Title: Dead To The World – The ReWrite
Originally Written: October 2003
ReWritten: Spring 2009
New Spoilers: Season 5
Notes: Time line of this story: End of Season 5 -- shortly after Brumby comes back to the USA.Disclaimers: No disrespect to JAG's cast, crew or creators. With love and thanks.
So … I was sitting around one day in the Spring of 2009 (five and half years after I wrote this … saga) and decided that it needed more than an edit (in case you haven't noticed I have been editing my posts – they could probably still use a qualified beta, but they are better). Anyway, I have a friend who I have known for a LONG, LONG time and she was never a JAG watcher in fact she used to tease me about watching "BigHead" (her pet name for DJE). Anyway, shit happens and she found herself with time on her hands and S1 & S2 of the DVDs of JAG (unwrapped) in her DVD rack (truth be told they weren't hers they were her mother's). So she thought WHAT THE HELL? Let's see what all the HubBub is about. Time passes as it always seems to do, and I did a check in with her about her JAG-Watch. She had gotten to Boomerang and Sydney Harbor in S5 (I will admit I sent her S4 but S3, S5, & S6 were on her dime). She too thought it was crap. I think she very politely called it 'bad writing' and 'out of character' and was 'pissed at JAG'. I had to agree and often struggled in my JAG Fics to explain that whole meshugass in some logical way. All of that is leading up to my edit of Dead To The World and decided that rather than an edit, I would rewrite it and set this story back to the end of Season 5. Mac has Brumby's ring, and Brumby has just relocated to US to be close to his lady love. To give you a better place in the time line (as the show has been gone for a while), S5 started with Harm back flying and THE KING OF THE GREENIE BOARD (post Jordan and Pre-Renee) and ended with SURFACE WARFARE and Brumby's return after taking some odd detour through Australia. There are certain elements of this story that will not change but it will be different enough to warrant a scan, if you are so inclined. And if you are looking for the original, not sure I still have it in toto, but email me and I can hunt it down.Chapter One
North of Union Station
Harm was dead to the world until the pounding on the door wrenched him back to life.
It was only Thursday and it had already been a rough week: very little sleep, too much work, little or no teamwork, and Renee. She was beginning to hang on him like a cheap suit – a cheap woolen suit in the middle of summer. She was getting more needy, intrusive and presumptuous with each passing day. It had been escalating and was getting impossible to take. She was demanding more time and attention, pressing about the status of their relationship and the future. It all stemmed from Mic and Mac. Brumby had arrived back on the scene six weeks earlier, and Renee took that as a major victory. She was constantly asking questions about Mic and Mac, Mac and Mic, Mic and Mac. Wasn't it romantic Mic just giving up everything to be close to her? Did Mic move in with Mac? Did Mac move that stunning diamond solitaire (wouldn't every woman love to have one?) and set a date? Don't they make a lovely couple? Doesn't Mac look so much happier? Won't she make a beautiful bride?
How and why was Harm expected to know or CARE to know anything about MicMac: The Happy Couple? And the answer to all of those was NO … capital N, capital O. No, it wasn't romantic – it was presumptuous, rude, selfish and a ploy he would expect from someone like Brumby. No, they hadn't moved in together but Harm had no intention of 'dropping by' Mac's apartment to find out what the living arrangements were. No, she hadn't moved the ring – not that right or left made a damn bit of difference to anyone but a woman. No, they hadn't set a date nor did it look like they were going to any time soon. No, they didn't make a lovely couple with Mic's drooling and Mac's giggling – they were worse than teenagers – and quite frankly Harm felt that it was affecting Mac's work. No, Mac didn't look happier; point of fact she looked tense, miserable and irritable – honestly, she looked very sad and lonely (in spite of the giggling). Be careful what you wish for, Mac. And No, if she didn't get that miserable look out of her eyes, she wouldn't make a beautiful anything.
They had been working a case together that week. Together was not quite how they were working, but they were both assigned to defend General Fredrickson; Mattoni was defending. The General was accused of dereliction of duty which led to the death of six marines in his command. The situation was serious as the General was highly decorated and respected and this would definitely leave a blotch on his previously unblemished nearly 4 decades of service. The first major loss for the defense team of MacKenzie/Rabb was trying to get the general out of the brig pending the trial. Mattoni had presented an innocent trip across state lines as an attempt to flee; the judge bought it. There was something off about the General. It didn't appear that there was anything nefarious about the case; just an op gone bad. Harm and Mac had expected to get the General off with a discharge from service with all pay and benefits; he was past his retirement date anyway and Mattoni would probably have agreed until that excursion. Then it turned into a full blown defense where they were dotting all the Is and crossing all the Ts. Harm had to admit that something was off about the General and it was hard to find peers or subordinates that would be good character witnesses. All week long Harm and Mac had been following different leads and not really comparing notes. It seemed easier, but not productive. Earlier that day they had gotten into a bit of a discussion that didn't end well. That had also been a pattern for several weeks too.
The pounding continued and someone was calling his name.
Bleary eyed he checked the clock and tried to pretend like he knew what the numbers meant. He stumbled to the door. "SOMEBODY BETTER BE DEAD!" he bellowed.
"RABB!" the voice he didn't care if he ever heard again yelled back him. "IT'S MIC!!!"
Harm leaned his head against it and closed his eyes. "Go away Brumby," he started to pull away.
"IS MAC WITH YOU?!"
Harm didn't understand the question so he opened the door. "What?" he barked. "What do you want Brumby?"
"Is she here?"
"Sarah - is she here?"
"Why would she be here?" Brumby's question didn't make sense.
"Where is Sarah?"
"How the hell should I know?" he snapped. "If she isn't with you; she is probably at home – in bed – asleep … where all normal people should be at this hour."
"Do you think I would be here if she were home?" Brumby was sounding very desperate but Harm couldn't find it in him to care. "When did you hear from her last?" Mic continued.
"I don't know – around 20 – 2030." He wiped his face with his hands. "What time is it?"
"After 3. She's missing," he announced.
"Mac can take care of herself!" Harm declared. "She probably came to her senses," he muttered under his breath.
"Is there anyone else she would be with?" Mic pressed.
"At three o'clock in the morning?" Harm was annoyed with Brumby and his dramatics.
"Is there any where else she could be?"
"The office? A Hotel? Who knows?"
"The case that you two are working on?"
"What about it?" he asked.
Just then Webb blasted into Harm's apartment.
"What the hell?" Harm barked.
"Is she here?" Webb asked.
"FOR THE LAST TIME … Mac is not here … doesn't anyone use the phone anymore?"
"If you answered we would have," Webb offered snidely.
With Webb involved it might be something more than a hysterical Brumby. "Webb, what the HELL is going on?"
Webb was calling his office, "We got intel tonight that Fredrickson maybe a survivalist," with that he turned and spoke to whoever answered and quickly hung up.
"A general in the United States Marine Corps?? A survivalist?" Harm was unimpressed by that ' breaking news'. "Isn't that redundant?"
"We are talking anarchist," Brumby added. "Domestic terrorism, the dark side of the KKK."
"Who is WE?" He looked back at Webb.
Webb was not about to answer. He had already given too much information to Brumby.
Harm continued, "What does Mac have to do with this?"
Webb looked away; he was too embarrassed to say the words out loud.
Brumby jumped in, "She was accessing certain sensitive files and she may have stumbled on to it."
"Stumbled?" Harm growled. "You didn't push her?" Harm was sick to death of Webb using JAG like his personal investigators. One of these days it was going to get one of them killed or worse. Harm went to the phone and dialed her number.
"You think I haven't been calling her every five minutes for the past four hours?" Brumby asked.
Harm could really careless about what Brumby didn't or didn't do.
"I had nothing to do with this," Webb protested. "Believe me."
"I don't," Harm shook his head. "So what do you know?"
"You appear to be the last person to have seen her. Her car is still at JAG and the guards never saw her leave."
"She called me at 2200 and left a message saying she was on to something and would be working very late," Brumby added.
Harm had called her at 2220 and 2245 but she didn't answer. He assumed she had gone home and was with Brumby, or just didn't want to talk to him – that was more likely the truth. She was pretty pissed off at him when he left.
"Fredrickson is still in the brig," Webb announced.
Harm shook his head, like that was a STUPID comment. "Don't these survivalist types travel in packs?"
A van pulled up to warehouse looking building that was very poorly lit. Two blonde men, one mid-forties and the other not more than twenty, dressed in marine uniforms got out, looked furtively around to ensure that they are not being observed. They opened the side door to the van and pulled out a limp body. The head was wrapped in a hood, but it was a woman also dressed in a marine uniform. They struggled to get her inside. The older man re-emerged carrying her uniform jacket; he padlocked the door, got in the van and drove away.
Falls Church, VA
Harm entered from his office. "My office door is open … I left it locked and the Fredrickson case files are missing," Harm stated. "The only copies we have left are the ones I took home." Harm noticed that it looked like there was a big struggle in Mac's office. She didn't go without a fight.
"Is that blood?" asked Brumby looking at the corner of the desk.
"This is a crime scene – everyone out!" demanded the Admiral. "Rabb, Webb with me." He looked toward Brumby who was off to the side. "We'll find her, Commander," he said as gently as he could. Brumby was an outsider and would always be an outsider and AJ Chegwidden didn't like outsiders. "But you can't be here now … you are … for all intents and purposes a civilian, go home."
"Sir, I am not going anywhere?"
"Yes Brumby … you are," the admiral was stern again. "Go home, and that's an order."
The two men followed after the admiral, and Brumby remained where he was.
In the office, no one sat.
"OK Webb – tell me what you know."
"We have reason to believe that General Harris Fredrickson, USMC is actually Frank Harris – the second lieutenant in the While Blood for America group."
"When did you figure this out?" AJ asked.
"We have known about Harris for years, but not that he was Fredrickson."
"When did you know?" the admiral pressed again.
Webb took a deep breath. "This only came to my attention a couple of hours ago – this is not my area – I am strictly foreign. I was only alerted when it was discovered that someone at JAG – namely Sarah - was accessing certain sensitive files on Harris."
"We have been investigating him for a week now," Harm stated. "You were just alerted today?"
"Rabb – I'll get to you," the admiral silenced him and Rabb came to attention again. "So, what was different about tonight?"
"Fredrickson is clean," Webb said by way of explanation to Harm's accusation. "Mac put the two together. She found the link between Harris and Fredrickson. She did in one night what our guys could not do in six years."
"And you just sat and watched?" Harm accused.
"No, we didn't know where she was leading us. We just followed."
"Three steps behind," Harm sniped.
"As you were commander," the admiral warned again. "You stood by and let her do all the work?"
"It isn't the first time we have had JAG or NCIS or the FBI do our leg work for us."
Harm was busting at the seams. Chegwidden was growing more livid with each word Webb spoke. "So what happened?"
"Our guy was about an hour behind Mac. When he figured out what she had found, he called me. I tried to find Mac. I didn't think she was in danger, I just wanted to warn her to be careful."
"It was just a courtesy call?" Harm interjected.
"Fredrickson was already caught – in the brig for Christ's sake."
"And you never thought about anyone that might be working with him?" Harm sniped again.
"Commander – if you don't shut up – you will be excused," AJ warned again.
Harm looked forward again and came to the best version of attention he could when ever fiber in his being was telling him to rip the information out of Webb forcibly.
"When was this?" the admiral continued.
"Hours ago – five hours," Webb continued to try to not take blame, but it was hard.
"Well it looks as though you weren't the only people following her lead," he looked to Rabb. "And where were you? You were working this case together," he accused.
"Yes sir," Harm looked worried and angry. "Sir, I left Colonel MacKenzie here at 2030 hours. She wanted to stay – finish up some research; I went to pick up the forensic reports. We agreed to meet back up in the morning."
"So you didn't speak to her after you left?" AJ pressed.
"Sir, I called here around 2245 but there was no answer."
"We have evidence that she was here – on her computer at 2346," Webb added.
"Are we sure it was her?" asked the admiral.
"No," Webb admitted.
Back to Rabb, "You weren't concerned when she didn't answer? Did you try her home? Her cell?"
"Yes, sir. I called her home, no answer. Her cell phone was off. I assumed she was in transit, sir, or … hadn't gone home."
"Assumed," the admiral realized that Harm was still standing at attention, but did not release him.
"Yes, sir," Harm's faced washed with shame. The new rules were still being defined between Harm and Mac as to what was appropriate and what wasn't now that she had Mic back in her life. Harm did not make that an easy process; it was driving a large wedge between them and their teamwork was suffering. He said again, "Yes, sir."
The admiral knew that there was trouble between them – hardly the first time - but the Brumby development had just amped it up. He knew that they would work it out professionally in time. It is also true that if the admiral were in the commander's shoes; he probably would not have been concerned either. "Gunny!"
Gunny stepped through the door quickly; he had been there for thirty minutes waiting for orders (he had already started his own investigation – call it initiative). "Reporting as ordered, sir."
"Get anyone you need in here. I want everyone that has been in or around this place in the past twenty-four – forty-eight hours present and accounted for. This office should be treated like a crime scene. And I want you to get me everything you can on this Fredrickson / Harris person. You can start with the CIA file," he glared at Webb.
"It's classified," Webb stated and then relented. "I will have a copy sent to you right away."
"Focus on known associates. … And get Brumby out of here. Dismissed."
"Aye sir." Gunny left.
The admiral turned his attention back to Clay. "Webb what are you doing about this?"
"I've got people confirming the wear-abouts of all the people close to Harris."
"What about Fredrickson? Harris? Whatever," he looked at Harm. "Where is he now?"
"The brig at Quantico, sir," Harm answered. "The guards have been doubled and there hasn't been any communication – in or out." Harm braved the next question, "Sir, request permission to interrogate the gen – Harris."
"Stand in line commander," the admiral spat out. "You were defending him, correct?"
"The colonel was prosecuting?"
"No sir, she was … she is co-counsel. Mattoni was prosecuting."
"Fine, get Mattoni in here," the admiral barked to anyone outside his office who was listening. Harm continued to stand at attention. "Looks like you get to be the good cop, Rabb. You are with me. We leave for Quantico in 60 minutes."
"Aye sir," Rabb walked out.
"Webb I don't need to tell you -."
"I am already on it, AJ."
"No, no you are not. If you were on it – we wouldn't be here right now."
"You know how critical the first twenty-four hours are," Webb warned.
"I know what the possible outcomes are and I know the odds. You just better pray that the odds are in your favor, Webb. I want that file … now."
"You'll have it." Webb nodded and left.
The admiral looked frustrated and angry. "Damn it, Mac."
Time: UnknownLocation: Unknown
"Is that how long we are going to wait?" she asked.
"Mac!" he warned.
"We're not in Washington; we're not even one the same continent."
"Location doesn't change who we are."
"Most men would disagree with you."
"I know. I disagree with myself sometimes too."
"You still can't let go."
A hand on Mac's shoulder turned her attention to Mic. He pulled her into a cloying embrace declaring his love and begging her to marry him. Before she was sure of her answer, he had slipped the ring on her finger and was kissing her. She saw Harm start to walk away. He glanced back with a look of disapproval and disgust.
Mac tried to pull away from Brumby but he had a hold of her wrist. "Harm," she called after him. "You said 'No'," she defended.
"I said 'not yet'," he corrected. "And you couldn't wait."
"Wait? For how long?" she pressed.
"We'll never know." Harm decreed, turned and walked away.
Mic turned her back to face him. He was talking but it wasn't making sense. He was saying words that she wanted to hear, making promises that she had been longing to hear for years, giving her everything she ever thought she wanted, but she couldn't understand him. She was struggling to free herself.
A hand on Mac's shoulder got her attention. Her first thought was Harm. He had come back to get her, to fight for her, to win her away from Brumby, declare his feelings. She turned and her head was immediately covered by a hood. The hand turned into a vice as he gripped her shoulder and she cried out. Mic was gone; Harm was gone; there was no one there to help her. "You are all alone now, lady," a deep gravelly voice growled. "No MAN here to save you." She was slapped hard across the face splitting her lip. The stranger demanded her silence and her obedience. She could taste the blood in her mouth but she would not yield to his demand. The harder she fought back; the harder he did. He wrenched her arms up behind her back and held on tightly. Her struggle continued using every bit of training, but he was too strong for her. He ripped open her uniform jacket and she gasped fearing the worst. "Don't flatter yourself, Colonel," he spit at her. "Just need to send a message." He ripped off the jacket completely and slammed her face first into the wall. She felt handcuffs clamp tightly around her wrists. "Now we are going to take a little ride, but it is lights out for you." Mac felt a sharp prick in her neck and nothing more.
Mac painfully realized that she was conscious and her dream turned nightmare was actually a memory – albeit jumbled. Her internal clock was off so there was no way of knowing the time. She was on a bed or a cot or something reasonably soft and horizontal. It was dark, very dark and she felt something over her face. She was still hooded. Her hands were bound over her head, and her feet were bound below. Her mouth was not gagged but it was so dry it felt full of cotton, bloody cotton. She tried to struggle free, but each movement sent another wave of pain through her head. She was nauseated. She had been drugged.
She stayed still for a moment and two male voices filtered in from the other room. They were speaking with a heavy southern or Midwestern drawl – it could have been the effects of the drug - but she thought they were discussing whether or not to kill her now or later. She tried again to free herself. She kicked and struggled enough to knock something over. The door opened.
"Still trying to get away?" said the very deep gravelly voice. "Some bitches never learn." She felt him looming over her. "Too bad really," he announced. "So pretty … so …. such a waste." Mac felt a hand on her calf moving toward her thigh. Panic swept through her. Another man came scurrying in and again a sharp prick in her arm and in seconds she was too weak to struggle. She heard her tormenter rail against the other man. The door was closed again. The men started arguing again but Mac was unable to stay awake.
His phone was ringing as he walked into his office nearly an hour later. He and the admiral had been going over the case and incorporating the information that Webb provided. Without looking at the caller ID he answered quickly. "MAC?"
"Renee," came the overly cheerful reply. "Why did you think Mac was calling you at such an hour?"
"Renee, I am sorry I can't talk right now."
"But you could talk to Mac?"
"Look Renee, we have a bit of a situation here --." Her jealousy and accusations were impossible. They had had a huge discussion the day before about a double date with Mac and Brumby which she and Brumby had planned and Harm had no interest in attending. Renee was possibly the only person who was happy to see Mic Brumby moved back to the USA. Harm certainly wasn't and if Mac wanted to ruin her life with that guy …
"A situation that you are working on with Mac?" she asked snidely. "Did you go home last night? You never called me back."
Oh yes, he went home. He was home when her 15 phone calls came in to his home machine, and he was there when the 15 messages asking him to call her came in. He deleted them all (there were actually only 3 calls and the last one said she was going to bed and would call him in the morning). He had never ignored a direct request before. He told her he was working, and he was. He wasn't about to entertain every one of her neuroses. He wasn't about to call her when he got home as if she were checking up on him. "… I can't talk right now."
"Are we still on for lunch? I called to see if we could push it back an hour … and I was going to take you to breakfast, but I guess Mac has –"
"No lunch, no breakfast," he stopped her insipid babble. "I will call you when I can."
"What is going on?"
"I told you there is a situation, I can't talk about it. I will call you when I can."
"When will that be?" she said with a weak hurt voice.
"Good bye, Renee." He said with too much finality and hung up and checked the battery on his phone - fully charged – in case Mac called. Why he would think she would call him first he didn't bother to explain, he just wanted to be prepared if she did.
About ten minutes later Renee called back. "I just heard about Mac … where could she be?" Clearly she had talked to Brumby and didn't have the sense God to stay out of it.
Harm got off the phone as quickly as he could. He wasn't consciously aware of it, but he had made his decision that the next conversation with Renee would be to end their relationship, but it would have to wait. It didn't matter right then.
On the Road Near Quantico
Harm was driving and the admiral was reading the file that Webb had on Fredrickson. Harm could not help playing over in his head the last conversation he had with Mac.
Since Sydney, more particularly since Brumby showed up, things between Harm and Mac got very strained. It seemed that almost everything they talked about somehow came back around to Mic and Mac: The Couple. It was never a long discussion or a discussion at all, just off hand comments, snipes and jabs. When considered together her position was: She did not ask him to come. She did think it was an amazing commitment to a relationship and had to respect that. They were not engaged; they were still just dating, but clearly dating exclusively with a purpose. They were 'going steady.' They weren't living together. Finally there was no reason NOT to be with Mic as no other man was interested.
Harm couldn't help but point out all the things that were wrong with her reasoning. Of course she had encouraged Mic to give up all he had and move to the USA, no man would do that without some encouragement. Harm did not see it as an 'amazing' anything and nothing that demanded respect. It was a gesture and a pretty easy one to make as there was nothing for him in Australia. He thought the whole 'status' of the relationship was a pretty meaningless distinction. She had taken a diamond ring from the man, she wore the ring – it really didn't matter if it was the left or right hand – from that moment on she was sending a message to all other men that she was involved, committed and off the market and REAL MAN wouldn't try to break up a relationship so if anyone was interested, he would have kept it to himself.
The night she disappeared there actually was more of a discussion but not about Mic, it was about them and the topic was what happened in Sydney. It didn't end well. It started with him declaring the double date that Renee and Mic had planned was ludicrous.
"Why ludicrous?" asked Mac. "I thought you and I were friends … colleagues … just because you don't like my choice in men, you don't want to be my friend anymore?"
"I don't like Mic," he stated.
"You don't know Mic."
"I know all I need to know about him."
"You are acting like a jealous lover?" she pushed. He had been acting that way for weeks and she was sick of it. "Why is that?"
Harm had to bite his tongue.
"You act like Mic took something away from you?" she pressed. "But it was nothing you wanted, so why do you care?"
"I never said …"
"No, you never said … never did anything."
"I didn't know I was …"
"What?" she pushed. "Didn't know you were WHAT?"
"I didn't know you were interested," he turned it back on her.
"You clearly were no interested enough to ask," she pronounced in victory.
"Oh … but you did!" he pushed back on her. "Just what exactly were you asking for anyway? Had Mic already asked you to marry him and you just wanted one last night before you committed yourself?"
"Don't be –."
"You sure as hell weren't looking for anything that would last further than sunup."
"Excuse me?" She was indignant.
"We aren't in Washington? We aren't even on the same continent?" he mocked. "What the hell was that? "
Mac wasn't about to defend herself. Wasn't about to point out the fact that she gave him an opening that was assured of a positive outcome and he shut her down completely. She protected his precious ego, laid hers bare, and he still wouldn't open up. She was rejected, and there was no other way to look at it. She was wrong for what she was feeling and thinking and she totally miscalculated the response she was going to get. He didn't want her. She had thought that the worst part was that she would have to see him every day with that scene behind them, but it was far worse seeing him react to Brumby.
"What was supposed to happen when we did return, huh?" he asked.
"Guess we will never know."
"Never … that sounds about right."
Mac's expression was unreadable. "I have work to do, and I suspect you do as well."
"I do," Harm left knowing that he lost that battle. That he was as wrong then, as he was that night in Sydney. He wasn't about to admit that he was more than jealous and he regretted not taking her up on her offer, but what he regretted more was that she didn't wait for him to make his counter move; a move he would have made when they were back in Washington.
Later that evening, he had been waiting for her to finish up.
"How late are you planning on staying?" he asked when he had had enough of her working silently on her own (which his ego took as a cold shoulder).
"Until I get the answers I am looking for."
"What are the questions?" he tried to pretend like they were working together on the case and they there were no hard feelings.
"Can't say, but there is something that is just not right with the general."
"He's our client, Mac."
"I am aware of that," she said snidely. "That doesn't mean he is innocent. I want – we should be prepared."
"Could you be slightly more specific?"
She looked up at him and was about to explain her whole thought process, but changed her mind. It was too many words to exchange with him. "No."
"Should I wait?"
"No," she stated again.
"Should I come back with the forensic reports?"
"No!" again more adamant than she needed to be.
That tone sent him over to the dark side. "Should I get the hell out of your life?" he demanded to know.
Mac was not going to play another Rabb tantrum scene. "I'd settle for you getting out of my office," she flipped back at him.
"Look Mac ..."
"Harm – let it go," she didn't look at him. How much more was she supposed to take from that man?
He knew enough to know that Mac was not about to change her mind. "Fine … consider it and me gone."
He regretted that conversation the moment he left, but not enough to go back and straighten it out with her. Not that she would have wanted him to 'straighten it out'. That was how he justified going, rather justified not going back. It was his fault, well not all his fault - he was unwilling to take the blame on 100 percent, but since Mac was in danger, it was hard not to be guilty over ever missed step, and harsh word.
Chegwidden pulled him back to reality. "This man is a model soldier. Highly decorated. Commendations. The Congressional Medal of Honor and a purple heart - two. Ribbons up the yin yang – he is G.I. friggin' Joe."
"Was that going to be your defense?"
"Yes sir," they sat quietly for a moment. "Sir – I don't think that I can --."
"You will do as you are ordered to do commander."
"Sir, really I don't think I am that good an actor," Harm pressed.
"Well you better be, commander. He is the only link we have to Mac -."
"You have developed a relationship with him. I am an unknown. We need to play this very carefully Rabb. He may trip up and give us what we need."
"Sir, with all due respect, if he is behind this then he will not 'trip up.'"
"Commander," he warned.
"Sir, as you said he is a model soldier. With normal tactics we will not get more than name, rank and serial number, and we have that."
"What is your suggestion?"
"Fifteen minutes alone with him?"
"A practical suggestion, commander, one that won't land us in the brig along side this guy."
"Sir, we have to do something drastic. The longer she is missing -," he did not finish his thought. Both men knew that the longer she was missing the more likely she was dead or getting further out of reach. "On the other hand, they may keep her alive so that she may be used as a bargaining chip for him."
"You better hope not."
"We don't negotiate with kidnappers or terrorists – foreign or domestic."
"It won't be much of a negotiation. He either gives up Mac or he gives up breathing."
"Rabb, I brought you along because I knew there would be no way to keep you behind and out of trouble. But you need to listen to cooler heads now."
"For one."Inside the Brig at Quantico
The general was thrown against the wall but it did not wipe the superior smile off his face. The admiral was about toss him back across the room. Rabb held his commanding officer back.
"Let me go, commander. That's an order."
"Cooler heads, sir?"
The prisoner dusted himself off. "I am sorry Admiral, but I know nothing about the pretty lady."
At that the admiral pinned him roughly against the wall. "She is a colonel in the United States Marine Corps, General. Semper Fi? Show some respect! And if anything happens to her – you won't SURVIVE."
"Well, I hate to point this out admiral," he said. "But apparently something already has happened to her." AJ pushed his arm harder against his throat. "But I know nothing of this horrible tragedy," he squeaked out.
"You know a hell of a lot more than nothing," the admiral declared.
Falls Church, VA
Gunny was running the investigation at JAG with his usual take-no-prisoners attitude. He had pulled everyone off what they were doing to interview and collect all data from the past forty-eight hours; read through visitor logs and delivery receipts, contacted every person that had been there paying particularly close attention to the marines. It killed him to think one of his own could have been behind Mac's disappearance. He also forced him self to believe that until he had other information he had to think she was only missing and not dead, but as the hours wore on that hope was fading. Further, since they had not received a ransom note, there may be nothing to hang the hope on.
Harriet entered. "Sir, there is a package addressed to Commander Rabb on his chair," she said worriedly.
"No telling how long it has been there?"
"It could have been there all night."
He followed Harriet to Harm's office. On the chair was a package wrapped in brown paper with the words 'COMMANDER RABB' scrawled on it.
"Clear the building," he picked up the phone and dialed. "This is Gunnery Sergeant Galindez at JAG. I need a bomb squad over here immediately. We have found a suspicious package." He dialed again. "Commander, a package has been found on the chair in your office. . . . Brown paper, 1' x 1' x 1'. . . . Addressed to you. … No, no other markings … They are on their way. … Thirty minutes, yes sir … yes, sir."
Mac woke when she felt someone pulling her hood off. Her lip swollen and she had a bandage over her left eye. The side of her face was crusted with dried blood. Her vision was still very blurry and the room was very dark. A gentle hand lifted up her head, put her lips to a bottle. The young voice she almost recognized said, "Drink this," she could do nothing but comply and was treated to cool water. He only let her take small sips.
"Who are you?" she asked when she was able to talk.
"You don't want to know, ma'am," the reverence he gave her made her think that he was military and the tremble in his voice let her know that he was young – very young, probably not more than eighteen or twenty.
"You are a marine?" There was something that she recognized about him.
"Ma'am, please. Don't talk to me, or I will have to put the hood back on. I have brought you some food," he undid one of her hands and stepped out of reach. She found some fruit by her side, and a small piece of cheese. She reached her free hand up to her face and felt the bruise and the cut on the side of her head. She vaguely remembered being slammed up against a wall, and strong hands on her.
"Why are you doing this? You are going to kill me anyway, aren't you?"
"Ma'am, I won't tell you again. Don't talk to me."
"I know you don't I?"
"Ma'am -," he relented. "Yes, ma'am. Rather you have seen me before."
"You work at JAG."
"You are a guard at the gate," she said. "How can you do this to a fellow marine?"
The sound of a door slamming in a distant part of the building was heard, and the man slipped back out of the room. He didn't have time to retie her hand or cover her head with the hood.
Mac heard from the outer room: "What are you doing back so soon?" the young man asked.
"The message was delivered," he laughed. "And received. You should have seen their faces. They think it is a bomb … called the bomb squad." He laughed again. "They have no idea how 'explosive' it will be."
Mac tried to untie her other hand but was not able to. She heard them approach the door. She quickly put her plate on the other side, slipped the hood back on and placed her hand back in the position that it was when she was tied. The door opened.
"Is she still out?"
"Don't kill her yet, she's going to need to make a phone call," the door was closed but they were talking loud enough for Mac to hear.
"Do we need to kill her at all, MJ?"
"Don't go soft on me, Jack" he was frustrated. "You know we do."
"She can't identify us," he lied.
"All wars have casualties," he stated very matter-of-factly. "And if need be, every cause finds a martyr."
Falls Church, VA
The bomb squad was done evaluating the package when Harm and the admiral arrived. It was determined that there were no devices inside the box. Harm nodded for the sergeant to open it. Inside he found a women's marine jacket with ribbons and medals that were similar to Mac's. It was stained with blood, a lot of blood, around the collar. Harm held his breath. The bomb tech pulled a note out written on Mac's stationery. "Release General Fredrickson by 1700."
"They were here," the Gunny stated. "Inside this place. They just walked in right under our noses." Gunny felt responsible. He locked the building down. No one in or out. Everyone was a suspect.
Without another word, Harm retreated to his office. He spread out the files that he had and the ones that Webb had given the admiral. He set to work. The admiral stood in the doorway.
"The answer is in here. It has to be. If Mac found it, then I can."
The admiral nodded. He felt the same way Rabb did. However, being a two star he had some favors to call in of his own.
Falls Church, VA
Brumby had shown up around 1200 and was held off by the Gunny. Renee however called
several more times and then the calls just stopped. Unbeknownst to Harm, Harriet called her and told her what she could, and said that she would keep Renee in the loop but that she really needed to let Harm work. Renee was humbled enough to heed Harriet's advice.
Harm had been working for hours. His uniform jacket was off, his tie was untied and his shirtsleeves were rolled up. He looked like a wreck, and no one bothered to mention that he was out of uniform. Jennifer Coates did what he would allow, as did Harriet, which was mostly retrieving files and confirming the findings that he had and trying to get him to eat. Sturgis had a whole other set of information that they were cross checking.
A young blonde marine knocked on Harm's door. Harm did not look up. He continued going from file to file and following links on the computer. He was reading through the files of the dead marines that were involved in the incident.
"Commander?" the timid man said. Harm did not respond. "Commander Rabb?"
"What is it?" he barked.
"The rest of the files you asked for. From Quantico?"
"Set them down over there," he waved to the credenza. The young man did as he was told, but kept one file in his hand. When Harm looked away to the monitor, the marine slipped the file on top of the ones near Harm.
"Is there anything else sir?"
"No, that will be all. Dismissed."
"Yes, sir," he waited.
Harm realized he was standing there and gave him a quick side-glance. "Is there something you wanted?"
"No, sir. I mean yes sir," he stuttered. "I want to say that I am very sorry – Sorry about the Colonel. She is a very nice person – seems like a nice person."
Harm looked up at him. "How do you know the Colonel?"
"I have been stationed here at JAG for the last three months. She has always treated me with respect."
"She's a marine," he swallowed. "She treats everyone with respect," he was thinking that he should have treated her with more.
"What is your name, corporal?"
"Goodman, sir. Jack Goodman."
"Do you know anything about the colonel's disappearance Corporal Goodman?"
"I have told what I can to the gunny, sir."
"Why don't you tell me?"
"I was on watch at the gate until midnight. I saw you leave and I noticed that the lights were still on in her office – this office."
"You know which office is hers from outside?"
"No sir, I mean yes sir. I mean I figured it out. It is the third window from the left."
"I was relieved at 2358, and the lights were still on. That's all."
"You noticed that the lights were still on?"
"To be honest sir, I was talking to the guy who relieved me – Hanover, Corporal Hanover. He asked what was going on and I told him that the colonel was working late again."
The corporal nodded and looked away.
"Are you sure?"
"Well sir, if you will excuse me – there is other talk."
"Just scuttlebutt, sir. I try not to get involved."
"About the colonel, sir."
"Yes, sir and you – sir … and Commander Brumby."
Harm got very uncomfortable. "Nip it marine. Nip it now," he warned.
"Yes sir. I am sorry sir," he continued. "I'm sorry sir, I should have walked the floor. I should have made sure she was alright."
"Hindsight is twenty-twenty," the corporal nodded. "Thank you for the files, Corporal Goodman. Dismissed."
The corporal left. Harm leaned back in his chair and thought for a moment. Yeah, hindsight is twenty-twenty. Yeah, he should have stayed until Mac left. They should be working the case together like they used to. They had always been able to work together, well not always but they at least trusted each other's opinion - at least enough to allow the other's help on a case. Now they were barely speaking and the NOTHING that happed between them was fodder for office scuttlebutt. What a joke. The whole thing between them was a ludicrous – that is why there were rules about serving with … . It didn't matter what she was, wasn't or could have been to him. The fact was he left her alone on this case and that could have gotten her killed. He promised himself that if she was returned safely, that he would never let it happen again. Never.
He pulled the next file off the stack. He read the name: LAWSON, MARK JAMES, SERGEANT. He opened the file on the desk and began to read. This one was more complete than the others. It was thicker, the documents looked like originals and there were photos. Harm took note of the difference, but did not really consider what it meant.1415 EST D.C. Warehouse District
Corporal Jack Goodman pulled his car to the side of the road. He got out and paced. He was clearly very nervous, wringing his hands and biting his lip. He was mumbling to himself and shaking his head. Pacing back and forth – debating something – inside his head. In a total act of defiance, as much as his young years could muster he balled up his fist and slammed it into the side window of his car hard enough to break the window and more than likely his hand. He sunk to his knees and broke down in tears.
A second car drove up. "What are you doing here, Jack?"
"MJ, I can't do this," the young man continued to weep.
"Did you go back to JAG?" he demanded to know.
Young Jack shook his head weakly. "She has done nothing wrong. She was only doing her job."
MJ was disgusted. "I knew you didn't have the stomach for this," he scoffed. "That woman – that female – that LAWYER was going to send General Harris to jail for the rest of his life. Or worse."
"She was defending him," he protested. "She was going to keep him out of jail."
"Are you really that naïve?" he bellowed which made the young man wince. "She connected Fredrickson and Harris."
"We don't know that."
"Yes, yes we do. I was there when the CIA showed up." Goodman got wide eyed. "You bet your ass, brother. It won't take long before they put the rest of us together with General Harris. That's what I am counting on."
"You know they are never going to let General Harris go," there was no response. He stood up. "Let's go, MJ. Let's just leave. Leave now. Go away from here."
"Jack, I love you like a brother – hell you are my brother – but we are not going to quit now. We are going to send a message. White Blood for America is a force to be reckoned with. They will bring General Harris. Trust me. And the more of them we can take out – the better."
Falls Church, VA
Bud Roberts came bounding into the room with Gunny hard on his heels. "Commander, I have pictures."
"What? Pictures of what?"
"I have pictures of all the known associates of Harris."
"And that will help us how?"
"Well, if the person works here, or has been here, someone might recognize him."
Harm pulled the pictures away from Bud and started sifting through them. He stopped when he came to one. He looked at it long and hard for a moment. He turned the picture to Gunny. It was of Jack Goodman. "He was just here. Not 5 feet away from me. I just talked to him. He apologized and said that Mac was a nice person. He said he was on duty last night."
Gunny took the picture. Harm lay the rest of them down on his desk.
"Sir?" Bud asked. Harm kind of nodded but was watching Gunny. "Sir?" Bud said again.
"What is it Bud?"
"Well that man has a brother." Bud sifted through the pictures until he found the one he was looking for. Harm looked at it for a moment, and pulled the file for LAWSON, MARK JAMES, SERGEANT.
"He was here this morning," Gunny said. "Just before we found the box."
Harm's cell phone rang. He pulled it out of his pocket and looked at the caller ID. "Mac!!" he flipped the phone open. "Rabb," he said.
"Got someone that wants to say 'HI,' commander," said a deep male voice.
Mac's voice came weakly over the air, "Harm?"
"Mac! Are you alright?"
"Harm – don't do it. Whatever they want," Harm heard an open palm hitting skin and a weak cry out. Mac had been slapped and from the sound of it, pretty hard.
"Do exactly what I say, commander," the deep voice came back on the line. "Bring the General to Great Falls Park at 0700."
"I can't do that."
"You will – or your precious colonel will have a great fall herself."
The phone went dead. Harm picked up the picture and the file, handed it to Gunny. "Find him," he grabbed his coat and picked up his hat and started out of the office.
"Sir, where are you going?"
"I need to find the Admiral – and Webb," he stated. "Call me as soon as you know anything."
Mac was still trying to undo the rope that had her other hand tied. It was to no avail. The door opened and the young man walked in.
"Stop struggling, Colonel."
"You can't expect me to let you kill me."
"No, ma'am. I wouldn't," he flipped on the light. Mac could now see that he was the young marine in the guard shack. She knew him. His name was Goodman. "But you will not escape."
"I can still get you out of this, corporal. But if you kill me, you are as good as dead yourself."
"Yes, ma'am," he said sadly. "I am anyway."
"Will you help me to help you?"
"I can't ma'am."
She thought for a moment about how she was going to convince him to help her. She could tell that he was not a bad kid.
"I saw your Commander Rabb," Goodman offered.
"You saw the commander."
"Yes, ma'am. He seems very upset."
"Of course he would be, a fellow officer is being held against her will."
"I think it is more than that ma'am, and – no disrespect, I think you think so too."
"What is the plan – to trade me for the general?" she shook her head dismissing the Harm issue. "It won't happen."
"You better hope it does." His face was very sad. "Your Commander Rabb won't find you in time. He can't save you this time."
The corporal turned off the light slipped out of the room. Mac was left alone in the darkness. Thinking about how different things should have been. She tried to remember what she was so mad at Harm about. She should have been working the case with him. She shouldn't have shut him out. She shouldn't have shut him out of a lot of things.2206 EST On the Road Back From Quantico
Harm had left the Admiral and Webb in charge of dealing with Fredrickson and getting to the park if he should fail. Harm's phone rang. He pulled it out quickly and checked the caller ID.
"What do you have, Gunny."
"I have an address sir, I am in route."
"It is in the warehouse district of D.C." Gunny quickly followed with. "Wait for me to get there sir."
Harm did not hear it.
Shots were fired outside the warehouse. Lawson barreled through the door limping. He had been shot in the leg. Harm chased in after him. He ignored the pain and loss of blood from the gunshot wound to his left shoulder. Harm saw Lawson enter a room in the back and followed quickly. He held his gun at the ready.
"HOLD IT RIGHT THERE!" he ordered. The man did not stop, and opened the door to a smaller room beyond.
"Take another step Commander, I shoot and your precious colonel dies." Lawson had the gun in his left hand pointed into the room and the other trained on Harm.
Harm stopped. He could not see into the room; he had to believe that Mac was in there.
"Drop your weapon Lawson. There is no way out."
Lawson laughed. "There never was. Do you know what it means to die for a cause, commander?"
"It means you're dead."
Lawson fired at Harm. Harm fired twice at him. One missed and the other hit him in the abdomen. Lawson sank to the ground and fired two shots into the room in the direction of where the cot was.
Harm fired two more shots. Lawson fell to the ground, dead.
He ran into the room, kicked the weapon away and struggled to find a light. There was a body on the bed facing the wall. The head was covered with a hood. Harm could barely see – not due to tears but to rage. He had gotten her killed. He tried to save her but he killed her. He killed her as much as if he had pulled the trigger himself.
"Mac?" he whispered softly. "Oh Mac."
Harm knelt next to the bed. There was no hope; she was dead. He rolled the body over; gently pulled off the hood. He needed to see her face. He needed to see her one more time.
What he saw didn't register. The head had blond hair and the face was of the young marine corporal who he had seen at JAG the day before – Goodman, Jack Goodman. He sat back on his heels. It didn't make sense. Where was Mac?
"Commander!!" Gunny's voice was bellowing through the warehouse. "Commander Rabb!" He walked into the small room and found Harm sitting on the floor between the two dead marines. "Commander?"
"She's not here," he didn't look up. "She's not here," he repeated.
"Commander – the colonel is OK."
"She's not here?" he repeated.
"The colonel is fine. She's been found. Rather she found us. She walked into Bethesda hospital about fifteen minutes ago. She is alive and well."
"I don't understand," he was confused.
"I don't know all the facts either -." Gunny realized that the blood on Harm was from a wound. "Sir, you've been shot."
"What?" The loss of blood was making Harm dizzy. "Mac is alright?"
"Yes, sir. She is in the hospital. Which is exactly where we are going," he pulled the commander to a standing position and led him out.
0130 ESTWalter Reed Hospital
Harm's wound was a clean shot. It had gone through and did the least amount of damage that can be done by a bullet. The doctor was just finishing up when the admiral entered.
"Good work, Rabb."
"Not really, sir."
"Well, the colonel is fine. They will keep her over night or a couple of days at Bethesda for observation and the two people responsible are dead, and the general will go on trial and answer for all of it."
"I am still not clear how Mac got here."
"Well strictly speaking Rabb, she is down the street. Corporal Goodman dropped her off about a mile away from the hospital in Maryland."
"Goodman? He was the kid in the room, the one that Lawson shot."
"Lawson may have shot him, but the corporal was already dead. He had overdosed on whatever they were giving Mac. He also left Mac with a full confession in writing naming names and places."
Harm shook his head.
"It is over commander. Go home and get some rest. Take tomorrow off. I think everyone at JAG can use a day to recover."
"Before you do that, the NCIS would like to speak with you?"
0318 ESTBethesda Naval Hospital
Harm got off the elevator and walked by the nurse's station on his way to Mac's room. He had been interrogated for the last hour by NCIS and wasn't in any mood to be denied.
"Sir! Sir!" the nurse called to him. "I'm sorry, commander. It is after visiting hours."
"I won't stay long."
"Sir, I'm sorry," she noticed he had his own bandages and a hospital bracelet; she relented. "You are here to see?"
"Colonel Sarah MacKenzie."
"She is asleep."
"I won't wake her."
He had no idea what he was going to say to her anyway. All he really wanted to do was see for him self that she was OK. The nurse nodded. He entered her room quietly. She was indeed asleep. The light from the hall fell across her still beautiful but cut and bruised face. He stepped up to the bed, brushed a non-existent stray strand of hair away, leaned down and kissed her forehead gently. She stirred a little. He took a long look at her, smiled sadly. The door opened and Brumby was silhouetted in the light from the hall. Harm nodded to him acknowledging his place there with Mac and excused himself from the room.
North of Union Station
Two Days Later
Harm was packing a sea bag when a knock came to the door.
"It's open," he called.
Mac opened the door and let herself in. He glanced over his shoulder and a shooting pain caused him to wince.
"Harm?" Mac noticed the wince and was freshly reminded about the bullet he took trying to save her.
"Mac, what are you doing out of the hospital?" he said without stopping what he was doing.
"No reason to keep me in," she said. "What are you doing?"
"I'm sure the admiral told you." He couldn't look at her. Every bruise and cut reminded him of how he had failed her.
"I want to hear it from you," she eased herself down on the bed. She was still not quite herself.
"Italy … TAD," he said. "I'll be back in a couple of months."
"The admiral needed a fill in for Commander McCarthy so … I am going to try my hand on the Italian front for a while. The admiral wants someone he can trust over there."
"And he chose you," she tried to joke.
"I asked for it," he maintained.
"What about Fredrickson?"
"We were pulled from that case, something about personal involvement clouding our ability to give him a proper defense," he gave her a glancing smile.
"Don't you think Mattoni will need your testimony?"
"Mattoni has been pulled too – going to a whole different venue."
She reached over and caught his arm stopping him from continuing his packing. "Why are you doing this, Harm?"
Feeling her touch sent a jolt through him and caused him to look directly at her for a brief moment until the bruise over cheek registered again. He slipped her arm away and continued packing. "What do you want me to say Mac?"
"None of that was your fault," she told him.
"I am taking a TAD, Mac," he dismissed. "We both have done it a hundred times."
"Not a TAD for a couple of months."
"Might be longer," he added.
She took a deep breath and exhaled slowly. "Is it really nothing more than that?" she asked.
Harm did not respond. How could he tell her what he was feeling; he wasn't sure himself.
"What about Renee?" she pressed.
"We broke up," he said quickly.
"Oh," she didn't expect that. "Why?"
"You know ---," he stopped himself. "It's too late now anyway. Doesn't matter anymore."
"What is too late?" she stepped closer to him. "What doesn't matter?" She touched him arm again to get him to look in her eye.
He so wanted to kiss her. She was so close it wouldn't have taken much to pull her into his arms and kiss her. "I'll be back in a couple of months," he said again. "In time for your wedding I imagine." That right there was all Harm was going to say about the REAL reason he wanted the assignment.
"I have no wedding plans," she said with a lot more meaning than the words alone.
Harm put his hand on top of hers for a moment.
"How many times can two people … say 'good bye'?" she asked.
"How about 'see you later'," he looked sad. "It is only temporary," he lied.
They both knew it wasn't temporary. They knew that nothing would be the same if they ever saw each other again. Time and distance would fade the deeper feelings. The hurt and imagined injustices would color the reality of what was. They would dissolve into mere acquaintances and think of each other as ships that passed in the night if they thought of each other at all. It was too late to change anything.
"See you later, Harm," she squeaked out fighting back her tears.
He put his arms around her hugging her very tightly. She pulled back slightly and pressed her lips against his. He didn't stop himself from deepened the kiss; she took it a step farther. As unexpectedly as it started, it ended. Their eyes locked for a long moment; both were breathless and weak kneed. He could not read her expression but wanted to kiss her again. She hoped he would but was confused. She looked down. He mumbled some version of an apology and let her go.