Chapter 7

May was the first to notice the difference. When Danny walked into the office that morning, for the first time in two weeks, he appeared relaxed and at ease. But it was more than that: he had an air of confidence, a new maturity; no longer the kid detective who needed extra guidance. Maybe he even looked taller.

"Gentlemen, my office!" sounded McGarrett's familiar summons to the morning staff meeting.

The brunette secretary smiled to herself as the three men filed past her desk, Kono grabbing a donut and Danny quickly refilling his coffee cup.

"By this time tomorrow I expect to have Seth Hunter and his cohorts charged and in custody," Steve stated fervently, eyeing each of his detectives in turn. "We've been waiting for this for a long time."

"That'll be a big step toward cleaning up the drug trade on the island," commented Chin, thinking about his own children who would be teenagers all too soon.

"Especially after putting Big Chicken out of business," added Danny.

McGarrett's gaze lingered on his second-in-command. He sensed that something was different about the young detective, but it was just an abstract feeling. Still, Steve knew his gut instincts were usually on the mark. And whatever this impression was, it filled him with something akin to pride toward his protégé.

o-o-o

By one o'clock, Steve had received confirmation from the Harbor Master that the Sea Dragon was sailing according to schedule and was due to arrive in Honolulu at one forty-five. By one thirty, the Five-O team was in position at Pier 9 with four blue and whites from HPD on stand-by. The mood was tense as the men scanned the water and waited. Their patience was rewarded when they spotted a large cargo ship on the horizon. The ship grew larger as she approached the harbor. As she slowly eased her way into Pier 9, her name became clearly visible to the detectives: Sea Dragon. Her crew secured the lines, lowered the gangway and began the laborious process of unloading the freight.

Like clockwork, trucks and vans arrived to receive the boxes and crates and deliver them to warehouses in various parts of the island. A large van from the Island Paint Company pulled up and a middle-aged man in white coveralls exited the driver's side carrying a black briefcase.

"Steve!" Danny called into his walkie-talkie from his perch on the warehouse roof, trying to control his voice as his adrenalin level spiked.

"I see him, Danno," McGarrett calmly responded then gave the signal for the men to prepare to move in.

Hunter opened the back of the van and two more men jumped out just as an Asian sailor approached wheeling a dolly stacked high with crates. Hunter quickly opened the briefcase, allowing the sailor to view its contents then just as quickly, he snapped it closed. The sailor nodded his agreement, and the two men from the van began loading the crates off the dolly and into the van. Hunter discretely handed the briefcase to the sailor. The exchange had been made. The detectives launched into action.

"McGarrett, Five-O! Hold it right there, Hunter!" Steve shouted; his revolver drawn and ready.

Startled, the sailor with the briefcase took off at a run away from the van only to be grabbed by two HPD officers who had emerged from behind the warehouse. Hunter leaped into the back of the van for protection; his cohorts drew their own weapons, crouched behind the van's back doors and opened fire. The four detectives returned fire, taking care to remain shielded. Out of the corner of his eye, Danny glimpsed movement by the front of the van: a fourth man had exited the passenger's side, crept around the van and had a shotgun aimed directly at Steve!