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Classification Angst, Mystery, Romance (H/M), AU
Length Approximately 25,000 words, 63 pages (8 ½” x 11”)
Spoilers Sequel to the story “Where or When” so you may have to read that to know what’s going on
 
Rating GS
Author's Notes Some of you might recognize my inspiration. Given Mac’s psychic abilities I remembered an old movie, one of the scariest I’ve ever seen. The story is loosely based and I hope I can capture just a little of the suspense.

My special thank you to TexJAG_b, for help with the military stuff. The accurate part that is. Sorry if I had to improvise a little, any inaccuracies are due to me taking liberties for the sake of the story.

 

Part 1 Part 2 Part 3

 

 

Sunday 05:00


She’s watching me; I can feel her. The hair at the back of my neck tells me she’s there. It’s a signal I’ve depended on for years. I have to be careful. They won’t understand. I need to do this. I need to save them from the pain. They don’t deserve the pain. I know what it’s like; this pain, it’s too much to bear. My pain only stops, for a little while, when I help them.

I’ll dress now, and slip out before anyone comes. I won’t be able to finish my mission if they find me. How does she know? How can she see me?

The broad, bare back shifts; his dark head turned away. He looks down on the bed where a young, dark haired woman lies, unclothed and relaxed; except her neck is broken. She is dead.


~~~~~~~~~~


“Haaarm!!!!” I sit straight up in bed screaming his name, a cold sweat forming on my brow.

“Harm,” I call again, before realizing he isn’t here. Since we first shared this bed three weeks ago, this is the only night I’ve been alone, and the first time the nightmare has returned.

I tremble violently, as I pull the comforter close around me. Falling against his pillow, I curl into a tight ball. I hope the scent of him will lull me back into a less fitful sleep. If I breathe very deeply, and force my mind to recall pleasant thoughts, perhaps I can dispel the abject fear crawling deep inside me. This terror I feel, suddenly stronger, because I can’t decide if I called his name seeking comfort; or if, somehow, I believe the dreams were of Harm.

It was so real, so very real. The truth is, this horror that haunts me is back.

The dreams have visited me for three months. Four different women, all relatively young, all with dark hair, but each dream is the same. Each new nightmare is frighteningly real the first time, then repeating itself for days after, more veiled, but deeply disturbing. This is the first dream, since I’ve been with Harm, but he wasn’t here.

Our lives and our love were finally replacing the years of loneliness and separation, and now I believe I’m going crazy. I am so afraid, so terrified of the dream. It isn’t Harm; it can’t be Harm. But the dark hair, the broad back, the sudden aura of familiarity, and he isn’t here.

That’s it, I throw myself from the bed; it’s 05:30, and sleep will not return. Might as well make some coffee. This is crazy; it’s just a bad dream. I’m insane to believe the man I love so deeply, the man I’ve bonded with body and soul, could be the fiend of this nightmare.

It’s too early for a run, too dangerous alone, but I can catch up on my casework. Maybe I’ll call Harm in a little while. Yes, that’s it, I’ll call Harm, then I’ll know.

But first, I’ll make some good, strong coffee.

Fifteen minutes later, I’m dressed and have my cup of coffee. It’s still too early to eat. I boot my laptop and pull out my files. The next two hours slide by in productive paperwork, before I realize my minds eye has wandered to an image of Harm.

It is Harm, but still, not him; the aura is dark. A sinister shadow that twists around him like a slithering fog. Distorting the warm, generous, loving man I know, into someone cold, merciless, and vengeful. It shifts and winds its tendrils through his image.

I pull myself forcefully from this likeness, this distorted copy of my friend and lover, appalled by the thoughts invading my consciousness. Quickly I stand, moving from the chair, the desk, my computer, my files, towards the window and light. Anything to remove myself from the vicinity of this figure my mind has conjured. I cannot accept this is Harm, I will not accept it.

They are just dreams, I don’t know why I’m dreaming these things, but that’s all they are just dreams. All but a small corner of my mind believes. I shut the door firmly on that corner.

The light snow swirling down the street holds my interest for fifteen minutes, before the phone startles me.

“Mackenzie,” I answer, my voice unsteady.

“Hi Mac, you OK? You sound funny. Didn’t wake you, did I?” It’s Harm; thank god, it’s him. I’ve never been so happy to hear a voice on the phone. I sink gratefully onto the couch, instantly comforted by the feeling of soft warmth flowing through me.

“Uh, no, I’ve been up for a while,” a small lie, no need to worry him with my silliness. “I was just doing some paperwork.”

“All right, if you’re sure,” he still sounds unconvinced, but he continues, “how would you like some company tonight?” He offers.

“Who?” I ask, still a little distracted.

“Me of course, Mac I’m starting to worry here, you don’t sound right.” His voice is hinting at that obsessive edge he adopts, when he perceives something isn’t as it should be.

“I’m fine Harm… but you… how? I thought your investigation would take longer than a day.” I scramble for some chaff to distract him.

“It will, but I need some files, and I can’t access them from here. I have to get them from my secure terminal, so I’m coming back in a few hours. I’ll have to return tomorrow night or Tuesday morning, but we’ll have this evening. That is,” he teases, “unless you had other plans.”

Finally, I snap out of it, at his merry teasing, hoping the distraction worked.

“Don’t be silly flyboy; of course I don’t have plans. How soon can you be here?” I can’t wait to see him. I feel like jumping in my car and meeting him halfway, but I force myself to be rational.

“I just finished my first formal interview with Commander Kensington. I have one more person to interview this morning, before I can get on the road. Early afternoon, I guess, probably around 13:00 or 14:00. Can you wait that long for lunch? I’ll call if I’m going to be later.” He replies.

“Harm, you know I’ll wait. Hurry home flyboy,” I whisper, “and drive carefully.” It’s said with all my love, but I can’t help the small frantic note of desperation that creeps in.

“Mac,” he starts, then stops. He knows, but surrenders this moment. “I can’t wait to see you either, Mac.” I know I’m in for serious questioning when he arrives. But I don’t care. Suddenly, my world is filled with light again, as the image of him fills my mind, bright, unshadowed, and shining with love.

The sheer delight of anticipation floods my heart and soul, as I move to shower, prepare breakfast, and make a grocery list. We could go out tonight, but I want him all to myself.

God, how could I have been so foolish?

I firmly ignore that annoying little alarm, flashing desperately, but locked securely, in a deep compartment of my mind.


Sunday 12:30



I wonder if this is how Harm feels when he flies. Like he owns the world and nothing can touch him. I’ve had a good run and a venture into domesticity at the grocery store. My mind is clear of this mornings cobwebs, my heart is full, knowing he will be here soon. Harm will make dinner; he’s a better cook. Right now, I’m going to seriously consider what we’ve been discussing, for most of three weeks.

We have to decide where we are going to live. It’s foolish to assume, that we will ever spend another voluntary night separated; so maintaining two apartments is a waste of money. If we are serious about a life together, and a family, then we have to start thinking about economy. OK, OK, I’m not insisting anyone sell their Corvette, yet, but two apartments are just dumb.

The space that he left unfinished, behind the bedroom, isn’t large enough for another room, not a whole room, maybe a cozy office, or a nursery. But for it to be a nursery, we would have to make a more convenient door, besides I really don’t want to raise a baby here.

For now, it will give us room for our desks and files maybe a bookcase as well as a large closet for storage. He’s the handyman; I’ll let him decide how to make the space work. He’s currently only using one corner.

It’s comforting, running my hands over his power tools, things he used to build the loft. The big wooden wardrobe was an experiment in furniture making. Inside, are his out of season uniforms, and the dress uniforms. He also keeps his civilian suits in there. Some of them are expensive gifts from his mother. She has a weakness for Italian clothes.

Everything I touch, touches me back, with Harm’s essence. He is here, even when he is not here. This is his place and we will stay here until he is ready to go. My apartment is just a set of rooms in a building, with furniture. Most of it isn’t even mine. Yes, we definitely will stay here. He said it was my decision, and I’ve made it, but I know he prefers this, too.

I’m completely lost in thought, when I feel, more than hear him enter the room.

“What are you doing back here, Mac? I called, and you didn’t answer. Are you sure you’re OK?” He looks at me closely. Waves of tension and doubt roll from him, to break against the barrier I erected, against this mornings dream. It was foolish; I locked it away. I refuse to allow it to interfere with our happiness. I know how to divert his attention.

“I was just thinking, Harm, about what we’ve been discussing. I think I want to live here, if that’s ok.” I’m a little uncertain, now that I suggest moving into his space, but he suggested it first. I’m just agreeing.

“OK? That’s wonderful, Mac. Are you sure? I mean we could leave things for a little while, until you’re sure.” It’s thoughtful of him, to give me space to be certain.

“Yes, Harm, my minds made up. If you want me, I want to be here. We can store or sell my stuff that won’t fit. But if we finish this room, we would have plenty of space for a while,” I explain logically.

He hugs me from behind, clearly indicating how much he wants me. “So what’s this we business, since when do you know how to work power tools?” He teases, nibbling at my ear.

I cock my head sideways and flirt with him, suggestively. “Well, big boy, I haven’t had any trouble so far.”

He throws back his head, and his laughter bursts forth, filling the small room, as he turns me in his arms, holding me close.

“Then I guess the next thing we need to discuss, is making babies,” he offers, smiling boldly.

“Harm,” I explain with mock patience, “you don’t get babies by discussing them.”

“Oh I think I have the practical application under control, I just wondered what your time frame was for releasing the little gremlins into the live fire zone,” He’s referring to my birth control pills. He chuckles, amused at himself, until I poke him playfully in the ribs.

“Harm, that is no way to talk about your future children.” I try to sound stern, but I stifle a giggle, as I visualize my little marine green eggs playing hide and seek with his little fighter jets.

“See,” he says popping me lightly on the nose, “you thought it was funny, too.”

“Did not,” I respond grabbing the offending finger, “it’s a guy thing isn’t it? Saying crude stuff when you’re embarrassed by a biological function.”

He grins. “Tell you what, you give me a shot at that biological function, and I’ll show you how embarrassed I am.”

“Neanderthal,” I call him. Nudging him lightly in the stomach, I try to pull away.

“Neanderthal?” he raises one eyebrow, and dangerous smile forms. “I’ll show you Neanderthal,” and with one motion, he swoops me over his shoulder, carries me down the short hall, and around the corner to the bedroom.

“Harm, put me down,” I giggle, pounding on his back.

“Hold still, or I might drop you,” he warns, as he nears the bed.

With a buck of his shoulder, he launches me towards the bed, but catches me midair and lowers me, so I fall beneath him, completely pinned.

He tries to kiss me, but we’re both laughing so hard, we can’t close our mouths. That makes us giggle more, so he tries a love bite on my neck, which causes me to catch my breath suddenly. He thinks he has hurt me, and backs off just enough to allow me an advantage. I take it, and flip him over landing on top of him.

“Now,” I crow triumphantly, “well see just how well your caveman stuff works when you’re on the bottom.”

“My caveman stuff works from any angle Mac, just like a space pen.” He quips, flipping me back. “You should know that,” he continues in a low growl, as his mouth descends on mine. The warmth of our laughter gives way to more interesting activities, and lunch is delayed an hour.
 


22:15

 


I’m drifting in a sea of satisfaction, as we lay here spooned closely together. Harm prepared a simple dinner and I made a chocolate thing for dessert. I looked brilliant, it was so good, but actually, it’s super easy.

After dinner, we moved to the couch to discuss moving plans, which once again morphed into baby plans, which led to the co-operative practice at baby making, and now I’m almost asleep.

Unfortunately, our bliss is to be short lived for now. Harm has to go back to Norfolk tomorrow, and Coates called this evening; the Admiral requests Bud and I report an hour early tomorrow.

I don’t know which I like less, going in early, or Harm leaving for Norfolk. There’s just something about Norfolk that’s really bothering me. This alarm, somewhere in my head, keeps going off. There’s a horrible cold knot in the pit of my stomach. A knot of fear that’s centered on Harm.

“Sarah?” he murmurs against the back of my neck.

“Hmmm?” I respond sleepily.

“Will you marry me?” His tone is almost conversational.

“Ummhmmm.” It takes a beat to register, before I come fully awake and sit straight up. Turning to look at him I babble, “Will I what?… Harm… did you just ask???”

“I asked you to marry me. Will you?” He pulls me down against his chest.

“Isn’t this a little sudden?” I could kick myself for this, but I’m just so astonished I’m not coherent.

“Sudden?” he cocks an eyebrow, sardonically. “Eight years is sudden?”

I smile in agreement, shrugging at the absurdity.

“Besides,” he grins, “don’t these things spoil, if you leave them in the box too long?” He reaches into the drawer of the nightstand and brings out a small wooden box.

I know what’s in it, but my breath leaves me in a whoosh, and my hands tremble. I just look into his eyes; it’s all I can manage.

“Open it, Mac,” he whispers.

I look down at the small, carefully crafted box. Not a normal jewelry store box.

“Harm…” I start. I’m not sure what I’m scared of.

“We already agreed to forever and children, Mac, I just want it all the right way.” He pleads softly.

“Oh Harm.” I tuck my head under his chin. He holds me, stroking my hair, knowing somehow, my tears are of joy. I whisper, “yes,” against his chest several times between little hiccups.

Finally, I pull back “Open it,” he says again.

Inside is a small velvet pouch. I untie the silken cord and out tumbles the most exquisite engagement ring and wedding band I’ve ever seen, anywhere.

“Dear god, Harm, if this is real, it must have cost you two years pay.” I’m instantly aghast. Then quickly, I’m embarrassed. “I’m so sorry, that was unkind and rude.” I apologize. “I’m ashamed.”

He just chuckles. “Oh they’re real alright, but I’m afraid I’m guilty of bargain hunting. I found them while I was stationed back on the Seahawk. Another pilot took me on a quick liberty with him, and we visited a friend of his in Riyadh. He’s a jewelry merchant.” He explains.

My mouth is hanging open, a mixture of emotions.

“The Seahawk? Harm, that was four years ago. You were seeing Jordan then.” I’m not quite certain what to think.

“No, I wasn’t, Mac. Jordan and I broke up before I left. This was for you. It was always for you.” He fishes them out of my hand, and replaces the band in the pouch.

As he places the ring on my finger, he looks into my eyes. “No one has seen them, since the day I bought them, and no one would have, if you didn’t accept them.”

God I love this man.

He curls me back around, and snuggles up to me.

“Night Mac,” he whispers.

“Night Harm,” I sigh.

 

~~~~~~~~~~


Early Monday

I can see him, he’s there again, his back, his hair, the woman on the bed. As if through a frosted window, all blurry and indistinct. I move, try to get away, he knows about me, knows I can see him, knows I’m here. I move again, something is in my way. I should fight, but it’s warm, gentle, comforting. Arms… I feel his arms, he holds me close, tells me it’s ok. I believe him. I fall back someplace safe.


~~~~~~~~~~


06:30 Monday
 


“Wake up sleepyhead.” I insist. “I swear Harm, I don’t understand how the Navy gets their boats anyplace on time, if they can’t even get up in the morning.” I give him a swat on his beautiful backside, as I pass the bed.

His arm shoots out and grabs my wrist, pulling me down against his chest. “They aren’t boats, they’re ships,” he says sternly, before planting a firm kiss on me.

“Fine, ships,” I respond, “then get your ship out of bed, before we’re late.”

“Actually Marine, I don’t have a report time this morning. I’m on an investigation, remember.” He has the audacity to look smug.

“Well I do, flyboy, and it’s an hour earlier than usual so turn me loose.” My words are stern, but I’m not making myself pull away as forcefully as I should.

“I know, Mac, I’m sorry about that.” He is instantly contrite.

“Not your fault, but I still have to go.” I start to slide away, when he tightens his hold.

“Mac, you’re having nightmares again, aren’t you?” He asks gently.

“Oh Harm….” I start. There really isn’t time for this.

“C’mon, Mac, you had one last night. How often?” He insists.

“Actually, I haven’t had any since we’ve been together,” I prevaricate, letting my eyes slip.

“But you had one last night, and the night before too, didn’t you, that’s why you sounded so upset.” He always was a bright one.

I nod, “But they’re really nothing. Last night it was barely more than a dream.” I’d love to tell him I’m OK when he’s here, but that would put undue pressure on him. After all we are both military, and subject to be sent anywhere at a moments notice. I can’t have him believing I’ll fall apart because I’m not sleeping in his arms. It would make him crazy, and make me sound like an insipid idiot.

“Do you want to talk about it, Mac?” He looks like he’ll be hurt, if I don’t tell him.

“Not much to tell, Harm.” I shrug casually. “It really doesn’t make much sense. Just vague images. It could be leftover from Paraguay, or any of a dozen other sources. I’ll be ok, I promise,” I give him a quick kiss. I’m not sure why I couldn’t tell him the truth. I convince myself it’s because I don’t want him to worry.

He seems to accept this for now, and his goodbye kiss forty-five minutes later certainly lifts the cloud of distress settling over my mind. Especially when he brings the hand that wears his ring to his lips. “Do you have any idea how much I love you?” he asks, just before he opens the door for us.

“I think so,” I smile, “but you can show me anytime.”

“Count on it,” he answers with his full strength flyboy smile, as we walk to our cars.


08:00 Monday
JAG HQ

 


“Colonel Mackenzie and Lieutenant Roberts reporting as ordered, sir.” I’m afraid I’m still not fully comfortable with the Admiral, even though the situation has worked out well for Harm and me.

Harm has an interesting job, and we’re together. However, I still find it difficult to forgive him for the five months of hell, while Harm was with the CIA. In fact, I’m finding more things to not forgive him for, as time goes by.

The NCIS investigation wherein, I now think he hung Harm out to dry, and had us half convinced, with his behavior, that Harm was guilty. And, virtually challenging me to go with Webb, for whatever convoluted reason. What was that about? Was it just to separate me from Harm, or did he assume the operation would go to hell, and Harm would come running after me? I’m still working that one out. God I hate being manipulated, especially by someone I trusted. I know, in order to work here, I have to let it go at some time, but not today, and maybe not tomorrow either.

“Colonel, Lieutenant, have a seat,” the Admiral offers formally. Whatever he’s done, and for whatever reason, he is sincerely unrepentant.

“You have a murder to investigate. The body was found in Portsmouth, late yesterday afternoon. A female Navy Ensign. Colonel, I want you to join NCIS on the investigation, so you have first hand information. If the murderer turns out to be military, you will prosecute, if not, I want you to stay on top of whoever is prosecuted, in an unofficial capacity, to see that justice is done.”

“Sir,” I ask, “are you saying no one’s been charged yet, we don’t have anyone in custody?”

“That’s what I’m saying, Colonel, but this is the way I want it handled. Any questions?”

“No, sir,” we reply in unison. Actually, I have several, this is unusual, but I’m entertaining vague thoughts about possible important connections, or a political agenda.

“Good then, here is the folder, it’s all we have at the moment. Lieutenant, you will be co-counsel on this when the time comes.” The Admiral explains Bud’s presence.

“Yes sir.” Bud replies, neutrally. I can almost feel Bud wondering why he had to come in an hour early to find out he was co-counsel on a case that hasn’t been filed.

Must be nice for the Admiral, he has everyone in the office at a disadvantage now. Bud is still battling his disability, and the perceptions it brings, Sturgis is under a cloud, due to his poor handling, and subsequent overturn of a high profile case, and I’m the office pariah for getting the shining star of JAG fired. Of course, I have a secret advantage, that shining star is now sleeping with me nightly. Well, almost nightly.

The Admiral spots my ring, when I reach for the folder.

“Uh… Colonel, was there something you wanted to share with us?” he asks pointedly.

“No, sir,” I reply, “nothing that will interfere with my duties.”

“And what about with your career, with your position here at JAG,” he prods; referring tiredly, to the times I have left, or contemplated doing so.

“No, sir, I don’t believe there will be any conflict.” I certainly hope this is true. “It’s a matter I can handle on a strictly personal level.”

It’s the most polite way I can think of, basically, to tell him it’s none of his business. Bud looks at me aghast.

“Close your mouth, Lieutenant,” he orders, brusquely.

“Yes, sir,” Bud sits at attention.

“Fine then,” he heaves a deep, unsatisfied breath. “The folder should tell you everything.” I open the file and see an indistinct email photo of a woman lying on a bed, her head cocked at a strange angle.

“Oh god, no,” the blood rushes in my ears.

I hear the admiral say, “She was killed sometime early Sunday morning, her neck was broken,” before my head spins.

It takes every ounce of will, to remain upright in my chair, but I know I swayed alarmingly, when both the Admiral and Bud reach to steady me.

“Colonel, are you sure there isn’t something I should know? A physical condition, that would prevent you from handling this case, perhaps?” I know what he’s indicating. Seeing the ring, he thinks I’m pregnant. It’s not only sexist, but also rude. Not everyone gets pregnant out of wedlock, but if I did, it would certainly be none of his damn business. I’m not on a ship. I contain my ire with difficulty.

“No, sir, absolutely not. I….I didn’t sleep well last night, and…. well… the way she was killed. It brought back some memories, sir.” I stammer out the best excuse I can think of quickly.

I know he has heard the story I shared with a few close friends, of how Harm had broken the terrorist’s neck with his hands, when he saved me. I didn’t talk about it much, but it just sort of slipped out in a weak moment. Perhaps he will buy this.

“Alright, if you’re sure you can continue.” His words seem to accept this, but his voice is less certain.

“Yes, sir, rest assured it won’t happen again, it was just the surprise.” I know I’m over compensating.

“Very well Colonel, but I’m revising the plan. You take Lieutenant Roberts to Norfolk with you.” He orders

“Norfolk, sir?” He’s going to lose his patience any moment, if I don’t shut up.

“Norfolk, Colonel. The Naval base, it’s across the bridge from Portsmouth and it’s where the Ensign was stationed.” He explains in a tone that I should find offensive.

“You will coordinate with NCIS agent Jack Garrett, and offer any assistance. In return, they have agreed to keep you in the loop. You can help by looking into the woman’s background, her acquaintances, co-workers. Don’t get in their way, but don’t let them shut you out. This Garrett can be a hard headed…. well never mind. Maybe you can find a way to handle him; he’s a former Navy pilot.” This is delivered blandly, but I feel the verbal knife slide cleanly between my ribs.

“If there are no other questions, you are dismissed. Get your travel vouchers from Coates.” He’s back to the business of being the Admiral. After that last barb, I wonder if he knows about Harm and me. I haven’t advertised it, and I know Harm has said nothing. Harm had the SECNAV’s tacit approval of our arrangement from the beginning, but it’s doubtful he is interested in a blow by blow of our progress, or that he has given it a second thought since.

I should also be offended by the innuendo that I can’t handle this by myself, but I think …well, I feel….actually, I’m not sure what I feel, but Bud will understand about the dreams as no other, even if he is fascinated by the entire concept a little too much.

We take proper leave of the Admiral, and I urgently ask Bud to join me in my office. The minute the door is closed, he turns to me, “Sit down, Bud,” I set the tone, before I manage a controlled collapse into my chair.

Cradling my head in my hands, I am overwhelmed by the distorted images of those four women, as they swirl through my mind, calling and accusing. They wind in and out of the dark fog that shrouds my thoughts; I’m overcome by feelings of fear and guilt. I have to stop this; I should have stopped it. Somehow, I should have known it was real. If I had only done something, said something, but the only answer I had, was one I refused to accept.

How could I allow myself to accuse the man I love, who fills my heart and soul with a bright golden light, when I have only a dark shadow on my mind as evidence. It can’t be true, yet it is real. One of the women is truly dead. I have no doubt the others are too. This paradox is shredding me to pieces.

I try to reach for Harm with my mind, to reach for the glow I hold deep in my heart, but I can’t find it. All I encounter is a deadly, dark shade, blocking any contact beyond this room.

Struggling, I force myself back to awareness of my friend’s sympathetic eyes.

With quiet, gentle forcefulness, as only Bud can, he states, “You know something.”

“I’m not sure. Not here, Bud,” I answer.

“Colonel…Mac… don’t keep me in the dark.” He pleads. I know he thinks I have no confidence in him, either.

“I don’t intend to, Bud.” I console him temporarily. “We need to get packed, and get down there as soon as we can. I’ll tell you on the way. But first, let’s take a few minutes to review what information we have in this file. I need to be prepared for what I’m walking into.” I shudder visibly at the thought of going near the base, but try to recover by telling myself that Harm will be nearby. Oddly, I feel no comfort in the thought.



10:30 Monday
JAG parking lot

 


I lean against my car, watching as Bud Roberts kisses his wife goodbye. Once I would have looked away, hiding the undeserved jealousy they might see. Now I take deep pleasure in sharing a common bond.

As he slides gracefully from his van, I realize that Bud Roberts has not only regained control of his body, but of himself as a man. The vestiges of a smile remaining on his face, mirrors the way Harm looks at me.

I make an instant decision.

“You can drive stick, right Bud?” I ask.

“Uh… yes ma’am,” he looks puzzled.

“Good you drive, I want to talk, and I don’t want to be distracted.” It’s an order, but not.

“Why aren’t we taking a vehicle from the motor pool, Colonel?” He looks slightly confused by my decision.

“Because Bud,” I admit, “when I’m done talking, I’m going to want to drive, and I don’t want to drive something that wallows like a garbage scow. I’ll turn in a mileage voucher later.”

His eyebrows shoot up in appreciation, but a smile spreads, as he realizes I’m letting him drive the Corvette. “Yes ma’am,” he agrees more forcefully.

“Good, stow your gear, I want to talk to your wife a minute. And quit calling me ma’am. At least, while were driving down,” I soften the order with a smile.

I climb in the door he just vacated, and give Harriet a quick hug. I ask about the children, and listen raptly as she fills me in on their latest accomplishments. Little Jimmy is sound asleep, but AJ is playing some kind of learning game on a small computer module, and not in the mood to be interrupted, even by his godmother. I hope to share this experience with her soon.

After a quick goodbye and take care, I slide off the seat and securely shut the door, before walking around, and lowering into the passenger seat of my sports car. I’m startled to realize that no one, except Harm, has ever driven this car before. Not even Mic.

Bud is skillful, but careful, as he guides my powerful car into traffic, and onto the I-95S. It takes me about fifteen minutes, before I can marshal my thoughts, and explain to Bud what’s bothering me. He waits patiently, and drives with his attention on the road, while I think.

“Bud, I don’t know how to tell you this, it’s crazy.” I begin, tentatively.

“I doubt that ma’am… uh, Mac,” he smiles briefly in my direction, before turning back to the road.

I take another deep breath and plunge in. “I’ve been having nightmares.”

“Uh-huh,” he responds, unsurprised.

“How did you know?” I’m puzzled and off balance.

“I didn’t, but I know about your history of visions, and your reaction to the crime report was… well what else could it be? How much did you see?” He asks with the logic and calm of a Vulcan.

“That’s just it Bud, I saw too much, and not enough, but more it’s the feelings,” my voice is shaking. His knowing has given release to my emotions, and it’s all I can do to control the tears.

“Feelings? Of what? No, wait a minute. Please. Make this easier, tell me exactly what you’ve seen first,” he suggests. At least one of us is thinking like a lawyer.

“I see a man, from the back, he’s nude, broad shoulders, dark short hair,” I pause to see if he reacts, but his eyes remain on the road, and his neutral countenance tells me nothing. When I hesitate, he nods, urging me to continue. “He moves sideways, and I see a woman on the bed with a br…broken neck,” I stumble, breathe deeply again, and continue, “then, he dresses and leaves. I have the feeli….”

“No Mac, no feelings, not just yet. Sorry to interrupt, but these things can be hopeless if we don’t sort it out a piece at a time. We could end up in a very wrong place. I don’t mean to give orders,” he looks faintly embarrassed, “but I’ve read a lot about this phenomenon.”

I nod. I remember how I was mislead, by the vision of the horse. “That’s why I didn’t get upset, when the Admiral insisted you come with me. I knew you could help.” I admit.

He understands, and smiles appreciatively at my confidence. “I know, normally you would have taken his head off, for suggesting you couldn’t handle a case alone. What do you think is behind this ground floor stuff?” He suddenly shifts direction; I recognize the technique. “We usually aren’t in on anything, until NCIS is finished, and have their man in custody. Or woman,” he amends

“Only one thing I can think of Bud. The last page of the report, there was a single line. She had just been accepted for SEAL training. She was due to ship out the first of the month.” Speculation on my part, but I think I may be on target.

“Do you think that had anything to do with her murder?” He wonders, trying to fit the pieces.

“Maybe, not sure, but no, I don’t think so.” I let my mind wander over the various thoughts that have played at the edges. Thinking aloud I offer, “It sounds more like the Admiral is getting involved because SEAL’s are involved, and someone else, possibly Bobbie, getting into it because of her ‘women in the military’ agenda. Although, they might not necessarily, be on the same side of the fence.” I comment thoughtfully, and smile at the thought of the Admiral trying to protect his SEAL’s from the likes of Congresswoman Latham. “No, Bud, I really believe that part of it is entirely political.”

“Then what do you think was the reason, ma’am… sorry, Mac.” He corrects himself. “For her murder I mean,” he clarifies

“I didn’t tell you all about the dreams.” I hate doing this, but I know Bud will help me sort it out, and make me do the right thing, whatever that is.

“You saw more, you know who did it?” He sounds a little worried for me.

“Not exactly,” I hedge. “I had four nightmares Bud. Over the last three months.”

“You’ve been dreaming this for three months?” incredulous, he swerves slightly, then corrects.

“Not exactly, I’ve… I’ve seen four different women killed, over the last three months. Bud, I think we’re dealing with a serial killer.” There, that part is out, and admitting it aloud leaves me breathless and frightened.

Bud takes the next exit, and parks in the lot of a small coffee shop/diner. He just sits and stares ahead for a minute, trying to gather himself. I’ve just shocked the hell out of him.

“Mac, uh… what does Harm think of these nightmares?” It’s almost physically painful, to have him hit the core of the matter, with so much naiveté, and so much insight.

“Harm?” I respond nervously, then I try unsuccessfully, to cover my reaction. “Why would you ask that Bud?”

“It’s obvious you’ve been together, Mac, and now the ring. You haven’t told him, have you?” He pounds his point home. Who taught him this stuff anyway? Oh yeah, it was Harm.

“No, I haven’t, but I have my reasons, or at least I think I do, they just don’t make sense. Why was it so obvious, Bud?” I thought I had been rather stealthy about the whole situation.

He gives me his huge Bud grin now. “Because Mac, I’ve never seen you smile the way you have the last three weeks. You completely dropped off everyone’s radar, at the holidays. You had to be with someone, and the office pool laid some pretty good odds, that Mr. Webb didn’t have what it took, to make you so happy.

I blush deeply knowing I’ve not only been so transparent, but that people have noticed. How dare they actually place bets on it. Harm will think it’s hilarious.

“I guess I thought I was being very clever, keeping it to myself.” I admit.

“People notice what you do Mac, and believe me the ones that count, are happy for you both.” He continues, with extraordinary kindness.

“Can you tell me where Harm is now? We, sort of, heard through the grapevine, that he was fired by the CIA.” Bud’s concern is evident.

“I can and I will, Bud, but with any luck you may see him yourself, when we get to Norfolk. As long as we’re here, why don’t we have some coffee, before we continue.” I’m somewhat stressed, and the story isn’t halfway told.
 

 

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