Thicker Than Blood: Chapter 9

As soon as he got off the phone with Kim Cunningham, Major Dave Simple left his office and walked to the second of two hallways owned by Litigation, directly to the office identical to his. He nodded a greeting to LN2 Banta, one of the paralegals in Defense, before continuing on to the open doorway.

He rapped his knuckles against the wood doorway, both women sitting inside looking up. "Can I talk to you for a minute?" he asked Major Nisha Ramachandran, ignoring Lieutenant Julia Rose, one of the junior litigators assigned to Defense.

"Sure," his wife replied, turning her attention back to Rose. "Lieutenant Rose, we'll pick this up later."

"Yes, ma'am," the lieutenant replied. "Major," she said with a nod as she walked past Simple.

"Lieutenant," he replied.

As soon as she left the office, Simple closed the door behind her and Nisha sighed. "What did our son do now?" she asked. Evan was at that age when he was realizing not only how boring school could be for a kid as bright as he was, but also what he could do to alleviate that boredom. One or both parent had been called in to the school on multiple occasions for conferences about his actions.

"Not Evan this time, thank God," he replied with an exasperated roll of his eyes. "I just got off the phone with Kim Cunningham."

"Okay…" Nisha said slowly.

"She said she needs a lawyer or two. For a brother or two."


"She didn't get into specifics," he said quickly. "Just that NCIS was holding one and was going to charge the other with something, but I'm not sure what. I told her to call you once I got a chance to run it by you. I'm going to talk to Drummond about coming over to the dark side for this one."

"You? At the defense table?" Nisha asked dubiously.

"I could pull it off," he said defensively. She snorted and rolled her eyes.

"Sure you can," she said dryly. "I'll take it, I'm not working on anything big at the moment. I have two on the table but both are going to plead out, so I'm pretty much free."

"I'm actually completely free, so we're good."

"If Drummond is feeling nice."

"Well, yeah."

Nisha studied him for a moment with a slight frown on her face, her pen tapping against a stack of folders absently. "I can find someone in this hallway," she finally said.

"Let's make that the second course of action," he replied. "I told Kim I'd do everything I can to help her brother. It's pretty much the least I can do."

"I'm not trying to talk you out of it," she said softly. She, of everyone, knew how seriously her husband took his debt to both of the Cunninghams for what they had done to save Jon's life back in Fallujah. "I just know how you feel about defense."

"I'm sure the stink will wash off eventually."

She rolled her eyes and looked ready to throw her pen at him when the phone rang. "I bet that's Kim," Dave said as he rose to his feet. "I'll leave you to it and go talk to Drummond."

"Thanks, hon," Nisha replied as she reached for the receiver. "Litigation, this is Major Nisha Ramachandran," she said into the phone as she picked it up.

Like he promised, Dave left her to the phone call with Kim and headed down the hall to Commander Drummond's office, hoping to find it empty. It was easier to ask forgiveness than permission, after all, and any option was easier than dealing with the Chief of Litigation. In a time when almost all lawyers left JAG for high-paying jobs on the outside as soon as they could, finding an O5 was rare, but Drummond was that bad of a lawyer.

Dave was planning on staying in until they had no choice but to promote him to general and make him the JAG. Nisha was sticking around for as long as the Corps was going to make it easier to be dual military than not. And since she didn't get paid by the client like they did on the outside, there was no pressure to work many cases at once, which gave her the flexibility to spend as much time with the kids as she wanted.

Meanwhile, it was rumored that Drummond's nickname at his first assignment, as a defense litigator, was 'Plead', because that's what he had all of his clients do. He probably didn't the inside of a courtroom until he made lieutenant commander, and that might have been because he had lost a bet. Even now, he rarely took a case, claiming his duties as the chief litigator kept him too busy to actually litigate.

Despite his hopes, Dave found his supervisor—for the next couple of months, until they promoted him to lieutenant colonel and moved him down to Quantico to take command of the legal office on base—where he usually was, sitting behind a desk that was much too large and nice to be government issue. "Permission to enter, sir?" Dave asked formally while standing at attention just outside the office, mostly because it made Drummond uncomfortable. Actually, just about everything about Marines made Drummond uncomfortable; more than once, both Dave and Nisha had overheard him commenting about how he didn't understand the way Marines stood or acted.

If he didn't know how to understand respect, Dave didn't know how to explain it.

"C'mon in," Drummond said, waving him into the office without looking up from his computer screen. Dave took two strides forward and stopped, remaining in a position of attention. Again, because he knew it would bother Drummond.

Sure enough, when the Navy commander looked up, he frowned up at Dave. "Relax, Dave," he said with an uncomfortable chuckle. "No need for that. We're almost the same rank. Please, sit."

"I'll just be a minute, sir," Dave replied, moving to a position of parade rest and ignoring the invitation to sit. "Sir, I'd like to move over to the defense table for a case."

"Really?" Drummond asked with a frown.

Dave frowned, trying to figure out what he needed to know and what he didn't. "You remember my brother, Jon?" he finally asked.

"The one with the...?" Drummond asked, gesturing at his legs.

"Yes, the one who lost his legs in combat," Dave said with a nod. He still chuckled occasionally when he thought about the barbeque he and Nisha had hosted at their house when Drummond had taken over the section. They had invited Jon and Colleen, and intentionally neglected to tell Drummond that Jon had had both legs amputated after being hit by a roadside IED in Fallujah in 2006. The look on the commander's face had been priceless, as had his uncomfortably stammered questions. "The Marine who secured the scene after the attack and made sure he got to the aid station just gave me a call. Her brothers, who are also Marines, are under investigation by NCIS. I her told that Major Ramachandran"—again, he intentionally used Nisha's rank and last name, because their formality at the office confused Drummond, and Drummond still didn't know how to pronounce 'Ramachandran'—"would take the case, and that I'd ask you if I can assist."

Drummond frowned as he considered this. "I don't think I understand why you want to be involved," he finally said slowly.

Dave frowned in return. "She saved my brother's life, sir," he said slowly. He didn't know how else he would be able to explain that.

Drummond appeared to accept it, however, moving on to: "Will it conflict with the cases you're prosecuting?"

"Just accepted a plea deal on my only case this morning," Dave replied. "So I'm free and clear."

"Well, okay," Drummond finally said. "But you'll have to report to your wife while you're under Defense," he added warningly. Dave barely suppressed a smirk at that; it was certainly nothing new.

"I'm sure Major Ramachandran and I manage," he said instead.

"And Lieutenant Mardar will be taking over Prosecution in the meantime," Drummond continued. Again, Dave had to fight from making a face, this time one of disgust. LT Mardar was barely more qualified to be a lawyer than Drummond himself.

"I'm sure he'll do fine," Dave managed through gritted teeth.

"Good," Drummond said with a satisfied nod. "I think that takes care of it, then. Good luck with the case." Dave decided to take that as the dismissal he was pretty sure it was supposed to be and headed back for Nisha's office.

"We're in," he informed her.

"Good," she said crisply, glancing up just long enough for him to see the determined glint in her dark eyes, the same look she had every time she was getting into a new case or stepping into the courtroom. "Have a seat. We've got our work cut out for us."