Matter of Trust
A Matter of
The evening had not gone as he had planned. Dan Williams hoped Rachel Byer had not been offended. She was pretty, young, lonely and vulnerable. The four perfect qualities for a date, he thought with a momentary smirk. And it was her first birthday over three thousand miles away from family. He'd just planned to be kind to her. He wondered now if she thought he was so kind.
He completed the short walk from her apartment door to the street parking where he'd left the car, hesitating in the building doorway just a moment to cast a quick glance to the right and left before heading for the car and nearly a dead run. I look like an idiot. He opened the car door and the interior dome lamp bathed him in brilliant light. Issuing a curse, he slammed the door quickly shut as he slid into the seat. The echo of the sound bounced back off the building. I'm surprised I'm not already dead. I had might as well jump up and down with a red flag and shout "Yoo-hoo! It's me!" He waited in the dark silence for a moment, knowing he'd have to start the car sooner or later. Aside from the gentle sea breeze rattling the palm fronds overhead, all was still - except for his heart pounding in his ears.
He glanced at the radio microphone on his dashboard. Should I check in with dispatch? Maybe they could send a black-and-white around. Yeah, maybe I could get someone else killed, too. And what should I tell them? There's somebody I can't describe who's doing something I don't know about and I'm seeing boogie-men in the shadows. That would give HPD a big laugh.
Catching his breath, he turned the ignition key and the engine fired to noisy life. He waited another moment - nothing. Reaching into the glove box, he pulled out his snub-nose .38 and placed it on the seat beside him. There was a barely audible thump against the windshield and Danny nearly jumped out of his skin. He glared at the spot of rain that had spattered on the glass and tried to calm his nerves.
He depressed the clutch and shifted the white Mustang into first. He pulled away from the curb onto the quiet, empty street. It was just past 12:30AM. Not too many people traveled the residential areas this late at night. More raindrops splashed against the car and the pavement. He turned on his wipers. Where do I go? Not home. HPD?
He stopped at the corner, looked in his mirrors, but there was no sign of anyone around. Maybe I just imagined it. Maybe it's all in my mind. I screwed up a great date over something imaginary? I guess that was one really short relationship. He turned the corner when the light changed to green. He was starting to relax and feel just a bit foolish. Golly, Kono and Ben will think I'm nuts.
There was a dim flash in the rear view mirror as a pair of headlights turned the corner he had about twenty seconds after him. The fear rushed back over him with even greater intensity than before. Stay calm. Everybody can travel the road. I've got myself totally spooked here. He turned a corner that would take him towards the freeway. Fifteen seconds later, the second car did the same. Danny selected a street at random and turned back towards the neighborhood from which he had come. A random driver behind him should not make that turn.
Twelve seconds later, the headlights turned behind him.
Danny pressed the accelerator a bit more firmly. Let's put some distance between us. His mind was rapidly developing a convoluted route to HPD that would possibly lose a pursuer along the way.
In the red Impala behind, Andrei Kachan motioned to the driver, Al Keaver. "He's made us. Take him."
Keaver shook his head and glanced at the Russian beside him. Foreigners made him nervous. "Naw, he doesn't know anything."
"Do as I say," Kachan snapped.
Keaver shrugged and floored the gas. The large engine roared beneath them and the wheels skidded slightly on the wet pavement.
The distance the sports car and the large Chevy narrowed quickly.
Cursing, Danny downshifted and veered off sharply onto a side street out of the housing development leading towards the highway and town. The fears of being pursued had vanished, replaced by the wit and anger to survive. The question of why after all these years floated to the front of his mind to be intentionally shoved aside. I need my total concentration on the escape.
The rain was falling harder now; the roads were slick, creating no small hardship for both vehicles. Kachan chided Keaver several times to increase speed as the younger American eased off the gas to control a skid.
"I wreck this car and you won't catch nobody," Keaver sneered back trying to hide his fear of the Russian. "He's having trouble on the turns, too. He won't get away. Not driving that pretty Mustang he will want to keep in one piece."
Kachan did not seem to understand the materialistic response. "The car is just a machine -- it doesn't matter to me -- or to him."
Keaver cursed under his breath as the white Mustang ahead completed a sharp turn and sped up the entrance to the highway. Keaver followed now just 10 seconds behind, inwardly admiring the handling of the Mustang.
Danny floored the gas and glanced at the speedometer as it clocked around past 110 miles per hour. The wipers swished away rain as fast as they could, but at this speed, that was not fast enough. Red taillights of a vehicle appeared on the road ahead and he flashed by the delivery truck moments later.
The Impala was still closing the distance.
Danny calculated his next action. The second exit would be the fastest to the police department, but it would require traveling through the tourist area -- and traffic lights. I can't stop and I can't slow much. Nor can I risk innocent life. The first exit dumps off into old warehouses and tenements. No one will be on those streets. Maybe if I let him get close enough, he'll miss the exit completely. Keeping one eye constantly on the duel headlights in his mirror, he watched the mile markers tick down. The distance between the cars was shrinking. The exit was in sight. Danny did not move into the exit lane, but waited in the center of three lines until the last possible instant before swinging hard into the exit. The back end of the Mustang fishtailed and bumped off the guardrail, fishing the car back the other way before Danny regained control.
Keaver hit the brake and attempted to make the exit, but slid past. He swung the large car around in a skidding slide back towards the exit. The truck they'd passed earlier hit his loud air horn in warning as Keaver barreled for the exit from the wrong direction. The Impala cleared the lane in the last instant as the truck swerved to the left to avoid a collision.
Kachan made no comment at their close call. "There!" he pointed to the Mustang, white against the black night that had increased the distance to nearly ten seconds.
Danny had not taken the time to watch the drama between the truck and the Impala, although he'd heard the air horn and there had not been a crash to follow. He cut two turns, sliding through both, but the Impala made each one behind him. Warehouses and tightly packed tenement housing rose around him. He re-calculated a route to HPD in his head.
He freed his right hand for an instant to grab the radio. "Unit 10 to Central. I need-" He did not get the chance to complete the request. Before him, the road made a sharp turn. He dropped the microphone and took hold of the steering wheel, but a poorly parked van stuck well out into the road. He pressed the brake, turning the wheel into the slide, but his actions were too little too late. The Mustang careened sideways through the curve, going into a full spin as control was completely lost. It slammed into a light pole, striking the front left first, sheering off the pole. The Mustang folded up on impact, coming to a bone-jarring halt.
Keaver with a few extra seconds tried to slow for the turn, aware that any running their prey would be doing would now be on foot. The larger Impala slid into the curve as well, and nearly cleared the crumpled Ford. It clipped the back end, driving the smaller car further against the pole and puncturing the radiator of the Impala with the grill. Green coolant began dribble out onto the road.
Kachan, unconcerned about his car, had already jumped from the passenger side, totally focused on the driver side of the Mustang. Keaver had given the damage a single look as he followed Kachan's lead.
There had been no motion from the Mustang, but Kachan drew his Tokarev and, as he forced open the driver's door of the Mustang, pointed it inside.
Keaver played a flashlight over the compartment and the body that was crumpled across the front seat. Although restrained by a seatbelt, the sideways impact with the window had left a bloody wound on Danny's head that dripped down his neck. In addition, his left leg was pinned under the accordioned dash.
"Is he alive?" Kachan demanded.
Keaver nodded. "Knocked himself out."
Kachan gave a relieved quick nod. "Get him out of there."
Keaver glanced at Kachan, then the crumpled dashboard.
"Quickly," Kachan added, noting the smell of gasoline spilling from the Ford.
Keaver gave a viscous kick to the console and few times, then tugged Danny free. He dragged the deadweight of the unconscious man across the pavement where Kachan calmly opened the back door, giving no assistance to the straining of Keaver.
"What about the -- you know -- in the truck?" Keaver asked.
Kachan blinked once. "Your orders, Keaver."
"We can't get all the way to the dump. We're losing fluid. The car will overheat," Keaver argued.
Kachan lit a cigarette and blew out the match. "Your suggestion?"
"The boss said to get rid of the body. We can burn it here. Hell, maybe they'll think this Williams guy is dead."
Kachan recalled the hours of arguing that gone into the decision to nab Williams. Drosnins, the German Stasi agent, had thought it was a bad idea, way too noticeable, but Gorek was in charge and his orders were to - follow orders. "Maybe these Americans are a stupid bunch, huh?" Kachan muttered. "Certainly you are a fine stupid representation of an American," he commented to Keaver.
Keaver squinted at the remark.
"Do it." Kachan got back into the car, leaving Keaver to haul the dead body out of the trunk alone. It sagged to the ground for the man had been dead less than three hours. Grunting, Keaver dragged it to the damaged Mustang and shoved it into the driver's seat. He walked back to the Impala and got in. "Don't be a help," he muttered to Kachan.
Kachan waited until Keaver had started the whining damaged engine of the Chevy and backed it away from the other vehicle. As they were about to pull away, Kachan flicked his cigarette butt into the puddle of fuel near the rear of the Mustang. As they left, the spilled gasoline flashed into a whooshing flame and Danny's Mustang was instantly enveloped in a brilliant blaze.
Steve peered ahead through his windshield, steeling his emotions for what he was likely to see. The red, blue and yellow of bubble lights illumined the area and provided a macabre sense of a carnival. A car from KOAH pulled up just as he did and a cameraman and reporter hopped out. The camera was already rolling.
"Comments, McGarrett?" The reporter shoved a microphone in his face.
Steve gritted his teeth, glancing past them at the cluster of firefighters still spreading foam around the blackened corpse of auto. One rear tire kept persistently flaming back up. He pushed past the reporter without a word. Rain still hung heavy in the air and periodically, a drop would strike the charred metal and vanish in steaming hiss. Steve's eye dropped to the blistered, peeled paint of the license plate. There is no doubt about the car. He remembered how proudly Danny had showed off the Mustang the day he bought it: like a kid with a new toy. A big kid with a big toy. Noticing a black object in the gutter, Steve stepped over and saw the sub-nose .38. He picked it up with his handkerchief.
The body lay to one side, half in a puddle of hose water, or rainwater, it was hard to know, covered by a yellow tarp. Steve, keenly aware that the camera was rolling, tried to distract himself emotionally by contemplating Doc's anger that evidence might have been destroyed by the water or perhaps a lack of care when moving the victim. Trying to keep himself mentally occupied with these thoughts, he leaned down and lifted one corner of the tarp.
Chin's hand touched his wrist. "Don't bother, Steve," the older man said gently. "A positive ID will only be made through a very careful autopsy. There isn't much left."
Steve straightened, reading the agony in Chin's quiet features. "What happened?" he asked, trying to be professional, but the lump in his throat threatened to choke him. Danno, my God, Danno. How did this happen? A stupid traffic fatality? It can't be that simple. It just can't. Why not?
Che replied first. "I think there was some kind of chase going on." He walked back towards the curve. "Hard because of the wet road -- not as much rubber left -- but these are the tracks by the Mustang." He walked a few steps. "Separate set here-andů" he gestured to the rear of the Mustang, "-rear end damage that had to come from another vehicle. Red paint."
"Someone ran him off the road?" Steve asked.
Che walked off the area again. "He was traveling pretty fast. I'll have to do the math. My guess is over 70 miles an hour. Second car in pursuit. He lost control on his own avoiding the van." He pointed to the Ram van whose sleepy-eyed owner was standing looking horror-struck by his vehicle. "Spun this way," he motioned his arms, "and hit the pole. The car chasing him -- why he was traveling so fast -- also lost it on the curve. It was a bigger vehicle, saw what had happened and had time to slow some, but in the skid hit the back end of the Mustang with the front of his car. There's coolant puddled back here."
"Then it was murder," Steve muttered. "Accident might not have killed him, so the killer hits him again."
Che gave the comment a moment to settle. Steve is emotionally involved here. We all are. He is not as objective as usual. "May not have hit the Mustang intentionally, but did leave," he pointed out.
If Danny stood a chance of survival we will never know. Burned to death. O God, please let him have been unconscious. Steve needed another moment to contain his emotion. He swallowed and blinked a few times, as Kono joined the small cluster.
"Dispatch says Danno called in at 12:50AM."
"That agrees with the neighbors' reports of the explosion just about 1:00," Ben added.
"What did he say to dispatch?" Steve asked, fighting to keep his wits. God, Danno, I cannot believe this is happening.
Kono shrugged. "Started a sentence, said 'I need' that's it."
"'I need,'" Steve muttered and flexed his jaw. He needed us and we could not be there for him. What was happening? What happened in those 10 minutes? He glanced around the scene, locking every brick, every stone into his memory. Realizing he still held the gun in the handkerchief, he held it out to Che who dropped it into a plastic bag. "Check it out, Che. See if it's been fired. Gentlemen, I want this area combed for anything and everything. No matter how trivial it seems. Talk to every person around here. The tenants, the wine-os, everyone. Che, find Doc. If he doesn't already know get him out of bed. I want that autopsy done right now - tonight and I want to know if he burned, he was shot, how long it took him to die, if he was alert, I want it all and I want the results as fast as we can get them."
Ben felt a wave of nausea, wondering for the first time what it might be like to be trapped in a vehicle and burn to death.
Steve glared at him as though he could read the younger officer's mind. "We will get the bastard, Ben," he promised. "We will."
Steve went to his office. There did not seem to be anything else to do. He put on a pot of coffee knowing his team would be arriving as they completed their tasks. No one would go home tonight. Or what was left of it. The clock bragged the hour of 4:20 AM and crimson daybreak was already suggested on the eastern sky. The events of the night seemed unbelievable, like somehow this was just a bad dream from which he would awaken. But McGarrett had been in this spot of painful loss before and he knew that the best way to work it out was justice. It is my role to solve what happened here and exact payment. But what is justice in a state where there is no capital punishment meted out to the person who leaves someone to burn to death?
In the distance he heard the faint plaintive wail of a police car siren. What motive is needed to burn a cop? Or is one needed? What two-bit slime ball had his dream come true last night? A list. I should start a list.
As Steve had known, members of the team began to turn up one at a time, make a direct line for the coffee pot, then stand back and look at the names Steve had scribbled on the board he'd pulled into the office. Occasionally someone suggested another name before they all lapsed into silence again. Finally, near 7:00 Steve put down his chalk. "This is a waste of time," he uttered, exhaustion filling his voice. "None of these guys has the -- balls to pull this off."
"Who else then?" Chin asked slowly.
Steve shook his head. "I don't know. We need to trace everything Danny did last night. Where he went, who saw him -- who he talked to. There has to be a key to this. Kono, check with the staff. See if he mentioned to anyone what his plans were for last night. It's just about starting time." As he completed the sentence, there was a timid rap on the office door.
They all turned as May opened the door, accompanied by a young girl from the secretary pool. Clutched in the girl's hands was a copy of the morning paper that had taken quite a beating. Her eyes were puffy and red. She quietly extended her hand, revealing the three inch high headline of the front page: FIVE-O OFFICER KILLED IN FIERY CRASH "Mr. McGarrett, I was with Danny last night," she whimpered.
It seemed everyone moved at once, rushing Rachel who was ushered instantly to a comfortable chair. The Five-0 team crowded around her as Steve spoke. "Rachel, isn't it?" he asked attempting to sound like he was concerned for her. In reality he was concerned only with anything she would say.
She gave a single nod. "I can't believe it," she whispered.
"Rachel, you may be the last person who saw -- well, who was with Danny. I'd like you to tell me everything you remember about last night. No detail is unimportant."
"Yes, of course," she whispered. "Yesterday was my birthday. We weren't dating regular or anything like that." Her cheeks flushed pink. "It was just my birthday -- my family is far away -- he said he'd take me to dinner -- no big deal really." She stumbled over her words.
Steve decided to wait her out instead of pushing.
"Well, we left the office at about 5:30 and ate at the deli just outside of the zoo."
"The zoo?" It was Chin who spoke.
She nodded. "I like the zoo. It's open in the evening some nights, so--" she trailed off. "It was really nice, you know? I mean, Danny always seems so -- professional -- it was nice to see him like a normal person." She issued a small gasp. "That's not to say you all aren't normal, it just...."
"That's all right, Rachel, we know what you mean," Steve interrupted. His impatience was growing. "Did something happen at the zoo? Anything out of the ordinary?"
"Not there, but afterward, we visited an art gallery. Danny knew the artist. They talked about a show the guy had done a week before."
"What art gallery?"
"Hum -- I don't know the name, it's a block from the zoo. I remembered Danny called the artist Artie. I thought that was kind of funny. An artist named Artie." She stopped, and cleared her throat. "Well, we went to Max's for drinks. I think it was a little after eleven and the guy parking cars said something to Danny."
"What did he say?"
"I don't know, but Danny seemed to be -- well, upset. He made the waitress give us a different table, and complained that she took too long with the drinks. He seemed like he was in a hurry all of a sudden."
"Why did he change tables?" Steve asked.
"I don't -- oh, he said he wanted to see the door."
Steve exchanged glances with Chin. An old spook tactic. Never sit with your back to the door. He knew something was going down. We have to find that car valet. "Anything else?"
She shrugged. "We had the drinks, then he was really in a hurry to get me home. He kept apologizing, saying he had not realized how late it was. I was kind of scared because I could tell he was worried, but he would tell me anything. He kept looking in the mirror as we drove, like there was someone behind us, but I didn't see anything." Tears were building in her eyes again. "But I guess someone was there." She whispered. "I am so sorry!" she blurted. "It's all my fault! If he hadn't taken me, whoever it was would not have found him and he'd still be alive!"
"Rachel," Steve said firmly. "This is not your fault." He placed an arm around her shoulder. "You may have given us just what we need to solve his case. Whoever was after Danny would have found him anyway. I am going to have May arrange for you to stay somewhere until this is over. I don't want anyone learning that you were with him. All right?" He motioned May who nodded.
Just as May left with Rachel, Doc Bergman and Che entered the office together. They looked no better rested than the Five-0 team.
Steve anxiously searched Bergman's face for clues as he extended a cup of coffee, but the medical examiner did not reveal so much as a flicker until he was ready.
"Gentleman," Bergman began as he stirred sugar into his coffee. "The autopsy says the body is that of a male, height 6 foot, weight was about 200 pounds. He had false teeth and a pacemaker. Blood type was B negative. He was dead before the fire. One bullet to the head."
They all just stared at him. "That's not right," Ben muttered.
Bergman nodded. "The body is not Danny."
Silence was stunning. Steve was uncertain how to feel. Danny not dead? Then what is this about? Where is he? Who is the burned man? His head buzzed with fatigue. He sat down on the edge of his desk. "Someone was looking for Danno alive."
Che provided the next piece. "Gun was not fired, but Danny's are the only prints on it. Doc and I went over what little there was to try to put an ID to the victim. The profile fit generally with a missing person. Dental records confirmed it. His name is Marty Shang. Fifty-six year old retired plumber. Disappeared from his home just about a week ago." He extended a copy of Shang's driver's photo.
Steve looked closely at the photo. "A plumber?"
"And," Che continued, "while researching for Shang, we noticed there has been an increased number of missing persons in the last month. Specifically in the last two weeks." He handed Steve a short list containing seven names.
"Seven in two weeks? No ransom notes or threats?" Steve asked.
Che gave a small smile. "You'll need to check HPD for that. If we hadn't been looking for a missing man, I don't think we would have ever noticed the pattern."
Steve handed Kono the list. "Check out every one of them. Ben, find that valet and find out what he knows. Chin, you're with me. We are going to visit the Shang family."
It was just before 8:30AM. Birds were still serenading the return of the sun and kids were laughing and playing kickball in the yard next door. The house was a very small, whitewash cottage, buried deep in clinging vines and Spanish bayonet. Even from the exterior it was obvious that Marty Shang had not been a wealthy man, but he had been neat. The grass was cut and there were no weeds in the small flowerbed near the sidewalk. Steve and Chin passed through the white picket fence gate and climbed the two steps to the front door. McGarrett heard the doorbell ring melodically inside as he pressed the buzzer. A few moments later, a young woman's head appeared around the corner of the door. "Yes?" She was dressed for work and had been about to leave. Her purse was in her hand.
"Mrs. Shang?" Steve inquired.
"She is my mother."
"McGarrett and Kelley, Five-0." He held up his badge. "We have some information about your father. May we come in?"
She stepped back and opened the door wider, fear already collecting in her eyes. She led them back through the dark, narrow corridor into the compact kitchen. The radio was blaring news, a coffee pot perked on the stove, and the smell of toast was heavy on the air. "Mama," the girl said as she walked over to the older woman who was frying an egg on the stove. "These are police to talk about Daddy."
Mrs. Shang removed the skillet and turned off the flame. "Excuse me," she said with great dignity as she smoothed her robe and put a hand to her curlers. "I am a dreadful mess."
"That's quite all right, Mrs. Shang," Steve said gently with a small smile. "My name is Steve McGarrett, this is Chin Ho Kelley, we are with Five-0."
She sat down at the table, pushed the newspaper aside and motioned them to chairs. "Can I give you some coffee?" She motioned her daughter to turn off the radio. "I read about that young man. Terrible, terrible." She shook her head.
"Mrs. Shang," Steve said quietly, seeking for a way to be gentle. How do I tell her that it was her husband who burned? "What can you tell me about the night your husband disappeared?"
"Well, I told the police before. He went to take his evening walk. He did that quite a bit. He had to retire early because of his heart and the doctor told him to take walks. Well, he walked out that door and didn't come back."
"Did you ever receive a call about ransom money? Any threats?"
She almost smiled. "We don't have much. Who could want money from us?" She in sudden determination looked at him closely. "You know something about Marty. He's dead, isn't he?"
"Yes, ma'am," Steve confirmed quietly.
There was a prolonged moment of silence. Mrs. Shang glanced at her daughter, then down at the table. "I - I kept hoping, you know, that he'd come back. That somehow--" Her voice broke but there were no tears. Finally she cleared her throat. "For a week I have wondered what I would do. It doesn't seem real."
"Mrs. Shang, your husband did not just die -- he was murdered. It looks the like person who killed him has kidnapped someone else. Is there anything at all you can think of that he might have said, or done -- anything that might tell you who this is? Any jobs he worked on?"
She slowly shook her head. "No. Nothing."
"There was Mrs. Walker," the daughter offered.
"Oh, Jeanie," Mrs. Shang waved her hang. "That's nothing."
"Who's Mrs. Walker?" Steve asked, interest piqued.
Jeanie spoke. "Alan Walker worked with Daddy sometimes when Daddy needed extra hands. He's gone, too. Three days before Daddy."
"That's different," Mrs. Shang countered with a sniff. "Alan drinks too much. He's off on a drunken stupor somewhere. He always comes back."
Chin was glancing at the list of named on his notepad. He gave Steve a single nod -- Walker's name was there.
"Did you know what jobs Marty and Alan might have done together?" Steve asked.
"Lots," Mrs. Shang replied. "Harborlight Construction used to call them a lot."
was scribbling down the name as Steve rose from the chair.
Chin went to the contractor's office alone. He was fortunate that the boss was in the office, or so the secretary told him.
Frank Mathers pushed blueprints and tools around on his desk while he talked to Chin. Police made him nervous. Even though he'd never been in any serious trouble he always expected someone was going to accuse him of something. A Five-0 officer standing before him was a high stress moment. "This business has changed hands three times in the last 10 years," he grumbled. "Don't know if I can help you or not."
"You've worked a plumber named Marty Shang, right?" Chin asked, noting Mathers' shaking hands.
"Huh-huh. Not in a year. He retired."
"What about Alan Walker?"
"When he ain't drunk," Mathers interjected. "Been about four months. He did a job for me on a store remodeling. They were adding a bathroom for customers."
"What jobs did Shang and Walker do together?"
Mathers waved a hand over his sloppy files. "I probably called Marty on six or seven jobs. Not sure which ones he did together with Walker."
"I want going back over the last ten years," Chin added, recalling Steve's request. The length of time seemed a little extreme when Steve had requested it, but Chin knew better than to argue with the chief. He always has a reason.
years?" Mathers issued a thick smoker's cough. "I got four.
Before that, this was run by the jerk my brother sold it to. Don't think
he kept records. My brother's stuff is God knows where." He shoved
a bunch of folders towards Chin.
When Steve had left Chin, he returned to the office with a purpose in mind. Shang knew Walker -- who else on that list knew each other? There has to be a relationship. But Danny and construction? This did not come through Five-0.
Steve entered his office, closed the door then turned over the white guest chair in the corner. The base of the leg had been hollowed out. Inside were two keys. He took out one.
The trip to Danny's apartment seemed to take forever. Morning traffic was thickening and Steve watched every car, every pedestrian wondering if someone was following him. Danno what have you gotten into? Do we have the ability to get you back out?
He unlocked the small file box Danny had buried in the service chest of his room in the apartment. It felt odd to be here without Danny, like he was violating a trust. Steve tried not to dwell on the emptiness of the place. The file box contained memos and orders for two years of service, then a few cryptic reports dating through 1964. Steve's eye was drawn to the last file in the box dated 1972. His brow knit as he pulled out the manila folder and began to leaf through the contents. My God, this was two years ago! Tucking the folder under his arm, he headed back for the office.
The dark coffee rapidly filled the battered, cracked coffee mug and Keaver dumped some sugar from the container into it. He stirred it with the back end of a knife. The walls of the tenement apartment were paper-thin, he could hear people screaming at each other and howling babies. There was a thud of hurried, heavy footsteps coming up the stairway. They stopped at his door and there was a rhythmic rap.
He set down the cup and cracked open the door. "What."
"Me, open it," snapped the German accented voice.
He hurriedly undid the locks and threw the door open.
The tall, slender German man stepped into the room. Wilhelm Gorek glanced at Keaver. He just barely tolerated the young American that his younger partner had selected. No accounting for Kachan's taste, but then he doubted the choices of most Russians. Gorek had tired of this assignment. It was a stupid affair and he thought his superiors should have done this differently. Americans are weak and spoiled. That includes our subjects as well as this slobbering example before me.
"We got him," Keaver offered, trying to find something to fill the silence. Gorek frightened him. He'd either witnessed or heard about Gorek's brutal torturing deaths of six men. Sometimes he wished he had not gotten into this one.
"I heard," Gorek remarked, anger blazing from his stark china-blue eyes. The deep folds of skin on his face deepened further as he growled. "And I heard how. You were stupid. I told you not to injure him."
"Hey, I didn't tell him to wreck his car," Keaver protested. "Besides, Andrei told me to keep the heat on." He tried to crack a smile unsuccessfully. "Look at the bright side -- he ain't walkin' out on you."
Gorek brushed him aside. "I want to see him."
"Sure. Kachan's with him." Keaver turned to lead Gorek down the narrow hallway.
Gorek pulled his arm back. "You go get Lu and bring him here."
Keaver shrugged and turned back towards the door.
"Oh, Al," Gorek called him back with a friendly tone to his voice.
Gorek slammed him against the door suddenly, a hand at Keaver's throat, eye to eye. "I do not encourage creativity within my organization."
Keaver gaped in fear.
"My orders are to be followed exactly -- to the letter. Your brilliant idea of putting the body in the car has called attention to us that I did not wish."
"It worked out," he stammered around Gorek's grip. "They think he's dead."
"No. The media thinks he's dead. McGarrett will know from the autopsy. And he will be looking for us."
Keaver stood wordless in terror. I have seen this man kill people with his bare hands with less emotion than I see right now. I need out of this mess.
Gorek seemed to read Al's thoughts with pleasure. "I believe you understand," he murmured quietly. "You're next stroke of genius will be your last."
"Yes, sir," he whispered, thankful to still be breathing.
"Get Lu," Gorek muttered with contempt.
Keaver just about fell over himself getting out of the door. Shaking his head, Gorek squared his shoulders and walked down the narrow hallway. He was almost tall enough to duck his head under the doorframe as he entered the small bedroom.
The old full-sized bed almost completely filled the room. Kachan had squeezed a straight-backed chair inside the door and rose from it now as Gorek entered.
"Ist alle ruhe?" he asked in German of Kachan.
"Da," Kachan replied in Russian, then added in English. "No problems at all."
Kachan gave a nod and glanced over at old sagging bed that was occupied by Danny who was bound arms and legs to the rungs of the head and footboards of the bed. Kachan walked over to the side of the bed, noting the large bruise on Danny's left temple and the bloody stain at thigh level on the left pant leg. "Hörst du mich?" he snapped at Danny.
Danny opened his eyes halfway. He had a pounding headache that had plagued him since recovering consciousness and his left leg throbbed if he tried to move. For the last two hours, he had been trying to find a position where the pain was the least. "Ya, of course I hear you," he muttered back. He did not know this tall, commanding man. He'd recognized Kachan last night and knew he was trouble, but still had trouble accurately recalling how they had met before.
"Sprechen sie Deutsch?" Gorek asked in mild amusement.
Danny stopped to consider his reply. "Ich spreche besserer Russe."
Gorek glanced over at Kachan and gave a loud laugh. "One for you, Andrei!"
Kachan tucked his Tokarev pistol into his belt and rocked back on two legs of the chair, displeasure plain on his expression.
Gorek turned back to Danny, an open smile on his face. "You are clever," he pronounced in English. "but do not think too much of yourself." He leaned back on the wall beside the bed. "I suppose you are wondering why you are here, are you not?"
Danny did not reply. He began to study Gorek for himself to determine the kind of man he was. This guy is dangerous, sure of himself, and a bit flamboyant.
"Do you remember my friend Andrei? You have met before. A long time ago. You were both little more than kinde." He waited, watching Danny's expression.
Danny remained silent, not betraying anything. I have to remember that guy, it may be important. Long ago -- children -- most likely before Five-0. That's real trouble. He dared a glance towards Kachan who had not moved.
Gorek issued a new smile. "So, you are here and why? Heh?" In a sudden startling move, he flipped out a rather significant US Marine combat knife. In one swipe, he took hold of Danny's bloodied pant leg and slit it from knee to hip, exposing the puncture wound surrounded by black and red congealed blood. The tissue around the wound was discolored and swollen. "Nein gut. Andrei, we need to modify our expectations."
That did bring a response from the young Russian who slammed the chair flat on the floor and rose. He squeezed next to Gorek to have a closer look at Danny's leg. "Neiht." He muttered. "It is nothing."
Gorek set his jaw and eyed Danny coolly. "I hear your friends refer to you as Danno. It is a Hawaiian thing?" He gave a single chuckle. "Well -- Danno -- as you may have concluded I have need of some information you may possess." He lightly touched the razor sharp tip of the knife into the edge of the leg wound.
Danny gripped the bed rung with one hand, but made no sound as the pain fired through his leg from toes to hip.
Gorek meticulously wiped the blood from the blade of the knife against the threadbare mattress. "In time." He scooped up the morning paper from beneath Kachan's chair. "Care to see the news?"
He flopped the headlines across Danny's chest and Danny craned his neck to read it.
Gorek gave a smirk. "I have heard about your fabled Five-0 and Steve McGarrett. This ruse may confuse him -- for a brief time anyway. To be quite honest, you are of very limited value to me. Your injury shortens that even more. You are just a tool." Gorek turned his back on Danny and took the few short steps through the small room to Kachan's spot. "I would speak with you."
Kachan glanced at Danny.
Gorek gave a comical expression. "Oh, you will excuse us, Mr. Williams, will you not? Don't go away now."
The two European agents stepped out into the hallway. Kachan muttered. "I want him, Wilhelm."
Gorek nodded. "I know that, Andrei. But personal vengeance can disable you. The leg is broken, I am sure of it. I cannot take him anywhere without notice. We will need to continue with Lu."
"Lu has told us all he knows! Do you think one more body will make him talk? And then what? Williams is the last, Wilhelm. Lu will not talk. Maybe Williams will. I can make him talk."
Gorek, glared at the wall.
Andrei continued his argument. "He retired from their service, he has gotten soft. Let me have the time I need. I know I can make him talk."
"And if you cannot?" Wilhelm whispered, fixing his pale eyes on his Russian partner. He shook his head slightly. "No, our best hope is Lu. We will activate the retrieval plan and take him with us."
Kachan shoved his hands into his pockets. "And what of Williams?"
shrugged. "If not for the injury he might have been of use. But now
-- we shall use him with Lu then discard him like the others. Take heart,
Andrei, I will not forget my promise to you. He will be yours for the
quick kill, even though you may not get the satisfaction of the slow process."