Christmas was strange in the new house, with a few agents watching the proceedings. But after the new year, Jane looked forward to a promised visit from Cassidy.
“Jane!” Cassidy slammed into Jane and wrapped her arms around her tightly. Jane squeezed back and blinked at the tears of joy that threatened. She wasn’t going to cry in front of Agent Knight. Again. The girls hurried to the car and jumped in. As Agent Knight put the car in gear, Cassidy turned to Jane. “Tell me everything that has been going on, Jane!”
Jane cast a hesitant glance into the front of the car. Does Cassidy not notice this stranger? She wondered.
Cassidy followed her glance and understood. She changed the subject. “My flight was pretty good, I don’t care for all that security, though. The poor lady sitting across from me was sick the whole way, I thought she was going to throw up.” She chattered on until they arrived at the house, then Jane took her straight up to her room for a heart to heart talk. Without anyone listening.
“What was the matter, Jane?” Cassidy asked as soon as the door was shut.
Jane sat down on her bed and patted the mattress beside her. “Let me tell you everything.”
Cassidy stayed for a month, but the time flew, and Jane hated to think of her leaving again. The day before she left, Jane took Cassidy out to lunch for one last talk.
Jane slid into the booth opposite Cassidy and picked up her menu, scanning the slip of paper with the specials printed on it. “Mm! The meatloaf sounds good.”
Cassidy smiled. “I’m really going to miss you, Jane.”
Jane felt her throat tighten. “Don’t remind me, Cassidy, I’m trying to pretend you never have to leave.” She glanced up as a waitress seated Agent Natalie Rook, a female agent that usually protected Mrs. Grant, and Agent Knight at a nearby table. The agents looked like a couple on a lunch date, but they were there expressly to keep Jane safe.
Cassidy followed her glance, then looked away casually. “You know, Jane, if I didn’t know better, I’d say he was following you.” She remarked under her breath. Her cheeks pulled the corners of her mouth into a smile.
Jane laughed, then sobered and lowered her voice so Agent Knight wouldn’t hear. “Really, though, he’s everywhere! I can’t stand it. And the other day I wanted to go for a walk, and he wouldn’t let me go by myself.”
Cassidy closed her menu. “I know what I want: a hamburger with fries and a Coke.” She held out her hand and Jane took it. “I’m sorry, Jane. I know it’s been hard for you. But he is just doing his job.” A teasing glint sparkled in her eyes. “I’m not saying he doesn’t like it…” Her voice trailed off suggestively.
Jane felt like shivering and blushing at the same time. “Stop it!”
Cassidy shrugged superiorly. “I’m just saying, I notice things.”
Jane playfully smacked Cassidy’s hand and folded her arms to feel more protected. “‘It’s absolute bosh from beginning to end.’” She quoted one of the books they had read together. “But honestly,” She continued more seriously, “I asked Daddy to talk to him about following me everywhere, but I don’t think he has yet. I might ask him again…” She went blank as she stared at the Tv broadcasting the news above Cassidy’s head. Cassidy turned to look.
It was a video of the Grant family at the most recent speech Mr. Grant had given.
“Oh, I hoped no one had seen that.” Jane whispered.
Cassidy wrinkled her brow. “What happened?”
“If you watch, you’ll see.” Jane responded miserably.
On the screen, a well-dressed young man came to stand beside Jane.
“Senator Mackenzie’s son.” Jane explained in a low voice.
The young man said something to Jane, and the captions typed out: “That dress is hot.” The camera paused on Jane’s indignant expression as a news lady appeared on one half of the screen and began talking. The captions kept coming relentlessly: “Here we see that Miss Grant wasn’t exactly flattered by Mr. Mackenzie’s effort to reach across the aisle and make friends with the young people on the other side. You’ll actually see here-the video began again-that she tells him to “shut up”. Something not often seen by the families of Congressmen.” The reporter gave a short laugh. “I have with me today body language expert: Fred Mathers. Fred, what does this response reveal to you?” The camera shifted to a pale, oily haired man who rested his cheek against a flabby hand. “Well, Maria, we see here that our protagonist comes up with a very open posture, his hands are at his sides, he smiles and then compliments her-“
Jane exploded angrily. “That was not a compliment! That was an insinuation! Protagonist! What about me? Does that mean I’m the antagonist? He started it!”
“the arms are folded, and she steps away from him, an indicator that she feels he has encroached on her personal space-“
Cassidy turned away and laughed. “Well, you’ve sure made a stir in the media. They brought in a body language expert just for this special occasion.” She noticed Jane’s tired expression and her smile faded. “I’m so sorry.”
“Who cares what they think, anyway.” Jane said, with an effort at light-heartedness.
She glanced at the other table. Agent Knight was watching the screen too, he caught her gaze and a barely perceptible grin flashed across his face.
Jane turned away.
“Jane, your cheeks are red.” Cassidy said. Her voice was quiet, but it held a world of laughing hints.
“Cassidy!” Jane shrieked in a whisper, then she couldn’t help an embarrassed giggle that escaped. “Seriously, Cassidy, I don’t think I like any of them at all.” She whispered. “Maybe Agent Knight is a really nice guy, but I can’t stand being followed around like I’m two years old. My favorite agent has to be Agent Brady, because I never see him. He protects Daddy when Congress is in session. And something else, I’m not used to this whole being-important thing, but they know exactly what to do, and it’s so awkward for Mama and I. Daddy takes it all as cool as can be, but there are times I wish this had never happened to us.” She said quietly.
Suddenly her eyes were drawn back to the Tv. A different reporter was talking now. “Congressman James Grant’s recent stand against the woman’s right to abortion has brought forward passionate opposition by the public.” Pictures of a recent planned-parenthood march scrolled. “Sources say that he has received death threats and threats of violence against his family.”
Jane and Cassidy stared at each-other. That explains why Daddy was so tired and worried this morning. Jane thought sadly.
“Sources also say that his daughter, Jane Grant, has been the target of many threats. These threats claim that if Jane was found in the position of many young women, Congressman Grant would be likely to change his mind on the subject-“
Jane stopped listening. Her face was burning.
Cassidy shook her head in amazement. “I see why you wish things were different, Jane.” She knelt on her bench and tapped the Tv’s power button.
Jane just groaned.
Two men in the booth behind Jane protested against the Tv being turned off. “I wanted to see what else they said.” One complained.
“Yeah!” The other seconded roughly. “It’d serve that girl right if somebody took her down a peg or two after what she said to that Senator’s boy.”
Jane shrank down in her seat so they wouldn’t see her face.
Cassidy frowned. “Well I’m not interested in what the news has to say, and since the Tv is over us, and there are plenty of other screens for you to watch, its going to stay off.”
“Oh is it?” One man made a move to get up, but just at that moment a waitress approached the girls’ table.
“What can I get you to drink?” She pulled out her notepad and clicked her pen in a business-like way. Then she did a double take. “Hey! Aren’t you Jane Grant? The one on the news?”
Jane winced. “Um…yeah.”
She heard a rustle behind her. It was impossible for the men behind her not to hear the waitress.
“Well, what can I get you to drink, Miss Grant?”
Jane ordered a water nervously.
The waitress walked briskly away, and the girls listened for movement from the booth behind them.
Agent Knight caught Jane’s eye. He motioned with his head and Jane was confused. She wrinkled her forehead and he pointed toward the door under cover of his menu.
You want us to leave? She mouthed.
Agent Knight nodded.
Cassidy looked from Jane to Agent Knight, then back at Jane.
With shaking hands, Jane pulled a five dollar bill from her purse and set it on the table, then slid out of the seat. Cassidy followed.
“Hey, turn that Tv back on if you’re leaving.” One of the men said mockingly. The other sneered.
Jane wanted to stomp over to their table and light into them, but she couldn’t. The news would blow up the story and she couldn’t bear to think about it anymore.
She hurried out into the cold and pulled on the handle of the car. It was locked. She wrapped her arms around herself to keep warm and her eyes filled. Why was this so difficult? Why were people so mean? What had she ever done to them?
Cassidy pulled Jane into a hug and didn’t say a word.
A few moments later, Agent Rook and Agent Knight came out of the restaurant carrying paper bags.
“I’m sorry, you’ll have to eat it at home, girls.” Agent Rook said, handing Cassidy her bag.
Jane took the bag Agent Knight held out and looked in it. Inside was a to-go box with a clear lid, and she could see a steaming slice of meatloaf. “Thank you.” She said gratefully.
“Thank Ben.” Agent Rook jerked her head at Agent Knight with a smile.
Knight nodded as Jane thanked him politely.
They got into the car and started home.
Nobody said much, but Agent Knight stuck even closer to Jane over the
next few weeks.
Mr. Grant never did talk to Agent Knight about giving Jane some space, and Jane figured it had something to do with the recent threats. Still, she wasn’t sure that it was that important, but she hated to ask again when she knew how busy her father was. When spring finally came, and it was warm enough to take a walk again, Jane began to deliberately scheme to avoid Agent Knight.
One day as she took refuge in her sitting room she had an idea. She hurried over to her window and looked out. The huge oak tree tapped it’s twigs against the glass, and one large branch stretched tantalizingly close to the casing. Only a few yards away was the boundary fence that guarded the property.
This is foolish. Jane told herself, but then hesitated. Maybe she could do it, maybe if she was careful…
She took a walk around the house, trying to gauge the probability of her being caught if she decided to sneak out of the house for a walk without Agent Knight. There were four second-story windows on that side of the house, two belonging to her sitting room and bedroom, the others belonging to Mr. and Mrs. Grant’s enormous master suite, although a sunroom on the first floor was situated directly under her room and could be a problem if anyone happened to be walking by when she climbed down the tree…but, no Secret Service agents ever came there, to her knowledge, so she might remain undetected for a long time, at least as long as no one noticed she was gone.
Jane put aside the idea of climbing down the tree for a couple days until it felt like Agent Knight was turning up everywhere, then she’d had enough, wrote a note explaining that she had gone for a walk, and stealthily crept down the oak early the next day before anybody was up.
Jane enjoyed her walk more than she’d ever thought she would, and stayed out just a tad longer than she should have. When she climbed back into her room, someone was knocking on her door.
She opened it.
“Jane, why didn’t you answer me?” Mrs. Grant asked sharply.
“I…um…just now got here.” Jane stammered.
Behind Mrs. Grant in the hall, Agent Knight watched the exchange curiously. Jane knew she wasn’t acting normally, and he suspected something was amiss. How in the world was anyone supposed to take that foolish answer: ‘I just now got here’?
“When I knock, you need to answer, Jane. Get ready to go into town, we need to shop for Daddy’s trip.” Mrs. Grant said firmly.
Jane nodded, her face red. She was thankful that her mother was in a hurry, otherwise she would have pried the story out of Jane in a matter of seconds. And it would have been doubly embarrassing with Agent Knight standing there listening to the whole thing.
After that, Jane was very careful about how long she stayed out, but Agent Knight always seemed to be looking for her when she came back. No matter how early she was. Jane wondered if he suspected something, but she had no idea what measures he would employ to figure out what was going on.
Jane hummed softly as she walked into her room and closed the door without looking up from the letter from Cassidy she was reading.
The rustle of paper turning stopped her. She looked up.
Agent Knight stood in the middle of the room, her journal open in his hands!
The breath left Jane’s lungs with a whoosh. “Hey!”
Agent Knight turned. “You write consistently.”
Jane’s mind ran through all of the things he’d probably already read. Thank goodness the worst things were fits of temper.
“Give me that!” Jane wrenched it from his hand. She felt like he’d pried into her heart and ransacked the most secret places. She glared at him, and his untroubled eyes looked back. “Don’t you ever, ever read my journal again. Do you understand?” She spoke through clenched teeth. She gripped the journal hard until the edge dug into her hand. She wanted to hit him with it.
“Jane, I’m sorry I had to read you journal-“
“No, you’re not!” Jane took a step closer to him, her eyes burning with anger. “You’re only sorry I caught you at it.”
A sudden tinge of red spread over his face as her words hit close to home, but he recovered quickly. “You’ve been disappearing, Jane.” He said sternly. “And I needed to know why and where. I thought you might have written it in your journal, so I asked your Father for permission to read it.” He held her gaze firmly. “But since you are here, you can tell me. Where are you going, why, and how have you been getting out of the house?”
Jane felt the tide of the argument turning against her. He had found out, and her new-found freedom would be taken away. She gritted her teeth. But not if she found a way to outsmart him. And he did have one weak spot; he couldn’t make her tell him anything. Slowly, her lips curved into a grim smile, but her triumph was short lived, and suddenly her face lost its angry glow. Hurt etched itself across her face, and Agent Knight was caught off guard at the suddenness of the change. Jane took a step back.
“Daddy gave you permission to go through my things?” The hurt turned to suspicion. “What did you tell Daddy about me?”
“I told him I was worried, and would like to read your journal.”
“That’s it?” Jane couldn’t believe it. Her father gave her privacy away just like…that?
“That’s it. I’m assigned to protect you specifically, and your Father trusts me to do it.”
Jane’s heart felt shredded by the fact that her father had given over his role as protector to someone they barely knew. Her mouth trembled and she clenched her jaw. She pointed a shaking finger toward the door. “Get out of my room!”
He wasn’t getting anywhere with the argument, so Agent Knight walked out of the door Jane held open. It slammed behind him, there was angry exclamation and a bang as the journal hit the door. The lock shot into place. A thump and a short gasping breath made him start back, a little worried, but then there was a sob, and he turned away and walked slowly down the hallway. It wasn’t the first time he had read someone else’s journal, so why did he feel so guilty? Other clients had never affected him like this. He had never become this attached to a family. The memory of Jane’s hurt face struck him and he winced. He had hurt her, and somehow, he had hurt himself. I was wrong. He admitted. I have to apologize. I really am sorry.
His mind turned to what he had read. The journal was started roughly a year and a half ago, and it was very interesting. Accounts of daily events, reactions to problems, surprises, or the books she’d read and movies she’d watched filled its pages. A scathing remark about a movie with a bad ending surfaced in his memory, and he almost laughed. He had watched that movie and thought the same thing, but those penned words made the thought so much more alive.
He stopped in the middle of the hallway. That journal had told him something, even if it wasn’t what he’d been looking for. It told him that he really did not know Jane at all. The person who wrote that journal was not someone he saw in everyday life. It was like a hidden identity, a window into her real heart. A heart she didn’t want to share. How long had she been hiding behind a mask? How long could she keep it up?
Agent Knight knocked on Jane’s door and waited while he heard footsteps come slowly forward. It opened and Jane stood in the doorway.
Agent Knight held out the small flat package he’d wrapped. “I just wanted to say I really am sorry, and I promise not to read this one.”
Jane took the package and tore open the wrapping. A thin leather bound journal appeared, with her name in gold lettering at the bottom right hand corner.
Jane ran her thumb over her name and let out a breath of surprise. A bunch of hair fell forward over her shoulder and hid her face for a minute. She looked up and her eyes were red.
“Thanks.” She said shakily. On impulse, she put an arm around his shoulder and gave him a quick hug. Despite his surprise, Agent Knight hugged back before Jane stepped away. Jane took a sobbing breath and laughed. “Thank you very much.”
“You’re welcome. I hope you forgive me.” Agent Knight said.
Jane nodded. “I do. And I’m…I’m sorry I yelled at you. I know you’re just trying to do your job, I was just…” She wasn’t quite sure what to say.
“Hurt.” Agent Knight finished gently. “Just like anyone would be if they found someone reading their journal.”
Jane looked up, startled. He knows how I feel. He really is sorry. She turned red and smiled sheepishly. “It’s alright. Mostly I was surprised to hear that Daddy had given you permission.” A note of bitterness crept into her voice.
Agent Knight nodded. “I understand.” An awkward pause fell, and then he waved and started down the hall.
back to her room and closed the door behind her. She set the journal down on the bedside table
and looked at it. It was the prettiest
one she’d had yet, and it had probably not been cheap.
For the next week, Jane didn’t go for a walk. Despite his apology, she knew that Agent Knight meant business and that he would be watching her closely. She wanted him to think she had given up.
But she had underestimated his determination and adherence to his duty.
Three days after a week had gone by, around six in the morning, Jane was startled by the subtle sound of the air current changing in her room. Someone had opened her door.
She froze, and a stealthy figure came across the floor to the side of the bed. Jane suddenly recognized the intruder. It was Agent Rook. The woman peered at Jane in the dark room, then gave the thumbs-up sign to someone outside the door.
Jane suddenly sat up, simultaneously pulling her pillow from under her head and bringing it in front of her.
Agent Rook jumped.
“What is the matter?” Jane demanded, as severely as her sleepy voice could.
Agent Rook waffled for just a second, then replied. “Just making sure everything was secure, Miss Grant.”
Jane squinted at the figure outside the room. Just as she suspected, it was Agent Knight. “You mean you were making sure I was secure.” She snapped. “Well, I hope you’re satisfied. Shut the door on your way out.”
Agent Rook sheepishly took herself out of the room. Agent Knight reached for the door knob, and Jane’s pillow caught him full in the face. She lay back down sourly. Serves him right. Sending someone into my room to check on me. Jane grabbed another pillow and put it under her head. At least he sent a woman, and didn’t do it himself, he’d have gotten more than a pillow. He’d have gotten a knuckle sandwich.
“Jane’s gone.” Agent Colt spoke quietly to Agent Knight in the hall outside of Jane’s bedroom door.
Concern pushed into Agent Knight’s mind. “Have you looked in her room?”
Agent Colt shook his head. “No. But I’ve pounded on the door loud enough to wake the dead.”
Agent Knight pulled a small key from his pocket and unlocked the door. It swung open and both agents entered the room. The bed was neatly made, the wardrobe doors closed, the floor was clean and nothing cluttered the space. Jane was nowhere to be found. Agent Knight noticed that on the desk, a piece of paper fluttered in a slight breeze. Suspicion hit him. “Check the window.” He ordered. He strode to the paper and picked it up. It was a note, written hurriedly.
Out walking in the park. Will be back by breakfast.
Agent Knight crumpled the note in his hand.
“You were right. The window is open.” Agent Colt leaned out of the casing. “How in the world does she get down this tree?”
“She’s light” Agent Knight was already moving for the door. “Let’s go. We need to find her. Fast.”
Jane sat down under a tree in the park and took a deep breath. Finally alone, with no prying secret service agents following or watching her every move. It felt like old times.
Movement caught her eye and she leaned forward. A lone man was walking quickly toward her. No one else was in sight.
Agent Colt slammed on his brakes and pointed. Agent Knight looked and saw Jane standing in front of a man; her knees slightly bent, and her hands held casually in front of her.
Agent Knight flung his door open and hit the road at a sprint. More agents poured out of the car like black ants.
The man Jane was facing lunged, but Jane was ready. She landed several punches to his face, and a snap-kick hyper-extended his knee. She backed off as he fell to the ground and struggled to rise again.
Agent Knight skidded to a stop next to Jane and scooped her up. He reversed his momentum and ran for the car.
A loud scream nearly deafened him, and Jane pushed away to free herself. An agent opened the back door and Agent Knight dove into the seat. The door slammed behind him.
“Let me go!” Jane turned on Agent Knight.
He dodged her flailing fists and held her down. “Jane! Jane!”
She recognized him and shrank into a corner breathing heavily.
Agent Knight folded his arms and glared at her. “Do you see how easy it would be to kidnap you? How simple it would be to have a good piece of leverage to threaten your father with? If we hadn’t come when we did, you would be on your way to a nightmare.”
Jane was shaking. She barely managed to whisper, “You’re not my babysitter!”
Agent Knight stared into her eyes. “No, I’m not. But I am your protector, and you just put yourself in a lot of danger by sneaking out of the house without telling anyone where you were going. Your father has dangerous enemies who would like nothing more than to hurt you and him.”
Jane wilted under his piercing gaze. “I’ve been walking here for a month, this is the first time anything has happened.” Her voice was almost pleading.
“A month!” Agent Knight repeated. Apparently his knowledge of her disappearance was not as extensive as she’d thought.
Jane shut her mouth firmly.
“It’s too late to take that back.” He said sternly. “Why haven’t you told anyone where you were going?”
“You would have followed me.” She muttered. “Or not let me go at all.”
“It’s for your own good-“ Agent Knight began, but Jane cut him off.
“I don’t want my own good! I want to do things on my own, to be dangerous if I want to be!” She banged a hand on the seat.
“I used to be able to.” She added in a quieter tone. “I used to be free to do whatever I wanted as long as my parents knew where I was, and what I was doing.”
“You certainly haven’t been keeping your end of the bargain, running off like that.” Agent Knight pointed out.
“I left a note! Besides, I’m not free anymore, so that rule no longer applies.” She knew she wasn’t being reasonable, but she didn’t care. An angry rush of tears quenched her glare. “I just want to go to the store by myself, or go out to lunch with my friends without you watching me, ready to pull me back into my jail cell at the first sign of trouble. It would be different if I had grown up like this, but I haven’t.” Jane’s voice broke and she steadied it. “I used to be able to go to church and not have to leave right after the service. I even helped out at a soup kitchen. I miss that. Being a blessing, not a liability.”
Surprise flashed across Agent Knight’s face and Jane saw it. “You didn’t know about that, did you.” Jane’s tone tightened. “You think you know me but you don’t. You don’t know me at all, and I don’t want you to.” An angry tear trickled down her cheek and she wiped it savagely away.
“I wish Daddy had never run for Congress!” She burst out.
“I thought you were proud of him. He is fighting for what he believes is right.” Agent Knight looked at her, confused.
“I would be proud, if he still spent time with his family. What am I supposed to be proud of when he never takes time to even talk to me, and just casually tells people we don’t know to read my journal?” A sob shook Jane’s shoulders as she revealed the one main reason why she felt like her life was a mess. “We used to do everything together, like martial arts, but now it’s all so different. Almost like he’s not here anymore.”
Agent Knight leaned back in his seat. Jane’s mask had started to crumble in spite of herself. “Why have you been deceiving everyone for so long? Why haven’t you talked to him about this?” He asked quietly.
Jane shook her head. “I can’t! He has so many other things on his mind. Haven’t you seen how tired he’s been lately? The last thing he needs is me to complicate things when it doesn’t really matter.”
Agent Knight exhaled slowly. “It does matter when you are sneaking out of the house to avoid the people he has protecting you.”
Jane was silent, and Agent Knight didn’t press the matter.
The wail of sirens filled the air and three police cars pulled up. Jane lowered her head. I’ve made such a mess of everything. Hours of explaining and statements later, along with one awful phone call home, Agent Colt pulled the car up to the front of the house. Mrs. Grant rushed out of the door and yanked Jane up to her room for a very long, tear-filled talk. Jane spent a day writing apologies to all the agents involved, and was restricted to the house for nearly two weeks.