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- Part 1
Background: Originally Posted – January 2004 First ever fanfic. Written post Paraguay – early season nine so anything that happened in the second half of the season doesn’t happen here – NO Mattie.
Rating: Adult for occasional sexual situations ( PG -13 version at: www.oocities.org/clkjag/)
Summary: Harm and Mac are sent on assignment to find the Vice President’s daughter, and maybe something else along the way.
Commander Harmon Rabb Jr. entered the bullpen with his standard thoroughbred strut. At 6’4, with dark hair, green eyes, and a killer smile, this pilot turned lawyer fit the old cliché: tall, dark and handsome.
After quickly dropping off his briefcase and cover, Rabb walked passed Sarah MacKenzie’s empty office to PO Coates’ desk. “Jen, have you seen the Colonel yet?”
“Yes sir, she’s been in with the Admiral since she arrived at 0700.”
“Thank you.” He wondered what could be so important to keep Mac in the Admiral’s office for a full hour before staff call?
Lt. Colonel Sarah MacKenzie was a stunning woman. Almost 5’9 she towered over most women. Her Persian heritage showed in her olive toned skin and beautiful brown eyes. Mac, as she was known, was a marine lethal weapon, both beauty and brains.
Finding any pretense to hover near the Admiral’s office to wait for Mac, Harm managed to: make copies of files he already had in triplicate, give Harriet folders to file knowing full well he’d only need to retrieve them before the end of the day, and leave a message on Sturgis’ desk even though Sturgis was on a case in Pensacola. He was running out of ideas and becoming more curious than the proverbial cat.
Finally, Mac emerged from the Admiral’s office. She proceeded full speed ahead to her office with a stack of files as high as her chin.
Before Harm could even consider following her, the Admiral, only steps behind her bellowed from his office, “Staff call in 15 people, Rabb my office now.”
The Admiral was already standing behind his desk shuffling files when Harm entered the room ready to stand at attention. Without looking up, he ordered Rabb to take a seat.
“As you probably know, a group of 20 French tourists ‘bird watching’ in the jungles of Colombia were kidnapped by guerillas 3 days ago. Of course why any sane human being would want to be wandering around bird watching in Colombia is beyond me.” Sitting down, the Admiral continued. “The problem is they were not all French. One is actually an American. Vice President Hillsdale’s daughter Sabrina is traveling with a French passport.”
AJ glanced up a moment, comprehension of the seriousness of the situation was now evident on Rabb's face.
“Due to the government policy of not paying ransom, official negotiation is not an option. State is quietly requesting our assistance on this, particularly, you and the Colonel. I’ve gone over the details with Colonel Mackenzie. She now has all the background information the two of you will need and will fill you in on the details. You’ll need to hand off all cases you’re currently working on. I’ve also arranged for Lt. Manetti to return to headquarters while this situation is taken care of. Keep her in mind when delegating your cases.” Pushing away slightly from his desk, he looked up at Rabb. “Any questions?”
“Sir, Lt. Hudson’s court martial is scheduled in two weeks and the Manganelli article 32 should be shortly after that. Should I reassign those cases as well?”
The admiral took in a deep breath before slowly speaking. “Rabb, what part of ALL did I not make clear?”
Raising only one eyebrow, the Admiral continued, “Any further questions?”
“Colonel MacKenzie will brief you in her office, there’s no need to attend staff call. Dismissed”
Colonel Sarah MacKenzie’s Office
Knocking lightly on Mac’s doorframe, Harm looked intently at all the files spread out on Mac’s desk.
Letting out a long breath, Mac waved at Harm to sit down. “Okay, let me fill you in, we don’t have much time.”
Once he was seated, Mac handed him a few files and began explaining. “ Sabrina Hillsdale married Roland Gentille 15 years ago. He’s currently First Secretary with the French Embassy in Bogota.”
“Mac, why would a French official be bird watching? He has to know, as well as the Vice President’s daughter, that Colombia is on the restricted travel list even for ordinary citizens, and especially for government officials?”
“They weren’t really bird watching. Apparently they own a getaway home in the small town of Paipa, outside of Bogota. Supposedly, that strip of highway was still safe from guerilla threats. The guerillas dropped one of their fishing expeditions and trapped over 250 people.”
“Fishing expeditions?” Harm shuffled through the files Mac had given him searching for more information on what she was referring to.
“I believe the exact name is ‘pesca milagrosa, ’ miraculous fishing. The guerillas appear out of nowhere creating a blockade on two ends of a stretch of highway. All cars in that section become prisoners, their fate to be determined by their social status and wealth. Apparently the guerillas feel something can be gained from even the poorest of captives. They released the majority of the Colombian Nationals after they paid whatever monies they had with them and ‘donated’ the better automobiles to the cause. According to a few of the people released, they kept about 40 people. The 20 French tourists were the only captives important enough to announce on the news.”
“So, what you’re saying is, the Vice President’s daughter was not bird watching, just taking a scenic drive in the guerilla infested countryside of a third world country that’s been fighting a drug war for over 30 years?”
“Harm, we don’t have time for sarcasm.” She sighed.
Giving her just a trace of the smile that made his green eyes sparkle, and her knees melt, he softly replied, “Sorry.”
“As I started to say, according to some of the people released, because they spoke french, the First Secretary and his wife were confused for part of the French bird watching group.”
Mac stood up and began to pace in the confined space. “Yesterday five of the French tourists appeared at the French Embassy. According to them, the forty prisoners were divided up into different categories, and sent in different directions. All the French tourists were marched off to some nearby town before they were interrogated. These five each apparently had considerable cash with them and were able to bargain for their immediate release. They were told to run home as the guerillas shot at their feet with rifles. They didn’t stop running or look back for hours. It took them until yesterday to reach the Embassy. They confirmed that the Vice President’s daughter and her husband are indeed being held with the rest of the tourists, and none of the guerillas had realized that Sabrina is an American.”
Interrupting for the first time since he was scolded. “Well, I guess we can thank God for small favors.”
Nodding her head, Mac agreed. The last thing they needed was for Sabrina to be labeled an American. “That may not be the only favor to thank God for. It appears Colombian DAS (the Colombian equivalent of the FBI) has been able to piece together information from the released tourists, and some well bribed informants, to locate where they’re being held.”
“If they know where they are, why doesn’t the Colombian Military just stage a rescue? Haven’t we been spending a small fortune on men and equipment training them to do just that?” Harm spit out, his exasperation showing.
“The last high profile rescue saved 15 people, but there were still casualties and two fatalities. One of which was a prominent Colombian Senator. The Vice President is not willing to take the slightest chance. We’re going in to negotiate a release.”
“Against official policy?” It wasn’t really a question.
Mac nodded her head slightly, quietly agreeing with what Harm didn’t have to say. “Mr. Enrique Tovar, the head of DAS in Barranquilla, has a daughter living in Bogota. It’s been decided we’ll use her friendship as a cover, we will be her houseguests.”
“Who will be our official contacts?”
“Technically, no one. Official travel to Colombia by any military or government personnel has been prohibited until further notice. State doesn’t want the slightest possibility of anyone making a connection between the US and the recent kidnappings. We’ll be traveling as civilians. Since we won’t be there in an official capacity, we’ll have no official contacts other than Mr. Tovar. We’re only to contact the Embassy in case of an emergency.”
“Not again,” Harm mumbled running his fingers across his forehead.
“Mr. Tovar has arranged for his daughter to take Gunny on as a driver at their place of business, just in case. Already in South America, he shouldn’t draw any attention taking on a new job. With corruption so prevalent throughout government everywhere in Colombia, the Vice-President is afraid to trust any government officials other than Mr. Tovar. The only reason we’re trusting him is because The Vice-Presidents son went to college with Mr. Tovar’s cousin’s son.”
Harm raised both eyebrows, dropped his jaw, and shook his head. “Mac, come on, they can’t really expect us to trust someone on that kind of a recommendation?”
“They can, and do. Our orders are to do whatever Mr. Tovar recommends, and trust only the people he trusts. Gunny isn’t suppose to have any contact with us unless he’s needed.”
“Well, at least now I understand why the admiral didn’t want to give me the details himself. What I don’t get is if we’re not traveling as military, but as ‘guests’, and we’re not dealing directly with the US or French Embassies, why are WE the ones going?”
“It appears our reputation for retrieving that marine sergeant’s body from Bogota a few years ago, and now surviving Paraguay, has the Vice President confident that we’re perfect for the job.
“Why does this sound like a Webb operation?”
“Probably because you don’t like this situation and you don’t like Webb! Our flight to Miami leaves at 1300. We arrive in Bogota at 2210. I’ll bring all of these files to study the rest of the information on the plane. We’ve got the family history of our hosts. Oh, that reminds me, their names are Vilma and Francisco Franco. I’ve also got files on all recent training maneuvers, any recent rescue attempts, any known brokered ransoms, and even a few successful escapes.”
“As soon as I hand off my cases, I’ll go home and pack. What if I pick you up at your place at 11:15 and we drive to the airport together?” Harm offered casually.
“Actually, PO Aikens will be picking you up at 10:30 and me at 11:00. There’s no sense in leaving our cars at the airport indefinitely.”
Picking up some of the files, Harm smiled at Mac before heading out the door. “See you at 1100.”
Throwing all perishables in the trash, Harm took a last quick sweep of the apartment for anything that wouldn’t keep for an extended period of time. Glancing at the door, his mind wandered to the vision of a very pregnant Mac standing there ‘why is it you only get this way when I have one foot out the door.’
Shaking his head at the sound of the doorbell. “Coming,” he called to the Petty Officer on the other side. Still shaking his head, he stepped out into the hall and locked the door behind him trying to put aside any memories of Mac and South America.
Cleaning out the last of her fridge, Mac surveyed the room for anything she may have overlooked. She ran through a checklist of what she packed. Last time she found Bogota wasn’t as warm as she had expected, so she decided to pack more sweaters.
‘That will be better than the tank tops in Paraguay. How is any normal female in a tank top, so close to Harmon Rabb, suppose to think clearly.’ She could hear her voice as she stared at a vision of Harm across a small table, ‘we can’t move on and neither one of us is getting any younger.’
Snapped out of her thoughts by the soft knock on her door, she pushed the memories of Harm and South America away where they belonged. Opening her front door, “Hey Harm, ready?”
Avianca Airlines Flight 052
Somewhere over the Caribbean
“All right Mac, let’s see if I’ve got this straight. We’re travelling under our own names but not mentioning our military rank unless we need it. Vilma and Francisco are supposed to be old friends. Four years ago they did a tour of the East Coast with their three sons. They spent several days in Washington DC. We met them at the Smithsonian’s Air and Space Museum.”
At Harm’s quizzical expression, Mac explained, “The admiral and I tried to create a cover story that mixed their real lives and ours. We thought with your love of planes, if anyone decides to do a background check on us, it would make sense that we might spend an afternoon just hanging out at the air and space museum. It was the only place our paths could have crossed.”
Harm gave Mac a ‘you are kidding’ look.
Mac simply shrugged her shoulders.
“All right, we’re hanging out at the museum,” Harm couldn’t resist rolling his eyes once more, “and we struck up a conversation with five total strangers over a WWII Stearman.” Harm shook his head at the unfolding scenario. “I mentioned having restored my grandfather’s Stearman, and the conversation grew from there. We recommended a good place for them to eat dinner, so they graciously invited us to join them. We hit it off so well that we’ve remained friends ever since. What about these?” Harm handed Mac a couple of photographs.
“The photos are pretty recent, so, we shouldn’t have trouble recognizing one of them at the airport.”
Harm continued looking at the information they’d been given while Mac studied the photos.
Vilma and Francisco made a handsome couple. She especially had a captivating smile. What impressed Mac the most was the look in their eyes. They’d been married for 19 years. The photo was taken fairly recently, yet, they were holding hands, and the look of love in both their eyes was absolutely hypnotizing.
Mac glanced up at Harm. Sometimes she could almost see that same glimmer in his eyes. Looking back at the photo, she could only hope.
“Hey, Mac…. Mac?”
“I was asking you, what’s this about a party?”
“Oh, that’s the excuse for our visit. They’ve agreed to throw a party so we’d have a good reason to finally make the trip. It’s her birthday.”
“Isn’t this a pretty long way to come for just a birthday party?”
“Well, it happens to be her 40th, so her husband is making a big production out of it. People are supposed to believe we’ve used Vilma’s birthday as an excuse to plan a long vacation. It doesn’t seem that far fetched to me.”
“Mac, it says here it’s at the country club.”
“I didn’t bring my dress whites.”
For just a moment, the thought flashed through her mind ‘you could just wear your gold wings.’ Quickly she cleared her mind, the temperature in the plane was already warm enough.
“We’re civilians, remember? You shouldn’t be wearing dress whites. Oh, that reminds me, I forgot to mention the Admiral called before we left to tell me Clayton offered to send a suitcase of appropriate clothing, along with any other accessories he felt we might need. Since he hasn’t done too badly in the past with his wardrobe choices, the Admiral didn’t object. That was the extra bag I checked in.”
“One suitcase for the two of us? That will give new meaning to living out of a suitcase.” Harm couldn’t seem to stop rolling his eyes.
Ignoring the comment, Mac put her head back, closed her eyes, and leaned comfortably against Harm’s shoulder. This, she could definitely get used to.
An hour later and Mac was sleeping soundly. Unable to resist watching her sleep, Harm closed the files that were on the tray table in front of him, and shifted his weight so she could snuggle into his shoulder. He wasn’t sure exactly how long ago he had draped his right arm around her, or when his left arm wrapped itself around her also, drawing small circles on her side. Mac’s right hand was flatly lying on his chest, rising and falling with every breath he took. God, how he loved holding her this way. Closing his eyes, he let his mind wander off to what it would be like to always have Sarah Mackenzie in his arms.
“Please fasten your seat belts, stow tray tables in the seatback in front of you, and raise your seats to the upright position. The flight attendant will….” Waking to the realization the plane was readying to land, Harm reluctantly let go of his sleeping Sarah to rub the sleep out of his eyes. Shaking her ever so softly, he whispered into her hair, “Time to wake up, Marine”. Unable to resist, he barely brushed his lips on the top of her head. “Hey Mac, come on sleepy head. It’s time to get up.”
Aeropuerto El Dorado
Quickly passing through immigration and customs, with much less difficulty than they had expected, Harm and Mac pushed towards the jumbled crowd of waiting people pressed against the exit doors.
“See anyone who looks like the photos yet?” Mac softly inquired through the left side of her mouth.
“Two o’clock, the lady in the beige turtleneck. Think that’s her?”
“Yep, sure do. I’d of thought she was blonde considering how quickly your radar spotted her.”
“Sorry, eagle eyes.” Mac held back a quiet chuckle.
By the time they had passed through the double glass doors, Vilma had pressed past the crowds to grab Mac in an ardent embrace. Kissing Sarah on the cheek, “Sarrah, what a delight to see you again, and Harrmone!” She turned to Harm and gave him an equally stuffing squeezing hug and kiss. Dang this lady was a good actress. Anyone watching would have thought they’d been life long friends.
Mac and Harm were only momentarily stunned by the warm greeting. Quickly, they fell into their roles.
Vilma turned back to Mac again. “Did you have a nice flight?” They both nodded yes. “Good, Francisco is waiting by the car. Come and we’ll get you home so you can rest. You must be tired.”
Not far away Francisco was standing beside a silver Peugot sedan. Stepping closer, he extended his hand to Harm. “Welcome, glad to see you finally made it.” Turning towards Mac, he leaned forward giving her a hug and kiss on the cheek. “ Sarah, you look as lovely as ever.” Apparently, they were both pretty good actors.
The ride home was filled with proper introductions and pleasant chitchat. The first thing to catch Mac’s eye was the entwined pair of hands resting between the two front seats. Amazing, she thought, after all these years they really do still hold hands.
Harm had apparently noticed the same thing. Periodically, during pauses in the conversation, he would glance back and forth from Mac to the happily married couple’s clasped hands.
Before heading to the apartment, Vilma and Francisco thought it a good idea to drive Harm and Mac through a quick tour of downtown Bogota. Actually, they just wanted an excuse to drive them past the US Embassy.
They drove through ‘la Candelaria’ a lively neighborhood section of the city with small shops and ancient churches. Vilma pointed out the Plaza de Bolivar, the Bogota Cathedral, and the famous Gold Museum. A few minutes later, they turned off the main road and Vilma shifted in her seat again.
“Here we have your embassy. We will give you the address to carry with you in case of an emergency. As you can see it is very well guarded.” Vilma pointed to the white building on her left.
It was quite a fortress. Close to one square mile in size. A concrete wall at least 10 feet high, topped with barbed wire, surrounded the entire complex. There was a second fence several feet inside the perimeter. This one was chain link, again topped with barbed wire. The building complex itself resembled a large stone block. It seemed more like a prison than an Embassy, a sorry reminder of the lawlessness that had now enveloped Colombia. There appeared to be only one entrance and it was guarded by the expected marines, as well as by several bomb-sniffing German shepherds. Harm and Mac glanced at each other knowingly as they drove around the property, the magnitude of the situation slapping them harshly in the face.
Leaving the somber structure behind, Harm reached over for Mac’s hand. Such a small gesture, so much comfort.
Nestled up against the emerald green foothills, stood the cluster of white apartment buildings. The variety of beautiful flowers painting the landscape and balconies startled the visitors. They hadn’t expected so much color and beauty in such a chilly mountain climate.
Harm and Mac noted the guard at the garage door as they drove into the building’s underground parking. Once in the elevator, Francisco explained, “We will stop a moment in the lobby so I can introduce you to the guard on duty at the front desk. Entering and leaving the building without Vilma or I will be much easier once all the guards learn that you are our guests.”
Again, Harm and Mac just looked at each other, intrigued by the amount of security for an ordinary apartment building.
After explaining to the guard on duty that Harm and Mac would be staying for an extended visit, Francisco hustled them back into the elevator and pushed the button for the 8th floor. Vilma was the first one out of the elevator, and she hurried ahead to ring the doorbell. By the time the entire clan reached the apartment, the maid had opened front door. Harm and Mac glanced at each other quickly. It looked like this trip was going to be full of surprises. Neither had considered the comforts that might come with the cultural differences of this assignment.
Francisco sent the maid and another gentleman down to get the luggage. He explained to Harm that Arcadio was their personal family driver. He was the one who would be driving Harm and Mac anywhere they might need to go. Arcadio had stayed behind this evening to allow more room in the small car.
With his guests now comfortably seated in the living room, Francisco offered them a nightcap. Mac explained briefly that she didn’t drink, Francisco graciously smiled, but he clearly had a look of concern on his face.
Finished serving everyone their drinks, Francisco sat down in the living room beside his wife. “Time to get down to business. My wife and I are very happy to be of any assistance in this situation. As you know, my brother was kidnapped 4 years ago and never heard from again. It will give me great satisfaction to be able to play even the smallest of parts in saving even one person from a similar fate.”
Seeing the look of recognition in Harm and Mac’s eyes, “You have done your homework.” Francisco nodded in approval. He and Vilma had been told that Harm and Mac were the best people for this assignment. As a psychologist, with the little time he’d had to observe them and their ability to silently communicate, Francisco was convinced, the Americans had indeed sent the best team.
Harm and Mac smiled sadly. Despite the circumstances, a smile seemed fitting. They could sense this was a happy place regardless of the sorrows suffered in the past.
“You can travel anywhere you choose within the city limits, so long as it is in one of our cars with Arcadio. Vilma’s brother also has an armored car, so if on occasion it becomes necessary, you can travel with them.”
“Are we to understand that the car we just rode in is bullet proof?” Harm questioned.
“Yes,” Francisco answered, without hesitation. “Both our cars are armored. There are deadbolts two inches in diameter and 18 inches long that will prevent the doors from opening when locked. Arcadio is armed at all times, but the security is in the car, not in the pistol. Now, it is time to hurry up and wait. Until Vilma's father contacts us with our next step, you are our guests and we expect you to enjoy the lighter side of life our country has to offer. Tomorrow we will be going to lunch with Vilma's brother and his wife at the club.”
Not knowing if questioning her hosts was such a good idea, but not wanting to shirk her responsibilities with social activities, Mac bit her lower lip contemplating what to say.
Harm beat her to it, having already formulated the similar thoughts into words. “That would be lovely, thank you, but when should we expect to hear from Mr. Tovar?”
“Please call him Mono. Everyone has called my father that since he was a small blonde haired boy,” Vilma added. “When he will call us, depends on when he is contacted. So far the French tourists have not been moved. This is very unusual. Normally hostages are marched deep into the jungles making any communication or rescue nearly impossible. This time the captors have chosen to remain in a remote village. It’s still in what we consider the jungle, but it is considerably more accessible than where the llamas graze. From what we can tell, one of the men in charge of the group is disobeying orders to be near his girlfriend, so he hasn’t moved the hostages deeper into the jungle yet. Until we are contacted again, we cannot be sure they are truly still there.”
“I see, thank you,” Harm nodded, his mind processing the complexities of the situation. He was beginning to understand why the Admiral made him clear his entire schedule. This was not going to be an easy in and out assignment. He might as well accept it: he and Mac could be here a long while.
“You’re welcome. Now let me show you to your room.” Vilma turned to lead the way.
Two pairs of eyebrows shot up. Glancing at each other, the communication that took place without words in a matter of seconds went completely unnoticed by their hosts.
As they followed Vilma down the hall, Harm leaned down slightly and whispered to Mac out of the side of his mouth, “I guess we won’t have to worry about divvying up the extra suitcase.”
Reaching the room Vilma looked to Mac. “I hope the king size bed offers enough… discretion? My father assures me that this will not be a problem.” She had decided after only a few moments with this charming couple that her father had indeed been right. They were much more than business partners, and posing as a happy couple would not be far from the truth. “I would offer one of you the small sofa in the study, but even though I believe I trust my maid with my life, I’m not sure I’m willing to risk your lives on that belief.”
Once again the instant nonverbal communication between Harm and Mac had begun. Yes they would handle sharing a room, but there was definitely something not being said here. Their hosts seem to have information they didn’t. Who’s going to do the asking? With a short nod it was agreed, Harm.
“I’m sure whatever arrangements you deem best will be fine with us. Is there some reason our not being a couple will pose a problem?” Harm did his best to discover what information he and Mac were missing, hopefully without insulting their very gracious hosts.
Vilma and Francisco looked at each other somewhat surprised. Aha, similar non-verbal communication was exchanged between the married couple, only in Spanish. Interesting, two heads nodded, then Vilma spoke.
“Forgive us if we’ve been presumptuous. Mono suggested, and we agreed, it would look odd for two casual friends from the United States to travel to Colombia in our current political climate, even for a friend’s birthday. However, Latins are much more willing to accept a happy couple might be willing to overlook the risks if they were focusing on our romantic culture.”
Taking note of the doubts crossing her guest’s faces, Vilma elaborated. “I know to you this sounds silly, but we are a very romantic people at heart. This way outsiders would simply be less likely to contemplate if you have ulterior motives and stumble onto the true reason for your visit.”
Pausing again to read their faces, Vilma smiled knowing she’d made her point, ‘an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.’ She reached for her husband’s hand before continuing. “If the maid were to notice that you are merely pretending to be a couple sharing separate rooms, she could unintentionally mention it to the wrong people, who could question your true purpose here. In this country you learn to trust no one. The most modest of employees at home, at a hotel, or restaurant could easily be a guerilla informant. As Americans you are already prime targets, if it were known you are military, or worse, here on a rescue mission, the consequences could be disastrous. A couple enjoying the company of friends, as well as a second honeymoon of sorts, would draw less attention. If it helps, we’ve not told anyone specifically if you are married. Fortunately the rules of etiquette are so rigid here it is unlikely anyone will be bold enough to ask your status if you choose to say nothing. Well, it’s getting late and you need your rest. Until tomorrow.”
They all nodded and mumbled their good nights and sleep wells.
Too tired to give it anymore thought, Mac turned to Harm. “Which side of the bed do you want?”
‘Which ever you’re in,’ was the first thought to cross his mind. “I’ll take the side closest to the window,” he replied.
Mac dug through her luggage for her toiletries, grabbed her nightgown, and headed into the bathroom.
‘Oh lord, she didn’t bring flannel pajamas. This is going to be a very long assignment.’ Harm was debating whether to strip down and climb into bed or if maybe a cold shower might not be a better idea. Before he could come to any decisions Mac came out of the bathroom wearing a dark green, floor length nightgown. He couldn’t help but stare. There was a deep sheen at every curve. The spaghetti straps revealed the soft flow of the shoulder he had been holding only a few hours ago. The neckline dropped down in a low V with a lace pattern between her breasts, creating a clear window into the valley he so desperately wanted to lose himself in.
Realizing Mac was just standing there watching him take inventory, he looked up into her eyes. ‘Thank God, she doesn’t seem annoyed at me ogling her like a sex starved teenager.’
“I guess it’s my turn.” He mumbled, smiling at her with a softness that thanked her for not decking him. Definitely time for a cold shower.
Surprisingly they both slept soundly and woke on opposite sides of the king size bed. Years of working together, and occasionally sharing rooms, allowed them to fall into an easy morning routine. They were dressed and ready to join their hosts for breakfast in no time.
After the usual morning pleasantries, Francisco was the first to get down to business. “It appears that Mono’s informant was able to see the Gentilles. He’s offered to assist the Guerillas in order to have better access. He has slipped Mr. Gentille a next of kin card with Vilma and my names and numbers. Hopefully, Mr. Gentille will understand and suggest the guerrillas contact us for ransom. Now we wait.”
The morning was spent in their room unpacking and studying the ransom files they'd brought. The ransom approach would be considerably safer than trying a rescue, but it would take a lot of time and a lot of money. According to the files, one broker in particular appeared to have some success at getting hostages released in less time. Mr. Tovar had worked with him before and had already arranged for his participation if they were contacted for ransom.
“Mac, some of these ransom releases took over a year to negotiate. The shortest one took three months. Maybe a rescue wouldn’t be such a bad way to go?” His eyes were almost pleading, knowing it was silly to even suggest a change of plan, but he couldn’t fathom how he was supposed to be so close to her day and night for the next three months to a year and still maintain control. It was one thing to keep his feelings at bay when they were Colonel and Commander at work. It was going to be something totally different to keep his feelings and desires from taking over if the pretense of intimacy was needed for an extended period of time.
Without looking up from where she was sitting at the desk. “What’s the matter flyboy, can’t stand the thought of being stuck with me?”
Harm stood up from where he was sitting on the bed. Walking over, he stopped just behind her, laid his hands on her shoulders and started to massage them lightly. “I couldn’t think of anyone else I’d rather be with. It’s just I’d rather it were under different circumstances.”
Mac placed her hand on one of Harm’s, and squeezed. “I know.”
As she leaned her head back against the chair and closed her eyes to enjoy his touch, Harm studied her intently. Even tired, she was so beautiful. How he wished these were different circumstances, that he could show her how he really felt. Without realizing it, he had slowly leaned closer to her until their faces were only inches apart.
Feeling his breath so close to her, Mac opened her eyes, startled by the depths of feelings she could see etched on his face. His hands stilled as their eyes froze in each other’s gaze. Before she could react to the nearness of his lips, he quickly stepped back, the protective armor she knew as Harmon Rabb safely replacing the torrent of emotions she had seen and felt only seconds before.
A light tapping on the door, followed by Vilma’s voice, “Time to leave.” successfully snapped them back the rest of the way to reality.
The country club was located just at the edge of the city. As with everyplace else they had seen in Bogota, there were several guards standing at the entry gates. Here, like at the US Embassy and the local shopping mall they had passed, there were two bomb-sniffing German Shepherds. Amazingly enough, all this security was perfectly normal for the local citizens and didn’t seem to upset them in the least. Armored cars, personal bodyguards, armed entry guards, bomb-sniffing dogs; these things were as normal a part of everyday life as a lock on the door, or an alarm on your car would be back in the States.
Francisco had reminded them for the umpteenth time, since you never know who is an informant for the guerillas, it’s best not to speak English outside of their home. This is one of the reasons why a hotel stay would have been inappropriate. Hotels and restaurants are prime locations for invisible employees to track and pick potential targets for the well paying guerillas. In the city there is little fear of guerillas coming in and capturing you. The problem is with the local thugs who capture you and sell you off cheaply to the guerillas. It was agreed however, the club would not be a problem since many Americans were members and spoke only in English.
The place was gorgeous. Marble floors, indoor swimming pool, sauna room, exercise room, formal dining room, poolside cafeteria, beauty salon, billiard room, kid's rompus room, day care, tennis courts, golf course, and of course the 19th hole bar and grille. This is where it was decided would be a good place for lunch. Vilma’s brother Jack and his wife Claudia, were charming. Jack’s English was flawless. It was obvious he had spent a good deal of time in the United States. Claudia on the other hand suffered in her attempts to keep up with the conversation, but she was obviously enjoying herself anyway. Claudia’s parents, Amparo and Rodolfo, had joined them for lunch. Outside of Vilma and Francisco, only Jack and Claudia knew why Harm and Mac were really here. Amparo and Rodolfo would be the first test of how well their cover would work.
Lunch was definitely more of a social event than the half-hour fast food they were used to. It quickly became apparent why Francisco had looked so concerned when Mac mentioned she didn’t drink. Everyone at the table was drinking either whiskey or rum and coke, quite a bit of it, too. Fortunately, the popularity of the rum and coke allowed Mac to have a plain coke and not stand out much. Harm was more comfortable sampling the local beers.
Holding hands was apparently not an unusual thing in this family. Jack and Claudia frequently were spotted doing the same. Rodolfo spent the latter half of the now three-hour lunch, with his arm around his wife’s shoulder. By the time they were having coffee, Harms arm had somehow worked its way around Macs shoulder as well. As Francisco had said before, no one asked the details of their relationship, they were introduced as their friends Mac and Harm, with no further explanation needed.
The luncheon seemed to carry on into an afternoon party. Everyone went back to the Franco’s home. By dinner time there was laughing, music, and dancing. The Franco’s sons had returned with some friends and all had joined the festivities. Each of their sons had danced at least once with their mom and both their aunts (Claudia’s mom was considered an aunt as well). Even some of the friends were dancing with the adults. Francisco had serenaded Vilma twice already, and everyone was pleasantly amused to discover that Mac had never been officially serenaded.
“You mean to tell me a woman as beautiful as you, and no man has ever lost himself in song over you?” Rodolfo asked in honest shock. “Here, every young girl has at least had one young man sing to her. Just last week Abel had a Mariachi band go to his girlfriend’s house to serenade her for her birthday.”
“You’re kidding, at his age?” Mac said, looking at Abel in amazement.
“Well, most kids Abel’s age don’t hire Mariachis to sing to their girlfriends.” Jack chuckled. “Usually the young men sing themselves the way Francisco has been singing to Vilma all night. The musicians come into play when you have more spending money.” He smiled in his sister’s direction.
Harm and Mac just looked at each other before Jack continued.
“The original tradition was the man, alone or with musicians, would sing under the young ladies bedroom window at night professing his love for his lady. Whether or not she turns the light on would signal if she returns her suitor’s admiration. Today when someone is serenaded, the musicians get invited in and the party begins. Some times the party would have already started before the musicians arrive. This was the case for Juanita’s birthday with Abel.”
“I realize this custom is not popular in the United States, but you truly have never had a man sing his love for you?” Rodolfo repeated shaking his head, still unable to believe Mac had never been serenaded.
“No, really. I don’t know anyone who has.” Mac answered, not noticing the pointed glares Harm was receiving from all the men in the room.
By late evening Mac was getting quite hungry. She had nibbled her way through everything offered, but her marine appetite was starting to rebel. She had been sitting on the small sofa next to Harm for some time now. Since they both were avoiding dancing, this seemed to be the safest spot to hide out. Keeping his arm around Mac’s shoulder, they actually blended in quite well. Everyone sat in couples. It had startled Mac at first. Back home, the women always wound up in the kitchen and the men in some other room. Here, no one went near the kitchen, and spouses all sat or stood side by side. ‘This assignment is definitely full of surprises,’ she thought.
As if Vilma could read Mac’s mind, dinner was announced. A lovely Paella (Spanish rice and seafood dish) was set out buffet style in the dining room. Thinking about the reason they were really here, Mac was starting to feel a little guilty with all this friendly company and good food. None the less hunger won out over guilt and they all enjoyed a delicious meal.
Rodolfo and Amparo had been dancing fairly non-stop. Noticing a lovely romantic ballad was playing. He leaned over to Harm and said, “Even in America this song is not hard to dance to.” He smiled suggestively at Harm and stepped away.
“Okay, you two,” Vilma announced. Leaning over Harm, she grabbed him by the arm, and yanked with all she had in her. Since Harm and Mac had been holding hands, Mac sprang up right beside him. Vilma kissed him on the cheek, smiled, and walked away to dance with her husband.
“I guess it’s been decided we should be dancing.” Harm smiled, pulling Mac in a little closer.
The living room and hall where they were all dancing was fairly small. Harm and Mac somehow had been deposited on the far north end of the small foyer so they were on the edge of the crowd, and slightly hidden from the now growing group in the living room. Relaxing after a few minutes, Mac leaned into Harm’s shoulder. Harm recognized the tune and found himself humming in Mac’s ear. Unfortunately, he had only heard Enrique Iglesias sing Hero in English and was unfamiliar with the lyrics in Spanish. It didn’t matter, Mac was lost in the sound of his humming voice and the smooth swaying of their hips. His grip on her was warm and snug as he pulled their clasped hands closer in. His right arm softly rubbed the small of her back, she smelled absolutely delicious. Every sense in them was on edge.
Vilma and Francisco, now sitting on the sofa, glanced over at their guests, giving each other a knowing smile.
“Mono was right again. There’s more to these two than business. All they need is a little encouragement in the right direction,” she smiled, a twinkle shimmering in her eye.
“Yes, and I know just who to encourage it,” Francisco laughed.
When the party finally broke up, it was 4 o’clock in the morning. Harm and Mac were so exhausted; they collapsed onto the bed, fully clothed, and instantly fell into a deep sleep. They awoke side by side in almost the exact positions they’d fallen asleep in.
By mid afternoon, Harm and Mac had learned little more from the files, and were feeling a bit restless waiting for a phone call. Everyone was invited to dinner at Jack and Claudia’s this evening. Hopefully tonight wouldn’t end quite as late as last night.
Jack and Claudia’s apartment
Jack and Claudia had a lovely apartment not far from Vilma and Francisco. When the door opened, Mac and Harm were struck by the lovely open living area, probably twice the size of the Franco’s.
Barely in the front door, “Hello, welcome. Quickly, follow me.” Claudia said, grabbing a free arm and dragging her two guests behind her. “You have to see this before the sun finishes setting.” Depositing Harm and Mac on the deck to watch the sunset, Claudia stepped back inside, winked at her sister in law, and returned to greet the rest of her arriving guests.
The building was nestled right up against the hillside. They had arrived just as the sun was beginning to set. The view was breathtaking. The mountains rose up to their left and behind them, while in contrast, the entire city was laid out in front of their feet.
Harm reached over to hold Mac’s hand. He was doing that a lot already on this trip. “Amazing how some place so beautiful can be filled with so much trouble.”
“Mmn,” was Mac’s only response. She was enjoying the view and the company way too much to waste any time in conversation.
Several of the neighbors had been invited to join them for dinner this evening. It was starting to look like this was going to be another late night. From practically the moment they arrived, the music had been softly playing. The conversations were all in English for their benefit. Since they hadn’t really expected so many people to be so fluent in English, this was one of the more pleasant surprises for which they were extremely grateful. Neither Harm nor Mac’s Spanish would have been considered strong enough to carry on all the varied conversations they’d been having.
The evening progressed much like the night before, good food, plenty to drink, not quite as much dancing, and of course, the couples all sitting or standing side by side. By midnight Mac was starting to feel a little tired. Noticing this, Vilma approached Harm and whispered in his ear, “the view at night is even more impressive, perhaps Mac would like some fresh air on the deck.”
Leaning on the railing, Mac took a deep breath. “I thought the sunset was breathtaking, but the city lit up at night is just as impressive, maybe more.”
“It is quite a sight…but you look tired.” Harm gently laid his hand over hers on the railing.
“Yeah, I am. I don’t understand how these people can do this every night and still work the next day.”
“I don’t think they do this every night under normal circumstances.” Harm smiled.
“I’m not so sure. They seem to have almost a routine down,” she added, slowly shaking her head.
Harm couldn’t help but chuckle. She had a point.
As beautiful as it was outside, Harm could tell Mac was feeling the chill. Stepping behind her, he wrapped his arms around her, keeping Mac’s arms warm in front of her. “Is that any better or do you want to go back inside?”
“Oh no, I want to stay here a little longer, and yes, it’s much better thank you.” Mac leaned comfortably against Harm’s broad chest. She most definitely did not want to go back inside now.
Her eyes focused in the distance. “It all looks so peaceful. It’s unbelievable that it’s anything BUT peaceful out there. Somewhere out there, past the city, through the jungle, are a bunch of tired, hungry, possibly hurt, and most likely terrified people.”
“I know, and we’ll get them back, one way or another.” Harm promised himself.
Mac turned around in his arms so she could see his face. “Do you really think we can make any difference? I feel like I’m at one long frat party.”
“Once we’re contacted things will start happening. I think they’re just trying to keep us distracted until it does. I suspect they have a lot of practice at keeping themselves from thinking about all the reality out there.” Harm raised his chin, pointing off in the distance.
Mac shivered again slightly.
Pulling her a little closer, Harm started rubbing his hands up and down her back to keep her warm. “Mac, you really need to go inside.”
Mac looked up at Harm to protest, but no words would come out. His deep green eyes had turned a dark shade of steel gray. They seemed to be looking right through her, straight to her very soul. Harm couldn’t stop touching her. He couldn’t move his eyes from her gaze. Her eyes were such a deep hypnotic brown. He knew they needed to separate. He knew they needed to go inside. He knew they were here to do a job. He knew a lot of things, but for this moment in time all he wanted to do was reach down and….
His lips covered hers ever so tenderly. She tilted her head up slightly deepening the kiss. As his lips danced with hers, she parted them giving him the invitation he needed. His tongue slipped past her lips and began its own dance with hers. Her arms were now tightly around his neck. His hands had gone from lightly caressing to desperately kneading her flesh. He couldn’t get close enough. Here, under the stars and the glowing city lights, it all seemed so perfect. They seemed so alone.
Some how they managed to remember they weren’t alone, and things weren’t even close to perfect. Whatever they were feeling, this was neither the time, nor the place to do something about it. Slowly, they pulled slightly apart.
Mac took a small step backwards. “I…I think I’m ready to go back inside.”
Harm extended his hand to her and silently escorted her back to the party.
Once again, Vilma and Francisco simply smiled at each other and nodded.
Around 2:30am Vilma saw that Mac was looking more than a little worn around the edges. Harm on the other hand, had fallen into a conversation with one of the neighbors about airplanes and ‘cats’. Wondering why a group of men would be conversing about felines, Vilma was pretty sure she had misunderstood something, but couldn’t quite put her finger on it.
“And you did the entire restoration yourself? Amazing. Still you must miss flying your tomcats?” A silver haired neighbor was saying.
“As long as I get a chance to be in the air, I’m happy.” Harm responded as Vilma touched him lightly on the arm.
“Gentlemen, I hate to break this up but we ladies need our beauty sleep.”
Sitting next to Mac on the ride home, Harm couldn’t help but stare at her sleepy form. Her head was bobbing slightly as she tried to fight sleep. Tonight was going to be hard for him. His lips were still on fire from earlier. The memory of the kiss very much a reality. He’d already had several beers and knew it was going to take everything he had to keep his thoughts, and a few other things, under control. Their kiss had been so warm, so full of passion, he thought maybe even love. He wondered if it were at all possible she could want him as badly as he wanted her, and not just for tonight, but for the rest of his life.
As they entered the apartment, Vilma and Mac headed straight for the bedrooms. Francisco, God bless him, headed to the bar to pour himself a glass of wine.
“Would you like a nightcap, Hahrrmone?”
Harm was actually beginning to like the way they’d been pronouncing his name. He was also delighted to have an excuse not to crawl into bed with Mac just yet.
As the two gentlemen took seats in the living room, Francisco looked over at Harm. “You and Sarah are very close aren’t you?”
“We’ve been partners for almost 8 years.”
“There’s more to it than that my friend.”
“Love is only complicated if you make it so.”
“You and Vilma make love look very simple.”
“It is. People choose to be complicated, love is simple. Take you and Sarah, the two of you together take care of each other, she’s cold -you keep her warm, she’s tired -you let her rest, you’re restless- she helps you focus. It’s not work, it just happens. The love in your eyes is not the love of only best friends. How do you Americans say…soul mates.”
The two men sat quietly for a few moments.
“Harm, you prefer Harm?” Francisco noted Harm’s indifferent shrug. “I think you will discover if you spend your time finding ways to love Sarah, there will be fewer ‘complications’.”
Francisco stood up, shook Harm’s hand goodnight, and went off to his wife. Harm sat there for a moment. ‘Find ways to love her.’ Thinking of ways to love her wasn’t the problem. Boy, was that not the problem!
When Harm entered the room, Mac was already soundly asleep on the edge of the bed. Stripping down quickly, and crawling into his side of the bed, Harm kept as much distance between them as he could. He was more than thankful for the last glass of wine. It helped sleep come more easily.
Dining Room Table
Lunch time, Several days later
“Did Vilma mention what time she and Francisco would be home?” Harm asked.
“No, she just said to go ahead and start lunch without them, they’d get here as soon as they could.”
“I was starting to wonder with all the lunches and dinners we’ve been to, if they really worked for a living.” Harm chuckled under his breath.
“It is amazing how many people they know. And so far, they all want to invite us somewhere. This is the first time we’ve had lunch at home since we got here.”
“You have to admit, Mac, we’ve had a wonderful time everywhere we’ve been. Good food, good conversation, plenty of laughter, and always music.”
“Yeah, I know. Everyone seems to have so much enthusiasm for life. Even I keep forgetting there are armed guards in the lobby and bulletproof cars in the garage. It’s as if there was no turmoil in the real world. What is it? We have music in DC. We have friends in DC. Why is it different here?”
“It’s not different, Mac.”
“Harm, when was the last time you saw Bud and Harriet outside of the office?” As Harm looked to the ceiling contemplating her question, Mac continued. “How about a ball game, or a few drinks with Sturgis? When was the last time you and I had dinner without a case being involved? Better yet, when was the last time you went out on a date, a REAL date?” As Harm sat there in continued silence, her eyes said, ‘I told you so.’
“MAAC. You know how busy things are.” Harm practically whined.
“Exactly, we always have an excuse why we can’t enjoy life. These people all have work, children, and responsibilities. I haven’t heard anyone make an excuse yet why they couldn’t do something. Haven’t you noticed?
“Okay, exactly what ARE you saying?” Harm questioned, as he took hold of the hand Mac had resting on the table and gave it a squeeze.
“I guess I’ve just been thinking maybe we make things too complicated,” she sighed. “I don’t know. Never mind. I think I’m just restless waiting for some news. What do you say we check out what’s for dessert?” She smiled.
“Sounds like a plan,” he replied, but he couldn’t help thinking she had a point, things were definitely different here. They were different here. Maybe Francisco was right.
Two weeks later
Harm and Mac awoke with a knock at their door.
Vilma poked her head into the bedroom. “You two better hurry up and get dressed, we’ve been contacted.”
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