Trish had risen early and made coffee. She took a cup outside with her
and stood on the porch to watch the sun beginning to rise in the east.
It was late October. The fall colors were at their peak. It was going to
be a crisp cool day. They didn’t have those in California. She loved
this place but did not come here very often since she and Frank had
She felt that her first husband still lived here. It was overwhelming at
times, even now. She could never share this with Frank. He was a good
man and she knew that he loved her. She had loved him in return, but
never in the way she loved Harmon Rabb Senior. When Harm went to find
his father, and when he found that he had a brother in Russia, she had
told Harm she had been able to find some closure where his father was
concerned. She thought she had. She and Frank had gone to Europe; he had
wined her and dined her and courted her all over again. She looked at
the 4 carat diamond on her left hand. It was beautiful, and Frank had
given it with a full heart. She wished she could give her whole heart
but Harmon still lived there. It seemed that lately her mind turned to
him more and more.
She walked down the stone walkway and began the walk down the long
drive. Oscar followed, prancing around her heels and waiting for her to
throw anything so he could chase it. She remembered she used to dream of
meeting Harmon on this drive. In her dreams he had come home to her and
little Harm and he would never leave again. Oscar barked, trying to draw
her into playing his favorite game, so she threw a stick and he bounded
after it. The wind was picking up and she headed back to the house. The
leaves blew up and Trish could have sworn she heard her name being
spoken. She looked up at the house, thinking that Frank had gotten up
and was calling her. There was no one … and then she heard it again.
‘Trisha…” Trish drew a breath in sharply. She looked around her,
searching for the place from which the name had come. Only Harmon had
called her Trisha, and not all the time…it was a pet name that he only
used when they were alone. She saw no one and shook herself, feeling her
hair standing up on the back of her neck. She had spent too much time
walking down memory lane. She decided it was time to go inside.
National Naval Medical Center
Mac was feeling a lot better today. She was still sore at her incision
site but she was able to do more and more on her own. She was
independently getting around in her room. She needed very little help
from nursing staff with her personal care. The only problems were pain
when she had been on her feet for too long and getting in and out of her
bed. She was looking forward to getting out of this hospital and out to
Pennsylvania for awhile.
She had had visitors this morning very early. Captain Morrison had
brought Dr. Mark Ahrens from Johns Hopkins to discuss his role in the
testing and research being done on her tumor sample. He was enthusiastic
but professional. He and the captain appeared to disagree but did not
say so. Dr. Ahrens asked her to participate in a study, which he assured
her would only entail a bit of additional blood work when she saw
She asked the captain point blank about how he felt about Dr. Ahrens’
theory that her tumor may not have been malignant but a phosphaturic
He answered, “I intend to proceed as we had previously planned. If you
are willing to participate in this study and the tumor is found to be a
benign but rare type of tumor, then we all win. Our goal is to remove
your risk of reoccurrence and possibly allow you to have a family in the
Mac understood, and though she wished she could hear a definitive yes or
no, she accepted things as they were now. She had a chance, and that was
more than she thought she had 3 days ago.
She gingerly got out of her bed and put on her robe. She decided to take
a walk to the end of the hall and get out of this room. There was an
open waiting room there and a wall of windows with a nice view. She
walked along the hallway near the rail on the wall. She did not hold on
but would touch it now and again to steady herself. She was not sure if
it was medication or weakness, but she was definitely not 100 percent
yet. She did not notice as she passed a hallway which fed into the
larger one that a man stood watching her.
She got to the waiting area and sat carefully down on one of the chairs
near the window. The man had moved down the smaller hallway and was
about to step into the larger hall and toward Mac.
“Colonel Mackenzie,” a corpsman called to Mac. She looked up, and the
man who had been following her disappeared. “We need to get your vitals
and also get another blood sample for Johns Hopkins.” Mac stood and
returned to her room.
Harm was completing yet another case review from the stack on his desk.
He placed the case file on the stack on the opposite side of his desk
and shook his head in aggravation. ‘We need more junior officers around
here to do this scut work,’ he thought.
Petty Officer Coates came to his open door and knocked. “Commander Rabb?”
“Yes, Petty Officer,”
“It’s Mrs. Burnett on line 3,”
‘Thanks, Coates that will be all.” He pushed the button and answered,
“Hi, Mom. Where are you?”
She told him they had checked into the Willard. She asked if she and
Frank could meet him in his apartment about 1630 and he agreed. Sturgis
knew that his mother and Frank were in town so he was going to secure
Sturgis could be a pain, but Harm knew he was going out of his way to
make this difficult situation easier while getting as much work done as
possible. Every i dotted, every t crossed on Sturgis’s watch. His
grandmother was right; he had always been CO material. Harm was also
going to be able to get out of the office at 1300 tomorrow so he could
get Mac to Pennsylvania. Sturgis was alright, really. He just couldn’t
resist giving him a hard time once in a while.
North of Union Station
Mattie sat on the couch, watching Harm going back and forth to get his
mother and her husband drinks. He was nervously asking about the trip so
far, how Frank’s golf game was going, how things were at the gallery in
La Jolla. She had never seen him so uncomfortable. His mother seemed
like an ok lady. She had been very nice to her so far. They both seemed
crazy about Harm. He seemed to hate it. Why was he so uncomfortable? He
was almost as bad as she had been around her father before they had
reconciled. He wasn’t sarcastic as she had been, but it was clear to
anyone watching him that he would rather be anywhere but here right now.
She decided to give him a break, and his mother seemed to have the same
“So, young lady, how do you like Washington, D.C.?” Trish asked.
“I like it a lot. I miss Grace Aviation. I’m sure Harm told you. I had –
or my Mom and I had – a crop dusting business.”
Harm shifted on his feet and suddenly found his shoes very interesting.
“No,” Trish answered. “Why don’t you tell me about it?” Mattie began to
tell her about Grace Aviation, and as she did, Harm seemed to relax.
Harm thought, ‘Thank you, Mattie.’
She was being charming and engaging, and his mother and Frank were
totally smitten. They had wanted grandchildren for so long that Mattie
must have seemed a godsend. He had a lot to explain to his mother and
there was no good time or place to do it. Mattie sat there and said it
She explained how Harm had tried to help her. She even included Mac’s
role in his ability to get custody of her. She mentioned Mac’s illness,
how much she had enjoyed having her around lately. By the time Mattie
was finished, Harm had nearly nothing to explain.
To Mattie it was all simple, the facts of her life right now. It was as
though she knew he couldn’t handle this right now and she just stepped
up. In the space of about 20 minutes the tension level in the room had
“You must be proud of her, Harm. She is quite a little lady,” Trish said
and Harm agreed.
“Hey,” Mattie said. “Are we going to Bethesda now?”
Trish looked at Harm, hoping he would invite them along. She had never
met Mac, but she knew that Mac was *the one* for Harm. She had known it
for a long time.
“Would you like to come, Mom? It’s nearly time for dinner.” He wasn’t
sure yet that he wanted her to come.
“Oh we had a late lunch and we’d love to,” Trish answered.
Frank spoke up. “If you two don’t mind, I think I’ll go back to the
hotel for a while.”
Trish looked from Frank to Harm, and Mattie said to Trish, “Cool… you
can ride back with us and we can drop you off.”
‘I like this girl,’ Trish thought.
She and Frank said their goodbyes. She knew Frank was trying to give her
and Harm some one on one time. He was such a good man. So much more than
she felt she deserved at times.
National Naval Medical Center
Harm had been surprised and pleased to see Mac appearing stronger and
having less pain than she was yesterday. He had been concerned that the
trip to Pennsylvania would be too much for her, but he wasn’t worried at
all now. She had been up and was walking toward the waiting area at the
end of the hall. After he introduced Trish to Mac, they all joined her
with Harm taking her hand and placing his arm around her shoulders.
The gesture was not lost on Trish, and she thought, ‘finally.’ She saw
on his face what she had been hoping for so long. He was in love. He had
always been so closed off. It was difficult to know how he felt about
anything, but now the love was written there for anyone to see. Trish
looked at Mattie and thought that this young lady must have had
something to do with Harm’s ability to open his heart. Trish
instinctively reached over and patted Mattie’s back as they walked to
the waiting area.
They sat down, with Harm helping Mac ease into her chair. Mattie kept
the conversation going between all the adults until the initial
awkwardness passed. They seemed to fall into easy conversation after
that. Mac had asked Harm to get the small pillow she had to help her
brace her abdomen when she coughed or laughed. Mattie was in rare form
tonight so she thought Harm should get it as a precaution. Harm started
down the hallway – and then he saw him.
Harm stepped closer to him. “What the hell do you think you’re doing
here?” Webb did not answer. Harm looked at him squarely in the eye and
said, “Never come near my family again.”
“Does that include Sarah?” Webb asked.
“You know it does,” Harm was, barely controlling his anger. This man who
had caused such pain in both their lives was standing this close to 3 of
the four women he loved most in the world.
“I think Sarah should speak for herself.”
“He is speaking for me,” Mac said, startling them both. “Webb, go and
fare well. I mean that in the truest sense of the word. I wish you no
ill will, but never come near us again.” She placed her hand on the back
of Harm’s arm. “The time for us….the time for the 3 of us to be friends
is over. Get on with your life…the life you have chosen. I have
certainly chosen mine.”
“Sarah…” Webb said.
Mac stepped closer to him and her hand went up to stop him. “I realize
that Harm and I are the closest thing you have ever had to friends…or
anything else. Your friendship has cost us both dearly, and I know I can
speak for both of us when I say…we’re done.”
Webb looked at her, trying to decide whether to believe her or not. “I
love you, Sarah.”
Mac looked down then back up at him. “You don’t even know me, Webb. I’m
not as tough as you think and I do need someone. I need someone who
knows me and loves me anyway, flaws and all.”
Webb looked at her, shaking his head.
Mac continued, “Look, I believe you are dedicated to your work and your
country. I admire and respect that, but being in your life for anyone
can be nearly fatal. And I love my life, so I want no part of that
Harm had been leaning back against the wall. He then stood near Mac and
placed his hand on her shoulder. Webb looked at both of them and then
nodded, saying nothing. He turned and walked away without a backward
Harm stood in front of her and took her hand. He looked into her eyes
and tried to read her expression. He said, “Okay?’ She nodded and they
both started back toward her room.
Mattie and Trish had missed the entire exchange and they joined them a
few minutes later. “Hey, what happened to you guys?” Mattie asked.
“Oh, I was a little more tired than I thought so I decided to come back
and lie down,” Mac answered.
“I was just coming to get you,” Harm said.
They stayed about another half an hour before leaving to allow Mac to
get some sleep and get ready for tomorrow. Mattie and Trish left and
gave Harm and Mac a bit of privacy. Harm sat carefully on the side of
the bed. “Is this okay?” he asked. She nodded. He leaned forward
carefully and kissed her lightly on the lips. “I miss you, you know,”
“I miss you too,” she answered. She kissed him then, deeply, ending the
kiss with a little nibble to his bottom lip.
“I think you’re starting to feel a lot better now,” Harm said, smiling.
“I think I am, too.”
“Mom, what do you say I drop Mattie off at the apartment and you and I
grab a cup of coffee somewhere?”
Trish was so surprised she didn’t speak for a few seconds. “That would
be great, Harm. I’d love it!...Starbucks?” she asked.
“Starbucks is fine.”
Mattie sat in the backseat, smiling to herself. She felt entirely
responsible for the ease of conversation between them. Once you got Harm
talking, you could get by with just about anything.
‘Would this be a good time to ask for the credit card so Jen and I can
shop after I get home from school?’ She wondered.
Harm glanced at Mattie in the rearview mirror and asked, “What are you
up to, Mattie?” Mattie decided maybe this was *not *a good time.
Harm and his mother sat down at a small table near a window. Trish
looked at her son across the table. He was beginning to show some signs
of age, though in her eyes he was as handsome as his father had always
been. She did not get to see her husband at that age. Harm shifted in
his seat, a little uncomfortable under her gaze.
“I’m sorry, Harm. I was thinking about your father.”
“What were you thinking about him?”
She told him and then said, “I’ve been thinking about him a lot lately.
I don’t know why.”
Harm looked at her sympathetically. He understood that she still felt
guilty and that he was responsible for that. He reached across the table
and gave his mothers hand a squeeze.
“You okay, Mom?”
“Oh, I’m fine. I have been wondering, though, why you have stayed away
so much the last couple of years. It’s silly, every time you become
distant; I still think you’re angry at me for giving up on your father.”
“I’m sorry, Mom, and it wasn’t about that at all. It has been a really
crazy time for me. I don’t even know where to start.”
He shifted in his seat so that he was not facing her but looking out
into the night and the traffic passing.
“Son, you know you can tell me anything. I’m not a fragile as you
Harm looked down into his coffee cup. “Mom, I got into some trouble
spring before last. It took me about 6 months to straighten it out, and
even then I was still having a difficult time.”
Trish looked at him and he immediately looked down.
She said, “Let’s walk, son. Maybe that will help you get this out.”
They walked down E street toward the Mall. Trish took Harm’s offered arm
and encouraged him to continue. He told her about Singer, about his
mistaken idea that her baby was Sergei’s. Trish thought ‘Harm, trying to
rescue another Rabb.’ He told her of his arrest and the admiral’s order
for all his friends to stay away.
“Son, why didn’t you call us?” Trish was incredulous.
“I couldn’t, Mom. I couldn’t stand the thought of you seeing me in a
place like that. I went from JAG’s fair haired boy to the brig in an
afternoon. I don’t know what I was thinking.”
Trish thought for a long time, trying to take it all in; thinking that
the reason she wasn’t told was that Harm didn’t trust her to handle it
well. He was still trying to protect her.
“Go on, Harm,” she asked.
“The issue was resolved with the help of the same NCIS officer who
arrested me, if you can believe that,” he said with a lopsided grin.
He told her about Paraguay and his resignation. He left out the whole
Mac and Webb fiasco. No need to dredge that up. He wanted her to think
well of Mac, and they were all a little crazy back then.
“When I wasn’t able to return to the Navy, I flew some missions for the
Trish stopped short and said, “The CIA?” Harm answered in the
affirmative. Trish was stunned. She knew she wouldn’t have taken that
one well at the time. She said honestly, “Well, son, it’s probably a
good thing I didn’t know about that.”
Harm chuckled a bit. “Seriously, Mom, you understand now that it wasn’t
you or anything about the past. I just felt ashamed of the mess my life
was in at the time. I didn’t want to spend a lot of time with you until
I had it straightened out.”
“*Is* it straightened out. Harm?”
“I think I’m working things out pretty well. Mattie has helped a lot,”
“Oh, Harm, she is a wonderful girl.”
“She is that,” he said. He decided not to go into the custody thing with
her now, either. He didn’t want her to worry and he honestly didn’t know
how things would end up. Mattie did not seem to be willing to give her
father or him up and that was fine with him. Harm smiled to himself and
said, “and then there’s Mac.”
Trish squeezed his arm a bit and repeated what he said. Harm was getting
tongue tied again. Trish laughed a little and said, “Oh, honey, you
don’t have to explain anything to me. It’s written all over your face
and I couldn’t be happier. I hope things work out for both of you……It’s
Harm patted her hand tucked into the crook of his arm. “Yes, it is.”
They were standing in front of the Lincoln Memorial. There was a
beautiful and solemn aura to this place. It was like standing in front
of a holy place. A place to be reverent and reflective. They both looked
across the street at the Vietnam Memorial. Neither spoke but stepped off
of the curb toward the Wall. In a few moments they were in front of the
name of Harm’s father and Trish’s husband. Harmon Rabb Sr
Trish seemed to forget Harm was with her. She walked to the spot where
his name was, took off her glove and flattened her palm over his name.
She pressed it down as though she were trying to absorb it into her
hand. ‘Harmon,” she whispered. She let herself go back for a moment –
just a moment when he was here with her, with them. Did he always keep a
place for her in his heart; did she become a distant dream? She still
had him tucked away in that secret place in her heart. She could pull
him out of that place when she felt strong enough to be able to close
him back off again. She didn’t seem to be able to do that anymore.
“Mom?” Harm said.
Trish’s heart still railed against the unfairness of it all.
“Mom?” he said again.
“Oh, I’m sorry,” she said. “Lost in thought.”
She shivered slightly and Harm again offered his arm. “Let’s get you out
of this night air. It’s cooling off pretty quickly at night now.”
Trish nodded and took her son’s arm. They walked back to Harm’s SUV, and
he took her back to the Willard.
“It’s been great seeing you, Mom,”
Trish smiled and touched his cheek. “It has been great, hasn’t it? Take
care of yourself.” She rested her hand on his arm and looked into his
face. “I love you, son.”
“I love you too, Mom.” She started to go to the elevators, and then
turned to say, “Keep us posted on how Mac’s doing and let us know if
there is anything for us to do.”
“I will, Mom. Tell Frank it was great to see him and have a great time
in Europe." With that they parted, Harm going to his apartment and Trish
to her hotel and Frank.
Falls Church, Virginia
Harm had come in early. He wanted to be sure all his case files were in
order and ready for Coates to get to Sturgis. He wanted to be sure he
could walk in here Monday ready for work and for whatever was coming up.
McBurney and Coleman were due back today. They should be at staff call
He was glad to have been with Mac but he was also ready to get back *in
the thick of it,* as Sturgis had said. Bud would be with the CNO’s
office Monday. A new JAG. ‘My luck, it will be a Marine,’ he thought,
and then he decided the idea was too ridiculous. If Gunny got back on
board then he would be almost surrounded by Marines. He shook his head,
thinking, ‘that’s not possible.’
National Naval Medical Center
Mac had been anxious to get out of the hospital. The nearer the time for
discharge, the more anxious she became. She had brought a larger skirt
for her class A’s so that she would be comfortable. She looked at
herself in the mirror. She was relieved to be back in uniform, if only
for a little while. Captain Morrison had come through at about 0630 to
prepare her for discharge. There were no staples, and her stitches would
dissolve so need for stitch removal. He seemed pleased with her
progress. “Colonel, do you have any questions for me before you go?” he
had asked. She did not; between her visit with Cmdr McCool and the
information she had gotten from he and Dr. Ahrens she had all the
information she could handle right now.
Harm knocked on her door to her room and she stepped out of the
“Hey, Marine,” he said. “Ready to go?” Mac smiled and nodded.
The corpsman came in then with a wheelchair and Harm said, “Madame, your
Mac looked at the wheelchair and then out the open door where people in
uniform were passing. She realized then she would not be standing but
riding. She would not receive nor give any salute. A uniform in a
wheelchair. She swayed on her feet slightly. The thought almost made her
sick. This was stupid; she was going to be fine. Her pride was getting
to her, she knew. She knew it was unreasonable. How many young men and
women had she seen who would never get up again?
“Mac….are you alright?” Harm said as he walked swiftly toward her.
“It’s nothing,” she said. “Let’s just get out of here.”
Harm got her sea bag, and the corpsman wheeled her down stairs. A couple
of sailors passing saluted Harm. They did not even see her. It was as
though when she sat down in that chair she was invisible.
‘Hurry, hurry,’ Mac thought. They were downstairs and Harm had pulled
his SUV in front where it would only be a few steps and she’d be in the
vehicle and out of there.
Harm knew something was eating at her. He just wasn’t sure what. He
smiled at her and placed his hand over hers. She returned his smile
weakly and he asked her, “Okay?”
She whispered, “Okay…let’s go.” With that they were off.
They were well out of Washington when Mac asked, “Harm, do you mind if
we stop somewhere so I can get into something more comfortable?”
“Sure, Mac, I’m sorry. I didn’t even think about how uncomfortable you
He didn’t know the half of it, she thought. He stopped and allowed her
to change. He changed as well. Mac was relieved. They were just Harm and
Mac again. They were on their way to leaving it all behind.
“Mac, something’s up – do you want to talk about it?’
“Not yet. I just want to get to Pennsylvania. Tell me about how your mom
is doing,” she said.
He told her about going to Starbucks and their walk to the Wall. She
smiled, glad for him. She had not been the only one he had closed
himself off from.
“Your mother seems really nice, Harm. I’m looking forward to getting to
know her better.”
They hit a small bump in the road. Mac winced, and Harm asked, “When was
the last time you took anything for pain?”
Mac thought and it had been about 0700 that morning. She took some of
the prescription she had filled before she left the hospital. She had
put the seat in the reclining position and held Harm’s hand in both of
hers for a few moments.
She had begun to get drowsy and talked aloud, and Harm wondered if she
were speaking to him or just thinking out loud.
“Trish and Sarah are both such affectionate people. It just comes easily
to them…natural.” She chuckled ruefully and said, “When Dad died and I
went to tell my mother he was dead, I had to ask her to hold me.” She
shook her head sadly. “Deanna Mackenzie was no earth mother...that was
for sure,” she said as she dropped off to sleep.
Harm was dumbfounded. ‘My God, what kind of person has to be told to
embrace their own child?’ he thought. How could he have known Mac for so
long and not known this?
She wouldn’t let him in, he knew, but he hadn’t realized how much she
had suffered and how many more things were missing from her life before
he ever met her. He understood now why his grandmother had gotten under
her skin so quickly. He thought it had been because they were so much
alike, and they were; but it was more than that.
Sarah Rabb gave her unconditional acceptance and affection that she had
never had in her life. His eyes stung with unshed tears. He shook it off
and focused on the road, listening to Mac’s even breathing. She was
going to be alright. He was going to make sure of that.
It was dusk when Harm pulled up in front of his grandmother’s house. Mac
looked through the window and could see Sarah Rabb standing in the
doorway. Her silver gray hair about her shoulders made her look like an
angel standing there. She came immediately out the door to help Harm get
Mac inside. She took one of Mac’s arms and said, “Hello, Mac.”
Mac nodded and smiled her half smile. She had a huge lump in her throat.
She didn’t understand why Sarah Rabb went straight to her heart, but she
surely did. They connected in some way Mac could not define. She seemed
to understand some of the things Mac felt without Mac having the
discomfort of exposing her heart completely. Harm had been that way too.
Mac had seen it as disinterest….she now understood that it was not. It
had been a quiet understanding.
She guided Mac to her own bedroom downstairs. “Oh, Mrs. Rabb, I
couldn’t,” Mac said.
“Nonsense,” Mrs. Rabb said. “I’ll move you back upstairs after you
recover a little more. What happened to calling me Sarah?”
“Sarah…I usually get around better than this. I think the ride was a
little tougher on my incision than I thought it would be,” Mac said.
She lay down on the bed on top of the covers. Her incision was starting
to throb. It was nearly time for her pain medication. She hated that she
needed it at all but understood now that that would lessen as she
healed. She also knew Sarah understood her fears in that regard and that
she would be as vigilant as Mac would be.
Harm went to get the rest of her bags from the SUV, and Mrs. Rabb came
in with a glass of water and her pain medication. Mac leaned up enough
to take the medicine and drink some of the water. She was clearly in
pain and Mrs. Rabb helped ease her back on the bed. She took an extra
pillow she had placed on the stool near the bed and put it in Mac’s arms
and another carefully placed between Mac’s knees. She helped Mac turn
onto her right side. Mac was surprised that this positioning helped
alleviate the pain somewhat. She drew a deep breath and let it out with
a sigh. She took in the scent of the clean sheets and the subtle scent
of apples, cinnamon and vanilla.
The lump once again formed in her throat and tears stung her eyes and
nose. She didn’t seem to be able to help it. She had been on an
emotional rollercoaster all week. She felt so safe here. It was as
though she could hand all of the worries that plagued her to Sarah Rabb
without saying a word. She placed her hand over her mouth and sobbed
quietly, trying to hold it in.
Sarah noticed and pulled the small stool close to her bedside and sat
down. She brushed the hair from her face and placed her hand on her
“It’s alright, Mac, you can rest now.”
Mac began to cry harder and it hurt her incision. Mrs. Rabb gently
pressed the pillow on her abdomen closer to Mac and said, “Hold the
pillow tighter and take deep breaths. It’s okay.”
Mac drew a breath and let it out slowly and began to relax and compose
Mrs. Rabb’s hand was on her shoulder and Mac placed her hand over it.
“Thank you,” she said.
“Not at all. Get some rest and I’ll pull something together for dinner
for you two.”
Harm had come in during this time and had seen the exchange between his
grandmother and Mac. He sat Mac’s bags down outside the door and walked
back out to the front porch.
He walked over to the rail, placed is hands on it and braced his arms,
crying silently. He wanted to help but he knew in this matter he could
not. He now understood what Mac had meant when she said that some of the
things she had blamed him for were not his fault. “Baby, baby…” He spoke
under his breath. He just wanted to hold her. She was hurting, he knew,
and holding her now was not a good idea.
Mrs. Rabb had come to his side and placed her hand on his back. “Harmon,
are you alright?”
Harm nodded the affirmative.
“This has been tough on you both, I know.” She patted him a little and
asked, “Hey, would you mind checking that back door on the barn? I can’t
remember if I closed it or not….when you’re finished, just come on in
the kitchen. I’ve got some *decaf* coffee on and well get something
together for dinner for you and Mac.”
Harm did as he was asked, knowing that she was giving him a chance to
pull himself together. He had always loved her and trusted her wisdom.
Today he trusted it just a little bit more.
Mac woke slowly, feeling too warm and tangled in her blanket and
pillows. Her incision was still sore but the throbbing had stopped. The
house was dark. No moon tonight. Mac’s eyes adjusted to the dark, and
she turned very slowly on the bed to see Harm lying on top of the
covers. He was scooted as far as he could go on the other side of the
bed. His back was to Mac.
Mac reached across the bed and lightly touched his back between his
shoulder blades. He said “Mac?” and sat up quickly on the edge of the
bed. “Are you okay?”
Mac chuckled a little “I’m okay – relax, Harm. Why did you let me sleep
Harm rubbed his face with both hands and drew in a deep breath, trying
to wake up fully.
“You were resting so well I didn’t have the heart to wake you. Do you
Harm heard her stomach growl about that time and they both laughed a
little. “That answers my question.”
They went into the kitchen, and Harm warmed some soup his grandmother
had made and made her a sandwich. Mac watched Harm moving around the
kitchen silently. It was still so hard to believe they were here,
“You still look so sleepy, Mac,” Harm said, chuckling lightly.
“I’m groggy from that stupid medicine. I can’t wait until I don’t need
“Be patient, Mac, you’re doing great.”
Mac sighed. “I know I sound unreasonable. I just want my life back. I
didn’t realize how proud a person I was till this afternoon. That ride
down to your car in the wheelchair nearly killed me. Those two sailors
who saluted as they passed you didn’t even see me. It was as though I
“Mac,” he said, placing his hand over hers.
“It was almost as though I wasn’t a Marine anymore. I feel like I’m not
filling my uniform. I don’t know, It’s hard to explain to someone who
has never…” Mac stopped speaking, feeling foolish when she remembered
all the injuries Harm had endured and that most of the time he was
alone. “Oh, God, Harm, I’m sorry. I know you’ve been through a lot too.”
“Mac, I want you to tell me what’s on your mind. You’re going through
something here, something I’ve never been through, and I want to be
there for you. Yes, I have been through a lot, but I had you when I went
down in that F-14. And I had my grandmother and my mother after the ramp
“How can you say I was there for you – I was still with Mic then. And I
damn near ruined your life getting into that mess in Paraguay,”
“Mac, you and I were connected, you found me. If you hadn’t I would be
dead. I lived to fight another day.”
“Yeah… you fought with me,” she said.
Harm raised his eyebrows and they both laughed. Mac winced a bit in
pain. Harm went to get her medicine and she reluctantly took it.
“Mac, we're done rehashing the past. We’re here right now together and
that is all that matters to me, okay?” he said. Mac nodded in the
Mac wasn’t sleepy yet but she noticed how tired Harm looked. “You need
to hit the rack, sailor.”
“I’m okay,” he said yawning.
“Okay, look, I’m wide awake now so why don’t you go lay down and I’ll
come get you if I need you,”
“I’m not leaving you, Mac.”
Mac thought ‘stubborn man.’
“At least go lay down on my bed and I’ll sit out in here and do a little
reading till I get sleepy. I also want you to stretch out, Harm. You
were scrunched so far over on the bed I thought you were going to fall
off,” she said laughingly.
“I didn’t want to hurt you. I was afraid I’d bump into you and hurt your
“Oh, Harmon, don’t worry. I don’t think you could get close enough to
hurt me with all the pillows stuffed around me,” she said smiling slyly.
He looked at her with sleepy eyes and smiled. She kissed his cheek. “Go
lie down; you’re just a few steps away.”
‘Okay, don’t stay up too long. I want to spend as much time as I can
with you this weekend before I have to go back.” He turned and kissed
her lightly on the lips, holding himself away from her, still fearing he
would hurt her. He ached to hold her close. He wanted his Mac back too.
He walked down the short hall and into Mac’s room.
Mac sat down with one of Mrs. Rabb’s Agatha Christie novels, and before
she got to the second page she heard Harm snoring softly.
Mrs. Rabb came down stairs to find Mac sleeping in the chair by the
fireplace, a book in her lap. She crept into the kitchen and started the
coffee. She walked back to the doorway and Mac began to stir. “Hello,
young lady,” Mrs. Rabb said.
“Hello…Sorry I knocked out on you both last night. My pain medicine has
that effect on me, I’m afraid,”
‘It’s alright, Mac. Over the next week or so you’ll need it less and
less. You’ll be your old self in no time,” she said.
Mac took the book and quilt from her lap and slowly and gingerly got up
from the chair. Sleeping in a sitting position was not a good idea, she
found. Her incision pulled and made it difficult to stand straight up.
She went to the restroom to freshen up for the day while Mrs. Rabb
When Mac came back into the kitchen, Harm and Mrs. Rabb were waiting for
her. Harm noticed that she was slightly bent over, “You shouldn’t have
slept in that chair, Mac.”
She frowned, “I know, I know, I just fell asleep so quickly.” Harm went
to get her medicine and Mac said, “No, it’s not time. I just need to
stay up right for a while and I’ll walk around a bit after breakfast and
it should feel better.”
Harm frowned at her, and Mrs. Rabb said, “She’ll be okay, Harm. She
needs a good meal with plenty of protein and she also needs to get
moving as much as possible.”
Harm smiled at his grandmother. “It’s been a while since you had a
patient, hasn’t it?”
“Yes it’s been a long time, not counting you, it’s been since 1985.” Mac
looked at them both curiously. “I started in patient care in 1943. I was
what was then called a rehabilitation aide. We were nurses trained by
the doctors to deal with all the orthopedic injuries caused by the war.
We were really the first American physical therapists. I didn’t get a
license to practice physical therapy until 1968. I did what was called
‘grandfathering’ in. I was allowed to take the state board exam and got
my license. I don’t believe it is permitted now. It wasn’t as lucrative
a profession back then as it is now. I loved it though.”
“Grandma worked at the VA hospital in Altoona not long after my dad was
born,” Harm said. Mac was amazed. She always sensed her strength but did
not realize just how much she had accomplished in her lifetime.
Mrs. Rabb’s face became solemn for a moment, “The first year back here
was very tough. I had just lost David. He never saw our Harmon. It was
another time in my life that I would not have gotten through if it had
not been for Mary and Andrew Rabb. Mary helped me with the baby. I’m
ashamed to say that the first months I did only what was necessary. I
took care of my child but I did not cuddle him. I left him to Mary.”
Mac said, “The first year back here? Where were you?”
“We were at Pearl. I followed David out there. He was so angry with me.
I had completed my nurses training. It was only 6 months back then. I
got myself orders to Pearl and off I went. David Rabb wasn’t going
anywhere without me.”
She smiled to herself, lost in thought. “We were married two weeks after
I got there. We had to wait for permission from his CO. We had about 3
months and then he got his orders to the Hornet. The mission was top
secret. I only knew they were going to be flying Army bombers off the
deck of a carrier. And that’s how I lost him – when we bombed Tokyo in
retaliation for the bombing of Pearl Harbor. I wanted to be a field
nurse after that, but when I found I was pregnant I was sent back home.
I went to work at the VA hospital after Harmon was born.”
While they ate breakfast they talked more about Harm’s grandfather, with
Mrs. Rabb recalling the happier times of their lives together. Mac asked
Mrs. Rabb if she and Harm could look through the box of photos she had
shown her the week before.
She consented but said, “Only after you and I go for a bit of a walk.
You really do need to get some exercise this morning and probably again
before lunch. I’ll just place it in the middle of the bed and you can
stretch out. I’ve got my rocking chair in there and if you’ll show the
picture, I’ll tell the story.”
“Sounds great. Do you already know all the stories, Harm?”
“I know some of them. Grandma will surprise me now and then with
something I didn’t know. I like hearing them anyway.”
With that they stood, and Mac and Mrs. Rabb put on their jackets and
went for their walk down the drive. The sky was blue-gray and the fallen
leaves on the green grass were a beautiful yellow-orange contrast. The
colors were different from when she first came here but no less
beautiful to Mac. She had truly come to love this place in the short
time she had known about it.
Harm cleaned up the kitchen and took a shower while they were out. He
started a fire in the fireplace and stretched out on the couch. Mac and
Mrs. Rabb walked up and down the drive twice. By the time Mac finished
walking, her incision was sore but she could remain upright without
feeling the pulling she felt before. The air was cool and bracing. She
felt exhilarated afterward. Being away from the hospital, doctors and
nurses made her feel more normal.
Harm met them at the door when they walked in. “How did it go?”
Mac’s cheeks were a tawny pink and she smiled beautifully. “It’s cool
out there, but it was nice to be outside after all that time in the
“Let’s get something warm to drink and we’ll get started on those
Mrs. Rabb said, ‘Mac, do you need anything for pain?”
“Nope, not yet. I’m afraid I’ll fall asleep and I don’t want to miss
They settled in the bedroom. Harm’s grandmother was in her chair on
Mac’s side of the bed. Mac was propped up on pillows reclining on top of
her covers with a quilt thrown over her legs. The large photo box sat on
the middle of the bed, and Harm was sitting on the other side on the
edge of the bed, facing them both. He opened the box, and on top of one
of the stacks Mac saw a picture that caught her eye. She picked up the
stack and slipped the photo out of the ribbon. It was a picture of Harm
Sr. holding out both arms to a pudgy little boy.
“Oh, Harm, look at you!” she said laughingly. “Those cheeks!”
The little boy in the picture had a determined look, eyes that Mac
recognized immediately were fixed on his goal. She gave the picture to
Mrs. Rabb, and she chuckled.
“That was when Harm was 11 months old. He and Trish had come to spend a
few days. We all had a wonderful time.”
The next picture was curious to Mac. It appeared to be Harm Sr. and Harm
Jr. walking down her drive. They both had their backs to the camera.
They looked nearly identical, little Harm dressed exactly like his
father from head to toe. She handed the picture to Mrs. Rabb.
“I know, it’s a little strange. They were facing away from the camera,
but you see, as I said before, they have the Rabb stature. They look
like my David in this way, and it struck me when I saw it and that made
the picture precious to me. My David never got to see either of them but
he left his mark on them both.”
She nodded toward Harm and said, “He was five years old. He turned 6
that following October. They all came for a long visit before Harmon’s
Mac looked at Harm. She handed the picture to him and asked “Do you
remember this?” Harm nodded in the affirmative. Mac saw love and pain
and pride in his eyes. He never stopped missing his father; he probably
The phone rang, startling them all. Mrs. Rabb got up to answer it. Mac
said, “Harm, I forgot your birthday. October 25th. I can’t believe I did
that. I didn’t get you anything.”
Harm smiled a sly smile “Oh, I got my birthday present last weekend….a
Mac thought for a moment. They’d had a very nice Friday and Saturday
night on Tilghman Island. She blushed and laughed a little. “Oh… don’t
make me laugh,” she said.
Mrs. Rabb came in and told Harm that Sturgis was calling. Harm looked at
Mac with raised eyebrows and thought, ‘If he’s calling something must be
Harm rose and walked to the living room to answer the phone. “Hey
“Sorry to do this, Harm, but I’m going to need you back in Washington
first thing and be ready to catch a flight out of Andrews by 1600
tomorrow. I’ll brief you further when you get back to Washington. I want
you here at JAG no later than noon. A senior DOD advisor has gotten
himself killed in Baghdad and we’ve got a Marine accused of involuntary
Harm said, “I’ll be there.”
Sturgis added, “Harm, I’m sorry about this. There is just no other way.
The SecNav is all over my six and you are the most experienced attorney
I have. I’ll be sending Major McBurney over with you.”
“Not a problem. I appreciate all you did this last week to make it
easier for me, Sturgis. See you tomorrow.”
He hung up and looked at Mac. He had to leave her and he didn’t want to.
He never wanted to give her a reason to doubt him. He walked back into
the bedroom and looked directly at Mac.
“I have to leave first thing in the morning. I have to catch a flight
out of Andrews tomorrow afternoon. I’m going to Baghdad.”
Harm tried to read Mac’s reaction in her face. “Harm…” she said. Mrs.
Rabb had left the room to get Mac’s medicine.
Harm didn’t let her finish. “I hate leaving you now. I promised I’d be
here for you and now I feel as though I’m leaving you to handle this
“I’m not alone, Harm, not anymore. I was more alone at this time last
year in an office full of people and you just down the hall. We are
together now, Harm, aren’t we?”
Harm’s gaze softened as he looked at her. “Yes.”
“I’m going to be fine. I’m here with your grandmother. I’ve never been
so fussed over in my life and enjoyed it so well.”
Harm walked over to her and kissed her forehead.
“I wouldn’t be much of a Marine if I didn’t understand when you had to
deploy, Harm. I’ll be okay.”
Harm pulled the stool close to her side of the bed, sat down and looked
at her. Mac could see his wheels turning; she said, “Stop worrying. I’m
feeling stronger all the time. I may have been reading more into Captain
Morrison’s statement than I should but I really feel hopeful for the
first time in a long time. I can face this.”
“We can face this,” Harm said.
Mac and Harm spent the rest of their day together, nearly every moment.
She did have her walk before and after lunch. She went with Harm this
“I don’t know why it is, but when I’m walking up this drive I have the
most peaceful feeling of coming home. I feel it more here than any other
place I know,” Harm said.
Mac looked at him and smiled. “I feel at home here, too.” Harm leaned
down and kissed her cheek. They went back inside and sat in front of the
fire. The box of pictures sat on a coffee table near the couch.
Mac picked up the box and opened it. “I don’t know why I’m so drawn to
the pictures in this box.” She noticed a newer picture on the bottom of
the box. She lifted it out, and it was a picture of Harm and herself
taken the day of Bud and Harriet’s wedding.
“You were so beautiful that day, Mac.”
“You didn’t look too shabby yourself, Sailor.”
Mrs. Rabb walked into the room and looked over their shoulders at the
picture. “Oh yes, that was the first look Trish or I had of you. All I
had heard from Trish is that you were ‘quite the girl’. I was so
surprised that he had sent a picture that had anyone else in it….”
Mac smiled wryly at Harm and then chuckled a bit. Harm grinned
sheepishly. “Hey, it was a good picture….of both of us.”
“I’m *honored*, Harm,” Mac teased.
They had a wonderful dinner. Out of the blue Mrs. Rabb had pulled out
all the stops. She had roasted a turkey breast, made old fashioned
dressing and even managed a pumpkin pie. Mac had never tasted anything
“This is great, Sarah. Harm, you’d better eat up; those MREs are waiting
for you when you get to Baghdad,” she said laughingly.
“Hey, I could send you some and let you share in my experience while I’m
“That’s okay… I’ll just let you tell me about them in your e-mails,” Mac
said, smiling; she had brought her laptop and now she was even more glad
she had, since Harm was going overseas.
They all walked after dinner twice up and down the drive. Mac felt so
much better now than she had when she first arrived. They spent the
evening going through the picture box, and Mrs. Rabb gave them little
stories about first one picture, then another. Mrs. Rabb rose from her
chair and picked up a bundle of letters from the box. She handed them to
Harm and said, “You should have these.”
Harm recognized the handwriting immediately as letters from his father.
“I don’t want to take these from you, Grandma.”
“Nonsense, I know them all by heart by now, Harmon,” Mrs. Rabb said. “I
think you should have them.” And with that Mrs. Rabb went to bed.
Mac began to show signs of sleepiness not long after, and Harm said,
“Okay, Marine, it’s time you hit the rack.”
“I don’t want to go to sleep yet. I don’t want to miss a minute with
“Come on, I’ll go with you and talk to you till you fall asleep,” Harm
“Oh, I don’t know,” Mac smiled mischievously “The last time you did that
we didn’t get much sleep at all.”
Harm laughed, “Hey, I’ll be good, scout’s honor.”
He raised his hand in a scout pledge. Mac finally consented. She got
ready for bed and took her pain medicine. She had only needed one dose
today, bedsides her bedtime dose, so she was very pleased with herself.
She lay on her side in the bed and Harm started to take his place clear
over on the opposite edge of the bed.
“Harm, please don’t stay all the way over there. Come and spoon with
me….” The look in her eyes almosted pleaded with him.
“Mac, I don’t want to hurt you,” Harm said.
“You’ll hurt me if you stay so far away.” Mac lay back down and Harm
carefully slipped in behind her, lying on top of the covers. She still
fit him like a glove. She held her pillow to her abdomen but she was
nestled into his arms using his arm and her pillow to rest her head on.
“That’s it. Now I’m home,” Mac said. Harm closed his arm around her and
she kissed his forearm. ‘I love you, Harm,”
He kissed her hair, “I love you, too.” Harm closed his eyes and held in
the tears he felt stinging there. Mac felt him holding them in but said
nothing. Harm needed to be able to go. She knew it would bother him to
think she knew he was having this difficult of a time. He still wanted
to be strong for her, so she decided that she would be strong for him
Mac woke at 0400 exactly. Harm was still wrapped around her and he had
shifted his weight more on his back and brought her with him. Her head
resting entirely on his arm and his head back on the pillow but rolled
toward her. He was breathing softly into her ear and down her neck.
‘What I wouldn’t give to be feeling better now,’ she thought. “Harm.” He
roused slightly and rolled them both to their sides and nuzzled her
neck, breathing her name. “It’s after 0400, Harm. You have to get
Harm didn’t want to let her go; she was so warm. “Five more minutes,
Mac…Five more minutes won’t make any difference.”
Mac smiled, loving the way he held her, she would miss him greatly. They
had both slept a full 8 hours. She was glad for Harm’s sake. It would be
a long trip over and not a lot of opportunity for a good night’s sleep
once he got there. She lay there trying to memorize the way his body
felt tucked in behind her. She wanted to remember the sound of his
breathing and the low husky sound of his voice when he was sleepy. God,
she hated being left behind. She wanted to go too. Be there for him,
help him with the case, and make sure he got back here in one piece.
Just then Harm took a deep breath and said, “Okay, I’m up. I can hear
you thinking all the way over here.”
“Oh, really, what am I thinking?” she asked.
“That I better get my six in gear or I’ll have to deal with Sturgis, and
I do not want to deal with Sturgis and a trip to Iraq on the same day.”
Harm got up to get ready to leave, and after he had left the room Mac
got up very carefully from the bed. She raised her eyebrows and thought,
‘Not too bad.’ She was sore but did not need anything for pain. She made
her way to the kitchen to make coffee after freshening up a little. Mrs.
Rabb came downstairs and made her way to the cupboard. She took down 3
cups and a container which held her pastries. “Oh, those aren’t what I
think they are, are they?” Mac asked.
Mrs. Rabb smiled as she filled the cups with coffee. “Help yourself,
Mac,” Mrs. Rabb filled an insulated cup and placed an apple fritter in a
Ziploc for Harm’s trip back.
Harm came into the room just then, leaving his bag by the door. Mrs.
Rabb made her way directly to him. She said, “I’ll say my goodbye now,
Harmon.” She patted his shoulder and kissed his cheek. “I’ll take good
care of Mac. You just get back here as soon as you can, alright?”
“I will, Grandma, and don’t worry, I’ll be fine.”
She smiled at him and placed her hand on his cheek. “I don’t have any
doubt that you will be, Harmon.” And with that she left the room.
Mac stood at the kitchen sink in her pajamas and robe. She said, “What a
picture I must make for you to take with you to Iraq.”
Harm walked over to her and took her hand and kissed her forehead. “You
look beautiful to me.”
Mac looked at him, and she saw that soft look on his face that melted
her heart. She wanted him to miss her. She wanted him to remember that
the ‘well’ Mac was still in here waiting for her body to heal so she
could be with him as his partner, his friend or anything else for that
matter. Especially the anything else. She reached up and ran the tips of
her fingers lightly through his hair and down the nape of his neck. She
leaned in and kissed him with all the love and passion she could muster.
She loved him; she didn’t want him to forget it.
If she only knew what she did to him when she did that. Just the touch
of her fingers in his hair… He held her by her shoulders and pulled her
as close to him as he could without hurting her. There was such
desperation in her kiss; she was afraid he would forget her, he could
feel it. ‘I won’t forget you, Mac,’ he thought. When they broke the kiss
“I’ll miss you.” He kissed her again lightly and said, “If we don’t stop
this, I’ll never get out of here.”
“I know,” Mac said and they both walked toward the door. Mac picked up
the cup and Ziploc his grandmother had prepared for him. She walked him
out to the SUV and waited for him to load up and get in. He rolled the
window down. It was cool but Mac wanted every second.
She leaned in and kissed him goodbye. They both said “I love you” at the
same time. They both laughed softly, and then Mac backed away from the
vehicle. Harm started the engine and Mac continued to back away, and
then she turned to walk up to the house. Harm turned the vehicle around
and drove down the drive.
Mac turned to look as she went in the front door. It was predawn and she
could see the taillights of his SUV as he was leaving. She watched until
he was out of sight.
Interstate 76 West
Somewhere near the Maryland state line
Harm dialed Jen and Mattie’s apartment. They talked about his assignment
and hammered out details of managing Mattie. Tom would be available to
help while Mattie was off for teacher conferences. He would also be
attending Mattie’s parent teacher conference. Jen would cover Mattie’s
“Hey, tell Mattie when she gets in tonight that I’m sorry about this,”
Jen answered, “She is doing a lot better with the separations now, sir.
She seems to be doing very well with her life as it is now.”
“Yeah I think so too…and Jen –”
Coates interrupted him. “I know, sir, what would you do without me?”
He laughed. “Hey… enough of that, having the colonel reading my mind is
enough. I can’t be that be that much of an open book, can I?”
“Not at all, sir. By the way, how is the colonel doing?”
“She’s great and I left her in good hands,” They ended the call, and
with Mattie handled temporarily, he focused on getting back to JAG and
the case at hand.
Somewhere over the Atlantic
Harm settled back in his seat. He would be flying commercial to Germany,
so he still had some time to get a little rest before taking a C-130 for
the rest of the journey into Iraq. He wasn’t even sure of what stops
would be made until he reached his final destination. Baghdad. He missed
Mac already, but he had to admit his adrenaline was pumping. He was
ready to get started doing what he did.
This was the other place in the world where he belonged. Home wasn’t
always a place, though Belleville was that; it was being in uniform and
doing his job. It connected him to his father and grandfather. It was as
real as any place with a zip code
Major Mike McBurney sat across the aisle opposite Harm with headphones
on, listening to something entirely too loud. ‘God… to be 28,’ Harm
thought. He considered that for a moment and decided, ‘No thanks’.
McBurney was accomplished, no doubt: a tour in Afghanistan with 2nd
Battalion headquarters, 5th Marines. His fit reps were glowing. He was
definitely on the fast track. He’d damn near landed him in Leavenworth,
although he knew now his own stubbornness and stupidity had helped
McBurney a great deal. He was an arrogant SOB though; he had to admit
too that he reminded him a bit of himself at a much younger age.
‘God…I’m getting old,’ he thought with a lopsided grin.
McBurney picked that moment to look at him, lifted the earpieces away
from his ears and said, “Sir? Did you say something?”
Harm was a bit embarrassed and said, “No…by the way, what are you
He handed him the cover of his ‘Los Lonely Boys’ CD. “Their sound is bit
like Santana or Stevie Ray Vaughan.”
Harm looked at the CD and gave McBurney a smirk. “My ward has this CD
and while its good there is no comparison to Vaughan. ‘Heaven’ compared
to ‘Texas Flood’? Hmmpf.”
Mc Burney took the CD back and shrugged. ‘Whatever’. He replaced his
headphones and leaned his head back on the seat. ‘Commander Rabb is a
purist….big surprise,’ he thought.
Harm and McBurney checked into their quarters. They decided to get some
rack time before they started interviews later today at 1000. They had
come in during the night, but Harm could still see the huge difference
in Baghdad since the last time he had been there in 95’.
Saddam was gone and the smell of fear was out of the air. The eerie
quiet that falls over a place when the slightest indiscretion could be
punished by death or dismemberment, where whole families disappeared in
the night never to be seen again, was gone.
The atmosphere was nowhere near peaceful, though. He saw nearly no one
out on their ride from the airport due to curfews. It was not completely
quiet. Something unsettled hung in the air. The Marines pulling escort
duty to get them to the green zone were hyper vigilant. You had to
respect them…all the Marine jokes go away when you see the level of
readiness and professionalism they demonstrated, and most of the Marines
on this escort were younger than McBurney.
They had been given a small office for interviews. They decided to start
at the top and work their way down. First was Marine Major Matt
Anderson. When he was asked to give his take on the story, he said,
“We were asked to bring Mr. Kanin along with us on patrol.”
“By whom?” Harm asked.
The major answered, “General Watson, sir. We attempted to give Mr. Kanin
a bit of training in how he should proceed if he were to accompany us.
The word from senior enlisted was that he was less than cooperative. We
met on one occasion.”
When he was asked what, if anything, he did about the senior enlisted
concerns about Kanin’s level of cooperation, the major reported that he
was not aware until after the incident. They spoke with a Staff Sergeant
Timothy Mallory and Corporal Mike Salazaar. They all supported the
major’s report that Kanin had been difficult. It was nearly 1700 Baghdad
time. They still needed to interview Sergeant Brendan Walters, the
person apparently bearing the brunt of this.
They were to report to General Watson once they had completed their
interviews and made their recommendations. Their interview would take
place tomorrow at 0800. Rabb and McBurney settled into their makeshift
office and discussed the interviews. “This can’t be as open and shut as
it looks,” Harm said.
“So they’re all lying, sir?” McBurney said, clearly taking some offense.
“No, Major, that is not what I meant at all. We just don’t have the
whole picture. It can’t be this simple, and the SecNav wouldn’t be
involved if this didn’t go a little deeper than we have been able to
Because Harm was the senior officer on the case, he instructed Major
McBurney to have a preliminary report ready by 0630 the next morning and
he was dismissed.
Harm had settled in at his desk and was e-mailing Coates to get some
junior officers going on getting him some more background on Mr. Kanin.
He also got an update on how Mattie was doing. Coates had been a God
send once again.
Mattie and her father were going to take a long weekend in Blacksburg
after her teacher conference. He had not heard anymore from her or Tom
about their reopening Grace Aviation. He knew, though, that it was just
a matter of time. Harm would also able to get an update on her progress
at school. Her home room teacher had been kind enough to offer to e-mail
a summary after their conference.
Harm had been at his computer for some time when he decided to get a
little more coffee. It was definitely Marine coffee. One step above the
SEAL coffee the admiral had made for Master Chief Boesch when he paid a
visit to JAG. ‘What was it with these guys, anyway,’ he thought, shaking
his head. He returned to his computer. He noticed that he had an e-mail;
thinking that it was something on Kanin, he opened it. It was from Mac.
“Hey sailor….just thought I’d drop you a line and let you know I’m
thinking about you. Your grandmother is walking my legs off. LOL. I
think I’ve covered this farm 10 times. I’m feeling better. I miss you
though. I miss my spooning partner (smile) I know you’re really busy and
I won’t be mad if I don’t hear form you. Just hurry and get that case
over with so you can get back here, sailor. I’m badly in need of your
company (big wide grin).
I love you
Harm had only sent one e mail as soon as he got in. Short and sweet and
to the point:
Hey…I made it over here in one piece. Very different from my last visit.
He felt bad that he hadn’t sent more but he also knew Mac understood. He
wanted no room for error. He wanted the hell out of here and back to her
ASAP. He was focused only on this investigation, and getting to the
bottom of what appeared to be a more complicated case than he had
Mac crept into his thoughts, though; but then she always did. The
problem now was that he didn’t have to fantasize about her. The real
thing was a hell of a lot harder to push out of his mind. He would never
lie down in bed at night without wanting to hold her. He’d never hear
rain on the roof and not remember her soft sexy laughter at their
private joke about what he thought she *ought to know.*
He sent her a quick e-mail and told her just that. He smiled, thinking
of her and then decided that was as far as he should go if he wanted to
get anything else done tonight.
Sergeant Brendan Walden was brought to the small room used for
attorney/client conferences. He had a bandage over his right eye, and
his left arm was in a cast and rested in a sling. He had numerous
healing cuts on both hands and some on his face. The sergeant stood at
attention and said “Sirs.” Harm told him to stand at ease and then to be
Major McBurney said, “How were you injured, Sergeant?”
Harm looked quickly at McBurney as the sergeant replied. “During the
ambush in which Mr. Kanin was killed.”
Harm said, “We’d like you to tell us exactly what happened as you saw
The sergeant told them that Mr. Kanin, the DOD ‘advisor,’ was to
accompany them on their patrol on the day in question. It was explained
to the advisor respectfully that he had to complete a training session
in addition to the briefing he received from the senior DOD officials
when he arrived. He reported that Mr. Kanin was less than cooperative.
“Permission to speak freely, sir?” the sergeant asked. Permission was
“Sirs, this was a mistake from the beginning. We are always
prepared, we train everyday and we wouldn’t allow ourselves to become
complacent. Mr. Kanin had a hostile attitude toward all of us. He
seemed to feel we didn’t know anything and stated that he thought we
‘obviously’ didn’t know what we were doing or the job would be done. I
couldn’t believe he was from the DOD. He just walked away from us. Said
he would see for himself how this ‘mess’ was going. I followed him with
the rest staying on the planned course. I saw the insurgents on the
rooftop but by the time I got to him it was too late.”
Harm and the major finished up the interview, informing the sergeant
when asked that he would be apprised of their findings soon.
Mac and Mrs. Rabb walked up the drive, finishing up her morning
exercise. She continued to feel stronger every day. She did not feel
100% but she was definitely improving.
She was now one week and one day post surgery. October would soon be
over and she looked forward to having Harm back as soon as this weekend.
Mrs. Rabb asked, “Had enough for now, Mac?”
Mac said she was okay but that she was ready for some rest.
They went into the kitchen and sat down, each with a cup of coffee.
“You’re looking better, Mac.”
“I’m feeling better. I wish I could just get back to work so I can feel
like me again. It’s strange how greedy we are with our lives. Before my
surgery I just wanted to live, for my tumor not to have spread. As I
begin to feel better I want more – I want my life back. I want it all. I
want the doctors to tell me I’m cured.”
“One step at a time,” Mrs. Rabb reassured her.
Just then the phone rang and Mrs. Rabb answered it. It was Sturgis for
Mac. “Mac, how are you?” he said.
“I’m fine, getting better all the time. What’s up, Sturgis?’
“Two things. One, we have a new JAG starting Monday the 1st of November,
and second, a bit of bad news, I’m afraid. I’m passing this on in case
Harm doesn’t get time to let you know. He is going to have to stay in
Baghdad for at least another 3 weeks.”
Mac was silent; she was disappointed but changes like this were par for
the course for them in many situations. “Thanks for the call, Sturgis.
Who is the new JAG, anyway?”
Sturgis answered, “General Gordon Creswell, USMC.”
Mac was stunned into silence. “Mac?” Sturgis asked.
“I’m here, Sturgis.”
“He wants to see you when you come in for your follow up at Bethesda.
I’ll transfer you to Coates to set something up.” Mac set up her
appointment for the following Tuesday immediately following her
Mac told Mrs. Rabb that she wanted to lie down for a while. She had
moved back up to the guest room now. She went to the room and shut the
door. She went to the window and looked out on the gray sky and felt as
bleak as the sky looked. Suddenly every bad moment of her past had
followed her to this peaceful place. Would she ever stop paying for that
foolish choice? General Gordon Creswell had been a very close friend of
John Farrow’s. The man who was responsible for helping her get where she
was today. A man whose military career was destroyed and it was because
“What?’ Harm said into the phone on his desk. He had just come into
their small makeshift office to gather some additional information for
Sturgis was calling with Harm’s new assignment.
“Sorry, buddy, you are needed there for at least another 3 weeks. You
and Major McBurney will both be staying. We’ve got a bit of a situation
there. It seems a British news magazine on the BBZ) has some footage of
a Marine lt. colonel dressing down a junior enlisted man. There was a
bit of chest thumping and I don’t mean the lt. colonel’s. The SecNav
wants you involved because you’re – ”
“—the most experienced,” they both said at once. “Great,” Harm said.
“I took the liberty of letting Mac know,” Sturgis said. Harm thanked him
and Sturgis told him about the new JAG starting the following Monday.
“So you’ll be Chief of Staff starting Monday,” Harm said.
“Yes, and I have to say I’m more than ready to hand this off to the
They ended the call. Harm walked back toward his quarters. He passed
Major McBurney’s quarters on the way and told him about their extended
time here. The major appeared unfazed. There was something about this
kid that rubbed him the wrong way and he could not put his finger on it.
It may have been his speaking out of turn this morning with Sergeant
Walden. Harm was lead counsel after all. He had headphones on again.
He looked at Harm and said, “Hoobastank.” Harm could hear ‘The Reason’
playing on the headphones from across the room.
“I know who it is, major. Goodnight.” ‘I know what it is,’ he thought
with a sarcastic smile. ‘He’s a smartass.’
Harm got back to his quarters and began getting things arranged for the
next 3 weeks. Mattie was the priority. He spoke with Coates and Tom, and
left a message for Mattie. He hadn’t had an extended deployment like
this since he was given her guardianship. He was once again leaning
heavily on Coates. He didn’t like the idea but didn’t feel he had a
choice. Mom and Frank were out of the country, and there was just no one
else. ‘Mac,’ he thought. How would she get back for her follow up? He
needed to talk to her and he didn’t want to let her know about this by
Mrs. Rabb answered the phone. “Harmon! How are you? Yes I’ll get her.
What time is it there, anyway? You sound tired … After midnight?...” She
knocked on Mac’s door.
Mac left her laptop on which she had been typing an e-mail to Harm. Mrs.
Rabb said, “It’s Harm.” Mac sighed with relief; she really needed to
hear his voice. Sunday seemed a million years ago. Mrs. Rabb said her
goodbye and gave the phone to Mac.
“Hey, Sailor,” she said with a smile.
“I wasn’t sure I’d get to talk to you for a while. This is great.”
Harm did not want to have to tell her that he wouldn’t be home as soon
as he’d planned. He wouldn’t be there for her. “Mac, you may not think
its great when I tell you this….I … uh; I’ve been extended here for at
least another 3 weeks.”
“Its okay, Harm. Sturgis told me earlier, and I know this happens so
stop worrying about what I’m thinking.” She meant to reassure him,
though she had already been counting the days until he returned.
Harm had spoken with Jack Keeter, and when he heard the bind they were
both in he offered to get Mac back to D.C. Mac didn’t mind. ‘Thank
God.’ He knew she couldn’t be feeling too well. She never tolerated
being managed before. Harm had heard the disappointment in her voice
though and it reminded him of another time when he had let her down. He
would never forget the expression on her face. It still pained him to
think about it.
“Yeah, but now of all times. Unavoidable circumstances or not, I’m still
not there for you now… This has happened before. I don’t want you to
think you can’t count on me.”
Mac laughed softly, “Harm, I’ll never think that again. I want you with
me but I do understand.” Mac heard Harm let out a breath he seemed to
have been holding. “If you’re referring to that time when Mic left and
Renee’s father died, don’t go there. You were doing the decent thing,
Harm. Looking back, though I needed you, I wouldn’t have very much
respect for you if you had turned your back on her then. I wouldn’t have
Harm sat on the side of his rack, “I’m so glad you understand and it is
so good to hear your voice.” He lay down and rolled to his back.
Mac could hear him. “Getting comfortable there, flyboy?”
“Yeah, as comfortable as I can get without you… I miss you, you know?”
Mac thought he sounded so tired. She didn’t have the heart to talk about
the concerns she had about Creswell. It would wait. He had enough to
deal with. “I wish I were there to help.”
Harm could hear the smile in her voice. He cradled the phone on his ear.
“Oh, so do I, Mac,” he smiled slyly. “So do I.”
She decided to change the subject. “How is the case going?”
“It’s going okay. We’ve definitely got a few loose ends but I think I’ll
have it wrapped up soon,” Harm said.
“How are you and the new kid on the block getting along?”
“Kid is right. He’s an arrogant pain in the ass,” he sounded completely
irritated with him.
“Boys, boys … play nice,” she said, chuckling.
“Yeah, I know. We have to get through this. He’s extended too. This next
case sounds like another political hot potato. I feel like the pc
policeman, putting out fires.”
“Gee, sounds like a lot of fun,” Mac teased. “Sure wish I were there for
Harm laughed. “Yeah yeah, your time is coming, and don’t expect any
sympathy from me, Marine.” It seemed as though it had been such a long
time since he laughed. A lot of the tension of the past 4 days started
to leave him. “God, I love to hear you laugh. I haven’t even asked you
how you are doing?”
“I’m feeling better. We’re over a week out and I really do feel a lot
stronger. I don’t feel like myself yet. I won’t till I start outrunning
Harm huffed. “You never out ran me Mac …We tied remember?”
Mac laughed at him and said, “Keep dreaming, flyboy.”
Harm chuckled as he repeated a challenge made long ago. “Oh you don’t
want to be in my dreams, Colonel.”
Mac laughed out loud and said, “Oh, yes I do.”
“What, no red light, Marine?” he said.
“You’ll just have to come home and find out, won’t you?”
“I fully intend to.”
They ended the call soon after and they both got the lift they needed.
Major Mike McBurney knocked on the open door of Harm’s quarters.
“General Watson would like to see us ASAP’”
Harm looked up and nodded. He had been expecting this. After doing a
little digging Harm was able to find out that this was not the first
time that Mr. Kanin had some difficulty with military personnel trying
to accompany him on any mission. When his preliminary report was given
to General Watson, the involuntary manslaughter charges against Sergeant
Walden were dropped. He was awarded a non-judicial punishment. However,
scuttlebutt was that Mr. Kanin was well connected in Washington and to
the House Armed Services Committee. So Harm assumed that this was what
the meeting with the general would be about.
Harm knocked and General Watson told him and McBurney to enter. They
came to attention after entering the room.
“Commander Rabb, Major McBurney,” the general nodded toward them. “Stand
at ease. We will have a conference call in a few moments with the SecNav
and Congressman Bolton. I will warn you both that the congressman is not
happy about our findings in this matter.”
He buzzed his yeoman and told him to put the call through. “Commander
Rabb, since you are lead counsel in this matter, we will primarily
address our questions to you. Congressman Bolton of the House Armed
Services Committee is also present and may also ask some questions.
Shall we proceed?”
Harm and McBurney both answered, “Yes, sir.”
The general walked from behind his desk and around to the back of the
room. Harm and McBurney stood near the speaker phone. They each answered
the Secretary and the congressman in turn, supporting their argument
that Mr. Kanin had a documented history of leaving military personnel
who were accompanying him on a number of occasions in Afghanistan as
well as Iraq.
Congressman Bolton seemed to be more and more angry with every question
answered. He said, “I don’t suppose Mr. Kanin’s political affiliation
has anything to do with what your findings were.”
Harm and McBurney looked at each other and Harm said to the SecNav,
“Permission to speak freely, sir?”
The congressman started to speak again, but Secretary Sheffield said
“Granted” loudly and peered at the congressman over his spectacles.
“In answer to your question, congressman, I am not aware of what Mr.
Kanin’s political affiliation is. As far as what I may or may not
believe politically is not important, I serve at the pleasure of the
President of the United States and duly elected officials who represent
the nation as a whole. My decisions must and always have been
Congressman Bolton interrupted and said, “Someone is responsible for
Harm answered him, “Sir, we cannot charge a man who was in fact trying
to save Mr. Kanin and was wounded in the process. Mr. Kanin refused to
be protected or guided by anyone. He is responsible for his own death,
not Sergeant Walden.”
The congressman started to speak again, but the SecNav cut him off.
“That will be all, gentlemen.” With that he signed off.
The congressman walked up to the SecNav and said, “This is not over,
Sheffield.” The Secretary knew that it was not. He also understood that
Commander Rabb had made a very powerful enemy.
The general, out of sight of Harm and McBurney, had been smiling. “Thank
you, Commander, Major. That will be all.”
Both men came to attention and said “Yes, Sir.”
McBurney followed Harm down the hallway toward their quarters. ‘He has
more balls than I thought,’ he raised his eyebrows and thought maybe it
was a good thing they wouldn’t be in Washington for awhile.
Mac was returning from her walk. Mrs. Rabb could see her from the
kitchen window. She knew Mac had been brooding for a couple of days now.
She appeared to be getting stronger but quieter. Mrs. Rabb had no doubt
she was ready to be on her own. She had gradually backed away from Mac
over the last couple of days, giving her what she thought she needed –
some space to work this change in her life through.
They had been lucky today. It was a beautiful sunny day and it had
gotten into the 60’s. The air smelled of burning leaves. Fall was still
in her glory. Mac thought it was her favorite time of year. She came in
the door and there was coffee brewing.
Mrs. Rabb invited her into the kitchen and made her a cup. She sat down
with her and asked, “How are you today, Mac?”
She said that she was feeling better. She knew Mrs. Rabb could see a
difference in how she had been. She was closing herself off again. She
needed to talk this out and she knew Harm wasn’t an option, not now.
“I’ve had a lot on my mind. I guess you can tell.”
“You have gotten quieter.” Mac sighed and struggled for the words to
begin. Mrs. Rabb said, “Mac, if you don’t feel comfortable talking about
it, don’t do it. I don’t want you to be uncomfortable with me.”
“No, it’s okay, I need to talk about this. I have had a lot on my mind
since I talked with Sturgis. I have made a few mistakes in my past.
Those mistakes seem to be following me. I...”
Mrs. Rabb interrupted her, wanting to put her at ease. “Remember, Mac,
you don’t have to give me details.”
“I know – it’s just this. The new JAG knows some things about my
personal life … some things that happened many years ago when I wasn’t
making very good decisions. I am not concerned about my work at JAG. I
know I’ve done a good job there. But the general may hold my past
against me. Harm knows everything there is to know about me. I haven’t
discussed this with him, though. I think he has enough to deal with
right now. I just want to leave this behind me and it just keeps coming
up in my face when I least expect it.”
Mrs. Rabb thought for a long moment. “Mac, you have to make a choice.
You can leave the past behind and move on, or you can live in the past
and be miserable.”
She looked up quickly at Mrs. Rabb.
“I’m sorry to sound so blunt, Mac, but happiness truly is a choice.
Sometimes circumstances just are what they are. The difference is how
you handle them. I know it sounds simple, Mac, but it really isn’t
complicated. You chose to change your life a long time ago. You built a
career and overcame your alcoholism; did you choose to be happy, too?”
Mac smiled at Mrs. Rabb, and she covered her hand with hers. Mac said,
“I never really thought about it.”
Mrs. Rabb said, “Mac, both of our parents made choices that could have
ruined our lives. I had the luck to find the Rabbs and then my David. I
lost him, but I was able to come back here to those wonderful people and
make a home for my baby and me.”
Mac shook her head. It was a different time. Things were so much
Mrs. Rabb seemed to sense what she was thinking and said, “Circumstances
may not be exactly the same, but they are similar enough. I have lived
without a husband since I was 19 years old but I was not always alone. I
didn’t marry because in my time if a woman married she was very limited
in what she did. A career was almost out of the question. That choice
caused a lot of talk at work and at home. If I had let what some people
thought about me stop me, I’d never have done anything. David’s parents
were wonderful; they helped make it all possible. I was able to have a
meaningful career and raise my son. You’ve made some good choices too, Mac. You have nothing to be ashamed
“Thank you, Sarah,” Mac said. They both stood and Mrs. Rabb refilled
their cups. The sun was starting to set and they decided to walk out to
the porch and watch it. It was only a little after 5 but it was getting
They quietly watched the sunset and Mrs. Rabb asked, “Have you talked to
Harmon about this yet?”
Mac answered “No, not yet. He has enough on his mind.”
Mrs. Rabb thought for a while, “I don’t want to overstep, Mac, but I
will say this. You both obviously have what it takes to make each other
happy, but part of being a couple is bearing each other’s burdens. I
have no doubt he is under a lot of pressure.”
Mac spoke up, “I know I probably need to talk to him about it, but I
want to be sure I have this straight in my own mind before I do that. I
don’t want him to worry anymore about me than he already does.”
Mrs. Rabb raised her eyebrows and considered what she said. She walked
over to her and hugged her. “Do what you think is best.” She leaned back
and looked at her. “You know, you are looking better, Mac. I think I’ve
put a least a couple of pounds on you since you’ve been here.”
They both laughed and went back in the house.
Mac slowly paced the room. Harm had told her he would call tonight. It
would be nearly 0700 Saturday morning there. She walked to the bureau
that held the pictures of his parents and grandparents. She felt as
though she knew all of them. Harm’s grandfather David, and even Harm
senior. She had felt she known Harm’s dad for a long time, since Harm
had told her so much about him. She studied the picture of him and
Trish. She thought, ‘Oh, Harm, I want this too.’ To be pregnant with
Harm’s child, with his arms around her, laughing, looking forward to the
Just then the phone rang and Mac picked it up quickly. “Hey, you’re
getting fast, Marine,” Harm said, laughing.
“I didn’t want to wake your grandmother,” Mac answered. “Don’t get
Harm laughed again. “Oh, come on, Mac, you know you miss me.”
Mac shook her head, smiling. “Hey, stop rubbing it in. You sound good
this time. Did you get your beauty sleep, Harmon?”
Harm told her he how he was doing and that he was feeling pretty good,
all things considered.
“Getting along any better with McBurney?”
“Well, let’s just say we’re not getting on each other’s nerves as much,
but the day is young.”
Mac laughed and thought that he was sounding more and more like an old
salt dealing with a boot camp, and she told him so.
“Hey, I’m not that old,” Harm said, sounding wounded.
“Oh, I was just kidding, Sailor....don’t be so sensitive.”
Harm told her all about his encounter with Congressman Bolton the day
“Sounds like you’re just making new friends everywhere, Harm,” Mac
“Yeah, I know. I couldn’t believe the nerve of that congressman, though.
‘Political affiliation.’ What was that? I haven’t had to deal with that
since… I don’t know when.”
Mac remembered. “It was around the time you made commander.”
“Oh yeah, the Washington Globe, how could I forget?”
Mac told him about her day. She told him about the talk she had with his
grandmother. The new JAG was a big concern for her and she was going to
have to face it. It loomed too large for Harm not to know about it.
“Mac, that’s ancient history.”
Mac was quiet for a moment. “It was a huge mistake, Harm. Even if we
didn’t see each other until I was no longer in his chain of command. I
just feel responsible for ruining his career – and he really did help
me, Harm. I might not have gotten into law school without his
recommendation. You said it yourself.”
Harm cringed; he remembered what he had said. It was one of a number of
conversations with Mac he would love to take back.
“You want the truth, Mac? I acted like an ass and I know it. I wanted
you to want me and I didn’t think you gave me a second thought. I knew
how to get under your skin and I did. I’m sorry.”
Mac said, “Yeah, like my comment about Sergei and Mattie last spring.
Words that I would love to take back if I could.” They were both silent
for a moment. Then Mac said,
“You know, Harm, if we get as busy doing the right things in this
relationship as we did the wrong things, we might just be unstoppable.”
They both laughed at that, and Harm said,
“I want you to do something for me, Mac.”
He made his very detailed request and she agreed. They talked for a few
minutes more. She heard McBurney come in and he said, “Well, I have to
Mac smiled and decided to give him a hard time just one more time before
she hung up. In her sexiest voice she murmured into the phone,
“Baby, I love you,” and then laughed, her laugh eliciting an automatic
blush from Harm.
‘Oh, he was going to get her for that.’ Harm couldn’t keep the smile
from his face.
“Ah....you too.” He heard her laughing as he hung up the phone.
McBurney looked at Harm and said, “Colonel MacKenzie?”
Harm stood and busied himself with some papers on the table. “Are you
ready to get started?”
Harm had asked her if she had brought her walkman with her. She had. He
told her to get a CD he had left in the room he had slept in when he was
there the last time. He hadn’t left the cover; it was on the dresser.
She looked at the CD. *Stevie Ray Vaughan* He had told her to listen to
the fourth song. It was called ‘Pride and Joy.’ She put on her head
phones. She heard blues guitar… of course. Mac thought, ‘definitely
Then she heard the words: “she’s my sweet little thing, she’s my pride
and joy, she’s my sweet little baby I’m her little lover boy’ She
started laughing out loud. She covered her mouth so she wouldn’t wake
Mrs. Rabb. She thought ‘God, I love that man.’ She literally laughed
until she cried.