McGarrett's Errand of Mercy

by Liz Clare

McGarrett recognized the pink patent-leather shoes first. Since four-year-old Kimberly Chang disappeared last Sunday, her description had been on every newscast. From the beginning, McGarrett had held out little hope of recovering the missing girl alive. Still, it didn't make it any easier to watch as HPD rescue crews pulled the tiny body from the Ala Wai Canal.

He barely noticed the moored yachts bobbing festively in the canal as the paramedics placed the dripping corpse onto the planks of the pier. Obscenely bloated, naked but for the shiny pink shoes and sodden socks, Kimberly's body bore little resemblance to the smiling child in the photographs her frantic mother gave Five-O earlier in the week.

Swallowing against the rotten fishy smell, McGarrett knelt by her body for the first clues that might lead him to her killer. Briefly, he met Doc's eyes as the old coroner stooped beside him. Doc was a hard case. McGarrett sometimes envied his clinical detachment--especially today. Retrieving a well-chewed pencil from his coat, Doc pointed to the body:

"Throat slashed, Steve. Probably the cause of death, though we'll need the autopsy to make sure it wasn't inflicted postmortem.. . ." Gingerly, Doc turned the body on its side, and the sudden shock of recognition pierced McGarrett's heart.

He stood up quickly and drew in a deep breath. Doc just kept looking at the deep wounds carved into the flesh. Raggedly torn into the girl's back were two words: HELP ME.

Doc looked up at McGarrett.

"Steve, are you thinking what I'm thinking?"

McGarrett closed his eyes before answering, "Yeah, Doc. Yeah--the Schoolyard Stalker."

***

Steve McGarrett didn't believe in unsolved cases. That was just one of the tenets of police work he had learned from Lloyd Deford. All the same, Jenny had to go to the HPD Archives for the Schoolyard Stalker file. For all the heart-breaking hours they had spent on the case, it was maddeningly thin. McGarrett slipped out the photographs of the four little girls, smiling up at him in black and white from 1965. Deford said he would look for their killer forever.

But forever hadn't been long enough for Lloyd Deford. And, after what had happened to Deford, McGarrett had stopped looking.

Chin Ho Kelly helped McGarrett post the photos next to the one of Kimberly Chang while Dan Williams and Ben Kokua leafed through the rest of the file. There wasn't much. Doc's autopsy reports for the four girls. Interviews with their families, which had turned up no significant connections between any of the children. Statements of witnesses who had seen a couple of the girls before they disappeared. And the inevitable crime-scene photos, and the weeping gouges that said, "HELP ME."

"Here's what we've got, gentlemen," McGarrett began. Indicating the first picture, he said, "Diana Pauhi, age 8. Disappeared, February 11, 1965. Her body was found near Ala Moana four days later by a jogger." McGarrett himself had interviewed the young man and eliminated him as a suspect. "Nude, throat cut, no sign of sexual assault. And the same mutilations." McGarrett wrote "HELP ME" on the board in his bold hand.

"I was on the HPD task force that worked with Five-O," Chin told the others. McGarrett nodded tensely, remembering how Chin Ho, the only father on the task force, had worked long nights and weekends running down parking tickets, combing through trash cans, and working his street sources to try to turn up a shred of evidence that could break open the case. Chin approached the board. "On July 4th, Amy Borrego. Same M.O. Mary Ellen Fukiyama disappeared right after school started."

"And the last one, Donna Fung, September 30th, 1965," McGarrett finished. "Four little girls killed in eight months. This island was in a panic. And then," he snapped his fingers, "the killings stopped. Just like that."

"We ran down a lot of theories," Chin recalled. "The boss--" Chin glanced at McGarrett. "Deford thought maybe the killer moved away, but we kept checking the mainland and never heard of any similar crimes. We tried the prisons and the mental institutions, too, but never got a lead. Finally Deford figured maybe the killer had died, and we even checked out dead men." Chin shrugged helplessly.

Ben asked, "So, Steve, are you sure the Chang girl was murdered by the same guy? Could be a copycat."

"At this point, Ben, we can't rule it out. We'll know more when we get the autopsy results back from Doc." Briskly, McGarrett switched into command mode. "Danno, I want you to interview the family. See if you can find anyone with a motive to kill the girl, or any connection with any of the victims from '65. Chin, I want you to go through the case files and put together a list of our old leads and theories. Maybe the computer can come up with something this time that we didn't have access to in '65. Ben, you get with Doc and Che Fong and see what we've got in the way of physical evidence. They should be able to tell us whether we're looking at a copycat or the real Schoolyard Stalker."

McGarrett looked at each of his men. "I won't kid you, gentlemen. We're dealing with a killer who's vicious, brutal, and absolutely brilliant. This is a case Lloyd Deford never solved. I intend to."

***

The sun was already sending its final blazing salute over the horizon as McGarrett hurried over to the governor's mansion. It seemed that the governor was having a party. Limousines were disgorging fat cats and their elegant wives onto the lawn, where a small orchestra and tables laden with hors d'oeuvres vied for attention.

Many people thought McGarrett was vain about his appearance, but in this crowd, he felt slightly disreputable. The tuxedo-clad governor cut a graceful figure in the reception line. He spotted McGarrett and motioned him over. "Sorry about all the monkey suits, Steve," the governor said seriously. "We're having a reception for Madeline Robertson for all her work with the children's hospital."

"The senator's widow?"

"Yes, more's the pity. Since Robertson died four months ago, Madeline's been even more involved in helping the children's foundation." The governor turned to the slim socialite chatting serenely with his wife. "Will you ladies do me the favor of excusing me for a minute?"

"Only if you'll introduce me to the gentleman," said the slender woman, locking brown eyes on McGarrett's.

"Of course. Mrs. Robertson, this is Steve McGarrett, Hawaii Five-O," the governor said. Madeline's handshake was firm, cool and dry.

"It's a privilege to meet you, Mr. McGarrett," Madeline said. Her eyes searched his face appraisingly. McGarrett had known the late state senator well--he'd had more than a few battles with Randolph Robertson over Five-O's budget at appropriations time. But Madeline he knew only from the society pages. The senator's wealthy widow was one of the main contributors to the children's hospital--and the governor's campaigns. "Are you the policeman investigating the case about that poor little girl?"

McGarrett nodded. She was an interesting-looking woman, with a supple, athletic build and an unguarded gaze. McGarrett was willing to bet she wouldn't be without a man for long. Maybe he would have a chance to get to know her some other time.

The governor disengaged from the party long enough for McGarrett to brief him on the case. McGarrett emphasized his belief that the Schoolyard Stalker from '65 was responsible for the Chang girl's murder.

"Let me make this clear, Steve," the governor told him. "My office has been fielding calls all day from the national press and panicked citizens. The Schoolyard Stalker case left a scar on these islands that took years to heal. Now it's been ripped open. I don't care if you have to turn this island upside down and inside out, Steve. You must catch this man."

***

The spectacular illumination of the full moon and its attendant clouds went unappreciated by McGarrett as he dragged himself through the front door at 404 Pi'ikoi. Undressing, he carefully hung his black suit up. It was shot. He needed to have Jenny take it to the dry cleaners this week.

Steve McGarrett permitted himself few indulgences. A long hot shower was one of them. He especially needed it tonight. McGarrett stood with his head bowed under fingers of pulsing water, long warm rivulets running down his lanky body. He let himself imagine the day's frustrations--the nightmarish corpse of Kimberly Chang, the governor's incessant demands on Five-O and his men, the memories of Deford--running down the drain along the soap lather and the day's sweat.

A few minutes later, McGarrett, now wearing his big white terry robe, put some Stan Getz on the stereo and sank onto the sofa. He'd opened the window to let the fragrant breeze cool the apartment and dry his limp black hair, and retrieved a cup of yogurt from the fridge, though he wasn't at all hungry.

What he could really use was a pretty lady to rub his neck. But it was too late to call the most likely candidate, and besides, McGarrett didn't want to burden the lady with his mood about this case.

McGarrett made himself eat. A good run on the beach tomorrow and he would be ready for this case. In truth, he admitted to himself, it was the weight of failure that was pressing in on him tonight. When working a tough case, he often asked himself how Lloyd Deford would have handled it. This time he knew. Five-O had put everything they had into the Schoolyard Stalker case ten years ago, and come up empty. Now another kid, subjected to God knows what and then killed. And how many more this time, McGarrett?

This guy couldn't be that smart. In 1965, the psychiatrist's profile of the Schoolyard Stalker said he was probably some loser, working at a low-level occupation. But yet, he had lured four--now, five--children into his car and to their deaths, without giving up a single decent lead! Deford hadn't believed it was possible for this guy to outwit his famous "Five-O boys," Steve McGarrett, Ted Hada, and Julian Kala'oka, not to mention Chin Ho Kelly and the rest of the HPD task force. And McGarrett didn't either. Somehow, they had all missed something.

They wouldn't miss it this time. He was proud of the Five-O he'd built. Tomorrow he, Danno, Chin, and Ben would start over with this case. McGarrett stretched his legs out and rested his head on the back of the sofa. It felt good to close his dry, burning eyes, and he allowed sleep to replace his weariness.

***

Doc droned on and on, explaining the wounds to McGarrett and Danno. The body was splayed on the dissecting table now. The table was angled to carry body fluids into channels for disposal. McGarrett felt angry and sick. He kept thinking that the girl looked like a side of pork at the Chinese market. He clenched his jaw hard and looked at Danno instead of the girl. As he had expected, Danno's face was implacable.

McGarrett had worked with the best of men, first in the Navy, then with Five-O. Of all of them, he considered Dan Williams the sanest and steadiest he'd known. Danno had superior technical abilities and superb investigatory skills, but more than that, he had nerves of steel and a core of essential decency that the inhumanity of their work had never even touched.

"Doc--Doc--" McGarrett finally interrupted. Doc stopped talking and looked at McGarrett quizzically. "In a nutshell, please."

"I did the autopsies in '65, Steve." Doc gestured to some garish photographs lying a few feet away on another lab table. "There's no doubt about it. The wounds are identical. The same killer who killed the girls ten years ago killed Kim Chang."

"That's enough, then, Doc. Send your report over to my office as soon as possible, please." McGarrett turned to go, then stopped abruptly. "And for God's sake, Doc, put this baby girl back together so her family can have some kind of decent funeral."

McGarrett slammed out of the lab and walked with long strides down the corridor. He wanted to get back to the office and crunch every detail of the case file through his brain. He wanted to get out of the office and interview every neighbor and shopkeeper and motorist within 10 miles of the Chang house. He wanted to bring in every criminal psychologist. He wanted to check out every released prisoner and mental patient and military man, and to investigate everyone who had ever lived on Oahu and recently returned.

Danno, much shorter than McGarrett, had to hurry to catch up. Danno didn't ask him if he was all right. That was another one of the things he liked about Danno.

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