Cujo III Reloaded – This Time it's Personal
Okay, here's the first chapter. Hope to keep this story a little shorter than the last. Have to get back into 'humor' mode and it's harder than I thought it would be. Hope you like the attempt. Let me know if you do or don't. As Mae West said about the mirrors on her bedroom ceiling: "I just like to know how I'm doin'".
As always, Imaginary Beta is responsible for any errors and she's got an ice cream hangover so I can't be too hard on her.
Disclaimer: Never make any money from this and don't own anything. Husband still doesn't get it but ninja cats will go along with it if I agree to let them sleep on the keyboard.
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Grounds for Murder
He kept to the shadows. He'd always been good at stealth. The enemy would never know what hit them when he'd burst from cover to deliver a lethal blow before disappearing back into the darkness to plan another op.
In the pool of light, his unsuspecting target sat studying something before him. Little did he know, in another moment, his blood would be spilled on the surface of . . .
"Hey! No you don't!" he heard a sharp warning behind him, "Leave Danny alone!"
Startled enough to nearly jump out of his chair, the blonde detective looked up to find his boss/friend leaning down to snatch up a surprised looking cat. Taking in the too familiar scene, he began: "What did I tell you Steven! One more time! One more time your bloodthirsty pet sneaks up on me intending to slit my throat and . . . " he only flailed angrily then; at a loss for words – something that rarely happened.
"Oh come on Danny. He didn't even get near you this time . . . and he's not my pet!" defended McGarrett as he stroked the animal now purring contentedly in his arms.
"Yeah, this time! What about last week, huh? He wrecked another pair of my favorite argyles! I have to get them sent all the way from Jersey! No store on this rockpile even carries those kinda socks!"
"Maybe Cujo is just a fashion critic?"
"Not friggin' funny you jerk! You now owe me for two pairs of socks and one more box of bandaids." fumed the blonde.
"Danny, he's fine. Listen, he's purring." said the tall man, once more stroking a large hand across the glossy grey coat as the sound of contentment rumbled from the small animal. "He's not gonna do anything to you."
"Yeah. Not now. He's in the arms of the world's biggest sucker and cat-lady-in-denial but he had plans to kill me! You know he did!"
"D, I don't think a cat actually 'plans' assassinations." laughed McGarrett knowing it was a total lie. This cat is, of course, perfectly capable of plotting to off someone.
Red faced with ire, the detective behind the desk railed on: "Why on God's lava coated earth should I even have to worry about being killed and eaten in my own office! Huh!"
"I don't think he'd actually eat you Danny. Cats don't eat things that are mostly made of malasada and pizza grease."
Danny sat fuming silently for a moment glaring at his smirking partner as the Spawn of Satan looked smugly back at him from the tall man's arms.
"Just get out of my office." he finally said through clenched teeth. "Take the grey mamba with you or I swear I'm gonna shoot the little bastard."
Just then, the standoff was interrupted by the ringing of McGarrett's cell. Deftly tucking Cujo under one arm, he reached into one of his many pockets and brought it to his ear; answering "McGarrett".
After listening for a brief moment, he said, "Be there in ten."
"Come on Danny, we got a case." he said as he set down the cat that immediately scampered off.
Picking up his gun, badge and keys, the blonde followed his leader out the door while grumbling about 'deranged animals and their psychotic pets', (without being clear which was which).
The barista lay sprawled in the coffee diluted pool of crimson. A white paper cup, venti size, if Danny wasn't mistaken, lay on the floor beside her. The liquid caught in the seams of the ceramic tiles of the floor flowed outward in a macabre sort of tic-tac-toe pattern.
Another two green-aproned employees stood in shock just outside the glass fronted shop now abuzz with cops and crimescene techs.
"It wasn't a robbery. Cash is still in the register." said the stocky man wearing a police uniform who, when he saw the familiar silver Camaro pull up to the scene, immediately strode toward the two men emerging from it. He'd only recently learned the car wasn't even McGarrett's; it was his partner's.
He supposed it was one of the things that served to fuel those stupid rumors about the tall dark-haired man and the shorter blonde who seemed to come as a package but it was mostly due to the bickering that made them sound like an old married couple. What kept anyone from mentioning it, at least to their faces, was the reputation that Kiliona knew was well founded. Either of the duo could kick anyone in the department's ass any day of the week and twice on Sunday - not to mention the legend of McGarrett hanging people off of the edges of roofs or throwing them into shark cages.
"Hey Miko. Whatta we got this time?" asked Danny as he greeted the familiar uniformed cop.
"Dead barista." Kiliona answered succinctly as McGarrett nodded then strode past him already locked on task. He and former HPD cop Danny Williams quickly followed after the tall man as he entered the shop.
"So this is like the other two." said the SEAL; making an observation as he took in the grisly scene.
"Yeah, like the other two – unsolved." said Danny sourly
Kiliona almost felt the need to defend his department but they were right. They'd probably been called in because the previous coffee shop murders had made the evening news and HPD was taking flack for not yet catching the murderer or murderers. The nationwide chain of coffee emporiums with their recently PC'd mermaid logo was becoming even more well-known if that was possible. Kiliona would bet a month's pay the chain's board of directors had already contacted the governor about it. Denning would no doubt reason that if tourists were becoming afraid to stop for a venti, half-caf, caramel macchiato then the world would surely come to an end; hence, Five-0's involvement.
"Okay, who was this kid?" brusquely demanded McGarrett; a behavior that seemed to rankle many in the department. Kiliona had long ago recognized it was just the commander's military way of doing things and what seemed like arrogance was just self-confidence totally backed up by ability. Though others in the department still took exception to a man they considered a 'cowboy'; the uniformed cop had actually come to like him. Besides, the two partners were sometimes entertaining – however unintentionally.
"Name was Heather Sang. Local girl, eighteen, part-time art student at UH Hilo." answered the uniformed man reciting from memory what he'd learned from one of his own department's detectives already on scene - the man who was not going to be happy seeing the governor's special task force here, McGarrett in particular.
After giving a quick once-over of the interior of the shop, they came back outside to talk to the other two baristas standing in a teary huddle on the sidewalk. Standing next to them was a crewcut muscular man with a badge on his belt. The expression on his face was not friendly when they walked up to the group.
Trying to head off any issues between Detective Kilkenny and his sometimes entirely too focused partner, Danny greeted the man with a handshake. "Mickey, how ya doin'."
"Okay until a moment ago." said Kilkenny looking as though he'd just sucked on the world's largest lemon.
No wonder the guy's such a bad poker player, thought Five-0's own detective.
McGarrett didn't even nod to acknowledge HPD's plain-clothes man on scene; he just turned to the two baristas standing next to him. The commander and HPD's detective had their history and it wasn't a good one nor was it worth the aggravation to go over it again.
"I don't know why anyone would want to kill Heather." sniffed the tiny dark-haired girl with the tasteful nose ring and whose apron came down past her knees and about halfway to her ankles because of her miniscule height. "She was always smiling."
"So you can't think of anyone who'd want her dead?" asked Detective Williams
"No! She never had a bad thing to say about anyone. I mean there were times when . . . ", the girl trailed off.
"Times when what?" asked the tall man quirking his eyebrows. Kilkenny remained silent for the moment but Danny could tell it wasn't easy.
"Well, times when she'd get a little snippy with customers. You know, the ones who go all, 'No, I said non-fat soy and two shots not one and make sure the foam isn't too foamy this time' she mimicked in a whine as she rolled her eyes.
At the girl's impression of an entirely too persnickety customer, McGarrett thought he himself would do something more than get 'a little snippy' to anyone so irritating. He wasn't aware his partner was thinking along the same lines.
Totally unlikely it's gonna happen but if we ever have to go undercover in a coffee shop, I'll have to make sure Steve isn't armed. There's no way he'd put up with crap like that without shooting someone - even if they did deserve it. "So, you say she got snippy with someone?" asked Danny, refocusing on the job.
"Yeah but we've all been there. I mean a person can only take so much crap for nine-dollars an hour, you know?"
"Anyone in particular annoy her?" asked HPD's Kilkenny; trying to regain some control over the crime scene – the one he considered his.
"There's this woman. She comes in early every morning and then again about ten to get her second fix."
The term 'fix' amused Danny but it was probably an appropriate one. Both Steve and Kono were pretty grumpy without a cup or two in the mornings. He knows no one will ever again use up the last of the coffee stored in the breakroom and neglect to order more.
"You know this customer's name?" asked the SEAL
The girl shook her head in the negative but the employee next to her; a tall skinny kid came out of his shocked trance and said, "It's Monica. I heard her answer her phone a couple of times at the register. She's such a bitch, it kinda stuck in my head."
"Yeah, that's another thing that woman does. She makes you wait while she talks on the phone even if there are people behind her!" piped up the little brunette.
"Yeah, then if you say something, she cops an attitude!" added the boy
Steve could never work here. thought Danny once again, He'd wind up back in Halawa on the first day.
"So, you'd recognize her if she comes here today?" asked the man who put up with no one's crap for longer than a millisecond.
The two nodded solemnly, looking eager to be of help.
"It's almost ten. You guys stick around and let us know when you see her." ordered the commander.
"So, McGarrett", said Kilkenny, declining to call the tall man by his rank as most everyone else does. He didn't want to give any indication of respect for the man he considered a law enforcement disaster and the governor's pet cobra, "With Five-0 taking over this case, I guess I can just go home and put my feet up considering you guys will make sure the islands are safe and secure – at least from the badguys." he almost sneered.
Ignoring the dig, McGarrett answered coolly, "Yes and no, the governor thought getting both departments working on this could get it resolved a little sooner. Is there a problem?" he asked mildly, voice not betraying the dislike he had for the man whose ambition exceeded his investigative abilities - not to mention he thought the guy was a flaming asshole.
Besides doing his detecting on this case, Danny was also beginning to recognize it was going to be his job to run interference between Commander Steve McGarrett and Detective Mickey Kilkenny if both departments were going to work on this case together.
When the two had clashed before, Mickey hadn't come out victorious to say the least. Steve could be an uncompromising bastard if he wanted to be so it was best to keep them from interacting with each other without having an intermediary or, as Danny was thinking at the moment, separate cages. Though the blonde knew McGarrett was professional enough to not let anything interfere with the case; he wasn't the most patient man when it came to unnecessary bullshit.
Kilkenny announced, "I'm going to go back inside. You know, in case anything was disturbed."
McGarrett knew the man was just trying to get under his skin by implying Five-0 and himself in particular were amateur enough to contaminate the scene. The guy certainly knows how to carry a grudge.
Several minutes later, Kono and Chin arrived after wrapping up something on the other side of the island and walked up displaying their badges to the uniforms securing the scene. There probably wasn't even any need to identify themselves because, by now, every cop on the islands was familiar with the faces of the Governor's Special Task Force.
HPD's Detective Kilkenny had already left; ostensibly to track down a lead with his own beleaguered partner, Phil Brotman, in tow. Can't be easy working with that jerk, thought Five-0's second in command sympathetically.
"What do we know about this?" asked Chin as he walked up to Danny; Steve having gone back inside to take another look to see if they'd missed anything.
"So far, other than the victim's name, pretty much zip, zilch, nada." glumly answered the detective.
"So, we have another victim of the 'Macchiato Murderer' said Kono, "Denning's gonna be foaming at the mouth – no pun intended." said Kono who'd so very quickly taken to the sometimes macabre humor of cops.
"Pretty much looks that way" sighed Danny
As she glanced around the area, the Hawaiian woman asked "Where's the boss?"
"Inside going over the scene again in case we missed something but I don't think we did."
"So, what do we know about the victim?"
"Heather Sang, eighteen, part-time barista and art student."
"Anything taken?" asked Kono, brow furrowing.
"Like before – nothing. Cash is still in the register and the safe wasn't opened."
Said Chin softly, "Poor kid. The job probably pays minimum wage plus tips. Not something to be killed over."
"You know, people who do this kind of work have to put up with a lot of crap. I tried it for maybe a week before I quit." said Kono
"Cuz," reminded Chin, "You only lasted a day and a half before you bailed."
"Well, it was that or wind up in jail for strangling a customer. I don't think any of us could do this kind of work."
"Yeah", smiled Danny, "Imagine SuperSEAL putting up with someone demanding a half-caf vanilla soy latte with just a smidge of caramel drizzles."
The three actually laughed aloud at the thought.
"He'd go berserk and shoot somebody by the second customer." chuckled Kono, trying to picture her BAMF leader adorned in a green apron.
"What's funny?" asked the man in question as he walked up to his team.
"Nothing" answered three voices at once.
"Uh huh" said the tall man knowing that they were probably talking about him . . . again. For some reason he still couldn't figure out, his behavior always seemed to amuse them. "Any reason you guys are standing around instead of, you know, detecting or something?"
"What do you need us to do boss?" asked Kono losing the smile; an expression of serious purpose replacing it.
"It's almost ten and some of the regulars will be showing up for their coffee breaks. Why don't you question anyone who makes an appearance? Danny and I are waiting for someone named Monica to show. Bring her to us if she does."
If they were lucky, word of this third murder hadn't yet gotten out to the press and the people who made it a daily habit to come here wouldn't know the place is a crime scene until they actually showed up. Of course, it was probably all over the net by now but maybe the woman in question hadn't yet seen it.
"Find anything more?" asked the detective of his partner who stood with a frown as he watched the cousins move quickly away to begin gleaning information from the still relatively small group of bystanders behind the yellow tape.
The tall man compressed his lips and rested his hands on his lean hips before saying, "No, just that she was in the process of making an espresso. The grounds weren't dumped yet."
"Maybe it was for herself?"
"The other two said Heather was the one who opened up this morning. They weren't scheduled to be here until 6:00."
"Shop opens at 5:30."
"Yeah, so if it was a customer, the victim was most likely murdered between then and when the other two showed up." said Danny
Steve knew the former Jersey detective liked to 'process' aloud and had long ceased to be annoyed when his 2IC would sum up the obvious. He'd gotten used to it along with the flailing hands and seemingly unending bitching. It was just Danny being Danny and though he'd never admit it 'aloud', he'd sort of come to like it.
The tall ash blonde 'of a certain age' wearing a no doubt very expensive silk scarf and huge and equally expensive sunglasses approached the shop. Seeing the crime scene tape strung all around its entrance, she muttered, "Dammit" before turning to walk to the next of the entirely too numerous branches of the chain which was only a couple blocks away.
"Hey!" exclaimed the tall skinny boy who'd been diligently searching the crowd, "There she is!" as he pointed to the retreating figure of the woman Chin immediately jogged after; catching up in only a couple of steps.
"Ma'am?" he called out but she kept walking.
As she ignored the man calling out to her she was thinking, I need my coffee! I can't stop for this bullshit!
"Halt! Five-0! We have some questions for you!" the voice wasn't quite as polite this time.
"Crap!" she said aloud; turning on her heel to face the sinewy Asian who'd halted her progress along the walkway.
Raising imperious and impeccably shaped brows, she waited for him to stride up to her.
"We have some questions to ask." said Chin displaying his badge for the obviously annoyed woman.
She only glanced at it dismissively. "What?" she demanded.
"You've been identified as someone who comes to this shop every day; once very early and then again at around ten AM. Is that correct?"
"Yes, I get here at exactly five-forty five every morning and then come back at about ten depending on how busy it is at work." she replied frostily not bothering to conceal her annoyance.
"When you came in this morning, did you find anything unusual?"
"Yeah, the ninny that usually gets my coffee wasn't anywhere around. She's got to be one of the worst baristas this chain has ever had. I was actually thinking about putting in a complaint to management."
"What sort of complaint?" asked Chin, already disliking the woman.
"She's very slow and when I tell her to leave room for cream; she always fills the cup too much. I also don't like her attitude."
"What is her attitude?"
"You know, like she's doing me a favor getting me a damned cup of coffee. I mean, it's her job, it's what she gets paid for isn't it?"
"So, you saw no indication she was here? Was the door open?"
"Yeah, at least she got that much done." huffed the blonde. "Are we done yet? I have things to do before I have to get back to work."
"I'm afraid we have a few more questions for you before you can leave." said Chin trying not to show his annoyance.
The blonde opened her mouth to speak just as Steve and Danny walked up to them.
"Your name?" demanded Steve in his no-nonsense style.
"Monica Strathern" she answered in the same imperious tone she'd used with Chin and, no doubt, with pretty much everyone. "Look, I'd like to get out of this sun." she announced, "I don't need any UV damage to my skin. Unlike the native population, I don't worship it." She said that with a dismissive glance at Chin and Kono and perhaps another at Steve.
While Danny may even agree about the sun worshiping stuff, he kept his tongue. He didn't want to encourage the attitude. He wasn't entirely sure it was only 'UV damage' she was referring to. What he did know for sure was that if she was going to cop an attitude toward anyone with an 'ethnic' appearance she's living in the wrong place. I hope she wrinkles like a prune, he thought.
The little cat sat in the middle of the smart table, his usual perch at this time of day. The dark-haired man usually covered in cloth that looked like flowers always shooed him off but he wasn't here right now.
The door opened and his human and the loud man entered. Not even noticing him, they walked past. The loud man was talking. He was always talking. It was annoying. He would just not go away or get any less loud. His human seemed to like the man and always kept him safe from the attacks designed to make him go away. If only he wasn't so loud.
He heard the door open again and looked across the shiny ground as his human's female came toward him. She reached out and stroked his head. He liked her; somehow instinctively realizing his human and this female are a bonded pair. She gave good scratches.
"Hey Cujo, you keeping the office safe?" she asked the animal that looked up at her from the smart table and purred loudly when she scratched him behind his ears. Cath had never really had a problem with the little cat and Cujo had finally ceased to try to inject himself between she and Steve when they hugged each other. They'd always made sure to lock him out of the bedroom when engaged in anything else. Eventually, he'd stopped his howling from the other side of the door.
As the two men stood going over the case in Steve's office, the door leading to the hallway opened and Cath entered. As always, she looks spectacular, thought both men. Like Kono, anything she wore looked good on her. This time it was her camos and she carried her duffel.
Knowing Steve had agreed to drop her off at Hickham so she could leave her car in the Palace's parking lot Danny smiled in greeting then discretely found something else to do; tucking a file folder under his arm he made to leave the two alone.
"Danny" exclaimed Cath, "You don't have to go. Steve and I said our goodbyes last night."
The tall man only smirked as his uniformed 'not my girlfriend' set down her bag and asked, "Ready to go? Have to catch the transport at 0900."
"We've got plenty of time." assured McGarrett as he wrapped a long arm around her uniform clad shoulders and gave her a quick peck on the lips, (about as much of a PDA as he ever displayed).
"Yeah, the way your 'friend' drives," exclaimed the detective to Cath while making air quotes around the word, "You've got all the time in the world. You could maybe even stop for dinner and a movie on the way."
"Danny, you do know who you're talking to, don't you?" smiled the tall man, "Cath drives just like I do – the most efficient way."
"Efficient, huh? You used the wrong adjective Steven and only just the one. Can we say 'reckless and insane'?"
"Why? Just because, unlike someone I know, we don't drive like ninety-year-olds on their way to a gerontologists' appointment?" snarked McGarrett
Danny shook his head in exasperation, "You know what, you Neanderthal, heaven forbid you two should ever reproduce 'cause your offspring would have to be kept on leashes to keep them from chasing rabbits at inopportune moments."
"Leashes are not funny Danny." scowled McGarrett in a surprising reply; even Cath raising her eyebrows at the reaction.
Hmm, thought the blonde, There's an issue there somewhere to explore further.
"Hey Danny," piped up the woman wrapped in the long tattooed arm of her 'not my boyfriend', "Our children would be fabulous!" she defended
"And very swift no doubt." was the detective's quick reply
Before Steve could even join in, Danny added, "No offense Catherine. I'm sure your children would be incredibly beautiful and intelligent but I hope your genes are strong enough to offset Rambo's 'cause he's definitely got a screw loose and I would hope they'd have a chance of at least some mental stability."
Now Steve had begun to squirm a little with all this talk of offspring, "Let's get going Cath. If we go now, we'll have time to stop for coffee."
"At least, and a facial and massage and . . . "sarcastically exclaimed the blonde
"Already had the massage." purred Cath mischievously, "Steve has really great hands."
"Yeah, great hands." repeated the tall man with a smirk as his arm tightened around the woman beside him.
"I'm going now" announced Danny, "before you decide to reveal any other component activities of your good-bye." With that he turned on his heel and walked swiftly away.
"Wait D! We haven't even gotten to the good part yet!" called out his partner to the retreating form.
"Can't hear you!" called back the blonde as he disappeared down the hallway.
"Good part?" asked Cath, one lovely eyebrow raised suggestively.
"It's all good." leered Steve
"That's such a cheesy phrase, Smooth Dog." she grinned back, turning to put both arms around the SEAL's neck.
"Very true." was her heartfelt answer.
*5-0*5-0*5-0*5-0*5-0*5-0*5-0* Hawaii 5-0*5-0*5-0*5-0*5-0*5-0*5-0*
Was going to wait until story was complete before beginning to post it but am probably addicted to stress. Will try to update once a week or sooner if possible.
Reviews are better than Meowi Wowie even if ninja cats don't agree.
PS – For those of you who are not that fond of Cath, she won't be too present in this story. I've just shipped her off again.