1) pauaho = out of breath, panting, discouraged, despairing, weary, exhausted
2) Fair warning: I love whump and I really love cliffhangers… just saying ;-) Better be prepared!
3) English is not my native language, so please forgive me my mistakes.
Unfortunately I don't own anything of Hawaii Five-0, it all belongs to CBS. But I wouldn't mind at all sharing my couch with the Five-0 team – feel free to come around whenever you like.
JazzieG, thank you so much for betaing, MAHALO, VIELEN DANK! Don't know what I'd do without you! :-)
This story is for you, Kilema - I really enjoy our e-mail conversations and I can't wait until we finally meet in person. That's gonna be so much fun :-)
Humming cheerfully to himself, Steve killed the engine of his dark blue Silverado and swiftly opened the driver's door. A short glance at his watch told him that the trip from his house to the parking lot at the beginning of the Wa`ahila Ridge Trail had not even taken twenty minutes, which was hardly surprising at this time of the day. Or at that 'insanely early hour of the day' as Danny would probably call six o'clock in the morning. Shaking his head slightly, Steve grinned when he clearly heard his partner's voice in his mind, ranting about the fact that Steve considered it fun to voluntarily get up that early to go for a run.
The last three weeks had been extremely busy for Five-0 and the more stressful their cases had become the more Steve longed for something calm and quiet around him. The lush vegetation of the rainforest helped him to calm his churning thoughts immensely and that was why he'd chosen to come out here morning after morning during the last few days.
The air was still pretty humid after the heavy rainstorm the previous night, everything around was covered in dew that glistened in the first rays of dawn. Taking a deep breath of the clear cool morning breeze, Steve bent down to tie his shoelaces before he made sure that his cell phone and car key were safely stowed away in the pocket of his gray shorts. To be honest it didn't make a lot of sense to take the phone with him because out on the trail cell coverage was almost non-existent but somehow he felt naked without it.
Steve took in his surroundings while he started to stretch his muscles, warming up for his daily morning run. There was only one other car at the parking lot, a light blue Chevrolet Cruze, the same model that Kono drove, probably belonging to another jogger or some hikers who wanted to enjoy the pristine early morning atmosphere despite the fact that the trail was only half accessible at the moment. About two weeks ago there had been a large mudslide halfway down the path, making it impossible to reach one of the most famous overlooks of the trail. Even if the trail hadn't been totally closed to the public, the fact that it was no longer possible to reach said overlook or to hike the complete route had put a lot of the tourists who usually crowded the trail off, and it was exactly that lack of people that was another reason for Steve to come out here more often lately.
After rolling his shoulders and flexing his legs one last time Steve took another deep breath, ducked beneath the gate that indicated that the trail wasn't completely accessible and jogged off, his troubled mind calming down more and more with each step he took.
McGarrett let his mind wander while he carefully watched his steps, especially on the parts of the trail that weren't covered by trees and had been more exposed to the night rain. Mud was splashing on his bare legs when he crossed some especially wet spots but Steve didn't care. He briefly wondered why there weren't any other footprints but he soon abandoned that thought, maybe the owner of the light blue Chevy hadn't come this way or he plainly and simply had avoided all the muddy spots on the path.
At the beginning the only sounds he could hear over the chirping of the birds and the soft rustling of the leaves were his own breathing and the low impact of his sneakers on the moist brown soil. It was about ten or fifteen minutes later when another sound suddenly reached his ears. Steve slowed his steps down until he finally came to a halt. What sounded like the soft whimpering of a woman and now and then a faint cry filled the air.
Turning his head left and right, Steve tried to make out the source of the sound. Cautiously stepping through some dense bushes to the left of the trail, he cocked his head a little bit to one side and narrowed his eyes.
There it was again, now he was sure that he had definitely heard a woman crying.
"Hello?" McGarrett shouted, his voice echoing loud and clear under the trees that swayed slightly in the gentle morning breeze.
"Hello? Is somebody there? Do you need help?" he asked loudly, swiftly walking around a group of head-high red-leaved bushes toward the source of the crying.
"Over here," a faint voice finally replied hesitantly and only seconds later a woman stumbled right into Steve's path. She was about fifty-five years old, almost a head smaller than Steve, lean and wiry in stature, a black and red backpack slung over her shoulders. Her auburn hair which was laced with silver-gray strands curled around her tear-streaked face as she threw him a desperate look out of bright green eyes.
The woman looked vaguely familiar but before Steve could dwell on that thought she grabbed his right arm as she tried to gulp back her sobs. "Oh God… finally… please, I need help… my nephew…" she stammered hoarsely, pointing a shaky hand towards a small clearing about sixty feet away.
"It's okay, I'm here now. I'll help you," Steve said quietly, trying to soothe the agitated woman. "But first you have to calm down a bit, okay?" Watching her taking a few deep breaths he fished his cell phone out of his pocket but after a short glance at the display he quickly stowed it away – as he'd already expected there was absolutely no signal that deep in the forest. "I'm Commander McGarrett, I'm with Five-0," he said with a friendly smile, giving her an encouraging nod. "What's your name?"
"Claire," she whispered, her voice slightly trembling. "My name is Claire."
"Alright Claire," McGarrett said gently. "Now tell me what's happened to your nephew."
The woman swallowed, opening and closing her mouth a few times before she was able to answer Steve's question. "My nephew… Brian… he's ten…" she started, nervously intertwining her fingers as her gaze darted from Steve to the clearing and back. "Suddenly there was a hole in the ground and Brian… he fell," she explained, her voice trembling with panic. "He fell and then he didn't answer and I couldn't reach him… oh God… he didn't answer." Tears were streaming down her pale face and Claire briefly pressed her palms against her eyes.
"Hey, it's alright, shhh," Steve tried to calm her, placing his hand on her shoulder and squeezing gently.
"Claire, do you have a cell phone with you?" he asked quietly. Letting his hand reassuringly rest on her shoulder he waited for her affirmative nod. "Okay Claire, listen," Steve finally explained. "I need you to tell me where exactly Brian fell and then I want you to try calling for help. I know that cell coverage is pretty slim out here, but just walk around a bit and try different locations, okay?"
Looking into her teary green eyes he once more had the feeling that she somehow looked familiar but Steve quickly shoved the thought to the back of his mind. Later would be enough time to think about it, now his first and foremost task was to rescue a child. His heart briefly constricted in sympathy when he thought about the fact that the missing little boy was exactly Grace's age.
"Okay," Claire whispered with a shaky nod of her head. "It's that direction, the hole is in the middle of the clearing, you can't miss it," she explained, pointing along a small muddy path between the trees. Her voice was a bit stronger than before, she seemed to have gathered some strength now that she was no longer alone in her desperate situation.
"I'll come with you," Claire added, locking eyes with McGarrett. "I tried earlier to use the phone and I got a signal briefly at the clearing but it was too weak to make a call. Perhaps it'll work this time."
"Okay," Steve agreed as he turned around, heading toward the place she'd showed him as fast as the narrow slippery path allowed.
"What were you doing out here this early in the morning?" he asked curiously without bothering to look back. Somewhere behind him he heard Claire rummaging through her backpack, probably searching for her cell phone.
"Recording birdcalls for a school project," she answered, maybe a little bit too swiftly. The tone of her voice had somehow changed and something about that new tone made the hair on the back of Steve's neck stand on end.
He had only the blink of an eye of warning when something heavy connected with the back of his head.
Before Steve could react he found himself stumbling forward, crashing sluggishly down on his hands and knees with a pained groan, a paralyzing pain running from the back of his neck all the way down his spine. His arms and legs numb and tingling, McGarrett blinked feverishly to clear his clouded view.
Struggling back to his feet he turned his head to find out what had hit him but the last thing he saw before his world descended into darkness was a large piece of metal rushing toward his left temple.
Okay, honestly? This cliffhanger isn't my fault... sherry57 said I should end this chapter right here, so technically you have to blame her ;-)
Next chapter in a few days...