We went to the HPD lab and delivered the bins to Charlie Fong. He was the one who ran all of the tests for them because much like Max, Charlie was an 'unofficial' member of the 5-0 team.
"What am I looking for?" Charlie asked, peering into one of the bins.
"Anything that doesn't belong in a bin of paintballs," Danny said.
"Also dust for prints, just in case," Steve said.
"Right. And you need this yesterday," Charlie said.
"Of course," Danny agreed, clapping Charlie on the shoulder before leaving the lab. Steve and I brought up the rear. "Let's go to Kamekona's."
"For lunch or for info?" Steve asked as he entered the Camaro on the driver's side.
"Some of each. Maybe he knows something about Paintball Explosion," Danny suggested.
"You just want to ask him so you can expense our lunches," Steve said, Danny ignoring him. "Do you like shrimp?" he asked me.
"Very much," I agreed. "Kamekona is a chef?"
"Not exactly. He owns a shrimp truck," Danny said.
"You eat shrimp out of a truck?"
"It's common in Hawaii," Steve assured me. "Like hot dog carts on the mainland."
I nodded. It made sense that an island would have trucks that sold shrimp. I guess. Well, it was Hawaii and not Washington where there is no possible way you eat shrimp from anything but a regular restaurant. But I didn't share that opinion. Things were different in Hawaii.
"You can get it without pineapple," Danny informed me.
"I like pineapple," I said.
"See, Danno. Somepeople like fruit with their food," Steve told him. "Danny hates pineapple mixed in with his food."
"Oh," I said. What else was there to say? Almost everything I had eaten since I arrived had pineapple as an ingredient or garnish.
"It started with pizza," Steve said, ignoring Danny's glare over at him. "Now he won't eat it with anything."
"I like pineapple on pizza," I said which I knew was a mistake. As I expected, Danny launched into a full-on rant about the sacrilege of pineapple anywhere near pizza. I had to laugh, Danny frowning at me even harder.
Steve pulled into an open area right by the beach with several picnic tables and a huge orange truck with shrimp painted on it. Except the shrimp had a man's face, a man I soon learned was Kamekona himself.
"Shamu," Danny said when the large native Hawaiian ambled over.
"Shorty," Kamekona said as they did a complicated bro-hug/handshake thing. "What brings you to my eatery on this resplendent day?"
Steve introduced us and Danny suggested what I should eat. I let him order since I had no idea what the names of the dishes meant. Being a fellow haole, I knew he'd order something mainlander appropriate.
"Do you know anything about Paintball Explosion?" Steve asked Kamekona when we were seated with our plates and coconut water.
"Not a thing. Never played. I present too expansive a target."
"That's for sure," Danny agreed.
"Keep it up, Shortman," Kamekona said. Danny ignored him, eating more of his lunch. "Why? Trouble?"
"Something like that," Steve said.
"Sorry I cannot enlighten you on that particular criminal element," Kamekona said.
"Shrimp's really good," Danny said, eating more of his rice.
They talked of topics and people I didn't know but I didn't mind. Their conversation made up in entertainment what it lacked in information.
"Hey, Babe," Danny said after he had dialed Kono. "We're at Shamu's. You and Chin want us to bring you some back?... yeah, we can do that….See you in ten."
Kamekona was already headed back to his truck to prepare the to-go lunches for Chin and Kono while Steve, Danny, and I discussed the paintball mystery.
"It just doesn't make sense," Steve said out loud what we were all thinking.
"When have our cases ever made sense?" Danny asked. "We get the hard ones."
"That's for sure," Steve agreed. "You don't have Gracie this weekend, right?"
"You know I had her last weekend. So I get her next weekend. When we are going hiking to see the rock carvings."
"Petroglyphs," Steve corrected. "If you can't remember the proper term for them, I'm not taking you back up. Gracie and I will go."
"Oh no. I'm not letting my precious daughter climb up the side of that mountain with just you. You'll go break your fool arm again and strand my precious Monkey. No no no."
"Break you arm?" I had to ask.
Steve was about to explain when Kamekona returned with the two boxes. "Give my very best greetings to the cousins," Kamekona said as he handed over their lunches.
"You know we will," Steve said. After appropriate good-byes, we drove back to headquarters. "Anything?" Steve asked as we entered. Chin and Kono were standing by the tech table, happily accepting the boxes.
"Not a thing," Chin said. He and Kono carried their boxes to the conference room, Steve and I following. Danny detoured by the break room for bottles of water which he distributed when he joined us. "It doesn't make sense."
"That seems a common refrain," Danny said, shaking his head. He did tell them about the missing jars and that Charlie was checking them for anything out of the ordinary.
"Just two jars from each bin?" Kono asked, frowning like that couldn't possibly be right.
"Yeah. Yellow and white," Danny said.
"Yellow and white?" Chin asked. He had a considering expression on his face, trying to figure it out.
"Yeah," Danny said. "What, Chin Ho? What are you thinking?"
"It could not mean anything," Chin said slowly, choosing his words carefully. "But when I was looking at the invoices on Ronnie's computer, there seemed to be more for yellow and white paintballs than any other color."
"There should have been the same number of each, don't you think?" Kono asked, watching her cousin.
"You'd think so," Chin said.
"Hiako confirmed that unless someone specifically asked for a color, they are distributed randomly," I said.
"Then there should always be the same number ordered," Kono said, the others nodding absently.
"Are the invoices still on the table?" Steve asked Chin as he stood.
"Yeah," Chin agreed, making to stand.
"No, Chin. You and Kono finish. We'll look at the invoices while you eat," Danny said, following Steve out. I followed Danny. Steve was frowning up at the screens when we got to the bullpen, his arms crossed.
"Well?" Danny asked, standing next to him, Danny's shoulder brushing Steve's arm.
"Here," I said, pulling up three more invoices on a different screen.
"How do you know how do that when I can't?" Danny asked me.
"You can barely turn your laptop on," Steve told him but Danny just ignored him.
"Look at these," Steve said, pointing at the series of invoices on the screen. "This one has 12 of each color, except yellow and white. There are 15 of each of those."
"Here too," Danny said, indicating the next invoices. Each sheet showed the same number of cases except yellow and white which had three or four extra each time. "What kind of sense does that make?"
"None," Steve said, shaking his head. "Let's call Charlie and see if he's found anything."
"All right. But he's only had them for an hour. He yells, it's on you," Danny warned.
"We dropped them off two hours ago," Steve said.
"So he doesn't get to eat? We did. They are. Charlie can't eat?" Danny demanded.
Steve shrugged, dialing Charlie. "Charlie. You're on speaker."
"Hey Steve. I was just about to call you," Charlie's voice said.
"What'd you find?" Steve asked.
"Nothing," Charlie said.
"That's less than helpful," Danny said in exasperation.
"Actually, it may be," Charlie said. "I didn't find anything. No fingerprints, no dust, no dirt, nothing."
"Nothing," Danny repeated. "Like someone had erased any trace of human presence."
"Exactly," Charlie said. "There should have been a stray fingerprint. Some dirt from when they were packed. But there's nothing."
"Any residual cleaning solutions?" Steve asked, bouncing on his toes.
"I'm checking for that now," Charlie said. "Even if we find any, I don't think it will help very much."
"Yeah. But something will be better than what we have now," Danny said.
"I hear you," Charlie said. "I'll keep checking and let you know if I find anything."
"Or more of nothing," Steve said, making Charlie laugh.
"Right. I'll keep you informed."
"Thanks," Steve said, punching the end callbutton. "Back to square one."
"We know someone is tampering with the bins," Danny said, looking up at the invoices. "Where is Paintball Explosion headquartered?"
We studied the invoices which said they originated from Vancouver Washington.
"Vancouver's big into paintball?" Danny asked me.
"Apparently. I had no idea," I said honestly.
"You know anyone who is?" Danny asked.
"Actually I might," I said. "An accountant on staff is married to someone who works in paintball. I'm not friends with his wife but we've met several times."
"An accountant and a paintballer," Danny said.
"Yeah. It works," I said. "What time is it back home? You'd think I'd know," I said, glancing around for a clock. There wasn't one visible.
"It's 13:45 here. Washington is 3 hours ahead," Steve said.
"Or 1:45 for those us not in the Army. That makes it 4:45 in Washington," Danny said.
"Navy, Danno. I'm in the Navy."
"Whatever," Danny said, waving off his protests.
"I'll call Rick. But he may have left for the day. I only have his work number," I said, dialing his office. Fortunately, he was still at his desk and picked right up.
"I thought you were in Hawaii," he said when I had identified myself.
"I am," I said, explaining why I was calling. I told him bits and pieces, the whole story too complicated to repeat. He readily gave me his wife's office number, and we hung up.
I called Valerie but had to leave a message with one of her employees. She was tied up with customers but he said he would ask her to call as soon as she had the chance.
"What was in the bins that has been removed?" Danny asked himself as much as any of us. Kono and Chin had joined us, looking at the invoices.
"This shipment is due to be delivered to the park on Tuesday," Chin said, pointing at the bill of lading.
"Which means it's already in the port," Steve said.
"Port?" Kono said.
"They are too heavy to fly. They'd be shipped in," Steve said, pointing to the lading that said transport via container."Container means boat."
"Can we go to the port and seize the shipment?" Chin asked.
"Not without probable cause," Danny reminded them. "If we don't have probable cause, we could find the Statue of Liberty and the case would be thrown out."
"The Statue of Liberty wouldn't fit in a shipping container," Steve said, getting the expected response.
"An example, Steven. No one is shipping the Statue of Liberty anywhere least of all here. Don't you think we would have heard if it had been stolen? I don't even know where…."
The rest of his rant was cut short by my phone ringing. I answered it, explaining to Valerie where I was and asking her if I could put her on speaker.
"Yes, of course," she said. We could hear her moving followed by the sound of a softly closing door. "Rick called. Told me to call you as soon as I could."
"Do you have dealings with Paintball Explosion?" I asked.
"No. I've never heard of them. There is a Paintball Express in Vancouver that is one of the biggest suppliers of paintball equipment," she said.
"Paintball Express?" I repeated.
"Yes. They supply to parks and to individuals. But we don't deal with them."
"Why is that?" I asked.
"They aren't the most reputable of firms. And there are rumors that they use their paintball business as a front."
"A front," Steve said. "This is Steve McGarrett. Head of the taskforce. What are they fronting? Do you know?"
"I've heard rumors. But that's all they are."
"What rumors, Valerie?" I prompted.
"They smuggle drugs in the paintballs. They are manufactured in Mexico and some of the paintballs actually contain cocaine," she said softly like she was avoiding being overheard.
"Cocaine," Steve said in a hard voice.
"Yes. It's just a rumor, Mr. McGarrett. I've never heard of anyone finding it or…. Well. The paintball industry isn't so large that gossip doesn't spread."
"Understood," Steve said. "Is there anything else you can tell us about Paintball Express that might help?"
"I don't think so. As I said, I never deal with them. Most of my friends in the business use them if they have to but try to avoid them as well."
"If you think of anything, please call me," I requested, securing her promise that she would.
Chin was studying the invoices again, pointing to the header. "Look at this," he said. In bold letters, it said PAINTBALL EXP. "This doesn't say Explosion or Express."
"We just thought it did," Kono said in realization. "The fine print," she said, pointing at it. It said dba Paintball Explosion/Express.
"So they are the same corporation," Chin said. "Do they have a criminal record?"
"No. At least not a state one. And if they had been caught smuggling drugs, I would have heard of them," I said.
"We should have someone raid their warehouse," Steve decided.
"Two problems with that, Babe. Still no probable cause. Andwe are after Ronnie's killer. If we have their warehouse raided, his killer will go underground. We have to be careful, a word not in your vocabulary, I understand."
Steve frowned down at him but didn't try to argue the points. It was clear Danny was right so what could Steve say?
"We have to find probable cause," Chin said. "Do you think if they are using the paintballs to smuggle drugs, there could be some still at Olowalu Paintball Explosion?"
"Charlie didn't find anything in the bins. Which means they probably wiped them down after taking out the drug filled paintballs," Danny said.
"That makes sense," Kono agreed. "But where does that leave us? And why kill Ronnie?"
"My guess is that Ronnie figured out something was up with the missing jars," Chin said. "He kept careful inventory and would have noticed that he had to order more white and yellow. There was a delivery late Wednesday evening."
"He was probably there early Thursday to check," Danny said.
"And stumbled on them retrieving the goods," Steve said.
"How are we going to prove it?" Kono asked. "We don't have any cocaine. No proof."
"We need to get proof," Steve said. "We need to get access to that container."
"Can't you ask the Harbor Master to inspect it closely?" I asked. "They do spot-checks but if it's inspected more thoroughly, they might find your probable cause."
"Yes," Steve said with a determined nod. "I'll contact him and tell him what we need."
"Wait," Danny said, a hand on Steve's forearm to stop him from walking away. "We need to get eyes on the people responsible for Ronnie's death. We'll need to bring them down as soon as the inspection turns up anything illegal. Providing it does."
"Right," Steve said. "Who is the local owner of Paintball Explosion?"
Chin typed into the computer, pulling up the business license of the local park. It was registered to Greg Auman and Belinda Carlyle.
"Are those aliases?" Kono asked. "What?" she said when the others looked at her. "Greg Auman, like the Allman brothers band. And Belinda almost-Carlysle, the Go-Go's lead singer?"
"If they are aliases, they have driver's licenses under those names," Chin said, pulling up their DMV photos.
"Any record on either of them?" Danny asked as Chin typed into the computer.
"None. And here is their home address. On Diamond Head."
"Of course," Kono said. "Mansion, no doubt."
"Without a doubt," Danny agreed. "Can you get a lock on their cell phones?"
Chin did his magic on the computer, only a few minutes elapsing before a map appeared, a blinking red dot indicating the location of one of them. "This is Greg's phone," he said. After one more minute of typing, a second red dot appeared right on top of the first.
"And Belinda's?" Danny asked.
"Yep. They are at their house. Or at least both of their cell phones are," Chin confirmed.
"All right," Steve said, exuding restless energy. "Kono, you and Chin track them. We're going to go to the harbor and talk to the Master. Even before you get eyes on them, alert all transportation authorities that they are on the watchlist and are not allowed to leave the island."
"Right," Chin agreed. "Once we know for certain we've found them, we'll let you know."
"And we'll keep them in sight until you let us know you've found the drugs," Kono added.
"Roger that," Steve said, going into his office. We could hear him on the phone, presumably talking to the Harbor Master or one of his employees. He came out only a minute later, a look of grim satisfaction on his face. "We're all set. He's getting the dog. I said we'd be there ASAP."
"Good," Danny said, looking over at Chin and Kono. "Arrest the bastards when we give the word. But be careful."
"Copy that," Chin said. He and Kono pulled on their TAC vests before leaving to track the owners of the park.
"Once we have the drugs, can you have the warehouse in Vancouver raided?" Steve asked me.
"Absolutely. Do you want me to start the process now or wait until we have proof?" I asked, accepting a TAC vest from Danny. I pulled it on as Steve and Danny put on theirs.
"How long will it take to get it going?" Danny asked. "Best case scenario is that it is raided just as soon as we find the drugs."
"I'll call the Vancouver Chief of Police. He'll get it set up. They can move quickly when they need to," I said to their nods.
"What if we find the drugs before Chin and Kono find the owners?" Danny asked Steve as I called Vancouver.
"Unless they have eyes and ears at the harbor, they won't know we've seized the cocaine. And they're on the watchlist now," Steve said, Danny discussing that with him as I talked to the Chief.
"We're heading for the harbor now," I told him.
"Roger that. I'll get the process going here. Can you give me forty five minutes?" he asked.
"It will probably take that long for us to get eyes on the cocaine. Honolulu Harbor is always a beehive," I said.
"Check," he said. "All right. We'll be in position by 6:20 our time."
"Good. I'll call just as soon as we have our eyes on the evidence," I assured him.
"We'll be in position," he agreed, ringing off.
"We're all set," I told them when Steve and Danny turned their considerable focus on me. "He's getting it in motion and will be in position at 6:20."
"Once we have secured the drugs at the harbor, we'll need to search the paintball park. To cover all our bases," Danny said.
"We can have HPD do that. I don't want to shut down the park but I guess we don't have a lot of choice," Steve said.
"Better we shut it down then have someone stumble onto the cocaine by accident," Danny said.
"I'll have Duke send HPD out. Can you call Hiako and let her know?" Steve said to Danny.
"Got it," Danny said, taking out his cell and breaking the bad news to Hiako. From his side of the conversation, it sounded as though she was willing to shut down the park if it meant helping to discover who killed Ronnie. "All right. HPD is sending the Narc unit out with one of their dogs. I doubt the drugs are still there but we need to make sure….Yes, we'll let you know as soon as we have arrested them… yes… thank you."
"We're sure she's not involved, right?" Steve said when Danny had hung up.
"Pretty sure. We have no reason to suspect her. And I cannot believe she killed Ronnie."
"Maybe Duke should bring her in for questioning," Steve said, a determined focused expression on his face, his arms crossed over his chest in a posture of 'take no prisoners.' Or 'take prisoners but don't stop until they tell you what you want to know.' If he'd been looking at me like that, I'd have confessed to killing Ronnie. Or JFK. Or anything else he wanted me to confess to.
"Stop with the aneurysm face," Danny said, a great many hand gestures accompanying his words. "We'll put her on the watch list, just in case. If we find any evidence she's involved, we'll arrest her. But I'm telling you she isn't involved."
"Confident enough to put money where your mouth is?" Steve asked.
"We are not laying wagers on the possible innocence or guilt of anyone, Babe. Let's go to the harbor and find the drugs."
"Fine," Steve said, his expression still unhappy. "You ready?"
I agreed that I was, a borrowed gun safely stowed in my vest. I could have brought my own but it was far too much paperwork and I had hoped I wouldn't need it while in Hawaii, a somewhat naïve hope I realize. Steve didn't have any problem providing me a weapon so I was armed and ready.
We drove to the Harbor without lights. And Danny convinced Steve to obey mostof the traffic regulation. As Danny pointed out, we didn't want to alert anyone that we were suspicious of any of the cargo. They didn't think the smugglers would be watching us or the Harbor. But the container wasn't going anywhere and we didn't need to call attention to ourselves or our destination.
One of the guards met us at the front gate, directing us to the Berth 52A where the container was in holding. It was in a fairly isolated area so we didn't have to worry about our presence attracting any unwanted attention. When we arrived, we found the Harbor Master and the dog with its handler waiting for us. The handler introduced himself, telling us his name was Larry, and brown and white English Springer Spaniel was named Casey.
The Master checked his manifests, directing us to the exact container we needed. Fortunately, it had already been unstacked and we were able to easily open its doors. Not surprisingly, it was filled with paintball bins like the ones at Paintball Explosion, a narrow alley left open in the middle of the two sides stacked ten bins high.
"The ones that are labeled white or yellow are the best place to start," Steve said, pointing his flashlight at one of the stacks of all white. When Larry directed Casey to the bins Steve indicated, Casey showed no interest at all. Steve pointed his flashlight toward the next stack of white bins. Still no reaction. When they approached a stack of blue bins, Casey sat down and looked up at Larry.
"What is it, Casey? You smell something?" Larry asked Casey who wagged in response.
"These are blue," Steve said, looking at the bins that flanked it. On one side were green and the other side more blue.
"The bins are four deep," Danny said. "Maybe the yellow or white ones are behind these."
"That would make sense," Larry agreed.
"How are we going to get to them?" Danny asked, looking at the narrow walkway and all the bins piled up on either side.
"We'll have to off-load them until we reach the ones we need," Steve said.
"We need to off-load all of them at any rate," Danny said. "To find all the drugs."
"True," Steve said, looking up at the wall of bins on both side of us.
"I have people who can do that, Commander," the Harbor Master said. "It will take 15-20 minutes."
Steve nodded, leaving the container, the rest of us following. We took a deep breath when we were outside, the air inside stale and heavy. The Harbor Master called in the reinforcements, four strong. It took the 15 predicted minutes for the men to off-load all the bins. They sorted them by color, the green and blue piles growing first.
As they started removing the yellow bins, Casey began to bark at the first one to emerge. When the workman set down the bin, Casey sat next to it and barked up at his handler. "Good dog," Larry told him, petting his head and providing him a treat from his pocket.
Danny took pictures of the bin, to be on the safe side, then put on his gloves as Steve had done. They lifted the lid, Casey barking furiously when they took the jars out of the center.
"I think we've found the cocaine," Steve said, unscrewing the lid and extracting a paintball. He sliced it open, allowing a tiny cloud of powder to escape. Casey was trying to bark and Larry was trying to calm him.
"Bingo," Danny said, looking over at me. "Alert your Chief."
"Roger that," I agreed, calling him. "It's a go," I said. "We think they are only in the white and yellow paintballs."
We discussed the particulars only a minute longer before hanging up so he could take care of his end. Danny was on the phone with Kono, who told him that they had spotted Auman and Carlyle but they had tried to jack-rabbit. They were in pursuit and expected to catch up to them very soon, especially since they had alerted HPD to join them.
"Very good," Danny said, hanging up.
Steve was talking to the Harbor Master who was arranging to have the container isolated and made off-limits to any traffic. "I'll leave it up to your people to figure out how much was in there," Steve said, waving at the container.
"That's fine," the Harbor Master agreed. "Thank you."
"Thank you," Steve said, shaking his hand. "And thank you, Casey."
Casey barked in response, wagging his tail. Larry gave Steve a treat which he passed onto Casey, to Casey's delight.
"Do you want us to send HPD to collect the cocaine?" Danny asked.
"Yes," the Harbor Master said. "We don't have anywhere secure to store it. And I'd rather it be off the docks."
"Understood," Danny said, calling their main HPD contact. "Hey Duke. We need your guys to come collect an as-yet-undetermined amount of cocaine…yeah…Right. Berth 52A at the Harbor. Ask for the Harbor Master….Roger that….Thanks." Danny hung up, coming over to join me and Steve by the Camaro. "He'll take care of it. Any word from Kono?"
"Not yet. If we hurry we can join the pursuit," Steve said, squinting down at Danny.
"No. Absolutely not. HPD is chasing them. They can't get off the island. No," Danny said, shoving Steve out of the way so he could get into the driver's seat. Steve laughed, opening the passenger door and letting me climb in before entering himself.
"Barbeque at my place tomorrow," Steve announced.
"Not until they get the scum bags," Danny said.
"They will. We'll call Mr. and Mrs. Sharper as soon as they are arrested," Steve said.
"Yeah," Danny said with a sigh. It sounded satisfied, a job well done.
We were back inside headquarters before Kono called with any news.
"We got them," she reported happily on Steve's speaker phone. "Their Mercedes is worse for wear."
"Sucks to be them," Danny said.
"Yeah. We're bringing them to HQ so we can have the pleasure of interrogating them."
"Sounds good," Steve said. "I'm going to call Mr. and Mrs. Sharper."
"Roger that," Kono said, hanging up.
Steve went into his office to make the phone call, Danny wandering over to Steve's door to listen in. I went into the breakroom both to provide them some privacy and to get some water. It had been hot on the docks, much hotter than it was at home. Not that I objected to the extra sunshine but it was still odd to be so hot in January.
When I heard the sounds of Kono and Chin arriving, I peered out of the breakroom. They were propelling the suspects in front of them, a man and woman both middle-aged. The woman had yellow hair courtesy of a bottle, her skin brown and wrinkled from too much time spent in the sun. Her make-up was so thick it looked as though she had applied with a spackling knife. The amount of coverage did nothing to disguise her age. Her skin-tight white jeans ended at her ankles, the bright orange platforms sandals suitable for a woman half her age. The color of her shoes matched her shirt which had an overly wide neck that allowed it to fall off of one shoulder. On Kono it would have been spectacular. On Belinda it looked ridiculous.
The man with her was clearly not the brains or the brawn of the organization. He was sunk in on himself, shorter than Belinda by at least five inches, two even if she wasn't wearing the ridiculously impractical shoes. He wore a bright green golf shirt that proudly proclaimed Diamond Head Country Club. His plaid golf pants were an unfortunate combination of the same shade of bright green and baby blanket pink.
"You have no right," Belinda was exclaiming loudly to anyone who would listen. "Who is in charge here? I demand that I be released immediately. You are making a big mistake. I will not…."
Steve stepped out of his office, effectively looming over the loud woman who stopped mid-word to stare up at him.
"You are a long drink of cool water, aren't you?" she said, batting her fake eyelashes at him.
"No. I am Lieutenant Commander Steve McGarrett and you are under arrest for trafficking drugs and first degree murder."
His words didn't seem to faze her as she continued to gaze up at him, waving her cuffed hands in front of her. "This misunderstanding will be cleared up in no time. Then what say you and me have a little private chat? Just the two of us?"
Steve was utterly nonplussed by her words. He glanced over at Danny as though for reinforcements but Danny couldn't stop from laughing. He had his hand over his mouth but that didn't disguise the fact that his entire body was trembling with laughter.
"This is not a laughing matter, Detective," Steve hissed at him quietly.
"I disagree. Sir," Danny said, his eyes crinkled at the corners as he tried to control his amusement. "Put them in interrogation rooms 4 and 5," he finally said to Kono and Chin who nodded. In reality, there were only 2 interrogation rooms in their building but Steve felt it was far more intimidating to make it seem as though there were more. "Chin and I will see if we can get Greg to say anything. Anything at all. You and Kono can talk to Belinda. Try not to be engaged to her by the time you're done."
"You are going to pay for this," Steve warned Danny who only laughed harder.
"Aren't you in charge?" I asked Steve, making Danny laugh up at him.
"We let him think so," Danny said, turning to go to the interrogation rooms, Steve following and staring holes in the back of Danny's head the entire time. By the time we arrived at interrogation room 4, Kono had Belinda secured to the chair and they were engaging in a staring match, a test of wills. My money was on Kono the whole way but I don't think Belinda fully understood what Kono was capable of.
"We found the drugs at the Harbor," Steve announced. He was standing close enough to loom over her, Kono right beside him. I stood in the corner where I had a front row view of the entire event.
"What drugs?" Belinda said, smiling at Steve. Her expression was that of a predator, as though she was a lion and Steve was a side of beef.
"We haven't found any at Olowalu Paintball Explosion but we're sure it's only a matter of time. And we are having your house searched. Once we find the gun that killed your employee, we'll have you on trafficking and murder," Steve informed her.
"I assure you I have no earthly idea what you are talking about, gorgeous," she said, utterly unrepentant. I could tell she was guilty just by looking at her. Which was not admissible in court, sadly.
"Your denials are only delaying the inevitable," Kono informed her. "We have the traffic camera showing your Mercedes outside the park the morning he was killed."
This was news to me. If Steve didn't already know, he did a good job of disguising his surprise. If it was true, and I didn't think Kono would lie about it, it could be very damaging to Belinda's claim of innocence. Or ignorance in her case.
"Are you having sex with her?" Belinda asked Steve who could only gawk in disbelief at her. Kono could only laugh.
"He wishes he were that lucky," Kono said, bumping Steve with her shoulder.
"Yeah," Steve said. He then seemed to realize what she had actually said. "What?" he asked, looking at Kono in some confusion.
"Never mind, Boss," Kono said, her smile dimpling her cheeks. "We're looking into your bank accounts. It won't surprise us to find out your balances got much healthier when you took over ownership of the paintball park."
While Kono was informing Belinda of these facts, I could see Steve reach inside for his military training, his posture hardening as his face became a mask. I was willing to bet that even Danny couldn't tell what he was thinking at that point. Belinda leaned back a little bit in her chair. She had seen the transformation and understood it for what it was. She was suddenly far less chatty.
"Did you pull the trigger or did Greg?" Steve demanded. She stared up at him silently.
"It doesn't matter," Kono said into the silence. "You're both going down for trafficking and murder. Good thing you like orange." Kono swept Belinda with her eyes, the contempt clear.
"Where is my lawyer?" Belinda finally demanded.
"Must be stuck in traffic," Kono said with a shrug. "Can't imagine why else he wouldn't be here."
"I'm not saying anything to anyone until he gets here," Belinda informed them.
"I have no place else to be," Steve said. "Kono?"
"Nope. I'm good," Kono told him as she continued to stare at their suspect. "Did you pull the trigger? You hardly look the type."
"I don't have any idea what you're talking about," Belinda said. But it was patently clear she was lying.
"Cocaine. Ronnie Sharper dead. He figured it out, didn't he?" Kono demanded. "He figured out why the white and yellow paintballs had to be ordered more frequently. He was going to go to the police so you killed him before he could."
"I don't know any Ronnie Sharper," Belinda claimed.
"That's odd. Since he worked for you for almost two years. You signed his paycheck every other week for two years and you don't know who he is?" Kono said, her voice dropping and sending chills down my spine. If I were Belinda, I'd have confessed by now. But Belinda continued to stare up at them, defiant and apparently calm.
Steve and Kono turned toward the door when a knock sounded, Steve going over to open it. On the other side was a uniformed HPD officer.
"Commander," the officer said, looking up at Steve. "I have Mrs. Sharper with me. She wants to talk to you."
Steve nodded, telling Kono silently to stay where she was. Steve slipped out and I went with him. Right outside the interrogation room was an attractive woman in her mid-50s wearing comfortable jeans and a light sweater. Her short grey hair curled around her face, her eyes red and swollen.
"Commander McGarrett," the woman said as she struggled to find her composure.
"What can I do for you, Mrs. Sharper?" Steve asked her gently.
"I want to see them. I want to see those monsters for myself," Mrs. Sharper said, looking up at Steve with something akin to pleading in her expression.
He glanced quickly over at me and all I could do was give one shake of my head. This was not a good idea for anyone involved. "I don't think it's in your best interest," Steve told her, one hand on her arm.
"Ronnie loved his job, Commander. And they killed him because of it," Mrs. Sharper said, tears slowly running down her face. She ignored them as she tried to explain to Steve her reasons. "I just want to see them for myself."
Steve sighed, wiping his hand over his mouth. I could tell he wanted to refuse her but he was having a hard time denying her this request. "For a minute," he finally conceded. Mrs. Sharper nodded and we followed him back into the room. Kono watched her enter, a vague look of satisfaction on her face.
Belinda's eyes widened when she saw Mrs. Sharper enter, her breathing more rapid.
Mrs. Sharper stared at Belinda, anger radiating off her body. "You killed my son." The words were said calmly, quietly, their impact immediate on all of us. Belinda shook her head as she continued to stare at Mrs. Sharper. "Ronnie loved his job. He was proud to work there. And he was good at what he did. Too good. You killed him because he figured out what you were doing."
Belinda shook her head again, her mouth gaping open.
"I don't know if you are a religious woman or not, but I can only hope God finds a way to forgive you. I never will," Mrs. Sharper told her, a look of almost pity on her face. "I know you don't have children. You are too selfish for that. But the pain of losing a child is one a parent never recovers from. Never. You'll have to live with that for the rest of your life. Just like we will." With that, Mrs. Sharper turned and went to the door, Steve opening it to let her out. I followed, standing close by.
"I'm so sorry," I said, a hand on her arm as she regained her calm.
She took a crumpled tissue out of her pocket, dabbing at her eyes and nose. "Do you have children?"
"No," I said. "But I had a sister who… died. That's why I went into law enforcement."
"Your parents never got over it, did they?" she asked with a very sad smile.
"No. They never did. They've learned to live with it. And they finally stopped being hyper-vigilant with us. But it left a permanent scar on us all."
Mrs. Sharper nodded. "Ronnie's sister arrived from the mainland this morning. She had just gone back to UCLA. She's graduating in May. I don't think Julia has quite grasped it yet."
"I want to recommend that you all find a grief counselor. Victims of violent crimes can have a difficult time coming to terms with what has happened to their family."
"Yes," Mrs. Sharper said with a shaky nod. "Will you ask Commander McGarrett if all of you can come to the funeral on Monday?"
"Are you sure? We wouldn't want to interfere with your family."
She took a deep breath before wiping her eyes again. "I know it's unusual. And he may refuse. But if you will come, we'll feel like it really is over."
"I'll ask him," I promised. I had no way of knowing what Steve might say. I didn't know if 5-0 ever went to funerals of victims but that would be Steve's call to make. "Let me walk you out."
She nodded, not saying anything as we left the building. "Thank you," she said when we were standing next to her car.
"I'll pass on your appreciation to the ones who did the job," I promised.
She smiled sadly and got in her car, driving off and leaving an empty place in my heart. Before I went back inside, I called my mother. Sometimes you just have to say hello.
When I arrived upstairs, Danny and Chin were standing by the tech table, grim satisfaction reflected in their expressions. "He spilled the beans," Danny was happy to report.
"Told us everything," Chin added.
"Did she pull the trigger?" I asked, trying to quell some of my anger.
"They hired someone to do it. Greg is going to help us find him. They stupidly let the hitman drive their Mercedes. Since they were at the park regularly, they thought it would be less obvious," Chin said.
Danny nodded toward the main doorway. "You were outside?"
I explained about Mrs. Sharper and said she wanted them at the funeral on Monday. "Do you think Steve will agree?"
"Probably," Danny said. "We don't normally go but we aren't normally invited."
"That makes sense," I had to agree.
"Will you come with?" Chin asked me.
"I'm not part of 5-0," I pointed out unnecessarily.
"But you helped us figure it out," Danny reminded me. "And you'll still be here."
I could only nod. "If you go, I will too."
We chatted ideally for another few minutes, all of us waiting for Steve and Kono, to find out what they had learned. Not that it really mattered after Greg's complete confession. He and Belinda were going away for the rest of their lives.
It was 20 minutes before Steve and Kono left the interrogation room to come to the bullpen.
"Well?" Danny asked.
Steve shook his head, Kono frowning.
"Hardly matters," Danny was happy to report. "Greg confessed."
"And you didn't tell us?" Kono demanded.
"We didn't want his confession to interfere with your interrogation," Chin said reasonably.
"They'll both be put away for the rest of their lives," Danny said. "Duke called. There were 32 jars of paintballs at the harbor that contain cocaine."
"That will put a dent in the trafficking on the islands," Steve said in satisfaction. "Mrs. Sharper okay?"
"I think she will be. I encouraged her to enter grief counseling. And she wants you all to attend the funeral on Monday," I said. "I told her I'd pass on the request."
"It seems fitting," Kono said. "I know we don't usually go. But I'd like to."
The guys agreed with that it was appropriate for them to go, insisting that I also attend. I had to agree to their combined persuasiveness.
"Greg told us that none of the employees at the park knew anything about the drugs," Danny told us. "Hiako is not a suspect."
"You call and let her know we arrested them?" Steve asked.
"No. I thought you'd want to do that," Danny said to Steve's nods.
"Did they find any drugs at the park?" Steve asked.
"We haven't heard from Duke on that," Chin said, checking the table for missed phone calls or any forms of electronic messages. "I'll give them a call."
Steve went to his office, Danny following. Kono and I stayed with Chin as he contacted HPD to ask about the search of the park.
"Chin," the older man on the screen said when they had connected.
"Howzit Duke?" Chin said.
"Busy day," the man said.
"Did they finish the search of Olowalu Paintball Explosion?" Chin asked him.
"They haven't searched all the storage buildings yet. But they did find cocaine in two jars of white paintballs."
"Good," Chin said. "Proof they were using them to smuggle the drugs."
"I'll let you know when they've finished the last of the buildings," Duke assured us.
"Appreciate it," Chin said with a nod before disconnecting. He looked tired but satisfied, two things we all had in common at that point.
I took my cell phone out when it buzzed, putting it on speaker. Steve and Danny were coming out of Steve's office, joining us at the table. "Chief. I have you on speaker."
Chin and Kono stood a little closer to Steve and Danny as the Chief of Vancouver Police reported that they had completed the raid of the Paintball Express warehouse and had seized at least 1000 pounds of cocaine. "They were using it as a central distribution. Sending the drugs all over the country."
"We got the owners of our local park," Chin said after he introduced himself. "Are you putting out an alert for the other local owners?"
"Already done," Chief confirmed. "We've heard from Utah. They've arrested the owners and found several jars on their property. We'll keep you informed as more arrests are made."
"Who are the principals of Paintball Express?" I asked.
We could hear a soft rustling before he answered. "According to what we've been able to piece together, it looks like it's owned by one of the shell corporations controlled by the Juárez Cartel. We can't confirm but all signs point to them."
"There had been rumors of them trying to infiltrated Washington and Oregon," I said. "Sounds like they succeeded."
"Yeah. We heard they wanted to establish here as a gateway to Canada," Chief said. "Hopefully this will disrupt their supply chain."
"I'd say it will help," I said with a nod.
"The Governor called after the raid. She wants you to call when you have a chance," Chief said to me.
"Of course," I agreed. "Do you need us for anything else?"
"Not right now. We'll keep you updated," he said before disconnecting.
"Job well done," Steve said with a nod. Chin told him what Duke had said about the jars as I went into the breakroom to call Governor Gregoire. I was put straight through when I indentified myself to her top aide."
"Governor," I said.
"Excellent work," she said to me. I could hear her satisfaction over the phone.
"Thank you, ma'am," I said. "The Five-0 team deserves all the credit."
"That's not the way I heard it," she said. "Are you staying the rest of the time?"
"If you don't need me, I'd like to," I said.
"Of course. Please pass on our appreciation to Commander McGarrett and the team for putting a stop to the drug ring supplying most of the west coast."
"I will, ma'am," I agreed. "May I suggest you call Governor Denning?"
"He's still not completely thrilled with them?" she asked with a laugh. Apparently he had had some reservations about me being with them, afraid their 'unorthodox' methods would spread like a morning glory vine.
"They appreciate his support," I said as diplomatically as I could. She laughed again, promising to call him without revealing the prompting she had received.
"I'll see you next Monday," she said before we hung up. I emerged from the breakroom, everyone apparently waiting for me.
"Everything okay?" Kono asked.
"She wanted to thank you," I confirmed.
"So you aren't in any trouble," Danny said.
"None. I'm still here until next weekend if you are willing to put up with me that long," I said with a smile. They returned it, agreeing that another week could bring about more arrests, more solved murders, more paintball games. "No thanks," I said, shaking my head at that last.
They laughed, inviting me to come out to eat with them, a celebratory dinner. How could I refuse that?
Office of Law Enforcement Liaison
To: Governor Chris Gregoire
Re: Hawaii Five-0 Task Force
Thank you for the opportunity to observe the activities, methods, and results of the Hawaiian Governor's Special Task Force, known commonly as Hawaii Five-0. This report is intended to outline my observations, as well as my official recommendations concerning the possibility of replicating this type of task force in Washington State. A full text of my time in Hawaii is appended.
During the two weeks I spent with the Task Force, I learned a great deal of what makes them as successful as they are. A summary of my findings is below:
The Governor's Special Task Force (Hawaii Five-0) has an impressive solve rate and an equally impressive conviction rate.
Their success can be attributed in part to the specialized skills of each member of the Task Force. Their specializations merge and support their overall activities with a unity of purpose that is impressive.
The four core members have developed a working style that is part elite police force, part fraternity, part ohana - the Hawaii term for family and more.
The backing of Governor Sam Denning allows them to employ unorthodox methodology when necessary.
The fact that Commander Steve McGarrett is a Navy SEAL rather than schooled in police procedure means that their methods can be unconventional and have been known to raise a red flag with the members of the more traditional law enforcement organizations on the islands.
Having jurisdiction over all of the Hawaiian Islands provides them swift and efficient movements and investigator prerogatives. They are not required to wait for local approval/authority to move against a suspected criminal or their associates. As Detective Danny Williams stated to me: "Our hands are not tied up with red tape."
Their open communications with local and national authorities (TSA, Homeland Security, FBI, SBI, etc.) enables the Task Force to prevent suspected criminals from fleeing the islands, and assists in determining if those under investigation have a state or national criminal record.
Concerning the investigation of the alleged cocaine smuggling using paintballs:
With the assistance of Greg Auman, one of the proprietors of Olowalu Paintball Explosion, the Task Force was successful in apprehending the alleged gunman, Uoli Kiwikeo, who shot Ronald Sharper. He is a member of one of the local gangs which is trying to become a more active participant within the Hawaiian criminal element.
Greg Auman's wife and partner in Olowalu Paintball Explosion, Brenda Carlyle, was continuing to proclaim her innocence of all charges concerning the smuggling and the murder of their employee. However, with the combined statements of Mr. Auman and Mr. Kiwikeo, the Task Force feels certain there is little chance that any of them will be found not guilty of their crimes.
We attended the funeral of Ronald Sharper, at the request of his family. Their presence was appreciated by his friends and family, all of whom thanked the Task Force for their speedy resolution of the mystery.
The second week of my observation of the Task Force consisted of attending the funeral, filing the appropriate paperwork with the state and national authorities, and discussing the importation and distribution of the cocaine with both Commander McGarrett and Chief Clark of the Vancouver Police. The cocaine has been traced back to the Juárez Cartel in Mexico and the DEA is working with the Mexican Policía Federal to cut off their pipelines.
Concerning the possibility of establishing a Task Force in Washington State that emulates Hawaii Five-0:
Hawaii is 6423.4 square miles while Washington covers 71,303 square miles. The population of Hawaii is 1,374,810, compared to the population of Washington - 6,724,540. This decreases the likelihood of success due to size and population variances.
Establishing such a taskforce would assist in disruption of drug trafficking into and from Canada.
Any task force established in Washington would require the backing of and direct support of the Governor. Failing to provide these crucial elements would doom the task force to failure.
My ultimate recommendation is that a task force similar to Hawaii Five-0 be established in Washington State, with the provision that it is on a trial basis. Those hired to establish and work for the proposed task force would need to be fully cognizant that no guarantees exist as to the annual continuation of funding and/or support.
Should the task force prove to be successful, further funding and support would then be recommended.
Thank you again for the opportunity to travel to Hawaii and observe the Task Force in action. If you require any additional information about my time there, or have any questions concerning this report, please contact me at your convenience.