A Human Conversation

Disclaimer: I don't own the characters in this. They are owned by DPB, Paramount Pictures, Belisarius Productions, and CBS Television. I'm just borrowing them for a little fun. Please don't sue. You wouldn't get much, just some shirts, some pants, and underwear, lots and lots of underwear. Starving college student here!

Spoilers: Anything up to and including "A Tangled Webb"

Feedback is always welcomed and appreciated. It can be sent to c.digges@verizon.net

AN1: I consider myself a Washington, DC metro area native. I’ve spent most of my life here in northern Virginia, the two exceptions being the first year and a half of my life when I lived in Richmond, Virginia, and a (very) brief time in Pennsylvania for school (I decided it wasn’t for me). In October of 2002, numerous sniper shootings around the area occurred. The victims were chosen at random and nobody knew when the next attack would happen. Everyone was affected and the simple things in life became terrifying and dangerous. It truly was a time when I wished I didn’t live here. The snipers were apprehended after the license plate numbers believed to be on the car the killers were driving were released to the public. The relief of getting them and knowing that they weren’t attacking people anymore was incredible. I think we all started sleeping better at night. This piece was sort of a therapeutic thing for me, a chance for me to express my feelings on the whole situation with the approaching trials.

AN2: The facts stated in this piece are true. Lee Boyd Malvo was 17 at the times of the attacks and John Allen Muhammad is 42. Overall, 20 shootings, 13 of which resulted in deaths in the states of Georgia, Alabama, Louisiana, Maryland, Virginia, and Washington, DC, most of which occurred during the three week period spanning October 2nd through the 24th. The beliefs and the statements of the prosecutors and defense attorneys are true. All information was checked for accuracy and obtained from The Washington Post.


JAG Headquarters
Falls Church, VA
Friday, June 6th, 2003
0753 Local

He was leaning against the counter in the break room, reading the morning edition of “The Washington Post,” when she came in for coffee. He looked up, gave her his famous ‘Flyboy’ grin and handed her one of the two cups of coffee resting nearby. “Morning, Mac.”

“Morning, Harm. Thanks,” she said happily as she sipped the coffee. Her lips curved up around the rim of the cup in a smile as she sipped, her eyes closed in bliss as the warm liquid filled her mouth. After her first sip, she continued smiling and said, “You do know how I like it.”

“Well,” he shrugged, smiling slyly. “I do like to make you happy.”

“So what are you doing in here so early this morning?” Mac asked as she sipped more of her coffee.

“I had some work that had to be done early this morning.”

Mac grinned at him and raised an eyebrow. “You don’t look like you’re working too hard.”

“I don’t want to wear myself out too early,” he stated, wearing an innocent expression.

“I see. Anything interesting in there?” she asked, indicating the newspaper.

“I was just reading up on the latest in the Malvo case.”

“Anything new?”

“The prosecutors are now saying that the shooting spree was part of a scheme. They wanted to extort $10 million from the government.”

“Unbelievable,” Mac said, shaking her head sadly.

“The defense doesn’t believe they can get a fair jury from around here. They feel like the entire area was a victim, creating a biased jury pool.”

“I’m inclined to agree with them. I don’t think he will get a fair trial around here,” Mac paused for a moment, and said quieter, “But I don’t think he deserves one, either.”

“What do you think he deserves?”

“Not a fair trial. I think he deserves to rot behind bars for the rest of his life and then rot in hell for eternity afterwards.”

Harm looked shocked for a moment. He tossed the paper on the counter and folded his arms across his chest. “Care to explain, Mac?”

“The defense is right in that everybody around here was a victim. Sure, most of us were lucky enough to live, but that’s all it was. Luck. We weren’t at the wrong place at the wrong time. But we never knew where the wrong place was. Every last one of us was terrified, whether we wanted to admit or not. We moved around and danced while we pumped gas, we went to stations far away from highways during rush-hour so that we wouldn’t be targets because a fast escape would be difficult, kept our eyes on the woods and buildings nearby. We were wary of white vans and we didn’t want to go to certain stores because they became associated with the shootings, like Home Depot and Michael’s. I was afraid when I took Jingo out for a walk that it would be the last walk he and I would go on. Terrorists intend to strike terror in people and Malvo and Muhammad succeeded in this. It wasn’t about the color of our skin, or our profession, or our gender; it was about being human. That is why we were targeted, because we are human. And another human being was targeting us. As humans, as people, we all had a right to be scared.”

Mac paused to take a breath and Sturgis strode into the room. “Good morning, Harm, Mac.”

“Morning, Sturgis,” Harm greeted him.

“Morning,” Mac echoed, her face flushed from her emotional speech.

Sturgis looked at her. “You okay, Mac?”

“We were just discussing the sniper case,” Harm jumped in.

“Please, continue,” Sturgis urged as he reached for a coffee mug.

Mac looked at Harm and he nodded. “And one of the things that made it so scary was the aloneness of it. Pumping gas in your car, you’re alone. And to die like that, so unexpectedly and alone, that is a terrifying thought.” She looked at Harm and spoke more to him then Sturgis, “At least when we were in Afghanistan, we weren’t alone. We could have died that night, Harm, but we wouldn’t have been alone. And going into a war zone, you know that dying is a possibility, but you shouldn’t be worried about it as you go grocery shopping or fill up your gas tank or take your dog for a walk.”

“Do you think Malvo deserves the death penalty?” Sturgis asked.

“Yes, I do. But I hope he doesn’t get it.”

“And why is that?” Harm asked.

“His victims, his and Muhammad’s, didn’t know they were going to die. He shouldn’t know when he is going to die, either. Or, if he does get the death penalty, I think he should die like his victims, getting shot but not knowing when, be it three days from the sentencing or 70 years from now.”

“That’s kind of harsh,” Sturgis observed.

“So was what they did,” Mac responded.

“But you’re a lawyer, Mac. You, of all people, should at least be willing to give them a fair trial,” Harm stated.

“My head tells me that, but my heart disagrees. A right to a fair trial is part of what makes this country great. I just don’t understand how they could do what they did, watching people and randomly picking one person out and shooting them. Nobody has the right to take another human life like they did. My heart wants them to pay for what they did.”

Harm nodded. “I can understand that. And I certainly respect that.”

“Do you think they deserve a fair trial?” Mac asked him.

“I’m with you: yes and no. I, too, want them to pay for what they did, what they put us through. But I think they should get a fair trial. As you said, it is one of the things that makes this country great. You’re right; we were all scared for those three weeks. And I don’t think they will get a fair trial here because of that fact.”

Sturgis watched the exchange with a smile on his face. When they weren’t going at each other’s throats, Harm and Mac made an amazing pair.

“There’s something else that gets me, though,” Harm began again, sipping his coffee. “Malvo’s age.”

“He was 17 during the shootings,” Mac stated.

“Yeah,” Harm nodded. “And people think we should treat him like a minor because legally, he was one at the time of the attacks. But at 17, he should know that killing people is wrong. He should be able to make his own choices and take responsibility for them. Some people seem to think that at the age of 18 a person magically grows up. But it is an ongoing process and there really isn’t much difference between the ages of 17 and 18.”

Mac nodded. “But you still think he deserves a fair trial?”

“Yeah, as an adult.”

Mac smiled at Harm and patted his arm. “I’m glad to see that somebody is as impassioned about this as I am.”

“I think we all are,” Harm said, looking at Sturgis. “As you said, Mac, we are all human.”

Sturgis nodded his agreement as the Admiral entered the room to get a cup of coffee, his second of the day. “Can I be expecting you guys to work today?” he asked as he looked at his officers.

“Yes, Sir,” they all said at once.

“Good, he smiled at them.

“Hey, Harm,” Sturgis began. “You got some time to talk about the Swain case?”

“Yeah. Come on,” he said as the three of them left the break room. “I just got to go get the file and I’ll meet you in your office.” Sturgis nodded and walked to his office. “Hey, Mac, you got a minute?”

“Yeah,” she said as she followed him to his office.

“You want to come over tonight and have dinner? I’ll cook.”

Mac carefully regarded him for a moment. “Hmm… Friday night eating dinner with you, a meal that you have cooked, or eating a TV dinner at my place alone? Tough choice. If you’re cooking, I’ll be eating.”

“Good,” he said, flashing his famous grin. Mac turned to leave and asked over her shoulder, “Any particular reason why?”

“No. I just want to spend time with you. And talking about the sniper thing has kind of reminded me of all the wonderful things I have in my life. Including you.”

Mac nodded. She couldn’t help but to agree with that statement. As terrifying as the shootings were and the fear they brought out in people, it also pulled people closer together. It made them all appreciate the good things in life and the people they cared about. “I’ll see you in court this afternoon,” she said as she departed, a smile gracing her features.

Behind her, Harm, too, was wearing a smile. He had meant what he said. The sniper shootings had made him grateful for all of the wonderful things in his life, including, and perhaps most especially, Mac.


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