best moment, but at least it had pulled her out of her own head for a while.
Now, all four of them watched in awkward, fidgeting silence while Steve said "yes" and "no" and "I see". It was at least five minutes before Steve said "of course, sir," ended the call, and very carefully put the phone down on the table.
Danny lasted maybe thirty seconds more before, practically vibrating with curiosity, he said, "Well?"
"That was the new governor," Steve said. "He wants to see us in his office by five. All of us," he added, looking at Jenna.
"Ah," Danny said, "because being summoned from on high, that always works out so well for us."
"Denning, right?" Chin said, leaning back in his chair. "I'd say I voted for him, but after Jameson I'm not sure that's such a good recommendation anymore. One of Malia's cousins worked for him a while back, though, said he was a decent boss."
As they headed for the doors, Kono thought of some of the strongest memories she had of Pat Jameson, bringing beer and pizza over to HQ to celebrate with them after a particularly successful case: drinking straight from the bottle and laughing and telling wry anecdotes about life as a college student in Honolulu in the late Seventies and the less than glamorous reality of the campaign trail. A few weeks ago, she'd have said Pat Jameson was a good boss, too.
It felt like being part of a weird convoy, heading from Steve's house to the Governor's office. Danny rode with Steve, Jenna piled in with Kono; car and truck and motorbike followed one after another, but there were no sirens, no desperate speed. Her frustration at their relatively sedate progress put Kono on edge and she had to make herself ease the tight-knuckled grip she had on the steering wheel.
The Governor's offices had always been a quiet place, where voices were calm and measured and even the click of heels against the wood and marble floor had seemed somehow subdued, but now it was downright somber. Kono supposed she couldn't be surprised at how many of the admin staff eyed them warily as they were ushered into the antechamber to wait; more than a few of them looked particularly spooked to see Steve. He didn't look to the left or right as he walked, but there was no way he hadn't noticed the staff's reaction: his back grew almost impossibly straighter, and Danny moved closer so that their arms brushed as they walked, as if to shield Steve from the stares.
Governor Denning didn't make them wait, as Jameson often had, but he didn't offer them a seat and he didn't attempt a smokescreen of politeness—of course, those weren't things that Kono would necessarily hold against him, not if he was straight with them. Having dealt with a lot of IA investigators over the past few weeks, she'd developed a definite bullshit allergy.
"I called you down here because I'm sure you're all anxious to know my decision about the future of the Five-0 task-force," Denning said, without any preamble. Straight to the point; Kono could work with that. Out of the corner of her eye, she watched as Steve assumed parade rest, though she couldn't tell if that was a conscious gesture or not; she and the others fanned out to stand on either side of him.
"I can't say it's been an easy decision," Denning continued. "Procedures under the previous administration were obviously not what they should have been, and mistakes were made—mistakes that I'm determined will not be repeated. Moreover, there's the media perception of the incident to take into account." He gestured at a stack of newspapers sitting in front of him, all front-page headlines and opinion columns in big, blocky font, the kind of thing that Kono had been spending the last few weeks pretending didn't exist. Denning reached out to hit a button on the intercom. "Lahela, could you send in Officer Weston, please?"
The office door opened and a woman walked in—not someone Kono thought she'd ever seen before, fair and slim, her hair pulled back in a loose bun. She was carrying a slim manila folder in one hand, and nodded at the governor as she closed the door behind her.
"Some personnel changes seem necessary," Denning said. "I've decided to extend Agent Kaye's contract from temporary to permanent and to add a new position. This is Officer Lori Weston, formerly of Homeland Security." Jenna's mouth opened and closed soundlessly, her eyes round from surprise; Kono felt pretty giddy herself, because from the way the Governor was talking, she didn't think she herself would be heading back to work as a beat cop. "You'll have your old office space back, of course."
Next to her, Kono heard Chin make a soft noise of surprise; heard Steve say, stubborn as always, "I'm grateful that you've brought Agent Kaye formally on board, sir, but Governor Jameson let me select my own team, and—"
"You misunderstand me, Commander," Denning said, voice soft but forceful enough to cut through Steve's words. "While Officer Weston's profiling capabilities are impressive, I'm not assigning her to work for you. I'm putting her in charge of Five-0. It's obvious that your team needs more immediate and direct supervision, and that the late governor's mandate of full immunity and means should be revoked. Too many prosecutions have been called into question on technical grounds because of how you tend to get your confessions. Your team has achieved a lot, and I'm grateful for your service, but I think a new direction is in order."
"With all due respect sir," Danny said, casting a quick glance over at Steve, "are honestly you saying that—"
"That is non-negotiable, Detective Williams," Denning said without looking over at him. His gaze was locked with Steve's. "Officer Weston will officially take over her duties tomorrow. I'm sure you'll all welcome her to Hawaii." He looked back down at the paperwork on his desk and picked up a pen. "Good afternoon."
"This is—" Steve began.
"Non-negotiable," Denning said.
Steve gritted out a, "Thank you, sir," turned on his heel and walked out, making a show of studiously avoiding Weston. Danny hurried after him, leaving Kono, Chin and Jenna to awkwardly shuffle out of the governor's office behind Weston.
"I'd apologize for my team mates," Chin said dryly once they reached the foyer, shaking her hand, "but I try to make it a rule not to accept responsibility for them."
"I've read their files," Weston said, mouth quirking up just a little at the corners. She looked pretty unruffled by the whole process, though Kono wouldn't have blamed her if she'd been pissed. "That seems like a smart rule. It's nice to meet you, Detective Kelly. I know this is going to be awkward for a little while, but I'm not here to step on anyone's toes. The Governor brought me in because I have experience in working on police-community relationships, and this seemed like a good opportunity for advancement for me."
Chin's eyebrows quirked. "So you like a challenge?"
"Always," Weston said, and her smile was sharp and bright. She shook hands with Kono and Jenna in turn before she left; her palm was cool and dry, the shake firm and confident but not bruising. Kono hoped that this wasn't just an act, because there was no way in hell that Steve was going to take this lying down—Weston was going to need all the patience she could muster.
Steve lit the citronella-rich candles out on the lanai, passed around the finally-ordered pizza and bottles of beer while trying to ignore the tension headache that was slowly building, turning the back of his skull sensitive and sore. It wasn't much past seven, but he felt exhausted—worn out by vigilance and shock. He knew he was snappish, but recognizing that wasn't the same as being able to rid himself of the feeling; he settled instead for working his way through a bottle of Sam Adams and listening to his team as they talked.
"I don't think we have much of a choice," Chin was saying. "I can stay with the regular PD, but there won't be a lot of smiling faces around me. Too many bridges burnt."
"And if we're off the force entirely," Kono added, "we're not going to have access to what we need to defend ourselves if Wo Fat decides to step things up."
"I'm a little more worried about making sure I can keep him away from my family," Danny said, scratching at the pale gold stubble on his jaw. "This guy is dangerous, right, we know he's dangerous, he's a fucking shark, he should have the theme music from Jaws following him around wherever he goes. Maybe it's worth me sucking it up to Denning a little, if it helps keep Gracie safe."
"Well," Jenna said, picking at the label of her beer bottle, "and who knows, Weston might not be so bad—just because she's a government appointee doesn't mean she's guaranteed to be awful."
"Ha," Danny said, spreading his hands wide, "true. She could turn out to be totally spineless instead. You know those Beltway types—pushovers and pencil pushers."
"Or maybe she's a little bit Chicago, Vegas, Jersey City? They're all corrupt there, right?" Kono teased him, mouth curving with mischief at the pretend long-suffering sigh Danny gave in response. "I've heard tales about the mainland! Bootlegging, moonshine..."
"So we're all in," Chin said, arching an eyebrow at Steve from across the table. "Which means you're the only question mark left, McGarrett."
The others turned to look at him: Chin, steady and certain; Kono, poised for the fight; Jenna, lips pressed together in a firm line, determined; Danny right there beside him, just like always, waiting for Steve's cue to either push or pull. Steve didn't think he had much of a choice either, for all that the thought of giving up control of something that he'd fought to build, of the makeshift family that he'd cobbled together from so many patchwork, ill-fitting pieces, made him sick to his stomach. You did what you had to for your family, even if at times it was painful to do so—even if it meant giving up a little of your own self-control. A year ago, maybe, he might just have walked away—reactivated his commission, gone back to ONI—but now he had Chin's career to consider, Danny's daughter, Jenna's fiancé. Steve put his bottle down on the table, cracked his neck from side to side to get rid of some of the tension. "Yeah," he said, "I'll call the governor's office in the morning, say I'm in."
Jenna beamed at him; Kono slapped him on the back, hard enough to sting. Chin inclined his beer bottle at Steve in silent salute and Danny beamed, spread his hands wide, said, "And hey, on the plus side: no more full immunity means no more dangling suspects off things, huh?"
"That was one time," Steve said. "Two times, max."
"I dispute that," Danny said, "I dispute that, my friend, you want me to get the list out? Because I know about that little incident over at Diamond Head, too—there will be graphs. This shit will be color-coded."
Squabbling with Danny about stuff like this—the petty and inconsequential things; the times where Danny was demonstrably wrong—always relaxed Steve, and now it helped ease a weird, tight knot in his chest. It let him sit back a little more comfortably in his chair, finish his beer, cheerfully regard the way his and Danny's disagreement made Jenna and Kono roll their eyes at one another; no matter what else in his life might go to hell, it seemed, some things remained a constant.
There was a lot of mundane housekeeping to be done at the office the next morning: thin coatings of dust to be wiped from computer screens, desks to be reassigned, personal belongings to move in order to make room for six people in a space originally intended for four. Steve might have given in to the thought of no longer being in charge of Five-0, but he clearly wasn't resigned to it—he lugged his boxes of memorabilia and staplers from his former office and into the one he now shared with Chin with a definite attitude. Kono made a command decision to stay out of it—and the subsequent fight he seemed to be having with Danny about pineapples, of all things.
Instead, she concentrated on rearranging her own office to make room for Jenna. Jenna hardly took up much space in and of herself, and she tended to spend much of her time running analyses or simulations out on the computer desk, but Kono thought that if she was going to be a formal member of Five-0 rather than just a contract worker she deserved a place of her own. Besides, Jenna had a need for access to multiple power outlets that rivaled Chin's—moving most of her equipment into an office reduced both the number of extension cords snaking around the floor, as well as the chance that someone would trip over one of them while in an under-caffeinated state.
By ten, Kono had cobwebs in her hair and had worked up a sweat from furniture rearranging—which of course was the moment that Lori Weston walked in. Kono normally gave the exact opposite of a crap about appearance in the workplace—once she was comfortable, could do her job, and had remembered to brush her hair and apply deodorant, she pretty much stopped thinking about it—but she thought there were probably rules about first impressions and the new boss. She settled for hurriedly pulling her hair back in a low ponytail and following Jenna out to greet Weston. Kono was pleasantly surprised to find that Weston's heels and sheath dress of the day before had vanished, replaced by cargo pants, boots, and a long-sleeved black t-shirt—she approved of a work outfit which would let you sprint or scale a cliff when necessary.
"Officer Kalakaua, Agent Kaye," she said, shaking both their hands. "Pleasure to see you again."
"Likewise," Jenna said.
There was an awkward pause for a moment or two. Kono didn't think there was an etiquette manual or even a Hallmark card for what to do in situations like this—Congratulations on being cleared of professional misconduct! Welcome back… to your demotion! Yay, you've got a job where most of your employees distrust you!—so she settled on simply suggesting that they show Weston her office.
"Lori, please," she said, setting a laptop case and a small box down on top of her desk. Steve had been thorough about clearing out his office—there was nothing left except for some crumpled pieces of paper in the trashcan and a lone yellow pencil sitting on the desk to indicate that this had ever been his space. "I try not to stand on ceremony too much."
"Lori," Kono acknowledged, nodding. "Kono."
"And Jenna," Jenna piped up.
Lori looked over their shoulders and Kono turned to see that Chin and Danny were out in the communal area, clearly waiting for them to come out so that they could formally welcome Lori; Danny offered a brief salute. Steve, it looked like, was still in his new office, rehanging his pictures on the wall. Lori arched an eyebrow and said, "I suppose I should let our colleagues decide their preferred form of address in their own good time."
"Probably best. You want the full tour?" Kono asked. "I can show you where the coffee maker and stuff are, there's a knack to making it work so you get actual coffee and not just lukewarm water. There are some records room, the interview room, and then we've got our own gym and showers here as well, but you should probably steer clear of the far stall in the bathroom."
"It's not that we don't keep it clean," Jenna hurried to add, "it's just that ever since the time Steve kept a suspect locked up in there, it's never quite been the same. I mean, it wasn't for long, it was during that time with the mob bust and the chickens so all the holding cells were full, but…" Lori and Kono both turned to look at her—Lori looking surprised, Kono raising an eyebrow in a way which she hoped conveyed really not the best time—and Jenna flushed hotly right to the tips of her ears. "Ah," she said. "That was probably not a good first impression, right?"
"It's fine," Lori said, and Kono would have put money on the expression on her face coming from her biting the inside of her cheek to stop from laughing. "I'll just treat that as... context."
Over the next few weeks, it became obvious that Jenna had been right: working for Lori was far from the worst job Kono had ever had (she reserved that title for the brief time she'd spent waitressing in college, when after three weeks a handsy patron had earned himself a lapful of hot coffee and a broken pinky finger). Lori definitely had a different management style from Steve's, but she was just as authoritative in the field and just as dogged when it came to chasing down a suspect. Whatever resistance Chin and Danny had originally had to her imposition vanished pretty quickly; even Steve started to warm up to her after the time she'd chased an armed suspect across four lanes of rush hour traffic on the freeway.
"Not bad," he'd said afterwards, and picked up the tab for her round in the bar that night—which, coming from Steve, was high praise indeed.
The big difference, though—the thing that made Danny smirk at Steve and say procedure, pro-ced-ure, three syllables, Steven, see how it works?—was the fact that Lori put a stop, as much as she could, to several of Steve's bad habits. No more entering without a warrant, no more interviewing a suspect without a lawyer present, and definitely no more use of sharks as interrogation tools. Lori made a weekly report to the governor on their progress, and while team members individually had leeway in picking up some of the bigger cases that happened on the island—the mass kidnappings, the bank robberies, the massive drug hauls—launching or continuing lengthier investigations into a suspect required her say-so. One of the things she vetoed pretty early on was further investigation into the Wo Fat case, or into figuring out just what had happened to Jenna's fiancé.
"I sympathize," she told them at a morning meeting—another one of her innovations—that was more tense than normal. "I'm not saying that there isn't something worth going after here, Steve, and if it were up to me, I'd be willing to allocate a certain amount of our time to continuing to work this. But all your evidence right now is highly circumstantial and you haven't even been able to get a firm fix on where Wo Fat is or what his actual agenda is beyond being an associate of various underworld figures. The governor is just not willing to use any state resources to fund something that he thinks sounds like a personal vendetta."
"Personal vendetta?" Steve said. The expression on his face was so thunderous that Danny probably had a pet name for it. "He thinks that I'm doing this because of some vendetta?"
Lori's poker face was impressive, and Kono had to admire her seeming imperviousness to Steve's attempts to rile her. "I'm editing his words down for the sake of clarity," she said calmly, "but that was the substance of them, yes."
"Funny," Danny said, sitting back in his chair and folding his arms over his chest so that the fabric of his shirt strained over the biceps, "how 'clarity' sounds so much like deflection when it comes from a politician who'll be facing a special election in a couple of months."
It wasn't like they weren't kept busy, though—half a dozen major cases in the space of three months. They racked up the newspaper column inches and public goodwill when Steve did that MMA fight for charity or when Joe White, in town on a flying visit, helped track down the guy responsible for the murder of a bunch of Navy SEALs; attracted a little bit of public outrage when a run-in with a cult leader led to a downtown Starbucks blowing up. No matter how thoroughly she seemed to shampoo, Kono found bits of damp coffee grounds stuck to her scalp for days afterwards.
"I feel like a walking latte," she complained to Chin when they were driving over to their Uncle Junseo's for Sunday night dinner—one of the many careful moments through which they were slowly mending their family. She hoped that there would be plenty of kalguksu; Kono was definitely in the mood for comfort food.
"The things they never teach you in the academy, cuz," Chin said dryly.
In between cases, the cogs of the IA investigation into Kono ground on, slow and methodical. "It's just a paperwork thing, really," her union rep told her, but even with everyone saying that the accusations were guaranteed to be found baseless, no one was able to tell her when. Kono did her best to keep up with the investigation into Viktor Hesse's murder, too, making sure to drop by the front desk at HPD whenever Nguyen was on duty there in order to keep up with the gossip, but that also seemed to be going nowhere fast—with no forensics and so many known enemies that there was no apparent front runner, it was turning into a cold case pretty quickly.
Kono knew that Jenna was doing pretty much the same thing, running down all the leads she could get on Josh—whereabouts, past associates, investment details—going back over evidence that she'd already looked at at least three different times in search of a new angle. Jenna seemed to survive on rotgut coffee, and of course there was the incident with the week-old bowl of microwaved ramen which had Danny making snide remarks about attempts to genetically engineer new life-forms. It made sense, then, for Kono to begin to drag Jenna out of the office for lunch on the days they weren't out on a case. The diner down the block served pretty good loco moco and poke, and it was nice for both of them to get a break from the routine: even if their version of off-the-job conversation tended to be an odd mixture of official and unofficial cases, surfing, and weird things Jenna had read about on the internet.
One Wednesday, Kono noticed that it was the third day in a row that Jenna had ordered the same thing for lunch: a small cup of soup and a glass of water. "The black bean soup's that good, huh?"
Jenna ducked her head. "Uh. Not exactly."
Jenna wrinkled her nose before replying. "It's not like I had anything coming in before Steve hired me on, so I had to dig into my savings pretty deep. My apartment back in Virginia still hasn't sold and renting here is… well, you know what it's like. I'm okay, it's not like I can't pay my bills, I'm just having to be careful when I eat out and stuff, that's all. Another couple of months and I'll be back on track."
Kono squinted at her for a moment, considering, while she chewed a piece of her spicy tuna roll. The prize money from her surfing days had paid for her first car and her tuition at the U, but she'd had to eke out the very last of it to make the down payment on her house. Police officers weren't exactly rolling in it, and some months, when Payroll was slow refunding her expenses, had her bank account edging really close to the red. She knew what it was like to have to be conscious of your bank balance, and she blamed empathy for the impulse which made her say, "Why don't you move in with me?"
Jenna looked up at her and blinked, eyes owlish behind her thick-rimmed glasses. "… Excuse me?"
"I know there are bigger shoeboxes," Kono said, shrugging, "but you'd have your own room and we could carpool to work. If you don't mind all my surfboards and stuff being all over the place."
"I don't want to be, you know… in the way," Jenna said.
"Think of it as friends helping one another out," Kono said, because she didn't want any thought of pity to enter into this. "We'll split the utilities, I'm paying less on my mortgage and you're paying less on your rent, and my mom will stop nagging me about being a workaholic recluse. Win-win all around."
Jenna blinked at her. "Your mom will stop nagging you because of how you'll be… living with another workaholic recluse?"
"Exactly," Kono said, knowing all too well the ways in which Yun-Seo Kalakaua's mind worked, and beamed at her.
For Steve, the worst part of it was the waiting. Adjusting to not being team leader anymore, that wasn't a picnic, but at least Denning had appointed someone who was smart and competent. Steve knew if it hadn't been for Lori's profiling training, they might not have solved the Kaluhiwa kidnapping quickly enough; it was more difficult to hold a grudge against someone after they'd sweated and fought alongside you to make sure that two kids got back to their parents. When they had clashed heads over the right thing to do—arrest now or later; keep searching up near the Wahiawa Reservoir or turn their attention somewhere else—she was firm in her authority but never tried to humiliate Steve with it, and she made a point of listening to his input.
But as tough as it was to have to try to follow instead of lead once more, it was worse having to wait. The fact that nothing happened made Steve tenser, more nervous, fearing attack from every angle. One evening he got home to find a cluster of velvety moths battering themselves against the porch lights that he couldn't remember leaving on. He spent three hours reconning his own house to make sure that it hadn't been rigged to explode as soon as he walked in; by the time he gave himself the all clear, the back and underarms of his t-shirt were dark with sweat.
It would have been easier to cope with if Steve knew what Wo Fat's endgame was, but there was no grand epiphany. He had to do what he could to work out his frustration, even if it wasn't in the usual way: no fire-fights or explosions, gun holstered during the long hours of his own free time spent researching the paper-trail left by Jameson, in the public library or online, looking for some explanation as to why she'd been willing to work with Wo Fat. The process left him tired in the mornings, irritability itching beneath his skin, enough so that Danny took to greeting him each day with a travel mug of coffee.
"Traditionally," he said the first time he did it, "I believe it's music that soothes the savage beast, but we all know your taste in music, babe, it's appalling, so here: have your dark roast on me, drink. Stop it with that face, too, geez, the wind changes you'll be stuck like that."
It was Danny's version of affection, expressed with rapidly moving hands, with quick-fire words and an attempt at ill humor. Steve took it for what it was, sipped at the coffee and said, "Thanks, Danno," when he felt the caffeine start to hiss and spark along his nerves.
"You're welcome!" Danny said in that weird, exasperated tone of his, the one which said that he'd been expecting even more push-and-shove and was now disappointed that you'd given in.
Today, Danny was driving for once, maneuvering through the worst of Honolulu's morning rush hour. Steve slumped against the passenger door, nursing his coffee and staring out the window at the landscape scrolling past: the blue sky and the lush greenery, the neat homes and the towering hotels. He was home, the place he'd been trying to get back to ever since his dad sent him away, and here he was: afraid.
There was no fresh case to greet them at headquarters—nothing, it seemed, had happened in Honolulu that morning to merit task force intervention. "Nice try," Lori said when Steve suggested that someone look into the instances of jaywalking or shoplifting that cropped up on the police blotter, "but we all have plenty of paperwork to catch up on. Take advantage of the lull."
Steve headed into his office, stopping short when he saw his desk, now covered with far more stacks of paper than had been there the evening before. Chin's desk, on the other hand, was now suspiciously clean.
"Before you say anything," Chin said without looking from his tablet, "you know you owe me one—several, in fact—and I'm collecting."
"There's more than a full day's work here," Steve said, wrinkling his nose and flicking through some of the pages on top of the stack. Chin had even given him the inventory forms, the terrible multi-page things that required everything in the supply cupboards to be accounted for, down to each individual box of paperclips. "I've got fifty bucks in my wallet?"
"You shoved me into a trashcan full of garbage yesterday," Chin said. "Fifty dollars is not going to cut it."
"That was an accident!" Steve said, folding his arms. He'd just been trying to push Chin to one side so that he could get a clearer shot at the suspect—he'd had absolutely no way of knowing that Chin, startled, would lose his balance and end up on top of a mound of rotting vegetable peels.
"I'm not arguing with your intentions, brah," Chin said, "just with the fact that I have a pair of pants I'll never be able to wear again."
Chin still hadn't looked up from his tablet, and at first Steve had the dark suspicion that he was playing Sudoku, but then he realized that Chin might have another reason for avoiding eye contact. "You have a date with Malia tonight, don't you?"
Chin's expression didn't change, but he shifted in his chair. "Maybe." Steve couldn't blame him for trying to be discreet about it, but this was Five-0. Danny had been known to complain vociferously that he couldn't take a leak without everyone knowing about it.
"You want me to do the paperwork so you can leave early, huh?" Steve said, leaning against his desk and folding his arms. He grinned at the way Chin huffed an exasperated sigh at the ceiling.
"If I say yes," Chin said, "will you drop it?"
"Not a chance," Steve said. He hadn’t had much of a chance to get in some prime sibling teasing about love lives when he was a teenager; he wasn't about to lose the opportunity now.
Jenna had been renting week-to-week in one of those terrible extended stay hotels on the outskirts of Honolulu. On the plus side, it meant that there was no furniture to haul out and try to cram into the back of Kono's car; on the down side, Kono was pretty sure she'd been here before to interview someone about a robbery and had ended up having to arrest a completely different guy living just down the hall for indecent exposure. There were definitely suspicious stains on the carpeting that she made sure to step around every time she passed by them. It took just two trips to get everything from the hotel to Kono's house: two suitcases, a few plastic bags full of clothing, books and file folders, toiletries and a wilting potted plant that Jenna was weirdly fond of.
It was odd having another person stay with her at first. Kono had been living on her own since she'd left the pro circuit and Coral Prince's bustling communal housing—though of course she was back at her parents' noisy house all the time, and thought Danny and Steve's talk of childhood Thanksgivings that had involved less than fifty people in the house sounded really boring—and she'd grown used to living on her own schedule, doing things her own way. Now she had to make room in the fridge for Miracle Whip and vanilla pudding cups, clear out a spot in her tiny medicine cabinet for Jenna's moisturizer and allergy pills. Jenna had a tendency to colonize the sofa in the living room and watch hours of documentaries on the History Channel or Nat Geo, making hissing noises at what she called "terrible, terrible non-empirical methodology and misleading argumentation." Kono supposed it was a fair trade, though, since Kono was just as likely to spend time watching reruns of famous surfing championships, trying to explain to Jenna just why a lack of progression while tubing it had lost someone the title.
Kono introduced Jenna to some of her cousins, to the wider circle of her friends in Honolulu and on the North Shore, to parties on the beach and cycling back along the coast to get guava shave ice with azuki bean paste. If there were days when Jenna was still clearly grieving Josh and the life they might have had together, needing time to sit alone in her room with a photo album and a box of Kleenex, those days were coming fewer and further between—Jenna's smiles became that little bit less hesitant, and she had started to get a little Hawai'ian color in her cheeks, courtesy of their twice-weekly surfing lessons.
"This is a really terrible idea," Jenna said during their first lesson. She'd put a little more effort into preparing for it than Danny ever had—she was wearing an actual swimsuit, for one thing, even if her plain red tankini wasn't something Kono would ever have been caught dead in—but was still staring at the surfboard as if it were a deadly weapon. "Are you sure that I'm not going to, like, drown or be eaten by sharks or—"
Kono reached out and took her by the wrist. "You'll be fine. I'll be right there with you, and this is White Plains, not the Pipeline. No monster waves here, okay? Just you and me, we'll be fine."
"Okay, okay, I trust you," Jenna said, taking a shaky breath and offering Kono a lopsided smile. There was a streak of white on her nose from where she hadn't quite rubbed in all her sunscreen. "Once you don't laugh too hard."
Kono couldn't claim that she managed to stay entirely straight-faced the whole time—not given the look of shock on Jenna's face the first time she managed to stay upright on the board for more than a few seconds, her limbs wobbling like a newborn colt's—but by the end of the day, her smile was one of pride. Jenna's confidence had seemed to grow each time she got her pop-up right, and when Jenna staggered out of the surf for the last time, her hair sticking up every which way and complaining cheerfully about the aches in her arms and legs, Kono wrapped an arm around her shoulders.
"That wasn't so bad," Jenna said, leaning into Kono for a moment. She smelled of salt and faint, lingering traces of coconut-scented sunscreen.
"See?" Kono said, pulling away to retrieve their towels from her bag. "We'll have you all kama'aina in no time."
Jenna laughed at Kono's words, but she didn't protest them.
The other plus point about sharing her space with Jenna was one which would no doubt have Kono's mom rolling her eyes at her workaholic ways, but it couldn't be denied: the two of them teaming up to work on what Jenna referred to as their "extracurricular projects" was a big help. They couldn't officially use Five-0 resources, given Denning's new rules, but sitting at their kitchen table, Kono could bring a fresh eye to the background info Jenna had gathered on Josh, could help blunt the inevitable sharp edges that came with digging into the past of someone you loved, in the anticipation that you might well find something dark. Jenna had means of digging into library records in the search for microfilm and arcane old paper records that surpassed what Kono could do by herself.
"We make a pretty good team," Kono said, fist-bumping Jenna after she'd figured out a way to use a combination of utility bills and property tax records to make a connection between two dummy corporations that they were pretty sure were shell companies run by Wo Fat.
"She's an ex-surfer turned cop, she's a disgraced former CIA analyst—together, they fight crime!" Jenna said, in a mock movie announcer voice. "Uh," she said, when Kono dissolved into startled laughter. "That was an internet thing, sorry."
The first victim was found by an elementary school teacher out walking her dog. If Gillian Saunders had taken a right turn instead of a left on the hiking trail, her dog might never have found the body. Instead, descending the slope that led down from the trail and into a shallow ravine, Steve was greeted by the sight of Max trying to pry human remains out of a golden Labrador's mouth—despite himself, Steve felt his stomach lurch.
"Oh my god," Danny said, scrunching up his nose as he too caught sight of it. "Et tu, man's best friend. Max, please tell me that's not a human femur right there. Please."
Max stood upright, the bone now safely in his hand. The dog whined and pawed at him until it was dragged away by an apologetic, nauseated-looking owner. "I could tell you that, Detective Williams," he said solemnly, his enunciation precise, "but it would be a falsehood."
Danny rocked back on his heels, stared up at the cloudless blue sky. "You know," he said to no one in particular, "if I had listened to my mother when I was back in college, I would be an accountant right now, just like my Uncle Marty, and my Wednesday mornings would have a distinct lack of femurs."
"I find that hard to believe," Max said, pushing his glasses further up his nose. "It would make it extremely difficult for you to walk."
"Can we save the chatter?" Steve said. "What can you tell us about the victim, Max?"
Max gestured at the bones, which were being carefully photographed and readied for transport by some of the lab techs. "Judging by the degree of decomposition, I would estimate the remains have been here for three to four weeks. More thorough examination back at the lab will allow me to state for certain, but at the moment I am reasonably confident in stating that the victim was female, between mid-twenties and mid-thirties."
"Any theory on how she died?" Steve said, standing back out of the path of some of the techs who were carrying heavy equipment bags down the slope.
"There is no immediate evidence of trauma to the bones," Max said. "No gunshot wounds or breaks that I can see on cursory examination. I will have a more detailed report for you by tomorrow morning."
"So we don't actually know for sure that this is a murder?" Steve asked. "She could have been out hiking, fallen, hit her head?"
"Eh," Danny said, "I don't know, you trip and fall from up there"—he gestured back up towards the walking trail, at the only part of it which didn't have a guard rail running alongside it—"are you really likely to land on this part of the slope, and behind a tree?"
"That would be likely only if the victim were made from some kind of highly elastic polymer," Max said without hesitation.
"Thank you," Danny said, deadpan, "for that prompt if somewhat disturbingly graphic confirmation of my theory."
"You are most welcome, Detective Williams," Max said, beaming.
From the lab, Max called them with confirmation that the dead woman had been murdered ("From the fracture of the hyoid bone, I would suggest that the victim was strangled, most likely manually"), but it was sort of a moot point at that stage—uniformed cops combing the area around where the first body had been found soon found a second, then a third. "Great," Danny said, "fantastic, we're standing in a serial killer's garden, I'm going to need to shower in Lysol when I go home and then burn these clothes."
The only other serial killer case Steve had worked up to that point had been the Harris case, and that trail of bodies had been scattered across other islands, removed from him by space and the distancing effect of crime scene photos. It had been resolved in a matter of days, too; but this case dragged on, with no witnesses, no immediate suspects, little forensic evidence—just six unnamed bodies lying in the morgue while Max and his team did their work. The papers picked up on it, of course, headlines in bold font proclaiming that a deranged killer was stalking Honolulu's streets; even some of the national cable news networks were running with it, their anchors making terrible jokes about trouble in paradise. Opinion polls asked if Hawai'ians trusted the police force to keep them safe, and the Governor was on the phone to Lori at least twice a day, looking for updates. It was more than a little frustrating, knowing that there was a murderer out there somewhere, that there was a guy walking around with the blood of six women on his hands and there was nothing Steve could do about it yet, which made it all the sweeter the day that Kono poked her head around the conference room door and said, "Max just sent over some files—he's ID'ed one of our vics."
Lori and Steve were up and out of their seats at the same time—and that was one of the things that Steve liked about her, that she wasn't just content to be some desk jockey—and out to look at the images Chin was calling up on the big overhead monitors. "Dental records," Chin said, "gave us a name for our fourth vic—Deborah Dimagiba, 19, address in Waialae Iki." In amongst the forensic files on the screen—the coroner's report, the dental records, the soil analysis of the crime scene—was a picture clearly taken from a driver's license. Deborah Dimagiba had been a pretty young woman, all long dark hair and apple-round cheeks.
Steve frowned. "Why does her name ring a bell?"
"Because I'm pretty sure I was at a fundraiser with her father a few weeks ago," Lori said, arms folded, staring up at the screen with an intent expression on her face. "Judge Dimagiba."
Kono shook her head. "That doesn't make sense—I don't remember seeing her name on any of the missing person's lists, and I can't believe that a judge's daughter is going to go missing without him raising all kinds of hell about it."
"Guess we're going to have to go and ask him," Steve said. It was still hard to fight habit, not to grab his keys and head for the door without having to second-guess himself, but a series of blisteringly polite arguments had taught him to look over and say, "Lori?"
"Sure," she nodded, "since Danny's out this morning, Chin will go with you to interview the judge. Kono and I can follow up on the forensics."
Either Juan Dimagiba was the best actor Steve had ever encountered, or he was absolutely floored by the news of his daughter's death: his six foot three frame seemed to fold in on itself so that he occupied less space than Danny, and his skin took on a grayish tinge that had Chin suggesting he take a seat. "But she… there has to be a mistake, some sort of mix-up with the dental records," Dimagiba said. "She should be on the mainland right now."
Steve flicked a glance at Chin. "Was she planning on going there on vacation? For work?"
Dimagiba shook his head. "No, she goes to Bryn Mawr. She was home for the summer, interning at a business owned by some friends of ours. She headed back—was supposed to head back—uh, it would be a month ago now. On the second."
"Did you speak to Deborah at any time after the second? Anything that could help us narrow in on a particular time?" Chin asked. Steve was already impressed at how easily Chin could pitch his voice in that register: businesslike but soothing.
Dimagiba looked down at his hands, which he was compulsively twisting in his lap. "We actually… we had an argument, a couple of days before she was supposed to head back. On the 31st. She'd been running up some big bills on the credit card my wife and I gave her—it was supposed to be just for emergencies, but she and some friends of hers had gone on a trip to Cancun. Then I found out she'd taken out some additional private student loans. She said it was for a better car, that the one she'd had back in Pennsylvania just wasn't good enough anymore. It was a… it was a pretty bad argument. We both said some things, and I… I took away her credit cards and said she could have them back when she proved herself responsible. She stormed out, and I thought she'd come back as soon as she calmed down but we haven't heard from her since. I thought it was because of the fight, but… but the last thing I told my daughter was that she was a selfish brat." He didn’t sob, but tears ran silently down his cheeks.
Chin quietly informed Dimagiba's assistant about what had happened, and interviewed him about what he knew of the Dimagiba family's recent activities before leaving him to the task of comforting his boss: there was little else they could do right now. They headed back outside to their respective cars. "The assistant gave me the flight date and time for Deborah's trip back to Philadelphia," Chin said, "Mrs. Dimagiba's in Manila for a family wedding, but the judge's PA has changed her flight to tonight. We should be able to interview her as soon as she gets back. In the meantime, I'll get a start on requesting the footage from the airport that day, see if she did make it out there. I can work back from there, see if any of the traffic cameras pick up her rental car."
"Sounds good," Steve said. "I'll join you in a bit—just have to pick Danny up first."
"Ah," Chin said, wincing sympathetically. "For your sake, brah, I hope the dentist gave him the good stuff."
Trust Danny to get in the middle of an attempted mugging on his way out to pick up dinner on Tuesday evening—he'd arrested the thief and got the woman's purse back, but not before the guy had gotten one good punch in and knocked out the crown from one of Danny's molars. Dr. Santos had at least been able to fit him in this morning to replace said crown, but Steve was anticipating that despite the speed of the repair, Danny was going to be very cranky when he was picked up—the best he could hope for was cranky and stoned. That was proved true when Steve pulled up in front of the dentist's surgery. Danny was jittering around inside the lobby, unable to leave until he was picked up by someone who hadn't recently been sedated, and he was making faces at the dentist's receptionist about it.
Steve coaxed him out into the car, made no reply to Danny's vociferous complaints about stupid punks who'd think it was a good idea to punch a police officer, drove without being prompted to the nearest Walgreen's to pick up Danny's prescription for painkillers, and, in deference to Danny's crappy morning, drove him back to his apartment in order to get changed. "Sweatpants and a t-shirt are appropriate wear for the dentist's chair, Steven, but I'm not going back to the office wearing this."
Of course, when they pulled up to Danny's apartment building, it was in time to see two white vans with Hawai'i State Department of Health emblazoned on the side pulling away. "Huh," Danny said on seeing them, but what he said on making it to his door and seeing the notice pinned to it was a whole lot less polite. "Condemned?" he said, when he could finally manage something other than some very creative obscenities, "They're condemning the building?"
Steve peered over his shoulder, reading the notice. Scheduled for demolition within the next seven days, enter at own risk, for further information contact, etc etc. "Asbestos, black mold, fire hazard and subsiding foundations, huh?"
Danny turned around, poked him in the chest with a finger. "Do not, do not even start with me, okay? Half my face is still numb from anesthesia and now I'm homeless on an island which requires a testicle as a safety deposit. Fuck my life, what the hell."
Steve blinked at him. He couldn't do anything about the numb face issue, but there was a really obvious solution to the other thing. "So come stay with me."
Danny's mouth worked soundlessly for a moment, and while Steve was a little confused as to why this was the thing that would make Danny speechless for once, he wasn't going to give up on the opportunity either. "I've got a spare bedroom no one's using, we car pool anyway, and you know it's a safe environment for Grace. It makes sense."
"I—thank you," Danny said, pinking up a little. "That's actually pretty generous, Steve, thank you. It won't be for long, mind you."
Steve shrugged. "However long it takes, you're welcome to stay."
Together, they piled the most essential of Danny's stuff and all of Grace's things into a couple of boxes and some plastic bags, dumped them into the back seat of the Camaro. They could come back for the rest of it the next day. "Thanks," Danny said quietly again as they got back into the car—the way he got quiet when he was truly sincere.
"No problem, I mean it," Steve said, and then waited for a beat before adding, "Of course, I'm going to need three references from prior landlords and a credit check dated to the last six months before we actually go ahead with this."
"You are an evil, evil man," Danny said calmly as they pulled out of the parking lot, "and the fact that right now I'm in your debt, that is a trial to me."
Steve snickered all the way back to the office.
Lori and Kono left Jenna running through the list of people reported missing on the island over the last ten years, in search of any new possibilities or connections that might become clear now that one of the victims had been identified, and headed over to take a closer look at what Max could tell them. It was obvious that it was Lori's first time in Max's office from the way she arched an eyebrow at its more unusual trappings. "A piano?" she said, somewhat dubiously.
"Max likes to play," Kono explained.
"In the office?" Lori said.
"It helps me to relax," Max said, materializing suddenly; one day, Kono was going to find out the secret of walking with absolute silence from him. "And also to achieve clarity while thinking through a particularly puzzling case."
"Huh," Lori said, and thought about it for a moment. "That's actually pretty sensible."
"You really think so?" Max said, cocking his head to one side. "That is not the usual reaction I receive from police officers."
"Well, I'm a profiler," Lori answered. "I understand why people do the things they do for a living, and trust me, this isn't even in the top one hundred strangest things I've seen. Plus my grandfather was a piano tuner—I get why it'd be a relaxing thing to do."
Max lit up when she said that, and Kono practically had to drag the two of them away from their discussion of pianos and music and forensic psychology in order to get them to talk about the case. It had taken a long time to identify the first set of remains, but now by chance the next two had been ID'ed in the space of just a few hours—sometimes being a cop could rival being in the military for the whole hurry-up-and-wait thing it had going on.
"The first set of remains found belonged to Zhang Xia, 23, an immigrant from China who had been working in a factory near Ewa and attending language school in the evenings," Max said. "She has no known family in the U.S., so there was no one to report her missing when she didn't show up for work. If she hadn't developed an infected wisdom tooth a few months ago, we might never have found her identity." The lab techs had uncovered two photographs of her: the first, taken to accompany her visa paperwork, showed a serious looking young woman who stared out at the camera, her face bleached by an overly strong flash; the second, taken a few months after her arrival in Honolulu, was for her learner's permit, was better lit and showed that she'd had her hair cropped into a bob in the interim.
"And the second?" Kono asked.
"Julianne Roper," Max said. "Originally from the North Shore, she moved to the city several months ago with her husband and son. She was 37, a realtor, and the only victim we've identified so far who was also on the missing persons list. Her husband reported her absence nine days ago when she failed to return home after work, and her remains showed the least amount of decomposition. Professionally speaking, I would be comfortable placing her death as occurring around the time of her disappearance, or shortly afterwards." He produced a photo of her, clearly a snapshot provided to the police by Roper's husband: it showed a beaming, petite woman with a shock of red curls and a face liberally splashed with freckles, her arms wrapped around a toddler.
Kono chewed on her lower lip. Serial killers normally had a particular type, stalked a particular geographic area, but all three victims they'd uncovered so far were from different ethnic backgrounds, different socio-economic groups, looked different to one another. If it wasn't for the fact that the bodies had all been found in the same remote place, she'd have thought they were dealing with three different killers.
Lori seemed equally baffled. "There's got to be some link here that we're not seeing—this is a pretty disparate group our killer's gone after."
They tried to think of theories in the car on the way back to the office, but while there were a million and one possible ways for all three women to have met, there were no probabilities, and nothing that immediately jumped out at them. In HQ, they sat around the computer table, eating the Chinese food that Jenna had ordered in: three women eating and looking up at the images of three dead women staring back down at them from the computer monitors. "This is definitely one of the creepiest lunches I've ever had," Kono observed as she worked her way through her rice.
"Not for me," Lori said, chasing the last piece of broccoli around the bottom of the takeout container with her chopsticks; when Kono and Jenna looked at her, she shrugged and said, "I worked in DC for five years. Spend enough time inside the Beltway, meet enough congresspeople, and believe me, nothing is going to faze you. Vulcans have a better understanding of normal human interaction than most industry lobbyists."
"Sure," Jenna said slowly, then refocused on the screen. "I've run the names you gave me and crosschecked them against the database of missing people again. The program's still running through the list, but I'm not sure what other variable I could crosscheck under: they all had different neighborhoods, different workplaces, different routines. Deborah Dimagiba didn't intern at Julianne Roper's business or at the business of anyone Roper seems to have known; I don't have any evidence of Roper or Roper's husband and Dimagiba knowing one another or one another's families through business or charitable concerns. Zhang Xia lived in a one room apartment that she rented in a pretty run-down part of town, doesn't seem to have had the opportunity to meet either of the other women. There's no evidence that the women belonged to the same gym, shared the same ex-boyfriend, belonged to the same church or attended the same school—none of the usual vectors that would bring people to the notice of the same serial killer. The only commonality I can see so far is that they're female, under forty, and murdered."
"Maybe we're coming at this from the wrong angle," Lori said, frowning. "There's something..." She stood, swiped at the screen to call up the files for all the victims: the three known, the three unknown. She stared down at the screen for a moment, then slowly rearranged the files into a new order. Kono and Jenna stood, looked down at what she was doing.
"Birth order?" Kono said. "How does that help us?"
"Deborah Dimagiba was 19," Lori said. "Zhang Xia was 23, Julianne Roper was 37. Our three unidentified victims: based on bone fusion, one's likely to be 16 or 17; the other two are late twenties or very early thirties. If I had to guess, I'd say that the next victim we find will be age..."
"Forty-one," Jenna blurted out. "Oh my god."
"You're going to have to explain it to me," Kono said, feeling lost.
"Prime numbers," Jenna said. "Seventeen, nineteen, twenty three, twenty nine, thirty one, thirty seven, forty one."
Kono blinked. "You think this guy's picking victims based on their ages making up some mathematical pattern? That's a pretty big stretch."
Lori shrugged. "It's not usual, but it's definitely not the weirdest justification I've heard of for a serial killer to use to pick their victims—it just has to make sense to them, not necessarily to anyone else."
"Ugh," Jenna said, resettling her glasses on her nose. "And it's not like we can put out a PSA advising every 41 year old woman on the island to stay indoors for the next while until we catch a serial killer with a fetish for numerical sequences."
"We're just going to have to keep working at figuring out the connection between the women. It's not like he can tell their ages psychically," Kono pointed out.
Chin got back a few moments later, bearer of both a sandwich and a goofy, poorly hidden grin which told Kono that if she checked his call history, she'd find Malia's name. She couldn't say she understood why Chin was willing to open himself up to more pain, given how much it had hurt him the first time he and Malia had broken up. Chin was never what you'd call chatty, but Kono didn't think he'd said anything more than monosyllables for weeks after the breakup. Still, his life was his life—and besides, Chin didn't say anything when Kono stole a couple of chips from him, which proved that he was in a genuinely good mood.
They went back over the last known movements of all three women: what Roper's husband had given the police, what they'd managed to piece together of Dimagiba's movements using her rental car's GPS system, together with what little they could estimate of Zhang's likely daily movements. It was Jenna who saw it first, sitting up straighter in her chair. "The day after she had the fight with her dad," she said, "Deborah Dimagiba's car was stationary for about two hours near Dillingham and Waiakamilo, right?"
"Yeah, but we couldn't trace it to any purchases on her debit card," Kono said. "We've no idea what she was doing or who she met there."
"But there's a DMV office there, right? Chin, you said that Judge Dimagiba's assistant said that he'd overheard his boss and Deborah have a minor argument a couple of days before the big one, right? She'd lost her driver's license in a bar and the judge was telling her she had to be more careful. So if Deborah wanted to get a replacement, it'd make sense for her to go there."
"True," Chin agreed, "but I have the feeling you've got something more concrete than that."
"Julianne Roper's husband said that two days before she disappeared, right after work, she went to the bank and then to that office to register the car they'd just bought. It was on the way between her workplace and his," Jenna said, flipping to the relevant part of the file and highlighting the sentence on screen.
"And a DOT employee would have access to someone's date of birth and home address," Chin said slowly, as if he were absorbed in the process of retracing the mental path which Jenna had taken. "Everything you need to track down someone."
"I'm almost positive that if we went through the office's records," Jenna said, calling up the other photos they had, "we'd find that Zhang Xia's photo for her learner's permit was taken at the same office."
"I'm pretty sure you're right; well done," Lori said, giving her a quick smile, "but we don't have time to be a hundred percent certain right now—we have to get down there and figure out which employee dealt with all these women, before he hurts someone else."
Chin was already jogging for the door, pulling his phone out of his pocket. "I'll call Steve and Danny, have them meet us there," he said over his shoulder.
The rest made to follow him, anxious not to be left out of bringing down the guy who'd given them all so many sleepless nights over the last few weeks, but before they made it through the door, Kono made sure to give Jenna a fistbump. "Good instincts—we really do make a good team, huh?" Not for the first time, Jenna flushed pink at the least hint of praise; and not for the first time, Kono caught herself staring for a moment too long before looking away.
After all that time spent twiddling their thumbs, actually finding the killer was sort of anticlimactic. Steve didn't feel like he'd contributed all that much to solving the case, since most of the heavy lifting had been done by the others. Even when the team had moved in on the DOT offices, Rick Walters had realized what was going on as soon as he spotted them talking to the manager and had tried to "rabbit", as Danny had put it, in Danny's direction, not Steve's. Despite the residual effects of that morning's anesthesia and the fact that Walters had produced, seemingly from nowhere, a knife that'd impress Crocodile Dundee, Danny managed to knock him out with one swift punch.
"Huh," Danny said afterwards, shaking out his still-stinging fist, "would you look at that, I'm living the American dream: got to punch out a DMV employee."
"DOT, Danny," Steve said automatically, hauling a groaning Walters up off the floor and cuffing him with a little more force than was strictly necessary, "we're in Hawai'i."
"Yeah, yeah, whatever," Danny said magnanimously, flapping a hand at him.
So Steve hadn't done all that much except assist in getting a confession out of Walters afterwards, but that wasn't too difficult either. The guy was proud of what he'd done, boasted about being able to read a hidden code in Nostradamus that could only be solved with blood. Still, it was him and Lori who were summoned to Denning's office afterwards for a formal thanks and a debriefing. Lori took it in her stride but the whole thing made Steve uncomfortable, and he had to fight the urge to salute when the governor walked in. An excess of nervous energy first made him tap his foot against the ground while Lori and Denning spoke and then, when Lori shot him an annoyed look, he tried to distract himself some other way. He was partway through counting the individual pieces of blue glass mosaic that made up a vase sitting on a nearby bookcase when he noticed it.
"Where did you get that?" he said, interrupting whatever Lori and the governor were saying about opinion polls. "That clock?"
"I beg your pardon?" the governor said slowly. He arched an eyebrow, and did a creditable impression of a god in the immediate run up to a serious smiting.
"McGarrett." Lori's tone was full of ice. "If you've got a problem, then I'd prefer if you say it instead of—"
"The clock," Steve said, ignoring them and walking over to the bookcase. "Where did you get it from?"
"It belonged to my predecessor," Denning said. "Why?"
"It looks just like a clock my grandma used to have," Steve said, stooping to peer at it.
"Well. Thank you for sharing," Denning said, his voice as dry as some of the deserts Steve had trekked through, "but if you're quite finished then—"
"No," Steve said. He recognized the hand-painted flowers on the clock face; the faint scratches on one side of the casing, not quite removed by diligent polishing—the relic of a childhood game of pirates, him and Mary running riot as captain and first mate. "This is my grandmother's clock. How could it be—" His words dried up as soon as he realized the only possible answer: his father. He picked up the clock, ignoring Lori's protest and turned it over, prying open the casing. "Huh," he said, before placing it on the desk in front of Lori and Denning, angling it so that they could see the altered mechanism inside. "Okay, so I'm no expert on nineteenth century clock movements, but I'm pretty sure they don't usually come with a hidden camera and a high capacity SD card inside them."
It was the closest to stunned that Steve had ever seen the governor. "Someone's been filming me?"
"Not you, sir," Steve said. "I think this was put here to keep tabs on Governor Jameson. With your permission, I'd like to examine the footage in the camera. There's every chance there could be valuable intel on here relating to her murder and the murder of Laura Hills."
Denning peered at him. "I can think of at least seven reasons offhand, Commander, as to why that would be a bad idea, but let's start with the fact that not that long ago you were a suspect in Laura Hill's and Pat Jameson's murders. You do not have the track record which suggests to me that you can remain objective in a situation like this, not to mention that any half-decent prosecutor would—"
"With respect—" Steve began, but Lori cut him off before he could get any further.
"I agree that Commander McGarrett would not be the ideal person to take point on this," she said, casting him a quick, speaking look which clearly said you're going to let me take this one. "But there are other people on the Five-0 team with the expertise and skills needed to work on retrieving whatever files there are on that memory card. Lieutenant Kelly and Officer Kaye are both experts with this sort of technology, and neither of them has the kind of prior attachment to the case that the Commander has." Lori was obviously angling to make sure that this was a case which would be worked by the whole team, together, and in that moment, Steve was sort of pathetically grateful to her.
Between the two of them, it took Chin and Jenna a matter of hours to carefully disassemble the clock's mechanisms and get the footage off the SD card. "Looks like it was carefully done," Chin said, "but not particularly skillfully. You can get this kind of nanny cam on Amazon for maybe fifty bucks, and the wires and mounting from any hardware store. If I had to bet, I'd say that it was someone following internet instructions—it's just amateurish enough that eventually it would have interfered with the mechanism at this point here, and made the clock keep bad time. If you hadn't noticed it now, Steve, someone would have realized for sure when they tried to swap out the batteries."
"So whoever put it there clearly intended to retrieve it at some point," Lori said. Steve had noticed that the others were being careful not to look at him, not to say the name 'Jack McGarrett' aloud, not to point out that the only reason his grandmother's prized clock could have ended up in that room was because his father must have deliberately given it to Jameson in order to have a means of spying on her; that the only reason his father never went back to retrieve the footage was because he'd been murdered by Viktor Hesse.
"I think so," Jenna said. "It was set up to record only at specific times. There are four separate video files on here." She swiped her hand across the computer's touch screen, queued them up in the video player. They were all in black and white, between seventeen and thirty-nine minutes long, and were time-stamped between three and seven weeks before Steve's dad had died.
"Is there any audio you can get at?" Danny said. He'd been stone-faced and grim-looking since Lori and Steve got back from the governor's office—from the moment he saw the look on Steve's face, even before they told the others about the video files. His arms were folded and he was staring down at the computer as though, by concentrating hard enough, he could figure out what the hell it all meant. Steve couldn't blame him; he'd spent a lot of time himself, staring at the contents of his dad's toolbox and wishing that inanimate objects could speak.
Jenna shook her head. "There was no recording device in the clock that I could find, though that doesn't rule out there being a separate mic somewhere else in the office. It's all silent, but maybe we could find a lip-reader or something to help out—I have some contacts back in Langley I could ask." She cast a nervous glance over at Steve before setting the footage playing.
Four different files, four different meetings: Governor Jameson and Noshimuri; Jameson, his dad, and Noshimuri; Jameson, Noshimuri and Wo Fat; Jameson and his dad. Steve clenched his jaw against all the stuff he wanted to say, none of which would be helpful. Words weren't much good when you had to face the truth of betrayal: that's how it had been with Bullfrog and that's how it was now, watching the woman he'd respected for so long sit and chit-chat with Wo Fat. The last file, the one with her and his dad, was the most enigmatic. Jameson was sitting with her face angled away from the camera, and Steve could make little sense of her body language, her expression, what she was saying. He could see his dad's face though, and there was no mistaking the look there: it was the look of tamped down, carefully banked fury that Steve had only seen his dad wear once before, on the day his mother died.
Denning listened to Lori's explanation of what they'd found and then watched each clip through on fast forward a couple of times, fingers steepled. Steve had no idea what the governor was looking for as he stared at the mute footage, eyes narrowed, but equally he knew that Denning couldn't deny that something strange had been going on with Jameson, not when she'd been video-taped having meetings with Hiro Noshimuri—meetings with a now-convicted felon which, they'd discovered, hadn't been recorded in her official calendar. Still, there was no way of predicting what Denning would decide to do with the information.
"I'm going to authorize an investigation into this by Five-0," he said finally. "And for matters related to this, and only to this"—his gaze cut sharply to Steve when he said this—"I'm going to authorize all resources necessary to pursue this case. I will require the utmost discretion. As far as the public is concerned, Governor Jameson died as a result of a gangland vendetta caused by her push against organized crime. If she is definitively implicated in this, then I won't oppose that being revealed, but only if. I do not want her family hurt unnecessarily, do you hear me?"
"Absolutely," Lori said, nodding.
"Sir, yes, sir," Steve said, and refrained from saluting the governor only because he was very, very sure that it wouldn't go over that well.
There was one of those weird lulls that happened every once in a while, where there was a stretch of one, two, three weeks where nothing occurred on the island that couldn't be handled by the regular HPD. Given the job that the Governor had just handed them, Kono thought that this was probably a blessing in disguise. It gave them the time and space to work through everything they had, to take advantage of the new possibilities created by finding the footage and having the fresh perspective provided by Lori. There was nothing glamorous about this side of the job, no tangible progress to be counted at the end of the day in scraped knuckles or bruised jaws. Kono would have much preferred to be outside, chasing down leads, but the only way to do that was to get through this: working through all the paperwork in search of links between Jack McGarrett and Noshimuri, Jack McGarrett and the governor. Some of this had been done before, but for the first time they were looking not just for things that McGarrett Senior's official job might have done to attract untoward attention, but maybe his private life as well.
"Do you think this is weird?" she asked Jenna. It was just the two of them in their office, going through financial records from the 80s; the others preferred to use the big computer console or to spread stuff out across the conference room table, but it tended to get a little noisy out there and in here they had their own computers and Jenna's portable coffee maker.
"Hmm?" Jenna said, blinking up at her; there was a streak of yellow highlighter on her left cheek. It always seemed to take her a moment or two to come back to full awareness of her surroundings when she'd been concentrating on something. She'd described her mental process to Kono once: what it felt like to construct networks and layers of information in her head, rotating the resulting web in her mind like a multi-dimensional Rubik's Cube until the underlying pattern became clear to her. Kono hadn't really followed the explanation at all, but the unconscious smile on Jenna's face while she spoke had made it obvious that she found something beautiful, something freeing, in her work. Maybe it was a little something like how Kono felt about surfing.
"Just, you know…" Kono gestured down at the mass of paperwork in front of them. "It's one thing when it's a case—someone I've never met before. They might have a name, but they're still pretty anonymous to me, you know? Then I can reduce it down. But digging into Steve's family's private life, it just feels weird. Like I'm finding out something new about Steve at the same time."
Jenna wrinkled her nose. "I try not to think about that side of things too much. I got used to compartmentalizing with Josh, I guess, which is maybe not the healthiest thing I could do, but, you know." She laughed a little, the noise sounding so fake that it almost made Kono wince to hear it, but Jenna brought up Josh so rarely that Kono didn't want to interrupt. "When he—when he went missing, it was so sudden that no one really knew what happened. If it was because of his job, or if he'd been taking bribes or if… it was also explained to me," she said, enunciating her words with the exquisite care which said that this must have been very painful for her to say, "by one of his CIA handlers that this was one of the risks of the job, and that Agent Hirsh knew what he was signing up for. I should be proud to have known a true American patriot and not kick up any more fuss, because the Agency was going to deny all knowledge of his mission anyway."
Kono experienced the sudden, irrational urge to fly to Virginia and punch someone in the face. She settled for saying, "And?" as gently as she knew how.
"After burying my parents, it was probably the least fun thing I've ever had to do in my life," Jenna said bluntly. "If I wanted to have a chance of finding Josh, I had to learn how to distrust him—to treat every part of his life like it could hold a betrayal for me. Doubt is pretty corrosive. Even if I'd got him back, I don't know that I'd ever have been able to look at him the same way again."
Kono refrained from looking out through the window of the office at Steve, who was no doubt still where he'd been two hours before, hunched over the photos of the items retrieved from his father's toolbox. She smiled at Jenna instead. "Yeah, but this time around you've got us, right?" Under the desk, she nudged Jenna's foot with hers; Jenna pressed back, just a little, and left her foot there until, ninety minutes later, Danny flung his arms in the air and proclaimed, "Lunch, lunch, for the love of god feed me before I eat my own shoe leather, here."
Steve laid down ground rules, the basic guidelines that he expected someone to follow while staying under his roof: showers to be an acceptable length, television volume never to go higher than 20 during the day and 10 at nighttime, objects to be returned to their particular place once they'd been used. Danny said, "Yeah, yeah, sure," when Steve explained the rules to him, and then proceeded to ride roughshod all over them—he needed at least eight minutes in the shower because of his hair, he claimed, and he left waves of detritus in his wake. Steve could track Danny's progress through the house in the evening by where his car keys were deposited, his shoes kicked off, his tie discarded. It drove Steve nuts, to be honest, but he couldn't deny that there were a couple of upsides to sharing his house with someone else.
Case in point, this evening: Steve sitting at the kitchen table, puzzling over Pat Jameson's appointment book from 1993. This was the year before her office had switched to keeping electronic copies, and whoever her PA had been at the time, they'd had horrific handwriting. It was like trying to decipher a doctor's prescription—Steve had taken to squinting and holding it at arm's length. Ordinarily, he'd have put together a quick salad and a power shake to pick at while he worked, but Danny had greeted that idea with scorn. While Steve read, Danny was concocting what looked like a vat of pasta, in one of the big copper pots that probably hadn't been used since Steve's mom died. Steve had no idea where Danny had unearthed most of the ingredients—in fact, he had no idea where the spice rack on the kitchen counter had come from—but Danny had his shirt sleeves rolled up while he worked, phone tucked up against his shoulder so that he could talk to Grace, and the kitchen did smell fantastic, so Steve wasn't going to push too hard to find out.
About fifteen minutes later, the papers vanished from the table in front of Steve. "C'mon," Danny said, snapping his fingers, "you're done for the evening, that's it. Time for dinner, set the table."
Steve rolled his eyes, and stood up to go fetch the silverware. "Giving me orders in my own house, really?"
"All I'm doing is making sure that there is the appropriate ambiance for my Nonna's pasta, okay? You get good food, you give it your attention, this is a basic fact of life." Danny set two bowls of steaming pasta and a basket of garlic bread on the table. Despite himself, Steve heard his stomach give an audible growl, saw Danny grin in response. "I'm glad at least part of you recognizes that."
The food was as good as it smelled, and Steve ate at least half of the bread, swiping it through the leftover sauce on his plate. It wasn't gourmet cooking, but it was filling and warming, and he enjoyed the pungent taste of the pesto.
"I'm going to go out on a limb here and assume that means it was a hit," Danny said, eyeing Steve's empty plate.
"Eh," Steve said, shrugging, "better than most MREs I've had."
"High praise indeed," Danny said dryly, but then something in his expression shifted and he sat back in his chair, regarding Steve steadily as he said, "So, are we going to talk about this?"
Steve frowned. "Talk about what?"
"Talk about—talk about the fact that your father, you know, the guy you've been alternately emulating and brooding about for the past forever, the guy whose house you inhabit on a daily basis, that guy? The fact that he maybe had some kind of deal with the devil going on, and that you're coping about it by saying jack shit, which okay, that's admittedly standard operating procedure for you but I'm saying that in this instance, maybe it shouldn't be."
Steve stood up from the table, collected together the plates and silverware and carried them over to the sink. He set the hot water running, got out the dish soap, and only when he'd started to scrub the dishes did he say, "I'd prefer not to talk about this, Danny."
Danny's snort was audible, even over the sound of the running water. "Yeah, I got that much, thanks."
Steve stopped what he was doing, bracing his hands against the sink and leaning over it for a moment, because Jesus, he was tired. He'd spent the past three days reading every bit of paperwork related to his parents, Jameson, and Noshimuri that he could manage. He'd learned that his dad had once made a late payment on the old Chevy back in '89; that his mom liked to drop a hundred bucks or so in used bookstores every few months; had come across the checks they'd written to his and Mary's babysitters after one of their rare nights out. It felt as if he was getting to see a whole new side of his parents—as grown-ups, as Jack and Caroline McGarrett, the way he never knew them when he was sixteen—but there was little in there that helped and everything that hurt. "You're not going to let this go, are you?" he said.
"If there was such a thing as a Jersey bulldog breed, babe, that's what I'd be," Danny said, voice so achingly kind that Steve was really glad he was facing away from him right now.
"Well, okay then," Steve said, attacking the dishes with renewed vigor, scrubbing at the slowly congealing patches of pesto and tomato sauce. "It sucks. It really fucking sucks. I don't like thinking my dad was maybe working for Noshimuri or Wo Fat; I don't like thinking he might have been ultimately responsible for my mother's death, okay? I don't like thinking about how I'd break that news to my little sister. You feel better because I said that?" He stacked the dishes in the drying rack with a clatter.
"Yeah," Danny said. "I do. How about you?"
Steve paused for a moment, realized that the weight that felt as if it had been pressing down on his chest for days, making breathing difficult, was that little bit lighter now. "Maybe," he hedged; felt Danny's hand rest warm against his forearm for a moment before Danny brushed past him to get the coffee maker going.
"I think we need to start working some other angles on this," Jenna had said, which was how Kono came to find herself in her car at eleven at night, sitting in a side-street in Chinatown and hoping she didn't look as fish-out-of-water as she felt.
"But you've done stakeouts before, right?" Jenna said. She'd come prepared, with two thermos flasks full of coffee, a bag of sandwiches, an iPod and a book of logic puzzles. Kono had a can of Red Bull and Angry Birds on her iPhone.
"Yeah, but they've never involved me trying to blend in while sitting in an alley in Chinatown with a haole woman."
"That is… probably true," Jenna admitted.
There was a moment of silence in the car before Kono sighed and squirmed around in her seat, trying to find a more comfortable position. "Sorry, I just get jumpy on stakeouts, especially when we don't even know what kind of schedule your contact keeps."
"Contact is probably stretching it," Jenna said. She'd produced a bag of pretzel sticks from somewhere and was munching on them. "I only met her once at a coffee shop, and she just gave me her name and said she was a journalist. There's only one Bethany on the island who's a journalist. She's listed as an employee with an online news site, but there are no utilities in her name at the moment—the most recent thing I could find was a cable bill for this apartment building, but it was cancelled six months ago. This is totally just a shot in the dark."
"Maybe, but it's the best thing we have to go on right now," Kono said, shrugging. "I mean, all that paper-trail chasing and nothing. It's like there's no link there at all."
Jenna shook her head, suddenly fierce. "There is one, there has to be. It'd be too neat if there was nothing, like someone took an exacto knife and removed this tidy little chunk of their lives. There's a connection, just can't see the outline of it yet."
They were quiet after that, listening to music turned down low on Jenna's iPod—an incongruous mix of incredibly obscure indie bands and Lady Gaga—while passing the bag of pretzel sticks back and forth. Kono was getting distracted by the scents drifting out from one of the nearby late-night diners, caught up in thoughts of egg-fried rice, when Jenna suddenly elbowed her in the ribs. "That's her!"
Kono picked up her camera, used the zoom lens to get a good look at the woman who was standing across the street from them, perfectly illuminated in the light from a street lamp. Tall and dark-haired, she was rummaging in her purse for something—keys, maybe? "You said she's living in one of the third floor apartments?"
"Yeah," Jenna said. "The bills were in her name until a couple months ago, and then they switched to being in the name of someone called Luke Sansom—I can't get a firm trace on him before about a year ago, but I presume he's her boyfriend."
"Boyfriend?" Kono said, distracted, because there was someone walking along the sidewalk towards Morris—he had his head turned away from her, but there was something oddly familiar about the way he carried himself.
"He waited at another table in the coffee shop while we talked," Jenna said. "He only said 'hello' to me, but he sounded mainlander, not like someone who was Hawaiian-raised, and—huh, wait, that's him catching up to her now."
"That's Luke Sansom?" Kono said, heart in her throat as across the street the man turned, his profile now visible to her.
Jenna squinted at him. "Yup. I'm at least eighty, ninety percent positive that's him."
"Funny," Kono said, knowing that very soon Chin would be cursing her because she'd be calling him in the middle of his hot date with Malia; knowing that as soon as he heard what she had to say that he'd be cursing even longer and louder. She thought of the cable news stories from several months back, the ones that had left Danny with hunched shoulders for weeks because of their talk of Wall Street corruption and golden boys gone bad, and the smiling corporate headshot that had accompanied them. "Because I'm pretty sure that's Matt Williams."
It was like a version of the telephone game, only the message didn't get any funnier in the retelling: Kono called Chin, Chin called Steve, and now Steve was steeling himself to tell Danny. It was oh two hundred, but Steve knew that Danny wouldn't thank him if he let him sleep through until the morning—Danny subscribed to the rip-off-the-bandaid school of dealing with bad news. Get it over and done with. Steve got up from the lanai, where he'd taken Chin's call—after the initial revelation, their conversation had basically been a variation on the theme of this shit's fucked up and we're getting too old to deal with it—and shuffled into the kitchen. He took two lowball glasses and a bottle of bourbon from one of the cabinets and then climbed the stairs.
Knocking gently on Danny's door got him the creak of bed springs after thirty seconds or so, a mumbled, "C'm'in."
Steve went in, set the glasses and the whiskey down on the nightstand and then dragged over the creaking old desk chair so that he could sit by Danny's bedside. Danny hauled himself up in the bed, scrubbing at his eyes with his fists. His hair stood up in mussed curls around his face. "What time is it?" he said when he regained the ability to speak in something more than a grunt.
"Oh two seventeen," Steve told him.
"Okay," Danny said, "first, first you can use the twelve hour clock as was intended by the—" He caught sight of the whiskey bottle and paused. "Breaking out the good stuff?" he said warily; one eye closed involuntarily and he squinted up at Steve. "What is it? If it's Grace—is it Gracie?" He was out of bed before he'd finished speaking.
Steve shook his head, licking lips that were suddenly dry. He hadn't thought about how to phrase this, about what would be the best way to do it—so maybe when in doubt, the rip-the-bandaid school really was the best way to go. "It's Matt."
Danny sat down suddenly on the side of the bed, like a puppet whose strings have been suddenly cut. "He's dead."
Steve shook his head, still unsure how to say that it was almost as bad—that Matt was alive, that he'd maybe been back in Hawai'i for weeks now and there was every chance that he was working with Wo Fat.
"Okay," Danny said, "okay, you're going to start at the beginning and tell me everything. I'm going to drink a lot of this fine bourbon, and you're going to stop me only if I'm in danger of killing my liver or punching a hole in the drywall, okay?"
Steve shrugged. "Sure." Sounded like a reasonable trade-off to him. He talked Danny through what Kono and Jenna had seen, and Danny was smart, Danny was always so smart, he got the implications right away. He knocked back a large enough mouthful of whiskey to make Steve's eyes water in sympathy and then sat there on the side of the bed, glass cradled in his hands, looking older and smaller than Steve had ever seen him. Danny wasn't a big guy, but he normally had the kind of presence that filled up rooms, that always had Steve watching him, even if it was only out of the corner of his eye; now his shoulders were hunched, his toes curling bare and vulnerable beneath the hem of his plaid pajama pants.
"Jesus," Danny said, staring down at his hands. They were shaking, ever so slightly, as if he'd aged decades in a matter of minutes. "This is… I thought it was bad last time, but I could say it was a mistake, it was… he was dumb, he didn't know what he was getting into. But this? This will kill my father, Steve."
"We'll make this right," Steve said, meaning it with every fiber of his being even though he hadn't got a clue how he'd be able to do it. "I swear to you, Danny, me and the team, we'll do whatever you need, okay?"
"Thanks," Danny said, looking up at him. He sounded sincere but like he really didn't think Steve would be able to do anything; in the moonlight filtering in through the window, his eyes were a tired, faded blue.
The desire to convince him that gripped Steve was sudden but absolutely overwhelming—and sure, he'd done this before with any number of other buddies who were in similar situations. He'd delivered bad news from home to SEALs when he was stationed in Afghanistan, sat silently with someone who was crying for the loss of their best friend, but he couldn't remember looking at any of those guys and saying "anything I can do, anything" and meaning it with such absolute clarity. He sat and watched Danny pour himself another shot of whiskey, watched Danny's throat work while he swallowed, and thought holy shit, I'm in love with him.
The realization was a stunning one, huge enough that Steve felt as if he'd been winded. He didn't say anything—couldn't say anything, he realized, because Danny was still talking, Danny was angry and grieving his brother all over again and it was tough for Steve to catch his breath. Instead he reached out, took the bottle and poured himself two fingers of whiskey. Three on a Thursday morning, hours before you try to bust your partner's kid brother for drug racketeering and criminal whatever—maybe that wasn't the best time to have an epiphany about your sexual orientation, about just how much trouble your heart was in, but there was nothing he could do except sip at his whiskey and be there while Danny tried to figure out what to do.
That morning in the office was one of the most uncomfortable that Kono had ever experienced. Danny walked in dressed in the same outfit he'd been wearing the day before, his usual weird mix of formality and carelessness highlighted by the wrinkled clothing he must have pulled back out of the laundry basket. He looked hollow-eyed and there was no bounce in his step. He went straight into his office and closed the door behind him. Through the blinds, Kono could see him sit at his desk and pick up the phone. She cast a worried glance at Steve, but he just shook his head and said that Danny needed to be alone when calling his parents.
The rest of them clustered together in the main atrium area. Lori was the only one of them without dark circles under her eyes; everyone else was knocking back as much strong coffee as they could muster. When they'd been as certain as they could be that Bethany Morris and Matt Williams were indeed living in that building, Kono and Jenna had gone back to their house. Kono had tried to sleep, but she'd tossed and turned, not managing more than about two hours total. From the constant, faint murmur of music coming from Jenna's bedroom, she didn't think Jenna had slept at all. It was like the more they tried, the more they seemed to get hurt. Kono was getting sick of these odds.
"Well," Lori was saying when Kono blinked herself back to attentiveness, "it's not as if we have a choice. And actually this gives us a much better reason for Bethany Morris to be brought in for questioning, if she's living with a known federal fugitive."
"You're positive it was Matthew Williams, cuz?" Chin asked her once.
Kono nodded. "Absolutely. He's changed his haircut a little, lightened the color some, but it was him. I'd bet my Coral Prince board on it."
"And it can't be a coincidence," Lori said, drumming her fingers against the table-top, "that the brother of one of the members of this team, who is wanted on charges of money laundering and tax evasion, shows up living under an assumed name with a woman who, either knowingly or unknowingly, was feeding false information to Jenna which probably came from Wo Fat."
Steve might have passed for controlled and collected, if not for the white-knuckled grip he had on his mug of coffee. "The federal investigators were never able to identify the head of the ring he was involved in—they stalled out at the low-level local end back in New York. What if it was Wo Fat's?"
Chin cocked an eyebrow at him. "Hell of a coincidence if it was."
"You've seen my life this past year, right?" Steve said, and his tone was bitter enough to make Kono wince.
Chin made to say something, but Lori cut him off with a shake of her head. "We can save the reminiscing for later. Right now we need to focus on the case. We're going to need a warrant to search Bethany Morris' apartment, and to bring both her and her boyfriend—whatever his identity turns out to be—down here for questioning."
"I can get on the warrant," Chin said, "Judge Ocampo owes me a favor—should be able to get it done for me pretty quickly."
"Okay," Lori said, pushing her chair back from the table. "I'm going to call the governor, update him on our progress. The rest of you see what you can dig up on Morris and Sansom. I'd like to have as much as possible on them before we get them in here."
"Sure thing!" Jenna said, so obviously, falsely cheerful that Kono didn't know if that was worse than Steve's prickliness.
With Lori gone, Steve and Chin filed out pretty quickly, leaving Kono and Jenna to finish the last of their coffee. "Worst stake-out ever?" Kono said eventually, caught between the equally powerful urges to give in to manic laughter or to beat her head against the table.
"Ugh," Jenna said, pulling a face, "this is even worse than the very first stake-out I did with my evaluator, back when I was training at Arlington. Never thought I'd be able to say that." She was very focused on making some kind of structure out of Splenda packets—Kono wasn't going to ask, because she knew a coping mechanism when she saw one.
She settled on saying instead, "What happened?"
"I have this…" Jenna waved a hand in an indecipherable gesture. "I just really like Peeps, okay? And there had been this… accident with the packaging, and it was a busy week, I didn't have time to clean my car out thoroughly and I didn't realize that there were some on the passenger's seat and…"
Kono bit her lip to stop herself from laughing out loud. "And your advisor didn't notice before sitting down?"
"It was a night time stake-out!" Jenna said, trying to look betrayed but mostly like she was trying not to crack up. "Do you know how much it costs to get corn syrup and gelatin out of a Dolce and Gabbana suit?"
Kono snorted, and then the two of them were laughing, and it was a blissful change for a moment or two before Jenna sobered suddenly and said, "What happens if this really is our chance at him? If it's… this has been my life for a whole year and I've thought for so long about catching up to him but I never really let myself think about what it would be like to find him, and—" She stopped, stared at Kono with wide eyes. "God, what if we find him and I drop my gun, or he tells me that Josh—"
Kono took what seemed like the most merciful option—she reached across the table and put her hand over Jenna's mouth. "Stop! Breathe. You breathing?"
When Jenna finally nodded and took a deep, shuddering breath through her nose, Kono took her hand away. "Remember, we've got your back, okay? Ohana."
"Okay," Jenna said, "okay." She stood up, tugged her button-down shirt straight—and surprised Kono by walking around the table and giving her a brief, fierce hug before leaving the room.
Steve found Danny still sitting in his office, staring at the phone on his desk like it was some new kind of IED. He hovered in the doorway, repressing the urge to ask the blatantly silly, "You okay?" in favor of a simple, "Danny?"
"I just listened to my father cry, Steven," Danny said in his calmest, most uninflected voice—the one that always boded ill. "Which is right up there in the list of things I never wanted to happen in my lifetime, like 'filing divorce papers' or 'seeing someone consume a pineapple-and-spam pizza.' Five thousand miles away, and he's weeping because he raised a kid who could fuck up this spectacularly."
"Uh." Steve didn't know how to respond to that. Unlike a lot of guys in the military, feeling things had never been Steve's problem—talking about them was. It wasn't that he was unwilling—he could tell Mary he loved her, put name to something as solid as his found family here—it was that when it came to something as delicate as this, watching Danny on the verge of finding his brother only to maybe lose him forever, he was terrified that he'd mess it up. All his words felt clumsy, unsuitable for the task, so he settled for saying, "Chin's gone to get the warrant. It'll take a couple of hours, then we can bring them in for questioning, search Morris' place." Steve wondered why just the act of saying that left him feeling vaguely ashamed.
"Yeah." Danny scrubbed a hand over his face, over the stubble prickling at his jaw line. "Yeah, I… shit, I can't sit around here and wait for the warrant, Steve. I thought I could do this, but I can't pretend that… Look, I'm going to go back to the house, I'm going to shave, I'm going to shower and don an ironed shirt, because there's probably some rule about not looking like seventeen different kinds of crap when you arrest your own brother. Should be seven maximum, right?" He tried to smile at his own weak joke, but couldn't quite manage it. "And I bet you already brought Lori up to speed, right?"
Steve took a step forward into the room. "I should come w—"
"Nope, no, not even," Danny said, holding his hands up in the air. "I'm sure there's stuff needs doing here, and I need time to process, okay? I have to think how I'm going to tell my nine-year-old daughter, 'you remember your beloved uncle whom I told you had done some pretty bad things and had to go away for a bit until he was ready to say sorry? Well, funny story, turns out there's a good chance you're going to see Uncle Matty on CNN… in an orange jumpsuit, getting ready to do 25 to life in an institution where getting shanked is a minor hazard of day-to-day life.'"
Danny retrieved his keys and headed out of the building, footsteps rapid and loud against the tiled floor. For a moment, Steve did consider heading after him—Kono would probably lend him her car—but then decided against it. Danny needed the space to get his head around stuff; it wasn't like Steve's own early morning swims were often that much different. Besides, there was plenty of stuff that needed doing here—he had to confer with Lori about the kinds of resources that the governor had okayed for bringing in Matt Williams and interviewing him; sign off on some of the paperwork; help Jenna and Kono as they started comparing the case files on Matt with what they had on the Wo Fat case. There were no overlaps in names that Steve could see, at least not initially, but there were some places that showed up in both—Singapore, Buenos Aires, San Francisco.
By the time that Chin got back with the warrants, the team had a new series of diagrams up on the overhead monitors, showing possible links and connections. It was all conjecture and possibility, but Steve had that tantalizing, tip-of-the-tongue feeling—the sensation that there was some revelation to be found here, just out of his reach. He checked his watch as Chin handed the paperwork over to Lori. Almost two hours had gone by and he frowned; he hadn't realized it had been that long, and Danny still wasn't back. There was no way it should have taken him two hours, not with the traffic mid-morning light.
"Anyone heard from Danny?" he said, checking his phone to make sure that he hadn't accidentally set it to silent. No missed calls; no messages. "He should've been back by now."
Kono shook her head. "He might just be taking his time. Long shower, blow-drying his hair. You know how Danny is."
Steve's stomach lurched, turned over queasily. What Kono was saying was entirely rational, but there was some sixth sense telling Steve that she was wrong—that something had happened to Danny. "No," he said, "I made the three minute rule very clear. He wouldn't be... this is Danny, he'd work off more stress breaking the speed limit there and back than he would freshening up. Something's wrong."
He called Danny, but only got the tinny, automated voice telling him that the customer he was dialing was unable to receive his call. He tried again and again, and now Chin was calling the landline in Steve's house only to have it ring out.
"Okay," Lori said, hands on her hips. "Steve, Chin, I want you to go and see if something has happened—it might just be that he's got into a fender-bender. Kono, Jenna and I will head out and pick up Morris and Williams, get a start on interrogating them. If something has happened to Danny, they might have some information for us."
Steve and Chin took Kono's car, with sirens blazing and Steve's foot pressed hard down on the gas the whole way there. There was no sign of a silver Camaro on the roads between HQ and Steve's house, though Chin kept his eyes peeled for any sign of a recent traffic accident. They pulled into the driveway to see Danny's car sitting there, the driver's door still open but no trace of Danny. Steve swore, punched the steering wheel before clambering out of the car and hurrying over to the Camaro. There was no sign of a scuffle in the gravel, no bloodstains on the ground or other evidence of a fight, but there was no Danny, and certainly he'd never have just abandoned his car like that. When Chin went into the house—which seemed as quiet and still as it had been when Steve and Danny had left it that morning—Steve found Danny's phone lying in the driveway, crushed beneath some unknown heel.
Chin had just re-emerged, shaking his head and saying, "No sign that Danny made it inside, brah," when Steve's phone rang.
It was Kono. "We've picked up Morris but Matt Williams was gone," she said tersely; apparently whatever she'd found had put her in no mood for niceties of greeting. "Lori and Jenna are going through the apartment now looking for anything that he left behind but he ran this morning before Morris woke up. She says he took both their computers and a bunch of paperwork. We'll take her back to the station, see what she knows, but I don't think it'll be much. Looks like she was a dupe in this—claims she had no idea that her boyfriend was living under an assumed name." In the background, Steve could hear the soft, choked sound of a woman weeping.
"Danny's gone," Steve said in return. "No sign of a struggle, but his car and keys are still here. Looks like he was taken. Is there any chance that Matt Williams saw you last night?"
"I didn't think so," Kono said. "He wouldn't know my car, but he could've seen me and recognized me from the newspaper coverage—it was dark so I didn't see which direction he came from. He might have made me before he met up with Morris."
"Fuck." Steve scrubbed a hand through his hair. The only thing which made sense was that Matt Williams had realized they were on to him, had tipped off Wo Fat, and Danny had been taken as a consequence. Not fifty feet from where Steve was standing right then was the place where his father had died—the place where he'd lost someone to Wo Fat for the second time. Now it seemed to be happening all over again, and Steve had to take a deep breath, had to push to one side the memories of that gunshot sounding tinny and loud over the phone-line. "Okay, we're going to head back from here to HQ. See you in twenty."
Chin didn't say anything on the ride back, and Steve was glad for that measure of compassion. No way he could talk about this right now, not when it felt like things were still rattling around behind his rib cage from the night before. He'd felt oddly bruised from the realization that he was in love with Danny—how much more so now that Steve had to face the possibility that he might have lost him for good.
The atmosphere back at HQ was tense, focused. Kono and Jenna were in the interrogation room with Bethany Morris; a quick look through the two-way mirror showed Steve that the interview hadn't progressed much beyond the Kleenex stage. Lori was back on the phone with the governor, pacing the length of her office over and over. She shook her head at Steve and Chin when she saw them come in—no news to share. Chin got to work on pulling together what information he could that might help them—Danny no longer had his cell phone, which even mangled as it was might have given them some sort of signal to work with; he wasn't in his car, so there was no way to track him via GPS. They'd never been able to get a fix on Wo Fat's location, had no idea of what direction Danny might have been taken in. Any method they used to find Danny was going to have to be labor intensive and slow.
"I'm getting the footage from all the traffic cameras trained on highway exits near your house," Chin said. His fingers danced over the computer interface, doing something with the code that Steve couldn't follow. "I can cross-reference cars that left the highway heading in Danny's direction within about half an hour of him getting to your place with cars that are getting back onto the freeway by about the time that we got there. If there are any cars that show up at both time stamps, then that might help us narrow down who took him and where."
"Good," Steve said, folding his arms and trying his best not to fidget. "Good." With what they had to go on right now, the only thing he could possibly do was call Rachel, and he didn't want to do that—not now, not yet—and he was fighting the little voice in his head that was telling him he was useless.
The interview with Bethany Morris didn't net them much that was solid—Morris may have been a decent journalist, but she'd fallen hard for the man Matt Williams had been pretending to be, and that had made her willfully blind. She'd sat there, sipping at the soda they'd provided for her, seeming to shrink further into the folds of her cardigan with each new line of questioning. As far as she was concerned, she'd met Luke Sansom at a bar in downtown Honolulu several months ago. He'd come over to her, flirted with her over a series of increasingly brightly colored drinks, and she, not long out of a bad relationship, had been flattered by the attention. He'd said that he'd just moved to Hawaii from Maryland and was a personal financial planner; claimed to be fascinated by politics and by the creativity and skills it took to be an investigative journalist.
"Politics?" Kono said, scrawling the word onto her notepad and circling it, her attention caught for reasons she couldn't quite parse.
Morris shrugged. "He watched a lot of CNBC World and CNN International, keeping track of stock prices and other things—I don't know, a lot of it's gibberish to me. I asked him about it one day, wondered if he was playing the stock market or something, but he said no, it was just sort of a… an intellectual game for him. Trying to see if he could predict which prices would go up or down because of political changes. He was most interested in China and Korea; he said that was because the Communist system was so opaque, it added an extra layer to it."
Kono looked over at Jenna to see if she'd made anything of that revelation, but while Jenna looked intrigued, she didn't seem any more enlightened than Kono felt. She didn't believe that Matt Williams had told Morris the truth about what he was doing, but that understanding didn't get her any closer to knowing his true motives—had he been doing that on Wo Fat's orders, or had he been independently keeping tabs on something Wo Fat, or someone associated with him, had been doing?
"Did he ever introduce you to any of his friends?" Jenna asked Morris. "Any work associates?"
Morris shook her head. "He said he was a freelancer, that he went to his client's houses—like a life coach sort of thing, only for money. He didn't keep regular hours. Are you sure this isn't some case of mistaken identity? Some sort of—" She bit her lip, clearly aware how weak an explanation that was, given that she'd ID'ed a photo of Matt Williams as Luke Sansom not twenty minutes ago.
"We're sure," Jenna said, and there was a finality to her tone that reminded Kono that as diffident and self-effacing as Jenna could seem at times, she was a person who'd travelled thousands of miles and upturned everything she could in an attempt to find someone dear to her. There was steel there, and it was never more evident than at times like this: when one of their friends was in danger.
By the time Kono slipped out of the room, leaving Jenna to watch over Morris as she wrote out and signed her statement, they had nothing more than a handful of possible names: places Matt had said he'd been, names of clients that he'd given Morris. They were all most likely made up, but Kono knew they'd have to run them anyway—there was always the possibility that he'd messed up and been truthful once or twice. She gave the names to Chin and Lori—who had some of her contacts back in DC on the line, people who were willing to push their access to intelligence databases a little beyond what they should in a case like this, a case where a cop was missing—told them about the mysterious interest Matt had acquired in Chinese politics and their effect on the global stock market, and poked her head into Steve's office to see him emptying out his desk drawers.
"Steve—" Whatever she'd been about to say was forgotten as soon as she saw what he was gathering together—enough small arms, knives, and grenades to keep even the most paranoid militia member happy. His jaw was clenched tight, his movements were quick and economical. "Okay, I have no idea what you're doing, but I'm pretty sure Chin would say it's not smart."
"I'm just going to have a conversation with some of Wo Fat's known associates," Steve said. He wouldn't meet her eyes. "Casually." He ran a thumb along one of his knives, checking the sharpness.
"Aww crap," Kono said, rolling her eyes. It was easy to guess where this was going to go; mild concussions would no doubt be involved, and Kono knew herself well enough to know that she didn't want to be left out of it. "Okay, give me two minutes, all right? I just want to get my backup gun."
None of the people they visited were very important in the hierarchy of Wo Fat's organization—low-level couriers, or muscle that had been locally hired. Kono didn't hold out any hope that any of them actually knew where Danny was, but they might have had leads about places Wo Fat had been lately. Steve flexed his biceps and loomed menacingly, Kono had the local angle to work with a couple of them—"Doesn't my mom know your grandma? Shame if she found out what you were up to, brah"—but no one the first day had anything to tell them. They returned to HQ despondent, bone-tired, and Kono thought she'd rarely seen Steve as defeated as he had when he picked up the phone to notify Rachel as Danny's still-official next-of-kin.
That night, Kono passed out on the couch in her living room, too tired to make it to her bed. She tossed and turned, woke up at 5 to find that Jenna had put a blanket over her at some point during the night; shuffled into the kitchen to see Jenna sitting at the table eating ice cream right out of the tub. "Don't judge me," Jenna said around the spoon in her mouth.
"Mutual judgment-free space," Kono said, digging a disgusting breakfast burrito out of the freezer—the kind where the cheese was no color known to nature—and waggling it at Jenna before tossing it into the microwave on the highest setting. While it nuked, she set the coffee pot going. She was pretty sure she'd burned out her central nervous system with caffeine during finals her senior year, but if any of it was still left, this week was bound to put an end to it. "Couldn't sleep again?"
"Didn't even try," Jenna said. Her hair was a mess, as if she'd been tugging at it; her laptop was open beside her elbow, its screen taken up with some complicated spreadsheet. "You?"
"Nightmares," Kono answered. It had been a while since she'd dreamed of Chin, on his knees and slick with sweat, a bomb locked tight around his neck, but it seemed that Danny being taken was what it took to bring it all flooding back. Kono would as gladly put a bullet in Wo Fat now as she'd put one in Hesse then. "We should get back to HQ soon. Make sure Steve hasn't started an international incident, or it'll be like the time with the Hungarian ambassador all over again."
"Our problems," Jenna said, chasing the last bit of Chunky Monkey around the bottom of the tub, "are not other people's problems."
"Truth," Kono said, and sat down beside her, eating what was by anyone's standards a really disgusting breakfast, while the sun came up outside.
Steve didn't sleep that night. He sat at his desk, going back through the files in the desperate hope that there was something he'd missed. He used every trick he knew to keep at bay the awareness that this case he was working was Danny. He'd thought he was doing a pretty good job at being professional, being detached—no matter what muttered comments Chin had made yesterday evening—but that carefully nurtured illusion vanished pretty quickly at three in the morning, sitting in the office in front of his computer. The cable account was in their joint names, he realized, staring at the screen which told him that his account had been blocked because of repeated invalid password attempts—it was in his and Danny's name and only Danny knew the password because he'd insisted paying online was more efficent. He was trying to pay their joint utility bill at three in the goddamn morning because Danny was missing and Steve couldn't find him; because it had only been a day but Steve couldn't, he couldn't do anything anymore without him; because when he went home, Danny's tie was still sitting on the coffee table and his stupid disgusting sugar cereal was in the cupboard.
A little after six, Kono opened the door to his office and peered in. She looked for just a moment at the new, large hole that had been punched in the drywall, sighed, vanished, and reappeared in fifteen minutes carrying a large coffee and something steaming and greasy wrapped in wax paper. "Eat," she said, setting them down in front of him, her face set in stern lines that did nothing to hide the worry in her eyes.
Steve made a face, poked at the wrapper. "Bacon and cheese? The cholesterol alone is—"
"Eat, bossman," Kono said again, "It's not gourmet but you need something hot in your stomach. Don't make me call up my aunties and have them talk to you. You know they already think you're too thin."
Steve sighed heavily and then picked up the food. He supposed it had been a while since he'd last eaten.
"And once that's done," Kono said, walking over to the door, "Chin's going to stand over you til you shower, because brah, you're ripe."
Steve grunted around his first mouthful of burrito. It was possible that this outfit did have a couple of suspicious stains on it.
"Then," she continued, absolutely matter-of-fact, "we're all going to go find Danny, okay? We'll get him back."
The sudden lump in Steve's throat made swallowing difficult.
They spent that day chasing down more leads—talking to anyone they could find who'd had any dealings with Wo Fat; chasing down a rumor Kamekona'd picked up on, of someone maybe being held in a warehouse down by the docks.
"Don't know if it's a cop, braddah," Kamekona said over a crackling phone line; he'd said that he was out on a boat getting supplies for what he called a 'brand new gourmet interpretation of shrimp surprise.' Steve hadn't inquired further. "But there's been plenty of what you might call activity of a suspicious nature."
It was another dead end though—there was a group of people hanging around a warehouse on Dry Dock 3 that should have been lying empty for at least the past seven months, but it turned out to be a group of local teenagers who were skipping school and smoking weed. The smell of it hung thick enough in the air that by the time Steve had finished standing around looking menacing, Chin had turned the disappointed eyes on them, and Lori had finished calling all their parents, Steve was pretty sure he had a contact high.
He slept on the couch in his office that night, finally exhausted enough (and honestly, still probably just stoned enough) that his body was able to overcome the frantic whirl of his mind, the thoughts of Grace Williams' face when he had to tell her that something bad had happened to her dad. His sleep was fitful, off and on, too hot and too cold by turns, but he took some comfort from the knowledge that just outside his office door, his team were still moving around, conversing in low voices. Just before dawn, he lapsed into a true sleep, which was why it took him a moment or two to recognize that his phone was ringing; a second or two more to realize why it was a futile hope that it would be Danny calling to say you goof, you got people out looking for me? This is all some big misunderstanding; what's next, you're going to arrest Santa for breaking and entering?
His phone didn't display the incoming number, which made him frown and tap the screen and say, "McGarrett."
"Commander McGarrett," said a familiar, calm monotone, and Steve was off the couch before Wo Fat had finished speaking, snapping his fingers and indicating to Chin that he needed to start tracing the call now. "You have been frustratingly slow in retrieving your lost property."
"If you don't let him go right now, unharmed," Steve said, fighting to keep his control, "I swear to God I will kill you. I will track you down, I don't care where you go to, I will track you down and I will kill you."
"I took your attachment to Detective Williams as a given," Wo Fat said. "Histrionics are unnecessary. I will release Detective Williams to you as soon as you turn over to me all the information you have on Shelbourne."
Steve blinked in confusion. Whatever he'd been expecting Wo Fat to say, it hadn't been that. "I have no idea what you're talking about. What's Shelbourne?"
"I don't appreciate such obvious stalling," Wo Fat said. On the monitors overhead, satellite images were flickering past at a speed almost too quick for Steve to follow as Chin tried to triangulate Wo Fat's position. "You have until two this afternoon to collate and hand over to me all your information on Shelbourne in both digital and hard copy, and to destroy any copies which remain in your possession. I will contact you then with further instructions."
"Okay," Steve said, "fine, I'll get it to you," shrugging at Chin, at Lori, because he had no idea what the hell he was agreeing to—no idea what Shelbourne was, or why Wo Fat would be so certain that Steve knew something about it. "But if I'm going to agree to this, I need proof of life. Non-negotiable."
There was silence on the other end of the line, broken only by the muffled sounds of footsteps, and then Steve could hear, faint but unmistakably Jersey, the sounds of someone in the background, saying, "Oh yeah? Well why don't you go fuck yourself with a pineapple, you son of a—" Danny. The relief that washed through Steve at that little bit of hope—at the fact that Danny was still breathing—left him weak at the knees and he had to reach out to brace himself against the computer desk.
"As requested," Wo Fat said. "Two o'clock, Commander. No later." The call ended abruptly.
"Did you get a location?" Lori asked Chin.
He shook his head. "Nothing exact. The call was long enough, but he was using some kind of software to jam a direct trace. The only thing I can tell you for certain is that he was probably using a burner cell phone."
Jenna huffed out a sigh. "Which is nothing we couldn't have figured out on our own."
"True," Chin said, but his eyes were crinkling up in that way they did when he was anticipating the pleasure of giving potentially good news.
"But you've got a possibility," Steve said, shoving his phone back into the pocket of his cargo pants.
"Yup." Chin pointed at a couple of lines of code on one of the monitors, something that Steve couldn't decipher but which Lori and Jenna were squinting at with interest. "Judging by signal delay and relative degradation, I think Wo Fat's still in Hawai'i—just not on Oahu."
"Huh," Kono said. "If he's on one of the other islands, then it would make sense why we haven't managed to get a solid lead on Danny."
"We should get in touch with the local PD on the other islands," Lori said. "Kaho'olawe and Ni'ihau are obviously out of the running, and the population on Lana'i isn't big enough that he could blend in without being noticed, but—"
"Wait!" Jenna said, holding up a hand, "wait, Kono, didn't Bethany Morris say something about Matt Williams going to Kaua'i once? When she met him, he told her he'd just gotten back to Honolulu from a trip to see a client on Kaua'i?"
"Yeah," Kono said, scrunching up her nose with the effort of recall. "Yeah, she did—something about some long-term client of his who had an estate over there who hardly ever came to Honolulu because he didn't like crowds. I thought it was just part of the story he was spinning her, but there might have been a grain of truth to it."
They all looked at one another for a long moment. "It's a long shot," Lori pointed out.
"It's the best lead we've got," Steve said, fighting the urge to run out of the door there and then. "Wo Fat said he'd hand Danny over in return for information about Shelbourne."
"What's Shelbourne?" Kono and Jenna said simultaneously.
"Not a clue," Steve said, "but he sounded pretty certain that I had intel on it, whatever the hell it is."
"So we what, track him down and try to get Danny out safely while bluffing that we have this information that he wants?" Lori said.
Steve shifted from foot to foot. "Sounds about right," he said, and tried valiantly to ignore the little voice in his head which was muttering because that worked out so well the last time.
Lori sighed, rubbed at her forehead. She was visibly running through scenarios in her head, trying to decide on which plan of action would get them Danny back at the least cost. "Okay," she said after a long moment, "Okay. Checking out Kaua'i is probably our best option at this point, especially with the clock running out. Let's get on it."
Kono's cousin Chen Mai knew a guy in the Coast Guard who was able to get them a small plane that could be fuelled and ready to leave from the airport in under an hour, quicker even than they could have been wheels up in a HPD craft. Between the time she got the okay and the time they headed for the airport, Kono and Steve loaded up with as much ammo as they could, Chin and Lori got in touch with various contacts of theirs over the phone, and Jenna did something thoroughly illegal which got them access to recent satellite photography.
"I figure that once we narrow down a possible location for where Wo Fat's base is, we can use the satellite images to get a sense of what the landscape looks like," Jenna said. "I've set it up on the server so you guys should be able to access it from your phones when we get there."
"Any luck in narrowing down the location?" Kono asked Jenna while strapping on her thigh holster, but it was Chin who answered her.
"A friend of mine works dispatch for Kaua'i PD. She says that they've had one or two reports over the past few months about guards on a compound on the west side of the island threatening kids who were tagging some walls on its perimeter. They sent out a couple of uniforms to investigate it because one of the kids claimed that he'd been threatened with a gun, but the property owner said it was all just a misunderstanding and there haven't been any reports in the last five weeks. Locals think it's some kind of cult—people coming and going at weird hours, no real contact with their neighbors."
"What's the address?" Jenna said. Chin told her, and she entered it into a database. "Okay, the land was purchased just under two years ago by TKH Holdings Corporation. Address is a PO Box in Honolulu; looks like it's a shell company."
None of this was in any way conclusive, but Kono felt certain that this was where Wo Fat was holed up—that this was where they were going to find Danny. From the looks on the others' faces—from the expression of hope that Steve was clearly fighting to keep from his face—they thought so too.
"Well then," Lori said, words a little muffled by the fact that she was tugging on her bulletproof vest as she spoke, "Jenna, send the info about the location to our phones, and let's head out."
The plane was cramped and noisy enough to stop much conversation from happening during the twenty minutes or so it took them to get from Honolulu to Lihu'e Airport. Chin had co-coordinated with the local PD, and in the cars that were waiting for them at the airport, it was a straight shot west along Kaumuali'i Highway, Kono driving one car and Steve the other. The local PD was gathering together all its reserves, with promises to be there with backup inside of half an hour.
Neither Steve nor Kono were in the mood to wait for backup, nor in much of a mind to respect the speed limit; Jenna had her seat-belt on, but still held on to the door handle with a white-knuckled right hand. In her left, she was tracking their progress using the GPS app on her phone. "Right up here in about half a mile," she said, "then take the first left."
Their destination was at the end of a narrow, single-lane road—a mix of high, chain-link fencing, cinderblock walls and thick shrubbery obscured much of the view from the road, but Kono could make out a two-storey house that looked like older construction surrounded by a series of prefab warehouses. Lori produced a pair of binoculars and trained them on the site. "Looks like there's a helipad beside the main building; can't see the chopper, though. There are two people standing near the house, but they've got their backs to the road—I can't tell if one of them is Wo Fat."
"Armed?" Kono asked.
"Not that I can see," Lori said. "No sign that they've realized we're here."
After some consultation with Chin and Steve over the phone, they decided to pull up to the main gate, see if someone would approach and talk to them. As soon as Lori and Steve got out of the car, however, one of the two men near the house turned and ran inside; the other produced a sidearm from a holster inside his jacket. Kono heard Steve yell something, and then watched as he leapt back into the car. "Oh hell," she said.
"What?" Jenna asked.
"Hold onto your seat," Kono said, and Lori had barely time to scramble back into the car before Kono put her foot down on the accelerator—right there behind Steve as he gunned his engine and drove his car straight through the chain-link gates. Part of Kono hoped that the Kaua'i PD wouldn't be too pissed at getting their vehicles back in this condition; mostly, however, she focused on following Steve as he sped down the long driveway to the main house, on making sure that no one was going to come at them from the side. The guy with the sidearm shot once, twice, the first going wild and the first clipping one of the wheels of Steve's car. Steve swerved, Kono braking to avoid hitting the back of his car, while Chin leaned out of the car window and took the shooter down with a well-placed shot to the leg.
They all piled out of the cars, Steve running over to the injured man. "Where's Wo Fat?" The man spat something at Steve in Mandarin—Kono was far enough away that she could make out only the cadence of the words, not what he was saying—and Steve snarled in response, delivered a vicious kick to the man's injured leg. "Where is he?" he snapped again, both in English and Mandarin, but his response wasn't needed, not when seven, eight men were now converging rapidly on the main building from different parts of the compound, all of them heavily armed.
"Steve!" Lori yelled as she hunkered down behind one of the cars, aiming at the oncoming group over its hood, "Go in and get Danny out. We'll hold the rest of them off until you've got him."
Steve looked over at her, more than a little wild-eyed, and that was enough to tell Kono why Lori had decided that Steve should leave the fight to the others and go get Danny instead—they'd need at least some of these guys alive to interrogate. Steve nodded at them, then turned and ran up the steps of the house's lanai. Kono pulled her sidearm out of its holster, released the safety, looked over at Jenna. "You okay?"
"Ready as I'll ever be," Jenna said, and if her voice wasn't entirely lacking in tremor, her hand holding the gun was steady and her aim as she fired was true.
Inside, the house was bright and clean but sparsely-decorated. Steve moved through it cautiously, living room and kitchen and a long central corridor empty of everything except for some cardboard boxes, a couple of beat-up looking chairs, and shafts of noon sunlight. All of the doors stood open except for one at the end of the hallway, and Steve instinctively headed toward. He made his way slowly, on full alert, keeping his breathing steady so that he could hear someone else moving inside the building over the faint pop of gunfire coming from outside. Not that he needed to have worried about that, it seemed—the hired guns that Wo Fat kept inside the house came pounding down the staircase from the upper floor, their booted feet heavy on the steps. Neither of them seemed to have been expecting to see someone inside the building already; Steve double-tapped the first one, dodged bullets that buried themselves in the drywall to the right of him, before getting the second with one shot to the stomach, another to the chest.
He made his way down the rest of the hallway, tried the doorway. It was locked, but the bolt was flimsy and gave after a couple of strong kicks, revealing a staircase that led down into a basement. Steve blinked. Basements weren't exactly common on Kaua'i—or anywhere in Hawai'i—not given the cost of carving a space out of volcanic rock. This looked like a natural cave or hollow in the rock that had been exploited, though; the wall on Steve's left as he walked down the stairs was rough, unfinished bedrock and the air smelled cool and damp. He went slowly, bracing himself for an ambush, but jumped the last three steps as soon as he could see into the basement proper—there, beneath the light of a single dim bulb, was Danny. He was tied up, arms over his head and chained to the ceiling; he looked like shit, but he was breathing, and Steve let out a breath before hurrying over to him.
Danny's eyes were closed, but as soon as Steve said his name, patted him gently on the cheek—mindful of, Jesus, the black, swollen eye, the split lip, the mottled bruising along his jaw line—they fluttered open. From the bloodstains on his shirt and the awkward way he was standing, Steve guessed that Danny was carrying more injuries underneath his clothing. "Hey you," he said, sounding woozy enough that Steve automatically checked his pupils for signs of a concussion, valiantly ignoring the way Danny'd smiled as soon as he'd realized who Steve was. No time for distractions.
"You okay? What did they do?" Steve said instead, focusing on undoing the lock that was keeping Danny in place. Doing so brought him right up against Danny, able to smell stale sweat and the tang of dried blood, able to feel the heat of Danny's body.
"Eh," Danny said, wincing and stumbling a little as his arms came free, swaying forward against Steve, "you think I wasn't going to take the chance of throwing a punch at Matty when I had it?"
That brought Steve up short and he blinked down at Danny. "Matt did that to you?"
"Nah," Danny said, rolling his shoulders a little to begin to work out what Steve knew had to be a truly vicious ache. He took the back-up weapon that Steve handed him—though doing so, Steve noticed, with his non-dominant hand. "Wo Fat's guys didn't like that I broke Matt's nose, took it out on me, but it's okay, I got a few punches in. One of them's going to be pissing blood for a week."
"You know," Steve said, "if there wasn't a fire fight going on over our heads right now, I'd high five you."
"Gee," Danny said, "you say the sweetest things, Steven."
"You have any idea where Wo Fat is?" Steve said, looking around the rest of the basement. There wasn't much else down here—a broken card table in one corner, a crumpled wad of tarpaulin, a pile of cardboard boxes and crates.
Danny shook his head. "Haven't seen him since… I don't know, it's hard to keep track of time down here, but several hours, easy. I think he got bored when he realized I really didn't have a clue what he was talking about."
"Yeah?" Steve said, walking over to the boxes. "What was he asking you?" There was something about the boxes that nagged at him—why would a house so sparsely furnished have so much stuff in storage down here? He moved one out from the wall to where the light was better, peering at what was written on the outside of it. There were a couple of the characters that he didn't understand, but Steve knew enough to read that it was stamped 'Ministry of Industry and Information Technology of the People's Republic of China.' He blinked. It wasn't that Steve was surprised to find out that Wo Fat had connections to people in powerful places—after what had happened with Jameson, Steve didn't think he could be surprised by much ever again—but seeing apparent material confirmation of this kind of connection was unexpected. He dug his phone out of his pocket, snapped pictures of the boxes and the writing on them and sent them to the secure server back in Honolulu for later analysis—with an extra copy to the Governor for good measure—and was preoccupied enough with that that what Danny said filtered through to his consciousness only slowly. But when it did— "Wait, what?" He turned around to see Danny shrug, then wince at the motion.
"I said, he was asking me what I had on Shelbourne and Shelbourne's latest movements—where could he find Shelbourne?" Danny said. "Not like I had a clue."
"What did you tell him?" Steve said, sticking his phone back into his pants pocket and nodding his head at the staircase, indicating to Danny to follow him.
"What did—what do you think I told him?" Danny said. "Nothing, because I have no clue what the hell Shelbourne is. I asked him if it was a racehorse I should be betting on, which, now I have a broken pinky finger, Wo Fat is not a man who gets the patented Williams sense of humor. But what, you're telling me this is something you know about? Is it a Navy thing, a SEAL thing, what?"
"No clue," Steve said, making his way back up the stairs, keeping Danny behind him. If they got caught in a shootout in this position, they'd be extremely vulnerable, and when the door at the top of the stairs opened, Steve pressed Danny back against the wall behind him, hoping to give him at least a few seconds' advantage—but instead of one of Wo Fat's guys, it was Chin standing in front of them.
"Good to see you, brah," Chin said, nodding at Danny, face creased into a genuine smile for a moment before he was back in work mode. "Steve, you'll want to come see this ASAP. We've got Wo Fat."
"Halle-fucking-lujah," Danny muttered at the same time that Steve snapped, "Report." He knew that he was acting more like a SEAL team leader than a member of Five-0, but he didn't have the internal resources to deal with that realization right now. They had Danny back, and Steve needed to keep focus on that in terms of the mission rather than in terms of what it meant to him—it was helping him to move forward instead of blurting out something stupid to Danny.
"We got most of the shooters holed up in one of the warehouses," Chin said, standing back out of the way to let Steve and Danny re-emerge into the hallway which now felt overwhelmingly bright. "We had most of our attention on them, but Kono spotted Wo Fat heading for the compound gates."
"She shot him?" Steve said. It would take a good shot to take down someone over that kind of distance, but if anyone else on his team could make that kind of shot, Kono could.
"Nope," Chin said, sounding so laid-back that Steve instinctively knew to be wary. "Hit him with a car."
Wo Fat was quick, his arms pumping the air smoothly as he ran for the compound gate and the shelter of the brush beyond, but no way he was able to outrun a car, especially not one driven by Kono. She saw him look over his shoulder at the sound of the approaching engine and veer to his left, through the grass and scrub that ringed the compound's perimeter. Kono guessed that he was going to make for a weak spot in the chain-link fence, banking that she wouldn't be able to follow him in a car. The suspension was definitely protesting being driven at speed over the uneven ground, but it wasn't as if Kono gave a damn. She eked that little bit more performance out of the engine, swerved to the right to avoid an outcropping of boulder, and clipped Wo Fat neatly on the back of the knees. He stumbled and went down, the lower half of his body caught between the car's bumper and a thick outgrowth of brush. It wouldn't be enough to hold him for long—he was already trying to wriggle his way out by the time Kono climbed out of the truck—but there wasn't far for him to go with Kono's sidearm aimed so closely at him.
"You move," she said, putting every ounce of conviction she had into her tone, letting him see how she'd taken the safety off, "and I will shoot you."
Luckily, Jenna and Lori weren't that far behind her. Kono glanced briefly to her left to see them sprinting towards her over the uneven ground, Jenna hurdling patches of scrub in her haste. With Lori there to keep her weapon trained on Wo Fat, Kono was able to get cuffs on him, working quickly and carefully with one knee pressing down against the small of his back—she knew the kind of combat skills that he had. When she stood and pulled him upright, she began to read him his rights, but paused when she saw the still, waiting look on Lori's face, the way her gaze was flickering over to Jenna.
Jenna had her gun pointed at Wo Fat, both arms locked, and she was visibly trembling. The look on her face was hollow, as frightening as Wo Fat's expression was utterly impassive—like the look on Ben's face when he'd found out that the man he'd thought was his father had killed Ian, or the one Steve had worn for days after finding out that his mother's death hadn't been an accident. "He has to tell me that he killed Josh," she said. "He has to admit that he took away everything from me."
"We understand that," Lori said, voice gentle, "and we'll get a confession from him, we will. But Jenna, if you kill him, it won't help you and it won't help your case."
Kono was glad to see blue and white lights of the first police cars appear through the compound gates, had rarely been so happy to watch Steve and Chin hurrying towards them. Watching, stooped but standing, from the driveway, was Danny. "Jenna," she said, wanting to start walking Wo Fat towards the others but not wanting to risk jolting Jenna into shooting him, "it's not a good idea to—"
"Rationally," Jenna said in a voice vibrating with tension, "I hear what you're saying, but I would very much like to shoot him. Right now."
"Honestly?" Kono said, trying to distract Jenna for as long as it took for Steve and Chin to reach them. "It's not that I have an ethical issue with you doing that, but trust me, if you shoot someone, the paperwork's a bitch." That got Jenna to look away from Wo Fat for a moment, long enough for Kono to catch her gaze and hold it. "Jenna."
Jenna's trembling became more violent for a moment, and then her shoulders slumped and she dropped her gun. "Fuck," she said. "Fuck." Lori and Chin took over then, hands clamped firmly on Wo Fat’s arms, leading him back in the direction of the driveway, and Kono walked over to Jenna, pulled her into the tightest hug she could give her. Jenna’s tears felt hot against the bare skin of Kono’s neck.
Kono watched over Jenna's shoulder as Steve stood and stared at Wo Fat's retreating back. Steve's free hand curled reflexively over and over, his other hand keeping a tight grip on his sidearm, and there was a tremor to his shoulders that would have made Kono think he was crying if she hadn't been able to see that his eyes were dry. She was thankful that Lori and Chin had been there to take Wo Fat up to one of the police cruisers, to let Steve breathe his way through it before he could hurt either Wo Fat or himself; thankful that this time they'd got him, that they were that little bit closer to this finally being over.
The backup cop cars were soon joined by ambulances—it looked as if every emergency vehicle on the island was here, cops and medics triaging the wounded and putting the casualties into body bags. There was no sign of Matt Williams in either group—Steve's best guess was that he'd left the compound to have his nose seen to after Danny popped him one, and had probably found out by now that it wasn't safe to return. Steve alerted officials in all of the islands' airports and ports, thankful for any kind of rote work that would keep him distracted while the adrenaline sparked and shivered its way out of his system. He didn't think that Matt Williams would be dumb enough to try to leave under any of the aliases they knew about, but then again, his conduct so far hadn't proven him to be the brightest bulb in the box.
Danny was being seen to by one of the paramedics. Most of the fingers on his right hand were broken and it looked like they were going to need to get him X-Rayed and scanned as soon as possible to rule out any serious internal injuries—as it was, he was most likely going to be sore for several weeks. Chin was sitting with him, partly for comfort and partly to make sure that Danny didn't swear too much at the nice medic when disinfectant was applied to his cuts.
Wo Fat had been shackled as well as cuffed and placed by himself into the back of a secure police cruiser—no way that Steve was going to risk him getting away, not now, not after everything. He hadn't said a word since he was formally arrested, not even to indicate that he had understood his rights, but it wasn't as if he was a talkative bastard at the best of times. While Lori liaised with the Kaua'i police to get the compound and its contents processed as evidence, Steve got on the phone to the governor, filled him in on what had gone down and requested a secure holding area be established for Wo Fat back in Honolulu. The armed muscle could go to regular holding cells, but given the reach that Wo Fat had displayed on previous occasions, there wasn't a chance in hell that Steve was going to risk having him locked up in Halawa. Might as well give him a free pass. While he spoke, Steve watched Wo Fat. The man sat straight-backed in the car, staring directly ahead of him, as if everything going on around him were a matter of complete unconcern. The sight of him made the muscles in Steve's jaw jump and clench.
The Governor pulled some strings to get them a secure holding facility just outside of Honolulu and said he'd arrange for an escort to meet them at the airport when they got back to Oahu. "This man has already caused enough mayhem," Denning said. "You can rest assure that you'll have my full co-operation to ensure that he doesn't cause any more."
On the short hop back, Chin sat opposite Wo Fat, gun in his lap in a blatant display of force. Wo Fat kept the thousand-yard stare thing going, and if Steve paid attention to that for too long, he was going to give in to the desire to punch him until one of them was bleeding. No way Lori would be happy with that, and Steve wasn't anxious to jeopardize their chance of prosecuting Wo Fat, so he moved up front to sit next to Danny. The medics had forced some painkillers on Danny despite his objections; they hadn't knocked him out, but he wasn't quite with it either, judging by the goofy way he beamed when Steve folded himself into the tiny seat next to him.
They were about midway through the flight when Danny nudged Steve's foot with his. "Hey," he said. "Never got a chance to really thank you. You know, for coming after me like that."
Steve stared at him. "What the hell, Danny? You think I would have done anything else?"
"Nuh uh," Danny said, rolling his head from side to side. "Just…" He batted clumsily at the back of Steve's hand with his fingertips, displaying all the hand-eye co-ordination of the mildly chemically altered. "Takes some doing, stuff like that, and it's polite to, you know… convey your appreciation. For stuff."
Steve peered at Danny, at the oddly open expression on his face. "Appreciation?" Steve said, pitching his voice low so that Lori, sitting behind them, couldn't hear.
"Something like that," Danny said, and he didn't stop smiling, but the look on his face shifted a little—just enough to make Steve feel flushed. And maybe it was the painkillers talking, maybe it was the adrenaline and the exhaustion that was making Steve misinterpret what was going on, but the ability to hope was a damn good feeling. Maybe he had a chance after all.
Kono knew she was dragging ass when she arrived into HQ the next morning, walking in through the doors about ten thirty, but she thought that she had a reasonable excuse: literally running down an international criminal and engaging in a knock-down, drag-out firefight the day before allowed a woman to sleep in til nine, she thought, even leaving aside the fact that it had been late when she'd left Danny in his hospital room last night. She'd taken a long shower when she'd finally woken up, coaxed a shuffling, hung-over-looking Jenna into doing the same, and then raided the little coffee shop near her house for two giant cups of dark roast and a bag of malasadas. Interrogating Wo Fat was no doubt going to be an involved and frustrating process and Kono knew she was going to need all the grease and caffeine she could get.
She'd been expecting the offices to be a hive of activity when she and Jenna arrived, but not to see Lori and Steve engaged in a full-on yelling match in the middle of the room while Chin sat to one side, massaging his temples.
"He's where?" Steve roared, in his best hoo-ah SEALs voice.
Lori had her arms folded, but the expression on her face was anything but defensive—in fact, she looked just as pissed off as Steve. "It's all above board," she said. "The MLAA allows for this, especially in politically sensitive cases, and the feds have decided that—"
"This is bullshit," Steve said, pointing at her. "I know it and you know it." Kono didn't think he'd changed out of the clothes he'd been wearing yesterday, and he looked as if he was staying upright through willpower and indignation alone.
"Shooting the messenger is not going to get you anywhere, McGarrett," Lori snapped. The ice in her tone was enough to make Kono's eyebrows shoot up her forehead—as a boss, Lori was authoritative but never hostile—and she looked over at Chin, who shook his head and gestured to Kono and Jenna to follow him. They went into his office and he shut the door softly behind him, not that Lori and Steve seemed to notice.
"What's going on?" Kono asked.
Chin leaned back against his desk and sighed. "Lori got a call at five this morning from the governor's office, saying that Wo Fat's going to be turned over to Chinese authorities this afternoon."
"What?" Jenna said, eyes wide. "But we don't have an extradition treaty with China!"
"No," Chin agreed, "but there's something called the Mutual Legal Assistance Act—it allows for cross-border co-operation and sometimes even prisoner exchanges in cases of strong political sensitivity."
Kono blinked, feeling winded; Jenna looked as if she was going to be sick. If her thoughts were anything like Kono's, she was probably regretting not shooting Wo Fat when she had the chance, and screw the consequences. After everything they'd been through, after all he'd taken from them, he was going to slip through their fingers again? "Wo Fat's wanted in connection with the murder of a state governor, international smuggling and the kidnap of a police officer, and you're telling me the Feds are going to turn him over to the Chinese? This stinks."
"I agree," Chin said, scrubbing a hand over his face, "but even the governor hasn't been able to stop it. Whatever's going on, whatever strings are being pulled, they're higher than state level. He's going to be on a flight back to Beijing by early evening. Word is that he's got enough leverage within Chinese state intelligence that they're willing to give up a lot to get him back."
By the time things had calmed down enough between Lori and Steve that Kono felt comfortable venturing back out of Chin's office, easily fifteen minutes had passed. Steve was sitting in a chair, elbows braced against his knees and head in his hands. Lori looked less angry and more uncomfortable by now, one hip cocked against the computer console, the blouse-and-skirt combo that she'd no doubt hurriedly pulled on in advance of an early morning meeting with the governor creased. "Chin's told you?" she said to Kono and Jenna, and Kono nodded. That was one of the things she liked about Lori—she wasn't high-handed, but there was no pretence about her, either.
"Why are they doing this?" Jenna said, hands on her hips. "I've been working on this for months and never came up with any hint that he had contacts high up enough in the Party to be able to pull off something like this."
"I don't know what his links are," Lori answered, "but when I was done with Governor Denning, I called some of my contacts in DC. There wasn't much chance I could get at the Chinese motivation for doing this, but I figured that maybe understanding what the government's getting out of agreeing to this could shed some light on what's been going on."
Steve sat up straight, looked at her with a face so blank as to be almost terrifying. "And?"
"I heard back from him about 45 minutes ago," Lori said. She turned around to call something up on the computer monitor. "Nothing solid on Wo Fat, though there's been some intel chatter lately that says there's been upheaval in the Chinese state intelligence agency—internal wrangling over power."
"I still don't get why someone who's Yakuza would have that much influence with the Chinese," Kono said, frowning. She wouldn't have been surprised to hear tales of corruption at the highest levels, of course—nothing would surprise her any more, not after what they'd found out about Jameson—but this seemed like the wrong kind. Chinese customs officials taking bribes from someone presenting himself as a Japanese businessman, sure; but a conspiracy which involved the Yakuza infiltrating one of the most important ministries in the country was a little harder to swallow, especially given how violently China and Japan had been at odds with one another over the years. Nothing made sense.
"This is…" Lori's gaze flickered over to Steve, and Kono had a queasy feeling of presentiment in the pit of her stomach. Her fingers hesitated over the screen, not yet opening up the folder she'd highlighted. "Before I show you this, I want to emphasize that this is all speculative, and barring a lot more information coming to light we're not going to be able to prove any definitive links."
"Just… please," Jenna said. "I'm really fed up with waiting." Steve just nodded tersely in agreement.
"Okay," Lori said, taking a deep breath. "From what we'd gathered on our own, Wo Fat's involvement with the Yakuza dates only to the mid to late Nineties—we've turned up no hints of his involvement with them before about '96. That's after a CIA op in East Asia went badly wrong—I don't know if I'll be able to get all the details about it, but it was some attempt at a joint op between us and the Chinese during a period of détente. Someone sold the agents out and there were casualties on both sides."
"And you think Wo Fat was involved with it?" Jenna said.
Lori nodded. "Three Americans died and two Chinese, as well as some local bystanders. There are hints that one of them was related to Wo Fat somehow, or at least very close to him, and that after it all went bad, Wo Fat took an undercover position infiltrating the Yakuza. No one seems to be sure if that's what he's still doing at this point, or if he's playing both sides against one another, but the power struggle back in China does seem to have given him access to more resources lately."
"So what's the link between all of this and us?" Chin said, looking as serious as Kono had ever seen him.
"The code name the CIA gave to the op that Wo Fat was involved in was Project Shelbourne," Lori said.
Steve sat forward. "Like he was asking me about?"
Lori nodded. "Most of the project's files are still highly classified and inaccessible, but one of my contacts got his hands on some of the associated surveillance footage." She finally opened up the folder, spreading out across the screen a series of still photos. Kono peered at them. The date stamps covered a range from April to September, 1995, and the buildings in the photos were a nondescript urban jumble of concrete boxes; if not for the fact that some of the street signs stood out in neon hangul, Kono didn't think she'd have been able to immediately identify the location as somewhere in Korea. Most of the photos showed people she didn't recognize, but in at least three of them, there was Wo Fat: younger, his hair a little longer, the line of his jaw a little softer, but unmistakably him. One of the photos, the last one which Lori opened, didn't show a group of people: just a lone woman wearing a suit and carrying a briefcase, walking with an easy stride down the street. Lori enlarged the image and Kono realized the woman was white, late thirties or early forties, a tall and handsome brunette who—
Steve stood up so suddenly that he toppled over his chair. All the color had drained from his face, so severely that he looked grey and Kono actually reached out to take him by the arm to stop him from falling. "Boss?" she said, jolted by surprise into her old name for him. "Are you okay?" He didn't answer her, still staring at the screen with wide eyes, and in the end it was Chin who said it, after swearing under his breath with the kind of vehemence and inventiveness that Kono rarely heard from her cousin.
"That's Caroline McGarrett," he said, sounding stunned, and now Kono and Jenna too were staring at the screen—at Steve's mother, alive and in Korea in the summer of 1995; at Steve's mother, thought dead and buried since 1992.
Steve sat in his truck in the hospital parking lot for a while, staring unseeing at the doors and the steady stream of people passing in and out. He knew that he was going to be late picking up Danny, that some of the nurses were bound to tut at him for holding up a bed that must be badly needed; knew that he needed to call Mary and let her know that their mother was alive; but it was hard to make his legs work. His head felt both hollow and too full, all at once. Chin had offered to come fetch Danny instead, but Steve had refused. Chin needed some time with Malia after the craziness of the past few days, and Steve was pretty sure that going back to his house—that place where he'd mourned both his parents—would be too much for him to cope with right now.
It took him fifteen minutes, but he managed to get himself out of the truck, into the building and up the stairs to the fourth floor. The nurses here were old friends by now, between vics that Steve had come in to interview and the injuries that the team tended to pick up on the job. Monica gave him Danny's discharge papers and prescriptions; Tina patted him on the arm and reminded him that cracked ribs weren't a minor inconvenience to be ignored. ("Not that Detective Williams doesn't have more sense than you and Officer Kalakaua, but I figure I should take the opportunity to remind you because… well, hope springs eternal.")
Danny was sitting on the edge of his bed when Steve walked into the private room they'd wrangled for him. He looked tired and drawn, wearing a pair of scrub pants and an "I Heart Hawaii" t-shirt that had clearly come from the hospital gift shop, his injured hand cradled in his lap, but he was upright and, judging by the indulgent smile on his face, talking to Grace over the phone. "Tomorrow morning, monkey, I promise. Your mom said she'd bring you over to have breakfast with me. Huh? Yeah, absolutely, all the pancakes you can eat. Whipped cream, too. Remember, Danno loves you, okay?"
"Sounds like she's doing good," Steve said when Danny ended the call and dropped the phone onto the bed beside him.
"Yeah," Danny said, scratching at the stubble on his jaw, now long enough to be almost a full-fledged beard. "Not happy that I wasn't around for a while, but Rach told her I had a work thing keeping me busy. She doesn't need to know about what happened. You, on the other hand." His eyes were very blue when he looked up at Steve. "You look like refried crap, babe. Out with it."
"I don't know what you're—"
Danny rolled his eyes. "My nine-year-old can lie better than you, Steven, and trust me when I say that that is setting the bar oh so very low. What happened?"
Steve worked his jaw for a moment, tried to find the words to encompass what the day had brought. He didn't think he could, and some of that struggle must have shown on his face because Danny was working his way to his feet with a grunt and a wince. He walked over to Steve, tilted his head back to look up at him, and said, "Babe, what is it?" His voice was pitched so soft that it made Steve want to sway into him.
"I—" Steve cleared his throat, closed his eyes for a moment before forcing himself to say, slowly and deliberately, "Wo Fat's being expatriated to China as we speak. Political connections got him out. He's going to get away."
"And?" Danny said, and how Danny knew instinctively that there was more, Steve didn't know—except maybe it had something to do with how Danny was one of Steve's constants, like his ohana, like his home; how Steve had grown used to knowing Danny was at his side, even at the moments when things were at their worst.
Steve had almost lost him, but Danny was still right there, solid and patient and waiting for him, so Steve was able to say, "My mom didn't die in the car bomb, Danny. I think maybe she's still alive."
Danny blinked. "Okay," he said, "admittedly, that one I didn't see coming."
The laugh that escaped Steve on hearing that was sharp, helpless. His chest hurt. "You think anyone did?"
"Hey," Danny said, "hey, c'mere, come on." The hug he gave Steve was careful and gentle, mindful of Danny's cracked ribs and Steve's aching heart, but Steve couldn't stop himself from closing his eyes and swaying forward a little. He felt tired, bone-deep tired, in a way he'd rarely experienced even halfway up a mountain in Afghanistan, or towards the end of his third day up a tree in a Filipino swamp. "Listen, we'll figure this out, okay? We'll figure out your mom and my jackass of a brother. I mean, we're going to stop first for dinner because I got Jello for lunch, and then I'm going to go home and take my painkillers and pass out for an hour or twelve—but we'll get to the bottom of this. You got me and Chin and Kono, Lori and Jenna. You know we'll help you, right? Whatever you need."
Danny spoke with absolute assurance and a complete lack of pity, and Steve loved him so much that it was its own kind of painful. "I don't want you guys to get mixed up in this. I have no clue what the hell's going on, and I don't want anyone else to get hurt because of whatever my parents were caught up in."
"Steven," Danny said, tightening his arms when Steve tried to step away. "You are just—"
"I'm going to be charitable and call you a goof," Danny said, "but let it be known and recognized that I could say so, so much worse and no one would judge me for it. C'mere."
Danny's kiss was just as careful and as gentle as his embrace, as if he were being mindful of something impossibly delicate. His beard scratched against Steve's stubble, his fingers anchored themselves in the fabric of Steve's shirt, and Steve had wanted this, but he'd never truly understood what it would be like, not at all. Danny's mouth was hot and clever, and when Steve buried his fingers in Danny's hair, Danny shivered deliciously against him. Steve gasped, stupefied with just how warm Danny was against him, how effortlessly he was able to heat up all the cold places, and Steve lost himself in the kiss for a moment before gently pushing Danny away. Danny was on painkillers; Danny was tired and exhausted. "Danny," he said, very seriously, because there was no way he was going to take advantage of him in this state, "your brain is on drugs."
Danny squinted up at him, lips visibly swollen from kissing, and Steve valiantly resisted the urge to lick at them. "They promoted you, so you must have some brain somewhere, but honestly I'm not seeing evidence of it and I, sir, am a detective."
"Danny—" Steve began, feeling desperate in at least half a dozen different ways.
"Seriously, Steve, shut up," Danny said, and kissed him again.
Steve texted her just after four on Sunday afternoon: surf & turf on grill. bring beer. brownies for dessert. Kono Kalakaua was a sensible woman, so she didn't hesitate when she got the message. She rounded up Jenna, who was sitting with a cup of tea and a file folder, and coaxed her into coming along with the promise of fresh air and chocolate. The days since they'd come back from Kaua'i had been quiet, lacking a big new case to wear them out and distract them from what had happened, but paperwork and disappointment brought their own kinds of exhaustion. Kono was desperately in need of some R&R, even if it was only a long weekend out on the North Shore, and she hadn't quite managed to talk Jenna into coming back out surfing with her yet.
By the time the two of them got to Steve's house, the others were already there: Danny looking pale but a little more rested, sitting in a heavily cushioned Adirondack chair with a beer in his hand; over by a fold-out picnic table, Chin and Malia were unpacking what looked like several giant tubs of food. Kono grinned when she saw them.
"Ho brah," she said, hugging Chin hello, "is that Auntie's fried rice?"
"You know it," Chin said, smiling a greeting at Jenna. "You know she wouldn't hold with any other recipe."
Kono snorted. "That's an understatement. She'd flay us."
Someone had dragged several more chairs down the lawn to form a loose semi-circle with the Adirondack chairs at the centre. There was a large cooler sitting by Danny's feet; Kono added the beer she'd brought to the dozen or so Longboards already stacked inside it. Danny waved a magnanimous hand at her. "All offerings are welcome," he said, eyes crinkling up when he grinned. Kono didn't think she'd ever seen him dressed as casually as this: flip-flops on his feet, wearing a soft-looking pair of sweats and a t-shirt with the UH logo on it. If she hadn't known better, she would have thought he was borrowing from Steve's wardrobe.
"How're you feeling?" she asked him, twisting the cap off her beer. For once, Danny had actually taken the sick leave he'd been entitled to—Kono thought that had as much to do with dealing with Matt's second betrayal as it did with his cracked ribs.
"Eh," he said, shrugging. "Been better, but I've been worse, too." Danny looked out at the ocean, to where Lori and Steve were working up an appetite, Steve apparently trying to teach Lori how to stay upright on a board for more than a second or two. They didn't seem to be having much success; Kono snickered when she saw Steve take a header off a wave that wouldn't have given Grace Williams trouble and come up spluttering and laughing. It'd been too long since Kono had seen him laugh like that. "Think my parents must be crossing themselves every time they see my number come up on the caller ID now," Danny continued, "and my dad's Jewish, so." He scrubbed at his hair for a moment. "Long week. How's she doing?" He nodded over in Jenna's direction.
Kono looked back at her. Jenna was standing by the picnic table, chatting with Malia while loading up a paper plate with steak and rice. (Chin, in command of the grill, was wearing an apron produced from who-knew-where which proclaimed 'Kiss the Cook'; Kono was so going to have to take a photo of that as blackmail evidence before she left.) Jenna's smile was tentative but there, and there was even a little color back in her cheeks. "It's not like I'm trained to deal with this stuff, Danny. She's been through a lot."
"No," he said, nudging her foot with his, "but you're Kono. You know your friends."
"Then… I'd say she's angry that Wo Fat got away, but it's not the same kind of anger as before. She could have shot him, but she didn't." Kono shrugged, not entirely sure how to describe the change she'd sensed in Jenna these past few days. Some of it, she was sure, was down to the fact that Jenna was finally sleeping—sometimes twelve, fourteen hours at a stretch, sprawled out beneath her comforter with abandon, as if her body was greedily making up for lost time—but it was as if she'd let go of some huge part of her grief about Josh when she'd chosen not to shoot Wo Fat. "What's the stage of grief that comes after anger?"
"Tequila," Danny said firmly, but he reached over to her and gently squeezed her hand in his for a moment.
When the sun dipped lower towards the horizon, Lori and Steve waded back towards the shore, both of them calling for food and drink. Steve still didn't look entirely his usual self—there was a set to his jaw that told Kono he'd be back in the office before anyone else the following morning—but the time in the water had loosened the tension in his shoulders. He toweled off roughly, grabbed a paper plate of food, and flopped down into a chair beside Danny. "Ugh," Danny said, "you shook water all over me, you animal."
"Eh," Steve said absently around a mouthful of shrimp, "you love it."
Danny gave a long-suffering sigh that made Chin and Malia—who were somehow, improbably, curled up in together in a big canvas butterfly chair—snicker and Lori laugh out loud. Jenna had lapsed into a food-induced coma, listing to one side in her beach chair so that her head rested against Kono's shoulder. It felt good, right to have these people around her, to know that in the midst of all the other things going on in their lives, that they trusted one another enough to be able to relax in one another's company. They'd get up in the morning and head back out into the world, and Kono knew that it wouldn't be easy, it would never be easy. But there would be this, at the end of it all, and that was no small thing—that was more than enough.