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Author's Notes: This story takes place around seven years after Luke Pendry's death, which would place it sometime within an early Season 9 time frame. Annie decided that Baltimore was too close to Harm after Josh tried to hitch a ride to DC to see him and moved back to California, near Sacramento. She went to work in another bank. After Josh tried to hitch a ride to DC, Annie decided that Baltimore was too close to Harm. She moved back to California and got a job in another bank.
Harm and Mac, back at JAG and recovered from events in Paraguay, are taking the first steps in establishing their "new" relationship. True to form, things aren't going as smoothly as they might hope. When Harm gets a telephone call from an old friend, old emotions cause a few "bumps in the road."
From Part 2:
Mitch led them out to a well-manicured area that contained a redwood swing set/fort before he turned to look at them. "I didn't tell the cops everything," he admitted. "I was afraid they'd tell his mom, and well- "
Mac saw that Mrs. Conklin was standing on the other side of the patio door, cordless telephone in hand, as Harm asked, "What didn't you tell them, Mitch?"
"Finney?" Mac questioned, looking at Mitch.
"Hank Finney. But we call him Finney. He's kind of a dork."
Mac glanced at the list of Josh's friends that Annie had given them. "He's not on the list," she told him.
"He wouldn't be," Mitch told them. "His father was in the Navy," he explained. "His old man's dead, but his grandfather was an airplane mechanic in the Navy in the dark ages."
Harm gave Mac a look over Mitch's red hair. "Doesn't sound like someone Annie would approve of as a friend."
"You kidding?" Mitch said. "We invited Josh to an air show a few years ago, and his mom went totally nuts when she found out. If she even got wind that Josh was friends with Finney, she'd have a fit."
"Do you have an address for Hank Finney?" Harm asked.
"Yeah," Mitch said. "He lives south of here. 2214 Resido Drive. Him and his mom. And his grandfather when the old guy's not at the airfield."
Harm's eyes widened at the words. "Airfield?
Bud nodded into the telephone as he listened and took notes. "Okay, Colonel," he said at last.
"I know it's an imposition, Bud, and technically this isn't a JAG investigation, but-"
"No problem, ma'am," he insisted, smiling. "Does the Commander really think that Josh is with this -" he glanced at his notes, "Hank Finney's grandfather?"
Bud could hear Mac's smirk even over the phone as she responded, " He says that's where he would have been."
"I could've guessed that, ma'am," Bud replied, smiling as well, until he felt the Admiral's glare focused on him. "Uh, I have to go, ma'am," he began, but the Admiral was already at Bud's office door.
"Who is it, Bud? Rabb or Mackenzie?" he asked in a suspicious tone.
Before Bud could respond, Lt. Col. Mackenzie said, "Don't lie to him, Bud."
"Yes sir," Bud told the Admiral. "It's Lt. Colonel Mackenzie, sir."
"Tell 'em to get back here ASAP," the Admiral said. "Can't have half my staff out chasing runaway children. And I need your recommendation on the Carson case on my desk in an hour."
Bud stared at the Admiral's retreating back, uncertain of what to say. "Uh, the Admiral-"
"I heard him, Bud," Col. Mackenzie said. "This shouldn't take too much longer. If Josh is with Hank Finney's grandfather, we should be able to get him back to his mother before the end of the day. Tomorrow at the latest."
"His mother's not going to be happy if the Commander is right, ma'am," Bud commented, already inputting the name "Finney" into the database.
"We'll cross that bridge when we come to it, Bud," she said. "Call me if -"
Bud interrupted her. "I have a George Finney who was killed a year ago while serving on the Sea Hawk-" he frowned as his voice trailed off.
"Is something wrong, Bud?" Mac asked.
"Uh, no ma'am. It's just- Lieutenant Finney's case was on my desk when - I stepped on that mine. I don't know how the name slipped my mind."
"You probably had other things on your mind," Mac suggested gently.
"It *did* hit my desk that morning," he recalled. "Lieutenant George Finney was a radar intercept officer."
"A RIO?" Mac questioned, and he guessed she was looking at Commander Rabb.
"Who?" Bud heard him ask.
"Hank Finney's father. He was a RIO assigned to the Sea Hawk while Bud was there."
"I didn't really know him," Bud continued. "He was quiet, kept to himself. You remember the incident that killed him, ma'am. His plane went down over the ocean due to mechanical failure. He and the pilot punched out, but Lt. Finney got caught up in his parachute and was strangled. By the time SARS found him, he was already dead." Bud typed another query. "According to the report, Lt. Singer found that the pilot wasn't responsible for the crash, strangely enough. She seemed to have found fault with everything else on the ship," was his wry comment. "Sorry, Colonel. I shouldn't have-"
"That's okay, Bud. Anything in the records about Lt. Finney's family?"
"Wife's name Alicia -" his eyes scanned the files for any further information. "No maiden name given, ma'am. Sorry. I can keep digging, if you'd like," he offered.
"No, you have your own work to do. I think Cmdr. Rabb and I can take it from here."
"Good luck," Bud said, and then, for some reason he couldn't have explained if he'd been asked, he added, "And be careful, Colonel."
Mac frowned as she closed her cell phone. Harm noticed and asked, "What's wrong?"
"Nothing. I just-" she took a deep breath, as if trying to shake something off. "I just got a cold chill down my spine."
He gave her a lopsided grin. "Another of your premonitions?" he teased.
"I don't know," she was forced to admit, running a hand across the back of her neck to smooth the hair that was standing on end. "Bud told me to 'be careful', and it suddenly hit me."
"Come on, Mac," Harm said, still smiling. "What could possibly happen?"
She gave him a wide-eyed look. "Knowing you? Anything." Then she smiled. "But that's part of your charm. I never know what's going to happen from one moment to the next when I'm with you."
"Keeps you on your toes," Harm suggested, turning onto Resido Drive. "What was that house number again?" he asked.
"2214," Mac supplied, her dark eyes scanning the neat houses that lined the street. "There, I think," she said at last, pointing toward a one-story ranchette with a neatly trimmed postage-stamp sized yard.
The painted lettering on the curb confirmed her choice, and Harm pulled the rented car into the drive as a woman came from the house, keys in her hand. She looked at them, confusion in her green eyes. "Can I help you?" she asked. "I'm on my way out of town-If you're selling something-"
"No," Mac said quickly. "We'd like to ask you a few questions about Josh Pendry," she explained.
The woman's face revealed concern. "You're not his mother. I met her at a PTA meeting last year."
"We're friends of hers," Harm confirmed. "And of Josh. I'm Harmon Rabb, Jr. This is Sarah Mackenzie-"
The woman's jaw dropped, and then she smiled. "Of course. Josh has told my son Hank about you. You're in the Navy, right? A - pilot?"
"Yes," Harm nodded, hoping that she could read his sympathy in his eyes. "I know about your husband, Mrs. Finney. I served on the Sea Hawk for awhile myself a few years ago."
Alicia Finney smiled as she recalled her husband. "George loved to fly. He couldn't make the cut as a pilot, so he settled for being a RIO. I'm just glad that the contractor admitted that the part had malfunctioned so that Jack Barnes wasn't blamed. George thought the world of him. It would have been a crime for George's death to be on Jack's shoulders." She smiled up at them. "You said you wanted to ask some questions about Josh. Why? Is something wrong?"
"You haven't heard?" Mac asked.
"No - I was out of town until late last night - I sent Henry to visit his grandparents in Colorado. What's happened?"
"He's missing, Mrs. Finney," Harm said. "He left home after a disagreement with his mother night before last and hasn't been seen since."
The green eyes became suspicious. "Then how did you find out about Hank being Josh's friend?" she asked. "Josh told me that he couldn't tell his mother about Hank because he was afraid she'd move again since my husband had been in the Navy and - well, after meeting Annie Pendry at that PTA meeting, I understood why he felt that way." She drew a deep breath. "I know it was wrong of me to allow him to lie to her, but - well, I suppose that I just couldn't understand her reasoning. I lost my husband, too, but I can't see banning my son from flying or the Navy because of it." She gave a soft chuckle. "Of course, I didn't have much choice in that. George's father is ex-Navy. And my father served as well. Master Chief Nick Harrison. He was an aircraft mechanic until he retired ten years ago. "
"Is your father here?" Mac questioned. "The friend who pointed us in this direction implied that he and Josh are pretty close."
Alicia smiled naturally for the first time. "Yeah. They are. Took to each other like ducks to water. Or I guess I should say birds to the air. But, no. Dad's not here. He only stays here during the week unless he's got things to do out at the airfield."
"When was the last time you saw either of them?" Harm asked.
"I saw Dad night before last. He came in, said that he was only here to pick up some clean clothes and then he was going back out- something about needing to work on the plane."
"What about Josh?" Mac wanted to know.
"A couple of days before that, I suppose. He was here almost as much as Dad. He told me that he wished he could live with Hank and me - or with Dad at the airfield."
"Where is this airfield, Mrs. Finney?" Harm questioned.
When they got back in the car, Mac took out her cell phone again. "Who are you calling?" Harm asked.
"Bud. See what he can find out about Master Chief Nick Harrison," she explained.
"Don't bother," Harm said, and gave her a wry smile. "Master Chief Harrison served on the Tico with my father. In fact," he said, starting the car's engine and putting it into gear, "Nick Harrison was head of the repair crew that worked on his plane for a little while."
"You know what they say," Mac told him, seeing that old look of loss on his handsome face. "It's a small world."
"And getting smaller all the time," Harm agreed, turning to look behind them as he backed out into the street.
18 August 2003
1200 local time
South of Elk Grove, California
Nick Harrison surveyed the aircraft engine before him with a judgmental eye. "I really need to think about replacing that alternator before long," he muttered, tightening a bolt down. Holding out the wrench, he said, "Here. I need the 5/16th box end." His assistant slapped it into his hand like a pro.
"I thought you said that the alternator wasn't that bad?" Josh said.. "When I mentioned it last week-"
"That was last week. No more night flying 'til I replace it," Nick replied, stuffing the wrench and a greasy rag into the back pocket of his greased-stained coveralls. "I'll have to order it. Take a few days for it to get here."
"Can I help you put it in when it does?" Josh asked.
"Nope," Nick said, as he closed the cover and secured it. Noting Josh's downcast expression, he continued, "because you're gonna be back home, where you belong."
"But Chief, I thought you said-"
"I said a couple of days, Josh," Nick reminded the boy, removing his glasses to inspect them for dust and grease before putting them back on. "Your mom must be sick with worry by now. And the last thing I need is someone tracing you out here. She'll have me arrested for kidnapping and who knows what else."
"You didn't know that I was in the camper of your pickup truck," Josh insisted.
"And I should have turned around and taken you back the minute I found you," Nick pointed out. He put a hand on Josh's shoulder. "Josh, I know it's tough for you. But until you're older, you have to do what your mom says." He was distracted by the sound of a vehicle approaching along the graveled road outside, and went to the sliding doors of the hangar to look outside.
Seeing the older Chevy with dark tinted windows come to a stop outside, Nick turned to Josh. "Get into the office, Josh."
"That's an order, Seaman Pendry. Into the office. Now. And don't come out no matter what. Do I make myself clear?"
Josh still looked confused, but he said, "Aye, Chief," and disappeared through the metal door that led into the small office across the hangar floor.
Nick was still standing beside the Cessna when three young men entered the hangar. "I thought I made it clear that you weren't welcome here," he told them.
"It's a free country, old man," one of the young men replied with a smirk. "Ain't that right, Bobby?"
Bobby, a rail-thin young man with a shock of dyed red hair, nodded. "So they say, Pete," he agreed, ducking to clear the wing of the airplane.
The third member of the group was short and muscular, with tattoos that covered most of his exposed skin. Nick had no idea what the man's real name was, but his friends had always referred to him as "Ice". As usual, Ice didn't say much, just stood there looking menacing as Pete ran a hand over the leading edge of the Cessna's wing.
"What are you doing here?" Nick wanted to know. "I told you last time that I'll call the cops if you or your friends showed up again -" Nick found himself pushed against the fuselage of the airplane by Pete, who grabbed one arm as Bobby grabbed the other.
"We don't like threats, old man," Pete warned. "If you so much as breathe a word to the cops, well, Ice here'll take care of that grandson and daughter of yours. Be a shame if you were responsible for anything happening to them, wouldn't it?" he asked as Ice rammed his fist into a toolbox that sat nearby, bending the metal inward.
Nick saw the blinds on the office door flutter, and prayed that Josh obeyed orders for once and stayed inside.
Harm brought the car to a stop several yards away from the hangar, and Mac frowned. "What are you doing?"
"If Josh is here, the last thing we need is to give him the opportunity to run off when he sees us," he told her, opening the car door.
"What makes you think he'll run away from you? I thought you two were friends?"
"He'll know that his mother called me to help - and it's been a few years since he's seen me," Harm pointed out, heading toward the metal building. "I just think its best not to take any chances."
As they approached the hangar, they heard voices inside, echoing through the cavernous interior.
"You keep away from my family," a man warned someone.
"I think he needs to know that we mean business, Pete, don't you?" another voice asked.
Harm and Mac peered carefully around the edge of the sliding
metal doors. It was obvious that the younger men intended to beat
the older one.
"Excuse us?" Harm said. "Is there a problem here?" he asked, entering the hangar. He saw the old man's eyes narrow behind the lenses that covered his eyes, then widen momentarily.
"This isn't your business, man," the tallest said. "Go back wherever you came from."
"I'm afraid I can't do that," Harm said, meeting Nick Harrison's gaze for a moment. "Are you okay?"
Nick nodded. "So far."
"My buddy said get lost, man," Ice said in a low, threatening tone as he turned to confront Harm and Mac. He gave Mac a dismissive glare before facing Harm. The move was a mistake, because as he took a step toward Harm, Harm backed up, leaving Mac where she was. As Ice moved past her, Mac grabbed the muscle man's wrist, twisting the arm behind his back, and swept his feet from underneath him, sending him crashing to the concrete floor, face first.
Harm gave her a look of approval as the other two men beat a hasty retreat, giving Mac a wide berth. "When I get up, lady," Ice warned, but grunted again as Mac gave his arm a last twist before she released it and joined Harm. Ice scrambled to his feet, cradling his right arm. "You'll pay for that, lady," he said. The sound of a car horn sent him toward the doors to join his friends.
"Not bad," Harm told Mac.
"You didn't think I could take him, did you?"
"I never had any doubts," he assured her with a grin. "Why do you think I lured him past you?"
"And I never thought I'd see the day when you'd let a Marine fight your battle for you, flyboy," Mac returned with a smile of her own. "And a female Marine at that."
"Well, you're the one who's always insisting on equal opportunities," he said. "Maybe some of that's finally sinking in."
They turned their attention back to where Nick was standing, now at attention, a hand to his head in a salute. "Master Chief Nick Harrison, at your service, sir," he announced, holding the salute until it was returned by Harm.
"At ease, Master Chief," Harm ordered. "How did you know -?"
"I was in the Navy for over thirty years, sir," Nick explained. "I learned to recognize officers even out of uniform. And pilots." He shook his head.
"Commander Harmon Rabb, Jr.," Harm said. "This is Lt. Colonel Sarah Mackenzie."
"Ma'am," Nick said, looking as though he might salute again. It passed quickly, though, as he shook his head in Harm's direction. "You're the spitting image of your father, Commander. I served with him- transferred off the Tico about a month before he went down. He was one of the good ones. Most pilots didn't take a lot of notice of the mechanics. But Hammer - he always spoke- hell, he even saved my six in a bar fight once. Kind of like you did now. Only it was Lt. Boone who was with him that time. Not a lady Marine."
"Times have changed, Master Chief," Mac said.
"That they have, ma'am," Nick agreed. "I want to thank you for what you did. Not that it'll do much good. They'll be back."
"Why were they threatening you?" Harm questioned.
Nick's attention was suddenly diverted to the fuselage where the men had held him, inspecting it for damage. "They're a bunch of punk kids who think it's fun to terrorize an old man," he said. "They out here so they can party. I run 'em off, they come back."
"Have you called the police about them?"
"I call, but by the time the cops get here, they're gone."
"Nice plane," Harm commented, running his hand over the wing, then nodded toward the yellow Piper Cub sitting in a corner. "So is that."
"This one's my bread and butter," Nick explained, meaning the Cessna. "That's my pride and joy. I give lessons and rent this one out to pay for restoring the Cub. Learned how to fly in one just like her."
"I know the feeling," Harm nodded. "I've got a Stearman that I restored like the one my grandfather learned to fly in."
Mac realized that Harm's mind was back in the skies again as he took a step toward the yellow plane. "Back on the ground, Harm," she said quietly. Harm looked at her, blinking, as he realized what she was talking about.
Nick looked at them both. "Is there a reason you're here, Commander?" he asked.
"As a matter of fact, Master Chief, there is. It's about Josh Pendry."
"Kind of figured that was it. Josh told me that he knew you. His mother figured things out, I guess?"
"No," Mac said. "She doesn't know that you've been giving Josh flying lessons."
"Then how did you find me?" Nick asked.
"Josh's friend Mitch. And your daughter."
"Have you seen Josh, Master Chief?" Harm questioned. "He ran away from home the other night -"
"I know. I found out when I got back here after stopping in to see my daughter. Josh stowed away in the camper of my truck. I agreed to let him stay a couple of days before taking him home."
"Where is he?" Harm wanted to know.
"In the office," Nick said. "I told him to go in there when I saw those punks drive up. Didn't want Josh to get hurt." Raising his voice, he called, "Josh? You can come out now!"
The door remained closed, and Nick frowned. "Josh?" he called again, this time heading toward the door and opening it. "Josh?"
The office was empty, but the window was open. Harm saw Josh climbing into the cab of Nick's pickup truck through the window, and ran to stop him.
Josh turned the key and grimaced as the engine refused to start. He slid down in the seat and pumped the gas as he'd seen Nick do. He gave a small shout of triumph as the engine roared to life. Before he could put the truck into gear, Harm reached through the open window and through the steering wheel to turn the engine off again, and pulled the keys out of the ignition.
"Hello, Josh," Harm said.