Falls Church, Virginia
Monday, November 3, 2003
0937 Hours (local)
The Admiral had held Harm, Mac, and Jen back after staff call, wanting a detailed update on the club murders. There wasn't really anything new to report, which was not what the Admiral wanted to hear. He sighed heavily. "And I understand that Detective West was not present Saturday night?" he asked, looking back and forth between Harm and Mac. He knew they were the two ringleaders in this.
Mac nodded as she spoke, "No, Sir, she was not. She had personal business to attend to."
"I see," he said, nodding. "Did it occur to you to maybe take a week off? Only two of you were in there to watch Petty Officer Coates' back, and I don't like those numbers."
"Well, Admiral," Harm jumped in, "we thought about not going, but decided, after discussing it with the Petty Officer, we wouldn't really look for the killer, but just keep our presence there in case something happened. Mac and I could stick around and watch the area where the murders have occurred."
Jen spoke up, "I didn't really meet anybody new, I just stuck to the people I knew from previous visits. The Commander and the Colonel were there and keeping an eye on things. Even with only the two of them, I never felt like I was in more danger than I am with Detective West present."
Mac glanced at Jen and mouthed, 'Thank you.'
The Admiral pinched the bridge of his nose. "D.C. Police are getting tired of running this. And I am getting tired of this case tying three of my people up. It doesn't appear that too much progress is being made and if this keeps up, we're going to pull the plug."
Harm, Mac, and Jen all looked at each other. Harm spoke, "But, Sir, we don't know when our guy is there. We can't catch him until he shows up and takes the bait. It's just a waiting game."
"One that could last for months," the Admiral pointed out. "The Petty Officer could have already met this guy and he could have just moved on to someone else."
It was possible, although unlikely, and they all knew it.
"D.C. Police is willing to run with this for a few more weeks, but without any progress, they can't afford to keep it running."
"Understood," the three said together.
"Dismissed," the Admiral ordered.
Once outside of the conference room, Mac said to Jen, "Thanks."
"For what?" Jen asked.
"That whole line about Harm and I watching on Saturday night."
"Ma'am, I wasn't just feeding him a line. I don't know what happened and I won't pretend like I do, but I know you wouldn't have left me with just anybody. You knew who I was with. And once I realized that the two of you were… distracted, I didn't want to move on to someone else and cause trouble. But I knew you wouldn't abandon me. I did feel safe the whole time."
Mac smiled to Jen as they reached Mac's office. "Still, I appreciate it. And I appreciate you not pushing the issue."
"No problem, Ma'am," Jen smiled as she walked away and Harm approached.
"Got a minute?" he asked.
Mac nodded and led him into her office, shutting the door behind him.
"Does Jen know about…" he trailed off.
"Not really," Mac responded, shaking her head. "I didn't tell her anything, but she did see us, sort of…" Mac also trailed off.
"Okay," Harm sighed with relief. "I was worried there for a moment that she went to the Admiral."
Mac smiled lightly. "She wouldn't do that. She's got quite a bit of respect for you."
"Me?" Harm asked.
"You helped her out, encouraged her to turn her life around. You showed her a little faith, that you wouldn't just abandon her like people have before."
"Well, she admires you."
Mac shook her head as she moved to take a seat at her desk.
"You gave her a chance, too. You didn't treat her poorly just because she was a prisoner. You treated her like a person. And I think you guys have a bond, just from the rough background."
"Maybe," Mac thought for a moment. "All she ever really needed was someone to care about her and give her a chance."
"I think we all need that sometimes," Harm said absently.
Mac was silent for a moment. "I wonder how Tiner is doing? We haven't heard from him for a while."
"I'm sure he's fine. He's a good kid. They all are."
"Watch it," Mac warned, laughing. "You're showing your age, Commander."
"Just wait," he threatened. "When you turn forty, I'll be laughing at you."
Mac shrugged her shoulders, "I'll still be younger than you."
Harm grinned, "That doesn't mean I can't give you a hard time."
"You already do," Mac responded with a smile.
Harm shook his head. "I'm going to get out of here before the Admiral decides he doesn't need me and gets rid of me for good."
Mac nodded as Harm left her office.
Sunday, November 9, 2003
0143 Hours (local)
Another week had passed and Saturday night found the four of them back at the club. Nobody had heard from Denise all week and she had shown up at Mac's apartment as was expected. She hadn't said a word to Mac, or even made eye contact. Harm and Jen both got the feeling that something had passed between them, but neither knew what. The bruise on Denise's face had healed enough to be covered by make-up and the ones on her arms were easily concealed by her top.
Once again, Harm and Denise had arrived at the club before Mac and Jen. They decided that if anyone asked about Harm and Mac the previous week, and the fact that Harm was with a different woman, they would just make Harm a philandering jerk. Mac and Jen had come in and waved and smiled to a few people before getting drinks and taking a seat. Mac was getting tired of this. She wanted her Saturday nights back.
Harm had been keeping an eye on Mac, glancing at her across the sea of people. Occasionally, she would catch him. Neither one ever got up to go to the other. And when Harm and Denise danced, they seemed distant, not at all graceful. Mac kept her eye on Jen, making sure she was safe.
A guy approached Mac. He looked young, had long hair down to about his ears, and he was probably only about as tall as Mac. He was slender, not very muscular, though some muscles would suit his frame well. Looking down at Mac, he asked, "You want to go dance?"
Mac smiled sweetly, but shook her head. "No, thanks."
He leaned a little closer. "Come on, you know you want to," he urged.
Mac turned and regarded him closely. His skin was pale and his eyes were dark, probably either a dark green or brown. "I said no thanks," she responded firmly, no longer smiling.
"Well," he said, easing up a little, sensing that she meant it. "Can I at least buy you a drink?"
"No," she said. "I'm not interested." The issue of drinks had come up before from guys. A few had insisted that she get alcohol but she would come up with a remark like, "I want to remember everything that happens tonight." Most men bought it, but a few had gotten her alcoholic drinks anyway. Once Mac smelled the alcohol, she tended to hand the drink back to whoever had bought it and walk away.
The guy nodded, glancing around, "Next time, then."
Mac nodded as she spoke, "We'll see."
He walked away and Mac breathed a sigh of relief. Most guys took no for an answer, a few pushed. And it wasn't often that she didn't take them up on the offer, but a few of them gave her creepy vibes, this guy included. She glanced over and noticed Harm staring intently at her while he danced with Denise, who was pretending not to notice. There was a fierce, protective, gleam in his eyes, and Mac was willing to bet that if the guy had tried to force Mac to dance, Harm would have been all over him within seconds. Not to mention that Mac could have taken him down faster than he could have said, "What the hell."
Jen came back and sat next to Mac. "You okay?" she asked.
"Yeah. That last guy bothered me a bit. I wasn't sure he was going to take 'no' for an answer."
Jen smiled, "There are some creeps out there. You could have taken him on, though."
Mac laughed. "Yeah."
Jen leaned back in her seat, just watching the people around her. Over the last few weeks, she had gotten to know some of them, guys and girls. They had welcomed her into their scene with open arms, many of them quite friendly, not what you would expect based on their outside appearances. A moment later she spotted someone and got up to talk to her, leaving Mac to herself.
When Jen returned a few minutes later, she was smiling. Mac looked up at her, her eyes questioning, "Why are you so happy?"
Jen leaned close to Mac and whispered in her ear, "I've got something for you to listen to when we get out of here. But we have to stay until closing. Watch the corner."
Mac pulled back and said to her, "Do you have something?"
"I might," Jen smiled. She moved off to dance with another guy she knew, keeping the corner in her line of sight.
Five minutes before closing, Mac and Jen left and headed to the van with the recording equipment. From there, they paged Denise. A few minutes later, Denise and Harm joined them.
"What do you have?" Harm asked.
The officer in the van, Pete Manchester, smiled. He knew exactly what Jen was talking about. He had heard some interesting conversations over the last few weeks, but this one was good. And Jen's comment to Mac that she had something she wanted her to listen to had clued him in. He fiddled with a few adjustments and started the recording, the background noises diminished. Technology had come a long way in recent years.
Jen's voice: "Hey, Michelle!"
Girl's voice (Michelle): "Hey, girly! What's up?"
Jen: "Same old, same old. You?"
Michelle, laughing: "Can't complain. You here with your friend again, what's her name?"
Michelle: "Yeah. The hot one."
In the van, Mac blushed to hear this and looked down at her feet.
Jen: "Yeah, she's with me. She was just hit on by a creep."
Michelle: "Doesn't that happen a lot? All men are creeps."
Jen: "No, she got a bad feel from this one."
Michelle, concern in her voice: "Some of these guys are trouble here. You have to watch out for them."
Jen: "Yeah. I know. She knows it, too, believe me."
Michelle: "Like that one. Even I won't talk to him. Fortunately, he doesn't come in that often."
Jen: "What's wrong with him?"
Michelle: "He doesn't like taking 'no' for an answer, believes that when a woman says 'no,' she means 'yes.' But he can be really charming, too, make you not want to say no."
Jen: "Sounds like you've had experience?"
Michelle: "Just about every female in here, gay or straight, if they come in here often enough, has had experience with him. And then you get guys like that one…"
Jen: "That one?"
Michelle: "Yeah, with the woman. He's gorgeous, I'll give you that, but probably a complete asshole."
Jen: "Why do you say that?"
Michelle: "Every few weeks, he's in here with a new woman. Sometimes, he'll bring one with him, and the next week he has another one, only to be back the first one a week later. I've seen him alone a few times, but he always leaves with someone."
Michelle: "Exactly. That's why I leave men alone."
Jen: "Women aren't always better. They play mind games, too."
Michelle: "At least with women, I have a fair chance at understanding them!"
Jen, laughing: "I guess so."
Michelle: "Hey, June is back from the restroom. I'll catch up to you later!"
Pete stopped the recording.
Jen turned to Harm, Mac, and Denise. "The guy Michelle was talking about, the creepy one?"
They all nodded. The blood began to drain from Mac's face as she realized where Jen was going with this.
"He was the one that had hit on you a few minutes earlier, Mac." Mac was silent, so Jen went on. "Did you get a good look at him?"
Mac nodded. "He might not be the one," Mac stated.
"The description from Marc Skylar matched him," Jen pointed out.
"Still," Mac insisted.
Harm jumped in, "You want to clue me in?"
Mac turned to him. "That guy that was trying to get me to dance with him a little while ago, I know you saw him, because even though you were dancing with Denise, you didn't look happy. He didn't really want to take 'no' for an answer, exactly like Michelle said on the tape. And I got a real bad vibe from him. He does match our description, but he might not be the guy we are looking for."
"But he might be," Denise said. "It's more than we've had for the last few weeks."
"But why me, why not Jen?" Mac asked.
"You were alone," Jen said. "I was dancing with another guy."
"Next week," Denise started, "If he's there, Jen, you have to dance with him, get him talking to you."
Jen nodded and turned to Mac again. "That's why we couldn't leave. What if he was looking for his next victim, and you were on his list. He could have moved on to someone else. At least by being there, we might have been able to stop him from getting anyone else."
Mac nodded. "Good thinking."
"Okay, guys," Pete said, "get out. Let me get this back to the station and we'll do this again next week."
The four of them left the van and went to their vehicles, all heading back to Mac's place, where Harm and Denise left to go home and Mac and Jen went to bed.