LORDS OF THE LAND

An Epilog to KING OF THE HILL

By B Huff

With editing by gm

 

Zwar der Tapfere nennt sich Herr der Lander Durch sein Eisen, durch sein Blut.”

(Translation - The brave man, indeed, calls himself lord of the land, through his iron, through his blood.)

 Ernst Moritz Arndt

 

January 1969

 

 

As his own heart rate slowly dropped, Steve McGarrett began to absorb, in passing, other things about the hospital treatment room, where he kneeled on the floor holding the now-limp form of Corporal John T. Austin. The thick smell of sweat permeating the area… the on-its-side gurney, blankets pushed to the side of the room… the light glaze of dried blood smears which covered several square feet of the cool tile… the HPD officer’s weapon and spare ammunition resting nearby.

 

He’ll make it. The young physician’s words about Dan Williams’ condition resounded in his head. It had been a harrowing hour and a half – one in which his wounded second-in-command had laid in what was undoubtedly complete misery as the armed Austin relived a terrifying ordeal which happened in Vietnam a couple of months earlier.

 

The Marine corporal was – to McGarrett’s mild surprise – lifted suddenly from his lap. A stream of police uniforms and medical personnel poured into the room, which had been off limits during the dangerous standoff with the deranged enlisted man. As the Five-0 chief’s line of sight to Williams became obscured by other human forms, he shook off the shock of the dramatic finale to the hostage standoff, and quickly slipped over to his unconscious friend’s side.

 

“We need a gurney!” came the un-necessary observation / shout from Doctor Cutter even as one of the mobile beds presented as the spear-head of Doctor Hansen’s approach. Kono Kalakaua and Chin Ho Kelly tugged the gurney into position and wasted no time in lifting their unconscious colleague onto the white sheeted mattress. The act precipitated a weak, pained groan from the injured detective.

 

“Danno!” McGarrett rasped as he tugged the helmet from his head. Touching his friend’s cool, damp cheek, he despaired to see no further response. The lead detective released a single, ragged, near-tears laugh – only a couple minutes earlier, he’d prayed that his second-in-command would not move as he tried to convince Austin that he was a Marine corpsman bringing aide too late to help the sergeant whom Dan “portrayed” in the macabre reenactment. The ploy had worked brilliantly, but now, as the medical people clustered around the patient and elbowed the three Five-0 officers out of the way, there was nothing Steve wanted more than to see signs of life in his friend.

 

“I want ten units of A Positive blood stat!” Bill Hansen barked authoritatively. Castle Memorial’s chief surgeon, who also practiced at several of the island’s other hospitals, had been the physician who removed Dan’s burst appendix not quite two years earlier {FANFIC: TWO SIDES OF A COIN: TAILS}. It was clear that the medical man had pulled Williams’ records in preparation for the impending surgical procedure.

 

“He doesn’t appear to have lost much blood, Doctor,” the younger medical man responded as the team rolled the bed down the hall toward the elevators.

 

“Cutter, you’re a first-year resident – you should recognize the symptoms of internal bleeding!” The surgeon’s tone was tense as he ripped Dan’s shirt open, causing buttons to leap into the air like popcorn.

 

The younger physician’s brow furled slightly as he lightly palpated the swollen area around the small, almost-innocuous looking dark red hole in Williams’ lower left abdomen. “His abdomen IS distended,” Cutter admitted, mild chagrin flushing his complexion. “I thought perhaps the bullet did not hit any vital organs.”

 

McGarrett pushed closer to the moving gurney as a sense of alarm began to rise in his chest. “He’s gonna be all right… Doc?” The Five-0 chief had to shake off Kono and Chin, who had grabbed their boss’s arms to try and prevent him from getting in the way. In the past hour and a half, the normally disciplined and self-controlled head of the state police had revealed a near-maniacal side to himself.

 

It was a public secret to everyone in the island law enforcement community that McGarrett was very fond of his young second-in-command, but until this day, the demonstration of that attachment had never been so dramatically played out with so many outside witnesses.

 

Hansen ignored the detective as he helped guide the gurney into the waiting elevator and continued his explanation to his protégé. “He’s bleeding into his abdomen – we’ve got to be ready for the bottom to drop out of his blood pressure…”

 

The elevator doors began to close on the medical team as McGarrett began to intercede.

 

“Steve – no!” Chin and Kono called out in tandem as their boss disregarded the command. Exchanging a very brief glance to confirm the plan, Kono and Lieutenant Kealoha stepped forward and summarily stopped the Five-0 chief.

 

“Steve! Let the docs help Danny!” The Hawaiian HPD officer shouted as he placed his body between the elevator doors and the determined head detective. “Steve!”

 

McGarrett stared at the closed doors for several seconds trying to re-center himself. The initial word from Doctor Cutter – a first-year something – what had Hansen said? It didn’t matter – it was the first year part that now resonated with the head of Five-0. He’d accepted the verdict on Danno’s prognosis from a FIRST-YEAR medical person (Was he really even a doctor yet??). Of course, the words of Doctor Hansen – an EXPERIENCED surgeon – made much more sense to Steve. How could anyone – even a doctor – be certain of an unconscious man’s condition with only a superficial look at the patient? The answer was obvious now – there was no way to know that his friend would be fine until they were able to inspect the damage done by the bullet, which had – by the accounts of both the wounded HPD officer AND that medical upstart, Cutter – been fired from very close range. Images of the round penetrating Williams’ viscera brought bile to Steve’s throat. Any number of vital organs could have come into harm’s path…

 

Finally, with no further recourse, McGarrett swallowed and made resentful eye contact with his men and then Kealoha. The concern and pity on their faces made him turn away as he spoke. “I’m gonna go change.” He yanked away from the supportive hands, and, apparently unwilling to wait for another elevator, made his way to the stairwell with dozens of eyes trained on him until he vanished behind the fire door.

 

The silence grew uncomfortable before the HPD lieutenant barked an order for all HPD personnel to get on with their business. The command revived the human witnesses, medical personnel included, and everyone slowly turned back to their own business, with low murmurs forming an undercurrent of noise. Kealoha breathed a sigh of relief. It was apparent that the rounds with McGarrett had taken an emotional toll on him as he nodded at the Five-0 detectives. “Lemme know how Danny’s doin’.”

 

Chin nodded and gave a gentle slap to the man’s arm as the lieutenant moved to step into the newly arrived elevator.  “We will, bruddah – mahalo for all da help.”

 

Kono followed the Chinese detective a few feet out of the flow of human traffic to a nearby nurse’s station before Chin turned and spoke. “That was scary.”

 

The big Hawaiian nodded. “Yeah, and so was the whole thing with the Marine and Danny.”

 

Kelly’s lip quivered in an atypically nervous smile while he reached into his pocket for his pipe. He knew he couldn’t light it here in the hospital, but just being able to put it into his mouth helped. “Yeah.” Chin could only agree.

 

With a quick glance around to make sure there was nobody nearby, Kono lowered his voice. “You been workin’ with him longer than anybody else I know – you ever see Steve act like… like that before?”

 

“Nope,” Kelly responded simply. “And I hope I never do again, bruddah.”                    

 

 

*****

 

He would pace for a few minutes, then pause by the window to study any changes which might have occurred in the parking lot since his last inspection. After thirty seconds of that, he would wander over to a chair and sit for a minute before he grew too antsy to remain in place. This cycle went on for nearly three hours, with the occasional visitor to the hospital atrium interrupting his attempt to focus on waiting without the anticipation of bad news.

 

Kono and Chin, he noted in passing, were present in the hallway, but for some reason, did not venture into the garden-like room where he’d been stuffed by the head surgical nurse. There was a surgical waiting room one floor below, but the uncompromising caregiver assured him that he would have more privacy here since there was a family awaiting news on the outcome of a loved one’s surgery. He felt a bit sequestered, but that was okay with him. His nerves were frayed beyond anything in recent memory.

 

When he received the call that his second-in-command was injured and trapped with a mentally-ill Marine, panic and then desperation to bring the standoff to a successful conclusion pushed out any sense of civility he might have had for those trying to help.

 

Now, as he replayed the events which had transpired before he’d formulated his rescue plan, he made a mental note to thank Lieutenant Kealoha for his assistance. Whether he thanked Hansen or not – right or wrong – would depend on whether Danno’s life was spared. As for apologies… well, he had been a little gruff with those obstructing the process, but they – doctors and police alike – had not seemed to care like he had that Danno was lying only fifty feet down the hall, bleeding to death! Steve sniffed and shook his head at the thought. Danno’s life – couldn’t they see how unbearable life – his – would become without it?

 

And the room where his friend had been held… interesting… Danno’s .22 – the little revolver he kept in an ankle holster – the only time Steve KNEW his second would be without it was when he was surfing. It had been in Austin’s possession. Had Austin searched him? It seemed unlikely, given that the deranged marine had believe the wounded man with him was his sergeant. Had Danno managed to pull the weapon? If so, why hadn’t he fired? McGarrett prayed he would be able to ask that question of his friend.

 

The detective jumped slightly when he realized he was not alone. The atrium door was still wafting shut as Bill Hansen – still in surgical scrubs – stepped into the room with Kono and Chin on his heels. The man looked tired as he arched his back slightly to stretch the muscles which had no doubt been tensed in a single position for quite some time. What disturbed the detective was the surgeon’s grave demeanor. McGarrett – a professional interpreter of body language – called the posturing a brave face, which implied that the individual wearing it was preparing to reveal information which would not be taken well by one or more in the audience. Stiffening, Steve steeled himself, and only glanced at his men before he demanded to know his friend’s condition.

 

“Doc, how is he?”

 

A short, tired sigh preceded the physician’s cant of his head. “We had a time getting the bleeding under control after we opened him up…”

 

The Five-0 chief swallowed with the thought of his friend being sliced open – even to repair damage – seemed so unpalatable to him. Hansen continued. “As I suspected, Danny was bleeding into his abdominal cavity – I know it sounds strange, but it was the blood applying pressure to the torn artery -- albeit very uncomfortably  -- which kept him from bleeding out.”

 

“So, you got it under control and he’s gonna pull through.” The question did not come out as a question, but it was clear that the detective was desperately seeking confirmation of his assertion. The intense blue eyes searched the surgeon’s face with an intensity that might have been intimidating to less forceful personalities, but Hansen didn’t waver. He gently placed his hand on McGarrett’s arm.

 

“Barring any complications, I feel somewhat comfortable telling you that he’s going to be fine.”

 

The relief which washed over the detectives was palpable, but the doctor remained serious as he revealed what had happened in the operating room. “I’ll tell you now that we lost him on the table twice – we couldn’t push the blood back into him fast enough to keep his pressure up.” The news paralyzed all three of the officers, but Hansen did not allow them time to interrupt. “He’s in recovery now – after while, we’ll move him to the ICU, where I expect him to remain for the next twenty four to forty eight hours.”

 

The doctor’s eyes narrowed as he made almost-threatening visual contact with each detective as he pressed on. “After that, my patient will be transferred to a room here in this hospital, where he will REMAIN confined to his bed with no chance of escaping to assist on investigations of ANY SORT until he is cleared for duty by his physician!”

 

McGarrett exchanged a slightly-chagrined, but determined look with Kono and Chin before re-focusing on the surgeon. They all knew that the medical man was referring to an incident a little less than two years previously when Dan had been stricken with appendicitis. The then-very-new Five-0 detective had delayed medical treatment – unwilling to stop work or inform his new boss of his condition -- until his appendix burst. Doctor Hansen performed emergency surgery, but his patient – operating on the fear that he would somehow disappoint McGarrett – left the hospital and jumped into the thick of a high-profile kidnapping case. Both Doctors Hansen and Bergman considered it a miracle that the stubborn detective survived the ensuing post-surgical infection. {FANFIC: TWO SIDES OF A COIN: TAILS}

 

“Don’t worry, Doc,” Steve assured with a thin smile. “Danno will be under lock and key here until you give the okay for him to leave!”

 

“I sincerely hope so, Steve,” Hansen returned. “That boy did a very brave thing today – he nearly sacrificed his own life to save the people around him. Now, he deserves to recover before he starts chasing criminals again.”

 

It was true – Danno had jumped into the path of a speeding bullet to protect those around him. AND Steve suspected that he had somehow managed to figure out what was going on in Austin’s head enough to keep the out-of-it enlisted man from creating a bloodbath.

 

“You’ll get no argument from me, Doc,” McGarrett confirmed, so relieved that he felt weak. Noticing that Kono and Chin had stepped closer, he turned to them as the surgeon backed away and reached for the door. “Oh, Doc!” Steve called, and when Hansen’s bushy eye brows arched into a question, the officer smiled. “Mahalo for saving Danno.”

 

The medical man returned a crooked half smile. “I did everything I could – the rest will be up to Danny.”

 

 

*****

 

 

First annoyance entered his consciousness… somebody was trying to move him from his very comfortable position. Then pain… his neck... a pulled muscle? He swallowed and was greeted with the realization that his throat felt cracking sore… Initially, his mind tried to focus on staying unaware of outside stimulus, but then came more jostling, which could not be ignored.

 

“Stop…” he croaked barely able to get the words out around his dry tongue.

 

“Mister Williams, we’re moving you to another room. I promise this won’t take long and we’ll be as gentle as we can.”

 

The fuzzy female voice spoke softly, but authoritatively, and it returned to him a marginal interest in his circumstance. His eyelids, however, did not seem to be under his complete control.

 

“Okay, on three… one… two… THREE.”

 

The distant words rang home as he felt his body being lifted – an act which alerted him to a dull burn in his abdomen and a monster headache. All he could do was groan as he did not seem to have any measure of jurisdiction over any of his appendages. The landing on the cool sheets a second later seemed hard and racked his body with a wave a discomfort. A small whimper escaped his lips, and he found all he really wanted to do was to return to that contented mental place he’d been before the hands had disturbed him. More words, but nothing stuck in his mind as worthy of response, so he drifted gently back to sleep as a warm blanket settled over him.

 

 

*****

 

Beeps and clicks seeped into his awareness, and slipped away periodically, only to return each time with a greater degree of physical sensation. At one point, the ache in his abdomen became uncomfortable enough that he forced his eye lids to open. As he made a half-baked sweep of the area within a narrow angle of his field of vision, he caught sight of a human form resting in a chair. With effort, he blinked as he tried to bring the room into better focus.

 

It happened, but frustratingly slowly. “Ste…Steve…” His voice did not sound like his own, and further, it didn’t carry past the bed sheets. He tried one more time to call to his friend before he closed his eyes again. As he lay there, he attempted to recall recent events in his mind. He was in a hospital – what had happened to land him here? Dan had no good feel for elapsed time, but over the course of several minutes, he managed to replay snippets of scenes, but nothing that directed him to the reason for his circumstance. His young baseball team gathered around him… he’d wiped a runny nose, and tied five un-done shoe laces… Kids… He liked dealing with them – their wants and needs were always simple… His thoughts wandered off to the baseball diamond as he again slipped back into the comfortable cottony world of unconsciousness.

 

 

*****

 

Annoyance brushed across the chiseled features of the Five-0 chief as the one of the bolder titles on the front of a three-day old local tabloid newspaper caught his eye AGAIN.

 

McGarrett Goes Nuts!

 

“Nuts!” He muttered. “Who makes up these things?” He continued his stride as Kono and Chin, trailing only a pace behind him exchanged a fleeting glance. Neither of these detectives believed the headline was even slightly off the mark, but the Hawaiian detective offered a murmur of agreement as the trio made its way through the main waiting room of Castle Memorial Hospital to the elevator.

 

The mid-day visit was precipitated by a call from the head nurse, who promised to call the Palace as soon as her patient was awake. The stern woman had negotiated a deal with the head of Five-0 – he would stop hovering / interfering with floor operations if she communicated any change in Williams’ condition or state of consciousness. Both participants in the agreement were as good as their words, but McGarrett felt his end of the arrangement was more difficult to execute. Nonetheless, he had followed through, and not made an appearance at the hospital since the previous day.

 

Now, the word that his friend was coming around came as the other Five-0 detectives were returning in the same vehicle from a not-too-distant crime scene, McGarrett decided a “casual” stop was in order.

 

“Mrs. Grundy,” the lead detective offered a curt nod to the head nurse as he and his detectives strode past her desk.

 

“Mister McGarrett,” the middle-aged, firm-faced woman responded in kind. The pact had been honored, and she was satisfied enough with the cop’s behavior to offer up a measure of gratitude. “Mahalo for the extra security.”

 

“You’re welcome,” the officer returned confidently. Williams’ popularity, and the fact that everyone in Hawaii had been held hostage right along with the injured officer, as the dramatic story unfolded live on all of the television and radio stations, had precipitated a stream premature visits from friends and well wishers. To protect his friend and keep the peace at the medical facility, McGarrett had placed an HPD guard outside Williams’ room.

 

Seconds later, the senior detective gingerly pushed open the door of the patient’s room, and took in the scene before approaching the bed. Dan’s bed had been propped into a slightly canted position. Two extra pillows on either side of his torso provided a snug and secure resting place for the patient, whose eyes were closed. An expression of serious concentration rested on his countenance, denoting to Steve that his friend was in a measure of discomfort. Several wires trailed from beneath the sheets to the rhythmically-beating heart monitor mounted above and to the right of the headboard.

 

Stepping to the bedside, McGarrett started to offer a greeting but hesitated. Perhaps it was unkind to rouse his officer from even a doze. Before he had time to ponder further, Dan slowly opened his eyes, and looked dully at his visitors, who all offered hopeful grins.

 

“Danno,” the lead detective breathed gently.

 

After a few-second delay, a brave half-smile flickered momentarily across Dan’s face as he gave a soft, tentative greeting. “Hmm, Steve…”

 

Noting the younger officer’s waxy pallor so typical to post-surgical patients, McGarrett silently acknowledged that Williams was only a few days past the traumatic event that led his hospital stay.

 

“How’s it, aikane?” McGarrett moved his hand to rest on the pillow near the patient’s head.

 

Dan swallowed – it seemed painfully – and closed his eyes for a moment before bringing his boss into dull focus again. “What… happened?”

 

The three vertical detectives visually shared a round of mild concern before their chief looked back down on their un-well colleague. “Danno, you’re in the hospital—”

 

“Castle,” Kono chimed in, and the other two officers nodded without taking their eyes from Williams’ confused visage.

 

A nearly-imperceptible ripple traversed Dan’s brow as he clearly struggled to dredge up and organize his recollections of recent days. “Castle… ? I was working… the bank heist case…”

 

“Yes, you were, Danno,” Steve confirmed. “But you took a break to get to baseball practice.”

 

“Base… ball… yeah…” Williams closed his eyes, and grew silent.

 

Several seconds passed with only the sounds of hospital operations breaking the quiet. McGarrett motioned with his head for his men to accompany him into the hallway, but before any of them could take a step, the patient stirred again. “The Marine…”

 

“Yeah, Danno, yeah – John Austin – a Marine corporal,” Steve encouraged with quiet vigor.

 

Dan winced slightly as the mental puzzle pieces sluggishly fell into place. “He was… the gun…” The patient’s eye lids lifted and allowed his eyes to fix at a spot high on the wall in front of him. “The gun – it went off.” With that pronouncement, Williams moved his head slightly and focused on his boss. “I was shot?”

 

The conclusion sounded like a question, so McGarrett, with a slight tremble in his lips, corroborated, “Yeah.”

 

Chin took a half step closer to the bed and clutched the railing. “Bruddah, you jumped on the guy’s gun.”

 

Kono moved to stand by the Chinese officer as he finished the thought. “To protect everyone else in the room.” The words were delivered with quiet reverence of the deed.

 

“We’re lucky you’re still with us after that incredibly brave stunt,” the lead detective added his own somber reflection as Dan digested the statements.

 

Austin -- how did it end? He’s not dead?” The young officer’s eyes narrowed slightly in concern.

 

“No, no, Danno,” McGarrett quickly reassured, but got no further as the other two detectives animatedly described how the boss concocted and executed his daring plan to end the standoff without killing the deranged Marine. Both men pointedly avoided any discussion of the “nuts” behavior exhibited by the head of the elite unit during the crisis.

 

“What I did wasn’t THAT dangerous – on the other hand, my friend, shielding civilians from a loaded firearm with your gut…” The Five-0 chief admonished with false sternness.

 

“My gut,” Dan’s nose crinkled as his hand slowly slipped down to cover the region of his stomach. “How bad?”

 

“You’ll live.” As a crooked grin slipped onto his face, McGarrett murmured. He recognized the pronouncement was the same one made by that incompetent med student as his friend lay there bleeding internally. This time though, Steve was sure the words were true.

 

 

*****

 

“The Department of Defense is already extremely grateful to you and your unit, Steve, but—”

 

“Colonel, I understand your situation, but I don’t want to see my man traumatized any further over this incident,” McGarrett said adamantly. Steve was gratified to see that his orders with regard to visitors to his second-in-command were being rigidly enforced. Otherwise, the Marine colonel would no doubt have just barged in on Dan and pressed the issue in person.

 

“Corporal Austin is a true, died-in-the-wool hero, and all the man is asking for is a short audience with Detective Williams. It took him a couple of days, but now he remembers what happened and what he did, and it’s eating him alive.” There was a silence between the two men for ten seconds as each considered how best to deal with the other. Finally, Cardell pressed on, “Steve, please, I implore you to re-consider. If Williams’ doctor – what’s his name – Hansen—”

 

McGarrett interrupted, “Bergman.”

 

“Bergman,” the colonel continued, not wanting to loose momentum, “If Doctor Bergman okays it, AND Williams agrees, then can we agree to a short meeting? It might do your man some good as well.”

 

The head of Five-0 ran his hand over his mouth considering the best thing to do. Cardell was right. In addition to helping the Marine, who’d been a victim in this circumstance as well, a non-threatening visit might actually help Danno put to bed any residual anxiety he might have. 

 

“Okay, Colonel, okay. I’d like to help Corporal Austin on his road to recovery, and I think you might be right about Danny. I’ll run it by him and get back to you.”

 

 

*****

 

 

“McGarrett goes nuts,” Dan read the newspaper article’s title out loud before he tossed the aging rag onto the pile of other reading material at the foot of his bed. “Who makes up this stuff?”

 

“Bruddah, I coulda wrote that article,” Kono breathed as he collected the offending newspaper section, folded it, and surreptitiously handed it to Chin.

 

“What are you talking about?” The perplexed detective’s brow furled as he disinterestedly studied the tray of unappetizing fare before him, failing to notice the Chinese detective stuffing the article into his pocket.

 

“Everybody was runnin’ for cover – and it wasn’t because of the Marine with the gun either!” The Hawaiian detective’s eyes grew large as he described the violently emotional demeanor of their normally level-headed, cool-under-fire boss, and re-iterated the desperate measures he took to get to his youngest detective before the battle on that hill in Vietnam claimed one last victim.

 

Dan listened intently as the story unfolded. He had a fuzzy recollection that he been told before how Steve had risked his own life by dangling precariously from the HPD helicopter ladder and then climbing into the window over jagged shards of glass to get to him. But the behind-the-scenes tale of his mentor’s emotional and near-violent – by the other Five-0 detectives’ accounts – behavior had been a mystery to Dan until that moment. Touched that McGarrett felt so strongly, and pained that he had put his friend through such a traumatic event, a knot formed in the patient’s throat.

 

Typical to Dan Williams though, in the space of a few seconds, somehow managed to find a way to blame himself for an episode that was beyond the control of everyone involved.

 

“I should’ve just shot Austin when I had the chance,” Dan sighed.

 

“Danny—” Chin tried to stop the floodgates of regret, but it didn’t work.

 

“It’s just that he was trying so hard to save my life. I couldn’t focus – I was afraid I’d kill him. I wasn’t thinking,” Dan intoned as he let his head drop back onto the pillow.

 

“Possibly because one-third of your blood volume was sloshing around loose in your gut.” Steve McGarrett pushed through the door. He’d overheard Dan’s self-recriminations, and knew that he’d better sternly put an end to that kind of thinking.

 

Chin and Kono looked toward their boss, relieved that he had arrived. If anyone could convince Dan that he’d been a victim in this circumstance, it was Steve. The young man, his visage still concerned, looked out the window.

 

“Not thinking, eh?” The head of Five-0 continued, “Possibly because you were in shock? Or maybe it was the concussion – the doc said you had quite a knot on the back of your head.” McGarrett paused to gauge Dan’s reaction. The detective was listening, but not convinced, so Steve plunged on, “Danno, you reacted perfectly to a bad situation. You did your best to keep Austin from firing. If you’d fired and hit, we’d have a dead hero - Austin. If you’d fired and missed, we’d probably still have ended up with a dead hero – YOU. As it stands now, no deaths resulted from what could have been a real mess.”  The authority with which he spoke somehow just seemed to make it so.

 

Dan was relieved to accept the perspective from his boss, but added, “Thanks to you. I’m just glad it’s all over.”

 

“Actually, my friend, it’s not over for everybody,” Steve replied, thinking the statement a perfect segway into the next topic that needed to be addressed.

 

Williams frowned, “What do you mean?”

 

“Corporal John T. Austin – war hero to the tune of a Purple Heart and a Joint Services Meritorious Service Medal to be awarded by the president of the United States,”

 

“He certainly deserves all the praise they can heap on him,” Dan nodded.

 

His boss nodded in agreement. It didn’t surprise him that Williams bore no ill will toward the Marine – that was so typical of his friend. Forgiveness almost seemed a foregone conclusion. Steve continued, “As it turns out, he’s remembered what happened that day, and I guess it’s really doing a number on him.”

 

“I don’t understand.” Another perplexed expression settled onto Dan’s face.

 

“He’s so full of remorse over the shootings and the trouble he caused that his doctors aren’t sure they’ll release him to receive the awards in person,” Steve knew answer before he put forth the request, “Danno, Austin has requested an opportunity to meet with you -- if only for a few minutes. He wants to see for himself that you’re okay.”

 

The young officer seemed a little taken aback at the request momentarily, but didn’t flinch in his response, “If it will help Austin move on, I think it’s the least I can do.”

 

 

*****

 

 

The hospital’s atrium had been cleared of other patients for a short while to facilitate a more comfortable meeting for the two men who’d been involved in a life and death struggle only seven days earlier. Dan slouched casually in a wheel chair gazing out the large, glass wall that separated him from the tropical air. He admitted to himself that he was a little nervous about the awkward meeting, and wished he could smoke. Steve had wheeled him down here and then vanished, a fact which set Dan on edge. If he re-lived those few moments of terror, he could actually feel the deranged man’s hand as it pressed down on his mouth and nose. Admittedly, the entire scene was fading rapidly, but pieces of it still seemed so real.

 

Stirred from his thoughts by the loud creaking of a door, the detective turned to see several people filing into the large room. Three physicians – he recognized Doctors Bergman and Hansen. The third must have been Austin’s doctor. To Dan’s relief, his boss stood there – safe and sound – with a Marine colonel whom Dan had never met. And of course, there stood the Marine corporal, John Austin. He was dressed in a doctor’s green surgical scrubs as he quickly scanned the room. His nervous eyes settled on the only other patient in the room, and he tentatively approached, wringing his hands the entire journey, but stopped a solid ten feet away.

 

“I’m not armed,” he joked with a nervous laugh.

 

Dan smiled the most encouraging smile he could muster, and said, “Me neither.” When Austin made no further overture to move neared, Dan invited, “Come sit.”

 

With that, the man picked up a chair from a nearby table and cautiously seated himself within a couple feet of the detective. Beads of sweat broke out on Austin’s face as he sat there, and Dan could swear that he could see them growing larger by the second.

 

“I didn’t know you were a police detective, Mister Williams—” Austin started.

 

“Please call me Dan,” the detective said reassuringly. ”And I didn’t know you were a war hero, Corporal.”

 

“John – call me John. I don’t know about that hero stuff,” the corporal smiled slightly.

 

“Well, I do, John,” Dan admitted. “I know from personal experience that the human mind can take you on trips you’d swear weren’t possible. You were reliving a horrible day in your life.”

 

The Marine, his emotion on the subject crystallizing, could hold back no more, “And you had the incredibly bad luck to be at the wrong place at the wrong time, so that I had to drag you through living Hell with me.” With that, the man almost fell out of his seat onto his knees and grabbed Dan’s arm, which had been resting on the arm of the wheelchair. He cried openly, “I am so sorry I put you through that.”

 

With Austin’s head bowed on Dan’s knee, the detective gently placed his hand on the Marine’s back, “John…” Dan waited a few moments before he repeated, “John…let me set you straight... Please…” The man’s tortured soul was palpable to Dan as the man slowly looked up into the forgiving face of the young man Austin really didn’t know.

 

“I can’t deny that it was a scary, painful day. Almost the whole time we were in that room – on that hill – I kept believing that if I could just hold on, reinforcements would be along to rescue me – us. I saw that same faith in your face – faith that help would arrive in time – and if it didn’t, then you would at least die with your integrity intact. Let me tell you right now, after personally witnessing the honor and bravery with which you served, when I drifted off for the last time that day – and I don’t exactly remember when that was -- I was determined that I would try my best to do the same. So, John, you see I can tell you with all due sincerity that it was a privilege to be on that hill with you, and I think it made me a better person.” Tears streamed freely down Austin’s face as he listened intently to the detective’s words. Dan smiled and, with a slight shrug, finished simply, “You don’t owe me an apology – I think I owe YOU a debt of gratitude.”

 

“Thank you, Dan. Thank you.” The corporal pulled back slightly and wiped his eyes on a corner of his shirt.

 

“You’re welcome.” Dan changed the subject, “Would you like to help me walk to the lanai?”

 

By way of answer the man, the man smiled as he stood, and cautiously helped an obviously weak patient to rise from his wheelchair. McGarrett tensed visibly and took a couple of steps towards the pair of patients just in case his second-in-command needed help.

 

Unsteady at first, Dan was reassured by John, “Don’t worry – I won’t let you fall, Dan.”

 

The detective looked up at the man, “I know you won’t, John.”

 

The small group of witnesses remained at a discrete distance from the pair, but could hear the conversation clearly. The doctor whom Dan did not recognize was the Navy psychiatrist assigned to Austin’s case. Lieutenant Colonel Litzinger spoke first as the therapeutic session wound down, “THAT was exactly what Austin needed to hear. Complete, unadulterated absolution. I couldn’t have put better words in Williams’ mouth!”

 

“Danno has a natural knack for knowing what to say,” the head of Five-0 responded distractedly as he monitored Austin carefully supporting Dan under his right elbow as they slowly moved toward the lanai. He added with a glance toward the psychiatrist, “And I’m not sure he has a vindictive bone in his body.”

 

The man raised his eyebrows and nodded, “Remarkable.”

 

With the alacrity of pouncing lion, McGarrett suddenly sprang into action and rushed toward the two patients. Steve perceived before it was apparent to any of the other observers that Dan was rapidly losing his struggle to stay vertical. The young man began leaning on the Marine, who glanced back at the doctors uncertainly. Before Austin could request assistance, McGarrett was there, gently taking his friend’s other arm to guide him back towards the wheelchair he’d vacated only a minute earlier.

 

“I – I’m okay – just a little dizzy,” Dan said breathlessly. The doctors and Cardell also moved up to offer assistance. Bergman pushed the wheelchair up to the patient and held it still as McGarrett and Austin eased the weak detective back into a sitting position.

 

“Take it easy, Danno,” Steve urged, the concern permeating his tone.

 

Hansen spoke, “I think you’ve had enough for one day, Danny. You need to rest.”

 

The patient didn’t respond, but his boss did, “Yeah, this is your first time out of bed – we don’t want to push it.”

 

“Thank you, Danny, for all of your help,” Austin’s psychiatrist intoned as he gently put his hand on Dan’s shoulder.

 

Williams smiled tiredly and called out. “John…”

 

The Marine moved quickly and kneeled by the wheelchair. “Yeah, Dan?”

 

“Send me a picture of you shaking hands with the president.”

 

Austin’s lip twitched momentarily before a full grin erupted onto his face. “Yes, sir, I’ll do it!”

 

 

*****

 

 

Williams’ lips curled upward as he pulled the photograph from the slightly-dog-eared envelope, which had been lying in his IN box. Corporal John Austin stood proudly in his dress blues next to the president of the United States. The man’s nearly-fluorescent smile dominated the picture, and filled the detective with a sense of accomplishment despite the fact that he’d really done nothing except survive the incident.

 

The officer handed the photo to McGarrett, who leaned in the doorway of his office with a cup of steaming coffee in one hand. The Five-0 chief studied the image for a few moments before he looked back to his second-in-command, and hesitated for a few seconds before finally giving in to the need to confess. “Danno, you might have caught wind of a story or two about that day.”

 

“Steve, it’s okay – you don’t need to—” Dan started, but his boss dismissed the offer quickly.

 

“Danno, I just want to let you know that I was desperate to get you out of there—”

 

It was Williams’ turn to interrupt. “Steve – please – if I’ve learned one thing in the past few weeks, it’s that sometimes nuts translates into brave!”

 

The head of the unit winced internally as his friend’s remark confirmed that he’d seen at least one of the embarrassing articles, but the micro-trauma of the moment did not last as Dan’s words sank in. In his experience, it was true – nuts and brave were often synonymous – especially around the Iolani Palace!

 

 

 

PAU