'Emo 'ole Make loa
Chapter 17 - Epilogue
When I started this story, little did I know it would take FOREVER to finish it. It was going to be short... ha! and to the point... double ha! But finally, it is finished. Thank you to everyone who stuck with it. I know I lost several readers when I changed the rating in Chapter 3, but that's OK.
I can't finish the story without another shout out to the people who got me through this: Sockie1000, Sym64, Rogue Tomato and Sherry57. These ladies are the ones I lean on for help and inspiration. I hope you know that this wouldn't be any fun without you, so you're stuck with me!
Danny pulled into the drive shortly after seven on a sunny, breezy Monday morning. He stopped behind Steve's blue pick-up, watching his partner root around in the cargo cabinet in the back. Danny was still amazed watching Steve… he was healthy, mobile, and well… alive. No matter how hard he tried, he couldn't get the memory of Steve lying on that metal slab in the morgue out of his mind. Danny continued to wake at night in a sweat-drenched panic before he remembered that it was over... that Steve was really alive. And that Chastity was really dead. Which he considered to be a win/win situation. His nightmares were a secret he could never tell his partner because he knew that Steve had his own plethora of nightmares to last a lifetime. He didn't need to add Danny's list to it.
Right now he watched as his partner stretched and picked up a black case that looked suspiciously weapon-sized and set it aside to reach for a black, zippered bag. The bag was removed, the weapon-of-McGarrett-destruction went back into the hold and then Steve dropped the lid on the truck container, locking it back into place. He looked up and waved at Danny, saying, "just a sec," as he ran back to the front door. After quickly leaning in to set the alarm, Steve slammed the door, picked up his black bag and walked to the passenger seat.
Steve knew Danny was expecting an argument over who was driving. Right now, Steve was so happy to be going back to work, so happy to finally have been cleared for duty, that he didn't really mind that Danny wouldn't give up the driver's side of the car. Besides, he knew that it would drive Danny nuts that he didn't challenge him for the privilege. So, with a slight, self-satisfying grin, he slid into the passenger seat and tossed the bag into the back.
"Hey, yourself, Steven. What'cha got there?"
"Oh, this. Just something I need for work today. You ready?"
Danny turned and backed out of the drive, chewing his lower lip. They hadn't even reached the end of the street and the silence was already killing him. "So, Steve, you feeling OK?"
"Yeah, I feel great." Steve continued to stare out the windshield, catching Danny's eye movements as he tried to covertly check him out.
"Sure, don't worry, Danny. I'm ready for work." Truth be told, he hadn't slept all that well, but that was par for the course. He had woken up at least once every night since he left the hospital, dreaming that he was trapped in a stifling, black bag and had to claw himself out. But Danny didn't need to know that. He had enough nightmares of his own and didn't need to know about Steve's.
"And nothing hurts, right?" Danny tried again.
"What's with the twenty questions? I feel fine, got plenty of sleep, went for a swim, ate breakfast and am ready to go to work. Speaking of, that light is green – think we could drive through now, or you wanna catch the next one?"
A horn blared from behind them before Danny hit the gas. "Well, if you must know, you always squawk when I drive, so I was wondering why you didn't fight for the keys."
"Oh, that." Steve grinned.
"Yes, That. What's wrong?"
"Nothing," Steve admitted and looked at his partner and grinned. "I knew you were ready for an argument and I decided to not give you one. Now, if you don't mind, I need to make a stop before we get to headquarters."
"Are you sure you want to do this?" Danny asked when they got out of the car and stared at the white concrete building in front of them. The one labeled "Medical Examiner Facility".
"Yeah, I'm sure," Steve replied, glancing back at his partner. "Gotta do it sometime… it only makes sense to do it in a controlled setting." He picked up the black bag from the back and slung it over his shoulder, heading for the door. Glancing back, he asked, "you coming?"
Danny shook his head and ran to catch up with his partner as he walked through the door. "What the hell is in that bag?" he asked once again, but Steve didn't reply. They walked down the lower level hallway and Danny confessed, "To be honest, after the last time I was here, seeing what I saw here, this place gives *me* the willies."
"Well, since we're being honest," Steve said, "It probably is affecting you worse than me. All I remember are sounds and smells, so this time, it's not really creeping me out. And let's face it, I had my melt down going through the hospital morgue the other day. And I survived that one."
One of the doors leading into the hallway was opened and Max stood before them. "Steve, Danny, welcome. To what do I owe the visit?"
"Thanks for getting here early, Max," Steve told the ME. "I was hoping to show you something. Is he still here?" Steve glanced around the morgue room and set his bag down on the metal table and unzipped it.
"Yes, just a moment." Max went into a second room and called, "Mr. Stringer. Could you come here, please."
A few seconds later, Dale Stringer appeared, backpack slung over his shoulder, a sullen look on his face. He glanced at Danny, his face lightning in recognition. "Hey." He then looked at Steve and his eyes widened. "You're the dead guy… Wow. Are you all right?"
"Yeah, I am. Thanks. How's 'Sweetums' doing?"
Dale stared at him blankly as Steve began removing things from his black kit and setting them out on the table.
"You know, Janine. I think you called her 'Sweetums'. How's she doing?"
"Uh, well, we, ah, broke up. How did you know—" He stared at Steve as the commander snapped a pair of black gloves onto his hands and picked up a light.
"Hmm, that's too bad," Steve commented, staring Dale in the eye.
"OK, Steve, I gotta ask," Danny interrupted him. "What the hell are you doing?"
"Be patient, Danny, just be patient."
Danny looked at Max and the ME shrugged, unsure where this was leading.
Steve looked around at the refrigerated boxes built into the wall. He glanced at the position of the morgue table and then moved toward the wall. "Which one was it, Dale? The one you shoved me into? I'm gonna assume it is this one with the "do not use" sign on it, right?"
"Well, ah—I don't, I uh, don't really remember. How do you know these things?"
"Ah, come on. If I recall, you said it was your 'favorite', right? Max, is this the one?"
"Yes, you are correct. I checked this morning and the thermometer is still not reading correctly. We have not used it since, well, since you were here."
Steve opened the door. "Max, I'm going to guess that Mr. Stringer knows why the temperature gauge is off, isn't that right, Dale?"
"I –ah, no sir… of course not!"
"Really?" Steve turned and pulled out the metal tray from the drawer. "Are you sure? I mean, it would have been pretty uncomfortable for you and Janine to lay on this frigid tray if the temp was really at 39 degrees. Don't you think?"
"To what are you referring, Steve?"
"Yes, Steven? To what are you referring?" Danny crossed his arms and wondered if maybe it wasn't such a good idea for Steve go come to work today.
Steve flipped on the UV light and shone it onto the tray, not saying a word. Numerous unknown splotches showed up under the light. "I'm saying that Mr. Stringer uses this particular tray as a chick magnet. Not really sure why, but whatever floats your boat, Dale. Max, I'm guessing you will find numerous DNA samples on there."
"Hey, that's not—"Dale began.
"Give it up, Stringer. The one thing you didn't know what that I was awake while I was in here. Heard the entire, sordid thing with your 'Snookems'. Sorry she ditched you. But maybe the name 'Baby Doll' turned her off, you just never know with women."
Danny stood with his mouth open. Totally at a loss for words.
Something very rare indeed.
It took a few moments for Max to realize exactly what Steve was implying, but when he realized, his eyes widened in astonishment.
"Mr. Stringer, you are dismissed. Your final paycheck will be mailed to the address we have on file."
"Hey, now, that's not fair. I got two days vaca—"
"I would suggest you leave now, before I lose my temper. Not only is it your job to prepare the bodies at intake… with utmost respect, I might add, but it is your responsibility to thoroughly clean and disinfect the premises nightly. Including the coolers. You might want to leave on your own accord before I have you escorted from the premises."
Max had risen to his full height and puffed out his chest, quite indignant that anything untoward would happen in his morgue.
Dale began to scurry out the door when Steve grabbed his wrist and jerked him back around. "But not before you give my watch back." He stared at Dale's wrist.
"This was a gift-" Dale began to explain.
"You're right. A gift to me, from a … friend." Steve unfastened it from the kid's arm and flipped the watch over. "It says so, right here on the back. 'To Steve, From Cath'. If I were you, I would leave now. It might save you from a theft charge.
Dale needed no further urging and was out the door. Steve pulled off his gloves and tossed them into the trash. "My work here is done." With a grin, he looked at his still-shocked friends, then put the light back into its case.
Finally, Danny spoke, "Are you serious about all this?" He pointed to the refrigerated box, a look of disgust on his face.
"Oh, yeah. I heard the whole thing. My ears still hurt."
"Steve, I am so sorry…"
"Hey, Max, not your fault." Steve glanced back at the still opened drawer. "But after seeing all… that, I think I need another shower. Coming, Danny?" With deft fingers, he plucked the key ring from his partner's slack hand and walked out the door.
"Hey! Wait. Steve?! Don't leave me here. And I'm driving!"
Note: In the first chapter, I mentioned that Steve had a scar on his upper right thigh. Stv2 wrote and asked how he got it. I hadn't thought about it, so I created the scenario and sent it to her. She wanted more, so I told her to add to it. She did and we have a final product ready for publication after some minor tweaks. Next week, be on the watch for a short story by Stv2 and Cokie!