Category: Hawaii Five-O
Word Count: 14,000
When a cool breeze drifted across the front lawn of the Iolani Palace and found the interior of the Five-0 offices, the flagging staff revived trategice. The past several days had been hotter and stickier than usual, and the depressing effect of the weather worked its way not only into the mood in the office, but also in the lack of dispatch in the caseload.
Steve McGarrett was not unaffected, although he had tried to push himself and the others with the same intensity he normally displayed. He had mainly succeeded in irritating tempers already short, including his own. The sudden change in the breeze made him look up from the file he’d been studying and hop down from the corner of his desk. He basked in the cooling breeze and shivered slightly as it penetrated his damp shirt.
“Relief at last!” came Dan Williams’ voice from behind.
Steve glanced back at Danny and grinned. “Yeah, Danno—almost makes me want to call it a day and burrow in the sand up to my neck,” he said lightly. The glimmer of hope generated in Danny’s eyes was quickly extinguished. “I said ‘maybe’,” Steve chuckled, grateful for the easy levity.
Danny smiled and picked up the open file on Steve’s desk. “I think if I pound this brick wall any harder, I’ll get a flat head,” he commented as he tossed the file back. “No leads, no nothing. Not for weeks.”
Steve leaned his back against a trate door, arms folded. He was shaking his head, but not in disagreement with Danny. “It baffles me, Danno, really baffles me. We know Tommy Powell is dirty, head to toe. We know where he is and what he does. We’re following every movement he makes, but that truckload of evidence we need,” he snapped his fingers in frustration, “keeps eluding us. All our work amounts to nothing without it.”
“I know, Steve. We won’t give up until we get it, either,” said Danno, more confidently than he felt.
The Powell case had unfolded quickly at first. Tommy Powell, a 23 year-old mainlander, had moved with his sister and ailing mother to Honolulu two years earlier, ostensibly for Mrs. Powell to be near her remaining relatives, cousins in Pearl City. Tommy immediately began adding to his substantial rap sheet, but the charges were all minor. The month he spent in jail for breaking a man’s arm in a fight was typical. A year ago, however, Tommy straightened up, and HPD ceased paying regular visits to his mother’s home. It should have been a good sign, but instead, Tommy Powell began showing up in surveillance photos of known drug middlemen throughout the islands, which coincided with a marked increase in heroin sales and distribution in Honolulu. It was the same pushers and the same middlemen, but more distribution and a higher death toll among the island junkies. The piece that didn’t fit the puzzle was the new face, Tommy Powell, and his role in it all, and after the ninth junkie death in four weeks, the case left HPD vice for Five-0.
The investigation hit rock bottom when Judge Iverson refused permission for a wire tap on Tommy’s business phone in the small office he ran his fly-by-the-seat-of-the-pants delivery service. Since then the Five-0 crew had watched Tommy Powell and every associate he had made contact with for the last month, but as if he was on to them, Powell hadn’t contacted anyone even remotely involved in drug trafficking since HPD’s initial surveillance. Still, they watched and waited.
Steve paced around his desk. “It’s not right, Danno,” he announced, his eyes narrowing. “All of it. There’s something very wrong.”
Danny raised his eyebrows expectantly. “Are we looking at it from the wrong angle?”
“Not so much the wrong angle,” answered McGarrett, “as not seeing what’s plain from this angle.”
“Steve, we haven’t seen a thing from this angle,” Danny returned, frowning.
“Exactly, Danno. The reason we can’t catch Powell with his hands dirty is because he isn’t doing anything.” McGarrett stopped and waited for Danny’s response.
“Am I reading you right? You think Powell is clean?” Danny asked, incredulous.
Steve shook his head. “Not clean, Danno. Inactive.” He paused for emphasis, then continued. “He doesn’t have to do anything, because he has set up such an intricate system that it can run smoothly independent of Tommy Powell. This kid—he’s smart, and he’s mature. This is the kind of set up we’d expect from a Tony Alika. With a start like this, Tommy Powell is setting himself up to become thepower in these islands for years to come.”
“Steve…it sounds like we’re back to square one.” Danny squelched a moan.
“I don’t think so, Danno. The clues are there; we just have to dig deeper, and we’re going to start by pulling every HPD file on Powell again and putting them under a microscope. I want those things memorized, and I want them pulled apart, piece by piece, name by name.” Steve had a head full of steam now, and he dropped into the chair behind his desk.
“Don’t tell me,” Danny said wrily, “takeouts again?”
There was a ghost of a smile on McGarrett’s face. “Yeah, Danno, but this time, let’s try to keep the sweet and sour sauce inside the box. My desk still hasn’t recovered from the last fiasco,” he bantered. A weary Dan Williams trudged to his desk in search of their favorite Chinese takeout menu.
“What about the family?” Steve asked. The assembled Five-0 team sat in his office, taking notes, drinking coffee and throwing out ideas. Chin was the first to respond.
“Mother, Ida Powell, of Atlanta, Cincinnati and LA. Widowed at age 42. No criminal record, but not much other records, either. Never held a job, not much paper trail. Moved from LA over here two and a half years ago.” Chin flipped his pocket notebook shut.
“Steve, we’ve gone over her before,” said Ben, “she checks out clean.”
“I realize this is running over familiar territory, gentlemen, but there is something, somewhere, that we’ve missed. I agree that Mrs. Powell looks clean, but if she’s answered or made one phone call for Tommy, then she’s involved. There has got to be a chink in this kid’s armor, and we’ve got to find it, wherever it may be. Even if it’s distasteful to be checking up on old ladies.” Steve rubbed his eyes and then asked, “OK, what about the sister?”
“She’s a nice girl, Steve,” said Danny.
Steve raised his eyebrows. “OK, shoot, Danno. Impress me.”
Danny grinned and began: “Donna Powell, age 33. Graduated from high school with honors, won scholarship to Ohio State. Attended for nearly two years, then quit to take care of her mother, who was fighting cancer at the time. Seems she got the bug for taking care of people. After her mother came through the cancer, Donna took jobs with other sick people, living with them, taking care of them.”
“So, she’s a nurse?” asked Steve.
“No, never went to school for it. Her priest would let her know who needed care, and she provided it. Usually for nothing.”
“A saint, huh?” Steve gently mocked. “What’s she up to now?”
“She divides her time between her mother, who’s ill with emphysema, and St. Damon’s school. She’s for real, Steve,” Danny finished, his admiration unmistakable.
Steve stuck out his chin, shaking his head. “Opposites of that magnitude in the same gene pool, same upbringing? I don’t buy it. Maybe I’m too old and cynical, but nobody’s that clean.” He sighed heavily, and made a sudden decision on an idea he’d been toying with. “I’m going to send in Duke Lukela, in from the family angle. He’ll have just the right cover to be attractive to Tommy’s operation, so he can work both ends.” He looked up. “Any questions?”
“We’ll keep at it from here, Steve. With all our bases covered, something will turn up. Something we can nail Tommy Powell with,” Danny assured him. With that, the others gathered up their files and notebooks and filtered out of Steve’s office.
Steve stared out across the Palace lawn with unseeing eyes. He had used Duke many times, in fact, the running joke was which department was signing Duke’s paychecks. He was a good man, a specialist. With Ben leaving Five-0 at the end of next month, Steve needed to find a replacement. The obvious choice was Duke, but he hadn’t approached him yet about it. There was time for that later. Shaking himself, Steve punched his phone. “Jenny, get me Duke Lukela.”
Duke paused for only a moment at the gate to the Powell residence. His cover was Phil Kapala, supervisor of the visiting respiratory therapists who cared for Mrs. Powell, and his duties included fielding patient complaints and following up on them. He shut the gate behind him and strode to a door shaded by a front porch. Seeing no doorbell, he rapped hard enough to be heard through two thicknesses of doors. A slim, pale woman opened the door with an enquiring “Yes?”
Duke recited his credentials and explained his mission quickly, ending with “I have here a copy of a phone complaint made by Mrs. Powell, and I was hoping to be able to discuss it with you both. Is this a good time?”
“Complaint?” the woman asked, bewildered. “Oh…yes. Mother and her complaints. Yes, today is fine—please come in.” When she opened the screen door, Duke was better able to see her features. Young, pretty, dark hair loosely pulled back by a gold barrette, green sparkling eyes. Regular, pleasing features, but nothing special.
Duke stepped into the house and accepted the chair offered him. “I’ll get Mother,” Donna Powell said as she disappeared through a doorway. In a few minutes, the daughter returned supporting her mother’s arm. Mrs. Powell shuffled over to a chair used to her weight and eased herself into it, while Donna carefully positioned an oxygen tank close to the chair. After the amenities were exchanged, Duke asked the older woman for the cause of her complaint.
“Complaint? I should say I did complain,” she said. She spoke staccato-like, in between gasps for breath. “Last Thursday—that little gal you sent me—she tried to kill me!”
“Mother!” cried Donna, mortified. “Mother, don’t exaggerate—tell the truth!”
“The therapist, I believe it was Evelyn?” offered Duke.
“Evelyn, whatever. You switch them around so much, I never can remember their names.” Mrs. Powell eyed Duke, watching to see if he noticed the jab.
Refusing to take her bait, Duke said, “Mrs. Powell, you have just made a very serious accusation. Why don’t you try to relax and tell me exactly what happened last Thursday.”
Leaning forward in her seat, the older woman began again. “Yes, last Thursday, Evelyn came to the house—late as usual—and came up to my bedroom. I was too ill to come downstairs. I often am, much more often than I let on,” she reported smugly. Her chest heaved from the exertion of speaking, and Duke tried not to be alarmed by it. He told himself that neither woman would risk Mrs. Powell’s coming downstairs if they thought it was dangerous to her. He stifled a shudder; he had always been skittish around the sick, and avoided them whenever possible. He smiled weakly to encourage the woman’s story.
“So, she came into my room, as she always did, carrying that breathing contraption with her, and I told her, I said ‘Evelyn, I can’t possibly breathe into that thing today. I am simply too ill.’ And what do you think she did?” asked Mrs. Powell, warming to her story.
“I’m waiting for you to tell me, Mrs. Powell,” said Duke in as trategice a tone as he could muster. He snuck a glance at Donna, who shrugged slightly.
“She ignored every word I said, just like I hadn’t said a thing,” the irate patient continued. “If there’s one thing I hate, it’s being treated like I’m senile, like I don’t know what I’m talking about.” She checked Duke’s expression to make sure he was listening. “But it gets better, Mr. Kapala. She stuck that machine in my mouth and told me to exhale, before I could even catch a breath to begin with. I struggled with her while she shouted ‘Come on, Mrs. Powell, BREATHE!’ It was assault and battery, and probably with intent to kill! The girl is a menace!” She finished by swinging her leg onto the coffee table with a flourish.
Duke scribbled for a few minutes in the notebook he was carrying. “What are you writing?” the invalid wanted to know.
“This is my report, Mrs. Powell. I have to make a detailed report on all your complaints, not only for our records, but legally Evelyn is entitled to know all of the complaints filed against her before I can fire her,” he answered solemnly.
“Fire her?” Mrs. Powell croaked. She leaned back in her chair. “I didn’t say I wanted her fired. Can’t you just yell at her?”
“Mrs. Powell, what you have told me is very serious. If Evelyn has harmed one of her patients, besides possible criminal charges, she should certainly be out of this profession. Although this is the first complaint we’ve ever had concerning her work, I think you would have to agree with me on this,” Duke continued.
“But, well, I never meant for her to get in trouble. I mean, she’s shown me pictures of her kids.” Ida Powell began backpeddling, looking first at Duke and then Donna.
Taking her cue, Donna rose and faced her mother. “Mother, what do you want done? We’ll do what you want; it doesn’t matter about Evelyn’s kids.”
Her mother turned to her, aghast. “Doesn’t matter? That’s because you’ve never had kids. You don’t know what a mother suffers because of her kids, how they break her heart, how she has to work long and hard to give them what they need. How could you say something so cruel, and in front of your own sick mother?” Ida tugged her hemline down that had been creeping up her leg and set both feet on the floor impatiently. “Help me to my room,” she ordered.
“But Mrs. Powell,” pleaded Duke. “What about your complaint? We need to set this thing in motion as soon as we can.”
“Forget the complaint—what’s wrong with you? Don’t you have any decency?” she puffed as Donna helped her out of the room. Duke allowed himself to grin when he was alone and shake his head. As soon as Donna returned to the room, she dissolved in a fit of laughter. Duke was astonished at how her delight lit up the room, and he joined in.
“Oh, Mr. Kapala, I’m afraid you’ve wasted your afternoon,” she giggled. “I’m so sorry—Mother is that way. Every once in a while, she has to make sure that we’re all listening to her by saying something outrageous.” She stopped laughing and said more seriously, “Evelyn is a good therapist, as I know you’re aware. I would hate it if she ever heard about this.”
Duke trategi his trategice. “Maybe under all her bluster your mother is lonely. Can she get out at all?” he asked solicitously.
Donna looked at him, her green eyes soft. “You’re very kind, Mr. Kapala, especially after all we’ve put you through today.” She blushed and laughed a little, unconsciously smoothing her hair in the back. “In answer to your question, no, she doesn’t go out. I think she could if she had the desire, but I can’t convince her to try. But thank you for your concern.”
“That sounds like a dismissal,” said Duke. “I was hoping that you’d let me ask you one more thing before I left.”
Flustered, she sputtered, “No, I wasn’t—I only—yes, go ahead and ask.”
Duke smiled. “Do you ever get out? And would you consider having dinner with me?” The flush in her face deepened. Duke rose and took her by the arm, leading her to the front door. “Can I pick you up at six?” he asked softly. She nodded and smiled shyly at him. “I’ll be ready.” She opened the door for him and he paused on the porch. “Until six,” he said, and giving a short wave, her turned and walked to his car. She was still watching him through the curtains when he drove off. Initial contact made, he thought.
Two weeks later found Duke, as Phil Kapala, fondly accepted by the Powell women into their lives. Donna had proven to be a charming dinner companion, if a little shy, and Duke felt he was making ground in gaining her trust. Ida Powell, once she had determined to be civil, had welcomed him as a suiter to a daughter who seldom dated; therefore, she embarrassed Donna at every turn by her exuberance. He had yet to meet the other member of the family, Tommy.
Duke eased his car into the parking lot of St. Damon’s and glanced at his watch. It was 3:00 in the afternoon, and Donna should be exiting the school any time now. He hadn’t told her he was coming to pick her up; he wanted to surprise her. As he waited he mulled the case over in his mind and attempted to quell any pangs of conscience. He had done undercover work before, so his nerves weren’t acting up. It had taken him a couple of hours the night before as he tossed and turned before finally falling asleep to realize that the better part of him didn’t much like this assignment. Oh, he knew that Tommy Powell was probably everything Steve believed him to be, and he recognized the importance of shutting down his operation. Duke hated drugs and what he saw them do to the youth of the islands. No, it wasn’t nailing Tommy Powell that was bothering him; it was the method he had to use. Was the fact that the case was dead in the water otherwise mean that lying, cheating and hurting innocent people was OK? He stared out the window toward the stairs of the church. There was an element of dishonesty in all police undercover work—look at the vice guys. He was well aware of that. Lie to the enemy, get him to trust you, and when he lowers his guard, get him. Duke knew the procedure and had won a citation or two utilizing it. But this girl…she bothered him. She wasn’t a gun moll, or the shady hooker down on her luck. This girl was—what was she? The only word Duke could come up with that described her was “good.” She was good, through and through. He remembered enough from parochial school to recognize it, and as much as he tried to squelch it, the nagging thought dogged him—what kind of hope for himself could he have if he betrayed that goodness? Duke, bruddah, this is no time to recite the catechism, he told himself. Police work can be dirty, but it’s for a greater good. He had to remember that, and not get so caught up in Donna Powell that he forgot his mission.
The children had poured out of school twenty minutes before and still Donna hadn’t appeared. Duke got out of the car and headed toward the heavy wooden door of the church. It took a minute for his eyes to adjust to the dimness inside. The familiar scent of incense reached him immediately, and he realized that Exposition of the Blessed Sacrament was taking place. His eyes searched the handful of people kneeling in their pews for Donna; he saw her form on the right, three or four pews from the front, head bowed. In the front, the monstrance blazed, bathed in light. For an uncertain moment, Duke wondered if he should disturb her. He decided against it and turned to leave, nearly colliding with an old man who had stopped at the holy water font. Confusedly, he dipped his hand in the font, dropped quickly to one knee and crossed himself in one motion. Then he fled, feeling utterly miserable.
That evening Duke arrived in better spirits than he had sported in the afternoon, thanks to a phone call to McGarrett. Duke hadn’t told him his misgivings, but Steve had a way of looking at a case with clear vision, and soon Duke was thinking the same way. Tonight was dinner at home; Ida had developed a craving for the pork barbecue that she loved as a girl in Atlanta, and the pork had been cooking all day in the crockpot. Ida had insisted on Duke trying the delicacy when he admitted to never having eaten it, so a casual evening was set for sandwiches, potato salad, and whatever else they could dream up. Duke entered the house carrying a bag of chips and a six pack of beer, and was welcomed by Ida’s bearhug.
The evening went well, as he knew it would, and to his surprise, the sandwich deserved all the pre-dinner ravings. While Duke and Donna were cleaning up the dishes, they heard a squeal from Ida. Alarmed, Duke ran into the family room where Ida was seated, and found her hugging a young man with dark hair. Instinctively, he knew it was Tommy. Donna came from behind him and held her arms out for her brother; Tommy laughed and hugged her, and then sniffed the air. “Barbecue? Did I miss barbecue?” He was hustled to the kitchen for a plate of leftovers, where he finally noticed Duke. “I don’t believe I know you,” Tommy said quietly, the smile fading from his face. His eyes locked on Duke’s and held his there challengingly.
“Oh, Tommy—I’m so glad you’re here! I’ve wanted you to meet Phil so much. Phil Kapala, this is my little brother, Tommy Powell. Tommy, this is Phil, and he has just learned a lesson in appreciation for Mama’s barbecue,” Donna said happily, her eyes dancing.
Warily, Tommy shook Duke’s hand. “Pleased to meet you, Tommy. Donna speaks of you a great deal—something about being able to beat you up when you were youngsters.” Duke’s attempt at breaking the ice seemed to work. Tommy gave a tug on Donna’s hair and said, “Yeah. I think she was thirteen and I was three.” They all laughed and Duke and Donna resumed the clean up while Tommy went back to sit with his mother.
The rest of the evening passed uneventfully; the presence of the newcomer Duke prompted family reminiscence of the typical episodes of childhood. Through it all Duke observed Tommy, unwilling to let any trait or characteristic escape his notice. The young man seemed friendly enough, but there was a reserve about him; not one that eminated from his personality, but from his profession. This was a man who, despite his youth, had learned to distrust. This caused an air of disingenuousness that Duke guessed was unintended on Tommy’s part, yet it was there. How a brother could be phony while recounting childish pranks Duke couldn’t understand, and he almost doubted his summation of it, until he glanced at Donna midway through a story and saw a vague frown crease her forehead.
Ida soon tired and Donna helped her upstairs. The night air was warm and Tommy suggested that Duke join him out on the porch. After pulling a couple of beers from the refrigerator, Duke readily complied. As they sat in the darkness the questions from Tommy began. The incident of meeting Donna was easily explained and put to rest. Then the probing began more subtly.
“Well, I might be the kid brother, but I still have to look out for my sis. No offense,” said Tommy, half-chuckling.
Duke took a pull from his bottle and replied, “No offense taken. I’d think you were a pretty sorry brother if you didn’t grill me a little.”
Tommy eyed him for a few moments, then asked softly, “So…what did you say you did for a living?” Duke reached for his wallet and produced a business card. “Whoa—personnel supervisor, InterIsland Respiratory Therapy. Impressive.”
Duke snorted. “Yeah, it sounds good, doesn’t it? I could wish the salary was a little more impressive.”
“I noticed that wasn’t a Jag parked in front of the house,” laughed Tommy. He swilled the last third of his bottle. “You drive a heap.”
Duke thinly disguised a belch and said, “It’s paid for, that’s all I care about now. It’s paid for, and it gets me where I have to go. I had to turn in my ‘vette.”
Tommy fingered his beer bottle, passing it slowly from hand to hand. “Turn it in? How come?”
Duke sighed heavily. “I went banko, about two years ago. I made some bum investments and ended up about neck deep. I didn’t have any other choice, as much as I hated to do it. It hurts the pride, but it did get the creditors off my back. I’m debt-free now, but I’m still trying to adjust to paying cash for everything. It pretty much means just going without. I got my real estate license the middle of last year, but I haven’t scared up much business there.”
“Tough,” Tommy murmured, letting Duke keep talking.
“It isn’t like I’m trying to get rich, although I wouldn’t complain about that. It’s just that I can’t stand to drive by the guy’s house who eventually bought my ‘vette. The son of a bitch keeps it out in the weather. That just tears me up, like it’s the symbol of the way things are going in my life,” Duke continued. He looked at Tommy. “But things are changing. Meeting Donna has meant a lot to me. I can’t help but think that something’s gonna give.”
“Yeah,” was Tommy’s only comment. He had taken in every word although he made no sign of his alertness. Duke didn’t wait for further reaction, and the two sat in relative silence for another few minutes until Donna rejoined them. Tommy took his leave almost immediately, and sped off into the night. Duke pleaded an early morning, and Donna walked him to his car.
“Well, what do you think of him?” Donna’s question jolted him.
“He seems like a nice enough kid, Donna, but he’ll never be accused of being the life of the party,” Duke answered, smiling lightly.
She looked at him a bit oddly, then smiled back. “Thank you for coming, Phil. And thank you for trying so hard to blend in. You have a gift for making people feel comfortable around you.” She didn’t know that her words, meant as a compliment, had cut Duke. He looked away and fumbled for his keys.
She laid her hand on his arm. “Did I say something wrong, Phil?” Duke saw the hurt in her eyes. “No, Donna, nothing wrong.” He brought his fingers up to her chin. “You have a gift yourself—the gift of raising others up to your own level. I feel it every time I’m with you,” he said honestly. He meant to turn then and drive away, but instead bent to kiss her lightly on the lips. His surprise was complete when she didn’t push him away, and they lingered some minutes until Duke reluctantly made his apologies and left her, still standing just out of range of the street light.
Steve’s knife clanged against his plate as he abruptly stopped buttering his toast. “What did you say?”
Duke took another breath and said, more calmly this time, “Take me off the case, Steve. I’m getting in deeper that I can handle.” He hated the sound of his voice while he was saying it.
“Duke, you were handpicked for this assignment. You have every quality, every attribute of a great undercover officer. Now, I knowthat you’re the man for this job,” retorted Steve. They had met at Duke’s aunt’s house for breakfast to talk over the case and its progress.
Duke stared at his plate, his fork moving the scrambled eggs from one end to the other. “Steve, I know the confidence you have in me, and I appreciate it, God knows I do. Saying this to you isn’t easy; I’m probably cutting my own throat career-wise. But Steve, I just can’t do it to her.”
Steve opened his mouth to speak, and then shut it. He took a swallow of coffee and then asked, “Are you becoming romantically involved with Donna Powell?” He held his cup in both hands, elbows resting on the table.
Duke met McGarrett’s piercing gaze. “Yes, but it’s more than that. It’s—there’s something special about her, an innocence, an inner goodness. I tell you, Steve, I feel like the devil himself, like evil incarnate when I think of the lies I’m telling her, and what the upshot of all this will be. For her and for me.” He couldn’t say anything more; he shrugged his shoulders and sighed heavily.
Steve’s expression softened. “Duke…undercover work is never easy. You know that, we both do. We’ve both done it, and every time we do, we lose a little bit of ourselves in the process. It comes with the territory.” He set his cup down and tapped his finger on the table. “But, my friend, these are sacrifices that we have to make, ugly as they might be, because whatever water we muddy, whatever sunlight we dim, pales in significance compared to the evil we are ridding this town, this island of. I know it can sound trite to talk about the greater good because we so easily can lose sight of it, but, Duke, it’s there and it’s worth fighting for, even fighting ourselves for. I don’t want for Miss Powell to be hurt. I don’t like it when the innocent suffer. But I hate it even more when someone evil preys on those innocent ones. That’s not you, Duke; that’s Tommy Powell. His sister can’t help but be hurt, but that’s because of Tommy, not you. He’s at the root of all of this heartache.” There was genuine feeling in Steve’s voice. “You’ve made contact with him now, Duke. You know very well that it will take months before we can move in another man. How many more will be hurt and even die until then? Three teens in Hilo sharing a needle last night—gone today.” McGarrett didn’t like the guilt trip he was loading on Duke, but he had to finish. “Make Tommy pay, Duke. Do it for the kids of Hawaii. Do it because of the greater good, and our duty to it.”
Inside, Duke was in agony, but he listened silently, his face a mask. He knew the truth of his own feelings, but he also knew that the words Steve spoke so passionately were true, too. With each question so heavy in consequence, so supported by right, he had to let something else decide for him, and he gave in to duty. “OK, Steve,” he choked, “I’ll stay with it. I’ll give it my best shot.”
Steve rose from the table, putting his hand on Duke’s shoulder. “I know you will, Duke. I’ve never had any reason to question that.” Picking up his suit jacket, he called his thanks to Duke’s aunt, who beamed. Turning back to Duke, he shook his hand, saying, “As always, keep us apprised,” and he disappeared through the back door.
Murmuring automatic responses to his aunt’s parting words, Duke took his leave, facing a day of waiting to see if his bait was snapped up. He turned up the radio in his car in a feeble attempt to drown out the thoughts that thundered through his brain, and tried not to see Donna’s face in the early morning rain falling down.
Back at Phil Kapala’s headquarters, there were two different phone lines; one for residence, one for work. Duke could freely answer the former, but the latter was trategic through the communications truck a block away and answered by one of the team as “InterIsland Respiratory Therapy”. Then the call would be put through to Duke.
By two in the afternoon, the waiting game was already getting old for Duke. The business card he handed to Tommy Powell contained both phone numbers, so either phone could ring. Duke’s staring holes in them didn’t cause them to make any noise, he learned. He stood up and walked the circuit around the front room of the bungalow, scraping the bottom of the carton of moo goo gai pan. Having stripped it clean, he close the lid and jumped shot it into the trash can in the kitchen. His follow-through was disrupted by the jarring ring of the InterIsland phone. He stared at it and waited for the light to come on, indicating its readiness for him. At last the light flashed and Duke trate the receiver. “This is Phil Kapala,” he said. At first there was no sound, and then a voice spoke: “Phil. This is Tommy Powell.”
Duke took a deep breath—everything depended on the success of this call. “Sure, Tommy. What can I do for you? Is your mother OK?” he asked, measuring his words carefully.
“She’s fine, yeah. Look, I called you about a little business proposition. If you’d be willing to do it, it’ll mean some serious bread.”
“Yeah, I’d be interested, but what kind of business is it?” Duke didn’t want to appear eager beyond care.
“I don’t want to talk about it over the phone. Can you meet me somewhere—say, tonight, at Draper’s? I’ll meet you outside. Eight o’clock.”
Duke gave his assent and the conversation ended. He took off his glasses and rubbed his eyes. So, he thought, the ball is rolling. Well, the sooner it goes down, the sooner I can forget all this. He stared morosely out at the continuing drizzle, and waited.
The meeting in downtown Honolulu went smoothly. After Tommy and Duke settled down to drinks at a booth along the wall, the details were explained. Duke was to fly to Los Angeles carrying a locked trateg case. He was to make contact with a Joey Padrino, leave the case with him, go back to his hotel room and wait for Padrino’s call. He was then to follow his instructions carefully, and then take the next flight back to Honolulu. All told, a simple courier job worth five thousand dollars to Duke. Duke’s alter ego, Kapala, asked few questions. It was obvious to Tommy that he knew what the score was, and the gleam in Kapala’s eyes at the mention of five thousand bucks told him that this guy was just greedy enough to make a good courier.
“OK, remember that you wait for Joey to call you. He’ll have one more thing for you to do on his end, that I don’t have nothing to do with. As soon as you finish that, you can come back. Simple as that,” instructed Tommy, leaning back with one leg stretched across his side of the booth seat. He took a drag from his cigarette and eyed Duke through the smoke. “Any questions?”
Duke swirled his swizzle stick around in his drink. “Nah. Seems straightforward to me and it should go off without a hitch. I’ll fly out tomorrow morning.” He stood up and tossed a five dollar bill on the table. “Tommy…I can really use the money. I appreciate the call—and I won’t let you down,” he said, reaching out to shake Powell’s hand. Tommy grasped the offered hand and shook it, saying “I’ll see you at the office tomorrow morning, early.” Duke nodded and turned, surreptitiously noting every other face in the bar as he walked out.
The night air had cooled off some and Duke welcomed its refreshment. He felt rejuvenated, not just from the night breeze, but mainly because at last the case was moving, really moving, and this time with the focus on the bad guy. Duke had felt thoroughly revolted when Tommy met him at the entrance to Draper’s. It was in a seedier part of the city, and so it wasn’t a surprise when a kid, who couldn’t have been twenty yet, approached the two of them, muttering something about breaking his fingernail and it causing him to die. The kid was obviously strung out. Tommy pushed his way past the kid, shoving him against the stucco outer wall of the bar. The boy didn’t give any indication of feeling his face scrape against the rough exterior, but he was bleeding when he looked up. “Loser,” Tommy snorted derisively and stepped around him. Duke shuddered at the coldness of this enemy, and felt his resolve to destroy Tommy’s poisonous business grow exponentially.
He drove straight home to his cover bungalow. From there he placed a call to McGarrett, recounting the meeting and the details of his impending mission. He slept better that night than he had for two weeks.
Steve placed the receiver back in its cradle and picked back up his half-eaten slice of pizza. “He sounds a lot better, Danno. I think he just needed for something to happen,” he said, catching a piece of green pepper before it hit the desk. He popped it into his mouth. “Duke is a good man, one of the best. It’s a tribute to his decency that he feels the way he does about that girl. He’s got to feel sorry for her—who wouldn’t? Look at her draw for a brother.”
Danny was wiping tomato sauce off his chin. “You’re probably right, to a point. But I think Duke runs deeper than that. He wouldn’t have said to you what he did unless he felt it, strongly. He probably is falling in love with her. More coffee?”
Steve shook his head. “If he is falling in love with her, then we’ve got a problem. There’s no way he can be impartial to her and her involvement if he’s that attracted to her.”
Danny almost choked. “Wait a minute—you still think that she has some involvement in this? Steve, come on! She checks out in every way.”
Smirking, Steve answered, “Oh, I realize she has a cheering section here at Five-0 headquarters.” Danny chuckled and picked up another slice. “But what I contend,” Steve continued, “is that she checked out on paper fine, but when it came down to face-to-face, my man folded, didn’t really give her that hard, impartial once-over. I’m not saying that she’s masterminding the operation, not at all. I’m submitting that we could have missed something about her.” He glanced down at the dry crust he was holding, made a face, and lobbed it into the trash.
He thought for a moment, then Danny said, “Duke is leaving tomorrow, so he can’t reassess her, and, like you said, he’s too close to even try. What are you going to do?”
“I’m going to bring her in, just to talk. I want to see what will fall from the tree if I shake it,” he said, wiping his hands on a paper napkin.
Danny stood up and shook the crumbs from his pants. “Just don’t break the tree,” he said quietly. Steve shot him a dirty look that softened almost immediately. He knew what Danny meant. “OK, Danno,” he said, pouring him another cup of strong brew. The two talked about the ins and outs of the case until the wee hours.
Donna received the summons to McGarrett’s office while she was listening to some of the slower readers in the third grade read aloud on the lawn in back of St. Damon’s. Fr. Frazier, the retired priest who continued on to help in the parish, delivered the phone message and took over the duties of listening to the children.
She hurried to her car, afraid that Tommy had returned to his old ways once again. She was especially alarmed that this time it was the state police who wished to see her, instead of HPD. She drove quickly to the Iolani Palace and parked. The palace was an imposing structure, and the offices it contained could be even more imposing. She swallowed down her fear and stepped from the car. In a few minutes, she was ushered into Steve McGarrett’s office by a diminutive redhead. She paused at the door.
“Come in, Miss Powell; sit down,” came a voice from behind the large trategi desk. A man sat there with his head down, studying some papers. She obeyed and waited. When Steve finally rose from his desk and studied her, he was surprised at how little there was remarkable about her. After such a big buildup, he supposed that he was expecting flowing blond hair and a harp. He walked around the side of his desk and perched on the corner of it.
“Miss Powell,” he began, measuring his words carefully, “you probably know why I asked you to come here.” Steve watched her reaction. The bewildered look on her face betrayed no rehearsal; she shook her head and said “No, not at all.”
OK, subtle won’t do. Let’s try direct. “Miss Powell, your brother has been in and out of trouble since he hit these islands some two years ago,” he announced trateg, walking back behind his desk.
“Yes, I know that. He didn’t seem to know what to do with himself, and he consistently allowed himself to be influenced by the wrong people,” Donna replied, meeting McGarrett’s scrutinizing gaze openly. “Mother and I have been terribly worried about him. But things have changed since then. Tommy isn’t going to bars any more, and he isn’t fighting or stealing, either. He has a job, the first he’s had since we moved here, and he’s making something of himself.” She smiled, full of hope for her brother.
“And you really believe that?” Steve asked her.
“Of course I believe it. I’ve seen it, Mr. McGarrett. I’ve seen a change in Tommy, a change clearly for the better. He’s happier. He doesn’t fight with Mother any more. I think his having a job and spending money has done a lot for his self-esteem,” she countered.
“Well, Miss Powell, if income has any bearing on your brother’s self-esteem, you can rest assured that he has a high opinion of himself. We figure Tommy to be well on his way to being a very wealthy young man,” McGarrett said slowly.
“What do you mean, Mr. McGarrett? What are you trying to say? You know as well as I do that he only just started his delivery service,”said Donna, uncertainly. She was frowning now, her eyes fearful.
Steve toyed with a pencil on his desk, wondering momentarily how much he should lay on her. He decided to dump it all. “Three years ago, there was a multi-force, major sting operation in Honolulu that effectively made dealing in heroin a loser’s game. The racketeers that were rounded up all drew heavy sentences, and the upshot was that the supply practically dried up. There were some small-timers left, but they represented only a tiny percentage of what had been a major underground industry.” He paused and met her eyes, then continued, “Several months ago, your brother made contact with what was left of the operation. He moved in with his own suppliers, middlemen and runners, and he set up what is turning out to be a larger operation by far than what was weeded out here three years ago. Your brother Tommy is a drug-dealing hotshot, who cares nothing for the loss of life and innocence of the kids he supplies habits to. Self-esteem? Oh, he’s got it, all right,” he snapped.
The color and expression drained so quickly from Donna’s face that Steve thought she was going to faint. She gripped the arm of her chair to steady herself and stared at him, horror-stricken. She said nothing for a full minute. “You’re sure of this?” Her voice was barely recognizable, almost a whisper. “You have the evidence?”
It was Steve’s turn to squirm, but he hid his discomfort. “We don’t have everything we need yet to put him away, but we’re working on it, night and day. We’re close,” he claimed, more smugly than the facts perhaps suggested. “We’ll get him.”
Donna felt quite ill and was on the verge of tears. She summoned all her strength to stand; she couldn’t faint in this office, the office of Tommy’s enemy, no matter how right he might be. She took a step and fell to her knees. Steve was at her side instantly and helped her to her feet. Pushing him away, she blindly turned and hurried out the door, tears streaming down her face.
Jenny set down an armload of file folders and stuck her head in Steve’s office. Steve stood, frowning, as Donna’s form disappeared through the main office doorway. “Is everything OK, Boss?” Jenny wanted to know.
Sighing, Steve hung his head and leaned wearily back against his desk. “I don’t know, Jenny. Does God ever cry?”
The drop went off without event. Padrino had met Duke at the airport where he handed over the briefcase, then they drove to the airport Hilton. There Duke waited for Joey’s call. As he waited, he recalled a boardgame his niece had played when she was little. He sometimes had watched her set up an elaborate combination of chutes, tubes and wheels, just so she could put the little silver ball in motion and watch it travel down the maze to the end. Mousetrap. That’s what this is, he thought. It was nearly 5:30 when Joey finally called. His instructions were for Duke to take a cab to E&B’s garage and tell them that he was there to pick up the church van. They would be advised that he was coming, and would give him the keys to the van without incident. Duke was to then drive the van into central LA to St. Ignatius Loyola church, where Joey would meet him again.
The garage was located east in Inglewood and the cab let Duke off there just after six. A grimy mechanic came out to meet him. “You the guy from the church?” he asked disinterestedly. Duke nodded his assent and the mechanic dug in his pocket. After grunting a few times, he produced a key. “Over there,” he indicated by a jerk of his thumb, and tossed the key to Duke. Traffic was heavy but Duke eased the blue van into the church parking in good time. Unsure of what to do next, he waited inside the van.
The dark, slight Padrino approached the driver side of the van from the rear. “Back it up, right up to the door on the side,” he directed. Duke made the move and then hopped out of the van. “What’s next?” he asked lightly.
Joey indicated the door. “In here,” he muttered as they stepped down a short flight of stairs to a storage area. Inside were several waist-high stacks of boxes, about 15 inches long and eight inches high. Joey separated ten of these boxes from the others. “Let’s get these into the van.” The boxes had some weight to them but were managed easily by the two. Duke noticed that they were all addressed, ready for shipment by the postal service, to ten different Catholic churches in the islands. Slamming the back door of the van shut, Duke stood with his hands on his hips. “What next?”
Padrino handed him a shipping form, filled out in triplicate. “There’s a post office, three blocks away. Knock on the side door and they’ll service you,” he said.
“The post office is open? It’s nearly seven,” Duke observed.
“They sort their packages this time of night. There’s a couple of church members working there—they’re good about taking our packages after hours.” Padrino looked at Duke. “There’s an Amoco station just around the corner from the post office. Drive the van there and leave it parked behind. Put the key under the passenger side mat and lock the doors. A cab’ll meet you there to take you back to the hotel. That’s it.” He stuck out his hand and Duke shook it, then he pulled away in the van.
It didn’t surprise him that he was delivering boxes, but it did surprise Duke to see them all addressed to island churches. He trategic the names of a few; they were legitimate addresses. To think that those churches were involved, all of them, in the Powell operation was ludicrous. How did this all fit together? Duke was stumped. He delivered the packages with no trouble, and ditched the van. Back in his room a little later, he stewed about his actions and his inability to see through what was going on. Could we be wrong?He thought. Maybe Tommy Powell is clean on this count. A piece of crap, sure, but not a doper. It would prove to be another fitful night for Duke.
The back room of the Lu Chen dry cleaners was cramped but adequate for the brief meeting between Duke and McGarrett. All the details were painstakingly recounted by Duke, who summed up, “I just don’t understand it, Steve. I delivered packages from a church basement, to a post office, to be sent to a scattering of churches here on the island. I just don’t see the chink in the armor, and it makes me wonder if there is one to be seen. Could we be wrong?”
McGarrett shook his head forcefully. “Not a chance, not a chance! Every bit of evidence we need, we have here right under our noses. It looks like a foolproof plan, Duke, but I’d be willing to stake my life on its being real and close enough to smell. Count on it,” he said emphatically.
“What’s our next move?” Duke looked like he’d been through the wringer, and it wasn’t lost on Steve. He patted Duke on the shoulder. “Wait,” he said. “From our end, we’ll follow up on those boxes as soon as they hit the islands.” He made for the door and then looked back. “Duke, I talked to Donna.”
At the mention of her name Duke tensed up. “And?”
“I felt like I had to push her a bit, just to be certain that she had no knowledge of all this. I may have pushed her too hard. I hope not,” Steve finished.
Duke’s expression startled him and he almost thought that he might throw a punch. Duke clenched his teeth until the moment passed, however, and fingered the sleeve of a suit hanging nearby. “I know you did what you thought you had to do, Steve. She thinks I went away on business. I’ll—I’ll stop by and check on her.”
McGarrett nodded and slipped out the door. Duke followed shortly after thanking the owner of the shop, Chin’s uncle, and drove to the Powell residence.
He found Donna sitting on the steps leading to the back porch. She leaned her head against her hand gripping the railing, oblivious of his presence. Her trategice was pale and forlorn. He stood and watched her. All the feelings that had been dulled by the thrill of the chase the past couple of days came flooding back with new intensity. He knew that she knew what crimes her brother was suspected of, and he knew how it must hurt her. What right did he have to comfort her; he who sought her only brother’s ruin? None, he knew, but he had to try.
Duke took a step forward. Hearing it, she turned and saw the one she’d been needing so much. She was off the stairs and in his arms in a flash. He held her tightly and whispered her name; he kissed her eyes, her mouth, and the tears that flowed down unchecked. She held his hand to her cheek and kissed it. They sat back down on the back steps while Duke listened to her recount all that had happened. Then they walked, from street to street, block to block, sometimes hand in hand, sometimes arm in arm. A localized shower made them seek shelter beneath an ancient mimosa, where they kissed again, heady with the sweet perfume of the mimosa blossoms.
“Phil,” trategi Donna, her hand upon his face, “promise me. Promise that you can keep the world from falling apart.”
“I can’t promise you that, darling,” he responded with a catch in his voice. “All I can promise you is today. I know it isn’t enough.”
She reached up to kiss him. “If it’s what we can have, then it’s enough,” she whispered. He stopped her mouth with his before she could say anything else, both of them unaware that the sun had broken through the rain and shone brightly.
Four days later, some ten churches were visited by law officials at the behest of Five-0, and the boxes that had just been received were confiscated. Danny and Chin commandeered the box at St. Stephan’s after much protesting from the parish secretary.
“This was all arranged, days ago,” explained Danny, picking up the box. “Fr. Fred said that we were free to look at anything we wanted.”
“Maybe it’s all right with him, but I think it’s disgraceful for you to pirate our supplies. What is this, the Third Reich?” she harrumphed, snatching the box away.
“Look, lady, we just want to take a peek inside. Make sure everything is in order,” said Chin, holding out his hand. After a bit more wrangling, the box was surrendered, and Chin cut it open with his pocket razor.
After clearing away the packing material, Danny pulled out a large plastic bag, surrounded by bubble wrap. Another cut freed the wrap of the scotch tape holding it, and it fell away, revealing perhaps 1,000 white communion wafers. Two other bags with the same contents were in the box. The secretary muttered something, crossd herself and stalked away. Massaging the bags only confirmed that the only contents were the wafers. Chin and Danny gingerly replaced the three bags, thanked the glaring secretary and beat a hasty retreat.
All over the islands, the scene replayed. Each of the boxes was scrutinized; each was found to contain a month’s supply of wafers.
Steve slammed his fist down on his desk. “No, NO!” he hissed. He swung around to face the window. “Damn,” he said under his breath. “All that work for this.” He took a deep breath and turned around again. “All right, gentlemen, what do we have?” he barked.
“We’ve got ten boxes, thirty bags of communion wafers, and no dope. And four complaints,” rattled off Danny.
“Five,” chimed in Ben. Danny smirked back at him.
“OK, so we’ve got a big, fat zero,” said Steve, the muscle on the side of his face flexing. “What about these churches—why only ten of them? Don’t the others use wafers?” he wanted to know. “They’re all in the Archdiocese of Honolulu. When do the others get theirs?” He looked around the room, his eyes narrowing. “Get on it, Chin.”
“Will do, Boss,” was Chin’s instant reply.
“I want to get Duke in here so he can examine these boxes,” continued McGarrett, glancing toward the stack of empty cardboard cartons on the couch. “I want him to see if these are the same boxes he saw. Oh, I know,” he headed off Danny’s quizzical look, “that he took them to the post office in LA, but I’m taking no chances. This operation is so airtight that we’ve got to check the seemingly impossible along with everything else. Ben, you make contact with Duke and pick him up. Be as unobtrusive as possible.” Ben nodded his assent.
“I’ve got another longshot, Danno,” said Steve.
“As long as it doesn’t involve blue-rinsed church secretaries, I’m game,” Danny replied, his blue eyes dancing.
Steve relaxed enough for a short laugh. “No, nothing to fear on that count. I want you to check out how each of these churches receive their mail and packages. Do the carriers in their areas bring it, or do they make other arrangements for it like some businesses do? Find out what you can.”
“I’m on it, Steve,” said Danny, and the team scattered their separate ways. McGarrett turned again to the blinds, his mind racing. Somewhere, there was a clue, and they had to find it.
In the wee hours of the morning, Duke made his appearance at Five-0 headquarters to examine the boxes. He studied all ten of them closely, then shook his head at Steve. “These are the same boxes, Steve.”
McGarrett moved from his position at the trate doors and sat heavily behind his desk. He switched on his desk lamp and rubbed his eyes. “It’s a disaster, Duke. We’ve got worse than no evidence on him; we’ve got evidence that nothing’s going on at all.” It wasn’t often that he saw Steve so dejected, and Duke dropped his eyes back down to the box he was holding. The light from the lamp shone strongly on the mailing label. He raised his eyes again to say something to bolster Steve’s spirits, but instead he did a doubletake on the box. Bringing the box directly under the lamp, he stared at the label.
Steve watched him and slowly rose from his seat. “What is it, Duke? Do you have something?” His voice was quiet—he was almost afraid to hope.
“Steve,” Duke began slowly, “this label.” He looked up. “The labels on the boxes I saw were addressed in black ink.” He pointed at the writing on the box. “I didn’t see it until you turned on the lamp, but this one is in blue ink. It’s dark, but it’s blue. And look at this one,” he picked up another box. “The black ink was running out when this one was addressed. Look at the last two digits in the zip code—they had to be done again in blue ink. Steve, I think these boxes were trategic.”
“Are you sure?” asked Steve hurriedly.
“I walked these boxes, in bright sunshine, fifteen feet to the back of my van. I looked at each one closely as I carried it. I’m sure,” the older man replied confidently.
Steve grabbed Duke’s hand and shook it. “Good work, Duke. Now,” he thought aloud, pacing around his desk, those labels. Where was the switch made?”
“Had to be at the post office in LA. There’s a man on the inside there, who accepts boxes after hours, adds to their contents, relabels them, and then ships them.”
“Ships them where? That’s the key. Wherever those boxes went, someone on the other end changed the contents, trateg them yet again, and then completed the route by sending them to the proper churches,” mused Steve, tapping his desk with a pencil. “You were in LA on a Monday? OK, we’ll go from there. You’d better get back to the bungalow,” he said as he picked up the receiver.
The Five-0 team finally saw the pieces, one by one, fall into place in the Tommy Powell case during the next few days. LAPD cooperated and provided a much needed break. One of the postal workers sorting mail the night Duke delivered his boxes to be shipped had, strictly against U.S. postal regulations, allowed his brother back in the mailroom to keep him company. This brother, Glenn Lovens, had a hefty criminal record, including assorted drug-trafficking charges. LAPD leaned heavily on the postal worker, who agreed to cooperate. The stage was set for a sting operation.
Meanwhile, back in Honolulu, other bits of information were gathered. Firstly, that it was quite unusual for any parishes in the area to group order out of sync with the rest of the archdiocese. In other words, the archdiocese would do the ordering for the churches, so they all received liturgical supplies at roughly the same time. Secondly, when those materials were sent to the various parishes on Oahu, they were sent by courier, usually a high school age boy in need of an afternoon job. Otherwise, they were sent by an inter-island courier service.
McGarrett gathered his men around him, including Duke, for an update. “All right, gentlemen—the trap is ready to spring. All we need is word of another shipment,” he finished. “Duke, have you seen Tommy since you ran his last errand for him?”
Duke shook his head. “He’s steered clear of his mother’s house, and he hasn’t made any attempt to contact me,” he reported.
“OK,” said McGarrett, shifting his weight to his other foot, “we know where and when the switch is made. We know who does it. The only thing we don’t know is the middle guy—the one who repackages the goods. Now, we’ll have an LAPD man on that Postal Service jet, who will watch those boxes like a hawk.” His eyes rested on Duke. “Duke, old friend, you’re almost to the finish line. Don’t give out,” Steve said, a ghost of a smile on his lips.
“Don’t worry, Steve. It’s too late for that now,” Duke returned, wondering at how convincing his own voice sounded. Events had sped by in the past few days, and his misgivings loomed large.
The meeting broke up and Duke went back to his “cover” home, prepared to wait another two weeks if necessary for the next contact by Tommy. He had been seeing Donna every day and their relationship had become serious. Serious, that is, for Phil Kapala and Donna. He was torn by many conflicting feelings. He knew very well that he had come into this case wide open instead of slammed shut. He hadn’t checked his heart at the door, so to speak, the way a professional would. That in itself smarted; in his mind, Duke had failed the mission, and he’d failed Steve. He wouldn’t likely be considered for another undercover assignment.
Well, screw that anyway, he thought. Which would he rather have happen, get busted down to writing traffic tickets, or lose his soul? He flipped channels by remote control with unseeing eyes. He wanted to wrap up this case and get on with his life. Forget. That’s what he wanted to do. The desire for oblivion was juxtapositioned in Duke’s mind against his desire for a relationship with Donna Powell, a real one; Duke Lukela and Donna Powell. But how was it possible? Could she ever forgive him for the lying? How could she ever believe another word he said to her, once she learned of his duplicity? And that was only if she could forgive him for destroying her kid brother—pretty big “if.” He removed his glasses and ran his fingers through his graying hair. I wish that phone would ring.
As if on cue, the telephone’s tinny ring pierced the air. Duke charged toward it, waited for the light, and picked it up. “Hello?” he said calmly into the receiver.
“Phil—it’s Tommy. Haven’t seen you for a while,” came Powell’s voice from the other end.
“Yeah, I thought I’d see you at your mother’s house, but it just hasn’t worked out.” He paused. “What can I do for you, Tommy?”
“Half an hour, same place. Can you be there?” The question was more like a command.
“Sure, Tommy. I’m on my way now.” Duke hung up the phone, satisfied. This was it, the last job before the Powell operation closed down for good. Along with all the other difficulties of the case, one of the worst was reading still more reports in the papers of drug deaths, knowing that with Powell off the street, those numbers would go down significantly.
Back at Draper’s, in the same booth as last time, they made their plans, but with markedly different motives. For Tommy Powell, this shipment from LA would be the last small one. He envisioned expanding to the Orient; he had met with a Japanese man only that week to talk about the possibilities. For Duke, this trip to LA was the springing of a trap meant to close around Powell and his cronies; by this time next week, he should be filling out the final reports on a case successfully closed.
The arrangements were the same as for the last trip. Another early morning Tuesday flight, another Wednesday morning return. Joey Padrino was the contact again. After a couple of drinks, Duke left for the bungalow and a quick phone call to McGarrett.
“Hey,” a voice called from behind him as he walked through the parking lot. It was Tommy. When he caught up with Duke, he asked, “It’s none of my business, but I’m asking anyway. Are you going to marry my sister?”
Caught off guard, Duke could only mumble about not being sure. “Well, I’m not saying that she’s the best catch around, but I can tell she really likes you. And you’re the first guy she’s dated that wasn’t a total jerk. Maybe you can straighten her out.” Tommy flicked his cigarette down on the pavement and ground it out. “Just wondered if this thing would become a family business, you know?”
Duke gave an uneasy laugh, and Tommy turned to go back into the bar. His one vestige of familial feeling was nothing more than another business opportunity. Duke shuddered, glad that this was likely his final meeting with Tommy Powell.
Back at the bungalow, he placed a call to Steve, outlining his trip to LA in detail. Knowing that Steve would take care of all the plans on the other end, Duke dropped off in a fitful sleep.
The next day Donna stopped her car across the street from a rundown building in an older section of town. Her brother’s delivery service was still a fledgling business and couldn’t afford a swankier office, but it had a good share of customers. It wasn’t uncommon to notice a green-capped bike rider darting in and out of traffic, speeding toward a delivery. Donna had been so proud when he hired his second full-time employee; it indicated to her that this time Tommy was really trying. That seemed more like years ago instead of the mere months that it had been. She wearily took her keys from the ignition and dropped them into her purse. Glancing both ways, she opened her door slightly and then quickly closed it again. A face, a familiar face in the glass-fronted office grabbed her attention. Squinting to see more clearly, she recognized the face of the young man talking to Tommy. He was Anthony Maldonado, an eighteen year old former resident of the childrens’ home run by the Star of the Sea parish.
Donna took a deep breath and commanded herself to calm down. She knew that it should be no shock to see the boy in Tommy’s office; he was probably asking for a job. Surely that was what he was doing. Against her will, she thought back to what Fr. Paul had told her about this boy. It had pained the old priest to recount the story to Donna, but she had heard about the boy and how he had developed such a craving for the faith during his teenage years. The consensus was unanimous, that Anthony would follow in Fr. Paul’s footsteps and become a priest. It appeared that it was true, until nearly a year ago. The broken old man told not simply of a waning of fervor, but of a pattern of behavior in the boy that bordered on criminal. “He’s a good boy, I know he still is,” the priest persisted, until eight months earlier when Anthony was caught passing dope to an eleven year old boy. He was expelled from the school and the home and placed on probation. Fr. Paul, kindness personified, petitioned the juvenile court to allow him to provide a job for Anthony, who had shown something of remorse. Checking with friends throughout the archdiocese, he found a job as diocesan courier for the penitent.
He knows how to be a courier—maybe he wants more work. Oh, dear God, make him want more work, she pleaded inwardly. She opened the door again and walked determinedly to Tommy’s office. The conversation between the two stopped when she opened the door, and Anthony, whose back had been to her, lost no time in darting through the back door. “What can I do for you, sis?” Tommy’s voice held little welcome. She chatted about her purpose there, to leave fliers for the upcoming bazaar at St. Damon’s, made some small talk, then left. Hurrying back across the street, she sought refuge in her car. He couldn’t face me. He couldn’t look me in the eye. She leaned her head against the window. Could McGarrett be right? Could her brother be a monster, preying on the weaknesses of others? Could he be pulling Anthony into his web of destruction? She had stewed over the accusations she heard at Five-0 headquarters incessantly since that day McGarrett had made them. She told herself that they couldn’t be true, that whatever his faults might be, Tommy was at heart a good person. He had to be—he was her brother. But little details, meaningless by themselves, were brought back to her memory, and they began to make sense. The ringing of his phone that never seemed to stop; the time he took their mother out for a fancy dinner and used a $100 bill to pay for it, and she had seen several more in his wallet; his unwillingness to say anything of substance about his business and his defensiveness at all questions; these and other things gave Donna reason to rethink her blind loyalty to her brother.
In LA, the trap was set, the mouse took the bait, and the trap snapped shut. As soon as Duke dropped off the packages at the post office, LAPD moved in and caught the hapless Glenn Lovens desperately shoving bags of heroin into a mail slot. The boxes were all there, cut open and ready to receive the drugs. A stack of mailing labels was nearby, all blank. At the same time, Joey Padrino was picked up at his home, and a search there yielded an address book with some addresses in it useful to the LAPD. Lovens proved to be a tough one; threats of imprisonment didn’t seem to faze him, but when his postal worker brother cried to him about his own pending criminal charges, the ex-con broke and cooperated with the police. He completed his job of closing up the boxes, trategi them and readying them for shipment. The name on the labels was a shocker for the LAPD officers. They were all headed for one place: the Archdiocese of Honolulu, Shipping and Receiving.
Three days later, the tiny Shipping and Receiving office for the archdiocese received several boxes via U.S. mail. Dan Williams and Chin Ho Kelly moved in immediately, and to the surprise of neither, found the office empty except for Anthony Maldonado, who had been rapidly rummaging through the contents of the newly opened cartons. He didn’t resist arrest, but kept casting glances back at the boxes while he was being frisked and cuffed. “It’s not there, Anthony,” said Chin. “The whole thing’s blown up in your face. It’s all over.” The boy’s frightened eyes looked from Chin to Danny.
“It could go easier for you if you cooperate,” said Danny. Anthony’s face was incredulous.
“I’m not kidding,” continued Danny. “Here’s what you have to do.”
It didn’t take much to persuade Anthony to cooperate with Five-0, especially after he was brought to Steve’s office. He was so frightened that he had to step on one of his feet to keep it from shaking. A few words from Steve and the boy agreed to make his usual courier run to In A Wink Delivery, Tommy Powell’s cover business. After donning a green cap and shirt, he would ride his bike there, arriving at the appointed time, 6:30 p.m. Five-0 and HPD would be waiting.
Donna Powell had circled the block until she was dizzy. She parked then and got out and walked. The lights were still on at In A Wink; she knew Tommy was there. What she didn’t know exactly was what she would say to him. She had been rehearsing in her mind the confrontation she intended to have with him; one scenario would be a loud one, one would be quiet, but none turned out satisfactorily. She knew in her heart that Tommy would never admit to any wrongdoing to her, no matter how many disturbing facts she brought to light. Well, she would just watch his reactions to her words; they would tell the story—she hoped. She rounded the block and entered the office. Two unmarked HPD black sedans that were first on the scene were parked halfway down the block.
“What do you want?” This time Tommy made no effort at civility.
“I have to talk with you,” Donna countered, refusing to let her spirits flag.
Tommy snorted. “This is neither the time nor the place, sister. Beat it,” he said, looking down at his desk.
Angrily, Donna strode to his desk and turned him to face her, “For once in your life, you will listen to me, Tommy!” Hatred shone in his eyes as he sat staring at her. He said nothing. “You made us think that it was all over, didn’t you? You wanted us to think that you’d gone clean, that there was nothing to worry about! Well, what about Anthony Maldonado?” she shouted, fighting back the tears that were threatening to fall.
“What are you talking about?” Tommy snarled, dangerously quiet.
“You know exactly what I mean,” she replied, her voice dropping. “He was a good boy, Tommy, a boy with a future. How could you ruin him? How could you so easily destroy the life of someone else?”
“You make it sound like he’s dead. I’ve haven’t hurt him one bit. Now shut up and get out of here.” He stood up menacingly.
Outside, all the members of the Five-0 team along with support from HPD had gathered in trategic spots around the building. Steve and Duke were closest to the front, and it would be Duke’s pleasure to be the first officer to confront Powell. He relished the thought of seeing Tommy’s face when he realized that his predatory days were over. Steve went over instructions again, and the rest of the assembled force waited for his signal.
Inside the building, oblivious of what was about to take place, Donna had stepped in front of Tommy once more to force him to listen to her. “I’m not going anywhere, Tommy, until I get some answers.”
With an ugly laugh he asked, “What kind of answers do you want? What do you think you can handle?”
She didn’t give an inch. “What I want to know is, are you bringing heroin into this state?” She looked at him levelly, her green eyes hard.
The eyes that met her gaze were devoid of feeling. His only reaction had been a barely perceptible intake of breath. He had always hated her, ever since he was a child. She had been the one who stayed out of trouble while he looked for it. She was always the good one, the one who didn’t get spanked. And more than anything else, he had hated her tears when she saw him punished. He hated her suffering with him, for him. In one motion his hand shot out and and grabbed her by the neck. He pulled her face close to his. “You want answers, sis—I’ll give ‘em to you,” he hissed, flinging her back. She hit the wall hard but was able to keep her feet.
“I haven’t only ruined the Maldonado kid. Oh, I’ve done more than that. Lots more,” he gloated, as she rubbed her throat. She was frightened now, but she held on to the hope that he wouldn’t kill his own sister. She listened, fearful of what he would say next.
“It’s your church, honey. That’s what I’ve ruined. All the hypocrites and liars, and you. You’re all ruined.” He laughed again, taking sadistic pleasure in what his words would do to her, the last words she would hear before he snapped her neck. “You don’t know what I mean? It’s easy to understand, sis—your precious church helped me get all the junk I wanted into Hawaii. Every box I shipped, every grain of smack, all under the auspices of the Catholic church. I owe you a big thanks, all of you.” He watched her as his words sunk in. The fear in her eyes turned to horror and she closed them, turning her face away. “Uh uh, not that. You want to hear it all. You’ve always told me not to turn away from the truth!” He yanked her chin back to face him; she was weeping now. He put his hand around her neck again.
“Maldonado worked for the archdiocese. All I had to do was to ship everything there. He did the rest. If they trace it at all, they’ll trace it to the church. And you know what the best thing of all is?” He tightened his grip and whispered in her ear: “I shipped the stuff in with the communion wafers. What a joke! Smack with—“ She stopped him from blaspheming with a knee to his groin. With a yowl he released her as Anthony Maldonado walked through the front door carrying a leather bag. Recovering himself, Tommy snatched the bag and snarled at the boy, “What kept you? You’re late!”
At that moment the waiting police sprang into action and began pouring into the front entrance, Duke in the lead. There was a second or two of confusion and then Tommy saw Duke coming at him, his gun drawn. “Police, Tommy. Freeze!” barked Duke.
“Dirty cop!” Tommy shouted, swinging the leather bag wildly at Duke’s gun. The gun flew from Duke’s hand and slid across the floor. Duke was quick to block Tommy’s retrieving it, and the two wrestled on the floor, punching and gouging each other. The other officers were in a hold position, unable to fire at Powell without possibly hitting Duke in the process. Duke was fighting to keep the gun away, but he had also seen Donna just a few feet away, and had to ensure that Tommy didn’t grab the gun and take her hostage.
Tommy managed to free his right arm enough to land a punch squarely on Duke’s jaw, and as the older man loosened his hold, Powell produced a switchblade from his back pocket. Duke stiffened when he saw the blade inches from his face. A shot rang out before Tommy could use the knife. His eyes widened in surprise; he raised himself to his knees, and then fell hard on Duke. Heaving a sigh of relief, he rolled the young man’s body with a gaping wound in his back off of him and immediately caught sight of Donna. The sight of her face froze Duke with fear. “Donna…Donna, give me the gun,” he whispered.
She was audibly weeping and the tears ran in streams down her cheeks. Shaking her head, she held the gun to her chest and closed her eyes. “My God, Donna—NO!!!!” Duke screamed as another deafening shot split the silence.
Two days later, Duke sat in a cubicle in the Five-0 offices, filling out more paperwork. He was still numb, absolutely numb. He wrote without thought process, responded to questions automatically. He never wanted to feel again.
In the big office, Steve stood at his window, grieving for the loss his friend and colleague must be feeling. None of them had been able to speak coherently to Duke about it. The horror of the scene, her final moments and the aftermath, were all etched into the minds of those who witnessed them. Steve found that nothing blotted them out—he’d tried. He turned to Danny, who sat lost in his own musings. “Is he still there?” he asked.
Danny nodded and sighed. “Still there, Steve. He’s been working all morning, getting his reports in. I think he wants to be busy.”
“You’re probably right, Danno,” agreed Steve. He paused and asked quietly, “How can he ever forget?” Danny couldn’t answer him.
Nearly an hour later, Duke had finished his last report. He closed the folder and stared at it. The side tab read “Powell, Thomas” and the sight of it made him feel sick. A shadow fell across the folder, making Duke look up.
“Duke, my friend,” began Steve, “There’s something I’ve been wanting to talk to you about.”
Duke had been expecting it. He knew a dress-down was in order, that his behavior during the case had been unprofessional. “All right, Steve. I’m ready,” he replied.
McGarrett reached inside his label pocket and dropped something on the desk. “You’ve deserved this for a long time, and I hope you’ll accept it. You belong with Five-0.” With that, he turned and strode back into his office.
Duke opened the leather billfold and fingered the badge that officially made him part of the Hawaii Five-0 team. He had long hoped for this honor. To work under Steve McGarrett had been his dream for years; now it was a reality. He was touched, truly touched that Steve would offer him this position at this time. He rose and slipped the badge in his pocket, laid the stack of folders on Jenny’s desk and left. He was watched by a smiling McGarrett and Williams.
He sat for a few minutes in his car. His heart was full of so many emotions, but the overriding one was a feeling of loneliness. As grateful as he was to Steve, a badge would never take the place of the woman he had found and lost. And in the end, she was engulfed by despair and didn’t, or couldn’t, turn to him for help. The thought tormented him. Oh, Donna, he prayed, do you long for me the way I do for you? He laid his head in his hand and heard his keys hit the floor. For a moment he was still, then he bent down to retrieve his keys. His fingers felt something else next to the keys and he picked the object up. It was Donna’s rosary, the one made from rolled rose petals that she loved so much. He could smell the faint rose fragrance from the beads and knew he had his answer. For the first time since her death, Duke let the tears flow. When he finally was able to leave the Iolani Palace parking lot, it was with a glimmer of hope for the future.