Is This The Right Track?
1205 Zulu – Wednesday, April 14, 2004
North of Union Station
Harm was slowly getting ready for work, another bad night for the
pilot-come-lawyer, but it was his friend-turned-cellmate role that was
keeping him from getting his rest. Something was wrong with Mac.
Something was very wrong. Mac was not normally that … mean. Not Mac.
Mean spirited comments said in the heat of the moment were his M.O, not
They had not spoken since Sunday night. He was in court all day Monday
and Tuesday. She did leave him a message on his voice mail that was
something work related. She acted like everything was fine; she even
thanked him for his medical services and the dessert.
As he lay restless the past few nights her words – from the recent and
distant past – spun around in his head.
“I always thought friends talked to each other, laughed, spent time
together, actually enjoyed each others’ company. . . . [We aren’t
friends. We are] people who know too much about the other. Like
prisoners who share the same cage.”
“I don’t why we couldn’t work things out between us, Harm.”
“We are getting too good at saying goodbye.”
“I don’t want to be your friend anymore, it hurts to damn much.”
“Harm, there hasn’t been a woman in your life since Renee. I think it is
time that you get back out there.”
“Things are never going to work out between us. . . . It is physically
and emotionally impossible.”
How many times had she pushed him away? How many times did she keep a
safe distance? Was there a pattern that Harm had failed to recognize?
Maybe it was not all her issue. Maybe it was THEIR issue. Maybe he had
been wrong all this time. Maybe it wasn’t his lack of commitment, or her
denying her feelings that kept them apart. Maybe it had nothing to do
with one or the other fighting to be on top. Maybe Mac didn’t want him,
plain and simple.
“That's a very nice smile, and I'm sure most of the time it gets you
what you want. But I don't know you, Cmdr, so if you don't mind, I’ll
keep my personal reasons to myself.”
That should have been his first clue into the mystery known as Mac. That
should have been the rule he lived by. She kept her feelings to herself
so it was impossible to tell what she was really feeling. After all that
time together, eight years of ups and downs, he should have known her;
she should have known him. Eight – almost nine years, of coming together
in times of need, of pulling apart in times of adversity, the personal
and the professional - he acted like he knew her, but did he know her at
all? He never would have picked Webb for her. Why did she? He did not
know why things did not work out between them – they should have – if he
had been right. But if he had been wrong, then he had just been living
under a false assumption for the past two, three years. Why hadn’t she
corrected him? Or did she?
That morning he realized why he never acted on his feelings for her. It
was Mac’s ambiguity toward him that stopped him. Why should he try to
achieve an objective if he knew he was going to get shot down? His ego
would not allow that, but it also was just good sense. So maybe Mac
never really felt anything more than friendship for him. It could be
true; Mac had issues with men. That was not his ego talking, she would
admit that herself. Maybe what Harm read as interest was actually
neurosis. Maybe she just didn’t know how to have a male friend without
all that other stuff getting in the way. Maybe she didn’t know how to
say ‘NO’ without it sounding like ‘Not now.’ Maybe it was Harm who could
not hear the ‘No’ without interpreting ‘not now.’ Maybe it was also true
that she no longer wanted his friendship. Maybe his pushing himself into
her life – over and over again – was causing her more grief.
He thought back to the fantastical dream he had the night of Jennifer’s
“Your heart’s desire is the road not taken. Take It!”
What if that road was closed? What if that road was never actually open?
What if Harm’s heart’s desire was not Mac heart’s desire? What if the
road not taken – his heart’s desire – was never meant to be traveled?
What if the reason it was his heart’s desire was because it was the road
that would never be traveled? It is easier to regret something that was
never within reach.
Maybes. What ifs. There was too much guesswork. Too many ways to
interpret the signs. Too many unknowns. Too many ways to make more
mistakes. When too much is unknown, stick with the facts. The facts were
“I don’t want to be your friend anymore, it hurts too damn much.”
The facts dictated that he step away - completely.
“Hey, Harm.” Mattie called to him from the kitchen. “What is wrong with
you? You look like you just lost your best friend.”
Harm looked at Mattie who was actually making breakfast for him, and
smiled. She was a constant joy in his life, even when she was driving
him crazy. “Can’t lose what you never had.”
“Sure you can.” She corrected. “You lose the hope.”
“Touché.” He grabbed the plates and the juice and went to the table.
“Practice for my Home Ec class.”
“I see.” He grinned at her. “I am the tester.”
“It is just scrambled eggs, Harm. Can’t screw it up too much.” She
brought the pan over and dumped the runny eggs out on to his plate.
He looked un-appetized. “Thank you.”
She sat down opposite and started eating. “You and Mac talking yet?”
“We were never NOT talking.” He pushed the eggs away and opted for the
“But you haven’t seen her.”
“We have both been pretty busy.”
“Mac is in a weird place right now, and I don’t think I can help her.”
He said quickly.
“Can I?” Mattie looked up.
“Be a good friend to her, I think that is enough.”
“Why isn’t that enough for you?” Mattie pressed.
“I will always be Mac’s friend, but right now … now … I don’t --.”
“Too much other stuff?”
“Yeah, maybe.” He looked away. “Maybe.”
There was a calm silence before Mattie spoke again. “I am gonna be late
today – FYI.”
“Thought we had a deal.” He pulled his new ‘fatherly’ tone.
“Not that late – but I won’t be home from school until 5 or 5:30.”
She got defensive and defiant. “I have a meeting to go to.”
He studied her for a moment. She did not look happy or sad about the
meeting, rather she looked resolved and like she didn’t want to talk
“Good.” He realized she was attending an ALATEEN meeting. “How about I
pick you up after and take you out to dinner.”
There was a knock on the door. Harm got up to answer it like nothing was
strange about someone knocking on his door at 0700.
“I am going to break you of this pizza habit if it kills me.” He called
over his shoulder.
She was clearing the table. “It is going to take someone better than
Harm opened the door. On the other side was a woman he had never seen
before but she looked familiar. She was not very tall, with long light
brown curly hair, a dimple on her chin and pale blue eyes like Mattie’s.
Matted dropped the dishes that she was holding with a loud crash on the
floor. Harm looked back at her. She was stunned, staring at the
“Mattie?” Harm called to her.
The woman spoke. “I am Amanda Grace.” She said confidently looking
quickly between Harm and Mattie.
Harm looked back at her.
“I am Mattie’s aunt.” She continued.
Harm looked back at her. “Mattie?”
“What are you doing here, Auntie Em?” Mattie said with a great deal of
1302 ZULU - Thursday, April 15, 2004
Dr. Gates Madden’s Office
Central Intelligence Agency
Mac waited nervously for her second appointment with the CIA’s shrink.
Mac had gone to see Commander McCool on Monday but because so much of
what she needed to discuss was classified it was decided that she needed
to see someone with higher clearance. At the agency they called it a
‘debriefing’ rather than a ‘session.’ She cursed herself for not being
able to get past this thing with Sadik.
The doctor walked in, and took the chair next to Mac rather than her
normal position behind the desk. Mac felt her stomach tighten. Something
“Mac, I am not sure I can help you.” This doctor was nothing if not
“What do you mean?” She was surprised.
“Strictly speaking you are showing no signs of PTS.”
“Sleepless, anxious, flying off the handle;” Mac reminded her. “That is
now considered normal behavior?”
“No, that is very unhealthy – but I don’t feel that it is being brought
on by the killing of Sadik – regardless of the buttons he pushed.” The
doctor was being a little cold in Mac’s mind.
“Mac, there are people all over the world who are sleepless, anxious and
acting out in ways that are not healthy – none of them had anything to
do with Sadik.” She explained.
“So you won’t help me.” It took so much for Mac to ask for help in the
first place it killed her to be told that she didn’t deserve the help.
“I didn’t say that. What I am saying is that I can’t help you unless we
open up to some other possibilities.”
Mac chuckled. “Is this where you bring up the issues I have with my
mother and father?”
“We could go back that far.” The doctor admitted. “Those issues might
have something to do with what is driving the current ones, but I don’t
think that is necessary.”
Mac felt slightly relieved. “So what are you suggesting?”
“I say we work backwards.”
“I don’t understand.”
“Did you sleep last night?” Madden asked.
“A few hours.” Mac looked down. “On and off.”
“What did you do when you couldn’t sleep?”
“Was awake?” Mac didn’t know how to answer that.
“Where you alone?”
“Did you stay in bed and toss and turn or did you get up? Make some warm
milk. Fix yourself a stiff drink?”
“I don’t drink.” She stated thinking that she must have told the doctor
that during the last session. “I am an alcoholic.”
“Ok, did you take a run? Read a book? Watch TV? Call a friend? Re-sort
your CD collection? Darn some socks?”
Mac was shocked that the doctor just blew by the comment about her
alcoholism. Most doctors would have asked about it. McCool certainly
had. “No, I stared out the window.”
“What were you looking at?”
“The trees?” Mac was becoming annoyed. “Doctor what are you looking
“I am not looking for anything specific, I want to know what you did
when you couldn’t sleep.”
“I stared out the window, I watched the trees blow in the breeze.” Mac
shook her head. “I watched the street.”
“What was happening on the street?”
“Cars driving by.” Mac was still confused.
“Any cars in specific?”
“Not that I recall.” If this were a courtroom, Mac would have objected
to this line of questioning demanding to know the relevance.
The doctor got up and went to the window and looked down to the parking
lot. “Ya know Mac, when I watch cars drive by, I am thinking of the
people I know that have cars like the ones I see, or I am looking for my
car, or my husband’s car.”
“Ok.” Mac stiffened. It occurred to her for the first time that she did
think she saw Harm’s Vette and thought he might be checking on her. And
on several occasions she saw a taxi drive passed and had a brief
panicked fantasy that Clay was going to stop by. It also occurred to her
that she never knew if Webb drove his own car, a company car or took a
cab the nights he visited her. She never thought to ask.
“You didn’t?” The doctor pursued.
“Notice any familiar vehicles?”
“No.” She lied.
“Ok. Enough with the cars and the windows.” The doctor knew she was
lying, and needed to move past it. “Do you usually sleep alone?”
“I beg your pardon?”
“I know that you are not married, but are you involved with someone?”
“Yes.” Mac said confidently. For some reason she thought everyone knew.
That it would be posted on the CIA bulletin board or in the employee
“Why didn’t you call him?” The doctor asked.
“He is out of the country.”
“Is he out of the country a lot?” The doctored pulled.
“You ought to know.” Mac was becoming annoyed with her appearance at not
knowing the Clay and Mac were lovers.
“Why should I know?” The doctor said.
Mac gave her a look.
“Oh – I see. You are dating an agent.”
The doctor opened the file. “Clayton Webb?”
Mac looked nervous. “Yes.”
“So you knew Webb before your mission to find Sadik?”
“Yes, we have known each other for years.”
The doctor nodded. “Were you dating before you went to Paraguay?”
“Did you want to?” The doctor was relentless. “Is that why you took the
assignment, so you could be closer to him? To work with him? Maybe
change the status of your relationship?”
Mac spine got very tight. “That is not why I took the assignment.”
“You posed as his pregnant wife, Mac.” The doctor stated as if that
contradicted Mac’s defense.
“That is not typical behavior for a US Marine lawyer.” The doctor closed
the file. “Why did you take the assignment?”
“I was asked to.”
“Do you always do what you are asked to do?”
“I beg your pardon?” Mac was on her feet.
“I am asking – do you always do what you are asked to do?”
“Usually when I am asked to do something like that, it is an order.”
“Did your commanding officer order you to take this assignment?”
“No, in fact he told me that I didn’t have to.”
“Yet, you did and posed as your current lover’s pregnant wife.”
Mac’s eyes flared red at her interpretation. “If you want to describe it
“How would you describe it?”
“I was asked to go undercover to stop one hundred stinger missiles from
getting into the wrong hands – potentially saving hundreds of lives.”
“By putting your own life in jeopardy?” The doctor pulled.
“God, country and Corps?”
“Did you sleep with Webb before you were captured?”
The question took Mac off guard. “Doctor this is outrageous.”
“I am trying to understand when it was that your feelings for the man
that put your life in jeopardy changed.”
“I knew the risks when I took them.”
“There is no doubt about the fact that it was your decision – the
mission and the relationship.” The doctor did not back down. “So when
did your feelings for him change?”
“During our time in captivity.”
“But you weren’t sleeping with him then.” It was not a question.
“When did that change?”
“Recently.” Mac said softly.
“Recently? How recently?”
“A little over a month ago.” Mac was embarrassed.
“Right after the incident with Sadik.”
The doctor was right. She had not slept with Webb until after Sadik was
dead. “We had been dating – or rather attempting to date since our
return from Paraguay.”
“Why only attempting?”
“For the first four months he was recovering from his injuries.”
“Injuries suffered during the time you were held by Sadik.” The doctor
“Yes.” Mac got annoyed. “I thought you said that this wasn’t about
“Please continue – the first four months he was recovering …”
“And then he went back to work and was out of the country.”
“Often, I gathered.” The doctor said. “Then your relationship changed.
Was that also your decision?”
“Yes – I mean it was OUR decision.”
“You discussed it?”
Mac looked away and took a chair on the other side of the room. There
was no discussion when she had jumped Webb that first night. She had
made the decision and he was ready willing and able to comply. But it
was not discussed.
“I see.” The doctor said. “Has it been satisfying?”
Mac glared back at this brazen woman. She was not about to discuss the
quality of sexual relations between Clay and herself.
“The change in the relationship, I mean.” The doctor saw her anger. “Is
it satisfying? Are you comfortable with the change? How do you like
being the significant other to a spy who disappears for weeks on end
doing God knows what with God knows who? It is not like being involved
with a plumber or a lawyer.”
Mac laughed. For the first time the doctor seemed to trip on her words.
It allowed Mac to be more honest then she knew. “I never thought that
Clay would be the kind of man I was interested in nor was he the kind of
man I expected to marry and have a family with.”
“I see.” The doctor leaned back in her chair. “But he is that type of
“Yes.” Mac made the next statement to prove her point. “I love him and
he loves me.”
“Have you talked about marriage?”
“What do you see?” Mac challenged.
“I see that you are serious about this – but -.”
“Clay is too.”
“I believe you.”
“What do you believe?”
“I believe that falling in love with someone you have known platonically
for years after enduring a harrowing intense life altering experience
together can feel very serious – profound even.”
“To your head.”
“We shared something very big and it brought us closer.”
“I can see that.”
“But.” Mac pulled.
“I am just wondering about the motivation for this change of feelings so
many months after the initial event?”
“What are you driving at?”
“Did you all of a sudden discover how much you had in common? How much
you enjoyed each other’s company? Was it a purely chemical reaction that
was heighten by the experience? Or -.”
“Well, love and feelings of love can be confusing and complicated
especially if you kill for the man you love.”
“Excuse me?” Mac said quietly.
“You killed the man that tortured your boyfriend nearly to death.”
Mac felt the room closing in on her.
“That is a pretty powerful emotion. Killing for love.”
Mac still did not move.
“Did you know that you loved Webb enough to kill for him?”
Mac shook her head. “Sadik was a sick and twisted man that needed to be
“Right.” The doctor confirmed. “Like taking out the trash.”
Mac’s words came back to her. Could McCool have told Madden what she
“So you killed for your man and that earned you the right to be
“You killed for him – he should love you – he should make love to you –
he should prove his love to you – as you proved it to him.”
“I am not some dumb teenager, doctor.” Mac was livid at her implication.
“How much of your feelings for Webb – then and now – were motivated by
“Guilt?” Mac felt like a rag doll being dragged across the emotional
spectrum. “I beg your pardon?”
“Guilt. Webb needed months to recover from his injuries and you were
able to go back to work the next day.”
Mac did not answer.
“I am not saying that you should have felt guilty – it was his
assignment, he brought you into it – but it is a natural reaction. He
suffered tremendously and you came out of it relatively unscathed – at
Mac did not answer.
“Why were you unharmed?”
“Agent Webb took the brunt of the torture to save me.”
There was a long moment of silence. “You do know that there was nothing
that Webb said or didn’t say that would have prevented Sadik from doing
what he wanted to do. Webb may have thought he was protecting you – but
the only person who can take the credit for you not being tortured is
Mac looked up at her.
“He was giving the orders. If he had wanted you dead, or hurt in anyway
– Webb would have been helpless.”
It hadn’t occurred to Mac before, but the doctor was right.
“The fact that Sadik came to find you after eight months – find you and
NOT KILL you – is proof of that.”
Mac was silent as she pondered the doctor’s comment.
“Who are Victor Galindez and Harmon Rabb?”
“Who are they?” How was Mac supposed to answer that, it was only a
“It says in the file that they effected the rescue of both you and Agent
Webb. Galindez took Webb for medical treatment and you and Rabb followed
the stingers and destroyed them – almost killing yourselves in the
Mac was now annoyed at the level of detail in the report. “Does it also
tell you what I was wearing?” She said snidely.
“Galindez was USMC on TAD to the CIA and Rabb – well it doesn’t say much
about him. Why was he there?”
Mac got up and crossed to the window. After a long moment she answered.
“He was looking for me.”
“It says here that he had resigned his commission as a Navy Commander
days before you were rescued.”
Mac turned to the doctor and tried to stare her down. “As I said he was
looking for me.”
“Is that why he resigned his commission?”
Mac looked away. “You will need to ask him that.”
“I am asking you.”
“Wow. You two must be very close.” She stated.
Mac did not answer.
“Most men don’t give up their careers for just any woman.”
Mac did not respond.
“Were you and Rabb lovers?”
“No.” She did not look back at the doctor.
“But there was something more than a friendship between you.”
“We have known each other for a very long time.”
“As long as you have known Webb?”
Mac looked back at the doctor. “In fact, yes. I met them hours apart.”
“Yet you worked with Rabb daily – or very nearly daily – for eight
“Must have some guilt surrounding that too.”
“A man gives up his career and nearly gets himself killed to save your
life and you turn to another man.”
“It really wasn’t like that.”
“You and this Rabb person were never more than co-workers? Associates?
Mac did not answer.
“It is obvious that he felt some serious sense of obligation to you,
Mac.” The doctor started. “But who is Harmon Rabb to you?”
Mac looked back out the window. Her fifty minutes were up. Was the
doctor going to let her go?
1418 ZULU - Thursday, April 15, 2004
Falls Church, VA
Coates knocked on Harm’s open door. “Sir, Ms. Grace is here to see you.”
Harm and Jennifer shared a tense look. “Thank you Petty Officer, please
show her in.”
Harm was standing behind his desk when Amanda Grace breezed in like the
answer to all problems.
Amanda “Em” Grace and Harm had met briefly on Wednesday morning when she
showed up out of the blue. Mattie’s reception of her was not as cool as
Harm would have expected it to be. Em was Mattie’s mother’s sister – her
twin sister. There was a reason she had been out of the picture for the
past two years or longer. Mattie knew what it was, but did not open up
to Harm, at least not yet. Honestly there hadn’t been much time. Mattie
had gone to dinner with Em the night before. Harm and she did not talk
too much in the morning. Harm didn’t want to push. He felt very out of
“Commander.” She said brightly with a warm smile on her face. “Thank you
for seeing me without an appointment.”
He nodded and gestured for her to have a seat. “May I get you something,
“I have had Navy coffee, Commander.” She laughed. “No thank you.”
“What can I do for you?” He sat down.
“Well I am sure you are wondering about me,” she declared without a
shade of remorse or regret. “And to be honest I am more than curious
“It had crossed my mind to ask where you have been and why you are here
“Direct.” She said. “I like that in a man. Rare.” She leaned comfortably
back in the chair. “You can relax Commander, I am not here to rip Mattie
away from you. In fact, you have been very good for her.”
“Thank you.” He tried to relax. “Mattie has been very good for me as
“I can’t speak to that, but that leads me to my first question. Why has
a single man with an active career chosen to take on a fifteen year-old
girl that he didn’t know from Adam?”
Harm chose his words carefully. “I like her. I liked her from the moment
I met her. She was in trouble and needed someone’s help. She let me help
She studied him for a moment. “So you are the heroic type, huh?” She
leaned forward. “Do you help all women in distress?”
Harm ignored her comment. “When was the last time you saw Mattie?”
“That last time I saw her or the last time I spoke to her?”
“You have spoken to her recently?”
“Every Sunday for the past four years.” She looked confused. “Mattie
didn’t tell you about me?”
“Well she didn’t tell me about you either.” She laughed a little. “Hell,
she didn’t tell me about any of it. I thought she was still living with
Jake and Martha Johnson.”
“She ran away from them a long time ago.”
“I know that now. Finally spoke to them last week. The Graces and the
Johnsons are not on friendly terms.”
“I understand that.”
“The last time I saw Mattie – hell the last time I saw any of them was
right after my sister’s death.” She looked away. “I tried to get Mattie
to go with me then, but she refused. She was bound and determine to
continue to run that stupid crop dusting business.”
“She lost that about five months ago.” Harm said.
“She didn’t lose it.” The woman flipped her hair back. “It was stolen
from her. I am surprised that you – being a lawyer – didn’t look into
“I did. There was nothing I could do. Johnson had taken out a note
against the field, and Grace Aviation was not making enough money to
keep up the payments.”
“Well, Commander.” She said a little slyly. “If you looked a little
deeper you would have realized that Johnson did not have the authority
to sign a note on the field, he was not married to my sister at the
“I did not receive confirmation of their divorce.” He defended. “Mattie
never said -.”
She interrupted. “I am taking steps to recover what was stolen.” She
stated confidently. “Would you care to help?”
“Anything I can do.” He said.
A smile spread across her face. “I am sure something will come up.”
She was flirting with him he thought. She was a remarkable woman – well
from the nothing he knew about her – she seemed remarkable.
“I have paid the note on the house.” She continued. “And I understand
that you are owed five months mortgage.”
“Unnecessary.” He waved her off.
“All the same, I am having a check cut for you and delivered. It should
be here this afternoon.”
Red flags were waving in Harm’s face. She wanted something. “Why are you
“Again, bold and direct.” She soothed.
He braced himself against it. He knew she was trying to disarm him. It
hadn’t work, yet.
“I am here to see that my sister’s wishes are carried out. She wanted
Mattie to have Grace Aviation and the house, and by God she will have
“Who are you?” He asked.
She laughed at that.
“You say you are not here for Mattie, yet you are doing everything in
your power to ---“
“Maybe I am.” She got a little more serious. “Mara, my sister.” She
smiled sadly. “We were the Amazing Grace sisters. Amara and Amanda Grace
– queens of the air. She was the only family that I had in the world –
now there is only me and Mattie.”
Harm looked down, he understood about being alone.
“I loved my sister, Commander. Walking away from her was the worst
mistake I have ever made.”
“We had a falling out several months before her death. I told her if she
continued on the path that she was going, she would be dead within a
year.” She took a deep breath. “Being right is no consolation.”
“I don’t understand.”
“I could have - I should have forced her to get help.”
“My sister was an alcoholic, Commander.” She stated a little too
casually. “She was driving.”
Harm looked confused. “Mattie told me that her father was driving.”
She laughed. “And it never occurred to you to wonder why Johnson was not
in jail for manslaughter? Reckless endangerment? Drunk driving?” She
snorted again. “Are you sure you are a lawyer?”
Harm looked a little shamed that it hadn’t occurred to him. “Mattie said
“I am sure you can understand that Mattie changed some of the facts to
fit her needs.”
Harm shook his head. He didn’t understand.
“It is easier to hate the living than it is to hate the dead.”
Harm was silent for a moment trying to fully grasp what Em was saying.
“Mattie is not entirely wrong. Johnson is to blame in many ways. He was
a drunk - still is I suppose. They drank together. One thing Mara never
did was drink and drive – not since the time she wrapped her car around
a telephone pole with Mattie in the back seat. Mattie was just a baby
Em got up and started walking around the room.
“Oh, she still drank, but she would never get behind the wheel with even
one beer under her belt.” She laughed. “Hell, she never renewed her
“Why did she then?” He asked. “Why did she get in the car that night?”
“Johnson had caused a seen at the bar. The owner called and threatened
to throw him in jail if she didn’t come down and get him. Even though
they weren’t married anymore – they were still very involved. Mara was a
sucker for that man – had been since she was – hell since she was
Mattie’s age.” She got a little distant and thought back to a simpler
“Go on.” Encouraged.
“That bastard was still working at Grace Aviation. She could not afford
to lose a days’ labor out of him. So she went to get him with a fifth of
Jack Daniels under her belt. She never made it home.” She looked away.
“I’m sorry she didn’t take him with her.”
Her coldness toward Mattie’s father rivaled Mattie’s. “Mattie knows
this?” He asked.
“Mattie knows. She was 12 when my sister died. She knew all about it.”
She heaved a heavy sigh and sat back down. “She may not be ready to
admit it. But she knows the truth.”
Harm thought about Mattie and her anger toward her father. Somehow it
made more sense to him now.
“Harm, I am the only real family that Mattie has. The Johnsons are all
“So where have you been? How could you let her be by herself for so
“I called her – a lot – and kept asking her to come live with me in
Alaska. I run a floatplane business in Fairbanks. I didn’t know that
Johnson had taken off until three weeks ago. Mattie is very good at
lying or at least not telling the whole truth.”
Harm was still confused about what were the truths and what were the
“Anyway – she missed her weekly phone call the past four weeks. I
started calling. I found out Johnson was in rehab, and she was living
with some Navy Commander. I got here as soon as I could.”
“To do what?”
“I am not going to let Mattie live with just anyone. If I think you
would hurt her in anyway, I will fight tooth and nail to get her back.”
Harm felt the challenge.
“On the other hand, if you are what is best for Mattie – I will adjust.”
“But you have to know, Commander. She is a young woman – or soon will be
– for a man who has never been married, it is only going to get more
difficult from here on out.”
“We are working through our problems.”
“I expect that you are.” The words that followed stung Harm to the core.
“Don’t you think it is strange that a forty year-old man is interested
in taking care of a sixteen year-old girl?”
He studied her for a moment. He was still not quite sure if she were an
enemy, a friend, or just another hurdle to clear. “Just what are you
“I am implying nothing – just want to know what your motivations are.”
He felt the exact same way about her. “So now what?”
“Now you and I need to get to know each other.” She smiled brightly at
him, which did disarm him. “Why don’t we discuss this over dinner
tonight – I’ll cook.”
She was incredible. From accusing him of – something heinous to inviting
herself to his house to cook, she was all over the place. Under any
other circumstances, he would want to get to know better. She was
bringing a fight out in him that he hadn’t felt in a long time. The best
part was that she was taking the initiative. “Ok. Dinner it is.”
She stood up and moved to the door. “I’ll be there by seven.”
Harm watched her go. He had no idea what to think about that little
spitfire. He wanted to like her. He wanted to do a lot more. But he
didn’t trust her.