IT'S HOW YOU PLAY THE GAME
By Peg Keeley
Steve entered the office and turned on the television. The eleven o'clock news was playing and the weather man had front billing tonight. Weather warnings were being posted; the leading edge of a typhoon was expected to come ashore by late tomorrow evening. The news people spent several minutes reminding the public of things to do to be safe.
Ignoring the voices, Steve examined the horrible polariod photos one at a time. He could remember Frank, always quiet, but quick with the jokes. His wife had not wanted them to move to the mainland, but the job had been too good to pass up. And Truck, one of the new kids on the team. Big, strong, intimidating, but he'd been the one who adopted the little kitten that had been abandoned in the Palace basement. The sight of the little gray kitten licking milk from a saucer on Truck's desk while the large Hawaiian sat placidly watching had been picture worthy. What of Ben? There's been no word. Kimo? Kono? Danno? Danno. God, Danno. There were times the image of the Royal Surf parking lot still haunted his dreams. I just wanted to keep him safe. I did not want to ever face that again. Maybe it was more for me than for him. Maybe this is my punishment from some diety. No, not some diety. That incident was carried big time, not just in the Islands, but on the mainland. News footage of that mad dash through the crossfire with Danno on my back was played for weeks. Just when I thought it was over, it all came back again at Chaney's trial two months ago. Everyone saw it--everyone. Including Eugene and Anthony Caputo. "They have launched this ghoulish game to prove they can beat me," he whispered to the wall. "The clue in the photo is that they can be saved if I reach them fast enough--but it is always impossible."
The phone rang and he jumped. As he lifted the receiver, he noticed the time was just before midnight. "McGarrett."
"Commander Thames, Coast Guard. I've tried to call you a couple of times. Thought I might catch you there late."
"Do you have anything to report?" Steve asked, hoping for a break.
"Your man, Williams, went up the mountain this morning and didn't come back. A local girl he was apparently engaged to is missing, too. He was supposed to go on some ecological sheep count or something. They didn't show tonight at her mother's place. Word is they aren't the type to hanky-panky out in the woods, if you take my meaning. I'm putting a party ashore at day break and Keith Robinson will organize the locals to help. It's not be big place, but the weather'll go fast."
"Thank you, Commander," Steve said, hollowly, as he hung up. It is too late. Whatever plan Caputo has made for Danno has come to pass. He is engaged. He never told me that. He never told me anything.
McGarrett awakened from the couch as a hand touched the doorknob to his office. He jumped to his feet as Duke stepped into the room.
Steve glanced at the digital clock. It was just past 5:00 a.m., the sun was just a suggestion beyond the buildings of Honolulu. "How is your son?"
"He's doing well. He was able to give us a little more last night. He said although he couldn't see anything, the man who put him in the bus was not one of the two that originally took him."
"How did he know that?" Steve dumped out the old coffee and started new.
"Says the guy was missing a finger."
"Really." It impressed Steve that the boy would have been that observant. "He's sure?"
Steve had spent time during the night creating one of his famous bulletin boards. The name of each missing person was posted, the photos pinned under each appropriate name. Under Ben Lukela's name he had written 'returned alive.' He now added the observation that he'd made about his final captor. "Who's out there with nine fingers?"
"Mahalo Lee. Walter King."
"Bring them both in."
"Got some good prints off the seat and the door handle of the bus," Duke added.
Steve nodded. The coffee was ready. Maybe this day would be better. "We must assume that Caputo knows about the error. I can just imagine his fury about his goon nabbing a 15 year boy instead of his 43 year old father. What do you think he'll do?"
"We are going to have a body or two."
He nodded. "Get some HPD people out looking in all the usual places."
Duke nodded. It felt good to have a plan of action.
Steve turned to see Jenny in the doorway, white-faced, an envelope in her hands. His brief moment of hope crumbled. In fury, he tore the envelope open. Inside was a photo of Ben Kokua standing on a dock, hands tied behind his back. He knew she was looking over his arm. Ordinarily she would never have done that. Ordinarily she would have already been back at her desk. Right now she was more than the secretary, she was a part of this grief and tragedy. "Tell Che I need this blown up. See if he can pick out any landmarks in the back ground."
She nodded, but hesitated to leave. He noticed her gazing at his bulletin board. Slowly, it occurred to him that she had a personal involvement here, too. "He's going to kill them all, isn't he?" she whispered.
"No," he answered from the bottom of his heart. "I'll see to it that this ends here."
Duke ducked out of the office on his way to HPD. Steve's response to Jenny seemed like blatant arrogance, but Duke understood it was a prayer.
The red sun slowly rose over Paniau peak of Niihau as Danny faced the start of his second day staked to the ground. The mosquitoes had feasted on him, flies were thick around the cut on his head and anywhere the dried, sunburned skin had cracked. His hands were swollen, there was little feeling in his fingers anymore. His mouth was torturously dry. The cramping in his gut was the premonition of the agony of dehydration and heat stroke to come. His mind ran deliriously through all kinds of events, but always came back to the moment of Lani's death. She trusted me and I failed her. She died because of me. It should have been me. I must stay alert or that explosive under my back will kill someone else. Maybe if I move enough, I can set it off. But all the attempts at movement had done nothing except start agonizing spasms through the cramped muscles. Then he heard something and caught his breath. Footfalls. Someone is coming. Is it help? Maybe those bastards have come back. There was a strange snort and he opened his eyes in the bring sun. A wild mountain sheep stood over him chewing on a weed. It leaned over and sniffed his face.
He uttered a shout of rage at the beast, it startled and darted away into the brush. Lani had loved the wild sheep even though they were destroying the vegetation. She had given many of them names and had some that would come at the sound of her voice. Was this one of her sheep? Lani! He again lamented her. I told her it would be all right. I should have done more. If I'd not known her, she would have lived. I never should have entered her life.
A vision of his past flowed around him. McGarrett had stood in the hospital room trying, without saying it, to impart to Danny that his Five-O career was over. "Consider doing what you once dreamed of--go back to school after that PhD. Be glad you are alive to achieve that dream."
"Why? Because you can't deal with my shooting?"
McGarrett had looked so
pained, so weary.
Those were the last words I spoke to him. And now Dan Williams understood the burden of the guilt.
The smell of the dump was enough to make one's eyes water. The white gulls hovered overhead as if suspended by invisible strands laughing angrily at the people below who were keeping them from their choice tidbits in the garbage.
Steve had expected to find a body. There had been four. Executed with one bullet to the head each. Their hands were tied behind them.
Bergman got up from his crouch over the last one and wiped his hands on a towel offered by a uniformed officer. "No question. Gunshot to the head killed each one. One of them struggled some first--he's got a bruise on his left cheek. Professional job."
"How long ago?" Steve asked, trying not to inhale the stench.
"Not all at the same time. These two," he gestured towards the bodies, "almost a full day ago. Rigor mortise, gas starting to fill the abdominal cavity. The others were not together. One was killed here, probably within the last six hours. The other was killed maybe twelve hours ago or so somewhere else and brought here. Notice how the blood settled to the front of the body. He lay face down somewhere for a while, then was moved here. He was on his back when he was found."
Steve nodded, noticing the man's tooled western belt with the letters embossed into the cowhide: RD. There will be no interrogation of Lori's assailants. After nearly two days, all we have four photos, some partial prints off a school bus, and a nine-fingered man.
Kimo was anything but a patient man by nature. Being bound, gagged, and blind-folded hadn't improved his spirits. His contact with the tire iron earlier had left him with two painfully broken teeth and an agonizing right arm he suspected was fractured. The forearm from elbow to wrist was swollen almost twice its normal size and his fingers were almost numb. In two days he'd been given no food or water. He'd lain on the floor listening and waiting for any opportunity to present itself. Nothing had emerged. The men holding him had said little in his presence. He wondered if Truck was here somewhere.
"Time to go," announced a voice and he felt someone tugging at the knot around his ankles. One of his captors pulled him to his feet and shoved him towards the door. He staggered blindly outside, disappointed at his weakness. He could sense wet fresh air. A storm was approaching. He was shoved roughly into the back of a van and he gave a cry of pain as he attempted to protect his injured limb. His head hit against something wooden. Car doors slammed. The engine burst into life.
"Weather's going bad," came a voice.
"We'll beat it," was the clipped reply. "I just hope they got that hole dug."
The other man laughed. "Let him dig his own grave."
Kimo felt his pulse quicken. The van slammed and banged over bumps and dips. He supposed it had gone off the road and was crossing open land. Several times it bottomed put, jarring him to his bones. Finally, it came to a spinning halt and the two men got out. They came around the back, opened the doors and Kimo heard them sliding out a heavy box. It hit the ground with a thud. One grabbed Kimo by the legs and none too gently pulled him out. He again felt wobbly and uncertain was they pulled him to his feet. He could feel the wind blowing against him and smell rain in the air. One of his captors reached out and untied the mouth gag, then the blindfold. He blinked against the light, even in the late overcast afternoon. He quickly viewed his surroundings. A hillside , he could hear but not see the highway. Which highway? He cursed himself that he didn't know the Oahu well enough to identify landmarks better. Where's Diamond Head? He glanced around, then forgot about placing his surroundings. He felt a sickening spot in his stomach as his gaze fixed on the six foot long crude box lay open in a hole about four feet deep.
The deeply tanned bald man who had loosened the blindfold gave a stuccotic laugh. "Welcome to your final resting place."
Kimo noticed a small vent tube that lay along the dirt. They don't want me to die too quickly. They're gonna give me air. "Do you expect me to just calmly step into that thing?" he remarked.
"You know, Carew, for a guy in your situation, you aren't too smart," he answered. His partner brought up his gun and cracked Kimo over the head. He collapsed and they dropped him into the box. "Hey, wait a minute, I don't want to deny him the full sensation of being buried alive," the one with the gun remarked. He squatted down next to the hole and hit a cigarette casually...
...Kimo came around just about as Caputo's man finished the smoke. "Well, Carew," he tossed the butt away, "wanted to give you a last look at the world." He laughed. They pulled over the wooden cover and slid it into place.
Kimo felt panic rise as darkness engulfed him and he heard them hammer in several nails. Then came soft thudding sounds, covering the box and filling the hole with dirt. In pitch blackness, he felt helpless, feet tied, one arm useless. "Well," he muttered to himself, "this may really be it."
Knowing he'd not die from lack of air, he tried to focus on a way to escape. He wondered if he'd die of thirst or lose his sanity first. He tried to kick the box, but it was futile. He yelled for awhile, but knew that too wasn't productive. He decided he might have the rest of his life to think of a way out.
Steve circled the bulletin board, studying the photos that had been collecting. Beneath Lori's, he'd added the report about the two dead men that had been identified as her attackers. The other two he concluded were the careless souls who had snatched Duke's son. On investigation, one of the nine fingered men, Lee, was in jail. That left Walter. There was an APB out for him. The lab examination on the photo of Ben had provided little except what they already knew. The marina was on Maui. The photo taken this morning some time close to nine. What did they plan for him? Drowning? Where and how?
The door burst open an unwelcome voice shouted, "McGarrett!"
He spun in anger at the sound. Not now, not him. "What do you want, Alika?" he snapped at the Kumu king.
Tony Alika raised his hands in a gesture of peace, silver rimmed glasses shimmering in the light. "Only an offer of friendship, McGarrett. An offer of help."
"Why should Five-O need Kumu help?"
He chuckled. "Oh, come on, McGarrett. Everyone knows what's going on around here. Caputos are cleaning the floor with you--you haven't even got a piece of evidence to tie them in. Time's against you."
"What do you know, Tony?" he demanded in controlled anger.
"I want to help, McGarrett. Do you hear me? Help."
He shook his head slowly. "Kumu help? What's in it for you?"
"McGarrett," Tony Alika said peacefully, quietly. "Caputos are trying to muscle in on my turf--you know? Your turf is my turf so to speak. They're making us both look the fools here."
McGarrett glared at the implication. "Alika, get out of my office."
"Now, wait, wait. You need your men back--hopefully alive. I could loan you eyes--ears--my soldiers to sniff them out. I don't even care of I get the credit--publicly. You just let us work a little more freely when this is over."
"Five-O doesn't need help--especially from a snake like you, Alika. If you know anything tell me now or I can arrest you for obstructing justice. Do you know something or is this a lot of hot air?"
Alika gave a shrug and disinterestedly pulled an envelope from his suit jacket pocket. "Came to me--addressed to you."
Steve glanced at the heading. It did in fact read in care of Alika. The envelope had been opened. He glared at Tony who shrugged again. The photo was of Kimo lying stretched out in a box. Steve's pulse started to race but he presented a cool exterior. "That's it?"
"Your man, Carew there. He's always been my least favorite. He's got no class. But to bury him alive--" He shivered.
"Get the hell out of my office."
"McGarrett! They included a note to me. They said I'd be next!" Tony suddenly blurted.
"Then get out of here and put some of those soldiers you think so highly of to work protecting your hide."
Alika hesitated a moment. "I'm a citizen! I want police protection!"
Steve gave a sly smile. "I thought you were giving me help. Now you want my help?"
Tony's face was red with frustration. "These men are animals, you hear me? Animals! We need each other McGarrett."
"You are a fool, McGarrett!"
"And close the door behind you."
Frustrated, but deciding Steve meant it, Tony turned away--shutting the door as he departed.
Steve snatched up the phone and dialed HPD. "I need every K-9 officer you have. They've buried Carew alive and we don't have much time before the rain sets in."
The small outboard boat bobbed and rocked violently in the choppy seas. One of the two men holding Ben developing incapacitating seasickness. His partner attempted to pilot the craft and watch Ben at the same time. Clouds were starting to thicken into a boiling brown green overcast.
"We've gotta get this boat to port," the sick one pleaded.
"Follow orders first," the other remarked,
Ben tied hand and foot and lashed to the railing aft could also see the signs. In less than an hour the edge the hurricane would be upon them. Their plans for him were not clear, but it did not look good. He could not get a heading without sun or stars but knew they'd left Maui headed towards Oahu and assumed they were still on that coarse. His first guess was they might be meeting a smuggler.
"Okay," the one on the helm said shortly, "these are the co-ordinates."
The sick one looked around. The visibility had diminished to less than a hundred yards. "We're nowhere, man."
He shrugged and, handing him the gun, went back to untie Ben from the railing. "Here's where we part company."
"You're just gonna throw me overboard?" Ben asked in disbelief.
"Yeah. As I remember it, you used to be quite a swimmer. Almost to the Olympics once. Maybe you can swim to Honolulu."
"With my hands and feet tied?"
He laughed. "That's the idea. Unless you'd like to try it with a bullet in your gut, too."
The other man raised his head, sicker than ever now that the boat wallowed in the surf. "You can't do that."
"Following orders," he snapped.
"Well, Caputo didn't foresee a hurricane. Give him a chance."
"You wanna join him?"
The sick man staggered aft, a small knife in his hand. He made his way to Ben, cut off the bounds on his hands and feet. "That's the best you're gonna get. Now jump in or I'll shoot you myself."
Ben glanced at the turbulent sea, put one leg over the side. The seasick captor shoved him in the back and he hit the salt water with a splash.
They revved up the motor and sped away into the thickening fog. Ben kicked off his shoes, treading water for a moment. Almost instantly he lost sense of direction as the mist rolled across the water's surface. Can it be that the only hope I have is by using the hurricane as my guidance. Funny, what may kill me may save me. He prayed the sharks would be elsewhere with a hurricane coming. With slow strokes, reserving his energy, what there was of it, on two days without food, he allowed the current to drift him east. He was heartened with the knowledge that although he didn't know why this had befallen him, he at least knew who. The one man had mentioned the name Caputo. If he could get that to McGarrett, it might be what he needed.
Steve had mapped out parameters and sectors with the K-9 officers. "We won't have much time, there's a lot of island to cover. Just do the best you can." The K-9 officers gave their dogs the scent--an old work shirt of Kimo's--and the animals were off barking and sniffing under brush, over hillsides, down into gullies. Steve took his own sector, seeking any signs of disturbed earth. He knew he was banking on Kimo being buried alive. If I am wrong, it will probably be too late. Even if I'm right, what are the chances of finding him alive? Not good. And Ben? He could see the breakers twenty to fifty feet high slamming against the coastline, blown before the imminent typhoon. Caputo, the great gamester. He ground his teeth in rage. I am running around out here and he's sitting back laughing. I can't catch him. He shoved away the despondent feeling of despair. I will not give up--I cannot give up. I'll take that bastard down with my bare hands if necessary. He recalled the words of his instructor back in the Navy during a class on tactics. "Every man has a point at which he will go beyond the law." I didn't believe him then. But I do now. The wind was blowing hard, the palms heaving back and forth, as loose dirt and old debris fell up in the air around him. He picked up a long stick, swiping at brush, jamming it into likely spots of earth. Darkness was falling pre-maturely as the boiling clouds raced towards Oahu, it would soon be impossible to search. He snapped on the flashlight. How much ground had he covered? A mile, maybe two? It was like finding a needle in a haystack. A large drop of rain splatted on the ground. Another on his jacket. Another and another. Within moments, he was in a blinding downpour. The dogs would have to turn back, the scent washed away. Bitterly, he also turned back to the highway.
As he reached his car, the wind and rain whipping viciously around him, he noticed something stuck under the windshield wiper in a ziplock plastic bag. Right away he identified the Polaroid picture. He ducked down into the dry car, yanked open the bag and saw Nick, tied and blindfolded in the photo. Unidentified hands were injecting a hypo into his outstretched arm. McGarrett buried his head against the steering wheel in agony.
The Coast Guard party and Niihauian searchers had to turn back as the storm hit. As they slogged through the rain and mud, it was Keith Robinson himself who found the stiff, cold body of Lani. In spite of the driving storm, Keith and his brother, Bruce, began to search again. Within thirty minutes, they again abandoned the hunt when a mud slide cut them off from the higher pass. They had come within 200 yards of finding Williams.
Having suffered through two days of tropical sun that blistered and baked his skin, he would now endure the cold, driving hurricane winds and rain. In passing moments of consciousness, he mourned the loss of Lani, cursed almost every other soul he knew, and tried to remain lucid enough to warn any rescuers of the grenade which was cutting deeply into his back. As the rain began to fall, it was a brief relief. Within moments, though, the ropes on his wrists and ankles were tightening up and the chill of the wind started the racking spasms in his muscles. All he could do was turn his head to one side to keep the driving rain from drowning him. He finally wished he would die.
End Part 3
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