A Trip to the Zoo

Author’s Note: I would like to dedicate this story to the memory of Kruger the white rhino, a long-time resident of the Honolulu Zoo who died in May, 2010 after a long illness. He was adorable and friendly, and liked to have his horn scratched with a loofah and to chase the zebras and giraffes around the African Savannah where he lived. I feel he was pretty much the best rhino ever, and the zoo won’t be the same without him. Goodbye, big guy—you will be missed.

This is a response to a writers’ group challenge to use the phrases, “Steve and Danny stared in disbelief at the scene” and “The detective froze as he heard a soft, distinctive click from somewhere close behind him.”

“Steve....” Danny Williams began, sitting on the corner of his boss’s desk at Five-O headquarters. “We both have a day off tomorrow, and I was wondering...would you go to the zoo with me?”

“The zoo, Danno?” Steve McGarrett asked. “Oh...you want to see Stephanie,” he said, putting two and two together. “Didn’t you go visit her there just last week?”

“Well, yes, but....” Danny said, looking a bit embarrassed.

“But you think she’s cute,” his partner finished dryly. “You’re obsessed, you know that?”

“I’m not!” Williams retorted indignantly. “I just enjoy her company.”

“I saw you with that library book the other day, The Encyclopedia of Mammals. Want to show off to your new zookeeper friends?”

“It’s not like that! I just wanted to look up a few things. Aren’t you always telling me a good detective should be knowledgeable on many subjects?” Danny asked defensively.

“Anyway, I don’t see why I have to come along,” Steve told him. “It’s you she wants to see.”

“Well, there’s the look of the thing. If I go by myself, people might start to think I was obsessed. Besides, she likes you, too. And I want to go this weekend, since her friend just arrived from the mainland and I’d like to meet him.”

“You’re concerned about how they’re getting along?” McGarrett asked, raising his eyebrows.

“Well....” Danny said, looking down. “Please, Steve?” he asked, directing a limpid blue-eyed gaze at his partner.

“Okay, okay, I’ll go,” Steve told him.

McGarrett pulled the big Mercury into a parking space in the lot in front of the Honolulu Zoo. As they walked towards the ticket kiosk at the entrance, Steve and Danny stared in disbelief at the scene. This being a fine Saturday in June, the entrance line was a milling mob of women with baby carriages, families with small children, and at least one church group field trip of second graders darting back and forth among the rest and yelling with pent-up excitement.

They stood in the throng feeling incongruous despite their off duty attire—a blue aloha shirt with a geometric pattern for Danny and a long- sleeved white number with a pattern of large, bright flowers for Steve—among all the families. As they were wondering if they would ever get in, a pretty, young woman, dark hair pulled into a ponytail, wearing a khaki polo shirt, shorts, and boots came to the entrance and waved to them. “Danny! Mr. McGarrett!” she called, “Come right this way.”

They waded through the sea of humanity to her side. “Hey,” Danny said, smiling and giving her a kiss on the cheek. “Thanks for rescuing us.”

“With schools out for the summer and the weather so nice, this place is a complete zoo,” she told them, laughing.

They strolled through the grounds until they reached a row of low- walled enclosures. “She’s in the back right now,” the keeper told them, unlocking an inconspicuous door at one side and ushering them into a small concrete-floored room, dark after the dazzling sunlight outside. After closing the outside door, she unlocked a further barrier. “I know she’ll be glad to see you,” the dark haired keeper said.

“Stephanie!” Danny cried, as the small wombat ambled over and sniffed his shoes. “You remember Steve, right?” he said, as McGarrett tried to edge inconspicuously away.

“Since she was raised by humans, she’s still young enough to be friendly,” the keeper, Diane, said. She scooped up Stephanie and offered her to Steve. “Here, you can hold her,” she told him.

“Er...I’m not sure....” McGarrett said, backing away, afraid for his shirt.

“Come on, how often do you get to hold a wombat?” Diane encouraged him, putting the furry bundle into his arms.

“Well, she is awfully....” the head of Five-O began, trying to maintain his dignity in the face of having an armful of wombat. He looked down and met her small brown eyes.

The detective froze as he heard a soft, distinctive click from somewhere close behind him. He turned to see Diane, having snapped the bayonet mount of a professional-looking lens in place on a Nikon camera, preparing to take his picture.

“Oh, no, you don’t....” he began before the flash went off, temporarily blinding him and startling Stephanie, who attempted to scramble up onto his shoulder. As Steve struggled with the small but heavy animal, he heard the shutter clicking away.

“Danny!” he ordered his second-in-command. “Stop laughing and come take this creature!”

“Sorry, Steve,” Williams said, still snickering. He gathered up Stephanie. “There, there,” he soothed her. “We’re sorry about the flash, but we wanted to make sure the picture came out.”

“You put her up to this, did you?” McGarrett said, glaring at his partner.

“Well....” Danny admitted softly, glancing over to where Diane was carefully rewinding the film and unloading the camera. “I wanted a picture of you to put on my office desk, and I couldn’t just use a normal studio shot, since people would wonder...but a humorous picture of you with Stephanie....”

“Oh,” Steve said, unable to suppress a smile. “In that case, then....”

Diane crossed the small space to the Five-O detectives and handed the roll of film to Danny. “Here you go,” she said.

“Thanks, Diane,” he told her, pocketing the film. “So, where’s the new arrival?”

“He’s over here,” she said, leading them to a chain-link fenced door adjacent to Stephanie’s, through which another small wombat was looking. “He arrived a few days ago from the Cleveland Zoo, where he was born. We took the liberty of renaming him ‘Danny’,” she said, with a smile at Williams.

“I’m honored,” he told her, giving his partner a sidelong look.

“It was the least we could do, after Five-O helped us get Stephanie,” she told them.

“I can’t believe you named a wombat after me, Danno,” Steve grumbled. “A female wombat.”

Diane was continuing, “We’re hoping that when they’re a bit older, Danny and Steph here will mate,” she said cheerfully.

Danny turned away to hide the color that had risen in his cheeks and Steve briefly put a hand over his eyes.

“I’m...I’m sure that will be very helpful for the species,” McGarrett managed to say.

Oblivious to their discomfiture, the keeper said, “We’re introducing them slowly for now, just to be on the safe side. That’s why they’re not in together.”

“How are they getting along?” Danny asked, bending down to look at the new wombat through the wire.

“Oh, they seem to really like each other,” Diane told him. “Like their namesakes.”

“Well, Diane,” McGarrett said hastily, “It was great seeing Stephanie again. Come on, Danno, let’s...let’s go see some more animals.”

“Any time, guys,” Diane told them. “Enjoy the rest of your day at the zoo!”

“Thank you for everything,” Williams said, giving her a hug. “I’m sure the pictures will be great.”

The keeper ushered them out of the enclosure.

“That animal completely ruined my shirt,” Steve complained, brushing at the muddy paw prints now added to the floral pattern.

“I’m sorry, Steve,” Danny said. “I’m sure those will come out in the wash. Come on, I’ll buy you a shave ice and we can go look at the siamangs. Why don’t we split a rainbow?”

“Danno, two men can’t just walk about sharing a shave ice in public,” his partner told him.

“Look around you, Steve—everyone is having too much fun to notice anything....”

Diane watched them go from the doorway. Steve had unconsciously put a hand on Danny’s shoulder, and the younger man was smiling up at his partner. They seemed to be bickering about something as they walked down the path. They make such a cute couple. I don’t suppose they actually....Nah, can’t be, she thought. She looked down affectionately at Stephanie, who had ambled over to the wire and was touching noses with Danny. Not like Steph and Danny here....

Author’s Note: This is, of course, a follow-up to my story “He’ll Never Notice”.

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