Pretense of Justice
by Peg Keeley

Part 8

Lucius answered the knock at the door of Jack Moreland's suite and admitted Larry and Rickie Mattingly.

Jack approached, a beer in hand. "Welcome! And Happy Thanksgiving!" he claimed in a sweeping gesture. "Rickie -- it is so good to see you out. Someone came to their senses, yes?"

Rickie did not give an answer, just glared. He spotted the huge television and the pre-game commentary and moved in that direction, pausing to help himself to a sandwich from the large buffet table.

Jack watched him go and commented to Larry. "Did they say why they released him?"

Larry shrugged. "Something about not having grounds to hold him. Told us to stay in town."

"Hum," Jack considered. "Did you know they arrested Andersen last night?"

Larry nodded. "I swear if my stinking brat kid had anything to do with it-"

Jack scowled. "Rickie? What could he possible say against Hans?" He adopted a innocent look. "You know, in movies the cops are always the good guys and always smart." He gave a quick grin. "Real life hasn't got much in common with the fantasies we spin."

Larry accepted a beer without further comment. He often did not know what to say. Without even his GED, he usually felt second class to the people he and Rickie associated with. And Rickie spent a lot of time reading stuff -- mostly old books by guys who had lived over a hundred years ago. It didn't make sense to Larry. Several times he had caught Rickie reading books in brown paper covers and accused the boy of looking at pornography, only to find one book was by Charles Dickens, the other time by some guy named Sir Walter Scott. Larry did not identify the title of Ivanhoe as something that looked appealing. Rickie had covered the books because he was afraid they would damage his tough guy image. Larry was pretty sure he was right.

Moments later several more of the cast members arrived, including Ally and her mother. Jack gave the teen a simple kiss on the cheek. "Are you doing well today?" he asked softly.

Ally gave a quiet smile, her face flushing. "Yes."

"Splendid." He turned and gave the same kiss on the cheek to her mother. "And a happy Thanksgiving to you. Please join the group!" He waved his hand towards where the catered feast was spread across the room. "Kick off will be shortly! We must all cheer for the Redskins!"

A few moments later, he approached Maggie Stamper as the woman carefully selected food for her plate. "Mrs. Stamper, I would like to ask your permission to take Ally Christmas shopping tomorrow."

"Oh?" She looked at him.

"Well, I have good protection -- and it will give her a chance to put the ugliness of Ronnie's death behind her."

"We would be glad to accompany you," she replied with a smile.

"Hum, no, Mrs. Stamper," he said quietly. "I would like to take just Ally."

She blinked. "Oh." Her look mellowed into concern.

"Ma'am." He placed his arm around her shoulder. "Who better than I could ensure the very best to come to Allison? She is a beautiful girl -- it is time for her to shine in all the glory that is destined to come her way. I will see to it that you are always in her life -- and well provided for. Where would she have been all these years with you?" And where would you be without her, you old weasel? Not with the Bel Air home you have, that's for sure.

The expression on the woman's face gradually metamorphed into one of contemplation, then understanding, and finally a quiet joy. "I do understand, Mr. Moreland."

"Please, everyone calls me Jack."

"Yes, Jack." She sipped her wine. "Your offer is a most kind one. I am sure Ally will be thrilled."

Clara shoved the small hand cart loaded with towels, basins and her own choice of body soaps and lotions into Danny's cubicle. "Good morning, Danny!"

He tried to see what her enthusiasm was all about. "Morning, Aunt Clara," he said with great reservation.

"Bath time," she declared.

"I have a male nurse who helps me," he replied.

"Well, today is Thanksgiving," she replied. "He is off and we will have a room full of party guests in about two hours."

"You are NOT giving me a bath," he declared.

"Really?" she said firmly. "Don't be so childish."

"Childish? Aunt Clara -"

"Stop fussing, I used to change your diapers, you know."

"I am 36 years old, not a baby," he said as much to remind himself as her. What did Camp say last night -- I am vulnerable, I am helpless to stop anyone from doing anything. I can't even keep from being humiliated by a 74 year old lady!

She went to the sink and began to run water into the basin, humming to herself. "I have some really wonderful skin lotion. It will really sooth where the sheets have irritated your skin."

The sheets have irritated my skin? He bit his lip, contemplating how he could possibly keep Clara from following through with her self-assigned mission.

She carried the water over and set the basin on the bedside table and dropped in the wash cloth.

"Aunt Clara, I am asking you again to just let this go," he said quietly.

She gave him a sober look. "Danny, how do you think we will accomplish this once we get home?"

"We? Aunt Clara, I am not going home like this. I will either recover or -- I won't. I have no plan to make you spend the rest of your life caring for me," he said with deep sincerity. "I will not do that to you. I'll hire someone to care for me if necessary."

Her gaze was steady, but pained. "We are family, Danny. Family. I am not going to just abandon you."

He felt useless and unable to argue with her.

She reached up and began to remove the patient gown, then suddenly turned. "Why look who's here."

I can't see who's here, Danny thought in irritation. She knows that.

"Happy Thanksgiving, Ms. Williams," said Steve entering the room. "Thank you for the kind invitation."

She beamed. "Well, you are Danny's closest friend. There would be no celebration without you But you are early."

"Steve?" Danny could not believe that McGarrett had somehow arrived and intervened.

"How's it going, Danno?" he asked coming close. He noticed the water, soap and towels. "Freshening up?"

"I thought he should have a good sponge bath before the party. Everyone will be there and I want him to look his best," Clara explained.

His best? Paralyzed on his back with a contraption of steel and rods sticking four screws into his head -- how can he possibly look his best? Clara is grasping at some kind of straw for normalcy in a situation for which there is no normal. "Well, Ms. Williams, I think that maintenance is setting up the tables -- maybe you should go and check on that. I'll help Danny with this," he said kindly.

She looked at the bath supplies, at Danny, then grinned at Steve. "That will be just fine." She left the room headed for the solarium.

Danny glanced over at Steve. "Thank you," he breathed. "I wasn't going to talk her out of this one."

He wrung out the wash cloth. "Shall we get to this before she comes back?"

Danny fixed a cold stare on Steve, suddenly realizing that Steve's bedside attention was nearly as embarrassing as Clara's. "I think I'll skip it."

He gave a sardonic smile. "It won't take long."

There was a mildly macabre feeling to Clara's football party. The television up on the wall displayed the Dallas vs. Redskins game in all its glory and three tables of catered turkey and all the trimmings were available to the guests. Nearly everyone on the list had come, but it still felt somehow uncomfortable.

Ben huddled close to Danny not wanting to seem like he had been abandoned as others' interests seemed on the game.

"Don't feel badly, this is Clara's thing," Danny told him. "She wants things to like normal and they can't be. She's just trying to help." Some help. I just really want to be left alone, but I need to put on this show. "I keep trying to feel something -- anything -- but nothing comes."

"Can I get you anything?" Ben asked.

"How about a beer," he suggested.

Ben scowled. "Is it okay for you to have that? What about all those drugs and things?"

He gave a small smile. "Just one."

Ben raised an eyebrow, went over to the cooler and pulled a bottle from the ice. As he headed back across the room he was stopped by Dr. Bergman.

"Ben, is that for you?"


"The beer."

"Um, Danny wanted a beer," Ben explained, embarrassed.

Doc took the bottle from him and went to Danny. "You want this?" he asked.

Danny smirked. "I did."

Doc and he stared at each other for a moment before Doc sighed. "What the hell." He popped the cap and gently held the bottle to Danny's lips. "Just a little, okay? I could get fired for this."

As his friends wished him well, Danny felt like he was saying good-bye. Time was slowly slipping away. Maybe it is good to spend it this way, in the company of those I know so well. Duke and Mary are chatting with Che and his wife. Ben seems to be holding his own in spite of all this mess with Iliki. There are guys from HPD I haven't seen in years who came by. It's like of like being at your own funeral. It is being at my own funeral. He glanced at the clock again. By Saturday this time they will all be planning that funeral. For them this may be a good time for early closure. For me - I wonder if there is anything that comes after. If so, then maybe I'll remember them all here today. I hope so.

Steve came near. "You are pretty quiet," he observed.

Danny looked at him, hoping he was hiding his real thoughts. "This is something Aunt Clara could do and she did it better than anyone. It made her happy."

"What about you?"

He looked away for a moment. "I guess it is good to see friends. I am tired, though."

"Guess so. Need anything?"

"Poke my leg."

Without argument, Steve squeezed Danny's leg through the blanket so as not to attract attention from others in the room.

"No," he whispered. "Thanks anyway."

A nurse approached. "Mr. McGarrett, this was left at the desk for you." She handed him a thick folder that was sealed with a state department insignia.

Steve raised an eyebrow. "Looks like our long shot came through, Danno." He resisted the temptation to open the envelope.

Danny sighed and looked up at the ceiling. "Yeah. Camp does keep his promises."

By six o'clock most of Clara's invited guests had gone their way. The Cowboys had managed to take victory from the Redskins in the closing moments of the game and most of the smuggled beer had been drunk, the food eaten, and everyone was tired.

Ben got ready to leave. "I'll come back tomorrow, Danny."

"You go see Iliki tomorrow," Danny corrected. "You will find a way to get through this, Ben. She'll come around in time, you'll see."

He sighed. "I think you were right the other night, Danny. I need to be more dedicated to Five-0 and accomplish something with my career. I need to be more of the kind of team player Steve needs. At least until you get back on your feet."

On my feet? "If that's what you really want, Ben."

"This thing with Iliki is killing me. I think she got the marriage annulled." He looked a little wistful. "I hear Steve received Mariotti's file this afternoon. Think I'll go volunteer to run a stakeout on Mariotti tonight."

Chin and Lilly came over to say good night to Danny. "Tomorrow, Bruddah," Chin said quietly, "Maybe it will be the day. I know you're going to beat this."

"Thanks," Danny said quietly. I am going to beat it, but not in the way you think, Chin. "I have a feeling tomorrow will be the big day, too." He agreed, meaning something quite different. "Give the kids my best. Tell them I love them."

Chin nodded. Danny did not usually express himself that way to the children, but things were not the usual. "I'll do that," he promised.

Duke gave him a pat on the shoulder as he left. "You keep fighting, hear me? We need you too much. My father once told me that we never know what we are really made of until we encounter what looks like unbeatable odds. That is the true fire of our character." He gave a quiet smile. "You are of the finest stuff, Danny. That will shine through in the end."

Will it? Or will it look like I took the easy way -- I escaped?

The nurses arrived to push Danny's bed back to his room. Aunt Clara was still fussing around with the cleanup and packing up little boxes of leftovers for the night nursing staff.

"I'll say good night to you, dear," she said as the team prepared to move the bed. She planted her now customary kiss on his forehead. "It was grand, wasn't it?"

He gave a sad smile. "It was grand. Wouldn't trade a minute of it." For an instant, he was nearly overwhelmed with sadness. It has been a grand life. Just one more day.

Ben went to Steve and volunteered to set up the stake out.

Steve, openly surprised and pleased at Ben's action agreed. "Be careful. I am certain that if Mariotti thinks we are tightening the noose he will use everything he knows to escape. He probably has quite a bag of tricks. Don't take any chances."

Ben nodded.

"Um, Ben," Steve hesitated, personal discussions not being one of his favorite topics, "how are things with Iliki?"

He stiffened just a little, not accustomed to Steve's line of question. "They are kind of off. Didn't work out."

"What happened?" Steve asked sincerely.

"One thing after another. First I missed a dinner appointment with her parents, then my picture with Ally Stamper was in the National Enquirer."

Steve paused recalling how the secretaries at the office had posted the photo and made jokes. No one had thought anything serious about it. It seemed callus when he now realized it had created a rift between Ben and Iliki. "Ben, I am sorry. Is there anything I can do?"

He was wordless. McGarrett? Attempt to do something for me? Like what? "I guess not," he mumbled, uncertain of what to say.

"Well, be sure to let me know. And I think your volunteering for the stakeout is a good thing," Steve said in support.

Ben nodded and headed out of the door.

Steve stuck the folder under his arm and approached Danny. "I'm going to review this tonight. Looks like there is quite a bit here. Something is bound to be helpful."

"Good," Danny replied, then paused. "Steve -- thank you. Thanks for believing in me those times when I doubted myself. You know, I am beginning to realize that I probably won't ever work at Five-0 again, so you really aren't the boss anymore. I am very lucky to also have you as a friend."

He scowled slightly. "Don't count yourself out yet, Danno. Doc says it sometimes takes weeks."

The nurse pushed the bed towards his cubicle and Steve followed them. "Bother you much if I just stay here?" he asked.

Danny blinked in mild surprise. "Of course not."

"I've been pretty busy. I might as well look this over here as anywhere else," Steve explained. He shoved the plastic covered recliner near the small light in the corner. "If I find anything remarkable, I'll wake you up and we can discuss it."

"Okay," Danny replied. Why is he really staying? Does he suspect something? Good thing Camp said it would be tomorrow night.

Steve settled into the recliner gazing at the cover sheet of the file. It contained quite a bit of stuff. Marriotti had been pretty active. The branch of service had been whited out, as had been a number of locations for missions he was sent on. Included was extensive training skills, serial numbers of weapon he owned and information about the instructing he had done in the Marines. No question, Mariotti knew personal combat and stealth attacks. One of the classes he'd taught was about killing that would look accidental. From the number of pages that were partially whited out it could be assumed he had also had lots of practice.

Steve recalled the day in 1968 when he and Danny had met over a casual supper at the beach house and had a long overdue talk.

"Danny I know that there is a part of your past that is covert and that you don't like to talk about, but sooner or later our past always finds us out. One of the things I learned from ONI is to always have one person you'd trust to the death."

Danny relaxed back on the lawn chair and gazed out at the surf without response.

Steve raised an eyebrow. "Who do you trust?"

He gave a shrug. "Never wanted to burden someone that way. Didn't want to let them down."

"Don't you mean that they would let you down?" Steve asked back.

He shrugged again. "It's just not that easy, Steve. There are some things best left alone."

"When Vaughn died last month, was that all just an act?"

Danny turned to look at him in open surprise. "An act?"

"You bled all over everybody," Steve said a little firmly. "But you were one of Marten Camp's boys -- I do know that much. His players all come out just one way -- extremely able killers."

He pursed his lips. "No, it was not an act. Not that it matters. Thad Vaughn did not deserve to die -- he was just a kid. Camp and I parted ways because I didn't like what I was becoming. I didn't enlist to learn to kill, I wanted to keep people safe. Sometimes keeping people safe means being willing to do the tough thing. I could never understand how operatives could whack someone in the morning, then make jokes over lunch. Life is just too sacred for that. And there's that button." He stopped, his face twisting in emotion. "Somehow they do something to you -- and they can just turn you into something like that." He snapped his fingers. "Anyway, I quit cause it was going to drive me crazy."

"That simple?"

He gave a slight nod. "Yeah, that simple."

Steve sighed again and reached into his pocket, pulling out a small file key. "I keep a file here at the house of things that are - well - not Five-0." He turned the key over in his fingers a few times. "There's a hollow leg in one of the white chairs in the office. That's where the copy is."

Danny gazed at him. "Why are you telling me this?"

Steve gave a small knowing smile. "Because I may need you to know that someday. We all have those buttons."

"And I'm supposed to do that same?" Danny asked.

Steve rose from the chair. "Only if you think you've found that person you could trust."

Two days later, Steve entered his office and noted that the white chair had been moved a little. He turned it over and opened the hollow leg -- there were two keys inside.

Steve glanced over at his sleeping friend. Why do I get the feeling it's time to watch your back again?

Steve met with Duke and Chin early in the morning. The phone call from Ben had reported no unusual activity at the hotel by anyone.

Duke handed out scripts from Crime Fighters with yellow highlighter. "Too bad I never watched the show," he remarked. "Found out all kinds of way for things to happen to people -- including an episode where the hero solves a case of death by potassium chloride poisoning and this-" He tossed out one script entitled Nevermore. "Kind of a spooky little piece by some writer who had no clue about Poe's work."

"I didn't know you were a student of classics," Steve said with a soft grin.

"There are also references to fingerprints and their admissibility in court -- several episodes where there is evidence planted. Anybody spending much time with this was going to learn something about how police solve crimes. Pretty accurate."

"So that would have given Jack Moreland knowledge. Ben said yesterday he seems interested in the Stamper girl," Steve added approaching his board. "that gives him motive."

Chin shrugged. "He's got new girls every month it seems. Would he risk everything on a teeny-bopper?"

"Good question, Chin. Let's tie up a little of this. Mariotti is Moreland's body guard. Moreland wants Wiseman out of the way, so he gets Mariotti to obtain the potassium chloride, inject it into the orange and give it to Wiseman. Wiseman eats it and dies. But, for some reason, Mariotti doesn't stop there, but drops Wiseman into the hot shoot. Duke you suggested it as a publicity stunt. The last one of Moreland's films was less than a block buster. He may have wanted to get his full money's worth."

"Money's worth?" Chin asked.

"Yes, Chin. Let's see where the money takes us. Get copies of all Moreland's bank accounts -- and Mariotti's. Start with the IRS, then go to the banks. We should be able to get something back fairly quickly. I've got Che running Mariotti's fingerprints against those on the windowsill now. Duke, get a court order to go through Mariotti and Moreland's rooms. We've already got one for Andersen. Get whatever manpower you need, but let's find where that lip balm is."

"Right, Steve," Duke said rising from his chair.

The phone rang. "McGarrett," he answered it.

"Steve, it's Ben. Jack Moreland is on the move. He's got Ally Stamper with him -- and all three of his bodyguards."

"Stay with 'em, Ben, but be careful. I don't want them to know they're being followed."

"Right. Steve."

McGarrett hung up the phone. "Moreland's going out -- that ought to make the search a bit easier. Get Frank to help you, Duke. I want to be able to pull you off to help with Mariotti's arrest if the time comes.:

End part 8

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