The Shallow Grave of Secret Longing

Chapter 23

Here's another one. This should answer at least one question. I hope you like it.

Thank you all so much for your continued support. I listen to what you have to say and try to incorporate some of your ideas into the tale. Would love to hear what you think about this chapter.

Disclaimer: Still don't make any income from this or know how to swim. In my dreams, I'm a wealthy best-selling author who swims like a fish and has a husband who doesn't mind that I occasionally wander off with some of my fantasy 'friends'. Oh . . . and ninja cats catch their own dinner and have a private beach as their litterbox.

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As the two walked purposefully down the dock, the sun once again peeked from behind the bank of clouds. Danny knew it was going to be another of those days that alternated rain and steam. God he hated this place. It couldn't even produce honest weather. It had to mix it up enough so that your body didn't know if it was coming or going.

They'd been to every friggin' boat marina on the island and spoken to anyone who owned and/or piloted anything from a yacht to a rowboat. No one had identified Steve. Danny had taken Catherine with him this time. She'd flown into Hickham last night and was already waiting for him first thing this morning when he'd arrived at the office. When he'd hugged her hello, her body felt tense as a bowstring.

The team had taken pains to regularly update her on the search for Steve. Danny had been the one to make the uncomfortable call to inform her that her friend had disappeared. He hadn't said why Steve had decided to go on a walkabout or even given her additional information as to why he'd been in the hospital in the first place. That was for Steve to tell her . . . or not. The woman was tough and smart and had been in the military for a while. Danny was pretty sure she had an idea as to what was going on with her 'not my boyfriend' but he wouldn't break his promise to his friend.

Chin and Kono hadn't even come into the office first. They'd gone straight to the nearest marina on the other side of the island and were working their way south.

Danny, glanced over at the beautiful brunette striding beside him and wondered again how she and Steve had never acknowledged their obvious commitment to each other. It was a puzzle. They were good together; sort of Mr. and Mrs. Rambo. If they ever decided to, they would undoubtedly produce incredibly attractive if possibly lethal children.

Danny knew for a fact Steve cared about her in more than the 'friends with benefits' way. The way he smiled when she was around, the way his body seemed to melt into hers during an embrace. Though PDA's were few and far between, one didn't have to be Kreskin to know there was a strong bond between the two. Certainly a stronger one than either would admit to.

The first couple of boats, small ones meant for day trips had no one aboard. The next one, a proper fishing boat, had a grizzled old guy on it who took a cursory look at the photo and shook his head. Danny made him look at it again. The man rolled his eyes and gave it another glance. "No, I've never seen that guy. Maybe you should ask Mike, he should be back in a couple of minutes. He owns The Alma Rose across the way. He's usually hard up for money what with the repairs on that leaky old tub. He'd take on just about any passenger for a few bucks. Don't tell him I told l you so. He's a cranky old bastard."

Danny thanked him as the old guy abruptly turned his back on them. Mike's a cranky old bastard, thought Danny, shaking his head.

They busied themselves with a few more stops along the pier. One of the crewmen of another small fishing boat thought maybe Steve looked familiar but couldn't remember where or what day he'd seen the tall man.

Hearing heavy footsteps and a clanking sound, Danny turned to see a grey bearded old guy wearing a stained t-shirt and an equally stained baseball cap board the Alma Rose. He nodded to Cath and they hurried toward him.

"Hey, you Mike?" he called out.

The bearded guy turned slowly and looked him up and down then did the same with Cath only slower and with much more appreciation.

"Might be. Why do you want to know?" he growled out setting down the heavy looking burlap sack with one final clank on the scarred deck beneath him.

"We're Five-0." Danny held up his shield for the old man to get a good look at it. He didn't seem to be someone who could be intimidated by much. Maybe the shield would lend some extra gravity to the situation.

The old man looked cursorily at the shield before saying, "And?"

"And we'd like you to look at a photo for us. Tell us if you've seen this guy around here." said Danny evenly.

Cath pulled open the folder she carried and held the eight-by-ten photo up before the old man's face. In bright sunlight, it was easier to make out the hard copy than an image on the screen of a smartphone. They'd printed several copies of Danny's original snap along with a close-up of Steve's face to give to the other searchers.

The old man smiled at her, showing broken and yellowed teeth and took the photo from her hand. Turning his cap around on his head so that the bill shaded it, he brought it close to his face and studied the image carefully.

"What'd he do?" he asked abruptly, handing the picture back to Cath.

"He didn't do anything. We just need to find him." she answered with a smile, hoping to allay any worry the man may have about cooperating with cops.

"If he didn't do anything, why are you lookin' for him then?" countered the old man, his leathery, sunbaked forehead crinkling with a questioning frown.

Danny and Cath looked at each other before Cath answered for them. "He's my boyfriend and I need to find him because . . . because . . . I'm pregnant." she blurted out lowering her eyes in feigned embarrassment. Waving to the man who stood beside her she said, "This is Danny, he's my cousin. He's helping me. I've got to get the bastard to marry me . . . you know."

Danny had to hand it to her. The reluctant confession of being 'with child' almost had him believing it. The woman was an award winning actress; at least he hoped that was the case. The thought of another Ninja wanna-be running around the islands was enough to make his head spin.

"Darlin', I'm sorry for your, uh, situation but you could do a lot better than that guy." said the old man.

Catherine's face started to tense up as though she wanted to smack the old bastard but she held it in and asked in a hurt voice. "Why do you say that? He's a nice guy."

"Well, he may be nice but that guy's on his way to an early grave or the funny farm if you ask me. Somethin's up with him. Why would anyone in their right mind want to cross the channel to Molokai in the middle of the night in this weather? The guy's got a screw loose. Fortunately for him though," he laughed, "So do I. Couldn't turn down that much money."

"So, you took him to Molokai?" asked Danny, almost vibrating with the news.

"Yup, coupla nights ago. Man, I've been out in rough seas before but this time even I thought I was gonna toss my cookies. That was a rough crossing."

"Where did you drop him off?" asked Catherine

"At Kaunakakai Marina. It's where the smaller fishing boats come in. Don't know where he went from there though."

"Thanks man." called Danny as they hurried away back up the pier.

The old guy called out to Cath as they walked away, "Good luck darlin'. If you don't find your boyfriend, I'm sure there's lotsa nice fellas out there who'd be happy to take on a gal like you . . . even with a bun in the oven. If you can't drag 'im home, come on back here."

"Yeah, I'll be sure and do that." said Cath softly to Danny as she rolled her eyes but deep down she knew she'd keep company with the devil himself if it would help her bring Steve back.

The sun was up again and he hadn't dared sleep. Coughing harshly, his chest burned with each wet, wheezy, spasm. Slowly getting to his feet and ignoring the ache of stiff muscles, he bent down to pick up the plate that had rested beside him. Tucking it under one arm, he began to carefully pick his barefoot way back down the hill toward the house.

Though he knew there was no one there but Kip and her animals, he wasn't taking any chances as he cautiously approached the little wooden structure. In the light of day, he'd come to realize that staying out all night in the rain wasn't the brightest idea he'd ever had but, at the time, it seemed the thing to do. Actually, he felt more than stupid that he'd let his fear override his common sense. Sadly, he knew a lot of stuff he'd done since he'd gotten back from the desert hadn't made much sense.

As he descended into the back yard of the house, a rather large dog stood between him and the back porch. The animal growled menacingly and he stopped in his tracks unsure of what to do.

"Nice dog." he said to it in what he hoped was a soothing voice. The dog continued to growl. It was some kind of shepherd mix with scars across its grey muzzle. "Good boy." he said to it, not daring to approach any farther. "Be a good dog and don't bite me okay. I'm afraid there's not much here for you to chew on and you don't look like you can run any farther than I can right now."

He continued to speak softly to it for a few minutes and finally, the dog seemed to lose interest in him and with a final snuff, turned and hobbled arthritically toward the side of the house.

Reaching the back door, he breathed a sigh of relief that quickly turned into another round of coughing as he wrapped his arms around his ribs and bent forward. He heard the door squeak open and then there were warm hands around his shoulders. He flinched even though he realized it was only Kip.

She said not a word as she pulled him inside and efficiently guided him to a kitchen chair then gently pushed him down onto it. His eyes were tightly closed in pain as his ribs and chest were still fiercely protesting that last round of spastic coughing. He felt a blanket draped around his shoulders and almost sighed with the warm comfort of it.

"Here" he heard her voice for the first time, "Drink this." A cup of coffee was pressed into his hands. He tried to bring it to his mouth but was shivering so badly he actually needed her help to steady the cup to keep from spilling it. After a couple of welcome swallows, it was okay for her to let go so that he could finish it on his own.

"I fixed up the store room for you. There's a decent bed in there." he detected a bit of sadness in her tone before she continued, "It used to be my son's room but I've been using it for storage since he's been gone. It should be comfortable enough if you don't mind sharing it with lots of incredibly gaudy bolts of cloth and big bags of animal food. I used to keep the food in the shed but the goats figured out how to get into it, the little bastards."

As he opened his eyes, he saw the nearly completed puzzle of the kittens and puppies on the table before him. He had a sinking feeling she'd stayed up most of the night working on it. "Kip, I'm sorry I ran off like that. I just . . . "

"Never mind, I know." she said matter-of-factly, "Let's just get you warm for now. When you've stopped shivering maybe you can eat something, huh?"

"Thank you anyway but I'm not really . . . "

She scolded, "You know, some people actually eat at tables and sleep in beds occasionally."

He tried to laugh but the coughing again took hold and seemed to go on forever before ending in a pathetic soggy wheeze.

Taking the nearly empty coffee cup away, she set another cup of something in front of him while ordering, "Drink this, it will help with the cough."

"What is it?" he asked mildly suspicious but intending to drink it anyway. Coughing while having broken ribs was torture.

"Just more herbal stuff from my mom's recipe's but I wouldn't recommend you be in any situation that requires a pee test for a while." she laughed

He only shrugged and downed the bitter tea. He wasn't planning on having to take any sort of test in the near or distant future. Those days were over.

After a few more minutes of silence, he could feel the tightness in his chest ease somewhat. Jack the tomcat jumped onto the chair next to him and commenced to stare again. He was kind of getting used to it. He reached out and stroked the soft, thick fur and the cat began to purr very loudly. It was actually kind of nice.

Next, Kip set a steaming bowl in front of him. Whatever it contained smelled really good.

"Baked oatmeal." she announced, "I don't make it often so you lucked out. Looks like you can use those extra calories. I even put some warm cream over it."

"I'm not very hungry Kip, really I'm . . . ."

Ignoring his protest she went on, "Just try it. It's got pineapple and other good things in it. Just a bit then I'll let you sleep, okay?"

Kip, of course, prevailed and he gingerly took a spoonful of the warm pudding like cereal. It tasted even better than it smelled. He could taste ginger and coconut in it. In spite of not being all that hungry, he ate nearly half of what she'd served him before apologetically pushing away his plate.

"There's some more pajamas there on the bed for you. They're probably too big but that'll just make 'em all the more comfy. Go to sleep Ua Kane. Don't worry, I'll keep watch and wake you if there's need."

He just looked at her gratefully for a moment, trying to find the words to say how much he appreciated her care. Care he knew he didn't deserve.

She just looked back unblinkingly before saying, "Shut up boy. Good night now."

Last night, she'd finally figured it out. She knew where she'd seen those long dark lashes and eyes the color of deep ocean. Pushing another piece of the puzzle into place, this one part of a puppy's paw, it suddenly came to her.

The eyes belonged to a ten-year-old boy. A sweet, but somewhat rambunctious boy who'd come to the island with his dad and a couple of others. That morning, for a few dollars, Malu had agreed to show them the way to the falls so they could have a picnic and explore a little. They seemed like nice people. It was unusual for tourists to come to this part of the island. Most of the haoles stayed at one of the two resorts on the other side of it. She'd later learned the two men and their children were actually residents of Oahu and their boys had been born here.

Joey hadn't wanted to go along but his dad had drafted him to go anyway. He and the boy named Stevie seemed to hit it off well enough. The tall ten-year-old and the short thirteen–year-old were nearly the same height. The other boy whose name she couldn't remember was a whiney sort but the other two put up with him good-naturedly. She waived them off as they trudged up over the ridge to the trail head.

The next time she saw them was a few hours later when she heard piteous crying as the man she remembered as George returned carrying his son piggyback as the kid wailed like a banshee; both knees skinned and bleeding.

A few minutes behind them were Malu, Joey and Stevie and his father. The boy was walking slowly and holding his arm carefully.

George and the screaming boy came into the kitchen as Kip automatically began to set out first aid supplies onto the table. She was sort of the defacto medic in the village. There was actually only one doctor on the island and he worked out of one of the resorts on the other side of it . . . plus, his services were expensive. Kip had learned what her mother had taught her about herbal medicine and just plain common sense practices. She never charged anyone for her services though she did accept donations of kibble or supplies for her menagerie.

"What happened?" she asked George as she began to wash off his son's abraded knees which only made the kid screech louder. His dad tried to shush his son before telling her that the boy had tumbled off the trail and had begun to slide down an embankment. He was about to go over the edge into a steep canyon when, before anyone could even react, Stevie had scrambled after him and grabbed on to keep him from sliding further.

They'd finally pulled the kids back up but Stevie had held on so tight that he'd dislocated his elbow and they hadn't realized it until everyone was back on the trail.

She looked up as Joey pushed open the door and the pale boy and his equally pale father walked in with Malu behind them.

"Come here boy and sit down." she ordered.

The dark-haired boy looked first at his dad who nodded his okay and then with quiet trepidation took a seat in front of her. "Let me see your arm, keiki" she said gently and the boy carefully extended his injured arm toward her as far as he could. With gentle fingers, she carefully examined it. The elbow joint was deformed and beginning to become heated and was obviously out of place. It was also obviously painful but the boy never made a sound.

"When did this happen?" she asked, looking up at the kid's father.

"Just about half an hour ago." he answered, worry creeping into his voice even though he tried to hide it from his son.

"Well, it's a new enough injury that it will be okay to pop the joint back into place. I'm pretty sure it's not broken, just dislocated. Others have come to me with dislocations a few times so I know what it looks like when that happens. I also know that it hurts like a son of a bitch and the longer it's out of joint the worse it's going to hurt to put it back in."

"Is there anything we can do or should we wait until we get back to Oahu?" asked the boy's dad whose name she now recalled was John.

"If you like, I can put it back into place but like I said, it's going to hurt to do it. The boy has to be sure he wants me to."

Kneeling in front of his son who looked back at him with huge pain-filled eyes but who still hadn't uttered a sound, he asked, "Stevie, you want the lady to fix your arm? You heard what she said, it's going to be a little painful to do that but it will feel better a lot sooner than if we wait until we get back home."

The dark blue eyes turned to look at her solemnly. She could see the kid's wheels turning then the look of resolve. Coming to a decision, he gravely nodded yes.

"Malu, heat up some of mama's tea for me, will you? We'll give some to Stevie to relax him a little. We'll give some to the other boy too." she said, trying not to grit her teeth as the brat's wails hadn't yet ceased in spite of his father's soothing.

"It will be easier if he lies down. Just put him on the bed in that room." John led his son to the bedroom toward which she'd gestured and after taking the kid's shoes off so as not to get the bedspread dirty, sat himself down on it and leaned the boy against him with his head cradled in his lap.

"Here, keiki, drink some of this. It doesn't taste all that great but it will make you feel better." The child obediently drank what she handed him, making a face at its bitter taste. After waiting another five minutes or so, she said, "Okay Stevie, we'll take care of your arm now."

It didn't take long, just a pull and a quick twist and a soft popping noise and it was done. The boy still hadn't made a sound other than a shuddery exhalation when it was over. She bandaged up his arm and made a sling for it and they let him sleep for an hour as the tea put him under.

The other boy was now quiet too except for an occasional sniff. While the boys rested and the men relaxed after the near tragic mishap on the trail, she made everyone lunch. After eating and thanking her profusely and giving Malu an extra-large tip, they gathered up their equipment and children and left on the afternoon ferry. That's the last she saw of them.

A couple days later, she received a phone call from the local feed store and was informed that someone had anonymously paid off what she owed him and had ordered several more sacks of animal food to be delivered the next day. To say she was pleasantly surprised was an understatement.

She sighed at the memory. Malu was still with her, Joey was still with her then too. Things had changed so but somehow, in some strange way, they remained the same.

She stood at the doorway of the storeroom and looked down at the long-lashed boy from so many years ago. He was still brave.

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Next update within a week.