"I wonder how she managed to get a room here?" Mac wondered as Harm turned the SUV into the parking lot of the run-down motel.
"They probably didn't ask a lot of questions," he answered, scanning the rooms for number 29. "There it is." He parked in front of the room, and the three of them went to the door together. Harm knocked. "Liz, it's Harmon Rabb."
He saw the curtain in the window move before she opened the door. "Come in. I'm so glad you're here," she told them, giving Mattie a hug. "I didn't know what to do. I was going to just keep driving, but the car stopped running, and I left it at a garage -"
"Where were you going, Liz?" Mac asked, sitting beside the sweat suit clad girl on the edge of the bed.
"I don't know," she said, looking at the stained carpet on the floor. "I just had to get out of there."
"What happened?" Harm asked.
"Mom woke me up and started yelling at me."
"Had she been drinking?"
"She always drank," Liz sighed. "I know you think I do too, Mrs. Rabb, but it was only weekends, with a few friends. Occasionally I'd take a drink to get me through the day, but I it wasn't something I did all the time."
"What was she angry with you about?"
"Everything. She dragged me out of bed, told me to clean the house. That she wasn't going to let my dad take me away again because the place was a mess. We argued back and forth. She said that-that I was a mistake, that she wished I'd -" she stopped as tears threatened to choke her. "That I'd never been born," she finished. "I said I hoped that Mrs. Rabb contacted Daddy and that he'd come home and I could go live with him all the time and never - never have to see her again."
Mac put her arm around the girl's thin shoulders. "Go on."
"I tried to leave, but she grabbed me by the hair and tossed me onto the couch, said that I wasn't going anywhere. Then I picked up the phone. I was going to call Mattie. She grabbed the phone and pulled it out of the wall, lifting it like she was going to throw it at me."
Harm saw Mattie flinch as her friend recounted what was likely a scene that was probably all-to-familiar, and placed an arm around her shoulders. She moved closer to him, seeking the comfort and security he offered.
"I ducked out of the way, going to the kitchen, but she followed me and grabbed a knife from the counter, pulling my hair again, getting between me and the door. So I ran into the living room. She came at me," she said, looking at Mac. "She was going to kill me, so I pushed - and she fell b-backward. Her head -" Liz closed her eyes. "The sound was -" She shuddered and Mac pulled her into a hug. "I thought she was unconscious. I just - wanted to get out of there before she woke up. So I - I took her money and credit cards and - left." She looked up at Mac. "She's dead, isn't she, ma'am?"
"I'm afraid so," Mac confirmed, and then held Liz as she started to cry.
"I didn't mean to - to kill her. She was trying to kill *me*, I just wanted to get away from her. I just -"
Mac comforted the girl as much as she could while Harm did the same to Mattie, whose own wounds had been reopened. He silently resolved to find a way to get Mattie to talk about the day her father died as soon as possible.
When Liz finally stopped crying, she looked up at Mac and Harm. "What's going to happen now?"
"Well, the first thing we have to do is tell the police what happened," Harm explained.
"Will I have to go to jail?" Liz asked, looking frightened by the prospect.
"I don't think so," he told her. "It could be a little scary, but - either Mac or I will be with you at all times."
"What about my dad?" she wanted to know.
"I called his CO at Fort Lee while we were driving out here," Mac explained. "He's trying to contact your father. I'm sure that the Marines will let him come home to be with you."
"I wish he hadn't gone at all," she said. "Mom said he went because he didn't really care about me."
"I'm sure that's not true," Mac said. Glancing at Harm, she said, "We'd better get going."
Harm nodded. "I'll go take care of the bill and let them know that she's leaving with us." He placed a hand on Liz' shoulder. "It'll be okay. You're with friends now."
She smiled up at him, clearly already into a deep case of hero-worship. "Thank you Commander."
Harm stepped outside of the room, only to stop as a police car turned into the parking lot and stopped behind the SUV. Seeing Lt. Norman get out of the vehicle, Harm winced. "Well, Commander Rabb. Fancy meeting you here."
"Small world," Harm nodded. "A little out of your jurisdiction aren't you?"
"We got a call," Norman confirmed, glancing toward the office, where a man was standing in the doorway.
Harm followed the direction of his gaze. "I guess he heard about Mrs. Logan's death on the news and called in to report having seen her daughter?"
"That's about it. How did you find her?"
"She left a message for us, asking for help. She was protecting herself, Norman," Harm explained. "Her mother came at her with a knife and she pushed back, trying to get away."
"Why don't we let *her* tell the story, Commander?" Norman suggested. "And then we'll discuss why you didn't notify us when she called you."
"Col. Mackenzie and I are her attorneys," Harm pointed out. "We were just about to leave and were going to bring her to talk to you."
Norman gave Harm a decidedly doubtful look. "Then I saved you a trip. Shall we?"
"Look, Lieutenant," Harm said, not moving, "My ward's still pretty shaken as well. All of this has brought back some pretty painful memories of her father's death. Why don't you just let us follow you back to Falls Church and then question the girl?"
"I did some checking on you and the Colonel after you left the Logan place, Commander," Norman said. "Your reputations tell me that you're good attorneys. And trustworthy. So I'm going to agree to your suggestion. But we'll be right behind you all the way back. And if you don't do as promised, your 'client' won't be the only one to end up in custody."
"Would it be acceptable for me to leave Colonel Mackenzie and Mattie at home en route?"
"Like I said, we'll be right behind you," Norman said, turning to his driver. "Come on, Pete. We'll wait in the car."
Harm turned as the door behind him opened and Mac appeared, her eyes going to the police cruiser. "I heard," she told him, coming out to join him. "I'll get the girls out to the car. You take care of things in the office."
Mac turned back to the room and opened the door, looking at the two teenagers. "Are you ready, Liz?"
She nodded, swallowing heavily. "Yes ma'am."
Mac herded both girls in to the back seat of the Lexus, aware that Lt. Norman was watching their every move. Harm came back from the office and got into the car, his expression grim. "Everything taken care of?" Mac asked.
He nodded, glancing in the mirror as the police car pulled into behind them. "Which of us would you like to go with you to talk to the police, Liz?" he asked.
"You can't both be there?" she asked, sounding nervous.
"I was going to take Mattie home before going to the station," he explained. "I'd rather not leave her alone."
"It's okay, Harm," Mattie assured him, sitting forward. "If Liz would feel better with both of you there, I can stay alone. It's not like I haven't done it before."
Harm looked at Mac, silently asking for her input, but before he could say anything else, Mattie said, "Unless you don't trust me enough to -"
"It's okay, Mattie," Liz said. "Would - Would you go with me, Colonel?" she asked in a quiet voice.
"Of course I will," Mac assured her.
"Uncle Harm!" AJ called out as Harriet and Bud were trying to get dinner on the table. Frowning, they looked at each other and went into the living room, where their older son was watching TV. "Uncle Harm's on TV!" he told them.
"What's he doing watching the news?" Harriet asked Bud, as they watched a reporter talking to Harm, asking him about the Navy's involvement in whatever was going on.
"I turned it!" AJ informed them with a proud smile of accomplishment on his round face.
When the report ended, Bud picked up the remote and changed to ZNN. "Bud -" Harriet said with reproach.
"It's time for their local news roundup," he explained. "Maybe they picked -"
"In Falls Church, Virginia, the wife of a Marine serving in Iraq was found dead in her suburban home by Marine Lt. Colonel Sarah Mackenzie, who is assigned to the Navy's Judge Advocate General's office." The TV showed a stock photo of Mac, and then cut to footage of her Corvette sitting on the street with Mattie inside. "The young woman who arrived at the scene with Col. Mackenzie refused to speak to us, however Lt. Col. Mackenzie's husband, Navy Commander Harmon Rabb, Jr. did say a few words." More footage of Harm and Mattie moving toward his SUV before footage of Harm telling the reporter that the dead woman's daughter was a friend of his daughter.
AJ looked up at his parents. "Uncle Harm has a daughter?"
"Mattie," Bud answered, picking the boy up, his attention still on the TV as it showed coroner's people bringing the body out of the house. "The cause of death has yet to be determined, and there is no sign of Mrs. Logan's daughter, Elizabeth. A neighbor told us that she saw the sixteen year old girl leave the house early this morning in Mrs. Logan's 1999 Toyota Celica . . ." they showed the license number of the car and a photo of a thin, dark haired girl. "The Falls Church police are asking that if anyone sees Elizabeth Logan that they contact the police department."
Bud turned the TV off as Harriet sighed. "That poor girl."
"Who? Elizabeth Logan?"
"Mattie," she clarified. "After everything she's gone through, and now this."
Bud nodded in agreement before turning to AJ. "Let's go wash your hands for supper. And we're going to have a little chat about turning the television channel without permission."
True to his word, Lt. Norman followed the Lexus all the way back to the house, parking on the street while Harm and Mattie got out. They watched as Mac backed the vehicle onto the street and drove away, the police car directly behind.
Mattie reached up to cover Harm's hand on her shoulder. "They won't arrest her, will they?" she asked, her eyes still on the taillights of the two vehicles.
"They just want to talk to her right now," Harm said with more confidence than he felt. "Once they hear her side of things, they'll probably release her into Mac's custody until their investigation is finished," he continued, guiding her up the steps onto the porch, where he unlocked the front door and stepped aside for her to go inside ahead of him.
She removed her coat, hanging it on the coat rack nearby before wandering into the living room. Dammit barked, having heard noises inside the house. "I'll let the dog in," Harm told Mattie. "You want something to eat?"
"I'm not hungry," she said, sitting down on the hearth before the dark fireplace. "Can I start a fire?" she asked. "I think it's getting colder."
"Tell you what, why don't you let Dammit in and I'll start the fire."
"Okay," she said, not arguing the way she usually did that she could start a fire just as well as Harm could.
He watched her walk away with troubled eyes before turning his attention to the promised fire. After it was going, he frowned, realizing that Mattie hadn't come back, so he went into the kitchen, only to find her sitting on the floor, her face buried in Dammit's neck as the dog sat patiently, as always.
"It's warmer in the living room," he said, kneeling to stroke Mattie's hair, hearing her sniffling. "Come on," he told her, gently pulling her to her feet and keeping an arm around her shoulders as she went along to the living room with him, Dammit following along behind.
Harm sat down the sofa, pulling Mattie into the crook of his arm. "It'll be okay, Mattie," he promised. "You know," he said, pressing a kiss onto her head, "we've never really talked about what happened that day. I know your memory returned - it might help to talk about it."
"It won't change anything," she said. "Won't change what happened. Anymore than talking about what happened today will change things for Liz."
He didn't push, just nodded. "Okay. But if you decide you want to talk, I'm here."
They stayed there for several moments, watching the flames, and Harm began to think she had gone to sleep. But then she spoke again, her voice soft, and filled with more pain than Harm thought someone her age should have to face.
"He'd been drinking all day. I heard him call in that morning, tell his boss that he wasn't feeling good and wouldn't be in. I told him we needed some groceries and he said we would go later to get them. But later, he was passed out on the sofa, so I decided that it wouldn't hurt to go to the store."
Harm had already heard this part. It was where her memory of that day had ended because of the accident. He still wished she had called him, told him what was going on so that he could come out and get her. But Harm knew better than to interrupt her now that she was finally talking.
"When I got back from the store, I put the groceries away and went in to see if he was still sleeping it off. That's when he told me that someone had called. He was angry, and the only person I knew could make him that angry - was you. I was terrified that you'd know he was drinking again and feel responsible, so I picked up the phone to call you." Her shoulders tensed as she continued. "He grabbed it from me, threw it across the room. Just like - like Mrs. Logan did to Liz. It barely missed me, and I decided that I'd had enough. I told Mac the other day that I could have gone to a neighbor's but - I never considered that. I just wanted to get away from him. As far and as fast as I could." She paused, trying to gather herself. "I was going to drive to the airport and call you from there, see if you wanted to come get me."
Harm tightened his grip on her, pulling her closer to let her know that he would have - without question.
"He came out of the house, yelling, screaming at me. The truck wouldn't start, and he kept banging on the window, saying that I wasn't going to leave him again. When the truck started, he jumped into the passenger side and tried to grab for the keys, but I stopped him. Then he started - started trying to grab the steering wheel. I - I *tried* to -to stop him, but - but I *couldn't*!" she finished, starting to cry again.
Harm rocked gently back and forth, murmuring soothing words, holding onto her. "It wasn't your fault, Mattie," he said at last. "You were trying to get out of a bad situation. No one blames you for what happened except yourself."
"But - if I hadn't been driving -"
Harm put his arms on her shoulders and moved her back enough so that she could see his face. "You. Were. Not. Responsible," he said slowly. "The only blame for that accident lies with your father. And me."
"You?" she questioned, blinking in confusion.
"For not seeing what was going on and doing something about it before it was too late. For making you think that I didn't want you around so that you didn't feel you could talk to me."
Mattie's arms went around his neck in a hug. "I'm glad you're in my life, Harm."
"I'm *very* glad you're in mine," he told her.
"Liz doesn't have anyone to help her right now," she sighed. "She's all alone."
"No, she's not," Harm pointed out. "She has us. Mac and I are going to do everything possible to help her. And I think you can help her as much as anyone can."
"Because we've gone through something similar," Mattie said.
"Yes. She's going need as much help to get past that as she will to get through the legal problems."
"I wish her father would call. She really needs to talk to him."
"He'll call - just as soon as they find him and let him know what's happened," he assured her. "Now. How about a sandwich?" he asked. "I think there's some ham left in the fridge . . ."
Mac sat beside a nervous Liz as Lt. Nelson listened to the girl recount the events that had led up to the death of her mother.
"Had you been drinking, Miss Logan?" he asked.
She glanced at Mac, who nodded slightly. "I - I had a couple of beers before bed last night, but - I'd slept it off by the time she woke me up, screaming at me."
"Did you get along well with your mother, Miss Logan?"
"She was okay - when she wasn't drinking. But lately she was drinking more and more -"
"Did she ever hit you?"
Liz's eyes fell to the table before she answered. "Y-yes. Never - Never on my face - or where anyone would see the bruises, though. Sh-she said she didn't want people digging into things that - that weren't any of their business," she finished, looking at Mac, obviously remembering Mac's visit to the house on Saturday afternoon.
"When was the last time she hit you, Liz?" Mac questioned.
"S-Saturday. After - After you left."
"Where?" Norman asked.
"M-My back." She slowly stood up and turned around, pulling the bottom of the sweatshirt she was wearing up to show a bruise on the left side of her mid-back.
Mac winced, unable to keep from feeling responsible for the injury. "You can sit down, Liz," she said in a quiet voice. Looking at the police detective, she asked, "May we go now, Lieutenant?"
"I think so. I'll notify social services that she's staying with you and Commander Rabb. I'm sure they'll be in touch."
Liz looked at Lt. Norman. "I'm not under arrest or anything?"
Mac was surprised when the man actually smiled. It made him look years younger. "No. So far, your story jives with what we already knew. We'll finish the investigation, and the autopsy, but I don't think you'll be in too much trouble. You're a very lucky girl to have people like the Colonel and the Commander looking out for you. I hope you realize that."
The girl gave Mac a grateful smile. "I do, sir."
"Good. I'll be in touch, Colonel."
Mac nodded in response as she and Liz left the room. Liz got into the SUV. "Is it over, ma'am?"
"Probably. You were defending yourself."
"I didn't mean to do it. If I'd known she was that badly hurt, I would have called for help -"
Mac reached over to take her hand. "Why don't we just go back to the house?" she suggested. "We can talk there."
"Okay. Thank you, Colonel."
"You're welcome. And call me Mac."
Harm and Mattie were sitting at the kitchen table eating their sandwiches when the telephone rang. Picking it up, Harm answered. "Hello?"
The connection wasn't very good, but a man's voice came across, sounding out-of-phase, and Harm recognized the sound of a satellite phone. "Hello. I'm trying to contact Lt. Colonel Mackenzie?"
"She's not here at the moment. This is Commander Rabb. I'm her husband. Can I help you?"
"Commander. This is Master Gunnery Sergeant Logan. I was told that the Lt. Colonel has been trying to contact me about my family. Is Lizzie all right?"
"She's fine, Gunny," Harm said, seeing Mattie's eyes lift to him as she realized who he was talking to. He took his cell phone out of his pocket and handed it to her, saying quietly, "Call Mac." To Logan, he said, "How much have you heard, Gunny?"
"My CO told me that Carol's dead and that Lizzie was missing."
"She's not missing anymore, Gunny. But your wife is dead. I'm sorry."
"Oh, God," Logan sighed. "What happened? All they told me was that Lt. Col. Mackenzie found her."
"It's a long story, but the short of it is that your wife was drunk and tried to kill your daughter. Liz fought back and in the struggle, your wife fell and hit her head."
"Damn. Sorry, Commander," he apologized.
"Don't worry about it. I can understand."
"Can I talk to Lizzie, sir?"
"She and Mac went to the police station -" Mattie returned from the other room. "Just a moment, Gunny."
"They're about three minutes away," she told him.
"The police station?"
"They wanted to hear her side of the story since she ran away after the fight," Harm explained. "They should be here any minute, Gunny, if you can hang on."
"I'll try. These connections aren't always as stable as they should be."
"I know. I've dealt with them a few times myself," Harm sympathized. "Has anyone said when you might be coming home, Gunny?"
"The paperwork is being filed as we speak, sir. If all goes well, I should be home in a couple of days -"
"I'll see what I can do to expedite things from this end," Harm promised. "Liz needs to know that you care enough to be with her right now."
"I understand, sir. Where will she be staying until I get there?"
"If you agree, she can stay with us. Our daughter goes to school with her -" Harm noticed the look on Mattie's face and held out his arm in invitation. She slipped beneath it, grinning up at him.
"Thank you, sir. I don't want to put you to any bother."
"It's no bother," Harm assured the man, hearing the sound of the garage door opening. "I think they're here, Gunny. Just a moment." He opened the garage door as Liz and Mac got out of the SUV. Holding the phone out to Liz, he said, "It's for you."
Liz took the phone from him. "Hello . . . Daddy?" she began to sob, and Harm put his arm around her to support her. "Did they - did they tell you -? . . . She tried to - to - I didn't mean to - Oh, Daddy!" she cried. "When are you coming home? I need to see you . . ." she nodded. "O - Okay. I love you, too, Daddy . . . I will . . . Bye."
Harm took the phone from her and led her through to the kitchen letting Mac take charge of things. She ordered the girl to sit down at the table and eat a small sandwich while Dammit sat beside her, nudging Liz's hand to get her attention, seeming to sense that she was upset. While she and Liz were eating the sandwiches Mac told them what Lt. Nelson had said.
"Gunny Logan should be home in a couple of days," Harm told Mac. "He agreed that Liz could stay with us until then."
"That's what he told me," Liz confirmed. "He told me not to give you any trouble. I guess I've already done that," she said with a deep sigh.
Mac looked at the girl's downcast expression. "You know what you need, Liz?" she asked, waiting for Liz's dark eyes to look at her. "A nice, long, bath. Mattie, why don't you show Liz where everything is and then find her something to sleep in?"
"Okay," Mattie agreed. "Come on, Liz."
Liz rose slowly to follow her friend, but Mattie paused beside Harm and threw her arms around his neck. "Daughter, huh?"
He smiled at her. "Yeah. Daughter. Now get going." Mattie joined Liz and they left the room, Dammit right behind them.
Mac looked at him after the girls had gone. "What was that all about?"
"I guess she's never heard me refer to her as my daughter before tonight."
"I did the same thing today. I guess I don't do it when she's around because I wasn't sure how she would react."
"I guess we know, now," Harm said, reaching across to take her hand as it lay on the table. "How are you doing? I know this must have been just as hard on you as it was on the girls." When he saw a familiar look cross Mac's face, he shook his head. "And don't give me that 'I'm a big bad Marine and I'm fine' speech. I know you better than that." He tugged on her hand, pulling her to her feet and around the table. Pushing back his chair, he pulled her into his lap. "That's better."
"How are we going to work this, Harm?" she asked, and slapped at his shoulder when he gave her a leering grin. "You know what I meant. Do you think Liz will be able to go to school tomorrow? It was on the news -"
"If she doesn't think she can go, then we'll have to make arrangements."
"I have a full day tomorrow," she told him. "The Marshall Article 32 in the morning, and pre-trial motions on the Douglas court-martial."
"Then I'll take a day."
"Can you do that? With everything that needs to be done before Krennick arrives?"
"I'll work from here. I've got a computer and a fax and a phone. We'll work it out."
Liz opted to sleep in Mattie's room instead of the guest room, and said that she would go to school the next morning. She told Mac and Harm goodnight and went upstairs, but Mattie lingered for a moment. "I've been thinking - how hard would it be for you guys to adopt me? Make everything really official. Last name and all."
"You're sure you want that, Mattie?" Mac questioned.
"Sure. Unless -" she hesitated, looking uncertain. "You don't want to -"
They each gave her a hug. "We'll check into it," Harm promised.
"Thanks, Dad," she said, smiling at him before giving Mac another hug. "Mom. Night."
"Hurricane Mattie strikes again," Harm sighed, shaking his head once she was gone. Standing up, he held out his hand. "You ready to hit the sack?"
"More than ready," she agreed.
In the bedroom, Harm was surprised when Mac pulled his head down for a long kiss. "Mac?" he questioned, looking down into her face.
She smiled at him, her fingertips tracing his lips. "I'm going to take a bath," she told him, removing her sweater as she moved away toward the bathroom. In the doorway, she turned, a smile of invitation on her face. "Care to join me?"
Harm followed her into the bathroom, leaning against the doorframe, watching as she bent over the tub to turn on the water before removing the rest of her clothes. When she was naked, Mac turned to look at Harm, shaking her head as she came over to slide her hands under his tee shirt, moving it up with the obvious plan of removing it. "Mac," he said, wanting not to respond but finding himself helpless not to - something that he was discovering happened quite a bit with this woman. "We can't -"
"Why not?" she asked, lifting the shirt over his head and dropping it onto the floor before her fingers moved to the buttons of his jeans.
"The girls -"
"Harm," she said, leaning forward to press her lips against his chest, pulling his jeans open and sliding the denim down past his hips, "we've been living in the same house as Mattie for the last six months and you've never been worried about it."
"But - it's not just Mattie," he pointed out, closing his eyes when her hand closed over him. His hand, which had been on her shoulder, moved around to the back of her neck as he opened his eyes and bent to kiss her before lifting her into his arms and carrying her over to the tub. Lowering her, he reached over to turn off the water before climbing in behind her. Mac turned to face him, pressing her body against his, one arm sliding around his neck while the other slipped beneath the water's surface to find him again.
Harm brought his hands to her breasts, gently cupping them, tweaking the sensitive nipples with his thumbs as his lips met hers. It didn't take long for him to know that she was ready, and his hands moved to her waist to lift her body up and onto him. Their movements were slow and easy - something they had both learned after having had to dry the bathroom floor after the first time they had made love this way.
Mac used the sides of the tub to gently lift herself up and down while Harm's fingers moved to their joining, touching, pulling, rubbing her while his other hand brought first one nipple and then the other to his lips, licking, sucking, as his eyes watched her face. As her eyes fluttered closed, Harm bit down gently on her nipple, sending her over the edge. Watching her, Harm lifted his hips and gripped her waist, holding her to him until he was spent.
Mac fell forward against him, and they held each other for several minutes. "The water's getting cold," she finally muttered.
"Hmm," was his lazy response, his cheek resting against the top of her head. "I guess we need to let the water out."
"I can't reach the plug," she said, not moving.
Harm bent his leg and wrapped the chain around his big toe, pulling the plug out of the drain. "There."
Realizing that she was nearly asleep, Harm slowly sat up. "Hey. I don't recommend sleeping in this thing. We need to turn the shower on and rinse off."
"Okay," she sighed, moving slowly away from him, letting him help her to her feet, still leaning against him as he pulled the shower curtain into the tub and closed it.
"I need to turn the water on, honey," he said. "Don't fall."
She shivered as the cool air began to chill her skin. "I won't," she told him, keeping her hands on his hips while he bent down to turn the water on and adjusted the temperature before starting the shower. Harm turned and pulled her into the spray with him, smoothing it through her dark hair before leaning in to give her a kiss. "I love you, Sarah," he said.
"I love you," she replied, smiling as he picked up the soap and began to lather her body and his own, letting the water rinse them both clean before turning the water off again and pushing the curtain back. Stepping out of the tub, Harm grabbed a towel and wrapped it around her before lifting her out of the tub and carrying her into the bedroom and their king-size bed.