Pretense of Justice
Ben followed the limo from a distance without difficulty. The long dark car stuck out in the post-Thanksgiving madness of early Christmas shopping. They drove through town and out towards the north, following Kalakaua Avenue all the way to King St. At one point, he lost the car briefly, but just as he was about to call for HPD assistance, he spotted it turning left on to Piikoi Street. Sighing in relief, he dropped in just a little closer, but it was pretty obvious they were headed back down towards Ala Moana Center. Parking was disastrous -- even more so with a limo. Ben actually found himself feeling sorry for the driver and wondering how they were going to accomplish their task. He was a little surprised that they did not simply drop off Moreland and a guard or two leaving one to park, but they finally located a place by paying a man in a parking area. Ben waited around the corner and watched as Mariotti and Garrod exited the car, leaving the driver to study his morning newspaper. Moreland, Stamper and Feccelini did not get out.
Ben scowled, watching. Dammit, they managed to get out during the time I lost them. He grabbed his radio. "Kokua to McGarrett." Dispatch connected them quickly.
"Go ahead, Ben."
"We arrived at the Ala Moana Center -- but Moreland and Stamper must have slipped out sometime in traffic. They took a bit of a scenic route up to King Street before coming back down to the shopping area. They aren't in the car, just Mariotti and Garrod."
"I'll put HPD on the lookout the Moreland and Stamper," Steve responded. "You stay with Mariotti, but do not take any action. We just got the fingerprint report back and we have a match to the window with Mariotti. I cannot emphasize enough that this guy is extremely dangerous. Just keep him in sight till we get to you."
"Right, Steve." He jumped from the car and hurried through the bustling shoppers to catch up with Mariotti. In spite of his size, Mariotti was quickly vanishing into the sea of Christmas shoppers in the open pedestrian area of the Ala Moana Center. Adults, children, tourists and local population blended as one with a single purpose - finding the best Christmas deals. The PA system blared remarkably non-Hawaiian Christmas tunes and the Christmas lights were bedecked on palm trees. In the center there was a long snaking line of parents and children awaiting their visit with Santa dressed in flowered board shorts on a throne with two surfboards behind. But the deep "ho ho" and flowing white beard assured the youngsters this was their annual benefactor.
Ben scanned the mall and spotted Mariotti before a display of swords and knives from Taiwan. He was smiling and joking with Garrod. Ben, slipped closer, knowing that Mariotti was not likely to be one to whom all islanders would look alike. Get too close and this guy is going to nail me. It did occur to Ben that he wasn't exactly sure how Steve and HPD were going to locate him and make contact, but for the moment, that would be their problem. Mariotti moved on, eventually splitting away from Garrod. Ben stayed with him.
Ben glanced towards the Piikoi Street exit and noticed a uniformed officer there. Not remarkable in all the Christmas hubbub, but Ben knew the man had not been there earlier. He had to assume Antonio would also notice.
In fact, he had. Antonio had also noticed the pair of officers that were slowly working their way through the crowd from the opposite end of the mall. He thought he'd noticed a Five-0 detective at one point upon his arrival, then caught a glimpse of him again later. Certain that a police action was in progress, but not sure it involved him, he casually moved towards the escalator to the second floor. As he rode it upward he was aware he was in extremely public view, but he also got a great bird's eye shot over everything below him -- including Ben amongst the shoppers. Okay, let's see if this guy is shopping for his kids or me. Antonio slipped into the book store just left of the escalator and waited.
McGarrett jumped from the car, Duke behind him and they were met instantly by the HPD assistant chief, Tamako.
"I have six units on the perimeter as you asked," Tamako reported. "There are four patrols inside that are part of the standard rotation. They are circling, but no one as reported in yet."
"All right," Steve replied. "Let's keep this very quiet. Ben Kokua is already on his tail. Duke, I want you to locate him and radio us." He handed him a walkie-talkie. "Don't speak to Ben or get close. We cannot be certain that Mariotti hasn't already made him."
"Right, Steve." Duke hurried into the open-air mall.
Tamako turned away from his radio. "Mariotti just got off the escalator to the second level."
Steve nodded and radioed Duke to look for Ben near the escalator.
"Steve," Duke replied, "Ben is on the escalator, just arriving on the second floor."
"All right, let's start to tighten this noose," Steve commented and headed inside.
Mariotti noticed Ben step off the escalator. Ben looked neither right nor left, but headed into a children's clothing shop like it was his place of focus. Mariotti waited another moment, then picked up a paperback book from the counter and paid for it. He walked out into the pedestrian traffic of parents and strollers. He moved to where the railing looked down on the lower level and in a fleeting instant identified four police in uniform and guessed at three more in street clothing. He dodged through the teaming flow of humanity, increasing his pace.
Ben pushed his way back into the crowd, noting that Mariotti had suddenly abandoned any image of the casual and seemed to be in a hurry. He pushed and shoved to keep up with Mariotti.
Marriotti turned, made eye contact with Ben, then dashed into a department store.
Duke spotted the activity along with walkway above. "Steve, I think Mariotti knows what's up. Ben is in pursuit, they just went into the Macy's."
"All units," Steve spoke into the radio, "seal off the Macy's."
Marriotti knew there was a stairwell into the service entrance, but also that Ben was closing fast. He turned, drawing his automatic and fired once into the air.
The result was, as Mariotti had hoped, mass hysteria as people panicked, screaming and running, grabbing children, dropping to the floor.
"Shots fired!" An officer shouted into the radio, although everyone had heard the sound.
People were now stampeding seemingly in all directions.
Ben struggling against the pressing crowd, did manage to see Mariotti enter the service door, but it took him several precious seconds to get there himself. His own gun drawn, he cautiously stepped through the fire door. It clicked shut behind him, shutting out the loud screaming and rendering the corridor nearly silent. The concrete walls and fluorescent lighting seemed barren, and without hiding spots, but he did not see Mariotti. Then he heard running footfalls and Ben took off in the direction of their sound.
Mariotti punched the buttons on the service elevator, but did not get on. He continued his race towards the stairwell that would take him to the parking level below.
Ben's physical fitness rivaled Mariotti's and his long legs gave him the advantage. By the time Mariotti was into the downward stairwell, Ben was at the top, his weapon drawn and leveled on Mariotti. "Stop," he demanded.
Mariotti, his gun in hand, froze half way down the stairway. "Okay." He raised his hands half way. "What is this about?"
Ben slowed his breathing. "Why were you running?"
Antonio gave a grin. "I needed the exercise."
"Well, hope you liked it because it may be the last you get for awhile. You are under arrest for the murder of Ronald Wiseman," Ben replied. "Give me your gun."
Wiseman tossed him the pistol.
As Ben's attention was diverted momentarily to catch it, Mariotti pulled a second weapon and fired.
Ben slammed into the wall behind him as the bullet tore into his upper left chest with flaming, searing pain. He collapsed on the steps.
Mariotti quietly walked back up the stairs towards him, standing over his victim who was quickly losing consciousness. "Never screw with a pro, small-time." He picked up the gun he'd thrown towards Ben, then pointed it at Ben's head. "So long, sucker."
A shot echoed through the concrete serviceway as Mariotti collapsed. A single bullet through the back of his head had sprayed blood all over the hallway and his now unconscious intended target.
Out in the mall, Steve and the HPD team were now feverishly seeking both Ben and Mariotti and wrestling to acquire control over the mob scene. "Where are they?" he demanded of Duke on the radio.
"Don't see them, Steve," Duke replied.
"If they got off that level, they either went up -- and we would have seen them -- or they got into the service corridor."
"That leads to the parking garage," Tamako reported.
"I want teams in the parking garage and the service corridor," Steve ordered, following Tamako towards the serviceway on the first level. They bounded through the doorway and started up the stairwell.
"McGarrett," Tamako uttered, stopping cold as the scene above came into view.
Steve never missed a beat, pushing past the HPD officer. "Get medics up here," he was shouting into the radio. "Duke -- both Mariotti and Ben are down. Mariotti is dead. Repeate Mariotti is dead." By this time he was examining Ben. Thank God, a pulse.
"Small caliber," Che commented as both he and Doc Bergman were doing their initial assessment on Mariotti before he was moved from the stairs. Che stuck a small cylinder into the hole in the back of Mariotti's skull. "A .22. Trajectory is approximate, but considering his height " Che looked back over his shoulder " .came from above and behind him." He motioned with his pen up the stairwell.
"Ben wasn't carrying a .22," Steve remarked. "We have a third party."
"Want me to check out the roof?" Duke asked.
Steve nodded. "Let's get teams up there and go over everything, but my guess is the shooter is long gone and probably did not leave any evidence." He walked up the stairway and looked back down at the spot where Mariotti lay sprawled. "Difficult shot."
The ambulance crew had gotten Ben onto a stretcher, IV running and oxygen mask hooked up. Just about that time, he regained consciousness.
"You're going to be okay," Steve told him kindly. "Did you see who shot Mariotti?"
His mind was clouded from shock. All he clearly recalled with the muzzle of Antonio's gun and the thought of horror that he was about to die. I said I'd never gotten hurt in the line of duty. Was I complaining? "Didn't see anyone," he whispered through the oxygen mask.
"Okay, just take it easy," Steve replied. What am I looking for? Was someone trying to save Ben or did someone want to silence Mariotti? Silence Mariotti about what? Assured that Ben was stable, he went back up the stairwell and met Duke on the roof. "Anything?"
"Not yet," Duke replied. "No prints so far. Not sure how the shooter got here -- or got off."
Steve set his jaw and gazed out across the Pacific, the sun gleaming
in beauty even on this puzzling day. A lot of pieces. We need to find
out what Frank and his team found in the search. And just where are Moreland
Frank Kamana placed the small plastic bag containing an almost empty tube of lip balm onto Steve's desk. "One of the tubes from Andersen's shipment, by serial number -- it was in Mariotti's things."
"Money trail shows that Moreland made a $2.5 million deposit to a Swiss bank account just before coming to Hawaii," Chin added. "There was another fund transfer of $750,000 as well to an account in Flint, Michigan."
Steve scowled. "Michigan?"
"Account of Theodore Goffrey," Chin added. "Maggie Stamper's father."
Steve walked to his bulletin board. "Moreland sent money to someone unknown -- and also to Mrs. Stamper's father. Mariotti tosses Wiseman out of the window, and has the lip balm, but can we place him in the stairwell when Danny got hurt?"
"Help there, too," Che announced. "Fibers on Danny's jacket matched those of an angora sweater we seized in Mariotti's things."
Duke came into the office. "Found Stamper and Moreland," he announced.
Steve looked over at him expectantly.
"He took her to an abortion clinic," Duke announced.
"What?" Steve was openly surprised.
"Ally Stamper received an abortion this morning," Duke repeated.
Steve knocked on the door of the Stampers' hotel room and it was answered by the usual body guard. "Maggie Stamper," he murmured showing his badge.
The guard stepped back and admitted Steve into the sitting room, just as Mrs. Stamper put the lid back on the ice bucket from adding an ice cube to her scotch.
"Mr. McGarrett," she said with a kind smile. "What brings you here?"
"How is Allison?" he asked.
"Ally?" She spread her hands. "She is just fine. Why?"
"Are you aware that she was with Jack Moreland this morning?"
"Of course. My daughter never goes anywhere that I do not know about."
"Then you know that Moreland took her to an abortion clinic this morning?"
She paled, but attempted a recovery. "She was Christmas shopping, Mr. McGarrett."
He handed over the copy of the receipt from the clinic. "She was aborting Ronnie Wiseman's child this morning."
"That is absurd."
"Is it? Why?"
"Ronnie wasn't fit to be her lover," she scoffed. "She could not possibly have had any sort of intimate relationship with him."
"So, if she did -- I guess that wasn't in your plan, was it? Your plan -- or should I say -- Jack Moreland and your plan."
Her look hardened to cold steel. "Mr. McGarrett, you keep coming up with these outlandish however creative scenarios. First it is Rickie Mattingly, then it is Hans Andersen. Now Jack and I are supposed to have some exotic plan that includes harming my daughter?" she set the glass down firmly on the top of the divan. "I am tired of your small town topical island theories without substance."
"We know that Jack Moreland wired three quarters of a million dollars to your father's account in Michigan -- your father who has been dead for two years. But I don't suppose that is a problem since you have been the signer on his account for the last ten years, although the IRS may want to review that with you." He gave a small smile. "Why did Moreland pay you all that money? Was he buying your daughter."
"Really," she said with a sniff.
"Yes -- really," he repeated. "But Ally is now 18. Your couldn't push her around any more. Ronnie confided in Jack and Jack told you that Ronnie and she were going to leave the country with the Peace Corps -- and that she was carrying Ronnie's baby. Your source of income was about to dry up."
Her face twisted with rage. "Ally is a beautiful child! She was wasting her life -- her abilities -- her future!"
"You mean your future. You and Jack decided to help her out," he deduced. "Jack paid you for Ally -- like he was buying a new toy, then paid Antonio Mariotti to get rid of Wiseman. Except, there was a little problem with Mariotti. Did you know he got discharged from his branch of the military because he kept getting his kicks by checking the results of his work? Had the irresistible urge to get a rush looking at the bodies he'd killed. He did it with Wiseman, too. He looked out of the window -- and a video caught it."
Her eyes flashed with a combination of fear and fury. "I had nothing to do with Ronnie's death."
"Maybe not directly. That was Jack's part. But three quarters of a million dollars links you into the conspiracy. Maggie Stamper, you are under arrest for conspiracy in the murder of Ronald Wiseman and an accessory after the fact in the attempted murder of Dan Williams. I am sure we will find a way for the IRS to get a piece of you as well." He pulled out his hand cuffs. "You have the right to remain silent .."
Jack Moreland heard about Mariott's death three hours after the event. He was relieved, but wondered just a little at his own reaction. Shouldn't I feel sorry? After all, Antonio was an excellent employee. Well, with him gone, there won't be any links back to me. This is over. He decided to do his usual, and headed down to the banyan tree patio. Upon arriving, he spotted Steve McGarrett sitting at Jack's usual table.
"Well, good afternoon, Mr. McGarrett," he commented.
"Good afternoon to you, too, Mr. Moreland. I was fairly certain you would come down here," Steve declared.
"Really?" Jack gave a small chuckle to hide his sudden nervousness. "As I've said before, please call me Jack."
"Yes, in several of the scripts from Crime Fighters there is discussion that criminals were discovered because they changed their usual behavior following their crime."
Jack laughed. "You've been reading my old scripts? Are you a fan, Mr. McGarrett?"
"In a way," Steve said with a nod. "I noticed that there was an episode about potassium chloride poisoning -- and one about a woman who's unborn baby dies after fall on a slippery surface. Oh, and especially the one that was entitled Nevermore. And I'm certain you must know that fingerprints at the scene of the crime will usually get the interest of the detectives."
Jack slowly sat down, not certain if he should be afraid, but nevertheless, feeling his pulse racing. "I guess that is common knowledge."
"As is evidence that links multiple suspects together."
"Evidence like a $2.5 million deposit you made to a Swiss bank account that was owned by Antonio Mariotti. My guess is you paid him to kill Ronald Wiseman. Took some time, but Interpol helped. And another three quarters of a million you paid Ally Stamper's mother. If Ronnie Wiseman had not trusted you, you would not have known about their plans to join the Peace Corp -- or about Ally's pregnancy. When Ronnie died from the poisoning, just like in your episode, it was supposed to be a suicide -- and the fact that you could generate a little free publicity for this movie wouldn't hurt either. But we started nosing around, so you had to plant some evidence. You had Mariotti go back and plant the red marker with Rickie's prints on it. He was going to use the stolen balm to make Ally fall -- like in your show -- except that he almost got caught and in the passion of the moment, and used the same effect on Williams. The marker to get us looking for Rickie, the lip balm for Andersen."
Moreland shook his head slightly. "This doesn't sound like it has a lot to hold it together, McGarrett."
"I don't think Antonio Mariotti was going to be done with you after this," Steve announced rising. "He was going to blackmail you, Moreland."
He blinked in astonishment. "What?"
"He kept painfully detailed files about everything you two did."
"That idiot," Moreland gasped.
Steve gave a small smile of satisfaction. "You are under arrest
Steve arrived at the hospital that now housed two of his officers, his mind still playing over the massive turnover of events that had come to pass in the last several hours. Having nothing left to hold him on, they had released Andersen. Another visit to Rickie and Larry had yielded nothing. As much as Steve wanted to rescue the boy, right now their hands were tied and the father was in denial that his son was being abused.
Steve reported first to the surgical waiting room where he immediately spotted a very anxious young Hawaiian woman sheltered by Mary Lukela's protective arm around her. "Iliki?" he assumed.
She turned towards him, remnants of tears still on her face. "Yes?"
"Steve McGarrett," he introduced himself. "I heard Ben is in recovery."
She nodded. "The doctor says that he will be all right."
He sat down next to them. "Are you all right?"
She sighed. "I will be as soon as I talk to Ben. I can't believe this has happened. I feel like it's my fault. I -- I wouldn't listen to him when he tried to explain about those pictures. He was so upset. I -- was unfair. Maybe his mind wasn't completely on what he was doing because of me. I made him worried."
"Iliki, Ben is a professional," Steve said gently. "His mind was on his assignment." He cracked a small smile. "His dedication to his duty resulted in his forgetting your date the other night. I am sure that today his mind was on where he was and the man he was trying to arrest. He risked his life to capture an extremely dangerous man. We are all very proud of him. I know he wouldn't want you to be upset with yourself. From what I understand -- he is very devoted to you."
She sighed, and wrung the Kleenex in her hand. "And I was so unworthy of that! I saw that awful tabloid -- I got angry with him." She burst out into new crying. "I almost lost him! How could I ever forgive myself! I was so foolish!"
Mary seemed to nestle closer to her. "Iliki, you didn't lose him. You have another chance. This is what being an officer's wife is about -- knowing that you must make the most of every moment together and not getting stuck in the regrets of the past."
Steve felt out of his element. I am not the counseling kind. Many
times I wish I was. That's always been Danno's role. What would he say?
Probably something about truth and honesty -- about commitment and their
three years together already, but I don't know these words. "You
need to consider all the options. I'm sure Mary has already told you that
this isn't the easiest life. If you both have a great enough love, you
will make it. But if you can't trust him more than what you see in the
paper," he shook his head, "then this is a mistake." He
lingered with her a few more minutes. A doctor arrived and informed them
that Ben was awake. "Iliki, I need to see Ben for just a minute,
then he is all yours. All right?" As he turned away into the recovery,
he allowed his supportive expression melt away into determination.
Ben lay wrapped in heated blankets, an IV and oxygen still in place, trying to piece together his surroundings and battle the wave of nausea.
"Good evening, Ben," Steve said coming close. "You're going to be okay."
"I feel awful," he murmured.
"Well, we kind of dampened the Christmas buying spirit at the Ala Moana Center," Steve said in an attempt to be friendly. "Doctors removed a .44 slug from your shoulder. Came from Mariotti's gun. What do you remember?"
"I had him, but when I told him to give me his gun, my attention was on the piece -- he had another."
An old snoop trick.
Ben sighed. "He got me good."
"Do you remember anything after that?"
The image of the gun muzzle flashed before his mind. "He was going to kill me. He'd lined up -- said something -- 'so long, sucker'. I heard the shot. Didn't think I would."
"Did you see anyone else there? Did you see who shot Mariotti?" Steve asked leaning close.
Ben tried to force his mind to replay the gray cloudy moments. "The shot -- he fell -- smoke in the upper stairwell. I think I passed out then."
Steve nodded. "Fine, Ben."
Ben gazed at Steve. "Whoever it was saved my life."
But was that the intent? "Ben, Iliki is outside waiting to see you," Steve told him.
His eyes lit up. "Iliki?"
He gave a small smile. "Somehow their man getting shot seems to bring out the best in some women. I'll step out so she can come in."
He walked back towards the desk and as he did, a technician looked up. "Mr. McGarrett. You have a phone call from a Che Fong."
Steve took the receiver. "Yes, Che."
"Ballistics is back on the .22 that killed Mariotti."
Che hesitated. "Are you sitting down?"
He scowled. "What is it, Che?"
"The gun is registered to Danny Williams."
Iliki hesitated near Ben's bed. She had never been in a hospital, let alone a recovery room. All the sounds, smells and trappings were alien and frightening. "Ben?" she whispered.
He opened his eyes and saw her in all her innocence, wide-eyed, frightened. "Hi, Iliki, it's okay."
"Okay?" she whispered. "Somebody shot you."
"It's all right now," he assured her. She is so frightened. She is not going to make it. Emotionally she will never handle this kind of life. I'm not sure I want to leave police work anymore. Strange way to feel after getting shot on the job.
"I am so sorry for doubting you," she said quietly, taking his hand. "That was wrong of me."
"It's okay," he answered.
"Not, it's not -- you were nearly killed," her sentence trailed off into small sobs. "I never thought all these years that this could happen."
I cannot put her through this. She was right earlier, we need to keep our distance until we can think this through. With the marriage annulled there is nothing holding us together except that one glorious night. It was so precious. "You were right. Maybe we need to think this through just a little more."
She paused. "What?"
"Iliki, I want you to take the time to think about this -- about everything. I need some time, too. Maybe we aren't ready for this kind of thing."
New tears slipped down her cheeks. "I don't know what to do."
"Neither do I." I love her more than life itself. If I love her, I will let her go. This is too painful for her. "Iliki, I don't think I really love you."
Her mouth opened just a little, then she closed it. "Ben ."
I think I will die from this pain and no drug is going to remove it. I want to scream from the top of this building how much I love her. "Maybe you should go now," he suggested gently.
She fled the room.
Steve went directly to Danny's room. After exchanging greetings, Danny once again asked Steve to poke his legs. Of course there was no feeling. Steve was beginning to wish he could refuse this seemingly useless ritual and yet every time there was that renewed hope that just maybe, just perhaps this time things would change. But they did not.
"What's the latest?" Danny asked.
"Arrested Moreland and Stamper for conspiracy. It all led back to Mariotti just as we suspected. The military records containing his prints and quirky behavior put the bow on top."
"I heard that."
"Yeah," Danny managed a grin. "Nursing scuttlebutt around here is pretty accurate. Better than the coconut wireless. Also said there was gun play with one dead, one shot up." He swallowed. "What's happened?"
"Mariotti ran. Ben was on him."
Danny felt the sudden rush of fear. "Ben?" Please don't let this be what I fear. He was trying to straighten things out with Iliki. Not now.
"We don't have all the details," Steve was saying. "Ben was shot, apparently by Mariotti. He came through surgery fine. A little touch and go, but I think he'll be okay."
Touch and go? Here I am unable to do anything about this. Unable to help, unable to comfort Iliki -- I am useless once again. I should have been the one out there following a pro like Mariotti, not Ben. "Just yesterday he commented to me that he never got hurt. He felt guilty or something."
"Well, I guess he doesn't anymore. Mariotti is dead."
That is justice. At least Ben took him out on his way down. Way to go, Ben. "Ben got him then."
Steve sat down on the chair next to the bed. If the gossip around this place was alive and well, he wanted to be quiet enough not to contribute. "He killed by a .22 -- Ben was armed with a .38. Someone else was there. We don't know who. But I have the ballistics report." He paused. Does Danny have any idea? If so, he isn't showing it. "Danny, the .22 that killed Mariotti was registered to you."
He was silent.
"Do you own a .22?"
"Yes, I do."
"Do you know something about this?" Steve asked quietly.
He gave a grunt of frustration. "Steve, how could I possibly -- no, I don't."
"Where is your .22?"
"Sounds like it's in Che's lab," he remarked. "I keep it locked up at the apartment in the service chest."
"We have the slug, not the weapon," Steve reminded him. "Does Clara know about this?"
"Steve!" He declared loudly in indignation. "She wouldn't even touch a weapon "
He interrupted. "I am not trying to suggest your Aunt Clara as the shooter. Whoever did this was capable of roof jumping and is perfect with a deadly shot. Could she have given someone that gun?"
"Not likely, but I guess you'll have to ask her," he answered.
"It's nearly nine o'clock. I'll talk to her tomorrow," Steve decided.
Do that. Tomorrow it will no longer matter.
"Been a long day, Bruddah -- one of several," Steve patted Danny's shoulder. "I'll see you in the morning."
"Right." Danny felt intensely guilty that he wasn't even saying anything of importance at this final meeting. "Steve," he said, then hesitated. What can I say that doesn't give this away?
"Yes, Danno?" He turned back.
"Nothing. Tomorrow, then."
As Steve left the room a nurse entered with a small paper pill cup. "Danny, I have the sleeping pill you asked for. Hope you have a good night's sleep."
"Me, too," he answered.
End part 9