Revenge

Chapter 5

Mac drives aimlessly for a while after leaving the office. Concern for Harm is in the foremost of her mind. From past experiences with Palmer, she's fairly certain they won't kill Harm right away. Palmer will want to toy with him for a while, thinking of something cruel enough to make him beg for the release of death. They have to find him before that happens.

Hodge and Sturtevant are unknown quantities. How much influence will they have regarding Harm's fate? Hodge puzzles her; he is trained to save lives, however he attempted to kill both Harm and her outright. When she first saw Harm lying on the table hurt, drugged and unable to speak she was angry and afraid. Although she had misunderstood when Harm was trying to tell her it was Hodge who attacked him, he later acknowledged that her taking him with her had most likely saved his life—she figured they were even after he brought her back to life in the machinist's room. All their bickering and fighting prior to that trip was forgotten and their friendship got back on track. Hodge had seemed remorseful enough, but it had not convinced the jury to give him a light sentence. She had to admit she had all but forgotten about him before this happened.

Sturtevant, on the other hand, did not show any remorse at his trial. The fact that he had left Harm and DeMara in the hold to drown horrified the jury. All in all, although he didn't directly try to kill Harm, she feels he is the more dangerous of the two.

Her musings at an end for the moment, she looks around and realizes she's driven to the Wall. There are not many visitors this time of night so she has no difficulty finding a place to park. Making her way to the correct panel, Mac traces her fingers over the name of her best friend's father.

"Lt. Rabb," she says aloud, "If there was ever a time to keep watch over your son, I believe this is it. The three men who took him are ruthless. Harm has knowledge we believe they need, but I am afraid what they might do to him to obtain it. Harm can be as stubborn as he can be obsessive and that has the potential to make his life very difficult until we find him." Mac stands in silence for a few minutes, her fingers resting on the name. "I love your son and I'm going to do all I can to see him safely home because I quite frankly don't know what I'd do if he wasn't around. I don't know how he feels about me, and right now that doesn't matter at all. I just want him back in my life."

Mac turns and walks away from the Wall, tears streaming down her face. Devastation would be to find out Harm just thinks of her as a friend—her life would be worth nothing if she didn't have him around to be that friend.

The walk to her car is short, but by the time she gets there she's managed to dry her tears. So involved is she in her thoughts she does not see the man slip out of the shadows near and follow her.

Mac has just unlocked her car door when she's startled by a hand on her arm. She swivels around to attack and stops in surprise when she comes face to face with Sergei.

"Sergei, you startled me," she gasps. "Don't sneak up on me like that, please. I could have flattened you."

Sergei smiles his lopsided Rabb grin. "I am sorry Colonel MacKenzie. I did not mean to startle you. I saw you at the Wall and heard what you said. Did something happen to my brother?" he asks.

Mac mentally chides herself for forgetting to call Sergei. "I'm afraid so. He's been missing since Friday evening. We know who took him, but not where they went," she replies.

"I would like to help find him if I am permitted." Still a Russian citizen until his application is approved, Sergei knows there are some things he is not allowed to do—work among them, unfortunately.

"I'll run it by the admiral tomorrow, although I'm afraid we are going to be at a standstill for the next couple of days until we can get some information." She hates to admit there might not be anything she can do for Harm right now, but she's more realistic than her sometime obsessed partner. At this point Harm would be running around half-cocked, wasting his time and energy looking for something—anything—to give him an idea. She admits that sometimes his methods do seem to produce results, but more often than not they just serve to get him in trouble.

"I'm sorry I can't tell you anything more now, Sergei. We would like to keep this out of the media and although I'm sure you wouldn't let anything slip, I have to clear it before I can tell you more. Why don't you drop by HQ tomorrow and I'll see what I can do for you?"

"Thank you. Whatever you can tell me, I will be grateful. Harm has helped me in many ways. I would like to do something for him."

They stand in silence for a moment. "I'd better be getting home. Is there anywhere I can drop you?" Mac asks, breaking the silence before it can become uncomfortable.

"Thank you, no. I prefer to walk on such a beautiful night," Sergei responds, ignoring the cloudy skies and sprinkles that have begun to fall. "After having my freedom taken from me in Chechnya, I am grateful for the opportunity to wander when I wish," he says as an explanation when he sees the dubious look on Mac's face.

"I suppose your whole outlook on life would change after something like that," she comments. 'And as much as I hate the idea of Harm locked up by anyone, I'll bet he's giving them a hell of a time keeping him locked up.'

xxxx

With two versions of Arams' code deciphered, the work is beginning to go a bit faster. What is taking the most time is determining what information he needs to protect and what is common knowledge, and therefore won't hurt to reveal. Actually, putting the common knowledge in with the other information may make it less likely they will question the rest of his work.

The first file is completed before long and Harm turns his attention to the next. He realizes that the longest part of it all will be trying to figure out the code for each file—this next one seems to once again have a slight variation.

As with the previous file and code, Harm does not put anything in writing but what he wished Banes and the others to see—which means doing all the decoding in his head. He is nearly done with the second folder from 1995 when Ryan arrives with a tray. The young man can't stay and chat; Darby had entered the room with him and is watching Harm like a hawk. He wisely remains where he is until the door is locked behind the two men.

Lunch—quite possibly the only meal he'll be given for the day—consists of a bowl of vegetable soup, salad and two pieces of bread. A bottle of water sits in the corner of the tray. It's not a lot of food, but it is all Harm can do to clear the tray. The water he conserves, figuring he won't get any more until tomorrow.

Once finished, he moves the dishes to the center of the tray, uncovering a folded piece of paper. The note proves to be from Ryan—the man he suggested may be interest in helping Harm has agreed to help create a diversion to distract his guards. The note instructs Harm to be ready in three days at the time they take him back to his room. Darkness will give him cover and the best chance to get away.

Harm is greatly cheered by the note, which he places back under the dishes before setting the tray by the door. Hopefully Ryan will think to look for it since Harm has no way to hide it.

The afternoon and evening pass quickly. Harm finishes the second folder—content with the knowledge that what he's deciphered so far is material that's been declassified. Putting the finishing touches on his work, he sets it aside and reaches for the next in the stack. He blinks his bleary eyes and realizes how tired he is. Determined not to fall prey to Palmer's tricks again, he opens the file and forces himself to read the attached note.

No sooner has he finished with the note does the door open and Palmer and Sturtevant enter. Neither man expects Harm to put up a fight so both are surprised when Sturtevant ends up on the floor. "Don't you want any of my serum tonight, Commander?" Palmer asks, feigning hurt.

"I will not willingly allow you to inject me with whatever it is you've come up with," Harm replies.

"I wouldn't be too sure about that," Palmer retorts. "Let him up. I won't force you tonight."

Harm regards him suspiciously for a moment before complying with the order. He steps away from Sturtevant quickly, but not quickly enough. Sturtevant grabs his right arm, twisting it cruelly behind him, forcing Harm to his knees.

Palmer looks at him impassively. "If it wasn't going to be so much fun to watch you beg in a few hours, I'd give this to you now," he says, indicating the syringe. "By the way, did you have pleasant dreams last night?"

Harm scowls. "I don't think much of your methods Palmer, and if you think I'm going to beg or even allow you for more of that crap then you don't know me as well as you seem to think."

"Ah, defiant even when defeated. I don't think you'll retain that attitude for long. And I believe you're going to be sorely mistaken. Get him up," he says to Sturtevant. "Let's get him back to his room."

Not releasing his hold on Harm's arm, Sturtevant forces him to his feet. Instead of suggesting he release his hold, Palmer simply opens the door and allows Sturtevant to guide him out into the hallway. 'This is even better than the handcuffs,' he muses gleefully.

Banes and Hodge are standing outside the door to his little room. He misses the silent communication between the two DSD agents, intent as he is on keeping his feet under him. They buckle just as he reaches the doorway. Sturtevant adds to the momentum, propelling him inside and slamming the door behind him. He settles on the mattress, confident that without the drug fresh in his system he will get some decent sleep. He doesn't think to wonder why Palmer gave in so easily.

Outside his room, the foursome moves off, up the hallway beside his room. "Who wants first watch?" Palmer asks as they enter a small room next to Harm's.

"I'll take it," Hodge offers. They all know since Harm rejected the drug Palmer wants him watched in shifts until he starts begging for more. Palmer's test subjects hadn't lasted more than an hour or two before they were crawling on their hands and knees to him. Every man in this room wants the privilege of seeing Harm beg, but they all privately agree it will most likely take him longer to voice it.

No objections arise; Hodge makes himself comfortable in front of the small television that was just installed a couple of hours earlier. The camera in Harm's room is also a recent addition; one that will show any activity—or lack thereof—in the small room. The three men leave, leaving Hodge to watch the sleeping form of Harmon Rabb, Jr.

xxxx

Mac is unable to keep the sleepless nights from showing. Make-up no longer hides the dark circles under her eyes. She's had strange dreams since the night they realized Harm was missing. The worst night so far has been Tuesday night. The nightmares didn't start until the early hours of morning, but she spent the entire night tossing and turning, sure something bad was going to happen.

The bullpen is fairly quiet when she enters Friday morning. She leaves her cover and briefcase in her office and hurries to roll call—she's not yet late, but is cutting it close.

There is a strange silence in the conference room. Everyone—including AJ—is already present. She quickly takes her usual seat, noting the presence in the seat usually taken by Harm. Before she can begin to speculate as to the meaning of the new arrival, AJ begins the meeting.

"I have a small announcement to make, and then we'll get down to the cases. This," he says, indicating the dark-haired woman on his right, is Lt. Commander Tracy Manetti. The SecNav believes that with our current personnel shortages we could use another investigator and lawyer. She comes highly recommended. Commander, I will introduce you to the rest of the team at the end of the briefing."

Manetti nods, glancing at her fellow officers to judge their reactions before turning her attention to AJ.

Singer is frustrated to receive a number of small cases and assigned second chair to Sturgis for the prosecution of the only worthwhile case to come in. Manetti is assigned to assist Mac with the defense. AJ then asks for and receives updates for the other ongoing cases before opening the floor for questions.

An update on Bud's condition is asked for. Harriet reports that her husband still hasn't woken from the coma he slipped into following the surgery. The doctors believe his body is simply conserving strength, and once a little more healing is accomplished, Bud will awaken. All the JAG crew can do is pray for a miracle.

A few case related questions are asked by a member of the junior staff, all quickly clarified. Once the questions are answered and no more asked, AJ dismisses the junior staff and introduces Manetti to Mac, Sturgis, Harriet and Singer.

"Lt. Sims, will you show Commander Manetti where everything is?" AJ asks. "Lt. Singer, since you are the junior officer, I need you to transfer your belongings back to your old office and give Commander Manetti the office beside Colonel MacKenzie," he instructs.

Harriet's "Aye, sir" is cheerful, Singer's is glum. "May I ask why she can't just use Commander Rabb's office?" Singer asks.

The silence in the room is deafening. The other officers still in the room stare at her in shock. AJ feels the start of a slow burn beginning and forces himself to remain calm and collected. "Lt. Singer, Commander Rabb's office is not open for use by junior offices. He is the senior attorney in this office and is to be respected as such, even in his absence. Furthermore, until it is determined under exactly what circumstances he disappeared; it is a crime scene, which I will allow no one to tamper with. Am I clear?"

Singer pales at AJ's first words and grows whiter and whiter as he progresses. "Aye sir," she squeaks when he's finished; she then turns and practically runs from the room.

Manetti feels very uncomfortable once Singer's gone. Other than herself and Harriet, only AJ, Mac and Sturgis are left. While she's the only one of the group shocked by Singer's outburst, she's the only one not in shock because of it.

AJ manages to put aside the last of his surprise, the slow burn of anger he experienced completely obliterating it. "Lt. Sims, if you would go ahead and show Commander Manetti around and introduce her to the rest of the staff, I need to speak with Colonel MacKenzie and Commander Turner. We'll be out in a few minutes to make sure Singer moves her personal belongings."

"Aye sir," Harriet responds. Turning to Manetti she says, "If you'd come with me ma'am, I'll give you that tour."

"Thank you," Manetti says. These are the first words she's spoken and the soft southern accent seems out of place with her Italian name and Asian looks. The two women exit the room with more dignity and at a more sedate pace than Singer.

AJ waits until the door has closed behind the two junior officers before turning to his two remaining senior attorneys. "The SecNav recommended her personally," he informs them. "He wouldn't even allow me to consider anyone else to fill the position; he told me I needed another attorney and then told me who was going to fill it. I don't know what their connection is, but be careful around her, she could be trouble."

"Was this the SecNav after being sworn in, or just before the swearing in?" Mac asks.

"This would be our current Secretary of the Navy." AJ clarifies.

"Do you mind if I do some discrete digging?" Sturgis asks.

"Go right ahead," AJ agrees. "But make sure you do it carefully. I don't want to raise any red flags on this one."

"Understood sir,"

"One more thing; Webb called me this morning to say he has the results from the lab tests his people ran on the two substances in Rabb's apartment. He'll be here around 1200. If you'll report to my office at that time and bring Lt. Sims with you, he'll only have to relay the information once."

Apprehension wars with relief—they're finally beginning to get a bit of useful information on the case—or so they hope. "Aye sir," they chorus once again.

Manetti is alone in her office by the time they reach the bullpen. Singer's few personal items have been removed and the blonde is nowhere in sight. Mac gives a perfunctory tap on the edge of the door before entering.

"Ma'am," Manetti says, jumping to her feet.

"At ease, Commander," Mac allows. "We're not so formal here you have to jump to attention anytime a senior officer enters your office, or you run into them around the bullpen. Only the admiral and visiting senior officers."

"Thank you, ma'am."

"Now, we were introduced, how about telling me a little about you. We'll be working together and I wanted to take a few minutes to get to know you better."

Manetti attempts to gauge what it is Mac wants to know. "You're wondering why the SecNav wanted me assigned to his office, aren't you," she asks bluntly.

"Actually, what I had in mind is where you grew up, what kind of family you have," Mac counters calmly.

"I'm sorry ma'am," Manetti apologizes. "I assumed that since the three of you remained in the conference room after everyone else left…" she trails off embarrassed.

"Understandable, Commander, however all officers here are treated according to their performance—none are treated more harshly or given special treatment because of race, gender or how they ended up in the office. Admiral Chegwidden is fair and generous as long as you don't abuse it."

"Do you mind if I ask what might be an inappropriate question?" Manetti asks timidly, hoping to get the spotlight off her.

"Let me guess; you want to know about Commander Rabb," Mac guesses—correctly it turns out.

"Yes ma'am. I've heard his name and I know he's currently missing… I was just curious as to what kind of officer he is."

"You understand I will not discuss anything to do with the current situation." It's more a statement than a question, but Mac waits for Manetti's slightly disappointed agreement before going on. "Simply put, Harm is one of the best officers I've had the pleasure to meet. He's my best friend. He's seen me at my best and at my worst, but he's not treated me any differently because of it. In addition to being a top-notch lawyer—whose quest for the truth sometimes gets him into trouble—he's also one of the best Tomcat pilots in the Navy.

"He's loyal to his friends—almost to a fault. He's passionate about justice; but cross him and you'll have an enemy you don't want. He has and will go to the ends of the earth for truth, justice, answers or just plain loyalty. And I'd follow him anywhere, help him in any way I could. It might surprise you to know that Harm has been with this office longer than anyone else, including the admiral. Harm's trained with the SEALs and Force Recon in the course of his duties—and that's only what I know from what he's told me, or what I've seen in the last seven years. There are things in his past he won't talk about to anyone." Mac stops abruptly, realizing she could go on for hours and not cover every detail of Harm's life and what he means to her.

Manetti has listened in awe about this man she's heard so much—but yet so little—about. "He sounds like someone I'd really like to meet," she says. "So what does he look like?" She secretly figures that someone who sounds so wonderful has to be short, fat and ugly; all of his good deeds merely cover-up to make people like him—not that she'd ever share those opinions with anyone.

"The epitome of tall, dark and handsome," Mac replies. Manetti must look incredulous because Mac adds, "Come into my office. I have a picture in there." She suits actions to words and walks out of Manetti's office and into hers.

Manetti follows readily and is stunned by the picture Mac shows her. It was taken at the first NATO ball the attended—Harm in his mess dress, Mac in the black dress—the one where he risked his life to save Princess Alexandra. "Is that you?" Manetti asks. "You look a lot different."

"Well, that picture is several years old. Let me see if I can locate a more recent one," she says rummaging around in her desk. "Aha, here's one less than a month old." She hands Manetti the picture of the two of them in their desert fatigues in Afghanistan.

"The two of you were on deployment?" Manetti asks.

"Not exactly. We were investigating a friendly fire accident that claimed the lives of a family. It turns out the target figured he was a target and he set the family up. We were also trying to track him—Kabir Atef."

"That's the one who shot the dirty nuke at the Seahawk, isn't it?" Manetti asks. "I heard some crazy pilot actually let the nuke lock onto his aircraft and led it away from the carrier. I'm not sure I'd ever want to meet someone who has that kind of disregard of his own life," she says, shuddering.

"It wasn't disregard of his own life; it was an attempt to save the lives of everyone on the carrier. By the time the lead fighter got a lock on the missile, they were inside the safe zone. Destroying the nuke then would have still signed the death warrants of most if not all of the crew of the carrier. He thought his life—and that of his RIO—was worth risking in an attempt to save thousands."

"That's a decision I'm glad I won't ever have to make. Did you talk to the pilot after he returned to the US then?"

"Before. I was on the Seahawk at the time," Mac admits. "Frankly, I don't know how he made that flight at all. He'd been without sleep far too long. But when the Skipper tells you to get into a plane and fly a mission, it's not something you argue with."

"Why didn't he just tell the skipper he hadn't had enough sleep? Come to think of it, why wouldn't the skipper have been aware of the situation in the first place?" Manetti queries.

"He wasn't a member of the Seahawk crew."

It finally begins to dawn on Manetti. "Wait a minute. You don't mean to tell me Commander Rabb is the one who played follow the leader with that dirty nuke, do you?"

"That's correct Commander. Harm was no sooner cleared from sickbay after our return from Afghanistan when he was ordered to change into a flight suit, grab his gear and get his six in that Tomcat."

"But why would they send up a lawyer instead of a pilot?"

"There are exercises the squadron does involving shooting down missiles in flight. It's not an easy task and they wanted the best. The lead pilot had the best Missile-X scores for the cruise, but Harm holds the record for the ship. The only reason he didn't fly lead is because—as you pointed out—he's a lawyer."

"And based on scores years old, they chose him to fly the mission?" Manetti is stunned.

"That, his flight status is current and the Skipper had seen him fly before."

"If he's that good, why did he become a lawyer?"

"That's not a question I can answer for you," Mac answers carefully. "Try asking Commander Rabb sometime; he'll either tell you or he won't, I can't say."

'Is she trying to protect him?' Manetti wonders to herself. Any further conversation is cancelled; Tiner knocks and pops his head into the open door. "Colonel, the admiral would like to see you in his office," he says.

Mac realizes Webb must have arrived while she was talking to Manetti. Sure enough, she's the last to arrive, Sturgis and Harriet entered the office directly behind Webb.

"Okay Webb, what do you have?" AJ demands as soon as Mac has closed the door behind her.

"First of all, we could find no signs of break-in at Rabb's apartment, but with Palmer involved, that's not unusual. Second, we found prints belonging to Palmer and Hodge in the apartment, consistent with the eyewitness report. Third, Palmer's prints were found in Rabb's office and most importantly, in his safe."

"Why is that so important?" Harriet asks.

"Because it confirms our theory that he was looking for something. If Rabb was a willing participant, he would have gotten the items out of his safe himself."

"It has to have been the Arams file that I asked for before Rabb left for the weekend," AJ puts in.

"Exactly. And that ties Rabb's kidnapping to the DSD in more ways than one."

"All right, we have that settled," Sturgis says impatiently. "What about the two substances we've been waiting on the lab results for?"

"Patience Commander, I'm getting there. The first substance was easy to identify, although there was less of it. It's a very strong sedative, used primarily for animals. Although it is not generally used for humans, it is not fatal if the doses are kept regulated. They probably chose it because it takes effect very quickly."

"But if they don't watch how much they give him it could prove fatal?" Harriet asks.

"Unfortunately yes, as with any drug. Any way you look at it, it's going to be tough on his system."

"What about the second substance?" asks Mac.

"It proved much harder to identify. We'd very much like to know how they got hold of it. It turns out to be the antidote to an experimental nerve gas. If it is administered before hand, exposure to the gas is non-lethal, although still highly unpleasant. It's only good for a couple of hours though. I suspect they gave that to him right before they left his apartment and warned him that if he didn't cooperate, they would release the gas here."

"Palmer's already made reference to the number of people Harm has killed. I'm sure he would have brought that up when explaining the situation to Harm. Not that Harm would have done anything to push them into releasing the gas anyway," Mac adds hastily.

"We all know Rabb would never endanger anyone's life on purpose," AJ says. "That does explain a lot though."

Everyone is silent, considering the implications of the information. Basically, it proves Harm didn't go along willingly—no matter what it might have looked like to a casual observer. Now, more than ever, they need to find where Palmer took Harm. Sturgis makes such an observation.

"Where are your people in actually locating Commander Rabb?" AJ asks.

"Not very far. We have no eyewitness as of yet who can place Rabb in a vehicle—other than the SUV they brought here. That vehicle has been recovered and there is absolutely nothing useable in it. All fingerprints were wiped clean, the interior and exterior were detailed and it was sitting in plain sight at a used car lot."

"Did the lot owner say what kind of car he sold the person who brought the SUV in?" Sturgis asks.

"None. He paid the guy who bought it by check. He said the guy just tucked in his pocket and walked away. A check on the account shows it was cashed at a bank a few blocks away."

"Who was the check made out to?" Mac questions.

"Larry Nabey, a known DSD agent. We're canvassing the area looking for someone who may have sold him a car."

"What do you think the chances are that he simply had another vehicle waiting?" Sturgis asks.

"What is this, a tag team?" Webb complains. Mac and Sturgis share a smile, Harriet and AJ just look amused.

"Be grateful Rabb isn't here," AJ comments. "He wouldn't even allow you to finish answering the first question before asking the next."

"I know," Webb says somberly. "And I'd much rather be dealing with that than holding this meeting to try and find him. To answer your question, Commander, it is very likely he had another vehicle waiting. The other possibility is he may have stolen one, but that would ultimately bring more scrutiny than keeping the one they were driving."

"How far does the search radius now extend?" AJ asks.

"We have heard back from approximately 30 percent of those we've contacted. All large cities are on the lookout and the smaller community police forces are being appraised now. Since we don't know what kind of vehicle they might have been driving, or even if they did drive anywhere out of the city, our job is that much harder."

"Have you had any luck with the point they must have switched drivers?"

Webb is not sure what to tell them. They did find a witness who saw them after they left JAG… He decides in an instant the truth would be best; he doesn't want another broken nose. "A man has identified Palmer and Sturtevant from pictures. He told us he saw an SUV pull into an empty lot and he watched a man in uniform jump from the driver's side, run a couple of steps and collapse. Palmer and Sturtevant got out, picked him up and dumped him into the rear of the vehicle. He said they were headed toward the beltway when they left the lot."

"He couldn't identify Harm?" Mac asks softly.

"Didn't see his face. All he could tell us was the man was tall, had dark hair and something on the front of his uniform glinted in the light when Palmer and Sturtevant picked him up. He also mentioned there was movement in the vehicle right before the man jumped out. More than likely they had the sedative ready as soon as he stopped the vehicle."

The four officers digest the information. AJ is the first to break the ensuing silence. "I guess there's nothing more to be done until another eyewitness is found," he says reluctantly. "Has there been any progress made in determining the buyer of Arams' papers?" he asks.

"Based on your suggestions, we began interviewing all the former DSD agents we could find. Their numbers are very small. The most helpful information we got was from the widow of an agent who confided her husband thought his superiors were buying US secrets and planned to sell them to the highest bidder. He apparently got caught because he was killed in a car 'accident' the next day. While the woman was at the hospital identifying her husband's body, their home was ransacked."

"Does she have any idea where they might be holed up?" Harriet asks.

"No. One former agent mentioned something about a lodge somewhere in the mountains, but that doesn't give us much to go on."