Pretense of Justice
There was a small cheer from the far side of the bar where the Los Angeles Rams had just scored their second touchdown of the game. In the back, the water was running as one of Andy's employees was washing out dirty mugs. Otherwise silence had settled around the booth of three Five-0 officers as Ben Kokua set the small black velvet ring box on the table.
"You're really gonna do this?" Danny Williams asked, not quite believing this wasn't a joke.
"Yes, of course I'm going to do this," Ben insisted. "I've known Iliki since high school, been dating her for three years. Don't you think it's about time I asked her to marry me?"
Danny snorted and took a drink of his beer.
"Don't mind him," Duke Lukela interjected with a smile. "Congratulations. I'm sure you'll both be very happy."
"Are you really gonna give up the early morning surfing? The late night movies? This---" Danny waved his arms around the bar. "She isn't gonna just let you hang out with us you know."
Ben gave a slight scowl. "It isn't about what she'll let me do."
"It isn't right now," Danny commented. "That comes later."
"Danny Williams," Duke broke in. "Where did you get just a negative view of marriage anyway? You don't see me complaining -- or Chin. And you've never been married!"
He sighed. "Are you trying to say that being married never interfered with your role as a Five-0 officer?"
"Of course it does," Duke replied. "And that's just fine."
"It's just .if you really love her " Danny seemed to be searching for the words, " it just seems better to, you know just keep a relationship, but keep your options open."
"Options?" Ben blinked in shock.
"Yeah .you know." He paused. "She making you do this?" he asked.
Ben's hands tightened around his beer mug. "And you have such a sterling history of long-lasting relationships that you're qualified to advise me?"
It was Danny's turn to hesitate in astonishment.
"Sounds like a little of Steve rubbing off on him," Duke commented trying to soothe the moment.
Danny set his jaw. "Is that so bad?"
Duke decided to change the subject. He grinned at Ben. "Let's drink to your -- and Iliki's -- health." He lifted the beer mug. They all touched mugs then took a drink.
Danny finished swallowing, then glanced back at Ben. "So -- did you tell Steve?"
Ben squirmed on the seat. "I haven't asked Iliki yet! I'd like to get married Christmas week. You, Steve and I usually share the call that week. You think he's going to mind?"
"He'll be thrilled for you," Duke responded in support.
Danny lifted an eyebrow. It was no secret that there had been a cooling between Steve and Ben. Not completely sure the cause, Danny had on two occasions tried to feel Steve out only to have the conversation shut down on him.
Ben glanced at his watch. "I'm outta here. I need to meet Iliki." He jumped before either of his friends could respond and was out of the door.
Danny shook his head. "It's started already."
Duke relaxed back on the seat. "You weren't very supportive."
"Supportive! I just don't think he's thought this all the way through is all," he answered.
"Or maybe you haven't," Duke said jokingly. "Maybe you need a few more hours in therapy."
"That's physical therapy," he snapped back, referring to the incident almost three months before that had resulted in the surgery to place a pin in his left femur. The compound fracture had been just part of the nightmare of his kidnapping and torture by the Stasi. Now it was little more than the scar on his thigh and something he chose to put away.
"Maybe that, too," Duke countered.
"I like Ben. I've seen a lot of cops have awful marriages," Danny said, nearly pouting.
"Is mine awful?"
"I don't know. You tell me."
"Well, I just think if you haven't tried it, don't knock it. And Ben needs you by him as friend -- especially when he breaks the news to Steve. Looks to me like you're being pretty self-centered here."
"Self-centered? I care what happens to him."
"You care about loosing a drinking buddy."
Danny shoved the empty mug across the table. "Kono left Ben will leave. I just know it."
Duke gave a quiet nod. "That is possible -- maybe even likely -- but Iliki won't be causing it." He paused and added. "And you won't be able to stop it."
"Iliki, come see this Dendrobium. It has a really unusual bloom," he called, trying not to burst into an excited smile.
"Oh?" She came over and stared into the flower. "Ben?" She picked up the ring. "Ben?"
He took her into his arms. "Will you marry me?"
She stared at him in shock. "Marry you? Is this for real?"
He nodded, anticipation on his face. "Will you?" My God, what if she says no? I never thought of that!
She continued to stare at the jewel in her fingers, unable to say a thing.
He carefully took it from her, slipped it onto her left ring finger, then planted a simple kiss on her lips. "I will be a very good husband," he promised.
She suddenly threw her arms around his neck. "I love you, Ben!" She opened her eyes to gaze at the ring on her finger over Ben's neck. Slowly she withdrew from the embrace. "You're really sure about this?"
"Of course I am," he answered, mildly irritated. That's what Danny said!
"I mean -- with Five-0 and all "
He gave her another hug. "Five-0 is my job, not my life. You, Iliki, are my life."
Ben arrived a work early the next morning, which was not his custom. Danny looked up from his cubicle as his friend entered. "Well?" he asked.
Ben grinned. "What do you think?"
He shook his head, a small smile in place. "Too much to pray she said 'no', huh? I guess it takes getting used to."
"December 27th -- got any plans?" Ben chose to let the back-handed remark go. Danny will come around. I just need to give him a little time.
"Not that I know of."
"Good I want you to be my best man."
Minutes later the entire Five-0 team was gathered around morning coffee in Steve's office for the briefing. It was normally a jovial time unless a pressing case was on their backs. It was the time Steve liked most -- he could be less official and more one with his team. He could tell right away that something was going on with Ben. There is always something going on with Ben. I wish he was more dedicated to his work. He always seems to be out to have a good time. He brings an air of the positive to the group, but sometimes I wish he spent more time on detail. He gave an inward grin as he noticed Ben adding sugar to his coffee twice. Very distracted this morning.
Steve set his contemplation aside. "There is a film crew from Twentieth Century Fox beginning production today," he announced. "The Governor is very anxious to keep them happy. He has spent a lot of time convincing them to film here and is hoping it is the start of more projects. The money will be good for the economy and he hopes it increases tourism." He walked over to a map on the wall. "They will be doing three days around the Moana Surfrider, then moving on to Maui for about four weeks. HPD is handling traffic issues. We are asked to coordinate with the secret service to make sure the stars are protected. One of their lead actors, Jack Moreland, has had some paparazzi difficulties lately. We don't want anything happening here."
"I guess wanting to be in pictures doesn't mean really wanting to be in pictures," Duke commented with a smile.
"Maybe so," Steve replied. "I want one officer on the site at all times. Danno, you need to work on the sub-committee report for Kaye. Ben, you've got today. Who knows, they might decide to cast you."
He laughed. "As long as they get my good side."
"Good, take the first twenty-four hours, then I'll get someone to relieve you."
"Twenty-four hours?" Ben asked in surprise.
"The studio assures us an on call area -- you're not expected to be at a station all the time, just on the premises. We can make it up with comp time." Danno wouldn't be worried about comp time and hours. Maybe it's one of the things that irritates me about Ben -- he lacks priorities.
Ben glanced at Danny. "Fine, Steve. I'll get on it." He took the opportunity to escape the room.
"What's that all about?" Steve looked from Danny to Duke to Chin.
Chin raised an eyebrow and glanced at Danny. Duke cleared his throat and also looked over in Danny's direction.
"What's what about?" Danny replied with an innocent expression. Dammit, Ben is leaving me with having to break the news to Steve.
"Ben seems -- preoccupied. Any ideas?" McGarrett said with remarkable calm, although beneath he was annoyed that even Danny seemed to be trying to dodge the issue. Just what is going on here. Is Ben planning to quit? I have suspected that right along. I like Ben, although I don't think he's aware of that. I just have a hard time dealing with his Hawaiian time values -- like Kono. He stopped his mind from revisiting Kono's departure from the Five-0 squad.
Danny exchanged glances with Duke and Chin. They are not going to help here.
Great. There is something -- and I am the last to know. Steve could feel the tension rising.
"Ben asked his girlfriend to marry him last night," Duke said quietly.
"He did? Did she say 'yes'?" Steve said. Is that all? What does this mean for the team?
"I don't know," Duke glanced again at Danny.
Danny shrugged. "I think so. He told me the date is December 27th."
"That's less than five weeks away. A bit sudden," Steve remarked. And in the middle of the Christmas week rotation. It figures. "Well, I'm glad it isn't something wrong. I'll express my congratulations to him later."
Duke mused a bit. He didn't even identify that Ben would not want to work a 24 hour shift the day after getting engaged. Maybe it's a good thing McGarrett never married.
Kalakaua Avenue in front of the Moana Surfrider had been converted into a mangled mass of cords, light stands, trailers and people. The block in front of the hotel had been cordoned off and, although the hotel manager had been pleased that several members of the film company were residing in his most expensive rooms and with the publicity this event was generating, he was still unhappy with the traffic that hampered his other guests. There were plenty of rubber-neckers craning for a glimpse of Jack Moreland or the other two big names -- Allison Stamper and Rickie Mattingly. The two teenage actors were to be carefully shepherded all of the time. Allison's mother was bonded both physically and emotionally to her side -- and it was obvious to Ben that the girl wasn't pleased with the arrangement. Although an adult companion for Rickie legally had to be present, there was no evidence of adult attention and he was free to wander both the set and Honolulu to the frustration of the director, Hans Andersen.
Andersen was Canadian by birth, but flaunted his Scandinavian heritage. He now stood in the hot sun, strands of his blonde hair plastered to the sweat on his face, his sunglasses perched uselessly on top of his head, face already red with sunburn and anger, hands on hips scanning the landscape for his child star. "Where is Rickie?" he insisted of the assistant director for the third time.
Hans' assistant, a young girl probably just out of school, wrung her hands in anxiety. "I can't find him -- he was just here."
"Delays cost us money, Tina," Hans snapped. "I want Mattingly found and tell him I will fine him if he misses a call again."
Ben watched from the sidelines, thankful that he had not followed his high school counselor's advice to go into the arts. A short acting career in the high school senior class variety show had been a huge success with his fellow students and he had seen stars. It had taken only two months and the notice from the draft board to dim them. Sometimes the road less traveled is less traveled for a reason, he mused.
Hans was shouting again, nearly jumping in a child-like temper tantrum, and the stage crew scampered around attempting to answer his bidding, adjusting lighting and microphones.
Jack Moreland came out of the air-conditioned trailer, a robotic-looking body guard on either side, and the set suddenly came to a halt. In his mid-thirties, six feet tall, extremely well-built with muscles rippling beneath the silk flowered aloha shirt, a perfectly tanned complexion, blue eyes hidden behind dark glasses and a brilliant white smile, Moreland seemed to create a wake of calm around him. He approached the director and spoke in a quiet voice. "Hans, I heard we were bumping up the scene -- I'm ready if you are."
Andersen seemed to hold his breath, gazing at Jack for moment. "Ah -- yes -- Jack you are just a wonderful person to work with. Thank you. Thank you!" He turned and screamed "Tina!"
Ben had become more alert with Moreland's appearance, gazing at the small sea of onlookers that had grown more animate with the arrival of the lead actor. There were cameras firing away amongst the group, but nothing that looked like anything more than tourists. The rooftops were clear.
Hans was wandering through the scene, instructing Jack, Allison and the extras about what he wanted as Tina scurried after them, taking notes to pass off to the crew.
Ben crossed his arms and leaned against the side of the trailer on the edge of the parking lot. I need to call Iliki and let her know that I can't meet her tonight. She will be disappointed. We were going to celebrate our engagement with her parents. Her folks -- this won't be a good way to prove my intentions for their daughter. Her mother is always complaining about me now. What will it be like later? Maybe moving to Maui would really be a good thing for us. I wonder if there is a phone around here somewhere. He turned his back on the action as he began searching for a pay phone.
There was an odd sickening thud of a sound followed instantly by Allison's screaming -- and shouts of horror and shock.
Ben spun around.
Hans was shrieking: "Cut! Cut! O my God!"
Allison was nearly completely enveloped in Jack's embrace -- he in turn had the two body guards shielding him. To Ben's horror the guards had weapons drawn. I did not know they were even armed!
It took a moment with all the other action happening, but then he saw the cause. The body of a man was literally splashed across the set, appearing to have fallen a great distance which he had not. The wing of the Moana Surfrider was only six stories, but the man had been a large obese person and on impact with the tarmac, the victim had burst open scattering blood and tissue for a twenty yard radius.
Attempting to take control before total panic ensued, Ben quickly grabbed a gaffer who was close at hand. "Go into the hotel and call this number -- tell them what has happened." He handed the man his Five-0 card. The man ran -- glad to have something to do. "Andersen -- get these people quiet."
Hans stared at him, mouth agape.
Ben snatched the director's bullhorn. "Please -- everyone -- everyone. Please move away from the crime scene." Did I just call this a crime scene! "Please, stay together and move off to the side here." He pointed to a shady place near the trailer and away from the onlookers. I need their statements, too. "No one leave." He turned his horn towards the spectators. "That includes you as well. Please, officers will be here in a moment and want to take your statements." He pointed to the camera men. "All your film is impounded as evidence." I know I should be more gentle, but I am alone right now trying to contain this. I don't know how to make sure we keep the evidence and still be warm and fuzzy.
Moments later, HPD, emergency medical people, Steve McGarrett and Chin Ho Kelley were all roaring into the parking lot amid the sound and smell of burning tires.
Chin went to the body as Steve approached Ben. "What happened?"
What happened? "They were starting the first shoot of the day when the guy fell, jumped or was pushed from the hotel," Ben reported.
Chin came over brushing off his hands. "Pretty big splash. I guess the weight makes up for the relatively short drop."
"What did you see? Did it look like a fall?" Steve asked.
"I didn't actually see the fall," Ben admitted with an inward cringe. "I think we have it on film."
Steve spun. "I want film from all the cameras!" He turned back to Ben. "I will check out the hotel. Get HPD coordinated on statements."
Andersen intruded. "Are you McGarrett?" He demanded of Steve.
"Yes," he replied, leveling a steely gaze on the arrogant director.
"How long is this going to take? We have a schedule to keep."
"Well, right now this may be a crime scene. I wouldn't plan on doing any filming for a couple of days." He hesitated. "Did anyone on your cast know the man who fell?"
Hans blinked. "I don't know. Didn't look."
"Would you be so kind as to see if you recognize him?" Steve asked. "If this was a suicide, diving into a shooting scene would be making some kind of statement. He may have known someone."
Regretfully, Hans allowed Chin to steer him towards the crushed body. "O jeeze," Hans murmured upon viewing the grizzly scene.
"I know it's disturbing," Chin said quietly, "but do you think you might be able to recognize him?"
The body was on his face, having landed head first. Most of the top of the head was crushed, the brains that had not scattered against the side of the building and the tropical vegetation were gleaming in the sun cupped in the remainder of the shattered skull. The victim was wearing jeans and a white shirt which was now red and torn. Intestines, part of one lung and jagged ribs were easily identifiable peaking out from under the side of the torso.
"I think I'm going to be sick," Hans whimpered.
Chin nodded without comment and directed him towards a trash receptacle.
Steve exited the elevator with the hotel manager at top floor of the Moana Surfrider into the quiet carpeted hallway of hotel rooms. The roof was tiled and an A frame style making it unlikely someone could access it -- especially a large person. He paced down the hallway, estimating within a room or two the possibilities of the dead man's launch point.
The hotel manager was not having a good day. First had been the traffic and congestion created by the film crew -- now the apparent suicide of a guest he could not recall. Do the police expect me to know every face that takes a room here? Tall, short, fat, skinny, they are all the same to me. The only fat I pay attention to is in the wallet. He wanted to have a more sensitive heart to the moment, but the impact on business was outweighing the guest's impact on the pavement.
McGarrett motioned to one door.
The manager knocked, then unlocked it. The room was empty, the bed neatly made. The window stood open, the light trade wind lifting the curtains gently. What was shockingly out of place was the red letters scribbled on the wall below the window.
Duke entered the rehab gym and glanced around for Danny. At mid-morning the site was pretty active with therapists in light blue shirts moving amongst their clients like coaches checking progress, admonishing laziness, throwing out words of encouragement.
"Eddie!" Duke spotted Danny's therapist.
"In the whirlpool icing down," Eddie answered the unspoken question. "Good job -- almost made it the whole time today."
Duke passed through the room into the tiled whirlpool area and saw Danny sitting, his left leg in the icy bath, staring at the seconds ticking off on the timer.
"You know it goes faster if you read a book or something," Duke remarked, recalling the ice therapy of his college football years.
Danny glanced up. "Three minutes to go."
"Well, then I guess I can wait that long."
"A four hundred pound guy took a swan dive out of the sixth floor of the Moana Surfrider into the movie set."
Danny gave a low whistle. "Casualties?"
"Except for the jumper, none. Looked like he'd dropped sixty floors instead of six."
Danny grabbed a thick white terry cloth towel, lifted his leg out of the ice bath and began to dry it.
"Timer didn't ring," Duke remarked.
"Don't care," he replied. "So if it's a jumper, why are we involved?"
Duke gave a small grin. "Cause we don't know for
sure it was a jumper. Steve wants you ASAP."
Steve had just finished brewing a new pot of coffee when Duke and Danny arrived. He never stopped feeling the cringe of anger when Danny arrived, supporting his left leg with a cane. I should have been able to stop what happened. Danny has never uttered a word of anger about what happened or about Marten Camp's responsibility. It would be easier to handle if he would just get mad.
Danny eased himself onto the couch in Steve's office and McGarrett delivered a cup of coffee to him. "Thanks, Steve."
As if intuitively aware that the meeting could commence, Chin appeared in the doorway.
Steve walked back to where he had placed the large corkboard beside his desk. On it was a picture of the eviscerated body of the jumper along with the floor plan of the Moana Surfrider hotel and a Polaroid of the writing on the wall. "Well, gentlemen, let's hope this one is short and clean. Our jumper's name is Ronald Wiseman, 26 year old former child actor of the sitcom Mama's Children." For effect, Steve put up the childhood photo of a smiling, chubby little boy.
"Him?" Chin lifted his eyebrows. "I remember him He was always a cute kid. Always wondered whatever happened to him after that series."
"Yeah, cute kid -- perhaps not so cute young adult," Steve remarked. "He was identified by Jack Moreland-" Steve added the actor's stock photo. "The director couldn't stop vomiting long enough to tell us if Wiseman was part of the cast. The assistant director, Tina Short, said he had an extra role and she had seen him in the building in the company of Allison Stamper the leading lady." He added both their photos. "Missing was the co-star Rickie Mattingly, which seems to be a common occurrence." He posted the young teen's photo in which Rickie looked very defiant.
"So Stamper has a connection to Wiseman?" Danny asked as he blew on his coffee.
"Apparently, but she was hysterical and they sedated her," Chin informed him. "Duke says everyone but Moreland and the missing Mattingly were on the set for at least fifteen minutes prior to Wiseman's death. Moreland was in his trailer."
The door opened and Ben entered. Steve nodded to him. "Just bringing Danny up to speed."
Duke glanced at his notes. "I have them double checking fingerprints in the room, but -" he shook his head, "-with Wiseman's size it would have been pretty hard for him to get out that window unless he was pretty determined. I doubt someone could have forced him out. The message was written in red sharpie marker -- could have been bought anywhere, even off the island."
"Did you find the marker?" Steve asked.
"No," Ben replied.
"So, what happened to it?" Steve glanced around at his team. "Wiseman decides to kill himself, leaves a one word message 'nevermore' then hides the marker before he dives? And it wasn't an accident where and when he landed. As Hans said himself -- shooting stops until we solve this."
They glanced around at each other.
"It's not a suicide, is it?" Duke finally commented.
Steve shook his head. "No. We are looking at a murder."
End part 1