Small Protector

Author’s Note: Just a little something for Halloween! I apologize if my Hawaiian naming is off and will happily accept corrections. We meet Diane for the first time in my story “A Trip to the Zoo.” Ken’s House of Pancakes is a Hilo restaurant that has been around since 1971, very popular with astronomers, who also appreciate having breakfast available at odd hours.

Steve McGarrett and Danny Williams stood in the twilight behind a large tree, taking shelter both from the intermittent rain and the view of the men in the distant cabin as they waited for full darkness to cover their approach.

The forest around them was damply atmospheric, the sounds of dripping water and incessant insect life combining with the rich smells of wet earth and a touch of rotting vegetation. Danny turned up the collar of his dark windbreaker against the chill and the drips that seemed to unerringly find the back of his neck.

He reflected on how they had come to be in this eerie place, two days before Halloween....

A few days earlier as he had approached Steve McGarrett’s office to report the outcome of an errand the door opened, and a tall woman with long, wavy red hair touched with silver emerged.

“I hope you can take care of this,” she was saying to the head of Five-O. “I’ve had to pull my students out of the field, and they’re doing vital work.”

“We’ll give the matter our full and immediate attention,” McGarrett assured her.

As she passed Danny, who gave her a curious glance, Steve said, “Good, Danno, you’re back. Bring Chin and Kono in–we have a new case.” When the team was arrayed in the white leather chairs in front of his desk, Steve, leaning on its front edge, addressed them. “I just had a visit from Dr. Patricia Bougainville, a professor at the University. Apparently she has a team of students doing field research on the Big Island in a forest area outside Hilo. They have stumbled on a cabin containing what appears to be a major heroin refining operation.”

“Field research?” Danny, perched on a chair arm, asked.

Steve leaned over to retrieve a file folder from his desk. Opening it, he said, “The researchers study the endangered Hawaiian hoary bat. They are trying to ‘conduct a census to determine current bat numbers on the Big Island of Hawaii with the goal of enabling future monitoring of the status of the bat population.’ ”

“What’s so special about these bats?” Chin Ho asked. “I didn’t even know we had any here.”

“The ‘ōpe‘ape‘a is the only mammal native to these islands!” Kono exclaimed. “Everything else–rats, mice, pigs, mongeese–they were all brought by us people. But that little bat got here all on its own. And it’s found no place else!”

“I had no idea you knew so much about Hawaiian wildlife,” Danny told him, sounding impressed.

“Me, the bats, we’re all connected to the ‘āina,” Kono said solemnly.

“Let’s leave the bats to the scientists,” McGarrett said. “Five-O’s concern is the heroin refinery.”

“How sure is it that that’s what the students found?” Chin asked. “I mean, would they know one to see it?”

“Being scientists, naturally when they found something interesting they couldn’t leave well enough alone,” McGarrett said drily. “Fortunately, the cabin had been left unguarded when they found it. They took these through the windows.” He passed around a sheaf of black and white photos.

Danny gave a low whistle. “Besides the chemistry equipment, they’ve got an arsenal in there.”

“Looks like a big operation, alright,” Chin said. “Nice secluded spot for it, they must have thought.”

“Yeah, they didn’t reckon on it being a nice spot for bats, too!” Kono said. McGarrett stood. “Okay, gentlemen, I want us all on this one. We’ll coordinate with Hawaii PD to set up the raid in a few days.”

As the Five-O team filed out of McGarrett’s office, Kono said quietly to Danny, “I sure hope we’re not over there for Halloween. My sister’s having a big party for all the kids, and she wants me to help out.”

“Maybe you can bring them back a bat,” Danny suggested with a smile.

After dark, the Five-O detectives, backed up by Hawaii PD, moved into closer positions around the cabin, waiting for the activity within to die down.

McGarrett peered through his binoculars from behind the trunk of another large tree. “I think they’re cooking dinner,” he said quietly.

“Sounds good,” his partner answered a bit wistfully.

“I’ll take you to Ken’s House of Pancakes after this,” Steve promised.

“24-hour breakfast–answer to a cop’s prayer,” Danny said, laughing.

Time passed, the forest seeming to grow colder and wetter in the wan light of a crescent moon. The steady sounds of rain and dripping leaves were periodically interrupted by a more intense drumming as some branch shook off its accumulated load of moisture.

The cabin abruptly grew dark, only a single light still burning.

McGarrett held down the button on his radio, saying softly, “We’ll wait fifteen minutes, then go in. Remember, don’t move until my signal.”

Danny tensely watched the house, wishing he’d thought to wear a hat as what felt like yet another wet leaf landed on his head. He reached up to brush it off, then withdrew his hand, startled at the feeling of movement.

“Steve?” he asked softly. “Could you see what’s in my hair?”

“Your hair Danno?” McGarrett asked in a low, incredulous voice, but he turned on his flashlight, shielding it with his hand over the end, and inspected his partner’s head in the dim light.

“What...well, Danno, it looks like you’ve got a little friend,” he said. “Unless I miss my guess, this is one of Kono’s special bats.”

“Can you get it to leave? Gently, of course....” Danny asked.

McGarrett switched off the flashlight and returned it to his pocket, then attempted to dislodge the little bat nestled among his partner’s sandy curls. “It’s got a pretty good grip on your hair, here,” he reported. “I can’t blame it, it looks comfortable.”

“I knew it was time for a haircut,” Danny said ruefully.

“I’m not sure I can....”

Steve’s words were abruptly cut off by the sound of a single gunshot, apparently from outside the cabin to their right.

McGarrett and Williams drew their guns, the bat forgotten for the moment.

“It was an accident!” came a panicked voice from the same direction.

“Change of plans,” Steve snapped into the radio. We go NOW!

He and Danny rushed the front door, kicking it down. Simultaneously, Chin and Kono burst through the back.

The four detectives leveled their guns at five men who had apparently converged on their stash of weapons upon hearing the gunshot. A small table in one corner of the room bore a lantern and evidence of a hastily abandoned card game.

“Five-O! Drop the guns! Hands where we can see them!” McGarrett ordered, the startled men hurrying to comply. After making a quick sweep of the room with flashlights, surveying the gas bottles and chemistry equipment crowding the small space, the head of Five-O and his second in command crossed to the door to the cabin’s only other room.

Steve nodded to Danny, who flung back the door, shining his flashlight into a space apparently being used as a combination of workroom, storage, and sleeping quarters. Several cots stood surrounded by piles of boxes and clutter, a bench against one wall was apparently in the middle of being used to weigh and package drugs, and more boxes were balanced on the open rafters and stacked in the closet. There appeared to be no one within, but the two detectives advanced cautiously, McGarrett checking out the closet while his partner looked under the cots.

Suddenly, Steve caught a flash of motion out of the corner of his eye. “Danno!” he shouted, as a man in dark clothing dropped lightly from his perch on one of the rafters, landing behind Danny and leveling a pistol at his head at close range.

“Drop the guns!” the apparition ordered.

Danny reluctantly let go of his revolver, which fell to the floor.

“You’ll never make it out of here!” McGarrett snapped.

“I will if you want to keep your second-in-command alive, McGarrett!” the man with the gun sneered, taking hold of Danny’s collar to press the muzzle against his temple. “You put me away for five years last time, and I’ll die before I go back to that stinking jail!”

“Why settle for my second-in-command, Armstrong? Take me, instead,” McGarrett suggested.

No, Steve!” Danny protested.

The gunman was shaking his head. “So, you remember me, huh? It’s tempting, but I’m having more fun imagining your face at your partner’s funeral,” he said. “Now drop the gun, or I’ll blow his head off right here!” he shouted.

Armstrong means it, he’s too close to the edge...but if I let him take Danno, I know I’ll never see him alive again, Steve thought in despair, reluctantly setting down his pistol. We’ll have to try to take a shot outside, but in the dark, with the two of them so close...not much hope.

“Get your men out of the house and away from the van,” Armstrong ordered, reaching up to turn on the headlamp he wore.

The little bat sheltering in Danny’s curly hair had been growing increasingly restless as the proceedings continued, and this light shining in its face was too much. With a high-pitched squeak, it launched itself directly into the face of Williams’ captor.

“Eaaagh!” the man screamed, frantically swatting aside his tiny assailant, holding both arms protectively in front of his face.

Danny leapt on him, grabbing his gun hand and sending them both crashing back into a stack of boxes. He wrested the gun from the other man’s grasp as his would-be kidnapper was suddenly jerked away by the collar and flung none-too-gently against the wall by Steve, then passed to a waiting Chin and Kono to be cuffed and escorted outside with the others.

When Steve turned back to his partner, he found him on his knees on the floor. “Danno! Are you okay?” he asked anxiously, hurrying to kneel beside him.

“I’m fine, Steve,” Williams assured him, taking out his handkerchief and carefully picking up something small from the ground. “But he must have hit the bat. I think it’s injured,” he said worriedly, looking up at his partner.

McGarrett gently examined the agitatedly fluttering little animal in the light from his flashlight. “This wing looks like it might be broken,” he said. “It’s trying to fly, but it can’t take off.” The head of Five-O stood. “Find a small box to put it in. Here, take my handkerchief, too,” he said, handing it over. “I’ll be outside.”

Danny found an empty box and some string in the litter of the room, then carefully transferred the bat into a nest of handkerchiefs in the bottom, punching holes in the top with his pencil and tying the box closed.

He carried his small burden out through the activity in the cabin in search of his partner. I know Steve has more important things to worry about right now than a bat, he thought guiltily. When he stepped outside he saw the head of Five-O sitting in the front seat of a Hawaii PD car, giving orders into the radio. Calling for a lab team, I suppose....

As Danny walked towards the car, he was stopped by Kono.

“What happened back there, bruddah?” the Hawaiian detective asked. “One minute that guy had a gun on you, the next all heck breaks loose. Steve said something about a bat when he went by. Is that for real?”

“Yeah. I have it here,” Danny said, indicating the box he carried. “It distracted Armstrong long enough for me to get his gun, but its wing was injured.”

“Saved by a bat! Maybe Kamapua‘a didn’t like those men messing around in his forest,” Kono suggested.

“Or maybe I just got lucky,” Danny said, a shadow passing over his face. He glanced over at the car where Steve appeared to be having an involved discussion with the radio.

Kono followed his gaze. “I sure wouldn’t want to be whoever fired that shot when the boss gets his hands on him.”

“It’s my own fault for not seeing Armstrong in the rafters,” Danny said, shaking his head.

“In that place, with all that junk, no way you could have looked everywhere at once,” Kono told him. “We take them completely by surprise, he’d never have had time to get up there. Not your fault, Bruddah.”

“Thanks, Kono, but....” Danny began.

He was interrupted by Steve, who finally emerged from the car to join his detectives. “Kono, I’d like you to supervise the inventory of the contents of the cabin. Danno, you have a plane for Honolulu to catch,” he said briskly. “I couldn’t reach anyone at Fish and Wildlife at this hour, but Diane and the zoo’s small animal vet Dr. Lamb will meet you at the zoo gates.” He handed Danny a sheet of notebook paper. “Call this number after your plane lands so they know you’re on the way. In the meantime, keep the bat warm and in a dark, quiet place as much as possible so it doesn’t flap around and hurt itself,” he instructed.

“ were...but....” Danny began.

“Don’t worry, Chin, Kono and I can wrap things up here,” McGarrett assured him. Putting his hand on the younger man’s shoulder, he added in a low voice, “I know what I owe that little bat, Danno. Take care of it, okay?” He cleared his throat, gave his partner’s shoulder a squeeze and said, “I’ll see you tomorrow morning.”

Two days later Danny and Steve stood in the Honolulu Zoo’s veterinary department watching a small bat enthusiastically trying to climb Diane’s shirt despite the white bandage immobilizing one wing.

“She’s doing amazingly well,” the keeper told them. “These little insect- eating bats are so delicate, but she’s eating, and, as you can see, very active! She’s still quite young, so we think she’ll settle in nicely.” She retrieved the small animal from her shoulder. “We’ve named her ‘Pale Iki’–it means ‘little shield’–in honor of her heroic rescue of Danny.” She turned to the man in question. “Would you like to hold her?”

Danny couldn’t suppress a grin as Diane put Pale Iki into his hands. The little bat started climbing up the front of his beige suit jacket, her small claws effectively gripping the material.

“We’ve been working with zoos on the mainland to formulate a substitute food for her,” Diane said. “I’m afraid the odds are that her wing won’t heal well enough to release her into the wild again, so we have to think of her long-term health.”

“She won’t be able to go back?” Danny asked, his smile dying.

“Danno, it’s not your fault the bat was injured,” Steve told him gently. “No one could possibly have predicted what happened.”

“I shouldn’t have taken her into a dangerous situation....”

“You didn’t have a choice.”

“I think we can keep her very happy here,” Diane broke in. “We’ll design a special enclosure to give her a safe environment to move around despite whatever impairment she may have. And she can play a very important role for her species. Dr. Bougainville’s group is ecstatic at the chance to observe her echolocation and feeding behavior up close, and, even more importantly, Pale Iki will introduce the public to our only native mammal. Many people who’ve lived in the Islands all their lives have never even heard of the Hawaiian hoary bat!”

“Still, she saved my life, and now because of that she can’t go home,” Danny said unhappily.

The bat, having achieved Danny’s shoulder while the humans were distracted by their concern over her fate, gave a squeak and launched herself upwards, gaining a grip on his ear.

“Ow, those little claws are sharp!” the ear’s owner observed. “’re not climbing into my hair again?”

“It looks to me like she is home,” Steve said, smiling as the bat made herself comfortable amid his partner’s curls.

“I was reading some of the researchers’ reports,” Diane said, unable to suppress a giggle as the sandy-haired detective tried futilely to look up at Pale Iki. “They think the bats mostly roost in trees around human eye level, so your hair would be perfect.”

“Well, as long as she’s happy,” Danny said, looking happier himself.

There was a soft knock at the door. “That must be Kono and the kids–should I give her back to you?” Danny made a move to reach for his small passenger.

“No, she seems happily settled,” Diane said. “Why don’t you just sit here?” She moved up a chair and went to open the door.

He sat down and crossed his arms, trying to look as though a bat were perfectly normal headwear. “Steve, don’t laugh,” he ordered his partner, who was standing behind him leaning against the counter that ran down the side of the room.

“I wouldn’t dream of it,” McGarrett said innocently, passing Diane the camera that had been sitting on the counter as Kono ushered in half a dozen wide-eyed costumed imps.

“Remember, very, very quiet, and look-don’t-touch,” Kono said in hushed tones as the kids crowded around Danny, who inclined his head to give them a better view of the little bat.

When the chorus of hushed oohs and ahs had died down, and she had suitably documented the occasion for Steve’s desk, Diane addressed the children. “This is Pale Iki. Has your Uncle Kono told you why she’s so special?”

“Because...because she’s our only native mammal!” recited a small fireman.

“And she saved Uncle Kono’s friend from a bad man!” added a witch with a toy black cat under her arm.

“That’s right! Now, thank the nice lady, and I’ll take you to the party,” Kono said, and Diane showed them out amid a chorus of thanks.

“She’s right, that makes Pale Iki a very special bat, indeed,” McGarrett said quietly, resting a hand on Danny’s shoulder and smiling fondly down at his partner and his small protector.

Author’s Note: So, I noticed at some point that this story ended up to all appearances gen, but since it takes place in the universe of “The Telephone Rang” I amused myself by imagining what happened after Steve got home the morning after the raid. Thinking back to my original fanfic goal of writing down my imaginings so I could read them later, I figured, why not? So, click on the link below for a bonus scene of gratuitousness.

The Next Morning....

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