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1426 EASTERN
JAG HEADQUARTERS
FALLS CHURCH, VIRGINIA

"Commander Rabb, Major MacKenzie, come in," A.J. Chegwidden directed. He glared at Clayton Webb, who hastily vacated a chair for Mac.

The two officers looked curiously at the oddly assorted group of strangers in the admiral’s office. There was an older man who’s demeanor all but screamed ‘spy,’ two men about their own age (both rather handsome, Mac noted in passing) who displayed a rather military bearing, a short, fidgety-looking man, and an exotically beautiful woman who occupied the other visitor’s chair.

"Mister Webb was wondering if the two of you would care to attend an embassy reception this evening," he announced blandly.

"Actually, I really only need Mac," Webb corrected.

"But you’re not going to send one of my officers anywhere without someone I know and trust to watch her back," A.J. countered. "No offense, Major Shepherd," he added, addressing himself to one of the younger, military-looking men.

"None taken, sir," Shepherd assured him. "I felt the same way about sending Margo in there."

"In where, sir?" Mac inquired warily, remembering the last embassy party Webb had arranged for them to attend.

"The Belgian embassy," Webb supplied.

"You still haven’t explained to my satisfaction exactly why you need Major MacKenzie," the admiral reminded him.

"Or Margo," Shepherd added.

Webb sighed in exasperation. "We need to get a feel for the new ambassador."

"And you need the Major for this because?" Chegwidden asked.

"Because the ambassador has a weakness for beautiful women. There’s absolutely no danger involved… all Mac or Ms. Vincent would have to do is get close enough to him to talk for a bit… get an idea of where his loyalties lie, so to speak." He shrugged. "It’s a walk in the park."

Shepherd’s group winced noticeably at Webb’s choice of words.

"And what exactly is going to be happening while Major MacKenzie and Ms. Vincent are
… distracting… the ambassador?"

"Yeah, Webb," Harm muttered, folding his arms across his chest.

"You know, Trout," Major Shepherd remarked conversationally to the older man, "you never got around to telling us that either."

"That’s on a need-to-know basis, Matt," Trout replied gravely.

A.J. stood, pressing his palms flat against the top of his desk. "If you want my people in on this, then I
damn well need to know!"

"A.J., she’ll be in no danger," Webb protested.

"That’s what you said when you sent them into the Sudanese Embassy. You remember that, don’t you,
Webb? The simple, harmless assignment involving the maniac who had samples of the Ebola virus?"

Harm saw Major Shepherd and his companion exchange a glance that spoke volumes about their
experiences with spooks. They seemed steady enough to him and he thought he’d be able to work with
them. The third man looked slightly unreliable, but Harm decided to reserve judgement until they’d at
least been introduced.

Webb looked to Trout, who shrugged slightly. "It’s nothing, really. We just want to get a look around
his office and want to make sure we’re not disturbed, that’s all," he explained, trying to sound as
innocent as possible. He smiled, trying to be charming. "I’m certain that between them, Mac and
Margo can hold his attention."

The two women traded slightly disgusted looks, obviously not charmed. A.J. waited patiently, still not
convinced.

"Look, A.J., Trout and I have already been through this with Major Shepherd’s people. Major
Shepherd will escort Ms. Vincent to the party…he’ll be right there in the room with them, and his
associates will be providing back up."

A.J.’s glance flickered to Harm, silently demanding his assessment of the people they’d be working
with. Harm looked significantly to Shepherd, then nodded slightly. The admiral understood the request.
"I want Commander Rabb in the room with Major MacKenzie," he stated flatly.

Webb looked as though he was going to protest, but the admiral made a very casual gesture of rubbing
the bridge of his nose that effectively silenced him. "Fine," he said grudgingly.

"Is this a formal reception?" Mac inquired.

"Yes," Webb replied shortly, handing her a dress bag. "Try not to rip this one," he added.

1834 EASTERN
JAG HEADQUARTERS
FALLS CHURCH, VIRGINIA

Harm gave a low whistle as his partner appeared in the doorway of his office. "How does Clay do it?"
he wondered.

"I don’t know," Mac replied in a dangerous tone, "but he and I are going to have a long talk one of
these days."

"Hey – I think you look great," Harm told her in a conciliatory tone.

Mac just gave him a hard look.

"I don’t suppose you’ve got any weapons on you?" he asked, trying to get the conversation back to
business before she took a swing him.

"You’re kidding, right?’ Mac asked rather acidly, gesturing to the form-fitting, strapless red gown she
wore.

"I asked Margo the same thing," Matt Shepherd remarked from the doorway.

"And I told him that while Claudia can hide the lines of a gun, she can’t do anything about passing one
through a metal detector," Margo finished.

Harm’s eyes widened slightly as he noticed Margo’s gown – sleek black silk with spaghetti straps and
a plunging v-shaped neckline. What he didn’t notice was that his partner had moved around to his side
of the desk…at least not until her heel ground into his toes. He bit back a yelp and glared up at Mac,
who smiled sweetly in return.

Margo smothered a chuckle into a slight cough, and everyone relaxed slightly. The rest of Shepherd’s
team materialized behind him.

"I thought we should take a few minutes to introduce ourselves and discuss our gameplan," Matt
suggested.

"Sounds good to me," Harm agreed.

"Hey – I t’ought dis mission wasn’t supposed to be dangerous?" the weasley-looking man remarked
cheerfully.

"That’s what they tell us, Delvecchio," Matt replied.

"I dunno… dose dresses look plenty dangerous to me!"

Harm tensed to stand up, relaxing as Margo shook her head slightly, with a resigned expression on her
face. Delvecchio’s companion smacked him in the arm.

"That’s Nick Delvecchio," Matt announced, "and he has no manners… as I’m sure you’ve noticed. He
is however, very good at his job."

"Well, that’s all that really counts," Harm conceded.

"This is Benny Ray Riddle," Matt continued, indicating the fourth member of his team.

Benny Ray inclined his head politely. "Pleased to meet you, sir, ma’am," he said in a soft southern
accent.

"So let me get this straight," Harm began, "the four of us will be inside at the party. Mister Riddle and
Mister Delvecchio will be outside as backup?"

"That’s right," Matt confirmed. "There will also be another associate of ours standing by to assist if the
situation becomes extreme."

"How will they know if we need help?" Mac asked.

"Transponders, ma’am," Benny Ray told her, holding up a small black case. "See that necklace
Margo’s wearing?"

Mac looked and noticed that the other woman was wearing a rather ornate gemstone choker. She
nodded.

"Well, I wasn’t sure what you’d be wearing, so I’ve got a couple different ones in here…uh…Margo
can help you with that," Benny Ray concluded, flushing slightly as he held out the case to his colleague.

"Oh, I’d be happy to-" Delvecchio began with a wide grin on his face.

"To go check on the monitoring equipment in the car," Matt finished for him.

* * * *

"So, have you worked with Webb before?" Mac asked as Margo adjusted the brooch on the front of
her gown.

"No…I’d heard of him, but I never worked with him directly. There – how’s that?"

"Feels fine… and anyone who messes with it will get their hands broken," Mac said with a grin.

Margo smiled at that thought.

"So are you people military?" Mac asked curiously.

"Sort of," Margo answered with a crooked grin. "Matt is a retired Green Beret, as you gathered from
the uniform." Her smile deepened, thinking how handsome he looked in the formal uniform.

"So how did you hear of Webb?" Mac probed.

"When you run in certain circles, you hear certain names," Margo replied evasively. "What about you?
Your boss didn’t seem too pleased to see Mister Webb either."

Mac laughed softly. "Clayton Webb has a habit of recruiting us for missions that shall we say…don’t
go off quite as planned."

"I hear that. The last time someone described a mission as a ‘walk in the park,’ I ended up getting shot
in a foreign country and then betrayed by the US official who was supposed to be helping me. His
name was Webster…when Webb was introduced, for a split second I was afraid I hadn’t heard the
name right… I thought maybe he had a brother or something."

Harm, Matt, and Benny Ray were waiting when they exited the ladies room.

"’Bout time," Harm quipped.

Benny Ray took the equipment case from Margo. "You look real pretty, Sweet Pea," he said quietly.

"Thank you, Benny Ray," Margo responded, smiling gently.

"Y’all take care," he said as he left.

"Are we all set?" Matt asked.

The others nodded.

"Let’s do it," Harm said firmly.

1954 EASTERN
BELGIAN EMBASSY
WASHINGTON, D.C.

"You sure you’re OK with this?" Matt asked for the tenth time. The party was in full swing and they
were dancing, surreptitiously edging closer to the ambassador.

"I’m fine, Matt, really," Margo assured him. "I know what I’m getting into and I can handle it."

"I just don’t like using you for bait this way," he admitted, unconsciously tightening his arm around her.
Matt suddenly realized that if they weren’t working, he’d be enjoying himself immensely.

Margo squeezed his hand reassuringly. "I’m a big girl, Matt, and I can take care of myself," she
reminded him.

"I know… I know… but I can still worry about you, can’t I?"

"You can if it makes you happy," Margo told him, smiling mischievously.

"You know something?" Matt asked suddenly. "Benny Ray was right… you do look very pretty this
evening."

"Why thank you, Major Shepherd," she replied with a brilliant smile. "And may I say that you’re not too
shabby yourself."

"You can if it makes you happy," Matt responded, echoing her earlier words.

Margo gazed up at him, her face lit with laughter. She looked as though she was about to say
something, when her countenance froze into a careful little smile. "Heads up," she whispered. "The
ambassador’s coming this way."

"Remember," Matt cautioned, "all you have to do is keep him away from his office. If you can keep him
from leaving this room at all…"

"I know," Margo assured him.

Matt wanted to tell her to be careful one more time, but then the ambassador was there, asking to cut
in and he had no choice but to acquiesce gracefully.

* * * *

Harm and Mac were dancing nearby. "Looks like the ambassador’s making a move for Margo," Mac
murmured.

Harm ‘hmmphed’ noncommittally. ‘Better her than you,’ is what he was thinking, but he knew better
than to say it out loud. A moment later, the waltz ended and Matt appeared beside them, making a
show of formally asking Mac for the next dance.

Harm drifted over to the refreshment table, where he could observe Margo and the ambassador, and
also watch his partner on the dance floor. He felt an irrational stab of jealousy as he saw Matt lean
down to whisper in Mac’s ear. He knew that this was the agreed upon method of unobtrusively
passing on information, but that didn’t mean he had to like it.

Reluctantly, Harm wrenched his eyes away from his partner and back to the operative he was
supposed to be looking out for. The ambassador appeared to be part octopus, and Margo’s face wore
an expression Harm had seen occasionally on Mac – a set smile that was at odds with the spark in her
eyes said that she’d like nothing better than to pound the man’s face into the nearest wall.

Harm glanced back at the dance floor and saw his partner smiling up at Matt and lightly squeezing his
hand. Her gestures were easy enough to interpret – obviously, Matt was keeping an eye on Margo and
not liking what he saw. Mac was doing her utmost to keep him from blowing their cover by dismantling
the ambassador right on the spot.

As Harm watched, an aide approached the ambassador, urgently whispering something. Margo tried to
lead him back to the dance floor, but the aide displaced her, leading the ambassador away. Acting
quickly, Harm grabbed two cups of punch and moved to intercept the diplomat. As he neared the
officials, he ‘accidentally’ slipped, sloshing the bright red liquid all over the other man’s tuxedo.

"Oh, sir, excuse me! I’m terribly sorry," Harm apologized, daubing at the mess with his handkerchief.

"Quite all right," the ambassador mumbled, trying to disentangle himself and leave the room.

Margo hurried over with some napkins. "Let me help," she offered.

"It’s no problem at all, my dear, really. I’ll just go get cleaned up as soon as my business is concluded."

* * * *

Benny Ray slipped through the darkened corridors near the ambassador’s office. He heard footsteps
and flattened himself against the wall. Cautiously peering around the corner, he saw two armed guards
dragging Clayton Webb’s limp form out of the office. Ducking back, he spoke quietly into his mike.

"Delvecchio, Webb’s been compromised."

"Hang on, buddy… help’s on the way. Ooooookay… the others are clear, and your backup should be
arriving right about… now."

Despite his training, Benny Ray flinched in shock at the earsplitting racket of a large section of wall
exploding inward in a hail of gunfire.

"Nothin’ like a quiet entrance," Benny Ray muttered under his breath.

He was on his feet and moving before the dust had even settled. The guards, unaccustomed to Deke’s
spectacular arrivals, were caught completely unaware. As they saw the enormous man bearing an
even more enormous weapon, they froze in momentary shock. Benny Ray took careful aim and
dropped one of the guards. The second was raising his pistol to fire when Deke’s shot caught him in
midsection.

"Thanks," Benny Ray muttered.

Deke nodded. "Get him outta here."

Benny Ray knelt and slung Webb’s limp form over his shoulder, then double-timed it out of the building.

1236 EASTERN
BETHESDA NAVAL HOSPITAL
BETHESDA, MARYLAND

Harm, Mac, Matt, and Margo entered the ER, still clad in their formal attire. Matt spotted his people
and strode on ahead.

"You two all right?" he asked tersely.

"Yessir," Benny Ray replied.

"How’s Webb" Harm asked.

"I dunno," Nick replied. "Looked like someone clubbed him in the head with somethin’… doctors are
still checkin’ him out."

"What about your other man?" Harm inquired.

"Deke? He’s long gone," Matt assured him.

Harm raised an eyebrow at that. "If you say so." He offered his hand. "Major, it’s been a pleasure
serving with you."

"Likewise," Matt replied. "If you ever find yourselves in my neck of the woods, look me up at the Silver
Star Bar."

"We’ll do that," Harm assured him.

"Next time, you get Mister Ham-hands," Margo quipped to Mac.

"Only if I get to break his fingers," Mac answered, grinning.

"All right… come on, you," Harm said good-naturedly, taking his partner’s arm.

"They’re good people," Benny Ray commented thoughtfully, watching the two JAG officers walk
away.

"That they are," Matt agreed.

"Hey, Benny Ray – why didn’t you tell me dey had Marines dat looked like Mac? I woulda enlisted on
da spot," Delvecchio remarked.

"Shut up," Benny Ray replied, giving his teammate a none-too-gentle shove. "The Corps wouldn’t take
you anyway."

"Huh? Whadda ya mean by that?" Nick demanded.

Margo rolled her eyes and started walking down the corridor. Matt followed. So did Benny Ray,
leaving Nick spluttering in the middle of the hallway.

* * * *

Mac shivered slightly as they stepped put into the night.

"Cold?" Harm asked solicitously.

"A little," she admitted.

Harm carefully settled his arm around her shoulders. "Those are good people. I wouldn’t mind working
with them again."

"Yeah, I know what you mean. Even Delvecchio starts to grow on you after a while."

"Yeah…like a fungus," Harm responded, delighted to make her laugh. "Although I didn’t really like
seeing you dancing with Matt."

"Why not?" Mac wondered.

"Well, I guess I was a little… ah… jealous," Harm admitted. At Mac’s questioning look, he continued, "I mean, I know you have this thing about dress uniforms…"

"Hold it, flyboy. Matt was wearing Army Mess Dress."

"So?"

"So, the phrase in question was ‘dress whites,’" she said, provocatively skimming her hand across his
chest, "‘and gold wings.’"

"And there’s a difference?"

"All the difference in the world, sailor… all the difference in the world."

Finis.

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