It happened often and more so since he had grown close to his men. Especially Danno. And he wondered how much it was affecting his job performance. How much longer would it be before those couple of seconds meant the difference between life and death?
Even when following standard procedure, things can quickly go wrong. Having received a reliable tip, Dan and Ben were the first to arrive at the small, isolated beach house on the windward side of the island. Supposedly, the main players in a local drug ring operated from this location.
With his revolver drawn, Danny pounded on the front door and announced his presence while Ben circled around to the rear of the structure. No response except for scuffling sounds from within, so Danny kicked in the door just as Steve and Chin were pulling up to the curb outside. As Danny's forward momentum propelled him into the room, he never saw the cast iron doorstop that was heaved downward onto his head then discarded as his assailant ran for the back door along with his cohorts. In an instant, Danny crumpled to the floor, blinding stars and intense pain dissolving into blackness.
At the same instant, Steve entered the house. His heart drew his attention to his youngest detective, now unconscious on the floor, blood pooling beneath his curly head. But his sense of duty pulled his attention to the fleeing suspects, one of which had inflicted the injury.
The inner conflict lasted only a fleeting second.
"Chin, stay with Danno!" Steve ordered sharply, and he was out the back door at Ben's heels to give chase.
The Oriental detective quickly knelt beside the still form on the green shag carpet and carefully turned the young man onto his back. While Chin was relieved beyond measure that Danny was still breathing, his features tensed at the sight of the jagged gash above the detective's right eye. He pulled out his handkerchief and pressed it to the wound.
"Danny?" Chin called out, gently shaking the victim's shoulder. "Danny, can you hear me?" No response. Better get an ambulance. And some backup.
The two tall, athletic detectives, both former football players, sprinted down the beach after the three suspects, dodging gunfire as they ran. Ben managed to plug one of them in the leg, sending the man to the sand in agony. Shortly afterward, Steve's bullet hit its mark in the shoulder of another while Ben caught up with, tackled and cuffed the third. Steve kicked weapons out of reach of their two wounded owners. Breathing heavily, sweat running down his face, Steve caught Ben's eye and gave a half smile.
"Good work, Ben," he said tersely. But Steve's thoughts had never really left the scene at the beach house and he needed to get back there as quickly as possible. To his relief, he spotted four HPD officers hurrying down the shore to their location. He rose to his feet and waved over the uniformed men.
"Ben, take over here." And he was off, retracing his path as fast as he could run.
Steve's heart was pounding as he entered the small structure, and not entirely from the run. Chin was still bent over Danny, applying pressure to the head wound.
"Chin?" Steve asked in a tone that didn't completely mask his fear.
"I don't know, Steve," the older detective answered somberly, lifting his worried eyes toward his boss. "Ambulance should be here any time now."
Steve knelt beside his best friend, gently placing a hand on the sandy curls, now darkened with blood. He swallowed hard, wondering if he had chosen wisely this time.
"He's got a serious concussion, Steve, and he's lost a fair amount of blood. I'm amazed his skull wasn't fractured from what you've told me," Doc explained in the corridor outside the examination room. "He's going to be right here for at least a few days then he's on the beach until I clear him for duty. Got that?" Bergman's stern expression left no room for arguments.
"Sure, Doc," Steve replied. "May I see him?"
"Yes. He's still groggy, so don't push him for any information. That can wait."
Steve nodded in agreement then entered the room and approached the gurney, studying his prone second-in-command. After several minutes, bleary blue eyes slowly opened and gradually focused on the dark eyes above.
"Hello, Danno," Steve quietly greeted. "How are you doing?"
"Feel…like I was hit by…a truck," was the weak reply.
Sympathy and regret cast a shadow on the tall detective's strong features.
"Your information was right on the money, Danno; we got all three of them," Steve commented, the events of the afternoon still replaying in his mind, as was the sharpness of the guilt he felt over leaving his downed officer.
"Good, good," Danny said, his voice just above a whisper. "We make…a good…team…" he mumbled as he drifted off to sleep.
Steve gently gripped the hospital-gown-clad shoulder, watching the patient sleep for a peaceful interval before leaving the room.
Danno always seemed to find the right words, even in his barely conscious state. They were a team, all four of them. Steve would still be torn between priorities in the future, especially when the lives of his men were on the line. And he would still have to make difficult on-the-spot decisions. But there were also three good men who had his back.