Saturday, September 20, 2003
2333 Hours (local)
Harm knocked on the door to Denise's apartment. She had called him earlier with directions and it hadn't been that hard to find. She was only about twenty minutes away from him, within walking distance of Mac's apartment. They had discussed what time they would meet and what they would be wearing. Harm was dressed in black jeans and a black, button-down shirt and couldn't decide if he felt like an idiot or a thief.
A few seconds after his knock, Denise opened the door. "Come in," she said with a smile on her face.
Harm followed her in and couldn't take his eyes off her. She was wearing a tight, black dress that came to mid-thigh and had thin straps on her shoulders. She had a sheer, black, button-down top over the dress. The dress was low-cut in the front, revealing a little bit of cleavage and even lower in the back, revealing a vast expanse of naturally tan skin. Her eyes were lined with black and her lips were painted a matte purple. Her blonde hair was loose and free, hanging over her shoulders, and was slightly wavy. She was, in Harm's opinion, a gorgeous woman.
Denise, meanwhile, eyed Harm up and down as he entered. Even dressed in solid black, he was very sexy man. "You look good," she offered.
"And you look amazing," he said, smiling, as he took her hand and kissed the back of it.
Denise blushed. "Thanks. I wasn't really sure of what to wear, other than all black. Do you think this is okay?"
"I wasn't sure of what to wear either. But I think you could wear a potato sack and look good."
Denise blushed again, "Thanks."
"So, you ready to go?" Harm asked.
"You got pockets in those pants?"
"Yes," Harm said, giving her a puzzled look.
"Could you hold on to my license and money? I just don't want to take my purse."
"Oh, sure," Harm agreed.
Denise reached over to the small table by the door and grabbed her license and a few bills. She handed them over to Harm. "Thanks."
Denise grabbed her apartment key as they stepped out into the hallway. She pulled the door shut behind her and locked the door. Looking at the key, she smiled back up at Harm. "And my key?"
He laughed lightly. "Yes," he said as he took the key from Denise's palm.
Denise hooked her arm through his and led him out of the building.
Sunday, September 21, 2003
0004 Hours (local)
After passing the bouncers, who scrutinized the pair somewhat more carefully than they did the rest, Harm and Denise followed the rest of the crowd, and the noise, down the stairs and into the darkness. The music was unfamiliar to both Harm and Denise, the bass in it heavy, and any words were indistinct. The tone of the music was heavy and dark. Once at the bottom of the steps, both Harm and Denise paused to inspect the group that populated the club. It looked very different from its appearance earlier in the week.
Directly opposite the pair and about fifteen feet away was a closed door. Occasionally people wandered through the door and harsh yellow light spilled out. To the right of the door was a large open space that constituted a dance floor. There were chairs set up around the edges and people sat in them, watching the dancers. Speakers were set up near the corners on the far wall. It was up against the speaker farthest away from where Harm and Denise now stood that the bodies of Seaman Johnson and Seaman Ellis had been found.
To the left of where Harm and Denise stood and slightly behind them, was the bar, a throng of people clustered in front of it. The bar was backlit with a neon-green light. In front of the bar and extending to the far wall to the left of Harm and Denise were numerous tables. Only a few were occupied. Harm gestured to the farthest, and the quietest of these, in the back corner.
Denise nodded and followed Harm willingly, clutching his hand as they weaved their way through the crowd. Denise sat down at the table in the corner, sliding into the bench seat. Harm sat down next to her, on the outside.
Neither had known what to expect, but whatever it was, this wasn't it. The clientele of the group was widely varied. While many were dressed in black, a few weren't. One girl on the dance floor was wearing a short, white, fuzzy top that bared her midriff, complete with a tattoo of a fairy. In the light from the rapidly blinking strobe and the black-light candles on the walls, the sweater appeared to be a pale shade of purple. Another guy was walking around wearing something that looked like chain mail straight out of the medieval era over his shirt. One girl was walking around with bright pink spiked hair and another was wearing a pair of blue fairy wings. Everywhere was exposed bellybuttons, bare backs, and short skirts. And the couple in the corner opposite Harm and Denise, sharing the same bench seat, was making out, if not more. The girl was straddling the guy, her skirt pulled up high, revealing smooth, pale, thighs. One of the guy's hands was holding the back of her head, the other was playing with her breast over her sheer top. Every once in a while, Harm could catch a glimpse of tongue.
For a long time, Harm and Denise could only watch the crowd around them, mesmerized by the dancers and enthralled with the different types of people. Harm glanced at Denise and noticed her amazement with their surroundings as well. There was something else about this place, something that wasn't there in the daylight, something that couldn't be seen, only felt. And it was so thick, Harm could taste it. By the look on Denise's face, she could, too. The couple in the corner, either making out or having sex, said it all. This place oozed sex.
Denise looked up at him and smiled. Harm stole a glance at the couple across from them. The girl's head was thrown back and the guy was feasting on her neck. "You want to go sit by the dance floor, get a closer look?" Harm asked.
"Sure," she agreed. "We can keep an eye on the corner, just in case anything happens."
"That's what I was thinking," Harm smiled as he slid out of the seat ahead of Denise. They paused for a moment and Harm led the way to the chairs by the dance floor, finding two empty ones and pulling one out for Denise. She took a seat and Harm sat beside her. For many long minutes, they were both fascinated by the dancers, watching them with rapt attention. Some danced by themselves, making up the movements as they went along. Others danced in pairs, some closely mimicking the motions of sex. Even with the constant flickering of the strobe light, all the dancers seemed to move with one fluid motion. And in the corner where the murders had occurred, there was almost always a pair of people dancing very closely or making out. The corner was apparently popular for such activities, most likely because it was dark and somewhat secluded.
Harm stole occasional glances at Denise, unaware of the fact that she was doing the same. The environment was getting to him. It was full of sexual energy: the clothes, the dancing, the darkness, the people. He glanced down at her again, this time meeting her gaze.
"You tired of this?" she asked.
"I feel like I've been sitting here for hours. We should get up andů move."
Denise smiled and rose to her feet, extending her hand to him. He rose to his feet and Denise pulled him close to her. She looked up at him and noticed the quickness in his breath. It matched her own. "Harm."
He reached up and stroked her hair. It was smooth and silky beneath his fingers, slipping through them like liquid gold. She slowly licked her lips and it was all Harm could take. He leaned low and gently touched his lips to hers. Like her hair, they were silken. He could smell her scent, light and modern, something with an edge. She pressed her body up against his, wrapped her arms around his shoulders and pulled him closer. He responded in kind, pressing his body close to hers.
Pulling back, she turned to lead him away to the back of the club. The couple that had been making out was gone. Probably on their way home to a place a little quieter, a little more private, with a softer place to lie. Looking at the woman in front of him, he envied them. Denise slid into the seat in front of him. The moment he was seated, she was back in his arms, her lips pressed against his. Slowly, he slid his tongue into her mouth, his action imitating what he wanted to do with lower parts of their bodies.
For long minutes, their bodies were intertwined, their mouths exploring. They were no longer watching the people around them, no longer interested in their surroundings. They had become that couple making out in the corner.
Neither of them noticed the woman who descended the steps into the club, looking around the room, searching for someone. She was dressed in a lightweight, flowing black dress, her skin freshly cleaned and shining in stark contrast to the pale, muted faces around her. She found who she was looking for and saw what she was afraid of.
Neither Harm nor Denise noticed the woman who fled the club, mere minutes after her arrival, her heart broken, tears forming in her eyes.
The only thing they noticed occurred some time later. The music stopped and the harsh fluorescent lights of the basement of the restaurant they were in were turned on. The bartender of the club stood on top of a barstool and yelled, "Okay, it's closing time. You don't have to go home, but you can't stay here." As people slowly started filing out of the room, he added, "Just go home and fuck. You know you want to."
Harm and Denise looked at each other and burst out laughing.
Sunday, September 21, 2003
0243 Hours (local)
Damn it! Why did she have to go there? Why couldn't she just have been content to curl up on her couch with a bowl of popcorn and a good book? Just forget about the two of them out "working" on a Saturday night? Why couldn't she just leave well enough alone?
She should have trusted her instincts. She knew she had been right. She had told Harm that Detective West had wanted to be alone with him. He hadn't believed her, but she had been right.
"Damn it!" she yelled as she threw her glass of water at the wall. It shattered, spilling the water on the wall and the carpet below. The water wasn't enough; she wanted alcohol. She was stronger than that, though. She wouldn't give him that power, that satisfaction. He may have made her angry, he may have broken her heart, but he was not going to knock her off that wagon that she had worked so hard to get on and stay on.
Mac rose to her feet and crossed the room to the fireplace, tears streaming down her face. She had gotten out of the tub and was reading her book on the couch when she decided to take Harm up on his offer and join him and Detective West. She figured they wouldn't be going out until late, so she would call him on his cell phone and let him know she was going to show up. She had called, but it went straight to voice mail, and instead of leaving a message, she had put on her clothes and left, just deciding to find him when she got there. The club wasn't that big, how hard could it be?
She had found him all right. She had found him locked in a passionate embrace with Detective West. It was difficult to tell where one body ended and the other began. She thought they were only kissing, but she wasn't so sure. She had turned and fled the scene, her $10 entrance fee a waste. She had run to her car and climbed in. After locking the doors, she had given in to the tears that had been threatening. When she had calmed enough, she drove home. Once home, she had changed into her pajamas, gotten a glass of water, and sat on her couch, too keyed up to sleep.
Mac gazed at the picture of her and Harm in Afghanistan taken a little over a year prior to now. She picked it up and lovingly stroked his face for what must have been the millionth time since he had given her the picture last Christmas. She had bought a frame for it, just like the one she had given him. Staring at the face of the man she knew so well, the man she loved and, mistakenly, trusted with her heart.
Well, there would be no more of that. He had hurt her for the last time. She thought they had been heading somewhere, getting closer, heading to where she thought they both wanted to go. He had been willing to give up his career for her when she was in Paraguay. They had shared dinners, movies, and nights out. They had regained that lost friendship of so long ago. She had been happy and she thought he had been happy as well. But perhaps she had been wrong.
He wasn't going to know that he had hurt her so badly. If he wanted to be with someone else, who was she to stop him? She had waited for him. "As long as it takes," he had said that night on the Admiral's porch. Well, she had waited for him this time. But he had turned away, turned away to another woman. She didn't know for certain how far he was going to go with West, but she had seen enough. A tear fell out of Mac's eye and landed on the picture in her hands, directly on her face, obscuring the picture. He would never know she was there tonight. He would never know that she had cried over him. He would never know she had been waiting for him, hoping he would let go. She would live her life and be happy with what she did have: a good career, good friends, and lots of comfortable shoes. She didn't need a man, especially Harmon Rabb Jr., to make her a complete and happy person.
Turning, she hurled the picture in its frame across the room after the water glass. It hit the wall and the glass shattered, the wooden frame breaking around it. The photo fell into a pool of water, soaking up the wetness, ruining it forever.
Still hurt and angry, Mac turned the light off in the room, leaving the mess left by the glass and the picture for the morning.
Across town, in a darkened bedroom, an identical picture in an identical frame fell off of a nightstand beside an occupied bed. The glass shattered, one long, continuous crack running through the middle, dividing the two people it depicted in happier times.