by Peg Keeley
"We've got to get to them quickly!" Danny called to one of the guardsmen.
He glanced back at the spy ship disappearing from sight. McGarrett and
the cutter were less than three minutes away. Hopefully, they'd catch
the spy ship. But the chopper's job was this rescue.
of the guardsman, 'Shaw' it read on his jumpsuit, was already climbing
into the harness and pulling the large floatation vest over it. His
partner, Harris, clipped the tow line to the metal eyelet in the back
of the harness. The wind buffeted the chopper as the pilot tired to
hold it steady over the small boat.
gave a thumbs up and Harris started the winch running. It slowly lowered
Shaw towards the water. Rain whipped around him, soaking him before
he ever got to the sea. He was still fifteen feet above the surface
when a wind gust caught the chopper from the underside. It tilted, careening
upward. The deck tilted nearly forty-five degrees, throwing Danny and
Harris off their feet on the slippery deck. The cable was jerked taunt,
bouncing Shaw like a yo-yo. Unexpectedly, the cable snapped free of
the harness, catching Shaw in the back of the head.
cable shot upwards as Shaw plunged into the sea. The life vest popped
the unconscious man to the surface and rolled him to his back, supporting
his head out of the water as the mighty waves kept washing over him.
pilot struggled with the bucking aircraft as it pitched back in the
other direction. Danny and Harris who had both been slammed into the
far wall, now skidded back across the slick deck towards the open bay
door. Harris snagged into the red nylon web mesh along the wall. Danny
grabbed desperately at the edge of the door was it flew by, then he
was outside of the craft and dropping towards the ocean. He twisted,
trying to get his feet downward and nearly made it. He was thrust down
beneath the sea into inky blackness. It last only a moment; his life
vest shot him upward. He broke the surface to be hit full in the face
by a twenty foot wave that spun him head over heels. He surfaced again,
this time gasping for breath. The chopper was sixty feet above him,
the cable swaying back and forth in the gale. A wave rushed under Danny,
lifting him high. In the light of the chopper's spotlight, he could
see Mali's little boat rising one wave away. Shaw floated in the valley
behind his wave in the other direction. He looked back up. Harris was
in the bay doorway. Danny gestured that he was going after Shaw.
took precious minutes of time to reach him. Just as he seemed almost
there, a wave would lift them apart. At last, he took hold of the life
vest. Shaw was alive, though still unconscious. Harris had dropped the
cable low. Upon discovering the eyelet of the harness damaged beyond
use, it took another few moments to get the cable under Shaw's arms
and clipped it into itself. Danny gestured a go ahead and Shaw was being
was exhausted as he turned again to pinpoint the boat. With disappointment,
he noted it seemed even farther away than before. The life vest that
kept him afloat in the raging sea slowed his swimming. The helicopter
hovering overhead added more noise to the already howling storm. Mali,
hang on. I am coming. Hang on just a little longer. I can't lose my
son now, not after all this.
gigantic wave lifted Danny high with the speed of an express elevator
and Mali, clinging to her baby, papoose-wrapped in the life vest, was
dropped directly below him. The wave dropped him with as much speed,
lifting the boat high. Suddenly, the craft was hurtling down the side
of the wave directly at him. He floundered, trying to escape the path
and almost succeeded. It struck his shoulder as it roared past, Mali
on deck, child in her arms, open-mouthed.
glancing blow spun him against the side of the boat near the stern.
He grasped along the smooth hull for anything to grab and his hand closed
around the dangling stern line. The rope burned his fingers as he seized
it. He pulled himself upward, grabbed hold of the railing of the gunwale
and hauled himself over onto the deck. The floatation vest now seemed
to weigh a thousand pounds. "Mali!" he yelled above the wind.
stood there, gripping Lonnie. "Danny, help us!"
looked down and realized that she had lashed her self to the boat with
her belt. "For godssakes, get untied from the boat! If it capsizes,
it'll take you with it!"
Lonnie to safety!" she pleaded.
took the small boy, still wrapped in his life vest suit, and between
his vest and the child's struggled to get a good grip on him. He looked
up. "Oh my God," he had just enough time to murmur. A mighty thirty
foot wave was baring down on the little boat. Before he could make a
motion, the craft was upended, bow first. He was slammed into the stern,
still clutching Lonnie, then pitched into the sea where he was spun
over and over. Danny tried desperately trying to reach the surface as
the force of the wave threatened to snatch the child from his arms.
this baby hold his breath? Danny's own air was running out. His
lungs ached for oxygen and felt like they would explode through his
chest. He broke the surface and dragged great gulps of air, tainted
with sea water.
shook Lonnie, trying to see into his face, but the water surged around
them making it impossible to do anything but keep the boy above the
surface. Lonnie coughed twice, then let out an ear-piercing cry. Thank
God! Danny tried to look around, but could not see Mali. She
did not have a vest on. She won't last but a few minutes and only that
if she managed to hang onto the overturned boat. It was too dark
to see if she was there. There was a hiss as a brilliant red flare streaked
through the rainy night and splashed onto the surface of the water.
Three more followed and the blackness was pushed back by the sputtering
red floating flares. The pilot dropped the chopper as low as he dared,
and Harris played the cable out, this time with the loop already formed.
As it dropped within arm's reach, Danny managed to get it over his head
and shoulders, then up under his arms. Almost instantly, he and Lonnie
were soaring skyward as the wind whipped around them and the rotor blades
competed with the storm.
the bay door, Harris hauled them inside and took Lonnie from Danny's
got to go back," Danny called above the din. "The girl's still down
done in, let me go," Harris replied.
shook his head. "Might as well keep one of us dry."
this." Harris helped Danny out of the soggy vest and then into the spare
harness. Danny put the heavy vest back on over it and Harris clipped
the cable into the harness.
you heard from McGarrett?" Danny asked.
the cutter's bridge, Steve, also clad in a nylon jumpsuit and life vest,
peered through the rain spattered window into the storm hoping for the
first sign of the fleeing spy ship. It had been pinpointed on the radar
was still in US territorial waters, but not for long.
she is!" the second mate shouted. The huge spotlights punctured the
darkness and illumined the glimmering wet hull of the Chinese freighter,
one hundred yards away.
First Officer picked up the microphone to the loud speaker system. "This
is the United States Coast Guard to Chinese vessel. You are in United
States territorial water. Stand down and prepare to be boarded."
ship did not slow.
are running for it, Sir," the radar officer commented.
on the bridge," announced a sailor as Captain Reynolds ducked in through
the door, water streaming off his billed cap and dark blue slicker.
"How far till they make international water?"
hundred yards, sir," the man on the radar replied.
sighed and nodded to Steve. "We can stop them, but we'd better be sure
from the chopper says they've killed two men and set a woman and child
adrift in this storm," he replied. "And I know they were stealing military
nodded. "They slowing at all?"
Sir," the radar officer replied.
drop one across their bow," the Captian commented to the First Officer.
sir." He punched a button and an alarm sounded. "General quarters. General
quarters." Guardsmen were scurrying around in the drenching rain, uncovering
the deck guns. The First Officer gave orders and a moment later, a shell
was accurately fired directly before the bow of the Chinese ship. In
the fierce storm, it added little noise and only a bit of extra wave.
The ship did not slow.
hundred yards, Sir."
sighed. "It isn't a pleasant thing to fire into a ship in a storm like
they did fire on the helicopter," the second mate offered.
cluster of men exchanged looks before the Captain gave a nod. "Stop
First Officer spun back to the console and picked up the microphone.
"Alien vessel, this is the United States Coast Guard cutter Houston.
Stand down and prepare to be boarded or we will be forced to fire on
your vessel. Stand down and prepare to be boarded. There will be no
further warnings." He hung up the mic.
"Two hundred yards, Sir."
looked to Reynolds one more time, then issued orders to the deck gunners.
The deck cannon gave a puff as the shell fired. It lobbed directly into
the aft engine and propellers of the Chinese ship. There was a moderate
explosion and a fire started that quickly spread. The cutter pulled
along side and retrieved the Chinese crew from life rafts as they abandoned
the blazing ship. As they were brought aboard, each was frisked and
followed the armed security team below where the Chinese spies were
lined up along the wall away from the weather. He examined the downcast
faces of each of the nine men and came to Hsin last. He paused looking
closely at the man who looked downward, not making eye contact. "I know
glanced up, then back down again, bitter failure betrayed on his face,
framed by the rain streaked glasses. "You are McGarrett," he murmured.
and you are Pao Hsin," Steve replied.
teacher will be disappointed," Steve added. "You were Wo Fat's prize
looked up somberly at Steve. "I have failed him," he admitted, then
said no more.
went back up on deck and stood in the driving rain for a moment, feeling
the sheets of water beating against his waterproof slicker. He was relieved
to have stopped the security leak, but thoroughly exhausted from the
heading back, sir," the second mate called to him as the latter hurried
across the deck, headed for the hatch behind Steve.
nodded. "Any word from the helicopter?"
shook his head. "Last word was they were still trying to rescue the
woman and child in the boat. In this pea soup we could lose the chopper,
too. We're headed back to them now."
take off the cable," Harris instructed Danny as he double-checked the
connection to the harness.
pulled the heavy, wet vest back on. "Any sign of her?" he called.
the pilot called back. "Did she have a vest on?"
shook his head. "Wouldn't last long in all that without one. I haven't
seen anything floating out there but the boat's hull. Maybe she's under
it in an air pocket."
nodded. "I'll look."
handed him the waterproof flashlight. "If it's murky, you won't be able
to see anything under there even with the light, so be careful about
snarling your line. And remember, keep the cable no matter what."
nodded again, impatiently. Every second meant one less chance for Mali.
"Let's go." He stepped off the side of the bay door into space and swung
only a moment before Harris activated the winch and he was sliding,
this time at a controlled rate, towards the churning ocean. The pilot
placed him as close to the capsized boat as he could. It was within
arm's reach. He took hold of the slippery fiberglass hull, calling Mali's
name several times, but the sound was lost in the storm. The flares
still cast their red light across the waves as the large spot light
from the chopper scanned the black surface, and he shone the flashlight
around, but there was no sign of Mali. She's got to be under the
boat. He recalled that she had tied herself to the aft railing earlier.
I told her to get untied, did she have enough time? I can't remember.
I think she did, but I'm not sure. Mali, in spite of all the past, be
took several deep breaths, then attempted to dive under the hull, but
his life vest held him up. With reluctance, he untied it and tossed
it over the protruding propeller of the boat. The waves beat at him,
as he struggled to keep a grip on the boat and not go under. He appreciated
Harris' caution about the line. If I get into trouble, they can always
reel me in like the day's catch. The swells of ocean kept lifting
and dropping the boat between ten and thirty feet requiring Harris to
get him plenty of slack on the line. Danny took a deep breath and plunged
into the black, salt water. The flash light only revealed about a foot
in front of him requiring him to feel along the hull with his hands
for the gunwale. Finally, the railing gleamed in the beam, but he had
to surface for air. Having a better idea of how deeply to dive, he plunged
again, fouund the railing instantly, went under it and inside the overturned
boat. He rose, hoping to find an air pocket inside. There was none.
He scrambled back outside to the surface. Heaving several more deep
breaths, he again dove into the upside down boat in search of Mali.
This has got to be a futile effort, but I have to try. There is a
chance, there is always a chance. Miracles do happen. But I'm not sure
where she is, or even if she is inside the boat. Can she still be alive?
What are her chances? There has to be a hope.
dove repeatedly for better than five minutes. Exhaustion replaced logic.
Although he knew the hopelessness of the situation, he could not bring
himself to give up. With each dive, he tried to go farther through the
small yet seeming endless boat. His air was nearly gone when something
brushed the back of his hand. It was cold, stiff, yet soft. In his excitement,
the flashlight fumbled from his hand and was swallowed instantly into
the murky water. In total blindness, he reached out again, but the object
was illusive. His body was screaming for air, every cell pleading for
oxygen, yet he frantically groped for the contact again. Then he touched
it. He took hold of a hand. He tried to pull, but his muscles were weak.
I have to get out. But I can't leave her. There was no response
to the touch, the hand felt so cold. He was too depleted to think to
check for a pulse. There is no time. I cannot help her. She is beyond
help. I have to get out. He struggled to get back, but was confused.
He collided with a seat cushion floating in the water. His ears were
ringing, he wanted to just open his mouth and breathe in fresh air.
I'm lost, I can't find my way out. I'm going to drown. Will my son lose
both his parents on the same day? I never got to know him. I never even
really saw him. I never got to tell him I loved him...
wind was icy and cut at Danny through the nylon suit as he dangled from
the lifeline still thirty feet below the helicopter. The shock of it
was like a slap. Danny gasped, coughed, and vomited a stomach full of
seawater. He breathed, coughed more water, breathed again, feeling the
oxygen rushing through him. He dangled like a rag doll as the winch
pulled him towards the open bay of the helicopter. Harris reached out
and pulled him inside like a sack of dog food and Danny collapsed on
the steel deck on his stomach with a grunt. Harris dropped a woolen
blanket over him.
you find her?" Harris implored.
coughed again, tasting more salty water, nodding at the same time. "Too
late," he gasped as the coughing abated. "She's dead."
turned back to the open bay door and fired one more flare -- this time
one with a parachute that would lower it over a period of minutes. It
would help the cutter find the small boat. As for the chopper, it's
job was done. Harris slid the door shut and gestured towards the pilot.
deck vibrated as the engines shot the helicopter skyward and back towards
home. Danny ached everywhere and felt so tired he thought he might never
move again. He turned his head to the side and could see Shaw, still
unconscious, wrapped in a gray blanket, bandaging on the back of his
head. Harris sat beside Shaw, cross-legged on the steel deck, holding
Lonnie also enfolded in a blanket. The little boy, ignorant of the events
he'd been through and of the magnitude of the tragedy, sat chewing contentedly
on a helmet strap and making sounds and smiles at Harris. Despite the
wool blanket, Danny felt no warmth. His only sensations were of complete
exhaustion and failure. The image of Mali was present on the face of
her son. The child Mali used to giggle at the little crabs that scattered
across the sand. They would build glorious sand castles with their pails
and shovels and collect precious seashells for hours...Mali's soft adolescent
skin touching his in the moonlight as the waves curled across the beach..."Your
first love never really leaves you"...The hatred, the anger, "You betrayed
me! Get rid of him, I don't care how!"..."Danny, help us! Get Lonnie
to safety!"..."Your first love never really leaves you." Mali, you will
always be a part of me. Salt water dampened Danny's face once more
as silent tears had their way.
McGarrett watched the sun begin to peek above the horizon as the Houston
tied up to it's berth. There was a line of Coast Guard, police, and
FBI waiting for them and a collections of vehicles whose red, blue,
and white lights were blinking in the early dawn. The FBI quickly escorted
Pao Hsin and his crew away in a van. There would be endless paperwork
to attend to later in the day. Steve turned regretfully back as the
rubber body bag was loaded into the coroner's wagon. He signed the report
and the driver turned away.
was something surreal about the rising of the sun after the fierce storm
of the night. Steve was tired to his bones, but the emotional exhaustion
was the worse. He spotted Duke waiting apart from the others and went
are you, Steve?" Duke asked.
gave a sad smile. "How should we be, Duke?"
nodded. "Sarah waited up all night waiting for the news. I've already
spoken with her. Mali had left the codes in Sarah's post office box.
They are now with the FBI."
mentally checked off one unclosed issue.
the news breaks, there will be another blood bath between the Dragons
and Kumu," Duke predicted.
sighed and let his gaze follow at gull floating on the wind current.
"Maybe not, Duke. Maybe enough blood has been spilt already. Sing is
a shrewd old man. Batona will be scared out of his wits. I'd be pleased
if both of the families vanished, but peace will be enough. Huh?"
keep an eye on them. Why don't you take off a day or two?" Duke recommended.
gave a crooked smile. "Sounds great, Duke." He cast an eye towards the
Coast Guard medical station up the hill. "I need to do one thing more."
he started away, Duke touched his arm. "Sarah told me she'll take the
gave a simple nod and continued up the walk. Somewhere, a bird began
sat, stuporous, on an old metal straight-backed chair, a cold cup of
coffee held absently in one hand. He'd showered yet still felt the gritty
salt. He knew he needed a shave, but he didn't care. His right shoulder
was swollen and bruised where he'd collided with the boat during the
failed rescue attempt, but he didn't care about that either. The door
opened at the far end of the hall and he turned his blood-shot eyes
to see Steve coming towards him.
sat down beside him. "You look awful," he commented in a friendly manner.
shrugged, looked inside the coffee cup, made a face, and set it down
on the floor.
got Pao Hsin," Steve offered. "Thanks to Mali, we'll keep him. She gave
the coded papers to her Aunt Sarah who brought them to Duke late last
night. It is enough to convict Hsin." There was silence for several
minutes. "We brought her back," he said gently. "She had never gotten
free of the boat, but she didn't drown. She was killed by a blow to
her head when the boat upended. There was no pain."
nodded. "She was always so damned selfish, but her last words were asking
me to help Lonnie. Maybe she'd finally learned something. If we have
some kind of eternal destiny and God gives credit for late learners
-- well, she earned it."
will you do?"
does any father do?" he asked.
has offered -"
This is my responsibility. It has nothing to do with convenience or
experience or any of that kind of stuff. He is my son." He made
a passing attempt at a smile. "We'll be all right."
is he now?"
if on cue, a corpsman came around the corner. "Mr. Williams, here's
your little boy."
the young man's hand, Lonnie toddled up smiling and babbling. There
were the remains of a danish on his face. He let himself be pulled up
onto Danny's lap and stared somewhat fearfully at the man he did not
yet know was his father. And Danny looked at Lonnie. Pixie faced, dimpled
chin, shining dark almond eyes, and wavy black hair, he was remarkable.
When he smiled, a little drool leaked out of the corner of his mouth.
Lonnie gingerly fingered the zipper on Danny's jumpsuit. For the longest
time, Danny just watched him, taking in the total wonder, amazed at
the complexity of so small a human.
said nothing, knowing this was a sacred moment he was privileged to
last, Danny slowly reached up and wiped the crumbs from Lonnie's mouth.
"Let's go home."
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