Epilogue in a Rainforest

 

By

 

GM and Karen

 

 

 

EPISODE:

Elegy In A Rainforest

Steve and Dan go into a rainforest on a manhunt for a ruthless serial killer.  Lost in the forest is Manicote’s daughter.  He arrives and complicates the search.  It culminates in a deadly confrontation between McGarrett and the murderer.  Steve is saved when a young man who lives in the rainforest saves his life by throwing a toy at the killer to distract him long enough for Steve to turn the tables.

 

 

 

January 1977

 

 

 

As he made a careful path down the rain-slick, muddy mountain trail, Steve McGarrett was grateful for the rough terrain.  He was thankful for the wet, the stormy January atmosphere that brought the cuttingly crisp wind to the Windward side of Oahu and cut through his light jacket.  The elements, the dampness, the mountain mists gave him tangible, tactile senses to distinguish.  The slippery path forced him to concentrate on the footing and less on his nerves that were strained just about to the limit.

 

It had been a while since he had encountered an absolutely raving lunatic like Marcus Lucian.  Staring down the wrong end of a shotgun from the insane serial killer was something he did not want to repeat again ever in life.  The whole time he faced down the escaped criminal he was angry that he had been cornered -- angry he was going to be die like that -- helpless and unarmed against a ruthless murderer.

 

Adding to the crisis, or perhaps a contributing factor to the crisis, John Manicote had been shot, he and his daughter still under the gun of Lucian.  If the frantic DA hadn't blindly run into harm's way to save his daughter things would have been different.  Steve would never have surrendered his weapon and been trapped.

 

Then, as so many times in the past, events had switched instantaneously.  Lucian was distracted and McGarrett regained possession of his pistol.  Within seconds the criminal was dead and the threat ended.  Only afterward did McGarrett find the toy fire truck on a rope.  It didn't clarify anything.  He was hoping Karen would fill in the blanks. 

 

"David is a mute who lives up there," Karen explained as they struggled down the rocky coastal ledge to the waiting arms of rescue personnel. 

 

Immediately Manicote received emergency treatment.  During the initial procedures, McGarrett pulled the daughter aside.  Williams, who had been with them on the climb down, silently listened.

 

"David is the person who saved me?"

 

"He lives on the mountain.  Probably since he was a little boy.  He protected me and when that horrible man found us."  She took the end of the rope attached to the toy in McGarrett's hand.  "This is his."

 

"I found it near Lucian's body."

 

"The fire truck belongs to David.   It's very important to him.  His father was a fireman and died in a fire.  It must have been very difficult for David to throw it away."

 

"It saved my life," Steve assured her, his voice catching with strong emotions. 

 

The relief of being alive, the closeness to death, was beginning to register.  The ragged young man who had distracted Lucian had come out of nowhere.  When he threw something at the killer, Lucian had been distracted, had not followed through with his plan to shoot McGarrett down in cold blood.  At the time it had all seemed nearly surreal and

 

Releasing an unsteady sigh, he concluded, "It took a lot of guts for him to help me." 

 

He stared up at the mist-shrouded mountain.  There was no sign that any one was up there, but Steve had the strangest feeling the castaway named David was standing up there in his sanctuary and observing them right now.

 

The rescue personnel were ready to move Manicote and Karen ran over and climbed into the ambulance with her father.  As the vehicle pulled out a covered stretcher with Lucian's body was brought into the gathering of police and emergency officers.  So much grief had been generated by this monster; six dead girls, two hippies up on the mountain.  Then Manicote wounded, and Karen and McGarrett nearly becoming statistical victims.  It was over now, but it would be a while before he could assess it all.

 

Turning and hiking back toward the Five-0 car, he realized Williams had been unusually reticent throughout the entire episode.  Now, as always, Danno was with him, but there was a sense of distance that he didn't understand.

 

"Tough day," he sighed, not sure what else to say.

 

"Yeah," came Williams' measured reply after some time. 

 

McGarrett stopped short of the car and stared at his friend.  "Something wrong, Danno?"

 

Momentarily the younger man's blue eyes flashed with some indecipherable emotion.  His already troubled expression darkened, then he grimaced and shook his head.  “Nah.”

 

"What is it?" the boss persisted.

 

Shrugging disconsolately, Williams continued on to the car.  “Nothing,” he surrendered.

 

As McGarrett quickened his pace to catch up, he realized that his friend had been subdued long before the standoff with Lucian.  In fact, for their entire excursion into the rainforest Williams had been restrained to an unusual degree.  He had noted it before, but there it had been a niggling shadow in the back of his mind.  Nothing he could address under the tense, deadly conditions they had faced on the mountain.

 

First they were tracking the murderer.  Then they had stumbled upon two mutilated bodies of his most recent victims.  That had been enough to turn their stomachs.  Even after years of veteran police experience, what Lucian had done to those poor wilderness hippies was sickening.

 

Was that what was troubling Danno?  There was something deeply troubling the younger detective, and it wasn't just the stand-off with the criminal.  He seemed disinclined to discuss it, and McGarrett was not going to pry.  He had his own nerves, his own demons to deal with at the moment.

 

Without pressing the issue, he climbed into the car and drove down the mountain.  Both wrapped in their thoughts, neither Five-0 officer spoke as they returned through the drizzly rain to Honolulu.

 

When he turned onto Kalakaua and slowed down through the residential area, McGarrett felt his own need to say something.  Silence was not helping sort through the turbulent emotions following his very nearly fatal encounter.  Just blurting out how shaky he felt, how disturbing it was dealing with a psychopath like Lucian, was not easy for him.

 

“That was a rough one,” he finally, quietly revealed. 

 

“Yeah.”

 

After working side by side for years, Steve knew his friend very well.  He knew the uncharacteristic laconic answers were foreign to Williams.  They were a message that spoke loudly, in the eloquence of restrained silence, that there were deep issues disturbing the young man.  Usually, all it took was an opening -- an invitation that he was ready and willing to listen.

 

Steve chose a phrase that demonstrated his readiness without exposing his own vulnerabilities.  “It really got to you, didn’t it?”


”Yeah,” Williams nodded, breathing out a long sigh. 

 

With a voice rippling with emotion, he confessed, “We’re just spinning their wheels.  We put Lucian away.   Then because of other’s stupidity he escapes and murders more people!”  Shaking his head, he took another deep breath, as if fighting to contain his  deepest, more revealing emotions. “It’s sick.  The senseless death and violence.”

 

Steve’s countered with completely heartfelt sympathy.  “I know, Danno.  I wish there was something I could say to make us feel better.  But, the only thing I can think of to say is that we do the best we can to stop the criminals.”

 

He pulled to a stop in front of Williams’ apartment.  They had both been off duty on this Saturday.  When the call about Lucian’s escape came through they had not even left their respective apartments.  When notified, they left sunny Honolulu and entered the misty realms of the rainforest.  Exited the tropical tourist paradise and emerged into a realm where they spearheaded a deadly manhunt and nearly met their ultimate fate on the mountain.

 

 

*****

 

 

After a hot shower, McGarrett bundled up in one of his running suits and sat on his sofa watching the storm clouds dance an ever-changing pattern across the twilight sky.  Blue sky patches altered and quickly disappeared as the white and grey clouds dappled the horizon and mostly obscured the fluted mountains behind Honolulu.  Darkness slipped across the landscape and the city lights soon dotted the hills.

 

Later that night, despite the cool drizzle, Steve could stand the inactivity and solitude no more.  He drove around to Kaneohe to check in on Manicote at Castle Hospital.  From the nurse he learned that the District Attorney was resting comfortably and recovering from his bullet wound.

 

When McGarrett entered the room, Manicote was awake and gave a slight wave to his friend.  Karen, his teenaged daughter, was sitting in a corner.  Both looked slightly worse for wear after the harrowing ordeal.  She stood up and greeted the policeman with a grin and a big hug.  Taken aback by the surprisingly emotional moment, McGarrett mutely held onto her shoulders for a moment, cherishing the affectionate contact that meant more than he would have ever guessed.

 

“My rescuer,” she smiled.

 

McGarrett couldn’t speak past the knot in his throat and simply nodded to the attorney.  Karen should have been traumatized by the horrible experiences.  Lost during a college field trip into the rainforest, Karen had been helped by David the mystery boy.  Then both were captured by the vicious murderer Lucian.  She was remarkably resilient with the energy of youth.  Or perhaps her focus was now on her injured father and kept her mind from the horrors of her ordeal.

 

“Hi, Steve.”

 

“John,” he finally managed to utter in a semblance of a normal voice.  “How are you?”

 

“Okay.”  A weak smile faltered on his pale face.  “I’m all right, but embarrassed.  I’m sorry about the way I acted up on that mountain.”

 

It wasn’t easy for the tough Five-0 leader to forgive and forget a betrayal.  John’s rash and hysterical actions could have gotten them all killed -- John, Danno, him, even Karen; the object of the passionate search.  The white-hot anger of Manicote’s insane interference in the forest cooled long ago.  There was still some trace of residual irritation, but it seemed such a small thing in comparison to the other events.  To staring down the wrong end of a shotgun with Lucian at the trigger end.

 

There would be time, in the future, to deal with Manicote.  Generously, McGarrett waved away the apology, but the DA persisted.

 

“No, it was wrong of me.  I didn’t listen to you or Dan.  You were the professionals and I was the emotionally distraught father.  And look what happens.  I end up getting

shot.”

 

“It all turned out okay, dad,” Karen assured.  “Thanks to Steve.  And David.  They were my guardian angels.”

 

John’s eyes moistened.  “I can’t thank you enough, Steve, for saving her life.”

 

McGarrett didn’t stay much longer.  The ambiance was familial and the high sentimentality oppressive.  Normally he would have felt like an intruder, but tonight, with all feelings running high from all of them, it was too much for him.  He had not come to terms with his own close brush with mortality yet, and didn’t deem himself fit for company that wanted to shower him with praise.

 

At the car he leaned against the hood and pulled a toy fire truck out of his pocket, playing with the rope as he recalled the amazing events of the day.  David had thrown this fire truck at Lucian to distract him seconds before he was to pulled the trigger to kill McGarrett.  Under the gun, literally, it was the only thing that saved the cop.  It seemed so strange -- the whole event -- that after all his near escapes, this time he was saved by a wild boy and a fire truck.

 

As he melted into the misty night air of the windward coast, he leaned on his car for a time, deep in thought.  There was no easy fix to the day’s turbulent events.  So much was still unresolved, even though Lucian was dead.  The drive back to Honolulu was practically accomplished on automatic pilot.  His thoughts were deeply concerned with what he needed to do tomorrow to bring an end to the inner turmoil he felt.

 

Usually, after a tough case, if there were problems -- things he had to sort through -- he did that himself.  When he couldn’t manage on his own there was always a close and sympathetic ally in Danno.  After the rough day, he wasn’t sure his friend would want to rehash the events on the mountain.  There was something troubling Danno, too.  Maybe they were sharing the same mental distresses, but Steve wasn’t ready to go over to talk to Williams just yet.

 

As soon as he entered his apartment he crossed to the phone.  Impatiently, McGarrett snapped his fingers car as he waited through two rings.  Finally, the other end was picked up.

 

“Hello.”

 

“Danno, what are you tomorrow?”

 

“Ah, I’m not sure.”

 

“I’ll pick you up about eight.  Bring your hiking gear.”

 

“Okay.”

 

“See you then.”

 

He hung up before Williams could ask him anything, although he had noticed Williams was as uncommunicative as he had been all day.   Explanations could wait until he was steadier.  Tomorrow he would settle everything.

 

 

 

*****

 

 

Sunday broke clear and fresh, the overnight rains and winds leaving Honolulu looking pristine and crisp in the morning light.  When McGarrett pulled up to 3003 Kalakaua Avenue, Williams was out in front waiting. 

 

“So, what’s up?” the younger man asked when he climbed into the Mercury and tossed a backpack in the rear seat where McGarrett’s was already placed.

 

“We’re going back up the mountain.  Unfinished business.”

 

Dan didn’t seemed surprised, and accepted the news with a nod of his head.  Dressed in a long sleeved jacket-shirt and hiking boots, he seemed to have guessed the mission.  Still laconic, McGarrett wanted to ask what was still troubling Williams. 

 

The morning found Steve to a better mood.  A decent night’s sleep -- mostly the resolve of what he would do as an epilog to their experiences -- had given him a much needed sense of peace.  He sensed Danno was not ready to share his trouble thoughts just yet, and Steve respected that.  There would be time.  And before the end of this day they would find closure and tranquility.  He suspected that would be found in a return to the rainforest.

 

They parked near the spot they had yesterday.  They hefted their backpacks and Williams followed McGarrett.  They were not carrying the automatic rifles as they had on the manhunt, but Steve was sure his colleague carried a weapon in an ankle or back holster.

 

The day was bright and sunny.  All hint of the storm of the previous day was gone escept for the smell of damp dirt, the mud on the trail, the rainbows arcing above the thick foliage of the forest.

 

They retraced the steps taken by the school group that Karen Manicote traveled.  McGarrett didn’t want to go to the path along the ocean where he had nearly lost his life in Lucian’s trap.  Instead, he suggested they take the trails into the deepest part of the rainforest.

 

Although the foliage was thick, the trails were well defined, if muddy from the recent storms.  As they hiked, Williams gradually drew out of his reticence.  He pointed out areas where people had trekked the day before.  Those footprints were indistinct and nearly washed away from the persistent rain that had dogged them in their manhunt.  Not far up into the jungle Dan spotted fresh tracks.  Barefoot prints.

 

“That’s got to be from David,” he analyzed, studying the marks.  They crossed the trail and disappeared into a thicket of bamboo.  “These were made today after it stopped raining.”

 

For a moment he studied the matted flora and trees provided a curtain of density just a few feet from the path.  Yesterday, they had coursed through here; instincts wary, every nerve on edge, uncertain who would live and who would die on the mountain.  Aware that Williams was watching him, waiting for an indication of their next move, Steve gave him a nod and started into the heart of the jungle.

 

There was no distinct trail here, but from slightly cleared dirt, broken branches, and compressed leaves they knew they were on the right track.  Quietly, tenaciously, after much searching in the thicket, they came to more level ground.  The ocean’s melodic resonance was a noticeable backdrop.  Gaps in the brush indicated a fork; one trail leading mauka -- inland, another leading makai -- toward the sea.  The latter path being the one David must have used yesterday when he tracked Lucian and stopped him from killing McGarrett, the cop realized with a shiver across his shoulder blades.

 

If they had not been following the meager track, they would have missed the jumble of fronds and leaves that had been fashioned into a shelter.  Suddenly they were atop the hovel, a startled David.

 

He leaped to his feet with a gasp and pressed his body against the far branches comprising his refuge.  McGarrett held up his hands in universal symbol of non-aggression.  There was a large, painful looking bruise on the boy’s face. 

 

“It’s all right, David, we’re not here to hurt you.”

 

Like a trapped animal, he obviously, desperately wanted to flee, but the intruders blocked his only means of escape.

 

“We’re here to help you,” Williams gently offered.

 

McGarrett reached into his pocket and David flinched, cowering in fear.  When the policeman pulled out a piece of rope with a toy fie truck at the end, David whimpered with a little cry of joy.  McGarrett held it out to him.

 

“Go ahead, take it back.  I wanted to return it.”  The young man looked at the old, battered toy, then stared into McGarrett’s eyes for a moment.  “You saved my life with this when you threw it at Lucian,” he explained softly.  He placed his other hand on his heart, then motioned toward David.  “I wanted to say thank you.  Thank you for saving me.”

 

The gratitude and wonder was obvious in the awed expression of the young man.  Tentatively he uncurled his body and took a careful step forward.  With lightening speed his arm flashed out, grabbed the toy, and yanked it back to hold against his chest.

 

Unsure what to do next, Steve tried to communicate, but from the confusion on his face it was clear that David was not comprehending the questions.  Several different hand signals and enunciations were used.

 

“How did you get here?”  Nothing.  “What is your last name?”

 

Crouching down, Williams tried a few questions of his own. 

 

“David, are you hurt?”  He gestured to his own face, rubbing it in a mirror image of where David was wounded.  “Do you want to down the mountain with us to a doctor?”  These were accompanied by motions, but David did not respond.

 

Crouching down also, McGarrett felt a mixture of wonder and sadness at meeting his rescuer face to face.  He was impressed with David for his outright goodness, honesty, and bravery.  Without that, McGarrett would not be among the living right now.  He also felt so sorry for him.   What was it like to be abandoned, left alone without parents or guidance?  If found up here in the wilds he would have probably been subjected to the cruelty of those who used him as an object of ridicule. 

 

In Honolulu there were people who could help him remember how to speak and understand -- again teach him language and return him to civilization.  And he wasn’t sure that was a good idea.  After all this time -- his formative years -- living wild, David obviously chose his own lifestyle.  If he wanted to come down, he could and would.  Yesterday, when he melded away, into the rainforest where he had mysteriously appeared from, he had chosen to turn his back on civilization.  McGarrett had to respect that choice.

 

Slowly, with patient moves, Steve shuffled out of his backpack, placed it on the ground, and unzipped it.  Inside was a sturdy blanket, a sweatshirt, some sandals and packages of food.  He ripped open a bag of crackers and ate one to demonstrate.  Taking the hint, Dan

Took a can opener and opened a can of corned beef hash.  He dipped a cracker in it and laid it on the can lid, then backed away.

 

David did not make a move toward the food.

 

“I don’t think he’ll eat while we’re here,” Williams whispered to his friend.

 

McGarrett nodded.  They were intruders here in David’s sanctuary.  It was best to leave him alone now.  In the future, he would do what he could.  Occasionally he would return, he decided.    He would return to this mountain and drop off food, supplies, anything that might make David’s life a little easer.

 

The detectives stood and once more McGarrett put his hand over his heart and gave a slight bow, thank the young man again.  What else could he say?  The communications gap between them was profound, but looking into his eyes, he knew David understood.  The wilderness boy gave them a nod.  Then they backed away and left.  On impulse, McGarrett took the makai path toward the sea, and they soon broke out of the rainforest onto a rocky ledge overlooking the stunningly beautiful panorama of Kaneohe Bay.

 

He had taken care of his obligation to David.  Now he had another closure to address.  This excursion had to be a conclusion for both he and Danno.  The narrow trail was right on the edge of a long cliff that dropped straight into the waves far below.  For a moment Steve stood there looking out at the rolling water.

 

“This is where Lucian caught you.”  It was a statement grated out in a deep growl.

 

“Yeah.”

 

"You were almost killed here," Williams admitted with difficulty.  "And I wasn't a bit of help.  When it came to a critical point in the manhunt and you were captured by Lucian, I had taken a wrong turn!  Even John got here before I did!"

 

That was it.  The silence, the pensive guilt.  That was the trouble simmering under Danno’s reticence.  At first, the vicious savagery of Lucian’s murder spree was enough to twist the younger cop into introspective knots.  But in the end, the same thing that unraveled Steve -- the face-to-face confrontation with the killer -- was what unhinged Williams.   They needed to be back here on mountain and find some kind of common closure.  In careers filled with close calls, yesterday’s had somehow tilted everything out of control in their world.  They were supposed to catch the bad guys -- of, if necessary kill them -- and go home.  Close the file and close the door of their emotions.  Nothing normal happened yesterday, so why should he expect that they could put this case away like it was just another day of crime fighting?

 

"Danno, we split up.  It was just dumb bad luck that I came upon him first."  He patted the shorter man on the shoulder.  "Don't let it worry you.”

 

Maybe it was more than bad luck, he quietly evaluated, the words spilling out in a reverie even as he thought them.  It had been his decision to not call for back up once they heard Karen’s screams.  He was the one who picked the shortcut, the rocky, more direct trail, to the sea.  Then he indicated Danno and John should take a trail, through thick foliage, to flank Lucian.  With hindsight, he now saw how foolish his choices, how his rare impulsiveness to get to the killer quickly -- or perhaps find Lucian before Manicote did -- had been rashly injudicious and nearly fatal.  The culpability should be his, but strangely, coming back here on the mountain, helping David, seeing this all again with a clear perspective, had helped. 

 

“I made those decisions,” he finalized firmly. “Everything turned out all right."

 

 And he believed the trite comment.  The advice was cliché, but it seemed right.  After nearly twenty-four hours of jagged emotions over his near-brush with death, he knew it came down to just that philosophy that got him -- and his staff -- through every day on the job.    The big answers he was looking for, the quirk of Fate that brought David and his toy together with Steve and Lucian on the edge of the mountain, were not there.  There were no neat solutions to his unsettled feelings.  He had been scared.  Someone else -- not a cop, not a friend, just a person -- had helped save his life.

 

“It’s all right,” he confirmed quietly.  “Sometimes, despite our best efforts, we are cornered and can’t get out on our own.”

 

Obviously not impressed with the viewpoint, Williams shrugged disconsolately.  “So we thank dumb luck that you’re alive?”  His tone was still bitter.  “Says a lot about how much help I was.”

 

“Hey, I sent you off to search for Karen --“

 

“To watchdog John.”

 

“Yeah.  I wanted to keep a civilian out of trouble and alive, Danno, and there was no one better qualified for that than you.”  His voice was stern.  “I was the one who ordered us to split up.  You were following my instructions.” 

 

Williams turned to leave down the trail, but Steve stopped him with a strong grip on his arm, then faced him. 

 

“It was my fault I got caught by Lucian.”  He took a deep breath and for a moment lost his gaze in the ocean, then stared into his friend’s eyes.  “Everyday we put our lives on the line.  Cops being the day believing we can overcome anything, outsmart and out gun whoever crosses our path.  Sometimes we’re wrong.   Like yesterday.  All the training and experience meant nothing when all the varying events culminated in that moment when Lucian had me in his sights. I was sloppy and it nearly cost me.  It did cost Lucian.  His bad luck and my good luck.  That’s the only way we can look at it, Danno.  It may not be comforting, but it’s the only way I can come to terms with it all.”

 

Within the blue eyes he saw the misery as it turned to acceptance. 

 

Williams surrendered.  “Yeah, you’re right.  We never want to admit it, but there are a lot of situations we can’t control.”

 

“Then we do the best we can and move on.”

 

Starting down the path, they walked along the ocean, then wound their way along the rim of the forest until the reached the car.  It was another silent trip back to Honolulu, but this time in companionable retrospect, not in emotional morass.  Tomorrow would be another day on the job.  They could take these hard lessons and use them to prevent another hostage crisis, or stop from being trapped in a wedge with a killer.  The bottom line,  McGarrett knew, was that by divine intervention, Irish luck, or just a quirk of Fate, a young man and a toy fire truck saved his life and he was thankful for another second chance.

 

 

PAU