Title: Sleight of Hand
Author: Incatnito
Summary: A simple case is not what it seems.

My first time out of the blocks as a writer. It's been fun!

Disclaimers: Taking them out to play, promise to put them back. All characters of JAG belong to Donald Bellasarius and Bellasarius Productions; no copyright infringement intended.


JAG Headquarters
Falls Church, VA
1310 Local

Mac closed another file folder and sat back with a sigh. Thank God it was Friday and this week would finally be over. It looked like Bud had gotten through his DOD without any serious damage. She had hated her part in it but, fortunately, Bud had understood the difference between friendship and duty. And she felt sorry for young seaman on the John Cooper that she had prosecuted in the Article 32. Not so sorry as to let him off the hook, of course. Rath had blithely cut corners and outright ignored safety regulations until they had literally blown up in his face. He was lucky he hadn't killed anyone; but still, he was just a kid. She was grateful she wouldn't be handling the court-martial.

Well, Mac mused, at least she got to spend some 'quality' time with Harm. That Squid - he was at his most passionate when he didn't have a legal leg to stand on. What was that saying? 'When the facts are against you, argue the law. When the law is against you, pound on the table and yell like hell.' For a moment, she thought his playing the emotion card during his closing might actually get the young man off. Rabb was good, no doubt about it. "Truth, Justice and the American Way. I wonder if he's wearing a Superman suit under that uniform of his? ... Hmmm, now there's a visual..." Mac chuckled quietly to herself.

"So counselor, is that a Thank-God-Its-Friday smile or did you just discover a bare spot on your desk?" The amused voice of her favorite aviator cut into her thoughts. Mac looked up to see a relaxed Harmon Rabb leaning against her doorframe with his arms folded across his chest.

"Actually, Mr. Rabb, this is the smile of a Chief of Staff who has just dumped her entire caseload on a certain Squid." She smiled sweetly at him.

With a look of mock horror, Harm solemnly intoned, "Oh my, poor Sturgis..."

Laughing, Mac waved him into a chair. "Big plans this weekend, Sailor?"

"Nah, Sturgis invited Bud and I over to watch the basketball game tonight." Harm grinned, "Boys Night Out. How about you?"

"Tonight, nothing more strenuous than a bubblebath, a box of chocolate and a good book. If the weather stays this nice tomorrow, I thought I'd put the top down on the 'vette and take a drive through the countryside."

"Want some company?" The words were out before Harm had a chance to think about it. He tried to look nonchalant while watching Mac somewhat anxiously.

Mac raised both eyebrows before her eyes took on a mischievous gleam. "Are you talking about the bubblebath or the drive?"

For a split second Harm sat perfectly still, then leaned forward twirling an imaginary mustache and waggling his eyebrows suggestively, "My dear Colonel... ," he purred in a truly horrendous French accent. The rest of Harm's reply was lost when Tiner knocked on the doorframe and stuck his head in the office. "Colonel, the Admiral would like to see you as soon as possible."

"Thank you, Tiner." Mac groaned inwardly and looked wryly at Harm. "Why isn't the Admiral asking for you on a Friday afternoon?"

Harm placed a hand on his chest and proclaimed sonorously, "It is because, in my heart, I am pure..."

Mac rolled her eyes, "Give me a break. Why do I have this sinking feeling that my plans are about to change?"

Harm smiled sympathetically as he stood up, "Hey, if you need help just yell." He followed her out and watched her walk over to the Admiral's office. Grinning to himself, he headed back to his office - the weekend was looking up.

Admiral Chegwidden's Office
1317 Local

After hearing 'Enter', Mac walked in and came to attention in front of the Admiral's desk. "Colonel MacKenzie, reporting as ordered sir."

"Have a seat, Colonel." Admiral Chegwidden said as he shuffled through some papers on his desk. Finishing, he laced his fingers together and regarded his Chief of Staff for a moment. Mac waited patiently, the Admiral excelled at getting right to the point. "Colonel, are you acquainted with a Petty Officer Daniel Lattimer?"

"No sir, I don't believe so." Mac looked slightly puzzled.

"Well, apparently, he knows you. He's been arrested for drug possession with intent to distribute. He is refusing to talk to anyone except you." AJ sighed. "He is... was... Admiral Jacobs' yeoman."

Mac's surprise showed. "Admiral Charles Jacobs of Naval Intelligence, sir?"

"That's the one," AJ replied, "Lattimer is currently being held at the brig in Quantico. Charlie's anxious to get this cleared up, one way or the other. So... the sooner you get started, Colonel, the better."

"Aye aye, sir." Mac came to attention and at the Admiral's dismissal, pivoted smartly and left his office. "Damn," Mac thought to herself as she hurried back to her office to gather her things. Almost an hour drive to Quantico plus a couple of hours to interview Lattimer (that name still didn't ring any bells), then another hour or so to come back and start sorting through her notes. Well, maybe after she organized things she would just take the whole mess home. That way, at least, she would still get her bubblebath and box of chocolate. Continuing that line of thought brought her back to the earlier conversation with Harm. She smiled, she'd almost had him for a minute before he had countered with his lecherous Frenchman imitation. God, that was the worst accent...

"If you're smiling, I guess your plans didn't take too bad a hit." Harm stood by her door, looking in.

"More like augmented," Mac said as she closed her briefcase and glanced around the office. "I get a preview of this weekend's drive with a trip down to Quantico and back."

"Anything serious? I could rearrange my afternoon schedule if you think you'd like some backup." Harm offered. He and Mac had always worked well together and after this past disastrous year, he welcomed opportunities to get their friendship back on track.

"I don't think so, but thanks anyway. It's an alleged drug-dealing petty officer who apparently thinks I'm SuperLawyer. He won't talk to anyone else." Mac grabbed her cover and purse and headed out the door. "I'll give you a call tomorrow, if you're still interested," she said as she headed for the elevators. "You WERE talking about the drive, weren't you?" She laughed lightly, one eyebrow quirked. The elevator doors closed, blocking her view of a slightly bemused but smiling Harmon Rabb.

"You're looking smug, Commander." Harm turned to find Sturgis behind him.

"Why not?" Harm replied, "I'll be caught up with my paperwork in another couple hours. I've got the weekend off. By the end of tonight, I'll be twenty bucks richer and now it looks like I've got plans with Mac tomorrow."

"You asked her for a date?" Sturgis asked, eyebrows raised in surprise.

"Uhhh, no, not exactly. She mentioned taking her 'vette for a drive through the countryside and I sort of invited myself along. She didn't say no." Harm added, a little defensively.

"I see." Sturgis smiled and started back to his office. Midway, he stopped and turned around, "What do you mean you'll be twenty bucks richer?"

"That's what you're going to owe me when Kansas kicks butt tonight," Harm grinned at his friend.

Quantico Brig
1427 Local

Mac turned away from the window as the guard brought PO Lattimer in. "Thank you, Corporal. Please wait outside." She waited until he had stepped out before turning to Lattimer. "Well, Petty Officer, let's hear your side of the story. And then perhaps, you can tell me why I was the only JAG you would talk with."

"It's not what it looks like, Colonel MacKenzie!" PO Lattimer blurted. "I was set up!"

Mac contained the urge to sigh. "Petty Officer, according to the arrest report, they found crystal meth in your locker and small bag of amphetamines taped to the back of one of your desk drawers."

"Honest, Ma'am. I don't do drugs and I don't deal." Lattimer glanced around the room and lowered his voice. "I don't know who to trust anymore, Colonel, that's why I asked for you. I saw you on CourtTV last year. I know you're only interested in the truth."

Mac's face kept its calm facade while she silently cursed that miserable TV show and the SecNav who had gotten her into it. "Exactly what truth are we talking about?"

"I've been Admiral Jacobs' yeoman for almost two years," Lattimer began. "About 7 months ago, I was reorganizing data on the computer when I came across an odd file. Well, actually it was a partial file, like there had been a system glitch and a copy was generated without someone realizing it."

"Lattimer," Mac interrupted, "Is there a point in here somewhere and what does this have to do with the drugs?"

PO Lattimer flushed, "Ma'am, the thing is I'm kind of a computer geek and this file made me curious. I started trying to reconstruct it in my spare time. ...Have you ever heard of 'Archangel'?"

Mac shook her head, "Is there some reason I would?"

"Well, no, but neither had I. Colonel, almost everything that goes on in Naval Intelligence is cleared through Admiral Jacobs and comes across my desk. Not details or anything, mostly overviews and general memorandum. 'Archangel' had been going on for a while and apparently not within channels. Once I had figured out what to look for, I started to... uh..."


PO Lattimer winced and if possible, looked even more nervous. "Yes Ma'am." He paused for second and then said in a rush, "Ma'am, did you know that Admiral Jacobs hates people of Arabic descent and especially the Palestinians?"

"That's enough!" Mac was on her feet and leaning over the table towards the Petty Officer. Coldly furious, she continued in a deadly quiet tone, "You called me down here so you could accuse a senior officer, a highly decorated, widely respected, senior officer of being a bigot? Do you somehow imagine that this would mitigate the drug charges? Or are you going to threaten to make this public in order to gain leverage? Either way, you've picked the wrong attorney!"

"No, Colonel! Please, you've got to listen. Someone else has know, has to stop them. They know I know, they're going to kill me!"

It was the desperate fear on the Petty Officer's face that made Mac slowly sit back down. "Go on."

"Ma'am, 'Archangel' is not only a covert operation but also a network. Admiral Jacobs is part of it, but there's more and they're scattered across the services and the government agencies. They think the only way to stabilize the Middle East is for the United States to control it and the first step is the eradication of the Palestinians. They're trying to manipulate the Israelis into doing it for them. Every time a peace initiative looks like it might have a chance, they sabotage it. That ship the Israelis grabbed that was filled with weapons? That wasn't Arafat, it was 'Archangel'."

"Lattimer, no one's going to believe this without some sort of evidence. I'm not sure I believe it." Mac stared at the Petty Officer. "You're telling me this Archangel network has people throughout the intelligence community, as well as the military? And they're out to overthrow the Middle East? Can you prove any of this?"

"I can't prove everything, but I've found enough files to substantiate a lot of what I told you. It's all copied on a CD that I've hidden." Lattimer wiped a nervous hand across his face. "Last week, I made a mistake. I mentioned an incident in front of Admiral Jacobs that I should have had no way of knowing. He didn't react and I thought, maybe, he didn't realize what I'd said. Three days ago, I became aware I was being followed. I got really scared, I figured that at some point soon I was going to have a 'lethal' accident. So, I contacted a guy I knew from college and bought the drugs. Then I paid him extra to call in an anonymous tip to the military police. They showed up yesterday, found the drugs and arrested me. The Admiral stood and watched the whole thing and then went back in his office. He never said a word."

Disbelief washed across Mac's face. "Now you're telling me you set yourself up? These are felony charges, Petty Officer. They're not going to go away. What were you thinking? Do you realize that your credibility just went into the toilet? This story is already unbelievable and now it will look like a drugged-out sailor trying to shift attention away from himself and get revenge against a superior officer."

"Oh God," Lattimer slumped down in the chair with his head in his hands. "I was terrified, I still am. I don't want to die. I didn't know where to go and then I thought if I was in the brig, at least I'd have guards around me." He looked up, "Please Ma'am, tell me you believe me. These people have to be stopped."

"I don't know," Mac answered frankly. "I think I need to see evidence before I make any decisions. Where do I find this CD?"

Lattimer looked undecided for a moment, then sighed. "I guess I can't ask for more at this point. There's a hardcover book about Napoleon Bonaparte in the bottom righthand drawer of my desk. Peel the paper away from the inside back cover, it's in there."

Mac stood up and began gathering her notes. "Alright, Lattimer. I'll stop by your office on my way back to JAG. If anyone asks, I'll just say you asked me to bring you something to read and mentioned the book. Then I'll see about transferring you to the brig in DC. I would guess you'd rather I didn't try to get you released?"

"No thank you, Ma'am," Lattimer said as Mac walked to the door to summon the guard. "Oh, and Colonel? Please be very careful."