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 admirals office.
There was an older man whos 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 visitors 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,"
"But youre 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,
"None taken, sir," Shepherd
assured him. "I felt the same way about sending Margo in
"In where, sir?" Mac inquired
warily, remembering the last embassy party Webb had arranged
for them to attend.
"The Belgian embassy," Webb
"You still havent 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. Theres 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. "Its a walk in
Shepherds group winced noticeably
at Webbs choice of words.
"And what exactly is going to be
happening while Major MacKenzie and Ms. Vincent are
"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."
"Thats 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., shell be in no danger,"
"Thats what you said when
you sent them into the Sudanese Embassy. You remember that, dont
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 hed be able to work with
them. The third man looked slightly unreliable, but Harm decided
to reserve judgement until theyd at
least been introduced.
Webb looked to Trout, who shrugged slightly.
"Its nothing, really. We just want to get a look around
his office and want to make sure were not disturbed, thats
all," he explained, trying to sound as
innocent as possible. He smiled, trying to be charming. "Im
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
"Look, A.J., Trout and I have already
been through this with Major Shepherds people. Major
Shepherd will escort Ms. Vincent to the party
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 theyd be
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?"
"Yes," Webb replied shortly,
handing her a dress bag. "Try not to rip this one,"
FALLS CHURCH, VIRGINIA
Harm gave a low whistle as his partner
appeared in the doorway of his office. "How does Clay do
"I dont know," Mac replied
in a dangerous tone, "but he and I are going to have a long
talk one of
"Hey I think you look great,"
Harm told her in a conciliatory tone.
Mac just gave him a hard look.
"I dont suppose youve
got any weapons on you?" he asked, trying to get the conversation
business before she took a swing him.
"Youre kidding, right?
Mac asked rather acidly, gesturing to the form-fitting, strapless
red gown she
"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 cant do anything about
through a metal detector," Margo finished.
Harms eyes widened slightly as
he noticed Margos gown sleek black silk with spaghetti
a plunging v-shaped neckline. What he didnt 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 Shepherds
team materialized behind him.
"I thought we should take a few
minutes to introduce ourselves and discuss our gameplan,"
"Sounds good to me," Harm
"Hey I tought dis
mission wasnt supposed to be dangerous?" the weasley-looking
"Thats what they tell us,
Delvecchio," Matt replied.
dose dresses look
plenty dangerous to me!"
Harm tensed to stand up, relaxing as
Margo shook her head slightly, with a resigned expression on
face. Delvecchios companion smacked him in the arm.
"Thats Nick Delvecchio,"
Matt announced, "and he has no manners
sure youve noticed. He
is however, very good at his job."
"Well, thats 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, maam," he said in
a soft southern
"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?"
"Thats 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.
Benny Ray told her, holding up a small black case. "See
Mac looked and noticed that the other
woman was wearing a rather ornate gemstone choker. She
"Well, I wasnt sure what
youd be wearing, so Ive got a couple different ones
can help you with that," Benny Ray concluded, flushing slightly
as he held out the case to his colleague.
"Oh, Id 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
Id heard of him,
but I never worked with him directly. There hows
and anyone who
messes with it will get their hands broken," Mac said with
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?"
"When you run in certain circles,
you hear certain names," Margo replied evasively. "What
Your boss didnt 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
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 hadnt heard the
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.
"Yall take care," he
said as he left.
"Are we all set?" Matt asked.
The others nodded.
"Lets do it," Harm said
"You sure youre OK with this?"
Matt asked for the tenth time. The party was in full swing and
were dancing, surreptitiously edging closer to the ambassador.
"Im fine, Matt, really,"
Margo assured him. "I know what Im getting into and
I can handle it."
"I just dont like using you
for bait this way," he admitted, unconsciously tightening
his arm around her.
Matt suddenly realized that if they werent working, hed
be enjoying himself immensely.
Margo squeezed his hand reassuringly.
"Im a big girl, Matt, and I can take care of myself,"
I can still worry about you, cant 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
"Why thank you, Major Shepherd,"
she replied with a brilliant smile. "And may I say that
youre not too
"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
ambassadors 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 ambassadors making a move for Margo," Mac
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 Macs ear. He knew that this was the
agreed upon method of unobtrusively
passing on information, but that didnt mean he had to like
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 Margos 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 shed like nothing better than to pound the
mans face into the nearest wall.
Harm glanced back at the dance floor
and saw his partner smiling up at Matt and lightly squeezing
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 mans tuxedo.
"Oh, sir, excuse me! Im 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.
"Its no problem at all, my
dear, really. Ill just go get cleaned up as soon as my
business is concluded."
* * * *
Benny Ray slipped through the darkened
corridors near the ambassadors office. He heard footsteps
and flattened himself against the wall. Cautiously peering around
the corner, he saw two armed guards
dragging Clayton Webbs limp form out of the office. Ducking
back, he spoke quietly into his mike.
"Delvecchio, Webbs been compromised."
"Hang on, buddy
on the way. Ooooookay
the others are clear, and your backup
arriving right about
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 Dekes
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 Dekes shot caught him in
"Thanks," Benny Ray muttered.
Deke nodded. "Get him outta here."
Benny Ray knelt and slung Webbs
limp form over his shoulder, then double-timed it out of the
BETHESDA NAVAL HOSPITAL
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
"Yessir," Benny Ray replied.
"Hows Webb" Harm asked.
"I dunno," Nick replied. "Looked
like someone clubbed him in the head with somethin
still checkin him out."
"What about your other man?"
"Deke? Hes long gone,"
Matt assured him.
Harm raised an eyebrow at that. "If
you say so." He offered his hand. "Major, its
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
"Well do that," Harm
"Next time, you get Mister Ham-hands,"
Margo quipped to Mac.
"Only if I get to break his fingers,"
Mac answered, grinning.
come on, you,"
Harm said good-naturedly, taking his partners arm.
"Theyre good people,"
Benny Ray commented thoughtfully, watching the two JAG officers
"That they are," Matt agreed.
"Hey, Benny Ray why didnt
you tell me dey had Marines dat looked like Mac? I woulda enlisted
da spot," Delvecchio remarked.
"Shut up," Benny Ray replied,
giving his teammate a none-too-gentle shove. "The Corps
"Huh? Whadda ya mean by that?"
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 wouldnt mind
with them again."
"Yeah, I know what you mean. Even
Delvecchio starts to grow on you after a while."
like a fungus,"
Harm responded, delighted to make her laugh. "Although I
didnt really like
seeing you dancing with Matt."
"Why not?" Mac wondered.
"Well, I guess I was a little
jealous," Harm admitted. At Macs 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, the phrase in question was
dress whites," she said, provocatively skimming
her hand across his
chest, "and gold wings."
"And theres a difference?"
"All the difference in the world,
all the difference in the world."
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