Epilogue to MAN IN A STEEL FRAME

MAN OF STEEL

by G M


Shivering, Steve McGarrett numbly sat on the passenger side of the rented Ford. The day warm, the Maui beach sunny, Steve's trembling came from nerves running their course as adrenaline bounced through his over-taut system. Anger, passion, rage spent, he watched with blunted observance as Vaughn, the monster who killed his Cathi, drove away in a blue and white.

"Steve, why don t you get in," Dan gently suggested as he crouched in the sand next to the car. Williams, sopping wet from retrieving McGarrett from the pounding surf, seemed oblivious to the damp. "I'll drive us back to the station." From somewhere Williams produced a blanket and covered his dripping boss. "I'll take care of everything at Lahaina PD." No response. "If you want I'll book you a room. You can take a break and stay in Maui tonight." He waited, then added, "It might do you good to get some distance from the routine back home."

With a nod McGarrett acknowledged the plan and scooted over, allowing Williams to close the door. The drive back to the main city of the Valley Isle passed instantly since Steve's mind continued its near complete preoccupation with Cathi's memory. The shock of the horrifying crime, the disgust of the frame, the drama of the investigation and chase now complete, his mind returned to Cathi. No stranger to tragedy, he knew, with time, the pain would fade, but today the anguish burned inside like hot lava.

After his father's death, circumstances required him to get on with life, taking care of Mother and Mary Ann almost immediately. Food for the table and money for bill collectors did not wait for mourning. He insulated his feelings with nerves of steel, working to be superhuman against the frailties of existence. The necessity to work gave him an outlet, a pattern he used for the rest of his life.

God gave the Irish a grand gift, his mother told him on several occasions. The Irish had the capacity to grieve and keep working away to survive the trials of life.

Perhaps taking the adage too far, Steve built his life around Five-0. Occasionally, he allowed space for something -- someone -- else. Recently that had been Cathi. Briefly she had softened his steel armor and touched his heart. Then the murder -- the steel walls closing down again -- the need to be strong and invulnerable. If not for Five-0, the tribulation of her murder, then being framed for that awful slaying would have been too much. In a more literal sense, if not for his loyal colleagues, he would not have made bail, nor completed the investigation that caught the murderer. If not for his friend next to him.

No question Danno served as more than just his second-in-command by title. Williams remained the strength, the driving force of the unit in Steve’s absence. This time Dan had arranged bail and literally supported Steve through the suffering the last few days. In this terrible instance it came from more than just their friendship. Dan's compassionate understanding came from empathetic, first hand knowledge of tragedy.

Memories of Cathi edged out of his mind. Recollections came of a painful day at a country club years before. When he held Dan's sobbing form after the murder of Jane Michaels.

"Does it ever go away?" Steve wondered softly.

No need to ask what he meant. "Yeah, it does," Danny responded after a moment. "It takes time."

Steve stared out the window, hoping the stunning scenery along Maui's coastline would jolt his retrospection from agony to windsurfers. "Time," he finally sighed.

"A long time."

Easily he remembered Jane, a dark-haired, laughing girl who had adored Danny. No question she dominated his friends' thoughts now. Had Danno loved Jane? Did they discuss marriage? Did her tragic murder prevent him from forming permanent attachments with one of his many liaisons? The emphasis shifted and he found himself asking some of the same questions. Did he love Cathi? Yes, he had. Marriage? Neither of them had been ready for that big step, but now he would never know what their future could have held.

That long ago tragedy at the country club had been a predecessor of today. Dan's uncontrollable anger and passionate revenge in beating a suspect in Jane's murder. So guilty, Dan offered his resignation (for the first time) that day. Today, in the surf, Steve felt that same raw passion burn his soul. Fists pounding into the murderer of Cathi did not relieve the pain, but he felt a measure of justice from the violence. Now, wrath spent, he had only his memories and raw anguish.

"Come on, Steve. I got you a room."

Startled, Steve realized they were in the parking lot of a small beach hotel. It seemed silly to hide away here when the flight back to Oahu was less than an hour. With a nod he silently led the way out of the lobby, then to his cabana-type room overlooking a pristine beach. Fleetingly he wondered if Danno was using the company credit card for this expenditure; wondered what the accountants at the Assessor's office would say, and realized he didn't care.

In the hotel room he woodenly gravitated to the lanai where he slumped into a chair. He was aware of motion and activity inside the room but paid no attention.  It seemed no surprise when Danno emerged on the lanai with two fruit drinks in frosted glasses. The last thing Steve wanted was to talk or to be with anyone.

Again, flashes of the aftermath of Jane's murder sprang to mind. He had stayed with Williams for a long time, settled him with a stiff drink and sat with him until it seemed safe to leave. His words, his actions were so inadequate, so meaningless at the time, but he knew Danno appreciated them nonetheless. Now his mind was too muddled by hurt and hate, but underneath it all he appreciated the gesture of companionship. One day, when it didn't ache so much to think about this horrible tragedy, he would let Danno know how much this meant to him.

Surfers were dancing on the shimmering water, taking advantage of the last rays of the sun-setting, casting dark shadows along the walls of the other hotels nearby. The low mountains were shrouded with clouds hugging the peaks. Lights popped up in dotted patterns of white along the famous Lahaina dock harbor and tourist boulevard. Sitting for hours, Steve had lost track of time, bewildered with perspectives of anything except Cathi. No surprise Danno was still with him, silent, supportive, understanding.

"You can go now, Danno. I'll be fine."

"I can stay.  Captain Salazar is taking care of everything at the station."

"No, really. I'd like to be alone now."

Williams nodded, completely understanding again. "If you need anything -- you know -- I'm just a phone call away."  He paused awkwardly.  "I'll be staying overnight to question Vaughn, then take him back to Honolulu in the morning.

"Yeah. Thanks."

Dan stopped just outside the door and turned around. "You don't have to come back tomorrow, Steve. If you want to take some time off -- "

"No, I don't," McGarrett quickly assured. "I'll be fine. I need to be there."

Again, the empathetic understanding from his friend. "Yeah, I know. Give me a call and I'll pick you up for breakfast before I fly back."

On the verge of refusal, McGarrett studied his friend's face, looked into the readable blue eyes, and acquiesced to the experienced knowledge -- the known path Williams had already trod. Wanting nothing more than to be left alone, he knew the best thing for both of them was to walk life's painful trails with someone who could help. Years back, Dan had stoically ached inside a steel shell of anguish. He had never refused Steve's aid then.

"Sure."

Williams nodded and turned away.

"Danno?" The detective stopped and turned back. "Mahalo. For everything."

Again Williams nodded, then left. McGarrett closed the door and went back to the lanai. Staring at the traffic, the lights, the clouds shimmering in the moonlight, he waited for the grief to crush him. The superhuman defenses were down, there was no one to impress, no one needing his strength now. The dreaded breakdown never came. Perhaps the pain could no longer be sustained. Maybe in projecting the image of superman he had lost the ability to cry. Whatever the reason, he had no tears for Cathi. His tribute to her memory would be the pain that would for a long time mar the damaged armor of his heart.
 

PAU