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TV or Not TV, That is the Question - Part 1

Author: Timer


This tale, told in 6 parts is, if I do say so myself, really wacky. It’s not just from left field. This tale comes from a place that’s waaay beyond the zip code of the ballpark most JAG fanfiction plays in. My muse brought it back from her holiday vacation (heavens knows where she went to pick this up!) and as much as I tried, I couldn’t help myself. I had to write it.

That said, if you’re willing to take a wild ride with our favorite couple, I give you this admittedly bizarre story.

A BIG CAVEAT: Understanding this ditty and “getting” its humor depends entirely on the reader having a solid knowledge base of American pop culture of the ‘60’s-’70’s. If you’re a Baby Boomer, this one’s for you. If, on the other hand, you get halfway through the first part and find yourself more perplexed than amused, I suggest you find a different story to read with my apologies for not connecting with you. (Here’s a good test: if you don’t know who Barney Fife or Boris and Natasha are, skip this story.)

Because this story is so far out of the usual realm of JAG fanfic, I didn’t want to make anyone else an accomplice to my “crime” if that’s how it’s perceived. No beta-readers, all errors are mine, and I’m the only one to ride out of cyber-town on a rail if that’s the reaction.

Placing this story in the JAG timeline is kinda tough...but midseason 7 post ‘JAG-A-Thon’ and prior to ‘Head to Toe’ works for me but there are a few references that scramble that timeline. Hey, this whole story is scrambled, so I figure a few inconsistencies are OK.

Of course, I don’t own them, only play with them and nobody’s making any money off this attempt at lightening the reader’s day. I only hope I succeeded.

Finally, I’ve made a few references to members of the DJE/JAG fan world in this story. They’re referred to with joy, laughter and respect, in honor of all that they do for us. They know who they are, and I’ll bet most of you recognize them as well. My heartfelt thanks to all three of you for your tireless support of what is an admitedly strange hobby! Let’s keep LOL together!!

Part 1: It’s Only A Movie


Adm. Chegwidden’s office
JAG HQs
0800 (local), Thursday, July 19

“Oh come on Webb, this is too outlandish even for you,” I exclaim, looking to the Admiral for support. I mean Webb’s come up with harebrained missions in the past but this goes beyond the pale.

“Rabb,” I hate it when Webb uses that condescending tone of voice, “we’re talking National Security here. And there’s nothing outlandish about it.” I watch him smugly push his hands in his pants pockets and wish I could quietly pummel him into oblivion.

“Admiral, the ‘mission’ Webb’s proposing has virtually no intel to support it, no back-up to speak of and would put Colonel MacKenzie and me at risk for what...Webb’s ‘suspicions’?” Surely AJ will back me up on this.

“Commander,” oh no, I hear AJ’s ‘we all have to sacrifice’ tone of voice -- or is it the ‘I hate this too but I got a call from the SecNav’ one? Either way, it’s not good.

I shoot a look at Webb. His smirk is even more repulsive than normal. He knew he had a lock on getting Mac and me assigned this caper (I refuse to dignify it by calling it a ‘mission’ or an ‘op’). As he rocks slightly back and forth on his heels in a most disgustingly self-satisfied way, I begin to see him in a whole new light. One which makes him look an awful lot like Alfred E. Neuman.

No wonder he always makes me so mad.

“You know, Webb, the reason your ops go sour so often is you have this ‘what, me worry’ attitude.” I know I’m treading on thin ice speaking like this in the Admiral’s office, but damnit, it’s true. Glancing at Mac I see the reference is lost on her. Looking over at AJ valiantly trying to stifle a smile, I see it wasn’t lost on him. Webb is impassive. Well, at least two of us in this room read the appropriately adolescent material when we were growing up.

“Commander, you and the Colonel will give Mr. Webb your complete cooperation on this assignment,” AJ says, but I can hear the tinge of regret hidden below the surface. “You will go undercover as two criminals who want to make contact with this,” AJ consults a folder on his desk, “Addams for the purpose of buying military secrets for a foreign government.”

“You’ll be posing as husband and wife,” Webb explains. “We’ve secured an invitation for you two to the Addams' home tomorrow night. They apparently have a kind of cocktail reception every Friday night. Your mission Friday is to get to know them, recon the house and wrangle an invite to the party we understand they’re holding the next afternoon.”

Well, this mission won’t be a total waste of time if I get to spend the weekend with Mac. And more...after all, won’t we have to spend the day today, and probably the evening tonight, preparing? We will if I have anything to say about it.

“What’s the uniform of the day, Webb?” Mac asks. Trust it to a woman, oh I mean a Marine, to focus on op specifics that we need to know (just love it when I can use those words against Webb).

“Cocktail dress, suit, Friday. It’s an afternoon pool party Saturday. So bathing suits and appropriate cover-ups.”

Bathing suits?? Oh boy, I’m beginning to like this mission more all the time. Mac in a bathing suit posing as my wife? Doesn’t that mean I get to have my arm around her, give her the occasional kiss on the cheek, maybe even a playful slap on the butt? On second thought, I probably should not indulge in the butt slapping if I want to survive long after the mission is over. Well, hey, a guy can dream, can’t he?

“What more can you tell us about the Addams?” I ask Webb.

He hands me a file. “Here’s all we have on them. They live remarkably below the radar for a couple who’s so prominent.”

What the *hell* does that mean? “Come again, Webb?”

“Well, they’re clearly quite wealthy and have cultivated a wide group of what we in the company call ‘interesting characters’ as associates, but we haven’t been able to pin anything definite on them.”

I start to argue about why we’re going in if they don’t have anything on them, but a vision of Mac in a bikini short-circuits that thought. OK, they don’t have anything, this is probably nothing and I’ll get to spend some quality time with Mac. Good, I need that. We need that...still hoping there can be a ‘we’ that’s much more than just working partners and friends.

That’s a great place to start, but not where I wanna stop.

“Commander, Colonel, I suggest you take the rest of the day to review the file on this case and prepare yourselves for this mission. Hand off what you can about your current cases to Commanders Turner and Mattoni. Let Lt. Roberts help in whatever way you see fit.”

We know a dismissal when we hear one. “Aye, aye sir,” Mac and I chorus. Webb just walks out. What a jerk. You’d think even he would exhibit some courtesy to a 2-star.


Harm’s office
JAG Ops
Later that afternoon

I’m so ... what? Astonished? Befuddled? Weirded out? Perhaps beginning to get so pissed off that I don’t hear the knock on my door frame.

“Harm, earth to Harm,” Mac is laughing as she walks in and sits down in a chair facing my desk. “Wow, are you suddenly taking this ‘mission’ so seriously that you don’t hear me knocking at your door for 28 seconds?”

God, she is so cute when she does that little one eyebrow up thing she’s doing right now. Kinda reminds me of what I always thought a pixie would look like.

“Mac, what day is it?”

Quizzically she responds, “Thursday, Harm, has been all day.”

“And what date is it?”

“Harm, I have an internal clock, not an internal calendar, but I can tell you it’s the 19th of July.” She gives me a look. “Why?”

I don’t know how, or where, to start with this. Here goes. “Mac, you’ve been reviewing the file Webb gave us, right?”

OK, I deserve the withering look she just gave me.

“And it’s not April Fool’s Day, right?”

Withering has gone to “stop wasting my time, buster”.

I can see she hasn’t seen what I’ve seen in this file. “Mac, when you were a kid, how much TV did you watch?”

She literally pulls her head back a bit and blinks at the sudden change in conversational direction.

“Not much. Why?”

I can tell she is not going to be easy to convince about what I suspect this case is really about (although I’m not quite sure either). But if she’s not familiar with TV sitcoms from the ‘60’s and ‘70’s....

“Oh nothing, Mac. Just a random thought.” Her expression says she’s not buying that but won’t pursue it right now. Whew. Need time to work on my explanations. “How ‘bout I cook dinner for us and we compare notes about the case.” Oh no, there goes that eyebrow again. “You know, Mac, impressions, thoughts about how we’ll act tomorrow night....”

Sweet thing that she is, she saves me from my linguistic stumbling. “You know, Harm, I thought we should rent a couple of movies that might help us with our undercover roles.”

“Movies? Mac, this is a serious mission with National Security at stake. Webb said so. How would movies help us prepare?” OK, part of that was sarcastic, but part of it wasn’t. Surely she doesn’t really think Hollywood can help us prepare for tomorrow night (on the other hand, if what I suspect is true, what better preparation could there be?).

“Gee Harm, I don’t know. I seem to recall that an idea I got out of a movie saved your six in a minefield not too long ago.”

Well, when you put it like that. “What movies did you have in mind?”


Rabb’s Loft
North of Union Station
1900 hours (local), Thursday, July 19

“Come on in, it’s open.”

She walks in wearing jeans, a v-neck t-shirt and a smile that melts my heart while ramping up its pace a bit.

“Good security, Harm. I could have come through that unlocked door with an Uzi on full-fire.”

I scrutinize her face while stirring the pasta sauce. She’s at least semiserious. “But Mac, I don’t have a date with a terrorist tonight and I do have one with you at 1900 hours. Guess what, it’s exactly 1900 hours. Thought the odds were in my favor.” I give her my ‘winning’ smile. OK, I’ll admit it. I *do* know about my smile. I mean smiles. Although they are almost always sincere, I do know how to moderate them, use them a little (OK, a lot) to achieve my desired goal.

Just like earlier today with the ‘nothing’, she’s not buying but not pressing either. Wow, twice in one day I escape Marine interrogation. Let me mark this on my calendar!

“Date?”

Whoops, guess I can forego marking my calendar. “Well, whatever.” Lame, Harm, really lame. Her look back to me confirms my assessment.

“So hey, what movies did you bring?” I gesture toward the bag she’s placing on my desk.

“The classics Harm. Topkapi, Entrapment, The Thomas Crown Affair (both versions), Public Enemy Number 1,” she reads the titles as she pulls the DVD’s from the bag.

“Woah, Mac, I know you hardly ever sleep but I do. I think we need to weed it down a bit...I’m just not prepared for a 10 hour movie marathon.”

With a huff of superiority she declares, “should’ve known you wouldn’t be able to go the distance, squid.”

Why do I get the distinct impression that comment was directly linked to my calling this a ‘date’? Oh no, not even Mac gets away with impugning my virility. WAIT!!! ‘Stop this train of thought, ignore the double entendres, step away from the danger zone,’ screams one part of my brain. The other one is equally loud: ‘here’s the opening you’ve been too scared to make for yourself, take it man, don’t be a fool!‘

“Oh I can go the distance, Mac. I just think we both ought to be able to ....” that’s right, drag it out as I walk the pasta pot from the stove to the sink to drain...”function in the morning. Not to mention tomorrow night.”

From under my eyebrows I see her fill in the implied word “walk”. Ah ha! Got her! She’s blushing a bit.

As I put dinner on the table, I adopt the most reasonable tone I can, under the circumstances (exactly what those circumstances are, I’m not entirely clear). “Let’s look at these movie’s in light of our mission. Public Enemy Number 1 is set during Prohibition and doesn’t feature a man and woman criminal team. I say it’s out of contention for viewing tonight.” I see a look of disappointment on her face. What, this a favorite of hers? Always a new layer to discover.

“We could save it to watch later this weekend.” That earns me a smile. Wow. The movies this woman picks. Most women I have known are more in the “When Harry Met Sally” mode. But then, no woman I have known has captured my heart like Mac has.

I chew on a forkful of bowtie pasta with a broccoli, sun-dried tomato, clam and caper sauce. I must admit, I am a good cook and I enjoy the results of my kitchen efforts. But I really like watching Mac eat them. She gets so totally involved in her food. Almost like she enters her own little Fortress of Solitude to focus completely on the taste sensations she ingests. On some it might look like gluttony. On Mac it looks like the sexiest thing on earth.

I begin to wish at least part of my body was a broccoli spear.

“Entrapment, Mac?”

She swallows and gives me a look I’m not certain how to decipher. “Harm, Zeta-Jones is hot, they carry off a tough theft against amazing high-tech security, I think it fits perfectly.”

OK, I’ve got this now. Her look is far too innocent. “Yes, Mac, Catherine Zeta-Jones is very hot in that movie. And Sean Connery is also about 35 years older than her.”

“Your point being...” she lets it drift off like she doesn’t know. I’d throttle her if it wasn’t such a good jab. Gotta admire a well-placed punch, even when it hits me.

“Maac,” I hate it when I whine, but that just came out. “Connery was the brains and had the experience and I’d go with that, but I am NOWHERE NEAR that old.” She just smiles.

I need to regroup. Quickly.

“Topkapi was a great movie, Mac, but it was a farce. I don’t think patterning a mission with ‘National Security’ implications after a movie that starred Peter Ustinov is a very good idea.” From the look on her face I can see she’s at least a little bit down the road with me that perhaps this mission isn’t the most serious one we’ll ever tackle.

I watch her examining me. This is either gonna be agreement or another zinger.

“Well I’ll have to bow to you on that one Harm. Topkapi was made five years before I was born. You know it well, do you?” So sweetly she inserts the knife.

Two can play this game. I stand up from the dining room table and lean forward to take Mac’s now empty plate. Lean very forward, get very close. I hear her slight intake of air as my cheek stops just about three inches from her face. I pick up her plate. Then I turn to face her. Our lips are now a mere inch apart. I whisper “Saw it on TV, on the late show, Mac. You know, reruns, old movies, watched at night while laying in bed. Ring a bell?” I see her eyes go wide and try to ignore the reaction it sparks in me.

Standing up with the dinner dishes I admonish myself: don’t win the battle and lose the war.

I start loading the dishwasher and putting away leftovers. Give me anything to cover up the heavy silence that has just draped itself over my loft.

No, no, no, do not let me have blown it again!!! I’ll salvage this if it kills me. (And if I don’t, Mac might kill me.)

“Now, The Thomas Crown Affair has possibilities, Mac. Both were professionals, top of their field. Both were good looking,” I try the eyebrow waggle...it’s not getting me much response tonight. Guess I’m in a deeper hole than I thought. “But they weren’t on the same side. She was hunting him.”

Oh boy. All that got was a double raised eyebrow stare. Or was that a glare? Or was that an invitation? Ohhh myyyyy, was that an invitation???? How do I explore this without scaring the bejeezus out of both of us?

“On the other hand, they did seem to be working together quite well in that scene on the staircase.” I’m hiding behind the kitchen island, loading the dishwasher, just in case I’ve misinterpreted this.

“So, you’re talking about the Brosnan/Russo version?” Mac asks quietly as she takes a seat on one of the bar stools on the other side of the island.

I jump in, hoping this is her opening for me to salvage the night, maybe our whole lives. “Well yeah, Mac. You gotta admit that was a really hot scene. Not to mention the dancing at the black and white ball, then there’s the...”

Oh my god I can’t believe I almost mentioned the topless beach scene! Sure, just exactly what I need to bring up right now: a cinematic re-enactment of the prelude to the most awful, misunderstood moment in our entire relationship.

Thanking whatever gods held my tongue long enough for my Mac-fogged mind to catch up (hey, doesn’t a guy get any slack for just staying sentient around the woman he loves so much he can’t tell her?), I trail off with “the, you know, burning the crate at the beach house on the island.”

I peek above the counter top, feinting filling the dishwasher’s detergent cups. She seems to be considering the point. I watch her come to a conclusion. Or maybe a strategy. I hope it’s a conclusion.

“So you don’t think any of the movies I brought to watch tonight will help.” I know arch when I hear it. This is a strategy and I’m in trouble.

“Perhaps you have some other suggestions?”

“True Lies,” I blurt out. Ohmygod, do I really want to die tonight? I know Mac has seen every Arnold Swarzenegger movie ever made. Several times.

Her eyes narrow and I know she knows where this is going. Or, to be more precise, where I was hoping it was going. Just like that pathetic character in the movie. “You think we need to practice pretending to be married?” Not quite a hiss, but there are certainly deadly overtones in her voice.

RETREAT! REGROUP! Listen to your inner Admiral, Harm. Feel the force and find a way to diffuse this.

I straighten up, hoping to project an image of benign intention. “Well, Mac, maybe we should. We’ve been Butch and Sundance so long I don’t have a clue how to behave as your husband.”

“Yes, Harm, we have been Butch and Sundance for a long time.” Her voice is getting a little lower now and it resonates in my lower parts. She is gonna kill me tonight, whether she means to or not.

“Has it ever occurred to you, Harm, that they’re both men?”

“Really good looking men, Mac. I mean Robert Redford is a great looking guy, especially back then.” I see her eyes widen a bit, her head tilts and a funny look comes across her face.

“So you think Redford’s handsome, eh Harm?”

“Well, yeah Mac. Who wouldn’t?”

Her eyebrows lift just slightly. What’s surprising about me thinking Robert Redford’s good looking? Sometimes she is such a total mystery to me.

“Harm,” what’s with this quasi-menacing inquisitor tone I’m hearing? “Has it ever occurred to you that I’m a woman?”

What!?! Oh damn. ‘Mayday, mayday’ rockets through my brain. She’s leaning over the island, which somehow, coincidentally, gives me a fabulous view of her cleavage. Even a little hint of lace. Is she doing that on purpose?

Oh god, my jeans are suddenly intolerably tight. Why does she have to do this now? Give me a break. I can’t go after her; I can’t survive without her. This is becoming painful. Women have it so much easier. They can hide it when they’re aroused. Well, mostly. But there is that pupil dilation thing. The telltale arterial pulse in the neck if you know to look for it. The often unconscious parting and licking of the lips, the lowering of the eyelids, the sharp intake of breath.

What on earth am I doing to myself?? It’s bad enough I have a raging hardon just because she said ‘Has it ever occurred to you I’m a woman?’ Now I’m adding to that by listing the ways I’ve watched her for signs she responds to me as much as I respond to her? I must be crazy, or a masochist.

“Of course, Mac. Why would you even ask that?” Dropping chaff furiously, praying she goes for it.

“Because Sundance is a man, Harm.”

“Hey, you were the one who claimed him for your alter ego. I remember quite clearly. It was your idea.” Good misdirection I think. Whenever you have no defense, go on the offense I always say.

“Well, maybe I don’t want to be a good looking man anymore. Maybe I want to be woman.”

Just what is she doing with her voice now? I’m not sure but I do know what it’s doing to me. Good thing the kitchen island is blocking her view of my lower half.

“Oh, OK Mac. So we need to think up a woman criminal with a male partner. How ‘bout Bonnie and Clyde?”

“Harm, you do know that rumor has it Clyde was impotent...right?”

“Warren Beatty can’t get it up?” Wow, I never knew.

Mac releases a sigh that screams ‘I’m exasperated with my idiot partner.’ “I’m sure that would come as a big surprise to Annette Benning, Harm. Not Warren Beatty, Clyde Barrow, the real Clyde. You do know the difference between an actor and his character....right?”

Hey, my turn to be indignant. “Oh course, Mac.”

”Yeah well it just sounded like you confused Robert Redford with Sundance and Warren Beatty with Clyde within the space of 1 minute and 13 seconds. Or is it that you’d prefer me to be a handsome man?”

Her eyebrows raise just a bit as she leans further forward on the counter. She *has* to know what that move’s doing to her chest, breasts, v-neck t-shirt. Damnit, I’m drowning here.

“Of course not Mac. You can be a woman whenever you want.”

‘I don’t believe I just said that’ ricochets through my mind as I see the same sentiment momentarily cross her face. Only to be replaced with a look I have come to fear. I’m not just thinking I might be a dead man; now I’m hearing ‘Taps’.

“Well Harm, that’s mighty accommodating of you, seeing as though I’ve been a woman all my life.” She slowly, sensuously curls her body up from the counter and starts walking, no, slinking, around it. Towards me! Gotta stop this or I’m gonna be so busted and so embarrassed.

“OK Mac, wanna be Ma Barker?” The transformation of her face is instant and unmistakable. I may be lucky to survive the next few seconds.

“Harm,” this is no longer quasi-menacing, this is downright life-threatening, “have you ever seen a picture of Ma Barker?” Man, she’s really pissed off. “And that would make you, what, MY SON?”

Boy, I really did luck out having the island between us. I congratulate myself momentarily at throwing chaff that buys me enough time to unwind my over-wound engines. I know, kinda tricky and deceitful to get her mad so I won’t be embarrassed by my suddenly too-tight jeans, but hey, a man has to preserve his dignity. Trying to make amends now that I’ve calmed myself down by riling her up I agree with her, “Well, now that you mention it....Ma Barker probably isn’t a good choice.”

Her eyes narrow and I swear I hear the stream of nasty epithets she’s thinking of hurling at me. Then her eyebrows raise up even higher (didn’t know she had any elevation left in them). “How ‘bout Boris and Natasha?” She suggests way too innocently.

Hey, maybe she’s onto something here. They were spies, Natasha was tall and stacked. Wait a minute! Boris was like 4 feet tall and totally incompetent. A well-aimed glower is all it takes to convey my feelings about that pairing. “I think not, Mac.”

“Just a suggestion, Harm.” I recognize her offer of detente and gladly take it.

“How ‘bout I make some tea and we kick back a minute. I think this thing has us both a bit uneasy.” I know I am. On the one hand it seems too absolutely ridiculous from reading Webb’s file (didn’t anyone in the CIA watch TV in the ‘60’s?). Or it’s far more dangerous than any of us has suspected.

I bring the tea in and settle next to Mac on the couch. I’m not sure how to bring this up, but as partners I have to tell her my suspicions. “Mac, after reading Webb’s file today I have a theory about this, whatever it is.”

“I think it’s called a mission or an op, Harm.” She gives me that ‘Marine’ look.

“Yeah, yeah. But I don’t think it’s what Webb thinks it is.” I twist my tea mug on the coffee table, wishing I had a stir stick to chew on. They always seem to help me think through things when Mac’s so close I can smell her.

“It’s just there are things that seem a lot like stuff from old TV shows.” I can hear exactly how ridiculous that sounds.

“Really, Harm. Kinda like the stuff from that old Arnold movie you wanted to reenact tonight?” She’s scooting closer on the couch, has turned her shoulders towards me and’s placed her right hand on my chest. Am I finally gonna be able to hug her without a friend losing his leg or is she getting ready to kill me with her bare hands in any one of the umpteen ways she’s been trained? Please, please, please, let it be the former.

Totally not sure how to play this but here we go....”Well Mac, as geeky as the guy was, and as gnarly his attempt to seduce her by posing as a spy was, his basic premise was valid. If we’re going to a party tomorrow night posing as husband and wife, we better be able to convince people we are husband and wife.”

OK, I think that sounded reasonable.

“Harm, do you know how many husbands and wives barely talk to one another, much less ‘relate’?”

I hear the pain behind that. Damn. Of course, Rangle and Bugme and her father. Damn. If I could do it without getting locked away from her for the rest of my life, every man who ever hurt her would be dead. Fortunately for me, most of them already are.

Taking my hand away from fidgeting with my tea mug, I place it as gently as I can on her upper arm. With my other hand I draw her slowly in towards my chest.

“Mac, we’ve hugged each other before. We’ve held each other and comforted each other. I’m not suggesting anything more right now,” (I sure hope she caught that ‘right now’ part). “I’m just saying that we might need to practice a little before we are convincing as husband and wife.”

She settles onto my chest. I feel her relax. Even hear a hint of a sigh I think. (Or hope.) “You remember what happened to the fake spook in ‘True Lies’ that tried to seduce Jamie Leigh Curtis?” She says this in an almost sleepy voice, but I remember that movie all too well.

“Arnold held him over a hydroelectric dam and he ended up wetting himself” she says with a little chuckle as she snuggles in deeper, wrapping her arms tighter around my waist and shoulders. Can we say ‘mixed messages’ here? Like I’m supposed to know what to do now??

“Mac, I’m not trying to seduce you with a cheesy re-creation of an even cheesier part of a movie.” Not that I wouldn’t love to seduce you. Want to seduce you. Have wanted to seduce you for the last couple of years and can’t seem to get the courage.

She sighs in a way that scares me. I’m not sure if it’s acceptance of me not trying to seduce her or affirmation that she thinks she’s not the woman I desire most of all. Neither of which I’m gonna let stand in her mind tonight.

“Just keep relaxed against me, like you are right now, Mac. Let me hold you a bit, stroke you a bit. Tomorrow night I’ll have my arm around you, my hand at the small of your back. I’ll give you little touches on the forearm, or the back of the hand. Maybe the cheek. Remember, we’re so in love we can barely be apart.”

Our cover story is just a little too close for comfort for me, but Mac seems to be relaxing into it, into me even more. Good god. If I could meld this woman into my body and soul even more than she is right now I would.

“So, Mac, you think you’ll be OK, I mean you won’t give us away, if I give you a little nuzzle tomorrow night?” I wait for her physical response. I can’t see her face, but her body gives her away more often than she’d like to know.

“Harm, why would you need to ‘nuzzle’ me tomorrow night?” she asks very quietly. She’s still relaxed in my arms, snuggled into my embrace.

OK, here we go. I can still claim “mission” as cover-up if this turns into a disaster.

“Because Mac, you’re my wife. The woman I sleep with every night. Who I’ve made love to hundreds of times...you can’t get tense if I just nuzzle your neck a little.” As I nuzzle and caress I feel her framing her response.

“And you’re my husband. The man whose snores wake me up at night. The one who leaves his dirty socks on the bedroom floor. The guy who doesn’t shave on Sunday because all he’s gonna do is sit on the couch, watch sports, drink beer and burp.” As she traces little patterns on my chest. Ouch.

Is that really what kind of a husband she thinks I’d be? “Maaac, you know me better than that. I don’t snore, I’m obsessively tidy and until recently didn’t even own a TV. I’d be a good husband to you.” I feel her tense briefly (maybe I went a bit too far with that), then relax.

“In your dreams, flyboy,” she laughs.

“All the time, Mac.” Well now, that did just kinda pop out there didn’t it? She slowly lifts her eyes to me. This is what they call ‘the moment of truth’ isn’t it? I give her my most sincere, open, honest and (I hope) non-threatening look. Her eyes dilate, her lips part minisculely, she takes a short but sharp intake of air...yes!!! These are all most excellent signs. She doesn’t have to say a word. Message sent loud and clear.

She knows it too. We both slightly raise our eyebrows at one another, lower our chins a bit and continue to plunder the depths of the other’s eyes as our foreheads meet.

“Well,” she says in a slightly amazed tone, “that will make it easier for us to act like husband and wife, won’t it now.”

I simply nod. We’ve turned a corner, but I have a feeling the speed limit on this next stretch is gonna be kinda slow.


A/N: OK I dare you. Google Alfred E. Neuman and you’ll get a picture. Tell me he doesn’t bear a stricking resemblance to Webb (and visa versa).


Chapter 2: Mr. Addams I Presume?

Harm’s Loft
North of Union Station
0700 (local), Friday, July 20

As I drag myself kicking and screaming to consciousness, I hear an additional alarm going off. It’s my ‘Mac’ alarm. No god, don’t let anything happen to her. Take me instead.

I know bargaining with ‘the Big Guy’ doesn’t work but what can I say, I’m a lawyer and negotiation is in my blood.

Rolling over I’m finding nothing but empty space. Grrrrr. This could drive a man mad. That incredibly erotic dream was just a dream. Damn.

Stumbling into the shower I console myself by remembering how good it felt to hold her on the couch last night. Hold her and kiss her. And nuzzle her neck. She has a great neck, a world class neck. Moreover, wonder of wonders, I finally let her know that I want us to be much more than friends and partners.

OK, I’ll admit I came in the back door, obliquely, using a cheesy character in a old Scharwzenegger movie to do it (not exactly the direct line to the truth I usually pursue). But I did do it. And she didn’t run out the door screaming. Or slap me. Or laugh either.

That’s significant progress in my book.

Sure hope Mac’s reading the same book.


JAG Ops
0830 (local), Friday, July 20

Walking into the break room I hear Harriet exclaim “Really? That’s so exciting, ma’am!” She and Mac see me and both attempt blasé faces. Attempt, not achieve. Oh hell, what has Mac said? To Harriet the office newsletter of all people! I love her like a sister but she spreads gossip like Johnny spread apple seeds.

Trying to be nonchalant as I pour my coffee, I ask “what’s so exciting Harriet?”

“You two going to the Addams house tonight, sir! Gosh, everybody knows how exclusive their weekly cocktail gatherings are. Nobody but the cream of the new DC society gets invited.”

‘Everybody knows?’ ‘New DC society?’ Who’s ‘everybody’ and what happened to the ‘old DC society’, not that I knew them either.

“And you know this how, Harriet?”

“Well, sir, the Addams are mentioned in the society columns all the time. But it’s funny, I’ve never seen a picture of them. That’s kinda weird, most big society types like getting their picture in the paper,” she muses.

Oh, I think I know why they don’t like their picture taken.

“I’ll give you as full a report as I can, Harriet,” Mac says. “But you know it is an undercover mission, so your lips are sealed, right?”

Harriet’s head bobs like one of those silly dolls. I clamp my lips around a stir stick to hold the smile to a minimum. Yes, I think Mac has decided that this ‘op’ is bogus at best. Sure hope we’re both right.


Harm’s office
Later that afternoon

I sense her before I look up. I really do always know where she is, which is why I knew she wasn’t actually in my bed before I was fully conscious this morning. I’m gonna fix that situation soon. My bed, her bed, a new bed in a new place, I’m not particular about the details.

I look up. Man, she looks great in that uniform. Can’t wait to see her in a cocktail dress tonight.

“So Harm, are you ready to be my loving and attentive husband tonight?”

Slowly standing up, I give her my most open and sincere look. “Mac, I’ve been ready to be that for a long time. How ‘bout you? Are you ready to be my loving and attentive wife? Oh yeah, sexy too.”

Oh man, she was so not prepared for that. Good thing she had one hand on my door frame; she almost staggered. Maybe I should’ve tempered it a bit. I can see her processing and reprocessing my statement. Yep, she’s hit on the fact she qualified hers with “tonight” and I didn’t. Suck it up, Marine. I’m forcing you to deal with it, with me, with us.

Nope, she’s not biting. At least not right now. I watch her regroup.

“OK Harm.” Big, deep inhale. “How ‘bout you pick me up at 1800?”

“Sounds good. See you then.” I figure I better back off a little or Mac’s gonna make a ‘strategic retreat’ (Marines don’t turn tail and run, or so I’ve been told).


Mac’s apartment, Georgetown
1800 (local), Friday, July 20

I dressed carefully tonight. Truth to be told, I always dress carefully. Even if it’s just my favorite old jeans and a t-shirt. I’m a bit of a clothes horse. Not something I broadcast, but not something I’m ashamed of either. What’s wrong with wanting to look good? So it’s my charcoal Armani tonight with deep blue silk shirt and matching tie. (Hey, I don’t have many suits, so I splurge on the few I do buy. After all, I’m stuck in uniforms 90% of the time, I deserve really good civilian suits...at least that’s the rationalization I’m going with.)

Mac opens her door a millisecond after my knock.

Wow. I may have dressed carefully. She dressed to kill. Good god, does she have any idea how she looks? Of course she does, I admonish myself. But does she realize that every man, and I’d bet quite a few women, who sees her tonight is gonna want to have their way with her? I sure do. I’m frantically trying to think up reasons we can ignore this assignment and spend the rest of the night (hell, the whole weekend) in her bed.

“Hey Harm, you look nice. New suit?”

How can she be so casually picking up her purse when she’s just reduced me to a puddle begging for favors? Need to redirect my mind.

“Yeah Mac. Longer jacket, four button, no vents are the style this year. And look at this,” I open my jacket for her, “see how the pleats on the pants become the belt loops? Pretty neat, eh?”

OK, I might have overdone that judging from the strange look she’s giving me. “So, you ready?” I offer her my arm, she slips hers in it and away we go.


The Addams Manse
McLean, VA
1830 (local), Friday, July 20

“Hey Mac, nice house, eh?” House? Too big to be called a house, not quite big enough to be called a castle. I guess that’s why the term ‘mansion’ came into being.

Giving me on of her patented ‘Mac’ looks, she presses the doorbell.

We both jump a bit at the sound. That is no ordinary doorbell. Sounds more like the bells of Notre Dame.

The massive door slowly creaks open. Jeez, you’d think people who can afford this kind of house could afford some oil for the irritatingly squeaky hinges.

Holy shit! Is that Mr. Addams? God, I hope not. I’m 6’4” and looking seriously upward at this guy. He must be at least 6’9” and .... gray. His face is shades of gray. And he’s in a tux. The biggest tux I’ve ever seen (and last year’s style I note, notched lapels are so out this year).

He’s simply standing there, looking at us. Guess I better say something. I swallow. “Good evening. I’m Don Parker and this is my wife, Kay. We were asked to drop by for cocktails with the Addams tonight.”

He merely steps back, gestures with his arm for us to enter. Maybe he’s mute? That would go well with the hunchback I’m now convinced is hiding somewhere on the third floor, ringing the doorbell.

He lumbers down the hall and we follow. What else can we do? He stops at an archway, turns and does that arm-beckoning thing again. Mac and I peer around the edge of the archway into an enormous room (hall? ballroom?) filled with people.

“Urrghhh,” rumbles out of the giant.

“Thank you.” Not exactly brilliant, but at least polite given I have no idea what he was saying.

I drape my arm around Mac’s shoulders and turn my mouth to her ear. “Dee, dee, dee, dee, dee, dee, dee, dee” I pipe the classic opening notes of the Twilight Zone theme.

“Harm, what are you doing?” She’s looking at me suspiciously.

“Maac...Twilight Zone?” Hey, she has to admit that butler was way past normal.

“Yes, Harm, it usually is twilight this time of night.” She’s on the verge of getting pissed, I can tell. She also doesn’t have a clue how truly bizarre this is. And judging from the looks of the gentleman coming towards us, it’s gonna get a lot more bizarre real fast.

He’s dressed in a chalk pinstripe black suit, double breasted, notched lapels (way too wide for this season), has a haircut that looks like someone put a small bowl on his head and followed the rim, a mustache and is smoking a cigar. He fairly oozes a kind of oily goodwill.

“You must be the Parker’s,” he’s pumping my hand in a handshake I’ll be hard put to not want to wipe off once he’s done. “Don, right? And your beautiful wife Kay! My, aren’t you the lucky man?” He’s done with me and has taken Mac’s hand. Oh god, he’s not really gonna kiss the back of her hand, is he? Yes he is! Yes he does! Good thing she had that Marine discipline going full bore or the guy’d be roadkill.

“Mr. Addams, thank you for inviting us to your lovely home.” I’m gonna fall back on courtesy and hope to get out of what looks like a utterly peculiar event without major repercussions.

“My pleasure, Don. You don’t mind me calling you Don, do you? Please, call me Gomez.” He waves his cigar and waggles his eyebrows. OK, I know I waggle my eyebrows too, but mine don’t cause a breeze when I do it.

“Come, I must introduce you to my wife. My Tisha.” He’s wrapped his arm around a woman so thin and so pale I’m not totally convinced she’s alive. Well, she is standing up, so she must be alive, at least a little bit. She has long too black hair (I thought goth had run its course, guess not in this house) and is wearing a full length black dress that fits like a glove. Wait, it’s more than full length. What’s with the little V’s of fabric that spread out from the bottom? That’s not a train, it’s a corral. How does she walk in that thing? On the other hand, given I’m still not totally convinced she’s alive, maybe she doesn’t need to be able to walk.

“Oh Gomez,” she speaks, she must be alive. “Are these the Parkers? I’ve been so looking forward to meeting you. We have so much in common.” She extends her hand to me. What? Is she expecting me to kiss it? No way! I settle for clasping it with both hands and giving a little nod while wondering ‘what the hell do we have in common and what did Webb once again not tell us about this op?’

“Now, now, my Tisha,” Gomez admonishes in a most gentle way as he briefly rubs his cheek against her neck.

Jeez, I think, that’s a pretty audacious move to make in front of a couple they just met, not to mention in this crowd. Guess he’s a pretty audacious guy. Yeah, right Rabb. The guy’s name is Gomez Addams, he calls his wife ‘my Tisha’ and has a butler who’s 6’9” and gray. What was your first clue?

“Plenty of time to talk business with the Parkers later, mon chere. Let’s have a little fun first.”

That had to be the worst fake French accent I’ve ever heard.

“You’re so right, darling.” Tisha strokes his face; I think I’m gonna gag. She turns to us. “Why don’t you two mingle for a while. I bet there are people here you know. If not, I’m positive there are people here you’d like to know.” Her smile would give a gingerbread man cavities.

“I’m sure. Yes, maybe we’ll catch up with you later.” Surprisingly, my mouth is still able to form words.

Mac and I wander through the cavernous room, stopping by the buffet. “Harm,” Mac says with trepidation.

“What?” I snap back to her from my hopefully unobtrusive scanning of the room and its population.

“I don’t recognize anything on this buffet.”

Her voice sounds a little shaky, so I steer my attention to the ... ‘food’? Woah, I don’t recognize anything either, but I think I detect some movement in the bowl of whatever. Yep, whatever it is, it’s moving. I think we should be too.

“Mac, I think we should stay away from the food and drink here. This crowd looks like it may indulge in recreational substances we’d rather avoid.”

“Damn, and here all day long I’ve been looking forward to crab puffs, caviar, oysters, shrimp, steak tartar, brie cheese...,” my Marine looks so wistful I just have to give her a hug.

Pulling her into my embrace I whisper in her ear, “Mac, I’ll give you all that and more.”

Boy, these bold statements have been just popping out lately, haven’t they?

“Harm, is this you testing my ability to pretend to be your wife?”

“No Mac, this is me telling you I want to give you all you want to have.” I think my heart stops while I wait for her response.

“Oh. OK.”

What the hell does that mean?

Reluctantly releasing her from my embrace, I steer her by the elbow around the room. We pause and examine various pieces of artwork. We engage in light, but decidedly strange, conversation with a few people.

“Mac, have you noticed that almost everyone here is dressed in black and white?”

She looks around the room. “I don’t know Harm, I see an awful lot of shades of gray.”

“My point exactly!”

Her look says she gets no such point.

“Harm, rather than focusing on the fashion show, maybe you might notice the guys strategically placed around the perimeter of the room. The one’s who look like they have bulges under their left arm. You know, just where you might have a holster.”

“Yeah, I noticed them Mac, but really, I think the more important thing is everybody dressed in black and white.”

“And gray.”

“Exactly. Glad you’re finally getting it, Mac.”

“Jeez Harm, think you could get in character here? There are guys with guns standing around.”

“This Addams guy’s such a cartoon I’m having a hard time, Mac.”

“Think of it as a part you’re playing. Hell, Harm, I’ve seen you play a part in the courtroom many times.”

“But that’s easy. Important things are on the line then.”

“And national security and our lives aren’t important??”

Well, when you put it like that.

“There’s more to it than that, Mac. It’s like they don’t know Halloween is in October. This month is about fireworks and picnics.”

“Harm, Webb’s file said they’re from South America. The 4th of July is an American holiday. When is the Day of the Dead? Maybe they’re celebrating that.”

“Mac, this isn’t a day for them; this is a lifestyle!”

I see Gomez and Tisha (why doesn’t he just call her Morticia? He’s not fooling me with that ‘my Tisha’ nonsense) approaching us. Gee, she really can walk in that dress. Well, not really walk. More like mince.

“Don, Kay. Won’t you join my Tisha and me in my study? I have a special friend I’d like you to meet.”

“Lead the way Gomez. I’m sure any special friend of yours must be very special indeed.” No lie there.

We follow Gomez and Tisha out of the room (pretty slow going given she can barely make 5 inches a step), down the hallway and turn into a kinda alcove where an older gentleman is sitting behind a desk. He’s wearing a uniform that looks police-like, but he’s strumming a guitar. He’s also dressed in black, white and gray. I just know what’s coming.

“Andy, my good man!” Gomez enthusiastically greets the uniformed man. “How are you tonight?”

“Weelll Mr. Addams, can’t say I have any complaints tonight.”

“Andy here is the chief of my security team.” Gomez beams with pride.

Yeah, and some crack security team it must be. What with no video monitors, no evidence of audio communication (Mac may think I didn’t pay enough attention to the gun-toting goons but I did) and the chief of it all noodling around on a guitar.

“Don and Kay Parker, Andy. They’re gonna be good friends of ours.”

Andy nods pleasantly. “Nice to meet ya.”

Gomez leads us past the alcove as Andy resumes strumming his guitar.

“He was sheriff for years in the little town I grew up in. His nickname was ‘the griffin’” Gomez confides. “Body of a lion, head of an eagle and wings to swoop down on his prey.”

“I thought you grew up in South America.”

“I did.”

OK, then why does Andy sound like he’s from Kentucky? No matter, I know why. Mac elbows me. I shoot her a look. She’s still not getting this but I’m about to lose it. The next character I meet’s gonna get as good as they give.

We enter what Gomez calls his study. I’d call it a library fit for a small town. Floor to ceiling shelves filled with beautiful leather-bound books line the walls. Not one but two fireplaces grace opposite ends of the room. Long oak tables with comfortable chairs occupy the center while wing-backed chairs grouped in inviting conversation arrangements flank the fireplaces. A beautiful bar, fully equipped and stocked so it seems, completes the decor. Well, I thought it did until I turned around. The most gigantic desk I’ve ever seen dominates the other end of the room.

This is a study like the QE2 is a dingy.

“Oh, looks like Chester isn’t here yet,” Gomez states as he leads Tisha to a wing chair. Watching that woman sit down is like watching a praying mantis fold itself in half. Creepy.

“What’ll you have Don, Kay?” Gomez asks with interest from behind the bar.

‘Chester’? The ‘special friend’ is named Chester? That’s it. I’m all in for this game now.

“Dry martini, shaken, not stirred, please.” I say without a trace of amusement.

“Coming right up!” Gomez replies. You gotta give it to him, he’s nothing if not enthusiastic about this strange persona he’s adopted.

Fortunately, looks can not kill and I survive Mac’s thermonuclear gaze. “Nothing, thanks Gomez.”

I turn as I hear a door open behind me. How can that be? The only door to the room is in front of me. Well, except for that one that is cleverly built to look like all the rest of the bookcases.

In walks a slightly rotund bald man in what looks to be a Franciscan Friars habit. Full length black robe. Unless I miss my guess, this will be Brother Chester.

“Chester, my good man!” It seems that Gomez knows no one but good men. “Come meet two new friends.”

As Chester walks across the room Gomez expounds upon their relationship. “Brother Chester is a Franciscan monk who has served the spiritual needs of the small village I grew up in for some 40 years now. He’s been a close friend and advisor to my family for as many. In fact, I grew up thinking of him more as...”

“An Uncle?” I can’t help myself. Uncle Chester. OK. If Gomez offers me a cigar out of that humidor on his desk I’m gonna accept just to see if a disembodied hand gives it to me.

“Brother Chester,” I reach for a handshake. “Parker, Don Parker.” I intone in my best 007 imitation.

I hear Mac’s little choking gasp. Well, at least she didn’t miss that one.

“Honey,” Mac’s voice belies the grip she has on my arm. It may look innocent but I’m sure there’ll be bruises in the morning. I have a feeling I should pay attention to her right now.

“Yes dear?”

How can she look loving and like she wants to slap me upside my head at the same time? Guess they teach that at Parris Island.

“You know we promised the widow Clay we’d stop by tonight, and she goes to bed early.”

The widow Clay? Oh right, Spider Webb.

“Yes, dear.” I turn to Gomez and Tisha. “I’m so sorry to cut this evening short, but my wife is right. We do have other obligations tonight.”

“And they sound like important ones. Good to know you have the moral rectitude I’ve heard about you. Looking in on elderly widows is a most righteous task.” Gomez is so pumped up I’m dodging his wildly waving cigar brandishing hand.

“Tell you what,” he continues. “If you’re not busy tomorrow afternoon, why don’t you come on by. My Tisha and I are having a small gathering of friends. Much smaller than this giant crowd. Just a couple dozen for swimming and barbecue. Nothing fancy.”

Mac and I silently consult for a moment. “That sounds wonderful, Gomez. I rarely pass up an opportunity to admire my wife in a bikini.”

Oops. Based on the increased pressure of her hand I’m gonna be paying for that comment with bruises too.

Gomez’ eyebrows start near hurricane-force winds. “I’d think not, my man. I must admit, I’m looking forward to it myself. Drop by ‘round noon.”

And with that he steps away, the butler materializes (how can a guy that big sneak around?) and we’re shown to the door.

“Thank you,” I say to the looming gray presence.

“Urrgghh.”


Inside Harm’s Lexus
En route to Mac’s apartment
2000 hours (local), Friday, July 20

“Mac, those folks are creepy.”

“Well Harm, they are criminals who traffic internationally in military secrets, what'd’ya expect, Mr. and Mrs. Cleaver?”

Hey, she has watched some classic TV! Gotta leverage this to get her to see my point.

“Actually Mac, I always thought the Cleavers were creepy too. I mean, even in the 50’s you had to be out of touch with reality as we know it to clean the house wearing a pearl necklace. And that whole Beaver nickname thing. What was that all about? Even if they didn’t know how most people use it...”

OK, I’ve racked up enough Mac disapproving glares for one night...

”well, at least most boys. Anyway, beyond that, why would they nickname their son after an animal known for its buck teeth? Jeez, you’d think they were trying to give the kid a major inferiority complex. ‘Course, Jerry Mathers did kinda look like a beaver what with his chubby cheeks and teeth and all...” drifting off seeing Mac’s look.

Hey, what can I say? The truth sometimes hurts.

“Maac,” I’ve got to get through to her on this. ‘National Security’ and all. “The guy calls himself Gomez Addams, calls his wife ‘my Tisha’ and has an Uncle Chester as a longtime family advisor? Didn’t you ever see reruns of the Addams Family? Or either of the movies? Read a New Yorker magazine? They’re part of our cultural landscape!”

“Harm, you’ve got to let go of this Nickelodeon sitcom rerun fantasy you’re stuck in.”

“Hey, it’s not a fantasy!”

“OK, fixation, whatever.”

“Maac, I’m not the one walking around impersonating the Addams Family. It’s their fixation, not mine.”

We both retreat into self-righteous pouts. I need to think about something else for a minute. Let myself cool off a bit before I re-approach Mac.

Hhmm, June & Ward Cleaver. What’s a name like Ward? Robin was Batman’s ward. Mattie is my ward. What’s with naming someone ward? Solid evidence that Cleaver name-cruelty goes back at least two generations.

“Mac, have you ever thought about why Ward Cleaver was named ‘Ward’?”

“Harm, if you know what’s good for you, you’ll drive safely and stay quiet until you silently drop me off at my apartment. And I pray that by tomorrow morning when we brief the Admiral and Webb you’ll have a somewhat less colorful perspective on the events of this evening.”

“But Mac, that’s my point! They were in black and white!”

Oomph! That jab to the ribs is gonna show tomorrow. Doesn’t she realize I’m gonna have to explain all these bruises when we play pool side guests with the Addams Family?

Better work on that.

Chapter 3: This Situation Is a Joke


Adm. Chegwidden’s office
JAG HQs
0900 (local), Saturday, July 21

“Admiral, I really don’t think there is anything going on with the Addams.” I’ve spent most of the last two hours trying to figure out how to frame this so it doesn’t sound like I’m the one who’s losing it.

“Sir, I respectfully disagree. The Addams acted quite too gregarious to be meeting a couple they’d been asked to invite to a gathering that numbered over a hundred. It was clear to me that they expected more from this encounter than just a social exchange.”

I stop myself from hanging my head. Mac is gonna force me to put my suspicions on the table and I’m just not ready. After all, how can I say ‘I think the CIA’s stumbled onto a bunch of wackos that are living in a ‘60’s TV sitcom fantasy world’ without sounding crazy myself?

“Furthermore...,” oh great, this is where Mac adds insult to injury, or to be more accurate, bruises. Still working on the excuses for the pool party. ‘Just happened to run into a doorknob, several times’ isn’t gonna cut it. When will that woman come to grips with her strength before she grips me with it?

“...there were armed guards around the perimeter of the room the cocktail party was held in.” She’s just not gonna stop, is she.

“Commander?” AJ’s look leaves no wiggle room.

“Admiral, I’ll agree that my first impression was Mr. Addams seemed a trifle over-enthusiastic at meeting us, but I subsequently noticed him exhibit the same demeanor with everyone he met. Even his staff.” Hiding behind fancy words and sentence structure is such an easy subterfuge; sometimes I really love being a lawyer.

“And the armed guards, Mr. Rabb?”

Except those times when I’m facing an interrogation by someone who is (a) my CO, (b) an excellent lawyer and (c) a former SEAL. This is when it’s time to know when to fold them.

“There were men positioned around the perimeter of the room who had the size and attitude of private security. I never saw any weapons,” I shoot a glance at Mac. Did she? I get a tiny head shake in confirmation (yeah! she’s still speaking to me!).

“I concur with the Colonel’s assessment that they did have bulges under their coats. But Admiral, that party had about a hundred people, all wealthy, all excellent targets for kidnapping or who knows what these days. It doesn’t surprise me that the Addams would have security. For all we know, some of those guys were some of the guests’ security.”

I check Mac’s eyes, I scan the Admiral’s eyes, finally I force myself to look at Webb. God, he makes my skin crawl. What a weenie. No wonder he keeps coming to JAG for help on his ops. I’ll bet no one in the company will get within a mile of such a screw-up.

Webb pushes himself off the wall he’d been so insolently lounging against. “So, what else did you notice, Rabb?”

Putting the “I’ll kill him later for tacitly ignoring my partner’s opinion about this” in my score book for the moment, I regard him carefully.

“Webb, how did you initially stumble across these folks?” I know he’s not gonna like the ‘stumble’ thing, but hey, like I said, the truth hurts sometimes.

“That’s ‘need to know’ Rabb. You don’t.”

God how he loves to hide behind that. Somehow something about this crazy whateveritis (I’m still not calling it an op) is telling me it’s gonna give Webb just enough rope to hang himself. Oh please, oh please I supplicate to the powers, whatever they may be.

“Well Webb, the one thing that really stands out in my mind is the way everyone was dressed. They were all wearing clothes that were black and white...”

“some various shades of gray..” Mac fills in. Hey, has she just jumped back on my side? One look and I know it’s true. Oh boy, am I a happy man. Now, back to flattening Webb.

“All the clothes were of a ‘60’s or early ‘70’s style. The brief, casual conversations we had with people at the party were...” I have no idea how to phrase this. I look at Mac. ‘Help me, please.’

“The people we spoke to at the party seemed a little behind the times, sir.”

Wisely, Mac has addressed the Admiral rather than the spider jerk.

“Like how, Colonel?”

“Well, they seemed to think that hula hoop was a national passion and that the Beatles were a, and I quote, ‘one hit wonder’.”

Seems like AJ has considerable elevation in his eyebrows too. Not that I’m keeping score or anything.

Webb hurrumphs. I thought you had to have at least 2 stars to hurrumph. Guess not.

“That’s what happens when you live under a totalitarian dictatorship. A repressive, brutal despot....” Webb is spewing Cold War nonsense as justification for targeting the Addams.

“Or it is in character if you have adopted a ‘60’s or ‘70’s TV sitcom character as your public persona.” I say this quietly, looking intently at the Admiral. It all hinges on him believing me.

I watch him think.

“Commander. I want you and the Colonel to attend the Addams’ pool party this afternoon. Continue to gather whatever intelligence you can about them and their associates. But you are not to, under any circumstances, confront the Addams or put yourselves in danger. Am I understood?”

Mac and I jump to attention. “Yes sir.”

“Webb,” AJ spears his attention on the spook. “Is there anything else we ‘need to know’ about this mission that seems to be snafued? Like where you got your original intel? What it said? What sort of operation are we looking for here?”

I’ve been on the receiving end of that stare, those kind of questions from the Admiral and all I can say is I’m glad it’s not me this time.

“Well,” Webb is clearly starting to fray.

“Yes?”

If one word could put a man under, the Admiral saying that like that would be it.

“I have a man on the inside.”

The Admiral erupts before I get to. Boy, he’s fast.

“YOU HAVE A MAN ON THE INSIDE? And you risk my people??? What the hell is your man on the inside doing?”

Chegwidden in full fury is a force of nature wonderful to behold, as long as you’re out of the way of his path.

“Getting recon, assessing the situation...” Webb’s becoming unglued. Good. I’d love to see him fall apart on the floor right here in front of the Admiral’s desk.

“He’s ready to help Rabb and MacKenzie this afternoon.”

Right, Webb. Right after you notify him of that *after* this meeting. Like I’m gonna trust any help from you or your goonies. Fat chance.

“Look, Admiral,” I hear Webb making his last, best plea. “It’s Spy vs. Spy out there in the real world.”

Did he really say that? The guy who looks too much like Alfred E. Neuman for his own good?

“Sometimes it’s Spy vs. Spy vs. Spy.” Webb shrugs and I suppress a laugh. I see the Admiral doing the same.

“So, Mr. Webb, may we assume that all these ‘spy vs. spy’s’ out there in your world wear tall pointy hats and tench coats. Obviously in black or white.” The Admiral looks so sincere it’s almost hard to see the mirth bubbling just under the surface.

Almost.

Webb looks perplexed. “Admiral, surely you don’t think that our nation’s enemies wear black trench coats and pointy hats.”

“No I don’t Mr. Webb. But I’m beginning to wonder if you do.”

I knew there was a reason I stayed in this man’s command for so many years. He’s a master.

“Commander, Colonel, you have your orders. Report back to me here as soon as you leave the Addams’ pool party.”

“Yes sir.” I love it when we respond in unison. There’s something so intimate about it. (Better not tell that to anyone else at Parris Island.)

“And that would be about when?”

“I’d expect no later than 1700. We’ll contact you if it’s gonna be later,” I assure the Admiral.

He gives us that weighty nod, the one that says he’s thought everything through and he’s with you all the way, even if just in spirit. Wow, that’s command presence.

As we walk out of his office I turn to Mac. “So, you got your bathing suit with you?”

She gives me a look that’s a dare. “You bet. Got yours?”

“Of course Mac, we were told it’s a pool party.”

“Well Flyboy, I sure hope yours has a pretty strong inner lining, cause there isn’t much to mine.”

OK, we’re driving to the Addams’ party together so it’s not really like she’s getting the last word. But ohmygod. What is she gonna wear? Or should I ask, what is she not gonna be covering?

I’m not sure if I’m in heaven or hell, but I’ve got to get out of the ‘60’s or we’ll end up in twin beds!

continued in chapter 4: A Close Shave

                                                           
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