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Every Tom Dick and Crazy - Part 3
By : CLK
two weeks later
Mac rolled over slowly. She’d felt every roll and turn that Harm had made the last two hours. What little sleep had come wasn’t giving him any rest. Hearing a deep sigh, she waited silently as he climbed out of bed, put on his robe, and quietly left the room.
It took her a few minutes to decide if she should let him work this out on his own or get out of bed as well. Realizing as long as Harm was up and worried, she wasn’t going to be able to go back to sleep either, she decided to follow him. If he really needed to be alone, he could always just tell her so.
Tightening the belt of her robe, Mac strolled softly into the kitchen.
“Can’t sleep, huh?”
“Oh, Mac, I’m sorry. I didn’t want to wake you.” Harm was making a pot of tea.
He raised one questioning eyebrow.
“Okay, maybe a little,” Mac giggled quietly and took a seat at the table. “So what is it?”
“Same thing.” Harm poured the now boiling water into the new porcelain pot one of the neighbor’s had given them. “Want a cup?”
“Please.” This had all the earmarks of being a long conversation.
“I keep waiting for the next shoe to fall. For the next victim to turn up.” Harm looked up at Mac, waiting for the tea to steep.
“It was five weeks between the first two murders.”
“Yeah, but only a few days before the third. What made him move so quickly after the second, and then sit back and rest now? What ticked him off about Mary?” Impatient, Harm poured himself and Mac a cup. The English took their tea way too seriously. He didn’t like staring at a pot waiting for the tea to steep. A tea bag and a microwave had always been good enough before.
“The original Jack the Ripper just stopped. Maybe three victims was all this guy needed to stop?” Mac didn’t know what else to say.
“I don’t think so. It just doesn’t feel over.”
“Okay. Let’s go over what we’ve got again. Maybe something fresh will pop up at us.” Mac stirred some sugar into her cup as Harm began recounting the information.
“All three victims were found somewhere other than the murder scene. Meg seems to feel strongly that the killer knows his victims at least a little. The staging implies a relationship of some kind. Not random victims.”
“Makes sense. The ever present question though is how well?”
“We thought at first the victims were enlisted, but that broke with Mary. The first two were brunettes. Mary was a blonde. Jenkins and Howard had broken up with someone in the not too distant past. Jenkins was actually engaged. According to Bud, Howard’s sister said she was going strong with a guy she’d met here at the base. Then when he shipped out to Iraq, he just stopped talking to her. She’d met someone recently on her commute to work every day and was hopeful he would ask her out. Her sister said it was the first time in a long time she’d thought Margaret sounded happy again.”
“Mary seems to be the odd man out on this. Did she have a recently broken relationship?” Mac blew into the hot tea.
“No. She hadn’t dated anyone since she got here that her friends know of.”
“What about Baskin? I thought I noticed a little familiarity there.” Mac took a small sip.
“I thought so too. I had Meg do a thorough check on him. He’s the shining star at the Yard. Came up through the ranks on a fast track. His nickname is Baskerville.”
“Because he sniffs out his perps like a bloodhound.”
“So they nicknamed him after Sherlock Holmes’ Hound of the Baskervilles? It’s going to take me some time to get used to the British sense of humor, isn’t it?” Shaking her head, she took another sip of tea. “You still think he may have had something to do with Mary’s death, don’t you?”
“I’m keeping my eyes and ears open. He claims he left Mary at the door. What if he wanted more, she said no, and in a fit of anger, he went too far and covered up by making Mary look like all the other victims? He’d know how to do it, and it would explain why so much of Mary’s history doesn’t match the other victims.” Harm took a drink, his eyebrows daring Mac to argue. He had a point.
“I think it’s a stretch.”
“Maybe. Maybe not.”
“Did you say Jenkins had a broken engagement before her current fiancé?”
“Do you know why?” Mac set her cup on the table, a thread of an idea forming in her mind.
“Not much. Her previous fiancé shipped out to Iraq. Her friends weren’t sure why, but a couple of months later, she broke it off.”
“Kathy at the BX told me that Margaret Howard was almost engaged. She had mentioned to Kathy that she was sure she was going to be getting a ring. The next thing Kathy knew, the guy rotated out to Iraq and Margaret stopped talking about it. Kathy made it sound like it was Margaret’s choice. Maybe Kathy wasn’t the only one to think so?”
“So you’re saying the killer thinks both victims broke off a relationship or engagement with someone stationed in Iraq?” Harm straightened up in his seat. This was the first connection anyone had come up with that suggested a possible motive. A broken relationship was a standard stressor.
“It’s almost like, Mary was an impulse killing. Something she did triggered the murderer to change his criteria for choosing a victim. She’s not a brunette, there’s no broken engagement, and she’s not enlisted. She is however, missing the ring finger.” Mac sat back in her chair. For the first time in this case she thought she was beginning to understand where the killer might be coming from.
“I’ll have Meg check for every person who has rotated back from Iraq. Then we’ll see if any of them have a history of a Dear John letter somewhere in their past.” Letting out a sigh of relief. “It’s late. I think maybe we should try and get some sleep.”
Standing up and strolling around the table, Mac stood behind Harm, and dropped her arms around his neck. Her hands resting casually against his chest, her voice quiet and low, she whispered into his ear, “I’m not very sleepy now.”
In a move that would have made Bruce Lee proud, Harm flipped Mac around onto his lap. “I wasn’t really sleepy either,” he practically purred before capturing her lips in his and carrying her back to bed.
“She may be onto something. I’ll get on it right away.” Meg stood up, encouraged by the possibilities.
“Listen, I know you don’t agree with me, but keep Baskin at a distance for the moment. I just found out I’ve got to report to Naples tomorrow morning.”
“What did you do this time?” Meg smiled demurely.
“You shoot one little weapon off in the courtroom and everyone always assumes the worst when the brass calls. The Mahan is participating in the annual multinational maritime exercises and all fleet JAG are to report for a review meeting. I won’t be around to cover your six, and Perkins isn’t going to be much help. Just humor me and don’t work too closely with Baskin. If you can’t get out of working together, make sure he drops you off here at the office during business hours. I’ll leave word with James, if you don’t report in by close of duty, she’s to flag me down no matter where I am.”
“Aye, aye, Captain. Understood.” Meg saluted mockingly.
“Another thing. Mac and I didn’t have time for a real honeymoon. I was hoping to take her with me, then take a few extra days to do the tourist thing. Is there any chance you’d be willing to stay at our place with Mattie? She’s become incredibly self sufficient, but still...”
“No problem. I was getting tired of the same four walls anyway,” Meg chuckled softly. “It’ll be nice to talk to someone besides the ‘telly’. You two go off and lock yourselves in the hotel room and don’t worry about a thing here.”
“Well, I can’t promise you I won’t worry, but I’ll see what I can do about staying in the hotel room.” Harm shook his head in amusement at his one time partner. If the amount of time he and Mac spent alone at home was any indication, they might not find the time to see very much of Italy.
At first Mac had wanted to stay in London and wait to meet Harm in Italy after the meetings with the Admiral were over. It hadn’t taken long for Harm to convince her he never wanted to spend another night in a bed without her again.
She’d spent several hours happily exploring the National Archeological Museum, the San Gennaro Catacombs, and subterranean Naples. She found underground Naples to be an unexpectedly fascinating hour and a half tour. Especially how the caverns had been used for shelter during World War II.
When not enthralled with one of the many museums, galleries, or churches, Mac found herself strolling the lively city streets amused by the many vendors pushing their wears.
Originally, Harm had expected his evenings to be free to explore the ancient city with his wife, but that was not to be. So far, both their evenings had been taken up with official dinners, and tonight was not going to be any exception. Admiral Ulrich had only recently taken over as Nato’s Commander, Allied Joint Force, and Commander, Naval Forces Europe. He was using this opportunity to get to know Harm and the rest of the officers in his command.
This of course meant Mac was spending much more time with crusty old Navy wives than she would have liked. She hadn’t minded the small talk the first night, but by the second evening the conversations hung a little too long on her military career. Something she was beginning to miss terribly. After all these years she’d gotten used to being asked how a good looking woman like her made it in the marine corps, but it was more difficult than she’d expected explaining how she could just walk away.
“Have I mentioned you look absolutely stunning in that dress?” Harm whispered into his wife’s ear. He had somehow managed to break away from the cluster of brass and whisk his wife into his arms for a dance.
“I’d better. It cost you a fortune.” Mac couldn’t resist the sly grin that spread across her face. She’d found a lovely little boutique on her walk back to the hotel this afternoon. Since she hadn’t expected to be needing an evening gown, it was the perfect excuse to buy a new dress. She had to admit, maybe hanging out with crusty old Navy wives had a few perks.
“You’re worth every penny.” Harm pulled her in a little closer than protocol allowed, but he didn’t care. “We leave first thing in the morning for Capri.” The longing in his voice conveyed so much more than the few simple words.
Mac simply looked up and smiled. She could see Admiral Ulrich and his wife making their way towards them. “It won’t be soon enough,” she whispered before separating from her husband to properly greet Harm’s superior officer. “Duty calls,” she grinned through slightly clenched teeth.
“Captain. My wife tells me you and your bride are heading off to Capri in the morning.”
“Yes, sir,” Harm smiled politely.
“Lovely place for a honeymoon,” Mrs. Ulrich chimed in.
“Hm? Oh, yes. If I could speak with you a moment.” Admiral Ulrich turned from his wife to look at Harm and signaled for him to follow. “I’m concerned about this Jack the Ripper case. Captain Billings has just brought to my attention that the news has finally made the front page in London. Granted it’s on the cover of one of the tabloids, but still, this won’t be good for us. Have you any leads at all?”
“We have a few ideas, but nothing concrete yet.” Harm had thought he was going to make it through these few days without having to discuss this frustrating case.
“I see. I understand you were one of JAG’s best.” The Admiral hesitated a moment before continuing. “I expect to see this resolved before we have anymore dead sailors on our doorstep. Don’t let me down Rabb.” Ulrich’s previously jovial disposition had just altered to a more demanding tone.
“Yes, sir.” Now, if only Harm was as sure as he sounded. CO or not, it looked like Harm was going to be doing a little legwork on this case as soon as he and Mac returned to London.
Caesar Augustus Hotel
Mac’s breath had caught in her throat at the incredible view as they rode the cable car up the cliff side. When the bellboy showed them into their room, she stopped breathing all together. It was the most breathtaking view she had ever seen in her life.
“Oh, Harm.” She couldn’t seem to find the words for anything else. While Harm tipped the young man, Mac stepped out onto the balcony and let the warm summer sun bake on her face.
“You like?” He wrapped his arms around her from behind, resting his chin lightly on the top of her head.
“Like? This is heaven.” She let her full weight rest back against him.
“Mom swore this was the place to come.”
“Remind me to always pay attention to your mom’s advice.” Standing in the warm Mediterranean sun, wrapped in Harm’s arms really did feel like heaven. Aside from the time harm mumbled ‘let’s get married’, and when she heard him declare ‘I do’ to the preacher, this was the happiest moment in Mac’s entire life.
Mac smelled absolutely delicious. Even without perfume, she always had a wonderful aroma of vanilla and almonds that made him want to carry her off and devour her, no matter where they might be. Delighted he no longer had to resist the temptation, Harm leaned slightly sideways and began nibbling gently at the hollow of her neck.
“What would you like to do first?” he managed to ask between nibbles.
“Do you have to ask?” Mac leaned her head back, thoroughly enjoying her husband’s sweet caress when her stomach announced loudly that it had other plans.
Still wrapped closely together, the newlyweds broke into a rather loud giggle.
“I guess maybe we should try to catch the poolside brunch.” Harm pulled back slightly, his fingers delicately rubbing the sides of her shoulders. “Besides, I’ve been looking forward to seeing you in a bathing suit again.”
Flipping around in his arms to face him. “You don’t mind if we get a little something to eat?” Mac asked almost shyly.
“I’ll have you for the rest of my life. I think it’s only fair that I stop and feed you once in a while along the way.” His smile was broad and honest. As much as he loved being with his wife in the biblical sense, anything that made her happy made him happy. In this case, a five star brunch was in order.
In record time, they had changed into swimsuits and arrived downstairs with plenty of time to enjoy the massive buffet. Mac had bought a lovely lace cover up in Naples for over her swimsuit. Despite the appetizing array of culinary delectables, Harm simply couldn’t keep his eyes off her.
“I’m thinking for our first anniversary we should take a Mediterranean cruise,” Harm commented watching Mac savor every bite. She had to be the only woman alive who could make eating look sexy. “They say the food is to die for, and practically 24/7.”
“I don’t know. This seems pretty ‘to die for’ to me.” She took another bite of the melon and Serrano ham. Her eyes rolling with delight at every bite.
The remainder of the afternoon was spent laying poolside. Sprawled out comfortably, side by side on the lounge chairs, their arms stretched out the short distance between them holding hands, each would often sneak a glimpse at the other. An expression of pride and pleasure made it obvious to anyone watching, these two people were desperately in love.
“I think I’m going to take a quick dip.” Harm sat up, not really wanting to let go of Mac’s hand, but needing to cool off.
“I think I’ll soak up a little more sun.” Mac loved lying out in the sun. Something she very rarely had time for in the short DC summers. Opening one eye, she watched Harm walk over to the edge of the pool and dive in. Damn, that man looked fine in a swimsuit. Actually, he looked fine out of it, too. Changing her mind, Mac placed her watch on the table beside her and dove in after her husband.
Harm had just come up at the shallow side of the pool and was brushing his hair away from his face when he felt two hands reach around his middle and pull him back. Startled by the unexpected contact, Harm flipped over with a loud splash before he spotted his wife.
“What? Are you trying to drown me already to collect my insurance?” Harm teased.
“Decided you looked too cute to let swim alone. Some rich barracuda might set her sights on you,” Mac grinned playfully.
“You think so?” Harm pulled Mac into his arms. Dropping down so they were mostly covered by water, he slowly and thoroughly kissed the woman he loved.
Mac could feel the kiss all the way to her toes. The cool water was doing nothing to stem the heat erupting inside her. “I think I’ve had enough sun for today.” Leaning back in for another kiss, she carefully brushed more closely against him.
Pulling back before leaving the water would become embarrassing. “Yeah, I wouldn’t want you to burn on your first day.” Grudgingly, Harm let go of his wife. Leaving the pool and gathering up their belongings, he tried not to look like a lovesick schoolboy and resisted the urge to sprint to their room. Wrapping his arm around her waist, he swallowed hard, slowly placing one foot in front of the other. ‘Patience, Rabb.’
Shifting around in the elevator, Harm watched as the doors sprang open making room for a young couple, their daughter, and her nanny. The little girl couldn’t have been more than a couple of years old, and the mom appeared very pregnant. At least it seemed that way to Harm. Without any serious thought, he pulled Mac more tightly against him, his hand gently squeezing her shoulder expressing a comfort he knew she needed without even glancing in her direction. Their life was perfect, except for one small flaw. Her biological clock had run out. He had waited too long. Something he wasn’t sure he could ever forgive himself for. He should never have come up with such a long range plan. He should have just told her the truth that day on the steps of headquarters. He couldn’t imagine life without her and if she’d have him, they could be married and start making babies right away. Then Mac could have been that woman with a little girl or two, and be bulging with another.
Without realizing it, he had taken his other arm and dropped his hand squarely on her stomach. It wasn’t until he felt Mac’s deep sigh against him that he realized what he had done. Unsure of how to undo his thoughtless gesture, the elevator’s ding announcing their floor snapped him out of his pondering.
Silently they walked arm in arm down the short hall. Sliding the keycard into its designated slot, Harm opened the door and waved Mac in. She dropped her bag on the nearest chair and walked straight to the balcony. His heart tore at the pain in her eyes. In the whirlwind of the proposal, the coin toss, the wedding, and the move to London, nothing had been said of the one time baby deal, or its current complications.
Mac had every intention of seeing a specialist when life was a little more settled, but she had little hope it would actually make a difference. Four percent wasn’t very much. The way she looked at it, out of the next 100 months, or eight and half years, she only had four months when she might get lucky. Miserable odds by anyone’s standards.
“I’m sorry,” were the only words Harm could find. Placing his hands on her shoulders, he gently caressed the soft flesh. “I love you,” he whispered into her ear.
“Thank you.” Mac closed her eyes, taking in the warmth of the sun and Harm’s gentle touch.
“For loving me anyway,” Mac expounded.
“Oh, Mac. How could I not love you?” Harm pulled her around to face him. “You’re everything any man could ever want in a partner, friend, lover, and wife.”
“Except, I can’t give you children. Your children.” Mac tried to turn back towards the ocean.
“You don’t know that for sure, and even if you can’t carry a child we can still have children.” He held her tightly, not letting her turn away.
“It’s not fair to you.” She let her head fall heavily on his shoulder.
“The only thing not fair to me would be if I couldn’t have you in my life. If we never have children, it won’t matter as long as we’re together. Life without you wouldn’t be worth getting out of bed for. I should know, I’ve tried it.” Memories of trying to lose himself in the CIA for six months passed quickly through his thoughts.
Not wanting her to ever doubt how much he loved her, he tucked his chin deeper against his chest staring down at his beautiful brown-eyed marine. Lifting her face with his finger, he gingerly let his lips settle softly on hers in a kiss that was tender and hungry all at once. Straightening up, “You’re all I’ll ever need,” he reassured.
“Well, I’m all you’ve got, sailor.” Thinking, ‘ I hope it’s enough’, she moved her arms up from his waist to his neck, and nudged him closer for another kiss. As with the first, this kiss embodied the tenderness, love, and hunger dwelling deep inside, and rapidly chased away the pain.
Despite how close to him she already was, Harm pulled Mac even closer, his heart racing a beat faster at the low moan that escaped her lips when he crushed her against him.
Their lips met in a long, slow, achingly tender kiss, before parting to begin a tangle of movement and emotion that emulated what was yet to come, the melding together of bodies, hearts and souls.
Scooping Mac up into his arms, Harm recognized this would be the first chance he would have to truly love Mac the way he had always dreamed. Granted, they had made love before, but always with the pressure of time hanging over them. Their first night together was short and brief due to his having to catch that early transport. The night of the wedding was even shorter with the early flight to London, and then the last couple of weeks at home were always tempered by Mattie’s presence. Now he could love his wife, as slowly, as long, or as loud as he wanted.
Setting her down on the large canopy bed, Harm kneeled over her. Gripping a single strand of string, he pulled gently on the cord untying the lace cover up. Allowing his thumbs to brush along her shoulders as he pushed the unwanted garment away, he couldn’t help but marvel that this was the way his life would be from now on, free to love Sarah MacKenzie.
Mac lifted herself up as Harm brushed the new lace cover up off her shoulders, and gently tossed it aside. Her breath caught in her throat when his strong fingers skimmed lightly across her chest, dipping into her cleavage before gently easing the straps of her swimsuit down her arms as he’d done with the previous garment. This time he paused to let his thumbs run along the swell of her bare breasts. His touch was always the perfect blend of soft and gentle, of strong and needy. She marveled at how the slightest of caresses instantly sent sparkles of fiery sensations flowing freely throughout her body.
As he tugged the swimsuit further down her body, Harm began paying slow homage to the newly exposed skin. Leaning in to place a delicate kiss at the edge of her breasts, he swelled with pride at the tiny noise she let slip. When he ran his fingers along the underside of the large mounds, he was delighted to see her squirm at the discovery of a new sensitive spot. Following the same path as his fingers, he trailed long, wet kisses down her front, pausing to linger and tease her navel, fully aware that her hips would begin swerving with delight after a little playful nibbling. The sight of his wife writhing with pleasure beneath him was one of the most intoxicating experiences Harm had ever had.
Mac was already burning with desire. Raising her hips, she encouraged him to slide the suit further down her legs. She wanted him so badly, there was no way she would ever get enough of Harmon Rabb. His every touch, every kiss, the mildest of caresses, were sending flames of passion surging forcefully every where in her body, and settling torturously between her legs. When she felt Harm slide the suit down her legs and toss it aside by the cover up, she tried shifting to do the same with his trunks only to be completely distracted at the feel of his lips around her mound of curls. She couldn’t help herself, as her hips bucked slightly forward, a loud cry slipped from deep in her throat, “Oh! Yes!” The heat within was fanning out of control as he continued to nibble around her thighs, purposely avoiding the place where she wanted him most. Somehow through the foggy haze of torturous pleasure, she couldn’t help but hear Harm’s low groan of satisfaction as she thrust herself eagerly against his roaming mouth.
Totally loving the look of dazed pleasure on Mac’s face, Harm continued to nibble and kiss, enticing her body to respond with every flick of his tongue, every meeting of his lips on flesh. When Mac’s fingers raked their way along his shoulders, tugging at him, he knew what she wanted. “Patience,” he whispered between licks, encouraged by the increasing frequency of short whimpers and gasps Mac was making as he continued exploring her inner thighs, seeking new spots guaranteed to cause explosive pleasures.
Her fingers moved freely through his short locks of hair, dipping down, slowly swirling around his sensitive ears and back up to the top of his head. When she’d let one finger run along the inner edge of that adorably crooked little ear, she delighted at the loud groan that came from somewhere deep inside him, causing him to momentarily pause his maneuvers. If she could just get him to slide a little higher, she could really make him groan, but the thought was futile as he recovered his focus and his mouth descended on the one hot spot he’d been skillfully avoiding, leaving her gloriously distracted. Within moments she was squirming and panting, calling out every name she’d ever known him by. Digging her nails none too sweetly into his shoulders, Harm continued slowly lapping at her core, drawing out her pleasure until she felt her body slowly returning from its frenzied ecstasy to a more pervasive sense of humming contentment.
Once again in control of her own body, she tugged at his sensitive ears with all she had, all the breath in her lungs squeezing out in a soft whoosh as his strong, hard body rubbed up against her still tingling flesh. She had no idea when or how he’d lost his swim trunks, all she cared about was doing to him as he’d just done to her. Send him to the heavens and back on the most pleasurable ride of his life.
Pushing him over on his back, her mouth locked with his. Their tongues once again tangling in a fiercely passionate duel before she began a cascade of slow lingering kisses down his neck, and past his collarbone. Latching onto his taught, pebbled nipple, a surge of sheer pleasure rose within her at the deep rumbling moan that erupted from his throat, sounding suspiciously like her name. Edged on by the feel of his hard muscles contracting and tightening as her fingers skimmed a trail across his abdomen to his hip, her moist tongue eagerly followed the same path as her fingers, delighting in the taste of Harmon Rabb.
Finally she drew a path back to his now aching erection. Her fingers swirled playfully at its base. When Mac’s mouth swooped down, surrounding him in pure, torturous, liquid heat, Harm almost came out of his skin. Gliding her tongue back up the rigid column, she circled his tip preparing to once again wrap her moist lips around him when she felt his strong fingers tightly gripping her shoulders, tugging her north.
“You’re …really after my …insurance, aren’t you?” Harm panted out through ragged breaths.
“What goes around, comes around. Can’t take it as well as you give it?” Mac ducked down and with a single stroke licked him like a lollipop.
“MAC!” His heart hammered in his heaving chest. Pulling at her more forcefully, he flipped her over on her back. “I’ll show you give.”
Capturing her lips in an almost painfully erotic kiss, his tongue darted out requesting entrance at the same moment his fingers moved between them and slipped into her wet folds.
Swallowing the gasp that had lodged in her throat, Mac was once again helpless to control the soft whimpers that escaped as Harm’s dual attack on her senses re-ignited the fires within. The feel of his tongue mimicking the swift strokes of his fingers was more than her body could stand. He’d once again had dragged her to edge of insanity, writhing with need.
Thrusting wildly at his masterful caresses, Mac fumbled awkwardly, reaching for Harm’s hand. Tugging slightly, she let out a gasping hiss at the feel of his fingers withdrawing from inside her, she swallowed hard and laced her fingers with his.
Harm couldn’t resist the slow curl of satisfaction that tugged the corners of his lips at the sound of Mac’s pleasure. Nuzzling his face in the crook of her neck, in response to her silent plea, he sank deep inside her, almost coming apart at the feel of his tip sliding into her moist heat.
Driven at an almost frantic pace, with every plunging stroke, passion and desire flowed freely between them, declaring without reservation the love that had silently seared their souls for so many years.
Their mouths fused, their fingers interlaced, his body gliding deliciously against hers with every long thrust, Mac bucked uncontrollably as the tightly coiled spring her body had become exploded in release. Her inner muscles contracted around Harm with such force, that he could no longer hold back. With the sound of Mac crying out his name, Harm’s powerful body pulsed inside her, the two lovers falling simultaneously over the precipice of their passion.
Spent and sated, rolling to one side, Harm scooped Mac closely against him, folding her into the comfortable cocoon of each other’s arms as they slowly came back to earth together. Both drifted off to sleep convinced forever would never be long enough.
Although they managed to find the time to visit some of the shops, the famous blue grotto, and of course sample some of the better restaurants, the majority of the three days in Capri were spent in true newlywed mode, in the hotel room. Breakfast had seemed an unnecessary interruption Sunday morning. Neither felt even slightly inclined to cease their now ritual morning activities until a mere half hour before check out time.
Doing a little last minute souvenir shopping along the narrow streets high above the water, Harm and Mac walked hand in hand, smiling like the proverbial Cheshire cat. Occasionally while waiting for a vendor to wrap up their purchase, Harm would pull Mac into his chest with one arm, her eyes gleaming up at him with such love and warmth, he couldn’t help but hope, no pray, that he could fill all her dreams. He wanted to see that ecstatic glow on her face for all time. A small part of him hoped that by some miracle, all their love had created a new life.
Look at her walking so smugly. I hope she ordered fries with that shake. When did they start letting women like that in the marines, anyhow? An officer no less. She’s no better than the rest of them.
Oops. I’m going to have to be a little more careful. She almost saw me that time. Good thing this place believes in stacking their displays so high. I wonder if she saw me ducking? Great, now I’m getting dirty looks from customers. Gees, you’d think these people had never seen anyone change their mind and move quickly. At least it was a wobbly old lady who spotted me hiding and not her.
Look at how she’s flirting with the checkout clerk? I wonder how many other men she has batted those big brown eyes at and gotten her way? She probably uses them all the time. Probably used them on every CO she has ever worked with. Bat your eyes and shake your ass. Just another whore.
Of course, everyone runs to help her with her bags. You’d think the ring would keep them away. That blasted ring is almost blinding. They just can’t ignore her. She’s nothing but a tramp, a common whore. Everyone wants a piece of her. Uh oh, here she comes. Maybe if I just read this magazine cover she won’t notice me. Why should she? She never notices me. Never says more than hello or good bye. Though, she does say thank you. She probably says that a lot too. Uses it the same way she bats those huge eyes and uses that great figure. Wonder how much the surgeon charged for ‘those’?”
Figures she’d live in this nice neighborhood. Couldn’t live on base housing. No, that wouldn’t be good enough for her. Damn. Does she have to walk so fast? You’d think she knew someone was following her. No, she couldn’t. Could she? I’d better back off just a bit anyhow, but I don’t want to lose her. Holy crap, she’s stopping at the bakery too. Doesn’t this woman have a budget? Or does her sugar daddy take care of that too? You’d think someone with a sweet tooth wouldn’t have such a drop dead gorgeous figure. She’d probably turn into an old fat woman anyhow, not that I’m going to let that happen. Women like her need to learn. Someone has to teach them respect.
How much further to her place? For crying out loud, even marines don’t want to walk all over London carrying their groceries. Ah, so that’s the place. Nice little mews. Not much traffic. No one will ever notice. I can just wait in this corner here. I doubt anyone will spot me. They never do. I’ll wait till dark. This one will be easy.
The thin sharp blade caught a shimmer of fading sunlight. Slowly twirling the knife, fascinated by the light shining off the silvery steel. This will be so easy. This time she’ll learn. They’ll all learn.
Earlier that morning
“What did you manage to come up with?” Harm asked, directing Meg to take a seat.
“It looks like Mac might be onto something. Of the 760 military personnel currently in the London area, it appears that 118 have returned from at least one tour in Iraq in the last year. We’re still trying to narrow down how many of those received some sort of Dear John letter.” Meg let out a short sigh.
“Well, it would help if broken engagements were part of everyone’s service records, but they’re not. I’ve been interviewing personnel for a week straight since you left, and I’ve barely put a dent in my list. I can’t even eliminate the married personnel. There’s no way of knowing if a previously broken engagement left deep seeded resentments.”
“You said we might be onto something?”
“Yes, so far I’ve uncovered five enlisted and two officers with broken engagements, and as I said, I’ve barely scratched the surface.” Meg handed Harm a list of personnel.
“Better double check all these names against any incident reports. Check their medical histories. Check their rotation evals. See if any have been recommended for extended therapy. All of these guys should have had at least a quick pass through with the Navy shrink before returning to duty here.” Harm looked up as Meg dropped another file in front of him. A short grin tugging at the corners of his mouth when he saw the satisfied smile on her face. This was after all, why he asked for a senior officer with HQ experience.
“So far only one has a red flag. Your Petty Officer Harris.” Meg controlled her enthusiasm, but couldn’t keep one side of her face from twitching upwards in a satisfied smirk.
“MY Petty Officer?”
“You know, the one who had a few choice words for your wife?”
The hairs on the back of Harm’s neck stood on edge. Opening the file slowly, he leaned back in his chair and began reading.
“Baskin agrees with me, this guy is on the hook. If you agree, they’re willing to put a man on him?” Meg waited patiently for Harm’s reaction to the information in front of him.
“No. We’ll use our own. Call Ruislip, have a couple of MP’s, innocuous ones, assigned to tail this guy.” Harm resisted the urge to let out a quiet whistle. From the day he got his Dear John letter, Harris had spent more time in the brig than out. “He put his ex-fiancée’s new husband in the hospital?” Harm paused to look up.
“On their wedding day.”
“And he’s not in the brig because…?” Harm scanned quickly down the file.
“Neither the ex nor her husband was willing to press charges with the local police. The JAG prosecutor wasn’t so lenient, so he cut a deal with the Navy, thirty days in the brig. The deal made sure to include one more violent incident and he’d be out of the Navy. Dishonorable discharge. He’s been clean as a whistle since then.”
“When did he get out?” Harm froze at the date on the next sheet of paper.
“Uh huh. Twelve weeks ago.” Meg sat back. She still had over sixty people to interview and follow up on, but she couldn’t possibly expect to find anything closer to their mark than this.
If this turns out to be the guy, things could end sooner than later. If it’s not, then Meg was going to need more help.
“Why don’t you join us for dinner tonight? I want Mac to hear all this.” Harm reached over and dialed his home.
“Sure, I’ve gotten used to having company for dinner anyhow,” Meg smiled.
“Hey, Mac. Listen, Meg has had a couple of possibilities turn up… Mm hm… That’s what I was thinking… I’ve invited her to dinner tonight….. Good…” Harm bit back a small smile at his wife’s short comment about having to keep her hands off him till dessert. “We’ll try to be home by 1730… I love you too.” Trying not to blush at the last line, Harm hung up the phone and faced Meg.
“She’s going to run to the market and pick up a few things for dinner. It seems all that Italian food inspired her to try her hand at a new recipe she got from an overly friendly sales woman in Naples, and she’s been looking for a good excuse to try the bakery around the corner.”
Alley behind Good Samaritan Pub
Turner Street, Whitechapel
For a woman, she certainly weighs a ton. Probably all that Marine muscle, for all the good it did her. Just like all the others, she never saw the chloroform coming. It was so easy. It’s always so easy. Women like this never learned to use their minds, only their bodies. Always luring unsuspecting men. Not anymore. I’ll show them. I’ll show them all.
Harm rolled over sleepily. Slowly the ringing in the distance penetrated his groggy dreams. It hadn’t been long since he’d stopped tossing and turning and finally fallen into a sound sleep. He was going to have to do something about having a phone installed in the bedroom. It made no sense to him that the only phone line was in the kitchen. On the other hand, maybe the Brits had something there. Perhaps not having a phone at every step wasn’t such a bad thing.
Stumbling out of bed, he made it to the kitchen just in time to hear Meg Austin mumble something about, “I’ll tell him right away,” as she lazily tried to rub the sleep out of her eyes with her free hand.
“Sorry about that,” Harm managed to get out despite the stifling yawn. “When I suggested it was too late to go home and you just stay over, I hadn’t expected anyone to be calling at…” looking up at the clock with one eye, “zero four thirty.”
“That was Baskin.” Meg brushed her hair away from her face.
“Good Samaritan Pub, Whitechapel. Think Mattie will mind if I use her shower? It will save us some time.”
“No. That’s the great thing about teenagers, they can sleep through a typhoon.”
“Want some company?” Mac yawned sleepily from the hallway.
“An extra pair of eyes never hurt.” Meg shrugged one shoulder at Harm.
“Agreed. You two hit the showers first. I’ll put on a quick pot of coffee.”
“Better make it marine grade. It could be a long morning,” Mac called over her shoulder on her way back to their room. Turning to Meg, she said, “Let me get you a clean towel. Need anything else?”
“Nope. I still have a basket of laundry I was going to need to pick up. Guess being forgetful Sunday night has its advantages.” Meg accepted the towel Mac was pulling out of the linen closet and turned towards Mattie’s room.
Good Samaritan Pub
Later that morning
Harm quickly paid the cabby and hurried to catch up with Mac and Meg.
“Anyone mind waiting for the CO?” Harm teased.
The only advantage to being dragged out of bed at this godforsaken hour of the morning was the lack of a crowd. Harm could see the body just behind where Mac and Meg had paused to wait for him.
“What have we got?” Meg turned to Baskin.
“Same thing. Female, early twenties, naked, head completely severed, torso dissected, mutilated, posed. With the exception of no missing fingers, this fits with the expected escalation of anger,” Baskin ran off quickly.
“Any ID?” Meg inquired, already scanning the surroundings for additional evidence.
“Harm, Meg!” Mac called from the other side of the alley.
“What?” Meg was the first to catch up to her.
“How much would you like to bet that came from our victim?” Holding her arm straight out, Mac pointed to a very large solitaire diamond ring.
“Wheeew,” Meg whistled loudly. “That cost someone a pretty penny.”
“No kidding,” Baskin chimed in. “As I started to tell you, we haven’t found anything to identify the victim, but if that rock was hers, someone should remember her.”
“Inspector!” A tall gangly man who didn’t look old enough to be out of high school came running down the alley.
“What is it Grayson?”
“Up the street, last alley before the tube station, we’ve found an American Marine’s uniform in the wheely bin. Dog tags too.” Grayson turned to lead the way four blocks down the road.
“Wheely bin?” Meg repeated softly.
“Trash bin,” Baskin replied, taking off after Grayson at a near trot.
“How far are your people searching?” Harm inquired three blocks into the trek.
“I gave orders to search all the way to Buckingham Palace if necessary.”
Arriving at the alley, slightly out of breath, Baskin leaned over the contents of the trash that had been spewed on the ground. Carefully poking with one end of a pen, he flipped the tags. “Captain Elizabeth Russell.”
“Damn,” Harm mumbled under his breath. Marines, Navy, officers, enlisted. “I want to know where she’s stationed, if that ring was hers, and I want to know yesterday.” Harm wasn’t speaking to anyone in particular but Meg flipped her cell phone open immediately.
“Petty Officer? Sorry to start your day so early, but we need some info, ASAP.”
“I appreciate your coming along.” Meg pushed open the door to the exchange.
“This whole thing is starting to get under my skin too.” Mac followed Meg into the large building.
“I wish we could just pin down the connection on all this.” The frustration in Meg’s voice was clear to everyone.
“Well, at least we know the ring was hers. Somewhere her engagement has something to do with this.”
“But I thought we were working on the premise of broken engagements?”
“Maybe. Maybe we’re being too narrow minded.” Mac paused to take a deep breath. “Okay, we know she’s engaged to some hot shot lawyer down on Bond Street. She lives in a nice neighborhood in Kensington.”
“That seems to be popping up rather often doesn’t it?” Meg interrupted.
“Three out of four. Do we know if Howard had any business in Kensington?”
“No. The woman was a virtual recluse. I’m lucky I even know her name, rank and serial number.” Meg rolled her eyes in exasperation.
“Kensington could be a factor. Somehow, the killer’s and victim’s paths might cross there.”
“Which could mean the killer lives there, and that’s why he moves the bodies someplace else.”
“Good. We need to find out who was in the picture with Captain Russell before the lawyer. I’m betting there’s a connection to a soldier in Iraq.” Mac pointed up at Meg, a fiery look in her eyes.
“Then you’re still thinking the broken engagement thing is the main connection?”
“I’m thinking it has to fit in somewhere.” Mac turned the corner and strolled up to Kathy’s counter. “Hi.”
“Hello, Mrs. Rabb. Nice to see you back so soon,” Kathy smiled brightly.
“Well, I’m keeping Commander Austin here company while she does a little investigation and I suggested you probably know more people than anyone else on the base.”
“Well, I wouldn’t go that far,” Kathy blushed.
“Do you know this woman?” Meg showed Kathy the personnel photo of Elizabeth Russell.
“Yeah, Captain Russell. Everyone knows her. She landed some big fish downtown. Broke up with the nicest fellow, too.” Kathy looked closely at the photo Meg had handed her, completely oblivious to the way Mac and Meg looked at each other.
“Broke up?” Meg repeated.
“Yeah. Nice guy. They’d been dating for a while.”
“Were they engaged?” Mac asked casually.
“Not that I know of, but they were incredibly smitten with each other. Made a really great couple, even after Bobby came back from Iraq. Some of those boys come back with problems, but not Bobby. He came back with his head straight and one thing on his mind. Betsy.”
“What happened?” Meg and Mac glanced at each other briefly. Bingo. The other ominous connection, Iraq.
“Don’t know. Bobby rotated home and the next thing I know, Betsy is wearing that ring, and you have to know Bobby sure as heck couldn’t afford it.”
“Does Bobby have a last name?” Meg pulled out a paper and pen.
“Major Robert Harris.”
Mac and Meg did another one of those silent ‘Do you notice what I notice’ things.
“You wouldn’t happen to know if he’s any relation to Petty Officer David Harris?”
“Sure, Bobby is Dave’s big brother.”
Churchill Arms Pub
“You look lovely.” Harm stood up as Meg approached the table.
“You don’t look so bad yourself.” Meg leaned over and kissed Harm on the cheek. Even though they were gathering to discuss the case over dinner and out of uniform, they still had that old familiarity. “Where’s Mac?”
“She should be here soon. She wanted to make sure Mattie was all set, but Harriet called in the middle of fixing supper and she had to turn it off. I really need to get additional phone lines, or at least a portable phone. The phone was about two feet short of allowing her to reach the stove.” Harm couldn’t help chuckling. Mac had been delighted to hear from Harriet, but her frustration at not being able to cook and talk at the same time had been almost comical.
Neither of them had noticed the table in the opposite corner. A slim figure blended into the shadows. Too far away to hear, close enough to see.
“I want to wait for Mac to order, but we can have a drink while we’re waiting, or play a game of darts if you like.” Raising his arm to wave at the bartender, Harm let his hand fall casually on Meg’s shoulder. “What will you have?”
“Just a Coke please.”
Lifting his hand off her shoulder, Harm gestured toward Meg. “The lady will have a Coke. I’ll have a Guinness please.”
“There’s a nice quiet table over there.” Meg pointed to an isolated corner in the restaurant portion of the pub. “We should be able to talk without anyone overhearing.”
“Don’t want to play, or are you afraid I’m too good for you?” Harm pressed, watching the bartender approach.
“In your dreams,” Meg’s head fell back with laughter. The quiet observer slowly seethed at the interaction.
Meg picked up the drink placed in front of her, watched Harm hand the bartender a few bills, then made her way to the dart board, still oblivious to the eyes focused on her.
“You’ve been holding back on me. Where’d you learn to play darts like that?” Harm stepped up next to Meg, retrieving his darts from the board, not giving a second thought to how standing so closely to her looked to someone across the room.
“Harm, I’m from Texas. You have to do something else in a bar besides ride a mechanical bull!” Shaking her head playfully, Meg turned and brushed up against Harm, whispering in his ear, “Need me to spot you a handicap?”
“No, thanks. I know when it’s time to move on.” Without thinking, Harm picked up his drink, his free hand gently resting on the small of her back as he maneuvered them through the crowded tables to the quiet table on the other side of the room. Neither noticed the person at the other end of the pub leaving, grumbling quietly to no one in particular.
A little less than half an hour later, Mac came through the front door. Spotting them immediately, she quickly made her way past the crowds and took a seat beside her husband. “Sorry, I’m late.”
Resting his hand on hers, Harm leaned over and gently met Mac’s lips in a soft greeting. “No problem. I like the way you say hello.”
“And it really took you two nine years to figure this out?” Meg couldn’t help rolling her eyes. She had always known Harm would be hard to reel in, but she hadn’t figured anybody as much in love as he was with Mac would be quite ‘that’ slow to catch on.
Squeezing his wife’s hand, “Don’t remind me.” Standing up, Harm looked at Mac for confirmation. “Soda with a twist?”
“Please,” she nodded, her eyes following her husband to the bar. “Did you guys go over very much?” she inquired, still keeping an eye on Harm.
“No, we’ve just been catching up on other things.” Meg watched Mac for a few moments, amused at the slight blush that filled her cheeks when Harm grinned and winked at her from the bar. Meg just didn’t get it. Any idiot could see how much in love they were. What in heaven’s name took nine years?
“Is Baskin coming?” Mac glanced back at Meg.
“No. Harm still doesn’t trust him.”
“I know. I figured that’s why he’s letting me help, but I thought he’d at least let him in on this.”
“He’s keeping him at arms length, and making sure I do too. Only including him when absolutely necessary.” Meg shrugged one shoulder.
“Have you come up with anything to indicate he could be a real suspect?”
“No. I have to admit, I was leaning towards Harm’s theory that Mary was made to fit the pattern to cover up a crime of passion, but now with Captain Russell’s death, our original theory of enlisted only doesn’t hold water. Mary isn’t the exception any more. I think Harm is just upset that he wasn’t able to cover her back himself.” Meg hoped she hadn’t overstepped her bounds.
“I agree. It’s the hero complex in him. It didn’t help any when we discovered that PO Harris’ only solid alibi was being on duty the night Mary was killed. If Harm’s right, both could still be guilty.” Mac watched as Harm made his way closer to the table. Instead of getting shorter, the list of suspects was only growing.
“Sudden rush,” he apologized, handing her the drink. “We might as well order and get to work.”
Nodding their heads, Meg and Mac each pulled out a notebook. One by one they went over the new suspects, and eliminated others. Meg had tracked down Captain Russell’s fiancé and was able to verify what the lady from the BX had told them. She had indeed broken up with her boyfriend when this guy finally filed for divorce. They’d spent a quiet dinner at her apartment, but he didn’t stay over. Apparently he’d been trying to give his soon-to-be ex-wife as little motive as possible for an extra piece of his assets in the divorce settlement.
Still reading the information from her notes, Meg’s phone rang.
“Commander Austin… Yes, sir… Thank you for getting back to me…. Yes, I’m sorry for your loss…I see….When was that?….I’m sorry what was the name again?….and the address?…” All the color washed from Meg’s face. “Got it… yes, sir… thank you again.” Flipping her phone shut, Meg took a deep breath.
“Who was that?” Harm’s voice showed his concern for his old friend.
“Paul Sullivan. Margaret Howard’s date.”
“Date?” Harm and Mac echoed.
“Bud called me just before I’d left the office. Margaret’s sister called him. She found a letter that Margaret had sent with the new guy’s name and the name of his law firm. He had a client with him and couldn’t talk much when I called. Apparently the night before she died was their first date. He didn’t know what had happened to her after that, and when Margaret’s phone was disconnected, he assumed she’d been transferred in a hurry.”
“Law firm?” Mac couldn’t help wondering if that was a coincidence.
“That’s what I thought. If we come up with anymore possible links, this puzzle is going to be the size of Africa,” Meg practically grumbled. “But here’s something. You know how we think there may be a connection with Kensington?”
Mac nodded her head. Harm listened.
“Three guesses where they went for dinner, and the first two don’t count.”
“Kensington,” Harm and Mac sighed simultaneously.
“Yup. Some place called Il Portico on Kensington High Street.”
“That gives us two concrete connections. All victims had some relationship with men stationed in Iraq and were on a date of some sort in Kensington.” Mac bit her lower lip. “How long will it take to check how many of our guys returned from Iraq live in Kensington?”
“I just need to access the computer at work. First thing in the morning?” Meg sat back, satisfied with their progress.
“JAMES!” Harm called to his yeoman.
“Sir?” With the speed of light, she appeared in front of his desk.
“Who left this?” Harm held up a plain white envelope.
“I don’t know, sir. It was on your desk when I got here.”
“Check with the MPs. No, have whoever is on duty report to my office. I want to know everyone who was anywhere near my office from the moment I left until you arrived this morning.”
“Aye, aye, sir.” Turning on her heel, Beth scurried out of the office. Something big was happening.
Lifting the handset from the base, Harm dialed Meg’s extension. “I’ve got something you need to see, and then we’re going to have to contact Baskin.”
He hadn’t wanted to deal with Baskin yet. He’d wanted to find more conclusive evidence one way or another, but the paper on his desk was practically shouting at him:
YOU’RE WASTING YOUR TIME
I WON’T STOP UNTIL SHE’S LEARNED HER LESSON.
AND TELL THAT COMMANDER HOMEWRECKER TO PAY ATTENTION TO HER OWN HUSBAND OR I’LL HAVE TO TEACH HER A LESSON MYSELF.
WE WOULDN’T WANT MRS. RABB TO FIND OUT.
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