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Chapter 4

Mrs. Rabb busied herself preparing dinner and doing a little organizing in her kitchen. Mac slept in the chair by the fireplace with her feet propped up on the ottoman. Her head rested easily on the back of the chair. Just then Mrs. Rabb glanced up and saw her grandson walking purposefully up the drive. His jaw was set and there was a look of determination in his eyes. Mrs. Rabb watched until he disappeared from sight and ascended the front steps. She made her way to the door and opened it just as Harm reached for the doorknob. Harm looked a little confused as Mrs. Rabb placed a finger to her lips and nodded toward Mac sleeping peacefully in the chair. Harm’s face softened when he looked at her. The look was not lost on his grandmother and she motioned for him to follow her into the kitchen.

They sat down at the kitchen table with Harm sitting so that he could see Mac. She looked so small sitting in that chair covered with his grandmother’s favorite throw quilt.

“Harmon,” Mrs. Rabb said, pulling Harm from his reverie. “I’ve invited Mac to stay here this week with me.” Harm looked from her to Mac and felt such a relief that once again he felt tears sting his eyes. Mrs. Rabb continued.

“She has told me about her condition and that she is to have surgery a week from Tuesday. Harm, she seems so tired and so much in need of someone to take care of her. Frankly, I’ve never seen anyone more world weary than she seems to be.”

Harm nodded. “She’s been through a lot.”

“It appears that you both have,” Mrs. Rabb got up from the table to gather the dishes to set it for dinner. It was nearly dark and her roast was nearly ready for their evening meal.

“I’m going to make a phone call to our acting CO and get this cleared with him,” Harm started toward the phone on the wall.

“She called and spoke with Sturgis earlier. He asked that you call him when you got back. Is Sturgis your acting CO?”

“Yeah, he’s temporary JAG until the new one is sworn in. Who knows how long that will be? He’s still before the Senate appointing committee,” Mrs. Rabb raised her eyebrows in surprise and looked at him.

“He’s letting it go to his head, too,” Harm added.

Mrs. Rabb chuckled quietly. “Oh, I don’t know, Harm. I always thought our *serious* Sturgis was CO material.”

“I’m going to get the cordless phone out of the guest room and make that phone call.”

Harm went quietly up the stairs so he would not disturb Mac. When he replaced the phone in the handset after his conversation with Sturgis, he saw the picture his grandmother has placed on the dresser. The picture was one of his mother and father. They were laughing and looking into each other’s eyes. She was very pregnant and he was behind her reaching around her tummy. They looked so happy and the love was evident on both their faces. He picked it up and looked more closely. *This is what I want,* he thought. He had shown Renee the picture before. He had a smaller one at home in his apartment. Renee had made some comment about the prize in the Cracker Jack box. She didn’t get it. He didn’t know why he was surprised. He looked at the other framed picture of his grandparents. The love was evident there too.

“Hey, stranger,” Mac had quietly entered the room.

Harm was startled and looked quickly up at her. “Hey, yourself,”

“I’m sorry. I didn’t mean to sneak up on you. I’ll just go back downstairs,” She turned to leave the room.

“No, Mac, wait. I was just getting a look at my parents and grandparents.” He held up the picture of his parents and asked, “Have you ever seen this picture?”

Mac smiled sheepishly. “Yeah, I saw it sticking up out of a book in your office once. I couldn’t resist. They looked so happy and you look so much like your father. I just had to get a closer look.”

Harm walked toward her carrying the picture. He handed it to her, and she looked at it and then up at Harm.

“That’s what I want, Mac. I want the real thing,” Harm said. “I won’t settle for anything less and I don’t want you to either,” he passed by her and out of the bedroom door. Mac followed him back down stairs, carrying the picture with her.

Dinner was as wonderful as breakfast and lunch had been. Country fare to be sure: beef roast and green beans with potatoes. Mrs. Rabb had canned the beans herself after she had picked them from her own garden. Much to Mac’s astonishment, Harm ate a little bit of the beef roast.

“I wish I had a camera,” Mac said. “You’re just full of surprises, Harm.”

“Well, back at ya, Mackenzie,” Harm gave her a sly smile. Mac blushed and looked away. Harm cursed himself when he remembered then where they had said those words. He looked at her and was relieved to see she wasn’t offended by their mention at all. “I spoke with Sturgis while you were freshening up for dinner,”. So….. You’re going to make me drive all the way back to Washington by myself, are you?”

“Well, Mrs. Ra…I mean Sarah asked me to stay, and you know how I’ve enjoyed being here. I really can’t believe how much I’m sleeping.”

“I’m just teasing, Mac. I glad you’re staying,”

“That makes two of us,” Mrs. Rabb said as she rose from the table.

Mrs. Rabb had turned on the radio. Soft jazz filled the room as they cleared the table.
“Let me clean this up, Sarah. You’ve been so kind today and I’d like to do a little something to pay you back,” Mac said

“I’ll help her, Grandma,” Harm was trying to shoo his grandmother out of the room.

“I’ll just grab another cup of coffee and catch up on my reading,” Just then a song that seemed familiar to Mrs. Rabb came on the radio. It was called “A Little Sugar” by Nina Simone. “She reminds me of Billie Holiday. I loved her voice” Mrs. Rabb closed her eyes and swayed a little bit on her way to the living room singing “want a little sugar in my bowl”.

“Grandma!” Harm said, blushing furiously. Mrs. Rabb laughed, “Oh, Harmon, honestly, you wouldn’t be here if it weren’t for that*little bit of sugar.*”

Harm turned and walked quickly to the sink. Mrs. Rabb turned at the entryway and looked at Mac. She said, “Harmon thinks we found him in the cabbage patch.”

Mac and Mrs. Rabb laughed even harder, and Harm said, “I hope you two are having a good time.”

Mac looked at Harm, “Yes, we are,” laughing heartily as she finished clearing out the kitchen.

Harm pretended to be offended for about 30 seconds and then laughed right along with her. He thought that it was so good to hear her laugh and to do something with her as simple as cleaning up the kitchen.

They settled in the living room on the couch which sat in front of the fireplace, jazz still playing on the radio. They each settled into a corner of the couch, Harm with his legs stretched out and Mac sitting Indian style. Just then there was a knock on the door. Harm answered the door to find Sam O’Reilly waiting.

“What’s going on, Sam?” Harm asked.

“Hello, Harm, I’m sorry to bother you so late but I’ve got a flat and I’m just down the road. I was wondering if you wouldn’t mind giving me a hand. I could handle it myself, but the car slid off of the road a bit and I may need a push once I get that tire on.”

Sam looked a bit embarrassed to have to ask. Harm put him at ease immediately, and as he got his jacket, he introduced Mac to Sam. He left with Sam and returned in less than a half a hour.

Mrs. Rabb had missed their visitor. She had fallen asleep in her bedroom with an Agatha Christie novel on her lap.

Harm hung up his jacket in the kitchen and washed his hands. Mac smiled at him as he entered the room and asked, “Are you cold?”

Harm answered as he rubbed his hands together, “It’s not too bad out there, maybe in the high 40’s. It’s a perfect fall night, really.”

Mac stood and walked toward him. She reached for his hands. “Your hands are freezing.”

Harm felt the warmth in her touch and could not resist pulling her into his arms. “Mmmm, you’re so warm. Come here and spread some of that around,” Harm said, chuckling as he rubbed briskly on her back to warm his hands. Mac laughed and rubbed his back too. They stepped away from each other after a moment and sat back down on the couch.

Harm turned to Mac. “Hey, where are you going? I’m not warmed up yet.” Mac scooted closer to Harm and tucked her shoulder under his. He pulled her into his embrace and she circled her arms around his waist.

“Much better,” Harm said, chuckling deep in his chest.

“Yes, I think I like it better too.”

Harm rubbed his hands up and down her back and asked, “Does your back feel okay like this?”

Mac, touched by his concern, answered. “I’m fine, but if you want to give me a little mini back rub, I wouldn’t object.”

A slow sly smile spread across Harm’s face. “Just what is a mini back rub, Mac?”

Mac blushed and raised her head and looked at him. “Okay, Sailor, if you’re going to give me a hard time…”

Harm pulled her close to him again. “Okay, okay, I get it.”

They sat curled up in each other’s arms for some time. Mac never asked if he was warm enough and Harm never asked if she wanted him to stop rubbing her back. They both loved where they were. It had been an emotional day for both of them. There was more to say, but they were in silent agreement that they would enjoy the moment and let tomorrow take care of itself. Mrs. Rabb had been right about many things, one of them being that they had been through a lot and they both needed to rest.

So, in the warmth of that room, in the safety of each others arms, rest they did.

Harm lay awake watching the colors of the sky change from darkness to the dawn. He had been awake for nearly an hour. He and Mac had slept all night on the couch. They had gradually shifted to lying spoon fashion with Mac’s head resting securely in the crook of his left arm as he had folded it around her. In her sleep she lightly held on to his forearm and Harm rested his right hand on her hip. She felt so good in his arms. Her body felt fragile and much slimmer than she had been in a long time, but it still curved in all the right places and fit to his as though they had been made for each other.

He thought he should get up. He knew he had better get up and quickly before his grandmother came out of her bedroom. ‘I sound like a teenager worried about grandma catching me making out on the couch,’ he thought. He wanted just a few more minutes. A year ago he would have given anything to be lying here like this with her.

Just then Mac woke and stretched a little and looked at Harm over her shoulder. “Hey there, Sailor.”

Harm looked down into her eyes and Mac saw them darken with desire. “Hey,” he whispered.

Mac then realized that her stretch, as she woke, might have triggered a response she wasn’t quite ready for. She blushed and sat up on the side of the couch with her back toward Harm.

“I guess I better get upstairs and get ready for breakfast,”

Harm looked at Mac, a little embarrassed himself, and said, “Uh, yeah, I’ll be up in a minute.” Mac stood and walked toward the stairs and quickly up to her room without looking at Harm at all. Harm rolled to his back and rolled his eyes. “Whew,” he thought.

Mrs. Rabb had been true to her word and had made her famous apple fritters. Mac came down the stairs following the wonderful aroma of coffee and pastries baking. *This is heaven,* she thought with a smile. Harm was still showering and Mrs. Rabb sat at the table as though waiting for her. She rose and took a plate and a cup from her cupboard and invited Mac to sit down. They exchanged pleasantries and Mac praised her apple fritters. They were heavenly and Mrs. Rabb feigned modesty but Mac knew she was proud of one of her specialties. Harm had told her about his grandmother’s baking skills.

Mrs. Rabb rose from the table and placed her cup and saucer in the sink. She said, “Well, it’s time I got ready for church. You’re welcome to come along, Mac.”

“I don’t know. I don’t really think I should. It might be a little awkward,” Mac said.

Mrs. Rabb smiled and walked up beside her. “Now, honey, you don’t think they’re going to grab you by your collar and drag you down to the altar, do you?” Mrs. Rabb laughed with that comment and started toward her bedroom.

“It wouldn’t be the first time someone tried to *save the heathen*,” Mac said.

Mrs. Rabb turned and laughed with Mac. “It’s up to you, Mac. You’re certainly welcome to come with us, or if not, you can make yourself at home here.”

Harm waited in the living room. He had dressed in dark gray slacks with a steel grey shirt. Just then his grandmother descended the stairs. She could still make quite an entrance. She looked beautiful. She had pulled her hair back and up from her neck. Her hair was different shades of silver grey, accentuating her coloring and features. She wore a pant suit of periwinkle that brought out the blue in her eyes. Harm looked up at her and smiled while shrugging into his jacket.

“Are you about ready?” he asked.

He saw Mac emerge from the guest room in a beautiful russet red dress, carrying a duster that matched it in color.

“I guess I’ll tag along after all,” Mac said.

Harm closed his mouth and swallowed, and Mrs. Rabb said “Great – come along, we better hurry if we want to make it on time.”

Harm composed himself quickly at the thought of his grandmother driving. “I’ll drive, if it’s okay with you, grandma.” Mrs. Rabb acquiesced and got into the SUV, thinking, ‘He thinks he’s fooling me but he isn’t. I’ll let him drive; I’m feeling too good to argue.’

The little church was only about 15 minutes from the farm. It was small and appeared to be an older building. It was clean and well kept. Mac and Harm followed Mrs. Rabb into the sanctuary. As they walked in, people already in the room seemed to automatically turn toward them. Some of the parishioners came to say hello. They were friendly but not overly so. Some of them had known Harm as a boy. One said as he nodded toward Harm, “Sarah, he sure has your looks,” causing nearly identical sheepish grins and blushes from Harm and his grandmother. They sat down with Mac sitting between them. Harm had slipped his hand into hers and Mrs. Rabb rested her arm on the pew behind her. Mac sighed quietly and Harm looked down at her. He smiled at her and Mrs. Rabb patted her back as she turned to greet someone across the isle.

The service went smoothly. The songs were the standards Mac had heard before, though she and her family did not attend church when she was a child. There were many conflicting religions for one family. ‘It’s hard to be a practicing Muslim when your name is Mackenzie,’ she thought. The pastor was younger than she expected, about Harm’s age. He was friendly and appeared to be a happy man. He greeted Harm and his visitor from the pulpit. He said,

“We’re glad to have Mrs. Rabb’s grandson with us once again. My goodness, this makes about 4 Sundays in a row, doesn’t it?” Harm blushed and the congregation chuckled along with Mrs. Rabb.

The sermon was short, much to Mac’s relief, and they were on their way back to the farm by eleven-thirty. One thing that the pastor had said stuck with Mac, though. He said that people always looked for God in the light, in the good things in life. But he said that God was there in the darkness too “Though I make my bed in hell, thou art with me.”

When they returned home, Mac was bone tired again. She excused herself and went to lie down for a while before lunch. Harm and his grandmother sat on the front porch looking out at yet another beautiful day.

Harm said, “Grandma, I want to thank you again for inviting Mac to stay this week. I can’t think of anything that would be better for her than this place.”

Mrs. Rabb thought for a moment and said, “I’m not sure why I felt so strongly that I should ask her to stay. As I said before, I don’t think I’ve ever seen anyone so weary and apparently so alone.”

Harm looked down at his feet and then stood up. “Mac has had a very rough early life – there is so much to tell and I feel as though I would be betraying her trust if I told you. I have the feeling she will in her own time. She seems so comfortable here – I don’t want to do anything that would change that. Recent events and her health problems just seem to be the last straw for her. I just…I just want to be there for her, if she’ll let me.” Harm turned and stood at the porch railing, looking out.

Mrs. Rabb stood and walked over to him, putting her hand on his shoulder. “It looks as though you’re already being there for her, Harmon. I’ll help you both all that I can.” She thought for a long moment and asked, “She’s the one, isn’t she, Harm?”

Harm braced his hands on the porch rail and looked to the side at his grandmother. “Yes, she is.”

Mrs. Rabb smiled. “Whew! I never thought I’d live to see the day” She nudged him with her shoulder and they both began to laugh. She hugged her grandson and then sent him out to do a few chores. She decided that he *could* muck out the barn after all. He needed to work off those 2 apple fritters he ate that morning for breakfast.

The day had warmed considerably, and Harm was working up a pretty good sweat. He heard foot steps behind him and turned to see Mac climb up and stand on the lower fence rail. She had a towel in her hands, and as Harm stepped up to the other side of the fence, she wrapped it around his neck. He patted the sweat from his face and stepped even closer between the fence and a water trough. He leaned in a little closer to Mac, and without speaking Mac picked up the end of the towel. She lovingly smoothed it across his brow, down his cheek and neck. Her gaze fell to his mouth and she then looked up into his eyes. They both smiled … and then Mac saw the position that Harm was standing in. She kissed him softly on the mouth and gave him a mischievous grin. “You taste salty, Harmon, and I think you need a bath.” She gave him a shove backward and he fell straight into the water trough.

As soon as Harm hit the water Mac ran to the door of the barn, laughing hysterically all the way. She peeked around into the doorway to see Harm emerge from the water. He was wiping water out of his eyes and he looked up and locked eyes with Mac. He said in a quiet voice, “Okay, Mackenzie, that’s it.”

Mac’s mouth formed an “O” and she turned and started to run. Before she had run two steps Harm was out of the water and at the barn door. Harm caught her by her hips and turned her around. He pressed his wet body against her nice clean t-shirt and jeans and Mac squealed as she was covered in stagnant water and Harm’s sweat. Harm said, “Aw, come on, Mac, don’t I get a hug for all my hard work?”

“Harm! Stop it!” she said laughingly.

Harm gave her a devilish grin and said, “You’re just lucky I’m feeling generous, Ms. Mackenzie, or you’d be in the trough by now.”

Mac pushed away from Harm and said mockingly, “Oh, I know, *I know*, Harm and I *really* appreciate it!” She turned and ran toward the house, but not before Harm noticed how her wet t-shirt clung to her in all the right places. He slowly followed her into the house and said to himself, “That’s right, Mackenzie, you’re just lucky.”

Mrs. Rabb had made a light dinner of vegetable soup and sandwiches. Harm had begun to dread finishing dinner because he knew he had to get back to Washington. Mac had gone back upstairs and lay across the bed. The fatigue she was experiencing worried her and she was relieved that she didn’t have to try to hang on for another week. It had been harder and harder to get up and go in to work, and once she was back home she had little energy to do anything but sit on her couch. She heard Harm in the hall and rolled to her side. He stood in the doorway and sat his duffle bag outside the door. Walking over to the bed, he sat down and asked, “Do you need me to call anyone for you when I get back?”

Mac smiled. “No, Harm, I appreciate it but I’ve already called Cmdr. McCool and let her know what I’m doing. She is going to drop by and see me while I’m at Bethesda, after my surgery.”

Harm looked down, “You don’t have to answer this, but what does she think about your staying out here?”

“I don’t mind that you asked, Harm,”

Harm then stretched across the bed and faced her. He rested his head on his hand, “I’m going to miss you, Mac. It’s been so good to be here with you these past few days.”

“I’ve loved being here, Harm. I didn’t realize how exhausting my job had been for me lately. As much as I love my job, I have been pretty overwhelmed by it in addition to this health problem I’ve had. I’ve been feeling lost lately because prior to this illness, I felt that my job was who I was. The seriousness of the situation has made me realize that I will have to concentrate all my energies into recovering from this….thing.”

Harm noticed that she could not say the word ‘cancer.’ She continued, “I know I’m in for a battle now, and now that I’m beginning to get my bearings I think I can fight it. I can’t tell you what this weekend has meant to me or how much I’ve needed it.”

Harm smiled and tucked a lock of her hair behind her ear. He said, “I think I understand.” He leaned forward and kissed her forehead and then sat up on the side of the bed.

Mac thought that he looked so sad. “I’ll be fine, Harm.” He stood and walked to the door.

He turned and looked at her again and said “I know.” He paused and smiled a sad smile. “You just won’t be with me.”

Harm walked down the stairs, said goodbye to his grandmother, and headed back toward Washington D.C. He would miss her a great deal, but was comforted by the fact that she was with the person he trusted most in the world.


Chapter 5

Interstate 76 East
Somewhere in Pennsylvania


Harm drove toward Washington D.C. deep in thought. It had been nearly dark when he left Belleville. It was a beautiful evening, the sky streaking deep blue, orange and yellow as the sun set. He needed to get back to his life. Mattie would be home probably before he was. He was ready for Monday, but not a Monday without Mac. He supposed he had better get used to it, though he was not looking forward to it

It was nearly 2330 as he neared the Beltway when his cell phone rang. Mattie was calling to check in. “Hey, sorry I’m running so late, kiddo. Did you have a good weekend?”

Mattie answered, “Yeah, it was okay. I spent some time with some cousins I haven’t seen in a while. I’ve got a paper due in the morning, so I’m going to go.”

Harm’s brow creased with concern. “Hey, I thought you were finished with that.”

Mattie answered quickly, “I just want to go over it one more time. I’m turning into a perfectionist, like someone else I know.”

Harm smiled. “Alright, I’ll let you slide this time, but you need to get in bed, kiddo. You should have been asleep a long time ago.”

Harm hung up and soon was on the Beltway. It had been a long drive. It took much longer coming back than it had driving out on Friday night.

He was just a few blocks from home when his cell phone rang again. Harm thought, ‘Mattie? What is she still doing up?’ He answered, “Hey, kiddo, what are you doing still up?”

Mac answered, “Well, *Dad*, I’m sorry. I just called to say goodnight.”

His heart squeezed at the sound of her voice. “What are *you * still doing up, Mackenzie?” Harm teased.

“I was just falling asleep when I remembered that I never answered your question. The one about what Cmdr. McCool thought about my staying here. You distracted me,”

“Okay, how did I manage that?” Harm was having fun.

“Let me answer your question first,” She sounded sleepy and her voice was just husky enough to make him want to turn around and go back to Belleville.

“Go ahead then,”

“She was really pleased that I decided to do this. She had wanted me to begin my medical leave at the beginning of last week. She thought that if I didn’t take time before the surgery that I would go into it emotionally and physically exhausted.”

Harm was quiet for a moment. “You would have done that if you hadn’t come with me this weekend.”

“I know, Harm, but now I’m all tucked in, dreaming about your grandmother’s *heavenly* pastries with a nice big cup of coffee that I’ll be having first thing in the morning.” She chuckled sleepily as she spoke.

Harm thought that she sounded so sexy that he wanted to climb into bed with her right then. “Oh, hey, that’s not fair,”

She continued to laugh at him. “I guess I’ll let you go, Harm.”

“Oh, Mac…don’t do that,” Harm said mischievously.

“Goodnight, Flyboy.”

“Good night, Mac.” Harm turned into his parking space at his apartment. The apartment may have been empty but he did not feel alone.


Jag HQ
Falls Church, Virginia


Harm stepped off of the elevators and into the bullpen. He saw Mac’s empty office and it struck him how she had looked the last time he saw her here. She looked so much different now when he pictured her in his mind. She’d looked drawn and tired on Friday night. On Sunday morning she’d looked so beautiful. Her beautiful dark hair, down to her shoulders, softly curled and framing her face. Somehow, over the weekend, he felt he had gotten to see the Sarah under the Marine. The miracle was that he did not have to push her. It just seemed to happen. On the farm they were just Harm and Mac, with Grandma throwing in just enough humor to make them laugh at themselves.

“Commander Rabb,” Petty Officer Jennifer Coates called to Harm across the bullpen. “Commander Turner would like to see you right after staff call, sir”

“Thank you, Petty Officer.” Harm internally shook him self and decided it was time to get his head in the game.

Staff call was uneventful. Cases were pretty evenly divided. Mac had done an excellent job handing over the few cases she had. She had spoken to Bud over the weekend as well as Sturgis, so the transition was almost seamless. Harm was a little puzzled that she hadn’t handed anything over to him. She had been avoiding him prior to Friday night so maybe she felt this was another way to have as little contact as possible. Their caseload was not as heavy as it had been, so no one was really overloaded.

Petty Officer Coates buzzed into the interim JAG’s office. “Commander Rabb to see you, sir.”

“Thank you, Petty Officer,” Sturgis said. “Send him in.”

Harm walked into the office to see Commander Sturgis Turner sitting behind the desk formerly occupied by Adm. AJ Chegwidden. It seemed to Harm that anyone besides Adm. Chegwidden sitting behind that desk looked small, and that included him. Sturgis nodded toward one of the chairs and instructed Harm to sit down.

“We’ve got a number of things to cover, Harm, so I’ll just get right to it. About Mac, I’ll be replacing her as chief of staff when the new JAG takes office. He is expected to be approved by the committee by mid- November. The process is just being dragged out so that senators on both sides of the aisle can get some grandstanding in before the election.”

Harm smirked and shrugged his shoulders.

“Harm, I hope you know the decision about my taking over Mac’s position as chief of staff was a surprise to me. I didn’t know until this morning that that decision had been made before Adm. Chegwidden had officially left JAG.”

“Sturgis, I’m fine with this. I don’t have a problem at all. I expect to have a pretty full plate personally for the next 6 months, and I really have all I can handle now,”

Sturgis thought for a moment and said, “Harm, I know you’re going to want to be there for Mac when she has her surgery next week. I think I can spare you the day of, but I won’t be able to spare you for any extended leave until our two new attorneys have been on board for at least a month. Our total caseload will have a lot to do with that, too.”

Harm’s brow furrowed, and he looked at Sturgis. “I hadn’t really thought about that yet. I don’t expect to ask for any leave immediately. I guess Mac and I are taking this minute by minute. Thank you for considering letting me have the day of her surgery, though.”

Sturgis was relieved. He had expected Harm to be more difficult. “Please give Mac my best wishes when you speak to her. I still feel at a loss where she is concerned. She never will be an easy person, will she?”

“Well, I’ve heard of an old saying that says that no one worth their *salt* ever is. Will that be all?”

“That will do it for now. How is your grandmother anyway?” Sturgis smiled at the memory of a woman who had made him feel so welcome in her home.

Harm chuckled as they both stood. “She’s fine.”


Rabb Farm


Mac and Mrs. Rabb cleared the kitchen table after lunch. It had been a pleasant morning. Mac slept late. Mrs. Rabb used the time to prepare a good breakfast and to retrieve a box of photographs she had been thinking about since Mac had expressed an interest in Harmon’s family. It was hard to tell the story without putting faces on the people she was talking about. She thought of her family, of her mother and father gone so long ago. The Rabbs had literally saved her life and given her a home – a home she never dreamed she would have.

“Mac, while you were sleeping I thought I would try and find some things that might help tell you a little about our family. Why don’t we sit down and get ourselves a cup of coffee and I’ll get started?” Mrs. Rabb said as she took two mugs from her cupboard.

“That would be great. I really do want to know more and I didn’t want to ask again. I would have felt like I was prying,” Mac said.

They sat down and Mrs. Rabb opened the box. It was large, about 18 inches long and 5 inches deep. It had been covered with a pretty rose patterned cloth. Mrs. Rabb removed the lid to reveal a box divided in half. One half held letters: three bundles each tied together with a ribbon. The other half held pictures; there were small stacks and booklets in black and white and in color.

Mrs. Rabb reached for a booklet of photos. The cover was worn and appeared very old. She opened the first page of the booklet. The picture was of a man and a woman. The man and woman were of similar height. They were well dressed and a little girl stood in front of them. The couple had dour expressions on their faces, and on the child’s face, there was such an expression of sadness that Mac could feel the pain. She looked at the picture for a moment and then said,

“Oh my, who is this poor little girl?”

Mrs. Rabb answered, “That was taken when I was 6 years old.”

“Oh, I’m sorry.” Mac blushed.

Mrs. Rabb laughed. “It’s alright, honey. It was a sad time. That was taken two days after the stock market crashed. My father refused to believe that our family’s financial situation was a bad as it was. He paid the man who took that picture and tipped him nearly twenty dollars. My mother was terrified of being poor. She was terrified of my father. By the time reality set in, my father had spent all he had saved. He sold insurance and held an administrative office in his company. His company went belly up as a lot of them did. So many people were without work. It may be hard to believe but some people *in America* starved to death during the depression...” Mrs. Rabb bowed her head and then looked up.

“You don’t have to talk about this.”

“No, I think it would help you to know, I had a very tough time when I was very young. I was not always so *solid*. After my father lost his job, he began to drink. My mother withdrew into herself and stopped speaking to either of us. She was a child of privilege. She saw everything she knew crumble right before her eyes. She had always had a nanny for me. She had to let her go when my father lost his job. She could not relate to me at all.”

Mrs. Rabb sat quietly for a long moment and then said, “She hung herself.”

Mac drew in a breath sharply. “The bank was foreclosing on our house. We were to vacate the next day. She could not do it. She did not know how to live in a world without the safety of money and privilege. I found her.”

Mac said, “Oh, God, Sarah, how awful for you. You were just a child.”

“I was eight years old. We stayed in our house for nearly two years after the crash. My father had some connections but they only took him so far. He only put off the inevitable. He was a dreamer of the worst kind. There are good dreamers, people who work to make their dreams come true. The bad dreamers don’t do the work it takes to fulfill their dreams and blame everyone but themselves.”

Mrs. Rabb turned the page in the booklet.

The picture was of Mrs. Rabb’s father and of her standing together near what looked to be a pasture.

“I was twelve years old in that picture. It was taken just out on the edge of this property. My father was going out west to look for work and I was *hired out* to the Rabbs.” Mrs. Rabb looked at the picture and said, “I never saw my father again after that day. I worked for my room and board. I knew my father would never come back. All I could think about was growing up so that I wouldn’t have to depend on anyone else to take care of me.”

“What happened between the time your mother died and when you came here?”

Mrs. Rabb drew a deep breath and said, “Well, my father and I moved to a flat just above a bar. He played cards, tended bar and drank up what little he made. I ate enough to keep me alive. I did not go to school.” Mrs. Rabb looked at the picture of her and her father again. “The day he left me here was the best day of my life up to that point.”

She turned the page to a picture of a very tall boy with thick, light colored hair. Something about him looked familiar to Mac but she could not say why. The boy was scowling. The girl who stood beside him was Sarah Rabb.

“This was the first picture David and I ever had taken together,” Mrs. Rabb said as she chuckled under her breath. “We didn’t like each other very much when we first met. I was 13 years old and he was 16. He had been away at school. I thought he was a brat and he thought I was a nag.

Mary and Andrew Rabb wanted the best for their son and they did everything they could to make it happen. Andrew was an electrician and worked for a coal mining company, and he and Mary ran this farm as well. David worked as much as he could while he was home during the summer.”

She turned the next page to a picture of a very tall man standing behind a very petite woman with his hands on her shoulders. “Mary Rabb and her husband Andrew. The people who literally saved my life. I know if I had not come here I would never have survived. Andrew stood 6 feet 6 inches and Mary was only 4 feet 11 inches. They were a pair.”

Mac stifled a yawn. “I’m so sorry, Sarah. I get tired so quickly lately.”

Mrs. Rabb placed the picture booklet in the box and covered it. “You should go lie down, Mac. It’s the perfect afternoon for a nap.”

A soft rain was falling outside and the sky was overcast grey. Mac stood and placed her cup in the sink. She walked to the doorway going toward the stairs she stopped and turned to look at her. “Thanks for sharing this with me, Sarah. It can’t have been easy for you to tell me.”

“I was a glad to do it and you are right. It is not an easy story, but one that will help you get to know us better.”

Mrs. Rabb followed Mac up the stairs and without thinking covered Mac as she lay down in the guest room. “Mac, don’t worry so much about how much you’re sleeping. You obviously need this rest. Take it.” Mac smiled and thanked Mrs. Rabb as she left the room.

Mac lay awake a short while after Mrs. Rabb left the room. She thought of the faces of the people she saw the pictures. The dour faces of the parents of Sarah Rabb. The contentment and goodness that shone on the faces of Harm’s great-grandparents. Sarah Rabb was one of the happiest people she had ever met but she had suffered terribly in her life. Mac felt that her life had been hard and even unfair but in the face of what Mrs. Rabb had just told her, she felt it paled in comparison. She shook her head turned to her side and went to sleep.


Harm’s Apartment
North of Union Station


Harm stretched out on his bed and drew a deep breath *Whew! What a day,* he thought. He was glad it was over. Mattie had gone back to hers and Coates’ place about a half an hour ago. His apartment was lights out and locked down. He was beat. He had to drive out to Annapolis in the morning to assist in the investigation of a sailboat mishap at the Academy. An Article 32 might be in order. He hadn’t reached a conclusion yet. He needed to bounce some ideas off Mac and see what she had to say….but she wasn’t here. He missed her and he wanted to talk to her and hear how her day went; he wanted to talk to her about his. Harm reached for his cell and called her on hers.

“Hey, sailor,” Mac said as she answered her cell phone. “What are you doing?”

Suddenly Harm felt self-conscious. “Hey, I… well, I just wanted to give you a call and just …”

Mac chuckled. “Harm, it’s okay. You don’t have to have an excuse to call, you know.”

“Yeah, I know.” Harm was breaking out in a sweat.

“Sure you do,” Mac laughed this time.

“Hey, stop giving me a hard time, Marine… I just wanted to talk to you and see how you’re doing,”

“Well, I guess I’ll cut you some slack since I really am glad to hear from you.”

Mac told him about her day and about the pictures Mrs. Rabb had shown her. She told him how tired she had been and her concerns about how much sleep she seemed to need. Harm told her what Sturgis had told him about his taking over chief of staff duties and when he thought the new JAG would assume office. He talked about his concerns about his case at Annapolis.

Mac did what she always did. She gave him an honest opinion and put the ball firmly back in his court. “How’s Mattie doing with her father on the weekends?”

“I think she’s doing okay with him. I really think this may work out better than I thought for everyone. She is definitely transitioning back to her father, but it’s a slow process. It’s giving me time to adjust as well. I don’t have to lose her all at once.”

Mac’s heart ached for him then. She was beginning to understand just how much Mattie meant to him. She was no project to Harm. He loved her like a daughter. They had both gained a great deal in the year they had known each other. She was proud of him and of Mattie and she told him so.

Harm was quiet for a moment, and then said, “Thanks, Mac.”

“You’re welcome,”

“Hey, I could get used to this,” Harm said with a sly smile.

“Well, call me tomorrow night and well see what I can come up with. You’re starting to sound tired too, Sailor,”

“I know I am, and don’t take this wrong but ….I wish you were here.” Harm blushed, though no one could see him.

Mac smiled and said, “Now, just how would you like me to take that, Harm?”

“Any way you want to, Mac. Goodnight.”

“Goodnight,” Mac shook her head as she closed her cell phone.


Chapter 6

Jag HQ


Harm sat at his desk waiting for his 1330 appointment to arrive. He and Alicia Montes were to review their case coming to trial very shortly. They might have a case after all, but he might not be the one to bring it to retrial. He’d flown out to Fort Leavenworth to interview Seaman Wainwright and reviewed his case file. He was also expecting someone else that he thought would contribute a great deal in shedding light on this difficult case.

Petty Officer Coates stepped into his doorway, “Sir, there is an Alicia Montes on line 6 for you.”

Harm looked up from his file, thanked the petty officer and answered the phone. “Rabb.”

“Hello, Harm, I’m calling to let you know I’ll be running a bit late. There were circumstances beyond my control. I’m at Dulles right now and with traffic I’ll be lucky to be there by 3. I’ve got some new information that a couple of my students were able to dig up that may help with the case.”

“That’s alright and actually I have some things I need to discuss with you. I think we need all the help we can get to blow the cobwebs from this case. 1981 was a long time ago. If you want to be heard, all bases have to be covered.”

“Great. See you at 3,” Alicia said and she hung up.

Harm sat looking at Seaman Wainwright’s psychological evaluation. He had a perfectly normal evaluation with the exception of one sentence at the end of the report. “Seaman Wainwright demonstrates mild control issues that may prove problematic should he not choose to address them.” Harm shook his head and thought, ‘One sentence in an otherwise normal evaluation cost this man over 20 years in Leavenworth.’

Harm turned his chair toward the window and leaned his head back. He thought about his and Mac’s conversation on the phone last night. So many things had been said that needed saying. It had been hard, but in the end, as Mac had said about their conversations before, *it felt as though a weight had been lifted from her shoulders.* They were talking about *control*.

They’d both lay in their prospective beds and spoke of the details of their day. Mac had touched on the subject of her upcoming surgery and her feelings of helplessness about the situation. He had said, “Sometimes there is no way around a situation. You just have to go through it.” Harm had tried to be reassuring. “There is always a way to get to the other side of a bad situation.”

He heard Mac sigh and say, “I’ve always envied your control, Harm. There were times I almost hated you for it. And don’t say *If you lose control in my world then you die.* I’m not talking about flying tomcats.”

Harm was floored by what she had said and reacted almost too quickly. The words poured out before he had a chance to think about them.

“I wasn’t talking about flying tomcats, Mac. I’m not feeling sorry for myself, so don’t misunderstand, but who would put me back together if I fall apart? My friends?…they wouldn’t even know me. My mom? I know she loves me but she is not a strong person. She never really knew what to do with me after Dad was MIA. Sometimes I think she gave me those letter tapes my dad sent her to get me out of her hair. She didn’t know what to say to me. I think after she married Frank, she just gave up. I know Mom did the best that she could, but I know from experience that when you’ve had to live like that for a very long time it is a hard pattern to break.”

Harm was quiet for a moment, and then said, “How much respect would you have for me if I lost control at the drop of a hat? I know you, Mac. I want your respect….I want a lot of things.”

The phone line was again silent.

Harm said “Mac? …Are you still there?”

It was Mac’s turn to be floored. “Yes I am, and no, Harm, I don’t want you to fall apart. I just want to know how you feel about me. I have felt for a long time that you purposely held yourself away from me, as though I didn’t quite measure up.”

“What?” Harm sputtered.

“Let me finish. I know you may not have meant it that way but that was the way it seemed to me. I know I threw you a lot of mixed signals, Harm. I also know that I blamed you for a lot of things that weren’t your fault. I’ve missed our friendship and the confidences we shared. I may not have known how you felt about me as a woman, but we knew each other better than anyone else. You didn’t have to explain things to me most of the time. I just knew, I knew you….until Singer was murdered. Harm I still can’t believe you shut me out completely.”

Harm sighed. “I am really sorry for that, Mac. When I look back on it now, I think it was almost the stupidest thing I’ve ever done. I was trying to handle it all myself. I was trying to save the world single handed. I don’t know who I think I am sometimes.”

“I know who you are. You’re a good man, who takes on too much at times. You are always there for me – Harm, I can’t believe you’re taking *this * on. It’s hard to see the worry on your face and know I’m the cause…”

Harm cut in and said, “Please don’t shut *me* out of this, Mac. This is not just obligation. I need to do this…I think I have to. You are not going through this alone.”

Mac said, “I appre..I’m glad…you’ve got me afraid to say *gratitude,* Harm.”

They both chuckled softly. “I understand what you’re saying, though,” Harm said as Mac yawned into the phone. “Hey, Tiger, sounds like you need to hit the rack.”

Mac agreed. “I know, I know, but I’m so glad we’re talking this through, Harm. It’s exhausting, but after were done, I feel as though a weight has been lifted from my shoulders. We don’t have to deal with all this hurt from the past anymore.”

Harm said, “I know what you mean.” Then he suddenly yawned and said, “I think I’m tired too. I better let you go for now.”

Mac smiled mischievously and said, “Oh, Harm…don’t do that.”

“Goodnight, Mackenzie,” he said. Mac said goodnight and hung up.

Harm was startled from his thoughts by a sharp rap on the door. He turned his chair and looked up to see Victor Galindez standing in the doorway of his office. He stood and offered him a chair, shaking his hand across the desk. “Gunny, it’s great to see you,” he said.

Victor Galindez smiled and said, “It’s Victor now, sir. At least until I get this knee back in condition.”

Harm looked puzzled. “I didn’t even see you limping, Victor. What’s going on with your knee?”

“Well, to put it plainly, sir, I got the hell shot out of it,” Victor said. “The damage was so bad that I had to have knee replacement surgery.”

Harm was amazed. “You appeared to have come through it with flying colors, although I don’t think you will be able to go back to a combat billet.”

Victor shrugged and said, “I just want to keep serving, sir. I might even get my self re-assigned here at JAG.”

Harm laughed. “You can drop the sir, Victor, at least while you’re working on this investigation.”

Just then Alicia Montes walked up to Harm’s office door. Harm said, “Alicia, please come in. I’d like you to meet Victor Galindez. He is an investigator that I wanted to bring onboard.”

Victor and Alicia exchanged pleasantries, and they settled in Harm’s office to organize their case and share information.

They had been working for about an hour and a half when Petty Officer Coates buzzed Harm on the intercom and said, “Cmdr. Rabb, Col. Mackenzie for you on 4.”

Harm looked up and answered his phone. “Hey, what’s up?” His face softened as he began to listen to his caller. The look on his face was not lost on either of his coworkers. Harm turned his chair to continue the conversation. Alicia heard Harm chuckle softly and his voice seemed to take on a quality she had never heard before.

“Of course not, I don’t mind at all…any time. Hey I’m in the middle of something here…Yeah, I’ll talk to you tonight. Bye.”

Harm turned his chair around and replaced the phone on its receiver. He was still smiling and then he seemed to realize his coworkers were watching him. He smiled sheepishly. “I’m sorry for the interruption. Where were we?”

Alicia answered him and said, “This whole case reads like the lawyer who tried it cheated his way through law school.”

“Who was it?” Victor asked.

“Commander Ted Lindsey,” Harm answered, causing Victor to raise his eyebrows.

“Oh.” Victor understood.

“Yeah, *Oh*. I didn’t know who defense counsel was until I was reviewing the file in the last couple of days. I wonder that Wainright hasn’t seen Lindsey there at Fort Leavenworth. We may really have a murder on our hands if their paths ever cross. I made a few phone calls, and in light of our history I think the case would be better served if I recused myself.”

Alicia was stunned. “What are you talking about, Harm?”

“Alicia, I was accused of murder about a year and a half ago. To make a long story short, it turned out that the murderer framed me. The murderer was Commander Ted Lindsey.”


Same day
Rabb farm


Mac and Mrs. Rabb walked down the gravel drive. They were enjoying the day. It was a beautiful fall day. The trees continued to turn russet red with splashes of yellow. They were walking down to the mail box when Mac asked,

“Where is that special place Harm goes to when he wants to think something out?”

Mrs. Rabb smiled and said, “Let me get the mail and I’ll show you.” After Mrs. Rabb got the mail she and Mac followed the creek to *Harm’s rock* and sat down. They didn’t climb up on it. They sat on the smaller stones near the water.

“So, Harm spent a lot of time here when he was younger?” Mac asked.

“Yes he did, especially the year Trish married his stepfather and also the year he had his accident.” Sarah Rabb sighed and shook her head. ”Poor Harm, he came and spent the summer with me when Trish and Frank were married. Sometimes I think that he had never completely forgiven her for moving on with her life. Poor Patricia, she tried but she was just not a strong person. I know she loved my son and there was a great deal of comfort in that. I know she loves Harm but she just doesn’t know what to do with him half of the time.”

Mac smiled her half smile and said, “What *do* you do with him?”

Mrs. Rabb laughed heartily and asked, “Don’t *you* know, Mac?” She began to laugh with her and they rose and started back toward the house. Mac thought ‘Well, now I know where Harm learned to be cryptic.’

They were nearly to the house when Mac asked, “Did you ever meet Diane, Sarah?”

Mrs. Rabb nodded the affirmative. “You and she bear a remarkable likeness. At least, I thought you did at first. The longer that you are here, though, the less I see the similarities.”

Mac raised her eyebrows and said, “Harm has said exactly the same thing.”

They entered the house and settled in the living room. Mac sat on the end of the couch and stretched her legs out after removing her shoes. Mrs. Rabb sat by the fireplace in the overstuffed chair.

“Diane was a very nice young woman. It was obvious she cared for Harmon a great deal. She came to visit while he was recovering from his ramp strike. She only stayed 2 days. She seemed to be almost afraid of him. He was so broken by what had happened that he was not his usual confident self. I don’t think she knew what to do about that. When she left Harmon was even more despondent. I was really starting to get concerned. I was just about to call a doctor when Harm seemed to gradually come out of it. He went down to his *place* to do some thinking, and after he came back he seemed to have a goal in mind. He asked me if he could restore “Sarah”. I think that decision probably saved his life. He has what his great grandfather Rabb called *gumption.*” Mrs. Rabb chuckled to herself.

“Sarah, I would love to hear more about your early life here and about Harm’s great grandparents. I know it was tough to talk about, but I just felt I knew and understood Harm so much better after hearing about them.”

‘I would be happy to, Mac. I would like you to think about something for a while, though. I know your surgery is coming up next week and you won’t know what your options are until after. I was hoping that you would consider letting me help you after your surgery.”

“Mrs. Ra..I mean, Sarah, I couldn’t ask.”

“You’re not asking, I’m offering. I want to help and you’re going to need it. I think this farm has done you a world of good and I think you know it. Just consider it and we’ll talk about it in the morning. Okay?’

Mac nodded and said “Okay.”


Harm’s Apartment
North of Union Station


Mattie and Harm put away the Scrabble game from the table. It was game night. Mattie once again made up words as she went. Harm pretended to be exasperated but it he enjoyed sparring with her. It was a game they played within the game.

“Have you heard anything about how you did on your paper that you turned in Monday?” Harm asked.

Mattie turned toward Harm and shrugged. “No, not yet. I really don’t expect to hear anything until Friday or maybe even Monday.”

“Well, I hope you did well, you certainly worked hard enough on it.” Mattie blushed a little bit, and Harm said, “You should be proud of yourself, kiddo. You’ve come a long way since last year.”

Mattie smiled and looked at Harm squarely in the eye. “Thanks. I think I’m doing pretty well too.”

“I need to talk to you about something, Mats. Come on over to the couch and sit down.”

Mattie thought *oh wow, I don’t like the sound of this*. “Mattie, you know that Mac is staying in Belleville with my grandmother.” Mattie nodded the affirmative. “What you don’t know is that she has been very ill for some time. She is having surgery this coming Tuesday at Bethesda. She has a tumor that has to be removed. They know it is cancer but they do not know if it has spread. They won’t know until after the surgery. She will require radiation at the very least and possibly chemo therapy.”

Harm waited to give Mattie time to absorb what he said. “I knew something was wrong but I didn’t realize how serious it was. She must be so scared.”

Harm nodded. “She’s holding her own pretty well. I think it has helped to be away and to be with my grandmother. She has a way with people when they’re hurting. The reason I’m telling you all of this is that I will be spending as much time as I can with her. I don’t want you to feel that I don’t want you or that I’m ignoring you.”

Mattie thought for a moment. “I think I understand Harm. I’m glad you can be there for her now. She doesn’t really have anybody, does she?”

“She’s got me.” Harm smiled and blushed a little bit.

“Have you told her yet?” she asked.

Harm stood and walked back to the kitchen. “We’re getting closer, Mattie, but no, not yet.”

“I’ll never understand you two,” Mattie said.

“Don’t worry about us, kiddo. We’re going to be alright. I also want to be sure you understand something. Mattie, I always want you in my life. I’m really glad you and your father are reconciling, but I hope you don’t think you have to choose between us. I’d like to think that I will continue to have some sort of role in your life.”

“Harm, I’m not going to shut you out of my life. I’m not sure what is going to happen with my dad. I just want to keep living my life, going to school and being with people I care about. I’m not in any hurry to change anything, and to be honest, I don’t think my Dad is either.”

Harm was so relieved that he sat down, drawing a deep breath and blowing it out slowly. “Thanks, Mattie. You’re getting pretty wise in your *old age*.”

“Thanks a lot, Harm. I’ll take that as a compliment,” Mattie said and with that bade Harm goodnight and headed back to her apartment.

Harm turned the all the lights out in the apartment but his bedside lamp. It was time to give Mac a call. He had been looking forward to it all day. He remembered her phone call at work today. It had been so good to hear her voice. After thinking about it, he wondered if Mac had just called to talk with him for a moment. The call could probably have waited. She had wanted to know if she could invite Chloe out to the farm the next time they went out there. It didn’t really matter, although it gave him a bit of a thrill knowing she just wanted to talk to him today and couldn’t wait until tonight. It had been quite a day.

Alicia had been more than surprised that he had removed himself from the Wainwright case. He felt he had made the right decision. If he were to be honest, he was relieved to be handing the case off to one of the new JAG attorneys starting on Monday. He and Alicia had a couple of working dinners and he knew she was interested in more than that. She was a beautiful woman. He had told her, in general terms, about there being someone in his life but had given no detail. It was just as well. Lt. Commander Faith Coleman would be assisting with the case. He smiled and thought, ‘Well, I hope she’s still speaking to me after their initial meeting.’ He shook his head and decided to get a shower and hit the rack. He liked talking with Mac just before he fell asleep. He had a lot to tell her tonight.

He had talked with Jack Keeter today. He had called out of the blue and could not have called at a better time. Harm had told him what was going on with Mac and JAG in general. Jack had offered him the use of his cabin on the Eastern Shore of Maryland.

“Maybe you two could use some time alone,” Jack had said. “There is no time like the present, Harm, and you’ve been in love with her almost from the first time you saw her. How much longer are you going to wait to tell her?”

“Yeah, yeah, I know. I’ll ask her about the weekend when I talk to her tonight, and if she’ll agrees, I’ll take you up on that offer.”

Jack and Harm discussed directions and how Harm would get the key. They made plans to get together when Jack got back to D.C. Before Jack hung up, Harm said, “Jack, thanks for offering us the cabin. I really appreciate it.”

“Think nothing of it, Rabb. I’ll see that I’m repaid later,” Jack said laughingly.

Harm leaned back on his pillows and sighed. ‘Well, here goes nothing,’ he thought. He picked up his cell phone and called Mac.

Mac answered on the first ring. *Not bad,* Harm thought with raised brows. “Hey,” Mac said.

“Hey, yourself. What have you been up to today?”

“Well, your grandmother and I walked out to the mailbox. We walked along the creek at the edge of the property and did a lot of talking. I caught up on my reading and believe it or not I only took one nap,”

“That sounds good. I had a very busy day but I saved the best for last.”

“Oh, is that right?” Mac smiled and settled back on her pillows.

Harm heard the springs on the old wrought iron bed squeak and asked, “Are you in bed, Marine?”

“Yeah, I like talking to you just before I go to sleep,” Mac confessed.

Harm was quiet for a moment and then said, “Mac, I have a question for you. How would you like to go to the Eastern Shore this weekend? Do you think you feel up to going down there for a couple of days?”

Mac was pleasantly surprised. “Wow, how did you manage a cabin on the Eastern Shore?”

“Jack called me today. I hope you don’t mind but I told him about what was going on with you in general terms. He offered the cabin to give us a chance to get away for awhile…alone.”

Silence on the line.


“I’m here. I’m just thinking. I like the idea, Harm, but just now I realized that I have to leave this place. I really think I dread it.”

“Mac, you know you’re welcome there anytime. I don’t have to ask my grandmother to know that you two have gotten to be pretty good friends,”

“I know, she asked me today if she could help take care of me after I have my surgery….Harm, I’ve never met anyone quite like her. I feel totally selfish but I am seriously considering it. This time has been so good for me….. I’ve decided just now that I’m going to do it.”

“Mac, I am so glad. I’ve been so worried about your being alone in your apartment while you’re trying to recover. We’ll work out the details over the weekend. Speaking of the weekend, what do you say?”

Mac said she would go to Maryland with him and they talked some of the sights they’d like to see while they were there. In all the time Mac had been in Washington she had never taken the time to explore much outside of the Beltway.

Harm told her about Alicia and about Commander Lindsey’s role in it. Mac laughed and said, “He just keeps rearing his ugly head, doesn’t he?”

“Yeah, tell me about it.”

“Oh, Harm, that was insensitive of me. I’m sorry.”

“Hey, it’s okay. Ted Lindsey is the least of my worries now.”

“Harm, can I ask you a question? You can tell me it’s none of my business and I won’t be upset. …Why didn’t you answer any of my messages while you were away with the CIA? I’ve always wondered if you even listened to them. I’m not angry and I promise that I’m not trying to start a fight with you. I just want to know.”

Harm glanced at his closet and saw the card board box that held his old answering machine. He was quiet for a moment. “That was a really bad time, Mac.”

“I know,” Mac said.

Silence…”I didn’t listen to them until after you brought me the Imes cases to review. I hope you understand from our previous conversations how painful it was.”

“I think I do.”

“I thought I would give it a chance after you left. I listened to the first one and I heard what I thought was Webb’s voice in the background and I …ah, threw the machine against the wall,” Harm said.

It was Mac’s turn to be silent. Then she said, “Oh……I… Harm, I never called you when I was with Webb. I’m sorry and I’m sorry that I brought it up.”

“It’s alright, Mac. I would have wanted to know too.”

They talked a while longer about their day. Harm told her about his conversation with Mattie. He left out the “Have you told her yet?’ part.

Maybe he would be able to answer that question after this weekend.



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