Now Arriving On Track #5
Is That Light At the End of the Tunnel From An Oncoming Train?
0719 ZULU – Saturday, April 24, 2004
Somewhere in the Mediterranean
“Harm!” Mac cried out. “Harm, I can’t do this! … No! … Don’t! … Harm, I
don’t know how! … Take it! … Damn it, Harm! … Harm? … Harm, where are
you? … Harm?”
“Mac? Mac, wake up.” Harm placed a tentative hand on her shoulder.
At his touch she jolted awake. Confusion faded from her eyes as she
realized where she was. “What is going on?” She demanded.
“Bad dream, I guess.” He laughed a little and stepped back away from
her. At least he was in her dream.
She sat up and breathed deeply to stop her heart from racing. “Wow. That
was weird.” She ran a hand through her hair.
Harm watched her waiting for the explanation.
She looked over at him and laughed. “You bastard.”
“Me? It was your dream.” He defended.
“You were forcing me to land the plane.” She shook her head.
“That’s no dream, that’s a nightmare.”
“We were flying to … somewhere …” She got confused. She looked at him
quickly. “You are not going to believe this, but we were flying to Iran
… in an F-14.”
“We were going to pick up AJ … little AJ … for his birthday.”
“Why was he in Iran?”
She shook her head. “I don’t remember.” She thought for a moment. “No,
no, no, I do. He left his plane there … the one you gave him for
Christmas … the stealth plane.”
“Stealth plane?” The words burst out of his mouth unchecked. “Told you
not to eat that pepperoni pizza last night.” The ridiculousness of it
was just plain silly. He went back to the file he had been reading
before she so rudely interrupted.
Mac threw her legs over the bunk still trying to remember the dream.
“You told me to land the plane.”
He looked back at her like she was crazy. “Are you sure you just didn’t
take the controls from me?”
“You said something like ‘on a need to know basis, I needed to know.’”
She looked at him questioning. “Why would you say that?”
“And this I remember clearly.” She smiled nicely at him. “You said that
I could do anything I set my mind to.”
“Shouldn’t take that so literally.” He laughed.
Her faced puzzled again. “And then you were gone?”
He looked back to his file. “Probably punched out to save my own hide.”
“No, you were just gone and I was … at the controls … trying to land …
on the deck.”
“The deck of what?” He snickered. “Iran has a deck?”
“No, no, no, it was that deck of a ship.” She squinted her eyes again.
“There was someone behind me screaming at me. … A man … ‘Call the ball,’
he said – over and over again. He said that we were too high and too low
and too fast and too slow … that we were going to crash.”
“I am sure there were lots of people screaming that you were going to
She ignored him. “He said that if I didn’t, I was going to ruin it for
the both of us.” She closed her eyes to remember who it was.
“Ruin it? More like kill us all.” He was not looking at her.
Mac remembered who it was. It was Webb, or was it Mic, or Dalton? One of
those. She looked up at Harm just as he was taking a side-glance at her.
“What? It wasn’t me.” He defended. “I was just sitting here minding my
own business when you -.”
“No.” She held his stare as she shook the thoughts out of her head.
“No? No, what? I wasn’t sitting here?”
“No – it wasn’t you.” She shook her head one last time to finish it.
“I’m sorry. Forget it.” She exhaled the dream.
“Who was it?” He asked.
“Doesn’t matter.” She wiped her hands over her face. “It was just a
“And a cigar is just a cigar.”
“Thank you, Dr. Freud.”
Harm turned in the chair to look at her. He was serious. “Mac if you
really don’t want to fly with me today, you can wait for the COD. It
won’t be here until Monday, but I am sure they will let you stay here
until then. I won’t be offended, really.”
“Don’t be ridiculous.”
With all that was going on in Iraq, the death of the Lt Commander and
the grounding of Watson, pilots, planes and transports were at a
premium. There was a mission to fly that day and the CAG could not wait
for the Monday COD. So a decision was made. The replacement pilots were
set to arrive at Naval Air Station Sigonella in Sicily that morning.
Harm would fly to Sicily and the pilots would return immediately. It was
decided that Mac would “go along for the ride” since the case had been
resolved (the corpsman changed his plea to guilty and accepted the
consequences). They would then pick up a military flight back to
Andrews. She had not been impressed with the arrangements, but was not
about to share that with anyone. She had flown with Harm before and
three out of the four times they had had hard landings – very hard
“Really, I won’t be offended.” He looked away. “If you are not
comfortable enough to get in a plane with me, I can live with that.”
“Harm – it was just a dream.” She stated hopping down. “I am not worried
for myself. I am sure we will survive this trip too – it is the plane I
am worried about.” She grinned.
“Your confidence is under-whelming.” He turned back away.
“Besides – the people in dreams are rarely who they are supposed to be.”
“What does that mean?”
“Maybe in my dream you were – I don’t know – me – or the flying squirrel
from Rocky and Bullwinkle?”
“And who were you?”
She shook her head. “Who knows? – Natasha.”
“Well if I am playing other characters in your dreams I want a
“Funny.” She stretched and shivered a bit. “It was pretty vivid though.”
“You should write it down before you forget and ask your shirk.” He said
over his shoulder.
“What is she going to tell me that I don’t know?” Mac asked.
“You are seeing a female shrink?”
“Really? I just assumed that it would be a guy – a man – a male doctor.”
“Chauvinist? Me?” He was amused.
“Born and bred.” She confirmed.
“Don’t let my mother hear you say that.”
“I like women.” He defended. “Hell, I even respect some of them.”
“You just wouldn’t talk to one about your most intimate thoughts.” She
“Can you blame me?” He flashed her his best flyboy grin.
“Harm, remember what I said about your mouth?” She continued without
waiting for a response. “Well you are drifting out into open – read:
unprotected – waters again.”
“So I should shut up.”
“But I do like women.” He scanned her up and down with a smile and added
under his breath, “Some more than others.”
“I am ending this.” She grabbed her gear to go shower and dress.
“So, you gonna fly with me?” He stopped her before she could leave.
“Are you going to make me land the plane?”
“Not on a bet.”
“Ok.” She walked out.
“You have sixty minutes.” He called down the passage.
0939 ZULU – Saturday, April 24, 2004
Naval Air Station, Sigonella, Sicily
Harm and Mac were making their way across the tarmac.
“Come on, Colonel.” He wrapped his free arm loosely around her shoulder.
“Admit it, that was fun.”
“I don’t have to admit anything of the kind.” She laughed at him pushing
his arm away playfully. “You are dangerous and should have your wings
“I got you up and I got you down, what more can you ask of a pilot?” He
added quietly, “Or a man.”
“How about all my internal organs put back to their original locations.”
“Just a couple of Gs Mac. Lets you know you’re alive.”
She smirked at him.
“Come on – we have time to grab some lunch before we have to catch our
“Lunch?” She teased. “Lost my appetite on that landing.”
If truth were told, she was enjoying the ease with which she and Harm
were relating. They had worked very well together on the case and were
actually able to stay friendly sharing a room. Harm was respectful and
real and she dropped her defensiveness. In spite of the seriousness of
the incident, they actually had a good time. Were the old feelings
“Sarah!” A familiar voice called from the hanger.
Harm and Mac both looked up to see Clayton Webb making his way toward
them. If Harm had some feelings about the spy’s presence, they did not
show in his expression. Mac’s shock was apparent, but she felt no
embarrassment either for Webb or Harm.
“Clay? What are you doing here? How did you find me?” She said. Looks
like she still had more questions than answers when it came to Webb.
“Sarah.” He said again as he approached and kissed her.
Harm smiled. He didn’t know why – but he felt prepared for this – the
first time he saw them together as a couple. He was OK with it.
“Webb.” He said as he put out his hand. It occurred to Harm that he had
not seen Webb since that day in the hospital, nearly a year ago. How
strange, a man he thought about almost every day not in the most
flattering terms, and here he was face to face with him. He looked
smaller than Harm remembered - insignificant.
“Rabb.” Webb returned the handshake. As usual, Webb telegraphed none of
his feelings. Spy training served him well.
“Clay, what are you doing here?” Mac asked again.
“Chegwidden told me where I could find you.”
“The Admiral?” She asked.
Just then a petty officer came up to them. “Excuse me, sir, ma’am, sir?”
“Go ahead.” Harm commanded.
“Departure time has been pushed up - fifteen minutes. We have one place
available, the next one won’t be for several hours – maybe even
“Let Rabb take it.” Webb chimed in. “I have us booked first class to New
“First Class.” Harm raised an eyebrow in mock envy as he smiled at Mac.
“New York?” Mac asked.
“We are booked into the Plaza and we have dinner reservations at Peter
Luger. You are going to have the best steak of your life.”
Mac looked over at Harm unsure of what she was supposed to say.
“I’m a fish man myself.” Harm felt the dismissal from Webb if not from
Mac. “But you kids have a great time.” He patted her shoulder.
“Sir, I am sorry.” The petty officer said again. “If you are interested,
I need to know now – or there are others who would gladly take your
“Thank you.” Harm said. “I’ll take it.” He looked back at Webb.
“Probably won’t even have a movie on this flight.” He grinned.
Webb knew that he bested Harm, and he loved how hard Harm tried not to
show that he knew he had been bested.
“Mac – see you back at JAG.” He dropped her bag next to Webb and moved
“Right.” She nodded to his retreating back never really taking her eyes
off of Webb. “Thanks for the lift.”
Harm looked back over his shoulder before he boarded the plane. Webb and
Mac were still talking where he had left them, but there was nothing
that was going to convince him that there was ‘trouble in paradise.’
They looked – how would Rabb describe it - like a couple, like a normal
couple in a normal conversation about normal things. Did he envy them?
He envied him. He looked away and was glad he didn’t have to fly back to
the states with them. There was only so much acceptance Harm should be
expected to give.
The flight back was horrendous. It took him more than eighteen hours to
get home – it would have taken longer but he caught a lucky break on the
last leg. They were diverted to Germany, to Newark, and eventually to
Andrews – dropping people off, picking people up – if was beginning to
take on more of an Amtrak feel than a military transport. So it was
eighteen hours of adjusting to find a comfortable spot, or listening to
the marines on the plane talk about their experiences in Iraq, or giving
out legal advice. In the quiet time he had, he replayed the image of the
Webb/MacKenzie couple in his mind. They looked good together, he
thought. Maybe Webb could give Mac what she really wanted; maybe he
would even take the time to figure out what that was. He really did want
Sarah to be happy. He wanted to find some of that kind of happiness too.
Was Sarah his only hope? No, he could find it with someone and hopefully
he had learned enough from his mistakes to not make them again. By the
time the plane touched down at Andrews, Harm had moved on – again – this
time his ‘look back’ response had been turned off.
0549 ZULU – Sunday, April 25, 2004
Harm let his exhausted self in grateful for the knowledge that he would
be taking a long, hot shower in his own shower and sleeping in his own
bed. Mattie should still be with Aunt Em in Blacksburg and not due back
until the afternoon. He could sleep late and enjoy the quiet for a
change. Having a teenager really did change his life. He never felt like
he was alone or had time to think his own thoughts. When they moved into
the house it would be worse, she would be in the other room rather than
down the hall in her own apartment. But they would figure it out. They
would figure it out if they were given the opportunity.
He dropped his bag by the door and proceeded to the refrigerator – he
needed a beer. The light of the refrigerator cast shadows on the mess
that was left in the kitchen: dirty dishes, pizza boxes, beer bottles
and glasses. He turned on the light above the sink. It was a mess. He
never left his place in such disarray.
“Hey.” A voice came from the bedroom. “Turn the damn light off.”
Harm’s ire was up – way up. Who the hell was sleeping in his bed? He
walked over and flipped the light on in the room.
“Damn it!” Em Grace sat up annoyed. “Oh. You’re back.”
“Em?” He was stunned to see the woman in his bed. He was also stunned to
see that probably every article of clothing she had was strewn around
She rubbed her eyes and yawned. “You weren’t supposed to be back until
“In light of the fact that you are wearing my favorite t-shirt and
sleeping in my bed, you should call me Harm.” He was not happy.
She looked down at the rag of a Navy t-shirt Mattie had found for her to
sleep in. “Right. Harm.” She finally looked embarrassed under his gaze.
“Guess you are wondering why I am here.” Her words slurred.
“The question had crossed my mind.” The slurred words did not go
unnoticed by him.
“Well -.” She started.
“Look.” He cut her off. He was really not in the mood for any
explanation. “Forget it – you’re there – I am going to take a shower and
stretch out on the couch.” He checked his watch. “Hell, it will be dawn
in a few hours.”
“I’ll take the couch.” She started to get up but slipped back down. “We
could share.” She eyed him suggestively.
“Em – Amanda – Go to sleep. I need a shower.” He stepped over the mess
to get to the bathroom. “I’ll be out in five minutes.”
When he emerged she had fallen asleep again (read: passed out). He
grabbed a couple of blankets from the closet and tried to sleep on the
couch. He didn’t. He and Mattie were going to have to have a discussion.
He had spoken to her twice that day, not once did she tell him that they
did not go to Blacksburg or that she had allowed Em to use his
apartment. If she had asked he would not have refused, but she didn’t
ask. Mattie and her lies of omission were becoming a problem - again
straining the tentative trust Harm had placed in her.
As for his feelings about Aunt Em, that night flipped them 180 degrees.
She was irresponsible and careless with Mattie, with him and with the
family that they were trying to establish. Up until then, he thought she
was just a little on the wild side, a little too quick with her opinions
about things, and a little too ready to force herself into their lives,
but on the whole he liked her. He was even attracted to her; the first
woman he had been really attracted to since … well in a very long time.
If he had met her under other circumstances he would ‘want to get to
know her better’ and would probably have pursued her, but as Mattie’s
aunt there were too many complicating factors. His responsibility was to
Mattie first. And now that he knew her better, he didn’t want to know
her at all.
Union Station Coffee Shop
Harm had dragged Mattie out of bed at the crack of dawn and taken her
out for breakfast so they could talk. When they left, Em had not woken
up yet. He controlled himself enough to wait until they had ordered
“What is going on Mattie?”
“I couldn’t let her drive,” was her ready defense as if she had been
practicing it for the past hour or the whole weekend.
That was one of the explanations Harm had mulled over in his head. He
could understand Mattie’s reluctance to let her aunt get behind the
wheel of a car even after one drink, and he was impressed that she had
not gotten in a car with her.
“Did you go to Blacksburg at all?” He demanded.
“She picked me up from school on Thursday – wanted me to skip school on
Harm’s eyes flared.
“I didn’t skip. But she told me that she had already checked out of the
hotel so if we weren’t going to Blacksburg she needed a place to stay.”
“Why didn’t you just ask me?” He was still confused and his frustration
was clearly evident. “We have talked two or three times a day since I
have been gone.”
“I don’t know.”
“You don’t know what?” He said.
“I DON’T KNOW.”
“Keep your voice down,” he ordered.
“Do I embarrass you, Harm?” She said snottily.
“You embarrass yourself,” was his too sharp reply. “Did you think I
would say ‘no’?”
“I didn’t think you would find out.” She said quickly.
“You didn’t think I would find out?” He was appalled.
“It was only supposed to be that night. Then Friday, after school – well
– she had met some friends for a few drinks a couple of games of pool.
When she got to the apartment to pick me up it was already 9:30. I
couldn’t let her drive.”
“I understand that, that still doesn’t answer my question. Why didn’t
you tell me?”
She got a very snotty teenage look on her face that read (for those that
haven’t seen it) ‘don’t ask me stupid questions’ which actually
translates to ‘don’t ask me question that will make me look bad’.
“You didn’t want me to know that Em is drinking.” He stated as an
“She is not an alcoholic.” Mattie defended.
Harm did not want to challenge her on that but clearly he thought she
had a drinking problem in addition to some other issues.
“The last thing you said to me was that you wouldn’t make it back until
today - tonight.”
“So?” Harm was still waiting for the real explanation.
“She would have been gone this morning. You never would have known.”
“Mattie that is not the point.” He shook his head. “The point is that
you lied to me.”
“No, I didn’t.”
“You didn’t tell me the truth and that is the same as lying.”
“Mattie.” He shook his head. “I thought we had trust.”
“I don’t see it that way. I see that you abused my faith in you again –
“Jennifer?” Mattie looked worried. “What does she have to do with this?”
“Jennifer looks out for you while I am gone --.”
“YOU ARE ALWAYS GONE.”
“We talked about that Mattie. You know I have to travel for my work. You
said you could handle it.”
Mattie looked frustrated and surly. “So what about Jennifer. She wasn’t
even here. She’s out of town.”
“Exactly. If she were, what do you think she would have said about Em
staying with us?”
Mattie shrugged. She knew the answer; Jennifer would have suggested that
she clear it with Harm.
“You took advantage of the trust we placed in you.”
“It is not like I had a party with a hundred of my friends and trashed
the place.” She blurted out. “It was Em.”
“I know, and I know that she is the adult and should be more responsible
– but you are wise enough to know that you did something wrong.”
“I’m always wrong in your eyes.” She stood up. “I can’t do anything
He stood up with her and reached his hand out gently to catch her arm.
“That is not true.”
“Yes it is.” She snapped back.
“Mattie please, I just want to talk about this.”
“There is nothing to talk about.” She said defiantly. “I’ll clean your
place up – I was going to anyway – and Em is leaving.”
“Mattie, do you think I care about my apartment? Do you think I care
that a woman who is pretty close to a stranger to me has been living in
my house for the past couple of days without my knowledge? Do you think
that is why I am upset?”
“Mattie, I care about you and I care that you didn’t feel you could tell
me something – something that involved me. That you lied to me.”
She shook her head and looked away.
“Mattie please – I am not good at this. You have to help me … at least
meet me halfway.”
She was silent.
“I don’t know what I am supposed to say or do here.” Harm pleaded. He
was at a loss. He wasn’t her father and he wasn’t even sure if his legal
guardianship would hold up in court. All he was, was a man who wanted to
help her and if she would not let him help there would be little he
could do. He didn’t have a leg to stand on other than the fact that he
genuinely cared about what was best for Mattie.
She looked up at him and smiled. “You want to wring my neck, don’t you?”
“That is one impulse.” He smiled. “But the bigger one is, I want to know
why you lied to me – again.”
“When have I lied to you before?”
“About your mother’s accident.”
Mattie stood up again and pushed the chair back so hard it fell over.
“She was not driving. She never would have driven. She promised me that
she would never – she wasn’t – it was him.”
“No.” She screamed. “No. You shut up about that! You don’t know
ANYTHING.” She stormed out of the restaurant.
Harm caught up with her a block and a half later. “Mattie, WAIT!”
“Look, Harm – forget it – this isn’t working for me – and it clearly
isn’t working for you. I am going to Alaska with Em.”
“Mattie, please – don’t say that. You don’t mean it.”
“I do mean it. You don’t want me.”
“Yes I do.” He tried to correct her but she would not hear it.
“You have never wanted me. I am in the way.”
“You are never around and when you are around you have nothing to say to
me. All I am is someone to make arrangements for – someone to set rules
for – that’s it.”
“That is not true.”
“Yes it is – should have gotten a plant – a Chia Pet.”
“Mattie stop it.” He tried to reach out to take her arm and she pulled
“It was a stupid idea anyway – you and me – my father is getting out of
rehab in a month. He won’t let me stay with you and I won’t go live with
him – so I am going to Alaska with Em.”
“Mattie we can work this out.”
“No, Harm.” Her face was cold and hard. “We can’t.”
Harm saw the resolve in her eyes and had no idea if she really meant it
or if she were just trying to get out dealing with the real stuff.
1401 ZULU - Wednesday, April 28, 2004
Dr. Gates Madden’s Office
Central Intelligence Agency
“Welcome back, Colonel.” The doctor said as she made herself comfortable
behind the desk. “Was wondering if I scared you off the last time.”
“You do have a uniquely relentless ….”
“Like a Pitbull with a bone.” Mac corrected. “You gave me a few things
to think about.”
“I’ll take that as a victory.” The doctor said playfully. “So, you are
“I wanted to discuss your theories about my relationship with Clayton
Webb.” Mac stated coldly.
“You writing a dissertation on the matter?” Madden asked.
“You are talking about the man you love like you were doing research on
which car to buy.”
“We broke up.” Mac stated triumphantly.
“And you want me to tell you if you did the right thing?”
Mac laughed. “If you could, they aren’t paying you enough.”
“They aren’t anyway.” The doc confirmed. She was beginning to like Mac.
“I have no theories or answers, just questions.”
“You tell me, why did you break up with him?”
Mac was prepared for this. “The short answer to that is that we weren’t
looking for the same thing in a relationship.”
“He wanted a lover, I wanted a husband.”
“You think your lover can’t be your husband?”
Mac laughed. “I expect my husband to be my lover – but he will be a lot
more than that.”
“A partner in life, someone to make plans with, to raise a family with,
to rely on – someone to rely on me.” She took a deep breath. “Someone I
can grow old with and like, admire and respect as much as love.”
The doc nodded. “So Webb wasn’t that man and you ended it.”
“Was that fair to him?”
Mac was surprised. “To him?”
“Yeah, to him.”
“It was fair to myself.” She nodded slowly. “And yes, to him.”
“How was it fair to the both of you?”
“We wanted different things, we both would have been miserable expecting
something from the other that they weren’t willing to give.”
“Yeah, good.” The doctor leaned back in her chair. “That was a rational,
normal, adult thing to do about a relationship that is not satisfying.
Did you discuss it or did you spring that on him too?” The doctor
Mac smiled back, she was beginning to like Gates Madden too. “We
actually discussed it.” Mac felt pretty proud of herself.
Clay and Mac actually did a lot of talking on the plane to New York.
They did some good clear-headed dialogue that was not complicated by
phone calls, assignments, drinking or sex. They were – for the first
time since Sadik was killed – able to really communicate about where
they were, what happened to them and where they were headed as a couple.
It was obvious to both of them that they didn’t want the same things,
that they were not headed in the same direction and that it was neither
one’s fault. They were two people who shared a harrowing experience that
brought them closer. Because of the gravity of the events, the
seriousness, the life and death matters – they thought those feelings
were enough to keep them going in the ‘real world’, but they weren’t.
And it was OK. Neither had regrets about the other.
Mac continued. “We discussed it a lot and we will remain friends.”
“So what is the long answer?” The doctor was not going to let it go.
Mac got up and went to the window. “The long answer is more about the
difference between Clay and me. The way we approach life, where we draw
our lines and set our boundaries.” She looked back at the doctor.
“Agents live in the shadows, the grays of life and marines live in the
black and white.”
“Do you consider yourself only a Marine?”
“No, but I am more comfortable living with boundaries.”
Mac thought for a moment. “I posed as his pregnant wife, but it was all
for show. The line between the assignment and the personal is much
clearer to me than it is to Webb.”
“You think he would have blurred those lines?”
“I know it.” She looked the doctor in the eye. “I have seen him blur
those lines.” She tried to remember the pain she felt at seeing Webb in
Paris, but it was gone. “I have been witness it to it from all sides.”
“Witness or victim?”
“I am not a victim.” She stated plainly.
The doc moved on. “Do you think his lack of boundaries comes with being
an agent or is it comment on Webb’s character?”
“Maybe a little of both.” Mac looked away. “It makes him a good agent. …
And why I would not be.”
“Where are your lines, Colonel?” the doctor asked. “What are your
Mac’s eyes fixed on a point in the parking lot. It was actually a red
corvette with a black ragtop. She thought for a moment it was Harm’s.
She hadn’t seen or talked to him since Sicily. She thought about their
conversation in the dark and her confession. His words still echoed in
her head ‘Sarah, I believe in you.’ She felt safe enough to brave the
same confession again. “I killed a man in cold blood.” She said softly.
“I didn’t need to kill him, I wanted him dead.”
The doctor sat silent.
“There is no question that he was a dangerous man and had done
despicable things in the past and would have continued to seek his
vengeance on the innocent people of the world. But I murdered him.” She
looked back at the doctor. “I have to live with that for the rest of my
The doctor still sat silent waiting for her question to be answered.
“That is a line that I never thought I would cross.”
“And?” She asked gently.
“And I never would have, if I had --.” Mac words trailed off. What she
was thinking was that she never would have if she hadn’t gone on that
assignment with Clay, if she had listened to Harm when he asked her not
to go. How different this whole last year would have been if when Harm
said ‘I don’t want you to go,’ she asked him why and stayed to hear the
Mac looked back to the doctor. “I am sleeping better at night.”