Pretense of Justice
The HPD detective handed over the stack of statements to Ben as soon as the Five-0 officer stepped from his car. "Glad this mess isn't ours," the detective commended.
Ben did not give him an answer, noticing that Hans Andersen was on his way out of Moreland's trailer and headed right for him. "Here it goes," Ben remarked to Danny who was exiting the passenger side.
"You!" Andersen declared pointing at Ben. "You're the officer in charge here! I want you to tell your superiors that we have to get rolling on this project. My producer is breathing down my neck."
Ben calmly started towards the hotel. "Mr. Andersen, we are moving as quickly as we can." He paused to glance at the yellow taped area.
"What the hell does that mean?" Andersen declared.
"It means we are doing all we can," Danny echoed.
Andersen glanced at him, then dismissed him and focused on Ben. "I need to shoot tonight."
"I'll talk to McGarrett, but I wouldn't count on it," Ben answered.
Hans made a tight fist. "No -- I WILL shoot tonight."
Ben and Danny left him behind and crossed the old Victorian lobby to the conference room where a long table and several chairs had been placed. There was an HPD video camera on a tripod pointed in the direction of the table. Everyone had declared that the movie team needed to not be dragged down to HPD or Five-0 for questioning. This was the compromise.
"Did we find that actor kid Rickie?" Danny asked.
Ben nodded. "He's first on the list."
Moments later, Rickie Mattingly, accompanied by his father and someone looking remarkably like an attorney entered the room.
"Rickie Mattingly?" Danny asked.
The boy smirked, as though everyone should have known his face. "Yeah. I wasn't here, I didn't see anything."
"Have a seat," Ben advised, not offering chairs to the adults.
Danny glanced at the nearly empty notepad before him. "You missed your call this morning."
Rickie slumped in the chair and shrugged. "This is Hawaii. I wanted to see some of the sites."
Danny nodded. "Where did you go?"
He gave a grin. "The beach, man."
Danny noticed that there was no effect of sun on the fair boy's skin. "Alone?"
"You don't have to answer that," the lawyer piped up.
Damn, this kid is fourteen. "Rickie, if you want to establish an alibi, you will need to provide us a way to prove where you were," Danny said quietly, keeping one eye on the lawyer.
Rickie did not look the slightest concerned. "I was with a chick."
Danny nodded, making no comment.
Rickie burst into a broad grin. "Screwing."
Neither Danny nor Ben registered any emotion, but Ben cast a glance at the boy's father who had broken out into a sudden sweat. Did the Dad know? Ben wondered. It probably does not have a bearing on the case, but I should try to get to him later.
"Does the chick have a name?" Danny asked.
Rickie blinked. "Not sure she told me."
This time Danny did look at Rickie's Dad. Did the dad take the kid to a brothel? Does he know that he is contributing to the delinquency of a minor? He shifted his gaze back to Rickie. "I understand that you may want to protect her -- we will be discreet, but it would help you if we could talk to her."
"Help me? Do I need help?" Rickie asked, giving a little more attention to the matter at hand. "Damn, Ronnie took the plunge. No big deal here. Everybody knew it was coming."
"Rickie," the dad snapped.
"Well, it's true. I mean, he was all messed up."
"In what way?" Ben asked.
"He was all washed up. Nobody wanted him anymore. That's the way it is here, you know. One day you're in a Ferrari, the next day you can't make your rent on Vine Street." Rickie chuckled. "Ronnie was a fat slob and he was sucking on Ally."
"Rickie," his dad mumbled nervously again.
"Was he part of the cast?" Danny asked.
"Yeah - one of those 'sure-to-die' parts. Eats it in the first scene. Don't know why they bothered bringing him to Hawaii. Could have gotten a hippo to do the part or a fat Hawaiian dude."
Ben was watching the anxiety level rise in the father with interest.
"Can't you shut him up?" the father grumbled hotly to the lawyer.
Danny watched Rickie for a moment. He's enjoying stressing out his dad. This is a game for him. He doesn't realize he's playing himself right into the most likely suspect. "Did you see Ronnie today?"
Rickie made a face. "Why? No, I don't eat breakfast, so I wouldn't have been witness him at the feeding trough this morning. I just got up, checked in with the manager and took off."
"And your dad?"
"He was with you?"
Rickie cast a sardonic grin in his father's direction. "Pop? With me? Hell no. He was out drumming up some smack -- weren't you, Pop?"
The father crossed his arms and rolled his eyes.
"I really need to advise you that you need to allow me to speak for you," the attorney declared. "Officers, I would like a moment with my client."
Danny gave a slight smile. "I imagine you would." He rose, taking a moment to locate the cane, and he and Ben headed for the door to the lobby. "Five minutes."
By the check in desk Danny glanced at Ben. "Nice family values."
McGarrett waited until the waitress had delivered the drink order: fruit juice for himself, a Seagrams Seven-n-Seven for Moreland. The patio was quiet, only a few guests who were far away from their corner; privacy ensured by a team of uniformed HPD officers and Moreland's three body guards.
"Thank you for the comfortable atmosphere," Jack Moreland commented respectfully. "It would have been a press field day if I'd had to go to the police station."
Steve gave a quiet smile. "The press is a major concern of yours."
"They say just about anything to grab headlines -- truth is only relative." He took a sip of his drink.
Steve pressed the record button on the small battery-operated cassette recorder. "For the record: your name please."
"John Jules Moreland," he said in all seriousness. "Everyone calls me Jack."
He is as charming as they say, Steve thought. "Please tell me what you saw this morning."
Jack's expression looked pained. "I received notice from Tina that we were bumping up a scene -- Rickie was a no-show for the one scheduled." He shrugged. "It wasn't a problem. I think it is my responsibility to be available." He took another sip of his drink and gazed at the panorama of the ocean view through the trees. "I went to my spot next to Ally. Hendersen called for action -- Ally had the first lines. She had just started them when I heard something -- or maybe I felt something --" he squinted. "The shadow fell maybe? Anyway, it startled me and I felt I had to protect Ally. The sound when he struck the ground ." He shook his head. "It was terrible." He stopped speaking.
Steve waited for a moment then continued. "Mr. Moreland, you think you heard something. What did you hear?"
"Call me Jack, please." He corrected. "I - I'm not sure. I just had a kind of -- sixth sense maybe -- something was happening that was dangerous. I did what came natural -- I protected Ally."
"Some would say natural was to protect yourself."
"Would they?" He shrugged. "Well, I guess I never thought of that."
Steve let silence rest for a moment. "Tell me about Ronald Wiseman."
Jack leveled his startling blue eyes on Steve without blinking, his actions suggesting he had nothing to hide. "Ronnie was a great boy. He was contracted to a sit-com Mamas Children for three years, finished when he was 13. Tough age to have your career wiped up already."
"Tell me more about that," Steve encouraged.
"Ronnie isn't -- wasn't -- a comic. He wanted to be a serious dramatic actor." Jack shook his head slightly and fingered the damp glass.
"And?" Steve asked.
Jack looked back at him in mild surprise. "It could never happen. His size, McGarrett. Big boys make find comedy acts -- but no one takes someone that big seriously."
A look of frustration flashed across his face. "They just don't. Ronnie couldn't get his weight under control, he did not want to do comedy -- that's it. I didn't make the rule, McGarrett, but I have to live by it like everyone else." He flexed the well-toned muscles of his upper arms. "That's just the way it is. You have to take care of yourself."
Steve paused for a moment, wanting to argue using names like Raymond Burr and Alfred Hitchcock, but chose not to. "So, what was Ronnie doing with Ally Stamper?"
Jack sighed. "I guess that's a question for Ally, isn't it? I just know they were seeing each other. She got him the bit part on this film. He was to shoot his lines today then go back to the mainland."
"Know any reason why he would kill himself?"
"Haven't you been listening? At 26 his life was a joke," Jack sounded more frustrated.
"Know any reason why someone else would kill him?" Steve eyed the actor more closely.
Jack blinked in surprise. "Kill him? Ronnie? Of course not. Everyone loved Ronnie."
That doesn't exactly fit with what he's been saying, but nothing he's said supports murder either.
The hotel manager had the kitchen prepare some cold trays and deliver them to the room that the police had taken over. Hans Andersen had been hounding forensics all afternoon about his set and Danny and Ben had both been out there numerous times to clarify what the lab needed. The finger food was a welcome distraction for the grim details of the day.
The sun was setting -- its brilliant red glow silhouetting the Victorian front of the Moana into flaming majesty. Andersen was making the most of what he had, taking shots of the building from a multitude of angles, pausing to gaze through the camera lens, then back at the setting sun. Between shots, he stood, hands on hips before the yellow taped area in thought.
Ben exited the hotel and approached him. "Well, I have some good news for you, Mr. Andersen. The forensics team as cleared the site."
Andersen lit up. "Really?" He gave the startled Ben a hug. "Magnificent. I must get Tina to assemble for the night shots -" he suddenly paused. "You will be here, right?"
"Me?" Ben asked. "I am assigned till tomorrow morning."
"Perfect. Perfect. I need you in a shot."
"You are just perfect. I need that native Hawaiian appeal. I'll have Tina fill you in." He hurried away.
"I'm on duty here, Mr. Andersen, not -" Ben called after him, but could see the words were not heard. He sighed. Great. He gave a sudden start and glanced at his watch. I never called Iliki! It's nearly 7:30! I was to have been there at 6:00!
Danny was sorting the statements into piles that represented where the viewer was in relationship to the body. He looked up as Ben skidded into the room and grabbed the phone. "Something happen?"
Ben did not reply, but quickly dialed the number and placed the phone to his ear. On the fourth ring it was answered.
Iliki sounds like she's been crying! I am such a heel! "Iliki, I am so sorry!" he started. "There was a jumper at the Moana Surf this morning -- I've been tied up ."
"My parents expected you," she said very quietly.
"Yes. I know," he replied feeling worse than ever. No point trying to excuse myself. I messed up. "I am sorry, Iliki. I should have called. I got distracted."
"They were very disappointed."
Do I say I'm sorry again? Ben was aware that Danny was watching. So is he going to have some choice remark to say, too?
"Ben, I need some time to think," Iliki whispered.
What does that mean? He bit his lip. I know what that means. "How can I make this up? Iliki, I love you." He could feel panic settling around his heart. This cannot be happening. I cannot lose her. I'll quit my job today.
"I know you love me." Her reply was hushed. "I -- I just need some time, Ben." The line went dead as she hung up.
Ben very slowly put the receiver down.
Danny pursed his lips, a gentle look on his face. "Not so good, huh?"
Ben exploded. "Just shut up about it!"
"Hey," Danny replied, bringing his hands up. "I'm your friend, remember?"
Do I? Just last night he was trying to tell me it wouldn't work. Now I have to admit he was right?
"Ben, I can handle things here. I'll stay -- you go see Iliki," Danny suggested.
"Hell with Steve. He'd say the same if he knew. Besides," he smirked, "my word's as good as his, isn't it?"
Ben gave a sigh of relief. "Thanks, Danny. You're a life saver."
"You just get this worked out with Iliki and her folks."
Large lights illuminated the side of the hotel, having been carefully placed to give the proper shadow effect that Andersen wanted. Rickie, Ally, Jack and the rest of the supporting cast were present.
"Seems like we should say something -- you know before we continue," Ally muttered to Jack.
"Would you like something said?" he asked her gently.
She looked up at him, her large sorrow filled brown eyes framed by her blonde pixie tail braids. "It would give Ronnie's life meaning."
Jack suddenly stepped forward. "Hans -- Hans, let's have a moment of silence for Ronnie Wiseman."
Hans looked extremely uncomfortable. "All right," he muttered and lowered his head. Everyone on the set did the same -- except one. Danny, looked from person to person and out across the spectators, hoping for some hint of a murderer.
"Okay!" Hans said for a few moments. "Let's get to work." He spun towards the set. "Where's my Hawaiian policeman? I need him here."
Tina looked at him blankly.
"That officer. He said he was on duty -- where did he go?"
"Did you need the Five-0 officer?" Danny spoke up.
"You?" Hans' face squinted in disgust. "You just will NOT do. The other man. Where is he?"
"He's off duty."
"Oh." Andersen paused. "Oh -- well ." He glanced back at his set. "I should sue him; I KNOW he just cost me the Oscar." He wandered back to his cast.
Danny shook his head and eyed the surroundings. There was an air of anticipation -- as though the spectators were waiting for the next body to fall. He noticed Ally's mother standing nearby and decided to use the opportunity to see what she could reveal. "Mrs. Stamper, I am Dan Williams -- Five-0." He showed his badge.
A pleasant smile creased her lips, although her attention never left what her daughter was doing on the set. "The pleasure is all mine, Mr. Williams."
"How is your daughter doing?"
"She was understandably upset -- she is all right now."
"Must have been an awful moment," he commented. "Her friend dying right in front of her like that."
Maggie Stamper raised one eyebrow. "It was terrible for all of us. Ronnie was a dear friend."
"Mr. Moreland told me that Ally and Ronnie were close friends."
She was gripping her hands together at her waist.
Something is happening here. "Is he correct, Mrs. Stamper?"
Maggie fired a glare at him. "What exactly are you implying?" she demanded, biting off her words, then, melodramatically paused, lifting a hand that clutched a small silk handkerchief to her forehead. "I apologize, sir. I am not myself today." Much more gently she added. "Of course Ally and Ronnie were close -- it was like a brother and sister. They had the same agent at one time. They made a movie together, The Anniversary Couple, a few years ago. Ally is close to everyone. She has a huge and loving heart."
Danny paused. Just how loving? What kind of loving? "Ally is, hum, eighteen, right?"
Maggie gave a stiff nod.
"But she looks like she's twelve. I don't know a lot of teen age girls, but most of them are well -- very aware of their -- physical appearance. How does Ally feel about her appearance?"
"Ally is a beautiful child," the mother answered coldly. "I don't expect you to understand. We call it 'playing down.' It is the fortunate actor who can play-down for a year or two."
If looks could kill, I would definitely be cashing in on my life insurance about now -- or my survivors would. "Well, I just don't see how ." He paused, feigning innocence. "She is a beautiful young woman .but she is so ..child-like."
"I think you are asking me where her boobs are," Stamper commented frankly.
He worked to keep his mouth from dropping. "Well -- yes. How does she look so young -- in every way."
Mrs. Stamper gave a small smile. Embarrassing her questioner was a triumph for her. "In the theatre we can do magical things. How we make up her hair, the color of make up, binding her chest -- it all helps."
"Binding -- is that painful?" A black hole of child abuse opened in the back of his mind.
"Of course not! I would never subject her to pain!" Maggie laughed. When Danny did not, she commented. "What does this have to do with Ronnie Wiseman's suicide?"
"Nothing," he admitted. "Just, I wonder: the world sees Ally as a little girl. Did Ronnie see her as a little girl, too, or as a woman?"
Ben had nearly broken the sound barrier getting to Iliki's apartment complex, then bounded the two flights of stairs to her third floor apartment, not wanting to wait on the elevator -- but now stopped cold before her door, hand poised over the doorbell. What do I do? What do I say? She said to give her some time to think it out. Should I just leave? I know she's angry at me. I don't know if I can handle this. Maybe I shouldn't push her right now. I could never forgive myself if I lose her over this. I should have quit Five-0 already. Is coming here a big mistake? He lowered his hand, pointer finger still extended. Maybe I should leave. Maybe I need to give her that time to think. No, I'm here -- I couldn't live through the night waiting. Just do it. Nearly as soon as he decided, his mind argued back not to, but his hand was already completing the action as he pressed the small button that melodically chimed inside.
He could hear her steps approaching the door and resisted the urge to run away. She is probably looking through that fish-eye right now -- trying to decide what to do. What if she doesn't answer the door? What if she does? He could hear the lock turning, the door starting to open. Will she be angry? "Iliki, I am so sorry," he blurted instantly.
She stood there just a second. "Ben?"
"Please forgive me. I've decided to quit Five-0. Please, nothing is more to me than you are." His words tumbled out filled with his anxiety.
"Come inside, Ben," she said quietly and motioned him to sit on the couch. She sat down beside him, stress creasing her lovely features as she twisted the engagement ring on her finger. "I know it wasn't on purpose," she started. "I know you did not intend to hurt me or embarrass me-"
"Oh Iliki, I am so sorry. Really I am," he began his apology again in all earnest.
She raised a finger to silence him. "Ben, I know you're sorry. I know you mean well. I just don't know I mean, I don't want you to have to choose between your career and me. That isn't fair to you."
"You're not. I've already made the decision" he almost interrupted.
"You see? I made you have to do that. That isn't right."
"No, Iliki, what isn't right is anything that keeps us apart," he said with conviction. "Nothing and no one is more important to me than you are. I don't know any other way to say this. I don't know how to make you believe it."
She searched his troubled face with her equally worried eyes. "Ben, maybe this just isn't right for us."
"I love you, what can be more right than that?"
"You are a romantic," she said bluntly. "Our lives can't be run that way."
That is her father talking. He must have popped a gasket when I did not show. I can just hear him saying all this! He doesn't like me. He must have loved it. "Why can't they be run that way?" Ben replied.
"Because ." She now hesitated. "It just isn't practical."
"Practical!" He ran a hand through his dark wavy hair. "What isn't practical is giving up the woman I love for a job I hate! It is you I love. Just you!"
Her eyes brimmed with tears.
Much to everyone's relief or disappointment, the evening's schedule went according to plan. At nearly 1:30AM, Hans wrapped it up for the night and the cast separated to their rooms.
Danny observed the lobby clerk locking the entrances to the hotel as the last of the cast headed upstairs to their rooms. It had been a long, hard day and none of them had enough energy left for horseplay -- fortunately. He was tired, but his leg ached and he did not have pain medication with him. Besides taking Vicodin on duty would not have been a good idea. He decided to go back up to the sixth floor and walk through the crime room again. Maybe something would come to him.
He took the elevator to the top floor, wishing he was jogging up the stairs. PT or no, I am getting out of shape in a hurry. He slipped behind the yellow tape and placed the key into the knob lock -- it swung back.
Instantly alert, he felt his muscles tingle with wariness. The door should have been locked. Placing the cane against the wall, he cautiously pushed the door the rest of the way open with his left hand, gun in the right. The darkness of the room yawned before him. Standing in the lighted hallway, he could see nothing and was very aware he was well lit to anyone inside the room. All was silent. Perhaps anyone who was here left. Or maybe no one ever was here and a forensics team was careless in leaving. The latter was not likely.
He took a step through the doorway into the room listening for anything beyond the racing of his heart, straining to see through the darkness. His vision began to adjust and he could see the stripped bed to the right, the open door into the bath to the left. The room seemed empty. He began to relax and lowered the gun.
A tremendous weight suddenly slammed him against the door jam, knocking the wind out of him and throwing him off balance. He staggered to regain composure as the door to the stairwell opposite the room closed. In a flash, Danny was after his attacker, already mentally filing what he knew -- the person was much taller than he, and heavier -- probably male. He burst through the door, hearing the footfalls scrambling down the stairs, just catching a glimpse of the person's jacket as he spun from view. Danny plunged down the steps, making the most of his good right leg by leaping several steps at a time, using the railing to vault himself forward.
"Stop! Police!" he shouted, not expecting the fugitive to really halt, but at least he was identifying himself. His voice echoed along the plaster walls. He made it down two runs of steps, actually thinking he was gaining on the fleeing intruder, when his hand slipped on the railing grip at the top of the fourth floor. His weight came down in full on his left leg, it held momentarily before buckling. Unable to get his right leg ahead quickly enough, he tumbled head over heels down the stairs and crashed into the plaster wall at the end of the stairwell.
He lay on the cold tile a moment, staring up at the high ceiling trying to assess his well-being. Nothing hurts. Good. I'm okay . Darkness closed over him.
End part 2