đHgeocities.com/jaghavenarchives/Timer_ThrowAway2.htmlgeocities.com/jaghavenarchives/Timer_ThrowAway2.htmldelayedxwrÔJ˙˙˙˙˙˙˙˙˙˙˙˙˙˙˙˙˙˙˙˙ČĐКŒOKtext/html`šĚ "ÂŚ˙˙˙˙b‰.HMon, 04 Sep 2006 17:19:55 GMT)Mozilla/4.5 (compatible; HTTrack 3.0x; Windows 98)en, *urÔJÂŚ Timer_ThrowAway2

.
..And Throw Away the Key     Part 2

By  Timer:



Chapter 4:  I Want Candy

Mac’s apartment
Georgetown
1030 (local), Sunday, Dec. 2, 2001

We’re snuggled on her couch, coffee mugs in hand, fresh from a most invigorating shower-bath-shower combination.  I’d worry about getting dry skin if it wasn’t so much fun putting moisturizer on each other.

You know what they say:  cleanliness is next to godliness.  We’re in line for sainthood.

As much as I’d rather be watching anything else, we’ve got the Academy Museum security tapes playing.

We have found a new cure for insomnia.


Six hours later

“No Harm.  This is where I draw the line.  I will not watch another inch of those tapes.  There’s nothing to see but a bunch of visitors milling around a gallery for hours, then it gets dark, then that squirrely guy comes in and goes ape when he sees the Life Savers.  What, he’s never seen candy before?”

I’ve gotta agree with her on most of that.  Except it made me kinda sad to watch Brewer’s reaction.  He was truly devastated.  You’d think it was his only child who had been, in his words, ‘violated’.  Maybe that was how he felt about it.  Sure hope his mom takes good care of him this weekend.

“OK babe.  Thanks for watching all you did with me.  You’re the best.”  I kiss her first on the forehead, then on the lips, just long enough for her to know there’s more than gratitude behind it.

“So you say.”

“Only ‘cause it’s true.”  I give her a little eyebrow waggle.  “Gotta call the Admiral.”

“Yes Commander.  I see you’re still using your cell phone.  Have you sublet your loft yet?”

“Yes sir, no sir.  Colonel MacKenzie was kind enough to pitch in watching the surveillance tapes.  Her equipment is better than mine.”

Oh good god.  Please let him let that go.

“Yes Commander.  I’d have to agree with you on that.”

He leaves it hanging there.

“Her video equipment, sir.”

“And she had nothing better to do on a Sunday in December than watch security surveillance tapes?”

“I think she’s as concerned about the breech at the Academy as we are, sir.  After all, it was Marines manning the gates Friday night, patrolling the grounds.”

“So the Colonel offered to spend the afternoon together with you on the couch in her apartment out of some sense of corps solidarity?”

“Something like that, sir.”  When will he let this go?  Whoops, do I recognize my own not-so-admirable trait of twisting the knife?

I decide to shift the direction of the conversation.

“Sir, who is our new contact at Langley?”

“You mean since Webb got shipped back to Tierra del Fuego in the wake of convincing the DCI and the President that special emergency funding was needed so that a team of this country’s best cyptologists and video analyists could eat pizzas and watch Leave It To Beaver?”

“Well, sir, I did try to warn him.”

“Yes you did.   And he got what he deserved.”  The Admiral’s tone says ‘case closed’.  “Anyway, what do you need from our friends in the CIA?”

“I’d like the video goddesses to look at the tapes in the Academy matter.”

“I’ll call Director Kirshaw and let you know.”

“Aye, aye, thank you sir.”

Disconnecting I turn to Mac with my best wolfish grin.  “You know, while you were still sleeping this morning, I reviewed the case of Little Red Riding Hood vs. the Big Bad Wolf.  I’m not sure what the complainant’s issue was.”

Oh, she loves our little games.

“Harm, the Big Bad Wolf was gonna eat her.”

How she deliver those lines with such sincerity is beyond me.

“Precisely my point, my dear.  Have I ever told you what big eyes you have?”


Harm’s Office
JAG Ops
0700 (local), Monday, Dec. 3, 2001

Normally I’d never be in this early.  But Mac has this habit of being in this early.  Seems like her habits and my habits are becoming our habits.  Not a bad thing.  In fact, I think it’s a very good thing.  For example, this getting into the office early.  I’m getting more done.

Although I don’t know how I ever get anything done anymore.  It used to be the phone and meetings.  Now it’s the phone, meetings and incredible avalanches of e-mail.  It’s gotten so I flinch when I hear that little beep signaling incoming.  ‘Incoming’ is right!  Unfortunately, I haven’t found a foxhole big enough to hide from it.

Sighing, I open up my electronic mailbox and scan down the ‘unread’ list.  Hhmm, don’t recognize this sender.  VGs.  Subject:  “we hear you’re tall and need our help”.  Am I gonna get some awful virus if I open this?

I vacillate between curiosity and caution.  But it’s not like my JAG e-mail address is all that well known.  VGs.  Wait, wait!  Could this be.... I open it.  YES!  It’s them, the Video Goddesses themselves.  They wrote me!  I feel like a fan whose favorite movie star called him.

I read the e-mail with interest.  “Hear you have some tape you’d like us to examine.  What’s it this time?  Citizen Kane?  Gone With The Wind?  Wizard of Oz?  Sure would be nice to round out the collection you gave us with some classic movies.  Send it to our lab immediately and come by this morning at 0930.  Directions below.”

Wow.  I’m actually gonna get to meet them!


The Video Goddesses Lab
Secure location, DC area
0930 (local), Monday, Dec. 3, 2001

I straighten my jacket and I stride into their lab all full of confidence.  After all, I’m the ace from JAG they asked for, right?  And they know I was the one who cracked the Addams’ case.  Well, not really.  Not just me.  Mac helped, a lot.  And then there was them.  And Bud.  Don’t think we’d ever have made the case without Bud.

Gee, come to think of it, I didn’t have a whole lot to do with cracking that case, did I?  On the other hand, I certainly did end up with the best part of the deal.

Still smiling at my newfound relationship with Mac, I turn into a sort of reception area.

“Commander Harmon Rabb, JAG, here to see,”  I stumble a bit here.  What do I call them?  I only know their code names.

The woman at the desk looks me up and down.  Twice.  Slowly.  “Yes sir, they’re waiting for you,” finally replies the receptionist (gatekeeper?) and motions me toward a door.

I get about two feet past the doorway and a very determined woman in a white lab coat stops me.

“Who are are you and where do you think you’re going?”

Somehow that sounded like my fourth grade teacher on the playground.

“Commander Harmon Rabb, JAG, ma’am. Here to see ...”  There I am at a loss for words again.

She inspects my uniform, she surveys my ribbons, she scrutinizes my eyes.

“OK, you can see them.”

Well, good to see that I pass muster.

Walking into yet another office I see two lab-coated women with their backs to me.  OK, I’ve had just about enough of this.  I need to get to ‘Hope’ and ‘Barbie’ as quickly as possible.

They turn as one.

“Hello, I’m Commander Harmon Rabb, JAG and I’m here to see...” getting kinda tired of saying this line.

“Us.”  They talk as one, too?

I take an enthusiastic step closer to the video goddesses and extend my hand.  “I sure am pleased to meet you.  You two worked wonders with those DVDs and tapes last July.  We all owe you a big debt.”

Gee, although they each shake my hand, frankly I’m used to getting a more lively response when I turn on the charm.

“You got the evidence in my latest case?”  They nod.  “Where is it?”

“It’s in there,” the one with ‘Hope’ embroidered on her lab coat gestures to a room behind her.  I scan through a window in the door.  Three women in white coveralls peer back.  Looks like a lab to me.

“Great, well, let’s see what we’ve got.”  I move toward the door and they close ranks between me and it.

“That’s a ‘clean room’ Commander.”  Taking a wild guess, I’m betting that one’s Barbie.

I think I’m somewhat insulted.  “Hey, I took a shower this morning.”

Barbie’s eyes roll over to Hope.  They exchange what is easily translated as a ‘This guy is a total doofus’ glance.

I’m not used to being a doofus.  I don’t think I like being a doofus.  How have these two women, nice ladies that they are but not like the blond bimbos that used to bring me to my knees, rendered me speechless?

“We’re not questioning your personal hygiene, Commander,” Hope says with all sincerity.  “But we simply can’t have your fibers and cells in our room.”

Fibers?  Cells?  What, they think I’m just giving them out?

“Ms.....” I realize I only know their code names.  They stand white-coat-clad shoulder to shoulder with their arms crossed over their chests.  It’s a display that would make even the Admiral take a step back.

“Hope, Barbie, I don’t know what you’re talking about, but I really need to see that evidence.”  Flash the ‘little boy’ grin.

Wow.  Talk about a total flame out.

“Not gonna happen, Commander,” Barbie states emphatically.

“Do you have any idea how much you’re shedding right now?”  Hope demands.

Shedding?  Like I’m some dog?

“Ladies,” I draw myself up to my maximum height, which gives me close to a foot on them.  I don’t often use this tactic, but when pressed, well....and here I am using it twice in 24 hours?  Gotta get done with this case.

“I showered this morning and I assure you I am not in a ‘molting’ season.”  I say it with such conviction that I have even convinced myself.

But apparently not Hope and Barbie.

“Commander, you don’t have to be in ‘molting season’,” Barbie explains to me like I’m a 2 year old.  “You are ‘in season’ all year long.”

Woah.  Wait a minute.  This nice woman is telling me I’m ‘in season’?  Good god.  What has Webb done to these ladies?

Or, is it possible that it’s true?  I sure have felt pretty, umhummm, ‘frisky’ lately.  Ever since  Mac decided Gomez and Morticia were great role models.  And we’ve been hitting the replay button on that act with delightful frequency.  Maybe she’s right; I am ‘in season’.

My thoughts must have danced over my face, ‘cause an amused voice brings me back to the present.

“No, Commander.  That’s not what Barbie meant.  But, if you’re having a dry spell, maybe we could talk about it.”

My eyes explode open as my jaw drops.  Did she really say that?  I’m dying as Hope and Barbie share their private moment at my expense.

“Oh god, did you see his eyes?”  “Good heavens, his mouth!”

OK, OK.  Enough.  Jeez.

Gathering herself together, Hope clears her throat.  “Commander,” she can’t help herself, she’s laughing a little.  “You, along with every other human on this planet, ‘shed’ skin cells all the time.  It doesn’t matter how often you shower.  And because of that, unless you want to go through the procedures for us to allow you to get into our clean room, you aren’t getting in.  End of discussion.”

I pierce her with my patented ‘Rabb’ glare.  Doesn’t faze her.

I try cocking my head to one side and looking wistful.  Not a chance.

In desperation I grab my lower lip with my upper teeth and furrow my brow.  Snowballs in hell.

“Commander,” Barbie’s voice is a tad less combative than Hope’s had been.  Maybe I have a chance here?

“Just let us do our job.  You do yours.  It'll be better that way.  Don’t you think?”

She has her hand on my forearm.  In a sweet way.  It’s almost like she’s telling me to go play in the yard while the grownups talk.  But, on the other hand, she does have such a kind face.  Stunningly intelligent eyes in a very kind face.

“Hope and I saved the country millions....millions in misdirected appropriations.  We got the Spider Webb sent back where he belongs.  And, we never revealed that the initial DVD was smuggled out under very close personal quarters.”

Her eyebrows have lifted.  Mine have hit the top.  How could she know that?

“We’re analysts, Commander.  When a DVD comes in to us, we analyze all there it to know about it.  Including who might have been ‘shedding’ on it.”

I run several times a week.  I lift weights.  I play basketball.  Surely this rush of blood to my face is not gonna make me stroke out.

Good god.  Did that pleasant woman just nicely tell me that they figured out that Mac smuggled the DVD out in her bikini bottoms?  Even worse, do they think it was me???

Now Hope has flanked me on the other side.  I feel like a Rabb sandwich as Hope links her arm with mine.  They start walking me toward the door.  Most bouncers at biker bars aren’t this good.

“Commander, we really appreciate your stopping by to thank us in person,” Barbie says.

“We’ll call you as soon as we’re done testing your new evidence,” Hope continues as she opens the door.  A little push on my back from Barbie and suddenly I’m standing in the hallway.

As the door closes I hear Barbie say, “Boy, he really is tall.”

Hope’s rejoinder makes me feel about two feet shorter.  “Yeah, but the bigger they are, the easier they are to handle, don’t you think?”

With muffled laughter following me down the hall I realize that everyone in this lab is female.  I get the strange feeling that I was the morning’s entertainment.


Mac’s office
JAG Ops
1130 (local), Monday, Dec. 3, 2001

I knock on Mac’s door frame.

“Hey, Harm.  Come on in.  Have a seat.”  She waves me in as she turns back to her filing cabinet.

“Mac, I don’t believe what I’m seeing.  You’re actually filing a file in a filing cabinet?  Like putting it in a drawer that shuts?  I didn’t think you knew how to do that.”

“Ha, ha.  Very funny, Commander.  But until recently there were a number of things you didn’t know I could do, and that’s turned out pretty well, hasn’t it?”

Yikes.  Good thing I’ve stopped at her office before I dropped off my briefcase and cover.  I place them strategically across my lap.

“Maaac.”  All I get for that is the sly pixie look, complete with one eyebrow raised.  “I met the Video Goddesses this morning.  At their secret lab.”

“Really Harm.  Did they give you a decoder ring as a souvenir of your visit?”

Wow, where’s that coming from?

“And are they really ‘goddesses’?”

OK, I think I might know where this is coming from.  ‘Video Goddesses’ is a bit too close to ‘Video Princess’ for Mac.

“Well, yeah, I guess so.  They sure worked wonders on that Addams thing and they are women.  In fact, everyone in their lab is a woman.  I think I was the only man in the building.”

She rolls her eyes.  Never realized how often women did that ‘til this morning, or is it just the morning I’m having?

“Bet you loved that.”

“Well, no actually.  They asked me to come by, but they weren’t ready to show me anything.  I ended up feeling kinda stupid.  It was almost like they just wanted to see me.  Like I was the morning’s entertainment.”

Mac is very still for a moment.  Then she presses her lips together, puts her hand in front of her mouth and turns her back to me.  I can see her shoulders starting to shake.  She’s crying???  Why would that make her cry?

I get up and move behind her as close as military decorum allows.  “Mac, honey, don’t cry.”

She makes this choked snorting sound and gasps for air.  “Harm, I’m not crying.”  Turning towards me I see her wiping tears from her eyes, eyes that are alight with merriment.

“A lab full of woman, who just wanted to see you and you have any doubt that you were the morning entertainment?  Harm, you were the morning hot buns!”


Chapter 5:  It’s Elementary My Dear

Harm’s Office
JAG Ops
1145 (local), Monday, Dec. 3, 2001

I don’t have to take this.  I’m a Commander in the US Navy.  A decorated Naval Aviator.  A respected JAG attorney.  I refuse to be reduced to beefcake.

Well, if I’m truthful with myself (don’t I always say the truth is everything?) I guess I already have been.  Damn.  No wonder women hate it when it happens to them.

And those Video Goddesses.  I know they know their stuff better than I ever could, but do they have to rub it in?  Jeez.  I was born just before the computer revolution, I shouldn’t be expected to understand technology like a 30 year old.

Woah.  What a bogus allegation and even more bogus excuse.  The Goddesses didn’t ‘rub it in’, they just pointed it out.  And about that age thing, I think the Goddesses might be older than me.  Kinda blows that excuse.

Damn.

I’m fretting at my desk when Bud knocks.

“Sir?”

“Bud, come in.”  Can he hear how relieved I am to have someone to talk to?

“Sir, is something wrong?”

Yes, I guess he can.

“Come in Bud.  Close the hatch.  Have a seat.”


Harm’s Office
JAG Ops
1230 (local), Monday, Dec. 3, 2001

“Wow sir.” I’ve given Bud a complete briefing on the case.  Somehow I know that, just like with that weird Addams thing, he’s gonna give me the key to solve it.

I’ve seen Bud excited.  I’ve seen Bud scared silly.  I’ve seen Bud flustered beyond description.

But I’ve never seen Bud look like this.  This puts all his previous obsessions to shame.

“What you’ve described, sir, is a ‘locked room mystery’.”  He’s nearly levitating and I have no idea what he’s talking about.  “All exits and entrances secure yet somehow the crime was committed.”

My look must say ‘clueless’.

“Sir, a ‘locked room mystery’ is a classic murder mystery genre.  From Edgar Allan Poe through Ellery Queen to Agatha Christie, it’s a set piece.”

As I have many times in the past, I merely look at Bud with wonder.  How does he find the time to have so many obsessions?

“The typical locked room mystery has someone dying, no one could have gotten in to them, suicide is ruled out so you’re left with the unanswered questions:  who committed the murder and how did they do it?”

I don’t know whether to bow in the face of this superior knowledge or run from a crazy subordinate.

“There are classic answers to the ‘locked door’ murder.  Poison snakes slithering down bell pulls.  Daggers made of ice.  Arrows on tethers that can implant a poison dart, then be withdrawn to the room across the courtyard in that big 17th century castle.”

I shudder to think how many ways Bud could kill me.  And I thought I only had to worry about Mac when she got mad.  Bud would be far more methodical.  Efficient.  Just like he is in his work.

Good god!  Am I thinking for a moment that Bud Roberts, the father of my godchildren, the husband of my ‘younger sister’, the man I’ve mentored for six years might want to kill me?

NO.

Does he know how to kill me?

Maybe.

Does he know how to work on a ‘locked room mystery’?

No question.

“Hey Bud, how full is your plate right now?”


Harm’s office
JAG Ops
1500 (local), Monday, Dec. 3, 2001

“Sir, are you sure you and Colonel MacKenzie didn’t see anything unusual on those surveillance tapes.”

“Positive, Bud.”

“Well, sir, with all due respect, you’re saying you watched nearly six hours of crushingly boring surveillance tapes.  Is it possible that your attention wandered for a moment or two at some time?”

Gotta give it to him.  He’s putting this as diplomatically as possible.

I’m rubbing my forehead as I say, “that’s one of the reasons Mac was helping me.  So we had two sets of eyes.”

I look up to see Bud squirm.  “Sir, is it possible that at some point both sets of your eyes were looking elsewhere?”

Great.  Now Bud’s in the Admiral’s ‘I’m gonna ‘out’ Harm and Mac camp.’  Can’t fault him (he is, of course, right).  Can’t be mad at him (he and Harriet think we’re meant for each other and we are).  Do I want to squash him?  Absolutely.

“Bud.”

It bears repeating that the right word, said in the right tone, can achieve significant results.

“Sorry sir.”

I see him falling back and I won’t let him do that.  More importantly, I won’t let myself do that to him.  No more pushing him to take the fall when it’s really me that needs the hit upside the head.

“It’s possible.  I tried really hard.  But the Colonel, well, she’s a pretty compelling presence to sit next to for six hours.”

I watch Bud process.  I watch Bud consider the alternatives (career, duty station, resigning a commission).  I never realized that others had considered this as carefully as we had.

“I’m happy for you, sir.”

Wow.  The man who usually bubbles too many words nails it with five.  I don’t even care he’s gonna tell Harriet and it’ll be all over the office in hours, maybe minutes.

He’s right to be happy for us.  We are.


Mac’s office
JAG Ops
1515 (local), Monday, Dec. 3, 2001

I knock on her door frame knowing that this knock will never be repeated.  For better or worse (an interesting choice of words), our lives will never be the same after she answers this knock.  I have to let her know our secret isn’t a secret anymore.

“Mac?”

She’s on the phone, typing on her computer at the same time.  She motions me in.

Maybe this isn’t the best time for this conversation?

“Look, your client is guilty.  I have solid evidence against him.  I’m giving you a good offer.  Take it to your client.  Remember, you are required to do that.  Let me know what he says.”

She slams down the phone with one hand while continuing to type with the other.

“Yeah Harm.  You wanted something?”

“Is the world getting you down, Mac?”  Jeez, what can I say?  Some sleeze bag isn’t taking a deal to his client, she’s so overwhelmed she’s talking and typing at the same time (wish I could do that), and now I’m gonna pile on by telling her that Harriet’s probably already sent a press release to the Navy Times?

Might not be a good time for this.

“It’s swinging; I’m punching back.  Not sure who’s landed more.”

She gives me her game face, but I know she’s tired, angry and near the end of her rope.

“I’ll make you dinner tonight.  Give you a back rub.  Make sure you have a good night’s sleep.” It seems such a paltry offer.

Her face takes on an almost beatific appearance.

“That would be wonderful Harm.”

We’re standing in her office, just kinda gazing at each other like two teenagers when Bud barges in.

“Sir, ma’am, sorry to interrupt, but sir.  It’s them.  They’re on the phone.  Right now.  I actually talked to them.  They’re on hold.”

Reluctantly pulling myself out of the Mac Vortex I’d been happily spinning in I tell her, “I gotta take this.”

She nods, I run.


Harm’s office
JAG Ops
1520 (local), Monday, Dec. 3, 2001

“So Commander, you were too busy to answer your phone?”

God, just what I need.  Another person to bust my chops.

“No, well, yes.  Sorry, uhumm am I speaking with Barbie or Hope?”

“Both,” comes the chorused reply.

Why am I not surprised?

“So ladies, or should I call you goddesses?”  I know it’s cheap, they know it’s cheap but we tacitly agree to let it work.

“I think that would be appropriate,” replies a female voice.  Damn.  I’m gonna need to learn to tell the difference between the two, aren’t I?

“So what have the goddesses found?”  Ya know, when I say it out loud it doesn’t sound strange at all.  When I think about saying it out loud, I freak out.

“You had some pretty sophisticated intruders.  Also some very respectful ones.  These guys could’ve done a lot of damage.  Not just to the collections, but to the security systems, the physical plant, you name it.  The Museum was laying open on a table for them.  They just put a hard candy on its naked belly and walked away.  You ought to thank them.”

Bud and I exchange glances.  This is what I’d thought, and feared, all along.  How do I let a bunch of Army boys who infiltrated the Academy and broke into the Museum off?  Just can’t do it.

“I understand.  I agree with your emotional assessment.  The legal situation may be a little more difficult.”

I wince as I say that.  Bud winces as I say that.  We both wince when we hear the snort coming from the speaker phone.

“So, are we to assume you value arcane dictates over modern commonsense, Commander?”

“Not so, your goddesses.” I look to Bud.  How the hell do I address these women?

“Then are we to assume that you will attend to our information?  You will abide by our analysis?  That you will PAY ATTENTION TO WHAT YOUR ELDERS TELL YOU?”

Bud and I both jump back from the desk.  Wow.  Those goddesses can really pack a wallop.

“Yes ma’am,” is all I can say.  Come on, what would *you* say to a goddess?


15 Minutes Later

“So you have all that Bud?”  They’ve been speaking in a language I don’t understand.  Computereze.  Good thing I brought Bud in on this.

“Yes ma’am.”

“You seem like a nice young man.  Do you spend a lot of time on the computer?”

“Well, yes ma’am, I do.”

“That’s good.  Keep doing that.”

“Excuse me, goddess Hope, or is it Barbie?  But this is Commander Rabb and I’d really like to know the results of your analysis of the surveillance tapes. If you don’t mind. Could you tell me in English?”

Pregnant pause as Bud and I exchange nervous glances.  “Commander, those tapes have nothing on them that reveal the identity of the intruders because the intruders edited out the part with them.  There’s nothing to recover because they spliced the tape.  Like we said before, they were very good at what they did.  So, tell the Commandant to fix his woefully inadequate security and get over the fact that some Army boys got away with calling him a candy-ass.”

“Commander, I think you owe us a nice dinner for this.  Those tapes weren’t nearly as much fun as your last evidence.”

Woah, this is spookier than dealing with Webb.  How’d they know I *thought* about buying them a nice dinner?

“Because any gentleman worthy of the title would buy a nice dinner for two women who had helped him in his cause.”

“Yes, of course, I was ready to ask you.  When are you two available?”

Before they even begin to answer I know they know my whole schedule, Mac’s schedule, maybe even the Admiral’s schedule.  Webb was small potatoes.  The Video Goddesses are the mother lode.


Chapter 6:  All’s Well That Ends Well

San Cristobal Restaurante
Georgetown
1900 (local), Monday, Dec. 3, 2001

I usher the two women into the restaurant then politely walk around them to the maitre d’ station.

The Admiral, after a panicked call from me, assured me that he would be able to get ‘priority seating’ at this place.  I sure hope so.  I don’t know how long I can hold out against this intellectual onslaught.  Damn these women are smart.  I’m beinning to feel like a grade-schooler who’s wandered into a Mensa meeting.

I give my best plea, and bribe, to the maitre d’.

He gives me his best snotty pseudo-French snob look.  Until Hope appears at my elbow.

Now he’s all solicitous, scraping and bowing even.

Yep, that’s my Video Goddesses.  Lesser men tremble before them.

“Pierre, Barbie and I are really in a bit of a hurry tonight.  Do you think we could get a table right away?”

As soon as she finishes this question we’re walking to our table.

OK.  I think I have resigned myself, somewhat happily, to being in their reflected light.

I pull a chair out for each of them, waving Pierre away.  I sit down and give them my most earnest look.

At least this part of the Chegwidden prearranged meal happens.  Immediately a waiter appears with a bottle of champagne.

“To celebrate another closed case,” I affirm.

“Ladies,” I make sincere eye contact with each of them.  “I thank you for helping me, again.”

My body relaxes a bit when they each take a champagne flute, toast each other then toast me.

A little while later, I figure I might as well broach the subject.  “Does this mean you’d be willing to examine my evidence again some time?”

Hope and Barbie nearly choke.

“Sure.”  “Happy to.”  Said behind napkins as they look wide-eyed at each other.

I don’t get it.  Must be a woman thing.

“Harm, now that we’ve solved a mystery for you, perhaps you’ll solve one for us,” Hope says, setting her coffee cup down.

“If I can.”

“Well,” Barbie picks up the thread.  Jeez, these two are as bad as Mac and me when it comes to finishing each other’s thought.  “We’ve worked with you on two cases now.  The first was suspected smuggling of military secrets with national security implications.  Turned out that wasn’t quite the case.”

Like she has to remind me?

“Now this one,” back to Hope in the Video Goddess tag team event, “was from the outset a glorified college prank.”

Can’t dispute that assessment.  I don’t think I like where this is going.

“So what we were wondering, Harm,” Hope hands it off to Barbie.  “Are you JAG’s heavy hitter or the guy they stick with all the weird cases?”

There’s only one way to answer that honestly.  “Yes.”

They look at each other and nod.

“Dessert, ladies?”  Chocolate sweets always buys me time when Mac backs me into a corner, maybe it’ll work with them too.

“You bet,” they echo each other.



Mac’s apartment hallway
Georgetown
2145 (local), Monday, Dec. 3, 2001

I’m exhausted.  If this door gives me any trouble I swear I’m gonna kick it in.

I put the key in.

It’s gonna be another one of those nights.

No.  Not tonight.  I’m gonna give in right now and call Mac.  I pull out my cell phone and hit speed dial 1.

I can hear her phone ringing.

“Colonel MacKenzie.”

“Oh, sorry, must have the wrong number.  I was looking for a lady Marine who thinks a life of crime might be exciting.”

“Well....” Mac’s so good at this.  But I think I’m ready to go one better on her.

“On the other hand, if she’s not there, how ‘bout L’il Bo Peep?  I heard she lost her sheep and I’m baaaaaaaaad.”

The door opens a crack.

“Really?”

“Very baaaaddd.”

She opens the door all the way.

Some keys always work.



Finis, thanks for reading.



                                            
Part 1     Home     Author     Title