They picked up a copy of the Falls Church Gazette on the way into JAG the next morning. Mac read most of the article while they were en route, so when they were confronted by the crowd of reporters outside of the building - minus Ginny, Harm noticed, they were prepared.
"Is it true that you have several written affidavits alleging that Lt. Commander Barris threatened other commanding officers with making a claim of sexual harassment in return for a good fitness report, Commander Rabb?" Stuart Dunston asked.
"You'll just have to wait until we present our case," Harm said.
"Do you think that the Lt. Commander will withdraw his charges as a result of these allegations, Col. Mackenzie?"
"You never know, Stuart," was Mac's response. "If you'll excuse us -"
Sturgis tossed the tabloid-sized newspaper down on the conference table in front of Lt. Commander Barris. "Are these allegations true, Lt. Commander?" he asked.
"Would - would it matter, sir?" Barris asked in reply. "Admiral Krennick -"
"*Yes* it matters!" Sturgis said.
"It makes *your* charge of sexual harassment look like payback for the Admiral not giving you good marks on your fit reps," Bud noted.
"Is that what happened, Lt. Commander?" Sturgis asked, turning to face the pale-faced man who stood across from him.
Passing through Ops, Mac and Harm noticed that much of the staff was watching the TV monitor high on the wall. Moving closer, they saw Ginny Grainger was talking to the host of a local morning show.
"How did you manage to get an exclusive interview with Admiral Krennick, Ms. Grainger?"
"I suppose it was just being in the right place at the right time," Ginny answered. "Just doing my job." Recalling their meeting at Beltway Burger, Harm and Mac exchanged a grin.
"According to the article, published this morning in the Falls Church Gazette, Admiral Krennick denied that she ever sexually harassed Lt. Commander Barris, is that correct?"
"She did. She claims that when she told the Lt. Commander that she was going to give him a low mark on his fit reps for the second time, he went to her and offered to take her to dinner if she would reconsider. When she refused, he threatened to accuse her of sexual harassment if she gave him low marks."
"But the Admiral refused to give in to his blackmail attempt. Why?"
"Admittedly, I went into the interview with the idea that the charges were true - and I was looking for anything in the Admiral's background that might substantiate them."
"Did you find anything?"
"Nothing substantial enough to report on. Rumors, vague accusations - but after speaking with Commander Rabb -"
"One of the Admiral's appointed JAG lawyers, right?" the interviewer questioned as a photo of Harm came on the screen. Harm glanced at Mac, who rolled her eyes and leaned toward him.
"Don't let it go to your head, squid."
"Me?" he replied, his eyes wide with innocence.
"After talking to Commander Rabb, he told me that if the Admiral had come close to the line while she was stationed here in DC several years ago, the junior officer in question never felt threatened by her actions."
"Did the Commander give you a name for this junior officer?"
"No. I didn't ask - because whatever might have happened nine years ago - I was impressed by Admiral Krennick. She didn't strike me as the type of person who would take advantage of a junior officer for any reason. It took a lot of courage for her to refuse to give in to blackmail and risk her career to face these charges."
"Then you believe the allegations against Lt. Commander Barris?"
"Yes. As I said in the article, I spoke with two of the Lt. Commander's former commanding officers by telephone and they confirmed what I was told by the Admiral."
"Okay, people, back to work!" The sound of Admiral Chegwidden's voice sent everyone scurrying back to their stations. "Rabb, Mackenzie, my office!"
They both detoured to Mac's office to drop off their briefcases and covers before moving into the office, where Krennick was sitting in one of the chairs.
"As you were," AJ said. Holding out a copy of the paper, he said, "Admiral Krennick tells me that this was your idea, Commander."
"Well, yes, sir, it was -"
"It wasn't only his fault, Admiral," Mac insisted. "It was a - joint decision -"
"Are you attempting protect the Commander, Colonel?"
"No, sir - I mean -"
"To be fair, sir," Krennick said, "While it *was* originally the Commander's idea, the Colonel and I *did* agree to cooperate."
Suddenly AJ smiled, shaking his head. "Next time, give me a little heads up? The SecNav called first thing this morning, asking me if *I* knew that you and Mackenzie were using the media to try this case."
"I'm sorry, Admiral," Harm apologized.
"You *do* have something to back the allegations up, I hope?"
"Leslie Corrigan called late yesterday afternoon," Harm explained. "She was Barris' CO in Pensacola. She faxed several notarized statements that she received from other COs that he'd done the same thing to."
"What about the prosecution's intention to have Alice Bailey testify as to the Admiral's past history?"
"If you read the article, sir," Mac told him, "you'll discover that Harm - Commander Rabb took the wind out of the prosecution's sails on that one."
AJ glanced at the article. "You really think that's going to be enough?"
"Combined with proof of Barris' own history?" Krennick said, standing up. "*I* think that Commander Turner and Lt. Roberts will be willing to make us an offer we won't be able to refuse. He's lost his star witness - and without any proof of anything else, he'll have no choice but to request that the charges be dismissed."
"And if he doesn't?" AJ asked.
"We'll file counter-charges against the Lt. Commander for extortion," Mac declared. "And sexual harassment. I think we have more than enough evidence to prove the case."
"The charges will be filed anyway," AJ said. "The three of you took a pretty big gamble," AJ said. "Let's just hope that it pays off."
Sturgis was coming into the bullpen when the three of them left the Admiral's office. "Admiral Krennick," he said, nodding before turning to his colleagues. "Harm, Mac. We need to talk," he said.
Harm nodded, glancing at his partner and Krennick before extending an arm toward Mac's office. "How about right now?"
"Where's Lt. Roberts?" Krennick questioned.
"In the conference room with Lt. Commander Barris," Sturgis confirmed. "What evidence do you have to support the claims against him?" he asked Harm.
Harm opened his briefcase and pulled out a folder. "Three notarized statements from former commanding officers, all telling the same basic story: that when they counseled him on his performance of his duties, he asked them what he could do to change their minds, implying strongly that he would be willing to trade sex. When they refused, he then said that he would file a complaint accusing them of sexually harassing him - and that even the accusation would destroy their careers."
Sturgis scanned through the statements before looking at Krennick. "Is that what he did with you, Admiral?"
Krennick glanced at Harm before answering. "Yes. Only unlike the others, I refused to be intimidated."
"With all due respect, ma'am, I'm beginning to believe that there's very little that intimidates you," Sturgis noted. "What about the earlier incidents -"
"Earlier incidents?" Mac repeated.
"There are - rumors that while the Admiral was here the last time, she harassed a junior officer -" Sturgis said, looking at Harm.
"Was there ever a complaint filed?" Harm questioned.
"No, but -"
"Then it obviously never rose to a level where the junior officer - if there *was* a junior officer - felt that it *was* harassment. Probably more of an irritation than anything else," Harm guessed.
"And without a complaint or *proof* -" Mac pointed out.
"All right," Sturgis sighed, lifting his hands in defeat. "I'll get the charges dropped -"
"The Admiral wants a public apology from the Lt. Commander to clear her record," Harm said.
"I'll see what we can do." He nodded at Krennick again. "Ma'am."
Once he was gone, Harm raised his fist. "Yes!"
"You did it, Harm," Mac said.
"*We* did it," he corrected her, putting an arm around her shoulders.
"I never had any doubts," Krennick assured them. "You two make a good team. I hope whoever sits in AJ's chair after he retires is smart enough to take advantage of that."
"I guess you'll be going back to Pearl -?" Harm said.
"Later today. But first, I owe the two of you lunch -"
"That's not -"
"I insist," she said, moving toward the door. "I'll see you both at noon at Orsati's. Don't be late." The door closed behind her before either Harm or Mac had a chance to refuse the invitation.
"She's right, you know," Mac told Harm. "We *are* a good team. I forgot that for a while - but I won't. Not ever again."
Glancing at the bullpen through the blinds, he sighed. "Think it would cause a major breakdown in protocol if I were to give you a kiss?"
"It would cause worse than that if the Admiral caught us," she pointed out.
"I guess you're right," he said, picking up his cover and briefcase. "I have some paperwork to take care of anyway. And I need to call Tom Johnson - check to see if he has a problem with Mattie coming for the weekend."
"And I'm going to start on that paperwork for my transfer over to the judiciary."
Harm paused, his hand on the doorknob. "Mac, are you *sure* you want to do that? There's no guarantee that you'll be able to stay TAD to JAG once the Admiral retires -"
"I'll take my chances."
Harm nodded and left her office, trying to quell the worry that her leaving JAG sent through his mind. He couldn't help but remember how much the Mac in his "road not taken" fantasy had resented being forced to give up JAG when they had married. Her bitterness had been one of the causes for the end of the marriage - not the biggest, by any means. Harm's own faults had been a large part of that, he believed.
Entering his office, he stowed his gear and sat down. He'd been making the changes that he felt needed to be made - getting rid of the Vette - putting Mac and Mattie ahead of his job, whatever it took. While he'd expected to feel bitter himself, Harm was surprised to realize that he felt more relaxed, more at ease with the world around him.
Thinking about Mattie reminded him about the call he was supposed to make, and he picked up the phone to call her father at work. When it was answered, he asked, "Tom Johnson, please."
"I'm sorry, but he's not here," the man on the other end of the line informed him in a gruff manner. "He called in sick this morning at the last minute."
"Thank you," Harm said. "I'll try him at home, then."
"If you talk to him, tell him he'd better get his ass in here tomorrow if he wants to keep his job."
"I'll do that," Harm agreed, and frowned into the phone as the line went dead. He dialed Tom Johnson's home number. It rang several times before it was picked up.
"Tom, its Harmon Rabb." There was silence on the line for a long moment, and Harm worried that the man might have hung up. "Tom?"
"Mattie's not here. She went to the store."
"Alone? She's not supposed to be driving -"
"She's been driving around here for years -"
Harm listened carefully - hearing the slurred speech, and asked, "Tom, have you been drinking?"
"Course not. Why would you think something like that? I quit, remember? Look, I'll tell Mattie you called when she gets back -"
"I didn't call to talk to Mattie, Tom," Harm said, forestalling his hanging up. "I wanted to talk to you."
"Me? About what?"
"I'd like for Mattie to come stay the weekend - it's going to rain, so we won't be able to fly -"
"Yes. We'll drive up on Saturday morning to pick her up and have her home Sunday evening -"
"A friend - Tom, how are things going between the two of you? Mattie seems - upset about something."
"She still hasn't forgiven me for - for what happened - we try not to talk about it, but, well, it's always there. Waiting."
"Tom, if you're drinking again -"
"I'm not," he denied.
"Then why aren't you at work? And why did your boss tell me that if you call in again, you won't have a job?"
"Listen. Mattie's *my* daughter. She belongs with me. I *need* her. You don't understand that. You can't. And I'm not going to let you or anyone else take her away again."
"Tom -" Harm said, but the line was dead. "Damn."
"Something wrong, sir?"
Hearing Bud's hesitant voice, Harm looked up to find the younger man standing in the doorway. "Bud -"
"I didn't mean to eavesdrop, sir, but I noticed you were on the phone and was about to knock -"
"It's okay, Bud. How did things go with Lt. Commander Barris?" he asked.
"He tried to deny it until Commander Turner showed him the statements - he's been placed in custody and the Marine guard is transporting him to the Naval Yards."
"Come in," Harm said.
"Now that it's over, sir, I - well -"
"Spit it out, Bud."
"It's about when Admiral Krennick was here last time, sir. She was still Admiral Chegwidden's adjutant when I first arrived, and -"
"And you're wondering if the rumors were true, aren't you?"
"I couldn't help but hear the rumors back then," Bud told him. "Did she really -"
"Bud, nothing happened. Why not leave the past in the past?" He sat back. "Besides, scuttlebutt has it that Krennick could possibly be the next JAG someday."
"Scuttlebutt also says that Col. Mackenzie is moving to the judiciary," Bud pointed out.
Harm smiled. "Well, in that case, scuttlebutt happens to be true. But she'll be on TAD to JAG for awhile."
"Admiral's privilege," Bud nodded. "I'm glad for you, sir. You and the Colonel have gone through a lot. It's about time -"
"So who won the pool?" Harm asked.
"P-pool?" Harm's only response was to lift his brow. "H-Harriet. She said it was 'woman's intuition'." When Harm laughed, Bud looked relieved. "You don't mind?"
"No, Bud. I don't mind. Was there something else we needed to talk about?"
"The Marden case. I need some advice."
Harm found Mac in the kitchen later when he went to get a cup of tea. "Hey there."
"Hey yourself," she told him, looking toward the door as if to make sure they were alone. "My request transfer is on the Admiral's desk."
"Did he say when it might happen?"
"Probably Monday morning. I'm supposed to go talk to Admiral Morris after lunch and discuss it with him."
Harm nodded as he watched the teabag darken the water in his cup. "Promise me that if you ever decide you'd rather come back to JAG permanently, you'll let me know?"
"Really. I can always find something else to do -"
"What? Like go to work flying for the CIA again?"
"No, I think that's out. Burned my bridges there."
"Seriously, why are you so worried about this? It's my decision to transfer -"
"But you wouldn't be doing it if it weren't for - I just don't want you to blame me for your having to leave JAG while I stay."
"People should go with their strengths, Harm. You're probably the best litigator and investigator I've ever worked with. I enjoy sitting on the bench. I'm still involved in the law, just with a little more power."
"Power, humm?" he questioned, leaning closer. "Sounds interesting."
The sound of someone clearing their throat sent them apart again, and Harm, facing away from the door, winced when Mac said, "Admiral. I was just getting a cup of coffee -"
"Great minds think alike, then," AJ said, slipping between them to pour a cup for himself.
"Admiral -" Harm began, intending to try and explain, but AJ picked up his cup and turned toward the door with it.
"Carry on, people."
Mac giggled once they were alone and Harm sagged with relief. "Talk about close calls -" She picked up her own cup. "Did you talk to Mattie's father?"
Harm's smile faded as he studied his cup. "I think he's drinking again."
"Oh, no, Harm."
"He's been calling off work, to the point where his job is in jeopardy. And when I talked to him, he said that Mattie had gone to the store - which means she's driving again. He wouldn't let her do that unless he'd been drinking. Mattie won't ride with him if he has."
"What are you going to do?"
"Talk to Mattie this weekend. See if she wants to come stay with me -" he looked at her. "With us," he amended. "It's possible that she went back too soon. That Tom wasn't strong enough to take care of himself, much less her."
"Sounds like a plan," Mac agreed. "I'll see you at lunch."
Harm nodded in reply, sighing deeply as his mind began replaying the troubling telephone conversation with Tom Johnson.
To Be Continued in-
"Operation: The Road Not Taken II"