Steve McGarrett was not pleased.
On his desk were assorted files and stacks of paper—the Ingram case, the unsolved murders 5-O believed he knew about and had been involved with, and the latest newspapers.
On the television across the room was another replay of the afternoon’s events. For the umpteenth time he had to watch the pandemonium as Dutch was shot at and 5-O ran to apprehend the sniper.
They had failed in that. The sniper had escaped to another building and from there, who knew. He could be stalking Ingram’s house right that minute. Steve had already sent two HPD officers out there to guard the place. No matter his personal feelings, they couldn’t just let Dutch be killed.
Besides, they needed him alive if they wanted to get him to confess to the murders and point out who else had been mixed up in them.
Now Steve had just received a radio report from the officers that James Rockford, the private detective subpoenaed to testify against Dutch, had been at the Ingrams’ house, talking with them. That was certainly strange. He intended to have a talk with Mr. Rockford and find out what that was about.
He looked up as Dan Williams opened the door and peered in. “Yeah, what is it, Danno?”
“Well, there’s no news of the sniper,” Danny sighed. “But there’s a call coming through from a guy who claims that his buddy looks like Dutch and might be a target.”
“What?” Steve frowned at his phone. “I didn’t hear it ring.” He picked up the receiver, repeatedly pressing the dial tone button. Disgusted to hear nothing, he slammed it down again and stood. “Is he still on the line?”
“Yeah, just outside,” Danny said. “Should I call the telephone company?”
“Do that,” Steve called over his shoulder.
In the hall, he thanked his always-faithful secretary and took the phone. “This is McGarrett,” he greeted. “What’s this about your friend looking like Dutch Ingram?”
“He really does,” came the thick New York accent of the caller. “I swear they could be twins! We’re here for a business meeting and we got tipped off that there might be trouble.”
“Okay, I’ll come out and talk to you both,” Steve said, grabbing for a piece of paper and a pencil. “Who are you and where are you staying?”
“Lou Trevino,” was the reply. “My buddy’s Ginger Townsend. We’re at the Royal Hotel, Suite 242.”
Steve scribbled it down. “I’ll be there in twenty minutes,” he promised.
He hung up and turned to Danny, who had just hung up with the telephone company on his cellphone. “A repairman will be out here tomorrow,” Danny reported. “It’s too late today.”
“Didn’t you tell them that’s a vitally important line?” Steve exclaimed.
“I sure did,” Danny frowned, “but still no dice. The switchboard operator insisted all the repairmen had gone home for the day.
“Are you going to talk to those guys?” he rushed on before Steve could snarl about the delay.
“Yeah,” Steve said. “Oh, and Danno, look up Lou Trevino and Ginger Townsend. Those names are vaguely familiar.”
“Weren’t they jewel thieves or something?” Jenny spoke up.
Steve looked back to her. “That’s right,” he mused. “I remember; they were arrested in Los Angeles for the Borland Diamond robbery. They’re suspected of having been international jewel thieves, but nothing was ever proven in court other than the Borland case.”
“Didn’t Townsend know Janet Kingston, alias Camilla Carver?” Danny said. “The lady who masterminded the theft of the Queen of Polynesia emerald on Kamehameha Day?”
“I think she mentioned something about that in passing,” Steve said. “She was talking about someone who reminded her of her friend Michael Olson, but he was a rival and never liked her. That might’ve been Townsend; I don’t remember.” He headed for the door. “See if you can get a repairman out here tonight.”
Danny sighed. “We’ll try,” he said.
“I’ll try,” Jenny emphasized.
Danny looked to her in relief. “Thanks a million, Jenny.”
“Don’t thank me yet,” Jenny said. “If I don’t have any luck, you might still need to go out there in person and show your badge to get it done.”
“Right now I’ve got another task,” Danny said, hurrying off to look up the former criminals’ names and acquire more detailed information.
“No luck?” Rocky asked, coming into the main room and seeing Jim slumped wearily in the chair with the list on his lap.
“That’s an understatement,” Jim grumbled. “I’m supposed to be figuring out if there’s a case here. Well, I’ve talked to ten people and I’m still not sure! . . . Although it’s weird how they all stick to their court testimonies like glue,” he frowned. “The ones who hate Dutch are just as insistent as the ones who’re still loyal to him. The ones who hate him could be telling the truth while the loyal ones are just being paid to be loyal. Or it could be the other way around. Or it could even be that they’re all being paid to say what they’re saying!”
“Well, both of the latter two ways could mean that Dutch is being framed, if someone’s paying his enemies to be enemies,” Rocky said as he sat on the corner of the nearest bed, his hands on his knees.
“I know, Dad,” Jim sighed. “I just hate thinking of getting into this case. I guess I keep trying to look for a way out of it. With Dutch Ingram as a client, I really might not come out of this one alive.”
“You really think he’s that bad?” Rocky said worriedly.
“Oh, I don’t know.” Jim slammed the list on the bed and stood, rubbing at the back of his neck. “Even if he doesn’t do anything, there’s the Kimotto Brothers and the Hawaiian Mafia. You know how much I hate tangling with any Mafia.”
Rocky nodded. “Look, Son, I really didn’t mean to get you into something that could be so dangerous,” he said. “And you really are right about the licensing problem. Why don’t you tell the Ingrams you just can’t take it and we’ll finish out our vacation and go home.”
“Yeah, and if someone really manages to knock Ingram off, I’ll wonder if I could’ve stopped it if I’d agreed to help,” Jim muttered. “There’s no easy way out of this, Dad. I’m already in it. I guess I really knew I was when I rang their doorbell.”
“Maybe it won’t be so bad,” Rocky said.
“Maybe it’ll be worse,” Jim quipped. “Well, I’d better call Ingram and tell him I’m on the case. Then I’ll just have to figure out how to work it with the licensing problem. There must be some way around that.” He sat down and reached for the telephone.
He felt that old feeling of resignation as he dialed the number and waited for a pick-up. Once again he was proving that he was just too soft for his own good. One of these days, that was probably going to kill him.
Hopefully not any time soon.
He came to attention at Dutch’s tense voice. “Ingram, what’s wrong?” he demanded.
A pause. “Is that you, Spunky?” Dutch hurried on, apparently certain that he didn’t need to wait for Jim to confirm it. “Someone just threatened Lisa.”
“What?!” Jim leaned forward. “I thought it was you they wanted.”
“It is,” Dutch said with impatience. “They said that I’d better up and confess to the murder if I want Lisa to stay among the living.”
“Who said this?” Jim shot back.
“Well, now, if I knew that, a big part of this mystery might be solved here and now,” Dutch retorted. “They used one of those devices to electronically alter their voice.”
“Was there anything on the caller I.D.?”
“A payphone. I was just going to call you about checking it.”
Jim scowled. “And what made you think I’d do it?”
“You want to see if there’s really a case, don’t you, Love?”
Jim rolled his eyes at the nickname. “Let’s just say I’ve already decided there probably is one,” he said. “I was calling you to say I’ll take it.”
“Smashing!” Dutch declared. “Then how about you get out to that call box? I have the location.” He proceeded to recite it.
“They’ll be long gone, Ingram,” Jim said.
“There might be a clue or two,” Dutch countered. “Or someone who saw something. If you’re really as good a detective as Lisa thinks you are, you’ve already thought of all those things.”
“I’ll check it out,” Jim said. “But I should warn you, Ingram—if I find out that you really did kill that guy, I won’t rest until you’re behind bars where you belong.”
“Fair enough,” Dutch said. “Now go!” He promptly hung up.
Jim pulled the receiver away and stared at it. Then, his stomach sinking as he wondered what he had gotten into, he dragged himself up.
“What’s the matter?” Rocky asked in concern.
“I just got my first assignment on the Ingram case,” Jim sighed. “I have to go check out a payphone. Don’t wait up for me; the way things usually go, what should be a simple thing could end up taking all night.” He shuffled towards the door.
Rocky looked after him, shaking his head. “Son, what did I get you into?”
Jim opened the door and stepped into the hall. “Maybe I’m about to find out.”
Ginger grunted. “So you see the resemblance too.”
“And then some.” Steve shook his head. “If the hitman from today got a look at you, you’d be a goner.”
“Like I said, that’s what we’re worried about,” Lou piped up. “And we have to go to this meeting we came here for. Will you give Ginger some police protection while we’re here?”
Steve was still scrutinizing Ginger, but he nodded. “Yeah, I’ll see to it.” He took out his two-way radio to make contact with Danny, but Ginger interrupted him.
“I don’t entirely like the way you’re looking at me, McGarrett,” he said. “I’m wondering if I’ll get a completely fair and impartial officer to look out for me.”
“Mr. Townsend, regardless of my or any other 5-O officer’s personal feelings, you’ll get the best protection we can offer,” Steve retorted, his tone clipped.
“You know who we are,” Ginger pointed out. “And you don’t like us because of that. But we’ve gone straight now. You’ve got no right to judge either of us.”
“Mr. Townsend, in my experience I’ve run across a lot of criminals who never really go straight even when they claim to,” Steve answered. “I don’t know if you and Mr. Trevino fall under that category, but knowing your long list of felonies, I can’t help but wonder.”
“They couldn’t even prove much,” Ginger said. “We were doing porridge for the Borland Diamond caper.”
“And for assault with a deadly weapon, as I recall,” Steve interjected.
“We still got out early,” Lou said. “Good behavior. And the fact that our company said they wanted us to come back and help open up a new branch if we’d go straight.”
“You can check with the warden,” Ginger said.
“I believe you,” Steve replied. Speaking into the radio, he called, “Danno?”
“Yeah, Steve?” the other voice crackled.
“Will you see to it that Mr. Townsend and Mr. Trevino have police protection while they’re here?”
“I’m on it,” Danny promised. “Do you want that information now?”
“When I come back in,” Steve answered. “I’ll stay here until you send somebody.”
“They should be there no later than twenty minutes,” Danny said.
“Are you going to check with that private detective while you’re there?”
“Yeah,” Steve said. “He’s got some answers to give.”
“Okay. I’ll see you then.”
“Right.” Steve hung up.
Still nervous, Lou began to pace the room. Ginger watched him, folding his arms. “Everything will work out alright,” he said. “I doubt the sniper will even get a look at me. He probably followed that Ingram bloke home.”
“Could be,” Lou said.
Ginger looked to Steve. “What do you want with Rockford? We’ve met him before. He doesn’t have much to do with this.”
“He might,” Steve retorted. “He was talking to the Ingrams this evening. Do you know anything about that?”
Lou stopped pacing and looked over. Both he and Ginger shook their heads. “Nothing,” Ginger said.
“I’ll find out soon what’s going on there,” Steve determined.
“What does it really matter if he was talking to them?” Lou wondered.
“Maybe it doesn’t,” Steve said. “But 5-O is still investigating Dutch Ingram. If there’s anything that could help us get to the truth of what’s going on with him, it matters.”
Lou shrugged. “Suit yourself then.” His expression hardened. “I just want to keep my best friend from being killed. So you’d better devote just as much time to that as to figuring out if Ingram’s a murderer.”
“I promise you, Mr. Trevino, I’ll do everything in my power to keep your friend alive,” Steve said. “The last thing I want to see is another murder.”
Ginger studied him for a moment. Then, feeling that he was sincere, he nodded in approval. “Good.”
It was late at night by now; the buildings were mostly in darkness, with the exception of a drugstore right near the phone. The payphone stood silent, blissfully unaware of the problems it had caused by working moments ago.
“Okay, Buster,” Jim muttered under his breath as he climbed out of the car, “let’s see if you have any clues to who used you last.”
The payphone seemed to be devoid of any clues. Jim frowned, eyeing the receiver and wondering if there was any point in having it dusted for fingerprints. The caller had most likely worn gloves.
He looked to the drugstore. It wouldn’t hurt to ask if the night clerk had noticed anyone using the phone in the last few minutes. Hauling the door open, he headed inside.
“Aloha,” drawled an older man in a bright Hawaiian shirt. He leaned over the counter, clasping his hands. “What can I do for you?”
“Well, this might sound a little strange,” Jim said as he strolled over, “but did you notice whether anyone used the phone out there in the last few minutes?”
The clerk blinked in surprise. “People use the phone off and on all day,” he said. “I don’t take much notice. They use it a lot less now than they used to.”
“Yes, but this is very important,” Jim said, his mind racing as he searched for the perfect excuse for his questions. “You see, I’m from the telephone company and we’ve had several complaints about that particular phone not working right.”
“You’re working late,” the clerk said. “I hope they’re paying you overtime.” He leaned back, contemplating the query. “There may have been someone using the phone a few minutes ago. . . . I’m just not sure.”
“Did it look like the phone was working then?”
“I believe so,” the clerk mused. “Yes, he seemed to be talking to someone.”
“You could see it was a man? Could you see anything of what he looked like?”
The clerk looked at him, his glasses slipping down his nose. “He was wearing dark clothes. That’s all I could see. I can’t imagine why that would be important information for the telephone company.”
“That’s a good question!” Jim declared, stabbing the air with his finger. “I wanted to find him and ask him about his experiences with the phone.”
“Sorry I can’t be more help,” the clerk said, shaking his head.
“Well, maybe he’s not too far away,” Jim said. “He didn’t come in here, did he?”
“No, he just made his call and went away.”
Jim nodded, not surprised. “I’ll just look around for him a little bit. If you hear a lot of clattering around outside, that’s probably us.” He half-waved and turned, heading for the door.
“Don’t know why there’d be a lot of clattering around in the first place,” the clerk muttered.
Jim decided not to answer that.
Outside in the night, it was easy to think that something was off. But it didn’t take long and Jim was certain that it wasn’t only in his imagination that he was being watched. He spun about, facing a darkened alley. There was definitely a shape moving around in there. And as he drew closer, eyes gleamed in the night.
“I hope you didn’t play hide-and-seek as a kid, because you’re terrible at it,” Jim proclaimed. The form froze. “Now how about you just come out of there nice and easy and we’ll figure out if you have a good reason for being there.”
The figure turned to run. Jim lunged, tackling at the same moment. They tumbled, locked in combat. First Jim had the upper hand, then the stranger. A stack of crates fell to the right. A lid crashed off a garbage can to the left. A frightened cat yowled.
At last Jim, the edge of his mouth bleeding, pinned his opponent to the asphalt. “Alright, now I don’t have a lot of patience left,” he said. “You’d better start talking before you find out what happens when I lose it all.”
Shaking hands reached up, gripping some sort of religious relic around the man’s neck. “Oh, please don’t hurt me, Rockford!” he gasped and gulped. “I was just following instructions.”
Jim pressed him harder into the ground. “Whose instructions?!”
“D-Dutch Ingram,” the man stammered. “He said to come here and pretend to use the payphone while the clerk was around to see. If you fell for the story when Dutch told it and came out to look, I was to keep up the act for a while. But I’m not gonna get beat up for him. Oh no, Sir!”
Jim stared at his prisoner. “You’re saying Dutch Ingram is playing me for a sap?! Not that anything would surprise me where he’s concerned, but . . .”
“No, that’s not it!” the man hurried to interject. “Mr. Ingram just wanted to test you, to see how fast you’d respond.”
Jim’s lip curled. “Oh, so he just wanted to see how good I really am at detective work.”
“Yeah, that’s right!” The man looked at him hopefully. “So can I go now?”
“Well, I’m not sure,” said Jim. “See, I might need you as my witness.”
“Witness to what?!” the man all but wailed.
“Of exactly what Ingram was trying to do!” Jim snarled. He rocked back, releasing the shaken man. “I don’t like being played for a sucker, no matter what the reason is.”
“No, no, Spunky. You’ve got it all wrong.”
Both Jim and the guy looked up at the abrupt insertion of Dutch’s voice. The British man had come to the head of the alley, regarding the scene with impatience. Clutched in his hand was a dark cane.
Slowly Jim got to his feet, dragging the other guy up with him. “So what’s the truth then?” he retorted. “And why do you need that?”
“The threat was real,” Dutch said, “only it wasn’t on the phone. Some git broke into the house, knocked me down the basement steps, and grabbed Lisa and tried to hold a knife to her throat.” He smirked, darkly. “Poor chap had no idea that he’d just plucked a karate expert. He was down the steps with me in the next moment.
“Now, he doesn’t know who hired him, and we believe him. He was so shook up that it just took a threat from Lisa to get him to spill everything he did know—which was only that someone sent him an envelope with the bills and the typed instructions on what to do.”
Dutch gripped the handle of the cane. “I wasn’t sure about you, Spunky, so I had to test you. I wanted to see how you’d handle what I told you.” His eyes narrowed. “I have to have someone who knows what he’s doing, not like how you botched your way through that assignment from the government boys.”
“And how did I pass this test?” Jim said in irritation. He could see Dutch’s point, but he didn’t like going out on wild goose chases, especially in the middle of the night.
Dutch gave him a hard look before a smile crept over his gruff features. “You did good, Duck.”
“Well, that’s great, but . . .” The nickname suddenly processed and Jim stared at him for a long moment in disbelief. “Wait a minute. What did you just call me? I think that fight must’ve rattled my eardrums out of place. Among other things. Calling me Love was weird enough, but Duck?! Come on!”
The smile turned into a smirk. “Come on back on to the house and we’ll talk about it.” Dutch gestured to the waiting car with the bottom of his cane.
Jim sighed, wondering what time he was ever going to get home. But since he had decided to take the case, he nodded, wiped his mouth, and slowly followed Dutch back through the alley. The odd Brit, he could see, was now walking with a slight limp.
“I don’t like spending my time tracking down leads that aren’t even there,” Jim said. “So if you put me through any more of these ‘tests’, I’m canceling the deal.”
“The next time, Rockford, it will more than likely be for keeps,” Dutch answered. “So you had better be prepared to meet my enemies.”
“That list is probably longer than all the Hawaiian Islands put together,” Jim muttered.