IT'S HOW YOU PLAY THE GAME

By Peg Keeley

onenerveleft59@hotmail.com

Part 2

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Lori sat huddled in the corner of the closet floor. She had been there through the night, untouched, but in the dark. The luminescence of her watch revealed it was now approaching noontime. Her abductors had given no explanation, but there had to be one. She had spent the first four hours of her incarceration patiently working her way through the knots that tied her hands behind her. It kept her mind busy and helped her keep the fear at bay. Having accomplished the feat, it provided assurance that escape must be possible.

She now heard heavy footsteps approaching. She braced herself, ready to leap as they unlocked the door. The hand was on the knob, a click, it turned. A crack of light began to show. She slammed herself forward against the old hollow-core door prepared for the light to blind her.

The door hit the man with full force and he stumbled backward, unprepared for her attack.

She maintained her forward momentum, blinking fiercely, already zeroing in on the door from the room.

The man sprawled on the floor in front of the open closet door shouted angrily for his partner who was in the front room. As Lori charged into the room, the second man leapt towards her, avoiding her vicious kick. Grabbing hold of her arm, he swung her off course; she ran face first into the edge of the open doorway to the room she'd just left.

Stunned, she crashed to the floor, arms and legs flying in all directions. She lay still, not unconscious, but dazed.

The second man laughed and poked her with his foot, observing the free flow of blood from her nose. "Now that's gotta hurt."

The first man joined him. "Man, RD, did ya have to go make her a mess like that? Just when I was getting some great plans."

"Five-O's newest tough cop," RD laughed, not seeming to care his partner had just revealed his name. "Let's hear it for sexual equality." He gave a menacing grin. "You really are a pretty lady -- for a cop."

She glared at them. "I don't know what you think this is--" she started.

RD kicked her in the face . She fell back and he kicked her again in the stomach. She brought up a hand to wipe away the new gush of blood from her nose. He pulled her back to her feet, tearing her blouse. "I'm not getting' paid to listen to you talk. I know exactly what this is, and you don't."

"Seems like the plan is really waste of talent," the first man complained as he walked over the kitchen range in the corner and picked up the roll of duct tape. He came back and taped Lori's wrists together behind her, wrapping the tape tightly around them several times. "See ya get out of that now." He tore off another length of tape and taped it firmly across her mouth.

She glared at him, not willing to give him the pleasure of watching her struggle.

"I can tell -- you really don't understand this now, do you?" He whispered in her ear, then stuck his tongue into her ear canal.

She could not hold back the shudder of disgust.

"You know, I can think of a much prettier picture than the boss had in mind," he murmured to his partner.

"We are supposed to follow the rules," he replied, walking over and turning on the gas jet to the old oven.

RD followed behind him, turning the valve back off. "Not quite yet. Now, you just go get that little old Polaroid. I'm gonna give ol' Steve McGarrett a picture he ain't gonna forget none too soon." He opened the belt of his pants.

-----------------------------

McGarrett's first reaction was nausea. For a moment he thought he'd vomit all over his mahogany desk. Duke stood before him anxious and drawn, observing how pale Steve had become.

"You all right?" he asked.

He couldn't speak. A child had delivered the picture in a sealed envelope. Innocence used to bring such atrocity. "See if the boy can recognize any of the mug shots," he managed to utter, gesturing to the little boy sitting at Jenny's desk swinging his feet and munching on a peppermint hard candy. Steve knew that as appalling as it was to photograph a rape in progress, Lori had been alive in the picture, but then, Frank had been alive for at least a short time after the picture of him had been taken, too. This one was labeled simply: #2. "Nothing on your son?"

Duke shook his head. "The FBI has a wire tap set up. There's been no call. Steve, I don't know what to do."

McGarrett refused to admit he didn't either. Keep doing something; there has to be something. "I spoke with Inspector Vickers in Chicago a few minutes ago." Steve placed the picture face down on his desk next to the one of Frank. "It appears we could be dealing with the Caputo Family."

"The Caputo Crime Syndicate?"

Steve nodded. "The FBI reports they are gone, both of them. They booked a flight to Honolulu the day before yesterday. Vickers thinks they want very much to add the islands to their operation. It fits their mo." He tapped the photos. "They intimidate, demonstrate their power by attacking law enforcement. In Cleveland they mailed the police chief his detective's head in a box. But there has never been more than circumstantial evidence -- until now. They won't get away with this one," he promised himself as much as Duke. "Not this time."

Duke had paled at the mention of the decapitation. He could not help but connect the grizzly act to the welfare of his son.

Steve read the expression. "We'll find your son, Duke. The FBI is already working this. This island isn't that big. We'll find him. You have my word on that."

Jenny stood in the doorway, anguish in her eyes. "Steve." She held out a plain envelope with shaking hands. "It was on the floor in the lobby downstairs."

With a sinking feeling, Steve accepted it carefully. They would, of course, dust it for prints, but many people had handled it. He knew it would not be likely to reveal anything. Noting it sealed, he cut it open carefully with a penknife. "Oh no," he whispered. "Truck." Truck had been almost hung, rope around his neck, stretched so that standing on tiptoe he could still breathe. There was a look of panicked fear in his wide eyes. The coroner later confirmed that as long as he'd stayed on tiptoe he'd stayed alive. When he grew too tired, he had collapsed and strangled.

-----------------------------

The door slammed as Anthony entered the hotel suite. "I told you there were risks here, Gino," he announced angrily.

Gino pulled his sunglasses down from his eyes as he reclined on the sofa on the terrace. "What has happened?"

"FBI."

"Already?" He looked genuinely surprised.

"And where they go, the Organized Crime Commission follows."

"I don't understand," Gino murmured. "It has not even been twenty four hours--"

"We had two gooks kidnap a teenage kid instead of his dad."

Gino scowled. "Preposterous. You know who they are. Make an example. And see that the boy is found alive, but cannot identify anyone. That may take off some of the FBI pressure."

"It won't. They smell blood, Gino. We should just get out now."

Gino snorted. "I think not. What message would that give to the Kumu? Remember why we are here."

"Fat lot of good it'll do if we go to jail."

"The game," Gino murmured quietly to him. "The game. We play the game. We will let this McGarrett win a round--give them the boy. He will feel confident, like he is in control." He smiled.

"Gino, this isn't like Chicago. There isn't an international border just miles away. We can't hop into the truck and zip across state lines. We're in the middle of the damned Pacific Ocean. There is nowhere to go!"

"Tony," Gino said gently, "you worry too much. It's not healthy for you. If you are concerned, go buy a boat."

"A boat! You really don't understand!"

Eugene grabbed the younger man's elbow. "I understand the mind of McGarrett. I know that the man will do anything to protect his people. And he has an insatiable desire for power. Not the power like you and I seek; the power to control his destiny. And right now he is losing that. He is hurt, angry, filled with righteous rage. He will make mistakes." He picked up a glass of iced tea and sipped it placidly. "Go take care of that boy."

-----------------------------

Water splashing into Danny's face brought him into a shocked consciousness. For a split second, he experienced disorientation then the reality rushed back. The man with the now empty canteen tossed it away.

Danny attempted to move and quickly discovered he was staked spread-eagle to the ground in the full hot sun.

"I wouldn't wiggle too much if I were you," the other man remarked. "There's an extra surprise for whoever finds you."

"Why?" Danny demanded bitterly. "What's this all about?"

The man who'd had the canteen grinned now, coming close. "Let's just say that a man is known by the company he keeps. You've hung with some bad company."

Danny didn't respond. The face of Lani's murderer so close placed him past words. Lani! My God! My poor Lani! ďIíll find you no matter how long," he finally uttered, hatred dripping from his tone.

He chuckled, scooping up the shotgun. "Yeah?" he shouldered it, "Well, I guess I'll see you round then." The two men disappeared into the brush.

Danny tested his bonds. His arms were tied so tightly circulation was partially cut off. The ankles were almost as tight. The skin of his bare chest, arms, and face already felt aflame from the sun. Insects buzzed around the bloody wound in his hair and he was helpless to deter them. Who did those thugs mean? Certainly not Keith Robinson. An icy realization froze him in spite of the terrific heat. McGarrett. It has to be. Somehow he is responsible for this annihilation of the only joyful life I have ever known. Even now he reaches out and destroys the one thing that mattered to me. He forced his mind to realize that if this horror was related to Steve, McGarrett would certainly feel the pain. Steve was always a man of honor and integrity. And McGarrett will come. The Earth may stop spinning, but he will arrive here to attempt to exact vengeance. Except this vengeance is mine. He could feel a lump under his back, digging into the flesh. They have used me to kill Lani. They will attempt to use me again to kill a rescuer. And he knew he'd been booby-trapped.

-----------------------------

Lori lay on the floor, semi-conscious, shivering in shock. A small remnant of her intellect kept urging her to do something, fight, and not just let them have their way. At first, it was just RD. When she tried to resist, he'd struck her over and over and, with her hands bound behind her, she was unable to defend herself. So she had squirmed and kicked. In the end, all her efforts were useless. Every moment of that first rape was etched upon her mind; the brutality she could never have imagined; his callus partner cheering and taking pictures. Then they had traded places.

Time had stopped. She could have laid on this filthy concrete floor a day, a week, it didn't matter. There was no reason for what was happening. She wanted desperately to rally herself because she knew her own wits were her only escape, but she could not. Curled on her side in a fetal position, hands to taped behind her back, new dread washed over her as RD came back to her.

He stood towering over her, grinning in a stupid fashion. "You know you're going to die," he said quietly and squatted down. He brushed the hair back from her bruised face and looked into her eyes. "Any last requests?" He gave a chuckle.

She just returned a cold glare. Just kill me.

"Well, for the record, it never was something personal." He rose and gave her a quick kick to the head to knock her out. Better for her than to slowly suffocate, he convinced himself. "You ready?" he called to his partner who called back a yes. He walked to the oven, turned on the gas jet and they left.

Lori remained still for another minute, then, certain they had gone, slowly opened her bruised eyes. The odor of gas was already permeating the air. It took all her strength just to get to her knees. She tried to breathe and the effort ended in a spasm of coughing as her body attempted to reject the poison. She nearly passed out as she staggered to her feet, then stumbled in the direction of the door. Is it even a door out? She turned backwards to try to open the door with her taped hands. The heavy natural gas fumes reached the pilot light to the hot water heater. The explosion shattered the small cottage.

-----------------------------

McGarrett raced into the emergency room, Duke at his heels. "Where is she?"

The receptionist looked up at him. "Excuse me?" She seemed unimpressed.

She's seen it all at one time or another, Duke thought.

"Lori Wilson." McGarrett snapped out his badge.

Still unimpressed, she pointed to the waiting room where clusters of people were staring at the news broadcast on television. "Have a seat. I'll let you know."

"Now wait a minute!" he roared.

"Steve," Duke said gently. "All we can do is wait for them. They've got their hands busy in there right now."

He understood Duke's reasoning, but still did not like it. He moved off to stand along the wall. The meteorologist was discussing the hurricane that was expected to brush past Honolulu. Things were going to get wet over the next day or so. What does that mean for my people? Certainly nothing good. Did Caputo plan on the weather's help? These storms are unpredictable, they sometimes turn and never come close. I need to call Tahiti again. They didn't give a recent report. No word from the Coast Guard. Lori is alive! He tried to console himself with that. He knew nothing else, but there was hope.

"McGarrett." The doctor stuck his head around the corner.

He was to the doorway in a single step.

The doctor directed Steve and Duke into the inner hallway of the emergency room. The white linoleum floor and sky blue tiled walls were antiseptically clean in spite of all the gore that frequented them regularly. The smell triggered the eight-month-old horror of Danny's shooting and Steve shoved the memory back behind an mental door and locked it.

"May we see her?" Steve asked anxiously.

The man frowned. "She is in very serious condition. There are second and third degree burns over 45% of her body--mostly chest and arms. Fortunately, she must have turned her head just as the blast occurred." He demonstrated by turning his own head. "The left side of her face is almost burn free." He dropped the volume of his voice. "She was also raped."

Steve thought he had prepared himself for that, recalling the photo, but it still hit him like a blow to the stomach. "We had reason to suspect that," he murmured.

A clerk at the station called out. "Is there a Duke Lukela here?"

He turned. "Here."

She waved the phone at him and he crossed to the desk, leaving Steve with Lori's doctor.

"Several times," the doctor added from his earlier statement as though there had been no brief interruption.

Steve blinked and flexed his jaw muscles to contain his fury. "May I speak to her?"

The ER physician knew of McGarrett's reputation and it touched him that the Man of Iron had not demanded the right to see his injured officer. "She's pretty badly torn up. The burns are severe. She's in shock. I doubt you'll get anything from her, but it won't hurt to try."

He directed Steve to the small cubicle and they stepped behind the curtain.

Lori lay on the gurney, the brilliant lights glaring off the mass of white dressing material that was spread over most of the exposed portions of skin. A nurse stood by her side pouring solution over the dressing on the right side of her face. The dressing extended over her right eye.

Dear God, could that doctor have forgotten to tell me about her eye? Steve stepped close by her left side. "Lori," he whispered gently.

She opened her left eye, but said nothing.

"She's received a lot of morphine," the nurse offered kindly. "She wonít remember any of this."

If only she wouldn't remember the last day. "Can you tell me anything about them?" he asked.

Her swollen, burned lips carefully forced out the two letters. "RÖD."

"RD?" he repeated. "Is that a name, Lori?"

Her eyes closed and she drifted out of consciousness.

Swallowing back his own jumble of anger, fear, dread, and relief, McGarrett stepped back through the curtain. He wanted to question the doctor further, but Duke was just hanging up the telephone. There was a look of relief on his face.

"They've found him."

McGarrett did not have to ask who 'him' was. "Is he all right?"

"He's at St. Francis Hospital."

-----------------------------

Duke was ushered immediately into the room where his wife already sat by the bed clinging to the hand of their recovered son. She looked up at her husband, tears of relief wet upon her face. He could feel his own eyes smart as he viewed his son break into the smile he'd known for so long. Forgetting how young Sam now shrugged off such acts, Duke gripped him in a tight embrace. The teenager clung to his father, returning the affection, the pride of youth somehow unimportant at this moment.

Steve had again, been reduced to waiting outside. This time, however, an FBI agent met him.

"Mark Lawson," the man introduced himself. "Wish the meeting was under more pleasant circumstances, Mr. McGarrett."

He nodded. "You waiting to speak to Sam Lukela?"

"Oh, I already have. I wanted to brief you."

McGarrett did not usually want his information second hand. He summed up this agent quickly. About thirty, tall, muscular, blonde hair and blue eyes, he wore his gun on a shoulder harness beneath under his jacket--left-handed from the side it was worn on. He had a wedding band on his fourth left finger, and a college ring on the right hand from Georgetown University.

Little did McGarrett suspect that Lawson was completing the same analysis on him. Graying, but he takes care of himself. Could probably outrun me in a pinch. Gun in a shoulder holster on the left--he's right handed. Unmarried. He is terribly tired. He is too exhausted to carry this through. Yet, at the same time Lawson had been well briefed on Five-0's ability to take care of their turf and advised never to cross Steve McGarrett.

They stepped aside into the empty snack room adjacent the waiting room. "May I say, Sir, you are something of a legend," Lawson offered.

"Cut the crap," Steve answered. He instantly regretted the statement. He's trying to find the safe ground. I didnít help any. We are on the same team. "I'm sorry, Lawson. What did you learn?"

He nodded, instantly brushing the event aside. "We received an anonymous tip that Sam Lukela was in a bus behind the Hawaiian Tours bus barn. Bus number--" he flipped a sheet, "--79."

79, as in 1979. Last year when Danno was shot. Coincidence? Maybe.

"He was tied up, blindfolded. Apart from being scared to death, he's fine."

Fine? "Hardly fine, Lawson."

"Well, not physical injured. Certainly nothing like Wilson. There was a note pinned to his shirt. It's in the FBI lab now. Read: 'Our error: you win this round.'"

Steve wished the note was not with the FBI, but did not object. It's some kind of a ghoulish game. They see this as some kind of competition, a sport. He gazed out the waiting room window into the night deep in thought. "What do you think, Lawson?"

"Hell of a mess," he remarked.

"Anything more productive than that?" McGarrett snapped back.

He pursed his lips. "I work kidnapping. The Crime Commission team is due in here in a day or two. But this isn't routine kidnap stuff--this motive isn't extortion. They're having fun with this."

Fun? The idea of the Caputos laughing as Truck strangled or Frank bled to death was incomprehensible. "I'm going to see the Caputos. You've got their local address, right?"

"Of course, the Sheraton on Waikiki, but what are you going to do? Surveillance says they haven't gone anywhere since this morning when Anthony went out to buy a newspaper in the lobby."

"Just going to talk. Want to come along?"

-----------------------------

Anthony turned down the movie that was playing on the hotel HBO when the knock came at the door. It was nearly 9:00 p.m. There were strict orders for none of the team members to return here no matter what. "Gino," he called back into the bedroom, "we got company."

"Well, don't keep Mr. McGarrett waiting," Gino replied, buttoning up his shirt.

Anthony's mouth dropped in shock.

"Think, Anthony, who else would come at this time? It's all right, really. The next play of the game."

Trembling slightly, Anthony opened the door and revealed a tired, yet rock hard McGarrett flanked by Lawson of the FBI. Both showed badges.

Gino stepped forward. "Welcome, McGarrett. I know who you are, no need for badges here amongst friends."

Friends? I'd like the strangle the little bastard on the spot. "Donít be too clever, Caputo," he commented bluntly, stepping into the room and quickly scanning it for everything visible.

"A drink?" Caputo offered. "Oh, that's right, you donít drink." He took a sip of his gin and tonic.

"You seem to pride yourself on knowing some things about me," he observed.

"I am on vacation, McGarrett, but I read. The Hawaiian Islands are a booming industry in markets for the Far East. I may check into buying into a shipping company before I leave."

"I donít think the local teamsters will be interested," McGarrett replied. "They like to keep things-- local."

He shrugged. " We shall see. I can only make my best offer."

"Which is?"

He smiled broadly. "Uh-uh-uh. Trade secrets, McGarrett. Never know when the competition might be listening. I pride myself on knowing what the needs are of an area and understanding how the competition thinks and strategizes. And I always win."

McGarrett forced a smirk of a smile. "Then I'd be careful if I were you. The law of averages would say you are bound for a tumble very soon. After all, you already have made two small errors in your business dealings. There could be more." Gino continued grinning, but Steve noted that the smile had become plastered to his face. He isn't sure what I mean. He's afraid he doesn't know something. Well, I'm sure not gonna tell him. "I just came by to warn you, Caputo, there's a storm coming. Could be a very big storm." He and Lawson turned and left.

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End Part 2

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