1800 Hours Local
"Why don't you go change while I get this dished out?" Harm suggested as he and Mac entered her apartment laden with Chinese take out.
"You don't have to ask twice," Mac told him, turning toward the bedroom.
"I'll start some coffee, too," Harm called after her. Between the freezer that they had both been exposed to at work over the last two days and the last hour at the clinic, they were both ready for a quiet evening with no stress.
While dishing up the food onto plates, Harm heard the TV go on in the living room. "What's this?" he asked as he joined her and sat down beside her.
"News. It's a habit I picked up when Clay and I -" she reached for the remote. "I can turn it off -"
"No, that's okay," he assured her. "Probably not a bad idea, keeping up -" he stopped as he saw a clip of Allison Krennick. "Turn it up."
"The allegation against Admiral Krennick, who is being considered as the next Judge Advocate General of the Navy, states that she sexually harassed a junior officer when she was a Commander serving at JAG Headquarters in Falls Church several years ago," Stuart Dunston's voice explained. "When asked about the allegations, both Admiral Krennick and Secretary of the Navy Edward Sheffield said, "No comment." The allegations were made in an anonymous call to ZNN's news hotline."
Mac muted the TV and turned to look at Harm. "You didn't -"
"I didn't call them," he assured her.
"Do you know who did?"
Harm shrugged. "Maybe someone who used to work at JAG back then," he suggested. "They found out that Krennick was up to become JAG and decided that it was time that it came out?"
"Someone like - Meg Austin?" Mac guessed, and Harm grinned.
"You know, it *could* have been her."
"When's the last time you talked to her?"
"This afternoon," he answered honestly. "She finally returned my call and all I had to do was ask if she'd heard who was being considered to become the new JAG."
"You didn't suggest that she make that call to ZNN?"
"You know she's going to think that you made that call, Harm."
"It won't matter. Even the allegation is probably enough to keep her from being confirmed."
"You know they'll want to talk to everyone who worked at JAG nine years ago, see if they can find out who that 'junior officer' might have been to see if he wants to testify about it."
"Let them ask."
"You're determined to do this, aren't you?"
"Mac, Krennick's not the person that she presents herself to be. She should never have gotten her first star or ever been *considered* as JAG."
"Any idea who we might get instead?"
"Who ever it is *has* to be better than Al Krennick." He picked up the remote and turned the TV off. "You want to talk about what Dr. Macon told us?"
"I'm not sure there's much to talk about. Once he calls to confirm the results of the tests they did, then it's all pretty much on me and my little monitor," she told him, digging into the plastic bag that the doctor had given to her for the ovulation monitor.
Harm took their empty plates and set them on the coffee table before taking her hand in his. "I want to be there, Mac."
"It's important that we be able to tell a child that we were together every step of the way. If it's at all possible, I want to be there."
"Okay. If it's at all possible," she agreed, smiling as she pulled her hand away and picked up their plates to take them into the kitchen. "I'll bring the coffee."
The telephone rang, and Harm asked, "You want me to get that?"
"Would you mind?"
Harm lifted the receiver. "Hello?"
"There was no answer at your number. I thought that you would be with her," Allison Krennick's distinctive voice said.
"Was there something you wanted, Admiral?" he asked as Mac returned with two cups of coffee and sat down next to him, leaning toward the phone to listen in on the conversation.
"Just to let you know that it's not going to work, Harm."
"I'm not sure what you're talking about, Admiral," Harm said, playing dumb. "Has something happened?"
"You know damn well something 'happened', Commander. Someone leaked a little rumor to the press about my having sexually harassed a junior officer during my last posting at JAG here in DC. Half of the Washington press corps has been practically camping out on my doorstep trying to get an interview."
"Really? I hadn't heard anything about it," Harm lied. "Not much for watching news. And I've been busy since I left the office."
"Admit it, Harm. You called Stuart Dunston and gave him the tip because of that little - misunderstanding that we had yesterday."
"It was a little more than misunderstanding, Admiral," Harm pointed out. "And I didn't call Dunston. He and I don't exactly get along, as I'm sure almost anyone can tell you. Including the SecNav."
"I'll survive this, Harm. And when I do, both you and Colonel Mackenzie should seriously consider transferring out of the JAG Ops. Because I'll make your lives a living hell for putting me through this."
"We haven't put you through anything, Admiral," Harm pointed out calmly. "It's all your doing. Now, if you'll excuse me, I'm off duty, and have plans. I'll see you tomorrow morning at the office and we can discuss this further if you'd like -" He pulled the phone away from his ear, wincing as she slammed it down to hang up on him.
"That is *not* a happy woman," Mac decided.
"Would you be if you saw your past coming back to destroy your carefully laid plans?" he questioned.
"Which is exactly why I'll never be JAG," Mac pointed out. "Too many skeletons in my closet."
"But you've overcome them all," Harm replied. "And unlike Al Krennick, you've learned from them."
She lifted her cup. "Here's hoping."
0830 Hours Local
Falls Church, VA
Harm and Mac arrived at the same time, getting out of their cars to survey the knot of reporters hovering near the front entrance to the building. "Looks like the circus is in town," Mac noted in a wry tone.
"They smell blood," Harm pointed out, taking a deep breath before starting toward the building.
"Commander Rabb. Just the person I was hoping to see," Stuart Dunston said, blocking their way.
"Good morning to you, too, Stuart," Harm said. "If this is about Admiral Krennick -"
"As a matter of fact, it is. You were working here at JAG when she was Admiral Chegwidden's adjutant, weren't you?"
"Well, yes, I was."
"Do you happen to know anything about these charges that have been made against Admiral Krennick?"
"I'm not aware of any charges, Stuart," Harm said amiably. "Only rumors. I don't listen to rumors."
"This rumor has a very credible source, Commander," Stuart insisted. "Surely you can tell me if you remember anyone that might have been the target of then Commander Krennick's - attentions?"
"As I said, Stuart, I don't deal in rumors. Now, if you'll excuse us, we're going to be late for work."
He stepped around the reporter and followed Mac through the doors, watching her sign in before doing the same. A moment later, Bud followed them through the doors, evading Dunston and the others.
"Good morning, Bud," Mac said.
"Good morning, ma'am. Sir," he said, glancing through the doors as he signed in as well. "I guess they're here about the allegations against the Admiral," he said.
"How did you find out?" Mac asked as they moved toward the elevators.
"It was on the news," Bud reminded them. "Do you think it's true, sir?" he asked Harm.
"You never know, Bud," Harm answered as the doors closed. "But it's not our place to speculate." He studiously ignored the look that Mac sent his way.
"What do you think is going to happen?" Bud asked, this time directing his question to Mac.
"There's no way of telling, Bud. I'm sure there will be a hearing of some kind - but if Stuart Dunston refuses to reveal his source -"
"He said last night that it was anonymous," Bud pointed out. "And that it was someone who worked at JAG while she was here nine years ago."
"If he's planning on going through everyone, it's a pretty big list," Harm pointed out.
"You never saw her - do anything, sir?" Bud asked just as the doors opened and the three of them came face to face with Admiral Allison Krennick. "Admiral. Good morning, ma'am," Bud said, recovering quickly.
"Lt. Commander. Colonel Mackenzie. Commander Rabb." She moved past them as they got out of the elevator.
"Are you going somewhere, Admiral?" Bud asked.
"I seriously doubt it, Lt. Commander Roberts," she drawled, glaring at Harm and Mac. "But I might not be the only one. Good day," she said as the doors closed.
"I wonder what she meant by that?" Bud wondered aloud as the three of them turned toward the glass doors into ops.
Before Mac or Harm could frame a reply, they saw Sturgis. "I guess you've heard?"
"We met Admiral Krennick on her way out," Mac explained.
"She was called to the SecNav's office - and I've been detailed to do a quiet investigation about the allegations."
"Did you talk to the Admiral about the allegations?" Bud asked.
"She refused to speak to me, insisted that there was no truth to the rumor and that it would all die down as soon as she finished her meeting with the SecNav."
"Somehow I don't think she's right about that," Harm said, moving into the bullpen.
"Harm, I need to talk to you."
"Whenever you like, Sturgis."
"You doing anything right now?" his old Academy buddy wanted to know.
"Your office or mine?"
"Good choice." Harm saw Mac's concerned look as he entered Sturgis' office and gave her a wide grin and wink. "What do you need to know?"
"You were here when Admiral Krennick was here nine years ago, weren't you?"
"Yes. In fact, I worked my first case with her. She transferred out for awhile and then came back when Admiral Chegwidden took over. I don't think she and Teddy Lindsey got along."
"It wasn't Lindsey that she harassed, was it?" Sturgis wanted to know, his dark eyes on Harm's face.
Harm chuckled. "Hardly."
"Do you remember seeing anything that could have been construed as harassment of a junior officer, Harm?"
"It's been a long time, Sturg."
Sturgis sat down at his desk, still looking at Harm. "You know, I remember one of your infrequent letters mentioning that a female officer was coming on a bit strong. You never mentioned a name - but the time would have been about right."
"I wrote that? I don't remember having any problems worth mentioning."
"It would have been around the time that Admiral Chegwidden took over, I think. You did say that it didn't bother you all that much, said that you thought she was probably just trying to 'keep you in your place' since she saw you as a possible threat to her career plans."
Harm looked at the ceiling. "Sturgis, it was a long time ago -"
"And it explains why you've been as nervous as a cat on a hot roof for the last couple of days."
"Harm, you forget that I spent two tours as your roommate. Having Krennick around wound you up pretty tight. Did you make the call to ZNN?"
"No. Someone else who was around back then must have made it. Is there anyway we can keep me out of this, Sturgis?"
"Do you want to file a complaint?"
"No. Only as a last resort."
Sturgis nodded, understanding. "Has she done anything since she returned?"
"No - well, she tried to transfer Mac to Okinawa because she saw her as a rival -"
"I see. About you and Mac, Harm - what's the situation there? I've noticed that you and she seem to be closer the last few days -"
"We are, but, it's - well, complicated."
Sturgis shook his head. "When isn't it? I guess some of the complication concerns Clayton Webb's death?"
"Yeah. About that, Sturgis - you're sure he was one of the men who died?"
"Harm - We've been over this. I saw his photograph in a file. I wasn't supposed to." He looked at Harm. "You think he's alive, don't you?"
"I know I shouldn't, but I just have this feeling that he's out there, somewhere -"
"And might show up at the worst possible time?"
"Something like that. Did SecNav say anything about who's in charge in the interim?"
"Not yet. I think he's hoping that I finish my investigation quickly so they can either pull her name and find someone else or put the rumors to bed and confirm Krennick."
"You really think that last will happen?"
"No. The SecNav doesn't like controversy. I'll do what I can to keep your name out of this, Harm. But if I'm pressed -"
"I'll take whatever comes, Sturgis. I figured something like this might happen as soon as I knew who they'd picked to take Admiral Chegwidden's place. I'd better get to my office and get some things done."
Opting not to have to face the media feeding frenzy downstairs, Harm and Mac opted to share lunch in one of the conference rooms. After they finished, they started looking through the real estate section of the paper, searching for houses that they could look at over the weekend. "This looks like a possible," Mac said, pointing to an ad. "Four bedrooms, three and a half baths, study, formal living and dining rooms, family room, full basement -"
"Probably wanting a fortune for it," Harm said.
"Not really," she said, tapping the paper.
"Wonder what's wrong with it?"
One of the doors opening drew their attention across the room, and both were surprised to find Edward Sheffield standing there. "Excuse me, Colonel, Commander."
"Mr. Secretary," Harm said, as he and Mac started to rise.
But the man extended a hand as he continued into the room. "Oh. Please. Stay seated. Do you mind?" he asked, indicating one of the other chairs.
"No, sir," Mac said, folding the paper.
"We have a bit of a problem, Commander," Sheffield informed them. "This matter with Admiral Krennick is - a disaster. I would hate for the fallout to damage other fine officers."
"I agree, sir," Harm said, sitting stiffly in his chair.
"Admiral Krennick has accused you of harassment, Commander -"
"Me? Mr. Secretary, I never -"
"Oh, not of her." He nodded in Mac's direction. "She told me that she believes you're harassing Colonel Mackenzie. There was a comment that she claims to have overheard. She also claims that the Colonel requested a transfer away from you, but that you somehow convinced her to change her mind."
"I never requested that transfer, sir," Mac informed him. "It was the Admiral's idea. I told her when she mentioned it that I did not want to leave JAG Headquarters for personal reasons."
"Then there was no pressure from the Commander or anyone else?"
"Believe me, Mr. Secretary, if I had wanted that assignment, Commander Rabb wouldn't have been able to dissuade me from taking it."
Sheffield nodded thoughtfully. "Just as I suspected. You're a very lucky man, Commander. I spoke to Commander Manetti on her current assignment about this - and she confirms that you are, in her words, 'the very epitome of an officer and a gentleman and would never consider taking advantage of a female officer no matter what the circumstances'."
Harm's mind flashed back to that hotel room in Italy when he'd discovered Tracy Manetti clad only in an over sized bath towel coming out of his shower. "I'll have to remember to thank the Commander, sir."
Sheffield sat there for another moment. "Do you have any idea why the Admiral would make such an accusation, Commander Rabb?"
"It's possible that she might believe that I made that telephone call to Stuart Dunston, sir," Harm explained.
"When you worked here with then Commander Krennick, did you notice anything that might have been - construed as sexual harassment of a junior officer?" he asked.
"If I did, Mr. Secretary, it never rose to the level of being something that the junior officer couldn't handle on his own," Harm answered, looking the older man in the eyes. "If it had been more, I'm certain that he would have said something about it to Admiral Chegwidden."
"Fair enough, Commander."
"What's going to happen with Admiral Krennick, sir?" Mac wanted to know.
"She insists that there's no truth to the rumors, but she withdrew her name from consideration." He rose from his chair. "I'll let the two of you return to whatever you were doing. I just wanted to let you know that there'll be no inquiry into the Admiral's accusations against you." He smiled. "And to let you know that I've decided that for the interim, you'll be in charge, Commander."
"Mr. Secretary -"
"It shouldn't take long for us to find a replacement. A few weeks at the most. I believe Commander Lindsey held that position for several months. I have no doubt that you'll do a much better job than he did. Good day, Colonel. Commander."
Harm slumped in his chair once the SecNav was gone. "Great."
"You should have known it could happen, Harm," she pointed out.
"Honestly, I didn't. Even after what you told me about my record, I thought I was out of the loop."
"The SecNav likes you. And so, apparently, did Tracy Manetti. What happened that she's so positive that you wouldn't take advantage?"
"I'll tell you later. Right now, I guess I need to get back to the bull pen and find out what's going on." He stood up, gathering the debris from their lunch, and suddenly groaned.
"I'm supposed to pick Mattie up after school - There's no way I'll be able to do that -"
"I can do it," Mac offered.
"You won't mind?"
"I wouldn't offer if I did," she replied. "Come on, Harm. Let's get to work."
"Are you going to move into the main office?" Mac asked Harm as they entered the bullpen.
"It'll probably be easier on Coates," he said. "Keep her from having to find my little cubbyhole."
"I would really appreciate it, sir," Coates herself said, appearing almost as if from thin air. "Sorry, Commander. Colonel. I didn't mean to eavesdrop, but I was coming to find you, sir." She held out some papers. "Your orders - and I need your signature on some case reports."
"Right behind you, Coates," he said, taking the papers from her. "See you later, Mac."
"Count on it," she promised.
Near 1430, Mac tapped on the door of the office, finding him sitting at the desk, immersed in paperwork. "Having fun?" she asked, and hid her smile at the glare that he sent her way.
"Sure. I *love* going through case reports."
"I just wanted to let you know that I'm on my way to pick Mattie up. I just take her home, right?"
"Yeah. She knows to stay there until Coates or I get home."
"Okay. I should be back in a little over an hour."
"Mac?" he called, causing her to stop. "Thanks."
"You can thank me later," she said, leaving the office with a smile.
Mac pulled up in the area where Harm said that he usually parked and then got out of the Vette to watch for Mattie. School was already out for the day, and there were teenagers everywhere. After ten minutes, Mac started to frown as the crowd began to thin out and there was still no sign of Harm's ward. Another ten minutes went by before she opened her cell phone and dialed the private number into the main office.
"Harm, it's Mac. I've been here twenty minutes and thirty seconds, and there's no sign of Mattie."
"You're sure you didn't miss her?"
"Harm, she would have been looking for a red Corvette. I know mine isn't the same model as yours, but I've been standing right beside it the entire time. Could she have gotten a ride from someone else?"
"She would have called. Just a minute." She stood there, waiting as he put her on hold for a moment. "Jen said that she didn't mention anything about any meetings after school. I'll call the apartment, see if she's there."
"What's her father's number?" Mac asked. "He might have come by and picked her up."
"He was starting a new job this morning. Wasn't supposed to get off until after sixteen hundred."
"I can drive by the apartment if you'd like," she offered. "It's not that far -"
"Okay. If she's not there, I'll contact Tom and see if she said anything to him."
"I'll let you know when I get there. And Harm?"
"I'm sure she's okay. You know how kids are. They get an invitation to go have a pizza or buy a soft drink -"
"Not Mattie," Harm insisted. "She'd call. But thanks anyway."
Harm hung up the phone and sat there, tapping the pen in his hand on the desk. Finally taking his wallet out, he began to look for the telephone number of Tom Johnson's new job.
"Did Col. Mackenzie find her, sir?" Coates asked from the doorway.
"No. She's going to the apartment to see if Mattie's been there."
"I don't believe that Mattie would pull something like this again, sir. Not after last time."
"I know. Once Mac calls back, I'll -" The main line into the offices rang, and Jen reached across the desk to answer.
"Judge Advocate General's Office. How may I . . . Mattie? Where are you?" Harm held out his hand to take the phone. "Yes, he's here -" she held out the phone to him. "She sounds scared."
"Scared?" Harm repeated, frowning as he put the receiver to his ear. "Mattie? What's going on?"
Hearing Allison Krennick's voice sent a cold chill down Harm's spine. "Krennick. What is Mattie doing with you?"
"I thought I'd do you a favor, Harm. To repay your - many kindnesses toward me. I picked her up from school. Told her that you'd been injured and that I was supposed to take her to you. Her concern for you was quite touching."
"Mattie has nothing to do with this, Krennick. I'm the one you're angry with. Let her go."
"Oh, don't worry. She'll be released when I'm ready. As soon as you do *precisely* what I tell you to do."
"Don't listen to her, Harm!" Mattie's voice called out.
"Sit down," he heard Krennick order in a firm tone.
"Let me talk to her, Krennick."
He could hear the anger and fear in her voice and closed his eyes, taking a deep breath. "You okay, Mattie?"
"Yeah. Who the heck is she?"
"Don't worry about that. You just stay wherever you are. I'll get you out."
"Whatever she wants you to do, don't do it."
Suddenly Krennick was back. "That's very bad advice, Harm," she drawled. "If you want to see her again, you'll follow my instructions to the letter. Any deviation - *any* -"
"What do you want, Krennick?"
The private line began to ring, and Harm indicated to Jen that she should answer it. "Commander Rabb's office . . . Colonel." She lowered her voice and quickly explained what was going on as Harm listened to Krennick's demands.
"I want you to draft and sign a statement that I never harassed you, but that you harassed me with the intent of furthering your career. When I rebuffed your advances, you decided to get even with me by scuttling my career."
"You've got to be kidding."
He heard Mattie cry out in pain. "Ow! Don't pull my hair, bi-"
"Watch your mouth, little girl."
"I'll do it," Harm said quickly.
"I always knew you were a smart man, Harm. I'll call back in an hour with further instructions." She hung up.
Glancing at the clock on the desk, Harm looked at Jen Coates. "What did Mac have to say?"
"She's on her way back here, sir. Should we call the police?"
"No. But I do want you to get the SecNav on the phone."
"Yes, sir. Anything else I can do, Commander?"
"Pray," he said, turning to the computer and monitor and beginning to type.
By the time Mac entered the office, Harm was on the telephone and slid a piece of paper across the desk toward her. "No, sir, I have no idea. But she has to know that even if this paper is accepted as truth, her career is still over . . . You're probably right, sir . . . Yes, I'll be sure to keep you informed . . . Thank you, Mr. Secretary." He hung up the phone and sat back in the chair, looking at Mac, who had looked over the 'confession'.
"*This* is what she wants? To ruin your career?"
"Was that the SecNav on the phone?"
"Yeah. I had Coates call him as soon as I finished talking to Krennick."
Mac blinked. "You know, I halfway expected you to be gone when I got here - charging off on your white horse to rescue Mattie on your own."
"Believe me, Mac, I considered it. But I guess I've finally figured out that doing things the right way doesn't always mean doing them *my* way or the way I'd prefer to do them."
"No more Lone Ranger?"
"Guess not," he responded with a grim smile.
"You don't have any idea where she and Mattie might be?"
"Not a clue. I couldn't tell anything from the phone call. She probably made it from her cell - and she's not at her hotel."
"You don't think she'd really hurt Mattie, do you?"
"I don't know what she's capable of, Mac, but I'm not going to risk finding out. When she calls, I'll do whatever she asks," he stated, looking Mac in the eye.
"She's crazy, Harm. If she thinks she can get away with this - she's unstable. Dangerous."
"That's all the more reason to play along until Mattie's safe. The SecNav is aware of what's going on. He knows that the 'confession' is a pack of lies, but he's a father himself and understands why I'm doing this."
"When is she supposed to contact you again?"
He looked at the clock. "Any minute." The phone rang again, and a moment later, Jen Coates appeared in the doorway.
"It's her, Commander."
Harm picked up the receiver. "Krennick. Right on time."
"Of course. Don't tell me that you doubted my sincerity, Harm."
"Not for a moment. I have the paper you wanted."
"Good. I want you to fax a copy to the number that I'm going to give you. Once I'm sure it's satisfactory, I'll fax it to the SecNav's office personally. And then I want you to go downstairs and meet with the reporters outside to make a public confession of your sins."
"What's the number?" Harm asked, picking up a pen to write the number that she gave him.
"I want you to fax it the moment we hang up, Harm, and then I'll call you back to let you know if it's satisfactory."
"I want to talk to Mattie."
"Fax first, and then you can speak to her." The line went dead.
Harm grabbed the number from the note pad and went out into the bullpen, faxing the paper to the number before placing another call on his cell phone. "It's Rabb. The number she gave me to fax to is 555-4582 . . . That's right . . . No, she'll be calling me back in a minute . . . Just remember, she's not in there alone."
Back in his office, Harm went to the windows, looking out until he felt Mac's hand on his arm. "She'll be okay, Harm."
"I hope so. Losing her to Tom is one thing. Losing her that way -" he drew a deep, shuddering breath. "I need to call the SecNav, let him know that she made contact again -" But the telephone rang again in Jen's office before he could do so.
"I'll call him," Mac said as Jen nodded in his direction. "You take that call."
Harm picked up the phone. "Rabb."
"Very nice, Harm," Krennick told him. In the background, he could hear the sound of a fax machine's shrill tones. "It should be in the hands of Edward Sheffield in just a few minutes."
"You said I could talk to Mattie," he reminded her.
"So I did. Very well. I suppose I can afford to be generous. To a point, at least."
"Harm? Why did you do it?"
"Mattie, stay calm, okay? No matter what happens. Keep your head down so she can't take it off. It's going to be okay."
"Do you trust me, Mattie?"
"You know I do."
"Good. Then trust me to know that I'm doing the right thing. I'll see you soon."
"Touching," Krennick said when she came back on the line. "I want you to go downstairs and talk to the press now, Harm. They're waiting for you. Once you've finished get into your car and start driving. I'll be in touch to let you know where you can find your little girl."
Harm glanced at the ZNN feed on the television, where Stuart Dunston was standing outside of the building, giving a report. He hung up the phone and turned up the volume as Stuart said, "We're here because of a report that someone is going to make a statement regarding the rumors of sexual harassment charges being brought against Admiral Allison Krennick, who, until this morning, was considered a shoe-in to become the Navy's next Judge Advocate General. As soon as we have more information, we'll let you know."
"I guess that's my cue," Harm said.
"You're sure you want to do this?" Mac questioned.
"I don't have any choice, Mac. NCIS is looking for them. That's who I called earlier. They're tracing the fax number. If they call -"
"You'll get the word," she assured him. "Because Coates or Bud or Sturgis will call."
"What about you?" he asked, picking up his cover and briefcase before leaving the office.
"I'm going to be with you," she declared.
"Mac-" he said, stopping in the middle of the bullpen.
"Do you want to argue about this or do it, Commander?" she countered, in full Marine mode.
Almost everyone in Ops was either looking at them or trying *not* to look at them. Deciding that arguing with a fellow officer in the middle of the bullpen wasn't a good idea, Harm smiled and extended an arm toward the doors. "After you, Colonel."
Once in the elevator, Mac told him, "You don't really think I'd let you face those sharks without a Marine guard, do you?"
"You can't be there, Mac. Krennick will be watching on TV from wherever she is. If she sees you, she'll *know* it's a set up."
Mac shrugged. "She won't see me. I'll leave by another door and be ready to follow you." She held up a set of keys to one of the official JAG vehicles. "I used it this afternoon and never got a chance to turn the key in. Just don't lose me."
"I'll be the one in the red Vette," he reminded her. "*You* don't lose *me*." When doors opened, Mac turned toward the side exit.
"Good luck," she wished him.
Harm waited a beat and then headed toward the main entrance, where he signed out for the day. "The media's back, Commander," the Marine guard informed him. "You might want to use another exit if you don't want to have to run the gauntlet again."
"That's exactly what I have to do, Sergeant," he said, turning and pushing through the doors.
The instant he appeared, he was recognized. "Commander Rabb."
"Would you care to make a comment about Admiral Krennick now, Commander?" Stuart Dunston asked, shoving a microphone into Harm's face.
"I do have something to say," Harm acknowledged. "The rumors about Admiral Allison Krennick are just that: rumor. She never sexually harassed anyone during her prior tour at JAG Headquarters nine years ago. The truth is that during that time, then-Commander Krennick was the victim of harassment by a junior officer who hoped to use a relationship with his superior officer to further his own career. Admiral Krennick warned this officer about his actions on several occasions, but never reported it because she believed that the officer had potential if he were to learn his lesson. When she returned to Washington, this same officer began his pattern of harassment again, and when Admiral Krennick refused his advances, he made a call to the media, leaking a false rumor in an effort to ruin Admiral Krennick's career." Harm's eyes met those of Stuart Dunston, seeing the confusion in them. Dunston had spoken to Meg Austin. The tip *hadn't* been anonymous.
"Who's the officer, Commander?" another reporter asked.
"Commander Harmon Rabb, Jr." All hell broke loose as the reporters all began to question him at once, but Harm held up his hand, refusing to answer. "I've been placed under house arrest and relieved of duty. Beyond what I've just told you, I have no further comment. Thank you."
He moved away toward where the Vette was parked, aware that the cameras were still on him. Out of the corner of his eye, he noticed Mac sitting behind the steering wheel of an official car which was pulling out onto the street to the right as he unlocked the Vette and slid inside.
Turning to the right as he left the parking lot, Harm saw Mac fall in behind him a few cars back as his cell phone rang. The caller ID wasn't familiar. "Rabb."
"Very good, Harm. You missed your calling. I think that performance would have convinced your own mother that you're guilty of a multitude of sins."
"Let's save the acting reviews until later, Krennick. I did what you asked. Where's Mattie?"
"You're *so* impatient, Harm. I can assure you that she's fine. Head toward the Mall. I'll be in touch with further directions later."
As soon as the line cleared, Harm hit quick dial on his phone. "Mac, she just called. We're heading toward the Mall."
"I was just about to call you - NCIS just called JAG and said that the phone number is listed to the Washington Naval Yards."
The phone beeped. "I have another call. Be right back. Rabb."
"Took you long enough to answer, Harm."
"I'm in traffic," he pointed out. "Where to now?"
"The question is: where are you?"
He glanced at the street signs and gave her his location. "I'm tired of this game, Krennick."
She told him an address - at the Navy yards.
"You know that what I just did isn't going to change anything. Meg Austin knows what was going on -"
"And they'll believe her? I'll just say that she was involved with you - a junior officer. Shame on you, Harm. We're waiting. Don't be too long. Mattie might not be here if you are."
Harm pressed the button to connect him to Mac again. "You there?"
"Yes. What's going on?"
"They were right. It's the yards. I need to give NCIS the address. I'll call you back."
He called Agent Holland and relayed Krennick's address. "Do me a favor, Holland, don't move in til I get there. I have a feeling she's got something else planned. Krennick's not stupid. If she sees a hint that she's been double crossed, I'm not sure what she might do to Mattie."
"Very well, Commander. We'll hang back and keep an eye on the place. How far are you out?"
He gave her his location. "Ten minutes if traffic lets up at all."
"We'll be waiting."
Harm wasn't pleased to find four NCIS vehicles sitting at the front gate when he and Mac arrived. "I thought you said you were going to keep a low profile, Agent Holland?"
"We were going to, but one of my men questioned the guard at the gate about vehicles coming in and out. He ID'ed Admiral Krennick as having left the base not five minutes before we arrived."
"Why didn't he stop her?" he questioned.
"Apparently he never got the word that she was being sought for anything. He wasn't on duty when she arrived."
"Was she alone when she left?" He felt Mac's hand on his arm in quiet support.
"He says she was. We decided not to move in on the location you gave us until you arrived."
"Okay. Let me go in first. I don't fully trust Krennick not to have something up her sleeve."
"We'll go in with you, Commander," Holland insisted. "But you can take the lead."
"I thought the Lone Ranger was gone," Mac pointed out as Holland moved away to get her people ready to enter the base.
"Not when it comes to the people I care about," he answered, taking her hand in his and looking into her eyes. "Mac, I know that I said that I would -"
"You ready, Commander?" Holland asked.
"We're *both* ready," Mac informed the agent, and Harm saw her give the other woman a look that dared her to try and stop Mac from going with them. "The Commander and I will take my car in." Nodding toward the dark blue car, Mac said, "Let's mount up, Kemosabe."
Even through his worry about Mattie, Harm found a grin. "Anything you say, Tonto." Once inside, he asked, "What happened to Butch and Sundance?"
"Older and wiser," she told him. "I've decided that going out in a blaze of glory isn't all it's cracked up to be."
The building that Krennick had directed them to was in an otherwise abandoned area, on an older section of the base. Most of the buildings were made of wood and needed repair - something that would soon become the responsibility of the District, since this part of the base was scheduled to be returned to them shortly. "I'm surprised that Krennick was able to locate a working telephone line in these buildings," he mused and began to wonder how long she had been planning this.
"Krennick's first assignment with JAG was here at the Navy Yard," Mac told him, and he looked at her with a lifted brow. "I glanced through her record. The old JAG office for the Yard was in one of these buildings."
When she parked behind the NCIS car, they were still a nearly half a block away from the building. "You're in the lead, Commander," Holland reminded him. "You have five minutes to get in there and out."
Harm and Mac both took the weapons that Holland offered, uncertain of what might be waiting for them inside. They entered the building cautiously, treating it as if it were a war zone, clearing rooms and watching each other's six. The only open doorway in the building beckoned them forward, and Harm was relieved to find Mattie tied in a chair in the center of the room. Duct tape kept her mouth sealed, but her eyes were huge.
"Mattie," he said, tucking his weapon into the back of his trousers to move toward her. "Are you okay?"
She was shaking her head, nodding toward something across the room. "Harm," Mac said as he began untying the ropes that held Mattie to the chair.
He glanced toward the far side of the room as he removed the tape from Mattie's face, wincing because he knew it had to hurt. "There's a bomb," Mattie said quickly as Harm saw it for himself: a brick of explosive was hooked to a timer beside the fax machine on the floor - and the timer was counting down from ten.
"Let's get the hell out of here!" Harm told the two women as he finally managed to unfasten the last knot on the rope.
The three of them barely managed to exit the building and get to safety, yelling out a warning to Holland's people before the wooden structure exploded in a fireball. Harm pushed both Mac and Mattie to the ground, shielding them from the blast with his body as much as he could.
"Are you two okay?" he finally asked, coming to his feet and assisting first Mac, and then Mattie up as well.
Mattie nodded, throwing her arms around him and giving him a hug. "I knew you'd get here in time," she finally said, looking up at him, her eyes shining with hero-worship.
"I'm just glad you're okay," he told her, moving them away from the burning building as a base fire truck arrived on the scene. "Why did you go with her, Mattie?"
"She was at the school when I came out and said that you'd been hurt and she was going to take me to you. I recognized the name and I thought she was legit. What's going on, Harm?" she asked. "She hates you."
Agent Holland appeared with a corpsman. "Any injuries here?" she asked.
"No, I don't think so. But I'd feel better if someone looked Mattie over. Mattie, this is Agent Holland. NCIS."
"NCIS?" Mattie questioned.
"Navy Criminal Investigation Service," Holland explained. "Hello, Mattie."
"Agent Holland." The girl looked up at Harm. "She didn't hurt me, Harm."
"All the same, it's better to be safe than sorry," he told her.
"Did Admiral Krennick say anything about where she might be heading when she left, Mattie?" Holland questioned while the corpsman began a cursory examination.
"No. She just said that Harm would regret crossing her and left."
Holland nodded thoughtfully. "She won't be able to get a flight out of the area. We've put out a bulletin for her to be taken into custody. If she's driving, though, we'll just have to hope someone spots her and pulls her over."
A TV news van appeared, and Harm groaned. "Damn. Agent Holland -"
"Go. But I'll expect to see you in my office tomorrow for a full report, Commander."
"You'll have it. Thank you." Harm, Mac and Mattie got into the car and turned toward the gate, passing several other news trucks on the way out. As they passed the ZNN truck, Harm saw Stuart Dunston in the passenger seat.
"What did she hope to gain?" Mac wondered aloud as she drove. "I mean, she had to know that doing this wasn't going to clear her name."
"I don't think she was after that," Harm said.
"She wanted revenge," Mattie said. "She kept muttering something about a 'woman scorned'. *I* think she was crazy."
"Is," Harm corrected. "She's still out there. And once she knows that we weren't killed by that bomb, she'll be back."
As she pulled the car up beside Harm's Vette, Mac said, "Harm, that's where she is."
"She couldn't be sure that you'd be killed in that blast. She's probably waiting for you at your place."
Harm thought for a moment. "I need you to drop Mattie off at her father's, Mac," he decided.
"I'm not -" Mattie began, but Harm turned to look at her.
"You'll be safer there than with us right now, Mattie," he said. "Then meet me at my place."
"What about Agent Holland?" Mac questioned, watching him get into the Vette.
"I'll call her on the way."
Mac reached inside the Vette before Harm realized what she was doing and turned off the engine, removing the key from the ignition.
"Mac!" Harm yelled, getting out of the car and moving toward her. "Give me those keys."
"No," she said, closing her fingers around them and backing away. "You're letting her play you, Harm. Just like Sadik played me. Just like Clark Palmer always played you. You're becoming obsessed. Let Holland and her people handle this, Harm. It's their job. Don't make it anymore personal than it already is."
"Krennick made it personal when she went after Mattie, Mac, and almost killed the three of us."
Mac pulled out her cell phone and dialed. "Agent Holland, it's Col. Mackenzie. We think we know where Admiral Krennick might be . . . Commander Rabb's apartment . . . Do you have the address? . . . We'll be at my place - . . . Thank you." She hung up. "She's sending some people over to check it out. Until they give the 'all clear', we'll spend the evening at my place. Agreed?"
"What about Jen?" Mattie wondered. "She'll be getting off duty and going home -"
Harm pulled out his cell phone and handed it to her. "Call her. Let her know you're safe and warn her not to go home until she hears from us."
While Mattie was making the call, Harm took Mac's arm. "You're right. Rushing in there isn't going to do anything except get someone hurt. And after what Mattie's been through, she probably needs me around instead of chasing after Krennick."
She smiled at him. "You *have* changed. I'll take this car back to the office and pick mine up. You and Mattie can meet me at my place. Here's my key -"
"That's okay," he said. "If you'll give mine back to me, I think I still have the one you gave me a few years ago on the ring."
Mac opened her hand to look at the keys, recognizing her door key. "You still have it?"
"Just never took the time to get rid of it," he told her as Mattie hung up and held out the phone. "She's going to go over to the Roberts' after work instead of home."
"Good. Let's go." To Mac, he said, "You be careful."
"See you in an hour or so."
As Harm started the Vette, Mattie asked, "Okay, so when are you going to explain what happened today?"
"Why don't I do that on the way to Mac's?" he suggested.
Tom Johnson parked the battered old truck in front of the converted warehouse and went inside, taking the stairs two at a time. He hoped that Mattie wouldn't be upset with his being here so early. Work had finished earlier than he'd thought it would, and he wanted to ask his daughter out for a soda or such. He thought they might be back at a place where he could do something like that. The door to Harm's apartment was open, not much, but enough that Tom thought Mattie was probably there instead of down the hallway. He hadn't seen any sign of Harm's Corvette downstairs.
Tapping on the door, he spoke, entering the apartment. "Mattie? Are you in here?"
He was surprised to find a thin blonde woman wearing a Navy officer's uniform bent over something on the kitchen bar. Startled, she turned around and lifted her hand - firing the weapon in it once . . .
To Part 4