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Aloha Au Ia 'Oe

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“Daddy!” Grace yelled as she ran toward him. He was standing in the doorway of Rachel’s new house.

“Hey, Monkey! Ready to go?” He bent down and hugged her.

“Yeah, daddy. I can’t wait!”

He looked at Rachel. She was leaning against the door. With the pregnancy, she was getting tired easily.

“We still doing lunch on Sunday?”

“Of course, Daniel. It’s your birthday. I wouldn’t miss it for the world,” she said with a smile.

Danny hugged Rachel and kissed her on the cheek. “Good night, Rach.”

“Good night, Daniel.”

He picked up Grace’s bag and they walked together to the car. Once she was safely buckled into the backseat, Danny got in, started the car, and they headed to the house.

“We’re still going to the Marketplace tomorrow, right?”

“Of course we are. I think your Uncle Steve is looking forward to it.”

Grace giggled.

“What’s so funny?”

“Oh, nothing.” She bit her lip and smiled at him.

He saw her through the rear view mirror and smiled. He knew something was up. He was pretty sure that Steve and Grace were planning something for his birthday, but neither had mentioned anything. It took all his willpower not to ask either of them about it once they got home.

Steve was waiting in the front doorway when they pulled up. Once Danny helped her out of the car, she ran to him. He scooped her up in his arms.

“Uncle Steve!” Then she leaned into his ear. “I can’t wait till tomorrow.”

Steve whispered, “I can’t either, Gracie.”

“What are you two talking about?”

“Oh, nothing,” Steve and Grace said simultaneously.

“Uh huh, sure.” Danny couldn’t help but smile at the two loves of his life.

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“Wake up, Danno!” Grace yelled as she jumped on the bed next to her father.

Danny startled awake. “Huh? What’s going on? Are you alright?”

“Happy birthday, Danno!”

Danny looked up and saw Steve standing at the foot of the bed with a tray of food.

“Thank you, Monkey.” He hugged Grace and then looked back up at Steve.

“Breakfast in bed? Really?”

“Well, it’s your first birthday since… well, everything… so I wanted it to be special.”

Danny grinned. “So are you going to join me, you big goof?”

Steve sat the tray across Danny’s lap. “Well, Gracie and I have already eaten.”

“What?”

“This is your day. Just go with it. Alright?”

“I’ll stay with you, daddy. Uncle Steve has something he needs to do before we leave.”

Danny didn’t know what was going on, but he went with it. “This abuse better be worth it!” he yelled after Steve left the room. He then looked over at Grace.

“You aren’t going to tell me what’s going on are you?”

“Nope.” She giggled.

When he was done eating, Grace grabbed the tray and said, “Now go get ready, we don’t have all day.”

If it had been anyone else, he would have gone off on one of his famous rants. Instead he just watched her leave the room and thought, This better be good, Steven. He grabbed some clothes out of the closet and went to take a shower.

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They arrived at the International Marketplace at around 10am. Once they were out of the car, Grace ran ahead. She already knew where she wanted to go first.

“Gracie, slow down. Wait for us.”

She had already reached the small gift shop near the edge of the Marketplace, so she stopped and waited for them to catch up.

“I want to go in here first.”

Danny looked in the front window. It was a gift shop that looked to him like one of those places tourists went to find “I Love Hawaii” memorabilia.

“You sure?”

“Yes, daddy, but you can’t come.”

Danny couldn’t believe what he was hearing. “Grace, what do you mean I can’t come?”

Steve stepped in. “Gracie, stay here while I talk to your dad.”

She nodded okay, so he pulled Danny aside.

“She wants to surprise you for your birthday, but she wasn’t able to get over here before now. I told her I’d go in with her.”

“Ah, okay. Just don’t let her go overboard.”

They walked back over to where Grace was waiting. Danny looked down at her and said, “Okay, Monkey. I’ll get us something to drink and sit on that bench over there.”

“Okay, Daddy.”

“We’ll be back before you know it.” Steve gave Danny one of his goofy grins. Danny punched him in the shoulder.

“Ow!”

“That’s for all the covert ops you have my daughter involved in.”

“Hey, this was all her idea. I’m just along for the ride.”

“Yeah, yeah.” He turned and walked toward one of the drink carts.

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Steve and Grace walked into the gift shop. Grace headed off to the last aisle on the left and disappeared toward the back. It wasn’t a very big shop so Steve let her go. Steve went to the right, toward a rack that held numerous key chains and little trinkets. The only other person in the store was the clerk behind the counter.

He spun the rack until one key chain caught his eye. This is perfect, he thought. He pulled it off the rack and held it in the palm of his hand. It was then he noticed the door open and two more people walked into the shop.

They were young, and were dressed a little warmly for the weather. They looked Samoan. They were setting off alarm bells in Steve’s head. He continued to look at the rack while he kept an eye on the two men. One of them had walked up to the counter and the other was standing between the counter and Steve.

He looked toward the counter and caught a glimpse of the barrel of a gun. Instinctively, Steve reached down to where his gun normally was holstered, but of course, neither it nor his badge was there. At one time, he may have tried to intervene, but he had Grace to worry about. He couldn’t risk anything happening to her. So, he turned slowly to his left, away from the counter and the thugs, and headed to the end of the first aisle. He didn’t want to move to fast and spook the guys.

Steve froze almost immediately as he saw Grace run up to the front of the aisle. She was excited and hadn’t even noticed the other men in the store.

“Uncle Steve! I found the perfect thing.”

Without even thinking, Steve ran toward her. He had intended to scoop her up and head back down the aisle out of sight of the two thugs, but he hadn’t counted on the second thug getting spooked. Just as Steve had started to move, the guy raised his gun and shot. The bullet caught Steve in the back on his right side. His momentum plus the force of the bullet hitting him propelled Steve into Grace. They both fell hard to the floor, Steve landing on top of Grace, and her head hitting the floor. Neither one of them moved after that.

There were some nasty words exchanged between the thugs before they ran out the front door. The clerk had already pressed the silent alarm behind the counter and was in the process of calling 911 as he ran over to the two victims.

TBC