Storm Ravaged

Chapter 32

At first enthralled by what his daughter was explaining, Danny sat in silence as he watched her animated face. He absorbed every expression of her bright eyes and her breathy, soft laugh. It was now Sunday morning, and his Father's Day gift sat unopened still in the middle of his kitchen table because Grace was insistent upon telling him her very important back-story before he could open it.

Incredibly over-joyed to still have her for yet a third consecutive day, she was oblivious to the fact that she was his Father's Day gift. She always would be. Danny was utterly amazed that she never quite realized the simplicity of it and so, he nearly missed her words. Grace had laughed again and he was caught up in committing the sound to memory. When the syllables finally made words that sank into his brain though, Danny was immediately suspicious at the odd choice.

"What, Monkey? Did you say back-story? How do you even know what that means?" Danny muttered through his fist while he sat in the wheelchair by the kitchen table. He winced at a bit of the painful tightness caused by the one healing rib. His feet felt heavy too and he'd opted for the hospital-issued wheelchair since he promised Ellen in particular that he would be careful. Because of his Ohana, he and Grace's previous day had been nothing short of remarkable, very busy, and while he would never give up a second of it, he was now quite sore. His right foot in particular was acting up and he knew that Ponch would have his head should he see the reoccurrence of the swelling.

Two days earlier, Chin had driven him home from the hospital and then helped him into the wheelchair between car and front door. His new apartment had no stairs, and he was blissful at the prospect of getting the astringent hospital smells out of his nose. There would also be no more poking, prodding, annoying I.V. lines, or incessant questions about how he was feeling or if he might be hungry. Closing his eyes and inhaling deeply in the late afternoon sunshine, Danny was thrilled to be free and Chin had smiled warmly at him before they even rolled along the short sidewalk.

He should have guessed something more was up though because Chin had actually been smiling for hours. He had also declined Danny's immediate request to stop for food at the supermarket in lieu of getting Danny home and resting in bed. The hints had been too subtle and Danny had missed them entirely.

"No, not yet. I can go later for you. We'll make a list and I'll go back out ... one thing at a time."

So no, Danny hadn't thought much of anything else except being home as they reached his front door ... until he found it unlocked. Instead of being concerned, Chin had merely shrugged and whispered 'surprise' as he swung the door open to reveal both Rachel and Grace giggling inside. From that point on and as Steve had predicted, Danny's weekend had only gotten better.

"Steve did this? With all of you?" True to form, Chin had been almost nonchalant about receiving Danny's much overwhelmed thanks. He'd been stunned by the Theatre tickets and new reservations at the Italian restaurant. It was a surprise for Grace too because she hadn't known about either thing, which made these first plans still very special. Then Chin had remained their on-call chauffeur to and from the Theatre; returning right on time to shuttle them quite happily to the fancy Italian restaurant for that evening's fine dinner. To prolong his energy reserves, Danny had made a concerted effort to stay off his feet and he had mostly succeeded. However, the final ride home in the car had been difficult once the long day caught up with the recovering man. On the lookout for such trouble, Chin had wisely noticed the rising pain and fatigue.

Danny had needed his stronger friend's physical support to get through his front door and then into bed. Chin had lingered calmly near, asking Grace to help where she could by pulling down the bed covers and running for her father's medicine. He had been worried about Danny's obvious fatigue but his friend had yet to stop smiling. "I can't tell you how fine I am, Chin. Really. I just need a good night's sleep."

Before leaving, Chin had made sure each had everything on hand for the following day with orders to call should something important come up. His speech to Danny about that was followed up by one privately with Grace. He didn't want to frighten her, but Chin was firm as he hugged her goodnight. "I'm very serious, keiki. If you or your father need something ... you call right away."

Now, it was already late Sunday morning and Grace had texted a quick good morning to her Uncle Chin since both she and Danny had slept in, long and peacefully. Grace was now going to make them an enormous breakfast buffet with pancakes, bacon and eggs. But her excitement about finally being able to give Danno his special present over-shadowed everything else as soon as she opened her eyes.

"Danno? Can I start?" With only a mug of hot coffee steaming in front of him, Danny re-focused on his daughter and smiled warmly into her happy face. "Are you ready because this is important and very exciting!"

He had been forbidden to touch the package until she was done with her story. Grace's eyes were shining and after propping his chin up on one hand, Danny grinned in return for her to begin. "Absolutely, Monkey. I want to hear every single detail."

But then found his mouth gaping wide open at her first few words.

"Catherine helped to get us all started on this idea that I had with my Aloha Girls troop. She came and spoke to all of us about the importance of intelligence, working together as a team, and then the idea just got bigger."

"Catherine? As in Steve's Cath ... that Catherine?" His free hand dropped limply to the table as some of her other words registered because Catherine's intelligence would have nothing to merely do with someone's school-age I.Q.

He barely croaked out the one word as Grace beamed back at him. "Intelligence?"

'Hm-hmm! She has a cool job!" He leaned forward at that excited remark even more worried than before.

"Exactly how cool is cool? You are so not joining the Army, Monkey!"

"It's the NAVY, Danno. And I don't want to join it." Not to be put off by his newly paled complexion, Grace nodded emphatically about Catherine's brilliance in Naval Intelligence and then launched into the really good part of her story.

"So with Catherine's help, Sergeant Lukela and Dr. Fong took us to a real crime scene so we could work on earning our badge. One that had already been gone through and catalogued so it was perfectly safe." Grace shoved her smart phone under his face at the kitchen table.

"Crime scene? What crime scene?" He swallowed hard and stared at her in disbelief. But instead of answering him, Grace was well on her way down the intrigue of her story.

"So, while we were there, Dr. Fong showed us all how to dust and lift fingerprints. Then outside, he showed us how to measure footprints. It was a lot of fun and he said that I was very good at it!" Grace barely paused as her fingers flew through the photographic images on her phone.

"Here. This is the best part! I found this tire track off to the side by the garage." Unable to blink, Danny's eyes alternated rapidly between the phone and his daughter's face.

"Just ... stop," he repeated himself a bit more firmly as he covered her hand with his own to get her attention. "Wait a minute, Grace. Crime scene? You went to an actual crime scene?"

"It was safe, Danno." With an exasperated sigh, Grace nodded because he was changing the subject again and not keeping up with her. "Yes! An old one where Sergeant Lukela said the crime was already solved and the bad guy was in jail. The owners of the house gave HPD permission to take us all there to practice for our badges. But look ... I found this tire track in the mud by the garage and it was on the outside margin of the yellow tape."

Even though her eyes were still laughing and she had practically slipped up about the Aloha Girl's Detective badge, she frowned because he was still hung up on the whole beginning of the story. He rubbed his face and shook his head at the concept before muttering under his breath. His brows were knit together in a mix of worry and confusion which Grace read as the start of a new topic, and she couldn't help the annoyed whine as she tapped her phone.

"Danno!" Slamming his mouth shut, Danny weakly nodded and gestured for Grace to continue; though by now, he wasn't at all sure he wanted to hear the rest of it. He frowned at the gaudily wrapped present and winced as he tried to figure out what might be inside.

'Please don't mention Max - Please don't mention, Max - Please don't mention, Max," became the frightening new mantra in his head. But when the next image clearly showed reams of yellow tape in front of a garage door that appeared to be fluttering in a breeze, he automatically groaned.

"Where was this again? What was the crime?" Pursing her lips, Grace started all over again explaining the jewelry heist from the month of March that had been reported by the caretaker of a wealthy couple who were on an extended expedition somewhere in Africa. According to both Sergeant Lukela and Charlie Fong, the house had been cased by a lone thief who was already serving time in jail.

She bounced in her chair and kicked the table legs in sheer frustration as he lobbed even more questions at her. "What was this guy's name? The one they have in custody. Are they absolutely sure he was working alone?"

"Dannnooooo!" Grace didn't know or care about the real thief and all the questions were ruining her story. Almost in a temper, she thumped backwards into the chair and glared at him until he closed his mouth. Carefully and with a bit less vim and vigor, Grace tried to continue.

"So, anyway ... I found these tracks and Sergeant Lukela said they were new. It had rained in the morning and the tracks were very new. The family is not home and the caretaker visits only twice a month. He also only drives an old pickup truck, so the tracks were not his. We took measurements and photographic evidence like Dr. Fong showed us and then he helped us identify the brand of motorcycle it belonged to."

At the time, not even Duke Lukela had thought much of her find. The thefts had been reported in March and the perpetrator identified and taken into custody in April. By the time the troop visited weeks later in mid-May, the real crime scene team had long ago finished their job of going over the home with a fine-tooth comb. They had no doubt that the lone thief they had in jail was the perpetrator. The scene was no longer pristine or of importance, HPD had gained the owners' approval to demonstrate police work that day to the troop, and it was utterly benign. The motorcycle track was assumed to be made by a friend of the caretaker's or another hired maintenance worker, or even a food delivery person. It could have been anything and was initially discounted.

In fact as the Sergeant proudly explained, their already jailed perpetrator had admitted to stealing the thousands of dollars in jewelry once he had been certain the house was empty. As he had duly confessed, they found all the goods locked inside a public storage facility; along with at least $100,000 of other recently reported stolen items.

It was a slam-dunk case and the site was secure. Since that time, the caretaker had been there fairly often, they couldn't count how many times it had rained, and the caretaker had only just begun to remove the yellow tape. He'd been slow to cut down what was still cordoning off the detached garage. Off to the side of that garage was where Grace had found the motorcycle tire tracks in the mud.

"We were allowed to split up into pairs on the property to see what else we could find. So me and my friend, Lucy ..." Grace stopped again and made a face for Danny's sake before correcting herself. "Okay, Lucy and I ... we were each other's back-up and we walked around to the back of the garage. There was this potter's shed in the far corner of the yard, so we went to investigate and that's where Lucy found the broken window. But I found the hidden motorcycle."

His eyes widened and he had to literally bite his tongue as she paged through to show him those images. He saw the small shed that had a variety of both used and unused hanging baskets left in disarray. A small black Kawasaki bike was parked between the shed and a large tree. There was a close up image of the front tire that was still half-wet with drying mud. It was almost hidden by the shade of the big tree. He could see that Grace was the photographer because there was a glimmer of golden hair in the pictures which he knew was the back of Lucy's head. Bits of glass glimmered in the grass and it was clear, at least to him, that someone had punched through the shed's window at just the right angle to open the small door.

Danny glanced at his daughter because he knew what the brave duo had done next. "You opened the door didn't you." His statement was met with a serious and very quick nod.

"Yes, we still had our crime scene gloves on so we went in. It was really dark inside because of that tree and the other windows were so dirty." She sobered immediately and almost hesitantly showed him the next picture on her smart phone. "I promise we didn't touch them, Danno."

Slowly she edged the phone to him across the table. "But we did take pictures of the table and then showed Sergeant Lukela right away."

"I found the motorcycle parked next to the shed. Dr. Fong proved it was the same one to match the tire tread by the side of the garage. There was another footprint sunk in the mud, too. But then we had to leave; Sergeant Lukela made us all go home."

Danny didn't know what to say. Her pictures were perfectly organized to capture five different angles of the automatic weapons that were displayed from one end of the wooden pottery table to the other. She had called Duke and the officer had sent them all packing once he understood that a much larger story was still taking place right under their very noses.

She was waiting for him to say something. Anything. Yet, he was still at a complete loss for words. Danny took a long moment and then heaved in a deep breath before letting it out as a shuddering, awed sigh. It took an amazing amount of effort on his part, but Danny buried his typical fatherly rant.

She was desperate for his approval and the fact was that she'd done excellent work. Grace's amazing accomplishment was the sole focus, not his knee-jerk emotions, and she was absolutely pleading for his approval. His smile completely relaxed her and then, it didn't take him long to figure out what his present was as his face opened up to hers in amazement.

"Grace! You got your Scout's Detective badge!" Her radiant smile matched his as he scooted the gift closer and opened it. She had with all the other girls, but there was something more inside the wrapped box. Much, much more and she was fairly bursting with excitement because he hadn't realized it yet.

Danny at first didn't even see the bigger surprise as he looked at the embroidered Aloha Girl's Detective patch. But then the vellum paper background with the gold emblazoned ribbon caught his attention. He stopped, looked at her once in astonishment, pulled it closer and then read it again.

"Monkey, this is ... incredible." Danny's voice was low and hushed as he read the words over and over until they sunk firmly into his being. He shook his head and then laughed with pride. "Grace. This is amazing, fantastic and totally incredible!"

She giggled in relief when his jaw practically hit the table. The shadow box had her Aloha Girl's Detective badge which all the girls had earned. The preliminary certificate from the Honolulu Police Department stood out though. Dated June 12th, it was for a special Civilian Commendation Award. A small gold tag proudly displayed her full name along the bottom of the mahogany frame with the same June date. Grace had kept it a secret for a very long time. He laughed quietly to himself because so had Charlie Fong and Duke Lukela; in fact, any of the HPD officers who knew him ... knew Grace ... and they had all kept it an enormous secret.

"Lucy got one too. We were supposed to have a ceremony once HPD finalized the date with the Commissioner, but I didn't want the real certificate until you got home." Grace was biting her lip as tears filled her eyes. All plans were postponed with HPD once her father had been abducted.

"Sergeant Lukela said that we were going to get the real award at a special ceremony. I didn't want a ceremony or a party or anything at all ... until you came home, Danno."

At that, she slid off the chair and crawled into his lap. He kissed the top of her head while she hugged him hard. "I am so incredibly proud of you, Grace. Just so much."

She had memorized the words on the interim certificate and she recited them now back to her father who enveloped her hand in his own. Danny smiled with pride since she didn't even need to glance one time at the award. He read it to himself in time to her voice.

"Because of outstanding assistance to the Honolulu Police Department, Grace Williams has significantly contributed to public safety in our City and we proudly present her with this special Commendation."

Since her discovery with Lucy, HPD had identified two additional cohorts to the one originally lone thief already jailed. The ring used the jewelry heist as a cover for a much larger arms deal. Those facts were things that the children didn't need to know; but their unexpected accomplishment led the appropriate officials directly to a larger and more dangerous illegal activity. The guns and the small group were off the street and arrested before their plan had any hopes of making it to fruition.

"I want you to have it, daddy. Happy Fathers Day," she whispered tearfully as Danny hugged her tightly to his chest while she hung her legs over the arm of the wheelchair. The weekend had been perfect, that morning had been amazing and Grace's Father's Day gift was simply remarkable. The last few terrible weeks were gone from his memory to be totally replaced by an astounding gift of more precious time with his much too smart daughter.

"Grace, you have no idea. This is the best Father's Day I ever had. Thank you," he huffed out an exaggerated, loud breath of air that made Grace giggle. She didn't need to look up to know that he was smiling from ear to ear. His hand moved carefully over the elaborate mahogany frame and then he traced the gold tag where her name was engraved.

"I have one amazing kid."

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