Disclaimer: I don't own the characters and people in this. I can't afford to own them and still pay the actors what they are currently making. DPB, Paramount Pictures, Belisarius Productions, and CBS Television can pay them, though. But if they were willing to sell them for a really cheap price, and everybody was willing to take a very steep pay cut, I'd be happy to own them! I'd put them to good use, I promise. Oh, any characters you haven't heard of prior to this story, I did make them up and I do own them. They don't get paid 'cause I can be mean like that to them!
Rating: NC-17 (language, violence, sexual references/situations)
Spoilers: Lots of them! Anything up to and including "A Tangled Webb (1)." Okay, a very minor one for "Secret Agent Man," you'll know it when you see it if you've seen the episode. And I guess I kind of borrowed from "A Tangled Webb (2)," but it was only a line, or an idea for a line, not really a spoiler. Oh, yeah, Tiner is at OCS and Coates has taken his place. But otherwise, Season Nine does not take place here.
Feedback: Always welcome and appreciated! Can be sent to firstname.lastname@example.org.
AN1: Catacombs is a real club in Washington, D.C. I do not remember which restaurant supported it, and I certainly couldn't find it again, but it does exist. I have been there, a few years ago, and it really was a very interesting experience, not something I regret or will ever forget. I mean no offense to people of the Gothic sub-culture in this story. I only use the club and the lifestyle as a setting.
AN2: There are few semi-violent scenes in this and some mentioning of domestic abuse, but it is not explicit nor do I go into much detail (the violence is not where this story gets it's NC-17 rating). I think I saw more violence in my high school than I really go into detail about here. I will, however, in the beginning of the parts to which this applies, make a note of it. But, if this sort of thing really bugs you, I suggest you don't read this.
Falls Church, Virginia
Monday, September 15, 2003
0913 Hours (local)
"Commander, Colonel, take a seat," Admiral Chegwidden stated. Both officers followed his instruction. "Have either of you ever heard of Catacombs?"
"I've heard of the catacombs in Rome, but that isn't what you are talking about, is it?" Harm quipped.
"No, Commander. I was referring to a club in D.C. A Gothic dance club."
"A 'Gothic dance club,' Sir?" Mac asked.
"Catacombs is a club that is only open on Thursday and Saturday nights in the basement of the Autumn Harvest Restaurant. People of the Gothic sub-culture frequent it, typically dressed in black clothes and such."
"The people little AJ calls scary when he sees them in the mall, in other words," Mac exclaimed, suddenly understanding what the Admiral meant by Gothic sub-culture.
"Oh, those people," Harm said, following Mac's lead.
"Yes, those people. The club has been active for years and there has never been a problem before. Most of the people who attend the club have a mutual respect for each other as members of their sub-culture. Occasionally fights break out, usually between these so-called Goths and those outside their sub-culture who offend them in some manner. That doesn't appear to be the case this time." The Admiral handed Harm a folder. "This appears to be cold-blooded murder."
Harm opened the folder and Mac leaned over the arm of her chair to look. One side of the file contained information on a Seaman Caitlin Johnson. There was a photo of her; she had short, chin-length blonde hair, hazel eyes, and a beautiful smile. The other side had a very short page with a write up of a Seaman Cynthia Ellis. There was no picture and only a small amount of information. Both officers returned their gazes to the Admiral, intending to look over the material in more detail shortly.
The Admiral continued. "Seaman Johnson was home on leave from the Theodore Roosevelt. Her body was found in the corner of the Catacombs club at 0225 Sunday morning."
Harm flipped to the next page, which contained a write-up of the crime scene, courtesy of the D.C. Police. A few photos were included. The Seaman was dressed in a short, black skirt and had black make-up smeared about her face, including her lipstick. Her throat had been slit and her clothes were soaked with blood.
"Oh my God," Mac gasped. "She was, what, 19? That is horrible."
"D.C. Police are investigating this, but I want you two to follow along. This is the second time the death of a Seaman has occurred at Catacombs in the last four months. The fact that both females were in the Navy prompted the police to contact us. Work diplomatically and play nice with them. You'll want to contact a Detective West to get a copy of their material from the first murder, a Seaman Ellis, and additional information on Seaman Johnson's."
"Admiral, why isn't NCIS handling this?" Harm asked.
"They weren't interested. They turned it over to us."
Harm nodded. "Interesting."
The Admiral nodded as well. "I would think you would be happy to stay away from NCIS, Commander," he said with a smile.
Harm smiled in response, "I am, Sir. I'd like to stay far away from them."
Mac watched the whole exchange with a smile on her face as well.
"Any suspects or witnesses?" Harm asked, getting back on topic, as he closed the folder.
"As of yet, no. The murder apparently took place while the club was open, so anyone who went to the club Saturday night could be responsible or have witnessed it. Nobody has stepped forward with any information. Because this sort of thing has never occurred before, other than Seaman Ellis, and the club is not a frequent hangout for Navy personnel, the D.C. investigators believe the fact that both Ellis and Johnson were in the Navy played a role."
Mac asked, "Any connections between the two?"
"Other than both were female and enlisted in the Navy, none have been located. Seamen Ellis was 21, an African-American, had one year of college done, and from Towson, Maryland. Seaman Johnson was 19, Caucasian, no schooling after high school, and from Chantilly, Virginia. Neither ever served on the same ship and it appears that they have had no contact with each other."
"We'll get right on it," Mac said.
"Good," the Admiral responded. "That's it for now. Dismissed," the Admiral ordered. Both officers rose, snapped to attention, and left the office.
D.C. Police Station
Monday, September 15, 2003
1137 Hours (local)
Harm approached the central desk, Mac at his side.
The harried looking officer looked at the military personnel standing before him. "Can I help you?"
"Yes," Harm answered, "I'm Commander Harmon Rabb and this is Lieutenant Colonel Sarah MacKenzie from the JAG Corps. We're here to speak to a Detective West."
The man nodded. "Down that hallway, third door on your left."
"Thanks," Harm said, but the man had already turned to another nearby woman.
"Nice guy," Mac said to Harm.
"He's just busy," Harm said, defending him. They reached the office the man had indicated and Harm knocked on the doorframe. The door was open and a woman was bent over the keyboard of her computer. Her blonde hair was tied back into a French braid and her mouth formed a definite frown. She looked up at the pair, her blue eyes troubled. "We were looking for Detective West?" Harm questioned.
The woman smiled, revealing her even, white teeth. Her blue eyes cleared and showed a sparkle as she studied the pair in front of her. "Are you here from the JAG office?" she asked. Her voice was smooth and soft.
Harm smiled broadly and extended his hand. She rose to her feet to accept his hand. "Commander Rabb," Harm said, introducing himself. She held on to his hand longer than was necessary.
Mac stuck her hand out, "Colonel MacKenzie."
"Pleased to meet you both," Detective West said as she released Mac's hand. She turned her eyes back to Harm, widening her smile just a little more. "I assume you have been briefed on the case?"
"Yes," Mac said. "We were briefed on it by our CO."
"So, what do you know?" West asked.
"Just-" Mac began, but Harm cut her off.
"Seaman Johnson's body was found early Sunday morning in a club called Catacombs. This is the second of such occurrences to take place in the last four months at this club. Prior to this, there have been no problems."
West nodded as she sat back down at her desk. "Have a seat," she said. Harm and Mac did as she instructed, Harm dragging a chair out of the corner of the small office for himself. The detective leaned over and pulled a file off the corner of the desk and handed it to Harm. Mac once again looked over his arm at the case information. Inside the file were more photos of the crime scene and the club in general. Under the small pile of photos was a more detailed report and the preliminary autopsy report. "That information goes more in depth than the report we sent to you. We only requested your assistance and we weren't sure you would cooperate, so we didn't want to let out too many details."
"Understandable," Harm said with a smile.
West returned his smile in kind. She handed him another file.
At this point, Mac frowned. Her back was getting tired of leaning over and she was getting tired of Harm getting all the attention. "Can I see this one?" Mac asked, indicating the file on Seaman Johnson. Harm surrendered it to her without looking up. Mac grabbed the file and straightened, muttering, "Thanks."
Harm opened the second file West had handed him and looked over the information in it. "That is the original report on Seaman Ellis," West explained. Harm quickly looked over the report, noticing that she had been serving on the USS Porter, a destroyer. Johnson had been serving on a carrier. West gave them a minute to look over the files. When Harm looked up and met her gaze, she continued, "I assume you will want to view the crime scene?"
"Yes," Mac stated. Harm turned to look at her as if he had forgotten that she was there. "Whenever is convenient for you."
West looked at her watch. "How about now?"
"Now is fine," Mac said simply, looking to Harm for his agreement.
Harm nodded, smiling.
West rose from her desk and stepped around it as both Harm and Mac got to their feet. "Well then, shall we?" she smiled up at Harm. She was about five foot six and had to look up to view Harm's face. He smiled and stepped out of the office in front of her. West followed, leaving Mac to bring up the rear.
The Autumn Harvest Restaurant
Monday, September 15, 2003
1213 Hours (local)
A man, Mr. Stevenson, led Harm, Mac, and Detective West into the basement of The Autumn Harvest Restaurant to where the Catacombs club was hosted twice a week. Fluorescent lights across the ceiling lit the interior, although the brick walls appeared to be lined with electric candles. The entire room formed a large L-shape and from the stairs, the entire club could be seen. To the left of the stairs was a bar, and green tubing around the mirror behind the bar indicated some other type of lighting. Tables were spread out in the vicinity of the bar, chairs pulled up on top of them. Slightly to the right and in front of the stairs was a large open area, with several monstrous speakers placed in the corners. In the far corner, yellow crime-scene tape roped off the area. Detective West led them to this.
"This is where the body was found," West stated simply.
One of the monstrous speakers was directly in the corner. On the floor next to the speaker were chalk marks indicating the body and the general area of the blood. There were more white marks on the wall and the side of the speaker.
"As you can see," West began, "they've already cleaned it up, looked for evidence."
"We would like to have the club opened as normal on Thursday," Stevenson said over their shoulders.
"How dark is it in here when the club is open?" Mac asked.
"Pretty dark. We do have a strobe light over the dance floor, but it doesn't provide much light. And the candles on the wall are turned on, but they aren't very bright."
"What about the noise?" Harm asked.
"It is pretty loud. Most of us that work here when the club is open wear earplugs. But it doesn't bother the crowds. They enjoy it."
Mac looked at the speaker. Judging by the chalk outlines, the murder took place right up on the wall, next to the speaker. "If the music were on and this place were full, do you think it would be possible for someone to stand next to the speaker and scream at the top of their lungs and not be heard?" she asked.
"It's possible," Stevenson nodded. "Especially with the type of music that is played. Occasionally screams are a part of the background noise in the music."
"Hmm…" Mac responded.
"Who discovered the body?" Harm asked.
"I did," Stevenson answered. "I was at the back of the crowd, ushering people out. At closing time, we stop the music and turn these lights on," he said, looking up at the fluorescents. "Usually Josh Redman, our bartender, gets up and tells everybody to get out, and I go to the back of the crowd to urge people along. I noticed the young woman on the ground out of the corner of my eye. I assumed she was drunk and had passed out, as occasionally happens. When she didn't move after a few minutes, I looked more closely and noticed the blood. Even with all the white make-up people wear here, I knew she was dead."
"And what did you do?" Harm asked.
"I got people out of there. I acted like nothing was wrong, let people think she was just passed out. Every once in a while we do call an ambulance and have people taken away to the hospital. Usually Josh is pretty good about limiting the alcohol he gives out to the same person. He's great at judging a person's condition, but he can't tell if someone is getting a drink for someone else, usually for a girl. Once everyone was out, I notified Josh, we called the police, and didn't even clean anything up."
Harm and Mac walked around the club with Denise. There wasn't a whole lot of room for someone to hide and if the club was full, it would be difficult to drag or carry someone through it. And because of the blood marks scattered around the area where the body was found, it was very likely that the murder occurred where the body was found.
"Was the club full on Saturday?" Mac asked Stevenson suddenly.
"It was a normal crowd. On a normal night, this place is pretty full. You can walk around and dance, but there isn't enough space to lie down on the floor and take a nap."
"You seen enough?" West asked.
Harm and Mac both nodded.
"Thanks for your time," Harm said as he headed up the stairs.
Mac nodded as well.
West paused and handed him a card. "If you think of anything else that might be helpful, please call me," she said.
"I will," Stevenson nodded.
En route to JAG
Monday, September 15, 2003
1328 Hours (local)
"So, what do you think, Mac?" Harm asked as he navigated the Navy-issue vehicle out of D.C.
"There's not a lot to go on, but my gut tells me to follow it. They've never had a murder, or any problem, at the club before. When two happen, both women are in the Navy, I don't think that's just a coincidence."
"But the murders were four months apart. We're lucky the D.C. Police even noticed it."
"That's only because Detective West worked on Ellis's murder as well. She remembered it."
"She's good, Mac. I can't even remember cases from four months ago," Harm glanced at her, offering her a lopsided grin.
Mac looked away and gazed out the window at the passing scenery instead, sighing heavily.
Harm thought back to where he was four months ago. Four months ago he was in the jungles of Paraguay with Mac, destroying stinger missiles. After they made their way out of the jungle, they managed to track down Gunny and Webb. Webb had survived, barely. The CIA paid Webb and Gunny's way home and the military gave Mac a ride home, but without a job, no passport, and no identifying papers, he was pretty much stuck. Mac didn't know about his resignation from the Navy until he had no way home. She offered to send him the money once she got home, but Harm couldn't do that, and without papers, it wouldn't have helped anyway. He had spoken to Catherine Gale, unsure of what to do. She pulled some strings at the Agency and Harm came home on the Agency's dime as well. Once back, he was instructed by the Admiral to report for duty the day after his plane touched down. Harm did as instructed and the Admiral let him back into the ranks, minus a significant amount of leave time. Had he not returned when he did, the Admiral would have processed the paperwork and he would have been a civilian. And since then, Harm had gotten stuck with a lot of paperwork and bum cases.
Mac had been silent while Harm was lost in his thoughts. "Harm?" she asked.
"What do you think of the case?"
"I agree with you, Mac. I've got to say that the two murders are related. It's too much of a coincidence. However, with four months between the murders, it isn't going to be easy to find whoever is responsible, and even to link these cases in court without more evidence."
"I want to spend more time going over the files, see if anything else lines up. Detective West appears to have done a thorough job with the reports."
"She's supposed to do a thorough job. She's a detective," Mac said curtly, turning away from him again.
"You okay?" Harm asked, concerned.
"You don't seem to like her much."
"I don't dislike her. She's good at her job."
"So, what's the problem?"
"There is no problem," she said firmly.
"If you say so," he said, deciding to back off. When she didn't want to talk, she wouldn't talk, and wild horses couldn't drag it out of her.
They returned to JAG in silence.