By Delia Lavender
(I do not own "Hawaii Five O", Joe White, Steve McGarrett, Danny Williams or any other character appearing on the T.V. series.)
She owed her life to him...
Yet all she could do – for the moment - was cry in his arms. She held on tightly, her hands clamped hard against his broad shoulders.
She hadn't broken down until after the questioning. Until after she'd identified her attacker. Until after the cameraman was finished with her. Until he was done photographing every bruise on her face, her arms and her breasts. Until he'd finished photographing every tear in her dress.
And he had stood by the whole time, talking quietly to the police sergeant.
Who, despite his age, could move with the swiftness and silence of a panther. Who could snap a man's neck with the efficiency of a cook snapping a string-bean.
She'd seen him do it.
And he'd done it for her, when he saw Horace Cromwell trying to rape her. Right here in Mid-Century Retro's dim, grubby storeroom.
He was stroking her hair now, trying to soothe her.
"There, there, Fiona...you're safe now. Everything will be all right..."
Faintly, she could hear the policemen talking behind her.
"...We're going to release him."
"Shouldn't we take him in for questioning, sarge? Aren't we required to..."
"...I just heard from Five-O. They back him up 100%...and so does the evidence. It's all here – empty register, bruised girl with torn dress, corpse with broken neck. We ought to stick a medal on him...but I guess he already has plenty of 'em. Just let them go. We'll wait for the shop owner..."
"Shouldn't the girl go to the hospital?"
She saw the sergeant out of the corner of her eye, glancing back at them.
"Naw. She's in good hands."
And so she was. A few minutes later, after he'd helped her into an old dust smock, he held her arm and led her out of the shop.
She'd been born in Prosperity, Arizona. She'd dreamed about the islands all of her life.
It was her grandmother's trust fund that finally allowed her to travel to Hawaii. And when she finally saw it, she found she couldn't leave...
Her trust fund allowed her to rent a small, one bedroom bungalow in a rustic neighborhood. She was surrounded by welcoming neighbors, and they helped her find the job at Mid-Century Retro.
She was put in charge of the jewelry case. It was she who'd decided on a sort of uniform for herself: 1960's reproduction sarong dresses, worn with high-heeled sandals or open-toed slingbacks. She looked very slinky in them...
And the customers loved it. Her boss, Mrs. Lee, saw that she got a hefty discount at the Swaying Palms Hawaiian Dress Company.
There was a private spot off her lanai, and she developed a deep, all-over tropical tan.
Her turquoise eyes gleamed out of her golden face. She surrounded them with kohl, and plenty of mascara. She needed no other make-up.
She darkened her reddish brown hair, until it resembled sable-mahogany colored silk, streaming several inches below her waist.
She car-pooled with friends, who drove the five miles every day into the city.
And it was at her favorite lunch spot, the Tiny Bubbles Cafe, that she first saw him...
She was beautiful. He looked at her and his breathe almost stopped.
He was sitting in a booth, waiting for Steve and Danny to join him for lunch, when he spotted her, sitting at a table just a few feet from him, near the bar.
He had seen many women in his long career. His early days had often been spent carousing in Honolulu dives; drinking, fighting and chatting up the lovely women.
Then, as now, many women were available – for a price.
He hoped this woman could be bought, but he suspected she couldn't be. Her dress reminded him of something his mother had owned, way back in the early 1960's. It was white with green vines and turquoise flowers. It was long enough to cover her knees, and its sarong-style top was fairly modest.
Sexy...but not cheap. The girls-for-hire always showed more skin.
And she was young...so very young.
He wished he was thirty years younger...or that she was fifteen years older. She'd still be a beautiful woman, fifteen years from now, if only she'd keep away from the tanning beds.
He hated the thought of that lovely skin drying out and wrinkling...
But it was none of his business. She was, he sensed, trying to go native. Her startling, greenish-blue eyes were constantly roaming, taking in her surroundings. She seemed overwhelmingly happy just to be sitting there...
And she already had friends. The bartender and the waitress were keeping a protective eye on her, as though they knew she wasn't street-wise.
He hoped she had family. He hoped she wasn't vacationing alone.
He watched her as she earnestly talked to the waitress. He watched her as she checked the time on the neon-ringed wall clock.
Like him, she was expecting someone.
But his company happened to arrive first.
"She's a beautiful girl," said Steve McGarrett "and you've been staring at her since we got here. Why don't you go over and talk to her?"
"If you won't, I will." said Danny Williams, good naturedly "But I think she's interested in you, Joe – I've seen her glance at you, a couple of times. You've got her curious..."
"...But she's too young for me..." began Joe, but then he stopped. Her company had arrived, and he wanted to watch.
Her "company" was an obese young man, with a jowly, affable bulldog face. He sank heavily into the chair beside her.
Oh, no. She must be a pro. Maybe that was good news...for $500 and a generous tip, she might consider spending the weekend with him...
She opened her purse and brought out a small gift box. This seemed to be a signal because the waitress, who'd been hovering nearby, brought out a small cake from behind the bar. The cake had a single candle on it. The bartender brought out a martini with a tiny plastic "happy birthday" sign skewed through the olive.
"...Happy Birthday dear Urban...Happy Birthday to you!"
Everyone applauded. Even Steve and Danny.
"Urban...my man!" shouted Danny.
Urban laughed and waved; and they all got a good look at his eyes...
They were a greenish-blue, lighter than the girl's but still arresting.
At least Ugly Urban had inherited one attractive family trait.
"Go on, Joe...get over there and congratulate Old Urban. It's his birthday." urged Steve.
Joe rose to his feet and walked over.
She'd watched him, whenever his attention was diverted.
He had such confidence, such charisma, such a wonderful smile. His eyes twinkled, whenever they happened to meet hers.
A powerful man...a man who knew how to take charge. A leader.
He made bald look good.
And, even though he was old, he looked to be in good shape. He had serious muscle in his forearms...she could see it below the folded up sleeves of his white shirt.
And then Urban arrived, distracting her attention.
Dear, dear Urban. She couldn't wait to give him his present...
The older man had guests, too. They seemed nice. They applauded after Urban's birthday song. They seemed awfully amused. Especially the dark man.
Urban waved at them.
Then he opened his gift.
"Oh Fiona...garnet cufflinks!" he was delighted. He leaned over to hug her.
"Of course garnet...it's your birthstone. We got a wonderful shipment in, at Mid-Century. The stones are beautiful...I thought of you at once..."
"I'll wear them with my red tie..."
And then he strolled over.
Ah yes...he was military. She should have known immediately. He reminded her of Uncle Roger, who'd been an army colonel. This man had the same air about him...as if he could lead a parade at any moment...or storm a citadel.
"Congratulations, Urban." he said, as he shook his hand.
"Why, thanks. I'm 28 today. This is my cousin, Fiona Fontaine."
And then he looked at her...
"Happy to meet you, Miss Fontaine. I'm Joe White."
She ignored the sudden tumult in her stomach. Graciously she extended her hand, and he took it gently in his.
"You're a lucky man, Urban, to have such a lovely cousin. Are you two traveling together?"
"No...I'm an importer, so I'm lucky enough to visit Hawaii several times a year. And now Fiona is living here...so I have someone to visit. Isn't she a peach?"
"She's...wonderful. It was nice meeting you both – you've brightened my day. Hope you enjoy the rest of your birthday, Urban."
And then, smiling, he returned to his table.
"I think he really wanted to meet you, Fiona. Doesn't he remind you of dad?"
When they'd finished eating, Joe walked Steve and Danny back to their car.
"Do you know someplace called "Mid-Century"?" he asked, addressing Steve, who knew every store, alley-way and bolt-hole in the city of Honolulu.
"Thought you'd never ask. There's a shop called Mid-Century Retro right around the corner. They sell a lot of collectables from the 50's and 60's. You think she works there?"
"I'm going to find out."
"Well...don't rush things. Let Urban digest his lunch, before you snatch her away."
"And try to be gentle, when you sling her over your shoulder," added Danny "you don't want to knock over any antiques."
And he was still smiling, as they pulled away from the curb. Danny yelled something raucous and unintelligible as they drove away.
"Kids!" he thought. But then he remembered that Fiona was almost a kid...
What in the hell did he think he was doing? He was too old for this. He was too smart for this. He'd had three wives...and they all had left him.
Women didn't like being number two...or number three or four...in a man's life. He...he had always lived in a masculine world, and his real wife had been the Navy.
Even Margery had walked out, after seven years of marriage. She had grown tired of his long deployments, of the endless separations.
She had gown tired of the anxiety, as she waited for his return. She had finally found someone else...
As all his wives had. He was fortunate, really. He'd had no children and his wives had all remarried. He'd be poor as a church mouse if he'd had to pay alimony - let alone child support - to all those women.
No. The Navy was his family...
So why was he lonely? Why was he walking around the corner, looking for a shop called Mid-Century Retro?
He was being ridiculous. The girl was much too young for him. Still...another little look wouldn't hurt. What was the harm? Just one more little look...
Another little look would satisfy him. And he'd be sensible, afterwards.
She saw Mr. White again, the week after Urban's birthday.
He came into the shop, just as she was completing the sale of "Pink Heaven"...an elaborate, expensive rhinestone necklace, dating back to 1958.
"It's really beautiful...I wish I could buy it, myself. It's in perfect condition – no signs of wear. Mrs. Murphy will be delighted with it, I'm sure. Here...let me gift wrap it for you. Will it be cash or credit, today?"
She spotted him, just as she was saying good-by to Mr. Murphy. There he was, a couple of aisles over, loitering idly behind the coconut bras.
He smiled and came over.
"Hello. Miss Fontaine...isn't it? We met about a week ago – at the Tiny Bubbles Cafe. Do you remember me? I'm..."
"It's so nice seeing you again. Would you mind, uh...helping me pick out some cuff links? I admired the ones you bought your cousin..."
And so their acquaintance began.
"One little look" didn't suffice, as he painfully discovered.
He bought many pairs of cuff links, several dozen post cards, a couple of painted ties, a cookie jar and even a Formica dinette set.
But she wouldn't go out to lunch with him.
He knew why...he'd noticed her looking at his ring finger.
She thought he was married.
And the truth wasn't much better...he was a thrice divorced man. And he was old enough to be her father...
But she was attracted to him – he sensed it.
So one day, when she left for lunch, he simply followed her. When she tried to buy a hot dog from a vendor he approached, shaking his head.
"No. Today's a special day and I'm taking you out. Come on...let's go to Tiny Bubbles." he took her arm.
"Mr. White...what's gotten into you? Why is it a special day?"
"It's Take A Veteran To Lunch Day. Only this veteran wants to take you out. So be patriotic and accept."
"I don't have time. Mrs. Lee is expecting me back in a..."
"A ham sandwich won't take long...or try the shrimp cocktail. But come...please."
"All right...but just this once."
But once wasn't enough. She'd never met a more persistent man in all her life. Castle sieges would be nothing to him...he'd simply plant himself by the drawbridge and wait them out. Unless, that is, he decided to storm the parapet...or lob missiles at the defenses. And he appeared to be immune to an occasional bath in boiling oil...
But his eyes were so kind, so patient. She couldn't bear to disappoint him. And his physical presence unnerved her terribly...
"Really, Joe. You're hanging around too much. Mrs. Lee is beginning to notice. Do you want to get me in trouble?"
"You won't get in trouble...I'll just buy something. I'll buy anything except the coconut bra...although, come to think of it, I'd buy even that – if you'd agree to model it for me."
"Not a chance."
Things went on this way for several weeks.
"Can I drive you home?"
"No. I'm in a car pool."
"I'll drive you home every night..."
"You can't. Sometimes you're off with the SEALS, and sometimes you work with Five-O. You told me this yourself."
"Then come have dinner with me..."
"I'm not ready for that."
She was silent.
"Fiona...is it my age?"
"Is it my marriages? Is that what's bothering you?"
"In a way..."
"You're afraid I'll never want to marry again..."
"No. You probably will, someday. I'm the one who never wants to marry."
This time he was silent.
"You see...my mother married several times. One of my step-fathers was only a few years my senior. Things became...sort of disgusting. I think it's why I don't like men my own age - or even close to my own age."
"Well...aren't we the pair." he said, leaning back against the blue vinyl of the cafe booth "I almost can't believe it. I was married to a drunk, to a playgirl who stole my money, and to a woman who got tired of being alone. You've had a succession of step-fathers and an unstable mother. You'd think that somehow, in the middle of this mess, a compromise could be made."
"I feel terrible about this."
"Don't." he said, pulling her closer to him. "Today we'll start fresh. It's Friday - we'll go out to dinner...and then maybe we'll go dancing. We have a perfect right to be happy...to do things in our own way. And we'll see where it leads us. You can trust me, Fiona. I promise." And then he kissed her.
After dinner that night, she took him home for the first time.
Later that week, he had a drink in a bar with Steve and Danny.
'I've never been happier," said Joe, staring pensively into into his whiskey glass "but sometimes I wonder if it's fair to her."
"I think it is." said Danny, from the next bar stool "She's not a child, you know. And have you taken a look at most men her age?
"Danno has a point," agreed Steve "there's a lot bums out there. But as far as morality is concerned...hey, this is Hawaii. Things have always been laid-back, on the islands. No one's going to challenge you, just because you've got a younger girlfriend. If she's chosen you, it just shows her good sense."
"I try to tell myself that," replied Joe "but...sometimes I'm afraid she'll regret it. That someday she'll leave. And I worry about other things, too..."
"What things?" asked Danny.
"There's her neighborhood, for instance. It's what she calls "quaint"...lot's of trees and flowers, nice little old neighbor ladies, cute Hawaiian children. But what she calls "quaint" I would call "run-down". And then there's the teen-age boys...they look like thugs, to me. There's one in particular...she said his name was Horace Comstock..."
Steve swerved on his stool, facing him directly "Joe...did she say "Cromwell"... Horace Cromwell?"
"Yes...that was it."
"Oh lord." moaned Danny.
"Joe, if she's living near the Cromwell's, you've got a right to be concerned," said Steve "they're a bad family: half of them are in the penitentiary. Horace was jailed for assault last year. Some of the local patrolmen told us about that clan."
Danny was just as adamant "If I were you, Joe, I'd get her out of there. I don't care how quaint the neighborhood is...it's simply not safe. Help her find another place...maybe somewhere closer to you..."
"You bet I will," said Joe, grimly "she's even mentioned that Horace has asked her out. Her neighbors have been pretty protective: they've warned her away from the Cromwell's. But she thinks of Horace as a kid..."
"Better talk to her as soon as possible." urged Steve.
Could he protect her? Could he really?
A few months earlier he'd taken a beating from Wo Fat, Steve's enemy. The bastard had surprised him in his own house.
He didn't think it could have happened, ten years earlier. Was he getting soft?
He'd have to go back to the gym...
But meanwhile, he needed to talk to Fiona.
He'd been spending several nights a week at Fiona's house. It was a pleasant place, with white wicker and "cottage" styled furniture. Fiona had draped brightly colored fabric swatches over the windows and patio doors.
Now they lay in her bed with the cast iron, white enameled headboard. Her head was resting on his chest, just below his collar bone. Her long hair was spread out behind her...trailing over her pillow, spilling over the mattress edge. She had one arm draped across his chest.
She yawned. "Yes, Joe?"
"Fiona...I want you to move in with me."
She withdrew her arm and rolled over, onto her back.
"Joe...it's not a good idea."
"It's necessary, Fiona. I don't think you're safe here."
"And why not?"
"I've been talking with Steve McGarrett and Danny Williams. You're living within a few blocks of the Cromwell clan. They're known criminals, Fiona. And you've attracted the attention of at least one of them..."
"Horace? He's only a boy, Joe..."
"Then why is he skulking through your hibiscus? I've heard him doing it...I even went outside, when you were asleep. I didn't catch him, but..."
"Maybe it wasn't Horace..."
"Well, it sure wasn't old Mrs. Akanu! Fiona...sweetheart...listen to me..."
"I've signed a lease."
"You can break it. I'll pay any penalties..."
"...I'd have to leave the furniture...it came with the house..."
"Leave it. We'll get new furniture..."
"I love this place..."
"You'll love my place, too. We can redecorate..."
"...And my friends are here..."
"You'll make new friends. And you can visit the old ones."
"Joe...I don't know..."
"Please, Fiona. Do you want to give me a heart attack?"
"Suppose we don't get along?"
"We will get along." he said. He rolled onto his side and drew Fiona back into his arms. "It's the right thing to do. I couldn't live with myself, if anything happened. I'm in love with you, Fiona."
They didn't speak again, not for quite a while.
The old man had moved in on her. He must be her new sugar daddy.
He'd been watching her for weeks...that bitch, Fiona.
That ho who wouldn't go out with him.
He'd been planning on buying her a burrito at the gas station snack bar.
But now the old fart was staying with her, three, four nights a week.
And she was probably at his place, the rest of the time.
He'd stopped by every night, watching the street, sneaking past the hedge and crouching beneath her bedroom window.
His old man and his brothers laughed at him. They said he didn't have a chance...they said he was chicken...that he didn't have the guts...
But he did have the guts. She'd find out. They all would. Because he knew where she worked...he knew where he could steal a car.
And he had a knife.
Old, bald-headed bastard couldn't hang around her ALL the time.
He'd watch the shop...he'd wait for his chance...
And then he would go in and take her.
Horace Cromwell grinned.