Title: Old Friends
Written: June/July 2004
Disclaimers: No disrespect to JAG's cast, crew or creators. With love and thanks.
Old Friends - Chapter Fifteen
Ba Da Boom
1411 LOCAL - Thursday
US Run Detention Facility
The explosion ripped through the third floor of the detention facility. Harm was blown back through the room into the wall beyond. The air had been completely knocked out of him. He thought he heard people screaming but his ears were ringing so loudly he couldn't be sure. The air was filled with a thick dust. He tried to catch his breath but he couldn't. The floor fell away from him, the ceiling was crashing down. He felt himself sliding down. He couldn't move. He couldn't breath. Something fell on him, pinning him to what was left of the floor. Something else fell, hitting his head. He lost consciousness.
How did Harm get there for the explosion?
The quick story was the team left Naples near midnight on Friday night via military transport. Webb was posing as an embedded reported with the JAG team. They met up with Marla O'Shaunessy. She was a ranking member of the ICRC who would be working with them. She was Australian and not impressed with the US or its delegates. They spent several days with her interviewing detention workers, touring detention centers, interviewing detainees and sifting through mounds of documents provided by the military. Marla had a list of people – alleged terrorist suspects – that had gone missing sometime during the war. It was her job to discover if they were in US custody.
Obviously the JAG team and Miss O'Shaunessy were not welcome either by the detainees or the military working the facilities. The whole thing was slow going and it was hard to tell who was withholding more information: the ICRC, the detainees or the US Government. Harm and Mac were in the zone – as they say. This was the first 'op' that they had been on after they had 'gotten together.' While their discussions were lively and they provoked much debate, they were relating to each other like a well-choreographed well-rehearsed dance team. They were actually doing what they were sent to do. It was supposed to be a ruse to draw Hatfield out, but Harm and Mac were building a case that there were no undisclosed detention facilities nor was anyone being held not on the list – at least not in Afghanistan. Since arriving in Afghanistan five days prior, they had been from Kabul to Ghazni to Herat to Kandahar with several other smaller locations in between. O'Shaunessy was working at break neck speed. In her mind it was all for show – for the brass. They were wasting their time and she wanted it to be over as quickly as possible. The second to last stop was Kandahar before they went back to Kabul for a final inspection. The Kandahar facility was nearly vacant. The last twenty-three detainees were to be transferred to the Kabul facility the next morning.
The admiral and Gunny's assignment during this operation, was to hang back and to be on the look out for Hatfield; they took no part in the investigation. Gunny knew her, well actually he actually had met her a month or so back in Baghdad. She was one of the workers being questioned about the leaks that had been traced back to the ICRC. He got to know her a little bit. At least he got to know a female named Sally-Ann Butler a little bit (a Georgia Peach if there ever was one). Her story was that she had joined the Peace Corps to help the Iraqi people. She got hooked up with the ICRC and hoped that she could do something meaningful, but the death and destruction had finally gotten to her. She just wanted to go home: lots of crying and carrying on. Gunny bought it; well bought it enough for him to chose to believe that she was just an innocent woman who got caught up with this crazy war. He was going to help her get home and get back to her family.
As it turned out she was actually Hatfield. The connection from Sally-Ann to Zuleika to Sadik Fahd to Nancy Ellen was made a little too late. She had slipped. The connection between ICRC to Sadik and al-Qaeda was made. Nancy Ellen Hatfield was more than an ex-patriot; she was a traitor. She was providing targets and other intelligence, which led to the death of many Americans. Gunny didn't forgive himself for letter her get away. No one else saw it that way. The ICRC needed more proof.
On the day of the explosion, during the tour of the detention facility in Kandahar, Gunny thought he recognized her. She was dressed in an abaya so he couldn't be sure. Nancy Ellen Hatfield had flaming red hair and bright green eyes – well that was what she was born with but again, she had learned how to change her appearance and her identity as well as Sadik had. Gunny was fairly confident that the woman he saw was Hatfield and he told the admiral about what he saw.
She had entered the building but he lost her in the stairwell. The admiral told the facility commander that there was probably a breach in security and instructed them to start an evacuation. That suggestion went over like a lead balloon. Where were they supposed to take the prisoners and how? They would need hours to accomplish that. Gunny found Marla and Mac. Mac was instructed to take Marla to safety. She was on her way back into the building when it exploded. She woke to find herself about twenty to thirty feet from where she was standing covered with debris and the admiral. He had pushed her out of the way. She was unharmed – well as unharmed as could be expected. All her limbs worked, she wasn't bleeding but she had a headache to beat the band. The admiral did not fare so well. He had a large gash on his forehead that was bleeding very badly and it felt like his leg was broken. The scene before them was chaotic at best.
"Fine, Fine" you say. "Mac was alright, and the admiral will be ok. But how did Harm get there for the explosion? And what about Gunny?"
Harm was on the third floor going through documents. He actually felt like he was getting somewhere. Out in the hall he heard loud voices; one voice he recognized as Webb's. The other was a woman. He went to the hall to see what was going on.
Clayton stood at the end of the hall – about thirty feet away. The woman was between Harm and Webb.
"Clayton Webb." The woman turned to face him. "You are a hard man to kill." She said with that West Virginia drawl.
'That must be our girl.' Harm thought.
"I have heard that before, Nancy -." Webb replied.
"ZULEIKA FAHD!" She corrected.
"Zuleika." Webb corrected. "I can help you get home."
"Home? Home?" She laughed and pulled off her headscarf. "I have no home. Your woman took my life from me when she killed my husband. Now I will take hers from her." She opened her robe to reveal a bomb strapped to her chest.
Webb stepped back reflexively. "Zuleika, you don't want to do this."
Webb saw Harm standing on the other side of the hall. Zuleika stepped to the side of the corridor and looked directly at him.
"Harmon Rabb – thank you for making this so easy." She pulled herself up to her full height. "The hero who recused the killer and shamed my husband." She looked back at Webb. "And the lover she … she … she… what did she see in you Clayton Webb … No matter … she with have neither … she will have nothing … my revenge is indeed sweet."
Harm or Webb dove for cover as she detonated the bomb.
GROUND LEVEL –Sometime After The Explosion
Mac had been helping with the rescue efforts but they asked her to step back. They were going to have to bring in the dogs. They were at least six hours away, if authorization could be gotten. Seven US soldiers died in the explosion mostly from falling debris outside the facility. Three detainees were killed, a Red Cross worker and four residents of Kandahar were also killed. At last count, at least seventeen people were still missing including Cathy Shea with the ICRC (aka Nancy Hatfield) and Harmon Rabb, USN. Mac had no idea if Clay was in the building or not, but since she had not seen him she suspected that he had been. They had pulled Gunny out a little while ago. He was still unconscious and the medics were not saying much, but at least he was not dead. The admiral was with him.
She tried Harm's cell again. Nothing. Moments later she received an incoming call.
"HARM!" She called into the phone.
"No baby, it's Gates. Are you all right?"
At the sound of Gates' voice, Mac lost her marine resolve. "No … no, I'm not. All hell broke lose." Her breathing was rapid and she was talking very quickly.
"I saw Kandahar on the news … is that where you are?"
"They are saying that the bomb went off on the third floor. Harm was on the third floor." Mac felt her voice cracking as she spoke the words.
"Honey, are you OK … are you injured?"
"NO … NO I wasn't in the building – the admiral got me out of the way." Mac could barely concentrate on what she was saying.
"The admiral? AJ?" Gates asked. "Is he OK?"
"He is fine – well he is not fine. He has a broken leg and has about eighteen stitches in his head." Mac was losing it.
The rescue workers pulled two more people out of the rubble: a woman and a child. The child could not have been older than four or five – both residents, both dead.
"Gates … what am I supposed to do? They won't let me go into the building."
"Honey, let them do their job." She said in as much of a calming tone as she could. "Where is Webb?"
"I don't know … I don't know … he was probably in the building too."
"Mac … Mac … Sarah, you are going to have to focus for a moment."
"I am focused … I need to get into that building and find Harm." Mac ended the call.
She was about to march up to the person in charge and demand to be let in to help with the search effort, but it was at that moment that the sidewall collapsed into the hole where the building had been.
Moments Before the Wall Fell
Harm woke to someone shaking him and calling his name. He could barely make out who it was it was so dark and his ears were still ringing. He felt a tightness in his chest and he couldn't move. Something was on his leg and he had a shooting pain in his left arm.
"Damn it, Rabb." The voice called again. "Wake up."
Harm blinked his eyes and tried to focus on the person kneeling next to him. "I must be in hell if you are here, Webb." He said with as much 'joke' as he could muster.
"Hell? Not yet, but we can see it from here. Can you move?"
"I can barely hear you, you are going to have to speak up." Harm's ear drums were damaged back in February, they never fully healed.
"CAN YOU MOVE!" Webb shouted.
"No need to shout, I am sitting right here." He gave a week smile as he tried to pull himself out from under the debris.
"RABB!" Clay was in a great deal of pain and was in no mood for Harm.
"No, I can't." He said. "Wait … wait … I can move my foot. At least my leg is not broken."
"OK … look we have got to get out of here before the rest of the building comes down on our heads.
The room there were in was very unstable. Plaster and beams were dropping from the ceiling.
"Where is here?" He asked still trying to focus.
"Subbasement … three or four levels down – I think, I have no idea … Do I look like a building engineer? … I just know we are underground." Clay was maneuvering in the tight space to get a better angle.
"Underground?" Harm was trying to pull himself out. "Well good - you know all about underground."
"I am glad you find this funny."
"Day at the beach." He got a little serious. "What happened?"
"The woman scorned … She didn't want Sarah; she wanted us."
"Mac was on the ground floor." Harm stated with a great deal of concern.
"Maybe she got out in time." Webb said hopefully.
"She was in another part of the building." He said to reassure himself.
"Where is your cell phone?"
Harm checked his pocket and his face fell. "It was on the table."
"Then it is buried in the rubble." Webb stated. "Mine was destroyed."
"How did we get down here?"
Webb winced again in pain. "The building folded like a house of cards when the bomb went off. We rode the top floor all the way to the basement – the subbasement."
"Didn't even know that had a basement much less a subbasement." Harm tried to sit up.
Webb again shifted his position. "By all rights we should be dead."
"They can't kill us."
"Apparently not – but I am getting a little sick of THEM trying." With a final shift he said, "OK, I am going to try to move this … this … whatever the hell it is, pull you leg out. Push with you hands while I lift this up."
"I think we have a problem with that plan." Harm winced.
"Why?" Webb asked.
"My arm is broken."
"Are you sure?"
"Pretty much, yeah."
"Well, you are going to have to suck it up sailor, we can't stay here."
Harm took a deep breath. "OK, I'm ready."
With a grunt from Webb and a groan from Rabb, Harm was able to extricate his leg from the cross beam that was holding him down.
"OK?" Webb asked.
"Yeah – great – just like rolling out of bed." Harm said but clearly he didn't believe it.
Webb started helping him to his feet.
"Where is the stairwell?" Harm asked.
"Completely blocked." Webb said. "That's where I came from."
"Doesn't matter, it will be the safest place in the building."
"What's left of it."
"Exactly. The rescue party won't be down here for hours." Harm limped using Clay's shoulder for support struggling to climb over the rubble.
Webb was in a lot of pain himself.
"Think we need to look for other survivors?" Webb groaned under the weight of Harm.
"Well this part of the building was empty, of course I don't know what was in the basement."
"OK OK … we have got to stop." Clay said and he let Harm lean on some debris.
"Is that blood?" Harm asked, it was so dark in there he could not see.
"Yeah." Clay answered.
"You're bleeding?" Harm was surprised.
"Got hit with something in the explosion and I think I just tore it open." He groaned and coughed a little.
"I can't see a god damn thing." He reached his good hand up to find Webb. "Turn around. Show me where it hurts."
"You say 'turn your head and cough' and I'll break your other arm."
"If that where it hurts, you are on your own." Harm was concerned more about the wound.
"The middle of my back on the right side."
Harm felt. "Jesus Webb, we have to stop the bleeding."
"Got a first aid kit?"
Harm pulled Webb up and got him to the stairwell. He made a space and put him down as he worked on the stopping the bleeding.
There in the darkness they heard a ring – a digital ring.
"My phone." Harm said.
"We'll never find it." Webb stated.
"Mac is not going to be happy."
"She'll forgive you if you get out of here alive."
"WHEN WE get out of here alive – there will be hell to pay." Rabb stated pulling his shirt off to use to stop the bleeding.
Just then they heard a crumbling and the ground shook, more debris from the ceiling fell. The air was filled with dust. They had no way of knowing from their underground position that the one remaining wall had fallen in on top of them.
Mac was standing by watching the rescue/recovery effort. It amazed her how many locals were pitching in to help. They were pulling out rubble and working right along side the soldiers. In the last three hours eight people were found – alive. They had barricaded themselves in a room in the back. It gave Mac hope. The problem was that it was getting dark – soon it would be pitch black and they would have to stop for the night.
Gunny had come to in the mean time and had said that he saw Nancy Ellen Hatfield. He told Mac that he had seen Webb who had gone to find her. Webb's name was added to the list of people still missing. When Marla O'Shaunessy heard that Nancy Ellen Hatfield was indeed Zuleika Fahd and had been passing information to al-Qaeda she was incensed that the CIA would have allowed it. If they had that information why didn't they just arrest her?
That rant cause a very interesting and heated debate about what is real information and what is only supposition. Whose responsibility it is to do what and when. Here the ICRC was claiming that the US Government was detaining people without real information, only supposition and hearsay and yet with that same supposition and hearsay they were supposed to arrest an ICRC worker. The Gunny took much of the debate on himself and Marla O'Shaunessy got quite an earful.
Mac heard none of the debate. She had gone back to check in with the rescue efforts. Her phone rang. She knew it was Gates again. She almost thought about not answering it.
"MacKenzie." She said without looking at the caller ID.
"Mac." He said.
"Harm! Where are you?" She could barely believe she was hearing his voice. The connection was so awful she wasn't sure.
"Subbasement stairwell – northeast corner of the building."
"Are you hurt?"
"Yes, Webb is with me … he is hurt pretty badly … need to get him to a doctor."
"OK … OK " She started walked toward the man in charge. "Stay on the line with me."
"The battery is about dead."
"Ok." She didn't know how to say good-bye. "I'll call you back."
"We'll be waiting."
"I am going to get you out of there!"
"Counting on it."
She still didn't hang up.
"I love you, Sarah." He said just before the line went dead.
Webb was lying in the cleared space that Harm had made. He had lost a lot of blood and was drifting in and out of consciousness. Harm had found his cell phone after the third or fourth time Mac – or someone – had called. It was buried under a ton of stuff, but Harm was motivated. If they didn't know he was alive, if they didn't know how injured Webb was, they would not make an effort to find them nor would they know where to look. The fact that it had to be getting well past dark was going to slow the efforts. He needed to give them something to aim for. Webb would not last the night. Unfortunately in his search through the rubble for his phone, he redamaged his arm and something fell on his head. He didn't know how long he was out, but the ring of the phone brought him too.
"Who were you talking too?" Webb said groggily.
"Ordering a pizza … did you want anything?"
"Yeah … fifth of bourbon would go down nicely."
"Heard that." Harm turned him slightly over to feel the wound to see if it had stopped bleeding.
"I can see why you are a lawyer." Webb coughed. "Have no bedside manner."
"Yeah, well … the bleeding has stopped for the moment. Don't move around." Harm rubbed the spot on his head that was struck. There was no blood, but the lump was getting bigger.
Webb groaned. "Got a rock or something in my back."
Harm felt under him and pulled the rock out. "Better?"
"Like lying on a cloud." He coughed through his cynicism. "You found your phone?"
"Yeah." Harm sat down against the wall.
"Sarah … you were talking to Sarah?"
"Told her where we were – she'll get a team down here."
"She'll dig us out with her bare hands." Webb said. After a moment Webb added, "You should have married her years ago."
Harm wished he could see Webb's face. He wondered if he knew something or if it was an amazing coincidence.
"Seriously." Webb continued. "Would have saved a lot of heartache for a lot of people. In fact you owe us all an apology – both of you do."
"What are you talking about Webb?" Harm continued to rub the bump on his head.
"You and Sarah."
"I'm not sure I want to have this conversation with you."
"Why not …I am not gonna make it." He laughed. "Looks like I was finally taken down … by a woman no less."
"You are going to make it Webb. Not going to have your death on my conscience." He leaned his head back. "Besides, it wasn't a woman – a whole building had to fall on you."
"Kind of like that ton of bricks that had to fall on you to get you to step up with Sarah."
Harm resigned himself to the topic. As long as Webb was talking, he was still alive. "I stepped up, Webb … I stepped up when Brumby left … and then I waited … and waited … and waited."
"Never thought of you as a waiter."
"Was getting pretty good at it too … actually thought the wait was about over when that whole Singer business came up and then you got in the way."
"You want me to apologize for that?"
"No, I want you to apologize for taking her to Paraguay."
"Sarah is a big girl."
"Doesn't mean that you should have taken her into a situation that you couldn't control and had no back up plan for." Harm's raised voice hurt his ever-growing headache.
Webb got quiet.
"You still with me?' Harm asked.
"Yeah." He was still quiet.
"How can I apologize for that?" Webb asked sincerely.
"By living long enough to make up for it."
"I tried … I had been trying to make up for it for the past year."
Harm looked over at him in the dark. "You were with her out of guilt?"
"I love her."
"Why? Cause you felt guilty?"
"She is an amazing woman." Webb stated softly. "But she has got a lot of walls around her."
"She is a survivor."
"But wants no one's help to do it."
"She doesn't trust easily." Harm said as much to himself as to Webb.
"I would have thought that would have made her and I a perfect match."
"Webb, Webb, Webb … just because she doesn't trust easily, doesn't mean that she doesn't want to. You have to earn it."
"How can you sit there pretending to be the expert on Sarah MacKenzie?" He laughed.
"She and I have issues … but we have always had trust – a version of trust – trust when it counts … we are working on the rest."
"Probably what keeps you two tied together." He coughed. "And keeps the rest of us on the sidelines."
"You weren't on the sidelines, Clay." Harm had to admit this. "You were right their in the middle of it."
"Nah … it was a matter of time. She hated my job and hated the secrets and lies … I was fooling myself and she was pretending it could work."
Harm was silent.
"Thought about quitting for her." He coughed again.
"Quitting what? The company?" Harm laughed. "Webb, you are born and bred spook. It is in your genes."
"Yeah, I know." He paused. "Not very good at it though, am I?"
Harm nodded in the dark. "Well you usually need to get your butt bailed out."
Webb was quiet.
"But you have the right instincts." Harm added. "You just need to learn a little patience and to set your priorities right."
"And you are the guy who is going to teach me that?" Webb coughed again.
"Not me." He shifted his seat. "But more often than not the mission does not come first."
Webb thought for a moment. "Doesn't matter anyway … I'll probably be 'retired' after this."
"Nah … you'll get a desk job. Director of Something-or-other."
They sat quietly for a moment. "Hey Rabb." Webb said after a minute.
"Yeah." Harm could barely keep his eyes open.
"I didn't get you fired."
"When the agency fired you … I lobbied against it."
"What are you talking about?" He yawned and shifted his position.
"It was Kershaw. He wanted you out – said that your hero antics were a liability. It had nothing to do with you being on TV … it had to do with following orders … you were supposed to pick up one guy – not his whole family."
"What the hell was I supposed to do … let them die?" Harm realized there was no point in arguing his decision to take on Saed Labdouni's family. "I have been in the Navy for nearly twenty years – I am sick and tired of people telling me I can't follow orders."
"Be honest Rabb … you pick and choose the ones you want to follow."
"And that has saved your butt on more than one occasion."
"I am with you on this Rabb … that is why I lobbied against it."
Harm shook his head.
"You belong in the Navy anyway … you work better when there are rules to break – the company is just a little too loose – amoral for a guy like you."
Harm really tried to focus but still could not see him in the dark. "Did you just say something nice to me?"
"I won't make a habit of it."
"See that you don't."
The conversation waned as each man fell into their own thoughts.
Sometime later Harm noticed that Webb's breathing was ragged. He tried to rouse him, but Webb was out. He still had a faint pulse. Harm's head was spitting. He leaned his head against the wall and thought. 'I am just going to close my eyes for a minute.'
Harm came to consciousness. He knew he was on a plane, but he was not flying. A hand held his very tightly.
"Hey sailor, welcome back." Mac said softly.
"Where am I?" He asked.
"On our way to Germany. Lie still." She ordered.
"What happened?" He turned his head so he could focus on her.
"We got to you … finally. We used your cell phone like a tracking beacon."
"I don't remember."
"You got a pretty nasty hit on the head – thank God for your thick skull." She gently touched his face around the bandages.
"I don't remember." He repeated.
She leaned down to whisper in his ear. "If you say you don't remember me …"
"I know you." He smiled. "I could never forget your beautiful smile." He kissed her cheek. He turned with a start. "What's your name again?" He laughed.
She did too.
"Webb?" Harm tried to lean up and look around.
She pressed him back down on the bed. He expression was sad. "He is alive." She nodded to the other side. "But barely. He lost a lot of blood and hasn't regained consciousness."
Harm squeezed her hand. "He'll make it. He made it this far."
"I have been saying the same thing over and over to myself about both of you."
"And here I am."
She brought her face very close to his. "Thank you." She wanted to say, thank you for no dying, but kept that part to herself.
Harm heard it anyway. He tried to lift his arm to hold her – he forgot it was broken. Instead he pressed her hand again. "I will never leave you, Sarah." He felt her let a breath out. "I promise."
She looked so sad. She had lost so much in her life - so many people. To be reminded again how precious and precarious a life was, how dangerous it was to love a man like Harmon Rabb and yet to still be willing to put herself out there, to risk with a very real chance of losing - again. She was proud of herself for not walling herself off.
"Mac?" He asked.
She sat back slightly to look in his eyes. "Make me a promise you can keep." She looked deeply into his eyes. "Promise me that you will do everything you can to come back."
"Promise." His smile was sad. He knew he could not promise not to die and he knew how much it cost her to risk that again. Harm was not unfamiliar with people he loved dying. "I promise to do whatever it takes to get back to you – back to us." He meant that more than just physically. He would fight through all their bullshit to keep them together.
She pressed her lips lightly against his and said a silent 'thank you.'
The End of Old Friends
The Sequel is Old Friends, New Relationships