Title: The Seal
Summary: A figure steps out of the shadows, and it takes all of Danny's training not to shoot then and there. "Have no fear, citizen!" a voice calls out. "Everything is under control!" Or, the AU in which Steve is a superhero and Danny is still a cop, and they still sort of drive each other nuts. Together, they have to save the world from certain doom.
Characters: Steve/Danny, Chin Ho, Kono, Meka, assorted other canon characters
Disclaimer: Playing in CBS' sand box.
Warnings: explicit sex, superhero tropes like whoa, doomsday devices
Neurotic Author's Note #1: Written for h50_bigbang. I would like to encourage everyone to go and see the funny and whimsical art produced by the lovely and talented vahly at her LJ! Go tell her how awesome she is! I'll wait here while you do that.
Neurotic Author's Note #2: I owe love and candy and flowers to my two betas, huntress69 and yasminke, without whom this fic would be the poorer. Remaining mistakes are mine, since I stubbornly cling to my Canadian spelling habits. ;) All the awesome is theirs, all the weirdness is mine.
Neurotic Author's Note #3: I don't really know where this came from, but one day I thought, "Wouldn't it be cool if Steve was a superhero?" And then this happened.
Detective Danny Williams has learned the hard way not to rely on luck. It's not that he doesn't believe in luck, of course –there's more than enough evidence out there that luck exists and is a powerful force in people's lives, especially the lives of police officers. It's that Danny's luck in particular has always been spectacularly shitty.
Take the last couple of years for instance. He got himself shot in the line of duty by a guy aiming for someone else, spent months in rehab and came back to work only to find that his partner had been transferred elsewhere, leaving him stranded behind a desk with nothing to distract him from the fact that his wife was divorcing him and taking him for every single penny in his bank account. Adding to his troubles because he couldn't afford a good lawyer on a cop's salary, he not only lost a significant portion of his pay in said divorce, but also got royally screwed when it came to custody, getting his Gracie only every second weekend. Then, because clearly there hadn't been enough insults added to his injuries, following the divorce settlement his wife decided to remarry a good-looking, ridiculously wealthy hotshot real estate developer and moved six thousand miles away to an island in the middle of the Pacific, forcing him to follow her to Hawaii unless he wanted to forgo the measly two weekends a month he got to spend with his daughter.
In short Danny figured out a while back that if he trusted to luck, he will inevitably land in the shitter. Better to rely on good old-fashioned hard work in every aspect of his life and that way things will generally go according to plan. Except, of course, when they don't, because has he mentioned lately how he has really shitty luck? Even the most careful planning is useless in the face of Lady Luck's finding her amusement at Danny's expense. That's why he happens to be standing in a convenience store behind a rack full of an assortment of chips –annoyed that he doesn't recognize half the brands there, because nothing in Hawaii even makes sense, like pineapple on pizza–when he hears a quiet scuffling sound coming from near the cash register, and a male voice, high and nervous-sounding, barking orders.
"Empty the cash, now!"
He can't help the surge of adrenaline that sets his heart racing at the sound. He's off-duty, but that doesn't make him any less an officer of the law. He pulls out his phone, risks a quick look past the shelves to catch a glimpse of the offenders while dialing 911 awkwardly with one hand, the other reaching for his holstered weapon.
"This is Detective Danny Williams of HPD," he keeps his voice low while providing his badge number and location. "I have a code 6 in progress, two suspects, one armed with a nine-millimetre. Medium build, one white male, one with a dark complexion. White male is armed, wearing a blue ball cap, red t-shirt and denim vest, the other is wearing a black t-shirt with some sort of band logo. Requesting back-up now."
He switches off the phone, concentrates all his attention on the altercation taking place at the cash register. The cashier is a young girl who can't be much over eighteen, and she's crying, on the verge of hysterics. She clearly isn't emptying the money drawer fast enough for the hoodlums' liking, because they're both screaming increasingly loudly at her, which luckily enough not only flusters her more, but gives Danny the opportunity to flank them without being seen or heard. Once he's sure he has the drop on them he raises his weapon, pointing it straight at the gunman's head.
"HPD, put your weapon down!"
Nothing of the sort happens, naturally, but it does serve to take the gunman's attention off the cashier, who promptly throws herself to the floor. The gunman –barely more than a kid himself– whirls around to face Danny, gun wavering wildly. It's pretty obvious that both these kids have very little idea of what they're doing and are now scared shitless because they've been caught.
"Put your weapon down slowly, and lie facedown on the floor!" he barks, weapon still held level in front of him. "Hands where I can see them!"
Once minute he's staring down the barrel of the guy's nine-mil, the next the two kids are booking it for the back of the convenience store and have disappeared through the fire exit. Danny spares a glance for the cashier, just long enough to make sure she isn't injured, before taking off in pursuit. He bursts through the emergency door, handgun at the ready, heart racing, blood singing because, in spite of the fact that he has no idea what he's going to find out there, this is the part of his job that he loves the most. He finds himself in a dark alley, the ground still wet from the last cloudburst, a sickly pool of yellow light from a nearby basement window the only source of illumination. A flicker of movement in the shadows catches his eye and he whips his gun up again.
A figure steps out of the shadows, and it takes all of Danny's training not to shoot then and there. "Have no fear, citizen!" a voice calls out. "Everything is under control!"
Danny sputters. He can't help himself. "What do you mean, everything's under control? What is this?"
"No, really," the voice insists. It's a nice-sounding voice, male, low and a little mellifluous, not that Danny pays attention to that sort of thing. Well, he does, but only in the way that he pays attention to all unknown voices to be sure he's not in the face of a potential threat. "Everything is fine, you have nothing to fear."
"I'm a cop, you ass, I'm not afraid. Did you see two kids run out through here?"
"As a matter of fact, I did," the voice replies, and then the figure steps out right into the pool of light.
Danny gawks. He thinks he's perfectly justified in gawking, because he feels like he's stepped right into the middle of a comic book convention. The guy in front of him is tall, much taller than he is, although since Danny has never really been blessed in the way of height that's not saying much. Being short hasn't been one of his hang-ups since he was sixteen years old and realized that you didn't need to be a basketball player in order to be a success in life. No, it's not so much that this guy is a good couple of inches over six feet and built like he could run a couple of marathons back-to-back without breaking a sweat. It's that he's wearing a cape. A black one. And a green outfit.
"Is that spandex?"
The guy scowls. Or at least Danny things he scowls, because the black mask hiding his eyes makes it a little difficult to see. In any case, his mouth does this thing which screws up his whole face like he's about to have an aneurysm.
"No, it's not spandex. It's a special fabric blend designed for maximum flexibility and to wick away moisture when necessary."
"So, spandex." Danny is acutely aware that he may well be losing track of his main objective, here. It's just that he's never met a guy in a khaki green spandex outfit, complete with black belt, black cape and black mask before.
"It's not spandex!"
"Fine, whatever, Aquaman. Where did my suspects go?"
"They're right here. And that's not my name."
The guy turns away, reaches down behind him and hauls up both the unfortunate kids by the backs of their shirts. They're bound with some sort of narrow cord, neatly gagged with cloth in their mouths, their eyes wide and rolling in their heads. The guy's face breaks into a thousand-watt grin, visible even in this dark alley. It's oddly cute, like a giant golden retriever bringing back a possum carcass to its owner.
"Oh my God," Danny holsters his weapon, wondering just how much more surreal this day is going to get. "Do you honestly expect me to believe that you're, what, a costumed crime fighter? Really?"
"What's so hard to believe about that?" the guy is clearly miffed.
"For one, this is life, not a comic book. For two, you might just have screwed up my whole arrest, numb-nuts!"
"What? What are you talking about? I helped! I totally nailed them for you!"
Danny rolls his eyes. "Step away from the subjects, please, so I can book 'em properly."
The guy looks at him like he's nuts. "You want me to step away?"
"I'm sorry —was I not speaking English?"
The guy backs away a couple of steps, and Danny steps forward, drops to a crouch next to the white kid who'd been waving the gun before. "Okay, kid. Since you're all tied up, I'm going to ask you to nod if you understand. And quit wriggling, I haven't seen this good a job of trussing up a calf since I attended a rodeo one time. That's an event best left not spoken of, I promise you. You get me?"
The kid nods.
"Good job. Now, I'm going to tell you your rights, and you nod in the right places. You have the right to remain silent. In fact, right now, you don't appear to have much choice. However, when I take the gag out of your mouth, anything you do say can and will be held against you in a court of law. You have the right to an attorney and to have that attorney present during questioning. If you are unable to afford an attorney, one will be provided to you at no cost. Do you understand?"
The kid nods again, a little more frantically, twisting on the ground in a futile attempt to look at his captor.
"How about you, junior?" Danny asks the other kid. "You going to make me repeat myself, or are you going to nod like a good boy and let me save my breath?"
He gets another nod.
"Fan-fucking-tastic. You guys may have ruined my night, but at least you're thinking inside the box now." He can hear the sound sirens approaching ―his awaited backup, no doubt. He checks his watch, sees that about seven minutes have elapsed since his call to dispatch. Not bad at all. "Okay, so my friends at HPD are going to take you two bozos in, I am going to have to fill out a metric assload of paperwork, and just maybe I'll get lucky and get home before midnight."
He pushes himself to his feet. "As for you, you loon," he turns to where the mysterious green-clad stranger was standing only a minute before, only to find that he's vanished. "Oh for crying out loud! Figures," he mutters, turning his eyes to the heavens and throwing his hands up in supplication. "This whole place is insane."
Sorting out the suspects is a matter of routine. As much as Danny didn't want to get caught in the middle of a convenience store robbery, it's a run-of-the-mill crime, and it gets treated as such. Until, of course, he makes the mistake of being entirely, 100% honest, and revealing that it was a stranger wearing green spandex who should actually get the credit for the collar. Then Danny's life gets a whole lot more complicated in a hurry.
Danny's boss, for one, is not amused. For the most part, he and Danny get along. His Lieutenant is a short, squat man with a pleasant face and an easy smile, and an even easier scowl for perps. He has unerringly had Danny's back the entire time Danny's been with HPD, defending him where other cops dismissed him as a haole ―and to Danny's ears, no matter the real meaning, the word always screams "outcast"― with no understanding of the island. Danny's a good cop, prides himself on his work, and his lieutenant knows it and always, always backs up his plays. Until tonight.
"Please tell me you're kidding me, Williams. Or you maybe you spent too long outside in the sun? A pasty, blond haole like you, maybe you got sunstroke and imagined it all."
Danny doesn't flinch, because good cops don't flinch at a little name-calling, but he has to confess that it stings a little bit, being called that by the one man he thought would never use the term on him. It makes him wonder if maybe the Lieutenant doesn't call him that behind his back when he can get away with it. It's little things like that which end up eroding trust on a team, he thinks a little bitterly.
"No, sir, I didn't imagine any of it," he says firmly. "I think the guy's probably a nutcase with a hero complex, and while he did us a pretty solid favour here, we're going to have to be on the lookout for him, because the last thing we need around here is a vigilante."
The Lieutenant sighs. "Go write up your report, Williams, and go home. You're off the clock, anyway, so we'll discuss this more tomorrow morning. Go on, get out of my office."
Danny doesn't get home anywhere close to the time he would have liked to. He's always prided himself on being meticulous in his work, and since he was off-duty when the excrement hit the proverbial rotary oscillator, it means that his report has to be proportionately more meticulous. He has to justify drawing his weapon, potentially putting the life of the cashier at risk, all that jazz. There are days, he reflects glumly as he sits and stares at the blinking cursor on his computer monitor, when it feels like drawing your gun is way more hassle than it's worth. In fact, if he can solve a case without drawing his weapon once, he counts it as a bigger win than if he does have to draw it. If you're shooting at people, he reasons, then it means you've done something wrong.
Which brings him back to his mystery man in the spandex. Like he said before, Danny's a good cop. He's been here for nearly a year now, and being a good cop means he's got more than a few really good arrests under his belt. He follows the simplest of ground rules for solving crime: look for motive and opportunity, and when the need arises follow the money. As a result, even if he's not going to win any popularity contests around the precinct, it has at least afforded him a certain level of respect from most of his colleagues and garnered him a reputation for being able to get the job done, even if he does wear a tie when he's at work, like normal professionals, never mind what people here think.
His partner Meka has long since gone home for the night, as well he should have. Meka is just about the only friend Danny's got on this stupid island, and even then it's more of a professional friendship. He likes Meka, Meka likes him, sometimes they go out for beer after a case, but that's about it. Still, he would have loved to talk to him about this latest turn for the weird in his life. But, since Meka's not available, he starts making the rounds of the officers left in the precinct, making discreet inquiries as he goes. He makes light of the situation, laughs a little about the strange guy in the green spandex, and is met mostly with disbelieving stares or amused laughter. He's beginning to think that it's a lost cause when finally he strikes gold.
Kono Kalakaua is the rookiest of all rookie cops. She graduated from the Academy about two and a half minutes ago, and is turning out to be one of the most promising young cops on the force. Not that that makes any difference to how the others treat her. Danny doesn't have the full details, but he's been here long enough to know that her cousin used to be a cop and resigned from the force under a cloud of suspicion. Police precincts are small, tightly-knit communities, and HPD is smaller and more tightly-knit than average, and that means that most of the cops here look at Kono askance, even her training sergeant, which Danny thinks is a crying shame. He's never been one for visiting the sins of the father on the son, and especially not the sins of the cousin on the... other cousin. As a result, he and Kono have struck up this... well, he's not sure how to qualify it. They're not exactly friends, but they chat together at the coffee machine. He flirted with her once as a matter of course ―she's hot and pretty badass when it comes to ass-kicking― but there was never really a spark on either side. She seems to like him well enough, but it's not like they hang out or anything.
As it is, she nods when he asks her about the guy. "Oh, you mean The Seal."
"Yeah, that's right. Damn, I haven't heard that name in forever. It was a story that my dad used to tell me when I was a kid, about this guy who could move through water like it was nothing and was really strong and all that. He wore a green outfit and helped the police clean up the streets of Honolulu when crime got out of hand."
"So it's a story."
"Well, yeah. I guess maybe this guy heard the same story I did and decided that he was going to take up the mantle or something."
"Lunatic," Danny mutters, dropping his forehead into the palm of his hand. "Why do people think it's cool to dress in spandex and run around being vigilantes?"
Kono grins at him. "Come on, Danny, I thought all little boys wanted to be Batman?"
"Yeah, when I was nine," Danny points out, hands flapping. "You're supposed to grow out of that and become a cop if you're serious about stopping crime! It's not like there's an evil mastermind out there planning to, I don't know, destroy the island with a giant death ray or something," he continues, gesturing expansively to include all of Hawaii in the scope of his hand movements. "It's just crooks, doing what crooks do, and the only way to make them stop what they're doing is to follow due process."
Kono rolls her eyes and gestures elaborately at her uniform. "Preaching to the choir there, Detective Williams."
Danny has the grace to look a little sheepish. "Right, sorry. It's not about you, I get that. It's just that that guy could have gotten himself killed, and then I would have had no suspects and an extra dead body on my hands and all because, what, he wanted to be a superhero?"
"I feel you. But it all turned out okay in the end, didn't it?"
Danny sighs. "Yeah, I guess. But my gut tells me that not only is this not over yet, it's all going to head South in a really spectacular way, and my gut is rarely wrong."
Danny's darling ex-wife decides to cancel Grace's weekend with him two days later, which effectively drives all thoughts of The Seal out of his mind permanently. Instead, he finds himself trying very hard ―and failing― to keep a civilized tone on the phone with her as he sits in his car on the side of the road. At least he had the presence of mind to pull over, he tells himself, because otherwise his car would probably have had a serious disagreement with an oncoming semi, and lost.
"Damn it, Rachel, you can't keep jerking me around like this!" he yells into the phone. "No! No, I don't care if this is an important tennis tournament that only takes place once a year and you and Stan want her to have the 'special experience' or whatever. There are plenty of special experiences that don't involve watching people dressed in overly tight white clothing running around on a clay court whacking a damn green ball around!
"What? No! That's not what I said! Rachel, I get to see my kid exactly four days out of the month. Four! Is it too much to ask that you not reduce that number by half on a whim? God. Fine!" he runs his hands through his hair, tugging at the strands that could probably stand a trim by now. He's never figured out a hairstyle other than the one he has, with his hair slicked back over his head, but it turns out it's a useful haircut to have when talking to his ex-wife makes him want to tear it out by the roots. "But I expect you to arrange for a substitution the minute you get back, you hear me? Fine! Good bye!"
He jabs the 'end call' button as viciously as he can, lamenting the days of rotary phones when hanging up on people was so much more viscerally satisfying. As it is, if he tries to slam this phone against anything, he'll probably break it and end up having to replace it out of his own pocket. HPD isn't exactly forthcoming with funds to replace cell phones broken in a fit of rage against your ex-wife's manipulative, scheming ways.
Danny forces himself to take a breath, and another, before taking the road again. He performs a U-turn, can't bring himself to face going back to his empty apartment right now. He may as well go back to the office, sort through the mess that's on his desk and only pretending to be organized. There's a fair bit of paperwork left over from previous cases, and he and Meka have just landed a jewellery store job that looks like there might be some promising leads to be had there, if they work the case right. For one thing, the thieves didn't take everything, concentrating instead on the very valuable stuff ―diamonds and other precious stones― but ignored a lot of the gold jewellery in favour of all the silver.
"I don't get it," Danny says, tucking his office phone between his ear and shoulder. Meka's already at home with his wife, the lucky bastard, not that Danny begrudges him that. If anyone understands the importance of making sure your family is taken care of, it's him. Too bad Rachel never saw it that way. "I mean, why take all the really valuable gemstones but not the gold and all the silver? Where's the profit in it? It makes no sense!" he flicks a hand at the papers and photographs in front of him, even though Meka can't see him.
"I couldn't tell you, brah," Meka sounds a little exasperated, though it doesn't remove the fondness from his voice. "That's why we're investigating. Except, last time I checked, we had no lead so white-hot it can't wait until Monday morning. Why are you even at work on a Friday night?"
"Rachel and Stan are taking Gracie to a special tennis tournament in Newport."
"I see." There's sympathy in Meka's voice, which Danny wouldn't take from a lot of people, but from him at least he knows it's genuine. "Okay, Danny. Just try to go home at a reasonable hour at least, would you? No all-nighters. Promise me."
"Yes, I promise I won't bury myself in work in an attempt to forget that I'm not going to see my daughter until the beginning of next month," Danny places a hand over his heart, and Meka laughs.
"Okay, then. I'm going to hold you to that come Monday morning. Take care."
It's not that Danny lied, or anything. He totally intended to call it an early(ish) night once that phone call was over. No, really. But sometimes you just get into a kind of groove, and when that happens it's kind of difficult to let go of it. Danny's in the zone, and he can totally tell that he's going to make a huge breakthrough on this case, if only he can figure out just what it is that's hinky about the whole thing. He sorts through all the papers on his desk, barely taking the time to read them while he works on the case at the back of his mind. It's rote work, perfect for letting his mind wander just far enough outside the confines of the box and mull over the problem the way he can never do during the day when there are all sorts of people milling about. They invariably break his concentration, ruin what he was trying to achieve. It was the same way when he was still a Jersey cop, living in Hoboken with Rachel and Gracie, and he never could get Rachel to understand that he worked better at night when there was a big case to solve. All he ever got from her were nasty comments about being more faithful to his job than to her, about Rachel's being 'the other woman' in their relationship that Danny swore he'd leave his wife for, etc.
It's not that she didn't have a point, of course she did, but it wasn't like he was neglecting his family, either. He was always there for parent-teacher night at Gracie's school. He was the one who dropped her off in the morning and picked her up from school three times out of five when he wasn't on the clock. Sometimes even when he was on the clock he purposefully wouldn't take a lunch hour just so he could go and pick her up anyway. He knew even then that Gracie loved these times when it was just the two of them, her and her 'Danno' as she called him from the first day she tried to say his name and didn't quite succeed. He just couldn't see why Rachel couldn't see the efforts he was making too.
He looks down now to find himself staring at the empty surface of his desk. It's not totally empty, but he doesn't remember the last time he's had his desk this properly organized. It's not a bad way to work, actually. He's never thought much of people who leave huge piles of paperwork on their desks just to prove how busy they are. As far as he's concerned, a cluttered desk is just a sign of poor organizational skills. Danny makes a point of always keeping his desk clear, his inbox empty except for what's come in during the last 48 hours, his outbox empty by the end of every day. Sure, sometimes things get a little hectic and the paperwork falls behind, but he always catches up. It's all part of being a good cop: follow the evidence, do the legwork, and when the case is done, do your homework. It's not the flashy stuff that wins the case, it's the paperwork. Getting up on the stand and having all your notes in order, having your evidence prepared, being able to field every single missile that the defense attorneys lob at your head. Even though he doesn't generally brag about it, Danny is proud of the fact that he's never faced a trial attorney he couldn't take.
Now all that's left on his desk is the current burglary case. The few witness statements they were able to get, and a whole ton of crime scene photos. He leaves the statements on the desk, grabs the photos and starts pinning them up on the corkboard behind his desk, trying to keep them more or less in the same order as they were taken, roughly in the same layout as the store itself. He swivels in his chair, staring at the pictures as though they're the predictions of Nostradamus himself.
"What am I missing here?" he murmurs to himself.
The burglary was a surgical strike. No alarms went off, no one saw anyone go in and out of the store. The front window was neatly broken, using what looks like a glasscutter and a blunt instrument to make a hole big enough for a grown man to go through. Probably more than one man, by the size of the heist. It's at least a two-man job, maybe more. The jewellery cases were all similarly broken, but instead of smashing the glass it was simply cut away, the broken section likely removed with the aid of some kind of suction cup. Fibre evidence removed from the scene suggests that the burglars lined the edges of the cut glass with some kind of fabric to avoid cutting themselves on the sharp edges, but so far forensics has only turned up that it was white cotton, which doesn't get them very far. No fingerprints anywhere, no shoeprints even though it had been a rainy night. Well, there were some footprints, but nothing to suggest conclusively that any of them belonged to the burglars. In short, if they're going to get these guys and convict them, it's not going to be thanks to the awesome powers of science, unlike what the TV shows would have you believe. Once again, Danny will take old-fashioned detective work over forensics any day, because evidence is far too easily contaminated.
He drains the dregs of his now very cold cup of coffee, and realizes the drawbacks of having consumed about six cups of the stuff in the last two and a half hours or so. "Don't go anywhere," he winks at the photos, wondering if talking to the evidence suggests he's lost his mind, then dismisses the thought and goes off to hit the can.
With business thoroughly taken care of, hands washed ―thanks to Gracie's kindergarten teacher Danny will now forever be stuck singing the birthday song in his head whether he wants to or not while he washes his hands― he makes his way back into the now-thoroughly deserted office, and stops dead in his tracks.
"What the ever-loving hell?"
The photographs are gone. All of them, in the blink of an eye. The thumbtacks he used to pin them to the board have all been lined up neatly on one side of the board, arranged in four rows and sorted by colour, which is just weird. Immediately he whips around, looking for any sign of the intruder, listening for the sound of footsteps or maybe a door opening and closing, or a window maybe, but there's nothing but silence. He didn't even have the radio playing. He pulls his weapon, thinking regretfully that this is the second time this week he's had to do it, which is just a crying shame. Hawaii brings this out in him, is what it is. The whole damned string of islands is honestly certifiably nuts. A glance at his desk shows that his copies of the witness statements are gone too. None of what was taken was the original evidence ―photos can be reprinted, and the statements were just photocopies he made so he could write notes in the margins if he wanted to― but it's the principle of the thing, he thinks, more than a little insulted at the idea that someone broke into his damned precinct and stole his damned evidence! It's galling, is what it is.
More embarrassing than anything else, of course, is the fact that he now has to report that the damn precinct has been burglarized when he was the only one in there. There's a small swarm of I.A. cops who descend on him in the early hours of Saturday morning, looking at him with their suspicious, beady little fish eyes and asking really stupid questions.
"No, I didn't see anyone, and yes, I'm sure that the photos were pinned up on the board where I left them! No, I have no idea why anyone would want to steal those particular things. No, I don't know who it was and no, I also don't know if they knew that what they were stealing wasn't original documentation," he bursts out in exasperation by the time the third hour of his interview has gone by.
"It's just procedure, Detective," the I.A. suit tells him blandly. "You will admit that it's strange that you left for what you claim is less than five minutes, only to return to find that your desk was cleared out."
"Not cleared out," Danny points out. "Just the evidence lying in plain sight. Photos and statements. Nothing else was touched, not my files, not my badge which was right there, either."
"What about your weapon?"
"I don't leave my gun lying around unattended."
"You took it into the men's room with you?"
Danny rolls his eyes. "You don't need to make it sound depraved. I keep my weapon in my holster when it's not locked up in the gun safe. It's procedure. The only time it's in neither of those places is when I'm at home by myself without my daughter, which is when I keep it with my badge next to my bed."
"That's a very responsible attitude," comes the dry comment.
"Yeah, well, I don't know why you sound so damned surprised."
"Not everyone shows this amount of dedication to proper procedure."
"Seriously, are you being sarcastic with me? I am the last person with whom you should be sarcastic, I will have you know, you pompous, self-righteous stuffed suit. I have followed regulations from the minute I stepped foot on this stupid tropical-fruit-laden pile of dirt sticking out from the ocean. In fact, I went out of my way to learn the differences between procedure here and procedure back where I come from, to make sure that I wasn't treading on any toes. And what have I gotten in return? Nothing but grief. And now I have to sit in this really uncomfortable chair listening to you question my integrity, when I should be at my desk sorting through papers that I no longer have because some invisible nutcase decided to steal them!"
The suit takes a few more notes, nods imperturbably. Danny wonders if anyone would care if he lunged across the table and strangled him. The thought of the resulting paperwork nips that idea in the bud. "Thank you, Detective, that will be all for now. We'll be in touch if we have further questions."
"Yeah, I'll bet," Danny mutters under his breath, stalks back to his desk.
Malasadas are just about the only good thing that Danny has discovered about Hawaii. They are deep fried, delicious goodness, better even than the doughnuts from that special place in Hoboken. They're not enough to reconcile him with the fact that he has to live in a place where there's never any snow and where people seem to think that wearing shirts with really ugly and loud prints is something to aspire to, but they are a definite consolation in times like these.
He's made new copies of his witness statements, obtained new copies of the photographs from before, and all before lunch. Sure, being in a room early in the morning with I.A. didn't help much with his growing problem of sleep-deprivation, but at least it meant that he got out before mid-morning, and malasadas are easily obtained. He's licking the remnants of one from his thumb when he gets a call from Meka.
"You better get out here, Danny, we've got another one."
"Looks like it. Different store, same M.O. as far as I can tell."
"I'm on my way," Danny's already rolling up the paper bag with the remnants of his malasadas, takes the time to put away his hard-won new copies of the evidence in the drawer of his desk and turns the key, pocketing it before he leaves.
The drive out is a fairly short one, now that he's become accustomed to negotiating the streets of Honolulu without getting hopelessly lost each and every time. He pulls his silver Camaro into the closest available parking spot to the very conspicuous crime scene. There are shards of glass littering the sidewalk, glittering in the mid-morning sun, a neatly cut outline in the glass door of the store. The entire sidewalk around the store has been cordoned off with yellow tape, and Danny ducks under it easily after making his way through the crowd of onlookers. He finds the crime scene photographer hard at work a few paces away, catches his attention with a hand on his shoulder.
"Hey Junior," he greets him. "Do me a favour?"
Junior isn't Danny's number one fan, but he doesn't really dislike him either. He shrugs. "What sort of favour?"
"Can you get me some shots of the crowd? I have a feeling that if this is going to be a series, we might get lucky if we pay attention to the Looky-Lou's who come around afterward. Something tells me at least one of our guys is getting off on not leaving any evidence behind, and it's easier to get off when you've got a clear visual on the people you're screwing."
"That is a really nasty metaphor, but I take your point," Junior grimaces. "You got it."
"Thanks, Junior. You seen where Meka is?"
"Back of the store, talking to the owner last I checked."
Danny heads inside, carefully skirting the broken glass on the floor, pulling on the plastic purple gloves that seem to come standard in Hawaii. He figures maybe HPD got themselves a bulk discount on account of how ugly the damned gloves are, because he's never in his entire career ever seen another police force use anything other than white latex to process a scene. Or white non-latex, he supposes, for those few people unlucky enough to be allergic to the stuff.
Meka is talking to a tall, good-looking guy who looks to be of Chinese origin, not that Danny is an expert in these matters. From the way the guy's dressed, down to the rubber truncheon, Danny guesses they're not looking at the store owner.
"Meka," he says by way of greeting, insinuating himself into the conversation. It's not like subtlety has ever been his strong suit anyway.
"Howzit?" Meka greets him back, then jerks his head at the guy. "Danny, this is Chin Ho Kelly. Apparently he does some security work freelance for the store owner here."
Danny makes a face. "Bang-up job, my friend." That's when the name clicks. "Didn't you used to work for HPD?"
The guy stiffens. "Yeah, I did."
"Okay, then. So what can you tell us?"
It turns out that the guy can't tell them much of anything. He works for the storeowner as a security consultant, and sometimes comes in to supervise deliveries when they're especially valuable. They received just such a delivery yesterday afternoon, which went off without a hitch, with half of the new inventory going directly into the display cases and half going into the secure safes at the back of the store. It's a hell of a coincidence, though, Danny thinks.
"So you just happen to receive this huge delivery of very valuable jewellery, and the very same night you get robbed?"
Kelly nods. "It's not a coincidence. Someone must have tipped them off. And before you ask, it wasn't me."
"Uh-huh. Well, normally I'd be happy to take your word for it, but hopefully you won't mind if my partner here, who is of a much more suspicious mindset, does silly things like check your alibi and whatnot?"
"Danny..." Meka murmurs, and okay, maybe he spread it a little thick there.
"Knock yourselves out," Kelly says impassively, his face a carefully schooled mask of neutrality, but Danny sees a flash of something in his eyes that looks like righteous anger. "I do have an alibi for last night, as it happens, although I suppose there's no way to prove that I didn't supply the information to someone else for a cut of the profits. On that, you'll just have to take my word for it until you find the people who actually did supply the information."
"Excuse us for a second," Danny pulls Meka aside. "Okay, I don't have all the details on what went down with this guy. All I know is that he resigned from HPD a while back, and that's it. So what's the deal, here?"
Meka gives him one of his patented unreadable glances. Danny thinks maybe he either took lessons from Kelly, or vice versa. "He left because money went missing from the evidence locker after a big drug bust. He maintained his innocence and I.A. never proved anything, but no one would work with him. He was forced out, basically."
Danny whistles softly. "Good thing we don't have anything like 'innocent until proven guilty' in our justice system to inconvenience us. So he was suspected of being dirty but no one could prove anything?"
Meka shrugs. "They never found the money, and from what I know I.A. has been monitoring all his accounts secretly ever since he left, with nary a trace of a transaction. He hasn't bought anything, developed any new habits, nothing. If anything, he's been spending less money, commensurately with his drop in salary."
"How do you even know this?"
His partner just grins at him. "I just hear things, Danny. You know how it is. The department is pretty small."
"To you, maybe. As far as I'm concerned the place is goddamned huge."
"That's because you don't know how to fit in. You should really lose the tie."
"I like my ties."
"And that right there is your problem. You lack flexibility. Come on, I'll finish taking his statement, and you can go work that haole charm on Junior, see if you can get him to take some close-ups of the safe in the back. That's the only difference this time: they blew the safe, too. Didn't bother during the other robbery."
"Yeah, okay. I appreciate your very diplomatic attempt to keep me from trampling all over our main witness' delicate sensibilities. I'll be over there, helping to process the scene," Danny says sarcastically, but clamps a friendly hand on Meka's shoulder to show there are no hard feelings. He snaps his rubber gloves for emphasis, and heads off to start documenting the damage.
Sunday morning finds Danny back at the precinct. It's not the first time that he's spent one of his weekends without Grace at the office, although usually he doesn't spend the whole time there. Sometimes it'll be a few hours, sometimes a whole day. Today, though, he can't think of anything else he wants to be doing if it doesn't involve an overactive eight-year old. It also doesn't help that he lives in Hawaii's tiniest apartment, as far as he can tell. The prices here are outrageous, especially on a cop's salary. He knows Rachel doesn't approve of his one-room apartment with a pull-out sofa, but there's not much he can do about it at this point, and it's not enough for her to take him back to court over custody. He hopes.
Nonetheless, he is aware that his apartment is kind of a shithole, and the idea of spending all day in it isn't exactly appealing. Danny isn't much of a beach guy ―all that sand and salt water just isn't his thing― and that doesn't leave all that many options in this place that don't involve a lot more money than he has to his name. So, the office it is.
He goes into his deserted office, coffee mug in hand, only to stop short once more, jaw slack. All the photographs that went missing are now back, exactly how he left them before they disappeared. He couldn't swear to it, either, but he's almost entirely certain that whoever put them back used the same order of thumbtacks as he did when he first pinned them up, too. He carefully places his coffee mug on his desk, right next to the photocopies of the witness statements that also went AWOL, and rubs a hand over his face.
"Someone is screwing with me," he tells the universe. "They are screwing with me, and when I find them they are going to regret the day they ever thought up this ridiculous prank."
He leaves messages on the voicemail of the I.A. suit running the investigation as well as his Lieutenant, doesn't bother chasing any of the rest of it down, or calling his partner. That can wait until Monday, at the very least. There's still plenty of room on the board, so he adds the pictures of the latest crime scenes, starts jotting down notes on a yellow legal pad, once again just letting his brain play word-association games, hoping something will jump out at him.
Not only is there something hinky about the photographs, he thinks, but this weird twenty-four hour disappearing trick is a huge red flag. He wonders if the pictures were tampered with in any way. On a hunch he pulls down the first set, carefully donning his gloves beforehand, and breaks out his long-unused fingerprinting kit. The days when detectives did all the legwork is long gone, but Danny figures that any self-respecting law enforcement officer should keep his hand in when it comes to this stuff. Besides, Gracie has a lot of fun with it, and he doesn't see any reason to discourage her, no matter what Rachel might have to say on the matter.
It's when he's gone through all of the photos and turned up nothing that the obvious occurs to him. If someone wanted that first set of pictures enough to take them the first time, then it's entirely possible that they'll want the second set too, for reasons best known to themselves. And what better way to find out those reasons than to ask in person? He smirks a little to himself, puts back the pictures where he found them, and begins formulating a plan both simple and elegant in its effectiveness. Or so he hopes, anyway.
He spends the day at his desk, writing up the report on yesterday's crime scene. It's remarkable in its similarity to the first, except for that troubling part about the safe being blown open too. In the last store, the safe was left untouched, making him wonder just what was inside this one that was so important to the burglars. He's going to have to wait for the itemized list of things stolen from the store, though, and obtaining that is Meka's responsibility. He can't hold it against Meka that he wants to spend what little free time he has with his family, after all. A glance at the clock tells him it's stretching on into night, leaving him alone once again with no one but the cleaning staff for company. All the night patrols are out, the desk sergeant is out of view, and there's definitely no one in the detectives' offices right now who doesn't absolutely have to be there, outside of Danny.
Danny stands, stretches, very casually checks his watch, then turns and heads out the door as though he's going to the men's room the same way he did on Friday, leaving his jacket draped over the back of his chair. If he's right, his mysterious visitor will have gotten overconfident after the success of Friday night's escapade, and will end up revealing himself tonight. Or herself, it's not like Danny's sexist or anything. In fact, a leather-wearing female cat burglar would be a really nice change of pace... He shakes himself, forces himself to focus on the job at hand rather than indulge random fantasies about characters who belong more in comic books.
His thoughts turn out to be more prophetic than he thought. Almost as soon as he's ducked out of sight into the hallway, holding his breath, there's a slight scuffling sound inside his office.
He draws his weapon (third time in eight days, he's about to set a damned record) and steps back into the room, hoping that he's not going to end up looking like an idiot for drawing on a janitor, and bellows in his best 'cop-voice.'
"HPD, stop where you are!"
The culprit freezes, hands out to the side, and Danny really isn't sure who's more surprised, him or the intruder.
"You have got to be kidding me!" he says, keeping his sidearm steadily aimed at center mass. "If it isn't my spandex-wearing ally from the alley. Hands up against the wall, buddy!"
The Seal ―and Danny really hopes he's going to learn his real name soon because there is no way in hell that he's going to be calling this perp by that ridiculous name any longer than he has to―doesn't budge.
"This isn't what it looks like!"
"It looks to me like you were coming here to lift the photographs and witness statements from my newest crime scene."
The guy tilts his head a little ruefully. "Okay, so it's pretty much what it looks like. But I was going to put them back, I swear! And this time it wouldn't even have taken as long."
"Up against the wall, don't make me repeat myself!" Danny snaps. "Tampering with those pictures in any way ―and that includes taking them and putting them back, let me assure you― is interfering with a case in progress. That, my friend, is against the law, and so it is my utter pleasure to put your well-sculpted, green spandex-wearing ass under arrest."
"It's not spandex!"
"Why are we even arguing about what kind of fabric your costume is made of?" Danny jerks the barrel of his gun ever so slightly in a motion designed to encourage the suspect to move toward the wall. Instead, the guy turns slowly, arms still out in a non-threatening manner, and grins that stupid, silly grin that Danny saw the first day.
"And you think my ass is well-sculpted?"
"So not the point! You. Wall. Now!"
The guy smirks. "It's a little early in the relationship for that, don't you think?"
"I ―you ―what? No!" Danny sputters. "Where did you get ―that is absolutely not ―I can't believe you would... just do as I say, damn it!"
"How about no?"
Danny tilts his head in acknowledgement, feels his mouth tug down in an expression of doubt. "Yeah, you could refuse, and then I'll shoot you. Normally I hate the paperwork, but at this point, for you? For you I would make an exception."
"I don't think so, Danny."
"How do you know my name?"
"Wasn't hard to find out. It's on your desk, for one thing," The Seal motions to the wooden bar with 'Detective Daniel Williams' carved into it that sits on Danny's desk, and Danny suddenly feels pretty stupid for having missed that one. "Anyway, you and I are on the same side on this case. I just need information that you have."
"You think stealing evidence is going to help me with this case?"
The guy's face twists into what Danny's starting to think of as Aneurysm Face. "Of course not! I think it's going to help me stop my arch-nemesis from enacting his nefarious plans," he says, as though it's the most obvious thing in the world.
"Okay, see, no. That, right there? That proves, my friend, that you need help. Serious, professional, psychiatric help. You are running around in a green costume with a mask and a cape, God help me, a cape! And now you're spouting off about arch-nemeses and nefarious plans. Are you even listening to yourself?"
"What's wrong with my cape?"
"Once again, you have seized upon the wrong part of my sentence, Einstein. For the record, capes have been out of style for at least ten years for costumed crime fighters. Or haven't you seen The Incredibles?"
"Edna's a crotchety old eccentric," the guy mutters mutinously. "I like my cape, and I've never had any trouble with it. Just because she can't design one with good flow..."
"Again! Again with the crazy," Danny raises his free hand toward the ceiling. "That is a fictional character! You are obviously out of touch with reality, and I am going to do you a favour and take you down to a nice, warm jail cell where a nice person from Social Services is going to come talk to you along with a doctor of psychiatry, and they will set you up with a fantastic regimen of antipsychotic medication which will make you feel a whole lot better. Now, hands up against the wall. Don't make me shoot you."
The guy grins. "You can't shoot me, Danny. Anyway, this was fun, but I gotta go. If I can't get the information I need this way, I'll just find another one. See you around!"
And with that, he's gone. He doesn't vanish, but makes a dive for the window leading onto the darkening street. Caught entirely off-guard, Danny barely has time to squeeze off one shot, which must miss because it doesn't slow the guy down even a little bit. He throws himself at the window, leaning out so far he nearly topples over the ledge and into the street, but The Seal is long gone. How the guy manages to meld into the shadows so well while wearing green spandex is beyond Danny, but the fact remains he's got yet another round of explaining to do for Internal Affairs.
"Just when I thought this week might be better than last week," he groans.
After that, it's like a switch has been flipped in Danny's head. Whereas before the weird guy in the superhero outfit had barely registered with him as one of those anomalies you encounter in life, now he can't seem to think about much else. It's that, and the case. Monday morning brings yet another burglary, this time of a store specializing in antique dinnerware. This time, the only things that were stolen were silverware (literally only the silver stuff, including platters and goblets and plates and a bunch of things Danny's never even heard of) and all the crystal available in the place, glasses and bowls and one chandelier that, judging by the photo taken for insurance, is far better off disappearing from the face of the earth.
"You'd think our guys would run out of stores to hit," Danny grumbles, picking his way through the evidence.
"It definitely qualifies as a spree, but it's the weirdest spree I've ever seen. Why not just hit all these stores in one night? They probably could have managed it, given the timeframe. If they're not in a hurry, why only wait a day or two in between hits?" Meka is thinking out loud as he picks up what might be a tiny fragment of evidence from behind the counter and drops it into a plastic baggie before sealing it, dating it and signing it.
"I don't know. None of this feels right. They still left behind a ton of valuables, some of which is worth way more than what they took. So what's their goal? Are they looking to melt the silver into bullion and keep it under the radar that way? Most police forces look for stolen gold and not silver, but still..."
Meka shakes his head. "No idea. You get Junior to take pictures of the crowd again?"
"Yeah. I think that there's something hinky about this, something a little more personal than just a jewellery store hit. Won't know until I do some comparing, though."
"Might be the computer guys will have a software that can check the faces for you."
Danny rolls his eyes. "It's a dozen pictures. Sure, I can get them to program it and have it take a week, or I can do it myself, and know right away."
"The computer might catch something you can't."
"Okay, fine, I'll have the computer be my back-up."
"You're a Luddite, you know that?" Meka says amiably.
"Not a Luddite, a traditionalist. I think computers are great, but not the solution to all of the world's problems. In fact, I think they create a lot more problems than they really help to solve."
"You're still bitter about that reformatted hard drive incident, aren't you?"
"I thought we agreed we were never discussing that ever again."
Meka grins and shakes his head. "Whatever you say, partner."
It isn't often that Danny takes his work home with him, but sometimes looking at things in a different context helps to put them in a different perspective. So he packs up his ever-thickening file on the burglaries into a metal briefcase and tosses it in the back seat of his Camaro. He spends the rest of the evening with a couple of beers ―Longboards as a concession to a little bit of local flavour― poring over the photos Junior took of the crowd. Nothing jumps out at him right away, but he hasn't covered nearly all of his bases yet. He's long since learned to trust the hunches he gets about his case, and his hunch about this one is that the answer is definitely going to be in one of these faces.
He's interrupted about twenty minutes in by the phone ringing, the tell-tale theme from 'Psycho' informing him that it's none other than his darling ex-wife calling him. Still, if she's calling it must mean she's back in town, and if she's back in town then that means that Gracie is back as well, and that is definitely good news.
"Yes, dear!" he barks as a way of greeting, then immediately mellows when Gracie's chirping tone comes over the line. "Oh, hey Monkey. No, I thought it was your Mom on the phone. How did you like your trip?"
He gets a rather garbled but very excited account of the entire trip, mostly about the airplane rides because that's what his eight-year-old daughter appears to find the most exciting about travel. Still, the very-special tennis tournament appears to have been a big hit, and even if Grace hadn't been enthusiastic about tennis before, she definitely is now. Or moreso than before, anyway. There's a lot of indecipherable talk of scores and volleys and backhands, making him wonder if it's not too late to induct her into baseball instead. Still, tennis isn't the worst sport out there. Stan might have tried to get her to play golf, so Danny supposes he should count his blessings. Eventually a careful eye on the clock tells him it's far past Gracie's bedtime.
"I'll come pick you up after school on Friday," he promises at her disappointed tone, trying not to let yet another piece of his heart break off. At this rate, he's not going to have any of it left by the time she's eighteen. "Good night, Monkey, and remember: Danno loves you."
He goes back to his work after that, making sure the alcohol is within easy reach. He's halfway through his third beer, sitting cross-legged on the pull-out bed, when he hears a scraping sound from the kitchen, unmistakably the sound of his window being forcibly shoved open. He doesn't so much as have time to lunge for his service weapon ―in its holster on the side table, just where he told I.A. he always keeps it―when none other than the Green Menace himself is standing in the middle of his apartment.
"Jesus!" Danny says, and doesn't know whether he's relieved or furious or just downright flabbergasted.
"Hiya, Danny!" he says cheerfully.
"What the hell are you doing in the middle of my living room?"
The Seal wrinkles his nose. "You live here?" As Danny starts calculating how fast he can get to his gun, get it out of its holster, aim and shoot, The Seal shakes his head. "Uh-uh, Danny. Trust me, you'll never make it. I am much, much faster than you. Also stronger."
"A little overconfident, aren't we? You don't know what I can do," Danny tries to bluff, but the guy shrugs as though it's of no concern.
"No, not really. I'm a superhero, you know," he says matter-of-factly, as though that statement isn't proof positive of lunacy.
"There's no such thing. There is no such thing as a man who can climb walls like a spider, or leap over tall buildings, or x-ray vision. You're just deluded, and you need help."
The Seal sighs. "Look, I get it, you're skeptical. You're not entirely wrong either. I can't leap tall buildings in a single bound, or whatever, but I am different. I'm a lot stronger and a lot faster than pretty much any human being I've encountered. I'm also pretty much immune to most gunfire ―and let me tell you I'm grateful for that because otherwise you would have done some pretty serious damage yesterday."
"As much as I hate to say this, I just missed," Danny says lamely, but he hasn't moved from where he's sitting, feeling a little stupid dressed only in his boxers and undershirt. Then again, he reasons, he shouldn't be the one feeling embarrassed about how he's dressed. At least his outfit doesn't involve spandex and Day-Glo.
The guy clucks his tongue. "We both know that's not true. You're a very good marksman, Danny, and I have the bruise between my shoulder blades to prove it. For the record, it hurts like a son of a bitch."
"Oh, well, I'm sorry to have inconvenienced you with my bullet!" Danny rolls his eyes. "Maybe next time it'll teach you not to break the law. Oh, wait, no it didn't, because here you are!"
"The door was open," The Seal protests.
"It was my kitchen window, and no it was not open. I closed it before bed, I heard you slide it open, ergo you are guilty of breaking and entering!"
"Look, I came because I want to ask for your help."
"I can't give you the help you need, babe," Danny lifts his palms up in a helpless gesture.
"No," The Seal moves forward until he's almost within touching distance. "I mean with the case. I think my arch-nemesis The Shark might be behind all of the burglaries, but I have no way of proving it. I need to be sure before I can move against him."
Danny claps a hand to his forehead. "Give me strength. The Shark?"
"That's right. I want to look at those photos you had taken, so that I can check and see if anything looks out of place. I've been to the crime scenes, but all the evidence was long gone or contaminated by the cops by the time I got there."
"Hey, hey, cops do not contaminate crime scenes, you contaminate crime scenes! Why the hell were you even there? You realize that could make all of our evidence inadmissible when this goes to trial?"
"You can't take The Shark to trial, it's almost impossible to prove his involvement with anything criminal. He has henchmen to do his dirty work for him," The Seal says earnestly, "which is why it's down to me to take him down. I just need more to go on than what I have."
"Which is what?"
A sheepish shrug. "Pretty much nothing. But I have a feeling it's him."
Danny can't believe he's arguing in the middle of his living room with this guy rather than trying to arrest him, but then again that hasn't really worked out well for him in the past, either. He's all but unarmed in the face of an unknown adversary who hasn't actively tried to harm him yet. Better to try to talk him down, he figures, than to risk escalating the situation.
"See, babe, that is terrible detective work right there," he says, jabbing a finger in the direction of the guy's chest. "You have to look at the evidence first and see where it takes you, not look to the evidence to prove your worthless hunch. Do you get what I'm saying?"
"My hunches are pretty reliable about that sort of thing. So let me take a look already. It can't hurt to have a fresh set of eyes look at the evidence, right?"
And with that the guy simply sits down right next to Danny on his crappy little pull-out, so close that their thighs are brushing, as though it's the most normal thing in the world. From here he can see that the guy is well-built, with dark hair that might curl a bit at the ends if he let it grow out a little more, and hazel eyes that are alive with intelligence and a glint of humour. Danny sighs gustily because, really, how is this even his life? It figures that Hawaii would be not only full of overly sweet tropical fruit and really tiny frogs that croaked so loudly that it really cannot be natural, but also full of crazy people. Crazy people dressed in superhero outfits who think that they are the thin green line standing between ordinary citizenry and the criminal scum of the world. It doesn't help that the guy smells sort of nice, a bit like coconut, and that his thigh is warm and nicely muscled, and damn, it really has been too long since Danny got laid, because there are levels of inappropriate, here. Levels upon levels.
The Seal drops a hand casually on Danny's shoulder in order to better look at the pictures and it takes all of Danny's self-control not to shudder a little at the contact. He makes a mental resolution to start dating more.
"You seriously have no concept of personal space, do you?"
"What, am I making you uncomfortable?"
"Are you –are you kidding me? You. Are. On. My. Bed."
"And that is not what normal people do!" Danny flails a little, thoroughly exasperated by now. "I am not in the habit of letting costumed strangers into my home."
"I'm not a stranger."
"Yes, you are. I don't know your name," Danny keeps his tone even, oh-so-reasonable, "which makes you a stranger to me."
There's a moment of silence while the guy considers that, then he smiles again, bright and happy, like he's solved the problem of world hunger that self-same minute. "Well, okay. I'll tell you my name, but you have to promise you won't tell anyone. It's a secret."
"You have to promise or I can't tell you," comes the protest. "I trust you, but this is really important."
"Oh my God, how has this become my life? Fine. Fine, I promise not to tell anyone your name, but under two conditions: that promise is null and void if it'll mean saving someone's life, and also if it turns out you're not actually a superhero but actually a criminal and I need to arrest you."
The Seal tilts his head, considering. "Fair enough. My name is Steve."
"Of course it is."
"Nothing. Okay, Steve, it's nice to meet you. There's the door, please show yourself out."
"You want me to leave?" The tone is disbelieving.
"Yes!" Danny shouts as emphatically as he can, trying to convince himself as much as this guy that he really means it. "Yes, I want you to leave, you lunatic! Go home, change out of that get-up, and go to bed like a regular person so the rest of us can get our jobs done!"
"You don't mean that, do you, Danno?"
Danny glares, the wind effectively taken out of his sails. "How the hell did you find out that nickname?" he demands, feeling suddenly exposed ―like sitting here in his underwear isn't enough.
"Overheard you talking to your daughter."
"Yeah, well, that's her name for me. You have no right to use it. Now, out!" He points toward the door.
The Seal honest-to-God pouts, like his feelings have been hurt or something equally as ridiculous. He slides off the bed and, naturally, rather than use the door like a normal person, heads back into the kitchen.
And he's gone in the time it takes for the window to open and close again. Danny lets his head drop until his forehead smacks against his hand.
"I ask again," he says to the top of the bedspread. "How is this even my life?"
Danny doesn't sleep well that night. It probably has a lot to do with knowing that his apartment isn't safe from being broken into by lunatics with nice eyes and questionable taste in cologne. He spends a good amount of time tossing and turning, wakes up half an hour before his alarm is set to go off, tangled in his sheets with the worst hard-on he's had in months. He kicks the sheets to the floor, declares sleep a lost cause, staggers to the bathroom and switches on the shower. It doesn't take long, and since he's by himself no one ever needs to know that he's picturing the mysterious Steve in his mind as he jerks himself roughly to completion, one hand braced against the murky tiles of the shower wall.
It only helps a little bit, in the short run. He finds himself still thinking about Steve as he stops to buy coffee and malasadas on his way to work, which does nothing for his concentration. It's not like this guy is going to help him solve this case, no matter what he tells himself. When he's still about fifteen minutes away from the office, though, his phone rings, playing the intro music to Lilo & Stitch.
"Hey, Meka," he brings the phone to his ear. "Aren't you at the office yet?"
There's a put-upon sigh. "You still have that stupid ring tone for me, don't you?"
"Hey, it makes you unique in my book. Besides, Gracie picked it. You wouldn't want to hurt her feelings, would you?"
"Sometimes I think you made that up just to mess with me. Listen, Danny, I got some stuff to do on my own today. I think I might be on to something here. It's a side project nothing to do with the case, but something's popped up and since we don't have anything hot going right now, I figured I'd look into it. I'm already on my way to do a quick check, but I'll be at the office by noon."
"What? Hey, hey, no, that's not how that works. You shouldn't be out there by yourself. Tell me where you are, and I'll come join you."
"No can do, brah," Meka laughs. "I mean, I'll tell you where I am if you want, but I.A. wants to talk to you again about the mysterious disappearing-reappearing evidence. So you can't come and play bodyguard."
Danny just barely resists the urge to beat his head against the steering wheel. "Oh my God. I am never going to hear the end of that."
"No, you're really not. Besides, you gotta admit it's weird."
No, Danny thinks glumly, it's not weird at all once you know who was really behind it. In fact, in the grand scheme of things, that probably counts as normal in Steve's books. Steve, whose name keeps dancing around in his mind, the knowledge burning there, bright and incandescent. It takes every ounce of his self-control during his interview with I.A., three hours of nothing but the same question asked seventeen different ways, but he perseveres. No, he doesn't know how anyone could have come into the building undetected (not a lie, he still doesn't really know how Steve managed it); no, he doesn't know who took the papers (also not a lie, it's not like he actually knows the guy beyond a dubious first name and a bad costume) nor what they wanted them for (okay, that one's a lie, but two out of three isn't bad). In the end he leaves with a handshake and the feeling that since the evidence is all present and accounted for, this is all just going to get filed under "fodder for department gossip" for the next ten years. He can live with that.
Meka isn't back by the time he goes to lunch, but since for once there's no new heist Danny takes advantage of an unexpectedly free afternoon to revisit one of the earlier crime scenes, photos in hand. He goes back to the jewellery shop to find Chin Ho Kelly still on security detail there. Kelly gives him a cool, appraising look, but doesn't say much until he approaches, his new blown-up photographs in a brown envelope held in one hand.
"Help you, detective?"
"I certainly hope so," Danny pulls out the photos and spreads them on the counter. "Just doing a little digging. None of this is formal, so you don't have to answer my questions, but you know that already."
"Yes, I do," Kelly says with enough equanimity that Danny's impressed. Most ex-cops are more than a little touchy about it.
"So it's a little early for me to be able to tell who was at all of my crime scenes, because I don't have crowd photographs of the first one, but I do have a few faces that cropped up at both. I was hoping you'd be able to help me narrow down my list a bit."
Kelly shrugs. "Sure. I want these bastards caught as much as you do. Okay, her?" he points to a young woman holding a clutch purse to her chest. "Probably not a person of interest. Name is Kimmy something. She's a regular, comes in with Daddy's credit cards and spends way too much on jewellery she'll wear once or twice. Doesn't mean you can rule her out, but I wouldn't put her at the top of your list."
"Okay, makes sense," Danny nods, ticks off her name on his mental list.
"These two," Kelly points to two of the three men Danny singled out, although the resolution is a bit blurry due to the enhancements, "I don't know. Can't say I ever saw them before, or maybe they just didn't catch my attention. Their body language screams 'rubbernecking,' anyway."
He's good, Danny will give him that. "Go on. What about the last guy?" Danny looks down at the man in the photograph, a good-looking guy with slightly pockmarked skin and sandy brown hair, probably in his early to mid-forties, standing at the back of the crowd of onlookers. That gets a nod.
"I saw him a couple of days ago, just before the burglary. Came in, looked at engagement rings. I didn't think too much of it at the time, but I remember thinking that, whoever he was shopping for, it probably wasn't going to last because he didn't seem all that interested in the rings themselves, just kept looking around like he was taking in the place. He was good, though, if this is your guy, because I never figured him to be casing the place. But it's too much of a coincidence that he'd turn up before and after, and at two different crime scenes."
"All right," Danny slides the pictures back into the envelope. "You've been a big help, thanks." He reaches out, shakes Kelly's hand, notes the expression of surprise. "What, you thought I would treat you like a leper just on general principle?"
That gets him a genuine smile. "You'd be surprised."
Danny sighs. "No, I really wouldn't. I've spent just enough time at HPD to know exactly what it feels like to have no one want to work with you."
"Meka's a good cop. I can't think of another man I'd want more as a partner. He believes I'm innocent."
"Then the odds are good you are innocent. I'd trust his instincts any day."
Kelly glances at the front window of the shop, apparently coming to some sort of internal decision, because he nods a little to himself, then leans forward. "You know, you're not the first person to ask me about those people."
Kelly looks at once amused and a little sheepish. "You lose any of your crime scene photos lately, brah?"
Danny's getting used to his face making contact with his palm by now. "Don't tell me. It was a guy wearing green spandex."
"He says it's not spandex. Anyway, he saved my life once, so I owe him. I didn't see the harm in telling him what I knew. But I figure I should give you a heads-up that you're not the only person on this case."
"The guy's nuts."
"Maybe not as nuts as you think. Usually he keeps a pretty low profile, doesn't like to draw too much attention to himself. He must think you're pretty special, if you've seen him that close up."
That gets him a shrug. "I'm just saying, he can be a good ally if you play your cards right."
"Okay, you are about to destroy any credibility you have," Danny tells him good-naturedly, "so I'm going to leave that there. Here's my card. Anything else turns up, you'll give me a call?"
"Sure thing," Kelly tucks the card carefully into his wallet. "Does that include The Seal?"
"Yeah, why not. If he comes back, let me know so I know to wear extra Kevlar to deal with whatever fallout is going to come from that. God knows one I.A. investigation into this was enough to last me a lifetime. Anyway, thanks for your help. I'd put in a good word for you, but my word means only slightly more than squat, so I probably wouldn't be doing you any favours anyway."
"Yeah, don't sweat it. It's been a long time, I've got something else going on now."
"Well, for what it's worth, thanks again. I owe you a coffee, or something."
"Danno, wake up!"
Danny comes out of a dream that he's not entirely sure isn't partially a nightmare, in which The Seal has yet again broken into his apartment and is straddling his thighs while explaining something improbable involving giant cans of tuna being built into a tower and leading up into the volcano as a shortcut across the ocean. He blinks in the semi-darkness, then groans when he realizes that he fell asleep at his desk and that the only light is the thin stream coming in through the window from the street lamp outside.
"I swear to God, if you say anything involving tuna, I will shoot you first, then myself."
"Get up, Danno," Steve's voice makes Danny sit up, suddenly wide-awake. "You need to come right now."
"Why? What's happening?"
"It's your partner. There's been a shooting. Come on, you have to come now or they're not going to let you near any of it."
Danny's already moving, grabbing his jacket and making a futile attempt to straighten his tie. "How do you even get into the building without getting noticed, anyway?"
"Secret entrance. Come on," Steve's grip on his arm is like a vise, propelling him forward to his car. "Get in."
"It's my car."
Steve is already behind the wheel, though, slipping keys into the ignition and revving the engine. Danny doesn't even want to know how he got the keys ―probably out of his pocket while he was sleeping, which is plenty humiliating.
"So are you going to tell me what's going on? What about the shooting?"
"I don't know yet. I heard part of it on the police scanner, heard the name Hanamoa, put two and two together. I figured it might be part of our case, so I decided to get you so we could check it out."
"Okay, no," Danny starts, raising both hands to demonstrate his point. "See, this is not our case, this is my case. The only 'we' here is me and my partner, and you, my friend, are not my partner."
"But you admit I'm your friend?" The grin is back in full force, and not for the first time Danny finds himself wondering what this guy looks like under the mask and the green.
"What? No! Just... shut up and drive, already."
Not altogether surprisingly, Steve drives like a maniac. Takes turns at angles so acute Danny's amazed that he hasn't flipped the car by the time they pull up in front of one of those abandoned warehouses that are ubiquitous in the organized crime world. There are three marked police cars and an ambulance on scene already, lights flashing, yellow tape surrounding a small door to the side, uniformed cops milling about, and Danny spots at least one enterprising reporter lurking, tape recorder at the ready. When he ducks under the yellow tape, he's surprised to find his Lieutenant hurrying toward him.
"Williams! You can't be here," he barks.
"What? What the hell are you talking about?"
The look he gets is filled with sympathy, and Danny feels his blood run cold. "I'm so sorry, Danny, I didn't want you to find out like this."
Danny tries unsuccessfully to push past him. "What? Find out what like this? Where's Meka? Oh, God..." he presses both hands to his mouth as the EMTs wheel a gurney slowly toward the ambulance, the figure on it hidden by a black body bag. "Oh, God. Tell me that's not him."
"I'm so sorry. But you can't be here, Danny, let us take care of this."
"Screw that! He's my partner, I can't just stand here!"
The Lieutenant shakes his head. "I know how you feel, but this is procedure, you know that. I have to take you off the whole case."
"You can't do that," Danny's still staring at the gurney, disappearing into the rear of the ambulance. None of it feels real. "Where's the coroner?"
"Been and gone. Go home. Take a couple of days at least, take it easy, and we'll send someone by so you can catch them up on your investigation."
"God," Danny scrubs at his face with one hand, stubble scraping against his palm. "What about Amy? Has anyone told his wife?"
"Not yet, it's too soon. I'll be sending someone over soon, though."
"No," he shakes his head. "Let me do that. I want it to come from a friend. If I can't be of any use here, at least let me do that."
The Lieutenant claps him on the shoulder. "All right. We'll keep you apprised, as much as we can, anyway. You let me know if there's anything we can do for Amy."
He turns away, walks dazedly back to his car only to find the keys in the ignition, and no sign at all of his costumed chauffeur. Somehow, at this precise moment he can't bring himself to care about the man's whereabouts. The guy seems to be able to come and go at will anyway, so Danny refuses to worry about him. Right now, he has to go tell the people who, apart from Gracie, are the closest thing he has on this god-forsaken island to family, that they're never going to see their husband and father again.
Delivering next-of-kin notifications is the very worst part of being a cop, second to nothing. It's the hardest lesson to learn as a rookie cop, and it never seems to get any easier. In fact, Danny is privately of the opinion that the day this part of his job gets easy is the day he turns in his badge and gun, because unnatural death by definition should never be easy. Amy Hanamoa sobs in his arms, curled up on the ratty beige sofa in their living room. Danny's lost count of how many times he's sat on this sofa with Meka before, sharing a beer, watching his little boy Billy playing with Legos on the floor. Billy's a couple of years younger than Gracie, and now his dad is never going to teach him to surf, or how to swing a baseball bat or throw a football. Billy's dad isn't going to be there when the training wheels come off his brand new bicycle, to watch with pride as he pedals away all on his own for the first time, and the thought makes Danny want to punch someone in the face repeatedly until this all somehow gets fixed.
"How did he die?" Amy asks finally, scrubbing at her face with a tissue. Billy is asleep in bed at this hour, and she hasn't made a move to wake him yet.
"I don't know exactly. There was a shooting, but I wasn't there," he says grimly, thinking back to his last conversation with Meka. He can't help but wonder if things might not have gone down differently if Meka had agreed to wait until he was done with I.A., if they'd gone to look up this mysterious lead together, whatever it was about. "They're not telling me much, because we were partners. But I promise, I'll keep an eye out, and whatever I find out, I'll let you know, okay?"
"I don't understand," she says softly, staring at her hands, folded in her lap now, fingers shredding the damp tissue. "I don't understand why anyone would want to kill him. He was such a good man."
"It just means the guys who aren't so good have it out for people like him. Look, I can't make this better, but I promise, we're going to find whoever did this. I can at least give you that."
"What am I going to tell Billy?"
Danny sighs, scrubs at his face. He can almost hear Rachel's voice, screaming at him during one of their worst arguments before the divorce. 'And what am I supposed to tell Grace, Daniel? Tell me that! Tell me what I am supposed to tell our child the day you won't come home from work!'
"I don't know," he admits. "Tell him the truth, I guess. That his father died, but that he did it so that everyone else would be safe."
Amy makes a derisive sound at the back of her throat. "Is that what you really think? Is that why he died today?"
"It's close enough to the truth. I don't know exactly why he died, but that's why he was a cop. It was his reason for living: you and Billy and making sure Hawaii was safe for you and everyone else living here." Danny squeezes her shoulders.
She wipes away the last of her tears. "You should go, Danny. I have... I have calls I need to make now."
It doesn't take a rocket scientist to figure out that she can't stand the sight of him now. Danny can understand that. It's not like he hasn't had a few thoughts along the lines of why-Meka-and-not-him himself on his way over. Not that he wants to trade places, leave Gracie without a father, but survivor's guilt is a nasty, insidious snake. He squeezes her shoulder one last time.
"I am a phone call away, Amy. You just say the word."
Continued in Part II.