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Every Tom Dick and Crazy  -  Part 2

By: CLK


Chapter 8 

Harm’s office
Next day
1155 hours

“So sorry it took me so long to get here this morning.”

“No. It’s wonderful to see you again!” Harm hugged his old friend, even if it wasn’t exactly protocol. “How was the flight?” He gestured for her to take a seat.

“The flight was fine.  It was the sitting on the runway at Gatwick for an hour and a half that was murder.   The plane in our gate blew a tire backing away.  Apparently the airport security doesn’t allow for last minute gate changes, so we had to just wait it out.”

“Well, you don’t look any worse for wear. Are you sure you don’t want to go to your hotel to get some rest and start tomorrow?”

“Nonsense.  I’ve done this trip so many times meeting Tom on leave that I’ve got it down pat.  You take the 1700 departing flight, not the 1600.  If you take the 1600, sunset never quite catches up with the plane and you wind up awake for eighty percent of the flight, and a walking zombie the next day.  If you wait that extra hour, well, then you can sleep a good sixty percent or more of the flight, and are good to go when you land. At least, I will be until I hit that proverbial brick wall around 2000 hours tonight.” A small smirk teased at the corner of her lips.

“I’m sorry I missed the wedding. How is Tom doing? Still stationed in Bahrain?”

“No, he’s flying off the Seahawk.”

“I still can’t believe you married a Hornet jock.  I’d have liked to have thought I taught you better.” Harm couldn’t help joking with his old partner.

“Yeah, well.  You always told me dress whites and gold wings were irresistible.”

Before Harm could respond, they were interrupted by the intercom. He was starting to find that contraption to be one of the most annoying instruments of his command.

“Yes, James?”

“Sir, your wife is here to see you.”

“Oh, good. Send her right in.” Without hesitation, Harm started for the door.  In a moment, he wrapped his wife in a warm, loving, yet appropriately restrained kiss.

“I don’t believe you two have met.  Mac, I’d like you to meet my old partner,” dropping his arm casually around the small of her back, Harm inched Mac across the room. “Commander Meg Austin Parks.  Meg, this is my wife, Mac.” Harm smiled proudly at introducing Mac as his wife.

“It’s just Austin at work,” Meg smiled at Harm.

Shaking hands briefly, “Pleasure…” the two female voices mumbled over each other.

“Meg?” Mac confirmed.

“Mm. Mac?” Meg furrowed her brow.  “Of all the names I pictured finally lassoing this big galoot, Mac wasn’t one of them,” Meg smiled sweetly, hoping to get on her new CO’s wife’s good side.

“It’s short for my maiden name, MacKenzie. Works well when you share a barracks with a platoon full of marines.” Mac was still sizing up her one time predecessor.  Harm had never mentioned Meg much, but Mac couldn’t help wondering if there had been any history between these two as with Kate Pike.

Once again the buzz of the intercom filled the room.

“Yes?” Harm poked at the button.

“You said to let you know when Lt. Philips arrived. She and Inspector Baskin are here.”

“Very well.  Send them in.”  The more the merrier, he sighed inwardly.

Coming immediately to attention, Lt. Philips tried to take in a cursory glance at the two women in the room.  Inspector Baskin on the other hand, made no attempt to hide his gawking glare. His eyes obviously roaming from head to toe when they fell on Mac.

“At ease, Lieutenant. Have you got that report?” Harm chose to ignore Baskin’s ogling of his wife.

“Yes, sir, right here.  I took the liberty of stopping this morning to re-interview Corporal Jenkins’ boyfriend.”

“I see.” Nodding his approval, Harm turned to introduce Mac. “Lt. Phillips, Inspector Baskin, this is my wife, Sarah.” Turning to Meg, “And this is Commander Austin. She will be working with you on this case, Lieutenant.” Harm noticed the faint flicker of disappointment in the Lieutenant’s eyes. Silently, he kicked himself. He should have prepared her privately for Meg’s arrival. Let her know it was no reflection on the quality of her work.

“You’ve done an excellent job, but this case could go long.  I don’t want either of you burning the candle at both ends. Is that understood?”

“Aye, sir.” The two women stiffened at near attention.

“Very well, take a seat and tell me what you have.”

“I think I’ll acquaint myself with a little more of the building.  I’ll be outside when you’re ready to go.” Mac started for the door.

“No, Mac.  The more heads we have on this the better. Harm pulled a nearby chair up closer to the desk for Mac to sit down and join them, then moved to his own chair. Gesturing for Lt. Philips to take a seat, he left Baskin to stand or pull up a chair.

Standing as if he were growing roots, Baskin looked carefully from Mac to Harm and back again.  Obviously questioning the prudence of her remaining in the room until he was certain Harm had no intention of changing his mind.

“I don’t want to appear disrespectful, but this is Scotland Yard business.  I don’t think it’s appropriate to be including civilian observers.” This time he glared more pointedly at Mac.  Any near lustful inclinations he might have had were completely taken over by his professional need to control his case.

“Perhaps I should have made a more formal introduction.” This time it was Harm who glared pointedly at Baskin for questioning his judgment in front of his subordinates. “Lieutenant Colonel Sarah MacKenzie, JAG Corps, United States Marine Corp Reserve,” Waving his open hand at Baskin, he completed the introduction. “Inspector Darrell Baskin, Scotland Yard. As you know Baskin, in a time of war, there’s really no such thing as inactive reserve.” Harm not so subtly reminded him.

Baskin turned every shade of red imaginable, and almost fell to his knees when Mac saw fit to bless him with a marine handshake.

“How do you do?” Mac’s polite response in no way masked her intentions. She was not just a pretty face, and she’d just seen to it that Darrell Baskin would never forget it.

“Fine, thank you. Shall we continue?” Darrell offered weakly.

“Our visit with Dr. Mitchell was only slightly helpful. I think all of us here are familiar with the standard outline for a serial killer. Although, with only two killings our new Jack isn’t technically serial, yet.” Mary shrugged her shoulder at the technicality.

“Our suspect is most likely, a 25-35 year old white male. From the photographs, Dr. Mitchell was able draw a few insights.  The positioning of the body in such a precise fashion is most likely Jack’s new calling card, his signature.  If we can figure out what he’s trying to tell us with the particular pose, it could help us narrow down who he is.”

While Mary spoke, Harm had handed Mac and Meg each a file.  Until now, Mac hadn’t actually seen any of the photos.

“There isn’t a single piece of physical evidence left behind. Despite the condition of the bodies, the immediate area is very clean. This is what’s considered an organized killer.  Something, Dr. Mitchell referred to it as a stressor has sent this person on a quest. There’s no way of knowing what it was. Could have been anything from a loss of a job to the breakup of a relationship.”

“Shouldn’t the stressor be something that triggers each killing?” Harm was thinking back to the murder case in Naples where the stepmother’s arrival in port triggered the killer to strike again.

“Not necessarily.  Often it’s a simple event that normal people would cope with. The murderer, however, turns inward and focuses on his own problems to the exclusion of all else, and then acts on fantasies as the solution to the problem because his mental coping mechanisms are faulty. So, the life stresses that preceded the first murder may not need to be present again. The next victim will probably be more carefully sought out, the murder more expertly done, the place further away and displaying more violence to the victim than was evident in the first crime.” Pulling out two particular photos from a file on her lap, Mary handed them clockwise around the room.

“As you can see from the crime photos.  The second murder was indeed more brutal, more violent than the first.  In the first victim, the throat was severely slit, the head partially severed. In the second victim the head was nearly severed completely.  Although the first victim was sliced open as completely as the second, the first victim had its extremities intact.  The second victim’s left breast was removed.”

“So we can safely assume that whatever fantasies the killer is indulging, they’re not satisfying his frustration and we can expect the next murder to be even more vicious?” Mac interjected, never looking up from the photos in her hand.

“That’s correct.  This person is very angry. He’s on a mission to rid the world of some immorality.  Most likely he sees these women as being as unworthy as the prostitutes the original Jack the Ripper eliminated.  What makes catching this particular type of serial killer challenging is they have no outward psychosis.  They appear perfectly normal to their friends and neighbors. Usually the killer focuses on a select group of individuals.  We’re going on the presumption at the moment that this pool of victims is based on their E4 enlisted status.”

“That’s the only link?” Meg asked.  She’d scanned the reports quickly as Lt. Philips spoke, but she was fairly sure she hadn’t missed anything.

“Yes, and there’s one other thing.  The victims probably know their killer in some way.  There’s no bruising, or defensive wounds, which implies there was no struggle.  The bodies are moved from their original site. Possibly to decrease risk of association. The idea of Whitechapel is probably secondary to the more important notion of removing the bodies from anything that could indicate who the killer is.”

“So we’re looking for a friendly, social, not psychotic, good neighbor, Ted Bundy?” Meg snipped sarcastically.

“Yeah. That about covers it,” Mary nodded pensively. The Captain was right. This assignment was going to be one hell of a long ride.

Chapter 9

Harm tried inconspicuously to glance in Mac’s direction as she studied the file in front of her.  She and Meg had silently traded folders as Lt. Philips updated them on the pub interviews.  He had no reason to be concerned over her reaction. She was an outstanding investigator and superior officer, yet the idea of exposing ‘his wife’ to such gruesome photos brought out all the protective instincts he had.

Mac tried to interject as little as possible.  She didn’t see any reason to ruffle Sherlock Holmes’ feathers anymore. Yet.

“Not a single person at either location remembers seeing or hearing anything over in Whitechapel.  Some of the regulars were perfectly happy to fill us in on all the gossip, but not a single one had heard anything helpful.  We even returned to Whitechapel after Kensington to catch the night crowd.  No one saw any unusual cars or people lurking about after midnight.  The bodies just appeared.” Mary was trying not to let her frustrations show.

“What about Kensington?” Meg asked, her nose still in the files.

“The bartender remembers Corporal Jenkins.  She and her boyfriend were regulars. He still is.”

“Does he have a new girlfriend?” Mac interjected.

“No.  So far he stops in for a beer after work and then goes home alone. Everyone says he’s taking this pretty hard.”

“What about her? Any chance she was two timing him?” Meg looked up at Mary.  So far, she seemed on her game.  Meg could see what Harm saw in her.

“Unlikely.  According to a few of the regulars, she often had guys hitting on her if she was waiting for her boyfriend. Even the night he was called back to duty. She stayed to finish dinner and had to turn away a handful of guys.  She did stay around and have a beer at the bar and chatted nicely with a few people, but she went home alone.”

“Or at least she thought she did,” Baskin mumbled, still a little out of sorts from having been put in his place.

“Yeah.  We got the names of a couple of the regulars who conversed with her. Two were there last night.  Nothing out of the ordinary there.”

“We ran their names through the system this morning. Nothing of any interest resulted on any of them,” Baskin added. “We’ve had a sketch artist provide us with drawings based on the customer descriptions of the others. We will be passing copies of the sketches around Kensington later today. Hopefully someone will recognize the non-regulars who interacted with her.”

“Very well.” Harm stood up.  “I’ll expect regular updates on your progress.”

“Yes, sir.” Mary stood at attention. “Ma’am,” she nodded to Mac.

“Lieutenant,” Mac smiled.

“Nice meeting you, Mac,” Meg added.

“Same here, Meg.”

“Shall we get started, Lieutenant?” Meg turned to Mary.

“Yes, Ma’am.” Mary turned towards the door amused at the virtually monosyllabic conversations consisting of names only. Interesting.

“Sir.” Meg silently requested permission to leave.

“That will be all, Commander.” Harm couldn’t help but smile inwardly at Meg’s little attention to formality.  He also couldn’t help but notice the curious way Mac was watching their interaction.

When everyone had cleared the room, leaving Harm and Mac alone, Mac turned to Harm with an impish grin.

“So Kate Pike was right?”

“About what?” Harm felt his heart sink to his stomach.

“Apparently whenever you get promoted, the Navy sees fit to give you a harem.” Mac tried not to burst into laughter at Harm’s immediate discomfort.

“She told you that?” Suddenly, Harm was a little disconcerted at the possibilities of what else Kate might have ‘shared’ with Mac.  After all, she did recuse herself from the Inspector General case.

“You know, girl talk.” Grabbing her purse, Mac sauntered saucily away from her husband.  This whole wife thing was a lot more fun than playing the girl next door. The perks were pretty good, too.”

Momentarily stunned, Harm quickly grabbed his cover and followed Mac out the door.

“James, I’ll be having lunch with my wife. If anything comes up, have…”

“Lt. Philips or Commander Austin reach you on your cell. Yes, sir,” Beth James responded without thinking.

“Thank you.” Harm was getting better at not looking at her oddly when she anticipated what he was going to say.  The eerie thing was, she’d always been right so far.

Placing his arm lightly around Mac’s waist, Harm leaned over slightly and whispered,  “Do you know how she does that?”

“Does what?”

“Knows what I’m going to say before I say it?”

“Harm, I can tell time, not read minds.  Remember, that’s what took us nine years to get here in the first place.” Mac rolled her eyes, and shook her head at her husband. Such a bright man, and yet still able to remain so clueless at times.

Holding the door for Mac as they left the building, Harm shook off his concerns with Petty Officer James and moved on to a more pressing concern. “I guess Mattie isn’t ready to join us for lunch yet?”

“Nope. Says she wants to take it easy.  I think she’s trying to give us some space.”

“Is that something I should be worried about? I don’t want her to think she’s an intrusion.”

“Nope.  She’s just old enough to recognize newlyweds need a little time alone, no matter how old we are,” Mac stifled a giggle.

“Hmm. Just you wait till I get you home alone, marine.  I’ll show you who’s old.”  Harm couldn’t ever remember a time when he so looked forward to going home at the end of his day.  Until now, his job had always been his first priority.  Having something more important in his life than the Navy was finally filling that void he’d had in his life for so long.

Meg Austin’s Office
London headquarters.
Same time

“What do you think if you and I take that sketch over to Ruislip and see if there are any sailors who fit the description.  Then we can head over to Kensington and start asking a few questions?”  Meg suggested, dropping the files on her empty desk, and flipping on the computer.

“You’re thinking this could be a Navy man?”

“Just considering all the options. It would explain an outsider at a local pub.”

“The witnesses we spoke to weren’t close enough to hear the conversations or catch a name.  It’s possible they wouldn’t have noticed if they were yanks. We weren’t able to interview the bartender that was there the night of the murder.  He only works Friday and Saturday nights.” Mary hadn’t considered the possibility it could be one of their boys.  She thought she’d covered all the bases. This is probably why the Captain wanted Meg aboard.  Well, if she could learn anything from her, Mary wasn’t too proud to admit it.

“Pretty sparse isn’t it?” Baskin interrupted, looking around the various corners of the room and ceiling.

“I just arrived from Texas a couple of hours ago.  At least the computer is connected.”  Meg opened the desk drawers.  “Looks like I’ll have to requisition a few basics. Like a pen and paper.” After all these years it still amazed her how little was actually ready for a lawyer when they changed commands.

“Perhaps it would be a better idea if you stayed here to get set up, and the Lieutenant and I inquire at Ruislip? She can fill you in later.” Baskin wasn’t too happy at having to deal with two Navy lawyers under foot, but he had to be thankful they were both very good looking, and at least one of them was single.

“That may not be a half bad idea. Check in with me after Ruislip and I’ll see if I can meet you to make the rounds in Kensington.  That way we’ll cover more territory.” Meg picked up the file folder. “I’ll copy these and take a closer look.”

“Aye, aye, ma’am.” Mary straightened her shoulders.

“When it’s just the two of us, it’s Meg.”

“Yes, ma’am…Meg.” Maybe this wasn’t going to be so bad.  There was obviously a history of some sort with the Captain.  If he trusted the Commander, maybe it wouldn’t be a bad idea for her to do the same.

RAF Ruislip
BX (Base Exchange)

“Well, I do believe we have been just about everywhere else on base.  There are not that many personnel here.” Baskin followed Mary down the aisle. “I thought they called military stores PX.”

“That’s the army. We call ‘em Base Exchange, BX for short.  While we’re here, I just want to pick up a few things and then we’ll check with Kathy.  She probably has a better handle than anyone of who comes and goes on base.” Mary put what she was looking for in a basket.

“Is this pounds or dollars?”

“Dollars. Why?”

“Crikey.  I should have joined the military.”  Darrell put the item back on the shelf and pretended not to notice Mary’s scolding glare.  She was an awfully nice girl under the gruff military exterior, but understanding women was hard enough, throw in a yank female and the task was downright impossible.

Chapter 10

Churchill Arm’s Pub
Campden St, Kensington
1930 hours

“Are you sure you don’t want to stay for dinner?” Lt. Philips asked Meg for the third time.

“I’m amazed my feet haven’t gone on strike.  Aside from the fact that I’m functioning on a five hour airplane catnap, when my body hits that unavoidable proverbial brick wall, I intend to be snuggly tucked into my hotel room bed.” Meg tried to hide her yawn.

“Maybe I should just accompany you home. I can eat something at my flat,” Mary volunteered.

“Nonsense.  I’m not far. The Navy’s putting me up at the Bailey’s Hotel right here in Kensington.  You stay and enjoy a nice dinner.  As a matter of fact eat one for me too,” Meg chuckled sweetly. “We put in a good days work, even if no one recognized the faces.”

“Don’t forget, Kathy at the BX said that one of those photos resembled Petty Officer Harris,” Mary reminded her.

“Right. We’ll take a look at his record first thing in the morning. I’ll see you in my office at 0800.” Meg stood up lazily.  Her legs were starting to feel the time change.  She could already hear her bed calling to her. “Good night, Inspector, Mary.”

Mary and Darrell watched Meg until her cab drove off.

“Not bad for a woman who just got off a plane from the States.” Darrell seemed to be talking to himself more than to Mary.

“Yeah. No doubt that’s why the Captain wanted her here.  I should have known better than to think a junior officer would be assigned a case like this on her own.” Mary too was voicing her thoughts aloud.

“Well, I say we did indeed put in a good days work and deserve a nice dinner.  Let’s put this sordid business behind us for the next couple of hours.  If we see any familiar faces, we can question them after dessert.” Smiling broadly, Darrell walked Mary over to the restaurant side of the Pub.

A few hours later Mary and Darrell were sitting comfortably back on the pub side of the establishment near the edge of the fireplace, nestled up as closely as the professional relationship allowed.

“It’s amazing how cozy a fire can be even in summertime.” Mary set her glass of wine down near the edge of the enormous hearth and began stroking the cat.  “Is it a requirement that all proper British Public Houses have a mascot?” Mary made a feeble attempt at an aristocratic London accent.

“Possibly,” Darrell chuckled loudly.

“Do you think we’ll find him?” she asked more somberly.

“I am certainly going to try.  This isn’t 1888.  Surely, technology will count for something.  It’s not as easy to hide in the woodwork as it was a hundred years ago.”

“That’s true, but still, we don’t really have very much to go on. The standard serial profile says he’s a white male between 25 and 35, probably unable to maintain a committed relationship, appears gregarious and normal on the outside, and is probably heterosexual.  I actually joked with Kathy today at the BX, watch it turn out to be an over 40 lesbian with strong family ties. We have absolutely no physical evidence trail to follow.”

Darrell could hear the desperation and frustration in her voice.

“There’s a reason standard profiles are used as a springboard. You know as well as I do that Ted Bundy, and a string of others, fit that description to a T.  We will narrow this down. With any luck, we will have at least five more weeks to figure this puzzle out and arrest him before he strikes again.  We are both good at what we do. We can do this.” Dropping his hand on hers without thinking, Darrell noticed for the first time just how beautiful Mary’s eyes were. It was as though he were looking into the crystal Caribbean ocean on a brisk summer day. Hesitating a moment longer than circumstances warranted, his eyes remained locked on hers as he slowly drew back. “I’d better get you home.”

“That won’t be necessary.  I can walk from here.” Her eyes dropped down to where his hand had momentarily held hers.

“Yes. You most certainly could, but my British sensibilities would never let me forgive myself.” Bowing at the waist, Darrell smiled impishly, hoping his charming gesture wouldn’t be refused.

“You probably have a puppy dog complex and would follow me home even if I said no.” Curtsying slightly, “I accept your kind gesture, sir,” Mary responded in her best Scarlet O’hara, not bad for a gal from Jersey.

London Headquarters 
Next day
0845

“Sir. Commander Austin would like to see you.”

“Send her in.”  Before his finger was off the intercom, Meg was standing at his desk. “Tell me you’ve cracked the case already?” Harm smiled.

“Not exactly. Mary isn’t here yet.”  Meg had gotten straight to the point, ignoring all formalities and protocol.

Harm glanced up at the clock on the wall. “What time were you supposed to meet with her?”

“Forty five minutes ago.  I know it’s not much, Harm, but she only lives in Kensington.  I just don’t have a good feeling about this.”

“I know what you mean. I’ve had that same bad feeling from the first minute Baskin walked into my office.  When did you last see her?”

“Last night. I left her and Baskin at the pub having dinner.”

Harm curled one eyebrow up. If that Sherlock Holmes want-to-be had tried to pull a fast one on one of his officers, the man would live to regret it.

“Get me Baskin on the line.” Harm stabbed angrily at the intercom.

“I’ve tried that. He’s not answering his phone and his office says he got called out to a crime scene first thing this morning.”

“Crime scene? Where? What?”

“They wouldn’t tell me. I’m not sure exactly what they said, but I think it was the British translation of ‘need to know’.

Skipping the intercom all together, Harm stormed over to the door, pulling it open with a whoosh.

“Cancel that last request.  Get me Scotland Yard, I want to speak to Sir Ian Blair. Yesterday!” Slamming the door, Harm turned back towards Meg.

“Who’s he?”

“You mean you don’t know the UK’s most senior police officer?” For a split second, a fraction of a smile tugged at Harm’s lips until he remembered why he wanted to speak to the new head of Scotland Yard.

“I must have missed class that day. Out busting a bronco or something,” Meg smiled.  If Harm was calling in cards this early in the game, he must be more worried than she was.

A few minutes later Beth James tapped lightly on Harm’s door.  “Sir Ian Blair on line three, sir.”

“Thank you. Close the hatch behind you.”

“Sir Ian. Thank you for taking my call… Yes, yes…It was indeed… No, I’m sure my wife will agree with you…Admirably…yes… Well, yes, frankly… As you probably know two of our enlisted females have turned up slaughtered in Whitechapel… Yes, we all agree. Inspector Baskin is working the case with one of my junior officers, Lt. Mary Philips… Yes, I’ve heard that…Lt. Philips is one of my best as well, but at this moment she’s almost an hour late for duty and ‘that’ is very unlike her. Yes…No, sir. He’s not answering his mobile…” Harm tried not to stumble over that particular word. “Well, sir, apparently your office doesn’t feel that our office needs to know… Yes, I understand… Chain of command has its issues in any man’s Navy…”

Putting his hand over the mouthpiece, Harm looked at Meg.  “We should know where he is in a minute. Assuming that’s what ‘just a tic’ means.”

“Yes, sir… I see…six thirty this morning… yes… yes… Thank you, and please give my regards to Mrs. Blair.” Harm took a deep breath and placed the phone in its cradle.

“He’s at the Black Bull Pub on Whitechapel Rd.  They’ve found another body.”

“When?”

“Six thirty this morning.” Grabbing his cover, Harm directed Meg to the door.

“James, get a couple of MPs over to Lt. Philips apartment.  Send Commander Perkins with them. Call all the hospitals between Kensington and here and see if anyone fitting Lt. Philips description has been admitted. Get Ensign Healy to call the local police stations. Cancel all my morning appointments, and call me on my cell the minute you hear anything.”

“Yes, sir.” Beth picked up the phone and began dialing without delay.

Following Harm’s large stride, Meg silently thanked God for her long legs. “Where are you going?”

“With you. To Whitechapel.”

Chapter 11

London Headquarters

“Yes, ma’am, Colonel…  No, ma’am, he didn’t tell me where he was going, but he did leave with Commander Austin,” Beth spoke into the phone.  She had overheard him telling the Commander that he was accompanying her to Whitechapel, but wasn’t sure if it was her place to reveal that much information.  Until she had a better grip on the interpersonal relationship between her CO and his wife, she’d stick to minimal information.

“I see. Around what time did they leave?” Mac’s mind started scrambling with possibilities.

“About an hour ago, ma’am.”

“Did Lt. Philips accompany them?” 

“No, ma’am.” Beth paused debating with herself as to whether or not she should volunteer any further information. Remembering that the Colonel remained in the office during the debriefing yesterday, “She hasn’t reported for duty today, ma’am.”

“Hasn’t reported?” Now, Mac understood.  Harm was about to embark in his role as superman again.

“No, ma’am. I’ve been checking hospitals and police stations.”

“Any news?”

“No, ma’am.” Beth’s voice dropped to a more obviously disappointed tone.

“Please tell the Captain to call me at his first available opportunity.”

“Yes, ma’am. Will do.”

Hanging the phone up slowly.  Mac stared at the apparatus on the wall.  What was going on now? She expected to have occasional pangs of missing her job and life as a Marine, but she hadn’t expected anything so compelling to be nagging at her so soon.

“Who was that? You look like you just lost your best friend?”  Mattie rolled up close to Mac.

“No. Just something at work.” Sporting a feigned grin, Mac turned towards the other room.

“Work? I thought you’re retired?” Mattie could feel the tension in the room like a thick bay fog.

“Technically, I’m on inactive reserve, but retired is easier for most people to understand, besides, you know what I meant.  Harm has this really difficult case and now one of his best officers has gone UA.”

“UA?”

“That’s the Navy’s way of saying AWOL. Unauthorized absence.” Mac began nibbling on her bottom lip.

“So you’re just going to sit here and worry about him for the rest of the day?”

“No.  We’ve got an appointment with your new therapist this afternoon.” Spotting that, ‘I’d rather swim in a swamp’ look on Mattie’s face, “It’s only a get to know you visit.  The real work doesn’t start until Monday.”  If nothing else, the occasional teenage attitude that popped up so far had been more cause for amusement to Mac than aggravation.  She hoped it stayed that way when Mattie was up on her feet again and back to school, or worse, dating.

Noticing the odd little smile that came out of nowhere. “Did I miss something?” Mattie inquired, unsure of what Mac found amusing.

“No, just had a vision of Harm stripping down his side arm.” Mac figured she’d better leave it at that.  No point mentioning the mind picture included Mattie’s date watching.

“Stripping down a gun?” Mattie couldn’t help but wonder if retiring to stay home wasn’t contributing to Mac’s early senility.

“Never mind.  Harm’s going to be out of the office for a while and will probably skip lunch.  What do you say you and I take a stroll and do a little window shopping this morning?”

“Sure.  A girl can never have enough windows in her closet.” Pleased to see a heartfelt grin on Mac’s face, Mattie left Mac to change into something less ‘casual’.

The Black Bull Pub
Whitechapel Rd

Harm was practically on his way out of the car before it had even come to a complete stop.  Pausing to hold the door for Meg, his impatience to approach the scene was clear.

Glancing around at the yellow tape, Harm spotted Baskin barking orders with a zealousness he hadn’t previously noticed in the young man. The crowd was gathered up close to the yellow boundaries set around the scene. In only the few moments since Harm and Meg had arrived, the number of onlookers had already obviously increased.  It was worse than a circus. More like an anxious mob waiting for the guillotine to fall. For a moment he thought to allow each person in one by one to have a careful look at the latest victim.  Perhaps losing their breakfast would break their enthusiasm for ambulance chasing.

Placing his hand on the small of Meg’s back, the two officers moved closer to the scene, pausing only to show their ID to the policeman re-directing the crowd.  As much as the man suggested everyone move on about their business, the group continued to increase in numbers.

Without meaning to, Harm stepped in front of Meg for a closer look at the body, unconsciously attempting to somehow shield her from what they might see. The moment his eyes met with Baskin’s, he knew.

Steadying himself, Harm stepped around the crime scene photographer.  In all the miserable situations he had found himself throughout his career, this was the first time Harm could remember the wave of sheer nausea feeling stronger than his ability for self-control. Closing his eyes for a moment and taking a deep breath, Harm turned to Meg.

“Call James. Tell her we found the Lieutenant.”

“I should have called you. I didn’t realize how late it’s gotten.” Baskin looked down at his watch.  He’d had no idea it had been hours since he was first called to the scene.

“How the hell did this happen?” Harm snapped.

Baskin looked up at Harm, the hairs on the back of his neck bristling.

“Meg left her with YOU.  You were supposed to be watching her back!” Harm’s tone was sharp, just short of shouting.

“What did you expect me to do? Chain myself to her? Or should I have just insisted she let me spend the night? I took the lady home. Saw her safely to her door. I heard the lock click behind me, and then I went home.  That was around 10:30pm.  What more did you want from me?” Baskin practically shouted in Harm’s face.

Harm glared at the man.  He’d trusted Baskin to watch her six. This shouldn’t have happened.

“What have you got?!”  Harm snapped, barely controlling his anger at both Baskin and this lunatic on the loose.

“The ME puts the time of death somewhere between two and four this morning.” Without looking up from the body, Baskin could feel the intensity of Harm’s stare burning a hole through him.

“If you left her at 10:30, that leaves three or so hours before her murder,” Harm almost mumbled aloud, more for himself than for Baskin.

The choice of the word ‘if’ hadn’t escaped Baskin.  The thing he didn’t know was what part of the statement was Harm doubting, his ability to tell time or to tell the truth?

“It’s the same MO. I’ve been told all her organs are intact, although she is missing the third finger on her left hand, and her genitals have been mutilated,” Baskin forced himself to push on.

Harm watched the inspector struggle with the last words.  He could see the waves of guilt emanating from the tired man.  Did he carry the guilt of not protecting her? Or was it something more? Damn! Harm was prepared to lose people under his command, but not this way.

“Third finger of the left hand. Where you would wear a wedding ring.” Again, Harm was thinking out loud.

Momentarily looking down at the finger, Baskin considered Harm’s words before continuing. “The profiler was correct.  The brutality is escalating.  This time the victim shows signs of bruising, as though there was a beating involved.” Baskin swallowed hard, not for the first time since he’d started to fill Harm in.

“That’s new.”

“Yes.  There are no signs that she fought back, no defensive wounds, and nothing under her fingernails.  Most likely she was struck after she was unconscious, but before death.”

Having completed her call to headquarters, Meg had been standing beside Harm listening intently to what the inspector was reporting. Her eyes carefully scanned every inch of the area.  The body was posed the same as all the others. Not enough blood to indicate the killing was done on site. This was another staged scene. Noticing something bright on the ground, off near the trashcans, Meg walked over for a closer look.

Immediately noticing Meg’s purposeful stride, Harm walked away leaving Baskin in mid sentence.

“What is it?” He stepped up closely next to Meg so Baskin couldn’t hear.

Meg had scooped the object onto a small piece of paper she’d pulled from her purse.

“It’s from a uniform. A Navy uniform.” She looked from the shiny brass button up to meet Harm’s eyes.

“It could be hers. At the last scene the killer dropped the victim’s dog tags.” Harm tilted his head slightly, his one eyebrow raised, silently acknowledging the possibilities.

“Or we could be hunting one of our own.”

“Maybe.” Harm looked over to Baskin who was slow to follow, merely watching them until he noticed Meg bending down to pick something up.

“We need to bag this.” Harm showed Baskin the button. “You’d better have your people carefully go through every one of these trash cans.”

“For heaven’s sake, don’t touch anything else, and I don’t need you telling me how to do my job.” Baskin huffed at Harm, having caught up with him.

“Then do it!” Harm turned and walked away.  Whoever is responsible for this, Harm was going to get to the bottom of it, and soon.  He owed Mary Philips that much.

Chapter 12 

“Where are we going now?” Meg walked briskly beside Harm, trying to keep pace with his long strides.

“We’re going to walk the other scenes.  Maybe we’ll spot something else one of Britain’s finest missed.”

“You don’t trust him do you?”

“Right now, I don’t trust anyone. Where did you say you left Philips and Baskin last night?”

“At the Churchill Arms Pub on Campden.  The place that Jenkins and her fiancé had dinner.”

“I’m going to want to see the file on Jenkins’ fiancé again.” Harm stopped walking when they reached the alley behind the Old Dispensary Pub. “And, get me everything you can on Baskin. I want to know what brand of baby food his mother fed him.”

Rabb Flat
1845 hours

Despite the temptation to stay at his office and keep pushing on this case, Harm knew he couldn’t allow a pattern of putting work before home to take hold in his life. He promised himself; Mac would never come second to anything again.

“Hey.  I didn’t expect to see you home so soon.” Mac jumped up from the sofa as soon as she heard Harm come through the door.  He’d phoned her from the first pub in Whitechapel and filled her in on what had happened, and then again later from the office to say he’d be staying a little late to work with Meg.

Setting his briefcase down on the entry table, Harm stepped forward a few feet to properly greet his wife.  When her arms snaked around his neck, he could feel all the tension of the day rolling away.  He had spent so many years dreaming of a moment like this.  Coming home from a long day and finding Mac waiting for him.  The feel of her soft body against his was quickly raising his temperature, and a few other things.  There was no way he would ever get enough of kissing and touching the woman he loved.

Mac had only intended to give Harm a quick kiss hello, but the moment his arms pulled her tightly against him, she was lost to the warming sensations rising through her like a tidal wave ready to crash ashore.  The feel of his tongue tangling with hers, the way his fingers gently caressed the skin at the hem of her shirt, the way his strong thumbs gently skirted along the edge of her breasts, there was no way she ever wanted to be anywhere else but in the arms of Harmon Rabb.

Breathlessly pulling back, “Do you know how much I love you?” Harm dropped his forehead against Mac’s.

“As much as I love you.” Mac let her hands slide down from his shoulders to rest on his hard chest.

With his hands resting loosely along the side of her hips, almost breathlessly, he asked, “Where’s Mattie?”

“On line in her room.  Instant Messaging is a great thing for bridging the gap.”

“Not as great as what I have in mind.” Harm kissed the tip of Mac’s nose, wiggling his eyebrows upward.

“Let’s get you out of that uniform and into something more comfortable,” Mac smiled back at him.

“I was hoping you’d say that.” Harm kissed her temple, and leaving one arm wrapped snuggly around her waist, walked towards their room, pausing only a moment to tap on Mattie’s doorway. “Hey, Kiddo.  How was your day?”

“Fine.” Mattie replied without looking up from her screen.

“Good, I’m going to change out of this uniform and unwind a bit.” Walking with Mac to their room, he could hear Mattie calling back, “Take your time.”  Oh, she wouldn’t have to worry about that!

Rabb Kitchen
2100 hours

Harm took another forkful of lo mein. “This is really good. Where did you say this came from?”

“Don’t laugh, but a place just down the road called the ‘Wok and Roll’.” Mac held back a chuckle.

“Well, it’s just right for a late dinner. Thanks,” Harm winked.

“Were you and Meg able to find anything else at the scenes?”

“No, just that one button.  If it turns out to be a sailor, this is going to be a public relations nightmare.”  Harm reached over and served a little sesame chicken.

“Hey, that’s mine!” Mac teased.

“I’ll share if you share,” he grinned back.

“Deal.” Mac reached over and took a bite of lo mein from Harm’s plate.

“Meg thinks marriage symbolizes control to the killer and cutting off Mary’s wedding ring finger is a way of taking away Mary’s control.”

“Third finger is also the engagement finger.” Mac shrugged one shoulder at Harm before reaching over for more lo mein.

“Only one of the victims was engaged,” Harm pointed out casually.

“Not now, but what about before?”

Putting his fork down, and leaning back in the chair, “I don’t know. You may have something there.” Harm went quickly to the hall to retrieve his briefcase.  Pulling out the files, he scanned each quickly, then tossed them on the table. “Mary only inquired into their current personal lives, not their past.”

“Well, her theory of E4s was just shot out of the water. Maybe this will give you something to go on.  Did Bud ever talk to the other victim’s family in Virginia?”

“Not yet, Cresswell sent him to do an investigation at Miramar, he should be back by Monday. I’ll tell him to ask about any past engagements.” Taking another bite of dinner, Harm felt hopeful for the first time in days. He wished there was someway they could work together again.  They always made one hell of a team.  They still did.

“Feeling better?” Mattie asked, as she made her way up to the table.

“Better?” Harm looked at her curiously.

“Well, yeah, I mean… the lieutenant’s murder and all.” Mattie wondered if she should have just kept her mouth shut.

“We’re working on a new angle that might help.” Harm didn’t want to say too much. He didn’t like the idea of bringing work home to his family.  Mac was different, she had done this for a living, but Mattie was just a kid.  “You’re done talking with your friends?”

“Nah, things are just starting to get hopping.  I have to wait until around four o’clock our time before most of my friends are even waking up.  Anne was the only one still on line and she had to go pick her kid sister up from basketball camp.  I thought I’d come check up on you two before anyone else gets on.”  Mattie reached over and grabbed an egg roll.

“Hungry?” Harm held the box of fried rice up for her.

“No, I ate earlier. This is just a little nosh,” she grinned, and turned back to her room.  “You know where to find me if you need me.”

“How did it go with the therapist today?” Harm asked Mac, serving himself one of the egg rolls.

“Okay. We’ll see on Monday, but they seemed to get along well. Mike is young, friendly, very energetic, and according to Mattie, ‘hot’.”

“Couldn’t we have gotten a ‘hot’ woman therapist?”

“I suppose, but I suspect she may be more apt to cooperate with Mike,” Mac smiled to herself.  She definitely saw that nine millimeter making many an evening appearance in their future.

“If you say so, but just remember if we need to do the sex talk again, this time I’m sending her to you.”  By now, Harm’s eyebrows had practically taken up residence by his hairline.

“Agreed, counselor.”

“Good.  Do you have any plans for tomorrow night?”

“Why, you got a hot date?”

“That depends. Do you have plans for tomorrow night?”

“If that’s an invitation, I do now. What did you have in mind?”

“I thought it might be nice if you and I went out for dinner.” Harm picked up his empty plate and carried it over to the sink.

“Anyplace in particular you’d like to go?” Mac recognized the set in Harm’s shoulders. This was business.

“Yeah, the Churchill Arms Pub in Kensington.”

Chapter 13

Churchill Arms Pub
Friday Night

Harm escorted Mac into the family pub. 

“Nice,” Mac commented, following Harm to the bar. Her eyes quickly scanned the layout, lingering a moment at the quaint fireplace.

“When this case is over we’ll have to check out more of the local pubs.  Some of these places are not only incredibly charming and ancient, they have wonderful food, and of course, great beer.” Harm reached across and took hold of Mac’s hand.

“What will you be having?” A tall burley man asked from behind the counter.

“I’ll try your house ale and the lady will have a soda with a twist.”

“Right away.”

Harm watched as the man moved down the bar taking orders, returning with the two requested drinks.  “Do you get many Americans in here?” Harm asked casually.

“Some, more lately.  With the housing being as tight as it is, more and more of the military types are moving in around here."

“How do you know they’re military types?”

“The lot of them have their hair cut short, like yours.” The large man grinned, obviously proud of his conclusion.

Mac couldn’t resist a slight snicker. 

“It seems like a nice place. My wife and I just moved into the neighborhood. How’s the food?”

“Staying for dinner?” the man smiled.

“We’re thinking about it,” Harm shrugged.

“You’ll love it. The regulars come back for more than just a tanker of stout.”

“Even the military types?”

“Even the military types.  You’ll find tonight’s menu on the board up there.” He pointed to the wall off to the side of the long bar.

“Thank you.” Harm nodded, watching the man tend to his other customers.

“What exactly do you expect to find here?”

“Something. Anything. Maybe nothing. I don’t know.” Harm squeezed Mac’s hand tightly.  “I’ll be right back. Let me use the head and then we’ll get a table and see just how memorable the food really is.”

Mac watched the crowd while she waited for Harm.  There were several older men seated around the bar.  She got a kick out of the way one man’s black lab laid comfortably on the ground at his master’s feet with one eye steady on what must be the pub cat.  A large orange tabby stretched comfortably across the large hearth.  Across the room was the smaller eating area, obviously designed for a family restaurant. Although from what Mac could see, most of the pubs were intended to be family friendly.

Amused by the patient vigilance of the large dog watching the fat cat slowly groom itself, Mac couldn’t help but look up at the loud group of men that had just come in.  No wonder American’s so often had bad reputations overseas.  It hadn’t taken but a few seconds for their loud voices, and accents, to carry across the room.  And if their haircuts were any indication, they weren’t just Americans, they were military.

“Hi there, pretty lady.” A tall dark haired kid sidled up beside Mac.

“The name isn’t pretty lady.” Just what she needed, a drunk Vukovic clone.

“I don’t think the ‘little lady’ is interested.” One of his buddies laughed, slapping him across the back.

“Maybe you should try a more ‘proper’ line,” another friend chimed in. “Watch and learn.” Turning to Mac,  “Excuse the uncouth character, ma’am.  My name is Billy, may I offer you a real drink?”

Okay, this one was a little more polite about it, but if he thought inferring she didn’t have a real drink was going to score him any points, boy did he have a lot to learn. Of course, that line probably works just fine in most of the port dives these guys are used to visiting.

“No thank you. I’m waiting for someone.”

“See!” The first sailor shouted. “You’re way ain’t any better.”

“Perhaps you chaps should try a different establishment.  Haven’t you learned yet, we don’t get ‘working girls’ here.” The burley bartender had decided that maybe the ‘little lady’ could use some help in her husband’s absence.

“She don’t look like any blushing virgin to me,” the first sailor added, none too softly.

Now, this guy really reminded her of Vic.  What was the Navy doing nowadays? Mass producing arrogant idiots.  Didn’t they learn their lesson with Tailhook?

“Come on Dave, the lady didn’t do anything.  Let’s just get something to eat,” the only silent member of the group spoke up.

“Your friend is right, you really should try going someplace else. Maybe dry out a little.” Mac wasn’t sure why she was worried about this moron, but she knew if Harm saw him, the guy would be lucky to get away with a week’s bread and water.

“Oh, she does care,” Dave cooed dramatically before grabbing Mac’s arm and trying to pull her against him.

Stepping around the corner in time to see the foolish young man grab his wife, Harm grimaced quietly, almost feeling sorry for the poor kid as he watched the young man’s feet fly three feet off the ground before landing flat on his six.

“May I help you gentlemen?” Harm announced his presence.

“Captain Rabb, Sir!” The mostly quiet one in the group snapped to attention, immediately recognizing his CO.  Without hesitation, the other two snapped to attention as well. Turning to see Harm’s size 13 shoes, it wasn’t long before the fool hearty fourth was standing at attention beside his buddies.

“Is there a problem here?” Harm wondered if he should be amused at their youthful stupidity, or if there had been something more going on. 

“Sir. No, sir!” the four voices echoed. 

The majority of the patrons were now pleasantly amused with the latest bit of entertainment.  These sailors had come in off and on recently, and though most times were pleasant, the loud one had managed to irritate almost every one of the regulars with his constant hitting on the single women.

Harm recognized one of the young men from headquarters.  He hadn’t learned his name yet, but he was often on duty across the hall when Harm stayed late at work.  The other three faces were unfamiliar to him.  Something he was soon going to rectify.

“Then I’m sure you have an excellent reason for disrespecting a senior officer?” Harm glared intently at the now serious young man who had been pulling at Mac.

“Sir?”  Petty Officer first class David Harris questioned as politely as possible.

“Obviously, you’ve met my wife.” Gesturing at Mac, “Lt. Colonel Sarah MacKenzie, United States Marine Corps.”  Harm swallowed the smile that threatened to spread across his face at the instant pallor that washed over all four men’s faces.

“Excuse me, ma’am.  No disrespect intended, ma’am.  I … I…”

“He just needs a bit of polishing ma’am.  Please accept all our apologies,” Chief Petty Officer William ‘Billy’ Hanes offered on all his friend’s behalf.

“Aye, ma’am,” the other two sailors echoed.

Waiting just long enough for all four men to have visions of their Navy careers flushing down the toilet, “Apology accepted,” Mac nodded. “Are you okay?” she directed at the young man who she’d flipped on his ass.

“Yes, ma’am. Thank you for understanding, ma’am,” the petty officer replied meekly, ignoring the urge to rub his sore six.

“That leaves me. I want all of you to report to my office tomorrow morning at 0800.”

“Yes, sir!” The four friends were still standing ramrod straight, and somewhat peaked.

“And I suggest you get back to quarters, now.” Harm knew full well his ‘suggestion’ would be taken as an order.  “That will be all.”

The moment the four men were out the door, the pub burst into a loud round of applause. 

“Dinner’s on the house.”  The bartender grinned. He had come within inches of bodily removing the men when Mac shifted her weight and flipped the troublemaker flat on his back. Had he known the attractive woman was a Marine colonel, he wouldn’t have interfered, but he had to admit, he took great pleasure at the panicked look on the young sailor’s face when his feet left the floor.

“Don’t be too hard on them.” Mac rubbed her hand along Harm’s arm as he took a seat beside her. “I don’t think he’s going to forget tonight anytime soon,” she snickered.

“I won’t. But I am going to check out the loud one.  He seems to have a little too much resentment for just a drunken sailor.”

“I don’t know about that. He reminds me of a lot of drunks I knew. None of which have turned out to be serial killers.” Mac hoped Harm wasn’t going to start seeing suspects in every angry male.

“Maybe not, but it won’t hurt to check this one out.” Harm took a sip of his beer.  Especially if this lunatic had now crossed paths with his wife.

                                           
                                            
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