Pretense of Justice
The team assembled in Steve's office just as the sun was going down. Neither Chin nor Ben wanted to be there, but both knew the team needed to update their facts. Besides Che Fong had more for them as well.
Steve had new coffee and Chinese carryout on the desk that he passed out to each of them. "How's Danno?" he asked of Chin.
"No change," he said quietly.
Ben glanced at his watch. I wanted so much to try to talk to Iliki today, but there has not been a spare minute. If I don't say something soon, she will walk out of my life for good. This mess with the film is all over the news, maybe she understands.
"Okay, gentlemen," Steve said as he shoved chop sticks into the last little cardboard container and sat down on the edge of his desk. "Che, why don't you show us what you have first."
He nodded and motioned for the lights to be turned down, then started the video. "The angle on the shot is just a little different from the ones we got from the film company." He was moving it ahead frame by frame. He walked over to the screen. "Here," he pointed to the upper corner, "is Wiseman's window. Watch."
Amazingly, two hands could be seen opening the window. There was no activity for several frames, then movement, something blurry. Ronnie's head, then shoulders. It looked like whoever it was had a hard time forcing the shoulders through the window. Then he suddenly fell limply and quickly head first.
"There." Che stopped the action. A hand was in the window, wrapped around to outside sill as though the killer had paused to check out the results of his action.
"Good work, Che," Steve praised him. "Can you make that image larger?"
"Already did." Che handed him a glossy black and white photo. "A ring on the middle finger of the right hand. Can't make out any detail. And, I sent a team back to dust the outside of the window sill. And," he handed Steve another report, "blood results from Wiseman. Elevated potassium in his blood stream."
"Potassium?" Steve looked at the paper. "Of course, wouldn't show up in a drug screen, but too much could stop a man's heart."
"Looks like he ingested it. Remains in the stomach content also contained high levels of potassium -- lethally high levels," Che commented.
"I saw that in a movie plot once," Ben remarked.
Steve scowled. "So he was poisoned with potassium which causes him to literally have a heart attack. Why didn't the killer just leave him on the floor?"
"Whoever it was wants to shut down the film," Ben guessed.
"Or maybe publicity," Duke remarked. "This film has been all over the news. Talk show hosts of lined up the director and the actors for the next couple of weeks over this. It's in all the tabloids, newspapers and television news. Free publicity."
Steve was in deep thought. "What movie, Ben?"
"You said you saw potassium used to kill a person in a movie once. What movie?"
He blinked. "I think it was Shadows of the Night."
Chin gave an incredulous look. "You watch those cheap horror flicks?"
Ben shrugged. "Yes, I'm pretty sure that's it."
"Didn't Jack Moreland star in that film?" Steve asked. He gazed over at his board where gradually names were being eliminated. He walked over and moved Hans Andersen and Jack Moreland to the top.
"But, Steve, they were both accounted for," Chin reminded him.
"I know." He added Rickie's father's name -- Larry Mattingly.
The lighting inside of the ICU hospital room had been subdued. It was late and Steve regretted that he had not returned sooner. Bergman had called at nine in the evening, nearly two hours ago, but the pressure of the case had prevented him from getting here before now. He was certain that Danny would understand.
The nurse admitted him into the room and it was a relief to note that the washing machine sized ventilator was sitting uselessly off to one side.
Steve approached the bed. "Danno?"
He slowly opened his eyes. "Steve," he bearly whispered.
"Doc tells me you are doing better," Steve said gently.
He did not respond.
"Everyone's rooting for you," Steve added. God it is good to see him aware and breathing on his own. Does he have any idea how close this was? Hopefully not.
"Can't feel my legs," Danny murmured.
"Can't feel my arms."
Steve managed a nod. "It'll get better, Danno. Just be patient."
Danny studied McGarrett's face trying to decide if he was being lied to and not certain. He was too tired to decide. I would say the same thing if it was Steve. I'd lie, too.
Steve in turn studied Danny's expression. He thinks I am lying. Am I? I wish I knew. But right now there is still hope and he needs to know that. "You've already beat the tough odds. It only gets better from here."
Ben? Why wouldn't Ben be okay? "Of course."
He looked away at the ceiling. "Not his fault." I am sure Steve is blaming him.
"It's all right, Danno." McGarrett's conscience twisted just a little. Didn't Chin tell me I needed to apologize to Kokua? That doesn't matter right now. The case and Danno are what matters.
Danny's eyes closed and for a moment, Steve thought he'd gone to sleep. Then he whispered: "Don't tell Aunt Clara."
Steve winced. "A little late for that, Danno. Sorry." Danny's mouth tugged down at the corners, it was difficult for Steve to know if it was disapproval or fear. He has just figured out how bad this is. Dammit, I didn't even call Clara after the Stasi incident. "Danny, she'll be here by late morning."
He nodded and looked away at the ceiling. "I'm tired." He closed his eyes.
Steve stood there for a few more minutes. Nothing quite like the pain of having been chewed out without him saying a word.
Iliki sat on the bench, arms wrapped around herself, facing the dark beach as the sound of surf filled the emptiness.
Ben was grateful she had even agreed to come. It was a small thread of hope. He sat beside her making no attempt to place his arm around her as much as he wanted to. She is way too angry for that. "Iliki, I couldn't help what happened. I wish I could have. I know what your father is saying, but it isn't true. I love you more than anything. I wrote my resignation last night." Well, that is partly true -- I tried to write it for hours. "There just hasn't been time to submit it."
She said nothing.
"I will quit Five-0, the police, whatever. Just tell me what you want me to do."
She continued to look into the darkness. "It was all so easy before. There wasn't this -- commitment. While we were just dating it was fine."
"But I love you -- I want to be committed to you," he insisted.
She looked at the diamond on her finger and for an instant Ben thought she was going to pull it off. "I thought I loved you, Ben." She finally looked at him. "Now I'm not so sure."
It cut like a knife. Not sure if she loves me? "What can I do to make this up? Iliki, two days ago we were so -- happy," he reminded her.
"Two days was a lifetime ago."
"It's that way because all this -- stuff -- has been coming between us," he explained. "We need to remove the stuff."
"Stuff? Like Danny getting hurt?"
He winced. "Iliki, you know better than that."
"It won't work, Ben. If my father doesn't mike it impossible, Steve McGarrett will."
"Then let's elope," he said suddenly.
She rolled her eyes. "Now you are talking crazy."
"No I'm not." He took her hand. "We can get married tonight. Right now. I know a night court judge who'd do it for us." His face glowed with sudden excitement.
"Ben, I'm supposed to be mad at you," she commented, but her look was softening.
"I love you. Come on, Iliki." He impulsively planted a kiss on her cheek.
"What about your job?"
"I'll call in sick tomorrow."
"What about my job?"
"You can call in sick, too."
He gave a theatrical scowl. "I am not marrying your parents. Besides, if your father thinks I am indecisive, this ought to show him otherwise."
She bit her lip. "I don't know. Ben -- it is all so sudden."
"We can get married tonight, Iliki." Taking
her hands, he pulled her to her feet. "Iliki," he whispered
drawing her close, "please -- you are more than life to me."
First thing in the morning, Steve handed the file nearly an inch thick of forms to John Manicote. "I've been trying to keep up with this stuff -- the paperwork is killing me. It took me all night."
John looked at the submissions from the insurance company, the incident report to the insurance company of the Surfrider, the workman's comp appeal. There were copies from the hospital business office of total costs so far. It was staggering. "We should all be in insurance," John remarked. "Looks like their total purpose is to avoid paying the bills which is what they get paid to do."
Steve sighed and rubbed his head. I have way too much crisis going on right now. It is impossible to devote what I need to do this right now. Bless her heart, Jenny has been trying to help. She's spent most of the last day on the phone, so far getting stone-walled. "John, don't we have some sort of legal recourse here? Looks like the disability company is demanding reimbursement, the medical insurance on the first incident is now claiming an act of terrorism -- where they have a clause saying they don't have to cover. The second incident the company is trying to push it onto the hotel, the hotel is pushing it on to workman's comp because from their perspective he was bonded by us. Workman's comp is saying no pay no way. John --" he shook his head, "--Danno is fighting for his life. Is there no mercy?"
John snickered. "We're discussing insurance companies here, Steve. Mercy? You're kidding, right?"
"What do we do?"
Manicote sighed and played with a pen as he leaned back in his office chair. "Do you know how he fell yet?"
"The perp spread a lubricating jelly on the railing and step."
"Well, that lets out suing the hotel. They weren't negligent. He can sue the perp in a civil case after guilt is determined. It'll take years. Hospital isn't going to wait for years." John chewed on the tip of the pen. "Right now I'd fake it. Keep telling the hospital that the medical insurance and workman's comp are going to divide this up. St. Francis gets wind that no one wants to pay this bill the level of care will probably go down."
Steve blinked in shock. "That's unethical."
"That's business," John retorted.
An hour later, McGarrett stood by the jetway scanning the exiting passengers' faces. He did not have long to wait. Clara Williams was the sixth person off the flight.
"Well, good morning, Mr. McGarrett," she announced with a broad smile. "How is our boy?" She extended her face expectantly.
He gave her a polite kiss on the cheek. "Holding his own, Ms. Williams. He was awake and talking late last night."
"Aha!" she said, the smile widening even more. "Then I am certain he wasn't happy that you called me."
Steve gave a small nod of admission.
"Don't worry," she said as she hurried them towards baggage. "That's just the way he is. Always wanting to look so independent. You did the right thing," she added.
He retrieved both of her large bags. She's packed enough for a month.
"I do have one small problem," she admitted. They left the terminal and Steve motioned her to his car parked in the police spot.
"Problem?" He opened the door for her.
"Yes. With Thanksgiving this week and all -- I was unable to find a suitable hotel room." She hesitated. "Do you think it would be a problem if I stayed at Danny's apartment? It would just be a day or two until I can get something."
"I'm sure he would feel that was fine," Steve assured her. After all, he isn't going to be needing it any time soon.
She settled herself on the seat, hands on her purse gazing ahead through the windshield. "Thank you so much. Then let's get to the hospital first."
Clara arrived at the ICU room and seemed to take over instantly. She gave Danny a kiss on the forehead, commented that the room was too dark, rearranged the drapes, checked the flowers that had arrived from the governor's office and decided they were too dry. She set out, arrangement in hand, to locate water for them.
Steve stood by the doorway watching Danny's expression. "Sorry, bruddah."
"At least I have the nurses to protect me," he remarked.
Clara came back, the flowers well watered, as though she was oblivious to their conversation. "There we go." She set the flowers on the sill, studied them, turned them, then turned them again.
Bergman entered the room. "Ms. Williams, I have been waiting for you to arrive."
Danny frowned. "You have?"
Steve did the round of introductions and Bergman and Clara shook hands. "It is a pleasure to meet you," she said cordially to the physician.
"No, the pleasure is all mine," Bergman replied, a gentlemanly smile on his face.
"What have you been waiting about?" Danny asked quietly, although he wished he could have sounded more forceful. He was beginning to feel as thought the control of his life was slipping away.
Bergman straightened. "Danny, you are much more stable than yesterday -- thank goodness -- but there are no signs of neurological improvement."
"Check and see if I can feel something," Danny ordered.
"We did this an hour ago," Bergman told him.
"Do it again," he demanded.
With look of tolerance, Bergman pulled the blankets up from the bottom, and gave a light touch against Danny's left foot with a needle, then the right. He did not ask for response, Danny's grim look was enough. "According the respiratory therapist, your breathing is getting more shallow," Bergman went on. "It's getting harder for you to talk, right?"
Of course it is, but maybe it's in my mind. Danny did not answer.
"We need to do a small surgery, a closed reduction of the damaged vertebra to attempt to minimize the pressure of the fracture against the nerves."
"There is some risk, Danny. The surgery could make things worse or it might not help. But it might."
"Can't imagine it much worse."
"Trust me, it could be worse."
"Without the surgery?"
"You'll probably be like you are now -- but with the breathing problem you might end up with pneumonia. Not a good prospect."
"I'll die," he translated.
"Maybe," Bergman agreed.
He was silent in thought. So why wait for Clara to get here? She isn't in control here, I am. I don't want anyone to forget that. I am still in control of me. Am I? I can't even wipe my butt. I can't feed myself, or drink, and scratch my nose . No, I am not in control. How can I live like this?
"Danny, the surgery is your best bet," Bergman urged. "It is probably your only chance for recovery of any kind."
"Steve, can we talk for a minute?" Danny asked.
"Of course." Bergman and Clara left the room, although it was plain she wasn't happy about it. "What is it, Danno?" Steve asked quietly.
"You remember that you agreed to be executor of my living will."
"Yes." He felt a ball of ice forming in his stomach. "Danno, you are going to get through this."
"Just maybe I don't want to get through this," he answered. "If I go with that surgery and things .don't turn out so hot .you need to make the decision, not Aunt Clara. And she will certainly want to call the shots." He stopped talking to catch his breath. "I can't live like this."
Steve stood there thinking of a million things to say that all seemed pretty trite at this point. "I understand, Danny." Does he really think I'd help with an assisted suicide? Think again, Danno. Just don't argue with him right now. And later?
Danny managed a small smile. "Steve, tell Bergman it's a go.
The sun's rays reached the window of the small bungalow
on the north shore and Ben awoke. Iliki slept nestled in his arms and
life was wonderful. I have never felt such a total sense of satisfaction
and peace. She is wonderful, beautiful, marvelous. I want life to stay
just like this forever. He studied every feature of her lovely face,
her black hair that shone with the morning light, her eyelashes that brushed
against her sweet flawless cheeks. The lush, sweet lips the moved slightly
in sleep. He gently kissed her shoulder. It is worth any consternation
her father or McGarrett might dish out. Nothing can take this away.
He embraced her more tightly. "I cannot imagine anything more lovely than you."
Her expression brightened with an idea. "I'll go get us breakfast. You wait right here."
He groaned. "No, stay with me."
She giggled and hopped from the bed. In a flash she had pulled on her shorts and top. "Fresh coffee coming right up." She darted from the bungalow.
Ben lay on his back on the bed, hands behind his head and gazed at the ceiling with its slowly rotating fan. I suppose I need to think about how we will face everyone. He smiled. It doesn't matter. No one can take our pleasure away. This was the best thing to do. I can give that resignation now. Just tell Steve I'm done. If he wants I'll work out my two weeks, or not. Hopefully not. Except Danny is out. Danny. I wonder how he's doing. I need to see him. Wonder what he'll say. He smiled.
The door burst open suddenly and he jumped, his first thought that Iliki's father had found them. But it was Iliki standing there, a newspaper in her hand, face red with rage. "You monster! How could you!"
"What?" Ben scrambled up, completed astonished. "Iliki, what is it?"
"How could you! You told me you loved me----" She threw the paper that had a large picture on the front of Ally in Ben's arms and the caption 'Stamper Finds Hot Island Lover.'
He gasped. Beneath the large image was a smaller one of Ally kissing him. "This is a stupid tabloid!" he stammered.
"Sure looks like you in her arms to me!" Iliki roared, tears flowing. "How could you!"
"Iliki, it was nothing. Nothing! I kept her from tripping."
She crossed her arms angrily. "You sure look like you enjoyed it to me."
She was pulling on her shoes, furious beyond words.
"Iliki, wait! Please! You don't understand! This is all made up!"
She glared at him. "And to think I slept with you! Dammit, I married you last night and yesterday morning you were loving her! I know my father can get this annulled."
"I wasn't -- please, just slow down!"
She stormed from the room, slamming the door behind her.
For the next hour Ben had vacillated between following Iliki to attempt another explanation and going to the movie set to convince someone, maybe Ally Stamper herself, to confirm that this was complete tabloid fantasy.
By now Iliki has told her parents and I can just imagine the fireworks -- I am sure her father will at best try to sue me at worst look for a way to press charges. How did something that was supposed to be so wonderful go so wrong? He arrived on the movie set to find things quiet. The graffers and crew were moving around with equipment, but Andersen and the performers were not to be seen.
Duke approached him.
"I see they have you watching this funny farm," Ben remarked.
Duke gave a kind smile. "Looks like they are planning to work later today. One of the workers told me they are moving to Maui tomorrow."
Ben shrugged. "Tomorrow is Thanksgiving. You think the Screen Actors' Guild is going to say something if they work a holiday?"
Duke shook his head. "This seems to be a comedy of mis-communication."
"So it does," Ben remarked. More than you know, Duke.
Jack Moreland sat by the pool his first martini of the day in one hand, The Wall Street Journal in the other, his three bodyguards near by. His gaze lingered over the top of the paper on Ally Stamper as she swam the length of the pool and he could feel a pleasant warmth that did not come from the sun.
Moments later, Hans exited the hotel and mug of coffee in hand and approached him. "Good morning, Jack." He noticed the martini. "A bit early, don't you think? It's not even lunch time."
"I can make my own judgment calls, thank you," Jack replied, the smile never slipping from his tanned face.
"Hum." Andersen followed Jack's gaze towards Ally. "Well the scenery is certainly -- stimulating."
"I hear that the cops took Rickie in."
"Our young rebel has found himself some legal trouble. He is being arraigned for Wiseman's death this morning. The film studio's attorney assures me it is nothing and that he can get it plea-bargained down."
"Plea-bargained? That would imply that Rickie has something of value to offer them." Jack's gaze hardened just a little. "You are on thin ice, Andersen." He noticed Hans was still watching Ally and the lustful look in the director's eye. He rose quickly from the lounge, hitting Andersen's elbow and causing the hot coffee to spill down the front of the director's pants.
"Shit!" Andersen yelped grabbing his crotch.
Jack's peaceful smile never wavered. He leaned over eye to eye with Andersen. "Stay away from her. Do you understand?"
"It's cool, it's cool," Andersen said still wincing. "Nobody's moving in on your action. I will see to it." He grabbed Jack's beach towel to blot the wet coffee on the front of his slacks.
"I suggest you stop sticking your dick into fourteen year old asses," Jack muttered, gritting his teeth. "Someday it will all catch up with you."
"There isn't anything here I cannot control," Andersen hissed back. "You just keep your own house in order."
The hotel clerk suddenly stuck his head of the door. "Mr. Anderson -- there's a policeman here."
Andersen sighed and gave a smile, trying to ignore the embarrassing wet spot. "Getting to be an every day thing." He abandoned the coffee mug, pulled a little tube of liquid lip balm from his pocket and wiped his lips as he followed the clerk inside where Ben was headed towards the patio. "Mr. Kokua! What a pleasure!" Hans exclaimed.
"Is Mr. Moreland around?" Ben asked.
Andersen gestured towards the pool area, relieved that Ben had not come for him. Good, Rickie still fears what I can do to his career more than the police.
Ben walked out into the Banyan patio immediately spotting Jack Moreland lounging with his usual drink in hand, three bodyguards in the shadows.
Jack spotted him first. "Mr. Kokua, good morning -- and welcome to the ranks of the rich and famous. When you appear in the National Enquirer you have really arrived."
Ben made a face.
"It's not a big thing. We kid about stuff like this all the time. Anyone stupid enough to believe that kind of crap deserves to lose the 50 cents the rag costs." Jack laughed.
Ben did not respond right away. Iliki believed it. She isn't stupid. "Perhaps not everyone is accustomed to this kind of -- popularity. I'd like to talk with you for just a minute, if I may."
Moreland motioned him to a chair. "Officially?"
Ben nodded. "Ally Stamper says that you were a kind of mentor for Ronnie Wiseman, yet you seemed less than -- well emotionally involved when Mr. McGarrett discussed him with you."
"Hum, and you think that this represents some kind of inconsistency?" Jack guessed.
"Does it?" Ben asked.
"Not really. Ronnie was distracted. I told him a million times that he had the talent, but he just needed to not take things so seriously."
"There were serious things that distracted him?" Ben rephrased.
Jack burst into an open grin. "Very good!"
"Mr. Moreland, this isn't a game -- and it isn't a movie script; Wiseman was a real man who really died. Rickie Mattingly is also a real man -- sitting in jail and possibly facing a life sentence at the young age of 14," Ben commented soberly.
Jack's cheerful countenance mellowed some. "Sorry. And, remember, it's Jack. Mr. Moreland is way too official. Yes, of course you're right. I played a cop in the television series for three years. Guess some of it stays with you. I did research on interrogation techniques back then in order to become the part more."
What else did he learn during that series? This could be valuable. "So, tell me what your relationship was like to Ronnie Wiseman."
"Ronnie and I met on an earlier film -- not one of Andersen's. He was about twelve or thirteen. His mother was a very pretty woman." Jack flashed a smile. "You know how it is."
"You made friends with Ronnie to get to his mother?"
"Well, he was a nice kid, too," Jack justified himself. "Anyway, we were close for about two years, then things drifted apart. I think his mother died last year."
"Yes, auto accident," Ben supplied.
"Right. A shame."
Ben could not help but notice that Jack did not sound as remorseful as his words.
"Ronnie and I stayed in touch periodically."
"Ally says he trusted you with -- things."
"Things?" Jack's interest seemed to be piqued. "Now you are fishing, Mr. Kokua. What kind of things?"
"Personal things that meant a lot to him."
Jack laughed. "Like Ronnie's plans to join the Peace Corps."
"Yes. And with whom."
Jack's laugh caught in his throat. "Ronnie was full of all kinds of noble ideas -- but never could make any of them come to pass. He couldn't even control his eating habits."
"And because he weighed more than the average person his life wasn't worth living?" Ben demanded, noting the Moreland had avoided making a connection between Wiseman and Stamper.
"Hey, I didn't say that," Jack snapped.
"You didn't have to," Ben said coldly. He noticed the bodyguards had moved closer and his gaze settled on one whose hand was on the back of a nearby chair -- and the ring on his middle finger. My God. He resisted the urge to flee the scene with this revelation.
Jack shook his head, attempting to look cavalier. "No one is more sorry than I about what happened to Ronnie. And that it was a murder, well, that just adds to the mystery."
Across the way, Ally exited the pool in a very small pink bikini that now clung to her body, her small nipples erect and clearly visible through the silk fabric. She delicately tugged the lower part of the suit out of her butt crack, but it covered only slightly more than it had the moment before. Dripping wet, she padded over to where her mother sat reading a novel and picked up a towel that she began to dry off with. The girl finished her care by smoothing cocoa butter to her arms and thighs, then lay down on a lounge chair, tossing her dark hair back.
Ben had watched Jack's gaze follow the teen. "Hard to imagine how she plays a 12 year old, huh?"
Jack gave a soft smile. "The girl has some real talent."
Ben commented. "You know, it's too bad."
Jack blinked and looked back at him. "What is?"
"Well, Ally's mom must not be half the catch Ronnie's was."
Jack glanced back over at Ally again. "Yeah," he commented, although he wasn't certain he was making the connection.
Ben rose to go, knowing he had some precious information for Steve. Thanks to Jack's skintight speedo the movie star had revealed much more than he was aware.
End part 5