Friends in High Places
by Peg Keeley
With Steve barred from going to the Five-0 office, his beach house created a natural site for the Five-0 team to converge. Kono was the first to arrive which made him mildly apprehensive. Maybe it's just as well. Steve and I can get a chance to clear the air before the others arrive. I probably should have given him a proper chance earlier. I just wasn't ready to face it. He slowly pulled his large frame from the small rental car. Why are these rentals always so small anyway? He straightened his suit. I think one of the reasons I always hated this job was because I had to wear a suit.
Steve greeted him with a firm handshake and a smile. "Good to see you again, Kono. I only wish the circumstances were better."
He gave a slight nod. "Never rains but it pours."
"We have missed you," Steve said sincerely. "Has the Tahiti job been good for you?"
"It's a job. Pays the bills," Kono replied bluntly. "I sometimes miss the islands, but I don't miss what big business has done to the place. I don't even recognize some places anymore. They keep building all the time."
Steve sighed. "Pretty hard to control that sort of thing."
"Not too surprising that Pahoa could find a lot of listening ears for what he was selling." Kono handed Steve a list of names. "Look at 'em. Some of them Hawaiian, Asian, a lot of the Haole -- maybe feeling a bit guilty themselves. Or maybe they're the kind that want to save the white owls. I don't even know a lot of them. They have mainland addresses."
Steve scanned the list quickly, noting Clara Williams' name towards the bottom. There were other well known actors and politicians in the group, even a member of British royalty. "Pahoa certainly has an impressive group here."
"That's just the Diamond Head thing." He held out a second list. "The Cultural Coalition is even better. I think Richard Nixon is on that one. I spent all day looking over these and didn't find one questionable one in the bunch."
Steve turned as Duke and Ben arrived together and paused to greet them, then passed Kono's lists on. They glanced through them.
"This is a regular who's who," Ben commented, then exclaimed: "My brother is on here!"
"Cappy managed to have so many names here it's a smoke screen," Duke complained.
"I wonder how many of them are real," Steve commented. "What was to keep him from just going through the phone book and attaching random names and money together? We need to continue to follow up. Here -" he passed the list over to Duke. "Start with this name."
Duke grinned. "The governor?"
McGarrett gave a nod. "Seems like a pretty safe spot to start." Right now I haven't got many safe spots. "What do you have on the shooter?"
Ben spoke up. "He is from Oregon -- at least his last address. Did a little time in Tennessee for pushing moonshine a couple of years back. There is an outstanding warrant for him in Oklahoma for DUI four counts. But flew out here from Las Vagas."
"None of this sounds like hired killer stuff," Duke remarked.
Ben shrugged. "Lots of small stuff, but nothing that would tie him to Hawaii or to Jimmy Rego."
"So who else do we have gentlemen?" Steve asked. "Who stands to move up in the Kumu?"
"Street is quiet," Kono commented. "At least two of the locals said they thought the Dragons might have pulled the trigger, but -- there isn't anything much to that."
"Let see if we can trace back Derrick through the weapon, rental car, what he's bought, where he's stayed since he came here -- we've got to have a tie somewhere," Steve insisted. "One thing is for sure -- if we don't find the tie the feds may invent one. Duke, what is the latest on Brian Liu?"
"He's being held in seclusion. Hasn't come through yet, but I think he will. Reuter says they have a tail on Rego and will stop him from leaving the islands, but that is about all they can do right now."
"I want our own man on him, too. No mistakes. If he slips through our fingers we'll never get him back." Steve tightened a hand into a fist. "We will get him yet."
Danny wasn't surprised at Kevin's visit, but that made it no more welcome. "What do you want, Kevin," he murmured from where he said propped amongst hospital pillows.
"Came to see my old pal," Kevin replied with a thin smile. "I must say it was a pretty big shock to find you'd been hobnobbing with the bad guys yesterday."
"You know the truth, Kevin," Danny replied. "You're not going to get me tied up in this."
Kevin grinned again. "Yeah, but it sounds so mysterious. You and the Kumu kingpin sharing a glass of wine even as his man who killed Chin Ho Kelley is being released for false arrest -- one that was precipitated by none other than your boss, Steve McGarrett."
Danny gave a bored look, but already Kevin was annoying. "Do you have questions for me or you just trying to be a pain?" It wasn't enough to endure that experience with Susie today, I have to deal with Kevin, too?
"Yeah, Danny, I have questions. Questions about what connection you have to Pahoa?"
Danny shook his head. "So you think I hired someone to shoot myself?"
"I think you're smart enough to take one to look innocent."
"Two, Reuter, I took two -- and there were ten more in the table from what I was told."
"Yeah, well Billy Swan says Cappy took one to the head first -- so what did a shooter have to gain by getting you -- except to provide you a cover."
"Kevin, that doesn't even make sense."
"You forget, I know you, Danny. I know how you think. And I know you would do anything - anything - to avenge Kelley's murder. You're also expert at staying innocent while all around you get caught."
Danny glared at Kevin. "Are you talking about Cappy Pahoa or Tom Banks? Seems like you are a bit too personally involved here for your own good."
"You were the only one who knew Pahoa would be at Regal's. Len Derrick has a past that cris-crosses the United States and a background that is generally fake, but we got him nailed to an exotic hunting expedition three weeks ago on Maui. The guide for his team lives two doors down from you in your apartment complex."
Danny blinked. "Talk about circumstantial."
"We're bringing the guy in talk with him. I think he's where the shooter got his weapon and I think that if I ask the right questions -- he'll give the right answers."
"What are you looking for, Kevin? Answers that fit or the truth? Lots of people live down the hall from me -- and lots of people take trips to Maui. There is no connection. Besides, if I was going to take someone out wouldn't it be Jimmy Rego? We all know he killed Chin."
Kevin lifted an eyebrow. "And do you think he acted against Pahoa's orders?"
"I'm sure of it. That was why Pahoa gave him up to Steve. And with Cappy dead, he can't decide to rat on Rego."
Kevin rubbed his chin. "Getting so I can't tell the cops from the robbers around here, Williams."
Danny waited only moments until after Reuter left before calling Steve's phone. "Get me out of here," he demanded.
"Has the doctor released you?" Steve asked in surprise.
"Come and get me or I'll walk home," he threatened.
"This was not a good idea," McGarrett stated as he did his best to get Danny comfortable at the beach house. "You need more time to heal. You had surgery just yesterday."
Danny gritted his teeth and maneuvered a small pillow under his left arm. "What is happening about Rego?"
Steve gave a small smile. "To the best of my knowledge nothing. Duke has a plainclothes officer watching him. The FBI claims to also have a tail on him -- it is just a matter of time until we take him back. With Kimo Napoli dead, Brian Liu is now valuable and he knows it." Steve paused, a thoughtful scowl crossing his face as his gaze dropped to the newspaper's headlines. "Unless .Danno, suppose there is someone else who knows."
"Someone who might have heard Rego's bragging to Pahoa that he killed Chin." Steve became more animated and excited as the pieces came together. "If Rego told Pahoa he killed Chin, Rego would be very much inclined to remove Pahoa -- and might see himself taking over Cappy's control. He was trying to do that from the inside before. There is someone else."
Danny's attention was fully engaged, but he did not see the conclusion. "Who?"
"The only other person who knew you and Cappy would be a Regal's -- Billy Swan."
Danny stared at Steve. "Billy Swan?"
"Billy was nearly always lurking around somewhere when Cappy had conversations. What if Billy heard Jimmy's confession?"
"Then you think the shooter was trying to get them both?"
"Maybe -- or maybe Jimmy hasn't thought this far yet. One thing is certain - Reuter hasn't. I think I should have another talk with our newest local hero. Just maybe Swan can give us what we need to get Rego back behind bars." He grabbed his suit jacket.
"Uh -- Steve -- aren't you under house arrest?"
He grinned. "I shouldn't have any problem giving rid of my guard."
The phone began to ring. Danny waved Steve to go ahead and answered it. "Williams."
"Danny, I've looked all over for you," came Harry's anxious voice. "I need your advice."
Lara put her books on the kitchen table and pulled out a bowl of cut up fruit that she spooned out for herself, Faith and Tilda.
Tilda came into the kitchen. "Tim is gone."
Lara looked mildly surprised. "Gone?"
She nodded. "The bedroom door is open."
Lara walked down the short dark hallway to see for herself. The door to Chin's old room that had been shut for three days stood open, the faint lingering scent of incense still in the air. The small pot no longer smoldered. It was cold. Tim had been gone for a while. "Well, that may be a good thing," Lara said, trying to smile. "Tim must be feeling better."
Tilda wrinkled her brow. "I want to go see Danny."
"Maybe we can do that later. Maybe that is where Tim went," Lara replied. "Come have some fruit."
Tilda perched on the edge of the chair, spoon in hand, then looked up at Lara. "What is going to happen to us, Lara? I don't want to leave here."
Lara sighed. "I don't know yet, Tilda, but I promise you that you and Faith can stay together. It will be okay."
Billy Swan did not look surprised that Steve McGarrett was at his door. "Good afternoon, McGarrett," he said quietly. "It did not take you long to find me."
Steve glanced around the one room studio that where a single suitcase stood in the center of the floor beside one cardboard box. "Did not take you long to get out of Pahoa's."
"I am between employers," he remarked.
"I'm sure that won't last long. From the media it sounds like they want to give you to the key to the city," Steve remarked.
"And you? Are you also grateful, McGarrett?"
Steve gave him a cold steel gaze. "Don't press your luck, Swan. I think you know a lot more about this than it appears."
"Like what?" Billy crossed the room and took a seat on the couch, motioning Steve to do the same.
McGarrett stood. "You told the FBI that Danny was the only one who know about Cappy being at the Regals."
He nodded placidly. "That is true."
"But you knew, right?"
A very slow smile broke out across his dark face. "Why, McGarrett, are you implying I would -- what motivation could I possibly have?"
"I don't know yet."
"I detested Jimmy Rego. He was arrogant, impolite and ambitious. Pahoa only tolerated him because of Kini. Rego was no good. Cappy was a good man. He is dead, Chin Ho is dead. Both leave children parentless -- I would be glad to see Rego imprisoned where some of Cappy's loyal followers would complete what the state apparently is unable to do."
That was quite a mouthful, Steve thought, but is it show? "Okay, so who do you think hired Cappy's killer?"
Billy shrugged. "I do not follow politics. Like I said before, I stay alive by not knowing these things. I could be untrustworthy if I could not keep a confidence."
"And whose confidence do you keep by protecting this assassin?"
"I do not know who hired him, McGarrett. I hope it was Jimmy Rego because it provides one more reason to see him dead," Billy answered quietly.
"Would you kill Rego if you had the chance?" Steve asked.
Billy smiled again. "Do you ask that as a cop or as a friend of Chin Ho?"
Steve paused. "Both."
"I am not a violent man. My presence ensures peace in difficult settings. I rarely have to use force." Billy spread his arms.
"But you are capable of taking extreme steps."
"Of course," he said simply. "I am also capable of choosing not to."
Tim Kelley knelt before the small plaque bearing his father's name in the freshly turned black earth. It was fitting that Chin and Lilly were now reunited in death. "I know you loved mama so," he whispered. "But I wish you could have waited a little longer. I want to be worthy, but it is hard. I have spent a time of mourning, but things keep happening." He paused. "I wish I knew if I was doing the right thing. It seems that there are no honorable things that can be done. I know you would understand. Father, I beg your forgiveness." He remorsefully rose to his feet, his decision made. My father's honor will be served; this is my responsibility. No one can do this for me.
Kevin Reuter swore as he turned the car around a second time. I hate this place. I can't pronounce the names of the streets, they all look the same. He had been lost twice today. And now he needed to get to the stakeout team quickly. Burning rubber, he spun the wheel and got the car once again headed in the correct direction.
Two agents were standing on the walk of the small white clapboard house looking a bit foolish as Reuter pulled up. "How did this happen?" Kevin demanded almost before he opened the car door.
"We were on him the whole time. He still got past us," one shrugged. "A garbage man called it in. Recognized the description."
"Sanitation engineer," Reuter growled.
"They are sanitation engineers," he repeated as they headed towards the rear alley. The small house looked remarkably innocent for what the rear alley contained. "So, why here? Whose house is this?"
"Owned by a rental firm -- Masters and Son. Rented to a Sheila Stipe. She lives here with her two kids."
"They at home?"
The agent shook his head. "She's been called. Still at work. No one was at home."
"No one, huh?" Reuter ran his finger around his shirt collar and loosened his tie some. "Someone was here -- that's for sure."
A third agent was standing guard as they approached.
"Have you called the ME?" Kevin asked as he crouched down over the body.
"On his way."
"Good." The death had been violent by anyone's standards. The victim's throat had been crushed, the trachea and esophagus ripped forward through the flesh of the neck. He had probably died of asphyxia before he had bled out. Either way a nasty way to go. There was enough blood on the ground to suggest death had been here. No signs of a struggle, just that the guy had probably seized as his brain became oxygen starved. His pants were soaked with urine.
Kevin sighed and looked into Jimmy Rego's open dead eyes, contemplating that Jimmy had been looking into the face of his killer as he died. "Who had their dreams come true, Jimmy Boy?"
Lara heard Thomas and Harry before they came through the door. They were stamping their feet on the steps. She turned, hands on hips to face them, surprised that they were both soaking wet. "Where have you two been?" she demanded.
They both grinned slightly at her. "You the new boss around here? We're supposed to answer to you?" Harry challenged.
"The school called again, Thomas. You cut class for the second time. What is going on here? Harry, you should be helping me here," Lara scolded.
Harry pulled off his wet T-shirt. "It won't happen again, Lara," he assured his younger sister. "I didn't know he had class." He snapped Thomas with the wet shirt. "Come on, Bro, let's get out of these wet things."
"Why are you all wet?" Lara asked. Something was peculiar, but she could not place what it was. Her brothers seemed unusually animate, overly happy, or nervous, she wasn't sure which. Like if mama had caught them taking cookies or something.
"It's hot, we took a short detour through the fountain in the park," Thomas explained.
"Don't drip on the floor," Lara chided.
Harry glanced towards the open doorway of the master bedroom. "Seen Tim?"
"He was gone when we got home. I figured he went to the hospital," Lara replied. "We have got to make some decisions about what to do. If Thomas keeps skipping school we're all going to face trouble. Someone will decide we can't handle this and take Thomas, Faith and Tilda away."
Tilda suddenly gasped at her sister's remark.
"Okay," Thomas shook his head, "I'm not trying to cause trouble here. Really, I'll do better. Promise." He disappeared into the bath.
"Harry, you need to help here," Lara repeated. "Susie called and she's on a plane back to California in the morning."
He spread his arms. "What do you want me to do? You're going to school in a few months. I will probably have to move off campus to here. I'll do that. Danny will help. We will take care of it. Seems like maybe you should reconsider your choices, not me. I'm not the one planning to go to Colorado."
Steve glanced at his watch as he got out of the car. Three hours. I had not anticipated being gone this long. I hope Danno has been all right. I told him to stay put. He's probably slept the whole time. He unlocked the front door and stepped inside, then stopped surprised to see Danny dressed and on the couch in the front room. "Danno? What are you doing out here?"
Danny looked over at him, a grimace on his face. "I'm being stupid," he uttered, gripping the shirt that covered the wound dressings. As he moved his hand Steve noticed blood had seeped through onto the shirt.
"What's happened?" Steve asked in alarm. He knelt next to the couch to get a look.
"I was bored -- I just wanted to get out back and get some fresh air. Got dressed couldn't tie my shoes." He lifted one leg slightly, the laces dangling from the open shoes. "Tripped over the damned lace coming up the steps. Must have torn up something." That was an understatement. The pressure in his chest seemed to increase by the moment, restricting his breathing; he felt dizzy, shocky. "I am really glad you came back when you did. Tryin' to decide about calling 911."
Steve had removed the dressing and was examining the wounds that had both torn open and were oozing blood. "Stitches pulled out in both sites, Danno. We can't handle this here." He noticed that Danny's skin color was pale, his breathing shallow. Dammit how did he do all this tripping over the step? I should not have let him sign himself out.
He nodded. "Thought as much." As he moved his right hand, he glanced at the bruises and scrapes across the knuckles. "Bashed up my good hand, too."
"We're going to need to get you back to the hospital," Steve decided.
Reuter chose to include Duke, Kono and Ben in the trip to Bergman's office. They now all stood in a tight semi circle next to the steel table that held Jimmy Rego's mutilated body.
"Death was by asphyxiation," Doc commented professionally. "Blood vessels in the neck were severed in a single powerful thrust of a hand edgewise like this-" he placed his hand against Reuter's throat, seeming to mildly enjoy the demo, "-followed almost immediately by a second motion with the thumb and fingers of the right hand penetrating the neck and literally ripping the esophagus and trachea forward through the skin of the neck. The crushing action occluded the airway first. He bled out almost at the same time, but my money is on the suffocation. No indications of struggle. No other bruises, scratches, nothing under his nails. He either knew the attacker or was so surprised he did not have time to react." Bergman lifted an eyebrow. "Hard way to die. Death probably took about ten seconds."
"Time of death?"
"Around three p.m. give or take half an hour," Bergman replied.
Kevin walked back to the body and looked again at the ghastly neck wound. "How does something like this happen? What kind of strength would someone need?"
Duke answered. "No particular strength. Skill."
"Skill? In what?"
"There are several schools of Taijiquan for combat," Duke replied. "All of them emphasize that such moves are defensive. The moves are developed in response to the first action taken by the offender."
"Well, hell, Jimmy offended everybody," Reuter remarked. "You know of places teaching that kind of stuff?"
Ben grinned. "This is Hawaii, nearly every grade school child has taken some kind of marital arts training at one time or another."
Reuter did not return the grin. His look was of tolerance. "It wasn't some grade school child walked into that alley and killed Rego. "
"I think it will be pretty hard to find his killer by records at marital arts schools," Ben retorted.
Reuter gritted his teeth. "Well, I'm going to give you a chance to find out. Jimmy had lots of people who wanted him dead -- and most of them are on the state payroll. Gentlemen, we are going to track this one down."
Kono sighed and he and Ben turned towards the door. "Hope it's to give the guy a medal."
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