Summary: Struggling with recent emotional pressures, Danny tailspins and Five-0 must deal with the ramifications while trying to solve a triple murder.
AN: I love them, and I love to hurt them. There, I said it! I've been frustrated with the show when it drops story-lines which have great potential for the things I enjoy, especially relating to Danno. So, here you will find angst, hurt, comfort, friendships and drama, delivered in a (non slash) Danny/Steve-centric, team-case-fic.
The story is complete, so updates should be regular, allowing for the usual tweaking and RL permitting, of course.
I hope you'll stick with me – be aware this is a 'dive in the middle, go back for the details, catch up to the present, then plow on through to the end' kind of story. (Damn! A good writer really shouldn't need to say that, but I wouldn't want to leave you floundering!)
Spoiler alert: Set soon after 'Pu'olo' (Rachel's 'should-have-been-Danny's' baby birth episode) - contains passing references to some events from Season 2 but I'm guessing you'll know most of it anyway.
Disclaimer: I can lay no claim whatsoever to the H5-0 characters. Shame!
"It is not the critic that counts; not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles or where the doer of deeds could have done them better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood; who strives valiantly..."
Theodore Roosevelt and printed on the back of Class 27 Hell Week shirt.
"To infinity and beyo-o-nd..."
It was whispered low but just loud enough, and with enough of a Buzz Lightyear inflection, to make Kono smile, even though the scene that confronted them was far from funny. Black humor traditionally eased the horrors that cops saw every day in the line of duty and today she especially appreciated Danny's effort for her when she saw what it took. The eyes of the other officers around them followed him, and a few muttered to each other as he crossed the white paved terrace.
What should have been an entrancing vista of glittering blue seas and sky, exquisitely framed by green palm covered slopes and magically extended by the optical illusion of water invisibly blending into horizon, was entirely ruined by the pool of blood in the foreground - the swimming pool full of blood. A crimson tide-line lapped quietly at the very edges of the high panorama, at the join between land and sky, staining the pale stones of its framing as the sun danced on the redness, gurgling softly as if delighted by its appalling effect.
In the center, the source of all that alien color leaned low against the poolside, arms spread out, as if he was actually enjoying the carefully designed, uninterrupted view but his staring eyes saw nothing any more. The slit in his throat, though gaping like a second mouth opened wide in awe, tilted the balding head backwards unnaturally and expressed nothing beyond the glistening whiteness of tendons and bone, and an extremely violent end.
"Well, at least he went in a nice spot." Kono's own humor had developed in its cynicism since she'd joined Five-0 and, glancing across at her team mate, she felt the need to help Danny shore up his own facade.
"Yeah, all that clear horizon and he still didn't see this coming," Danny muttered as he moved slowly around to the far side to look down upon the victim, whose blank gaze was then upwards in his direction.
Kono watched him scanning the vicinity. His expert eyes moved carefully but she noted their usual blue seemed dulled and she couldn't tell if it was due to concentration or something else.
"You know," he mused, "I read in some hotel brochure somewhere that these sorts of pools are s'posed to have a 'floating-in-the-heavens' kind of sex appeal." He cocked an eyebrow towards her and then the victim. "He might be part way there but I don't think it's doing much for him right now."
Kono inclined her head in agreement but Danny wasn't looking for a response. The atmosphere was heavy around him and she ached to say something that might ease the tension he showed in his movements, that he'd been carrying with him for too long, but in his no nonsense approach she read professional determination and decided instead to follow his lead.
"There are security cameras at the front, I'll go check if they caught anything," she called as she turned away from the grotesque display and dodged around the arrival of the Medical Examiner.
"Don't tell me," Danny waved a hand at Max before he could speak. "He bled out."
"Yes..." The little man didn't register the sarcasm but nodded earnestly. "Exsanguination does seem likely," he agreed, as he joined the blonde detective and crouched to peer at the wound with a keen interest. "Twelve pints do go a long way, Detective." He pressed two fingers against the white flesh beneath the waterline. "I'd say, from the swelling of the body tissue, and how the outer layers of the dermis are already beginning to lift off, he's been here for at least eight hours."
Danny pursed his lips in thought. "That's a lot of blood."
"Yes, like I said, the average male human body carries up to twelve pints of blood...although it can be less, sometimes ten... The temperature of the water and also of the day would keep it thin and pumping out, even after the initial incision was ma..."
"No," Danny interrupted. "I mean, that's still a lot of blood." He nodded at the scene. "Now, see, I don't have a pool myself, I barely have a basin, but wouldn't you think an efficient filtration system should take care of that kind of stuff, in that kind of time?"
"Yes, it's true, Detective. In fact, an infinity pool like this one generally has two different pumps to facilitate the recirculation of the water and a good filtration system can indeed clean a pool of this size, which probably holds arou..."
"You hear that?" Danny interrupted again and Max looked up at him, a puzzled little line appearing in his brow.
"I don't hear anything."
"Exactly," Danny confirmed. "No mechanism, no whirring, no glugging, no sloshing...no two pumps. The system's been switched off." They'd have to be sure to check there for prints...maybe this time...He looked back at the impressive house where the whole of the back wall opened onto the terrace with sliding glass doors. Graceful curving steps led to what should have been a real life diorama of luxury. On another day, without the gore, this would have been a beautiful setting.
"Someone wanted this lovely little tableau to been seen just like this. They were sending a message." He looked down again, and now addressed the bloated dead body directly. "Don't get in too deep."
"No footage." Kono called to him and he looked up as she stepped back into the open doorway. "Cameras disabled, wires cut. Again."
So, a professional job, just like the others.
Danny nodded to Max and his assistants that they could lift the corpse, with its flopping, soap-white limbs, onto a stretcher. Michael Trent's head fell further back and Danny grimaced, fearing for one horrible moment that it might fall right off, since only a narrow tether of flesh had survived the brutal slashing, but the ME quickly reached out to support it as the gurney was covered and wheeled away.
Danny surveyed the bloody water once more. The pool would have to be drained but he really didn't expect to find a weapon or further clues in the red depths. This killer was good. He pulled out his cell and waited for his partner to answer.
"Got another one, man ...This one's carved and marinated."
Danny heard Steve's sigh and imagined his partner pacing and running a hand through his hair in frustration. This latest murder was number three in an, as yet, unexplained spree.
"Great." Steve sounded almost as weary as Danny felt. They were all running on reserves as the body count grew and the connection remained so damned elusive. "You'd better get back here Danny." There was a heavy pause on the line. "We've got another problem." Danny drew a breath...Of course, there would be something else...always is...
"Perfect!" he muttered to himself but didn't bother to ask the details, they'd be waiting for him back at headquarters. Turning again to the view for the final time, Danny wondered if maybe it wasn't only their murder victim who was failing to see all that was in store.
5-0 5-0 5-0 5-0 5-0
The Five-0 screens were beginning to look cluttered as Chin expertly shuffled photos and reports and maps into a computerized montage. Danny watched and thought back to a time in his career when it was still all just drawing pins stuck into hard copies, which became more and more dog-eared as investigations went on... Back in Jersey ...back before...Shit!...Now, the pristine images of murder victims were displayed in shared high definition as, with a deft flick, they were each sorted into a space of their own and the team gathered around the central desk.
"Kono, what have we got on this guy, Michael Trent?" Steve wasted no time on preliminaries.
"Runs a property business, specializes in commercial rental space, but apparently he lives beyond his means. That home, the Ferrari in the driveway, the yacht in the marina...none of that comes from his declared business income, but no debts that we've found." She delivered the information in the same succinct manner and gestured at the large crate that she and Danny had collected from the house. "Still have to go through the paperwork and his hard drive."
"No obvious link to either Keku or Melahua," Chin chipped in, indicating the photos of the weeks two other murder victims. "At least, not yet...but it's got to be connected." They were all thinking the same.
The team studied the pictures of the dead men. One lay splayed out on the driveway of his palatial apartment block, a neat bullet hole dead center of his dead eyes, his brain matter spread around his head like the shadow of an extravagant Easter bonnet. The other was sprawled across a huge circular bed on top of rumpled black silk sheets, a clear thin line encircled his neck where a garrotte had been expertly used. In the gruesome gallery, Trent's recently added death scene was certainly the most dramatic but all the murders shared a certain proficiency.
"It's like an assassin's showcase," Danny said, flicking a look at his partner. Steve's dark eyes were studying the MO expertly. He felt Danny's stare and glanced up. "It's your kind of thing."
Steve frowned but didn't deny the truth of the suggestion. He certainly recognized the work of a trained killer, or killers, but he and his team were still struggling to establish suspects or motives beyond the vague possibility of drug peddlers' greed. The first two victims were known in local clubs as occasional recreational users but neither had any record for actually dealing and there was no evidence they even knew each other. It was still only a very tenuous connection.
"You two, keep at it. Add this guy into the mix. They've got to have shared more than a certain style of life and death." He addressed Kono and Chin and then turned back to the other screen. "See what you can get from Trent's computer records... Any links he might have had with either one, business or personal...they have to have had something in common."
The cousins nodded but there was a slight hesitation before they turned away, aware that Danny had not been assigned and that Steve seemed more than usually tense, braced for trouble. With a barely perceptible jerk of his head, Chin chivvied Kono to move and the two men were left alone.
Steve turned and leaned back against the desk and, after a moment of silence, wearily addressed his partner.
"Danny, I'm sorry. I've got to pull you from this investigation." He saw his friend's brow draw down in disbelief and quickly plowed on, shifting to tap at the table. "We've got another job...a missing person."
The pictures of the dead men moved sideways to be replaced in the central screen by that of a skinny, gawky, pale young man. Wire rimmed glasses and a shock of lank, dark hair, hanging from an old-fashioned side parting, gave him an overall impression of geekiness. The photo was from a New York University student ID card.
"Jeffrey Trewl. He went missing from his apartment in New York ten days ago. His family think he may turn up here..."
"Because he spent most of his childhood here..."
"No... Not, why here? Why us? Why are we looking for him?"
Danny stood square and rigid with his arms crossed over his chest as he stared, not at the picture but at Steve, who could practically feel the waves of animosity beginning to roll off his partner. He'd always known this was going to be a hard sell.
"I mean, I'm sure he's a nice guy and all..." Danny reached out and sharply tapped the named document on the table desk-top, scanning over it quickly when it opened even as he went on.
"A good student...no wait, a top student...but he's over eighteen...In fact," he continued his overly dramatic perusal, running his finger down the details. "Ah yes, look, he's twenty-two...old enough to leave home, leave college, leave it all behind to seek out his fortune elsewhere, if that's what he wanted to do...Get wasted, get laid, get lost. He's not a child, Steve. There's nothing in here to suggest foul play. So, I say again, why us? Or more importantly, why me?"
Steve sighed. In the tense silence that hung in lieu of an immediate answer, Danny's whole demeanor shouted 'difficult'...Nothing new there, Steve noted. His partner was often stroppy, usually cantankerous and always vociferous but, considering his recent state of mind, he could see this issue building towards epic proportions if not handled right.
"It's come from the Governor. Jeffrey Trewl's father is a friend of the Governor..."
"A fund raiser, you mean?"
"He was at Harvard with him. He's a supporter and a friend, yes. And as such, the Governor wants us..."
"Wants us to drop..."
"We're not dropping anything..."
"...drop a triple murder inquiry, involving what is very likely to be a professional hit man, or even a hit squad, to go schlepping around on the off chance that this guy might just turn up back where he once spent a few summers?"
"He just wants us to pursue all possible leads..."
"And he wants me on this does he?" Danny snapped. "The Haole. Not the Honolulu Police Department? Not a local officer who probably knows all the little hideaways mentioned in here," Danny gestured at the file, "like the back of his hand? Not Chin or Kono, or someone with all that local knowledge that I'm always accused of lacking, that's so recently been highlighted so well...he wants me on this?"
Steve held Danny's aggravated glare for a long moment.
"No, I do."
Danny stepped back as though he'd been slapped in the face.
"You want me off the murders?" His eyes narrowed as he tilted his head incredulously. "And why's that Steven?"
"A guy goes missing six thousand miles away and you really think in the week of the Governor's budget announcements, this is the best use of the state's money... to send me on a wild goose chase, while some of its apparently good citizens are getting wasted with the worrying regularity of one a day?" He gestured widely with his hands in an 'isn't it the most obvious thing in the world' kind of way. "See, I would have thought you'd need all of us on this... You know, all hands on deck, to use one of your preferred naval phrases." Steve noted his partner's rare attribution of his correct service but Danny was clearly not in the mood to be interrupted as his anger continued to flow.
"Is is because you think I can't handle it? That I might screw it up? You think I've really lost it this time?" His anger turned into a snarl of a smile. "Oh, I can see through this bullshit, alright. Do you think I don't know what this is all about?"
Steve tried not to look away from the tirade but flinched slightly with discomfort. He really hated what he was having to do.
"This is about getting me out the way for a couple of days until the heat dies down. 'Til the fingers stop pointing at Five-0...At me... What's the matter, the flak getting a little too close for you is it, Steve?"
Danny's last question came out as snide. In fact, there was none of the usual humor in his tone now and Steve could see an aggression in his taught posture that was normally reserved only for perps and prisoners.
Steve was well used to being the target of Danny's characteristic verbal tirades, the regular receptor of his oh-so many strongly held opinions. He could take them. In fact, more often than not, he enjoyed them, often mischievously and knowingly prompting them, just to see Danny blow. But this anger? He'd never felt it directed his way before and it served only to strengthen his resolve. Danny needed a break from recent pressures and he was going to get it whether he liked it or not.
"I don't have a choice, man. The Governor wants this looked into, wants Five-0 to be the ones who do it. Look," he raised placating hands, "I agree, it's unlikely to go anywhere, but the guy's Hawaiian connections have got to be checked out." He hated the incredulous look Danny was giving him and their friendship was too strong to hold up the ruse any longer. He sighed. "And yes, okay, it wouldn't be a bad idea if you kept a low profile for a couple of days."
"Ha!" Danny stabbed the air triumphantly with a finger. "So says the guy whose controversial column inches are only outnumbered by his weekly tally of procedural violations."
Danny moved quickly to a side desk and lifted up a folded newspaper from a messy pile that lay there, snapping its front page straight within inches of Steve's face. "What's the matter Steve, the spotlight a little too bright for you? Or is it the Governor who's jealous of the coverage?"
Steve snatched away the paper, with its glaring headline and large photo. "I think we could all do without it don't you?" he replied and stared his partner down.
The pair remained silent, glaring at each other, until Danny suddenly blew out a long breath and appeared to simply deflate before Steve's eyes. It was a pattern he'd seen too often recently, his friend's natural volatility sending him over the edge quicker and deeper than ever before. Steve watched as he dipped his head and the fight just went out of him.
"Okay," he said, without looking up. "Okay. Missing nerd it is."
"Look...Danny...It's going to be a big week for Hawaii. The Governor is holding his budgetry press conference tomorrow, getting it out the way before Airforce One touches down." Steve gestured with the crumpled newspaper in his hand. "It'll be the usual stuff, but the murders are bound to come up and there are going to be questions on this too, you know it. It's a distraction, it's affecting the current investigation, affecting witnesses and HPD's co-operation. The press won't let it go. It would just be better if you were ...elsewhere."
His reasoning sounded lame even to his own ears, just this side of pleading, but Steve met Danny's blue gaze when he finally lifted his head and saw a grudging, tired understanding there. "Just...check this disappearance out for me...forty eight hours, tops."
Danny managed a tight grin at that. They both understood the pressure to be politic at times, despite their best professional instincts. Danny recognized the irony that it was usually Steve who found it the most difficult to rein in his actions but, since his own rather too public meltdown four days ago, he knew he'd been wound way too tight. If he let his guard down, allowed a crack in his mask, he still sometimes found it hard to breath, hard to see beyond the image that was still seared into his brain. He was exhausted by it and if he couldn't admit it to Steve, who knew the worst of it, then who?
He straightened up and headed for his office but hesitated, then turned and gestured once again at the image of the body in the pool, then at the other murder victims.
"Gotta ask yourself though, Steve, why these victims are displayed like this...who's it for?" His voice was back to normal, reasonable and thoughtful. The voice of the experienced investigator. "I'd say someone is delivering a message and what's more, I'd lay odds that same someone will be after the intended recipient next."
Steve nodded a silent agreement as he watched his partner walk away...We have to find that damned connection...Angrily, he threw the newspaper aside. It fell flat to display its bold front page to a now empty room.
The headline stood tall above a large color picture, taken from a distance on a cellphone. It was a grainy shot but still clear enough to see Detective Danny Williams, windswept hair blown madly sideways, chest thrust out in an aggressive challenge, his arms held open and wide in defiant invitation. In the foreground, the rear view of an unidentifiable gunman holding an automatic weapon, aimed closely and directly at Danny's forehead.
It was a disturbingly violent image, one that held the holy grail for all newsmen - the startling impact of 'what the hell happened next?' For any who saw it, however, perhaps the most alarming aspect of the shot was not just the split-second capturing of an unfolding and potentially deadly drama, but the look in the detective's eyes in the face of imminent death. It was not fear, or bravery. It was welcoming.