Catacombs of the Heart
Part Ten

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18           19           20           21          

There is some minor violence in this part. If I had to rate it, I would give it a PG-13, maybe. The only thing holding up that "-13" part is the language. Seriously, I heard and saw worse on a daily basis back when I was in high school.


JAG Headquarters
Falls Church, Virginia
Tuesday, October 14, 2003
1334 Hours (local)

The weekend before had been as unsuccessful at the club as the previous one. Well, unsuccessful in terms of the case, but Mac and Jen had certainly had their egos inflated by the male attention. Harm and Denise had not done any making out, but still acted very much the couple at the club. All of them, however, were getting frustrated with the lack of results. As of yet, most of the men Jen had talked to were more interested in getting her home than what she did. And all of those men could pretty much be ruled out as the killer, as the previous victims had only attended the club once, while they were home on leave, and Jen had attended the club twice and many of the men were regulars. But Harm, Mac, and Denise were not jumping to any conclusions.

Mac was standing in the bullpen flipping through the folders Bud had just handed her. She looked up and noticed the stranger immediately. The man was wandering around the desks in the bullpen, he had dark hair, dark eyes, and was probably only about two or three inches shorter than Harm, although he was heavier set. Moving towards him, Mac asked, "Can I help you?" He was dressed in civilian attire and stuck out like a sore thumb.

"Yes, I'm looking for Commander Harmon Rabb," he said firmly.

"He's in court," Mac said. "Did you have an appointment?"

"No, I just thought I'd drop by and see him."

"Well, if you give me your name I'd be happy to tell him that you stopped by," Mac offered, trying to be helpful.

The man looked around for a moment before answering. "Actually, if I could, I'd like to wait for him. It is kind of important that I see him. Today."

"I don't know when he'll be out of court, so it might be a rather long wait. I'd suggest leaving and letting him get back to you."

"No," the man insisted, offering Mac a smile. "I'd rather wait." He stuck his hand out to shake Mac's. "The name is Pat. Pat West."

Mac hesitated before shaking his hand. West. She glanced down and noticed the wedding band on his hand. The phone call while they were talking to Johnson's mom that day, Denise's evasion of the topic of marriage, it all came together at once for Mac. She was shaking hands with Detective Denise West's husband. Glancing back up to make eye contact again, she noticed the fire in them. Suddenly, Mac knew that Harm had slept with Denise, any doubt she had was now erased. "Nice to meet you. Colonel MacKenzie," Mac said, still stunned at what she now knew.

At that moment, Harm entered the doors and started across the bullpen. Mac had to get West out of there now. "Really," Mac began, "he could be there all day. If it is that important, I'd suggest setting up an appointment. I'll tell him that you stopped by and he'll get back to you." Please, she was thinking, go away.

Before West could respond, Harm approached the pair. "Everything okay, Mac?" he asked.

"Yes," Mac began. "This is Pat West and he was looking for Harm, who is-"

Harm cut her off, not catching what she was about to say. "You're funny, Mac. I'm right here."

Mac cringed.

West looked from Mac to Harm and back again. Looking at Harm, he said, "You asshole!"

"Whoa, buddy, you want to power down and tell me what this is about?"

"It's about Denise. My wife," he said, the anger seeping into his words.

"Your wife?" Harm said, understanding dawning on him.

"That you slept with."

"I…" Harm began. "I didn't know. She never said…"

"That's right. Blame her." West was staring Harm in the eyes.

Harm met his gaze. He was prepared to follow this wherever it went. "I wouldn't have if I had known…"

Mac tried to interrupt, "Guys, look, maybe we could take this elsewhere, over drinks, and talk…"

West didn't say anything. He just swung at Harm, hitting him square in the jaw. Harm took a stumbling step back and West raised his fist to strike again.

"Stop!" Mac yelled, taking the moment to jump between the men. West swung again, and this time, his fist connected with the left side of Mac's face.

Harm quickly pushed Mac out of the way. "Stay out of this, Mac!" He then quickly got a swing in against West.

What happened next, no one knew for sure. The two men became a tangled mess of fighting bodies, punching where they could, each trying to subdue the other. Activity in the bullpen had come to a halt when West had called Harm an asshole. Mac was trying to separate the men and even with all of her Marine strength and training, she was no match for the two 200 pound-plus men determined to beat each other up. Shouts of "Stop!" were just as ineffective. Papers slid off of desks and fell to the floor, casualties of the battle. Desks were shoved around and people moved out of the way, reluctant to get involved in the war. Mac had her share of wounds, and nobody knew who had given them to her, West or Harm.

The Admiral heard the shuffle outside his office and quickly rose to his feet and left to see what was going on. The spectacle before him shocked him. "Attention on deck!" he yelled at the top of his lungs.

Everybody froze, including Harm, which gave West another chance to get a punch in, this one to Harm's stomach, doubling him over. Blood was running from the noses of both men, more blood was pouring from Harm's lower lip and West's upper lip, and they would both probably have black eyes. Harm's jaw would be sore from the initial punch for a while to come. After the last punch, West stopped as well.

"Colonel, my office, now! Coates, accompany Commander Rabb and get him cleaned up and then I want him in my office! And you," the Admiral said, turning his gaze to West, "I want you off of JAG property, now! Get somebody to escort him out! And I don't want to see you again! Whatever the problem is, it can be solved outside of work hours and off of JAG property!" The Admiral turned and strode into his office, expecting his orders to be obeyed.

Moments later, Mac entered the Admiral's office. He was standing behind his desk and he let her stand at attention for a moment before telling her to close the hatch and have a seat. He sat down behind his desk and grabbed a tissue for Mac to use to wipe up some of the blood that was running down her right cheek.

"Thank you, Sir," Mac said weakly.

The Admiral sighed heavily and leaned forward over his desk before he asked the question. "Colonel, can you shed some light for me on what just happened out there?"

"Well, Sir, I think the Commander might be better suited for that."

"I'm asking you, Colonel."

"The man came in, asked for the Commander, I told him he was in court, told him I'd tell the Commander that he stopped by, or he could make an appointment. When the Commander showed up, they exchanged a few words and he punched the Commander. After that, all hell broke loose."

"And what did they say?"

"Sir, I'd rather not say. I think it should be the Commander who tells you."

The Admiral sighed again and leaned back in his chair, very clearly unhappy.

"I do think the man was justified in being angry with the Commander, Admiral. But I don't believe that punching him was the way to go about it."

"Did this guy have a name?"

"Pat West."

"West? Isn't that the name of the Detective you guys are working with on the club murders?"

"Yes, Sir."

"But the Commander did not throw the first punch?"

"No, Sir. Mr. West hit first."

"Good. Hopefully he won't press assault charges."

"With all do respect, Admiral, I think Mr. West is the type to just take it outside and beat the sh- the crap out of the other person, not take it to court."

"You may be right, Colonel. Let's hope that's the case." There was a sharp knock at the door. "Enter."

Harm strode in, shutting the door behind him, and stood at attention in front of the Admiral's desk. He had a few bandages on his face covering the cuts he had acquired and in one hand, he held two bags of ice. "Commander Rabb, reporting as ordered, Sir."

The Admiral rose to his feet and walked around to stand in Harm's face.

Mac winced internally, knowing what was coming.

"Commander Rabb, is that a boxing ring outside of my office?"

"No, Sir."

"Were you trading punches with a civilian outside of my office?"

"Yes, Sir."

"Is punching anybody a manner appropriate for an Officer of the United States Navy to behave?"

"No, Sir."

"Then what in the hell were you doing out there?"

Harm remained silent.

"I asked you a question, Commander, and I expect an answer!"

"He hit me first."

"This is not middle school, Commander, and I do not care who hit who first!"

"Yes, Sir." Harm continued looking at a point just over the Admiral's shoulder.

"Do you have something else you want to add?"

"Yes, Sir."

"I'm listening."

"He hit Colonel MacKenzie when she tried to stop him from hitting me again. I had to hit back or be hit."

"You're making excuses, Commander. I don't want excuses. I want an explanation!"

"Yes, Sir."

The Admiral eyed Harm for a moment before he backed off. Returning behind his desk, he sat back down, and once again, leaned back in his chair. "At ease. Have a seat."

Harm visibly relaxed as he sat in the chair next to Mac. He tossed her one of the bags of ice. "For your eye."

Mac caught the bag and said quietly, "Thanks." She removed the tissue from her cheek, which she had been holding up the whole time. She held the bag of ice up to her left eye, which was already red and would be swelling soon.

Harm got a good look at her cheek. "You okay?" he asked. Without waiting for an answer, he continued, "It looks bad. Do you know how you got it?"

Mac glanced at the Admiral, who appeared to be amused at the question. "I'll be fine. I've had worse. But I believe my cheek and your Naval Academy ring got very well acquainted."

Harm glanced down at his ring and back up at Mac's cheek. "I'm sorry, Mac."

Before she could say anything, the Admiral interrupted, "Commander, would you care to tell me what led to you and Mr. West coming to blows?"

"With all do respect, Sir, no. It's a personal matter."

"It quit being personal when you decided there was a boxing ring out there."

Harm sighed. He really didn't want to go into this, especially in front of Mac. "Mr. West apparently came to see me. I was in court and I encountered him talking to Mac when I got back here. She said he was looking for me," Harm paused and looked at Mac, a puzzled expression on his face, "except she said he was looking for Harm."

The Admiral looked at Mac. "Is this true, Colonel?"

"Yes, Sir. Once I figured out who Mr. West was and why he wanted to speak to the Commander, I tried to warn him, let the Commander know what he was getting into, but I didn't get the chance."

Harm continued, "I introduced myself to Mr. West and he informed me that Denise, Detective West, was his wife." Harm stopped for a moment, unsure of how to go on.

"Continue," the Admiral urged.

Mac kept her eyes glued to Harm.

"Mr. West was angry with me because he believes that his wife and I had… an affair."

The Admiral leaned forward as he asked his next question, seeking the truth. He would only be satisfied with the truth. "And did you?"

Harm swallowed before he answered. His voice was suddenly quiet, in stark contrast to the tall, strong, and proud man he normally was. "Yes."

Mac turned away and looked down at her clasped hands.

The Admiral turned to her, "And you knew about this? You knew that was why Mr. West was here to see the Commander?"

Mac nodded as she answered, "Yes. That's why I tried to warn him, stop Harm from talking to Mr. West."

Harm turned to Mac as well. "You knew… everything?"

She nodded.

"How?" he asked.

"I didn't know for sure until Mr. West showed up. And then the little signs here and there, they just all added up." She still wasn't looking at him.

"But about the…" he couldn't bring himself to say it to her. He wasn't proud of his actions to begin with, but to know that he had very likely broken up a marriage, and that Mac knew and had kept quiet, was more guilt than he was prepared to bear. He had hoped to keep her in the dark about the event.

"The affair?" She asked, turning to look in his direction.

Harm nodded.

Mac looked over Harm's shoulder at a figure of a naval ship on the mantle above the fireplace. It only took one sentence: "I went to the club that night the two of you went."

"You knew, but you didn't say anything?"

Mac made eye contact. "It wasn't my place to say anything. It's your life."

Harm could see only one thing in Mac's eyes: emptiness. Her normally brown eyes were so expressive, betraying what she was feeling inside. At times in the past he had felt like he was drowning in those chocolate depths, but now, they were empty. It chilled Harm's soul.

The Admiral shook his head. "Colonel, you're dismissed."

Mac rose to her feet and quietly left the office, thankful that she wasn't in Harm's shoes, and despite all the hurt she felt, she felt sorry for him. She walked back to her office under the scrutiny of her friends and coworkers, but no one stopped to ask her questions. She left the door to her office open as she tried to return to work, wanting to hide, but at the same time, she didn't want anybody to think she was hurting or trying to hide.

Twenty minutes later, there was a soft knock on her doorframe. She looked up and met Harm's gaze.

"Can we talk?" he asked as he entered, pulling the door shut behind him, not waiting for an answer.

"About what?"

"About what happened."

"I was there, Harm. I saw what happened. You and Mr. West got into a fight over a woman. And he has every reason to be angry at you because of who that woman is."

"Not that. I know you were there."

"Then what?"

"I wanted to talk to you about what happened before that, Mac."

"Don't you have work to do?" she asked him angrily, glancing at her own pile of work.

"The Admiral ordered me to go home for the day."

"I don't know what there is to talk about. I know what happened that night. I saw the two of you in the club. I saw all that I needed to see."

"You don't know what happened, Mac. You haven't heard everything."

"I don't need to hear anything else, Harm." She was fighting a battle to keep her tears at bay, determined to keep the hurting part of her hidden from Harm's view. So far, she was winning. "I saw what I saw at the club and I heard what I heard in the Admiral's office. When Mr. West showed up, I knew that I was right in my suspicions. You slept with her, Harm."

Harm sighed and shook his head.

"You didn't sleep with her? That's not the impression I got."

"Just let me explain…"

"I don't want to listen to you. I don't want to hear what you have to say. What I do want is for you to just leave. Just get out of my office and go home. Just forget that anything ever happened, because I already have."

Harm lowered his head in defeat. He knew better than to try to talk to her now. He had learned in the past that when she wasn't listening, things only got worse. It had taken many years, it had nearly cost him his career and Mac her life, but he finally learned that he could only talk to her when she listened. He backed up and left her office, pulling the door shut behind him, leaving her without a good-bye.

Mac returned to her work, blinking back the tears, unwilling to give in. Half an hour later, there was another knock at the door. "Enter," Mac called absently.

The Admiral stepped in and Mac immediately rose to her feet. The Admiral gestured for her to sit down as he closed the door behind him. It was uncommon for him to stop and talk within their offices like this, so Mac was curious. "Are you okay, Colonel?" he asked.

"I'm fine, Admiral," Mac responded weakly. "It's just a cut and a black eye. I've been through worse."

"I wasn't referring to your physical injuries," the Admiral said firmly.

Mac sighed. She didn't think he had been. "I'm fine, Sir. Really."

The Admiral nodded, expecting that response. "Go home, Mac."

"Am I being punished, Sir?"

He shook his head. "No. But it has been a rough day and your eye will probably get worse before it gets better."

"It's just a bruise, Sir. The ice helped."

"And your cheek?"

"I cleaned it out in the ladies room. I don't think it needs medical attention."

The Admiral nodded. "Well, the day is yours if you choose to go home. And if when you do leave you need a ride because of your eye, I'm sure we can find somebody willing. Even if I have to order them," he offered with a smile.

Mac nodded. "Thank you, Sir, but I'll be able to drive."

"I'd rather you get home safely than make an issue out of being able to drive. And that is an order," the Admiral said with a frown.

"Yes, Sir," Mac said.

"And if you need anything, we are all here, Mac," the Admiral said as he rose to his feet.

"I appreciate it, Admiral," Mac said with a genuine smile as he left the office.


Mac's Apartment
Washington, D.C.
Tuesday, October 14, 2003
1957 Hours (local)

Mac sank down into the tub of bubbles. She had left work earlier than normal and brought some of it home with her. She was tired of the looks people were giving her. And she wanted to get out of there before the Admiral made her get a ride home. Once she entered her apartment, she turned the ringer off on her phones and turned the volume down on her answering machine. She didn't want to be disturbed. She just wanted to be left alone and forget the day.

She knew Harm would try and call her to talk. She really didn't want to talk to him. Not yet. And sure enough, an hour later, as she passed through her bedroom, the message waiting light was flashing on her answering machine. She didn't want to check the message. She didn't want to know, so she ignored it, choosing to work on some of her cases.



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