FRIDAY, JUNE 21ST - OAHU (LATE AFTERNOON)
The poor connection ended and Steve fell back into his chair with a stunned sharp laugh, only capable of staring mutely at Chin and Kono. He was so relieved that he couldn't even find the anger to accept that they'd all been looking in the wrong place for days on end. He was so utterly relieved, he couldn't find the fury that they'd all been played so well by Darien. Those emotions would return though and when they did, Darien wouldn't know what had happened. Right now as he sat slouched in his chair, Steve was speechless and his hands were shaking as volumes of stress suddenly left his face.
"We have him. He's alive!" His voice nearly cracked at the relief of being able to say it out loud. Some time and some how between when the photograph had been taken and that very moment, Danny had managed to escape. The mobster Darien had been mocking them the entire time, but now the tables had been turned.
"He got away from them ... and then Ponch ... of all people." Steve thumbed burning eyes as his mind whirled on what to do next. "Damned lucky."
"But ... Samoa? He hasn't even been here ... this entire time?" Kono's voice was an odd mix of too many emotions as she turned towards the door. "I'll call Duke. We need to let him know the search is off ... at least ... he should know."
"No!" Steve lurched forward as he practically launched himself across his desk to stop her from leaving. "No, no one is to know about this. No one."
"You're right," Chin nodded in complete agreement. "If he escaped and they think we don't know ... it's the best of both worlds."
"Exactly. Now it's high time that we owned this."
The devious grin that slowly broke across Steve's face expressed his pleasure though this eyes were still fraught with worry. It was astounding that Danny had been so aggressively relocated to a distant island territory. The photographic evidence of his injuries came to mind along with Ponch's words of "he's in bad shape." The man never lied ... never ... and Steve's initial feeling of victory paled. But he'd still managed to escape and Danny was at least with friends that could care for him until Steve and the team found a way to get there.
"I need to play along," Steve stressed to his team. "Play along completely, but I need to get there too. I don't want to wait for Ponch and for his military transport to clear the way. If the kidnappers are still there ... and I'm sure they are ... I want them, too. But first, I want Danny home and safe. This must stay on the down low until I testify at the trial and Darien is put away."
"They could all be in danger," Chin added worriedly. "It's good news, but we need to do something. Danny is safe with Ponch but only in the short term. Plus, this puts Ponch and Ellen in a potential line of fire."
"What about Rachel ... and Grace?" The question was fair and Kono pursed her lips. "How quiet exactly do you want to keep this?"
"No one knows. I'll apologize later." He was adamant but it took a moment for them all to agree. Grace was inconsolable and had called Steve daily early on to talk about her father. Then she had simply stopped calling one recent day and nothing he or Rachel said would draw her out. The child was missing school, not eating and suffering from terrible nightmares.
"I know. But we can't," Steve gritted his teeth in determination before shaking his head. "No, not yet. It's too dangerous and anything can go wrong."
They needed to remain focused for the next few days and until after the trial. The ball was finally in Steve's court and he would not lose its power. Decision made, he contacted the highest Naval authorities he knew at Hickham. Radar proved that the back-end of the tropical storm would roll over Samoa within the next four hour block of time. With a minimum five and half-hour flight time, it would be pitch dark when they arrived and more close to dawn. However, they could leave now on the next transport and land within an hour or so of the storm ending.
Coordinating his needs with that of the already planned medical contingent, Steve soon had a well-defined operation in place as favors were called in and preparations were finalized.
"They're scrambling now instead of waiting until dawn ... grab what you need ... let's get going. The flight leaves as soon as we get clearance from radar and the most recent weather reports from NOAA. Keep your fingers crossed about the airport and landing. But keeping at least one runway accessible will be a priority for an emergency transport. We should be fine. " Gearing up completely, the three were soon running out the door towards Steve's large pickup truck.
"Let's bring him home, Boss," Kono whispered happily as Steve finally smiled for the first time in days.
FRIDAY, JUNE 21ST - AMERICAN SAMOA (EVENING)
Ellen intentionally kept her camping lanterns dim to avoid throwing shadows as she worked on Danny in the small tent. With the back-end of the tropical storm now looming, it was darker than usual and she needed at least some artificial light. She was also doubtful anyone would notice or care but like her husband, she wasn't about to take any chances. She worked quickly to clean Danny's dirt-encrusted arms and then still had difficulty placing a line for intravenous fluids due to his extreme dehydration and the numerous bruising sites where he'd been injected with drugs so very recently.
"Oh Danny. What did they do to you?" Her eyes were worried as she jumped from task to task making notes about his low blood pressure, too fast respiration and elevated temperature. Every so often, small tremors ran through his body and the fingers on his right hand would spasm and clench.
She had only started to clean his head wound in the hospital tent, so moved back to that before intending to set the broken wrist. With her hand poised to pour sterilized water over his hair to resume cleaning the gash, Ellen was startled when she realized that Danny was quietly watching her. She was so happy to see his eyes open, that she missed the suspicion that lurked in them.
A large smile broke across her face as she leaned over him to brush wet hair back from his forehead. "Hi, Danny. We've been so worried about you."
To her side, she had a stash of bottled drinking water and Ellen quickly opened one as he swallowed hard and then coughed under the mask. He slowly tracked her hand and flinched when she moved so quickly but relaxed when he saw the fresh plastic bottle. He then allowed her to remove the oxygen mask and gently raise his head to help him carefully drink.
Danny closed his eyes for a moment when she lay his head back not only to will the water to stay down, but also to gather his strength to ask one first important question. She went to replace the mask, but he stayed her hand because he was trying to form that one question in his mind and then wasn't sure his voice would cooperate.
He had no idea where he was and the woman was at least very kind. With the stethoscope hung around her neck and the TAMC embroidered shirt, he assumed her to be a doctor or a nurse. The very last thing he could remember was the sun breaking through the storm clouds as he slipped and slid down a mud-drenched hill towards what looked like a nearly destroyed town. He saw people and he kept going because he needed help so desperately.
A tent city of sorts had been setup near the ruined buildings and he could see organized work in progress. Intuitively, he knew it was a centralized point for storm victims to get shelter, food and medical help. With the number of displaced and injured, Danny felt he could lose himself in the mix and get some sort of help, too. It was farther than he thought though and he'd been at the last of his energy reserves by then and had collapsed much against his will just as two figures began running in his direction.
So now, while he seemed to have a qualified medical person next to him, he was confused to find he was in a small private tent and not something more like a hospital or medical ward. This woman was also the only one with him. Because of these things, much of his suspicion remained firmly intact.
He winced at the sharp ache in his wrist as he raised his left arm to judge the IV line and the plain fluids which were confirmed by her warm smile. She insisted on intercepting the arm and explaining gently that his wrist was indeed broken but she'd care for that after checking his head wound. A blood pressure cuff lay idle on his right bicep and she had clean gauze and the opened bottle of sterile water in her lap.
When she saw his quizzical expression, Ellen smiled again and repeated herself. "Danny, you're going to be fine. Ponch is here too and we're going to make sure you stay safe. We've already called Steve to let him know that we found you, but I'm going to clean that nasty head wound and then set your wrist."
He nodded weakly because most of it all sounded fair and for whatever reason, her voice did soothe him. He could hear the high winds from the tropical storm picking up again outside and wondered if his three kidnappers had survived the mudslide. For the moment at least, he seemed to be in the best possible place.
"I'm Danny?" He breathed the question out and was taken aback by the woman's gaping mouth. "Danny?"
"What?" She seemed shocked as she settled her hand gently on his chest. "Well ... yes."
"Okay. Danny," he repeated the name for himself. That too sounded right on his tongue so he experimented with taking a deep breath and then winced in pain from a grinding in his chest. He was Danny and maybe that badge was his but he was too tired to get that deep into something that he sensed could be more traumatic a conversation. By some divine intervention, not only had he found medical help, the woman seemed to know him and she was obviously very worried for him, too.
His hunch was proven to be correct when his next question clearly unnerved the kind woman entirely and he felt as if he should apologize as tears filled her eyes.
"I'm sorry. Who are you ... a doctor? Who are ... the others?" Talking exhausted him and he coughed raggedly as his throat constricted. With care, she helped him again take small sips from the water bottle before she found her own ability to answer him.
"But. No." She paled in disbelief and then rubbed a soothing circle on his chest as she eyed the head wound with concern. Bruises marked his jaw line and portions of his face as well and she began to suspect these as the problem. To keep them both from becoming too concerned, she tried to smile and offer a reasonable explanation.
"You know, I think you're just exhausted from stress, Danny. Or, the drugs. I guess that's got to be it."
Her answer confused him and he frowned unhappily as he barely kept his voice at an audible level. "No, I don't know."
His head ached terribly as did most of his body, but he was sure of only one thing. Though he felt he might be able to trust this woman, he had no idea who anyone was - including himself or the woman sitting next to him. In a large way, it was a bit unnerving that she knew more about him than he did, himself.
"I don't know you," he insisted wearily as he closed his eyes and rubbed his aching forehead with his right hand. He peered up at her as she took his fingers gently in both her hands. She was trying to smile around her sadness and for that, Danny realized again that he had upset her.
"I'm Ellen Ramirez and Ponch is my husband. I'm a trauma nurse at Tripler Army Medical Center and Ponch ... Doctor Alphonse Ramirez ... is a doctor. We're your friends, Danny." Biting her lip and feeling ridiculous at needing to explain her own identity, Ellen waited for him to absorb that small bit of information. There was something off about his mannerisms and she realized with a start that everything about him was too quiet. Besides his watchfulness, there were no gestures or hand movements. Hardly a finger even twitched on his good hand. His usually animated face was closed off and he was virtually hiding behind one worded questions and answers.
"We've been your friends for a long time." It was obvious that he was confused and more than wary of every noise he could hear outside the tent. "Do you know where you are?"
"Hawaii?" It was his best guess based solely on the badge and he offered it after a slight pause. Ellen's perturbed expression instantly said he was wrong though.
"They took you from there ... I know that much. Darien's people," Ellen explained quietly. "They moved you a long way to prevent your team from finding you. We're on American Samoa right now though. Near Pago Pago."
"Oh." He blinked once and then twice before falling fully silent since he wasn't sure how he felt about this new piece of information. A crack sounded loudly outside and he heard the voices before she did. It set him on edge and he climbed painfully to his elbow.
"It's okay ... stay down, Danny. Just relax." Her voice was soft and calm as she kept her hand on his chest when he tried to suddenly get up when two men jogged by through the wind-driven rain. Both were likely only on their way to their own tent for a well-deserved break. Their voices were loud as they shouted over the storm though and Danny flinched at their barked out laughter.
"Need to go," he whispered as he tried to move her restraining hands. "Not safe."
"Do you know the names of who took you? How many there were?" Danny stopped his weak struggle at her soft questions before shaking his head.
"Three men; always the same three. I never saw their faces and they never spoke a single word." He swallowed hard again as distant voices reached their ears - this time in a foreign tongue - and Ellen shushed him gently as he tried to sit up. He was nervous and jumpy but in no condition to do more than rest.
"We're here as volunteers to help the injured after the cyclone hit this area. There are actually a great many medical and lay volunteers working here through the Red Cross, Salvation Army and through other organizations. This is an international disaster relief station, but we moved you out of the main hospital to keep you safe. You're safe now."
His eyes continued to betray his uncertainty though and he shook his head to object to her last few words.
"Not safe," he insisted as she kept a firm, restraining hand on his chest.
"I know you're confused but do you trust me, Danny?" He hesitated at her abrupt question. Her mouth had become a stern line and he realized that this Ellen Ramirez was perhaps a bit annoyed with him. He quirked an intrigued eyebrow before slowly nodding when he realized that he did, and she heaved in a deep approving breath before continuing.
"Steve is your best friend and you work together. Steve McGarrett. Yes?" But Danny's eyes stayed blank as Ellen's mouth remained rather grim. Her side of the conversation was exasperating at best and she had never anticipated that he might not have a clue about his identity or past.
With one finger she tapped his shoulder firmly to make her next words count. "Well, he is and you two are officers on the Governor's special task force which you all call 'Five-0'. Steve and the rest of your team have been desperate to find you after you went missing about one week ago. It all happened because of this mobster's arrest - this "Darry" Darien - and because of his trial. I don't know much more than that .. other than your team and HPD have been working day and night trying to find you."
What she said supported the embellished words on the badge that he'd found on his waist. It made sense and for that, he was distinctly relieved. The badge ... his badge ... said the holder was a "Detective" and he realized that "Darry" Darien's name was something he knew. He made a sound under his breath because he did know that the two Sneakers and Boots took ultimate direction from this mobster.
Ellen watched him closely as he suddenly began searching his waist and then tapped his pants' pockets. "What do you need?" She asked quietly. "What are you looking for?"
"My badge." He must have lost it or dropped it as he made his way through the jungle and he felt its loss. "I had a badge. It's gone."
But both Sneakers boys and Boots worked for this mobster and he frowned more deeply when a piece of paper appeared in his mind's eye. He knew this one memory was of a note from which many others had been received.
"Friday, June 14th. D. Day."
He wasn't certain why he would recall this one particular message though until he asked the nurse. "What happened on June 14th?"
"It was the day you went missing." Danny made another knowing sound under his breath. Though it was more of a sense or a group of feelings, Danny almost could remember splintered pieces of what had happened. It was surreal and he felt like what had happened had been to another person.
"This is enough talking. You need to rest now." Her voice stayed low and calm as she replaced the oxygen mask. He was exhausted but resistant to the concept of actually sleeping. However, he failed at pushing the oxygen mask off his face for the nurse's strong hand and his eyes wound up closing on their own.
"Go to sleep, Danny." The impatient tone was persistent and he sighed. He had more than before, but it wasn't quite enough and he muttered her name as a type of objection.
"No. Sleep!" He was exhausted, dizzy and wanted both to run and to sleep. With a stubborn effort, he forced himself to hazily blink again back up at her to reassure himself. She almost got him to smile at her dramatic huffed sound of annoyance as he fought the need to rest. That tiny flicker of emotion was more familiar and natural and Ellen felt slightly relieved.
"Yes, you should sleep now, Danny." Ellen grinned at his obstinacy as she continued to rub soothing circles on his chest.
His last objection died on his lips because her eyes were still kind and caring; not even remotely similar to either Sneaker or especially to Boots. He wanted to know her and felt that he should, but he simply couldn't remember. He felt her checking the oxygen mask and sighed around a deeper, settling crisp inhale of oxygen as he allowed his eyes to finally close to her calming words.
"You're safe here with me and with Ponch. I promise." Ellen sat there quietly until his breathing evened out and slowed to a more natural rhythm. As he finally lost the battle, she diligently set about cleaning the head wound; pleased when he never stirred. When she was satisfied, she gently set his wrist in a splint to keep it straight and protected from further damage. Danny moaned in his sleep and sweat dotted his forehead as she finished splinting the broken bones.
"I'm sorry," she whispered as her triage continued to evaluate the bruises on his chest and the broken rib. But she feared pushing more than fluids or antibiotics into his IV line due to the unknown drugs that could still be in his system.
That would be a decision completely reserved for her husband. Ellen looked up with a start and had her hand on her gun when a large shape ducked quickly out of the storm into the tent. The shape brought a sting of rain and cold wind with it and she crouched to ready herself before realizing who it was.
"Ellen!" Ponch put his hands up in surprise when he came face to face with the silver muzzle and his wife's fierce gaze.
"Easy!" He exclaimed in a sharp whisper to his overly jumpy wife as he knelt across from her with more medical supplies, coffee, sandwiches and what looked like hot soup in a small container. Her eyes were filled with annoyance as she rubbed her face from the fright of his too quick entrance.
"For God's sake, be careful!" She hissed defensively at him as she sat with a thump and then lay the weapon next to her right hip. She made a disgusted face at his lame apologetic expression.
"He's been beaten," Ellen blurted the words as she continued cleaning the mud and debris from Danny's torso. She flinched herself as each gentle swipe revealed more angry welts and deeply discolored skin.
"And drugged," Ponch added just as angrily before offering a genuine compliment. "He's actually sleeping now though, and he looks a bit better."
He narrowed his eyes when Ellen merely shrugged before whipping off his own stethoscope and retaking vitals that his wife had recorded only fifteen minutes prior. "Blood pressure is still depressed. His respiration is rapid but that has improved too. He'll need to remain on oxygen indefinitely; has he woken and was he lucid?"
"He did for a short time and he managed to keep some water down." Ellen nodded as she rocked back on her heels. Danny was sleeping very soundly now and she was sure nothing would wake him as they continued to whisper over him.
"We talked and he seemed coherent. He is in pain though .. and different. He's not exactly himself," Ellen stammered before voicing the true concern. "Other than being taken by three men and knowing that mobster's name, he doesn't remember anything at all."
"Alright." Ponch was distracted as he gently evaluated the newly splinted wrist. "That's to be expected with the head injury and the trauma of the last few days. We have no idea what drugs have been forced into his system either. When he wakes again, I'll decide if we should administer morphine."
"No, Alphonse. You aren't listening, it's more than that." Her anxious hand on his arm drew his attention to her large eyes and then the actual tone of her voice. "He doesn't know who he is ... or who we are. He doesn't remember anything about his past and he's acting ... differently."
"Oh." Ponch's shocked whisper matched the look on his face. "Nothing more than Darien's name? How different exactly is different?"
"None of us are familiar to him. Not Steve or Five-0 ... nothing at all about the task force."
"I'm sure he'll be fine." The doctor offered hesitantly but Ellen was insistent as she interrupted his reasoning. "Stress and trauma will do things like this. Ellen, ..."
"No. Alphonse. No. I had to tell him his own name." He watched as his wife's eyes filled unexpectedly with tears. "As for different, he's too quiet ... too careful and reserved ... he seems removed and just ... different."