ANIMALS

by Peg Keeley

onenerveleft59@hotmail.com

The air was salt, fresh, invigorating. Danny had to admit to himself that he'd done this more on a dare than anything. Duke had challenged him to this sail two months ago over a beer and he'd managed to avoid following through--till now. It wasn't that he was afraid, it just seemed there were always more important things to do.

"You don't even know how to have a good time anymore," Lukela had insisted."When was the last time you just did something for the fun of it?"

 "I do things all the time."

"You do what? Racquetball? Tennis? You used to spend time with the earth, Bruddah. You always said primal stuff made you feel renewed. Something real spiritual or something."

 "Naw," He'd shaken his head while playing in the condensation on his mug. "I was still a kid then. I liked getting bit by mosquitoes and backpacking out on Maui. We all grow up, Duke."

"But we don't all grow old."

He'd just stared at Duke a long time, not entirely sure what response to give.

"Look, Danno, it's none of my business. You need a chance to reconnect with yourself. You've buried everything in this damned job. You deserve better."

 He grinned. "Well, you're right that it's none of your business, but I appreciate your concern. Duke, our lives are different. You've got a wife, kids, it's different for you. Some of us are just--different. I need my work--I like my work. I like myself just the way I am."

Duke had laughed that semi-chuckle of a laugh he usually reserved for McGarrett when he could see through his superior's stiff-necked-ness. "I challenge you, Danny. You've got a week off coming up with nothing planned, right?"

He shrugged.

"Ever sailed out to--I don't know--Nihoa?"

"Nihoa!"

"Pick a nice deserted atoll."

"What?"

"One hundred dollars says you won't pack out to Nihoa for a week."

 He shook his head, he protested, but in the end he somehow had agreed to the bet. Before the week was out it had grown into a three-ring circus at the office. He hated to be in the forefront of anything and was now actually relieved that the whole hoopla of the betting and send off was over. It seemed the whole department had to come down wish him bon voyage. The only sensible one had been Steve who'd good-naturedly reminded: "Bring back my boat in one piece."

Now, twenty miles northwest of Niihau, the light wind whistling through the rigging of the small day sailor, the sun massaging his back, he was glad to have gone. It was good to be alone with himself. The sky was clear and the forecast was good for the next several days. His plans were vague. He'd sail through the day till he saw an islet which appealed. He liked jungle and the wildlife. Since nearly all the atolls were uninhabited and protected by the government any one would be pleasant. Towards late afternoon, a squall line began to move from the west and he headed for the small island on the starboard bow. It seemed like a pleasant, protected shore. A reef and lofty palms guarded a small inlet. Looks like Gilligan's Island, he kidded himself and he tacked the sail. He guided the small boat gently through the reef and towards the shore.

He dropped anchor twenty feet offshore to compensate for the long keel. Most of what he'd need was in a backpack. Just as he strapped it on, the heavens opened and he was soaked in a downpour. He waded ashore and sought cover beneath the large palms. He'd left his large jug of water behind, but knew he could return in a little while. As quickly as the rain had started, it stopped and the sun came back out. Humid steam rose from the undergrowth.

It was a perfect spot. Birds with colorful plumage fluttered amongst the trees and branches, chattering and whistling.

 Danny casually set off to explore his small paradise. It seemed about a mile by a mile and a half and, remarkably, contained a small waterfall. Fresh water.

He was relaxed. Really relaxed. No pressures, no deadlines, no risk. As his muscles began to ease, he began realize just how tense he had been. It was tough to be a cop today.

There was a movement in the brush just ahead and he involuntarily froze. It took an extra moment before he could identify what he saw. Fifteen feet away was a Polynesian man dressed in cutoffs crouching before what looked like a row of shoeboxes. There was something in his hand. He hadn't seen Danny as his back was to him. The man pushed the small bright yellow bird into the tiny wire-fronted box. It gave a cry and flap of its wings as it lost its freedom.

Danny quickly squatted down into the brush, his feeling of relaxation and peace disintegrating. Poacher. Smuggling protected wildlife was a Federal crime. He was carrying his gun, the trapper appeared unarmed. He argued with himself. I have a duty.. And yet, to try to arrest this man, take him all the way back to Oahu by open sailboat--that's going to be lot of work, not to mention the risk. He shook his head. Let this one go. Tthis island isn't going to be big enough for us both. I need to get back to sea. It was a bitter disappointment. He started to rise and felt something touch his ear. He reached up his hand.

"Do not move, Friend," came a voice. "My knife is sharp."

 Danny turned to face another man similarly clad as his partner, standing over him, a gleaming machete in one hand. "Look, I'm on my way out of here," Danny offered.

 "You were," came the response.

By now the first man was there. "What is happening?"

"You were being spied upon," the larger man said.

Danny sought to control this situation before it got out of hand and before they discovered his identity. "I just was looking for a place to spend the night. My boat's in the inlet. I didn't come looking for problems, just a place to rest. I'll be on my way. I'm not going to cause you any trouble. I'm on vacation, I just want to be left alone."

"Koca, let him come and sit with us. We'll give him a drink, send him on his way," the one with the machete announced, with a large smile.

The younger trapper nodded eagerly. "Come on." He gestured towards their small camp.

Danny started ahead carefully, suspiciously, resisting the urge to raise his hands. His own weapon, still nestled comfortably under his shirt against his back, was reassuring. He could change the odds with ease if necessary.

"We come once a year, trap birds and sell them. Have money enough for rest of the year for our families," the bigger one explained. "Koca here, this is his first time to come. I bring my other brother before. But Koca has better sense of our past."

Danny was about to ask him more about what he meant, but as he started to turn to ask him, the man shot out his leg, tripping him and Danny sprawled onto the ground. It was reflex for him to roll and come up with his gun, but he only made it halfway before the large man's foot was hard against the back of his neck, pinning him to the ground.

"What have we here?" He pulled out Danny's gun and wallet. He laughed. "You take a vacation with your gun?"

Koca took the wallet from his brother. He quickly looked through the contents. "American currency, credit cards. Hobi, he won't leave home without them," he joked. He stuffed the cash into the pocket of his jeans.

The larger man, Hobi, grinned for a moment, his foot still on Danny's neck, then barked out hotly, "Why you carry a gun?"

Koca showed him the badge.

Hobi nodded. "So, you were sent to arrest us and take us back to an American prison?"

"No," Danny replied.

"Koca, tie him up."

Koca snatched up some heavy fishing line and securely tied Danny's hands behind his back and his ankles together. "What now?" he asked Hobi.

--------------

Darkness came not long after. Sitting where Hobi had placed him against a palm trunk, Danny could not see the sunset. Koca built a fire a few feet away and began to mix up a pot of roots and some kind of herbs that smelled moderately bitter. Hobi came over next to Danny and crouched down by him.

"Our ancestors lived from island to island for hundreds of years, accepting what the gods brought and using that. Sometimes good, sometimes, "he shrugged, "not good." He drew with a stick on the ground. "The Haole have beaten down the weak Hawaiian, but we are of stronger stuff. It was the weak Fiji who became Hawaiians thousands of years ago. Do you know what makes us strong?"

Danny didn't, but had no doubt Hobi would gladly tell him. He waited.

"We got strength from our enemies." He smiled. Leaping to his feet, he crossed the small area to where his belongings were and returned with something wrapped in a hand-woven cloth. Carefully, with reverence, he uncovered a six-inch knife with an ornately tooled bone handle and what seemed like a simple wooden fork with a carved handle. He studied Danny's face finding pleasure in the returned puzzled expression. He turned to Koca who had noticed Hobi getting the instruments and was sitting before the fire watching intently. Hobi fired off a few rushed sentences in a dialect Danny couldn't identify. He assumed it to be Fijian.

Koca didn't respond right away but when he did, it sounded like a negative remark.

Hobi laughed outright. He turned back to Danny. "Koca is not the first partner I have brought hunting. My older brother, he decided to become a lawyer." He said 'lawyer' like it was a bad word. "Koca will learn our heritage better." He brought his knife close and with one sudden quick motion, slit Danny's shirt up the front.

Danny flinched at the action, a rush of fear enveloping him.

Koca rose to his feet. "You wouldn't really do this."

Hobi grinned. "I have before."

Koca stared at him. "With Kanu?"

"Of course. Why do you think he became a lawyer? He was too weak to know the power of his strength." Hobi looked back at Danny. "Before the missionaries, before your so called civilized world conquered our people and made them weak, our warriors would get their strength from the consumption of their enemies. It was the secret of our society. Now, too many of the Fijian have become weak."

"Consumption of..." Danny stopped talking, his heart racing in panic.

Hobi stuck out his belt buckle. "Like my belt? Notice the fine texture of the hide?" He ran his hand along the pale tanned leather of the belt that resembled deer hide. "Human hide."

Danny just stared at him and his belt, his head swimming. This has to be an elaborate hoax. Cannibalism just doesn't exist anymore.

"You don't believe me." Hobi looked wounded. "You will soon enough." He rubbed his thumb up and down on the skin of Danny's chest.

Danny swallowed the panic that threatened to choke him. "Stop the games, Hobi. What do you really want?"

Hobi just smiled. He got to his feet and crossed to the fire. He glanced at the pot of cooking herbs and took a deep sniff of the fumes. He tossed a few more random elements into the pot, stirred it.

Koca came close and spoke in Fijian. "Will you really do this?"

"You never know when the time is right. I carry the ceremonial tools wherever I go. The gods bring what is good in their time. This is good."

"But we're not living in the 1700s. We're not superstitious, naked savages. We're well educated. I'm working on my thesis in chemical research," Koca protested.

"Yes," Hobi said slowly, this time in English, "I know. It is time you have a Fiji heritage as well as a western one. You are as white as he is on the inside. We will now make you Fijian."

The pot of acrid herbs began to boil and Hobi sniffed deeply a few more times. It had a mildly hallucinogenic effect. Danny could notice a glaze come over Hobi's eyes momentarily. He couldn't quite believe that Hobi was serious, but he dare not assume he wasn't. There was something naturally horrific about this situation. He pulled against the fishing line around his wrists and could feel it slice deeply into his flesh.

He heard a chuckle and glanced up to see Koca was watching him. "Be careful or you shall cut an artery and bleed to death of your own doing."

"Koca, you can't really let him do this. You seem like an educated person. You know this is foolishness."

Koca gave no outward emotion. "Hobi is a person of strength of character. He feels our heritage strongly. He knows ancient ritual. I believe he knows the reality of the gods of the Fiji better than any man alive. The western ways are not good for us."

Hobi called to Koca and tossed him Danny's backpack. In Fijian he instructed Koca to tow the sailboat out into the ocean where the current was strong and make it look like an accident had occurred. After Koca left, he sat down before the fire and the steaming cauldron, his back to Danny.

Danny tested the nylon tying his wrists again, then examined the line on his ankles. The fishing line was tied over his socks offering protection for his skin. For several minutes he rubbed his legs back and forth loosening the tie some. He speculated that if he could remove his Nike he could pull his right foot free. Watching Hobi who seemed ignorant of his action, he began to work his shoe off. It was surprisingly easy. As soon as it popped off, his foot came free of the fishing line. Hobi still did not see. He quickly rolled left, then was on his feet running. With the fishing line on his left leg dangling behind and his arms still tied behind him, he fled for the darkness.

Hobi turned at the sound, just in time to see Danny run. Instantly, he was on his feet racing after him.

Danny'd only gone about twenty yards when the loose line snagged on brush. With his hands tied behind him, he had no way to break his fall as he tripped and plunged headlong to the ground striking his forehead against a palm tree trunk.

----------------

Danny drifted in and out of consciousness several times before he could actually register where he was and why. It was still dark. Both Hobi and Koca were before the fire, both had designs across their faces, arms, and chests of white, black, and red paint. To one side lay a few jars of child's poster paint. If the situation hadn't been so desperate, it would have been amusing to think of Hobi using poster paint for his war paint. Hobi was humming a chant, rocking to and fro before the fire. The fumes from the boiling pot had a bitter scent. Both Hobi and Koca had been breathing deeply into it for an unknown length of time. The knife and fork lay before the fire, flower petals scattered over them.

When Danny tried to raise his head sharp pain shot through his skull. His vision kept blurring and when he instinctively raised his hand to rub his eyes, he discovered his hands were now retied in from of him. His shirt was now gone and he'd been spattered with red paint in odd triangles and circles on his chest and arms. His feet had not been retied. He moved slowly, trying to find a way to turn his head without the pain. It was hard to recall how he'd gotten hurt.

Hobi's chanting was getting louder and more intense. Koca having learned the words had joined in with him. His look was still a mixture of disbelief, fear, and something else, perhaps a drunken stupor. Hobi rose to his feet, carrying the knife and came to Danny.

"You wake up." He grinned. "Maybe better if you not."

"This is crazy," Danny murmured.

"Yes--to you." He walked back to the fire and scooped a small amount of the bitter brew into a plastic cup. "Here, it will go better for you." He waved the cup beneath Danny's nose.

He pushed his head away--a painful act. "If you're going to kill me, I'm not going to make it easier for you by being drugged. You'll have to look me square in the eye as you do it." He stared at Koca.

Koca merely grinned. His intoxication had been total.

Hobi shrugged. "It doesn't matter to me. I do not hate you. You have been brought to me by fate. I will just do what I must."

He readied his knife close to Danny's chest, taking aim for his heart. Just as he started the plunge, Danny brought his hands up, catching the knife between them against the fishing line. The knife sliced through it and instantly Danny was grabbing Hobi's hands. They struggled with the knife for a moment before Danny broke free and was up a running.

Every running step jarred his injured head, but the adrenaline thundering through him made him barely aware of it. As soon as he darted into the darkness, he kicked off the other shoe and was free of the fishing line that had kept entangling his legs. Both Hobi and Koca were after him and he knew it would be difficult to hide from them on such a small island when the sun came up.

He stole his way to the small waterfall and washed his face and head wound. He kept having dizzy spells and lost his balance once, plunging into the cool water, but it felt good. There was a small hollow behind the waterfall just big enough for a man to crouch behind where he huddled in the dark night trying to think.

He reasoned that if he waited till just before sunup, he could get to his boat and get away from here. That had to be the only escape. They'd be hunting him and they had his gun. The way these guys are, they probably won't need a gun. Poison blow dartsis moret Hobi's style.

---------------

The lightening of the sky in the east wasn't long coming and Danny was stiff from the cramped position behind the waterfall. Slowly, cautiously, he crept out. His ears strained for the sounds of anything. All was still. Slipping silently through the brush and avoiding open areas he worked his way towards the western beachhead.

Birds were beginning to serenade the approaching day, otherwise there was no sound. Each step was one of care, thoughtfully accomplished, toes gripping the loose sand, his body passing through the undergrowth without brushing a leaf.

Duke wanted me to be one with nature, he thought, well if this isn't it, nothing is. The Fijians would be expecting him to come for his boat, they had to be around here watching, waiting, perhaps in one of the trees. He glanced up, but saw nothing. He parted the last of the underbrush to see the lagoon and froze in dismay.

The inlet was empty. For a few quick seconds, he hoped he was in the wrong place, but he knew he wasn't. Cowering under the shrubs, he tried to think of something else, but his head still throbbed, he was tired. A wrong turn brought agony, nausea, and dizziness.

"Dan Williams!" Hobi's voice called, a short distance away. "I know you out here somewhere. I can smell you, haole man. We gonna find you, you know that. You nowhere to go." A laugh. "Koca and me, we're rested. We slept all night. Bet you did not, huh? You hide somewhere and shake all night. You are weak, tired, and hungry. You want a hamburger, Dan Williams?"

Danny tried to shut out the words and just focus on the location of the voice. If Hobi kept bragging enough, he could stay clear just avoiding the direction of the voice. He began to slip in the opposite direction, then stopped. What if that was what Hobi hoped for? He knew that in India tiger hunts were conducted by banging loud drums the tigers would run away from--and right into the hunters guns. If Hobi is to the south, is Koca to the north? He carefully stole through the undergrowth due east. But he knew it was merely a matter of time before they would entrap him. His only hope to was to get out to sea. The Fijians had arrived somehow, they had to have a boat out here somewhere. If he would use that, they'd be pretty effectively incarcerated until he could send the authorities back.

He tried to stay near the beachhead and circumvent the island. As the tropical sun reached its zenith, his parched mouth drove him back towards the fresh water spring. He watched it carefully from seclusion several moments before approaching. His memory flashed back to his childhood and Disney's Bambi where the young fawn is cautioned to look carefully before going into the meadow. "Well, Bambi," he muttered to himself, "better get a quick drink."

He knelt by the water's edge and scooped a handful up to his mouth, then massaged his sore forehead with more water. There was a sudden whiz as a makeshift lance struck the ground beside him. He jumped up and was facing Koca on the opposite bank. Koca let out a truly primal war hoop and Danny bolted away into the brush. It took Koca a few moments to cross the water and giving Danny the time he needed to escape. With a good head start he ducked under some brush and, moments later, Koca ran on by him. He was thankful it had been Koca; Hobi would not have missed.

It took him nearly the whole day of dodging and backtracking to finally locate the other boat. He wasn't at all surprised to find it an open outrigger with sail, about twelve feet in length. It was pulled up on the shore and looked so inviting but was separated from him by almost fifty yards of open sand. Caught in the open, he was certain either Hobi or Koca could outrun him. Before he'd risk the open beach, he would need to be certain of where they were. He began to consider the options of offense.

The sun was setting. As he watched, Koca and Hobi appeared on the beach and began to set up their evening fire, the boat in plain view. Danny wondered how well they'd sleep tonight.

------------------

McGarrett stepped down into the day sailor as soon as the Coast Guard tied up. They'd already notified him that they'd found his boat and were towing it in. He'd been waiting at the dock. He noticed immediately that both Danno's backpack and water supply were still on board. Three life preservers were accounted for.

The Coast Guard commander approached him. "Steve McGarrett?"

"Yeah," he responded with a nod. "Were the sails up?" He cut right to business, trying to ignore the obvious meaning of the evidence.

"No, they were stowed just as they are right now. I didn't do anything but tow it in."

"One life jacket is missing."

He held out the soggy fourth. "Found it floating a short distance away. Looks like your friend went overboard."

"With the sails down?"

He shrugged. "We conducted the thorough sweep and didn't find anything."

"Any islands in the area the boat was found?"

"Three pretty nondescript little things. One was little more than a sandbar. The other two a bit farther away and not on the prevailing current. It wouldn't have drifted off of one of them. Nor would it be likely for a person to make a swim to one. They're not visible from the location and even if someone had a bearing--" He shook his head. "--well, it'd be easier to swim the English Channel."

"But you did search them?"

"I'm assigning a chopper to a flyby."

Steve dropped the soaked life vest into the boat. "Danno wouldn't just fall off a boat. He's an experienced seaman."

The commander didn't reply. "We'll conduct the usual 48 hour search, McGarrett. Maybe something'll turn up."

-----------------------------------------------

The night breeze was cool blowing across Danny's back, but not unpleasant. If what Hobi had cooked up last night stank, what he whipped up tonight was almost irresistibly wonderful.

Danny was well aware the feast was in his honor. Hobi knew he was hungry and was probably hoping to tease him out. He was certainly persistent at any rate. It was difficult to believe the man would be so insistent on capturing him. Why doesn't he just take his silly stolen birds and sail away, sell them somewhere, and leave me alone on the island to find my way off? Why go on with this manhunt? Danny gave up trying to find the logic. He came to the difficult resolve that his only way out might be to rely on his ability to eliminate them first.

He discovered he still had his Swiss army pocketknife in his pocket and was disappointed in himself that he hadn't thought of it sooner. The concussion still slowed him down and he never knew when he'd suddenly lose his balance. No asset for a man who'd need to fight hand to hand. He selected two thin reeds about 24 inches long each and carefully sharpened one end of each to a sharp tip.

As the sun began dawn, he knew that this charade must end today. He was too exhausted and weak from hunger to allow it to go on any longer. At any cost, he would make an end. He moved into the heavier jungle to plan an attack.

---------------------------------------------

Danny's plan had little time to formulate. As he moved, his foot accidentally set off a trip wire. He leapt back and almost cleared the snare , but it caught his right arm and yanked him with a jerk up into the air by the wrist. It tore into the skin and the lacerations from the fishing line and he gave a cry of pain as his arm was dislocated from the shoulder. He frantically groped into his pocket for the penknife with his left arm as every motion made the pain in his shoulder more unbearable. He could hear Koca yelling for Hobi. They'd heard and they were coming.

Danny worked the knife open with his teeth and struggled to cut the vine that held him. In moments, he fell to the ground with another cry as the shoulder snapped back into place.

Having relocated his sharpened sticks, he scrambled into the brush. Sweat of pain, fear, and anticipation poured off him as he anxiously awaited the arrival of his enemies. Koca, still bearing his smeared war paint came running into view. He stopped abruptly, staring up at the cut vine. Danny lunged forward jamming the stick towards the first vital area he could target -- down the ear canal and into Koca's brain. Koca stared at him in blank surprise that slowly melted into non-emotion, then pitched forward to the ground. Danny stepped back, staring down at the body, the reed still protruding from its ear. Panic and fear subsided some as his mind warned him that Hobi was still on the way. He slipped back into the jungle, watching The pounding of feet in the dirt was audible as Hobi approached making no attempt to be secretive. Why should he be? He thought Danny was ensnared in a tree. He halted in shock upon seeing Koca on the ground. It was a moment or two before it registered with him that his brother was dead. Then he lifted his head and gave a howl of anger and sorrow.

"Dan Williams! I will kill you! I will trap you and skin you while you breathe! You will die slowly and with great pain!"

Danny rushed him. Hobi was, as he hoped, totally unprepared. The menacing machete was still sheathed at his side and Danny hit him with all the force of a linebacker giving him no time to pull it. Danny delivered several blows in an attempt to knock Hobi senseless, but the large Fijian was built like a tank.

"You cannot kill me," Hobi hissed as they fought. "I will still come back and destroy you."

Danny did not take time to talk. He stepped to the side to avoid Hobi's punch and stooped to scoop up the sharpened rod. His vision suddenly blurred and he stumbled. Not now, he yelled at his aching head. It was too late. Hobi was upon him, grabbing his head by the hair. Danny responded just in time to catch Hobi's arm in midswing as the machete headed for his neck. For a moment, they were frozen, the machete between them. Then, Hobi's grip was broken and Danny pulled away. He scrambled for the rod just as Hobi threw himself forward at him. Danny swung around bringing up the stick and Hobi fell forward on it, run through the abdomen.

Hobi seemed to move in slow motion. He dropped to his knees, then let go the machete and gripped the rod sticking out of his belly. He gave Danny a bewildered look, then fell onto his side.

Danny slowly picked up the dropped machete, then backed a few steps away. Exhaustion overwhelmed him. He stumbled from the site, hugging his right arm close.

He suddenly felt adrift, without direction or purpose, but knew it was shock. He needed to eat and regain some strength.

In time, Danny made his way into the small camp Hobi and Koca had set up. Rummaging through their things, he found a plastic bag of trail mix that he ravenously shoved handfuls of into his mouth. He went to the small cages housing the trapped birds and one by one opened the doors and watched them flee captivity. It made him feel more human again. He sank down on the log before the now blackened ashes of the old fire. There, still on display, were the ceremonial fork and knife. This really had happened. It was already hard to believe.

It was late morning, the sun was high. He was exhausted and wanted to sleep, but the urge to be gone from here was greater. He looked around for a container to put some water in and found an empty plastic milk bottle amongst Hobi's things. Tired as he was, he headed for the waterfall. He'd need water to get home. The island was still and quiet, just as it had been on his arrival, but seemed empty, forbidding. He stooped into waist high spring and filled the bottle, then washed his face.

The sudden impact of what seemed like a thousand pounds threw him forward into the water. As he scrambled to get to the surface there were hands around his shoulders, pushing him downward, holding him. His efforts became more frantic. He found a leg and pulled his aggressor off balance. As the other man fell, he broke free and exploded through the surface heaving great gulps of air. But Hobi was on him instantly.

Danny recalled Hobi's threat that he couldn't be killed. As he attempted to break away, Hobi grabbed hold of him by the waist trying to pull him down again, but this time, Danny was prepared. He grabbed a rock from the bank and slammed it against Hobi's head. There was a spray of blood. Hobi gave a cry of pain and covered his face with his hands, stumbling backward in the water. Danny struck him again, this time on the back of the head will all the power he could muster. Hobi pitched, unconscious, forward into the water and lay still.

Danny half-lay half sat in the water gasping for breath and literally shivering in fear. He resisted the urge to take out his penknife and slash Hobi's throat, but it had been a strong urge. He dragged himself from the water and, picking up the bottle, staggered towards the beachhead. On the brink of the jungle, he collapsed in a spot of sun for a long time, too tired and too shaken to move. In spite of its warm, he was chilled to the bone and could not bring his limbs to stop shaking. At last he pulled himself up and, headed for the outrigger.

He paused before heading across the open stretch, inwardly chiding himself as being paranoid. It seemed everything hurt. His ankle stung with each step, his head throbbed with each heartbeat. He kept his right arm hugged close to immobilize the swollen, bruised shoulder.

The outrigger lay on the beach before him. He dropped the small bottle of water into the boat, then sank down on the sand beside the hull, too tired to go any further. Maybe he could rest and leave in the morning. It would be dark before he reached Honolulu and with no lights he might have survived this bizarre incident only to be run over by a ship.

In spite of the internal objections, he knew he had to go. The prospect of one more night here, even alone, was too appalling. He forced himself to his knees, turned around and gave the bow a lifting shove towards the water.

The explosion sent flocks of frightened birds screaming towards the heavens. Danny was thrown onto his back on the sand gritting his teeth as the pain seared through his left side. He cursed himself for being so stupid. The gun, the missing gun--his gun, had been booby-trapped to the boat. How could he have forgotten the gun? He lay on the scalding sand determining that the wound however painful did not seem to be lethal. Gripping his bloody left side, he staggered to his knees. The fishing line trail was now obvious from the boat back to where the gun was pinned into the sand with a stick. He pulled the weapon loose, cut the fishing line, and dropped the gun into the outrigger. He collapsed against the gunwale. Can anything else happen?

Even as he thought the question, a shadow passed over him. He leapt to the side with surprising speed considered his physical state just as the machete slammed into the gunwale, nicking an edge out of it.

Hobi stood before him, blood still streaming from his head wounds and seeping from the abdominal ones as well.

Danny stared, openmouthed at this walking dead man. "What do you want with me?" he demanded with exasperation.

"I told you you cannot kill me," Hobi replied in deadly tone. "You murdered my brother."

"Did you expect me to happily let you cannibalize me?" Danny demanded.

"You do not matter." He waved the machete towards Danny. "The end for you is now the same."

Danny tried to glance into the boat, the gun was too far away. Hobi lunged at him with the machete and a new grapple for the weapon ensued. They rolled in the sand, both men wounded, exhausted, the knife wavering back and forth in the three-inch space between them. Hobi, having Danny pinned to the ground, seemed to have the advantage. He let loose one hand off the knife momentarily and jabbed a fist across the bridge of Danny's nose. Danny did not break concentration although he felt unconsciousness rushing up around him. He moved the knife back a quarter of an inch. Hobi slammed him across the nose and forehead with two more quick blows and Danny tasted a rush of blood down the back of his throat.

His ears were ringing, vision failing, the knife was dangerously close to his neck. In desperation, he spit a mouthful of bloody saliva square in Hobi's face.

Hobi fell back and Danny, making the most of the fleeting advantage, grabbed a handful of sand and flung it into Hobi's eyes and face. Hobi pulled away with a cry, hands to his eyes.

Danny wrenched the knife away and drove it deeply into Hobi's chest. Hobi fell as he stabbed again. Screaming in maniacal rage, Danny slammed the machete deeply into the body over and over anywhere it found to go: chest, abdomen, limbs, through the neck, severing the carotid, but by this time there was so much blood little more came.

At last, all energy spent, blind panic passed, and Danny collapsed against the mutilated corpse in exhaustion, the machete still in his blood stained right fist. He finally turned to look, jabbing the weapon testingly at a finger-severed hand. Was Hobi really dead? It was a senseless question. As he staggered to his knees, it was clear just how dead. Hobi's head had rolled five or six inches away from his body.

Numbly, Danny dropped the machete, staggered to the surf and fell in. The salty brine rinsed away the blood and seared like fire as it seeped into the gunshot wound in his side. The crisp, clear smart of pain helped him back to reality. He waded to shore and collapsed again upon the hot sand where he lie for an eternity.

The incoming tide splashed over his feet and ankles awakening him with a start. Danny opened his eyes, mildly disoriented. Whether he'd lost consciousness or been asleep he couldn't tell, maybe a little of both. He was stiff, blood still oozed slowly from the bullet hole. In the shade of the boat, the breeze kissed him gently and he could almost feel comfortable--until the next wave lapped over him again. He slowly pulled himself upright, leaning on the gunwale of the outrigger. There were only three or four hours of sunlight left. He chose to take his chances. Not looking back at the macabre sight on the beach, he shoved the boat into the water, then half climbed, half fell over the side into the bottom. In addition to the sail, there were two paddles in the bottom. He used one to make his way towards the reef.

His right shoulder ached with the strain, but more important was the increased bleeding from his side as he paddled out to sea. He sipped a swallow of water to wet his mouth, then carefully stowed the rest. No telling how long it would need to last. He laughed fatalistically at himself. He would probably bleed to death before he ran out of water anyway.

The roll of the waves beneath him felt comforting, like the rocking of a baby's cradle. Past the reef, he hoisted the sail, another act which brought painful complaint from his injuries. He quickly discovered one of the pleasures of the outrigger was he could tack the sail and steer from nearly a laying position which he quickly took advantage of. He hoped he could get a trade wind or a current which would act as an automatic pilot to take him home because he doubted he'd remain conscious long enough to travel the several hundred miles across to the closest island of Niihau.

In time, his mind wandered. Niihau, he swore he'd never return there when Lani died. How fate does twist things, he now looked to Niihau as his salvation. The sun was gone and the breeze on the ocean was chilling. He tried to wrap himself in a torn piece of sailcloth, but nothing seemed to the shivering. The sea was calm, the stars magnificent. He scanned the constellations for Polaris and put it to his back--must keep headed south. South. South.

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The Coast Guard commander listened patiently to McGarrett's story. "From what I understand Lt. Watkins has done everything according the correct procedure. It's all by the book."

"I don't dispute that, Commander," McGarrett responded, "It's just hard for me to accept that an able-bodied seaman could fall overboard on the clear day and vanish."

"Things happen."

"Exactly," he agreed, "but what kind of things?"

"You've been a cop too long. Not everything in life has a criminal element behind it. I know that Williams was a friend of yours and I'm sorry about his loss. But, you know that most of the losses at sea are never accounted for. In a small sailor like that, no port-of-call logged, no radio. I don't know what you expect from me. It's been two days. I have to justify tax dollars to continue a search for a man who's probably been shark bait after all this time."

"I'm just asking for one more day," McGarrett bargained. "Don't ask me to rationalize it. I just have feeling he's out there."

"A feeling huh?" The commander snickered and shook his head. He took a drag on a small thin cigar and exhaled slowly through his nose. He eyed McGarrett again, then gave a slight nod. "Okay. Hell, you never know when I might need a speeding ticket fixed. I've got to send some weekend warriors on chopper maneuvers. I can send 'em north as well as any other way."

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And so it came to be that at 10:50 in the morning, a Coast Guard Huey helicopter spotted what appeared to be an unmanned outrigger fifty miles north by northwest off Niihau. Upon closer examination, there was an unresponsive man in the bottom of the boat.

A rescue team was dispatched and Danny was retrieved and flown to Honolulu, unconscious and in shock both from exposure and blood loss.

Wild horses couldn't have kept McGarrett away from the ER room as the doctors examined Danny, and no one tried. It was a torturous wait, made only moderately acceptable by Steve's knowledge that his friend and forensic specialist, Doc Bergman, was there. At last Bergman came to McGarrett, clipboard in hand and look of relief on his rough features.

"He's a lucky man," Bergman declared. "I think you'd better get some kind of story out of him when he wakes up."

"How so, Doc?" Steve asked.

"One of those injuries is a bullet wound." He paused to let it sink in. "They're going to take him to surgery to remove the slug after he's stable. He's also got a pretty bad concussion."

"Any ideas?" Steve asked.

Bergman laughed. "You're the cop, Steve. I just put the body clues in order. As I said: I hope he can tell you."

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The surgeon, concerned about infection and blood loss decided to go ahead with surgery right away. Steve, reluctant to have to wait several more hours to hear the details, watched as the OR suite doors slid shut.

"McGarrett."

He turned to face a young Guardsman. The sailor was about twenty-five, wore glasses and stood about five foot eight. He was so frail Steve thought a stiff breeze might blow the young man away. Our country's defense is in the hands of children like this? "Yes, Sailor?"

"Lt. Baker, Sir," he introduced himself. "I do criminal investigation work for the Coast Guard."

"What crime are you talking about?" I've never seen a less likely investigator.

"Our medics reported Mr. Williams had a bullet wound. We had to check that out."

         McGarrett scowled, not pleased that this young fellow, still wet behind the ears had apparently known facts before he had. "How did you come to know that?"

         "Corpsman on the rescue chopper said he had a bullet wound to the left side and a fair number of scrapes, bruises, contusions. There were lacerations on both wrists indicating he may have be restrained--tied up at some point." Baker paused. "Injuries inconsistent with a boating accident. He couldn't tell us anything about the injuries or how he came to be in an outrigger."

McGarrett wished this conversation was not happening in a public corridor. "Let's get a cup of coffee."

"McGarrett," he stopped him. "We can assume that the boat was more or less governed by the prevailing winds and currents. We traced the boat back to a small atoll--"

"Mister," McGarrett interrupted him, "we need to go some place private."

He persisted. "You have to see this." He held out a videotape. "The team recorded what they found."

McGarrett hostily snatched the tape from his hand and strode purposefully to the front desk in the lobby. He hailed the volunteer's attention. Showing his badge he requested use of a video machine and within half an hour, he and Lt. Baker were inserting the tape.

"I've already seen it," Baker said meekly, indicating he'd refer to wait somewhere else.

McGarrett ignored him, letting him go. The tape started with a vengeance. The opening scenes were of a grotesquely disfigured and dismembered Polynesian man lying on the beach. The camera moved around, getting several nauseating different angles of the carnage. The scene changed at last to a view of the camp. The camera's eye paused before the open doors of the cages, the small amount of gear Hobi and Koca had packed, and the fork and knife laying before the ashes.

The utensils meant something, but Steve couldn't remember what. He'd seen something like them somewhere. He racked his brain to remember.

The video moved on to a third scene of another body. There was a reed jammed into the man's ear. It was obviously the cause of death. Steve could understand Lt. Baker's reluctance to watch the video again. He shut it off, removed the tape, and stepped outside to where Baker waited.

"Five-O will dispatch a team to investigate this immediately," Steve said stoically. "As soon as Danno's awake, maybe he can tell us something about their attacker." He was lucky to escape with his life. These gentlemen weren't so fortunate. What happened there? Who could commit such acts?

"From all the footprint sizes we encountered, it doesn't look like there were more than three men there," Baker stated, fear in his tone.

McGarrett glared at him. Dear God, what is he suggesting? "I'll wait for Danno's statement." It would take some kind of inhuman animal...He dared not even complete the thought. . "We'll dispatch a team."

"Coast Guard will get your team there," Baker added in a tone of friendship. "I'm sure my superior will gladly let you take over this--this case. But I'm telling you, McGarrett, there were only three men there."

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Kono entered Steve's office, a plastic bag containing the ceremonial knife and fork in his hand. He handed it over the desk to McGarrett. "They what they look like--for eating."

Steve waited for the next comment for he knew it was coming.

"Eating people," he mumbled. "Archeologist the University confirms they're Fiji ritual tools of cannibalism. The chief would eat parts of his defeated enemies and gain their strength and wisdom. Make him invincible."

"God, Kono," McGarrett replied eyeing the evidence. Is this possible?

"Those relics were taken from a museum on Fiji about two years ago. Pathologist found traces of human blood about a year old in one of the crevasses of the engraving on the fork."

Steve shook his head, numb with shock, finding it impossible to believe what the evidence indicated. "What would you do if someone threatened to kill and eat you?"

He hadn't expected an answer, but Kono gave one: "Anything I had to."

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Danny lay on the hospital bed, listening to the sounds of civilization outside: occasional voices in the street, cars honking. All the things I wanted to escape and now they sound so reassuring. His mind was already seeking the bury the horrid memory. It was easy to tell himself it had never happened; it was so hard to believe it had. He couldn't recall much about his final fight with Hobi and maybe it was just as well. He did recall poking the machete at an arm--it hadn't moved.

The little IV pump whirred next to him, pumping antibiotics into him. His side burned a little when he moved and there were six stitches in his right wrist. He'd talked to no one. He guessed the nurses didn't know he was awake yet and he hadn't asked for anything. I don't want anyone's help. I just want to be left alone--forever. I wish no one would ever come through that door. Just leave me alone. What do they know? What do they think?

The door opened and he felt a fleeting sense of disappointment that his solitude had been violated.

"Danno," Steve said quietly, "how are you doing? Gold bricking again?"

He managed a grin. "Hi, Steve."

Steve laid the plastic bag containing the ceremonial knife and fork on the bedside table.

Danny looked at them like they were live snakes. He made no effort to touch them.

"I already know what this is. I've had an expert on island culture check them out. Fijian. Used in ceremonial cannibalistic ritual. The two dead men were Fijian as well. One still had some kind of war paint design on his skin."

There was silence for a moment. "Steve," Danny's voice was barely audible when he finally spoke, "you cannot imagine the feeling--of actually having someone planning..." his voice trailed off. Silence once more closed over the them. It took two attempts for him to speak again. "They weren't human, they were animals hunting. In the end, God help me, I don't know what happened. I wasn't going to let them get me." He shook his head slowly, eyes smarting with tears. "You don't really know what you'll do to stay alive. I guess we like to think we're civilized men, but we're really only one step away from being animals ourselves."

Steve struggled to maintain his composure. He tried to picture himself in the same situation, but had to admit it was impossible. What do I do now? Take this to a legal system that cannot possibly comprehend it? Would justice be served to destroy the life that survived such an ordeal? What is the line between responsibility and integrity? Is it possible that they are not always the same? He was aware that several minutes of silence had passed and that despite his effort to hide his thoughts, Danny was watching him and reading every one. "It ends here, Danno. There'll be no long drawn out affairs and statements. The evidence speaks for itself. There's no reason to ever make this public. No one else will every have to know the details."

Danny did not answer. There was no look of relief, gratitude, sadness. Nothing.

McGarrett did not speak again. There really wasn't anything more to say that wasn't either inappropriate or irrelevant. So, they sat in silence for a long time. Danny, still exhausted from his nightmarish experience eventually drifted off to sleep. For now it would offer him a place of refuge until he could deal with the events.

Steve quietly rose and left. He drove to the guard headquarters where he picked up all the evidence from the island and signed the forms for the remains of the two Fijians to be sent home in sealed caskets. Within hours, the missing implements would be express-mailed back to the museum. The hospital gunshot wound report would bare Bergman's signature with the closed statement of "accidentally self inflicted," although the paperwork would have revealed it impossible. It would not matter because McGarrett had that paperwork in his stack.

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The sun was setting on the ocean as Steve finished digging a shallow pit in the sand behind his beach house. His own emotions deadened, he dropped in the bits of evidence and the paperwork, then lit a match. As the small column of black smoke rose into the twilight, he stared one more time at the video in his hand, then tossed it  into the flames.

End