Part Three of ‘The Congressman’s Daughter’

Chapter Seven

Jane stopped by the kitchen for a snack on the way to her room.  As she entered the room quietly, she noticed Agent Rook,  sitting alone at the small table.  She held her cell phone loosely in one hand, staring blankly at the black screen.  Jane stopped, feeling like an intruder.  Obviously something personal was troubling the agent.

A large tear landed on the table, and Jane turned away.  This was none of her business.  Best to leave now and give the woman some privacy. 

Despite her efforts to forget the scene, though, Jane couldn’t get it out of her head.  For the rest of the day she felt disturbed, noticing a gravity among the agents that was out of the ordinary.

Seeing Agent Knight walking down the hall, Jane hurried after him.  “Agent Knight!”  Despite their recent differences, she was the most comfortable asking him what the matter was.

He turned and Jane saw that his face was a little more serious than it usually was.

“Did something happen to Agent Rook?”

“Why do you ask?”  He replied as if surprised.

Jane peered at him closely.  “Am I not supposed to know?  Because I can tell something is wrong.”

He sighed.  She was not fooled.  “Agent Rook’s father has just passed away.  She is trying to get a couple of days off for the funeral, but so far, she hasn’t been successful.  Some of us are offering to take her duties, hopefully that will get her some vacation.”

Jane felt tears threaten.  “If it’s ok, will you tell her I’m sorry?”

“I will.  She’ll appreciate it.”  Agent Knight said kindly.

“Thanks.  If…” Jane hesitated.  “If there’s anything I can do, let me know.”  She hoped Agent Knight wouldn’t take this as a polite nothing.  She really meant it.

He nodded quickly, and Jane knew he didn’t believe her.  “If she can’t get off I want to know, will you tell me?”

As Agent Knight hesitated,  Jane continued.  “Maybe Daddy could talk to her supervisor, or something.”

“That would probably just get her in trouble, Jane.”  Agent Knight hated to discourage her, but it was better to tell her the truth.

Jane frowned.  “Is your supervisor that mean?”  She asked, a little put out.

He couldn’t help the laugh that slipped past his lips.  She had no idea.  If she ever met Black she would understand.  Agent Knight imagined her awkwardness in front of his stern superior.

Jane flushed hotly, but stuck to her point.  “You tell me if Agent Rook can’t get off.”  She ordered.

Agent Knight almost bristled under the commanding way she said it, but Jane didn’t care.  He shouldn’t have laughed at her.  She turned and walked away.

A few days later, Agent Knight came to Jane and informed her that Agent Rook wouldn’t be allowed to take vacation.  Jane thanked him and went to her father.

Mr. Grant was in his office, as usual.  He welcomed Jane with a distracted smile.

“Daddy, can I talk to you?”

He barely looked up at her, but nodded.  “Sure, what is it?”

Jane told him the story as quickly as she could, knowing that he was busy, ending with,  “Can you talk to her supervisor?  Maybe he’d listen to you.  I don’t know if it will work, but it’s worth a try, isn’t it?”

Mr. Grant nodded.  “Yes it certainly is.  I’ll talk to him, I know him a little.  Would you like to come with me?”

Jane was excited.  “Yes!”

Mr. Grant picked up his phone and dialed a number, then waited as it rang.  “Yeah, could I schedule an appointment to see Mr. Joseph Black?”   Pause.  “Great.  That will do, thank you.”

The phone clicked as he set it down.  “We have an appointment at one o’clock tomorrow.”

***

At precisely twelve thirty, Jane sat waiting in the car.  Her father would be out any minute to get to the appointment he had made. 

Agent Colt got into the driver’s seat of the car.  He turned around and faced Jane.  “Are you sure that Mr. Grant said he was going driving with you today?”

Jane frowned.  It wasn’t like Agent Colt to question her father.  Was something wrong?  “Yes, I’m positive.  Why?”

Agent Colt shrugged casually.  “Mr. Grant just left to have coffee with Senator Mackenzie.”

Jane lost her breath.  “What?”   The word burst from her lips accidentally.

Agent Knight looked over from the other side of the back seat.  This wasn’t expected, then.

Jane’s face was white.  There was no way she was going to stand up a Secret Service supervisor.  She had to cancel the appointment.

She ground her teeth.  Agent Knight had said the funeral was in three days.  How was Agent Rook supposed to get off if the Congressman didn’t talk to her supervisor?

An idea flashed through Jane’s mind and she turned whiter.  No.  She was not going to go by herself to talk to a man who would probably throw her out the minute he realized he wasn’t going to be talking to Congressman Grant about why certain protocols were important.

The two agents watched her for a moment.  She leaned her head against her hand, eyes wide, and frightened.  “God, I can’t do this on my own.”  She whispered.

“Miss Grant?”  Agent Colt broke the silence.

Jane looked up.  “Yes?”  Her response was mechanical.

The men glanced at each other.  “Have you changed your mind about taking a drive?”  Neither of them knew Jane’s intended destination, for which she was grateful.  If she chickened out, no one would know.

Her mind whirled, but she tried to think rationally.  “I haven’t decided.  Give me a minute.”  She got out of the car and went inside.  She asked for Mrs. Grant, but she had gone shopping.

For a moment she wandered in the house, and when she looked up, she was in her bedroom.  A new blouse hung on the outside of her wardrobe doors.  Jane looked down at herself.  Her jeans and t-shirt looked plain, no one would listen to her.

Suddenly she remembered Agent Rook.  The woman was risking her life nearly every day, and she couldn’t get off to go to her Dad’s funeral.

Jane made up her mind.  She slammed her door and pulled off her t-shirt.  On went the blouse and some slacks.  While a curling iron heated up, Jane carefully put on makeup.  She hardly ever wore it, but now might be a good time not to look too plain.  Her hands were shaking so much that she burnt herself twice while curling her hair.  She stared at her reflection for a moment.  “God, help this turn out better than my last adventure.”  She asked quietly.

Five minutes later she was back in the car.  “Take me to 311 Gaston Blvd.”  She said firmly.

Both agents stared.

“Jane-“  Agent Knight began.

“Just do it, please.”  Jane pleaded.

Agent Colt sat back in the driver’s seat and turned the key in the ignition.

The ride was silent.  Agent Knight held his tongue discreetly and Jane was too scared of what she was getting ready to do to talk to him.  She knew he disapproved, but she couldn’t stand by when she could at least try to do something.

They pulled up in front of a large brick building.  The agents moved to get out, but Jane asked them to stay.  “I want a quick exit, no matter what happens.”  She said trying to smile.

Agent Knight couldn’t help admiring her courage.  He hoped she would be alright, Black could be intimidating, and Jane wasn’t used to that sort of thing.

The handle of the glass door felt cold as Jane pulled it open with a sweaty hand.  She entered a waiting room occupied by no one but the receptionist.

Jane told the lady she had an appointment with Mr. Black under the name of James Grant.  That raised an eyebrow, but Jane stood firm.  After a moment a door opened and a perturbed man strode out of an office.  “Fool!”  He ejaculated under his breath.

The receptionist  waved a hand toward the door that was open now.  “You can go in, Miss Grant.”  She gave a slight smirk as Jane shot the man a startled glance.  Then Jane slowly entered the office.

A huge desk cut the room into two unequal parts.  About two thirds of the room’s total square footage was behind the desk, while one third held chairs for visitors.

Behind the desk, in a leather chair sat a balding man who looked like he had just come from a boxing match, except for his suit.  His eyes were deep, and his nose had definitely been broken at least once.  Jane hesitated for just a moment, then kept up her act of confidence and sat down in one of the chairs.

“Have a seat.”  The rumble of his deep voice filled with irony seemed to rattle the pencils on the desk.

Jane wondered what to say, then simply replied, “Thank you, sir.”

“Who are you?”  The question was put without ceremony, brusque, and demanding.

Jane felt like he was getting the upper hand by questioning her, but if she ignored the question, she might never get what she wanted.

“Jane Grant.”

“Who in the world is Jane Grant?”  The man asked, almost to himself.

“Congressman James Grant’s daughter.” 

“I heard about you.  You’re the one that ran off for a walk in the park.”

Jane groaned inwardly, but she tried to calm herself and start her request.  “I understand that you supervise the Secret Service agents that are currently protecting us.”

“What about it?”

Jane cleared her throat and hoped he wasn’t taking this wrong.  “Through no fault of her own, I found out that Agent Natalie Rook’s father had passed away, and she was not going to be able to attend the funeral.”

“What about it?”  The repetitive question set Jane back.  He was making her explain everything at once, and that made it sound like she was asking a huge favor of him.

“Is there any way that she could get two days off?”

Mr. Black growled.  “No.  And she shouldn’t have spoken to anyone about it.”

Fear gripped Jane’s heart.  It was just like Agent Knight had said, she was going to get Agent Rook in trouble, instead of helping her.  “Agent Rook doesn’t know I’m here, and she never told me anything.”

“Sure.”  The miniature hulk replied sarcastically.

Jane turned red.  Anger flared.  The fear that had been keeping her half distracted suddenly transformed itself into a smart remark.  “Are you calling me a liar?”

Unmoved, the man shot back.  “Most people are.”

“Maybe you judge others by yourself.”  Jane snapped, then caught herself, and went on in a polite tone.  “As I was saying, is there anything I could do that would get Agent Rook two days off?”

The man had lost his mental balance for a moment, and silently scrambled to figure out what she was talking about.  His natural response was, “No.”

Jane changed the direction of attack.  “Why can’t the other agents take her duties for two days?”

“What?”

Jane repeated herself.

“Because,” He hesitated for a fraction of a second, ”They have too many duties of their own.”

Jane was at a loss.  Then she remembered the man’s own words…and repeated them, in the exact same tone of sarcasm.  “Sure.”

Now it was his turn to feel the sting of the insinuation.

“Do we absolutely need Agent Rook for two days?”  Jane pressed.

He hesitated.  Any other time he would have lied without reserve, but considering the young woman’s sharp wit, he felt like she would see through that.

She did.

“So not really.”

He glared at her.  “If the other agents do her job, they will leave their own duties.”

“We’ll be alright for two days.”  Jane told him confidently.

Mr. Black sneered at her, then seemed to change his mind.  “I will let her off… if,”  He paused, and Jane held her breath.  “If you and your mother promise not to leave the house for two days.  Agent Knight will take over Agent Rook’s assignments.”

Jane couldn’t believe her ears.  That easy?  “That’s a deal, if you mean it.”

“I mean it.”  The man said sharply.

Jane got up and held out her hand.

Mr. Black cocked his head.  The custom of shaking hands to seal a bargain was outdated, but he took her hand anyway.

Jane smiled, then beat a hasty retreat; grinning triumphantly at the receptionist on her way out the door.

Back at the car, both agents studied her face as she came into view.  Jane whipped open her door and fell into the seat.  “Take me home, quick, please.”

Agent Knight wanted to ask how it went, but didn’t dare.

Jane knew he understood the reason she went, and gave him a slight nod and a half smile. 

His face relaxed and he almost smiled.  She was a good young woman.

She suddenly realized she was shaking.  I never want to do that again.  Daddy can have all the official appointments he wants, but not me.

When they reached the house, Jane started to get out, then paused.  “If you could both, well, not mention this to anybody, I’d appreciate it.”

Mr. Black was true to his word, and Agent Rook was able to attend her father’s funeral.  Jane convinced Mrs. Grant to stay home for a couple days, and ordered an expensive bunch of flowers to send to the funeral home.

Chapter Eight

The weather grew colder as fall set in, and Jane began to think about visiting Cassidy.  She missed her friend, and even though they called each other once a week, as promised, and wrote frequently, it was much different than being able to run next door and tell her the most recent details of life.

What Jane did not realize, was that Agent Knight was watching her closely, and he noticed that she was lonely.  He had caught her looking a little forlorn, and he wanted to fix it, so when Jane told Mrs. Grant privately that she’d like to visit Cassidy, he resolved to do something to either help her fly down, or Cassidy to fly up.

He admired the way she had braved his supervisor; willing to be scorned for a good cause -she definitely took on after her father- and he had been wanting to give her something for her birthday.  He talked to Mr. and Mrs. Grant about his plan, and it was decided that, if possible, Cassidy should come up.  Mr. Grant phoned Cassidy’s father, and Agent Knight ordered the plane ticket.  A couple of the other agents had chipped in to buy the ticket, including Agent Colt and Agent Rook.

October 7th rolled around, and not long before Jane’s small birthday party, Agent Knight went secretly off to pick her friend up at the airport.

Jane dressed a little nicer than usual for her party, and tried to read until it was time for dinner.  Finally, Mrs. Grant called that it was ready and Jane jumped up.  She opened the door and the sweet smell of chocolate cake that Mrs. Grant had made wafted in her face, and Jane hurried down the stairs.

The dinning room door was closed, Jane pushed it open slowly.  Her mouth dropped open.  Cassidy was standing in front of her smiling broadly.  Mr. and Mrs. Grant and the agents stood nearby.

Jane jumped forward and wrapped her arms around her friend with a laugh.

Everything was explained and Jane shyly hugged Agent Colt and Agent Rook.  “Thank you so much!”  She gave Agent Knight a one-armed hug.  “That was so thoughtful.”  She whispered.  “Thank you.”

***

That winter, Jane attended her first Congressional Ball at the White House.  She and Mrs. Grant went shopping for dresses to wear for weeks before Jane finally found something that suited her.

Agent Knight watched from his place at the far end of the ballroom as the Grant family entered.  He scanned the people around him, then the people around the congressman and his family.  A young lady near the family moved closer to the congressman, and Agent Knight stood up to watch closely.  The lady turned and he recognized Jane.  A sigh of relief was cut off, as she turned further into his view.  She was a picture.  A modestly elegant sage-green dress touched the floor, brushing small gray slippers.  Not a single eyelash was fake, and the color in her cheeks came and went naturally.  Her brown hair was perfect, and a single pink rose shone against the antique clasp that held it.

A low whistle caught his ear, and he turned to see Senator Mackenzie’s son gazing in admiration.  Agent Knight wanted to break the punch bowl over his head as he whispered something to a friend.

The music started up and Mr. Grant held out his hand to his wife.  Jane smiled and waved as they moved to the dance floor.

The young man Agent Knight had noted earlier made his way to Jane and held out a hand invitingly.  Jane looked into his face, and Agent Knight saw her straighten.  Her chin was tilted up at an angle as she took a step back and smiled politely.  She shook her head.

A corner of Agent Knight’s mouth lifted.  Smart girl.

The dejected young man tried to persuade her, but the answer was the same, and Jane was left standing alone watching the dancers in admiration.  She made her way to a seat and sat down.  Agent Knight circled the room, scanning people’s faces, and keeping the seated figure in the center of his view.

He reached Jane and stood to one side of her chair watching from the background.

Jane’s gaze lingered on one colorful couple and a slight smirk tilted a corner of her mouth up.  Agent Knight followed her gaze and recognized the young Mr. Mackenzie dancing determinedly with another young lady.  Jane’s smirk widened as the couple twirled closer and the young man turned his nose up at her.  Suddenly Jane coughed.  She put one hand to her mouth and Agent Knight saw the twinkle in her eyes, and the smile she was trying to hide.  He nearly laughed with her but it wasn’t in keeping with his job.

The dance ended, and a new song started up.  Jane’s fingers tapped in her lap and the dress swayed in time with the music.  Agent Knight stepped to her side.  “Would you care to dance?”

She looked up in surprise, smiled and blushed, but then her gaze went to search for her father.  “Thank you, but my Dad promised to dance with me right after Mama, and I think he’s on his way over.”

Mr. Grant strolled their direction, then stopped and bowed to another lady.  The lady took his hand and they began to dance. 

Jane’s lips parted in a silent protest.  Then she closed them and drew in a shuddering breath.  “Never mind.  I accept.”

Agent Knight led her to the floor and they quickly found the time to join the dance.

“I didn’t know men in your line of work danced.”  Jane said.

Agent Knight shrugged.  “We wear a lot of hats, including that of keeping congressmen’s daughters from being wallflowers.”

“Because that would be scandalous, and probably make the headlines of a local newspaper.”  Jane remarked sarcastically.

Agent Knight laughed.  “Probably.”

He saw Jane watching her father.  “Are you really upset that your father hasn’t danced with you yet?”

Jane snapped her head around.  “What?”

Agent Knight repeated himself.  Jane flushed.  “I’m his only daughter.  I come next after Mama.  I have the right to dance with him next.  I should-” She stopped.

“What?”

“I should be a higher priority than a woman he knows at work.”   Her voice broke to a whisper.  “But I’m not.”

Agent Knight raised an eyebrow.  “Jane, your father loves you very much.  I’ve never seen anything like it.”

Jane shook her head.  “Of course he does.  That’s not what I meant.  I’m not a priority anymore.  That’s the problem.”

She bit her lip and looked away.  When she looked back, her eyes were red.  “Do you mind if we talk about something else?”  She asked shakily.

Agent Knight steered Jane into a twirl.  “Not at all.  What do you want to talk about?”

Jane finished her spin, and put her hand back on his shoulder.  “Are you allowed to tell me about other people you’ve protected?”

He shook his head.  “Sorry, no.”

Jane shrugged.  “I figured.  Are you allowed to tell me about yourself?”

“That depends on what you want to know.”  He said with a smile.

“What’s your favorite food?”

“Chocolate cake, of course!”  Agent Knight drew Jane away from a couple that was spinning a little too fast for safety.

Jane laughed.  “Mine too, if we are speaking about food in general, but I meant what is your favorite main course.”

He thought for a moment.  “Mm, probably a hamburger.  What’s yours?”

“I love my Mom’s homemade lo mien noodles.  They aren’t exactly what you get from a Chinese restaurant, but I like them.”  Jane looked a little sheepish as she made excuse, and Agent Knight wondered why.  If that was her favorite food, she could just say so.  There was no need to apologize for it.  Her hesitancy showed a little of her reserve, and another piece of the puzzle called Jane fell in place.

“Your dress is very nice, what made you choose that shade of green?  Most of the ladies here are wearing bright, Christmassy colors.”  Agent Knight tried to draw Jane into revealing more of the character that lay behind her quiet facade.  The better he knew her, the better he could protect her, he told himself.

“I don’t like colors that slap you in the face.”  Jane laughed.  “Not on me, anyway.  They do look nice on some people, but not me.”

“Why do you say that?”

“Well, flashy, eye catching things aren’t really…me, I guess.”  Jane fumbled trying to explain.  “Does that make sense?”

Agent Knight nodded.  “Sure it makes sense.  But if you were going for a look that would make you less noticeable, I don’t think it worked.”  He smiled.

Jane flushed a little.  “I just like being inconspicuous.”  She defended herself.

“Why?”  This conversation was working out better than Agent Knight had hoped.

Jane shrugged.  “It feels safer, I think.  No people to talk to, no embarrassing news stories to watch.”  She still thought with horror of the news story she had seen at the restaurant with Cassidy.  “And, if no one knows anything about you, it’s just…safer.”

“Is that why you never talk to me or the other agents?”  Agent Knight’s question hit perilously close to the truth, and Jane knew that her face had already given her away.  This is awkward.

“I- I do talk to you guys!”  She protested.

“Uh huh.”

Before either could say anything more, Senator Mackenzie’s son and his partner sashayed into Jane.  She tried to maintain her balance, but her foot got caught in the other girl’s dress, and she pitched forward, catching herself on Agent Knight.  “Sorry.”  She said quickly.

“Are you alright?”

“My shoe came off.”  Jane put it back on quickly.  She frowned.  “I don’t think that was an accident.”  She lowered her voice and muttered, “jerk.”

“What were you saying before you were tripped?”  Agent Knight prompted Jane to resume the conversation.

Jane hesitated, trying to find a way out of the tricky topic.

“If you were to get to know me a little better,” suggested Agent Knight, “you might be more willing to trust me.  And you do need to trust me; I don’t want a repeat of the park incident.”

“I still don’t think that was a big deal.”  Jane said a little defiantly.  She had apologized, but being reminded of being wrong stung.

“It was a big deal, Jane.  Trust me.  When that man gave testimony he confessed to have been watching you for three weeks.  What if he’d decided to attack you the day we weren’t coming to find you?”

Jane tried not to shudder.  Her confidence shaken.

“And if we hadn’t kept it under wraps like we did, you’d have had news stories everywhere trying to get the juicy details.”  Agent Knight held her gaze.  “Is that what you want?”

Jane turned red as he used her fears against her.  She knew she was beat, and didn’t say anything.

The music ended.  Agent Knight bowed and Jane curtsied.  “You’re not very nice.”  She said, half joking, but mostly serious.  “You manipulated me, and I’m not talking to you anymore.  I’ll trust you after you let me win some arguments.”

Agent Knight laughed, he knew he’d won.  “Want some punch?”

“Sure.”  Jane avoided his smug look.

“Ah, Jane, there you are.  I’ve got time for a trip around the floor before I dance with Mrs. Shelly.”  Mr. Grant appeared and took Jane’s hand.

Jane frowned.  So he’d just remembered.  But not for a whole dance, because he had to dance with Mrs. Shelly.  Whoever that was.  Well, we’ll see how he enjoys histrip around the floor’.  Jane was furious.  How did he not know how much she had looked forward to their dance?  Was she just a duty to him?  Her face froze into a polite smile, but there was no warmth in her eyes.  She took her father’s hand and walked a little ahead of him to the starting place of the dance.  Her shoulders were erect, and she glided over the smooth floor icily.

Agent Knight watched in amazement.  He’d never seen Jane like this.  Her eyes burned in her face with a mixture of pain and frustration.  Mr. Grant tried to start a conversation, but Jane wouldn’t talk.  She was polite, smiled several times, and she answered him every time he said something, but she refused to be drawn out of her anger.

When Mr. Grant left Jane at the edge of the dance, she hurried away to brood in a corner.  Mr. Grant went to dance with Mrs. Shelly and talk to his friends and wife, all the while, following Jane with a puzzled expression out of the corner of his eye.

She never wavered from her determination to punish him during the course of the evening, but Agent Knight could tell it was wearing on her.  The pain she had meant to inflict had only worsened her own.

To add to the irritation, a young man asked her out, and instead of sending him to her father as usual, Jane declined by herself.  The young man didn’t want to take no for an answer, and Agent Knight was near stepping in before the young man gave up and moved on.

The whole ride home she was silent.  And when they entered the house, a few wet traces shone on her cheeks.  She hurried upstairs to her room, and her parents went to their own.

In the middle of the night, a muffled sob came from behind Jane’s door as she cried herself to sleep.

Chapter Nine

The next morning the tension had not gone away.  Breakfast was rough, and afterwards the family all went separate directions.  In the study, Mr. Grant suddenly put down his papers and turned to Agent Knight.  He took off his glasses and rubbed a hand over his forehead.  “What did you do to Jane last night?  She would hardly talk to me, and this morning she ignored me completely unless I spoke directly to her.”

Agent Knight frowned.  “I didn’t do anything.”  He paused.

“But?”  Mr. Grant prompted.  “Tell me, Ben.  I can’t stand her like this.”

“But you did forget that you promised to dance with her, and she had been looking forward to it.”

Mr. Grant nodded.  “Ah.  That must have been it.”  He paused.  “I did dance with her, though.”

Agent Knight pursed his lips.  “For half of a dance!”  Then he stopped.  It was not his place to say more unasked.

“What?”  The congressman tilted his head to one side.  “Spit it out, she’s my daughter and I want to know what’s going on.”

“I think that Jane feels left out.  She told me that she wasn’t a priority to you anymore, and that she wishes you hadn’t run for office.”  Agent Knight wasn’t sure how that statement would be received.

Mr. Grant looked surprised and frustrated.  “She knew when I ran that I would be away from home more often.  She never said anything.  Besides, I have a lot on my mind, things that are really important, and sometimes I just forget.”

“Yes, sir, I understand that.  However, I think that, in this instance at least, you should have danced with her as soon as you finished dancing with your wife.  I never realized it, but Jane has a sense of what is due to her as your daughter.  And I think, sir, that one dance is not a large price to pay to show her a little uncommon respect.”  Agent Knight hoped he hadn’t crossed the line by voicing his opinion, and became silent.

Mr. Grant sighed and nodded.  “I see what you mean.”  He thought for a minute.  “But I just forgot one time.  I don’t think that is any reason to be so angry.  That isn’t fair to me.”  He looked up at his friend.  “What do you think?”

“This isn’t the only time Jane has felt this way.  She hides it well, but this has been growing for several weeks.  Her behavior to you last night has been in the pipeline for a while.”

The congressman huffed.  “This is the only time anything like this has happened.  What other instances are you talking about?”

Agent Knight searched his memory.  “Do you remember the time you promised to tell Jane what you thought about a new outfit she got?”

Mr. Grant shook his head.

“You left for a meeting before she could ask you.  The time I asked to read Jane’s journal, she caught me at it.  She was upset, but what hurt most was the fact that you gave me permission.  She expected you to champion her right to privacy.”  He continued.  “One of the other agent’s fathers died not too long ago, and they were not going to be allowed to attend the funeral.  Jane asked you to talk to their supervisor and try to get them a couple days off work, and you said you would.  You even made an appointment to see the supervisor.  But instead, you went and had coffee with a senator.  Jane was waiting for you in the car, but you never came, so she went by herself.  There are times that she’s said something to you, and you never realized she had spoken.”

Mr. Grant’s eyes reddened suddenly.  “Really?”

Agent Knight nodded soberly.

Mr. Grant stared at the papers on the desk.  He picked up his glasses, opening and closing the ear-pieces.  Agent Knight moved toward the door quietly.  The congressman stopped him.  “How much time do I have before I leave for my next meeting?”

Agent Knight looked at his watch.  “About fifty minutes, sir.”

The congressman made a decision.  “Call Jane.  I need to talk to her.”

Agent Knight went in search of Jane.  He found her door open and stuck his head in to see inside.  Jane was sitting in an armchair staring blankly at the floor.  Tears rolled down her cheeks and she wiped them away with a damp tissue.

He knocked.  “Your Dad wants you.”

Dread lined Jane’s face.  She obviously expected a well-deserved reprimand.  “I’m coming.”  Her voice was resigned.

“I don’t think it will be that bad, Jane.”  Agent Knight said.

She walked to her door.  “It’s always bad.”

He followed her to the study and prepared to close the door after her.

Mr. Grant held out his arms and Jane burst into tears.  She ran to him, and Agent Knight drew the door shut.

Jane and Mr. Grant worked things out, and made an agreement.  Mr. Grant promised to spend more time with her, take her out to meetings and schedule father daughter dates, and Jane promised to be more patient when that wasn’t possible.

***

Jane sat at the edge of the room, watching the proceedings of her father and the animated conversationalists.  Whatever Mr. Grant found interesting about these meetings he went to, Jane couldn’t see, but she’d asked to spend time with him, and she wasn’t going to complain now. 

Agent Knight was several yards away, but he kept a constant eye on everything that went on.  Several other men did the same inconspicuously.

An older woman motioned to Jane with a smile, which she answered by smiling back and joining her at a table.

They talked for a moment, until Jane’s attention was drawn to a man in his late thirties who entered the room and moved toward her father.  Something in his face didn’t seem right, and she glanced at Agent Knight.  He furrowed his eyebrows, and Jane widened her eyes and shook her head to indicate her doubt and concern.

Agent Knight lifted a hand to his chin, and his lips moved.  He was speaking into the other agent’s earpieces.

Suddenly, someone shouted and gunshots blasted the hum of conversation to bits.  Agents converged on a central point.

Jane leapt from her seat with a shock of fear for her father.  “Daddy!”  She started forward and more gunshots deafened her.

Agent Knight made a flying tackle, and they both crashed to the floor amid shards of glass and spent bullet casings.

Jane had landed on top of Agent Knight, but he shoved her under a table against the wall and shielded her with his body.  The spurts of gunfire had slowed, but not stopped and Agent Knight flinched as the sheetrock above them burst into powder as bullets struck the wall.  He pushed Jane’s head down, covered her face and prayed.  Suddenly, the shots ceased.  Jane’s ears whined.  She couldn’t hear anything.  Then her ears cleared a little and she heard commands being yelled.  In front of her, Agent Knight blocked her view of what was happening.  She tried to raise her head, but she was shaking badly.  She tugged on his jacket.  “Is Daddy alright?”  She asked, her face white.

Agent Knight rolled out from under the table and pulled Jane gently to her feet.  She looked for her father, but couldn’t find him anywhere, and Agent Knight wouldn’t let her look.  Agent Colt joined them, and the agents hurried Jane to an adjoining room.  She tried to resist weakly, but they wouldn’t let her.

“Is Daddy alright?”  She asked again.  Neither agent answered.  The door was closed, and the silence pressed horror closer.  Jane felt light headed.  Why didn’t they answer?  She grasped Agent Knight’s arm tightly and stared at him, demanding an answer.

He cocked his head and listened into his earpiece.  A look of relief spread over his face, and he let out a breath.  “He’s alright.”

Jane slumped to the floor.  “Thank God.”  She said hoarsely.  “Thank God.”

They were given the ‘all clear’, and the agents escorted Jane out of the back door of the building.  Mr. Grant was behind the bullet-proof windows of their vehicle, surrounded by three agents.  The car was put into gear and swiftly left the lot.

“Best not to open the door again.”  Agent Knight took her arm and led her to a different car.  “This is your ride.”

As she was escorted into the house, she turned to Agent Knight abruptly.  “Thank you.”  She put her arms around him.  “Thank you so much.”

Agent Knight returned her hug with a smile before she went to find her father.

Three agents had suffered minor wounds from glass and shrapnel.  A couple more had actually been grazed by shots, but were recovering well.  The loyal Agent Brady, however, had been seriously injured when he had shielded Mr. Grant from the attacker.  He was in critical condition in the hospital, and Mr. Grant worried for his friend.  The would-be assassin was dead.

It took Jane several weeks to recover from the trauma of the shooting incident.  The crowd of reporters that wanted a story didn’t help.  Even after a reasonable amount of time, she still struggled with becoming paranoid.  No one really noticed this except Agent Knight, who watched her check to make sure she had locked the doors two and even three times. Going to meetings and restaurants with her father was harder, and she had to force herself to relax and enjoy the evening.  At times, Jane would glance over at Agent Knight and he would make a motion that meant: chill out, everything’s fine.  Sheepishly, Jane would grin and tried to remember to breathe and loosen up her shoulders, but she dreaded large gatherings of people, and the dinner party with Congressman Kelly was coming up.

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