An Overdue Promise Fulfilled: Part One of ‘The Congressman’s Daughter’

I promised to post this story a long time ago, and I’m just now fulfilling that pledge. I’m sorry it took me so long, hope you enjoy it.

Prologue

Sixteen year-old Jane Grant held the dummy firmly as her father’s blows landed on target again and again.  The smack of his fists echoed in the martial arts studio.  Finally the instructor called for a halt.

“Well done, James.  You’re improving.  You haven’t quite caught up with Jane here,” the Sensei winked at her mischievously, “but you’re improving.”

Mr. Grant laughed between breaths as he panted from exertion.  “Thanks, Jack, I’m flattered.”

Jane grinned at her father.  “Maybe you’ll catch up one of these days, Daddy.”  She joked as she put on her shoes and gathered up their gym bag.  “Can I drive home?”

Jack waved, and Jane and her father exited into the warmth of a Texas evening.

“Jane, there’s something your Mom and I have been praying about, and before we come to a decision, I wanted to see what you think.  If I go ahead with it, it’s going to change a lot of things for us.”  Mr. Grant said slowly as Jane backed the car out of the parking lot.

Jane was honored that her father valued her opinion enough to confide in her.  Especially if the subject was as important as his voice betrayed.

“What is it, Daddy?”

“Well, I’ve been thinking about running for congress.”

Jane was taken by surprise, but she trusted her parents.  “It’s up to you and Mama.  I’ll support whatever you decide on.”

Chapter One

Two long years of volunteering and campaigning later, James Grant was elected Texas Representative.  His honest and biblical views on controversial subjects such as abortion and gun control, coupled with his easy election when some of his colleagues had been trying to get elected for years, drew a backlash of violence that necessitated the assignment of a Secret Service team.  And Jane wasn’t sure how she liked the intrusion.

Jane walked quietly to her father’s study.  A tear rolled down her cheek and she brushed it away along with a few strands of brown hair.

A muffled “come in” greeted her rap on the door.

She turned the handle and entered.  “Daddy-” Jane broke off and looked from her father seated at his desk, to the tall man in a black suit and tie that stood to one side.  Her hand swiped tears away in embarrassment while the other gripped the doorknob tighter.

“It’s alright, Jane, this is one of the men who will be protecting us.  Agent Benjamin Knight, this is my daughter, Jane.”  As Mr. Grant spoke, Agent Knight stepped forward and held out his hand.

Jane brushed her hand across her jeans to dry the tears off, then shook the hand held out to her.   She cleared her throat and managed a very weak half smile.   The agent respectfully began to excuse himself from the room.

The congressman stopped him.  “Stay, Ben.  I need to talk to you about the move after I’ve finished this paperwork.”

Jane turned to go.

“What is it, Jane?”

Jane twisted her hands together and shot awkward glances Agent Knight’s direction.  This was a private conversation.

She cleared her throat again, and decided to get it over with.

“Cassidy-”  The muscles in Jane’s jaw clenched and more tears dripped off her chin.  “Cassidy wants to know when we’ll be leaving.”

The congressman lost his distracted look as he realized how important the question was to his daughter.  He got up and wrapped his arms around her.  “I’m sorry, honey, I know it’s going to be hard to leave.”  His hand patted her back and he continued gently, “Our flights are scheduled for the end of this week.”

Jane nodded against his shoulder, then stepped back.  “Thanks, Daddy.”  She whispered.  A huge sob pulled air into her lungs and she held it, valiantly trying not to cry.  Slowly she let the breath out.

“I’m going to run over and tell her.  I’ll probably stay a while.  I want to spend as much time as I can…”  She broke off.

“Alright, honey.”  Mr. Grant said sympathetically.

Jane slowly left the room, and a moment later, the front door closed behind her as she went to tell her next door neighbor, and closest friend, how soon the painful separation would take place.

A few hours later, rain began to sprinkle the window panes of the house.  The tiny sprinkles soon turned into sheets of rain that fell heavily.  It didn’t rain a lot in Texas, but when it did, it rained hard.  Mrs. Grant ran into Agent Knight on her way to Jane’s room. 

“Have you seen Jane?”  Her voice was worried. 

He shook his head.  “Not since this morning.”  That was an awkward first meeting, he thought privately.  She seemed pretty upset.  Jane Grant is kind of cute, though, even with puffy, red eyes.

“If you see her, tell her I’m looking for her.  She needs to start packing for the move.”

“Yes, ma’am.  Has she come back after visiting her friend?”

Mrs. Grant shook her head.  “I don’t think so.  Oh, I hope she doesn’t get wet coming home.  I’ll take her a coat.”  She started away, but Agent Knight held up a hand.  “I can go, Mrs. Grant.  I’ll take an umbrella and-” Thunder cut him off.   “ On second thought, I’ll just take her coat, and not the umbrella.”  A smile lifted one corner of his usually expressionless mouth.  “Which coat is hers?”

Mrs. Grant pointed to a row of coat hooks by the door.  “Second hook from the right.  Please try to hurry.”

“I will, ma’am.”  Agent Knight grabbed the coat and dashed outside.  He splashed through the water bouncing off the sidewalk and hurried toward a small figure walking slowly through the rain.  Jane was thinking seriously about the upcoming move, and not minding the rain.  Her straight hair was saturated, and clung to her neck and cheeks. 

Why on earth didn’t she wait until it stopped raining?  Agent Knight wondered.  He called her name, jerking her back to reality with a start.  She jumped, shying away until she recognized him.  He held out her coat.  “Come inside!”

Jane grabbed the coat and held it over her head.  Agent Knight started jogging back to the house and she followed.  A misstep sent her sprawling roughly to her hands and knees.  “Ooof!”

Agent Knight turned back, but she was already up and moving again.  This time more carefully.

Thunder rolled over them and they quickened their pace.  As they reached the house, Mrs. Grant opened the door and they skidded to a stop on the welcome mat.

“Jane!  You’re all wet!  Why didn’t you wait until it stopped raining?”

Jane accepted the towel her mother held out and wrapped it around her shoulders.  “I thought you’d come looking for me, and didn’t want you to get soaked.”  She turned to Agent Knight.  “I’m sorry I caused you trouble.  Don’t worry about it next time, I’ll be alright.”

“It’s my job to keep you safe.”  Agent Knight’s face was unreadable as her watched her reaction.

Jane looked a little worried, then she laughed.  “Safe from a little rain?  It’s just next door!  Really, don’t worry about it.  Thanks, though.”

Agent Knight pulled off his wet coat as Jane flung her hair over her shoulder and quietly followed her mom away.  He frowned.  She just didn’t get it.  As the only child of Texas Congressman James Grant, a man who was so hated that the president ordered the assignment of a secret service team, she would be high on the target list of anyone with evil intentions.  He highly doubted she would be able to take care of herself.

Chapter Two

The move to a larger house, closer to where Mr. Grant would be working in D.C., progressed fairly uneventfully.  Jane’s final parting with Cassidy was hard and sad.  The girls had been next door neighbors since they were in strollers, and now, eighteen years later, one of them was moving away.  It was like leaving a sister behind.

Jane hugged Cassidy tightly as tears ran unchecked down her cheeks.  “Promise to call me.”  She choked.

Cassidy tried to swallow the lump in her throat.  “Once a week, I promise.  And we can write letters, too.”

Jane nodded.

“You’re welcome to visit us any time.”  Mr. Grant told Cassidy softly, laying his hand on Jane’s shoulder.  “And you can stay as long as you like.”

Cassidy’s parents smiled their thanks, and the girls reluctantly parted.

Jane followed her parents into the black limo.  As the door shut behind her, she looked back and waved at the small figures of Cassidy and her parents until a turn in the road shut out the view.

A few tears slid down Jane’s cheek, and she didn’t brush them away.  A sob threatened, and Jane took a deep breath.  I’ve got to be strong.  Yes it hurts, and I’m scared.  Scared of the new house, the new neighborhood, the new people.  Lord, help me to be strong.

***

Three hours of flying landed them in D.C. and a short drive finally brought them to a quiet street just inside the city limits of Baltimore, Maryland.  Mrs. Grant nudged Jane, and she paused her audio book, pulled her earbuds out and looked around.  Her mouth dropped open as a Secret Service agent pulled the car into the circular driveway.

A tall, colonial style, brick house rose out of neatly trimmed evergreen shrubs.  The solid wood door was placed in the center of the house, and two wings sprawled luxuriously behind a thin screen of partially bare oak trees.

“This house is huge!  What are we going to do with all of that space, Mama?”  She whispered in her mother’s ear.

Mrs. Grant smiled slightly.  “I think you’ll like it.  You’ll love your room.”  She squeezed Jane’s arm and smiled secretively.

Jane felt a surge of excitement that gave her butterflies.  She gripped the bag she carried with shaking fingers.  Maybe moving wasn’t as bad as she’d thought it would be.

“Do you mind if I explore the house by myself?”  Jane looked from one parent to the other.  They glanced at each other, smiled, and shook their heads.  “Nope, go ahead.”

Jane couldn’t help the smile that crossed her face.  Her eyes twinkled with delight.  “Thanks!”

Jane pushed open the front door and looked inside.  She had never seen anything this fancy before, only in movies or her imagination.  An enormous chandelier hung above the foyer.  Jane skirted the edge of the room, overcome by the eerie feeling that the chandelier was going to fall.

A large door impressively guarded what was probably the dining room, and Jane pushed it open and stuck her head in.  A graying agent in his late thirties was directly on the other side of the door, in the act of reaching for the handle.  Jane jumped.

“Hi.”  She said quickly.

The agent nodded a greeting, but Jane had already turned to go.  Agent Knight entered the front door, and Jane hurried out of his view.  These agents are everywhere!

Jane found her room and slowly pushed open the door, savoring the moment of expectation.

She looked around, slightly puzzled.  Where’s the bed?  She wondered.  The soft colored room held only a desk, armchair and dainty couch.  A picture window opened up to a giant oak tree in the yard below.

A small door to the left led to a full bath.  Jane raised an eyebrow.  My own bathroom?  She opened the closed door beyond that.  And found her room.

Jane sank into a chair and stared in delight. 

Chapter Three

To Jane, the new house was an exciting distraction from the void created by the move away from Cassidy.

For almost a whole day, she looked through rooms and opened doors to see what was behind them.  Then she found the back yard.  Back garden described it better.  Over an acre and a half of paths and flower beds, disguised alcoves with stone benches in them, a fountain that flowed into a pool with fish in it, and French style gazebos had Jane almost lost.  She felt like she had mistakenly wandered back in time to some manor house of the 1800s, and wondered when she would find herself back in the 20th century.

Jane’s worry was put to rest as the soon-to-be familiar stride of Agent Knight interrupted her thoughts.  “Your Mom sent me.  Dinner is on the table.”

Jane nodded slowly.  “Ok.  I’m coming.”  She was a little irritated at him.  Was he always going to be coming to tell her to come inside out of the rain, to eat her dinner, just like she was a little girl who needed to be watched?  She began to walk back to the house, following the path he had taken.  What if she wanted to be alone?  Would she be expected to always have someone with her if she wanted to go somewhere?

As she worried more, her steps quickened. 

When she entered the dining room, she found her parents at the table.

The strained look on her face caught her Mom’s notice.  “Are you alright, sweetheart?”

Jane opened her mouth, then shut it as the door opened and two agents entered.  One was Agent Knight, the other was the man she had met during her very first tour of the house.

Mr. Grant didn’t realize anything was wrong and motioned to the older agent.  “Jane, this is Agent Colt.  He’s been helping orchestrate the move from this end, and he will be keeping an eye on everything in general around the house.”

Jane nodded politely, then as the agent scrutinized her, her eyes narrowed just a bit, and her look sharpened attentively.

Agent Colt gave a half bow and withdrew to stand next to the wall.

Mr. Grant made small talk at the table as the meal continued.  Jane regarded him with amazement.  He spoke as if he didn’t even notice the, to her mind, looming black figures that stood solidly in the background.

Mrs. Grant was more reserved than usual, and Jane could tell she was monitoring what she said.  Jane herself was silent.  She felt a distrust of the agents, and would rather them not get a good look at her character.  A certain level of unpredictability felt safer for some reason.

“How do you like the house, Jane?”  Mr. Grant asked.

Jane smiled.  “I like it a lot, Daddy.”  She wanted to add, ‘I can’t believe we’re going to live here’, but didn’t.  She didn’t want to come off as a country bumpkin, especially in front of the agents.

“Did you find any nice, quiet places for writing in your journal?”

Now this was getting a little too personal.  Jane didn’t like anyone to know she kept a journal, only Cassidy and her parents knew.  And none of them had ever read it.

She changed the subject nonchalantly.  “Have you guys been out to the garden?  It’s enormous.  I might hide there next time I have to wash the dishes.”

Mrs. Grant laughed, Jane wouldn’t be washing dishes any time soon, they had hired a cook.  The conversation changed direction.

By the end of the meal, Jane abandoned the idea of talking to her mother about avoiding the Secret Service agents.  She had a pretty good idea of what she would say, anyway.  Try to get used to them, Jane.  They’re just doing they’re job.  Jane sighed, arguing mentally with words her mother had never spoken.  I know, but they are so distracting, hovering around like a mama hen over her chicks.  I wish I had a place to go where they would leave me alone.

A thought eased Jane’s mind.  I’ll go to my room, they won’t bother me there.

So, that’s what Jane did.  If she wanted to be alone, she took refuge in her beautiful room, and it became a way to shut out the confusion of things she couldn’t control, and have peace.

As Mr. Grant went to meetings and lunches, talking with important people and spending more time away from home, Jane spent more time in her room.  She felt the shift as the family moved slowly apart, and struggled to regain the hold she felt she was losing on her father.  She awkwardly asked for his advice, and tried to be content with the half-finished sentence she received in return before his mind grappled with weightier matters.

***

One such time was the day Jane received Cassidy’s first letter.  Agent Knight brought it to her open door and knocked on the trim.

Jane looked up from the book she was reading, then jumped to her feet with a repressed smile.  “Thank you!”  She took the letter and as she slid her finger under the flap of the envelope, it opened easily.  She glanced up suspiciously at Agent Knight, but his face was as expressionless as usual.  The lined notebook paper unfolded stiffly, and Jane studied the way the creases lay.  A little shiver went up the back of her neck as she realized the letter had already been opened, and refolded the wrong way.

A little spark of anger started to flame up, but Jane kept it under control.  “Has this letter been opened?”  She asked calmly.

Agent Knight nodded without reservation.  “We open all of the letters, and make sure the contents are harmless.”

Despite having expected this, Jane was startled.  “All of them?  You mean you’ve read this?”

The agent shook his head.  “No, but someone did.”

Jane glanced down at the letter, a slightly personal remark jumped from the page.  Nothing embarrassing, but Jane doubted Cassidy would want anyone beside herself to read it.

“Do you read the letters back?”  Jane wondered aloud.  You’d better not.  She thought fiercely.

“No.”  Agent Knight’s reply made Jane sigh with relief. 

“Thank goodness.”  She held up the letter.  “All letters coming from this address are clean.  Please don’t read any more of them.”  The reality of actually having to tell someone not to read her letters was…unbelievable.

Agent Knight frowned.  “I can’t promise you that, Miss Grant.  It is possible for someone to use your friend’s address to mail you something harmful.”

The anger Jane had been keeping back wanted to seep to the surface, and it created an edge to her voice.  “Daddy’s not the president, just a Congressman.  Is that really necessary?”

She could tell Agent Knight knew the sting she felt, but his countenance clearly said it was his job to ensure the safety of the Grant family, and he would do his job well.  He said only, “I’m sorry, Miss Grant.”

Jane clenched her teeth.  This was so irritating.  “Just call me Jane.”  She almost snapped over her shoulder as she turned back to her room.  Almost instantly she regretted giving the agent permission to use a more familiar title.  It felt like she had let down her defenses and showed more than the usual reserved ‘Miss Grant’.  She was going to have to talk to Daddy about this.  If he told Agent Knight to stop reading her letters, the agents probably would.  Jane knew enough of her own insignificance to understand that.

After reading her letter, she went to the study that Mr. Grant had claimed as his own. 

The Congressman was on the phone.  He waved when he saw her, then went back to his conversation.  Jane sat down and waited.  Five long minutes later, he said goodbye and hung up.  “Sorry, Jane.  What is it?”

Jane held up Cassidy’s letter.  “I got this from Cassidy today.  When I got it, it was already open, and-“

Jane broke off as Agent Knight entered.  For a minute she was tempted to just forget it and leave, but then she stopped.  Why was she always the one who had to leave?  Agent Knight could leave this time.

She looked him square in the eye.  “Excuse me, could you give us just a minute?”

Agent Knight nodded and turned around, closing the door behind him.

Jane started where she left off.  “When I got it, it was already opened, and the agents had read it.  I understand why they did, but surely they don’t need to read every letter.  Cassidy sometimes writes me things that are private.  She shouldn’t have to guard her words.  Could you please ask the agents to stop reading them?”

“Sure.  They won’t read any more of Cassidy’s letters.”  Mr. Grant told her.

Jane smiled.  “Thank you.”

Mr. Grant nodded, then pulled out a drawer of a file cabinet and shuffled through manila folders and official looking papers.  Something else had obviously taken over his time now.  “Call Agent Knight when you go.”

Jane nodded.  “I will, but there is one more thing.”

“What?”  Mr. Grant drawled slowly, peering at the labels on the folders.

“Is there any way you can talk to Agent Knight about not following me everywhere I go?  I understand that he has to protect me, but he really is paranoid, and I wish you’d talk to him.”

Mr. Grant nodded.  “Yeah.  I’ll…” his voice trailed off as he pulled the papers he was looking for out of the drawer.  He finished his sentence absently.  “see what I can do.”

Jane was hurt, this was important to her, but she didn’t show it.  Instead she tried to recall him from whatever he was doing by playfully saying, “I got a couple new outfits the other day, will you tell me what you think when you have time for a ‘fashion show’?

Mr. Grant smiled.  “Sure.”

***

Jane hurried to her father’s study.  The door was open, so she walked in.  “Daddy-“

Agent Knight looked up from what he was doing.  “What do you need?” 

Jane’s shoulders sagged.  “Is he gone?”

Agent Knight nodded.

Jane gave a huff of frustration.  “He promised me that before he left he would tell me what he thought!”

“What he thought about what?”  Agent Knight asked.

“What he thought about this outfit.”  Jane looked down at the turquoise sweater and black jeans she was wearing.  Then curiously she asked, “What do you think?”

Agent Knight cocked his head appraisingly, then nodded.  “It’s pretty.”

Jane smiled ruefully.  “Thanks.”  A sudden consciousness of Agent Knight’s eyes watching her made her turn quickly and walk out, leaving Agent Knight looking after her.

And that’s it! Stay tuned for more soon…I promise.

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