by Peg Keeley
Danny's plan had little time to formulate. As he moved, his foot accidentally set off a trip wire. He leapt back and almost cleared the snare , but it caught his right arm and yanked him with a jerk up into the air by the wrist. It tore into the skin and the lacerations from the fishing line and he gave a cry of pain as his arm was dislocated from the shoulder. He frantically groped into his pocket for the penknife with his left arm as every motion made the pain in his shoulder more unbearable. He could hear Koca yelling for Hobi. They'd heard and they were coming.
Danny worked the knife open with his teeth and struggled to cut the vine that held him. In moments, he fell to the ground with another cry as the shoulder snapped back into place.
Having relocated his sharpened sticks, he scrambled into the brush. Sweat of pain, fear, and anticipation poured off him as he anxiously awaited the arrival of his enemies. Koca, still bearing his smeared war paint came running into view. He stopped abruptly, staring up at the cut vine. Danny lunged forward jamming the stick towards the first vital area he could target -- down the ear canal and into Koca's brain. Koca stared at him in blank surprise that slowly melted into non-emotion, then pitched forward to the ground. Danny stepped back, staring down at the body, the reed still protruding from its ear. Panic and fear subsided some as his mind warned him that Hobi was still on the way. He slipped back into the jungle, watching The pounding of feet in the dirt was audible as Hobi approached making no attempt to be secretive. Why should he be? He thought Danny was ensnared in a tree. He halted in shock upon seeing Koca on the ground. It was a moment or two before it registered with him that his brother was dead. Then he lifted his head and gave a howl of anger and sorrow.
"Dan Williams! I will kill you! I will trap you and skin you while you breathe! You will die slowly and with great pain!"
Danny rushed him. Hobi was, as he hoped, totally unprepared. The menacing machete was still sheathed at his side and Danny hit him with all the force of a linebacker giving him no time to pull it. Danny delivered several blows in an attempt to knock Hobi senseless, but the large Fijian was built like a tank.
"You cannot kill me," Hobi hissed as they fought. "I will still come back and destroy you."
Danny did not take time to talk. He stepped to the side to avoid Hobi's punch and stooped to scoop up the sharpened rod. His vision suddenly blurred and he stumbled. Not now, he yelled at his aching head. It was too late. Hobi was upon him, grabbing his head by the hair. Danny responded just in time to catch Hobi's arm in midswing as the machete headed for his neck. For a moment, they were frozen, the machete between them. Then, Hobi's grip was broken and Danny pulled away. He scrambled for the rod just as Hobi threw himself forward at him. Danny swung around bringing up the stick and Hobi fell forward on it, run through the abdomen.
Hobi seemed to move in slow motion. He dropped to his knees, then let go the machete and gripped the rod sticking out of his belly. He gave Danny a bewildered look, then fell onto his side.
Danny slowly picked up the dropped machete, then backed a few steps away. Exhaustion overwhelmed him. He stumbled from the site, hugging his right arm close.
He suddenly felt adrift, without direction or purpose, but knew it was shock. He needed to eat and regain some strength.
In time, Danny made his way into the small camp Hobi and Koca had set up. Rummaging through their things, he found a plastic bag of trail mix that he ravenously shoved handfuls of into his mouth. He went to the small cages housing the trapped birds and one by one opened the doors and watched them flee captivity. It made him feel more human again. He sank down on the log before the now blackened ashes of the old fire. There, still on display, were the ceremonial fork and knife. This really had happened. It was already hard to believe.
It was late morning, the sun was high. He was exhausted and wanted to sleep, but the urge to be gone from here was greater. He looked around for a container to put some water in and found an empty plastic milk bottle amongst Hobi's things. Tired as he was, he headed for the waterfall. He'd need water to get home. The island was still and quiet, just as it had been on his arrival, but seemed empty, forbidding. He stooped into waist high spring and filled the bottle, then washed his face.
The sudden impact of what seemed like a thousand pounds threw him forward into the water. As he scrambled to get to the surface there were hands around his shoulders, pushing him downward, holding him. His efforts became more frantic. He found a leg and pulled his aggressor off balance. As the other man fell, he broke free and exploded through the surface heaving great gulps of air. But Hobi was on him instantly.
Danny recalled Hobi's threat that he couldn't be killed. As he attempted to break away, Hobi grabbed hold of him by the waist trying to pull him down again, but this time, Danny was prepared. He grabbed a rock from the bank and slammed it against Hobi's head. There was a spray of blood. Hobi gave a cry of pain and covered his face with his hands, stumbling backward in the water. Danny struck him again, this time on the back of the head will all the power he could muster. Hobi pitched, unconscious, forward into the water and lay still.
Danny half-lay half sat in the water gasping for breath and literally shivering in fear. He resisted the urge to take out his penknife and slash Hobi's throat, but it had been a strong urge. He dragged himself from the water and, picking up the bottle, staggered towards the beachhead. On the brink of the jungle, he collapsed in a spot of sun for a long time, too tired and too shaken to move. In spite of its warm, he was chilled to the bone and could not bring his limbs to stop shaking. At last he pulled himself up and, headed for the outrigger.
He paused before heading across the open stretch, inwardly chiding himself as being paranoid. It seemed everything hurt. His ankle stung with each step, his head throbbed with each heartbeat. He kept his right arm hugged close to immobilize the swollen, bruised shoulder.
The outrigger lay on the beach before him. He dropped the small bottle of water into the boat, then sank down on the sand beside the hull, too tired to go any further. Maybe he could rest and leave in the morning. It would be dark before he reached Honolulu and with no lights he might have survived this bizarre incident only to be run over by a ship.
In spite of the internal objections, he knew he had to go. The prospect of one more night here, even alone, was too appalling. He forced himself to his knees, turned around and gave the bow a lifting shove towards the water.
The explosion sent flocks of frightened birds screaming towards the heavens. Danny was thrown onto his back on the sand gritting his teeth as the pain seared through his left side. He cursed himself for being so stupid. The gun, the missing gun--his gun, had been booby-trapped to the boat. How could he have forgotten the gun? He lay on the scalding sand determining that the wound however painful did not seem to be lethal. Gripping his bloody left side, he staggered to his knees. The fishing line trail was now obvious from the boat back to where the gun was pinned into the sand with a stick. He pulled the weapon loose, cut the fishing line, and dropped the gun into the outrigger. He collapsed against the gunwale. Can anything else happen?
Even as he thought the question, a shadow passed over him. He leapt to the side with surprising speed considered his physical state just as the machete slammed into the gunwale, nicking an edge out of it.
Hobi stood before him, blood still streaming from his head wounds and seeping from the abdominal ones as well.
Danny stared, openmouthed at this walking dead man. "What do you want with me?" he demanded with exasperation.
"I told you you cannot kill me," Hobi replied in deadly tone. "You murdered my brother."
"Did you expect me to happily let you cannibalize me?" Danny demanded.
"You do not matter." He waved the machete towards Danny. "The end for you is now the same."
Danny tried to glance into the boat, the gun was too far away. Hobi lunged at him with the machete and a new grapple for the weapon ensued. They rolled in the sand, both men wounded, exhausted, the knife wavering back and forth in the three-inch space between them. Hobi, having Danny pinned to the ground, seemed to have the advantage. He let loose one hand off the knife momentarily and jabbed a fist across the bridge of Danny's nose. Danny did not break concentration although he felt unconsciousness rushing up around him. He moved the knife back a quarter of an inch. Hobi slammed him across the nose and forehead with two more quick blows and Danny tasted a rush of blood down the back of his throat.
His ears were ringing, vision failing, the knife was dangerously close to his neck. In desperation, he spit a mouthful of bloody saliva square in Hobi's face.
Hobi fell back and Danny, making the most of the fleeting advantage, grabbed a handful of sand and flung it into Hobi's eyes and face. Hobi pulled away with a cry, hands to his eyes.
Danny wrenched the knife away and drove it deeply into Hobi's chest. Hobi fell as he stabbed again. Screaming in maniacal rage, Danny slammed the machete deeply into the body over and over anywhere it found to go: chest, abdomen, limbs, through the neck, severing the carotid, but by this time there was so much blood little more came.
At last, all energy spent, blind panic passed, and Danny collapsed against the mutilated corpse in exhaustion, the machete still in his blood stained right fist. He finally turned to look, jabbing the weapon testingly at a finger-severed hand. Was Hobi really dead? It was a senseless question. As he staggered to his knees, it was clear just how dead. Hobi's head had rolled five or six inches away from his body.
Numbly, Danny dropped the machete, staggered to the surf and fell in. The salty brine rinsed away the blood and seared like fire as it seeped into the gunshot wound in his side. The crisp, clear smart of pain helped him back to reality. He waded to shore and collapsed again upon the hot sand where he lie for an eternity.
The incoming tide splashed over his feet and ankles awakening him with a start. Danny opened his eyes, mildly disoriented. Whether he'd lost consciousness or been asleep he couldn't tell, maybe a little of both. He was stiff, blood still oozed slowly from the bullet hole. In the shade of the boat, the breeze kissed him gently and he could almost feel comfortable--until the next wave lapped over him again. He slowly pulled himself upright, leaning on the gunwale of the outrigger. There were only three or four hours of sunlight left. He chose to take his chances. Not looking back at the macabre sight on the beach, he shoved the boat into the water, then half climbed, half fell over the side into the bottom. In addition to the sail, there were two paddles in the bottom. He used one to make his way towards the reef.
His right shoulder ached with the strain, but more important was the increased bleeding from his side as he paddled out to sea. He sipped a swallow of water to wet his mouth, then carefully stowed the rest. No telling how long it would need to last. He laughed fatalistically at himself. He would probably bleed to death before he ran out of water anyway.
The roll of the waves beneath him felt comforting, like the rocking of a baby's cradle. Past the reef, he hoisted the sail, another act which brought painful complaint from his injuries. He quickly discovered one of the pleasures of the outrigger was he could tack the sail and steer from nearly a laying position which he quickly took advantage of. He hoped he could get a trade wind or a current which would act as an automatic pilot to take him home because he doubted he'd remain conscious long enough to travel the several hundred miles across to the closest island of Niihau.
In time, his mind wandered. Niihau, he swore he'd never return there when Lani died. How fate does twist things, he now looked to Niihau as his salvation. The sun was gone and the breeze on the ocean was chilling. He tried to wrap himself in a torn piece of sailcloth, but nothing seemed to the shivering. The sea was calm, the stars magnificent. He scanned the constellations for Polaris and put it to his back--must keep headed south. South. South.
The Coast Guard commander listened patiently to McGarrett's story. "From what I understand Lt. Watkins has done everything according the correct procedure. It's all by the book."
"I don't dispute that, Commander," McGarrett responded, "It's just hard for me to accept that an able-bodied seaman could fall overboard on the clear day and vanish."
"Exactly," he agreed, "but what kind of things?"
"You've been a cop too long. Not everything in life has a criminal element behind it. I know that Williams was a friend of yours and I'm sorry about his loss. But, you know that most of the losses at sea are never accounted for. In a small sailor like that, no port-of-call logged, no radio. I don't know what you expect from me. It's been two days. I have to justify tax dollars to continue a search for a man who's probably been shark bait after all this time."
"I'm just asking for one more day," McGarrett bargained. "Don't ask me to rationalize it. I just have feeling he's out there."
"A feeling huh?" The commander snickered and shook his head. He took a drag on a small thin cigar and exhaled slowly through his nose. He eyed McGarrett again, then gave a slight nod. "Okay. Hell, you never know when I might need a speeding ticket fixed. I've got to send some weekend warriors on chopper maneuvers. I can send 'em north as well as any other way."
And so it came to be that at 10:50 in the morning, a Coast Guard Huey helicopter spotted what appeared to be an unmanned outrigger fifty miles north by northwest off Niihau. Upon closer examination, there was an unresponsive man in the bottom of the boat.
A rescue team was dispatched and Danny was retrieved and flown to Honolulu, unconscious and in shock both from exposure and blood loss.
Wild horses couldn't have kept McGarrett away from the ER room as the doctors examined Danny, and no one tried. It was a torturous wait, made only moderately acceptable by Steve's knowledge that his friend and forensic specialist, Doc Bergman, was there. At last Bergman came to McGarrett, clipboard in hand and look of relief on his rough features.
"He's a lucky man," Bergman declared. "I think you'd better get some kind of story out of him when he wakes up."
"How so, Doc?" Steve asked.
"One of those injuries is a bullet wound." He paused to let it sink in. "They're going to take him to surgery to remove the slug after he's stable. He's also got a pretty bad concussion."
"Any ideas?" Steve asked.
Bergman laughed. "You're the cop, Steve. I just put the body clues in order. As I said: I hope he can tell you."
The surgeon, concerned about infection and blood loss decided to go ahead with surgery right away. Steve, reluctant to have to wait several more hours to hear the details, watched as the OR suite doors slid shut.
He turned to face a young Guardsman. The sailor was about twenty-five, wore glasses and stood about five foot eight. He was so frail Steve thought a stiff breeze might blow the young man away. Our country's defense is in the hands of children like this? "Yes, Sailor?"
"Lt. Baker, Sir," he introduced himself. "I do criminal investigation work for the Coast Guard."
"What crime are you talking about?" I've never seen a less likely investigator.
"Our medics reported Mr. Williams had a bullet wound. We had to check that out."
McGarrett scowled, not pleased that this young fellow, still wet behind the ears had apparently known facts before he had. "How did you come to know that?"
"Corpsman on the rescue chopper said he had a bullet wound to the left side and a fair number of scrapes, bruises, contusions. There were lacerations on both wrists indicating he may have be restrained--tied up at some point." Baker paused. "Injuries inconsistent with a boating accident. He couldn't tell us anything about the injuries or how he came to be in an outrigger."
McGarrett wished this conversation was not happening in a public corridor. "Let's get a cup of coffee."
"McGarrett," he stopped him. "We can assume that the boat was more or less governed by the prevailing winds and currents. We traced the boat back to a small atoll--"
"Mister," McGarrett interrupted him, "we need to go some place private."
He persisted. "You have to see this." He held out a videotape. "The team recorded what they found."
McGarrett hostily snatched the tape from his hand and strode purposefully to the front desk in the lobby. He hailed the volunteer's attention. Showing his badge he requested use of a video machine and within half an hour, he and Lt. Baker were inserting the tape.
"I've already seen it," Baker said meekly, indicating he'd refer to wait somewhere else.
McGarrett ignored him, letting him go. The tape started with a vengeance. The opening scenes were of a grotesquely disfigured and dismembered Polynesian man lying on the beach. The camera moved around, getting several nauseating different angles of the carnage. The scene changed at last to a view of the camp. The camera's eye paused before the open doors of the cages, the small amount of gear Hobi and Koca had packed, and the fork and knife laying before the ashes.
The utensils meant something, but Steve couldn't remember what. He'd seen something like them somewhere. He racked his brain to remember.
The video moved on to a third scene of another body. There was a reed jammed into the man's ear. It was obviously the cause of death. Steve could understand Lt. Baker's reluctance to watch the video again. He shut it off, removed the tape, and stepped outside to where Baker waited.
"Five-O will dispatch a team to investigate this immediately," Steve said stoically. "As soon as Danno's awake, maybe he can tell us something about their attacker." He was lucky to escape with his life. These gentlemen weren't so fortunate. What happened there? Who could commit such acts?
"From all the footprint sizes we encountered, it doesn't look like there were more than three men there," Baker stated, fear in his tone.
McGarrett glared at him. Dear God, what is he suggesting? "I'll wait for Danno's statement." It would take some kind of inhuman animal...He dared not even complete the thought. . "We'll dispatch a team."
"Coast Guard will get your team there," Baker added in a tone of friendship. "I'm sure my superior will gladly let you take over this--this case. But I'm telling you, McGarrett, there were only three men there."
Kono entered Steve's office, a plastic bag containing the ceremonial knife and fork in his hand. He handed it over the desk to McGarrett. "They what they look like--for eating."
Steve waited for the next comment for he knew it was coming.
"Eating people," he mumbled. "Archeologist the University confirms they're Fiji ritual tools of cannibalism. The chief would eat parts of his defeated enemies and gain their strength and wisdom. Make him invincible."
"God, Kono," McGarrett replied eyeing the evidence. Is this possible?
"Those relics were taken from a museum on Fiji about two years ago. Pathologist found traces of human blood about a year old in one of the crevasses of the engraving on the fork."
Steve shook his head, numb with shock, finding it impossible to believe what the evidence indicated. "What would you do if someone threatened to kill and eat you?"
He hadn't expected an answer, but Kono gave one: "Anything I had to."
Danny lay on the hospital bed, listening to the sounds of civilization outside: occasional voices in the street, cars honking. All the things I wanted to escape and now they sound so reassuring. His mind was already seeking the bury the horrid memory. It was easy to tell himself it had never happened; it was so hard to believe it had. He couldn't recall much about his final fight with Hobi and maybe it was just as well. He did recall poking the machete at an arm--it hadn't moved.
The little IV pump whirred next to him, pumping antibiotics into him. His side burned a little when he moved and there were six stitches in his right wrist. He'd talked to no one. He guessed the nurses didn't know he was awake yet and he hadn't asked for anything. I don't want anyone's help. I just want to be left alone--forever. I wish no one would ever come through that door. Just leave me alone. What do they know? What do they think?
The door opened and he felt a fleeting sense of disappointment that his solitude had been violated.
"Danno," Steve said quietly, "how are you doing? Gold bricking again?"
He managed a grin. "Hi, Steve."
Steve laid the plastic bag containing the ceremonial knife and fork on the bedside table.
Danny looked at them like they were live snakes. He made no effort to touch them.
"I already know what this is. I've had an expert on island culture check them out. Fijian. Used in ceremonial cannibalistic ritual. The two dead men were Fijian as well. One still had some kind of war paint design on his skin."
There was silence for a moment. "Steve," Danny's voice was barely audible when he finally spoke, "you cannot imagine the feeling--of actually having someone planning..." his voice trailed off. Silence once more closed over the them. It took two attempts for him to speak again. "They weren't human, they were animals hunting. In the end, God help me, I don't know what happened. I wasn't going to let them get me." He shook his head slowly, eyes smarting with tears. "You don't really know what you'll do to stay alive. I guess we like to think we're civilized men, but we're really only one step away from being animals ourselves."
Steve struggled to maintain his composure. He tried to picture himself in the same situation, but had to admit it was impossible. What do I do now? Take this to a legal system that cannot possibly comprehend it? Would justice be served to destroy the life that survived such an ordeal? What is the line between responsibility and integrity? Is it possible that they are not always the same? He was aware that several minutes of silence had passed and that despite his effort to hide his thoughts, Danny was watching him and reading every one. "It ends here, Danno. There'll be no long drawn out affairs and statements. The evidence speaks for itself. There's no reason to ever make this public. No one else will every have to know the details."
Danny did not answer. There was no look of relief, gratitude, sadness. Nothing.
McGarrett did not speak again. There really wasn't anything more to say that wasn't either inappropriate or irrelevant. So, they sat in silence for a long time. Danny, still exhausted from his nightmarish experience eventually drifted off to sleep. For now it would offer him a place of refuge until he could deal with the events.
Steve quietly rose and left. He drove to the guard headquarters where he picked up all the evidence from the island and signed the forms for the remains of the two Fijians to be sent home in sealed caskets. Within hours, the missing implements would be express-mailed back to the museum. The hospital gunshot wound report would bare Bergman's signature with the closed statement of "accidentally self inflicted," although the paperwork would have revealed it impossible. It would not matter because McGarrett had that paperwork in his stack.
The sun was setting on the ocean as Steve finished digging a shallow pit in the sand behind his beach house. His own emotions deadened, he dropped in the bits of evidence and the paperwork, then lit a match. As the small column of black smoke rose into the twilight, he stared one more time at the video in his hand, then tossed it into the flames.
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