HERO: THE PRICE

By Delia Lavender

(I do not own Hawaii Five-O, nor do I own the characters Joe White,

Steve McGarrett, Danny Williams or any other character from the T.V. series.

I write only for fun – not profit.)

She had left the shop keys on the hall table, where she usually kept her purse.

He spotted them immediately...three keys: one for the thumb lock, one for the bolt and one for the burglar alarm. She kept them on a small keyring of their own, with a rhinestone dollar-sign charm as identification.

Joe White picked them up. She was going to need these later. She was in charge of closing up on Fridays, when Mrs. Lee left early.

But Mid-Century Retro was only about twenty minutes away. If he left soon, he could get them to her, before she even needed them.

No need to call first...he was always welcome at Mid-Century.

And truthfully, he liked opportunities to go see her.

He loved popping up unexpectedly...to take her to lunch, to buy her a gift.

She had brought so much joy into his life.

His Fiona...

He'd been jogging, so he put out some fresh clothes and showered.

He always liked to look around, as he moved through the house. The changes still astonished him...

Just a couple of months ago, his house had been a Spartan barracks...a fit dwelling for a Navy SEAL, who cared nothing about decor.

He hadn't owned a couch - just a couple of old recliners, a battered coffee-table, a bed, a nightstand and dresser, a desk for his computer equipment. Oh...and the Formica dinette set he'd bought to impress her.

He liked books, and had pyramids and stacks of them all over the house. Why buy a bookcase? He'd known where everything was...

Fiona hadn't approved. It had taken much persuasion and many promises, to get her out of her own charming bungalow and into his "elderly bachelor" pad.

But he'd finally accomplished it.

Thank God. Her "charming bungalow" had not been located in a safe neighborhood.

But he had kept his promises, and sent her out shopping.

"But please...no cabbage roses!" he had pleaded.

And now it was finally done...and it was much less expensive than he had expected. After all, she did work in an antique and collectable shop – and her boss gave her liberal discounts.

There was no pink, no roses, no frilly lamp shades in the house.

There was navy blue, a color called "taupe", turquoise and coral in the living room.

There was "hunter" green, ivory and wild, Hawaiian jungle-print drapery in the bedroom.

The furniture she selected was simple and solid. The "aqua" Formica dinette set looked cheerful, sitting near his kitchen counter.

Fiona said it was "funky". She bought a folk-art parrot, to set it off.

He could find his books more easily, now...since they were all arranged in tall oak bookcases.

How could he have lived any other way?

He locked up, took his wallet and eagerly headed for his car.

###

It was 4:30 in the afternoon, and Mrs. Lee had already gone home.

Fiona liked straightening the shop, in the few minutes remaining before she locked the doors.

The new dinette sets had arrived, today. She and Mrs. Lee had set them up. There was a sunshine-yellow model, and a tomato-red version.

She always smiled, when she saw those dinette sets. So simple...so functional and colorful. In the 1950's, most families had owned one: but back then, the colors had been far more utilitarian...

Joe had bought the aqua model. He had said it reminded him of the color of her eyes, and she had laughed.

Joe. Silly, lovable Joe.

He made her so happy...

And it was almost time to go home to him. She looked forward to the drive. He had bought her a low-mileage PT Cruiser. It was vivid green. Almost as green as the hills were, here in Hawaii.

She returned to her post, by the jewelry case. She brought her purse out from under the counter, and began rummaging through it.

There were her house and her car keys...but where were the shop keys?

She rummaged deeper, taking out her change purse, her handkerchief, her checkbook.

No shop keys.

Monthly planner, paperback novel, small flashlight, mirror, brush and a set of chopstick-style hair ornaments were added to the pile.

Oh damn...had she forgotten the keyring? Had she left it on the table, beside her purse? Or had she forgotten to transfer it, when she changed purses?

She hated calling Mrs. Lee, but Joe would be home...he could look for the keys. He wouldn't mind bringing them down...Joe was wonderful...

She reached for the shop phone, picked it up and held the receiver up to her ear.

Silence. The land line was dead.

What was going on?

She'd really been careless, this morning. She'd also left her cell phone at home...

She picked the phone up and gave it a brief shake. It was a re-worked dial phone from

1962. So maybe...

The bell tinkled over the shop's main door.

"I'm sorry...we're closing now. Tomorrow we will open at..."

Her breathe caught. There was a teenager by the door...a somewhat familiar looking teenager. Tall, gawky, but strong looking.

He had a narrow, splotchy face, with a low forehead and lank, dirty blond hair. There was a mean, hard expression in his eyes. He was glaring at her...

Horace Cromwell. The creep from her old neighborhood.

He was carrying a knife.

As she watched, he reached behind and turned the thumb lock.

"All right, bitch...open the cash register."

###

There was more traffic than he'd counted on...and time was running away from him.

He tapped impatiently at the steering wheel. Another red light...

He didn't know why, but he had a bad feeling.

These instincts had happened to him before, and he respected them.

They were a SEAL's instincts, and they were hardly ever wrong.

He had his cell phone...but did she have her's?

He picked his phone up and punched her number in.

"I'm sorry...this number is..."

Shit.

Something was happening somewhere...and he was afraid it was happening to Fiona.

Why did she want to work in a shop? It wasn't necessary. But he couldn't take it away from her...she loved antiques. And she'd already made too many concessions. And all for him.

God...why weren't these cars moving? They surrounded him...he couldn't go around them.

When the light changed he sped up, passing several cars, ignoring the indignant honks and the loud cursing. He took a turn down the nearest off ramp.

He would try the surface streets, from here.

He wove back and forth, passing cars, praying he wouldn't encounter a police cruiser. At last the traffic cleared somewhat, and he drove rapidly toward the downtown area.

At last he was able to park, down the street from Mid-Century Retro.

He slowed down, as he approached the entrance . Something told him to be quiet. He listened, his ear close to the door...

A low, muffled thump. Something like a short cry. Something hitting the floor and shattering, some distance away. All of the sounds were very faint.

He tried the door. It was locked. But the sign said "open"...

He took out the thumb lock key, and inserted it in the doorknob. He gave the doorknob a gentle nudge and it edged forward, slightly. The bolt wasn't engaged, then.

Moving slowly, opening the door only a few inches, he reached through to grasp the bell clapper, silencing it. He quickly slipped through the gap, quietly pushing the door closed behind him.

Fiona?

The store was dim...but he could see, over by the jewelry cases, the open, empty register.

###

He'd taken the money from the register, then dragged her toward the back of the shop, into the oldest storeroom.

The building was ancient. This rock and brick storeroom had no windows, no skylight, no air vent.

It smelled, and it was filthy. Nothing was stored there, except shopworn, rejected items.

He held the knife to her throat, forcing her onto her back on the slimy floor. He grabbed her hands and tied them up over her head, securing the rope around an old water pipe.

She was too terrified to plead. For the first time in her life, she cried from fear...

"Joe...Joe...!"

"Shut up! No one can hear you. And that old man couldn't help you, even if he was here. So just shut up..."

"JOE...!"

He slapped her "I said shut up! I'll cut you the next time you scream!" then he started cutting her dress open.

She heard the brief sawing noises, then the ripping sound, as he tore her bodice down. She could feel the warmth of blood on her skin. In his impatience he had nicked her several times.

She gasped, as he knelt down between her knees, sawing vigorously at the hem of her skirt. Another long rip followed and she felt her skirt fall open, the ruined fabric settling around her hips.

He put the knife aside "Hell...you're wearing panties. Never seen lace panties before. But I'll get them off you...just as soon as I get rid of this belt..." and his hands went to his belt buckle.

And then a large shadow loomed behind him, and two sturdy hands appeared, grasping and twisting her assailant's head. She heard a loud crunch...and a sickening snapping sound.

Horace fell sideways, away from her.

She screamed.

Joe stepped forward, kneeling swiftly and freeing her hands.

"Fiona...oh God...Fiona!"

She turned her head and was sick.

But it was over, after a moment; then she was in his arms.

"I knew something was wrong...I knew it!"

"Joe...you've got to get out of here! They'll arrest you! Run...please..."

"No. No court on earth would convict me...not after what I saw."

"Then a lawyer..."

"Maybe later. But right now I need Steve McGarrett. Come on, Fiona."

###

He got the call on his private cell, whose number he'd only entrusted to his team, and a few other people he felt close to.

Everyone knew it was not to be called casually.

"McGarrett, here."

"Steve? It's Joe."

"Joe...what's going on?"

"I killed Horace Cromwell. He was attacking Fiona..."

"Did he..."

"I stopped him just in time. But Fiona, she's..."

"Don't let her wash up, Joe...don't let her change anything. Where are you?"

"At Mid-Century."

"I'm going to call the captain in that district. I want you to call the police, yourself. In about 15 minutes. Can Fiona tell a coherent story?"

"Yes."

"Does she need the hospital?"

"I talked to her, and she doesn't want to go. I can take care of her, but..."

"I know a doctor who owes me a favor...I'll call her up. Call me, when you get Fiona home. Dr. Petrie will make a house call."

"Thanks, Steve."

"Don't bother...I owe you big time."

###

"Mr. White, Fiona is in good shape...physically."

"Thank God. I've worried that she may have a concussion. She talked so strangely..."

"It's shock. She's been traumatized...but I think it's temporary. She didn't strike her head, at any time. There are plenty of cuts and bruises, but they will heal normally. I've left some medication for her...it's going to help her sleep.. And a prescription for anti-anxiety. I also left you a list of councilors – in case she needs it. She's in the shower now. The police took all the evidence they needed, didn't they?"

"Oh, they took photos...they photographed the cuts and abrasions and the tears in her dress. She has some ligature marks on her wrists...they photographed those, too."

"I put aside her dress...in case they want it."

"Thank you, Dr. Petrie."

Dr. Petrie nodded. She was a plump, kindly-looking woman with gray hair and penetrating, light-brown eyes. Now she turned those eyes on Joe, searching his face.

"Are you all right, Mr. White? Steve told me you're a SEAL, so you've known combat..."

"I certainly have. This isn't the first time I've had to...do what I did today."

"You're under stress yourself, Mr. White."

"It's nothing I can't handle. But I can't help thinking...what would have happened, if I hadn't been there..."

"But you were there. Fiona is lucky, Mr. White."

"So am I..."

###

The inquest went very well. Steve was a character witness, and Fiona was very affecting on the stand. Several policemen testified on his behalf. He was completely exonerated.

None of the Cromwell's showed up. A patrolman from Fiona's old neighborhood said they'd moved on.

But she had nightmares sometimes...she'd wake screaming, thinking she saw Horace above her. When this happened he would hold her, until she calmed down.

Joe also had nightmares. But in his nightmares, he saw her in the grip of Wo Fat...and there was nothing he could do to help her.

When he awoke, sweating and shouting, she'd hold him.

"You saved me, Joe...I'm here. It's okay..."

At first, he just let her draw her own conclusions.

Later...he would tell her about Wo Fat. Later...

He didn't want her scared all over again. Wo Fat, hopefully, was dead.

Hard to survive the North Korean jungle, especially that far out.

She had quit her job at Mid-Century. She was home more, and they enjoyed their lives together.

But he could never entirely forget...

What Wo Fat had done to McGarrett, Senior...and later, in North Korea, what he'd done to Steve and Jenna.

What he would have done to his Navy comrads...and to Kono and Lori, if he'd gotten hold of them...

The fact that Wo Fat had once been inside his very own house...and the beating he had taken, from the bastard...

Wo Fat's spy network...his tenacity, his ruthlessness, his obsessive desire for revenge...

Why had he brought Fiona here? What had he been thinking?

He had thought he could protect her...but she'd almost been murdered by the stupidly vicious Horace Cromwell.

Cromwell had possessed only elementary cunning...he had nothing of the criminal genius of Wo Fat.

If Wo Fat was still alive, he'd probably hear about "Joe White's woman".

Just having her in his house exposed Fiona to danger...

And all because he'd loved her...because he'd lied to himself. Because he'd been selfish.

He talked again with Steve.

"I don't blame you for worrying," said Steve "but it might be premature. We've heard nothing about Wo Fat since we lost track of him, in the jungle. He has enemies too, you know. Maybe someone else took him out. I'd rather do it myself...but I'd applaud anyone who managed it."

"So you think I'm premature?"

"Right now, Joe, I'd say so. Why break Fiona's heart when – so far as we know – there's no need to? You can depend on me to tell you, if Wo Fat's ever spotted. Then we'll make some plans."

Joe trusted Steve McGarrett. Steve had never lied to him.

And Steve helped Joe find the most sophisticated and reliable of burglar alarms. Joe had it installed immediately.

"I feel much safer now." said Fiona.

She'd had mixed emotions, when he enrolled her in karate classes. Being grabbed, held or pinned by strangers frightened Fiona; but whenever Joe tried to teach her, they'd end up in bed.

The gun lessons went better. Fiona was nervous, but she did well. After a while, she could hit the bull's eye.

He bought her a strawberry pink pistol, and she was very proud of it.

He had thought it would please her...he hadn't thought about appearances.

But he found to his chagrin that a pink pistol wasn't very intimidating...not when it's worn with a flowered sarong dress.

Kono, Danny and little Grace dropped by unexpectedly, one day.

They all had lemonade in the backyard, and Fiona wanted to show off her new skills.

Everyone watched as she took her unloaded gun and pretended to fast draw and shoot a hibiscus bush.

"Well," remarked Danny "if cute can be deadly, Wo Fat is doomed."

Kono tried to stifle her giggles...unsuccessfully. She excused herself and went into the house.

Grace put a sticker heart on Fiona's holster.

Joe was unreasonably angry. Didn't they realize that he was trying to protect Fiona? So what if the pistol was pink? It would get the job done...

He didn't speak to Danny for over a week, until Steve made him apologize.

Because, unfortunately, Fiona had heard part of Danny's remark...

"Joe...who is Wo Fat?"

He didn't want to tell her. She was recovering...the haunted look was beginning to leave her eyes...

A couple of months later, he got the phone call...

###

She was weeping, when he shoved her and her luggage out the door.

It was only an act...but it was still killing her.

They'd chosen a time when neighbors would be around. They'd shouted and smashed a few plates. He'd held her, just before opening the door...

"Fiona, I'm sorry...I'm so sorry. But it's better if it looks like I'm through with you – we've talked about this, already. God... I'm even selling our furniture! Anything to fool Wo Fat...anything to keep you safe from him."

"But you...what about you? You'll go chasing that maniac...you might get killed..."

"I've got to do this, Fiona. I've got to do this for your sake...and for Steve and for his dead father. When it's over I'll send for you...I swear..."

"Oh, Joe..."

"The cab is here, angel...I'll push you out the door and throw your bags after you. Have the driver help carry them. I love you Fiona...more than anything on earth."

He gave her a swift kiss, opened the door and shoved her outside, bellowing "Get out of here, you bitch!" at the top of his lungs.

He threw the bags, almost hitting her.

A neighbor asked if she wanted him to call the police.

"No...no. I'm not injured...I just want to get out of here. I'm going back to the mainland."

The taxi driver came to assist her. He carried her luggage, placing it carefully in the back of the cab.

She cried all the way to the airport.

"Do you have someone to go to, dear?"

"Yes, I do. I'll be all right...once I'm off this island."

"I'm sorry things turned out badly for you."

So was she.

But at least Joe knew that she loved him...that she had been ready to stay by his side, no matter the risks.

She hoped they'd find Wo Fat quickly...she hoped they'd be able to finish him.

She hoped they'd all come back alive.

This, meanwhile, was the price that she had to pay. And the price Joe had to pay – for falling in love – for being a hero.

Her favorite cousin Urban was waiting for her, at the airport in San Diego. He would give her a job in his import store. He would let her stay in his guest house, where their grandmother had lived out her final years...

She would tell Urban everything. He would understand...his father had been her Uncle Roger, who'd been a colonel in the army.

And she and Joe would send coded e-mail messages through Kono. She was going to pretend to be Kono's long-lost childhood friend.

And, hopefully, this would be over - someday.

He would send for her, then. She would return to the island, and he would sell his old place. They would buy a bungalow together, in a new neighborhood.

Until then, she would wait.

The End